Peace Like A River

It was a wide river, mistakable for a lake or even an ocean unless you'd been wading and knew its current. Somehow I'd crossed it... Now I saw the stream regrouped below, flowing on through what might've been vineyards, pastures, orhards... It flowed between and alongside the rivers of people; from here it was no more than a silver wire winding toward the city. - Leif Enger, Peace Like A River

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Did you know?

Something a little lighter for New Year's Eve.

Did you know there is a patent on the french fry box/holder McDonalds uses?

It's Patent 6,050,482, and the patent can be read here.

Lest ye think this is some slapped together farcical patent, oh no. Here's the abstract:

A fry scoop having front and rear walls and an upwardly and rearwardly inclined bottom formed of a narrow forward bottom panel and a wide rear bottom panel which provides for an upward shifting of the rear wall as compensation for a reduced height of the panel forming the rear wall.

And the first claim:

1. A food carton comprising a bottom, front and rear walls having lower edges and extending upward from said bottom, and opposed sides, said front and rear walls being joined at said sides, said bottom being joined to and extending between said front and rear wall lower edges, said carton including support means for supporting said carton upright and defining a support plane below said bottom, said bottom being of a greater height above said support plane at said rear wall than at said front wall wherein said rear wall lower edge is upwardly offset relative to said front wall lower edge, said walls and said bottom are integral and defined from a unitary blank of foldable material, and including a first fold line between said bottom and said front wall, a second fold line between said bottom and said rear wall, and a third fold line in said bottom between said first and second fold lines and defining a forward bottom panel between said first and third fold lines, and a rear bottom panel between said second fold line and said third fold line, said forward bottom panel having a front to rear depth less than a front to rear depth of said rear bottom panel and wherein said first and second fold lines form opposed convex front and rear edges on said bottom, said bottom, between said sides, being upwardly arced.

I am truly glad I am not a lawyer, and I don't have to write stuff like this for a living. But is our civilization worth saving, when you can get a patent on something to hold french fries? Does the next poor sap that comes along have to pay you royalties or something if they dare to put french fries in some container to give to their customers?

Apparently McDonalds also tried to trademark the box design this year, but a registrar who's not quite ready to throw open the gates to the Visigoths yet said no, the galaxy is not yet ready for trademarking a french fry box. Here is a paper (in PDF) on the decision. The bottom line:

Having considered all the documents filed by the Applicant and all the arguments submitted in relation to this application, I find that the subject mark as a whole is devoid of any distinctive character, and is precluded from registration by section 11(1)(b) of the Ordinance. Accordingly, I refuse the application under section 42(4)(b) of the Ordinance.

Again, I'm glad I'm not a lawyer and don't have to figure out why something that is "devoid of any distinctive character" doesn't qualify for a trademark, but does qualify for a patent.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Friday, December 30, 2005

An insurgency collapsing inward?

Make no mistake, the enemy still has a lot of fight left in him. He still has the capability to kill and to do damage. Yet, I want to point out there may be signs the insurgency is being squeezed into a region whose circumscribed boundaries are drawing inward. I'm not saying the insurgents can't operate outside this region, just that they are finding it harder to find areas outside this region where they can plan, move, and find shelter.

This is purely anecdotal evidence, obviously, but consider the fatalities the US has suffered in December. (I'm including deaths from hostile fire or IEDs, not accidents.) The source of the data is the Iraq Coalition Casualties page.

Breakdown of US fatalities by location


The biggest change in Iraq over the last year came as a result of the many operations along the Euphrates in western Iraq. Going back to the fight for Fallujah in November 2004, through the spring, summer, fall, to Operation Steel Curtain and Iron Hammer, the Coalition Forces have transformed that region. The key has been a permanent security presence, first with US forces, and now, increasingly, with Iraqi forces. That area has been noticeably quieter. None of the deaths in this table are in these western towns.

In northern Iraq, the fights for Mosul and Tal Afar have had a similar effect. Those cities are different places. Still not a paradise, but very different.

What is left to be done? The equivalent of the operations in along the western Euphrates needs to be done in the Sunni areas north of Baghdad, in the Ramadi-Fallujah corridor, and south of Baghdad. Here the Coalition Forces have not conducted operations like Steel Hammer, with a goal of clearing these areas and holding them with a permanent Iraqi security force.

I think the table reflects the changes I've mentioned. The hot spots for the insurgency are these areas closer to Baghdad, and this is way I say the insurgency is collapsing inward, in a sense.

The terrorists are being pushed out of safe havens in northern and western Iraq. The Kurdish areas in the north and the Shiite areas in the south have always been difficult areas for the Sunni insurgents to operate openly. So, the areas left to them are the ones closer to Baghdad.

The table reflects this. Again, albeit anecdotally. Certainly there are attacks across the theater. Though, as I mentioned in this post, there was a marked decrease in attacks in the Sunni provinces as a whole from October to November.

Baghdad is a central battlezone. The insurgents will contest the capital as long as they can to prove delegitimize the elected Iraqi government.

The Ramadi-Fallujah corridor is a constant source of activity. (The towns of Khaldiyah and Habbaniyah are between Ramadi and Fallujah. See this map.)

Mahmudiyah and Yusufiyah are south of Baghdad.

Balad, Taji and Baqubah are north or northeast of Baghdad and within 70 kilometers of Baghdad.

Bayji and Hawijah are in the finger of Sunni territory that runs north of Baghdad along the Tigris.

These areas, the Sunni finger along the Tigris, the Ramadi-Fallujah area, and the areas south of Baghdad have been the most difficult areas to subdue. They are the enemy's home turf. Yet, they are becoming where the insurgency will make its last stand.

The National Strategy for Victory in Iraq (available here) released in November lays out what has been happening in northern and western Iraq, and what might happen in these trouble spots.

The security portion of this strategy has three components.

* Clear areas of enemy control by remaining on the offensive, killing and capturing enemy fighters and denying them safe-haven.

* Hold areas freed from enemy control by ensuring that they remain under the control of a peaceful Iraqi government with an adequate Iraqi security force presence.

* Build Iraqi Security Forces and the capacity of local institutions to deliver services, advance the rule of law, and nurture civil society.

This is exactly what Steel Curtain and other operations accomplished. This has not yet been achieved in the trouble spots, though there are certainly constant operations to disrupt the terrorists there. There are certainly many troops in Baghdad, but clearing such a large urban area is a difficult task. It will take more than military action alone, though, and the strategy lays out what we might see in these trouble spots.

* Localized post-conflict operations -- providing security, economic assistance, and support to civilian institutions in newly cleared areas -- further isolate enemy elements from the rest of the population and give Iraqis space to participate in a peaceful political process.

* Infrastructure protection helps ensure that the Iraqi government can collect revenues and provide basic services to the people, which is critical to building confidence in the government and weaning support away from insurgents.

* Putting capable Iraqis forward in the fight increases the overall effectiveness of U.S.-Iraqi operations, as Iraqis are better able to collect intelligence and identify threats in their neighborhoods.

* As Iraqi forces become more and more capable, our military posture will shift, leaving Coalition forces increasingly focused on specialized counter-terrorism missions to hunt, capture, and kill terrorist leaders and break up their funding and resource networks.

The strategy details things that have been working, elements that will also be key to success in these difficult areas.

* Significant progress has been made in wresting territory from enemy control

* Actionable intelligence is improving

* Iraqi forces are growing in number

* Iraqi forces are growing in capability

* Iraqis are committed to building up their security establishment

* Iraqis are taking on specialized missions central to overall success

* Iraq is building an officer corps that will be loyal to the Iraqi government, not a particular group or tribe

There is not time in this post to discuss how these elements are already present in the difficult areas, but if you followed this blog over the last few months, or other blogs such as ThreatsWatch or The Security Watchtower or The Mudville Gazette, you've seen the evidence.

In Ramadi, for instance, there has already been a focused effort to get that city under control. Construction such as was mentioned in the National Strategy is being done in Ramadi.

There is still work to be done, but the insurgency is feeling the pressure close in. The fight is now beginning for the heart of the enemy's territory, because for strategic purposes, it's all that's left to him.

Update: A Dec 30 press release from MNF-Iraq details operations that netted 109 terrorists and several weapons caches in northern Iraq between Dec 17 and Dec 29.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Hey Matrose, ya want a good time?

Well, when you tart yourself up and stand along the side of the road in your delicates, willing to be taken advantage of by any sweaty, pudgy dirtball that happens by, you start to get a reputation.

With the recent denouement of the Susanne Osthoff story, Germany proved herself to be one willing to sell herself.

It is likely Germany paid a ransom for Osthoff. A ransom that only sent a signal to others that there's gold in dem dar German hills. Germany runs the risk of declaring open season on German citizens by showing a willingness to pay.

And so, it is not a complete surprises that in Yemen, a former German diplomat and his family were kidnapped. From this article in Der Spiegel:

Jürgen Chrobog is no stranger to kidnappings of westerners in the Muslim world. The former deputy foreign minister was in charge of efforts to free 14 Europeans taken by Islamic extremists in the Sahara desert in 2003. But the fate of the man known in Berlin political circles as a problem solver is now in the hands of others since he and his family were abducted in Yemen last week.

On Wednesday, Germany's Foreign Ministry confirmed that shortly after the 65-year-old Chrobog, his wife and three sons began a private visit to the country on Dec. 24, they were kidnapped during a tour of the Yemen's eastern mountain region. The family was apparently abducted by a Yemeni tribe hoping to blackmail the government into releasing imprisoned members of their clan.

Officials in both Berlin and Yemen are confident of a quick release for Chrobog and his family, who are reportedly safe and not in immediate danger. According to German public broadcaster ARD, the crisis task force in the German Foreign Ministry dealing with the incident said the kidnappers' demands were relatively simple to fill and Yemeni officials wanted to resolve the matter as soon as possible since Chrobog was visiting on the invitation of a former Yemeni ambassador to Germany.

Now, from other reports, this does seem like an internal matter, that the Yemeni kidnappers want some comrades released.

Still, you wonder if these Yemenis saw themselves clutching fistfuls of Euros when they noticed the Germans in the vicinity. Negotiating with killers and terrorists is like feeding lions by hand. Sooner or later, they're apt to just gobble up your entire arm.

Along with its opposition to the United States over Iraq, Germany has betrayed its weakness by paying ransoms, and when you're dealing with psychotics, weakness does not suddenly spark tender feelings of mercy, it only makes them want to kick you harder. There is only one way to deal with terrorists, and that's what the US is doing in Iraq and Afghanistans. With divisions of Marines and soldiers.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Fighting the real propagandists

I'm getting caught up with things again. On Dec 23, CentCom and MNF-Iraq released this news:

An Ansar al-Sunna of Mosul Media Emir and Administrator were captured by Coalition Forces during raids on suspected terrorist safe houses near Mosul.

Muhammad 'Amir Husayn Mar'I al-Sufi, known as Abu Naba, was an Ansar al-Sunna media emir in Mosul and 'Adnan 'Abd-al-Wahab 'Abdallah Mahmud al-Badrani, known as Abu Hudayfah, an Ansar al-Sunna administrator, were captured Nov. 23 and Dec. 5, 2005 respectively.

Abu Naba was responsible for disseminating propaganda - in this capacity, he produced propaganda fliers and compact disks focusing on military operations, anti-voting messages, Jihad messages and prayers.

He also facilitated videos of attacks on Iraqi and Coalition Forces to be posted to the Internet. He purchased cameras for terrorists to film violent acts including bombings, kidnappings and executions. Abu Naba helped produce the final video products and delivered the videos to other Ansar al-Sunna leaders for posting on the Internet.

Based on information Abu Naba and other detained terrorists provided to Coalition Forces, Abu Hudayfah, allegedly in charge of logistics and support for Ansar al-Sunna of Mosul was also identified and captured.

I've written before about the success Coalition Forces have had in apprehending or killing key members of terrorist organizations. This news may be related to these previous operations.

Note that Abu Naba was captured Nov 23, though this news wasn't released until last week. Abu Naba was the chief propagandist in Mosul.

(Note to the MSM, what the bad guys are doing is true propaganda. What the good guys are doing is trying to counteract and balance out what the bad guys are doing. With a little perspective, you might not be so quick to imply you are equating the two.)

This capture came only a day before the announcement of the capture of another propagandist, Abu Shihab, who was captured Oct 23. (I wrote about it here.)

Abu Shihab was with Jaysh al-Mujahideen, one of the jihadi groups in Iraq. Abu Naba was with Ansar al-Sunna, another jihadi group. I am not familiar with how closely these two groups work together. (Bill Roggio calls Ansar al-Sunna "an ally of al-Qaeda in Iraq".)

However, this report from the Jamestown Foundation says they both came out of formations of the former Republican Guard.

As that aforementioned announcement said:

The Jaysh al-Mujahideen terrorist organization, which is centrally controlled in Baghdad, also has terrorist cells in major cities in Iraq, to include Mosul, Fallujah, Ramadi; Jaysh al-Mujahideen is associated with al Qaeda in Iraq.

It is certainly possible a top propagandist in Baghdad would know the chief propagandist in Mosul from a brother organization.

It is possible the capture of Abu Shihab led to the capture of Abu Naba, and news of the capture was released a day after the capture of Abu Naba because the usefulness of keeping Abu Shihab's apprehension quiet was at an end.

The recent announcement said the capture of Abu Naba led directly to the capture of Abu Hudayfah. This is why such captures are kept quiet for seemingly long periods of time, so the information the bad guys possess can be exploited.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Meet Me in St. Louis

Whew. Just got back from our Christmas week with family in St. Louis. Gadzooks that's a long drive. Especially with kids. But, the magic of the dvd player did its thing, and John and Hanna were pretty good. In a sign of the times, we passed a number of other vehicles that also had a screen down playing some video. It got be a game to see who could guess what they were watching in the few seconds it took to roar by them. (I wanted to get home, so I might have leaned on the gas a bit.)

(Here's my travel guide. A great place for kids in the St. Louis area, besides the zoo, is The Magic House.)

Will unwind a bit, wait for the world to stop spinning, and then try this blogging thing I've heard so much about.

I come home to find former Twins pitching great Jeff Reardon was arrested in Florida for armed robbery. Eek. He was a big reason the Twins won the World Series in '87. When I went to the ALCS games in '87 at the Dome against Detroit, I wore my Twins jersey, and my beard was more full then, and with my dark hair I looked a bit like Reardon, and walking around outside the Dome on the Concourse people would joke and say "Hey, there's Reardon!"

Well, I hope when I'm walking on the street now people don't point and say "Hey, there's an armed robber!"

Monday, December 26, 2005

Now I lay me down to sleep

Daniel Pipes has a sobering column in the Chicago Sun-Times arguing we have returned to our pre-9/11 slumber. He lists some ominous warning signs. I won't list them all, but here are a few:

*The USA Patriot Act, a landmark of post-9/11 cooperation between the military and law enforcement, passed the Senate 98-1 in October 2001. Last week, the same bill stalled in the Senate and was only temporarily extended.

*The mainstream media do not take Islamist aspirations seriously and see the war on terror basically as over, as shown by Maureen Dowd's comment that the Bush administration is trying "to frighten people with talk of al-Qaida's dream of a new Islamic caliphate."

*Harvard and Georgetown universities each accepted $20 million for Islamic studies from Alwaleed bin Talaa, a Saudi prince who overtly promotes his government's Wahhabi outlook.

*A Florida jury somehow managed to overlook the massive evidence of Sami Al-Arian's leading role in Palestinian Islamic Jihad and acquitted him on this charge.

Then U.S. foreign policy:

*Fixated on the goal of perfecting Iraq, where no major danger remains, the Bush administration seems to be allowing the Iranian regime to build nuclear weapons, stipulating only that the Russians carry out the uranium enrichment, an ineffectual safeguard.

The radical Left refuses to participate in our self-defense. Instead, they attack the ones responsible for defending us. Instead of a mature attitude that surveillance of the enemy is necessary in a time of war, they wave library books claiming Big Brother is on the march.

A couple weeks ago there was a report that Homeland Security had visited a student at UMass-Dartmouth who had checked out Mao's Little Red Book. The story had all kinds of red flags. And yet, the story raced around the Left side of the blogosphere with nary a discerning mind to stop and ask a few obvious questions. The single source of the story was an anonymous student. There was no comment from the Homeland Security Dept on the charge. Apparently the bloggers spreading the story thought agents really have nothing better to do than check up on who's checking out a book that's been available for 50 years. And so on.

Well, not surprisingly, the story is a hoax. The student got caught up in his own lies.

The story, first reported in last Saturday's New Bedford Standard-Times, was picked up by other news organizations, prompted diatribes on left-wing and right-wing blogs, and even turned up in an op-ed piece written by Senator Edward M. Kennedy in the Globe.

But yesterday, the student confessed that he had made it up after being confronted by the professor who had repeated the story to a Standard-Times reporter.

The professor, Brian Glyn Williams, said he went to his former student's house and asked about inconsistencies in his story. The 22-year-old student admitted it was a hoax, Williams said.

My point in bringing this up is the far Left is so eager to believe their government is a slavering slobbering fascist monster roaming around devouring what little freedoms we have left that they willingly believe stories like this without question.

Put another way, they are far more eager to believe we are our own enemy, rather than acknowledging our true enemy, the Islamofascists.

I guess the one advantage of being asleep is we won't feel the next blow. It will be over quick, nice and painless.

Monday Winds of War Briefing

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Monday's Winds of War briefings are given by Peace Like a River and Security Watchtower.

Top Topics

* Indonesia has deployed thousands of troops to guard churches and places where foreigners gather amid threats of possible attacks in the coming days. Maj. Gen. Firman Gani, the Jakarta police chief, said the "terrorists have said they will use the momentum of Christmas and the New Year celebrations to carry out attacks." The U.S. embassy has also issued a threat warning for travelers in Indonesia.

* CNN reports that unnamed "government officials" have confirmed that the FBI has been monitoring Muslim mosques, homes and other buildings in U.S. cities for abnormal radiation levels since 2002 without obtaining search warrants or court orders. The FBI is defending the move while some believe the media reports amount to agenda driven journalism.

* Congress on Thursday approved a one-month extension of the Patriot Act and sent it to President Bush in a pre-Christmas scramble to prevent many of its anti-terrorism provisions from expiring Dec. 31. The Senate, with only Sen. John Warner, R-Va., present, approved the Feb. 3 expiration date four hours after the House, with a nearly empty chamber, bowed to Rep. James Sensenbrenner's refusal to agree to a six-month extension.

Other topics today include: Rocket attacks in Gaza; Muslim Brotherhood; Turkish arrests; Israel preparing for collapse of PA; Iran nuclear fuel deal; radiation monitoring in Colorado; Drug arrests up along Mexican-US border; 13 killed in Sri Lanka blast; Clashes in Afghanistan; Agreement on Pakistani madrassas; Rumsfeld in Afghanistan; Fighting in Pakistan; JI leader in Philippines; Crime and terrorism in Indonesia; Travel warning in Bosnia; Taiwan defense budget; Thailand terror watch; Algerians arrested in Italy; Italian warrants for CIA; French approve new anti-terror bill; Terror arrests in Spain; and much more.

Iran & the Middle East

* In response to Palestinian rocket attacks, the Israeli military will enforce a new off-limits zone in Gaza. Israel's deputy defense minister, Zeev Boim said the hope is that Palestinians "will get the message and that this will stop the rocket squads," adding "If we must, we will have to tighten the screw further." The BBC is calling the move an "aerial siege."

* Lebanese Druze leader Walid Jumblatt is accusing Syria of terrorizing neighbor countries and "taking the path of terrorism in order to evade international pressure".

* Muslim Brotherhood chief Mohammed Mahdi Akef has come out and declared the holocaust a myth, nearly echoing an earlier claim made by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Akef complained that "Western democracies have slammed all those who don't see eye to eye with the Zionists regarding the myth of the Holocaust."

* Turkish authorities have arrested 14 people on suspicion of belonging to a banned Muslim group.

* Efraim Inbar of the Began-Sedat Center for Strategic Studies writes about the imperative to use force against Iranian nuclearization.

* Israel is preparing for the possibility that the Palestinian authority under Mahmoud Abbas, could be on the verge of collapsing.

* Iran is denying that Russia has made any formal offer to move Iranian enrichment facilities into Russia, maintaining the position that enrichment is Iran's right.

America Domestic Security & the America's

* A Canadian wanted by the United States for allegedly plotting to kill Americans abroad was denied bail Friday by a judge who said he posed a flight risk. Abdullah Khadr, 24, who is being held in Canada on an extradition warrant, could flee with the help of the al-Qaida terrorist network, said Ontario Superior Court Justice Anne Moll

* Four years after September 11, the Bush administration has claimed some legal victories in its war on terrorism, but critics say there have been few major convictions and not a single trial of anyone caught trying to carry out an attack.

* A nationwide campaign by Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents against unlicensed money transmittal businesses and underground "hawalas" has resulted in the arrest of 140 individuals, 138 criminal indictments, and the seizure of millions of dollars in illicit proceeds since the enactment of the USA Patriot Act, which requires such businesses to be licensed and registered.

* Colorado Springs is preparing what appears to be the first citywide radiation monitoring in the U.S.

* Drug seizures are up all along the US-Mexico border. The reasons for the success? Better intelligence-sharing, increased manpower, and improved technology that border officials have received in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks.

* Leader of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen Yasin Abu Bakr will spend Christmas in jail as his lawyer prepares closing submissions for the hearing which resumes Thursday. The State closed its case in the preliminary enquiry against Bakr last week. Bakr is before Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls in the Port of Spain Eighth Magistrates' Court charged with sedition, terrorism and three counts of inciting the demand of property, money and the breach of the peace.

Russia & South/Central Asia

* At least 13 sailors have been killed in a mine attack on a convoy in north-western Sri Lanka, officials say. The army said a mine was detonated as a navy bus and truck passed by in Mannar district and blamed Tamil Tiger rebels. The killings would be the worst breach of the 2002 ceasefire, but on Friday the Tigers said they were not connected with the incident.

* In Sri Lanka, the government said two soldiers were shot, one fatally, in the Jaffna Peninsula on Saturday.

* Two militants and one policeman were killed last week in eastern Afghanistan after militants clashed with Afghan and US forces, officials say. The fighting started after the group attacked Afghan police and US forces in the province of Ghazni, they said.

* Here are the daily updates from the South Asia Terrorism Portal for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

* Two bomb explosions toppled two electricity pylons in southwestern Pakistan Thursday, disrupting power supply but injuring no one, as militant tribesmen launched fresh attacks against government troops, an army official said.

* The Pakistani government and leaders of the five main chains of madrassas or Muslim seminaries have reached an agreement for new legislation for registering madrassas. Madrassas have also been allowed to include the comparative study of religions in their syllabus, while earlier this was banned in the name of checking sectarianism and militancy.

* In Bangladesh, State Minister for Religious Affairs Mosharref Hossain Shajahan asked the militants to return to normal life, expressing the hope that the militancy will come to end in a couple of months as the people and the government are united against the menace.

* U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld met U.S. troops at Bagram Air Base, where he said any early withdrawal from Afghanistan or Iraq would lead to new terrorist attacks on Americans at home. Earlier in Kabul, Rumsfeld said any reduction in the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan will not weaken the campaign against Taliban fighters and Al-Qaeda terrorists operating in the country.

* Uzbekistan's hardline authorities consider the eastern Uzbek town of Andijan a hotbed of Islamic extremism, after a jailbreak and mass protest in May was crushed by troops. The events in Andijan have starkly emphasised the tensions which a revival of Islam has brought to Central Asia.

* Experts say a mystery mass illness in Russia's conflict-torn republic of Chechnya was caused by ethyl glycol - a toxic chemical found in anti-freeze. The symptoms prompted speculation that they might have been targeted by chemical weapons. Others rejected that explanation.

* At least seven people have been killed in what officials say was a battle between Islamic students and bandits in Pakistan's north-western tribal region. Reports say five bandits and two students were killed in the village of Shawal in North Waziristan, along the border with Afghanistan.

* Two soldiers have been wounded in a landmine explosion in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal area, near the Afghan border, officials say. Around a dozen men have been detained over the incident, the officials say.

* A top commander of Pakistan-based Al-Badr outfit was killed by security forces in Srinagar on Sunday. Wasim, a Pakistani national and self-styled district commander of Al-badr outfit, was killed in a gunbattle with security forces at Bemina locality, Senior Superintendent of Police Muneer Khan said.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* According to reports, Jemaah Islamiah leader Abdul Rahman Ayub is believed to be training terrorists in the southern Philippines, after leaving Australia over a year ago.

* Muslim cleric Mohammad Omran is blaming Australian Prime Minister John Howard for radicalizing Muslim youths, saying "the Government is pushing the people to believe they can do all these major disaster things."

* Indonesian authorities are looking into a string of recent robberies, they believe may be tied to terrorism. According to Sr. Comr. Anton Bahrul, "Imam Samudra and his team members robbed banks and jewelry stores to raise the funds for the terrorist attack in Bali." Indonesian authorities are also looking for six foreign terrorists they believe are in Indonesia.

* The Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade has issued a new terror alert for Australians travelling in Bosnia-Hertzgovinia.

* A Chinese court has upheld the life prison sentence of Peng Ming, a U.S. based pro-democracy advocate who Chinese officials accuse of setting up a terror training camp in Myanmar, in order to carry out attacks in China.

* By a vote of 113-100, opposition Taiwanese parties blocked the special budget aimed at boosting defenses and the military through arms purchases from the United States. This marks the 42nd time the bill has been blocked, even after proponents have scaled it down from the original $ 18 billion dollars to $ 9 billion. The ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) is accusing the opposition parties of placing Taiwan's security at risk.

* The United States has warned Thailand that two suspects of Middle East origin that are on the terror watchlist, may try to enter Thailand during the Christmas and New Years celebrations.


* Police in southern Italy arrested three Algerians on international terrorism charges, saying the group was planning attacks in Italy and Iraq. The three, Achour Rabah, Tartaq Sami and Yasmine Bouhrama, are suspected of being members of the al Qaeda-linked Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). According to Italian interior minister Giuseppe Pisanu, the group is also suspected of being linked to a plan for attacks in the United States.

* Italian courts have issued arrest warrants for 22 CIA agents allegedly involved in the kidnapping of an Egyptian terror suspect from the streets of Milan in February 2003.

* The British government has signed an agreement with Lebanon that will enable the deportation of suspects from the UK to Lebanon, with the understanding in place that their safety will be ensured.

* The Dutch government continues to face security challenges in fighting terrorism while also trying to protect civil liberties. In Amsterdam, a Dutch merchant was sentenced to 15 years in prison for selling chemicals to Iraq in the 1980s that were used in chemical weapons.

* A British court has convicted Abu Baker Mansha under the terrorism act, after it was revealed the man had a gun and the address of a British soldier who had served in Iraq, and planned to carry out an attack on him for his success. In Iraq, Cpl. Mark Byles won the military cross for leading an attack that killed five insurgents.

* Adel Yahya, a 23 year-old student in Britain, has been charged with conspiracy to cause explosions in connection with the failed July 21st bombing plot in London. Yahya is the 43rd person arrested for involvement in the failed bombings.

* The French parliament, by a vote of 202-120, approved a new anti-terrorism bill that will increase video surveillance in public areas, including airports and places of worship. Police authorities will be granted more time for questioning terror suspects, and in checking internet and telephone records.

* Spanish authorities have arrested six men suspected of recruiting militants to travel to Iraq in order to wage jihad. Three of the men have been charged with belonging to a terrorist organization, while the other three have been charged with collaboration with a terrorist organization.

* Susanne Osthoff, a German archaeologist, was kidnapped in Iraq in late November. She was released this past Sunday. In a troubling parallel development, though, last Thursday, three days before Osthoff was released, Germany had paroled a Hezbollah terrorist wanted by the US for the murder of US Navy diver Robert Stethem. Did Germany release a terrorist to free a hostage?


* Chad accused neighboring Sudan on Thursday of trying to draw it into the civil war in Sudan’s Darfur region and urged the U.N. Security Council to help prevent the conflict from spreading.

* Chad says it is in "a state of war" with neighbour Sudan over the security crisis in the east of the country. It accuses Sudan of being the "common enemy of the nation" after a Chadian rebel attack on a town last week.

* Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo on 22 December ordered that all defence and security personnel in the Niger Delta be placed in a state of "high alert". The President gave the order at a meeting with senior members of the nation's security and intelligence communities. The meeting was called to review the security situation in the Niger Delta following two pipelines explosions in the region in the past few days.

* A report (available here) from the International Crisis Group says the fragile peace maintained by Ethiopia and Eritrea since they signed a comprehensive agreement at Algiers in December 2000 is fraying dangerously. Resumption would destabilize the entire Horn, fuelling flows of weapons to armed groups throughout the region, rekindling a proxy war in Somalia and undermining the fragile peace process in southern and eastern Sudan.

* A report at The Jamestown Foundation looks at Sierra Leone and its history of harboring Islamic militants.

The Global War

* Because terrorists are increasingly using peroxide-based explosives to carry out devastating attacks, the FBI is training some of the best noses in the U.S. to sniff them out. Meet explosive-detection dogs—an extraordinarily talented breed of anti-crime specialists.

* The U.S. Department of the Treasury hosted the inaugural meeting of a new international private sector outreach working group that unites public and private sector entities – both foreign and domestic – in an effort to strengthen defenses against terrorist financing and money laundering in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).

* China's trade and oil interests in Sudan have induced the permanent U.N. Security Council member to provide diplomatic cover for the government accused by many of war crimes against its own people, analysts say.

* Al Qaeda's deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahri praised the Taliban, saying the Islamic movement still controlled large parts of Afghanistan, according to an audio tape aired by Al Arabiya television on Saturday. Al Arabiya said the date of the tape, which it said it had just obtained, could not be determined and made no mention of recent events.

* On the SBS TV program yesterday, "Han Soo-jin’s Sunday Click," U.S. ambassador to South Korea Alexander Vershbow claimed that he has evidence that a North Korean official had contacted an Irish Republican Army (IRA) terrorist indicted for the circulation of counterfeit notes, and this evidence could reveal the connection between the counterfeit currency and the North.

From the Briefing 2,005 years ago

* A Jewish couple from Nazareth travelled to the West Bank town of Bethlehem in observance of the tax regulations instituted by Caesar Augustus, head of the Italian government. Housing shortages forced the couple to stay in a stable.

* King Herod ordered a massacre of all boys age 2 and under living in the Bethlehem area. Some families fled to Egypt to escape the slaughter.

* Dignitaries from the Iraq-Iran region had an audience with King Herod, and then visited a young Jewish boy, presenting him with gifts. In a diplomatic slight, the dignitaries returned without meeting with Herod as he had requested.

Thanks for reading! If you found something here you want to blog about yourself (and we hope you do), all we ask is that you do as we do and offer a Hat Tip hyperlink to today's "Winds of War". If you think we missed something important, use the Comments section to let us know. For ongoing tips, email "MondayWindsOfWar", over here

Sunday, December 25, 2005

O Holy Night

For most of us, outside of family and friends, the world does not take note of our entry into the world. We slip in quietly among the masses.

So it was with the birth of Jesus. Born in a stable, who took note of the birth of one more baby? His birth, though, was indicative of why He came, to be one of us, among us.

The first to hear of his birth were shepherds, hardly the high and mighty power brokers of the day. The birth was announced by angels, and those who were looking knew a king had been born.

But Jesus lived most of his life quietly, a life of work in the carpentry shop among his family. Not until He was 30 did He begin the ministry he came to do. He came for us.

Merry Christmas one and all.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

The Night Before Christmas

It vas de night before Christmas, ven all tru de place vere I vas staying
Dere vasn't nobody making no noise, not eefen som mouses
except my brudder-in-law and he is a rat.
De stockings vere hanged by de shimney kinda careful
Because dat feller vit de red knickers vas supposed to be dere.

De little shavers vas all snug in dere beds
Vile visions of sugar plums vas dancing in dere heads
And mama in her curlers and ay in my night shirt
Had yust vashed our feet for a long vinter's nap.

Ven out on de lawn dere arose a heck of a noise
Ay yumped out of may bed to see if it vas de boys,
Avay to de vindow ay flew like a flash
Ay coulda made it faster but ay'd yust ate some hash.

De Moon vas shining on de new snow wot had yust come down
And it vas kinda shining like it vasn't night
And vat to my vondering eyes should appear
But a teeney-weeney sleigh and eight tiny horses.

Dere vas a tiny little driver - so sudden and quick
Ay could tell right avay in may night shirt it was yolly St. Nick
More faster dan eagles his horses dey came
And he whistled and hollered and called em bad names.

Now hasher - now trasher - now vixer - now prancer
On Cosmetics - On Stupid - On Visconsin - On Pittsburg
To de top of de porch to de top of de vall
Now pass avay, pass avay, pass out for cat's sake!

And in two shakes of a skunk's tail ay heard on de roof
Dose animals monkeying around mit dere feet
As ay sucked in may head and tripped over de cat
Down de shimney came Santa Claus flat on his back.

He vas fat as a old hog - right yolly old elf
And ay laughed ven ay seen him - ay couldn't help it.
A vink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know ay didn't have nothin to vorry about.

Vat vas left of his pipe he held in his tooth
And de smoke wrapped around his head like a hoop.
He was qvite broad in places - he had a round little belly
Dat shook ven he'd snicker - like a bottle of likker.

His eyes dey vas glassy - his suit vas de berries,
His cheeks vas like roses - his nose like some cherries
His droll little mouth vas drawed up like a bow
And de beard on his chin dragged down in de snow.

He didn't say nothin - but vent straight to his verk
And put lots of pretty stuff in de hosiery and turned vit a squirt
And putting his fingers in front of his nose
He says - "You know me Kids" and, holy smoke! he vas gone.

He yumped in his big open yob, and to his team gave a vistle
he had promised em for Christmas
And dey yumped up and ran like dey had sat on some tistles
Ay heard him say as he scrammed out of dere
"A Snappy Christmas to all and to all - Ay hope yu get vat yu vant."

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Island of Misfit Conservatives

One of my favorite Christmas TV programs is Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer. Though the animation is corny by today's standards, the story is timeless. But even as I've seen the show countless times since my youth, I never realized the story of Rudolph is really a clever allegory for the eternal struggle between liberals and conservatives.

While liberalism was once a genuine altruistic force for social change, it has metastasized into a frowzy, wheezing beast whose chief self-centered goal is political and economic control of American citizens.

So what does this have to do with the story of that reindeer with the red honker?

Consider Santa Claus. Santa is the face liberals love to put on government. Big, sprawling government. Santa is kind, non-threatening, benevolent, and, in a word, large. His reason for being is to fly around and drop all manner of free gifts on the citizens.

The liberal blueprint for staying in power is to make as many citizens dependant on government as possible. From welfare and Medicaid to Social Security and Medicare, from higher minimum wages to paid family leave, from earned income tax credits to the magic of tobacco settlement money, liberals want people expecting government to stuff free money into their pockets. If the government has to go across the street and take that money from some hard working family, so be it. And once citizens become dependant on those free gifts, they will keep voting for the liberals who bring them these programs.

Along with this philanthropic bent comes an angelic profession of tolerance. Liberals can't say enough about how inclusive they are. Bah, humbug. Dare to stand up and disagree with liberal philosophy. Dare to take conservative views on issues, and watch how fast you get cut out of the herd and attacked.

When Santa and the other liberal reindeer discover Rudolph's shiny nose, they are shocked. Santa even declares that Rudolph must lose the nose before he can join Santa's team. Conformity is the rule.

Rudolph meets Hermey, another conservative castoff from Christmastown. Hermey wants to be a dentist, definitely not the politically correct occupation of elves. Together, Rudolph and Hermey leave Christmastown, singing what often seems a conservative anthem. "Why am I such a misfit?/I am not just a nitwit./Seems I don't fit in."

Along the way, the two misfits meet a prospector named Yukon Cornelius, another conservative. Yukon is just the kind of thing that liberals want to stamp out. He goes where he wants, unhindered by regulations, seeking to make a living on his own. Yukon doesn't expect handouts from anyone.

Sam the Snowman, the genteel liberal, condemns Yukon for seemingly thinking of nothing but silver and gold. Such is the liberal's favorite portrayal of conservatives. But Sam betrays liberalism's true view of money by singing "Silver and Gold/Everyone wishes for silver and gold/How do you measure it's worth?/Just by the pleasure it brings here on earth." Money is the lever that liberals use to wedge themselves into power.

Small wonder the trio end up on the Island of Misfit Conservatives. Conservatives are called many things. Mean-spirited, greedy, intolerant. What better mascot for such a sad bunch than the Charlie-in-the-box. Nobody wants a Charlie-in-the-box, or so liberals would have us think.

But in the end, it is this band of conservatives who save the day. Terrorizing the land is the Abominable Snow Monster. The Abominable is another type of liberal. A gruff, feral exterior really hides a sensitive soul. Bumble, an appropriate name for a liberal, nearly triumphs, but is eventually defanged, and our conservatives find him a job.

Of course, the moral of this delightful children's program is that we all have something to contribute, and we are all valuable even if we seem like misfits. But we who consider ourselves conservative must not let ourselves be beaten down and mischaracterized by liberal attacks. Stand up for what you believe and for what you know is right.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Lebanon has a choice

The madness, the lip-dribbling insanity, the destruction, the complete disregard for human dignity...

But enough about my Christmas weekend in a full house. Let's get back to the War on Terror.

At the Counterterrorism Blog, Michael Kraft writes that Lebanon shouldn't get a free pass for releasing Mohammad Ali Hamadi. Hamadi was paroled by Germany on Dec 15 after serving 19 years for trying to smuggle explosives into Germany. Hamadi is also wanted by the US for murderering a US Navy diver, as I wrote about here.

Kraft writes:

Providing terrorists with sanctuary from prosecution or extradition is one of the grounds the Secretary of State can use for formally designating a country as one that has repeatedly provided support for acts of international terrorism. This is one of the illustrative criteria that the Secretary of State can use in making the determination. Another criteria is providing safe houses or headquarters.

These criteria arguably apply to Lebanon.

With Syria under tremendous pressure, and especially having withdrawn troops, we can hope that Lebanon would turn away from terrorism, but with Syria no longer there to take the blame for support of terrorism, Lebanon will have to choose quickly what path it will follow.

Lebanon has enjoyed a pass on the terrorist list designations because the State Department concluded that the Bakka Valley area, where most of the terrorists were and still are based, was under Syrian control. But now that Syria is largely out of Lebanon, that productive rationale has lost its validity.

President Bush once said "You are either with us or against us". Are we still serious about enforcing that?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Over the river and through the woods

...and down hundreds of miles of freeway asphalt to my sister's house we go.

Feh. Really not looking forward to the drive, but will be fun to spend Christmas with a house full of family.

We're leaving Thursday, and will be on the road for an unholy length of time, so no blogging Thursday. Will return to the blog sometime Friday, as a house with seven kids age 5 and under and 8 adults allows. And, we plan to return to the Nordland here on Tuesday. (But the neighbors are around and will be watching, all you evildoers.)

At some point in the next 24 hours this blog will cross another little milestone, 20,000 visitors since Sept 16 when I got sitemeter plugged into the page.

Thanks again for all who stop by and grace me with your attention.

Have a very Merry Christmas, one and all...

and a Happy Hanukkah to you, too, Hasan

From MEMRI, which ought to be required daily reading for those still unclear on the nature of our enemy...

This is from a TV discussion with Iranian political analysts Dr. Hasan Hanizadeh and Dr. Ali-Reza Akbari, which aired on Jaam-e Jam 2 TV on December 20, 2005.

"Hasan Hanizadeh: Unfortunately, the West has forgotten two horrendous incidents, carried out by the Jews in 19th-century Europe - in Paris and London, to be precise. In 1883, about 150 French children were murdered in a horrible way in the suburbs of Paris, before the Jewish Passover holiday. Later research showed that the Jews had killed them and taken their blood. This event caused riots in Paris back then, and the French government found itself under pressure."

More on the Humvee

Writing at National Review Online today, W. Thomas Smith Jr. has a column examining in some detail the reasons why the US has been slow to find a suitable replacement for the Humvee, a vehicle ill-suited to the combat environment in Iraq.

He makes valid points. One of his main points is that large-scale procurements of new weapon systems or vehicles are lengthy processes. He cites the F-22 Raptor (20 years from conception to deployment) and the M1 tank (24 years).

However, he does seem to undercut his own analysis by citing two examples of much more rapid development.

Earlier this month, I became the first journalist to ride in the prototype vehicle for what may well be the replacement for the up-armored Humvee. The prototype vehicle is known as the Mine-protected Utility Vehicle/Rapid Deployable (MUV-R). Earlier names included "Lion," that name was scrapped because, as Joynt says, the King of Swaziland's armored vehicle was christened, "Lion." The next name was "Kodiak," but Chevrolet was first with that moniker.

The MUV-R's manufacturer, South Carolina-based Force Protection, is currently producing much-larger mine-and-blast protective vehicles — the Buffalo and the Cougar — which are already in service with U.S. forces in Iraq. The Buffalo, which CBS News' Bob Schieffer called a "Humvee on steroids," is a mine-clearance vehicle. The Cougar is a troop transport, but geared for the same market that the M113 armored personnel carrier would be. Not a Humvee.

Therein lies the problem.

"The Humvee is a glorified jeep," says Blount. But the Army and Marines are now using the Humvee for a purpose for which it was never intended.

So it's not so much a question of replacing the Humvee, as much as it is developing a brand new armored vehicle with the same speed, climb, and general off-road performance capabilities of a Humvee.

That may well be the MUV-R, and that vehicle could be on the ground and running in the fourth quarter of 2006, a phenomenal feat considering the concept was realized one year ago. And vehicles weren't initially slated to roll of the line until 2007.

And this one, which I wrote about here:

Force Protection is not the only manufacturer of mine-and-blast protective troop transport vehicles. Other manufacturers, include General Dynamics (currently producing the RG-31 in South Africa), Krauss-Maffei Wegmann and Textron Systems (producing Germany's Dingo 2), and Kuwait-based Granite Global Services.

The latter was founded by U.S. Navy SEAL Reservist Chris Berman, who was working as a Blackwater USA security officer in March 2004 when four of his Blackwater buddies in thin-skinned SUVs were ambushed and killed in Fallujah. After escorting home the body of his close friend, Scott Helvenston, Berman committed to building a vehicle that would save lives. Today his new guns-bristling armored vehicle, "The Rock," is in service with both private contractors and DoD agencies.

In other words, he cites two examples where each was up and running within two years.

If the US government, with all its resources, were serious, really serious, about developing a new vehicle to replace the Humvee once its deficiencies were glaringly obvious, couldn't this country have moved mountains to build a new vehicle by now?

Why is the initiative being driven by private firms?

An update on the 13th MEU

The 13th MEU was heavily involved in Operation Steel Curtain.

They were also involved in Operation Iron Hammer, in the city of Hit.

A letter from the 2/1 Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert G. Oltman, dated December 2005 is available here. (HT: Rich)

A paragraph describes their experiences in Steel Curtain.

While Tombstone was wreaking havoc in the southern part of the Al Anbar Province, the majority of the BLT was to the north in Al Qaim, at a forward operating base near the Syrian Border, preparing for an insurgent clearing operation known as STEEL CURTAIN. The purpose of STEEL CURTAIN was to eliminate insurgent resistance in order to help create a safe environment for the Iraqi people and to help set the conditions for the December elections. The plan was simple: clear the cities and then backfill with US and Iraqi forces in order to establish a permanent presence. This operation found us clearing 3 cities and over 6,000 structures in just under 3 weeks. The resistance varied from non-existent to insurgents fighting to the death. In the instances of the latter, we accommodated their desires. Additionally, we found several weapons caches, destroyed several Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), and eliminated the facilities where these deadly weapons were made. I think more importantly though was the effect we had on the people who live in these cities and towns; we all noticed the look of appreciation and thanks for removing their intimidators and providing them the opportunity for a normal life. As the Coalition Force presence increases in these once insurgent strongholds, you can see the change in the atmosphere; kids playing in the streets, people working outside and taking an active interest in their town. With the insurgent influence and intimidation removed, the people eagerly come forward to inform Coalition Forces of planted IEDs. They also point out people actively supporting or participating in known insurgent activities. From the perspective of this Marine Corps officer, Operation STEEL CURTAIN was a resounding success.

However, that success did not come without a cost. Throughout these 3 weeks of urban combat, our BLT lost 8 Marines. Our sympathy and prayers go to the families of Maj Ramon J. Mendoza Jr. Echo Company, 1st Lt Donald R. McGlothlin, Corporals John M. Longoria, Jeffry A. Rogers, Joshua J. Ware and Lance Corporals Roger W. Deeds, John A. Lucente, and Christopher M. McCrackin all of Fox Company. While I will acknowledge this loss, there are no words that I can use that will adequately describe the heroism of their efforts or the pain and remorse that those left behind feel because of their loss. These brave men truly made a difference, and their actions will be remembered by all, long after this deployment is over. Our thoughts and prayers go out to those friends and family that they left behind. Their spirit still marches on and will guard over us as we continue on what we all started together.

The letter goes on to say the 13th is winding down their time in Iraq. It says after the elections last Dec 15, the 13th will start to turn over their AO, and prepare to begin the journey home.

Upon completion of the National Elections, we will commence a turnover of our Area of Operation and begin our retrograde back to amphibious shipping. If all goes according to plan, we should be back on ship around the first of the year. We will then make our much awaited and anticipated journey back to you. We will make a few quality of life port calls on our way back, but should be in Hawaii picking up Tigers some time in February. We will get you more details about the cruise as they become available. All the Marines have been given registration forms to ensure their Tigers get on the list.

Well done, 2/1, and well done 13th MEU.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Bear and the Dragon

Today Drudge linked to this report saying China now consumes 20 percent of the world's total oil production. China's need for energy sources will be a key factor driving China's foreign policy for the foreseeable future. China needs the fuel to keep its economic expansion going.

China is making efforts to secure these energy sources. You may not immediately link China and Africa in your mind, but China is moving into African oil development in a big way. Just as one example, a Chinese oil company has an agreement to explore and develop oil reserve in western Ethiopia, near the border with Sudan.

I have written a number of times recently about how Russia is using its considerable reserves of oil and gas as a tool of its foreign policy. It should not surprise you, then, that Russia and China are forging ties based in no small part on energy supplies. Certainly, Russia sees an opening to use its natural resources as a means to build an alliance to serve as a counterweight against American power.

Last August, Russia and China conducted their first joint military exercises. The message was clear. A new power to be reckoned with was growing in East Asia.

A week ago, Kuala Lumpur hosted the first ASEAN-Russian Federation Summit. China was there. Russian President Vladimir Putin attended, and one of his goals was to boost cooperation in energy deals.

On the same trip, Putin also addressed the East Asian Summit, another association of East Asian nations that did not include the United States. In this, too, Russia is looking for ways to leverage its advantages in enery resources.

I've written about how Russia is building dependencies in other countries through its pipelines. Russia is also seeking to do the same with China. There are a number of discussions going on between Russia and China to build out gas and oil pipelines between eastern Russia and China. I'll detail those plans in another post.

This article illustrates the focus Russia has:

Bilateral relations have indeed developed apace, reflecting hard-headed mutual interests. On 10 August, Putin told Sergei Razov, his new ambassador to China, that he should "focus on economic ties first of all.... I am talking about the energy sector, like electricity, supplying natural resources, [and] working together in foreign markets."

In 2006, China is expected to build an oil pipeline from the railhead at Blagoveshchensk to the railway line at Heihe across the Amur River, which will have an initial annual capacity of 21 million barrels. The building of additional pipelines will certainly boost Russian sales to the seemingly insatiable Chinese market, which are limited at present largely by the lack of means to deliver the huge quantities of oil that China's expanding economy seeks.

Moreover, the executive director of China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Fu Chengyu, announced on 8 December that his expanding company is interested in "acquiring the assets of Yukos oil company," Interfax reported.

China is not just sitting idly by and waiting for Russia to supply all its needs. As it is doing in Africa, China is moving now to secure the oil and gas it needs.

Last week a oil pipeline from Kazakhstan to China opened, a pipeline that bypasses Russia. The pipeline is managed by Kazakhstan's big energy company KazMunaiGaz. (In a related note though, in my post on Gazprom I mentioned Gazprom reached a deal with KazMunaiGaz whereby Gazprom would virtually control all of that gas. Look for Russia to make moves to compete with Kazakhstan oil as well.)

Also, you may recall the flap from earlier in the year when China attempted to buy the US oil company Unocal. The deal ultimately fell through on political opposition to the deal.

Stratfor's view is that China is taking advantage of Russia's need to sell its oil and gas, and that in the future the two could become competitors.

States that border each other are far more likely to compete for influence than cooperate. This has been lost on many Russians who are so reflexively hostile to the West that they see the largest threat to Russia's existence from Washington and NATO, as opposed to its own rising Muslim population or the Chinese colossus to the southeast. China, for example, even after downsizing its army, still has more men under arms than NATO did at the height of the Cold War.

And while many Russians dream of a Chinese alliance against the West, China has been taking advantage of that misperception and preparing for a world in which Russia no longer matters. It is Beijing, not Moscow, which has been building rail lines and petroleum pipelines into Central Asia and acquiring Central Asian energy firms. It is Beijing, not Moscow, which is now pre-eminent in influence in North Korea. It is Beijing, not Moscow, which quietly sponsors an unofficial policy of encouraging migration of its citizens to resource-rich Russian Siberia. It is Beijing, not Moscow, which is purchasing component after component of Russian military technology as part of a broad-based modernization program. And it is Beijing, not Moscow, which likes to hold large-scale military maneuvers on the border named innocuous things like "Northern Sword."

Moscow has been slow to recognize the shifts in China with the transition from Jiang Zemin to Hu Jintao. Just as Jiang was taken off guard by the change from the easily manipulable former Russian President Boris Yeltsin to the more calculating Putin, Russia has misread the evolution of Chinese policies from Jiang to Hu, thinking that China is still pursuing the same means as it did under Jiang's reign.

This is not the case. Beijing now looks to enhance its influence globally through integration rather than confrontation. Moscow has misread Chinese intent several times recently, from the evolution of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization to the recent Chinese-Russian defense exercises. China is fully engaged in the old three-player game and views Washington as its major concern, with Russia being simply a tool of foreign policy.

Nations with ambitions must have the energy to fuel those ambitions. Watching Russia's and China's goals collide and mesh in the coming years will make for some fascinating international politics.

Did Germany release a terrorist to free a hostage?

Susanne Osthoff, a German archaeologist, was kidnapped in Iraq in late November.

She was released this past Sunday.

In a troubling parallel development, though, last Thursday, three days before Osthoff was released, Germany had paroled a Hezbollah terrorist wanted by the US for the murder of US Navy diver Robert Stethem.

Mohammed Hamadei was arrested in Frankfurt in January 1987 for trying to smuggle liquid explosives into Germany. He was sentenced to life in prison. However, even then Germany may have danced with the devil. According to this report,

Mohammad Ali Hamadei, a Lebanese Shiite Moslem accused of participating in the hijacking of the United States TWA flight 847 and the subsequent murder of a United States navy diver on that flight, was arrested at a Frankfurt airport when he was discovered to be carrying three bottles of liquid plastic explosive. The United States immediately requested his extradition.

West Germany had every intention of complying until the Hizbollah, the terrorist organization Hamadei belonged to, kidnapped Rudolf Cordes, a West German manager of the Hoechst firm. West Germany arrested Hamadei's brother in retaliation. The Hizbollah then kidnapped Siemen's engineer Alfred Schmidt, an important member of the business community. West Germany bowed under the pressure and not only paid a large ransom for Schmidt's return, but agreed not to extradite Hamadei to the United States and promised he would face only a moderate prison term.

Was Mohammed Hamadei released last Thursday in exchange for the release of Osthoff? I don't think that is clear. The fact he was released on the day of the Iraqi elections, when all the world's attention was on the voters, may be an indication Germany was trying to slip this through quietly. And if the two events are related, perhaps Osthoff was not also released on Thursday because vehicle traffic was shut down because of the elections.

However, Hamadei has been considered for parole before. As Debbie Schlussel points out, last June parole had come up. (Don't miss her comments on this story, too.)

In fact, in 2001 Hamadei was considered for parole.

This report from Stern says (excuse my rough German translation skills):

The court found a "minimum completion duration", and Hamadi served his punishment on this basis.
According to the national Ministry of Justice in Wiesbaden, the regional court in Kleve made the decision to release [Hamadei].

For what it's worth, German authorities say the release had nothing to do with Osthoff, and that the timing was coincidental.

I haven't yet been able to find the details on the case, and I don't know much about the German legal system, but if he was paroled, I'd bet the decision was made before Osthoff was kidnapped. I doubt the German court could move so quick and make a decision to parole Hamadi in response to the Osthoff kidnapping. Such a move would be blatant.

The fact Hamadei was released last Thursday may very well not be directly related to the release of Osthoff. Germany may have been trying to buy protection for other German citizens.

German media have reports that a ransom may have been paid for Osthoff. (See here and here.)

This Stern report has the chairman of the Central Council of the Muslims, Nadeem Elyas, saying two groups were involved. The first kidnapped Osthoff and "sold" her to the second group.

I don't know if this is true, but such arrangements are not that uncommon in Iraq. Kidnapping for money is a well-established way for criminals and terrorists to get cash.

There are two more significant considerations to keep in mind. First, it is puzzling why Germany would throw cold water on its relationship with the United States at this point. Merkel just won a tough election. Under Schroeder, relations with the US were at an ebb, and Merkel campaigned on the hopes of at least improving those relations. Would Germany harm relations with the US to buy back one hostage? I think it makes more sense if Germany was buying protection from Hezbollah for German citizens across the Middle East. Perhaps Germany is reacting to recent news of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe.

Second, it would be something of no small import if Hezbollah, a Shiite terrorist group and the client of Iran, had ties to the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. I don't know anything about the group that held Osthoff, but I would guess they were Sunnis. Certainly Iran is a chief sponsor of terrorism, and has been quietly involved in Iraq, but it would be a change if Hezbollah was involved in the kidnapping of Westerners in Iraq, and making such demands of Germany. Possible, yes, but not the only explanation here. It is entirely likely Germany paid a ransom, if not directly from the government then through intermediaries. (And they wouldn't be the first Euros to do so.)

I don't think we know the whole story here, but I think it is too soon to say this was as simple as Germany trading Hamadei for Osthoff.

Others commenting on this story are Michelle Malkin and Captain Ed.

Davids Medienkritik links to a lively State Dept briefing today on the matter

In case you missed it

Iraq receives far more attention than does Afghanistan in the War on Terror, and that isn't always fair.

Iraq just had historic elections last Thursday, but let's not forget the fact that Monday Afghanistan's parliament met for the first time in more than 30 years. Vice President Cheney was on hand to help celebrate this achievement. From a Telegraph report:

Afghanistan's parliament met for the first time in more than 30 years yesterday, completing a transition to democratic government but leaving many Afghans harbouring grave doubts.

After three decades of invasion, bloodshed and civil conflict, President Hamid Karzai described the meeting as a "sign of us regaining our honour".

"We have the right to tell those who are after the destruction of this water and soil that this homeland will exist for ever," he declared, prompting tears from many delegates.

Mr Karzai urged national reconciliation and reiterated a call to Taliban rebels to abandon their insurgency, which has intensified in the past year despite his efforts to encourage defections.

The opening of parliament was the culmination of a United Nations-backed plan to bring democracy, the 2001 Bonn Agreement, drawn up after US-led forces overthrew the Taliban.

Freedom is on the march. Would all this have happened if the Defeatocrats were in charge? If we had listened to the voices in October 2001 telling us Afghanistan was a quagmire? Freedom is not free, and tyrants and killers do not relinquish their hold on power and slink away simply because we wish and hope they would. Iraq and Afghanistan are enjoying freedom because dedicated people fought for it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Fun for the entire family

Last night I was watching some of the Bears-Falcons game, amused at the sight of the boys from Georgia dealing with temps in the single digits. During commercials, I happened to flip over to AMC. The initials stand for American Movie Classics.

So what was on. A Steven Seagal movie. Yes, Ol' Squinty Eyes himself, on American Movie Classics. A sign the world is coming to an end. (Yes, the channel did make a switch awhile back to include movies that, uh, weren't exactly classics.)

It reminded me, though, of a game I invented, a game that can provide hours of amusement for the entire family.

Seagal's earlier movies all could be used with the phrase "Steven Seagal IS...", and indeed movie trailers often did just that. "Steven Seagal IS Marked For Death." "Steven Seagal IS Hard To Kill." And so on.

Well, now you can join in the fun. Just put the phrase in front of today's movies, and you too can have buckets of entertainment.

Steven Seagal IS King Kong.
Steven Seagal IS Brokeback Mountain.
Steven Seagal IS Aeon Flux.
Steven Seagal IS Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Steven Seagal IS Chicken Little.

You can play with true classics...

Steven Seagal IS The Godfather.
Steven Seagal IS The Maltese Falcon.
Steven Seagal IS The Third Man.

or, with musicals...

Steven Seagal IS The Sound Of Music.
Steven Seagal IS The Wizard Of Oz.

with foreign films...

Steven Seagal IS Aguirre Wrath Of God.
Steven Seagal IS Betty Blue.

with comedies...

Steven Seagal IS Dr. Strangelove
Steven Seagal IS Annie Hall.

See how it works? Now, you will never be bored during the holidays.

Teach your children well, Hezbollah style

My children are age 5 and 4. The videos we let them watch are Care Bears, Bambi, Fox and the Hound, Snow White, Veggie Tales, Country Mouse City Mouse, etc... Nothing very violent, always with an uplifting message. Focusing on whatsoever is good and pure, as the Good Book says.

MEMRI has video of an Egyptian children's claymation show from Al-Manar TV, which is affiliated with the Lebanese terrorist organization Hezbollah. It shows Jews turning into apes and pigs and being washed away in the sea.

A translation, and a link to the actual video which you can view, are here.

An excerpt:

[While jumping up and down, Pinhas, Shamloun, Habakkuk, and others in the marketplace turn into apes. The boy and his grandfather open a door in the wall and step to the other side with some other villagers.]

Grandfather: "Look, my child, the young among them have turned into apes, and their elderly have become pigs."

Boy: "They should know that the Lord speaks the truth and punishes severely."

Grandfather: "Praise the Lord, who has saved us. They remained in this condition for three days, and then were annihilated. The wind has cast them into the sea."

[Music plays as the apes and pigs are cast into the sea.]

Such hatred of the Jews is commonplace among Muslims and Muslim media. Just in the last few days MEMRI has other examples.

From this page:

In an article titled "Israel's Lies" in the Egyptian government evening paper Al-Masaa, columnist Hisham Abd Al-Rauf wrote that there were no massacres of the Jews during World War II, and that the gas chambers were intended for disinfecting clothing. Hitler, he wrote, was not against the Jews, and had even permitted Jews to emigrate to Palestine during his first years in power.

From this page:

Lebanon's Largest Government University Hosts Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV Symposium Calling to Wipe Israel Off The Map: ‘Just Like Hitler Fought The Jews…We Too Should Fight The Jews and Burn Them’

When Iranian President Ahmadinejad said Israel should be "wiped off the map", or when he said Israel should be established in Europe, he wasn't trying to introduce some radical new philosophy. He was simply saying things that were part and parcel of his everyday experience. His audience would understand such utterances to be as natural as discussing soccer scores.

(For something to relate to, imagine a group of far Leftys engaged in conversation, and one says "President Bush is evil and the greatest danger to the world today", and the others just nod in serious agreement.)

Such hatred is common in Israel's enemies. It is a brother to the hatred which drives terrorists to blow up weddings in Jordan, or children in Iraq, or trains in Madrid and London. This hatred will not be defeated by ingratiating, apologetic cooing words of understanding and sensitivity.

The rest of the world can hold up a mirror to it, and let it see its ugly reflection, but ultimately this hatred can only be killed.


Stephen Hayes of The Weekly Standard, a journalist who is what journalists should be, has since February been trying to obtain unclassified documents recovered in postwar Iraq. A Pentagon project called DOCEX (document exploitation) is headquartered in Doha, Qatar (with sites in Baghdad and Washington), and is endeavoring to translate as many as 2 million items from Saddam Hussein's regime, items that could provide good intelligence on what was going on in Hussein's Iraq.

However, for reasons that don't seem to make a lot of sense, Hayes has had trouble obtaining any of these documents from the Pentagon. (See here, here and here.)

In this article from the Dec 19 issue, Hayes describes his latest (unsuccessful) attempt to obtain some of these documents.

One of the ones he requested, though, caught my jaundiced eye. Now, be aware that the provenance of this document has not been established, but, the Pentagon has flagged documents in its cache as potentially inauthentic, and this document was not flagged as such. This document Hayes sought was this one:

Title: Presidential instruction from Hussein concerning mass graves in southern Iraq, and how to handle the PR/media fallout.

Description: Concerning mass graves found in the south: Check for nuclear radiation, identify bodies, ensure that CNN is the first news agency onsite. Any funerals should have an international impact. Signed by Hussein.
Agency: DIA
Document Date: Feb-01
Document #: ISGZ-2004-00224003

Note to CNN: If true, you really might want to rethink your editorial stance. When a brutal dictator thinks you are a useful propaganda tool, that's usually a reliable sign you have some problems.

Monday Winds of War Briefing

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Monday's Winds of War briefings are given by Peace Like a River and Security Watchtower.

Top Topics

* Hamas won a landslide election victory in major cities in the West Bank, stunning Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party, and prompting the Israeli Foreign Ministry to say that "if Hamas was ever to become a dominant force in Palestinian politics, that would be the end of the peace process." The U.S. House of Representatives passed a resolution calling for Hamas to be prevented from running in elections until it recognizes Israel's right to exist, but the Bush administration has also indicated they will not get involved in the Palestinian elections. The European Union is considering cutting aid to the Palestinians if Hamas wins parliamentary elections. Hamas denounced the resolution and said they would participate and put forward candidates regardless. Division within the Fatah Party have Mahmoud Abbas threatening to to quit, while some are urging him to delay the January elections.

* The Al Aqsa Martyr Brigades claim they have developed a Qassam rocket that can hits targets in Israel from up to 11 miles away. Over the last two weeks, Palestinian terrorists have fired 92 rocket and mortar shells on Israel, including a series of Qassam rocket attacks that landed in the Western Negev. In response, IDF artillery units pounded northern Gaza, and Israeli aircraft targeted Palestinian terrorists who were firing rockets into Israel, hitting key bridges being used by the group and wounding four.

* President Bush refused to say whether the National Security Agency eavesdropped without warrants on people inside the United States but leaders of Congress condemned the practice on Friday and promised to look into what the administration has done. On Saturday he defended the program, saying he authorized its use more than 30 times since the 2001 terror attacks, but only to intercept the international communications of people who have been determined to have "a clear link" to al-Qaida or other terrorist organizations.

Other topics today include: Terrorists shoot Israeli settler; bomb-packed vehicle found in Nablus; The Mehlis Report; Sharon to hospital; Jordan steps up security; Patriot Act; Immigration Bill Amendment; Bakr trial; Rebel attack in Columbia; Firefight in Kashmir; Clashes in Afghanistan; Car bombing in Kabul; Counterterrorism in Bangladesh; Security faltering in Kyrgyzstan; IED kills 3 Filipino officers; anti-terrorism legislation in Philippines; Thai authorities battle insurgency; Counterterrorism raids in Paris; Basque bombing in Spain; Bosnia passes arms to Afghanistan; Iran missile purchases reported; EU closer to sanctions on Iran; Terrorism & Africa's diamond trade; Cheney trip to Middle East; US threat warning; and much more.

Iran & the Middle East

* Palestinian terrorists shot and killed an Israeli settler in the West Bank on Friday, while he was passing near the Beit Haggai settlement immediately south of Hebron.

* Israeli analysts say that democracy is slowly taking hold in Iraq and the insurgency is losing its Sunni support-base. "Basically the U.S. efforts are working and progress is being made, which doesn't mean there aren't problems," said Prof. Barry Rubin, an analyst with the GLORIA Center at the Interdisciplinary Center near Tel Aviv. "The turnout is good because [it means] people think they're going to win. Intimidation isn't working. It shows that people want [democracy]," said Rubin.

* Palestinian authorities discover a bomb-packed vehicle outside of the Rafidia Hospital in Nablus, West Bank.

* With the string of recent bombings in Lebanon and the Mehlis report results pointing at Syrian officials, there is a heightened sense of concern and caution on the streets in Beirut.

* Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a mild stroke on Sunday and is expected to recover and be back at work in a few days. The seventy-seven year old never lost consciousness. News of his admission to the hospital drew cheers and celebrations from Palestinians in Gaza, who fired off weapons into the air and handed out candy.

* Six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) began a joint military exercise named Jazeera Hawk-1 in Qatar on Sunday, "aimed at practicing command missions, joint control, planning and executing joint air assignments." They also stated that a peaceful Iranian nuclear program was "not worrisome," but also warned of the potential security consequences of a nuclear weapons program.

* Hundreds of Jordanian security forces conducted security sweeps in looking for Islamic terrorists in the city of Irbid, following intelligence that pointed to a possible suicide car bomb threat. On Sunday, a Jordanian court handed down a second death sentence for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, for a failed suicide bombing at the border a year ago.

America Domestic Security & the America's

* Senate Democrats blocked passage Friday of a new Patriot Act to combat terrorism at home, depicting the measure as a threat to the constitutional liberties of innocent Americans. The Senate voted 52-47 to advance a House-passed bill to a final vote, eight short of the 60 needed to overcome the filibuster backed by nearly all Senate Democrats and a handful of the 55 Republicans.

* The Justice Department's inspector general has found that FBI agents mishandled a counterterrorism case in 2002, falsified records to cover up their mistakes and retaliated against a whistleblower for exposing the problems.

* A House-Senate agreement reached Friday opened the way for Congress to approve a two-year extension of a post-9/11 law providing federal insurance backup for catastrophic losses suffered in a terrorist attack. The Senate approved the compromise by voice vote late Friday, and the House is expected to follow suit on Saturday as Congress moves to finish its work for the year.

* The House voted Thursday to add an amendment to the immigration bill HR4437 calling for the 700-mile fence to be built in five sections, leaving roughly 1,300 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border between the unfenced sections. One section would start five miles west of the Columbus, N.M., port of entry and end 10 miles east of El Paso. The bill, called the Border Protection, Anti-Terrorism, and Illegal Immigration Control Act of 2005, passed the House late Friday 239-182. Congress was still struggling over other aspects of the bill.

* At least 51 people who crossed the border illegally have been arrested on suspicion of terrorism since such tracking began 14 months ago, according to figures released to Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., by the Department of Homeland Security.

* A group linked to terrorist organization Hezbollah has cloned the cellphones of Rogers Communications executives, including that of CEO Ted Rogers, The Globe and Mail reported Saturday. The Rogers Wireless bill listed more than 300 calls made in the month of August, some to foreign countries, including Pakistan, Libya, Syria, India and Russia.

* Abdullah Khadr, accused of links to terrorism, was arrested by the RCMP Saturday night in Toronto on a provisional warrant issued by the United States. The warrant is issued when a foreign government makes an application to Ottawa for the arrest of an individual based in Canada.

* The hearing of the conspiracy to murder re-trial against Jamaat al Muslimeen leader Imam Yasin Abu Bakr has been set to engage the attention of a High Court judge in January next year, officials at the Supreme Court said yesterday. Bakr was charged with conspiring to murder two expelled members of his Mucurapo Road mosque, Salim "Small Salim" Rasheed and Zaki Aubaidah, his son-in-law on June 4, 2003, at Citrine Drive, Diego Martin.

* The police officer who slapped five charges against Jamaat al Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr was grilled extensively last week by Bakr's lead attorney, Pamela Elder. Insp Christopher Holder of the Port of Spain Criminal Investigations Department laid five charges against Bakr, one for sedition, three for inciting the demand of money, property and the breach of the peace and a fifth count of terrorism. The charges all arose from Abu Bakr's Eil-ul-Fitr sermon at the Mucurapo Road Mosque in St James on November 4.

* A paper (available here as PDF) by Peter DeShazo of the CSIS says Bolivia is in the midst of a deep political crisis that may be further exacerbated by results of the December 18 elections. The very real prospect of a deepening crisis in Bolivia, with negative implications for regional development and security, poses a serious challenge to Bolivia’s neighbors and to the United States.

* Hundreds of fighters from three rebel armies united to attack a village in western Colombia, officials said Sunday, offering new details in the bold assault that killed at least five police officers.

Russia & South/Central Asia

* Police in Indian-administered Kashmir say two suspected militants and an army soldier have died in a gun battle. The fighting broke out on Friday morning when soldiers raided a hideout of suspected militants in Rajouri district of Jammu.

* A US soldier and a suspected Taleban fighter have been killed in fighting in Afghanistan in the northeast of Kandahar province, US military says. US troops were on patrol with Afghan soldiers when they came under fire, a US military statement says.

* An Afghan terrorist blasted himself in an attempt to set a bomb near a mosque in the town of Mazari Sharif, Reuters reported. The mosque was expected to be visited by the Minister of Youth of Afghanistan Amin Afzali.

* A bomb has exploded in a car near the new Afghan parliament in Kabul, killing a suspected suicide bomber. Friday's explosion took place just 500 metres from the building where MPs will meet on Monday for the historic opening of the new parliament.

* Four policemen and three suspected Taliban fighters were killed in two separate attacks in volatile southern Afghanistan, police and a provincial officials have said. About a dozen suspected insurgents stormed a police checkpost on a main highway late Saturday, sparking a fierce gun battle in which three policeman and a attacker were killed, highway police commander Mohammad Nabi Allahyar said Sunday.

* Here are the daily updates from the South Asia Terrorism Portal for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

* Law enforcers continued the hunt for the hideouts of the activists and the masterminds of the outlawed Jamiatul Mujahidin Bangladesh (JMB) and arrested six persons for their alleged involvement in bomb terrorism from Sirajganjm, Chapai Nawabganj and Gazipur areas Thursday.

* Security forces in Bangladesh say they have arrested the military head of a banned Islamic militant group blamed for a series of suicide bombings. The suspected operations commander of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen, Ataur Rahman Sunny, was held during a raid in the capital, Dhaka, on Wednesday.

* Police in Bangladesh seized a huge amount of bombs and explosives and arrested four militants in the second major success this week against radicals fighting for Islamic rule, officials said on Saturday.

* The Rapid Action Battalion has been conducting a countrywide crackdown on the Islamist terrorist and arrested about 12 militants of banned Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) from different parts of that country on Friday. The arrested JMB cadres were identified as Jamil, Shamshuddin Aftab and Monirul Islam.

* Bangladesh's leading Ulema Saturday denounced bomb terrorism in the name of Islam and called upon the millions of religious–minded Muslims in the country to resist such heinous acts unitedly. Addressing a big rally at the city’s Paltan maidan the Islamic thinkers said the activists and masterminds of bomb terrorism are the enemies of Islam as well as humanity.

* A new law in Bangladesh having provisions for the prevention of 'terrorist financing' will soon replace the existing Anti-Money Laundering Act 2002. The final draft of the law titled, "Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Prevention Act 2005", which is expected to be placed before the Cabinet tomorrow (Monday) for its approval, seeks to empower the Bangladesh Bank to suspend or stop operation of any account, for 30 days, involved in suspicious transactions without any prior notice.

* Scandinavian ceasefire monitors in Sri Lanka have blamed Tamil Tigers for shooting at an unarmed military helicopter earlier this week and said the attack seriously undermined the fragile truce. The Norwegian-led Sri Lanka Monitoring Mission (SLMM) called Wednesday's shooting of a Mi-17 transport helicopter flying over the east of the island a "gross violation" of a ceasefire that went into force in February 2002

* Among the seven items in the latest issue of Chechnya Weekly from The Jamestown Foundation is a report the lower house of Chechnya's newly-elected parliament, unanimously voted on December 14 to rename the capital, Grozny, in honor of Akhmad Kadyrov, the pro-Moscow president assassinated in May 2004.

* The main representative of Al Qaeda in the North Caucasus was killed in the Russian internal republic of Dagestan in November, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) reported on Friday. The "ideologist" of the international terrorist network, Sheikh Abu Omar Al Seyf, came to the region about 10 years ago on the orders of Osama bin Laden, the FSB’s social communication center was quoted by RIA-Novosti as saying.

* A report from the International Crisis Group entitled Kyrgyzstan: A Faltering State looks at the unrest and violence in that country. The government is losing control over public security.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* A magistrate in Australia refused to grant bail for two men who have been charged with terrorist offenses, saying that granting them bail would provide an unacceptable risk to society.

* The Communist New People's Army (NPA) detonated a roadside bomb on a Filipino military convoy in North Cortabato, killing three officers and wounding eleven other soldiers. The troops were headed to Nabubdasan to provide medical care to farmers in the region at the time of the attack.

* President President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo prodded the Filipino Senate to pass an anti-terrorism bill recently passed in the House of Representatives, saying "we appeal to the Senate to finish the job as a supreme act of patriotism to save lives from the scourge of evil."

* Thousands of Muslims, led by former Indonesian President Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid, marched through the streets of Jakarta to protest against terrorism.

* Thai authorities continue to battle an Islamic insurgency in southern Thailand, a conflict that has killed more than 1,100 people in less than two years. Security analysts describe the 3,000 armed insurgents as "committed, hard-core, Islamo-separatists."


* Counterterrorism raids in Paris this week have netted 25 Islamic terror suspects, as well as yielding caches of explosives, detonators and guns. One of the suspect had ties to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's network in Iraq. At least fourteen suspects were released without charges, while 11 others are suspected of financing terror and remained detained.

* According to one report out of London, two of the four suicide bombers that carried out the July 7th bombings of the London subway, were scrutinized earlier by British intelligence and weren't considered a threat.

* A bomb exploded Saturday in the Basque region of France, after a threat was called in by the ETA. No injuries were reported.

* Four European nations led by Denmark, are preparing a reform initiative at the U.N. Security Council that would require disclosure to individuals targeted for sanctions as to why they are included on the list, and allow for appeals if requested.

* Rather than destroying weapon stockpiles left over from the 1992-1995 war, the Bosnian Serb government will donate them to the Afghanistan. The transfer will include 4,500 rifles, 400 machineguns, and one million rounds of ammunition.

* According to one report out of Germany that cites a German intelligence report, Iran has purchased eighteen BM-25 missiles from North Korea with the intention of using them to expand their own range on missiles.

* Following weeks of inflammatory rhetoric, many Europeans are now leaning towards sanctions against Iran over their nuclear program. The United States is pushing for a two front approach, isolating and marginalizing the Iranian government, while reaching out and offering assistance to the Iranian people.


* United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed on Ivory Coast have been extended by a year and imports of rough diamonds have been banned. Terrorist organizations like al-Qaida and civil war groups are reportedly getting funds from diamond trade proceeds in Africa.

* Investigations into Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad bil-Maghrib (the Monotheism and Jihad group in Morocco) cells broken up by Moroccan security have revealed the inroads al-Qaeda has made into the region.

* Ethiopia and Eritrea are still caught up amidst a messy decision to end the longstanding border conflicts between the countries. Events of the last couple of weeks indicate that both countries might well sort out their long-standing border dispute militarily again. Ethiopia earlier announced withdrawal of its troops from the tense Eritrea-Ethiopian border.

* A United Nations genocide expert Friday voiced disappointment in the efforts of Sudan’s Government to address the crimes committed in Darfur region, where conflict has been marked by massive displacement, rights abuses and widespread killings.

* A truth commission tasked with investigating more than four decades of human rights abuses in Morocco uncovered nearly 600 disappearances and the deaths of about 500 people during street riots or while in police custody, the state news agency reported Friday. The commission — the first its kind in the Arab world — called for reform of the country's judicial and security sectors, along with constitutional guarantees of human rights, presumption of innocence and fair, open trials, the MAP news agency reported.

* In an interview led by the Iqra channel — an Islamic satellite TV -, the Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir denounced American hostility to Arab and Islamic countries. He also said the international Zionist movement is using all means to eradicate Arabs and Islam and target all Muslim countries, including Sudan.

The Global War

* U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney will go to Afghanistan for the first session of its new parliament this week and also make stops in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Oman -- all allies in the U.S. war against terrorism. He will also meet with President Hamid Karzai and visit U.S. troops.

* The scientific community faces a new dilemma with the rapid biotech advances that could on one hand save lives, while on the other wind up being used by terror organizations to carry out biological attacks on a civilian population.

* The United States has warned of possible militant attacks on its interests in the Middle East and North Africa and urged Americans there to be vigilant, the US embassy in Kuwait said on Saturday. "Credible information has indicated terrorist groups seek to continue attacks against US interests in the Middle East and North Africa," the US embassy in Kuwait said in a statement dated Dec. 15 and posted on its Web site on Saturday.

* He hasn't been heard from in more than a year, but one news site reports that it has obtained a new tape of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. But U.S. officials are skeptical of the report, CBS News reports.

* According to an article in the December issue of National Defense, only a few months ago, the primary message was the Navy’s relevance in the U.S. war on terrorism, homeland defense and maritime security, as well as preparing for a possible war in the Pacific. But naval contributions to relief efforts following major natural disasters during the past year—the Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and a devastating earthquake in Pakistan—have prompted a rethinking of naval roles and missions, noted Adm. John B. Nathman, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

* The Chinese petroleum company, Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau (ZPAEB), will start drilling the first exploratory well in the Gambela basin, in western Ethiopia, near the Sudanese border. ZPAEB is contracted by Petronas, the Malaysian company which signed an agreement with the Ethiopian Ministry of Mines and Energy (MoME) to explore and develop oil reserve in the Gambela concession.

Thanks for reading! If you found something here you want to blog about yourself (and we hope you do), all we ask is that you do as we do and offer a Hat Tip hyperlink to today's "Winds of War". If you think we missed something important, use the Comments section to let us know. For ongoing tips, email "MondayWindsOfWar", over here

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The stones in the mosaic

In this post, I detailed the seven operations conducted in Ramadi in November and December, as part of the larger effort to secure that area for the elections last Thursday.

A graphic in the Dec 14 issue (PDF) of This Week In Iraq shows the locations of these operations. (Operation Skinner is not shown on this graphic. That operation was in central Ramadi.)

(click the thumbnail for a graphic of the Ramadi operations)

In this post, I gave a nod to the operations all across Iraq leading up to the elections. Did they have an impact? Here is a graphic from the same issue TWIR showing a steep decline in attacks from October to November.

The numbers, benign and abstract on the screen, do not adequately convey the hard work, the sacrifice, the courage on the part of the US and Iraqi forces that went into making these numbers a reality. It is human sweat, blood and tears that make the numbers on charts like this change. Each house searched by a platoon, each door knocked down, each alley driven down, each patrol, each weapons cache dug up, each Iraqi interviewed for leads, they are all the small stones that make up the larger mosaic of contuining success in Iraq.

(click the thumbnail for a graphic showing the decline in enemy activity)

Also in TWIR, Gen. Casey gives us an idea of what to look for in the coming months in Iraq. With the Iraqi army performing better with each passing month, the Coalition would like to focus on helping the Iraqi government develop effective institutions.

However, to ensure the military and police maintain the momentum they have achieved, the next year will see a focus on enhancing the capacity of various ministries, such as the Ministry of Defense, Interior, Finance and Justice. Increasing ministerial capacity is key to making the elections decisive, supporting the newly elected government and maintaining the momentum achieved over the past two years. Remember, the elections are not the end. They are only the beginning.

No one is running around waving their hands, shrieking, wondering what ever will we do in Iraq. Mountains are being moved in Iraq, by Americans and Iraqis, to achieve success. Is it not a sign of how far we have come, that the Coalition can consider the progress of the Iraqi army well in hand, and that they can start to focus on the Iraqi government?

Update: Speaking of the progress of the Iraqi army, on Dec 19 Operation Moonlight got underway near Ubaydi, one of the towns targeted in Steel Curtain. This is an Iraqi ballgame, with some support from US forces.

Iraqi Army soldiers from three Iraqi battalions are conducting a cordon and knock operation east of Ubaydi. The Iraqi soldiers are being supported by 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, Regimental Combat Team-2 and 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (Forward).

This is the first large-scale operation planned and executed by Iraqi soldiers of the 1st Brigade. The operation objective of Moonlight is to disrupt insurgent activity along the northern and southern banks of the Euphrates River near Ubaydi.

The Iraqis are doing the work the US forces would've done a few months ago. This operation, coming in the wake of Steel Curtain, is to just make sure the bad guys don't creep back into these western river towns. It is the kind of operation done by a permanent security presence. It is a sign of a maturing Iraqi army.

When the MOB meets, elephants tremble

Had a terrific time last night at the MOB Winter Bash. Met many people whose blogs I enjoy.

Enjoyed meeting Leo from Psycmeistr, at long last. Was nice to see Ben of Hammerswing75 again. Only the second time, but he seems like an old friend already. (Ben has the best photo roundup I've seen so far of the evening.)

Talked to Kevin of EckerNet, and discovered he is an MSSE alum, and at work sits next to someone who is in the program with me now. Small world. John the Night Writer was there with his family, so got to meet the famed duo Mall Diva and Tiger Lily. Andy of Residual Forces was also in residence.

Met the Chief Dog from Freedom Dogs. What a great guy. Got a MOB T-Shirt from him. Met Cathy of Cathy In The Wright fame, and Kathy the CakeEater and her husband. Met Surly Dave, who was anything but.

Finally met Ron from NorthernBurbsBlog. Now that I know where he is located in a place I frequent almost daily, I'll stop by and say hi.

Met Tracy from Anti-Strib, and Guy from Freedom Dogs. Also met Doug of the enjoyable BogusGold.

At last got to meet witslinger Chad the Elder from Fraters Libertas, and also Mitch, my fellow NoDak transplant, of Shot in the Dark.

I shook hands with John Hinderaker of Power Line, though no clouds of recognition darkened his visage when I mentioned Peace Like A River, so I still have some work to do in the fame building department. Lileks was there, stood shoulder to shoulder (well, shoulder to ear) at one point, but he was constantly swarmed so didn't get a chance to say hi.

Doug of Crossword Bebop was there, helping a blogger newbie with some questions. Saw Brian St. Paul Ward (also of Fraters) moving about, and saw the Nihilist and Atomizer (still another Fraters) again. Fine chums.

Met Marty Andrade and Tony.

Met King Banaian and Craig Westover.

A wide range of blogs and talents in the MOB, so makes for a good party. And no one was shotgunned on the sidewalk outside the joint.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Religion is not iodine, it does not automatically stain

Power Line highlights a Krauthammer column on Iran, and also points out that Krauthammer takes an unnecessary swipe at former Secretary of the Interior James Watt.

Krauthammer's column is meant to point out how religious extremism is a motivating factor in Iran, and how it might induce in Iran a willingness to precipitate even something as horrible as nuclear war. However, Krauthammer goes to paint extremism in other religions, as he sees it, with too broad a brush.

Indeed, as much as I like Krauthammer, he does have a bit of an anti-religious right streak in him.

It leads him to make, uh, missteps like the one Power Line mentioned.

After just having finished talking about a "madman" who would be willing to start a nuclear war out of religious convictions, and the number of dead being of no concern apparently, Krauthammer used the term "messianically inclined leader" in the same sentence he introduces Watt. As my other favorite WaPo conservative, George Will, would say: Well. Krauthammer says:

The closest we've come to a messianically inclined leader in America was a secretary of the interior who 24 years ago, when asked about his stewardship of the environment, told Congress, "I don't know how many future generations we can count on before the Lord returns; whatever it is we have to manage with a skill to leave the resources needed for future generations."

I see. Take the Bible seriously, believe in a living Lord, and you're the equivalent of a madman who would happily nuke millions.

There are a couple of other ones though.

Krauthammer says:

And as in some versions of fundamentalist Christianity, the second coming will be accompanied by the usual trials and tribulations, death and destruction.

You can just hear the condescension in that word "usual". It's hardly meant to validate the belief millions of Christians have, a belief they derive, the silly misguided fools, from reading the Bible. Perhaps the learned Charles would devote a column to pointing out why their interpretation of the Book of Revelation is so patently absurd. Maybe his reading of Revelation is different, but I hope he would bring more to the debate than just "I think Revelation is silly because it just is."

(And y'all realize that it is Revelation, singular. One is enough when it comes from God.)

Also, Krauthammer says this:

To be sure, there are such madmen among the other monotheisms. The Temple Mount Faithful in Israel would like the al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount destroyed to make way for the third Jewish Temple and the messianic era.

He says monotheisms, plural, but only mentions Judaism. Is he trying to implicate Christianity through the back door? Yes, there are Jews, and Christians, who believe the Temple will be rebuilt where the Dome is now. Some even would be willing to hasten the Dome's removal.

But is Krauthammer saying such folks would be willing to start a nuclear war to remove the Dome? He sure seems to imply it.

Usually Krauthammer doesn't dabble in eschatology. His anti-religious right streak usually comes out when he talks about abortion. (He's pro-choice.)

I still think he is one the Right's keenest thinkers. Which is why it is even more dismaying that he sounds like the secular Left at times.

It is still an inadequate vehicle

In this post, I touched on private efforts to address the shortcomings of the Humvee, and provide a vehicle better suited for today's combat environments. I listed the casualties from Nov 15 through Nov 24 involving Humvees. Here are casualties since then, where Humvees were specified as being involved.

DateNameAssigned ToCircumstances
Nov 29Sgt. Donald Hasse
Sgt. Jerry Mills Jr.
13th ARIED detonated near their HMMWV
Dec 6Spc. Brian Wright135th ECHMMWV struck a mine
Dec 81st Lt. Kevin Smith3rd IDIED detonated near his HMMWV
Dec 8Sgt. Spencer Akers125th IRIED detonated near his HMMWV
Dec 10Sgt. Julia Atkins89th MPBIED detonated near her HMMWV
Dec 11Sgt. 1st Class James Moudy10th MDIED detonated near his HMMWV
Dec 13Staff Sgt. Michael Zyla
Sgt. Brian Karim
Spc. James Kesinger
Spc. Peter Navarro
3rd BCTIED detonated near their HMMWV
Dec 15Spc. Joseph Lucas3rd IDIED detonated near his HMMWV

This article from Defense Industry Daily describes US government efforts to improve the Humvee's armor. While these efforts have an impact, they are not enough to solve the deficiencies.

Creating the US Army's ubiquitous (and mine-vulnerable) up-armored Humvees is a two-step process. First, one procures the vehicle itself, usually a variant with uprated suspension et. al. designed to accommodate the weight of the armor and other add-ons. This is only partly successful, as up-armored Humvees will still wear out far faster than more lightly armored varieties. In step two, a different firm produces and/or adds armor and other useful survivability improvements - including smart choices like gun shields. This, too, is useful but only partly successful, as the HMMWV's flat bottom leaves it more vulnerable to IED mines than vehicles like the RG-31 with V-bottom hulls. RG-31s are in use by the US 101st Airborne in Iraq, and will soon see service with Canadian forces in Afghanistan. Australian forces, meanwhile, use ADI's larger Bushmaster IMV.

A pair of recent contract awards illustrate the up-armored HMMWV two-step process. They do not necessarily pertain to the same vehicles, but they are illustrative when juxtaposed.

Note the time frames involved those contracts. Not soon enough for troops that need a better vehicle today.

Here are some more of my correspondent's thoughts on the Humvee.

HOWEVER, the vehicle itself is entirely inadequate. full stop. end of discussion. As for its combat survivablility and ease of use-if you will- it is a very pathetic joke. and the joke is on the unfortunate grunts who have to utilize its ungracious and unwieldy features.

When ambushed or quick egress on raids or turn and fire through open windows, the doors are ALL set in WRONG. Its designers never thought to put a full load battle gear soldier in and fight on the move or stationary (or simulate it, shouldn't that be a contract requirement?!). You can't move or get out fast! is what I am saying.

The armor, while it saves lives, is a joke!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I will not go into that anymore. It has way too MANY seams, holes and completely open angles!!!!!!!!!!!!!??????????????? to even countenance its (mis!)nominclature of being "up-armored" (and THIS is the so called uparmor I am refering to. the others are even LESS survivable) Ther turret, such as it is and/or has evolved, is a joke. No armored window/firing port visor setup. (Gentleman, lets just look as designs that have worked ie the israeli or some of the south african designs. Tried and true in real, actual COMBAT) -(not like we are doing it, making it up as we go along, off the cuff and out of junk yard scrap metal piles) There are NO firing ports, you have to open the windows to do it. Extremely useful to have in some (but not all) situations. Current situation fighting INSIDE and With this vehicle. Overall, Not good.

I have had way too many friends and fellow soldiers, Americans! suffer wounds and or die because of its inadequacies. I could go on and on. Time is a premium for me. I could redesign it, but it would change so much it would not even be a humvee when i am done. And that's the point!

There is a critical and immediate need for a True, purpose designed armored FIGHTING vehicle.

Come on a raid with me or get some reporter credentials and go patrol with the marines in Anbar.

Friday, December 16, 2005

What can be done?

Today, the Senate Defeatocrats, and 4 quivering Republican noodles as their aides-de-camp, filibustered the extension of the Patriot Act, thereby all but ensuring the Act will expire at the end of the year.

Hugh Hewitt's post said they went Ahab. If we're speaking of crazy captains, when it comes to national security, the Defeatocrats are more like Captain Queeg, rolling (their lost) marbles in their hands and blathering on about government snoops stealing their strawberries. Such is their paranoia about enabling our government to protect us.

On his radio show today Hewitt talked to Senator John Kyl.

Kyl pointed out the loose-bowel Defeatocrats who voted against this had no idea what they were voting against.

HH: 202-225-3121 is what connects you to Capitol Hill. 202-225-3121. What reasons...what did they want? Because this was a compromise act already, Senator Kyl.

JK: Yes, but what they told us, and I think this is true...first of all, most of them didn't know what was in the conference report. We had made so many compromises in here, I almost didn't sign the conference report. But they can't tell you, the people who voted no can't really tell you what they'd do differently.

But, Kyl also got it exactly right when he said the Defeatocrats filibustered this because they felt no political pressure to vote for the Patriot Act.

I think that the people on the other side did not feel any political threat from casting the vote that they cast. And until the American people rise up and let them know that we will not stand for this, I don't think they're going to change their vote.
So right now, they feel that they're on the side of the people. And until the people say no, no, no, we want you to protect us, the Patriot Act is a good thing, they're not going to feel the political pressure to change.

When it comes down to it, what has the Defeatocrat's anti-war position really cost them? And I mean today. Certainly it may have kept them out of the White House, but what price are they paying today for their defeatism and constant attacks on President Bush, and now this, during a time of war?

Unless and until more people in this country realize what we are truly facing, we are not going to be unified as a country in facing this threat of radical Islam.

Michelle Malkin had a post linking to some of the talk on the Left these days. (And don't miss her post about Chicken Littles. See Vox Taciturn for some good commentary on the topic as well.)

How are we to combat that? With that as their base, the Defeatocrats see no reason not to filibuster the Patriot Act.

It feels like not only are we fighting the Islamic murderers, we're fighting too many of our own at home.

Have we forgotten how we felt on September 11?

Thursday, December 15, 2005


Friday is a school day for me, so back in the evening. Saturday morning have one more seminar, than done with the semester, and back for the home stretch Jan 20. And Saturday evening is the MOB Winter Bash! (I don't drink, but am looking forward to meeting folks.)

The other day we got a fair amount of snow, and was slippery and Rhonda slid into someone with the minivan. Crunched up the front left side a bit. Door doesn't open very far and the turn light is out, but at least the headlight still works.

We're planning to go to my sister's place in St. Louis for Christmas, so hopefully the van will still make it there. If we have to take my Tacoma, the gas bill would put us in the poorhouse.

John and Hanna have been enjoying Bambi lately. Hanna will bound around the floor saying "I'm Bambi". Hmm, not sure I like the idea of her calling herself "Bambi." Definitely will have to put a stop to that before the teenage years.

The other day she helpfully picked up some paper clips that had fallen on the floor, and she said "Bambi is a hero?"

Gee, we're sorry Jesus got borned and all

Such is my reply to those who are vexed by the fact Christmas is actually about Christ.

During Ramadan, I don't hear a lot of calls for referring to it as We-Don't-Eat-Very-Much Month.

During Yom Kippur, I don't hear a lot of calls for referring to it as A-Day-Off-From-Work-For-Jewish-Families Day.

Why, during Christmas, are we supposed to tiptoe around the fact it is Christmas?

John Gibson has a book out called "The War on Christmas: How the Liberal Plot to Ban the Sacred Christian Holiday Is Worse Than You Thought", in which he documents various attempts to spray paint political correctness over the sacred. For example,

* In Illinois, state government workers were forbidden from saying the words "Merry Christmas" while at work
* In Rhode Island, local officials banned Christians from participating in a public project to decorate the lawn of City Hall
* A New Jersey school banned even instrumental versions of traditional Christmas carols
* Arizona school officials ruled it unconstitutional for a student to make any reference to the religious history of Christmas in a class project

That's just the tip of the iceberg.

Even the White House Christmas Christmas card this year succumbed.

You're welcome to a happy holiday if you wish. Me, I'm going to have a holly jolly Christmas and celebrate that Holy Night.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

Did the operations succeed?

As written about here a time or two, there have been a multitude of operations in Iraq the past couple three months leading up to today. Steel Curtain, Iron Hammer, the many operations in and around Ramadi and Fallujah, a host of operations in Baghdad, and operations across northern Iraq.

Part of their intent was to disrupt terrorist operations and make today, election day, as violence-free as possible so the Iraqi people could go vote.

Were they successful?

This is W. Thomas Smith (who can be found here) at the Corner:

Just received from the 2nd Marine Division:

In Ramadi, where only several thousand citizens took part in the October referendum, tens of thousands of voters lined the streets to vote today. Residents were seen dancing, singing, and waving the Iraqi flag. It is still too early to tell what percentage of voters in the city actually voted, but the numbers are expected to be much higher than they were during the Referendum.

In Fallujah, where an estimated 90 percent of voters participated in October’s referendum, voter turnout today was similarly high. Elsewhere in the province, in cities like Husaybah, Karabilah and Ubaydi, voter turnout was steady throughout the day. Until a few weeks ago, this area near the Syrian border was largely under the influence of al Qaeda led insurgents, but has since been cleared in recent operations by U.S. and Iraqi forces.

Iraq the Model has extensive coverage of today's voting:

The number of voting officials, independent observers and political bodies’ representatives is higher than what we saw in January. From what we saw, people feel safer walking to the voting centers this time; many of them were carrying Iraqi flags.

Bill Roggio, who is in Iraq right now, adds this:

Turnout is said to be high across the river in the sister city of Haqlaniyah. No reports are available from Haditha at this time.

Barwana, once part of Zarqawi self declared “Islamic Republic of Iraq”, is now the scene of al-Qaeda’s greatest nightmare: Muslims exercising their constitutional right to chose their destiny.

I'd say mission accomplished.

This is a global war

A commenter in a recent post here said the following:

What do you mean by "war"? Are you referring to the "war on terror" that's supposed to go on pretty much everywhere for an indefinite period?
This "war" is different in that the government has no clear objective or time-frame. (Ridding the world of evil and terror is something that sounds better in a Joan Baez song that it does from coming from our cynical commander in chief.)
Myself, I don't think we need a decades-long conflict in which we send the world's most advanced army through every third world ghettto in the name of democracy simply to deal with a handful of idiots armed with mace and box-cutters.

My reply was this:

Clausewitz's classic definitions are a good place to start.

"War therefore is an act of violence to compel our opponent to fulfil our will" and "War is a mere continuation of policy by other means".

The terrorists use violence to force us to do their will. (whatever that is, get out of Saudi Arabia, abandon Israel, etc...)

They use violence to achieve an end. (The domination of their ideology)

It is not the kind of war that Caesar or Napolean would have known, where armies march out to some empty field, in uniform, bash each other for a bit, and then retire.

There are no classic front lines in this war.

The enemy plans to kill people. Bombs on trains, planes flying into buildings, those are not accidents. They are conscious acts to murder civilians. They saw people's heads off with knives. They would do far worse if they could. They have said in no uncertain terms they want us dead. They cannot be reasoned with. Violence is the only thing they understand.

If this isn't war, I don't know what it is.

I've been a coauthor along with Mixed Humor of The Security Watchtower since October of the Monday Winds of War Briefing. The Briefing is part of Winds of Change, but I crosspost it here as well. Our Briefing focuses generally on the events between Thursday and Sunday. There is another briefing on Thursday that generally covers the Monday-Thursday time frame. (Here is today's briefing, in fact.)

Our briefing doesn't address events specific to Iraq, as there is another briefing that focuses on Iraq. (Here is the one from Monday.)

Here are links to all the Briefings I've been involved with. Just glance through them, and take in all the acts of terrorism, arrests of terrorists, and terrorism-related stories etc... worldwide in this time frame. And keep in mind most of these items, but not all, were just from the Thursday-Sunday time frame of those weeks, certainly no later than the preceding week.

Radical Islam is worldwide. It is a violent ideology. It cannot be reasoned with. We are not facing a small gang of punks armed with mace and boxcutters. There are forces as bent on domination as the Nazis and Communists were. They may not send a uniformed military across borders to achieve their goals, but they use terror as their weapon. They are motivated by religion, by hate.

October 24 Briefing
October 31 Briefing
November 7 Briefing
November 14 Briefing
November 21 Briefing
November 28 Briefing
December 5 Briefing
December 12 Briefing

Michael Ledeen has a great column today pointing out the adherents to this murderous ideology are everywhere, and among us. You'll find most, if not all, of the specific events he talks about in the Briefings linked to above.

Add up the sum total of terrorism-related events just since October. This is what goes on from week to week. Every week. Imagine the sum total of such events since 9/11. Since 1990. Since 1980. Since 1979.

Is this a war? If we think it isn't, we're already part way to surrender.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Tyranny is the subjugation of will

A vote is an expression of will. A voter, with a piece of paper and not with a gun, says this is how I choose to be governed. This is the kind of government to which I wish to submit. Such is the privilege of freedom.

Time has a way of smoothing down the bubbles. When we look back at all this years from now, I'm not sure what will fade more, the memory of triumphs like Thursday's elections, or the memory of hard times, such as the sadness for the lives lost.

We don't have to let memories fade, though. Part of safeguarding freedom is holding on to the realization of how precious it is. Thursday is but a step in a lengthy journey, but if we are wise, we will remember what it took to reach this point. We can reflect on what it means for a people once under the heel of a dictator to be choosing their own leaders. We can honor those who wrested this moment of freedom away from bloody murderers who want to cover us in darkness.

I posted this dispatch at the time of the October elections in Iraq. I think it still applies to Thursday's elections, so here it is again.

Today a vote is taking place in Iraq for which the various US government agencies have been working to establish and as you well know the US military has been doing to the hard work to actually implement it. Odd to think these folk have had to be prodded to this end, by force of bigger and more guns than the bad guys trying like demons to stop it, something we tend all too easily to take for granted when we have elections in the safety and comfort of good old USA.

I have been voting since I turned 18, proud of it, too. But I have never in my life in any election ever had to be concerned about getting blown up or killed while going to the polls (except for perhaps last years absentee balloting, but thats a technicality). Something one should well remember next election cycle. If you ever needed a dose of real life courage in action, go watch your news today. Men and woman with their families of children, going to vote. Knowing full the threats and risks in some areas. I can't imagine the monster who would try to kill the little old lady shakily walking to cast her vote but there are those here.

And despite their threats, the Bad Guys don't control all the ground and towns and they can't kill everyone so this vote will go off well. Especially in Kurdistan, where near 100% turnout is expected. That does and should rightfully shame us, my fellow Americans. Good men and woman struggled and sometimes died over the years to give you and I the ability to vote and we should not carelessly or lazily cast that right aside. In case you weren't aware, American voter turnout lately is around 40 to 60%. Disgraceful.

Well, the wheels of social evolution have turned much more slowly in the Middle East and for various reasons they have not reached the same level of social and political development as the more developed nations. And those in our national leadership have determined the way to secure our long term security and energy supplies is to help jumpstart the process of developing representative government in this, the arab MidEast, starting with Iraq.

Now, as you may have read in these long diatribes before, I don't usually discuss so much the whys and wherefores of how we got to this point. It's moot for a military man anyway, we must follow orders. We swore a sacred oath to follow orders and do our duty. We cannot simply quit the job if we don't like it.

I also want to remind you of the price paid for this mission. Had some more buddies killed and more wounded in the past few days that I know of, since we are in related units. They, like us all here, were doing their small part to help bring about this election. Trying to get us here to this point, so the Iraqis could vote in relavent security. That's not just a tough day at the office. They gave everything they could ever truly have in this world. Their life. Believe it. If not, go ask their families. Their widows. Or children, perhaps when they are older.

Any fellow countryman's casuality is cause for bereavement but as we all know, personal contacts are all the more striking. I don't recall the exact number of those my wife and I have known who have been killed or wounded in the past few years but I suppose it numbers towards a score or more?

Regardless, in this chosen profession, now that we have had open war raging the past few years, it is a weight that bears on my conscience knowing full well the grim reality of this duty. I don't know how past generations held up since many wars of the past had such huge casuality figures. Ours are relatively low. Of course, since this all started I have been part of an organization that has taken blunt casualities of which we are all aware. I doubt many of you have to deal with such events. One might go their whole career of vocation without having to deal with death or injuries at work. Well, we do. All the time. Thousands upon thousands.

In conclusion, I insist you remember these and others efforts over the course of history, especially when elections take place, when you consider not voting for whatever reasons you might contrive. By circumstance and happenstance, good folk will most likely die today trying have what you have that most of you were given by right of birth. Good Americans have paid hard trying to give Iraqis those 'Blessings of Liberty..." as well. Do not squander our good life. Participate in our country's government and community.

linked to Stop the ACLU post on tyranny and the purple finger

Voices from around the Web

Tomorrow Iraqis will elect their own government, and unlike Saddam's "elections", this time their votes will count. Their votes are all that will count. Iraqis will continue on this bumpy journey of learning how to forge a government out of an alloy of competing interests and goals. Their neighbors must look on with envy.

With Senator Joe Lieberman being just about the lone exception, the Defeatocrats have been all but unanimous in their steady drumbeat of doom and gloom, of calls for withdrawal, of using casualties as examples of American failure. All the while, apparently deaf to the steady chorus of good news in Iraq, of palpable signs of improvement.

Here are some of voices being heard around the Web today. These voices counsel that yes, there is still work to be done in Iraq, all is not sweet balm and roses. But, the voices say in unison that there is hope for Iraq, that this election did not just fall out of sky. Many have worked and sacrificed and died to make it happen. The enemy cannot slake its thirst for blood, and has brought much destruction to Iraq, but we are winning. We are winning.

Message to the Arab world: Democracy works

Iraqis will go to the polls tomorrow for the third time this year. Their actions mark both a triumph for the Iraqi people and a warning for Arab autocrats. Not only has the Iraqi march toward democracy proved naysayers wrong, but Iraqis' growing embrace of democracy demonstrates the wisdom of staying the course. Iraqis are changing political culture. Howard Dean and John Murtha may believe that the U.S. military has lost. Brent Scowcroft may think Arab democracy a pipe dream. They are mistaken.

Colonel Kline Reports On Iraq

What’s happened is progress, really measurable progress. You can see it. The Iraqi battalions--there are now over 40 of them in the lead, which means that you have an American battalion that’s partnered with an Iraqi battalion, but when you go to do an operation, it’s the Iraqi battalion that is leading the attack, and the American battalion that is hanging back, both in the planning and in the execution. And then you have over 30 Iraqi battalions that actually control territory. We’ve turned over geography to them, and said, call us if you need us.
The good news story is just shamefully lost where you get somebody like John Murtha saying, we’re not making any progress, and you get someone like Howard Dean saying we can’t win. What is that possibly based on? Because all information on the ground in Iraq refutes that.

The Truth On the Ground

It is difficult for most Americans to rationalize this optimism in the face of the horrific images and depressing stories that have come to symbolize the war in Iraq. Most of the violent news is true; the death and destruction are very real. But experienced military officers know that the horror stories, however dramatic, do not represent the broader conditions there or the chances for future success. For every vividly portrayed suicide bombing, there are hundreds of thousands of people living quiet, if often uncertain, lives. For every depressing story of unrest and instability there is an untold story of potential and hope. The impression of Iraq as an unfathomable quagmire is false and dangerously misleading.

It is this false impression that has led us to a moment of national truth. The proponents of the quagmire vision argue that the very presence of U.S. troops in Iraq is the cause of the insurgency and that our withdrawal would give the Iraqis their only true chance for stability. Most military officers and NCOs with ground experience in Iraq know that this vision is patently false. Although the presence of U.S. forces certainly inflames sentiment and provides the insurgents with targets, the anti-coalition insurgency is mostly a symptom of the underlying conditions in Iraq. It may seem paradoxical, but only our presence can buffer the violence enough to allow for eventual stability.

It's only a matter of hours now!

Me and my friends were sitting discussing “who’s best for Iraq?” and the reasons on which each one of us based his/her opinion. I was seeing a drastic change in the sense of the historic responsibility we shoulder. I see my friends call their friends and acquaintances encouraging them to vote for this candidate or that list and putting effort in convincing them with this or that idea.

In a matter of one year questions and answers changed a lot; less than a year ago the question was “will you vote?” But now the question is "who are you going to vote for?" We are making progress, definitely we are!

The Media's War

The media seem to have come up with a formula that would make any war in history unwinnable and unbearable: They simply emphasize the enemy's victories and our losses.
Our troops can kill ten times as many of the enemy as they kill and it just isn't news worth featuring, if it is mentioned at all, in much of the media. No matter how many towns are wrested from the control of the terrorists by American or Iraqi troops, it just isn't front-page news like the casualty reports or even the doom-saying of some politicians.

The fact that these doom-saying politicians have been proved wrong, again and again, does not keep their latest outcries from overshadowing the hard-won victories of American troops on the ground in Iraq.

On the eve of the Iraqi elections

And what he feels, apart from pride I think, is a resurgence of hope. The most lasting achievement of enemy propaganda in Vietnam was to destroy hope; to eliminate any possibility of the conception of victory, so that in the end it became, as it did for Howard Dean, a bad word. For that reason it necessary to rescue the idea of victory from its fallen state, not to revive it as gaudy triumphalism, but to restore it as a real measure of achievement; and to recognize in it the fruit of sacrifice. There's a distance yet to go, but -- and let no one deny it -- a long road behind.

Michelle Malkin is also listening to the voices of hope.

In Search Of... V

It's time for another installment of In Search Of... These are some of the more amusing web searches that have stumbled across my blog. (The previous installment is here.)

-email contacts of prayer station in america 2005
-russia coldest temps
-pitchers of thunder and rain
-towns in nw france beginning with letter e
-michael jackson dressed like woman
-my 19 year old sister in law,korean soap
-a funny short story written by a fifth grader
-amish made whoa nellie!! sauce
-12:00 pm
-washes my hair
-allah akbar rave music trance
-interaction of plant diseases to non living agent from year 2000-2005
-all 50 sent bulletproof cheat codes x box
-leg god

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Gazprom, a Russian giant

Gazprom may be the biggest company you've never heard of. Gazprom is the world's largest producer of natural gas. And it is controlled by the Russian government. According to this page:

Gazprom is also Russia’s largest earner of hard currency, and the company’s tax payments account for around 25% of federal tax revenues.

Russia has, by far, the largest known reserves of natural gas. (This table is from Infoplease.)

Greatest Natural Gas Reserves by Country, 2005

RankCountryProved reserves
(trillion cu ft)
4.Saudi Arabia235.0
5.United Arab Emirates212.1
6.United States189.0
Source:Oil & Gas Journal, Vol. 102, No. 47 (Dec. 10, 2004). From: U.S. Energy Information Administration. .

At the end of June 2005, Gazprom and the Russian government reached an agreement whereby the state would secure a 50% plus one share stake in Gazprom. The stake was to be acquired through Rosneft, a Russian gas company 100% controlled by the Russian government.

However, a merger between Gazprom and Rosneft ultimately fell apart for complicated reasons. The deal was completed by other means.

This deal was part of the larger power struggle in the Kremlin between Putin and Russia's powerful oligarch's. As I'll touch on in a moment, Putin is deliberately trying to nationalize Russia's oil and gas industry in order to use Russia's natural resources as a tool of foreign policy. There are wealthy oligarchs, however, who would like to use their wealth to influence Russian politics.

Part of the Rosneft story involves Yukos, the oil company whose CEO Mikhail Khodorkovsky was arrested in October 2003. This arrest was a bold move by Putin to send a warning to those who would oppose Putin's policies. Khodorkovsky had ideas on things like how foreign investment in Russia's oil and gas industries should be handled, and he sought to influence the Russian Duma, even to the point of limiting the power of the Russian presidency. The arrest of Khodorkovsky would further Putin's goal of increasing the state control Russia's oil and gas industry and creating a compliant Duma that would work with Putin.

(For a very informative look at Russian oil politics, see the paper entitled Vladimir Putin And The Geopolitics Of Oil by Dr. Martha Brill Olcott, available here in PDF).

Olcott's paper reveals that in the 1990s Putin wrote a dissertion at St. Petersburg's State Mining Institute entitled "Mineral Raw Materials in the Strategy for Development of the Russian Economy". Even back then, Putin was laying out the strategy he is following today for making the state the dominant controller of the national enery resources. Putin believes this is the most effective way to improve Russia's standard of living in a fairly short period of time.

Putin also believes foreign investment is necessary, but always in a way that leaves the state in control. This was a goal of achieving state control of Gazprom, and just last Friday, the Duma passed a law increasing the amount of foreign investment allowed in Gazprom. From Forbes:

Russia's State Duma, the lower chamber, gave a final nod Friday to amendments allowing direct foreign ownership of shares in Gazprom. The change will relax restrictions on how much of the globe's largest natural gas producer can be owned by foreigners, and should herald billions of dollars being plowed into the energy behemoth from outside Russia.

If you doubt Putin's desire to control Gazprom, look at who is running Gazprom. Both the CEO of Gazprom and the chairman of Gazprom's Board of Director's are part of Putin's "St. Petersburg clan".

The CEO of Gazprom is Alexey Miller. Miller is Putin's man. They both worked for the Mayor of St. Petersburg. Putin was the chairman of the committee for external relations from 1994-1996, and Miller worked on that committee from 1991 to 1996. Miller was made CEO in 2001 in a move seen as a bid to bring in a loyalist.

The Chairman of Gazprom's board is Dmitry Medvedev. He, too, once worked in that committee for external relations. In October 2003 he became Putin's chief of staff, and just last month he was named First Deputy Prime Minister. Medvedev may be a candidate to replace Putin as president in 2008.

Having nationalized Gazprom, with loyalists running Gazprom, and with Gazprom now open to more foreign investment dollars, Putin is in a position to increase Russia's ability to influence its neighbors by virtue of the gas it supplies to them. As I mentioned before, the ability to cut off gas to a nation, or to make them pay more for their gas, tends to get a country's attention.

I've written about the pipeline from Russia to Germany which is now being constructed. I've written about Russia's gas deals with Ukraine, Georgia and Europe. Just to name a few more, last month Russia inaugurated a gas pipeline to Turkey. From PINR:

On November 17, the Blue Stream gas pipeline between Turkey and Russia was officially inaugurated. Its construction, undertaken by Russia, Turkey and Italy -- involving a joint venture between Russia's gas giant Gazprom and Italy's energy major ENI -- began in 1997. At that time, it was sharply criticized as technically flawed (it runs at a record depth of 2,150 meters below the sea) and politically inopportune (since it was said to increase dangerously Turkey's dependence on Russia's gas supply).

Blue Stream's implementation confirms that Russia is using its vast oil and gas reserves as a geopolitical wildcard. For instance, on Blue Stream's inauguration day, Russian President Vladimir Putin already proposed the construction of new Russian-Turkish oil and gas pipelines.

Stratfor had this on a deal just last month between Gazprom and Kazakhstan's biggest natural gas company, KazMunaiGas:

Similarly, both men's fingerprints -- but particularly Medvedev's -- are all over the Gazprom-KazMunaiGas accord. All natural gas produced in the former Soviet Union comes from Gazprom, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan or Turkmenistan, with any natural gas originating in a country ending in "stan" having to transit through Kazakhstan and Russia on its way to any market. The KazMunaiGas deal means that Gazprom -- and by extension, the Kremlin -- now owns all of that gas. Any state wanting to use Central Asian gas in order to get energy independence from Russia is now out of luck.

This paper (PDF) discusses how Russia is using its natural gas supply to influence Belarus. An excerpt:

It would be erroneous to suggest that Russian–Belarusian gas relations have been governed entirely by politics, or politics by gas. Crippling the economy of Belarus clearly would not be in the interests of Russia, whose own economy is so tightly intertwined with the rest of the CIS.

Nonetheless, the preceding analysis suggests that the Russian government has been prepared to use the gas weapon as necessary, particularly in realizing security and military goals. Natural gas has helped it to receive military concessions and political loyalty at a time when most CIS states were engaged in asserting their independence. It is also a vehicle for integration on Russian terms.

(See this paper (PDF) for a few more details on other countries such as India, China and Japan. I may take another post to discuss Russia's gas deals with East Asia.)

Russia is pursuing a deliberate strategy to use its natural resources as tools of foreign policy. Putin has manipulated Russian politics to implement his vision of state-run energy industries. His suppression of national media and of rivals like Yukos' Mikhail Khodorkovsky show how determined he is. It still remains to be seen what exactly Putin will do when he reaches the end of his term. The Constitution prevents him from running a third time, but he has said "I will not allow any destabilization in Russia, in the interests of the ... peoples of the Russian Federation".

Countries all around Russia are becoming increasingly tied to Russian oil and gas. The implications for international relations could be significant.

Previous posts

Russia's gas weapon
Georgian-Russian relations continue to deteriorate
Update on the Russian-German pipeline
More on Russia's gas

Monday, December 12, 2005

With friends like France, who needs friends

You may recall this Oct 26 post, which linked to the following:

The Italian businessman at the centre of a furious row between France and Italy over whose intelligence service was to blame for bogus documents suggesting Saddam Hussein was seeking to buy material for nuclear bombs has admitted that he was in the pay of France.

The man, identified by an Italian news agency as Rocco Martino, was the subject of a Telegraph article earlier this month in which he was referred to by his intelligence codename, "Giacomo".

His admission to investigating magistrates in Rome on Friday apparently confirms suggestions that - by commissioning "Giacomo" to procure and circulate documents - France was responsible for some of the information later used by Britain and the United States to promote the case for war with Iraq.

Italian diplomats have claimed that, by disseminating bogus documents stating that Iraq was trying to buy low-grade "yellowcake" uranium from Niger, France was trying to "set up" Britain and America in the hope that when the mistake was revealed it would undermine the case for war, which it wanted to prevent.

These documents were part of the whole sordid Joe Wilson affair. (See this post for more.)

Today, we are reassured that no, the French had nothing to do with ze forgeries. No no, au contraire. In fact, zey were trying to help us.

France's spy service tried for months to warn the CIA that there was no evidence to support a US allegation that Iraq had tried to purchase nuclear weapons material in Africa, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday, quoting a French former intelligence official.

For more than a year before US President George W. Bush declared in his 2003 State of the Union speech that Iraq had tried to buy nuclear weapons material in Niger, France, in previously undisclosed, secret exchanges beginning in 2001, repeatedly warned that the charges were bogus, according to its retired chief of counter-intelligence Alain Chouet.

There you have it. A former French counter-intelligence chief saying they did their best to warn President Bush not to get stuck in that Niger tar baby.

Surely, Choet wouldn't lie, would he?

I suppose it is possible France was trying the old Marseille Reverse Double Screw Trick. One the hand, trying to set up the United States by feeding them bogus documents. And on the other hand, telling the United States in private salons that the documents were forged, knowing that the United States didn't trust France because of France's opposition on Iraq, and so would think the opposite of what France said and accept the documents as real.

I do like the droll comment from the US official at the end of the report.

A US official contacted by the newspaper said that Chouet's revelation was "at odds with our understanding of the issue."

Translation from Diplospeak: "They are lying sacks of dung."

It is not entirely clear what it will take for France to truly realize the threat they are facing.

The enemy is after them, too. There was this report just from today.

Twenty-two mainly Tunisian and Algerian men were arrested early Monday in the Paris region under an investigation into suspected Islamic extremist plans to carry out attacks in France, officials said.

Investigators believe some of the detainees are active in organised crime and have carried out armed robberies to raise money for Islamic extremist groups, the officials said.

Police suspect that the group were planning attacks on "highly symbolic targets", they said.

The suspects were under surveillance for several weeks and were detained after evidence emerged that "violent actions" were being planned, they added.

The MSNBC report on these arrests, put together with AP and al-Reuters reports, not surprisingly, added this:

Despite its strong opposition to the U.S.-led war in Iraq, France remains the target of Islamist militants because of its intelligence links with the United States and Britain.

And here I thought France was a target because radical Islam wants to destroy anyone who doesn't follow its hateful ideology, and France's attempts at appeasement only makes it look weak in the eyes of the terrorists, and brings only contempt from them.

Oh, the inhumanity!

Will the torture never cease?

Detainees in Multi-National Forces-Iraq Theater Internment Facilities were allowed to vote!

Are we beasts, to treat prisoners so?

Nearly 90 percent of all eligible security detainees in Multi-National Forces-Iraq Theater Internment Facilities participated in today’s democratic vote on the Iraqi National Ballot.

MNF-I took special care to ensure that every eligible detainee who wanted to vote was afforded the opportunity. Balloting opened early this morning and continued until all eligible detainee’s passed through the polling stations.

Voting took place at Camp Bucca, Abu Ghraib and Fort Suse TIFs. Extending the vote to all eligible Iraqis is another example of how the rule of law is helping to strengthen the Iraqi society. The right to shape a free and representative democracy is not a privilege for few, but a right of all Iraqis.


Perhaps realizing that the future of news does not necessarily lie with unshaven readers trudging out to the mailbox in their bunny slippers to retrieve the news on pressed rolls of ink-sodden dead trees, the Star Tribune has been making some efforts lately to engage the blogosphere.

The Saturday paper carries The Blog House, a column by Tim O'Brien with a round-up of various blogs from week to week.

Another brand new effort is The Big Question, a blog by Eric Black. According to the Strib's blurb:

Whatever the question, our hope is that this blog can serve as a forum for finding and testing facts, with a minimum of rancor or partisanship, in the pursuit of answers, big and small. Despite evidence and commentary to the contrary, it's our hope that most people in this state and this country remain open-minded and hungry for those answers. And, despite the often-overheated rhetoric about the mainstream media, it's our belief that those answers will be more convincing and more complete if they are drawn from the insight, expertise and critical assessment of everyone. And that means you.

The first post was about this week's elections in Iraq, and the current state of things in Iraq.

There are interviews with seven "experts". This being the Strib, the fair and balanced lineup include Juan Cole. (Ben comments on the "experts" here.)

I wanted to just highlight some of the comments in this first posting, from some of the various "You's" the Strib wanted to hear from, the citizen-poets so full of "insight, expertise and critical assessment". Their opinions are representative of the critical thinking that characterizes some of the anti-war positions in the Left. I don't often resort to fisking here, but I might indulge myself here.

K.Briggs says:

Here’s my $.02. I will argue differently from the first commenter. Where Iraq is concerned, there is NO path that can take us from where we are today to an outcome that will make the whole thing worth it to the US.

Iraq is a dismal failure, possibly the worst foreign policy disaster in US history. Our "leadership" have squandered the lives of our chidren, our military, our reputation and our resources on an unnessary war that has accomplished what?–a world that has contempt for the US, a turbulent Iraq (with close ties to Iran), and an increase in terrorism.

Me: Iraq is turbulent now? Yes, it was positively Edenic under Saddam Hussein. The argument seems to be, if we hadn't gone into Iraq, the world would love us, Iraq would still be tranquil, and terrorism would be at barely noticeable levels. Would Zarqawi be an insurance salesman now if the US hadn't gone into Iraq? Perhaps bin Laden would be doing political shtick on the Jimmy Kimmel show in an effort to attract some of the audience from The Daily Show?

Rob LaFleur says:

It is unreasonable to think we can dominate the world militarily. Look at the billions we have spent in Iraq without getting to a successful conclusion. If we multiply that by all the other Islamic states, our economy would implode under the burden of that level of military activity. Crushing everyone who is different from us is impossible.

Me: Yes, jackbooted US Marines and soldiers are on the march worldwide. Getting bogged down in Iraq is sure going to put a crimp in our plans to invade Norway. (Or was Belize supposed to be next?) And apparently we happened to notice one day, whilst sipping mint juleps on the veranda, that those brown people in Iraq were different than us, so we just up and decided to invade. I hope the US military doesn't realize those engineers down the hall from me are a little bit different too, or my cubicle might become a free-fire zone.

K.Briggs says (again):

All of the people interviewed by Eric Black were quite pessimistic about the future of Iraq.

Me: Perhaps this says something about the sample selected by Eric Black.

Kerry Olson says:

I am puzzled. Did not the American government know that the removal of Saddam would result in the destablization that has occurred? The experts seem to be surprised that we did not know this.

Me: I will agree that the Bush Administration did not adequately plan for the insurgency that followed. But again, there seems to be this belief that under Saddam Hussein Iraq was a model state. I guess it was "stable" in that the rate of people being gassed, raped, fed into woodchippers or otherwise buried in mass graves was fairly steady. No possibility that removing Hussein may be a good thing? Anyone?

You can't make this stuff up

First, we have Sunnis in Iraq calling Zarqawi an American agent. (As if. Cindy Sheehan already has the job.)

Then, on Sunday Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the United States could bid on the construction of another nuclear power plant in Iran.

No word on if they'd also let us build the nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles they'd use to attack us or Israel or Europe.

According to this article:

Iran opened the door Sunday for U.S. help in building a nuclear power plant, a move apparently designed to ease American suspicions that Tehran is using its nuclear program as a cover to build atomic weapons.

The offer, which did not seem likely to win acceptance in Washington, was issued as Israel said it had not ruled out a military strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.

"America can take part in international bidding for the construction of Iran's nuclear power plant if they observe the basic standards and quality," Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said in a news conference.

Actually, we probably should help build the reactor, much like we let the Soviets build our new embassy in Moscow. Then, we were shocked, shocked!, to find the whole building was riddled with bugs and listening devics.

So, if we help build Iran a reactor, we could, uh, build some flaws into the design.

"Hey, who used styrofoam for this support column? It was supposed to be made of concrete! No wonder the structure collapsed."

Remind me what "good news" means again

ABC News has released a poll from Iraq that can only be encouraging to anyone whose last name is not Moore, Sheehan, or Murtha. (Oh, so that's what MSM means!)

An ABC News poll in Iraq, conducted with Time magazine and other media partners, includes some remarkable results: Despite the daily violence there, most living conditions are rated positively, seven in 10 Iraqis say their own lives are going well, and nearly two-thirds expect things to improve in the year ahead.

Surprisingly, given the insurgents' attacks on Iraqi civilians, more than six in 10 Iraqis feel very safe in their own neighborhoods, up sharply from just 40 percent in a poll in June 2004. And 61 percent say local security is good — up from 49 percent in the first ABC News poll in Iraq in February 2004.
There are positive political signs as well. Three-quarters of Iraqis express confidence in the national elections being held this week, 70 percent approve of the new constitution, and 70 percent — including most people in Sunni and Shiite areas alike — want Iraq to remain a unified country.

Interest in politics has soared.

Preference for a democratic political structure has advanced, to 57 percent of Iraqis, while support for an Islamic state has lost ground, to 14 percent (the rest, 26 percent, chiefly in Sunni Arab areas, favor a "single strong leader.")

By what definition are these not good signs? And yet, here is the headline for an AP story about the poll:

"Poll: Most Iraqis Oppose Troops' Presence"

Good grief. Leave it to the AP to find the dog poop in the silver lining.

Yes, there was this from the poll:

There's other evidence of the United States' increasing unpopularity: Two-thirds now oppose the presence of U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, 14 points higher than in February 2004. Nearly six in 10 disapprove of how the United States has operated in Iraq since the war, and most of them disapprove strongly. And nearly half of Iraqis would like to see U.S. forces leave soon.

Is it surprising that Iraqis would like troops from another country to leave their country? Not at all. I think this question is an expression of the Iraqis' desire to see the US troops leave and a hope that life would get back to normal. As evidence, consider this from the poll:

Specifically, 26 percent of Iraqis say U.S. and other coalition forces should "leave now" and another 19 percent say they should go after the government chosen in this week's election takes office; that adds to 45 percent. Roughly the other half says coalition forces should remain until security is restored (31 percent), until Iraqi security forces can operate independently (16 percent), or longer (5 percent).

At least half of Iraqis realize that they need the US for now, and acknowledge that. Would 7 in 10 Iraqis say their lives are going well if it wasn't true? Would 6 in 10 say local security was good if it wasn't true?

The Iraqis just want the violence to end. The presence of US troops is a reminder that the murderers and terrorists still set off their bombs in public markets. By saying they want the US to leave, they're really saying they want the violence to end, because the US can leave when the violence ends.

There was also this surprising news out of Iraq this weekend:

Sunni nationalist insurgents in Anbar province Dec. 11 are reportedly urging Sunni voters to participate in the Dec. 15 elections to create a nationalist government in Iraq. Former Baathist and rocket specialist Ali Mahmoud said al Qaeda would have to answer to the Sunni nationalist insurgents if they tried to stage attacks against voters. An insurgent leader by the name of Abu Abdullah labeled al Qaeda chief in Iraq Abu Musab al-Zarqawi "an American, Israeli and Iranian agent who is trying to keep our country unstable so that the Sunnis will keep facing occupation."

Is it possible to underestimate the importance of the Sunnis wanting to participate in the political process?

Could any fiction writer have come up with the crazy situation of an insurgent leader calling Zarqawi an American agent?!? Isn't this exactly the sort of thing we've been hoping for, seeing the Sunnis telling Al Qaeda to go get stuffed?

Obviously, the Sunnis are looking out for their own self-interest. They don't want to participate in the elections purely out of some allegiance to a noble ideal of democracy, and a generous desire to help the Kurds and Shiites. They want to make sure they have a say. But, isn't that the very key to peace in Iraq? The Iraqis, especially the Sunnis, realizing that the way to a better future is not through bombs and murder, but through politics and compromise?

Friends and neighbors, this is good news. Early voting has already started. And none of this would have been possible without the US military doing a job on the ground that history will long remember.

Why would anyone try to spin this as bad news? Did I pass through the Looking Glass when I wasn't paying attention?

Monday Winds of War Briefing

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Monday's Winds of War briefings are given by Peace Like a River and Security Watchtower.

Top Topics

* Hamas is saying that they will not renew a "truce" they had called back in March when it expires at the end of this year. The following day, Islamic Jihad also promised to end the "truce" against Israel. Khaled Meshaal, head of the political wing of Hamas told a gathering of terrorists that "The Palestinian gun will always be pointed only at the Zionist enemy and peace can only be achieved through the gun." In response, Abbas' Palestinian Authority have denounced the move.

* Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad again insisted that Iran will not halt their drive for nuclear fuel. Leaders from the European Union recently warned Iran against manufacturing machines that could enrich nuclear fuel to weaponized levels, and the IAEA is warning that the world is losing patience with Iran. Does the world understand the Iranian intentions?

* Pakistan's federal government has decided to conduct a major operation against religious leaders who last year asked people not to say the funeral prayers of any soldier who died in fighting rebels in South Waziristan, along the Afghan border. However, there is tension in the capital Islamabad, where law enforcement agencies are on high alert to clamp down on influential clerics, but the fear of fierce retaliation has to date prevented them from proceeding.

* The second report from the Mehlis commission has been turned over to UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, and indicates that Syria is to blame for the assassination of Rafik Hariri.

Other topics today include: Hezbollah leader escapes assassination; Israeli airstrikes in Gaza; Abdullah's reform; Sharon orders strike preparations; Kuwaiti oil security; Israeli raids in West Bank; Egyptian cleric deported from US; Bolivian elections; Saudi leader killed in Chechnya; Terror arrests in Bangladesh; Suicide bomber in Afghanistan; Counterterror raids in Australia; Malaysia cracks down on extremism; Spain arrests al Qaeda suspects; al Qaeda in Albania; 9/11 suspect convicted; hijack attempt off coast of Somalia; Cyberwarfare and much more.

Iran & the Middle East

* Hussain Assaf, a senior Hezbollah instructor, narrowly escaped assassination after his car exploded seconds after he got out of it in Beirut. A Hezbollah statement said "we blame the Zionist enemy for planning and executing this attack."

* Israel is keeping alive its threat to restrict the flow of trade in Gaza if the Palestinians do not reign in terrorists immediately. Meanwhile, Hamas is alleged to have held rallies at U.N. offices and schools.

* Two Palestinian terrorists were killed in the northern Gaza Strip in Israeli airstrikes, targeting Al Aqsa Martyr Brigades in the town of Jebiliyah.

* King Abdullah of Jordan is calling on Iraqi's to elect moderates to the government and to push forward with reconstruction. Abdullah's comments came while he was in Tokyo meeting with Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

* According to a UK Sunday Times report, Ariel Sharon has ordered Israel's armed forces to be ready by March for a potential strike on secret uranium enrichment sites in Iran.

* Following older threats by al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, only recently disclosed, Kuwait has boosted security around their oil installations.

* The Israeli defense forces detained 19 terror suspects in a series of raids in the West Bank, responding to the suicide mall attack last week. In the Balata refugee camp, an al Aqsa Martyr Brigades member was killed by his own bomb, as Israel rounded up 17 more terror suspects.

* A 15-year old Palestinian boy was detained after attempting to smuggle explosives through the Hawara checkpoint, south of Shechem. The detainee indicated that he was to bring the explosives to someone on the other side.

* According to a UK Guardian report, Syria was being urged by Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt to relaunch peace talks with Israel. In response, the Syrian government has come out publicly and denied the claims.

* A new Palestinian law granting financial payments to the families of suicide bombers? Saddam Hussein would be proud.

America Domestic Security & the America's

* Concern is mounting over the connections between a Boston Islamic group and a high-profile Muslim activist, Abdurahman Alamoudi, after a recent statement by the federal government that Mr. Alamoudi had a "close relationship" with Al Qaeda and that he raised money for Al Qaeda in America.

* An Egyptian cleric arrested during a high-profile federal raid last year on his East Frankford mosque has finally been deported. Mohamed Ghorab, the imam or spiritual leader at the Ansaar Allaah Islamic Society on Wakeling Street, arrived in Cairo escorted by U.S. immigration agents Thursday.

* Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls had only two witnesses testify before him Thursday in the preliminary enquiry involving Leader of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen Yasin Abu Bakr. Bakr reappeared before McNicolls at the Port of Spain Eighth Magistrates' Court. He is before McNicolls charged with one count of sedition, three counts of inciting the demand of money, property and the breach of the peace, and a fifth count of terrorism.

* A report from the International Crisis Group looks at Bolivia and its upcoming elections. The reports says "Bolivia is on the verge of national and social disintegration. [The elections] may be a final opportunity to start solving deep social and economic problems and profound ethnic divisions." The 2006 Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations said that a US goal in Bolivia is to "ensure that Bolivia does not become an active transit point for international terrorism". Unrest in Bolivia might attract the wrong element.

* The Federal Court of Canada has rejected a suspected terrorist's bid to throw out the government's case against him. Adil Charkaoui, 32, was trying to invalidate the national security certificate the government issued against him under federal immigration law in 2003. He also tried to have parts of the immigration law declared unconstitutional.

* Impassioned questions and comments followed a controversial speech - provocatively titled Does al-Qaida exist? - at an event hosted Friday by the Mississauga Coalition for Peace and Justice and held at the University of Toronto at Mississauga campus. Asad Ismi, a writer specializing in U.S. foreign policy in the developing world, spoke to a group of about 30 people about his views on the American intelligence community's role in the global events since Sept. 11, 2001. There was no shortage of opinions at the event. Ismi's talked about the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, in which he argued the CIA was complicit; United States foreign policy, which he said is based around American attempts to gain control of Middle Eastern oil; and about the threat of terrorist organizations, which he said are exaggerated by the U.S. intelligence community.

* Federal authorities hit with a stunning defeat in a terrorism case against a former Florida college professor are considering deporting him instead of retrying him. Al-Arian, a Palestinian born in Kuwait, was accused of being a key figure in a Palestinian terrorist group that has carried out suicide bombings against Israel. (HT: Jihad Watch)

Russia & South/Central Asia

* Police questioned eight suspects on Friday after a suicide bomber blew himself up on a crowded Bangladesh street, killing himself and six others in the latest attack blamed on extremists wanting to create an Islamic state. The suspects were detained in Netrokona town, the site of Thursday’s bombing, said police investigators who can’t be identified because they are not authorized to speak to the media.

* A leader of an opposition party (Awami League) in Bangladesh's Parliament has said that the people will launch a relentless movement to force the present four-party coalition if it fails to combat bomb terrorism. Sheikh Hasina called upon the people from all walks of life to get united and resist those elements indulging in bomb terrorism in the name of religion.

* The national dialogue on how to stop bomb terrorism in Bangladesh begins Monday in absence of the mainstream opposition parties and pro-opposition professional bodies. HM Ershad's Jatiya Party, the second largest opposition in parliament, ruling alliance partners, some minor political parties, and different pro-government organisations that include associations of lawyers, doctors, engineers, agriculturists, journalists and other professionals will join the dialogue amid boycott of the main opposition Awami League-led 14 party alliance.

* Here are the daily updates from the South Asia Terrorism Portal for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

* The latest issue of Chechnya Weekly from The Jamestown Foundation contains seven items, including a look at the history of Islam in Kabardino-Balkaria, and reaction to a recent report that Iran may be training Chechen rebels.

* A Saudi man who is the purported spiritual leader of Arab fighters in Russia's rebel republic of Chechnya has been killed in fighting, an Internet statement said Saturday. "Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah bin Saif al-Jaber al-Buaynayn al-Tamimi, also known as Abu Omar al-Saif, the spiritual guide of the mujahedeen (holy fighters) in Chechnya, was martyred during a fight with the Russians, the enemies of God," said the statement, whose authenticity could not be independently verified.

* Law enforcers in separate drives have arrested 16 cadres of outlawed Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) including two suspected suicide squad members across the country. Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) claims one of the suspected suicide squad members arrested yesterday in Demra in the capital is a student of economics at Jahangirnagar University (JU). Meantime, law enforcers seized two powerful bombs in Patuakhali and Sirajganj, yesterday while a bomb hoax was reported in Chittagong.

* Bangladesh's elite security force said on Saturday it had arrested the main supplier of explosives to an Islamic group waging a suicide bombing campaign to establish Islamic law in the Muslim nation. The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) also said it had seized a huge cache of explosives and bomb-making equipment sufficient to make 200 powerful bombs.

* Muslim clerics throughout Bangladesh read special 'khutba' (sermon) during the Friday prayer at mosques, condemmnng the recent spell of bombings and urged the militants to shun the path of violence using the name of Islam. Special police forces were deployed by the administration at different mosques to ward off any unpleasant incident.

* A suicide bomber set off explosives near a U.S. and Afghan military convoy in the southern city of Kandahar on Sunday, killing himself and wounding a civilian passerby, a police officer said. The bomber appeared to be trying to blow himself up near an American vehicle, said Abdul Qadar, an officer at the scene.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* The Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) has accused the Philippines of violating a nine year-old peace accord. The accusation came at the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) being held in Saudi Arabia. The controversy surrounds ties between the MNLF and Abu Sayyaf, and recent counterterrorism action taken by the Filipino government.

* The Philippine government is optimistic that a permanent peace agreement can be reached next summer with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). MILF has been fighting for a seperate Islamic state in the southern Philippines since the 1970s, but has distance themselves from more violent groups like Abu Sayyaf.

* Australian authorities have again raided the home of Saleh Jamal, a man who in the past threatened to fly a hijacked airliner into the Sydney Harbor Bridge. Jamal is currently jailed in Lebanon.

* The Malaysian government has indicated they will tighten restrictions on publications that promote terrorism and holy war. The move is being viewed as a preventative measure to ensure that jihad is not spread throughout the southeast Asian country.

* After a five year absence, the Australian special forces will renew joint-training with Indonesia's elite forces. In early 2006, Exercise Dawn Kookaburra will focus on counter-hijack and hostage recovery.


* Spanish police have arrested seven terror suspects in the Costa del Sol region of southern Spain, on charges the group helped fund Islamic terrorism. The group may be linked to a local al Qaeda network.

* Were the London oil depot explosions a terror attack?

* The French are renewing the call to lift the arms embargo the European Union has in place on China, a move the United States opposes. According to French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin, the embargo “does not reflect the reality of our relations with China, nor the reality of the strategic partnership which we are building with her.”

* According to a Human Rights Watch investigator, Poland was the CIA's main center in Europe for secretly detaining terror suspects, but they couldn't produce any proof. While the story has created somewhat of a feeding frenzy among journalists who are convinced that nefarious things are going on, Kirk H. Sowell offers a little perspective on the issue.

* Italian Intelligence and Security Services (SISDE) have issued warnings about Islamic terrorists in Albania, where they say an al Qaeda linked terrorist cell named Jihad al-Jihad, has recently appeared and maintains ties to Greece.

* A German court has convicted Mounir el Motassadeq on charges he helped the September 11th hijackers, and sentenced him to seven years in jail. Motassadeq was acquitted on 3,000 counts of accessory to murder.

* Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, an Egyptian facing terror related charges in an Italian court next month, was caught on tape claiming the Madrid attacks and celebrating the killing of Nicolas Berg. While watching the Berg beheading, Ahmed yelled "Go to hell, enemy of God, kill him, kill him, cut it well, cut off his head."


* Papers from the INSS 2005 Africa Symposium are available online. One paper (PDF) is entitled An African Perspective on the Global Fight Against Terrorism.

* The vicious cycle of violence in Darfur has resumed, says the United Nations, with Sudan army involvement increasing. A UN spokesperson said that last week had seen both government and rebel forces launch attacks, displacing 7,000 people and killing an unknown number.

* A ship has narrowly escaped being hijacked by pirates in northern Somalia. The vessel, mv Sirchai Petroleum II, was said to be on its way to deliver fuel to fishing vessels in southern Somalia last week. The hijackers sprayed the ship with bullets, but the speed saved the ship and her 10-man crew.

* Aid flights have been grounded in West Darfur as violence escalates despite hopes for a peace deal before the end of the year. Aid workers say humanitarian access to West Darfur is the worst it has ever been. The worsening situation again coincides with peace talks being held in Nigeria.

The Global War

* Leaders of 57 Muslim countries have issued a warning that the Islamic world is in crisis because of the threat of terrorism. The event was hailed as a turning-point, a moment of Muslim renaissance. Using rather more mundane language, some called it a summit of moderation and modernisation. A Gulf Times article says "the OIC leaders expressed readiness to redouble and orchestrate international efforts to fight terror".

* Prince Turki Al Faisal, the Saudi ambassador to the United States, indicated the Saudi government has become increasingly convinced that bin Laden is "not as paramount" as he used to be, and may in fact not even be in charge of al Qaeda any longer.

* Former CIA station chief Robert Seldon Lady has indicated he will go to Italy if necessary and fight an arrest warranted issues by Italian prosecutors over the alleged kidnapping of an Egyptian cleric back in 2003.

* According to the Strategy Page, the U.S. Department of Defense believes that some twenty countries have established Cyber War organizations, and are trying to develop tools and techniques for attacking American military and civilian targets, via the Internet. A lot of information on the Cyber War against the United States is kept secret, but what is known is that the U.S. Air Force has taken the lead in developing Cyber War weapons.

* Torture can never be an instrument to fight terror because it is an instrument of terror, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said, in his annual Human Rights Day message. He decried the recent trend of countries claiming exceptions to the international prohibition against the practice and called for all states to honour the legally established ban on torture and to vigorously combat the impunity of those who perpetrate it. He also urged all countries that have not yet done so to ratify the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

* An article by Philip Cerny in the Winter issue of The Naval War College Review, entitled Terrorism and the New Security Dilemma, looks at the question of how states and great powers, acting in what is still to a large extent an interstate system, can deal with the increasingly diffuse character of threats.

Thanks for reading! If you found something here you want to blog about yourself (and we hope you do), all we ask is that you do as we do and offer a Hat Tip hyperlink to today's "Winds of War". If you think we missed something important, use the Comments section to let us know. For ongoing tips, email "MondayWindsOfWar", over here

Sunday, December 11, 2005

More on Russia's gas

Russia is using its supply of natural gas as leverage over its neighbor, Ukraine. Russia would like Ukraine to pay triple what is paying for gas now, and to pay in cash. According to a report at the Jamestown Foundation:

The Russian gas for Ukraine, however, is valued at $50 per 1,000 cubic meters, and Ukraine's transit service is valued at $1.09 per 1,000 cubic meters of Russian gas per 100 kilometers of Ukrainian pipelines. This is a pure barter transaction (the widely used term, "gas price," is a misnomer in this context) and both valuations are far below the existing rates in Europe. There, Gazprom is charging prices some $180 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas on average, and plans further increases in 2006.

The Russian-Ukrainian gas trade is based on a framework agreement signed 2001 and valid for the period 2003-2013. Under this agreement, Ukraine may payment either in the form of transit services or in cash for Russian gas. The volumes of that gas supplied to Ukraine and transited through Ukraine each year, as well as the forms of payment and the price or valuation of the gas supplied and transit services, are all to be negotiated in annual protocols and contracts on supply and transit. All these aspects, including the possibility of switching from one form of payment to another (e.g., from barter to cash) are subject to mutual consent in the annual negotiations.

At this time, the Russian side demands $160 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas supplied to Ukraine from January 1, 2006, onward, with payment to be made in cash. For its part, Kyiv insists on a gradual rise in prices over several years and for counting the value of its transit services for Russian gas as part of the price. For this heating season, Ukraine proposes to buy the usual 25 billion cubic meters, in a first tranche of 17 billion cubic meters at $50 per 1,000 cubic meters and a further tranche of 8 billion cubic meters at $80 to $82 per 1,000 cubic meters. Beyond that, Kyiv would accept to $90-96 at the start of the next heating season (autumn 2006).

Ukraine consumes some 80 billion cubic meters of gas annually, including some 25 billion received in barter from Russia, 18 billion extracted in Ukraine, and 36 billion cubic meters received from Turkmenistan via Russia. The delivery of Turkmen gas is subject to Turkmen-Ukrainian sale-and-purchase agreements and Turkmen-Russian transit agreements. Thus far, Turkmenistan has declined to sign the agreements on gas supply to Ukraine for 2006.

There is an agreement valid till 2013, though Gazprom says the terms are to be renogiated each year. Cleary, Russia sees a cash windfall in the new terms. In another report from the Jamestown Foundation:

Ukraine's gas company, Naftogaz, also says it has a contract through 2013 with Gazprom that stipulates the price of gas as $50 per thousand cubic meters. Gazprom insists that the price of gas is to be renegotiated every year.

Meanwhile, Russian officials made little secret of the economic motives behind the dispute. Yazev also said that increasing prices to $160/tcm would earn Gazprom $2.6 billion a year in Ukraine, of which the Russian state coffers would receive $1.15 billion.

The dispute may be a warning shot over Ukraine's bow for getting cozy with West.

The bilateral gas dispute has been seen as an indication of Russia's wariness regarding Ukraine's drift towards the West. Putin has described the past year as a year of missed opportunities. At a December 7 meeting with visiting Ukraine's parliament speaker, Volodymyr Lytvyn, Putin said that earlier the relations between the two countries had been more dynamic and suggested top Ukrainian officials should visit Russia.

"The Russian President made a blunt assessment" of the state of bilateral relations, the state-controlled Channel One commented. Ukraine insists on preferential treatment by Gazprom, something absolutely unacceptable for us, Voice of Russia radio added (Voice of Russia, December 7).

European countries look on with some nervousness, as they receive gas through Ukraine.

Subsequently, Russia moved to calm European Union fears over its dispute with Ukraine. "We should sign an agreement on transit with Ukraine very soon," Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov told reporters after talks with Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission (RIA-Novosti, December 7).

In news related to the German-Russian gas pipeline, Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder became board chairman of the pipeline.

Former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder landed a job Friday as board chairman for a Russian-German gas pipeline that he championed while in office, a post that deepens his already close relationship with the Russian government and President Vladimir Putin.

At a groundbreaking ceremony about 250 miles north of Moscow, Alexei Miller, the chief executive of Gazprom, the Russian energy giant that holds a majority stake in the pipeline partnership, said the Schroeder-led board would be involved in "reaching all strategic decisions on all areas of the company's activity."

In September, Schroeder and Putin signed an agreement on behalf of their countries to build the $4.7 billion pipeline. Ten days later the German leader and his party lost an election, leading to his resignation last month. He resigned his seat in Parliament as well, and the German political world has been speculating about his future ever since.

Schroeder did not attend the groundbreaking ceremony, held in the Vologda region. His office in Berlin confirmed the announcement and said he was "very pleased" to take the job. It offered no other comment.

Opposition politicians denounced the appointment as a conflict of interest. "It stinks," said Reinhard Buetikofer, co-chairman of Germany's Greens, who were a coalition partner in Schroeder's Social Democrat-led government, the Associated Press reported.

Looking to South Asia, Russia is also looking to increase its influence in the region by making countries in the region more dependent on its gas. Russia would like to be part of a proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline.

U.S. reservations of engaging with Iran notwithstanding, Russia is keen to participate in the $7 billion Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project and share the risks involved in the "peace project", Asia Pulse reports.

Russian firm Gazprom wants to take part in construction, operation and maintenance of the 2,100-km pipeline that will transport natural gas from the gigantic South Pars field in the Persian Gulf to Pakistan and India.

"Russia and Russian company Gazprom are interested and prepared to share the risks along the route of the pipeline and we do hope that other stakeholders (in the project) will be benign towards the possibility of sharing risk with Russia and the Russian company," Russian Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko told reporters on the sidelines of the Asian Oil Ministers Round Table conference in New Delhi.

Russia is seeking to increase its energy trade with India.

Russia sees India as a "long-term partner" in the energy sector and is looking to vastly expand the scope of the bilateral relationship in the field of oil and gas exploration and production, Russian President Vladimir Putin said here on Tuesday.

In a joint press conference to mark the end of the sixth annual summit between India and Russia, he appreciated India's equity participation in the Sakhalin-I project and said the new Indian expressions of interest in further developing oil fields in Sakhalin — which require an overall investment of $10 billion — are "a clear indication of the fact that this has been a very successful beginning."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh described Sakhalin-I as India's "most important overseas investment."

Asked about the Iran-India gas pipeline, Dr. Singh said the project made sense from the perspective of both energy security and regional détente. "India's needs for commercial energy are increasing very rapidly ... and [our] dependence on the outside world will increase," he said. "Therefore, we are in need of exploring the possibilities of utilising gas which is available in our neighbourhood in Iran for our development purposes. I think the overall demand picture is very encouraging and I believe if the countries of the region get together, this gas can become an important source of promoting regional cooperation."

Previous posts

Russia's gas weapon
Georgian-Russian relations continue to deteriorate
Update on the Russian-German pipeline

Captain Ed comments on Gerhard Schroeder's position as board chairman.

Mosul and Ramadi

(I bumped this up since another operation began in Ramadi yesterday)

(Another bump up since Operations Rams concluded Dec 7)

(Another bump since Operation Skinner concluded Dec 10)

In November 2004, the northern Iraqi city of Mosul was a lawless pit where terrorists roamed where they wished. Iraqi police fled their police stations when attacked. Several hundred of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed during this time when the terrorists had the upper hand.

But today, Mosul is a much quieter place. What happened? How did the Coalition Forces turn that city around?

Michael Yon's piece The Battle For Mosul IV from October 4 is a good summary of the tactics and strategies the US and Iraqi forces used to bring that city under control.

Yon, who spent a few months in Mosul with the Deuce Four, and who chronicled that time there so memorably in his blog, says that in the beginning:

Being tougher, smarter and more adaptable was our only chance of winning the battle for Mosul without simultaneously flattening the city.

The fight against the terrorists was at first a "kinetic" fight, i.e. a fight that "includes jets dropping bombs, helicopters launching missiles, tanks and artillery firing rounds, and lots of bullets: open warfare."

Yon says the tide began to turn when the Iraqi forces began to perform well.

Even as guns were firing, the Coalition was building a tougher breed of Iraqi police, to work along with a new Iraqi Army. By the time I arrived in Mosul, the Americans had, in just some months, recruited, trained, and started fighting along with the new Iraqi Police and Army, who were proving smarter and tougher than the enemy.

Later, Yon says:

The increasing competence of the police department in Mosul was pinching the insurgents. The better the police became, the more confidence local people had in their ability to maintain control. This confidence resulted in more tips against insurgents, more subsequent raids and arrests, the discovery of munitions caches and bomb factories, and an ever-diminishing capacity for large-scale attacks.

Yon's piece goes on to describe in detail how US and Iraqi forces worked together to beat down the threat in Mosul. Read all of it for a good understanding of how success stories like this can be repeated throughout Iraq. (You may recall this letter from an enemy leader to Abu Zarqawi describing how bad the situation had become in Mosul for the bad guys.)

Yon says at the end of the piece:

It bears repeating that the Coalition IS winning in Mosul. Here’s why: while the enemy commander Abu Zayd was hiding in and around Mosul, and complaining about his fellow terrorists squandering money on phones and cars, American and Iraqi commanders were physically fighting alongside their men, instilling confidence in the mission, sharing the risks.

I bring up the successes the Coalition has had in Mosul to point out that the same can be done in Ramadi. The city of Ramadi is the capital of the troublesome Al Anbar province, and as such, is a key to bringing the violent western province and Sunni Triangle under control. (Bill Roggio wrote here and here about the problem of Ramadi.)

How will the Coalition find success in Ramadi? The same way it did in Mosul. Superior military power combined with the much improved Iraqi forces, the two operating in tandem aided by strong personal relationships built over tea and shared experiences.

We have seen these tactics playing out in Ramadi throughout the month of November. A series of operations there have taken place, and with a glimpse between the lines of CentCom press releases, we can see these ingredients for success at work.

There have been seven operations to date, designed to disrupt terrorists in certain areas of Ramadi. They are:

* Operation Panthers - Around Nov 17, focused on eastern Ramadi.

CentCom said:

2 BCT successfully repelled a terrorist attack in which 32 terrorists were killed in downtown Ramadi. The caches found during Operation Panthers, along with the recent capture of three high-value terrorist targets, have been part of continuous disruption operations in the Ramadi area.

* Operation Bruins - Began Nov 19, and focused on northern Ramadi. It involved Approximately 150 Iraqi Army soldiers and 300 Marines and Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (2 BCT), 2nd Marine Division.

CentCom said:

The operation netted several weapons caches used by al-Qaeda in Iraq-led terrorists to conduct direct attacks on Iraqi Army, U.S. forces and Ramadi citizens and to build hundreds of roadside bombs. Twenty-one rocket launchers and 43 rounds of RPG ammunition were discovered along with 23 medium machine guns, three sniper rifles and thousands of rounds of ammunition. Thirty-two black ski masks were also found in this cache. Attacks against Iraqi and U.S. forces in the Ramadi area have decreased 60 percent in the last few weeks, as a result of these ongoing operations.

* Operation Lions - began Nov 22, and focused on southern Ramadi. It involved approximately 200 Iraqi Army Soldiers and 250 Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (2-BCT) attached to the 2nd Marine Division.

CentCom said:

As a result of Lions, 20 suspected terrorists were detained by Iraqi Army Soldiers and 2-BCT Soldiers.

* Operation Tigers - began Nov 26, and focused on eastern Ramadi. It involved approximately 550 Iraqi Army soldiers and U.S. Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team attached to the 2nd Marine Division.

CentCom said:

[The operation has] netted several caches, including two that were found along a railroad track used by local citizens.

The caches found consisted of numerous artillery and mortar rounds, rocket-propelled grenades, high explosives, small arms weapons, small arms ammunition, bulletproof vests and bomb making equipment.

The Iraqi Army spearheaded the operation by providing security, identifying cache sites and gathering important information through their interaction with the local citizens.

"These actions prove the Iraqi Army is truly making very rapid advances. With time, we will be able to secure all of Ramadi and remove all of the hidden enemy weapons cache points," said Lt. Col. Abdul Majeed, commander of the 3-2-1 Iraqi Army.

Additionally, several suspected insurgents, to include Imad Salih Al-Fahdawi, a known insurgent linked to the Abu Khattab-al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) terrorist cell, were detained during the operation. Imad Salih was involved in attacks against government officials and imams.

* Operation Shank - began Dec 2, and focused on an area of Ramadi used by a terrorist group for its base for attacks on local Ramadi citizens. The operation involves Approximately 200 Iraqi Army soldiers from 1st Brigade, 7th Division and 300 Marines from 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, assigned to the 2nd Brigade Combat Team.

CentCom said:

Iraqi Army Soldiers and U.S. Forces began the operation in the early morning hours by conducting targeted raids on suspected terrorist safe houses in central Ramadi resulting in the discovery of bomb making material.
The operation was carefully planned by using information and intelligence gathered by Iraqi and U.S. Forces operating in the city on a daily basis. There is no correlation between Operation Shank and the erroneous reports which were circulated by a terrorist propagandist.

* Operation Rams - began Dec 4 in Ramadi, and involves approximately 100 Iraqi Army Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Iraqi Division and 400 Soldiers from the 2/28 Brigade Combat Team.

CentCom said:

Altogether, the forces have discovered four weapons caches and four improvised explosive devices during this operation. One of the caches was significant in size and contained the following items: dozens of mortar rounds, approximately 100 rocket propelled grenades and RPG launchers, approximately 150 hand grenades, anti-armor missiles and rockets, a rocket launcher, dozens of small arms weapons and AK-47s, plastic explosives, bomb-making material and body armor.

Iraqi and Coalition Forces also detained five suspected al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists during the operation. The detainees are currently being held for questioning.

This operation concluded Dec 7.

Operation Rams, the sixth in a series of disruption operations in Ramadi, began in the Western Sufia district of the city Dec. 4. The operation focused on neutralizing the terrorism and setting the conditions for a successful Dec. 15 election in the al Anbar provincial capital.

Altogether, Iraqi and Coalition Forces seized and destroyed 13 weapons caches and a total of six improvised explosive devices. Two of the caches were significant in size and a 1,000 pound bomb was discovered and detonated by explosive ordnance disposal technicians.

Iraqi and Coalition Forces also detained eight suspected al Qaeda in Iraq terrorists during the operation. The detainees are currently being held for questioning.

* Operation Skinner - ended Dec 10 in central Ramadi, and involved Iraqi Army Soldiers, U.S. Marines and Army Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team (28th Infantry Division).

CentCom said:

The operation netted four weapons caches and several detainees and also two command-initiated rocket systems designed to ambush passing convoys in central Ramadi. The combined forces also discovered a roadside bomb that the terrorists planned to use in the rocket attack.

Iraqi and U.S. Forces also disrupted terrorist plans when they discovered a terrorist bomb-making factory in the center of the Ramadi shopping district. Artillery and mortar rounds, timers and remote detonators were found in the bomb making facility.

Bill Roggio talked about Operation Rams here.

You can see it. The same close cooperation between Iraqi and US troops. One of the prior quotes said it, they are operating in the city on a "daily basis". The military will keep up the pressure, and with the key involvement of the Iraqis themselves, Ramadi will soon be a different place, just as Mosul is. You can bet the same kinds of things Yon wrote about are taking place now in Ramadi.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

China rising

An article by Willy Lam in the latest China Brief at the Jamestown Foundation is entitled Beijing's Strategy To Counter U.S. Influence In Asia, and looks at China's efforts to become the dominant Asian power at the expense of the U.S. and Japan.

Starting Monday, Kuala Lampur is host to three conferences that will play a role in China's maneuvers to become the giant in the region.

Kuala Lumpur is playing host next week to three conferences crucial for Beijing’s ambitious gameplan for Asia: the 9th annual meeting among leaders of China and the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN); the 9th ASEAN plus three (China, Japan, and South Korean) conclave; and the inaugural East Asian Summit, which is set to morph into an East Asian Community (EAC). Premier Wen Jiabao, who is visiting Europe this week, will lead a large delegation to Malaysia. Of the three events in Kuala Lumpur, the EAC—dubbed Asia’s answer to the European Community—has attracted the most attention. The embryonic outfit will group together the "ASEAN plus three" nations, in addition to Australia, New Zealand, and India. Part of the diplomatic and academic communities’ interest in the East Asian Summit arises out of Washington’s thinly veiled animosity toward the EAC concept: while being a long-time Pacific power, the U.S. has not been offered membership in the Community.

The structure and mission of the EAC—which will be determined at its inauguration—is also set to worsen the quasi-Cold War atmosphere that has characterized China-Japan relations the past year. While Beijing is leaning toward the idea of the “ASEAN plus three” countries forming the "core" of EAC, Tokyo is predisposed toward encouraging the two other regional influences—Australia and India— to play as substantial a role as the other powers. The Chinese leadership under President Hu, who heads the policy-setting Leading Group on Foreign Affairs within the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is said to be thoroughly upset at Tokyo’s not-so-subtle bid to prevent the PRC from dominating the EAC.

Through favorable deals with East Asian nations, China will seek to separate the U.S. from allies it can count on in the region.

Throwing late patriarch Deng Xiaoping’s diplomatic dictum of "never taking the lead" to the wind, the aggressive Hu-Wen team has succeeded in persuading a growing number of Asian countries to declare some form of "neutrality" in the event of a military conflict between China and the U.S. over issues such as the Taiwan Strait. So far, Australia and Singapore have openly professed such neutrality; countries that are believed to have made private pledges to the same effect include Malaysia, the Philippines, and South Korea. Beijing’s apparent success in driving a kind of wedge between the U.S. and several of its Asian allies has considerably weakened Washington’s ability to wage what the CCP leadership has characterized as an "anti-China containment policy."

Apart from efforts to undermine U.S. influence in Asia—and to counter Washington’s alleged anti-China encirclement conspiracy—the Hu-Wen team is also hoping to achieve other important foreign-policy goals in Kuala Lumpur. These include further isolating Taiwan and undercutting Japan’s influence in the region. Particularly after the defeat suffered by the pro-independence government of President Chen Shui-bian in the December 3 mayoral and county-level polls in Taiwan, Beijing is confident that it can further squeeze the "diplomatic breathing space" of the breakaway province.

While no Asian country has kept diplomatic ties with Taiwan, the rich island has retained substantial influence in countries such as Vietnam, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Philippines, owing to factors that include FDI and a long history of people-to-people relations. Should Beijing’s clout in ASEAN and the new EAC continue to grow, however, the CCP leadership may be in a position to play the "Asia card" against the Taipei leadership. For example, if Taipei continues to snub Beijing’s demand for an open recognition of the "one China principle," the Chinese leadership could put pressure on Asian capitals to "choose between China and Taiwan," which is to say drastically scale down economic ties with Taiwan.

Last Sunday, Beijing suddenly announced that the 7th annual meeting of the three heads of government of China, Japan, and South Korea—originally also scheduled for Kuala Lumpur—would be cancelled "owing to [unfavorable] climate and conditions." Beijing’s agenda cannot be clearer. It wants to further play up the perception in South Korea and several other Asian countries that the administration of Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is reviving right-wing if not quasi-militaristic politics. In the wake of Koizumi’s fifth visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine last October, both Beijing and Seoul have decided to freeze top-level meetings with Japan’s leaders. During last month’s meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in South Korea, Chinese media commentators gloated over how Koizumi had become a pariah among Asian leaders. In private discussions with ASEAN leaders, Premier Wen is expected to lay emphasis on the dangers of Japan’s alleged program of re-militarization.

Lam closes the piece with a paragraph that points out our relations with China could become thorny in the years ahead.

One of Premier Wen’s most important agendas at Kuala Lumpur, particularly in relation to the birth of the EAC, is to play up the symbiotic benefits that China’s neighbors stand to enjoy by close relations with Beijing. Wen will also be putting the best spin on the negative aspects of dealing with the PRC, which include the influx of cheap Chinese consumer products as well as agricultural produce in countries such as Malaysia and Thailand. Most importantly, Washington seems finally to have understood the potent threat that Beijing is posing to U.S. influence in the Asia-Pacific. Countries ranging from Australia to India—which has recently displayed pro-U.S. sentiments largely due to Washington’s mid-year decision to sell New Delhi sophisticated military technology—have already made it clear that they will not let Beijing dominate the EAC. At this stage, of course, the EAC is still a murky concept and considered much more of an upbeat slogan than a vision that is predicated upon solid political partnerships. That so much attention has been bestowed upon the Community, however, has thrown into sharp relief the escalating tension—and cut-throat competition—between a status quo superpower and a fast-rising would-be superpower.

Russia Today channel takes to the air

The new Russia Today channel began broadcasting today. It is Russia's first 24-hour English-language news channel.

According to a RIA Novosti article:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Saturday that Russia Today, the country's first 24-hour English-language news channel, that hit the airwaves at 1 p.m. GMT, would be a success overseas.

"I do believe that giving the huge interest to everything related to Russia, be it culture, history, modern days developments, the information demand for Russian news, for Russian views of the world affairs, and of coverage of what is going on in Russia is going to be huge," Lavrov said in an interview with the channel.

"And I think that the initiative to create this channel is a welcome one and will certainly get a lot of viewers around the globe," the minister said.

Margarita Simonyan, the 26-year-old chief editor of Russia Today, said Friday: "We have several satellites, and we will broadcast to the United States and Canada via IA-5 and to Europe via Hotbird-6."

The fact it is broadcasting about Russia in English to the United States is not by accident.

An article in Foreign Policy by Julian Evans says the channel is an effort to improve Russia's image in the West.

It’s no secret that Moscow has an image problem. When Russian President Vladimir Putin makes headlines, it’s usually for jailing a businessman or cracking down on dissent. A 2003 poll commissioned by Putin’s government revealed the depth of the problem. The survey asked Americans to name the top 10 things they associated with Russia. The top four were communism, the KGB, snow, and the mafia. The sole positive association—Russian art and culture—came in dead last. A poll conducted in August on foreigners’ awareness of Russian brands did even worse. The only "brands" foreigners could think of were Kalashnikov rifles and Molotov cocktails.
Whether the Western media bias is real or not, the Russian government certainly thinks it is, and it has launched a PR campaign to improve its image in the eyes of the world. Why does this response come now, at a time when Russia needs the West less than at any time in the past 20 years? One can only assume that the campaign is in preparation for the G-8 summit in Russia next year, when, in McFaul’s words, "7,000 foreign journalists will descend on St. Petersburg looking for something to write about." Although oil-rich Russia may not need the West’s financial assistance anymore, Putin and his team still have an overriding desire to see Russia accepted at the top table of global affairs.

Update on the Russian-German pipeline

Friday I posted that construction has begun on a gas pipeline from Russia to Germany.

The Russian energy giant Gazprom owns a 51 percent stake in the pipeline.

According to a Turkish Press article:

Russian President Vladimir Putin said in June that the pipeline to Greifswald would start operating in 2010 with a capacity of 27 billion cubic metres (954 billion feet) of gas a year. The cost of construction has been estimated at four billion euros (4.7 billion dollars).

Extensions to the pipeline are planned under the North Sea to Britain as well as to Sweden.

Gazprom's [chairman Alexi] Miller said the pipeline would be a key route for gas from the massive Yuzhno-Russkoye field in western Siberia that Gazprom is developing with BASF, as well as from the Shtokman field under the Barents Sea, for which Russia is still seeking a partner.

But Friday's ceremony could heighten anxieties over the project on the part of Poland and Lithuania.

These ex-communist members of the European Union worry that the pipeline could endanger the Baltic Sea's fragile ecology and that their gas supplies could be threatened if Russia were able to export directly to western Europe without crossing east European territory.

Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas told Bild newspaper earlier: "During the preparation of the project nobody asked our opinion even once. Everything was done behind our backs... I don't know who is trying to play around with us, Russia, or maybe Germany."

Georgian-Russian relations continue to deteriorate

An article from The Power and Interest News Report says relations between Georgia and Russia are at an all-time low after the second anniversary of the Rose Revolution.

When Moscow helped resolve the stand-off in Adjara in May 2004, many observers hoped it indicated a new thaw in Georgian-Russian relations. However, despite the May 2005 agreement to close the remaining Russian army bases on Georgian territory, there has been little in the way of diplomatic or political breakthroughs since the Rose Revolution brought President Mikhail Saakashvili to power.

Two incidents in November highlighted the growing tension between the two countries.

On November 16, the Russian Embassy in Georgia refused to grant Givi Targamadze, the head of the parliament committee for defense and security, a visa to attend a Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.) parliament meeting in St. Petersburg.
Georgian-Russian relations took another blow on November 16 when Georgian State Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khaindrava walked out of negotiations with the South Ossetian leadership during the Joint Control Commission session in Ljubljana. Representatives from Moscow and South Ossetia proposed a three way meeting between presidents Putin, Saakashvili and the leader of the unrecognized republic, Eduard Kokoiti, which Tbilisi maintains is an unacceptable attempt to legitimize the Tskhinvali leadership. On November 17, Tskhinvali refused a Georgian proposal to meet with Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli.

The conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia continue to exacerbate Georgian-Russian relations. While Russia allegedly guarantees regional peace and security through its peacekeepers stationed in the conflict zone, Tbilisi accuses Moscow of actively working to destabilize the situation and of supporting the separatist leaders in their quest for independence. Saakashvili and his administration have repeatedly called for international monitoring of the conflict and a more active role for E.U. and U.S. observers in brokering a peace agreement between Tbilisi and the separatist leaders. Meanwhile, Moscow maintains that only it has the power and the influence to broker a peace deal.

I've had a couple of posts recently about the gas pipeline between Russia and Germany, and I pointed out how Russia could use its control of significant portions of Europe's energy supply to wield influence over those nations.

Georgia has already witnessed this, and its experience provides a glimpse of what Russia might do in Europe.

Even as Moscow maneuvers to strengthen its energy corridors with Europe, the Black Sea region and the Caspian Sea, Azerbaijan and Georgia are seeking alternatives to Russian gas and oil.

Georgia has actively sought energy independence from Russia for the past decade. To date, the country is completely dependent on Russia for its gas supply as well as the majority of its energy consumption. Russian oil giant Gazprom threatened Tbilisi with higher gas prices in fall 2005: US$110 (compared with the current US$62) per 1000 cubic meters starting in 2006.

Over the past decade Moscow has repeatedly resorted to power politics and left Georgia dark and cold in the winter. The long anticipated BTC oil pipeline from Baku-Ceyhan via Tbilisi opened this year and construction on the planned gas pipeline is underway. According to current plans, Georgia will receive substantial amounts of gas from the pipeline as transit fees, as well as discounted rates for additional supplies. Tbilisi tried negotiating possible gas imports from Kazakhstan, but this plan was blocked by Moscow when Russia refused to give Georgia permission to use their pipeline.

Iran's intentions

A post at the Intelligence Summit blog highlights a Washington Times article by Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld & Gen. Paul Vallely that points out the West may not fully understand the religious motiviations that could be driving Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinijad.

One wonders what will it take for the international community to understand that Iran seriously intends to use its nuclear power to attack the "infidels."

Iran's latest move to ban international inspectors is just one more step that the new Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmedinijad, has taken to herald the return of the 12th Imam al-Mahdi, who is believed to have been born 800 years ago and went missing in 941 and whom the Shi'ites and Mr. Ahmedinijad believe will return before judgment day "to lead an era of Islamic justice." According to the prophecies in the Muslim Hadith, (the traditions and sayings of the prophet Mohammed), the 12th Imam al-Mahdi will be resurrected only after "one-third of the world population will die by being killed and one-third will die as a result of epidemics." Indeed, last year's tsunami and this year's devastating hurricanes and earthquakes are being used as propaganda by the radical Shi'ite clerics, claiming that the recent calamities are part of these prophecies.

On Nov. 16, Mr. Ahmedinijad stated: "Our revolution's main mission is to pave the way for the reappearance of the 12th Imam, the Mahdi." In all his public statements in Iran and abroad, Mr. Ahmedinijad's messages are on target: Iran under his leadership must rise as a global power to lead the world in the footsteps of the prophets. He clearly follows up with actions -- moving on to develop nuclear weapons.

Yet, despite the evidence, neither the international community, nor the United States seem to comprehend Mr. Ahmedinijad's serious commitment to advance the arrival of the 12th Imam. Indeed, by continuing discussions with Iran, they are playing along, giving it the time and latitude needed to achieve nuclear proliferation.

Tick tick tick...


Had school today. One more week, and then I'm off till Jan 20. Huzzah!

Here's some more theology according to kids.

The other night I was reading the Zaccheus story to the kids, and when I read the part about Zaccheus climbing the tree, Hanna said "that's too dangerous! he might fall"

One time I read the story where Mary put perfume on Jesus' feet, and when I read the part where Judas wanted to sell the perfume and keep the money himself, John said "he wanted to spend the money on himself? he wanted to buy a shirt?"

Friday, December 09, 2005

I guess these don't count

In his TKS blog, Jim Geraghty records some of Rep. Murtha's recent comments. Among them is this one that caught my eye:

When I said we can't win a military victory, it's because the Iraqis have turned against us. They throw a hand grenade or a rocket into American forces and the people run into the crowd and they — nobody tells them where they are.

Hmm. Nobody tells American forces where the terrorists are? I think the good Rep. Murtha just hasn't been keeping up on current events. The fact that the Iraqis are increasingly willing to give helpful intelligence to Coalition Forces is one of the more encouraging signs in Iraq lately.

Just today there was this report:

Iraqi security forces and Task Force Baghdad Soldiers continued to scour the streets of Baghdad during operations Dec. 3-7, hunting down terrorists, disabling roadside bombs and seizing stockpiles of weapons.

Some of the success of these operations can be attributed to tips received from concerned citizens who approached Iraqi and U.S. forces with information about the whereabouts of terrorists and weapons caches.

Shall we list just a few other reports as well?

How about this one:

A tip given by an Iraqi civilian led to the operation to nab the suspected terrorists who were responsible for harassing, threatening and intimidating local Iraqi civilian construction workers who are building a new prison facility.

Or this one:

Another weapons cache was seized in Kirkuk Dec. 6, after police received a tip from a local resident. Rockets, mortars, tank rounds, anti-aircraft rounds and artillery fuses were taken by Soldiers from 1st BCT and an EOD team for disposal.

Or this one:

U.S. Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment conducted a raid in western Rashid based on information provided by local Iraqis. The raid resulted in the capture of two individuals.

Or this one:

A tip from a local citizen resulted in the capture of two terror suspects and the discovery of a large weapons cache in western Rashid Dec. 3.

Or this one:

Launching operations based on tips from Iraqi citizens and intelligence developed over time, Task Force Baghdad Soldiers captured 24 terror suspects in the Al Rasheed district during a 12-hour period Dec. 3-4.

Or this one:

Six terror suspects were detained in As Siniyah Dec. 2 after a concerned resident informed police about a vehicle-borne IED being built nearby.

Or this one:

With the help of tips provided to Coalition Forces by local residents, Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division detained five suspected terrorists Nov. 30.

Or this one:

A local citizen provided a potentially life-saving tip to the Iraqi Army in Sadr City Nov 26, alerting them to what appeared to be a bomb placed in the road.

Or this one:

An Iraqi tipster provided information about a roadside-bomb cell operating in western Rashid. Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment responded to the tip and conducted the operation during the early-morning hours of Nov. 25, detaining three terror suspects.

Or this one:

Acting on multiple intelligence sources and tips from concerned citizens, Coalition forces raided a suspected Jaysh al-Mujahideen terrorist safe house in Abu Ghurayb, west of Baghdad, Oct. 23.

Or this one:

A tip from a local citizen on the location of a weapons cache in the Tissa Nissan district of east Baghdad resulted in the destruction of the weapons Nov 23.

Or this one:

Acting on tips from local residents, Iraqi Army Soldiers confiscated a large number of terrorist weapons and bomb-making materials Nov. 20 in west Baghdad.

Or this one:

Coalition forces acting on multiple intelligence sources and tips from concerned citizens raided a suspected al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist safe house in Baghdad Oct. 31 capturing an al Qaeda in Iraq terrorist named Uthman Faruq Muhammad Abd-al-Hamid (aka Abu Ibrahim).

Or this one:

After receiving a tip from a local resident, Soldiers from 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division uncovered what turned out to be a large weapons cache west of Baghdad.

I'd go on but I have work to do. Have I made my point? Rep. Murtha, Iraqi citizens are pointing out the bad guys, and their deadly weapons caches. Are we universally loved by all 20-some million Iraqis? No. Are we winning a military victory? Absolutely. Are we gaining the help of the Iraqi people? Yes, and that's a good thing.

(Update: Here's another one from Steve at ThreatsWatch:)

The number three terrorist on the 2nd Brigade Combat Team (28th Infantry Division) High Value Individual list was detained today in the provincial capital of Ar Ramadi.

Amir Khalaf Fanus, an al-Qaeda in Iraq terrorist in the Ramadi area, was wanted for criminal activities including murder and kidnapping. Today, local Iraqi citizens brought him to an Iraqi and U.S. Forces military base in Ramadi.

(Update: This is from Cliff May in the Corner on Friday)

The key phrase here may be "turned in by local citizens." I was talking by phone with an Army major in Iraq this week. He said the most encouraging metric of all may be the number of tips about terrorists now being provided by Iraqis – it’s way up, it’s in the thousands.

(Update: If you go back to this post of mine, about tracking facilitators killed in the western river towns, and look through the links there you'll find a few more examples of Iraqis providing tips and information.)

Russia's gas weapon

According to a BBC report, work has begun on a gas pipeline between Germany and Russia via the Baltic Sea.

The link will deliver Russian gas to Germany - and eventually to other Western European nations - by 2010.

But the 1,200km (744 mile) pipeline is not without controversy.

It is set to bypass Poland and Ukraine, prompting concern from both countries that they will be cut off from Russian gas supplies.

European nations are justified in worrying about their energy supplies. Russia is gaining control of the supply.

Russia is one of Western Europe's biggest suppliers of commodities and supplies a quarter of the region's gas needs.

With limited natural resources of its own, Germany's dependency is even greater and Europe's biggest economy relies on Russia for a third of all its oil and gas imports.

I mentioned this pipeline in a post in October, and in that post I linked to an Orlando Sentinel article (no longer available, apparently) which said:

Already, 50 percent of the oil burned in Europe and 30 percent of the natural gas comes from Russia. The natural gas percentage is likely to rise dramatically with the new northern pipeline, under the Baltic Sea, extending all the way to Britain. Some countries, such as Germany, are likely to become entirely dependent on Russia for gas. They will also be dependent on Russia for some of their electricity because most new electric generation that has been installed relies on gas turbines.

The effect of Russia's energy dominance of Europe is a massive geopolitical change, binding Europe to Russia at the expense of its old alliances.

Russia will have no small amount of political influence over countries like Germany if it controls large portions of their energy supplies. In a crisis, Russia could use that to its advantage.

As mentioned in my previous post, Russia is facing some disturbing population trends. If Russia becomes more unstable, European nations will become more than a little nervous about having its energy sources in the hands of a supplier where chances of disruption in supply can grow increasingly likely.

Russia's worsening demographic problems

In this post I wrote about Russia's declining economic competitiveness. (As an example, Russia has roughly the same GDP as the Netherlands, even though Russia has nearly 9 times the population.) The basis of that post was a report from the World Economic Forum.

Yesterday the World Bank released an extensive report on Russia's worsening demographic problems.

(A link to the report in PDF form can be found here.)

A combination of low fertility and high mortality is causing a dangerous decline in Russia's population. As the report says:

Russia’s population was 149 million in 1992 but declined by 6 million as of 2003 to 143 million. If current low fertility and high mortality trends persist, this figure is expected to decline by over 30 percent during the next 50 years, as all measures of demographic processes show that Russia will continue to undergo dramatic changes in its population dynamics in the coming decades. The average annual population growth during 1990-2003 was -0.3 percent, and continued high mortality and declines in fertility are expected to lead to further negative population growth (Figure 1.1).

Overall, it is estimated that the population of Russia would be 17 million higher than at present if age-specific mortality rates in Russia had followed the patterns experienced by European Union-15 countries (EU-15) since the mid-1960s (Andreev 2005). This figure is comparable to the country’s total lives lost in World War II (Andreev 2005).

A decline in population of 6 million in only nine years is astounding. Imagine if Russia had lost that population in a war. It would be devastation on an enormous scale. It is Russia's prospects for the future, though, that should concern us. The decline in Russia's population may have dire ramifications. The United Nations Population Division projects that Russia will lose approximately 18 million people between 2000 and 2025. Such a loss will have an impact on Russia's economy, social infrastructure, and Russia's ability to defend itself.

The low fertility and high mortality are causing population loss at both ends of the age scale. First, let's look the low fertility, and then, at factors for the high mortality.

Low Fertility

The report points out Russia's fertility rate has dropped below replacement levels.

Russia is among many Western countries with fertility rates below the replacement level of 2.1 children per woman of reproductive age (Figure 1.3). In the early 1960s, Russia’s total fertility rate stood at approximately 2.6. Its fertility rate dropped to about 2.2 in the late 1980s, fell below replacement in the early 1990s, and in 2000-2005, it was 1.1. Projections suggest that Russia’s total fertility rate will remain below replacement beyond 2025. The crude birth rate (live births per 1,000 population) decreased dramatically from 14.7 in 1989 to 8.7 in 2000 but increased slightly to 9.7 in 2002.

In addition, infant and child mortality rates are higher in Russia.

Although the infant mortality rate (an important indicator of quality of life in general and quality of medical assistance delivered to children under one year of age) in Russia has been declining (Figure 1.5), it remains higher than in any other G-8 country. Russia’s 2003 infant mortality rate, 12.4 deaths per 1,000 births, is still three times those of France, Germany, and Italy. Also, despite a slight decline since the mid-1990s, mortality rates for children under age five are also significantly higher in Russia than in the other G-8 countries.

High mortality

Russia is one of the few countries in the world where life expectancy is falling. In summary (emphasis mine),

Both the current low level of life expectancy and the recent declines were driven largely by increasing mortality among those of working age, with a singular rise in mortality at young adult ages, with the greatest contribution from cardiovascular diseases and injuries.
Currently, total life expectancy at birth in Russia lags behind that of Japan by as much as 16 years and the European Union average by 14 years. By 2002, life expectancy in Russia had fallen below 66 years, well below the 1965 peak. Russia is the first country in the history of modern nations to experience such a significant peacetime loss in life expectancy.

Factors for the high mortality include increasing rates of heart disease caused by alcohol abuse, high tobacco usage, increasingly sedentary lifestyles, and inadequate diet in poor areas. Drug abuse is also on the rise.

Since Russia is losing population at the lower end of the age scale, Russia is gaining a disproportionately high number of older persons in comparison to younger ones. This has significant ramifications for the future.

* Fewer workers - Russia is already at an economic disadvantage compared to Western nations, but as the base of available workers shrinks, the report says:

According to IMF projections (IMF 2004), a decrease in working-age population will reduce labor productivity and incentives for investment in human and physical capital, which will in turn reduce per capita GDP growth. Government budgets will be squeezed as tax revenues fall because of a decline in the size of the working-age population and an increase in the needs and demands of an aging population. As the elderly population rises, the overall rate of saving and investment in a society will decline as more resources need to go to pensions, health care, and long-term residential care.

In addition to labor supply, with unhealthy workers, labor productivity may become a problem.

* The destabilization of families - With the stresses caused by increasing hardships, and the fact women outlive men in Russia by a number of years, the impact on stable families, and the prospects for children born into Russian families, will be significant.

* Growing regional disparities - Poorer regions in Russia will be especially affected by worsening economic problems. In areas with fewer jobs, little money or resources, and aging people with little means, Russia may have to devote more funds for its social safety net, funds it may not have.

* National security risks - This is one that should worry us all. As the report says:

From a national security point of view, the demographic and health crisis in Russia will present many challenges (Twigg 2004): (a) the number of men around conscription age will plunge rapidly in the decades ahead; (b) a growing percentage of the military budget will have to be allocated for the provision of medical, nutritional, and substance abuse programs for draftees and soldiers that are deemed medically unfit for duty; (c) long-term economic growth will depend on large cohorts of healthy and skilled young and middle-aged adults; and (d) if its vast territory is depopulated, instability could grow and the country could become increasingly difficult to govern.

For a country facing increasing threats from radical Islam right on its doorsteps, the inability to field a healthy, functioning military is a troubling prospect. Also, an inability to govern portions of its territory could encourage lawlessness, which in turn could provide havens for criminals and terrorist. The security of Russia's nuclear weapons has long been a simmering concern.

There is so much more in the report than I can summarize here. The report expands on the implications I've mentioned here, and highlights some of the things Russia is trying to do to address these problems.

However, the trends are not good for Russia. I obviously have a special concern for Russia, since that country gave us our two precious children. I've made four trips to Russia, and I've seen with my own eyes the poverty there, and the bleakness that many face.

Russia has so many gifted people. Think of what Russia has achieved in the arts, in literature, in the sciences, in math, in engineering, in athletics. It is a painful thing to watch this great country erode.

trivial matters

Last night the MOB took me to their bosom. I made it to my first Trivia Night, and met Ben from Hammerswing75, John the Night Writer, John the Policy Guy, Douglas from Crossword Bepop, Andy from Residual Forces, as well as the Nihilist and the Atomizer.

I teamed up with Ben and John and John and took second place. Beginners luck. Nowhere to go but down. The winners were the Fraters team, who, I am given to believe, are frequent owners of the "Defending Champions" signage.

T'was great meeting folks whose writing I enjoy, and am looking forward to meeting more at the winter bash next weekend.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Reassuring the Russians

Yesterday I mentioned that the US and Romania had reached an agreement on use of military bases near the Black Sea.

The Russians will certainly view this step eastwards with some nervousness. With the US already present in Central Asia, obviously in Afghanistan and Iraq, and now Eastern Europe, Russia will feel like it is being hemmed in.

So, unsurprisingly, following yesterday's announcement there are reassurances being uttered.

Romanian President, Traian Basescu, said late on Wednesday, at the end of a meeting of the Supreme Council of National Defence that no permanent military basis of NATO will be set up on Romania's soil.

"We tell the Romanian media that no permanent NATO bases are established (in Romania). We do not speak here about military facilities structures in the bilateral Romania-U.S. relationship. I should like to be very clear. Yesterday, with U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, no agreement was signed for the presence on NATO bases on the soil of our country, an agreement was signed instead on the presence of military facilities (in Romania) as part of the Romanian-U.S. bilateral links," stressed Basescu.

His reaction comes after Russian Defence Minister, Sergey Ivanov, said that Russia will withdraw from the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe, if NATO bases are established very close to the border of the Russian Federation, he added that Romania signed in Bucharest an Agreement on U.S. access to military facilities on its soil.

In a somewhat related issue, but of a kind that we will see more of, a plan has been made public that would keep Russian troops in Moldova, just across the border from Romania. Having US and Russian troops in such close proximity would make for interesting times. Russia will get its fur up the closer the US gets to Russian soil, and will continue to develop what it considers to be defensive measures.

This is truly a historic change. The first steps away from a status quo that has existed since 1945.

President Basescu's remarks contain another detail that could be a harbinger for things to come. He said the Romanian-US deal was a "bilateral" agreement.

NATO has outlived its usefulness. It served its purpose in presenting a strong front to the Soviets, but with Europe now struggling with its own internal problems, and France and Germany in particular actively trying to form another pole of power as a check on American power, the United States might be better served to form bilateral relationships, especially with the Eastern European countries that are more pro-American.

There is no need to waste more American treasure on the defense of Europe. It's time to kick the deadbeat, surly teenager out of the house and force him to support himself. Relocating troops from Germany to Romania is part of that process, and another example of how 9/11 was a catalyst to take a long overdue look at our international relations.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Postmodern Left

Charles Colson's most recent book is The Good Life, written with Harold Fickett. The book is part memoir, part self-introspection, part political philosophy, and part inspiration.

Chapter 18 is entitled Can We Know The Truth?, and I wanted to highlight some of the things Colson says about postmodernism, because you will certainly recognize its influence on the Left.

First, what is postmodernism?

Havel's belief in knowing the truth and living it goes to the very heart of what it means to live a good life. It raises the most urgent and controversial question in today's culture: Can we know the truth? Strident voices in our culture answer that question with a resounding no.

The principal reason for this is found in an extraordinary cultural revolution in the West. In the period after WWII, as we noted earlier, existential philosophers, mostly Frenchmen, took seriously Nietzsche's formulation that God was dead and that life has no transcendent purpose. The human challenge was therefore to overcome life's inherent lack of meaning through personal experience. This gave birth to the generation of the sixties, free love, and drugs. Existentialism was soon accompanied by deconstructionism in literary and cultural studies. This held that societies live in "the prison house of language", meaning that we can ever escape our culture's prejudices; every claim about the way the world works can only be the expression of biased groupthink. It doesn't take a philosopher to see that these two streams of thought undermine any authority structure.

Truth became whatever one person believes. So you have your truth, and I have mine. This is the essence of the postmodernist era.

Because postmodernism is hostile to absolute truth, it is hostile to religion.

The deeply entrenched ideas of postmodernism have made the New Age the fastest growing religion in America today. The New Age allows us to construct our own religion and makes no truth claims on anyone. It provides no genuine moral direction, for if god is in everything, god is in both good and evil.

New Agers and postmodernists have created a deity out of tolerance, and people have become greengrocers displaying placards saying "There is no such thing as truth! Tolerance is god!" The only cardinal rule of American life is that we must respect everybody's opinions as morally equivalent.

Dorothy Sayers, the great English wit and writer, had a description for this state of affairs. "In the world it calls itself Tolerance, but in Hell it is called Despair. It is the accomplice of the other sins and their worst punishment. It is the sin which believes nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, loves nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and only remains alive because there is nothing it would die for."

Does that not describe much of the Left today? It stands for nothing, offers nothing, and respects no opposing arguments. Its political foundation is built on philosophical sand.

Postmodernism and its dogmatic tolerance can only lead to despair, as Sayers wrote and as we witness in the lives of so many today. Despair in turn leads to slothfulness, and slothfulness to boredom. In spite of our great technological advances and the highest level of education and material advances any society has ever achieved, we have managed to suck all of the meaning out of life, to destroy any basis for human dignity or human rights, to undermine moral and rational discourse--to leave ourselves adrift in the cosmos.

Colson concludes the chapter with this thought.

The truth is, much of postmodernism has abandoned reason and in the process left its adherents with "both feet planted firmly in midair".

To chronicle the evidence that the Left has abandoned reason would take volumes. Michelle Malkin has recently done a masterful job of illustrating how hateful the Left can be in her new book Unhinged.

Hugh Hewitt had a post showing how some on the Left misrepresent the facts in Iraq to make political points, an example of defining for one's self what truth is.

In fact, the postmodern influence on the Left is no more evident than in its opposition to the war in Iraq.

From Joe Wilson's lies, to denying Iraq and Al Qaeda had anything to do with each other, to claiming the Bush Administration lied about WMDs in Iraq, to simply calling our President "Chimpy McBushitler", to ignoring the success the US is having in Iraq, Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, and on and on, the Left cannot give reasoned arguments for its opposition because it does not operate from reason.

As John pointed out in the comments of this post, the Left cannot even acknowledge that we are fighting an evil enemy, and will not address the question of whether it would have been morally right to leave a murderous dictator like Saddam Hussein in power.

They cannot because to admit the reality of an evil enemy would admit the existence of evil. To admit the existence of evil would admit a standard of truth that defines evil. To admit a standard of truth would admit the existence of a Standard Giver, God, and the ultimately the Left cannot and will not do that.

Political debate with the Left will go nowhere if we simply try to reason with them. Such an exercise is merely shadow boxing. We can only press on with what we know is right, and the reality of success will be self-evident.

The Left can say there is no brick wall, and run headlong into it. However, the pain of a cracked cranium would tell them there is indeed such a thing as objective truth.

As Iraqis vote in historic elections next week, as the enemy's capacity for evil reveals itself in broken bodies shattered by suicide bombers, as the US military and intelligence forces continue to achieve amazing success against a stubborn enemy, even the Left will realize the futility of its baseless claims.

The Left will not be changed, oh no. Being unmoored to any firm anchor they will simply drift to the next attack. But we who do believe in reason and truth can rest assured that the sacrifice of so many is not in vain, but has established that there is something worth dying for.

The march eastwards begins

Gateway Pundit has a report that illustrates the consequences of Germany's intransigent, obstinate opposition to US policy in Iraq the past three years.

The United States has reached an agreement with Romania to establish military bases near the Black Sea.

Such a move has been a long time coming. Last year President Bush said troops would be redeployed, particularly from Germany and South Korea.

(There has been opposition in South Korea as well to the presence of US troops. To the youths in South Korea who think they know everything, I say fine, you can face the North Korean army all by your little lonesomes.)

These bases would put the US closer to likely trouble spots, and is a very important change. I now sit back and await the media to explain the implications of this change.

A blog you should read

If you are interested in intelligence matters, you should be reading Voice of the Taciturn.

Captain V was once in the intelligence business, and is always chock full of insights into matters of intelligence and security, and inside baseball when it comes to how intelligence sausage is made. (Did I mix enough metaphors?)

Preparing for the Iraqi Elections

For some time now, Coalition Forces in Iraq have been preparing for the elections December 15. Numerous operations have been conducted, both large and small, to disrupt the terrorists' ability to commit violence or affect voting.

Just in the period between Nov 26 and Dec 2, there were 450 company-level combined operations throughout Iraq.

As this MNF-Iraq press release points out, huge quantities of weapons have been found.

In addition, many bad guys are no longer on the streets to murder and maim.

Combined forces detained more than 440 anti-Iraqi forces, captured or killed 31 foreign fighters and captured three bomb makers.

These will be historic elections. And yet, we haven't heard much in our media about the campaigning, about the candidates who risk their lives by being on the ballot.

At the FDD blog, Sara Levy puts it this way:

On December 15, the people of Iraq will do what no American should ever have to contemplate. They will risk their lives to vote. For the third time this year, the brave people of Iraq will go to the polls to determine their future.

Yes, as they have done in two previous elections, the Iraqi people will risk their lives to vote. But, the threat will be diminished because of the hard work done by the US military and the increasingly capable Iraqi forces.

This election next week is a significant reason why lives have been lost in Iraq, why we have spent so much time, money, and energy there. Freedom is taking root where once a brutal dictator stood. It is fitting that while brave Iraqis stand to be candidates for office, while the Iraqi people stand to dip their fingers in the purple ink and vote, that this former dictator can only stand in the dock and shout pathetically.

If the feckless Democrats had been in charge, would Saddam be standing where he is now? Would there be elections next week? I think the answer to that is obvious.

Ezra Pound! Quito! Herman's Hermits!

Yes, fellow MOBsters, I finally will be able to make it to a Trivia Night. I plan on showing up Dec 8th.

I was scheduled to go kneecap a recalcitrant laundromat owner who wouldn't pay for our extensive suite of protection services. But he came around, and I finally have a free Thursday.

Hope to see some of you there and meet you in person.

Random Observations

A staple of noir waterfront environs is the dingy, seedy tavern. The dim light provides cover for a host of sins. Rail-thin floozies dance before a crowd of ruffians and scalawags. When someone enters, these hardened, grizzled brigands do not turn as if to say "Welcome, stranger!", they turn to measure up the mark and judge how easy it would be to separate him from his money. I think the modern equivalent of these taverns would be car dealerships.

I enjoy handbell choirs, though I wouldn't run over my grandmother with a bulldozer to see one. Their exaggerated arm movements always seem a bit distracting though, as if they are trying to scoop water from a waterfall in slow motion.

The study of History is simply the attempt to answer two questions. What did people want, and what did they do to get it?

Kelly Clarkson is the triumph of studio production techniques and marketing over actual vocal talent.

The words bogie, bogeyman, booger, bugger, etc... all share similar etymological roots. (HT: Paul) I guess it's a good thing the military says "bogie at six o'clock!", it sounds better than "snot balls at six o'clock!"

John and Hanna have come to really enjoy the movie Toy Story. In his bedtime prayers lately, John will say "and thank you for Sid, who tortures toys just for fun".

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Press on

History is replete with examples that teach us a resounding, perhaps decisive victory can be achieved if the winning side exploits its success on the battlefield and pursues the enemy when it is at its most disorganized.

All the talk lately of withdrawing from Iraq betrays an ignorance of the dangers of recoiling from hard fighting, even when continuing on seems the most difficult.

There are numerous examples where the victor routed its opponent, but held back because of fatigue, content with what it had achieved, and didn't move quickly to exploit its gains, and in so doing allowed the enemy to regroup and return, thereby costing more in the long run than would have been necessary had the opportunity been seized early on.

Here are a few examples of such battles.

* Gettysburg, 1863 - For three days the Union and Confederate armies clashed all along Cemetery Ridge. Pickett's Charge ended in disaster, and as Angus McLean said, with it the Confederate tide "swept to its crest, paused and receded". The Union army suffered over 23,000 casualties. The Confederates suffered perhaps as many as 28,000.

The Union army was bloodied and exhausted, but the Confederate army was broken and on the run. Yet, General Meade did not pursue General Lee with any kind of determination. Because of Meade's failure to crush the remnants of Lee's army, Lee was able to get back across the Potomac to Confederate territory.

Lincoln wrote to Meade and said this of Meade's lethargy:

Again, my dear general, I do not believe you appreciate the magnitude of the misfortune involved in Lee's escape. He was within your easy grasp, and to have closed upon him would, in connection with our other late successes, have ended the war. As it is, the war will be prolonged indefinitely. If you could not safely attack Lee last monday, how can you possibly do so South of the river, when you can take with you very few more than two thirds of the force you then had in hand? It would be unreasonable to expect, and I do not expect you can now effect much. Your golden opportunity is gone, and I am distressed immeasurably because of it.

Lincoln was right. The war went on for two more bloody years. The carnage of Chickamauga, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania, the Wilderness and Cold Harbor was still in the future.

* Gallipoli, 1915 This battle will be remembered forever in Britain, France, and the ANZAC nations. This attempt to knock the Ottomans out of the war and open a route into Germany from the southeast to relieve the stalemate on the Western Front cost the Allies dearly. But it did not need to happen. In his terrific book A Peace to End All Peace, David Fromkin describes the lost opportunities.

The major problem was that Admiral Carden was losing his nerve. Churchill had cabled him on 13 March reporting that "we have information that the Turkish Forts are short of ammunition and that the German officers have made desponding reports".
On the afternoon of 19 March...Churchill cried out in excitement that "they've come to the end of their ammunition," as indeed that had.
The casualties and losses from mines on 18 March had left Admiral de Robeck despondent...De Robeck was unnerved because he did not know what had caused his losses. In fact his ships had run into a single line of mines running parallel to the shore rather than across the straits...It was a one-time fluke.

Meaning the way to Constantinople was clear. Fearing the threat was too great, the navy wanted to hold back until the army could join the action. Churchill knew the way to Constantinople was open because of the ammunition shortages. Admiral de Robeck retreated, though.

If Admiral de Robeck, who had led his fleet in battle for only one day, had plunged back into battle for a second day he would have seen the enemy forces withdraw and melt away...The fleet would have steamed into Constantinople without opposition.

What came next was a similar example of missed opportunities.

At dawn on 25 April 1915, the British, Dominion and Allied armies waded ashore onto six narrow, unconnected beaches on the Gallipoli peninsula. The Turks, who had known when but not where the Allies would attack, were taken by surprise and probably could have been overwhelmed that day.
The Allies held an overwhelming numerical superiority that day--most of Liman's forces were held in reserve at a distance from the battlefield--and at beaches Y, X and S the invasion forces could have exploited their surprise attack by advancing the destroying the small Turkish garrison in the vicinity.

By 26 April the situation had changed. Turkish reinforcements started to pour in, and in a sense it was all over.
On 25 April 1915 the Allies could have won an easy, bloodless victory by their surprise attack; but 259 days later, when they withdrew in defeat from their last positions on the blood-soaked beaches of the Dardanelles, it emerged that they had lost one of the costliest military engagements in history. Half a million soldiers had been engaged in battle on each side, and each had suffered a quarter of a million casualties.

* Pearl Harbor, 1941 The Japanese had crushed the American fleet, but turned around and went home. Hawaii was open to invasion, the west coast of American was open to invasion. How would history have changed if the Japanese had exploited their victory and continued on?

* Antwerp and the Scheldt approaches, 1944 In early September 1944, British forces captured the port of Antwerp. A deep-water port was vital for bringing in supplies closer to the front in order to keep the drive in Western Europe pushing forward. However, the banks of the Scheldt River needed to be cleared as well, or the port would be useless. Germans along the river could attack any shipping passing between Antwerp and the Channel.

In his book Armageddon, Max Hastings describes the Allies' failure to secure the port and the approaches quickly.

At that moment, had they chosen to do so, the British could have driven onwards up the forty-mile coast of the Scheldt which linked Antwerp to the sea with nothing to stop them. The battered German Fifteenth Army, comprising 100,000 men who had lost most of their transport, would have been isolated if the British had advanced just a few miles further.
Yet now the British made one of the gravest and most culpable errors of the campaign. They failed to perceive, as the Germans at once perceived, that Antwerp was useless as long as the Allies did not command its approaches.
Belgian Resistance leaders warned of the vital importance of the Scheldt. Exhausted British officers, sated by the dash across Belgium they had just accomplished, brushed the civilians aside.
While the British celebrated, refueled and rearmed, the Germans acted.
In sixteen days, they moved 65,000 men, 225 guns, 750 trucks and 1,000 horses across the waterway north-west of Antwerp.
Only on 13 September, nine leisurely days after Antwerp was seized, was belated action begun to clear the Scheldt approaches.
The guns did not finally fall silent on Walcheren [an island fortress] until 8 November. The opening of the Scheldt had cost 18,000 casualties. The Royal Navy was obliged to clear 267 sea-mines before the estuary was navigable. The first Allied ship unloaded at Antwerp only on 28 November, eighty-five days after the 11th Armored Division first seized the docks. Until that date, almost every ton of Allied supplies had to be trucked or carried across the devastated French rail net from the Normandy beaches or the Channel ports.

* Iraq, 1991 After routing Saddam Hussein's armies in Kuwait and Iraq, the United States forces had a clear path to Baghdad. Hussein could have been toppled then. Instead, he was left in power. How would the last 14 years have been different if the United States had exploited its victory and finished off its enemy then?

Victor Davis Hanson was written of the need to press home the fight, even when the going seems the toughest, even when our strength fades and we weary of the fight. In this column, Hanson wrote:

In war, it is hard to know when victory is near, since the last campaigns are often the bloodiest. Yet we are seeing the foundations of a new Middle East, with terrorists scattered, jailed and dead. And, yes, victory itself is on the horizon -- but only if on this memorable day we persevere, and allow George W. Bush to finish the job.

And in this column, he wrote:

While Ted Kennedy and John Kerry pontificate about losing the war on terror, al Qaeda is nearly finished. What we have been seeing lately are its tentacles flapping about in search of prey, after the head has been smashed — still for a time lethal, but without lasting strength. We should remember that perhaps the bloodiest month for Americans in the European theater of World War II was not during 1943 and 1944 amid the invasions of North Africa, Sicily, Italy, or Normandy, but rather in January 1945, a mere five months before the close of the war, when GIs fought back the last bitter German offensive.

Likewise a mere four months before the surrender of Japan the United States began the most bloody campaign of the entire war at Okinawa, where almost 50,000 Americans were killed, wounded, or missing. The fighting, which killed the commanding generals of both sides, did not end until a mere two months before the surrender. What later is seen rightly to be last gasps at the time often appear as irrefutable proof of inexhaustible strength and endless war to come.

We do grow weary of the casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan. We cry out for peace, that there would be no more families broken apart, no more lives lost. Yet we must recognize the undeniable success our military has forged in these troubled lands. The enemy has been weakened, he lashes out now at civilian targets because he no longer has the ability to strike hardened military targets, except through random roadside bomb attacks which will not affect the outcome.

To speak of withdrawing from Iraq before the victory is complete is to ignore the lessons of history. It is hardest to steel our will when we are weary, but reason tells us that we must. We cannot give away a victory that is almost in our hands. We must press on.

Ruling the Night

A press release from MNF-Iraq illustrates that Iraqis are increasingly playing a significant role in providing intelligence to Coalition Forces. The account also illustrates how effective the US military is in fighting at night. Notice the times these security operations occurred.

Dec 3

11:35 p.m - A Company, 1st Bn., 184th Inf. detained six individuals in eastern Rasheed. One of the detainees was a known member of an al Qaeda bomb-making cell and another individual is suspected of running safe houses used to smuggle terrorists into Baghdad.

2:35 am - Another element from 1/184 detained a targeted individual in Abu Dischir

before daybreak - Another two detained in Dora

Dec. 3

before midnight - A tipster alerted Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment on the trail of terror suspects operating in western Rasheed. They conducted a hasty cordon and search and captured two individuals

2:30 am - 3/7 Inf. Soldiers conducted another cordon and search in Jihad and captured three individuals.

the night before - The battalion also detained another individual in Jihad the night before. "The operation last night was a huge victory for the locals in Jihad," said 1st Lt. Reeon Brown, a platoon leader from A Co., 3/7 Inf. who led one of last night’s operations. "This man has spent months killing innocent Iraqis and Iraqi Security Forces. Now he is off the street thanks to the bravery of one local man. I want to thank him and let the Iraqi people know that they are the most powerful weapons in the fight against terrorists."

Dec 4

1 a.m. - Soldiers from 3rd Squadron, 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment conducted a cordon and search and captured nine individuals.

With their night vision goggles, communications, superb training and bravery, the US military rules the night. Appearing out of the night, bashing in doors, startling the tired enemy, subduing them quickly, startling and disorienting and confusing possible threats, US soldiers are lethal. With the Iraqis pointing out where they are, the bad guys cannot even hide in the night. There is nowhere they can rest.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Sands through the hourglass

Regime Change Iran links to an article at the Jerusalem Post that has some unsettling news...

IAEA chairman Muhammad ElBaradei on Monday confirmed Israel's assessment that Iran is only a few months away from creating an atomic bomb.

If Teheran indeed resumed its uranium enrichment in other plants, as threatened, it will take it only "a few months" to produce a nuclear bomb, El-Baradei told The Independent.

On the other hand, he warned, any attempt to resolve the crisis by non-diplomatic means would "open a Pandora's box. There would be efforts to isolate Iran; Iran would retaliate; and at the end of the day you have to go back to the negotiating table to find the solution."

Juuust in case you missed it, from this blog Dec 1:

The most troubling implication of the sum of all the reports I've mentioned here is that Iran is nearing the end of its need for the diplomatic stalling tactics with Europe. It may be that the stalling has worked, Iran is close to completing its nuclear program, that Iran no longer needs the diplomatic niceties, but is now gathering allies for the confrontations that will come as the full scope of Iran's nuclear program is revealed.

MosNews reports that Russia is ready to build a second reactor in Iran:

Russia is capable of building a second nuclear power plant in Iran, top official at Russia’s atomic construction export company said on Monday.

The head of the Atomstroiexport’s department in charge of building nuclear power plants in Iran, Vladimir Pavlov, quoted by the RIA-Novosti news agency said that "if the Iranian side announces a tender for nuclear power plant construction, Atomstroiexport will take part in it because we have the ability to successfully erect one more nuclear power plant in Iran."
Earlier on Monday, Iranian state television said the country planned to construct a second nuclear power plant. Iran decided to build the plant in the south-western province of Khuzestan.

Previously Iran had said it would build a second power plant at Bushehr, where its first nuclear reactor built by Russia is due to begin generating electricity in 2006. The Iranian parliament is seeking the construction of 20 nuclear power plants despite international concern over its nuclear program.

Why shift the location of a second reactor? It is in keeping with Iran's strategy of spreading its nuclear program around the country so one attack, on one area, won't knock out a significant portion of the program.

Also, our good friends in Russia are selling Iran anti-aircraft missiles:

Russia has struck a deal to sell short-range, surface-to-air missiles to Iran, the defense minister said Monday, confirming reports that have raised concern in the United States and Israel.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov didn't give details. But Russian media have said that Moscow agreed in November to sell $1 billion worth of weapons to Iran, including up to 30 Tor-M1 missile systems over the next two years.
"A contract for the delivery of air defense Tor missiles to Iran has indeed been signed," Ivanov was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.

The fact Russia claims the missiles are merely "defensive" is laughable. By definition, surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles are defensive. Could Iran be building up its air defenses in prepartions for any attacks that might come as nervous Western nations take to desperate measures to dismantle Iran's nuclear program?

Speaking of a timeframe of a few months, there was this from a Reuters report today:

Ali Larijani, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, told Reuters on Sunday that Tehran's patience regarding Western opposition to its nuclear program was wearing thin and it would give the EU only a few months to settle the matter through talks.

Asked how long Iran's patience and its commitment to a two-year-old voluntary suspension of uranium enrichment activities would last, he said: "A few months. We have a limited time framework for talks."

A "few months"? Coincidence? Is Iran signalling its timetable?

Just this weekend, the regime sent another signal that it wasn't interested in bowing to UN pressure:

On Saturday, Iran approved a bill that would block international inspections of its nuclear sites if it were referred to the Security Council. The step strengthens the government's hand in resisting international pressure to permanently abandon uranium enrichment, a process that can produce fuel for either nuclear reactors or atomic bombs.

While Iran has frozen its enrichment program, it restarted uranium conversion - a step toward enrichment - in August.

And once Iran perfects its waste processing capabilities, can you imagine an Iran with 20 nuclear plants?

Tick tick tick...

Strata-Sphere has a lenghty and informative look at Iran and recent events.

Psycmeistr casts a keen eye on the topic as well.

Monday Winds of War Briefing

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Monday's Winds of War briefings are given by Peace Like a River and Security Watchtower.

Top Topics

* The Counterterrorism Blog reports a top tier Saudi Arabian Al-Qaida commander in Chechnya and personal military advisor to Shamil Basayev has been killed during a Russian counterterrorism operation in neighboring Dagestan.

* Pakistan's President General Pervez Musharraf Saturday confirmed that a top al-Qaeda operative has been killed in Pakistan's troubled region of North Waziristan, where the country's security forces are battling foreign suspected militants. The Syrian-national Hamza Rabia is said to the chief of al-Qaeda's international operations. "He (Rabia) was killed in Mir Ali area of North Waziristan, bordering Afghanistan's Khost province," the president said. Three or four other people were reportedly killed in Thursday's incident. The US won't confirm the reports.

* Between ten and fifteen wanted Palestinian terrorists entered the Gaza strip through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, and Israel is now threatening to impose sanctions on the Gaza in response. Most of those who crossed over into Gaza are Hamas members, and have been living in exhile since the late 1980's. The Palestinians are looking into the reports.

Other topics today include: Iran acquires missiles from Russia; al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia; Fatah primaries cancelled; Abdullah takes hardline of terrorism; Palestinian rocket attacks; UAE to hold elections; Saudi raids nab 17 terror suspects; Syrian forces clash with terrorists; al Qaeda in the U.S.; radical Islam in Latin America; Bangladesh rounds up Islamic militants; Attacks in Afghanistan; al Qaeda's escape; Tension in Sri Lanka; Australian anti-terrorism laws; Bosnian terror cell; Belgian suicide bomber; EU counterterrorism; al Qaeda's chemist; and much more.

Iran & the Middle East

* According to reports, Iran has signed a deal with Russia to acquire 29 TOR-M1 surface-to-air missile systems.

* Special Report - Al-Qaida in Saudi Arabia: 2002-2003

* Local Fatah primaries were halted in the West Bank town of Salfit "because of problems and divisions" among different groups that included the burning of ballot boxes. Mahmoud Abbas is vowing to end the violence and is promising security and transparency for upcoming elections.

* King Abdullah is urging the Jordanian parliament to pass a new set of anti-terrorism legislation, calling it the "largest security challenge" that Jordan has ever faced. Meanwhile, Jordanians are seeking to get back to their everyday lives.

* Fighting between rival clans broke out in the northern Gaza city of Beit Hanoun, leaving five dead that included a policeman. The Palestinian police chief is demanding more weapons to combat criminals and terrorists.

* Israeli helicopter gunships fired on targets in the Gaza strip, after Palestinians fired three Qassam rockets into Israel from the Gaza the day before. On Sunday, Palestinians again launched rockets into Israel from the Gaza.

* The United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced they will hold partial elections in the Federal National Council in the future and "comes amid growing American pressure on Arab countries to adopt democracy."

* Saudi security officials arrested 17 suspected militants in a series of raids around Riyadh on Saturday. Weapons and explosives were also confiscated in twelve seperate homes.

* According to reports, Syrian security forces clashed with terrorists in the northern city of Aleppo on Sunday, leaving five wounded.

* Israeli's military chief, Lt-Gen Dan Halutz doesn't believe diplomatic efforts will succeed in preventing Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. Halutz pointed to Iran thwarting international pressure time and time again. In response, Iran has threatened counter-strikes against Israel.

America Domestic Security & the America's

* The Homeland Security and State departments are trying to come up with a cheap, convenient way for U.S. citizens and Canadians to prove their identities while crossing the border. Faced with growing opposition to a proposal requiring people to show passports or other similar IDs, the Bush administration will propose new forms of identification next spring, Homeland Security spokesman Jarrod Agen said.

* Representatives from various Lowndes County agencies and businesses in Georgia attended a workshop last Wednesday on agrosecurity awareness, and the ways to prevent agroterrorism. Mickey Fourakers, coordinator with the Lowndes County Extension, said the training is in connection with the Homeland Security Department and is designed for first responders like firefighters, deputies, emergency personnel, food processors and farmers.

* U.S. counterterrorism agencies have not detected a significant al-Qaida operational capability in the United States since the 2003 arrest of a truck driver who was in the early stages of plotting to destroy the Brooklyn Bridge. Nevertheless, al-Qaida's capabilities aren't clear and the group remains dangerous, the new deputy director of the National Counterterrorism Center, Kevin Brock, said in an Associated Press interview.

* A report by Chris Zambelis at the Jamestown Foundation looks at radical Islam in Latin America, and examines possible evidence for Al Qaeda and even Hezbollah involvement in Latin America.

* High Court judge Herbert Volney spent the weekend viewing a video-taped copy of the November 4, Eid-ul-Fitr sermon delivered by Jamaat-al-Muslimeen leader Yasin Abu Bakr as he considers if he should hear a fresh bail application. The same judge had refused to grant Bakr bail on November 11 on the basis of objections raised by the State that if the 64-year-old Imam was released he would carry out the threats he made during the sermon.

* A new blog from the Center for Security Policy and Frank Gaffney reports that Venezuelan strongman Hugh Chavez is funding militantly anti-US political movements across the hemisphere. Chavez's government has also provided Venezuelan identity papers to many hundreds of Islamist extremists, to allow them to enter the United States.

Russia & South/Central Asia

* In Bangladesh Friday, police questioned 58 suspected Islamic militants in bombing attacks outside government buildings this past week that killed at least nine people and wounded scores of others, authorities said. Police said they also discovered and defused nine bombs that were left in plastic bags Friday near government buildings in the city of Khulna in southwestern Bangladesh and the central town of Sirajganj.

* A remote-controlled bomb ripped through a vehicle in volatile southern Afghanistan, killing a district government chief and two police officers, and wounding three others, authorities said Saturday.

* In another attack in Afghanistan, at least one police officer was killed and five others wounded when the vehicle they were travelling in was ambushed in neighbouring Helmand province.

* A New York Times article has some details on the escape of Omar al-Faruq and three others from Bagram last July.

* Here are the updates from the South Asia Terrorism Portal for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

* An update from CDI last week summarizes news and analysis about the events in Afghanistan and the U.S. war on terrorism in the surrounding region in the month of November.

* An article by Michael J. McNerney in the Winter issue of Parameters, the Army War College Quarterly, looks at how Provincial Reconstruction Teams are at work rebuilding Afghanistan, and how they can be used to stabilize that country.

* At least two people have been killed in a suspected suicide bomb attack in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, police say. There were no reports of casualties among Canadian members of the US-led coalition who are thought to have been the target of the attack.

* Sri Lanka's government has blamed Tamil Tiger rebels for weekend attacks in which at least nine soldiers died. A landmine blast in northern Jaffna peninsula which killed six troops was a "terrorist attack" in breach of a truce accord, a government statement said.

* A joint investigation in India by the Intelligence Bureau and Jammu and Kashmir Police has discovered disturbing new evidence that mainstream political parties in the State have been infiltrated by operatives working for the terrorist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, and are being used to provide cover for the terrorist group's operations.

* The Jamestown Foundation's view on the Chechnya parliamentary elections is that there were no clear winners. The pro-presidential United Russia party won 33 out of 58 seats, but turnout was low.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* Following the destruction of several camps belonging to the communist New People's Army (NPA) by Filipino troops in Mindinao, Colonel Alfredo Cayton says the rebels are on the run.

* The United States' Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) is requesting the Filipino government freeze the assets of four people associated with Osama bin Laden.

* An agent with the Philippino Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) was shot to death in Zamboanga while on the way to the Hall of Justice for a court hearing.

* Thailand's Phuket Island resort has turned down an offer to become the "sister city" of Bali, citing concerns over associating with an area struck by frequent terrorism.

* Indonesian police officials travelled to the Philippines and met with security officials in central Mindanao to discuss counterterrorism cooperation over reports that Indonesia terrorists were building training camps in Mindanao.

* The Australian parliament is preparing to adopt new anti-terrorism laws that civil liberty opposition groups characterize "as terrifying as terrorism itself."

* Tens of thousands of protesters marched for full democracy in Hong Kong on Sunday, as the city's legislature mulls over constitutional reform proposals.


* Recent arrests in Europe have pointed back towards Bosnia, where officials believe a terror cell is based with Euro-wide reach. The cell is described as a "series of overlapping networks" and recruits from Scandanavia.

* Belgian authorities are saying that France endangered an anti-terrorism operation targeting an al Qaeda cell in Brussels by leaking that a recent suicide bomber in Iraq was a Belgian woman.

* Member nations of the European Union have agreed to revise and update their strategy of counterterrorism initiatives and but still harbor disagreements over where to balance counterterrorism and civil liberties.

* The Netherlands will decide this week whether to deploy troops to southern Afghanistan, where questions and reluctancy remain.

* Spanish security forces are on alert after the recent detention of a group of Algerians believed to be linked to al Qaeda, were caught trying to exchange drugs for explosives. Authorities believe there may be two active al Qaeda cells in Logroño and Vitoria.


* The Polisario Front, the last remaining liberation movement fighting for independence in Africa, contested an earlier UPI report that it could be turning to Islamist organizations and organized crime. In an article titled "New danger in Africa" published earlier this week United Press International cited a European intelligence think tank stating that the Polisario could be turning to radical Islam.

* A Belgian national arrested by anti-terrorist police in Morocco in November claims he offered Samir A. the services of female suicide bombers to attack the headquarters of the Dutch security service AIVD. Mohamed Reha, a Belgian of Moroccan ancestry, said A. was prepared to co-operate in a suicide attack on the AIVD but only wanted male bombers.

* In the final round of parliamentary elections held Thursday, Egypt's most popular opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, failed to win any direct seats, according to official results. The final poll round was marred by the killing of one opposition activist, police attacks on the opposition and a crack-down on the press.

* The UN's World Food Programme on Sunday delivered its first aid shipment to starving Somalis since pirates prowling its lawless coast forced them to take a dangerous and slow land route. WFP operations in Somalia were sabotaged this year by the hijacking of two ships carrying food, which forced the UN food agency to opt for an equally treacherous and longer route over land.

The Global War

* Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will go on the offensive next week to rebut European concerns over reports of a secret CIA prison system in Eastern Europe, making the case during a five-day trip to Europe that intelligence cooperation between the United States and Europe is essential to prevent future attacks, U.S. officials said.

* The latest CrisisWatch from the International Crisis Group says nine conflict situations deteriorated in November, and three improved. The situation in Ethiopia/Eritrea is still identitifed as a Conflict Risk Alert.

* Shadowy al Qaeda chemist Midhat Mursi (aka Abu Khabab) remains a source of concern, with little new information on his location. Mursi was last known to be running a rudementary chemical weapons testing camp in Afghanistan in 2001.

* Newsweek has an article examining the increasing number of female suicide bombers. Dan Darling of Winds of Change offered his own views.

* An Orlando Sentinel editorial looks at a Senate bill that would provide funds to secure loosely guarded weapons depots.

Thanks for reading! If you found something here you want to blog about yourself (and we hope you do), all we ask is that you do as we do and offer a Hat Tip hyperlink to today's "Winds of War". If you think we missed something important, use the Comments section to let us know. For ongoing tips, email "MondayWindsOfWar", over here

Sunday, December 04, 2005


In the Sunday Star Tribune, on page 6 of the A section (the news section) there was an article with this headline: Wisconsin professor: War is now a debacle

I cannot explain to you why this was in the news section, and not in the opinion section. Well, I can explain it. It's because a finance professor from UW-River Falls said this about the war in Iraq: "The whole thing has turned into a huge debacle".

He has extra special credibility because he voted for Bush, and Bush pere as well. So, the message apparently being, if someone like this declares the war a debacle, a perfesser no less, than it must be so.

And just to really make the point that the Wascly Wepubwicans took us where we had no business going, the Strib includes this comment from the good perfesser:

Corcoran doesn't believe, though, that Bush can achieve his goal of using Iraq to plant democracy in the Middle East: "I don't think it can work to impose our way of doing things on a part of the world where the notion is foreign."

Given the Arab tradition of tribal identity, he said, the effort "is destined to fall on its face."

If I try to do anything with this blog, it's to point out the success the US military is having in Iraq.

Victor Davis Hanson, in his column at NRO Friday wrote eloquently about the moral imperatives of this war.

That goal was what the U.S. military ended up so brilliantly fighting for — and what the American public rarely heard. The moral onus should have always been on the critics of the war. They should have been forced to explain why it was wrong to remove a fascist mass murderer, why it was wrong to stay rather than letting the country sink into Lebanon-like chaos, and why it was wrong not to abandon brave women, Kurds, and Shia who only wished for the chance of freedom.
The Left now risks losing its self-proclaimed moral appeal. It had trashed the efforts in Iraq for months on end, demanded a withdrawal — only recently to learn from polls that an unhappy public may also be unhappy with it for advocating fleeing while American soldiers are in harm’s way. Another successful election, polls showing Iraqis overwhelmingly wishing us to stay on, visits by elected Iraqi officials asking continued help, and a decreasing American footprint will gradually erode the appeal of the antiwar protests — especially as triangulating public intellectuals and pundits begin to quiet down, fathoming that the United States may win after all.
Strangely, I doubt whether very many would agree with much of anything stated above — at least for now. But if the administration can emphasize the moral nature of this war, and the military can continue its underappreciated, but mostly successful efforts to defeat the enemy and give the Iraqis a few more months of breathing space, who knows what the current opportunists and pessimists will say by summer.Will they say that they in fact were always sorta, kinda, really for removing Saddam and even staying on to see democracy work in Iraq?

I would like to see Gloomy Gus's like the good perfesser and the "news" editors at the Strib answer the questions Hanson poses.

Perhaps instead of running editorials in the news section, they could get some reporters to do some actual reporting and lay out for their readers the progress that has been made in Iraq. Perhaps they'd find that people like me might pick up the phone when they call and subscribe, instead of glancing at the caller ID and just letting the phone ring, as I did yesterday.

Security Watchtower points out some comments from Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, where he talked about the National Strategy in Iraq, and why it is necessary we be there.

Among other things, Gen. Pace said:

Pace also refuted claims of those who believe the threat will go away if the United States stopped fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan and stopped chasing down terrorists.

"I say, you need to get out and read what our enemies have said," he said. Before World War II, Adolf Hitler clearly outlined his intentions in his book, "Mein Kampf," Pace told the group. "He said in writing exactly what his plan was, and we collectively ignored that, to our great detriment."

Similarly, terrorists today have publicly stated their goals, both on film and the Internet, he said.

"(There's) no equivocation on their part," the chairman said. "They're not saying, 'If you stay home, we will not come after you.' They are saying their goal is to rid the Middle East of all foreigners, then to overthrow all governments that are not friendly to them, which means every single one of those governments."

But terrorists have made it clear that they don't intend to stop there, Pace continued. Their ultimate goal is to bring the whole globe under their domination within the next 100 years, he said.

It's perfectly valid for perfessers of finance to have opinions about the war in Iraq. Any concerned citizen has opinions. Goodness, that's what I do here, just read and think and write about it. But for newspapers to use perfessers as a patina of credibility to pass off their opinions without answering serious points raised by those who have thought and worked and strategized to build a new Iraq is part of the reason why you're reading blogs like this one, and not the Star Tribune.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The European Threat

On November 9, a female suicide bomber attempted to attack a patrol in Iraq, and was killed. A passport she carried identified her. Her husband, Issam Goris, was also killed hours later. (As an aside, it's not clear to me if these same events led to this Baghdad suicide cell being dismantled on Nov 10.)

What is unique about this event is that the female was a white woman, Muriel Degauque, from Belgium.

As this Times article says:

In one of the most extraordinary tales of Islamic radicalisation, she is thought to be the first white Western woman to carry out a suicide bombing

This Independent article describes a little bit of her background. A photo accompanies this CNN article.

US forces identified the woman to Belgium, who kept it quiet. This past week though, a French news service identified Degauque. Belgium has expressed its displeasure with the revelation, saying it endangered anti-terror operations. As a result, Belgium moved quickly to roll up a terrorist cell it had been watching.

Police in Belgium and France arrested 15 people on Wednesday in a roundup of suspected Islamist militants believed to be linked to a Belgian woman who carried out a suicide bombing in Iraq this month.

The 38-year-old convert to Islam blew herself up on Nov. 9 on the outskirts of Baghdad in what security sources believe was the first suicide attack in Iraq involving a European woman.

Belgian police arrested 14 people and seized documents in raids centred on Brussels and Antwerp. They arrested two Tunisians, three Moroccans and the rest were Belgian nationals, Lieve Pellens, spokeswoman for the federal prosecutor, told Reuters.

The fifteenth suspect was arrested close to Paris.

The group had been under surveillance for four months after Belgium received intelligence about a suspected terrorist cell operating on its soil, but the suicide bomber had slipped out of the country unnoticed.

Among the arrested were another married couple who wanted to follow in the footsteps of Degauque and Goris.

It is a disturbing trend that suicide bombers are being drawn from Europe, and not just the traditional breeding grounds such as Saudi Arabia and North Africa. Yet, it is just one of several troubling signs that radical Islam is becoming an acute, even deadly, threat in Europe.

This NYTimes article describes a Bosnian suicide cell, and its ties to Scandanavian Muslims. (You may recall reading about subsequent related arrests in this Briefing, and in this Briefing, in the Europe sections.)

You will of course recall the train bombings in Madrid, and the London bombigs. Both attacks were carried out by radical Muslims.

In November a trial began in Belgium for 13 Belgians and Moroccans accused of providing logistics support for the Madrid bombings.

The Netherlands, the country where Theo van Gogh was murdered, faces its own problem with Islamic radicals. From this article:

Radical Islam is finding new recruits in the Netherlands among Dutch converts to Islam and young Muslim women, the government said on Friday.

"Along with Muslim youths of foreign descent, several Dutch converts are undergoing a particular process of radicalisation. The police are receiving lots of reports of this," the government said in a report to parliament on fighting terrorism.
The trial starts in Amsterdam next week of 14 young men, mostly with Moroccan roots, who are suspected of belonging to a militant Islamist group that was planning attacks.

Last Tuesday, French police arrested six suspected Islamic extremists, including a prison guard, as part of an investigation centered on money-laundering.

There was this report from Spain Nov 23:

Police on Wednesday arrested 11 people suspected of financing and giving logistical support to an Islamic extremist group linked to al-Qaida, Spain's interior minister said.

Heavily armed police detained the suspects in and around three Spanish cities, seizing computer equipment, drugs and $41,200 in cash during morning raids on homes and businesses in largely immigrant neighborhoods, officials said.

The 11 arrested in Alicante, Murcia and Granada were suspected of having ties to the Algeria-based Salafist Group for Call and Combat, which has declared allegiance to al-Qaida.

In addition, there may be sleeper cells in Spain.

Europe has let the wolf in the door, and it will be extremely difficult to get it back out again. With support in Europe for terror growing, with support for suicide operations in Iraq growing, even attracting Western women, with terrorism-related arrests across Europe, the threat is clear.

This is a war, and if we don't finish it, the radicals will. We can hope it goes away, we can light candles and sing songs and say that if we just leave Iraq all will be well, but the threat in Europe is growing, not receding.

The Counterterroism Blog has more background about the events in Belgium.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The beauty of music

I just got back from the St. Olaf Choir Christmas Concert down in Northfield. My friend Paul invited me along, this is the third year I've gone.

To me there is no more beautiful music than sacred choral music, and St. Olaf's Christmas concert is renowned for good reason.


I'm in school today, hence the diminished output. If the quantity of posts has seemed a little lower lately, it's because school and work and church and family and everything else are piling up.

I have a couple of ideas I'll write up this weekend. I'll apply some thoughts from Charles Colson on postmodernism to how the Left characterizes the Right, and Bush's Iraq policies.

And, I have some thoughts on how history teaches us that breakthrough success can be achieved if we just press on when the going seems the toughest, and relate that to recent talk about pulling out of Iraq.


Thursday, December 01, 2005

The jasmine mind of a terrorist

The Moscow News has an enlightening interview with a terrorist. He is Shukhrat Masirokhunov, and is said to be the former chief of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) counterintelligence service. (One past operation he was involved in is described here.)

He is to stand trial for taking part in the events in May that led to the deaths of several hundred people. (Masirokhunov denies he was involved.)

On May 13, in the Uzbekistan city of Andijan, a protest turned violent, and at least 500 people were killed. The Crisis Group's informative report says perhaps as many as 750 were killed. The killings sparked protests from Washington and London and human rights groups. The dispute played a role in the United States leaving a base in Uzbekistan.

In this interview, Masirokhunov has many revealing things to say. Considering the source, we would be wise not to accept it all as gospel truth, but the interview is a glimpse into how terrorist networks work.

He is asked if he came from a poor family. He replied:

Well, my father was a CPSU regional committee functionary in the city of Andizhan. I never walked to or from school but went in a car. When I finished Grade 10, my father gave me a Model 6 Zhiguli sedan. I have a degree in history from the local university.

He said he had met Osama bin Laden, and that Al Qaeda might have a dirty bomb.

I have met [bin Laden] on several occasions. He addressed us in Afghanistan in 2000. He said that he was pleased to see representatives from 56 countries there and that we should unite. Some people proposed a series of attacks in a number of countries - e.g., blow up a dam near Tashkent or explode a "dirty bomb." But he said that "we will have time to do that yet." He asked whether there were any physicists among us.

There was also talk to the effect that raw materials for a "dirty bomb" had been bought in Russia and Ukraine, specifically from a scrap-yard for decommissioned nuclear submarines.

Are you saying that al-Qaeda has a "dirty bomb"?

Yes, I think it does.

I've talked before about how a key in winning the terror war is to squeeze the money supply that keeps terrorist operations going. Masirokhunov says:

I do not know about all, but we received money and weapons from the Taliban. There were no limitations: We got as much as we asked for. For their part, their funds purportedly came from donations, but that was too much money to have come from donations. Generally, money was not a problem. I spent seven years in Afghanistan and I regularly sent money home - oftentimes quite large amounts, up to $10,000. To do that, I had to travel to Iran since Western Union did not operate in Afghanistan. I often went there on business trips. We had no problem crossing the border: A vehicle from the other side would come and take us there.

Note the ease with which he says he enters Iran. Also, he says they received help from Pakistani soldiers at times.

Do you know how special operations against militants are conducted in Pakistan? They will pin us down in some place and the situation seems to be hopeless, but then Pakistani soldiers show us an escape route.

If Pakistan goes to war with us, the country will explode because the people sympathize with us. So they pretend to be helping the United States, while in fact they are helping us.

Where is bin Laden? In Pakistan. They cannot catch him? That's because they do not really want to catch him.

There is more, but Masirokhunov is indicative of the Islamic problem in the Central Asian republics. Uzbekistan has cracked down on Muslims within its borders, and perhaps has gone too far. Human rights groups, and the United States, have expressed concern. As an example, the United States and others have expressed concern that a trial of suspects in the Andijan protests was unfair.

There are Uzbek Muslims living in Iran, having fled the country. Not all of them are terrorists. They fled the crackdowns on Muslims.

On the other hand, clearly there are extremist elements at work in Uzbekistan. There was this incident just today.

Five terrorists, three of them Uzbeks, were killed in Pakistan's tribal belt on the Afghan border Thursday when a blast destroyed the house they were staying in, a government official said.

The blast happened when explosives the men were storing went off, the official said, but residents of the troubled North Waziristan region, on the Afghan border, said a helicopter fired rockets into the house.

Masirokhunov is representative of our enemy. Many in the West would probably have trouble locating Uzbekistan on a map, even today. How many average citizens knew of the country before 9/11? Yet, the extremist ideology that drives the Islamic terrorist is present there, as it is from the western Pacific and SE Asia to the Caucasus, and now creeping into Europe. Here is what he thinks about us:

The Americans will pull out of Afghanistan: There is no way they can hold on there. And they will also have to leave Iraq.

Are we, as a nation, committed to winning this war? The bad guys question our resolve. Will we prove them wrong?

Iran's goodwill tour

As international pressure builds on Iran over its nuclear program, Iran is seeking friends and allies in the region, allies it might count on should the UN Security Council try to impose sanctions on Iran, or isolate Iran in some way.

The Jamestown Foundation reports that Iran has had contacts with a number of countries in November. Turkmenistan, Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, even Syria and Egypt, not traditional allies of Iran.

As the article puts it:

Whatever the new Iranian "policy of regional cooperation" might be, Iran's recent attempt to increase its contacts with regional states is a part of Iran's preemptive strategy of avoiding potential isolation. Iran understands that any sanctions against it, especially economic, will ultimately affect the neighboring states that might be reluctant to support them. Thus, Iran is trying to make as many friends as possible in order to evade potential isolation and sanctions, in case the country's nuclear program is referred to the UN Security Council.

As I mentioned here, the report that Iran may be training Chechen terrorists in Iran has troubling implications.

(One implication I did not mention is that the report may have been leaked by Western intelligence agencies in an effort to drive a wedge between Russia and Iran, and get Russia to stop covering for Iran.)

Russia has been trying to run interference for Iran by putting forth a proposal that would keep Iran's nuclear waste in Russia. Iran, naturally, has rejected this, because it needs that waste.

The most troubling implication of the sum of all the reports I've mentioned here is that Iran is nearing the end of its need for the diplomatic stalling tactics with Europe. It may be that the stalling has worked, Iran is close to completing its nuclear program, that Iran no longer needs the diplomatic niceties, but is now gathering allies for the confrontations that will come as the full scope of Iran's nuclear program is revealed.

Regime Change Iran has linked to comments from an Israeli intelligence official who thinks the diplomatic clock is running out.

The Iranian nuclear arms race has reached a point of no return, stated the head of Israeli intelligence, Gen. Ze’evi Farkash, at a meeting of the Knesset Committee for Foreign Affairs and Defense. He believes that the current diplomatic window that would prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear arms is soon to close, even within a few weeks.

Europe keeps making its feeble attempts to rein in Iran with words, but surely, in private, the terror masters in Iran are laughing.

Watch what Iran does when it comes to protecting its nuclear program. Iran may be telling us more than we want to know.

Tick tick tick...