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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

A Minnesota foofaraw

On Monday the Minnesota GOP issued the following press release:

Republican Party of Minnesota Chairman Ron Carey today issued the following statement following Coleen Rowley's doctored photograph likening John Kline to a Nazi.

"Coleen Rowley's comparison of a 25-year Marine Corps veteran like Congressman Kline to a Nazi represents a new low in Minnesota politics. It is now clear that Coleen Rowley's campaign is in complete disarray and devoid of a moral compass.

"I call on Coleen Rowley and the DFL Party to apologize for this outrageous attack on Congressman Kline."

The photograph referred to involved MN Rep. Kline of the Minnesota 2nd District, a district that encompasses the southern edge of the Twin Cities metro area, and counties to the south. (Rep. Kline is not my representative. I live in the 6th District.)

Coleen Rowley, perhaps best known outside of Minnesota as a whistleblower, is running for Kline's seat as a DFL candidate.

A photoshopped image appeared on Rowley's website with Kline's face blended into a photo of Col. Klink from the TV show Hogan's Heroes.

(The photo has since been removed, but it can be seen at Power Line. MDE has a better version of the photo.)

As mentioned above, the MN GOP referred to this juvenile political poke as "outrageous." Power Line called it a "despicable slander." Shot in the Dark called it an "incredible display of sophomoric cretinism." MDE called it "unreal" and "unconscionable."

Power Line has a letter from Rep. Kline himself, in which Kline writes:

It has come to my attention that you have placed on your campaign website a doctored photo of me in which my military uniform has been replaced by a Nazi uniform. I demand that you immediately remove from your website that outrageous and disgusting insult to me, my family, and every man and woman who has ever worn a military uniform in defense of our country.

No one knows better than I the rough-and-tumble of a political campaign, but we owe it to the voters not to cross the line of civility, respect and common decency. With regard to each of these, you have clearly crossed the line by portraying me as a Nazi.

I demand a personal apology from you, as well as an apology to every veteran.

Your attempts to smear my good name and 25 years of honorable service in the United States Marine Corps by equating me to a Nazi shows a lack of perspective, a lack of seriousness, and a lack of good judgment. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Far be it from me to tell Rep. Kline how he should feel since he is the one involved. If you've read this blog for more than five minutes you know I bow to no one in my support for the military. But, I've never served in uniform, and Kline has, so he is entitled to zealously guard the honor of the uniform.

However, I would counsel Republicans not to be quick to leap to outrage. According to the First Ring blog, this appears to be the work of some of the Rowley campaign's volunteers, inesperienced folks who obviously did not have the judgment and good sense to know coming anywhere near your opponent with a Nazi slur is stupid politics.

I do believe whoever created this photo was not really trying to paint Kline as a Nazi. Col. Klink is an archetype of the bumbling, ineffectual loser. (And not everyone in the Wehrmacht was a Nazi.) Kline's political opponents in all likelihood meant to brand him as precisely that. Such lame personal attacks are part and parcel of politics.

As Republicans, we could say something about who we are in our reaction. We poke fun of Leftys all the time who leap to outrage for silly reasons. Pillars on the Left such as Barbara Boxer and Teddy Kennedy get outraged at the drop of a hat, and look silly for it.

It is often said the Democrats are the Mommy party, and the GOP is the Daddy party. There is truth to that, and we could go a long ways to portraying ourselves as a mature, responsible party if we just shrug off such puerile stabs at political debate, and save our outrage for matters of great import, such as Iran making threats with nuclear weapons.

Let the voters know we won't be distracted by the little things, that we won't be knocked off the path by such fleeting matters.

We can mention it, make tsk-tsk-ing noises about how the kids are scribbling on the walls with crayons again, but then drop it.

The Democrats will reveal who they really are by these foolish actions, let those actions speak for themselves. We'll just shake our heads at the unruly children, and stay focused on adult issues.

24 Day 5 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

We are warned about graphic violence. It cannot be avoided. I feel like Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange, propped up in a chair with my eyelids clamped open and forced to watch soul-numbing violence.

The hour starts with something CTU does best, making use of the conference room set.

They've been a little slow on the uptake here. A clue that there was a leak somewhere should've come in the airport. Jack was up in the rafters, no one knew he was there except for some in CTU, and within minutes, Anton was referring to Jack Bauer by name. A fairly strong indication information from CTU went directly to the baddies.

So, Team CTU kicks around Walt's plot, and Palmer's too-clever-by-half plan to expose Walt. Jack says he should go meet secretly with Mike Novick.

Samwise Gamgee is standing over in a corner. What's he doing there? Perhaps Bill sent him to the corner for daring to suspect Gollum of ill motives.

Samwise keeps a firm hand on the tiller and informs Jack he doesn't really work there anymore. Hmm, then I'd ask Samwise again why he gave Jack that Level 2 lembas bread.

Ha, then in one perhaps my favorite moment of the episode, Jack says the genius of the plan is if it backfires, there'd be no fallout on CTU.

I'll point out again, this was precisely the inspired motivation for letting Jack raid the Chinese Consulate last season. That ended up with a dead Chinese Consul guy, various Chinese employees at the Consulate tranked up like some rhino on Wild Kingdom, the Chinese kimnapping CTU agents on American soil, and the US and China staring down the barrel of nuclear war. I'd say there was just a wee bit of fallout. Bill was there in the middle of all that, why didn't he speak up and point out the risks in letting a rogue Jack gallivant through one international crisis after another?

Samwise, apparently knowing none of this, is pressured into authorizing Jack to go after the President's Chief of Staff. But, he feels he was to do something to act like the Big Chief, so he tells Jack this is all about the nerve gas, not about getting revenge for Palmer. Jack agrees like a teenager who just got the keys to Dad's Camaro. He's not hearing anything Samwise is saying.

Audrey and Jack have a little conversation about Walt trying to kill Jack again once he learns Jack is still alive. Jack just says "Yeah." The two of them must be assuming that Hank the assassin's plan was to get into CTU and kill Jack all within 30 minutes.

Down by the docks of the bay, the baddies are rolling up in their rig. We get a little product placement for Peterbilt trucks.

The baddies helpfully discuss their plan so we the audience will know what's going on. Sounds like the plan is to transport the canisters to Moscow, to teach those homeland occupying Russkies a lesson they won't soon forget.

I guess we'll get to see how well Homeland Security has beefed up security at our sea ports.

Back at the presidential retreat (say, where is the Russian president? Did Logan just forget all about him once Logan got the signature he needed?), they watch a grisly snuff film. Some poor schleeb is exposed to nerve gas so we can see the deadly results. The nerve gas is called Sentox Six. That's the first time we're hearing that. They must have figured out what it was. So, they should have some idea on who made it, and maybe what it was doing in that airport bunker, but no one thinks to ask those questions.

Logan wigs out as Wifey has flown the coop.

How did Jack get Mike Novick's Blackberry number? Jack talks to Mike, says he just 15 minutes away from the presidential property. That doesn't help us figure out where the property is, because given the distances CTU is capable of covering in 15 minutes, the presidential retreat could be in Alaska.

Jack bumps into Diane and Derek in the hallway. Jack says to a Redshirt about Derek "Take him downstairs. And kill him." Ok, I made up that last part. He just told the Redshirt to take Derek to a Tastee Freeze and get him a chili dog.

Jack and Diane have another awkward moment. Diane asks about Audrey. "Are you still in love with her? Does she still love you?" Well, they've been a tad busy since meeting for the first time in 18 months only an hour or two before. I hope Diane can forgive Jack for not being real clear on the answers to these questions just yet. So, Jack just scratches his head and does his best James Dean.

Oh dear, Nathanson (Matrix Guy) captured the call between Novick and Jack. Who is this guy? Is he some NSA mole? We'll have to know more about him before I count him as a mole. Maybe he really is in the Matrix and is an old program. Perhaps he's the Merovingian in disguise.

The Merovingian gives Walt a good dressing down. Hmm, so Nathanson is some kind of authority figure to Walt, who's starting to sweat a little bit. Nathanson says he won't warn Walt again, and that there's only one thing Walt can do. I hope he doesn't mean committing seppaku out on the lawn.

As we go to commercial, the 24 clock is at :10, and the clock clock is at :10. All is right with the universe. But, aha! When we come back, the 24 clock is at :12 and the clock clock is at :13. So, now we know commercial breaks have something to do with creating ripples in the space-time continuum.

Aaron is creeping around. And he discovers the First Lady hiding in a horse stable. Ewww, I hope she isn't trying some Catherine the Great thing.

It's not clear why Martha just didn't tell Aaron straight out she was attacked and forcibly rendered unconscious. That was an important detail that might've helped Aaron realize something was amiss in House Logan.

Back at CTU, Bill and Audrey discuss having airports and highways watched for signs of the nerve gas. Hmm, they're CTU, wouldn't they also think to watch the ports and train stations?

They're concerned about a panic, so Audrey points out they haven't mentioned the nerve gas, they've just described the canisters to the various authorities. I wonder if Audrey mentioned the prominent biohazard symbols on the canisters. I'm sure the authorities would wonder about that.

Hmm, Truck Driving Bad Guy fiddles with the canisters and some red display says "Unlock Code Verified." The heck? Yellow Tie is also curious.

Diane flags down Audrey at CTU and meddles in personal matters again. Diane asks "I care about him", and "Do you know he still loves you?" and the real knife in the gut, "If you don't love him let him go." Yikes. Diane is playing for keeps. Audrey really looks like the thrill of livin' is gone.

She's too flustered to say "Baby you ain't miss no-thing" and warn Diane that women in Jack's life don't have a good history. In Season 1 his wife was shot by his traitorous mistress. In Season 2 his girlfriend's family was a bunch of terrorists. In Season 3 the Mexican girlfriend he hooked up with in his heroin addiction was shot by drug dealers. And in Season 4, he caused the death of Audrey's husband and helped torture her brother. Oh, and Jack also once chopped the arm off of his daughter's beau.

I think on the whole that might have made Diane think twice about fighting so hard for Jack. Especially since Jack concealed his real name and all this history from her.

Jack pulls up in a monstrous Ford SUV, license plate 9GDY271. But, in the middle of all this universe saving, the lives of zillions hanging in the balance, Audrey picks this moment to call up Jack and have a heart to heart talk about their relationship., Um, Audrey, sweetie? Could we save the world first, and then you can ask Jack is he still loves you and if he's coming back?

Someone mentions roadblocks going up. Really? That won't raise any suspicions. Aaron gives Walt the evil eye.

Holy Cow! Walt confesses all to Logan! Never would've seen that coming. Logan does that distracting leany head thing. Kate Warner in Season 2 had that same kind of quizzical Mr. Mole head tilt.

Walt says the plan was to have the canisters delivered to the terrorist base where they would be detonated by satellite.

But, good grief, apparently in an attempt to mimic "real events" and make the show relevant to the kids, the writers have been reading some of the far-Left blogs, and Walt repeats some of the conspiracy theories from those fevered swamps. Walt says the plant was to provide proof of the existence of WMDs in Central Asia so the US would have a "pretext" to increase the military presence in the region to guarantee the flow of oil for the next generation. Yeah, that's exactly what happened in Iraq. If Nathanson turns out to be an employee of Halliburton, I'm going to have a conniption.

Whoa, Walt manhandles the President of the United States! (Admittedly, not hard to do.) Logan calls Walt a traitor, Walt says "I'M A PATRIOT!"

Walt says he doesn't know where the canisters are, his contact on the inside has "gone dark." There's that phrase again. I wish I was tracking that one, that might be the early season leader.

Walt plays the "your presidency will be destroyed" card on Logan, and Logan caves in, thinking that letting this crackplot continue is preferable to stopping it now and letting the country know his lunatic rogue Chief of Staff was putting the nation's security in jeopardy.

Coming back from commercial the clocks are now at :29 to :28.

Jack has a tender reunion with Mike, but Jack's Spidey Sense kicks in, and he knows danger is nearby. In this case, danger being a helicopter and an army of secret service agents roaring up. Mike asks what is going on, and an agent says it is on orders from the President. Did they rustle up this helo and all these agents and vehicles just in the last five minutes? Not bad.

Jack asks Mike "Who did you tell?", and Mike says nobody, but as mentioned above, the airport should have been a big clue bat for Jack that Mike probably isn't the leak.

Yikes, Mike is in custody too? Walt really has slipped the surly bonds of sanity and tries to rationalize it all away. He says Jack isn't officially affiliated with CTU. Walt doesn't know about the Level 2 lembas bread.

Aaron takes all this in, and the wheels are turning.

At CTU, upon hearing the President ordered CTU to stand down, his immediate reaction is to disobey orders. Now there's a good, well-trained CTU agent. Worse, Bill browbeats Samwise into disregarding the order. Samwise isn't exactly made of granite. I would think you gotta have some backbone to make it up to that kind of position in CTU. The krazy kaptions say Lynn is "panting" as he orders to CTU to disregard a direct order from the President.

We find out from Martha that Logan was once in Congress.

Jack meets up with Aaron and asks for his help. Do you think this agent with the heart of gold will help? Yeah, me too.

When we come back from commercial, the clocks are :42 to :40.

Aaron tricks another flunky agent by saying Jack escaped. Then, Aaron ushers Jack into the presence of His Excellency, RunLoganRun.

Jack and Walt get into fisticuffs, and Logan can only shriek "Stop this! I'm the President of the United States", sounding oddly like Chip Diller in Animal House. "Remain calm! All is well!"

Jack pulls a knife on Walt, and reminds Walt he is perfectly capable of violence. Walt agrees, and divulges the location of the canisters. The port of Long Beach leaving at 2:30 on a freighter.

Jack calls CTU to give them the news. A woman's voice says "Jack Bauer is on line three", but the krazy kaptions say a "MAN" is talking.

Jack says the canisters are on a freighter bound for Central Asia, but Walt never said anything about Central Asia.

(Bound for Central Asia? Are there wheels on that freighter? How is a ship going to get to the landlocked countries in the middle of the Asian continent?)

Logan does a 180 and now wants Walt arrested. Logan and Jack have a little talk, and Logan says Jack's being alive creates problems for them both. (Doesn't Jack know from Palmer that Logan was the one who wanted to hand Jack over to the Chinese? Who else could've ordered such a thing?)

Jack gives his word he'll disappear again after recovering the canisters. Logan seems to accept that, but is betting a lot that the Chinese won't find out about Jack's role in the day's events. For one thing, as mentioned above, there were a lot of people in the airport who heard Anton say Jack Bauer's name. How long before the media talks to the hostages and puts that story of what went on at the airport on the front page of the LA Times? When the people at the Chinese Consulate read that, they're going to spit their dentures into their Cheerios.

Coming back from commercial, the clocks are at :53 to :50.

We see Chloe. Made me realize she's been absent from this episode.

Logan rescues Martha from her trip to "Vermont." But, Martha is rather cold, hurt that Logan didn't say a word to her before shipping her off. She's got a point.

CTU doesn't have a team at the docks, so the Customs and Border Protection team will handle it.

We find out Yellow Tie's name is Ivan Erwich. He is a chemical engineer trained at the University of St. Petersburg.

Chloe snippily says "yeah yeah" to Lynn. Yikes, her insubordination needs to be dealt with at some point.

Edgar says he hacked into the ship's manifest, and the canisters are in container 539146 box seven.

The guy heading up the CBP team is Agent Finn. (Agent Fank Finn?)

They don't have hazmat suits, just masks. They better hope the nerve gas can't be absorbed through the skin.

But alas, Truck Driving Bad Guy is in there, dead, and the canisters are gone.

Someone is yelling "What do we got?" like Al Pacino in Heat.

Erwich calls up Walt and snarls like the stirred up hornet's nest he is. The baddies have the canisters, and the US is in danger.

The episode ends with the clocks at :60 to :57.

And now, once again here is guest critic Paul Foth. He was used as a guinea pig in some chemical experiments, and the skin grafts are finally healed and he was able to crank out this review.


Kiefer Sutherland, speaking about 24 and quoted in the Minneapolis Star Tribune on January 29th: "It is intense. And we have found a lot of ways to try and break that up. We sometimes take scenes and try to make a musical out of them."

He is the very model of a modern counterterrorist,
Needs information chemical, timetables, and, boy, he's pissed

Again, I was surprised to be impressed. That bit with the terrorists in the warehouse singing, "When you blow up a jet, blow it up all the way/Use a hot cigarette, light the fuse, get away," fell flat, but only because the whole back row was off by half a step. What surprised me most, though, was what wasn't there.

When Bill said, "The last thing we need is for the public to find out about the stolen nerve gas," I thought it would be just ten minutes until a reporter from the Los Angeles Mudslinger waltzed through the door, camera and tape recorder in hand. But it didn't happen. I still suspect a greasy newshound will get hold of the story somehow, especially since President Shakes repeated the desire not to leak anything to the press (although why the President would be expected to go on the air and say anything about roadblocks going up in the first place is beyond me), but the fact that it didn't happen as soon as the possibility was raised shows remarkable restraint on the part of the writers.

Another thing that was missing was the sniping at CTU. The scene between Bill and Samwise was well done, I thought. They were obviously upset with each other, but their professionalism saw them through it and Samwise was wise enough to accept Bill's greater experience and learn from it. That's two weeks in a row when a character has actually grown a little bit. Not bad. (Or does this mean it's only a matter of time before Samwise has Bill hauled into an interrogation room for a session with Dr. Feelgood, under the pretense that Bill "knows things, dangerous things"?)

That's not to say the episode didn't have its moments, of course. Why did Mike have to make such a big production out of it when he left to call Jack? Hmm, maybe the quote from Kiefer I opened with has something to do with it. "I have to go call the, uh, STATE DEPARTMENT now. Matter of NATIONAL SECURITY." Why not just walk out of the room? The conversation with Shakes and the Mole was done; he didn't need to call attention to himself.

And why, why, did Wormtongue Walt's motivation have to be taken straight out of a paranoid Democrat's playbook? Say what you like about the situation in Iraq, but using it in such an obvious way to make some kind of statement is simply tiresome, not to mention poor creativity. And Wormtongue's "I AM A PATRIOT!" speech to Shakes was, oh, just a wee bit overacted, don't you think? Again I ask: How did this guy get to be so close to the President in the first place?

Then again, considering how Shakes caved in to Wormtongue's ranting, the show may have answered that question already--which, of course, brings up the question (again) of how Shakes had managed to become VP at the beginning of last season. This character is too unbalanced to have made it so far in national politics (although, as with Wormtongue's motivation, maybe this is some sort of snarky attempt to make a statement about the political situation).

I did like it when Cassandra refused to get all mushy when Shakes tried to apologize to her. It may have taken a while, but she's gotten wise to his wishy-washy ways.

I also like that Aaron was finally given a bit more to do. Glenn Morshower did a couple of episodes of Millennium, and ever since then I've noticed him more and more. I've been disappointed in seasons past that he hasn't had more to do in this show, but obviously the production team likes him enough that they've kept him on. He exudes the same kind of quiet confidence that James Morrison does as Bill Buchanan, and so their characters are quite believable. Secret Service agents and counterterrorist chiefs have to run on a pretty even keel, even when they're frantically trying to save the country. These two guys do an excellent job of keeping it subtle, by showing the tension in their eyes and tight lips, and not much else.

From the double-take department: When Curtis came in and announced that the video feed from the shipyard was up, I didn't hear him say, "Feed's up!" I heard him say, "Pizza!"

Who is the mysterious person in next week's previews, the one crouched behind the bed as Jack yells, "PUT YOUR HANDS WHERE I CAN SEE THEM!"? Well, imdb shows Elisha Cuthbert returning for that episode, so guess number one is that it's Kim (and, yes, I did see that the person behind the bed has dark hair). I also see that producer Joel Surnow (who, according to the Slate piece I mentioned last week, has a penchant for ignoring reality when it comes to the show) supposedly turns up as a character named Cal. I don't particularly trust the imdb cast lists, though. Last season, they said Kim and Chase were going to show up in a number of episodes, but it never happened. I don't know if these were red herrings put out by the show, or if scenes with Kim and Chase were shot but wound up on the cutting room floor, or if the information was just plain wrong, but whatever the case, what was there didn't match what eventually was broadcast. So, guess number two is that the person behind the bed is Mandy.

Also next week: an explosive (GET IT?) rendition of the title song from Oklahoma!

Number of times Jack says "Now!": 6
Number of times Jack says "No!": 5
Number of times a "protocol" is mentioned: 14
Number of times someone says a variation of "Go!": 7
Number of moles: 2
Approximate Body Count: 25 (plus three rats, plus one human nerve gas guinea pig)

<-11:00 AM - 12:00 PM 1:00 PM - 2:00 PM ->

Monday, January 30, 2006

The violence in Nepal

Since the end of its self-imposed ceasefire at the beginning of January, the Maoists in Nepal have brought violence back to almost shocking levels.

The South Asia Terrorism Portal carefully tracks events in the region, and below is a list of violent incidents taken from the SATP's daily updates.

First, an update from Jan 2 sums up what the Maoists did in the preceding six months.

The first annual report of the Royal Nepalese Army’s (RNA) Human Rights Cell, the RNA Human Rights Report 2061, has recorded 10,725 abductions and 72 killings by the Maoists during the last six months of the year. It also recorded 65 cases of explosion, 40 cases of extortion and looting, and 30 cases of threatening by the Maoists. Citing an Informal Sector Service Centre (INSEC) source, the report stated that the country has already incurred financial losses worth $1,095 million due to the Maoist conflict.

The report also stated that the Maoists have destroyed 1,825 VDC buildings, 35 telecommunication towers, 420 post offices, 540 police posts and six hydro-power plants till date. Data in the report stated that 4,404 Maoists, 371 soldiers, 142 Armed Police Force (APF) personnel, 297 civil policemen, 15 personnel of the National Investigation Department and 579 civilians were killed within a year after the ceasefire was broken on August 27, 2003.

Jan 4 - A civilian was injured during a series of Maoist-triggered blasts, including one at the residence of a Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) in the western city of Pokhara on January 3 evening, according to Nepal News.

Jan 5 - According to Nepal News, two police personnel and a civilian were injured when suspected Maoists opened fire at them at Bhanu Chowk in the Mahendranagar town on January 5, today. Meanwhile, a clash between security forces and Maoists was reported from Mauriya in the Dadeldhura district on January 4. Although no casualties were reported from both sides, security forces recovered arms, ammunition and logistics left by the Maoists.

Jan 6 - Himalayan Times reports that three police personnel were killed and two injured in a Maoist attack on an Armed Police Force (APF) security checkpost at Ranjha chowk in Nepalgunj on January 5. Meanwhile, at least two people were injured in a Maoist triggered explosion at the District Education Office in Biratnagar of Morang district on January 5.

Jan 7 - Three Armed Police Force personnel were killed and another sustained injuries when Maoists opened fire targetting a security patrol at Bhairahawa in the Rupandehi district on January 6, according to Kantipur Online. Meanwhile, at least one Maoist was killed in a clash with security forces at Chandranigahapur in Rautahat district along the Mahendra Highway on January 6. The clash ensued after a group of about three-dozen armed Maoists attacked a security patrol near the Unified Command Base Camp in the area.

Jan 8 - According to Nepal News, two security force (SF) personnel were killed and two others sustained injuries when Maoist insurgents opened indiscriminate fire at a group of SF personnel manning the Belahiya check post near Nepal-India border in the western district of Rupandehi on January 6-evening.

Jan 9 - Ministry of Defence sources were quoted as saying in Kantipur Online on January 8 that Maoists have killed two children, aged two and five, from the same family by detonating a bomb inside a house in the Pahara village of Dolpa district recently. Meanwhile, on January 8-morning, Maoists bombed the Nepalgunj Municipality building, completely destroying the building's ground floor. However, no casualties were reported. In another incident, Maoists detonated a bomb at the gate of Rastriya Banjiya Bank at Gothalapani, district headquarters of Baitadi, on January 7. Separately, security forces defused a bomb, planted by the Maoists, at the Mahendranagar Municipality building on January 8.

Jan 10 - Nepal News reports that a group of Maoists raided the state-owned Rastriya Banijya Bank’s district branch in Surkhet and looted over Rupees three million on January 9. However, no casualties were reported in the incident. On January 10 today, Maoists exploded a bomb at the Kanchanpur District Development Committee (DDC) office in Mahendranagar, according to Kantipur Online.

Jan 11 - According to Kantipur online, security forces seized a huge quantity of explosives after raiding a house at Nagdhunga in Pokhara on January 10. The seizure included 17 electronic time devices, 10 meters safety fuse, 135 detonators, 27 bombs and 27 electronic detonators.

Jan 12 - Twenty police personnel are reportedly missing following clashes between Maoists and security forces at Dhangadhi, headquarters of the Kailali district, on January 11-evening. Unofficial reports say at least seven police personnel were killed in the Maoist attack. In a separate incident, Maoists exploded two powerful bombs in the District Development Committee building at Gulariya in the Bardiya district on January 11-evening.

Jan 13 - According to Kantipur Online, ten Maoists were killed in two separate encounters with the security forces (SFs) in the Syangja and Tanahun districts on January 11.

Jan 15 - 12 security force (SF) personnel were killed and eight persons, including seven police personnel, were injured in a series of attacks carried out by the Maoists at different police posts of the Kathmandu Valley on January 14, according to Nepal News. The insurgents attacked the Police Check Post at Thankot, killing at least 11 policemen and injuring one by surrounding the check post from all sides at around 5:35pm. In another attack, one sub-inspector was killed and seven persons were wounded when a group of Maoists attacked the Dadhikot Area Police Office in Bhaktapur district. In Bouddha, the Maoists exploded a bomb at the office of the Kathmandu Metropolitan City Ward No-6, slightly damaging the building. Meanwhile, the Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) has said that at least 16 Maoists and one soldier were killed in fresh clashes in the western district of Syangja on January 14.

Jan 16 - According to Himalayan Times, one civilian was killed when a security patrol and Maoists exchanged fire for half-an-hour at Kohalpur in the Banke district on January 15. Separately, the Maoists exploded a bomb on Lekhnath Municipality building in the Kaski district on January 15. Further, the Maoists have vowed to disrupt the February 8 elections for 58 municipal councils. [Note: We'll return to the elections up ahead.]

Jan 18 - A Maoist insurgent was killed and two persons, including a civilian, were injured during a shootout between the Maoists and security forces in Tribhuvan Nagar Municipality of Dang district on January 17.

Jan 19 - Kantipur Online reports that Maoists on January 18 bombed a sub-station of the state-owned Nepal Television (NTV) in Hetauda-9 of Makwanpur district. Meanwhile, a report from Mahendranagar said Maoists bombed the office of the Mahendranagar Municipality on January 18 evening.

Jan 20 - Maoists shot and injured two police personnel guarding a police post near the Traffic Chowk in Mahendranagar bazaar of Kanchanpur district on January 19, according to Kantipur Online.

Jan 21 - Six police personnel were killed and four others were injured when Maoists launched simultaneous attacks on the BP Chowk security check post, Jamunaha Police Post and the Customs Office in the Nepalgunj town of Banke district on January 20.

Jan 22 - At least three Maoist insurgents were killed in encounters with the security forces (SFs) in the Palpa and Tehrathum districts on January 21, according to Nepal News. Meanwhile, a group of Maoists detonated a bomb at the Biratnagar Sub-metropolitan City office in Morang district.

Jan 23 - At least 17 Maoists, six security force (SF) personnel and two civilians were killed in a clash between a patrol team of the SFs and Maoists at the Jhurjhure and Jyamire regions of Makwanpur district on January 21-night. The gun-battle ensued after Maoists attacked the SFs on regular patrol in the area at around 6:45 pm. According to security sources, 18 other soldiers were injured in the incident. On January 22, suspected Maoists shot dead Bijaylal Das, president of the Nepal Sadbhavana Party, at Janakpurdham in Dhanusha district. In another incident, SFs and Maoists clashed at Khatrikhola in the Syangjha district on January 22. Meanwhile, a report from Sarlahi said that the Maoists detonated three bombs at the Chhoti Customs Office at Tribhuvan Nagar Village Development Committee (VDC) on January 22-night. Himalayan Times on January 23 reports that hundreds of passengers and vehicles remain stranded following a Maoist roadblock at Rupandehi's Devdaha Sheetalnagar area on the Mahendra highway for the last two days.

Jan 24 - Security forces seized a large amount of explosives and detonators from the Maoists in the Bahuni area of Morang district on January 23, according to the Ministry of Defence (MoD). The MoD statement said that 27,000 detonators, 1125 kilograms of explosives, including 25 kilograms of gunpowder packed in 22 sacks, were seized during the raid. Meanwhile, the Maoists have abducted 200 labourers working on the Chautara-Dolalghat road in Sindhupalchowk district on January 22.

Jan 25 - On January 24, two security force (SF) personnel, one Maoist and a civilian were killed and four SF personnel sustained injuries when Maoists launched simultaneous attacks in the Nepalgunj town of Banke district, according to Himalayan Times. The Maoists attacked the district police office, the regional police training centre, Nepal Rastra Bank, the municipal police office, the Royal Nepalese Army’s No 4 Company, district prison, zonal police office and the district administration office at the same time. Meanwhile, a group of around 15 to 20 Maoists detonated an improvised explosive device at the District Education Office in Bhojpur district. Separately, Maoists on January 24-evening triggered bomb blasts in the ward number two office of Banepa Municipality in Kavre district.

Jan 26 - The Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) has claimed that at least 25 Maoist insurgents were killed and several others sustained injuries in a gun-battle between the two sides in the Bhakunde area of the western district of Palpa on January 24, according to Nepal News. Meanwhile, the clash between Maoists and RNA has stopped in the far-western town of Dhangadhi. According to latest reports, the gun-battle ensued for around one hour after the Maoists attempted to mount simultaneous attacks at a number of security installations around 7:30 pm on January 25.

Jan 27 - Maoists detonated a ‘socket bomb’ in the Gaur branch office of the Nepal Electricity Authority in Rautahat district on January 25-evening, according to Himalayan Times.

Jan 28 - Five Maoists were killed when a bomb in their possession accidentally exploded at Shiva Nagar area of Bariyarpatti Village Development Committee (VDC) in the Siraha district on January 26, according to Kantipur Online. Meanwhile, Maoists carried out atleast six blasts in different parts of Nepalgunj town on January 27 between 6 and 7 pm, reports Himalayan Times. Separately, the Maoists also attacked the SF base camp at Ghodetar in the Bhojpur district after surrounding it from all sides. Elsewhere, two trucks of the Royal Nepalese Army were damaged in a landmine explosion triggered by Maoists on the Mahendra Highway at Bhulahi in Devdaha area on January 27

Jan 29 - At least 11 Maoist insurgents and two security force (SF) personnel were killed in the overnight clashes in the eastern district of Bhojpur on January 27, according to Nepal News.

Jan 30 - Two Maoists were killed in a clash with security forces at Likawapokhari in Khotang District on January 29 afternoon, the Defence Ministry said. Separately, Maoists attacked the Banke District Police Office at Nepalgunj on January 29 evening, reports Himalayan Times. In the Bardiya district, Maoists detonated three bombs at the District Development Committee (DDC) building at Gulariya. Similarly, Maoists on January 28 night, simultaneously detonated bombs in three government offices at Jaleshwor, headquarters of Mahottari district.

Note: These accounts do not include incidents involving Maoists in neighboring India, of which there have been many.

In addition to the violence against police and army targets, there has been a campaign to terrorize and intimidate candidates for the upcoming February 8 elections. According to the BBC:

Up to 600 candidates for local polls in Nepal have withdrawn their nominations, according to election officials.

The main reason appears to be concerns over security after Maoist guerrillas issued new threats against those standing, say BBC correspondents.

The withdrawals mean there is no one contesting more than 1,000 out of 4,146 seats in the 8 February poll.

Hundreds of candidates have been placed in safe houses across the country to protect them from the rebels.
In many districts, there is just one candidate standing unopposed and others will be completely uncontested.

"The elections will be held in 36 municipalities only, in the other 22 there will be no contest because there are not enough candidates," said election spokesman Tejmuni Bajracharya.

King Gyanendra's government says these elections are a stage in a road map to democracy after he seized absolute power in February 2005.

But the main opposition parties are boycotting them and last week Maoists shot dead one candidate and kidnapped another.

They say the polls are aimed at legitimising what they call an illegitimate royal regime.

Life under the monarchy in Nepal has been far from ideal, but the violent Communist Maoists are a bloody, murderous insurgency that would not be a solution to Nepal's woes either.

This violent struggle does not garner a lot of attention in the West. There were only four questions on Nepal in the State Dept press briefings this month, and in none of his answers did the State Dept spokesman condemn the Maoists violence. He did rightly condemn the Nepalese government's crackdown on opposition parties, but here is a Jan 19 statement from the State Dept:

The United States condemns the decision by the King of Nepal to detain political party leaders and civil society activists in advance of political demonstrations scheduled for January 20. These arrests and harassment of peaceful democratic forces is a violation of their civil and political rights. The United States calls on the King to release these activists. Dialogue between the King and the parties and a return to democracy are the only effective ways to address the Maoist insurgency in Nepal.

One of the strongest aspects of President Bush's foreign policy is his firm insistence that the United States will not tolerate violence as a means of policy. Saying "dialogue" is the only effective way to address the Maoist insurgency seems to justify the violence. Blow up enough buildings and kill enough policemen and we'll talk.

A State Dept statement from Jan 3 about the ending of the ceasefire was more on target.

The United States is deeply concerned by the Maoists’ announcement January 2 ending their unilateral cease-fire. We condemn the Maoist bombings of government office buildings outside Kathmandu. The United States has consistently called upon the Maoists to abandon violence and rejoin the political mainstream. The end of the cease-fire at this time is unhelpful and contrary to that goal. There can be no excuse for the resumption of violence.

Yes, the Nepalese monarchy has not strongly encouraged open democracy, but that is a separate issue. As we condemn Palestinian suicide bombings, as we opposed and ultimately removed Saddam Hussein's murderous regime, so too should the United States be a strong voice condemning the Maoists and their constant violence.

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

* Members of the terrorist organization Hamas captured 76 out of 132 parliamentary seats in the Palestinian elections, while the ruling Fatah party won only 43 seats. In response, thousands of Fatah members rioted in Gaza and the West Bank, Israeli authorities gathered for a security meeting and expressed serious concerns, while the United States is expected to review their foreign aid to the Palestinians.

* Gerard Baker writes in the UK Times Online that war with Iran "may be a necessity", something 57 percent of Americans are in agreement with according to an LA Times poll. On Friday, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a resolution condemning Iran over its nuclear program, and recommended reporting the nation to the U.N. Security Council.

* Taliban insurgents have torched three schools in a restive southern province of Afghanistan, the latest attacks in the militants' campaign against the U.S.-backed government and its efforts to promote education. The three newly built schools, where 1,000 boys and girls studied, were gutted on Friday night in different parts of Nawa district in Helmand province, said provincial education chief Mohammad Qasim.

Other topics today include: Iran accuses US/UK of terrorism; Mashal to return to Gaza; Hamas wants sharia; Russian nuclear fuel proposal; Hamas ambush police; Israel-Iran exchange barbs; Saudi blogging revolution; Columbian passport ring; Columbians charged in Miami; Reorganization of customs & border protection; Moussaoui lawyers to claim mental illness; Terror trial in Trinidad; Drug trafficking tunnel found; Islamic radicals in Chicago; State of Union preview; US training Georgian soldiers; Russia arrests British "spies"; EU bolstering opposition in Belarus; Firefights in Chechnya; Transformation of Russian military; Taliban burn down schools; Tamil Tiger officer assassinated; Karzai discusses long term security in Afghanistan; Deadly fighting between Taliban and Afghan police; Terror plot foiled in Bangladesh; Gun fights in Kashmir; Japan-North Korea talks; Bombing in Bangkok; Shootout between MILF and Filipino government forces; U.S. counterinsurgency support in Asia; Carlos the Jackal appeals to court; British Muslim charged in 7/21 London attacks; Counterterrorism raids in Belgium; MI5 investigation into 7/7 London bombings; Bombing in Spain; Galloway and oil for food scandal; UN to deploy peacekeepers to Darfur in 2007; Somalian pirates launch threats; U.S. operations in Horn of Africa; UK to increase troops in Afghanistan; USS Forrest Sherman; WMD task force; and more.

Iran & the Middle East

* The chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guards, General Yahya Rahim Safavi, accused U.S. and British intelligence of provoking violence in southwestern Iran, and vowed to retaliate with missiles if Iran was attacked.

* In the wake of the Hamas victory in last weeks parliamentary elections, Khaled Mashal, the exiled supreme leader of Hamas and one of Israel's most wanted men has indicated he will return to Gaza from exile in Syria. Mashal declared that Hamas would not disarm and would "form an army like every country."

* According to a senior Hamas official, if the group forms the next Palestinian government they will institute Sharia, or Islamic Law over the Palestinians. This would include altering the education system to include a greater Islamic curriculum.

* Meeting with Saad Hariri, son of slain Lebanese leader Rafik Hariri, President Bush vowed to support justice for those responsible for the assassination, and to put an end to "Syrian intimidation" of Lebanon.

* IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei is calling on the United States to provide Iran with nuclear reactors, saying that "eight or nine years would be sufficient for Iran to convince the international community that it was not interested in producing nuclear weapons." Former UN weapons inspector Hans Blix is urging the west to offer Iran security guarantees.

* Iran has declared that the Russian nuclear fuel proposal would be considered, but in itself was not enough to meet Iran's "energy needs." President Bush came out and endorsed the Russian proposal if all the fuel was enriched in Russia and transported to Iran under international supervision. The Iranians are scheduled to meet with the EU-3 today.

* A recent report suggests that Israel's Mossad agency plotted to kill Osama bin Laden in 1996 while the al Qaeda leader was living in Khartoum, Sudan. Investigating the attempted assassination on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak while visiting Ethiopia in 1995, the Mossad traced the assassins back to Sudan, where al Qaeda was based at the time.

* Hamas gunmen ambushed a Palestinian police patrol in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, wounding two officers. The ambush came just hours after another shootout in Khan Younis that sent a police officer to the hospital with a gunshot wound to the head.

* Iranian foreign ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi is dismissing claims being made by Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz linking Iran to the recent Islamic Jihad bombing in Tel Aviv. Mofaz has said that Israel had "decisive proof" that "Iran supplied the money and Jihad’s headquarters in Damascus directed the organisation’s operatives in Nablus."

* M. Simon writes that the revolution will not be televised, it will be blogged and points to an article in the Weekly Standard on the blogging revolution in Saudi Arabia. (also see Saudi Blogs)

* The Muslim Brotherhood in Jordan is calling on the Jordanian government to start new relations with Hamas in the wake of their elections victory last week. Abdul Majid Thneibat said that Jordan must "look differently at Hamas since it is now in legitimate power and has its influence in Palestine."

America Domestic Security & the Americas

* Colombia has dismantled a false passport ring with links to al Qaeda and Hamas militants, the acting attorney general said Thursday after authorities led dozens of simultaneous raids across five cities in collaboration with U.S. officials.

* Ten people in Colombia have been charged in Miami with attempting to provide material support to a Colombian guerrilla group, including trying to smuggle its members into the United States, U.S. officials said on Friday. They said the indictment by a federal grand jury contained no allegations the defendants had connections to any other foreign terrorist organization, such as the Islamic militant groups Hamas or al Qaeda.

* In a long-awaited move, the Homeland Security Department's Customs and Border Protection bureau announced earlier this week that it is consolidating all marine and aviation assets into an organization known as CBP Air and Marine. The reorganization, which took effect on Tuesday, spells the final chapter in the contentious dismantling of the former Air and Marine Operations office.

* Lawyers for Zacarias Moussaoui, the French al-Qaeda member who confessed his role in the September 11 attacks, plan to argue their client is mentally ill and the product of a troubled family in a bid to spare him the death penalty, according to court papers. Moussaoui, 37, is scheduled to be sentenced next month in a US federal court when a jury must decide if he should be executed or imprisoned for life without parole.

* In Trinidad, the leader of the Jamaat-al-Muslimeen, Imam Yasin Abu Bakr, will know on Monday whether he will be granted bail by a High Court judge pending his trial on charges of promoting a terrorist act and four other criminal charges related to his controversial Eid sermon.

* United States authorities said on Thursday they discovered the largest and most sophisticated tunnel ever detected under their border with Mexico, one that was used by drug trafficking gangs. "We're very concerned," said Michael Unzueta, special agent in charge for US Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego. "When we find these tunnels, we see that as a vulnerability to our national security."

* The titusonenine blog links to a Joel Mowbray column at WSJ Online about Omar Najib. Mowbray writes: "Mr. Najib is not the only moderate Muslim fighting Islamic fundamentalists, but the ones he is up against at his suburban Chicago mosque are considered to be among the most radical in the nation."

* In his State of the Union address Tuesday, January 31, President Bush is expected to play up national security and the war on terrorism. It was unclear whether Bush would have any new proposal for dealing with nuclear crises with Tehran and Pyongyang.

Russia, Caucasus & Central Asia

* On Friday the United States began a new stage of training 600 soldiers from the former Soviet republic of Georgia, continuing counterterrorism cooperation and assistance.

* RFE/RL has an interview with Ira Straus, founder and U.S. coordinator of the Committee on Eastern Europe and Russia in NATO, on Uzbekistan's relationship with the west and Russia.

* Russia has arrested two spies working for British intelligence and named four British Embassy workers as intelligence officers supervising Russian agents. Reports also indicate one Russian arrested on charges of treason.

* The European Union is bolstering their support for the political opposition in Belarus ahead of scheduled elections on March 19th. The latest move includes a $ 2.45 million effort to fund independent media broadcasts to the former Soviet republic. The move is necessary due to the media monopoly enjoyed by President Alexander Lukashenka.

* Russian forces have detained three terrorists in central Chechnya, with two of them suspected of terrorist attacks on Russian forces, killing at least one soldier.

* According to reports, Azerbaijan is entertaining defense offers from both Washington and Moscow and recently hosted military officials from both countries. In addition, defense ministry officials have been attending military exhibitions in Arab countries, increasing speculation they are looking to make defense purchases.

* Yury Baluyevsky, Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, wrote an article in Krasnaya Zvezda last week that discussed some of the transformation issues of the Russian military and the new challenges being posed within the former Soviet sphere of influence.

Afghanistan & Southern Asia

* Suspected Taliban militants set fire to a girls school Thursday night in Afghan eastern province of Laghman, a local police said. A secondary school was set fire early this month in the southern province of Helmand. Some gunmen entered the compound of a secondary school in Sha Peshti village and after beating the guards, they set the school on fire.

* Tamil Tiger rebels on Friday accused Sri Lanka's government of backing assailants who assassinated a rebel officer just hours after the two sides agreed to restart peace talks, but the military denied involvement in the ambush.

* Afghanistan will probably need foreign troops to ensure stability and security in the country for another five or ten years, President Hamid Karzai said. Speaking days before international partners expect to renew support for Afghanistan at a conference in London, Karzai told journalists at the World Economic Forum that the country was too fragile to envisage life without international security forces.

* Afghan police Friday said that seven neo-Taliban fighters were killed this week and five policemen wounded when the insurgents attacked a district police headquarters in southern Afghanistan. The announcement today said the most recent incident occurred on 25 January in a remote part of the southern Kandahar Province.

* Two policemen were killed and two wounded in Afghanistan when their vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb on Friday in a restive southern province where British troops will soon be based, police said. The attack happened on a main road in Helmand province. District police chief Haji Zaman blamed Taliban guerrillas.

* Afghan security forces in Kandahar province say they have arrested nine people, including two Pakistanis, suspected of plotting attacks. The governor of Kandahar, Assadullah Khalid, said would-be suicide bombers were among those detained.

* A terrorist plan to strike in the capital during Republic Day celebrations was foiled last week with the arrest of two Harkat-ul Jehad-e-Islami militants and recovery of huge amount of explosives and bombs from them, police said. Said-ul and Sohed-ul, both Bangladesh nationals, were arrested from Shastri Park area of East Delhi last evening where they had gone to deliver a consignment of explosives, Joint Commissioner of Police (Special Cell) Karnal Singh told reporters.

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

* Six Islamic rebels and two soldiers were killed in a clash in insurgency-hit Indian Kashmir when an army patrol foiled an infiltration bid by guerrillas, the army said on Saturday. The gunbattle erupted in Poonch district, 240 kilometres (150 miles) from Kashmir’s winter capital Jammu, army spokesman Colonel D.K. Badola told AFP.

* India was the source of tens of thousands of detonators seized by a Sri Lankan navy vessel that were to be delivered to Tamil rebel-held territory, an Indian captain said Friday. On Thursday, the Sri Lankan navy said it had seized a privately owned Indian vessel attempting to smuggle more than 60,000 detonators for anti-personnel mines, a weapon often used by the Tamil Tiger rebels.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* Japan and North Korea will hold talks in China on 4 February aimed at normalizing diplomatic ties. The discussions will focus on North Korea's abduction of Japanese citizens, as well as their nuclear and missile programs.

* A bomb exploded in the courtyard of the Software Park building in Bangkok on Friday, wounding three people. The Thai government is investigating and refuses to comment on whether the bombing is related to the Muslim insurgency in the southern region of the country.

* Malaysian blogger Maobi explains how Malaysia's increasingly Islamist laws fit the AD 717 Pact of Omar, which remains the basis of discrimination and second class status for non-Muslim dhimmis in Islamist societies.

* Filipino government forces fought with militants from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), causing residents from five towns in Maguindanao to flee in panic. The fighting has come as federal troops tried to intervene in a dispute between split factions of MILF.

* Asian countries are calling on Hamas to renounce violence in the aftermath of their victory in the Palestinian parliamentary elections. Japan, Australia and New Zealand are all calling for the continuation of the road map for peace, for Hamas to recognize Israel's right to exist and to renounce violence. Singapore has also called upon Hamas to "renounce the use of violence, set aside its old policies, and work with Israel to build lasting peace in the Middle East."

* Indonesia and Iran have agreed to cooperate in the war on terror and "also signed five economic agreements and 11 memoranda of understanding for cooperation on oil, gas, petrochemicals, trade, science and education." Indonesia also expressed support for Tehran's "legitimate rights" for the "peaceful use of nuclear technology."

* The United States has allocated about $265.7 million in assistance between 2001 to 2004 in order to equip and train security forces in the Philippines, Thailand, and Indonesia in fighting against insurgent movements. While assisting in regional security, the vetting process has also come under the microscope.


* The jailed terrorist known as "Carlos the Jackal" appealed Wednesday to the European Court of Human Rights, saying the eight years he was held in solitary confinement in a French jail violated a European human rights treaty. The Venezuelan, whose real name is Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, complained via his lawyer that the solitary confinement amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment, and that authorities did not follow correct procedure in authorizing it. He is seeking an unspecified amount of damages.

* A 27-year-old London man was charged today with terrorism violations in connection with attempted bombings in the city on July 21, police said. Muhedin Ali, of Chesterton Road, west London, is facing two charges that he helped an alleged bomber, Hussain Osman, avoid arrest, London Metropolitan Police said in an e-mailed statement.

* A national campaign to inform the public about the government's drive against terrorism begins in the Netherlands on 27 February. Home Affairs Minister Johan Remkes told parliament on Thursday that every household will receive a leaflet and adverts will be run on television, radio and in newspapers. The purpose of the campaign is to explain what the government is doing, and what the public can do to help.

* Federal police raided 20 homes in the Brussels region at about 5am on Thursday in an anti-terrorism operation. Ordered by investigating judge Daniel Fransen, the raids were focused on activities around the Belgian Islamic Centre, based in Molenbeek. Raids were conducted at the Islamic centre itself.

* Norwegian Police Security Service, chief Jorn Holme has told participants at a terrorism seminar that Norway's greatest anti-terrorism challenge comes not from foreigners but its own citizens, particularly second-generation immigrants. Holme cautioned his audience that uncovering small, autonomous extremist Islamic groups is far more difficult than the public imagined and that "sooner or later" Norway, like the rest of Europe, must be prepared for a terrorist attack.

* It is probably only a matter of time before Europe falls victim to a terror attack with a "dirty bomb" combining conventional explosives and radioactive material, according to Germany's interior minister. In an interview with a newspaper released ahead of time, Wolfgang Schaeuble said the spread of "dirty" material and weapons of mass destruction rendered the threat of attacks by international terrorists "extremely serious". "The question is probably no longer whether there'll be an attack with a dirty bomb, the question is when and where it's going to happen," he told Germany's Welt am Sonntag paper, citing reports from intelligence services.

* A leaked secret document reveals that MI5 has discovered almost nothing about the worst terrorist attack against Britain despite months of investigation. After the biggest MI5 and police inquiry ever mounted, a secret report for Tony Blair and senior ministers into the July 7 London bombings states: "We know little about what three of the bombers did in Pakistan, when attack planning began, how and when the attackers were recruited, the extent of any external direction or assistance and the extent and role of any wider network."

* A Spanish policeman has been slightly injured when a bomb went off in Bilbao, in the Basque region of northern Spain, the region's interior ministry said. The ministry attributed the explosion, which went off around 2:00 am (0100 GMT) Sunday and caused considerable damage to an employment agency, to the Basque separatist group ETA.

* Fraud investigators are trying to determine whether George Galloway should face charges in connection with the Iraqi Oil-for-Food scandal. A four-strong team is said to have returned from the US having been given access to thousands of documents, including bank records, relating to the affair. Reports published in America have suggested that large payments, laundered through the Oil-for-Food programme, were made by Saddam Hussein to Mr Galloway’s wife and to his political campaign organisation. Mr Galloway, who was shut up in the Big Brother house yesterday and thus unable to comment on the involvement of the Fraud Office, has repeatedly denied accepting such payments.


* According to Jan Pronk, the top UN official for Sudan, plans are in place to deploy a UN peacekeeping force to the Darfur region by early 2007. In the past the diplomat has called for a force of 20,000 peacekeepers with a four year commitment in order to address the issues in Darfur.

* Darfur rebels said they attacked a Sudanese military base in West Darfur state on Saturday killing 78 soldiers, and accused Chadian insurgents of working alongside Sudan’s armed forces. Khalil Abdallah, political leader of the Darfur rebel National Movement for Reform and Development (NMRD), said 17 soldiers were also taken prisoner in the attack on the town of Arm Yakui, some 30 km northwest of West Darfur’s main town el-Genein.

* A Somali pirate has demanded the release of "comrades" captured by the U.S. Navy last week, threatening to kill hostages in the future if the call was not heeded, according to media reports on Friday. Acting on a report of an attempted attack, U.S. Navy sailors pursued and caught a ship near Mogadishu with 10 Somali pirates on board and 16 Indians believed to be hostages. "The Americans should release the 10 men they are holding," said Garaad Mohamud Mohamed, who told Shabeelle radio he was speaking on behalf of the captured pirates. "If they don't we will kill any hostages we capture and attack any ships unlawfully plying our waters."

* Though far smaller, U.S. military engagement in the Horn of Africa is the most significant in Africa since 25,000 troops went to Somalia in 1992. The emphasis on Africa in the U.S. war on terrorism has grown in recent years. Last year, the American military launched a $500 million program to train the armies of nine West and North African countries in counterterrorism operations. A similar $100 million project began in East Africa in 2003.

The Global War

* British forces in Afghanistan will number 5,700 when soldiers are sent to the Taliban’s heartland in the south for the first time. John Reid, the Defence Secretary, announced yesterday that Britain would expand its military commitment in Afghanistan significantly by the summer, with a pledge to stay for three years.

* The destroyer Forrest Sherman was commissioned on Saturday at Naval Air Station Pensacola, and expects to play an important role in the war on terror.

* The Pentagon is focusing on preventing the transfer of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist organizations according to a report from the Washington Times, which says "the task force will employ special operations forces, other troops and intelligence personnel to prevent states such as North Korea and Iran from supplying nuclear, chemical and biological weapons to terror groups."

* One of the biggest hurdles in fighting terrorism is assessing the risk, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday, as Muslim leaders debated extremism, and weapons experts warned of terrorists building a nuclear bomb. Each day countries are faced with a myriad of risks - to railroads, public transport and chemical plants - but officials need to look at the consequences, the vulnerability and the nature of the threats to prevent attacks, Chertoff said at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

* An informative report from the PINR looks at the challenges India has in reconciling its nuclear energy goals with the United States' desire to have India, at minimum, support referring Iran to the UN over Iran's violation of agreements with the IAEA. Last week US Ambassador to India David Mulford said Congressional approval of the July 2005 nuclear agreement with India would depend on what India does with Iran. Those remarks were subsequently softened.

* King Abdullah on Friday wrapped up the first visit by a Saudi Arabian monarch to India in half a century as the two countries agreed to actively cooperate to fight terrorism and develop a strategic partnership in energy sector. In an unprecedented gesture, the king himself signed along with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh the landmark "Delhi Declaration" which noted that terrorism is a scourge for the entire mankind and the two countries agreed to "closely and actively cooperate to fight the menace." They also agreed to cooperate in dealing with other transnational crimes like money laundering, drugs and arms smuggling in a "sustained and comprehensive manner" and this would include intelligence-sharing, the declaration stated.

* Security, counter-terrorism and press freedom topped the agenda in talks held with the British Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr. Kim Howells, who visited Sana’a last week. Howells, whose remit includes security, crime and drugs in the Middle East region, held several meetings with a number of high-ranking officials in Yemen during his three-day visit.

* Yemen wants to return MiG-29 Fulcrum fighters it purchased in 1994, to Moldova in return for the purchase price, declaring the deal an illegal one made by the ruling Yemeni Socialist Party at the time.

* Newsweek reports on direct talks between U.S. official and Iraqi insurgents.

* A Christian Science Monitor article looks at the question of whether the United States is prepared to fight another Iraq-style war.

* The United States is expanding a top-secret effort to kill suspected terrorists with drone-fired missiles as it pursues an increasingly decentralized Al Qaeda, U.S. officials say. The CIA's failed Jan. 13 attempt to assassinate Al Qaeda second-in-command Ayman Zawahiri in Pakistan was the latest strike in the "targeted killing" program, a highly classified initiative that officials say has broadened as the network splintered and fled Afghanistan.

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Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Transdniester region

The Transdniester region is a Russian-speaking sliver of Moldova along the border with Ukraine that declared its independence in 1990. Moldova and Transdniester fought a brief war in 1992 in which nearly 2,000 died. The war ended with Russian troops in Transdniester, and Russian troops are still there today.

Transdniester is a poor region, and is known for criminal activites such as money laundering and arms and drug trafficking.

There have been talks over the years trying to settle the issue. RFE/RL reports that the most recent talks have ended with no settlement.

(image is from RFE/RL)

Talks between Moldova's government and its breakaway Transdniester region on ending their 15-year-old dispute have ended with no progress.

The two days of talks, held in Chisinau, and in the Transdniester's capital, Tiraspol, were mediated by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

OSCE mission chief William Hill said the two sides remain far apart on all issues.

Russian speaking Transdniester proclaimed independence in 1990, fearing Moldova would re-unite with neighboring Romania.
Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin has accused Russia of inhibiting a settlement by refusing to withdraw troops.

There was a panel discussion in Washington on January 11 about the Transdniester region and the prospects for settling the conflict. The panel included Stefan Gligor and Stela Jantuan of the Information, Analysis, and Prognosis Service of the Moldovan parliament and Alexandru Flencha, head of the information and analysis division of Moldova's Ministry of Reintegration.

You can listen to the 90-minute panel discussion here (Real Media) or here (Windows Media.)

Lost in the attention given to Ukraine when Gazprom suspended gas deliveries to that country was the fact Gazprom also suspended gas deliveries to Moldova. Ukraine had been delivering gas to Moldova from its own supplies, but Moldova and Gazprom recently came to an agreement.

Since the gas pipelines cross the Transdniester region, though, Moldova was nervous about the prospect of this breakway region controlling its gas supply. That played a role in the agreement with Gazprom.

Gazprom already owns a controlling stake of 50 percent plus one share in Moldovagaz. Under the January 16 agreement, Moldova turns over to Gazprom the 13.4 percent stake held by Transnistria's authorities in Moldovagaz. Last year, those authorities declared that they were seceding from Moldovagaz to form a separate Transnistrian gas distribution company, and offered to hand it over to Gazprom. The latter could not have taken it over legally, but can do so now, thus raising Gazprom's stake to 64.4 percent. For its part, Gazprom pledges to "preserve the structural unity" of Moldovagaz. Again, Gazprom will be able to cite Moldova's consent to this solution while negotiating with Armenia and Georgia and when it re-negotiates the price with Ukraine.

Given that the transit pipelines originating in Russia cross Transnistria before reaching Moldovan-controlled territory, Tiraspol can theoretically close the valves on the gas supply to Moldova. Thus, from Chisinau's standpoint, control of those valves by the legally accountable Gazprom seems preferable to control by the unaccountable Tiraspol. While this calculation may have some merit, it spells greater dependence on Gazprom, as well as perpetuation of that dependence in the event of Moldova's reunification with Transnistria.

In this post, I pointed out that Romania and the US signed an agreement on a US base in Romania near the Black Sea. This is not far from those Russian troops in the Transdniester region, and if those troops remain, having US and Russian troops in such close proximity could make for interesting times.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Keeping the Euphrates Valley quiet

MNF-Iraq reports that Operation Koa Canyon is wrapping up in Hit, a city along the Euphrates west of Ramadi. This cordon-and-knock operation began Jan. 15, and was a search for terrorists and their weapons caches. It takes courage to conduct these kinds of operations. Though it isn't all out free fire combat, you never know what's waiting behind the next door, in the next cave. The operation involved both Iraqi and US forces, and is yet another example of how the Iraqi security forces are performing well.

Iraqi soldiers and Coalition forces worked well together said Lt. Col. Drew Smith, the commanding officer of Battalion Landing Team 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines. Smith said that, as the operation progressed, so did the level of cooperation among the Iraqis and Americans. "The Iraqi Army soldiers were totally integrated with BLT 1/2 Marines. It was a team effort," said Smith.

Elements of 1st Battalion, 2nd Brigade, 7th Iraqi Infantry Division and Smith’s reinforced infantry battalion along with MEU Service Support Group 22 managed to keep insurgents off balance and unable to tap into their stores of weapons stashed along the Euphrates.

From village to village, the force located and destroyed thousands of discovered artillery shells, mortars rounds and other rockets. Complete mortar systems were found, in addition to the numerous automatic weapons and nearly 11,000 rounds of small and large caliber ammunition. Hundreds of pounds of explosives were also uncovered and destroyed. One of the sites uncovered was a small building that was being used as an IED-making facility. More than 250 IED components and various explosives were found at the shack, which was subsequently destroyed.

Elsewhere in Iraq, in Babil province, tribal leaders met with Coalition Forces commanders to discuss security. It is this kind of cooperation that will lay the foundation of success in Iraq.

Col. John Tully, commander, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, and Iraqi Brig. Gen. Qais Hamza, Babil, provincial police chief, took the opportunity to discuss security and project building in the area with more than 15 sheiks.

This event marks the first time a meeting of this caliber was organized since the Warhorse brigade assumed responsibility of the area earlier this month.

"Our main mission is to help the Iraqi army and police establish security in the Babil province," said Tully, in his opening statement to the forum.

The central and southern parts of the province have seen steady progress over the past three years, and the desire is that the north can soon catch up with the rest of the province, said Sheik Taha Al Janabi. The security there is still in question and it’s anticipated that the pressure being put on terrorists by 2nd BCT Soldiers will result in stability in the area.

Most of the sheiks spoke about the security and how it was important to continue to strive for a good life in Iraq, said Chief Warrant Officer Desi Roberts, information officer, 2nd BCT. Several of them discussed the need for water and road projects and school refurbishment in their tribal area.

With security comes stability, and with stability come investments, projects and jobs, Tully said. He asked the leaders, who have great influence with their villagers, to tell people to stop attacking Coalition and Iraqi Security Forces so stability can materialize.

"Iraqis have accomplished much in the past year and have much to be proud of," he said. "Every day, more and more Iraqis want to be part of the new government."

Also, Iraqi forces continue to take command of their own battlespaces.

Iraqi security forces took control of security of Diwaniya and Wasit provinces from Multinational Division Central South Jan. 26.

Battlespace assumption documents were signed by Lt. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Multinational Corps - Iraq commander, Lt. Gen. Quadir, Iraqi Land Forces commander, Maj. Gen. Piotr Czerwinski, MNDCS commander, Maj. Gen. Othman Ali Ferhood, 8th Iraqi Army Division commander, the governors of Diwaniyah and Wasit prowinces, chiefs of police and Iraqi Border Police.

Ryszard Krystosik, ambassador of Poland, Gen. George Casey, Multinational Force – Iraq commander, and Gen. Nazir, deputy Chief of Iraqi Army General Staff, as well as local sheiks and administration representatives were also in attendance.

During the ceremony, Casey underlined that battlespace assumption was the demonstration of growing capabilities of Iraqi security forces. He thanked the MNDCS commander for the results achieved in training process.

In case your worldview is shaped exclusively by the mainstream media, and you don't recognize what this is, this is progress.

Persian sleight of hand

In the past couple months there have been a couple of plane crashes in Iran that may hint at a struggle behind the scenes.

The first occurred December 6 when a military transport plane crashed into an apartment building near Tehran.

The air force C-130 -- carrying more than 90 people -- crashed at about 2 p.m. (1030 GMT) on Tuesday, sparking fires in the apartment building that houses military personnel and their families.

Everyone on board the plane was killed, including 47 journalists who planned to witness the Iranian navy's maneuvers in the Persian Gulf, officials said.

A health ministry spokesman said 110 bodies had been taken to hospitals near the crash site in the town of Towid, south of the capital.

The second occurred January 9 when a crash in northwestern Iran killed several high-ranking officials in Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps.

According to IRNA, the plane went down near Aidinlou village about 12 kilometers (7 miles) west of the provincial capital, Uromieh, in West Azarbaijan province.
IRNA reported that the guard's Commander of Ground Forces, Ahmad Kazemi, along with the commander of the 27th Rassoulollah Army Division and the chief of intelligence, died in the accident.

The IRNA provided a complete list here:

IRGC's Ground Forces Commander Ahmad Kazemi, Commander of Rassoulollah Army Division 27 Saeed Mohtadi, Deputy Commander of Ground Forces for Operation Affairs Saeed Soleymani and the Official in Charge of Information for Ground Forces Hanif Montazer-Qaem were among those martyred in the crash.

Also confirmed killed were the Commander of Artillery Unit Gholam-Reza Yazdani, two members of the Ground Forces' Command Office, Hamid Azinpour and Mohsen Asadi, Deputy Commander of Ground Forces Safdar Reshadi, the plane's pilot, Abbas Karvandi, and IRGC Colonels Ahmad Elhaminejad and Morteza Basiri.

That was quite a roster, and immediately there were questions about whether it was sabotage.

I bring this up now because in the last few days, Iran has sought to cast blame for these crashes on the United States and Britain.

Iran accused the United States, the United Kingdom and above all Israel of "playing a part in the latest two plane crashes which took place in the country."

Iranian Interior Minister Mustafa Purmohammedi, in a speech he made at a seminar Wednesday, said they have information that these three countries played a role in these crashes.

Purmohammedi claimed "US, British and Israeli secret services want to cause insecurity in Iran" though declining to elaborate further his accusations.

On January 24, there were explosions in the southwestern city of Ahvaz, a city in Iran that is home to a sizeable Arab Sunni population. Iranian President Ahmadinejad was scheduled to go there, but canceled, prompting suspicion he had gotten wind of the attack.

At least eight people were killed today in two explosions in the southern Iranian city of Ahvaz. Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad was scheduled to travel today to Khuzestan Province and also to Ahvaz, but Iranian news agencies reported that the visit was postponed due to bad weather conditions. Ahvaz, the provincial capital of Khuzestan Province, was the scene of ethnic unrest last year and it was also hit by a series of explosions in June and October.

No group has claimed responsibility for the explosions and it is not clear whether there is any connection between the blasts and President Ahmadinejad's scheduled visit.

The two explosions occurred around 10 a.m. (6:30 GMT) local time. One bomb exploded close to a bank while the other reportedly ripped through the city's Natural Resources Department. Reports said fire had gutted the Saman Bank and that broken glass littered streets around the blast sites. An official said 46 people are reported injured in the two blasts.

Colonel Salehi, an official with Iran's Police Emergency Center, spoke earlier today on Iranian state television: "Unfortunately we have been informed that, so far, in the Ahvaz bombing incidents [eight] people have been martyred in Kianpars in front of Saman Bank.... Based on investigations, the bombs that exploded were concussion bombs."

Combined with an attack December 15 on Ahmadinejad's motorcade that killed his bodyguard, there are hints forces in Iran opposed to Ahmadinejad might be trying to assassinate him.

As with the plane crashes though, Iran has tried to blame for the Ahvaz attacks on the United States and Britain.

Iran's president blamed "the occupiers of Iraq" -- inferring the United States and Britain on Wednesday -- for two bombings that killed at least nine people in the southwestern city of Ahvaz.

The foreign minister said the bombers were supported by the British military, which is based in southern Iraq. Ahvaz has a history of violence involving members of Iran's Arab minority.

A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair's office called the allegations "ludicrous." A group seeking independence for the Ahvaz region later claimed responsibility.

Iranian television said President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad issued a decree ordering his foreign minister and intelligence minister to investigate the possibility "foreign hands" were responsible for Tuesday's blasts inside a bank and outside a state environmental agency building. Forty-six people were wounded, the Islamic Republic News Agency reported.

In this post I had drawn some parallels between the rise of Hitler and the current Iranian regime. Here is another disturbing parallel. Hitler blamed many of Germany's woes on the Jews in his bid to marginalize and ultimately destory the population.

Iran is doing much the same thing here. Rather than face internal troubles, Iran is looking for an outside scapegoat, one they can redirect internal unrest towards.

As the confrontation over Iran's nuclear program builds, Iran is trying to shift responsibility for its current difficulties to foreigners. Worse, Iran may be trying to set up a casus belli to justify its current aggressive stance.

Iran needs to be dealt with, and soon. Having nuclear weapons in the hands of this kind of regime is a recipe for disaster.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Dispatch from the Homefront

My correspondent is enjoying the green green grass of home, and is working on a wrap-up of his experiences. I shall post that when that is done. In the meantime, here are some brief thoughts from him on the kidnappings in Iraq.

(As background, as I surmised in this post, Germany almost certainly paid a ransom for Susanne Osthoff. Two more Germans were kidnapped last Tuesday.)

War is very very expensive and unless you concoct some revenue raising scheme (ala iran-contra) there must be outside sources to generate the cash flow that sustains operations.

Oh, let's just hijack a ____ like we always do. Seems like the bad guys in Iraq figured SOMEHOW that kidnapping certain foreigners is a GREAT way to make cold hard cash!!!

Ergo, some deutschers just got scarfed up. Again. Surprise surprise surprise says gomer. I wonder if there could be a study to indicate in a certain area associated where the capture took place and if there is an associated rise in certain type(s)/attacks after a certain time of the repatriation transaction since that could represent the time it takes to convert the cash into weapons.

Maybe not since certain groups operate all over and the kidnappers themselves might just be contracted to grab or sell to the highest bidder etc. Regardless, those moneys in every single ransom case, and there is near incontrovertable proof it goes on especially with spineless euros (and it is proven fact in hundreds of cases regarding iraqis or other middle easterners), those moneys are later used to harm me and my buddies.

The avalanche begins

My final semester of the MSSE program is underway, hence the diminished time for this. But, this is my outlet, so I'm not going anywhere. Just will be harder to find large blocks of time. Had class today. The big brain drain is my master's project. But also have two classes to get through, though they will be enjoyable. Get to play with robots in one.

Lately John has discovered something new about life. He'll say to me, "When I'm older, I'll marry you." I say no, you're my son. So he says "Then I'll marry Mommy." I say no, she's your mommy. So he says "I'll marry Hanna." I say no, she's your sister. So he says "I'll marry Maya!" (The girl next door.) Ok, you can marry Maya. Heh.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

India and Iran

The severity of a crisis is always reflected in the difficulty nations have in getting their allies, or potential allies, to commit to a position. The higher the stakes, the more nations caught in the middle on an issue try to avoid having to make defining decisions.

India is in such a position with the growing confrontation over Iran's nuclear program. With the United States, Europe and the United Nations on one side, and Iran on the other, and its own internal politics playing a significant role, India is facing a bit of a Hobson's choice. Should India back a UN motion against Iran?

The difficulty India has is directly related to an agreement reached with the United States last July. The United States agreed to provide strong assistance to India in its civilian nuclear program, lifting sanctions that went back to India's nuclear testing in 1998. In return, India will keep its civilian and nuclear programs very separate, and will allow IAEA access. From the State Dept:

India will assume the same responsibilities and practices as other countries with advanced nuclear programs, and has agreed to:

* Identify and separate civilian and military nuclear facilities and programs and file an IAEA declaration regarding its civilian facilities;

* Place voluntarily its civilian nuclear facilities under IAEA safeguards;

* Sign and adhere to an Additional Protocol with respect to civilian nuclear facilities;

* Continue its unilateral moratorium on nuclear testing;

* Work with the U.S. for the conclusion of a multilateral Fissile Material Cut Off Treaty;

* Refrain from the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing technologies to states that do not have them and support efforts to limit their spread;

* Secure nuclear materials and technology through comprehensive export control legislation and adherence to the Missile Technology Control Regime and Nuclear Suppliers Group.

The deal is of great importance to India because it wants to be recognized as a nuclear power, and it wants to develop its civilian nuclear program to meet its growing energy needs.

However, the agreement still needs to be approved by Congress, and therein lies the sticking point.

Last September, at an IAEA meeting, India backed a resolution declaring Iran was in non-compliance with its agreement with the IAEA. This brought with it the threat of a referral to the UN, and it was an uncomfortable vote for India. As this editorial said:

India's representatives in the [September 2005 meeting] voted for a Bush-backed resolution accusing Iran of alarming but unproven nuclear "non-compliance" and threatening implicitly a referral of the issue to the United Nations Security Council. The resolution reminded an apprehensive world public of the ground Washington had prepared for its war on Iraq, launched in grave violation of international law and norms.

By its vote, New Delhi made India's most serious departure from the country's traditional policy of non-alignment and distanced the country from most of the developing world. The vote elicited wide protests in India, especially from the Left, which supports the government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from outside as the only alternative to the far Right regime rejected by the people in the last parliamentary elections.

Two recent public statements warrant pessimism about India's performance in Vienna next week. On November 14 came a statement on the subject from US ambassador to India David C. Mulford. Asked about the role he expected from India, he said: "India will assess its national interest and act accordingly." It must be recalled that Mulford had earlier noted that India's vote in September had also been dictated by "its national interest."

On November 16 came a striking endorsement from none other than India's foreign secretary, Shyam Saran. The mandarin with the most important part to play in the affair also asserted that India's role in the IAEA will be "in accordance with our national interest."

Both Saran and Mulford have the same specific "national interest" in mind. It is not a closely-guarded state secret that India's first vote on Iran was a lopsidedly logical sequel to the Singh-Bush nuclear deal of July 18. The vote was New Delhi's way of saying thanks for the deal which, in its view, took India right to the door of the nuclear club. Washington, which had already lifted all its other sanctions imposed against India after its nuclear weapons tests, now recognized the country as a "responsible" nuclear-weapon state and was ready to reward it with a civilian nuclear bonanza.

On Wednesday, the US Ambassador to India, David Mulford, spoke rather plainly, especially for a diplomat. According to the BBC:

Mr Mulford told the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency on Wednesday that the US was keen to have India's support when UN atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) meets to discuss Iran.

"If [India] opposes Iran having nuclear weapons, we think they should record it in the vote."

India's failure to do so, he said, would have a "devastating" effect on US Congress members who have yet to approve the nuclear deal.

"I think the initiative will die in the Congress. Not because the administration would want it to, but the Congress will... so I think this is part of the calculation that India has to keep in mind," Mr Mulford said.

The direct attempt to link Congressional approval on the July 2005 agreement and India's vote on Iran did not go over well in India.

This came up in the daily State Dept press briefing Wednesday, and the State Dept spokesman sort of hung his guy out to dry. Mr. McCormack said Ambassador Mulford was expressing a personal opinion, and then went on to tap dance around the issue again, as diplomats are wont to do.

QUESTION: Thank you very much. I don't know if you guys covered this. The U.S. Ambassador to India is being quoted as saying that this landmark civilian nuclear program that they've agreed to would die -- in the quote -- if India does not vote against Iran at the upcoming IAEA meeting. Can you confirm that that's true?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, I didn't sit in the interview so I didn't --

QUESTION: No, I don't care if the interview is true. Is the issue that if Iran -- if India votes against Iran, is that true that --

MR. MCCORMACK: If you look at the news stories that have come out on this, the various wire reports, it includes comments from Ambassador Mulford's spokesman at the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. What he said is the Ambassador was expressing his personal opinions about what the potential political outcome might be. He was giving his personal assessment of how the Congress might react to such an action by India.

Let me be clear. Ultimately, how India votes on this matter is going to be a decision for the Indian Government. They voted to find Iran in noncompliance the last time around and we certainly would encourage and hope that they vote for referral this time around. But I think what the Ambassador was doing was talking about and reflecting the view that on Capitol Hill there are very strongly held feelings about Iran and the need to -- need for the international community to act decisively and firmly and with a single voice concerning Iran's pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

And we -- you know, not to go through Civics 101, but we've got three separate branches of government here. We're in the Executive Branch. And Congress and Senators and Representatives will have views of their own. And I think what Ambassador Mulford was doing was expressing an opinion about how the Congress might react, given that outcome.

QUESTION: So what is the Executive Branch's view on that as far as the understanding?

MR. MCCORMACK: Our view is that we would certainly encourage and we would hope that India would vote for a referral to the Security Council.

QUESTION: And if it doesn't?

MR. MCCORMACK: We continue to work with the Indian Government on implementation of the agreement that President Bush and Prime Minister Singh signed during the Prime Minister's recent visit here. We would certainly hope that we would be in a position to -- before or as part of the President's visit to India to make progress on this issue. Part of making progress on this issue is for the Indian Government to present a workable plan that would separate the Indian civilian and military nuclear programs. We're still talking about that issue with the Indian Government and I expect that those discussions will continue.

QUESTION: And is there any relevance between progress on that issue related to their needing to give you a program and their vote at the IAEA?

MR. MCCORMACK: I think that what Ambassador Mulford was doing was offering some political analysis about how the Hill might react.

QUESTION: Right, but leaving Mulford alone, is there --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, that's why we're talking about this.

QUESTION: It is but -- it is because that's where it came up. But is there any relevance between how India votes at the IAEA and how their civilian nuclear agreement with the United States proceeds?

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, we deal with the Indian Government on these two issues as separate issues. Certainly, they come up in the same conversations, I'll tell you that. And we continue to encourage the Indian Government to vote for referral. Ultimately, that is going to be their decision. And we also have been talking to them about the importance of making progress on their implementation plan for separating the civilian and military nuclear programs.

Today, then, there was a further attempt to make diplomatic nicey-nicey. Again from the BBC article:

Mr Mulford was summoned by India's Foreign Secretary, Shyam Saran, on Thursday afternoon and told that his comments were "inappropriate and not conducive to building a strong partnership between the two democracies," a foreign ministry statement said.

It said that the ambassador was informed that India's vote on any possible resolution on the Iran nuclear issue at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would be determined by India's own judgement of the merits of the case.

"The ambassador expressed his sincere regrets, saying that his remarks had been taken out of context," the foreign ministry statement said.

India has rejected attempts to tie its stance on Iran to the deal with the US.

However, regardless of how much India wishes the two matters were not linked, the reality is the United States will be acutely interested in what India does over the Iran confrontation. India is squirming because in addition to its relations with the US, India has internal political opposition to siding against Iran, and India of course always has its relations with Pakistan to worry about. India's nuclear capabilities are of keen interest to Pakistan.

Also in the mix is a proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline. (Russia has expressed interest in being a part of this project.) There are other factors involved, but if Iran is put under sanctions, this pipeline would very likely not go forward.

India wants to take a seat at the table along with other world powers, but these thorny matters are the price of admission. The Iran matter will be taken up at an IAEA meeting next week.

Much attention is being given to Russia and China, and rightly so. But it will be just as fascinating to see what India does in the coming weeks.

The future of Iraq

Maya Alleruzzo tells a powerful story in the Washington Times. It is the story of Capt. Furat, an Iraqi soldier fighting back from severe injuries. It is the story of the kind of man who will form the backbone of a free Iraq.

I know someone who fought with Capt. Furat, and who trusts him. I first heard of Capt. Furat a few weeks ago through this person, and I wanted to help publicize Capt. Furat's story. I'll have more in a subsequent post with some thoughts on what we might be able to do for this soldier. For now, do read the entire article.

Capt. Furat, 28, struggles to sort out a life that was shattered Christmas Day in an ambush by gunmen disguised as Iraqi soldiers while he was visiting his family.

His wounds are slowly beginning to heal. The surgical staples holding his abdomen together are gone.

He somehow survived the destruction of 12 bullets, but one of them cut through his spinal cord, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

He is in good hands at the moment.

Col. Elisha Powell, commander of the 332nd Expeditionary Medical Group that runs the hospital, said Capt. Furat will stay there until he recovers.

The Air Force Theater Hospital in Balad is the busiest field hospital in Iraq. It consists of a sea of tents that house everything from state-of-the art operating rooms to patient wards with up to 10 beds per tent.

"If you come here alive, you have a 96 percent chance of leaving here alive," said Col. Powell.

Capt. Furat is a warrior.

A decorated officer with the 2nd Battalion of the 2nd Brigade of the 5th Iraqi Army Division -- also known as the Tiger Battalion -- based at Camp Falloc, 54 miles northeast of Baghdad, Capt. Furat loves Iraq and fought its enemies with a passion that won praise from American and Iraqi troops.

U.S. soldiers of Task Force 1-30 who worked with Capt. Furat often called him "Rambo"; he could wield an 80-pound machine gun and belts of ammunition as if carrying an Uzi.

"To me he is a superhero," said 1st Lt. John Newton of Hague, Va., from the 1st Battalion of the 30th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division, who wept at Capt. Furat's bedside hours after the attack.

"He was fearless under fire," said Lt. Col. Roger Cloutier, commander of Task Force 1-30, from Fort Benning, Ga.

He was ambushed by gunmen in Iraqi Army uniforms.

Capt. Furat brought along Sgt. Hussein, 21, a fellow soldier in the Dali Abbas Company of the Tiger Battalion. As they drove back to base, a red Opel station wagon blocked their path. Three masked gunmen in Iraqi Army uniforms opened fire.

At first, Capt. Furat did not shoot back because of the uniforms. He killed one of his attackers. Three civilians caught in the crossfire also died and Capt. Furat and Sgt. Hussein were severely wounded -- Sgt. Hussein with nine bullets to his leg and arm. Capt. Furat took 12 shots.

Capt. Furat is probably facing a future in a wheelchair.

"I was very straightforward with him about what to expect: That he'd be in a wheelchair," said Maj. Jeffrey McNeil, a cardiothoracic surgeon.

"It's kind of like a professional athlete having a career-ending injury," said Lt. Col. Jim Keeney, an orthopedic surgeon at Balad. "He is going to be much more functional but it's going to be a setback."

For Capt. Furat, the news was devastating. On some days, he just wept. On other days, he burned with rage.

"I love Iraq," he said in fluent English, which he learned in college during the presidency of Saddam Hussein. "I worked all over Iraq and liked all the soldiers I worked with. I loved my body. I loved all the civilians I helped, but I don't think all the civilians loved me. I was a brave soldier. I helped anybody -- men, women, children.

"But when Ali Baba shot me, and when I lay there in the street and couldn't move, nobody helped me. Why? Capt. Furat is dead because Capt. Furat is weak. Nobody on the street helped him."

Capt. Furat was fighting for his country, but he was fighting alongside our own military too, as brave as anyone.

Hopefully this country can say thank-you in some way so that in his recovery, Capt. Furat will never again have to wonder why nobody helped him.

I know I'm just one tiny blogger, but if we spread the story around, perhaps some good can come of it.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

If you can't spy on friends...

...who can you spy on?

From The Moscow Times:

The State Duma said Tuesday that it would lodge a protest with the British Parliament and a European security body over purported British spy activities, while the Foreign Ministry was tight-lipped over whether four diplomats accused of spying would be expelled.

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, announced Monday that it had uncovered a spy ring late last year that included four mid-ranking diplomats at the British Embassy and their Russian contact. The diplomats are accused of downloading information onto hand-held computers from transmitters hidden in fake rocks.

One of the diplomats, the FSB said, had authorized British government grants to 12 Russian nongovernmental organizations, including the Moscow Helsinki Group and the New Eurasia Foundation.

It is not a trivial matter if Britain has been funding Russian NGOs under the table. As the MosNews explains:

Non-governmental organizations with financing from other countries are thought to have played a major role in the “revolutions” that have swept former Soviet states in recent years, prompting some Russian politicians to raise concerns that similar activity was being carried out in Russia. Parliament passed a bill restricting the operation of NGOs at the end of last year.

The US expressed concerns over this law restricting the NGOs, fearing it would restrict legitimate groups from doing much needed work in Russia. There were also concerns this was part of a continuing effort to centralize power in the government and to restrict dissent.

If Britain is involved, it will only strengthen the Russian government's fears that foreign powers could use the NGOs against it.

Also, this comes at a critical time when Britain, among others, is seeking to gain Russia's cooperation in the UN against Iran. This will not help.

As an aside, here is a photo I took of the British Embassy in Moscow. It sits on the banks of the Moscow River. It's the one with the greenish dome, and it's a rather homely building, if you ask me. I took the photo from the other side of the river, in my room in the Ukraina Hotel. (Some scenes in the Sean Connery movie The Russia House were filmed in this hotel.)

Just to set the geography, the embassy is about three kilometers west of the Kremlin. The Russian White House is not far from the British Embassy, just to the left of this photo. And, the US Embassy is across the street from the Russian White House. (The newer building, that is. The older building is up the hill from that.)

Thomas Jocelyn took note of this as well, and highlights Putin's reaction. (From what I said above, you can guess what Putin's reaction was.)

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Getting their story straight

Wouldn't you like to be a fly on the wall in this meeting.

Iran's top nuclear negotiator meets with Russian officials in Moscow Tuesday, a day after Tehran upped the ante in its nuclear standoff with countries wanting to refer it to the U.N. Security Council.

Ali Larijani's talks with Russian Security Council chief Igor Ivanov and others come after Iran warned that referral to the U.N. Security Council would lead it to immediately forge ahead with a full-scale uranium enrichment program.

With little more than a week until the Feb. 2 meeting of the IAEA's 35-nation board, high-level international diplomacy has intensified.

Moscow has proposed having Iran's uranium enriched in Russia, then returned to Iran for use in the country's reactors, a compromise that would provide more oversight and ease tensions. But haggling has continued over the specifics of the proposal, including Tehran's proposal to have China involved in the Russian enrichment process.

A European official said Monday the Iranian and Russian officials would discuss the possibility of allowing Iran to conduct small-scale experimental enrichment itself if it agreed to move all industrial production to Russia. The official demanded anonymity in exchange for discussing confidential details of the negotiations.

Also Tuesday, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Mehdi Safari met in Moscow with the head of the Russian Atomic Energy Agency, Sergei Kiriyenko. The ITAR-Tass news agency quoted Iranian Ambassador Gholamreza Ansari as saying that Iran was waiting for "several clarifications" from Moscow regarding the Russian proposal.

Tied together by oil and construction and defense deals, Russia and Iran are in an awkward position. Russia does not want to alienate itself from the West by openly supporting Iran against the West in Iran's determined push for nuclear weapons. On the other hand, Russia doesn't want to throw Iran under the bus and agree to potentially severe sanctions.

Iran is trying to figure out how it can keep using Russia to stall for time to complete its nuclear weapons program. Look for Iran to continue to agree/not agree/ask for more time in responding to Russia's plan to process nuclear waste in Russia.

Trouble in the Delta

The unrest continues in the Niger River Delta.

Unidentified gunmen have stormed the offices of Italian oil company Agip in Port Harcourt, southern Nigeria.

At least nine people were killed in the assault. It is reported that seven of the dead were policemen and two were civilians working at the complex.

The gunmen attacked the riverside offices on speedboats and made their escape in the same way, having stolen a large amount of money, witnesses said.

The militants have used fast boats in a number of attacks since late December. The violence has led to a 10% decrease in oil production in Nigeria, and the price of oil is factoring in the impact on supply. Oil is closing in on $70/barrel, up from just below $60/barrel when the trouble in Nigeria began to intensify.

Civilians are crowding into cities in the Delta to escape the violence.

Even as refugees continue to stream into major cities in the Niger Delta following the take over of the waterways by men of the Nigerian Armed Forces, two officials of the Delta State Government have been arrested by security agents for complicity in the kidnap.

The cities of Warri, Port Harcourt and Yenagoa are now hosts to unending stream of Ijaw refugees fleeing their homes in the swamps of the Niger Delta.

The refuges most of whom are of the Iduwini clan, whose land houses the four flowstations closed by the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) following attacks by assailants said that are afraid of being used as "cannot fodders" in the event of an all battle between the military and the attackers.

There has been talking about deploying US Marines to the Delta to protect the oil facilities, but it is just talk at this point. If the violence continues though, and if it intensifies, look for pressure to bring in the Marines to increase.

This article from the Daily Independent reports:

Pentagon sources confirmed that officials are reviewing an agreement with Nigeria that would have marines protect oil facilities because of the growing battle between Nigerian armed forces and insurgents.
But other sources said the Niger Delta is rather too unstable to deploy marines.

"We do not want our forces to be directly involved in the military operation currently being undertaken by Nigerian forces. Subject to further discussions with Nigerian officials, the marines will only go in when the intensity of the conflict has reduced significantly", Pentagon officials said.

They recalled that the issue was discussed at a meeting between President Olusegun Obasanjo and security chiefs in Abuja.

Marines are better trained and equipped to tackle security in Nigeria’s South South but Washington is wary of being accused of "engaging in military conflict without the authorisation of Congress".

The formerly classified discussion between Abuja and Washington on the deployment was revealed by impeached Governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyesegha, in Yenagoa last year at a meeting with stakeholders in the oil industry.

He said the Nigerian authorities were under pressure to deploy marines to protect American oil companies.

I am a party apparatchik

This morning I participated in a breakfast for some local bloggers with MN GOP chairman Ron Carey. I was invited along with some other MOB bloggers to talk about how the state party and bloggers can work together to promote our candidates.

I appreciated the invitation because I am looking for ways in which I can get more involved in local politics. I don't know near as much about MN politics as some of the MOB blogs who follow state and local politics closely. I don't write a lot about MN politics because I couldn't add much that others aren't already doing.

But, Mr. Carey and his energetic staff have some ideas on how to provide us with information that we can turn around and work with in our blogs, and present our issues in a way that can get our voters out to the polls.

And of course, now I can go around saying "Party Officials" in a thick, Russian accent.

MDE has a good recap of the meeting.
Craig Westover was also in attendance, and comments here on the meeting.

Doing a slow burn

I said I was going to start questioning the patriotism of the anti-war Left.

Joel Stein has a column in the LA Times that is astonishing for its honesty, for the anti-war Left doesn't often reveal its true self in public. Stein writes:

I don't support our troops. This is a particularly difficult opinion to have, especially if you are the kind of person who likes to put bumper stickers on his car.
But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.

Blindly lending support to our soldiers, I fear, will keep them overseas longer by giving soft acquiescence to the hawks who sent them there — and who might one day want to send them somewhere else.
I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War, but we shouldn't be celebrating people for doing something we don't think was a good idea. All I'm asking is that we give our returning soldiers what they need: hospitals, pensions, mental health and a safe, immediate return. But, please, no parades.

Karl Rove gave a speech last Friday to party activists, and in it he said this:

At the core, we are dealing with two parties that have fundamentally different views on national security. Republicans have a post-9/11 worldview - and many Democrats have a pre-9/11 worldview. That doesn't make them unpatriotic, not at all. But it does make them wrong - deeply and profoundly and consistently wrong.

It's time to stop with the conciliatory gestures. They buy us nothing. Not only are too many on the anti-war Left profoundly wrong, they are unpatriotic.

Michelle Malkin has a post about the Stein column, but she also adds some additional material. She includes a photo of a banner, presumably held up by these patriotic Americans, that says "We support our troops when they shoot their officers."

It is within someone's right to disagree with President Bush's policy in Iraq. It is not unreasonable to be against war.

But when you follow the phrase "I'm not advocating that we spit on returning veterans like they did after the Vietnam War" with the word "but", you are implicitly acknowledging that is precisely what you seem to be implying, and you want to absolve yourself of taking responsibility for that kind of sentiment.

A patriot is one who is committed to defending and upholding his or her country's values. A patriot is an advocate for his or her country's best interests.

How is someone who holds up a banner such as the one mentioned above a patriot by any definition? How is someone who says troops deserve no recognition for freeing a country from a brutal dictator a patriot by any definition.

They're not patriots. They are small minded, hateful people who recoil from adhering to noble values larger than themselves because they themselves hold to no ethical or moral standards.

And the GOP and we conservatives should not shrink from pointing it out.

Hugh Hewitt interviewed Stein on his radio show. (Transcript courtesy of the Radioblogger.) I give Stein credit for coming on the air with Hugh, but this wasn't even close. Hugh just kept feeding Stein the rope, and Stein just kept wrapping it around his neck, until he tossed it over a limb and finally kicked the horse himself.

HH: Joel, do you know anything about the U.S. military? I mean, in a really serious way, the way that you know about like...

JS: No. I told you right away I don't.

24 Day 5 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Hello, graphic violence warning, my old friend. You've come to haunt my dreams again. After last week's violence, I expect to see babies skewered on pikes.

Before we deploy the rantennae, I wanted to stop and review David Palmer's Grand Master Plan For Saving The Universe. First, Palmer, apparently, somehow acquires knowledge that a terrorist plot is underway, and it involved that airport. (On any other show I'd expect to find out how Palmer got this knowledge. I am not betting the farm that we'll find out on this show.)

Don't know if Palmer is running his own intelligence agency or what. Maybe he's living his own Magnum P.I. fantasy. But, what does Palmer do with this information? Does he tell the CIA, FBI, the Pentagon, CTU, LAPD, the media? Does he tell his old friend Mike Novick? Does he tell Logan himself? No. Palmer calls up a lady who is known to have had paranoid conspiratorial delusions. Surely not the best way to disseminate information that could prevent a terrorist attack. Do you think Palmer was standing in that living room, wondering why he wasn't seeing the story splashed all over the media? "Hmm, I told a crazy woman no one will believe, why isn't this worldwide news?"

Also, last season started out with a massive attack on the Internet (diagnosed within seconds) that was part of a plan to attack nuclear plants. To cover that up, the SecDef was part of a grisly snuff film broadcast over the Internet. This season starts with a terrorist attack that is broadcast over the media. People are executed on live TV. And, all this was apparently intended to cover up the theft of the nerve gas. Hmm, I hope the writers aren't getting into a rut here.

Ok. Overture, curtain, lights, this is it, we'll hit the heights. And oh, what heights we'll hit. On with the show, this is it.

As the episode begins, the baddies are loading the canisters of nerve gas (whoops, we don't know what it is yet) onto a SWAT van. Clever boys.

Two CTU agents are bringing in Jack. Klaxons start going off in my head, as CTU doesn't have a great history of sending two flunky agents out to accomplish tasks. I fully expect the SUV to be blown up and the agents killed. (Whew, to my relief Jack makes it back to CTU.)

Jack talks to Curtis, and tells Curtis the nearest exit in the airport that didn't have an alarm. Now just how did Jack know which exits did or did not have alarms? He was busy up in the rafters finding Derek and mapping out flank two positions.

Some guard is very polite in letting the SWAT van filled with baddies and nerve gas (whoops, we don't know what it is yet) out the gate. The guard is quite chipper considering a major terrorist attack just concluded a few minutes ago. Not even a serious game face.

Evelyn discovers Martha zonked out on the bed. I suppose Evelyn could have just assumed that Martha had been on a morning bender. She looks over Martha, but there is no sign of the struggle with Walt. You'd think there would be bruises around Martha's mouth where Walt had to press hard during the struggle.

Edgar answers the phone with his sui generis Up With People style. "CTU, Stiles!"

After a lot of technomagic, CTU is guided to the warehouse where the Star Gate/monolith was found. When they get there, they have to forcibly remove a padlock from a door. Well, what door did Yellow Tie go in then? He wasn't stopped by any padlock.

A klieg light is still on around the pit in the concrete floor. Sloppy baddies, wasting electricity like that.

Oh, dead rats are discovered around the pit. Through more instantaneous technomagic, nerve gas is discovered in the rats. It is in a concentration of 2,000 parts per million, which means it is "weaponized", military grade. As opposed to the nonweaponized nerve gas available for tasks like killing aphids in your vegetable garden.

Now, to me, this says there was a leak in one or more canisters. Isn't that rather a bad thing? Why weren't any of the baddies affected?

Yellow Tie meets some other baddie, and Yellow Tie says they'll teach Russia the consequences of occupying their homeland. From Yellow Tie's accent, I'm thinking, since when did Russia occupy Great Britain?

Evelyn is in deep kimchi with RunLoganRun for losing track of Martha. Martha is recovering on the bed, and Walt takes in a deep eyeful of the First Lady's cleavage. Logan asks about the archive room. My question is where is there an archive room here? They're out in California. Why are documents being stored here and not back in Washington? Why aren't these transcripts done back there?

Having already threatened to cry rape, Martha reaches into her bag of feminine wiles again and uses tears to try and get Logan to believe her. Again I urge you to debate among yourselves the wisdom of Palmer's plan.

Walt tells Logan if Martha is allowed to talk they really will have a problem. Of course, as the audience we fully understand Walt's double meaning here. Walt and Logan speak of "Vermont". This must be a euphemism for the dribbly bin. As in, "Remember how your Uncle Franky was throwing tables around at Cousin Tina's wedding and claiming to be Zorgon Dark Lord of the Underworld? Well, he's gone to "Vermont" for a rest."

In the space of a few seconds conversation, Logan agrees with Walt that Martha should be committed again. Now, is Walt a doctor? No. So why doesn't Logan suggest they at least have Martha checked out by qualified medical people before locking her away in the Chateau d'If?

Walt ducks outside for another completely undetected conversation with Nathanson, who is standing by a Matrix-esque screen with lots of scrolling green text.

Walt has someone on the inside at CTU! Another mole! Again, CTU has had so many moles in the past, I think people working there just assume someone among them is a mole and that baddies are hearing about their plans in almost real time.

Chloe wonders why Edgar isn't banging out a shell script. I love technobabble. We don't know if they use a Korn shell, or a C shell, or a Bourne shell, or something else.

Curtis arrives back at CTU. It took him more than five minutes. Must have been some speed bumps in the wormhole tunnel between CTU and the airport.

CTU talks about the nerve gas, and wonders, like the rest of us, just what it was doing at that airport.

CTU is asked what they've been doing, and someone gives a vague answer, blah, blah, filtering intelligence, blah blah. In other words, we haven't been doing anything.

Logan hears about the nerve gas and immediately reverts to the fetal position. He takes his thumb out of his mouth long enough to bark at his staff, as if no one understands the seriousness of having nerve gas in the hands of terrorists.

It's time to talk about evacuation scenarios. I guess those would be the plans that worked so well during the various nuclear threats in LA over the past seasons. I'll say this, they've had plenty of opportunity to perfect those evacuation plans.

Chloe and Spenser have another lovers spat. Chloe is snippy, Spenser says no one talks to him like that. Chloe says "Really? I just did." Zing! Score one for Chloe.

Edgar stands there and wants nothing. He says he and Chloe have known each other for "years". Really? Can't be more than 2 or 3 years. Chloe is snippy with Edgar and says after this is all over they'll sit down and have some tea and Chloe can go all Oprah on Edgar.

Dang! Spenser is the mole. When Walt said he had someone on the inside, my wife said it's Spenser. I groaned, thinking Spenser would make a lame mole, because he's not the strong killer type, he's more of a wet blanket. But my wife called it, it's Spenser. (Ok, I'll say it, Spenser for hire!)

Samwise Gamgee puts Audrey in a tough spot and has her interview Diane. Is Samwise hoping to start a cat fight? Why would he have a DoD liaison interview someone in a terrorist case?

Diane and Derek clear security. Which at CTU means they probably waltz in off the street completely unimpeded. After the commercial break, the 24 clock is at :28 and the clock clock is at :26.

Samwise gives Level 2 clearance to Jack. Now, let's stop and review. Right or wrong, the President of the United States agreed to hand Jack over to the Chinese. Since Jack is still alive, doesn't that still hold? Won't the Chinese be a little aggravated when they find out Jack is alive? So until that is all resolved, is it wise for Samwise to add Jack to the Fellowship?

Jack argues that a standard search is too slow, that in order to find the terrorists they need to find out how killed Palmer. Really? That would be faster? It's been over 40 years, and questions remain as to who killed President Kennedy. Jack thinks getting to the bottom of the Palmer assassination is going to be a quick thing? Don't they want to do a search, standard or not?

Audrey and Diane sit down for their cat fight, and dance around their mutual unexpressed love for Jack. Jack appears at the window and stands there long enough to cause deep emotional distress. Satisfied at having played games with Audrey like that, Jack leaves. Audrey runs after him.

As I mentioned last season, the scenes between Audrey and Jack are among the strongest in the show. This was no different.

A woman appears and tells Jack Mr. McGill wants to see him. However, the krazy kaptions says Mr. Buchanan wants to see him. Oops.

Chloe catches Spenser up to no good, and Spenser says he is "setting up a new socket." Ah, sockets. Another favorite in the CTU Technobabble handbook. But, Chloe is also there to have a heart-to-heart. Chloe style, anyway.

Chloe checks out the monitor Spenser was working at and discovers Level 5 is at work. Chloe calls Edgar and gets snippy with him, demanding he tell her what Spenser's clearance because he works for her. Couldn't Edgar reply, well if he works for you why don't you already know his clearance level?

Spenser comes to help get a bad guy through security. The Red Shirts run his bag through the scanner. Nothing untoward is found, naturally. Letting people into the very nerve center of the one of the nation's most important anti-terrorism centers is no big deal. Heck, last year they let a Chinese intelligence agent in, why not some computer repairman.

Spenser warns the bad guy not to screw up the vector counts. C'mon Spense, he's a professional. He knows that. Erp.

I'm wondering if this bad guy is on a suicide mission. Did they find another dedicated flunky like Dumpy Baggage Guy? He's putting together a gun. Is he going to shoot Jack in the heart of CTU and then just expect to walk out?

Back at White House West, Martha sees Evelyn packing a bag and is suspicious. Martha says "I'll get dressed". The krazy kaptions say "I'll getting dressed."

Spenser's FGA is locked. Not sure what that is. It might be more product placement from a company called First Technology.

Edgar sees security come over to nab Spenser, and Edgar says he just got the bulletin. He takes it well. As I mentioned, Edgar probably just thinks oh, he's the mole. Wondered who it was this time. Back to work.

Torture Spenser and make him talk! I'm disappointed. Last season CTU tortured people, even their own employees, at the drop of a hat. They are showing remarkable restraint this time around.

Martha, a.k.a. Catwoman, goes out the window! She's resourceful, I'll give her that. The Secret Service is really going to have to review their security coverage.

Some voice says Tony is awake and wants to talk to Jack. That was quick. The guy has been roasted and through surgery in the last couple hours. He bounces back quick. (update: ah, the bad guy was merely setting a trap. Tony is still out.)

Derek bumps into Jack and says he thought Jack was just "another loser" trying to take advantage of him mom. Another one? How many losers have there been?

Jack goes into CTU Medical, and Tony is out, with a huge patch over his eye. I wonder if he'll have to wear that patch the rest of the seasons, like his neck patch last season.

Ah ha! The doctor is the assassin! Jack and the baddie engage in some CTU-fu, and Jack comes out the victor after the old embedding scissors in the neck trick. We discover the real doctor is stuffed under a bed.

Bill comes in and calmly asks "What happened?" Apparently death struggles in his office aren't enough to get excited about. But, after all the mayhem in CTU Medical last year, I suppose he's used to people dying in there.

Jack says he may have cracked a rib. Those can be mighty painful. We'll see if it affects him for the season, or if he rapidly recovers, like he did from his drug addiction, or from his self-inflicted stab wound.

Spenser starts to realize the enormous world of hurt he's in. He says he thought he was helping Internal Affairs investigate CTU. He says he talked to Walt Cummings. Why would the president's chief of staff be involved personally? Wouldn't he want to distance himself from this plot to help protect himself?

Chloe is a little upset that Spenser bedded her. I wonder if that was part of the deal. Walt tells Spenser, "And I want you to bed a computer geek there, to get information." And Spenser thinks "Cool! Tough job! I'll do it for my country! *snort*" Until he experienced Chloe's winning personality, and then he was begging Walt "please, anything but this! Send me to the Arctic, I'll fight badgers, anything. Just don't make me bed this harpy!"

Jack wants to go after Cummings now. Samwise (or was it Bill) says that can't be done, he's the chief of staff. Jack says though, "I'm not CTU."

Which is quite true. So again I'd question of the wisdom of Samwise giving him Level 2 clearance right off the street. Also, it was this "Jack isn't CTU so he can do the dirty work" thinking that led to the fiasco at the Chinese Consulate last season. Beware CTU, there be dragons down that path.

The episode ends. Another rousing, brisk episode.

And now, here is guest critic Paul Foth. He was moving leaky canisters of nerve gas, and the tremors and seizures stopped only a few minutes ago, and he was finally able to type up this review.


I really wasn't looking forward to this episode, not because of the previews, but because of this Slate interview, in which 24 writer Michael Loceff said things like, "I don't know that torture works, and we don't write it because we think it works," (even though it always seems to work in the show), "I'd say that for every idea you see on the screen, there were five ideas we threw away that were more interesting and less real, and there were five ideas that we threw away that were more real and less interesting," (Is he saying they find it too difficult to make the show interesting and realistic at the same time?), and "The rule, I think, is: Do your homework, learn what there is to learn about the real world, and then when you get in the room, forget it all."

While it's true that, as Peter Suderman writes in this article, "even as the show hemorrhages logical coherence, it bulks up on rocket-fueled suspense," it's also true that as logical coherence goes out the window, so does the quality of the suspense. If we're constantly being yanked out of the story by the willful ignorance of reality, how can we be expected to sink into the story deeply enough that the suspense become truly suspenseful?

That said, I thought this was a pretty good episode. It slowed the action down and got into some of the intrigue Kiefer promised during his Charlie Rose Show appearance a week and a half ago. What I thought particularly neat was the way the mole problem was handled. I'm glad they got it out of the way quickly this season (which isn't to say putting a mole in CTU for like the 94th time was such a great thing to do, or that there isn't another mole we know nothing about yet), and Spenser's situation put a new twist on the concept. We've had moles who worked for the baddies; we had one who was working with Jack (and Tony, if memory serves), but the baddies thought he was working for them; and now with Spenser we've got one who thought he was working for the President, but he was really working for Evil. There was an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune a few months back about Twin Cities writer Vince Flynn. It said he did some consulting with the 24 writers. I wonder whether this was one of his ideas.

So Walt the Mole is Shakes's Chief of Staff (I'm not sure his title was explicitly mentioned before this). I still don't buy that someone who's complicit in the mayhem that's happened thus far is going to get that close to the President in the first place, but at least we've got hints that the folks at CTU don't believe it, either, which means we can at least hope for an attempt at an explanation in a future episode.

Another bit I liked was when Chloe gave Edgar the "can we wait until the national crisis is over before talking about our personal problems?" line. Dare we hope that in addition to being (yet another) example of Chloe being Chloe, this was also the writers telling us they realize they went overboard last season with all of the who's-got-dirt-on-whom nonsense at CTU, and the CTYoopers are going to be more professional this time around? We'll see.

Sticking with Chloe, there was actually a bit of (gasp!) character development after her encounter with Spenser in the computer room. She showed genuine regret that she snapped at him, and realization that she does that a lot. That was a nice touch.

Over at Xanadu--er, the presidential compound--I have to wonder if Cassandra really escaped through the window. We didn't see her crouching in any bushes, so I wouldn't be surprised to find out the chair in the bathtub next to the open window was a ruse and she's hiding in, umm, the medicine cabinet or something. (I could also say that it'd be pretty strange for the Secret Service to completely miss the First Lady climbing out a window, but we have to remember not to think too hard about the obvious.) It looks like Xanadu is where much of next week's action takes place, and that Shakes will see she was right all along, so my guess is that she's going to be in some kind of danger. Walt is going to take her hostage, or she's going to get
cornered by a mountain lion.

One final question: What's going to happen if and when China finds out Jack is still alive?

Number of times Jack says "Now!": 5
Number of times Jack says "No!": 5
Number of times a "protocol" is mentioned: 13
Number of times someone says a variation of "Go!": 5
Number of moles: 2
Approximate Body Count: 24 (plus three rats)

<- 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM ->

Monday, January 23, 2006

A curious incident

Some news from Italy:

Italy's justice minister has formally asked the United States to allow Italian prosecutors to question 22 purported CIA operatives they accuse of kidnapping an Egyptian cleric in 2003 from a Milan street, a Justice Ministry official said Sunday.
The suspects are wanted in Italy for the abduction of Egyptian cleric and terrorist suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, from a Milan street on Feb. 17, 2003. Prosecutors claim he was taken by the CIA to a joint U.S.-Italian air base, flown to Germany and then to Egypt, where he says he was tortured.

The operation was believed part of the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program in which terrorism suspects are transferred to third countries where some allegedly are subjected to torture.

The Italian government has denied prior knowledge of the operation, and prosecutors have said it represented a severe breach of Italian sovereignty that compromised their anti-terrorism efforts.

This was not an operation that covered the CIA in glory. Some rather egregious violations of spycraft, and some top-notch work on the part of Italians, allowed Italian authorites to build a fairly complete picture of how the operation was conducted. Worse, these details made it into the public press.

Say Anything has the text from a recent Chicago Tribune article that recounts the slip ups. You can read it for yourself, but coming a month before the invasion of Iraq, perhaps this was a clue that the CIA's grasp of Iraq's WMD program was less than solid.

To my knowledge, I don't think it's ever been made clear why the CIA wanted Abu Omar.

What is clear is that Milan is a center for Al Qaeda in Europe, and regardless of the bumbling, I would not be at all surprised if the CIA had very good reasons for wanting to pick up Abu Omar. Milan has one of Italy's highest concentrations of Muslims.

Consider the following arrests:

November 29, 2001 - People suspected of recruiting for Al Qaeda are arrested in Milan

The two men arrested were identified as Nabil Benattia, a 35-year-old Tunisian, and Yassine Chekkouri, 35, of Morocco. Their arrests come two weeks after police picked up Abdelhalim Hafed Remadna, 35, of Algeria, as he boarded a train in Milan on Nov. 14. He had phony Italian residency papers and was trying to leave the country.

The three men and an Egyptian fugitive named Abdelkadir Es-Sayed are suspected of membership in a Milan cell and of plotting to produce false documents and recruit fighters to train in bin Laden's Afghan camps.

Es-Sayed was identified as a former preacher at another Milan mosque who was sentenced in Egypt for terrorist activities, Megale said. Prosecutors described him as a key member of the Islamic cell in Italy, with links to Islamic extremists in several countries.

July 12, 2002 - Arrests are made in breaking up an Al Qaeda logistics ring

Police in Milan have arrested nine people, mostly from north Africa, on charges of providing logistical support and false papers to members of Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

The arrests are part of a major crackdown on suspected cells of the network operating in the north of the country.

February 25, 2004 - A plot to bomb the Milan metro is broken up

Italian police have arrested three North Africans suspected of plotting to bomb Milan's metro and a cathedral in the north of the country.

June 8, 2004 - Arrests made in Milan in relation to the Madrid bombings

Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu said one of those detained in Milan was "probably one of the main craftsmen of the Madrid massacre and was preparing other attacks."
Rabei Osman el Sayed Ahmed -- a 32-year-old Egyptian known to investigators as "Mohamed the Egyptian" -- is charged in Italy with belonging to an international terrorism organization.

July 9, 2005 - Many arrests in Milan in reaction to the London bombings

In response to the terrorist attacks on London's mass transportation systems, police in Milan conducted a two-day anti-terror security sweep in and around Milan which netted 142 arrests and the recovery of 3.3 lbs of explosive material. Most of those arrested were illegal immigrants and will be deported from the country.

That's just a taste. This piece has a detailed picture of the terrorist networks in Milan and northern Italy, and places tied to Milan.

Not surprisingly Milan appears to be the base of Italy's extremist network, which has connections to other Islamic radical groups in Europe, specifically in Spain and Germany. The primary focus of the Islamists' activities in Italy appears to have been that of a staging ground for recruiting suicide bombers to conduct attacks against U.S.-led forces in Iraq.

As this article pointed out, there is a whole underground railroad passing through Italy, possibly run with the help of the Italian mafia, that helps terrorists pass from North Africa up into Europe. Milan is a stop along that underground railroad.

According to Italian investigative sources, the Camorra could help Al Qaeda obtain forged documents and weapons for its operatives, who disembark almost daily from ships connecting Italy to the Arab countries of North Africa. In addition, in exchange for substantial cargoes of narcotics, these operatives are moved through Camorra's connections from Naples to Rome, Bologna, Milan and eventually to other major European cities such as Paris, London, Berlin and Madrid.

Whatever the mistakes made by the CIA in abducting Abu Omar, it is highly likely they had picked a valid target.

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

* Visiting Damascus, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met with leaders of Palestinian terror groups, including Islamic Jihad and Hamas, and expressed support for their cause. Israeli Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz said Iran funds Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad to the tune of $ 100 million dollars a year. Of little surprise was Syria's pronouncement of support for Iran's nuclear activities.

* Speaking at the Herzliya Conference opening session on Saturday night, Israeli National Security Council head Giora Eiland told audience that Israel was more concerned about Lebanon than Syria, and worried al Qaeda would exploit the weak central government there for its benefit. Following Eiland, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz spoke, and vowed that Israel would not accept a nuclear armed Iran.

* According to several anonymous diplomats, Iran may have received three shipments of advanced P-2 centrifuges in 1997, a charge contrary to what Tehran has reported to the IAEA. This past weekend, Iran was still insisting they wanted a compromise in the nuclear standoff, while it looks as though Russia wants the language of a draft resolution against Iran to be softened and China presents formidable opposition.

Other topics today include: Hezbollah interview; Assad accuses Israel of killing Arafat; Poll ahead of Palestinian election; Bombing in Tel Aviv; Islamic Jihad commander captured; Iranian foreign assets; Iranian human shields; Saudi reeducation efforts; WMD terror attack a "question of time"; Gonzales dossier; Eco terrorists; Threat on Alaskan pipeline; Hispanic group hails bin Laden; landmines in Columbia; More info on strike in Damadola; Peace talks urged in Sri Lanka; Counterterrorism in Bangladesh; explosions at Russian pipelines; increased violence in Afghanistan; Attacks in Nepal; Fears of coup in Philippines; Report documents abuses in Timor by Indonesian army; Japan calls for South Korea to mend ties; Bombing in southern Thailand; Indonesian national vision; al Qaeda related raids in Albania; Weapons smuggling between Algeria and Morocco; US Navy intercepts Somalian pirates; and more.

Iran & the Middle East

* The Secretary General of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, was interviewed by Ghassan Charbel of al-Hayat, and spoke about the crisis between Beirut and Damascus while calling for Arab intervention. Jordan's King Abdullah is calling on all parties to cooperate with the ongoing Mehlis investigation into the death of Rafik Hariri.

* Syrian President Bashar Assad accused Israel of killing Palestinian chairman Yassir Arafat, in a speech he gave to Arab lawyers in Damascus. Israel responded by calling it a "delusional accusation."

* According to Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Hamas recognizes the existence of Israel and is willing to engage in negotiations. Olivier Guitta challenged that view by pointing out that Hamas is still calling for "the end of the Zionist entity."

* Michael Totten looked at Syria's exiled ex-Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam and reminds us that "The Enemy of Your Enemy Is Sometimes Your Enemy".

* A poll taken on Friday among Palestinians shows a close race between Hamas and Fatah ahead of this Wednesday's parliamentary elections. In an overall poll conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center, Fatah was preferred by 32.3 percent of respondents, while 30.2 favored Hamas. In Gaza it was virtually deadlocked, with Fatah scoring 36.7 percent while Hamas came in at 36.4 percent. Michael Kraft asks if Hamas is going to make Palestine the next designated terrorist state, and a victory for Hamas could present a dilemma and alter U.S. policy towards the Palestinians.

* The Jerusalem Brigade of Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv on Thursday that wounded 20 people. The bombers was identified as 22-year-old Sami Abdel Hafez Antar from the West Bank city of Nablus. Several members of Fatah praised the attack, while the Israeli Defense Minister accused Iran and Syria of being directly behind the attack.

* On Sunday morning in Silat a-Harta, IDF soldiers captured Hassan Jardaat, a senior Islamic Jihad commander that headed a northern Samaria terror cell responsible for a number of deadly attacks.

* On Saturday reports indicated that Iran had begun moving foreign assets to an undisclosed location. On Sunday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi denied that such transfers were taking place.

* Borrowing a page from their former nemesis Saddam Hussein, Iran is deploying children to act as human shields at Iranian nuclear facilities.

* Crossroads Arabia highlights Saudi reeducation efforts of extremists and the two "large scale projects" underway.

America Domestic Security & the America's

* The U.S. has no plans to raise the security threat level because of a new tape of Osama bin Laden saying al-Qaida is planning attacks, counterterrorism officials said today. The officials said they have seen no specific or credible intelligence to indicate an upcoming al-Qaida attack on the U.S.

* "I rate the probability of terror groups using (weapons of mass destruction) as very high," U.S. State Department counterterrorism coordinator Henry Crumpton was quoted as saying by the Daily Telegraph newspaper. "It is simply a question of time." Crumpton said a biological attack was potentially the most troubling scenario.

* The Bush administration presented its most detailed defense of warrantless eavesdropping Thursday, expanding on arguments made by the President, Vice President, and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. In a 42-page legal dossier sent to congressional leaders, Gonzales argues that Bush has the authority to order the warrantless wiretapping under the Constitution and the post-Sept. 11 congressional resolution granting him broad power to fight terrorism.

* The nation's top law enforcement officials warned today that al Qaeda may have plotters already inside the United States. "We have to assume that there are persons out there that want to attack us," said FBI director Robert Mueller.

* Eleven people were indicted in a series of arsons, claimed by the radical groups Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front, in five Western states, the Justice Department said Friday. The 65-count indictment said the suspects are responsible for 17 incidents in California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming, including sabotaging a high-tension power line, in a conspiracy that dates back to 1996.

* Jihad Watch links to an article in the Anchorage Daily News saying "a recent posting on a Web site purportedly affiliated with al-Qaida urges attacks against the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and Valdez tanker dock."

* An Arizona doctor with connections to what federal authorities allege is an Islamic terrorist organization may never be allowed to return to the United States, his attorney said Thursday. Nadeem Hassan and his wife, Amber, were detained at New York's Kennedy International Airport by U.S. Customs officials on Wednesday because their applications for a green card — which allows permanent residency — had been denied days earlier.

* A radical Hispanic group that claims the southwestern United States belongs to Mexico is hailing elusive al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden as the "Pancho Villa of Islam."

* Colombian rebels planted landmines that killed four peasants, including a child, earlier this month in a farming community near a coca eradication project, Vice President Francisco Santos said on Friday.

Russia & South/Central Asia

* An al-Qaida explosives and chemical weapons expert and a relative of the terror network's No. 2 leader were among four top operatives believed killed in a U.S. missile strike in Pakistan last week, Pakistani security officials said Thursday. ThreatsWatch provides additional information on those believed killed. The bodies have not been recovered, however.

* Ayman al-Zawahri, the apparent target of the Jan. 13 attack in Pakistan, met his deputy, Abu Farraj al-Libbi, in Damadola early last year, a security official said on condition of anonymity, adding that Libyan-born Al-Libbi told Pakistani interrogators of the meeting after his capture in May 2005.

* An article by Akram Gizabi at The Jamestown Foundation looks at the Banjaur agency, and why Al Qaeda might find sanctuary there. The Banjaur agency is the location of Damadola, the village that was the target of the Jan. 13 attack aimed at Zawahiri.

* Pakistani authorities arrested a suspected militant with links to al Qaida operatives who were targeted in a US attack last week, an official said. The man, who was not identified, was picked up in Damadola, the remote hamlet where US missiles struck on January 13, the government official said.

* Sri Lanka's political parties have urged the government to restart peace talks with Tamil Tiger rebels. In a rare show of unity, 15 parties, including the ruling and main opposition parties, met to back talks amid fears of a return to violence. On Thursday, three policemen and one civilian were killed in an explosion in the town of Batticaloa, with 25 others injured.

* An operation to find two suspected Islamic militants said to be hiding in Bangladesh's western Kushtia district has been called off, police say. The hunt ended because Abdur Rahman and Bangla Bhai from the banned Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) could not be found. Police say they have detained 10 people in the operation. There was some question as to how the JMB leaders escaped the search.

* An article by Andrew Holt at The Jamestown Foundation looks at the growing Islamic threat in Bangladesh. The article quantifies the threat and touches on the government's response.

* 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 has eight items, including one on Abu Omar al-Saif, "the mufti of Arab fighters in Chechnya", who was killed last month.

* A group of unidentified attackers killed two people and wounded two more in a village in the North Caucasus Republic of Ingushetia Friday, the Ingush Interior Ministry said.

* Explosions hit pipelines running through southern Russia early Sunday, cutting the supply of natural gas to the Caucasus countries of Georgia and Armenia during a cold snap. An explosion also hit an electricity transmission tower west of North Ossetia. In recent years, explosions have damaged pipelines in Russia's turbulent North Caucasus region in blasts investigators have ruled sabotage. Criminal groups as well as militants with ties to Chechnya's separatist rebels have been suspected.

* A paper from the ICPVTR (available here in PDF) entitled Afghanistan and the Globalisation of Terrorist Tactics looks at recent developments in that country, including the increase in suicide bombings, and the "first-ever published video showing the beheading of an Afghan hostage in the hands of terrorist cell."

* An article by Joseph Button at the CDI looks at the question of whether "concern over the ‘resurging Taliban threat’ in Afghanistan is legitimate." The death toll of all war related deaths in Afghanistan in 2005 was the highest since 2001.

* In an article about the increase of Iraq-style violence in Afghanistan, author Peter Bergen said he was surprised that neither the Americans nor the Europeans in Afghanistan really know whether Afghans or foreign fighters are behind the attacks.

* Canadian troops and Afghan police averted a potentially deadly car bomb, working through the night to defuse a vehicle packed with enough explosives to cause what a military spokesman called "a catastrophe." The small car, filled with 120-millimetre mortar shells and dozens of smaller explosives, was found abandoned on a street in Kandahar by the Afghan National Police on Wednesday afternoon.

* Maoists waging a 10-year armed insurgency in Nepal bombed a television repeater tower late on Wednesday in Heated, about 80 kilometers south of Kathmandu, media reports said. According to reports not immediately confirmed officially the television tower was destroyed, preventing the reception of Nepal Television signals in many parts of south-central Nepal.

* Suspected Maoist rebels killed five police and seriously wounded three when they attacked two police checkposts in mid-western Nepal. "The rebels gunned down three policemen at Jamuniya checkpost along the Nepal-India border, and two at B.P. Chowk in Nepalgunj," said an official at Kathmandu police headquarters who asked to remain anonymous.

* Twenty-three people have been killed in a clash in Nepal, officials say. Six security forces and 17 Maoist rebels were found dead following an attack on an army patrol on Saturday night, the army said.

* In Bihar, India, the police were put on alert in view of a communique from the Union Home ministry based on intelligence reports that jihadi mercenaries crossing over from Pakistan into the country were likely to target vital installations in the state on the eve of or on Republic Day.

* Following specific intelligence inputs of a possible terror attack in the Capital on Republic Day, Delhi has been turned into a virtual fortress. There are specific inputs that point out that the threat of Pakistan based terrorist outfits targeting the Capital on Republic Day may indeed be real.

* In Bangalore, India, the City Police have arrested two more extremists belonging to the Lashkar-e-Taiba on charges of hatching a conspiracy and waging a war against the Government of India taking the total number of extremists arrested to four after the December 28 attack on the Indian Institute of Science here in which an IIT Professor was gunned down.

* In Bangalore, India, police have seized a cache of explosives from the two Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists, arrested on Friday night in connection with the Dec. 28 terror attack at the Indian Institute of Science.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* The Filipino government is warning of a potential coup in the next three months from communist rebels supported by disenfranchised members of the military. Four military officers recently escaped detention and are urging fellow soldiers to take action against a "bogus regime".

* East Timorese President Xanana Gusmao has presented UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan with a long-awaited report documenting atrocities committed in his country under Indonesia's 24-year occupation. The 2000-page report, compiled by the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation (CAVR), established that at least 102,800 Timorese, roughly 10 per cent of the territory's current population, died as a result of the Indonesian occupation. In response the Indonesian chief of the army has denied claims made in the report.

* Japanese Ambassador to South Korea, Shotaro Oshima, said his country welcomes the economic rise of China but harbors concerns over their geopolitical intentions. Oshima called for Seoul and Tokyo to rebuild strained ties, in order to counter any potential security threat from China.

* Australian authorities arrested Dragan Vasiljkovic in Sydney, accused by a Croatian court of ordering the torture and murder of soldiers and civilians as a Serb paramilitary leader during the 1990s. Vasiljkovic, a Serb-Australian, has been living in Perth where he worked as a golf instructor.

* On Friday a 5 kg bomb exploded near a mobile phone antenna in the southern Thai province of Narathiwat, killing one man. The attacks follow a recent pattern of Islamic insurgents targeting the mobile telephone infrastructure.

* Indonesia has unveiled a new program titled "Wawasan Kebangsaan" (National Vision) aimed at promoting patriotism and religious tolerance at the 15,000 Islamic boarding schools across the nation.


* Authorities in Albania raided an apartment in Kukes that belonged to an Arab with suspected ties to al Qaeda. Abdul Latif Saleh is accused of receiving 496,000 Euros from Osama bin Laden to establish a terrorist group in Albania. Saleh was also business partners with Saudi national Yasin Qadi, who enjoys the designation of "global terrorist" from the U.S. State Department.

* The European Union has warned Serbia that their moves towards eventual EU membership could be jeopardized if they do not hand over war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic. According to the chief UN war crimes investigator, Mladic is in Serbia and being protected by the army.

* Following the leak of a letter written by British foreign minister Jack Straw, Prime Minister Blair is facing increased pressure to reveal more information on the CIA practices of transporting terror suspects through the UK.

* John Rosenthal looks at German hostage Susanne Osthoff, and recent reports indicating that she was in possession of ransom money paid by the German government for her release, at the time she was liberated.


* An opinion piece at Dar Al Hayat addresses the border region between Algeria and Morocco, and charges that weapons are being smuggled between the countries.

* African leaders meeting at the African Union summit this week must act to improve protection of civilians in Darfur and should not elect the Sudanese president as head of the African Union, Human Rights Watch said in two documents published today. Sudanese President Omar El Bashir is a candidate for the presidency of the pan-African organization which is due to rotate to an East African country in 2006.

* An article from TMCnet looks at the mission of the 1,500 US troops in the Combined Joint Task Force in the Horn of Africa.

* A commentary by Dustin Dehez at the National Ledger says "one of the reasons why Africa deserves international attention is actually the war on terror. For international terrorist networks Africa is a main target; it serves as a safe haven and provides an effective financial basis with its large networks of informal economies."

* The U.S. Navy boarded an apparent pirate ship in the Indian Ocean and detained 26 men for questioning, the Navy said Sunday. The 16 Indians and 10 Somali men were aboard a traditional dhow that was chased and seized Saturday by the U.S. guided missile destroyer USS Winston S. Churchill, said Lt. Leslie Hull-Ryde of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command in Bahrain.

* Morocco's government denied reports Saturday that the country had taken in al-Qaida suspects for secret interrogations by the CIA. A Moroccan weekly, Le Journal Hebdomadaire, reported Saturday that two private planes had landed at the Sale military base near the capital, Rabat, in late December and early January, carrying suspected al-Qaida members sent by the U.S. intelligence agency. "We categorically deny this information," Interior Minister Mustapha Sahel said.

* The Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera from Qatar is to set up a news bureau in Zimbabwe, state radio reported on Thursday. State radio quoted Al-Jazeera director of news Steve Clark saying the broadcaster planned to open at least eight offices in Africa alongside those already established in Egypt, Ivory Coast and Kenya.

The Global War

* Daniel Bynan says that killing terrorist leaders works, and offers some lessons from Israel's experiences. The 2 key lessons? Capture is more valuable if it's possible, and the policy needs to be clear and public.

* A United Nations committee is urging nations to add more names to the list of individuals and companies subjected to sanctions because of association with al Qaeda and the Taliban.

* The Belmont Club has an interesting read titled Suitcase Nukes, that looks at the nuclear nightmare scenario in the context of population and damage.

* Ever wondered how al Qaeda sends terror tapes to media outlets, primarily al Jazeera, without being caught?

* After being referenced in a audiotape last week by Osama bin Laden, William Blum's Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower leaped from a ranking of 209,000 to number 30 on Amazon. Blum reacted by saying "I was glad. I knew it would help the book's sales and I was not bothered by who it was coming from. If he shares with me a deep dislike for the certain aspects of US foreign policy, then I'm not going to spurn any endorsement of the book by him. I think it's good that he shares those views and I'm not turned off by that."

* US leaders are expected to call for more intensive efforts by Pakistan to flush out Osama bin laden and his number two from their sanctuary in meetings with Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz here this week. Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf, who is facing an increasing litany of tribulations at home, has sent Aziz, among his most trusted lieutenants, to meet with President George W. Bush and other leaders. Counterterrorism is expected to be on the agenda.

* The Counterterrorism Blog says an audio tape of Ayman al-Zawahri that appeared on a website on Friday is an "old tape". Evan Kohlmann links to excerpts from the tape. How effective is the al Qaeda propaganda machine?

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, January 22, 2006

Our Sudetenland

The Wehrmacht that appeared at the border of Poland on September 1, 1939, did not materialize out of thin air. Their march had begun years before.

It is only one of the tragedies of World War II that the growing Nazi threat was a gradual, visible process. There are unmistakable, luminescent dots along the way that if connected, might have prompted nations to act earlier. How many millions of lives might have been saved if Hitler's Germany had been dealt with in 1936, when German troops went back into the Rhineland?

To be sure, many did connect the dots. But for understandable reasons, chief among them a desire not to repeat the carnage of World War I, nations sought other options in order to avoid war.

When Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich in 1938, he waved that piece of paper in part out of a sense of relief, believing he had found the morsel that could assuage the hungry beast. Germany's intentions were becoming frighteningly clear by that point. Chamberlain believed (hoped?) that Germany could be satisfied with the Sudetenland, and that other signs of Germany's aggression really did not mean what a reasonable person could only conclude they meant.

Here are some of those dots, presented in a timeline that with the hindsight of history makes one wonder how anyone could fail to see where that trail ended.

July 29, 1921 - Hitler becomes leader of the Nazi Party.

November 8-9, 1923 - The Beer Hall Putsch. Hitler and the Nazis plotted to force the Bavarian government to accept Hitler as their leader. Hitler fired a pistol shot into the ceiling. The attempt failed, and Hitler was put in prison.

July 18, 1925 - Mein Kampf was published. Written while Hitler was in prison. Among other things, the book discusses superior and inferior races.

September 14, 1930 - In a General Election, the Nazi Party, spurred on by severe economic problems, becomes the second largest party in Germany.

January 30, 1933 - Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany. By this point, Hitler had for a long time been saying that Germany should rip up the Versailles Treaty, and argued that Germany should return to its former might.

February 27, 1933 - the Reichstag burns. Civil liberties are suspended.

July 14, 1933 - a law passes making the Nazi Party the only legal party

June 30, 1934 - the "Night of the Long Knives". Political enemies are eliminated, and the German Army is effectively tied to Hitler.

August 19, 1934 - Hitler becomer Fuhrer of Germany

March 16, 1935 - Hitler reinstates conscription, in violation of the Versailles Treaty

March 7, 1936 - German troops reoccupy the Rhineland, in violation of the Versailles Treaty

March 12-13, 1938 - Germany annexes Austria, German troops enter Austria.

September 30, 1938 - Chamberlain gets his piece of paper from Hitler at Munich

October 15, 1938 - German troops take the Sudetenland

November 9, 1938 - "Night of Broken Glass". A widespread, coordinated attack on Jews.

March 15-16, 1939 - German troops take the rest of Czechoslovakia in violation of the Munich accord

August 23, 1939 - Germany and the Soviet Union sign their Non-Aggression Pact

September 1, 1939 - Germany invades Poland, and World War II begins.

I mention all this because I fear that in Iran, today, we are witnessing the rise of another malignant power, one that has expressed and exhibited aggressive intentions. I fear that we will try to find our own Sudetenland, a way to pacify the Iranian regime, and hope they really don't mean what they say. I fear by failing to deal with this threat now, we may be opening the door to a greater threat in the future.

And what have they said? I'll present another timeline of recent developments in Iran. This timelinen could start in 1979 with the Revolution and proceed to the present, highlighting Iran's support for terrorism along the way, but for brevity I'll focus on the recent past.

January 30, 2002 - In his State of the Union address, President Bush includes Iran in the "Axis of Evil".

March 2005 - Dr. Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, admits he gave nuclear technology to Iran. Questions remain as to whether he also gave enriched uranium to Iran.

June 2005 - Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, mayor of Tehran, wins a convincing victory in the election and becomes President.

September 2005 - Ahmadinejad addresses the UN. Later he says someone in his entourage said "When you began with the words 'In the name of God'... I saw a light coming, surrounding you and protecting you to the end [of the speech]." Ahmadinejad then said "I felt it myself, too, that suddenly the atmosphere changed and for 27-28 minutes the leaders could not blink. I am not exaggerating...because I was looking. All the leaders were puzzled, as if a hand held them and made them sit. They had their eyes and ears open for the message from the Islamic Republic."

October 2005 - Ahmadinejad says Israel should be "wiped off the map"

October 2005 - Ahmadinejad says "'Is it possible for us to witness a world without America and Zionism?' But you had best know that this slogan and this goal are attainable, and surely can be achieved."

December 2005 - Russia says it has agreed to sell surface-to-air missiles (for defense against air attacks) to Iran.

December 2005 - Ahmadinejad said in public that the Holocaust was a myth.

January 2006 - Daniel Pipes writes that Ahmadinejad may view himself as one who can help prepare the way for the return of the Mahdi, the Twelfth Imam. Some believe the Mahdi can only return after a global conflagration, and Ahmadinejad may see nuclear weapons as a way to bring that about.

January 10, 2006 - Iran breaks the UN seals on the Natanz nuclear plant and resumes research.

January 20, 2006 - Ahmadinejad says the Middle East conflict has become "the locus of the final war" between Muslims and the West. (HT: In The Bullpen)

January 19-20, 2006
- Ahmadinejad goes to Syria to meet with Bashar Assad. Ahmadinejad also meets with terrorist organizations like Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah. On Jan 19, a suicide bomber from Islamic Jihad blows himself up in Israel, but fortunately only kills himself. The timing, to me, seems a deliberate endorsement of terrorism.

The regime in control of Iran is a brutal, bloody one, and is persistent in its support of terrorism. It has also been relentless in its quest for nuclear weapons. There are some troubling parallels between the two timelines I've presented. Each features driven leaders who want to put their countries in a position of power, and are not afraid to start wars to do it.

Anne Applebaum points us to a website that tracks executions and brutality in Iran. (HT: Mark in Mexico) Reading it, you can't help but be reminded of the Nazis and their brutal tactics.

How much more do we need to see before we recognize that an Iran armed with nuclear weapons would be unacceptable? Can we act now, before the opportunity slips away from us? Of all people, the Europeans, who for two or three years have pursued diplomatic talks that only served to buy time for Iran, should recognize the dangers in trying to appease dictators. Do they not remember the lesson of the Sudetenland? Do we remember that lesson?

Chamberlain signed his paper, and Hitler took the rest of Czechoslovakia anyway.

Europe tries to get Iran to sign a piece of paper, but Iran's intention to get nuclear weapons anyway is clear. It's as if the Europeans are casting about, trying to find the Sudetenland the Iranians really want, and that Iran's current aggressiveness is simply a bargaining tactic to help them achieve this as yet unstated objective. Surely, the Europeans think, Iran doesn't really want to drive the world to the brink of a serious crisis.

Hitler did not stop at Czechoslovakia. Will Iran stop at merely possessing nuclear weapons? Do we believe them when they say they want a world without America and Israel?

Our leaders are facing some tough choices. As citizens, we need to remember the lessons of history, and we should be prepared to support our leaders in the difficult task of confronting a murderous regime, if we are once again called upon to be the protectors of freedom.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Something to consider

Recent reports say that the Jan 13 attack on the Pakistani village of Damadola did indeed claim lives of several high level Al Qaeda operatives, even though it appears to have missed the biggest prize, Al Qaeda #2 Zawahiri.

As Dan Darling puts it:

I have a Weekly Standard piece on the death of Abu Khabab coming out pretty soon, but for those who are interested here are all of the al-Qaeda leaders who have been listed as being killed in Damadola at present according to media reports:

Abu Khabab al-Masri (WMD committee head)
Abd Rahman al-Masri al-Maghribi (al-Zawahiri's son-in-law, al-Qaeda commander)
Abu Ubeidah al-Masri (Kunar operations chief)
Marwan al-Suri (Waziristan operations chief)
Khalid Habib (southeastern Afghanistan commander)
Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi (southwestern Afghanistan commander)

Add to that Maulana Faqir Mohammed and Maulana Liaqat (local leaders of the Tehrik Nifaz-e-Sha'riah Mohammed, apparently) and it looks like that was quite a dinner they had planned. I would have settled for nailing Khabab alone, but this looks like the biggest single decapitation strike on the al-Qaeda leadership since Tora Bora.

One of the early questions was what put US and Pakistani intelligence on to this village in the first place. Today there was an interesting report that partly answers that question:

Al-Qaeda's second-in-command met his deputy last year at a house hit in a recent U.S. missile strike in which at least four of the terror network's operatives may have died, Pakistani intelligence officials said Saturday.

Ayman al-Zawahri, the apparent target of the Jan. 13 attack, met his deputy, Abu Farraj al-Libbi, in Damadola early last year, a security official said on condition of anonymity, adding that Libyan-born Al-Libbi told Pakistani interrogators of the meeting after his capture in May 2005.

"His statement was later verified, and we were able to confirm that al-Zawahri visited Damadola," the official said. "We have intelligence reports that Ayman al-Zawahri visited the house of one Bakhtpur Khan months before what happened last week."

Al-Libbi was another significant success, and here we find that he provided Pakistani interrogators with information that made Damadola a place worth watching.

I note this to ask the following question. Do you think al-Libbi talked because of the soothing, gentle ministrations of Pakistani intelligence, or do you think al-Libbi was, uh, vigorously encouraged to talk?

In the past few months I had a number of posts (here and here, for instance) describing some intelligence successes that the Coalition Forces chose to tell us about. Many of those captured were in the hands of Iraqi security forces. Same question. Do you think those terrorists provided the information they did, information that led to other captures, simply because their Iraqi captors asked nicely?

The issue of torture is not one that should be dismissed lightly. It is worth adhering to some moral standards. I am not advocating that we start ripping off fingernails and murdering children before their parents' eyes.

But, in this war on terror, some very bad people have been captured or killed because some other very bad people were put in some uncomfortable situations. Is it right? Is it wrong? Is it fighting fire with fire?

Part of the debate does involve defining just what is torture, and what is not. This Boston Globe article sums up past debates on this point.

Let us just keep in mind though. We face an enemy that doesn't bat an eyelash in murdering innocent men, women and children. We must not become our enemy, but we must fight them.

Friday, January 20, 2006

The devil's servants

On Thursday, there was another bombing in Israel, this one at a Tel Aviv restaurant. Fortunately, only the bomber was killed, no great loss to the world.

Israeli officials said that only the 22-year-old bomber died in the blast, which occurred just before 4 p.m. inside a restaurant popular with immigrant workers near the city's old bus station. Israeli police said only a portion of the bomber's explosives detonated, probably sparing lives.

The radical Palestinian group Islamic Jihad asserted responsibility for the bombing in a videotape released to media outlets shortly after the attack, the first in Tel Aviv since February.

On Friday, Israel accused Syria and Iran of planning and funding the attack.

Sharon aide Raanan Gissin told Reuters Israel had "ample, concrete evidence" that the Tel Aviv bombing, for which the Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility, was bankrolled from Tehran and planned in Damascus. The bombing injured 30 people.

Gissin said he could not reveal the evidence. Israel has often made similar accusations, noting that Islamic Jihad has offices in Damascus.

Gissin's comments echoed similar accusations by Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz to Israeli newspapers.

The Haaretz daily reported that Mofaz said Israel had "decisive proof that the attack in Tel Aviv was a direct result of the Axis of Terror that operates between Iran and Syria."

For my money, Israeli intelligence is the best in the region. One can only surmise how Israel obtained such specific proof.

Israel will be understandably reluctant to reveal their sources and methods, so Israel may be reluctant to pursue Syria and Iran in a venue like the UN. However, Israel has far more effective means of going after those who plot these attacks.

In a troubling parallel story, one that has implications beyond just this attack, on Thursday Iranian President Ahmadinejad began a visit to Syria, his first meeting there with Bashar Assad.

(In November, Iranian representatives went on a goodwill tour of sorts to several nations. The contacts included Syria, and were an attempt to shore up support for the current crisis over Iran's nuclear program.)

Two of the most ardent supporters of terrorism on the planet, and the day they begin their meeting, one of their client groups, Islamic Jihad, carries out this bombing. This is a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. It is disturbing when heads of state are so open in their support for terrorism, when they don't even take pains to make sure there are no attacks during a state visit.

Today, Ahmadinejad even met with leaders of radical Palestinian groups, including Islamic Jihad and Hamas, and pledged to support them.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met in Damascus with the leaders of 10 radical Palestinian movements including Islamic Jihad and Hamas.

Ahmadinejad said he "strongly supports the Palestinian people's struggle" during the meeting, according to Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) official Maher Taher Friday.

Taher said the militant chiefs pledged to Ahmadinejad that the "Palestinian resistance and struggle would continue" against Israel.

"We expressed our solidarity with Syria, which is under pressure due to its national positions, as well as with Iran which has the right to possess nuclear technology for peaceful purposes," he added.

Islamic Jihad chief Abdullah Ramadan Shala, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal and PFLP-GC leader Ahmed Jibril were among those at the meeting, Taher said.

This is a defiant stance, a declaration of Iran and Syria's commitment to terrorism.

Israel is well aware of the threat, and with Iran's determined push for nuclear weapons (combined with Ahmadinejad's expressed desire to wipe Israel off the map), one can only the imagine the talks that are going on behind closed doors on how best to respond.

For its part, the United States cannot sit back and say it's merely a Palestinian problem. This aggressive support for terrorism will not leave us alone, either, and we'd best be prepared to deal with it.

Tick tick tick...

Shameless prostimotion

Power Line helped publicize with this post the story of three Algerians arrested in Italy before Christmas. The group was suspected of planning attacks in the United States.

Power Line's point was how so little of this story had played in the mainstream media. The post referred to this Redstate post, too.

Since then, others have referred to the story. For instance, The Lunch Counter, The Anchoress, Ace of Spades, ebenezer, Professor Namewithheld, Absolutely American, The End Zone, SoCalPundit, In The Bullpen, Real Clear Politics, The Zero Point, Never Yet Melted, A Time For Choosing, SarcastiPundit, Right Wing Nut House, Release the Hounds, and others.

I bring it up to point out that in our December 26 Winds of War Briefing, my briefing co-author C.S. Scott included an item on this story. It's the first one under the Europe topic.

So, if you keep up with the Briefings, you would've known about this long before the rest of the blogosphere picked up on it. Read the Briefing for all the latest news from around the world on the war against terrorism.

Also, C.S. Scott is part of the excellent blog The Security Watchtower. He graciously invited me to crosspost there from time to time. Yesterday I put my first crosspost there, my post on three current conflicts in Africa.

If you're interested in national and world security, the war on terrorism, defense-related issues and the like, you should be reading the Security Watchtower.

Aiding and abetting?

Osama bin Laden poked his pointy snout out of his rat hole the other day and released an audio tape with yet another of his Tales from Beyond.

For the intrepid reader, Walid Phares has the message in Arabic, with translation, over at the Counterterrorism Blog.

One point of bin Laden's message caught my eye in particular. The Becaved One says this (from the BBC text):

However, what prompted me to speak are the repeated fallacies of your President Bush in his comment on the outcome of the US opinion polls, which indicated that the overwhelming majority of you want the withdrawal of the forces from Iraq, but he objected to this desire and said that the withdrawal of troops would send a wrong message to the enemy.
Based on the above, we see that Bush's argument is false. However, the argument that he avoided, which is the substance of the results of opinion polls on withdrawing the troops, is that it is better not to fight the Muslims on their land and for them not to fight us on our land.

I ask again of the anti-war Left, does it not trouble you that your active opposition to the US prosecution of the war on terror resonates with Osama bin flipping Laden?

Does it not trouble you that the fact your desire to harm your political opponents in any way possible trumps any rational assessment of the need to defend ourselves gives reason for hope to the likes of Osama bin flipping Laden?

Honestly, enough nicey-nicey. I am going to start questioning the patriotism of the anti-war Left.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Conflicts in Africa

I first did a post here on various conflicts throughout Africa. That post provided some general background on a number of countries.

In this post I'll take a closer look at recent violence in a few specific regions.

Ivory Coast

Protests erupted Monday as hundreds of people loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo took to the streets after a UN-back international mediation team recommended that the mandate of the parliament not be renewed. The parliament is controlled by the president's supporters, and the recommendation was seen as a move against the president.

UN troops have been attacked, and Wednesday four people were killed.

Olusegun Obasanjo, the president of Nigeria, is also the current chair of the African Union. Obasanjo went to Ivory Coast Wednesday to try and help end the unrest. A UN official called the violence orchestrated, and hoped Obasanjo could help renew Ivory Coast's committment to the peace process agreed to with the help of the African Union and France in 2003.


There has been a significant increase lately in violence in the oil-producing Niger River Delta region. Militants have been attacking oil producing facilities and companies.

On December 22, following two pipeline explosions, President Obasanjo ordered the region to a state of alert.

There have been fears that violence in the region would increase after the arrest of Mujahid Dokubo-Asari last September. Asari is the leader of the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force (NDPVF), the most prominent militant group in the region.

In recent weeks, there have been kidnappings. There have been subsequent attacks on pipelines. Shell Oil platforms have been attacked. There have been attacks on vessels offshore.

There are fears the increasing numbers of troops in the region could escalate the violence, and oil workers fear for their safety.

Oil companies are considering pulling out of the region because of the violence. The unrest could certainly have an effect on the price of oil.


The unrest in Sudan's Darfur region is spilling over into Chad. There was already some tension between the countries, as Chad accuses Sudan of harboring Chadian rebels.

In December, armed rebels attacked the town of Adre, and Chad said it killed several hundred of them and pursued them into Sudan. In strong language a few days later, Chad said it was in "a state of war" with Sudan. Chad also accused Sudan of trying to draw it into the Darfur conflict.

There was an attack on African Union troops in Darfur in early January, and Chad and Sudan each blamed the other.

As tensions grow, there are reports young men in Chad are being conscripted and forced to take up arms.

Libya has proposed African Union troops be deployed on the Chad-Sudan border to separate the two sides.

Their bows cannot be broken soon enough

The wicked plot against the righteous and gnash their teeth at them; but the Lord laughs at the wicked, for he knows their day is coming.

The wicked draw the sword and bend the bow to bring down the poor and needy, to slay those whose ways are upright.

But their swords will pierce their own hearts, and their bows will be broken.

Psalms 37:12-15

Wednesday was a bad day in Iraq.

Baghdad ambush

Insurgents mounted a major ambush in Baghdad, killing up to 10 people and kidnapping one and possibly two African engineers in a second coordinated attack in the capital in as many days.

Roadside Bomb Kills Two Americans in Iraq

A roadside bomb hit a convoy carrying a U.S. security team near the southern city of Basra on Wednesday, killing two American civilians and seriously wounding a third, the U.S. Embassy said.

Violence against Iraqis

And a group of gunmen attacked a police station in Iskandariyah, about 30 miles south of Baghdad, a spokesman for the Babil provincial police force said. Two officers were killed and four were wounded in the ensuing firefight, police Capt. Muthanna Ahmed said. The police captured three of the gunmen, Ahmed said, adding that one was a foreigner.

More than half of the day's death toll came from the less dramatic but nearly daily discovery of Iraqis who have been bound and shot in the head, then left in deserted areas to be found by police.

Baghdad police found seven people, believed to be Shiites, who had been executed in the Wahdah neighborhood, said Nuaimi, the Interior Ministry spokesman. He said he believed that the victims had been kidnapped from the same area a few days earlier.

In the town of Nibaei in northern Iraq, police found the bodies of 25 others, a police spokesman there said. A witness who had escaped the massacre told police that armed men had set up checkpoints and scanned the identity cards of passersby with the goal of killing police officers and other government employees, said Lt. Raed Mahdi Khazraji of the Salahuddin provincial police force.

It is folly to believe that those who murder civilians, those who murder children, and those who drag people from their cars and shoot them by the road, can ever be dissuaded from their violence through talk, and tender words.

And so, on these days our spirits often flag, for it seems like holding back this violence is like holding back the sea.

But let's remind ourselves of the good, of the progress that is undeniably there. The enemy's barbaric acts ought to renew the fire in our belly.

Like the Psalmist, we may not always understand the Good Lord's ways, and wonder why these evil people are loose among the innocent.

Violence is a plague worldwide. Numerous conflicts throughout Africa, the terrorism in Iraq, the terrorists in Syria and among the Palestinians, killers in the Caucasus, Iran's growing menace, the Islamic extremists in Bangladesh, more violence in Sri Lanka, the Maoists in Nepal, rebels in Columbia, militants plotting throughout Europe, and on and on.

It is the burden of those who stand for good to stand in the way of those who would do evil. Perserverance is required of us. There is only darkness if we fail.

There will be better days.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Wheels within wheels

Two gunfighters warily take to the street and face each other. What compels them to put themselves in this situation where the death of your opponent is the only victory, and your own death is the only defeat?

Honor, perhaps a desire to prove one's manhood, a fear of being branded a coward.

Each feels pushed into the street by forces they don't know how to control. They have no desire to die, yet the challenge cannot be refused, cannot be ignored.

In their minds, each knows that if the other draws, he must draw. And when a weapon is drawn, a point of no return is crossed.

But while the weapons remain holstered, and hands are poised, the gunfighters focus on only one question. When will my opponent draw?

That uncertainty in the moment before committing to a course of action is a cause for false hope, but it is time to get one's calculations right.

The confrontation over its nuclear program that Iran has provoked with the Western world is vastly more serious than a white hat/black hat battle in a Saturday matinee.

Yet, that same element of uncertainty is what is driving the players. The West would like to know the answer to one question: how close is Iran to obtaining a nuclear weapon? The answer to that question, if known, would immediately collapse all hypothetical scenarios into a finite set of responses.

The answer, or part of the answer, to that question may lie in the person of Dr. Khan, the father of Pakistan's bomb.

Khan has admitted to selling nuclear technology to other countries, including Iran.

Question persist, however, on whether Khan helped Iran obtain enriched uranium. From this Aki article:

It was the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political wing of the People's Mujahdeen, that in 2002 gave a decisive contribution to revealing the existence of the secret plant at Natanz, used by the Iranians to enrich uranium, though some of their subsequent claims have been proven incorrect.

In Vienna, in November 2004, Farid Soleimani, the Council leader, alleged that in 2001 Khan had handed over to Iran a significant quantity of enriched uranium. The government of Islamabad swiftly issued a denial. However, a high-level source, who asked to remain anonymous, says that the allegation was founded and that the transferral of enriched uranium (as well as components for building centrifuges for enrichment and of designs for building missile heads able to transport the bomb) dated back much earlier.

What is troubling about Pakistan's response to the revelations about Khan's activities is this:

For two years Khan has been under house arrest in his home in Rawalpindi and to date Islamabad has allowed neither the Americans nor the inspectors of the UN's atomic watchdog the IAEA, to interrogate Khan.

Why won't Pakistan let the US or the UN ask Khan about whether or not he transferred enriched uraniumm to Iran? It begs the question of how much direct aid the Pakistani government has provided the Iranian nuclear program.

Is Pakistan playing a double game here? Trying to give the US enough cooperation in the war on terror to give the chimera of cooperation, while at the same helping Iran to achieve its own bomb?

Some have charged that Pakistan manages to capture or kill some high-level Al Qaeda memeber periodically, just to throw a bone to the US. This is why the attack over the weekend intended for Zawahiri is so interesting. If the attack failed to get Zawahiri, what really happened?

Access to Khan is a bargaining chip. Did elements sympathetic to Iran, eager to drive a wedge between the US and Pakistan, engineer this attack that killed women and children to make it less likely Musharraf would ever allow the US access to Khan?

There are larger aspects to the game. The US has its own bargaining chips. India is one. The US has not strongly supported India's right to hold military nuclear weapons, but that could change if Pakistan swings too far towards the terror masters in Iran. Yet, India has a need for Iranian oil. How far can India go in opposing Iran?

And so, nations stand in a dusty street, not knowing when the other will act. Let us hope it is not yet high noon.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

24 Day 5 9:00 AM - 11:00 AM

In the Previouslies, I am reminded that these terrorists must be Vikings. They burned their boats, er, van, behind them. Blew it up, actually. Not entirely sure why. Perhaps they're just perfectionists, and figure if they're going to blow themselves up, they'll blow up everything they brought, too. Perhaps they believe anything they blow up they'll have in the afterlife, and thought they might need a van to cruise around Paradise.

I am convinced the person in charge of the Graphic Violence warning is on crack. For the first time in a long time, we don't get that warning. But, for the love of Pete, if any episodes needed the warning it was these two episodes. People were executed in cold blood, right on screen. Shot in the head. That does not constitute graphic violence?!? The little "TV-14-V" label is supposed to cover it?

Diane is distraught about her surly son, one kid growin' up in the heartland.

A terrorist is clamping suction cups on a door. Wasn't sure if that was a Junior Spiderman kit and he was trying to scale the doors.

Ah, here's what is going on. This bunch of terrorists is from some "breakaway Russian republic". We're not told which one. They didn't even make up some fake name.

(Like sometimes shows make up fake Latin/South American banana republic names. A Mission Impossible episode was in "Santa Costa". In Die Hard 2 the General is from the fictitious country of Valverde, Proof of Life had Tecala, and so on. They couldn't come up with a Fakeystan?)

What they are doing is a xerox copy of the tragedy at Beslan. There, the terrorists wore explosive vests. These guys have vests. Check. That tragedy involved children, and here we saw a child in distress. Check. There, someone was dragged across the gym floor leaving a bloody streak. Here, someone was dragged across the floor by the feet after being executed. Check. (Though, they didn't leave a bloody streak. Perhaps they realized they forgot to include the graphic violence warning and felt they couldn't go that far.)

The hostages are ordered to toss in their cell phones. Chief Terrorist Guy calls a cop outside. Now just how did he get that cop's cell number?

Two baddies go looking for Dumpy Baggage Guy. They sure didn't look too hard. Obviously didn't go to the back of the room.

Curtis is redirected to the airport. He got redirected a couple times last season, too. He's used to it by now.

Ah, those krazy kaptions. Jack is hiding up in the rafters, giving intel to CTU. He says there are 10-12 terrorists, but the krazy kaptions say "15-20". Just a little bit different.

We find Diane's last name is Huxley. It is a Brave New World when terrorists starting executing our citizens in airports.

Back at CTU, they're widening parameters! Ah, I never tire of hearing about parameters. I kind of wish I had started counting references of that word.

Chloe wants to run a NP-safe adaptive search. Well, duh. Go for the obvious choice. (np-Safe is a commercial product. This is product placement.) At the same time, Chloe is sandpaper-rough Chloe. That's why we love her. Chloe is going to do some data-mining. (Anyone remember that commercial a few years back with the Eurotrash models talking about data-mining?)

We find Chief Terrorist Guy is named Anton Beresch. Meet Beresch, Anton! (Am I the only one who remembers the TV show Meet Susan Anton?)

The bad guys have set up a "localized broadcast". Well, then it ought to be fairly easy to prevent the networks from broadcasting these heinous crimes, which is what they want. But no, can't do that.

Anton gives his speech. He starts out "Citizens of the United States..." He must be trying to emulate terrorist hero Marwan. Last year in his address to the nation from the dance club/grief center, Marwan started out "People of America..."

Conveniently, the terrorists give a deadline of 90 minutes. Just enough time to fit in tonight's episodes.

Hooboy, President RunLoganRun is a tower of strength, isn't he. He barks at Mike "Fix it!" Isn't that what Nixon said to Colson?

Curtis doesn't seem the least bit surprised to talk to Jack. Not even a "Hey, I thought you were dead these last 18 months!"

There are a number of phrases from these two episodes that seemed destined for overuse to the point of eyeball-bleeding. Here's the first. "Adjust the profile". We hear several times about "profiles" and about adjusting them.

We now come to our first slip in the time-space continuum. Going to commercial, the 24 clock and clock clock match, at about the :16 mark. But coming back from commercial, the 24 clock is at :21, and the clock clock is at :19.

The baddies are part of the Dawn Brigade. They're Russkies, of a sort, so they're Red. So, break out the Red Dawn Brigade jokes! ("How did you get shot down, Colonel?" "It was five to one. I got four.")

And, yep, this phrase is going to be worn to a fine sheen. Chloe is told to "data-mine" the call.

Oh, goodness, some poor schmoe is executed on his knees. Graphic. Violence.

And now Derek is put on the execution spot. He was surly and annoying last time, but here, he is vulnerable and scared, and oddly sympathetic.

Curtis is the voice of reason, as he was at times last season.

Coming back from commercial, the clocks are at :28 versus :31.

Martha is a loopy as ever. Evelyn is going to fry for letting the First Lady wander off. What if Martha is found running down the boulevard in her birthday suit singing show tunes?

Jack phones some number at CTU and gets Chloe. Jack is surprised that she's there. What number did he think he was calling?

Jack needs Chloe to do something for him. Just like last season. (There, Jack needed a satellite, and it took Chloe approximately two months to get that satellite in place.) But I'll ask again, just who did Jack think he was going to ask for this under the table help, since he didn't expect to get Chloe?

Ah, it's our old friend Agent Pierce. He goes looking for Martha. Evelyn says she's in "one of her moods" and shut the door. Perhaps Evelyn could've shouted into a pillow and thrown things around the room to try and convince Pierce.

Oh, goodness, Martha goes marching straight into the loo where Burk is doing his business. She uses her feminine wiles and threatens to yell rape. Burk caves, but forget he has the perfect out. Everyone knows Martha is loonier than a Minnesota lake. And she's in the men's room. Who's not going to believe Burk?

After commercial the clocks are at :38 to :42.

We find out Derek is 15 years old. He's trying to maintain.

Jack and Chloe perform magic with the cell phone. Code 6339 is used.

Oh, Ibrim goes BOOM! Buh-bye. Enjoy those 72 crystal raisins.

Anton regroups and orders everyone into Formation B. What is that? The fullback runs a post pattern?

Walt the Mole hears there is a man inside at the airport. You know he'll have to fulfill his mole duties and warn the baddies.

Logan barks "talk faster". Last season, Gregory Itzen was in an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise where he was disintegrated by Evil Archer. I'm beginning to wish someone disintegrates Logan, and soon.

After commercial, clocks are at :48 to :52.

Pierce really really wants to know where Martha. The Secret Service tends to get nervous when First Ladies go missing. Especially ones that are a few sandwiches short of a picnic.

We find that the mysterious white guy in the glowing media center/bad guy lair is named Nathanson. I really hope he doesn't throw open the doors and walk out into CTU, like last season.

One of the terrorists is named "C.T.". That's very preppy for a guy from a breakaway Russian republic, isn't it? And it just begs a "U" at the end.

Curtis has to abort the mission that has taken forever to get going, because Jack is doing the old painful noise in my earpiece routine and can't talk to CTU, and they don't know where the bad guys are. Um, just a suggestion here, but couldn't someone look through the huge plate glass WINDOWS running the length of this airport, and get a visual on the bad guys? (I know my CTU jargon!)

Jack comes out of hiding to save Surly Teenager, and the 24 clock hits 10 AM at the :55 mark.

Coming back, we see previouslies reminding us of what we saw just minutes before.

Audrey clues us in to another phrase that will apparently be beat to death in this season. She says Jack maybe "went dark". We've heard that one several times.

CTU says without Jack the chance of success in the rescue mission goes down to 20%. Now hold the phone! What had they been planning on?! They didn't know Jack was there when they went tearing off to the airport to conduct the rescue mission! Did they plan on botching the mission from the start? Setting expectations low, I guess.

Bill says Curtis should work up a plan that doesn't include Jack. Hmm, perhaps they could use the original plan, the one they had when they didn't know Jack was in there!!!!

Anton says Logan is a very weak man. He's got Logan pegged, that's for sure.

A terrorist is named Vlad. (I wonder if he impales people.)

Walt urges the President to stay the course. What is Walt's game here? The bad guys want the agreement to be put off. Walt is urging them to sign it. Why? Does Walt really want all those hostages killed? You'd think Walt would be urging the President to put off the signing. (And indeed, what would it hurt if they did put off the signing until the crisis is resolved?)

Martha stuffs her bra, but let's be honest here, she really doesn't need to.

Back at CTU, they're going to re-key the grid! Ha! Last year they re-keyed databases. I guess they've expanded the protocol to grids.

Ack! It's Samwise Gamgee! Ah, he must be hiding from Sauron. He's going by the name of Lynn McGill from District. Gotcha. Samwise introduces himself and gives everybody some lembas bread.

(I gotta say though, Sean Astin entered with all the gravitas of Howdy Doody.)

Samwise wants to maintain a more formal mode of address. How about "Your Excellency"? Or, "Your Worship"?

Jack stresses to the point even comatose people will understand that "flank two" is some kind of code phrase.

Curtis is yanked around again and will try to redeploy in 20 minutes.

Two terrorists are named Ivan and Ishmael. (Call me... oh never mind.)

Is Samwise aware of the shortness of time? He wants to review purt'near everything.

I realize English is not the native language for President Suvarov, so he can be forgiven for saying about the signing "If the rescue attempt fails not only will it be rendered meaningless, it will become a mockery". By "it" he meant the signing, but he didn't realize as structured, he was saying the rescue attempt would be meaningless and a mockery.

Walt is an evil man, and you know he will die a horrible death by the time it is all over. Just what is his motivation here anyway? He's willing to be involved with this heinous plot for what? Just money?

We hear the rescue attempt is completely synchronized with the signing. Huh? That's the first time we heard that. They were just about to do the mission before, without any concern for the signing. Don't the writers go back and read what they wrote a few pages back?

We're all of 1.5 minutes ahead of schedule. So we go from almost conducting the mission long ago, to now shaving things to within 90 seconds.

Samwise invites Bill up for a chat. He tells Bill to sit, and then offers him some lembas bread.

Now, how come Samwise figures out that "flank two" is an old code phrase, and nobody at CTU realizes it. Jack was in CTU only 18 months ago. Why would that be changed, and why wouldn't CTU still recall that? With all the re-keying going on, perhaps someone just missed it. Heck, Curtis was in CTU 18 months ago, wouldn't he know what that phrase was?

Another terrorist is named Akhmed.

Anton hands something to some suit in the huddled masses of hostages. What was that all about?

And Curtis gets redeployed yet again! Yikes, Agent Baker from Season 3 must be thanking his lucky stars he was only yanked around and redeployed once. This is, what, the third time for Curtis?

Oh, there's dissension in the bad guy ranks.

Ah, finally, the rescue mission begins with all the bad guys facing one direction. Obviously not well-trained military types, who would know to at least watch other directions. The mission starts with two CTU agents doing a pratfall over a cabinet.

Hooray. Bad guys dispatched, hostages saved. Jack hugs Derek.

Ah, the suit has disappeared, and he has some kind of key card that Dumpy Baggage Guy was supposed to have.

Holy Cats, what is this hole in the ground? In this fairly short amount of time some bad guys were back here chopping a hole in the thick concrete floor? What's down there? Did they find a Star Gate?! A black monolith?!

The krazy kaptions refer to the suit as "Yellow Tie". Must be Native American.

They open up this case, and inside are a bunch of cylinders. Oh, I sure hope they aren't nuclear bombs. We've done that to death on this show.

Ah, I see a biohazard symbol. (The previews for next week give away the contents of the cylinders.)

Now, after the rescue mission, didn't CTU do a very thorough sweep of the entire airport to make sure there weren't terrorists hiding off somewhere else? Wouldn't they have found this huge hole in the floor?

And why are these dangerous cylinders at some podunk airport in LA? And not on a military base?

We wrap up with Walt KO'ing Martha with the old ether in a handkerchief trick. Must have had some handy. Perhaps in the medicine cabinet in the men's room.

Or, again, maybe they learned the lessons from terrorist hero Marwan, who was prepared for absolutely everything. (Like having the tunnel under the dance club/grief center ready to blow even though they didn't know they had been found.)

Next we settle down to one hour episodes. Good. My fingers are worn to nubs.

And now, after faking his own death, here is guest critic Frank Flynn. I mean, Paul Foth. He made a mistake and even staged his own funeral, and got locked in a mausoleam, and it's taken him 18 months to chisel his way out with someone else's femur. He comments on the first four hours.

Before I get to the actual premier, I'll mention that I saw Kiefer on the Charlie Rose show Friday night. A couple of interesting things: he said that they were going back to balancing intrigue with action, something that had been slipping away since the first season. While the action will be important this season, apparently there's going to be a fair amount going on underneath all the explosions and yelling. We'll see.

He also said they'd already shot fourteen episodes. Maybe there'll be a better sense of an overall story operating this time around because of it. Maybe we won't have the chief bad guy escaping again and again and again like we did with Marwan last year. Maybe.

After Kiefer said they had the first fourteen episodes shot, Charlie asked, "How many episodes are there in a season?" I'll let that sink in for a moment. Apparently, Charlie hasn't quite figured out what the rationale for the entire show is yet.

So, onto the premier.


Why was it not a surprise to see David and Michelle get killed? First of all, because the commercials leading up to the premier screamed at us over and over that we weren't going to believe the first ten minutes, that the opening of the season would completely blow us away, blah blah blah. Of course that means at least one character we've come to know is going to die. Second of all, because Dennis Haysbert and Reiko Aylesworth were introduced in the credits as making "special guest appearances." Yes, seeing Michelle in a spaghetti strap top and heels was pretty special, but having her and David die would've been much more shocking had we not been told ahead of time it was going to happen.

(Another reason it was obvious David wasn't going to stick around is that Haysbert is working on a new series called "The Unit." No, it's not The Randy Johnson Story, but a tale about, according to, "American super-secret operators." If Haysbert's character, Jonas Blane, is anything like David Palmer, we're doomed. But, this show was created by David Mamet, so it's got potential right away.)

Didja notice that before Michelle met her doom, she said to Tony that they were the only ones still around who were at CTU when the original attempts on David's life were made? Really?! There's nobody else? Has everyone else been killed (a distinct possibility, I guess, given how well those crack CTU security teams perform) or left strict orders never to be called by CTU, ever again, even if the fate of the world depends on it? Talk about turnover.

I wouldn't be surprised if Tony buys the farm too, but not before regaining consciousness (or maybe I should say, being forced to regain consciousness) to give Jack some vital piece of information. Then again, this is Tony, the guy who got shot in the neck and was chasing bad guys just a few hours later. Give him a Band Aid and a couple Advil; he'll be fine.

Are we going to see the Palmer kids this season? They were both in the first season, and Keith showed up briefly at the beginning of the second season. How are they going to cope with both of their parents being shot to death? Worse yet, how are they going to cope with being raised by Uncle Wayne?! Perhaps they'll simply join Beiruts on the Island of Forgotten Characters.

Once again, President Shakes proves himself to be nothing but a smarmy milquetoast. We can give him a bit of slack for going a bit nuts last season, considering the circumstances under which he came to office, but it's now a year and a half since then and he still caves in at the smallest hint of danger, worrying more about his image than about the country. How many times during these first four hours did he talk about how the treaty with Russia was going to be the hallmark of his Presidency? The writers have done a good job instilling fear that sooner or later he's going to go completely round the bend, but where they fail is in making him President in the first place. Say what you like about Presidents past and present, but they don't freak out like Shakes, nor do they pick VPs who do.

That's a common theme with a lot of elements of the show: What's on the surface is often very exciting, emotional, visceral, et cetera, but it rarely stands up to even the most cursory probing. Martha (or is her name Cassandra?) constantly being thwarted in her attempts to get someone to believe her has made for some excellent drama, and Jean Smart is absolutely sinking her teeth into the role, but much of this thread hinges on Walt the Mole's activities. Will we ever learn how he managed to get himself that close to the President? Not likely.

And the bad guy who's heading up Bad Guy Central's operations (although dollars to doughnuts he's not the absolute head, we're too early in the season for that) is once again someone who's got a bankroll that seems to be a sizeable fraction of our national debt. Where did he (or his boss(es)) get the money? Hush. We're not supposed to ask such things.

The producers have finally acknowledged that the show is technofantasy by hiring Sean Astin to play Samwise McGill--er, Lynn Gamgee--um, a guy who really looks like he's in over his head. I think at some point he's going to get his insistance at calling Bill "Mr. Buchanan" mixed up with everyone else using first names, and with his calling Frodo "Mr. Frodo," and we're going to get (you can see it coming now, can't you?) Mr. Bill. Look for Bill Buchanan to be torn apart in some comically grisly way. Noooooo!

All in all, I think this was a decent beginning to the season, but so far I can't see much of the intrigue Kiefer was so keen on on the Charlie Rose show. He did imply, though, that there's going to be some kind of "the enemy is us" foundation to it all so, again, we'll see.

Number of times Jack says "Now!": 3
Number of times Jack says "No!": 5
Number of times a "protocol" is mentioned: 12
Number of times someone says a variation of "Go!": 4
Number of moles: 1
Approximate Body Count: 22

<- 7:00 AM - 9:00 AM 11:00 AM - 12:00 PM ->

The new look

Many many thanks to drjonz of the excellent MOB blog The Attic for volunteering to retool my blog template. He asked what I wanted and he made it happen. I haven't had the time lately to tweak the template, so I'm grateful that the good drjonz helped me out on his own time.

The central column has been expanded, and the background is now white, so hopefully the text will stand out a little better, and it won't seem so narrow.

With two sidebars, I'll have some more flexibility with arranging links.

Since today is the start of year number four of this blog, unveiling a new look seemed like a good way to celebrate.

(And for another party favor, sometime today the sitemeter counter will cross 25,000 visitors since last September 16.)

Happy Blogiversary

Today marks the beginning of the fourth year of this blog.

Thought I'd give a very brief history of how this electronic heap of ASCII characters got to this point.

I've had my eponymous website since 1999. (Actually, for about a year before that, I ran it off my computer at home with just the IP address. My employer at the time provided DSL for me at home.)

It functioned mostly as a bulletin board for family and friends, and when our son John was adopted in 2001, it became a place to share photos with families and friends.

I started the blog in January 2003 for the same reason. The blog was essentially an electronic baby book, where I could record John's early days, and where family and friends could check in on him. When we adopted Hanna in 2003, she became part of the story. As the blog progressed, I did less and less with the website, except for adding some photos.

The blue colors, and my avatar (name floating above water), were chosen to go with the "River" theme.

And, because it was meant only for a small audience, the URL for my blog's homepage is rather clunky. I am mulling over how best to address that.

In addition to the kids, though, I've always recorded my thoughts and musings on various topics.

I am an aspiring writer, and the blog was good practice and good discipline to keep writing, even if it meant just writing something.

Around July 2005 though, I decided to change the focus of the blog, to try and "take it national", so to speak. To become part of that great discussion going on out there.

I talk about politics when it's something I'm passionate about, but I tend to focus on issues of national security, international relations, that sort of thing. I tend to have an analytical mind, and I think one of my strengths I can bring to the blog is to take seemingly disparate elements and see in them a larger, coherent story. Perhaps it's because of my educational background. I have a B.A. in physics, a B.S. in Computer Science, an M.S. in Astronomy, and later this spring, I should complete an M.S. in Software Engineering. All of these disciplines require logical, step-by-step thinking, and as I try to make sense of the world for my own benefit, that style of thinking tends to shape what I write.

My fiction writing has influenced the blog in another way. Some advice I picked up in writing short stories is to always incorporate two ideas. Don't make the story about just one idea. I try to do the same with the blog. When possible, or when it makes sense, I try to blend at least two ideas in a post, and relate them together.

Since last July, I've had a ball. I've met a number of very talented and personable bloggers through the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers (MOB). Ben, Leo, John, Ron, Robert, and so many others have been very kind.

The Mudville Gazette and The Military Outpost have been very kind in linking to me often. I've had big traffic days from links from Hugh Hewitt, Michelle Malkin, Power Line, Radioblogger, The Corner, TKS, JunkYardBlog, Gates of Vienna, and Fraters Libertas.

Certainly, I appreciate the links from my fellow MOB blogs, friends of the blogs, or blogs that found their way through one way or the other, often through a link provided by someone mentioned above.

And, I especially appreciate those readers who take the time to stop by regularly.

For the remainer of the post, I'll pick out some past posts over the history of the blog that have been favorites or notable to me for some reason. Thanks, all.

The post that started it all

The origin of this blog's name

I absolutely loved the novel Possession by A.S. Byatt

My first, and to date only, Useless Pop Culture Trivia Quiz

The Columbia is lost

Some thoughts on Jonathan Franzen

Our first trip to see Hanna in Kostroma, Russia

Our trip to bring Hanna home from Russia

I will get back to the novel I'm working on after school and other things are done

Another edition of book nook

John discovers the world isn't always a fun place

In which I find I am somewhat left-hemisphere dominant

I finished the Calculatrivia quiz, and got a T-shirt out of the deal

I read War and Peace. and Anna Karenina

We take the kids camping for the first time

I get a free subscription to the Weekly Standard

Soccer Badgers!

An essay on the game of baseball

Iraq, the US and books in the same post

Bush is reelected

More books, I eventually did read all of them

My Theory of SF and Fantasy Linguistics

Deep Space Nine has a thing about "three days"

Some Christmas Prophecies

Some thoughts on patterns

The origin of some last names

Some math jokes

What is drama?

In which I get a new Toyota Tacoma

My definition of art

In which I get XM Satellite Radio, and I discover I like electronica music

Klingon software developers

I make my first short story sale

John and Hanna's beginnings

It was around July 2005 that I began to change the focus of the blog.

Sandra Day announces her resignation

Terror attacks in London

Spices and their impact on history

A proper war

Terrorist attack the innocent

The truth in fiction

Scientists are hardly the new priesthood

Did the Wall put us in danger?

I begin a closer look at Iran

Context or Cnntext?


Blog Prostimotion

Differences between Left and Right

A look at the Sheehan circus in Crawford


My post dissecting Michael Yon's Gates of Fire piece was well received

One of my most favorite Dispatches from the Front

Did God cause Katrina?

First day of school for John and Hanna

Tending our own patch of ground

Remembering means we never forget

Rulers of rubble

Slouching towards a John Roberts confirmation

Victor Davis Hanson perfectly defines the Left

The debate between Galloway and Hitchens got me going

Cervantes and the novel

I did a number of posts on the military's help in the aftermath of the hurricanes

I also did a number of posts tracking intelligence successes in Iraq

A definition of peace

Russia's declining competitiveness

I did quite a few blistering posts on the Harriet Miers nomination

I did a number of posts on the Iraqi forces

A review of Serenity

I did a number of posts on the relief efforts following the Pakistan earthquake

I did some posts tracking the foreign facilitators killed in western Iraq

The Blue Screen of Death to Conservatives

The Screaming Eagles in Iraq

I completely stunk at Radioblogger's Blog of the Week

Anti-sniper warfare in Iraq

Undimmed by human tears

Pinching the ends

I did quite a few posts on Operation Steel Curtain

Conflicts in Africa

The jasmine mind of a terrorist

Press on, about the need to steel our will in the difficult times

The Postmodern Left

Russia's worsening demographic problems

The Iraqis are providing tips, contrary to what Murtha thinks

Mosul and Ramadi

I did several posts on Russia and the way it uses its natural gas as a tool

Tyranny is the subjugation of will

The stones in the mosaic

The Steven Seagal game

Did Germany release a terrorist to free a hostage?

The Bear and the Dragon, about Russia and China

Fighting the real propagandists

An insurgency collapsing inward?

I've done a number of posts on the Humvee

The Eagle and the Dragon, about the US and China

Oil deals in the Far East

Jihad's Funniest Bloopers

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Happy Birthday, Mom!!! Hope you're having a good time with the gang in IL. Say hi to the folks in TN for me as well when you get there!

Monday, January 16, 2006

Step by Step

I've mentioned before I view the process of bringing stability to Iraq as a series of steps that cannot be taken all at once. In 2003, Iraq was in the thrall of a brutal dictator. At some point we hope and expect Iraq to settle down into a stable nation, one able to defend itself.

There is a violent, murderous insurgency working to prevent Iraq from getting to its feet. That insurgency will need to be defeated. Iraq must get from "there" to "here".

What will those steps look like? To go from an insurgency operating from a position of strength to a point where even their Sunni base rejects their violent approach, there will be a gradual shift as the insurgents are squeezed out of their strongholds. The insurgency will weaken. This is the "in between state" as Iraq progresses from violence to peace.

And that is what is happening.

Last Friday, Lt. Gen. John Vines, commander general of the 18th Airborne Corps and for the last year the Multi-National Corps commander in Iraq, gave a video teleconference from Iraq. He said this:

"There has been significant change. Iraqis are increasingly in the lead. There is increasing level of sovereignty. They direct many of the operations. They control many of the operations. So the capacity of the Iraqi Security Forces is exponentially greater than when he departed and so that's something he's familiarizing himself with. And of course, that's a very good thing.

The level of coordination that's required with the Iraqi government has increased because they have additional competence in their ability to govern and to see to their own future, which is also a very good thing. Al Qaeda is increasingly in disarray and we have pursued, captured and killed a large number of them and so that also is a very positive thing."

About the Sunnis are their increasing disaffection with the insurgency, he said this:

"What we see are increasingly Sunni, in particular, rejecting terrorism and rejecting the presence of al Qaeda in Iraq. They realize that al Qaeda is not interested in their welfare, but they intend to impose their values on all Iraqis. And while they had received some level of support previously, many Iraqis, particularly Sunni, recognize the threat that al Qaeda poses to them and increasingly are rejecting their presence and they're no longer supporting them. And we think that is a very good thing indeed."

In the Jan 11 issue of This Week in Iraq, Gen. Casey said this:

"Foreign fighters are trying to foment sectarian tension during a vulnerable period, but will not bring Iraq to the brink of civil war. Clearly, recent attacks have been designed to take advantage of this vulnerable time during the formation of the government. However, we continually see that while there are a number of attacks, only 20-25 percent result in injury or damage. This stagnation over many months shows no increased capability by the terrorists and no increased support for their cause."

Iraq is proceeding through the steps we would expect to see as Iraq moves from chaos to a secure, stable country, able to govern and defend itself. Yes, it is a long road, a bumpy road with twists and potholes, but let's recognize the encouraging signposts along the way for what they are.

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

* According to Pakistani sources, deputy leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was not in a Pakistani village near the Afghan border which was hit in an apparent missile attack. Some reports indicate that al-Zawahiri sent some of his aides instead of travelling himself to Damadola. Some members of Congress defended the strikes, which are said to have killed 18 people. Villagers deny hosting Zawahiri and are protesting the strikes, though the presence of Zawahiri's aides or other terrorists remains likely. Reports indicate at least 5 bodies were removed for DNA testing.

* German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined President Bush in calling on nations to oppose Iran's nuclear activities. On Monday and Tuesday representatives from China, Russia, France, Britain and the United States will discuss the nuclear issues over Iran. The discussion will focus on drawing up a resolution against Iran that both Russia and China will support.

* Acting Prime Minister Ehud Olmert informed President Bush that the peace process could not move forward if terrorist organizations like Hamas join the Palestinian government in the coming elections. For their part, Hamas reiterated its belief of not recognizing Israel and vowed not to negotiate with Israel. Should Hamas have a role in the Palestinian government, the United States may review their foreign aid program to the Palestinians. Last year President Bush pledged $ 350 million in assistance.

Other topics today include: al Qaeda arrests in Lebanon; Qassam rocket attacks from Gaza; Hamas TV; Criticism of Saudi terror efforts; Weapons boat intercepted in Lebanon; Canada deports Algerian terrorist; Padilla case; Clashes in Nepal; Tamil Tigers attack in Sri Lanka; Russian special ops in Daghestan; Fighting in Afghanistan; Drug trade in Afghanistan; Suicide car bomber targets Canadian troops; NPA attacks in Philippines; Mock terror exercise in Singapore; Arrests in Indonesia; Spain arrests members of Iraqi recruiting cells; British terror investigators in Bosnia; Plot to down French airliners; Trial of Abu Hamza al-Masri; Anarchy in Somalia; Terror arrests in Algeria; Demand for special forces; and more.

Iran & the Middle East

* U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is vowing to bring Syria before the U.N. Security Council for their refusal to fully cooperate with the Mehlis investigation. Last week Syrian president Bashar Assad refused to be interviewed and the regime has been of little assistance.

* Lebanon has charged thirteen men suspected of belonging to al Qaeda with planning attacks. The arrests, which included seven Syrians, three Lebanese, one Saudi, one Palestinian and one Jordanian, were made two weeks ago. According to some reports, Hezbollah is unimpressed with al Qaeda's efforts in Lebanon.

* Palestinians fired eight Qassam rockets at western Negev, though no damage was reported. In response, Israeli artillery shelled the point of origin of the rocket attacks.

* In the Gaza strip, Hamas has launched a local television station with hopes of developing a satellite network, a move that could have significant impact.

* A new travel advisory from the British Foreign Office is warning that the risk of terror attacks in Jordan remains high, but the British embassy reopened in Amman after closing last week. Australia and Canada also reopened their embassies in Amman as well.

* In Lebanon, Druze leader Walid Jumblatt is verbally clashing with pro-Syrian Hezbollah, accusing the Iranian and Syrian backed Shi'ite group of "hiding behind weapons of treachery."

* While acknowledging progress Saudi Arabia has made against al Qaeda in the kingdom, some U.S. officials are criticizing the Saudis for not doing enough to crack down on the financing of terror or taking an active enough role in the global fight abroad. The Counterterrorism Blog has consistently highlighted this issue, and offers a solid overview of the Saudi failure to fight terror on all fronts.

* The Lebanese Army intercepted a boat loaded with weapons, including long range missiles that authorities believe were funded by Syria or Iran and intended to reach Hamas or Islamic Jihad in the Gaza strip.

* The Israeli cabinet voted unanimously on Sunday to allow Palestinian residents of eastern Jerusalem to vote in next week's legislative elections, but won't allow Hamas candidates to campaign in the city. On Sunday, Israel arrested 10 Hamas activists, including four leading candidates in eastern Jerusalem.

* In response to six more rocket attacks from Gaza, the Israeli military bombed the off-limits zone in Gaza though no injuries were reported.

America Domestic Security & the America's

* Samir Ait Mohamed, accused of belonging to a Canadian-based, Algerian terrorist cell that plotted to bomb the Los Angeles airport and of talking about staging violent attacks in Montreal, has been quietly deported from Canada.

* Federal agents have launched an investigation into a surge in the purchase of large quantities of disposable cell phones by individuals from the Middle East and Pakistan. Michelle Malkin has a roundup on the topic. The FBI subsequently said there was no link to terrorism.

* One of the crossings on the Colombia-Ecuador border was cut off when leftist guerrillas blew up a bridge last week. Authorities blamed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group, which has mounted a series of attacks in the region over the past three weeks, for the bombing.

* A New York Times article describes two film documentaries on Shining Path, a terrorist group active in Peru from roughly 1980 to 2000. The article says Peru's war on terror may offer some lessons to the United States.

* The Bush administration asked the Supreme Court on Thursday to dismiss an appeal by a terror suspect held at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay. Solicitor General Paul Clement based the request on a new law the Bush administration says sharply limits challenges to the detention of hundreds of suspected al Qaeda and Taliban operatives. In November, the high court agreed to hear Salim Ahmed Hamdan's constitutional challenge to the administration's plan to try him and others by military commission for war crimes. In doing so, the justices agreed to test the president's wartime powers.

* After the U.S. military invaded Afghanistan to oust its Taliban rulers, authorities found a locker full of applications to join al Qaeda's holy war overseas. Among the alleged applicants: Jose Padilla, the former "enemy combatant" who once lived in Broward County. A prosecutor produced the alleged document for the first time Thursday in Miami federal court, where Padilla pleaded not guilty to conspiracy charges that he was a recruit for a North American terrorist cell that aided Islamic jihad abroad. Michelle Malkin has a copy of the document.

* A co-defendant of a former Florida professor in a recent terrorism trial has asked federal prosecutors to disclose if he was wiretapped without a warrant, a court clerk said on Thursday. Hatem Fariz, who stood trial along with Sami al-Arian and two other men, filed a motion in U.S. District Court in Tampa on Tuesday asking U.S. District Judge James Moody to compel the government to disclose if it intercepted communications between him and others without a court order, the clerk said.

Russia & South/Central Asia

* In the deadliest clash since a Maoist ceasefire ended in Nepal this month, 10 rebels were killed by the army on Thursday as tens of thousands of people protested King Gyanendra's plans to hold municipal elections.

* At least 16 Maoist rebels and a government soldier died Saturday during clashes in Syangja district, western Nepal, an army official said.

* At least 11 police have been killed in Maoist rebel attacks on two police posts on the outskirts of Nepal's capital Kathmandu, officials say.

* Heavily armed troops searched for Tamil Tiger rebel infiltrators Friday in government-held areas in Sri Lanka's restive north, a day after an anti-personnel mine killed nine sailors in the latest deadly attack on the military.

* At least two Sri Lankan navy sailors were killed and two others wounded in a claymore mine attack by suspected Tamil Tiger rebels in the northern Jaffna peninsula on Saturday, hours after a bomb ripped through a car belonging to the Scandinavian truce monitors.

* Soldiers in full battle gear manned checkpoints and patrolled Sri Lanka's capital on Sunday after an intelligence report warned that prominent landmarks could be targeted by Tamil Tiger suicide bombers.

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

* Here is the North Caucasus Security Watch from Friday.

* The latest issue of Chechnya Weekly has eight items, including one on indications that Islamic terrorists may be planning to widen their operations in the North Caucasus.

* A militant ringleader was arrested in Chechnya's capital of Grozny, the Chechen Interior Ministry said Saturday. Aslanbek Bargishev, 30, a member of warlord Doka Umarov's gang, pointed to two caches where the police found 100 kg of plastic explosives and other weapons and ammunition, the ministry said. (Umarov was mentioned in the Jan 9 Briefing.)

* A suspect of organizing four terrorist attacks in the North Caucasus Republic of Daghestan was eliminated during a special operation Saturday, Daghestan's interior minister said. Shamil Abidov, an accomplice of the notorious terrorist Rappani Khalilov, is suspected of organizing four terrorist acts in Daghestan's capital of Makhachkala in 2003, which left seven policemen and one civilian killed, Adilgerei Magomedtagirov said.

* Reports about trials of proponents of religious extremism and terrorism in Russia are no longer breaking news. Many of them involve organizations that call themselves Islamic and operate all over Russia, including the North Caucasus, the Volga region and the Urals. Muscovites seldom hear much about them or know what is at the bottom of disputes in the regions.

* Ruling out the demilitarization of Jammu and Kashmir as suggested by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, Army Chief General JJ Singh in New Delhi on Friday said continued presence of terrorist-infrastructure across the Line of Control necessitated troop-presence in the state. "We need to be present. Terrorist camps still exist across the LoC and infiltration is still on," said Gen Singh.

* An imam of a mosque in Mumbai was arrested Saturday by the Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of Mumbai Police for his alleged links with three suspected militants of the banned Lashkar-e-Toiba, arrested last week in the city.

* Indian soldiers have killed three key Pakistani members of a hardline Islamic militant group waging an insurgency in Indian-ruled Kashmir, police said on Sunday.

* US-led and Afghan government troops have killed about eight insurgents in the latest clashes in Afghanistan, the US military and Afghan government said. Two insurgents and an Afghan government soldier were killed early on Saturday in the southeastern province of Paktia, the Defence Ministry said.

* Gunmen killed a former Taliban leader who renounced the hard-line Islamic regime after it was ousted in late 2001 and had since supported Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government, witnesses said Saturday. A suicide car bomb, meanwhile, wounded an American soldier when it blew up near a U.S.-Afghan military convoy traveling along a main southern Afghan road, a local police chief said.

* An article from the Boston Globe says there is a striking antidote to worsening security in Afghanistan, where suicide bombing and convoy ambushes now occur every day. Increasingly, these Taliban- and Al Qaeda-sponsored attacks are linked to opium and heroin trafficking. Afghanistan supplies 80 percent of Europe's heroin and is the largest grower of poppies in the world.

* A Taliban suicide car bomber has attacked a convoy of Canadian troops in the heart of the southern Afghan city of Kandahar. Witnesses said they saw four soldiers being taken away on stretchers, but they were unsure if the troops were wounded or dead.

* Law enforcement agencies in Bangladesh have yet to arrest the masterminds behind the August countrywide serial bomb blasts although the government is continuously telling the people that apprehending the culprits involved is a "matter of time." Meanwhile, police arrested some top leaders of the banned JMB and they confessed to their involvement in the activities.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* The U.S. government will pay out a $ 100,000 reward to a Filipino that assisted in the capture of Toting Hanno, an Abu Sayyaf leader who abducted three Americans in May 2001.

* Indonesian authorities have announced that eight of the twelve men arrested in the 2002 killing of two American teachers are suspects in the attacks, while four others were released. Among those detained was Anthonius Wamang, an Indonesian indicted by a U.S. federal grand jury in 2004 on two counts of murder and several counts of attempted murder in connection with the killings.

* NPA communist insurgents in the Philippines killed 4 soldiers in attacks near Catbalogan City. In a raid on the Batangas jail, NPA members disguised as police officers also freed 13 inmates. Philippine National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales called on the government to face the growing strength and aggressiveness of the NPA.

* On Sunday, U.S. troops began arriving in the Philippines in preparation for Balance Piston 06-2, joint military exercises scheduled to begin on Tuesday that will focus on small unit tactics, patrolling, marksmanship, and life saving techniques.

* On Sunday, Singapore held anti-terror exercises (North Star V) at the Chomp Chomp Hawker Center in Serangoon Garden, involving more than 2,000 people from 22 government agencies. The two-hour mock terror attack included a car bombing and other explosion.

* Indonesian police have arrested four terror suspects in central Java, three of which have ties to wanted Jemaah Islamiah leader Noordin Top.


* A German court convicted Amin Lokman Mohamed, an Iraqi national living in Munich, of belonging to a foreign terrorist organization and human trafficking in smuggling jihadists into and out of Iraq.

* British authorities have unveiled a new body scanner designed to detect weapons and explosives. The unit will begin testing at Heathrow and train and subways stations in London.

* Spanish police have arrested Omar Nakcha, a Moroccan national they suspect of leading two extremist groups in recruiting terrorists to send to Iraq. Nakcha is also suspected of helping suspects in the Madrid train bombing escape the country. A Spanish judge has jailed seven others in connection to the recruiting cells.

* British anti-terrorism investigators are expected to arrive in Sarajevo this week, investigating a Bosnian connection to the 7 July London subway attacks.

* Information leaked last year that pointed to a terror plot to shoot down French airliners has been confirmed. According to the report, "a terrorist group headed by Algerian Islamist Taqi Al Din purchased in mid 2000 two Russian SAM 18 Igla missiles from Chechen rebel Ruslan Gulaiev."

* British jurors in the case against Islamic cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri were shown a videotape of one of his sermons at the Finnsbury Park mosque, where he praised Adolf Hitler and called for the Jews to be destroyed. Al-Masri faces possibly life in prison if convicted of inciting murder. The Finnsbury mosque has prior terror connections and past members include the shoebomber Richard Reid, and Zacarias Moussaoui.

* According to the testimony of Zouaoui Choki, a Tunisian arrested in Italy on terror related charges, he belonged to an Islamic terror cell that was plotting to blow up a cathedral, two underground stations and a police building in northern Italy.


* Sudan is not ready for a proposed UN peace force in Darfur, its foreign minister has told the BBC. Lam Akol said no official request had been made and that the money spent sending a UN force would be better used on helping the existing African force. The African Union (AU) has some 6,000 peacekeepers in Darfur but says they are under funded and may be withdrawn.

* Algeria's reconciliation efforts aimed at halting all terror activities have been the subject of intense debate among the Algerian population. The debate is raging once again after Madani Mezrag, the former head of the now disbanded armed Islamist militant group AIS (Islamic Salvation Army) made controversial statements in a French publication, acknowledging his role in the killings that have occurred in the 1990s.

* A report from PINR looks at Somalia's uncertain future. Somalia does not have a strong central authority to combat the mix of gangs, warlords and radical Islamic elements that are entrenched in the country.

* Algerian police nabbed 13 members of a terror group which was uncovered in a recent raid in western province of Tilimsen, Algerian news agency reported Friday. The police seized a batch of ammunition as well as some traffic and communication equipment such as vehicles, mobile phones and computers.

* A previously unknown Nigerian militant group claimed responsibility Friday for dual attacks that cut Nigeria's oil output by 10 percent. In a phone call to the AP in Lagos, a man who identified himself as Brutus Etikpaden said he and his group claimed responsibility for blowing up an oil pipeline and kidnapping four foreign oil workers on Wednesday and Thursday. Etikpaden, speaking from an unknown location, called on the government to release militia leader Mujahid Dokubo-Asari, a convert to Islam.

* Algerian authorities are mopping up the main extremist group responsible for the deaths of dozens of people, having wiped out another movement, Interior Minister Yazid Zerhouni said in an interview.

* In the jagged terrain north of Mekele, Ethiopia and Eritrea have amassed at least 200,000 soldiers on either side of the border. That has raised fears of a new war that analysts said would kill thousands more and plunge the Horn of Africa region -- including ever-volatile Sudan and Somalia -- deeper into crisis. A team of senior U.S. diplomats, led by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer, is due to arrive this week to try to defuse the tension in a region that is important in the war against terrorism. Ethiopia hosts U.S. troops along its eastern border with Somalia, a potential outpost of groups allied with Al-Qaida.

The Global War

* From Knight Ridder, here are some war stories from 2005 that you might have missed: Shiite Muslim rebels in northern Yemen are giving up. Islamic extremists in Algeria are, too. In Burundi, peaceful elections ended 20 years of bloody civil war. Rebels in Sumatra disarmed after 29 years to participate in elections. It seems that armed combat is falling out of fashion. According to war historians, the number of conflicts worldwide declined sharply in the last decade, and their overall lethality is the lowest since the 1950s. Some war historians think the lull is temporary.

* According to a web statement posted on Sunday, al Qaeda in Iraq and other terrorist groups have set up an umbrella organization, The Mujahideen Council, to coordinate the fight against U.S. and Iraqi forces.

* Demand for special operations forces capabilities has increased dramatically since Sept. 11, 2001, the deputy commander of U.S. Special Operations Command said last week. "There's been much demand for our capabilities," Navy Vice Adm. Eric T. Olson said, "more than we can meet".

* Despite objections and a veto from the U.S. government, Spain will sell Venezuela a dozen C-295 transport aircraft in a deal worth $ 1.2 billion, that includes some vessels.

* Book Reviews: Kirk Sowell reviews Andrew Meier's book, Chechnya: To The Heart of Conflict and C.S. Scott reviews Paul L. Williams' book, The al Qaeda Connection.

* An article by Lt. Col. Tucker Mansager in the 1st Quarter 2006 issue of Joint Force Quarterly looks at the challenges of interagency coordination, and uses Afghanistan as a case study. The article is available here in PDF.

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

24 Day 5 7:00 AM - 9:00 AM

We start off with the now obligatory graphic violence warning. As I mentioned last year, I think the producers just plain forget that frame is in there.

We find out we're 18 months down the time line. This show really likes to jump in leaps and bounds. Day 4 took place 18 months after Day 3, which took place three years after Day 2, which took place 18 months after Day 1. So, by now, Jack is about 98 years old.

We get a glimpse of oil wells in Mojave, CA. Is this a subtle hint at the oil politics that drives so much of international relations? We have a Russkie flying in to see President RunLoganRun.

Ah, we find Jack goes by the name Frank Flynn. What's he doing, is he a wildcatter? I'm going to have to come up with some Thunder Bay or Hellfighers material.

David Palmer is working on his memoirs with his crazy brother, Wayne. Nice to see both of them again. Wayne was in the third season. It was Wayne's girlfriend who shot crazy Sherry. so Wayne does have the world's eternal gratitude for that.

Holy Guacamole!!! Kurt Russell shot David Palmer! Nothing like starting the season out with a bang. And no clearer way saying Palmer is gone from the show for good. (The shooting comes at the 04:30 mark).

We see Mike still works for RunLoganRun. Why? Doesn't Mike have any marketable skills? Why does he stay around this wet noodle?

Logan mentions his summit with Suvarov and Yalta in the same breath. Does he really want to make that comparison? Yalta was where the West pretty much threw Eastern Europe to the Soviet wolves. Is that the kind of legacy Logan is after?

Ah, we see Logan's wife continues the tradition of the wives of presidents on 24 being lib-dribbling insane in one way or the other. Martha is a real honey.

Edgar and Curtis are still around. I guess no one ever found out about Marianne coercing Edgar into giving her a high security code, and no one found about Curtis and Driscoll trying to doctor evidence to cover their heinies last season.

RunLoganRun gets hissy with CTU and asks if they have arrested Palmer's assassin yet. Um, Logan, babe, it's the 07:35 mark. Palmer was killed all of about 3 minutes ago. It's a wonder you know so soon. Give CTU a break, and give them at least five minutes to catch the shooter, will ya? Thanks.

Logan says to Bill, "Don't give me protocols". Amen to that. Enough with the protocols. But as you see from the counter below, we're not off to a promising start.

Hmmm. It's Chloe! And...Spencer. Okaaaaaay. And I see Chloe still has that winning way about her. Chloe tenderly tosses clothes at Spence at tells him to get out. Yep, it's easy to see why Spence fell for her. And how lovely, Spence works for Chloe. That's going to make for some awkward database rekeying.

FAUX News is running a report on the Palmer assassination, and the krazy kaptions don't even come close to matching what the reporter/voiceover is saying.

At CTU, Bill is spouting terms like search and sweep, and narrow the search area. But what about changing parameters or running a protocol?

Jack is talking to some Surly Teenager. Please tell me we don't have to put up with this kid for long.

Ah, Frank/Jack lied about the Albatross. Wildcatters are superstitious about the albatross. They'll do anything to avoid harming an albatross.

Surly Teenager's mom is named Diane. Did the producers really think this one through, having our love interests named Jack and Diane? I mean, I have no choice but to start making up little dittys, wondering if the thrill of livin is gone. Oh yeah.

Hey, Tony and Michelle! Ooh, Michelle as little hottie top on. Is she going to wear that the whole season?

Michelle says they worked up suspect profiles, and ran scenarios. Well, that qualifies them to wander in off the street and into the heart of a sensitive counterterrorist unit in my book. At least they're known to CTU, unlike Marianne waltzing into CTU last year.

Holy Guacamole!! Michelle is blowed up! And Tony is hurt bad! Yikes, this show is really clearing the decks, isn't it.

Ah, there we go. Edgar is data-mining and sending parameters. Good to hear that old CTU jargon again.

It's like Old Home Week around CTU! Audrey makes her appearance. She is given Station 5. yes, it must be hard for her to be there again. All those memories of Jack being responsible for the death of her wet fish Brit hubby, her brother getting tortured there, numerous times, Jack dying, I mean, "dying" before her eyes.

Logan is giving a eulogy of sorts about Palmer, at the 25:45 mark. Palmer has been dead for about 20 minutes. They sure don't wait for the body to get cold, do they.

Oh, Mrs. Logan is a real bbbt-bbttt-bttt-btttbbbt case.

So why were Mrs. Logan and David Palmer close? Logan and Palmer were in opposite parties? Can you see Laura Bush and Bill Clinton being close? No, I can't either.

Jack comes driving up in a Toyota Tundra. What happened to all the Ford vehicles? Did they get a new sponsor?

Jack decks some poor guy named Weaver. Man, go to work like any other day and some nut ambushes you. LA is a tough town.

Derek followed Jack? And Jack didn't notice he was being followed by a Surly Teenager? Jack's skills are getting rusty.

Wait a minute. They brought Tony to CTU??!?!?! CTU?!?!? After the absolute hash the CTU medical staff made of things last year? There aren't any other hospitals in LA? Tony's dead if he's in the hands of these quacks.

Some doc wants to see a cranial field. All together now, Cranial Fields Forever. Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see. Dying is easy with eyes closed, too.

Did David really call Martha? They're making such a fuss about it, he must have. But how could he get through to the crazy woman? Surely they have her monitored pretty close, people just don't get Martha on the phone.

Chloe makes to the rendezvous with Jack and her fabric tears on the fence. Now those Cherokee trackers will be able to pick up her trail again.

Hold the phone! How did the baddies find Chloe! She had ditched them. Oh, not a good sign if the writers are cutting corners just to service the plot this early in the season.

Jack picks off the bad guys. Ha, Jack tells Chloe (a gun expert as we saw last season) to hold her fire, even though the bad guy is turning towards her. I guess defending yourself is not acceptable in Jack's Army.

Jack coldly dispatches the Kurt Russell-esque bad guy. Ouch.

And the first hour ends, except the 8:00 am mark comes at 53:00. I see we're playing time travel tricks already.

We start off the second hour with a graphic violence warning. Uh-huh. We start off at the 57:00 mark.

Audrey calls Marcie! A nice touch, Marcie got a mention in last season as well.

Suddenly this has turned into No Way Out. Who is that in the photo?!? Who will it be? It's Kevin Costner!

Jack disciplines Surly Teenager by jacking (sorry) him up against the van.

Edgar tells us the vid of Jack was not doctored. That's too clue us in that the bad guys are very good at what they do, if they can fool Edgar, Saviour of the Universe last season.

We keep hearing about Adamson, but we haven't seen him yet.

Edgar is still Edgar, he snippily tells Bill that Spencer talked him out of tracing Chloe's cell phone.

Whoa, another ripple in the space-time continuum. The 8:06 AM mark comes at the 04:15 mark. Whereas once the 24 clock was 7 minutes ahead, now it's two minutes ahead. Hey, and at the commercial break it is 4 minutes ahead, where it remains for the rest of the episode! I just hope Jack doesn't pick up the phone and get Abraham Lincoln on the line.

Diane says to Surly Teenager "I love you". Surly Teenager says "Me too". So he loves himself, too?

Chloe, Jack and Derek drive into a parking garage, a most favored 24 location.

Jack puts the sleeper hold on an FBI agent and presto, Jack is In Like Frank Flynn.

Ah, our first instance of Magic! Chloe instantly sees green dots representing agents in a nice outline of the building.

Heh, the agents are in green, and Jack is a red dot. Last season, in the raid on the Chinese Consulate, all the Chinese were red dots, and Jack was a green dot. I guess technology has changed in these 18 months.

Jack meets Wayne, and they have a uproarious, backslapping reunion. The IP address of Palmer's computer is, which, with the first octet being greater than 255, is obviously not a real IP address.

Martha and David danced at Palmer's inauguration? Why? Again, they are in different parties.

Chloe has given out her password?!? Yikes. I'd think that would be a big no-no in CTU. (It being a counterterrorism unit and all. Don't they recall all the problems they've had with computer security in past seasons?) And the password is a hard to crack JJ72. I wonder if some producer has a kid with the initials JJ who was born in 1972.

Chloe goes busting out of the garage, but is apprehended. They're going to bring her to CTU. Oh goody! I wonder if they'll torture her! Tell Richards to prepare his shiny metal ase, or maybe the Mind Defragmentizer.

The krazy kaptions spell Mrs. Logan's name as "Marty", whereas earlier it was spelled as "Martie".

Surly Teenager is an idiot. He hops out of the car and runs into the airport. In service to the plot, of course.

Where is this airport, and why would the terrorists pick this location of all places?

Holy Cow, Baggage Guy immediately commits suicide! What a dedicated flunky.

Walt is a mole! How could we have another season of 24 without a mole! We've got all the greatest hits!

And thus ends our first night of 24. Good to see ya again, old friend.

(You'll notice I expanded the statistics section from last season.)

Number of times Jack says "Now!": 2
Number of times Jack says "No!": 1
Number of times a "protocol" is mentioned: 6
Number of moles: 1
Approximate Body Count: 8

9:00 AM - 11:00 AM ->

Sunday, January 15, 2006

More questions than answers

Friday evening came reports that Al Qaeda's #2 man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, arguably more important than Osama bin Laden from an operational standpoint, may have been killed in an air strike.

However, officials in Pakistan were soon claiming Zawahiri was not at that location.

It is ironic that intelligence operations, designed to gather critical information, can leave more questions than they answer, especially in the minds of those, like us average citizens, not involved with the operations.

We probably will not learn of the exact details of this operation. We will not know how exactly the US came to believe Zawahiri was there. We will not know what or who the CIA thought they were tracking, or how, in the days before the attack. It would be interesting to know how those Pakistani officials were sure Zawahiri wasn't there, so soon after the attack. Why didn't they know this ahead of the attack, and if they did, why wasn't it communicated to the US?

A report at CBS News today quotes Pakistani intelligence officials as saying Zawahiri was invited to dinner there, but declined to attend. The US still plans to do DNA tests, but the word from the Pakistani officials is not encouraging.

It is not a secret that elements in Pakistani intelligence are cozy with Al Qaeda and radical Islamic militants. One can only wonder here how much the CIA relied on intelligence from Pakistan, and if that intelligence came from these elements hostile to the US.

This attack does nothing good for the US. If reports are true that women and children were killed, the US is now shown, in a very public manner, to be working with Musharraf's government, and this attack can only discredit that relationship in the eyes of many Pakistanis.

Perhaps this was an operation designed to harm that relationship. That very assessment will be done inside intelligence circles, but again, we are unlikely to hear much about it.

The fellows at ThreatsWatch have another informative slide presentation, this one on high value Al Qaeda targets captured and killed in Pakistan. I'm glad they did this, because I was going to compile a similar list for this post, and they saved me a lot of work.

It's useful to look through those names and see if there are any similarities or differences with this attack. I'll list some of them here.

Hamza Rabia (Dec 1 2005) - killed in an air strike, certainly an indication of US-Pakistan cooperation

Musba al-Suri (Nov 3, 2005) - captured in a raid. Again, Pakistan intelligence would have to have been involved.

Haitham al-Yemeni (May 2005) - killed by a missile from A CIA drone, hard to imagine this would have been down without the knowledge of Pakistani intelligence

Farraj al-Libbi (May 2005) - captured by the Pakistani military

Amjad Farooqi (Sept 2004) - killed by Pakistani security forces. He was wanted in connection with assassination attempts on Musharraf.

Muhammed Noor Khan (July 2004) - arrested in Pakistan, and the US and Pakistan cooperated in using the resulting intelligence

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (March 2003) - one of the great successes against Al Qaeda, Mohammed, a top Al Qaeda planner was captured in Rawalpindi in a joint US-Pakistan operation

All this is to say Pakistan has cooperated with the US, and that cooperation has led to some significant arrests or kills. Certainly, Musharraf is motivated to go after some of these guys because of the attempts on his life.

In some of those listed above, you'll see successful missile strikes from CIA drones. Cooperation between Pakistan and the US has led to successful missile strikes before.

So what went wrong with this attempted attack on Zawahiri? Again, is this the result of hostile elements in Pakistani intelligence trying to disrupt the US-Pakistan relationship, to prevent more of their allies from showing up in the list above?

Was this just simply bad luck? Did Zawahiri, for reasons unknown, simply decide not to go that location that night?

We may never know, but the US and Pakistan have some damage control to do.

Tigerhawk points to some similar analysis from Stratfor.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

As a nation, let's not forget our responsibility

On Jan 6 the New York Times ran an article on whether or not better body armor for soldiers could save more lives.

The article was controversial, but there was a short passage in the article on Humvees, and the efforts to obtain fighting vehicles that are better suited for today's combat environments.

The production of a new armored truck called the Cougar, which military officials said has thus far withstood every insurgent attack, has fallen three months behind schedule. The small company making the truck has been beset by a host of production and legal problems.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon is still relying on another small factory in Ohio to armor all of the military's principal transport truck, the Humvee, and it remains backlogged with orders. The facility, owned by Armor Holdings, increased production in December after reports in The Times about delays drew criticism from Congress. But the Marine Corps said it is still waiting for about 2,000 of these vehicles to replace other Humvees in Iraq that are more lightly armored, and does not expect final delivery until June.

An initiative begun by the Pentagon nearly two years ago to speed up production by having additional firms armor new Humvees remains incomplete, Army officials said.

Again, I just want to ask the question, are we doing all we can to find a replacement for the inadequate Humvee? Is this nation, with its vast industrial might, doing the right thing by relying on small private companies?

The AP had a story on the Humvee today that underscored lack of total commitment on this issue.

Nearly three years after rolling into Iraq in trucks covered in many instances only by canvas roofs, the 101st Airborne Division's 3rd Brigade is adding extra layers of armor to its Humvees.
Commanders in Iraq and at the Pentagon have debated how to further improve the Humvee. The Army also has tested several vehicles to replace it, but a successor has not been developed.

Three years and vehicles are still being improved? Three years and we're relying on small private companies to develop successors?

My correspondent (now home) had some thoughts on this article.

let me be frank/blunt; any model of the humvee is TOTALLY inadaquate on the modern battlefield. is that clear enough?

In my previous post on this particular topic, I included casualties involving Humvess from Dec 19 through Jan 1. Here are casualties since then, where Humvees were specified as being involved.

DateNameAssigned ToCircumstances
Jan 5Sgt. Jason Lopezreyes
Spc. Ryan Walker
3rd IDIED detonated near their HMMWV
Jan 5Maj. William Hecker
Capt. Christopher Petty
Sgt. 1st Class Stephen White
Sgt. Johnny Peralez
Pvt. Robbie Mariano
4th IDIED detonated near their HMMWV
Jan 7Spc. Clinton Upchurch101st ADIED detonated near his HMMWV

Just as one example from WWII, at the beginning of that war, among other aircraft, the US Army Air Force was flying the P-39, hardly the top performing plane of the war.

By 1944, the USAAF had the P-51, one of the best fighters of the war.

This country has had three years to develop a new fighting vehicle. Why do we not yet have the P-51 equivalent of the Humvee? Are we content to lose soldiers 2 and 3 and 4 and even 5 at a time?

We have a responsibility to equip our fighting forces with the best we can achieve. Let's not shirk that responsibility.

Previous Posts

Can't we do better?
The Rock
It is still an inadequate vehicle
More on the Humvee
We can play a role in the war effort

Dispatch from the Homefront!

I've been looking forward to posting this for a long time. This from my correspondent, who has provided a number of Dispatches from the Front.

I have returned to the states after deployment to Iraq. Feels good to be home. Can't quite describe the feeling. Thanks to you one and all of you for your prayers and support.

Aren't I a proud alum

I got my (first) degree at Carleton College, in Northfield Minnesota. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and would go there again in a heartbeat.

It is very much a left-leaning school, however. It's the place where I learned some people spell "women" with a "y". On Easter mornings when the Christian group would have a sunrise service up on the Hill of Two Oaks, there would be eggs and fruit left on rocks the night before by "Druids". At the time I was there, divesting in South Africa was all the rage. Paul Wellstone was a professor there when I attended. All typical academia stuff.

In the latest issue of The Voice, the alumni magazine, there is an article on Craig Nelson, class of '77. Nelson is a correspondent for Cox Newspapers and a freelance journalist. The blurb said he formerly worked for the Associated Press and NPR, which should've been a warning flag right there.

The article contains snippets of things he's written from places around the world, but I just had to share what he wrote on Iraq. It sums up the anti-war Left's biases as perfectly as anything you can read. And I'm so glad it showed up in my mailbox in my alumni magazine.

I'll let you read it without comment, except to say it won't be hard to notice the pejorative terms. And you tell me if you think Nelson believes freeing Iraq of Hussein's regime was a good thing.

Dateline: Bahgdad, Iraq April 9, 2003

"If it takes the Iraqis a week, let them do it alone," I muttered. "They'll figure it out." Nonetheless, after two jubilant Iraqis wielding hammers had failed to budge the 25-foot-high statue of Saddan Hussein in Firdos Square, a U.S. armored-personnel carrier was backing up to it, cable extended. Soon a U.S. Marine was wrapping Saddam's chest in the cable and cinching it tight. The APC gunned its engine and with the screech of shearing metal, the statue bent forward at the knees and tore free of its base. Finally it crashed to the ground, hollow inside.

"We just gave them a little help," a smiling Marine colonel later said with a wink. The wink was illustrative of "liberation" day in Baghdad. Iraqis had not lined the avenues of Baghdad and showered American troops with flowers, as Bush administration officials had predicted. Nor had they crowded Firdos Square by the thousands--there were perhaps 600 people there, a group of people not uniformly elated to see U.S. troops roll through their capital. Indeed, some wept in humiliation as Baghdad was once again trampled by a Western army.

Despite these inconvenient facts, it was hard to defy the day's canned story line. The toppling statue of Saddam was an iconic moment. Period. "Freedom's taste is unquenchable," White house spokesman Ari Fleischer gushed. Throughout the night I stood on the roof of the Palestine Hotel, doing interviews for CNN. One network talking head prodded me for descriptions of the great welcome bestowed by Iraqis on U.S. troops. When I said there was none, he pressed me again. Finally he gave up.

Writer's note, 11/05: Today, more than two years later, Western journalists cannot leave Baghdad's fortified Green Zone without fearing for their lives. To date, nearly 2,000 U.S. soldiers have died in aaction, and the deaths of several dozen Iraqis on any given day is no longer deemed worthy of much coverage.

Little wonder, then, that the Bush administration recently retired the phrase "war on terror" in favor of a new designation--"the global war against violent extremism." This new catchphrase perpetuates the notion that both the war in Iraq and the precipitous decline in America's popularity can be fixed with an image makeover and improved packaging.

Friday, January 13, 2006

No easy options does not mean no options

I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing.

Ronald Reagan
First Inaugural Address
January 20, 1981

Today, Europe is beginning to wake up to the fact their feckless attempts to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions through diplomacy have, in essence, been the equivalent of doing nothing. And Europe's diplomats are looking for a way to avoid the ensuing fate, a belligerant Iran armed with nuclear weapons.

A crisis has an oddly refreshing way of infusing diplomatic conversations with the bracing clarity of plain language, as if in recognition that there is no time to obfuscate issues in fogs of demurring pleasantries.

Today nations are speaking in plain terms, in the wake of Iran resuming operations at the nuclear enrichment facility at Natanz. However, it is still Iran who is being the most specific about its intentions.

Iran threatened on Friday to block inspections of its nuclear sites if confronted by the U.N. Security Council over its atomic activities. The hard-line president reaffirmed his country's intention to produce nuclear energy.

France, Britain and Germany quickly responded that they were not demanding sanctions against Tehran just yet.

On Thursday the three countries, backed by the United States, said that nuclear talks with Iran had reached a dead end after more than two years of acrimonious negotiations and the issue should be referred to the Security Council.

However, they refrained from calling on the 15-nation council to impose sanctions and said they remained open to more talks.

For her part, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said a "strong message" had to be sent to Tehran but said she was not ready to talk about what action should be taken to curtail Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Iran responded Friday by saying that if it were confronted by the council, it would have to stop cooperating with the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

RegimeChangeIran links to an article where Iranian President Ahmadinejad is remarkably blunt.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said Wednesday that Iran would forge ahead with its nuclear programmes and was not afraid of the uproar it had caused in the West. 'The Iranian government and nation has no fear of the Western ballyhoo and will continue its nuclear programmes with decisiveness and wisdom,' Ahmadinejad said in a speech in Bandar Abbas in southern Iran.

'Today we have started the nuclear research programme and, God willing, in the near future, this (nuclear) energy will be fully put at the disposal of the Iranian people,' Ahmadinejad added in the speech, carried live by Khabar news network.

Iran's boldness should not be surprising at this point. Their decision to break the UN seals was deliberate, and so reveals a willingness to accept the consequences, and it is a sign Iran believes they can weather any diplomatic storm.

European diplomats are still reluctant to threaten UN sanctions, and it may be because Russia and China are still in Iran's corner.

Iran, Russia and China all recognize the benefits in using each other as a counterweight against the US and its Western allies. Russia recently sold anti-aircraft missiles to Iran, certainly in anticipation of any future air attacks on Iran's nuclear facilities. Russia is helping Iran build its nuclear program, in fact.

I've posted a number of times here recently about Russia's strategy to use its energy resources as a foreign policy, and Russia certainly views Iran as a partner and customer in its energy goals.

For instance, from Transneft:

Project Russia - Kazakhstan - Uzbekistan - Turkmenistan - Iran. Envisages supply of Russian, Kazakh and Turkmen oils to Iran's refineries and a possibility of supplying oil via the Persian Gulf into Asian-Pacific countries. For this projects implementation it is planned to use not only the existing oil pipelines but to build new lines in the route Pavlodar - Chardzhou - Turkmenbashi - Neka - Tehran. The following oil pool is supposed: West-Siberian oil of first-type quality (light, low-sulfur), Kazakh oil (Kumkol) of first-type quality (light, low-sulfur), and Turkmen oil of second-type quality (sulfur). It will be possible to receive in this kind of pool first-type quality oils. However, this mixture quality may be affected by pumping or oil withdrawal in Iran's territory.

Project Russia - Kazakhstan - Turkmenistan - Iran. Envisages supply of Russian, Kazakh and Turkmen oils to the Persian Gulf region. This will require further development of Samara-Atyrau oil pipeline for Turkmenbashi - Neka - Tehran destination.

Today China indicated it is not willing to immediately align against Iran. China, too, sees Iran as a valuable partner for energy resources.

China cautioned today against taking the issue of Iran's nuclear program to the United Nations Security Council, saying that doing so might lead the Iranian government to end all cooperation with the UN's nuclear watchdog agency.

"Referring it to the Security Council might complicate the issue," Wang Guangya, China's ambassador to the UN told reporters in New York. "That might make some of the parties more tough on this issue. That is our concern."

Guyangya wouldn't say whether China would vote against referral to the Security Council when that question comes before the board of governors of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.

Western Europe may be unwilling to test Russia and China on this, for their refusal to agree to sanctions would show the foolishness of wasting two or three years on diplomatic talks with Iran, given the reality of these regimes who make no secret of their desire to be an opposing pole to western power.

The United States should force the issue in the United Nations. It is for this kind of situation that President Bush wanted John Bolton as our UN ambassador. Make Russia and China commit one way or the other. If they vote to hinder Western efforts to block Iran's nuclear ambitions, then we can stop pretending that these nations are truly partners, and we deal openly with them as potential rivals.

The indispensable Victor Davis Hanson has a column today at NRO where he outlines the box the West is in.

And Iran can threaten to do all this under the aegis of a crazed Islamist regime more eager for the paradise of the next world than for the material present so dear to the affluent and decadent West. If Iran can play brinkmanship now on just the promise of nuclear weapons, imagine its roguery to come when it is replete with them.

When a supposedly unhinged Mr. Ahmadinejad threatens the destruction of Israel and then summarily proceeds to violate international protocols aimed at monitoring Iran’s nuclear industry, we all take note. Any country that burns off some of its natural gas at the wellhead while claiming that it needs nuclear power for domestic energy is simply lying. Terrorism, vast petroleum reserves, nuclear weapons, and boasts of wiping neighboring nations off the map are a bad combination.

So we all agree on the extent of the crisis, but not on the solutions, which can be summarized by four general options.

Among the four options is one Hanson desribes as "inevitable", a US air strike.

Steve Schipper has another nice roundup at ThreatsWatch, and he closes his post with a dose of cold medicine for Europe.

The EU would be well advised to stand firm and stand united, matching Iran’s will with equal European will.

Europe must show itself to be as resolute as Iran, because if Europe does nothing, Iran will decide their fate for them.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Pieces of Paper

Iran has taken another step in its determined quest to develop nuclear weapons.

The U.N. nuclear watchdog confirmed on Tuesday that Iran had broken U.N. seals at the Natanz uranium enrichment plant, setting the stage for a showdown between the Islamic republic and the West.

"The Iranians have begun removing (U.N.) seals at Natanz in the presence of IAEA inspectors," said a spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna.

"We are in contact with our inspectors in Iran and once we get the full details we will report these to the (agency's) board of governors today."

She said she had no further details. One European Union diplomat told Reuters on Monday Iran intended to begin producing nuclear fuel using 164 centrifuges at Natanz.

The UN had placed seals on this plant. Why would Iran feel bold enough to break those seals, if the seals represented the full weight and authority of the UN? Wait, I think I just answered my own question.

I don't know exactly how this plant was "sealed". The seals were probably not simple pieces of paper. (Slate had an informative article last August on the nature of UN seals.)

But, the seals could just as well have been paper. They have no power to stop anything. They can't stop a bullet, they can't stop a tank, they can't stop an oppressive regime bound and determined to get nuclear weapons.

The only power a seal has is in the will of the UN to enforce it. Paper means nothing.

Neville Chamberlain returned from Munich waving a piece of paper, saying it represented "peace in our time". That statement was born of wishful thinking, but orphaned by reality.

Hitler and Stalin signed a Non-Aggression Pact. That agreement lasted only as long as Hitler needed it. It bought him some time.

Iran's long dance of diplunacy with Europe has simply been an attempt to buy time.

Austin Bay recognizes the nature of the Iranian regime.

Remember, nuclear weapons aren’t the real problem here. It’s the character, psychology, and aims of the men seeking them.

Dr. Zin at RegimeChangeIran has a good roundup of links on this development, including several detailing the protests of the Europeans who let things get this far in the first place. Their bleats have all the full-throated roar of a yapping chihuahua.

Mohamed ElBaradei (hooray! A Nobel Peace Prize winner in our time! We're all saved!) said the "international community" was "running out of patience. Oh, look out Iran, another two or three years of your stonewalling and we might be sort of somewhere in the vicinity of running a little bit low on patience!

Steve Schippert at ThreatsWatch keeps an eye on Iran, and in a post yesterday he summed up the sputterings and spittings from several nations, but pointed out that talk is akin to pieces of paper, it means nothing without a will to act.

The current news cycle is replete with stern sound-bites that make for magnetic headlines. However, looking beyond the highlighted text displays a world still largely reluctant to act or even take a clear and unambiguous stand. Meanwhile, time continues to slip by and Iran continues to draw nearer to becoming capable of producing their own nuclear weapons.

We are seeing with Iran a failure to learn the lesson President Bush tried to teach us next door in Iraq. If you wait till it's too late to stop a tyrant, it's too late. The consequences of failing to act soon enough can be worse than the consequences of taking on the difficult task of confronting tyrants early.

While diplomats sit around tables and try to constrain a tiger with little strips of paper, Iran continues on the path to possessing nuclear weapons.

Tick tick tick...

The annual stampede

From Breitbart (via Drudge)...

Thousands of Muslim pilgrims rushing to complete a symbolic stoning ritual during the hajj tripped over luggage Thursday, causing a crush in which at least 345 people were killed, the Interior Ministry said.

The stampede occurred as tens of thousands of pilgrims headed toward al-Jamarat, a series of three pillars representing the devil that the faithful pelt with stones to purge themselves of sin.

An enemy divided

Today the New York Times has one of those articles where you wonder how it got by their editors. There is not a single accusation that President Bush drowns kittens for fun in a White House bathtub.

The article addresses the growing conflict between Al Qaeda and Iraqi Sunni insurgents in Iraq.

American and Iraqi officials believe that the conflicts present them with one of the biggest opportunities since the insurgency burst upon Iraq nearly three years ago. They have begun talking with local insurgents, hoping to enlist them to cooperate against Al Qaeda, said Western diplomats, Iraqi officials and an insurgent leader.

It is impossible to say just how far the split extends within the insurgency, which remains a lethal force with a shared goal of driving the Americans out of Iraq. Indeed, the best the Americans can hope for may be a grudging passivity from the Iraqi insurgents when the Americans zero in on Al Qaeda's forces.

But the split within the insurgency is coinciding with Sunni Arabs' new desire to participate in Iraq's political process, and a growing resentment of the militants. Iraqis are increasingly saying that they regard Al Qaeda as a foreign-led force, whose extreme religious goals and desires for sectarian war against Iraq's Shiite majority override Iraqi tribal and nationalist traditions.

It is one of Al Qaeda's serious missteps in Iraq, their continued attacks on civilians.

"The tribes are fed up with Al Qaeda and they will not tolerate any more," said a senior Iraqi intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The intelligence official confirmed reports that a Sunni tribe in Samarra had tried and executed Qaeda members for their role in assassinating a local sheik.

On Tuesday the White House released a document entitled Progress and the Work Ahead in Iraq. This document is essentially a synopsis of goals in the National Strategy, which I mentioned here.

This document touches on why there is growing conflict between the bloody killers in Al Qaeda and the Sunni insurgents.

Iraqis Have Shown They Can Come Together For The Sake Of National Unity. After the January 2005 elections, Shia and Kurdish leaders who did well at the polls reached out to Sunni Arabs who failed to participate. Now Iraqis must reach out once again across political, religious, and sectarian lines and form a government of national unity. In the December 2005 elections, Sunnis turned out in large numbers. Sunnis who abandoned violence to join the political process must learn to use their influence to benefit their community and the country at large. Shia and Kurds need to understand that successful free societies protect minority rights. The success of Iraqi democracy will come when political divisions are driven not by sectarian rivalries but by ideas, convictions, and a common vision for the future.

The Sunnis themselves are coming to see that their best hope is to participate in the political process. Al Qaeda will be ever more marginalized, as they try to convince Sunnis that democracy, Iraqi style, is not in their best interest.

In 2006, The Coalition Will Focus Efforts On Improving The Performance Of Iraqi Police. Iraqi Army and police are increasingly able to take the lead in the fight, yet the Iraqi police still lag behind the Army in training and capabilities. One of the major goals in 2006 is to accelerate Iraqi police training and improve the performance of the Ministry of Interior's Special Police, the border police, and the local station police.

Another important element. The terrorists and insurgents will increasingly find themselves fighting Iraqis. This, too, will only marginalize the terrorist elements. How can they claim to be fighting for Iraqi's interests if they are fighting other Iraqis, the very security forces responsible for protecting Iraqis?

Dancing Queen

On Tuesday we started Hanna in a little dance class. Got her some little ballet shoes, too. It's the kind of thing parents take joy in just seeing their little girl have fun, interact with others, and discover creative expression. Obviously it’s not about the quality of the dance moves. They haven’t been training since they were two. We’re not Soviets, for heavens sake.

Yes, with each step, she is taking  a step towards independence, towards the day she’ll be all grown up with a life of her own, no longer the happy girl who likes to pretend to be a puppy and hop around my feet. So, I’ll enjoy these days when she shows off this dance she learned, where she simply twirls around once and falls on the floor. Hanna’s joy is so honestly expressed, and truth and beauty do indeed go hand in hand.

Though, being Dad, there is a klaxon sounding far off in the distance, a faint warning, as this little class is a step towards, and not away from, the general direction of dancing around a pole. I shall be ever vigilant.

Lately when tucking John into bed, he'll have two or three things to tell me. He'll usually ask these questions, and always with the same wording. He'll ask

"First thing, how do tornado drills get in the house, because why, Daddy?"

"Second thing, how do fire drills get in the house, because why, Daddy?"

They must be talking about drills at school or something. So, I tell him about how tornados are strong storms, with wind that can blow down houses, like in The Three Little Pigs story, and we have to know how to go the basement. And with fires, we have to know how to get out of the house, etc...

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Jihad's Funniest Bloopers

Helmet Hair'd Announcer: And now, the host of Jihad's Funniest Bloopers, Bob Saget!

*wild applause from audience whipped into a frenzy by a 20-year old production assistant*

Bob: Welcome to Jihad's Funniest Bloopers! I'm your host, Bob Saget, and the next person to point out my initials are B.S. will be taken out and shot.


Bob: Our first video is sent in by this comic duo. Well, sent in by their next of kin, actually. As you'll see, their act...bombed.

*groans from audience*

Two terrorists were killed in Samarra early in the evening Jan. 9 when an IED they were attempting to emplace detonated prematurely.

Bob: These joyriders found out the hard way that you don't tug on Superman's cape.

A civilian vehicle approached the Soldiers’ patrol and began to fire at the troops with AK-47s. The Soldiers returned fire, killing both attackers and disabling the vehicle.

Bob: We say it every show, don't try these stunts at home. These boys learn that driving like the Dukes of Hazzard can lead to a "Doozy Duke" of a headache.

*giggles and groans*

Several hours later, a second vehicle tried to run through the checkpoint and was fired at by the Soldiers. The driver was killed in the initial burst of fire and the vehicle came to a quick stop. Two men with AK-47 assault rifles climbed out and were engaged as they attempted to flee.

One of the gunmen successfully evaded capture, but the other was wounded and quickly surrounded. As the Soldiers approached the wounded man, they noticed he was wearing what appeared to be an explosive laden suicide belt.

Soldiers guarded the man until an EOD team arrived and removed the belt, which contained more than three pounds of plastic explosives.

The failed bomber was treated for his wounds and detained.

Bob: These guys got a new mortar for Christmas, but didn't read the instructions.

Police in Samarra responded to an explosion and discovered the bodies of three unidentified men. The men were attempting to fire an 82-mm mortar at an unknown target when the round detonated prematurely. A fourth terrorist was taken to a local medical facility, but died from his injuries while attempting to escape.

Bob: These cats landed on their feet. But given the number of pieces they were blown into, they also landed on their hands, elbows, knees, spleens...

*mock expressions of horror and giggles*

One terrorist was killed and another severely injured when the improvised explosive device they were attempting to emplace detonated prematurely. The incident occurred Dec. 19, near the city of Tikrit.

Bob: We get lots of videos of workplace accidents. This guy is going to feel it in the morning.

Near the eastern city of As Sadiyah, another terrorist found himself on the receiving end of his own bomb when the IED he was attempting to emplace detonated prematurely. The bomber was killed by the blast.

Bob: I hate it when my car won't start, but after watching this next one, I won't complain anymore.

Task Force Baghdad dispatched elements to the scene where two terrorists attempting to build a car bomb were killed when the device prematurely detonated in central Baghdad Nov. 2.

Bob: And that's our show, ladies and gentlemen. If you think the increasing frequency of terrorists accidentally killing themselves or conducting futile attacks means the bad guys are losing experienced personnel and are having to field ill-trained rookies, and that this is an indication of the success the Coalition Forces are having in Iraq, then you must not be a Democrat or a member of the MSM.

Good night, and we'll see you next time on Jihad's Funniest Bloopers!

*applause, and credits roll*

update: a recent video plays over the credits...

A terrorist bomber was killed Jan. 12 near Tal Afar when the IED he was emplacing detonated prematurely.

Soldiers from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment discovered the bomber's body and part of a shovel near a roadside blast crater.

A new day dawns

I've been a fan of the FOX show 24 since the beginning. Last season I and a friend of mine, Paul Foth, reviewed each episode of Day 4. The show's blend of terrorism, action, nonstop cliffhangers, etc... makes for good escapist fun.

(Links to the those reviews are in the sidebar along the right. Or, here is the first episode of last season, and there are links to the preceding and next episode at the end of each review.)

Last season started with a train wreck, and Paul pointed out how that was a perfect metaphor for the season, as by the end we were hurling spinning scythes of critical death at the show.

I posted the reviews at Blogcritics, and posted them on this blog as well.

Day 5 begins this Sunday night, and we'll be getting our sharpened pens out of storage again.

As did King Henry before the battle of Agincourt, I'll now speak to you, to rally your courage, to prepare you for the arduous task of watching this show that, last season anyway, has thrown all logic and reason to the wind.

I posted this last March, but here it is again. Be brave. We'll get through this together.

What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Wendell? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to die, we are now
To do this show loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more watch this show.
By Jove, I am not covetous for internal logic,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my reviews;
It yearns me not if men my blog read;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet something that maketh sense,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not another episode.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, through my internet host,
That he which hath no stomach to this viewing,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd Season 5.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of 24.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is the next episode.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on the fifth day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Jack the King, Tony and Michelle,
Edgar and Curtis, Marianne and Driscoll-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son to avoid;
And 24 shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that watches this show with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen on their couches now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That watched with us upon this fifth day.

Duke Alito

(Duke Leto was the patriarch of House Atreides in Frank Herbert's classic novel Dune.)

I haven't said much about Alito in awhile. I've been conserving the few drops of venom I had left after the Miers fight. I left it all on the field over that nomination.

(For those who acted like we were tearing a hole in the very fabric of the universe by opposing Miers, isn't it a good thing we had that knock-down drag-out argument? Is it not a far better prospect that we are getting Alito on the SC, and not Miers?)

But truth is, Alito doesn't really need any help. He is doing just fine in the nomination hearings. Though, given the sere winds blowing from the Democratic side of the room, they should be called the nomination blathering on and on and on and on-ings. There's not a lot of actual "hearing" going on.

The reason the Dems aren't doing much to hurt Alito is simply because they don't have truth on their side. I believe there is such thing as objective truth, which is why I am not a postmodern, and so I believe if your basis for argument is not rooted in truth, you will not succeed.

The Dems are grasping at straws. Ridiculous things, such as trying to portray his association with a group called the Concerned Alumni of Princeton as evidence he wants to burn crosses on lawns. Tigerhawk does an excellent job of outlining what the Dems are trying to do, and why it is just fluff floating in the wind.

Just this morning, as Hugh Hewitt points out, Sen. "Do it for the grandchildren" Durbin made a backhand attempt to associate the mining tragedy in West Virginia and Alito in the same breath. Durbin brought up a case that had to do with the coal industry, and safety regulations. He all but said "Wink wink, nudge nudge, know what I mean!"

Durbin tried to imply it meant Alito usually sides with big evil child-enslaving corporations, and not with the Noble People's Workers Collective. Durbin tried to imply this meant Alito had a bias, and not an open mind. Yet, Durbin indicated he wanted Alito to side with the Noble People's Workers Collective. Now, if Alito came to a case already predisposed to rule in favor of one side, wouldn't that be precisely the kind of bias the Dems are trying to hang around his neck?

On that coal case, Alito said it was a matter of interpretation, what did the law say about which body had jurisdiction in that case, the federal level, or perhaps OSHA or the state. And therein is the conservative approach to the law. What does the law say? Not, what does the ACLU say, what does Barb Boxer say, what does Kate Michelman say. What does the law say?

This nonsense will go nowhere, because thankfully there are still enough people in this country of sound mind and judgment that will recognize if this is all the Democrats have, they have nothing.

Alito, an eminently qualified candidate, will be on the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Shaking hands, Changing hands

This is something that slipped by me during my holiday break, but I wanted to mention it here.

From the Jan 4 Iraq Weekly Status Report (available here in PDF) comes some encouraging news.

Mattan, a son of an Iraqi Soldier, waits to present his bouquet to Maj.
Gen. David Rodriguez, Task Force Freedom commander, during the transfer of authority of Iraqi battlespace to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division, Iraqi Army in Makhmur Dec. 27.

First Battle Space Transition In Ninewah Province

Over 500 soldiers from the Coalition Forces and the Iraqi Army came together for a battle-space assumption handover ceremony December 27. For the first time within Nineveh Province the Iraqi Army assumed military control of the battle-space.

Turnover of responsibility to the Iraqi Army will help bring security and stability back to the nation and ultimately defeat the insurgency. This effort has enabled the Iraqi people to have increased confidence in the capability and credibility of its security forces.

I'll reiterate, for the first time in the Ninewah Province, the provincial capital of which is the city of Mosul, the Iraqi Army assumed military control of a battle-space.

Progress is measured in steps, not in leaps, and this is a step forward.

A story in the Jan 4 issue of This Week in Iraq (available here in PDF) records the ceremony:

Against the backdrop of the second-largest granary in Iraq, 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 2nd Division Iraqi Army took over Makhmur from coalition forces in a transfer of authority ceremony Dec. 27.

Under the command of Lt. Col. Hogar Salahaddin Abdul, the battalion is now responsible for the stability and security of a large swathe of the Tigris River Valley.

Blackfive had a post on this Iraqi unit, made up largely of Kurdish soldiers, and has more of the story that was in This Week In Iraq.

"With professional leaders and a common goal [3rd Bn.] quickly formed a team ready for any mission," said Rodriguez in his speech. He spoke of the training and combined operations the battalion performed with Battery C and Military Transition Team-33.

"Before you stands today a cohesive unit ready to take over the battle space," said Rodriguez.

Although the battalion consists predominantly of Kurdish soldiers, the unit is able to work well with the local Arab leaders in the area of operations, according to Sgt. 1st Class James Ray, MTT-33 logistics trainer, from Jacksonville, Fla.

This unit had trained by working the US forces.

During the months leading to the transfer, 3rd Bn. conducted combined operations with Iraqi Police and units from Task Force Thunder, such as Battery C, 4th Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment.

The 2nd Division took control from the 172nd Stryker Brigade. Margaret Friedenauer is embedded with the Bridage, and wrote this of the transfer:

So instead of a quiet home life and tile making, the colonel, who goes by the name "Hogar," on Monday became commander of the first army unit in northern Iraq to assume command of an area from U.S. forces: the 3rd Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Division of the Iraqi army.

"Effective today the third battalion assumes control of the battle zone here in the Mahkmur region," announced U.S. Army Major Gen. David Rodriguez, commander of the Multinational Force Northwest and Task Force Freedom.

A handful of transfers like these have taken place in southern and central Iraq, but this is the first Iraqi battalion to assume command of battle space in the northern region. It is also the first time power has been transferred from an area controlled by the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team from Fort Wainwright Army Post in Fairbanks.

The transfer ceremony took place Monday afternoon just outside the town of Mahkmur. Early that morning, hundreds of soldiers began arriving, practicing their high-step marching and strict formations. Some companies jogged around the compound chanting Kurdish cadences.

Regional leaders began arriving by late morning, including Sunni Arab and Kurdish tribal and religious leaders, mayors, Iraqi police and soldiers’ families. Hundreds attended the ceremony, which began with a reading from the Koran, sung by a local sheik. A smartly dressed band played the Iraqi national anthem. Wuestner and Hogar conducted a traditional review of troops before Wuestner officially transferred the colors of the battalion to Hogar.

"This moment provides stability and security for all Iraqi people," said Brig. Gen. Ali is Ali Atala Malowh, commander of the 1st Battalion, 3rd Brigade, 1st Division of the Iraqi army.

Hogar and his 3rd Battalion still technically fall under the tactical command of Wuestner. But Hogar can now conduct operations such as house raids or cordon searches for insurgents without the assistance of U.S. forces. Wuestner said, for the most part, U.S. forces are taking a back seat to the Iraqi battalion. U.S. forces will still provide assistance as needed but will primarily focus on continued training with the other two battalions in their area and creating civil projects in the surrounding towns.

"They’ve got this," Wuestner said of the battalion. "This is a very good unit for this type of fight."

This area south of Mosul along the Tigris River, is unusual because of the relatively peaceful blend of the Sunni Arab and Kurdish populations, which number nearly 300,000, Wuester said. He credits Hogar for his diplomacy in dealing with the two distinct groups. Hogar is of Kurdish decent, but can speak Arabic and English. Wuestner said Hogar has made a point to keep the two groups on an even keel. Hogar noted the cooperative relationship between the two groups in his area in his speech Monday.

Here are the ingredients for what will be the recipe for success in Iraq. Building up the Iraqi army by creating strong, professional leadership. On the job training with US forces until the Iraqi forces are confident enough and capable enough to operate on their own. Developing cohesive units that are motivated to police their area to benefit Iraqis.

W. Thomas Smith Jr. has a column here on the long process to standing up an army. It does take time, which is why I say such turnovers are steps. The US will still need to provide assistance, but over time it will be more and more from the background, not at the point of the charge. Smith writes:

Here are several other factual points to consider:

First: even if a soldier was – in some isolated instance – sent to Iraq straight out of boot camp, his boot camp experience would be nearly twice as long as the basic training an Iraqi soldier receives, in every instance. And Iraqis are often in combat during their basic training.

Second: building an army is not the same things as training soldiers at the individual level. That is only a part of the process. Building an army, as Gen. Blount explained, takes years. And as I've recently reported in a few different venues, it takes about seven to eight years (including college) to mold an American Army officer into an infantry company commander. Fifteen to 17 years for a battalion commander. Twenty to 22 years for a brigade commander. Twenty-five years for a division commander. And though American military officers are honing their skills over the years in real world situations, they also have many opportunities to attend the best professional military leadership schools in the world, and – unlike Iraqi officers – no one is shooting at them while they are in school or threatening the lives of their families because they are officers.

Third: what we are accomplishing in Iraq in terms of standing up the new Iraqi Army from scratch is nothing short of amazing. Sure, it was probably a mistake to disband the old Iraqi army soon after the invasion phase of the war in 2003, but we all understand hindsight, so let's move on.

Fourth: Lets consider the motivations of a private soldier in the Iraqi army: Recently during an interview for National Review Online, Brigadier General Daniel P. Bolger, commanding general of the Coalition Military Assistance Training Team in Iraq, told me in so many words that an increasing number of legitimate jobs are being created for young men in Iraq, but many are still volunteering for service in the army and police forces.

Gen. Bolger also told me that a new soldier in the Iraqi Army makes around $300 a month, while the terrorists are offering about $300 per night for anyone willing to plant an IED. Yet Iraqi Army boot camps are turning out around 1,650 brand new soldiers every five weeks. That number is growing weekly, and is slated to double in 2006.

Like the throngs of voters who queued up to the ballot box last week, volunteers who stand in the Iraqi army recruiting lines are not stupid. Nor are they so desperate for work they'll risk death for a loaf of bread.

Why do they do it? Pride, love of country, a sense of duty, and a desire to be on the winning team (and make no mistake, Abu Musab al Zarqawi and his headsmen are not the winning team): All the same reasons American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have been flocking to the colors post 9/11.

(Note: Smith mentions disbanding the Iraqi Army after the invasion as being a mistake. For an opposing opinion, see the interview with Paul Bremer at National Review Online today.)

Progress is happening before our eyes. Do we know it when we see it? These moments are not as dramatic as, say, the November 2004 battle for Fallujah, or Operation Steel Curtain, but the implications for Iraq's future are nonetheless profound.

From the Bibliothek

RAND Corporation
Air Power Against Terror
by Benjamin S. Lambeth


This report details the initial U.S. military response to those attacks, namely, the destruction of al Qaeda’s terrorist infrastructure and the removal of the ruling Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

It first outlines the efforts of the Bush administration to prepare for war, including pulling together an effective coalition, crafting a war strategy, moving forces and materiel to the region, forging alliances with indigenous anti-Taliban elements in Afghanistan, laying the groundwork for a target-approval process, and planning for humanitarian relief operations.

It then follows the unfolding of Operation Enduring Freedom from its beginning, starting with air strikes against Taliban early warning radars, airfields, ground force facilities, and other fixed targets. The author also explains how allied Special Operations Forces (SOF) were successfully inserted into Afghanistan and how those forces, enabled by U.S. air power, were eventually able to work with indigenous friendly Afghan fighters in defeating and routing the Taliban.

He then outlines problems that were later encountered in Operation Anaconda — an initiative by U.S. Army forces to push into the high mountains of Afghanistan where hard-core al Qaeda holdouts were known to be regrouping. This was to be a conventional ground force operation, but unexpected resistance and resultant fierce fighting required the emergency summoning of fixed-wing air power. This air involvement proved pivotal in producing a successful outcome and, in hindsight, pointed to the failure of Operation Anaconda’s planners to make the most of the potential synergy of air, space, and land power that was available to them.

The author describes some of the friction and conflicts that arose within U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) over how best to use air power in the war. Perhaps the most serious inefficiency had to do with strict rules of engagement and a resultant target-approval bottleneck at CENTCOM that often allowed many important but fleeting attack opportunities to slip away.

The author emphasizes, however, several distinctive achievements in this war, including the use of SOF-enabled precision weapons that were effective irrespective of weather, the first combat use of Predator unmanned aerial vehicles armed with Hellfire missiles, and the integrated employment of high-altitude drones and other air- and space-based sensors that gave CENTCOM unprecedented round-the-clock awareness of enemy activity.

Update: Security Watchtower provides some excellent additional information on Lambeth and his work.

The Jamestown Foundation
Unmasking Terror
A Global Review of Terrorist Activities, Volume II
Christopher Heffelfinger, ed.


The second volume of Unmasking Terror reviews trends and significant events in international terrorism, with selected articles from the journals Terrorism Monitor and Terrorism Focus.

Through concise and informative analysis, Unmasking Terror provides invaluable information on terrorist groups that is not often covered in the mainstream media. The book brings together leading experts on terrorism and security, with analysis on the inner workings of terrorist groups, their motives and aims, and their relationships with one another.

Written for both the specialist and the general reader, Unmasking Terror is an important resource for anyone serious about understanding terrorism.

by Teresita C. Schaffer


The Kashmir problem is the most intractable part of the 50-year dispute between India and Pakistan. While scholars and statesman have long analyzed the political dimensions of the problem, the economic dimensions have received much less attention.

This study is an effort to address this lack of economic content in thinking on Kashmir. Starting with an assessment of the current economic picture--in the regions administered by India and in those administered by Pakistan--it attempts to define how economics might help build peace. The study examines measures that could be taken in the near term, in the absence of major political change, to build peace constituencies and lay the groundwork for a peaceful future. And, it suggests measures that could reinforce a long-term settlement and leave a more prosperous Kashmir, integrated with the regional and world economies.

Recommendations range from proposals for working together on environmental problems, to suggestions for facilitating exports from Kashmir, to an ambitious plan for a free trade area centered on Kashmir. Although economic interventions are not a substitute for fundamental political decisions, the economic tools and recommendations addressed herein may facilitate the political changes that people in the region so badly need.

Monday, January 09, 2006

The elephant in the room

President Bush ought to give journalist Stephen Hayes a Medal of Freedom, because Hayes has done more than just about any other private citizen to make the case for why removing Saddam Hussein from power was necessary. Hayes has certainly done a better job than the Bush Administration in documenting and publicizing the connections between Hussein's regime and terrorism, and with Al Qaeda as well.

As I wrote about here, lately Hayes has been trying to obtain documents from a vast cache of documents retrieved by the US in the wake of the invasion of Iraq, and now in the control of the Pentagon. The great majority of these documents remain untranslated. Even the very titles of some of these documents hint at undeniable connections between Hussein, terrorism and even Al Qaeda.

Now, in an article for The Weekly Standard entitled Saddam's Terror Training Camps, Hayes delivers some bombshell news based on documents from this treasure trove of information.

The former Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein trained thousands of radical Islamic terrorists from the region at camps in Iraq over the four years immediately preceding the U.S. invasion, according to documents and photographs recovered by the U.S. military in postwar Iraq. The existence and character of these documents has been confirmed to The Weekly Standard by eleven U.S. government officials.

The secret training took place primarily at three camps--in Samarra, Ramadi, and Salman Pak--and was directed by elite Iraqi military units. Interviews by U.S. government interrogators with Iraqi regime officials and military leaders corroborate the documentary evidence. Many of the fighters were drawn from terrorist groups in northern Africa with close ties to al Qaeda, chief among them Algeria's GSPC and the Sudanese Islamic Army. Some 2,000 terrorists were trained at these Iraqi camps each year from 1999 to 2002, putting the total number at or above 8,000. Intelligence officials believe that some of these terrorists returned to Iraq and are responsible for attacks against Americans and Iraqis. According to three officials with knowledge of the intelligence on Iraqi training camps, White House and National Security Council officials were briefed on these findings in May 2005; senior Defense Department officials subsequently received the same briefing.

The photographs and documents on Iraqi training camps come from a collection of some 2 million "exploitable items" captured in postwar Iraq and Afghanistan. They include handwritten notes, typed documents, audiotapes, videotapes, compact discs, floppy discs, and computer hard drives. Taken together, this collection could give U.S. intelligence officials and policymakers an inside look at the activities of the former Iraqi regime in the months and years before the Iraq war.

Certainly the blogs are discussing this, but there's one thing that some may miss, and that's this.

If this is true, that Hussein trained thousands of terrorists inside Iraq, in the four years preceding the invasion, it is yet another sign of our colossal intelligence failures inside Iraq.

How could we miss those kinds of numbers training inside Iraq? How could we miss that number of people moving about the region, coming to Iraq for training?

We still maintained the no fly zones over northern and southern Iraq. It's not like we were nowhere near the region. Certainly we must have had high quality satellite coverage of central Iraq. How could we miss the signs of these camps?

To be sure, there had been public mention in the past of at least the training camp at Salman Pak, and the infamous airline fuselage. (Funny, the Left doesn't usually bring that one up in trumpeting Hussein as no terrorist threat.)

Combined with the well-documented failures concerning what was, or wasn't found with Iraq's WMD programs after the invasion, it makes you wonder what our intelligence agencies knew about Iraq at all. And if you really want to start spitting nails, let's throw the whole Able Danger fiasco into the mix.

And yet, former CIA director George Tenet was given the Medal of Freedom. Who knows what he would've got if he had discovered this large scale training going on in Iraq.

In his Jan 8 column at the Chicago Sun-Times, Mark Steyn talks about the shortcomings of our intelligence capabilities. He starts out this way:

Here's a Reuters headline from New Year's Day: "CIA May Need Decade To Rebuild Clandestine Service."

A decade, huh? Circa 2016, you mean? The last time I checked the job-completion estimates was back in spring 2004, when the agency's then-director, George Tenet, told the 9/11 Commission that it would take another half-decade to rebuild the clandestine service. In other words, three years after 9/11, he was saying he needed another five years. As I wrote at the time, "Imagine if, after Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt had turned to Tenet to start up the OSS, the CIA's Second World War predecessor. In 1942, he'd have told the president not to worry, he'd have it up and running by 1950."

But CIA reform is like the budget for Boston's Big Dig or the 2012 London Olympics. Think of a number, triple it and update your excuses. Four years after 9/11, it may take 10 years to rebuild the clandestine service. So Tenet would be telling FDR not to worry, we'll have the World War II intelligence operation up and running in time for the 1956 Soviet invasion of Hungary. OK, make that the Cuban missile crisis. But definitely by the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The latest estimate came from Gary Berntsen, who was the CIA's man on the ground during the hunt for bin Laden in Tora Bora in late 2001. That's what most folks think the agency does, just as "clandestine service" is assumed to be the core activity -- all the super top-secret undercover stuff you see whenever the CIA turns up in movies like Syriana, in which the sinister spooks subvert a Middle Eastern government. Oh, if only. Away from the glamorous adventuring of the silver screen, alas, the only government they're any good at subverting is the United States'.

(Short plug: The Reuters article about Gary Berntsen was included in an item in our Jan 2 Winds of War Briefing. It's the last item in the briefing. If you keep up on the Briefings, you knew about this long before the great Mark Steyn wrote about it!)

In all the leaks about secret surveillance programs, the CIA has shown itself not only to be inept, but downright antagonistic to Bush's policies. Maybe we could overlook their hostility if they were bringing in gold mines of intelligence, but when an agency with the word Intelligence in its name can't perform when we most need it, a change is in order.

It may be a Herculean task, but Porter Goss needs to muck out all the stables in the CIA and bring in some fresh horses. For its part, the Pentagon needs to make translating these documents a top priority. Our national security is at stake.

Why Johnny Can't Believe There Was A Holocaust

This from MEMRI...

On December 26, 2005, Dr. Abdullah Muhammad Sindi, [1] a Saudi professor of political science who has taught at King Abdulaziz University in Saudi Arabia, at two American universities (the University of California in Irvine and California State University at Pomona) and at two American colleges (Cerritos College and Fullerton College) gave an interview to the Iranian Mehr News Agency. In it, he expressed his support for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's recent statements regarding the Holocaust.

Interviewer: "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said that he thinks that the Holocaust is a myth. However, he also said some European countries insist that millions of innocent Jews were killed during World War II by Hitler, and asked why the Europeans don’t give part of their land to the Jews if they are correct. What is your view?"

Dr. Sindi: "I agree wholeheartedly with President Ahmadinejad. There was no such a thing as the 'holocaust.' The so-called 'holocaust' is nothing but Jewish/Zionist propaganda. There is no proof whatsoever that any living Jew was ever gassed or burned in Nazi Germany or in any of the territories that Nazi Germany occupied during World War II. The holocaust propaganda was started by the Zionist Jews in order to acquire worldwide sympathy for the creation of Israel after World War II. I detailed all of this in my book (The Arabs and the West: The Contributions and the Inflictions).

Yep, our Ivory Towers sure can pick 'em. Is it really all that far from denying the Holocaust, to saying the victims of 9/11 were "Little Eichmanns"?

How about a journalism professor, the day after 9/11, blaming the attacks on US policy?

Daniel Pipes, who follows such things, wrote in 2002:

Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at MIT and far-left luminary, insists that President Bush and his advisers oppose Saddam not because of his many crimes or his reach for nuclear weapons. "We all know . . . what they're aiming at," Chomsky said in a recent interview, "Iraq has the second-largest oil reserves in the world."

Jim Rego, visiting assistant professor of chemistry at Swarthmore College, stated at a panel discussion that, even after Sept. 11, the U.S. government is merely manufacturing another enemy "to have an identity." Rego explained his thinking with an elegance characteristic of the Left: "I think we've run out of people's butts to kick and that we essentially want to keep the butt-kicking going."

Eric Foner, professor of 19-century American history at Columbia University, states that a preemptive war against Iraq "takes us back to the notion of the rule of the jungle" and deems this "exactly the same argument" the Japanese used to justify the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Glenda Gilmore, an assistant professor of history of the American South at Yale University, tells her school paper that confrontation with Iraq represents a plot to expand American power. It is nothing less, she asserts, than "the first step in Bush's plan to transform our country into an aggressor nation that cannot tolerate opposition." She concludes by quoting the wisdom of a cartoon character: "We have met the enemy, and it is us."

Mazin Qumsiyeh, associate professor of genetics at Yale University and co-founder of "Al-Awda, the Palestine Right to Return Coalition," wrote in a Connecticut newspaper that "if Saddam Hussein is a dictator, [Washington] created him." He concludes that a U.S. war against Iraq would be just a diversion created by "Israeli apologists and [U.S.] government officials" who share a "tribal affiliation" (in other words, are Jewish). The only purpose of war would be to provide cover for Israel to commit what he calls "even higher atrocities" against Palestinians by removing them from the West Bank and Gaza.

Tom Nagy, associate professor of business at George Washington University, proudly informed his university newspaper about providing aid to the Saddam regime against the United States during a recent (illegal) trip to Iraq. Specifically, he offered "estimates of the number of civilians needed to act as a human shield to protect infrastructure and buildings for Iraqi citizens."

How will our young people learn to love this country if they are being taught to hate it? How will our young people develop the fire in the belly to defend this nation, if they are taught that America is the greatest threat to world peace?

Never mind about "Give me a child before the age of seven and he's mine for life". Things don't look much better between the ages of 18 and 22.

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

* Rohan Gunaratna, a security analyst at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSS) in Singapore is warning that it's only a matter of time before terror attacks target Bangkok, Thailand. A violent Islamic insurgency in the southern region of the country has claimed more than a thousand lives in the last two years. On Saturday, two Thai police officers were shot and killed in the Raman district of Yala, and five others were killed in two additional attacks in Yala.

* Russia and Iran remain engaged in discussions over uranium enrichment, something Iran has been unwilling to make concessions on in the past. IAEA inspectors have arrived in Iran to monitor Iran's resumption of nuclear fuel research, slated to restart today. Regime Change Iran has the latest news and developments.

* Following declarations that he was a traitor and his expulsion from the Syrian Ba'ath party, former Syrian Vice-President Abdul Halim Khaddam is calling for a revolt to oust President Bashar al Assad, who refuses a U.N. request to be interviewed, instead meeting with other Arab leaders to discuss the ongoing U.N. investigation.

Other topics today include: Western embassies in Amman closed; Anarchy in Gaza; Palestinian journalists threatened; Iranian agent arrested; Saudi authorities arrest two terrorists; Zarqawi audio tape; Air Marshal head resigns; CRS report on warrantless electronic surveillance; NSA debate; Ohio Imam to leave US; Padilla in court; Muslim leaders to support al-Arian; Discussions over Manas airbase; Shootout in Columbia; Russian operations in Daghestan; Pakistani religious schools; bombings in Afghanistan; attack on Afghan border checkpoint; Taliban reconciliations; Tamil Tigers blow up naval vessel; Singapore terror exercise; Abu Sayyaf kills two police; tourism drops in Bali; Chinese suicide bomber; Zarqawi supporters in Australia; Abu Hamza trial begins in Britain; British surveillance; Terrorism in sub-Sahara Africa; Taheri review on Syriana; Zawahiri tape; and more.

Iran & the Middle East

* Britain has closed their embassy in Jordan, over the threat of a terror attack. A statement from the Foreign Office said that "terrorists may be in the final stages of planning attacks against Westerners and places frequented by Westerners." The following day, Canada and Australia closed their embassies in Amman as well.

* A statement signed by the Fatah-linked al-Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades and Abu al-Rish Brigades; the Fatah Hawks; the Izzedine al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas' military wing; the al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad's armed wing; and the al-Nasir Salah al-Din Brigades, the armed wing of the Popular Resistance Committees, is calling for an end to the lawlessness that has plagued Gaza of late.

* Groups affiliated with Hamas and Fatah are believed to be behind a series of threats lately against Palestinian journalists in Gaza and the West Bank for their coverage of the recent lawlessness and anarchy in Palestinian controlled areas.

* An Arab Israeli has been arrested in London on suspicion of being an Iranian agent. According to the reports, Garais Garais was recruited by Iranian intelligence during the 1990s in Cyprus and was attempting to infiltrate Israel's political establishment through his membership in the Meretz-Yahad party.

* Saudi authorities have arrested two Saudis on suspicion of having connections with armed terrorists inside of the country. The two were stopped during a security search campaign in Al-Naqa neighborhood, Unayzah Governorate, Al-Qasim, northeast of Riyadh.

* In an audio tape posted on the internet on Sunday, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi says recent rocket attacks against Israel came at the order of Osama bin Laden. “The rocket firing at the ancestors of monkeys and pigs from the south of Lebanon was only the start of a blessed in-depth strike against the Zionist enemy (...). All that was on the instructions of the sheikh of the mujahedeen, Osama bin laden, may God preserve him,” said the voice attributed to the Jordanian extremist.

* Israel has decided to allow Palestinian candidates in the January 25th parliamentary elections to campaign in Jerusalem, a sign percieved by some that eastern Jerusalem residents may be able to participate in the election. Over the weekend, Hamas called upon Mahmoud Abbas to ensure that elections go forward as scheduled.

America Domestic Security & the America's

* The head of the Federal Air Marshal Service, Thomas Quinn, is leaving office, effective Feb. 3. Michelle Malkin is not too sorry to see him go.

* In one of its first official acts, the Homeland Security Department's new Preparedness Directorate issued preliminary guidelines last week for emergency responders to follow in the event of a radiological or nuclear attack.

* The Congressional Research Service released a report entitled Presidential Authority to Conduct Warrantless Electronic Surveillance to Gather Foreign Intelligence Information. The 44 page report (PDF) can be found here. President Bush argued for his authority in a radio address last month.

* There are a pair of analyses of the NSA wiretap issue generally from the lawyers at Volokh (they're constitutional but there may be a FISA argument against depending on circumstances) and Powerline (who addresses the Congressional Research Service report). Here at Winds, we like to caution people that just because a lawyer says something about the law doesn't make them right. If that was true, why would we need judges? However, these are serious analyses that critics of the Bush Administration cannot dismiss out of hand.

* Lawyer John Hinderaker of Powerline analyzes the legality of prosecuting the New York Times for revealing information about ongoing intelligence operations in the NSA wiretaps story. Again - here at Winds, we like to caution people that just because a lawyer says something about the law doesn't make them right. Still, this analysis presents a lot of the essential groundwork for the discussion.

* The leader of Ohio's biggest mosque has reached a deal with the federal government to leave the country. Imam Fawaz Damra could end up in Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Sudan, Egypt or the Palestinian territories. Damra in 2004 was convicted of lying about ties to terrorist groups when he applied for U-S citizenship in 1994. His conviction was upheld in March, clearing the way for deportation.

* Jose Padilla appeared briefly in a Miami federal court Thursday evening to face criminal charges for the first time since being detained about four years ago as an "enemy combatant". His hearing lasted about five minutes, but it was a significant development in Padilla's case, representing his transfer from indefinite military detention to civilian custody. Last Friday a hearing on a plea and bail was postponed till Thursday.

* Jihad Watch links to news that some of the nation's prominent Muslim leaders will go to Tampa in support of Sami Al-Arian. A former professor at the University of South Florida, Al-Arian was acquitted of eight terrorism-related charges last month, including conspiracy to murder or maim people abroad. The jury deadlocked on nine other charges.

* Attorneys for Sami Al-Arian and a co-defendant on Friday revealed they are negotiating with federal prosecutors to avert a new trial.

* A Justice Department inspector general report found that problems with FBI forensic analysis and performance led to the mistaken arrest of an Oregon man as a suspect in the March 11, 2004, Madrid train bombings.

* The New York Times Magazine has a lengthy article on Salim Hamdan, a Yemeni captured in Afghanistan. He was once a driver for bin Laden, and has been charged with conspiracy to commit war crimes, murder and terrorism. He is being held at Guantanamo Bay.

* U.S. and Kyrgyz experts will soon start the second round of negotiations on terms of the deployment of an airbase of the international anti-terrorist coalition at Manas Airport of Bishkek, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Alikbek Dzhekshenkulov told the Kyrgyz media on Friday.

* This ISN article says Colombia’s strongest insurgent army (FARC) is more deadly than ever, and wants to prove it is still a political force that will not be controlled by the Colombian government. FARC destroyed another power tower last week.

* At least 12 Marxist rebels and two soldiers were killed on Friday in a gunfight over coca-growing land in southern Colombia that the government is trying to wrest from the cocaine-smuggling guerrillas, the army said. The battle took place in Meta province, where the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, killed 29 soldiers on a coca-eradication mission last week, an army spokesman said.

* Canada's Conservative Party Leader, Stephen Harper, said on Friday his government would set up a separate foreign spy agency to "independently counter threats before they reach Canada." The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the country's existing civilian spy agency, operates on the domestic front, but has mounted specific operations in other countries.

* In Trinidad, Chief Magistrate Sherman McNicolls made up his mind Friday that the state made a good case against leader of the Jamaat al Muslimeen, Yasin Abu Bakr on five criminal charges against him. The charges came out of Bakr's Eid-ul-Fitr sermon last year at the Mucurapo Road, St James mosque. Bakr said he wanted to call witnesses for his defence.

Russia & South/Central Asia

* This article details how the Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), an outlawed Islamist/terrorist group in Bangladesh, has amassed large amounts of money through Islamic NGOs.

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

* Russian security forces battled a group of armed militants allegedly linked with the Chechen separatist leadership in the southern republic of Daghestan for several days last week.

* A powerful blast has killed three people and completely destroyed a car workshop in South Russia’s Stavropol Territory. Initially police blamed the blast on a faulty gas cylinder, but experts say it was caused by a homemade explosive device, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported on Saturday.

* The latest issue of Chechnya Weekly from The Jamestown Foundation has five items, including one on Dokku Umarov, a less well-known Chechen guerilla leader.

* A college in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) can be a breeding ground for militants. The United States is trying to emphasize the importance of education in that area, in an effort to change mindsets there.

* A suicide bomber hurled himself on a moving police car in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, wounding two policemen, an official said, calling it the latest in a spate of suicide attacks by Taliban guerrillas.

* Here is the CDI's Afghan Update for the month of December. The update is a comprehensive roundup of events in Afghanistan.

* Ten people died and 50 were wounded in a suicide car bomb attack in central Afghanistan last week during a visit by the US ambassador. NATO's military chief said that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda were not regrouping in Afghanistan despite more than a dozen suicide attacks there in the last three months.

* Assailants armed with rockets and assault rifles attacked a newly built checkpoint near the Afghan border in Pakistan before dawn Saturday, killing all eight security forces, officials said.

* An explosion at a Pakistani house near the Afghan border killed eight people Saturday, witnesses said. A tribal elder claimed U.S. helicopters had attacked, but the American military denied operating in the area.

* In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai said Sunday that a few hundred Taliban fighters have reconciled with the government and suggested Taliban leader Mullah Omar should "get in touch" if he wanted to talk peace.

* Suspected Taleban gunmen destroyed a coed primary school in the main southern Afghan city of Kandahar Sunday, first tying up two security guards before setting the buildings on fire, officials said.

* A student has been killed and at least one police officer injured in an explosion that authorities initially believed was a suicide bombing but are since treating as a remotely detonated bomb attack in Afghanistan's eastern city of Jalalabad, RFE/RL's Afghan Service reported.

* The Sindh home department’s indecision has been delaying for more than four months the proceedings of the trial of an accused in the Daniel Pearl murder case.

* Last week bomb blasts hit the tourist town of Pokhara in Nepal, following a series of overnight explosions in the Himalayan kingdom, which came just hours after Maoist rebels called off a four-month truce.

* The Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) of Mumbai police on Friday arrested three suspected Laskar-e-Toiba militants from Nagpada area of South Mumbai, ATS sources said. "It is too premature to say that they are linked to the recent shoot out in Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore", they added.

* Evidence has emerged that poor communication and bureaucratic delays might have resulted in the squandering of an opportunity to pre-empt the December 28, 2005 terrorist attack on the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore.

* Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels have blown up a Sri Lankan navy gunboat with 15 sailors aboard in a suicide attack that inflicted the single biggest loss on the military since a truce was declared in 2002, the defence ministry said. Sri Lanka's navy says it has banned night fishing off the north-east port of Trincomalee to search for bodies of sailors killed in the ambush.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* Singapore staged a mock large-scale terror attack exercise on its transit systems, involving thousands of emergency response personnel and centering around four subway stations.

* Abu Sayyaf gunmen ambushed two pro-government militiamen near the town of Tuburan in the southern Philippines, killing both with multiple gun shot wounds.

* In the wake of terror attacks in Bali in 2002 and 2005, western tourists are staying clear of the volatile island that accounts for fourth-fifths of Indonesia's tourism revenue.

* A farmer angry over a court ruling in the northwest Chinese province of Gansu carried out a suicide bombing in the courthouse, killing five.

* The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is expressing optimism over peace-talks scheduled with the Filipino government later this month in Malaysia.

* Australian authorities continue to investigate supporters of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi living in Australia, who are donating money to the group and encouraging local Muslims to join the insurgency.


* Anti-terror police units in Britain have detained a man on suspicion of terrorist activities after conducting a raid on a home in Sheffield tied to a terror investigation abroad. The following day he was released.

* Spanish authorities are preparing to question a Moroccan recently arrested for murder, for his possible involvement in the March 2004 bombings in Madrid.

* Today in London, radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri's trial begins and he faces "16 charges of stirring up racial hatred and urging the killing of non-Muslims."

* British authorities will soon have the capability to track millions of vehicles on major roads across the nation through the widespread use of surveillance cameras. According to national coordinator John Dean, "It will revolutionize policing," with the capability of determining within seconds if a vehicle is stolen, if the driver has car insurance, or is involved in terror investigations.

* Dragomir Abazovic, wanted for war crimes in Bosnia during the 1990s, was wounded in a shootout with EU troops and his wife killed during a raid in Sarajevo.

* A Spanish General was placed under house arrest after suggesting that military intervention might be necessary to squash autonomy demands in the northeast region of Catalonia.


* The International Crisis Group has released a report entitled Sudan: Saving Peace in the East. The report says the low-intensity conflict between the government and the Eastern Front risks becoming a major new war with disastrous humanitarian consequences.

* A post by Douglas Farah at The Counterrorism Blog looks at the presence of terrorism in sub-Saharan Africa. Farah gives examples from Kenya, and the Ghanaian press.

* An increase in piracy off the Indian Ocean coast of Somalia has made these waters the most dangerous for pirate activities in the world. Shipping companies say the area has overtaken those traditionally plagued by piracy such as the Straits of Malacca in south east Asia.

* The Sudanese army has deployed along the border with Ethiopia. Governor of Al-Gadarif State Abdelrahman al-Khedir said the deployment of the armed forces was ensure stability on the border. Tensions between Ethiopia and Eritrea remain high.

* The Nigerian Government has ordered the Inspector-General of Police to deploy in the Niger River Delta a special squad to mount surveillance on power generation and transmission stations in the region to avoid any threats of vandalisation to the Power Holding Company Nigeria in the region. One of the prominent militant groups in the Delta is the NDPVF. The group's leader Dokubo Asari is a convert to Islam, and though the group is not exclusively Islamic, Asari has said he admires Osama bin Laden. Asari is currently on trial, which may be a factor in the increased violence in the delta.

* An African Union peacekeeper in Sudan's troubled Darfur region has died and 10 others were injured in an attack by unknown gunmen. A Sudan army spokesman said the force was attacked either by Chad-backed rebels or official Chadian forces.

The Global War

* The January 2006 issue of Air Force Magazine contains excerpts of comments made by Lt. Gen. Walter E. Buchanan III, commander of USAF’s 9th Air Force and US Central Command Air Forces, discussing air operations over Iraq and Afghanistan.

* The Winter 2005 issue of NATO Review is devoted to the Middle East, and examines ways NATO might be involved in improving relations between the Arab world and the West.

* Japan has refused to join Germany, Brazil and India in seeking permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council, instead opting to work within framework that will not be opposed by the United States.

* Amir Taheri speaks out about the movie Syriana, saying "there is a market for self-loathing in the US today and many, including the producers of 'Syriana', are determined to cash in on it."

* Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri released a new videotape declaring victory over the United States in Iraq and Afghanistan.

* Lawyers for Salah Abdul Rasool Al Blooshi, A Bahraini at Guantanamo Bay, have questioned why he is still in captivity, claiming he is not accused of being involved in violence or supporting any terrorist organisation. They say they do not understand why he was not released along with three other Bahrainis towards the end of last year.

* ThreatsWatch has a new graphic presentation on Syria titled "Who is Next?"

* The latest on Russian and Iranian relations.

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Sunday, January 08, 2006

A housing bust in China

A noteworthy article from the LA Times today about the slumping housing economy in Shanghai.

Once one of the hottest markets in the world, sales of homes have virtually halted in some areas of Shanghai, prompting developers to slash prices and real estate brokerages to shutter thousands of offices.
Shanghai's housing slump is only going to worsen and imperil a significant part of the Chinese economy, says Andy Xie, Morgan Stanley's chief Asia economist in Hong Kong.

James Waterton has some sobering thoughts on China's banking sector that if true, could signal some serious challanges down the road.

I believe that the Chinese banking sector's dire straits constitute the gravest threat to global stability in the coming years. The Chinese government is always harping on about its "deepening" banking and state-owned industrial enterprise reforms, and this is a mantra is being repeated across the world. Unfortunately, the Chinese state is so opaque that it's impossible to verify the veracity of such claims, and the unrealistic numbers being thrown at us by the Communist party (like the drop of NPLs from 25% to 12% in less than five years) and the shonky juggling of bad debt from one insolvent bank to another woefully undercapitalised holding company do not inspire much confidence in the nature of the reforms. Frankly, I believe the banking sector is too far gone to reform without collapse. In international terms, the crisis in the Chinese banks and SOEs is an elephant that stands in the middle of the room, but everyone is either perceiving it as a mouse or trying to pass it off as a mouse. I believe the Australian government is in the latter category, as are a great many others around the world.

I speculate that governments like Australia's are acting as they are because they realise the Chinese state is very brittle and unlikely to withstand economic collapse. The massively stimulating US$50 billion or thereabouts annual injection of foreign direct investment is holding the Chinese state together for the time being. Thus, a number of states such as Australia have an interest in talking up Chinese economic reforms - and concealing the parlous nature of the Chinese economy - in the hope that investor confidence will not flag and the Chinese will trade and consume their way out of their problems. Our current economic health is due to huge demand in booming and resource-hungry China. Thus we see documents like this (pdf) that echo the "deepening reforms" mantra consistently spouted by the Chinese administration. Puff pieces like this create and sustain the irrational exuberance that swirls around the legend of the Chinese economic miracle, and inevitably amplifies economic pain when the collapse eventuates. The strategy of our governments may work, but it is an extremely high-risk gamble. The more investment in and commercial intertwinement with China increases, the more outsiders will suffer if the system unravels.

And perhaps the cracks are already becoming evident even to the man on the street. When I was in China in late 2005, ATMs were frequently out of order. I work in the banking sector in Australia, and when an ATM is out of order this nearly always means the machine has dispensed all its money. This was not a problem in late 2004 during my previous Chinese visit - ATM operations at that time were indiscernible to those in Australia. I am speculating here, because I'm not really an expert on this kind of money velocity issue, but perhaps the sudden patchiness of the ATM network is a sentinel of a solvency crisis.

And the collapse could come sooner than we think. In 2007, as per the agreement China entered into upon joining the WTO, it must open up its retail banking sector to foreign banks. This is a potential tripwire. Even if only a small number of Chinese are concerned about the health of their local banks (and thus their savings), when Citibank opens up next door the run on Chinese banks could easily spin out of control. I am assuming that the government is trying to spread the notion of confidence and stability in the retail banking sector. If the Chinese do not panic come 2007 or any time in the subsequent 20 years or so, the banks should be able to reduce their NPL rate to a "more manageable 5%". It wouldn't be the first time that people have left their money in a bank that is essentially insolvent because they believe the government will cover any losses incurred. This is a questionable assumption, however, and if I was Chinese I probably would not run the risk.

Ansar al-Bad Guys

An interesting article from Kurdish Media explores the roots, and connections between, Ansar al-Sunna and Ansar al-Islam, two jihad groups in Iraq.

Although not as strong as it once was, the arrest of Ansar al-Islam members in Kurdistan indicates that there are sleeper cells remaining in the area [1]. Ansar al-Islam members still operate inside Iraq but are now largely based in predominately Sunni Arab areas in central Iraq where they are able to operate more freely. Furthermore, Ansar al-Islam is active in Europe, recruiting, transporting and even training jihadists to fight in Iraq.
Since its inception, Ansar al-Sunna has been responsible for some of the most vicious attacks in Iraq, including the coordinated Irbil bombings in February 2004, the suicide bombing of the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad, an ambush in which nine Spanish intelligence officers were killed and a suicide bombing at a U.S. army base near Mosul on December 21, 2004, which killed 22 people, including 14 U.S. military personnel.

The article has some interesting details on Ansar al-Islam's presence in Europe.

As Michael Ledeen touched on in a column, the enemy is everywhere. They hide and they hate, they watch and they plot. They take advantage of the open societies in the West to spread their networks.

And the opposition party here, the Dhimmicrats, can only sound like the Daughters of the Islamic Revolution Society, as Psycmeistr talks about here. If Leo sounds a little vexed, it's because his son joined that military Murtha said Americans shouldn't join, and is bound for Iraq with the Minnesota Guard. Without the support of our other major political party.

These jihad groups are not impressed by weakness. Do we still have it in us as a civilization to fight them?

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Consequences of China's ascent

Foreign Policy has a special report entitled China Rising. Seven experts on China were invited to discuss the Middle Kingdom's return to greatness.

The seven contributing to this report are:

The Once and Future China By Jonathan D. Spence

Clash of the Titans By Zbigniew Brzezinski, John J. Mearsheimer

Why is China Growing so Slowly? By Martin Wolf

A Grand Chessboard By Ashley J. Tellis

Lifting All Boats By Homi Kharas

Dangerous Denials By Minxin Pei

Merry Christmas!

Today, January 7, marks the Orthodox celebration of Christmas in Russia, according to the Julian calendar.

This is a season of celebrations in Russia, till Jan 14, as Christmas and New Years are celebrated.

Have there been any Grandfather Frost sightings in your neighborhood?

Friday, January 06, 2006

One of the oldest defenses

In a post in November, I mentioned a few walls and barriers being constructed around the world primarily to keep out Islamic terrorists.

Yesterday, according to a CentCom release, construction began on a berm around a village in northern Iraq. The residents themselves are in favor of the berm.

In a combined effort to reduce insurgent violence in As Siniyah, community leaders, Iraqi security forces and coalition Soldiers began construction on a berm around the village Jan. 5.

Following the recent spike in insurgent roadside and vehicle-borne bombs, leaders of this small village near Bayji in northern Salah Ad Din Province discussed what measures could be taken to improve the security situation.

Local police, city council members, sheiks and religious leaders met with leaders from the 1st Squadron, 33rd Cavalary Regiment 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) to discuss the operation.

As Siniyah's community leaders have long insisted those responsible for the violence were outsiders, not residents of the village. An overwhelming majority of those at today's meeting agreed that a berm would prevent these outsiders from using the village as a safe haven.

Once completed, the berm will be approximately 10 kilometers in length and nearly eight feet in height. Iraqi police and soldiers will man the access points into the village as well as guard towers being built in conjunction with the berm.

Iraqi citizens suffer the most from insurgent violence. Almost 80 percent of those killed and wounded by IEDs are Iraqis, not Coaltion Soldiers.

Provincial leaders expressed their approval of the berming operation. After a similar operation to deny insurgents access to the city of Samarra in August 2005, the level of violence sharply dropped off.

I've remarked before that it seems a bit anachronistic that in the 21st century, this day and age of space travel, sophisticated computers and electronics, miracle medicines, etc... that we are fighting enemies in Iraq and Afghanistan so closely tied to the tribal system.

This also seems like a trip to the past, where centuries ago towns routinely surrounded themselves with walls of some kind for protection.

But this is war. If murderers were threatening my children, I'd excavate an abyss to protect them. May God preserve the people of this village, and the Coalition forces in that area.

Oil deals in the Far East

Today Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia would begin construction on the Siberia-Pacific oil pipeline this summer.

"We will finish all coordinating work in April and in summer will begin the practical work to implement this project," Putin said in the eastern Siberian city of Yakutsk, quoted by the Itar-Tass news agency.

"Eastern Siberia has enormous potential and there are simply colossal prospects there," but this project will not be effective without developing the oil and natural gas deposits in eastern Siberia, said Putin.

The Russian government decided in 2004 to build the Siberia-Pacific pipeline in stages. Its length will span about 4,000 km, most of it underground. The pipeline is designed to shipup to 80 million tons of oil a year with the use of railway capacities.

Why should we be interested? Because this pipeline was seen as benefiting Japan, and given Japan's thorny relations with China, China has been a little miffed about the prospects of Russia providing its rival a potentially significant source of fuel. Interesting maneuvers are ahead as Russia continues to find a way to mollify China, and develop lucrative deals with China.

Transneft, the large Russian state-owned pipeline company, outlines the planned route. (See this map. The Pacific terminal, Perevoznaya, is in the lower right of the map, with the boat icon next to it. It is near Vladivostok.)

The route of the designed pipeline will go through territories of seven Russian Federation entities. They are Irkutsk, Tchita, Amur regions, the Republic of Buryatiya, Jewish autonomous district, Khabarovsk and Primorsk territories.

The length of the system via the route Taishet-Kazachinskoe-Skovorodino-Perevoznaya is 4130 km. For pipeline construction pipes of 1220 mm in diameter will be accepted.

Russia and China have for some time been discussing possible pipelines between the two countries. One significant project discussed was the Angarsk-Daqing pipeline, but Russia ultimately passed on the project, officially citing environmental concerns. China was very upset by the decision in early 2004.

Not so officially, it may be that Japan offered more assistance with the Siberian pipeline than China did with the Angarsk pipeline.

Russia's decision to build a Siberian oil pipeline to the Pacific port of Nakhodka will please Tokyo, but upset Beijing. Japan backed the Nakhodka route, while Beijing favored an alternative pipeline that would have brought the oil to Daqing in northwest China. Russia has been toying with both options, but in March 2004 indicated that it could favor the Japanese-backed project.

Tokyo has been lobbying for an oil pipeline route to the Pacific. To back up its lobbying, Japan reportedly promised up to $14 billion funding of the pipeline as well as $8 billion in investments in the Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 oil and gas projects, according to Russian media reports. The estimated cost of the oil pipeline from eastern Siberia to Nakhodka could reach $11-12 billion. The Taishet-Nakhodka route is seen as a strategic asset for Russia, allowing it to funnel crude not only to Japan but to Korea, Indonesia, Australia and the US west coast as well.

The Jamestown Foundation adds:

Tokyo has been lobbying for an oil pipeline route to the Pacific. To back up these efforts, Japan reportedly promised up to $14 billion in funding. Japan has apparently offered to fund the construction of the pipeline, and to give Russia full control of the pipeline. Hence fewer strings seem to be attached and Russia would not be forced to sell its crude to Japan only.

Compared to this, China has only promised to provide funds for constructing the section of the pipeline that is connected directly to the Chinese city of Daqing. Furthermore, China would own the pipeline on its territory and was supposed to become an exclusive buyer of the oil from the pipeline (China Business News, December 12). Therefore, the Taishet-Nakhodka route is seen as a strategic asset for Russia, allowing it to funnel crude not only to Japan, but also to Korea, Indonesia, Australia, and the western coast of the United States.

The breakdown of the Angarsk deal was a significant factor in China's pipeline deal with Kazakhstan. The pipeline opened last month, which I mentioned in this post. This pipeline a way of replacing what the Angarsk pipeline was going to bring.

There are thought to be enormous reserves of oil and gas in Siberia, and China, as discussed here, has enormous energy needs. China will continue to pursue deals with Russia for those resources.

For its part, Russia is doing what ambitious nations do. They look out for their own interests first. Russia is quite happy to form an alliance with China that is a counterweight to the US and its allies, but Russia certainly does not view itself as China's poodle. Or borzoi, I guess. Russia will leverage its resources in a way that best benefits Russia.

A year ago, when the Siberian pipeline was announced, Russia offered China part of Yuganskneftegaz, the assets the Russian government stole, I mean, confiscated in the Yukos affair. (Yukos had a strong presence in eastern Russia. Yuganskneftegaz was eventually subsumed by Rosneft, another Russian state-controlled oil company.)

From the Asia Times article linked to above:

In the past, Russian and Chinese officials have raised the possibility that a branch of Russia's Pacific pipeline could eventually be diverted to China. However, the December 31 announcement mentioned no China-bound branches of the proposed pipeline. As consolation, on December 30, Russia said it would offer China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) up to a 20% stake in a new state-owned entity that would control Yuganskneftegaz, the main asset of the collapsing Russian oil company Yukos.

Russia's state-owned Rosneft bought 100% of Baikal Finance Group, the company that won the December 19 auction to acquire a 76.79% controlling stake in Yuganskneftegaz. The Russian government indicated that Yuganskneftegaz assets would eventually be transferred from Rosneft to a new fully state-owned entity. An offer of a sizable stake in Yuganskneftegaz, a business that pumps about 1 million barrels of oil a day, could have sounded impressive. But Russia has refrained from offering CNPC a blocking, let alone controlling, stake in Yuganskneftegaz.

The Chinese state oil company is yet to comment on the proposed acquisition. However, Yukos has reiterated its readiness to go ahead with its legal action. "Whoever would eventually become a formal owner of Yuganskneftegaz, Yukos would continue to use all legal means to seek damages caused by forceful confiscation of this asset," said a Yukos spokesman. Yukos earlier indicated that it would sue to recover more than $20 billion of damages from all participants of the Yuganskneftegaz auction. Hence a possible acquisition of a stake in Yuganskneftegaz could be a double-edged sword for the CNPC.

So, that was obviously not a plum consolation prize.

In 2005 then, Russia decided that this pipeline would first provide oil to China by rail from Skovorodino.

An additional 10 million tons (192,000 bpd), Putin said, will be sent on by rail to the new tanker terminal planned near Nakhodka. Construction will take "around three years", the president noted. The president's remarks rejected wishful thinking from Tokyo that a Japanese government offer to finance a pipeline all the way to Perevoznaya Bay, near Nakhodka port, would tempt the Kremlin over Chinese insistence that deliveries to Beijing take priority. "As the oil in this [first-stage] pipeline increases through the development of new sources and fields in eastern Siberia," Putin said, "we will build a second section of the pipeline that will run right to the Pacific coast. This system will then be pumping 50 million tons [972,000 bpd]..."

This number is a discreet way of rebuffing the Japanese government, whose multi-billion dollar financing proposal for the Nakhodka-first pipeline has assumed a capacity of 80 million tons annually (1.5 million bpd). The pay-back terms may also have required such a large volume, despite the fact that, as Russian industry sources have repeatedly pointed out, the eastern Siberian oilfields are far too underdeveloped to fill the pipeline to that level within the next decade or longer. Niether the Russian government, nor the commercial Russian oil companies, have any intention of diverting crude from western Siberia in order to make up the difference for Japan's benefit.

Thus Putin's remarks ought to be read in Tokyo as marking a colossal failure on the part of Japanese interests who have promoted and lobbied for the Nakhodka plan for years. Like the Indians, whose failure to link billion-dollar investment promises to commitments of Russian crude oil supply have resulted in a comparably spectacular failure, the Japanese ought to be auditing how the money allocated to this task was spent; and blaming themselves for the dead end their tactics have now brought them.

(An interesting side effect of what's going on in the Far East is that the China-Japan rivalry spills over into Africa.)

In November, Putin tried to reassure Japan that the pipeline would go to the Pacific.

Speaking on Monday at a forum in Tokyo for Russian and Japanese investors, Putin announced that Moscow intends to build the pipeline all the way to Russia's far east coast: "Construction of the pipeline from East Siberia to the Pacific Ocean opens up great prospects. We plan to build the pipeline to the Pacific coast with eventual supplies to the Asia-Pacific region, including Japan."

Under the scenario that Tokyo officials consider ideal, the pipeline would carry up to 1.6 million barrels each day to a port close to Japan. Putin says the project will benefit all countries in the Asia-Pacific that become involved: "I'm sure the project will consolidate the energy infrastructure of the entire [Asia-Pacific] region and will give the national economies here new competitive properties."

Dave Ernsberger is the editorial director for Asia at Platt's -- a global information service for the energy industry. Ernsberger told RFE/RL from Singapore that Japan has sought guarantees that the Russian pipeline would go to the far east coast rather than end in oil-hungry China.
Putin made it clear at today's economic forum that in return for extending the pipeline to the far east coast, Russia wants Japanese firms to invest more money in Siberia's oil industry infrastructure -- as well in Russia's fast-growing machinery and high-tech sectors. But Ernsberger says Moscow also is looking for more than just financial support for its oil sector: "In this day and age, Russia plays this scenario much like any other country that has large amounts of resources that it can sell profitably but relatively few outlets to actually take it to the market. Like any other country in that position, what Russia is really looking for is the best possible deal of all. That's not just cheap financing from Japan. But it's also a whole host of other things -- like support in the United Nations, support in their positioning on World Trade Organization issues. Basically, an alliance of sorts, that goes beyond just the pipeline itself, both financially, politically."

Shortly after Putin's announcement on the pipeline, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi announced that Tokyo will support Russia's bid to join the World Trade Organization. It was a move welcomed by Putin, who said: "I'm absolutely confident that Russia's accession to this influential organization [World Trade Organization] will help strengthen our business ties with Japan and make them more stable and more predictable."

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Oriental Expressions of "Take that!"

How's this for a metaphor. Diplomacy is the art of stuffing one velvet glove with cotton balls, one velvet glove with brass knuckles, putting them on, but not letting your enemy know which hand is which.

The Sydney Morning Herald reports that next week in Sydney the US, Japan and Australia will hold a high-level security summit.

A security summit between the US, Japan and Australia in Sydney next week is expected to sharpen tensions with China, with deteriorating relations between Beijing and Tokyo high on the agenda.

The US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, will meet the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer, and their Japanese counterpart, Taro Aso, on Wednesday for the first ever ministerial-level security talks between the three countries.

Absent from this little garden party is China, which is part of this little game. Not inviting someone to the table is sometimes a diplomatic way of saying go jump in a lake. And indeed, the article quotes someone who sums up China's concerns:

The Herald understands the talks will focus on diffusing the threat posed to regional security by the continuing tensions between China and Japan. The intention is to send a strong message to Beijing that the US is still engaged in the region.

The ministers are expected to discuss concerns over the Taiwan Strait, as well as possible joint military exercises between the three countries.

Alan Dupont of the Lowy Institute, a body of international policy experts based in Sydney, believes the growing strategic rivalry between China and Japan could emerge as the gravest threat to regional security in the next five to 10 years.

"Politically the relationship is the worst I've seen in 30 years, and … it's deteriorating," he said.

"They're the two leading Asian powers so it's going to have implications for the North Korean nuclear issue and for Taiwan, and it's going to complicate strategic relations throughout the region."

But Dr Dupont also has reservations about the trilateral security dialogue, which has caused concerns with China in the past. He warned that the dialogue had to be managed to avoid upsetting the rapidly growing power.

Dr Dupont believes the raising of the talks from senior officials' level to a political level will cause even greater consternation among the Chinese. "[They] are concerned about it developing into something more formal than just a talkfest, and that it may be … directed against them," he said. "The more it becomes formalised, the more China's concerns are likely to grow."

These trilateral talks first began in 2002, but this is the first year they will involve foreign ministers. Such an esclation does not go unnoticed by governments, and nor do the three nations involved here wish it to.

Relations between China and Japan are not particularly good. Relations between China and the United States have a bit of an edge to them, with China's growing presence on the world stage, as I've mentioned.

As the article points out, the talks will serve notice that the three allies will not abandon the playing field in the Western Pacific to China.

The United States was a little miffed about being left out of talks a month ago in Malaysia involving 16 nations in southern and eastern Asia, and the western Pacific. These talks included China, Japan and Australia, but the United States did not even participate as an observer. (Russia requested to join, but no decision on that will be made till the next meeting of the association this coming December in Cebu, Philippines.)

So, these talks are a little poke back at the Chinese. If China has concerns, so be it. They can't have things both ways. They must know that the United States and her allies will take steps to protect their interests if China takes to steps to push its own interests. These kinds of summits are necessary to develop strategies.

At least the nations involved are playing games with tables and chairs, and not bullets.

(UPDATE 1/6: Breitbart reports that Rice has cancelled her trip to Indonesia and Australia to "keep watch on Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's fight for life". The trip might be rescheduled in March.)

We can play a role in the war effort

A report from MNF-Iraq today said five soldiers were killed in Iraq when "an improvised explosive device struck their vehicle while on patrol in the Multi-National-Division Baghdad area of operations."

The vehicle is not specified, but it would deeply sadden me if it was a Humvee.

In my previous post on this particular topic, I included casualties involving Humvess from Nov 29 through Dec 15. Here are casualties since then, where Humvees were specified as being involved.

DateNameAssigned ToCircumstances
Dec 19Staff Sgt. Johnnie Mason52nd OGIED detonated near his HMMWV
Dec 201st Lt. Michael Cleary
Spc. Richard Naputi
3rd IDIED detonated near their HMMWV
Dec 24Sgt. Myla Maravillosa301st MIBher HMMWV was attacked by RPGs
Dec 23Sgt. Regina Reali
Sgt. Cheyenne Willey
351st CACIED detonated near their HMMWV
Dec 25Spc. Anthony Cardinal3rd IDIED detonated near his HMMWV
Dec 26Sgt. Dominic Coles5th EBhis HMMWV came under attack
Dec 26Spc. Dane Carver125th IRhis HMMWV came under attack
Dec 281st Sgt. Tobias Meister321st CABIED detonated near his HMMWV in Afghanistan
Dec 28Spc. Aaron Forbes4th IDIED detonated near his HMMWV
Dec 30Pvt. Jonathan Pfender101st ADIED detonated near his HMMWV
Jan 1SSgt. Christopher Vanderhorn101st ADIED detonated near his HMMWV
Dec 30Sgt. 1st Class Shawn Dostie101st ADIED detonated near his HMMWV
Dec 29Spc. Prince Teewia101st ADIED detonated near his HMMWV
Jan 1Sgt. 1st Class Jason Bishop101st ADIED detonated near his HMMWV

Now, in doing this, I am absolutely not trying to say that these brave soldiers died in vain. I've begun paying closer attention to this solely to ask the question, are we truly doing all we can to provide those who are in harm's way on our behalf with what they need? If not, why aren't we moving heaven and earth to develop an adequate fighting vehicle?

We can ask these questions of our government representatives. We can ask that someone with the power to change things take this on and make it their work to make sure we as a country are not letting this need slide simply because it is easy to do so, while the military has to bear the burden. This is our fight, too. We owe it to those defending us that we have made every effort to support them.

Previous Posts

Can't we do better?
The Rock
It is still an inadequate vehicle
More on the Humvee

A refresher course

Once in awhile it's useful to just reacquaint ourselves with the enemy, as a reminder of what we're up against.

String of Iraq Attacks Kills at Least 110

A suicide blast near the Imam Hussein shrine in central Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad, killed 49 people and injured 52, Karbala police Col. Razaq al-Taie.

In the attack's aftermath, a woman and an infant girl in a bright red jumpsuit lay in a pool of blood, their faces covered by a sheet. Television images showed men ferrying the wounded in pushcarts.

The bomber appeared to have blown himself up about 30 yards from the shrine in a busy pedestrian area surrounded by shops.

In Ramadi, a U.S. spokesman said dozens were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a line of about 1,000 police recruits. Marine Capt. Jeffrey S. Pool initially put the death toll at about 30, but Mohammed al-Ani, a doctor at Ramadi General Hospital, later said 50 people were killed.

The attack took place at a police screening center in Ramadi, an insurgent stronghold 70 miles west of Baghdad. Pool said recruits later got back in line to continue the screening process.

In other violence Thursday, a suicide car bomb killed three Iraqi soldiers in Baghdad, Lt. Col. Thamir al-Gharawi said, and gunmen killed three people in separate incidents, police said, raising Thursday's death toll to 110.

The Karbala bomber detonated a vest stuffed with about 18 pounds of explosives and several hand grenades, al-Taie said. Small steel balls that had been packed into the suicide vest were found at the site, as was one unexploded grenade, he said.

Many pilgrims travel to Karbala on Thursdays to be at the holy site for Friday prayers. Mohammed Saheb said he travels there every Thursday.

Bomber kills 32 at Iraq funeral

A suicide bomb attack on Shia funeral north of Baghdad has killed at least 32 people and injured dozens of others.

Mourners took cover in a graveyard amid mortar and automatic weapons fire, before a suicide bomber detonated explosives attached to his body.

The attack near Baquba is the bloodiest since Iraq's election in mid-December.

A spate of other incidents on Wednesday left dozens dead and injured, and a convoy of 60 fuel tankers was ambushed just days after deliveries resumed.

Suicide bomber kills 10 Afghans as US envoy visits

A suicide bomber killed at least 10 people and wounded 50 in an attack in an Afghan provincial capital on Thursday during a visit by the U.S. ambassador, officials said. The envoy was unhurt.

Fifteen of the wounded were critically hurt in the incident in Tarin Kot, capital of the central province of Uruzgan, said Haji Abdul Aziz, the deputy provincial governor.

He said the attack took place in a bazaar about 1.5 km (one mile) from the Governor's House, which U.S. ambassador Ronald E. Neumann was visiting.

And, in something especially disgusting, as if the rest wasn't bad...

Militants behead Afghan principal for educating girls

Militants broke into the home of an Afghan headmaster and beheaded him while forcing his wife and eight children to watch, the latest in a spate of attacks attributed to the Taliban that have forced many schools to close.

The insurgents claim that educating girls is against Islam and oppose government-funded schools for boys because they teach subjects besides religion.

Four armed men stabbed Malim Abdul Habib, 45, eight times before decapitating him in the courtyard of his home in the town of Qalat late Tuesday, according to provincial government spokesman Ali Khail and a cousin of the victim, Dr. Esanullah.

From this article on the attack:

Some eight personnel of educational institutions including teachers and students have been killed and three schools were set on fire over the past two months mostly in the southern provinces, the hub of Taliban loyalists.

The anti-war Left will take this surge in attacks as a sign of failure. We ought to see these attacks as simply an indication of the depraved nature of the enemy.

I would like to ask the Sheehans and Murthas and Pelosis and Kerrys of the world just what kind of person plans to murder people who are mourning at a funeral? What kind of person runs into public shopping areas and blows up innocent civilians?

What kind of hell spawn beheads a man in front of his family for daring to educate girls?

If we just abandoned Iraq, and the war on terror, today, does the anti-war Left really think these twisted murderers would just leave us alone? That these killers so blackened with the evil of their twisted ideology would simply sit on the front stoop of their homes and whittle for the rest of their days?

There is a beast roaming, pacing, seeking to devour us. This fight is real. The enemy is real. These murderers can only be exterminated. There is no appeasing them. There is no reasoning or bargaining with them.

I absolutely will question the patriotism of anyone who is not filled with rage at these stories, and a desire to pursue these killers to the ends of the earth and put their heads on pikes. If patriotism is a love for one's country, I assume that includes a desire to defend what is precious in one's country. We defend ourselves by taking on this fight and finishing it, not by sniveling over the interception of phone calls of people talking to suspected Al Qaeda members.

I am open to arguments as to why abandoning Iraq will make these kinds of people leave us alone. So far I have not heard a single one worth entertaining.

In Search Of... VI

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.)

-wars what happened in the past (nothing to do with (star wars) what happened in the wars when the wars like world war 1
-how could i find the money without capital? i can't live without money but i don't want to earn money like mafia.
-october november 2005 guestbook of email address of bank in russia
-a la peanut butter sandwiches
-two chinese kids milk video
-i want houses baying in pakistan in islamabad
-trojan elbit
-her shoe pulled off,tickling her sock
-freedomus toronto
-ear stapling for weight loss in little rock arkansas
-katie poopy diaper
-jack bauer hello. how'd you get this number?
-teenager out of the house

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

The Eagle and the Dragon

The U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission was formed in October 2000. Its purpose is as follows:

To monitor, investigate, and submit to congress an annual report on the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, and to provide recommendations, where appropriate, to Congress for legislative and administrative action.

The commission has 8 mandated areas of focus and responsibilities:

1) Proliferation practices
2) Economic transfers
3) Energy
4) United States capital markets
5) Regional economic and security impacts
6) United States-China bilateral programs
7) World Trade Organization compliance
8) Freedom of expression

The commission holds hearings from time to time, and releases research papers. This past November, they released their annual report for 2005. (The full PDF version of the report runs 271 pages, and is 1.33 MB.)

The entire report is worth considering, but I'll highlight some things from Chapter 4, entitled China’s Global and Regional Activities and Geostrategic Developments.

I've written a few posts (see here, here and here) about China's global strategies and its drive to secure the energy supplies necessary to continue its economic growth and to fuel its ambitions. This chapter reinforces the need for the United States to develop an effective energy policy to meet the challenge of China's expanding appetite for resources.

The chapter presents highlights of China’s global activities over the last year. Here are a few.

* China’s foreign policy has changed dramatically over the past ten years. China’s regional and multilateral goals are influenced by the need to obtain resources, particularly energy resources, and to gain access to export markets; the desire to isolate Taiwan; and the intention of diluting an international system it sees as dominated by the United States. In order to achieve its goals, China employed a more proactive and creative diplomacy and increasingly used aid, development and investment packages, and diplomatic support to win favor in regions such as Africa and Latin America.

* In part in order to obtain access to energy resources and raw materials, China utilized and expanded relationships with nations such as Iran, Sudan, and Zimbabwe that have earned international opprobrium for objectionable human rights, terrorism support, and other activities. In these interactions, China focused on its narrow interests while dismissing international concerns.

* The future success of China’s economic and political policies is tied to the success of its energy policies. Two-thirds of China’s energy needs are met by coal, but China’s demand for oil resources needed to fuel its economic growth is rapidly increasing, putting China on course to compete with the United States and other oil importing nations for global supplies. China’s policy of attempting to obtain control of oil resources at the wellhead rather than participating in the international petroleum market threatens to exacerbate tensions with the United States and other countries that are market participants. The attempt by a Chinese oil firm partly controlled by the central government to purchase California-based Unocal exemplified its policy and caused considerable U.S. concern before the attempt was abandoned.

The paper points out the US and China have developed different strategies when it comes to securing oil.

There is a clear distinction between U.S. and Chinese approaches to securing oil supplies. Whereas the United States has shifted from an oil import strategy that was based on controlling the oil at the wellhead to one that is based upon global market supply and pricing, China focuses on owning oil at the point of production. These different energy policies could bring both countries’ energy interests into conflict.

As such, this dictates how China approaches relations with other countries.

Here are some key findings from the section of the chapter on China's regional activities. (This section describes China's actions in various regions in some detail.)

* China has increased its presence in many geographic regions during the past decade.

* China’s decisions to become involved in specific countries and regions, the nature of its involvements, and its regional and multilateral goals appear to be frequently influenced by its need for resources, particularly energy-related resources, the search for export markets, and a desire to increase its geopolitical leverage and influence and advance national objectives.

* China’s regional strategies generally appear to be complementary and consistent and to reflect a larger global foreign policy strategy.

* China’s regional approaches appear to be value-neutral

In my post about China and Africa, I pointed out examples where China distributes largess in an attempt to buy goodwill. A section of the chapter on China's energy needs and strategies reinforces this. Some of the key findings:

* China’s energy acquisition efforts are expanding internationally,and specifically in Africa, the Western Hemisphere, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

* China appears to trade influence and assistance, including weapons technologies, arms, and other aid, for access to oil and gas in terrorist-sponsoring states, such as Sudan and Iran, greatly compromising U.S. efforts to combat terrorism, weapons proliferation, and human rights abuses.

This ought to concern us. The paper says that in the coming two decades, world energy consumption will increase by as much as 57 percent. Oil prices are already high. What impact will such an increase in consumption have on our economy? When we go to look for sources of energy to meet the demand, will we find China already there, holding all the cards?

The chapter says "seventy percent of China’s primary energy needs are met by coal", but that "China’s oil use is expected to grow by an annual average rate of 5.8 percent in the next ten years". Our competition with China for oil will only increase.

As a nation we need to recognize the challenge this will pose. China aims to become at a dominant power in at least East Asia and the western Pacific, if not a global power. They have shown that they do not share our same values of freedom and democracy.

Our failure even to do small things like drilling in a tiny corner of ANWR, or showing our weakness with the Democratic Party's endless anti-war, anti-military positions, will only embolden China, and lead them to believe that in the long run they can push us aside.

The coming years will require some boldness on our part. Are we up to it? The performance of our military in Iraq and Afghanistan suggests there is hope, but if we as a people fall asleep and turn the powers of government over to the feckless Democrats, are we prepared to live with the long-term consequences?


The story of the miners in West Virginia the last couple days is true tragedy. In classic tragedy, a story usually involves someone's downfall, whether through human shortcomings, through fate, or through the meddling of the gods.

This story of the 13 miners casts the family members as those who suffer due to forces beyond their control. To go from the depths of despair as they waited word from the rescue teams, to the heights of joy as word spread that 12 were alive, and then the crushing news that no, all but one were dead, it seems like these families were the undeserving playthings of malicious gods.

The media can't be blamed for reporting the news that 12 had been found alive, they were simply reporting what was on the scene. It was an honestly made mistake. What they can be blamed for, however, is not doing a better job of getting strong confirmation.

For hours they were little more than participants in the joyous crowd, simply bouncing up and down and saying "They're alive! I heard it from someone over there!".

In recent days there has been some debate on the role of the MSM versus the role of bloggers. There was Bill Roggio's imbroglio with the Washington Post.

And on Monday, there was this article in the New York Times looking at the differences in how the MSM and bloggers operate.

The article highlights what the MSM often claims about itself, that they serve as filters, allowing through only what is solid and verified news.

Reporters say that these developments are forcing them to change how they do their jobs; some are asking themselves if they can justify how they are filtering information. "We've got to be more transparent about the news-gathering process," said Craig Crawford, a columnist for Congressional Quarterly and author of "Attack the Messenger: How Politicians Turn You Against the Media." "We've pretended to be like priests turning water to wine, like it's a secret process. Those days are gone."

The MSM claims its superiority over the blogs lies in the alleged way blogs just dump anything and everything onto the Web without undergoing ritualistic purification, like some fisherman heaving buckets of fish guts over the side of a boat, whereas the MSM has layers of fact checkers and editors, to ensure errors are not made. If the MSM wants to claim the responsibility of being the guardians of truth, then they ought to perform the function even, or especially, when it is hardest to do so.

The story in West Virginia is a hard case, no doubt. With the jubilation and news flying that 12 miners had been found alive, it takes enormous discipline to slow down and not rush the story, especially when other outlets are pushing the news.

This is especially hard in television, where television news outlets are slaves to emotional outburts. It is their bread and butter. And so, with that scene last night, the vaunted MSM sprinted to their cameras, doing just what they accuse the lowly bloggers of doing. The weepier the interview, the better. No emotion is too raw to dump onto the TV screen.

So, in the end, are we better served by the MSM? I see no grand advantage to allowing them to remain as the sole gatekeepers of what is tried and true fact.

Michelle Malkin, as usual, has a good roundup.

Watchman's Words shares some personal thoughts.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

That didn't take long

The Maoist insurgency in Nepal had unilaterally declared a ceasefire last September. (It was extended by a month at the beginning of December.)

The ceasefire expired last night, and within hours bombs had gone off.

Blasts rock Nepal after rebel ceasefire ends

Two fresh bomb blasts hit the tourist town of Pokhara in Nepal on Tuesday, following a series of overnight explosions in the Himalayan kingdom, which came just hours after Maoist rebels called off a four-month truce.

The explosions coming soon after the Maoists ended their unilateral truce at midnight on Monday has raised fears of a resurgence of violence.

There were no immediate reports of casualties in Tuesday's blasts in Pokhara, 200 km (125 miles) west of Kathmandu. One of the explosions occurred near a local government office and the other on a road.
Commentators and ordinary Nepalese called for talks to try to end the fighting that has raged for a decade. More than 12,500 people have been killed in the insurgency that aims to topple the monarchy and establish one-party communist rule

Nepal has stepped up security in response.

It sounds anachronistic in 2006 to be talking about a group named for Chairman Mao. Yet, the group's objectives would be familar to the great backward leaper, and the destroyer of culture.

The International Crisis Group put out an informative report on Nepal's Maoists last October. This is from the executive summary:

The Maoists are at heart a political party. They have developed military capacity but it is subordinated to political control. They use terror tactics and coercion but they are not simply terrorists. They maintain links to other communist revolutionary groups on the subcontinent but they are neither Khmer Rouge clones nor is their campaign part of any global terrorism.

Maoist strategy is of a protracted people's war, both political and military -- the two cannot be separated. They have a long-term vision, and they have patience. They can be extremely astute politically (their September 2005 unilateral ceasefire announcement) but can also make grave miscalculations in terms of their own long-term objectives (their mishandling of leadership differences in early 2005).

The Maoists are not likely to collapse because of internal disputes. There are undoubtedly tensions within the top leadership and challenges of command and control but these do not add up to fatal weaknesses. The state's security-driven agenda under a succession of governments lacking legitimacy has only further strengthened their position.

The insurgents are pragmatic and tactically flexible. They are aware they will not win an outright military victory and have realised that an instant transition to socialism is impossible. They are willing to compromise to some degree and are keen to engage with domestic and international political forces.

The Maoists have employed force for political ends since the start of their armed campaign in 1996. They have used torture, execution and other forms of violence including terror and extortion. But they have also been more restrained than many insurgent groups: they have limited civilian casualties and generally avoided indiscriminate attacks. They have left the economy functional, if weakened, and have never targeted foreign nationals.

A few days after that report, the New York Times Magazine published a lengthy article on the Maoists. It is a journalistic look at the Maoists' motivations, and Nepal's political environment. Some excerpts:

Nepal is a landlocked nation, slightly larger than Arkansas, pressed up against the Himalayas. Its nearly 28 million citizens are among the poorest in the world. Its system of government - after more than a decade of tumultuous semi-democracy - is, in effect, an absolute monarchy, ruled by the world's only Hindu king, Gyanendra Bikram Bir Shah Dev, a chain smoker with perpetually downturned lips. Some of his followers regard him as a direct descendant of the god Vishnu.
The stated Maoist plan for Nepal was always a mix of leveling social relations, addressing serious grievances, imposing far-left Puritanism and promoting economic growth, if there was to be any, through either revolutionary enthusiasm or, if necessary, revolutionary violence. The party's first list of demands, presented in February 1996, was typical: a call for a new constitution and an army accountable to the government rather than the palace; calls to ban "vulgar" Hindi films from India; an end to the recruitment for foreign armies of Gurkha soldiers, most of whom hailed from the midwestern hill districts. The government ignored these demands entirely.

In their own territory, the Maoists have instituted a raft of new laws. Untouchability is proscribed, in theory and practice. Alcohol and child marriage are banned. New polygamous marriages are not tolerated, although, depending on the local leadership, existing ones are left alone. Migrating to India in search of work is frowned upon. Legal disputes are adjudicated by a roving people's court that Nepali human rights advocates consider a travesty of justice. Policing is done by a people's militia, members of which also appeared to run Thabang's main tea shop.
Why this intense revolutionary focus on schools? For the Maoists, schools represent a vital source of both revenue and recruits. Teachers, often the most influential elites in rural communities, can either be roped in as allies or eliminated as enemies. (Tulsi Kumari Dangi, a Nepali language teacher we met along the road, said it was routine practice for all teachers to give 5 percent of their salaries every month, plus the entirety of their annual bonus.) Public schools are also the last vestige of His Majesty's government across the Nepali countryside. And, of course, schools in an almost media-free rural society are the best place to assert control over the public mind.

The Maoists have shut down many schools, particularly the fee-paying private schools that have mushroomed in recent years. They have ferried away students and teachers for indoctrination and forced labor. They have brought their Communist song-and-dance shows to schoolyards. They have made children dig trenches around schools in preparation for what they regard to be an imminent, final military onslaught. A Unicef survey of one war-torn district found that the number of children who showed up for year-end exams had dropped by nearly half. To Unicef officials, this signaled that children were either not coming to school at all, or that their instruction days had shrunk so much that they no longer bothered to sit for the year-end exams. The gains made in the last decade to get children into schools, they concluded, were at risk of being lost. I learned in Thabang that no one in the last two years had passed the national 10th-grade matriculation exam, a benchmark recognized as the completion of formal schooling.

The South Asia Terrorism Portal provide daily updates on the violence throughout southern Asia, and you can regularly find items involving Maoists. (The site also has an extensive overview of the Maoists.) Frequently the items will involve India, as many Maoists seek sanctuary in India and spill over into that country.

I'd imagine that if you engaged many liberals today on the topic of communism, they'd guffaw and chortle if you suggested communism was a threatening ideology. I'd also wonder if those same liberals were aware of how much the Marxist philosophy drives the Maoists, and of the violence they commit.

At National Review Online today, James Robbins has an article focusing on Iran, but he makes a point about taking seriously groups that are not shy about proclaiming their willingness to use violence as a means to their ends.

Western liberals, who prize reason, are subject to the tendency to explain away beliefs they consider unreasonable. Progress and freedom are inevitable because they are the natural courses of history. Ideologies that do not fit our predetermined vision of the future are not worth taking seriously. Extremism cannot triumph because it does not make sense. Therefore, the Bolsheviks and their successors were not really after global Communist revolution, even though they said they were. The Nazis would not really commit armed aggression and genocide, even though they advocated both. And while Khmer Rouge military leader Khieu Samphan's 1959 doctoral thesis identified the urban bourgeoisie as a parasite class that had to be removed to the countryside, they wouldn't really empty Phnom Penh of its 2.5 million citizens and subject them to collectivization, reeducation, and execution, would they? Isn't that just plain crazy?

Why am I a conservative? Because I believe in personal freedom, and I believe in a fallen human condition and the tendency for governments to grow oppressive. There are any number of groups in the world today seeking to take away freedoms, to impose their enslaving ideologies in a quest for power, and through violence if necessary. The Maoists in Nepal are such a group, and by their actions we shall know them.

I must be spiritually blind

The other night Hanna said in her bedtime prayer, "Thank you that I'm a puppy and I wear a collar, and thank you for hyenas in Lion King".

I really can't give you an adequate exegesis. I can't even tell if this is conservative or liberal theology.

Yesterday, the last day of a wonderful break, I took the kids outside, and told them I'd knock some new and improved water-flavored Freezy Pops off the gutters. (They like devouring icicles like lollipops.)

Murtha the Sage, Murtha the Good

Rep. Murtha, of the Party That Supports The Troops, says it's best that the average guy not become a troop in the first place. (Emphasis throughout this post is mine.)

Rep. John Murtha, a key Democratic voice who favors pulling U.S. troops from Iraq, said in remarks airing on Monday that he would not join the U.S. military today.

A decorated Vietnam combat veteran who retired as a colonel after 37 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, Murtha told ABC News' "Nightline" program that Iraq "absolutely" was a wrong war for President George W. Bush to have launched.

"Would you join (the military) today?," he was asked in an interview taped on Friday.

"No," replied Murtha of Pennsylvania, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives subcommittee that oversees defense spending and one of his party's leading spokesmen on military issues.

"And I think you're saying the average guy out there who's considering recruitment is justified in saying 'I don't want to serve'," the interviewer continued.

"Exactly right," said Murtha, who drew White House ire in November after becoming the first ranking Democrat to push for a pullout of U.S. forces from Iraq as soon as it could be done safely.

It is a human weakness of sorts that in arenas like politics or strategic endeavors you tend to view problems through the lens of your vocation and/or formative training. I mean, if you're an economist, everything has an economics explanation. If you're a statistician, everything can be explained by numbers. And so on.

I was too young at the time to fully understand the deep divisions Vietnam caused in the country. But Rep. Murtha seems to permanently view the world through Vietnam-colored glasses.

By what reasoning could Murtha possibly say that joining the one institution doing the most to protect us in this day and age of terrorism is not advisable? I've said it before I'll say it again, if this is what we've come to, we might as well throw open the gates and let the Huns in. We're doomed anyway. (Fortunately, there are still enough people in this country in retention of common sense and fortitude.)

But, lest ye lend too much credibility to Murtha, remember his comments that no one in Iraq is providing the Coalition Forces with information on the bad guys?

There's this article at the Marine Corps Times today:

U.S. and Iraqi troops operating in Baghdad are finding nearly twice the number of weapons caches they did months ago, a senior commander said.

Army Maj. Gen. William G. Webster, commander of Multinational Division-Baghdad, said the number of weapons caches found by his troops and Iraqi forces has swelled to about 92 percent over the number of discoveries six months ago. For example, during the summer, troops would find an average of eight to 10 weapons caches per week — and many of them were small, including small arms, ingredients to make improvised explosive devices and other materials. These days, U.S. and Iraqi forces are finding 15 to 20 large caches per week, said Webster, briefing Pentagon reporters Friday by video teleconference.
Why such an increase? The commander said it’s because more Iraqis are willing to share information with U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces.

"They are giving us more information that we’re turning into useable intelligence,"
he said.

It may be time to gently turn Rep. Murtha out to pasture.

A soldier with the 1st Battalion 327th Infantry Regiment walks through bushes as he looks for weapons caches during a patrol in the outskirts of the northern Iraqi city of Hawijah.
Filippo Monteforte / Agence France-Presse

There was also this yesterday from MNF-Iraq:

U.S. Marines discovered more than ten metric tons of munitions hidden at 72 cache sites 39 km south of Fallujah during the week-long Operation Green Trident.

First Reconnaissance Battalion, Regimental Combat Team 8 began the operation last week near the village of Al Latifiyah to search suspected locations for hidden weapon caches. More than 1,000 artillery and mortar rounds were unearthed along with scores of rocket propelled grenades and hand grenades. Most of the caches were shallowly buried along the banks of the Euphrates River and surrounding area.

Others more than a little peeved at Rep. Murtha are Chief at Freedom Dogs and Andy at Residual Forces. Ben waxes poetic over at Hammerswing75.

Monday, January 02, 2006

A rumble in the east

Over the weekend, there was an unsettling step in Russia's efforts to use its natural resources to put it in a position to dominate its neighbors.

Russia reduced the flow of gas through Ukraine on Sunday over a dispute about how much Ukraine should pay for its gas. Ukraine has been paying below market rates, as Ukraine allows much Europe's gas to pass through it from Russia via pipelines.

This arrangement was put in place in 2002, and amended in 2004. It is Ukraine's position that the agreement holds till 2009. Gazprom claims it is entitled to a new agreement, and that the 2004 amendment does not hold in this case. (Wikipedia has an informative page on the matter.)

This showdown became a distinct possibility in mid-December when Gazprom said the gas would be cut off if a new arrangement wasn't agreed to. Events in the preceding days indicated such an arrangement would be difficult to reach.

President Vladimir Putin's December 8 televised argument for tripling the price of Russian gas to Ukraine, in cash only, as of 2006 in effect rejected President Viktor Yushchenko's plea by to telephone the previous day for moving slowly to market terms over several years.

On the same day he took Yushchenko's call, December 7, Putin called Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov. Presumably, Putin and Niyazov coordinated positions on the gas trade with Ukraine, to which Turkmenistan is the primary supplier. Turkmen gas can only reach Ukraine through Gazprom's pipelines in Russia.

Thus far, Turkmenistan has declined to confirm the implementation of its gas supply agreement with Ukraine for 2006, citing Kyiv's debts for the Turkmen gas delivered in 2005.

Triggering that round of presidential telephone calls was the breakdown of negotiations on Russian gas supply to Ukraine and gas transit via Ukraine to European Union countries. On December 5-6 in Moscow, Naftohaz Ukrainy chairman Oleksiy Ivchenko and Gazprom's management took irreconcilable positions on the supply and transit agreements for 2006.

When a giant throws his weight around, though, things get knocked over. In this case, as the Russian giant shifts its bulk, whole nations may be upset.

This was just a warning shot, a message sent to Ukraine and to Europe to reinforce the fact Russia can squeeze them where it hurts. Effects of the shutdown were felt as far away as France.

Russia never intended to induce a serious crisis at this time. For one thing, Russia needs the revenue it receives from Europe for its gas. Second, Ukraine has been making noises about increasing the rent Russia pays for the use of port facilities for its fleet in the Black Sea.

As the New York Times reports today, Russia has restored most of the gas.

The Russian gas monopoly said tonight that it would restore most of the natural gas that it withheld from a giant pipeline running through Ukraine to Western Europe.

The decision does not resolve the dispute between Russia and Ukraine over price increases for the gas, but is meant to answer European complaints that its fuel supplies were jeopardized.

Officials of the monopoly, Gazprom, said they would pump 95 million of the 125 million cubic meters of natural gas that it withheld from the flow on Sunday. As the Russians described it, this was to make up for gas that was not getting to Europe because Ukraine was siphoning off gas for itself, a charge that Ukraine officials denied.

Many countries of Eastern and Western Europe found their supplies dwindling today, although officials said there was no immediate threat to home heating supplies. Western Europe gets about 25 percent of its natural gas from Russia, much of it through the pipeline in Ukraine.

The Europeans exerted strong pressure on the Russians to work with Ukraine to calm the crisis, which called into question Russia's reliability as a major energy exporter.

Energy ministers from Germany, Italy, France and Austria made a joint appeal to Moscow and Kiev to keep supplies steady, Bloomberg News reported, and an emergency European Union meeting was scheduled for Wednesday.

So, I think the seriousness of this weekend is not in the fact that Russia shut off the gas in the middle of the winter, it's that Russia was willing to do so at all. It is an aggressive move, a confrontational move. In human history, such bullying is often how wars start.

It has been putting the pieces in place for such a move. Russia has locked up control of the gas supply from the Central Asian 'stans. Gas from these nations transits through Russia, so Ukraine and Europe will not find easy salvation by looking there for alternate supplies.

Ukraine has been drawing closer to the West, especially since the Orange Revolution, and it won no tender feeling from Russia. Indeed, there remains the suspicion that Ukrainian President Yushchenko was poisoned by forces linked to Russia. Every day now when Yushchenko looks in the mirror he sees a reminder of Russia's foreboding presence. In a act of great chutzpah, over the weekend Russia offered a loan to Ukraine to pay the higher gas prices. Ukraine declined, not wanting to be tied to Russia any more than it needs to. (And a loan would be a great deal for Russia. It would get the revenue for the higher gas prices plus interest.)

With expanding economies in India and China, oil prices will remain high. Europe is tied to Russian gas for time being, and Russia continues to make its neighbor dependent on Russian gas. (Lost in the hubbub over Ukraine is the fact Russia is trying something similar with Moldova.)

This will be a challenge for the United States and its allies for the foreseeable future. Of such thorny problems are international politics made.

Previous posts

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

China and the Dark Continent

In this case, Africa is a dark continent because it is black with petroleum. China is pursuing oil deals in Africa with determination, as I mentioned here. In that post I mentioned a Chinese oil company will start drilling the first exploratory well in the Gambela basin, in western Ethiopia.

There are other developments worth noting.

Liberia, China Sign US$247,000 Agreement

The People's Republic of China has again committed itself to helping Liberia in rehabilitating major roads in the rather old-fashioned City of Monrovia.

China to Make Liberia Self-Sufficient in Food

The government of the People's Republic of China says its concern at this point in time is to make Liberia self-sufficient in food production. The Chinese Government's commitment to making Liberia sufficient in food production was made by its Ambassador to Liberia, Lin Songtian.

What is China trying to buy with such acts of beneficence? The State Dept says about Liberia:

Natural resources: Iron ore, rubber, timber, diamonds, gold and tin. The Government of Liberia has reported in recent years that it has discovered sizable deposits of crude oil along its Atlantic Coast.

In Niger,

China grants $3.72 mln in aid to Niger

China signed a pact with Niger on Friday and agreed to grant the African country 30 million RMB (about 3.72 million U.S. dollars) in aid, according to news reports from Niger's capital Niamey. The agreement was signed by Chinese Ambassador to Niger Chen Gonglai and Niger's acting Foreign Minister and Defense Minister Hassane Souley Dit Bonto.

The State Dept says this about Niger:

Niger has oil potential. In 1992, the Djado permit was awarded to Hunt Oil, and in 2003 the Tenere permit was awarded to the China National Petroleum Company. An ExxonMobil-Petronas joint venture now holds the sole rights to the Agadem block, north of Lake Chad, and oil exploration is ongoing.

Angola's oil industry is growing, and China is there as well, greasing the skids.

Angola's Giant Leap On World Economic Stage

The long-awaited rehabilitation of the country's roads and railways has now started in earnest, largely as a result of a $2bn loan from the Chinese government. Chinese nationals and Chinese businesses are becoming increasingly visible in Angola.

Nigeria is the huge oil producer, and not surprisingly, China is there. I can't summarize everything China is doing there, but here is a taste.

China and Nigeria signed five economic agreements Thursday night, promising to upgrade their relations to a "strategic partnership."

The five agreements, covering investment, telecommunication service and technical cooperation, were signed after an hour-long talk between President Hu Jintao and Nigeria President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is in China for a four-day state visit.

China and Nigeria set up full diplomatic ties in 1971 and the trade volume between the two countries reached US$2.18 billion. Nigeria is now China's second largest export market and fourth largest trade partner in Africa.

This article from the Sydney Morning Herald sums up nicely what China is doing in Africa.

The Chinese, sensing Africa's immense potential, are making strategic economic inroads into a continent that, outside of oil investments, has long been written off by most Western companies as too risky because of poor governance or the threat of conflict.

"China is competing for anything and everything," said Dianna Games, a South African political analyst who studies business trends in sub-Saharan Africa. "They know Africa is wide open to them."

In the last several years, China has either struck oil deals or built on existing ones in Angola, Algeria, Chad, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Nigeria. More than half of Sudan's oil exports go to China, accounting for roughly 5 per cent of its imports.

China is competing for resources. How will the United States respond? Unless we are willing to accept significant declines in our standard of living, it is a fact that we are dependent on energy supplies. From fuel for our transportation system, to petroluem products in industry and manufacturing, petroleum is a necessity.

A strategic approach to securing our energy supplies is a vital component of our national security. It is pie-in-the-sky to decry energy companies as greedy money machines. They play a role in our national interests. We ought to be concerned about where and how the United States is involved worldwide in petroleum deals.

I saw the movie Syriana over the weekend. I thought it was excellent. It deftly portrayed the importance nations place on oil. Part of the plot involved a Chinese oil deal.


I did think some aspects of the movie were silly. For instance, the United States would not blow up the brother of the ruler of an oil-producing nation, a brother that was seeking to become ruler himself. The US certainly wouldn't do it by blowing up a vehicle by missile. You just don't do something like that without leaving obvious fingerprints around.

On the whole though, a movie worth seeing. If it seems likes the movie Traffic, it's because they share the same writer, and the director of Traffic, Steven Soderbergh, has an executive producer credit for Syriana. Both weave several related plot lines, and both show how events effect the little people working at levels invisible to the major players. However, I didn't much care for Traffic. I vastly preferred the series it was based on, Traffik.

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

* A bomb exploded at a shop in Palu, Indonesia on Saturday morning, killing eight and wounding 45 others in an attack described as targeting Christians shopping for New Years dinner. The news comes in the wake of a series of warnings about potential terror attacks in Indonesia over the holidays. Authorities have detained one suspect and continue the search for others.

* Iran continues to resist the idea of enriching uranium on Russian soil, saying "it is an idea, not a structured proposal, we don't see it as mature and it has serious problems." On Sunday, Iran announced it had developed the necessary machinery to separate uranium from its ore. The European Union is considering sanctions in response to Tehran's failure to provide full transparency.

* Syria's former Vice-President, Abdul Halim Khaddam, has revealed threats made by Syrian President Bashir Assad towards former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, only months before his assassination. U.N. investigator Detlev Mehlis cites sources as having told him that Assad threatened "to break Lebanon over [his] head", if he did not support the extension of Lebanese President Emil Lahoud's term. In response, Syrian MP's are calling for Khaddam to be charged with treason as the Syrian Ba'ath party expelled him on Sunday.

Other topics today include: Explosion at UN club in Gaza; Gaza police take over Rafah; Israeli artillery responds to rocket attacks; EU monitors deploy; Iranian soldiers kidnapped; al Qaeda operative faked his death; Islamic Jihad claims bombing; Counterterrorism in Arabia; Bush signs defense bill; public opinion on NSA taps; Justice department investigates leak; Florida terror case a setback; Padilla wants to remain in military custody; NATO in Afghanistan; Security at Fort Bragg; India on terror alert; Pakistani madrasas defiant; Shootout in Kashmir; al Qaeda and Bangladesh; Afghani parliament seated; Afghani police killed; Filipino police review; Southeast Asia year in review; Terror alert in Malaysia; North Korean nukes; Serb war criminal sentenced; ETA bomber sentenced; Broader police powers in Britain; and more.

Iran & the Middle East

* On Saturday, 50 armed Fatah members took over a Palestinian government office in Gaza to demand jobs. On Sunday, masked gunmen stormed the U.N. Club in Gaza City and set off an explosion in the drinking hall.

* On Friday, Gaza policemen took over the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and the Gaza strip in protest of ongoing violence and the killing of a fellow officer. A group of three Brits, abducted from the crossing on Wednesday were released on Saturday.

* On Sunday, Israel responded to rocket attacks from Gaza with their own artillery strikes, killing two terrorists. The engagement comes as a "ceasefire" from Hamas and Islamic Jihad expired.

* European Union election monitors will span out over Gaza and the West Bank beginning today. The move comes while security concerns remain heightened over a recent string of kidnappings, including an Italian peace activist kidnapped on Sunday for a period of time before being abandoned. Some reports are crediting Palestinian police with freeing the hostage in a raid.

* Mahmoud Abbas is rejecting bids from other Fatah members to withdraw from the coming elections. According to a poll from the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, the ruling Fatah Party has a ten point lead over Hamas in the parliamentary elections.

* Regime Change Iran cites a report in the Turkish Press saying that CIA director Porter Goss informed Ankara that Iran already has nuclear weapons during a recent visit. According to the reports, Goss also raised the issue of Iranian support of al Qaeda.

* Reports out of Iran indicate that 9 Iranian soldiers may have been kidnapped by a Sunni minority group near the border of Pakistan. Jundollah (God's Soldiers) claimed responsibility and told an Arab television station that they wanted the release of 16 members of their group currently jailed.

* Israeli soldiers hunting for wanted members of Islamic Jihad in Samaria, came under fire on Friday and one injury was reported.

* Details have emerged on how Loa'i Mohammad Haj Bakr al-Saqa, a top al Qaeda operative wanted in the 2003 bombings in Istanbul, faked his own death in Fallujah in November 2004. Ercan Citlioglu, a terrorism expert at the Center for Eurasian Strategic Studies in Ankara says "The al-Saqa case clearly shows how al-Qaida is taking advantage of fake IDs and porous borders to spread its terror, forcing countries to take more sophisticated measures, like taking fingerprints in the United States, to increase border security."

* Islamic Jihad has claimed responsibility for Thursday's bombing in Tulkarm that killed an Israeli soldier and two bystanders in the West Bank. In response, the Israeli Army has arrested 10 suspects linked to the bomber.

* Bill Roggio highlights Counterterrorism Efforts in Arabia on the heels of the recent killing of two more wanted terrorists.

America Domestic Security & the America's

* President Bush Friday signed legislation extending key provisions of the anti-terrorism USA Patriot Act until February 3. He also signed a $453.3 billion defense spending bill that included a measure banning cruel and inhumane treatment of prisoners, the White House said.

* Sixty-four percent (64%) of Americans believe the National Security Agency (NSA) should be allowed to intercept telephone conversations between terrorism suspects in other countries and people living in the United States. A Rasmussen Reports survey found that just 23% disagree.

* The Justice Department has opened another investigation into leaks of classified information, this time to determine who divulged the existence of President Bush's secret domestic spying program. The inquiry focuses on disclosures to The New York Times about warrantless surveillance conducted by the National Security Agency since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, officials said. Michelle Malkin has a roundup of links.

* MSNBC reports that information captured by the National Security Agency's secret eavesdropping on communications between the United States and overseas has been passed on to other government agencies, which cross-check the information with tips and information collected in other databases, current and former administration officials said.

* In a Weekly Standard column, Ronald Radosh writes that the acquittal on December 6 of Sami al--Arian, a former professor of computer engineering at the University of South Florida, on eight counts relating to terrorism was a setback not only for the Department of Justice and the Bush administration, but also for the struggle against Islamic extremism itself.

* In Arkansas, prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney's Office are taking no position on the requested continuance of the trial of a Fayetteville man charged with providing support to a terrorist organization. Arwah Jaber, 33, faces charges of knowingly attempting to provide material support to Palestinian Islamic Jihad, considered by the government to be a terrorist organization.

* Lawyers for Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen held as an enemy combatant for 3 1/2 years, said Friday he wants to stay in military custody until the Supreme Court decides whether to hear his challenge to President Bush's power to detain Americans when the nation is at war. The lawyers urged the high court to reject a request filed Wednesday by Solicitor General Paul Clement seeking Padilla's immediate transfer from the custody of the military to law enforcement authorities in Florida.

* A U.S. commander expressed confidence Friday that Canadian and other NATO-led troops will aggressively keep up the fight against insurgents when they take over control of southern Afghanistan from his troops in the spring.

* A man who has been detained for three years on suspicion of being an al-Qaida sleeper agent was denied bail Friday. Mohamed Harkat was arrested at his Ottawa apartment in December 2002 on a security certificate issued by the Canadian government.

* President Alvaro Uribe vowed last week to redouble efforts to wipe out cocaine production in southern Colombia to eliminate the source of wealth for FARC terrorists who killed 29 soldiers in a decisive attack a day earlier.

* Columbia's main rebel group has rejected a proposal from European nations to meet with Colombia's government to discuss swapping jailed rebels for hostages, including three Americans. A group of facilitators from France, Switzerland and Spain proposed in mid-December that the two sides meet in a village in southwest Colombia, and demilitarize a 110-square-mile area surrounding the talks. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe accepted the plan.

* A short article at Fayetteville Online looks at how security at Fort Bragg has changed in this day and age of threats of terrorism.

* The Strategy Page looks at "timid terrorists in Trinidad & Tobago". About six percent of the republic's population are Muslims, including a few Islamic radicals.

* In Trinidad, Pamela Elder SC, lead attorney for Yasin Abu Bakr, yesterday argued that the Muslimeen leader had no case to answer. With respect to the terrorism charge Elder argued that the accusation that Bakr made religious or ideological advancements did not make sense since the sermon on zakaat was made to Muslims who already enshrined the belief.

Russia & South/Central Asia

* The Indian space agency and nuclear power plants across southern India were on high security alert Friday following threats of suicide attacks in Bangalore. Police are also urgently investigating a link between the threats and an attack two days earlier on the Indian Institute of Science in the city.

* Leaders of Pakistan's 13,000 madrasas have vowed to defy a government deadline to expel foreign students by December 31, saying the regulations discriminate against religious schools. President Pervez Musharraf required Pakistan's madrasas to expel about 1,800 foreign students after the July 7 bombings in London highlighted the extremist links of some schools.

* Three persons in Jammu, including two Kolkata-based traders, were arrested and a bag containing currency notes of several countries allegedly meant for funding terrorists seized here Saturday night, police said today. Intelligence officials carried out a raid on information that two persons had arrived at Jammu bus stand with a consignment of 'hawala' (laundered) money and arrested Ghulam Ahmed Dar of Pathal Bagh in Pampore, Shabir-ul-din and Ajmail Sheikh (both residents of Kolkata), they said.

* Indian troops on Sunday shot dead a most-wanted terrorist during a gun battle in Kashmir, police said. Ghulam Qadir Mughal, a resident of PoK, was killed when troops raided a terrorist hideout early on Sunday.

* An article by Chris Blackburn for FrontPage Magazine says that Bangladesh is "Osama's new haven", and that the country is "the site of al-Qaeda-run training camps financed by Middle Eastern charities and organisations, including backing from rogue elements within the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence".

* Bangladesh's crack security force said Saturday it had arrested an Islamic militant commander and seized a large cache of explosives in a hunt for those responsible for nationwide blasts. The Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said it arrested 27-year-old Zaiur Rahman, also known as Sagar, in the southwestern town of Khulna and seized explosives in a raid on a student dormitory late yesterday.

* A Toyota Camry with a large amount of explosives in its trunk was seized by police near an international airport in Yekaterinburg, regional center in the Russian Urals. Initial inspection suggested the device consisted of one kilogram of plastic explosives. A detonator was also found.

* Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels shot and injured five policemen in Sri Lanka's restive east on Friday, the military said, as a Norwegian peace envoy prepared to visit the island amid rising fears of a return to civil war.

* Sri Lankan troops and police have detained 900 people in a major house-to-house search in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo, as part of a major hunt for Tamil Tiger rebels, a top police officer told AFP. Large parts of the capital were sealed off for seven hours during the sudden swoop carried out by 2,000 heavily armed soldiers and 2,400 policemen, Colombo's Deputy Inspector-General Pujith Jayasundara said.

* This article looks at a possible connection between Bangalore and terrorism. Officials believe "there could be more such militant students sheltering in the garden City and elsewhere in Karnataka."

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

* The seating of Afghanistan's Parliament after more than three decades on December 19 last caps the democratization process worked out by international officials and anti-Taliban Afghans in Bonn, Germany, in December 2001.

* Four Afghan policemen were killed and seven others were injured when a bomb planted by suspected Taliban militants exploded near a checkpoint, an official said on Friday.

Far East and Southeast Asia

* In the midst of warnings from Japanese police officials that Islamic extremists may try to infiltrate the country, comes the revelation that a member of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), a Sunni extremist group outlawed in Pakistan, had entered Japan to start an SSP branch two years ago. The news comes as tensions between Japan and China remain high.

* The Philippine National Police had an up and down year in 2005, mixed with achievements in their counterterrorism campaign as well as mistakes and setbacks.

* A group of international ceasefire monitors are investigating claims that the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has broken the four-year old agreement by recruiting new members and training rebels.

* Authorities in Saipan are hunting for a former special forces member of the Filipino military, who later became a member of Abu Sayyaf, after his conviction of assault and the filing of deportation papers.

* Zachary Abuza offers a brief recap of 2005 in Southeast Asia, saying "while there was some progress in combating terrorism in Southeast Asia in 2005, a number of low intensity conflicts continued to flare, and have the potential to escalate in 2006. Core grievances have gone unaddressed while the governments continued to focus their efforts on decapitating organizations."

* The U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, closed on Saturday until further notice, due to security threats amid warnings of potential attacks in the region over the holidays.

* Siegfried Hecker, former director of the US Government's top-secret Los Alamos laboratory, says that North Korea is working to restart a reactor that would produce enough plutonium to make 10 nuclear weapons a year.


* Al-Fateh, a children's magazine produced by the Palestinian terror group Hamas, calls on Muslim children to liberate the city called Asbilia in the heart of Spain.

* Slobodan Davidovic, a former member of a Serb paramilitary police unit called Scorpions, was sentenced to 15 years in prison by a Croatian court for his involvement in war crimes in the Balkans during the 1990s and torturing Croatian soldiers in a makeshift prison in 1991.

* Spain's high court handed down a 100-year prison sentence for Diego Ugarte, a member of the Basque separatist group ETA, indicted for the 2000 bombing in Vitoria that killed Socialist deputy Fernando Buesa.

* Leaders of the radical Islamic group al-Muhajiroun are condemning anti-terror raids targeting members of the group and threatening to retaliate against British authorities. In the past the group has called for the overthrow of the British government and have ties to Palestinian terrorist groups.

* A Spanish judge has ruled that six al Qaeda suspects detained several weeks ago were to be held indefinitely. The group is suspected of recruiting Muslims to send to Chechnya, Kashmir and Iraq.

* The story of French national Lionel Dumont is symbolic of the role and potential threat posed by western converts to Islam, a target recruiting group for al Qaeda. Of some concern is a trend of European women converting to Islam.

* In Britain, changes as part of the Serious and Organized Crime Act of 2005 have been enacted, giving police officers broader power to arrest suspects by removing the distinction between arrestable and non-arrestable offenses.


* A first group of United Nation peacekeepers from Mozambique has left Burundi as part of a phased withdrawal of troops that will end in December next year. Burundi is struggling to recover from the ethnically driven conflict that erupted in 1993 with the assassination of its first democratically elected president, a Hutu, by members of the minority Tutsi-dominated military.

* An article by Francis Crupi in the Winter issue of Parameters argues the US should robustly support Pan-African organizations. Crupi writes "A stable and prosperous Africa provides the conditions for political and economic growth and counters the incidence of "failed states" which can serve as terrorist breeding grounds such as in the Sudan".

* Veteran Sudanese Islamist leader Hassan al-Turabi says his country has become weak and occupied by foreigners. He said there were now so many foreign armies in Sudan it could no longer be considered independent.

* Some companies that operate freighters or fishing vessels in pirate infested waters, such as those off Somalia, have begun to take steps to enhance ship security. Both passive and active anti-piracy measures have been seen in use. The World Food Programme has resorted to alternative ways of shipping relief food from the Mombasa Port to thousands of hunger-stricken people in Somalia because of the piracy.

The Global War

* An article in the January 2006 issue of National Defense says the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security are seeking to homogenize the equipment that military units and local first responders employ to detect and neutralize toxic agents.

* According to reports, as many as 26 Sudanese refugees were killed when Egyptian police used water cannons and other methods in an effort to remove them from their location in Cairo. Human Rights activist are calling for an investigation into the incident.

* Pope Benedict XVI warned Sunday that terrorism, nihilism and "fanatic fundamentalism" threatened world peace, and he called on individuals, governments and institutions to work together to combat them. Benedict made the appeal during a Mass in St. Peter's Basilica to mark New Year's Day, which the Roman Catholic Church celebrates annually as its World Day of Peace.

* A former CIA counterterrorism officer who tracked Osama bin Laden through the mountains of Afghanistan says the U.S. spy agency could need a decade to build up its clandestine service for the U.S. war on terrorism.

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Sunday, January 01, 2006


In the Sunday paper today, the Star Tribune provided its customers yet another fair, balanced, informative look at the situation in Iraq. (I know a sarcastic tone of voice doesn't translate well in this medium, so you'll have to use your imagination a bit.)

Now, in fairness to the Strib, the article is from the Associated Press. (Are we sure AP doesn't stand for Against Progress? All Putrid?) Still, I doubt the Strib just took the article off the wires and blindly threw it unread into the paper. The contents fit the Strib's general outlook on Iraq, and their general approach to keeping its readers informed. That approach being, All The Bad News That's Fit To Print. To balance the bad news with the good news would be actual journalism, and the Strib has strict policies against that sort of thing.

The headline the Strib ran (in the dead tree edition) with the article was "Troops treated to New Year's show." Yet, it took six paragraphs of doom and gloom to get to the little blurb about some New Year's entertainment for the troops. That part of the story got four paragraphs. Then, the article took another seven paragraphs for doom and gloom, ending with seven paragraphs on Iraqi politics.

What was the doom and gloom?

Bombings and shootings killed at least 20 people across Iraq on the final day of the year Saturday...

A U.S. soldier died Saturday from wounds inflicted by a mortar attack in Baghdad...

Gunmen raided a house south of Baghdad, killing five members of a Sunni Arab family.

A roadside bomb in the capital killed two policemen and another bomb killed five members of the Iraqi Islamic party near their headquarters in Al-Khalis, 10 miles east of Baqouba, police said.

Police also said they found the bodies of six men who had been blindfolded, shot and dumped at a sewage plant in southeast Baghdad.

A mortar round killed a policeman in Baghdad, and gunmen fatally shot the owner of a supermarket in the capital, officials said.

There was a quote from an Iraqi citizen, I'm sure just pulled at random without regard for its editorial bent.

Some Iraqis in Baghdad said their New Year's Eve wish is that U.S. troops will pull out.

"God willing, the occupation of our country will end and we will get rid of the Americans," said Noor Ali, who was shopping at a Baghdad store.

In an especially one-sided example of not providing a complete picture, there was this paragraph on the US death toll:

That put the U.S. military death toll for the year at 841 -- five short of 2004's record total despite political progress and dogged U.S. and Iraqi efforts to quash the insurgency. A total of 846 U.S. military personnel died in 2004 and 485 in 2003.

Ok, get it? We're just spinning our wheels in Iraq. We try and try, and beat our heads against the brick wall of the insurgency, and we're getting nowhere. We still lost the same number of troops as we did in 2004. Implication: We might as well pack up and go home because we're not accomplishing anything.


I'm not saying these are lies. Far from it. As I said in this post, the enemy still has some fight in him. The enemy still has a civilian population to support and shelter him.

But, where is the balance? Where is the journalistic integrity to point out the insurgents and terrorists are crushed into paste whenever they take on the US military in combat? That the only weapon the insurgents really have are the random attacks from IEDs, weapons that have no strategic value? That the insurgents have turned to attacking soft civilian targets instead for the shock value, hoping to intimidate the Iraqi people? (As I pointed out in this post, the Iraqi people are increasingly providing helpful information. They are not backing down.)

When the insurgents and terrorists fight the US military, they are losing foot soldiers at a rate that might be as high as 20:1. Those are not sustainable numbers for the bad guys.

I can't possible regurgitate four months of posts here to point out the progress that is being made. Bill Roggio has a recent post that does a nice job of summarizing the encouraging signs, though.

The Iraqi Security Forces continue to assert themselves on the battlefield and are taking control of the battlespace. In Northern Iraq, an Iraqi Battalion has assumed control of the Mahkmur region, which was under the control of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team. In Samarra, the Special Police Commandos of the famed "Lions Brigade" patrol the streets and are increasingly effective.
The insurgency and al-Qaeda have has basically lost out west towards the Syrian border. Lt. Col. Dale Alford, the battalion commander of the 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines, the unit responsible for the Al Qaim region on the Syrian Border, emails:

"It is quiet out here because we have crushed the insurgents in this area. The Marines of 3/6 are doing well and we have settled down after a hard three months of fighting and are now doing the hard work of counter-insurgency warfare; patrolling, raids, meeting with local leaders, etc. Also, lots of reconstruction to do. We are involved in trying to stand up a government and police force, all while recruiting, training and working with the Iraqi Army. Tell everyone who will listen that we are winning this thing. I know you have heard this, but it will take time. The Iraqi Army is getting better everyday. Counter-insurgency’s are by definition a long process."

The progress of the Iraqi Forces is one of the important stories of 2005. It has allowed effective operations like Steel Curtain to be conducted.

Between Dec 17 and Dec 31 alone , 132 terrorist suspects were captured in northern Iraq.

As for the US casualties, the numbers were high in November and October becuase of the many offensive operations conducted. But the numbers in December were the lowest since July.

Security Watchtower points out this:

According to the Brookings Institute, a progressive thinktank, U.S. troops wounded have dropped from 618 in October to 274 in December, the lowest figure since February 2004. Another positive trend includes the number of Iraqi security forces (police & military) killed in combat (159 in December), which has dropped for the fifth consecutive month from 304 in July, a nearly 50 percent reduction. The number of civilians killed has also dropped, with the December estimate at 149-261, considerably fewer than 1,414-2,475 killed in August 2005 and the lowest total since February 2004. Multiple fatality bombings have dropped from 41 in November to 12 in December.

There is so much more as well. Construction, building local political processes, building utilities, building the Iraqi economy, and on and on.

The State Dept puts out a weekly Iraq Status Report that's available in PDF from the main page of the DoD website. For instance, here is the report for December 28.

Every week the report takes a qualitative and quantitative look at a myriad of things, such as security, oil production, electricity production, education, health care, the economy, and so forth. A enterprising journalist (or blogger) could follow that from week to week and track the progress being made.

Another regular publication work tracking is Eye on Iraq, and it is available here. It highlights success stories in Iraq. The Dec 27 issue talks about a soldier's brave deeds in saving the life of an Iraqi boy, Iraqis receiving medical care from the US military, and a large amount of weapons uncovered.

There is far more to the story of Iraq than the selected bits the Strib and the MSM ladle out to us. Don't go looking for the complete story there. You won't find it.