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

Sunday, April 30, 2006

A terrorist marketing blitz?

A week ago, an audiotape featuring the soothing tones of Osama bin Laden surfaced. Last Tuesday, Zarqawi showed up on a video portraying him in a number of militaristic settings.

And just this Saturday, a video featuring Al Qaeda #2 Zawahiri surfaced.

Obviously an Al Qaeda propaganda blitz is underway. However, I do wonder if we are seeing signs of a renewed alliance between Iran and Al Qaeda, and I wonder if Iran played a role in suggesting the brain trust of AQ take to the airwaves at this time.

Consider, these three tapes appeared in the week the UN Security Council-imposed deadline of April 28 came and went, and the week the IAEA released another report on Iran.

Iran has not been shy about threatening retaliation if attacked. Is Iran preparing for possible counterattacks by enlisting the aid of Al Qaeda?

Regime Change Iran points to an article from Asharq Al-Awsat discussing Iran's plans for a response if attacked, plans which are sobering.

Is the sudden conjunction of three Al Qaeda videos at a time when Iran is under increasing international pressure a sign AQ may play a part in these plans?

Eight fundamentalist Islamist organizations have received large sums of money in the last month from the Iranian intelligence services, as part of a project to strike U.S military and economic installations across the Middle East Asharq Al-Awsat has learned.

The plan, which also includes the carrying out of suicide operations targeting US and British interests in the region, as well as their Arab and Muslim allies, in case Iran is attacked, was drawn up by a number of experts guerilla warfare and terrorist operations, and was revealed by a senior source in the Iranian armed forces' joint chief of staff headed by the veterinary doctor Hassan Firouzabadi,

The source added that the forces of the Revolutionary Guards’ al Quds Brigades, under Brigadier General Qassim Suleimani is responsible for coordinating and providing logistical support for the groups taking part in the execution of the plan, codenamed al Qiyamah the Islamic word for "Judgment Day".

The plan includes three steps, which Asharq al Awsat has examined in earlier reports. The source gave more details about how the plan will be implemented. He said, “Most of Iran’s visitors in the last four months, including the leaders of revolutionary groups in Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon, as well as the heads of Hezbollah cells in the Persian Gulf and Europe and North America were asked, when they met with the Iranian intelligence minister Gholamhossein Mohseni Ezhei and his aides: are you ready to defend the Islamic revolution and vilayat e faqih? If you agree to take part in the great jihad, what would you need to be ready for the great fight?

Amongst the leaders who visited were the head of one of the Iraqi armed group who was very clear and honest. He said his men would transform Iraq into a hell for the Americans if Iran were attacked.

The source also said that the military training camps of the Guards were opened for the fighters of the Mehdi army in Iran to receive the necessary training. Iran had also increased its financial assistance to Moqtada al Sadr to more than 20 million dollars.

The same applied to Islamic Jihad in Palestine which has received large sums of money, large quantities of arms and military training for its cadres in Isfahan, including street fighting methods.

As for the Lebanese Hezbollah, several loads of arms have been sent to; they include rockets, explosives, and guided missiles. Hezbollah's arsenal includes more than 10 thousand rockets short-range rockets and missiles including Fajr, Nour, Arash, Hadid.

An estimated 80 members underwent private training last year on how to carry out suicide operations from the air (through the use of kite planes) and undersea operations using submarines.

While denying that Hamas had joined the list of organizations ready to help Iran in its likely war with the U.S, the source indicated that the external success of the movement, which enjoys considerable Iranian support both financial and military, was strengthened following the latest visit by its leaders to Tehran. This was translated in the Palestinian masses’ support for Iran, against Israel and the United States .

According to Iran, the latest military plan includes:

1- A missile strike directly targeting the US bases in the Persian Gulf and Iraq , as soon as nuclear installations are hit.

2- Suicide operations in a number of Arab and Muslim countries against US embassies and missions and US military bases and economic and oil installations related to US and British companies. The campaign might also target the economic and military installations of countries allied with the United States .

3- Launch attacks by the Basij and the Revolutionary Guards and Iraqi fighters loyal to Iran against US and British forces in Iraq , from border regions in central and southern Iraq .

4- Hezbollah to launch hundreds of rockets against military and economic targets in Israel .

According to the source, in case the US military attacks continue, more than 50 Shehab-3 missiles will be targeted against Israel and the al Quads Brigades will give the go-ahead for more than 50 terrorists cells in Canada, the US and Europe to attack civil and industrial targets in these countries.

What about the last stage in the plan?

Here, the Iranian source hesitated before saying with worry; this stage might represent the beginning of a world war, given that extremists will seek to maximize civilian casualties by exploding germ and chemical bombs as well as dirty nuclear bombs across western and Arab cities.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Darfur Update

This past week, the UN finally agreed to sanctions in Sudan. Except, the sanctions weren't against any of the combatant groups. Four individuals are subject to sanctions, and the four aren't really at the very center of the conflict. In addition, two are on the side of the Sudanese government, and two are among the rebel groups fighting the Sudanese government.

Is the UN trying to see all parties are equally at fault? President Bush and the US Congress have used the word "genocide". Can that be so if the UN thinks there is plenty of blame to go around? This weak response from the UN is going to do little to stop the suffering in Darfur.

Worse, the UN is cutting food aid in the Darfur region because, it says, it is running short of funds.

The United Nations agency responsible for feeding three million people affected by the conflict in Darfur announced Friday that it would reduce by half the amount of food it distributes because it is short of money.

The World Food Program said it had received just one-third of the $746 million it asked for from donors for its operations in Sudan. As a result, rations of grain, beans, oil, sugar and salt for people in Darfur, where a brutal ethnic conflict has raged since 2003, will be halved, from 2,100 calories a day to 1,050.

A NYTimes article correctly points out that US options are running short.

As the violence in the Darfur region of Sudan grows ever more deadly, Bush administration officials now acknowledge that they have few if any promising policy options for containing the carnage.

If there is no agreement by Sunday on a way to resolve the crisis, the long-running peace talks are to be disbanded. But hopes for an agreement are low.

One proposal, to send 20,000 United Nations peacekeepers to Sudan, has been stymied by Khartoum's adamant opposition. Without the government's agreement, the Bush administration acknowledges, dispatching troops to Darfur would rightly be viewed as an invasion.

"Sudan policy has run off the road into a ditch," said John Prendergast, a former senior Africa specialist for the government.

And as is so often the case in Africa, conflict rarely stays completely within borders. Here, Chad is being pulled into the chaos.

Chadian government troops are posted at key points along the border to halt what they say is a revolt by rebels based in Sudan. The soldiers wear red armbands to set them apart from the rebels, who wear similar uniforms and have an equally aggressive driving style, roaring through villages in pickup trucks, leaving behind clouds of billowing dust.

The insurgents, who are fighting to topple Chadian President Idriss Deby, represent at least 12 groups united under several coalitions. To make matters even more dizzying, some of them are Deby's estranged relatives, including a set of twin nephews.

Chad blames the Sudanese, saying they back the insurrection, an allegation that Sudan denies. An African Union investigation found this week that many of the captured attackers who invaded the capital April 13 had Sudanese and Central African Republic identification and said they were conscripted to fight by Sudan, which Sudan denies.

Sudan blames the Chadians, saying they support a different group of rebels in the Darfur region of western Sudan, some of whom have offices and villas in Chad's capital, N'Djamena.

And Chadians tend to blame France, Chad's former colonial power, which they accuse of being involved in the violence by backing the president.

Here in the inhospitable, rugged and lunar-like terrain of eastern Chad, where refugees huddle under thorn trees, two things are certain: The chaos in Darfur has extended deep into Chad, and a rapidly increasing number of civilians continue to suffer in one of Africa's most complex crises.

Across Africa, conflicts tend to spill across national borders and destabilize entire regions. Fighting in the central African country of Congo, for example, has flared off and on for about a decade, at times drawing in more than a dozen rebel groups backed by several neighboring countries.

The world community is not acting as if time is short. Because, for diplomats in tony salons, it isn't short for them. They'll still have their gourmet dinners and fine wines and operas.

But for the refugees in Darfur, it is going to be a long, terrible summer.

Friday, April 28, 2006

The Great Game is afoot in Central Asia

This week, President Bakiyev of Kyrgyzstan met with Russia's President Putin in Moscow. The meeting underscored an effort underway to gradually peel the Central Asian nations away from the US and into the orbit of Russia and China.

In the wake of 9/11, the US moved into bases in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan to support the war effort in Afghanistan. However, after a crackdown in May 2005 in Andijan, Uzbekistan, that some reports say killed hundreds, the US severely critized Uzbek President Karimov, and last July Karimov asked the US to leave. The last US flight left that base in November.

Now, Kyrgyzstan is asking for a significantly higher rent from the US in order to remain on the base. Russia and China are trying to draw Bakiyev away from the US, to drive the US military out of the region.

At the same time, Moscow and Beijing make no secret of their interest in the faster withdrawal of the American contingent from the republic. Ganci air base located here remains the only military US foothold in the Central Asia. The further destiny of the base depends on the readiness of Washington to comply with the requirement of Bishkek regarding the increase of payment for its use. This was announced by Kurmanbek Bakiyev five days prior to his arrival in Moscow. However the growth of the economic activity of Russia and China in Kyrgyzstan can fully compensate the refusal of financial receipts from America. Experience of the neighbouring Uzbekistan particularly eloquently testifies to it.

A deadline of June 1 has been set to decide on the matter of rent.

Nine months after an Asian bloc dominated by Russia and China moved to set a time limit on the U.S. military presence in Central Asia, the last American airbase in the highly strategic region may be at risk.

If agreement is not reached by June 1 on a demand for a substantial increase in rent, the U.S. presence at Kyrgyzstan's Manas airbase will be terminated, the country's president, Kurmambek Bakiyev, has warned.

Bakiyev has spoken of a 100-fold increase in rent, to around $200 million a year, although other officials have quoted smaller figures. $200 million would be almost half of Kyrgyzstan's total annual budget.

Located at the airport in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, the airbase was established late in 2001, after al Qaeda attacked the U.S.

The "Asian bloc" referred to above is the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. This group was first formed in June 2001 with members Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The group primarily fosters trade cooperation, but also touches on other areas such as anti-terrorism efforts.

Last week, full membership was granted to Iran, Pakistan and India, who previously had been observers to the group. This, even though as recently as January the group was saying these countries would not be admitted as full members. The crisis with Iran has apparently sparked a change in thinking.

Visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mohammadi told Itar-TASS in Moscow that the membership expansion "could make the world more fair". And he spoke of building an Iran-Russia "gas-and-oil arc" by coordinating their activities as energy producing countries. Mohammadi also touched on Iran's intention to raise the issue of his country's nuclear program and its expectations of securing SCO support.

The timing of the SCO decision appears to be significant. By the end of April the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency is expected to report to the United Nations Security Council in New York regarding Iran's compliance with the IAEA resolutions and the Security Council's presidential statement, which stresses the importance of Iran "reestablishing full, sustained suspension of uranium-enrichment activities".

The SCO membership is therefore a lifeline for Iran in political and economic terms. The SCO is not a military bloc but is nonetheless a security organization committed to countering terrorism, religious extremism and separatism. SCO membership would debunk the US propaganda about Iran being part of an "axis of evil".

Notice, however, that with the new additions, Afghanistan, home to the United States and NATO's little adventure, will be virtually surrounded by SCO member nations.

(Turkmenistan has not joined, as it maintains a stance of neutrality, but there certainly has been pressure on Turkmenistan to join the SCO.)

This is not by accident. Russia and China are making an effort to diminish US influence in the region by drawing together a bloc that can stand against a US presence. (And for Russia, keeping China close in a mutual membership helps prevent China from making independent deals with all these nations that could undercut Russia's energy sector.)

Above you'll note that energy deals are mentioned. The SCO will definitely seek to use oil and gas deals to tie members together.

The presence of India in the SCO is significant to US interests. However, India does not share a border with Afghanistan, and India, by necessity, is looking for energy partners in the region, partners that will mostly be SCO members.

This will be a challenge for the US, and for the nascent government in Afghanistan.

An excerpt above refers to the IAEA report on Iran. That report came out today. Vital Perspective has an excellent report on the contents. Among the highlights:

The IAEA report on the Iranian nuclear program is quite damning and points out the 20 years of Iran's deception and its total unwillingness to answer for conduct. It discloses that Iran has been working on advanced P-2 centrifuges – as Ahmadinejad bragged about last week – revealing a previously unknown secret track toward nuclear bomb fuel, outside of that which the IAEA had been following previously. P-2 centrifuges are more sophisticated and reliable, making it easier for Iran to ramp up the production of enriched uranium.

Their other work – on plutonium, recent successful work on the 164-centrifuge cascade and announcement last week of the production of enriched uranium – and their stated ambition to install 3,000 centrifuges over the next several months is extremely worrisome. You read it here first.

With just 1,500 centrifuges running in concert, Iran could produce enough fuel for a nuclear bomb in less than a year. Iranian officials have stated they will build a full-scale 3,000-centrifuge operation later this year, with the ultimate objective of deploying 54,000 centrifuges by the end of 2007.

Uncertain over the reaction from the US, Israel, and to a lesser extent Europe, Iran is seeking shelter in the loving arms of Russia and China who welcome any and all friend willing to oppose US power. The oil and gas produced by SCO members has a great deal of significance to Europe, and a nuclear-armed belligerent Iran would be an anchor for a fearsome pole of power seeking leverage over the West.

Given these growing challenges to our interests, who are President Bush and Congressional Republicans going after this week? Oil company execs. Yeesh.

In Search Of... XI

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.)

-hh how to build a tennis court
-mowgli hypnotized a turn on
-why is there a crescent moon shape on u.s. army ration cases?
-ant squishing
-2006 email address of abdul in russia
-trigger finger in children [this came from Saudi Arabia]
-information about hanna's suitcase
-free online word puzzle drag drop jigsaw games exhilarating
-kianpars sexy [this came from Iran]
-a free web online game that you are supposed to get every across the river
-how many hours is from 7:00 till 5:00 pm
-skanky hillbillies pics
-best hacker alive

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Italian troops killed in Iraq

Three Italian soldiers, and a Romanian, were killed in a bomb attack in Nasiriyah.

Three Italian soldiers and a Romanian serving in Iraq have been killed when a bomb ripped through their convoy near Nasiriyah in the south of the country, the Italian defence ministry revealed.

The ministry had earlier said that three soldiers had been killed, but a fourth died in hospital shortly after the attack.

Leaders across the political spectrum in Italy condemned the attack, which occurred on the eve of the first meeting of parliament following a divisive general election.

Outgoing Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, who had maintained Italian troops in Iraq in the face of strong public opposition, expressed his "profound pain" on learning of the attack.

Centre-left leader Romano Prodi, whose coalition unseated Berlusconi's in the elections, said the attack was a tragedy that "affects all of Italy."

No word on which group is responsible, but at Publius Pundit, Stefania Lapenna writes:

The Italian troops in Nassiryiah had made it clear to Mr. Prodi that they strongly disagree with an immediate withdrawal. It’s not a coincidence that our troops in Iraq have not voted for Prodi.

Who are the communists in Prodi’s coalition already blaming for the attack? Yes, they’re blaming Bush and Berlusconi.

What should I add more but outrage and disgust?

I don’t hesitate to claim that the terrorists may have thought that by killing our soldiers today they will force Prodi to play the dhimmi he really is and withdraw the troops immediately.

Unfortunately, this is what he’ll do.

Indeed, Italy has made its choice, electing someone who has said he will withdraw Italy's troop soon.

Has Italy forgotten another terrible attack on Italian troops in Nasiriyah in 2003?

Italian military headquarters in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah were blown up November 12 by terrorists who drove a truck through the main entrance to the former chamber of commerce compound bearing more than 800 pounds of explosives. An unusual feature of this worst attack on US allies in Iraq, 30 Italians and Iraqis were killed, was the fact that the Italian leadership had been warned three times by their intelligence officers of an imminent attack on the country's contingent in the city.

There was evidence that attack involved Ansar Al-Islam, a terrorist group that took root in Europe, and Italy in particular, after the initial US invasion of Iraq drove it out of northern Iraq. The group formed a recruiting network which funneled fighters to Iraq, and these fighters were known to have attacked Italian troops.

Italy has seen up close the scourage of Islamic terrorism. Cities like Milan have become centers for the terrorist networks. Militants recruited in Italy attacked Italians. And yet, the Italian people chose to retreat from a firm stand against terrorism. These soldiers killed today served a government that wants to run away from the fight.

Just as disconcerting is this report:

In a telephone conversation with Romano Prodi on Wednesday [Iranian] Vice-President Parviz Davudi congratulated him for being elected as Italian prime minister and said that Iran and Italy can play a special role in promoting world peace and justice by using their political, economic, and cultural potentials.

Iran and Italy can fight terrorism and drug trafficking and help resolve the issues of Iraq and Afghanistan, Davudi added.

Prodi also said that the Islamic Republic plays a key role in promoting security and stability in the Middle East.

Italy is to expand ties with Iran in all areas, he added.

So, not content to withdraw in the fight against terrorism, Italy will cozy up to world's chief sponsor of terrorism.

Among other groups, Iran has provided support for Ansar al-Islam, the group involved in killing so many Italians in Nasiriyah.

What can Italy be thinking?

Germany and Russia: A one- or two-way partnership?

It's hardly a non-aggression pact, but there is news today illustrating just how closely Germany is tying its energy sector to Russia.

A high-profile summit between Russian President Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ended today with the two countries signing a major gas deal.

The agreement gives Germany's BASF the right to take part in the development of a large gas field in Western Siberia with Russia's Gazprom.

The Yuzhno-Russkoye gas field will feed a new gas pipeline that will deliver Russian gas to Germany under the Baltic Sea.

This actually isn't a new deal. It goes back to the summit a year ago between then German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and Russian President Vladimir Putin that formalized the deal to build the North European Gas Pipeline.

BASF is helping build the pipeline, and now BASF will help develop the field from which the gas for the NEGP will come.

The pipeline has been criticized for its cost, and the route under the North Sea, instead of a cheaper overland route, only adds to the cost. In bypassing Easter European countries, there are fears Russia can squeeze their gas supplies and also make Germany dangerously dependent on Russian gas.

In analyzing the deal a year ago, Stratfor had this to say:

Deals signed at the summit total a sizable $4.9 billion, but $2 billion of that is earmarked for the as-yet-theoretical Baltic Sea pipeline, which would ship Russian natural gas under the Baltic Sea to northern Germany. The leading -- and unrealistically low -- price estimate puts the pipeline's cost at about $5.7 billion. This would make natural gas imported through it prohibitively expensive relative to natural gas shipped via more conventional land-only routes.

The Russians want German companies to pay for the project. However, it makes more sense to tweak the existing export network via Belarus and Ukraine for a fraction of the cost -- and much bigger returns. For example, Gazprom, the Russian state natural gas firm, itself indicates that a mere $2 billion investment into the Ukrainian transport infrastructure would increase Russia's natural gas exports to Europe by more than the Baltic line could ship in toto.

The remaining $2.9 billion in deals are more promising. The first $1.9 billion would jointly develop high-speed trains for Russian use, while the remaining $1 billion would give German chemical firm BASF access to the 500 billion-cubic-meter (bcm) Yuzhno-Russkoye field. The deal is the first-ever German-Russian joint venture in Russia's natural gas upstream, finally giving some economic heft to the much-ballyhooed German-Russian energy partnership.

But $3.9 billion is not a lot to show from such an "historic" summit, and Yuzhno-Russkoye is not the sort of thing that will make the Germans go gaga for all things Russian. It is not so much that $1 billion is not a lot of money, or that Yuzhno-Russkoye is not a big step in Russo-German cooperation.

It is simply a question of scale.

Moscow controls some 40 percent of the world's known natural gas deposits. Gazprom has more natural gas reserves than all of the Western energy supermajors combined. In fact, Russia's Yamal Peninsula alone has more natural gas than all of North America. In comparison to that, Yuzhno-Russkoye is small potatoes. Also, Yuzhno-Russkoye is a virgin field, not hooked up to the Russian export network at present. If previous joint ventures -- where Gazprom tended to expect a free ride -- are any indication, BASF will have to put up most of the development costs itself (although considering Germany's interest in working with Russia, it will be quite happy to do so).

Compare that to a deal that the Royal Dutch/Shell Group of Companies, a British/Dutch supermajor, is hammering out with Gazprom. Under the terms of an asset exchange that the two companies have agreed to in principle, Russian sources say, Shell will transfer 22 percent of shares at the Sakhalin-2 oil and natural gas project in exchange for a 50 percent-minus-one share of the Zapolyarnoye field.

The deal is heavenly for both players. Sakhalin-2 brings together several characteristics of intense interest to Gazprom: offshore production (in icy conditions, no less), oil production and liquefied natural gas (LNG). All are skill sets that Gazprom desperately wants to develop. In particular, Gazprom feels (correctly) that LNG expertise will allow it to tap the lucrative U.S. market -- but the company until now has refused to pay its way, preferring to threaten potential partners into developing LNG assets for it. Unsurprisingly, that has not worked particularly well. Now, however, Gazprom will be part of a consortium that already has completed drilling, built its LNG facility and signed production contracts. Gazprom can simply sit back and learn.

Shell, whose biggest problem of late has been beefing up its reserve sheet, comes out similarly well. The 3.3 trillion-cubic-meter Zapolyarnoye field is Gazprom's largest project since the Soviet breakup, and already produces some 100 bcm per year, mostly for export to Europe. If finalized, Shell's 50 percent share in Zapolyarnoye will increase the energy supermajor's natural gas holdings by two-thirds.

But isn't Germany Russia's new best friend? Why isn't Germany getting such plum deals?

The answer is simple: Russia does not need to bribe Germany to cooperate. Germany is already committed to its relationship with Russia.

In other words, Germany may be selling itself too cheaply in its desire to bring in the natural gas it needs. If BASF ends up shouldering much of the startup costs for this field, it's a win for Russia, and so they can afford to toss this deal to Germany.

This analysis would indicate BASF, and Germany, need these kinds of deals to address employment concerns.

The first reason for this is a refusal of the German leadership to use atomic energy for electricity production. The second reason is the stagnation of the German economy over the past decade, which has forced the country’s leaders and large economic structures to search for cheap and stable sources of energy carriers. Russia, with its huge stocks of oil and gas, being close to Germany geographically, represents a rather tempting economic partner.

The true value of the Hannover transaction can only be seen through the prism of German internal policy of the past years. Since Gerhard Schröder`s re-election to the chancellor's office in 2002, the weakness of his economic policy ("Agenda 2010") is becoming obvious. One of the main indications of the constantly deepening economic crisis is the rate of unemployment. By the beginning of 2005 it had reached 12%. For the first time since 1932, more than 5 million German citizens are clients of the labor registry office, more than 2 million belong to the "concealed unemployed" category, about one million lack a place of residence, and 85% of the working population express anxiety concerning their future.

A catastrophic drop in popularity of the ruling Social-Democratic Party (Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands - SPD) is a direct consequence of this situation.

An April 2005 poll has shown that only 28% of potential voters support the SPD, while the opposing Christian Democrats Union (Christlich Demokratische Union - CDU) is supported by 46%.

Various extremist political forces are also gaining strength. The 2004 elections to the European Parliament, local elections to the parliament of the German province of Thuringia and elections to the local governments of 6 out of 16 provinces carried the first signs of upcoming electoral disaster for SPD.

The party has lost 2.8 million voters, receiving an average of only 21.5% of the votes.

On February 2005 SPD suffered another painful blow in the local elections to the parliament of the Schleswig-Holstein province. The SPD received only 38.7% of the votes against the CDU with 40.2%.

The close upcoming elections to the parliament of North Rhine-Westphalia on May 22 2005, are extremely important from SPD`s and Schröder`s point of view, for this is the most densely populated part of Germany.

But political forecasts do not foretell any luck to the Social Democrats.
Given this background, an increase in pressure on the SPD by the German Trade Union Confederation – DGB is observed. In 2004, leading political and trade-union figures already spoke openly about the confrontation between the unions and the Social Democrats.

The trade union associations of such industrial giants as Daimler-Chrysler, IG Metall, Siemens and BASF are in the avant-guard of the attack on the SPD.
In BASF`s case, after a massive wave of employee layoff (about 10,000 worldwide), active participation of the company's 28,000 German employees opposing the economic policy of the present political leadership has been provided by the agreement achieved in July, 2004 between the trade union and the management of BASF.

The agreement stipulated a constant salary bonus for all trade union members, its amount depending on the economic success of BASF.

Thus, the economic well being of the workers became dependent to a degree on the Schröder government’s support for the company's external economic policy.

In view of all the aforesaid, the Hannover agreement between BASF and "Gazprom", became possible due to the personal involvement of the chancellor, who is trying to split the German trade unions’ united front against the SPD.

Actually, providing BASF with the long-term prospective contract, and its 28,000 workers with their guaranteed bonus, the Social Democrats neutralized one of the strongest trade unions in the country, and also split DGB lines.

Concurrently, the German government relies on improvement of general macroeconomic parameters, by purchasing cheaper energy carriers, and by increasing BASF`s profits.
Leaders of the SPD hope that this will raise the party's popularity before the 2006 elections to the Bundestag.

In the end, Germany would seem to need Russia more than Russia needs Germany. Russia does seek investment to help develop its energy resources, but in return, Russia gets some serious leverage over other nations by making them dependent on Russian energy.

Germany believes that it might be able to use the gas it gets exclusively through the NEGP by, in turn, using it as leverage over these bypassed European nations as a reseller. However, what Gazprom did to Ukraine at the beginning of the year, in turning of its gas for a time, is going to become a real possibility in Germany the deeper it dives into Russian gas.

For this reason, European nations are reluctant to confront Russia over its protection of Iran in Iran's deliberately provoked confrontation with the West.

Always politics. When nations jockey to merge competing interests and goals, bets are made. However, by eschewing nuclear power, by allowing a growing unassimiliated Muslim population in its midst, by pursuing a diplomatic strategy with Iran that is all carrots and no sticks, by becoming increasingly dependent on Russian gas, Europe may have made a losing bet.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Always, always follow the money

It is the lifeblood of terrorism. If you did nothing but concentrate on sources of funding for terrorist groups, and on what nation-states do to secure energy supplies, you wouldn't miss too many important things in the world.

Close to a dozen companies with ties to Iraqi militias backed by Iran have been funnelling hundreds of millions of dollars from Iraq’s state funds to political groups, an independent watchdog announced in a recent report.

Up until now, 700 million dollars have been illegally transferred to the political groups allied to Tehran, the Monitoring and Watchdog Organisation announced.

The findings by the watchdog’s Treasury Committee were first reported on Tuesday in the weekly Dar-ol-Islam, the political journal of the Islamic Party of Iraq.

Eleven front companies were being used by the militias to receive state funding and equipment which was then being sold off.

The report also claims that the 11 companies were also being used to gather intelligence on government operations.

Three of the companies were based in Amman; one was based in Damascus; and the other seven were based in Dubai, Sharjeh, and Kuwait.

The report found that the front companies were being run by a number of officers in Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS) who carried Iraqi passports.

The findings show that the companies had managed to sign several key agreements since becoming operational and had opened up bank accounts in Tehran and London.

India: a growing power

With its growing economy and strengthing military, India is a rising power in South Asia. Today there is news that India is taking another step toward becoming a world player.

Indian Prime Ministers visit to Tajikistan signifies India first step to becoming a true super power. India is to open its first overseas military base this year in the impoverished central Asian country of Tajikistan - a testament to its emerging status on the world stage.

According to media reports, The Indian air force will station up to two squadrons of MiG-29s at the refurbished former Soviet airbase of Farkhor more than 60 miles from the Tajik capital of Dushanbe, Jane's Defence Weekly said, citing defence officials. A control tower is already in place, Indian media reported.

India views the Central Asian nations as important to its national security, and has been involved militarily there before, especially since 9/11 in helping fight the war on terror.

In fact, India has already had a military presence at Farkhor for a few years.

However, this base in Tajikistan is more about projecting Indian power, and in particular, it is about the race for oil and gas supplies in Central Asia.

The base is a key location. Near the border with Afghanistan, it sits nestled up against the western slopes of the mountains in SW Tajkistan, at the end of flat bowl-shaped area that pushes east into the mountains, and opens up to the west into the rich Dauletabad oil and gas field of Turkmenistan.

It serves to "encircle" Pakistan in a sense. It puts Indian jets on the other side of Pakistan from India. Also, the aircraft are not that far from China. These nations will certainly keep a wary eye on India's military deployments. India is taking bold steps to put its military in key strategic positions.

For instance, the Turkemenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline project has been in the works for some time. The project was formalized in 2002 in Islamabad, and India was invited to participate in 2003. The pipeline would be extended to India.

The pipeline would run from the Dauletabad fields, through Afghanistan and into Pakistan, and then onto India. However, instability in Afghanistan casts a shadow over the project. With the Taliban in Afghanistan, the security of the pipeline is questionable. The pipeline would then run through Balochistan in Pakistan, and as readers here know, that province has its own brand of unrest, and existing pipelines there have already been attacked.

India is worried that with the pipeline passing through Pakistan first, Pakistan would be in a position to interdict the gas before it could get to India.

With this base at Farkhor, Indian forces would not be far from where the pipeline would enter Afghanistan, and so could be in a position, in the event of a crisis, to choke off the gas before it got to Pakistan.

In addition, if events Afghanistan and Pakistan remained so unstable that this pipeline route was infeasible, a possible alternative northern route could take the pipeline right near this bowl, and through Tajikistan and northern Afghanistan, into Pakistan from the north.

This RFE/RL article outlines the issues involved.

On the receiving end, India's reluctance to rely on gas from a pipeline crossing the territory of archrival Pakistan had proved to be a major stumbling block. However, the recent authorization given by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his country to explore several possibilities to transport much-needed natural gas to India has rekindled interest in the TAP project.

Indian Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar told reporters in January that by looking at the region's map "you may accuse me of dreaming, but as a minister I am paid to dream." Aiyar added, "We have the Bangladesh-Burma [Myanmar] pipeline, we are looking at a pipeline from Iran that would cross Pakistan, and we want a pipeline from Turkmenistan that would cross Afghanistan and Pakistan," "Platts Energy Economist" reported on 1 February.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai, whose country is eager to get the TAP project under way, told visiting Indian External Affairs Minister Kunwar Natwar Singh on 15 February that his country hopes New Delhi will look favorably at the trans-Afghan pipeline. A press release from Karzai's office indicated that pipeline would bring "significant economic benefit to Afghanistan and the region."

But before Karzai and his Indian and Pakistani partners begin to celebrate economic prosperity and a constructive new phase in the elusive New Delhi-Islamabad partnership, several stumbling blocks need to be cleared.

The stumbling blocks referred to are security in Afghanistan, and gas price hikes in Turkmenistan that involve Russia.

Another wrinkle to the Farkhor move involves electricity. Pakistan would like to get more electricity from Tajikistan, which was valuable hydroelectric resources. A strong presence in Tajikistan gives India the ability to disrupt Pakistan's power supply from Tajikistan.

All in all, a significant move for India.

Some thoughts on Kirkuk and Iran

C-Low had a couple of excellent comments in this post, and I thought I'd reply to them here, as he brings up some things worth paying attention to. His comments were:,10117,18931927-23109,00.html

“IRAN was ready to share its nuclear technology with other countries, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said after talks with the visiting Sudanese president, state television reported.
"Iranian nuclear scientists can easily train other Islamic countries in uranium enrichment and nuclear fuel production," he was quoted as saying”

Iran Ayatollah Khamenei chief Mullah not only offers to share nuclear technology proliferation but offers such to SUDAN the very nation that just the other day Bin Laden requested all Jihadi’s to move to aid. Coincidence or organized effort?

A massive number of AQ organization leadership is safe in Iranian “house arrest” and the “my enemies enemy is my friend” logic plays between AQ and Iran more so than even most others.

On another issue what’s your take on this:

“Meanwhile, members of the pro-Iran Badr militia are showing up in the northern oil city of Kirkuk. That's odd, because Shia Arabs are a small minority up there,”

The above part specifically, I read somewhere else that even some Mahdi boys were yoked up in Kirkuk lately also which may explain partially that mysterious oil fire in Kirkuk. Maliki dropped out of the Saddam army because of the Iranian/Iraqi war. I wonder just how much of the Shia are going to side with Iran if/when we jump. I kinda thought the Badr had moved more to US by way of Sistani and their battling with Mehdi/Sadr but this report of them moving into Kirkuk makes me wonder if Iran is not pulling the strings.

I get the Turkey and even Iran moving troops to the border to fight their rebels at least on the Iran side those rebels I would imagine they are getting some assistance from US and maybe even assisting some SOF infiltration in the area. The Turkey side I would guess due to both some blowback from our support to the Iranian and Iraqi Kurds being diverted their way but also I would imagine they are at the sometime moving to reinforce their border with Iran in case we decide to act on Iran.

This article is interesting 250k sounds like more than just a rebel deterrence force I wonder what kind of mix that force is going to be and how much heavy mech force is in that?

Lot of activity on all side latley huh AQ messages, Iranian wildeyed statements, UN uselessness, toops moving here and thier, reports of this and that.

Here is another link with some more detail about the Sadr militia moves into Kirkuk.

Sounds to me like Iran positioning itself to strike at oil facilities in as many places as they can. Fox just confirmed that the Iranian Mullah has threatened to hit oil facilities around the world.

Why don’t the media ever ask the obvious question "how can Iran expect to attack US interest all over the world if they don’t have long range navy/air/missile assets with worldwide range? And if the obvious answer is terrorist how can we allow a nation that considers terrorist as their main weapon of retaliatory choice to have Nukes? Is their any cost or risk of action today comparable to the cost or risk of action tomorrow against a belligerent Nuclear armed Iran think how many cities will it cost not how many lives?"

I had the same question when Iran had its little visit with Sudan's president, and started talking about nuclear technology. Mere coincidence that Osama put out his little rant this week and happened to specifically mention Sudan? It does seem a bit like a marketing campaign is going on.

I think I've mentioned before as well, it seems like Iran is trying to portray itself as a champion for all of Islam, for Sunnis as well as Shiites. Sunni nations, such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt, are nervous about a nuclear Iran as well, and Iran seems to be saying, no, we're all Muslims, we're doing all this for you too. Don't know how well that will fly, but Iran has gone out of its way to pretend to care about the Palestinians. Iran has been running all over the Middle East for months meeting with various Arab states. And now Sudan? I think Iran is trying to round up a nice posse for itself.

I too think the fact the Badr militia might be drifting into Kirkuk might have something to do with Iran's troubles with the Kurds in the NW corner of Iran. There has been unrest there, (see here for instance) and Iran may be setting up a way to hit back against the Kurds in Iraq who may be providing shelter for Iranian rebels.

As for al-Sadr, his militia has stirred up trouble in Kirkuk in the past. In February, he went around on a little tour ( I think designed to bolster his image), and in an interview with Al Jazeera he said Kirkuk should belong to all Iraq, and all should benefit from it. To me, that's a polite way of saying the Kurds should think twice before trying to claim it. So, since Sadr is also friendly with Iran, he might also be a tool to cause trouble there.

EStripes had much the same article on Saturday as the WaPo article you mention.

It's hard to believe folks like Sadr are so concerned about the plight of the Sunnis living in Kirkuk. As you well point out, surely some power politics at work.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Iran to world: "Drop Dead" Part II

Iran's top nuclear negotiator Dr. Ali Ardeshir Larijani, said today that Iran would consider withdrawing from the IAEA if sanctions are imposed. Larijani also once again warned that Iran might use oil as a weapon if pushed too far.

If you still harbor doubts that Iran would really use its nuclear program to build weapons, consider that Larijani is also the secretary-general of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, and hence Iran's national security chief. That Iran would put negotiations with the world in the hands of a security official ought to tell us that Iran views its security as tied to the nuclear program.

Larijani was once the head of the state-owned Radio and Television, and he is also a former commander in the Revolutionary Guard. In speaking to the Guard at the end of last year, Larijanu was quite defiant.

Speaking to Revolutionary Guard forces last Wednesday, Larijani put Iran's nuclear plans into broader context.

"Too many wrong signals were sent to the West [in the past two years]," Larijani said. "If Iran turns into a nuclear power, then no one dares to challenge it because they have to pay a heavy price."

A doctrine of "active political diplomacy" will increase Iranian power to "reach such a geopolitical position that makes others tolerate us," Larijani said. "Today it's time for resistance. Time passes, but we should not hesitate because a further waste of time is not to our benefit."

And today, Larijani is being defiant again. Last March 29, when the UN Security Council met on this matter, it set non-binding deadline for Iran to comply with the IAEA within a month. That deadline is up this Friday, and Iran is not showing signs of yielding.

It is curious that a couple weeks ago, on a program called Today's Encounter", which aired on Al Jazeera on April 10, Larijani, speaking in Persian, sang a different tune. (It was translated by the BBC Monitoring Service, but I don't have a link.)

[Larijani] In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate. Thank you for giving me this opportunity. The issue of the Iranian nuclear file gives a lesson to all countries, where peace and security should prevail and where people are supposed to live quietly. Iran is a country which shoulders its full international responsibilities. We are a member of the IAEA and we feel we have a responsibility towards our neighbours. We are sensitive to the pains of other peoples and we look for permanent security in the region...As I said, we are an IAEA member state and we have accepted the NPT. We consider this an international treaty that should be observed. As in the past, inspectors visit our nuclear facilities in Tehran and everywhere else. The IAEA's cameras are present. We have not committed any violation. Like any other IAEA member state, we have rights represented in possessing peaceful nuclear technology. Those who want to open their doors in violent directions must be careful. I am confident that the Iranian nuclear file can be solved through a positive channel. We are confident that through accurate and constructive dialogue we can solve this problem because we have nothing to hide and all our positions are monitored by the IAEA

The next day Larijani was in Saudi Arabia, meeting with officials there on security matters. The Saudis are no great friends of Iran, so it is curious that Iran has been making an effort to reach out to Arab nations since March 29. For instance, Rafsanjani visited Kuwait last week. There was a conference in Teheran devoted to expressing solidarity with the Palestinians.

All this may be an effort to pitch an argument to the Arabs that the United States is our mutual enemy, let us all band together at this time of confrontation. A nuclear Iran would greatly concern the Saudis, and Egypt, so Iran may be trying to assuage their fears. A darker interpretation is that Iran is preparing its terror networks in these countries.

Hence, the timing is curious that Osama bin Laden released a tape this week, and today Zarqawi released a videotape in which he appeared for the first time without covering his face.

Speculation here, but the recent developments in Iraq have not favored Iran's ambitions there. With Ibrahim Jaafari stepping aside as candidate for Prime Minister, a compromise candidate in the person of Jawad al-Maliki has stepped forward. Indications are that Maliki will not be Iran's stooge, but instead may break the deadlock that has existed in Iraq since the election, and start to bring peace between the various factions in Iraq.

A stable, democratic Iraq threatens Iran, and I do wonder if Iran whispered in certain ears that perhaps it was time for Osama and Zarqawi to speak out and try and stir up the pot.

Iran has been so belligerent in its push to develop nuclear weapons because it thinks it can. Europe has given every indication they are not willing to impose heavy sanctions on Iran. Russia and China have certainly been in Iran's corner. For its part, the United States has let Europe take the lead and has offered little more than rhetoric.

Iran believes its security is best served if the US is bogged down in Iraq, and not free to focus on Iran. As such a violent, unstable Iraq helps take the pressure off Iran. Zarqawi appeared amidst guns and ammunition and spoke of defeating the US in Iraq. Iran could not have been disappointed by Zarqawi's message.

Come Friday, the deadline will pass. The IAEA will make another report to the UN. The nations of the world will continue to dither, and barring a miracle, little will come of it.

It all comes down to whether or not the United States has the will to act now. Or not at all.

(Incidentally, I wrote of this before, but think back to when Iran allowed Denmark's mission in Teheran to be attacked, and toady Syria did the same in Damascus. The cartoons were great cover, but it is not outlandish to think Iran was looking ahead and sending Denmark a message. As things drag out, guess who will hold the presidency of the UN Security Council in June. Denmark.)

24 Day 5 1:00 AM - 2:00 AM

Awww, look, the graphic violence warning fell asleep. Poor thing. It's had a long, hard day.

The recaps give us the Cliff Notes version of the chase for the tape. Practice Essay Question: How is Audrey's love for Jack echoed in the porcelain pig Sir James gave to his niece just before the ball in Belching Hall?

As this episode begins its sleepwalk into madness, Jack is tying up Audrey. No, wait, he's applying a tourniquet. It appears to have done the trick. Jack says Henderson didn't sever the artery. Oh? Well, Henderson is not so handy with the knife, then. But, even if Henderson just cut the artery, isn't that pretty much game, set, and match? You don't actually have to sever an artery to cause reason for great concern.

Audrey is a trooper. Not a State Trooper, just a brave little soldier. Not a real US soldier, just a plucky soul. Not a disembodied spiritual...oh, never mind. She says to Jack "Do what you have to do."

Jack hears a phone ringing. A dead guy is not answering it, so Jack picks it up. Hey, that's Wexler! Why is he dead? Jack just clobbered him, he didn't kill him. So, did Henderson run into the building, see this unconscious guy, and just shoot him for no reason? I'm beginning to think Henderson is a real psychopath.

It's the SecDef on the phone. He's surprised that Wexler sounds so much like Jack. The SecDef explains that things didn't go so well with Logan. Apparently Logan said "I'm rubber, you're glue, everything you say bounces off of me and sticks to you," and Heller ended up being tossed out on his ear.

Jack angrily says "You betrayed me." Heller says "yeah, well, sorry about all that, but I did what I thought was best for THIS COUNTRY." Jack lies and says Audrey is fine. You'd think Jack could've rubbed Heller's nose in the mess a bit more and really made him feel bad by saying "Well, your betrayal led to Audrey getting all cut up. She nearly died. I saved her life. Thanks, Dad. Just for that, we're going to spend the holidays with my side of the family."

Instead, Jack calls Bill. He's looking for Chloe. Bill happens to have one in stock, and pretty much tells her entire life story up to that point, leaving out only her fourth grade romance with Stinky Worthington.

Jack says "Henderson left here ten minutes ago." Jack must be a little rattled, as Henderson only left about 5 minutes ago. He needs Chloe to fry up a CTU satellite stream. Chloe says no prob. She'll get in through a subnet and VPN something something so calls can't be traced. Chloe apparently is forgetting she tried ye olde VPN trick a short time ago, and Miles was able to break through that with little trouble.

Chloe sets to work, telling Bill what to do. She says "Hope you don't mind me bossing you around." Heh. Without Chloe, the plot would be the only comic relief in this show.

Chloe, being a 32nd level Technomage, digs through satellite data and immediately finds Henderson leaving the airport. (In a stolen car, I might add. Surely the military roadblocks will pick him up, right?)

Logan calls up Henderson. Again. After ignoring him for the entire show up until a couple hours ago, he's suddenly pretty chatty. Logan asks for what must be the 50th time by now, "Is Bauer dead?" And Henderson, who has failed yet again, merely says "No."

And Henderson is driving around *again*. This is starting to rival MST3K's rock climbing for levels of Deep Hurting. Perhaps they're going for a new Emmy in the technical categories, Achievement in Driving Around.

Henderson explains to Logan that he'll hang on to the tape for insurance, lest Logan get thoughts of making Henderson disappear. He'll keep the tape in a safe place, and it will surface only if Henderson happens to meet with an accident. (So, if some drunk runs a red light and T-bones Henderson, Logan is screwed by accident?)

Whoa!! Henderson just told Logan that perhaps someone will decide that Henderson needs to disappear, just as Cummings's "suicide" was necessary! Wow, so Logan arranged to have Cummings killed. That's quite a revelation.

Chloe has already found Henderson and has him on a live feed. I ask again, how does Chloe know Henderson is in that car? It's just a rectangular blip on the screen.

Jack is in pursuit of Henderson. They don't pass a single checkpoint. Then, Jack does a little combat driving and knocks Henderson off the road. Henderson plows into a....barn? A barn? Where is there a barn ten minutes from the Van Nuys airport? Did some farmer refuse to sell his land years ago, and now has a farm right smack in the middle of the vast LA megalopolis?

Somehow Jack is far enough behind now that Henderson has time to get out of his stolen car and take cover. (Perhaps the extra weight of the dead bank manager in the back seat slowed the car down.)

Henderson tries to make a limp for it, but Jack nabs him, uttering one of his favorite lines, "Put the gun down!"

And now, Henderson lets fly with yet another moment of insanity. He says a chopper has been trailing Heller since he left Logan, and if Henderson doesn't check in regularly with them, Heller will be killed.

Oh my. I've said before Henderson rivals Marwan in terms of amazing preparedness. Remember, Henderson just rustled up this new team of bad guys in the last hour or so. Never mind where they got *two* helicopters, or why. (I presume the other one is still back at the airport.) Just when did they go over this plan? They didn't even know Heller was in LA till an hour ago. So on the fly they put together this backup plan? This show has become a cartoon.

Jack says "Slowly walk towards me." Audrey takes a step. "No, not you, you ninny. Henderson." Ok, I made that up. Jack throws a pair of handcuffs to Buckaroo and says "Cuff yourself." Is that considered an expletive?

Jack gets Chloe on the horn and wants her to find Heller.

She technobabbles that she wants to scan in slices of three miles increments, and she patches Jack into a DoD database. Why? I don't understand any of this. They have no idea what car Heller is in. The SecDef wasn't planning to stop in LA, so there can't have been an official government car at Van Nuys airport. Come to think of it, we have no idea what car Heller is in.

Jack calls Heller and asks him if a helo has been tracking him. Now, how would Heller know that? Oh, I guess by looking out the window and seeing the helo flying right above him. Way to hang back and remain invisible, bad guys. And all of a sudden, a red dot starts dancing around Heller's chest. Heller says the baddies have a laser sight trained on him.

(The baddies don't know Heller is talking to Jack. Why would they give themselves away and turn their laser sight on Heller just at this moment?)

Heller does not want Jack to give up the tape just for him. He says "Don't let him go!" and then... what the bloody heck? Heller drives himself off a cliff. He, he, just sailed out there, he sailed right out there.

By now Chloe has technomagically found Heller's car and the helo with the satellite. Jack asks Chloe, out loud and right in front of Audrey, "Can you confirm Heller drove his car into a lake?" Chloe can confirm. Oh my. In his rant, Paul takes about things in the show as metaphor. Has this show just driven off a cliff?

Jack is a little peeved at Henderson. Audrey says "Kill him, Jack!" But, Jack merely clobbers Henderson and renders him out cold. And all this before the first commercial break.

Going into it, the clocks are at :13 to :13. Coming back, the clocks are at :18 to :17. Suddenly, a nude body builder drops out of the sky and starts looking up all the Sarah Connors in the LA phone book.

At this point, Logan calls someone named Graham. Just who in the snot is this guy? Logan tells Graham to cancel the action against Henderson. Ah, so Henderson was right to suspect Logan of treachery. Way to go, Buckaroo.

Graham is not happy to hear about the misadventures with the tape, Bauer, Henderson, and the whole kooky plot. Logan whines for the millionth time today "Don't take that tone with me." It's always about Logan, isn't it.

Graham says they have bigger problems, namely Mrs. Logan. Logan says he's taken steps to deal with Agent Pierce (huh??) and that he can handle Martha. Graham says ominously "You must silence her." Yeah, good luck silencing Martha.

Now, Martha is looking around for Pierce, and she's talking to some other agent. The agent says Pierce was transferred. Martha correctly wonders out loud "At 1 am?" The agent can't really check on things now because there is a glitch in the scheduling software.

Huh? For real? The bad guys have arranged every detail down to horsing up the Secret Service scheduling software? How can bad guys this prepared have screwed up so badly today? And was Pierce really transferred? To where, a radar station in Alaska, and they'll mail him his clothes?

Another agent comes by and escorts Martha to an office, and promptly locks her in. Martha hurriedly tries two phones in the officer, but they are apparently dead. (Again, good preparation, bad guys!) But, doesn't Martha have two cell phones at this point? Hers and Pierce's? Can't she try them?

Jack calls Chloe. Apparently Henderson must have handed off the tape to someone after he left the airport. (Should I even bother asking how Henderson arranged that so quickly? Whoever he gave this to must have been hanging around outside the airport already.)

And in seconds, with the help of Technomagic, Chloe immediately finds satellite evidence that Henderson did meet someone, and this someone went back to the Van Nuys airport and is boarding a plane there. This show isn't even trying to be plausible anymore.

Chloe's scheduling software is apparently working, and she divines that Curtis is out with a tac team, about 25 miles away. Huh? Last time we heard from Curtis, he was supposed to bring Bierko to CTU Medical. All this time we could only assume he was standing vigil with Bierko, gently stroking his hand, mopping his brow, whispering encouragement.

Jack and Chloe wonder what flight this is, as commercial flights are grounded. So, um, why are Henderson's two helicopters so free to fly around, including near the presidential retreat? Do the helos have those yellow Unrestricted Access stickers in the dash?

Jack wants Curtis to bring Audrey and Henderson to CTU. He says "They'll be able to get Audrey the medical attention she needs." Since this is the first time Jack has mentioned to anyone that Audrey needs medical attention, I'm not sure why Chloe and Bill don't ask what's wrong with her.

Jack needs to leave Audrey and chase after the tape. Audrey says "Make sure you get that recording." Jack says in his best High Noon voice, "I will."

Clocks are at :28 to :26.

Back at CTU, Miles says Bierko has regained consciousness. Finally. What a wimp. Tony got blowed up and had surgery, and he was up and around quickly. Henderson was tortured and pumped full of toxic chemicals, and he was up and around quickly. Jack got blowed up in the same explosion and was able to carry Bierko out. So why can't girly man Bierko handle a little explosion in a gas distribution plant?

Valerie has apparently returned to CTU after tailing Audrey. She calls up Karen and says Chloe is gone, and surveillance tapes show Shari let her go. Shari is now in custody.

Miles will go look at binaries. Hmm, alt.girlypics.binaries?

Karen interrogates Shari. She asks why Shari let Chloe go. Shari says "She intimidated me." She starts to babble about a psych eval, and then spills the beans about what Chloe said about Logan. She says "And people think I'm crazy!" Yes, this is the kind of stable individual CTU allows to work in its most sensitive locations. Good vetting process, CTU. Karen gets a suspicious look.

Back at the presidential retreat, Martha is wigging out inside the locked room. Logan comes in, and they have a little chat about what is going on. Logan is doing that annoying head leany thing again. Logan says about David Palmer "I never authorized his death." He admits he knew about it. At this point, Martha utterly comes unglued. My wife chuckled at this scene.

Martha says "What you've done makes me sick!" She can't forgive this. She says "I hate you." Hmm, I'm guessing she is no longer eager to have Logan come to bed. She does say she'll remain quiet, for the good of the country. I think what would be good for the country is if she buried her high heels in Logan's cranium.

Clocks are at :40 to :37.

Graham is having a meeting with Ron and two others. They are discussing loose ends. Since we have no idea who these people are, the scene loses a little bit of the impact. Graham says they started this thing 18 months ago, which in the show's time frame is the end of last season, when Logan first became President.

Logan talks to Graham again. Logan whines "It's about time I heard some words of appreciation." As I said, it's always about Logan.

Back at the barn, Henderson comes around, and immediately tries to rattle Audrey by bringing up Heller, saying she's a bad naughty daughter for not trying to save him. He could still be alive in that lake. But nope, Audrey doesn't make a call that would give away their location. Because these well-prepared bad guys could somehow monitor it.

Audrey says "Not. Another. Word."

Chloe looks into her palantir again and sees a helo heading for Audrey's location. Apparently they managed to find her after all. How? We have no idea. I'm guessing the writers don't either. I think they just writes pages of the script, put them on a Lazy Susan, spin it around and pull the pages off at random and assemble them.

Jack calls Audrey and tells her to go. Curtis will track down Henderson. The krazy kaptions have Audrey saying "He's responsible for the death of my father's death." That statement is pretty much in keeping with the logic of this episode.

Audrey finally leaves, after resisting the urge to put a bullet in Henderson's head. But, it's not the most efficient escape ever. She runs into a locked door. The baddies release Henderson, and he orders them to kill Audrey.

Audrey hides behind some hay bales, determined to make a last stand, when Curtis emerges from the shadows. Where did he come from? And how did he get in, if the doors Audrey was trying were locked? And when did he get there? If before the helo, why didn't he come straight in? If after, how did the baddies not see him?

Curtis says "Stay behind me", but the krazy kaptions have him saying "Stay down."

There is a brief gunfight as the occupants of the helicopter are gunned down. Another agent brings Henderson to Curtis.

Back in the Chloe/Jack thread, it's been determined the plane at Van Nuys airport is a diplomatic flight. Jack is outside the fence watching. There is a bunch of security. This crack security apparently did not hear the gun fight, or the exploding fuel tank, on the other side of the airport a short time ago.

Chloe said it will be hard to get past the State Department's firewall to find more information. What? Chloe hacked into the NSA in seconds. Is she saying a bunch of diploweenies have better computer security than the most secretive intelligence agency in the government?

Jack hitches a ride on a fuel truck going by, to get close to the plane.

Clocks are at :53 to :50.

Security is checking over the truck, doing the mirror underneath thing. They clear it to pass, but isn't letting a truck filled with jet fuel, explosive and highly flammable jet fuel, a security risk in itself? What were they looking for with the little mirrors that would be more dangerous than a big fuel truck bomb?

Miles has detected Chloe's presence in the network. He says he machine-coded a matrix and yadda yadda. Yeah, right. Machine-coded something. I've written assembly code before, and it's not something you just throw together in seconds.

He is able to figure out that Chloe is at Bill's house. He'll dispatch a tac team. Apparently one is in the neighborhood. Why? No idea.

Karen calls Mike, and asks about the evidence that Jack is involved in Palmer's death, the reason Logan gave for CTU to apprehend him. Mike says he hasn't seen it. Karen is surprised he's out of the loop. Mike says there is no loop. He says "It's been a strange night."

Getting more and more suspicious, Karen calls up Bill and warns him to get Chloe out of there. (Apparently she doesn't care if Bill stays behind and gets arrested.)

Chloe refused to leave. She's still trying to break that infernal State Dept security.

Jack is near the plane. Workers finish loading luggage into the plane. Jack puts up his hood, grabs a couple of suitcases off a cart and heads for the plane.

I swear, that jacket was made by elves. First the hood protects him from deadly nerve gas, and now it fools people into thinking he's a baggage handler. (And not sure why the cart was pulling away from the plane with luggage. Did they unload luggage?)

Jack gets up into the belly of the plane, and the episode ends.

Apparently next week Jack hi-Jacks a plane? Goodness.

And now, once again, here is guest critic Paul Foth. He's almost crawl-on-the-floor to the toilet sick, but like Tony and Henderson, he shook it off and got this review done.

Okay, so you've got me one more time. I ended up getting sick, so rather than being out of the house, I was plunked down in front of the TV, staring at Jack & Co. for another week. So help me, when you're looking out from under a haze of fever and coughing, it all begins to make sense.

No, not really. But I had you going there for a second, didn't I?

My favorite line of the night was when Martha told Charles, "This whole day has been one big lie!" I love it when a character says something that fits within the story and also comments on the story. It's as if for a brief moment, Martha had been yanked out of the 24-verse and given a viewer's-eye perspective on it. Her only recourse was to tell Chuckie how insane it all is. But, like the square in Edwin Abbott's Flatland, who was pulled out of his flat, two-dimensional world and given a glimpse of a universe in all its volumetric glory, only to be labeled an insane freak upon returning home and trying to explain what he'd seen, Martha's metaphysical comment will only ever be interpreted as more lunatic raving.

Speaking of Chuckles, there was a moment during his confrontation with Martha when the combination of camera placement, lighting, and the way he held his head reminded me very much of Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now. I was half expecting Logan to start daubing his head with a washcloth and talking about gardenias. This is the end. Beautiful friend, the end.

But not quite the end. It seems the leader of the free world ain't so free himself, that he's dancing to the tune of yet another cabal we've never seen before. It's rather late in the game to be bringing in a brand new set of players, which leads me to suspect this season may end in a cliffhanger of some kind--not that next season would pick up right where this one leaves off (unless the show changes its name to 48 and has characters starting to hallucinate because they've been awake for so long), but rather the immediate crisis would be resolved only to hint at a new one that will require months of boring investigation and infiltration that culminate in another sleepless day.

So who are these bozos with the clip-on phones? Poor planners, for one thing. Their leader made the comment that he, "never made a deal that didn't look like it was going to fall apart in the eleventh hour." Really? Is this the mark of success, that until it actually happens it looks like failure? That would make for a rather jittery life, I think. No wonder these guys are evil. I mean, PATRIOTS. I mean, evil patriots.

One interesting bit was that they apparently started this thing rolling eighteen months ago, which is when the events of last season took place. Is the implication that these yahoos were Marwan's bosses and that they're the ones ultimately responsible for President Keelover's demise? If so, did the writers have this in mind last season? It's okay: I'll give you a moment to regain your composure before continuing.

Ready? Okay. Read on.

Was SecDef Heller's departure a surprise? Not really. Did you see William Devane's name under the "Special Guest Star" credit at the beginning of the episode? It was a lead pipe cinch he was going to die. The only question was over the circumstances. (And if he couldn't see a helicopter tracking him from only a couple thousand feet away, in full view of his driver's-side window, until Jack told him to look for it, then it may be a good thing the country has to find a new SecDef.)

Then again, maybe he didn't die. We never saw the body. It's at least conceivable that Heller had been a Navy SEAL and is even now swimming to safety. Henderson's manipulation of Audrey in that regard was brutal, perhaps more so because he may very well have been telling the truth.

Which brings up the point that this episode featured some really fine performances. Greg Itzin and Jean Smart were their normal excellent selves and really made some sparks fly during Charles and Martha's confrontation (although if Charles thinks Martha is really going to keep quiet, I think he's got another think coming), and Kim Raver did an awesome job portraying someone who was barely holding it together.

Which brings up the point, yet again, that this could be such an AWESOME show if the writing talent matched the acting talent. Instead, we get some great character moments stitched together with continuity breaks, handwaving, technobabble, and nonsense. It's like driving a car that runs beautifully for three miles and then blows a gasket--again and again and again.

Witness Curtis and his magically appearing tac team. Just what were they doing before they stormed anonymous structure #238 and rescued Audrey? Driving around casting chiseled silhouettes in the moonlight?

Witness Jack and that sweatshirt hood. First it protects him from Ultra Deathkill Sentox Six VX-1 7/a.b Mark III nerve gas, and now it disguises him as a baggage handler! That is one brilliant piece of antiterrorist paraphernalia. In the future, we'll probably see it stop bullets, cure cancer, and fold out into an Astin Martin.

Witness Miles finding Chloe. He did this how? Our first clue was him muttering to himself, "I can track the binary." Umm. The binary WHAT? Binary is an adjective. Our second clue was something about a matrix. He must've swallowed the blue pill. Now we have to start calling him Neo.

Witness Bilbo's house, where Chloe is able to find Henderson using a cobbled-together network while hacking into ultra-secure government surveillance computers, when she couldn't find him hours earlier with CTU's uber-servers and permission to look at the data.

Any Lewis Black fans out there? Have you ever seen him when he can't find the words to express just how stupid whatever he's ranting about is? He shakes his head back and forth, loosens his jaw, and lets incoherent noises escape for a second or two. (Go over to his website; I'm sure there's a recording or two of what I'm talking about there.) I think it'd be great if 24 used this technique instead of trying to come up with plausible-sounding techno-bleats. So instead of Miles saying, "I can track the binary," we'd get, "I can track the 'blubblbubbubllblbblbee'," complete with him shaking his head back back and forth and perhaps flinging saliva all over CTU HQ. Then again, CTU would get mighty wet mighty quickly if they make this switch, and not a small number of personnel would probably get whiplash.

Okay, so what do we have to look forward to? Bierko has apparently regained consciousness, and will soon be joined at Gestapo Headquarters by Henderson. If Henderson can waltz out of there by himself after being shot full of battery acid, he and Bierko together should be able to kill everyone left and order out for pizza without breaking a sweat. Audrey's on her way to CTU Medical, so she's a goner. And high in the air, Jack becomes a hijacker.

I leave you with a question, one I'm sure you'll be able to answer: This show often reminds me of which line from This is Spinal Tap?

Me again. My guesses are:

"This show goes to eleven."

"CTUids. No one knows who they were, or what they were doing."

"Bierko choked on someone else's vomit."

Number of times Jack says "Now!": 21
Number of times Jack says "No!": 8
Number of times a "protocol" is mentioned: 38
Number of times someone says a variation of "Go!": 29
Number of moles: 4
Approximate Body Count: 94 (plus three rats, plus one human nerve gas guinea pig, plus 11 in the mall food court (and no, not from food poisoning), plus one security camera, plus 56 in CTU)

<-12:00 AM - 1:00 AM 2:00 AM - 3:00 AM ->

Monday, April 24, 2006

Why Pakistan wants to hold on to Balochistan

An interesting post at the website of the Government of Balochistan in Exile details the potential riches in Balochistan. I can't independently vouch for the numbers, but the province does hold great promise in terms of natural resources.

This is one of the chief reasons behind the insurgency there. The Balochs feel the Pakistani government takes the greater portion of revenues generated by these resources, and does not give a fair share to the Balochs. Poverty and lack of education are problems in this province, and these resources could certainly be used to improve conditions for the people who live atop these resources.

Understandable, then, that Pakistan will not be quick to let go of this province. Here is a summary of the post.


There are approximately 15 million Baloch in the world. About 2.06 million live in Iran, 8.3 million live in Pakistan (3.25 are currently living in Pakistan’s Balochistan province), and 930,000 live in Afghanistan. The remaining Baloch population is scattered all over. [Baloch comprise 3% of Afghanistan’s population, 3% of Iran’s population, and 5% of Pakistan’s population]

OIL AND GAS [Revenue: $42 billion per year]

Oil and Gas, both offshore and onshore, can generate a major portion of the total annual revenue for Balochistan. According to the Geological Survey of Pakistan (GSP), it was estimated during their offshore exploration that there are reserves of 19 trillion cubic feet of gas and 6 trillion barrels of oil in Balochistan.

MINERAL [Revenue: $1.5 billion per year]

The territory is based on the geological belt with known world-class mineral deposits that could generate several billion dollars in revenues annually. More than 50 metallic and non-metallic minerals have been discovered in Balochistan. Metallic ores are chromites, copper, gold, silver, iron ore, lead and zinc, while the non-metallic include barite, marble, granite, gypsum, limestone, coal, dolomite, calcite, silica sand, and various building/engineering stones.

The Rekodiq project is estimated to produce 200,000 tons of copper and 400,000 ounces of gold per year. Saindek mines produce 15,800 tons of copper, 53,000 ounces of gold and 106,000 ounces of silver per year.

AGRICULTURE [Revenue: $250 million per year]

Balochistan possesses enormous economic potential in farming, livestock, and fisheries. These resources provide the base for setting up a large number of agro-based industries.

GWADAR PORT [Revenue: $10 billion per year]

Located outside the Straight of Hormuz, Gwadar Port will offer direct road access to Afghanistan, Central Asian States, and China.

GAS AND OIL PIPELINE [Revenue: $2 billion per year]

There are three major pipeline projects on the books. The merging point of all these three pipelines will create opportunities for Baloch industrialists to develop value added downstream industries, such as oil refinery, fertilizer plants, pharmaceutical, petrochemical, etc.

US AIR BASES [Revenue: $600 million per year]

Currently, Dalbandin and Pasni air bases are leased to the US government.

TOURISM [Revenue: $150 million per year]

By having a democratic, liberal and secular government in place, Balochistan has the potential to attract global tourism to its coastal region. In 2005, over 2 million tourists traveled to Iran and Pakistan. It is safe to assume that Balochistan can attract over 200,000 tourists per year.

Giant Gazprom

The New York Times has an informative article on Gazprom, the giant Russian gas company.

You may be surprised at just how large Gazprom is.

But even as Gazprom closes in on BP, now the world's second-largest energy company after Exxon Mobil, critics say it is hardly a model for Russia's future. "This is not why we had reforms in the 1990s," said Yevgeny G. Yasin, a former minister of economy. "This is a little like the Soviet Union."

He added, "This is a questionable solution because the government will dictate political and not economic decisions."

Gazprom emerged in the early 1990's from the former Soviet Ministry of the Gas Industry — privatized in part, but still under state control — and inherited more than the ministry's core operations. It also inherited its piece of the Soviet Union's paternalistic economy, in towns and settlements stretching from the Arctic gas fields to those along the maze of pipelines leading south.

Gazprom employs 330,000 people at major divisions for exploration, pipelines and export sales, as well as a division for its newly acquired oil company, Sibneft, a banking arm, a media company and hundreds of subsidiaries. It generated profits of $4.6 billion on revenue of $28 billion in 2004, the last year for which audited results are available.

It's reach extends beyond just the energy market.

Gazprom built homes, roads and sports centers. It even guaranteed that groceries would be available in the stores by forming its own agricultural holdings. As once-proud Soviet collective farms failed and foreign imports overwhelmed Russia's domestic production, Gazprom stepped in with financing and became the biggest single owner of agricultural land in Russia.

The company's footprint has grown even beyond farms to include a manufacturer of mining equipment, banks, a porcelain factory and, as of mid-April, a new radio station called Relax FM, playing easy-listening pop and rock from the West.

While executives say they intend to shed the company of noncore assets and other Soviet-era burdens, Gazprom continues to make investments that seem to have a political motive more than a corporate one.

Last year, for example, it expanded its media holdings with the acquisition of Izvestia, one of the most influential national newspapers. It also bought a soccer team, Zenit, in St. Petersburg and announced recently that it would move the headquarters of Sibneft, the oil company once slated to merge with Yukos but now absorbed into Gazprom, to St. Petersburg, the former capital. The latter move fit into a stated policy to step up investment in St. Petersburg, where Mr. Putin and many of his closest aides once lived and worked.

[Its media arm is now in talks to buy one of the largest-circulation newspapers, Komsomolskaya Pravda, and an associated publishing house for as much as $300 million, Vedomosti, a Russian business daily, reported April 20.]

Gazprom has become an instrument of Russian foreign policy, and their leadership reflects it.

I've remarked before how the chief executive, Alexsei Millier, is one of Putin's circle going back to their St. Petersburg days.

The chairman of Gazprom's board, Dmitri A. Medvedev is the former Kremlin chief of staff and the current first deputy prime minister. He is one of the possibilities to replace Putin. (And there has been speculation Putin might become the head of Gazprom when he leaves office, though so far Putin has been coy on that front.)

This giant company has levers big enough to move nations. When discussing Russia's future, and its relations with other states, any mention of Gazprom won't be far behind.

Significant developments in Nepal

After days of protests in Nepal, some news of potentially significant change in Nepal.

An ashen King Gyanendra went on television late this evening to concede to the demands of the angry pro-democracy demonstrations roiling his country and turn over the government to the elected parliament that was dissolved four years ago.

His offer came on the eve of what were billed to be the largest demonstrations to date calling for the restoration of democracy. The political parties who launched the pro-democracy protests 19 days ago had been preparing to encircle the city center Tuesday. Instead, celebrations broke out late tonight on the streets of Katmandu.
He did not, however, explicitly address the demand for a referendum to redraw the Nepali constitution and let the Nepali people decide on the future of the monarchy once and for all. The vote on the constitution is the principal demand of the Maoist rebels who have fought a brusing 10-year-long insurgency and have lately linked arms with Nepal's political leaders to defeat the monarchy.

While a return to democracy in Nepal would be welcome, it would not resolve the problem of the bloody Maoist insurgency. Their goal is to install a Maoist government.

Dozens have been killed in recent weeks and months as the Maoists fought against the monarchy. It's hard to believe the Maoists would put aside their violent ways in their continued quest to form the government in their image.

Monday Winds of War Briefing

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

Top Topics

* The CIA fired a top intelligence analyst who admitted leaking classified information that led to a Pulitzer Prize-winning story about a network of secret CIA prisons, government officials say. The officer was a senior analyst nearing retirement, Mary McCarthy, The Associated Press learned. Reached Friday evening at home, her husband would not confirm her firing. Strata-Sphere has a good roundup of developments.

* An Arab Al-Qaeda terrorist was killed in a gunbattle with Pakistani soldiers in a restive tribal area bordering Afghanistan, a minister confirmed. "It is a big achievement because he was an explosive expert of Al-Qaeda," Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao told AFP. A security official earlier said the man, known as Abu Marwan al-Suri, was a possible Saudi national. Sherpao said he was killed on Thursday in Bajaur. Intelligence officials say the man was closely linked to Ayman al Zawahri.

* Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas blocked Hamas' plan to create their own security force led by wanted terrorist Jamal Abu Samhadana, with a Presidential decree issued Friday. In response, Hamas leader Khaled Meshal lashed out at the decision, saying "the military-security coup supported by Zionists and Americans will not happen." Fatah has accused Meshal of "inciting a Palestinian civil war."

Other topics today include: Clashes between Hamas and Fatah; Iran plot with Hezbollah; al Qaeda captures in Turkey; Iran remains defiant on enrichment; Yemen al Qaeda escapee surrenders; Olmert blames Iran for Tel Aviv bombing; Turkish troops deployed to southeast region; Iranian students protest; Israel warns Gaza; Iran claims nuclear deal with Russia; CAIR vs Anti-CAIR; Lodi trial drags on; Georgia student arrested in terror sting; Minister in Guyana assassinated; al Qaeda threatens Argentina; Rebel ambush in Columbia kills 16 troops; al Qaeda tied to 2004 bombing in Ingushetia; Russian counterterror exercise; Russian-Belarus missile dealings; Tajikistan hosts counterterrorism exercise; Clashes continue in Nepal; Violence grips southern Afghanistan; al Qaeda operative killed in Pakistan; Pakistani offensive in Waziristan; Suicide bombing in Kashmir; Bangladesh kill top terrorist; More violence in Sri Lanka; Indonesia captures wanted terrorist; Jemaah Islamiyah plot to raid Filipino jail; International counterterrorism conference in Cebu; Muslim brotherhood infiltrating Australia; Huge bomb uncovered in Northern Ireland; Spain extradites al Qaeda fundraiser; Relief effort in Sudan danger of collapsing; terror attacks jumped in 2005; Mousaoui trial slides; al Sakka says Bigley buried in Fallujah and more.

Iran & the Middle East

* On Saturday, rival groups of students supporting Hamas and Fatah clashed in Gaza, throwing stones, homemade bombs and firing weapons. There were several reported injuries. On Sunday in Gaza, Fatah and Hamas exchanged gunfire at the Health Ministry.

* The Khaleej Times has some insight and perspective on the hardliners backing President Ahmadinejad, who see him as the man delivering the true Islamic regime to Iran. There's been no confirmation of the rumor that he's glowing again and has them in a trance.

* The Sunday UK Times is reporting that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met Imad Mugniyeh, the Lebanese commander of Hezbollah’s overseas operations, earlier this year in Syria to plot Iran's retaliation of possible U.S. airstrikes.

* Turkish authorities have arrested six al Qaeda operatives suspected of planning attacks in Turkey according to a report from the Anatolia News Agency on Sunday. The raid in the southeast city of Gaziantep resulted in the captured of the men, five of whom are Turkish nationals. One of the men, Fahad Abdurrahman El Cakmak, was identified as having travelled to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

* In the face of continued Iranian defiance towards the international community over their nuclear program, the United States is urging Russia and China to reconsider arms sales to Iran. For their part, Iran is maintaining that their nuclear program is irreversible.

* Another al Qaeda prison escapee in Yemen has turned himself in to authorities. Khaled Mohammed Abdullah al-Batati, one of twenty three inmates that escaped last year, was the eighth man to turn himself in.

* Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert accused Syria and Iran of involvement in the recent bombing in Tel Aviv that killed nine people. Talking to a group of visiting U.S. Senators, Olmert said the order for the bombing "came from Damascus and when the operation was complete the report went back to Damascus."

* Two people were killed and 18 others wounded on Sunday, when a hand grenade was tossed into a crowded market in the Yemeni capital of Sana'a. While not connected to terrorism, authorities say it is symbolic of the flow of illegal weapons in Yemen.

* Turkey has deployed additional troops to the southeast Kurdish region of the country to assist in security and prevent incursions by Kurdish militants from neighboring Syria, Iraq and Iran.

* Iranian Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar came out last week and said prospects of U.S. military action to halt Teheran's nuclear ambitions were just empty talk.

* Muhammed Jafar Jamal al-Kahtani, a Saudi al Qaeda operative who escaped from a U.S. prison in Afghanistan in July 2005, appeared in a video broadcast posted on the internet and threatened to move the fight to Saudi Arabia while vowing to "defeat the United States in Afghanistan and Iraq."

* Regime Change Iran has a recent symposium held by the Claremont Institute that brought together seven people for a discussion on how to eliminate Iran's nuclear capability. It's an interesting read.

* Tahkim Vahdat's central committee is Iran's largest and oldest student organization and they are calling upon the Iranian government to suspect uranium enrichment and cooperate with the international community.

* Israeli military officials continue to warn the Palestinians about a potential Israeli occupation of Gaza if the rocket and missile attacks escalate any worse.

* On Saturday, Iran announced that they had struck a deal to enrich uranium with Russia. Iran's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Ali Asghar Soltanieh, said a basic deal was made but added there was still some technical, legal and financial issues to resolve. Which is almost precisely what they said back in February.

* Saudi Interior ministry spokesman General Mansour Al Torki said that security forces have discovered a car loaded with weapons and maps in the eastern Saudi province of Damam on Sunday and are investigating whether it's linked to al Qaeda operatives.

America Domestic Security & the Americas

* The Canadian military is trying to plan for a range of security threats to offshore oil platforms to avoid what one senior official describes as a potential Maritime version of 9-11. Rear Admiral Dan McNeil says various government agencies are working together to come up with defence strategies for possible scenarios that could make the rigs vulnerable. McNeil says government has made preparing for such threats its top priority, despite the fact there are no perceived threats facing the rigs now.

* In Ontario, efforts to deport a 50-year-old Mississauga man for alleged ties to a terrorist group intensified Thursday when the federal government ordered him to turn in his travel documents and landed immigrant papers. Support continues to grow for Issam Al Yamani, a married father of two and executive director of Mississauga's Palestine House, a cultural and educational centre for the city's Palestinian community.

* Daniel Pipes writes at that the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ defamation suit against Andrew Whitehead of Anti-CAIR has been dismissed with prejudice. The Anti-CAIR website,, reports a "mutually agreeable settlement," the terms of which are confidential. However, Whitehead notes that he issued no public apology to CAIR, made no retractions or corrections, and left the Anti-CAIR website unchanged, so that it continues to post the statements that triggered CAIR’s suit. (HT: Lake Minnetonka Liberty)

* National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, brushing aside claims that his office has become just another layer of government bureaucracy, said Thursday he has made significant progress in coordinating the work of the nation's 15 intelligence agencies. Marking his first year in an office created to calm turf battles among the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency and other agencies, Negroponte said the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has focused primarily on improving intelligence analysis, particularly with regard to terrorists and weapons of mass destruction.

* Jurors deciding the fate of two Lodi men facing terrorism-related charges are struggling to reach verdicts. The Hamid Hayat jury met for the sixth full day Thursday without deciding if the 23-year-old man is guilty or innocent of providing material support to terrorism by allegedly attending a terrorist training camp in Pakistan in 2003 and 2004, and for lying to federal agents.

* A 21-year-old Georgia Tech student and a 19-year-old Roswell man traveled together to Canada last year to meet with "like-minded Islamic extremists" and plot locations for possible terror attacks, according to a federal arrest warrant released Friday. The affidavit for the arrest of Ehsanul Islam Sadequee accuses him of making false statements to law enforcement officers and details the alleged trip to Canada with Syed Haris Ahmed, a Tech student who has been charged with giving "material support" to a terrorist organization. Atlas Shrugs comments here. Ehsanul Islam Sadequee sat silently in a courtroom Saturday during a brief hearing that followed his extradition from Bangladesh. Sadequee, a U.S. citizen who grew up near Atlanta, is accused of making materially false statements linked to an ongoing federal terrorism investigation.

* The government conceded Thursday it had no evidence that would-be shoe bomber Richard Reid was to have conducted a terrorist hijacking with Zacarias Moussaoui, as Moussaoui has claimed. The defense introduced a statement, agreed to by government prosecutors, that was presented to the jury considering whether Moussaoui should be executed or imprisoned for life.

* Cargo industry officials are worried that a federal ID system aimed at boosting security could cost many port workers their jobs, something that would bottle up the flow of goods destined for virtually every U.S. community. Details of the program -- more than three years in the making -- are still being worked out.

* Gunmen burst into the home of Guyana's agriculture minister early Saturday and fatally shot him along with two relatives and a security guard, authorities said. A government spokesman said it appeared to be a political assassination.

* El Ojo Digital has become the only media with access to an Al Qaeda letter, digitized from its original version, where the Argentine Government is warned on new bombings that will be carried out in national soil against Jewish and American targets.

* Leftist rebels ambushed a military convoy in remote northeastern Colombia, killing 16 soldiers and secret police officers in the deadliest attack on security forces this year, the army said Friday. The attack took place Thursday in Norte de Santander province, 260 miles northeast of the capital, Bogota. Ten of those killed were DAS secret police officers, Colombia's hybrid equivalent of the CIA and FBI. The other six were soldiers.

Russia, Caucasus & Central Asia

* Russian prosecutors say they have found evidence that links al Qaeda to an April 2004 car bombing aimed at assassinating Murat Zyazikov, president of Ingushetia. According to the report "investigators discovered a videotape of the attack in the home of the father-in-law of Abu Dzeit, who has been described as an Al-Qaeda emissary to southern Russia. Abu Dzeit was killed in February 2005."

* On Monday, more than 10,000 officers from the Russian Federal Security Service, the Interior and Defense ministries and other security bodies will take part in security exercises in southern Russia. The exercise will include repelling a mock attack and carrying out search and destroy operations against a small group of targets.

* Russia has started deliveries to Belarus of the latest and most advanced version of the S-300SP surface-to-air missile system. A recent Jane's Intelligence Digest report suggested that Belarus had reached an agreement with Iran to transfer the missiles on, but both Belarus and Iran are denying the claim.

* Threatswatch is highlighting the current crisis between Russia and Georgia.

* Counter-terrorist forces from the Russian, Belarusian, Tajik and Armenian Interior Ministries held joint exercises in the mountains of Tajikistan, focusing on joint operations to locate and destroy terrorist groups in mountainous conditions.

* On Saturday, Russia test fired a K65M-R missile from a testing ground at Kapustin Yar in the southern Astrakhan region. Col.-Gen. Nikolai Solovtsov, commander of Russia's strategic rocket forces expressed concerns over U.S. missile defense plans that "is so considerable that the fear that it could have a negative effect on the parameters of Russia's nuclear deterrence potential is quite justified."

* According to General Yury Baluevsky, Chief of Russian General Staff, in the event of war between the United States and Iran, Russia would not intervene to assist either side. Instead they'll be too busy studying and documenting the performance of a host of weapons systems they've already sold Iran.

Afghanistan & Southern Asia

* Nepal's king vowed Friday to return multiparty democracy to his Himalayan nation after weeks of bloody protests and increasing international pressure. But King Gyanendra fell short of a key opposition demand — the creation of a special assembly to write a new constitution — and one of the main opposition parties rejected the pledge as "incomplete."

* Dozens of Nepalese pro-democracy protesters were injured when police fired on thousands who defied a curfew to march on the centre of the capital, witnesses and doctors said. Demonstrations were reported in several spots in and around Kathmandu as protesters headed towards King Gyanendra's palace, defying his offer to end 16 days of protests by announcing a return to multi-party democracy.

* Nepali police fired rubber bullets at thousands of protesters Sunday, struggling to enforce a curfew imposed to keep persistent pro-democracy demonstrators off the streets in the Himalayan country's deepening crisis. The protesters were trying to enter the city limits of Katmandu, the capital, when police first fired tear gas, then rubber bullets, independent Kantipur television reported. Doctors at a hospital said they treated three people injured by rubber bullets.

* A roadside bomb killed four Canadian soldiers Saturday in southern Afghanistan, the deadliest attack against Canadian forces since they deployed here in 2002. Canadian military officials blamed remnants of the toppled Taliban government for the blast in the village of Gomboth, about 25 miles north of Kandahar city.

* Taliban insurgents attacked a police post on Friday killing six policemen as gunmen opened fire on a patrol in a separate incident, killing a U.S. soldier, officials said.

* Afghan troops have arrested 19 militants, including five suspected Taliban members, in multiple raids across the country's south, the Defense Ministry said Friday.

* Six policemen have been killed by suspected Taleban insurgents in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar. The gunmen attacked the police post in the Maiwand district in the early hours of Friday, a police official said.

* Afghan security forces surrounded Taliban fighters hiding in a village in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, launching a gunbattle that killed at least three militants and a police officer.

* Taliban militants attacked a construction company working for coalition forces Sunday, killing a security guard and wounding two others, the company's director said. The attack occurred on the Uruzgan-Kandahar highway near a southern Kandahar provincial village where four Canadian soldiers were killed in a suspected Taliban roadside bombing a day earlier.

* U.S. and Afghan soldiers have arrested 16 Taliban members in the southern Zabul province, an Afghan military official said Sunday. Twelve Taliban fighters were detained Saturday following a brief gun battle with troops in Argandab district, about 160 kilometres northeast of Kandahar city, said local Afghan army commander Gen. Rahmattalluh Roufi.

* A Taliban campaign to intimidate moderate Islamic leaders in Afghanistan appears to be working. A week ago, suspected Taliban insurgents gunned down a pro-government mullah on the steps of his mosque in a village 20 kilometres west of Kandahar City. It was only the latest in a series of assassinations of moderate religious leaders.

* One of Osama bin Laden's most trusted aides was a Palestinian from the West Bank who was recently killed in a US military operation in Afghanistan, Palestinian Authority security sources revealed on Thursday. The sources identified the man as Husam Abu Baker, 32. They said his family, which lives in the village of Ya'bad near Jenin, was notified about his death only this week.

* Militants ambushed a convoy of Pakistani troops in a northwestern tribal region near the Afghan border Thursday, killing seven soldiers and wounding 22, an army spokesman said. Hundreds of soldiers backed by helicopter gunships hunted for the attackers, believed to have fled to a village near the site of the ambush on the outskirts of Miran Shah, the main town in North Waziristan.

* A paramilitary trooper and three tribesmen were killed on Sunday in a shoot-out in a restive Pakistani tribal region, as authorities tried to enforce a ban on carrying arms, officials said.

* Tribal militants fighting for greater autonomy in Pakistan's restive southwestern Baluchistan province blew up a pipeline supplying a major gas distribution plant on Sunday, a senior official said.

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

* An Islamic militant blew himself up in a suicide bomb attack against a military convoy in revolt-hit Indian Kashmir, but there were no other casualties, an army spokesman said. The attack came two days ahead of state by-elections opposed by rebels in the restive Himalayan state.

* In Bangladesh, a top terrorist was killed in an encounter between his cohorts and police at Shampur char island on the river Padma in Bagha upazila on Saturday, reports UNB.

* At least three security personnel and a civilian have been killed in the port town of Trincomalee in north-eastern Sri Lanka, officials say. The civilian died in violence after two mine blasts killed the security men.

* Renewed international attempts to persuade Sri Lanka's Tamil Tiger rebels to attend peace talks in Geneva in Switzerland have failed. The rebel leadership refused to even meet the head of the Scandinavian-led truce monitors. The talks are now in deadlock and violence is escalating in the north and east of the island.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* On Friday, Indonesia announced the capture of a wanted foreign terror suspect on Sumbawa island in West Nusa Tenggara. A local police spokesman identified the capture Singapore national as Abdul Rasyid (aka Hamdan), and said he was suspected of having ties to Mohammed Noordin Top, a key Jemaah Islamiyah operative. The raid that led to the capture took place on Monday and was carried out by Detachment 88, Indonesia's elite counterterrorism force.

* According to statistics released by the Japanese Defense Agency, Russian military aircraft violated Japanese airspace 116 times between March 2005 and March 2006, while China has recorded 107 intrusions. The Russian total represents the third straight year of decline, but the Chinese figure is a notable increase from previous years. The two nations accounted for 223 of the 229 times that Japanese fighter jets had to be scrambled.

* According to Nilo Sintin, chief of the South Cotabato Provincial Jail, Filipino intelligence uncovered a Jemaah Islamiyah plot to storm the jail to free suspected Indonesian terrorist Taufek Refke. In response, security has been heightened and an additional perimeter fence is being constructed.

* Right-wing rebel soldiers in the Philippines are renewing threats to depose President Gloria Arroyo in the "coming days".

* Speaking at an international counterterrorism conference in Cebu City, Rohan Gunaratna warned that southern Thailand was becoming a breeding ground for terrorists, as militants shift from a nationalistic to a jihadist orientation. Gunaratna also warned of alienating moderate Muslims and pushing them towards extremism with aggressive anti-terror efforts taking place in Asia. Gunaratna also said that all major attacks from Jemaah Islamiyah are funded by al Qaeda.

* The Sydney Morning Herald is reporting on a new wave of Islamic fundamentalists who have come to Australia and are trying to influence more moderate Muslims already living in Sydney. Steve Emerson is warning of infiltration by the Muslim brotherhood in Australia after five members of the group were granted asylum.

* Filipino authorities have tied Abu Sayyaf chieftain Khadaffy Janjalani into the 27 March bombing that killed nine and wounded more than twenty. (H/T: Counterterrorism Blog)

* One of Australia's most wanted terrorists, Aminah Jamal, may soon be released from a Beirut prison where he has spent two years for involvement in the April 2003 bombing of a McDonald's restaurant in Beirut.


* Dissident republicans had been preparing a major attack, police warned yesterday after finding a partially assembled 250lb fertiliser bomb in a breakers' yard in Northern Ireland. The discovery of such a large device comes after a warning from the Independent Monitoring Commission that small breakaway groups such as the Real IRA and Continuity IRA continue to pose a threat to the security forces.

* Northern Ireland politicians cannot continue to cite fears over IRA terrorism as a reason for not joining a power-sharing government, Peter Hain has said. The secretary of state was speaking ahead of a report by the commission set up to monitor paramilitary activity.

* Tariq Ramadan, who is barred from the U.S., is invited to speak at a conference on May 4-5, 2006, sponsored by the American Embassy in Rome, on "Immigration and Integration: Islam in Europe and Islam in the U.S." Ramadan, a Swiss citizen and grandson of the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hasan al-Banna, had his visa revoked by the Department of Homeland Security on July 28, 2004.

* A suspected al-Qaeda fundraiser has been extradited to Spain from the UK. Hedi Ben Youssef Boudhiba, alleged to have links to the planning of the 11 September attacks, was held in August 2004 at Liverpool John Lennon Airport. Scotland Yard's Extradition Unit handed the Tunisian citizen over to the Spanish authorities at RAF Northolt. The High Court rejected lawyers' attempts to block the extradition on the grounds that it would be unjust or oppressive if he was sent back.

* It's the third time a Kurdish satellite station has tried to beam news into Turkey, whose laws restrict Kurdish programming within the country. The first two were shut down. Now the Turkish government is lobbying Denmark to rein in Roj, accusing the two-year-old station of being nothing more than a mouthpiece for Kurdish terrorists.

* A fire bomb attack on an Ironmongers shop in Barañaain in Navarra on Saturday morning is thought to have been the work of ‘kale borroka’ the youth vandals inspired by ETA.

* France announced Friday it would not issue a visa to Palestinian Authority Planning Minister Samir Abu Eisha to attend a conference in Paris later this week, a senior Foreign Ministry official said Saturday night. This is the second times in as many weeks that France has denied a visa to a Hamas representative to attend a conference on its soil, and the third time that Hamas representatives haven't been allowed into Europe in less than a month. Belgium denied a visa to a Hamas representative at the end of March.

* Two people arrested in southern France on suspicion of financing Islamist extremism were notified they face forgery charges, court sources said Saturday. The two were among eight people detained Wednesday in the port city of Marseille as part of a Franco-Italian anti-terrorism operation.


* The relief effort in Sudan's Darfur region could collapse within weeks unless foreign donors contribute more money and the government eases restrictions that have slowed aid workers, the top U.N. humanitarian official said Thursday. Jan Egeland told the U.N. Security Council that just 20 percent of relief work in Darfur has been funded this year. The international community has stopped pressuring Sudan's government or Darfur's rebels to cooperate with aid groups.

* Following substantial and sustained progress in implementing anti-money laundering and terrorist financing laws, Nigeria may soon be removed from the anti-money laundering list.

* An article at Jamestown Foundation by Andrew Black looks at the importance of the Western Sahara to Maghrebi security. The article describes how African nations are fighting against terrorist groups like the GSPC, sometimes with the help of Americans.

The Global War

* The number of terrorist attacks documented by U.S. intelligence agencies jumped sharply in 2005, crossing the 10,000 mark for the first time, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials and documents obtained by Knight Ridder. More than half the fatalities from terrorism worldwide last year occurred in Iraq, said a counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the data haven't been made public. Roughly 85 percent of the U.S. citizens who died from terrorism during the year died in Iraq.

* The Site Institute is noting the section of Fouad Hussein’s book, Al-Zarqawi: al Qaeda's Second Generation, that is reported to be written by an al Qaeda leader (possibly Seif al-Adl), is among the most popular files among jihadi forums.

* U.S. and Indian anti-terror officials have agreed to share information on a real time basis and schedule joint exercises at a meeting held this week in the U.S. capital. Without disclosing the specific date of the talks, the U.S. State Department said in a statement on Friday that the two-day meeting yielded a deal on sharing information in real time, as well as "responding to counter-terrorism assistance requests expeditiously and collaborating to upgrade preparedness and capability to deal with acts of terrorism."

* The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press have assembled a collection of slides and documents used by the U.S. government during the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. A warning that some of the slides taken from the attack at the Pentagon are a graphic reminder of the evil we face.

* Lawyers in Turkey for al Qaeda operative Louai Al Sakka, said their client has revealed the location of where British hostage Kenneth Bigley was buried. According to al Sakka, Bigley was buried in a ditch near Fallujah.

* Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit Turkey, Greece and Bulgaria from April 24-28, where she will meet with leaders from all three countries as well as attend an informal meeting of NATO ministers. Rice is also expected to sign a defense cooperation agreement with Bulgarian authorities, allowing the use of shared military facilities in Bulgaria similar to an agreement signed with Romania in December 2005.

* Osama bin Laden issued new threats in an audiotape broadcast on Arab television Sunday and accused the United States and Europe of supporting a "Zionist" war on Islam by cutting off funds to the Hamas-led Palestinian government. He also urged followers to go to Sudan, his former base, to fight a proposed U.N. peacekeeping force. Walid Phares outlines ten points made on the tape.

* Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has approved the military's most ambitious plan yet to fight terrorism around the world and retaliate more rapidly and decisively in the case of another major terrorist attack on the United States, according to defense officials. The long-awaited campaign plan for the global war on terrorism, as well as two subordinate plans also approved within the past month by Rumsfeld, are considered the Pentagon's highest priority.

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Sunday, April 23, 2006

Why Balochistan is up in arms

In December 2005-January 2006, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan conducted a fact-finding mission in Balochistan.

Their report can be found here, in PDF, and runs 60 pages. I found the report linked at the website of the Baloch Society Of North America.

The executive summary encapsulates the tensions behind the conflict that was grown in severity since December.

In both Dera Bugti and the Kohlu area, HRCP received evidence that action by armed forces had led to deaths and injuries among civilians. Populations had also been subjected to indiscriminate bombing.

Many of the victims were women and children. Lists of casualties are included in the report. The dead included some Hindus, many of whom had been forced to leave their homes due to the fighting.

There was also an immense sense of fear prevailing among ordinary people, particularly in Dera Bugti, from where 85 percent of the population had fled. Many of the citizens that the HRCP team members spoke to complained about the heavy deployment of paramilitary forces in the area, use of excessive force by the Frontier Constabulary, a paramilitary force, and harsh behaviour towards the people, including children, by personnel linked to these forces.

The views expressed by ordinary people contradicted the opinions put forward by FC officials, who maintained citizens appreciated their presence in the area. Members of the paramilitary forces and the district administration, while extending cooperation to HRCP, gave detailed accounts of abuses they alleged had been committed by the Baloch tribal leaders. They also blamed fugitives or ?furraris? for much of the unrest in the province. Racism directed towards the Baloch people surfaced quite openly during some of the discussions.

HRCP expressed grave concern over the fact that militants had placed land mines along roads, and appealed to all sides in the conflict to give up violence in favour of a negotiated resolution to the complex issues of the province. It also regretted the death of personnel of the paramilitary forces.

It was however obvious that the people?s perceptions regarding discrimination against them by the federal government, notably an establishment that they saw as being domminated by the Punjab, had played a role in formenting the deep sense of resentment and anger found in the province. These sentiments had significantly contributed to the new conflict. Citizens meeting the HRCP team also expressed the apprehension that the military wished to establish control over the vast natural resources of Balochistan.

The report touches on several areas of concern, and present evidence found of abuses in these areas.

Arrests and arbitrary detentions

The Interior Minister is quoted in the press as acknowledging having made 4,000 arrests in connection with the Balochistan situation, while speaking to the press in Turbat. This matter was later raised by a leader of PML(N).4 . The charges against a number of these persons have not been disclosed to their families. In some cases it is not known where they are being detained, and furthermore the government has not disclosed the identies of persons arrested during these operations.

Extrajudicial killings

On the basis of credible reports it is in a position to conclude that noncombatants have been killed. On more than one occasion, the use of force was disproportionate and excessive and employed indiscriminately. The HRCP team was able to investigate the facts of the bombing and use of force by the security forces on December 17th, 2005.

The government has denied all reports of bombing civilian populations and continues to insist that there is no unusual army action. According to them, it was a ?law and order? situation, created by a handful of miscreants, which was being dealt with. The government?s position cannot be sustained by the evidence made available to HRCP.


HRCP has received reports of disappearances from across the country. The families are often hesitant to come forward because of threats by intelligence agencies warning them to remain silent. For reasons of confidentiality, the HRCP is unable to give details of every such case received by them. We do, however, have a fair number of documented cases which can be made public. They present a dark picture. The reports reflect a pattern of intimidation and abuse; people are threatened to remain silent, they are blindfolded and handcuffed and tortured through various means, including the injection of unknown chemicals, humiliation and stripping.


Torture is endemic in Pakistan....The HRCP finds the situation extremely alarming and urges the parliamentarians to pay special attention to this very serious human rights violation, which is being committed with impunity. Regrettably, the courts too have failed to take serious notice of torture and accept it as a common reality.
HRCP must emphasize that the reports regarding allegations of torture received by them are the tip of the iceberg. Amongst the reports which cannot be reported are those which do not sound credible or are not verified or consistent. In addition to this, a number of victims and their families do not wish to be identified.

It is in reaction to these activities that the insurgency has grown increasingly violent.

Just this weekend, another pipeline was attacked.

Tribal militants fighting for greater autonomy in Pakistan's restive southwestern Baluchistan province blew up a pipeline supplying a major gas distribution plant on Sunday, a senior official said.

The pipeline supplied gas to the plant in the troubled Dera Bugti district from the Loti gas field, Abdul Samad Lasi, administrator of the district, told Reuters.

Also, a bridge was destroyed.

Insurgents reportedly blew up a railway bridge near Kari-Dor in Balochistan on April 22, halting train services from the provincial capital Quetta. “Unidentified people have blown up an old bridge near Kari-Dor damaging 10 feet of the track,” said Irfan Gauhar, the Divisional Railway Superintendent in Multan. He said trains from Quetta to Punjab, the Chiltan Express, Balochistan Express, Jaffar Express and Bolan Mail had stopped at various stations. Two bridges at Sibi-Harani section have been blown up in the last three days and railway installations on this section have been attacked 12 times during the last couple of months, according to Daily Times.

The US will be tempted to ask the insurgents to pull back from their attacks before peace can be discussed, but the Baloch people do wonder the US is not doing more to pressure President Musharraf's government to cease the human rights violations described above.

Previous Posts

More unrest in SE Iran
The growing civil war in Baluchistan
Roundup of events in Balochistan
Iran hits back
The Port of Gwadar
Roundup of events in Balochistan
The Government of Balochistan in Exile
The toll in Balochistan

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The quiet war in Africa

A good article at The Jamestown Foundation by Andrew Black looks at the importance of the Western Sahara to Maghrebi security.

(Think of North Africa as the Maghreb, and the Sahel is the region between the Sahara and Central Africa.)

African security forces are pursuing terrorist groups, including virulent ones like the GSPC.

One detail caught my eye, and I put it in bold in the excerpt below.

On March 11, 2004, as the world focused on the Madrid commuter bombings, there were reports that armed forces from Chad, Niger, and Mali had engaged a large group of operatives from the Algerian Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), and had inflicted significant casualties on this notorious organization (El Watan, March 11, 2004; Le Matin, March 9, 2004). Details of the operation were at first nebulous and most greeted this development with skepticism or disinterest. On March 15, however, U.S. European Command released a statement corroborating these reports (Press Release, March 15, 2004).

After being chased out of Mali, the GSPC was engaged by Nigerian security forces in the north of the country. Realizing they were soon to be overrun, the GSPC cadres crossed into Chad for refuge. Unbeknownst to them, Chadian and Nigerian forces were in collusion and enjoyed the ongoing logistical and intelligence support of U.S. personnel. As a result, Chad's defenses were prepared and were able to overpower the Salafis with only minimal casualties. Ultimately, Saifi Ammari (known as Abderrazak El Para), a regional kingpin and the reputed mastermind of the summer 2003 hostage saga, was apprehended at first by the Movement for Chadian Democracy and Justice and later by Libyan security forces (The Village Voice, Spring 2005).

This operation could not have been nearly as successful had it not been for the high level of cooperation and integration among the security services of Chad, Niger and Mali. This case study demonstrates how regional unity and integration can have a significant impact on the North African Salafi-Jihadist threat.

The US is engaged in anti-terrorism in activities in Africa. A lot of the work is done quietly, as alluded to here. In this case, logisitical support and intelligence was provided to the African forces. We don't hear a lot about this. It's easy for us here to get wrapped up in our daily activities and forget that our fellow Americans are in far-away places, working to protect us.

In our Monday Winds of War Briefings, we've been keeping an eye on the US Military involvement in Africa.

For instance, the SF is training Mali soldiers.

"It's difficult for the local military to get out there and patrol the borders just because it's a huge border and their budget's pretty small. So they need some assistance," said Capt. Eddie, the leader of a 12-man special forces A-Team that has spent two months in Gao working with Mali soldiers based here. To maintain anonymity, a special forces soldier can be identified publicly only by rank and first name.

Capt. Eddie's is the third special operations team the Pentagon has dispatched to Gao in the past three years. It's given many of these Mali soldiers the kind of training they've never had.

The Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa is the most visible US presence in northern Africa.
This force is engaged in humanitarian missions, in anti-terrorist activities, and in training local forces.

This story has some examples:

A small U.S. military task force in East Africa is installing water pumps, rebuilding schools and health clinics, making medical house calls and training national armies - all part of a mission to stabilize a region that’s seen as a potential breeding ground for terrorist groups.

"We are coming out of drought because of the pump," said Omar Ahmed, a Sankabar elder. "So we say thank you, America. And thank you, Mr. Reed. He is the first guy to give us help."

What’s going here provides a glimpse of the Bush administration’s global war on terrorism, which is being fought - mostly in the shadows - elsewhere in Africa and across the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia using different combinations of military, covert, economic and diplomatic weapons.

Separated from the Middle East by only a narrow waterway, the Horn of Africa is home to 90 million Muslims, many of whom live in crushing poverty and political isolation. Al-Qaida has had success in the area, bombing U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, attacking the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen in 2000 and nearly shooting down an Israeli charter plane over Kenya in 2002.

The 1,500 troops of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa have been stationed since 2002 at Camp Lemonier, a former French base on the Red Sea in the tiny coastal nation of Djibouti. They were sent to hunt down al-Qaida operatives in East Africa, but there are few known terrorist cells working in the vast area - two-thirds the size of the United States - and the troops haven’t made many arrests.

Here is another one.

While news from Iraq and Afghanistan dominates headlines worldwide, counter-terrorism operations in the Horn of Africa by elements of the 2nd Marine Division go virtually unreported.

But according to a former Los Baños resident, quietly helping the millions of people who inhabit the seven countries in the Horn is no less an important mission of Operation Enduring Freedom than offering a chance for democracy to the people of the Middle East.

"We are waging peace with vigor in this part of the world," said Marine Corps Chief Warrant Officer Jefferey Rhea. "We're winning hearts and minds, trying to prevent this area from turning into another hot zone."

Remote corners of Africa may not be as sexy as the hot spots in Iraq, but the presence of terrorists in northern Africa is a sign of how global this war really us. God bless those who are prosecuting the war there, who do so quietly and with the professionalism we've come to expect from the military.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Iran is not a Persian kittycat

Thomas Jocelyn has a new piece in the Weekly Standard today reminding us that Iran remains a threat far beyond just its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran sponsors terrorism as a matter of strategy.

Anti-American terrorism has been a central tenet of Iran's Islamic revolution for decades. That the U.S. intelligence community, with its less than stellar track record in fighting terrorism during the 1990s, managed to convince Iran to stop orchestrating or aiding terrorist attacks against American interests seems highly unlikely. How could the mullahs have a terrorist network "superior" to al Qaeda, poised to strike, and yet not have used it for the past decade? Are we really to believe, as Clarke and Simon would have it, that this network of terrorist operatives has lain dormant all this time?
A few additional examples of Iranian support for al Qaeda make it clear that Iran was not scared out of the anti-American terrorism game. The 9/11 Commission reports that al Qaeda operatives received explosives training from Iran in the early 1990s. Bin Laden "showed particular interest in learning how to use truck bombs such as the one that had killed 241 U.S. Marines in Lebanon in 1983." This early history of collaboration did not come to an end. Even after 1996, Iran continued to open its doors to al Qaeda. The Clinton administration's original unsealed indictment of al Qaeda in November 1998 states that bin Laden's group had allied itself with Iran and its terrorist puppet, Hezbollah. The 9/11 Commission even left open the possibility that Hezbollah had assisted al Qaeda's execution of the September 11 plot.

This is just a small sample of the evidence tying Iran to al Qaeda. None of this means that military action against Iran is necessarily the most prudent next step. In this regard, Clarke and Simon may very well be right. A strike against Iran may not be in America's best interests, or the most effective way to deal with the Iranian threat. A careful weighing of the costs and benefits of military action should guide America's path. But by dismissing Iran's role in the past decade of anti-American terrorism, Clarke and Simon muddy the public debate and fail to accurately assess the Iranian threat.

I believe Iran has directly threatened Europe in recent months, by allowing Danish and Norwegian diplomatic missions in Syria and Iran to be attacked, and by publicly allowing state visits with Syria to coincide with suicide attacks in Israel.

Iran has been more circumspect with the US, wary of US troops on either side in Iraq and Afghanistan. However, Iran has pursued a strategy it is especially good at, and that is fight through proxies. Iran stands behind Iraq's thuggish Muqtada al-Sadr, allowing him to stir up trouble in Iraq that benefits Iran. Also, there have been numerous reports of Iran sending weapons and agents into Iraq. It remains a haven to those terrorists such as Zarqawi who are fighting the US.

A chilling article this past week by Matthias Küntzel in The New Republic on Iran's Basiji militia illustrates just what Iran is capable of. Iran may have put a sizeable portion of its younger population beyond the reach of reason, and chained them to a suicidal radical ideology. Read all of it, but here is an excerpt. Demons, indeed.

Since Ahmadinejad became president, the influence of the Basiji has grown. In November, the new Iranian president opened the annual "Basiji Week," which commemorates the martyrs of the Iran-Iraq War. According to a report in Kayan, a publication loyal to Khameini, some nine million Basiji--12 percent of the Iranian population--turned out to demonstrate in favor of Ahmadinejad's anti-liberal platform. The article claimed that the demonstrators "form[ed] a human chain some 8,700 kilometers long. ... In Tehran alone, some 1,250,000 people turned out." Barely noticed by the Western media, this mobilization attests to Ahmadinejad's determination to impose his "second revolution" and to extinguish the few sparks of freedom in Iran.

At the end of July 2005, the Basij movement announced plans to increase its membership from ten million to 15 million by 2010. The elite special units are supposed to comprise some 150,000 people by then. Accordingly, the Basiji have received new powers in their function as an unofficial division of the police. What this means in practice became clear in February 2006, when the Basiji attacked the leader of the bus-drivers' union, Massoud Osanlou. They held Osanlou prisoner in his apartment, and they cut off the tip of his tongue in order to convince him to keep quiet. No Basiji needs to fear prosecution for such terrorists tactics before a court of law.

As Basij ideology and influence enjoy a renaissance under Ahmadinejad, the movement's belief in the virtues of violent self-sacrifice remains intact. There is no "truth commission" in Iran to investigate the state-planned collective suicide that took place from 1980 to 1988. Instead, every Iranian is taught the virtues of martyrdom from childhood. Obviously, many of them reject the Basij teachings. Still, everyone knows the name of Hossein Fahmideh, who, as a 13-year-old boy during the war, blew himself up in front of an Iraqi tank. His image follows Iranians throughout their day: whether on postage stamps or the currency. If you hold up a 500 Rial bill to the light, it is his face you will see in the watermark. The self-destruction of Fahmideh is depicted as a model of profound faith by the Iranian press. It has been the subject of both an animated film and an episode of the TV series "Children of Paradise." As a symbol of their readiness to die for the Revolution, Basij groups wear white funeral shrouds over their uniforms during public appearances.

During this year's Ashura Festival, school classes were taken on excursions to a "Martyrs' Cemetery." "They wear headbands painted with the name Hussein," The New York Times reported, "and march beneath banners that read: 'Remembering the Martyrs today is as important as becoming a Martyr' and 'The Nation for whom Martyrdom means happiness, will always be Victorious.' " Since 2004, the mobilization of Iranians for suicide brigades has intensified, with recruits being trained for foreign missions. Thus, a special military unit has been created bearing the name "Commando of Voluntary Martyrs. "According to its own statistics, this force has so far recruited some 52,000 Iranians to the suicidal cause. It aims to form a "martyrdom unit" in every Iranian province.

The Basiji's cult of self-destruction would be chilling in any country. In the context of the Iranian nuclear program, however, its obsession with martyrdom amounts to a lit fuse. Nowadays, Basiji are sent not into the desert, but rather into the laboratory. Basij students are encouraged to enroll in technical and scientific disciplines. According to a spokesperson for the Revolutionary Guard, the aim is to use the "technical factor" in order to augment "national security."

What exactly does that mean? Consider that, in December 2001, former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani explained that "the use of even one nuclear bomb inside Israel will destroy everything." On the other hand, if Israel responded with its own nuclear weapons, it "will only harm the Islamic world. It is not irrational to contemplate such an eventuality." Rafsanjani thus spelled out a macabre cost-benefit analysis. It might not be possible to destroy Israel without suffering retaliation. But, for Islam, the level of damage Israel could inflict is bearable--only 100,000 or so additional martyrs for Islam.

Gazprom still on the march

Der Spiegel has a report on how Gazprom never rests in its quest to dominate, at minimum, the natural gas market.

The Russian gas giant Gazprom on Tuesday issued a sharp warning to Europe not to interfere in its efforts to expand on the continent. "Attempts to limit Gazprom's activities in the European market and to politicize questions of gas supplies, which are in fact entirely within the economic sphere, will not produce good results," Alexi Miller, the head of Gazprom, announced ominously when he met with European ambassadors. "It should not be forgotten that we are actively seeking new markets such as North America and China," he added. "It's no coincidence that competition for energy resources is growing."

Miller's comments were in response to British objections to Gazprom's possible bid for the UK largest energy supplier Centrica. Not content with being the world's biggest producer of natural gas, not to mention the supplier of a quarter of all gas to the European Union, Gazprom clearly is aiming high. As a result of the furor his comments stirred up, Miller has since tried to allay fears that the tap would be turned off on Europe, by saying that existing contracts would be honored. But for many German commentators, those assurances aren't enough to allay fears.

The reference above to North America probably refers to Gazprom's deal with Canada, and the reference to China certainly refers to the deal reached last month.

Just to reinforce Gazprom's global ambitions, the huge Russian gas company is pursuing deals in South America.

Russia and South American energy companies are interested in developing closer ties and could cooperate in building a possible $15 billion-$23 billion natural gas pipeline connecting Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil, Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Fradkov said April 6 after meeting with officials from Brazilian energy companies. Although the project has not been officially proposed, Russian state natural gas monopoly Gazprom and machinery manufacturer Silovye Machiny could become involved and supply energy equipment to Brazil.

And if that isn't enough, no corner on Earth is overlooked by Gazprom. They have their sights on the United States.

Giant Russian gas firm Gazprom will kick-start a late entry in the booming liquefied natural gas market within days, launching a huge Arctic project that it hopes will one day make it the dominant U.S. supplier.

After 15 years of delays, Gazprom —- a former Soviet ministry now worth over $240 billion —- is poised to start down the road to LNG by naming foreign partners whose know-how and capital is key to unlocking the vast Shtokman project.

Entering LNG will free Gazprom from its static pipeline network and allow it to ship gas globally for the first time, giving the export monopoly more bargaining power as it seeks to expand downstream into European markets.

With gas reservoirs equivalent to Exxon’s oil reserves, Shtokman poses an alluring but technically daunting challenge for the five firms shortlisted as possible partners: U.S. majors Chevron< and ConocoPhillips, France’s Total and Norway’s Statoil and Norsk Hydro.

Gazprom wants help producing gas in the iceberg-strewn seas around Shtokman, pumping it 550 km to shore, liquefying it and shipping it to the United States for re-gasification and sale.

When Gazprom interrupted Ukraine's gas supply at the beginning of the year, it was a warning, not just to Ukraine, but to Europe and any country with a dependency on Russian gas. The warning was a simple illustration of the power Russia has over them. The effects of the shutdown were felt across Europe, as far away as France.

Europe is leery about pushing Russia to the wall on issues like Iran's nuclear program because of the growing leverage Russia has over them.

Russia is pursuing a clear strategy of using natural resources to put itself in a position of power. However, as I've written about here before, Russia is in a race with its own demographics. The great country is facing a dire future as birth rates job, and health declines.

On my trips to Russia, I was constantly amazed at how many jobs were held by women. Jobs from the professional ranks like judges and attorneys, to shopkeepers. Where were the men, I wondered.

Power Line today linked to a Washington Times story sounding yet another klaxon over this impending crisis.

Russia's population is declining rapidly, with almost half of Russian families childless, a senior member of Russia's lower house of parliament has said.

Yekaterina Lakhova, chairwoman of the parliamentary committee on women's affairs, said Thursday, "Today, almost half of the country's 41 million families have no children at all," RIA Novosti reported.

Addressing parliamentary hearings on family policy, Lakhova said that 34 percent of Russian families have only one child, 15 percent have two children, and less than 3 percent have more than two children.

She added that the Russian birthrate is 1.34 children per woman, which is below the replacement rate of 2.14, causing a steady decline in the population growth rate.

U.N. statistics say that at this rate Russia's population will be 101.5 million by 2050, shrinking by almost half from the over 143 million population of today.

Imagine that, the population may shrink by as much as half. Imagine the impact that will have on Russia's economy, way of life, social safety nets, and so on. Where will Gazprom find workers to drive their ambitious deals?

Will an imploding Russia lash out at its neighbor and threaten their gas supplies, holding them hostage to Russian demands to help stave off their internal problems?


Thank you, Rambix, for the kind words!

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The toll in Balochistan

The Daily Times tallies up the results of the violence in Balochistan that erupted in earnest last December.

Violence in Balochistan has claimed 158 lives since January 1, sources quoted Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Sherpao as telling the last cabinet meeting on law and order, with a special focus on the ongoing insurgence in Balochistan.

Of the dead, 53 were civilians and 33 personnel of law enforcement agencies, the sources quoted the minister as saying. He added that 72 rebel tribesmen (BLA men) were killed and 41 injured. He said that 147 people had also been injured since January 1.

Sherpao told the cabinet that Dera Bugti, Kohlu and Khuzdar were the main troubled districts where security personnel, government installations and infrastructure were being targeted, the sources said.

“Though incidents of rocket attacks, small arm fires and mine blasts targeting government installations have decreased considerably, there has been an upsurge in violence for the last one week because of the proscription of the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) and cancellation of arms licences to sardars,” the minister said.

However, Sherpao said that the overall capability of the BLA had weakened and the process of rehabilitation of displaced Kalpar, Rahija and Masori tribesmen had been completed.

The BLA was banned on April 7, while arms licences to Baloch leaders including Nawab Akbar Bugti, Senator Sanaullah Baloch and Akhtar Mengal had been cancelled.

Sherpao told the cabinet that the insurgency in Balochistan and Talibanisation in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) could hamper economic activity in the country, sources said.

In contrast with President Musharraf's puzzling comments on Monday, Minister Sherpao acknowledged that the insurgency could have an impact on economic activity. With attacks on gas pipelines, and power and water facilities, Pakistan is indeed concerned.

In the long term, there are hopes that pipelines could run from Iran and Central Asia through Afghanistan and possibly Balochistan to Pakistan, and perhaps China and India. These projects would be less likely if the pipes were vulnerable to guerrilla attacks.

Rather than with violence, it would be far better for both sides if the issues could be resolved through talks such as these:

A joint committee of the provincial assembly has initiated dialogue between the government and Nawab Akbar Bugti to resolve the Balochistan issue. Balochistan Minister for Culture and Tourism Syed Shair Jan said the committee, led by Chief Minister Jam Muhammad Yousaf, had faith in dialogue to reach a consensus on the Balochistan issue. He claimed the committee had made progress to develop contacts with Bugti. The minister criticised some parliamentarians and civilians for trying to sabotage the ongoing dialogue process. He said the committee would continue efforts to bring the two parties on the dialogue table so that the Balochistan issue is resolved peacefully. He rebuffed the demand regarding invitation to any other country to the dialogue between the government and Bugti. Earlier, a parliamentary committee had been formed to look into the problems in Balochistan. In its interim report, the committee had recommended the withdrawal of the Frontier Constabulary (FC) and the Coast Guard from interior Balochistan, clearance of gas royalty arrears, abolition of the Concurrent List, a review of the National Finance Commission (NFC) award, provincial autonomy and the development of gas-rich areas.

The recommendations listed above would go a long ways in bringing peace to that province. In turn, as have the Kurds, the Balochs may find it best to enjoy some measure of autonomy, rather than complete independence, in return for ceasing the insurgency.

For its part, Pakistan would have to provide Balochistan with a greater share of the revenues generated by the natural resources there, and would have to cease the human rights violations.

Previous Posts

More unrest in SE Iran
The growing civil war in Baluchistan
Roundup of events in Balochistan
Iran hits back
The Port of Gwadar
Roundup of events in Balochistan
The Government of Balochistan in Exile

Darfur Update

War, conflict, ethnic struggles. When these erupt in poverty-stricken areas, it is always the defenseless who suffer most. Those with guns can take the food and water they need. The children are left to suffer.

In Darfur, it is getting more and more dangerous for relief efforts to operate there.

Fighting has made it impossible to reach large areas of the Sudanese region of Darfur, the Red Cross says.

International Committee of the Red Cross Sudan spokesman Paul Conneally told the BBC that its vehicles are being systematically looted.

He said tens of thousands of people had been forced from their homes around the rebel bases in the Marra mountains.

Aid workers are trying to help more than two million people, in what the US says is a genocide.

Mr Conneally says civilians have fled from towns in the area, which are now patrolled only by the Sudanese army.

And all the while, thousands upon thousands are fleeing.

At least 30,000 people have been displaced by recent fighting in the mountain ranges of Jebel Marra in central Darfur, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which has recently regained access to parts of the region following a spate of violence that led to its evacuation.

"During a recent needs assessment, we found 64,000 people - about half of them recently displaced and living with the resident population - putting a strain on local resources," Paul Conneally, ICRC communication coordinator in Sudan, said on Tuesday. "These represent only some of the victims of the armed clashes that have been occurring in the Jebel Marra since the start of the year."

The latest clashes started when Sudan Liberation Army (SLA) rebels attacked the government-controlled town of Rokoro on 24 December 2005, then Golo on 23 January. The attacks violated a ceasefire agreement and led to counterattacks by the Sudanese military and allied militias.

As the clashes continued, humanitarian agencies were forced to pull out of the area in January. Although some assessments have been carried out since then, no aid organisation has been able to resume activities inside the Jebel Marra area. Many other areas, particularly in the north-central region, remain inaccessible to aid workers.

In neighnoring Chad, where the chaos in Darfur has spilled into, rebels are fighting against the Chadian government, and France is trying to navigate a course through the pitfalls.

The possible role of outsiders in Chad's war came under scrutiny Wednesday, with the United States expressing concern over reports Sudan was backing rebel forces, and the rebels criticizing French support for President Idriss Deby.

Chad, an impoverished, mostly desert country where oil was recently discovered, has rarely known peace since independence from France in 1960. Other countries often played a part in the violence. Deby himself seized power in 1990 with help from Libya and Sudan, and Libya has invaded more than once.

An April 13 rebel attack on the outskirts of the capital, N'djamena, has shaken Deby, who has tried to recast himself as a democrat and is seeking to extend his rule in May 3 elections. The rebel United Front for Democratic Change is regrouping in the countryside.

Both the rebels and Deby say intelligence from France was crucial in helping government troops repulse the rebels on April 13. The government said at least 350 people died, while the rebel group says far fewer were killed, including only 20 of its own men.

"If not for the intervention of French troops, we would today be in a position to control the country," Raoul Laona Gong, external affairs director for the rebel group, said in an interview in Paris Wednesday.

The rebels vow they will keep up their attacks against Chad's government.

Leaders of Chad’s main rebel group accused France of propping up the African country’s government and vowed more attacks if necessary to drive Chadian President Idriss Deby from power.

Tamara Acyl AhmatIn an interview Wednesday, Paris-based representatives for the United Front for Democratic Change vowed to thwart elections scheduled May 3, alleging the results have already been rigged.

Raoul Laona Gong, external affairs director for the rebel group known by the French acronym FUCD, said it had "no choice but to take up arms again because it’s the only language (Deby) understands."

Sudan is in the best position to help end the suffering in Darfur, but it won't. It uses the Arab Janjaweed militias, and Sudan does not want the UN to operate on its soil.

Sudanese officials have told the United Nations that they would not welcome a U.N. mission to assess conditions in Darfur as the world body prepares to take over peacekeeping operations, a U.N. spokesman said Wednesday.

The Khartoum government said it first wants warring factions to finish peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria. The African Union set an April 30 deadline for a peace deal which the Security Council has endorsed.

Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Hedi Annabi "was told in various meetings with Sudanese officials that they felt this was not the time for a U.N. assessment mission to go into Darfur and that they would rather wait until the Abuja process is completed," U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said. He said planning for a U.N. force would continue nonetheless.

This week Russia and China blocked a move in the UN to impose sanctions on four Sudanese officials blamed for the bloodshed in Darfur. Their excuse? They said "the time was not right for the sanctions in view of ongoing African Union-brokered Darfur peace talks in Abuja, Nigeria."

How cynical. China has billions invested in Sudan, and Sudan is China's largest overseas oil project. China even has troops there to protect its oil interests. China is more interested in its own economic interests than the plight of the helpless in the middle of Western Nowhere.

The world stood by and watched a slaughter in Rwanda, because who did those people matter to, really. The nations of the world seem prepared to do the same in Darfur.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


In February, the Strategic Studies Institute put out a monograph by Dr. Harry Yarger entitled Strategic Theory for the 21st Century.

According to the synopsis,

This "little book" talks about big strategy, strategy at the highest levels of the nation-state. It is applicable to grand strategy, national security strategy, national military strategy, and regional or theater strategy. The monograph does not propose a strategy for the United States; rather, it provides a framework for considering strategy at any of the levels mentioned above. It is an examination of theory, exploring those aspects of strategy that appear to have universal application.

In laying out this framework, the paper makes a distinction between strategy and planning. Strategy is not planning, and planning is not strategy. (emphasis is mine)

Strategy provides a coherent blueprint to bridge the gap between the realities of today and a desired future. It is the disciplined calculation of overarching objectives, concepts, and resources within acceptable bounds of risk to create more favorable future outcomes than might otherwise exist if left to chance or the hands of others. It is the consideration of the relation of how to apply resources to achieve desired results in a specific strategic environment over time. In the context of the state, strategy is the employment of specific instruments of power (political/diplomatic, economic, military, and informational) to achieve the political objectives of the state in cooperation or in competition with other actors pursuing their own -possibly conflicting— objectives. In other words, it is the application of the power inherent in the natural and societal resources of the state toward policy ends in an emerging, dynamic, and competitive strategic environment. Both strategy and planning are subordinate to the nature of the environment. Strategy has distinct attributes and differs from planning in its scope, assumptions, and premises, but it provides the structure and parameters for more detailed long-range and short-term planning. Both strategy and planning use ends, ways, and means, and are bounded by the criteria of suitability, feasibility, and acceptability. Strategy has its own inherent logic that can be understood and applied.

The paper then lays out 15 assumptions and premises of Strategy.

* Strategy is proactive and anticipatory but not predictive.
* Strategy is subordinate to policy.
* Strategy is subordinate to the nature of the environment.
* Strategy maintains a holistic perspective.
* Strategy creates a security dilemma for the strategist and other actors.
* Strategy is founded in what is to be accomplished and why it is to be accomplished.
* Strategy is an inherently human enterprise.
* Friction is an inherent part of strategy.
* Strategy focuses on root purposes and causes.
* Strategy is hierarchical.
* Strategy exists in a symbiotic relationship with time.
* Strategy is cumulative.
* Efficiency is subordinate to effectiveness in strategy.
* Strategy provides a proper relationship or balance among the objectives sought.
* Risk is inherent to all strategy.

Yarger writes that objectives are the ultimate goal in formulating strategy.

Objectives are the true focus of strategy formulation and, if not properly selected and articulated, a proposed strategy is fundamentally flawed and cannot be effective. If the wrong objectives are identified, the concepts and resources serve no strategic purpose.
In this regard, objectives are concerned with doing the right things. Concepts are concerned with doing things right. Resources are concerned with costs. Objectives determine effectiveness; concepts and resources are measures of efficiency. A lack of efficiency increases the cost of success, but a lack of effectiveness precludes success.

In this light, we can look at the National Security Strategy (available here in PDF) for the United States. The stated objectives are:

* Champion Aspirations for Human Dignity
* Strengthen Alliances to Defeat Global Terrorism and Work to Prevent Attacks Against Us and Our Friends
* Work with others to Defuse Regional Conflicts
* Prevent Our Enemies from Threatening Us, Our Allies, and Our Friends with Weapons of Mass Destruction
* Ignite a New Era of Global Economic Growth through Free Markets and Free Trade
* Expand the Circle of Development by Opening Societies and Building the Infrastructure of Democracy
* Develop Agendas for Cooperative Action with the Other Main Centers of Global Power
* Transform America’s National Security Institutions to Meet the Challenges and Opportunities of the Twenty-First Century

The aim of a National Security Strategy is to ensure the nation's security. So, we must ask, Are these the right goals? Will these goals be effective in providing for our national security?

Note how these objectives might play a role in national security.

By strengthening alliances, we become strong in numbers and resources.

Diffusing regional conflicts makes for fewer unstable governments, and fewer places where terrorists can take advantage of lawlessness and flourish.

Preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons speaks for itself. This one especially, then, deserves closer scrutiny in light of the current crisis with Iran. If we truly believe that a nuclear-armed Iran threatens our security, what can we do to prevent Iran from completing its nuclear weapons program?

Encouraging global economic growth creates a rising tide that lifts all boats. Imagine how much less of a problem immigration from Mexico would be if Mexico's economy was strong and provided good-paying jobs in Mexico.

Transforming our armed forces makes them better suited to face today's threats, or so goes the thinking.

Remember the statement above that strategy is not planning. Merely formulating these goals does not cause them to happen.

However, a good deal of thinking has gone into them, and critics of the Bush Administration do not serve the country well by merely criticizing without providing reasons why these goals do not best serve our national security.

If there are more effective ways to do things, let's hear them. Yet, the Democrats are silent.

Yarger spends some time talking about uncertainty and ambiguity, and how the unknown plays a role in formulating strategy.

To hear the Democrats tell it, uncertainty is a sign of a failure in strategy. Such is hardly the case. However, a sound strategy will try to account for the unknown.

We do not know with certainty the state of Iran's nuclear program. We do not know with certainty how Iran will use its nuclear weapons once it has them.

This uncertainty is part of what led the Bush Administration to invade Iraq. We did not know the state of Hussein's WMD programs, so preemption, justified by Iraq's continued defiance of the UN, was deemed to be in our strategic interest.

This, too, is something critics should answer with respect to Iran. Granted, we don't know all we wish we did about Iran. But, how do we manage the risk inherent in these uncertainties? The Left's answer seems to be to give up and just let Iran have its nuclear weapons.

That is not a strategy, however, and a nation without a strategy will be left flatfooted in the choking dust by a nation that does have one.

Iran clearly has a strategy. Do we, and what are we prepared to do to implement it?

The Government of Balochistan in Exile

Yesterday a new blog started up, one devoted to The Government of Balochistan in Exile. The first post reads as follows:

Today is an important day for the entire Baloch (Baluch) nation as we embark on establishing a secular entity, The Government of Balochistan in Exile. Our goal is to use the power of the Internet to liberate the Baloch nation. To achieve sovereignty, we are going to structure our Government to emulate other sovereign nations.

Respected Balochi noblemen have unanimously agreed to nominate the Khan of Kalat, His Highness Mir Suleman Dawood Khan, as the King of Balochistan. They have also selected the red, blue, green flag with a white glowing sun as the Flag of Balochistan (as shown above).

Our War of Independence has begun. Baloch warriors have launched a low-level guerrilla-style insurgency in the Iranian province of Sistan O Baluchistan and the Pakistani province of Balochistan. Military forces of both Iran and Pakistan are battling with us on many fronts. Sadly, the Iranians and the Pakistanis are playing dirty by conducting extra judicial arrests and murder of noncombatant, innocent Baloch citizens.

Representative of our Government have contacted political leaders of numerous countries and presented them with evidence of systematic human rights violations committed by the ruthless Iranian and Pakistani government forces on Baloch citizens. We have initiated the process of forming cordial relations with the governments of Afghanistan, India, Israel, Russia and USA.

In these columns, we will also try to respond to all the state sponsored propaganda against the Baloch by the Iranian and Pakistani governments.

Mir Azaad Khan Baloch
General Secretary

Previous Posts

More unrest in SE Iran
The growing civil war in Baluchistan
Roundup of events in Balochistan
Iran hits back
The Port of Gwadar
Roundup of events in Balochistan

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Is there such a thing as coincidence?

Iran's former President Rafsanjani is now the Chairman of the Expediency Council.

The Expediency Council was put in place in 1988 to help mediate differences between the Majlis and the Council of Guardians.

Rafsanjani made a visit to Syria last week. And what did he do there?

Iran's influential former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani met with leaders of the radical Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad as well as the head of the Shiite Lebanese Hezbollah movement, Iranian sources said, according to AFP.

Rafsanjani is on a four-day visit to the Syrian capital amid worldwide alarm over Iran's announcement Tuesday that it had successfully enriched uranium, a process that can lead to the production of fuel for nuclear power plants or the fissile core of an atomic bomb.

"The Palestinian resistance has today reached a new phase which requires the support of all Muslim countries... to reach victory," Rafsanjani said, according to an Iranian source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Rafsanjani met Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah late Wednesday at the Iranian embassy in Damascus, the source said.

Nasrallah said that Iran's ability to enrich uranium would "be a large moral boost to the resistance."

An Iranian diplomatic source also said that on Wednesday night Rafsanjani met Hamas's political supremo Khaled Meshaal and Islamic Jihad's secretary-general Ramadan Shaleh, AFP noted.

Is it a coincidence, then, that yesterday a suicide bomber killed nine in Tel Aviv?

Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility for the operation. (Vital Perspective has the story of one of the tragic deaths, as well as additional coverage.)

If you're inclined to think coincidence, recall that in January, Iranian President Ahmadinejad made a visit to Syria. He, too, met with Palestinian terrorist leaders, including representatives of Islamic Jihad. And while he was there, a suicide bomber attacked a Tel Avis restaurant on January 19, killing only himself, fortunately.

Responsibility for that attack was claimed by, you guessed it, Islamic Jihad.

Two visits to Syria by high-ranking Iranian officials. Two meetings with Islamic Jihad, among others. Two suicide bombers in Israel courtesy of Islamic Jihad shortly after those meetings.

In fact, the same restaurant was hit in both attacks. Iran is saying to Israel, bluntly, attack our nuclear facilities and there will be more of this.

While Rafsanjani was on his trip, There was a conference in Teheran on Palestinian solidarity. Iranian leaders were clear in their support for the Palestinians.

The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has called on the Muslim world to help the Palestinian people and their Hamas-led government.

Both he and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched strong attacks on the West as a three-day forum on Palestinian solidarity began in Tehran.

The US Treasury has this week further tightened Palestinian cash flows.

But Palestinian PM Ismail Haniya said on Friday the cuts in funds would not weaken the people's resolve.

Late on Friday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow had agreed to provide "urgent financial aid" to the Palestinian Authority.

The US and European Union cut off aid to the authority after Hamas took power on 30 March, because the militant group refuses to renounce violence and recognise Israel.

Ayatollah Khamenei, opening the Tehran conference, said all Muslims had a duty to help the Palestinian people and should not remain indifferent to tyranny.

The chain of plots by the American government aimed at governing the Middle East through the control of the Zionist regime will not succeed

He launched a scathing attack on the West, saying its liberal democracy was like a poison.

He said global imperialism led by the US president openly threatened the Muslim world by talking about launching a crusade against it.

President Ahmadinejad widened the attack to include Israel, which he said was "a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm".

Steve Schippert has more on the conference here and here. Steve writes:

Not many news outlets have taken note of Iran’s hosting of the Third International Conference on Qods and Support for the Rights of Palestinian People. Do a Google News search for International Conference on Qods and Support for the Rights of Palestinian People. As of Monday morning, only two sites were listed among the first entire page of links: Iran’s state-run IRNA and MehrNews. This is unfortunate considering the importance the conference plays in Iran’s increasingly open co-opting of the Palestinian issue for their own strategic gain and their increasing influence within the Sunni Hamas.

Can Iran be any clearer on its intentions to use terrorism as a way to intimidate its perceived enemies? Iran is saying it is willing to use suicide bombers if attacked by the West. It is a warning painted in blood.

I'll agree with those like James Fallows that the use of the military option against Iran is hardly the best of options. But Iran wants to use these attacks to cow us, to have us trembling in our boots, wringing our hands that nothing can be done to stop Iran's march to nuclear weapons.

Imagine this regime with nuclear weapons. Imagine the next Islamic Jihad operative marching into Tel Aviv not with an explosive belt around his waist, but with a nuclear bomb in the back of his truck. We are so willing to let this regime threaten the world with nuclear weapons?

We have not yet fully experienced nuclear terrorism. Are we so eager to taste it?

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

Midnight! And the graphic violence warning just turned into a pumpkin.

The recaps show us Evelyn and Jack in the car. It's really not clear if Henderson killed Evelyn and Amy. Though, hard to believe Henderson would leave them alive.

We hear Logan's inspiring "None of this should have happened speech." And, Logan telling Karen to apprehend Jack, top priority.

Again, this whole bit smells of the writers making this up midstream. If Logan really was dirty from the beginning, why did he reinstate Jack? Jack was going to go after Palmer's killers. If Logan knew what was going on, why let Jack even get that close to the truth? And in his conversation with Henderson, Cummings was mentioned. Did Cummings know that Logan was behind his mission? Apparently not, because in their scenes together before he hanged himself, Walt sure was convincing in acting like a guy who had no idea Logan was part of the deal. And Logan sure did a convincing job of acting like a guy who was terrified of the operation. And Itzin most likely had no idea at the time he really was the bad guy. If Walt knew about Logan, you'd think he'd have left a note before he killed himself saying "That rat fink Logan was part of this too."

Another thing I'm puzzled about is why Henderson, I assume, also went after Tony and Michelle and Chloe. Who knew that they knew Jack was alive? And if the point of killing Palmer was because he knew about the nerve gas, why did Henderson think these three also knew? Why those three and not others? Cummings and Logan knew that Palmer called Martha, so why aren't they worried that Martha knows? At the time it was played up that the three CTU agents knew Jack was alive. (and explained nothing about what that had to do with Palmer's knowledge.) But when Henderson first saw Jack in his office, he seemed to not know that Jack was alive before that moment. Me no get it.

And so, as Day 5 turns into Day 6, or Day 5a, or something, a TV talking head is saying that martial law is in effect even though Logan just said there was no terrorist threat. Which is a pretty darn good point.

Logan is once again on the phone with Henderson, who is still driving around. Henderson says Bauer is not dead. What is this, the third time he's relayed this happy news to Logan? Henderson says the city is locked down tight *snort* and CTU will find Bauer, and Logan should make sure he's the first to know, so Henderson's men can intercept.

Henderson's men?! His brand new team is lying in dead, bloody heaps back at the bank. Has he recruited yet another team in the last two minutes? Chris Henderson: Master Recruiter.

So, Logan dutifully calls up Karen and chews her out, telling her to call him the instant they have something on Bauer. Miles is just popping out of his buttons he is so eager to nail Audrey's hide to the wall.

We cut to Jack and Wayne crouching behind a car somewhere. And... Bill Buchanan shows up! What?! How?! When?! Did Jack call him? If so, when? After they escaped the bank? So Bill happened to only be two minutes away? Whew, that was sure fortunate. Yeesh.

As is abundantly clear, then, this city is not exactly "locked down". People zip around with no trouble at all. Bill had no trouble getting to this location. Henderson's army had no trouble getting to the bank. And so forth and so on. Wayne will go with Bill.

Jack tells us that Heller will take the tape to the Attorney General. Oh. That's the first we've heard of this wrinkle to the plan. When did they work that out? Again, in the retreat from the bank? Jack has been busy on the phone these last couple minutes. Wonder if he remembered to call someone to go untie the bank manager's wife.

Audrey is at Hangar 112, near the emergency runway. Just what is an emergency runway, anyway? If your plane is in trouble, isn't pretty much any runway an emergency runway?

DaD's plane arrives. I'm no expert (oops, suppose I should do some research), but that looks like a smallish plane to be flying all the way from Japan.

Audrey thanks Dad, but Heller glibly says "I don't know what it is I'm doing, so don't thank me yet." Heller says he doesn't like being kept in the dark. Which is pretty funny, considering it's 12:07 AM, and they're outside, and it's, you know, dark and all.

At this point Jack comes roaring up in his purloined cop car. I wonder if the dead bank manager is still in the back seat. Considering what happens at the end of this episode, I think Mr. Mussman was just left there. I hope poor Mrs. Mussman gets her husband's body back at some point.

Jack tells Heller he has something to show him, and they retire to a nearby building. But instead of showing Heller something, Jack plays the tape of the phone call.

Jack says he trusts the source. Which, considering it came from a flunky Jack had never met before today, indicates Jack is a very trusting soul. He must have discounted the great difficulty involved in taping a phone call of the President of the United States, and assumed a First Lady's aide could've pulled it off.

Heller says he was terrified when Logan took the oath. Too bad we don't live in some banana republic. DaD could've used the military at his disposal and staged a coup and we wouldn't be in this drippy mess. DaD will take the tape to the AG, and Audrey will go with.

Jack says he will go dark until the AG acts. (I wonder why it is "go" dark, and not "become" dark, or "turn" dark, or... ok, I'm done now.)

But, suddenly Heller returns and...what's this! A bit of SecDef-fu! Heller chops Jack and puts him on the ground! Jack is getting rusty, if an old man can surprise him and put him down.

Heller says the truth will destroy the Presidency. He will go and talk to Logan and get him to resign quietly. Jack and Audrey will be held at the airport till Heller talks to Logan.

Oh, very bad Heller. Very bad.

Going into the first commercial break, the clocks are at :11 to :11, but coming back, the clocks are at :16 to :14. *blink*

Midnight! And the graphic violence warning just turned into a pumpkin.

The recaps show us Evelyn and Jack in the car... Oh dear, we seem to be in some kind of time loop.

Chloe is all miffed at not being invited to a Level 3 briefing. Shari won't say what it is about, so Chloe pumps her for information. Oh, and Miles is listening in on this little conversation. They bugged Shari? Shari lets slip that they are on to Chloe.

Chloe scampers back to her command post and immediately calls... a pay phone? Huh? Why isn't she calling Audrey's cell phone? How does Chloe even know to call this pay phone? She got the number when?

Miles immediately traces the untraceable call to the Van Nuys airport. Some goons walk through CTU, and Chloe realizes Shari set her up. Shari whines "You're working against us!" Oh, suddenly Shari is part of "us" now. (You'll recall Shari said she came up from the apparently gas-free downstairs, so wasn't part of this HS takeover effort.) Logan is informed that CTU has a bead on Jack and Audrey.

Logan calls up Karen and has her call of her tac team. Logan says he'll use a military team to bring in Bauer. (Apparently Posse Comitatus doesn't apply here?)

Logan then immediately calls Henderson and informs him of Jack's location.

Jack and Audrey are tied to a post. I suppose if Heller sanctioned the torture of his son, Stoner, he has no qualms about having his daughter tied to a post.

Back at the presidential retreat, we Mike Novick again! He hasn't been around for awhile.

Karen calls him, and Mike says he was "on other things." I hope these other things aren't as kooky as what's going on today. Karen is wondering why Logan wants to use the military. Mike says the "military has its hands full." I don't know with what. Their checkpoints sure haven't stopped a dang thing so far.

Mike calls up General Warren. Someone named Beth says "You're connected", but the krazy kaptions say "You're on."

General Warren says he received no call from Logan, and is not on any kind of Jack retrieval mission.

Mike thinks to himself "hmmmm", and goes to see Logan.

Ah, finally. Logan brings up the situation with China. You'd think someone would've thought of that this morning, when Jack was running all over town leaving a trail of destruction in his wake.

Logan says "I've done a pretty good job of leading this country today." Uh, er, right, Chuckles. Whatever you say. (For rebuttal, see all previous rants.)

Clocks are at :30 to :28

Miles confronts Chloe. Chloe gives him the standard cliché, "You have no idea what you're dealing with." Miles is extra special smarmy when he says "You think the rules don't apply to you because you're smarter than the rest of us. Well, they do and you're not." Miles sounds like a whiny kid in junior high school band who's been told the cool kids don't want him to sit with them on the bus.

As Miles is leaving, Master Pickpocket Chloe bumps him and takes his key card. Miles says through clenched smarmy teeth, "Don't touch me." Chloe gets off another zinger when she says "I don't think you're as big a jerk as you pretend to be." I really don't think Miles is pretending.

So, Chloe uses the key card to get out, and she takes a laptop that just happens to be sitting near by. She heads out into one of CTU's many deserted concrete hallways, only to run into Shari. Who knows why Shari is back there.

She is about to turn Chloe in, but Chloe says she knows Shari lied about Miles, and that she'll turn Shari in for a psych eval. Since Chloe knows she is talking to a complete nutter, it's not clear then why she tells Shari all about Logan. Shari relents and Chloe leaves.

Back at the ranch, Martha wonders if Logan is coming to bed. Heller calls at that moment, asking to see Logan. Heller insists, and Logan once again gets all huffy about how people should address the President.

Logan tells another quick lie to Martha. He's pathological, I tell you.

Logan again immediately calls Henderson, who is, good grief, at some helo pad! How did he arrange this? Who are these men with him? Once again, the military did a bang up job of preventing these guys from driving to wherever it is they are.

And how is Henderson, Master Recruiter, finding all these guys? Are they sitting at home, their harridan wife in curlers and ratty robe nagging them about fixing the faucet, kids screaming, when Henderson calls, and they just leap up, throw the Uzi in the trunk and head out?

Henderson says he's ten minutes away from the airport. He believes Jack still has the tape, as Heller wouldn't be dumb enough to bring it to Logan. (It's not clear why they assume Jack is still at the airport if Heller is going to Logan. Couldn't Jack have gone anywhere?)

Clocks are at :40 to :37.

Martha, like some nosy neighbor, is looking through some window blinds as Heller enters the retreat. Not sure what she is worried about, or why.

She goes to see Aaron, who is saying "completely unacceptable" as Martha rounds the corner. She asks Aaron about why Heller is there. He won't say. But, he tells her to meet him by the south stable in a few minutes. (The stable is where Aaron first found Martha this morning. She was hiding there after another of her bbtty-bbbttyy episodes.)

Logan offers a handshake to Heller, but Heller just stands there like a statue. Heller says "I know what you did, I know what you're doing, and I'm here to put a stop to it."

Logan tries ye olde "I don't know what you're talking about", but Heller says "You're responsible for the murder of David Palmer!" (Why do they keep focusing on Palmer? Why is that more important than causing all the terrorist attacks today?)

Logan says he'd like to hear the tape. Heller says "Why? You know exactly what you said." Hah! It's good to have you back, SecDef.

Logan squawks that Heller shouldn't judge him. He admits that the original plan was to control the oil supply in Central Asia. Not sure how that was going to work. Were we just going to back up our tankers and fill them up?

Heller wants Logan to leave Jack and Audrey alone, and resign in the morning.

Oh, some more of that cool James Bond-y/Peter Gunn-y music as Chloe pulls up to some house. (Again, completely unmolested by the military checkpoints.)

Hmm, is this Bill's house? Bill is there.

Back by the stables, Martha is alone. She calls Aaron's cell, and hears something ringing. She finds Aaron's phone on the ground. Huh? Aaron has been aaron-napped? By whom? Did someone follow him? Did they suspect Aaron? Why?

Back at the post, Jack sees some pipes. Chilled Return and Hot Return. He scampers up and melts his restraining band on the pipe. That must be some hot hot water. he frees Audrey, and Jack-fus the guard outside the door.

Clocks are at :52 to :48.

Out on the tarmac, the other agent is wondering where Wexler is. Jack gets the drop on him and gets the tape back. However, just at that moment, a helicopter shows up with guns blazing.

Jack and Other Agent take cover behind the plane wheels, and Jack acknowledges they'll have to work together. He tosses the guy's gun back.

A gun battle ensues. Lots of baddies killed. Good Guy agent goes down. Jack blows up a couple by shooting a fuel tank.

All the while, Henderson is running for the building, completely impervious to bullets. (Lucky guess on Henderson's part, assuming Audrey and/or the tape might be in that building, and not anywhere else at the airport.)

Jack follows him into the building. Henderson says he has Audrey and wants the tape. Henderson says he is just protecting the integrity of the government. Jack says the government has no integrity with Emperor Logan sitting on the throne.

The krazy kaptions have Henderson saying "get up", but we don't hear anything. He comes out with Audrey, who is bleeding profusely from an arm wound.

Henderson says it's the left brachial artery. Audrey has maybe three minutes to live.

Audrey urges Jack not to give up the tape. But, Jack is re-smitten with Audrey, so he tosses over the tape. (At least we assume it's the tape and not some fake he conveniently had in his pocket.)

Henderson squeezes off a few shots and runs. Jack improvises a tourniquet.

At the retreat, Hal comes in. Heller says Logan has something to say. Just as Logan is about to say he'll resign, Henderson calls. He says he has the tape.

Logan reassesses his position, and tells Hal that he wants Heller to resign. Hal is quite befuddled by all this.

Heller is dumbfounded, but quickly realizes what the phone call was all about. Logan asks security to escort Heller the heck out of there.

Henderson breaks a car window. Apparently he is going to do some *more* driving around. Completely unmolested by checkpoints, of course. I wonder if he took his Unrestricted sticker from Evelyn's car, or if he has another one in his pocket.

The episode ends with the clocks at :60 to :56.

And now, once again, here is guest critic Paul Foth. He just flew in from Japan, and boy are his arms tired!


So, let me get this straight. In a few weeks, Jack is going undercover with the Secret Service in order to investigate Michael Douglas, who may or may not be a presidential assassin? And one of the desperate housewives is his sidekick?

Oh, wait. That's The Sentinel.

So, Jack's going to investigate the appearance of a mysterious black obelisk in the movie version of the Arthur C. Clarke short story that was (very loosely) the basis for 2001, only now they're going back and sticking more closely to the source material? Are we going to see Jack go back in time and use a femur to beat the tar out of a caveman? "SHOW WHERE FOOD IS! NOW!!"

On to a few comments about the episode.

The writers haven't forgotten about China! Logan used it as an excuse for why he used a "covert team" to go after Jack at the airport. I may be dreaming, but could they possibly be planting a seed for next season? It'd be great to see China and Germany mount Operation Whack-a-Jack. (Yes, that operation name is inspired by the favorite game at CTU HQ, Whack-a-Mole.) My suspicion is that we'll never hear about this again, but it was nice to have that tiny bit of continuity slip in. I bet the intern who slipped it into the script is now cleaning toilets at the Fox affiliate in Topeka.

Jack asks Bill to take Wayne to a safe place. Bill agrees. The next thing we see is Jack closing the trunk of the police car. Bill was standing next to him, but Wayne wasn't in the shot. So help me, for a second I thought Jack and Bill had put him in the trunk.

Where's Aaron?! That was probably the best-handled bit of the episode, when Martha goes to look for him, and he's just not there. I think it was a good choice to not show the viewers who grabbed him or where he is.

On the weaker side, I dig the new 007 music they're using, but when they used it in conjunction with Chloe (Bond. Chloe Bond.), I thought she'd end up doing something a little sneakier than driving to Bill's house and slinging some technobabble around, something more in keeping with her swiping Miles the Weasel's (CTU HQ is just swarming with small woodland mammals, isn't it?) key card.

The episode's oogiest moment had to have been when Marwan--I mean, Henderson--cut Audrey. It really shows the difference between Jack and Christopher, because when Jack gets an enemy to do something by attacking an enemy's loved one, he doesn't open major arteries. So of course Jack gives Christopher the recording, and of course Christopher escapes. Again.

But did Jack really give Christopher the recording? We never saw Christopher listen to it. I'm wondering if Jack engaged in more subterfuge and still has the recording with him. Still, this bit allowed Logan to get the upper hand against SecDef (and if you didn't see that coming with the way the scene with Logan, SecDef, and BOB went on and on and on, as if the three actors were all thinking, "Come on, when's that phone supposed to ring?", well, then you'd be better off watching 24 instead of--oh, wait, never mind), demonstrating that perhaps SecDef is the new David Palmer in terms of his tactical decision making skills.

Well, that's it for me. I'm going off the grid AND dark for the next five weeks, so if the finale is a two-hour episode, I probably won't be back for the end of the season. As you know, though, Jeff is more than capable of carrying this little rant fest by himself.


Number of times Jack says "Now!": 19
Number of times Jack says "No!": 8
Number of times a "protocol" is mentioned: 37
Number of times someone says a variation of "Go!": 29
Number of moles: 4
Approximate Body Count: 90 (plus three rats, plus one human nerve gas guinea pig, plus 11 in the mall food court (and no, not from food poisoning), plus one security camera, plus 56 in CTU)

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

Monday, April 17, 2006

Unrest in Iran

The seeds for the downfall of the Iranian regime may already lie within Iran. One of the Bush Administration's most egregious mistakes has been its negligence in encouraging and supporting dissidents in Iran. And yet, the tighter the mullahs try to squeeze its citizens, the more they struggle and fight back. Here are some examples of the hatred for the regime simmering beneath the surface.

Ahfaz - Arabs in SW Iran

Young demonstrators in Ahwaz, provincial capital of Khuzistan, Southern Iran, attacked the 19th precinct's police station and hurled stones at police vehicles.

According to latest reports from Ahwaz, demonstrators clashed with the police in and around the 19th district of the city on Saturday.

Hamid Mashaal, deputy commander of Ahwaz Police, said: Assailants hurled hand grenade at the police station in an Arab neighborhood of the city injuring one police officer.

NW Iran - Kurds

"The Iranian government's plan to create a global Islamic state is destroying our people's culture and -values," said Akif Zagros, 28, a Persian literature graduate who serves on Pejak's seven-strong ruling council. "But we want all nations to be democratic, to live together and learn from each other." Pejak, the Party for Freedom and Life in Kurdistan, is fast becoming a threat to Teheran. The group, founded in 1998, claims to have hundreds of thousands of followers among Iran's estimated four million Kurds, and has been denounced as a terrorist organisation by Teheran for carrying out attacks within the borders of the Islamic republic.

SE Iran - Baluchs

Armed rebels have killed two army officers, and shot a top cleric in troubled Sistan-Baluchistan province in southeastern Iran, a press report said.

A report in hardline Jomhuri Eslami newspaper said rebels on Friday shot and "seriously wounded" Hojatoleslam Yusef Mohammadi Soleimani, who represents the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the Center for Higher Education in Iranshahr.

Mostafa Ahmadi and Behzad Qolipour, non-commissioned army officers, were shot over the weekend.

Eshaq Nezamdoust, another local official in charge of distributing oil products in Iranshahr, was reportedly abducted Saturday morning by six armed men.

The other day in the Corner, Michael Ledeen touched on the labor unrest that is brewing in Iran, referring to a report in Spiegel Online. (Rasht is in north-central Iran, just in from the Caspian Sea shoreline.)

Angered by unpaid salaries and generally low wages, workers in the northern Iranian provincial capital Rasht blocked streets and protested in front of government offices a fortnight ago brandishing banners that read: "We are hungry!" It wasn't the first time that thousands of employees at the country's largest state-owned textile factory had laid down their tools. But this time they were joined by dam workers in the western province of Elam and employees of a pharmaceutical factory in Tehran. Recently, workers have also gone on strike against harsh work conditions and impending layoffs in mines and petrochemical plants across the country, with hundreds of coal miners from the northern province of Gilan protesting the fact that they have not been paid for 13 months. Workers were also on strike in the car factories of the Iran-Khodro company, already the site of a massive work stoppage on last year's Day of Social Welfare and Securities (July 16), when strikers demanded t he introduction of a minimum wage.

In December 2002, then Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said "Iran is a democracy." That statement was a howler, and would've been funny if it didn't so wildly mischaracterize this regime.

The dissatisfied people above are not free to change their plight through the free exercise of democracy. Why isn't the US doing more to encourage the rise of true democracy in Iran?

(As an aside, blogger Austin Bay said this on Hugh Hewitt's radio show last Friday.

I said I'm not a particular Rumsfeld fan. I thought from the beginning that someone like Rich Armitage ought to be Secretary of Defense.

What could Mr. Bay possibly be thinking? We do not need a SecDef so willfully blind to the nature of the Iranian regime, and I'm disappointed in Mr. Bay for his comments.)

Roundup of events in Balochistan

Though not given focused attention in the Western media, the unrest in Balochistan continues. With increased Taliban activity to the north, the Baloch nationalist movement flies under the radar. These updates are from the South Asia Terrorism Portal.

April 1

An employee of the Water and Power Development Authority was killed and three others wounded in a landmine explosion in the Mach area of Bolan district in Balochistan province on March 31, according to Dawn. The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Meanwhile, insurgents reportedly blew up four pylons of the Quetta-Sibi double circuit transmission line near the Mach area on March 31, disrupting power supply to Quetta and several other areas in Balochistan. According to officials, the insurgents planted explosive devices around the four towers of the 220 KV Quetta-Sibi and 132 KV Quetta-Sibi double circuit transmission line in Kartani, some seven kilometres away from Mach township, and detonated them at around 2:27am. A vast swath of territory stretching from northern to southern Balochistan was plunged into darkness and power supply was suspended to 37 grid stations, according to Dawn.

Further, the insurgents also blew up a railway bridge and track at the Sibi-Harnai section on the same day. Separately, an employee of the Sui Northern Gas Company was injured when he was struck by an anti-personnel landmine in the Talnet area of Sui. Official sources added that rocket and mortar fire was exchanged in parts of Dera Bugti and Kohlu.

April 2

According to The News, three soldiers were injured when their vehicle struck a landmine in the Kali Mat area of Dera Bugti district in Balochistan province on April 1. In another incident, two passengers of a vehicle were wounded when their vehicle struck a landmine in the Piri area of the same district.

In the provincial capital Quetta, Baloch insurgents hurled a hand grenade into the house of a police personnel in the Sariab Road locality on April 1-afternoon wounding his daughter-in-law.

Further, the insurgents fired five rockets from atop nearby mountains damaging a perimeter wall of the Government Degree College in Dera Bugti. Separately, armed men fired 13 rockets at a check-post of the paramilitary Frontier Corps in the Pathar Nullah area of Pir Koh. However, no casualties were reported in these incidents.

April 3

13 people, including nine security force (SF) personnel, were killed and 28 others sustained injuries in a series of landmine blasts and attacks on troops in various parts of Balochistan province on April 2, according to The News.

Meanwhile, seven SF personnel were killed during another landmine blast near Sanni Cross in the Dhahdhar area of Bolan district.

Further, a bomb blast was reported from a field camp of the Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) in Kohlu district. A clash which erupted between insurgents and SF personnel after the explosion killed two soldiers and wounded eight. "The fighting is still on," a security official told Reuters.

April 5

At least seven personnel of the Frontier Corps (FC) were killed and 11 injured in two landmine blasts in the Loti and Ghori areas of Dera Bugti district in Balochistan province on April 3 and 4, according to Nawab Akbar Bugti. Official sources, however, confirmed the death of two FC personnel with injuries to six others, Dawn reported.

Calling from an unidentified place on telephone, Nawab Bugti alleged that security forces (SFs) had demolished hundreds of houses of Bugti tribesmen outside the Sui gas-field. He said that the Government had set up a force comprising people of Bandlani clan who were helping the SFs in raiding and demolishing the houses of Bugti tribesmen. He also claimed that troops had fired many rockets and mortar shells at his fort in Dera Bugti, which was lying vacant for the last two months.

April 6

Two rocket attacks targeting check posts of the Frontier Corps (FC) were reported from the Dera Bugti district of Balochistan province on April 5. According to Dawn, tribesmen fired nine 107mm rockets at an FC check post in the Dera Bugti area. Another FC post in the Gundoi area was targeted with five rockets. However, no loss of life or property was reported in both incidents.

In a related development, police arrested six persons from the Subatpur area and seized arms and ammunition from their possession. The seizure included 12 anti-tank mines, six AK-47 assault rifles and four rockets. During another raid by the FC personnel, five anti-tank mines and two rockets were seized near Gwadar although no arrest was reported.

April 7

Gas supply to a number of factories in the Lasbela Industrial Estate was disrupted after a gas pipeline in Hub, the industrial town of Balochistan, was blown up on April 6, Dawn reported. According to official sources, some people had planted an explosive device under the pipeline supplying gas to factories in Hub. A caller identifying himself as Mirak Baloch and claiming to be a spokesman of the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) told newsmen on the phone that the BLA carried out the blast and a hand-grenade attack on the house of a police constable in Quetta, the provincial capital.

A state-owned bank building was damaged when two bombs exploded in the Wadh area, about 400km southeast of Quetta, on April 6. "The bombs had been planted by terrorists near the main gate of the Agriculture Development Bank. The blast damaged the structure, but no one was hurt as the bank was closed at the time," a police officer told Associated Press.

April 8

At least three persons were killed in landmine blasts and exchange of fire between security forces and insurgents in the Wadh area of Khuzdar district and Dera Bugti in Balochistan, according to The News. Official sources said firing continued for several hours between the two sides in Wadh. They said a convoy of the security forces was on its way from Karachi when it was attacked by armed men riding motorbikes. One of the bullets hit the driver of the official vehicle killing him on the spot while two soldiers died subsequently. Later, the armed men set ablaze the vehicle and escaped from the incident site. Seven others were injured during the crossfire, the sources added.

In Chaghai, officials of the Levies force said a hospital operating under the supervision of a foreign NGO was attacked with hand grenades. However, no loss of life was reported.

April 9

According to The News, dozens of alleged supporters of Nawab Akbar Bugti laid down their arms on April 8 and surrendered to authorities in Balochistan. The 40 men claimed they had been fighting security forces and damaging gas facilities in the province on the orders of Nawab Akbar Bugti, said Abdul Samad Lasi, the district coordination officer of Dera Bugti district. The insurgents led by Zafar alias Zafru and Shah Mor surrendered their weapons at a public ceremony in Dera Bugti, 300 kilometers south-east of the provincial capital Quetta, Lasi informed.

However, Nawab Bugti’s spokesman Agha Shahid denied the allegations, and said the 40 men were "robbers" and had no links with the tribal leader.

April 10

The Government on April 9 banned the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) after declaring it as a terrorist organisation for its alleged involvement in terrorist activities. According to a notification issued by the Interior Ministry, the BLA is headed by some tribal leaders. The notification has been sent to provincial Governments for action against the outfit. The Federal Government exercised its powers under section 11(b) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997, to declare the BLA a terrorist organisation.

April 11

Two persons, identified as Ahmed Yar and Muhammad Nawaz, was killed and 20 others sustained injuries in a bomb explosion at Kohlu in the Balochistan province on April 10, according to Dawn. "A home-made bomb planted in a barber shop went off, killing one person," an official said. The blast also destroyed four shops in the town’s main bazaar. A suspect was later detained in connection with the incident.

At least five troops of the Makran Scouts, a wing of the Frontier Corps (FC), were wounded after a landmine exploded in the Mand area of Turbat district near the Iranian border. The incident occurred as the FC vehicle was on its way to Turbat from Mand. Separately, at least six rockets were fired on FC check-posts in the Dera Bugti area on April 10-morning.

In another incident, a bomb exploded in Gwadar on April 10-night, damaging window-panes of houses on the Hospital Road. Further, a hand-grenade was hurled into a house in Nushki. However, no loss of life or injuries was reported.

Meanwhile, insurgents blew up rail tracks near Nushki on the Quetta-Zahidan sector. Railway officials said that rail traffic on the Quetta-Zahidan section was suspended after a two-foot section of the track was blown up.

April 13

Two persons, identified as Mian and Shahil, were killed and an equal number injured in a landmine blast in the Sui area of Dera Bugti district in the Balochistan province on April 12. Officials said a vehicle carrying five persons was on its way from Sui to the Gandoi area when it struck a roadside landmine at Dilbar Mit.

In another incident, suspected insurgents fired six missiles at a check-post of the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC) on April 12 in the Pir Koh area. Further, armed insurgents reportedly attacked an FC check-post in the Talngo area of Kohlu district on the same day. However, the rockets landed in an abandoned area, causing no damage. Separately, insurgents fired indiscriminately at the Chashma check-post of FC. However, they fled after security forces opened retaliatory fire. No loss of life was reported.

April 14

Suspected tribal rebels fired at least 10 rockets at a Frontier Corps (FC) check post in Dera Bugti and later blew up a water supply line in Pir Koh in the Balochistan province, according to Daily Times. However, no casualty was reported either in the incident or during the subsequent army retaliation. Blowing up of the water supply line resulted in the suspension of water supply to Pir Koh. Separately, security force personnel defused two landmines in the Pir Koh area.

April 15

On April 14, insurgents blew up a railway bridge and track on the Sibi-Harnai section near the Tandori area of Balochistan province. Officials said that explosives were planted under the 150-foot bridge, which was blown up for the second time in the past one and a half months. The train service on the Sibi-Harnai section had been suspended since the bridge was destroyed last month.

Meanwhile, armed insurgents reportedly fired at least 20 rockets on various Frontier Corps (FC) check-posts on April 14. Sources said that 15 rockets landed near FC check-posts in the Pir Koh, Chashma, Sangsilla areas of Dera Bugti district. Further, the insurgents also fired five rockets on a check-post in the Mand area near the Iranian border. However, no loss of life or injuries was reported in these incidents.

April 17

According to Dawn, one person was killed and a Major of the Frontier Corps (FC) was wounded in an exchange of fire between security forces (SFs) and insurgents in the Toba Kakari area of Pishin district in Balochistan on April 16. The FC personnel were patrolling in the border area of Toba Kakari close to the Afghan border when armed men opened fire on their vehicle.

Meanwhile, suspected insurgents fired at least seven rockets at the security forces’ check posts in Sibi and four in Tandoori. Most rockets landed in open areas but one rocket partially damaged the Hurnai Section bridge halting traffic, according to Daily Times.

The place names will tell you that the attacks occured all over the province, in just about every corner, with the bulk of the attacks concentrated in the area between Quetta and Dera Bugti.

Land mines are a favorite weapon. Akin to IEDs in Iraq, the mines discourage travel and commerce. Easily laid in the mountanious, often inhospitable terrian, mines are difficult to interdict.

You'll also notice attacks on gas pipelines, and on power and water facilities. The first to attack Pakistan's economic interests, and the second to make it harder for Pakistani troops to operate in the region.

Railways and bridges are attacked for similar reasons, to hinder mobility.

The Baloch nationalist movement is not letting up, as the constant pace of attacks will indicate. To this point, the rebels haven't shown they have enough power to defeat Pakistani troops militarily, but the incessant attacks, especially on infrastructure, will have an effect over the long-term. Pakistan may find itself drawn deeper into territory that favors a guerilla movement, and Pakistan may turn to retaliatory attacks.

Combined with the Taliban unrest in Waziristan, Baluchistan poses a problem for Pakistan.

UPDATE: Today, Pakistan's President Musharraf had this to say about Balochistan:

The government has resolved the Balochistan issue "amicably" and no law and order situation exists there anymore, said President General Pervez Musharraf on Monday. The government will introduce administrative reforms in Balochistan, said the president. "Several development projects have been started in Balochistan so that the people of the province can be brought to par with the other provinces," he said. Peace has been restored in the province in letter and spirit, he added.

Uh, President Musharraf, please call your office...

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 senior Egyptian al Qaeda member was killed along with other militants during a Pakistani military raid of a hideout in the northern part of Pakistan, sources have told ABC News. Multiple intelligence sources in Pakistan confirmed to ABC News that they believed Abu Mohsin Musa, also known as Abdul Rahman, had died in the overnight raid. Rahman was one of the FBI's most wanted men with a $5 million bounty on his head. He was indicted in absentia in a New York court for his alleged involvement in the bombings of the United States embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Nairobi, Kenya, on Aug. 7, 1998.

* On Sunday a bomb exploded on the outskirts of Istanbul, wounding 31 people in the latest round of violence in Turkey.

* Hamas is remaining defiant in the face of western aid cuts, and vowing not to allow the Hamas-led government to be toppled. Despite opposition from the United States and Great Britain, Russia is promising financial aid for the Palestinian authority and Iran is calling on the Muslim world to provide funding while pledging $ 50 million in aid to the PA. Following aid cuts a couple weeks ago, the United States has now come out and banned U.S. citizens from doing business with the Hamas led PA.

* Iranian President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad has declared Israel a threat to the Islamic world, saying that "the Zionist regime is a rotten, dried tree that will be eliminated by one storm."

Other topics today include: Iranian suicide bombers; Euro attitudes about Hamas; El Baradei snubbed in Iran; Islamic Jihad vows unity with Iran; Hezbollah accuses U.S.; al Qaeda in Palestine; Chaos in Gaza; Saudi prison release; Yemen al Qaeda arrests; Moussaoui trial; USF Professor deported; Clashes in Chechnya; Violence in Afghanistan; Maoist threat to India; Attacks in Kashmir; Arrests in Baluchistan; Kidnappings in Waziristan; US Offensive in Kunar province; Confrontations in Nepal; Tamil Tiger attacks; Chad/Sudan confrontation; and more.

Iran & the Middle East

* The Sunday Times of London cites unnamed Iranian officials in reporting that Iran has 40,000 trained suicide bombers preparing to strike U.S. and British targets if Iran's nuclear infrastructure is attacked.

* Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal denounced Israel on Saturday, saying "the new government in Palestine will never recognize Israel and there is no other way than resistance to drive out the enemy from our lands." Some believe this attitude along with other events has led to a shift in European attitudes towards the Palestinians.

* In the face of continued defiance from Iran a day after Mohammed El Baradei's diplomatic efforts were brushed aside by the regime in Teheran, the United States is warning that Iran must face accountability.

* According to U.S. authorities, international drug traffickers and money launderers are using a money exchange business in Dubai to funnel $ 4 million to Iran. One of the primary suspects, Hossein Esfahani, is said to have funneled almost four million dollars between 2001 and 2005.

* Islamic Jihad is pledging support to Iran if they are attacked by the United States. According to Islamic Jihad chief Abdullah Ramadan Shala, "Any threat to the Islamic republic is a threat to the Palestinians, and Iran will not be alone in facing these threats. And any aggression against Iran is an aggression against the Palestinians." On Sunday, Shala vowed to continue attacks against Israel in an internet posting.

* Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah is accusing the United States of plotting a civil war in Lebanon.

* Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh appeared at a Hamas rally in Gaza on Friday, and accused the United States of being part of an "unholy alliance" aimed at undermining the recent Palestinian elections.

* An organization calling itself "Al-Qaida's Committee in Palestine" claimed responsibility for an unconfirmed rocket attack on Israel.

* Gaza police officers held violent protests on Saturday over the failure of the Hamas-led government to pay their salaries. Fifty masked officers blocked roads and fired weapons into the air, while al Aqsa Martyr Brigade gunmen seized a government cabinet building. Reports indicate that rival armed factions are seizing pieces of Gaza in the security vacuum.

* Israeli Generals are warning they may launch a ground offensive into Gaza if the constant rocket attacks on Israel continue. On Thursday several armored vehicles rolled into the Gaza briefly to check for IEDs.

* Saudi Arabia freed thousands of former terror suspects late last week, believed to be former minor actors who had recanted.

* Since the August 2005 disengagement, IDF forces have killed some 100 terrorists in the Gaza Strip, 30 of them adjacent to the fence. Additionally, 40 bombs have also been found along the fence.

* On Saturday, Yemen charged two more men with assisting an al Qaeda linked group currently on trial for plotting attacks against U.S. interests in Yemen. The day before, Yemen security forces killed four Shi'ite at a mosque after a firefight erupted.

* The Jerusalem Post is reporting on a meeting two weeks ago that took place between Hamas leader Khaled Marshaal and Sheikh Abd al-Majid al-Zindani, a fund raiser for al Qaeda.

America Domestic Security & the Americas

* Al-Qaeda plotter Zacarias Moussaoui says he wished it could be September 11 every day, and that he had "no remorse" for the carnage, as he mocked grief-stricken survivors as "pathetic" and "disgusting". "It make my day," Moussaoui replied when asked for his reaction to harrowing testimony from families shattered by the loss of loved ones in the 2001 attacks which killed nearly 3,000 people.

* Federal authorities have decided to deport a former University of South Florida professor and long-time Palestinian rights activist after failing to convict him on charges he helped finance terrorist attacks in Israel. Two lawyers familiar with the case say Sami Al-Arian has reached an agreement with prosecutors to plead guilty to a lesser charge and be deported.

* An attorney for an Albany mosque leader has asked the government to turn over any tape recordings of calls that his client allegedly made to a Syrian phone number the Justice Department claims was used to gather intelligence for Osama bin Laden.

* Mexican authorities yesterday began investigations into the involvement of Colombian guerrillas in the shipment of 5.5 tons of cocaine seized from a commercial aircraft. Santiago Vasconcelos, of the Mexican attorney general's office, said there was evidence that the drugs came from guerrillas of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

* Powering ahead with stringent nationalist reforms, Hugo Chávez's Venezuela is showing multinational oil firms little mercy. Tense relations between private firms and Mr. Chávez's government escalated last week when the government seized fields operated by two European oil giants - France's Total and Italy's ENI - after the two companies snubbed government demands to convert their contracts to joint ventures with the state by April 1.

Russia, Caucasus & Central Asia

* In the village of Dargo in the Vedeno district of southeast Chechnya, two Russian soldiers were killed and five others wounded after their combat vehicle hit a remote detonate mine. Following the explosion, the soldiers came under small arms fire and an additional bombing.

* Michael Jordan has an article in the Dallas Morning News on Friday where he challenges the view that al Qaeda had any presence in the Pankisi Gorge in Georgia, and raises questions about whether or not those ties were invoked by the United States to get Russian support for the war on terror.

* On Sunday, one militant was killed and two others wounded in a shootout with local police near the village of Dattykh in the Sunzha District of Chechnya.

* The Kazakh Secret Service (KNB) held counterterrorism discussions with security and ministry representatives, focusing on boosting security around weapons storage facilities, as well as preventing the spread of radical ideology within the prison system.

* Police uncovered a weapons cache in the Nozhai-Yurt district in southeastern Chechnya on Sunday that included a large amount of explosives, and also a round for a grenade launcher and 225 7.62mm cartridges.

* This week Russia will host a new round of discussions with the United States, China and the European Union over Iran's nuclear program.

* Reports indicate a structural shift in Russia's counterterrorism efforts in Chechnya, forming units with 500-700 soldiers assigned to geographic areas that will be under the command of the military commandant’s office of the republic.

* Russian police found 1 kg of plastic explosives in the Nazran district of Ingushetia on Sunday, detaining the owner of the residence who had prior convictions.

Afghanistan & Southern Asia

* Two bombs shook New Delhi's main mosque Friday shortly before worshippers gathered for evening prayers, sending terrified people running through the ornate 17th century complex, officials said. At least 13 people were injured.

* Police have said they had detained four people in connection with the twin blasts at India's biggest mosque that injured 14 people as security was stepped up at temples and mosques across northern India to guard against reprisal attacks.

* In a post at WoC, Joe Katzman writes about "India's biggest internal security threat." And he wasn't referring to Islamists. The Maoist scourge that has brought so much violence to Nepal has also been active in India.

* Five people were killed and 15 wounded when Islamic militants staged a wave of grenade attacks in revolt-hit Indian Kashmir's main city, police said. Four of the attacks took place within an hour in the busy commercial heart of the summer capital Srinagar where an Islamic separatist revolt has raged against New Delhi's rule since 1989, police said on Friday.

* Separatist guerrillas struck yet again in this Jammu and Kashmir capital lobbing a powerful hand grenade at a paramilitary force bunker at Rainawari in the downtown area on Sunday, injuring four civilian bystanders.

* Heavily armed Maoist rebels have killed 10 police officers in an attack in India's eastern Chhattisgarh state. "A group of Naxalites (Maoist rebels) traveling in a bus opened fire and 10 persons have been killed," B.K.S. Ray, a senior state home ministry official, said on the private news channel NDTV.

* Pakistan-based terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammad is responsible for the seven grenade attacks in Kashmir on Friday. Nine persons have been taken into custody in the state in connection with the explosions, Home Secretary VK Duggal said on Saturday.

* An al-Qaida member wanted for his suspected role in the bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa was killed by Pakistani forces in a raid near the Afghan border, a Pakistani Cabinet minister said Thursday. Egyptian Mohsin Musa Matawalli Atwah, 45, who was on the FBI's list of most-wanted terrorists, was killed along with at least six other militants in a raid led by helicopter gunships late Wednesday.

* Commercial life ground to a halt in this Pakistani city in a strike called by a religious party to protest a suicide bombing this week that killed its top leaders and some 50 others. Army troops took up positions in Karachi, where a suicide bomber Tuesday blew himself up on the dais at a public rally commemorating the anniversary of the birth of Prophet Mohammed.

* Pakistani police have detained at least a dozen suspected Islamic militants in connection with a suicide bombing at a Muslim prayer meeting last week that killed 57 people. No group has claimed responsibility for Tuesday's attack in Karachi, where a suicide bomber targeted a congregation of more than 15,000 Sunni Muslims, Pakistan's majority sect, celebrating the birth of the Prophet Mohammad at a city park.

* Unidentified men kidnapped five paramilitary soldiers in North Waziristan a day after the military raided a suspected militants’ hideout, an official said on Friday. The soldiers were kidnapped in Razmak sub-division, 75 kilometres south of Miranshah, the regional headquarters of North Waziristan.

* Some 2,500 Afghan and U.S.-led coalition troops pushed ahead with a massive offensive in Afghanistan's eastern mountains Thursday to flush out rebels believed hiding there, officials said. Backed up by military aircraft, the forces have killed six insurgents since the operation started Tuesday, but there has been no major battle, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammed Zahir Azimi said.

* Six Taliban guerrillas were killed in an air strike by U.S.-led troops in eastern Afghanistan on Friday after blasts elsewhere in the country killed three policemen and wounded two British troops. The air strike was carried out in Kunar province as part of Operation Lion launched on Wednesday to flush out militants from the area, officials said.

* Afghan security forces backed by coalition helicopters attacked a suspected Taliban hideout in southern Afghanistan, setting off an intense gunbattle that killed 41 rebels, a provincial governor said Saturday.

* A Taliban suicide car bomb wounded three coalition soldiers and an Afghan guard today, while three policemen were killed in another Taliban bombing, officials said.

* Here is the CDI's Afghan update for the month of March. It is a roundup of events in Afghanistan.

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

* Nepal's political parties urged people on Sunday to stop paying taxes and international donors to halt aid to the royalist government as an anti-monarchy campaign widened dramatically. Police lobbed dozens of tear gas shells and fired rubber bullets at protesters demanding King Gyanendra give up power, injuring several and arrested dozens.

* Sri Lanka’s army said on Saturday Tamil Tiger rebels had killed four soldiers and wounded five in a claymore fragmentation mine attack on an army bus. The attack took place near the town of Vavuniya, just beyond the southern fringes of rebel territory in the island’s north, the army said.

* Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels detonated mines near two military vehicles in northeastern Sri Lanka, killing eight people in separate attacks, officials said Sunday.

* A monograph from RAND entitled War and Escalation in South Asia looks at how this region has become one of central concern to the US. The report "highlights key factors in the region that imperil U.S. interests, and suggests how and where the U.S. military might play an expanded, influential role."

Far East & Southeast Asia

* Burma's military government has designated four exiled political groups as "terrorist organizations", including offshoots of the National League for Democracy (NLD).

* Four members of Jemaah Islamiah have been blacklisted by the U.S. Treasury, including Radical cleric Abu Bakar Ba'asyir. The move allows assets to be frozen and prevents U.S. citizens from conducting any transactions with the men. The Indonesian Mujahedin Council (MMI) is denying that Abubakar Ba`asyir had financial assets linked to al Qaeda.

* Mindinao in the southern Philippines has been labelled as the "weak link" in counterterrorism efforts in Southeast Asia according to Singapore Senior Minister of State for Law and Home Affairs Ho Peng Kee, who cites ongoing terror training and smuggling of arms and explosives as evidence.

* North Korea announced it was utilizing the time between talks over their nuclear program to make "more deterrent force", a reference to nuclear weapons.

* South Korea is reported to be holding Vietnamese dissident leader Chanh Huu "Tony" Nguyen on terror related charges. Nguyen is said to be a member of the Government of Free Vietnam, an exile group based in California.

* There is little sympathy in Indonesia for the terrorists responsible for the 2002 Bali bombings, as the nation moves closer towards the execution of Amrozi, Imam Samudra, and Ali Gufron for their respective roles in the attack.


* Police have been granted more time to question a 20-year-old man who was detained under the Terrorism Act in a Scottish town. The Central Scotland force has been given a further five days to question Mohammad Siddique, who was detained in Alva, Clackmannanshire, on Thursday.

* A Norwegian police officer has admitted to selling nine passports to a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam member. Because of its terrorist activities the LTTE been proscribed by a number of countries, including the U.S. Britain, Canada, India, Australia and Malaysia. The policeman admitted stealing six passports in 2004 and three passports in 2005 and selling them for more than $3,000 to a 37-year-old LTTE agent living in Norway.

* The Irish Republican Army on Thursday admitted it killed a Catholic civilian during a botched 1974 attempt to ambush British troops, and it apologized to the man's family.

* Britain has deported Hedi Ben Youseff Boudhiba to Spain, a Tunisian accused of helping the 9/11 attackers raise funds.


* Chad's government has announced it has cut off diplomatic relations with Sudan after repelling a rebel attack on the capital, N'Djamena, on Thursday. Sudan denies Chad's accusations that it backs the United Force for Change rebels, who were beaten back by Chadian troops after launching a dawn raid. France is also denying claims that they bombed rebels in Chad.

* Five Islamic publishers in Egypt were arrested on Friday after preparing literature challenging Egypt's Emergency Law. All of those arrested are members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

* The Security Council is threatening to reduce its monitoring force along the border of Ethiopia and Eritrea, unless the two countries settle their border dispute.

* Peace Like a River has a roundup of ongoing African conflicts.

* Libya marked the twentieth anniversary of U.S. airstrikes on Tripoli, ordered by President Reagan in response to a Libyan backed bombing of a Berlin Disco. Deputy parliament speaker Ahmed Ibrahim condemned the United States and declared President Bush "insane".

The Global War

* Terrorist groups, which for years have used the Internet and its various tools to organize and communicate, are paying more attention to addressing security and privacy concerns similar to those of other Web users, counterterrorism experts say.

* The American military said Thursday that it had ordered an investigation into reports that military data was being sold in an Afghan bazaar outside the main American air base at Bagram, north of Kabul. The American commander in Afghanistan has also ordered a policy review of security and accountability of computer hardware and software across the command, the military's statement said. No arrests have been announced, a spokesman said.

* The Washington Post has a Sunday article titled "Al Zawahiri tries to keep al Qaeda in his grips", which highlights the broader Islamist movement beyond al Qaeda and the growing resentment from other militants that al Qaeda is trying to put their face on everything.

* Science Daily takes a look at chemical companions, technology developed at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) that enable first responders and Hazmat teams a high-tech tool in identifying chemical spills.

* Comedy Central has censored a segment of a South Park episode that featured the Prophet Mohammed, but the same episode showed Jesus defecating on an American flag.

* Iran has been appointed to the United Nations Commission on Disarmament.

* Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Counterterrorism Blog has two recent posts on Google News inclusion of Hezbollah television al-Manar as a source, which isn't really surprising considering Google's acceptance of uruknet as a credible "news" source as well as the Democratic Underground.

* Bryan Finoki has an interesting read titled "Genealogy of a Car Bomb" posted at Subtopia.

* A Dutch and two U.S. warships set sail toward the Yemeni coast Sunday to aid a U.S.-flagged sailboat under attack by pirates. No further details are available at this time.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

War and Escalation in South Asia

A monograph from RAND entitled War and Escalation in South Asia examines how this region has become one of primary concern to the US.

The summary says:

The advent of two nuclear powers in South Asia, discoveries of nuclear trafficking, and insurgencies and terrorism that threaten important U.S. interests and objectives directly have transformed the region from a strategic backwater into a primary theater of concern for the United States. The United States, to a great extent free of the restrictions of earlier sanction regimes and attentive to the region’s central role in the global war on terrorism (GWOT), has engaged the states of South Asia aggressively with a wide variety of policy initiatives. Despite the diversity of policy instruments, few are very powerful; indeed, only the U.S. military seems to offer many options for Washington to intensify further its security cooperation and influence in the region. This monograph highlights key factors in the region that imperil U.S. interests, and suggests how and where the U.S. military might play an expanded, influential role. The report notes that the current U.S. military force posture, disposition, and lines of command may not be optimal, given South Asia’s new status in the U.S. strategic calculus, and suggests seven key steps the military might take to improve its ability to advance and defend U.S. interests, not only in South Asia, but beyond it, including the Middle East and Asia at large. Beyond the specifics, however, the broader message arising from this analysis is straightforward: the region’s salience for U.S. policy interests has increased dramatically. It is therefore prudent to intensify Washington’s involvement in the region and to devote the resources necessary to become more influential with the governments within the region. Given the area’s potential for violence, it is also prudent to shape a part of the U.S. military to meet the potential crises emanating from South Asia, just as the United States once shaped its military presence in Western Europe for the contingencies of the Cold War.

The seven steps referred to in the summary include:

* Consider South Asia’s Challenges as Major Transformation Drivers
* Modify the Unified Command Plan
* Fund Intensified U.S. Security Cooperation in South Asia
* Reconsider Contingency Plans for South Asia
* Intensify Intelligence Production on the Region
* Review Special Operations Forces Requirements for the Region
* Further Develop Power Projection Capabilities into the Region

Roundup on African Conflicts


Chad broke off diplomatic relations with Sudan on Friday and threatened to expel 200,000 Sudanese refugees, blaming its neighbor for a rebel attack a Cabinet official said killed 350 in the capital.

President Idriss Deby said he would expel the refugees who fled Sudan’s troubled Darfur region by June 30 if the U.N. and the African Union did not help stop what he said were Sudan’s attempts to destabilize his government.

Gen. Mahamet Ali Abdullah said he did not have a breakdown of the 350 people killed during Thursday’s assault on N’Djamena, but he said the toll included government troops, rebel forces and civilians.


Just as things seemed to be calming down in the delta region of Nigeria after a spate of kidnappings and insurgent attacks, the militant group calling itself the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta - MEND - announced last week to all who would listen that it was planning new violence against oil facilities in the region. Apparently unconcerned about tipping its hand to the authorities, MEND even gave a date for the start of its new campaign: April 25.

MEND has also given "peace demands."

The largest ethnic group in Nigeria's oil-rich Niger Delta region on Sunday laid down conditions for peace and demanded that the impoverished area produce the next president in 2007.

"The Ijaws can no longer be mere spectators but would want to be effective participants in the Nigerian national project, including the issue of producing the next president of Nigeria," said a statement from the Ijaw National Congress, representing Nigeria's fourth largest ethnic group.

Congo (DRC)

The United Nations (UN) says more than 167,000 people have fled fighting between the Army and militias in the Katanga province in the south-east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) since mid-November.

"The number of displaced people continues to rise because several thousand of them, who had stayed hidden in the bush because they were afraid to take the roads, are starting to reach villages where aid is dispatched," Alfred Gondo, the head of the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA), said.

The wave of newly-displaced comes in addition to 121,000 others who had fled the war-torn region of the vast central African state in 2005 following continued unrest.


A report from the International Crisis Group looks at the future of this country.

For too long, public figures within and outside Africa have been timid about discussing Guinea’s deep-rooted problems. Its strong anti-imperialist stance in the 1960s and beyond earned it respect among pan-Africanists, but the hands-off attitude that grew out of that respect has long since degraded into indifference and cynicism. The probability is now high that President Conté’s term will end in a military takeover, which some seem prepared to accept before the fact, as if it were a means of preserving Guinea’s sovereignty. But parts of Guinea’s civilian elite are finally beginning to treat the country’s future as their own collective concern, one not to be resolved by a third party, whether the army or foreign diplomats. They should be given every encouragement, including by relevant international actors, to do so.

The melodramatic events of 4-5 April 2006 are yet to be fully explained. A major cabinet shake-up was announced initially on national radio, then stopped in mid-broadcast by soldiers during a second announcement; this led within hours to the relevant presidential decree being rescinded and the prime minister sacked.

Guinea Bissau

Guinea Bissau troops will continue their offensive in the north until all the Senegalese rebel bases established there in the last month have been "destroyed", President Joao Bernardo Vieira told IRIN.

Clashes between Guinea Bissau soldiers and a faction of the Senegalese secessionist group, the Movement for the Democratic Forces of Casamance (MFDC) from the region that borders Guinea Bissau, erupted in mid-March with MFDC fighters taking positions in northern Guinea Bissau.

"The Guinea Bissau military will remain at the border until the total destruction of all the rebels in Guinea Bissau territory," President Vieira told IRIN on Thursday. "If the rebels are from the Casamance then they must base their cause in the Casamance and not in Guinea Bissau territory."

Iran: Land of Opportunity

An article in the Sunday Times has some unsettling news:

Iran has formed battalions of suicide bombers to strike at British and American targets if the nation’s nuclear sites are attacked. According to Iranian officials, 40,000 trained suicide bombers are ready for action.

The main force, named the Special Unit of Martyr Seekers in the Revolutionary Guards, was first seen last month when members marched in a military parade, dressed in olive-green uniforms with explosive packs around their waists and detonators held high.

Dr Hassan Abbasi, head of the Centre for Doctrinal Strategic Studies in the Revolutionary Guards, said in a speech that 29 western targets had been identified: "We are ready to attack American and British sensitive points if they attack Iran’s nuclear facilities." He added that some of them were "quite close" to the Iranian border in Iraq.

In a tape recording heard by The Sunday Times, Abbasi warned the would-be martyrs to "pay close attention to wily England" and vowed that "Britain’s demise is on our agenda".

At a recruiting station in Tehran recently, volunteers for the force had to show their birth certificates, give proof of their address and tick a box stating whether they would prefer to attack American targets in Iraq or Israeli targets.

It is a sign of how entrenched this death cult mentality has become in the Muslim world that the act of murder can become a bureaucratic routine of checking options on a form.

However, I'd hang on tightly to my wallet before spending a lot of money on that number. Forty thousand suicide bombers sounds a little like the other "miracle weapons" Iran displayed in the Persian Gulf, namely the stealthy missiles and super-fast torpedos.

Iran's chief goal here may just be to rattle the West a bit. But, we shouldn't be so dense as to assume Iran doesn't have any suicide bombers. WND said this of Iranian President Ahmadinejad last year:

And, as mayor of Tehran, [Ahmadinejad] was one of the principal forces behind a campaign to recruit and train suicide bombers throughout the country.
Last summer, the weekly publication of the Iranian Ansar-e Hizballah published an extensive report on a meeting of the General Staff for Glorification of Martyrs of the Global Islamic Campaign to recruit "martyrdom seekers" – or suicide bombers.

Over the last year, the group boasts of recruiting and training 40,000 "shahids" to attack U.S., Israeli and United Kingdom targets.

And Ahmadinejad has made no secret of his role in fostering and sponsoring suicide bombers in his own country. He made at least two television appearances in Iran after his election victory in which he spoke in praise of "the art of martyrdom."

There are those who would be willing to simply resign and let this Iranian complete its nuclear weapons program, assuming that we can live with a nuclear Iran. But this is merely wishful thinking, not a strategy.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Afghanistan's pipe dream

As Spring passes by in Afghanistan, Taliban activity is increasing, both in Afghanistan and across the border in Pakistan's tribal areas. C.S. Scott at Security Watchtower has done a nice job keeping track of the brisk pace of events.

This past week, Operation Mountain Lion got under way, one of the largest operations in Afghanistan since October 2001.

But despite the uptick in Taliban violence, Afghanistan still dreams of normal economic activity. A pipeline running from Turkmenistan to Pakistan is contemplated to run through Afghanistan.

However, the insecurity there may make such a project very difficult. In addition, the increasing violence in Pakistan's Baluchistan may also make the pipeline project infeasible for the time being.

The deal has been signed, the partners agreed. Within the next two years, Afghan government officials say, construction will begin on a major gas pipeline that will extend from energy-rich Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan, and perhaps on to India.

But even before the ink had dried on the mid-February agreement in Ashgabat, analysts were second-guessing the deal. Despite the brave face shown by the major players, this latest plan could follow several early versions into oblivion – and for the same reason, that instability in Afghanistan casts doubt over any infrastructure project, especially such a big one.

The pipeline is slated to go through Farah, Kandahar, and Helmand – all provinces where Taleban insurgents carry out violent attacks on government troops and institutions on a daily basis.

Once the pipeline clears Afghan territory, it will run into Baluchistan, an area of Pakistan that is now witnessing a bloody insurgency of its own.

The Asian Development Bank, ADB, which is putting together funding for the project, has conducted a survey of the security situation. ADB mission head Brian Fawcett says extra funding will be built into the costings to ensure the pipeline remains safe.

"The security situation is good; we have no problems," said Fawcett.

The pipeline would be protected from terrorist attack by increasing the strength of the tubing and burying it at least two metres underground, he added. But it is not yet clear what the additional security measures will add to a deal already estimated at 3.7 billion US dollars.

"We are still studying the costs involved," said Fawcett.

But once the plan is under way, responsibility for security will pass to the governments through whose territory the pipeline runs.

Afghan defence ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi acknowledges the security challenges inherent in the project, but says his ministry will be able to put effective measures in place to prevent sabotage.

The partnership between violence and diminished economic opportunities is a cruel one. Areas that need investment cannot attract it due to those with other agendas.

Given the stakes, the governments and other players involved may be willing to gamble that security will indeed improve in coming years.

"There are enormous benefits here. Afghanistan could earn millions of dollars, Pakistan would get the gas it needs, and Turkmenistan would have an alternative to the Russian market," said Qayoum Babak, chief editor of the Jahan-e-Naw (New World) monthly in Mazar-e-Sharif.

But he went on to warn, "These benefits have confused the countries involved, as well as the oil companies. They have lost touch with reality."

Before anyone starts laying the pipeline, potential investors will want to be sure there is going to be enough gas to fill it. Turkmenistan claims it has immense reserves of gas, but no one had seen any data to back this up until this year. In February, the Turkmen government announced that an audit conducted by United States consultants DeGolyer and MacNaughton indicated that the Dauletabad field – slated to be the main source for the Trans-Afghan Pipeline – contained 4.5 trillion cubic metres of gas, higher than previous estimates.

Much now depends on Dauletabad's reserves proving as rich as the headline figures suggest, because at current levels estimated at 60-65 billion cubic metres, gas production in Turkmenistan will nowhere near enough even to meet the commitments it has been making to Russia, Ukraine, Iran and – for 2009 onwards – China.

According to Latifi, the Bridas official, the future economic benefits for Afghanistan should be enough to change the minds of those who are currently hostile to the pipeline. "We are not linked to any particular group,” he said. "But we will convince all those who oppose the extension of the pipeline that the project will be good for everybody."

This argument does not sway those observers who maintain that the Taleban and the Baluchistan rebels have no interest in improving the situation - quite the reverse, in fact.

"The Taleban are now fighting the Afghan government and the insurgents in Baluchistan are fighting the government of Pakistan. These groups will never allow their enemies to reap the benefits of this project," said Babak.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Good Friday

Easter is such a contradiction. Christianity's worst day, and Christianity's most glorious day, all in the same weekend. The joy of the empty tomb never quite seems to erase an awareness of the horrors of the cross.

I sometimes wonder why an awful, painful death like crucifixion was necessary. Jesus came to die for us, but couldn't it have been a quick, painless death? Wouldn't that have served the same purpose?

It occurred to me that perhaps the nature of Jesus's death simply reflects why He came in the first place. We need God's love. We are capable of great violence. Just look around the world today. What humanity did to Jesus was a reminder that we are not a basically good race, with just a few blemishes. No, we are a fallen people.

Today we reflect on humanity at its worst, and God at His best.

And Sunday, we will say to each other "He is risen indeed!"

Happy Adoption Day, Hanna!

Three years ago you joined our family! Time flies, doesn't it. On our first trip to Russia to see you, the war in Iraq started the day we got there. An unsettling time, especially since the Russian people were quite opposed to invading Iraq.

But, you're home now. A happy, giggly, sweet girl. A Winnie the Pooh song you like to listen to has some words that I like. They remind me of what childhood should be, a time of innocence.

So, help me if you can I've got to get
back to the house at Pooh corner by one.
You'd be surprized there's so much to be done,
count all the bees in the hive,
chase all the clouds from the sky.
Back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Italy surrenders

Indications are that center-left candidate Romano Prodi has won a very narrow victory in the Italian elections. Though, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has so far refused to concede.

Challenger Romano Prodi's center-left coalition won a narrow victory in the Italian parliamentary election, official results showed today, but Conservative Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi refused to concede defeat.

The Interior Ministry assigned Prodi's coalition -- an unwieldy alliance ranging from Catholics to communists -- four Senate seats chosen by Italians voting abroad, giving him the margin he needs to win both houses of Italy's parliament.

Already, however, Prodi is signaling a retreat in the war on terror.

Italian center-left leader Romano Prodi confirmed on Wednesday that his coalition intended to withdraw Italian troops from Iraq by the end of 2006, local media reported.

In an article in French daily Le Monde, Prodi said, "We will withdraw our troops from Iraq in agreement with the Baghdad government and we will send a civilian contingent to help with the reconstruction."

The center-left leader also said that he would be more pro-Brussels and less pro-Washington than Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Pressed to say exactly when the troops would come home, Prodi later told Italian television that the Berlusconi government had already said soldiers would be pulled out by the end of 2006.

Prodi might even be more sympathetic to Hamas, a terrorist organization.

Mr Prodi is also likely to take a sympathetic approach to the Palestinians and act as brake on those in the EU who want to confront Hamas and cut off relations as much as possible.

Israel certainly wonders if this is an unwelcome change.

Italian author and La Stampa Israel correspondent Fiamma Nirenstein warned, however, that Prodi "will not be as friendly as Berlusconi in understanding that Israel must defend itself from terrorism" and will push Israel "to concede as much territory as possible."

Italy is practically on the front lines in the terror war in Europe. Milan is a center of terror networks. Underground networks bring operatives from North Africa up through Italy into Europe.

And yet, the Italian people, like Spain, have decided to retreat. They may find only too late that there is no negotiating or cooexisting with terrorists. The only currency with which you can buy a terrorist's good will is your life.

Money: a blanket that covers a lot of sins

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, Russia and China have reasons to side with Iran against the West in Iran's self-inflicted confrontation over its nuclear program.

One of Russia's chief reasons is the economic opportunities for partnering with Iran, particularly in energy deals.

Here is one prize Russia has its eyes on.

Russian gas giant Gazprom said it is interested in the Iranian gas field South Pars, estimated by some to be the biggest reserve of natural gas in the world, according to AFP.

Gazprom chairman Alexei Miller met with Iranian ambassador Gholamreza Ansari in Moscow on Tuesday to discuss a possible role for Gazprom in the development of the Iranian gas sector, the company said in a statement.

Iran is eager to keep pushing development of the South Pars field, to reap the benefits of petroleum sales.

A senior oil industry official said here Wednesday that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has conditioned his approval of the proposed changes to the contract for developing Phases IX and X of the South Pars gas field to the completion of the project four months ahead of schedule.

Akbar Torkan, managing director of Pars Oil and Gas Company, told ISNA the company is in talks with contractors to revise their schedules to meet the president’s condition.

He said the proposed changes relate to financial issues of the project, adding that the Economy Council, which is headed by the chief executive, would approve the proposed changes.

"But the president has said that he will give the go-ahead to the move only if the project is expedited," he said, adding that the contractors are studying ways and means of completing the project four months earlier.

A map of the South Pars field can be found here.

A comprehensive look at Iran's oil and gas industry can be found here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Natural Gas and Turkmenistan

President Niyazov of Turkmenistan paid a visit to China at the beginning of April, and out of that came an initial agreement for a pipeline to bring gas from Turkmenistan to China.

Niyazov arrived in China for a rare visit on April 2 amid anticipation that a pipeline deal was in the works. The two countries inked the framework agreement the next day. A text of the pipeline agreement published by official Turkmen news agency TDH states that China will buy 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Turkmen gas each year for 30 years, starting in 2009. The initial agreement leaves the nuts and bolts of pipeline construction to be worked out by December 31, 2006. Official reports were mum on financial details, but Russia's "Kommersant" reported on April 3 that Niyazov would use his visit to China to try to convince the Chinese side to finance the pipeline project.

A Turkmen television report on April 8 suggested an earlier start date and provided additional information about the pipeline route. "In the first phase [of the project], we plan, starting from 2008, to deliver some 30 bcm of Turkmen gas [annually] via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, to Urumci [western China] and beyond it, to Shanghai [eastern China], and to increase these volumes to up to 50 bcm by 2010," the station reported.

From China's standpoint, this is simply a continuation for China's quest for energy resources, as China is scouring all of Asia for gas. China recently made a big agreement with Russia on a gas pipeline, for instance.

For Turkmenistan, this deal would certainly increase its standing. Turkmenistan has been making noises about increasing the price it charges for gas exports, and this deal would give Turkmenistan some leverage over Russia on price.

This pipeline is an ambitious deal, and it is not guaranteed to happen by any means. However, the volumes of gas being talked about are significant.

For comparison, Ukraine reached an agreement with Turkmenistan in March on gas supplies. This deal was a resolution to the confrontation at the beginning of the year when Russia/Gazprom shut off the gas to Ukraine. Here are some details on that deal:

Ukraine and Turkmenistan have resolved the problem of bilateral settlements for natural gas supplies from the Central Asia republic in 2003-2005 and agreed to hold talks in the near future on supplies in the second half of 2006, the Ukrainian foreign ministry said Sunday.

"The parties reached a consensus during a visit by Ukrainian oil company Naftogaz' delegation to Turkmenistan on March 24-25," the ministry's press service said.

Under a bilateral treaty, Turkmenistan is to ship 40 billion cubic meters of gas at $50 per 1000 cu m in the first half of the year and at $60 per 1000 cu m in the second.

So, the deal with China would involve a similar volume of gas. Turkmenistan can produce only so much gas, though, so any gas going to Ukraine or China means a lesser amount left over for other customers, most notably Russia. Hence, this kind of deal has implications for a scramble for gas down the road. From the RFE/RL again:

Finally, the emerging contours of competition for access to energy resources in Central Asia are another cloud on the horizon for Gazprom. Gazprom's short-term strategy envisages a major increase in purchases of Central Asian gas. Vladimir Milov, from the Institute for Energy Policy, explained in a briefing at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, D.C., on March 16 that Gazprom will have no means to offset declining domestic gas production beginning in 2008, and by 2010 will be purchasing 100 bcm of gas from Central Asia. Gazprom is counting on Turkmenistan to provide the bulk of that gas, with purchases slated to go to 70-80 bcm a year as early as 2007-08.

Gazprom's future plans assume that Turkmenistan will sell virtually all of its export production to Russia. But the draft agreement between China and Turkmenistan implies that if the new pipeline becomes a reality, it could be a priority commitment for Turkmenistan. The text states that the gas for export to China will come from fields on the right bank of the Amu-Darya River, but it adds, "If additional volumes of gas are required to build the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline, the Turkmen side can guarantee gas shipments from other gas fields."

Both Milov and Victor warn that Russia, a key supplier of gas to Europe, could face a supply crunch in the not-so-distant future. Goetz stresses that Turkmenistan's negotiations with China point in exactly this direction: "For now, Ashgabat is, so to speak, loyal to Moscow, but if President Niyazov suddenly changes his mind, this could have implications for the entire energy situation, including the situation in Europe."

Now, add to this a deal announced with Iran yesterday.

Officials from Turkmenistan and Iran signed an agreement Tuesday to increase the price and the volume of supplies of Turkmen natural gas to its southern neighbor, the Central Asian nation's Foreign Ministry said.

Under the deal, which cemented agreements reached by the nations' presidents last month, Iran will pay US$65 (euro54) per 1,000 cubic meters of gas as of Feb. 1 of this year, up from the previous price of US$42 (euro35), the ministry said in a statement.

Note the volume involved is quite a bit less than what Ukraine is getting, or what is contemplated in the China deal. But, Iran is paying a higher price. This is pure speculation on my part, but perhaps Iran is seeking to buy up some gas in Turkmenistan so less would be available for Ukraine, and by extension Europe.

One likely possibility is that Iran may eventually be looking to compete in Europe with Russian gas. Perhaps with an eye toward that possibility, Gazprom has taken control of an Armenian pipeline that brings gas to Europe.

On April 6, Gazprom reached an agreement with Armenia on supplies of gas to it until 2009 at a price of $110 per 1,000 cubic meters. In exchange Armenia will yield the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline via which gas is delivered to Europe to Gazprom.
Analyst Valery Nesterov of Troika Dialog remarks that obtaining the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline Gazprom will control supplies of Iranian gas, reserves of which are estimated at 28 trillion cubic meters, to Europe. Now Iran exports gas to Turkey but potentially it may become a serious competitor for Russian gas in Europe. One of the possible routes for transportation of Iranian gas to Europe passes through Armenia, Georgia and Ukraine. Nesterov says, "Any participation of Gazprom in these projects will enable the company at least to influence the transportation costs and the end price of gas."

Energy is everything. A nation starving for fuel cannot realize its ambitions. In the messy nuclear negotiations over Iran's nuclear program, which heavily involve Russia and China, remember these energy deals hanging around in the background.

Nations do not sell their support in important matters cheaply. I've remarked before that Russia and China have their own reasons for supporting Iran against the West. However, both countries also have reasons to keep an eye on Iranian ambitions.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sometimes one plus one does equal two

Troubling news from Tehran today.

Radical Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared on Tuesday that Iran had officially joined the group of countries with nuclear capabilities commonly known as the Nuclear Club.

"I officially announce that Iran has joined the world’s nuclear countries", Ahmadinejad said in a speech that was broadcast on state television.

"This is the start of greater progress and achievements", he said.

Earlier, Iran’s nuclear chief announced that Tehran had recently managed to enrich uranium to the level required to make nuclear fuel.

"We successfully enriched uranium to 3.5 percent on April 9", Gholamreza Aghazadeh, who heads Atomic Energy Organisation of Iran, said.

As Vital Perspective highlights today, Iran has crossed a threshold in its nuclear program.

This announcement highlights what we have repeatedly said, that the pace of diplomacy is simply not keeping up with Iranian advancements. Precious time is passing the international community by. Stalling from Russia and China gave Iran an additional thirty days to work. Just as frustrating is that some - such as the New York Times - still incorrectly frame the debate in terms of actual production of a bomb. That is not the issue, because once Iran masters the process and reaches the technological point of no return, then it's not a matter of if, but when.

Also today, in one of his finest pieces, and that's saying something, Mark Steyn argues forcibly that we shouldn't blithely assume Iran doesn't mean what it says. And beyond that, what Iran does ought to more than give us pause.

So any retaliation would be down to others. Would Washington act? It depends how clear the fingerprints were. If the links back to the mullahs were just a teensy-weensy bit tenuous and murky, how eager would the U.S. be to reciprocate? Bush and Rumsfeld might—but an administration of a more Clinto-Powellite bent? How much pressure would there be for investigations under UN auspices? Perhaps Hans Blix could come out of retirement, and we could have a six-month dance through Security-Council coalition-building, with the secretary of state making a last-minute flight to Khartoum to try to persuade Sudan to switch its vote.

Perhaps it’s unduly pessimistic to write the civilized world automatically into what Osama bin Laden called the "weak horse" role (Islam being the "strong horse"). But, if you were an Iranian “moderate” and you’d watched the West’s reaction to the embassy seizure and the Rushdie murders and Hezbollah terrorism, wouldn’t you be thinking along those lines? I don’t suppose Buenos Aires Jews expect to have their institutions nuked any more than 12 years ago they expected to be blown up in their own city by Iranian-backed suicide bombers. Nukes have gone freelance, and there’s nothing much we can do about that, and sooner or later we’ll see the consequences—in Vancouver or Rotterdam, Glasgow or Atlanta. But, that being so, we owe it to ourselves to take the minimal precautionary step of ending the one regime whose political establishment is explicitly pledged to the nuclear annihilation of neighboring states.

The barn door is opening. Do we have the courage to act?

Tick tick tick...

Dozens killed in Pakistan

A bomb exploded in Karachi during a celebration of Mohammad's birthday.

Dawn reports at least 56 killed.

At least 56 people were killed and more then 100 injured when a bomb exploded at Karachi's Nishtar Park Tuesday evening when faithfuls were offering Mughrib (Evening Prayers) after attending a mammoth meeting to celebrate the birthday of the Holy Prophet. Jinnah hospital confirms 27 dead bodies and dozens injured. Civil hospital was also flooded with injured people and dead bodies. Other major hospitals including Liaquat National hospital and Abbasi Shaheed hospital have also received dead bodies and injured persons. The death toll was rising as the condition of many injured was critical, hospital sources said. There was stampede and angry crowed pelted stones, damaged and torched vehicles and there was complete chaos in a vast area around the park which is near the mausoleum of the Quaid-e-Azam.

The event was sponsored by Jammat Ahle Sunnat, a Sunni group, and one of the religious organizations in Pakistan. The leader of this group was killed in the explosion, along with several other prominent Sunni clerics.

Haji Hanif Billo, Mulana Abbas Qadri, Hafiz Muhammad Taqi & Iftikhar Bhatti were among the top notch leaders of Sunni Tahreeq / Jamaat Ahl-e-Sunnat who were martyred in the bomb blast at Nishtar park tuesday evening, hospital sources said. Mulana Shah Turabul Huq Qadri, a senior leader of the organizing committee was injured but is handling the post' explosion crises with the help of his aides and in consultation with the authorities.

The Ahle Sunnat website says this:

This is to inform all the Muslims around the world, with sad demise, that a huge bomb explosion occurred at Nishter Park during the Annual Eid-e-Melad-un-Nabi SalAllahoAlaihiWasallam conference. Janab Haji Hanif Billo Saheb is dead in this explosion and our many scholars/leaders are injured seriously. However, Hazrat Allama Maulana Syed Shah Turab-ul-Haq Qadri Saheb is fine and doing well. Please keep remember all of the victims in your prayers and recite Surah-e-Fateha and Qull Shareef for the dead persons.

No group has claimed responsibility for this attack yet. However, it may have been carried out a rival Sunni group.

The Ahle Sunnat comes out of the Brelvis tradition, which originated in India at the end of the 1800s. The Deobandis, another Sunni tradition, are rivals of the Brelvis. This paragraph briefly describes their origins.

The next important milestone in the history of the evolution of madrassas in South Asia came in 1866 with the founding of Darul Uloom at a small village called Deoband. The founding of Darul Uloom at Deoband left far reaching impact on the evolution of Islam and the future systems of all madrassas in South Asia. It permanently divided the Hanafis into two clear sects: Brelvis and Deobandis. The majority of ulema reconciled with the British Raj and accepted its authority. They were later called the Brelvis. A small number of them found fault with the Indian Islam for all the problems of the Indian Muslims and decided to purify it. They were the founders of the Darul Uloom at Deoband and later came to be known as the Deobandis.

In Pakistan, the Brelvis like Ahle Sunnat have a larger number of followers, but they tend to be concentrated in the poorer classes. The Deobandis, though smaller, are more urban, and tend to have more support in the government.

Both groups think the others do not represent true Islam. However, the Deobandis believe the Brelvis were tainted with Hinduism, and are more purest in their beliefs. They belief Islam should be cleansed of groups like the Brelvis. This bent for purity found common cause with the Wahabbis, and this blend played a role in the creation of the Taliban.

The terrorist groups that Pakistan supports in Kashmir, or at the very least looks away from, are Deobandi groups. The Ahle Sunnat are not supportive of terrorism in Kashmir, and so may have created enemies in this tension.

One such Deobandi terrorist group is Lashkar-e-Taiba, the "Army of the Pure." The LeT has carried out numerous attacks in Kashmir and India. For that reason, it doesn't seem like LeT's style to carry out this large an attack against Muslims in Pakistan.

I honestly don't know who the mostly likely culprit might be, but this attack does seem to be a case of the Religion of Peace turning on its own.

I first saw mention of this on Michelle Malkin's blog.

The Counterterrorism Blog points out a "Shia cleric in Karachi survived a bomb attack just days ago". These Deobandi groups don't like Shias either. Perhaps someone is getting carried away in their zeal.

An AP article says "Tuesday's explosion was Pakistan's deadliest since March 19, 2005."

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

Oops, give me a sec. The graphic violence warning piddled on the kitchen floor. I gotta go clean it up.

The recaps replay just about the entire previous episode. Buckaroo is still an open protocol. (Someday someone will do a PhD on all the ways this show uses the word "protocol.") The whole Audrey/Chloe thread. The Evelyn, Jack and Wayne invade a coal mine or whatever it is. (I'm just going to call it the coal mine because of the conveyor belts.) And of course, the revelation that Logan is Eviiillllll!

As this week's episode puts us on the Edge of Night, we see William Devane in the credits! Cool. No sign that his son Stoner is in this episode though. The Raines family reunion will have to wait for another episode.

We see a military checkpoint, reminding us of the curfew.

Dr. Jack is working on Evelyn, telling her to stay focused. Huh? What's this? Evelyn made a recording of a phone call between Logan and Henderson, and she put it in a safe deposit box in a bank? Oh my. Let's pull this one apart, shall we.

First, just how on God's Green Earth did a First Lady's flunky make such a sensitive recording of the President's phone call?!? Was she standing in the room with a plant on her head so Logan didn't notice her?

Second, I ask again, doesn't Evelyn live in Washington D.C.? So why does she have a safety deposit box in LA? When did she get it? And when did she sneak away to put this recording in the box? There was a lot going on in the morning, what with terrorist attacks, the First Lady getting blown up, and so on. This makee no sense.

Oh well. I suppose if we can accept Denise Richards as a nuclear scientist or Jodie Foster as an astronomer, we can accept this nonsense.

The bank is City Trust and Savings in Agoura Hills. This is NW of Malibu, so presumably the retreat is out that way, and Evelyn could have slipped away and got back without being missed.

Evelyn tells Jack the key to the box is in her jacket pocket. Jack is worried about running into the military, so he suggests they go to a motel. When they get there, Jack says to Wayne, "Wayne, can you get us a room?" Uh, er, ok. Suddenly we're watching CTUback Mountain.

Jack calls Audrey, and finds out Chloe wasn't able to track Henderson. Darn, he got away. Henderson is going for Marwan's record. 5 escapes in one day! Come on, Henderson! You can do it!

Evelyn says Logan is responsible for everything that's happened today, including giving the terrorists the nerve gas. Hmm, now I'm really starting to wonder when the producers and writers decided to make Logan an evil guy. Cuz earlier in the day, Logan was wimpy, indecisive, scared. He can't be that good of an actor. (Logan, I mean, Itzin does just fine.) So, I can imagine a conversation where the producers say "Greg, ok, you know how you played the character before as a complete Milquetoast? Well, forget all that. You've really been evil all along." And Itzin starts cursing, saying "Don't you think I should've known that before? It would have affected the choices I made in playing the character! Shouldn't I know what Logan knows! Arrggghhhh."

She also says that Henderson ordered the assassination of Palmer, but Logan was complicit.

Jack calls Audrey and tells her the happy news that the President is Evil. Jack wants to bring her father, the SecDef, in and give the evidence to him. Audrey says Dad is on his way back from Japan.

Wayne tells Jack the bank manager was listed. Uh, what bank manager? Did Evelyn just happen to know the bank manager's name? And if so, why? Do you know the name of the manager of your bank? The name of anyone who works at your bank? And if Evelyn didn't know, how did Wayne find the name?

They get Evelyn into the motel room, where she's going to bleed all over the bed. Oooh, Housekeeping is going to be so ticked in the morning. In a creepy moment, if you think about it, Jack asks Wayne to take Amy outside while he's pawing at Evelyn's leg. Poor Amy is going to be so confused.

And now, in what will be a theme for the episode, Henderson is out driving around. He has a sticker in his window that says "Unrestricted Vehicle Access, #87633218." Ok class, who can spot the flaw in this little scene? Yes, that's right, Susie! Henderson is driving Evelyn's car. So just where did Henderson get this sticker? Did he have it in his pocket back at the coal mine? He thinks of everything, doesn't he.

Jack tells Evelyn he'll clean her wound, but she says he needs to get the evidence, so he just leaves. What a gentlemen. You just gonna leave her there to bleed to death, Jack?

Henderson, still driving, is on the phone with Logan. He says he hasn't been able to pick up Jack's trail yet. Well, good heavens, the best Apache trackers wouldn't be able to do that. It's only been about 10 minutes. Logan is worried that Jack will go to the media. Henderson pooh-poohs that idea, saying Jack would need the evidence first.

(OK, here's another question. Just how do Henderson and Logan know that Evelyn made this recording? Was she stupid enough to tell them? Otherwise, we have no clue.)

Logan says this whole crazy plan was to make the country safe, stronger, to protect our interests, but it has spiraled out of control. Logan says to Henderson then, "because YOU decided to kill Palmer." Typical Logan. Always putting the blame on someone else. Henderson is a practical man, though. He just says "What's done is done."

Back at CTU, Karen is wondering where the hourlies are. (You'll recall from last season that was Edgar's job.) Miles says their minions are still getting up to speed on CTU's protocols. Karen apparently is having second thoughts about this whole palace coup thing.

Logan rings up Karen, and asks if she knows where Bauer is. She says no, he's gone off the grid. RunLoganRun then says he is issuing an Executive Order for the arrest of Bauer. He says he was evidence that Bauer was involved in Palmer's assassination, but he won't say what it is. Karen is incredulous, saying Bauer was cleared. Logan gets all huffy and says Bauer is CTU's top priority.

Miles suggests if they want to find Bauer, they should keep an eye on Audrey. We immediately cut to Audrey talking with Chloe. Chloe can VPN something so Audrey's cell phone can't be monitored. Karen comes over and Audrey says she's just going out to get a couple hours of sleep. (That might be a 24 first, the mention of sleep!)

She skips out, and the next scene is someone named Valerie planting a transponder in Audrey's car. My goodness these people work fast. It's been less than a minute since Miles suggested watching Audrey, and here someone is already out in the parking lot with a transponder. These transponders must be sitting in bowls next to the front door, like candy, and Valeris just sprinted outside.

Going into the first commercial break, the clocks are at :12 to :12. But coming back, the clocks are at :16 to :15. 24 is on standard time, they turned their clocks ahead one minute.

Jack and Wayne are outside the bank manager's house. The guy's name is Carl Mussman. Jack and Wayne argue about how to motivate the bank manager. Jack, being a sadistic psycho now, opts for the terrorizing method. When they get to the door, Jack detects a magnetic alarm. But, what luck. Jack is super prepared. He has some kind of doohickey in his pocket which he clamps to the door and jiggers the lock. And of course, Jack says "We're in." That cliche is always a favorite on this show.

Carl and Wifey are in bed watching the news about the events of the day, when Carl hears a noise. He goes to investigate and finds Wayne filling a sack with the family silver and china. They go back to the bedroom, and Jack starts demanding assistance. Carl says he can't help. And Jack points the gun at Wifey. Good heavens, is Jack going to shoot another wife today? He's got a thing for that apparently. I'll have to add a Number of Wives Shot counter. That would've been two on the day.

But, Carl relents. He'll help Jack get into the bank. Jack tells Wayne to tie up Wifey with four of Carl's neckties.

Audrey is driving through a checkpoint. Someone says she has clearance. She does? How? How did she indicate that? Did she have a cool sticker like Henderson?

Then, Audrey calls up Dad. She asks him to make a stop in LA, and he agrees. She says the nearest airport is Van Nuys, but Dad says they are an hour out.

And now, no one will be admitted during the breathtaking "Audrey stops at a gas station" scene. Which, Valerie tells us, is located at Alderton and Davis.

Audrey pulls some doohickey out of her pocket and then calls Chloe. Chloe tells her to turn to proprietary channel 17. (Why, is there another channel 17 on this doohickey that isn't proprietary?) Ah, it's some kind of bug detector. Did Chloe just happen to have this thing sitting in her desk? I just have staples and pens in my desk. Anyway, Audrey immediately finds the transponder, and sticks it on a white truck nearby. She's a clever lass.

Back at the retreat, Aaron says to Logan "It's almost time." But, Veep BOB wants a moment with Logan. The producers must have told Ray Wise that's he's really innocent, so he can play the Veep as a good guy, instead of throwing in all the evil looks and tones of voice. Hal thinks Jack is a hero, and doesn't understand the arrest warrant. Logan gets all huffy again, and tells Hal to go get stuffed. Logan says Cummings was covering for Jack, so Jack is evil, and Logan doesn't want to be questioned about it. (Well, of course he doesn't.)

Back at the motel, Evelyn is out cold. Amy has bloody hands and goes to wash up. She starts crying, which rouses Evelyn. As a parent, I can understand. You can be in the deepest coma, but if you hear your child crying in distress, you'll get up and help if you can.

Alas, Evelyn is weak, and keels over on the floor. Amy calls 911, and says her mom, Evelyn Martin, needs help. The dispatcher asks Amy where she is. (How does Amy know where she is?)

They must have got it figured out, because seconds later a henchman calls Henderson, who is still driving around, and says a 911 call came in and Evelyn is at a motel. (The voice says 1850 Porter Valley Drive, but the krazy kaptions say Motel 6 Porter Valley Drive. This despite the fact the motel sign said it was a Super 8.)

Now, let's stop here for a moment. Just who is talking to Henderson? Henderson's team was chopped to ribbons at the coal mine. When Henderson talked to Logan, he said he'd put another team together. Henderson has been driving around this whole time. Has he been calling people putting a new team together? Is there a number in LA you can call to instantly rent Evil Henchmen? Also, if this henchman was just hired, how does he have instant access to 911 calls? Why does he know before Henderson? Who knew to tell him? He can't have got the information from Logan, because Logan doesn't know who Henderson's new team is. Argh.

Clocks are at :32 to :29.

Logan is doing another presser, and announces the terrorist threat is over. Martha is looking on with Aaron. She says she should've trusted Charles more. Aaron all but rolls his eyes, knowing what evil stalks the halls of the retreat. Martha asks if he's all right. Aaron says "I'm just a little battle worn." And how. He was nearly blowed up twice by rockets today. Not to mention gunfire.

Jack gets a call. His cell says "Aaron Pierce." When did Jack put Aaron's number in his address book? The conversation is short. Jack tells Aaron the Source Of All Evil is Logan, not BOB.

Jack and Wayne and Carl are walking a ways to the bank to avoid the military. An armored vehicle drives by, and the three amigos hit the dirt till it passes.

Valerie calls Karen and tells of Audrey's cleverness. Karen tells Miles to get a satellite on it to track Audrey. Uh, just how is that going to work? How are they going to tell which car is Audrey's, in this vast LA metropolis? Granted, there aren't many cars out, but she could've gone anywhere. Does she have a big orange dot on her hood, so the satellite can pick out her car?

Carl gets them into the bank, and shuts off the alarm. Jack orders Carl to take them to the vault, but says "stay away from the windows." And then, they just walk normally across the bank.. I cannot imagine how the walk would've been any different if they weren't staying away from windows.

As Jack fiddles with the vault, Carl recognizes Wayne. Carl wants to know what is going on. He says "you kidnap me, threaten me, you're robbing my bank..." Uh, Carl? Aren't you forgetting something? How about your wife, who is still tied up in your bedroom with your neckties? What a cad.

Wayne breaks under Carl's intense questioning, and tells Carl about what is going on.

Back at the motel, two EMTs are working on Evelyn. But, darn the luck, Henderson comes in and shoots both of them. Now the EMTs will need EMTs. Amy screams.

Clocks are at :43 to :40.

Logan is talking on the phone. He says "You did. That's good. I'm glad." We naturally think it's Henderson telling him about Evelyn. But, Henderson calls a short time later. So who was Logan talking to, and what is good?

Martha is there. She says "You were magnificent." (Logan probably hasn't heard that too many times from her.) Logan says, in perhaps his funniest line of the season, "You walked up to the edge a couple times, but nobody noticed." Martha chuckles and thinks there is a compliment in there somewhere. Then, some First Kissy Kissy.

And now Henderson calls. He says he got Jack's location from Evelyn, and that his men are heading there now. Again I'll ask, what men?

Logan lies to Martha and says "That was Jamey. I asked her to write me a radio speech for tomorrow morning." Martha looks quite bummed, because for at least the third time today, her Chief Speechwriter duties are being usurped.

Miles tells Karen "We found Audrey Raines." And just how did they do that? Again, how is a satellite going to know which car is Audrey's? Karen relays the info to Valerie, saying Audrey is heading toward Sepulveda Pass off Mulholland. (Audrey is going over the Santa Monica Mts on the 405, heading for the Van Nuys airport, which is just off the 405.)

Of course, by now Valerie must be a long ways behind Audrey, because she had no idea where Audrey was going, but this is 24. She'll catch up in minutes.

Shari comes up to Chloe and asks if she has a minute. Chloe abruptly says "No." As Shari stands there trying to process that breach of Miss Manners protocol, Chloe says "What is it?"

Apparently a vector is locked out and a satellite is on a class one priority override.

Chloe must have a way around such overrides, because she immediately looks at the satellite and sees Audrey's car. How come I'm the only one who can't recognize this dark rectangular blob as Audrey's car?

Henderson's men are at the bank. There are several of them, and they drive up in two hugenormous SUVs. And they are heavily armed. Henderson has got some great contacts, to put this team together in less than an hour. With a curfew on even. If Jack was so worried about running into the military that he walked to the bank, how did these guys drive right up to the bank? I'm just asking.

No sooner have they just gotten out of the vehicles when one of the henchmen calls Henderson (who is still driving around, naturally) and says the perimeter is secure. Huh? What perimeter? Doesn't a perimeter imply being all around something? You're all just standing by your vehicles! Well, it is hard to round up quality help on such short notice.

And now, Holy Hannah, in the bank Jack plays the tape right in front of Carl. Jack, he's a civilian! What happened to operational security, need to know, national secrets! You're letting a civilian hear this tape? My stars.

Jacks sees the baddies outside. Carl says there is no other way out, for security reasons. Huh? You'd think the fire code would require at least two exits.

Jack kneels by a chair and scopes out three baddies. That must be one wide window he was looking through.

Jack wants Carl to set off the alarm so the cops will show up. He wants the cops to fight the bad guys so they can get out of the bank. Now, this is one of the worst things Jack has ever done, and that's saying something. Jack will happily sacrifice some good cops just so he can escape. Someone's husband, someone's daddy, is not going to come home tonight, because with Jack it's all about him. Me me me.

Clocks are at :55 to :51.

Chloe is in the server room mucking around with the computers. A screen says the satellite signal is corrupted.

Audrey heads west on Chandler. What is she doing? Chandler is east of the 405, but the airport is west of the 405. Is she lost? To go west on Chandler, she would've had to get off the 405, head to east to Chandler, then turn around and come back west. Her navigation skills are a good metaphor for this crackplot.

But, Chloe's work makes the picture go all wonky, and Miles immediately zens that the interference is coming from the server room. He runs down there, only to find it empty. He leaves, and sees Chloe emerging from the ladies room. (This doesn't count as the first instance of someone using the restroom on this show, because Chloe was just faking.)

Miles asks "What were you doing?" And in another classic Chloe line that will live forever, she says "Are you kidding? If you really want the details I'll write you a report." Ah, dear sweet funny Chloe.

Back at the bank, some funky James Bond-y music is playing as our trepid heroes wait for the chance to escape behind the stacked bodies of dead cops. Carl figures he's dead too, since the baddies will assume he knows about Logan's treachery. So, he's coming with.

Still no sign that Carl is worried about his wife. Nice going, Carl. Perhaps you deserve to die after all.

Jack tells Wayne and Carl, "when we leave the bank, you break left. I'll fake it to Timmy and you run a post pattern. Ready, on two."

Henderson is *still* driving around. Where is he going? Jack went from the motel to Carl's house and then to the bank in less time it would've taken Henderson to go directly from the motel to the bank. He calls someone named Cooper. (Dale Cooper?) He asks for a status report.

Just about that time, the cops, and then the military, arrive. There is a fierce gunfight. Good cops die. All for Jack.

Jack and Wayne and Carl make it to a cop car. (Why was it parked so close to Jack's position? It would've had to have got by the baddies, since they were set up outside the bank.)

They drive off, bullets bouncing off this apparently bulletproof cop car.

Alas, Carl is dead. And Wifey, still tied up at home, will receive some bad news if and when Jack ever remembers he left her there.

Jack calls Audrey and says he has the tape.

This wacky episode ends with the clocks at :60 to :56.

And now, once again, here is guest critic Paul Foth. If you recall, I revealed he was a German intelligence agent. Paul disclosed he was gone the past couple weeks because he was on a mission. He was a little upset with me. Here's the email he sent.

Kouba. Wo ist die WET liste? Du versprochen, und--oh, dear me. Forgot the MI-6 training. Right-o, look, old chap, ruddy bad show, you programming my Shakira CD to explode. Be a good lad and give us another copy, would you? We're on the same side now, after all. Pip pip. Cheerio. Schweinhund.

See if I ever deposit anything at THAT bank again.

Kiefer just signed on for another three years. Can we take it? Has there been any progress in building iron-lined stomachs? Has anyone invented a television that can withstand multiple bricks being thrown at its screen? And from the story's point of view, is anyone else currently on the show going to last that long? Kim is the only other character still around who was in the first season, but she didn't show up at all last season, and this season put in only a courtesy appearance.

But on to last night's episode. Henderson is this season's Marwan. He keeps escaping and escaping and escaping. And escaping again. His escape at the end of last episode/beginning of this one was from the abandoned foundry/factory/whatever where Wayne Palmer bagged his first human, raised his fists and said, "Now I am a man!" Henderson disappeared. CTU knew where he was, Jack saw the vehicle he drove off in, saw the direction he went, and told CTU the second he left. Could they track him with a satellite? Nope.

Now flash forward about half an hour. Audrey sticks the tracking device that had been on her car onto a maintenance truck from the power company--which for some inexplicable reason has special dispensation to be out fixing power lines while the rest of LA is locked down under military curfew (and why's the gas station open, anyway?)--and gets a lead time of several minutes before her deception is discovered. Homeland Security doesn't know where she is, doesn't know where she's going. Can they track her with a satellite? No problem.

Once again, we see that the technology on this show doesn't operate within the bounds of logic, or even self-consistency, but rather of dramatic convenience. And it looks like Chloe's garbling of the satellite signal (which she apparently accomplished by running GARBLE.SIGNAL.EXE) will be the foundation of Renfield--I mean, Miles--relieving her of her job next week. Why do I keep watching? Because it's going to feel so good when the season is over and I can stop.

Henderson is a Level 26 technomage, like most of the lead villains in this show. One of his nameless (and faceless, since we only hear the guy's voice) minions alerts him to Evelyn's whereabouts WHILE AMY IS STILL MAKING THE 911 CALL. What the? There's software out there that can scan the entire emergency phone network of Los Angeles, pick one name out of who knows how many simultaneous calls, alert some flunky, and patch him in to the operator's workstation, all while the call in question is still in progress?

Here's an idea, although I'm sure it's one plenty of other people have: This show is the 21st-century equivalent of a lot of 1950s science fiction films. Back then, all those giant radioactive ants (Them) or shrews (The Killer
Shrews) or even pillars of rock (The Monolith Monsters) could be seen as metaphors for godless commie hordes marching over the land. Today, we've got the war on terror, and 24 encapsulates our fears with magical ubervillains who can call up any building plan, tap any phone call, track any car, launch any attack with complete impunity, while America's response drowns in a sea of inter-agency bickering and backbiting. Only Jack Bauer can save us, because he is our messiah. He even rose from the dead a few seasons back to prove it.

This show was set to premier in the fall of 2001, but was delayed a bit because of 9/11. Is it reasonable to say that had 9/11 not happened, 24 wouldn't have become the hit it is, that it would have been lucky to last its first season? Maybe that's an overly-cynical interpretation, but I can't help thinking there's at least a kernel of truth to it. Playing on communal fear is one sure way to get the unwashed masses to look right past a whole lot of hooey. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

Number of times Jack says "Now!": 18
Number of times Jack says "No!": 8
Number of times a "protocol" is mentioned: 34
Number of times someone says a variation of "Go!": 25
Number of moles: 4
Approximate Body Count: 83 (plus three rats, plus one human nerve gas guinea pig, plus 11 in the mall food court (and no, not from food poisoning), plus one security camera, plus 56 in CTU)

<-10:00 PM - 11:00 PM 12:00 AM - 1:00 AM ->

Monday, April 10, 2006


Russia has been combating Islamic terrorists in Dagestan, though this area doesn't receive quite the same attention as neighboring Chechnya. Today saw another of what seems like "a drop in the bucket" campaign.

A local police official in Russia's Southern Federal District says the leader of an Islamist militant group was killed today in a special operation in the Daghestani capital, Makhachkala.

Makhach Rasulov was reportedly killed in a three-hour gun battle when police launched a pre-dawn raid on a suspected rebel hideout.

Rasulov was a leading figure in the Shariat militant group, which is held responsible for a string of attacks in the region, including a bombing in July 2005 that resulted in the death of 10 federal soldiers.

Two policemen were killed in the operation.

Two policemen have been killed during a security raid to destroy a gang of bandits in the capital of Dagestan, a North Caucusus republic bordering Chechnya, local officials reported, local police in Makhachkala told the news agency RIA-Novosti.

In an article a year ago, Johnson's Russia List described the activity of this Shariat group.

For six months now the Russian republic of Dagestan has been pounded with a series of deadly terror attacks killing several major political figures and scores of Interior Ministry policemen. Makhachkala, the republic's capital, has suffered the most. If official statistics are correct, there have been 58 terror attacks (other reports says 70) since the beginning of 2005, 40 of which have taken place in Makhachkala.

"There are endless attacks on law enforcement authorities and the killing of government figures," Magomedali Magomedov, the head of Dagestan's State Council, tells us. But who is doing the killing and why? Magomedov says that "extremists, wahhabis, bent on the destruction of authority in the republic of Dagestan and destabilization of the region" are to blame.

On Friday, l July, at 2:15 in the afternoon, those extremists killed 11 of Moscow's elite spetsnaz policemen and wounded 25 other servicemen and passersby in yet another major bombing in Makhachkala. As if to send a message to the Dagestani court trying the case against Muad Abdurazakov (alias Abkhazsky Murad) and Abdulkhalim Abdulkarimov, both accused of carrying out the 9 May 2002 Victory Day parade bombing in Kaspiisk which left 42 dead and 132 wounded, a bomb hidden under a city water pipe on Atayeva street blew up a military truck full of Moscow's MVD troops outside a public bathhouse.

Authorities are pointing an accusing finger at the "Shariat djamaat" terrorist organization operating in Dagestan. I have in the past reported on the activities of the Shariat which is subordinated to Dagestani field commander Rappani Khalilov, who, if he is still alive, reports to Chechen terrorist Shamil Basayev. Khalilov is said to have been the organizer of 2002 Kaspiisk terror attack, but was reportedly killed in 2003, although no body has ever been found.

The Shariat djamaat most recently claimed responsibility for the assassination of Dagestan's Minister of Nationalities, Information and External Communication Zagir Arukhov. Shariat is also believed responsible for the assassination of deputy MVD minister Magomed Omarov in February 2005. This time Shariat targeted Moscow's elite MVD "Rus" battalion which had been sent to Dagestan only two weeks ago to help the local MVD conduct "operation filter" designed to ferret out the republic's Islamic extremists. "Filter" had got underway on 4 June after a 3 a.m. garbage pile bomb blew up an UAZ police vehicle with three policemen inside.

A couple weeks ago, an American journalist was detained in Dagestan, for reasons apparently no more complicated than the fact Russia loves to frequently raise the CIA Bogeyman as a way to distract from its own failures in bringing security to the region.

Yet the problem could be more serious then just the desire of Russian authorities to get rid of an independent and inquisitive U.S. journalist. First, the Kremlin is not interested in letting the Americans know what is really going on in the volatile Russian south. Russian officials regard all Americans who go to the North Caucasus, be they members of humanitarian organizations or journalists, as spies, and do not hide their objective of closing off the region to U.S. observation. A source in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow told Jamestown that "the Russian officials often say during the meetings that ‘we won't let you [Americans] be there [in the North Caucasus.]'" There is a widespread opinion in Russia that the Americans are interested in destabilizing the region to weaken Russia, and the Kremlin itself has such a view. On September 4, 2004, after the Beslan tragedy, President Vladimir Putin said in his appeal to the nation that "some want to tear away a fat piece from us [Russia], and others help them. They help because they believe that Russia is still a threat to them as a major nuclear power. So this threat should be eliminated. And terrorism is, of course, just an instrument to achieve these goals" (Interfax, September 4, 2004). It was clear to everybody in Russia who watched Putin's speech on TV that it was the Americans who still regarded Russia as a threat. That same day, Mikhail Leontyev, anchor of Odnako, a political program on the state's Channel One television, openly blamed the United States for the terrorist attack in Beslan, thus making Putin's statement even more clear.

Since then, the Russian authorities have unofficially tended to explain away all failures in the war with the Caucasian insurgency or their inability to apprehend Shamil Basaev by referring to nefarious schemes of Americans. The latest example is Ramzan Kadyrov's recent statement that assistance from foreign secret services helps Basaev remain on the run. Ramzan did not mention the CIA, but this acronym can be heard very often in closed meetings with Russian and pro-Russian Chechen officials. Last year, Taus Dzhabrailov, who was the head of the Chechen pro-Russian State Council at the time, said in a speech at a meeting in the Presidential Palace Hotel in Moscow, which this author attended, that U.S. "scissors" wanted to cut the North Caucasus away from Russia. Dzhabrailov simply rehashed the phrase from Putin's appeal, making it more blunt.

It is quite understandable why the Kremlin needs to boost the myth among Russians that the U.S. government is involved in assisting the Chechen and the North Caucasian insurgency. In this case, there is no need to explain to the public why the government is not only unable to beat the insurgency in Chechnya, but even fails to quell the militants' attempts to organize large-scale terrorist attacks in Russia and to spread the war throughout whole North Caucasus. "The insurgency is so powerful because the Americans help them" is the unofficial explanation that the Russian authorities have tried to sell to the population for the last several years.

Nevertheless, the fact that the Kremlin clearly fears trips by Americans to the North Caucasus demonstrates that the Russian officials really believe in the myth that they themselves created. The people behind the Kremlin walls are genuinely frightened of the prospect that the United States might use the North Caucasus, Vladimir Putin's Achilles Heel, as leverage to bring pressure on the Russian authorities. The people in the Kremlin remember very well how the Americans helped the mujahideen in Afghanistan and that the defeat of the Soviets in this war resulted in the collapse of the Soviet Union. That same scenario could be easily repeated if only the Americans wanted to do this. Georgia, which is now in a state of cold war with Russia, could play the role that Pakistan played in the Afghan war—the rear for the guerillas and a route to deliver money and weapons to them. Russian officials seriously believe that some day this nightmare may come true.

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 female suicide bomber blew herself up on Friday in front of a mosque in the city of Ordu, Turkey, wounding two people. Violence and confrontations have been escalating the last month between Turkish government forces and Kurdish militants.

* Iranian security forces killed Abdolmalek Rigi, the Sunni militant leader of Jundullah (Soldiers of God), near the Afghan border in Sistan-Baluchistan.

* According to a Seymour Hersh article in the April 17th edition of the New Yorker magazine, the Bush administration is planning a massive bombing campaign against Iran that will include the use of nuclear bunker busters. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has called the reports "completely nuts" and U.S. officials have denied that any extraordinary planning is taking place in regards to Iran.

* U.S. troops in Sulu are trying to win the hearts and minds of the people in the southern Philippine islands. While training Filipino troops in counterterrorism measures, American soldiers are also building roads, hospitals, schools and other basic infrastructure projects that the island lacks.

Others topics today include: IAEA in Iran; Fatah and Hamas clashes; Israeli strikes in Gaza; Security clampdown in West Bank; al Qaeda sets cites on Israel; Palestinian aid cut; al Qaeda trials in Yemen; Vegitable ambush in Venezuela; Bombings in Columbia; UAV expanding role; Moussaoui trial; Russian-Tajik counterterror exercises; Clashes in Nepal; Violence in Sri Lanka; Protests in Pakistan; Fighting along Pakistani-Afghan border; Pakistan labels BLA terrorist organization; Muslims and Hindus clash in India; Bombings in Bangladesh; Car bombings in southern Afghanistan; Taliban commanders killed; Bomb cache found in Indonesia; Communist rebels killed in Philippines; Mladic to surrender soon; thwarted plots against Italy; al Qaeda role in London attacks; Madrid charges pending; More wiretaps in Europe; Attacks in southern Algeria; and more.

Iran & the Middle East

* IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei will be travelling to Iran this week in hopes of securing some concessions from the Iranian government on their nuclear programs. UN inspectors will visit several locations related to Iran's nuclear program, including the Natanz uranium enrichment plant and another facility at Isfahan.

* Asharq Alawsat is reporting that Hamas believes Fatah leaders are planning to recruit armed factions to launch mass protests in an effort to topple the Hamas led Palestinian government, deepening the political rift that continues to grow.

* Retaliating for Qassam rocket fire, Israeli artillery strikes killed a Palestinian police officer in Gaza on Sunday and wounded sixteen others. Islamic Jihad has announced a one week suspension to the rocket attacks on Israel, in an effort to halt IDF artillery fire into Gaza. An hour later the report was denounced.

* Syrian officials are aggressively silencing domestic political opposition while accommodating religious conservatives to shore up support across the country. The security forces have detained human rights workers and opposition leaders, and in some cases their families. They have barred travel abroad for political conferences and shut down a human rights center financed by the European Union. And the government has delivered a stern message to the national media, demanding that it promote - not challenge - the official agenda.

* Israeli intelligence confirmed the arrest of Assam Zinadin, a Palestinian terrorist wanted in a shooting attack in the West Bank a month ago that killed an Israeli father of two. Following an increase in attempted suicide bombings, Israel has implemented more restrictive security measures in the West Bank.

* Israel Defense Forces arrested a female Palestinian in Nablus last week, who was on her way to carry out a suicide bombing.

* According to terrorism expert Olivier Guitta, al Qaeda is recruiting in the Palestinian territories and plan to attack Israel within three years. Guitta notes that "signs of a major destabilization in the Palestinian territories and Israel are all over the wall." The Sunday edition of the Times Online also has an article on al Qaeda recruiting in Gaza.

* A Kuwaiti researcher says that Saudi Arabia is preparing a nuclear program with the assistance of Pakistan and other allies, a charge that Riyadh denies. (Hattip: Threatswatch)

* On Friday, an al Qaeda linked Palestinian terrorist was taken into custody in Hizme by Israeli security forces.

* Al Qaeda's Committee in the Arabian Peninsula released a new statement denying the recent arrest of 40 al Qaeda linked terrorists and denied rumors that an al Qaeda website discussion forum was infiltrated and used by authorities against the terrorists.

* According to reports, Iran has successfully tested a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead. One U.S. official described it as "a major breakthrough for the Iranians", adding that Iran has "been trying to do this for years and now they have succeeded. It is a very disturbing development."

* Two Turkish security force officers were killed when their vehicle drove over a remote-detonated mine on Saturday in the Kurdish southeastern region of the country. The attack followed the killing of six Kurdish militants in Sirnak, the province bordering Iraq.

* The United States and the European Union have ceased aid to the Hamas-led Palestinian government, prompting condemnation and warnings that the Palestinian Authority is on the verge of collapse and leaving Palestinians wondering about their future.

* Yemen will soon put 172 al Qaeda linked terrorists on trial in "the coming days", after interrogations are concluded.

* On Friday, Israeli aircraft struck a vehicle with four missiles in Rafah, killing six people, including three Hamas members and a key bombmaker. In response, Hamas vowed to retaliate. On Saturday, a separate airstrike killed six Palestinian terrorists at a Fatah training camp in Gaza.

America Domestic Security & the Americas

* Dadmanly writes about the press story claiming President Bush gave the go-ahead for a leak of classified material, when in reality the Bush Administration was counteracting the falsehoods in Joe Wilson's report. Dadmanly has a good roundup of links on the story as well.

* Supporters of President Hugo Chavez threw eggs, fruit and vegetables at the U.S. ambassador's car Friday, and a group of motorcyclists chased his convoy for miles, at times pounding on the vehicles, a U.S. Embassy official said. No one was hurt. Embassy spokesman Brian Penn said Venezuelan police escorts did not intervene as the car carrying Ambassador William Brownfield was pounded and pelted.

* A woman and her two daughters were reported kidnapped in northeastern Venezuela on the same day that three Canadian brothers and their driver were cremated after being abducted and murdered, local media said. The kidnapping came as protests raged in Caracas over a spate of kidnappings, including the abduction and murder of three Canadian boys and their driver, who were cremated on Thursday.

* Bombs exploded on two buses in a working class district of Colombia's capital Thursday, injuring two dozen passengers, including three children with burns over half their body, officials said. Authorities said the near simultaneous blasts in southern Bogota were likely the work of leftist rebels.

* Unmanned aerial vehicles have soared the skies of Afghanistan and Iraq for years, spotting enemy encampments, protecting military bases, and even launching missile attacks against suspected terrorists. Now UAVs may be landing in the United States. A House of Representatives panel on Wednesday heard testimony from police agencies that envision using UAVs for everything from border security to domestic surveillance high above American cities.

* The judge in the death-penalty trial of Zacarias Moussaoui said Friday she would open much of the voluminous record in the case to families of Sept. 11 victims pursuing negligence suits against American Airlines and United Airlines.

* In Trinidad, the leader of the Jamaat al Muslimeen Imam Yasin Abu Bakr will reappear in court on Monday when a date for his retrial on a charge of conspiracy to murder is expected to be fixed.

Russia, Caucasus & Central Asia

* Reports of a Russian police commando raid in Adygeya back on March 31st were made public this weekend, in which dozens of Muslims were detained.

* Russia and Tajikistan held joint counterterrorism exercises last week at a Russian military base near the Tajik-Afghan border.

* Russian authorities detained a suspected terrorist in the Ingushetia city of Nazran on Sunday, and confiscated a grenade and 900g of plastic explosives.

* A police officer and two family members were gunned down in the Chechen village of Sernovodsk in the Sunzha district on Sunday.

* The USS Porter (DDG 78) has been deployed in Georgia the last week holding tactical training exercises with the Georgian Navy and a Turkish vessel.

Afghanistan & Southern Asia

* Hundreds more protesters were arrested in Nepal on the second day of a general strike calling for King Gyanendra to restore democracy as demonstrations left two dozen injured. "Some 200 protesters from the Nepali Congress Party and more than 150 from the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) have been arrested and 12 injured during protests," said Nepali Congress Party secretary Shovarkar Parajuli. He vowed the opposition-party sponsored protests, which have seen more than 750 people officially detained since Tuesday, would go on.

* Communist rebels bombed government buildings and raided security bases in a southern Nepal town, taking hostages and engaging police in gunbattles that left 13 people dead, officials said today. Meanwhile, an army helicopter gunship crashed while responding to the attack, killing 10 soldiers on board.

* In Nepal, Security forces fired on anti-monarch demonstrators in separate marches Saturday, killing one and wounding five as the government escalated its crackdown on those seeking a return of democracy. Authorities said they would extend a dawn-to-dusk curfew in the capital to a second day Sunday after opposition parties announced plans to hold a rally. The curfew will be imposed from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. in Katmandu and its surrounding areas, and gives security forces orders to shoot any violators, a notice on the state-run Nepal Television said. On Saturday, the government had already imposed a curfew in Katmandu and its suburbs, saying it was necessary to ensure the safety of people and property.

* At least 19 persons, including two civilians, were killed and nearly three dozen others were injured in fierce Maoist attacks in the headquarters of Rupandehi and Kapilvastu districts, south-western Nepal, on Friday night. A local resident of Butwal in Rupandehi district, three security personnel – two Royal Nepalese Army (RNA) soldiers and a policeman – and 14 Maoists were killed when hundreds of Maoists simultaneously attacked the security bases and government installations in Butwal and Parasi Bazaar in Nawalparasi district at around 9:00 p.m., according to security sources.

* Security forces fired at anti-monarchy demonstrators in eastern Nepal on Sunday, killing at least one man, as the main opposition parties and communist rebels said a nationwide general strike and protests would continue indefinitely. The death in Banepa, 20 miles east of the capital, was the third in ongoing demonstrations to pressure King Gyanendra to give up absolute rule.

* The risk of Sri Lanka returning to full-scale hostilities despite a four-year-long ceasefire with Tamil rebels is stunting economic growth and investment, the Asian Development Bank said. Political negotiations between Colombo and Tamil Tiger rebels remain on hold since April 2003.

* A pro-Tamil Tiger activist and two police guards were shot dead in Sri Lanka's volatile east as Norway's top peace envoys left the island following a new bid to salvage a truce, police said. Vanniasingham Vigneswaran, who spearheaded the Tamil Resurgence Movement, a known front organisation of the rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), was gunned down in the town of Trincomalee, police said.

* Thousands of activists from an outlawed Sunni Muslim militant group rallied in Pakistan's capital, calling for the establishment of an Islamic theocracy in the country and across the world. Activists of Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) openly distributed pamphlets preaching jihad, or holy war, and hatred against minority Shiites in Islamabad as their leaders delivered fiery speeches to a crowd of around 5,000 late on Thursday.

* Pakistani authorities said on Thursday that up to 40 militants were killed by security forces in clashes a day earlier in a remote tribal region near the Afghanistan border. After a major operation on Wednesday in North Waziristan tribal district, the military had said at least 16 militants were killed and 19 captured.

* Although the Pakistani government vowed to reform the country's 13,000 madrassas or Islamic seminaries, little has actually changed. After the London bombings in July, when it was confirmed that two of the suicide bombers had travelled to Pakistan before the attacks and one of them was also shown to have visited a Pakistani madrassa, Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf said that all foreign students in the madrassas, some 1,400 of them, had to leave the country by the end of 2005. Months after the pronouncement, and after fierce opposition from Pakistan's religious parties, the reality on the ground is different.

* Pakistan has branded an underground militant group operating in the restive southwestern province of Baluchistan a "terrorist" organisation. "The federal government has declared Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA) as terrorist organisation over its involvement in sabotage and subversive activities," provincial police chief, Chaudhry Mohammad Yaqub, told AFP Sunday. He said Baluchistan police had arrested an unspecified number of militants who confessed they had been receiving money and weapons from the group for attacks on government installations. He said now the group was officially a terrorist organisation, its name could not appear in the Pakistani media.

* Activists of the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP) vowed to establish a global caliphate, beginning with Pakistan. In a rally attended by thousands of activists of the banned group to commemorate the birth of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) on Friday, leaders of the SSP called for an Islamic theocracy in Pakistan.

* In India, two people were killed and several injured on Thursday when groups of Hindus and Muslims clashed over prayers at a Hindu temple, officials said. The rioting erupted in a crowded neighbourhood of Aligarh town in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh after Muslims objected to the use of loudspeakers overnight by Hindus, who were celebrating the birthday of the Hindu god-king, Rama.

* Uttar Pradesh police's Special Task Force and Jammu and Kashmir police on Friday nabbed a Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist from Ateria Railway station in Sitapur district in a joint operation.

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

* Four people were killed and 25 wounded when dozens of homemade bombs exploded in clashes between farmers and Bangladesh's ruling party members over power supplies, according to police reports. More than 5,000 farmers marched in the northern town of Shibganj late Thursday where they faced off with supporters of the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), an area police chief said.

* Feuding Bangladesh political parties have agreed in principle to hold talks over electoral reform proposals made by former prime minister Sheikh Hasina. But the deal hit an immediate hurdle when the opposition asked the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to exclude its coalition partner, Jamaat-e-Islami party, from the talks.

* A suicide attacker detonated a car bomb near British troops in southern Afghanistan Friday, killing himself and possibly wounding British troops, a police chief said. The attacker blew himself up outside a coalition base in Lashkar Gah, the capital of southern Helmand province, provincial police chief Abdul Rahman Saber said.

* A suicide car bomb outside a NATO military base in a western Afghan city Saturday killed two Afghans and wounded seven others — the second such attack on a foreign military base in as many days. The explosions highlighted the increasing risk to foreign forces as they expand into new areas across Afghanistan.

* Two suicide attackers exploded car bombs in separate assaults on US and Afghan forces yesterday, slightly wounding two US military members and one US civilian contractor, officials said. The bombings occurred around 11:30 a.m. in the southern province of Helmand, a hub of Afghanistan's drug trade and Taliban rebellion.

* Coalition forces killed a senior Taliban commander during an offensive in southern Afghanistan, the US military said. The commander 'was directly tied to dozens of improvised explosive device attacks that killed and crippled multiple Afghans since 2001, when the Taliban regime was ousted,' the statement said.

* Two bombs exploded within minutes of each other Sunday in Afghanistan's main southern city, wounding 11 people, officials said.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* New Zealand's Security Intelligence Service (SIS) released their annual threat report that noted al Qaeda sympathizers living in the nation but the likelihood of an attack remained low. New Zealand's police department just received 97 recruits from Britain, who will join their police force after 11-weeks of training.

* Two Indonesian terrorists tied to Jemaah Islamiyah leader Noordin Mohammed Top, have confessed to surveying Japanese targets in Indonesia as part of an effort to target interests of the United States and allies.

* Australian Ministers face a grilling this week over kickbacks in the Iraq oil for food scandal. Deputy Prime Minister Mark Vaile will appear on Monday before a board of inquiry.

* Malaysia came out with praise for the peace talks taking place between the Filipino government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

* Syrian born Ahmad al-Hamwi has been living in Australia since 1996, despite ties to al Qaeda and plots against the United States dating back to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

* Indonesian authorities found a cache of 40 homemade bombs in a cemetery on Suwalesi island on Sunday, the scene of frequent confrontations between Muslims and Christians.

* Two Communist NPA rebels were killed in fighting with Filipino government troops this weekend after a raid on an NPA safehouse in Tigacalaan village. Two other militants were captured.

* John Ritch, head of the World Nuclear Association, says that North Korean claims of having nuclear weapons should not be taken seriously, and much like Saddam Hussein's Iraq, North Korea may be exaggerating their capabilities.


* An Egyptian accused of helping plan the Madrid train bombings in 2004 indoctrinated young people in Spain and advocated martyrdom, an Italian investigator told a court on Friday. Former army member Rabei Osman Sayed Ahmed, also known as "Mohamed the Egyptian," sat quietly inside a cage in the Milan court as the investigator accused him of advocating jihad and cheering the execution of American hostage Nick Berg in Iraq. "Rabei's activity in Spain was to indoctrinate the young people," Bruno Megale, a Milan anti-terrorist investigator, told the court.

* A Bosnian weekly said on Thursday top Bosnian Serb war crimes fugitive Ratko Mladic told U.N. chief prosecutor Carla del Ponte he would surrender soon, in a phone call placed by the Serbian prime minister from his office. Slobodna Bosna quoted an unnamed source close to Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica as saying the premier called Mladic on March 29 when his guest del Ponte asked him how he could be so sure of his promise to deliver him to the Hague tribunal within weeks.

* A conference of 150 Muslim leaders and imams from more than 40 European countries opened on Friday in the Austrian capital, Vienna. The three-day gathering will focus on issues affecting the Muslim communities in Europe, such as the creation of new jobs and the role of women. A key goal will be to hammer out an identity for European Muslims that preserves their traditions while integrating with Western political and social values.

* The Croatian authorities have denied allegations in a new Amnesty International report that America's Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) used its airports to transport terror suspects seized in extra-judicial abductions. The London-based rights group said in a report released on Wednesday that the airport in the Adriatic resort town of Dubrovnik was one of the 46 airports in 30 countries that CIA used for its clandestine operations.

* In The Bullpen links to a story saying "Italian authorities have thwarted planned terrorist attacks against a church in Bologna and Milan's subway, the Interior Minister said Thursday." Chad writes "the Italian thwarting of an attack appears to have a Moroccan connection."

* Spain's High Court has said overnight that it had quashed jail terms handed down to three of 18 Al-Qaeda operatives, including the Syrian head of a Spanish-based cell found to have helped to organise the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States. According to court sources, the High Court freed Driss Chebli, Sadik Meriziak and Abdulaziz Benyaich after receiving notification from the Supreme Court that the trio's appeal would lead to their being absolved.

* Al-Qaeda played no part in the London bombings last July, instead they were planned on a low budget from information off the Internet, the leaked findings of an inquiry into the blasts revealed. The Observer newspaper, reporting the leak, said the government probe into Britain's worst terrorist attack concluded that it was a "simple and inexpensive" plot dreamt up by four suicide bombers intent on martyrdom.

* At least 400 Al-Qaeda terrorist suspects — double the previous estimates — are at large in Britain, according to police and MI5. Dame Eliza Manningham-Buller, director-general of MI5, has said the figure could be as high as 600 if all those thought to have returned from combat training in camps in Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere are included.

* A Spanish judge is expected to charge about 30 people with involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombings on Monday, completing a two-year investigation into attacks which left 191 people dead. Judge Juan del Olmo will take steps toward a trial that probably won't start before early next year, judicial sources said.

* In Europe, Big Brother is listening and being allowed to hear more and more. Since the Sept. 11 attacks and the terrorist bombings that followed in Madrid and London, authorities across the continent are getting more powers to electronically eavesdrop, and meeting less apparent opposition than President Bush did over his post-9/11 wiretapping program.


* The Algerian police have dismantled an international terrorist group that infiltrated terrorists into Spain and other European countries. Several dozen of them have moved into Spain with false residence permits, passports, and visas. The group began operations in 2000, and at least twenty persons have been arrested while carrying arms in Algeria with false papers supposedly issued at the Algerian consulates in Madrid and Alicante.

* Nigerian militants whose attacks have shut a quarter of Nigerian oil output threatened on Friday to execute anyone found on previously attacked oil platforms operated by Royal Dutch Shell.

* The Tuareg tribes are again in rebellion against the Mali government. The Taureg take their Islam in a decidedly Taureg fashion. Leave the Taureg and al Qaeda together long enough, and you can expect some homegrown Taureg counter-terrorist action. But the Mali government doesn't want to wait, for they know that al Qaeda might get into some local mischief first.

* Gunmen attacked a convoy of customs agents traveling through the desert in southern Algeria on Friday, killing 13 and wounding eight others, the official APS news agency reported. One other person was reported to have disappeared in the attack in the Ghardaia region, 745 miles south of the capital of this North African nation, APS reported, citing local security sources.

* Since 2003, Sudan's Arab Janjaweed militias have terrorized blacks in the Darfur region by burning villages, stealing cattle and livestock and indiscriminately shooting civilians. In recent months, they've exported that campaign of terror to black villages in neighboring Chad, where victims describe attacks virtually identical to those in Darfur.

* Gates of Vienna has a piece titled "The Taliban, Somalia style", while the Chronicle is reporting that the United States is backing Somalian militants who are fighting Islamic extremists.

The Global War

* To hear Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed tell it, Osama bin Laden was a meddling boss whose indiscretion and poor judgment threatened to derail the terrorist attacks. He also saddled Mohammed with at least four would-be hijackers who the ringleader thought were ill-equipped for the job.

* The more than 6,000 terror- and hate-related websites catalogued by the U.S.-based Simon Wiesenthal Center in its annual report represent a 20-per-cent increase over last year, Rabbi Abraham Cooper said. "I think there's been a line crossed insofar as the Internet really emerging as a virtual university of terrorism," said Mr. Cooper, associate dean of the centre. "Giving the political leadership, a snapshot of what's going on will help to formulate some of the discussions and bring them up to speed."

* The Pentagon and the State Department have recommended spending about $100 million this year to train and equip foreign militaries in Southeast Asia, the Middle East, South America and Africa as part of a new strategy to help partner nations fight terrorism beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, administration officials said yesterday.

* While the United States struggles to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions, a more frightening nightmare is simmering right now in Pakistan, where a weak but nuclear-armed government is being buffeted by radical Islamist influences, terrorism and several bloody insurgencies. Among all the perils the U.S. faces, "Pakistan is the most horrific and the hardest one to do anything about," said Charles D. Furguson, a senior nuclear proliferation expert at the Council on Foreign Relations who served as a naval officer on a nuclear missile submarine.

* Jordanian foreign minister Abd-al-Ilah al-Khatib is scheduled to arrive in Moscow this week for discussions on Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. The fight against international terrorism and religious extremism is also expected to be a prominent point of focus.

* Canada has added to its list of terrorist organizations the Tamil Tigers, a group fighting for the autonomy of northeastern Sri Lanka, the National Post reported, saying an official government announcement was expected Monday.

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Sunday, April 09, 2006

Darfur Update

Strategy Page points out how Chad has been sucked into the chaotic situation in Darfur. How often does brutal instability in a country ever stay completely confined within its borders? (Something to consider for those who think we should've left Hussein in Iraq.)

The continuing raids by Sudanese tribesmen have sent over 50,000 Chad civilians fleeing from their villages. Some of the Sudanese raiders belong to tribes with branches in Chad. Same thing with the victims. Like Sudan, Chad has tribes that consider themselves Arab, while others consider themselves just African. There has always been animosity between the two groups, although intermarriage, rape and slavery have resulted in both groups looking much alike, and sharing languages and customs.

Sudan continues to receive the support of other Arab nations, especially Egypt. The Arab nations oppose bringing in UN, and especially European, peacekeepers. This would offend the dignity of the Arab world (the way overthrowing Saddam Hussein did), thus the Arabs allow the ethnic cleansing of Darfur to continue, even though the victims are Moslem. These attacks are less painful to Arabs because the victims are black Africans, who have always been held in low esteem by Arabs, even if the Africans are Moslem. The UN, however, will not stop criticizing Sudan for its support of the violence. However, a coalition of Arab and Moslem nations, plus China (which wants to protect its business interests in Sudan), block any too aggressive operations by the UN.

The Arab Janjaweed militias are wreaking havoc in Darfur with the, at worst, tacit support of the Sudanese government. And, as I've mentioned here before, these militias sometimes operate in Chad.

Since 2003, Sudan's Arab Janjaweed militias have terrorized blacks in the Darfur region by burning villages, stealing cattle and livestock and indiscriminately shooting civilians.

In recent months, they've exported that campaign of terror to black villages in neighboring Chad, where victims describe attacks virtually identical to those in Darfur.

The Sudanese government has denied that it still supports the militias, but Chadians' accounts in interviews with Knight Ridder suggest that the Janjaweed remain well armed and the scope of their attacks is widening.

"They surrounded the village, they took all our animals and our food and they left nothing," said Gamar Souleymana, 30, describing a Janjaweed attack last month near the town of Goungour, about 25 miles south of Adre.

The African Union is powerless to stop the violence, and is in need of money, yet the AU recently decided to continue its mission till September, rather than asking the UN to take over now. Sudan is opposed to a UN military presence within its borders. And so, the situation continues to spiral into chaos.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Port of Gwadar

I've done a few posts here recently on Pakistan's province of Balochistan, and the unrest there. A Baloch independence movement is slowly gaining momentum, and the number of armed encounters between Balochs and Pakistani forces have been on the rise, especially since December 2005, when rockets were fired by separatists in the vicinity of Musharraf during a visit to Balochistan.

With its proximity to Afghanistan, and also Iran, which has also seen attacks from Sunnis in its southeastern Sistan-Balochistan province, I sense this region will grow in strategic importance. The province has natural resources, especially gas, that are important to Pakistan. An independence movement would threaten that.

There is another reason, though, why this province will continue to be a strategic location.

The port of Gwadar is a port in the southwestern corner of Balochistan. It is only 72 km from Iran. It sits just about at the point where the Gulf of Oman widens out into the Indian Ocean. Starting in about 2001, Pakistan started to develop this port as a deep-water port with the cooperation of China.

It is a port of growing importance to China. China has invested $200 million so far in this port, building up its facilities. The port will be a place where Chinese ships and submarines can dock. (A couple weeks ago, Pakistan and China signed an agreement for the next phase of the project, which will involve dredging.)

Already China has set up listening posts here, to monitor US Navy traffic in and out of the Persian Gulf.

But perhaps the chief reason China is interested in this port is oil. China view this port as a way to bring oil to China by land. China gets around 60% of its oil from the Middle East. With its proximity to the Persian Gulf, China would bring oil that short distance to Gwadar, then bring it into China by land. A land route would prevent China from having to ship the oil a much longer distance where it might be interdicted by naval forces in the event of a crisis.

Already China is working with Pakistan to improve rail and road networks connecting Gwadar to the rest of Pakistan, and on to China.

The port could bring a lot of revenue to Pakistan as trade and shipping through the port increase.

And as such, a separatist movement in Balochistan could threaten all that. Hence, Pakistan will not sit idly by. (In 2004, some Chinese engineers on the Gwadar were killed and others injured in a Baloch attack.) Railroads and pipelines going inland from Gwadar could be vulnerable to guerilla attacks, so Pakistan has a thorny security problem on its hands.

From the Baloch perspective, the port is another sign that the rest of Pakistan is just using the province, and that the province will not reap the benefits of its assets.

As I mentioned in another post, if the US so desired, it could find a friend in Balochistan if we supported this independence movement. And in turn, if a friendly Balochistan denied the use of the this port to China, and provided a base for guerillas to harrass Iran, US interests could be served. (Though, as I've mentioned, given China's investments and Pakistan's interests, Balochistan could not just deny the use of the port and expect that to be the end of it. There would be a reaction.)

However, to do so would mean opposing Musharraf, with the consequences all that implies for continued cooperation against Al Qaeda, and Pakistan's own radicals.

Keep an eye on the port of Gwadar. You will hear more about it in the coming years.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Iran hits back

No, not outside its borders. You may recall this post about an incident in the SE Iranian province of Sistan-Balochistan where gunmen killed 26. Some government officials were targets of the attack.

Iran's regime is not the regime to take that sort of thing lying down. Today there was this news:

Iran has killed the leader and 11 members of a Sunni militant group responsible for murdering 26 people in southeastern Iran, press reports said.

"Abdolmalek Rigi, leader of the terrorist group, the Jundullah (Soldiers of God) ... was killed in an operation on the border with Afghanistan," Iran's hardline Kayhan daily said, quoting an unidentified source in the interior ministry.

The group had reportedly carried out an ambush in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan in March that left 26 people dead and another 12 missing, according to Kayhan.

From Iran's perspective, quite a success to get the leader of this group. Since emerging in June 2005, the Jund Allah has shown signs of becoming quite a thorn in Iran's side.

Meanwhile, across the border in Pakistan's Balochistan province,

Three Pakistan army men were killed and four injured in firing by angry Baluch tribesmen over their vehicle in southern Pakistan on Friday afternoon, official sources in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan Province, said.

They said that Mengal tribesmen had blocked the Quetta-Karachi road to protest over the police action against their tribal chief and head of Baluchistan National Party, Akhtar Mengal, in Karachi on Thursday.

This account describes the aforementioned police action involving Mengal:

A day-long siege of the Clifton residence of the chief of Balochistan Nationalist Party (BNM), Sardar Akhtar Mengal, on Wednesday came to an end at around midnight when law-enforcement agencies arrested his two guards and a driver.

The arrests were made after negotiations between Sardar Mengal and DIG Operations Mushtaq Shah.

Talking to newsmen, Mr Mengal identified the arrested guards and driver as Mehboob Ali, Nasrullah and Ghulam Haider. "I offered myself for the arrest but they did not take me, instead they staged a drama by placing a day-long siege. I asked them to show an FIR but they didn't. The police said that three people were wanted who would be taken away."

This sparked a reaction from BNP supporters:

Balochistan National Party Mengal activists on Thursday blocked all major highways in southern Balochistan in protest at the siege of Sardar Akhtar Mengal’s Karachi house and arrest of his three guards.

The Quetta-Karachi road was blocked at Khizdar, Wadh, Qalat and Mastung, the Quetta-Taftan road was blocked at Naushki, the Quetta-Jacobabad road was blocked at Kolpur and the Coastal Highway was blocked at Gwadar when the BNP activists staged a sit in at Zero Point.

Protestors chanted slogans on Saryab Road in Quetta and pelted stones at government vehicles. BNP Information Secretary Sana Baloch said that police provoked the workers and then fired teargas at them. He claimed that strike was successful.

A powerful device reportedly exploded in a market but no causalities were reported. A party worker was injured when tribesmen opened fire in the Mangochar area.

Sana Baloch said that a meeting of an alliance of four Baloch parties was held on Thursday. Hasil Bezenjo of the National Party chaired the meeting attended by representatives of the Balochistan Naional Party, Haq Tawar, Natinal Party and Jamhoori Watan Party.

Baloch said they would hold talks with other political parties like the Pakhtoonkhwa Milli Awami Party and would launch a movement against the government after the second week of April. He demanded the government withdraw forces from Balochistan, stop military activity, send non-Baloch in the Frontier Corps back to their provinces, release detainees and provide jobs to the Baloch people.

Pakistan seems intent on going after Baloch leaders. Earlier in the week, Balochistan Liberation Army chief Ghazyan Mari was arrested in Dubai.

VDH Gets It Right Again #4,552,983

From Victor Davis Hanson's column today at NRO...

Moreover, who knows what a successful strike against Iranian nuclear facilities might portend? We rightly are warned of all the negatives — further Shiite madness in Iraq, an Iranian land invasion into Basra, dirty bombs going off in the U.S., smoking tankers in the Straits of Hormuz, Hezbollah on the move in Lebanon, etc. — but rarely of a less probable but still possible scenario: a humiliated Iran is defanged; the Arab world sighs relief, albeit in private; the Europeans chide us publicly but pat us on the back privately; and Iranian dissidents are energized, while theocratic militarists, like the Argentine dictators who were crushed in the Falklands War, lose face. Nothing is worse for the lunatic than when his cheap rhetoric earns abject humiliation for others.

In our Western civilization today, we are so far removed from the days when armies might suddenly appear without warning over the horizon and burn our villages and carry away our women and children. We are so far removed from the days when scratching a life out of the dust of the earth required sweat and tears and we were one bad crop away from hunger.

The masses spend their mental energy on American Idol, instant messaging, iPods, cell phones. Who, from day to day, fears what is over the horizon?

We have that luxury because brave men and women have gone over the horizon on our behalf, to hold off the forces that seek to destroy. Except for one terrible day in September 2001, those forces never visit us. The threat is not visible for many.

As Hanson points out, though, rather than let the knee twitch the media and its echo chamber on the Left will have govern our foreign policy, let's not forget the benefits that might come from strong action against Iran.

Hanson closes with this thought.

So, please, Mr. Ahmadinejad, cool the rhetoric fast — before you needlessly push once reasonable people against the wall, and thus talk your way into a sky full of very angry and righteous jets.

In Search Of... X

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.)

-signs when a guy loves you for real as a wifey?
-critical analysis of the literary metric in star spangled banner
-victimization at metro transit stations fear of crime
-have you ever felt so bad not love not like by anyone
-obsession with elevators
-2006 email of british troops crossing the river
-twinks using glory holes
-low profile jack to move vending machines
-have the president caught any in terrorist on the domestic spy
-the tribune/something bad that turned good
-search for the current comparison activities of russian mod and asian mob?
-someone send me the words to he's like a river that flows
-katie poopy diaper
-denver teeball for toddlers

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The capture of Abu Ayman

Today MNF-Iraq released news of an important capture. Abu Ayman, a high-level terrorist with strong ties to terror leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, was captured March 7 in southern Baghdad.

Iraqi terrorist leader Muhammed Hila Hammad Ubaydi, aka Abu Ayman, was captured and arrested by Iraqi Forces in the Al Mahmudiyah neighborhood in southern Baghdad March 7. Investigators held notice of this capture until now due to DNA testing, which has confirmed this is Abu Ayman. Ayman's capture was the result of a determined manhunt conducted by Iraqi intelligence professionals and several intelligence agencies within the Coalition.

Until his capture, Abu Ayman, the former aide to the Chief of Staff of Intelligence during the Saddam Hussein regime, was the leader of the Secret Islamic Army in the Northern Babil Province . Abu Ayman has strong ties to terror leader Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, still considered the head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq .

Abu Ayman is the prime suspect in the kidnapping of Italian journalist Guiliana Sgrena and for assassination attempts on Iraqi Government and Iraqi Security Forces officials.

Abu Ayman is also the prime suspect in the kidnapping and killing of several hostages in Iraq and for committing some of the most lethal IED attacks on Coalition and Iraqi Forces and on Iraqi citizens since the fall of the regime.

As has so often been in the case in Iraq, this success was built on previous successes. The capture of Abu Ayman's lieutenant played a role.

Abu Ayman's lieutenant Abu Qatada, a Syrian born terrorist who was wanted for multiple IED attacks, the assassinations of two Iraqi government council members, and the murders of several truck drivers in order to use their trucks in vehicle borne IED attacks, was captured by Iraqi and Coalition Forces on Dec. 27 during a raid on his house where Abu Qatada was found hiding in a nearby canal. In the months following his capture Abu Qatada has provided valuable information on the Abu Ayman terror network.

An arrest warrant for Abu Ayman was first issued by the Iraqi Central Investigating Court back on October 17, and was made public on November 15.

Security Watchtower highlights what has been standard practice for Coalition Forces. News of significant captures like this is not made public until information gathered from the terrorists can be exploited.

It's interesting to note that the U.S. military didn't announce the capture of Ayman's top aide, Ramsi Ahmed Ismael Muhammed (aka Abu Qatada), until March 9th, two days after Ayman himself was captured. Qatada had been in custody for about 10 weeks at the time, leaving me to question whether a larger fish could've been captured in the last few days, enabling information on Abu Ayman's capture to be publicly confirmed.

Putting Together the Pieces

* 6 April - The capture of Abu Ayman is announced
* 9 March - The capture of Abu Qatada is announced
* 9 March - Large U.S./Iraqi air assault Sadr-Yusufiyah area
* 7 March - Abu Ayman is captured
* 27 February - Raid north of Fallujah nets 61 terror suspects including "key al Qaeda members"
* 6 February - Iraqi police announce capture of Abu Dahr
* 6 February - Iraqi intelligence says Zarqawi moved to Iran
* 23 January - Iraqi intelligence points to Zarqawi in Diyala
* 29 December - Abu Qatada is captured

Was the intelligence in January that pointed towards Zarqawi's presence in Diyala Province generated from interrogations of Abu Qatada? Was the March 9th raid in the Sadr-Yusufiyah area based on intelligence gathered from Abu Ayman? Only the military knows the answers to those questions, but it is worth going back and reexamining the time period during which some of these captures took place in once that information has been released.

I'd like to pick up what C.S. Scott points out here. I've done a number of posts on intelligence successes in Iraq. In Feburary, I suggested perhaps a string of these successes played a role in the attack in Damadola, Pakistan on January 13 aimed at Zawahiri. (He was not present, but the attack did kill several high-level terrorists.)

For more on that, see this post and this post.

The chain of successes I refer to started September 24 when Abu Khalil, assistant to Abu Azzam, a senior leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, was captured.

Abu Azzam was killed the next day, with indications being Abu Khalil provided information that led to Abu Azzam. Here's how Abu Khalil was described:

Abu Khalil, a close associate of Abu Azzam, served as an executive assistant for the terrorist emir. He also acted as a banker for Azzam and stored the terrorist organizations funds so they would not be confiscated should Abu Azzam be killed or captured.

Note that Abu Khalil controlled the purse strings. As I pointed out back then, it so important to follow the money, and Abu Khalil would've had great knowledge of terrorist operations, as money makes the terrorist world go around.

In this post, then, I speculated that Abu Khalil led to another significant success, the capture of another top-level financier, Yasir Sabhawi Ibrahim, son of Saddam's half brother Sabhawi Ibrahim Hasan al-Tikriti.

This capture occurred October 19, only two days after the arrest warrant for Abu Ayman was issued. The notice of the arrest warrant said this:

Abu Ayman, a Saddamist, was a former aide to the Chief of Staff of Intelligence in the Baathist Regime and has been financing and leading insurgency operations since Saddam Hussein’s fall in 2003.

Could the operation that led to Ibrahim returning from Syria to be arrested also have played a role in an arrest warrant being issued for Abu Ayman? As C.S. says, only the military and intelligence agencies know for sure. But, and I cannot stress enough, capturing the senior money guys is so vital, because they know where the money goes, and to whom it is distributed. Ibrahim and Abu Ayman could have had ties.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Whatsoever ye sow...

High oil prices are flooding Iran with oil cash. As such, it is in Iran's interest to keep oil prices high. However, the confrontation that Iran has brought upon itself is hurting Iran in other ways.

Yet Iran's economy is in serious trouble, in spite of its huge oil revenues. And the Iranian people, suffering from crushing unemployment and inflation, may soon grow weary of his regime sacrificing their butter for guns.

The U.N. should take heed. Imposing economic sanctions against Tehran would further isolate it and perhaps build enough internal pressure to force Tehran to comply with international demands to stop uranium enrichment.

Since Ahmadinejad's election last year, there has been a massive flight of capital from Iran. Many investors are nervous about the showdown over the country's nuclear program and have chosen to reinvest their funds in more stable markets such as nearby United Arab Emirates.

Thousands of companies owned by Iranians are now operating in Dubai and elsewhere outside of Iran. Even the normally active real estate market in Tehran has softened. The Hoover Institution estimates that more than $200 billion has already left Iran. Tehran, desperate for capital, began withdrawing assets from European banks earlier this year.

The nuclear crisis isn't the only thing on investors' minds. They're also worried about Ahmadinejad's anti-market policies.

For one, he's stopped cold previous reforms to privatize Iran's economy. Tehran already runs roughly 80% of the economy, and Ahmadinejad has redirected investments to the public sector. His first budget, approved by the Iranian parliament last month, ramps up government spending by 25%.

Private banking is in a severe crisis, according to Hoover. Since the president decreed banks should be a monopoly of the state, Tehran has been lowering interest rates. There are fears that inflation, already at 14%, could skyrocket.

It's said that Ahmadinejad wants to outlaw interest altogether to comply with Islamic law barring usury. Some orthodox bank managers have already announced a moratorium on lending.

The president has also suggested the stock market is a form of gambling and also is "un-Islamic." Not surprisingly, Iran's stock index has surrendered nearly a quarter of its value since Ahmadinejad was elected last June.

An excellent article by Michael Rubin and Patrick Clawson in the current issue of the MERIA Journal looks at conditions in Iran today. The purpose is to draw parallels with Iran before the 1979 Revolution, but Rubin and Clawson point out the rot that is eating away at Iran's society.

And there is yet a third labor challenge, namely, women. According to Iranian government census data, in 1996, Iran had 1.8 million working women compared to 13.1 million women home-makers. In 2000, for the first time, more women than men were admitted to universities. The trend has since accelerated. International experience suggests that as women's educational standards improve, more women will want jobs. If the percent of women who want jobs rises from 15 percent to 25 percent--the current rate in Tunisia, and if GDP grows only at its recent average 4.5 percent a year, then unemployment will reach 23 percent in 2010, even assuming state enterprises remain grossly overstaffed. There is little indication that the political elites are willing to undertake the reforms needed to make effective use of the country's labor potential. The extra resources from the oil boom have not to date been used for job-creating investments; little is being done to promote a more favorable environment for private sector development; and the difficulties women facing in private sector employment remain unaddressed. It would seem that instead of making reforms the political elite is more comfortable with the "solution" of rising emigration rates, especially among the well educated.
Labor unrest is also boiling. It was national strikes in key industries--oil, telecommunications, and banking--which finally brought down the shah's government. In recent years, the Islamic Republic has again had to face labor discontent. Textile workers in Isfahan, teachers in Tehran and, in January 2006, bus drivers have walked out on strike.[37] While workers complain about unpaid wages and high-level corruption, though, the labor unrest is not as widespread as it once was. Given the lack of strike absent funds to help support workers' families, wildcat strikes are likely to spread to key industries such oil and manufacturing. The same economic discontent which brought Ahmadinezhad to power now threatens him since, despite the high oil income, he has not been able to deliver on his populist promises- his response has been to make many new promises for development projects as he tours the country, but there simply is not the money to pay for the projects he is promising.

Severe international sanctions might be enough to dislodge the Iranian regime, but to be effective, all the major players would have to cooperate. Russia and China show no signs of allowing such sanctions, and so the world continues to tiptoe towards a brink.

A wilderness of mirrors

Last November, there was a curious story that Iran was training Chechen rebels in Tehran. The story cited "Western intelligence reports."

It was an odd story because it was unclear why Iran would be actively supporting Russia's foes in Chechnya at a time when Iran was courting Russia's protection in the UN Security Council.

Indeed, since then Russia's relationship with Iran seems cozy, and at the time a Jamestown Foundation article cited several sources saying the story was false.

(And as Steve Schippert points out here, overlooked in recent stories about Iran's war games, designed to frighten away any military action against Iran, is the fact the weapons Iran is talking about are most likely Russian.)

One possible explanation for this story was that a Western intelligence service (I'd vote for MI6) was trying to stir up trouble for Russia, and drive a wedge between Russia and Iran.

The attempt didn't seem to go anywhere. In February, the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said this:

FAZ: U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has said that Iran is the biggest supporter of terrorism.

Sergei Ivanov: This is debatable. In any case, the terrorist attacks against America on September 11, 2001, were not carried out by Iranians. Iran does not support terrorist activities in Chechnya, unlike other Middle East countries.

Today, in the Corner, Michael Ledeen points to an article in last Sunday's Mirror saying the following:

A network of terror camps has been set up in Iran to train insurgents to kill our troops in Iraq.

Spy chiefs say al-Qaeda experts are giving three-week courses in planting roadside bombs, sniping and avoiding capture before, during and after attacks against troops.

British Special Forces are thought to know where the desert bases are and may be tracking insurgents who come and go.

Last night a senior intelligence source said: "The camps have been set up by an al-Qaeda splinter group from Iran's Revolutionary Guards."

They are thought to be responsible for at least three recent deaths in Al Amarah in Iraq.

Lance Cpl Allan Douglas - the 99th soldier to die in Iraq - was shot by a sniper and two paras were killed last month by an Iranian car bomb.

Ledeen comments:

I don't know what to make of this (old) news, except to wonder why the "senior intelligence source" is leaking now. The Brits, and even our own see-no-evil spooks know full well that the Revolutionary Guards have long trained terrorists headed for Iraq, and they certainly know that there is no such thing as "an al-Qaeda splinter group from the RG." The important thing is that they are blaming the Iranians for the deaths of British soldiers in Iraq. Why?

It could be part of a (British) campaign to prepare public opinion for action against Iran. Or it could be the action of a disgruntled (British) intelligence service, enraged at the continuing murder of British citizens and endless dithering from Tony Blair and Jack Straw.

Take your pick. But it's interesting.

If this Mirror story is a case of British intelligence trying to direct events, it is akin to the possibility they were doing the same with the Chechnya story.

In which case, the prospect of British intelligence independently working outside the direction of its government makes for fascinating speculation.

Here in the US, we, too, have an agency, namely the CIA, that at times seems to work outside its government's policy. However, these factions in the CIA are opposed to Bush's foreign policy. (I refer primarily to leaks from within the CIA.)

If it is the case, British intelligence is working in favor of Bush's foreign policy. Again, if true, these attempts are designed to alert people to the threat Iran poses, and to spark action to do something about it.

As I wrote about here, there is also the possibility British forces are providing assistance to the rebels working against Iran in the southwest province of Khuzestan.

Western nations are not ready for open military conflict against Iran, but surely there is war going on in the shadows, and we ought to be cheering on our shadow warriors. Right now those shadows are the front lines.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Roundup of events in Balochistan

The conflict in Pakistan's Balochistan province is viewed by the Baloch people as a struggle for independence. Similar to the unrest in the Niger River Delta, the Baloch people feel they are not getting their fair share of the rich resources in the province of Balochistan, and they feel the Pakistani government is not open to giving them a full voice in their affairs.

Balochistan National Party Chairman Akhtar Mengal has said the Baloch people will continue to struggle till the recognition of their right of ownership of the resources of the province. Speaking at a public meeting organised by his party at Mannan Chowk here on Sunday, he said the military operation or arrests of political workers would neither weaken the struggle for national rights nor force them to compromise the principle of sovereignty.

Thousands of BNP workers from different parts of Balochistan had earlier gathered in the suburban area of Sariab from where they marched to the venue of the meeting.

"The Baloch people, and not President Musharraf, have the right to take decisions about development projects in the province," Mr Mengal said.

He said that the struggle was not aimed at securing privileges for three Sardars, as was being alleged by the government, but for liberating the Baloch people.

He said the country had become a prison for the Baloch people and the way out of the prison was paved with trials and tribulations. Therefore, the masses had to be prepared for sacrifices and an organised struggle to achieve victory, he added.

A comment left in my Sunday post said the following:

The Baloch natives are fighting a "War of Independence" in Pakistan and Iran. At present, the Baloch territory is occupied by Afghanistan (Farrah and Nimroz provinces), Iran (Sistan-Baluchistan province), and Pakistan (Balochistan province).

Successive governments in both Iran and Pakistan have systematically oppressed the Baloch people since the occupation of Baloch territory after World War II. Due to cultural similarities between the Afghans and Baloch, the Baloch in Afghanistan were not discriminated, and thus, they have amicable relations with the Afghan government.

Although Baloch territory is rich in mineral resources, the occupying forces of Iran and Pakistan have intentionally kept the region underdeveloped to the point that it’s now one of the most neglected and backward areas in the world. The Baloch are frustrated that their region’s strategic location and mineral resources are being exploited to benefit their occupiers while they are suffering due to non-availability of infrastructure, health facilities, education, etc. So, in order to regain self-determination, the Balochis have risen to gain their freedom from both Iran and Pakistan.

The global community must realize that the Baloch are the most secular group in a region that is infested with Islamic fundamentalists. It is in the interest of global peace to support the Baloch in gaining their freedom.

Unfortunately, the US and Allied countries are backing the current government in Pakistan. To support a ruthless military dictator like Pervaiz Musharraf (Hitler of Asia and Butcher of Balochistan) is against all principals of democracy and human rights.

A Concerned Baloch

Here is a summary of some the violence and fighting in Balochistan over the last week. These are taken from the South Asia Terrorism Portal, an excellent resource for the region.

April 4

A paramilitary mine clearance soldier was killed when he stepped on a landmine in the Taraman village of Kohlu district in Balochistan on April 2, according to Daily Times.

In another incident, two soldiers were wounded when a water tanker belonging to the paramilitary forces struck a landmine near a gas field in the Loti area.

April 4

According to The News, the Balochistan Liberation Army chief Ghazyan Mari was arrested in Dubai. Ghazyan who is allegedly wanted by Pakistan’s law-enforcement agencies in various terrorist attacks had fled to the United Arabs Emirates (UAE). He was arrested by police in Dubai at the Pakistan Government’s request. The UAE Interior Ministry officials have confirmed his arrest.

April 3

13 people, including nine security force (SF) personnel, were killed and 28 others sustained injuries in a series of landmine blasts and attacks on troops in various parts of Balochistan province on April 2, according to The News.
Meanwhile, seven SF personnel were killed during another landmine blast near Sanni Cross in the Dhahdhar area of Bolan district.

Further, a bomb blast was reported from a field camp of the Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) in Kohlu district. A clash which erupted between insurgents and SF personnel after the explosion killed two soldiers and wounded eight. "The fighting is still on," a security official told Reuters.

Elsewhere, a trolley driver was killed in Naseerabad, some 200km southeast of provincial capital Quetta, when his vehicle hit a landmine.

Separately, paramilitary forces defused a remote-controlled bomb planted on the main railway line near Mach Railway Station a couple of hours before two passenger trains were to pass the spot. The Balochistan Frontier Corps on April 2 seized a cache of arms and ammunition from the Injeer Chah area in Chaghai district. The cache include 1,439 rounds of 12.7mm guns and 82mm mortar guns, 588 rounds of other small weapons and nine fuses of bombs.

April 2

According to The News, three soldiers were injured when their vehicle struck a landmine in the Kali Mat area of Dera Bugti district in Balochistan province on April 1. In another incident, two passengers of a vehicle were wounded when their vehicle struck a landmine in the Piri area of the same district.

In the provincial capital Quetta, Baloch insurgents hurled a hand grenade into the house of a police personnel in the Sariab Road locality on April 1-afternoon wounding his daughter-in-law.

Further, the insurgents fired five rockets from atop nearby mountains damaging a perimeter wall of the Government Degree College in Dera Bugti. Separately, armed men fired 13 rockets at a check-post of the paramilitary Frontier Corps in the Pathar Nullah area of Pir Koh. However, no casualties were reported in these incidents.

April 1

An employee of the Water and Power Development Authority was killed and three others wounded in a landmine explosion in the Mach area of Bolan district in Balochistan province on March 31, according to Dawn. The Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) claimed responsibility for the attack.

Meanwhile, insurgents reportedly blew up four pylons of the Quetta-Sibi double circuit transmission line near the Mach area on March 31, disrupting power supply to Quetta and several other areas in Balochistan. According to officials, the insurgents planted explosive devices around the four towers of the 220 KV Quetta-Sibi and 132 KV Quetta-Sibi double circuit transmission line in Kartani, some seven kilometres away from Mach township, and detonated them at around 2:27am. A vast swath of territory stretching from northern to southern Balochistan was plunged into darkness and power supply was suspended to 37 grid stations, according to Dawn.

Further, the insurgents also blew up a railway bridge and track at the Sibi-Harnai section on the same day. Separately, an employee of the Sui Northern Gas Company was injured when he was struck by an anti-personnel landmine in the Talnet area of Sui. Official sources added that rocket and mortar fire was exchanged in parts of Dera Bugti and Kohlu.

March 31

One soldier was killed and four others sustained injuries in a landmine explosion at Mullah Bakhsh village in the Nasirabad district of Balochistan province on March 30, according to Dawn.

Further, unidentified men fired six rockets near Pir Koh gas plant and four rockets at a security check post in Dera Bugti, but no casualties were reported. An exchange of fire was also reported between security forces and insurgents in Kohlu and Dera Bugti.

March 30

A villager was killed when a landmine exploded at Dera Murad Jamali in the Balochistan province on March 29, according to Dawn. According to official sources, he had stepped on the landmine along the bank of Rabi Canal in Dera Murad Jamali.

Meanwhile, heavy fighting was reported between the security forces and tribesmen in the Sangsilla area near Dera Bugti, in which both sides used heavy weapons. Dera Bugti District official Kazim Bugti claimed that three children and two women were killed when their mud house came under heavy firing.

Further, tribesmen fired at least seven rockets on checkpoints of the Frontier Corps (FC) in the Talango area of Kohlu district. In Neligh area near Dera Bugti, tribesmen fired six rockets on an FC checkpoint. However, all the rockets missed the intended targets.

Security agencies recovered a large cache of arms and ammunition from various cells of the abandoned Bugti Fort in Dera Bugti and from Pirkoh, according to The News. The seizure included anti-tank rockets, missiles and missile launchers, bombs, rockets of different ranges, recoil-less launchers, rocket-propelled grenades, detonators, rifles, machineguns, Kalashnikovs, and sniper rifles. All these arms and ammunition were being used in terrorist activities against the law-enforcement agencies besides targeting the civilian population in various parts of Balochistan, the security officials said.

This South Asia Times article from a year ago describes the region.

The Baloch regions of the province can be divided into three sub-regions, each with its own dynamics, culture and social conditions:

* The belt comprising Hub, Lasbella and Khizdar is heavily influenced by the cosmopolitan city of Karachi, which is just a 45-minute drive away. Hub is heavily industrialized, but while most industries are owned by Karachiites, the labor force is local, and industrialization has brought major changes in their lifestyle. This influence goes up to Khizdar, where except for a few pockets, people by and large have moved away from the influence of tribal leaders. Rather than nationalist parties, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League and the Pakistan People's Party led by Benazir Bhutto are the two main popular forces.

* The coastal belt comprising Makran and Gwadar, where foreign influences (non-Baloch) have always been strong. For instance, in some areas the rulers in the past were of Iranian descent. Many powerful tribes migrated here from Sindh. The region is characterized by powerful underworld mafias that rule the sea and dominate trafficking activities, ranging from gold to narcotics.

* Eastern Balochistan is completely tribal, and chiefs such as Nawab Khair Bux Mari and Nawab Akbar Bugti are the main movers and shakers. This region is the nucleus of the insurgency. Eastern Balochistan is notorious for its lawlessness, and the writ of the state is weak in the face of the tribal networks that have been established. The Sui gas fields are situated in the areas dominated by Nawab Akbar Bugti, while Kohlu is Nawab Khair Bux Mari's domain.

Here is a website that presents the Baloch point of view. Among other things, there are some photos illustrating the stark natural beauty of the region.

24 Day 5 10:00 PM - 11:00 PM

Aw, dang, the graphic violence warning won the NCAA tourney. I had Language and Suggestive Dialogue in the office pool.

The recaps show us Bierko trying to deal with customer service in the gas plant. We see Jack terrorizing Audrey. And lots of booms and fireworks as the Death Star explodes.

As we pop open a can of fresh, vacuum packed episode this week, Bill is staring at Google Earth.

Audrey was forgotten all about that whole torture thing, and is the voice of authority as she asks Curtis about Jack. Her hair and makeup are also remarkably composed, considering she looked like Carrie at the prom just a short time ago.

The fire and rescue team is already at the gas plant. Sigh. It's been no more than 4 minutes since the fireworks. I stopped being surprised by these things years ago.

Jack and Curtis rejoice that the gas was incinerated in the blast. Which makes me wonder. Was this the smartest plan for the terrorists? I mean, if the gas was going into homes, wouldn't it get burned up in the water heater, the stove, the fireplace, whatever? Well, it was a back-up plan after all. Perhaps Sgt. Bierko overlooked this in his haste.

What's this? Who could it be, striding out of the mist like a legend? Why, it's Jack! And he's got a sack of Bierko slung over his shoulder.

Audrey drops her head when she hears Jack is alive. Considering the way he just roughed her up, it's not clear if she's relieved or ticked off to hear that Jack survived.

Jack tells Curtis to get Bierko to CTU Medical. Well, Bierko's a dead man. The only question is how. Perhaps Old Doc Besson will accidentally knock a toaster into Bierko's bath.

Jack calls in. He says Henderson could not have planned all this. Henderson must be protecting someone important. Jack says "I'm scared."

We then cut to BOB. I suppose the juxtaposition is on purpose, to make us think BOB is the one Henderson is protecting.

Back at CTU, or should we start calling it HS, Karen is almost salivating at the prospect of taking over CTU. Why is she in such a hurry?

Miles, as unctuous as they come, suggests they smear Bill in an attempt to hurry things along.

Cut to who knows where. Henderson is there, talking to one of the bad guys. Bad Guy admits to letting Palmer escape. Buckaroo says they're going to a fall back position. Which, considering how elaborate the current back-up plan is, means they'll activate the agents put in place in government positions years ago. These agents, raised in the mountains of Idaho and hypnotically trained to bark like seals when a secret code word is uttered, will gather outside the White House and then be activated. As crowds gather to watch the strange sight, an agent will slip into the White House unseen and steal the nuclear launch codes. Henderson will launch a missile, but will detonate it at its highest point, thereby destroying a Russian TV satellite. The Russian people, unable to watch reruns of Seinfeld, will riot, and topple their government.

Aaron arrives at what the presidential retreat. He has a trunk full of Palmer. Comes in handy if you're stuck in ice and snow. A little Palmer under the wheels, and presto, instant traction and you can get out.

Wayne, shaking off all those explosions and concussions and bullets, tells Aaron that David had a source in the White House. It was... dum dumm dummmmmmmmm... Evelyn.

At this point, Evelyn walks in to talk to Martha, who apparently is hard at work performing her Chief Speechwriter duties. Evelyn says she drafted a letter to the families of the victims at the mall. Hmmm? I thought the cover story was that the mall was an accident.

And huh? Evelyn says she has to go home. Home? In LA? If she's the First Lady's assistant, isn't her home in Washington? So where is she going in LA?

(And recall, Walt Cummings's wife is also there. Is this White House wasting taxpayers dollars by flying family members all over creation on these business trips?)

Aaron and Wayne enter the retreat, and confront Evelyn. Wayne seems unnecessarily harsh with her. Wayne says he knows she was emailing David, and he traced the IP address to Evelyn's address. (Her home in LA? erp.) But, he also says the content of the messages was deleted. I'm not sure how you preserve the IPs emails came from, but still delete the email messages.

Evelyn then reveals this week's plot. Baddies have kidnapped her little girl. (So they brought Evelyn's daughter on this trip out to the West Coast too?) Evelyn will divulge what she knows about who is behind this plot only if they help her rescue her daughter. Aaron helpfully points out these baddies will kill them both once they get the information Evelyn has.

Going into the first commercial break, the clocks are at :12 to :12. But coming back, the clocks are at :16 to :15. Our universe is hanging in there by its fingernails.

In the split screens, Jack towels off. Getting blown up in a huge gas fireball is dirty business.

Chloe will start data mining. Ah, it's been weeks since we've heard that phrase, an early season favorite. I was beginning to miss it.

Karen says they are implementing a unit-wide backslash protocol, and Henderson remains an open protocol. Oooh, talk jargon to me, baby.

Wayne calls Jack (and has his cell number how?) and tells him about Evelyn. They arrange to meet in a barn off Service Road 19 in 20 minutes.

Miles pulls Audrey aside and has her read the letter he drafted, blaming all of the world's problems on Bill. Miles is practically dripping petroleum he is so oily.

I have a theory about acting. My theory is that except in rare cases, actors end up playing themselves. So, in real life the actor playing Miles must be a real beaut.

Miles says if Audrey signs, she can save herself and the DoD a lot of embarrassment. Audrey essentially says "frak you, you frakkin frak frakker."

Jack calls in and tells Audrey about Evelyn. The baddies want to trade evidence for the girl. Jack thinks VP BOB might be involved. So, he needs a satellite retasked. Audrey tells Jack that HS is shutting CTU down, and she doesn't know how she can arrange that. Jack barks at her "Just figure it out!" Oh, ok. If it's that easy...

And so Audrey launches Operation Dezinformatsiya. She goes to Karen and says she'll sign the document, but on one condition. She wants Chloe assigned to her.

Cut over to Buckaroo in this industrial plant whatever it is. He was Evelyn's girl there. Now, just when was all this set up? Buckaroo only escaped CTU in the last hour or two. He's been busy stealing cars and cell phones. Was the meeting with Evelyn set up after he escaped? Because he had no idea he was going to be free at this time till a short time ago.

Clocks are at :29 to :27. We're slipping back into the void.

In the retreat, Wayne and Aaron are strolling through the hallway and bump into BOB. Eek, even when he is standing perfectly still saying nothing, Ray Wise can look downright terrifying. BOB gets all teary eyed about David. Is this acting? Well, of course it is, but I mean is BOB acting? Wayne says he has a plane to catch. Um, are planes still flying what with terrorist attacks and martial law and curfews and everything? How are passengers getting to the airport if no one can drive anywhere?

Chloe marches over to Bill and pleads with him to stop the madness. Bill's fatherly advice is to stay focused.

Miles comes by. He says to Chloe "You got a pass." Chloe says "I did?" Oh, we love Chloe. Then, Miles waves Audrey in Bill's face, saying she sold him up the river, ha ha neener neener neener. Audrey happens by at that moment, and coldly says "I did it. I did it and I'm proud." Bill is hurt, betrayed by a trusted confidante.

Evelyn and Wayne are in a car heading for the barn. Evelyn says she called David because she trusted him. The baddies call, and Wayne patches in Jack. Uh, just how does he do that?

It's Henderson. He wonders why Evelyn took so long to answer. Evelyn lies and says she was going through security.

He already knows Palmer was at the retreat. Evelyn lies again and says she never saw him. Boy, Evelyn's next confession is going to be a lengthy session.

Buckaroo tells her to come to 4615 Tarpin Street. (Just for fun I put that address in Google Maps. It asked "Do you mean 16800 Tribune St?")

Bill is on his way out, doing the walk of shame. He takes one last pained look at Audrey. Audrey goes and grabs Chloe, and Chloe wants nothing to do with Audrey. Audrey explains she had to sign the document to help Jack. Chloe is understandably confused.

Clocks are at :41 to :39.

Palmer and Evelyn are standing around the middle of a barn. Are there a lot of barns in LA? A car drives up. They keep standing there. I don't know, I think I might hide till I knew who it was. At last, Wayne's Spidey Sense kicks in and they duck behind a horse stall, but it's just Jack. (How did Jack get through all the roadblocks?)

Jack calls Chloe and says a couple three times he'll send her the address Evelyn got. Ok, Jack, no need to keep repeating it. Just send the address already. Jack needs her to check the place out with the satellite and start counting bad guy noses.

Wayne wants to come along, but Jack is not crazy about the idea. But, Wayne says he was a Marine. Jack replies "You never saw combat." Oh man, that takes guts saying that to a Marine. Hey, if you make it through Marine training, you're a Marine.

But Wayne zeroes in for the kill. He says David died in his arms that morning, and he is going. Period. Jack gives in. On the way out, Jack says "Ya know, I was in the Marine Corps, too. Ran into some trouble when I served at Gitmo. Had a real psycho for a Colonel. Hey, how about we go give Henderson a Code Red!"

Back at the retreat (an appropriately named place for President Logan), BOB tells Logan Wayne was there. Logan says he didn't see Palmer.

Jack and Wayne get out of a car somewhere. Evelyn isn't sure she can go through with the plan. Jack says she can do it, all the way making sure he doesn't tell us, the viewers, what the plan is.

Jack talks into a mike he got from somewhere. Perhaps he bought it at a roadside stand. "Testing 1-2-3."

Chloe says there is a tunnel ahead. OK, she sees this tunnel how?

Clocks are at :52 to :49.

Henderson checks in with Bravo. No visual on the mark. (Get set, go!)

Jack has his technomagic device which allows him to see where the baddies are in real time. Jack terminates a couple of them with extreme prejudice. Wayne waltzes off to do the same, but freezes momentarily before dispatching a baddie.

Bravo is up in a snipers nest. Jack comes up some metal stairs, apparently unheard by Bravo only a few feet away. Jack knifes him. Eeewww. Jack then uses Ye Olde Garbled Radio trick to fool Henderson into thinking he's Bravo and that all is well.

Evelyn arrives, and Jack mans the sniper rifle, which is about the size of a howitzer.

Henderson calls Daughter Amy "sweetheart", which just gives me the creeps.

Henderson tells Evelyn to open all the doors and drop the keys on the ground in front of the car. Jack has a visual on Henderson and the girl. (Note to self, next year track how many times someone has a visual.)

And then the man in the back said everyone attack and it turned into a barroom blitz. There is a hail of bullets as Jack and Wayne open fire.

Incredibly, or perhaps credibly given this is 24, Henderson escapes in the car. Jack is. The. Worst. Shot. Ever.

Jack wants Chloe to follow Henderson with the satellite, but she endearingly says they're scanning the plant, not the whole neighborhood. Jack helpfully tells her to reprogram it. Perhaps they should just call Fire and Rescue. They'll be there in seconds and they can follow Henderson.

Evelyn took a bullet, and will need some attention, but is expected to survive.

And now, she reveals the Big Secret. She says BOB has nothing to do with the plot.

We cut to Henderson. He's talking to someone on the phone. He says he'll put together another team and take care of the mess.

The person he is talking to is...President Logan.

Hmm. Hmmm. What does this mean? Logan wanted all these terrorist attacks to happen? This raises a whole lot of question. Logan was apparently a wonderful actor earlier in the day, as he acted all flustered and scared and indecisive over the events of the day. How did Logan know Palmer was at the retreat and how did he contact Henderson so quickly? I think a number of things might not add up if we dig a little, but I don't have the stomach for it.

The episode ends with the clocks at :60 to :56. Even our universe is in shock at this revelation.

Guest critic Paul won't be joining us this week again. He was so shocked that his mentor, hero and friend, Chuck Logan, is apparently a traitor that he barricaded himself in his room and won't come out. I've been trying to coax him out with Scooby Snacks, but so far no luck.

Number of times Jack says "Now!": 17
Number of times Jack says "No!": 8
Number of times a "protocol" is mentioned: 33
Number of times someone says a variation of "Go!": 23
Number of moles: 4
Approximate Body Count: 73 (plus three rats, plus one human nerve gas guinea pig, plus 11 in the mall food court (and no, not from food poisoning), plus one security camera, plus 56 in CTU)

<-9:00 PM - 10:00 PM 11:00 PM - 12:00 AM ->

Monday, April 03, 2006

The Persian Pufferfish

Pufferfish: They are named for their ability to inflate themselves to several times their normal size by swallowing water or air when threatened

Iran: see previous definition

In recent days Iran has made two attempts to scare away the US and any ally contemplating military action against Iran.

On Friday, Iran claimed to have launched a stealthy missile capable of hitting multiple targets. Security Watchtower points out the flaws in this claim.

Uzi Rubin, an Israeli missile expert and former director of Israel’s Arrow missile defense program expressed doubts about the claim of the "new missile", saying "the description does not match the picture" shown on television. Rubin instead says the description of the new missile "fits almost word-for-word the way the Russians describe the Iskander-E (SS26), with one exception -- the Russians don’t claim the capability to ‘hit several targets’." FAS describes the Iskander-E:

"The launch installation has two missiles with a range of 280 kilometers. Each missile has a 480 kilogram warhead consisting of 54 elements. The system can be used against small and large targets. The Iskander missile can easily overcome air defense systems. It's almost impossible to prevent a launch of an Iskander missile because of the system's mobility. Targets can be found not only by satellite and aircraft but also by a conventional intelligence center and by a soldier who directs artillery fire. Targets can also be found from photos, which will be put into a computer by means of a scanner. The self-direction device functions even in fog or darkness. Only the Iskander system can accomplish such tasks." - FAS

I asked one other source in the field of weapons proliferation to comment and his response was similar to that of Rubin's, essentially saying it was "likely an Iskander that Iran had purchased from Russia." According to Arms World, the "Iskander-E missile fully complies with the provisions of the missile technology non-proliferation agreement", which prohibits increasing "in the number of engaged targets per unit of time". It's doubtful that Iran tested a new invisible missile today and even less likely as Rubin notes, that they "could cook up such a sophisticated missile indigenously."

Then, over the weekend, Iran claimed to have tested a super-fast underwater missile.

The new missile is among the world's fastest and can outpace an enemy warship, Gen. Ali Fadavi of the country's elite Revolutionary Guards told state television.

General Fadavi said only one other country, Russia, had a missile that moved underwater as fast as the Iranian one, which he said had a speed of about 225 miles per hour. State television showed what it described as the missile being fired.

"The missile carries a very powerful warhead that enables it to operate against groups of warships and big submarines," he said.

He contended that the boats that would launch the missile were able to evade detection systems but that "even if an enemy's warship sonar can detect the missile, no warship can escape from this missile because of its high speed."

Again, from Security Watchtower,

The Iranian military did not name the "new" weapon or give its effective range, but again there are serious questions about whether Iran's $ 9 billion defense budget and defense industry could produce such a weapon indingenously. Like the doubts raised about Iran's development of an invisible missile with multiple warheads, this "new" torpedo is likely a Russian-made VA-111 Shkval, which travels at 230 mph, has a range of 7,500 yards and is primarily used in a defensive counter-attack role. China is believed to have purchased 40 of the torpedos from Russia during the 1990s, though this remains unconfirmed. In the event Russia did sell this high tech weaponry to Iran, and not just allow them to use one in a test, it would be alarming.

These claims of miracle weapons are likely a bluff, designed to make policy makers think twice before trying to swallow the inflated, tough-looking Iranian Pufferfish.

That Iran feels a need to make such claims does indicate that Iran is nervous about what the West might do in coming months. The UN Security Council is unlikely to produce anything that would get Iran's attention, but the US and Israel have been consistent in not taking the military option off the table. And as is so often the case in that part of the world, the threat of force is something regimes there understand.

The Counterterrorism Blog has news that would seem to indicate Iran has been planning for international opposition for awhile. A regime willing to spark a confrontation is not likely to respond to the pleas of diplomats. Now imagine this regime armed with nuclear weapons.

In fact some proof of Iran's preparations against possible sanctions were given two days ago by the Swiss daily La Liberte. Since last fall, rumors of Iran's transfer of assets from European institutions to Arab ones have been numerous. But La Liberte affirmed that they have confirmed that at least 250 tons of gold were transferred from Credit Suisse Zurich in three charter planes of Iran Air in October and November. The initial info came from an Iranian Communist opposition group which provided the Swiss daily with records from the Central Bank of Iran pertaining about that gold transfer. La Liberte confirmed this information with credible Swiss sources and even Credit Suisse did not deny it.

The opposition group is claiming that up to 700 tons of gold and $20 billion were actually transferred out of Switzerland during last fall. That group also stated that during a fall meeting of the Iranian leadership under the auspices of Ayatollah Khameini other conclusions were reached. Some of them are: the continuation of the enrichment of uranium, the necessary Iranian help the USA is going to need in Iraq, the US's lack of resolve re Iran after the Iraqi experience, the weakness of the Israeli leadership... This leading to the conclusion that Iran must seize the opportunity now and move forward.

So the transfer of assets in Swiss banks was decided then. Allegedly this money and gold made it to mostly Dubai and Abu Dhabi banks, some of which are owned by Ayatollah Rafsanjani and Russian financiers. Lastly Asian financial institutions received some of these assets: it is not by chance that Iranian president Ahmadinejad announced in February a $2 billion deal to build a refinery in Indonesia.

Tick tick tick...

Monday Winds of War Briefing

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

Top Topics

* The UK Telegraph reports on a defense meeting held in London on Sunday aimed at discussing possible military strikes against Iran. Meanwhile experts are warning that Iran is likely to respond to any military action with terrorism from Iranian intelligence agents and Hezbollah operatives abroad.

* A car exploded in Gaza on Friday, killing Palestinian terrorist Abu Youssef al-Quqa and touching off firefights that killed three others and left as many as 36 people wounded. In response, Hamas has vowed to end the public display of weapons in Gaza and laid out their new security plan. Fatah gunmen are defying the ban and paraded in Gaza city on Saturday.

* A bomb exploded at a bus stop in Istanbul on Friday, killing one person and wounding 13 others. A Kurdish separatist group known as TAK claimed responsibility for the blast in response to ongoing clashes between Turkish riot police and Kurdish protesters in the southeast regions of the country. On Sunday, a molotov cocktail attack on a bus in Istanbul killed three.

Other topics today include: Palestinian bomber kills Israelis; Tehran's Triad; Saudis to put terror suspects on trial; IDF stops pair bombers in West Bank; Yemen al Qaeda escapee surrenders; Tribunal of al Qaeda suspects in Beirut; Israeli airstrikes in Gaza; Iran test fires new missiles; update on terror trial in Lodi; Omar Ali sentenced to 30 years; Homeland security; al Qaeda linked arrest in Toronto; 22 Marxist rebels killed in Columbia; Bombing in Ingushetia; Raids in Kygyzstan; Taliban attacks in southern Afghanistan; Violence and unrest in Balochistan; Pakistan military base attacked; Clashes in Kashmir; Maoist violence continues in Nepal; and more.

Iran & the Middle East

* A Palestinian suicide bomber detonated himself inside of a car after hitching a ride disguised as an Orthodox Jew, killing four Israelis near the West Bank town of Kedumim.

* James A. Kitfield has an article in the April edition of Air Force Magazine titled "The Tehran Triad", that highlights (1) Ahmadinejad's calls to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, (2) Iran's continued pursuit of their nuclear program, and (3) their continued state sponsorship of terrorist organizations as threatening triad and evidence they are on "a dangerous collision course with the United States."

* Qatar has announced they will hold its first parliamentary elections in 2007, following the endorsement of the permanent constitution in 2004 by a majority of the Qatari people.

* Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef said the Kingdom will soon put detained terror suspects on trial and said they had "aborted about 90 percent of the planned terror attacks" inside of Saudi Arabia.

* Israeli security forces seized two terror suspects in the industrial section of Beit She'an on Saturday after receiving intelligence that a pair of Palestinian suicide bombers were on their way to the northern town. IDF authorities say Israel is under a new wave of terror.

* Hazam Saleh Majli, one of twenty three al Qaeda detainees that broke out of prison in Yemen in February, surrendered to authorities on Sunday. Authorities say six of the twenty three have surrendered.

* A Beirut military tribunal acquitted six Lebanese soldiers and a Syrian on charges the group belonged to al Qaeda. In 2004 the group was arrested in Iraq where they wanted to attack U.S. forces. Upon returning to Lebanon the group began to raise funds to aid insurgents fighting in Iraq.

* On Saturday, an Israeli airstrike destroyed a building in northern Gaza being used by Palestinian terrorists during rocket attacks, and additional airstrikes and naval fire targeted access roads to launch sites.

* Mohamed ElBaradei said that sanctions against Iran would be "a bad idea" because they are not an imminent threat, and called for a lowering "of the pitch" in dealing with the Shi'ite theocracy.

* On Friday the U.S. State Department announced they were cutting all contacts with Hamas, however they will maintain dialogue with Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas and those working under him.

* Iran claims to have fired two new missiles during their Great Prophet war games over the weekend. On Friday Iran fired an "invisible" missile and on Sunday they fired a high speed torpedo.

America Domestic Security & the Americas

* President Bush said Friday the United States believes it is important to enforce laws protecting borders and told the leaders of Mexico and Canada that was crucial to keeping prosperity alive. He also reiterated strong support for a "guest worker" program that would allow undocumented immigrants already in the United States to remain in the country to fill low-paying jobs that Americans won't take. Bush also defended a new U.S. requirement, to take effect Dec. 31, 2007, generally requiring passports of all who come into the United States across either the Canadian or Mexican borders, including returning Americans.

* The House Intelligence Committee voted Thursday to withhold funding from the nation's intelligence director over concerns that his office, which was created to streamline operations in the nation's spy community, is instead becoming bloated and bureaucratic. The move to withhold funding still must be approved by the full House as well as the Senate. But it reflects rising frustration among House lawmakers with an office that was created less than two years ago to solve communication breakdowns and other problems that plagued the intelligence community leading up to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and the war in Iraq.

* Democrats on Wednesday proposed a wide-ranging strategy for protecting Americans at home and abroad, an election-year effort aimed at changing public perception that Republicans are stronger on national security.

* In a potential blow to their terrorism case against a father and son, federal prosecutors said there is no evidence to support statements by their key witness that a top aide to Osama bin Laden attended a Lodi mosque in the late 1990s.

* A federal judge in Alexandria, Va., on Wednesday sentenced Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, the Falls Church, Va., man convicted of conspiring to kill President Bush and of joining an al-Qaida cell in Saudi Arabia, to 30 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Gerald Bruce Lee denied government prosecutors' request to impose a life sentence, citing the fact that the U.S.-born Abu Ali, 25, "never planted any bombs, shot any gun or injured any person."

* Borders and Waldenbooks stores will not stock the April-May issue of Free Inquiry magazine because it contains cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad that provoked deadly protests among Muslims in several countries. Gates of Vienna responds.

* A Montreal resident was picked by al-Qaeda plotters to be a pilot in a second wave of suicide hijackings to follow the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks because he was a Canadian citizen, a deposition filed at the U.S. trial of terror suspect Zacarias Moussaoui alleges. Abderraouf Jdey, a Montrealer of Tunisian origin who is now a fugitive, obtained his Canadian citizenship in 1995. He was selected along with Mr. Moussaoui, a French citizen, because they had passports from Western countries, since al-Qaeda planners expected tighter security after Sept. 11, the court document says.

* Middle Eastern terrorist groups rely on criminal organizations in Latin America to acquire false passports and raise funds, although there is no evidence they operate directly in the region, a U.S. State Department anti-terrorism official said Thursday. "We are not aware of any operational cells in this hemisphere by al Qaeda, Hezbollah or Hamas," said Harry Crumpton, antiterrorism coordinator at the U.S. State Department. "But we do have information that these organizations raise money in the hemisphere and are tied in to transnational criminal networks."

* The number of high-risk cargo containers inspected before entering the United States is "staggeringly low," and government efforts to keep terrorists from exploiting the system are riddled with blind spots, congressional investigators say in a report that will be released today. The study, by a Senate Homeland Security subcommittee, is the latest to raise questions about whether the Bush administration and Congress have done enough to improve security at seaports, border crossings and other transportation hubs since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

* The U.S. missed an opportunity to make its shores safer when it drove away a Dubai-based company poised to operate cargo terminals at several American seaports, Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Thursday. In a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Chertoff said the international shipping firm DP World could have helped implement stronger security at many ports where the U.S. now has limited influence.

* An alleged terrorist --- with links to al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden -- has been arrested in the Toronto area trying to flee the country, say Sun immigration sources. In one of the most significant terrorism arrests in Canada since Sept. 11, 2001, a man believed to be a captain of the Pakistani extremist organization Mujahadeen-E-Lashkar-E-Tayyba or LET, which is funded by Osama bin Laden and has direct ties to al-Qaida, was arrested March 16, by Canadian border service officers in Newmarket.

* Colombian troops killed 22 Marxist rebels on Saturday in an offensive aimed at preventing guerrilla attacks during campaigning for the May presidential election, the army said. The army killed 14 members of the country's largest rebel group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which is known by its Spanish initials FARC, and 8 members of the National Liberation Army, or ELN, army spokesmen said.

Russia, Caucasus & Central Asia

* A bomb exploded in Nazran, the capital of Ingushetia on Saturday, killing one and wounding two others including a border guard. Authorities are investigating the incident.

* On Friday, Lt. Gen. Aitech Bizhev, deputy commander of the CIS Integrated Air Defense System, said the air defense networks have been "effectively revived" in Armenia, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan over the last decade.

* Kyrgyz special forces conducted simultaneous raids in Osh and Urzgen on Sunday, targeting terrorist gangs with ties to Islamists in Turkestan. During the raid in Osh, gunfire was exchanged though there are no reports of casualties. An unknown number of terror suspects were detained.

* As Russia prepares for the spring military draft that will add 125,000 new conscripts, protesters in Pushkin Square gathered to call for an end to mandatory military service. The Russian Defense Ministry announced that conscripted troops will not be sent to conflict zones and that the length of conscription will be lowered to one year by 2008.

* According to Vyacheslav Kasymov, Executive Committee Director of the SCO's Regional Anti-Terror Agency, more than 250 terror attacks were preempted in the six SCO countries in 2005.

Afghanistan & Southern Asia

* Taliban insurgents raided several police posts in Afghanistan on Friday and six of the attackers were killed, a provincial official said. The Taliban say they have launched a spring offensive in their campaign to oust foreign troops and defeat the Western-backed government and violence has surged in recent days. The insurgents attacked the police posts in the southern province of Helmand, where U.S. and Canadian forces were involved in a big battle this week, said the province's deputy governor, Amir Akhundzada.

* A militant killed himself in a botched suicide attack on the Afghan army while security forces shot dead seven insurgents and the Taliban seized three villages, officials said. Two Romanian and two French soldiers were meanwhile lightly wounded in mine blasts in two incidents elsewhere in the country, military officials said.

* A Taliban insurgent shot dead four Afghan policemen as they slept after pretending to be a traveler looking for a place to spend the night, police said on Sunday. The police let the man stay at their checkpoint and fed him dinner but at night he grabbed a policeman's rifle and shot the four dead.

* Sayed Sadeq, the speaker of northern Tahhar province's governing assembly, died in hospital after receiving multiple gunshots to his body after an assailant broke into his home Saturday, said Ghulam Hazarat, the deputy local police chief. He said it was not clear who was behind the killing and that an investigation had been launched. Sadeq was well respected in the mountainous region and was a supporter of the country's U.S.-backed central government.

* Five U.S. soldiers were wounded in a roadside bomb blast in
Afghanistan on Saturday while, in a separate incident, a suicide bomber blew himself up in an attack on Canadian troops, military officials said.

* Afghan officials have told the BBC that 16 Pakistanis killed in Afghanistan last week were shot dead on the orders of a local commander. The Afghan foreign ministry has been maintaining they were Taleban fighters, a charge dismissed by Pakistan. But unnamed Afghan officials in the capital, Kabul, say the men were abducted there before being taken near to the Pakistan border and killed. They say the motive was a tribal feud dating back several years.

* Suspected tribal militants in Pakistan's Balochistan province have blown up four electricity transmission towers, cutting power to a wide area. A technician sent to repair the damage was then killed in an attack. It came only hours after the provincial assembly voted to form a bipartisan panel to try to make peace between the authorities and warring tribal leaders.

* This is the other front of Pakistan's widening civil unrest, not the tribal areas along the Afghan border where the United States would like the government to press a campaign against Islamic militants, but the restive province of Baluchistan, home to an intensifying insurgency. It is here, say local leaders and opposition politicians, that Pakistan, an important ally in the United States' campaign against terrorism, has diverted troops from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban to settle old scores as it seeks to develop the region's valuable oil and gas reserves.

* Suspected Islamic militants attacked a military base in a tribal region in northwestern Pakistan, killing one soldier and injuring four others, an intelligence official said Sunday. Troops retaliated with artillery fire after the rocket attack Saturday night on their base in Dattakhel, a village in North Waziristan tribal region.

* Ten people including five tribal police have been killed and 13 injured in separate bomb blasts in the restive southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan. Three civilians -- a man, a woman and a young girl -- were killed and seven injured in two back-to-back bomb explosions at a state-run farm in the town of Kohlu.

* Gunmen on Wednesday attacked and critically injured a longtime ally of Osama bin Laden whom U.S. authorities have linked to an alleged terrorist sleeper cell in California. Fazlur Rehman Khalil, a signatory to the 1998 bin Laden declaration of war on the United States and its allies that launched al-Qaida, was severely beaten by eight armed men, supporters said.

* Three Islamic rebels and a policeman were among five people killed in separate attacks which also left 11 others injured in Indian Kashmir, security officials said. Six policemen were injured when their vehicle hit a landmine in the Soura area of the region's summer capital Srinagar, police said. One of them later died in hospital.

* Two persons, including a Hizbul Mujahideen terrorist, were killed, and five were arrested on Thursday, official sources said. Bashir Ahmad Malla was killed in an encounter during search operations at village Kallipora in Pulwama district in the wee hours.

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

* At least 11 school children and a teacher were wounded on Friday when Maoist rebels set off an explosion at a school in west Nepal, the army said. The blast took place in Dailekh district, 550 km west of the capital Kathmandu while children were appearing for a school-leaving examination, an army officer said.

* Maoist rebels shot dead two policemen and injured three other people in an attack at a busy market in southern Nepal, police say. The incident happened at the Gaur market in Rautahat, 170 kilometers (44 miles) south of Kathmandu, on Saturday afternoon.

* The United States offered to impart training to high-level security personnel of Bangladesh to fight terrorism, as both sides agree that there is no room yet for complacency although many militants have been arrested. Foreign Minister M Morshed Khan apprised journalists of the offer after his meeting with the visiting US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, John Gastright. Morshed Khan said the US official thanked Bangladesh for its efforts in controlling terrorism, including the capture of two kingpins of the banned militant outfit JMB.

* In a renewed attempt to locate terror financing, the nation’s central bank, Bangladesh Bank (BB), has sent a list of 68 militants to all commercial banks to locate any suspect accounts. The central bank asked for a report by April 6. BB officials said yesterday, the list, which was sent early this week, bears the addresses of some arrested and suspected militants. The central bank gathered the names and addresses from newspaper reports.

* In Bangladesh, a charge sheet in one of the two cases filed in Sylhet against the outlawed Jama'atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) chief Abdur Rahman and his accomplices is likely to be submitted in the court, officials said. Charges under the explosives act will be brought against 11 people including Abdur Rahman, his family men and accomplices, who were arrested on March 2 at an East Shaplabag house in Sylhet city suburb.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* Filipino police and army forces captured Abu Sayyaf leader Kahal Asmad (aka Abu Asmad) on Sunday in Isabela city on the southern island of Basilan. Asmad's arrest comes as authorities step up security around ferry terminals after intelligence revealed an Abu Sayyaf plot to hijack ships and hold passengers hostage.

* Australian authorities arrested three suspected terrorists in Melbourne on Friday as part of an operation that resulted in 19 terror-related arrests back in November. According to Victoria state Police Commissioner Christine Nixon, the latest arrests "have seriously disrupted the activities of a group allegedly making arrangements to carry out a terrorist attack in Australia."

* Two bombs exploded at polling stations in Thailand on Sunday just hours after the elections closed, wounding four Thai policemen. According to reports, the bombs were detonated by mobile cell phones.

* Muslim convert Joseph Thomas was sentenced to five years in prison under Australia's new anti-terrorism laws, for receiving funds and a plane ticket from al Qaeda. Thomas, who had visited al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan prior to 9/11 and lived in Pakistan, was arrested in November 2004 when he returned to Australia.

* The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade issued a travel warning for Indonesia and specifically Bali this past weekend after a stream of reports indicate terrorists may be in their final stages of planning attacks against westerners. The U.S. embassy in Jakarta followed with a similar warning about potential imminent terror attacks in Indonesia.

* A controversy has Indonesia and Australia at odds over cartoons published in each nation that depicted the others' leaders in a tasteless manner.

* Gunmen on Basilan island in the southern Philippines killed a police officer and wounded his son in a drive by shooting on Sunday.

* Touring the Asia-Pacific last week, British Prime Minister Tony Blair met with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta, and vowed close cooperation in fighting terrorism. Blair also met with several Islamist leaders.

* Andrea Reimer, a senior researcher for the Austrian Defense Academy, writes about how the 9/11 attacks "energized America's Asian alliances" and marked a watershed moment for India and China.


* MPs have concluded that the intelligence and security services could not be blamed for failing to prevent the July 7 attacks, it was reported today. But the cross-party intelligence and security committee has questioned why the lead bomber, Mohammad Sidique Khan, was not fully investigated despite being known to security officials, the BBC said.

* Spy chiefs have warned Tony Blair that the war in Iraq has made Britain the target of a terror campaign by Al-Qaeda that will last "for many years to come." A leaked top-secret memo from the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) says the war in Iraq has “exacerbated” the threat by radicalising British Muslims and attracting new recruits to anti-western terror attacks.

* Despite the arrests - and, in some cases, the convictions - of members of the well-known group codenamed 'Hofstad', there's little ground for optimism about the terrorist threat in the Netherlands. That's according to a new report from the Dutch AIVD intelligence service report entitled "Violent Jihad in the Netherlands."

* The European Union has extended the deadline by a month for Serbia and Montenegro to hand over war crimes suspect Ratko Mladic. The capture of the Bosnian Serb wartime commander has been a major stumbling block for Serbia to start negotiations with the EU about possible entry into the union.

* Italy is on a state of high alert for possible terrorist attacks during the final phase of the elections campaign. Voting is scheduled to take place on April 9 and 10, and it is feared that Islamic militants may strike immediately before voting to maximize its political impact. To compound the sense of anxiety, the Bush administration has just warned that Italy should expect terrorist attacks (similar to the ones that devastated Madrid two years ago) near the elections (La Repubblica, March 23).


* Talks between militias who unleashed the worst clashes in years in Mogadishu collapsed on Wednesday, fuelling fears last week's fighting could resume and spread to the seat of government. Islamist militia seized a seaport and airstrip formerly controlled by warlord Bashir Raghe in four days of clashes with the town's most powerful warlords. Between 70 and 90 people were killed.

* Somali fighters backed by powerful warlords attacked an Islamic court on Saturday, killing two civilians and fuelling fears of worse to come, witnesses said. Residents in northern Mogadishu, where the attack took place, say they may arm themselves out of fear it would ignite the kind of battles that killed scores of people last week.

* Speaking in Johannesburg on Saturday, Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas said that South Africa could play an important role in the Middle East peace process.

* UN humanitarian affairs chief Jan Egeland says the atrocities being committed by rebels in northern Uganda are "terrorism of the worst kind anywhere in the world."

* Marian Tupy has Part II of "Shaming Vampire States" at Tech Central Station, that focuses on African corruption and foreign aid.

* Following the capture of former Liberian leader Charles Taylor in Nigeria near the Cameroon border, it appears that the brutal dictator will be tried in the Hague. U.S. authorities arrested Taylor's son on Thursday night at Miami International airport after he arrived on a flight from Trinidad.

* The Algerian Salafist Group for Prayer and Combat (GSPC) has released two new communications on Muslim prisoners recently released by the Algerian government as part of an amnesty program and the Danish cartoons.

The Global War

* General James Jones, NATO Supreme Allied Commander, called for a proactive approach in preventing conflicts and preempting attacks against member nations "rather than sit back and wait for something bad to happen and spend 10 years digging ourselves out."

* The United States does not wish to become the world's jailers but must make absolutely sure that detainees at Guantanamo Bay pose no risk to the public before releasing them, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Friday. Speaking during a tour of the north-west of England which saw her heckled by a small but vocal contingent of anti-war protesters, Rice insisted the United States respected the rule of law, but warned that innocent lives would be lost if action was not taken against terrorists.

* The Pentagon last month sent experts to study Libya’s chemical weapons and determined it would cost $100 million to destroy them, but the United States still must decide whether or how much to help, a senior Pentagon official said on Thursday. James Tegnelia, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Threat Reduction Agency, said a team from his agency arrived in Libya in February and spent about a month assessing the north African country’s "tens of tons of mustard gas" and supplies of "precursor chemicals" that could be used in making chemical weapons.

* From Vital Perspective, here is their World in Brief (PDF). Also, here is their Reading Room (PDF) for this week, a roundup of articles on terrorism, national and international matters.

* The Flight 93 memorial near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, will receive a percentage of the box office revenue taken in from Paul Greengrass' new film "United 93", that opens on April 28th. Universal Pictures will give 10 percent of the first three days gross receipts to the memorial.

* An article (available here) in the March 2006 issue of Arms Control Today looks at current spending on missile defense. Here is the CDI's page on missile defense.

* Osama bin Laden's former bodyguard, Abu Jandal, gave an interview to Sixty Minutes and offered some dire predictions.

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Sunday, April 02, 2006

The growing civil war in Baluchistan

The New York Times today has an article that highlights the growing civil war in Baluchistan. In the southwest corner of Pakistan, up against the border with Iran and Afghanistan, this province has seen a steady stream of violence.

This is the other front of Pakistan's widening civil unrest, not the tribal areas along the Afghan border where the United States would like the government to press a campaign against Islamic militants, but the restive province of Baluchistan, home to an intensifying insurgency.

It is here, say local leaders and opposition politicians, that Pakistan, an important ally in the United States' campaign against terrorism, has diverted troops from the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban to settle old scores as it seeks to develop the region's valuable oil and gas reserves.

One visit makes it clear that, despite official denials, the government is waging a full-scale military campaign here. Rebel leaders say they have several thousand men under arms, fighting what they estimate are 23,000 Pakistani troops.

The terrain is harsh, making it difficult to dig out rebels. The origins of the conflict go back decades, and lie in the independent nature of the region's inhabitants.

Armed resistance by Baluch nationalists has been a repeating occurrence since the birth of Pakistan in 1947, when tribal leaders, Mr. Bugti among them, only grudgingly joined Pakistan after having ruled independent territories under the British.

The bitterness today is such that the tribal leaders compare the situation to the 1970's, when Bangladesh broke from Pakistan. "If grievances have come to this level— that we do not mind if Pakistan disintegrates— then things are bad," Mr. Marri, the rebel leader, said.

The terrain here is marked by harsh, rocky desert, rising into craggy mountains and cut through with narrow gorges that supply many hiding places for shepherds, or guerrilla fighters. In the summer, temperatures soar to more than 120 degrees.

The lawlessness in this province has allowed drug dealers and smugglers to find haven, and the criminal operations have caused concern in Afghanistan and India. And, as I mentioned here, the neighboring Iranian province of Sistan-Baluchistan is also a wild area.

Here are some of the violent events in Baluchistan in just the last week or two.

* Suspected tribal militants in Pakistan's Balochistan province have blown up four electricity transmission towers, cutting power to a wide area. A technician sent to repair the damage was then killed in an attack. It came only hours after the provincial assembly voted to form a bipartisan panel to try to make peace between the authorities and warring tribal leaders.

* Ten people including five tribal police have been killed and 13 injured in separate bomb blasts in the restive southwestern Pakistani province of Baluchistan. Three civilians -- a man, a woman and a young girl -- were killed and seven injured in two back-to-back bomb explosions at a state-run farm in the town of Kohlu.

* A bomb has injured four people when it exploded outside a shop in the latest violence to hit Pakistan's restive southwestern Baluchistan province, police said. The blast happened in the town of Mutch outside the provincial capital Quetta, local police said. "It was placed outside the grocery store and appeared to be a timed device," police officer Mohammad Jadoon said.

* Seven homemade bombs toppled two giant high-power electricity transmission towers in southwestern Pakistan and disrupted power to thousands of homes for several hours, officials said.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

China in Africa

From oil to textiles to raw materials to humanitarian aid to military cooperation, and so on, China's presence in Africa is growing by leaps and bounds. I keep focusing on energy matters here because energy resources are absolutely vital to any great nation's ambitions. Whether we realize it or not in our daily lives, we are in competition with China for energy supplies worldwide, and China is building up its presence in Africa because of Africa's greath wealth in natural resources.

This account illustrates the growth in China's presence there.

Five years ago, Martyn Davies used to give talks on China a couple of times a year, if he was lucky. "Now I get invited twice a week," he says, highlighting how interest in China’s booming economy has grown.
China’s growth is a reality. It’s here to stay," Naomi Ngwira, a board member of the Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN), told IPS. The non-profit grouping, based in Pretoria, organised Wednesday’s meeting — and has been monitoring trade between China and Southern Africa.

However, she rejected the notion of an open-door policy which would give Chinese firms a free hand in Africa.

"China is interested in Africa. There are resources in Africa that it wants. And, there are markets in Africa it can supply and benefit from," Ngwira said. "We should invite China (into Africa), but make sure that we work in partnership."

In the first ten months of 2005, trade between China and Africa rose by 39 percent to over 32 billion dollars, according to Chinese official figures. This was largely as a result of imports of African oil, mainly from Sudan.

The China Law Blog illstruates how China's foreign investment is growing. A significant amount of this investment will end up in Africa.

China's Ministry of Commerce states Chinese outbound Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) totaled $8.84 billion in 2005, more than double the $3.78 billion in 2004, which itself was more than double the $1.5 billion in 2003. The most prominent Chinese deals were Lenovo's $1.25 billion acquisition in 2004 of IBM's PC division and TCL International's majority-owned joint venture with French company Thomson, which got it the RCA brand and made TCL the world's largest TV manufacturer. "Yet the biggest deals have been in resources, with Chinese companies buying interests from Africa to Latin America."

The article predicts "several forces will drive a quantum leap in the quantity and prominence of such deals in the next couple of years."First, China just this year terminated limits on foreign currency Chinese companies can buy for overseas investment. Second, the State Assets Supervision Commission encouraged 169 state-owned enterprises to list on international stock markets before listing on domestic markets. Then last month, China's Ministry of Finance said China would soon be using International Financial Reporting Standards, which will help its companies meet the disclosure requirements in tenders for the shares of public companies. On top of all this, if (or should we say when?) the yuan increases in value, Chinese companies will have even more dollars to spend on overseas expansion.

Last Tuesday the Guardian had an informative article on the remarkable growth of China's involvement in Africa.

The resurrection of Chambishi is just one small example of China's explosion into Africa. From the barest foothold a decade ago an army of diplomats, technicians and entrepreneurs has kicked the continent's door wide open, making Beijing a heavyweight investor and political player.

The phenomenon has barely registered in the west, but in Africa the evidence is everywhere: Chinese lumberjacks in the Central African Republic, Chinese textile merchants in Lesotho, Chinese tourists in Zimbabwe, Chinese road builders in Ethiopia, Chinese newspapers in South Africa, Chinese geologists in Sudan, Chinese channels on African satellite television.

In the past six years, trade between China and Africa has almost quadrupled, reaching £22.8bn last year, according to Beijing's official figures. The same period has seen the birth of more than 500 Chinese-funded companies and an influx of tens of thousands of mostly young Chinese newcomers. The country may have already overtaken Britain and is chasing France and the US in the race to become the continent's biggest commercial partner.
The single greatest Chinese interest in Africa is oil. China 's economy is thirsty; by 2030 it will need to import 60% of its oil. China already swallows most of Sudan's production, is on its way to becoming Angola's biggest client and is playing catch-up in Nigeria, paying $2.3bn for a 45% share of an offshore block. Next month, Beijing will host an African petroleum and energy forum.

Does this add up to a threat to western interests? "I think that China has just as great a right to engage in Africa as any other country," the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Jendayi Frazer, said last year. "Why should we see ourselves in competition with any country in Africa? There is enough good to be done." But a report sponsored by America's Council on Foreign Relations was less sanguine, accusing China of shielding rogue states and turning a blind eye to misrule. "The Chinese government's practices in Africa can be expected to undermine US goals," it concluded.

In some areas Chinese imports are driving out African industries. But in other areas, Chinese investments mean jobs for Africans. The mixed bag for Africans is also a concern for us. The competition going on in Africa will affect our future, and it is something we and our leaders and policy makers will have to pay close attention to.