Monday, April 14, 2008

The sting of 'cling'

The political problem with Barack Obama's characterization of small-town Pennsylvanians is not that he finds them to be bitter. The problem is that he sees them as self-deceived:
"It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
On Sunday night, Obama tried to put a positive spin on 'cling':
"Scripture talks about clinging to what’s good," he says. "This is something I’ve talked about before, I’ve talked about in my own life. Which is that religion is a bulwark, it’s a foundation, when things aren’t going well."
("Clinging in a good way," Ben Smith, Politico).

The obvious follow-up question -- not posed to Senator Obama -- was to ask why, if he meant to say something positive about religion, he included racism and xenophobia as lumped within the tight grip of those under-employed, allegedly bitter and frustrated individuals, stuck in the backwaters of the Keystone State. Mickey Kaus ("What's the Matter with Obama? The Four Sins of "Cling", Slate) identifies this lumping as one of four distinct problems with Obama's "cling" gaffe. The other three problems Kaus cites are the accusation of racism, the contradiction with his own alleged -- though dubiously sincere -- positions on trade and guns, and the condescension of seeing the views of those in small towns as a mere byproduct of economic stagnation.

Within this alleged problem of condescension lies a deeper problem. To see individuals as clinging to their religious and political beliefs as a result of economic circumstance is to deny them the perspective one takes on one's own beliefs. For it is to see other individuals as coming to their views, not as the result of reason, but as a mere effect of external and contingent factors. That is a perspective no one can transparently adopt toward one's own positions and views.

So, fundamentally, the problem is not that Obama does not see his own views from a similar perspective. No one could. It is not elitist to think that one has come by one's own positions for good reason. To see one's own commitments in a less flattering light is to have abandoned them already.

Instead, the problem Obama faces with this clinging charge is that it is, at base, deeply alienating. Sympathetic downscale voters can concede that they are bitter and politically disconnected. They cannot, however, join Obama and say that they are self-deceived. They cannot say that they hold to their views only because they are reacting to their economic misfortune. Obama can say that when these voters are brought back to prosperity they will see things in a different light. Yet, this is not a case he can make to these voters themselves.

There is irony here. For in the same breath in which Obama separates himself from racism and xenophobia, he puts distance between himself and white working class Rustbelters, when he talks behind their back -- and supposedly off-the-record -- in upscale San Francisco.

Immanuel Kant saw the fundamental respect all members of humanity deserve as deriving from their capacity to respond to reason. It is a lesson that Obama may still need to learn.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Finding Iran's long-range missile site in Google Earth

A secret site where Iran is suspected of developing long-range ballistic missiles can be explored on Google Earth. Entering the coordinates N 35 13 19, E 53 53 41 reveals a Digital Globe satellite image of the facility taken earlier than the one posted in today's Times story ("Spy photos reveal 'secret launch site' for Iran's long-range missiles," by Michael Evans). The Times story claims the more recent image was taken four days after the launch of Iran's Kavoshgar 1 "research rocket" on February 4.

According to Jane's Intelligence Review, the photograph is said to reveal to a former Iraqi weapons inspector that Iran is using the site, about 230km southeast of Tehran, to develop a ballistic missile with a range of 6,000 km. Geoffrey Forden, research associate at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is quoted as pointing out that a recently constructed building, 40 meters in length, is similar in shape and size to the North Korean long-range Taepodong missile assembly facility.

The new building is plainly visible in the lower left corner of the photograph accompanying the Times story (below), and is notably absent on the earlier Digital Globe image currently in use on Google Earth.

Iranian missile site 2_2

UPDATE: You can also see the Google Map imagery without leaving your browser at Flash Earth


The original story from Jane's can be found here: Iran Develops Long Range Missile Technology:

Analysis by Jane's has identified several developments at this site since the most recent open source imagery was taken in September 2004. Jane's has identified facilities at this site similar in size and form to the Taepodong assembly facility in North Korea. Measurement and Signatures Intelligence by Jane's shows features of the site are also similar to North Korean facility features that indicate this facility is the location of missile assembly.

Jane's Proliferation Editor Avital Johanan commented: "This analysis suggests that Tehran is following the same path in its missile programme as North Korea and identifies a previously unidentified location as an important element in it. Bringing together Jane's analysis with exclusive satellite imagery provides a unique capability to offer near-real time intelligence."
(Hat tip:TheZoo)

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Southern Iraqi Shiite tribal leader claims Iran behind Basra fighting (and al-Qaida!)

Sheikh Kazim Unayzan, chief of the Southern Arab Tribal Council told Dubai Al-Sharqiyah television in an interview aired on April 7 that Iran had invaded Iraq and intended to use Iraq as a base to spread its influence to the Persian Gulf states. Unayzan claimed that Iran was seeking to destabilize Iraq through its support of militias, death squads, and even al-Qaida itself.

Sheikh Unayzan and Sheikh Sabah Muhsin al-Maliki, head of the Bani Malik tribes, were interviewed in Arabic, but an English account of the interview can be found on Radio Free Europe and on BBC Worldwide Monitoring (subscription).

Al-Maliki claims that it was the Arab tribes of southern Iraq that brokered a truce between the Al-Mahdi Army and the government:
Tribes in southern Iraq played a large role in extinguishing the fire of sedition. They mediated between the Al-Mahdi Army and government. The tribes reached a truce in some areas so that security could prevail. Praised be God, things went on normally there."
More significantly, the tribal leaders remarked on the intervention of Iran in Iraq:
[Unayzan]"Iranian interference is no secret to anyone. America itself wants the Iranians to interfere in Iraq although it found Iranian explosive devices, Grad missiles, and Katyushas. The Iranians have agendas. Some political forces are now working for the Iranian intelligence and they receive funds from them. The Iranians are seriously thinking of creating an unbalanced Iraq that advocates a theory that is not pan-Arab. This means they want to keep Iraq away from its pan-Arab affiliation. These forces worked from Karbala and even Baghdad up to the farthest part of Iraq. Iran supports Al-Qa'idah, militias, and death squads. Iran buys the smuggled and stolen oil." He then says he "warned" the Arab countries that if Basra falls in Iranian hands, the Iranians will try to expand in the direction of the Gulf States, where "Iran has a large community estimated at 5 million people."

On whether he is concerned about the Arab identity of Iraq, Al-Maliki says: "There is a large concern and this is the feeling of every patriotic citizen who wants security and all that is good for his country. We are all concerned because there are foreign interferences by Iran and its agents." Asked if the Arab tribes will establish a force to fight the militias, he says the tribes will not fight the "patriotic militias which have a genuine Arab history." He adds: "But there are militias which want to wreak havoc in Iraq, hand southern Iraq to another country, and destroy some leaders in Iraq. These should be fought. A force should be formed from the tribes to deter them."

Asked if a force similar to the Awakening Councils will be established, Unayzan says: "We will not establish Awakening Councils to serve the occupation. This is the first point. We will establish a force to strike at the militias collaborating with Iran. This is certain. The Iranians killed only in Basra 31 heads of tribes and clans, 37 doctors carrying the doctorate and master's degree including a professor, 400 women, and a large number of pilots and ordinary people who belonged to the Ba'th Party and the former security and intelligence services. We want to stop this."

...Asked what the tribal council will do if it participates in and wins in the local elections, Unayzan says: "We will first prevent the establishment of federalism, block the Oil Law, and prevent absolute subservience to Iran. We will demand protection for our areas in the south to prevent all neighbouring countries and not only Iran from infiltrating them."...On the reasons for "lack of security and poor services in Basra," Unayzan says "personal gains, ambitions, and Iran's blatant interference in Iraq are the reasons. He adds that the recent Basra fighting began and ended "with Iranian motives."

...On the way he views merger of religion with politics in Iraq, Unayzan says political Islam does not serve the interests of any country." Asked if Basra can be ruled by religious parties, he says: "There is no doubt that Basra is now ruled by the religious parties. Had it not been for the tribes, they would have made people suffer bitterly." He adds this is so although killings, abductions, and seizure of state resources continue, noting that the government's campaign in Basra was not successful because more than 900 people were killed in it.

Asked about national reconciliation...Unayzan says: "Reconciliation with whom? The Shi'is totally reject reconciliation with the Ba'thists. They want to uproot the Ba'th ideology and the Ba'th Party in general. There are more than 3 million Ba'thists in Iraq, and the Shi'is, including me, refuse to pardon the Ba'thists. But those whose hands were not stained with the blood of the Iraqis and who have good intentions should be accepted and rehabilitated." He then says reconciliation can be achieved when the Iraqi officials listen to the ordinary people and prevent foreign interference.

The two southern Iraqi tribal leaders are currently on a tour of Arab countries to mobilize Arab support for the Southern Arab Tribal Council.

UPDATE: Those quick to pounce on John McCain's slip, in which he momentarily implied that al-Qaida in Iraq was a "Shiite sect" before correcting himself, would do well to consider that to keep track of the complex and shifting political coalitions in the Middle East one must not presume that such affiliations do not cut across Islamic sectarian lines. That point will be lost, however, to those who appear to think that one need only have the Sunni and Shiite teams on their Middle East scorecard. MSNBC wasted no time suggesting McCain had made another gaffe. Here is the exchange:

McCain: There are numerous threats to security in Iraq and the future of Iraq. Do you still view Al Qaeda in Iraq as a major threat?
Petraeus: It is still a major threat, though it is certainly not as major a threat as it was say 15 months ago.
McCain: Certainly not an obscure sect of the Shiites overall?
Petraeus: No, no sir.
McCain: Or Sunnis or anybody else then? Al Qaeda continues to try to assert themselves in Mosul, is that correct?
Meanwhile, Jason Linkins, on Huffington Post, praised Senator Evan Bayh's questioning as the "highlight of the hearing," but neglected to notice Bayh's own momentary lapse of taking Pakistan to be an Arab country, in this exchange with Ambassador Ryan Crocker:
BAYH: The Afghanistan and Pakistan are subjects for another day but since this is all tied up in the global effort against extremism and terror, as you know, things have not been going as well as we would hope in Afghanistan. And it is true we're not going to have troops in Pakistan. Still, our resources are finite and they do have an impact. Some might look at this and say why are we devoting five times the amount of resources to a place that at this time is not the principal threat?

CROCKER: In part, Senator, to be sure that it doesn't become that. I noted in my testimony that Osama bin Laden fairly recently referred to Iraq as the perfect base for al Qaeda and it is a reminder that for al Qaeda, having a safe base on Arab soil is extremely important today. They got close to that in '06.

BAYH: They apparently have one now in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Rice for the Vice?

Condoleezza Rice is actively pursuing the vice presidential spot on John McCain's ticket. Confirming rumors that were ignited last month when Rice visited Grover Norquist's gathering of conservative political organizations at the Americans for Tax Reform (see headland's Is Condi Rice signaling an interest in being McCain's VP?), Republican strategist Dan Senor said today on This Week with George Stephanopoulos: “Condi Rice has been actively, actually in recent weeks, campaigning for this” (see Dan Senor: Condoleezza Rice is Pursuing the VP Spot, ABC News).

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

A stash of FARC's uranium found in Columbia

The Columbian military has seized 30 kilos of uranium, said to be owned by FARC rebels [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia] and linked to the e-mails found on the computer of Raúl Reyes after he was killed in Ecuador last month.

According to today's story ("Columbia says it found uranium linked to FARC," Frances Robles, Miami Herald, March 27, 2008), a February 16 e-mail on Reyes's computer discussed a deal involving uranium. Yet, rather than purchasing uranium, FARC might have been trying to sell uranium to a third party for profit.
"Another of the themes is the one on uranium," said a note allegedly written by a man identified as Edgar Tovar to Raúl -- an apparent reference to Reyes, the FARC's No. 2 man.

"There's a man who supplies me with material for the explosive we prepare, and his name is Belisario and he lives in Bogotá," the note reads. "He sent me the samples and the specifications and they are proposing to sell each kilo for two and a half million dollars, and that they supply and we look for someone to sell to, and that the deal should be with a government that can buy a huge amount. They have 50 kilos ready and can sell much more."

The informants, allegedly people close to "Belisario," gave the military samples of the uranium on March 20. Subsequently, they led the military to the rest of the stash in Pasquilla, a district in the Comuna 20 neighborhood of Bogotá.

The uranium in the samples was said to be "impoverished," but armed forces commander Freddy Padilla said at a press conference on Wednesday that further tests were being conducted to indicate just how dangerous the material really is.

On March 20, it was reported in this space (Headland, Romanian rendezvous; Terrorists and arms dealers in Bucharest) that a Romanian website had cited El Espectador as reporting that Raúl Reyes negotiated the purchase of uranium from an agent of the Ukrainian crime syndicate of Semyon Yukovich Mogilevich. It was further alleged that MI6 had contended that the Ukrainians stole the enriched uranium from an insufficiently guarded storage site in Cheyabinsk, in the Ural Mountains.

The apparently degraded state of the uranium found this week, and the nature of the deal with Belisario, lead to questions as to whether the uranium found was part of the same deal that was said to be discussed in Bucharest last month, and whether FARC has an interest in procuring the materials necessary for making a radioactive bomb of its own.

UPDATE: Counterterrorism Blog ("Colombia Announces Find of 66 Pounds of Uranium It Says Linked to FARC," Jonathan Winer) connects the dots to this story:

The information on Reyes's computer led investigators to FARC's cash, stashed in Costa Rica.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Is Condi Rice signaling an interest in being McCain's VP?

Steve Clemons in Washington Note reports today that Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice spoke this morning at Grover Norquist's gathering of conservative political organizations at the Americans for Tax Reform, a move he is told may signal an interest in future Republican politics.
As one major Republican operative told me yesterday:
Someone like Condi Rice doesn't go to Grover Norquist's den to talk about the Annapolis Middle East peace process. She's going to secure her future in Republican politics and to position herself as a 'potential' VP candidate on the McCain ticket.
("BREAKING: Condi Rice Flirts With VP Possibility -- Speaks to Grover Norquist's Wednesday Group Meeting")

UPDATE: After today's meeting, Clemons gave this report ("More on Condoleezza Rice - Grover Norquist Group Meeting"):
The first question Condoleezza Rice received at the meeting was one about her "political future." She responded by saying that she was not interested in more government service at this point -- that she wanted to return to California and write a book that reflected on her time and work in the Bush administration. So, she is telegraphing a "no" about the possibility of a Vice Presidential possibility. Others still argue that one does not talk serious foreign policy matters with the Wednesday Group Meeting without wanting to also telegraph that one might be interested in political futures. In other words, though saying she is not interested in the Vice Presidential slot on a McCain ticket, Condoleezza Rice might be convinced at some point to give up her near California dreams if "necessity" required it....[S]he gave a tour de force discussion of America's global foreign policy and national security positions....

And by all accounts I have heard, her performance was stunningly good, very well received by one of the major bastions of American conservative power players, and that she "won them over," according to one source.

She spoke for 20 minutes and stayed there for 50. She took lots of questions -- and left no one with the impression that this was just about selling President Bush's next nine months in the foreign policy game.

UPDATE 2: The Evans-Novak Political Report claims Rob Portman, former Ohio congressman, former U.S. trade representative and former OMB director, has the inside track for McCain's VP selection. See: Taegan Goddard's Political Wire

Also see: "Portman praises McCain, but deflects talk of interest in vice presidential slot," Walter Alarkon, The Hill

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Saddam Hussein's regime plotted with Gaza terrorists to kill U.S. ambassador Indyk

Saddam Hussein's Iraqi regime plotted to assassinate Martin Indyk, then U.S. ambassador to Israel.

Martin Indyk

Based on documents from the U.S. Institute for Defense Analyses report released by the Pentagon (see Saddam's support for terror: the Pentagon report's unreported findings, Headland, March 18, 2008), a story in The Australian today ("Saddam had Aussie killed") details the plot against Indyk and also implicates the former Iraqi regime in the murder of Stuart Cameron, a foreign aid worker for Care Australia to the Kurds in northern Iraq.

A letter written on June 30, 2001 from a terrorist operative in the Gaza Strip to Ba'ath party officials in Baghdad discusses a plot to kill Ambassador Indyk. The author of the letter, heavily redacted by the U.S. military before public release, is identified as Wafa Tawfiq al-Sayigh. The two individuals of the Ba'ath party to which the letter is addressed are Talal Salim Abu Taghlub and an individual identified only as the "Official in Charge of Abu al-Haytham - Sa'id al-'Ayyad."

Here is the portion of the letter that speaks of Indyk:
Four: Martin Indyk (U.S. ambassador, Tel Aviv)

Abu al-Haytham Sa'id 'Ayyad has a suggestion of how to eliminate him, one that I will explain to you during the meeting.
: An Australian Jew who was ambassador to Tel Aviv from 1992 until the end of 1996. He was transferred elsewhere and returned in 2000 as ambassador to Tel Aviv. When he was appointed, there was pandemonium at the C.I.A., who accused him of working with the Israeli Mossad. He was welcomed in Gaza city by certain prominent individuals, most notably Industrialists [names censored by the U.S. military] and many other Gaza Strip personalities. He continues to visit them often, at all hours and without reservation. Abu al-Haytham Sa'id 'Ayyad has a suggestion of how to eliminate him, one that I will explain to you during the meeting.
In another reference to Abu al-Haytham Sa'id 'Ayyad, the author of the letter claims that most of the information provided about the assassination of Lieutenant Colonel Mas'oud Hussein Mahmoud 'Ayyad has been obtained from Colonel Sa'id Hussein 'Ayyad (Abu al-Haytham).

Mas'oud 'Ayyad was a member of Yassir Arafat's elite security unit, Force 17, in the Gaza Strip. He was assassinated February 13, 2001 by four missiles fired from two Apache attack helicopter gunships on his vehicle, as he drove down the Salah ad-Din road parallel to the Jahaliya camp in the northern side of the Gaza strip. Israel claimed 'Ayyad was a liaison agent for the Lebanese resistance guerrilla group Hezbollah and had formed a Hezbollah-backed cell in the Palestinian territories. Then Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak openly took responsibility for the killing.

Who, then, is Colonel Sa'id Ayyad (Abu al-Hatham), who had suggestions for how Indyk should be "eliminated"? The Palestinian news agency Wafa website from Gaza in Arabic (translated by BBC Worldwide Monitoring,"Palestinian Statement on Israeli attack on Gaza, West Bank, January 25, 2003, subscription) reported on January 24, 2003 that a Col. Sa'id Ayyad was one of the martyred Mas'oud 'Ayyad's five brothers, who were all detained after the Israelis stormed the Gaza neighborhood of Al-Zaytun with 30 tanks and armored jeeps, and demolished the building owned by the family of the assassinated Mas'oud 'Ayyad.

The Palestinian Human Rights Monitor website (PHRMG), which gives many of the details cited above of Mas'oud 'Ayyad's assassination, also identifies a Sa'id 'Ayyad as Mas'oud's brother, and quotes this brother as testifying to PHRMG on February 15, 2001:
"Mas'oud was a good man, he belonged to Fatah movement [sic], and he had nothing to do with the Hezbollah in Lebanon. He was detained by Israel during the first intifada for two years."
Incidentally, the June 2001 letter also alleges, on the basis of eavesdropping on the phone calls of Force 17 officers, that Colonel Muslih 'Urayqat (nicknamed "Abu 'Ali Hasan"), and a number of his attendants, "had advance knowledge of the plan to assassinate Mas'oud." The next three lines are censored, but a few lines later it is noted that neither Yasir Arafat or his military intelligence chief Musa Arafat held

"If they wanted to bump me off, they were a bit slow."
-Martin Indyk

Muslih 'Urayqat or one As'ad Sa'id Abu Jahl accountable.

Asked for a reaction by The Australian, Ambassador Indyk said that his connections in Gaza were business types and that his meetings took place in early 2000 with organizations such as the local chamber of commerce. He said that his interaction stopped with the start of the Intifada. He also denied any links to Mossad.

Indyk noted that the letter was dated on the very day that he left Israel as ambassador. He added, sardonically, "If they wanted to bump me off, they were a bit slow."


UPDATE: For a contrary view from the left (and down under), see: The terrorists are (strike) were coming to get us, Larvatus Prodeo.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

An unapologetic apologia for the Iraq war

Contrarian Christopher Hitchens takes stock of the Anglo-American intervention into Iraq, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the war, in "How did I get the Iraq war so wrong? I didn't" (The Australian, March 20, 2008).

Hitchens reminds us of some notable successes achieved:
A much-wanted war criminal was put on public trial.

The Kurdish and Shi'ite majority was rescued from the ever-present threat of a renewed genocide.

A huge, hideous military and party apparatus, directed at internal repression and external aggression was (perhaps overhastily) dismantled.

The largest wetlands in the region, habitat of the historic Marsh Arabs, have been largely recuperated.

Huge fresh oilfields have been found, including in formerly oil-free Sunni provinces, and some important initial investment in them made. Elections have been held, and the outline of a federal system has been proposed as the only alternative to a) a sectarian despotism and b) a sectarian partition and fragmentation. Not unimportantly, a battlefield defeat has been inflicted on al-Qa'ida and its surrogates, who (not without some Baathist collaboration) had hoped to constitute the successor regime in a failed state and an imploded society.

Further afield, a perfectly defensible case can be made that the Syrian Baathists would not have evacuated Lebanon, nor would the Gaddafi gang have turned over Libya's (much larger than anticipated) stock of WMD, if not for the ripple effect of the removal of the region's keystone dictatorship.
Hitchens provides no conclusive reason to claim these positive developments outweigh the negative results: the costs of the war in lives and treasure and its undesirable unintended consequences.

Yet, he does rebut the easy answer of those war critics who think that had we simply not intervened, any bad result would not be our fault. He dubs this position the "Bishop Berkeley theory," to wit, "if a country collapses and succumbs to trauma, and it's not our immediate fault or direct responsibility, then it doesn't count, and we are not involved."

Hitchens points to the potentially shameful and dire consequences of the Bishop Berkeley attitude toward a "war of choice" in Burma, Rwanda and Darfur.

Alas, in a morally ambiguous world, there is no safe refuge from responsibility.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Romanian rendezvous; Terrorists and arms dealers in Bucharest

Terrorists and arms dealers have been busy in Bucharest over the past few months, under the close watch of agents from international secret services.

Raul Reyes (real name: Luis Edgar Devia Silva), who was killed in Ecuador earlier this month by the Columbian army during a bomb attack against FARC [Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia], had come to Bucharest, just weeks before his death, to negotiate the purchase of uranium from an agent of the Ukrainian crime syndicate of Semyon Yukovich Mogilevich.

The website of the Romanian newspaper Ziua ( "Romania Swarms With Terrorists," by Bogdan Galca, translated by BBC Monitoring, subscription) cites Colombia's El Espectador as reporting Reyes visit to Romania on a fake Venezuelan passport in mid-January. The Irish journalist Gordon Thomas is quoted in the piece and is said to have had access to reports of the British intelligence service MI6.

The United States issued a warrant for Mogilevich's arrest on charges of fraud, racketeering and money laundering. Russia arrested Mogilevich outside Moscow's World Trade Center last month, along with Arbat Prestige owner Vladimir Nekrasov. (On Monday, a Moscow court refused to grant Mogilevich bail, despite his plea to be dying of diabetes related ailments. See Moscow Times.)

The MI6 report is said to allege that Mogilevich has:
"a working relationship with Al-Qa'idah....It is a known fact that the organization led by Usamah Bin-Ladin is present in Venezuela and in South American countries governed by populist left-wing representatives who oppose the United States."
Columbian Vice President Francisco Santos is quoted by the Spanish television network Antena 3 during the UN Conference on Disarmament as claiming that documents discovered on Reyes' computers revealed that FARC was attempting to purchase fissile material to construct a radiological ("dirty") bomb.

MI6 contends that the Ukrainians stole the enriched uranium from an insufficiently guarded storage site in Cheyabinsk, in the Ural Mountains.

Mogilevich's organization was not the only group attempting to negotiate with FARC in Bucharest.

The notorious Russian-born arms trafficker Viktor Bout, known as the "Merchant of Death" (and the model for the main character of the movie "Lord of War," played by Nicholas Cage), was arrested last month in Thailand on the basis of information provided by the Romanian authorities. Bout's associate, Andrew Smulian, had also been in Bucharest to negotiate an arms delivery to FARC.

The U.S. released an indictment of Bout and Smulian that accused them of "plotting in view of procuring material support for a terrorist organization." That material included 100 air-to-ground missiles and missile launchers. The indictment was based on the fact that Smulian had been negotiating with phony FARC leaders who in fact were agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration of the U.S.

Ziua's description of the sting that led to the arrest of Viktor Bout makes for fascinating reading:
Copenhagen, Curacao, and Bucharest

Bout's arrest operation, as described by the documents of the US authorities, sounds like a spy novel. The informers had meetings in Copenhagen, Curacao, and Bucharest during an operation that first trapped Smulian, one of Bout's associates, the middle man of the arms transaction. According to the official document drawn up by a DEA special agent, undercover American agents succeeded in gaining the trust of the "Merchant of Death" and his associates several months before Smulian was arrested in Thailand. The meetings were held in several countries, including Denmark, Netherland Antilles, and Romania. In 1997, a DEA source (CS-1) contacted Smulian. Under DEA coordination, CS-1 sent an email to Smulian asking him to tell Bout that he had a business proposal. After a short while, Smulian told the agent that Bout was interested in the proposal and that they should meet. Under DEA coordination, CS-1 organized a meeting in Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. On 7 January 2008, CS-1 met Smulian in Curacao. CS-1 introduced two other DEA sources (CS-2 and CS-3). The two agents claimed to be FARC representatives. They told Smulian that they were interested in purchasing weapons, particularly missiles. On 22 January 2008, CS-1 met Smulian in Copenhagen, Denmark, to discuss Smulian and Bout's meeting in Russia about the weapons deal. Bout told Smulian to schedule a meeting with CS-2 and one of his representatives to discuss the transaction. The Russian warned his associate to be extremely careful and instructed him to get rid of cell phones, SIM cards, and other devices that might indicate where he had been and whom he had met. According to Smulian, Bout had said that he could provide the FARC with the weapons, because "any communist is our friend." On 23 January 2008, CS-1 and CS-2 met Smulian in Copenhagen. The three discussed the locations where they could meet Bout. Smulian told the DEA collaborators that "100 pieces were immediately available."

Missiles Photos Shown on Laptop

On 26 January 2008, CS-1 and Smulian came to Bucharest, where they met CS-2 and CS-3. Once they arrived, the latter told Smulian that they wanted to meet Bout in person to finalize the arms deal and deliver the money.

Smulian told them that Bout might have been arrested if he had come to Romania. At a certain point, CS-3 talked with Bout on the telephone about potential meeting locations, among which Cuba, Nicaragua, or Armenia. After the discssion with the "Merchant of Death," Smulian showed the three CS on his laptop photos of the missiles that were going to be delivered, pointing out that Bout could also supply helicopters that could be equipped with double-range missiles. Smulian also said that the weapons were in Bulgaria and that their "transport" would cost $5 million. Several days later, Smulian told CS-2 that "the weapons were ready in Bulgaria." On 5 February 2008, the Romanian authorities intercepted a conversation between Bout and CC-2, one of his associates, who operates an air company in our country [Romania]. On 7 February, CS-2 gave Smulian an e-mail address ( that could be used by Smulian and Bout. On 12 February, CS-2 received an e-mail: "Buenos Dias! this is the e-mail we can use for commjnications. Best regards. Friend of Andrew." The address of the sender was created on 12 February under the name Victor But [name as published]. The DEA believes that the message was sent by the "Merchant of Death." The next meeting was held in Thailand, where Bout was captured.

Bout remains under detention in a maximum-security prison on the outskirts of Bangkok. Today, a Thai court extended by 12 days his detention, pending formal charges in Thailand. (See Russian Arms Dealer Jail Stay Lengthened," Guardian, March 19, 2008).

The DEA used a similar sting of a phony deal with FARC to capture Syrian arms trafficker Monzer al-Kassar, the "Prince of Marbella." (See Syrian arms dealer stung in DEA pseudo-deal with Colombian guerillas.) Kassar was arrested on June 7, 2007 in Madrid, following a tip from the Romanians, one day after two of his accomplices, a Chilean and a Palestinian suspected of terrorist activities in the United States, were arrested in Bucharest. Kassar had ties with Uday Hussein, son of Saddam Hussein. Michael J. Garcia, U.S. federal prosecutor in New York, alleges that Kassar has "supported terrorists and insurgents by providing state-of-art weapons that fuelled most of the conflicts started in the past 30 years." Kassar's customers include groups from Nicaragua, Brazil, Cyprus, Bosnia, Croatia, Somalia, the Palestinian territories, Iran and Iraq.

As Bucharest prepares to host the 20th NATO summit on April 2-4, security preparations have been understandably extensive.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Saddam's support for terror: the Pentagon report's unreported findings

"Saddam supported groups that either associated directly with al Qaeda (such as the Egptian Islamic Jihad, led at one time by bin Laden's deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri) or that generally shared al Qaeda's stated goals and objectives." That was the notable, and unreported, finding of the report by the Institute for Defense Analyses, "Iraqi Perspectives Project: Saddam and Terrorism: Emerging Insights from Captured Iraqi Documents."

Based on a review of some 600,000 documents captured in post-war Iraq, the 59-page Pentagon report, with over 1500 pages of appendices, details a 'de facto' link between Saddam's security organizations and Osama bin Laden's terror network. Yet, that was not the story reported in the U.S. press.

Instead, a headline in the New York Times and stories in the Washington Post, NPR and ABC reported that the study showed no links between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein.

What accounts for the difference? Stephen F. Hayes in this week's The Weekly Standard ("Saddam's Dangerous Friends; What a Pentagon review of 600,000 Iraqi documents tells us, March 24, 2008, subscription) asks and answers the key question:
How can a study offering an unprecedented look into the closed regime of a brutal dictator, with over 1,600 pages of "strong evidence that links the regime of Saddam Hussein to regional and global terrorism," in the words of its authors, receive a wave-of-the-hand dismissal from America's most prestigious news outlets? All it took was a leak to a gullible reporter, one misleading line in the study's executive summary, a boneheaded Pentagon press office, an incompetent White House, and widespread journalistic negligence.

The storyline that drove the coverage by the mainstream press was based upon a leaked -- and "highly misleading" -- phrase taken from the executive summary: "This study found no 'smoking gun' (i.e. direct connection between Saddam's Iraq and al Qaeda."

Contrast that dismissive summation with the study's actual findings, detailed by Hayes:
In 1993, as Osama bin Laden's fighters battled Americans in Somalia, Saddam Hussein personally ordered the formation of an Iraqi terrorist group to join the battle there.

For more than two decades, the Iraqi regime trained non-Iraqi jihadists in training camps throughout Iraq.

According to a 1993 internal Iraqi intelligence memo, the regime was supporting a secret Islamic Palestinian organization dedicated to "armed jihad against the Americans and Western interests."

In the 1990s, Iraq's military intelligence directorate trained and equipped "Sudanese fighters."

In 1998, the Iraqi regime offered "financial and moral support" to a new group of jihadists in Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq.

In 2002, the year before the war began, the Iraqi regime hosted in Iraq a series of 13 conferences for non-Iraqi jihadists groups.

That same year, a branch of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) issued hundreds of Iraqi passports for known terrorists.

IIS documents included in the Pentagon report reveal two terorist organizations relying on Iraqi financial support were the Afghani Islamic Party of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad of Ayman al Zawahiri.

Hayes concludes:
What's happening here is obvious. Military historians and terrorism analysts are engaged in a good faith effort to review the captured documents from the Iraqi regime and provide a dispassionate, fact-based examination of Saddam Hussein's long support of jihadist terrorism. Most reporters don't care. They are trapped in a world where the Bush administration lied to the country about an Iraq-al Qaeda connection, and no amount of evidence to the contrary -- not even the words of the fallen Iraqi regime itself -- can convince them to reexamine their mistaken assumptions.
The most curious and puzzling aspect of the misreporting of the Pentagon report is the apathy and silence of the Bush administration. Hayes surmises that they were "too busy or too tired or too lazy" to correct the record.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

Ridin' Dirty: Obama's Pastor Problem

The anti-American invective of Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's pastor for the last twenty years, has caused an uneasy stir in the U.S. electorate. Videos of Wright's fiery sermons -- in which he blames the 9/11 attacks on U.S. "terrorism" abroad ("the chickens are coming home to roost") and asks God to "damn America" for its sins -- have now aired repeatedly on the cable news networks. Wright is heard dismissing Hillary Clinton as incapable of understanding the black experience ("Hillary never had a cab whiz by and not pick her up because her skin is the wrong color") and berating her husband Bill as one who betrayed the trust of black Americans: "Bill did us, just like he did Monica Lewinsky. He was riding dirty."

Obama has attempted to distance himself from his minister's most provocative utterances, calling them "inflammatory and appalling," while insisting that he was not in attendance for any of the sermons in question.

Yet, many of the elements of this story have been known for nearly a year. In "A Candidate, His Minister and the Search for Faith," (Jodi Kantor, The New York Times, April 30, 2007), Obama reacted to Wright's provocative post-9/11 statements:
On the Sunday after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, Mr. Wright said the attacks were a consequence of violent American policies. Four years later he wrote that the attacks had proved that “people of color had not gone away, faded into the woodwork or just ‘disappeared’ as the Great White West went on its merry way of ignoring Black concerns.”

...Such statements involve “a certain deeply embedded anti-Americanism,” said Michael Cromartie, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative group that studies religious issues and public policy. “A lot of people are going to say to Mr. Obama, are these your views?”

Mr. Obama says they are not.

“The violence of 9/11 was inexcusable and without justification,” he said in a recent interview. He was not at Trinity the day Mr. Wright delivered his remarks shortly after the attacks, Mr. Obama said, but “it sounds like he was trying to be provocative.”

“Reverend Wright is a child of the 60s, and he often expresses himself in that language of concern with institutional racism and the struggles the African-American community has gone through,” Mr. Obama said. “He analyzes public events in the context of race. I tend to look at them through the context of social justice and inequality.”

In The Atlantic, Matthew Yglesias argues that Obama's membership in Wright's church was only for the sake of political expediency and likens it to Hillary's claim to be a fan of the New York Yankees baseball team:
But of course they're right that it'll hurt him electorally because Obama's going to have a hard time explaining that I take to be the truth, namely that his relationship with Trinity has been a bit cynical from the beginning.

"Before Obama was a half-black guy running in a mostly white country he was a half-white guy running in a mostly black neighborhood."
After all, before Obama was a half-black guy running in a mostly white country he was a half-white guy running in a mostly black neighborhood. At that time, associating with a very large, influential, local church with black nationalist overtones was a clear political asset (it's also clear in his book that it made him, personally, feel "blacker" to belong to a slightly kitschy black church). Since emerging onto a larger stage, it's been the reverse and Obama's consistently sought to distance himself from Wright, disinviting him from his campaign's launch, analogizing him to a crazy uncle who you love but don't listen to, etc. The closest analogy would probably be to Hillary Clinton's inconsistent accounting of where she's from (bragging about midwestern roots when trying to win in Iowa, promptly forgetting those roots when explaining away a loss in Illinois, developing a sporadic affection for New York sports teams) -- banal, mildly cynical shifts of association as context changes.

This is why I don't, as an American citizen, worry that President Obama would be objectionable. But Americans take their religion seriously and aren't going to want to hear this story. So Obama's going to have to do some awkward further distancing.

If this is indeed the dilemma that Obama faces, if he must choose between repudiating his faith or repudiating the man he has called his "spiritual mentor," then the foundation of his candidacy will crumble. He can steer between the horns of Yglesias's dilemma, but only if he can truthfully speak to the positive lessons that he learned in his chosen church and the faith that sustains his audacious hope.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Geraldine Ferraro also thought Jesse Jackson had an unfair advantage

Geraldine Ferraro's bitter remarks on the presidential candidacy of Barack Obama were foreshadowed, almost verbatim, twenty years ago in her reaction to Jesse Jackson's campaign. Here are the thoughts she shared last week on Barack Obama ("Geraldine Ferraro lets her emotions do the talking," Jim Farber, Daily Breeze):
"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position [...] And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position."
Geraldine Ferraro, 2008

"If Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race."
Geraldine Ferraro, 1988

Here is what Ferraro said about Jackson's campaign, nearly twenty years ago ("Koch Endorses Gore; Jackson Parries Critics" Howard Kurtz, Paul Taylor, The Washington Post, April 15, 1988, p. A4 [LexisNexis], hat tip: Wide Awakes):
"If Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race."
Ferraro's latest remarks on Obama, which she stands by, are similar to those made in a January 8 op-ed by Gloria Steinem in the New York Times [LexisNexis]:
THE woman in question became a lawyer after some years as a community organizer, married a corporate lawyer and is the mother of two little girls, ages 9 and 6. Herself the daughter of a white American mother and a black African father -- in this race-conscious country, she is considered black -- she served as a state legislator for eight years, and became an inspirational voice for national unity.

Be honest: Do you think this is the biography of someone who could be elected to the United States Senate? After less than one term there, do you believe she could be a viable candidate to head the most powerful nation on earth?

If you answered no to either question, you're not alone. Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life, whether the question is who must be in the kitchen or who could be in the White House.

Plainly, the battle for the Democratic Party's nomination has exposed deep resentment by many feminists of the notion that black grievances should be thought to trump their own.

See also: Ben Smith, "A Ferraro Flashback," (

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21 Accents


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Monday, March 10, 2008

The memory of the silent

Kaing Guek Eav, also known as Duch, once a Khmer Rouge official in charge of a Cambodian torture center, was moved to tears when he was taken by the genocide tribunal to see a killing field.
"We noticed that he was feeling pity, tears were rolling down his face two or three times," Reach Sambath said.

Duch was especially moved when he stood before a tree with a sign describing how executioners disposed of their child victims by bashing their heads against its trunk, the spokesman said.

There are several similar displays among the shallow graves that contain skeletal remains and ragged clothes.

Some 16,000 men, women and children who had been held at S-21 were killed and buried at Choeung Ek...

("Head of notorious Khmer Rouge torture weeps at mass grave site," 26 February 2008, Canadian Press)

Last week, another killing field was found, from another hemisphere and another century:

Mystery and dread shrouded a freshly discovered mass grave site filled with the remains of at least 50 and perhaps as many as 100 people, some of them children, in a river valley northeast of Baghdad.

Iraqi police announced the discovery yesterday after conducting a raid in the area and stumbling upon the badly decomposed bodies a day earlier. The dead were buried in one of the many fruit, date and palm orchards that line the Diyala River near the town of Khalis, just north of the provincial capital of Baqouba.

...Iraqi police and residents say they believe they were killed and buried in the past five years. An Iraqi security official who saw the grave site said the bodies appeared to have been dumped over a period of time, rather than all at once, and that only 13 had been excavated so far.

Some residents suspect the site was a dumping ground used by Shiite Muslim militias disposing of remains of Sunni victims....

("Iraqi police find mass grave during raid," Borzou Daragahi and Saif Rasheed, Baltimore Sun, 9 March 2008)

Czeslaw Milosz, in his acceptance speech for the Nobel Prize in Literature, offered this perspective on the memory of horrific human cruelty:
It is possible that there is no other memory than the memory of wounds....

A distance achieved, thanks to the mystery of time, must not change events, landscapes, human figures into a tangle of shadows growing paler and paler. On the contrary, it can show them in full light, so that every event, every date becomes expressive and persists as an eternal reminder of human depravity and human greatness. Those who are alive receive a mandate from those who are silent forever. They can fulfill their duties only by trying to reconstruct precisely things as they were, and by wresting the past from fictions and legends.

(Czeslaw Milosz, Nobel Lecture, 8 December 1980.)

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Friday, March 07, 2008

At behest of Iran and China, Chavez tests how far "lame duck" US can be pushed

The border crisis between Venezuela and Columbia is the result of close coordination between Caracas and Tehran, according to a special report in Defense & Foreign Affairs (March 4, subscription only).
Analysis of relative combat capabilities between Ecuador and Venezuela on the one hand, and Colombia on the other, may be premature, but it is clear from a range of sources that there has been coordination on the issue between Caracas and Tehran, and Caracas and Quito, in order to "test the waters" as to how far the US can be pushed to support its ally, Colombia, during this "lame duck" political year. It is also known that the People's Republic of China (PRC), which has significant relations with Venezuela, and has worked discreetly with Pres. Chavez to help further PRC interests elsewhere in the region -- particularly Panama -- is taking a keen interest in monitoring the US response to the tri-nation border crisis.

UPDATE: On second thought ... the crisis appears to be over, at least for now....Reuters: Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela make peace

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Thursday, March 06, 2008

Open source secrets: the truth is out there

Most of the secrets that intelligence agencies spend billions to find are available for free. In "Money for nothing and your clicks for free" (The Sunday Age [Australia], March 2, 2008), Tom Hyland writes:

"Old spies say that if you didn't steal a piece of information or get it by secret means, it's not intelligence."
To open source advocates, up to 95% of intelligence sought by governments is freely available — if you've got the time and expertise and know where to look. It's less cloak and dagger, more mouse-click and blogger. It's a revolution US agencies have responded to, with the creation in 2005 of the Open Source Centre, based at CIA headquarters. Its analysts don't just search and translate traditional open sources such as news media, journals and published reports.

They are looking at YouTube, which the centre's director, Doug Naquin, says "carries some honest-to-goodness intelligence".

"The problem with spies is they only know secrets."
Former CIA officer Robert Steele

They're entering chat rooms, and looking at citizens and social media like MySpace and blogs. They were the first to discover the value of blogs in understanding developments in Iran, for instance.

"We have one person … who we've actually hired to blog on terrorist internet messaging," Naquin said.

As evidenced in yesterday's Missile shield to protect the Gulf from Iran, Headland continues to look for "open secrets" from parts of the web not universally accessible in order to gain a deeper understanding of global developments.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A missile shield to protect the Gulf from Iran

The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait are about to receive several batches of Patriot missiles to protect against an Iranian missile attack. Intelligence Online [subscription] (February 14, 2008: "A Patriot Missile Shield Against Iran; Gulf Cooperation Council") reports that the UAE and Kuwait hope that all members of the Gulf Cooperation Council will become similarly equipped to form a "single, seamless shield."
Winning the blessings of Congress last month, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are to shortly finalize the sale of 288 Patriot Advanced Capability- 3 (PAC-3) missiles to the United Arab Emirates. Already equipped with PAC-2 weapons (the previous version), Kuwait is to acquire 88 PAC-3s. The already-sizeable contracts (USD 9 billion for the Emirates and EUR 1.4 billion for Kuwait) could shortly be followed by similar agreements with Qatar and even with Bahrain and Oman.

The acquisition of Patriot by Kuwait and the UAE forms part of what is a still secret project to build an anti-missile shield against Iran that could be deployed throughout the Gulf....

REVISED with additional excerpting.
UPDATE: Also see: U.S. To Sell Patriot Missile defense Systems to UAE (Pat Dollard, Young Americans Documentary).

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|| headland, 10:22 AM || permalink || (2) comments |

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Ahmadinejad seeks Iraqi backdoor to break sanctions and equip nuclear program

Dubai's Al-Sharqiyah Television (3 March, 1600 gmt newscast) carried the following intriguing report on the purpose of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Iraq (translation by BBC Worldwide Monitoring, subscription):
"The Iranian delegation accompanying Iranian President Ahmadinezhad has asked Iraqi officials to merge the Iraqi economy with the Iranian economy and ensure that they complement each other, particularly in the financial and industrial areas, with a view to breaking the sanctions imposed on Iran in the fields of banking and money transfers. The delegation also asked that Iraqi financial institutions and banks be used to fill the void created after several world banks stopped sending direct money transfers to Iran. Furthermore, the delegation asked that Iraqi industrial organizations be used as a cover for importing some equipment and materials that are used in military industries and that support the Iranian nuclear programme, which is facing difficulties in obtaining some raw materials and industrial equipment. The Iranian president and his delegation stressed the need to achieve financial, industrial, trade, and oil integration [between the two countries], noting that this tasking should be assigned to people who believe in strategic alliance with Iran."

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Saturday, March 01, 2008

Mahmud Abbas: Hamas brought Al-Qaida into Gaza

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas (Abu-Mazin), in an interview with the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat, claims that Hamas has brought Al-Qaida into Gaza as an ally. The interview was conducted by Ghassan Shirbil, published on February 27 in Al-Hayat and translated into English by BBC Worldwide Monitoring [available by subscription]. A report of the interview can be found in the Jerusalem Post.
[Shirbil] You said on a previous occasion that there are indicators of an Al-Qa'idah presence in Gaza. Hamas has denied such a presence. What do you say today?

[Abbas] I believe that Al-Qa'idah is present in the Palestinian territories.

[Shirbil] Where?

[Abbas] In Gaza. And it is Hamas who brought in Al-Qa'idah and who facilitates its coming in and going out in ways that are known to the Hamas Movement.

[Shirbil] This is a serious accusation. Hamas says it is the barrier to the possibility of Al-Qa'idah infiltration into the Palestinian Territories.

[Abbas] Al-Qa'idah is present in Gaza, and I think they are allies.

[Shirbil] Are you saying that Hamas is an ally of Al-Qa'idah?

[Abbas] Yes, I believe that is the case. I firmly believe that Al-Qa'idah has a presence in the Palestinian territories and that presence has been facilitated by Hamas in Gaza in particular.

Back in November 2004, this space reported on Yossef Bodansky's allegation that Richard Reid's shoe bomb was the result of a network of cooperation between Iran, al-Qaeda and Hamas in Gaza ("An Axis of Terror: Chechen Rebels, Hamas and Al Qaeda"):
Reid's shoe bombs were based on Iranian-origin technology and were made of new type of high-explosives. Reid -- then an acknowledged bin Laden operative -- received his shoe-bombs in the Palestinian Jebalya camp in the Gaza Strip. At the time, he was a trainee-guest of Nabil Aqal, a senior commander of the Hamas' Izz al-Deen al-Qassim Brigades and a protege of Hamas leader Sheikh Yassin. The key components of the bombs had been smuggled to Gaza from Lebanon via Egypt by then-Palestinian Authority (PA) Chairman Yasir Arafat's ally and confidante, Jamal Sema Dana. The Hamas support for Reid a major deviation from Yassin's long-standing insistence that the Hamas cadres limit their operations to the Palestinian theater in order to contribute to international operations under the banner of a global jihadist entity. However, by the late 1990s, the Hamas needed foreign support from the global Islamist-jihadist movement and Yassin was willing to "pay" by increasing its direct involvement in the international jihad.

UPDATE: Intelligence Online (subscription) reported on May 12, 2006 of Al Qaeda's Infiltration into the Gaza Strip:
Even more worrisome, however, the Egyptian investigation and inquiries by Jordanian intelligence have revealed that Al Qaeda has begun to infiltrate Palestinian territory in the Gaza Strip, crossing over from the Sinai desert. According to the Jordanians, an extremist wing of the Ezedeen al Qassam Brigades, the military arm of Hamas that rejects the truce with Israel, has set up a new group linked to Al Qaeda. It is reportedly led by the boss of the Brigades, Mohammed Deif, while his right hand man is Jamal Abu Samhadan, chief of the Salaheddin Brigades cell in the Jabalia camp. An outpost of Al Qaeda is said to have also established itself at Nablus on the West Bank, with Diaeddin al Qodsi, an Afghanistan veteran, at its head.

UPDATE: More recent news of Mohammed Deif and Al Qaeda in Gaza from Intelligence Online, "How Hamas Organizes its Defenses," January 4, 2008:
Another sign that Hamas is girding itself for an Israeli attack was the return of Muhammad Daif, chief of the al Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. Wounded in an Israeli assault on July 11, 2006 against the residence of Nabil Abu Silmiyya, Hamas chief in Gaza, Diaf spent 14 months under medical treatment in Cairo. However, he remains half paralysed. Immediately on his return he appointed a new commander of the al Qassam Brigades. He is Ahmed Nimr, the Hamas leader in the town of Khan Younes, where Daif himself was born.

Traditionally suspicious of international Jihadist movements of the Al Qaida type, Hamas has ended up by closing ranks with them in order to find militants willing to commit suicide bomb attacks against Israeli tanks.

Indeed, Hamas has given its blessings to the formation of the Army of Islam, a cell affiliated to Al Qaida and headed by Mumtaz Dormush. He is a former member of the Peoples' Resistance Committee, a small armed Palestinian group founded in 2000.

The Army of Islam was responsible for the kidnapping of BBC newsman Alan Johnston who was held for 114 days, and took part in capturing Israeli corporal Gilad Shalit. With a large stock of chlorine it acquired from Egyptian and Iraqi smugglers, Hamas and its affiliated organizations are reportedly now in a position to carry out toxic gas attacks.

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Friday, February 29, 2008

McCain's supposed "100 year war" in Iraq

In an uncharacteristic move, the Associated Press (byline: Calvin Woodward) accuses Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton of oversimplifying McCain's position on the future of American troops in Iraq.
But Hillary Rodham Clinton and especially Barack Obama have distilled McCain's position into sound bite oversimplifications, suggesting he foresees a war without end in anyone's lifetime.


Obama: "We are bogged down in a war that John McCain now suggests might go on for another 100 years."

Clinton: "I've also been a leader in trying to prevent President Bush from getting us committed to staying in Iraq regardless, for as long as Senator McCain and others have said it might be — 50 to 100 years."


The Democrats leave out a vital caveat.

When McCain was asked about Bush's theory that U.S. troops could be in Iraq for 50 years, the senator said: "Maybe 100. As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, it's fine with me, and I hope it would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al-Qaida is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day."

A troop presence that does not involve Americans being harmed is, by definition, not a war.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

A rocket factory for Hezbollah?

What would a Lebanese company in the Bekaa Valley that sells frozen fruits and vegetables want with a Ukrainian factory producing the special steel pipes needed for nuclear reactors and rocket production?

The Ukrayinska Pravda website in Kiev published the following report on February 20 entitled "Arabs want to buy a plant working for rocket production. For Al-Qa'idah?" (BBC English translation by subscription).
The state-owned Nikopol pipe plant, a producer of unique stainless thin-walled seamless pipes and titanium-and-nickel alloys, which currently undergoes bankruptcy procedures, can change hands to Junet, a Lebanese company willing to invest 35m dollars in the plant.

The director-general of the National Space Agency of Ukraine, Yuriy Alyekseyev, said this in a letter to the plant's financial readjustment manager.

The output of the plant, which entered a state of financial readjustment in June 2007, is used in rocket production, aviation and in the nuclear sector. It is worth noting that Junet was never before involved in this business. It sells frozen vegetables, fruit, juice and grain.

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