Saturday, April 22, 2006

 Posted by Picasa

Young Officers Join the Debate Over Rumsfeld

Young Officers Join the Debate Over Rumsfeld - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, April 22 - The revolt by retired generals who publicly criticized Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has opened an extraordinary debate among younger officers, in military academies, in the armed services' staff colleges and even in command posts and mess halls in Iraq."...

"This is about the moral bankruptcy of general officers who lived through the Vietnam era yet refused to advise our civilian leadership properly," said one Army major in the Special Forces who has served two combat tours. "I can only hope that my generation does better someday."

An Army major who is an intelligence specialist said: "The history I will take away from this is that the current crop of generals failed to stand up and say, 'We cannot do this mission.' They confused the cultural can-do attitude with their responsibilities as leaders to delay the start of the war until we had an adequate force. I think the backlash against the general officers will be seen in the resignation of officers" who might otherwise have stayed in uniform.

One Army colonel enrolled in a Defense Department university said an informal poll among his classmates indicated that about 25 percent believed that Mr. Rumsfeld should resign, and 75 percent believed that he should remain.

But of the second group, two-thirds thought he should acknowledge errors that were made and "show that he is not the intolerant and inflexible person some paint him to be," the colonel said.

Many officers who blame Mr. Rumsfeld are not faulting President Bush — in contrast to the situation in the 1960's, when both President Lyndon B. Johnson and Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara drew criticism over Vietnam from the officer corps. (Mr. McNamara, like Mr. Rumsfeld, was also resented from the outset for his attempts to reshape the military itself.)

But some are furiously criticizing both, along with the military leadership, like the Army major in the Special Forces. "I believe that a large number of officers hate Rumsfeld as much as I do, and would like to see him go," he said.

"The Army, however, went gently into that good night of Iraq without saying a word," he added, summarizing conversations with other officers. "For that reason, most of us know that we have to share the burden of responsibility for this tragedy.

And at the end of the day, it wasn't Rumsfeld who sent us to war, it was the president. Officers know better than anyone else that the buck stops at the top. I think we are too deep into this for Rumsfeld's resignation to mean much.

"But this is all academic. Most officers would acknowledge that we cannot leave Iraq, regardless of their thoughts on the invasion. We destroyed the internal security of that state, so now we have to restore it. Otherwise, we will just return later, when it is even more terrible."

The debates are fueled by the desire to mete out blame for the situation in Iraq, a drawn-out war that has taken many military lives and has no clear end in sight. A midgrade officer who has served two tours in Iraq said a number of his cohorts were angered last month when Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that "tactical errors, a thousand of them, I am sure," had been made in Iraq.

"We have not lost a single tactical engagement on the ground in Iraq," the officer said, noting that the definition of tactical missions is specific movements against an enemy target. "The mistakes have all been at the strategic and political levels."

Many officers said a crisis of leadership extended to serious questions about top generals' commitment to sustain a seasoned officer corps that was being deployed on repeated tours to the long-term counterinsurgency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, while the rest of the government did not appear to be on the same wartime footing. ...

"I think what has the potential for scarring relations is the two visions of warfare — one that envisions near-perfect situational awareness and technology dominance, and the other that sees future war as grubby, dirty and chaotic," the major said. "These visions require vastly different forces. The tension comes when we only have the money to build one of these forces. Who gets the cash?"

Some senior officers said part of their own discussions were about fears for the immediate future, centering on the fact that Mr. Rumsfeld has surrounded himself with senior officers who share his views and are personally invested in his policies.

"If civilian officials feel as if they could be faced with a revolt of sorts, they will select officers who are like-minded," said another Army officer who has served in Iraq. "They will, as a result, get the military advice they want based on whom they appoint."...

"It's a fundamentally healthy debate," Ms. Schake said. "Junior officers look around at the senior leadership and say, 'Are these people I admire, that I want to be like?' "

These younger officers "are debating the standard of leadership," she said. "Is it good enough to do only what civilian masters tell you to do? Or do you have a responsibility to shape that policy, and what actions should you undertake if you believe they are making mistakes?" ...

[bth: I'm glad that at least this issue is being discussed. I have great confidence in the junior officers but at the general's level in this military it seems almost bankrupt of moral integrity or self-sacrifice. It will take an entire generation for the military to regain the confidence of the American public, not because the public doesn't want to support the troops and indeed that has been demonstrated on most Main Streets in America. The problem is that Rumsfeld and the generals squandered that trust.... Trust - or rather lack thereof - is the sole and fundamental reason we need major changes in the Dept of Defense's senior civilian and military leadership. Rumsfeld cannot regain the public trust at this point nor the trust of Congress.... The President may be the "Decider" but that will not make him or Mr. Rumsfeld effective. Rumsfeld must go and a general housecleaning is inevitable. ... As to tactical or strategic victories? Well there is no strategic plan grounded in reality that I can see in Iraq and there is no clear definition of a reality-based victory - hence can there be one? The article is worth reading in full. ]
 Posted by Picasa

US intel report: Major increase in terrorist incidents | csmonitor.com

US intel report: Major increase in terrorist incidents csmonitor.com: "In a report to be released next week, US government figures will show that the number of terrorist attacks in the world jumped sharply in 2005, totalling more than 10,000 for the first time. That is almost triple the number of terrorist attacks in 2004 -- 3,194. Knight Ridder's Washington bureau reports that counterterrorism experts say that there are two reasons for the dramatic increase: a broader definition of what consitutes a terrorist attack, and the war in Iraq.

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 US citizens who died from terrorism during the year died in Iraq. The figures cover only noncombatants and thus don't include combat deaths of US, Iraqi and other coalition soldiers.

'There's no question that the level of terrorist attacks in Iraq was up substantially,' said the official, who's familiar with the methods used by the National Counterterrorism Center to track terrorist trends. The center is part of the US intelligence community. "...
Posted by Picasa

A Spy Speaks Out - CBS News

A Spy Speaks Out - CBS News: CBS) A CIA official who had a top role during the run-up to the Iraqi war charges the White House with ignoring intelligence that said there were no weapons of mass destruction or an active nuclear program in Iraq.

The former highest ranking CIA officer in Europe, Tyler Drumheller, also says that while the intelligence community did give the White House some bad intelligence, it also gave the White House good intelligence — which the administration chose to ignore.

Drumheller talks to 60 Minutes correspondent Ed Bradley in his first television interview this Sunday, April 23 at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Drumheller, who retired last year, says the White House ignored crucial information from a high and credible source. The source was Iraq's foreign minister, Naji Sabri, with whom U.S. spies had made a deal.

When CIA Director George Tenet delivered this news to the president, the vice president and other high ranking officials, they were excited — but not for long. "[The source] told us that there were no active weapons of mass destruction programs," says Drumheller.

"The [White House] group that was dealing with preparation for the Iraq war came back and said they were no longer interested. And we said 'Well, what about the intel?' And they said 'Well, this isn't about intel anymore. This is about regime change.'

" They didn't want any additional data from Sabri because, says Drumheller: "The policy was set. The war in Iraq was coming and they were looking for intelligence to fit into the policy." The White House declined to respond to this charge, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has stated that Sabri was just one source and therefore not reliable. Drumheller says the administration routinely relied on single sources — when those single sources confirmed what the White House wanted to hear.

"They certainly took information that came from single sources on the yellowcake story and on several other stories with no corroboration at all," he says. The "yellowcake story" refers to a report the CIA received in late 2001 alleging that Iraq had purchased 500 tons of uranium from Africa, presumably to build a nuclear bomb. Many in the CIA doubted the uranium report from the beginning, and continued to doubt it, even as White House speechwriters tried to include the report in the president’s speeches.

In a major speech the president was scheduled to give in Cincinnati, the leadership of the CIA intervened directly to remove the uranium report from the speech. But that didn't stop it from making it into the president's State of the Union address a short time later.

"As a British report," says Drumheller. A senior CIA official signed off on the speech only because the uranium reference was attributed to the British.

"It just sticks in my craw every time I hear them say it's an intelligence failure. … This was a policy failure. … I think, over time, people will look back on this and see this is going to be one of the great, I think, policy mistakes of all time," Drumheller tells Bradley.

Hamas seeks closure of Kalkilya YMCA

Jerusalem Post Breaking News from Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish World: "Islamic religious leaders in this city have signed a petition calling on the new Hamas cabinet to shut down the local YMCA under the pretext that it is involved in 'missionary activities.' The Hamas-controlled municipality has expressed its support for the call.
The campaign against the YMCA began earlier this week when arsonists set fire to some of its offices. "...
 Posted by Picasa

U.S. can become a hero to millions of Iranians

The Seattle Times: Opinion: U.S. can become a hero to millions of Iranians: "...In a country where 70 percent of the population is literate and secular and close to 50 percent is female and educated, women are still permanent second-class citizens.

Without the basic right of choosing their public attire, women going out without the mandatory Islamic veil will be arrested, beaten and jailed. Astonishingly, these human-rights violations are a daily regimen of life in Iran.

In March, in commemoration of International Women's Day, scores of Iranian women participating in a peaceful sit-in demonstration were initially filmed, and then severely beaten off-camera by the Islamic police and their militant assistants.

Yet, in the midst of such brutality, how does nuclear energy win out as the sujet du jour?

The irony of the situation may be baffling to the outsider, but diverting attention from its human-rights abuses is exactly what the Islamic regime seeks in order to establish greater internal and regional dominance.

When the clerics took power in 1979, they promised to deliver the wealth of the nation to the poor. Yet, the fact that the poor suffer from greater poverty today only illustrates what has been proven repeatedly about the fundamentalists in power. They cannot be trusted."...

For them, the oil money is as unreachable as the democracy the majority of Iranians desperately seek.

The oppressive fear perpetuated by the Islamic regime has seeped into every aspect of Iranians' lives. They lead a quasi-existence under watchful eyes. In a totalitarian state, the pro-American majority is not empowered to stand up to the clerics. Fear dominates.

Many Iranians have already lost their lives in the human-rights struggle and those who continue to dedicate themselves to the cause of justice know too well that the small strides they have made over two decades can be reversed by an unpredictable regime.

During his presidential campaign, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sought to portray himself as some sort of Islamic Robin Hood. He did practically everything but dress the part. Yet, his short track record already proves his betrayal of the poor who supported him.

Now, consider his desire for nuclear energy, masked by peaceful intentions today. Despite certain pundits' assertions, it is unlikely that this disciple of the ayatollahs' regime would honor an agreement on the purpose of the uranium enrichment....

If Churchill's assertions were right and "the United States invariably does the right thing, after having exhausted every other alternative," then the U.S. administration must maintain full speed with the agenda of establishing democracy in Iran. By continuing to drive a wedge between the Iranian people and the Iranian regime, the U.S. will bolster its chances of success, without alienating the average Iranian.

Using the Iranian masses effectively to undermine the fundamentalist regime will also create leverage for the international community to step up and confront militants.

A free, democratic Iran remains in the best interest of the United States. The "risk"? Becoming the certified hero of millions of Iranians by bringing the freedom they have long desired.

Thousands of Iraqis Fleeing the Country

Associated Press Pop-up Link: "...Since the bombing of an important Shiite shrine in Iraq in late February, such stories of sectarian intimidation and fleeing have become common.

Within Iraq, thousands are on the move as death threats drive them to neighborhoods where their sect has more strength, international and Iraqi officials say. Reprisal killings between Shiite and Sunni extremists have sharply increased since the shrine bombing, and the bodies of civilian victims often turn up in the streets of Baghdad.

An estimated 40,000 people have been internally displaced in Iraq since the blast, said Jean Philippe Chauzy, a spokesman for the U.N.-affiliated International Organization for Migration.

Iraqi officials put the number at 65,000, an official in the Iraqi Ministry of Displacement and Immigration said this week on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly. Chauzy said his group has heard the new, higher number, but could not confirm it.

In addition, neighboring countries have seen greater numbers of Iraqis arriving, according to international officials.

Astrid van Genderen Stort, the Mideast spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said there has been a 'significant increase' in the number of Iraqis who are leaving their country, although the agency does not have specific numbers for the period since the shrine bombing."...

Most of those leaving have gone to Jordan and Syria, and some to Egypt, she said.

In 2004, 358 Iraqis had registered with the UNHCR as refugees in Egypt, van Genderen Stort said. The number jumped to 828 in the period from early 2005 to late March 2006.

Iraqi embassies in the three countries say they also have no numbers on how many Iraqis have fled within the last two months. But overall, officials in Jordan say there are 250,000 Iraqis legally residing in the kingdom. Unofficial estimates put the number at 600,000, at least.

Ban Istefan is one of them. Her Christian family was threatened in Iraq about a month ago and fled to Jordan. The 34-year-old biology lecturer, speaking by phone from Amman, said both her Christian family and a next-door Sunni neighbor received letter threats saying, "The time has come for the infidels to be punished."

Asked if Iraq was in the midst of civil war, Istefan said, "Of course ... but no one wants to admit it."

Um Sami's story is also typical. Her Shiite family first moved from their house in Saidiya, a mostly Sunni neighborhood in western Baghdad, to the mixed eastern suburb of New Baghdad, hoping the harassment would stop.

When it did not, they fled to Jordan. But that was too expensive, sending them on again to Cairo. Um Sami said their new life was "humiliating," but fleeing was the only option....

Most of people fleeing Iraq go by road, through dangerous areas rife with insurgents.

Ahmad Abdullah, a 32-year-old Iraqi driver who carries such travelers, says he transports people from Iraq to Jordan once every two days. Almost no one is making the return trip to Iraq.

"I arrived today, I will leave tonight to Baghdad, because the company informed me that I have people waiting for me. I have to drive them tomorrow to Amman," he said in a recent interview.

"It is a good thing for business, but a bad thing for people," he added.

[bth: if there are 600,000 people displaced into Jordan from Iraq and they are largely Sunni and Christian, then roughly 10% of that ethnic population from Iraq has left.]
 Posted by Picasa

Missile exports to Iran alarm US

BBC NEWS World Middle East Missile exports to Iran alarm US: "Washington has asked Moscow to reconsider selling Iran anti-aircraft missiles as the crisis over its nuclear programme continues.

Russia plans to sell Tehran 29 TOR M1 mobile surface-to-air missile defence systems in a deal said to be worth about US $700 million (�392m).

'This is not time for business as usual with the Iranian government,' a top US state department official said.
The US also urged other states like China to review defence sales to Iran. "...

Lawyer: Rice Allegedly Leaked Defense Info

Lawyer: Rice Allegedly Leaked Defense Info: "ALEXANDRIA, Va. -- Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice leaked national defense information to a pro-Israel lobbyist in the same manner that landed a lower-level Pentagon official a 12-year prison sentence, the lobbyist's lawyer said Friday.
Prosecutors disputed the claim
.

The allegations against Rice came as a federal judge granted a defense request to issue subpoenas sought by the defense for Rice and three other government officials in the trial of Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman. The two are former lobbyists with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee who are charged with receiving and disclosing national defense information.

Defense lawyers are asking a judge to dismiss the charges because, among other things, they believe it seeks to criminalize the type of backchannel exchanges between government officials, lobbyists and the press that are part and parcel of how Washington works.

During Friday's hearing, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III said he is considering dismissing the government's entire case because the law used to prosecute Rosen and Weissman may be unconstitutionally vague and broad and infringe on freedom of speech.

Rosen's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said the testimony of Rice and others is needed to show that some of the top officials in U.S. government approved of disclosing sensitive information to the defendants and that the leaks may have been authorized.

Prosecutors opposed the effort to depose Rice and the other officials. Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin DiGregory also disputed Lowell's claim, saying, 'She never gave national defense information to Mr. Rosen.'

The issuance of subpoenas does not automatically require Rice or anybody else to testify or give a deposition. A recipient can seek to quash the subpoena.

Calls to the State Department seeking comment Friday evening were not immediately returned.

The judge also granted subpoenas for David Satterfield, deputy chief of the U.S. mission to Iraq; William Burns, U.S. ambassador to Russia and retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni.
"Each of these individuals have real-life dealings with the defendants in this case. They'll explain what they told Dr. Rosen in detail," Lowell said. "On day one, Secretary of State Rice tells him certain info and on day two one of the conspirators tells him the same thing or something less volatile."

The indictment against Rosen and Weissman alleges that three government officials leaked sensitive and sometimes classified national defense information to the two, who subsequently revealed what they learned to the press and to an Israeli government official.

One of the three government officials is former Pentagon official Lawrence A. Franklin, who pleaded guilty to providing classified defense information to Rosen and Weissman and was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison.

Franklin has said he was concerned that the United States was insufficiently concerned about the threat posed by Iran and hoped that leaking information might eventually provoke the National Security Council to take a different course of action.

The indictment against Rosen, of Silver Spring, Md., and Weissman, of Bethesda, Md., alleges that they conspired to obtain classified government reports on issues relevant to U.S. policy, including the al-Qaida terror network; the bombing of the Khobar Towers dormitory in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 U.S. Air Force personnel; and U.S. policy in Iran.

Lowell said it is impossible for Rosen and Weissman to determine what is sensitive national defense information when they are receiving the information from government officials who presumably understand national security law and therefore would not improperly disclose national defense information.

The World War I-era law has never been used to prosecute lobbyists before.

FBI Says 2 in Ga. Plotted Terrorism

TBO.com: AP United States: "ATLANTA (AP) -- A 21-year-old Georgia Tech student and another man traveled to Canada to meet with Islamic extremists to discuss 'strategic locations in the United States suitable for a terrorist strike,' according to an affidavit made public Friday.

Syed Haris Ahmed and Ehsanul Islam Sadequee, both U.S. citizens who grew up in the Atlanta area, met with at least three other targets of ongoing FBI terrorism investigations during a trip to Canada in March 2005, an FBI agent's affidavit said.

The affidavit said the men discussed attacks against oil refineries and military bases and planned to travel to Pakistan to get military training at a terrorist camp, which authorities said Ahmed then tried to do.

Ahmed, who was indicted on suspicion of giving material support of terrorism, was being held at an undisclosed location. He waived his right to arraignment and pleaded not guilty. ....

When Sadequee's suitcase was searched at JFK, agents found a CD-ROM containing encrypted files that the FBI has been unable to decode and a map of the Washington area hidden in the lining, the affidavit said.

One day later, federal agents interviewed Ahmed, who was coming back from a monthlong trip to Pakistan, at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. He said he had gone to Toronto with Sadequee, according to the affidavit.

Federal agents found that money for both men's 2005 bus trip from Atlanta to Toronto was withdrawn from Sadequee's account.

Last month, Ahmed told agents they had met with extremists and plotted how to disrupt military and commercial communications and traffic by disabling the Global Positioning System, the affidavit said

[bth: dare I say it, "well done FBI."

U.S. Army Suicide Rate at Highest Level Since 1993 - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News

FOXNews.com - U.S. Army Suicide Rate at Highest Level Since 1993 - Local News News Articles National News US News: "WASHINGTON -The number of U.S. Army soldiers who took their own lives increased last year to the highest total since 1993, despite a growing effort by the Army to detect and prevent suicides.

In 2005, a total of 83 soldiers committed suicide, compared with 67 in 2004, and 60 in 2003 -the year the U.S. invaded Iraq. Four other deaths in 2005 are being investigated as possible suicides but have not yet been confirmed. The totals include active duty Army soldiers and deployed National Guard and Reserve troops."...

A Qaeda Bomb Expert Killed in Pakistan Was a Paymaster - New York Times

A Qaeda Bomb Expert Killed in Pakistan Was a Paymaster - New York Times: "PESHAWAR, Pakistan, April 21 - Documents found on an operative for Al Qaeda who was killed by Pakistani forces showed that he was an explosives expert and a money carrier who appeared to be distributing cash to the families of Qaeda members, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the organization's leader in Iraq, a senior Pakistani intelligence official said Friday."

The operative, Marwan Hadid al-Suri, 38, also known as Abu Marwan, was shot to death on Thursday during a gunfight outside Khaar, a tribal area close to the Afghan border, Interior Minister Aftab Ahmad Khan Sherpao said.

A notebook found on Mr. Suri contained details and diagrams of bomb circuits and chemicals used to manufacture explosives, including TNT and C-4, said the intelligence official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media. "This is a big achievement because he was Al Qaeda's explosives expert," Mr. Sherpao said.

A diary written in Arabic contained a list of families of senior Qaeda operatives who received regular cash payments from the organization, including relatives of Mr. Zarqawi, the Jordanian-born leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. The list did not give the whereabouts of the families, but it described paying $2,500 per family every three months. According to the list, each family was also paid $500 per child every three months.
"This is quite a substantial amount," the intelligence official said. "I reckon the period was stretched out to avoid frequent contacts for security reasons and keep track of families who constantly change their locations to avoid detection."

Security officials in Peshawar say they believe that Al Qaeda continues to receive financing from abroad and from private Arab donors in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.

Many Qaeda members who had come from around the Arab world to fight in Afghanistan in the 1980's and 1990's married Afghan or Pakistani women and had children with them. The families, hunted by security agencies, move from house to house to avoid detection.

The Syrian-born Mr. Suri, the intelligence official said, married a woman in Afghanistan, but moved his family to the Bajaur region, in Pakistan's tribal areas, from where he organized operations against United States forces in Afghanistan.

Villages in Bajaur were hit by American missiles in January in an attempt to kill Al Qaeda's second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Four members of Al Qaeda are believed to have been killed in the strike.

Mr. Suri had trained in explosives in Khost, Afghanistan, and was recently believed to be training other militants in Bajaur, the intelligence official said. Four hand grenades and a pistol were found with his body.

Mr. Suri was killed after his bus was stopped by soldiers at a checkpoint. He shot one of the soldiers and was fired upon as he tried to flee.

Mohammed Khan reported from Peshawar for this article, and Carlotta Gall from Kabul, Afghanistan.

[bth: so while Zarqawi is in Iraq, his family is in Afghanistan-Pakistan being paid by al-Qaeda. Now $2500 plus $500 per child doesn't seem like much but a friend of mine said her translator was a surgeon who received $50 per month. So we are talking about a big amount of money which means they likely have security details and must pay protection money to the locals. There is no mention of a satellite phone. ]

Friday, April 21, 2006

'Granny Peace Brigade' goes on trial - Apr 20, 2006

CNN.com - 'Granny Peace Brigade' goes on trial - Apr 20, 2006: "NEW YORK (AP) -- A trial began Thursday for 18 anti-war protesters who call themselves the 'Granny Peace Brigade,' with the prosecution saying the case was about disorderly conduct -- not war.

The defendants, some supporting themselves on canes and walkers, entered the small courtroom that was packed with about 75 supporters. They are each charged with two counts of disorderly conduct stemming from an October 17 protest against the war in Iraq outside the Times Square military recruiting station.

They are being tried as a group before Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Neil Ross. There is no jury.

The women -- several in their 80s and 90s and most of them grandmothers, with three boasting to be great-grandmothers -- wore buttons that read: 'Granny Peace Brigade' and 'Love the Troops, Hate the War.'"....
 Posted by Picasa

Iran's enemy lies within

Guardian Unlimited Special reports Iran's enemy lies within: "Internal political divisions and economic weaknesses may present a bigger threat to the longevity of the Iranian government of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad than the US and Israeli air forces combined, a report published yesterday suggests.

The study, entitled Understanding Iran and produced by the Foreign Policy Centre, warns that military action against Iran's suspect nuclear facilities could have disastrous consequences. 'The only chance of modifying Iran's behaviour in the short term will come from a serious effort to engage with the current leadership,' it says."...

"Behind the scenes a fierce struggle is under way. In one camp is President Ahmadinejad, his supporters in the Revolutionary Guards and the paramilitary force known as the Basijis, and messianic fundamentalists inspired by the teachings of Ayatollah Mohammad Taqi Mesbah-Yazdi. In the other camp is Iran's embattled democratic movement [and] an array of forces that benefited from the status quo before Ahmadinejad came to power, including former president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani."

The outcome of this battle was uncertain, but what was clear was that direct US intervention would play into the hands of the hardliners. "A strategy that gambles on a popular uprising to bring down the current regime runs the risk of undermining those very forces it purports to want to help."

The report looks at other pressures on the government: a population of over 70 million, of whom 65% are younger than 25; a largely state-dominated economy prone to corruption; an energy industry starved of investment that is producing steadily less oil for export, and a youth culture increasingly circumventing controls on foreign media and internet access.

'According to the government's own estimates some 900,000 new jobs are needed annually to accommodate the burgeoning labour force and prevent an increase in unemployment, officially at 16%, unofficially at over 20%," the report says. It also focuses on gender discrimination, human rights abuses (including executions of minors and repression of minorities), and attempts to suppress free speech and independent media.

All these contentious issues, it suggests, carry the seeds of change from within and in the longer term could be catalysts for ending Iran's post-1979 theocracy. But if the west was to understand Iran, it had to understand itself - and recognise that clumsy outside attempts to jump-start reform were likely to be counterproductive.

Police in Tehran ordered to arrest women in 'un-Islamic' dress

Guardian Unlimited Special reports Police in Tehran ordered to arrest women in 'un-Islamic' dress: "Iran's Islamic authorities are preparing a crackdown on women flouting the stringent dress code in the clearest sign yet of social and political repression under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
From today police in Tehran will be under orders to arrest women failing to conform to the regime's definition of Islamic morals by wearing loose-fitting hijab, or headscarves, tight jackets and shortened trousers exposing skin.

Offenders could be punished with 30 [pound] fines or two months in jail. Officers will also be authorised to confront men with outlandish hairstyles and people walking pet dogs, an activity long denounced as un-Islamic by the religious rulers."

The clampdown coincides with a bill before Iran's conservative-dominated parliament proposing that fines for people with TV satellite dishes rise from £60 to more than £3,000. Millions of Iranians have illegal dishes, enabling them to watch western films and news channels.

The dress purge is led by a Tehran city councillor, Nader Shariatmaderi, a close ally of Mr Ahmadinejad who helped to plot last year's election victory.

Loosely arranged headscarves - exposing glamourous hairstyles - and shorter, tight-fitting overcoats (manteaus) became a symbol of the social freedoms that flourished under the reformist presidency of Mohammed Khatami.

During his election campaign, Mr Ahmadinejad dismissed fears that his presidency might herald a forced reversal, saying Iran had more urgent problems.

However, Mr Shariatmaderi denounced the trends as "damaging to revolutionary and Islamic principles". "We are looking for a social utopia to live in but in the last couple of months, our attention has wavered," he told fellow councillors. "In the present international situation, people must unite under known principles."...

[bth: With a government like this in Iran, it would seem that we could assist those wanting civil liberties in Iran with confront their government without the US declaring nuclear war. We need to get smarter about dealing with Iran.]
 Posted by Picasa

As Iran Presses Its Ambitions, Its Young See Theirs Denied

As Iran Presses Its Ambitions, Its Young See Theirs Denied: "SHAFT, Iran -- The question that preoccupies most of Iran lay coiled in the sullen stare of Abbas Kayhan, 25 years old and stuck behind the counter of his father's corner store. It pulled his heavy brow even lower and traveled down a forearm that shuddered in anger with each word.

'But what about me?' the young man demanded, smack in the colorless center of a generation whose complaints have driven Iranian politics for more than a decade, with no satisfaction in sight."

"You people, you have got a very good life in the U.S. What is this place?" He glanced down the main street of a town called Shaft, where young men with gelled hair and no jobs sauntered at aimless angles. "Everything is miserable."

While the world focuses on Iran's nuclear ambitions, Iranians focus on the unmet aspirations of the two-thirds of the population that is younger than 30. Nearly three decades after a revolution that swept aside a monarchist system grounded in privilege, the typical Iranian has seen average income shrink under a religious government that has cultivated an elite of its own atop a profoundly dysfunctional economy.

The 80 percent of the population working in the private sector struggles mightily to make a living in the 20 percent of the economy that is not controlled by the government. The end product is a frustration edging into resentment that informs every private conversation with ordinary Iranians and frames every public issue.

It explains the stunning landslide victory 10 months ago of a relative unknown named Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the only candidate in the presidential race who campaigned against the rich.

Dissatisfaction also accounts for much of the public support for Iran's nuclear program, despite widespread disdain for the ruling mullahs. In a country where time has seemed to stand still for a quarter-century, the public associates nuclear energy with economic development....

"In my view, 1 percent may be getting equal to the next 30 percent of the population," said Ali Rashidi, a prominent economist and former Central Bank official. "You can see it."

Iranians say they do. They call a rich man "the son of a cleric," shorthand for the insider government connections crucial to any enterprise here. The richest person in Iran is believed to be Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, a mid-level cleric who served two terms as president in the 1990s and outspent his opponents in an attempt to return to office last year.

His accession was preempted by Ahmadinejad, who surged ahead on the strength of a half-hour campaign video.

Broadcast nationwide in a nightly candidate showcase, the video made no mention of wiping Israel off the map or even nuclear power -- issues that have since defined Ahmadinejad for the outside world.

It simply showed that he lived in a modest house, worked long hours as Tehran's mayor and clearly savored contact with the common folk.

"I saw him on television," said Shalde, in the stillness of his shop. "I didn't vote for his promises. I just looked at him and saw he was just like us. So I told everybody I knew -- for example, my kids -- I told them to vote for him."

That Ahmadinejad even made promises was unusual for a candidate in Iran. He vowed to "put oil money on the sofre ," the dining cloth that in an Iranian household is the equivalent of the kitchen table. Iran's petroleum reserves are the second largest of any OPEC country. And only Russia has more natural gas.

But great chunks of the income from oil already go to keeping public anger at bay. Iran will spend $25 billion this year to hold down the prices of flour, rice, even gasoline. With insufficient refining capacity of its own, Iran imports more gas than any nation except the United States.

"Instability and mental insecurity would result from increasing the price of such products in society," Ahmadinejad said in announcing retention of the subsidies. His first budget also included $19 billion to create the new jobs the economy is failing to generate at the rate young Iranians enter the marketplace, a staggering 1 million a year....

[bth: this article is worth reading in full. Note the disasterous economic situation in Iran. I never knew that Iran imported more gas (I assume that means gasoline) than any other nation but us. This means that any embargo of trade in the Persian Gulf with minor disruption of pipelines would cripple that economy as well as our own. Interesting. One wonders why refineries aren't developed in Iran and how the economy there could be so hopelessly mismanaged. Surely we can alter our policy with Iran to exploit these huge and pent up frustrations - to make life better for average Iranians by cooperating with the U.S. instead of attacking the Iranian government on the one issue that unifies 90% of its population - their right to nuclear energy and probably nuclear power. Surely there is a better strategy for dealing with Iran than threatening nuclear war on Fox News.]
 Posted by Picasa

The Power Player Who Faces Charges for Talking

The Power Player Who Faces Charges for Talking: "For more than two decades, Steven J. Rosen sleuthed the tight-lipped government back channels of the United States and Israel for tidbits he could quietly pass to his powerful employer, the pro-Israel lobby called AIPAC. As a result, he would joke over restaurant tables that he was glad the United States did not have an Official Secrets Act that would render his vocation a crime.

But his quip turned out to be prescient. The FBI placed him and a junior colleague under surveillance -- listening to their phone calls and watching their meetings, including those with a Pentagon official who was cooperating with authorities. Last year, Rosen and Keith Weissman were fired by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee and then indicted on charges of receiving and transmitting national defense information in violation of the Espionage Act."...

"This is a very novel prosecution with many unsettling aspects," said Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor. "The chilling effect could become glacial for anybody who is engaged in basic lobbying research or simply doing research or writing stories on national security issues."...

His personal quirks aside, former associates remain perplexed and concerned about why Rosen is being prosecuted. "He and other members of AIPAC dealt with the administration just the way other lobbyists do. He was doing what he's always done," Ross said. Indyk agreed: "His job was to trade in information. That was his great skill. He's essentially on trial for doing his job well."

Defense lawyers make similar points and have enlisted a surprising ally: Viet D. Dinh, former head of the Justice Department's Office of Legal Policy and an author of the Bush administration's USA Patriot Act. Dinh helped write a memorandum that called for the dismissal of the Espionage Act charges against the lobbyists. The memo said that in the 90 years since the act was drafted, "there have been no reported prosecutions of persons outside government for repeating information that they obtained verbally."

The memo also said that in receiving leaked classified information and relaying it to others, the lobbyists were doing what journalists, think-tank scholars and congressional staff members "do perhaps hundreds of times every day."

AIPAC and prosecutors dispute those assertions. "Rosen and Weissman were dismissed because they engaged in conduct that was not part of their jobs, and because this conduct did not comport with the standards that AIPAC expects and requires of its employees," AIPAC spokesman Patrick Dorton said.

U.S. Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty said last year when he announced the charges against them that the lobbyists had simply gone too far. "Washington is a town in which the flow of information is virtually nonstop," but the law "separates classified information from everything else." The charges, he added, "are about crossing that line."

Rosen's case is undergoing preliminary motions and could go to trial as early as next month.

The FBI monitored Rosen and Weissman during a series of meetings between them and Lawrence A. Franklin, an Iran specialist at the Pentagon who in January was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison for passing government secrets. Both lobbyists deny they did anything wrong.

The FBI raided AIPAC's Washington offices twice in 2004, obtaining computer files and serving grand jury subpoenas on four senior executives. It also listened in on several encounters between Franklin and the lobbyists -- at restaurants and a Pentagon City shopping mall -- dating to 2003, as well as on a phone call from Rosen to Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler.

For at least a short while, the Rosen controversy boosted AIPAC's coffers as donors rallied to its side. But in an open letter to AIPAC directors, former executive director Neal M. Sher added, "a very serious toll already has been taken on AIPAC's ability . . . to be the aggressive advocate we have a right to expect it to be."

As Rosen liked to say, "A lobby is like a night flower: It thrives in the dark and dies in the sun."

[bth: espionage and tainted intel primary from the Office of Special Planning at DOD that took us to war in Iraq is likely the underlying concern - the elephant in the room. I'm doubtful that this prosecution will be successful but it may serve as a warning example like Pollard that defines the outer limits of tolerable activity.]
 Posted by Picasa

ABC News: The One Certainty About Iraq: Spiralling Costs for Americans

ABC News: The One Certainty About Iraq: Spiralling Costs for Americans: "April 20, 2006 -There are many uncertainties about the progress made by coalition forces and the future prospects for stability and democracy in Iraq, but there is at least one indisputable fact: The Bush administration vastly underestimated the costs of the Iraq war.

Not only in human lives, but in monetary terms as well, the costs of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq far exceed the administration's initial projection of a $50 billion tab. While the number of American casualties in Iraq has declined this year, the amount of money spent to fight the war and rebuild the country has spiralled upward.

The price is expected to almost double after lawmakers return to Capitol Hill next week when the Senate takes up a record $106.5 billion emergency spending bill that includes $72.4 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House passed a $92 billion version of the bill last month that included $68 billion in war funding. That comes on top of $50 billion already allocated for the war this fiscal year. "...

According to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, the United States spent $48 billion for Iraq in 2003, $59 billion in 2004, and $81 billion in 2005. The center predicts the figure will balloon to $94 billion for 2006. That equates to a $1,205 bill for each of America's 78 million families, on top of taxes they already pay. ...

"The Department of Defense has increased its investment in new equipment from $700 billion to $1.4 trillion in the coming years," Cordesman said.

Army Chief of Staff Peter Schoomaker recently warned lawmakers that the cost of upkeep and replacement of military equipment would continue even after U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq. To fully reequip and upgrade the U.S. Army after the war ends will cost $36 billion over six years, and that figure assumes U.S. forces will start withdrawing from Iraq in July, and be completely out of the country by the end of 2008.

[bth: hiding the cost of war in blood and treasure, yet no one is held to account for deliberately misleading the public; not Wolfowitz, not Rumsfeld, not Cheney, not Bush.]
 Posted by Picasa

WSJ.com - Mideast Money Pinch

WSJ.com - Mideast Money Pinch: "JIDDA, Saudi Arabia -- The economic rift that opened between the Middle East and U.S. after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks has widened into a chasm. While the U.S. was once the first stop for goods and services, Middle Easterners are turning to what many see as more Arab-friendly environments in Europe and Asia.

Attention in recent months has focused on Arab investment, after security concerns derailed the acquisition of U.S. port operations by an Arab company, Dubai Ports World. But a decline in Middle Eastern spending has also hit service sectors such as tourism, education and health care, triggering business-strategy shifts in such places as Cleveland and Rochester, Minn."....

[bth: the article goes on to paint an ugly picture and poor trendline for US-Arab trade and cultural interactions.]
 Posted by Picasa

A Glimmer of Hope in Iraq - New York Times

A Glimmer of Hope in Iraq - New York Times: "Ibrahim al-Jaafari's agreement yesterday to step aside and let his Shiite bloc consider a new nominee for prime minister should finally break the stalemate that has been paralyzing Iraqi politics since last December's parliamentary election.

The most likely replacement nominees now being talked about are far from ideal. But the only conceivable path to a better future than civil war and chaos in Iraq is lined with distasteful compromise and leaps of faith. No one believes that success is certain. "...

[bth: this editorial seems to provide some optimism to the governing situation in Iraq.]
 Posted by Picasa

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Pakistanis Say Militant Killed in Shootout

Pakistanis Say Militant Killed in Shootout: "PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- A suspected foreign Islamic militant linked to al-Qaida and a security official were killed Thursday in a gunfight at a roadblock near Afghan border, according to the Pakistani army and intelligence agents.

Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said the shootout began when security officials signaled a vehicle carrying the suspected militant to halt at a roadblock in the remote northwestern Bajur tribal region, and the suspect opened fire."

Two local intelligence agents, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to comment to the media, said the slain militant was an Arab and had links with al-Qaida.

One of the agents said authorities had found a video camera, a laptop computer, hand grenades and other documents in the man's vehicle.

Another said the man's body had been transported to a hospital in the northwestern city of Peshawar for a DNA test. He did not identify the slain man, but claimed he was a Saudi national and had links with top al-Qaida leaders....

[bth: usually we see at a later date that the suspect was a mid-ranking al-Qaeda on the US wanted list, confirmed by DNA, and had recently had a falling out with mainline al-Qaeda or Taliban leaders. What I think is happening is that dissidents in the ranks are ratted out to ISI which captures him, turns him in to the US for DNA and reward money which is then split up between Paki agents and al-Qaeda or Paki locals that provided the pigeon. Then the capture is used to justify more aid by the US to the Paki government usually in the form of military aid credits. We'll see.]
 Posted by Picasa

Iran derides US military option

Iran derides US military option The Australian: "IRAN scoffed at the idea of US military action to halt its nuclear program and gave no hint of compromise before a visit by UN inspectors to assess Iranian compliance with security council demands.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will report to the top world body on April 28 on whether Tehran has halted uranium enrichment and answered IAEA questions about its nuclear activities in line with a 30 day deadline set by the council.

US President George W. Bush has vowed to stop Iran from getting atomic weapons and has refused to rule out military options, including nuclear strikes, if diplomacy fails.

'The United States has been threatening Iran for 27 years and this is not new for us. Therefore we are never afraid of US threats,' Iranian Defence Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar said during a visit to neighbouring Azerbaijan.

'If you take into account the fact that they are not doing anything, this shows it is just talk,' he said."...

Russia will deliver air defense systems to Iran - top general

RIA Novosti - Russia - Russia will deliver air defense systems to Iran - top general: "MOSCOW, April 19 (RIA Novosti) - The chief of the General Staff said Wednesday that Russia would honor its commitments on supplying military equipment to Iran.

'We discussed supplies of military equipment to Iran, including the Tor M1, in the framework of bilateral cooperation, but it does not fall into the category of strategic weapons,' Army General Yury Baluyevsky said after talks in Moscow with NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe General James Jones.

'And I can assure you it will be delivered under the control of the relevant organizations,' he said.

At the end of 2005, Russia concluded a $700-million contract on the delivery of 29 Tor M1 air defense systems to Iran. "...

[bth: thanks for nothing pal.]
 Posted by Picasa

The Belgravia Dispatch: Let the Swift-Boating of the Generals Begin

The Belgravia Dispatch: Let the Swift-Boating of the Generals Begin: "We live in low, dishonest times, where spurious charges come fast and furious daily, but few can trump the cheapness of the recent attacks directed at some of the retired Generals that recently came out against Don Rumsfeld's stewardship of the war effort. Witness, for instance, Glenn Reynolds approvingly linking to this treatment from Judith Klinghoffer:

The American army in Iraq does not have a single general with enough guts to respond to the president's question with 'depends on what you want us to do?' Sorry, guys, civil control of the military is not our problem. Gutless military leadership is.
To which Glenn comments: 'Ouch'. Ouch what? That someone sitting at the Political Science Department of Rutgers has the gall to speak of these men as 'gutless'? Critics like these are not fit to shine, say, Major General Swannack's boots, let alone call him 'gutless'. It was the 82nd Airborne, after all, under the command of Charles Swannack, that took the lead on some of the most critical missions of the Iraq War, like establishing a training post for both Iraqi police and Iraqi Civil Defense Corps under very difficult conditions in Ramadi around September of 2003. In addition, the 82nd was involved in some of the most difficult battles of the Iraq war, like that of Fallujah, in case anyone is keeping score, as we scandalously go about accusing people of being cowards."....

[bth: this is actually an interesting and well rounded analysis of the issues of Rumsfeld, the generals and the future of our country. Well worth a read. In the end though, he misses the critical point in my mind - Rumsfeld lost the trust of Congress in 2004 and the trust of the American people in 2005. Without it he cannot function]
 Posted by Picasa

Chinese military linked to missile smuggling

"Court papers made public yesterday in the case of a California man who pleaded guilty to trying to smuggle anti-aircraft missiles into the United States show that a Chinese general and state-run manufacturer are linked to the crime. "....

[bth: this is and has been old news. Gertz can be relied on to issue a 'fear China' news story whenever there is a chance relations between China and the US can improve. You can set your clock to it. Prediction - before the week is out he will release another story about chinese naval capacities or some such. The convergence of high level Chinese dignitaries in the US plus the defense supplemental budget debate in the Senate will be too much for Pentagon leakers, defense contractors, or the Moonies who own the Washington Times to pass over.]

Unforeseen Spending on Materiel Pumps Up Iraq War Bill

Unforeseen Spending on Materiel Pumps Up Iraq War Bill: "With the expected passage this spring of the largest emergency spending bill in history, annual war expenditures in Iraq will have nearly doubled since the U.S. invasion, as the military confronts the rapidly escalating cost of repairing, rebuilding and replacing equipment chewed up by three years of combat.

The cost of the war in U.S. fatalities has declined this year, but the cost in treasure continues to rise, from $48 billion in 2003 to $59 billion in 2004 to $81 billion in 2005 to an anticipated $94 billion in 2006, according to the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The U.S. government is now spending nearly $10 billion a month in Iraq and Afghanistan, up from $8.2 billion a year ago, a new Congressional Research Service report found."

Annual war costs in Iraq are easily outpacing the $61 billion a year that the United States spent in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972, in today's dollars. The invasion's "shock and awe" of high-tech laser-guided bombs, cruise missiles and stealth aircraft has long faded, but the costs of even those early months are just coming into view as the military confronts equipment repair and rebuilding costs it has avoided and procurement costs it never expected.

"We did not predict early on that we would have the number of electronic jammers that we've got. We did not predict we'd have as many [heavily] armored vehicles that we have, nor did we have a good prediction about what our battle losses would be," Army Chief of Staff Peter J. Schoomaker recently told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Steven M. Kosiak, the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments' director of budget studies, said, "If you look at the earlier estimates of anticipated costs, this war is a lot more expensive than it should be, based on past conflicts."

The issue will be hotly debated next week when the Senate takes up a record $106.5 billion emergency spending bill that includes $72.4 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The House passed a $92 billion version of the bill last month that included $68 billion in war funding. That funding comes on top of $50 billion already allocated for the war this fiscal year.

The bill is the fifth emergency defense request since the Iraq invasion in March 2003. Senate Democrats say that, in the end, they will vote for the measure, which congressional leaders plan to deliver to President Bush by Memorial Day. But the upcoming debate will offer opponents of the war ample opportunity to question the Bush administration's funding priorities.

Defense officials and budget analysts point to a simple, unavoidable driver of the escalating costs. The cost of repairing and replacing equipment and developing new war-fighting materiel has exploded. In the first year of the invasion, such costs totaled $2.4 billion, then rose to $5.2 billion in 2004. This year, they will hit $26 billion, and could go as high as $30 billion, Kosiak said. On the other hand, at about $15 billion, personnel costs will drop 14 percent this year.

Total operations and maintenance budgets will rise 33 percent this year, while investment in new technologies will climb 25 percent, according to the Congressional Research Service.

The helicopters, tanks, personnel carriers and even small arms "have required more maintenance than we planned for," said Gary Motsek, director of support operations at the Army Materiel Command. "We're working them to death."

In the first years of the war, Army and Marine units rotating out of Iraq left behind usable equipment for the next units rolling in. But even the working equipment is now being shipped back to the Army's five depots to be refurbished and upgraded.

Last year, the depots repaired and upgraded 600 helicopter engines. This year, they will see 700, Motsek said. A total of 318 Bradley Fighting Vehicles went through the depots in 2005; 600 will be cycled through in 2006.

Last year, depot workers upgraded 5,000 Humvees with new engines and new transmissions to support ever-heavier armor. This year, they will see close to 9,000. They will also have to patch up 7,000 more machine guns, 5,000 more tank tracks and 100 more M1A1 Abrams tanks.

In 2001, the depots logged 11 million labor hours. Last year, that reached 20 million, and this year, it will total 24 million, Motsek said. Depot officials had hoped to work 27 million hours, but funding delays forced them to cut back.

And that is only the work being done in the United States. In and around Iraq, 53,000 people -- 52,000 of them contractors -- are maintaining and rebuilding lightly damaged equipment, a senior Senate defense aide said. Indian workers are refurbishing U.S. Humvees for $6 an hour.

"The equipment is wearing out five times faster than normal operations," said Jeremiah Gertler, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former House Armed Services Committee procurement aide.

What cannot be repaired has to be replaced. Procurement costs were a tiny fraction of the initial emergency war requests, Kosiak said. This year, new equipment purchases will consume 20 percent of the war funding. That has led to what some critics see as wasteful expenditures. The Senate bill includes $230 million to replace an unspecified number of CH-46E Sea Knight helicopters lost in battle with three V-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft. In other words, senators plan to replace a Marine Corps workhorse with an experimental aircraft that critics say will never be useful in combat.

Such costs were always there, Gertler said, but Bush administration officials and members of Congress put off maintenance and procurement expenditures to keep down the war's price tag.

Schoomaker said as much at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing in February, when he remarked that a "bow wave" of costs "pushed forward from previous years" is now cresting.

"It was just recently that we started to get procurement money" for equipment repair and replacement in supplemental funding, he testified.

Schoomaker warned that such costs will continue, even after U.S. forces withdraw from Iraq. To fully re-equip and upgrade the U.S. Army after the war ends would cost $36 billion over six years, and that figure assumes U.S. forces would begin withdrawing in July and would be completely out of Iraq by the end of 2008, an assumption Bush dismissed when he suggested withdrawal will be up to his White House successor.

Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), a member of the Armed Services Committee, said a more protracted fight could triple Schoomaker's $36 billion figure.

[bth: I've been saying this for two years. The land fleet is exhausting itself 7 times (this article says 5) faster than normal and is requiring overhaul or replacement with two years of in country operation v. 13 years. The cost of war has been hidden from public view until after the Nov 04 elections and should have been included in the normal defense budget but the White House and Rumsfeld have been hiding this cause in supplementals and out of the normal defense budget process to understate the cost and the deficit impact. This first occurred in the 2004 submissions to congress after the president's state of the union speech when he budgeted nothing for retrofit vehicular armor and only 800 armored humvees in the normal budget. Its all about budget gamesmanship now as the supplemental expenditures are used as an 'off the books' approach to funding the war and hiding the cost. As the war drags on, it is forcing the maintenance and replacement costs to the forefront because the equipment is just flat wearing out and can no longer be hidden: tank treads, tires, transmissions, differntials, radios, jammers, etc. .... We are fighting $150 IEDs composed of cell phones, motorcycle batteries and landmines or artillery shells left laying around unguarded depots with $225K armored humvees and $3 million Bradley vehicles. Financially we are being bled out and when this equipment returns, it will be totally written off. We would be better to crank up production of conventional equipment to full capacity and giving our old stuff to the Iraqi Army. ...One might hope the future combat systems would replace this gear, but think about it, we can't replace this equipment with 1/3 unmanned ground vehicles at $3 million a pop. We can't realistically expect to replace helicopters with Ospreys at the prices we are currently paying! It is unsustainable! Madness .... Has anyone asked why in God's name we are shipping equipment back halfway around the world to replace their transmissions and replace their tracks? Its to keep the depots in the US running and off BRAC lists. It has nothing to do with common sense when this same repair process could be done in Kuwait. Think about it. We will lose this war through financial attrition. We do not have the strength to fight Iran - we simply do not have the ground equipment or manpower though we could do some bombing. What's more we have let al-Qaeda regroup in Pakistan and given them time to strike us again. The real war with al-Qaeda hasn't happened but they've managed to keep oil prices going higher and higher to financially bleed us further.... People say Osama Bin Laden isn't a strategic thinker, but look what's happened to oil and to our costs -- 9-11 cost al-Qaeda $500K to implement.]
 Posted by Picasa

Rice Says No 'V-E Day' on Horizon in Iraq

Rice Says No 'V-E Day' on Horizon in Iraq - Yahoo! News: "CHICAGO - Even assuming Iraq forms a national government, there will be no immediate end to the violence, nothing like V-E Day marking World War II's end in Europe, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Wednesday. "

Peace will come gradually to Iraq, more than three years after the U.S.-led invasion in March 2003, she said at the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations.

"Americans must be prepared for violence to continue in Iraq, even after a government is formed. There will be no Iraqi equivalent of V-E Day or V-J Day," Rice said. Those are the days of Victory in Europe and Victory in Japan in 1945....

[bth: one of the fundamental problems with our policy in Iraq today is the simple understanding that there is no definition of victory. ]

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

 Posted by Picasa

20,000 kidnapped in Iraq this year

20,000 kidnapped in Iraq this year World Breaking News The Australian: "NEARLY 20,000 people have been kidnapped in Iraq since the beginning of the year alone, according to a report published today on violence in the war-torn country.

The survey, which underscores the massive social upheaval caused by rebel activity and increasing sectarian conflict, does not give the number of people killed. However, it says 15,462 people have been wounded.

The 19,548 people kidnapped includes 4959 women and 2350 children, according to the report prepared by a group of 125 non-governmental organisations and made public in the Shi'ite holy city of Karbala.

The high-profile seizure of foreigners in Iraq has numbered a few hundred since the practice began two years ago and is usually aimed at scoring propaganda points against the US-led occupation.

In contrast, the thousands of Iraqis being kidnapped are primarily the victims of political rivals and of common criminals seeking ransom.

The report also said an estimated 6877 families have been displaced from their homes. The survey says the true number of displacements is difficult to establish. The authorities have put the figure as high as 10,000 families."...
 Posted by Picasa

Mystery Hangs Over Baghdad Battle

Mystery Hangs Over Baghdad Battle: "BAGHDAD, April 18 -- As the shooting died down Tuesday afternoon, the tired and frightened residents of Baghdad's Adhamiyah neighborhood packed their cars and prepared to flee. After two days of street fighting that had kept them locked in their houses, they did not want to see what might come next.

The details of the unusual street battle that began Monday remained shrouded by the fog of war. U.S. and Iraqi soldiers thought they were shooting at insurgents who were trying to ambush them. Local men on neighborhood watch in the predominantly Sunni Arab area thought they were shooting at Shiites who were coming to kidnap and kill them. Residents hiding in their homes, simply praying for survival, could only guess who was fighting whom."

"As far as I know, a group of militants went inside and there was fighting with the residents of Adhamiyah, and later on, the police were involved and the MNF-I were involved," said Adnan Ali al-Kadhimi, an adviser to Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari, referring to Multi-National Forces-Iraq, the official name for foreign troops in the U.S.-led military coalition here. "We don't have a clear picture of what's happening there."...

[bth: the article is worth reading and gets confusing as it seems that the police were attacked by the Iraqi Army, but then it isn't clear if they were police or someone in police uniforms perhaps from Sadr City. Welcome to Beirut.]
 Posted by Picasa

Top Officer Ordered To Testify on Abuse

Top Officer Ordered To Testify on Abuse: "A military judge in Washington yesterday ordered prosecutors to produce Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller as a defense witness in the trial of a military dog handler accused of abusing detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, the first time a general officer will be compelled to testify in court about controversial U.S. interrogation and detention policies.

The order by Marine Lt. Col. Paul H. McConnell will give defense attorneys a chance to question Miller about the use of dogs in security and interrogation operations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and in Iraq. It also means lawyers could use Miller's testimony to attempt to draw connections between the alleged abuse and the policies developed by top Pentagon officials, who had regular contact with Miller when he was the commander at Guantanamo Bay."

Miller would be the highest-ranking officer to take the stand in any prosecution arising from the notorious abuse at Abu Ghraib. Attorneys for Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, 31, a police-dog handler, are the first to convince a judge that his involvement could shed light on how dogs came to be used to threaten high-value detainees during interrogations in Iraq in late 2003.

Miller originally invoked his military Article 31 rights not to incriminate himself, but in recent weeks he spoke for several hours with Cardona's attorney, Harvey Volzer. At a hearing yesterday in a small courtroom at the Washington Navy Yard, Volzer said Miller has agreed to testify at Cardona's court-martial, which is scheduled to begin May 17....

[bth: I wonder what's shifting here? Only lower level personnel have been prosecuted. Miller who was in the middle of it and was hand selected by Rumsfeld has been invoking his Article 31 rights not to incriminate himself, but there seems to be a shift. Miller is out for Miller. I wonder if Miller has decided to step out of the doorway and let Rumsfeld take the bullet?]
 Posted by Picasa

At Heart of Iraqi Impasse, a Family Feud

At Heart of Iraqi Impasse, a Family Feud: "NAJAF, Iraq -- On one side of the grinding political deadlock over who should lead Iraq's next government is a plain-spoken cleric with the puffed cheeks and patchy beard of youth, a fiery icon of the downtrodden with an exalted family name: al-Sadr.

On the other is a wizened mullah from the clerical old guard, whose al-Hakim clan founded Iraq's largest political party and whose scholarly air belies a reputation for ruthlessness"

Moqtada al-Sadr and Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim head the two leading dynasties of Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority, whose spiritual home is this ancient southern city. They operate the country's two largest Shiite militias -- the Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigade, respectively -- each with more than 10,000 men under arms. And they are heirs to rival movements that for generations have competed, sometimes violently, for supremacy in the hearts and minds of their long-persecuted people.

The two men are now on opposing sides of the dispute over whether Ibrahim al-Jafari should retain his post as prime minister. The impasse remains unresolved despite months of negotiation and intense U.S. pressure, and hinges not only on myriad political factors but on the two clerics' family feud....

[bth: this is an article worth reading in full.]
 Posted by Picasa

Ex-Taliban envoy, al-Qaeda suspects arrested in Peshawar

Pajhwok Afghan News: "KABUL, Apr 18 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Pakistani secret agencies have arrested former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Maulvi Saeedur Rehman Haqqani and four suspected al-Qaeda elements in two separate raids in the border town of Peshawar.

Quoting reliable sources, a widely circulated Pakistani English daily Tuesday reported that Saeedur Rehman Haqqani was arrested by secret agencies three days back while on way from Peshawar to Bannu. He was immediately shifted to Islamabad, where he is under investigations, said the sources.

Haqqani served as Taliban ambassador to Pakistan for a couple of months. After the ouster of Taliban in November 2001, he was residing in Bannu. He had reportedly disassociated himself from his former colleagues, said the sources.

Rumours are that two other colleagues of Haqqani, Qari Sibghatullah and Maulvi Inqeyadi were also arrested by the security agencies along with him.

Separately, the personnel of secret agencies arrested four alleged al-Qaeda men in the Zangali area, south of Peshawar on Monday. The four suspects were arrested by the personnel of secret agencies and CID police.

The law-enforcers were told that some alleged al-Qaeda men were coming from Kohat in a car bearing registration number STK 2780. As the security personnel signaled the car to stop, the driver accelerated. Later, during a chase, the security personnel succeeded to burst tyres of the car and the four people were arrested. Two of the arrested people were wearing veils, witnesses said.

Daud Khan "
 Posted by Picasa

Taliban bans vehicles' movement in Ghazni

Pajhwok Afghan News: "GHAZNI CITY, Apr 17 (Pajhwok Afghan News): In tit-for-tat reaction to the government's ban on pillion riding, Taliban in the Andar district of Ghazni province have warned residents against vehicle movement.
The provincial authorities have banned unregistered motorcycles in the province after the killing of former governor Taj Mohammad, alias Qari Baba about a month back."...
 Posted by Picasa

Iraq's Kurds Aim for Own Oil Ministry - Los Angeles Times

Iraq's Kurds Aim for Own Oil Ministry - Los Angeles Times: "BAGHDAD -Leaders of Iraq's Kurdish north have unveiled a controversial plan to consolidate their hold on the region's future petroleum resources, raising concerns about how the ethnically divided nation will share its oil revenue.

The Kurdish parliament will be asked to vote on the creation of a Ministry of Natural Resources that would regulate potentially lucrative energy projects in newly discovered oil and natural gas fields within the three provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan."

The new ministry, if established, would be another step in the Kurds' gradual retreat from the Baghdad government, as well as a potentially destabilizing development in a country already on the verge of fragmenting along ethnic and religious lines. "They have the right to make a decision in their territory, but it is dangerous," said Mohammed Aboudi, a divisional director-general of the national Oil Ministry and a government advisor. "They are starting to search for oil without any consultation with the central government. What if Basra does the same, or any other province?"...

"There are people who haven't faced the reality of what has gone on in Iraq," Galbraith said. "They still think that the old central state is going to be put back together again. It's not going to happen in Kurdistan. It's not going to happen in the south. It's not going to happen in Baghdad."

Each half of the Kurdish region, which split apart in a 1990s civil war between forces of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, or PUK, and the KDP, has its own ministries of defense, interior, health and education. The Iraqi Constitution, ratified in an Oct. 15 referendum, gives Kurdistan the authority to wheel and deal with the international petroleum industry within Irbil, Sulaymaniya and Dahuk, where Kurds make up more than 95% of the population. But Kurds also lay claim to much of the region around Kirkuk, which is said to contain up to 40% of Iraq's proven oil reserves. A referendum on the disputed area's future is to take place by the end of 2007.

Officials in Baghdad, including allies of the Kurds, said they were blindsided by news of the proposed ministry.

"We know what the ambitions of the Kurds are," said Iyad Samarrai, a leader of the Iraqi Islamic Party, a Sunni Arab group.

"But everybody agreed to make such moves within the [national] political process."

[bth: this is another step toward the fragmentation of Iraq and the creation of an independent government in Kurdistan with its own oil revenues. The oil is the key to sustained cash flow. Kurdistan is planning to go its own way and to let oil pay for it. Under the constitution existing oil wells and refineries provide revenue to the central state and new oil wells and refineries provide revenue to the regional governments, so only new wells are getting service I suspect and old ones are falling apart in disrepair. This means that Norwegians and others are cutting deals with regional governments instead of in Baghdad. At least three regional governments are forming with Baghdad becoming the Beirut battleground - but in the end Baghdad doesn't have oil or revenue without a central state; Sadr knows this and so do his 2 million constitutients in Sadr City.]
 Posted by Picasa

Alarm over rise in Venezuelan drugs traffic

FT.com / Americas / Latin America - Alarm over rise in Venezuelan drugs traffic: "Venezuela is becoming the leading transit country through which the bulk of the world;s cocaine is smuggled to the US and Europe, according to foreign law enforcement officers. "

Venezuela’s growing role in the illegal drugs trade was underscored by the seizure in Mexico last week of 5.2 tonnes of cocaine aboard an aircraft that arrived from Caracas international airport.

Ten people were arrested, including a Venezuelan co-pilot, after Mexican troops discovered the drugs hidden in 128 suitcases aboard a DC-9 aircraft at Ciudad del Carmen airport, in eastern Mexico. Drugs are regularly seized in Mexico, but experts say last week’s haul, one of the country’s largest, offers a glimpse into what European and US counter-narcotics agents are labelling the “Venezuela connection”.

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and other officials in his left-leaning “Bolivarian Revolution” movement insist the country is dedicated to fighting drugs. They also claim the authorities are succeeding. Venezuela seized 58.4 tonnes of cocaine last year, 87 per cent more than in 2004, according to the National Anti-Drugs Office. “No government has dealt such a serious blow to drug trafficking as that of the Bolivarian Revolution,” Mr Chávez said last week.

However, European and US anti-drugs officers take a markedly different view. Greater seizures by Venezuela, they say, indicate rising amounts of cocaine being funnelled through the country – probably more than half of Colombia’s annual output of about 400 tonnes of cocaine....
 Posted by Picasa