Saturday, September 02, 2006

I no longer have power to save Iraq from civil war, warns Shia leader

Telegraph News I no longer have power to save Iraq from civil war, warns Shia leader: "The most influential moderate Shia leader in Iraq has abandoned attempts to restrain his followers, admitting that there is nothing he can do to prevent the country sliding towards civil war."

Aides say Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani is angry and disappointed that Shias are ignoring his calls for calm and are switching their allegiance in their thousands to more militant groups which promise protection from Sunni violence and revenge for attacks.

Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani

"I will not be a political leader any more," he told aides. "I am only happy to receive questions about religious matters."
It is a devastating blow to the remaining hopes for a peaceful solution in Iraq and spells trouble for British forces, who are based in and around the Shia stronghold of Basra.

The cleric is regarded as the most important Shia religious leader in Iraq and has been a moderating influence since the invasion of 2003. He ended the fighting in Najaf between Muqtada al-Sadr's Mehdi army and American forces in 2004 and was instrumental in persuading the Shia factions to fight the 2005 elections under the single banner of the United Alliance.

However, the extent to which he has become marginalised was demonstrated last week when fighting broke out in Diwaniya between Iraqi soldiers and al-Sadr's Mehdi army.

With dozens dead, al-Sistani's appeals for calm were ignored. Instead, the provincial governor had to travel to Najaf to see al-Sadr, who ended the fighting with one telephone call.

Al-Sistani's aides say that he has chosen to stay silent rather than suffer the ignominy of being ignored. Ali al-Jaberi, a spokesman for the cleric in Khadamiyah, said that he was furious that his followers had turned away from him and ignored his calls for moderation.

Asked whether Ayatollah al-Sistani could prevent a civil war, Mr al-Jaberi replied: "Honestly, I think not. He is very angry, very disappointed."

He said a series of snubs had contributed to Ayatollah al-Sistani's decision. "He asked the politicians to ask the Americans to make a timetable for leaving but they disappointed him," he said. "After the war, the politicians were visiting him every month. If they wanted to do something, they visited him. But no one has visited him for two or three months. He is very angry that this is happening now. He sees this as very bad."

A report from the Pentagon on Friday said that the core conflict in Iraq had changed from a battle against insurgents to an increasingly bloody fight between Shia and Sunni Muslims, creating conditions that could lead to civil war. It noted that attacks rose by 24 per cent to 792 per week – the highest of the war – and daily Iraqi casualties soared by 51 per cent to almost 120, prompting some ordinary Iraqis to look to illegal militias for their safety and sometimes for social needs and welfare.

An Iraqi Shi'ite supporter of cleric Moqtada Al Sadr celebrates near a burning US Army truck

Hundreds of thousands of people have turned away from al-Sistani to the far more aggressive al-Sadr. Sabah Ali, 22, an engineering student at Baghdad University, said that he had switched allegiance after the murder of his brother by Sunni gunmen. "I went to Sistani asking for revenge for my brother," he said. "They said go to the police, they couldn't do anything.

"But even if the police arrest them, they will release them for money, because the police are bad people. So I went to the al-Sadr office. I told them about the terrorists' family. They said, 'Don't worry, we'll get revenge for your brother'. Two days later, Sadr's people had killed nine of the terrorists, so I felt I had revenge for my brother. I believe Sadr is the only one protecting the Shia against the terrorists."

According to al-Sadr's aides, he owes his success to keeping in touch with the people. "He meets his representatives every week or every day. Sistani only meets his representatives every month," said his spokesman, Sheik Hussein al-Aboudi.

"Muqtada al-Sadr asks them what the situation is on the street, are there any fights against the Shia, he is asking all the time. So the people become close to al-Sadr because he is closer to them than Sistani. Sistani is the ayatollah, he is very expert in Islam, but not as a politician."

Even the Iraqi army seems to have accepted that things have changed. First Lieut Jaffar al-Mayahi, an Iraqi National Guard officer, said many soldiers accepted that al-Sadr's Mehdi army was protecting Shias. "When they go to checkpoints and their vehicles are searched, they say they are Mehdi army and they are allowed through. But if we stop Sistani's people we sometimes arrest them and take away their weapons."

Western diplomats fear that the vacuum will be filled by the more radical Shia clerics, hastening the break-up of the country and an increase in sectarian violence.

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Britain's former special representative for Iraq, said the decline in Ayatollah al-Sistani's influence was bad news for Iraq.

"It would be a pity if his strong instincts to maintain the unity of Iraq and to forswear violence were removed from influencing the scene," he said.

[bth: I think this is the last straw. The last voice of moderation is silenced.]
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Russians involved in illegal arms delivery to Nepal

Russians involved in illegal arms delivery to Nepal India Defence: "As a cargo plane containing arms for Nepal was ceased by Indian authorities, it appears that Russians were the key players in this secretive bid by Nepal to obtain a fresh cache of weapons violating Indian air space.

On August 8, a Russian businessman named Alexei Afanisiev wrote to Indian civil aviation authorities from an address in New Delhi seeking permission for a Russian AN-12 aircraft to land in Mumbai for refuelling.

The aircraft was carrying cargo that was classified as 'dangerous goods'. Afanisiev said it comprised aircraft equipment and anti-aircraft missiles, according to well placed sources in New Delhi.

Two western manufacturers had sold the cache to the Nepal Army. Sue Orsha of Belarus and Emco Ltd in Sofia, Bulgaria, were the consigners whereas the intended recipient was the Master General of Ordnance of Nepal Army.

The eight-member crew was headed by chief pilot Varemeevsky, a Russian national. The cargo was to have reached Kathmandu Thursday but the plan was thwarted after India refused permission to land at Mumbai.

The arms cache incident occurs almost a year after King Gyanendra's foreign minister Ramesh Nath Pandey visited Russia in October 2005.

Russia was one of the few countries to support King Gyanendra and retain diplomatic ties with him, when the international community condemned the king's power grab with the help of the army.

A Russian university also conferred an honorary doctorate degree on the king at a time luminaries like US President George W Bush and Nobel peace laureate Nelson Mandela declined to meet him.

This year, the new government of Nepal, headed by prime minister Girija Prasad Koirala, is celebrating 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the former USSR and Nepal"
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Iran tests upgraded surface-to-sea missile

Iran tests upgraded surface-to-sea missile India Defence: "Iran is said to have successfully tested an upgraded, indegenious, guided surface-to-sea missile, media reports confirmed on Saturday

The missile was tested at the Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman during the 'Blow of Zolfaqar' military exercises which began last Saturday.

Wargames spokesman Habib Sayari told reporters that the missile accurately hit its pre-determined targets. Sayari said that the missile has a suitable range, high shooting power and precision.

He added that the successful testing of the missile showed the strength, innovativeness, scientific and technical expertise of the country's defense forces and equipment as well as the potential and specialized skill of its experts.

Analysts however suspect this missile is based on the Russian SS-N-22 Sunburn missile that Iran is said to have acquired via China in 2004. The Sunburn missile is a Russian missile of the Soviet era and can carry a warhead of upto 300kg and is said to have a range of 100km-120kms."
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Afghan opium production soars to new high - Sep 2, 2006

CNN.com - Afghan opium production soars to new high - Sep 2, 2006: "KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Afghanistan's world-leading opium cultivation rose a 'staggering' 60 percent this year, the U.N. anti-drugs chief announced Saturday in urging the government to crack down on big traffickers and remove corrupt officials and police.

The record crop yielded 6,100 tons of opium, or enough to make 610 tons of heroin -- outstripping the demand of the world's heroin users by a third, according to U.N. figures.

Officials warned that the illicit trade is undermining the Afghan government, which is under attack by Islamic militants that a U.S.-led offensive helped drive from power in late 2001 for harboring Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda bases.

'The news is very bad. On the opium front today in some of the provinces of Afghanistan, we face a state of emergency,' Antonio Maria Costa, chief of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, said at a news conference. 'In the southern provinces, the situation is out of control.'

He talked with reporters after presenting results of the U.N. survey to Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who voiced 'disappointment' over the figures. 'Our efforts to fight narcotics have proved inadequate,' Karzai said in a statement."

With the economy struggling, there are not enough jobs and many Afghans say they have to grow opium poppies to feed their families. The trade already accounts for at least 35 percent of Afghanistan's economy, financing warlords and insurgents.

The top U.S. narcotics official here said the opium trade is a threat to the country's fledgling democracy.

"This country could be taken down by this whole drugs problem," Doug Wankel told reporters. "We have seen what can come from Afghanistan, if you go back to 9/11. Obviously the U.S. does not want to see that again."

The bulk of the opium increase was in lawless Helmand province, where cultivation rose 162 percent and accounted for 42 percent of the Afghan crop. The province has been wracked by the surge in attacks by Taliban-led militants that has produced the worst fighting in five years.

Opium-growing increased despite the injection of hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid to fight the drug over the past two years. Costa criticized the international effort and said foreign aid was "plagued by huge overhead costs" in its administration.

Costa said Afghanistan's insecurity is fueling the opium boom, saying he has pleaded with the NATO force that took over military operations in the south a month ago to take a "stronger role" in fighting drugs. NATO says it has no mandate for direct involvement in the anti-drug campaign.

"We need much stronger, forceful measures to improve security or otherwise I'm afraid we are going to face a dramatic situation of failed regions, districts and even perhaps even provinces in the near future," Costa said.

The U.N. report, based on satellite imagery and ground surveys, said the area under poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached 407,700 acres in 2006, up from 257,000 acres in 2005. The previous high was 323,700 acres in 2004.

The estimated yield of 6,100 tons of opium resin -- described by Costa as "staggering" -- is up from 4,100 tons last year, and exceeds the previous high for total global output of 5,764 tons recorded in 1999.

Last year, about 450 tons of heroin was consumed worldwide, 90 percent of it from Afghanistan, according to the U.N.

The report will increase pressure on the beleaguered Afghan president. Karzai has often talked tough on drugs, even declaring a "holy war" against the trade, but he is increasingly criticized for appointing and failing to sack corrupt provincial governors and police.

Costa urged the arrest of "serious drug traffickers" to fill a new high-security wing for narcotics convicts at Kabul's Policharki prison. "It has 100 beds. We want these beds to be taken up in the next few months," he said.

At the same news conference, the Afghan counternarcotics minister, Habibullah Qaderi, said the government had the will to make arrests, but lacked the capacity to gather evidence to prosecute "the big fish."

Yet he maintained that with its newly unveiled national anti-drugs strategy, Afghanistan could "control" drug production within five years.

Costa was less upbeat. "It's going to take possibly 20 years to get rid of the problem," he said, citing the experience of former opium producers like Thailand, Turkey and Pakistan.

In an indication of the alarming extent of official complicity in the trade, a Western counternarcotics official said about 25,000 to 30,000 acres of government land in Helmand was used to cultivate opium poppies this year.

The official, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said police and government officials are involved in cultivating poppies, providing protection for growers or taking bribes to ensure the crops aren't destroyed.

He said the Taliban -- which managed to nearly eradicate Afghanistan's poppy crop in 2001, just before their ouster for giving refuge to Osama bin Laden -- now profit from the trade.

In some instances, drug traffickers have provided vehicles and money to the Taliban to carry out terrorist attacks, he said. But he added that the ties seem to be local and that there is no evidence of coordination between drug lords and the Taliban leadership.

Copyright 2006 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.This material
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Counterterrorism Blog: The "Azzam" Threat: A prelude to Future Jihad in America

Counterterrorism Blog: The "Azzam" Threat: A prelude to Future Jihad in America: "The video tape issued by al Qaeda�s �as-sahhab� production, in which Ayman Zawahiri introduces Jihadist Adam Gahdan to the world as a senior speaker to the American people on behalf of the movement, should be taken seriously. Not necessarily at the level of detecting the next Terror attack but at the level of understanding this prelude to Future Jihad both in America and within the West. I wasn't surprised at all by the 45 minutes elaboration by convert Gahdan regarding all of the issues he raised. For "Azzam al Amrikee"is the clearest specimen of Jihadism's second generation within the US, in as much as the 7/7 videos revealed the type of future Jihadists for Great Britain's second generation. However, when one would listen carefully to the taped video, you'd find a treasure of knowledge and indicators for the current state of thinking of al Qaeda and its ideologues. In short it is a sample of what is on the mind of Salafi Jihadists for the United States and the West. Following are few of the issues I noted:"

1) The hand behind the message

In short, Azzam’s videotaped message is indeed “American.” Experts have heard it in US and Canadian cities and internet is flowing with it. Whether Gadahn was reading from a prompter or not –and I believe he was with great skills- I tend to believe that such a speech –rather than being dismissed as mere propaganda- is a message coming to us from what’s already inserted inside America, which leads me to the second point

2) Who is it destined to?

It is basically addressed to those who will carry a “Jihad in America,” possibly asserting Adam Gahdan as their leader. Also, this is a very intelligent move to pierce the linguistic shield of America’s media and reach US citizens directly, as a way to spread confusion at least among those who have a hazy understanding of the Jihadists.

3) The ideological platform

In short, the “Azzam” video reconfirms clearly, in an English language that academic translators won’t be able to distort, that al Qaeda’s movement worldwide and in the United States is seeking total annihilation or conversion of the enemy: American and other democracies.

4) Argumentation tactics:

The “speech writer,” emulating many commentators on al Jazeera or al Manar, hopes to rally many among those who “hate Bush and Blair” but stops short of stating that Jihadism will hate all future US Presidents and British Prime Ministers “if they do not convert.” He reminds us of the Crusades, Inquisition, Hiroshima, and killings in Iraq and Afghanistan. Obviously, the “writer” skips the Genocides of Sudan, and the massacres of Algeria, the Kurds, Shiites perpetrated by Salafists or Baathists.

5) The enemies of Jihad in America

Sensationally but not unexpectedly, he “name” a number of intellectual-enemies in this country: Daniel Pipes, Steven Emerson, Robert Spencer and Michael Spencer. Rarely Jihadi Terrorists at this high level media exposure named symbols of their enemy’s intelligentsia. And in addition to “experts” named in the tape, Gadahn goes on a ferocious attack against American “Tele-Evangelists” and their media, showing the other type of foes al Qaeda is very upset with.

6) The “friends” of al Qaeda?

“Azzam” names “sympathetic” personalities for whom he has messages for action; He asks journalist Seymour Hirsh to “reveal more” than what was published in a New Yorker article on the War: Obviously an open call by al Qaeda to M Hirsch to resume the attack against the US War on Terror. Then “Azzam” turn to two British journalists and thank them for their “admiration and respect for Islam” encourage them to do the final step: Convert. He names British MP George Galloway and journalist Robert Fisk. But more troubling in Gadahn’s tape was his direct call to Jihadists within the US Armed forces to work patiently till the time comes and they should continue to aggregate while escaping the surveillance of their military authorities. This theme, which I covered briefly in Future Jihad, is of great concern to US national security. The “Azzam” speech brings further concerns as to the credibility of this threat.

7) The Al Qaeda offer: Conversion or fire

“Azzam”’s mission in this tape was to deliver a message. His bottom line is this: We –the Jihadists- have you cornered everywhere and you are not going to win this war. His central message is typically Jihadic: “Surrender, convert or the fire:” Meaning war on Earth, all of it, and Hell fire after death.

****

This fascinating and revealing taped-speech bring the American public even closer to what lays ahead for this generation and the next one as long as the Jihadist ideology is spreading inside America and worldwide.

****

PS: This is a short version posting. The longer version will be posted later.

Dr Walid Phares is a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a visiting Fellow with the European Foundation for Democracy. He is the author of Future Jihad: Terrorist Strategies against America.
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PM Kaczynski denied meeting with President Bush

Warsaw Business Journal Online - business in poland,warsaw,polish companies,companies database: "PM Jaroslaw Kaczynski will make his first visit to Washington On September 13 where he will meet with vice president Dick Cheney, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, the chairman of House of Representatives and the head of the Energetics Department.

He will not, however, be meeting with President Bush. Polish diplomats have attempted to set up a meeting with the US President. US officials have explained that he simply has no time due to the upcoming 9/11 anniversary, November election campaign and ONZ's general assembly. Former Polish PM Leszek Miller and Marek Belka both met with president Bush in the White House. Nicholas Rey, the former US ambassador in Warsaw says that this is an example of the Bush administration's attitude to foreign relations. When the US needed Poland there was no problem arranging such meetings. During Kaczynski's visit the Americans will hear Poland's evaluation of the situation in the Ukraine and talks will probably also concern Poland's involvement in missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon. (Gazeta Wyborcza p.10) M.M.

[bth: what a stupid move on our president's part. I'll bet he won't miss the campaign fundraisers]
"

IED Detonator Posted by Picasa

Navy officer awarded Bronze Star for deft handling of deadly IEDs

Navy officer awarded Bronze Star for deft handling of deadly IEDs: "NORFOLK, Va. -- For the entire year he was in Baghdad analyzing more than 1,000 roadside bomb detonators, Benito Baylosis never took a day off. "

No one did. And no one complained about it, he said, as they explored the electronic circuits of defused improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. "What we did was that important. You get time off when you go home, or on R & R," he said.

Baylosis, 41, a Navy lieutenant commander, came back to his hometown of Norfolk to receive the Bronze Star on Tuesday. The award cited him for personally handling more than 1,000 IEDs, providing "critical countermeasures" and saving "countless coalition forces' lives."

"He developed and monitored over 136 bombmaker profiles," said the Army's citation, which added that "no one in the U.S. armed forces knows more about enemy IED initiators utilized in the Iraqi theater of operations." Baylosis, who graduated from Old Dominion University with an undergraduate electrical engineering degree, will return soon to his regular duty station in Naples, Italy, where his family resides.

In Iraq, he headed a team of American, British and Australian military specialists, mainly engineers. He also worked with agents from the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, gathering forensic evidence for possible future court cases related to terrorism. The team, operating from Camp Victory near the international airport in Baghdad, examined IEDs, traced their origins and turned over information to help find the manufacturer.

"They are some of the most basic forms, from mechanical to electrical, to remote," he said in an interview. Because of the sensitivity of the work, he could not detail what his team found. Published reports say many devices use garage-door openers or cell phones to activate the explosives.

According to Michael White, who compiles casualty figures of Operation Iraqi Freedom on the Web site icasualties.org, and Defense Department figures, 904 of the 2,087 American service members killed in action in Iraq have died of injuries from IEDs. Baylosis is assigned to a detachment of the Norfolk-based Mid-Atlantic Regional Maintenance Center in Naples.

He was the electronics laboratory manager of the Multi-National Corps-Iraq, Combined Explosive Cell in Iraq. Baylosis said he normally specializes in shipbuilding and program management in his job in Naples, but his electronics skills seemed a good match for what he was asked to do.

"We felt that the job we were doing did save lives and will continue to save lives as long as we get to do it," said the father of three. "I think we are making a difference. Obviously, we want to get ahead of the IED maker.

We want to be a step ahead of them and with increased security, I think it will eventually get solved. I just don't know the time line."

IED detonator. Note use of hot glue which has got to make for a pretty unreliable connection in high heat. Posted by Picasa

Hezbollah's Creative Tactical Use of Anti-Tank Weaponry

Hezbollah's Creative Tactical Use of Anti-Tank Weaponry: "As the world waits to see if the UN-brokered ceasefire in Lebanon holds, the Israeli army will begin assessing its disappointing performance against Hezbollah guerrillas. Among the many aspects to be investigated is the vulnerability of Israel's powerful armored corps to small, hand-held, wire-guided anti-tank weapons. Indeed, Hezbollah's innovative use of anti-tank missiles was the cause of most Israeli casualties and has given the small but powerful weapons a new importance in battlefield tactics."

In a recent statement, Hezbollah's armed wing, al-Moqawama al-Islamia (Islamic Resistance), described Israel's main battle-tank as "a toy for the rockets of the resistance" (al-Manar TV, August 11). Hezbollah's anti-tank weapons consist of a variety of wire-guided missiles (usually of Russian design and manufactured and/or supplied by Iran and Syria) and rocket-propelled grenade launchers (RPGs). The missiles include the European-made Milan, the Russian-designed Metis-M, Sagger AT-3, Spigot AT-4 and the Russian-made Kornet AT-14. The latter is a Syrian supplied missile capable of targeting low-flying helicopters. Iraqi Fedayeen irregulars used the Kornet against U.S. forces in 2003. The most portable versions of these weapons are carried in a fiberglass case with a launching rail attached to the lid. On July 30, the Israeli army published photos of various anti-tank missiles they claim to have found in a Hezbollah bunker (see: http://www.hnn.co.il/index.php?modul...sk=view;id=967). The weapons include Saggers and TOW missiles. The TOW (Tube-launched, Optically-tracked, Wire-guided) missile is a formidable weapon first produced by the United States in the 1970s. These missiles were of interest as their packing crates were marked 2001, suggesting that these were relatively new additions to Hezbollah's arsenal and not part of the shipment of TOW missiles from Israel to Iran that was part of the Iran-Contra scandal of 1986 (the shelf-life of the TOW is roughly 20 years). On August 6, Israeli Major-General Benny Gantz showed film of BGM-71 TOW and Sagger AT-3 missiles he reported were captured at one of Hezbollah's field headquarters (Haaretz, August 6). The primary target of Hezbollah's battlefield missiles is the Israeli-made Merkava tank. The Merkava was designed for the maximum protection of its crews, with heavy armor and a rear escape hatch. The emphasis on crew survival is not simply a humanitarian gesture; the small country of Israel cannot provide an endless number of trained, combat-ready tank crews if casualties begin to mount. The tank is also designed to be easily and quickly repaired, a specialty of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). The modular armor plating can be easily replaced if damaged, or replaced entirely with upgraded materials when available. The first generation of Merkavas was built in the 1970s and was soon deployed in Lebanon in 1982. The much-improved Merkava Mk 4 has been Israel's main battle-tank since its introduction in 2004. Current battlefield reports suggest that Hezbollah fighters are well-trained in aiming at the Merkava's most vulnerable points, resulting in as many as one-quarter of their missiles successfully piercing the armor (Yediot Aharonot, August 10). Hezbollah attacks on Merkava tanks during the November 2005 raid on the border town of Ghajar were videotaped and closely examined to find points where the armor was susceptible to missile attack. While some of their missiles have impressive ranges (up to three kilometers), the guerrillas prefer to fire from close range to maximize their chances of hitting weak points on the Merkava. Operating in two- or three-man teams, the insurgents typically try to gain the high ground in the hilly terrain before selecting targets, using well-concealed missile stockpiles that allow them to operate behind Israeli lines (Jerusalem Post, August 3).

Without artillery, Hezbollah has adapted its use of anti-tank missiles for mobile fire support against Israeli troops taking cover in buildings. There are numerous reports of such use, the most devastating being on August 9, when an anti-tank missile collapsed an entire building, claiming the lives of nine Israeli reservists (Y-net, August 10). Four soldiers from Israel's Egoz (an elite reconnaissance unit) were killed in a Bint Jbail house when it was struck by a Sagger missile (Haaretz, August 6). TOW missiles were used effectively in 2000 against IDF outposts in south Lebanon before the Israeli withdrawal. T

here are also recent instances of anti-tank weapons being used against Israeli infantry in the field, a costly means of warfare but one that meets two important Hezbollah criteria: the creation of Israeli casualties and the preservation of highly-outnumbered Hezbollah guerrillas who can fire the weapons from a relatively safe distance.

It was suggested that the IDF helicopter brought down by Hezbollah fire on August 12 was hit by an anti-tank missile. Hezbollah claimed to have used a new missile called the Wa'ad (Promise), although the organization occasionally renames existing missiles (Jerusalem Post, August 12). At least one of Israel's ubiquitous armored bulldozers has also fallen prey to Hezbollah's missiles. The Syrian-made RPG-29 was previously used with some success against Israeli tanks in Gaza. Hezbollah also uses this weapon, with a dual-warhead that allows it to penetrate armor. On August 6, the Israeli press reported that IDF intelligence sources claimed that an improved Russian-made version of the RPG-29 was being sold to Syria before transfer to the Islamic Resistance (Haaretz, August 6). In response, Russia's Foreign Ministry denied any involvement in supplying anti-tank weapons to Hezbollah (RIA Novosti, August 10). The IDF reports that anti-tank missiles and rockets continue to cross the border into Lebanon from Syria, despite the destruction of roads and bridges in the area (Haaretz, August 13).

The Merkava tank has assumed an important role as a symbol of Israeli military might. Their destruction in combat has an important symbolic value for Hezbollah. Hezbollah's tactical innovations and reliance on anti-tank missiles over more traditional infantry weapons will undoubtedly prompt serious introspection on the part of the IDF in anticipation of renewed conflict along the border.

[bth: I think the balance of military power is shifting away from armor and toward anti-armor weapons, especially with the indigenous production in Syria and Iran of double shaped charged RPGs.]

IED mortar shells, radios and evidently mass produced detonators Posted by Picasa

The Lord of the Marshes Takes a Mediating Role in Iraq

The Lord of the Marshes Takes a Mediating Role in Iraq: "The 'Lord of the Marshes' is a name that evokes a mythic image of one of Iraq's most illustrious resistance fighters. Abd Karim al-Mahmud Muhamedawi, also known as Abu Hatem, is a legendary figure inside Iraq but is little known to the outside world. A famed guerrilla leader from the southern marshlands, he is the only indigenous resistance fighter, aside from the Kurds, who successfully fought against Saddam's forces. He formed and led Hezbollah (unrelated to Lebanon's Hezbollah), a militia comprised of Shiite tribal members from the Iraqi marshlands. A key figure during the political transition after the fall of Saddam, he lent credibility to the oft criticized government of mostly exile leaders. Recently, Abu Hatem is focusing on local politics in southern Iraq, playing a mediating role between various Shiite factions. "

Abu Hatem was born in 1958 in Amarrah into the Albu Mohamed tribe prominent in the marshlands. He served in the Iraqi army as a non-commissioned officer, and although he was a well respected leader in the military, was later jailed in 1980 by the regime probably for that very reason. He spent seven years in the Abu Ghraib prison; after his release, he initiated resistance activities, forming Hezbollah, a guerrilla group mostly composed of his fellow tribal members in the marshlands. With anywhere from 1,000 to 8,000 mobilized fighters at any given time, Hezbollah fought a "War of the Fleas" against Saddam's forces, using the marsh reeds as cover and shelter. Hezbollah forces were armed with mortars, rocket propelled grenades and machine guns. They participated in arms smuggling, but they were usually low on ammunition, had almost no money and lived off of the marshlands. Hezbollah forces were continually on the move, irritating and foiling the Iraqi army anytime they entered into the marshlands (Middle East Times, June 30, 2003). In 1997, Abu Hatem was nearly killed by Iraqi forces when he was ambushed while traveling by car to Maimuna in southern Iraq. Frustrated by their inability to capture Abu Hatem and neutralize Hezbollah, Saddam ordered the marshes be drained, destroying a culture and a way of life in the process.

Although Hezbollah no longer had the marshes as natural cover, they continued their campaign. Instead of hiding out in the marsh reeds, they dug bunkers in the dried up water courses. Abu Hatem's "Party of God" militia is often mistakenly referred to as a branch of the better known Lebanese organization sponsored by Iran. The two organizations, however, are wholly unrelated and Iraqi Hezbollah was never sponsored by Iran or any other country.

It is very likely, however, that it received funding from U.S. and British intelligence agencies. Given Abu Hatem's distaste for foreign interference and special distrust of Iran and its other Iraqi sponsors, Iraqi Hezbollah and Abu Hatem are against Iran's interference in Iraqi affairs. His people had always protected Shalamja, a border area under his control, against infiltration by Iran (author interview with an advisor to Abu Hatem, August 2006).During the 2003 Gulf War, Amarrah, Abu Hatem's hometown, was the only city to liberate itself before coalition forces entered the area. Abu Hatem, his tribal followers and Hezbollah continue to exercise considerable influence in Amarrah. Abu Hatem is largely responsible for keeping the peace in this southern corner of Iraq. His followers are mainly from the marsh areas, although he has considerable following in Nasiriyah and Basra. He commands respect among many Iraqi groups. He once temporarily resigned his post in the interim government to protest against the Fallujah siege and he was courted by Ahmed Chalabi to lend credibility to his political coalition. Abu Hatem has also played a leading role in quelling recent intra-Shiite fighting in Basra. Abu Hatem's Hezbollah militia is unlike other Shiite militias in Iraq in that Abu Hatem no longer projects himself as a militia leader. When asked if he had an army of 8,000 men, he answered, "I have just this book and pen," pointing to the table in front of him. His militia is no longer a standing force, but they, and members of the Albu Mohamed tribe, can be mobilized by him at a moments notice. He has tried to integrate his forces into the security services and cooperated with British forces in the area, despite occasional incidents. His followers are largely responsible for securing the Maysan Province (Terrence Kelly, August 2005). Hezbollah is not as strong in number as SCIRI's Badr Corps or Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army, nor are they as active. Abu Hatem, however, has served as a conduit to al-Sadr before he was active in politics and has influence over many of Moqtada al-Sadr's followers and militia members in Sadr City. Many of the Albu Mohamed tribal members who left the marshes after they were drained relocated to Sadr City and came to also support al-Sadr.

Although Abu Hatem inspires respect among most, he is not free from controversy. His standing as the region's strongman has brought accusations of gangsterism by some in the area.

There was a warrant issued for his arrest in 2004 for allegedly ordering the shooting of Majar al-Kabir's police chief after he criticized Abu Hatem. No action was taken on the arrest warrant, and many believe this was because police officers and civil authorities in the area are either Hezbollah members or receive money and favors from Abu Hatem (Middle East Times, June 30, 2003). Abu Hatem also has considerable influence over Iraq's new minister of interior, Jawad Bolani. Bolani once served as Abu Hatem's deputy and holds Abu Hatem in high esteem. He often consults Abu Hatem regarding political and security matters and credits Abu Hatem with securing him the position. Abu Hatem's relationship with Bolani, however, only gives him sway over the minister, not the ministry. Bolani has had trouble reining in the unwieldy Interior Ministry which is compromised of mostly SCIRI followers (author interview with an advisor to Abu Hatem, August 2006). SCIRI, along with the Da'wa party, are Abu Hatem's and Hezbollah's main political rivals.

He criticizes their uncontrolled militias that are fomenting civil strife and believes that they are doing Iran's bidding in Iraq.

He is also critical of SCIRI's plans for a nine province southern region, knowing that his influence would be overtaken by the more powerful Shiite forces if that was to occur (al-Hayat, June 2, 2005).While he has a good working relationship with British troops in his area and cooperated with the coalition's political plan, he has advocated an early end to the occupation and wants more security responsibilities placed into the hands of Iraqis. He has also resisted disarmament by coalition forces. In late 2003, there were clashes between residents of Majar al-Kabir and British troops, and six soldiers were killed.

The incident occurred because the British soldiers insisted on trying to disarm the population; the tribesmen saw this as a dishonor to render them defenseless even after they had initially cooperated with British troops. Afterwards, Abu Hatem played a key role in dispersing tensions following the clash (Middle East Times, June 30, 2003).Abu Hatem is no longer a member of parliament since Chalabi's coalition, of which he was a member, did not receive enough votes for a parliamentary representation. He is focusing on local politics, heading up the Council of Notables, a senate-like civic council made up of representatives from Maysan, Nasiriyah and Basra. Now that Abu Hatem is not working on the national level, he is concentrating more on local issues. As intra-Shiite and sectarian violence continues inside Iraq, Abu Hatem will be able to play more of a mediating role in the southern region and serve as a foil against certain Shiite political militias, such as the Badr Corps and the Mahdi Army, that have been responsible for the recent violence.

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Marines 'own the night' in battle for control of dangerous Iraqi city

North County Times - Military - Marines 'own the night' in battle for control of dangerous Iraqi city: "RAMADI, Iraq -- Their first silhouettes appear at dusk, moving briskly under dim moonlight or the rare streetlamp. Sometimes the crunch of their boots on trash-strewn streets will stir families dozing on lawns in the cool of evening.

It's another night patrol by Marines in one of Iraq's most dangerous cities."

When night falls on Ramadi, hundreds of Marines confined to bases during the day return to the streets. Daytime foot patrols are limited because of the threat of skilled snipers or roadside bombs, but the cover of darkness -- and night vision technology -- allows Marines to fan out into contested neighborhoods.


"We don't like going out during the day. They fight a lot more in the day," explained Cpl. Anthony Rusciano, 22, of New York, as he prepared for another midnight patrol.In the quieter western side of Ramadi, 70 miles west of Baghdad, most night patrols are geared toward holding conversations with residents to build trust, acquire tips and erode the daytime influence of insurgents. But in other parts, such as the abandoned span of crumbling buildings that make up the city center, Marines are simply trying to keep insurgents from staging ambushes or planting more bombs.

The night also makes the summertime heat more bearable. Lugging up to 80 pounds of weapons and equipment on their patrols, sweat usually covers the Marines' faces as they speak to residents.

U.S. troops across Iraq use a common refrain -- "We own the night" -- to describe their edge over insurgents in darkness. But danger still lurks at night for the Marines who traverse along unfamiliar streets.

Marines sprint through lighted intersections and warily examine suspicious mounds of trash that could contain bombs. Sometimes they trip over miniature canals in the road that serve as sewers, stirring putrid fumes into the air. Roving packs of wild dogs usually announce the Marines' presence and trail closely behind.

Residents are often caught between roving insurgents in the day and the patrolling Marines at night. Though U.S. forces have recently pushed farther into the city, tens of thousands of people still live in neighborhoods that rarely see Americans.

"All the people in Ramadi are scared -- scared of the mujahedeen, scared of the Americans," said one man to visiting Marines. Several deep gouges marked his living room wall, which he blamed on an errant U.S. grenade that tore through his home but didn't harm his six children and wife.

Many residents spoke of their desperate situations, complaining about the three to four hours of available electricity per day, the rising price of gas and water shortages.

"We need our lives back. For us, it's OK, we can deal. But our children cannot do this," said one man in his mid-30s as his young son ran around the home wearing an oversized helmet borrowed from a Marine. The man asked not to be named for fear of insurgent reprisal.

Some residents, long accustomed to Marines dropping by at odd hours, casually try to continue what they were doing.

On one recent patrol, a family watched televised reports on a car bombing in Baghdad earlier that day. In a neighboring home, a heavyset man encouraged the Marines to watch the World Cup in his bedroom -- in part so that he, too, could catch the last minutes of a match.

Most homes in Ramadi are surrounded by courtyard walls that provide ample cover for possible gunmen. Though a curfew reduces the number of pedestrians for Marines to monitor, they believe insurgents are always watching.

"I'm sure they were watching our movement tonight. ... I'd say within 15-20 minutes everyone in the neighborhood knew we were over here. It doesn't take long for word to get around," said Cpl. Brad Bruce, 23, of LaPorte, Ind., shortly after a three-hour patrol.

Marines communicate through whispers or hand signals passed down from patrol leaders. Disciplined squads can limit their noises down to the sounds of water swishing in containers, the soft beep of their radios and the occasional Marine tripping on uneven roads.

Some homes in the city hardly seem affected by the war. Marines said on one recent patrol they found a college student reading Shakespeare's "Macbeth" -- in English -- as another man instant-messaged a friend on the Internet. A third young man was smoking a hookah, or a traditional Arab water pipe.

"There's some really Westernized parts here," said 1st Lt. Daniel Greene, 25, of Stafford, Va. "Sometimes I wonder what I'd feel like if a couple guys banged on my door at night and stayed for a couple days."

[bth: one wonders what we are accomplishing]
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Thailand still baffled by insurgency

Thailand still baffled by insurgency - Yahoo! News: "BANGKOK (AFP) - Thailand's army chief has said that government forces still do not know who they are fighting as they try to hunt down Islamic insurgents behind a wave of deadly violence in the south. "

Right now, the military does not know who their real leader is," General Sonthi Boonyaratglin told reporters after bombs went off in banks in southern Yala province the previous day, killing one person and wounding 29.

The shadowy insurgency erupted in January 2004 in Buddhist Thailand's mainly Muslim provinces along the southern border with Malaysia. More than 1,400 people have been killed in almost daily attacks since.

Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra in June gave Sonthi, the first Muslim to head the Thai army, "full authority" to bring the troubled region under control.

But Sonthi said the government still did not know who was leading the unrest.

"I have ordered the military to find their leader," he said on Friday. "I will try to talk with their core leader, because otherwise we cannot restore peace in the south."

The violence continued on Friday as a 73-year-old Buddhist villager was shot dead by two suspected Islamic militants in Yala, and a 58-year-old Buddhist trader was gunned down by insurgents Thursday in neighboring Pattani province.

The small bombs Thursday morning exploded almost simultaneously at 22 commercial bank branches around Yala
. Most of the branches remained closed Friday for repairs, although most of the damage was minor.

Police have arrested five male suspects so far in connection with the bomb attacks, said Lieutenant General Adul Saengsingkaoe, a regional police commander.

Sonthi said he believed the insurgents wanted to create an independent state in Thailand's three southernmost provinces, which were once an ethnic Malay sultanate until Bangkok annexed them a century ago.

"Their purpose is clear -- that they wanted to create an independent state. I am fully confident that all the incidents they have incited are part of a strategy to achieve their secession and self-rule," the army chief said.

"But that's Thai territory. I will not surrender or allow them to separate a single square inch."

Analysts and some government officials say that in addition to separatist violence, the unrest stems from criminal gangs operating along the border as well as local corruption.

Chaiwat Khamchoo, a political scientist from Chulalongkorn University, said insurgents remained capable of launching coordinated attacks despite government efforts to crack down on the violence.

"The bombs (on Thursday) were aimed at creating fear among people in the south. We don't know who were behind the attacks but we do know that they were well-trained and well-prepared," Chaiwat said.

Thursday's bank bombings were the third major show of force since June, in which the militants have staged well-coordinated attacks across a broad area while causing relatively few casualties.
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Iran sanctions a dead end: Russia

Iran sanctions a dead end: Russia The World The Australian: "RUSSIA cast new doubt yesterday on whether the UN Security Council could reach a quick consensus on sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program, labelling such punitive measures a 'dead end'. Iran faces the sanctions threat after the UN's atomic watchdog said Tehran had refused to stop enriching uranium by a Thursday deadline.

But Russia and China, who have strong economic ties to Iran, have so far opposed sanctions and could use their Security Council vetos to block them. 'We take into account the experience of the past and we cannot ally ourselves with ultimatums, which all lead to a dead end,' Interfax news agency quoted Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying. "

"Yes, there are countries whose policies raise doubts, and cause discontent, but we all live in the same world, and we need to ... draw them into dialogue, and not isolation and sanctions."

Western countries, including the US and the European Union, fear Tehran is using its nuclear research program as a cover for trying to make atomic bombs.

Iran says it only wants to generate electricity.

Mr Lavrov, who made the comments in a speech at Moscow's State Institute for Foreign Affairs, did not mention Iran specifically but it was clear he had the dispute in mind.

A confidential report by the International Atomic Energy Agency said Iran on August 24 resumed making low-enriched uranium, suitable for power plant fuel. In his country's first official reaction to the IAEA report, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad vowed yesterday that Iran "will not give up one iota of its nuclear rights".

"The enemies should know Iranians are standing firm on obtaining their rights and will not give up one iota of their nuclear rights," he told a rally in the northwestern city of Makou.

"Using different pretexts, the Iranian nation's enemies oppose our progress, to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear technology for peaceful purposes," Dr Ahmadinejad added on the second day of a tour of West Azarbaijan province.

"They should know our country is united, and the slogan 'Nuclear energy is our undeniable right' is that of the entire nation," he said.

Those opposed to Iran's nuclear program "should know they cannot force the Iranian people from its path with propaganda, pressure and psychological warfare", he stressed.
On Thursday, the UN nuclear watchdog concluded in its report that Iran had not suspended activities related to uranium enrichment as demanded by the Security Council's five permanent members - Britain, China, France, Russia and the US - joined by Germany.

The IAEA report was submitted to the council to mark an August 31 deadline for such work to be suspended, and could lead to UN sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Leading up to the deadline, the Security Council had tried to coax Tehran into suspending enrichment by offering a package of security, trade and technology incentives.
In New York, US ambassador to the UN John Bolton said yesterday that the report "provides ample evidence of (Iranian) defiance".

But while US diplomats planned a program of graduated sanctions against Iran, hopes for a solution hung on a last-chance meeting in Berlin on Wednesday between EU foreign policy representative Javier Solana and chief Iranian nuclear negotiator Ali Larijani.

Their discussion would be followed by a meeting of the major UN powers in the German capital to discuss possible sanctions, Mr Bolton said.
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Sunnis find sanctuary among Iraqi Kurds

Sunnis find sanctuary among Iraqi Kurds - Print Version - International Herald Tribune: "Along with a Ferris wheel and ice cream stands, the park at the heart of this Kurdish city has a monument listing the names of dozens of Kurds killed in a torture compound here by Saddam Hussein's intelligence officers."

But there was Sabah Abdul Rahman, a former intelligence officer, strolling just meters from the monument with his family on a recent evening.

Driven from Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, by violence and their resentment of the U.S. military, the family had arrived here that very day and found a $30-a-night apartment."This is the only safe place in all of Iraq," Abdul Rahman said as children scampered around him. "There's terrorism elsewhere and the presence of the Americans."

With sectarian violence boiling over in much of Iraq, tens of thousands of Arab families are on the move, searching for a safe place to live. Surprisingly, given the decades of brutal Sunni Arab rule over the Kurdish minority and continuing ethnic tensions, many like Abdul Rahman are settling in the secure provinces of Iraqi Kurdistan, run virtually as a separate country by the regional government.

The influx of Arabs has made many Kurds nervous, and regional leaders are debating whether to corral the Arabs into separate housing estates or camps.

"For the Kurdish people, it's a sensitive issue," said Asos Hardi, editor of Awene, a newspaper that has run editorials in favor of segregating the Arab migrants. "Of course, everybody supports those people who have left their lands and their homes because of violence, but we don't want it at the expense of giving up our land or changing the demographics of our land."


Outside Kurdistan, according to the Iraqi Ministry of Migration and Displacement, nearly 39,000 families have been uprooted by the Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence, a figure far higher than an estimate of 27,000 released by officials in July. Families usually move from mixed areas to cities or neighborhoods where their sects dominate.

But some are choosing Iraqi Kurdistan even over sectarian enclaves in Baghdad and homogeneous cities - like Falluja, for Sunnis, and Najaf, for Shiites. Besides having greater security, Kurdistan might appeal to more secular Arabs because the Kurds, who make up a fifth of Iraq, are often not religious conservatives.

Arabs moving to Kurdistan are required to register with security agencies, which keep track of how many have arrived and where they live. The chief security officer for Sulaimaniya, the largest city in eastern Kurdistan, said about 1,000 Arab families have moved into the area, and that thousands more have settled in other parts of the Kurdish north. Most are Sunni Arabs, said the officer, Sarkawt Hassan Jalal.Some Arab migrants here are poor laborers. Dozens can be seen sleeping every night outside the Qadir Mosque in central Sulaimaniya. But many are doctors, engineers and professors.

Also among them are members of the ousted Baath Party and former security or intelligence officers like Abdul Rahman, who may be fleeing persecution by other Iraqis or arrest by U.S. soldiers.

"We know the parents of families who come here are Baathists, but they're allowed to live in Sulaimaniya if they have a Kurdish sponsor," said Muhammad Bayer Arif, principal of the Jawahiri School, the only primary school in the city where classes are taught in Arabic. Enrollment has increased to more than 1,500 for this school year from 1,250 last year.

Many Kurds are not as sanguine as Arif. They are all too aware of the bitter history of Arab rule over the Kurds, which was brought to the fore in late August when Saddam and six aides stood trial for the first time on charges of killing at least 50,000 Kurds and annihilating 2,000 villages in a 1988 military campaign.

Some Kurds fear the Arab migrants will bring with them suicide bombers. In addition, the arrival of middle-class Arabs has driven up rental costs of homes by as much as 50 percent, Kurdish officials said.

Some Kurds also say the wave of migration evokes Saddam's "Arabization" policy, in which he moved Arabs into Kurdish territory and expelled more than 100,000 Kurds to change the demographics of the region, especially around the Kirkuk oil fields. "This will be another form of Arabization," said Hardi, the newspaper editor.

Anwar Abu Bakr Muhammad, a schoolteacher chatting with friends in the city's main square, said: "If they're separated from us and live in their own camp, there won't be any problems. We don't want the same violence that exists elsewhere in Iraq to take place here." So far those fears seem unfounded. "Until now, there's been no problem," said Jalal, the security official, when asked about the possibility of suicide bombers and other violence.

Many of the Arabs praise the hospitality of the Kurds. "The people are very good to us, and we have more freedom here," said Abdul Rahman. "There are no Americans.

Tikrit is very bad - there are mass arrests, curfews, no services, no electricity." He and his wife, who is half-Kurdish, had brought along their two children and Rusol, a young girl whose father was arrested by the Americans after the invasion. No one knows his fate. Rusol's older sister had died of "crying and too much depression," Abdul Rahman said."We moved here to find a doctor for this girl," he said as Rusol cracked a shy smile.

On a late summer evening, there were many other Arabs gathered in Freedom Park. A young woman in a red blouse stepped off a dizzying ride of whirling swings. She and a girlfriend had just been screaming their heads off.

The woman, Arij Abdul Qadir, said she moved here from a Shiite slum in Baghdad with her husband, their children and her sister.

The husband had found work as a hotel receptionist, so the family had free lodging.

"There's no life, no electricity, no security in Baghdad," she said. "We'll stay here as long as there's no security. When there's security, we'll go back."
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Blinded by a concept - The Boston Globe

Blinded by a concept - The Boston Globe: "THE FAILURE OF Israel to subdue Hezbollah demonstrates the many weaknesses of the war-on-terror concept. One of those weaknesses is that even if the targets are terrorists, the victims are often innocent civilians, and their suffering reinforces the terrorist cause."

In response to Hezbollah's attacks, Israel was justified in attacking Hezbollah to protect itself against the threat of missiles on its border. However, Israel should have taken greater care to minimize collateral damage. The civilian casualties and material damage inflicted on Lebanon inflamed Muslims and world opinion against Israel and converted Hezbollah from aggressors to heroes of resistance for many.

Weakening Lebanon has also made it more difficult to rein in Hezbollah.

Another weakness of the war-on-terror concept is that it relies on military action and rules out political approaches.

Israel previously withdrew from Lebanon and then from Gaza unilaterally, rather than negotiating political settlements with the Lebanese government and the Palestinian authority. The strengthening of Hezbollah and Hamas was a direct consequence of that approach. The war-on-terror concept stands in the way of recognizing this fact because it separates ``us" from ``them" and denies that our actions help shape their behavior.

A third weakness is that the war-on-terror concept lumps together different political movements that use terrorist tactics. It fails to distinguish among Hamas, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, or the Sunni insurrection and the Mahdi militia in Iraq. Yet all these terrorist manifestations, being different, require different responses. Neither Hamas nor Hezbollah can be treated merely as targets in the war on terror because both have deep roots in their societies; yet there are profound differences between them.

Looking back, it is easy to see where Israeli policy went wrong. When Mahmoud Abbas was elected president of the Palestinian Authority, Israel should have gone out of its way to strengthen him and his reformist team. When Israel withdrew from Gaza, the former head of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, negotiated a six-point plan on behalf of the Quartet for the Middle East (Russia, the United States, the European Union, and the United Nations). It included opening crossings between Gaza and the West Bank, allowing an airport and seaport in Gaza, opening the border with Egypt; and transferring the greenhouses abandoned by Israeli settlers into Arab hands. None of the six points was implemented. This contributed to Hamas's electoral victory.

The Bush administration, having pushed Israel to allow the Palestinians to hold elections, then backed Israel's refusal to deal with a Hamas government. The effect was to impose further hardship on the Palestinians.

Nevertheless, Abbas was able to forge an agreement with the political arm of Hamas for the formation of a unity government. It was to foil this agreement that the military branch of Hamas, run from Damascus, engaged in the provocation that brought a heavy-handed response from Israel -- which in turn incited Hezbollah to further provocation, opening a second front.

That is how extremists play off against each other to destroy any chance of political progress.

Israel has been a participant in this game, and President Bush bought into this flawed policy, uncritically supporting Israel.

Events have shown that this policy leads to the escalation of violence. The process has advanced to the point where Israel's unquestioned military superiority is no longer sufficient to overcome the negative consequences of its policy. Israel is now more endangered in its existence than it was at the time of the Oslo Agreement on peace.

Similarly, the United States has become less safe since Bush declared war on terror.

The time has come to realize that the present policies are counterproductive. There will be no end to the vicious circle of escalating violence without a political settlement of the Palestine question. In fact, the prospects for engaging in negotiations are better now than they were a few months ago.

The Israelis must realize that a military deterrent is not sufficient on its own. And Arabs, having redeemed themselves on the battlefield, may be more willing to entertain a compromise.

There are strong voices arguing that Israel must never negotiate from a position of weakness. They are wrong.

Israel's position is liable to become weaker the longer it persists on its present course. Similarly Hezbollah, having tasted the sense but not the reality of victory (and egged on by Syria and Iran) may prove recalcitrant. But that is where the difference between Hezbollah and Hamas comes into play.

The Palestinian people yearn for peace and relief from suffering. The political -- as distinct from the military -- wing of Hamas must be responsive to their desires. It is not too late for Israel to encourage and deal with an Abbas-led Palestinian unity government as the first step toward a better-balanced approach.

Given how strong the US-Israeli relationship is, it would help Israel to achieve its own legitimate aims if the US government were not blinded by the war-on-terror concept.

George Soros, a financier and philanthropist, is author of ``The Age of Fallibility: Consequences of the War on Terror."
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Global Guerrillas: AL QAEDA'S ACHILLES HEEL: RESIDUAL HIERARCHY

Global Guerrillas: AL QAEDA'S ACHILLES HEEL: RESIDUAL HIERARCHY: "Early analysis of a rapidly unfolding operation, like the arrest/unravelling of the UK airplane liquid bomb plot, can easily be distorted by hype and erroneous information. Despite this potential minefield, here's my initial take on the event. "

Here's the bad news. From all indications, it appears that the operation showed significant signs of open source warfare in both substance and structure. For example, the operation was characterized by: a self-organizing UK cell energized by al Qaeda's plausible promise, gathering of expertise/funding from al Qaeda in Pakistan, and innovative applications of technique/technology. Also, it appears that the operation wasn't directed at purely symbolic targets (using planes as guided missiles) but against the transportation infrastructure itself (like the successful attack on Madrid and last years attack on London). This slow shift reflects a growing realization, echoed by an increasing number of sources, that system disruption is more valuable in this war than the destruction of symbols. Here's the good news. Al Qaeda's leadership provided too much centralized command and control of this operation after it connected with the UK cell. A great example of this, in microcosm, is a report that the suspects received a coded message from Pakistan that said, "attack now" just before the arrests. Operational control at this level is likely the cause of the factors that led to its failure.

Here's why:

it increased the plans exposure due to extensive traffic/communication to/from/with cells in Pakistan (particularly coded traffic). This needlessly exposed the operation to state monitoring of cross border traffic and Pakistan's ISI (which has proven to be much better at counter-terrorism than western agencies).

it increased the size of the operation to ensure that it approached the scale of 9/11 (to counter the diminishing returns of terrorism). The result is that the greater the scale of the plot and the longer the length of the time line necessary to plan it, the greater potential of the plot's exposure.

it likely dictated the method and the target of the operation.

The operation was focused on body counts, airplanes, and simultaneous detonation. It's very likely that a indigenous UK cell could have produced more innovation in method and target selection. In effect, any similarity to previous attacks increases the potential of detection.

Final thoughts.

Al Qaeda's failures to decentralized command and control of this operation ultimately led to its failure. Despite this, the plot appears to have been close to fruition since there are signs that a significant amount of planning and intelligence gathering was accomplished before detection (which indicates that our ability to interdict these threats is still not much better than it was before 9/11, the only major difference between then and now is that we are aware that they can occur).

Unfortunately, given the strong trend lines towards further escalation of this epochal conflict, we can expect al Qaeda to recover from this failure quite quickly. The motivations necessary to activate groups are still running high and the tools/methods of this type of warfare are still readily available and applicable. However, as long as al Qaeda continues to exercise even a small modicum of centralized command and control: the spacing of attacks will be long, the targets will be within known groups, and the size of the plots will be large.

The result is they will be relatively easier to detect than more sophisticated, innovative, and decentralized operations. Our problem really starts when they evolve to the next level and fully embrace open source warfare's decentralized approach (much as the problem we now face with Hezbollah, although their evolution reflects the different contextual requirements of their position on the spectrum of open source warfare).
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A Day In The Life at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center - from the Deep Confusion Blog

Deep Confusion: A Day In The Life: "Life at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, that is.

I spent my morning in the ICU at the largest military medical intestive care unit in Europe. This is the first critical stop for U.S. Military personnel (and coalition forces) injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. They come from the Bagdad ER, Ramadi and all the 'hotspots' in the Middle East. They all come here before going off to Brooke Army Medical Center for burns and/or prostetics, Bethesda Naval Hospital for brain injury and Walter Reed for rehab. "

This morning I saw two Purple Heart ceremonies and thirteen wounded come in. I talked to several brave, young soldiers, unbearably stoic and upbeat for the conditions in which they find themselves. One of the Purple Heart recipients, a 22 year-old soldier who was thrown from a humvee after an IED went off under his vehicle, especially touched me today. He was reintubated this morning after not being able to breathe deeply enough to maintain adequate oxygen content. He suffered blunt force trauma over much of his body, severly bruised his liver, and lost his spleen. He looks beat-up but is remarkably alert and 'talkative', he wrote comments and answered questions on several sheets of paper. He wrote to me in a steady but pained hand, that in the explosion, his driver-buddy had died. He told me that when they came to pick him up off the street where the attack happened that guys from his own unit didn't recognige him. These young guys are so amazing in their display of bravado . I told him that there are many, many Americans hard at work on trying to get all of our people home and that we thank him for his service, bravery and love of Country.

The intensive care wounded ranged from gunshots with shrapnel that had invaded lungs and reaked carnage over multiple organs to wounds from IEDs that broke so many bones that the count was uncertain. Permanent injuries to the genitalia, limb loss, burns so severe that before being sent to the burn unit, these guys mut be intesively stabilized in order to survive the journey to Texas. It is unending horror and they just keep coming. And I was only in the hospital until noon.

The hospital staff is incredible. Starting outside with the Soldiers and Airmen, Pilots and Doctors, Nurses and support staff that fly these guys in, transport them by bus-ambulance to the hospital and unload them with the gentleness one might expect for an infant.

Next in exquisite syncronicity, the begin the process of unloading their precious cargo, beginning a cadenced hand-off, "Got him, got him, got him, got him. Ready? Ready. Lower. And down." Each patient is handed to a ready team, compleate with chart, notations and any special instruction specific to his care. Once in the ICU a symphony of care commences. Every new arrival gets complete review of every event from the first contact after attack to every nuance of care recieved up to that point. From their arrival until they are shipped out or released, a concerted effort to heal exists at the Landstuhl RMC.

This facility is the first in a long line of tranfers where each patient get the intensivist medical evaluation and treatment needed for the best recovery possible.I met and spoke with an ICU Nurse today. She is a Reservist with one year left in her Military commitment. She tells me when she entered service she was a "conservative Republican".

Now she say's she no longer relates as such. She's compassionate, smart and angry. She's worried about "stop-loss", the policy that may not allow her to leave once her commitment is completed. She's concerned about the state of the world and what information she may not be getting in order to make good decisions for her future, but she seems most troubled by her feeling that her vote won't make a difference.The belief that what we do doesn't matter is the most prevalant attitude I've encounered since being here in Germany. It is the same sense I get from most US citizens I talk to in the States as well.

The overwhelming sense of powerlessness that is registering in the American psyche must be stemmed.

The mainstream media must be awakened from their stupor and exercise in stenography of 'Rovian talking points'. I can feel change coming. It happens one person at a time, it begins with me and is fueled by you. It is the time to take Our Democracy back. Show up and do your job.
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German hostage dealer in Beirut

JTA - Breaking News: "Ernst Uhrlau, who heads BND, Germany�s foreign intelligence service, arrived in Beirut on Thursday. His mission was unknown, but Israeli media speculated he was negotiating the release of two Israeli soldiers captured from Israel by Hezbollah on July 12, an action that precipitated a 34-day war.

Uhrlau negotiated the 2004 prisoner exchange between Hezbollah and Lebanon in which Israel traded 423 Lebanese and others in Israeli jails for one Israeli businessman and three dead soldiers."
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Baker meets Sunni leaders in Iraq

Baker meets Sunni leaders in Iraq: "BAGHDAD (Reuters) - Former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker, who heads an independent panel charged with taking a fresh look at U.S. policy in Iraq, met the most senior Sunni leaders in the Iraqi coalition government on Friday.

Baker held talks in Baghdad with Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi and Deputy Prime Minister Salam al-Zobaie, both members of the Sunni minority who form the backbone of the insurgency fighting to oust U.S. forces from Iraq."

Zobaie has been meeting Sunni tribal leaders as part of the Iraqi government's efforts to defuse the insurgency. Hashemi has been critical of the national reconciliation plan, saying it is vague and fails to set a timetable for a U.S. troop pullout.

The U.S. embassy declined further comment on the unannounced visit to Iraq. It was not clear how long Baker, who also met President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, had been in the country.

Baker, a close friend of the Bush family who served under President George W. Bush's father, sat silently at a news conference held after his meeting with Zobaie.

"James Baker was the engineer of U.S. foreign policy for many years. He has been sent by George Bush personally to find out the reality of what is happening in Iraq," Zobaie said.

His bi-partisan Iraq Study Group has kept a low profile since being set up by Congress in March to study the U.S.-led war in Iraq, which has become increasingly unpopular among Americans ahead of Congressional elections in November.

Bush's popularity ratings have been hit by the unrelenting Sunni insurgency which continues to exact a bloody toll on U.S. troops. At least 64 soldiers were killed in August, about the average since 2003.

Panel members have spoken little of their work. They include retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, former CIA director Robert Gates, former Attorney General Edwin Meese and former Defense Secretary William Perry.

The White House said in March the Iraq Study Group would provide an independent look at the "way forward" in Iraq.

In its September issue, Washington Monthly magazine, which is critical of Bush, said the Iraq Study Group was "trying to devise a fresh set of policies to help the president chart a new course in -- or, perhaps, to get the hell out of -- Iraq."

A surge in sectarian violence has derailed U.S. plans to begin withdrawing some of its troops this year. Washington has boosted troop levels from 127,000 to 140,000 in recent weeks to help the Iraqi government regain control of its capital.

[bth: a curious development]
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Rumsfeld reaches out to Democrats

Rumsfeld reaches out to Democrats - Yahoo! News: "WASHINGTON - Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld reached out to Democrats late Friday, opening up the door for them to retract their stinging indictment of him as Pentagon chief. "

In a letter to Congress's top Democrats, Rumsfeld said recent remarks he made during a speech in Salt Lake City were misrepresented by the media, including by the Associated Press. Rumsfeld said he was "concerned" by the reaction of Democrats, many of whom called for his resignation and said he was treading on dangerous territory.

"I know you agree that with America under attack and U.S. troops in the field, our national debate on this should be constructive," Rumsfeld wrote Friday.

During his speech before thousands of veterans Tuesday, Rumsfeld said the world faces "a new type of fascism" and warned against repeating the pre-World War II mistake of appeasement. He alluded to critics of the Bush administration's war policies in terms associated with the failure to stop Nazism in the 1930s, "a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among the Western democracies."

Without explicitly citing Bush critics at home or abroad, he said "it is apparent that many have still not learned history's lessons." Aides to Rumsfeld said later he was not accusing the administration's critics of trying to appease the terrorists but was cautioning against a repeat of errors made in earlier eras.

"Thought and careful preparation went into what I said," Rumsfeld wrote in the letter. "It is absolutely essential for us to look at lessons of history in this critical moment in the war on terror." I was honored by the reception my statements received from our veterans.

Democrats said Friday they stood by their remarks.

"We did read the speech and he makes comparisons to World War II" that are unjustified, said Brendan Daly, spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi. "He needs to explain that. We stand behind what we said."

Pelosi, D-Calif., had said: "If Mr. Rumsfeld is so concerned with comparisons to World War II, he should explain why our troops have now been fighting in

Iraq longer than it took our forces to defeat the Nazis in Europe."

"It's always been clear what Secretary Rumsfeld said," said Rebecca Kirszner, a spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. "What's not clear is that he has a strategy in Iraq and to keep America safe. This letter doesn't change that."

Sen. Jack Reed (news, bio, voting record), D-R.I., also "stands by his earlier comments," said spokeswoman Regan Lachapelle. "No one has misread history more than Secretary Rumsfeld, especially when it comes to Iraq."

Senate Democrats were expected to meet Wednesday to discuss several issues, including whether they will try to force a vote of no confidence on Rumsfeld. Sen. Barbara Boxer (news, bio, voting record), D-Calif., has vowed to push legislation next week calling for Rumsfeld to resign.

"Nothing can change the fact that Secretary Rumsfeld insulted the patriotism of the American people, and he needs to be held accountable for it," Boxer said Friday.

Friday, September 01, 2006

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Douglas Farah: Bush, Sudan and Paul Salopek

Douglas Farah: Bush, Sudan and Paul Salopek: "President Bush made the unusual, and breathtakingly unwise, offer to meet with Lt. Gen. Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Sudan's bloody dictator, "on the side"in New York during the general's UN visit later in September. This, after al-Bashir, responsible for the genocide in Darfur, the blocking of peacekeeping forces despite agreeing to let them in, deliberately and throughly humiliated Bush's personal envoy to Sudan, as described in painful detail in The Washington Post.

How can this be? The regime sponsors the janjaweed, maintains terrorist connections with Islamist groups, leaves an envoy cooling her heels for three days (because the president was "busy"and imprisons Paul Salopek, one of the best and most respected foreign correspondents in the business, on bogus charges of espionage. (If you want to read about who my friend Paul Salopek really is, see this great piece in the Seattle Time)."

The price for all this? An offer of a private visit with the president in New York. Perhaps if Sudan hosted Osama bin Laden again, he could get a invitation to Camp David. Go for nuclear weapons and who knows how he could be rewarded-a state visit? The sky is the limit.

The fact that the offer was made after al-Bashir humiliated Ms. Frazer and while Salopek was being charged with espionage nonsense-a true sign of a regime that fears the truth-is what makes the offer so mind boggling.

If he is smart, al-Bashir will say no thanks. Who needs a meeting when you can thumb your nose, carry out genocide and imprison American journalists with impunity? What is his incentive to do anything but more of the same, or worse?

Have we no sense of shame left? Is this what our diplomacy and status as the world’s sole superpower, is reduced to?

Then God help us.
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While America's Grunts Bleed & Die Wearing Inferior Body Armor, Army Acquisition Mafia Capos Carry Lies To Congress

: "By Roger Charles
Author's Note: Maybe, if one of the Army or Marine acquisition capos referred to below had seen a fellow Soldier or Marine spit up the bloody froth that connotes a 'sucking chest wound,' they'd be a bit more concerned about getting our troops the best-available body armor. I saw such a wound on April 13, 1968, east of Hue City. Since my platoon corpsman was occupied elsewhere, I treated the injured Marine. So, if I take this subject a bit personally, I'm sure Hack would understand. Hell, Hack would not just understand, he'd order me, 'Keep the fire up, Rog. Pour it on these sniveling bastards!'

You, the reader, can determine if I've followed Hack's order.

Like a 'floater,' the issue of Dragon Skin being the best-available body armor keeps rising to the surface in spite of the chain of lies wrapped around the Pinnacle Armor product by the Army and Marine Corps acquisition mafia.

While America's Grunts face the daily gauntlet of IED's, automatic weapon fire and RPG's, the focus inside the Beltway continues to be on what Hack termed 'the toys, not the boys.'"

No better, nor more disturbing, example exists than whether our troops are truly wearing the best-available body armor, or something less. The evidence is irrefutable that Pinnacle Armor's Dragon Skin design is far superior to Interceptor Body Armor (IBA), and that the Pentagon acquisition capos are fully aware of Dragon Skin's superiority. (DefenseWatch expects that following the upcoming national election, proof positive will emerge of Dragon Skin's superiority. There is some faint hope that this truth will be revealed before the election.)

Defense Watch has very recently obtained a copy of a post-briefing report filed by a congressional staff that shows the latest, pathetic attempt to keep life-saving body armor away from America's Grunts while sick, slick bureaucrats -- in and out of uniform -- protect turf and budget.

The person providing this document has requested that he/she not be identified. DefenseWatch has independently verified the authenticity of the document, and will respect the individual's request.

Shortly after obtaining this staff report, DefenseWatch learned from a different congressional source that senior Army acquisition capos had made a more extensive, concerted effort on the Hill, briefing several other staffers of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

This latest attempted burial of Dragon Skin shows again the extreme lengths to which the Army will go to keep America's Grunts from getting the best available body armor. Senior civilian executives in Army acquisition, accompanied by their usual gaggle of horse-holding Perfumed Prince wannabe's, blatantly misrepresented the performance of Pinnacle Armor's Dragon Skin body armor (model SOV 3000) at an abbreviated Army-run test this past May.

Before getting into a point-by-point examination of just some of the major lies told by two Army senior acquisition capos, it must be noted that two nearly three months have passed since the Army initiated testing Dragon Skin at the H. P. White Laboratory (a certified, commercial test facility near Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Maryland).

Strangely, the Army halted testing at H.P. White Lab before the entire test protocols had been completed. Pinnacle Armor was fully prepared to continue the testing.

To date, the Army has not issued any official, written report of any parts of test protocols that were conducted.

The clever schemers of the E-ring knew that issuing such a report would allow Pinnacle Armor the opportunity to confirm or refute the specifics of the report. Can't have that -- so while the Army refuses to release a report, the Army capos are not constrained from distributing every kind of false claim.

(It is interesting to note that the Army acquisition slime team acknowledged that the US Army is unable to test flexible body armor using test protocols designed specifically for that type of body armor, and had instead to rely upon the test protocols designed for their own Interceptor Body Armor.

The Army admission, as recorded by the congressional staff was that the May 16-19 tests followed Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts (ESAPI) and Enhanced Side Ballistic Inserts (ESBI) First Article Test (FAT) protocols.)

This latest attempted assassination of Dragon Skin by Army acquisition capos demonstrated the extreme lengths to which they will go in order to keep shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars for a clearly inferior product.

The slime team for at least one briefing was led by the second-most senior civilian executive in charge of Army acquisition Dean G. Popps. He was accompanied by a senior Army civilian from Program Executive Office-SOLDIER, William Smith, and by "members of their staff," the Perfumed Prince wannabe's.

Thanks to a congressional source, we have on the record in an official document, some of the Army's "claims," none of which the US Army has put on the public record through official channels. Knowing how the "game" is played, and feeling safe that their slanderous lies were not going on the public record, it's no surprise that the Designated Liars felt free to travel to the Hill and slime Dragon Skin, one more time.

And, like the previous efforts of MajGen Sorensen and the four pathetic, "professional members" of the House Armed Services Committee to kill Dragon Skin with clumsy falsehoods, this desperate attempt is now exposed for the fraud that it is.

As many readers may recall, both Sorensen and the Gang of Four emphasized two major points. One, that Dragon Skin had failed a February 2006 test of their SOV 3000 conducted on behalf of the US Air Force Office of Special Investigations. And, two, that the AF OSI had canceled the contract with Pinnacle Armor due to the failed test.

Within days DefenseWatch obtained the AF OSI test results, confirming that Dragon Skin had not failed the test. We also confirmed that the AF OSI contract was still in effect. For readers who want to review the details of both Sorenson's and the HASC Gang of Four's lies, see 04-11-2006 Army Acquisition General's Mission -- Damn the Lies, Kill Dragon Skin at All Costs, and 04-11-2006 HASC Staffers' Mission -- Damn the Lies, Kill Dragon Skin at All Costs

LIES, DAMNED LIES, & ACQUISTION MAFIA LIES
Before I give the "other side of the story," and, yes, it's the Pinnacle Armor version, it's appropriate at this point to take a few lines to discuss credibility of sources -- the Army and Marine Corps versus Pinnacle Armor.

It's been interesting to note that DefenseWatch hears from Pinnacle Armor more quickly about problems, be they legitimate or Army inspired myths, than it hears from Army-chosen conduits pass on the latest Dragon Skin "failure" from their Army sources.

DefenseWatch has been following this story for 10 months, and has not found one instance where the Pinnacle Armor folks have ever intentionally misrepresented a single fact. To the contrary, they have been brutally candid; they have acknowledged mistakes whenever they've made one; and they've initiated corrective action. Instead of waiting to have some error called to their attention, in the great majority of cases, they have called to say that previous information provided has now proven to be incorrect, or was unintentionally misstated at the time. This is a most refreshing, and unusual approach, based on this writer's 43 years of observing such conduct.

And, what has DefenseWatch observed from the Army and Marine Corps representatives, whether in acquisition or public affairs, at a Pentagon press conference or at a congressional hearing? An equally consistent record, for certain. But, it has been the obverse of Pinnacle Armor's integrity-driven corporate communications.

Both the Army and the Marines have demonstrated time and time again a pattern of mendacity, of duplicitous presentations, and of substituting criminal cunning for honest, straightforward reports.

DefenseWatch has exposed several instances of their lying (not just on the body armor issue), and we have every confidence that the leopard will not change its spots. So, we'll continue to let these publicly-funded prevaricators hang themselves by their own noose of lies.

A final point on the issue of credibility. DefenseWatch has had Pinnacle Armor's data from the results of May's partial test for over three months, but deferred to Pinnacle Armor's request to sit on the data until the Army laid down their marker. Pinnacle Armor rightly knew that to "go first" w
ith the test data would allow the Army acquisition mafia to plot more effectively on how to counter Pinnacle's claims. But, now the Army cards are on the table, and the fun begins.

SPECIFICS

Since this issue is about personal body armor for America's Grunts, potentially the most damning misstatement of fact is the Army damage control/slime team claims that during the testing, the Dragon Skin vests, officially the Pinnacle Armor SOV 3000 (Level IV), experienced several "complete penetrations" when using 7.63mmx63mm AP (armor piercing) M2 ammunition, a Level IV ammunition.
This audacious claim is easily exposed for being the blatant lie that it is.

What the Army capos did not tell the congressional staffers was that x-ray photographs showing clear penetrations into the clay backing of the SOV 3000 vests were of shots fired by the test facility shooters -- as ordered by Dr. James Zhang, or his trusted flunkey, Karl Masters -- into the soft, Kevlar part of the Dragon Skin vest!!

Yep, that's right. These "complete penetrations" show only the crass dishonesty of the Army slime team. Readers who have followed this issue know, and Zhang and Masters certainly know, that the soft, Kevlar part of the vest is not, repeat not, protection against anything more than handgun rounds and low-velocity shrapnel. It is not understood to be "ballistic" protection by anyone in the body armor trade.

So, why would Zhang and/or Masters direct the shooters to fire ESAPI threat baseline 7.62x63mm APM2 rounds into a part of the Dragon Skin that was not designed to provide "ballistic protection" (meaning in this case, protection from rifle rounds)?

The answer is now obvious -- Zhang and/or Masters wanted Army representatives to be able to claim, off the record of course, that Dragon Skin had failed to stop aimed rifle fire -- to be able to totally, intentionally, and materially misrepresent the true significance of these "complete penetrations"!

When queried at the time of the testing by a Pinnacle Armor representative as to why shots were directed into the Kevlar portion of the vests, Zhang replied that he wanted to collect some additional "data points."

Murray Neal, the President of Pinnacle Armor noted during the testing that two Army acquisition principals, Steve Pinter (another retired Lt.Col. and the boss of Karl Masters) and Col. John Norwood, were curiously uninterested in what was happening. Both Pinter and Norwood spent a good part of their time playing cards and doing crossword puzzles - strange behavior for people, if they were truly interested in how Dragon Skin would perform in the tests. Now, with revelations about the concerted Army slime campaign being waged on congressional staffers, the lack of attention by Pinter and Norwood is explained by the true test objective -- to get the shots at the Kevlar soft protective material, shots that would be subsequently falsely represented as "complete penetrations" of Dragon Skin's ceramic ballistic protective disks.

Okay, so what about any other penetrations? Bear with me here.

These other penetrations were within the "test protocols," and fell within two categories. In one category, the velocity of a specific shot exceeded the limit specified by the test protocol. In the second category, a specific round impacted too near the edge of a protective disk. Remember, the ESAPI protocol was being followed, and it disallows rounds that impact within specified distance of the edge of a protective plate. (This is a clear example of the inappropriateness of trying to test flexible body armor with it's overlaid disks under the protocols developed for the IBA rigid-plates.)

According to Pinnacle Armor representatives, it is at the "discretion of the test director," as to which shots count for test reporting, and which can be thrown out. Further, this discretion is required in order for the hard ballistic plates that are the core of the Interceptor system to pass any test requiring multiple shots. Yes, that's right. The test director has the discretion to discard any vest/plate as a "test" vest/plate if it fails multiple shots, and to keep discarding vests/plates until the required number of vests/plates pass the test!!

During the entire (but abbreviated) test, H.P. White testers fired 85 rounds at the SOV 3000 vests. Each "full torso wrap" vest shipped from Pinnacle Armor provides ballistic coverage for the front, back, and each side. There are no "plates" that are added to carrying pouches as is the case with IBA.

(Dragon Skin offers the add-on ballistic protection for the groin, neck and upper arm (chest cavity from the side) areas. IBA doesn't offer this option in ballistic (rifle) protection.)

The truth, as opposed to the bald-faced lies presented to the congressional staff, is that there were no failures of the Dragon Skin SOV 3000 to defeat the ballistic tests of its ceramic laminate disks according to the ESAPI, FAT and Quality Assurance test protocols and procedures!

Pinnacle Armor's S0V 3000 was within ESAPI specifications, and substantially exceeded the performance capability of ESAPI when measured by "back-face deformation" of the ballistic protective materials. (This back-face deformation translates into soft-tissue trauma in the case of actual human subjects shot while wearing the body armor.)

For example, twelve (12) rounds were shot into one size Medium SOV 3000 vest without penetrations. Back-face deformation (trauma to body) was 50% less than ESAPI plates.

Some more good news for Dragon Skin that the capos of the Army slime teams neglected to mention.

LESSOR LIES, BUT LIES NONETHELESS

The Army delegation of Designated Liars also threw other crap at Dragon Skin in hopes that some would stick.

One almost laughable claim involved an especially cheesy attempt to compare the weight of a Pinnacle Armor SOV 3000 vest to an Interceptor Body Armor vest.

The congressional staff was told that a Dragon Skin SOV 3000 weighs 47.5 pounds. True. For a size Extra-Large (full-torso wrap) vest.

The congressional staff was told that an Interceptor Body Armor vest weights 28 pounds. Not true. For a Medium size vest, the weight is 31.1 pounds.

If you look at the IBA web site under PE-SOLDIER, you'll see the Medium components -- the OTV, ESAPI for front and rear, and side plates -- total 25.7 pounds.

The more credible figure is the 31.1 pounds, based on data presented at an Army Industry Day briefing on 7 March 2006, and based on similar data from Marine Corps Systems Command provided to Pinnacle Armor.

If you compare a size Medium SOV 3000, weighing 34.2 pounds, the weight advantage is to Interceptor Body Armor by 3.1 pounds.

But, what protective advantage does Dragon Skin SOV 3000 provide for this extra weight? How about 182 square inches of additional ballistic protection against Level IV rounds!

And, then, there is the issue of protection against higher-level threat munitions. How about the ability to stop API (Armor Piercing Incendiary) rounds that the ESAPI plates do not stop?

Yep, Dragon Skin SOV 3000 is superior here, too.

There's unfortunately no publicly available test data on multiple hits of ESAPI plates, but DefenseWatch has anecdotal data that ESAPI plates do not routinely defeat multiple rounds as required by the performance specifications for IBA.

We do know that Dragon Skin SOV 3000 has demonstrated the ability to stop dozens of Level IV threat munitions and scores of Level III rounds in a single vest, without suffering "complete penetrations" and only mild back-face deformation.

(The video of a controlled, independently supervised shoot is available at this link http://www.pinnaclearmor.com/video/ak47-9mm-outdoor.wmv)


THE ANOMALY

One Dragon Skin vest did experience an anomaly during one temperature test. At +160-degrees Fahrenheit the adhesive that holds the protective disks in place did not function properly and did allow 1 and 3/4 inches movement of disks.

Examination of this anomaly determined that the adhesive provided to Pinnacle Armor by a sub-contractor did not meet specifications, and thus was considered an aberrant event.

(Subsequently, Pinnacle Armor upgraded the adhesives, and had vests using this upgraded adhesive shot at +160 and +180-degrees Fahrenheit to demonstrate the enhanced level of performance of Dragon Skin, a level above that required by the requirements of ESAPI FAT protocols and procedures.)

But, the Army slime teams' brazen and bold misrepresentations are demonstrated again by data that was withheld from the congressional briefings: Another Dragon Skin vest was temperature tested at H.P. White during the same testing period. This vest was tested at +250-degrees Fahrenheit according to the ESAPI FAT protocols, and did not fail. The adhesive performed as designed.

A SAD CONCLUSION

Make no mistake about the seriousness of this issue -- our nation's warriors are being sent into harm's way wearing a body armor substantially inferior to a version that surpasses by a significant margin the Interceptor Body Armor in nearly every category. Key people in Army acquisition know this to be true and are willfully, wantonly exposing our troops unnecessarily to serious and mortal wounds when a substantial proportion of these wounds could be prevented with the better product, Dragon Skin.

Someday, and maybe not too far off, there may be a criminal investigation of how and why this sordid mess has been allowed to develop and to fester.

For certain, this corruption has already contributed to the death of too many of our nation's finest. How many more preventable sucking chest wounds must America's Grunts suffer?

How much longer will the apathy of our citizens allow it to continue?

SFTT President Roger Charles is an Annapolis graduate, a retired USMC Lt. Col. who commanded an infantry platoon in I Corps during the Vietnam War, is the winner of the prestigious Peabody Award for news coverage, and was a protégée's of the late Col. David H. Hackworth. Rog can be contacted at sfttpres@aol.com. Please send comments to DWFeedback@yahoo.com.