Obama, the Anti-Churchill?

December 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Fareed Zakaria

winston_churchill_01 If you take out just one sentence, Barack Obama’s speech on Afghanistan last week was all about focusing and limiting the scope of the U.S. mission in that country. The objectives he detailed were exclusively military: to deny al-Qaeda a haven, reverse the Taliban’s momentum and strengthen the Kabul government’s security forces. The nation that he was interested in building, he explained, was this one.

And then there was that one line: “I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan.” Here lies the tension in Obama’s policy. He wants a clearer, more discriminating foreign policy, one that pares the vast commitments and open-ended interventions of the Bush era, perhaps one that is more disciplined than Bill Clinton’s approach to the world. (On the campaign trail, Obama repeatedly invoked George H.W. Bush as the president whose foreign policy he admired most.) But America is in a war that is not going well, and scaling back now would look like cutting and running. Obama is searching for a post-imperial policy in the midst of an imperial crisis. The qualified surge — send in troops to regain the momentum but then draw down — is his answer to this dilemma.

This first year of his presidency has been a window into Obama’s worldview. Once most presidents get hold of the bully pulpit, they cannot resist the temptation to become Winston Churchill. They gravitate toward grand rhetoric about freedom and tyranny and embrace the moral drama of their role as leaders of the free world. Not Obama. He has been cool and calculating, whether dealing with Russia, Iran, Iraq or Afghanistan. Obama is a realist by temperament, learning and instinct. More than any president since Richard Nixon, he has focused on defining American interests carefully, providing resources to achieve them and keeping his eyes on the prize.

“In the end,” the president said last Tuesday, “our security and leadership does not come solely from the strength of our arms.” He explained that America’s economic and technological vigor underpinned its ability to play a world role. At a small lunch with a group of columnists before his speech last week, he made clear to us that he did not want to run two wars. He seemed to be implying that the struggles in Iraq and Afghanistan were not the crucial path to America’s long-term security. He explained that challenges at home — economic growth, technological innovation, education reform — were at the heart of maintaining America’s status as a superpower. In fact, throughout history great nations have lost their way by getting bogged down in imperial missions far from home that crippled their will, strength and focus. (Sometimes even when they won they lost: Britain prevailed in the Boer War, but it broke the back of the empire.)

It is clear that Obama is attempting something quite ambitious — to reorient U.S. foreign policy toward something less extravagant and adversarial. That begins with narrowing the “war on terrorism”; scaling back the conflict with the Islamic world to those groups and countries that pose serious, direct threats to the United States; and reaching out to the rest. He has also tried to develop a better working relationship with major powers such as Russia and China, setting aside smaller issues in hopes of cooperation on bigger ones. This means departing from a bipartisan approach in which Washington’s role was to direct and hector the rest of the world, pushing regimes large and small to accept American ideas, and publicly chastising them when they refused. Obama is trying to break the dynamic that says that when an American president negotiates with the Chinese or Russians, he must return with rewards or concessions — or else he is guilty of appeasement.

For his policy to succeed, Obama will need to maintain his focus come July 2011. Afghanistan will not be transformed by that date. It will not look like France, with a strong and effective central government. The gains that will have been made will be fragile. The situation will still be somewhat unstable. But that should still be the moment to begin the transition to Afghan rule. We can find ways to secure American interests in that region more manageably. By the end of 2011, the United States will have spent 10 years, thousands of lives and $2 trillion trying to create stable, democratic governments in Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the most difficult, divided countries in the world. It will be time to move on.

Fareed Zakaria is editor of Newsweek International. His e-mail address is comments@fareedzakaria.com.

11-51

Obama’s Exit Strategy

December 10, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

By Patrick J. Buchanan

If actions speak louder than words, President Obama is cutting America free of George Bush’s wars and coming home.

For his bottom line Tuesday night was that all U.S. forces will be out of Iraq by mid-2011 and the U.S. footprint in Afghanistan will, on that date, begin to get smaller and smaller.

Yet the gap between the magnitude of the crisis he described and the action he is taking is the Grand Canyon.

Listing the stakes in Afghanistan, Obama might have been FDR in a fireside chat about America’s war against a Japanese empire that had just smashed the fleet at Pearl Harbor, seized the Philippines, Guam and Wake, and was moving on Midway.

Consider the apocalyptic rhetoric:

“As commander in chief, I have determined that it is in our vital national interest …”

“If I did not think that the security of the United States and the safety of the American people were at stake …”

“For what is at stake is not simply a test of NATO’s credibility, what’s at stake is the security of our allies, and the common security of the world.”

After that preamble, one might expect the announcement of massive U.S. air strikes on some rogue nation. Yet what was the action decided upon? “I … will send an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home.”

To secure America and the world, not 5 percent of the Army and Marine Corps will be surged into Afghanistan for 18 months — then they will start home.
Let us put that in perspective.

During the Korean War, we had a third of a million men fighting. In 1969, we had half a million troops in Vietnam. But in Afghanistan, where the security of the world is at stake, Obama is topping out at 100,000 troops and will start drawing them down in July 2011.

“Of course, this burden is not ours alone to bear. This is not just America’s war,” said Obama. But if the burden is not ours alone to bear, where is everybody else?

Apparently, the Japanese, Chinese, Russians, Indians and Arabs do not believe their security is imperiled, because we are doing all the heavy lifting, economically and militarily.

The contradictions in Obama’s speech are jarring.

He says the new U.S. troops are to “train competent Afghan Security Forces and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight. And they will help to create the conditions for the United States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans.”

Thus, we are going to train the Afghan army and police so that, in 18 months, they can take over the fighting in a war where the security of the United States and the whole world is in the balance?

Moreover, the commitment is not open-ended, but conditional. “It will be clear to the Afghan government — and … the Afghan people — that they will ultimately be responsible for their own country. … The days of providing a blank check are over.”

Most Americans will agree the time is at hand for Afghans to take responsibility for their own country. But, if the stakes are what the president says, can we entrust a war to preserve our vital national interests and security to an Afghan army no one thinks will be able, in 18 months, to defeat a Taliban that has pushed a U.S.-NATO coalition to the brink of defeat?

At West Point, Obama did not hearken back to Gen. MacArthur’s dictum — “War’s very object is victory, not prolonged indecision. In war, there is no substitute for victory” — but to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s, that we must maintain a balance between defense and domestic programs.

Obama was not citing the Eisenhower of Normandy but President Eisenhower, who ended Korea by truce, refused to intervene in Indochina, did nothing to halt Nikita Khrushchev’s crushing of the Hungarian revolution, ordered the British, French and Israelis out of Suez, and presided over eight years of peace and prosperity, while building up America’s might and getting in lots of golf at Burning Tree.

Not a bad president. Not a bad model.

How can we reconcile Obama’s end-times rhetoric about the stakes imperiled with an 18-month surge of just 30,000 troops?

Stanley McChrystal won the argument over troops. But Obama, in his heart, does not want to fight Bush’s “Long War.” He wants to end it. Obama is not LBJ plunging into the big muddy. He is Nixon coming out, while giving an embattled ally a fighting chance to save itself.

In four years, Nixon was out of Vietnam. In 18 months, Obama says we will be out of Iraq with a steadily diminishing presence in Afghanistan.

What we heard Tuesday night was the drum roll of an exit strategy.

Mr. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist and author of Churchill, Hitler, and “The Unnecessary War”: How Britain Lost Its Empire and the West Lost the World, “The Death of the West,”, “The Great Betrayal,” “A Republic, Not an Empire” and “Where the Right Went Wrong.”

11-51

Saudi Arabia Improves Hajj Security, Bans Protests

November 25, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Louisville Democrat Examiner, Timothy Morgan

2009-11-21T171100Z_1597266078_GM1E5BM032701_RTRMADP_3_FLU-SAUDI-PILGRIMS

A security official wearing a protective mask keeps an eye on cars at a checkpoint between Jeddah and Mecca before the start of the annual Hajj pilgrimage November 21, 2009.  Saudi Arabia said on Saturday four pilgrims had died of the new H1N1 flu virus three days before the massive Muslim haj is due to begin, al-Hayat newspaper said.

REUTERS/Caren Firouz

On November 25-29, the holy pilgrimage to Mecca of the Hajj begins in the Islamic world.  The Hajj is the fifth pillar of Islam and a moral obligation under the religion for every able-bodied Muslim who can afford the journey must do so at least once in their lifetime.

The Hajj is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world, with 2.5 million Muslims expected to make the trip this year.

With such a large movement of people, the Saudi government has issued warnings that all protesting during the Hajj is banned.  The government has also stepped-up security, with more than 100,000 Saudi military deployed during the pilgrimage.

While the Saudi Arabian security forces assert that they do not expect any troubles, the interior ministry official in charge of security, Gen Mansour al-Turki, said that “We will not allow any actions that might disturb any other pilgrims, or affect their safety.”

In 1987, 402 people were killed when troops broke up a protest by Shia pilgrims.  This year is also the 30th anniversary of the seizure of the Great Mosque in Mecca, home of the Kaaba and Islam’s holiest site, by Sunni extremists.

The Kaaba is a cuboidal building in the center of the Great Mosque in Mecca that pre-dates Islam and is the holiest site in all of Islam.  Muslim beliefs say that the original building on the site was built by Abraham.  Thus, a mosque was built around the site and all Muslims, regardless of their location, must face the Kaaba during daily prayers, as well as take part in the Hajj if able.

Last month Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, warned that it would take “appropriate measures” if its citizens faced restrictions.  Ayatollah Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Leader, called for the Shia to show that they were dealing with challenges to their unity.

Thus, the Saudi government has responded by both warning Iran not to abuse the Hajj for political purposes, and by the ban on protests.

Authorities are also hoping to prevent a repeat of the deadly stampedes, such as in 2006 when 364 people were killed, that have afflicted the Hajj.  In response, the Saudi Government has recently finished the rebuilding of the Jamarat Bridge at Mina, the 950m (3,135ft) long, 80m (260ft) wide five-story pedestrian walkway, which cost $1.2bn, and that authorities hope will prevent overcrowding.

11-49

Independent Palestinian State?

November 19, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Push causes Israeli alarm

By Donald Macintyre in Ramallah

2009-11-10T105107Z_1235520321_GM1E5BA1FW201_RTRMADP_3_PALESTINIANS

Palestinians light candles around a poster depicting the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during a rally marking the fifth anniversary of Arafat’s death, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip November 10, 2009. Arafat died on November 11, 2004.        

REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Palestinian leaders from President Mahmoud Abbas down have alarmed Israeli ministers by swinging their weight behind a planned effort to secure UN backing for a unilaterally declared independent state in the West Bank and Gaza.

In an innovative strategy which would not depend on the success of currently stalled negotiations with Israel, the leaders are preparing a push to secure formal UN Security Council support for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders as a crucial first step towards the formation of a state.

Although there is no fixed timetable, Palestinian officials see the second half of 2011 as a plausible starting date for such a process. That is when the Palestinian Authority is due to fulfill Prime Minister Salam Fayyad’s widely applauded two-year plan for completing work on all the institutions needed for a fully-fledged state.

One senior Palestinian official said here that the new plan was “the last resort of the peace camp in Palestine” given the current negotiating impasse left in the wake of the US failure to persuade Israel to agree a total freeze on Jewish settlement building in the West Bank as a preliminary to talks.

The moderate Palestinian leadership also sees the unilateral process as a viable – and, in internal political terms, significantly more credible – alternative to surrendering to intense US pressure to enter negotiations without the settlement freeze.

As the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to denounce the Palestinian plan in a speech last night, Israel’s President Shimon Peres declared in Brazil, “A Palestinian state cannot be established without a peace agreement. It’s impossible and it will not work. It’s unacceptable that they change their minds every day. Bitterness is not a policy.”

But officials here are hoping that, without any progress towards “final status” negotiations on a future state, the US could be persuaded not to veto such a resolution. Explicit UN Security Council support for a Palestinian state based on 1967 borders would, the officials believe, dramatically intensify legal and moral pressure on Israel to lift the 42-year-old occupation.

Some officials are even drawing a direct comparison with the diplomatic process by which Israel itself was established as a state: a UN resolution endorsing it in November 1947, the Declaration of Independence by David Ben Gurion in May 1948 and the subsequent swift recognition by the US and Soviet Union.

The strategy is tied closely to – though not specified in – Mr Fayyad’s plan, “Palestine: Ending the Occupation, Establishing the State”, and is thought to have originated with the Prime Minister, an independent who has recently publicly questioned the willingness of Mr Netanyahu’s government to grant more than a “mickey mouse” state in any negotiations. But it has since had strong backing from Mr Abbas, and other leading figures in his Fatah faction.

At a commemoration of his predecessor Yasser Arafat’s death, Mr Abbas declared last week, “The Palestinian state is a fact which the world recognises”. Saying that more than 100 countries supported Palestinian aspirations for a state, he added: “Now we are fighting to get the world to recognise the borders of our nation.” Mr Abbas, who reaffirmed his intention not to run again as President, has insisted that he will not return to negotiations without a settlement freeze and clear terms of reference specifying a state based on 1967 borders, East Jerusalem as the capital, and an agreed solution for refugees.

The leading Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat yesterday followed his Fatah colleague Mohammed Dahlan in strongly endorsing the plan. “We have taken an Arab foreign ministers’ decision to seek the help of the international community,” Mr Erekat told Reuters, adding that the US and other leading international players would be consulted before any UN move. “If the Americans cannot get the Israelis to stop settlement activities, they should also not cover them when we decide to go to the Security Council,” he added.

Ghassan Khatib, head of the Palestinian government’s media centre, said that the international community should confront Israel with a choice of a clear negotiating path towards a state based on 1967 borders, or international recognition for a Palestinian state without an agreement. “They cannot block the negotiating approach to two states and at the same time refuse the alternative,” he added.

He said that progress by the current “peace camp” in charge in Ramallah was essential if it was not to “run out of ammunition” against the alternative offered by Hamas. “I honestly think there is no future for the peace camp in Palestine if this is not going to work,” he said, adding that it would be “political suicide” for the present leadership to enter negotiations on present terms. He said the international community had long been striving “for an agreed end to the conflict – a two-state solution as a result of an agreement. But we are saying it’s not working. Why not recognise a Palestinian state when it is ready, without necessarily relying on Israeli consent?”

Mr Khatib added that recognition for a unilaterally declared state would parallel Israel’s recognition as in 1948. “The other side was not [then] expected to accept. There was no consent by either the Palestinians or the Arab [states].” Such a strategy would be severely complicated by Gaza, if it were still controlled by Hamas at the time – but no more so than the negotiations which the US is currently trying to promote.

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to reject the Palestinian proposal. Addressing a forum on the Middle East in Jerusalem, he said, “There is no substitute for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority…any unilateral path will only unravel the framework of agreements between us and will only bring unilateral steps from Israel’s side.”

Independence: Getting past the roadblock

Q. Would a unilateral declaration of independence carry risks?

A. Even if it were underpinned by a UN endorsement of a Palestinian state based on the areas occupied in 1967, it would certainly be a lurch into uncharted diplomatic waters. But some Western diplomats believe it would remove any lingering doubts about the meaning of UN Resolution 242, on which Palestinian and international demands for an end to the occupation begun in 1967 are based.

Q. What might be the advantage for the Palestinians?

A. Israel technically regards the West Bank as a disputed territory the final status of which is a matter for negotiation. Palestinians hope that a process of obtaining UN Security Council support for independence, followed by major individual countries recognising the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and Gaza as a state, would greatly and immediately put Israel under pressure to withdraw its forces and civilian settlers from the occupied territories in the West Bank. At the most extreme interpretation, Israel would then be regarded as occupying a foreign country. The UN could also grant the new Palestine immediate and full membership, with voting and proposing rights, in major international bodies.

Q. What is Israel’s main problem with the proposal?

A. Israel argues that such a unilateral declaration would not only violate its right to reach an agreement on borders with the Palestinians, but also directly cuts across the 1995 Oslo-derived agreement that neither side should take unilateral steps affecting the status of the territories.

11-48

Pakistan Lashes Back at Clinton

November 7, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Farhan Bokhari

The controversy could overshadow Clinton’s first visit to the country as Secretary of State, especially as her remarks will be seen questioning the sincerity of the influential military, Pakistani officials said.

“If we are going to have a mature partnership where we work together” then “there are issues that not just the United States but others have with your government and with your military security establishment,” Clinton was quoted telling senior Pakistani journalists in Lahore. “I find it hard to believe that nobody in your government knows where they (al Qaeda leaders) are and couldn’t get them if they really wanted to,” she said.

Pakistani officials said Clinton’s remarks on the “military security establishment” probably referred to the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the counterespionage agency.

In the past, Western officials, including U.S. officials, have claimed that the ISI has nurtured Islamic militants to stage proxy insurgency campaigns on the country’s behalf in India’s mountainous Kashmir region and in Afghanistan.

A senior Pakistani government official who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity late Thursday night said, Clinton’s remarks will likely provoke some reaction from key military leaders who increasingly see the U.S. as insensitive to the army’s ongoing campaign against Taliban militants in the south Waziristan region.

“How can the U.S. at this time be so insensitive for Mrs. Clinton to speak out in public in this way,” asked the Pakistani government official. “These remarks suggest a very high degree of insensitivity.” However, Western diplomats said Clinton’s trip following the recent Kerry-Lugar bill passed by the U.S. Congress which triples U.S. aid to Pakistan to an annual of $1.5 billion over the next five years, was likely to enhance U.S. influence in the country.

“The U.S. position will become stronger if the money begins flowing in. While there will be heart-burning among segments of the Pakistani government, the U.S. will remain a very influential country,” a Western diplomat in Islamabad told CBS News.

11-46

US Scientist Charged with Attempted Spying for Israel

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

AFP

nozette
Alfred Nozette, third from left.

WASHINGTON–The US authorities arrested Monday a leading American scientist who had worked for the Pentagon and NASA and charged him with attempted spying for Israel.

Stewart Nozette, 52, was apprehended after a sting operation involving an undercover FBI agent, the Department of Justice said, He is charged with “attempted espionage for knowingly and willfully attempting to communicate, deliver, and transmit classified information relating to the national defense of the United States to an individual that Nozette believed to be an Israeli intelligence officer.”

Nozette, who was arrested in the Washington suburb of Chevy Chase, Maryland and taken into custody, could make his first court appearance Tuesday on the charge, which carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.

“The conduct alleged in this complaint is serious and should serve as a warning to anyone who would consider compromising our nation’s secrets for profit,” said David Kris, assistant attorney general for national security.

Nozette, 52, developed an experiment that fueled the discovery of water on the south pole of the moon, and previously held special security clearance at the Department of Energy on atomic materials.

In addition to stints with NASA and the Department of Energy, Nozette worked at the White House on the National Space Council under then-president George H.W. Bush in 1989 and 1990.

“From 1989 through 2006, Nozette held security clearances as high as top secret and had regular, frequent access to classified information and documents related to the US national defense,” the Justice Department said.

In early September, Nozette received a phone call from a person “purporting to be an Israeli intelligence officer, but who was in fact an undercover employee of the FBI,” the DOJ said.

“Nozette met with the UCE (undercover employee) that day and discussed his willingness to work for Israeli intelligence,” informing the agent that “he had, in the past, held top security clearances and had access to US satellite information.”

The scientist offered to “answer questions about this information in exchange for money.”

Over the next several weeks, Nozette and the undercover agent exchanged envelopes of money for answers to lists of questions about US satellite technology.

“In addition, Nozette allegedly offered to reveal additional classified information that directly concerned nuclear weaponry, military spacecraft or satellites, and other major weapons systems,” DOJ said.

FBI agents retrieved a manila envelope left by Nozette in a designated location this month that “contained information classified as both top secret and secret that concerned US satellites, early warning systems, means of defense or retaliation against large-scale attack, communications intelligence information, and major elements of defense strategy.”

In 1987, the United States sentenced Navy analyst Jonathan Pollard to life in prison for providing Israel — from May 1984 to his arrest in November 1985 — thousands of confidential military documents on US spying, particularly in Arab nations.

Israel has appealed for his release repeatedly, and in vain. And Pollard supporters in Israel and the United States have done the same for the man who since has obtained Israeli citizenship.

11-44

Israel May Have Planted Spy Gear in Lebanon: U.N.

October 22, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

2009-10-18T211529Z_01_BTRE59H1N2100_RTROPTP_3_NEWS-US-LEBANON-ISRAEL

U.N. peacekeepers inspect the site of an explosion between the villages of Meis al-Jabal and Houla in south Lebanon, October 18, 2009.

REUTERS/ Ali Hashisho 

BEIRUT (Reuters) – A U.N. investigation into explosions in south Lebanon indicated on Sunday that Israel had planted spy devices on Lebanese land in what a senior U.N. official said would be a violation of a ceasefire agreement.

The UNIFIL peacekeeping force in Lebanon said its preliminary probe into two explosions in the south showed they had been caused by the detonation of underground sensor devices.

The units were apparently buried by Israeli forces during the 2006 war with the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah, it said.

“These do look like some sort of espionage device,” Michael Williams, the U.N. special coordinator for Lebanon, told Reuters.

If confirmed, the devices would represent violations of Security Council resolution 1701 which halted the 34-day war.

A first explosion was reported on Saturday evening and a second on Sunday morning. No injuries were reported. The devices had been placed some 2 km inside Lebanese territory between the villages of Houla and Meiss al-Jabal.

“Preliminary indications are that these explosions were caused by explosive charges contained in unattended underground sensors which were placed in this area by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) apparently during the 2006 war,” UNIFIL said in a statement.

UNIFIL was investigating what had caused the devices to blow up. A Lebanese security official said they appeared to have been detonated by remote control from Israel after their discovery by Lebanese security forces.

Israel did not respond specifically to the Lebanese assertion. But an Israeli military statement said Sunday’s incident proved Hezbollah’s military presence in south Lebanon, especially in rural Shi’ite areas along the border with Israel.

UNIFIL said it had protested to the Israeli military about overflights by drones while the Lebanese army and the peacekeepers were investigating on the ground. Lebanese army troops opened fire on the drones with machine gun and small arms fire, the UNIFIL statement said.

Williams said the use of drones was an obvious violation of Lebanese sovereignty and resolution 1701 “and not particularly helpful at a time of obvious tension in the south.”

UNIFIL is also investigating another incident in south Lebanon last week at the village of Tayr Filsi, a UNIFIL spokesman said. The Lebanese army and Hezbollah said one person was wounded when a shell exploded in the garage of a Hezbollah member in the village on Monday.

Israel has said the blast showed munitions were being stockpiled in violation of resolution 1701 and has complained to the United Nations about the incident.

The next report on Security Council resolution 1701 is due to be filed later this month.

The 2006 war broke out after Hezbollah, an anti-Israeli Shi’ite group backed by Iran, launched a raid into Israel, capturing two soldiers. More than 1,000 people, mostly Lebanese civilians, were killed before the United Nations brokered a ceasefire.

11-44

NATO Seeks Russian Help in Afghanistan

October 8, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By David Brunnstrom

2009-10-07T135141Z_148940011_GM1E5A71OQP01_RTRMADP_3_AFGHANISTAN

An Afghan man heads home at the end of a day’s work in Kabul October 7, 2009.

REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – NATO urged Russia on Wednesday to expand its role in Afghanistan, including by equipping and training Afghan security forces fighting the Taliban.

While reiterating a call on European allies to step up their commitments in the country as the United States weighs a further boost in forces, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said it was also in Russia’s interests to do more.

He said agreements allowing transit of military supplies to Afghanistan via Russia could be expanded.

“Next, Russia could provide equipment for the Afghan security forces. Thirdly, Russia could provide training. These are just some examples. I think we should explore in a joint effort how we could further Russian engagement,” Rasmussen said.

“I know from the Russians that they are interested in a stronger engagement and we have to find ways and means because basically Afghanistan is one of the areas in which we share interests with Russia,” he told a monthly news conference.

Russia has said it fully backs U.S.-led efforts against the Taliban although it would not send its own soldiers to fight in the country where Moscow lost a 10-year war in the 1980s.

Rasmussen said he was pleased by the improvement in relations between NATO and Russia since a freeze imposed by the alliance after last year’s war between Georgia and Russia, even if there were still “fundamental areas on which we disagree.”

“But we can create a web of cooperation that is strong enough to survive these differences. We have to make NATO-Russia cooperation too good to lose,” he said.

EU CHIDED ON POLICE TRAINING

Rasmussen again called on European NATO allies to step up commitments in Afghanistan, chiding them for failing to provide all the 400 police trainers they had promised. “It is a bit embarrassing,” he said. “I would encourage all members of the European Union to do their utmost to ensure full deployment.”

Rasmussen urged the Netherlands to reconsider plans to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by the end of next year, asking them to stay and help train Afghan forces.

“I would regret a Dutch withdrawal,” he said. “We are at a critical juncture, where there should be no doubt about our firm commitment. Any such doubts will simply play into the hands of those who want us to fail … we need all allies contributing.”

Rasmussen said it was essential there was a fair balance between the contributions of the United States and its partners, and for that non-U.S. allies needed to do more. He said this was important not just for Afghanistan but for the future of NATO.

“I am afraid many in the U.S. will wonder about Europe as a real partner in security,” he said. “That would be damaging over the long term for NATO and the transatlantic relationship.”

NATO is looking to an expanded effort to beef up the Afghan police and army as the route to eventual withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan, where they have been since toppling the Taliban after the September 11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

There are more than 100,000 foreign troops in the country, but they have struggled to contain a widening Islamist insurgency while mounting casualties have made the mission increasingly unpopular with Western public opinion.

(Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

11-42

UK’s Huge Jewel Heist Linked to Israel

August 27, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

Press TV

Top Israeli officials have been linked to Britain’s biggest ever jewelry heist, in which gems worth up to $65 million (£40m) were stolen.

According to an Israeli report, three former senior officials in the Israeli army were the main shareholders of the company responsible for guarding the Graff Diamond jewelers in central London, where the robbery took place. The Universe Security Group (USG) has been in charge of the security of the store, after a group of Balkan robbers–dubbed the Pink Panther gang–carried out an armed raid on the same store in May 2005, taking off with 1 million pounds worth of diamonds.

Nahum Admoni, former Mossad chief and Maj. Gen. Uri Sagie, former chief of intelligence in the Israeli army, reportedly resigned from the leadership of the London-based group, just two months before the heist.

Another primary share holder of the security company is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s special adviser, Isaac Molho.

The police have meanwhile arrested a 50-year-old man in connection with the robbery, but only described him as a ‘minor player’ in the act.

The August 6 raid, which had all the makings of a blockbuster movie, was carried out by two smartly dressed men, who had disguised themselves professionally with make-up layered on latex masks, Metropolitan Police footage showed.

In just minutes, the leading men drew handguns, grabbed a female member of staff and headed for the exit with 43 pieces of jewelry including rings, bracelets, necklaces and watches.

They fired warning shots, jumped into a waiting blue BMW and abandoned their hostage, speeding through Mayfair. No one was injured in the incident.

An international man hunt has been in progress ever since, with insurers offering a 1 million-pound reward for information leading to the capture of the thieves and the recovery of the jewels.

11-36

Uyghurs & Chinese Can Live Together in Peace in East Turkestan

July 23, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Harun Yahya

www.harunyahya.com
www.eastturkestan.net

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Ethnic Uighurs and Han Chinese Muslims pray together during Friday prayers at Yang Hang mosque in the city of Urumqi in China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region July 17, 2009.       

REUTERS/David Gray

The efforts being made today to stir up ethnic conflict in East Turkestan are extremely dangerous. Our Muslim brothers in East Turkestan have been subjected to various difficulties for the last 60 years or so, but have never turned to violence and conflict. The Uyghur Turks are a noble people, known for their good manners, honesty, fortitude, reconciliatory natures, obedience to the state, loyalty and devotion. These fine people possess excellent virtues, such as forgiveness, loving peace, lovableness, respect for different ideas and beliefs and judging people according to their moral values rather than their race. There has therefore never been any conflict based on ethnicity with the other peoples living in the region, especially the Han Chinese, and neither will there be any in the future. The Uyghur Turks want a climate in which everyone can live together in peace and security, respecting the right to life of everyone in East Turkestan, no matter what their religion or ethnic origin. Some of the main ways in which this can be brought about are as follows:

1. It is obvious that the Uyghur Turks favor peace and security. But peace in the region can only be ensured if the security of our Uyghur brothers is guaranteed. The international community has important responsibilities in that respect. The support of international societies and organizations is essential if it is to be possible for our Uyghur Turk and Chinese brothers are to be able to live in peace. Democratic pressure from these organizations, especially the UN, on the Chinese government, will ensure that the administration follows a line that is more peaceable toward the problems and legitimate demands of our Uyghur brothers and respects their human rights.  When the necessary encouragement and direction is provided, when the international community acts as a guarantor, it will be easier to establish peace in the region.

2. It is natural for China to be keen to protect its national and economic interests. But this cannot be established through oppression and aggression. The path that will make China prosperous and strengthen its economic and social regeneration lies in a conception that respects human rights, is democratic and loving, and that defends freedom of ideas and belief. The only solution that can calm Chinese fears, such as lack of access to energy resources, economic losses, loss of territory or fragmentation is the foundation of the Turkish-Islamic Union. The Turkish-Islamic Union will establish an environment in which borders are lifted, there is freedom of trade and investment and in which all communities have equal access to energy resources. In this way, China will be able to spread its investments over a wide area from Tanzania to Indonesia and sell its good across a wide territory, and Muslims will be able to invest in China on a large scale. China will regenerate rapidly with the establishment of the Turkish-Islamic Union, will be spared from having to use its citizens as a cheap labor force and will enjoy abundance and plenty all over. 

3. Islam is a religion of peace. All forms of violence are sinful in Islam. In the Qur’an, Allah commands Muslims to be forgiving. A Muslim who abides by the Qur’an and follows our Prophet (s) has a duty to be peace-loving, affectionate, loving, compassionate, patient and moderate. The moral values of the Qur’an oblige Muslims to control their anger, to respond to evil with good, to always speak and behave in a pleasant manner, to forgive under even the most difficult circumstances and to behave justly, even if that conflicts with their own interests. The spread of and learning about Islamic moral values is a great benefit for China. If the Chinese government is concerned about the Han Chinese taking in action in terror attacks and wishes to avoid anarchy and violence, then it must encourage the teaching and dissemination of Islamic moral values. In a China inhabited by people who live by the moral values of the Qur’an there will be no need for military occupation and security measures. The unrest and unease will come to a complete stop. The result will be a society made up of individuals who trust and respect one another, treat one another with understanding, are respectful of and loyal to the state and who all live in peace, that spends its money on the wealth of its own citizens instead of military investment, without investing millions of dollars in armaments and employing thousands of security personnel. And the order and equilibrium sought by China will be established naturally.

4. Our Uyghur brothers’ demands for humane conditions, to live freely according to their religion, to be able to worship as they wish, to protect their own culture and maintain their own existence are all justified and human ones. The most effective way of bringing these about is for the Uyghur people to make a cultural leap forward, to improve themselves with an anti-materialist and anti-Darwinist education, to increase their economic strength, and strengthen themselves both materially and spiritually. The Turkic Uyghur people must not forget that they are the most important representatives of Muslims and Islam in China. They must act as models to the Chinese people with their good manners, nobility, modesty, balance and moderation. An Uyghur people who are culturally advanced and materially stronger will clearly have wide opportunities to defend their own rights and also to describe and spread the moral values of Islam. By Allah’s leave, the future of an Uyghur society that loves Allah, protects its own national culture, is anti-Darwinist and anti-materialist, whose members love one another, which perfectly implements Qur’anic moral values and supports peace, love, tolerance and compassion, will be a very bright and excellent one.

The time we are living in is a very holy one, in which Hazrat Mahdi (as) will appear and in which the Prophet Jesus (as) will return to Earth. The time has now come when war and conflict will come to an end, when armament will come to an end, when people will love and embrace one another as brothers, when they will trust one another and when moral virtues will reign. This is the destiny of Allah. That destiny will also manifest itself in China, and this will be a time when Chinese and Uyghurs live together in friendship, when they all attain wealth, and when they build a bright civilization with joy and enthusiasm.

11-31

The Pullout

July 2, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

By Sumayyah Meehan MMNS Middle East Correspondent

2009-06-30T122617Z_01_BAG405_RTRMDNP_3_IRAQ-USA-TROOPS

Iraqi soldiers march during a parade in Baghdad, June 30, 2009. U.S. combat troops left the last of Iraq’s cities on Tuesday, restoring to the country a proud sense of sovereignty that many applauded even though some fear it may leave them more vulnerable to attacks.

REUTERS/Saad Shalash

In a burst of fireworks that illuminated the Baghdad sky, jubilant Iraqis celebrated the pullout of US forces from their country this past Tuesday. It has been six long and bloody years with over 100,000 civilian lives having been lost since the Bush-era “shock and awe” invasion of Iraq changed the country and, by extension the World, irrevocably.  U.S. Forces handed over the reins of power to Iraqi security personnel. However, it will take at least two more years for the American armed forces to complete the withdrawal in 2011.

The long awaited pullout, which many political commentators believe helped President Obama win the Presidency, is a component of a security deal that was reached last year by Washington and Iraq. In a press interview, U.S. General General Ray Odierno said about Iraqi security forces, “I do believe they are ready. They’ve been working towards this for a long time.”

In a symbolic gesture, Iraqi security personnel retook the former Ministry of Defense building even though there are still more than 130,000 U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq. The remaining soldiers will continue to train and advise the 750,000 strong Iraqi army in a primarily ‘back-seat driver’ role. The Iraqi security forces remain on high alert as the government expects insurgents to do their best to spoil the transfer of power. Iraqi security personnel are visible on the city streets in a show of force against anyone attempting to disrupt the current calm. Security checkpoints remain in place and motorcycles have been banned from the streets, as they are often the mode of transport for suicide bombers.

The Americans may be leaving, but Iraq will never be the same. The country bears the scars of an unwelcome war and occupation. Lives have been lost, innocent civilians maimed and the course of history has been changed forever although it remains to be seen if it will be for the worse or better. Likewise, hearts and minds have also been changed. Many Iraqis are exercising more freedoms than under the reign of the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, which are in line with their American counterparts. The influence of the U.S. in Iraq can be seen as near as the local marketplace where western-inspired clothes are quickly scooped off the racks by customers eager to dress like the characters from their favorite American movies or sitcoms.

The stakes are high as Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has promised his people that the Iraqi security personnel can effectively protect the country. If Maliki can keep that promise, the future looks very bright for Iraq. No less than 31 companies are vying for coveted oil-development contracts, which will make Iraq a force to be reckoned with in the global oil market.  The plan is to develop six massive oil fields and two gas fields located in the Iraqi deserts. The Iraqi government wants to double production from 2.4 million barrels per day to a whopping 4 million barrels per day, which will give the Iraqi government an estimated 1.7 trillion dollars in revenue that can be used to rebuild the country’s beleaguered infrastructure. It has been almost 40 years since any oil company has been willing to do business with Iraq. And it could take another 40 years if the Iraqi government cannot maintain a high level of peace and stability to appease investors.

11-28

Kareem Shora Appointed

June 11, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

ADC Press Release

Kareem Shora was appointed by DHS Secretary Napolitano on Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC)

Washington, DC | June 5, 2009 | www.adc.org |  The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) is proud to announce that earlier today at a ceremony held in Albuquerque, New Mexico, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano swore-in ADC National Executive Director Kareem Shora as a member of the Homeland Security Advisory Council (HSAC).

Kareem_Shora HSAC members, limited by charter to no more than 21, are appointed by the DHS Secretary and are comprised of national security experts from state, local and tribal governments, first responder communities, academia and the private sector.  HSAC provides advice and recommendations directly to Secretary Napolitano on homeland security issues. ADC President Mary Rose Oakar said “This appointment is a great reflection on Kareem’s ability and the work of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. We are very proud of Kareem and believe his appointment will be very helpful in the protection of the civil rights of people with Arab roots as well as others”.

Other members of the HSAC include Lee Hamilton, former Congressman and President of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars; Martin O’Malley, Governor of Maryland; Judge William Webster, former Director of Central Intelligence; Sonny Perdue, Governor of Georgia; Raymond Kelly, New York City Police Commissioner; Louis Freeh, former FBI Director and Senior Managing Partner at Freeh Group International; Frances Fragos Townsend, former White House Homeland Security Advisor; Kenneth “Chuck” Canterbury, National President of the Fraternal Order of Police; Manny Diaz, Mayor of Miami, Florida; Jared “Jerry” Cohon, President of Carnegie Mellon University; Leroy “Lee” Baca, Sheriff of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department; Clark Kent Ervin, former DHS Inspector General and Director of the Homeland Security Program at The Aspen Institute; Sherwin “Chuck” Wexler, Executive Director of the Police Executive Research Forum; Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Firefighters; and Joe Shirley Jr., President of the Navajo Nation, among others.

Shora, who joined ADC in 2000 as Legal Advisor, was ADC Legal Director before he was appointed to his current position as National Executive Director in 2006.  He is a recipient of the 2003 American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Arthur C. Helton Human Rights Award. He has been published by the National Law Journal, TRIAL Magazine, the Georgetown University Law Center’s Journal on Poverty Law and Public Policy, the Harvard University JFK School of Government Asian American Policy Review, the American Bar Association (ABA) Air and Space Lawyer, and the Yeshiva University Cardozo Public Law Policy and Ethics Journal. A frequent guest on Al-Arabiya and Al-Jazeera and numerous American television programs, Shora has spoken about civil rights, civil liberties and immigration policy with many national and international media outlets including the Wall Street Journal, Voice of America, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, CNN and the Chicago Tribune among others. He has also testified before major international human rights bodies including regular testimonies before the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations Human Rights Commission. He is also a member of the ODNI Heritage Community Liaison Council.

11-25

It’s All Spelled Out in Unpublicized Agreement–Total Defeat for U.S. in Iraq

December 18, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy Patrick Cockburn

2008-12-10T165648Z_01_BAG310_RTRMDNP_3_IRAQ-FEAST

On November 27 the Iraqi parliament voted by a large majority in favor of a security agreement with the US under which the 150,000 American troops in Iraq will withdraw from cities, towns and villages by June 30, 2009 and from all of Iraq by December 31, 2011. The Iraqi government will take over military responsibility for the Green Zone in Baghdad, the heart of American power in Iraq, in a few weeks time. Private security companies will lose their legal immunity. US military operations and the arrest of Iraqis will only be carried out with Iraqi consent. There will be no US military bases left behind when the last US troops leave in three years time and the US military is banned in the interim from carrying out attacks on other countries from Iraq.

The Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), signed after eight months of rancorous negotiations, is categorical and unconditional. America’s bid to act as the world’s only super-power and to establish quasi-colonial control of Iraq, an attempt which began with the invasion of 2003, has ended in failure. There will be a national referendum on the new agreement next July, but the accord is to be implemented immediately so the poll will be largely irrelevant. Even Iran, which had furiously denounced the first drafts of the SOFA saying that they would establish a permanent US presence in Iraq, now says blithely that it will officially back the new security pact after the referendum. This is a sure sign that Iran, as America’s main rival in the Middle East, sees the pact as marking the final end of the US occupation and as a launching pad for military assaults on neighbours such as Iran.

Astonishingly, this momentous agreement has been greeted with little surprise or interest outside Iraq. On the same day that it was finally passed by the Iraqi parliament international attention was wholly focused on the murderous terrorist attack in Mumbai. For some months polls in the US showed that the economic crisis had replaced the Iraqi war as the main issue facing America in the eyes of voters. So many spurious milestones in Iraq have been declared by President Bush over the years that when a real turning point occurs people are naturally sceptical about its significance. The White House was so keen to limit understanding of what it had agreed in Iraq that it did not even to publish a copy of the SOFA in English. Some senior officials in the Pentagon are privately criticizing President Bush for conceding so much to the Iraqis, but the American media are fixated on the incoming Obama administration and no longer pays much attention to the doings of the expiring Bush administration.

The last minute delays to the accord were not really about the terms agreed with the Americans. It was rather that the leaders of the Sunni Arab minority, seeing the Shia-Kurdish government of prime minister Nouri al-Maliki about to fill the vacuum created by the US departure, wanted to barter their support for the accord in return for as many last minute concessions as they could extract. Some three quarters of the 17,000 prisoners held by the Americans are Sunni and they wanted them released or at least not mistreated by the Iraqi security forces. They asked for an end to de-Baathication which is directed primarily at the Sunni community. Only the Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr held out against the accord to the end, declaring it a betrayal of independent Iraq. The ultra-patriotic opposition of the Sadrists to the accord has been important because it has made it difficult for the other Shia parties to agree to anything less than a complete American withdrawal. If they did so they risked being portrayed as US puppets in the upcoming provincial elections at the end of January 2009 or the parliamentary elections later in the year.

The SOFA finally agreed is almost the opposite of the one which US started to negotiate in March. This is why Iran, with its strong links to the Shia parties inside Iraq, ended its previous rejection of it. The first US draft was largely an attempt to continue the occupation without much change from the UN mandate which expired at the end of the year. Washington overplayed its hand. The Iraqi government was growing stronger as the Sunni Arabs ended their uprising against the occupation. The Iranians helped restrain the Mehdi Army, Muqtada’s powerful militia, so the government regained control of Basra, Iraq’s second biggest city, and Sadr City, almost half Baghdad, from the Shia militias. The prime minister Nouri al-Maliki became more confident, realizing his military enemies were dispersing and, in any case, the Americans had no real alternative but to support him. The US has always been politically weak in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein because it has few real friends in the country aside from the Kurds. The leaders of the Iraqi Shia, 60 per cent of the total population, might ally themselves to Washington to gain power, but they never intended to share power with the US in the long term.

The occupation has always been unpopular in Iraq. Foreign observers and some Iraqis are often misled by the hatred with which different Iraqi communities regard each other into underestimating the strength of Iraqi nationalism. Once Maliki came to believe that he could survive without US military support then he was able to spurn US proposals until an unconditional withdrawal was conceded. He could also see that Barack Obama, whose withdrawal timetable was not so different from his own, was going to be the next American president. Come the provincial and parliamentary elections of 2009, Maliki can present himself as the man who ended the occupation. Critics of the prime minister, notably the Kurds, think that success has gone to his head, but there is no doubt that the new security agreement has strengthened him politically.

It may be that, living in the heart of the Green Zone, that Maliki has an exaggerated idea of what his government has achieved. In the Zone there is access to clean water and electricity while in the rest of Baghdad people have been getting only three or four hours electricity a day. Security in Iraq is certainly better than it was during the sectarian civil war between Sunni and Shia in 2006-7 but the improvement is wholly comparative. The monthly death toll has dropped from 3,000 a month at its worst to 360 Iraqi civilians and security personnel killed this November, though these figures may understate the casualty toll as not all the bodies are found. Iraq is still one of the most dangerous places in the world. On December 1, the day I started writing this article, two suicide bombers killed 33 people and wounded dozens more in Baghdad and Mosul. Iraqis in the street are cynical about the government’s claim to have restored order. “We are used to the government always saying that things have become good and the security situation improved,” says Salman Mohammed Jumah, a primary school teacher in Baghdad. “It is true security is a little better but the government leaders live behind concrete barriers and do not know what is happening on the ground. They only go out in their armoured convoys. We no longer have sectarian killings by ID cards [revealing that a person is Sunni or Shia by their name] but Sunni are still afraid to go to Shia areas and Shia to Sunni.”

Security has improved with police and military checkpoints everywhere but sectarian killers have also upgraded their tactics. There are less suicide bombings but there are many more small ‘sticky bombs’ placed underneath vehicles. Everybody checks underneath their car before they get into it. I try to keep away from notorious choke points in Baghdad, such as Tahrir Square or the entrances to the Green Zone, where a bomber for can wait for a target to get stuck in traffic before making an attack. The checkpoints and the walls, the measures taken to reduce the violence, bring Baghdad close to paralysis even when there are no bombs. It can take two or three hours to travel a few miles. The bridges over the Tigris are often blocked and this has got worse recently because soldiers and police have a new toy in the shape of a box which looks like a transistor radio with a short aerial sticking out horizontally. When pointed at the car this device is supposed to detect vapor from explosives and may well do so, but since it also responds to vapor from alcohol or perfume it is worse than useless as a security aid.

Iraqi state television and government backed newspapers make ceaseless claims that life in Iraq is improving by the day. To be convincing this should mean not just improving security but providing more electricity, clean water and jobs. “The economic situation is still very bad,” says Salman Mohammed Jumah, the teacher. “Unemployment affects everybody and you can’t get a job unless you pay a bribe. There is no electricity and nowadays we have cholera again so people have to buy expensive bottled water and only use the water that comes out of the tap for washing.” Not everybody has the same grim vision but life in Iraq is still extraordinarily hard. The best barometer for how far Iraq is ‘better’ is the willingness of the 4.7 million refugees, one in five Iraqis who have fled their homes and are now living inside or outside Iraq, to go home. By October only 150,000 had returned and some do so only to look at the situation and then go back to Damascus or Amman. One middle aged Sunni businessman who came back from Syria for two or three weeks, said: “I don’t like to be here. In Syria I can go out in the evening to meet friends in a coffe bar. It is safe. Here I am forced to stay in my home after 7pm.”

The degree of optimism or pessimism felt by Iraqis depends very much on whether they have a job, whether or not that job is with the government, which community they belong to, their social class and the area they live in. All these factors are interlinked. Most jobs are with the state that reputedly employs some two million people. The private sector is very feeble. Despite talk of reconstruction there are almost no cranes visible on the Baghdad skyline. Since the Shia and Kurds control of the government, it is difficult for a Sunni to get a job and probably impossible unless he has a letter recommending him from a political party in the government. Optimism is greater among the Shia. “There is progress in our life, says Jafar Sadiq, a Shia businessman married to a Sunni in the Shia-dominated Iskan area of Baghdad. “People are cooperating with the security forces. I am glad the army is fighting the Mehdi Army though they still are not finished. Four Sunni have reopened their shops in my area. It is safe for my wife’s Sunni relatives to come here. The only things we need badly are electricity, clean water and municipal services.” But his wife Jana admitted privately that she had warned her Sunni relatives from coming to Iskan “because the security situation is unstable.” She teaches at Mustansariyah University in central Baghdad which a year ago was controlled by the Mehdi Army and Sunni students had fled. “Now the Sunni students are coming back,” she says, “though they are still afraid.”

They have reason to fear. Baghdad is divided into Shia and Sunni enclaves defended by high concrete blast walls often with a single entrance and exit. The sectarian slaughter is much less than it was but it is still dangerous for returning refugees to try to reclaim their old house in an area in which they are a minority. In one case in a Sunni district in west Baghdad, as I reported here some weeks ago, a Shia husband and wife with their two daughters went back to their house to find it gutted, with furniture gone and electric sockets and water pipes torn out. They decided to sleep on the roof. A Sunni gang reached them from a neighboring building, cut off the husband’s head and threw it into the street. They said to his wife and daughters: “The same will happen to any other Shia who comes back.” But even without these recent atrocities Baghdad would still be divided because the memory of the mass killings of 2006-7 is too fresh and there is still an underlying fear that it could happen again.

Iraqis have a low opinion of their elected representatives, frequently denouncing them as an incompetent kleptocracy. The government administration is dysfunctional. “Despite the fact,” said independent member of parliament Qassim Daoud, “that the Labor and Social Affairs is meant to help the millions of poor Iraqis I discovered that they had spent only 10 per cent of their budget.” Not all of this is the government’s fault. Iraqi society, administration and economy have been shattered by 28 years of war and sanctions. Few other countries have been put under such intense and prolonged pressure. First there was the eight year Iran- Iraq war starting in 1980, then the disastrous Gulf war of `1991, thirteen years of sanctions and then the five-and-a-half years of conflict since the US invasion. Ten years ago UN officials were already saying they could not repair the faltering power stations because they were so old that spare parts were no longer made for them.

Iraq is full of signs of the gap between the rulers and the ruled. The few planes using Baghdad international airport are full foreign contractors and Iraqi government officials. Talking to people on the streets in Baghdad in October many of them brought up fear of cholera which had just started to spread from Hilla province south of Baghdad. Forty per cent of people in the capital do not have access to clean drinking water. The origin of the epidemic was the purchase of out of date chemicals for water purification from Iran by corrupt officials. Everybody talked about the cholera except in the Green Zone where people had scarcely heard of the epidemic. .

The Iraqi government will become stronger as the Americans depart. It will also be forced to take full responsibility for the failings of the Iraqi state. This will be happening at a bad moment since the price of oil, the state’s only source of revenue, has fallen to $50 a barrel when the budget assumed it would be $80. Many state salaries, such as those of teachers, were doubled on the strength of this, something the government may now regret. Communal differences are still largely unresolved. Friction between Sunni and Shia, bad though it is, is less than two years ago, though hostility between Arabs and Kurds is deepening. The departure of the US military frightens many Sunni on the grounds that they will be at the mercy of the majority Shia. But it is also an incentive for the three main communities in Iraq to agree about what their future relations should be when there are no Americans to stand between them. As for the US, its moment in Iraq is coming to an end as its troops depart, leaving a ruined country behind them.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of ‘The Occupation: War, resistance and daily life in Iraq’, a finalist for the National Book Critics’ Circle Award for best non-fiction book of 2006. His new book ‘Muqtada! Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia revival and the struggle for Iraq’ is published by Scribner.

10-52, reprint

Clampdown in Xinjiang

August 7, 2008 by · Leave a Comment 

Courtesy AFP

2008-08-05T041909Z_01_NIR01_RTRMDNP_3_OLYMPICS-XINJIANG

Members of the security forces walk pass local Uighurs as they patrol a steer, near the area where a bomb attack took place the day before, in Kashgar, Xinjiang province, August 5, 2008. China’s tense Xinjiang region announced sweeping security checks of transport on Tuesday after assailants used a truck to mount a deadly attack on police days before the Beijing Olympic Games open. 

REUTERS/Nir Elias (CHINA)

KASHGAR, China (AFP) — Chinese authorities moved Tuesday to keep a lid on further information about a bloody assault on police in Kashgar with a truck, explosives and machetes.

At the hotel directly across from the site of Monday’s raid, which killed 16 policemen, guests were told in the morning that the Internet had been shut off across the city, on police orders.

Police entered an AFP photographer’s hotel room and forced him to delete photos he had taken of the scene. Plainclothes police followed journalists as they moved around the city.

“We can’t talk about that. You must understand if we talk about it, the police will come and arrest us,” said a shopkeeper in Kashgar, a remote city in northwest China’s Xinjiang region, who declined to be named.

Nevertheless some independent information emerged outside of the uniform coverage in China’s state-run press, which was all based on reports from the official Xinhua news agency.

Foreign witnesses described a “sickening” scene that unfolded as two assailants drove a truck at a group of policemen who were out jogging, then attacked the officers with small explosives and machetes.

“My wife almost threw up and had to lie down afterward,” said Wlodzislaw Duch, a Polish tourist who watched the assault from his hotel room directly across the street from the scene.

The Xinhua news agency said the two, aged 28 and 33, were arrested immediately, and identified the men as members of the Muslim ethnic Uighur group, a Turkic-speaking people that have long chafed at Chinese rule of Xinjiang.

The state-controlled China Daily, the government’s main outlet to foreign audiences, said the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), listed by the UN as a terrorist organisation, was “likely” responsible.

“There is little doubt that the ETIM is behind the attack,” said Li Wei, an anti-terrorism expert at the China Institute of Contemporary International Relations, according to the paper.

The attack showed the ETIM is now “into advanced planning” since “it has rarely used cars or trucks in an attack before,” Li was quoted as saying.

China has repeatedly warned the ETIM was planning to stage attacks on the Beijing Olympics, which starts on Friday.

However Chinese authorities have not gone on the record to blame the ETIM for Monday’s attack, allowing only unofficial “experts” to be be used in the state-run press.

Beijing Olympic organisers said they did not know yet if there was a direct connection to the showpiece sporting event, but insisted the Games would not be threatened.

“There is always the risk to the security of the Bejing Olympics,” Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Beijing Olympic organising committee, told reporters.

“That is why we have drafted hundreds of security plans, and now we are prepared to deal with these kind of security threats. We can guarantee a safe and peaceful Olympic Games.”

Xinjiang, a vast area that borders Central Asia, has about 8.3 million Uighurs , and many are unhappy with what they say has been decades of repressive Communist Chinese rule.

Two short-lived East Turkestan republics emerged in Xinjiang in the 1930s and 1940s, at a time when central government control in China was weakened by civil war and Japanese invasion.

The exiled leader of China’s Uighur Muslims condemned the reported killings.

“We condemn all acts of violence,” Rebiya Kadeer said in Washington, where she has been living in exile since 2005 after spending six years in a Beijing prison.

"The Uighur people do not support acts that engender bloodshed.”

10-33

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