"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

Economics-A Way to Win the War Against Terror

Max Boot of the LA Times has an interesting article entitled "Islam's tolerant face" where he details two successful Islamic states that do not accept the Salifi band of radical Islam-Malaysia and Qatar. While one is semi-democratic, the later is autocratic. However both share a few characteristics. Malaysia and Qatar. These two countries do not accept Taliban-style Islam, accept other religions, have a large educated population, and have vibrant economies that actively trade with the west.

These two countries, while not the models for freedom are examples how Islam can coexist peacefully with the west and other religions. As Max Boot points out,
Given the monstrous crimes perpetrated in the name of Allah, it is easy to despair about the future of the Muslim world. Nonstop news about bombings, beheadings and general bedlam will no doubt lead more and more Westerners to conclude that we are at war with an entire civilization.

For our part, we should resist the temptation to label Islam the enemy or to lash out against moderate Muslims in places like Dubai. A more tolerant brand of Islam, of the kind practiced in Malaysia and Qatar, could be our most potent weapon in the struggle against the suicide bombers.
These countries provide other examples of what could be accomplished in a tolerant Muslim society that values education more than absolute rule. The US, continuing to partner with these moderate Muslim countries, not only helps its cause to pursue global democracy and tolerance but also provides an example to Muslims what life could be like if not for the few salifi radicals like Osama bin Laden and Al Zarqawi.

EU Warns Hamas Over Palestinian Aid

Al Jazeera reports that the EU would cut funding to a new Hamas-led Palestinian government if it failed to renounce violence and recognise Israel.

Ferrero-Waldner, the External Relations Commissioner for the EU stated,

"The new government's positions on violence, on recognition of Israel and on existing agreements like the (Middle East peace) 'road map' remain absolutely crucial."
While Hamas is receiving temporary funding from the EU, the reiteration that Hamas must renounce violence and recognize Israel puts Hamas on notice. Given that this is on Al Jazeera, it should also put the Palestinian people on notice too.

The intent of this meeting in Salzburg, Austria was to detail the breakdown of different kinds of aid and where exactly the money goes so EU governments could curtail aid to the Palestinian Authority if Hamas does not change its position.

This is another situation which needs to be watched. With the US and Israel withholding funding from the PA and the EU providing temporary funding until Hamas gains control of the PA Parliament, it waits to be seen whether or not Hamas will choose to renounce violence and recognize Israel or turn towards Iran to fund terrorism.

As pointed out before, 58% of Palestinians stated that the solution to the Palestinian conflict should be a two-state solution. Palestinians want to negotiate with Israel for a two-state solution and only 10% believe a Palestinian state should exists over the whole region. We will see if Hamas renounces some or all of its charter and seeks to remain in power or whether it too will be voted out as the PA economy fails. While Iran could provide some assistance, it cannot cover a shortfall from the US, Israel, and EU combined. In addition, Israel now has a entity (the PA Parliament) to attack directly if terrorist attacks continue.

As noted previously, the election of Hamas is truly a watershed event for democracy in the Middle East. Either Hamas will adapt and rule for the people or they will be taken out of power by the people. By withholding funding, the US and Israel are providing the impetus for Hamas to reform. By targeting aid, the EU protects the Palestinian people but also continues to pressure Hamas to reform.

The EU, US, and Israel need do nothing further at this point since Hamas is in a precarious position. It is now a waiting game to see if Hamas renounces violence, recognizes Israel, and begins to negotiate. If not, they too will be out of power, probably more quickly than the next election cycle. If so, we may break through the impasse in the Israel-Palestinian issue for the last several decades.

The Rise of Talibanistan-Not All Good News

Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail points out a serious issue in Pakistan challenging President Musharraf's authority.

The Taliban and al-Qaeda provided an embarrassing scene for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as President George Bush visited the country last week. Eager to demonstrate Pakistan’s commitment to fighting the Taliban and al-Qaeda in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas on the border with Afghanistan, the Pakistani military launched an offensive against a terrorist camp in Danda Saidgai, North Waziristan. The Islamists responded by murdering a U.S. diplomat in a suicide strike outside the U.S. Consulate in Karachi, as well as launching a counteroffensive against the seat of government in Miranshah, North Waziristan.
While there exists good news from Iraq and Afghanistan, Pakistan is having issues securing its tribal regions. While we could certainly assist Pakistan with pinpoint airstrikes in support of his forces, Musharraf risks a political backlash asking for or getting US assistance.

This situation needs to be watched in the future to ensure the US does not lose a major front on the War on Terror.

Iraq On The Right Track With Al Qaeda On The Run

More good news from Iraq is provided by the San Diego Union Tribune. The article sites Osama al-Jadaan, a local tribal leader who states,

“So far we have cleared 75 percent of the province and forced al-Qaeda terrorists to flee to nearby areas,” said Osama al-Jadaan, a leader of the Karabila tribe, which has thousands of members living along the border with Syria.

He claimed his people have captured hundreds of foreigner fighters and handed them to authorities. The drive, dubbed Operation Tribal Chivalry, is designed to secure the country's borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to prevent foreign fighters from crossing in.
The article notes this split with Al Qaeda began about four months ago and has grown more fractured. Now Sunnis in the Anbar province are actively seeking out Al-Qaeda terrorists and turning them over to governmental authorities. Also of note is that Iraqis are no longer calling Al Qaeda in Iraq members insurgents, but are now referring to them as terrorists.

It will be interesting to see where Zarqawi moves to since several of the places he has headquartered Al Qaeda in Iraq do not want him back. The article sites Iraqi Army Maj. Gen. Anwar Mohammed Amin, in the city of Kirkuk, stating,

"The military soon would launch a major attack, with help from the local tribesmen, to clear that region of al-Qaeda as well."
Mosel, once a hotbed of Al Qaeda terrorists is now secured and does not provide a safe haven for Al Zarqawi.

Michael Totten points out on his site that Al-Zarqawi will not be heading back to Biara, Iraq either. Biara was his base of operations prior to and shortly after the US led invasion into Iraq until he was forced out. The people of Biara do not want him back.

“Life wasn’t good. We had no freedom. TV was banned. Women couldn’t walk outside without an abaya. There was violence. Anyone not affiliated with them
was treated badly. During prayer time everyone was required to go to the mosque. If we didn’t go we were insulted and fined 50 dollars.”
As these few articles point out, not only does Al Zarqawi not enjoy the popular support he once did in Iraq, he his now being actively hunted by Sunnis as the foreign terrorist. Like Afghanistanis, Iraqis have seen firsthand what Al Qaeda has in store for them. They do not want the strict Taliban-like rule that Afghanistanis suffered under at the hand Al Qaeda.

Iraqis, actively defending their homeland from terrorists like Al Zarqawi, will finally make Iraq prosper and move forward as a new democratic powerhouse in the Middle East. Sunnis, who initially teamed up with Al Qaeda in Iraq to attempt to regain some lost power, have found this Salifi sect to be too strict in their interpretation of Islam, not beneficial to their cause, and have begun to embrace democracy. These same Sunnis are now turning on Al Zarqawi and actively pursuing his terrorists members throughout Iraq.

2006 will be an interesting year. If things continue in Iraq like they have been in the later part of 2005, Al Zarqawi should either be dead, captured, or moving out of Iraq altogether. The Iraqis have already started to focus on Al Sadr and his ilk as pointed out in a recent post. They do not want external influence in Iraqi matters from Iran, Syria, or Al Qaeda. They believe the US military presence is their best hope at creating a free, democratic society as it continues to transfer power to Iraqi Army units.

It will be interesting to see if the new Kurdish-Sunni pact will be able to unseat Jafari for a more secular PM like Abdel Abdul Mahdi or Iyad Allawi.

The Kurd Defection May Offer Sliver of Hope

Charles Krauthammer at RealClearPolitics offers an interesting insight into the current political impasse in Iraq and why this impasse, seen with dispair in the US may actually be better for Iraq in the long run.

Now the Kurds have joined with the opposition Sunni and secular parties to ppose the Shiite bloc. The result is two large competing coalitions: (a) the Kurd-Sunni-secular bloc, which controls about 140 seats in the 275-seat parliament and would constitute the barest majority, and (b) the Shiite bloc, which itself is a coalition of seven not-always-friendly parties and controls 130 seats, slightly less than a majority.
He further points out that success in Iraq depends on the whether or not two key ministries (Interior which controls the police and Defense which controls the Army) remain secular. Negotiations regarding these two ministries is one of the reasons for the impasse. With the Kurdish switch, Kurds and Sunnis have more power to ensure nonsecular members lead these two ministries.

The other impasse is the election of Prime Minister. While Jafari won by one vote, many in Iraq see him as an ineffectual leader. This may be precisely why Sadr's followers voted for him. Continual trouble in Iraq can only be good for Sadr and his secular militia. Charles Krauthammer explains,

The Kurd-Sunni-secular bloc wants a new prime minister who will establish a national unity government. Because the United States wants precisely the same outcome, the Kurd defection is very good news in a landscape of almost unrelenting bad news. The other good news is a split in the Shiite bloc, with a near-majority that favors a more technocratic prime minister and is chafing at Sadr's influence. Additionally, the Sunni insurgency is in the midst of its own internecine strife between the local ex-Baathists, who are not particularly religious and want power, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's foreign jihadists, for whom killing Shiites combines sport and religion and who care not a whit for the future of the country. There are numerous reports of Sunni tribes declaring war on these foreign jihadists and of firefights between them.
While the US wants resolution in Iraq and the new government to take power, this development which has lead to an impassee may very well be better for Iraqi's future.