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

New York

US-Iraqi Forces Confront Mahdi Army in Baghdad

Threatswatch has a great article about the recent attack on Mahdi Army forces in Sadr City by Iraqi and American forces. By attacking militias from his own party, Mr. Sowall points out that Maliki is not only demonstrating his political credibility, but also military resolve.

Click here for a full read.

One point I would like to add that has not been voiced is Maliki is also demonstrating his political credibility by challenging the U.S. directly in public about ensuring we hold Soldiers accountable for their actions. He knows the U.S. will ensure Soldiers who violate the Laws of War will be punished. However, by publically stating this for Iraqi people, he is not seen as puppet of the American government. He is seen for what he is, the democratically elected leader to govern for the people of Iraq.

The parties of Iraq made a good choice in selecting Maliki as their first democratically elected leader for the next four years. There is a lot of similarities between him and a statesmen from a long time ago in America-George Washington.

Inside the anti-US resistance

The Asia Times Online has a interesting article about Bin Laden' health, his financing and Al Qaeda.

"Sheikh [Osama] was in a poor condition when my father last visited," said the operative, who uses the name "Abdullah". "He [bin Laden] asked all of us to pray for his health. For the past many months he has been on dialysis and just cannot move. My father never told me where he was when he met Osama ... but he was worried about his fast-waning health."
"Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri [bin Laden's number two] is very active in Afghanistan and controlling affairs. Most of the Arab fighters left Afghanistan after the US invasion of Iraq and many went there to fight. But the main leadership of al-Qaeda continued to stay in Afghanistan," Abdullah said.

He confirmed Asia Times Online reports that bin Laden had been short of funds, hampering al-Qaeda operations. Still, Abdullah maintained that the al-Qaeda leadership would remain in Afghanistan despite all difficulties, because of the country's identification with Bilad-i-Khurasan - a land, Muslims believe, where Muslim armies will finally regroup and go to liberate the "land of Abraham" from the Anti-God (Dajal).

Abdullah also revealed that international players are aligning themselves with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in a global Islamic alliance to fight the US.... recently a greater alliance has been formed throughout North and South Waziristan.
This article confirms a number of facts that have recently come into great light.
  • Bin Laden is dying. The sooner the better.
  • Zawahiri is functionally in charge of Al Qaeda.
  • Iraq is a loss for Al Qaeda. Democracy is taking hold and the insurgency is losing support. Hopefully Bin Laden lives long through the New Year to see his long efforts in Iraq totally destroyed.
  • Al Qaeda is refocused on Afghanistan to regroup. The large NATO increase in forces will prevent that from being successful while continuing to kill Al Qaeda insurgents on the ground.
  • Bin Laden's attempt to economically destroy America is also causing his organization severe financial hardship. While $1/2 trillion is a lot of money, if American can stay the course, Al Qaeda will soon be defeated.
All of these prove, contrary to the popular main stream media mantra, that America can and is winning the Global War on Terrorism. We just need to stay the course.

Bin Laden believed from what he witnessed in Mogadishu that the United States would "cut and run" as many Democratic members in Congress are now championing. Many believe President Bush is an abberation that needs to be waited out; however, 9/11 changed Americans, just a Pearl Harbor did 65 years ago.

As much as I hate the evil that this man represents, he did reteach Americans why we were able to reach from "sea to shining sea". We are revolutionaries with revolutionary ideals. We do not go along with the rest of the pact. We do not succumb to royal authority. We seek life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness not only for Americans, but for the rest of mankind.

We are Americans.

Hamas Blinks

Haaretz reports that Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh called Saturday for Palestinian militants and Israel to halt military operations in Gaza after 11 days of fierce fighting left nearly 40 Palestinians dead. Hamas has blinked. According to Haaretz,

A statement issued by Haniyeh's office in Gaza said: "In order to get out of the current crisis, it is necessary that all parties restore calm on the basis of mutually stopping all military operations."

Israel Radio reported that Haniyeh also called in his statement to restore calm by returning to a ceasefire agreement called "tahadiyeh" and by engaging in "serious negotiations."
Haniyeh now wants all parties (read Hamas militant groups) to stop all military operations. He knows Israel will stop once Cpl Shalit is released. Haniyeh also wants Hamas to return to their ceasefire agreement and to stop firing rockets. The article further points to a change in Hamas' demands.

Hamas sources said Thursday that the group would agree to release the Shalit and stop firing Qassam rockets at Israel in exchange for the release of all female Palestinian prisoners and about 30 prisoners who have been in Israeli jails for more than 20 years.

The Hamas sources said that organization will also demand that Israel withdraw its forces from the areas of Gaza that it occupied during the past week, release the Palestinian lawmakers that it arrested and end its policy of targeted assassinations.

The sources confirmed Thursday's report about this offer in the London-based newspaper Al-Hayat, as well as Hamas' withdrawal of its previous demand for the release of thousands of Palestinian prisoners in return for Shalit.
The article continues that the softening of Hamas' stance was out of fear that, "a long-term IDF operation could lead to public criticism of the abduction and shorten the lifespan of the Hamas government."

In an earlier Blog, I pointed to the fact that Hamas has recently lost a lot of popular support and Fatah now leads in polls. The Palestinian people are frustrated with their choice of Hamas to rule the government. They have seen an almost complete cut in aid and Hamas trying to prevent a "Two-state" solution to the crisis which is favored by a narrow majority of Palestinians.

What is not mentioned in this article and is to be seen is will Israel hold up its end of the bargain immediately, for example, a prisoner exchange, or will the release of prisoners be delayed after working with Abbas.

I believe the later will be the case. It is what Israel had intended to do all along. As mentioned previously, during Olmert's upcoming meeting with Abbas, he had intented to release several "Palestinian prisoners, including those Israel would not release in the past."

The deal will be struck. Hamas will return Cpl Shalit. Israel will pull out of Gaza in a week or two. In a few months after working with Abbas, Israel will not only release the female prisoners that it wanted to release anyway but also release many more.

This crisis is a severe blow for Hamas.
  • They started this crisis as an effort to prevent Abbas, and by extension Fatah, from gaining anymore political ground. Israel will now seek to ensure Abbas gets credit for any positive Israeli actions.
  • They have been ineffective at protecting their own people from Israeli "invaders" during this crisis they started. Their own ministry buildings have been destroyed, their own ministers have been arrested, and 40 Palestinians killed by their actions.
  • They have been ineffective at negotiating the release of the thousand prisoners Israel was planning on releasing anyway. Release will undoubtedly come, but only through negotiations with Abbas and will now be delayed so as to disassociate it with this event.
  • This crisis will lengthen the restriction on finiancial aid that has been severely restricted. Any ground gained on limiting restrictions will now be relooked for a few more months.
  • Their earlier withdraw from their own ceasefire only a month ago is now going to be reinstated.
  • While they may have delayed the vote on a "Two-state" solution, it will still be voted for.
  • Israel has gained much intelligence in Gaza from the very fact of being there again. While not being mentioned, this is highly important and will have lasting effects.
All in all, Hamas did not play their cards well in instigating this crisis. They will be weakened by it and have to submit to many political decisions they do not want but their citizenry does. Abbas has gained ground as the mediator between Israel and Hamas. It will be insteresting to see what revolutionary ideas are agreed to in the next six months to a year.

The kidnapping of Cpl Shalit is the beginning of a long but eventual peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and as mentioned earlier another nail in the coffin of Hamas, and by extension, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Most Baghdad security under Iraqi control: US report

This is something you will not see in the main stream media.

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The ranks of Iraqi-trained security personnel grew by nearly 30,000 since April and now control more than half of Baghdad and large swathes of the countryside, a quarterly State Department report to Congress said.
The number of Iraqi-trained security personal was more than double that of US soldiers stationed there -- 268,400 as of June 26, compared with 127,000 current US troops -- the quarterly report said.

A look at the quarterly State Department report to Congress shed even more light on the subject.

The authorized endstrength force structure of the Iraqi Armed Forces is approximately 137,000 personnel, manning one Iraqi Ground Forces Command, 10 divisions and 36 brigade headquarters, 114 Army and special operations battalions, six Air Force squadrons, three Navy squadrons, and 19 combat support battalions. As of June 26, 2006, 116,100 personnel or 84 percent of the authorized end-strength has been trained and equipped. With the initial focus on establishing combat units, attention is now shifting toward the logistics backbone needed to facilitate independent operations. One hundred and six Iraqi Army and Special Operations battalions are now conducting counter-insurgency operations with 81 battalions assessed as capable of operating "in the lead" or independently. Sixty-nine MoD battalions control their own areas of responsibility and ISF have conducted more independent operations than MNF-I in three of the last five months.

The end-strength force structure for all Ministry of Interior forces is 188,200 trained and equipped personnel manning two division headquarters, nine brigade headquarters, 12 Public Order battalions, 12 Commando battalions, three mechanized battalions, and one Emergency Response Unit. The force structure plan is designed to enable a stable civil-security environment in which a prosperous economy and a democratic and representative government that respects and promotes human rights can evolve. As of June 26, 152,300 Ministry of Interior security personnel, or 81 percent of the authorized end strength of 188,200, have been trained and equipped.

The MOD and the MOI are on track to complete initial training and equipping of 100 percent of their authorized end-strength forces by the end of December 2006, at which time the initial build-up will be completed and efforts will focus on replacing losses.

In December 2006, the MOD and MOI will be able to focus almost exclusively on increasing those battalions taking control of their own areas of responsibility and leading their own operations.

In a little over three short years, Iraqi Scurity Frces have taken over half of their own security and by this time next year, will undoubtedly have 100% ownership of their own country. Yes, an insurgency exists and is getting combat experience, but so are the Iraqi Security Forces and Iraqi Security Forces are winning the battle and will eventually win the war. The recent surge in high value targets captured or killed points to this fact. This is the dire state of affairs in Iraq that Zarqawi was pointing to in his recent letter before his death.

Good news is not limited to Iraqi Security Forces. Reconstruction projects are also nearing completion.

Under the IRRF II, the U.S. has programmed $4.2 billion for electricity, $2.1 billion for water, $1.7 billion for oil, $739 million for the health sector, and $99 million for education. The initial focus of these activities was to restore large electricity and water plants neglected by the former regime, with the expectation that rehabilitating existing plants and/or building new plants would be a down payment on what would have to be a larger, long-term program to strengthen Iraqi infrastructure and a stable base for Iraq’s economic growth. Most of these projects are well underway, and nearly all of the large infrastructure projects are expected to be completed by the end of calendar year 2006.

Iraq’s crude oil production has recently increased significantly above 2002 pre-war levels. In June 2006, production has averaged 2.3 million barrels a day, above the 2002 average of 2.0 million barrels per day.

Reduction of Iraq’s external debt burden to sustainable levels, another top priority for Iraq’s economic development, is a key component of U.S. donor coordination. In November 2004, the Paris Club group of creditors agreed to forgive, in phases, 80 percent of the approximately $40 billion in Iraqi debt held by its members.

The report concludes with:

Security transition will occur when four criteria are met:

  1. Implementation of Partnerships—MNF-I and its Major Subordinate Commands must establish and maintain partnerships across the entire spectrum of Iraqi Security Forces units, from battalion through to ministerial level;
  2. Achievement of Iraqi Army Lead (IAL)—Process during which Iraqi Army units progress through stages of capability from unit formation to the ability to conduct counter-insurgency operations;
  3. Attainment of Provincial Iraqi Control (PIC)—Iraqi civil authorities satisfy the conditions required to assume control and exercise responsibility for the security of their respective provinces. This is achieved by attaining the previously mentioned four criteria: the ability of Coalition forces to reinforce the ISF if necessary; readiness and capabilities of ISF; levels of present and projected insurgent activity; and the readiness and capabilities of relevant government institutions; and
  4. Iraqi Security Self-Reliance—The Government of Iraq achieves PIC (or a combination of PIC and IAL) throughout Iraq; and the government, through its security ministries, is capable of planning, conducting, and sustaining security operations and forces.

These criteria are not sequential. Iraqi forces do not have to assume the lead in each governorate before Coalition forces may begin transfer of provincial control in governorates where all conditions, including Iraqi Security Forces lead for security, have already been established.

This is the exit strategy out of Iraq as opposed to a timetable. The report expresses the disasterous effects of using a timetable as an exit strategy.

Again, arbitrary timetables for withdrawal of Coalition forces—divorced from conditions in Iraq and the region—would be a serious strategic error, as they would suggest to the enemy that they can simply wait to win. No war has ever been won on a timetable, and neither will this one be. Lack of a timetable, however, does not mean that the Coalition’s posture in Iraq is static. On the contrary, the Coalition continually adjusts its posture and approaches as conditions evolve and Iraqi capabilities grow.

Iraqis are in line for a nice Christmas present at the end of the year. The presents will be stability, security, self-government, and economic progress. The beacon of democracy in the Middle East is not only lit for all others to see, but it is beginning to shine very bright and will guide several other countries in the region. This is a far cry from the death and destruction Saddam was leading his country to just three short years ago.

Iraq considers arming insurgents

An interesting development in Iraq.

BAGHDAD — Iraq's government is studying a request from some local insurgent leaders to supply them with weapons so they can turn on the heavily armed foreign fighters who were once their allies, according to two Iraqi lawmakers.

Leaders claiming to represent about 11 insurgent groups asked for weapons to fight foreign al-Qaeda elements in Iraq, said Haider al-Ibadi, a Shiite lawmaker and member of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's Dawa Party.

"They want to take part in the war against terrorists," said al-Ibadi, who supports the proposal. "They claim they could wipe out the terrorists and work with the government."
Click here for a full read.

After Zarqawi

Front Page Magazine has an interesting and detailed analysis of GWOT, the war in Iraq, and the death of Zarqawi. The symposium panel members state some important facts.

Mr McCarty - Defeating al Qaeda is the national security mission that the American people broadly support. They would like to see democracy in Iraq, but they would never have sent their military there for that reason alone, and the fall off in popular support owes precisely to the fact that the administration has allowed the war to become more about democracy-building and less about wiping out jihadists. Americans need to see the mission in Iraq tied demonstrably to defeating al Qaeda. On that score, the administration has done a very poor job of communicating what is actually a very good case. Zarqawi’s killing is an important chance to start turning that around.
Zarqawi's death is the death of a vibrant symbol for Islamists.

Mr. Peters - In this long war of symbols, we destroyed a vital symbol for our enemies. It will not end, or even shorten, the greater War on Terror--which Middle-Eastern Islam will wage intermittently as it continues to fail as a civilization. But, in the mid-term, his death may help in Iraq. For now, we can be certain that it was a tremendous blow to terrorist morale. In this contest of wills, our will was superior. God willing, it will remain so.
Zarqawi radicalized the Iraqi insurgency.
Mr. Darling - The death of Abu Musab Zarqawi represents a major victory for the US in Iraq. While his group was by no means the largest component of the Iraqi insurgency, it should be remembered that insurgencies are not conventional militaries and their capacity is not determined merely by manpower. What Zarqawi lacked in terms of manpower he made up with in raw violence, which enabled him to serve as an enormous radicalizing influence both on the Iraqi insurgency and on Iraqi society as a whole.
Killing Zarqawi gives the US confidence in its intelligence community.

Mr. Gunaratna - Zarkawi's killing will now give the confidence to the US intelligence community as well as to its operational forces to target similar leaders in the coming months and years. With the appropriate investment, Osama Bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri are likely to meet with their deaths. Killing or incarcerating (still better) terrorist leaders - both ideologues and operatives are a paramount necessity, but the US, its allies and friends must realize that in Jihadist conflicts much more needs to be done to permanently change the strategic landscape. The US must think beyond operational counter terrorism, if it hopes to make a strategic impact.
In summary, Mr. McCarthy states:

These events tell us a few things. First, Zarqawi’s killing remains significant, but time does march on and events have a way of superseding what we think is most important today. Second, al Qaeda is not going away unless we rededicate ourselves to the conviction that it has to be rooted out and destroyed. Which is to say: As between whether democracy ultimately takes root in Iraq or whether al Qaeda gets a new headquarters in Somalia, I would say the latter is vastly more important to U.S. national security. Yet, it is the former that has gotten our attention, energy and sacrifice – which, again, causes me to wonder whether we, as a nation, grasp that the central mission of the war on terror is to quell the jihadist network. Finally, third, the latest American leaks and judicial decision have to make us wonder whether our country is sufficiently enough invested in this effort. As all of my colleagues have stressed, this is a long, difficult struggle. It is hard to imagine how we prevail – as opposed to treading water, or, worse, being hit again – absent a unity of purpose.

Night Falls on Mogadishu

An absolutely superb article about the status of Al Qaeda in Somalia is provided by Dan Darling from The Daily Standard. Mr. Darling sums up the threat below:

The effect of the ICU's rule over Mogadishu is already coming into focus. From closing down makeshift cinemas, to preventing Somalis from viewing the World Cup, to making the celebration of New Year's a capital offense, the closer one looks at this regime the more it begins to resemble the Islamist theocracy that once dominated Afghanistan. While some observers have compared the rise of the ICU in Somalia to the Taliban conquest of Afghanistan, a better analogy might be the early rise of the Taliban in Kandahar in 1994, when the movement was still in the process of consolidating its power. At that time, the West chose to ignore the threat, a decision that had tragic consequences for so many. Whether or not we repeat that same mistake, only time will tell.
Read it in full here.

US Strategy in GWOT

It is time to review US strategy in the Global War on Terror and look at the main operational efforts/fronts and how they play into the overall strategy.

The US is playing its cards correctly at this point despite all the rhetoric in the main-street media.

  • The Main Effort in GWOT - Continue focus on anti-insurgency operations, Iraqi Army/Police training, and nation building in Iraq so we can reduce US forces for rest and refit for future operations, namely Iran. Loosing Iraq will greatly weaken Islamists ability to rally public support and continue their evil cause; namely the destruction of our way of life.

  • The Second Front in GWOT - Continue to build the NATO Coalition in Afghanistan. This keeps the Europeans and Canadians involved in GWOT and allows them to participate up to their capabilities. It also gives them firsthand accounts of the evil of Islamists.

  • The Third Front in GWOT - Allow Pakistan to purchase new F-16s and 500 JDAM precision munitions to assist in the possible future death of Bin Laden and his ilk in Pakistan/Afghanistan border region.

  • The Fourth Front in GWOT - Let Israel continue its hardline stance against Hamas to show its true colors and lose support of the Palestinian people; thereby allowing a more moderate Fatah to gain recently lost support, enact a "Two-State" solution, and put an end to the Middle East crisis that has persisted for 1/2 a century. Hamas' future loss of public support will be another nail in the coffin of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (which Egypt is now effectively handling on its own).

  • The Fifth Front in GWOT - Let the Islamists clean house in Somalia. It needs it. Support the African Union indirectly to prevent another Taliban-type state that we would otherwise have to deal with in near the future. Overtly support Ethiopia in the future, if needed, with airpower to execute precision strikes.

  • The Sixth Front in GWOT - Continue to pressure Iran on the nuclear issue and support anti-governmental forces so that it falls from within. Internal strife will prevent external support of terrorism. As a last ditch effort, force the situation by bombing nuclear sites. We will not detroy all of them, but vocal rhetoric from Ahmadinejad will be seen as a cause of the bombing and will lend support to anti-government forces. As Iran falls, so will Syria resulting in a free Lebanon.

  • The Seventh Front in GWOT - Continue support of the Saudi regime. It is taking down some serious Islamists now that it has recognized that Wallabism is central to Islamists' philosophy and threatens its own regime. It is also oil freindly to the US-a commodity that is our lifeblood economically.

  • The Eighth Front in GWOT - Continue to isolate Korea and demand six-party talks. They are all talk and cannot provide electricity for their people much less mount an offensive against anybody. North Korea just needs to continue to be isolated until it falls from within.

  • The Nineth Front in GWOT - Continue to financially isolate and strap Islamists by preventing banking transactions. Continue to monitor Islamists for any intelligence to prevent attacks in the US and other democractic countries.

  • The Tenth Front in GWOT - Continue to protect the homeland. While GWOT has cost $1/2 trillion and continues to grow, what would be the cost of rebuilding New York City and the monetary effects on our economy if a successful nuclear attack occurred in this vital city? It would make New Orleans and Katrina look like childplay and have far-reaching economic ramifications. $1/2 trillion is a small price to pay in comparison.

While there are many more smaller fronts in the Global War on Terror, these are the top ten. Al Qaeda has been weakened enough over the last five years to the point that of these ten major fronts they have only recently opened up a new one, namely Somalia-which was a minor effort before. In all others, they are either non-players (Korea is using GWOT for its own opportunities) or have been dealt significant blows they are still reeling from. While concern exists in our hemispheare especially with Venezuela and Bolivia, we only have so many forces we can apply to so many efforts. These efforts can only be affected politically at this time.

Battles won (but operations still ongoing) include:

  • USA - It has not been re-attacked for almost five years.
  • Iraq - It is now a freely democratic country.
  • Afghanistan - It is now a freely democratic country.
  • Saudi Arabia - It no longer actively supports terrorism and in fact is a central fight against it.
  • Kuwait - It just held free democratic elections with women voting.
  • Pakistan - It no longer actively supports terrorism and in fact is actively pursuing them to the best of its ability. F-16s with JDAMs will help immensely.
  • Lebanon - It is free for the most part. It continues to gain independence from Syria.
  • Israel - Since 9-11, all Americans now understand the terrorist threat to Israel.
  • Lybia - An old nemesis is no longer a major player.
  • Georgia - Free
  • Ukraine - Free

Battles that are shaping up and can go either way.

  • Iran - Will we be able to prevent this regime from going nuclear and extorting nuclear terrorism?
  • Syria - Winning Iran will cause Syria to fall. If we lose the battle in Iran, we can still defeat Syria, but then will have to fight a dual front.
  • Somalia - Will the African Union be able to maintain peace which is acceptable to the US?
  • Palestine - It is now a freely democratic entity soon to be country if the Palestinian people themselves can stop blaming Israel for all of its ailments.

When President Bush stated GWOT will outlive his presidency, he wasn't trying to pass the buck. He was just pointing to the truth. Given our current force structure, we cannot go into Iran, Syria, and Somalia. We must rely on political maneuvering and other friendly nations. Once thing Mr. Bush has brought to the forefront is that GWOT is dependent upon all nations fighting against terrorism and not harboring terrorists. Several free or pro-US countries are involved actively in GWOT and actively or passively fighting terrorists.

This war has more operational fronts than any the US has fought in over 60 years. We are winning. The terrorists are losing. The reason is simple. Our founding fathers stated it 230 years ago today in signing the Declaration of Independence.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. "

Radicals Gain Edge In Somali Capital

The Washington Post has a good article summarizing the recent events in Somalia.
On June 5, Mogadishu fell to Islamic militias affiliated with neighborhood religious courts and backed by a moderate coalition of businessmen, civil society activists and elders from the city's leading families. Ousted was a group of secular and widely hated warlords who benefited from U.S. financial support in exchange for capturing suspected terrorists.

Many people in Mogadishu cheered the change, because the Islamic militias provided the first semblance of a government since 1991.

Street crime plummeted. Shops stayed open past dark for the first time in years. Many residents said they welcomed the idea of sharia , or religious law, in a society where Islam has traditionally been practiced moderately. Few women wear veils in Mogadishu, and schools have typically mixed girls and boys in the same classes.
This fact about veils and mixed schools is going to be the rub between Somalis and Islamists.

While Somalis welcomed Islamists since they brought law and order to Somalia for the first time since 1991, they will soon see that Islamists have more in store for them. Islamic law is not only tolerated but welcomed when rapists will be stoned to death. Heck, I wish we would do the same thing in the United States with rapists. However, once Somalis see they cannot educate their females and these same females will soon get stoned to death for being raped, Somalis, just like Afghanistanis, will realize their mistake.

Somalis will in the short term approve of Islamist. They will clean up their country from the several evil warlords. In the near term, Somalis will provide tacit approval for Islamist out of fear for their lives. In the longer term, they will seek to slowly but surely undermine Islamists rulers.

I for one welcome the Islamists into Somalia. It will help cleanse that country of evil warlords. With all these separate factions gone, it will be easier in the future to deal with one great evil than several smaller evils.

I also welcome the African Union stepping up to the plate to send peacekeeping troops even if it is just a facade to allow Ethiopia a pretext to invade Somalia. Ethiopia has a mainly secular government and is not about to succumb to Islamic extremeism.

For now, the African Union should allow the Islamists to clean house in Somalia. It definitely needs a cleaning. Timed right, the African Union could use the uneasiness of Somalis against Islamists to launch a successful peacekeeping mission just as the Islamist have rid the country of evil warlords and prior to consolidating power.

Why would Hamas kidnap an Israeli Soldier?

Why would Hamas kidnap an Israeli Soldier? What would they expect to gain? Surely, they did not believe that Israel would capitulate to their demands. So why?

The answer is quite simple. International sanctions, especially with regards to money, against a Hamas led PA has resulted in their popularity significantly decreasing. Hence, Hamas needed an event to unite Palestinian support behind their members. That event was the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

Ok, that is a pretty bold statement, so lets look at the facts.

Contrary to the title of this article at Haaretz, Palestinian poll: Faith in Hamas government is on the rise, a reading of the article sheds a different light.

The poll did find a decline in the popularity of Hamas as a political party. In February, 41.4 percent of respondents said they would vote for Hamas in the parliamentary election, while in June only 30.8 percent said they would vote for them if the election were to be held today. The percentage of respondents who said they would vote for Fatah increased slightly, from 31 percent in February to 33.2 percent in June. Trust in Hamas dropped from 38.7 in February to 28.9 in this poll.
These are significant 10 point drops in support for Hamas; hence, I am not sure why the article is titled as it is, but that is another story all together.

What is even more interesting is that the number of respondents who stated they would vote for Fatah. Wile only increasing slightly from February to June, it is now almost 3 points higher than the number of respondents who would vote for Hamas. These numbers show that if Abbas was to dissolve the government, he would be relatively assured of having a Fatah majority in Parliament again. This fact cannot be lost on Hamas.

As the old saying goes, "Desperate times brings desperate measures." So when did Hamas conceive of such an act to unite Palestinians behind them again or at the very least to reduce their sagging poll numbers?

According to the The Jerusalem Post, it was in March 2006.

Last March, PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar was asked in an interview with the Dubai-based satellite channel Al Arabiya how Hamas would be different from Fatah, and he replied that while Abbas failed to win the release of Palestinian prisoners, Hamas would do it by kidnapping soldiers and then negotiating for their release.
Interesting to say the least. Given the polling data, kidnapping an Israeli Soldier was (and is) and attempt by Hamas to improve their popularity and decrease Fatah's popularity. This statement is from their own Foreign Minister. By the same token, if Abbas was able to secure the release of Palestinian prisoners, Fatah's popularity would improve and further plummet Hamas' popularity.

According to the The Jerusalem Post,

Olmert said Sunday that before Shalit had been kidnapped, and he had been planning his long-anticipated meeting with Abbas, he had considered recommending - as a way of improving the overall atmosphere - the releasing of some Palestinian prisoners, including those Israel would not release in the past.

However, to do so now, he said, would be the end for Abbas. In other words, freeing Palestinian prisoners would prove Zahar right, and all but politically bury Abbas.
Now the facts show exactly why Hamas kidnapped Cpl. Gilad Shalit.

Did Hamas believe that they would secure the release of Palestinian prisoners by kidnapping Cpl Gilad Shalit? Oh course not. However, have they now prevented the release of Palestinian prisoners that Abbas may have won from Olmert which would have undoubted resulted in increase popularity for Fatah and decreasing popularity for Hamas. Abbas may have been able in the near future to push forward the "Two-state" vote and eventually dissolve the Hamas Parliament, regaining international monetary support, and possibly bringing an end to the Middle East crisis that we have known for years.

The kidnapping is simple math. Hamas needed an event to unify Palestinians around them to lift up their saggin pole numbers and prevent further Fatah popularity gains. Kidnapping an Israeli Soldier would cause Israel to retaliate uniting Palestinians. By asking for the release of prisoners that Israel was going to release anyway has effectively prevented Israel from releasing these prisoners as planned in the future.

This mentality is supported by the fact that Hamas turned down an Egyptian proposal to release Cpl Shalit for a future release of Palestinian prisoners. The future meeting of Abbas and Olmert would have resulted in the release of not only prisoners that Hamas wanted released, but others Israel had refused to release in the past effectively putting the spotlight again on Fatah as the more moderate party that is able to seek concessions from Israel.

What is even more damning is that Hamas' actions to prevent a freefall of its popularity and a resurgence of support for Fatah has prevented hundreds of Palestinian prisoners from returning home. Hamas doesn't care about the Palestinians. It only cares about securing and retaining power.

There is only one word for this type of mindset - disgusting.

However, one thing that is not lost on any democratically elected government is that if it does not rule for the people by the people that elected it, it will soon find itself out of power. The kidnapping of Cpl Shalit has in the short term prevented Hamas' popularity from freefalling and Fatah's popularity from skyrocketing, but it will not in the long-term prevent it from being voted out of office in the future for this underhandedness.

Time is on Abbas side in this showdown. Abbas in the near future will win the release of Palestinian prisoners. The Palestinians will vote for a "Two-state" solution in the future. Palestinians will continue to see Hamas as a primary reason they are not being given international financial aid and an obstruction to peace. Fatah, humiliated in its recent defeat by Hamas, is growing smarter in governing for its people and understanding that moderation with Israel is a must to gain the freedoms it is seeking.

Hamas is now in a no-win situation.

If it gives up Cpl Shalit after Israeli forces have shattered many Hamas symbols, it will be seen as week.

If it kills Cpl Shalit, it will be seen as the the instigator that cause much Palestinian death and destruction by Israeli forces.

Its only move right now is to keep Cpl Shalit alive and see if Israel blinks. However, the longer this crisis goes on, the longer the Palestinian people are hurt and the more popularity Hamas loses.

Abbas for his part has been seen publically supporting Haniyeh, when he has come out of hiding. This is a smart move for Abbas and Fatah.

The two ways this crisis will end is Abbas will be seen as the ruling moderate that brought this crisis to a end prior to anymore bloodshed or Hamas will kill Cpl Shalit and be at the mercy of Israel's revenge. At this point Abbas again will moderate an eventual ceasefire. Either way, Hamas, due to Israel's hardline stance, will lose ground politically. Abbas, and Fatah by extension, will gain ground politically, push through a delayed vote on the "Two-State" solution, and see an eventual return of international support. But after the "Two-State" solution vote, it will then be up to Fatah to bring Palestinians into the 21st century.

The crisis is the beginning of a free Palestinian state that hopefully will strive for peace and an end for Hamas, and by extension, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Hamas' biggest failing was being democratically elected to lead a nation.

A US Citizen's Perspective on Israel-Palestinian Issue

Imagine over the course of the last year several rockets have been fired from Mexico into the United States. While most have landed in vacant desert, some have landed near homes resulting in American casualites. America, not wanting to fight an all out war with Mexico, has responded in kind with Artillery and precision air strikes into Mexico.

Now imagine members from the Mexican Army crossing into California and abducting a Soldier from the California National Guard patrolling the border and killing a few others.

Further imagine a group from Mexican Army demanding the release of 1000 Mexican prisoners from California Correctional Facilities for the release of the one Soldier from the California National Guard. What do you think the United States government's reaction and Americans' reactions would be to this act?

Undoubtedly, the American government, with full support of it people, would send in planes and tanks to respond to such an act of war and flatten the Mexican government and quite possibly create either the 51st State to the Union or another territory.

How would this change if the Mexican government stated that it does not have control over this wing of its Army? I believe the American government and people would say either get control or we will get control and continue to bomb key and strategic targets in Mexico until either the Mexican government relented or was overthrown by our forces.

In examining this scenario, I see a lot of correlations with the current Hamas incursion into Israel to kill and capture Israeli Soldiers.

Some may say it is different since there are disputed borders in Israel. I am not sure this premise holds water as Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza over a year ago or the fact that Israel became an established nation by UN authority in 1948, yes almost 60 years ago.

Yes, but Israel expanded those UN borders and are occupying Palestinian land. Israel has not returned to its pre-1967 boundaries and that is why Hamas invaded Israel and killed two Soldiers and captured another Soldier and is now demanding the release of 1000 Palestinians.

I'm sorry, who started the 1967 Arab-Israeli war? The Arabs started the war. Israel won the war and gained territory as a result of the war. Now almost 40 year ago, Palestinians are still disputing the border, which oh-by-the-way, Israel has over the last 40 years given up much of their 1967 gains, just to keep the peace.

In the last 60 years and three major wars seeking to destroy the state of Israel, Israelis have shown remarkable restraint and patience. It has shown much more restraint than the USA would have shown or any other government would have shown for that matter.

Now a democratically elected Palestinian government's security forces have invaded Israel and captured one of its Soldiers. It is not up to Israel to show restraint-even though it is practicing great restraint. It is up to the democratically elected Palestinian government to gain control of its forces and people to live in peace and harmony with its neighbor.

Iraqi Security Forces ‘stepping up to the plate’

Multi-National Forces, Iraq (MNF-I) has an excellent article about Iraqi forces stepping more and more to the forefront of operations and support Iraqi forces are getting from the local populous.

The goal of increasing the Iraqi Security Forces presence in Baghdad and using Coalition Forces primarily as support has provided Iraqi citizens with an opportunity to build their confidence in the Iraqi Army’s military police.

During the combined cordon and search, the Iraqi Army was attacked by small-arms fire but suffered no injuries or damage to personnel or equipment. The operation netted 10 detainees, along with numerous bottles of unknown chemicals. The Iraqi Army also uncovered two notable terrorist cells, one of which involved a militia battalion commander in Baghdad.

"They were very happy to have captured this insurgent, (whom) they called the ‘big fish,’" said Morris. The next location led to another high-valued individual and his six sons.
Iraqi Army and Police are now solidly in the fight to maintain and build democracy in Iraq. Coalition forces are becoming less directly involved and have shifted to indirect involvement and support of Iraqi forces. Iraqi forces and Police are getting great combat experience, are no longer running from fights, and in fact are bringing the fight to the terrorists.

So much has changed in a year. By next year, Iraq should be well on its way to a florishing democracy and a crumbling insurgency.