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

New York

Iraqi Security Forces detain 4 suspected extremists (Mahmudiyah)

Udoubtedly as a result of the raid that netted Thirty-two most-wanted extremists near Salmon Pak, MNF-I is reporting that two more cell leaders have been detained in Mahmudiyah.

Iraqi Security Forces, advised by U.S. Special Forces, detained two suspected extremists and two extremist cell leaders in separate raids Jan. 4.

In Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, Iraqi Special Operations Forces detained two suspected extremists who are believed to be responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Iraqi citizens, weapons trafficking as well as attacks on Iraqi and Coalition Forces.

During the course of the operation, the assault force received small arms fire from an individual near the target objective. Iraqi and U.S. Forces engaged the individual, killing him.

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Arabs Back General As Lebanese President

Well at least the title of this Washington Post article gets it right even if the first paragraph gets it wrong.

Syria joined other Arab nations Saturday in endorsing the head of Lebanon's army as that country's next president, putting pressure on the Lebanese opposition to drop demands that have blocked a compromise over the post.

The way this is written leads one to presume Syria led the charge for allowing the election of Gen. Michel Suleiman for president.

During a meeting in Cairo, Arab foreign ministers agreed unanimously to back Commander Gen. Michel Suleiman for president and called on Lebanon's rival parties to resolve their political differences.

Syria's decision to back the statement suggested that the Lebanese opposition - led by the Syrian-backed Hezbollah - maybe ready to drop its demand that it receive Cabinet veto power before allowing Suleiman to be elected.

Syria, through Hezbollah, has been preventing Suleiman's selection as president until this point by pressuring March 14 members to give Hezbollah 1/3 of the ministersial seats in parliament, allowing them to veto any legislation not acceptable to them, even though this is more than their representative sample.

Read the entire article here.

Bhutto's servant under scanner

In an interesting twist, Bhutto's servant, Khalid Shahinshah is now wanted for questiong over her assassination according to The Times of India.

An absconding servant of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto, who aroused suspicion with his "strange gestures" while she was delivering her last address in Rawalpindi last week, could provide a clue to her killing, Pakistan People's Party workers said.

Khalid Shahinshah, who was hired by Bhutto on the recommendation of her security advisor Rahman Malik, has been on the run ever since footage emerged of the strange gestures he had made while standing on the dais next to Bhutto while she addressed an election rally.

Shahinshah was standing on Bhutto's left during her speech and ran a finger across his throat which implied slitting the throat. Security officials have expressed concern at his "suspicious gestures" which could not be ignored.

We will continue to watch this story as it develops. For the full read, click here.

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It's the secular Left vs. the Christian Left

Mark Steyn discusses the results in Iowa as only Mark Steyn can.

Confronted by Preacher Huckabee standing astride the Iowa caucuses, smirking, "Are you feelin' Hucky, punk?", many of my conservative pals are inclined to respond, "Shoot me now."

But, if that seems a little dramatic, let's try and rustle up an alternative.

To read the full article, click here.

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Musharraf: Bhutto bears responsibility for death

President Musharraf in an interview for 60 Minutes to be aired Sunday has apparently stated that Bhutto bears responsibility for her death.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf conceded that a gunman may have shot Benazir Bhutto but said the opposition leader exposed herself to danger and bore responsibility for her death, CBS News said on Saturday.

He appearently specifically said,

For standing up outside the car, I think it was she to blame alone. Nobody else. Responsibility is hers," Musharraf said in the interview taped on Saturday morning.

Musharraf also apparently conceded Bhutto was shot.

Musharraf was asked by CBS, which provided excerpts of the interview, whether a gunshot could have caused Bhutto's head injury. He replied, "Yes, yes."

The questioner asked, "So she may have been shot?" and Musharraf said, "Yes, absolutely, yes. Possibility."

For the full read, click here


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Iraqi Security Forces Order of Battle: January 2008 Update

D. J. Elliot gives a laydown on the current Iraqi Security Forces Order of Battle at The Long War Journal.

The January 2008 updates to the Iraqi Security Forces Order of Battle are now available at the ISF OOB Page. The significant changes to the Order of Battle are summarized below.

On December 14, the quarterly report to congress was released. The details have been addressed in "Iraqi Security Forces continue to surge" and only updates or changes to that report will be addressed in this update.

On December 15, the ninth of 18 Iraqi provinces transferred to Iraqi control. Basrah marked the halfway point in the turnover of Iraqi provinces and a major shift in Iraqi forces to cover the southern provinces. According to previous reporting, Ninewa Province is due to transfer to Iraqi control in the February or March timeframe and Anbar is speculated to transfer in the April or May timeframe. Baghdad Province is planned for Provincial Iraqi Control in August 2008. Baghdad is expected to be the last province to transfer to Iraqi control.

The entire update can be viewed by clicking here.

The Battle for Diyala - 04-05 January 08

The Battle for Diyala continues with Coalition Forces conducting a series of raids. The below picture details a series of MNF-I Press Releases from 04 to 05 January 2008. Click on the image to enlarge.

Coalition forces continue to use actionable intelligence to kill or capture Al Qaeda in Iraq and Special Groups in the Diyala Province. As one can see from the image above, Coalition forces are continuing to encircle Al Qaeda where they have established a base of operations in the lake in the Kanaqin district of the Diyala province. Once Coalition Forces are able to rout Al Qaeda from the lake, they will have successfully cut off their major line of communication between the Hamrin Ridge and Baghdad.

The Hamrin Ridge has been a known safe haven and training location for Al Qaeda earlier in the war and as late as October 2007. This ridge is dotted with many caves that allow Al Qaeda to hide plus the mixture of Arabs, Turkomans and Kurds allow Al Qaeda to hide among the area's mix demographic population.

In addition, Coalition Forces also are using actionable intelligence to kill or capture Al Qaeda in along the Tigris River Valley from Balad to Samarra to Tikrit. This action will close Al Qaeda's remaining line of communiction in the MND-N's zone.

It is in these locations that remaing 25% of Al Qaeda is attempting to regenerate it command and control structure and re-estblish its base of operations. As part of Operation Phantom Strike, a corps-level offensive, MND-N, Iraqi Army, and Special Forces are attacking Al Qaeda in their last remaining safe havens. The operation aims to prevent al Qaeda, Sunni, and Shi’a insurgent elements from reconstituting their forces in Baghdad, its belts, or elsewhere. U.S. and Iraqi forces seek to destroy the remnants of enemy groups and eliminate any new safe havens they try to establish. Their operations are also aiming to prevent Shiite militias from taking over territory once controlled by al Qaeda. This is why Special Groups are also being targeted.

Bilawal is target now: Lal Masjid cleric

The Daily Times of Pakistan quoted Taliban cleric Maulana Mohavya Irshad, from the Lal Masjid, or red mosque, as saying,

"Bilawal is a target now...." "I don’t know much about Bilawal. I only know he is a liberal person which is a deviation from Islam. True Muslims will not allow him to go against Islam." "These true Muslims will be horrified to see an image of Bilawal dressed as the devil while standing besides a pretty girl at a decadent party at Oxford University."

While many folks try to point fingers at Musharraf for Bhutto's assassination, we have leading Taliban clerics all but pointing fingers at their next target. We have Al Qaeda and The Taliban initially claiming credit for Bhutto's assassination, but given the uproar that followed her death, these elements have since not formally taken credit. Yet, we again have leading Taliban figures coming forward threatening death to her son, Bilawal.

While Musharraf's government has not handled the assassination properly, nor has Zardari, who initally refused an autopsy on Bhutto and recently rejected Musharraf’s offer of a probe by Scotland Yard and demanded that a United Nations commission should conduct the investigation into his wife’s death.

Now we have reports of seven suspected suicide bombers having entered Rawalpindi and Islamabad to sow the seeds of more unrest.

Pakistan created the Taliban and tacitly supported Al Qaeda in its borders. It now is quickly becoming the second central front in their global jihad. One can only hope that the PPP and Musharraf can put their differences behind them and work to fight a common enemy.

True Muslims should not be "horrified to see an image of Bilawal dressed as the devil", instead they should be horrified of the numerous devils in Al Qaeda and the Taliban within their boarders.

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Fatah (and Hamas) lose support among Palestinians

The Jerusalem Post reports that Palestinians are losing faith in not only Fatah, but also Hamas.

Fatah still commands a strong lead over Hamas that controls Gaza, with 39 percent of Palestinians trusting it, as opposed to 16 percent backing for Hamas. But in November, 46 percent of those surveyed for a similar poll favored Fatah, and 13 percent backed Hamas.

Forty-one percent of those polled said they didn't trust either faction, up from 32 percent in November.

The article goes on to state.

While most Palestinians trust and approve Fatah's peace moves, they have little trust in Fatah's ability to improve their own living conditions, said Jamil Rabah, director of Near East Consulting.

"People don't have a problem with the thinking and ideology of Fatah, but they are not happy with the symbols and leaders of Fatah," Rabah said. "They are getting so much money, but will they bring an end to the (deteriorating) situation?"

A plurality of Palestinians (41%) do not trust Fatah or Hamas to improve their living conditions despite donor nations promising $7.4 billion over the next three years. In addition, Palestinian trust and approve of Fatah's peace moves.

Hamas took over Gaza due to is popularity slipping. The polls show their coup has not helped their popularity, standing in the teens.

So, what is the significance here?

First, this is the first poll I have seen that a plurality (41%) do not trust Fatah or Hamas

Second, this is also the first poll I have seen where a majority ("most" according to the article) want peace with Israel.

Third, Hamas, who won the Palestinians first elections, now only have support of 16% of the population.

Finally, Palestinians only had a choice between two parties in their first democratic election. Having lost faith in Fatah, they brought Hamas into power. Having seen that Hamas also does not have their best interest at heart, Palestinians became disenchanted Hamas. However, instead of support moving to Fatah, it has now moved to a third, yet undetermined faction or faction who will lead the Palestinians to peace with Israel and serve the people who elected it into power.

I have stated this before in this blog. The fascinating dynamic of the January 2006 election is not that the Palestinians were able to freely elect Hamas into power, but that Hamas (and Fatah) could be unelected in the future if they did not govern for the people since they were now elected by the people.

It now appears the Palestinians would vote both parties out of power. This is the gift the Palestinians were given in January 2006. Many concluded the Palestinians squandered this gift by voting Hamas into power. I contend they did not vote Hamas into power as much as they voted Fatah out of power due to its inability to govern for them. For its part, Fatah rather peacefully conceded power, a first for Palestinians.

Fatah, for its part, seems to have generally gotten the message, and its leaders are attempting to govern for the people to a certain extent. Hamas, on the otherhand, conducted a coup in Gaza to maintain its hold on power. Both parties poll data reflect accurately the amount of trust Palestinians now put in their parties.

Israel should use this poll data to push for peace with the Palestinians. In addition, America should help the Palestinians find a leader for the disenchanted 41% who neither favor Fatah or Hamas and who will govern for the people.

However, even without America's or Israel's meddling, the Palestinians were given a special gift, the gift of democracy, in January 2006. As with all young democracies (including our own), it initially has to overcome significant graft, develop the spirit of a democracy, and fully understand what a democracy gives to its people. This two year old democracy is still young and learning. It is no older or wiser at this point than is a toddler. In fact, some may say, it has entered into its "terrible twos". Yet, this young democracy will continue to grow and florish. It will go through puberty, sweet sixteen, and finally become a respectable adult providing for it children.

Everybody wants to end the Palestinian crisis, but what is forgotten is the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was ended on January 2006. It is now something completely different. It is a democracy. Its people were liberated, not from the Israelis, but from their own totalitarian rulers. Yes, Hamas brought forth a coup in Gaza to retain power, but Fatah is moving ahead with peace towards Israel and peace for its people. Right now there are two divided Palestinian areas, but over time, the power of the people will reunite these separated people.

George Washington gave this country a gift on 23 December 1797. Another George gave the Palestinians a gift on 25 January 2006 as part of the Bush Doctrine which declared one of the goals of the United States was to spread of democracy to prevent the rise or continuation of terrorist's regimes. While not yet a fully developed democracy, the Palestinian people are going through their "terrible twos" enroute in their path to get there.

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Key Al Qaeda Deputy Killed in Iraq (And 32 Most-wanted Terrorists Captured Too)

CNN, is reporting a key Al Qaeda deputy was killed in Iraq on 27 December 2007.

Muhammad Khalil Ibrahim, identified as the deputy military leader for the al Qaeda's network south of Baghdad, was killed along with two other terrorists in the air strike on their vehicle on Dec. 27, the military said.

Ibrahim was "a key planner in numerous attacks against Coalition forces operating in the Mahmudiyah area, and was also involved in the facilitation of foreign terrorists and weapons," the military said.

CNN's title of this article, "Key al Qaeda deputy killed in Iraq," misses a more significant operation noted in subsequent paragraphs in the article.

On Saturday, the U.S. military and Iraqi Army launched an assault south of Baghdad in the Ubaydi farmland area, described by one U.S. soldier as a place where "people are either aligned with al Qaeda in Iraq or they've been killed or chased away."

More than 40 suspected extremists were captured, including 32 that were on the Iraqi Army's "most-wanted list," the military said.

Coalition forces captured 32 extremists on the Iraqi Army's "most-wanted list." This operation is simply astounding and displays the level of intelligence penetration and coordination of forces currently being brought to bear against Al Qaeda in Iraq. Thirty-two most-wanted extremists were captured in one operation.

Not only was the deputy military leader for the al Qaeda's network south of Baghdad killed along with two associates on 27 December 2007, but two days later, during an apparent high level meeting, 32 senior Al Qaeda leaders were capture.

The inference that this meeting was a high level one is supported by the facts that a relatively small cache was recovered during the raid (four 120mm mortar rounds and 80 rounds of 20mm) and such a large number of cell leaders were present.

The raid took place along the Tigris River 20 miles south of Baghdad putting it in the Salmon Pak area, normally associated with the "triangle of death" where three US Soldiers were kidnapped in May 2007. Another important piece of information CNN does not tell us in their article is that 200 Iraqi Army and Policemen (half of the total force) were also involved in the raid. Again, the importance of this fact should not be sidelined. We have a high level meeting taking place with 32 most-wanted Al Qaeda members and Iraqi Forces are trusted with the intelligence of this raid beforehand and did not warn these 32 most-wanted Al Qaeda members. In fact, the operation on the southernmost of the three main objectives was planned, led and executed entirely by Iraqi soldiers.

These facts taken together demonstrates the once corrupt Iraqi Police Force have been made relatively free of corruption as they were used for the outer cordon. Iraqi Army Forces not only planned, led, and executed the operation, but found three of the 32 captured terrorists in a spider hole, again showing the level of expertise and lack of corruption in the Iraqi Army.

So four significant facts come out of this article when combined with other information that CNN did not feel important to highlight in this article.

1. This operation was an Iraqi planned, led, and executed raid (for the southernmost objective).

2. The level of corruption in Iraqi Security Forces has definitely been reduced otherwise this raid would not have netted 32 most-wanted terrorists.

3. Three of the 32 terrorists were found in a spider hole showing the level of expertise of Iraqi Forces.

4. A major terrorist network has been wiped out in Southern Iraq which led operations in the notorious "triangle of death" area south of Baghdad which ran through Salmon Pak and Mahmudiyah to Baghdad.

One can only hope the capture of 32 Al Qaeda leaders in this region will also help US force recover its two missing Soldiers.

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Rival Shiites in Iraq Try to Make Peace

Bradley Brooks, from AP reports that Al-Sadr representatives met for a second time in a week to resolve their differences and make peace.

Representatives of radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr met Thursday with officials from his chief rival's party in an effort to cement a tenuous peace agreement the two signed in October after violent clashes between their followers.

It was at least the second formal overture al-Sadr has made to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim and his Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the largest Shiite political party, in less than a week.

Peace between the two — who each control powerful militias — is seen as key to preventing the outbreak of widespread fighting in oil-rich southern Iraq, where the British military recently handed over responsibility for security to Iraq's government in Basra, the last province it controlled.

Hakim is not only pursuing peace with Al-Sadr, but also with Sunnis,

Separately on Thursday, al-Hakim called for unity among Shiites, arguing that closing ranks would benefit the whole of Iraq since they are the majority.

"Every one must work to support and boost this unity," he told supporters in Najaf.

He also acknowledged the contribution of Sunni militias, which have more than 70,000 members, to the decline in violence and called for their use in the continuing fight against al-Qaida in Iraq.
"Today, we are witnessing the decline of terrorism and the progress of reconciliation on the popular level with Sunni-Shiite solidarity," he said, alluding to the government's perceived failure to achieve political reconciliation among Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish groups.

Hakim and Sadr are worried about the "memorandum of understanding" between the Kurds, Sunnis and Maliki's Dawa party that would exclude them from power in Baghdad. We will see if this works.

Hezbollah dismisses senior commander for wartime failures

Haaretz is reporting,

Hezbollah has recently removed the head of its anti-aircraft units from his position, according to Western intelligence agencies, apparently as part of the conclusions drawn by the Lebanese militant organization from the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

As reported on 16 December 2007 in this blog, Tehran removed Nasrallah as military commander of Hezbollah and assigned Kassam most likely due to Nasrallah's entry and subsequent handling of the Second Lebanon War.

However, this removal could mean Kassam is beginning to clean house in Hezbollah militay as this is the second removal in less than a month.

Kenya's Descent into Anarchy

Threatswatch, Clay Varney has a great article to understand the current crisis in Kenya.

The previously stable and economically prosperous East African nation of Kenya has erupted in a spasm of deadly post-election violence resulting in the deaths of over 300 individuals in a few short days. The unrest began soon after evidence of improprieties in Kenya’s December 27 presidential election emerged. The election pitted the incumbent, President Mwai Kibaki, against Raila Odinga of the Orange Democratic Movement, who was running ahead in polling prior to the election. Kibaki was deemed the winner, but allegations of vote-rigging by Kibaki and his supporters have been alleged by Odinga and backed up by Western observers. As protests exploded in anger over the results, the confrontations between supporters of the two candidates have taken on the decidedly unsavory flavor of ethnic conflict. The Kikuyu tribe, of which President Kibaki is a member, has been targeted by members of Odinga’s Luo tribe and vice versa, with the involvement of other tribes as well. There are more than 40 tribes in Kenya with Kikuyus as the most numerous tribe at 22% of the population, a group that has traditionally composed the country’s most prominent figures in government and commerce. Luos comprise 13% of the population and have a history of animosity with the Kikuyu.

Click here to read the article in full.

We are at war with hatred, fanaticism and despair

William Shawcross has writen an article for The Spectator.co.uk which reminds us what we are at war against.

First of all we have to give up the luxury of pretending that the war with Islamism is our fault. It is not. It is a deadly serious attempt by reactionary theocrats, Sunni and Shia, to enslave as much of the world as possible. It is powerful — it has the resources of a rich state, Iran, behind its Shia arm, and oil wealth gushes into the coffers of its Sunni side.

He continues with,

Secondly, the murder of Bhutto should also demonstrate — yet again — that this war is not the fault of the Israelis. The Islamists did not kill Benazir Bhutto because of concern about the West Bank. They killed her because they feared her power to give the Pakistani people more than the Islamists want them to have, and because they seek to push Pakistan into total chaos and unlimited carnage.


Third, Iraq is not the cause of this war — it is part of it. Remember one of the first terrible suicide murders committed in Iraq: in August 2003 al-Qa’eda killed Sergio Vieira de Mello, one of the UN’s most gifted officials, and many of his colleagues. De Mello was Kofi Annan’s special representative in Iraq and, like Annan, was opposed to the US war effort there. But al-Qa’eda denounced Annan as ‘America’s criminal slave’ and abused de Mello as ‘diseased’. They hated him in particular because he had helped Christian East Timor win independence from Muslim Indonesia — a heinous crime to al-Qa’eda.

And finally,

The murder of Bhutto, the murder of UN officials, the countless murders of innocent Iraqis, the murder of Lebanese who fight for their democracy, the murder of commuters in Madrid and London are all part of the same war against people and life. They are all part of the same deadly global ideology of hatred and despair. These assaults will not end if we retreat — from Afghanistan, from Iraq or anywhere else. Weakness will cause the terrorists to redouble their efforts.

These reasons are why we cannot pull out of Iraq, why we cannot let Pakistan fall to Al Qaeda, why we cannot let Iran acquire nuclear weapons, and why we must continue the fight in Afghanistan.

We are in a global war against fanatics who want to impose worldwide shria law, destroying democracy in the process, suppress all kinds of freedoms, especially of women, and as the author states, "destroying all that is best in our imperfect world."Yes, democracies such as America's does have its flaws, but it is definitely far better than the alternative our enemy's want for us.

Hizbullah Leader Nasrallah: 10 Days To Resolve Lebanon Crisis – Or Else

MEMRI is reporting that Nasrallah has given Al-Siniora's March 14 government 10 days to resolve the crisis in Lebanon or they will take,

"legitimate civilian measures, and will not promise that matters will not descend into the streets."

Since Lebanese have not been able to agree on a President, Siniora has become the defacto President in accordance with the constitution. Hezbullah wants over 1/3 of the parlimentary seats in the new government which would allow it to effectively veto any March 14 legislation. Siniora and Lebanese Druze Leader Walid Jumblatt have stated they will not give into Hezbullah's demands as it would give

the opposition the justice portfolio would endanger the establishment of the international tribunal for the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Al-Hariri.

The battle in Lebanon is a crucial political battle in the War on Terror. Success of the March 14 government will severely weaken Syria and Iran. Since Nasrallah is now not in charge of the Hezbullah Army, he can only conduct "civilian measures" in hopes of gaining ground, unless Kassam orders the Army into action. However, this would put Hezbullah in direct confrontation with the Lebanese Army which is deployed throughout Beruit; possibly inciting another civil war.

We will keep a watch on this area to see what develops.

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Taliban, military clash in South Waziristan, Swat

Bill Roggio, writing for The Long War Journal, has an excellent update on Pakistan military actions in the FATA regions.

Fighting between the Taliban and the Pakistani military has been reported in the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan and the settled district of Swat. In South Waziristan, the military is attacking Baitullah Mehsud's Taliban after the kidnapping of four soldiers, while in Swat the army continues its slow advance through the former vacation spot.

He continues with,

In Swat, the Pakistani military is continuing to fight a slow campaign in the settled district. The military was last reported to have advanced as far as Bahrain in central Swat, yet it is still fighting in the Matta and Kabal areas which it claimed to have secured over a month ago.

And finally,

After declaring a state of emergency at the beginning of November, President Pervez Musharraf said operations in Swat would be completed by Dec. 16, and resorts would be reopened shortly afterward. The state of emergency was lifted Dec. 14, but the military is still conducting operations in regions it reportedly secured early on.

To read the entire update, click here.

The Battle of Diyala

A close examinaton of MNF-I Press Releases will give one a sense of where the battle against Al Qaeda in Iraq is currently focused. And that focus is in the Diyala Province where it is reported that the remaining 25% of Al Qaeda is holding out. Al Qaeda is attacking Coalition forces and civilians in this area. First MNF-I reports,

Two Multi-National Division – North Soldiers were killed in a small-arms fire attack while conducting operations in Diyala province Jan. 3.

Additionally, one more MND-N Soldier was injured in the attack and evacuated to a Coalition Forces’ hospital.

A further MNF-I report states

Coalition forces killed seven terrorists today during operations targeting al-Qaeda in Muqdadiyah.

Coalition forces targeted associates of an al-Qaeda in Iraq leader allegedly responsible for coordinating and directing a large terrorist group, and carrying out executions in the Diyala River Valley region. Intelligence reports indicate the group killed at least two people execution style in the last few days and has engaged with Coalition forces on multiple occasions. This operation follows several weeks of coordinated raids against this group by Coalition forces.

Another MNF-I press release states,

Coalition forces killed two terrorists and detained 12 suspects today during operations targeting al-Qaeda in central and northern Iraq.

Coalition forces conducted two coordinated operations north of Muqdadiyah targeting associates of the al-Qaeda in Iraq network operating in the northeast Diyala River Valley region. The targeted individuals are associated with the leader allegedly responsible for directing a large terrorist group that conducts executions in the region. Intelligence reports indicate the group recently executed two people and has been engaged in numerous fire fights with Coalition forces over the last few weeks.

This same press release also states,

Southwest of Kifri, Coalition forces captured an alleged Ansar al Sunna leader for the network operating in the Diyala region. The wanted individual is allegedly responsible for numerous attacks against Coalition forces. Reports also indicate the suspect was previously injured during an Iraq forces operation, and he allegedly escaped from the hospital with the help of other terrorists, killing five Iraqi policemen during the escape.

Farther north in Mosul, Coalition forces detained five suspects while targeting an alleged al-Qaeda in Iraq leader involved in weapons facilitation and kidnapping operations.

And finally, AFP is reporting,

The Iraqi army ordered an indefinite ban on vehicle traffic from Friday morning across Diyala province, north of the capital, one of the most dangerous areas of the country.

"Owing to the bad security situation in Diyala province, the Diyala operations command will impose an indefinite vehicle curfew on Friday all over the province from the morning," provincial military operations chief Brigadier General Raghib al-Omeiri announced in a statement late Thursday.

The provincial capital Baquba has been hit by a spate of shootings, suicide attacks and roadside bombings in recent days.

US assistant commander in chief for northern Iraq Brigadier General James Boozer told a news conference on Wednesday that the Diyala towns of Baquba and Muqdadiyah were the key areas of violence in Iraq, along with the main northern city of Mosul.

As reported in this blog before,

Operation Iron Hammer activities stopped just south of Muqdadiyah and was followed up on with Operation Iron Reaper after newly acquired intelligence changed the focus of the operation. Iron Reaper involved four U.S. brigades participated in Operation Iron Reaper, along with three Iraqi Army divisions, likely the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th IA. Operation Iron Reaper targeted the Khalis Corridor in Western Diyala province, certain pockets in Salah ad Din province and the Za'ab Triangle and Western Mosul in Ninawa province.

However, neither operation pursued Al Qaeda north of Muqdadiyah, where Al Qaeda has established a base of operations in the lake in the Kanaqin district of the Diyala province. It appears now that Coalition Forces (typically Special Forces since the unit is not named) as part of MND-N are now beginning to execute operations north of Muqdadiyah in the Diyala river valley to close in on Al Qaeda last remaining stronghold. In addition, MND-N forces are continuing to move north up the Khalis corridor to rout out Al Qaeda remenants in this region.

Taking all these press releases/reports together and reading Bill Roggio's report on this area, it would seem that MND-N is beginning an offensive into the Al Qaeda's safe havens from the lake in the Kanaqin district of the Diyala province along the Hamrin Ridge.

In one of the reports above, it is noted, "Southwest of Kifri, Coalition forces captured an alleged Ansar al Sunna leader for the network operating in the Diyala region." Kifri is a town about 50 miles north of Muqdadiyah, just southeast of Sulayman Beg, but more importantly east of the Hamrin Ridge, a suspected Al Qaeda in Iraq safe haven along with the lake in the Kanaqin district. Since the report does not list a unit, but instead states, "Coalition forces", it is suspected that Special Forces are operating in this region, in Al Qaeda's rear areas.

Take the suspected beginning of an offensive from Muqdadiyah to Bajii to the east over the Hamrin Ridge coupled with the fact of a vehicle ban in the Diyala province north of Baqaba (regardless of the stated reason), and Special Forces operating to the east of the Hamrin Ridge in Kifri, and we start to see a classic envelopment taking place against Al Qaeda forces in this region. Shaping operations for the upcoming battle are fully underway. The vehicle ban will make it easier to spot Al Qaeda forces repositioning or attempting to withdraw. Special Forces to the north of Muqdadiyah will only allow Al Qaeda two options, stay and fight or withdraw to Kanaqin along the Iranina border; thereby losing more ground and a crucial line of communication to Baghdad.

If Coalition Forces can secure the lake in the Kanaqin district, Al Qaeda's flank will be exposed along the Hamrin Ridge. Isolated on this ridge, Al Qaeda becomes easy pickings for manned or unmanned aircraft.

The stage is set; it is not only a matter of time until the decisive operations to defeat Al Qaeda in this region is undertaken. Given the vehicle ban, it may have already began.

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Petraeus Aide Denies Report That Iran Is Not Aiding Iraq Militants

Yesterday, I wrote of my confusion with regards to an article by Sara A. Carter writing for The Washington Times reports in which she reported.

Iran's leaders are no longer supplying weapons or training to Islamic militants in Iraq, the spokesman for the top U.S. commander in Iraq told The Washington Times.

Today, we get COL Steven Boylan take on this article.

Col. Steven Boylan told FOX News that the article, purported to include quotes from Petraeus and Boylan, "is inaccurate."

"We do not know if there has been a decrease in the supply of Iranian weapons," Boylan wrote to news outlets that picked up the Washington Times story. "It is not clear if Iran's leaders stopped supplying weapons or training to extremist elements in Iraq. We hope that they have, but until we can confirm it, we are in the wait and see mode.

"We have seen a decrease in the attacks using four specific types of Iranian weapons. However, this should not be misunderstood as anything other than lowered levels of attacks using these specific weapons," he wrote.

Like I stated yesterday, Iran will do what is in Iran's best interest and towards it future goal of having a Shiite Crescent from Iran to Lebanon.

While U.S Forces have seen a decrease in attacks using Iranina weapons, we do not know if this is because Iran is reducing the supply of these weapons, whether we are interdicting the shipment of these weapons, whether we are discovering them before the attack happens, whether we have killed or detained cells which emplace these weapons, or whether they are currently just being stockpiled at cache.

All these factors made me doubt the Washington Times article. Now with COL Boylan's correction to set the record straight, it seems that Sara Carter chose to believe what she wanted to believe vice what was actually stated.

The Big Winners

Richard Baehr has done some great analysis regarding the winners and losers in Iowa.

There were three winners in Iowa last night: Mike Huckabee, Barack Obama, and John McCain. The race in both parties has now changed, with the path to the nomination clearer on the Democratic side than the Republican.

For the Democrats

Barack Obama won decisively, by 8% over Edwards and 9% over Clinton. Voters under age 30 made up a fifth of the Democratic caucus voters and they gave over 50% of their votes to Obama. This has to make GOP strategists nervous about the general election if Obama is the nominee. Young voters are often not picked up in polling surveys, since many only use cell phones. Traditional election models may be useless if Obama is the Democratic Party nominee.

Regarding Clinton's inevitability.

Can Clinton recover? She has lots of money, and an infrastructure in place in many states. But her strength was the sense of inevitability about her winning, and her claim of long and meaningful experience. Neither was enough to win in Iowa. In Iowa, Clinton benefited from a strong race by John Edwards, which served to dilute the anyone but Clinton vote. Edwards does not have the money that Obama and Clinton have, and will likely be gone after South Carolina. His obsession with the Presidency will have to wait until 2012, assuming the GOP wins next year, or 2016 if they do not.

Regarding Obama.

Running against Obama is very tricky. It is hard to run against hope and unity, and breaking the color line and all that symbolizes. Yes, Obama is inexperienced. His instincts on dealing with the threat of Islamic jihadists suggests naïvete. They do not want to sit down and talk with us, not even him. But it may not matter. Obama is connecting with Democrats, independents, and some Republicans.

After the bitterness of the Clinton and Bush years, he is an analgesic, a fresh face, promising better times and a more peaceful politics. The Republicans may rue the day Obama won Iowa, since Clinton would be a far easier candidate to run against.

For the Republicans

Could Mike Huckabee actually win the nomination? I think he could, though his road to victory is much more difficult than Obama's. Huckabee will likely get a boost in New Hampshire from his big Iowa win (9% over Romney), but it is hard to see him following up the Iowa victory with one in New Hampshire. More likely, he finishes third in the Granite State, unless Romney's support collapses there and Huckabee places second.

What about McCain?

John McCain, who will finish in an approximate tie for third in Iowa with Fred Thompson, is in very good shape to win New Hampshire against Romney's damaged campaign. McCain was already ahead in New Hampshire, and his showing in Iowa was quite respectable given how little time he spent there. Within days, the national polls will show Huckabee and McCain running one two in that order or the reverse order.

Is this then a McCain-Obama race?

McCain would be a favorite against Clinton and 50-50 at best against Obama, unless the Obama glow wears off by then. An Obama-McCain race would feature huge contrasts: age difference, experience, maturity, positions on the Iraq war. McCain is close to the center, and can appeal to independents, like Obama. Their race, if it comes to this, would likely turn on whether foreign threats trumped the domestic agenda. At this point, more people want to talk about healthcare, the economy, the housing slump, than Iraq or Afghanistan or Al Qaeda. That works to Obama's favor.

Richard Baehr ends with this interesting note.

In the last 3 elections the winner in November also won Iowa. Last night might make it four in a row.


Iraqi Shiite Praises Sunni Groups

al-Hakim praised Sunni CLC forces for their role in bringing down violence in Iraq.

Noting the decline in violence, he said the credit should go to the role played by the groups, adding: "We still believe in the necessity of continuing with this strategy."

"Today, we are witnessing the decline of terrorism and the progress of reconciliation on the popular level with Sunni-Shiite solidarity," he said, alluding to the government's perceived failure to achieve political reconciliation between Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish groups.


Al-Hakim's take on the Sunni groups was not the only hint of his displeasure with the performance of the 19-month-old al-Maliki government, of which al-Hakim's Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, or SIIC, is a major partner.

He subtly admonished the government for not doing enough to improve the lot of the poor or fight widespread corruption in government.

"The government must look for expertise and competence when it fills official posts," he said. "I am here repeating my earlier calls on the government to pay attention to the poor classes and ... low income employees."

While never a great supporter of Maliki (as Sadr's backing of Maliki prevented Hakim's party from securing the Prime Minister spot), one wonders why Hakim is publically praising Sunni groups at the expense of Maliki. It may have something to do with the recent "memorandum of understanding" signed between the Kurds and Sunni last December in which it appears that Maliki's Dawa party is loooking to build a unity government with Sunnis and Kurds.

Iraq: Al-Sadr makes another overture toward top Shiite leader

Al Sadr's people meet with Hakim party to further strengthen peace agreement which both parties signed in October 2007 according to the Jerusalem Post.

Representatives of the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr met Thursday with officials from his chief rival's party in an effort to cement a tenuous peace agreement the two signed in October after violent clashes between their followers.

It was at least the second formal overture al-Sadr has made to Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim and his Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the largest Shiite political party, in less than a week.

A delegation from al-Sadr's office in Kufa, led by sheik Muhanned al-Gharrawi, met with the Dhi Qar provincial governor Aziz Kadhim Alwan, a member of al-Hakim's party, and other local officials in Nasiriyah, about 320 kilometers southeast of Baghdad.

"The province should live in peace and security without armed violence and disorder," Alwan said after the meeting. Al-Gharrawi said the talks were meant to "end political and military" violence in the province and "to protect citizens' lives."

While signing an October agreement, it was not binding at the street level where violence still persists. It will be interesting if this meeting produces anything different than what already exists.

A cold spell soon to replace global warming

Oleg Sorokhtin reports via Russian Information Agency that a cold spell will soon replace global warming.

Earth is now at the peak of one of its passing warm spells. It started in the 17th century when there was no industrial influence on the climate to speak of and no such thing as the hothouse effect. The current warming is evidently a natural process and utterly independent of hothouse gases.

Ok, this is true, but

The real reasons for climate changes are uneven solar radiation, terrestrial precession (that is, axis gyration), instability of oceanic currents, regular salinity fluctuations of the Arctic Ocean surface waters, etc. There is another, principal reason—solar activity and luminosity. The greater they are the warmer is our climate.

Hold on, your telling me the sun, that big ball in the sky warms things like the Earth. Ok, I will accept this for now, but doesn't a gas, like CO2, which is currently at 383 ppm (parts per million) of the Earth's atmosphere have more effect than the sun which has 98% of the mass in the solar system and would hold 1.3 million Earths in it. Come on, what has more effect, the huge hot sun or 383 ppm CO2?

The temperature of the troposphere, the lowest and densest portion of the atmosphere, does not depend on the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions—a point proved theoretically and empirically. True, probes of Antarctic ice shield, taken with bore specimens in the vicinity of the Russian research station Vostok, show that there are close links between atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and temperature changes. Here, however, we cannot be quite sure which is the cause and which the effect.

Temperature fluctuations always run somewhat ahead of carbon dioxide concentration changes. This means that warming is primary. The ocean is the greatest carbon dioxide depository, with concentrations 60-90 times larger than in the atmosphere. When the ocean’s surface warms up, it produces the “champagne effect.” Compare a foamy spurt out of a warm bottle with wine pouring smoothly when served properly cold.

So you expect me to believe that the sun causes increases in CO2 and not that CO2 causes warming regardless of the sun.

Likewise, warm ocean water exudes greater amounts of carbonic acid, which evaporates to add to industrial pollution—a factor we cannot deny. However, man-caused pollution is negligible here. If industrial pollution with carbon dioxide keeps at its present-day 5-7 billion metric tons a year, it will not change global temperatures up to the year 2100. The change will be too small for humans to feel even if the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions doubles.

But I feel the warming now due to that bad, bad gas called CO2.

Carbon dioxide cannot be bad for the climate. On the contrary, it is food for plants, and so is beneficial to life on Earth. Bearing out this point was the Green Revolution—the phenomenal global increase in farm yields in the mid-20th century. Numerous experiments also prove a direct proportion between harvest and carbon dioxide concentration in the air.

Hold on now, I must protest. Are you saying plants grow better when it is warmer and more CO2 is in the atmosphere? How preprosterous?

Carbon dioxide has quite a different pernicious influence—not on the climate but on synoptic activity. It absorbs infrared radiation. When tropospheric air is warm enough for complete absorption, radiation energy passes into gas fluctuations. Gas expands and dissolves to send warm air up to the stratosphere, where it clashes with cold currents coming down. With no noticeable temperature changes, synoptic activity skyrockets to whip up cyclones and anticyclones. Hence we get hurricanes, storms, tornados and other natural disasters, whose intensity largely depends on carbon dioxide concentration. In this sense, reducing its concentration in the air will have a positive effect.

See I told you that CO2 levels caused Katrina. Oh, yeah, that's right, warming precedes CO2 increases. Warming causes a "champagne effect" of CO2 from the oceans.

Carbon dioxide is not to blame for global climate change. Solar activity is many times more powerful than the energy produced by the whole of humankind. Man’s influence on nature is a drop in the ocean.

So what your are saying is that man-made CO2 is only a drop in the bucket to CO2 produced from the ocean by warming temperatures which are dependent on solar activity by the sun (which will hold 1.3 million Earths).

Earth is unlikely to ever face a temperature disaster. Of all the planets in the solar system, only Earth has an atmosphere beneficial to life. There are many factors that account for development of life on Earth: Sun is a calm star, Earth is located an optimum distance from it, it has the Moon as a massive satellite, and many others. Earth owes its friendly climate also to dynamic feedback between biotic and atmospheric evolution.

So we don't have to spend trillions of dollars to decrease CO2 which will really have no effect anyway?

The principal among those diverse links is Earth’s reflective power, which regulates its temperature. A warm period, as the present, increases oceanic evaporation to produce a great amount of clouds, which filter solar radiation and so bring heat down. Things take the contrary turn in a cold period.

Ok, now you have gone too far. Warming produces clouds which then reflect sunlight and cause cooling? Hold on, that makes sense. I am sorry, I missed that. You also said that all global warming predictions do not include cloud cover. Well that is stupid.

What can’t be cured must be endured. It is wise to accept the natural course of things. We have no reason to panic about allegations that ice in the Arctic Ocean is thawing rapidly and will soon vanish altogether. As it really is, scientists say the Arctic and Antarctic ice shields are growing. Physical and mathematical calculations predict a new Ice Age. It will come in 100,000 years, at the earliest, and will be much worse than the previous. Europe will be ice-bound, with glaciers reaching south of Moscow.

So, let me get this straight. That big ball called the sun and its solar activity heats everything in our solar system to include Earth. This heating causes a Champagne effect releasing CO2 from the ocean. Our measly 383 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere pales in comparison to the 60-90 times CO2 trapped in the ocean. And the reason life on Earth has existed for about 4 billion years is because we are at the optimal distance from the sun, we have a large satellite called the Moon, and cloud cover causes a feedback loop that is not taken into account in climate predictions.

But that means I don't have to worry about global warming. But now, I am afraid of global cooling.

A look into Pakistan's political future

Asia Times Online has text of an interview with Dr Hassan Abbas [1], a research fellow at the Belfer Center's Project on Managing the Atom and International Security Program, Harvard University, and a former Pakistani government official who served in the administrations of prime minister Benazir Bhutto and President Pervez Musharraf. Some quotes follow about the upcoming elections in Pakistan.

In free and fair elections, at the national level (272 direct seats), the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) [of assassinated former premier Benazir Bhutto] will win [a majority of seats] - around 140 or so and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML) of Nawaz Sharif will get the second highest number of seats, around 50-60. The PML-Q [king's party aligned with President Pervez Musharraf] will manage some seats in Punjab province - 25 at the most - but overall will be routed.

A quote about the future of the PPP without Bhutto.

The PPP is faced with a daunting task to remain united and this challenge will become acute after the election victory. A lot depends on Asif Zardari [Bhutto's husband], the new leader, as Bilawal Bhutto is too young and he will not be involved in the election process at all. Asif Zardari served a lot of time in jail in the past [12 out of the past 17 years] without being convicted - so there is sympathy for him in the PPP also. Secondly, he is a sharp political strategist and understands the political dynamics of the country quite well. In terms of "politics as usual" the major political forces have learnt a lot in the last few years and hopefully will not repeat past mistakes. Religious extremism and dictatorship has damaged the social fabric of Pakistan hugely and the political leadership will have to begin from the scratch.

A daunting task indeed is in the future for the PPP. However, a marriage of convenience may still be able to take place between the PPP's Zardari and Musharraf as they establish a common goal, namely Al Qaeda's and the Taliban's defeat.

If the outcome is as stated as above, the PPP may decide to form a coalition with the PML-Q vice the PML-N as the PML-N is more acquiescent to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. The newly assigned head of the Pakistani military, General Ashfaq Pervez Kiani, is also anti-Al Qaeda/Taliban and pro-Western possibly signaling Musharraf's overall intentions which allowed Bhutto to come back and engage in elections while preventing Sharif from holding office.

The future of Pakistan is interesting, but the cards seem to be falling upon a democratically elected government that is pro-Western, anti-Al Qaeda, that will be able to work with its neighbors better than Musharraf could. Working with its neighbors while at the same time working to diminish Al Qaeda's/Taliban's influence in not only Pakistan, but the region.

All these leaders, Musharraf, Zardari, and General Kiani will have to wait until after the elections to begin any serious push against Al Qaeda as none of them want to alienate any voters at this time. Once elections have happened, the weather has warmed, and coalitions have formed, we may very well see a united front against Al Qaeda.

Coalition targets al-Qaeda networks in Diyala, Samarra; three killed; 11 detained

MNF-I reports,

Coalition forces killed three terrorists and detained 11 suspects Tuesday and Wednesday during operations targeting al-Qaeda in central and northern Iraq.

In continued efforts to disrupt terrorist operations in the northeast Diyala River Valley region, Coalition forces conducted an operation north of Muqdadiyah Tuesday targeting associates of the network operating in the area. Intelligence reports indicate a group of individuals executed a man earlier in the day and were later observed in the target area. Coalition forces detained four suspected terrorists during the operation for their alleged involvement in the network.

North of Jalula Wednesday, Coalition forces captured a wanted individual believed to be involved in the facilitation of foreign terrorists and weapons for Ansar al Sunna groups operating in Kirkuk. Reports indicate he is associated with several terrorists operating in the Diyala area, one of whom was detained during an operation Nov. 21 for his involvement in the facilitation of weapons for use in attacks against Coalition forces.

And continues with,

In Samarra, Coalition forces captured a wanted individual believed to be involved in terrorist media and propaganda operations. The wanted individual was reportedly a close associate of a terrorist killed during an operation Nov. 17, Abu Maysara, a senior advisor to the al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri. Reports indicate the wanted individual is also associated with numerous other senior terrorists involved in al-Qaeda in Iraq media and propaganda operations.

In a separate operation nearby, Coalition forces detained one suspect while targeting an alleged associate of al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leaders.

Two important facts come out of this article.

1. Coalition forces are continually killing and/or detaining several High Value Targets (HVTs). Like dominos, one arrest leads to another which leads to another. Several recent reports show close associates of al-Qaeda in Iraq senior leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri being arrested. His capture/death cannot be too far in the future.

2. Operation Iron Hammer activities stopped just south of Muqdadiyah and was followed up on with Operation Iron Reaper after newly acquired intelligence changed the focus of the operation. Iron Reaper involved four U.S. brigades participated in Operation Iron Reaper, along with three Iraqi Army divisions, likely the 2nd, 3rd, and 5th IA. Operation Iron Reaper targeted the Khalis Corridor in Western Diyala province, certain pockets in Salah ad Din province and the Za'ab Triangle and Western Mosul in Ninawa province.

However, neither operation pursued Al Qaeda north of Muqdadiyah, where Al Qaeda has established a base of operations in the lake in the Kanaqin district of the Diyala province. It appears now that Coalition Forces (typically Special Forces since the unit is not named) as part of MND-N are now beginning to execute operations north of Muqdadiyah in the Diyala river valley to close in on Al Qaeda last remaining stronghold. In addition, MND-N forces are continuing to move north up the Khalis corridor to rout out Al Qaeda remenants in this region.

At this time, we do not know if this is a new MND-N operation or a continuation of Operation Iron Reaper. I suspect, given the new intelligence and push past Muqdadiyah, this is a new operation being conducted by MND-N forces, being led first by Special Forces detaining individuals to gain further intelligence on the tactical laydown of forces around the lake in the Kanaqin district and to its northwest along the Hamrin Ridge which has been a known safe haven and training location for Al Qaeda earlier in the war and as late as October 2007. This ridge is dotted with many caves that allow Al Qaeda to hide plus the mixture of Arabs, Turkomans and Kurds allow Al Qaeda to hide among the area's mix demographic population.

In 2008, a 100 Percent Chance of Alarm

SPPI quotes a story wriiten by John Tierney of NY Times. In it he states,

I’d like to wish you a happy New Year, but I’m afraid I have a different sort of prediction.

You’re in for very bad weather. In 2008, your television will bring you image after frightening image of natural havoc linked to global warming. You will be told that such bizarre weather must be a sign of dangerous climate change — and that these images are a mere preview of what’s in store unless we act quickly to cool the planet.
Unfortunately, I can’t be more specific. I don’t know if disaster will come by flood or drought, hurricane or blizzard, fire or ice. Nor do I have any idea how much the planet will warm this year or what that means for your local forecast. Long-term climate models cannot explain short-term weather.

But there’s bound to be some weird weather somewhere, and we will react like the sailors in the Book of Jonah. When a storm hit their ship, they didn’t ascribe it to a seasonal weather pattern. They quickly identified the cause (Jonah’s sinfulness) and agreed to an appropriate policy response (throw Jonah overboard).

I like the Jonah analogy. When we don't understand something, we look for irrational explanations, like Jonah's shipmates. He continues with,

When the Arctic sea ice last year hit the lowest level ever recorded by satellites, it was big news and heralded as a sign that the whole planet was warming. When the Antarctic sea ice last year reached the highest level ever recorded by satellites, it was pretty much ignored. A large part of Antarctica has been cooling recently, but most coverage of that continent has focused on one small part that has warmed.

Currently, global warming activists are ignoring certain data sets which don't support their cause. This fact is extremely shameful, but shows the state of global warming science. If it is hot, it must be due to global warming. If it is cold and storming, it must also be do to global warming.

My complete primer on this subject is here.

John Tierney's complete article can be viewed here.

Military jets pound suspected militants'' hideouts in Waziristan

Text, KUNA reports,

Military jet fighters Thursday pounded suspected militants hideouts in South Waziristan tribal agency of Pakistan, along the Afghan border, which might have resulted in the killing and wounding of several militants but no exact figures were available.

Military helicopters targeted three suspected militants hideouts in three different areas of Mahsud tribe Thursday afternoon, security officials told KUNA.

They said the aerial operation believed to have killed and wounded several people but no figures were available. However, according to tribal sources, more than 10 tribesmen were killed. The military spokesman was not immediately available to comment on the report.

The operation was carried out after the government blamed former Guantanamo Bay Taliban-linked militant Baitullah Mahsud, who belongs to Mahsud tribe, for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister.

One can only hope this is not a attack against Baitullah Mahsud only, but the opening salvo of a larger operation in the FATA region.

Iran no longer aids Iraq militants

Sara A. Carter writing for The Washington Times reports,

Iran's leaders are no longer supplying weapons or training to Islamic militants in Iraq, the spokesman for the top U.S. commander in Iraq told The Washington Times.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, sees Iran as following through on assurances it made to Iraqi and U.S. officials last fall not to assist extremists in Iraq, spokesman Col. Steven Boylan said, adding that other U.S. officials have noted declines in Iranian weapons and funds to Iraqi insurgents.

"We are ready to confirm the excellence of the senior Iranian leadership in their pledge to stop the funding, training, equipment and resourcing of the militia special groups," Col. Boylan said. "We have seen a downward trend in the signature-type attacks using weapons provided by Iran."

Yet, later in the article reports,

But the colonel cautioned that while Iran's efforts are promising, U.S. military officials remain wary, partly over some contrary events on the ground in Iraq.

For example, he disclosed that U.S. troops "recently captured individuals who have been in Iran, training, as short as 45-60 days ago." He did not elaborate on the circumstances surrounding the captured individuals or the possible investigation.

I am not sure what to make of this article as its statements are contradictory. Iran will do what is in Iran's best interest, but we need never to forget that their overarching goal is to have a Shiite Crescent from Iran to Lebanon.

Iraqis will fill US troop withdrawals: Petraeus

Khaleej Times Online reports that Iraqis will take over as US troop withdrawals occur.

“It is very important to remember that our surge is dwarfed by the Iraqi surge that is taking place,” said Petraeus, on one of his trademark “battlefield” tours, accompanied by a small group of reporters.

“The official Iraqi security forces has increased by something like 110,000 or so in the past year — during which (time) our surge was 30,000,” he said after visiting the rural village, reaching it on foot by crossing a floating bridge the US military has constructed across the Euphrates.

“There are also 70,000 plus concerned local citizens who are now helping our forces and our Iraqi partners,” he added, referring to members of powerful anti-Qaeda fronts being formed across the country by the US military.

This fact is one that is typically lost among most people. Our surge of 30,000 troops is but a small part of The Surge. The 110,000 increase in Iraqi Security Forces this year and the added 70,000 CLCs is what is allowing both US and Iraqi forces to clear, hold, and begin executing reconstruction activities in Iraq. Something glossed over by this article is even more important than the surge of forces.

Speaking on Wednesday in Owesat village on the banks of the Euphrates, about 25 kilometres (17 miles) southwest of Baghdad near the town of Yusufiyah, Petraeus vowed no quarter would be given in the fight against Osama bin Laden’s extremist network, blamed for much of the violence in Iraq. (emphasis added)

“We cannot let up — they are much more on the defensive right now than they have been in years and that is where we have to keep them,” Washington’s top general in Iraq said as he declared the village of Owesat, just months ago a hotbed of Sunni insurgency, now secure.

This is precisely why The Surge has worked. Al Qaeda cannot be reasoned with and therefore "no quarter" with Al Qaeda can be allowed. This organization needs to be summarily destroyed in Iraq and elsewhere in the world. Iraqis now realize this fact and now have the forces to ensure it occurs. General Petreous realized this fact and built his tactics around this principle. Americans need to realize this fact or we are doomed to fight Al Qaeda again in a different place and a different time.

The Other Jihad: Islam's War on the Hindus

Janet Levy reviews the book, The Art of War on Terror: Triumphing over Political Islam and the Axis of Jihad, in this American Thinker article.

At one billion people, Hindus, the majority of whom live in the Indian sub-continent, constitute the third largest religion in the world after two billion Christians and 1.5 billion Muslims. Yet, their numbers have not spared Hindus from ongoing, systematic Muslim attacks in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh.

She continues with,

Little hope exists for the reformation of Islam in the same way that religious reform is traditionally carried out: by religious institutions accompanied with the lessening influence of clergy. Currently, Islam is becoming more regressive, sharia courts and Wahhabism are spreading, and no tradition of tolerance for other religions has been established. No moderate or alternative versions of the religion are being offered because such alternative mosques would be threatened and would suffer from a lack of funding. The Islamic focus on indoctrination, high population growth, fomenting of insurgencies, and infiltration is part of the global jihad, a full-on religious war against infidel nations and an attempted land conquest.

To read the entire article, click here.

Afghan Forces Free Village From Insurgent Control

Blackanthem Military News reports the town of Yakhdan was liberated by ANA from the Taliban.

Afghan national security forces liberated the village of Yakhdan, in the Shahidi Hasas district of Afghanistan's Oruzgan province, from insurgent control Dec. 31, coalition military officials reported.

The Shahidi Hasas district reportedly serves as a major corridor for transporting fighters and weapons between the provinces to the north and south of Oruzgan. Insurgents are suspected of using Yakhdan as a major command and control hub for illegal activities, officials said.

Afghan National Army soldiers led the multiday operation, along with Afghan National Police and coalition forces. In other operations that day, coalition and Afghan forces killed several militants and found a weapons cache in raids targeting Taliban extremist operations in Helmand province.

Forces searched compounds in the Nahr Surkh district looking for militants associated with Taliban extremists and foreign-fighter facilitators. During the search, several militants were killed in an attack against coalition and Afghan forces. No exact number of militants killed was reported. Forces found a weapons cache with several AK-47 rifles, rocket-propelled grenades and explosives.

This would be the second town liberated from the Taliban.

US military says 51 Qaeda leaders killed or captured

AFP reports,

The US military said on Wednesday that 51 Al-Qaeda leaders were killed or captured by multinational forces in Iraq during December, as efforts to close down the Islamist extremist group intensified. (empahsis added)

Note, this is 51 Al Qaeda leaders not terrorists in general.

Of those captured in December, "eight were regional, city or functional emirs, nine were cell leaders, six were involved in media and propaganda activities and five that were foreigner terrorist facilitators...." He said the others were involved in bomb-making, or were spiritual advisers, financiers, intelligence gatherers or weapons traffickers.

Several of those killed or detained had direct contact with Al-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri.

This is an incredible number of leaders in one month and shows the dominoe effect happening to Al Qaeda in Iraq at this time.

Terror on the Run, The Year the Tide Turned

Ralph Peters, writing for the New York Post, states 2007 is the worst year for terrorists since 2001, when they lost their safe haven in Afghanistan. He opens with,

As 2007 drew to a close, embarrassed journalists sought to play down American military successes and avoided questioning Democratic presidential contenders about their predictions of inevitable failure in Iraq.

Magically, Iraq disappeared from the headlines - except on those rare occasions when a problem could be reported. At the close of a year of stunning progress, media stories on New Year's Eve leapt to report that 2007 had been the deadliest year for US troops.

He points out that one has to read way down in the column to notice the vast majority of these casualties were before the start of The Surge in June 2007. He further states,

The greatest media story of 2007 was the one you never read (unless you read The Post): The year was a strategic catastrophe for Islamist terrorists - and possibly a historic turning point in the struggle against al Qaeda and its affiliates.


While al Qaeda in Iraq can still launch suicide missions, such acts now serve only to further alienate the Iraqi people, who've come to hate the grisly foreign interlopers with a passion you have to encounter first-hand to appreciate.

That fundamental change in outlook, especially among Sunni Arabs, may well mark last year as Islamist terrorism's high-water mark, the point at which fellow Muslims by the tens of millions publicly rejected the message and methods of self-styled holy warriors who revel in the slaughter of the innocent.

Tens of thousands of fellow Muslims, previously allied with al Qaeda, turned their weapons against the fanatics. It was the biggest global story since 9/11. And it was buried on Page 14, if mentioned at all. (emphasis added)

Yes, many Sunni Arabs, not just in Iraq, but also across the Middle East are not only rejecting Al Qaeda, but publically rejecting Al Qaeda. What helped make this possible?

Many factors came together to transform Iraq, including the fierce and incisive leadership of Gen. David Petraeus, the effectiveness of a new breed of subordinate commanders honed by war, the psychological impact of the troop surge and the pervasive Iraqi weariness of violence and destruction - a strategic mood swing. (emphasis added)

Mr. Peter notes, 2007 is for Al Qaeda what 1943 was for the Nazi regime.

But 2007 may have been to the struggle against Islamofascism what 1943 was to the Second World War: the year in which it became clear that, no matter how long the war lasted, civilization's enemies couldn't win. (emphasis added)

So, what is the lesson here?

But in 2007 we saw how superficial Muslim support really was for al Qaeda and its ilk. We learned that bloodthirsty fanatics who invoke religion can - and will - be defeated.

And we should have learned the utility of fighting, instead of letting liberal-elite America-haters inflict their defeatist agenda on our country and the world. (emphasis added)

A lot of lessons come from this article.

1. Good can and will prevail over evil and Al Qaeda is surely evil. Ronald Reagon held this belief which is why his quote is at the top of this blog, "Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid."

2. In order to good to prevail, we must all understand the utility of fighting against evil. We must fight and must resist the defeatist agenda of the liberal elite and MSM.

3. We must unite under the banner of freedom. Al Qaeda was strongest when it believed the U.S. would cut and run. Now that we, as a nation, have dispelled this myth, Al Qaeda is on the run, not only in Iraq, but elsewhere. They are desparate enough to publicially assassinate Bhutto, but weak enough to where they initially claimed credit, but are now silent as they see the populous rising against them in Pakistan.

4. Your average Muslims are no different than your average Americans. While traditions are different, your average person wants to be able to enjoy like, have liberty, and be able to pursue happiness for himself and his family. This point is often forgotten when the MSM stresses how certain western acts will rally the Muslim street. The fact is what is ralling the Muslim street more than anything is the assassination of Bhutto, not for what she did during her two failed leadership stints in Pakistan, but for what all hoped was her future, a democracy elected by the people for the people.

2007 was indeed a "strategic catastrophe for Islamist terrorists - and a possibly historic turning point in the struggle against al Qaeda and its affiliates." It is a year that Muslim's worldwide chose sides. Most chose the side of good. We just happen to champion this side.

Go Directly To Jihad, Do Not Pass Gitmo

The American Thinker has an interesting article on the revolving door at Gitmo

By the summer of 2007, the Pentagon reported that "at least 30 former GTMO detainees have taken part in anti-coalition militant activities after leaving U.S. detention."

One of those 30 released was Abdullah Mehsud.

"After his release he went back to the fight, becoming a militant leader within the Mehsud tribe in southern Waziristan... In mid-October 2004, Mehsud directed the kidnapping of two Chinese engineers in Pakistan... In July 2007, Mehsud carried out a suicide bombing as Pakistani Police closed in on his position. Over 1,000 people are reported to have attended his funeral services."

After Abdullah's death, Baitullah took over the Mehsud operation. Baitullah's latest jihad was the killing of Bhutto.

Read the whole article here.

Iran slashes gas exports to Turkey

Dawn is reporting,

Iran has slashed gas exports to Turkey after high domestic consumption and a halt in supplies from Turkmenistan left many Iranian towns without gas in freezing weather, the Fars news agency reported Tuesday. “After the sharp falls in temperature over the last days and the halt in deliveries by Turkmenistan, exports of gas to Turkey have been cut to a minimum,” the agency quoted an Iranian source as saying. In January 2007, Iran was forced to completely halt its gas exports to Turkey for five days to compensate for a domestic consumption crunch.

Although not reported in the American Press, Turkmenistan and Iran have been having meetings over pricing of natural gas for this new year. Iran has not been willing to increase its payments which many believe are the root cause of the stoppage of shipments on 30 December 2007. Turkmenistan blames technical problems; however, this seems doubtful. Turkmenistan apparently only supplies 5% of Iranian natural gas supplies.

What is interesting to note is how quickly Iran had to discontinue shipments to Turkey. This issue shows how fragile the Iranian economy really is, and I am sure this fact is not lost on policy makers in the Bush government.

40-kg bomb defused in Swat

Dawn is reporting the following,

The Bomb Disposal Squad Tuesday defused a 40-kilogram bomb planted on Kalam-Mingora road side near Charbagh in Swat district. Police said law enforcement agencies defused the locally-made remote control device with help from the Bomb Disposal Squad after they received a tip-off. The bomb was planted near Khwazakhela police station at Allabad.

Recently, the Pakistani Army reported cleared Swat; however, Mullah Radio was stating he still controlled Swat.

How does one know who is telling the truty?

Al Qaeda/The Taliban begin emplacing IEDs. Therefore, they are no longer in control.

How does one know whether or not Al Qaeda/The Taliban in this region has the backing of the populous?

Pakistani forces would not have been "tipped off" in Al Qaeda/The Taliban had the backing of the populous, and they would have learned of the IED only when it killed police at the Allabad police station.

Operation Rock Reaper Clears al-Qaida Strongholds West of Baquba

MNF-I reports of 1-38 Infantry Regiment's operations west of Baqaba, near the town a Hadid. This battalion level operation is told through the tales of Bayonet Company, but is part of the larger 1st Armored Division's Operation Iron Reaper. This operation is designed to dismantle Al Qaeda in Iraq in the Khalis Corridor in Western Diyala province, certain pockets in Salah ad Din province and the Za'ab Triangle and Western Mosul in Ninawa province. As one reads this report, one will get an idea of how Cordon and Knock operations take place at the company level.

After the Soldiers completed a thorough search of the house, they determined the man was not there and no weapons were found. The Soldiers were given five minutes to rest before moving to the next house down the road where they searched for another man wanted for placing IEDs.

The Soldiers moved through the town executing Cordon and Knock Operations.

The Soldiers were greeted kindly by local citizens as they went from house-to-house through the village of Hadid. The men of the houses constantly offered to make chai tea and cook flat bread for the Soldiers who found refuge from the heat in their living rooms and on their patios.

After a days work,

Toward the end of the day, the Soldiers returned to a central meeting location to give their detainees to the military police (MP) officials. The MPs verified the identities of the detainees and transported them to a secure holding area on Forward Operating Base Warhorse.

The Soldiers thought they were done; however, the next action is what is making all the difference in Iraq at this time.

After the detainees were dropped off, an informant from the town offered to help the Soldiers find wanted men who used fake identification cards and to find weapons that may have been missed.

The Soldiers went house-to-house again with the informant, who pointed out the men that were wanted. The informant also gave information on a possible weapons cache.

Having seen many Al Qaeda terrorists taken off the streets in their town and also hearing undoubted of the new situation in Iraq, namely Al Qaeda on the run, an informant came forward to show Coalition Soldiers individuals and caches they missed resulting in newly captured detainees and,

An al-Qaida in Iraq training camp [where] Soldiers found two suicide vests that were completely made and ready be put on, grid coordinates of Iraqi police stations in the area, grid coordinates of Coalition force bases and combat outposts in the area, 18 large-caliber mortar shells filled with explosives and three fire extinguishers filled with explosives.

The Soldiers also found five potential car bombs in the town of Hadid and took in a total of 13 detainees.

It is stories like these that is ensuring Al Qaeda in Iraq is completely and totally defeated. Iraqis are helping Soldiers secure their own neighborhoods. When they see Soldiers miss individuals and/or caches they tell Soldiers where they are so they cannot be used on them in the future.

Operation Iron Reaper is methodically clearing from Baghdad to Kirkuk and Mosul from south to north ensuring the last remaining elements of Al Qaeda are removed from Iraq. Iraqi Army forces are with American Forces. Iraqi civilians are also doing their part. When confronted by American forces, Iraqi forces, and concerned citizens, Al Qaeda has no other choice but to be killed or detained. As the Coalition moves north, Al Qaeda will have to either withdraw into Kurdish territory or move closer to the Iranian border. Either way, their backs are against the wall and their time is running out.

Revelers Celebrate New Years

Happy New Year!

Yahoo/AP reports revelers stayed up to all hours of the night drinking and singing to welcome in the New Year. Some quotes.

About 200 guests, mostly men, danced to traditional Iraqi music at the large hall...., decorated with blue, white and yellow chiffon. A woman in a glittery pink, spaghetti-strap dress sang for the crowd, which alternately hooted and danced.

At the door, a Western reporter was chastised for carrying in a can of beer: Alcohol was strictly forbidden at the parties....One man helped steady a friend, while other men in sport coats stood around chain-smoking cigarettes.

What city was this great event taking place in? New York, Chicago, Los Angeles. Quite possibly, but this article refers to none other than Baghdad. Yes, Baghdad, and many other parts of Iraq, enjoyed its first terror free New Year celebrations.

Looking through several articles, I cannot find one instance of a New Year's Party in Iraq being broken up by a suicide bomber, a vehicle bomber, or any other extremist Islamic movement.

Also note that during these parties women were scantily clad; there was singing, dancing, and rejoicing. Alcohol, while forbidden, was obviously being served discreetly, yet Al Qaeda was nowhere to be found to interrupt the joyous festivities.

However, the AP reporter does share some insights.

In recent years, Muslim extremists have killed hairdressers, barbers and alcohol sellers — all perceived as symbols of a Western lifestyle — even though Iraq's cities were once relatively tolerant, liberal places in comparison to other areas in the Middle East. (emphasis added)

And here during an interview with a female singer.

The singer, Fatina Wardi, also an actress for television shows and theater, said she was performing for the extra money — $250 for each show. But she also sang partly to defy rising Islamic conservatism in Iraq, she said. (emphasis added)

Islamic conservatism has arisen in two quarters in Iraq, from Al Qaeda and Shiite extremists like Sadr and his Mahdi Army. However, neither of these extremist organizations are significant issues is Iraq now. The final quote is most telling.

"I've lived through four wars," Wardi said after a show, slightly slurring her words. "One either lives or dies — I choose to live and not fear death. If I die, I'll die for my country, as a martyr for freedom." (emphasis added)

That word again, freedom. Iraqis along with Americans and other Coalition Forces are fighting and dying for this word freedom and its ideals.

Not only are Sheikhs espousing the ideal of freedom, but so are singers and the 200 revelers noted in this AP article.

The word freedom and its ideal of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are first and foremost in the minds of all Iraqis.

Just sharing.

The Cradle of Civilization Rises Again

Yahoo/AP reports on the killing by Al Qaeda of a Sunni policeman and four of his family members in Jalula, a city with mixture of Shiite and Sunni Muslims, 80 miles northeast of Baghdad. It also reports other death and on the total number of Iraqi casualties in the last few years.

While all this death is extremely tragic and is the very reason we must stay to stabilize this young democracy, buried down at the bottom of story is the interesting part of the article to me. As reported yesterday, many former Al Qaeda supportors are turning against Al Qaeda. In this article, we see another example of how far former Al Qaeda supporters have turned on Al Qaeda in Iraq.

"We consider our fighting against al-Qaida to be a popular revolution against the devil," said Sheik Mohammed Saleh al-Dohan, head of one of the groups in southern Ramadi, a city in Anbar province where the movement was born.

These are pretty powerful words. The fight against Al Qaeda is "a popular revolutions against the devil." Two words here are significant.

First, Sunni Sheikhs now believe they are heading a revolution. This is an extremely western, democratic term one would not expect from a Sheikh in the Middle East. First, it shows that over the years free, democratic forces have been in Iraq, our western democratic values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have been instilled in the Iraqi psyche. Secondly, the word revolution, although not appearing in the this part of the Declaration of Independence, is embodied in its introduction.

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

Secondly, and possibly more important, Sheikh al-Dohan believes their battle is a battle against the devil. He labelled Al Qaeda, and more specifically Bin Laden, as the devil. Understand, this sheikh is a Sunni labelling Bin Laden and Al Qaeda as an immoral, evil, and wicked organization. Quite frankly, who should know better than an individual who has seen his handiwork first hand for the last four years. Later in the article,

Al-Dohan blamed al-Qaida, which espouses a radical version of Sunni Islam, for bringing destruction to Iraq: "They made enemies between Sunnis, Shiites and Christians who lived in peace for centuries."

This text is also highly significant. In it Sheikh Al-Dohan notes that prior to Al Qaeda's interference, Iraqi Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians lived in peace for centuries. Due to Iraq's unique position in the Middle East, it has always been a region where many diverse cultures intermingled. Sheikh Al-Dohan is just reiterating Iraqi nature. Finally, Sheikh Al-Dohan states in response to Bin Laden calling Sunni's traitors,

Bin Laden and his fighters "are the traitors who betrayed the Muslim nation and brought shame to Islam in all the world."

So, throughout this article, we have a Sunni Sheikh calling Bin Laden, and Al Qaeda in general, the devil and a traitor who espouses a radical version of Islam and has brought destruction to all Iraqis, who have for centuries lived in harmony, and shame to Islam in the world. The only recourse this leader sees is a western, democratic ideal called a popular revolution.

Wow, how far we (America as a force of liberty) have came to change the mindset of a people in the heart of the Middle East who a few short years ago were paying Palestinian suicide bombers to kill innocent Israelis and attempting to get weapons of mass destruction to wipe the Great Satan (the U.S.) and the Lessor Satan (Israel) off the face of the Earth.

What must not be lost here is the fact that in the last four years, both American and Al Qaeda ideology have both been put forth and tested for Iraqis to decide which one they would prefer. America was going in as an underdog, to say the least, since its people were infidels and therefore their ideals must also be inferior.

However, this Iraqi, and from what I am seeing, many Iraqis in general, have opted against Al Qaeda salafist Caliphate and opted for those unalienable rights espoused by Americans, namely, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. When pressed (as they have been), Iraqis will execute a popular revolution to ensure these rights are maintained.

Not only is a beacon of democracy now shining bright in the heart of the Middle East, but a democracy with the same hard fought unalienable rights (and therefore responsibilities) as America is beginning to emerge in the heart of the Middle East. President Bush and General Petreous may very well have created a future strong, staunch, and loyal ally who will be instrumental in assisting this nation in the Long War against extemist Islamic terror during the upcoming generation.

It is simply amazing how in a short course of a few hundred years, the young nation of America liberated its own people from tyranny, helped convert the tyranical kingdom which it fought against into a democracy which together, since the 1940s, has liberated hundreds of millions of people who are also liberating other oppressed people throughout the world.

The 21st century will not be a time for the rise of the ancient Chinese civilization which will threaten America and its allies. It will be a time of rebirth and greatness of another ancient civilization, Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilization, who will give birth to other democracies in all the Middle East.

Mesopotamia gave the world:
  • Astronomy and our 12 month calendar
  • Philosophy of logic and ethics
  • Mathematics which gave us our 60 second minutes and 24 hour days
  • Medicine in the form of diagnosis, examination, and prognosis
  • Scientific study of our world around us
  • Technology of copper making and glass making
  • Agriculture by use of irrigation
  • Religion - the first recorded
Iraq, keeping true to its Mesopotamia heritage, is on the verge of bringing the democratic ideals life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to all people of the Middle East in the 21st Century. It appears Iraqis are holding true to another namesake, that of a "good Samaritan".

Syria’s Assassination Goal: Target March 14th Christians To Divide & Conquer

Andrew Cochran discusses Syria's determination and methods to re-establish political dominance over Lebanese politics in this Counter Terrorism Blog piece.

Phillip Smyth is the the CT Blog's Assistant Newslinks Editor and a contributor to the Aramaic Democratic Organization. He spent 2 months this summer in Lebanon talking with and interviewing anti-Hezbollah NGOs in addition to Hezbollah supporters. He wrote the following about the direction of recent assassinations in Lebanon.

In the effort by the Syrian backed opposition’s hope to block any anti-Syrian candidate to the office of Lebanese president, Lebanon is expected to undergo a number of Damascus backed political murders. "Lebanon, during this period, could witness … a new series of assassinations and explosions carried out by an organized network that had been mentioned in the last report by U.N. investigator Serge Brammertz," noted Emile Khoury in the Beirut daily An Nahar. While the targeting of anti-Syrian officials has included Muslims as well as Christians, the murder of Christian leaders often leads to more gains for Damascus. Because the Christian community is split down the middle between Michel Aoun’s Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), aligned with Hezbollah and Syria and opposed by the pro-Western (March 14th Movement) Kataeb and Lebanese Forces (LF), in any subsequent election, there is a chance for Syria to acquire a “democratically elected” Christian ally in a newly murdered anti-Syrian minister’s place. The resulting election of a pro-Syrian candidate adds to Syria’s hegemony over Lebanon and the Lebanese democratic process. Simply put, by killing an anti-Syrian Christian there is a bigger chance that in their place a pro-Syrian Christian can takeover their position, a proverbial, “killing two birds with one stone.”

Take the case of Pierre Amine Gemayel, son of former president Amine Gemayel, MP and a prominent member of the Kataeb party. On November 26th Gemayel was shot to death by a hit squad with connections to the PFLP-GC, a Syrian backed Palestinian terrorist group based in Lebanon, leaving his Metn province seat open. Despite calls for a consensus by religious leaders, the FPM’s Michel Aoun insisted on running his candidate Camille Khoury. While the race was close, the resulting electoral battle cost March 14th the seat and won Syria more influence. Compared to the split Christians, Sunni Muslims are mostly united behind Saad Hariri’s (son of assassinated Rafiq Hariri) Mustaqbal Party. Additionally the Druze are, for the most part, united behind Walid Jumblatt’s Progressive Socialist Party (PSP). While the Metn election turned into a tough battle for the March 14th Movement, the assassinated Sunni Muslim Walid Eido’s (a March 14th MP) seat was also open; in the subsequent election another March 14th candidate easily took his place.

Even if the pro-Syrian groups lose in a bid to take over an assassinated Christian March 14th parliamentary seat, the resulting anger between Christians has the possibility to boil over into open fighting. Even before the election I witnessed three fist fights between LF and FPM members. Following the Metn election, FPM gunmen shot a Kataeb supporter. As in the 1970s and 1980s Syria hopes to provoke some form of fighting with the hope that anarchy would develop. Damascus could then play savior, come in and “clean up” the mess it created. Historically Syria has used terrorism to effect disunity, in 1982 president elect Bachir Gemayel’s assassination fundamentally weakened the Christian resistance causing splits. This subsequently led to Christian warlord Elie Hobeika signing the Damascus sponsored Tripartite agreement; something that would be unheard of if Bachir Gemayel wasn’t killed.

This last fall included Kataeb MP Antoine Ghanem’s murder by car bomb in Beirut’s Sin el Fil neighborhood. Ghanem represented the Lebanese district of Aley, another heavily contested area that the pro-Syrian groups may hope to wrest control of in an election. With Ghanem’s death and the presidential election still delayed, the Kataeb party now controls no seats in Lebanese parliament. A once powerful anti-Syrian Christian party is now forcibly pushed to the sidelines. If this trend of assassinating Christian politicians whose seats can be taken by pro-Syrian groups continues more Christian MPs will be assassinated. While Syria’s arch enemy the LF currently holds 6 parliamentary seats, its seats are about as secure as those held by Mustaqbal. However, the LF’s independent allies represent areas (especially in Zgharta) where top Syrian allies such as Soleiman Franjieh have enormous influence. Elections following yet another Syrian sponsored murder in those areas could result in a pro-Syrian win.

Syria’s pragmatism in assassinating Lebanese political leaders knows no bounds. As the pro-Syrian bloc (the Shi’ite Amal and Hezbollah, including the Christian FPM and Marada) continues to block any attempt at a presidential election, they are merely stalling in order to provoke another killing of a March 14th MP. The moment the pro-Syrian groups can whittle away March 14th’s majority status and achieves one-third control of the parliament, there will be little hope of a true anti-Syrian president sitting in Baabda Palace. Syria will do its best to make its terrorist policies pay. With each assassination Damascus wants results in the polls, with the direct elimination of a critical politician, the fear instilled in the Lebanese populace and leadership and in the hopeful reacquisition of Lebanon.

This piece describes the situation in Lebanon extremely accurately which is why the U.S. must fight for the election of a democratic president in Lebanon. This political battle in Lebanon is but another facit of The Long War.

The Jihadi preemptive strike against Bhutto's war of ideas

Walid Phares does an excellent job at summing up Pakistan's political and socialogical climate, the current situation, and future threat of Islamist. It is always interesting to read his unique views on Islam and the extremist's intentions. In this piece, Mr. Phares examines why Bhutto was assassinated, what it means to Pakistan and the world in general, the overall objectives of Al Qaeda, and the future way ahead in the battle against terror. This piece needs no analysis as Mr. Phares provides insightful analysis on his own.

Former Pakistani Prime Minster Benazir Bhutto was murdered because of herpotential actions in Pakistan, by the combined forces of jihadism in that country. In short, they executed her to pre-empt her future war of ideas. This was the bottom line and here is why.

The long-term plan of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan during the 1990s was to eventually spread to Pakistan and seize power, and, ultimately after 1999, to seize the nukes, too. Miscalculating on September 11, Osama bin Laden lost Kabul and the jihadi war room crossed into their eastern neighbor. Plan B was then to seize Waziristan and gradually Talibanize the country, grabbing the "doomsday" devices in the end. For the last seven years, the jihadi hydra protected by the fundamentalist tribes, hooking up with the local Islamist movements and with tentacles deep inside the defense and intelligence apparatus, attempted to spread in that direction. President Pervez Musharraf, unable to determine the extent of radical influence in his own services, moved slowly and reluctantly on the containment strategies. This lost time resulted in several assassination attempts and allowed a widening of the jihadi networks in the country. Reacting to the breach of national security, he tightened the rope on the opposition, frustrating his secular opponents and alienating the nation's Supreme Court.

The descent into generalized violence was spiraling out of his government's control and working to al Qaeda's satisfaction. Both bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri, as well as Taliban leader Mullah Omar, acting as jihadi supreme rulers of the country, pressed on with calls for assassination and fatwas for regime change. By 2006, Mr. Musharraf was fighting on two fronts: taking on the jihadi forces, including the homegrown ones on the one hand; and dealing with the pressures from his secular opposition on the other hand. From early 2007, as Taliban operatives based in enclaves in the border areas continued to strike inside Afghanistan, al Qaeda's messages beaming out of Pakistan and violence were unrestrained. The United States pressed Mr. Musharraf to change direction.

The advice from Washington (which was endorsed by the West and not opposed by moderate Muslim countries) urged the general (who was also serving as president) to: 1) open up to the opposition and allow the exiles to come back to the country, despite sour past relations; 2) hold general elections and welcome a new democratically elected cabinet; 3) relinquish his command of the armed forces if elected president; and 4) launch an all-out military campaign against Pakistan's Taliban.

Reading the map accurately, Mr. Musharraf heeded almost all suggestions. He allowed former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to return and head her large party, although he made it more difficult for her colleague, Nawaz Sharif — Mr. Musharraf's direct political enemy — to proceed as swiftly in his return to the political scene. Mr. Musharraf announced a general legislative election slated initially for next month. He was re-elected as president by the current legislature and resigned from the top military office. And last but not least, he indeed sent several divisions to the frontier valleys to battle the terrorists on their own turf. But by changing direction, he opened a Pandora's box for his government and for the political process he freed.

Former political enemies weren't smooth on reconciling: While Mrs. Bhutto began negotiating with Mr. Musharraf, demanding a purge in the military, Mr. Sharif called for Mr. Musharraf's resignation. In addition, the president of the high court refused to recognize the general's election as president. These turbulences triggered frustrations among the military as it was marching to confront the most lethal enemy in the North-West region. And taking advantage of this dizzying political storm, the jihadi forces launched their urban offensive culminating with the suicidal Red Mosque intifada in Islamabad in the summer. And as Mr. Musharraf was steering the wheels toward political reconfiguration, terror attacks targeted various cities as well as military personnel across the country.

But the return of Mrs. Bhutto to Pakistan sent a positive message to the public and a negative one to the radical Islamists. The daughter of a prominent leader, a member of a political family, a former prime minister in her own right — and, above all, a liberal Muslim woman — Mrs. Bhutto projected the possibility of a leap toward more balanced politics and greater steps toward pluralism — two ingredients for progress toward democracy. Her dialogue with Mr. Musharraf made possible the return of Mr. Sharif and the global march to new elections. The bickering politicians didn't let go of their sour feelings toward each other, but the political process was about to gradually return to the country.

The prospect of the January elections would be good for all parties. The president would be proving that his institutions are solidly democratic, thus legitimizing his own office. The opposition would gain the seats it needed to access the cabinet or become powerbrokers at the assembly. Mrs. Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party was projected to be the largest bloc, and through a coalition in parliament, she was to become the next prime minister of this powerful Muslim country. That is precisely why she was murdered.

Indeed, the greatest losers in the upcoming elections, and in any democratic elections mobilizing large and experienced secular forces, would be the Islamists. Their six-party coalition achieved legislative power because of the absence of the secular and democratic forces. Now that Mr. Musharraf isn't in love with the jihadi forces anymore, several assassination attempts later; and after the seculars saw with their naked eyes what the fundamentalists were preparing for the country, the slice of Islamist vote was projected to shrink.

Mrs. Bhutto was the reason for this future political defeat. But beyond these political considerations, it was a war of ideas that the Taliban and their ilk feared the most. It is one thing for the radicals to measure themselves in comparison with the military's authoritarianism. But it is another thing to be blasted ideologically by a woman who would dominate Pakistan's politics. By jihadi standards it was unbearable to see Lady Benazir seizing the premiership of the executive power. A staunch modernist and a genuine Muslim, she would have been their worst nightmare. With her in power, forget about the Talibanization: There would be no suppression of women and no brutalization of minorities. There would be fierce empowerment of civil society. This is why the combined "war room" of al Qaeda, the neo-Taliban and the Pakistani jihadists decided to eliminate her.

In October, Baitullah Mehsud, a Taliban commander in South Waziristan, threatened to kill Mrs. Bhutto upon her return. Mrs. Bhutto was aware of the Taliban and al Qaeda threats but dismissed them. Ata press conference in Dubai in NovemberMrs. Bhutto said "she did not fear 'militants and extremists,' acknowledging that Afghan and Arab militants as well as those of the Red Mosque had threatened her," Dawn TVreported. "She said that threats to her life had been whipped up to 'intimidate me and the people of Pakistan.' " She added, "I don't believe that a true Muslim will attack me. I believe Islam forbids suicide bombings." But the jihadists had previous tried to assassinate her in a prior bombing as she returned to Pakistan in October.

Since then, as she criticized Mr. Musharraf for his political failures, the state of emergency and her house arrest, Mrs. Bhutto nevertheless relentlessly attacked the "radical Islamists," whom she accused of terror and oppression. In those days between the first attempt and her slaughter on Thursday, Mrs. Bhutto acted as the single most influential, courageous and symbolic female leader in the Muslim world. She was waging a war of ideas on her own in the most dangerous jihadi environment on the planet. Had she survived to win the legislative elections, she would have become the most efficient Muslim prime minister in the war against the terrorists.

Benazir Bhutto was stepping into a hornets' nest with her face uncovered. She was executed by the Taliban in a manner that was almost frighteningly reminiscent of the massacre of Afghan women who refused to wear the burka. Now it is up to her party, her followers and her allies to pick up the struggle from where she fell and move forward with her legacy. They need to focus on the greater goal of salvaging democracy by uniting their efforts with the president to hold these elections against all odds, even at a different date, and to back their national army in a global effort to defeat the terrorists.

Pakistan is crossing a dangerous path, but the security stakes are the highest in the world, obviously because of the nuclear weapons. The assassination of Mrs. Bhutto has also another apocalyptic dimension. Since November 2001, bin Laden has revealed that the ultimate goal of al Qaeda is to claim what "is theirs," i.e. the atomic power of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Many jihadi leaders have since asserted the duty to equip the caliphate to come with the most powerful armaments in the world. The gradual advance of the Taliban into their eastern neighbor is aimed at reaching those nukes: Either they would infiltrate the intelligence agencies and the army or they would take advantage of chaos and collapse. The attempts to kill Mr. Musharraf and the assassination of Mrs. Bhutto converge into one thread, a maximum violence leading to a coup d'etat by their supporters inside the military. Once the cataclysmic scenario was achieved, the rest is left to dark imagination.

Armed with such devastating power, the suicidal jihadists will have an open field for their missiles, which could target India and the U.S. presence in the region, as well as Europe and the Russian hinterland. Eventually even China would be at their mercy. The alibis are endless as long as there are "infidels" to confront. Hence the world after such a day cannot function peacefully. Because of such an intolerable possibility, Washington, Brussels, Moscow, New Delhi and Beijing, as we speak, should be readying the world for such threats.

4,500 militants, 110 US soldiers killed in 2007 in Afghanistan

Dawn is reporting the following,

Afghanistan in 2007 saw a record level of violence that killed more than 6,500 people, including 110 U.S. troops and almost 4,500 militants, according to an Associated Press count. Britain lost 41 soldiers, Canada lost 30 and other nations lost 40.Taliban militants killed more than 925 Afghan police. But U.S. officials here insist things are looking up. The Afghan army is assuming a larger combat role, and militants are unlikely to mount a major offensive next spring, as was feared would happen a year ago.

Add this to this report from The Herald,

More than 4500 Taliban insurgents have defected since 2005.

And I would say that all in all, it has been a pretty successful couple of years in Afghanistan. This is not even including the numbers who have been wounded.

Others may look at this and see it as a destruction of innocent life. The Taliban are evil, cruel fighters and are getting what they deserve.

Iraqi Leaders hit back at 'weak' bin Laden

New.com.au points out what Iraqi leaders, who Bin Laden singled out as traiters, feel about his recent statements,

IRAQI Sunni tribal and political leaders singled out as "traitors" by Osama bin Laden have hit back, accusing the Al-Qaeda chief of being un-Islamic and mocking him as being weak.

Sheikh Shahudh believes Bin Laden is weak.

"Bin Laden's statement doesn't affect us - he is making these threats from a position of weakness," said Sheikh Khalid Shahudh, a senior member of the Awakening Council in western Anbar province....

He further stated,

"Al-Qaeda has no more power in Anbar province," he said.
"The Awakening is now operating all across Iraq and involving all sects. We will continue chasing Al-Qaeda. We have no enemies except Al-Qaeda. The Americans are not our enemy anymore. Our forces will deal exclusively with Al-Qaeda. We will hunt them until we get rid of the last element."

Not only do sheikhs and Al Anbar believe he is weak, but the Awakening Council in central Salaheddin province, made this statement,

"What the loyalists of bin Laden do contradicts Islamic principles and its moral standards," the council said.

"Bin Laden should order his followers to stop targeting Iraqis ... he must apologise to Iraqis that have been harmed by Al-Qaeda's heinous crimes."

Finally, Abdul Karim al-Samarraie, a member of parliament for the Islamic Party, stated,

"The party did not wish to respond to bin Laden's comments as it would "give him legitimacy".

"The message of Al-Qaeda has collapsed in Iraq because of their terrorist actions. All Iraqi people are turning against them and kicking them out. Iraqis have tasted the pain of their actions."

So, from Sunni's who have had first hand interaction with Al Qaeda, they believe Bin Laden is weak, his movement is illegitimate, its actions contradict Islamic principles and morals, and finally Al Qaeda owes all Iraqis an apology for its heinous crimes in Iraq.

One last thing that really has to hurt, Americans are not the enemy in Iraq anymore, Al Qaeda is and Sheikh Shahudh will use American assistance until every last Al Qaeda in Iraq member is hunted down and Iraq is rid of Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda's movement in Iraq has collapsed. It is collapsing in Afghanistan were the populous has seen it in action. It will collapse in Pakistan due to the Bhutto assassination.

Al Qaeda believes in repression. Americans believe in liberation. As a newly liberated society, Iraqis are finding they want no part of Al Qaeda. They were repressed under Saddam for three decades; they don't want to continue this repression under a different master. All they want now is the freedom to live in security and pursue happiness, which is really what most decent folks want.

From the statements above, I will be the first to say it. Al Qaeda in Iraq is destroyed. Yes, its members are still blowing themselves up and killing innocent victims, but as a movement, it is dead. This destruction in Iraq will have extremely adverse effects on Al Qaeda globally.

Pakistan uploads recording of Mehsud taking credit for Bhutto assassination

Dawn reports that the Pakistani government has uploaded a recording of Baitullah Mehsud taking credit for Bhutto's assassination. However, it also states,

The recording seems unconvincing and raises doubts about its credibility and genuineness.

Attempts to find the recording have proven fruitless. Here is what WND reported the text of the recording was.

Maulvi Sahib (MS): Asalaam Aleikum (Peace be with you)
Baitullah Mehsud (BM): Waleikum Asalam (And also with you)
MS: Chief, how are you?
BM: I am fine.
MS: Congratulations, I just got back during the night.
BM: Congratulations to you, were they our men?
MS: Yes they were ours.
BM: Who were they?
MS: There was Saeed, there was Bilal from Badar and Ikramullah.
BM: The three of them did it?
MS: Ikramullah and Bilal did it.
BM: Then congratulations.
MS: Where are you? I want to meet you.
BM: I am at Makeen (town in South Waziristan tribal region), come over, I am at Anwar Shah's house.
MS: OK, I'll come.
BM: Don't inform their house for the time being.
BM: It was a tremendous effort. They were really brave boys who killed her.
MS: Mashallah (Thank God). When I come I will give you all the details.
BM: I will wait for you. Congratulations, once again congratulations.
MS: Congratulations to you.
BM: Anything I can do for you?
MS: Thank you very much.
BM: Asalaam Aleikum.
MS: Waaleikum Asalaam.

Al Qaeda establishes "a haven in Diyala"

Bill Roggio from The Long War Journal states that Al Aqeda has established "a haven in diyala,

With al Qaeda in Iraq's bases of operations dismantled in the central Baghdad regions, Diyala province has emerged as the primary battleground between Iraqi and Coalition forces and the terror group.... In the region northeast of Miqdadiyah, al Qaeda in Iraq has gains some traction.

Being more specific,

Al Qaeda in Iraq has expanded its influence around the lake in Khanaqin district, just northeast of Miqdadiyah and Baqubah. From these regions, Al Qaeda also controls some small pockets in rural areas southeast and northwest of the lake.

In order to maintain controll of this area,

Al Qaeda in Iraq has staged suicide car bomb attacks, established false checkpoints, and attacked Concerned Local Citizen groups and Diyala's Awakening movement from these bases.

If one looks at the map from The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Bill Roggio is talking about, it clearly details a few things.

1. First and foremost, the Areas of Operation and Influence which Al Qaeda in Iraq now possesses/controls are significantly less than a year ago thanks to The Surge, Awakening/CLC movements, and Iraqi Security Forces.

2. General Petreous' plan to secure Baghdad and its belts appears to have succeeded rather well. Stronger Iraqi Security Forces are not only able to hold ground gained by U.S. Forces, but are actually in the lead in several operations of taking ground and definitely on the offensive in many areas they are holding ground in.

3. The bulk of remaining 25% of Al Qaeda left in Iraq has withdrawn to reconstitutes its forces around the lake in Khanaqin district. While a drawdown of U.S. Forces is already starting to occur, so is the territory that Al Qaeda controls. This should allow MND-N forces to focus their energy in this region to defeat the remaining 25% of Al Qaeda forces still fighting in Iraq.

4. Al Qaeda is unable to mount successful attacks against U.S. (and to a large estent Iraqi) Forces. Therefore, Al Qaeda's only remaining tactics, which involves attacks against innocent civilians (suicide bombs and illegal checkpoints) will only hurt their cause as they further alienate their popular base. These attacks are their only way to regain territory they have lost since they no longer have the support of the populous. This puts Al Qaeda in a Catch-22 where they are damned if they don't and damned if they do. Not a good position to be in during a war.

5. Attacks on CLC Checkpoints will produce more, not less CLC/Awakening Groups. CLCs are not faceless, national entities like the Iraqi Army. These groups are the sons of local towns people trying to make their town secure. Attacks like these will cause local tribes to further join CLCs/Awakening movements and work actively against Al Qaeda.

How does all this affect the larger Al Qaeda organization? Last year, Al Qaeda was predicting the rapid withdraw of U.S. Forces, the coming Salafist Caliphate in Iraq, and the destruction of the West. This year, Bin Laden and Zawahiri have been reduced to laying blame for their demise on Islamic "traitors" and spouting lies even Al Jazeera cannot believe resulting in a loss of jihadist joining the organization and motivation within Al Qaeda in Iraq's ranks. Undoubted, it has also resulted in a loss of financial support.

Al Qaeda has pulled the plug on Al Qaeda in Iraq and has moved their primary battle to Pakistan in the hopes of gaining advanced weaponry (tanks, planes, and nuclear weapons) and a state from which to reconstitute their movement from. However, in their irrogance in trying to silence one person (Bhutto) in order to weaken another (Musharraf), they appear to have caused a significant collapse in their populuar support in Pakistan.

Recent denials by the Taliban of involvement in Bhutto's assassination is helping to fracture Al Qaeda's Taliban base in Pakistan much the same way that Al Qaeda alienated it Sunni base in Al Anbar.

For 'hair color,' Edwards wrote 'silky'

Peter Bronson writes in The Enquirer instead of having debates from president, we should conduct job interviews. The sample interviews are hilarious. Here is Hillary Clinton's interview.

Us: "Welcome, Mrs. Clinton, have a seat. We've been looking over your resume, and we have a few questions. Tell us what experience you have that qualifies you to run the United States."

H.C.: "Well, I lived in the White House for eight years."

Us: "That's nice. I drove to work in a Chevy this morning, but that doesn't make me qualified to run General Motors."

H.C.: "But I was very involved in policy decisions."

Us: "Good. Can you provide some documents to show us how you were involved? Such as your failed health care initiative?"

H.C.: "I'm sorry, those are among the 2,600 pages that will not be released until I become president or hell freezes over, whichever comes first."

Mike Huckabee's interview.

Mike Huckabee: "... What I meant to say was that Mormons think Jesus is Satan's second cousin on his father's side. Of course, I'm not sure that Mormonists are even a religion, because I left seminary school before we got to cults and sorcery ..."

Us: "The question was about Social Security."

And finally,

"... Ah actually invented the Internet before ah saved the whole entire planet from the apocalypse of global warming."

Us: "Hello, security? Who let Al Gore in here again?"

For all interviews, click here.

Dave Barry's year in review

Dave Barry writes a hilarious year in review for the Miami Herald, some tidbits.

Several courageous members of the U.S. Congress -- it could be as many as a dozen -- decided, incredibly, not to run for president.

O.J. Simpson discovered that, although you might be able to avoid jail time for committing a double homicide, the justice system draws the line at attempted theft of sports memorabilia.

Toward the end of the year, entire days went by when it was possible to not think about Paris Hilton.

Apple released the iPhone, which, as we understand it, enables users to fly, cure cancer, read minds and travel through time.

The plucky, lovable New York Yankees once again found a way, against all odds, to bring joy to the literally billions of people who do not root for them.

Dick Cheney did not shoot anybody, as far as we know.

For the complete year in review, click here.

The great fall of China

Walter Mead writes in the LA Times about an almost unreported adjustment of China's GDP by the World Bank,

China's economy, said the bank, is smaller than it thought. About 40% smaller.

Fourty percent smaller than previously thought! This reduction is astounding. Walter Mead continues with the significance of this GDP adjustment in terms of economies.

China, it turns out, isn't a $10-trillion economy on the brink of catching up with the United States. It is a $6-trillion economy, less than half our size. For the foreseeable future, China will have far less money to spend on its military and will face much deeper social and economic problems at home than experts previously believed.

Finally, he explains the most significant fact.

Under the old figures, China was predicted to pass the United States as the world's largest economy in 2012. That isn't going to happen.

He goes on to explain how the GDP numbers were readjusted and also discusses China's environmental issues.

And there is the environment. With poor air quality, acute water shortages, massive pollution in major watersheds and many other environmental problems, China needs to make enormous investments in the environment to avoid major disasters.

While I don't buy into his global warming concerns, China does have significant local environmental issues it must clean up. Finally he discusses China's future political stability.

China's political stability may be more fragile than thought. The country faces huge domestic challenges -- an aging population lacking any form of social security, wholesale problems in the financial system that dwarf those revealed in the U.S. sub-prime loan mess and the breakdown of its health system. These problems are as big as ever, but China has fewer resources to meet them than we thought.

So, economically, politically, and militarily, China is not as big and menacing as once thought. This fact is a good thing as China is still a communist nation, albeit propped up by the capitalistic economies of Hong Kong.

As a communist nation, it still represses its people, lacks basic civil rights for its citizens, and is a threat to free democracies like the United States. Maybe now that it understands it economy is 40% poorer than previously thought, it will look more and more to the capitalistic economy of Hong Kong and the freedoms that population has compared to the rest of China and become less restrictive on the rest of its population. In effect, become fully democratic.

However, until this day, we still need to watch China. Since all wars are over resources and China now lacks 40% of the economic resources it once thought it had, we need to ensure China does not take over another thriving capitalistic economy to get it out of its mess. That capitalistic economy is Taiwan.

Bhutto's son takes over party mantle, vows revenge

Yahoo/AFP reports 19-year-old Bilawal Bhutto has taken over chairmanship of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP).

"My mother always said that democracy is the best revenge,"

Since he is only 19 years old, Bilawal cannot run for office in Pakistan. Therefore, Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari, will co-chair the party. He stated,

"We have decided to go for elections...." "We are grateful to Nawaz Sharif for announcing his boycott of the election but we appeal to him to end the boycott and take part."

Minutes later, spokesmen for Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-N party said they would take part in the vote; however, the Pakistani government is meeting Monday to determine if a delay is needed.

I agree with Bilawal, democracy would be the best revenge against his mother's assassination.

Osama's Sinking Feeling

IraqPundit has a great analysis of Osama's recently released video,

Osama bin Laden' s just released tape makes him look like a man struggling to reclaim his al-Jazeera audience. Clearly irritated by the positive developments in Iraq that even al-Jazeera TV is reporting, he clings to the hope that he can come back. He tells his listeners that the U.S. aims to divide Iraq -- something most Iraqis oppose

Only thing I would add is it is also something the U.S. opposes.

Osama uses his time to try to scare Sunni Iraqis over to his side. He said: "Washington was planning to form a new Iraqi national unity government and warned that those who took part would be turning their backs on Islam."

I also find this interesting in the fact that in the first quote he stated U.S. "aims to divide Iraq" and then comes right back and states "Washington is planning to form a new Iraqi national unity government." Ok, which one is the U.S. trying to do, divide or unify?

He goes on to say,

Bin Laden is hoping he can salvage his fight by reaching out to his dwindling al-Jazeera audience. He hopes to get them involved by reviving the call to liberate Palestine, because his call to fight for Iraq didn't work.

And ends with,

He knows al-Qaeda is in trouble. Between his bad economic analyses, and Ayman Zawahiri's overheated "threats," these guys are at the end of their rhetorical tether. Yeah, they can still kill people, like any armed savages can, but even al-Jazeera's crowd must be bored with these empty messages.

It is truly a good read.

Iraqi Army Soldiers recover large cache (Mansour)

MNF-I reports Iraqi Army uncover a large cache in the Mansour neighborhood of Baghdad.

The Soldiers from 3rd Battalion, 5th Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army Division, recovered two mortar tubes, 86 mortar rounds, five improvised rocket launchers, ten rockets, two rocket-propelled grenade launchers, seven RPG rounds, six hand grenades and various bomb-making materials.

Quite a large cache indeed and most probably the mortar cache used by insurgents to indirectly attack the Green Zone. But more important is this quote.

“This was an independent operation by the Iraqi Army Soldiers from the 6th Iraqi Army Division,” said Lt. Col. Steve Stover, Multi-National Division – Baghdad spokesman. “The recovery of these items is another indication the Iraqi Security Forces are increasing in capability."

Important here is Iraqi Army Soldiers are independently executing missions, seizing caches, and making their own country safe. These independent operations are becoming more and more frequent.

Did Bhutto Martyr Herself?

James Lewis asks an interesting question in his American Thinker article, "Did Bhutto Martyr Herself?"

What would you say about a politician who refused to tolerate sensible security measures just a few weeks after a major assassination attempt came within a hair's breadth of killing her, using a baby wrapped in a bomb? That bomb in Karachi killed an estimated 140 people, including the child. Bhutto only survived because by some miracle --- or by some intuition of danger --- she bent down behind the metal shielding of her open truck a few seconds before the bomb went off.

Then she went right back to riding in an open car, right in the middle of the street mobs.

He continues with,

There she was, touching hands with a wild, chanting mob for hours and hours, traveling in nothing but an open car or truck. Anybody could approach her, and did. It makes no sense to a Western mind. The US Secret Service would never, ever allow a US president to do that. The Secret Service protection detail would resign before letting it happen.

Mr. Lewis makes an extemely good point. Pakistanis can say Musharraf should have provided better protection. He offered, Bhutto refused. She knew she was going to continue to be the target of assassination attempts, but continuously got hereself literally within arms length of would be assassins.

I believe the answer to Mr. James' question, "Did Bhutto martyr herself?" is yes. I have another question. Why did Bhutto martyr herself?