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

New York

The Surge Effect - The gamble is paying off for Bush and McCain.

From Fred Barnes ath The Weekly Standard.

The match is almost perfect. As the surge in Iraq has succeeded, the presidential campaign of John McCain has risen from the ashes. This is no coincidence, and the message is simple and unmistakable. The surge is now a powerful force in American politics. In the jargon of the 2008 presidential race, it's a game-changer.

The surge effect is the result of gains in Iraq well beyond the most optimistic dreams of the surge's advocates. The American military, led by General David Petraeus, has under-promised and over-delivered. Violence has dropped precipitously. So have attacks on Americans and combat deaths. Baghdad has been virtually secured, al Qaeda crushed, and sectarian bloodshed significantly reduced. Provinces once controlled by insurgents are scheduled to be turned over to well-trained Iraqi forces, starting with Anbar in the spring. The war, in short, is being won.

Mr. Barnes explains why it is good for John McCain.

This level of denial about the surge among Democrats is politically dangerous. Democratic voters may be immune to the surge effect, but independents are not. If the surge continues to bring stability to Iraq, independents--who produced the Democratic triumph in the 2006 election--almost certainly will begin to shift their support. They have no partisan commitment to defeat in Iraq. Like most Americans, they prefer victory.

For a full read, click here.

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Minority retort

From Michael Coren at the Toronto Sun.

The irony is extraordinary. Canadians pride themselves on dismissing the United States as reactionary and unsophisticated while watching as that same country contemplates whether to elect as its leader a black man, a woman or a member of a religious minority. But then the U.S.A. never has been the ogre we like to imagine and in many ways is far more progressive and enlightened than is Canada.

The president may not be the black Barack Obama, the female Hillary Clinton or the Mormon Mitt Romney, but the fact that they are serious contenders is truly remarkable. It's doubtful if Canadians would similarly vote for people irrespective of their race, gender or faith.

For a full read, click here.

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Middle East indebted to Bush

From Salim Mansur at the Toronto Sun.

This week's journey of U.S. President George W. Bush to the Middle East -- the itinerary beginning with Israel includes visits to the Palestinian territories, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt -- is greatly significant and yet, in keeping with his temper, a low-keyed affair as the last remaining months of his presidency unfold.

We likely can surmise there is one more visit to the region still to be made by Bush.

This will be a visit to Baghdad with an address to Iraq's democratically elected parliament before Bush takes leave from the White House for his ranch in Crawford, Tex.

When Bush stepped into the Oval Office -- a long time ago now it seems on that cold January morning in 2001 -- the Arab-Muslim world was furthest from his mind as it was from the minds of most Americans.

But the malignancy of the Middle East, ignored by the West and the previous occupants of the White House, would strike New York City, bringing the Arab-Muslim world's politics of fanatical hate, deep-seated resentment and a mountain of grievances to the shores of the United States.

The Arabs had squandered the 20th century just as they slept through much of the previous four centuries, while the West created a whole new world of science and democracy.

The independence won for the Arabs from the rule of the Ottoman Turks by Britain and France at the end of the First World War eventually became a cruel mockery with a people -- despite the resources and goodwill available -- incapable of lifting themselves up from the broken ruins of their tribal culture.

This is the root cause of Arab failure, and instead of embracing the modern world by reforming its culture the Arab political class has indulged in blaming others, most particularly Jews and Israel.

George Bush could have remained indifferent to the Arab-Muslim world's malignancy, mouthing pieties as members of the ever fashionable lib-left political class in the West endlessly does, while watching the Arabs sink deeper into the political squalor of their making.

Instead, Bush struck directly at the most rotten core of the Middle East -- Iraq, the land of two rivers, choked to death by the vilest of Arab tyrants in recent memory, Saddam Hussein -- to give the Arabs an opportunity one more time to make a better future.

Regime change in Baghdad has brought a new Iraq to emerge with American support despite the fanatical opposition of the most backward tribal warriors of the Arab-Muslim world.

Iraqis -- Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds -- now bear responsibility that comes with freedom to write a new history for Arabs as, for instance, the far more populous and ethnically diverse people of India are doing.

The Arab leaders greeting Bush remain frozen in their hypocrisy, unable to say publicly what they will say privately, being relieved in knowing the United States remains committed to maintaining order and security in the Persian Gulf region.

But free Iraq looms large in the capitals of the Arab states, and if Iraqis keep progressing in freedom their example will be an irresistible attraction for the Arab-Muslim world spread between the Atlantic and the Persian Gulf.

A democratic Iraq is George Bush's formidable legacy, and the Arabs will be talking about him long after his contemporary critics bite the dust and are forgotten

I could not have said it any better myself.

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Sorry, Barack, You’ve lost Iraq.

From Michael Hirsh at Newsweek.

The U.S. will be entering a strategic partnership with Iraq, much like the strategic partnership that exists with Germany, Japan, and Korea. The UN mandate for Coalition presence in Iraq ends in December 2008. The significance of this partnership is explained.

Most significant of all, the new partnership deal with Iraq, including a status of forces agreement that would then replace the existing Security Council mandate authorizing the presence of the U.S.-led multinational forces in Iraq, will become a sworn obligation for the next president. It will become just another piece of the complex global security framework involving a hundred or so countries with which Washington now has bilateral defense or security cooperation agreements.

This strategic agreement is expected to be in place no later than July 2008. Commenting on how many troops would remain in Iraq, a Pentagon contractor working on the strategic relationship stated,

....the administration is considering new configurations of forces that could reduce troop levels to well under 100,000, perhaps to as few as 60,000, by the time the next president takes office.

While presidential candidates are still looking at Iraq as a quagmire, reality on the ground says Iraq and the U.S. are entering a long-term political, military, economic, and diplomatic relationship that will endure for decades and will ensure a stable Middle East in those decades to come.

For a full read, click here.

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General: Anbar Ready for Handover

From the AP.

Iraq's western province of Anbar, hotbed of the Sunni Arab insurgency for the first four years of the war, will be returned to Iraqi control in March, a senior U.S. general said Thursday.

In a telephone interview from Iraq, Marine Maj. Gen. Walter E. Gaskin, commander of the roughly 35,000 Marine and Army forces in Anbar, said levels of violence have dropped so significantly — coupled with the growth and development of Iraqi security forces in the province — that Anbar is ready to be handed back to the Iraqis.

Who would have thought that The Surge would be so successful.

"I can say that the Anbar province, which was the hottest area of Iraq, does not now need any (U.S.) forces because the (number) of the attacks is now zero for months now, the Iraqi minister said, speaking through an interpreter.

As recently as 18 months ago Anbar was the central stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq, the shadowy insurgent group that U.S. officials say is largely led by foreign terrorists but populated mainly by Iraqis.

In 18 months, the stronghold of Al Qaeda in Iraq now has zero attacks for months now.

For a full read, click here.

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Bin Laden turns heat on Saudi Arabia

From Asia Times Online. HT for Sea2Sea Blog.

Michael Scheuer discusses Bin Laden's latest released on 29 December 2007. In it, Bin Laden shifts attention to the leadership of Saudi Arabia noting,

He asks the Iraqi mujahideen how they can trust Saudi King Abdullah, who is the "malignant foe" of Islam, the "main US agent in the region" and a man who took it on himself "to tempt and tame every free, virtuous, and honest person with the aim of dragging him to the path of temptation and misguidance ... [and] the path of betraying the religion and nation and submitting to the will of the Crusader-Zionist alliance". The Americans are defeated, bin Laden concludes, but to assure God's victory the Iraqi mujahideen must reject Saudi overtures and direction if they are "not to waste the fruit of this chaste and pure blood that was shed for the sake of consolidating religion and entrenching the state of Muslims".

While he is still stating that US forces are defeated in Iraq, he notes the Iraqi Mujahideen may not be able to consolidate victory due to Saudi Arabian interference, namely support of the national unity government in Iraq, noting this is what Saudi Arabia got the Afghani Mujahideen to do with the Communist Afghani government. He states this prvented the Mujahideen from consolidating power in Afghanistan.

Mr. Scheuer's analysis follows:

Bin Laden and his senior lieutenants are reliving what for them is a familiar nightmare. In one of the greatest ironies of the post-1945 era, Islamist fighters have proven that with great, prolonged and bloody effort they can claim the military defeat of superpowers - the USSR and the United States - but cannot consolidate victory when confronted by the wiles, funds and religious establishment of the Saudi leadership. While it is clear in the December 29 tape that bin Laden rates the Saudis as the main obstacle to God's victory in Iraq, there is little indication of what he intends to do to destroy Riyadh's ability to stymie the mujahideen there as it did in Afghanistan.

One possibility - though bin Laden did not allude to this - would require a rethinking of al-Qaeda's grand strategy. Although bin Laden and al-Qaeda have been consistent in their three-fold grand strategy - to drive the United States from the Muslim world, destroy Israel and incumbent Muslim regimes and settle scores with the Shi'ites - they now face a situation where the Saudi regime has not only so far prevented the unification of Islamist leaders, but is allegedly preparing the Sunni Iraqi insurgents it supports for a civil war with Iraq's Iranian-backed Shi'ites.

While I concur that the Saudis are fearful of a democratically elected national unity government as it will eventually lead to their downfall because their own citizens will begin to see what oil riches and freedom brings to average Iraqis, I do not believe the Sunnis in Iraq are in a position win a civil war against the Shiites, with or without Saudi assistance.

We need not forget that the Sunni insurgency started and gained steam with the ultimate goal of ridding Iraq of occupying US Forces. However, this initial impetus changed when Sadr's militia begun indiscriminately killing Sunnis by the truckloads as retaliation for the mosque bombings and other Al Qaeda attacks. Sunni insurgents turned on Al Qaeda due to its indiscriminate killing of fellow Sunnis and extremist version of Islam it espoused, which has never had much support in secular Iraq.

Sunni insurgents found the only way to rid themselves of extremist Al Qaeda elements was to seek American help. With switching sides, they begin to receive American money, support, and an opportunity to gain a voice back in Iraq with the recent passing of The Accountability and Justice Law. They have even been able to gain fore political leverage with the "memorandum of understanding" with the Kurds. They will not squander this new found power for another war which they cannot hope to win.

Finally, Al Qaeda has not been absent in Saudi Arabia as the article implies. In fact, the government of Saudi Arabia has taken great care in killing and detaining insurgents, executing deradicalization operations in its prisons, changing many imam minds against extremism, and protecting its oil facilities since 2004 when Al Qaeda declared war on these facilities.

While Saudi Arabia can do more, the Wahhabi influence which dominates government has to be dealt with over time, else Saudi Arabia will see itself in a civil war.

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The mysterious Afghan warlord trusted to spread peace in a divided province

From Times Online.

Mullah Abdul Salaam, 45-year-old former Mujahidin guerrilla who recently switched sides and is now in charge of the key district of Musa Qala had this to say when talking with former Taliban soldiers.

“It is enough now,” he urged the 30 men huddled around him. “Our dead have been eaten by the dogs.” He gestured at a small group of British and American officers. “You can see around you these people from noble nations have come to build you streets and schools. If they should ask you to leave your religion then you have a right to fight them, but not because they come to bring you streets and schools.”

The village was in an area roamed by Taleban led by Mullah Abdul Bari, who remains at large. Mullah Salaam wasted little time in using his own past connection with the militant commander in his address.

“Abdul Bari is our brother,” he said. “He can come and sit among us . . . He is from this land. Speak with him. But don’t let him be stupid. If he is not on the right path then don’t let yourself be sacrificed for him. Tell him to take his jihad somewhere else.” (emphasis added)

While he will need to be watch closely, Mullah Salaam's switch may lead to more reconciliation with other Taliban commanders.

Two things are significant in this article.

1. Winning hearts and minds is important. Several Taliban are starting to see Coalition forces are not there to occupy Afghanistan and suppress its people. We are there to bring the nation out of poverty which provides Al Qaeda with its fighters.

2. He is telling his forces to go out and talk to other Taliban to win them over.

For a full read, click here.

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NATO airstrike targets 'senior Taliban commander' in Afghanistan

From Earth Times.

A NATO-led airstrike targeted a senior Taliban commander in north-eastern Afghanistan on Saturday, the military said. The death and name of the targeted commander is yet to be confirmed. The raid by NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) took place in a compound in Qari village in Tagab district of Kapisa province after intelligence reports indicated that a group of Taliban leaders were meeting in the area, ISAF said in a statement.

The commander is a key figure for providing materials for making roadside bombs in the valley and is also responsible for organizing attacks against Afghan and international forces, it said.

"The commander was wanted for attacks in Kapisa, Parwan and Kabul Provinces," the statement.

ISAF personnel ensured the site was clear of civilians before conducting the strike, the statement adding that the joint Afghan and ISAF forces have been conducting an assessment of the site.

"The name of the commander will be released upon confirmation of his death," the statement added.

Another one gone, another one bites the dust.

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U.S.: Iranian bombs rise in Iraq

From CNN.

Attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq with bombs believed linked to Iran -- known as explosively formed penetrators (EFPs) -- have risen sharply in January after several months of decline, according to the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Iraqi and U.S. officials indicated just a month ago that Iran was using its influence to improve security in Iraq by restraining cross-border weapons flow and militia activity. The U.S. military had said in recent months that the number of EFP attacks had gone down.

Gen. David Petraeus disclosed the reversal to reporters after a meeting with President Bush who was visiting troops in Kuwait.

"In this year, EFPs have gone up, actually, over the last 10 days by a factor of two or three, and frankly we're trying to determine why that might be," Petraeus said.

The answer is simple and can be summed up with three letters: N.I.E.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraq parliament passes law to rehire Baathists

From Yahoo via Reuters.

Iraq's parliament passed a law on Saturday to ease restrictions on mostly Sunni Arab members of Saddam Hussein's Baath party returning to public life, one of the main political benchmarks set by the United States.

Washington has been pressing Iraq's Shi'ite Islamist-led government to pass the law in an effort to draw the minority Sunni Arab community that held sway under Saddam closer into the political process.

"The law has been passed. We see it as a very good sign of progress and it will greatly benefit Baathists. It was passed smoothly and opposition was small," said Rasheed al-Azzawi, a Sunni member of the committee which helped modify some of the language of the law.

The Accountability and Justice bill replaces the De-Baathification law, which Sunnis have long complained amounted to collective punishment against their sect.

The new law will allow thousands of former party members to apply for reinstatement in the civil service and military, while pensions will be given to a smaller group of more senior members still banned from public life. (emphasis added).

Another nail has just been put in Al Qaeda in Iraq's coffin.

Four especially important points are present in this article:

1. It passed smoothly without significant opposition.

2. It allows former party members to be reinstated in the military which will assist Iraq with its leadership problems in this organization.

3. It reinstates pensions for many senior members. Undoubtedly, while not mentioned, it also has a provision that if found to be working against the government, the pension can be suspended.

4. Finally, a key US benchmark has happened because of The Surge. What are anti-war, defeatist US politicians going to say now?

With the likehood of a national unity government on the rise, passage of the oil law cannot be far behind.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi official says al-Qaeda in Iraq is penetrated, has become an open book

From KUNA.

The Interior Ministry announced Friday that al-Qaeda in Iraq has been successfully penetrated by means of a recently formed government security apparatus and is virtually an "open book," confirming that the sectarian sedition in the country was at the end of its rope.

Major General Abdul Karim Khalaf, director of operations at the Interior Ministry, told KUNA here "we have succeeded in establishing a capable intelligence apparatus to penetrate the al-Qaeda organization in Iraq and all armed groups targeting Iraqi national security." He said emphatically that the sectarian sedition in Iraq has virtually ended, adding that the new intelligence apparatus is able to achieve its objectives regarding all armed groups operating in Iraq.

He went on to say that "al-Qaeda is now an open book for us, now that we have succeeded in penetrating it." Khalaf did not reveal the extent of al-Qaeda's reach in Iraq but asserted that trained Iraqi security elements currently operate under cover within this terrorist organization which he said will be dismantled soon.

As I have stated before, an organization cannot lose as many leaders as Al Qaeda has recently and hope to remain a viable, combat effective organization. There exists daily reports of emirs, commanders, and cell leaders being killed or detained in Baghdad and in the belts surrounding Baghdad.

Note, it appears Iraqi Special Operations Forces are inside Al Qaeda in Iraq's organization. Also note, that this Iraqi General is not afraid to tell Al Qaeda it has been completely infiltrated. As Al Qaeda in Iraq leadership is whittled down daily, we will now see it leaders not trusing of each other, causing its faster demise.

For a full read, click here.

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Syria rebuilding alleged nuclear site bombed by IAF

From Haaretz.

Syria has started to rebuild the site of an alleged nuclear facility bombed by the Israel Air Force on September 6, 2007, according to a report released Friday by The New York Times.

A satellite photograph of the site shows new construction in place that resembles the former building, which according to foreign media reports was a nuclear facility in northeastern Syria built with North Korean assistance.

Syria and North Korea, however, have both vehemently denied any nuclear cooperation.

The New York Times reported that the new satellite photograph shows a tall, square building under construction that appears to bear close resemblance to the original structure, with the exception that the new roof is vaulted instead of flat.

Later in the article, it states

Syrian President Bashar Assad has since maintained that Israel bombed an "unused military building" in the September raid.

A few things I find fascinating about this article are:

1. It was supposedly an unused, abandoned military building, but Syria is spending money to rebuild it.

2. Syria never really publically came out and decried the attack nor did they seek to get the UN involved to denounce Israel.

3. Israel banned coverage of this attack and only recently allowed it to be stated that it had successfully attacked a target inside Syria.

4. If the building wasn't important, why is it being rebuilt so fast?

5. If it is important, why build it in the same spot?

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi Parliament To Hold Contests For Flag Design, National Anthem


The Iraqi parliament has decided to hold a contest for a new design for the flag of the Iraqi Republic, and for an Iraqi national anthem.

Proposals are to be submitted to parliament, and will be examined by the parliamentary culture committee.

Not something you would expect from a country suffering from an intense civil war, unless of course, peace and prosperity are really breaking out, and Iraq is not an unmitigated disaster we are led to believe.

Something of note the MEMRI article does not point out, the Kurds have long sought a new flag for Iraq. Talabani himself has stated the following about the current Iraqi flag,

“It's a Saddamist flag,” he said at a joint news conference with British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett. “A lot of crimes have been committed under this flag in the south, in the north and against our neighbors.”

Again, we are led to believe that not only are Iraqis at each other's throats, but so are Iraqi politicians to the point of succession, but yet, Iraqi politicians are redesigning their flag and searching for a National Anthem.

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34 al Qaeda killed in day's fighting during Phantom Phoenix

Bill Roggio gives an excellent update on Operation Phantom Pheonix at The Long War Journal.

Coalition and Iraqi security forces were active during Thursday and Friday's fighting as part of Operation Phantom Phoenix. Two senior al Qaeda in Iraq operatives were killed along with 32 foot soldiers during fighting in Arab Jabour, Miqdadiyah and the Samarra region. Another 34 al Qaeda fighters were reported captured.

For a full read, click here.

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South Waziri Tribesmen Organize Counterinsurgency Lashkar

Andrew Mc Gregor writes for The Jamestown Foundation about the Waziri tribemen organizing a lashkar against foreign militants in Pakistan. He notes,

Maulvi Nazir—a 33-year-old tribal leader also known as Mullah Nazir—is leading the effort to take retribution for the slayings. Most of those killed in the attacks were loyal to him. A former Taliban commander believed to have connections to Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), Nazir has publicly accused Baitullah Mehsud for the killings. Baitullah, appointed as the leader of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan coalition late last year, has also been blamed by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for the assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto on December 27, 2007, a charge Baitullah has denied.

Mr. Mc Gregor explains the current situation which resulted in a lashkar.

The Ahmadzai believe that the assassins of the elders are Uzbek militants from the community of Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) fighters who crossed into South Waziristan from Afghanistan in 2001. Led by Tahir Yuldash, the Uzbeks had been allowed by the Taliban to take refuge and set up training camps in Afghanistan after a number of setbacks in their Central Asian jihad. Initially trained and led by Uzbek veterans of the Soviet armed forces, the Uzbeks are skilled fighters who have taken on security duties for the al-Qaeda leadership in the tribal regions of Pakistan. Since their arrival the Uzbeks have established successful farms and businesses as well as integrating into the local community through intermarriage. By doing so, the Uzbeks have availed themselves of the powerful local custom of melmastia (“hospitality”), which involves the protection of the host party against all attempts to harm or seize the guest. At the same time the Uzbeks have become involved in local vendettas as guns-for-hire and are blamed for much of the violent crime in the region. This has resulted in a number of violent battles between tribesmen and Uzbek fighters in recent years. Already well-known in Afghanistan as a Taliban commander, Maulvi Nazir made his reputation locally by leading tribesmen in successful attacks against the Uzbeks last year, driving most of them from the Wana Valley in April 2007. The Uzbeks have developed especially close ties to members of the Mehsud tribe but are no longer united under a single leader.

However, he notes,

There are indications that the murders of the Ahmadzai leaders may be part of an intra-clan struggle for leadership of the Ahmadzai. According to one report, Maulvi Nazir’s brother and rival, Noorul Islam, has claimed responsibility for the attacks as retaliation for Maulvi Nazir’s alliance with the government and his initiation of a war against the Uzbeks. According to Noorul, “Maulvi Nazir is the government's agent and he will pay a heavy price for killing mujahideen" (Udayavani, January 10). Not all members of the Mehsud tribe support Baitullah’s growing feud with the Ahmadzai: a jirga of 80 Mehsud elders met with Baitullah’s followers on January 8 to try to defuse a potentially devastating tribal war.

While Mr. Mc Gregor ends with,

It would be a mistake to regard Maulvi Nazir as either pro-Washington or pro-Islamabad. Nazir acts in his own interest, those of his clan and those of his tribe and will ally himself with anyone he perceives may further those interests. His extended family owns property on both side of the Afghan-Pakistani border and he travels freely between the two without interference from the Afghan Taliban. The apparently impending explosion of violence in the Waziristan frontier region will only create further instability that can be exploited by the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

It must be noted that significant rifts are beginning to occur between the Taliban themselves in Pakistan and with Al Qaeda. While this instability can be exploited by the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, one would assume that Al Qaeda would prefer stability in this region and instability in the settled, eastern regions of Pakistan. The last thing Al Qaeda wants as it seeks to battle the Pakistani government would be infighting among its supporters in its base of operations. This did not prove productive for Al Qaeda in Anbar, nor is it proving productive in the Diyala province. I do not think it will end up being productive here.

So, yes, Al Qaeda does seek instability in the settled, eastern areas of Pakistan and is formenting instability in this region with suicide bombing. However, the instability occurring in the FATA region can, should, and undoubted will be used by the Pakistani government to weaken Al Qaeda stronghold of this area.

For a full read of the above article, click here.

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Implications of the New Kurdish-Sunni Alliance for Security in Iraq’s Ninawa Governorate

Ramzy Mardini, writing for The Jamestown Foundation, discusses the ramification for Iraq regarding the recent "memorandum of understanding" first reported in this blog on 26 December 2007.

As the U.S. military “surge” and the activities of Iraq’s Awakening Councils drive al-Qaeda and other insurgent groups into northern Iraq, a new and largely overlooked accord between Kurds and Sunnis could have enormous implications for the security situation in the Ninawa governorate.

On December 24, the two major Iraqi Kurdish parties—the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)—signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Sunni Iraqi Islamic Party (IIP). Though the agreement was grossly underreported in Western media, the event may presage a gradual but significant change in Iraqi politics with great importance for the political security of Ninawa and the rest of northern Iraq: the formation of a Kurdish-Sunni alliance.

Mr. Mardini continues with,

The apparent Kurdish-Sunni alliance may have been formed to send a signal to Maliki that his power as prime minister is contingent on Kurdish participation. This is in fact what Salim Abdullah, a leader in Hashimi’s party, indicated when he suggested Sunnis and Kurds could come together to challenge Shiite preference and power (al-Sharq al-Awsat, December 26, 2007). By threatening to ally with the Sunnis and break up the four-party alliance—effectively paralyzing the central government—the Kurdish parties gain political leverage in pressuring Maliki to submit to the KRG’s demands.

Mr. Mardini notes the reason behind the Kurdish-Sunni alliance.

The accord’s announcement has come at a delicate time in Shiite-Kurdish relations. In August 2007, the KDP and PUK saved the central government from political paralysis by uniting in a four-party alliance with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim’s Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (SIIC) and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa Party (Aswat al-Iraq, December 25, 2007). Since then, political developments have changed the alliance’s status—perhaps compelling Kurdish leaders to spearhead a strategic relationship with their Sunni Arab counterparts, thus redefining their existing rapport with the Shiite political bloc.

While I agree with his premise that the Kurdish-Sunni alliance seeks gain political leverage for both Kurds and Sunnis, I disagree with his premise that it seeks to break up the four-party alliance and challenge Shiite preference and power.

Instead, I believe Maliki is attempting lessen the government's dependence on Sadr and seeks to form a nonsectarian alliance to counter Iranian influence. Let me explain.

Between Kurds and Sunni, this alliance at most represents an pack supported by 42% of the Iraqi population, in and of itself not enough to gain a majority, but instead to become a significant minority. Adnan al-Dulaimi, whose party makes up a significant portion of the Iraq Accord Front, has recently been implicated in a string of car bombings in the Hai al-'Amil neighborhood, which weakens the political leverage of the Iraq Accord Front. In addition, the initial aims and goals which formed this coalition (namely to unify Sunni political leverage against the Shiites and U.S. forces), is no longer paramount.

Instead, what is paramount is being on the democratically elected government's side during what appears to be the upcoming U.S. victory and a wholesale defeat of Al Qaeda in Iraq (and any of its supporters, like Al-Dulaimi) and other militias like the Mahdi Militia.

The United Iraqi Alliance, which Maliki's Dawa party is affiliated, is also breaking up. Again, what was once paramount to this organization, namely, anybody in charge but Sunnis, is no longer the central issue. Instead, the central issue is being on the winning side in Iraqi's civil turmoil. Maliki owes his leadership position to Sadr, whose 30 votes for Maliki effectively soldified his power, but prevented Hakim from becoming Prime Minister. Maliki is attempting to ensure his position is no longer beholden to Sadr.

This Kurdish-Sunni alliance (without Al-Dulaimi's party) allied with the Dawa party of Maliki; however, represents a majority. The key here is this majority would not be beholdened to Al Qaeda in Iraq, the Mahdi Army, or the Badr Corps. This fact is something that cannot be said of current political affiliations. In addition, this new alliance would allow Maliki to replace ministers who are tainted by the past insurgency, regardless of affiliation (Sunni or Shiite), and are effectively stalling political progress in Iraq at the national level.

With provincial and general elections coming up this year and next year respectively, this new alliance can enter into elections with an insurgency defeated, several reconciliation laws passed, and without alliance to insurgents or militias.

Maliki's recent reversal on allowing Sunni CLC personnel to join the security forces is a concession he needs to give to Sunnis to become part of this alliance.

What is important is these three diverse groups are forming an alliance not only for their own political survival and leverage, but for the unity and survival of Iraq in general. In addition, this future alliance will not be beholdened to current militias, insurgent groups, or Iran which is plaguing current alliances. This alliance must compromise to get anything accomplished, whether it be an oil law, national reconciliation, or Iraqi federalism. Finally, these parties will undoubtedly have to rule with secularly since such diverse religious affliliations would never agree on religious decrees.

The formation of a Sunni-Kurdi-Maliki alliance would move the Iraqi political process forward and lessen the impact of militia and nonsecular forces in the government allowing Iraq to move forward as a secular democracy.

For a full read of The Jamestown Foundation article, click here.

Iraq Al Qaeda Emir killed in US air shelling

From Alsumaria Iraqi Satellite TV Network.

Awakening council commander in southern Baghdad Sheikh Mostapha Al Jibouri announced that Al Qaeda Emir in southern Baghdad Walid Khudeir was killed in addition to 20 gunmen during the US air shelling that targeted areas in Arab Jabour. Al Jibouri declared that coalition forces have provided them with intelligence on Al Qaeda locations and weapons caches, part of an operation to clear the region of insurgents. In western Samarra, Salah Din police chief, Brigadier Ahmad Yassin, announced that an emergency police force from Salah Din province have executed a military operation in Shanana region and killed one of Al Qaeda Emirs called Abu Qutada Al Saudi and arrested 11 of his aids while it confiscated weapons and explosives.

Al Qaeda emirs (at least comparable to the rank of Colonel) are getting to meet their promised 72 virgins. It will be extremely difficult for Al Qaeda in Iraq to make up for the expertise of these lost commanders. In addition, the one's not killed are detained and are undoubtedly providing a wealth of intelligence about Al Qaeda in Iraq's remaining composition and disposition in Iraq which is leading to more effective targeting, both lethal and non-lethal.

North Korea's True Colors

From John Bolton writing in The Wall Street Journal.

There's more positive news from the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea: Its leaders have refused to make any further disclosure concerning its nuclear programs.

How is this umpteenth violation of the Feb. 13, 2006, agreement in the Six-Party Talks positive? Because at a critical moment on a gravely important issue, North Korea has again shown its true colors, thus providing the United States an opportunity to extricate itself from this unwise and dangerous deal.

As always, Mr. Bolton is able to make an informed, knowledgeable recommendation for future dealings with North Korea.

For the full read, click here.

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Who's War? Separating Fact from Fiction in 'Charlie Wilson's War'

Paul Kengor at the American Thinker asks the question of who was the impetus behind our covert support of the rebels in the Soviet-Afghanistan war. His first quote answers the question.

"Reagan specifically urged the supplying of U.S. shoulder-launched, heat-seeking missiles that can shoot down Soviet helicopter gunships."
-Martin Schram, Washington Post, January 10, 1980

Going back in history, the Soviet War in Afghanistan started on 25 December 1979. One will also note that Reagan was elected in November 1980. The quote about him above therefore came two weeks after the start of the war and a full year prior to him becoming President. Mr. Kengor explains the situation of the movie.

The movie, and the book, is about a moderate-to-conservative Democratic Congressman, a profane, hard-drinking, womanizing, anti-communist politician who was indeed -- as the movie makes abundantly clear-- very important to providing a huge amount of covert financial and military support to the Mujahedin rebels who resisted the Soviet Union after the Red Army invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. The USSR brutalized the nation and its innocent people. Charlie Wilson's goal was to give the Afghan "freedom fighters" the supplies they needed to defeat the Soviets.

However, he notes.

While all of this is true, this is (at best) half the story -- maybe even a quarter of the story. It helps explain what happened in the Democrat-controlled Congress, where the likes of Charlie Wilson were a godsend to counter the San Francisco Democrats and Massachusetts liberals who would have let Central America become a Soviet-Cuban outpost.

But the rest of the story, which receives no mention, is that it was the Reagan administration, and specifically CIA director Bill Casey, National Security Adviser Bill Clark, Secretary of Defense Cap Weinberger, and Ronald Reagan himself -- plus numerous aides -- who were the driving force behind supplying the Mujahedin. This movie could have been made 10 years ago about Bill Casey, whose actions were even more dramatic than Charlie Wilson's -- albeit not as obscene -- or about Bill Clark.

For a concise primer regarding the influence of National Security Decision Directives (NSDD) signed by the Reagan administration and Reagan himself, read the whole article.

One thing I am certain of that this article does not mention, if Reagan had not been elected and President Carter won a second term, there would not have been a "Charlie Wilson's War" much less a movie to critique. While President Carter expressed displeasure with the Soviets and stated,

"the most serious threat to peace since the Second World War."

While he attacked the Soviet War in Afghanistan with threatened boycotts of the 1980 Olympics, trade embargos, and $20 million in support for the Afghanistan rebels, significant pressure against the Soviet Union and support for the Afghanistani rebels did not occur until after President Reagan was sworn into office.

Another forgotten peace which prevented further U.S. involvement is that President Carter was stymied by the Iran Hostage Crisis and the botched rescue attempt. Notable, the Iran Hostage Crisis was ended within minutes of Reagan being sworn in as President as he had effectively ran on a platform which suggested direct enagagement with Iran and containing and reversing Soviet influence and expansion.

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At least 130 suspects held in Iraq crackdown (Roundup)

From M&C News.

A US-Iraqi force backed by helicopters arrested 103 suspected al-Qaeda militants in an offensive south of Baghdad while 30 suspects were rounded up in another crackdown in the capital, the Iraqi military said Friday.

133 extremists detained.

The numbers just keep adding up. The last remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq are being killed or detained as Operation Marne Thunderbolt keeps rounding up Al Qaeda in Iraq extremists as does Operation Iron Harvest.

Al-Qaeda commander killed in military operation north of Baghdad

From KUNA.

Governor of Salah Eddin province Hamad AL-Kashti said on Friday that Al-Qaeda Commander Abu Qutada Al-Saudi was killed today during a military operation carried out by Iraqi security forces and US military in the city of Samarra north of Baghdad.

AL-Kashti told KUNA, two days ago Iraqi security forces in collaboration with Iraqi military and police in the province, and US coalition forces raided a hide out for the terrorists after receiving intelligence information regarding the hide out.

Iraqi security force were able to kill Abu Qutada and three of his followers, including the arrest of 12 others, Al-Kashti said.

The Iraqi governor added US military air planes supported operations near the area.

For his part, Iraqi Police Commander Brigadier in the province said that Abu Qutada was carrying an explosive belt when he was killed, noting that weapon caches and explosives were confiscated after the operation.

Another Al Qaeda commander bites the dust.

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Iraq General: Six Villages Taken From Al-Qaida


Iraqi and U.S. forces engaged in a major assault on al-Qaida have wrested control of six villages in central Iraq from the Islamist militant group, an Iraqi army general said Friday.

At least 10 members of al-Qaida were killed and 20 suspected militants were arrested in the sweep, Major General Abdul Karim al-Rubaie, director of operations in central Diyala province, told AFP.

The villages named by the general fall within the "breadbasket" farmlands surrounding the town of Muqdadiyah, which is the main focus of Operation Iron Harvest launched Tuesday by Iraqi and U.S. forces, assisted by members of anti- al-Qaida "Awakening" groups.

"The villages have been under the control of al-Qaida for a long time," said Rubaie. "We have taken them back and al-Qaida has been chased out."

The remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq are being killed, detained, or fled from this latest assault as part of Operation Iron Harvest. U.S. Forces are moving into the Muqdadiyah region to close a line of communication into Baghdad along the Diyala River Valley.

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Afghanistan: Army discovers Iranian mines on road from Kabul

From Adnkronos International.

Mines produced in Iran have been discovered and seized by Afghani armed forces along the road between the capital, Kabul, and the eastern city of Jalalabad."

These mines are the latest technology and considered very dangerous," said a spokesman from the organisation for Afghani national security.

It is not the first time that Iran has been accused of sending arms to Taliban guerillas who are fighting the government of Hamed Karzai.

Recently the head of the Canadian troops stationed in Afghanistan accused Tehran of collaborating with militants linked to the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar.

Before him, the US defence secretary, Robert Gates, spoke of Tehran's involvement in Afghanistan.

Now, direct proof they are meddling in Afghanistan. Many problems in the Middle East eventually come back to Iran. It is time to deal with this issue directly.

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Snow of all things counters global warming and shows Iraqi progress

It is not often that one article not only refutes global warming, but also shows the dramatic success of The Surge in Iraq.

"It is the first time we've seen snow in Baghdad," said 60-year-old Hassan Zahar. "We've seen sleet before, but never snow. I looked at the faces of all the people, they were astonished," he said.

I am going to do what most global warming alarmist do and use one example as proof of an entire theory while disregarding factual evidence which does not support my case. If it has never snowed in Iraq, yet today it snowed in Iraq, then we must be experiencing Global Cooling. In addition, because the U.S. is to blame for everything and U.S. forces are in Iraq, I am jumping to the conclusion that Global Cooling is man-made.

Ok, I am sorry, but I could not resist. It is interesting to see how Iraqis are reacting to snow.

"It's a sign of hope. We hope Iraqis will purify their hearts and politicians will work for the prosperity of all Iraqis."

Not only have Iraqis seen snow for the first time, but they felt it was an "omen of peace" for Iraq. They are seeing peace and prosperity given to them by President Bush and the American military who put them on the road to freedom and democracy.


Hezbollah's Billion Petrodollars

Walid Phares delivers his assessment of activities inside of Lebanon in this Human Events article. He discusses two major changes occurring inside Hezbollah.

The first change is a shift in leadership responsibilities. A report published initially in the Saudi owned Sharq al Awsat said the office of Ayatollah Khomenei appointed deputy secretary general Sheikh Naim Qassim as the new supreme commander of Hezbollah forces and the personal representative of the Ayatollah in Lebanon.

Why did Khomenei change leadership of Hezbollah forces?

They said it was in preparation for a potential massive move by Hezbollah to seize more power in Lebanon and before a possible clash with the Lebanese Government and the United Nations over the disarmament process.

Mr. Phares cites General Hajj's assassination as proof of this fact.

Sources believe the assassination of Brigadier General Francois Hajj, director of operations in the Lebanese Army was another preemptive measure ordered by the Pasdaran command in Lebanon. Hajj was slated to become the next commander of the Lebanese Army. The latter was to deploy across Lebanon and eventually begin the collection of weapons. Hence, believe the observers, a Syro-Iranian order was issued to preempt and eliminate a man who could have become the military commander to force Hezbollah to disarm.

The second major change in Hezbollah is a huge increase in its operating budget.

Hezbollah’s funding was elevated from $400 million US to $1 billion. This ballistic leap would enable the organization to crush any opponent inside Lebanon and engage in worldwide operations against Western Democracies and Arab moderates. According to experts in Lebanon, the $400 millions figure was enough to pay for hundreds of social centers and thousands of salaries enough to insure a full control over the Shia community, its representatives in Parliament and buy significant influence inside the Sunni, Druze and particularly Christian community. One hundred million dollars alone, could pay for the activities of movements opposed to the Cedars Revolution and the democratically elected Government of Seniora.

Mr. Phares notes that a billion dollars gives Iran a fleet to counterbalance the US Naval Fleet in the Middle East.

A month ago as I was participating in a cross fire program on al Jazeera facing off with a coordinator of Iranian propaganda in the Arab world, I was asked why the US maintains a Navy in the Middle East. "Where are Iran's fleets," he asked. I replied that the Iranian regime maintains land fleets. "Hezbollah's 30,000 rockets and its millions of dollars is an Iranian fleet" I answered.

For a full read, click here.

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Tribesmen raising anti-Al Qaeda Lashkar

Dawn is reporting of major rift between Al Qaeda in tribes in South Waziristan.

Thousands of armed tribesmen of South Waziristan met here on Wednesday, vowing to organise a Lashkar to hunt down Al Qaeda-linked militants blamed for killing nine of their kinsmen.

The tribal jirga in Wana came three days after militants stormed two offices and killed nine tribal elders of a government-sponsored peace committee.

The jirga ordered tribesmen from every household belonging to the Wazir tribe to come to Wana with arms to prepare for action, a local official said.

"One man from each house should come to Wana with a gun at 10am on Thursday to plan our defence and act against those who are responsible for disorder," tribal chief Malik Ghaffar told the gathering.

Wazir tribe chief Maulvi Nazir, who earned fame after he drove out hundreds of Uzbeks from the region last year in bloody clashes, is expected to address the Lashkar on Thursday.

He did not turn up at Wednesday’s meeting but had earlier blamed Baitullah Mehsud, a local Al Qaeda commander and leader of the rival Mehsud tribe, for the killing of the peace committee members.

Residents have reported that announcements have been made on a public address system asking Mehsud tribesmen to "leave Wana to avoid losses".

Baitullah Mehsud is accused by the government of masterminding a spate of suicide attacks in the country, including the December 27 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in a gun and bomb attack in Rawalpindi. Mehsud has denied any involvement in the killing.

Local sources told AFP his tribe was preparing a jirga to negotiate with the Wazir tribe to avoid a confrontation

A couple of significant notes here:

1. This is the beginning of the end for Al Qaeda. This is their sole remaining base of operations. Now locals have not only stopped supporting them, but if this report is to be believed, a jirga is being convened to actively go after Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

2. It notes that Baitullah Mehsud is a local Al Qaeda commander. Stories have been coming out stating he was a leader of the united Taliban in Pakistan, but here he is stated to be a local leader of Al Qaeda. Note again, the symbolic shift against Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Take these two facts together with an earlier reports that Al Qaeda is attempting to execute a forceful take over of the Taliban, an Afghani Taliban leader switching sides, Mullah Mansoor Dadullah defiance of dismissal by Mullah Omar, and reports of Islamic parties are losing support in Pakistan and we see mounting evidence of a significant fracture between the Taliban and Al Qaeda and between the Taliban themselves.

I reported earlier that Al Qaeda made a grave mistake in assassinating Bhutto. While initially claiming credit for Bhutto's assassination, it was never officially taken credit for due to the uprising of support for Bhutto.

Musharraf used emergency rule to reposition tens of thousand forces from Kashmir to the FATA region. With all this military supporting them, tribal leaders will feel safe confronting Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

Al Qaeda took a great risk assassinating Bhutto and bringing its war directly to its base of operations. It saw that it could have possibly gained nuclear weapons to use against the infidel. It now will soon be battling in its sole remaining safe haven.

Not only is Al Qaeda in Iraq defeated, but so is Al Qaeda in Pakistan, and therefore, Al Qaeda in general.

2008 is quickly shaping up to be a great year for people who love freedom. With Pakistani elections on 18 February 2008, it may very well also be a great year for people who love democracy.

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Operation Iron Harvest targets al Qaeda in Miqdadiyah

Bil Roggio reports for The Long War Journal that Operation Iron Harvest, part of the corps-level operation Phantom Pheonix, is being conducted by MND-N.

Coalition and Iraqi security forces have launched Operation Iron Harvest, the latest offensive against al Qaeda in Iraq in Diyala province. "Operations are now being concentrated in Miqdadiyah," according to a press release from Multinational Division Iraq.

Mr Roggio continues,

Over two brigades of US forces along with an unspecified number of Iraqi troops are involved in the Miqdadiyah operation. "Seven American battalions, accompanied by Iraqi Army units, pushed into a 110-square-mile area in the fertile northern Diyala River Valley in search of 200 insurgents with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia," The New York Times reported. (emphasis added)

According to MNF-I.

Both Iron Harvest and Phantom Phoenix "are seeing less resistance than expected," Multinational Forces Iraq reported. "There are expectations that the decrease in resistance can be due to leaks in the [Iraqi security forces] or extremists might have seen an increase in helicopters in their areas prior to the operation." US and Iraqi forces have killed or captured over 20 al Qaeda emirs during the first two days of the operation. (emphasis added)

While I know that these are round numbers, they are significant for a few reasons.

1. Diyala still maintains the largest concentration of Al Qaeda in Iraq forces according to MNF-I. This fact is noted by a powerpoint MNF-I released which shows the concentration and locations of remaining elements of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

2. They have specific intel that points to 200-ish extremist in Diyala River Valley. Let's double this number for Salad ah Din province and put also this number remaining in small pockets in the rest of Iraq and we have at most 600-ish Al Qaeda in Iraq left in Iraq. This is a sharp increase from on time projections of 20,000.

3. Out of the 200-ish extremists in Diyala province, 20 Al Qaeda emirs were captured in the first two days. This means at least 1/30th of the remaining Al Qaeda are high level leaders. Also given the fact that most emirs have a substantual munber of body guards and below emirs are cell leaders, who have a significant, but smaller contingent of body guards, one has to ask, who is left to fight?

4. Finally, obviously Coalition forces have substantial intel on Al Qaeda in Iraq leaders if in the first two days they captured 20 emirs. Emirs usually lead provinces or large cities. For example, one emir captured recently was the emir of Senjar province who was captured in Western Mosul. Mosul has typically had two emirs, one for the western side, one for the eastern side. Either way, Al Qaeda has suffered a significant blow to its emirs in the first two days of Operation Phantom Pheonix.

Al-Qaeda leader caught in W. Mosul - Iraq army

KUNA reports that another Al Qaeda in Iraq leader was caught.

Al-Qaeda leader was caught east of Mosul city, located in northern Iraq, said a statement by the Iraqi army on Wednesday.

The Iraqi army went on saying that troops, based in Al-Kask area west of Mosul, arrested Ra'ad Awad Issa, al-Qaeda leader in the province of Senjar, in Barzan town near the Syrian border today.

Iraqi troops had confiscated from Issa some documents consisting of names for other terrorist groups in the region. The terrorist is accused of killing seven family members in the Senjar province.

Meanwhile, in northern Mosul, the Mutli-National Force (MNF) discovered the body of another Qaeda leader who was killed on December 25 during a coalition raid in Ninawa governorate north of the country.

The Qaeda leader was identified as Hayder Al-Afri, who is also known by his alias Emad Abdul-Khareem. Al-Afri was responsible for the attacks against Iraqi citizens as well as U.S. marines. He was the leader of the so called Islamic state of Iraq in west of Mosul and also assume several posts in the Al-Qaeda.

The terrorist was among others killed in the December 25 MNF's raid which also resulted in the arrest of about 27 militants.

This capture is part of Operation Iron Harvest which undoubtedly has the objective to ensure the terrorists reap what they have sowed.

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Islamic parties lose support in Pakistan

If one is wondering why the Taliban and Al Qaeda are beginning to more directly seek battle with government force in Pakistan, one only has to read the Santa Barbar News-Press.

As Pakistan confronts an uncertain future after former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's slaying, one thing is clear: Islamic parties sympathetic to al-Qaida and the Taliban have lost a great deal of support since they won their greatest political victory in the country's history five years ago.

This statement echoes a similar statement made by Amir Taheri in his latest article for the New York Post. The article goes on to state,

The parties have been hurt by internal splits, leadership rivalries and widespread disdain for the hard-line Islamic rule they advocate. An outpouring of sympathy for Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party unleashed by her death Dec. 27 appears to have drained more support.

After the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan,

Six Islamic parties formed the United Action Front, or MMA, widely thought to have been engioeered by Pakistan's powerful intelligence service and former Taliban patron, Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, to contest 2002 elections.

The MMA rode the wave of anger against the United States with pledges to create a theocracy and denunciations of television, co-education and alcohol to achieve unprecedented political gains.

It formed governments in the North West Frontier and Baluchistan provinces, and won 60 seats in the 342-seat national assembly, making the Islamists the largest opposition bloc.

The article continues with,

The provincial governments have failed to make good on promises to end corruption and improve social services. MMA parties themselves are accused of graft, which they deny.

Moreover, some Pakistanis have come to associate the religious parties with the explosion in suicide bombings and other violence that's shaken Pakistan since Musharraf ordered troops to assault an extremist-held mosque in Islamabad last July.

The MMA split from the government last year when its largest component, the Jamaat Islami, the country's oldest Islamic party, declared that it would boycott the elections.

As in Iraq and Afghanistan, Al Qaeda and the Taliban promise certain things only to deliver suicide bombers, other violence, graft, and oppression. What is currently happening in Pakistan has the same underlying tones in Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other region where Al Qaeda establishes a presence. Al Qaeda promises:

1. A return to traditional ways (which is appealing) of tribal leadership and self-rule.

2. They begin to limit individual freedom (radios, internet, smoking, etc). While limiting individual's freedoms, Al Qaeda often does not put the same restriction on its own members.

3. They repress women (fully covering them with Burqas), alienating a large, apparently non-vocal segment of the population. However, this segment of the population has their husband's ears at night.

4. Anybody who speaks up against these repression is immediately kiled.

5. This one killing leads to another and to another as the people are more and more repressed.

6. Islamic extremists begin to lose popularity; however, their power now may be so strong to go against (sounds eerily similar to Nazi Germany).

7. Popular revolts begin to happen. If large enough, significant parties or clans detach themselves from Al Aqeda.

8. Mass death and mayham occur from suicide bombers. As a result, innocent women and children are killed.

9. Tacit and/or active support of Al Qaeda continues to wane.

10. The forces of freedom and demcracy begin to battle these dark and evil forces.

11. Killings increase as does unwarranted destruction.

12. If not backed by a signifanct external or internal power, the voices of the people are stifled and continue to live in despair. However, it backed by a significant external/internal power, slowly, the voices of the people become louder and louder, eventually defeating Al Qaeda.

As in Iraq, freedom and democracy started as the underdog because these two things were something the infidel brought. However, freedom and democracy will always win out in the end because that is all most decent people want. They want security for themselves and their family. They want the ability to work a days works and get paid so they can support their familiy. And if given extra income, they want the ability to enjoy some of the finer things of life, like listening to a radio, which they may find intellectually stimulating. Alternatively, they may just want a cigarette to smoke as they sit and watch their children play soccer in the street. Or, they may want to surf the internet to see what liberties and freedoms others are enjoying in other parts of the world. Some come to different parts of the world to get educated and return to their homeland to bring more prosparity.

Al Qaeda does not let people have simple freedoms. Because of this simple fact, Al Qaeda will be defeated, in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, and whereever else it choses to impose it extremist ideology.

The U.S. is a leader of the free and democratic world. Afghanistan and Iraq sparked a popular protest against pain, suffering, and tyranny that has been ongoing in the third world regions. While many times initially rejected by people who believe we are an occupying force, they soon realize that all we want is the same peace and security that they long for. Once we can ensure our own peace and security, by bringing them their peace and security, we leave.

But typically, at that point, we are asked to stay.

This pattern has repeated itself since the U.S became involved in world politics in WWI. The only difference between WWI and WWII, is that when asked to stay, we did not. That fatal mistake brought about WWII.

Pakistan army strikes hideout of pro-Taliban militant leader

The International Herald Tribune is reporting the Pakistani military has targeted Maulana Fazlullah's (known as Mullah Radio) hide out in Swat.

Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad said security forces targeted two locations on Tuesday night in Swat on information that Maulana Fazlullah was hiding there. "I am not in a position to confirm whether he died" in the attacks, Arshad told The Associated Press.

Slowly but surely, Pakistani forces are taking over Swat and South Waziristan. After many peace deals in 2005 and 2006, it appears that the Pakistani government is finally taking seriously its much needed battle against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Afghanistan: A First Step Toward 'Turning' Moderate Taliban?

Radio Free Europe is reporting Mullah Abdul Salaam, a former Taliban commander who switched sides before a battle last month to secure Musa Qala, a Taliban-held southern town, had been named the government's top official there. Mullah Abdul Salaam commented.

"There were many problems before. There was no trust before. There was no one you could trust," he said. "People didn't know whom to contact. Now they are talking with me. They give me assurance and I give them assurances. There were many problems before. There was no trust before."

Afghan presidential spokesman Humayun Hamidzada stated,

"The president has said before that all those former Taliban who come and accept the constitution and who want to participate in the political process through non-violent means, they are all welcome. And Musa Qala is one example,"

Bringing Taliban over to the side of the democratic government is the first step towards peace in Afghanistan. It is signficant militarily in that it brings over 300 forces to help police this region of Afghanistan. Even more important, Christopher Langton, who studies Afghanistan at London's International Institute For Strategic Studies, noted,

"If it is stabilized, all sorts of follow-on could occur in other parts of the country when people see a successful outcome [in Helmand Province]," Langton says.

Langton says the stabilization of Musa Qala and the fertile farmland of the nearby Sangin Valley would allow repairs and upgrades to the nearby Kajaki hydroelectric dam. That, in turn, would allow the government to provide more irrigation, water, and electricity to as many as 2 million people in southern Afghanistan.

That would signal to Afghans elsewhere that their living conditions can be improved if they cooperate with the Afghan government. Langton says it also would allow the international community to be seen as an agent of positive change in Afghanistan rather than as an invader and occupier.

One can only hope this reconciliation with Mullah Abdul Salaam is successful and brings more Taliban forces over to the side of democracy and freedom.

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More Trouble on the Duleimi Family Front

Talisman Gate provides some fascinating linkages regarding the recent killing of Riyadh al-Samarrai, a former police colonel, in Baghdad's northern Azamiyah district, which had been a stronghold of insurgents and a safe haven for al-Qaida in Iraq until recently when Al Samarrai switched sides and begin to work with US Forces. Yahoo explains the assassination this way.

The head of a key U.S.-backed Sunni group was killed Monday in a double suicide bombing that claimed at least 11 other lives and highlighted the deadly precision of attacks on Sunni leaders choosing to oppose al-Qaida in Iraq....

The first bomber approached Riyadh al-Samarrai, a former police colonel and head of the local Awakening Council, and claimed to be a friend, said one of al-Samarrai's bodyguards, who was wounded in the attack.

"He met him and embraced him and after a few seconds, the explosion took place," the guard said from his bed in al-Nuaman hospital. He spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

As people rushed to aid the wounded, a suicide car bomb exploded just yards away, said Baghdad's chief military spokesman, Brig. Qassim al-Moussawi.

Therefore, al-Samarrai knew and trusted the suicide bomber that killed him. According to Talisman Gate,

Fresh charges were leveled today against Adnan al-Duleimi, the head of parliamentary Consensus bloc (Sunni) and his daughter and fellow parliamentarian Asma al-Duleimi by the latter's head of security, Hassanein Ghazi Karim al-Samaraie. Al-Samaraie was arrested two days ago in connection to the car bombs found at Duleimi's compound that had earlier implicated Makki al-Duleimi, Adnan's son and Asma's brother, who has been under custody for several weeks now.

According to his testimony today, al-Samaraie claimed that he had been Asma's lover and that both she and her father had prior knowledge about a string of car bombings in the Hai al-'Amil neighborhood that al-Samaraie had organized and confessed to.

As if things couldn't get any weirder for this family, a source is telling me that Asma's husband died today in the Adhamiya suicide bombing that targeted and killed Col. Riyadh al-Samaraie, the head of the 'Adhamiya Rebels Command that was formed about a month ago to fight al-Qaeda. However I can't verify this last bit about the husband.

However, looking at the first comment to this blog, one sees,

Yet another scoop for Talisman Gate; Asma Duleimi today confirmed the news to Radio Sawa that her husband, Dhiya al-Hadithi was killed in the Adhamiya bombing yesterday...


Unfortunately, this article is in arabic so I cannot confirm the text.

Interesting linkages to say the least. What is to me more significant is a phenomenon that is occurring that is not being reported, namely, tribal and family ties are becoming less important in Iraq than is the sense of Iraqi nationalism with regards to the developing democracy.

Tribal and family lineages have been the basic building block in Iraq. It is what has started the bottom up reconciliation.

Another way to look at it is unlike Americans who first and foremost say they are Americans, then may later say they are Irish-American noting their ancestory, and then later say they are from Casper, Wyoming, noting where they grew up, and then from the north side of town, Iraqis start just the opposite way.

They are first from the Al-Azzawi family living in Baqaba, which is part of the larger Al-Azza tribe in the Diyala province which is part of the larger Al-Azza tribe in the central part of Iraq. Finally they are Iraqis. To put it simply, Iraqis base their heritage from bottom up, Americans from top down (which was one of our issues in understanding Iraqis during our first few years in Iraq).

However, we now see that a friend of Col. Riyadh al-Samaraie attack and kill him. While the suicide bomber has not been identified, he was undoubtedly from the same tribe, if not the same family if he was allowed to get so close without being searched first.

Similarly, Col. Riyadh al-Samaraie had decided to switch sides, while his wife and apparently her lover, Hassanein Ghazi Karim al-Samaraie, had stayed allied to Al Qaeda. It is not know whether Hassanein Ghazi Karim al-Samaraie was related to Col. Riyadh al-Samaraie or not, but I bet there is some type of relationship here. The estrangement from the wife may have very well be a result of Col. Riyadh al-Samaraie switching sides.

Another recent suicide bomber had the same modus operandi during the funeral of Nabil al-Azzawi in which his father, Muataz al-Azzawi was assassinated.

Zahil said the funeral took place at the home of Muataz al-Azzawi, a former brigadier general in the Iraqi police who subsequently worked at the police sports club.

The bomber was a man known by the relatives of the deceased, Zahil said. "When the suicide bomber got inside the funeral, he shook hands with everybody," he said. "When he arrived at Muataz, he blew himself up."

The reason I brought up the Al-Azza tribe earlier, is because there are many members of this tribe and/or family who have in the past or are still supporting Al Qaeda while other members have switched sides and are now fighting against Al Qaeda. The Ansar al-Sunna Emir of Diyala, Abu Shahad al-‘Azzawi a year ago killed many Iraqi Security Forces in December 2006 is one of many examples. It appears Al-Azza tribal members to some extent are still loyal to AL Qaeda in the Diyala province while members of the same tribe have switched to the American side.

Al Qaeda is using this break in family and tribal alliance to its advantage by getting family, tribemen, or or old friends in close enough to anti-Al Qaeda leaders to assassinate them.

Americans for their part need to understand that tribal alliances are becoming less significant in Iraq. Iraqi nationalism is growing stronger at the expense of old tribal relationships and US forces need to use this to their advantage. It is the focus on destroying Al Qaeda which is causing these tribal alliances to break down since Iraqis (of all nationalities and tribes) are coming together to destroy a common enemy. To the point, Iraqis are once again becoming nationalistic which is a fundamental change from 2004 through 2007 when tribal relationships were at their peak.

This phenonemon is also happening at the national level as seen by Maliki, a member of the Dawa party forming alliances with Sunni and Kurds to build a national unity government while at the same time the Dawa party is breaking apart and forming another party which sides with Al-Sadr's block.

One of the key aspects of war is to divide and conquer. It appears that significant divisions are happening in Iraq, at the family level, the tribal level, and also at the national level. US forces needs to capitalize on these fractures to help create a nationalistic Iraqi identity that believes in freedom and democracy.

Operation on cards to capture Mehsud’

Daily Times of Pakistan reports that a major operation is underway in Waziristan to capture Baitullah Mehsud.

Caretaker Interior Minister Hamid Nawaz said on Monday that a major operation is being started in Waziristan to arrest Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud. Nawaz said a major operation to capture Mehsud is being started, adding that the operation would be launched soon after revealing his hideout in Waziristan. Nawaz said intelligence agencies were hunting Mehsud, adding, “We will try our level best to capture him alive so that his accomplices can be traced.” He said no foreign forces would be allowed to launch an operation in Pakistan.

We will continue to monitor this situation as it develops.

Al Qaeda assassinates Awakening leader in Adhamiyah

Billl Roggio, writing for The Long War Journal, discusses a series of recent attack on Awakening Group members by Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda in Iraq continues to target Sunni leaders of the Awakening councils that have sprung up throughout Iraq. In the latest attack, two suicide bombers assassinated Colonel Riyadh al Samarrai, the leader of the Adhamiyah neighborhood in Baghdad. Thirteen others were killed in the twin bombings. "One of the bombers detonated an explosive vest, the other struck with a car bomb," Reuters reported.

He also notes,

Al Qaeda in Iraq has targeted the Awakening Councils on a near-daily basis. Over the past week, six high-profile attacks against Awakening forces occurred in Baghdad, Diyala, Anbar, and Babil provinces.

Al Qaeda has taken a toll on Awakening movement leaders which is why the military is apprehensive to declare victory in Iraq. Al Qaeda is showing they still have the means to carry out high profile attacks on well protected leaders.

One thing to note is this attack and other recent attacks have apparently been sprung by friends of the leaders which were killed. It appears that Al Qaeda has infiltrated some Awakening movements, something Maliki and the Shiite ran government fears in allowing their integration into Iraqi Security Force units.

These attacks, along with apparent infiltrations of Al Qaeda elements, are testing the endurance and solidarity of these Awakening movements. It still awaits to be seen if Operation Phantom Pheonix can defeat the remaining Al Qaeda elements in the belts around Baghdad and in conjunction with this operation, whether Awakening movements will be able to weather the storm of violence and infiltration that Al Qaeda is subjecting upon them.

Al Qaeda is showing their resolve in Iraq. This significant increase in attacks on key leaders may be Al Qaeda's last major offensive if Operation Phantom Pheonix succeeds in routing them from their last remaining safe havens.

Multi-National Corps – Iraq commences Phantom Phoenix

Lt. Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of Multi-National Corps, announced the beginning of Operation Phantom Pheonix.

The operation is a series of joint Iraqi and Coalition division- and brigade-level operations to pursue and neutralize remaining al-Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist elements. Phantom Phoenix will synchronize lethal and non-lethal effects to exploit recent security gains and disrupt terrorist support zones and enemy command and control.

“Working closely with the Iraqi Security Forces, we will continue to pursue al-Qaeda and other extremists wherever they attempt to take sanctuary,” Odierno said. “Iraqi citizens continue to reject extremist elements. We are determined not to allow these brutal elements to have respite anywhere in Iraq.”

Why details are sketchy, Odierno stated the operations is comprised of,

"series of joint Iraqi and Coalition division- and brigade-level operations to pursue and neutralise remaining al Qaeda in Iraq and other extremist elements".

Further, he stated,

that in addition to the use of force, the operation includes“non-lethal aspects … designed to improve delivery of essential services, economic development and local governance capacity.”

Finally, Townhall is reporting,

"Al-Qaida in Iraq is attempting to regain strength and establish new support areas in northern Iraq," said Lt. Col. James Hutton, a spokesman for the U.S. military. "AQI has fled its former sanctuaries and remains a dangerous foe."

Extremists have been pushed out of their former stronghold in Anbar province west of Baghdad, and appear to be concentrated in the province of Diyala to the northeast of the capital and in Mosul to the north.

Therefore, we should expect Operation Phantom Pheonix to concentrate efforts in the Diyala River Valley to the lake in the Kanaqin district of the Diyala province and along the Hamrin Ridge. Further, the operation should also seek to rid the Tigris River valley from Badghdad to Mosul where MNF-I has determined that Al Qaeda is attempting to regroup. From these press reports, it would appear that MND-N is the main effort of this new operation.

The Institute for the Study of War is also listing two new operations south of Baghdad in 3rd Infantry Divisions zone without equating it to a higher (Corps-level) operation. I would suspect that these Division level operations are also part of Operation Phantom Pheonix, focusing more on the non-lethal effects noted by LTG Odierno.

Given all this information, it appears that Operation Phantom Pheonix is a continuation of efforts to defeat the last reamining Al Qaeda elements and prevent them from establishing safe havens in the belts around Baghdad. Since most remaining remnents of Al Qaeda are north of Baghdad, I suspect more kinetic operations in the north.

Operation Marne Fortitude II discusses the non-lethal parts of 3rd Infantry Division's fight. Given that most Al Qaeda elements have been killed or captured south of Baghdad, it appears that the 3rd Infantry Division is transitioning more to reconstruction and nation building activities than one would expect from MND-N.

Republic of Georgia Election a Triumph for Democracy

S. John Massoud writes for The American Thinker aboutt he recent Georgia elections.

Over the weekend, democracy took another large step in a republic of the former Soviet Union. The Republic of Georgia, a key ally in the "coalition of the willing" in Iraq, had its first free and truly fair election in its history. And it seems that current President, Mikhail Saakashvili won a large victory with 52.8% of the vote. His nearest competitor Levan Gachechiladze received 27% of the vote.

Mr. Massoud further notes,

Georgia is a country on the rise. They have an economic growth rate of 9.4% and their average per capita income has doubled in the past 3 years from $1800 per person per annum in 2004 to $3,900 per person in 2007. While still very low, this is a very significant rise in the standard of living.

Georgia is another young democracy created since 2001. For further information on how this young democracy is coming out from the clutches of Stalin and the USSR, click here.

Report: Osama bin Laden’s security coordinator captured in Pakistan

The Long War Journal is reporting that Bin Laden's security coordinator was captured in Pakistan.

A senior al Qaeda commander has been reported to have been captured in the Pakistani city of Lahore, according to a Pakistani newspaper. Dr. Amin al Haq, the security coordinator of Osama bin Laden’s Black Guard, “was apprehended from Lahore couple of days back,” The Nation reported, citing “credible Afghan sources.” Al Haq is said to be “under interrogation” at an undisclosed location.

The report of al Haq’s capture has not been confirmed, a senior intelligence official told The Long War Journal. US intelligence agencies are aware of the report.

If true and "under interrogation" by Pakistani forces, Dr. Haq can reveal a great deal about Bin Laden's habits, movements, hideouts, and internal Black Guard workings. His capture may very well start the subsequent capture of more Al Qaeda leaders.

Read Bill Roggio's whole report.

New Iraqi political movement to be announced

Alsumaria is stating,

Iraqi List member Ousama Al Nujaifi confirmed that a new political movement will be announced this week including most of political parties denouncing ethnic and sectarian apportionment. Al Nujaifi declared that the pact document due to be announced by the movement will include solutions to several issues mainly Article Constitution 140 and a timetable for multinational forces withdrawal from Iraq in addition to the abstention of signing security agreements with the US. He added that intense meetings were held the last few days between Iraqi lawmakers, Sadrists, Al Fadhila Party, Al Daawa Party and resigned MPs from the Coalition. However, Al Sadr Bloc MP Nassar Al Rubaie showed reservation about forming a new political front saying that the joint pact will be issued by participating parties.

As I reported here previously, Sunni and Kurds signed a "memorandum of understanding" to apparently make anational unity party among Sunni, Kurds, and secular Shiites. This new political party sounds like Sadr's attempt to stand up to the new unity government that Maliki is attempting to establish.

Al Sistani calls to stop internal killings

Alsumaria is reporting to day that Al Sistani has called on all Iraqis to stop internal killings.

Al Sistani said that internal killings among Iraqis are a loss for all parties, calling citizens to help their nation stop terrorists by reporting on them. In his Ashura speech, Al Sistani called not to seize governmental money while Shitte authority Mohammed Isaac Al Fayad called to fight rebels and not tolerate convicted people on account of violent acts.

Not only did he call upon all Iraqis to stop internal killings, but also directed Iraqis to stop terrorists by reporting them. And even more significantly, he called upon Iraqi to quit their graft of government (oil) money.

This statement from Al Sistani is significant in that it addresses three major issues with Iraq's pursuit to a democracy: extra and intra-sectarian violence and killings, Al Qaeda and Iranian fueled violence, and government graft. As the recognized senior spiritual leader in Iraq (and in many parts of Iran and Lebanon) this call will have far reaching political and sociological ramifications, both inside and outside of Iraq.

Eight peace-seeking tribal elders shot dead in Pakistan

The Guardian reports today eight Pakistani tribal leaders have been assassinated in South Waziristan, home to Baitullah Mehsud, leader of the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan.

Eight tribal leaders attempting to broker a ceasefire in Pakistan's dangerous north-west province have been shot dead by suspected Islamic militants in eight separate killings.

The assassinations began late on Sunday night and continued into the early hours of Monday morning, according to a statement from a security official and the military.

The eight tribal leaders were scheduled to meet each other on Monday in Wana to discuss plans to achieve peace between between security forces and insurgents.

All the attacks happened in South Waziristan, a mountainous region close to Afghanistan where al-Qaida and Taliban militants are known to operate. The suspected insurgents killed three of the men in a market in Wana, the region's main town, while the other five were killed in attacks on their homes, the security official said.

Baitullah recently gave the Pakistani government a week to cease all operations in Swat and North and South Waziristan. It appears the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan are now making good on their threat by going after pro-government tribal leaders. Baitullah is also the chief suspect behind the recent Bhutto assassination.

This action against tribal leaders is reminiscent of Al Qaeda in Iraq's tactic of threatening and killing Awakening tribal leaders in Al Anbar which along with the US surge of forces in Iraq, caused a backlash against Al Qaeda in the Al Anbar region with has rapidly grown throughout Iraq.

Musharraf has also had a surge of his own. During the recent emergency rule, he moved tens of thousand of his military forces from the India border of Kashmir to Swat and the Waristan regions to fight Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. Since this time, these forces have liberated much of Swat and engaged in bombing targets in South Waziristan.

Musharraf will not fully engage Islamist in these regions until after the 18 February 2008 elections in order to not further destabilize his rule and/or his party's decline in the upcoming elections.

One can consider the ongoing attacks in these regions as part of Musharraf's shaping operations for the upcoming battles. Musharraf has prepositioned forces in this region where these forces got their first taste of battle in the relatively less entrenched Swat region, appointed a new Army Chief, GEN Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, who is an expert at crisis management, has inside connections to the ISI, and is rather pro-western. He made arrangements for better air ground integration by accepting support of US Special Forces in Pakistan which will allow him to pinpoint targets for upcoming military actions. He made the case for the assassination of Bhutto against Baitullah Mehsud and therefore Al Qaeda and the Taliban in genreal causing them to lose more popular support. He has poised his country for movement to a democracy with upcoming elections on 18 February 2008. In addition, he amended the constitution such that he maintains control of Pakistan's nuclear arsenal to ensure it security, and possibly more important, his continuation of power until Pakistan becomes a fully transitions to democracy and its battle with Al Qaeda and the Taliban are over.

In terms of the instruments of power (diplomatic, information, military, economic), Musharraf has poised his country well for its upcoming battle. He has even successfully divided the insurgency in Pakistan to a certain extent. He has also adopted Indonesia's deradicalization program to help transistion radical Taliban in his country. Finally, he has positioned assets to buy over the Taliban insurgents with $800 million in aid in case, like Alexander the Great, he cannot win them over solely through military means.

2008 will be the year the Taliban and Al Qaeda are defeated in Pakistan, their last remaining safe haven. The beginning of 2008 in Pakistan reminds one of the the beginning of 2007 in Iraq. Al Qaeda and Sunnis had apparently gained strength and were looking at recapturing Iraq in total. However, a surge of US forces and diplomacy to further fracture the underlying Al Qaeda/Sunni tensions resulted in almost complete destruction of Al Qaeda in Iraq. So to in Pakistan has Musharraf poised forces and other assets to enhance fractures between Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Just as Iraqis fought against the upcoming caliphate in Iraq noted by the establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq, so too will Pakistani fight against the Tehrik-i-Taliban.

Just as Al Qaeda made the mistake in establishment of the Islamic State of Iraq, so too has Al Qaeda made the same mistake in establishing the Tehrik-i-Taliban in Pakistan. Just as Al Qaeda made the fateful mistake of assassinating Al-Risha in Al Anbar, so too has Al Qaeda made the same mistake in assassinating Bhutto.

Al Qaeda thrives by spreading fear, but as Ronald Reagan stated, "Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid". I agree with Amir Taheri, "No, Things Aren't falling apart" at least for Pakistan. In fact, all the conditions are set for 2008 to be a defeat for Al Qaeda in general as the conditions were set in 2007 for the defeat of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

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No, Things Aren't Falling Apart

Amir Taheri has a great take on Pakistan in his latest article in the New York Post. As is always with Amir Taheri, he provides his own analysis, so below is his article in full.

THE death of Benazir Bhutto in a suicide-terror operation last week has pushed Pakistan, often regarded as a backwater in South Asia, into headlines as never before.

There's no doubt that Pakistan deserves attention, provided this isn't for the wrong reasons. Although Pakistan has been a key battleground in the global War on Terror since 2001, it's little understood (not to say much misunderstood) in the West.

One American pundit asserts that Bhutto's death represents "Washington's policy failure in Pakistan." The claim is based on the belief that Bhutto was nothing but an instrument of US policy.

But Benazir and Gen. Pervez Musharraf never did anything they didn't want to do simply because the Americans, or anybody else, asked for it.

Another myth since Benazir's death is that she was a victim of the Pakistani security services. The accusation is so childish that it wouldn't have merited attention had it not received global currency from conspiracy theorists.

Secret services may have hit men and hired assassins but don't have suicide killers. That's a specialty of Islamist terror groups. Had the Pakistani secret services wished to kill Benazir, they would've organized a massive explosion like the one that the Syrian secret service used to kill former Lebanese Premier Rafiq Hariri in 2005.

Another myth is that Islamists are about to sweep the general election and seize power.

Today, Pakistani Islamists are at their weakest in terms of popular support. Their coalition, known as the United Action Assembly (MMA), has fragmented, its components spending more time fighting each other than their secular enemies.

In the last election, the Islamists collected some 11 percent of the votes. They would be lucky to do as well next week. Their best-known figure, Maulana Fazlur Rahman, may lose his seat.

The Islamists have held sway in the Northwest Frontier province, one of the four that constitute Pakistan, for four years and have a record of failures. They've proved the bankruptcy of their sick ideology. I doubt they would fool many Pakistanis much longer.

Although some 98 percent of Pakistanis are Muslims, few wish to live under anything resembling the Iranian regime.

Despite decades of misery under military rule, most Pakistanis cherish pluralism and free elections.

One British magazine has come out with a cover story that Pakistan is about to fall to the Taliban. This turns out to be based on a claim that "Taliban-like" groups are assuming power in parts of a mountainous enclave known as South Waziristan.

Readers might not know that the enclave covers half of 1 percent of Pakistan's territory.

South Waziristan's population is less than half a million, compared to the total Pakistani population of 169 million.

Even then, there's no evidence that the enclave is being taken over by Taliban-style groups or "Arab Afghans," as foreign terrorists are called.

What's happening is the emergence of new groups of young armed men, often wearing long hair and beards, looking for fame and fortune.

Basically, they're bandits, continuing a tradition begun more than 2,000 years ago. Alexander the Great tried to crush their ancestors by force, but failed. He then decided to use gold where steel had failed, and succeeded.

Today, too, the best policy would be buying the armed groups rather than "dishonoring" them in the battlefield, something no tribal warrior worth his salt would tolerate. (This is, perhaps, why Congress has just approved a package of $800 million for Waziristan.)

Finally, we are invited to worry because Pakistan's nuclear weapons may fall into the hands of the Taliban and/or al Qaeda.

There's no evidence, however, that the Pakistani army is about to fall apart or that the nuclear arsenal, put under Musharraf's direct control after he stepped down as army chief, is in any danger.

No, Pakistan isn't falling apart.

No, Islamists are not about to seize power.

There's no need to declare martial law, as some commentators suggest. There was no reason to postpone the elections.

Pakistan needs more, not less, democracy. The faster Pakistan returns to full civilian rule, the safer it will be - and with it the rest of us also.

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Pakistan & A Bomb Too Far

Aaron Mannes has this story at CT Blog.

Less than a week before the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, there had been another bloody assassination attempt in Pakistan - both could represent turning points in Pakistan’s ongoing struggle with Islamist violence.

In northwest Pakistan a suicide bomber detonated his bomb inside a crowded mosque on Eid al-Adha (the Islamic Feast of Sacrifice which marks the end of the annual hajj.) The attack was an attempt to kill former Interior Minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao. Forty-eight people were killed and over 100 were wounded, including Sherpao's son and two grandnephews. Sherpao was unharmed.

This was the second attempt on Sherpao’s life in eight months, the previous attempt at a political rally in nearby Charsadda, 28 were killed and Sherpao was slightly wounded.

That Islamists would attack Sherpao is unsurprising. As Interior Minister he was a top security official and a key player in the Lal Masjid Mosque crackdown that has sparked the present high levels of violence. But for an Islamist to enter a mosque on a major holiday and murder innocent worshipers should be beyond the pale - even for radical Islamists.

These tactics did not work for Al Qaeda in Iraq, nor will it work for the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan. These brutal attacks taken together with deradicalization efforts and direct attacks on the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda will have the same results of alienating the Pakistani people as they have at alienating the Iraqi people.

Fighting terrorism with terrorists

Joshua Kurlantzick writes for the LA Times showing how Indonesia instituted a program called deradicalization in conjunction with military action to battle it war with terrorists.

Even as terrorism continues to grow more common in nations from Pakistan to Algeria, Indonesia is heading in the opposite direction, destroying its internal terrorist networks and winning the broader public battle against radicalism. And it has done so not only by cracking heads but by using a softer, innovative plan that employs former jihadis to wean radicals away from terror.

The process of deradicalization is explained below.

To win militants' hearts and minds, Indonesia instituted a program called deradicalization. Realizing that hard-core militants will not listen to prominent Muslim moderates, whom they view as soft, as irreligious or as tools of the government, the deradicalization initiative employs other militants -- former terrorist fighters or trainers. These are men like Nasir Abas, once a Jemaah Islamiah leader, who have sworn off most types of violence. Former fighters who agree to help the deradicalization program often receive incentives, such as reduced sentences or assistance for their families.

The co-opted radicals are sent as advocates into Indonesian prisons, major breeding grounds of militants. In the jails and other sites, they work to convince would-be terrorists that attacking civilians is not acceptable in Islam, to show that terror actually alienates average people from their religion, to suggest that the police are not anti-Islam and to exploit internal antagonisms within terror networks to turn militants against each other.

Saudi Arabia has also used deradicalization.

Deradicalization could work far beyond Southeast Asia. In 2004, Saudi Arabia launched its own version of deradicalization. Under the Saudi version, militants in jail who agree to undergo intense classroom sessions receive shorter sentences. The sessions, designed to convince extremists that Islam does not condone terror, come combined with psychological deprogramming. The deprogramming resembles techniques used on cult members, and it also allows psychologists to assess whether militants are joining the deradicalization program just to be released and return to extremism. Police then follow up with extremists who have completed the program and been released from jail to ensure that they do not return to their old ways.

Saudi officials say the program has been very successful. Major terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia have plummeted compared with 2004.

This deradicalization program (along with actively seeking out terrorist headquarters and safe havens) has also assisted in Iraq since the vast majority of Islamic terrorist which came into Iraq were Saudi Arabians. Many other nations are also adopted this deradicalization process.

Other countries have created variants on the program. Egypt has established a deradicalization initiative in which former jihadist thinkers argue that the Islamic concepts that militants use to justify violence are wrong. Singapore, Malaysia, Jordan and Yemen have enacted reeducation strategies, often focusing on prison populations. Drawing on Jakarta's experience, nations such as Pakistan have launched deradicalization cooperation with Indonesia.

Two countries who have employed similar deradicalization efforts are having the most success against extremists, Indonesia and Iraq. The LA Times notes,

Indonesian police have overrun JI's operational bases, forcing most of its members to live on the run, making it harder for them to plan bombings. Indonesia has suffered no major terror attacks in two years, and JI's ability to raise money and find recruits has been shattered. "There is not much of JI left,"

However, the word Indonesia can be replaced by Iraq and JI can be replaced by AQI to show the similarities in both of these strategies. This strategy is something that other nations which suffer from internal terror need to heed.

Al Qaeda’s Newest Triggerman, Baitullah Mehsud

Sami Yousafzai and Ron Moreau write an informative article for Newsweek about Al Qaeda’s wewest triggerman, Baitullah Mehsud, who was also recently was appointed the head of the newly formed Taliban Movement in Pakistan, a loose alliance of jihadist organizations in the tribal agencies by a council of militant leaders from the tribal agencies and neighboring areas. If Mullah Omar is the head of the Afghanistani Taliban, then Baitullah Mehsud is his equivalent in Paksistan. Recently, Baitullah Mehsud is being blamed for most of the suicide bombings in Pakistan, including Benazir Bhutto's assassination. This Newsweek article examines his rise and the possibility of his forces killing Bhutto.

Musharraf told a press conference last Friday that the tribal leader was behind most if not all of the 19 suicide bombings in Pakistan, including the two aimed at Bhutto, in the past three months. "He is the only one who had the capacity," says one Afghan Taliban with close connections to Mehsud, Al Qaeda and Pakistani militants.... Pakistani and U.S. authorities now fear that Baitullah, encouraged by the chaos that followed Bhutto's assassination, will try to wreak more havoc before the rescheduled Feb. 18 national elections.

The article goes on to detail how was he able to assassinate Bhutto.

Baitullah and his Qaeda allies had laid out remarkably intricate plans for killing Bhutto, who was a champion of secular democracy and a declared enemy of the jihadists. He says Baitullah and Al Qaeda's No. 2, Ayman Al-Zawahiri—along with Zawahiri's deputy, Mustafa Abu al-Yazid, Al Qaeda's new commander of military operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan—had dispatched suicide-bomber squads to five cities: Karachi, Peshawar, Lahore, Islamabad and Rawalpindi, where she was killed.

His forces are able to move freely in Pakistan due to their tradecraft.

With a long tradition as smugglers, the tribals (most of whom, like Baitullah, take Mehsud as their surname) run an extensive nationwide trucking and transport network that reaches from the borderlands into teeming cities like Karachi, allowing Baitullah to easily move men and weapons throughout Pakistan.

Newsweek goes on to explain one of his recent attacks.

One of Baitullah's biggest successes came in August, when his men captured more than 250 Pakistani soldiers and paramilitary troops, who surrendered without firing a shot. Mehsud demanded the release of 30 jailed militants and the end of Pakistani military operations in the Mehsud tribal area as the price for the men's release. To show he meant business, he ordered the beheading of three of his hostages. Once again, Musharraf gave in.

The article ends with Baitullah's goals for Pakistan and Afghanistan.

In his few statements to the press, Baitullah has made his agenda frighteningly clear. He vowed, in a January 2007 interview, to continue waging a jihad against "the infidel forces of American and Britain," and to "continue our struggle until foreign troops are thrown out" of neighboring Afghanistan.

One point that Newsweek misses in this article even though they touch on it is the fact that Musharraf signed a peace deal with Baitullah in 2005 (which the article notes). However, what the article does not note is this is the reason we (and other governments) cannot negotiate with terrorists. These terrorists are no different than plane hijackers. They will always negotiate when their back is against the wall, but will later come back to reap havoc. If we allow them to persist or exist, they will continue to grow stronger and their actions will grow to a level of strategic or political importance, like the assassination of Bhutto.

Baitullah is waging war in Pakistan as part of Al Qaeda's overarching goal to create a Salafist Caliphate. This goal has not changed. What has changed is the location, which is now Pakistan and hopefully to include Afghanistan in the future since Iraq is now lost to Al Qaeda.

It appears we have won one battle, Iraq, in the Global War on Terror. We have prevented the re-establishment of another Caliphate in Afghanistan which shows Al Qaeda' inability to project their war over long lines of communication for prolonged periods of time. However, now they have internal lines of communication inside Pakistan that must be dealt with.

Musharraf is being put in a difficult position. He needs US help to close these lines of communication to save Pakistan; however, getting US assistance inside Pakistan further weakens his authority. As power hungry as Musharraf is, I believe he will default to the greater good of Pakistan even if it results in his downfall. He proved this clearly in the past when he overthrew Sharif in a coup. He proved it again when he assisted US forces in Afghanistan. He proved it by stepping down as the Army Chief and naming a pro-Western successor. He proved it again recently by allowing Bhutto to come back to Pakistan to seek re-election a third time to ensure a popular democracy would prevail in Pakistan.

While Baitullah was able to silence Bhutto, he will be unable to silence the growing democratic movement in Pakistan which is why his next major target of terror is the elections. Like Al Qaeda in Iraq, whose brutal tactics caused the people to turn on it, Baituallah's tactics will fail to the principles of freedom and democracy.

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Light at the end of tunnel in Iraq

Robert Z. Nemeth has an insightful article at telegram.com about the light at the end of the Iraqi War tunnel.

During the Vietnam War, there was much talk about seeing “the light at the end of the tunnel.” It was an expression of hope that a resolution of the long and divisive struggle might be in sight. More often than not, it was just wishful thinking, and darkness continued to prevail. So caution is warranted as we conclude there may be a flickering light signaling the end of the tunnel in Iraq.

Still, there are encouraging signs. The violence has subsided, including indiscriminate terrorist acts. The number of American casualties has declined. Stability may be returning, along with thousands of refugees who have fled Iraq in despair. American-trained Iraqi police and army troops have started to take control. Instead of the daily dose of mayhem, news reports portray children going to school, people shopping at markets and sitting in outdoor cafes.

He continues by explaining our role in the world.

America’s role in Iraq is based on a time-honored legacy to confront tyranny in defense of freedom, justice and democracy. That legacy compelled Americans to fight in both world wars and in Korea. It sustained U.S. resolve throughout the Cold War, until the Soviet Union fell apart. Fighting for liberty and democracy has been a heavy responsibility no other country or world organization could fulfill. The lack of public support for drastic measures to cripple the war effort in Iraq indicates that most Americans have accepted that responsibility.

He finishes with,

Could a successful outcome of the war in Iraq ultimately vindicate George W. Bush? Only history has the answer. While his enemies have portrayed the president as a liar, a moron and a cheat, he has steadfastly clung to the vision of bringing freedom, democracy and self-determination to oppressed people. “Freedom, by its nature, must be chosen and defended by citizens and sustained by the rule of law and the protection of minorities,” the president said during his second inaugural address.

Critics say that vision is impractical and irrelevant. But, over the years, it has made the United States a leader among nations and a world a better place. If the flickering light we now begin to detect at the end of the tunnel in Iraq signals a new beginning for that beleaguered country, freedom and democracy can chalk up another victory.

Robert Z. Nemeth provides great insight into our struggle in Iraq by linking it with our role as a democratic leader in the world whose aim to free oppressed people, to give them the same freedoms our founding fathers wrote down for us over two hundred years ago.

He ends approriately with "freedom and democracy can chalk up another victory."

Manufacturing ‘truths’

Hajrah Mumtaz, writing for Dawn, has an interesting take on Pakistan's current political situation. He starts his piece with a quotation from Goebbels.

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” — Dr Paul Joseph Goebbels, Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda under Adolf Hitler’s Nationalist Socialist regime.

He continues with,

The words hold relevance for Pakistan today. After a turbulent year that in itself augured ill for the country’s future, came the assassination of Benazir Bhutto. Just over a week later, the government is engaged in a bitter blame game in the attempt to deflect responsibility everywhere but upon its own minions and shadowy agencies. As the dust slowly settles, some civilian politicians have fallen towards the relative front and this has resulted in a citizenry divided: where some people are referring with disgust to the politicians’ past reputations and practices, others are reacting sympathetically.

He talks of proof, or more specifically lack of proof, of allegations.

True, ample evidence of maladministration and corruption has been presented by the press. Little of this evidence, however, has been the result of independent investigative journalism. Most of the news reports upon the actions or statements of others. For example, when the press reports the dismissal of a government under charges of corruption or maladministration, the allegation is being levelled by the individual or institution doing the dismissing, not the press itself. Furthermore, such allegations are never proved or disproved through a credible trial. And what’s more, even if the press raised suspicions of misrule through solid investigative journalism, it would still be up to the courts to pronounce upon the veracity of the allegations.

He ends his article with,

The thinking person must ask himself, “How do I know what I know, and how do I know whether it is true?”

We know what we know by independently examining all sides of an argument. Many people today only get news from one source, whether it be a TV News station they like or the paper delivered to their door. The internet has become a great holder of the truth, not any one particular site or article, but the vast collection of articles from several different sources and sites, often vehemently opposed to each other's views.

Examining the news on Yahoo or Google is also not a well rounded way to be informed as articles at these sites are often repeated articles from the same AP, AFP, or Reuters journalists with changes to a few words. This article are often commentary without links to back up their claims.

This fact is why RSS readers are so vital. One can type in a subject and get articles and commentary from several different sources, The Times of India, Pakistan Daily, Dawn, The New York Times, The Washington Times, The Long War Journal, Alsumaria, The American Thinker, and Al Jazeera to name only a few. Reading several articles on one subject does not allow one to know the truth, but offers a variety of facts which leads one closer to the truth, which quite frankly, is the best that we can hope for.

U.S. Considers New Covert Push Within Pakistan

The New York Times reports the U.S. is considering a change to rules governing covert actions within Pakistan aimed at increasing counterinsurgency efforts against The Taliban and Al Qaeda.

President Bush’s senior national security advisers are debating whether to expand the authority of the Central Intelligence Agency and the military to conduct far more aggressive covert operations in the tribal areas of Pakistan.

The debate is a response to intelligence reports that Al Qaeda and the Taliban are intensifying efforts there to destabilize the Pakistani government, several senior administration officials said.

Dawn; however, is reporting,

Pakistan reiterated Sunday that it will not let American forces hunt Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants on its soil, after a news report said Washington was considering expanding U.S. military and intelligence operations into Pakistan's tribal regions. The Foreign Ministry dismissed as “speculative” a story in the New York Times on Sunday saying U.S. President George W. Bush's top security officials discussed a proposal Friday to deploy American troops to pursue militants along the Pakistan-Afghan border. “We are very clear. Nobody is going to be allowed to do anything here,” said Major General Waheed Arshad, the army's top spokesman. “The government has said it many times,” Arshad said. “No foreign forces will be allowed to operate inside Pakistan.” In Afghanistan, President Hamid Karzai's spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Supporting Pakistan's counterinsurgency effort will be a politically charge issue in Pakistan where many Pakistani's believe our efforts are directed at gaining more control over the inner workings of the Pakistani government as opposed to helping the Pakistan governments with its internal struggles against Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

One fact is certain, no change in tactics will take place until after elections in Pakistan as this politically charged issue could further destablize Musharraf's tenuous hold on power.

The only hope for a stable Pakistan are if Musharraf and Zardari are able to put aside their differences and build a coalition against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Only then can these two forces prevent a popular backlash against the Pakistani government which will undoubtedly occur during Pakistan's counterinsurgency effort.

Bin Laden’s Mentor a Reformed Man

Arab News writes Bin Laden's mentor is now a reformed man.

His incarceration from 1994 until 1999, much of it spent reading, left an evident imprint on his mind. Al-Odah said he left prison to become more objective, lenient and well reasoned in his thoughts and approach. In prison he spent time reading science, technology, politics, economy, health, poetry and literature to complement the Islamic-related activities he later became involved in. In a radical shift in ideology, Al-Odah now says he believes that extremists stand between people and the beautiful message of religion. (emphasis added)

Specifically, he states,

“How much blood has been spilled? How many innocent children, women and old people have been killed, maimed and expelled from their homes in the name of Al-Qaeda?” said Al-Odah. “Are you happy to meet Allah with this heavy burden on your shoulders? It is indeed a weighty burden — hundreds of thousands of innocent people, if not millions. How could you wish for that?”

The entire article is an interesting read.

The Arab 'Right of Return' to Israel

Rachel Neuwirth writes an extremely accurate history of the Palestinian's plight from 1948 to the present in this short but precisely written article. For anybody looking at understanding the real issues between Palestinians and Israelis, this article is a great primer and is representative of the facts, not the myths, purpetuated over the last 60 years.

A media and propaganda campaign has been under way since the Annapolis "peace" conference to legitimate the longstanding demands made on behalf of the Palestinian "Arab refugees" -- meaning in practice the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of refugees -- from the 1948 Arab-Israel war of sixty years ago, for their return to their ancestral homes and the return of all their ancestors' former land and property in what is now Israel.

Ms. Neuwirth points out though,

Even so, the Israeli forces' counter-guerilla operations, unavoidable for self-defense as they were, were not even the immediate cause of the "exodus" of most Palestinian Arabs from the areas that became Israel in 1948. Many Arab leaders as well as ordinary Palestinian Arabs have confirmed the role of the Palestinian Arab leadership and the governments of the Arab states in causing the mass evacuation of much of the Arab population from what is now Israel.

The often used argument that Palestinians now live in squaller in tents in refugee camps is also a misnomer.

Claims of massive poverty, deprivation and suffering on the part of the Palestinian Arab refugees are largely false. For sixty years four generations of Palestinian refugees or alleged refugees have had all or most of their housing, food, education through college and graduate school, medical care and social services provided to them for free by UNWRA. No Americans or Europeans have benefited from such a generous and all-encompassing welfare state. (emphasis added)

This last sentence is the crux of the current Palestinian-Israeli conflict. For 60 years, the UNWRA has given billions and billions of dollars to Palestinian refugees and have effectively created a welfare state. Instead of Palestinians worrying about how to eke out a life thru work, to make something for themselves, they have been given everything. As such, they feel it is everybody's elses responsibility to provide for them as opposed to them providing for themselves. It is the Katrina problem times ten. This problem has again been re-instituted with the recent $7.4 billion pledge from donor nations to Abbas. Tents are by no means the standard affair in refugee camps.

On top of UNWRA assistance, the Palestinian Arabs also receive a total of over a billion dollars a year in aid from other United Nations agencies, the United States, the European Community, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States, and Iran. There have been no tents in the "refugee camps" (actually towns or urban neighborhoods) since the 1950s; the "refugees" live in apartments or houses, many of them as large and with the same amenities as apartments and houses in the United States and Europe.

Palestine is a pepetual welfare state that has sapped billions and billions of dollars for continual fighting. It is precisely the welfare state that has caused this conflict to persist for 60 years. With most of everything given to Palestinian refugees, as everybody else's standard of living rises through the years, they want more and more money to raise their standard of living. They use violence to get raise their standard of living, instead of hard work, which the rest of us must do.