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

New York

Iran''s Education of Muqtada Al Sadr

From Amir Taheri writing for the New York Post.

AS the "student" arrives in a bulletproof limousine with heavily armed guards, his teachers, ignoring that he's two hours late, greet him deferentially.

The scene takes place at the Shiite seminary in Qom, Iran's holy city. The 35-year-old "student": Muqtada al-Sadr, leader of the Mahdi Army, a militia often deemed one of Iran's chief assets in Iraq.

Sadr has spent much of the last 10 months in Iran, living in a 14-bedroom villa in Tehran's posh Farmanieh neighborhood. From there, he travels 90 minutes to Qom twice a week, for a crash course designed to transform him first into a Hojat al-Islam (Proof of Islam) and then a full-fledged ayatollah (Sign of God).

Mr. Taheri continues with,

For a while, Sadr sought clerical cover from two ayatollahs whom his father had named "worthy of trust": Ayatollah Bashir Fayyadh, an Afghan-born cleric who lives in Najaf, and Ayatollah Muhammad Ha'eri Yazdi, an Iranian theologian based in Qom. They raised millions of dollars for his movement, but neither would endorse his maverick project - which, if pushed too far, could split the Shiites and give Iran veto power over Iraqi affairs. (emphasis added)

For a full read, click here.

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Why the Surge Worked

From Time.

Like many retail districts in downtown Baghdad, al-Kindy Street has lately had little to offer shoppers but a fine assortment of fear, blood and death. Shootings and regular bombings have shuttered many of al-Kindy's stores, where some of Baghdad's wealthiest residents once bought everything from eggplants to area rugs. At this time last year, al-Kindy was deteriorating into just another bombed-out corner of a city spiraling out of control.

Then came the surge—President George W. Bush's controversial deployment, beginning last January, of an additional 30,000 U.S. troops, that seemed as tactically bold as it was politically unpopular. With his approval ratings ebbing and a bipartisan group of wise elders urging him to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq, Bush went in the other direction. Overcoming the opposition of the Joint Chiefs, Bush sent five additional combat brigades to secure the capital, hunt down al-Qaeda in Iraq in the countryside and, at least in theory, stop the violence long enough for the country's Sunnis and Shi'ites to find common ground on power-sharing.

For a full read, click here.

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Afghanistan: Ex-Taliban Commander Lectures Mullah Omar About Koran

From RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan.

From his hilltop headquarters in the center of the southern Afghan town of Musa Qala, former Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Salaam has a sweeping view over dusty flatlands in northern Helmand Province. But Musa Qala is like a ghost town now compared to the bustling center it had been under Taliban control last year.

Salaam continues with,

"My brothers," Salaam says, "these were the first five verses of the Koran that were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad at Mount Hira: 'Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created all, has created man from a blood clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous, who has taught by the pen, has taught man that which he knew not.'”

Salaam says those verses led him to question who the Taliban really are after seeing them "taking pens from our children and taking away schools and education."

These facts are why Al Qaeda and its ilk will fail. Salaam is a powerful ally for the Coalition.

For a full read, click here.

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Administrative system changes in NWFP, Fata likely

From Dawn.

NWFP Governor Owais Ahmad Ghani on Thursday disclosed that the government was actively considering a set of measures to bring about structural changes in the administrative system in the NWFP and adjoining tribal regions to improve governance and ensure better security.“

Extraordinary times require extraordinary decisions,” Mr Ghani said in his maiden interaction with senior journalists at the Governor’s House.“

The government system in settled districts and the political system in tribal regions are heading towards a state of collapse. It’s a matter of grave concern. We face tough challenges. The whole system has become weak, demoralised and despondent. We are facing unusual set of circumstances that require unconventional and extraordinary support for the administrative system,” he said.

The Pakistani government is establishing below the Governor, Regional Coordinating Officers (RCOs), District Coordinating Officers, and making the offices of the political agents in the NWFP and FATA regions active and functional to accomplish three strategic objectives:

To strengthen the NWFP’s own financial resource base, improve its trade potential by improving its infrastructure and create necessary incentives to attract investment for industrialisation.

This economic development sounds a lot like what US Forces are doing in Iraq. Pakistan is establishing layers of government (which will likely be held by tribal leaders) thoughout the NWFP and FATA region to control and promote an accountable financial base, trade, and manufacturing. What we are seeing here is Musharraf's multi-pronged strategy in the NWFP and Fata regions. He, like George Bush, knows the only way to prevent further recruitment for Al Qaeda is to establish law and order (which he will do with the military after elections); promote investment, trade, and manufacturing (which is his economic prong); and democratic elections for parliament (the political prong).

And like US Forces have done in Iraq, Musharraf is also looking towards reconciliation.

Answering a question, he said that no talks were being held with militants in South Waziristan but emphasised that contacts were essential to create conducive atmosphere for negotiations.

He said that militants had carried out eleven concerted attacks on Luddah fort in South Waziristan and stormed the Sara Rogha fort while negotiations were on through a tribal jirga. “This was an open war against the state,” he said. But he made it clear that the government’s action was in line with the Riwaj (local traditions). “The government was forced to react,” he said.

Musharraf is keeping open contacts with tribal leaders who are looking for reconciliation. These same tribal leaders may very well find themselves rewarded as future District Coordinating Officers or political agents if they choose reconciliation backed by the Pakistan military. Reconciliation is still possible because the Pakistani government's actions are still in line with the Riwaj, noted above. This reconciliation again sounds a lot like reconciliation with Sunni tribes in Al Anbar.

While we (the USA) may not like it, Bin Laden is not Musharraf's number one enemy. Currently it is Baitullah Meshud who has unified the Pakistani Taliban. He needs to find and kill/detain Meshud to break up the Pakistani Taliban. Having RCOs, DCOs, and political agent positions open will allow Musharraf to bring the now disparate Pakistani tribes into the government and provide stability to the NWFP and FATA regions. He already has the CLCs in place. They are the Frontiers Corps. However, due to tribal relations with locals, they have been less than proficient at holding the tribes in check.

For his part, Musharraf is silently happy with the CIA using Predator aircraft on Al Qaeda targets. Killing Al Qaeda makes his future reconciliation easier with the tribes. He can always protest to show his concern for the people in the tribal regions, but also blame lawlessness created by Al Qaeda on his inability to have sway over the CIA. The US is seen as the bad guy and Musharraf slowly sues for peace with the fractured Taliand puts tribal officials into the government; thereby incorporating them into the government. While Governor Owais states,

“The battle for peace and stability in the region will be won and lost in Afghanistan,”

Governor Owais is only half right. Both countries are completely linked. Peace and stability in the region is dependent on both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

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Operations in South Waziristan halted for peace talks

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

Just 10 days after the Pakistani military launched an offensive to clear the Taliban from South Waziristan, the fighting has been put on hold to conduct peace talks. Meanwhile, the Taliban is conducting internal negotiations with Mullah Nazir for all pro-Uzbek Taliban leaders to return to South Waziristan.

The military announced the South Waziristan cease-fire on Feb. 2. "Negotiations are underway at the time," Geo TV reported based on an official statement from a Pakistani Army colonel. "If the talks bear no fruits, then the Pakistan Army is fully geared up to undertake full-fledged military operations in Sararogha and Ladha."

For a full read, click here.

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Nazaha uncovers Iran violations of Iraq oil

From Alsumaria.

Vice President of Nazaha (Virtue) commission Faraj Moussa revealed to Al Hayat Newspaper about Iranian violations of Iraqi wells through inappropriate excavation, crossing borders, and seizing oil wells after dismissing Iraqi architectural cadres and operators therein. Moussa explained that there are more than 1000 oil well linked to 12 pipelines in Basra, six of which hold in crude oil and six others are used for oil derivatives in a region near Bucca detention facility.

Oil smugglers perforate oil pipelines and pull oil into ponds to use them up via pipelines and transport them into floating tanks which pour them into ships parked in illegal ports in Shat Al Arab.

Moussa noted that the Oil Ministry is incapable of determining the quantity of oil in pipelines or the quantity extracted from wells because they are not equipped with counters.

He added that smuggling does not include only crude oil but also imported oil derivatives especially through Safwan village near Kuwaiti borders. Moussa related that tankers loaded with oil derivatives crossing this passage return back with their full load after conspirators stock and refinery managers hand tanker drivers official documents of handing shipments. He asserted that cases of oil smuggling in the region extending from Al Nassiriya till Basra have been brought to justice after the commission uncovered names of smugglers and conspirators of facility protection forces in Basra and pointed out locations of smuggling and illegal ports through air footage. Moussa affirmed that a detailed study has been submitted to the ministerial council including information on oil smuggling and means to solve this problem.

It is to be noted that a source from the Oil Ministry in Tehran denied these accusations clarifying that Baghdad and Tehran have signed during the term of Prime Minister Ibrahim Al Jaafari a deal that consist of pulling Iraqi oil via a special pipeline from Basra into Abadan refineries to treat it and return it via another pipeline. He added that the deal has entered in force after current Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki signed it during his latest visit to Iran.

This may be a reason that Iraqi President Jalal Talabani announce on 26 December 2007 the cancellation of the 1975 Algiers Accord which divides the Shatt Al Arab waters. Preisdent Talabani later retracted this statement, but stated there were issues which Tehran needed to deal with.

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Recession? Not by looking at the numbers.

From the Heritage Foundation.

Though the economy has slowed, the case for an approaching recession is weak. Extending unemployment insurance eligibility to nine months makes no sense in the current economic environment. Also, Members of Congress should resist the urge to pad the stimulus bill with extra spending that would increase the national debt.

If one looks at the numbers, as the Heritage Foundation has, a recession is not in the cards.

For a full read, click here.

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US envoy: Iran gained from US invasions

From Yahoo via AP.

The headline of this article, "US envoy: Iran gained from US invasions" does not accurately represent what Khalilzad stated or implied in his speech at Columbia University, but unfortunately will be used as another example of the failure vice success of Bush's presidency.

Iran is stronger today because of the U.S.-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the American ambassador to the United Nations said Friday.

The 2003 invasion of Iraq removed a key rival of Shiite Iran with the ouster of Saddam Hussein's Sunni-dominated government. Iran has friendly ties with the Shiites now in power in Iraq....

And Afghanistan, too, the change was helpful to Iran."

Five terrorist sponsoring states in a row (Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) enabled terrorists to freely roam from Asia to Europe. Now three of those five states are actively pursuing terrorists. Two are still actively supporting terrorists. This dramatic change is not a bad record for seven years however it is attempted to be portrayed. Khalilzad notes,

"And I used to tease the (Iranian) ambassador that we have done so much for you in Iraq and Afghanistan, the least you can do is to be helpful to this effort. Otherwise, one day you will get a big bill."

The two remaining terror sponsoring states have indeed been momentarily strengthened due to the decline of other terror sponsoring states; however, Khalilzad also warned Iran to be helpful to this effort or it may one day get a big bill. The following statement would be a much more appropriate title, "US envoy: Iran will pay for its defiance" because in time it will pay for the terrorists it supports or harbors just like Pakistan is currently paying for it.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraq vows to "crush terrorists" after 99 killed

From Yahoo via Reuters.

Iraq's prime minister vowed on Saturday that improved security would not be derailed after two female bombers killed 99 people in the deadliest attacks in Baghdad since last April.

Nuri al-Maliki said Friday's bombings at popular pet markets in the capital would not herald a return to the savage violence that took Iraq to the brink of all-out sectarian civil war. The U.S. military blamed al Qaeda in Iraq for the attacks.

"I swear on the blood (of the victims), we will achieve all our goals in securing a stable Iraq. We will continue to ... crush the terrorists and target their strongholds," Maliki said in a statement.

Two items are of particular note in this article.

1. The Prime Minister, not US Commanders, is being quoted. Until recently, the Maliki government was seen as ineffectual and powerless, yet with more capable Iraqi troops on the ground and a less visible US presence, (relative to Iraqi forces), reporters more and more are quoting the leader of the government.

2. While Maliki is most likely talking about crushing Al Qaeda, he also is moving away from Shiite terrorists, like Sadr and his militia, because over time he has realized whether Sunni or Shia, terrorism is terrorism. The only way Iraq will survive, grow, and florish as a democracy is to have a non-secular, national unity government representative of Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurd. Terrorists (whether Al Qaeda or the Mahdi Army) have no place in Iraq.

It is interesting how several muslim leaders, whether it is Maliki in Iraq, Musharraf in Pakistan, Karzai in Afghanistan, Siniora in Lebanon, Mubarak in Egypt, Yudhoyono in Indonesia, Bouteflika in Algeria, Saleh in Yemen, or Gül in Turkey are all moving to either crush, defeat, or contain radical Islamists and pursue democracy more and more.

The Bush Doctrine is by no means dead. In fact, it is flourishing precisely where it was meant to flourish. It is flourishing not only in our country, but also in several countries in the "Non-Integrating Gap."

Its three basic tenets are being adhered to by all the leaders and nations listed above.

The Threat: political and religious extremists.

The Response: irregular forces require anticipatory self-defense using all instruments of National Power (Diplomatic, Informational, Military, and Economic)

The Process: support and pursue democratic reform.

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Pakistan's New Breed of Ruthless Leaders

From Susanne Koelbl writing for Spiegel.

A new generation of Taliban fighters has taken over in Pakistan's tribal regions near the Afghan border. Their ruthless leader is believed to have been involved in the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

When an underling disobeys him, Baitullah Mehsud, the new leader of the Taliban in Pakistan, fines the offender 1,000 rupees, or about €11, sends him home with needle and thread, and orders him to have someone sew his own shroud within 24 hours. The offender is usually dead by the time the 24 hours are up, executed by the extremist leader's militias.

These are the type of people we are fighting against in the Long War. It is also this new breed of ruthless leaders that President Musharraf now understands he must defeat. Ms. Koelbl continues to show the difference between the older generation of Taliban leaders and the newer generation.

The old mujaheddin who fought in the war against the Soviets and the Taliban who were driven from Afghanistan in 2001, however, still respected the tribal hierarchies and the Pashtuns' rudimentary code of honor. Although it includes blood feuds, it also stringently requires that the innocent -- especially women and children -- be protected. Nowadays, on the other hand, anything done in the name of jihad seems permissible. The cooperative arrangement between al-Qaida and the Taliban has broken ranks with the ultraconservative but ordered world of the tribes living in the regions along the Afghan border. This has led to new tensions, so much so that most traditional tribal leaders are now refusing to cooperate with bin Laden's terrorist network. But members of the young neo-Taliban have used every means available to protect their foreign "guests." In the ensuing power struggle, the new Taliban commanders have already killed more than 250 tribal leaders. (emphasis added)

Not only are the younger Taliban leaders attacking innocent women and children, they are also killing their own who disagree with them. These brutal tactics are causing the Taliban to fracture. President Musharraf is using this fracture to his advantage.

In the meantime, the upstart leader has even challenged the authority of Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar, who has criticized the high civilian death toll during recent suicide bombings.

This fracture among the Taliban will continue to grow as will the fracture with older Taliban and Al Qaeda continue to become wider. As Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban turn their sights towards Pakistan, they have activated the 600,000 strong Pakistani Army against them. Where once their rear areas were safe for them to train their soldiers to fight the 100,000 strong Coalition forces in Afghanistan, now they must defend themsleves on several fronts against a much larger combined force.

In addition, the brutal tactics identified above will not help Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban with their support among people in the region. The recent missile strike which killed the top tier Al Qaeda leader, al-Libi, is testament to this fact. While undoubtedly coming from an armed UAV (read US Predator), strikes such as these inside of Pakistan are also typically backed up by intelligence on the ground and other intelligence sources. The International Herald Tribune notes that this missile strike occurred just 1.3 miles from a Pakistani military compound. However, it incorrectly interprets the significance of this fact by noting this shows how entrenched Islamic militants are in Pakistan. The article later also notes the lack of reaction from Pakistanis and the government itself but does not understand its significance.

President Musharraf early on attempted to make peace with the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the tribal region only to have peace agreements broken immediately. In response, Musharraf emplaced a pro-western Chief of Army Staff (General Kayani), made General Tariq Majid (who led the attack on the Red Mosque) the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and moved several regular Army Brigades down from Kashmir in late 2007. All of these moves are indicative that Musharraf intends to deal with Al Qaeda and the Taliban. His recent meetings with high level US officials to assist his forces is another indicator of his intentions. Finally, his recent speech against Al Qaeda and the Taliban lays down his overall strategy in the upcoming fight.

If one examines Musharraf's recent speech, it would be noted that he spoke of multi-pronged strategy involving the military to focus on Al Qaeda and the Taliban, the political process of transitioning to a democracy (not only in the settled regions of Pakistan, but also in the tribal areas), and socio-economic aspect to enhance commerce within his country to lift the masses out of poverty and dispair.

Al Qaeda's and the Taliban's current fracture and more brutal tactics only makes his job easier. Musharraf has expertly emplaced all instruments of national power for the upcoming military action he now understands he must take against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. He has illicited the advantage which US technology and support will give his forces to assist is this battle. While he states unauthorized foreign intervention in Pakistan is unauthorized, he does not speak of authorized foreign intervention. This distinction is clearly evident in the recent lack of governmental reaction to the killing of al-Libi noted above.

However, above all, Musharraf must wait until after 18 February Pakistani elections when the second prong of his strategy is implemented. His country cannot be in all out war or the elctions will not be seen as free and fair effectively giving Al Qaeda and the Taliban a political victory. While Musharraf's PML-Q party will undoubtedly lose seats, the MMA (the consolidated party of the insurgents) will lose significantly more.

To ensure the success of his multi-prong strategy, Musharraf implemented the final leg of his country's national power, namely informational. He successfully accomplished this information operation when he embarked on an eight day visit to several EU nations where he laid out his military, political, and economic strategy to world leaders.

Musharraf and his generals continue for the time being to contain Al Qaeda and the Taliban. When advances are made by the Pakistan Army, it is only to contain these elements so that Pakistani's can freely make their decision as to Pakistan's future on 18 February. After the elections, Musharraf and his generals will have shaped the battlefield and international community properly to begin decisive operations against Al Qaeda and the Taliban while at the same time giving freedom and democracy to his country.

The end result of Musharraf's actions will be significantly reduced fighting this spring in Afghanistan, Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda routed from Pakistan, an orderly transition to democracy, followed by signficant economic growth. It is no wonder that when asked by a reporter about possible covert operations by Americans in the region, Musharraf responds,

"The United States seems to believe that it can do something that our army cannot," he says. "This assessment is completely wrong."

It is notable that Ms. Koelbl breaks Musharraf's quote up and implies Musharraf is stating the United States' assessment is wrong. When looking at Musharraf's strategy to deal with Al Qaeda and the Taliban and his behind the scenes dealings with the US forces for technological support with this effort, it seems more correct that Musharraf is stating Ms. Koelbl's "assessment in completely wrong."

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Troop buildup in Mosul in preparation for big offensive

From Earth Times.

The Iraqi army was gathering troops and military equipment in the northern city of Mosul Thursday in preparation for a big offensive against al-Qaeda militants expected to be launched within hours, local media reported. "All necessary steps have been taken for a successful implementation of the military campaign, which will be backed by air support from the coalition forces," Mosul police chief General Wathik al-Hamdani told the state-owned al-Sabah newspaper.

"The target is to enable security forces to take command of hot spots that are the bases of terrorist elements, such al-Qaeda and other loyal groups," the general said.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said Friday a "decisive battle" would be fought against al-Qaeda insurgents in Mosul, the country's third largest city.

The Iraqiness of this upcoming operation is stunning. This is not a US force operation with support from the Iraqi Army nor is it US forces putiing an Iraqi face on the operation. This ooperation is a Maliki led operation with his army against some of the last remnants of Al Qaeda in Iraq which will be supported by US forces. This operation would have been unheard of just one short year ago.

For a full read, click here.

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The Mosul Offensive

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

Just over one year after the surge officially began Coalition and Iraqi forces continue to pursue al Qaeda in Iraq. After al Qaeda has been driven from its havens in Baghdad and the surrounding belts regions, and most recently in Diyala, the city of Mosul has emerged as the latest battleground....

"We have formed an operations centre in Ninewa (province) for a final war against Al-Qaeda and the remnants of the former (Saddam Hussein) regime," Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said on Jan. 25. "Today our forces are moving towards Mosul. What we have planned in Ninewa will be final. It will be a decisive battle."

Mr. Roggio expertly evaluates the significance of Iraqi forces movement to Mosul to battle Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The Mosul deployment highlights the growing capacity of the Iraqi command to plan, deploy, and support its forces on short notice. This is a capacity that was nearly nonexistent just one year ago when the surge began, and represents the future of operations in Iraq as US forces begin to draw down.

Iraqi Security Forces are becoming more and more capable and are able to lead from the front and execute complex operations against Al Qaeda. As U.S. Forces draw down, Iraqi Security Forces will continue to build capability to eventually defeat Al Qaeda in Iraq.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi Security Forces Gain in Capability, Professionalism

From MNF-I.

Iraqi security forces increasingly demonstrate their professionalism and willingness to step up to protect the Iraqi people, a spokesman for Multinational Corps Iraq told reporters Sunday.

During a briefing in Baghdad, Navy Rear Adm. Gregory J. Smith pointed to numerous signs of progress in training and equipping the Iraqi army and police forces and the greater role these forces now play in Iraq’s security.

“We continue to see examples of the increasingly professionalized Iraqi security forces stepping up to protect their people,” he said.

Smith noted the gains being made by soldiers, police officers and groups such as “The Awakening” and concerned local citizens. For example, last week in Karmah, an Iraqi army unit discovered two critical stockpiles that together included more than 2,500 pounds of homemade explosives.

A functioning government with a capable military are more signs of progress in Iraq.

The Surge clearly provided the Iraqi Government with the breathing room it needed to begin to function. Everyday the government is growing stronger as are its forces.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraq Awakening Councils members join police

From Alsumaria.

Loyalty for the country and casting away confessionalism are two headlines that constitute the key of joining in Awakening Councils to Iraq Security Forces. In fact, steps towards joining in Awakening Councils members to Iraqi forces are ongoing since US Army announced that 9 thousand members of (Sahwa) or Awakening Councils are ready to enter into police or army after inspecting their situation.

Rear Admiral Gregory Smith, US military spokesman, told AFP that other Awakening Council members are waiting for the opportunities that would allow them to join in Iraq Security Forces.

Reconciliation continue daily in Iraq. More signs of progress. All is not perfect, but it is progressing.

For a full read, click here.

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The Funny Files

From Iraq Pundit.

Those who believe fearful Iraqis have locked themselves in, and are barely surviving a civil war might be surprised to learn that my fellow countrymen have managed to blend the newest technology with dark-edge humour. They are using the novelty of YouTube as a vehicle for expression and entertainment, mocking Iraq's firebrand buffoons and having a little fun at the expense of Western soldiers.

Iraq Pundit continues with,

High stress situations, sure. But "oppressive environments" doesn't apply here. Under the Baathists, we whispered jokes only to close family. Nobody could have made this kind of parody of the penguins under Saddam Hussein, nor could anyone make this clip while al-Qaeda and the Mahdi militia roamed the streets. Those who have no experienced that kind of fear, cannot appreciate what it means to be able to make such video clips.

It may not seem like much to you, but to us it's another step in the right direction.

For a full read, click here.

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Captured militant planned to hit Pakistan elections: officials

From Yahoo via AFP.

Pakistani officials said Wednesday that a key Al-Qaeda-linked militant captured in a shootout in the southern city of Karachi planned to launch terrorist attacks on rallies for next month's elections....

In Karachi, officials said Qasim Toori, a wanted member of the Sunni Muslim extremist group Jundullah (Army of God), was wounded and arrested after a raid on his hideout in the port city late Tuesday.

Al Qaeda's ultimate goal is to stop democratic elections in Pakistan on 18 February 2008. If free and fair democratice elections take place, Al Qaeda and the Taliban are doomed.

For a full read, click here.

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Terror Leader Killed in Missile Strike?

From ABC News.

Pakistani intelligence sources say they believe a "high-value" al Qaeda target was killed in a missile strike yesterday in the country's tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

U.S. officials said there was no indication that the target was Osama bin Laden or his deputy Ayman al Zawahri, but one senior official told ABCNews.com the strike was aimed at one particular figure.

"We don't know whether we got him yet, we are sorting through it," the official said, indicating the intended target was a top leader of the terror group.

For a full read, click here.

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Al-Qaeda and Fatah al-Islam Launch New Series of Attacks in Lebanon

From The Jamestown Foundation.

Recent terrorist attacks targeting the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) and U.S. embassy personnel in Beirut come as security measures are heightened in response to a series of assassinations and a rapidly deteriorating political crisis in the country. While UNIFIL forces have been targeted previously since their deployment under UN Security Council Resolution 1701 in 2006, the attempt to hit U.S. embassy personnel is the first attack on U.S. interests in 23 years. The targeting of foreign entities in Lebanon presents additional challenges for a country already facing a litany of threats to its own security.

For a full read, click here.

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U.S. to Expand Outposts Across Baghdad by 30%

From the Wahington Post.

The U.S. military plans to boost the number of neighborhood outposts across the capital by more than 30 percent this year even as American forces begin to withdraw, the new commander of U.S. forces in Baghdad said Tuesday.

During a luncheon with reporters in the heavily fortified Green Zone, Maj. Gen. Jeffery W. Hammond said he would increase the number of garrisons in the city from 75 to 99 by June to "push ourselves into locations where maybe in the past we didn't go before."

For a full read, click here.

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Pakistan: Shari'a Courts Spark Fears Of 'Taliban-Like State' On Afghan Border

From Radio Free Europe.

Fearing the creation of a Taliban-like state near the Afghan border, Pakistani rights activists are concerned over plans to set up a hard-line Islamist judicial system in Pashtun-populated parts of the country's Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP).

For a full read, click here.

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Pakistani Taliban grows bolder, taking fight to doorstep of frontier city

From Yahoo via McClatchy.

Islamic militants known as the Pakistani Taliban have extended their reach across all seven of Pakistan's frontier tribal regions and have infiltrated Peshawar , the provincial capital, heightening U.S. concerns that an insurrection may be broadening in the nuclear-armed nation.

US officials believe the Pakistani Taliban are not just coordinating their actions, but are formenting an insurrection in Pakistan with Al Qaeda coordinating the actions.

"These are not groups of Pashtun brigands popping potshots at army patrols," he said. "This looks like there is clearly coordination going on. This looks like an effort that appears to have been planned."

This insurrection has a two-fold purpose. First, Al Qaeda is trying to disrupt supply lines from Pakistan to US forces in Afghanistan.

The increased fighting also has U.S. officials worried about possible threats to supply lines to U.S.-led NATO forces in Afghanistan , which stretch from Karachi through the tribal territories, the State Department official said.

Secondly, Al Qaeda is attempting to relieve pressure on the Mehsud tribe in South Waziristan.

"The militants are trying to put pressure on the Pakistani army so the military campaign in Waziristan is either called off or the attention is diverted," Yusufzai said.

However, these are just tactical objectives, but the strategic goal must not be forgotten. The overall goal of the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda is to instill fear in the population to gain their tacit support which will weaken Musharraf and the Army, so they can eventually take over Pakistan and its nuclear arsenal. They have accomplished instilling fear which gives them tacit support as noted by a professor at the Peshawar University.

"I almost don't go anywhere now, just to my office and my home," he said.

A few weeks ago, Taliban sympathizers briefly set up a booth at the school to collect money. The group is illegal, but police didn't stop them.

"People are afraid to confront them," said Ijaz Khan , another scholar at the university. (emphasis added)

And they have weakened Musharraf and the Army, putting both on the defensive.

Momentum by the Pakistani Taliban has thrown President Pervez Musharraf on the defensive over the army's ability to fight radicalization of his country....

But senior army officers are clearly uneasy about fighting fellow Pakistanis.

"These people are not our enemies. . . . These people have been misguided," army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said in an interview.

It remains to be seen whether the fighting will intensify enough to where Musharraf postpones elections. If he does, the Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda will have won another strategic victory.

However, intense fighting in across the tribal agencies has also limited the Taliban's and Al Qaeda's freedom of action. February 18th is the key date. Pakistani Army forces are conducting containing operations in the tribal agencies until the election is over in the hope to stem the insurrection that is taking place in Pakistan. Once the elections are over, I suspect the Pakistani Army will attack the Mehsud tribe and Al Qaeda wholesale.

The questions become can Musharraf and General Kayani keep their country together for another three weeks by stemming the rise of this Taliban insurrection so they can hold successful, free, and fair elections?

If elections are held, the next question becomes can Musharraf thwart attempts to impeach him and keep the political structure in tact so he and the newly elected government can focus on the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

So far, it seems that Musharraf can keep the country together and has played his card well minus postponement of the elections for such a long time. Unfortunately, only time will tell whether on not he postponed them too long.

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Missile strike in North Waziristan kills 12

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

A suspected Taliban hideout in North Waziristan was hit with missiles as peace negotiations in North Waziristan are underway between the Taliban and the provincial government. Twelve have been reported killed in the strike, according to AFP.

The attack occurred in the town of Khushali Tari Khel near Mir Ali on the Pakistan-Afghan frontier. "The identities of the dead are not ascertained but we had reports that suspected them of being linked to the Taliban," an intelligence official told AFP. Locals claimed "tribesmen" were visiting the home of a "local elder."

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi Calls for Rolling Elections Soon

From the AP.

Iraq's deputy prime minister said Thursday that he favors a series of "rolling" local elections as part of a crucial push to bring power to the nation's provinces, and that the first votes are likely to begin soon.

Barham Saleh said the idea was part of the Provincial Powers Act, which must be ratified by Iraq's parliament, and that passage of the legislation was vital. The bill is among key pieces of legislation that are aimed at reconciling Iraq's rival ethnic and sectarian communities but which have been stalled for months.

"This is a very crucial piece of legislation that will define the character of the Iraqi state," Saleh, an Iraqi Kurd, told a panel on peace and stability at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Saleh said a draft of the legislation "involves devolving power from the central (government) to the provinces, which is crucial for local democracy."

More political progress is taking place in Iraq.

For a full read, click here.


MND-North Soldiers uncover large caches west of Bayji

From MNF-I.

In the desert area west of Bayji Multi-National Division – North Soldiers uncovered two large caches after a helicopter spotted multiple white bags being covered by tarps and blankets Jan. 25.

When Soldiers arrived at the location, they discovered two different sites where tarps were being used to cover the caches. The first contained approximately 60, 50- kilogram bags of a substance used in the making of homemade explosives and the other had nine of the 50-kilogram bags. The other site also housed various types of plastic explosives, anti-tank mines, an improvised platter charge, a suicide vest packed with TNT and miscellaneous detonation wire and remote detonation devices.

“This is a huge find. There was enough explosive material to fill up half a dump truck,” said Maj. David Jones, 1-327th operations officer. “There is no telling how many lives were saved by taking this cache away from the enemy extremists.”

Military explosive experts destroyed all the munitions at both sites. After detonating the bags, the result of the hole was much larger than the EOD personnel had calculated. According to the EOD personnel, this may have been a result of more bags being buried underneath the discovered cache.

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Iraq new national unity government debated

From Alsumaria.

It seems that the meeting held by the Islamic Party political councils and the Islamic Supreme Council headed by Sayyed Abdul Aziz Al Hakim and Vice President Tarek Al Hashemi have reached an agreement upon which the Islamic Party would join the alliance of Kurdish parties and Al Daawa Party and would lead to form a small government headed by Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki. Informed sources affirmed that governmental changes would draw down the number of ministries to 23 and change the number of ministers. Sources have linked between this step and the Islamic Party accord with the quartet alliance after resolving disputes inside the Accordance Front in favor of the party, despite his front’s willingness to return to government if their demands are met. The Islamic Council and Al Daawa Party seek to assure votes of 80 MPs while the Islamic Party is working to convince its allies in the Accordance Front to vote for the new alliance by persuading 30 MPs while Kurds represent about 55 votes, which assures more than half voices in the parliament.

So, it seems that the "memorandum of understanding" between the Sunnis and Kurds will join forces with Hakim's Islamic Council and the Daawa Party, ensuring Maliki a majority in Parliment.

The significance of this national unity government is critical for continued political progress in Iraq.

1. It forms a government representative of Iraqis - Shiites, Sunnis, and Kurds.

2. It drops Maliki's need for support from Sadr, who is against continued US presence in Iraq and still maintains a militia against the government.

3. It will allow for further reconciliation with Sunnis.

4. It gives the Kurds a voice in future oil laws and federalism.

All and all, if successful, this national unity government could well ensure the survival of this young democracy.

For a full read, click here.

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Cleric warns of more Beirut unrest

From Yahoo/AP.

A top Shiite cleric warned Monday that violence in Beirut could spin out of control, a day after seven protesters died in rioting and clashes in the city's southern suburbs that were reminiscent of Lebanon's 15-year civil war.

But the area was calm Monday as troops patrolled and Shiite Muslims buried their dead.

Some things never make sense to me and this story is one of them. The title warns that violence that can spin out of control after seven protestors (Hezbollah supporters) were killed when they turned violent towards Lebanese troops. Yet, the day after, calm reigned. Why?

It is simple, Hezbollah and Amal leaders, wanting to force March 14 forces hand, attempted to incite a riot. Seven of their supporters were killed. It is of special note that no other group had dead supporters implying the Lebanese Army took well aimed shots vice spraying gunfire into the crowd. How did the violence start?

A hand grenade tossed by rioters into that district, Ein el-Rummaneh, injured four people, and an opposition TV station claimed some shooting may have come from the opposing Christian side, and not only from the army.

That's right, a hand grenade was thrown at the Lebanese Army. We are not talking billy clubs or rocks, but a hand grenade. Who were two of the people killed?

One of the people killed was a local official with the Amal opposition group, Ahmed Hamzeh, who had been working with the army to reduce tensions, security officials and the party said. Another was a paramedic of a Muslim ambulance service affiliated with Hezbollah.

So an Amal opposition group leader, who had been working to reduce tensions was killed. How convenient. It would be interesting to know what he died from.

Why was a Muslim ambulance on site? Probably because Hezbollah knew they were going to start a riot and wanted emotional pictures of wounded being carted off. Unfortunately, they did not get their show as the paramedic was also killed.

Yet today, there is calm. There is calm because the riot did not go down as Hezbollah intended, probably except for the death of Ahmed Hamzeh. The Lebanese Army stood its ground and quelled the riot with patience and discipline. Hezbollah will definitely take notice of this fact as it seeks other methods to force the hand of March 14 forces for veto power in the government.

For a full read, click here.

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The Final Mission, Part I

From Michael Totten at the Middle East Journal reporting from Fallujah.

At the end of 2006 there were 3,000 Marines in Fallujah. Despite what you might expect during a surge of troops to Iraq, that number has been reduced by 90 percent. All Iraqi Army soldiers have likewise redeployed from the city. A skeleton crew of a mere 250 Marines is all that remains as the United States wraps up its final mission in what was once Iraq's most violent city.

Mr. Totten noted a Marine officer instructing his men,

"What do the Iraqi Police watch?" the officer said. "What are they looking at on a daily basis?"

"Us," said several Marines in unison.

"They will emulate you, gents," the officer said. "They. Will. Emulate you. Why? Because we came over here twice and kicked their ass. I do not trust the Iraqi Police today. Our job is to get them up to speed. They don't need to be up to the standard of Americans. But they do need to be better than they are right now."

Fallujah, once the hotbed of the insurgency and a safehaven for Al Qaeda in Iraq is now being policed by Iraqis and a small 250-man contingent of Marines.

Why were we successful in Fallujah? Not only because we "kicked their ass" as the senior Marine who's intent was to rally his men, but because we took the moral high ground and stayed to fight Al Qaeda in Iraq. The Marines fought tenaciously, but always maintained the honor of the Marine Corps. Foreign armies and people respect this fact about American Soldiers and Marines. They also respect that when the fight got tougher, we surged forces to the region and quelled the insurgency.

As Michael Totten states, we are the power brokers in Fallujah because we are fair, morally respected, trained to deliver justice swiftly, and most importantly, stayed to finish the job. This fact is why we won the hearts and minds in Fallujah. This fact is why we are winning in Iraq. This fact is why the Iraqi Army, emulating American Forces, is sending its forces into Mosul right now. This fact is why we will win in Afghanistan. This fact is why the Taliban and Al Qaeda are divided in Pakistan.

Say what you want about The Surge, but I find it difficult to believe that Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan would all be positioned right now on the verge of a democratic revolution if we had pulled out forces from Iraq as defeatist liberals wanted us to early 2007.

If we had pulled out, this senior Marine would not be saying we "kicked their ass", but instead believe we had gotten ours handed to us, along with the people of Fallujah and with all the people of Iraq. Instead, we surged forces and have all but eliminated Al Qaeda from Iraq.

As the quote at the top of this blog states, "Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid". Thank you President Reagan for reminding us of this fact. Thank you President Bush for being unafraid and surging forces precisely when defeatist liberals were trying to force you to withdraw troops. I am sure the people of Iraq are saying thank you too. Soon, the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan will be saying thank you too.

For a full read of Michael Trotten's article, click here.

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Iraqi forces mass outside Mosul

From The Columbus Dispatch.

Iraqi army reinforcements moved yesterday into positions near the northern city of Mosul, ready to strike al-Qaida in Iraq targets in the militant group's last urban stronghold, a top Iraqi officer said.

Maj. Gen. Riyad Jalal, a senior officer in the Mosul region, said the additional forces would open an offensive against al-Qaida fighters "immediately after all the added troops arrive."

The significance of the upcoming battle in Mosul is discussed later in the story.

The U.S. military does not plan to send additional forces to Mosul, which a military spokesman said this month was the last urban safe haven for al-Qaida-led insurgents.

The United States has said Iraqi security forces will take the lead in Mosul -- a major test of Washington's plan to shrink its force and ultimately leave it as backup for Iraqi security forces.

Iraqi Forces are taking the lead in the battle in Mosul. American Forces are still tied up in Diyala and Tigris River Valley. PM Maliki independently moved Iraqi Forces to Mosul to secure the city. While definitely being assisted by U.S. Forces in the form of Rangers and attack aircraft, the battle of Mosul, where the last significant amount of Al Qaeda in Iraq forces are holed up, will be dealt with by Iraqi Forces. This battle will not have Iraqi Forces being led by U.S. Forces, but Iraqi Forces planning, preparing, and executing the fight.

Combat actions have tested Iraqi Forces. They clearly past all tests. Now, they will be taking their final exam, so to speak. That final exam is Mosul.

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NATO force chief vows more pressure on Taliban in 2008

From Yahoo/AFP.

NATO troops will more aggressively pursue Taliban militants in 2008 with Afghan forces playing a larger role in fighting the insurgents, the head of the force in Afghanistan, General Dan McNeill said.

General McNeill acknowledged that NATO was not doing its part. Speaking of a shortfall of 7,500 NATO troops, General McNeill stated,

The shortfall could be met if "you look at all members to do a little more", he added, noting that some nations had already stepped up such as France which will this year send military trainers to the southern province of Uruzgan.

Asked about the increase in Taliban activity in 2007, McNeill stated,

The increase in fighting was a reaction to having more troops on the ground and that soldiers moved out of their bases more to "pursue the enemy," he said.

"It was a superb year. The insurgents won nothing on the battlefield."

ISAF records showed that 70 percent of Taliban attacks, such as suicide and roadside bombings, took place in only 10 percent of the country, said the general, who first served in Afghanistan in 2002.

I find this quote fascinating. If one listens to the MSM, one gets the feel that we are barely holding on in Afghanistan. But according to the commander on the ground, one of the reasons for the increase in violence is ANA and Coalition forces moved out of bases and pursued the enemy.

While head counts are not the only metric in war. Everytime the Taliban battled with ANA or Coalition forces, deaths in the range of 25-50 were noted. In a few instances, the Taliban suffered upwards of 150-200 killed in action. Numbers like these are difficult to overcome for an insurgent.

Speaking of ANA forces,

"More important, what you will see different this year is the increased Afghan National Security Force capacity.

"So we expect to be not out front as we were last year, we expect the Afghans to be out front and we are going to support their operations," he said.

Another of ISAF's missions is to help rebuild the Afghan army, which was destroyed in the civil war of the early 1990s. It is projected to grow to number 70,000 soldiers by the end of this year.

ANA forces will begin taking the lead this year.

So what we have for 2008 in Afghanistan is an extra 3,200 Marines which will arrive in April, just in time for the spring. Increased ANA capacity with the ANA taking the lead in battles this year. Al Qaeda and the Taliban divided in purpose and in their main effort, Afghanistan or Pakistan. The Pakistani military battling Al Qaeda and the Taliban in force in the tribal regions. Al Qaeda in Iraq generally recognized as defeated.

While 2008 will be much more violent in Pakistan and Afghanistan, this increase in violence should not be taken as an increase in Al Qaeda's or the Taliban's capacity. Instead, this increase in violence should be taken for what it really is, Pakistani, ANA, and Coaltion forces moving into safehavens and taking the fight to Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

For a full read, click here.

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Pakistan: Fifty militants arrested in north-west valley

From AKI.

Fifty militants, including a local commander, were arrested during a military operation in the restive Swat valley in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) on Sunday.

Officials and local people said that a pro-Taliban commander, identified as Sher Mohammad Khan, and about 30 of the detained people were hardcore militants loyal to radical cleric Maulana Fazlullah and were wanted by the authorities.

While returning Swat to safety, the government is not well regarded or liked in this area.

Jirga members held both the government and militants backed by Maulana Fazlullah responsible for the situation in the valley.

They demanded an immediate halt to the military operation and the withdrawal of troops. They asked the militants to leave the area and avoid imposing a war on the peace-loving people of Swat.

The jirga said that the economy, tourism industry, education and peace and harmony of Swat had been ruined by the clashes between security forces and militants.

For a full read, click here.

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Taliban wield the ax ahead of new battle

From Asia Times Online.

With the Taliban's spring offensive just months away, the Afghan front has been quiet as Taliban and al-Qaeda militants have been heavily engaged in fighting security forces in Pakistan's tribal regions.

But now Taliban leader Mullah Omar has put his foot down and reset the goals for the Taliban: their primary task is the struggle in Afghanistan, not against the Pakistan state.

Mullah Omar has sacked his own appointed leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud, the main architect of the fight against Pakistani security forces, and urged all Taliban commanders to turn their venom against North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, highly placed contacts in the Taliban told Asia Times Online. Mullah Omar then appointed Moulvi Faqir Mohammed (a commander from Bajaur Agency) but he refused the job. In the past few days, the Pakistani Taliban have held several meetings but have not yet appointed a replacement to Mehsud.

It appears that Mullah Omar wants the focus of Taliban operations to be in Afghanistan. Mehsud wants the focus of operations to be against Pakistan. In doing so, Mehsud has brought the wrath of the Pakistani military against the Taliban in Pakistan. During tribal jirgas, Mehsud is being offered as a martyr.

"While talking to government representatives in the jirga [peace council] we could clearly discern a grudge against Baitullah Mehsud and the Mehsud tribes by the security forces. And there are signs that the government is obsessed with a military operation to make Baitullah Mehsud a martyr," a leading member of the peace jirga in South Waziristan, Maulana Hisamuddin, commented to Voice of America.

But where does Al Qaeda stand? They want the fight in Pakistan.

This major development occurred at a time when Pakistan was reaching out with an olive branch to the Pakistani Taliban. Main commanders, including Hafiz Gul Bahadur and the main Afghan Taliban based in Pakistan, Sirajuddin Haqqani, signed peace agreements. But al-Qaeda elements, including Tahir Yuldashev, chief of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, undermined this initiative.

So we have Mullah Omar, who originally gave safehaven to Al Qaeda now turning against Al Qaeda and their Pakistani Taliban, Mehsud. We have discussed the split among the Taliban and Al Qaeda earlier in this blog. However, can the Taliban focus on both Afghanistan and Pakistan. Possibly.

Certainly, the Taliban will be keen to advance from these positions, but they will also concentrate on destroying NATO's supply lines from Pakistan into Afghanistan. The Taliban launched their first attack in Pakistan's southwestern Balochistan province on Monday, destroying a convoy of oil tankers destined for NATO's Kandahar air field.

Attacking supply lines from Pakistan into Afghanistan is smart from a Taliban perspective. But this supply line is not critical, it is just economical. This supply line can also be diverted. Supplies can flow in from other countries or airfields.

More importantly, Mullah Omar wants the Taliban to retake Afghanistan. Meshud and Al Qaeda want to concentrate on Afghanistan. If Al Qaeda gets its way, expect Mullah Omar to be suddenly killed by Pakistani forces. If Mullah Omar gets his way, expect Meshud to become a martyr in Pakistan. Regardless, the above is proof of a significant split among Al Qaeda and the Taliban and internally within the Taliban.

This split is something both Musharraf and the U.S. can use against the Taliban and Al Qaeda.

For a full read, click here.

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PM receives IAF delegation, stresses reconciliation

From Aswat Aliraq.

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki received a delegation from the Sunni Iraqi Accordance Front (IAF) on Saturday, stressing that reconciliation among all groups of the Iraqi people "has become a fait accompli".

"Reconciliation is not a decision issued by high-level officials. Politicians of all blocs have to realize what is actually taking place on the ground and to contribute seriously and effectively to cementing national reconciliation," the prime minister's office quoted Maliki in a statement received by Aswat al-Iraq – Voices of Iraq – (VOI).

PM Maliki is moving closer to sealing the "memorandum of understanding" with Sunnis and Kurds as he attempts to lessen the influence of Sadr and his Mahdi Army.

For a full read, click here.

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Gaza Exodus Threatening Repercussions on Egypt's Future

From David Eshel at Defense Update.

These are moments of glory for Hamas. It conducted its campaign brilliantly last week, and as it seems, so far, with complete success. At no stage did Israel have sufficient response to counter the initiatives of Hamas: Its excellent intelligence community, normally capable of pinpointing Hamas leaders for targeted killings, failed to alert on the organization's preparations along Philadelphi border line separating the Gaza strip from Egypt. But in fact, not intelligence gathering, nor experts, just plain common sense was the only thing needed to realize, that breaking the barrier between besieged Palestinian Rafah and free Egyptian Rafah, was only a matter of time.

It was also an impressive engineering feat. To plan, plant, implement and execute simultaneous explosions, creating a domino effect, toppling such a strongly built infrastructure, required high level professionalism. Analysts doubt that Hamas, alone could not have done this, without professional outside help. Intelligence sources suspect, that Iranian demolition experts arrived in Gaza, mingling with the pilgrims from Hajj in Saudi Arabia three weeks ago, when Egypt allowed them, reluctantly to return, without sufficient security checks.

Egypt's response:

An interesting development which already seems to emerge is, that on President Mubarak direct orders, the Egyptian border police redeployed to a new line, covering El Arish, Bir Lahfan and Abu Agheila. This step would effectively hand over to the control of Hamas-led Palestinian terrorist organizations a Northern Sinai void of roughly 855 sq, km., almost twice the area of the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.

For a full read, click here.

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Is Ahmadinejad setting a trap for Israel and the US?

From James Lewis at The American Thinker.

Like the Jedi Knights in Star Wars, much of Israel's safety depends on an absurdly small number of daring pilots and their jet planes. The Israel Air Force has managed to use that capacity with amazing skill and daring, as it showed last September when a dozen fighter bombers and support aircraft jammed Syria's Russian-supplied air defenses and destroyed a secret nuclear facility on the Euphrates river --- not far from Iran. The nature of that target has still not been revealed, but it must have been important enough to risk triggering a missile attack from Syria. That means the target was believed to be very important: most likely a joint Iranian-Syrian-North Korean nuclear facility.

Mr. Lewis believes Ahmadinejad, with Russian assistance, is attempting to trap the Israeli airforce.

The whole thing smells like an Ahmadi-Nejad shell game, with Russian help: put your nuclear materials under a dozen different giant concrete shelters, and dare the enemy to attack all of them, without knowing which one has nuke materials. All of the sites would be heavily defended with state-of-the-art Russian anti-aircraft missiles. Not just one trap for attacking aircraft, but a dozen or more.

For a full read, click here.

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