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

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Youth leave, imported crops invade villages

From Voices of Iraq.

This article writes about how life is changing in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. It focuses on agriculture in and around the town of Arbil.

“Agriculture is no longer a core activity for the population because the youth, as is the case with most villages in Kurdistan region, left to the city in search of clean jobs,” Hussein explained to Aswat al-Iraq - Voices of Iraq - (VOI).

The 40 year- old villager noted, “We are unable to meet our needs from cultivation and we started to rely on imported crops.”

Derbaz, 21, who left his village to Arbil, capital of Kurdistan region, said “our village Sablakh lacks basic services, a matter that makes life there impossible.”

“Working as a farmer is no longer enough to feed my family of eight,” the young man who is working now in Arbil explained.

What this article fails to write about is why things have changed. The why is not obvious unless one examines the current context.

Prior to 2003, Iraq was a agrarian society in many respects prevented from importing many food stuffs due to sanctions. Northern Iraq has now changed and is a bustling metropolis. As a metropolis, farmers were unable to keep up with the needs of people with now more wealth. Imports started coming in. Imports were in fact cheaper allowing less and less folks to work the fields and move to the cities for higher paying jobs, better schools, etc.

Nowhere in this article does it express people are suffering for lack of food. Instead, food is abundant, it just is not any longer locally grown. Later down in the article, the truth is finally written.

Hassan, 52, notes “we used to spend months in cultivation until we got the harvest, but now we only sit down in coffee houses and depend on our sons who earn higher salaries from their new jobs.”

“Even old men now depend on subsidies from the government and no one is willing to work as a farmer any more,” he ironically said.

A local governmental official attributed the tendency among the youth to leave their villages for the big cities to the lack of basic services, absence of good schools, and non-existence of amusement centers in the villages.

These villagers are not suffering. They are sitting down at coffee houses and depending on their son's higher salaries they get from the cities. The older generation is apparently getting subsidies from the government and no longer need to work. They no longer toil for months in fields.

Far from pain and suffering. What is happening in Kurdistan region of Iraq is progress from a free, democratic system.

Notice, the article says nothing about violence from the war in this region.

For a full read, click here.

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The Success of Iraq Policy

From Jim Hall at the American Thinker.

Contrary to the dominant media narrative, the Iraq war is working out as a global strategic success, albeit not to a comfortable time schedule or cost. A Walter Chronkite-type surrender won't be necessary, this time. America had the strength to endure, analyze, correct and advance the mission. America will be the global can-do superpower once again. Europe and the Middle East have seen this light.

An interesting take on the Iraqi War.

For a full read, click here.

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The Afghanistan success story

From the American Thinker.

Mr. Ray Robison discusses Afghanistan. He shows quite clearly that Afghanistan is a success story despite media misreporting. I particularly like the facts he reports.

Here are a dozen more facts from the report you are unlikely to see in media reporting:

1. The Afghan Army is growing in size, experience, and leadership capabilities.
2. A recent study found that 90% of the Afghan population trusted the countries military force.
3. More than 4,000 km of roads have been built where only 50 km existed in 2001.
4. The rehabilitation of the North-East power system has advanced and access of the rural households to electricity has been significantly increased.
5. In 2007 alone, ISAF nations completed 1,080 civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) projects.
6. 2,000 schools were built or repaired in the last five years and around 6.4 million children (including 1.5 million girls) are now in schools.
7. Since 2001, both infant and under-five mortality has declined by 26% and 22% respectively.
8. In 2001, 8% of Afghans had access to some form of healthcare. Now more than 80% of the population has access to medical care.
9. The non-opium economy has grown at an average of 12% over the past four years; the number of poppy-free provinces has grown from six in 2006 to 13 in 2007.
10. Afghan public support for international involvement in Afghanistan remains high with around 70% of Afghans supporting the presence of international forces.
11. The majority of Afghans believe their country is going in the right direction and 84% support their current government (as opposed to 4% who would support the Taliban).
12. They also maintain a positive view of reconstruction efforts with 63% saying that reconstruction efforts in their area have been effective since 2002.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraqi government moves to sideline Sadrists, Mahdi Army

From Bill Roggio at The Long War Journal.

Less than two week after many American newspapers were headlining that Maliki is weakened and Sadr won the battle of Basra, Mr. Roggio explains the current status of the Mahdi Army, the Sadr political party, and PM Maliki.

Less than two weeks after Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki launched Operation Knights' Assault to clear the Mahdi Army and other Iranian-backer militias in Basrah, the Iraqi government is moving to ban Muqtada al Sadr's political movement from participating in the election if it fails to disband the militia. Facing near-unanimous opposition, Sadr said he would seek guidance from senior Shia clerics in Najaf and Qom and disband the Mahdi Army if told to do so, according to one aide. But another Sadr aide denied this.

Since Sadr's militia "won the battle of Basra", the Iraqi Government is seeking to pass an election law preventing movements with militias from participating in the election process. "Weaken" PM Maliki has near-unanimous support in the Parliament from Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite leaders for the proposed law. The "fragmented" Parliament is expected to easily pass this legislation into law within a couple of weeks. Passage in a couple of weeks would be a new record from conception to passage if executed as stated. All of these actions against Sadr does not sound like actions against a victor on the field of battle. PM Maliki leading these actions hardly appears politically weakened in a disjointed Parliament.

Hassan al Rubaie, a Sadrist member of parliament said,

Our political isolation was very clear and real during the meeting.... Even the blocs that had in the past supported us are now against us and we cannot stop them from taking action against us in parliament, We must go and explain to [Sadr] in person that there's a problem."

Maybe, just maybe, the reporters in Baghdad got it all wrong about the winners and losers in Basra, only a couple hundred miles south of their secure hotel rooms.

Far from another quagmire (as portrayed), it appears the Iraqi Government and Army are stepping up to the plate and confronting threats to their young democracy. The number one threat since Americans have isolated and weakened Al Qaeda is the Mahdi Army. The Iraqi Government is doing these actions for the better of Iraq, not Iran who supports Sadr. While not as proficient as American forces, the Iraqi Army is building capacity daily and is able to reposition itself in Iraq to bring the required forces to bear to defeat internal unrest. While not unified, when important, the Iraqi Parliament is able to come together to put into place political solutions to aid military forces.

Maybe, just maybe, the politicians who said all is lost in Iraq and the surge of American forces would only worsen the problems in Iraq got it all wrong from their secure offices only a couple thousand miles from Iraq.

I wonder how politicians, invested in defeat in Iraq, will fare in upcoming national elections in November. I wonder how the only presidential candidate remaining who has steadfastly supported the war and surge effort will fare in his presidential bid come November. October elections in Iraq will be extremely interesting now that Sadr's movement is militarily and politically isolated. More interesting will be November elections in America.

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Lessons Learned from the Basra Fighting for the Iraq Hearings

From The Heritage Foundation.

The Maliki government's offensive in Basra sought to accomplish goals that the United States should support: weakening the Mahdi Army and other gangs supported by Iran. But the operation was poorly planned and executed and did not achieve the ambitious goals initially set out by Prime Minister Maliki.Although the Iraqi government did make some progress in curbing the militias in Basra, the campaign also demonstrated the continuing need for U.S. troops in Iraq.

James Phillips draws the following conclusions from the fighting in Basra

1. The Iraqi government's campaign to extend the rule of law to Basra was a step in the right direction.

2. Prime Minister Maliki has strengthened his nationalist credentials.

3. Iraq's security situation is fragile and the U.S. cannot afford to risk withdrawing troops too soon.

4. Iran exploited the Basra situation and will gain much more influence in Iraq if the next Administration rapidly withdraws U.S. troops.

For a full read, click here.

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Syria: Saudis behind slain Hezbollah commander's death say Iranian sources

From Aknkronos International.

Saudi Arabia is believed to be behind the death of a top commander with Lebanon's militant Shia group Hezbollah, Imad Mughniyeh, according to well-informed sources cited in a report on the Iranian news agency Fars.

Mughniyeh was killed on 12 February in a car bombing in Syria.

Was it just Saudi Arabia?

"Through a Syrian woman, a Saudi secret service agent who works in Damascus acquired two cars that were used by Israeli secret service agents to kill the commander Haj Imad Mughniyeh," said the Fars report.

According to the Iranian news agency, the people involved in organising the attack which killed the military leader of Hezbollah, were Palestinian, Jordanian and Syrian citizens.

If true, this is interesting. Saudis, Jordanians, and Israelis coming together to kill the former Hezbollah military leader, Mughniyeh.

For a full read, click here.

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Pakistan minister: govt won't negotiate with 'terrorists' in new counterterror policy

From Yahoo via AP.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Monday that Pakistan's new government will not negotiate with "terrorists" even as it seeks talks with some militant groups....

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has offered talks to militants ready to renounce violence.

But in remarks that could ease concern in the West that the new government will be softer on al-Qaida, Qureshi said that offer excluded groups that Pakistan considered terrorists.

This is the first official word from Pakistan's new government on how it will deal with terrorists. On first apparence, his policy seems similar to Musharraf's. While meeting with British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, PM Gilani stated,

In a separate meeting, Gilani told Smith that Pakistan would follow a "multi-pronged" strategy against terrorism and extremism, his office said in a statement.

Gilani urged the international community to address root causes of terrorism in "unresolved political issues" and economic disparities.

Once again, we hear the term "multi-pronged" strategy. This stategy was first introduced by President Musharraf on 17 January 2008 when addressing PTV’s weekly interactive programme ‘Aiwan-e-Sadr Sey’ on the “Challenges confronting Pakistan and the way forward.” In detailing his new strategy, Musharraf said the country currently faced three major challenges; terrorism and extremism; transition to democracy and need to sustain socio-economic growth.

It seems the new government in Pakistan may not be so different from Musharraf on their approach to terrorism. In addition, the new government may very well realize what Musharraf and the Pakistani people in general are realizing -- namely, they created the Taliban which supported and continues to support Al Qaeda in the tribal regions in Pakistan. Withdrawing support from the Taliban and Al Qaeda is bringing terrorism to directly to Pakistan, not only in the tribal areas, but in Pakistan cities as well.

I have often stated in this blog one of the best approaches Pakistan's new government could take is to lead the charge in socio-economic growth in the Pakistani tribal areas which Musharraf enacted late last year. Most significantly, the bureaucratic machinery for socio-economic growth in the tribal areas was implemented last year with the development and implementation of Tribal Agents, District Coordinaing Officers, and Regional Coordinating Officers under the leadership of the Provincial Governor. This structure would allow the tribal framework in the tribal areas to not only be included in the decision making and financing of growth in this region, but also to maintain this all important tribal alliance which this region has come to depend upon.

Musharraf guaranteed Pakistan's transition to a democracy, even at his own personal risk politically. Musharraf should be allowed to lead the charge on the military front with General Kayani.

If successful against terrorism, the new government could claim credit and reap its benefits. If unsuccessful, the new government could blame Musharraf. This situation is the best of both worlds for the new government.

It appears from the statement above from PM Gilani, he is going to pursue the same course as Musharraf developed later last year. While military action will, in the near term, potentially slow as the new government feels its way in its new position of authority, I expect to see an increase in military action shortly against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The new government will see what they can change with negotiations. The Taliban and Al Qaeda will fail to keep their ends of new agreements, just as they did with Musharraf. This time though, Pakistan has in place a "multi-pronged" strategy to deal with terrorists in the tribal regions. When military action again starts, one will see a revitalized national army ready to take the fight to terrorists.

The battle will come. Make no doubt about it. Extremists lost wholesale in the latest democratic elections. Businessmen won. Sharia law and extremism is bad for business. The two will eventually clash.

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Vanities of the Warmists

From the American Thinker. Jon Caruthers does an outstanding job of detailing why we should not become engaged in carbon credits even though these words never appear in his article. He begins the article with a history lesson from Yellowstone National Park and government interference.

When Yellowstone National Park was first created, park officials believed they had to “save” the native fauna as well as protect the visitors by killing off the native wolf population. This they did in grand form. Additionally, they noticed the yearly occurrences of wildfires which, according to the then “modern” and “progressive” thought of the day, should be stamped out at all cost.

The net result of these notions was that 110 years or so later half the park burned down. It turns out that without the wolves the ruminants ran wild and ate up the deciduous trees, leaving only the pine trees to go forth and multiply. Anyone who’s started a campfire knows what happens when you compound this with 110 years of pine needles and flotsam and jetsam -- you end up with the perfect firestorm. This is nothing natural. This situation was created by us -- by human intervention into a formerly pristine ecosystem that was supposedly “managed” by the federal government – and the result was that half the park burned down.

When discussing the Atlantic Conveyor Belt and melting glaciers, he makes two very salient points. One, the Earth is a rather stable ecosystem and the negative feedback situation that exists with climate.

It’s all about negative feedback. The earth is a stable system, if it weren’t life would have disappeared billions of years ago. It’s the negative feedback that makes life possible in the first place -- if things get out of whack, there’s a system for getting them back to normality. If the Gulf Stream fades, Arctic winds will sink south and cover Greenland, thereby cooling the island and stopping the glacial melt -- thus stopping the runaway insanity of the eco-warriors’ worst nightmares.

He goes on to discuss the carbon dioxide/oxygen conversion process and how little we know about the the systems which control this process.

Despite what the “experts” may say, consumption, as described above, is completely unknown. Look into the field of metagenomics. Scientists discovered that if they sampled sand from one area of a beach near Torrey Pines, they discovered literally hundreds of thousands of new species of organisms. Even more surprising, if they moved the probe one meter right or left they discovered hundreds of thousands more species as unrelated to the original crop as we are to the original crop. In short, we have no idea -- not even remotely -- of the number of species on the planet, and how many of those are consuming greenhouse gasses, and how many are producing the stuff. Since we have no idea of how much of a given gas is being consumed or produced, the estimates going into those models are only that -- estimates -- and eat away at the efficacy of the model (as again, it’s all about accuracy).

His ending paragraph wraps his insightful article up completely.

The result is that we’re trying to base policy on flawed models that are no better than ancient shamans reading tea leaves. The enviro-nazis are no better than the medicine man of lineage ancient during a lunar eclipse who could claim that the great night spirit was eating the moon goddess, and if only the tribal elders would hand over the virgins he’d perform his incantations and make him spit her out again.

I, like most people, believe we should be as clean and environmentally aware as economically possible. We now do not allow dumping of toxic chemicals into lakes which is a good thing and lakes are coming back as a response. We create more efficient cars, lessening toxic output. Again, this is another good thing as it limits pollutants and makes sitting at stoplights a much more pleasant experience than in the 70s. However, the audacity that we can somehow control minor temperature fluctuations with carbon credits is as absurd as how we thought we could keep Yellowstone National Park in its constant pristine condition as when it was declared a national park. It is just as absurd as his last paragraph when shamans thought sacrificing virgins would keep volcanoes from erupting.

For a full read, click here.

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Israel begins largest-ever home-front emergency drill

From Monsters and Critics.

With fears of Iran's nuclear programme very much in mind, Israel embarked on its largest-ever home-front emergency drill Sunday, meant to simulate responses to war and other emergency situations, such as a large-scale terrorist attack.

The operative part of the five-day drill, dubbed 'Turning Point 2,' will begin Monday and will include, among other scenarios, simulated missile attacks on towns in populated areas.

For a full read, click here.

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Top Taliban militant arrested, 15 killed in Afghan raids

From Yahoo via AFP.

In Kandahar city, police arrested Taliban commander Abdul Jabar, who served as deputy to captured militant leader Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, the interior ministry said.

The ministry described Jabar as the most senior Taliban commander after Dadullah, who was taken into custody in Pakistan in February.

Taliban Commanders are beginning to drop like flies in Afghanistan. On 16 March, Al Qaeda confirmed nine of its leading commanders had died in southern Afghanistan. With the capture of Dadullah and Abdul Jabar, Al Qaeda/the Taliban are losing commanders at a high rate this year.

For a full read, click here.

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