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

New York

The Problem With Talking to Iran

From Amir Taheri at the Wall Street Journal.

Mr. Taheri point out why talking to Iran is futile. He points out every president has tried to talk to Iran as has fellow Arab states. All talks have failed. Why?

The reason is that Iran is gripped by a typical crisis of identity that afflicts most nations that pass through a revolutionary experience. The Islamic Republic does not know how to behave: as a nation-state, or as the embodiment of a revolution with universal messianic pretensions. Is it a country or a cause?

A nation-state wants concrete things such as demarcated borders, markets, access to natural resources, security, influence, and, of course, stability – all things that could be negotiated with other nation-states. A revolution, on the other hand, doesn't want anything in particular because it wants everything.

Another interesting read. For a full read, click here.


The Rebellion Within - An Al Qaeda mastermind questions terrorism.

From The New Yorker.

In his “The Compendium of the Pursuit of Divine Knowledge,” written about 20 years ago, Dr. Fadl wrote,

Fadl contends that the rulers of Egypt and other Arab countries are apostates of Islam. “The infidel’s rule, his prayers, and the prayers of those who pray behind him are invalid,” Fadl decrees. “His blood is legal.” He declares that Muslims have a duty to wage jihad against such leaders; those who submit to an infidel ruler are themselves infidels, and doomed to damnation. The same punishment awaits those who participate in democratic elections. “I say to Muslims in all candor that secular, nationalist democracy opposes your religion and your doctrine, and in submitting to it you leave God’s book behind,” he writes. Those who labor in government, the police, and the courts are infidels, as is anyone who works for peaceful change; religious war, not political reform, is the sole mandate. Even devout believers walk a tightrope over the abyss. “A man may enter the faith in many ways, yet be expelled from it by just one deed,” Fadl cautions. Anyone who believes otherwise is a heretic and deserves to be slaughtered. [emphasis added]

Now, Dr. Fadl is announcing a new book, according to The New Yorker which gives some background on Dr. Fadl.

Fadl was one of the first members of Al Qaeda’s top council. Twenty years ago, he wrote two of the most important books in modern Islamist discourse; Al Qaeda used them to indoctrinate recruits and justify killing. Now Fadl was announcing a new book, rejecting Al Qaeda’s violence. “We are prohibited from committing aggression, even if the enemies of Islam do that,” Fadl wrote in his fax, which was sent from Tora Prison, in Egypt. [emphasis added]

This new work by Dr. Fadl is part and parcel of the intellectual turbulence that is sweeping extremist Islam and Islam in general. It will be interesting to see if Dr. Fadl not only changes his views on apostates but also democracy. The New Yorker article is an interesting read about the history of Al Qaeda.

For a full read, click here.

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Profile: General Michel Suleiman

From the BBC.

The head of Lebanon's army is regarded by the country's rival political factions as a relatively neutral figure, and in times of political crisis he has been credited with keeping the army on the sidelines.

He has called on the 56,000-strong army to ignore politics and "listen to the call of duty".

Until relatively recently, Gen Suleiman kept a low public profile.

With his election as President, profiles are good to have. One thing about President Suleiman is he is considered neutral with regards to March 14 forces and Hezbollah. However, when it comes to the Lebanese Army, he is no neutral. He will continue to build the Army which is what is needed to keep Hezbollah at bay.

For a full read, click here.

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PROFILE: Ali Larijani - New strong man in Iran's parliament

From Monsters and Critics.

With his imminent election as speaker of the Iranian parliament Ali Larijani will not only become the head of the legislature but also the main challenger to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad....

Larijani's main political career started in the mid 1980s as culture minister under president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani. In 1994, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made him head of the state television network IRIB. A decade later, Khamenei appointed him as his advisor in the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC).

An opponent of the reform movement led by president Mohammad Khatami, Larijani ran in the 2005 presidential elections but failed to make it into the second round. Nevertheless, election winner Ahmadinejad appointed him secretary of the SNSC and chief nuclear negotiator.

Larijani is an up and coming leader in Iranian politics. While a conservative, he disagreed with Ahmadinejad on how to deal with Iranian nuclear development and eventually resigned his post as chief nuclear negotiator under Ahmadinejad. He created an alternative conservative movement which won the most votes in parliament. He is also an opponent of the reform movement led by president Mohammad Khatami. He is suspected to challenge Ahmadinejad for the presidency in 2009.

For a full read, click here.

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Cat’s Out of the Bag: Onwards to Maysan

From Nibras Kazimi at the Talisman Gate.

Well I guess enough people are openly discussing this now in Baghdad that it’s okay for me to write about it. Mind you, all the following is classified under the category of gossip:

The Iraqi Army and the Marines are preparing for a major campaign against Mahdi Army and Iranian targets in Maysan Province (‘Amara). Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki may even put the entire elected leadership of ‘Amara—many of whom are Sadrists—out of a job, by flexing his authority under emergency powers. There is even talk of air strikes against military targets—weapons depots, transportation vehicles and individuals—on the Iranian side of the fence; these are targets that are arming and otherwise supporting the Special Groups throughout Iraq.

The Maysan Province is home to the major ratline of supplies from Iran. It is also home to many Iranian agents inside of Iraq. As such, Mr. Kazimi states,

I expect the battle for Maysan to be difficult: this would be Iran’s last stand in Iraq. The fighting would also be occurring on topographical and human terrain that the Iranians have been studying and cultivating for decades. It could start incrementally, and the ante could be raised as the operation faces increased resistance, eventually leading to bombing runs inside Iran.

The province is worth watching. If a battle occurs in this region, it will mark the formal end of all friendly relations between Iraq and Iran and will fully test PM Maliki and his Security Forces.

For a full read, click here.

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Al-Sadr lawmakers denounce Iraqi government

From Yahoo via AP.

Lawmakers loyal to anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr accused the Iraqi government of trying to crush the movement and warned Saturday of "black clouds" on the horizon for truces that have eased fighting between al-Sadr's militia and security forces.

This statement was delivered by Sadr backed elements after Iraqi forces detained approximately 350 Sadr supporters this weekend in southern Baghdad and continues it pressure on Sadr forces in Basra. Sadrist lawmaker Aqeel Abdul-Hussein stated,

The government is "moving forward in its project to liquidate all the national figures in a more savage way than the previous (Saddam Hussein) regime," Abdul-Hussein told the press conference.

A couple things are interesting here.

1. The difference between the Maliki government and the Saddam government is that in 2009, if PM Maliki goes too far, his government can and will be voted out of office.

2. Sadr's forces are attempting to show the Maliki government is secular not understanding that Iraqis have always been and are becoming more and more secular daily. It is only a recent phenomena (2004-2007) where religious forces gained an upper hand in Iraq. This upper hand is now being lost again to secular forces, especally in the southern regions of Basra and Najaf, the western region of Al Anbar, and the northern region of Mosul. Non-secular figures and militia have caused the violent insurgency in Iraq.

3. Sadr's forces keep threatening to end the ceasefire, but constantly back down. Why? Everytime they end a ceasefire, Iraqi Security forces kill and detain them in numbers over 100 per day. They are able to do this not only because of their increased capacity, but also because this militia no longer enjoys the tacit support of the population. Al Qaeda used to have support from Sunnis. It no longer enjoys this support. Similarily, the Mahdi Army used to have this support among Shiites. It no longer enjoys this support, which is why is constantly backs down.

4. Iraqi Security Forces are seen as secular force which will ensure freedom and democracy in the region. Whether they have to battle extremists Shiites or Sunnis, they are doing their job professionally and effectively. All Sadr's spokesmen can do is to try to tarnish this image. However, they are not succeeding.

For a full read, click here.

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Tactical to Operational to Stategic

I have been asked why many of my posts begin at the tactical level and proceed to a strategic objective. Please let me elaborate.

Whenever a country employs its instruments of National Power (namely diplomatic, informational, military, and economic instruments) they should be tied to overarching strategic goals and objectives. As such, all tactical operations, especially in a counterinsurgency (COIN) environment have to be examined in the context of whether they are accomplishing operational goals and objectives which will ultimately lead to strategic objectives.

The President's strategic goal in Iraq is a unified democratic federal Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself, and sustain itself, and is an ally in the War on Terror. For the Middle East, change the word Iraq in the previous sentence to Middle East and one can clearly see the President's strategic goal for the region. For the broader Global War on Terror, change the words Middle East to Non-functioning Gap. The President will use all instruments of national power to move towards this strategic goal. For this purpose; however, let's focus on Iraq, the central front of the War on Terror.

Operationally, this strategic goal is translated into military, economic, and diplomatic objectives. The overarching military objectives in Iraq has always been to clear, secure, hold, and rebuild areas and regions within this country. Tactically, the military clears, secures and holds areas. Once areas are cleared and secured, State Department assets can begin to rebuild. Rebuilding promotes economic growth and employment while promoting a strong central government who, by rebuilding, is providing essential services to members of its country, enhancing its political (or diplomatic) prestige. With essential services provided, commerce will flourish, promoting the democracy, hence the government is in a sort of feedback loop. Security promotes economics which strengthens the government which promotes further security.

In a COIN environment, we not only have a strategic corporal, but we also have tactical successes which lend directly to strategic security and goals. The term "strategic corporal" states this very fact. A corporal is the smallest element of leadership within a tactical formation. His actions have far reaching strategic consequences in a COIN environment.

Similarly, small tactical actions also need to be examined for their strategic consequences through the operational framework of the region.

This is why I often bring small tactical actions through the operational framework of a region and into the strategic objectives laid out by the President. It is only by doing these mental calculations can we see whether tactical actions are nested appropriately into the strategic objectives.

Hence, the battles in Mosul which have netted almost 1,500 insurgents of which about 300 are "wanted" or Tier 1 or 2 insurgents, are looked at operationally throughout Iraq in conjunction with battles in Sadr City, Basra, and Diyala to see if operationally, we are moving in the right direction given the strategic goals in Iraq.

At times, these strategic goals in Iraq are discussed in broader goals for the Middle East in general. In addition, at times these strategic goals are looked at in terms of the non-functioning gap as a whole, which is where the Global War on Terror focuses.

Since our enemy has made Iraq its central front in the battle we call the War on Terror, Iraq, more than any country, provides easy examination of whether or not tactical actions are having the desired strategic affect. Its location, in the heart of the Middle East, and its ethno-religious make up, having Shiite, Sunni, and Kurds, helps us better understand how these different ethno-religious groups perceive our tactical, operational, and strategic actions.

The Global War on Terror's center of gravity is Iraq much as Baghdad, operationally, is the center of gravity in Iraq. Simultaneously, Mosul is tactically now the center of gravity for Al Qaeda as is Sadr City tactically the center of gravity for Sadr's Mahdi Army.

In conclusion, by stepping up and down the goals and objectives ladder from strategic to tactical and examining all these actions within a country's instruments of national power, we can see if tactical actions are having the desired strategic affect in an area or region. This very fact is why I often look at tactical battles and translate them to the broader strategic objectives in a region and at time the strategic objectives of the War on Terror in general.

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Iraq says Al-Qaeda cleared from main northern city

From Yahoo via AFP.

A 10-day operation by Iraqi troops in Mosul has succeeded in dismantling Al-Qaeda's network in Iraq's main northern city, regarded by US commanders as the jihadists' last urban bastion, the interior ministry said on Saturday.

"Operation 'Mother of Two Springs' has enabled us to dismantle and weaken the Al-Qaeda network in Nineveh province," ministry spokesman Abdel Karim Khalaf told AFP.

A total of 1,480 people have been detained since the operation began on May 14, 300 of them wanted suspects, Khalaf added.

"Among those arrested were important Al-Qaeda leaders, including both military commanders and intelligence chiefs, as well as members of Ansar al-Sunna, the Army of Mujahedeen and the Brigades of the 1920 Revolution," all Sunni Arab insurgent groups, he said.

In 12 days of operations, Iraqi forces with assistance from the US have captured 300 high-level insurgents or an average of 25 per day. Of the 1480 captured, about 1000 insurgents maintain in custody. Put another way, this is 83 insurgents taken off the street per day.

In case one is wondering if the right people have been captured, understand in the 12 days since operations "Mother of Two Springs" started, attacks in Mosul are down 85%.

Couple these reports with the report that nine local emirs were captured in Diyala, and one begins to see a pattern of a complete collapse of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Al Qaeda in Iraq's last unassailable base was Mosul. From Mosul, Al Qaeda in Iraq carried out operations in Salaldin and Diyala Provinces.

While, Al Qaeda in Iraq attempts to regain a foothold in Al Anbar, it has been run out of Diyala and Salaldin Provinces and fled north to Mosul. Now its forces are being rounded up in Mosul. Simultaneously, 3ID forces have all but cleared the Triangle of Death south of Baghdad. The Marines are keeping Al Anbar quite. All of this is against the backdrop of Sons Of Iraq forces still growing in numbers daily.

Which was once of force of a few thousand Al Qaeda members who enjoyed tacit or active support from the population is now a force which is having its leadership decapitated daily with Sons Of Iraq providing security once Iraqi and US forces clear towns and communities.

Operationally, PM Maliki's forces have cleared the South of Shiite militias and Special Groups and are now walking freely in Sadr City. The Kurdish north has always been secure and is propsering well. Al Anbar was cleared in early 2007. Now the center of the country, known as the belts around Baghdad are being cleared of insurgents to include their last city held, Mosul.

Strategically, since PM Maliki's forces led the charges in the South, Sadr City, and Mosul, his Army is being seen as having the capability to secure its own country. In fact, they are not only securing their own country, they are clearing insurgents out of their country. Secure is a defensive term while clearing is an offensive term.

Because his forces are now going after not only Sunni insurgents, but also Shiite insurgents, PM Maliki is buiding up trust among Sunnis (and Iraqis in general), who are going back into the government. His military successes have resulted in political reconciliation as a strong central government has emerged. This strong central government will now be expected to maintain the peace and also begin to provide essential services throughout the country, especially in recently cleared and secured areas.

With violence dropping 85% in most areas, PM Maliki must transition his efforts from gaining security to maintaining security and reconstruction. Reconstruction will lead to further reconciliation. Reconciliation will lead to a strong, unified, democratic government which will continue to build capacity to provide essential services and security to the populous. Once both of these are provided, the new democratic Iraq will shortly become an economic powerhouse in the region causing other nations in the region to wonder aloud why they are not enjoying the same economic freedoms as their Sunni, Shiite, or Kurdish brothers.

The one answer will be democracy which can maintain security while promoting economic prosperity. A fundamental shift is about to occur in the Middle East. This shift will be away from dictatorships to democratic governments which allow the common man to rise up from poverty through hard work and propser.

If 2007 was the turning point militarily in Iraq, 2008 will be seen as the turning point economically and politically. I predict 2009 and 2010 will be seen as the turning point politically in the region as a whole.

All of this has been made possible by a bold initiative began in early 2003 to replace a dictator and install a democratic government in the center of the Middle East for all other countries to emulate. Ronald Reagan got the Soviet Union to drop the wall and freed millions of people in Europe. George Bush destroyed a similar wall in the Middle East which also freed millions of people. Unlike Eastern Europe where a transfer to democracy was executed from the ground up, in the Middle East it was introduced from the top down simultaneously with security being formed from the bottom up.

Al Qaeda, Iranian Special Groups, and Shiite Militias have all been on the wrong side of this war for freedom and democracy. They are now suffering the consequences of their actions.

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Thousands in north Gaza without power after Palestinian truck bombing

From the International Herald Tribune.

Palestinian officials say around 200,000 people in northern Gaza don't have running water or power.

Electric company spokesman Jamal Darasawi says there hasn't been any power since Palestinian militants from Islamic Jihad detonated a truck bomb at a nearby border crossing last Thursday.

Kind of makes one wonder why the Israelis are fixing the power line.

For a full read, click here.

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Iraq: Police arrest senior al-Qaeda members

From AKI.

Two senior members of the Islamic State of Iraq extremist group have been arrested, according to police in Diyala province, north-east of the capital, Baghdad.

The Islamic State of Iraq is the umbrella name adopted by al-Qaeda groups in the country.

"On Sunday our battalion carried out a raid with the US forces in the area of Buhroz, arresting 29 terrorists," said the chief of police, according to a report in London-based Al-Hayat newspaper.

"Among those captured were nine local emirs of al-Qaeda."

If true, this raid and subsequent capture marks another significant blow to Al Qaeda in Iraq. An insurgency cannot maintain itself if it continues to lose Tier 1 and 2 insurgents at the rate which is happening during operation "Mother of Two Springs".

For a full read, click here.

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