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

New York

John McCa$h

From PoliPundit.

The John McCain campaign and Republican National Committee released very strong financial numbers that will even rival what “The Messiah” has been raking in. McCain’s take of $27 million alone in July, certainly gives off the impression that GOP voters are willing to stand by the candidate and make the race competitive money wise:

Michael Sparxx also quotes an AP article which states:

McCain has been a subpar fundraiser and has lagged the much-more adept Obama in monthly campaign tallies. But the RNC, with big-draw President Bush helping, has trounced its Democratic counterpart in collections. That has helped McCain and the GOP stay competitive financially with Obama and the Democratic National Committee.

It is interesting. I always see how President Bush's approval ratings are so low. However, when I ask people (from all over the country) they seem to either like President Bush or are ambivalent about him. Very rarely, do I meet a person that actually despises him. Of the few I meet who despise him, I ask why and they usually say something about how dumb he is. When I delve further, they either cannot come up with any particular reason for being dumb or state he does not speak well. I usually reply with he speaks well enough to become president and that usually ends the discussion.

Now, this AP article states the RNC is using President Bush to ensure a "big-draw" in fundraising.

Low approval ratings. Dumb president, yet big-draw for fundraising. This is one of those things that make you go Hmmmm.

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Govt's writ in tribal areas to be ensured: PM Gilani

From Dawn.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani Friday said the writ of the government in the tribal areas will be ensured and sought opposition's cooperation in this regard. Speaking in the National Assembly in response to Aftab Ahmed Sherpao's point of order he said: “We are here to protect the life and property of the people...otherwise I have no right to be the prime minister.” He repeated government's resolve to political dialogue with those who were ready to lay down arms and urged the tribesmen to dissociate themselves from the militants. Stating that the militants were exploiting people in tribal areas due to lack of education, economic development and other basic amenities of life, Gilani said the government wanted development of tribal areas and would use force only as the last resort. He said the provincial government entered into agreements with the local people to maintain peace but regretted that girls schools, CDs and barber shops were torched and FC people were targeted. “The writ of the government was challenged which necessitated the action.” On Thursday, he said, some terrorists were nabbed from Rawalpindi and Karachi and added that there was a network of terrorists operating in the country. He said in view of the situation in the tribal areas, members of National Assembly and Senate from FATA were given briefing by the army chief. He also said that such elements were mostly foreigners including Chechens and Uzbeks.


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Diyala governor survives potential coup d’état, suicide bomber

The Long War Journal provides an insight into Diyala from the tactical to operational level.

Governor Ra’ad Rashid al Tamini didn’t seem in an overly jovial mood on Wednesday, even if his aides all agreed on his high spirits. An outsider may say his face displayed more relief than joy, which is no surprise: firing your militant police chief, then surviving an assassination attempt and a coup d’état in a two-day period can wind even the most talented of political athletes.

The article continues with a central issue in securing and re-invigorating Diyala, namely, establishment of civilian government control in the region with support from a strong military and police force to further promote immediate security and long-term economic development. To accomplish this overall objective, the Diyala provincial council decided to fire it police chief who, according to the council, was not doing enough to promote security in the province.

In Diyala, north of Baghdad, months of a “cold war” between al Tamini and the provincial police chief, Ghanem al Qurayshi, came to an end Aug. 10. Diyala’s provincial council voted 36-0 to oust the police chief, after numerous run-ins with councilors and the governor over the extent of his police authority. Even after the vote, the central government in Baghdad could have countermanded the decision, given al Qurayshi’s close ties to power brokers within the Shia-based political parties.

“We have enforced the laws,” said al Tamini in an interview. “Our society will improve so much if we can educate people about how the law strengthens the country. It was the first time the provincial council applauded for me. The decision came from their hearts.”

Diyala, in many instances, is a microcosm of Iraq. The province encompasses areas of Kurdish, Sunni, and Shia influence. It is a mostly agrarian community which provides agricultural staples to other provinces. Its cities, more like towns, are a diverse mix of farmers, craftsmen, tribal chiefs, and technocrats. Tribal influence in this region is strong in many outlying areas and less organized in other areas. In some parts of the province, it is arid while other parts are lush giving it the name the bread-basket of Iraq. Due to its relative position from Baghdad, its security is vital to securing Baghdad which is why it became the center of activity for Al Qaeda in Iraq.

As such, Diyala residents have seen their share of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Iraqi government officials, local military officials, and US forces. Given that Diyala was the last bastion of control for Al Qaeda in Iraq, it is also possibly the most war torn and least effectively governed at this time. This vast province serves as a vital line of communication from Kurdish areas to the north, the central government to the south, Iran to the east, and Al Anbar to the West.

Securing Diyala starts with ridding the province of insurgents and then establishing the rule of law as al Tamini pointed out above. It continues with economic development in all aspects of society from farming, craftsmen, technocrats, and security forces. Economic development is now the key in Diyala. one hundred million dollars have been promised to the area. This money needs to get down to the local farmers in the form of microloads which will promote economic development, infrastructure development which will provide jobs for craftsmen, and government jobs which will allow people in the province to have a say in their future development. The security forces need vehicles and supplies to maneuver around the province to further promote security.

Having just come from this region, it has a strong provincial reconstruction team (PRT), a solid military and police transition team (MTT/PTT), a capable military and police force combined with a capable and committed civilian government which is linked with US forces to promote longterm security and economic development. The severe drought in the region is complicating economic recovery as have past battles which pitted neighbor against neighbor. Relationships need to be rebuilt, not only between neighbors, but also between citizens and government officials, government officials and security forces, and finally tribal leaders and government all while trying to defeat the last vestiges of Al Qaeda in Iraq from the region.

PM Maliki's efforts in the region will jump start security. Now it is up to Iraqi government officials, the Iraqi military and police, PRTs, MTTs/PTTS, and the US military all working in concert to bring economic vitality back to this wartorn region. The efforts in this region encompass all forms of economic development from vegetable farmers to chicken coup ranchers, craftsmen who provide implements for these farmers and ranchers, and development of the oil sector within this region. Efforts must be moved forward while keeping tribal leaders, businessmen, and government officials all focused on the end result, namely, a free democratic province with a diverse economy which could once again become the bread-basket of Iraq, not only in terms of agriculture, but also in terms of small industry and local government initiatives.

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Police hail round-up of al Qaeda suspects

The Miami Herald provides a good insight into what is currently happening in Diyala at the strategic and operational level.

More than 600 arrests of high-level and not-so-high-level al Qaeda in Iraq suspects have been made here in the last two weeks. There have been some major rough spots -- insurgents have mounted at least three lethal attacks against Iraqi security forces, and they tried to kill the provincial governor Tuesday -- but it seems that Operation Glad Tidings, which brought more than 30,000 Iraqi troops and policemen into Baqouba and the surrounding countryside of Diyala province, is moving from the clear-and-hold phase to the public relations phase.

However, reconstruction money has not yet been delivered or spent within the province.

A $100 million reconstruction fund has been announced but not a penny of it has been spent, and the committee that will decide how to spend it does not exist yet.

''We are not strangers,'' Ghaidan said at a neighborhood meeting to 120 displaced families who were sitting before him under an awning. "We know what happened here. There is unemployment, yes. Al Qaeda stopped everything -- government, services -- and most people got threats."

"We know all this. We have come to solve all these problems. Government has many gates, but the Ministry of Defense will open them for you.''

The families listened appreciatively, but when the general finished and walked toward his truck, dozens of mothers in their black abayas pushed toward him. They wanted prosperity, but all that the general had to offer, for the moment, was water and boxes of rice.

Diyala is one of the last bastions of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Currently the Iraqi military is conducting clearing operations in this region and from the story, beginning to transition to rebuilding operations. Getting the economy restarted is extremely important as Al Qaeda in Iraq completely wiped out the bustling economics of this region. To add to misery, a severe drought is continuing so that even basic supplies are in short supply. How the Iraqi Government helps Diyala may very well be indicative of the path the nation, as a whole, takes in the future.

For a full read, click here.

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South Ossetia: The perfect wrong war

From Walid Phares writing for the American Thinker about the current war in Georgia. As for what caused it, he writes.

Five reasons led to transformations: One was the shift of Georgia to NATO and friendship to Washington; two was a shift in Moscow from good relations with the US under Yeltsin and the first years of Putin to more tense relations in the last Putin years; three was the active participation of Georgia in US-led activities in Iraq; four were the Ossetians' continuous aspirations towards self determination; and last but not least, the breakdown of friendship between the West and Russia since the Kosovo resolution few months ago, the real last straw.

How is Kosovo and Georgia linked?

Since 1999, the outcome of the Western campaign in Kosovo brought about a parallel status quo to the one established in South Ossetia and in Abkhasia. In short, NATO had created an autonomous area for the ethnic Albanians inside a sovereign country, Serbia; while Russia and the CIS have insured autonomous status for South Ossetians and Abkhasians inside another sovereign state, Georgia.

For a very interesting read, click here.

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Taliban win a fight - and settle scores (- As do others in the global match for control)

From Syed Saleem Shahzad writing for the Asia Times Online.

When several hundred Pakistani troops backed by paramilitary forces on Friday launched an operation against militants in Bajaur Agency in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas of Pakistan on the border with Afghanistan, they received a most unwelcome surprise.

News of the offensive, which proved to be the most bloody this year in Pakistan, had been leaked to the Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaeda militants by sympathizers in the security forces, and the army walked into a literal hail of bullets.

In the first few hours, 65 Pakistani Soldiers were killed, 25 were taken prisoner, and several more were wounded. Furthermore, in the article Shahzad notes,

On Wednesday morning, Haji Namdar, the chief of the "Vice and Virtue" organization in Khyber Agency, a tribal region on the Afghan border, was gunned down in his office by Baitullah's men.

Although Namdar supported the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan, he was a strategic asset for the Pakistani security agencies trying to wipe out al-Qaeda-influenced radicals and the neo-Taliban.

In April, he sold out the Taliban after initially agreeing to help them target the North Atlantic Treaty Organization supply lines passing through Khyber Agency. (See Taliban bitten by a snake in the grass Asia Times Online, April 26, 2008.) Namdar had survived an earlier suicide attack in which about 30 people died.

The above linked story is great read to understand why Namdar was killed. In another story in the Asia Times Online, Syed Saleem Shahzad reviews Al Qaeda's/The Taliban's strategy.

The Taliban and al-Qaeda have with some success squeezed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's (NATO's)supply lines that run through Pakistan into Afghanistan, especially goods in transit in Khyber Agency on the border.

He continues with the Taliban's two major objectives,

An al-Qaeda member told Asia Times Online on condition of anonymity, "The single strategy of severing NATO's supply lines from Pakistan is the key to success. If the blockage is successfully implemented in 2008, the Western coalition will be forced to leave Afghanistan in 2009, and if implemented next year, the exit is certain by 2010."

Several al-Qaeda cells have apparently been activated in Karachi to monitor the movement of NATO supply convoys.

This focus on Karachi coincides with two major events. First, the Pakistani armed forces are heavily engaged in fighting against militants in Bajaur Agency and in the Swat Valley in the tribal areas along the Afghan border.

At the same time, the coalition government in Islamabad is preparing to impeach Washington's point man in the region, President Pervez Musharraf, mainly over his implementation of a state of emergency and dismissal of the judiciary last year when he headed a military administration

Later Mr. Shahzad notes,

NATO is understandably acutely concerned over protecting its supply lines into land-locked Afghanistan. When routes in Khyber Agency came under attack this year, NATO reached an agreement with Russia for some goods to transit through Russian territory. This alternative is costly, though, given the distances involved, and can only be used in emergencies.

Washington tried to get Iran to permit the passage of goods from its seaports into neighboring Afghanistan, but Tehran refused point-blank.

Now we are beginning to see the bigger geo-strategic picture, especially when tying together other players in this region. Iran, to no surprise refused to allow supplies thru its territory. In addition, America has had a pretty timid response with regards to Russia and its ongoing actions in Georgia. Finally, Isreal is also in the mix.

With the eruption of fighting between Russia and Georgia, Israel has found itself in an awkward position as a result of its arms sales to Georgia. Israel is now caught between its friendly relations with Georgia and its fear that the continued sale of weaponry will spark Russian retribution in the form of increased arms sales to Iran and Syria.

So, American supplies lines are threatened in Pakistan, especially with the death of Namdar. The only other option available is bringing supplies thru Russia, who could quickly turn this supply line off if the US interferes with its Georgia operations. Israel, who supplies arms to Georgia, is hard-pressed to continue to supply Georgia as Russia may retaliate by sending more arms to Iran, hindering its ability to reduce a potential nuclear threat from Iran. Finally, we have an article from an earlier Rambling from the Rock post about a naval task force composed of the US, Britian, and France on station at the Persian Gulf with a Russian naval task force in the Mediterranean

All the parties/players in this region are positioning themselves for control in key oil producing or oil shipping regions. A storm is coming, make no doubt about it. Who ultimately comes out victorious may well decide control of this region for decades to come.

Noting the coming storm, all parties may settle for a win-win proposition. Russian wants to reclaim Georgia and have control of its strategic oil fields and pipeline. Israel wants to diminish Iran's nuclear capability, as does all the other players, to include Russia. Russia; however, wants to limit US influence in its backyard, the Middle East, and therefore has no problem giving Iran nuclear technologies to keep the US focused on this enemy and not on its own actions in the Caucus region. For its part, Russia can continue to sell nuclear material to Iran knowing down the road the Iranian nuclear program has a good possibility of being bombed out of existence by Britian, France, the US, and/or Israel.

The staging of its (Russia's) naval task force close to, but in a position to not affect, an allied attack shows its supports Iran, but unfortunately could not come to its aid (in direct action against the US or its western allies which it fears). Therefore Russia continues to have good relations with Iran, possibly beginning again to build its nuclear capability, and in the meantime swallows up Georgia with future sites on the Ukraine. It becomes a winner with more capability down the road.

The reduction of Iran's nuclear ability will be the winning game for Britian, France, Israel, and the US, if they have the nerve to attack. If not, Russia wins this battle also. If they do attack, Russia still wins Georgia and can continue to resupply Iran and maintain influence in the Middle East.

If the US decided to blunt the attack in Georgia and attack Iran, Russia could assist the Taliban in closing the Khyber Pass supply line and close its own, or better yet, keep it open at a hefty cost. Russia still wins, but to a lesser extent. Russia could also decide to supply Iran with better air defense missiles allowing it to still influence Iraq without fear of retribution, thus continuing to tie up Allied forces in Iraq. As it stands now, the coalition just lost another partner in Iraq as 2000 Georgian troops are flying home to defend their country.

All the chess pieces are on the board. Now it is just a matter of future moves, counter-moves, and reactions. The permutations are endless, but the winners and losers are already identified.

Now for a lesson in global politics and strategy. Do you want to be a country in the global politics who can influence and defend its own future path or a country who depends on others to influence its future path? Personally, I want to be part of a country which has major pieces on the chess board to determine its own future path as opposed to a featherweight boxer in the ring with a heavyweight boxer.

The USA is the heavyweight champion in the realm of global politics and strategy. Russia is the contender who has been beaten once but is inline for a rematch. All others are lesser contenders who need the support of either of these two heavyweights to have say in the modern world.

As we move closer to another general election where the candidates are clearly for and against a military or other presence in the Middle East, we must keep in mind what is truly at stake. At stake is whether we will be the heavyweight champion in the region, the beaten contender, or just another featherweight boxer who needs a heavyweights assistance to have any say in global strategy and in the global economy. To me, the choice is easy.

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Missiles kill 10 militants South Waziristan tribal region

From Dawn.

At least 10 militants were reported killed when four missiles fired from Afghanistan hit their hideouts in a Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal region, officials said Wednesday. The missiles struck two militant hideouts in Baghar village in the area Tuesday night, a senior security official told AFP. “At least 10 militants were killed in the strikes according to our initial reports,” he said.

What is interesting about this release is the missiles apparently came from Afghanistan. APF via Yahoo is reporting

In Kabul, the US military said the missiles were not fired by either NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) or the US-led coalition.

"This is not true. We have no reports of missiles being fired into Pakistan," US-led coalition spokesman Lieutenant Nathan Perry told AFP.

The US Central Intelligence Agency is also known to operate pilotless drone aircraft armed with missiles, but it was not available for comment.

The initial story from Dawn makes it seem like surface-to-surface missiles. However, the Yahoo story seems to link missiles from a Predator aircraft, which would seem more realistic. We will continue to monitor the story for more details.

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SPECIAL REPORT: Kuwait Readying for War in Gulf?

From the Middle East Times.

The US, Britian, and France are assembling a large naval force in Persian Gulf.

Leading the pack is the nuclear-powered carrier, the USS Theodore Roosevelt and its Carrier Strike Group Two; besides its 80-plus combat planes the Roosevelt normally transports, it is carrying an additional load of French Naval Rafale fighter jets from the French carrier Charles de Gaulle, currently in dry dock.

Also reported heading toward Iran is another nuclear-powered carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan and its Carrier Strike Group Seven; the USS Iwo Jima, the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and a number of French warships, including the nuclear hunter-killer submarine Amethyste.

Once the naval force arrives in the Gulf region it will be joining two other U.S. naval battle groups already on site: the USS Abraham Lincoln and the USS Peleliu; the Lincoln with its carrier strike group and the latter with an expeditionary strike group.

Just how big is this task force and why is it being established?

This deployment is the largest naval task force from the United States and allied countries to assemble in the strategic waters of the Persian Gulf since the two Gulf wars.

The object of the naval deployment would be to enforce an eventual blockade on Iran, if as expected by many observers, current negotiations with the Islamic republic over its insistence to pursue enrichment of uranium, allowing it, eventually, to produce nuclear weapons yields no results.

Is Russia also getting into the act or strategically positioning itself where it cannot assist Iran since it would have to fly over Iraq to offer such assistance?

Adding to the volatility is the presence of a major Russian navy deployment affected earlier this year to the eastern Mediterranean comprising the jewel of the Russian fleet, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov with approximately 50 Su-33 warplanes that have the capacity for mid-air refueling. This means the Russian warplanes could reach the Gulf from the Mediterranean, a distance of some 850 miles and would be forced to fly over Syria (not a problem) but Iraq as well, where the skies are controlled by the U.S. military, and the guided missile heavy cruiser Moskva. The Russian task force is believed to be composed of no less than a dozen warships as well as several submarines.

Only time will tell, but the naval task force being assembled is significant to say the least.

For a full read, click here.

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Al Qaeda's brutality alienates Iraqis

From Stuff.com.

From the slaughter of children to edicts against suggestively shaped vegetables, al Qaeda's brutality and its imposition of severe Islamic laws have been crucial to its decline in Iraq.

Its enforcement of a severe form of Sunni Islam in areas it controlled made everyday life miserable, sapping support among the people for its campaign against US and Iraqi forces.

"I saw them slaughter a nine-year old boy like a sheep because his family didn't pledge allegiance to them," said Sheikh Hameed al-Hayyes, an influential Sunni tribal leader from the former al Qaeda stronghold of Anbar province in Iraq's west.

Al Qaeda has worn out their welcome in Iraq due to their brutality. As I have stated before, Al Qaeda wears out their welcome wherever they house themselves due to their extremist ideology. Most folks just want the chance to earn a decent living for their family in a safe and secure environment. Iraqis, for the most part, now have this chance and this security. Another reason Al Qaeda wore out their welcome in Iraq so quickly is noted below.

Until the overthrow of former President Saddam Hussein in 2003 Iraq was largely secular in outlook. Iraqis of different sects and ethnicities intermarried, women would dress in jeans and T-shirts and Baghdad was packed with bars and discos.

Most Iraqis are Shi'ites, a Muslim denomination that al Qaeda's Sunnis consider heretical. The country is also home to Christians and members of other faiths, and al Qaeda has targeted Kurds even though many are Sunni Muslims.

Iraq has always been a generally secular country, deep with tribal tradition and influence. This situation is true of much of the muslim world and is a weakness for Al Qaeda which US strategy must pursue.

As we see in Iraq, Al Qaeda is extremely brutal. This brutality can only be defeated by a strong military presence which hunts down and destroys Al Qaeda cells and leaders. The surged helped Iraqis break the back of Al Qaeda in Iraq. Iraq is a lesson for Pakistan, Afghanistan, and other countries where Al Qaeda hangs it hat. Al Qaeda cannot be negotiated with. It cannot be cajoled. It must be hunted endlessly and destroyed. Just as it has been hunted and destroyed in Iraq, it must be hunted and destroyed in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This new form of battle, namely an Islamic Insurgency, will be around for some time to come as it gains strength in this area, but loses it in that area. By putting a democracy in the heart of the Middle East, the US is providing all Islamic countries a beacon of freedom and democracy to emulate. Al Qaeda's defeat in Iraq is significant and a major setback for Al Qaeda, and other Islamic extremist organizations the world over. This extremist ideology must be fought by the free flow of information, not by weapons and Soldiers. Weapons and Soldiers can defeat Al Qaeda in a region, but only people freely conversing can destroy the core of Al Qaeda or other extremist organizations.

The US military did the right thing to unseat Saddam. It allowed Iraq to freely chose a way ahead for their country and their culture. Al Qaeda attempted to interfere with this free choice, as did Sadr's militia. Both have lost to the free flow of information and democracy.

The Iraqi model for destruction of a tyrant and subsequent defeat of an extremist insurgency is a model for all people who wish to be part of a free and democratic state in the future. Afghanistan is following this example. Pakistan is just starting to follow this model.

The old saying, "Freedom is not free" is just as true today as it has been in times past. Freedom and democracy must be defended, at times violently. Tyrants, whether in charge of a country, like Saddam, or a movement, like Bin Laden, must be destroyed. Democracy must be defended, sometimes with one's life. Only then, can democracy grow and flourish to benefit a people or a nation. Iraq is truly the model to defeat a tyranny and to grow a democracy.

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