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

New York

By the Book: How Democracies Perish

From the American Thinker.

Exaggerated self-criticism would be a harmless luxury of civilization if there were no enemy at the gate condemning democracy's very existence. But it becomes dangerous when it portrays its mortal enemy as always being in the right. Extravagant criticism is a good propaganda device in internal politics. But if it is repeated often enough, it is finally believed. And where will the citizens of democratic societies find reasons to resist the enemy outside if they are persuaded from childhood that their civilization is merely an accumulation of failures and a monstrous imposture?

- Jean Francois Revel, How Democracies Perish

Sounds like a good book to read, understand, and examine how political entities use exaggerated self-criticism and extravagant criticism to undermine a democracy from within. I have often seen both of these traits among Americans. In the last year, I have also seen it among Iraqis. It is an interesting premise worth reading, understanding, and debating.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Armed groups cross into Iraq for attacks

From Alsumaria.

Dhi Qar police chief Sabah Al Fitlawi affirmed that extremist armed groups that have trained in Iran have entered the country the last past days in aim to execute bombings targeting senior officials. Al Fitlawi noted that these special groups which include each 10 militants have crossed the borders from Iran into Amara City. He asserted that these forces are targeted against officials around Iraq mainly in Al Nassiriya. He clarified that local authorities have intensified security measures and banned circulation of motorcycles.

This action from Iran will be a good test for Iraqi Security and Coalition Forces' ability to track down these Special Group militants and detain/kill them. PM Maliki's recent surges in Basra, Maysan, and Sadr City effectively defeated Special Groups in Iraq causing them to either die in battle, disperse and go to ground, or retreat back to Iran.

Iran has been training Special Groups in an attempt to re-establish their influence within Iran. From this article it appears the training is complete (of at least the first group) and Iran is wanting to re-establish their influence as quickly as possible.

A couple of points here are worth mentioning.

1. Al Qaeda was defeated in Iraq due to its extremism and attacking the population it initially supported. These two factors resulted combined with the surge of American forces to provide seucrity for the population resulted in its loss of tacit support and therefore its unassailable base among the population. The same can be said for Sadr's militia and Special Groups. While initially providing essential services for the population, these entities quickly showed their extremism and attacked the very population which was protecting them resulting, over time, in their loss of popular or tacit support thereby losing their unassailable base leading to their downfall.

2. The capability of the Iraqi Security Forces allows it to protect the population now. Can it defend the country from external major combat operations? No, but it can protect the population from externally led insurgencies and has ties to several people who inform on militants. This fact is how they were able to diminish and almost eliminate Iranian influence in Basra, Maysan, and Sadr City.

3. The Iraqi government is providing essential services now to most Iraqis. While limited, projects are underway for better and more efficient services. Commerce is beginning to take hold in the country, not only in Baghdad, but also in smaller townships. While significant problems still exist, they are being resolved slowly but surely.

4. The recent violence is still fresh in many Iraqis minds. They do not want to return to violent extremism of 2006. Special Groups coming into communities will not be welcomed and I predict will be informed upon. Expect to see ISOF operations in the near future taking down these groups once they attempt to establish a base of operations from which to launch attacks.

5. These Special Groups may get one or more attacks off. If they do, the possible renewed violence will have many groups informing on these Special Groups further limiting their ability to carry out future attacks.

Iran needs to quit these forms of operations as it will only hurt their political and economic impact they could have within Iraq. Iran is still trying to stir up insurrection to keep the US military consumed in Iraq. However, the game has changed and Iraq is moving from a war to nation building. Iran's attempt to bring back a state of war will fail as ISF capacity is now too great to allow large scale open warfare by an insurgency. In addition, Coalition force numbers are still too great to allow this to happen.

There are many within Iraq who would favor much Iranian influence in Iraq; however, not by an insurgency or Special Groups. Iran's major influence in Iraq right now could be political. Trying to re-establish an insurgency will only hurt their political efforts.

The Hezbollah model used in Lebanon will not work in Iraq as Iraq has a robust provincial and tribal influence which makes it down to the normal Iraqi and provides for the tribe. Unlike Lebanon, reconciliation in Iraq started from the bottom up vice the top down. The only places where this model had hopes of florishing were Basra, Maysan, and Sadr City. All of these places and their inhabitants are now better off without Iranian Special Group influence and the people know it. Commerce quickly came back to Basra and Sadr City once Special Groups were contained/defeated. In additon, oil wealth is making it down to these groups already. This fact will only become more and more evident as essential services become more and more robust.

Attacks will also not work as they will only spur popular dissent against these groups.

Iran's best bet at this time is to attempt to influence the government. Unfortunately, its major power brokers in this realm is Sadr and his political members who are walking on egg shells at this time as they have lost popular support especially in Basra, Maysan, and Sadr City. Also unfortunately, Sistani, the revered spiritual leader in Iraq, is very much against a theocracy and has stayed out of polititics as the country develops its democratic ways.

Given its goal of maintaining an isurgency to keep the US tied down, Iran has no other good choice, in the near term, except to bring in Special Groups to continue or promote an bloodshed. While it may get off a spectacular attack, I predict this project will fail miserably as Iraqis are tired of war, are finally experiencing what a free, democratic society can do for them, and are quite frankly liking it.

Once this project fails, Iran will continue to train Sadr and wait for Sistani's death in the hope that they can re-introduce Sadr as an Ayatollah. However, by that time, democracy should be so ingrained in Iraq that this religious influence will be seen as an infringement of democratic rights. That is why Sistani is allowing this democracy to learn and grow without religious influence right now. He understands that while a democracy will keep the church and state separate, a strong democracy can lead to a strong conservative religious movement which can benefit from the power of the secular state.

This fact is lost on leadership of Iran which has a strong religious totalitarian state which must suppress its people to maintain control. However, it is not lost on its people who will shortly see that crossing over the border to Iraq will allow for democratic freedoms they have been lacking for almost 30 years. This fact is what Iran truly fears most. It is a fact which all totalitarian states in the region fear most, and it is why all these states allowed members from their soil enter Iraq to attempt to destroy the young democracy.

For its part, the US must maintain a strong presence in Iraq until successful handover of power from pronvincial and national elections. At that point, the democracy in Iraq will be unstoppable for Iraqis have given what is needed to allow for a successful democracy to persist and flourish. Namely, they have given their blood. The current generation will not soon forget this very gruesome fact.

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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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Violence Leaves Young Iraqis Doubting Clerics

From The New York Times.

After almost five years of war, many young people in Iraq, exhausted by constant firsthand exposure to the violence of religious extremism, say they have grown disillusioned with religious leaders and skeptical of the faith that they preach.

In two months of interviews with 40 young people in five Iraqi cities, a pattern of disenchantment emerged, in which young Iraqis, both poor and middle class, blamed clerics for the violence and the restrictions that have narrowed their lives.

This disillusionment with extremism is part of the "intellectual turbulence" discussed several times in this blog and continues to present itself in Islamic culture. This New York Times Article reflects first hand accounts of disillusionment with extremist Islam regardless of faith, whether Sunni or Shiite. This disillusionment was discussed in an earlier blog entitled, "Old Jihad, New Jihad". While the Al-Ahram Weekly article misses the true nature of the reformation which is occuring in Islam, it is an insightful article to discuss the intellectual turbulence which is happening in the Muslim world.

The old Jihad is external jihad against the infidel. It is the jihad that led to the World Trade Center attacks. It is the jihad which saw the rise to power of the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is the jihad which saw the rise of Al Qaeda in Iraq. The new jihad is an internal struggle. It is truly the "old" jihad discussed in the Koran but has been co-opted by radical Islamists as an external struggle.

The New York Times article provides a chronological account of changes among the faithful in Iraq. When freed from Saddam's tyranny, Shiites became extremely religious. The article notes in 2003, one could not find room to pray in a mosque. In 2004, many younger people took up Jihad, both Shiites and Sunnis. This jihad caused actions like the following.

Zane Mohammed, a gangly 19-year-old with an earnest face, watched with curiosity as the first Islamists in his Baghdad neighborhood came to barbershops, tea parlors and carpentry stores before taking over the mosques. They were neither uneducated nor poor, he said, though they focused on those who were.

Then, one morning while waiting for a bus to school, he watched a man walk up to a neighbor, a college professor whose sect Mr. Mohammed did not know, shoot the neighbor at point blank range three times, and walk back to his car as calmly “as if he was leaving a grocery store.”

Indiscriminant killings of innocent Muslims became the norm in 2004 and 2005. By 2006, many groups, most notably the Sunnis in Al Anbar begin to question this religious extremism. In response, Al Qaeda attacked and killed tribal leaders and their followers. Tribes turned to Marines for help and thus began the Awakening movement. The surge of 2007 provided the military resources to fight against extremists, not only Sunni, but also Shiite. The surge happened to occur during a time when Iraqis were beginning to questioning the more extreme members in their sects.

2008 is a year in which violence has subsided and people are looking back and wondering how all this death and destruction occurred over the last five years in Iraq. It was not at the hands of the Americans. It was, in fact, at the hands of the extremists, both Sunni and Shiite. What allows it to persist and gain followers is the unemployed and uneducated, as noted in the above quote from Zane Mohammed.

However, America has brought to Iraq democracy and freedom. With democracy, people have the right to choose. With democracy, economic strength of individuals grow and flourish. With freedom, people have the right pursue happiness. The war in Iraq for the last four years has been like a college education for most Iraqis. The Iraqi choice is a more secular, religiously tolerant society, not unlike the religious undertones present in American society today.

What we are seeing now is a backlash against Islamists noted by the quote below.

“I used to love Osama bin Laden,” proclaimed a 24-year-old Iraqi college student. She was referring to how she felt before the war took hold in her native Baghdad. The Sept. 11, 2001, strike at American supremacy was satisfying, and the deaths abstract.

Now, the student recites the familiar complaints: Her college has segregated the security checks; guards told her to stop wearing a revealing skirt; she covers her head for safety.

“Now I hate Islam,” she said, sitting in her family’s unadorned living room in central Baghdad. “Al Qaeda and the Mahdi Army are spreading hatred. People are being killed for nothing.”

It is not that this person hates Islam as she states. Instead, she hates what Islam has become. She hates the external jihad controlled by Islamists. She, and many other Iraqis, have began their internal jihad, questioning indiscriminant killings of not only fellow Iraqis, but also of American forces which brought her democracy and freedom. Iraqis are also questioning religious leaders. Why cannot she wear a skirt? Why cannot women go to beauty parlors which have gone underground in Iraq, but continue to flourish. Why indeed?

I have expressed several times in this blog that Iraq is the beacon of democracy continuing to shine brighter each day in the Middle East. It is becoming economically strong and will become the economic powerhouse in the Middle East due to the democracy that America established and the Iraqis have fought so hard to make work. It will change Islam since it has all faiths in it, Shiite, Sunni, Kurd, Turkman, Christian, and Jew. Due to the freedom which America gave it, it is beginning to change Islam back to the Islam of old, the internal jihad, or struggle, in which individuals look for spiritual enlightenment not by going to a mosque, wearing vails, or killing innocent people, but by trying to become a better person internally.

This same intellectual turbulence is expressing itself in Pakistan which is why tribal leaders are turning against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. This same intellectual turbulence is expressing itself in Lebanon which is why Hezbollah does not have the popularity to lead a revolt against the March 14 led government. This intellectual turbulence will shortly express itself in Iran in upcoming elections.

What is interesting is had not President Bush invaded Iraq and then had the fortitude to surge forces in 2007, this intellectual turbulence would have been suppressed and quite possibly stamped out. However, not only has the surge defeated Al Qaeda in Iraq, but it also weaken Shiite militias like Sadr's Mahdi Army. It prevented Hezbollah from siezing control in Lebanon. It allowed for the first democractically elected government to come to power in free and fair elections in Pakistan. It indirectly caused the splitting of Palestinian factions. It allowed for the propagation of intellectual turbulence. It will result in the reformation of Islam not unlike the reformation which occurred in Christianity hundreds of years ago. It will allow Islam to come into and be part of the 21st century and contribute to the global economy.

The Bush Doctrine was a bold experiment. It has had many trials and tribulations. It has however succeeded in establishing an Islamic democracy in the center of the Middle East which will continue to shine brighter and brighter each day. It will drastically change the Middle East in the years to come.

Democracy is not something which can be given to a people. It must be earned. It must be fought for and in the fight for democracy, people engage in war and unfortunately die. But in the end, those who successfuly fight for democracy are blessed by those inalienable rights so eloquently written by Thomas Jefferson: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness causes intellectual turbulence in strict societies which is precisely what is now occurring in Islam and what occurred in Christianity several hundred years ago.

One final note. The reason I tie the Protestant Reformation of 1517, the American Declaration of Independence of 1776, and Operation Enduring/Iraqi Freedom of 2001 together is because they so vastly changed (and will change) the world.

Adam and Eve not only gave us original sin, but they also gave us choice, choice to do right and wrong. Jesus Christ gave us forgiveness of our sins and asked us only to do unto others as we would have them do to us. The Protestant Reformation of 1517 began by Luther expressed that sinners must have a genuine change of heart to be forgiven by Christ and allowed into heaven. The Declaration of Independence 0f 1776 more specifically laid out that we were endowed by our creator with certain unalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. To ensure these rights, government are instituted among people and derive their power from the consent of the governed. If a government becomes destructive to these ends, we have a right to alter it and abolish it. This abolition of extremism is precisely what President Bush gave to Aghanis and Iraqis. This abolition of extremism is creating intellectual turbulence in the Muslim world today. In the future, Iraq will return the favor as it frees countless others living in tyranny in the Middle East.

The process of enlightenment that began several millennia ago with Adam and Eve, possibly in the very country of Iraq, has now come full circle. It is noteworthy to remember Adam and Eve did not eat from the Tree of Life, but instead ate from the Tree of Knowledge. Knowledge gave humankind liberty, the ability to chose right and wrong. Democracy gave humankind the ability to pursue happiness. Both together will give us ability to enjoy everlasting life. One can only imagine God's joy in what his children have learned.

While I like many others would rather see life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness occur without death and violence, it must be remembered that freedom isn't free. It is born out of the sweat, blood, and death of the brave.

For President Bush, I salute you for the bold undertaking to instill democracy in the Muslim world. More importantly, I salute you for having the fortitude to surge forces when many were crying for withdraw. For all who have made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom, you enjoy everlasting life because you gave liberty and allowed others to pursue happiness. You had a genuine change of heart, a compassion for others, as described by Martin Luther. You chose the harder right instead of the easier wrong, a choice given to us by Adam and Eve, in their orignal home.

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Old jihad, new jihad

From Amr Elshoubaki writing for the Al-Ahram Weekly.

The recent ideological retractions of Sayed Imam El-Sherif, founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, mark the beginning of a major departure from the theological underpinnings that governed the militant Islamist organisation's actions in the 1980s and 1990s. The ideological shift -- probably more than practical realities -- will make it extremely difficult for the organisation and those inspired by it to revert to violence and terrorism.

In Correct Guidance of the Jihad in Egypt and the World, Sheikh Imam writes,

On fighting unjust rule, Sheikh Imam holds, contrary to his earlier stance, that insurrection can result in many evils. During recent decades, he writes, Muslim countries have experienced numerous incidents of insurrection in the name of holy war and with the purpose of establishing the rule of Islamic law in these countries. These incidents gave rise to grave ills at the level of Islamic groups and at the level of the countries in which they occurred. Wrong is not redressed by a like wrong, and certainly not by a worse wrong. (emphasis added)

Understand, this is the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad stating "the ends do not justify the means." The "ends justifying the means" is exactly why suicide bombers feel it is within the parameters of jihad to kill oneself and civilians. However, Mr. Elshoubaki does not feel this refutation of earlier writings will affect current jihadists which he labels the "new jihad".

Sheikh Imam's revisions are undoubtedly sincere and historic. But they will not influence the new terrorist generation, because they were written with the old style of jihad in mind. They, therefore, do not take into account the new youth, which is essentially an unknown quantity and which operates independently and who seldom read books exceeding 50 pages let alone voluminous philosophical or theological treatises.

Mr. Elshoubaki may very well be right. However, it is indeed significant when the founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad comes out and refutes violence. Imam El-Sherif's Correct Guidance of the Jihad in Egypt and the World will undoubtedly add to the intellectual turbulence which is occurring among muslims. This intellectual turbulence was first noted in November 2007 when Abu Baseer Al-Tartousi, wrote, "On the Jihad in Iraq". In this article, Al-Tartousi chastised "Awakening" tribes in Al Anbar. However, closer examination of the work also seems to chastise Al Qaeda in Iraq. In his article, Al-Tartousi states three concerns with Al Qaeda.

1. Exaggeration of the Sins of Rival Groups

2. Use of force to settle disagreement among Jihad Groups.

3. Blindly following extremists.

If we couple Al-Tartousi's article with Imam El-Sherif's current work, we see a reformation of sorts happening in among jihadist circles. They both are pointing to the same theme, namely, "the ends do not justify the means". More specifically, it is not right to blow up innocent muslims in the name of jihad. El-Sherif even spells it out specifically stating,

"it is regrettable that some pursue forbidden means to obtain money, justifying their actions on the grounds that this money is needed for jihad. Thus, they kidnap innocent people in order to demand ransom, or they rob blameless persons in the course of which they might commit wrongful murder. It is a grave sin to attack the persons and property of blameless persons."

These type of writings are becoming more prevalent in jihadists circles and signifies a fundamental shift in muslim religious leaders. The leaders are seeing that dishonorable acts are breeding to a dishonorable muslims resulting in a loss of followers. A loss of followers is leading to decreased economic support. The great infidel, the USA, is gaining support in the region due to its fairness in dealy with jihadists and muslims in general. The extremists, whether Sunni or Shiite, are rapidly losing support among followers.

The complete loss of support among Sunnis caused Al Qaeda's insurgency in Iraq to completely unravel. The loss of support resulted in the MMA losing handedly in Pakistan during their recent elections. The loss of support for extremists has resulted in Hezbollah losing ground in Lebanon. The loss of support for extremists may very well have the same effect in Iran during their upcoming elections on 14 March.

Both of these holy leaders are showing precisely why extremists are losing support. Extremist stifle individual freedom and happiness. When they cannot stifle, they murder. In the place of extremists, we have a US-sponsored democratic Iraq which is quickly becoming the economic powerhouse in the Middle East providing for freedom and happiness among fellow muslims. Neighboring countrymen are beginning to see what a democracy brings to its people. Even while still engaged in a war, a democratic Iraq provides for more freedom for its countrymen than do neighboring countries not at war.

Democratic freedom and happiness is spreading like a wild fire in the Middle East. As Jordanian, Saudi, and Turkish drivers continue to bring in goods into Iraq, they are undoubtedly wondering how these people at war are enjoying more freedom and economic opportunities than they enjoy at peace. This economic freedom is powerful and has caused the intellectual turbulence described above. Religious leaders are also seeing what the opposite effect, namely radical, extremist jihad, brings. The contrast is stark.

I predict we will see a new jihad, or rather an old jihad, soon come to the forefront in the Middle East. That jihad will be the internal struggle which marked the jihad of old. The internal struggle has already began. It is creating the intellectual turbulence described above. This internal struggle has already had significant effects in Pakistan, Lebanon, and Iraq. It will shortly have significant impacts in Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Syria.

Not only are Iraqis returning to Iraq for freedom and happiness, but come next decade we will see immigration into Iraq as neighboring countrymen seek the economic benefits that a free and democratic Iraq brings. This freedom will spread, continue to create the intellectual turbulence among muslims, resulting in an internal jihad, and eventually resulting in an external jihad, of sorts, against tyrants in their own muslim nations.

George W. Bush and the American military have caused this intellectual turbulence in the Middle East. George Bush caused it by his surge of forces in 2007. The American military caused it by being fair and impartial in Iraq. Al Qaeda helped with its indiscriminant murders. All these foreces have given to Iraqis and to muslims in general the jihad of old, the internal struggle. This internal struggle will soon manifest itself between tyranny and democracy. The leaders of the Middle East are trying to prevent this struggle, but this struggle began on 20 March 2003, when US forces crossed the berm from Kuwait to Iraq. It is quite frankly, too late to stop.

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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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Dubya's Middle East Agenda - Can He Consolidate His Revolution.

From Amir Taheri.

Once again, Amir Taheri has his hand on the pulse of the Middle East and apparently a better understanding of President Bush's purpose of his Middle East visit.

GEORGE W. Bush will set a new presidential record on his Middle East grand tour, visiting at least 10 countries in a short period. In some, he'll be the first US president to make a state visit. But what is the visit for?

Cynics would suggest that Bush is looking for photo opportunities that might add some spice to his future memoirs. More generous commentators might see the tour as the continuation of an American tradition: All US presidents since Woodrow Wilson have dreamed of themselves as peacemakers and tried to help others sort out ancient disputes.

While he states that both of these opinions may be true, he point to a larger reason.

But Bush realized post-9/11 that it was the very status quo that America had helped preserve that had produced its deadliest foes. He became the first US president to adopt an anti-status quo, not to say revolutionary, posture toward the Middle East.

While he notes that Iran, Russia, and China (America's chief rival) seem to have benefitted most from the change in the status quo, I believe he misses the point of a capitalistic democracy emerging in Iraq. Yes, countries such as Iran, Russia, and China have benefitted, in the short run. However, as the beacon of democracy which is Iraq begins to shine brighter each day and becomes a new model of government in the Middle East to replace the historic models of Turkey and Iran, the rest of the countries in the Middle East will benefit as will the rest of the world, to include the United States.

The United States always benefits where freedom and democracy prevail. While the war is costly, the benefits from a free, democratic Iraq will pay the United States back tenfold in commerce, which is our true benefit. Whether or not we own the corporations currently coming into Iraq is immaterial because the United States always benefit from more commerce as does the rest of the world.

President Bush has indeed kick started a revolution in the Middle East by bucking the status quo. Over time, more and more countries will become free, some may need to be forced, others will turn to freedom and democracy on their own. All transitions will be painful, as they should be since in order to remain free, a people need to have the courage to stand up to tyrannical forces that will appear and reappear in their country to challenge their freedom.

For a full read, click here.

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Musharraf's cards and the future of Pakistan

Steve Schippert reports from Threats Watch that representatives of Musharraf engaged in talks with Shahzad Sharif, the PML-N in an effort to become a large part in any future Pakistani government.

Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) head Shahbaz Sharif dashed to Islamabad on Saturday and returned to Lahore in the evening after holding separate meetings with an aide of President Pervez Musharraf, the Saudi ambassador and a former bureaucrat, sources told Dawn.

The sources said the PML-N president had met Brig (retd) Niaz Ahmad, who passed a message from President Musharraf on to Mr Sharif about the formation of a national government before the general election.

Sources in the PML-N said the president had suggested Shahbaz Sharif to become a part of the proposed government. The sources said the president had also proposed a “future role” for Shahbaz Sharif after the elections.

Musharraf was to have formed a Coalition with the PPP and Bhutto, but since her assassination, Zardari has not been amicable to sharing power with Musharraf, until now. Dawn reports,

Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People’s Party said Monday it may work with Pervez Musharraf after elections next month. ''Our first priority is holding free and fair elections,'' said party spokesman Farhatullah Babar. ''All other things, working with Musharraf or not working with Musharraf, these are bridges which we will cross when they come. All options are open.''

Why is Musharraf working now with the brother of the leader he took power from in a military coup? Even more interesting, why is the PPP now interested in working with Musharraf?

The answer is simple, but complex. If the PML-N and PPP garner enough votes from the 18 February elections, they may gain 2/3 of the Parliament. With 2/3 control of Parliament, they can impeach Musharraf. Hence, Musharraf is trying to ensure his reign continues while pushing Pakistan towards democracy. While certainly self-serving, Musharraf does not believe Pakistan can survive the turmoil of an impeachment while battling the Taliban and Al Qaeda at its doorstep. Hence, he stated for a recent interview in The Australian,

President Pervez Musharraf has threatened to resign rather than face impeachment should the opposition seize government in general elections next month.

Mr Musharraf, asked about opposition threats to impeach him if, as seems likely, the main opposition parties win a two-thirds majority in the new National Assembly, said: “If that (impeachment) happens, let me assure that I’d be leaving office before they would do anything.

Musharraf must gain support from either the PPP or PML-N to ensure his presidency continues. This fact is his self-serving reason for negotiating with the PPP and the PML-N. However, if he cannot, he will resign to let these parties deal with the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan to ensure the survival and integrity of Pakistan. This fact shows his support for the growth of democracy in Pakistan.

Appointing General Ashfaq Kayani, who is apolitical, believes in democracy, and is pro-Western is Musharraf's ace in case he is overthrown and turmoil commences between the PPP and PML-N.

General Kayani will step in as needed to ensure Pakistan continues on the road to democracy and simultaneously work to lessen the threat of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Having worked as the Military Secretary under Bhutto before, Kayani was instrumental in setting up Bhutto's return to Pakistan and the power sharing agreement between her and Musharraf.

Musharraf has positioned Pakistan smartly to ensure it continues to pursue democracy, whether he is a part of this transition or not. He has expertly positioned Pakistan to begin battle with the Taliban and Pakistan. While, he would prefer to deal with the PPP since they are anti-Taliban/Al Qaeda (more so now since both are complicit in her assassination), he would also work with the PML-N (who is rather pro-Taliban/Al Qaeda) to ensure his country survives its upcoming battle. Even if both parties ban together to depose him (in which he will leave willingly), democracy will prevail and be strengthened while General Kayani will continue to battle Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

All powers in Pakistan are awaiting the results of the 18 February election. They will be free and fair, Musharraf will guarantee this because democracy, above all else, is his ultimate goal for Pakistan.

The Taliban and Al Qaeda believe they have destroyed any hope for democracy in Pakistan by killing Bhutto, but Musharraf has several aces up his sleeves to ensure its continuation.

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The Spark of Democracy is Now Burning Intensely in the Middle East

According to a recent poll by the AAFAQ Foundation, support for Hamas is foundering.

41% of respondents support Fatah while 34% support Hamas, and 25% reported not supporting either.

A few things are important about these numbers. First, it marks the first time in a few years that Fatah came out ahead, but even more important it shows that 1/4 of Palestinians do not support either party. I believe this is a first and very significant fact.

Eighty-seven percent of poll respondents said that they disapproved of Hamas's policies towards residents of Gaza, while 13% disapproved of the Fayyed government's performance in the West Bank

While Abbas is not without blood on his hands from his Arafat days, his current moderation to Israel and promotion of democracy is apparently gaining approval from Palestinians while a large majority (87%) of Palestinians disapprove of Hamas' policies towards residents of Gaza.

In addition, 74% of respondents blamed Hamas for the coup in Gaza, while 15% blamed Fatah; 11% held both parties responsible.

Note, the poll blames Hamas for the coup in Gaza, it does not praise them for the coup in Gaza. This is also significant showing Hamas has lost popular support.

The poll also found widespread demand for early presidential and legislative elections in the Palestinian territories.

Now, this is the most important statement. I wrote about a year ago that Palestinians for the first time experienced democracy (a government elected by the people, for the people) while other authors pointed to the elections as proof that Muslims cannot live in a democracy because when they do, they elect terrorists to lead. I pointed out that this country (an established democracy) has often chosen the wrong leader at the precisely wrong time (think Jimmy Carter as a recent example). Palestinians were only given a first choice between Fatah and Hamas, an election of having to chose for the lessor of two evils.

This brings me back to my first point, 25% of Palestinians support neither Hamas or Fatah.

Lets think back into history a bit. The PLO was created as a terrorist organization as a banner for Palestinians to rally under against Israel. Later, it became a political party, ruled by Fatah. However, Fatah members were known for filling their own pockets and not helping out their people, hence Hamas, who begin a greass roots movement of education and support of the people, was thrust into power. Palestinians then saw that once in power support not only stopped, but terror and coups prevailed.

This is not what they elected Hamas for and it is precisely why Fatah was defeated. Fatah learned (apparently) its lesson and is trying to rectify itself in the West Bank and with the international community in general.

Whether either party survives will depend on whether they learn that the spark of democracy has been lit among the Palestinians. Palestinians want a representative government who will guarantee their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. Where did they get this idea? Looking northeast, they see a young democracy, called Iraq, pursing the same course and fighting against the same enemy, namely evil salafists who are taking their sons and using them literally as human bombs for their own evil purposes.

The democratic experiment in Iraq, whether or not one is for or against the U.S. goal their, was a bold move by President Bush to put the spark of democracy in the Middle East. The spark has survived, the fire has been lit, and it is now starting to burn with intensity in all people of the Middle East. Young, and old, democracies often do not make all the right choices; however, in the long run, they always become more supportive of the people precisely because they are elected and more importantly unelected by the people.

Time is moving fast in the Middle East to bring these feudal societies into the 21st century. The internet is ensuring the free passage of information. It will be interesting to see what the new decade brings a short three years from now, compared to where it was seven years ago and centuries before the present.

Sometimes democracies elect the right person at precisely the right time. George Bush's bold move into the Middle East with information flow from the internet available to most people has ensured the truth is getting out to people. The truth about Al Qaeda, the truth about Hamas, and the truth about Iran are all being exposed. Most importantly, the truth that all people were endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights has been given to people of the Middle East. These unalienable rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. All people want these rights, and the U.S. democracy is the world leader of implementing these rights abroad. It has recently stated to all who will listen that the only way to ensure these rights is the ability to elect and unelect our leaders.

Middle East leaders need to take note. Al Qaeda wanted to kill and subvert this democracy, but instead, they highlighted and enhanced it for all to see.

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