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

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Iran’s Fantasy: A Renewed Cold War between "Infidels" Russia and America

From Walid Phares at Counter Terrorism Blog.

The post-Soviet world has never been closer to what we knew as the Cold War than right now. Iran is pleased. We should all be concerned. New proxy conflicts may soon emerge.

Why is Iran pleased?

In Iran, strategic planners knew all too well that even though it was the United States which threatened the regime’s ambitions, it was in fact the passive entente between the old foes of the Cold War that allowed Americans to come so close to Iran’s borders. Hence, in order to reverse the Western advance in the Middle East and, more importantly, in order to escape a democratic revolution against the regional tyrannies, the Russo-American entente would have to crumble. Therefore, the current escalation into what looks like—but is not exactly— a return to the Cold war is a “gift from heaven” to the Iranian regime. For even if these tensions do not climax into a full fledge comeback to the post-WWII era, they will and have already allowed Khamenei and Ahmadinejad to break loose from the containment and isolation processes. Here is how.

In the past years after 9/11, Russia worked cooperatively with the West to pressure Iran and its allies in the region at the UN Security Council with the passing of UNSCR 1559 and its subsequent resolutions regarding Syria and Lebanon. Moscow still walked with the international community in pressuring Tehran to cooperate on the nuclear crisis. But in the last few years, Russian-Iranian, and to a lesser degree Russian-Syrian, cooperation began to grow and the attitude of the Kremlin towards U.S. policies in the region became more and more rigid.

Once again, Walid Phares provides an interesting perspective from a Middle East viewpoint. I concur with Mr. Phares. The US needs to ensure we do not resort to Cold War mentality with Russia. We need Russia as a partner against the greater Islamist threat.

For a full read, click here.

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Militants ready for Pakistan's war

From Asia Times Online.

Pakistan has two options. The country can give in to militancy or it can conduct military operations against it, influential advisor to the Interior Ministry, Rahman Malik, said on Thursday. And the government is not going to negotiate with militants, he added.

His remarks follow a suicide bomb attack outside the country's main defense industry complex at Wah, 30 kilometers northwest of the capital Islamabad, which killed as many as 100 people. The Pakistani Taliban immediately claimed responsibility, saying the attack was in response to the military's recent air bombardment of Bajaur Agency, which led to the displacement of 250,000 people.

Rahman's comments amount to a declaration of war on growing Islamic militancy, but it could be that the new civilian Pakistani leadership is steering the "war on terror" in the wrong direction.

Rahman's remarks cannot be dismissed as a knee-jerk reaction in the heat of the moment. Only a few hours before the suicide attack, the chief minister of North-West Frontier Province (NWFP), Amir Haider Khan Hoti, announced in a policy statement that even if militants shunned violence and laid down their weapons, they would not be pardoned.

Similarly, Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gillani, who spoke to US President George W Bush by telephone on Thursday morning, rejected any possibility of dialogue with militants.

The above are very powerful statements from Pakistan's leadership and builds upon partnerships and plans created in the later part of 2007.

The new elected government is expected to be an active partner in the South Asian war theater and its military will help the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The coordination will be similar to that between Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government and NATO.

NATO command will identify problem areas and Pakistan will hit those targets. A plan, drawn up between the Americans and Pakistan in 2007, will be implemented under which Peshawar, capital of NWFP, will serve as a base camp from where, under American guidance, the Taliban's bases will be targeted. The Taliban use these bases to launch operations into Afghanistan.

It seems, Pakistan has finally declared war on Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Previously I noted that the Pakistani people elected businessmen to head the government and an insurgency is bad for business. It appears the new government has finally made the decision to rid itself of its insurgent problem. It will be interesting to watch how this situation develops.

If this article from Syed Saleem Shahzad is true, we should begin to see much more Pakistani Army involvement in the FATA and NWFP region. Recent actions in Pakistan point to the governments change of policy to include recent battles in Peshawar, Swat, and increased Predator strikes in South Waziristan.

2007 was the year in which Al Qaeda lost Iraq. I predicted 2008 will be the year Al Qaeda lost Pakistan. This battle will undoubtedly now go into 2009. A second round of troop increases will finally hit in Afghanistan in 2009 where we are likely to see the situation in Afghanistan greatly change around towards the US's favor. All of this in plenty of time for the vast majority of troops to withdraw from Iraq by 2011. What a difference 2007 was when the US committed to defeating Al Qaeda in Iraq vice withdrawing US forces under pressure. Just a little over a year later, Pakistan is now committed to the War on Terror. It needs to be remembered that Al Qaeda's last unassailable base is in Pakistan which is why this battle in the greater War on Terror will be so important to the overall war.

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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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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Saudi Monarch Calls On Three Religions To Safeguard Humanity


In a speech at a Riyadh symposium on intercultural dialogue between the Islamic world and Japan, Saudi King Abdallah said that he had received agreement from Saudi Arabia's ulamaa to call on the three religions to hold conferences in which agreement will be reached to safeguard humanity from denigration of moral values and to preserve the institution of the family, and also to restore the values of loyalty to humanity.

The International Herald Tribune has more on the proposed dialogue.

"The idea is to ask representatives of all monotheistic religions to sit together with their brothers in faith and sincerity to all religions as we all believe in the same God," the king told delegates Monday night at a seminar on "Culture and the Respect of Religions."

Abdullah's call is significant and could add weight to sporadic efforts at dialogue among religious leaders in recent years. The Saudi monarch is the custodian of Islam's two holiest shrines in Mecca and Medina, a position that lends his words special importance and influence among many Muslims. He said Saudi Arabia's top clerics have given him the green light to the idea — crucial backing in a society which expects decisions taken by its rulers to adhere to Islam's tenets.

Wondering if Saudi officials will meet with Israeli officials, prominent Saudi cleric, Sheik Muhammad al-Nujaimi, said,

He saw no reason why any Saudi official, including Abdullah, cannot meet with Jewish religious leaders. "The only condition is for the rabbi not to be supportive of the massacres against the Palestinian people,"

Muhammad al-Zulfa, a member of the Saudi Consultative Council, an appointed body that acts like a parliament, said,

Abdullah's conciliatory was "a message to all extremists: Stop using religion."

It will be interesting to see where these talk lead. The significance of these talks could be tremendous with the leaders of the three major religions sitting down and talking about extremism in their religions and how to lessen extremist influence. Also significant is the fact that prominent Muslim clerics in Saudi are supporting the effort.

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Satellite Shootdown Was a Necessary Operation

From The Heritage Foundation.

In the past week, the Chinese government has repeatedly questioned President Bush's decision. In light of the pending shootdown, representatives from both China and Russia have again cited the necessity of an outer space arms control treaty to prevent what they claim is the unnecessary "weaponization" of space.

Beijing's commitment to a space treaty is suspect considering the circumstances surrounding its own ASAT test, carried out in January 2007. China launched its operation in secret and followed it with two weeks of steadfast denial. The operation littered outer space with an inordinate amount of debris that may orbit Earth for centuries, endangering peaceful space operations. Make no mistake: China's ASAT operation was a clandestine test of the Second Artillery Corps's evolving asymmetric military capability against space assets of potential opponents....

By contrast, the U.S. strategy is defensive. The Bush Administration is putting into place a damage limitation strategy designed to protect the American people, U.S. friends and allies, and people around the world against attacks and other threats that pose risks to their lives and well-being. Given the aggressive and indiscriminate Chinese strategy and the defensive nature of the U.S. counterpart, there is no moral equivalency between the Chinese ASAT test of a year ago and the shootdown of the U.S. 193 satellite.

For a full read, click here.

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US: Broken Satellite Will Be Shot Down

From Breitbart via AP.

The Pentagon is planning to shoot down a broken spy satellite expected to hit the Earth in early March, The Associated Press has learned.

U.S. officials said Thursday that the option preferred by the Bush administration will be to fire a missile from a U.S. Navy cruiser, and shoot down the satellite before it enters Earth's atmosphere.

HT to In From the Cold. For a full read, click here.

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Recession? Not by looking at the numbers.

From the Heritage Foundation.

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

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

For a full read, click here.

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All quiet on Quebec war protest front, despite casualties, antiwar sentiment

From the Canadian Press via Yahoo.

Quebecers were expected to rise in protest against the war in Afghanistan when hometown soldiers from the local regiment began to fall on the fields of Kandahar.

Instead, the return of 11 flag-draped caskets since the Royal 22nd Regiment took the lead of the mission last summer has triggered little outcry from the province's political leaders, public personalities or ubiquitous street protesters.

The quiet response has left Raymond Legault, a member of antiwar umbrella group Collectif Echec a la guerre, reaching for explanations.

"I think when soldiers get killed, people are more sad than angry," said Legault, who helped organize small protests this fall that failed to spread very far.

Polls have suggested about 60 per cent of Quebecers are against Canada's mission in Afghanistan, a level of opposition that has remained constant for nearly five years.

It is interesting to see these numbers. Sixty percent are against Canada's mission, yet there are no protests calling for an end of the mission. We see the same thing in America.

As often, I ask, Why?

In calling my Mom over the holidays to wish her a Merry Christmas, I was taken aback that she too thought it was time to bring our Soldiers home. Her explanations took three tones:

1. So many wounded.

2. Lack of progress

3. We have given them their freedom and all they do is continue to kill.

I addressed each of these issues with her.

1. We have less killed and wounded in seven years than we had on any given day of major battles in WWII. I thought this would have some effect since as a young girl she has vivid memories of WWI, but nothing at all. It just led to the second issue, the lack of progress.

2. I told her there had been substantial progress. Since she does not have a computer, she may just be getting her "lack of progress" from the MSM. I comforted her by stating we are doing to Lord work in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are bringing democracy to people who have not experienced it in their lifetime. She grudgingly accepted that and then went on to number three.

3. Iraqis and Afghanis will never accept freedom.. I told her, freedom is something you do not accept, nor is it something which can be given, it is something which is earned. Iraqis are now earning their freedom. They are doing nothing different than a young United States did in the late 1700s. When she asked what did I mean, I unfortunately had to refer her to "Washington's Gift" which she will never see since she is woefully technologically unsavvy, and she will never see this article that I shared with you all on Christmas Eve.

The reason I am sharing this story is it explains the "Why" earlier. Good, decent, God fearing people know what we are doing in Afghanistan and Iraq is right, but they cannot explain why or understand the complexities of the wars, so they choose to not support it, but will definitely not protest against it.

There is a Christmas story at the birth of this country that very few Americans know. It involves a single act by George Washington -- his refusal to take absolute power -- that affirms our own deepest beliefs about self-government, and still has profound meaning in today's world. To appreciate its significance, however, we must revisit a dark period at the end of America's eight-year struggle for independence.

The story begins with Gen. Washington's arrival in Annapolis, Md., on Dec. 19, 1783. The country was finally at peace -- just a few weeks earlier the last British army on American soil had sailed out of New York harbor. But the previous eight months had been a time of terrible turmoil and anguish for Gen. Washington, outwardly always so composed. His army had been discharged and sent home, unpaid, by a bankrupt Congress -- without a victory parade or even a statement of thanks for their years of sacrifices and sufferings.

Instead, not a few congressmen and their allies in the press had waged a vitriolic smear campaign against the soldiers -- especially the officers, because they supposedly demanded too much money for back pay and pensions. Washington had done his utmost to persuade Congress to pay them, yet failed, in this failure losing the admiration of many of the younger officers. Some sneeringly called him "The Great Illustrissimo" -- a mocking reference to his world-wide fame. When he said farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern in New York early in December, he had wept at the sight of anger and resentment on many faces.

Even Congress, at the birth of our nation, which is supposed to understand complex situations, failed to understand the significance of what had just occurred in the newly found (and formed)United States of Americq eight years after a very long war had started. Today, most Americans (and Canadians) do not understand "The Long War". They are still enjoying economic livelihood and freedom. They are still enjoying the fruits of many dead Soldiers without knowing what these Soldiers have really done for them, be it 1783 or 2008. I personally, believe that most Soldiers also do not understand what their sacrifices bring until they are much older, wiser, and separated from the actions they underwent.

It is simple however. Freedom is something one would not accept, interestingly enough. It is also something that cannot be given. It is something that must be earned by the brave. We gave Afganis their freedom in 2001. We gave Iraqis their freedom in 2003. Neither of these cultures accepted their freedom. In fact, they shunned this gift much like Congress did in 1783. Iraqis have began to accept their freedom now that they are earning their freedom. Afghanis are just beginning to understand this great gift since they are now earning it. Pakistanis will decide their course on 18 February 2008, but will have to battle Al Qaeda to earn their freedom.

Finally, there is another facet of gaining freedom which must be overcome. Rulers have to understand freedom (to step down) to allow a democracy to flourish, despite them. Washington understood this fact. Maliki is beginning to understand this fact. I am certain Musharraf now understands this fact.

Our Soldiers who are dying and being wounded on the on the battlefield of Iraq and Afghanistan are doing nothing less pious than our first President did at 1200, 23 December 1783.

To understand why we are doing to Lord's work in Iraq and Afghanistan, click here to understand the the full extent of not only Washington's gift upon America, but the Continental Army's gift to America and the military's gift to subsequent nations more than 200 years later.

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Minority retort

From Michael Coren at the Toronto Sun.

The irony is extraordinary. Canadians pride themselves on dismissing the United States as reactionary and unsophisticated while watching as that same country contemplates whether to elect as its leader a black man, a woman or a member of a religious minority. But then the U.S.A. never has been the ogre we like to imagine and in many ways is far more progressive and enlightened than is Canada.

The president may not be the black Barack Obama, the female Hillary Clinton or the Mormon Mitt Romney, but the fact that they are serious contenders is truly remarkable. It's doubtful if Canadians would similarly vote for people irrespective of their race, gender or faith.

For a full read, click here.

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