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Sunday, January 31, 2010

U.S. ties Israeli billionaire with Chinese intelligence

The Admiralty complex is one of the trademarks of Hong Kong’s urban landscape. Overlooking the port, the complex used to house the soldiers of the British army and the headquarters of the Royal Navy in the region. Today it is part of the city’s business center. One building there houses a group of companies nicknamed the 88 Queensway Group (the address of the building), which the U.S. administration suspects is nothing more than a cover for activity conducted by the People’s Republic of China’s foreign intelligence. Wu Yang, one of the group’s senior directors, provided the Registrar of Companies in Hong Kong with an address that matches the address of Chinese foreign intelligence.

The suspicions were spelled out in a report recently compiled by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which was established by Congress in 2000 in order to “monitor, investigate and submit to Congress an annual report on the national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, and to provide recommendations, where appropriate, to Congress for legislative and administrative action.” The report noted, among other things, that the group of Chinese corporations has business ties with Israeli businessman and diamond magnate Lev Leviev.

Using the group, Chinese intelligence acquires oil and energy companies and other important assets in countries in Africa, Latin American, Southeast Asia, as well as in the United States. In this way it promotes Chinese national interests, increases its influence and guarantees the supply of raw materials – first and foremost oil – necessary for its economy.

China is already an important economic-diplomatic and security factor in Africa, and the day is not far off when it will become the major power on that continent – surpassing the United States, France and Great Britain in importance. It has large investments in Congo-Brazzaville, Guinea, Zambia, Nigeria and Angola. Some of these countries are oil producers and some are subject to U.S. and EU boycotts due to their human rights situations. For China, however, the absence of human rights is not an obstacle. Trade between China and African nations has increased tenfold in the past nine years – from $10 billion in 2000 to $107 billion in 2009.

China also aims to penetrate the economies of Argentina and Venezuela. By means of liaisons, the directors of the Chinese companies have succeeded in forging personal ties with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Nestor Kirchner, the former president of Argentina who is married to the current president.

Source: Intelligence Quarterly

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Yemen clashes continue, ceasefire offer rejected

SANAA, Jan 31 (Reuters) – Yemen rejected a ceasefire offer from Shi’ite rebels on Sunday and said fighting was continuing, as neighbouring Saudi Arabia accused the insurgents of mounting sniper attacks inside its territory. The conflict with the northern rebels, who complain of social, religious and economic discrimination in the southern Arabian state, has rumbled on since 2004, but intensified last year and drew in oil-rich Saudi Arabia.

Yemen is also struggling against al Qaeda and southern secessionists, and Western powers fear it could become a failed state.

The U.S. State Department’s counterterrorism chief was visiting Yemen on Sunday, state media reported, a week after Britain hosted a conference on how to stabilise the Arab world’s poorest country.

Yemeni soldiers clashed with rebels in the northern provinces of Malahidh and Saada, killing 20, including a leader responsible for training, state media reported on Sunday.

Rebel leader Abdul-Malik al-Houthi said on Saturday he was prepared to accept government conditions for a truce, days after he made a ceasefire offer to Saudi Arabia and said his fighters had withdrawn from Saudi territory. [ID:nLDE60T0DV]

But a government official said on Sunday: “The Houthi offer is rejected as it does not vow to end attacks on Saudi Arabia and because it sets as a condition an end to military operations (by the government) first.”

The rebels said they would accept five conditions set by Sanaa for a ceasefire that include the removal of rebel checkpoints, withdrawal of forces and clarification of the fate of kidnapped foreigners.

The government says the rebels must also return captured military and civilian equipment and stay out of local politics.

But the Houthis made no mention of the sixth condition, the ending of attacks on Saudi Arabia, which Sanaa added after Riyadh launched an assault against the rebels in November.

“This is a key demand we cannot make concessions on,” Tarek Ahmed al-Shami, a spokesman for Yemen’s ruling party, told Reuters.

Yemen would “see no obstacle” to ending its military operations if the rebels committed themselves to all six points, the National Defence Council said in a statement.

A Saudi military source said rebel snipers were still crossing the border into Saudi territory and exchanging fire with Saudi troops daily, nearly a week after the rebels said they would withdraw from Saudi land.

Saudi Arabia declared a full victory over the rebels on Wednesday.

The Yemeni Defence Ministry’s online newspaper said the rebels, known as the Houthis after the name of their leader, had opened fire on a refugee camp, killing a child and wounding two others. There was no response from the rebels to the claim.

Britain hosted talks in London last week where countries including the United States discussed ways to stabilise the Arabian Peninsula state, which grabbed the world’s attention after the Yemen-based regional command of al Qaeda claimed a bomb attempt on a U.S.-bound plane on Dec. 25.

Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh, its foreign minister and other senior officials met Daniel Benjamin, the U.S. State Department’s coordinator for counterterrorism, state media reported.

“They discussed counterterrorism and ways to cooperate between the United States and Yemen, especially in the military, security and development areas,” a senior official told Reuters.


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Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fractured Fairytales about Jihad on Capitol Hill

By Jeffrey Imm

On September 23, 2008, in the U.S. Congressional Rayburn House Office Building (RHOB), speakers in a panel discussion sponsored by the Counterterrorism Blog (CTB) and the New America Foundation (NAF) spun fractured fairytales about Jihad and the need for America to "engage" with proponents of Islamic supremacism. (I previously wrote a background article on this subject entitled "Jihad and the Growing Surrender of American Counterterrorism.")

The September 23 panel discussion topic was "The Jihadists' Revolt Against Al Qaeda" based on a New Republic article co-written by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank. The speakers on the panel were: Peter Bergen of the "liberal think tank" New America Foundation, Counterterrorism Blog contributing experts Paul Cruickshank and Evan Kohlmann, and the Quilliam Foundation's Maajid Nawaz. The audience at this panel discussion included foreign policy analysts, counterterrorism analysts, the Saudi Arabia press, and a representative from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Per the Bergen/Cruickshank New Republic article, the focus of the discussion by most of the panelists was that disagreements over tactics between Al-Qaeda and other Jihadist and Islamic supremacist (aka "Islamist") groups was "making Americans safer," and the idea that Americans should "engage" with "Islamist" groups to promote peace. Bergen, Cruickshank, and Kohlmann addressed details on how Al-Qaeda bombing tactics (resulting in the death of other Muslims) have alienated Al-Qaeda from other Jihadists.

One attendee in the audience asked the obvious question: "Isn't this just a PR problem for Al-Qaeda that they can solve by simply killing just Americans [i.e., non-Muslims]?" Predictably, the panelists waffled on answering this question, stating that it was really more than a "PR problem," and moved on to reiterate the tactical differences between Al-Qaeda and other Jihadist groups, as if we didn't hear them the first time around.

Paul Cruickshank also offered the standard "regionalization" argument, stating that the "jihadist movement over the years has been very amorphous," representing different ideologies. This argument claims that because Jihadist groups in different regions of the world have different near-term tactical goals, we should ignore their overall shared ideology in Islamic supremacism. Moreover, Mr. Cruickshank failed to actually explain how such Jihadist groups have different "ideologies," but led the audience to believe it is a complex issue; the "complex issue" argument is used to avoid a direct answer on anything obvious, implying that Americans should leave such thinking to experts like himself. In fact, the root problem is that many in the counterterrorism community simply refuse to acknowledge the obvious basis of Jihadist actions in the ideology of Islamic supremacism.

Peter Bergen Calls for Engagement with Islamists (Again)

Peter Bergen, an internationally known journalist, professor, and speaker, has wide reach and influence in the war of ideas. Peter Bergen is a Schwartz senior fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington D.C., a research fellow at New York University's Center on Law and Security, and CNN's national security analyst. He has taught at John Hopkins University and at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Peter Bergen has also testified before numerous congressional committees.

Peter Bergen is also a leading proponent of surrender in the war of ideas. As Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank stated in their June 2008 New Republic article on Jihadists' conflicts with Al-Qaeda, "it is their ideas, not the West's, that matter." This article also claimed that Muslim Brotherhood leader Kamal El Helbawy was helping to recruit "moderates"; this is the same Kamal El Helbawy who was banned from entering the United States to attend a previous panel discussion on the Muslim Brotherhood attended by Peter Bergen and organized by Paul Cruickshank. It is also the same Muslim Brotherhood leader Kamal El Helbawy that Steven Emerson identified as a supporter of Hamas. This is the same Muslim Brotherhood whose motto is "Jihad is our way."

When it comes to such Islamic supremacist organizations (called political "Islamist" groups by foreign policy analysts), Peter Bergen has repeatedly called for America to "engage" with such groups. At another New American Foundation-sponsored event in Washington DC in September 2005, Peter Bergen recommended as counterterrorism "strategy" that America "engage with Islamists.... [who] are not our enemies and can even be our friends." (Reference, New America Foundation working papers, page 11).

At the September 23, 2008 Capitol Hill conference, Peter Bergen reiterated this position in surrendering in the war of ideas to Islamic supremacists, stating that a suggestion "not to engage with Islamists is ridiculous." Peter Bergen then made a moral equivalency between "Islamists" and Christian fundamentalists, stating "I am not a Christian fundamentalist, but I have some friends who are." His essential "moral equivalency" argument is that if he could have Christian fundamentalist friends, why shouldn't America engage with Islamists?

During this discussion on "Islamism," the ideology of "Islamism" was then equated with the ideology with Socialism, repeating the unsound Cold War thinking argument that an identity-based supremacist ideology is the same as a statist ideology (along with the illogical belief that tactical measures should be the same for dealing with such radically different ideologies.)

Evan Kohlmann Calls for Dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood

Evan Kohlmann is also another internationally known and respected individual in the counterterrorism community, who has provided expert testimony in terror trials. He is a senior investigator with the Nine Eleven Finding Answers (NEFA) Foundation, and is also a terrorism analyst for NBC News.

At the September 23, 2008 conference, Evan Kohlmann spoke in detail about Muslim Brotherhood organizations in Iraq that have distanced themselves from Al-Qaeda because of Al-Qaeda's tactics in killing Iraqi Muslims, arguing that this could be part of a larger trend where "jihadists can turn against Al-Qaeda in a meaningful way."

Evan Kohlmann was then asked about his previous statement on the Muslim Brotherhood that "I won't hesitate in saying that I believe we must initiate some kind of dialogue with the [Muslim] Brotherhood, even if we don't support their overall agenda." At the September 23 conference, Evan Kohlmann confirmed that he has been speaking with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood. Evan Kohlmann is well-aware that the motto of the Muslim Brotherhood is "Jihad is our Way." Moreover, Mr. Kohlmann is acutely aware of the evidence revealed in the Holy Land Foundation (HLF) trial that shows the Muslim Brotherhood plans to infiltrate and undermine America, as such Muslim Brotherhood memoranda are posted on the NEFA site where he is senior investigator.

Per the Muslim Brotherhood Mohamed Akram memorandum on the NEFA website (HLF Exhibit GX 3-85 -- "An Explanatory Memorandum: On the General Strategic Goal for the Group"), the Muslim Brotherhood clearly communicates the Ikhwan's ["Brotherhood"] goals to infiltrate and undermine America:

"The process of settlement is a 'Civilization-Jihadist Process' with all the word means. The Ikhwan must understand that their work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the Western civilization from within and 'sabotaging' its miserable house by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and God's religion is made victorious over all other religions."

"As for the role of the Ikhwan, it is the initiative, pioneering, leadership, raising the banner and pushing people in that direction (the Jihadist process). They are then able to employ, direct, and unify Muslims' efforts and powers for this process. In order to do that, we must possess a master of the art of 'coalitions,' the art of 'absorption' and the principles of 'cooperation.'"

Evan Kohlmann clearly is aware of these goals of the Muslim Brotherhood in America. Yet in a tactically-centered discipline such as counterterrorism, defining the strategic enemy is not a priority. Therefore, identifying the identity-based supremacist nature of the Islamic supremacist ideology at the root of Jihad is not a priority. Without a focus on who the enemy is, what the enemy believes, and a strategy to combat it, such counterterrorism analysts focus on tactical measures that they believe will, in the short-term, prevent violence. At the same time, they surrender in the very war of ideas that enables Jihadist terrorism in the first place.

Evan Kohlmann justifies calls for discussions with the Muslim Brotherhood, not as a compromise, not as surrender in the war of ideas, but as a necessity. According to Evan Kohlmann, America frequently has to talk with groups that it might not like, but America has no choice other than to have a dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood.

But America's leadership does have a choice whether or not to engage with the Muslim Brotherhood ("Jihad is our Way"). America can choose not to legitimize such Islamic supremacists, or any other identity-based supremacist ideology, by refusing to "engage" with them or by refusing to hold a "dialogue" with them.

What U.S. government organizations are seeking a dialogue with white supremacists, black supremacists, Neo-Nazi Aryan supremacists, and such ilk, as part of "counterterrorism" tactics? Who is speaking on Capitol Hill calling for engagement with white supremacist "political" groups to prevent Ku Klux Klan terrorism? Of course, anyone who did this would justifiably become an instant public pariah. But incredibly, there is no meaningful protest or condemnation when "experts" come to Capitol Hill telling Americans that they need to surrender in the war of ideas, and engage with Islamic supremacists to prevent Jihadist terrorism.

Yes, of course, America has a choice whether or not to legitimize Islamic supremacist groups. Furthermore, our proven history of success against terrorism in America has been based on not legitimizing such groups and by confronting them, rather than by "engaging" them.

Refusing to Condemn Jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq

In the Bergen/Cruickshank New Republic June 2008 article on Jihadists allegedly turning against Al-Qaeda, they use the often repeated example of Sayyed Imam Al-Sharif (aka Dr. Fadl) renouncing Al-Qaeda. They ignore that Al-Sharif defends Jihad in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Israel. They also ignore that Al-Sharif continues to support the Taliban, stating that "Jihad in Afghanistan will lead to the creation of an Islamic state with the triumph of the Taliban, God willing."

Nor was there condemnation of Al-Sharif's support for such Jihad among the September 23, 2008 panelists on Capitol Hill either. In a half-measure that spoke volumes, Quilliam Foundation leader Maajid Nawaz stated that Al-Sharif should not be condemned for his support for Jihad in Afghanistan and Iraq, but only for his continued support for "Islamism." Quilliam's Maajid Nawaz stated that the Geneva Convention gave Jihadists the right to defend themselves in "occupied lands," and should not be criticized.

Those not attending the September 23 conference would not be aware that three of the four panel speakers seeking to provide American legislators guidance on Jihad had British accents. Maajid Nawaz, a former member of Hizb ut-Tahrir who now denounces that group, is a British citizen. This European perspective does not view America's actions overseas as justifiable; this perspective does not care that it was the 9/11 attacks by Jihadists in Al-Qaeda camps supported by the Taliban in Afghanistan that served as the rationale for our war in Afghanistan. As a result, we have such "counterterrorism experts" at Capitol Hill defending the rights of Jihadists according to the Geneva Convention. In addition, the panel discussion also included Evan Kohlmann responding to a DHS attendee on how to better prepare America against Islamic supremacist "radicalization" by stating "don't invade foreign countries." The general consensus among the panelists seemed to be that America's efforts against Jihad in other countries are wrong.

Maajid Nawaz's support for what is popularly called "defensive Jihad" was discouraging, but not surprising. Regrettably, the message of Maajid Nawaz's Quilliam Foundation organization lacks consistency. At the September 23 conference, Maajid Nawaz did condemn the ideology of Islamism and called for "values-based engagement" regarding Islamism, but he was unable to condemn the Jihadist actions of its adherents in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Quilliam Foundation struggles with the challenge of trying to be against Islamism, yet sufficiently attractive to a broad range of British Muslims, and ends up not accomplishing either completely. Thus its leaders end up being caught in the middle of having to justify promoting Hezbollah-supporting Egyptian Mufti Gomaa, defending Usama Hassan's "support [of] a just Caliphate based on the Prophetic model" (the same words used by Al-Qaeda's As-Sahab) as being "secular," and encouraging British Muslims to reform Sharia law to protect British Muslim women rather than simply promoting support of equality under British law. As then seen in the September 23 conference, while Maajid Nawaz condemned Islamism, he then defended the rights of Jihadists in Afghanistan and Iraq under the Geneva Convention. It is sad to see.

Moreover, such unwillingness to condemn non-Al-Qaeda Jihadist actions in Afghanistan and Iraq was shared by other members of the September 23 conference panel.

Paul Cruickshank: Support for Jihad is Merely One's "Politics"

Counterterror analyst Paul Cruickshank presented an NBC video interview with Hanif Qadir as an example of a "de-radicalized" British Muslim. Mr. Cruickshank pointed out, however, that Americans might not like "his politics," which turn out to be Hanif Qadir's condemnation of the American war efforts against Jihadists in Afghanistan.

In the video interview, Hanif Qadir admits to providing significant financial donations through a member of the Taliban who was allegedly raising money for "Afghan war victims." In December 2002 as a result of his donations, Hanif Qadir was then recruited by alleged Al-Qaeda individuals (who he previously describes as "Taliban") to go to a Pakistan Jihadist training camp. When Qadir realized that the Jihadist wannabes would be just "cannon fodder," he decided to flee back to London instead. Notably, in the interview, Hanif Qadir doesn't denounce the Afghanistan Taliban Jihad efforts. Instead, Hanif Qadir condemns America for bombing Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks and reiterates how "angry" he is at "U.S. foreign policy." (In the interview, his brother, Imtiaz Qadir admits to being happy during the 9/11 attacks.)

In his interview, Hanif Qadir states that then once he was safely back in London, he decided to create a London gymnasium and community center for young British Muslims. Qadir admits that he knew that members of his community center included "radicals" who met there and promoted Jihad. One radical who used Qadir's community center was convicted British Jihadist Abdulla Ahmed Ali, the alleged ringleader of the 2006 transatlantic jet bomb plot on jets headed to America (see "Airline terror plotters planned bigger 9/11"). This is the same Abdulla Ahmed Ali who promised: "expect floods of martyr operations against you and we will take our revenge and anger, ripping amongst your people and scattering your people's body parts... We love to die in the path of Allah." After Abdulla Ahmed Ali and other British Jihadists in transatlantic airline plot were arrested, Hanif Qadir denounced their arrest as "a mistake," and defended them as "pretty much decent kids."

Yet on Capitol Hill, Paul Cruickshank portrayed Hanif Qadir and his London community center as a success story in "de-radicalizing" British Muslims.

Paul Cruickshank fails to grasp that the inability of Hanif Qadir and others to address the ideological problem of Islamic supremacism, rather than merely rejecting "Al-Qaeda" terror tactics, has done little to "de-radicalize" either him or those who attend his London community center/gym. Mr. Cruickshank sought to make a false distinction between Jihad and Al-Qaeda terrorism, when the real point of the Hanif Qadir story is that Jihadist terrorism comes from the same Islamic supremacism ideology, whether the actions are taken by Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or individual Jihadists like Abdulla Ahmed Ali.

The larger question is, in view of the growing surrender in the war of ideas by leading members of the counterterrorism community, do they even care?

Politicizing Jihad and Islamic Supremacism to Further Infiltrate America

Such surrender by leading members of the counterterrorism community in the war of ideas does the spade work for those who seek further infiltration by Islamic supremacists in America's legislative and executive branches of government. By legitimizing Islamic supremacism and rationalizing Jihad groups, supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups are emboldened to expand their political influence and seek to "mainstream" Islamic supremacism as a legitimate American political cause.

The same day as this CTB/NAF panel discussion was taking place at Capitol Hill, another group, the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project, announced the release of a new report "Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim World."

Among the members of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project is Ingrid Mattson, President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), an organization that is an unindicted co-conspirator in the ongoing Holy Land Foundation (HLF) terror finance trial. Ingrid Mattson has also recently spoken at the Democratic National Convention. Another member of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project is Ahmed Younis, former National Director of the Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), whose communications director has praised Osama Bin Laden. In July 2008, both ISNA and MPAC sought to prevent the Investigative Project on Terrorism's (IPT) Steven Emerson from speaking on "Foreign Aid and the Fight Against Terrorism and Proliferation."

In addition, the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project leadership panel has 32 other members, including Dennis Ross, Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP) consultant, who is serving as a Middle East advisor for the Barack Obama campaign. The New York Times also reports that the "McCain and Obama campaigns have been briefed on the report's recommendations, and both were receptive, said Mr. Weber and other members of the group."

The report was promoted in a September 24 National Press Club press conference and has been praised by leading foreign policy members of the House of Representatives and Senate who have been briefed on this report.

I have previously summarized some of the key aspects of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project's report "Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim World." These points were not mentioned in the New York Times or Associated Press reports that glowingly painted the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project's efforts as "Report Seeks Engagement With Muslims by Diplomacy" and as "US ex-officials want good US relations with Islam."

Major points in the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project's report include:
-- Rejection of concerns about "Islamism" as an ideology (page 51)
-- Tolerance of Sharia-based governments (page 52)
-- Calls for engagement with Iran (pp 4, 48, 44)
-- Calls for America to "assess the value of engagement with political representatives of armed and activist movements" (page 59)
-- Calls for America to consider dialogue with "armed political groups and movements" if they have sufficient public support (pp. 59, 60)
-- Calls for talks with the Muslim Brotherhood (pp. 54, 56, 60, 61)
-- Promotion of the 2005 Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) Mecca Declaration (page 53), which calls for "deterrent punishments" against "Islamophobia," and which promotes the Cairo Declaration on Human Rights in Islam that calls for "human rights" based on Islamic Sharia law

Other than an oblique reference to discussions with Iran, such aspects of this report in calling for America's surrender in the war of ideas against Islamic supremacism are not being discussed or reported in the news media. The report is being portrayed as merely a report seeking general "diplomatic engagement" and "major investment in economic development in Muslim countries to create jobs for alienated youth."

This U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project's Report was briefed to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Congressman Howard L. Berman, who has reportedly welcomed the report, stating, "This study explores in depth one of the central global challenges of our time: developing harmonious relations between Muslim-majority countries and the West. It offers thoughtful, creative, and multi-faceted proposals for meeting that challenge. Congress should give those proposals the fullest possible consideration."

In addition, this report has been endorsed by Senate Committee on Foreign Relations' Ranking Minority Member Senator Richard G. Lugar, stating, "The Project's report offers a thoughtful analysis of the current state of America's relations with the Muslim world and constructive recommendations on how we can approach this pressing concern in a bipartisan framework." Senator Lugar reportedly "circulated the report to his Senate colleagues."

The growing effort of those appeasing or supporting Islamic supremacism to influence our legislature should be alarming to Americans. This secret invasion extends beyond the growing efforts to infiltrate and influence our homeland security, our military, our law enforcement, and now the growing surrender of our counterterrorism community. In addition to seeking to influence our legislature, Islamic supremacist advocacy and appeaser organizations seek to influence the campaigns of the candidates for the next American presidency as well.

As the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Akram stated in his strategy to infiltrate America, "we must possess a master of the art of 'coalitions,' the art of 'absorption' and the principles of 'cooperation.'" This plan to infiltrate and influence every level of the American federal government is rapidly succeeding.

America Must Win the War of Ideas against Islamic Supremacism

American remains a nation of over 300 million individuals. America is a nation "of the people, by the people, for the people." Let us never forget that this is our country, not just the country of a handful of elected representatives and federal government officials, and not a nation controlled by the whims of the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamic supremacist groups.

We can win the war of ideas against Islamic supremacism, but not if we refuse to fight, to speak out, to protest, and to demand that our voices are heard. This is our war on Jihad, our war on Islamic supremacism. But no one can win a one-sided battle with their opponents doing most of the fighting.

The Islamic supremacist enemy will tell us not to fight a fight we cannot win, to accept their "changing course" for America, to focus on the goals of "progress" rather than liberty and quality. They will seek to turn us against those who will stand in the way of their "progress." They will not directly ask us to "surrender," but ask us to simply accept the inevitable "change." They will not directly ask us to "submit," but ask us to accept Islamic supremacism as legitimate when it is opposed to equality itself.

Regardless of the words they use, the terms that Islamic supremacists will ultimately call for will be nothing less than... surrender.

Whether individual Americans and individual American leaders choose to surrender or not, the fact remains that America itself is more than its people, more than its geography. America is an idea that embodies the principles of equality and liberty. America can no more be crushed by those on their knees, than it can be crushed by Jihadist bombs. America is what we believe in our hearts, it is the values we hold dear, it is our principles of equality and liberty that generations have given their lives to build and preserve.

We have no choice in fighting this war of ideas against Islamic supremacism. The war against Islamic supremacism is a war that we must win. If we lose, we will lose the identity, the meaning, and the values of America itself.

Fear No Evil.


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Putin's Growing Appetite

By Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld

President George W. Bush meeting today (Monday Sept. 29) with Ukraine’s President, aims at strengthening Viktor Yushchenko’s stand against the Kremlin. On the agenda is Russia’s growing threats against and meddling in Ukraine’s domestic politics in effort to derail its pending integration into NATO.

This meeting, as Bush’s condemnation of the Kremlin’s aggression towards its neighbors, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s fierce criticism of Russia’s war against Georgia, do little to slow Prime Minister and former President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to destabilize Ukraine, corner its food industry’s development and export, and buy a foothold in its major ports.

On September 15, Moscow efforts led to the collapse of Ukraine’s coalition government. This crisis came shortly after the Russian foreign office condemned Ukraine's "unfriendly" policies toward Moscow, especially President Viktor Yushchenko’s latest movement restrictions on Russia’s Black Sea fleet , and his objection to renew the Kremlin's lease of Ukrainian ports. Russia needs these ports to obtain greater access to their shipyards and to the Black Sea.

Russia’s military and political aggression became a cause célèbre in the West. Unnoticed, however, are the activities of the Kremlin’s loyal oligarchs growing control over Ukraine’s ports. Going far beyond energy, the Russian strategy now expands to control over the region’s scarce commodities, including food resources, threatening to leave millions of people cold and starving.

Food shortages and spiraling prices are spurring riots and creating emergencies worldwide, says director general of the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Jacques Diouf. Over 852 million (above 13%) of the world population is malnourished. Last April, global cereal reserves were already so low; they could feed the world for only 8 to 12 weeks.

The World Bank calls Ukraine “one of the few countries in the world,” capable of significantly increasing net grain exports. Aptly, Kiev decided last April to increase its grain export quotas.

For 69 years, Ukraine was the U.S.S.R. “breadbasket” Until breaking free in 1991 from the Soviet boot, Ukraine supplied over 25% of all the U.S. S. R. agricultural produce; now it’s the world’s 8th largest wheat exporter, and ranks 10th overall for cereals exports.

Ukraine’s government early this year asked the World Bank to facilitate President Viktor Yushchenko’s 2005 plan to double its food production, thus turning it to the “breadbasket of Europe.” The World Bank prepared a special Note: “Competitive Agriculture or State Control: Ukraine’s response to the global food crisis,” concluding, “Ukraine is in a position to make a significant contribution to the international effort to deal with the food crisis.”

Unfortunately, Ukraine’s unstable coalition government almost simultaneously thwarted Yushchenko’s plans with new grain export restrictions costing Ukraine food producers more than $2 billion last year, thus devaluing its entire agro-business industry. This opened the door to the Russians.

In February 2008, according to Ukrainian media reports, Russia’s FedComInvest assumed control of Sumykhimprom, Ukraine’s largest fertilizer manufacturer, whose products are essential to growing healthy crops and increasing Ukraine agricultural yields.

FedComInvest belongs to the leading Russian sulfur supplier, FedCom, which generates some $2 billion in annual sales. It was founded in 1996 by Alexei Fedoricsev, a minor league millionaire, and listed as a major investor in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

The Sochi Winter Olympics are Putin’s treasured baby. Like the Chinese with the Beijing Olympics, Putin aims through the Sochi Olympics to validate the success of his very own “new Russia.”

With Putin’s ‘encouragement’ Russia’s oligarchs -- the richest, $28 billion worth Rusal chieftain Oleg Deripaska (banned from entering the U.S.), to less known, and other shadowy figures like Fedoricsev, who barely squeaked onto the tail end of a recent Forbes Russia Golden 100 list, with roughly $450 million -- invest heavily in the forthcoming Sochi Olympics, and other related projects.

Meanwhile, Fedorychev’s Russian TransInvestService, another FedCom company, recently obtained a $50 million contract to build the largest Ukrainian container terminal for the Port of Yuzhny, to facilitate food- and fertilizer-shipping to Europe and the Middle East. (The Saudis are becoming major clients.) Ukraine's Transportation and Communications Ministry describes FedComInvest’s activities as “corporate raiding.” Other Russian companies also made huge investments in major Ukraine sea and river ports.

“The Kremlin has established a group of “service oligarchs,” people with shady past, who are ready to use any methods to reach their ends,” states Dr. political science professor Valentin Yakushik at Kiev’s Mogilaynsky Academy. Moreover, Fedorychev allegedly has a criminal record and was on the receiving end of Yukos’ remains after Khodorkovsky’s lynching, according to prominent Russian investigative journalist Yulia Latynina.

Not long ago, Interpol investigated Fedorychev for alleged money laundering and links to notorious international arms/drugs and diamond dealers Leonid Efimovich Minin, now serving time in Italy, and illusive Victor Anatolyevic Bout, who was arrested in Thailand last March on an FBI warrant.

The French newspapers Le Monde, Le Parisien, and Aujourd'hui followed the investigation closely, reported Fedorychev got away due to lack of evidence. Though “Fedorychev’s close associate was indicted” says Inna Weiss at the Central Group of European Political Monitoring. “The publicity led cautious members of Europe's money elite -- notably, late Prince Rainier of Monaco -- to cut business ties with Fedorychev to the minimum.” This, however, did little to stop Putin’s oligarchs from gaining control over strategically important assets in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics, thus threatening the stability of the region and U.S. national security.

Moreover, Putin uses President Bush’s support to Ukraine and Georgia’s fledging democracies as justification and opportunity to further undermine the U.S. influence in the region. Indeed, challenging Putin’s ambitions while defusing the tension in U.S. Russian relations would present a real test to the next U.S. Administration.

Source: Human Events

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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Pakistan/Intelligence: Islamabad appoints new ISI chief

Pakistan has replaced the head of its main intelligence service, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the country's premier military spy agency. Lieutenant General Ahmed Shujaa Pasha has been appointed as Director General of the ISI, replacing Nadeem Taj, a Pervez Musharraf loyalist. Prior to this appointment, Pasha was Director of military operations and is considered a key aide to army chief Ashfaq Kayani.

The ISI has been under the US scanner amid growing concerns that it is either turning a blind eye to militants in Pakistan's troubled tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, or worse, even actively sponsoring the rebels.The agency is also suspected of involvement in the July 7 bombing outside India's Embassy in Kabul that killed more than 60 people.

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Pakistan/Terrorism: Pakistani Taliban leader reportedly dead

Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, died on Wednesday at about 1 a.m. local time from kidney failure, CNN has reported.

According to the American news network, Mehsud’s death has been confirmed by Pakistani military officials.

Some local media in Pakistan reported about Mehsud’s death while some others said the Taliban were denying it.

Earlier reports raised doubts about his health condition, claiming that the 34-year-old taliban leader was ill and was expected to die within days.

Mehsud, who belongs to the Mehsud tribe in Pakistan’s South Waziristan region, is the commander of the Taliban in Pakistan and has been blamed by the Pakistani authorities for the assassination, last December, of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

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By Raphaël RAMOS,
Director of Production, ESISC

With the nomination of John McCain and Barack Obama by their respective parties, there
begins a highly sensitive period which includes the election and inauguration of the forty-
fourth President of the United States. It comes to an end only when the new administration
will be completely installed. This so-called period of ‘presidential transition’ in fact has a
crucial dimension for the country’s national security, because changes in administration are
traditionally marked by a concomitant slowdown in government activity before the departure
and, at the other end, by the arrival of a great number of officials. Starting with the
inauguration of the new President, several months are generally needed before the incoming
bureaucracy can function in an optimal manner.

History has shown that a number of American Presidents had to deal with major national and
international crises from the very first weeks of their term in office. Without going back as far
as the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln, in the midst of the Civil War, we remember, in
particular, the Bay of Pigs landing that President Kennedy inherited in April 1961, the
bombardment of Cambodia decided by President Richard Nixon in March 1969 and the
deterioration of the situation in Somalia which Bill Clinton faced in May 1993.

Although a tradition of dialogue between the outgoing President and his successor dating
from Harry Truman, as well as various legislative provisions have made improvements to the
situation possible, the transition phase remains characterised by the vulnerability to which it
gives rise for the United States and its interests, above all in time of war.

Hence, given the instability of the present international context and the fact that the summer
phase of the electoral campaign was largely marked by the topic of national security,1 it seems
timely to look closely into the issues of this period which though brief can leave an
irreversible imprint on the term in office of the next occupant of the White House. By means
of various examples, we will present the crucial dimension of presidential transitions before
examining the special sensitivity of the next transition. Finally, we will look into the
arrangements recently made and what should be undertaken in order to improve this

1. A traditionally crucial period

Ever since 1797 when George Washington handed over the powers of the Presidency to John
Adams, the United States has had to deal with this practice that was only codified much
later. Although the transition between the first American President and the man who was at
the time his Vice President took place calmly, that has not always been the case, in particular
when power was handed over between two men who came from different parties. This
practice was improved with Harry Truman and his successors but it remains sensitive as we
can see from the last transition between Bill Clinton and George W. Bush in 2000-2001.

􏰀 Historical examples of transition

It was in fact President Truman who informally instituted the tradition whereby the
outgoing President facilitates the arrival of his successor in his duties, even
when he comes from a different party. On the day after the victory of Dwight
Eisenhower in the elections of November 1952, Truman invited the five-star general to come
and meet him in the White House to ‘discuss the problems relating to the transition
period in order to demonstrate to the world that the nation is united in its fight
for liberty and peace.’ 2 In parallel, the Democratic President asked the federal agencies
reporting to the Executive to keep him informed of the actions they were undertaking to
facilitate the arrival in the White House of the Eisenhower Administration.3 During the
electoral campaign, Harry Truman had already charged the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency)
in 1952 with the task of providing the Presidential candidates with a daily intelligence
briefing similar to what he received every morning. 4

It is not surprising that these initiatives were made by President Truman given the way he
was propelled on April 12, 1945 to the highest post of the American executive branch. Upon
the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Truman took over sensitive issues dealing with foreign
policy about which he had not been kept informed. It thus seems obvious that he wanted his
successors not to find themselves in a situation similar to his when he became President of
the United States. Moreover, Truman understood that the first decisions made by
his successor would be taken on the basis of the information and the activities of
his administration and that, for that reason, he should familiarise the entering President
with the ongoing affairs. Furthermore, as he indicated in the telegram he sent to Dwight
Eisenhower, Truman was aware of the imperatives of the Cold War and wanted,
when facing the Soviet Union, to give an image of unity and to assure as well as
possible the continuity of the executive power.

Another interesting example concerns the last Presidential transition made during wartime,
between Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) and Richard Nixon in 1968-1969. In the midst of the
Vietnam War, even before the November election, LBJ was the first President to invite the
campaign teams of the two candidates to meetings for the purpose of preparing the
transition. Richard Nixon began to prepare for his possible arrival at the White House as
from the end of the Republican Convention in July 1968 and got ideas from the reports
describing the previous transitions. Less than a month after his election, Nixon had chosen
his main assistants who were charged with the task of helping to run his administration.5 On
the other hand, the selection of the Cabinet took more time, though this did not influence
events since the essential aspects of American policy were formulated from the White House
by the President and his close advisers like Kissinger. The Departments of State and Defense,
as well as their bosses, were only going to play an administrative role. This special manner of
operation made it possible to limit any slowdown due to change of administration. This was
translated into action by the ability of the White House to lead, as from the month of March
1969, a campaign of air bombardment against Cambodia.

􏰀 Transition of 2000-2001

In July 2004, the publication of the works of the 9/11 Commission made it possible to shed
light on the shortcomings of the process of transition and their consequences for
the level of preparation of the incoming administration. In the case of the period
2000-2001, the hesitation which typically exists was accentuated by the disputed
electoral results in Florida, thereby delaying the process by more than one
month and, as the 9/11 Commission Report stated, reducing ‘by half the normal period of
transition.’ 6 Although the election took place on November 7, 2000, it was only on December
13 that the Democratic candidate Al Gore accepted his defeat. While ad hoc measures were
taken by the team of George W. Bush right from the announcement of the Florida results on
November 26, the take-over of the premises put at the disposal of the incoming
administration only occurred the day after the speech by the Democratic candidate. Thus, Mr
Bush had just five weeks to put his team in place before his inauguration.7

According to all the evidence, these circumstances ‘hindered the new administration in
identifying, recruiting, screening and confirming its principal staff members
by the Senate.’8 Experience and continuity were clearly favoured. Thus, apart from Vice
President Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and Norman Mineta were chosen to
occupy the leading posts. The fact that all three of them had already faced confirmation
hearings in the Senate and security clearance had undeniably favoured their
designation. In parallel, Mr Bush’s transition team, led by Mr Cheney, chose to keep in
their posts a certain number of high officials. We think in particular of the Director of the
CIA George Tenet and Richard Clarke, who was responsible for counter-terrorism on the
National Security Council (NSC) since 1992. General Shelton, Chairman of the Joint Chief of
Staff, held onto his duties at the head of the American Armed Forces until September 30,

However, these efforts aimed at favouring continuity in the transition came up against the
realities of administrative slowness. Thus, it took more than six months for the
assistants of Colin Powell at the State Department to complete the long process
which preceded their taking up their duties.9 On the eve of September 11, 2001, only
227 of the 508 posts to be filled by the Presidency had an occupant. Out of this
number, 106 persons occupied their positions for les than eight weeks.10 The most telling
example is that of Robert Mueller who took over as the head of the FBI (Federal Bureau of
Investigation) only one week before the attacks on New York and Washington. Succeeding
Louis Freeh, whose departure in the summer of 2001 had been anticipated long before, Mr.
Mueller was only named on July 5 and officially became the Director of the Bureau only on
September 4, 2001. As Michael Chertoff, the present Secretary of Homeland Security
emphasizes, ‘we lived through September 11th with many posts vacant. This was not a very
responsible way to deal with the threats that we were later confronted with.’ 11

2. A unique combination of threats and vulnerabilities

These words by Michael Chertoff are entirely appropriate to the period ahead due to a
particularly sensitive international setting and a national security apparatus that was largely
reformed by the Bush Administration, and for whom the handover of power between the two
administrations will be a first.

􏰀 A particularly sensitive security context

The period of presidential transition of 2008-2009 is the first since 9/11. It should be unique
due to the variety and quantity of threats facing the United States. According to a report
of the Department of Homeland Security, vulnerability will be greatest ‘30 days before, (…),
and up to six months after the change of administration.’ 12 Concerning the national
security, three categories of risks can be distinguished.

First of all, this change of administration comes during a time of war, since the American
Army has in fact been engaged in Afghanistan since October 2001 and in Iraq since March
2003. This is the first time in forty years and the handover of powers between LBJ and
Richard Nixon that a President will be inaugurated during a war. Unlike 1968-1969, the
American Armed Forces are presently deployed in two different operational theatres. The
United States has in fact slightly more than 140,000 men in Iraq and around 34,000 in
Afghanistan.13 The maintenance of these force levels requires on the part of the Pentagon
leadership an irreproachable management which cannot allow itself to be disturbed by a
Presidential transition. Moreover, the initiatives concerning the Transformation of American
Armed Forces14 presently under way also require that continuity be maintained during the
change in administration.15 For Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, whose career within the
American national security apparatus goes back to the 1960s, this period remains
problematic. According to Mr. Gates, this process has ‘deteriorated’ over the course of the
last twenty-five years and it takes more and more time for new teams to be put in place at the

Next, everyone is aware that the American presidential election is coming in a particularly
sensitive international setting that is marked by the development of regional threats.
Quite obviously one thinks of Iran and North Korea, which could seek to take advantage of
the situation. An increase in tensions has also been seen between Washington and certain
capitals of Latin America such as Caracas and La Paz.17 Moreover, the crisis that took
place in August between Russia and Georgia illustrates perfectly the
vulnerability of the American authorities in a period of presidential transition.
While the initiative for these disturbances may be traced back to Georgia and not to Russia,
Moscow has skillfully exploited the context and limited margin of maneuver of a Bush
administration that is on its way out. It is not improbable that the powerlessness of the
White House reinforced the determination of the Kremlin to adopt a hard line with
regard to the West. One may wonder over the manner in which events would have developed
had such a crisis taken place at the end of December, when the teams at the White House and
the Pentagon are busy preparing to move out.

Finally, we cannot avoid the question of terrorism. Al-Qaeda and its associates have in
fact often used elections and periods of transition to carry out attacks. We think
back over the attacks in Madrid on March 11, 2004 which had an impact on the Spanish
legislative elections scheduled several days later. Similarly, on June 29 and 30, 2007, i.e., just
five days after Gordon Brown took over as Prime Minister, the United Kingdom was
subjected to many attacks in London and in Glasgow. While in the case of Spain, the
relationship between the elections and the attacks is incontestable, doubts continue over the
link between Mr. Brown’s accession and the three attacks. These precedents nonetheless
indicate that one should take seriously the risk both to the United States and to its overseas
interests. The U.S. Ambassador in Yemen was recently targeted by an attack prepared by the
local branch of al-Qaeda.18 A highly placed official in the Department of Homeland Security
admits that ‘major terrorist attacks both here and abroad are often committed shortly
before or after national elections.’ 19 As regards precise threats, the American intelligence
community believes that ‘al-Qaeda is going to increase the frequency, the sophistication, the
opportunism and the anti-Western character of its propaganda to the extent that the
presidential election in the United States draws near.’ 20

􏰀 A national security apparatus that has been largely updated

The reach of threats which have been mentioned is enhanced by the absence of experience
with respect to presidential transition on the part of the American bureaucracy that has been
reorganised during the two terms of Mr. Bush and for which this handover of power will thus
be a first. We are thinking in particular of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), ODNI (Office of the Director of National Intelligence) and the NCTC (National
Counterterrorism Center).

The most worrisome case is without doubt that of the Department of Homeland Security.
Created in November 2002 by the Homeland Security Act of 2002, the DHS supervises and
coordinates the work of twenty-two federal agencies including Customs, the Coast Guard, the
Secret Service and FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) whose activities are
linked to the security of national territory. It employs around 200,000 persons. The creation
of this Department involved the greatest bureaucratic reorganisation that the United
States has known since the creation of the Department of Defense in 1947. This
Presidential transition will thus be the first for this Department. It will be all the more
sensitive since, according to a Congressional report, ‘one of the recurrent problems
[DHS] is the over-politicisation of the highest ranks of its leadership.’21. This
means that a excessively large part of the managers of this structure is subjected to the
uncertainties of political change. For example, out of the ten main directors of FEMA, only
two are presently career civil servants.22 A report prepared by a private consulting company
estimates at 11% the ‘losses of leadership’ which the DHS will face during the transition of
2008-2009. 23

The problems are similar for the two other creations of the Bush administration - the ODNI
and the NCTC. The first is responsible for coordinating the activities of the American
intelligence community and was created in 2004 in the context of the most important reform
of the intelligence services since the creation of the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) in 1947.
The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA) 24 reorganised the
operation of sixteen intelligence agencies around a Director of National Intelligence (DNI)
who is responsible for setting the objectives and the priorities in the domains of collecting,
processing, analysing and disseminating intelligence. The key figure in this set-up, the DNI,
is named by the President and is assisted by the ODNI, whose composition will likely be
modified by the next administration. Nonetheless, Mike McConnell, the current Director of
National Intelligence, has let it be known that he is prepared to keep his post for six months
following the inauguration of the next President in order to facilitate the transition.

In order to strengthen the efforts in the domain of counter-terrorism, the IRTPA also created
the NCTC to analyse and bring together all the intelligence that the United States has in the
area of terrorism. Its Director is also named by the President and reports both to the White
House and to the ODNI. This makes it a central element in the U.S. counter-terrorism efforts
which cannot be allowed to slow down its operations during such a sensitive period.

3. The limits of American vulnerability

The considerations and the risks which we have just mentioned have certainly been taken
into account in Washington, where a series of arrangements have been put in place by the
Bush administration. On this question, the debate is prolific and many recommendations
have been presented in order to facilitate the handover of power between the two Presidents.

􏰀 Arrangements intended to reduce the risks linked to the transition

The problems of transitions are nothing new for the American authorities who have always
looked for solutions to improve this process. One example in this context is the move forward
of the inauguration date of the new President from March 4 to January 20 by ratification of
the twentieth amendment in 1933.26 Similarly, President Kennedy had the Presidential
Transition Act of 1963 passed, permitting the elected candidate and his assistants to receive
government funds and premises in order to prepare to bring in their new administration in
the best circumstances.27

As regards the transition of 2008-2009, many measures have been taken to limit the period
of inertia which characterises the handover of power. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen have respectively asked a group of
civilians and a group of officers to prepare the Pentagon for the change of administration.
According to a memo of its president John Hamre, the Defense Policy Board identified
a certain number of points on which the new team in charge of the Department
of Defense should concentrate so as to be able to be effective from the moment
they take over their duties. On the military side, a transition team was set up within the
Joint Chiefs of Staff.28 Furthermore, in order to avoid high vacancy rates at the level of
deputy secretaries which, according to him often are higher than20% at the start of a new
term, Mr. Gates has enjoined the main civilian managers to be prepared to keep
their posts until their successor has been confirmed by the Senate. The objective
for the successor of Donald Rumsfeld is to avoid ‘having a lot of empty chairs on the civilian
side’29 during a war.

Under the direction of Michael Chertoff, the Department of Homeland Security has also
sought to anticipate the problems linked to this period by creating a working group which
presented its recommendations last January.30 A plan developed on the basis of these
proposals is supposed to be presented in October. Meanwhile, the DHS has
organised many conferences and exercises since February. The order of succession of
the Department was also reorganised to limit the ascendance of the holders of political
functions. In addition, twenty-five key posts were identified and high career civil
servants have been named to ensure the interim management.31 Thus, Nancy
Ward, who is responsible for the FEMA operation in Oakland, California, was chosen to
direct the federal agency for managing emergency situations until the person appointed by
the next President takes up his duties.32

􏰀 What remains to be done

The various published reports on the issues of the presidential transition, as well as the
interest shown by the press have made it possible to open a veritable debate around these questions. In the op-ed page of the Washington Post, Richard Armitage, the former Deputy
Secretary of State under Colin Powell and Michèle A. Flournoy, the former Assistant
Secretary of Defense in the Clinton Administration, call for the emergence of a
‘bipartisan consensus to put in place a process of accelerated screening and
confirmation for the 40 or 50 main members of the new President’s national
security team.’ 33 The authors also seek the commitment of the FBI and of the outgoing
administration. In a number of hearings by the appropriate Senate committees, the persons
named have had in fact to fill out more than sixty pages of forms and are subjected to
thorough verifications carried out by the FBI. They must also mention the scholarly
establishments in which they were enrolled and explain all their sojourns abroad, including
in Canada and Mexico, over the course of the past fifteen years.34

In parallel, Jamie Gorelick and Slade Gordon, two former members of the 9/11 Commission,
also came out in favour of drastic changes. They wanted first of all that the candidates be
given access not only to intelligence briefings but to the main dossiers and programmes
relating to national security. The authors then recommend that the candidates
provide, even before the election, the names of those whom they intend to
nominate in order that the competent authorities such as the FBI be able to
begin the investigations. The objective is that with the support of Congress, which would
be committed to organise the hearings of the nominees as from the very start of
the month of January, to ensure that the main posts can be filled from the day after the
inauguration of the new President. The two former members of the 9/11 Commission believe
that the persons put forward to perform the functions of director of an agency should, from
the day after the election, meet with those whom they will succeed in order to get used to
their new post under the best possible conditions.35

The two candidates in the presidential election have also made arrangements to anticipate
the presidential transition. Since the month of July, Barack Obama has put in place a team
charged with the task of planning the activities of this period should the Senator from Illinois
be elected on November 4.36 John McCain did the same in September when he entrusted the
preparation for his possible entrance into the White House to William E. Timmons, a former
member of the transition teams of Ronald Reagan in 1980 and of George W. Bush in 200037.
Nonetheless we note that the two candidates, whose arrangements with regard
to this matter have nothing innovative about them, do not seem to accord to the
issues relating to presidential transition an attention appropriate to what is at
stake. It even appears that the decisions taken by the two campaigns on this question have
been exploited for political ends. Right after the announcement of the Obama team, the
Republicans criticised the Democratic candidate for the arrogance of his decision. Similarly,
there are good chances that the lobbyist past of Mr. Timmons will be used by the team of the
Senator from Illinois to attack his counterpart from Arizona.

4. Conclusion

The first presidential transition after 9/11 constitutes a major challenge for the
entire government apparatus of the American state. The combination of
external and domestic threats, as well as the increased vulnerability of a part of
the administration which never experienced this process renders this period
particularly sensitive.

Nonetheless, it appears that the public debate which opened on these questions
made it possible for the various actors of this process to take measures in order
to facilitate the change of administration.

While an incident can always arise before or after the election, the main issue
for the incoming administration is to arrive on the day after the inauguration of
January 20 ready to assume its duties. For that to happen President Bush and
his successor must work together from the day after the election of November 4.
This cooperation will be essential to the preparation of the team of the next
occupant of the White House. While one may believe that the incoming
President will have to make good use of the eleven weeks before his taking up
his duties, much will depend on the good will of the administration in office. It
seems that President Bush is aware of this and will try to put his successor in
the best arrangements, because he certainly knows that an incident occurring
very early in the term of a new President can also tarnish his legacy.

Finally, the sheer weight of the process of screening and confirmation puts
forward the question of the politicisation of some functions of the American
government. Though from a democratic point of view the virtues of this system
are incontestable – France has even taken inspiration from it for its
constitutional reform – these procedures do not seem to be well suited to the
demands of the modern world and to the immediacy of the threats. The four
years of the term of a President of the United States is one of the shortest among
the Western democracies and it is no longer acceptable today that a department
like the Pentagon is not able to function in optimal manner during the first six
months of the new administration. Although awareness of these problems and
the ad hoc measures taken by each department are going to facilitate the next
transition, the next administration and the Congress should reflect deeply to ensure that long-lasting legislative measures are taken.

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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Dahlan: Iran, Qatar supported Hamas during Gaza 'coup'

Khaled Abu Toameh

Former Fatah security chief Muhammed Dahlan said Wednesday that he was not surprised by Hamas's "coup" in the Gaza Strip and that he had warned different parties about the Islamic movement's plans.

He also accused Iran and Qatar of providing Hamas with hundreds of millions of dollars.

Dahlan, who is a Fatah member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, has been accused by Hamas of conspiring with the US and Israel to remove the Hamas-led government from power. He is also under attack from some Fatah leaders and activists who hold him responsible for the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip.

His remarks came amid growing pressure on Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas to negotiate with Hamas a solution to the current crisis.

Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have advised Abbas to resume talks with Hamas leaders over the formation of a new "unity" government, a top PA official in Ramallah said. He told The Jerusalem Post that Abbas's position remained that there would be no dialogue with Hamas until it apologized for what it did in the Gaza Strip and withdrew its men from all the offices and security headquarters which they occupied.

Hamas, for its part, welcomed Arab calls for a dialogue with Fatah, but said it would not accept pre-conditions. Hamas spokesman Ayman Abu Taha said that in any case his movement was not keen on talking to a "bunch of murderers" in Fatah.

"I was not surprised by the coup in the Gaza Strip," Dahlan said. "I knew about Hamas's plans and I told different parties about this so we could try to thwart them."

Asked why the Fatah-controlled security forces were defeated by Hamas, Dahlan said: "The Palestinian security establishment was never prepared for internal fighting. Since the beginning of the intifada in 2000 our security forces faced systematic destruction by Israel. The Israelis destroyed 280 security installations in the past seven years and Hamas continued to destroy security installations before they launched their coup."

Dahlan pointed out that Hamas militiamen had raided the central prison in Gaza City and freed some murderers. "They claim that they have just liberated the Gaza Strip for the second time [after Israeli disengagement]," he said. "The Hamas men have Fatah blood on their hands. They forgot that Fatah had protected them when they were being chased by Israel."

Dahlan denied that he had played any role in the Hamas-Fatah clashes that preceded the takeover, saying he had been abroad for nearly two months for surgery. "I was not in charge of security in the Gaza Strip," he explained. "I was out of the country because I had to undergo surgery. This is not a personal matter because Hamas has been targeting our people and institutions over the past three years."

Dahlan lashed out at Qatar and Iran, accusing each country of giving Hamas $400 million. He also accused Qatar of turning its Al-Jazeera TV network into an organ for the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas.

"For decades, Iran never paid the Palestinians one dollar," he said. "But they gave Hamas $400 million that went to Hamas's bank accounts and not to the Palestinian people. Qatar also gave Hamas another $400 million that were used to slaughter Palestinians."

Dahlan claimed that Iran had been training many Hamas militiamen. "Our people are the victims of regional and international meddling in our affairs," he said.

He also claimed that Hamas was established with the help and support of Israel so that its members could fight against the PLO and Fatah. "Everyone knows that Israel established Hamas back then so that it could fight the PLO," he said. "When Hamas members were arrested back then for possession of weapons, they used to tell the Israelis that the guns were supposed to be used only against Communists and secular Palestinians."

Dahlan ruled out the possibility that Fatah and Hamas would patch up their differences through dialogue. "I don't believe that this is the appropriate time to talk about the resumption of dialogue with Hamas," he said.

"President Abbas does not support taking to these murderers. Besides, Hamas is continuing to hold 120 Fatah members who were kidnapped in the past few weeks. We will resort to all methods to prevent Hamas from perpetrating similar crimes in the West Bank."

In another development, Abbas decided on Wednesday to fire Gen. Musbah al-Buhaisi, commander of the PA Presidential Guard in the southern Gaza Strip, for surrendering to Hamas.

Abbas's office said the decision was taken following recommendations by the special commission of inquiry that was established last week to look into the reasons behind Fatah's defeat. It said Buhaisi was the highest-ranking security official to be dismissed since the Hamas takeover. Buhaisi and many other top security officers fled to Ramallah after Hamas took control over the Gaza Strip two weeks ago.


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Friday, April 27, 2007

DNI's 100 day plan

By Michael Jacobson

In mid-April, nearly two months into his tenure as the nation's second Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Michael McConnell announced a "100 day plan," outlining what he hopes to accomplish during this period. McConnell stated that his plan to improve the “integration and collaboration” of the US Intelligence Community (IC) marks the “next stage in intelligence reform.”

McConnell's 100 day plan – which is intended to build on the October 2005 National Intelligence Strategy released by John Negroponte, McConnell’s predecessor -- focuses on transforming the IC in six key areas. These include: creating a culture of collaboration, accelerating information sharing, improving collection and analysis on the hardest targets, and modernizing the IC’s security and financial practices. McConnell also reorganized his office to create a directorate to manage the IC’s acquisition of new technologies.

To succeed in achieving the ambitious goals laid out in his 100 day plan, McConnell will have to be more aggressive in this role than his predecessor. There are promising signs in this regard. McConnell complained in a recent speech about his insufficient authorities, pointing out that he does not have direct power to hire or fire 15 of the 16 IC heads, as they are part of Cabinet level departments. In fact, McConnell’s 100 day plan calls for the DNI’s duties to be clarified and aligned, and notes that “more is required to realize fully the intended benefits.”

McConnell cannot wait though for additional authorities before moving to take strong action. While McConnell may regard his powers as insufficient, the reality is that the position comes with considerable authority. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism and Prevention Act of 2004, which created the DNI, imbued the position with significant control over the IC’s budget, personnel, tasking, and acquisition. The DNI plays a particularly important role in the budgetary arena, where he has the power to “develop and determine” the IC budget. The DNI can also reprogram or transfer funds and personnel within the IC without the consent of the affected agencies (with certain limitations). In addition, the DNI can use his control over IC funds as leverage, as he can withhold money from IC agencies should the need arise. The statute also explicitly gives the DNI responsibility for managing the IC’s tasking, and assigns the DNI a key role in all IC acquisitions.

While the issue of DNI authorities is important, perhaps an even more significant issue for McConnell is that he does not have a deputy in place. This position has been vacant for nearly a year, since General Hayden vacated the slot to become the head of the CIA. As the DNI, McConnell has two primary functions: leading the IC and serving as the President’s chief intelligence advisor. As McConnell noted at a recent press conference, he is spending hours every day fulfilling the latter role – particularly in preparing for and participating in the morning intelligence briefing with the President. This leaves him with far too little time to focus on leading the IC – the primary reason the DNI position was created. A strong deputy could play an important role in managing the IC and in implementing the DNI’s strategic vision of transformation. The DNI cannot adequately perform both functions on his own.

While the success of McConnell’s 100 day plan is important to his ultimate record as the DNI, more critical is the tone he sets during this period. Taking strong actions from the outset will go a long way towards establishing the DNI’s control over the IC agencies. Without an aggressive approach, the DNI will be hard pressed to make the changes that the IC needs.


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France to pullout troops from Afghanistan

PARIS - France does not plan to stay in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy said Friday, hours before a deadline for a pullout of French troops in exchange for the release of two hostages.

There is no plan to continue occupying a country in the long term,’ said Douste-Blazy. ‘It goes against France’s values of respect for sovereignty, national independence and territorial integrity.’

France has contributed 1,000 men to the NATO-led force in Afghanistan, as well as Rafale fighter jets in support of the international force battling a Taleban insurrection.

Taleban militants are holding two aid workers for the French nongovernment organisation Terre d’Enfance (A World For Our Children), who went missing on April 3 with three of their Afghan staff.

The deadline for Taleban demands to be met in exchange for the release of two French hostages will expire Saturday, not Friday as originally thought, Taleban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP.

Unless its demands are met, the Taleban, which has beheaded several of its captives, has said ‘the position of Islamic Emirate (the Taleban) about foreign prisoners... (will) soon be applied.’

‘We are doing everything in Kabul and Paris to being them home soon,’ Douste-Blazy said, adding that he had ‘taken note’ of a Taleban statement on Thursday saying the hostages were in good health.


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US: Iran could produce nuke weapon within 3 years

Iran has overcome technical difficulties in its uranium enrichment plan and may be able develop a single nuclear weapon within three years, American sources said on Friday morning.

According to an intelligence report cited by CBS, US officials have warned that Iran could have enough bomb-grade material to produce such a weapon before the previously estimated 1015.

"I think Iran can get enough highly enriched uranium for a nuclear weapon sooner than that," leading expert David Albright told CBS. "I think the 2015 number reflects too much skepticism about Iran's technical capabilities, and they are making progress."


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Saudis arrest 172 militants in anti-terror sweep

Saudi police have arrested 172 militants and seized large quantities of arms and money in anti-terror sweep, a Saudi state TV channel reported Friday.

The channel Ekbariya quoted the Interior Ministry as saying the detained militants were plotting to attack the country's oil fields.

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Iraq: US nabs suspected Iranian weapon smugglers

US troops detained seven suspected members of a cell smuggling sophisticated roadside bombs from Iran during a raid Friday in a Shi'ite militia stronghold in Baghdad, the military said.

The raid was targeting a network of militants helping to bring sophisticated weapons from Iran to Iraq, including so-called explosively formed "penetrators," or EFPs, which are capable of piercing armored vehicles, according to a statement.

The cell also was smuggling militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training and has ties to a kidnapping network that conducts attacks within Iraq, the military said.

"Individuals coming into Iraq from other countries for the purpose of endangering Iraqi civilians and disrupting security won't be tolerated," military spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Garver said in the statement.

In January, US officials said at least 170 U.S. soldiers had been killed by EFPs since 2004.


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Israel may get F-22s if nation at risk

The United States would be inclined to allow the sale of advanced stealth F-22 fighter jets to the Israeli Air Force if the State of Israel's security was in jeopardy, former US Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen told The Jerusalem Post Thursday night.

On a 24-hour visit to Israel, Cohen, who served as defense chief under President Bill Clinton from 1996 until 2000, met on Thursday with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni for talks on the looming Iranian nuclear threat and other regional issues.

Cohen currently heads the Cohen Group, which provides business consulting services and advice on tactical and strategic opportunities around the globe.

The Post reported last week that the Air Force has expressed newfound interest in receiving the F-22 - a US-developed fifth generation stealth fighter jet - and has requested that the Defense Ministry present the request on its behalf to the Pentagon. Defense officials have asked to receive the jet so Israel can retain its military edge in the region in face of American plans to sell smart bombs to Saudi Arabia.

"There is no stronger relationship than with Israel," Cohen said. "There could be circumstances that that level of technology would be released to Israelis."

While Congress and the Pentagon would be hesitant to release classified technology like the F-22 to Israel, "if it came to a question of Israeli security, I am confident they will come to help."

The F-22 has been forbidden for export by the Pentagon.

Cohen arrived in Israel Wednesday night after visiting a number of Gulf states, including Abu Dhabi and Dubai, as well as Jordan. Cohen said that during his talks with leaders in those counties he heard "sentiments" acknowledging that Iran was the greatest threat to stability in the Middle East and no longer Israel. Cohen visited Israel as secretary of defense in 2000.

"They understand that Iran is a threat to them all," he said. "There is a convergence of interest evolving and you can find that Israel is not being seen as the adversary."

With Iran funding Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Hizbullah in Lebanon and Syria, there was a need to focus on the "center" when looking to find the catalyst for instability in the Middle East, Cohen said.

"The prospect of Iran getting nuclear weapons changes the dynamics in the region with great impact for rest of world," he said. "We try to seek ways that the Gulf states can cooperate with the US. They are not yet ready to announce diplomatic relations with Israel but the sentiment is shifting and they understand that Iran is the major threat to them and not Israel."


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Erbil, 26 April (AKI) - An Italian company has won a 40 million dollar contract with the Kurdistan regional government for an overhaul of the electricity system in the two main power plants in the region, at Dokan and Darbandikhan. The ministry of electricity has chosen ELC-Electroconsult a global consulting engineering company, for the World Bank-funded scheme. "It is one of the biggest projects of the ministry in recent decades," a spokesman told Adnkronos International (AKI).

He added that at the signing ceremony the minister reaffirmed "the urgent need of Kurdistan for similar investment projects in various sectors but especially in electricity given the major problems the region has in this field."

"He appealed to Italian companies to invest in Kurdistan where the environment is ideal for this sort of activity," the press officer added.

During his recent visit to Italy, the president of the autonomous region of Kurdistan, Massoud Barzani, urged the government to "press Italian firms to promote strategic investment projects in Iraqi Kurdistan" stressing the "willingness of the regional government to provide all the neccessary support to investors."

The two hydroelectric plants of Dokan and Darbandikhan were built by the Russians in the 1950s but in recent years the deterioration of the original strucutre has led to a series of problems.

Electroconsult was established in 1955, with the objective of making available on the international scene the expertise accumulated over the years by two major Italian private firms leading and pioneering since 1930 in the planning, design and construction of hydropower schemes in the Alps mountain range of Northern Italy.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

‘Dry run’ attack forces Prince Harry retreat

Army chiefs fear that a fatal attack on two British soldiers in Iraq last week was a dry run for an attempt on Prince Harry’s life, The Times has learnt.

The attack was made on a type of vehicle that the Prince will use, and took place in a part of the country where he is due to be deployed as early as next month. The two died when their Scimitar reconnaissance vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb – the first time that British soldiers had been killed in a Scimitar as a result of enemy action.

The Army fears that extremists deliberately chose the vehicle knowing that the Prince is a troop leader for a Scimitar-equipped unit.

Prince Harry faces a kidnap threat from insurgents, who have become active this month even within bases used by the British Army in southern Iraq. Security has been tightened at Camp Sparrowhawk, a base in Maysan Province used by reconnaissance units such as Prince Harry’s.

British soldiers are under orders not to walk around the Iraqi-run base for fear of kidnapping, either by insurgents who have infiltrated Iraqi ranks, or by Iraqi soldiers who are tempted by the possibility of ransom.

A British commanding officer at the base also said that insurgents were “trying out new devices” against his troops. He added that his men were often being tracked by militias using mobile phones and by observers on motorbikes.

The eleventh-hour review about sending Prince Harry to the area follows an alarming rise in attacks this year. Of the 17 British personnel to be killed in 2007, 11 died in the last month. Prince Harry, 22, has been trained to take command of four Scimitars when his unit, A Squadron The Blues and Royals, part of the Household Cavalry, is sent to Iraq.

The two soldiers who died in last week’s attack were Corporal Ben Leaning, 24, and Trooper Kristen Turton, 28, both from The Queen’s Royal Lancers. Their bodies were repatriated to Britain yesterday. Another soldier was very seriously wounded.

The attack has also raised further concerns that the presence of Prince Harry might increase the risk of casualties during his six-month deployment.

General Sir Richard Dannatt, the head of the Army who made the decision to send Prince Harry to Iraq after consultation with Buckingham Palace and Clarence House, will make the final judgment. He has about a week to decide whether to stick to his original decision or to keep him at home.

The Ministry of Defence and royal sources said that at present Prince Harry was still bound for Iraq, unless General Dannatt changed his mind.

Defence sources said that every aspect of Prince Harry’s deployment was being reassessed, and that the military and intelligence services in Iraq had been asked urgently to give their views.

They added that General Dannatt wanted to know if the insurgents had acquired a greater capability to attack British troops, if there would be a higher risk of casualties with the Prince serving as an officer, and if security conditions had significantly deteriorated since the earlier decision in February.

One of the key judgments is whether Prince Harry can do the job for which he is trained without putting himself and his men at an unacceptable risk. Defence sources said that the Prince – known in the Army as 2nd Lieutenant (Cornet) Wales – would not be spending all his time in a Scimitar vehicle carrying out operations.

“Like any other officer of his rank, he will also be required to do desk work, either as a watch-keeper or planning missions, so he will spend some of his time back at base anyway,” one source said.

However, the judgment is that there is no point in sending Prince Harry to do a permanent desk job for six months when he has trained to command 11 men as a troop leader in a reconnaissance role.

Even sitting in a base has become risky as every location where British soldiers are serving comes under fire almost daily. “Nowhere is perfectly safe in Iraq,” one defence source admitted.

But the current intelligence judgment is that the insurgents have not acquired a new capability that made it easier for them to target British units, or to close in on Prince Harry’s squadron.

Royal sources made it clear that the final decision was in the hands of the Army. They said that he was still eager to go and that he would be “extremely disappointed” if the decision was reversed.

They dismissed claims from inside the Household Cavalry that he would quit the Army if he was barred from going to Iraq. “Prince Harry is a grown-up and he’ll take whatever the decision is, but he wants to go to Iraq, and to say he would quit the Army if he didn’t is way too strong,” one said.

Friends of the Prince confirmed that he had no intention of resigning his commission.

Defence sources said that the review of the decision would continue “right up until Prince Harry is due to leave for Iraq”.

the times

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Somalia says it has defeated insurgents

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Somalia's prime minister claimed victory Thursday over Islamic insurgents in Mogadishu, where nine days of battles using tanks and artillery left hundreds dead.

Western diplomats were skeptical of the claim. The diplomats, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of damaging relations with Somalia's interim government, said the insurgents had suffered many casualties and were running low on ammunition, but were not yet defeated.

Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi said government forces and their Ethiopian allies had captured an insurgent stronghold in the northern part of the capital and that more than 100 fighters had surrendered. He said the city should be secure by Friday.

"We have won the fighting against the insurgents," Gedi told The Associated Press by telephone from Mogadishu, saying that small, mopping-up operations were still under way. "The worst of the fighting in the city is now over."

Machine gun and artillery fire could still be heard in the south of Mogadishu, a coastal city of 2 million people. An estimated 340,000 Somalis have fled the city's worst fighting in 15 years.

"People can now return to their homes," Gedi said. "The rest of the fighting will be over soon. We have captured the stronghold of the terrorists. We will capture any terrorists who have escaped."

The insurgents are linked to the Council of Islamic Courts, which was driven from power in December by Somali and Ethiopian soldiers, accompanied by U.S. special forces. The U.S. has accused the courts of having ties to al-Qaida.

The militants reject any secular government, and have sworn to fight until Somalia becomes an Islamic emirate.

Somalia has been mired in chaos since 1991, when warlords overthrew dictator Mohamed Siad Barre and then battled each other. A national government was established in 2004 with U.N. help, but it has failed to assert any real control.


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Jordan: Man arrested for honor killing of sister

Jordanian authorities arrested a man accused of killing his 30-year-old sister on suspicion that she had a love affair, even though he had earlier signed a pledge to the police that he would not harm her, a police official said Thursday.

The crime, which took place in the eastern industrial city of Zarqa on Wednesday, brings to eight the total number of women killed since January in what is known as "honor crimes."

An average of 20 women are killed by male relatives each year in Jordan, a largely conservative Muslim society where men have the final say in all family matters. Many here consider sex out of wedlock an indelible stain on a family's reputation. Some women in conservative circles of the society have been killed simply for dating.

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Iran: US seeks to undermine regime

A top security official accused the United States Thursday of seeking to undermine Iran's clerical regime by stoking sectarian and ethnic tensions in the country and using newspapers and non-governmental agencies toward that goal.

"A soft threat is the main plan of the US due to its incapability to launch a military operation [against Iran,]" Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Baqer Zolqadr was quoted as saying by the official IRNA news agency.

Zolqadr, whose comments came in a speech he made in Iran's Kurdistan province, said, "The threat is being implemented through the creation of instability and tension inside Iran as well as fanning ethnic and sectarian differences."

"The threat is being implemented through the creation of instability and tension inside Iran as well as fanning ethnic and sectarian differences," said Zolqadr.

Earlier Thursday, he said that his country would attack Israel and American targets throughout the world if Teheran were attacked over its nuclear program, Israel Radio reported.

According to the official Iranian news agency, the official, who deals with defense issues, said that no American would be safe from Iran's long-range missiles.

"We are prepared to fire tens of thousands of these missiles every day," he said.

He added that the Shahab 3 missiles, which have a range of some 2,000 kilometers, could hit Israel, as well as US Army bases in the Persian Gulf.

Meanwhile, Iran's top nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, expressed a more positive view of the situation, saying Thursday morning that Wednesday's talks with EU Foreign Police Chief Javier Solana had brought them closer to "a united view" of how to break a deadlock over Teheran's defiance of a UN Security Council demand to freeze uranium enrichment.

Larijani added that Iran was "aiming to reach out for a common paradigm."

The two reported progress after their six-hour meeting on Wednesday evening, and planned to meet again in two weeks' time.

"We had a good meeting," Solana told reporters. "We cannot make miracles, but we tried to move...the [nuclear] dossier forward."


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