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Friday, September 30, 2005

Polls and the Muslim World

Harold's List

By Robert Satloff
New Republic Online
September 30, 2005

The inaugural Middle East tour of Karen Hughes, America's chief public diplomat, has occasioned yet another round of hand-wringing over the crisis of Arab anti-Americanism. Reuters explained that "the sagging American image abroad needed a facelift," while The Christian Science Monitor predicted that Hughes "won't have to listen too closely to hear the widespread anger over perceived U.S. arrogance and heavy-handedness." At the same time, the just-leaked findings of the congressionally mandated Advisory Committee on Cultural Diplomacy state bluntly that "America's image and reputation abroad could hardly be worse." None of this comes as much of a surprise. After all, everyone accepts that America is widely loathed in the Arab world.

And yet it's worth asking: Is it true?
The assumption that Arabs are enraged at America relies heavily on a single-source polling data. But there are two major problems with polls of Arab public opinion: the way those polls are generally reported; and the accuracy of the polls themselves. The indefatigable Israeli politician Shimon Peres once famously said that polls are like perfume--beautiful to smell, deadly to drink. At least where contemporary polls of Arab and Muslim public opinion are concerned, he was on to something.

For an example of the first problem, take the widely cited Pew Global Attitudes Survey. Guided by a stellar group of renowned statesmen and academic experts, the "Pew polls," as they are known, are regarded as the gold standard of international public opinion measurements.

One of Pew's most newsworthy polls was its March 2004 survey, "A Year After Iraq War: Mistrust of America in Europe Ever Higher; Muslim Anger Persists." The press advisory that accompanied the survey results highlighted a deepening divide between the United States and Muslim societies, a charge that was picked up in Cassandra-like headlines in newspapers across the country.

Evidently few reporters took the time to read the fine print in the poll itself. If they did, they would have found that the poll provided absolutely no evidence to support the charge that "Muslim anger persists." In fact, the word "anger" did not appear in a single poll question. Muslims did give high "unfavorable" ratings to the United States, but there is considerable difference between viewing something unfavorably and being angry at it. (Think of broccoli or Britney Spears.) Pew evidently recognized how problematic this was; in the 2005 version of the Global Attitudes Survey, released in June, references to such sensationalist (and unsubstantiated) terms as "anger" were nowhere to be found. But the damage was already done.

Pew's general pattern has been to downplay results that suggest America's standing is less bleak than commonly assumed. In 2004, for example, one question found that--in contrast to Europeans--Arabs and Muslims overwhelmingly endorsed America's role as the world's sole superpower, with huge majorities saying that international security would be endangered by the emergence of a global competitor to the United States. The press advisory made no mention of this. Similarly, the advisory avoided the fact that in three of four Muslim countries polled, there was a significant increase in the number of respondents who gave the United States a passing grade--that is, "excellent," "good," or "only fair"--for its performance in Iraq compared to the previous year's poll; in only one country, Turkey, did the percentage characterizing America's performance as "poor" rise, and that was just 2 percent. In Pew's summary of the 2005 survey, there is scant reference to a remarkable set of positive trends: Compared to previous results, all Muslim countries polled had a less critical image of President Bush; a more favorable view of the United States (here again, Turkey was the sole exception); a stronger sense that America truly favors democracy in their country; and a greater receptivity to implementing Western-style democracy. That certainly runs against the common wisdom regarding the political attitudes of Arabs and Muslims.

Aside from flaws in how these poll results are reported, there are structural factors that can chip away at the fundamental validity of polling in many Arab countries. These problems flow primarily from the difference between liberal democracies and the controlled authoritarian states that prevail in much of the Middle East. For example, should we take at face value data from countries where freedom of speech is highly circumscribed or where the populace has no experience in answering provocative questions from strange people promising to keep the replies secret? And shouldn't we look twice at results from countries whose rulers have an interest in Washington continuing to fear an allegedly outraged anti-American populace?

Then there is the less sinister problem of language. Polls in Arab countries are almost always done in Arabic, despite the fact that about one-quarter of the citizens of these countries--including Berbers, Kurds, Turcomans, Sudanese animists, and others--are not Arab and may not speak Arabic as their first language. Ask a Moroccan the same question in Arabic and a Berber dialect, for example, and there is a good chance of getting different results--for the simple reason that talking in each language is itself a political statement, with local, national, and international implications.

Lastly, there is the issue of sample. Pew pollsters, for instance, are able to work in four countries that alone represent about forty percent of all Muslims--the world's two most populous Muslim countries (Indonesia and Pakistan) and two with the world's largest Muslim minorities (China and India). In contrast, Pew operates in just three Arab countries (Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon) whose population amounts to less than 15 percent of all Arab states combined; importantly, none are among the region's political heavyweights and none are in the Gulf. One simply can't discern general trends about Arab public opinion from polls based on such a small and geographically skewed sample.

None of this suggests that all surveys of Arab opinion are bad. Undertaken professionally and disseminated dispassionately, they have a useful role to play in shaping understanding of Arab political dynamics. But a singular reliance on professed Arab attitudes--what Arab publics say--should not be enough. At the very least, this process ought to be complemented by a thorough assessment of what Arab publics do. This is the old fashioned method. In the pre-polling era, there were two reliable measures of anti-Americanism: state action (such as the Arab oil embargo) and mass action (especially street protests). Boycotts of high-profile American goods or companies cut across these two categories, as sometimes they represent decisions of government or state enterprises and at other times they reflect the collective action of thousands of individual consumers.

Using these indicators, the situation does not appear quite so dire. On the state level, it's business as usual, and then some. Although Arab petroleum exporters could choke our economy by turning off the spigot, they appear more interested in reaping the gains of high prices. One after another, Muslim leaders are lining up to sign free-trade agreements with the United States and to shake the hand of Israel's leader at the United Nations. It doesn't look like many are fearful of anti-American backlashes at home.

On the mass level, the famed "Arab street" is largely inactive. Despite the high number of civilian deaths in Iraq, it is extremely rare for Arabs to gather in large numbers to protest the U.S. occupation. Indeed, the largest Arab protest this year--the Lebanese demonstration demanding the withdrawal of Syrian forces--was decidedly pro-American.

At the same time, recent Arab boycotts of high-profile American companies--if they had any traction at all--were short-lived and ultimately ineffective. McDonald’s sales in Asia, the Middle East, and Africa did fall in 2003, when U.S.-led forces invaded Iraq, but have rebounded strongly ever since. Even Caterpillar, under pressure for doing business with the Israel Defense Forces, appears to turn a handsome profit in the Middle East, with revenues for its division that include Arab countries up 50 percent in the past two years.

To be sure, none of this is proof that all is well in America's relations with Arab publics. But the truth of the situation is far more nuanced than the commonly held image of a region in which millions of Arabs rush out of bed each day to burn effigies of Uncle Sam before their morning coffee. The prime mission of post-9/11 public diplomacy is identifying, nurturing, and supporting Muslim allies in the ideological battle against radical Islamist extremism. That task is difficult--yet doable. But it will only seem impossible if we guzzle every fragrance in the department store.

Robert Satloff is executive director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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Iran Compendium

By Marc Schulman

Since starting my American Future blog a little bit over a year ago, I've posted more than 100 articles on Iran -- on its nuclear program, elections, democracy movement, and involvement with Iraq, al-Qaeda, and Hizbollah.

To simplify matters for those involved with the Intelligence Summit, I've created a new blog that has summaries of all of the Iran-related posts in American Future. The new blog, Intelligence Summit -- Iran, can be reached by clicking here.

When you've arrived at the Intelligence Summit -- Iran blog, clicking on the title of a post will take you to the corresponding post in American Future. There, you'll be able to access the entire post, not just the summary.

If you have any problems (or if you want to tell me what a great resource I've created!), please email me at Schulman@intelligencesummit.org.

Thank you and I look forward to seeing you in February.

Marc Schulman
Director of Research

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Hawala - Terrorist Money Laundering System

New FDNY Muslim Chaplain Resigns After Remarks About September 11 Conspiracy Theory


NEW YORK Sep 30, 2005 — The fire department's new Muslim chaplain abruptly resigned Friday after saying in a published interview that a broader conspiracy, not 19 al-Qaida hijackers, may have been responsible for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"It became clear to him that he would have difficulty functioning as an FDNY chaplain," Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta told reporters an hour before Imam Intikab Habib was to be officially sworn in. "There has been no prior indication that he held those views."

Habib told Newsday in an interview published Friday that he was skeptical of the official version of the attack on the World Trade Center, which killed 343 firefighters.

"I've heard professionals say that nowhere ever in history did a steel building come down with fire alone," he told the newspaper.

"It takes two or three weeks to demolish a building like that. But it was pulled down in a couple of hours," he said. "Was it 19 hijackers who brought it down, or was it a conspiracy?"

The 30-year Guyana native joined the department as chaplain on Aug. 15 after the FDNY's Islamic Society recommended him for the part-time position, which pays $18,000 a year.

Scoppetta said Habib, who was educated in Islamic law in Saudi Arabia and preaches at a New York mosque, had appeared qualified and passed a background check.

"It's sad," said Kevin James, a spokesman for the Islamic Society of Fire Department Personnel. "We had no idea those were his views. He's entitled to his opinion but he's not the right person for the chaplain."

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Banafsheh's List

by Amir Taheri
New York Post

September 30, 2005 -- PRESIDENT Bush's "image queen," Karen Hughes, is on a tour of Arab countries, where conventional wisdom claims that anti-Americanism is second nature. Hughes, now in charge of public diplomacy at the State Department, plainly she shares that analysis ? why else choose the Arab region for her maiden voyage?

But how true is that claim? Are Arabs the most anti-American people on earth?

Start with the tangibles. America is by far the largest pole of attraction for Arab foreign investment at all levels, from public-sector funds to small private savings accounts. The most conservative estimates put the value of Arab assets in the United States at over $4.5 trillion, which puts the Arab countries just behind Britain, Japan and Holland as the biggest investors in the U.S. economy.

The United States is also one of the top three trading partners of virtually all Arab states. In fact, many U.S.-made goods (cars, for example) that don't sell anywhere else still enjoy robust markets in Arab countries.

Then, too, America has been the No. 1 foreign tourist destination for Arabs since the 1980s, and has remained so despite restrictions imposed on Arab visitors after 9/11. Arabs from all walks of life and of all political sensibilities also love to send their children to study in America. And when it comes to seeking medical treatment, no country competes with the United States in attracting well-heeled Arabs.

If she takes time to stroll in Arab capitals, Hughes would be struck by the ubiquitous presence of things American. It is possible to spend a holiday in most Arab capitals without moving out of the orbit of American-franchised hotels, restaurants, tourist services and banks. A stroll in modern shopping malls would reveal a population wearing American-style clothing, including baseball caps, with Motorola mobile phones pressed to ears, as New Orleans jazz plays in the background. She could sip one of those coffees the choice of which requires a PhD at a Starbucks, or indulge herself in a Hagen-Dazs of her choice.

More than 70 percent of what's broadcast on Arab TV stations (including those regarded as "obsessively anti-American") is U.S.-made; 80 percent of the films shown in Arab cinemas are made in Hollywood. There are more than two dozen English dailies, all using the American version of the language. Go through them, and you see that much of the content comes from U.S. agencies and syndication services.

Even Arabic-language newspapers serve as outlets for American journalism. More than half of all major articles in the two main pan-Arab daily newspapers come from The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, Newsweek and Time magazines and other U.S. publications. Some American columnists have become household names in most Arab countries.

Hughes is also bound to be struck by the number of Arab decision-makers with American educational or business backgrounds and/or connections.

Only God and the U.S. immigration service would know how many Arabs hold green cards or even dual Arab-U.S. citizenship. With the possible exception of Libya, which has a weird regime, and Syria, whose leaders fear they may be targeted for "regime change," almost all Arab regimes are well-disposed toward the United States. Sixteen of the 21 member states of the Arab League host some U.S. military presence. The FBI maintains offices in at least 12 Arab capitals.

So, where did the impression that the Arabs are seething with anti-Americanism come from? Isn't it possible that the Arabs may be sharing the anti-American craze produced in the West, including the United States? Aren't the Arabs, as with so many other products, importing anti-Americanism?

In Arab newspapers, the bulk of the material that could be classified as anti-Bush and/or anti-American is translated from U.S. sources. Stroll in the streets where books and video and audio tapes are on sale at the curbsides and you will see that 90 percent of the items vilifying America come from American, French and British authors.

No Arab anti-American has produced anything like the conspiracy theories that American intellectuals such as Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore, Scott Ritter, Seymour Hersh and Edward Said, to name a few, have put on the markets everywhere, including the Arab world.

At any given time, one can find a horde of American activists visiting the region to urge the natives to hate America:

* Two years ago, a group of Americans appeared in Arab capitals to stop people in the bazaars to "apologize for the Crusades," although the United States didn't even exist when those wars were fought between Europe and the Middle East.

* Before the liberation of Iraq, scores of Americans came to Baghdad to offer themselves as "human shields" for Saddam Hussein. No Arab was so foolish.

* This month, a group of 30 American professors turned up in Tehran and Damascus to describe the United States as "a rogue state on the rampage".

* Bianca Jagger, presented as ambassador for UNICEF and "a leading thinker," has been in the region telling astonished audiences that the United States is the source of all evil in the world. (By the way, isn't UNICEF supposed to be apolitical?)

* One American professor recently published an op-ed in The New York Times relating his trip to Iran, where he was "disappointed" to see that students not only did not hate George W. Bush but, horror of horrors, also craved for an American-style democracy instead of an Islamist utopia.

* The anti-Bush demonstrations that Arabs watch on TV take place in Washington, San Francisco and Seattle, not in any Arab city.

* A friend, who happens to be a minister in an Arab state, was saddened this summer when, spending holidays with his family in the United States as he had always done since student days, he had to quarrel with an old American schoolmate. The point of the dispute was that the American insisted that the United States was an "evil empire," while the Arab believed that it could be a force for reform in the Middle East.

* Last month, an Iraqi journalist gave up his American scholarship and returned home because faculty members in the U.S. university he attended made him feel "guilty for having been liberated from Saddam Hussein."

* A Kuwaiti friend withdrew his son from an American university to "protect him from [being] brainwashed into hating the United States."

Many polls have been conducted to show that the Arabs are anti-American. A more interesting poll would aim at finding out how many Americans are so afflicted by self-loathing as to devote their energies to a systematic vilification of their nation.

The best that Karen Hughes could do is to help make available to the Arabs the other side of the American debate; to show that not all Americans share Chomsky's belief that the United States planned to kill 6 million Afghans solely to build a pipeline from Central Asia. Her aim should be to help Arabs understand America in all its contradictions, not necessarily to adore it.

There are many issues on which the Arabs disagree with the United States. But most Arabs don't see that as a sign of anti-Arabism on the part of America. Hughes should not regard it as a sign of anti-Americanism on the part of Arabs.

Iranian author Amir Taheri is a member of Benador Associates.

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Harold's List

Middle East Review of International Affairs
September 2005
Vol. IX, No. 3
*By Michael Rubin

Pessimism regarding Iraq's future is unwarranted. Iraq faces many challenges, but success is still within reach. After 35 years of dictatorship, Iraqis have embraced a political process emphasizing compromise and coalition. They have successfully held elections and drawn up a constitution. Political brinkmanship is not necessarily a precursor to civil war. That said, Iraqi democracy faces many challenges. First and foremost is the insurgency. Premature reconciliation and concessions offered in the face of violence, however, will backfire. Neighboring states also may undermine Iraq's security, necessitating a long-term U.S. military presence.

More than eight million Iraqis braved bombs and bullets to vote on January 30, 2005, in Iraq's first free elections in a half-century. President George W. Bush praised the Iraqi people from the White House, declaring, "In great numbers, and under great risk, Iraqis have shown their commitment to democracy. By participating in free elections, the Iraqi people have firmly rejected the anti-democratic ideology of terrorists."[1] But in subsequent weeks, talks bogged down, first over the formation of the government and more recently over the constitution.

While internal tensions will not dissipate anytime soon, Iraqis have shown a resiliency which suggests that while the path to democracy might be arduous and marred by violence, that they are nevertheless dedicated to making the political process work. As Iraqis move toward their constitutional referendum and national elections for a full-term government, the greatest threat they face will be from outside powers seeking to destabilize Iraq by proxy. The key for success will be to abide by, without exception, a timeline for specific political milestones. Washington and the United Nations should not bend to pressure, be it from factions within Iraq or from interests outside, to alter the agreed framework. Milestones matter.

U.S. officials and public commentators have consistently underestimated Iraqis. Two months before Iraqis went to the polls, Leslie H. Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Peter Galbraith, a former American ambassador to Croatia and a lobbyist for the Kurdistan Regional Government, penned a commentary in the Los Angeles Times entitled, "Why Jan. 30 Won't Work" in which they argued that Iraq was not ready for elections.[2] In his weblog, Juan Cole, the president-elect of the Middle East Studies Association, argued that "The 1997 elections in Iran," in which the Guardian Council disqualified 234 out of 238 candidates, "were much more democratic." [3]

Like Cole, his fellow bloggers, and commentators, many of the fiercest critics of Bush Administration policy have never visited Iraq. They treat Iraq as a template upon which to impose a political agenda often shaped more by partisan disdain for the Bush Administration policy rather than by the situation in Iraq. Rashid Khalidi, an Arab studies professor at Columbia University, for example, authored a critique of U.S. policy in Iraq relying upon secondary sources.[4] Council on Foreign Relations scholar David Phillips pilloried the failure of the post-war reconstruction in Losing Iraq.[5] In its review of his work, The Wall Street Journal revealed that Phillips did not visit Iraq in the course of his research, and lifted descriptions of Iraqi cities directly from secondary newspaper accounts.[6] Others seek credibility by visiting Coalition forward operating bases or the high-security International Zone, but do not venture outside the security bubble to meet ordinary Iraqis.[7]

Despite the pessimism emanating from Washington and the academy, the January 2005 Iraqi election campaign demonstrated just how far Iraqis had come. Political advertisements on ash-Sharqiya, Iraq's most popular television channel, were slick and, but for language, would not be out of place in an American political campaign. Amid pictures of flags, ballots, and Iraqi children, Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi promised "a bright future and a strong and competent Iraq."

U.S. allies Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen hold presidential elections, but restrict opposition campaigns to the point where incumbency is guaranteed.[8] In Iraq, Allawi found the benefits of incumbency limited. The U.S. military and private security contractors helped transport Allawi to campaign rallies across the country, and the interim prime minister used the bully pulpit of his office to grant interviews to al-Iraqiya television and the al-Arabiya satellite channel. But, he could impose no restrictions on his competitors, many of whom adopted a grassroots campaign. Shi'a politicians broadcast their messages by radio so as to reach ordinary Iraqis who had no generators with which to run television during the frequent power outages, but could operate radios by battery.

In Sadr City, mosques run by firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr urged their flocks to embrace the ballot. Many Shi'a politicians adopted a grassroots campaign. On January 9, 2005, tribal shaykhs from the outskirts of Najaf hosted a rally in the town of Mushkhab. Among those attending was Abd al-Karim Muhammadawi, known as the "Robin Hood of the Marshes" for his resistance against Saddam's army prior to the American occupation. Former Governing Council members Ahmad Barak and Ahmad Chalabi drove down from Baghdad for the event. On the streets of Baghdad, campaign posters jockeyed for wall space. Significantly, though, rival parties did not obstruct or deface their opponents' posters. Iraqis embraced political pluralism.

Because The New York Times forbids its reporters to travel outside daylight hours[9] and other journalists rely on stringers,[10] and the U.S. embassy's security officers restrict the ability of diplomats to exit the heavily-fortified security zone,[11] much of the campaign occurred outside the notice of the Western audience.

Many commentators were therefore surprised by the high turn-out in the January 30, 2005 elections. The polls marked a watershed in Middle Eastern politics for two reasons:

First, they marked the first time in Iraq's history that that country's Shi'a community achieved a political voice proportional to their majority status. For more than eighty years, successive Iraqi governments had worked to marginalize and disenfranchise the Shi'a. The rise of the community to real political power after more than eight decades of systematic oppression is no less momentous than the 1994 victory of Nelson Mandela in South Africa's first multiracial presidential elections.

Second, and just as important, no party won a strong, working majority. The United Iraqi Alliance won a bare majority with 140 seats in the 275-member National Assembly; the Kurdish Alliance took 75 seats; and Allawi's Iraqi List won 40. Nine small parties divided the remaining 20 seats.[12] Iraqi political powerbrokers had to administer by coalition. While a king or strong president rules every other Arab country, no single ruler or party can dictate in Iraq. Parliamentarians have been forced to negotiate and compromise rather than impose. Corruption and abuse of power may remain rife, but power-sharing created checks and balances. Within the administration, ministers, deputy ministers, and directors-general might all derive from different parties or factions. Their mutual distrust has obstructed ministerial power and created mechanisms for various constituencies to voice dissent to power. The central government in Baghdad may not be as efficient, but it is more democratic than the one-party regions of Iraqi Kurdistan which are ruled from Erbil and Sulaymaniyah.

After several weeks of negotiations, Ibrahim Jaafari, leader of the Da`wa party, emerged as the United Iraqi Alliance's nominee for prime minister. The slate's caucus was an indication of a growing acceptance of democratic norms. Within the slate, four candidates put forward their names. While many United Iraqi Alliance members expressed reservations about Jaafari and his pro-Islamic law positions, he outlasted his three competitors to emerge as the nominee.

True to Iraq's new political realities, other parties and interests issued demands in return for political support. The Kurdish Alliance, for example, insisted that their support for Jaafari would be contingent upon his support for federalism. Engaging in political brinkmanship, they threatened to cobble together an opposition slate to the United Iraqi Alliance with minority parties and defectors from the United Iraqi Alliance itself unless Jaafari acceded to their demands. Trading of support for different issues is likewise a backbone of politics. It implies a leader's accountability to interests other than his own.

Whereas Iraqi politicians once served only to rubberstamp their leader's decisions, a decade of opposition conferences and the 15-month American interregnum encouraged political tolerance. After sunset, in Baghdad and across governorate capitals and rural tribal diwans, generators hum and reception rooms are abuzz with local notables. In back rooms, politicians from across Iraq make deals and exchange gossip. In the run-up to the August 15 constitutional deadline--and the August 22 extension--they debated whether religious or civil courts should judge family law, the division of national wealth under federalism, and political restrictions upon members of the Ba'th party.

The Iraqi National Assembly greeted with applause the August 22, 2005 announcement by its speaker Hachim al-Hasani that the constitutional commission had submitted a draft constitution. While the National Assembly agreed to discuss the draft and possibly offer amendments, the successful submission of a constitution undercut outside pundits who argued that the Iraqis should delay the constitutional process.[13] The hurdles overcome by Iraqi politicians were significant. Debates over federalism and the role of Islam in the constitution polarized Iraq. While militiamen loyal to Muqtada al-Sadr attacked University of Basra students for socializing at a mixed-sex picnic,[14] students flirt and socialize in the University of Salahuddin cafeteria in Erbil . Likewise, while vigilantes have firebombed liquor stores in Basra and Salam Maliki, the minister of transportation, has forbidden liquor sales at the once-popular Baghdad International Airport duty-free shop,[15] middle-class families in the Mansour district of Baghdad and academics and professionals in Sulaymaniyah gather in clubs and enjoy whisky, beer, and the local ouzo-like arak.

Iraqis compromised on questions of the exclusivity of Islam as a source of legislation. While many Islamists argued that Islam should be considered "the source" of legislation rather than the less exclusive "a source," Islamists and liberal compromised upon a non-exclusive treatment of Islam "as a main source." While this is ideal to no group within the Iraqi political and religious spectrum, such is the nature of compromise. Similar compromises may allow Iraqis to opt to adjudicate matters of family law in civil rather than religious courts. Many women's groups fear the latter because of the inherent inequality of women in matters of divorce and inheritance under prevalent interpretations of Islamic law.[16]

Disagreements over federalism have become a more serious stumbling block across Iraq. But Kurdish political organization--and the morality of their cause--will undercut any attempts to roll back de facto federalism. Federalism is not a new concept for Iraq. Prior to the Ottoman Empire's defeat in World War I, what became Iraq was three separate Ottoman provinces: Basra in the south, Baghdad in the center, and Mosul in the north. Even after the 1921 establishment of monarchy, the final shape of Iraq remained in dispute as the nascent Turkish Republic laid claim to Mosul. The 1920 Treaty of Sevres promised Kurds an independent state, but the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne rescinded this commitment three years later. In 1925, a League of Nations commission arrived to adjudicate the dispute; they found in favor of Iraq, awarding the predominantly Kurdish province to the new government in Baghdad, on condition that, "Regard must be paid to the desires expressed by the Kurds that officials of Kurdish race should be appointed for the administration of their country, the dispensation of justice, and teaching in the schools, and that Kurdish should be the official language of all these services."[17] Such conditions were never fulfilled.

Successive governments in Baghdad failed to implement autonomy. While there were sporadic outbreaks of ethnic violence, throughout Iraqi history, a full-scale Kurdish revolt erupted in 1961. Years of low-intensity guerilla warfare led to a March 11, 1970 autonomy accord between the Iraqi government and its Kurdish opposition, but Baghdad never fully implemented the agreement. Disputes over the extent of Kurdistan (namely whether Kirkuk should be included) and Saddam's own effort to undermine the accords as the Ba'th party consolidated control, caused the collapse of Arab-Kurdish federalism and the resumption of low-intensity civil war. Nevertheless, the willingness of the Iraqi government to embrace federalism has had lasting impact in Iraq's collective memory.

Iraqi Kurdish history subsequent to the collapse of the autonomy accords is well known. During the late 1980s, Kurdish-populated northern Iraq was the scene of near total destruction, the Iraqi government having devastated more than 4,000 of the 4,655 Kurdish villages.[18]

Following Saddam's 1991 defeat in Operation Desert Storm and President George H.W. Bush's February 15, 1991 call that "The Iraqi military and the Iraqi people [should] take matters into their own hands and force Saddam Hussein the dictator to step aside," [19] the Kurds and Shi'a rose up against Saddam's authoritarian rule. Within a matter of days, the central government lost control of 14 out of Iraq's 18 governorates. But the Iraqi government fought back, and neither the United States nor other outside powers intervened. The Iraqi government used helicopter gun ships and armor to suppress the revolt. As more than a million Kurdish refugees streamed toward the Turkish border, President Turgat ֺal of Turkey, urged the creation of a "safe haven" in northern Iraq. While the safe haven was initially quite small--only 36 square miles centered on the northern Iraqi town of Zakho--it soon expanded to incorporate Dahuk and encompassed 3,600 square miles. When, in October 1991, Saddam Hussein withdrew his government's administration from Iraqi Kurdistan in an attempt to blockade and starve the restive Kurds into submission, the area of de facto Kurdish control grew to almost 15,500 square miles.

The Kurds scrambled to create a political authority. They did so largely by democratic means, despite interludes of factional and tribal squabbles. Following elections in May 1992, the region's major political parties formed the Kurdistan Regional Government. Split by civil war in 1996--and still not integrated despite the symbolic unification of a powerless parliament in June 2005--the region has been effectively independent of Baghdad's control for almost 15 years. Iraqi Kurdistan has its own ministries, budget, taxes, and army. It functions primarily in Kurdish; college age students in Sulaymaniyah and, increasingly in Erbil, can no longer speak Arabic. The region flies its own flag, runs its own television stations, and conducts its own foreign policy. While some Sunni politicians may oppose Kurdish federalism,[20] any debate is undercut by the reality on the ground. The central government has little sway in Iraqi Kurdistan, and little ability to impose its will through force, all the more so because the Shi'a also favor federalism in southern Iraq.[21]

While federalism may be a fait accompli in Iraq despite the threats of some Arab nationalist and Islamist interests,[22] it is not without its dangers. Regional political leaders may be tempted to cheat in the sharing of resources. As occurred under Saddam Hussein's government, corrupt officials may siphon off oil to sell separately. The sharing of water may be more complicated than allocation of oil proceeds. Should the Kurdistan Regional Government fail to release water from the Dokan and Darbandikan dams, crops in the Iraqi Arab heartland could whither; the newly-restored southern marshes could again evaporate. In Iraqi Kurdistan, the failure of the Kurdistan Democratic Party to share revenue from the lucrative Ibrahim Khalil customs post sparked the outbreak of the three-year Kurdish civil war. Nevertheless, careful auditing can alleviate the danger until trust can build.

While Iraqis have made significant political and economic progress, the security situation in central Iraq remains poor. As the insurgent violence has spiked, senior military officials and diplomats have urged Iraqis to embrace and engage former Ba'thists and Arab Sunni rejectionists. If the Sunnis can be brought into the fold, the conventional wisdom goes, peace and reconciliation will prevail.

Evidence does not support such an assertion. Many of the insurgents are rejectionists with no desire to be a part of a new political process. They have neither voiced a political vision nor contributed to the well-being or safety of ordinary Iraqis. Their chief victims are not U.S. soldiers, but rather other Iraqis. A case in point was the August 19, 2005 murder of three Sunni Arab election workers in Mosul who were kidnapped as they put up election posters.[23]

While terrorists alone bare responsibility for their actions, flawed U.S. policy has undermined stability and undercut Iraqi attempts to rectify security. Many Iraqi politicians, be they Arab Shi'a, Arab Sunni, or Kurdish, correlate the upsurge in insurgent attacks to the April 2004 decision by Coalition Provisional Authority administrator L. Paul Bremer to reverse de-Ba'thification. In effect, Bremer traded the good will of Iraq's 14 million Shi'a and six million Kurds for the sake of perhaps 40,000 Ba'thists. Since the transfer of sovereignty, diplomatic pressure upon Iraqis to reintegrate former Ba'thists has become even greater. One senior embassy official confided in an April 2005 e-mail that re-integration of former Ba'thists had become a mantra among U.S. diplomats.

The American strategy has backfired for several reasons: First, by trumpeting a Sunni strategy, the Coalition Provisional Authority deepened sectarianism and furthered the false perception that de-Ba'thification targeted large numbers of individual Sunnis on the basis of their religious beliefs rather than because of their past complicity in terror as government and party officials. Many Ba'thists were Shiites and Kurds; many Sunni Arabs also ended up in Saddam's mass graves.

Second, the reconciliation policy has enabled Ba'thists to infiltrate into sensitive positions where they can work to undermine security.[24] No place has this occurred as starkly as in Mosul. Shortly after the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime, the 101st Airborne took charge of Mosul and its environs. The division's commander, General David Petraeus, pursued a policy of reconciliation with both Ba'thists and Islamists. "The coalition must reconcile with a number of the thousands of former Ba'th officials...giving them a direct stake in the success of the new Iraq," he argued.[25] But his strategy failed. He appointed Colonel Ya'rob, the supervisor of checkpoints in the Nineweh governorate under the previous regime, to head the police guarding the Mosul governor's office. On July 14, 2004, assassins--likely with the benefit of inside information regarding schedules and movements--ambushed the governor's car. A more extreme example involved the appointment of another former Ba'thist, General Muhammad Kha'iri Barhawi to be Mosul's police chief. Barhawi kept a low-profile but used the space created by Petraeus and his successors to organize insurgent cells and lead a November 2004 uprising which briefly handed Iraq's second largest city over to insurgents.[26] Many Iraqi Shi'a remain upset that the U.S. officials appointed Major-General Muhammad Abdullah al-Shahwani, a former Ba'thist, to lead the interim Iraqi intelligence service. Shahwani has employed proportionately fewer Shi'a in the new Iraq's intelligence service than during the time of Saddam Hussein.

Third, insurgents interpret premature reconciliation as rewarding violence. On March 31, 2004, following the murder and mutilation of four American security contractors in Fallujah, Bush declared, "America will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins."[27] After a month-long siege, though, the U.S. officials struck a deal with the insurgents whereby U.S. officials empowered the insurgents to form a Fallujah Brigade. Not only did the decision fail to co-opt insurgents, but it also allowed them safe-haven. Car bombing increased 600 percent in the following month. The insurgents absorbed the message that they could win through violence what they could not through the political process. The insurgency quickly spread to cities like Samarra and Mosul. Diplomatic pressure throughout April 2005 to increase Sunni representation on the Constitutional Drafting Committee resulted in an additional 15 Sunni members, but rather than placate the community, it only increased its demands. Violence, now perceived as the way to win concessions, increased.

The U.S. embassy nevertheless repeated its mistake in June 2005, when word leaked that both U.S. diplomats and military officials had approached Iraqi insurgents in order to encourage them to renounce violence and join the political process.[28] A National Security Council senior director rationalized the approach by differentiating between talking to and negotiating with insurgents. The Arab world drew no such distinction. A June 28, 2005 Al-Sharq al-Awsat cartoon depicted Uncle Sam, surrounded by barbed wire, with an insurgent leader blocking the only path to escape. The perception was one of weakness, not magnanimity. Violence again spiked.

If the West wants Iraq to continue on the path to stability, security, and democracy, they should listen to the Iraqis. U.S. officials should not interfere with Iraqi politicians who aim for sweeping de-Ba'thification. Iraqis understand the nuances of their history, security, and politics better than any diplomat serving a six-month tour, or serviceman without personal connection to their country.

Several Iraqi politicians have suggested that they may consider a policy under which former party members might still work in government, but be prohibited from assuming any position of command authority; i.e., colonel or above in the Iraqi military, or director-general or above in civil service. American diplomats and intelligence officers may not want to see their contacts lose their jobs or suffer demotion, but such may be the price not only of security, but also of sovereignty and democracy. Reversing the insurgency--and enabling Iraq's fragile democracy to take root--will require listening to Iraqis. While the Multinational Forces, the European Union, and the Jordanian government may run training programs for the Iraqi recruits, Iraqi officials--not foreigners--should decide who should take part. Iraqis are capable of building a better life, should they not be hampered by American naﶥt鬠however well-meaning it may be.

The positive evolution of Iraqi politics and economy may not be enough to ensure Iraq's security. Iraq's military is too weak to defend itself against threats from its neighbors, and it retains poor control over its borders. The intentions of countries like Iran, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Syria remain far from uncertain. The Turkish military is increasingly agitated about the presence of Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) terrorists in Iraqi Kurdistan[29] and Iraqi Kurdish intentions toward the disputed city of Kirkuk. While all of Iraq's neighbors wanted the United States to succeed militarily in Iraq, none want liberated Iraq to be successful or democratic. The Turkish government fears any precedent which benefits Iraqi Kurds. The Iranian leadership suspects any independent Shi'a voice it cannot control. Iraq's other neighbors fear the empowerment of a Shi'a majority.[30] Furthermore, a stable Iraq is in the interest of neither Saudi Arabia nor Iran, neither of whom can afford to lose the supplemental oil production they undertook following the 1990 United Nation's sanctioning of Iraq.

As a result, with the possible exception of Kuwait, Iraq's neighbors have sought to undermine the country's stability. For instance, the Turkish government has bankrolled the Iraqi Turkmen Front. Before the war, the Iraqi Turkmen Front consistently took a rejectionist position. It demanded inclusion in the Iraqi opposition leadership, but refused to recognize the legitimacy of any other group. While the Iraqi Turkmen Front claims to represent Iraq's nearly two million ethnic Turkmen, only a small number of Turkmen give the party their allegiance. When the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan subsidized the distribution of Kurdish flags to mixed communities south of Kirkuk, most Turkmen responded by raising Shi'a banners rather than the Turkmen Front's white crescent on pale blue flag. As Kurds, long displaced from Kirkuk migrated back to the city, the Turkish military, egged on by the Iraqi Turkmen Front, threatened violence. Many Kurds point to the July 2003 infiltration of a Turkish Special Forces team, allegedly on a mission to assassinate Kurdish politicians in Kirkuk, as a sign of malicious Turkish intentions. Likewise, many Iraqis interpreted the Turkish Foreign Ministry's decision to approach directly the 101st Airborne with a request to construct a second border crossing as a deliberate attempt to bypass the Iraqi interior and foreign ministries.

Continuing suspicion and disunity between the Kurdistan Democratic Party and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, meanwhile, provides an opening for neighboring powers to fight by proxy, much as they did during the 1994-1997 Kurdish civil war. With so many militias now operating throughout the whole of Iraq, the country may be even more susceptible to the ill-will of outside powers.

Both the Iranian and Syrian governments have facilitated infiltration of men and materiel to aid the insurgency. The Iranian security apparatus challenged the United States almost immediately in Iraq. As Coalition forces advanced on Najaf in March 2003, Badr Corps units poured into northern Iraq from Iran, provoking a strong warning to Tehran by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.[31] Well-connected Iranian journalist Ali Reza Nurizadeh reported elite Iranian Revolutionary Guards "brought in radio transmission equipment, posters, pamphlets printed in (the Iranian holy city of) Qom, and huge amounts of money, some of which was used to buy weapons for the Badr Corps."[32]

While the Iranian government often seeks plausible deniability by acting through proxy, Tehran has made no secret of its intentions in Iraq. Iran's charge d'affaires in Baghdad, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, was not actually a diplomat but rather a member of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, whose job has been to export jihad; Qomi previously served as a liaison to Hizballah.[33] Meanwhile, Italian intelligence reports show that many members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard moved into southern Iraq in early 2004 to organize and train firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's militia.[34]

By January 2004, the Badr Corps, trained and financed by Iran's Revolutionary Guards, had painted murals commemorating Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran's Islamic Revolution, and displayed a banner declaring, "No to America, no to Israel, no to occupation." The Iranian government has not limited its support to a single faction or party. Rather, Tehran's strategy appears to be to support both the radicals seeking immediate confrontation with the U.S. occupation and Islamist political parties like the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) and Ibrahim Jaafari's Da'wa Party. During the February 2005 United Iraqi Alliance negotiations to nominate a prime minister, the Iranian government exposed its strategy when it ordered SCIRI's Adel Mehdi to step aside so that Jaafari could win, thereby implicating both SCIRI and Da'wa as Iranian clients. The August 2, 2005 abduction and murder of independent journalist Steven Vincent highlighted the growing problem of Shi'a militias and death squads in southern Iraq.

While the Iranian government may wish to subvert Iraq's democracy to prevent a free Shi'a state from undercutting Iran's social and religious foundations, the Syrian government has sought to undercut Iraqi security in order to amplify its own political importance and bog down American forces which it feels might otherwise threaten the Syrian regime. After months of internal U.S. debate about the degree of Syrian complicity in the insurgency, General Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said, "We know for a fact that a lot of them [foreign fighters] find their way into Iraq through Syria for sure."[35]

As the elected, Shi'a majority government assumes power, the political conflict between Baghdad and Amman will likely grow. Iraqi antipathy toward Jordan is already high, because of a widespread belief that the Jordanian government colluded with Saddam Hussein's regime in order to receive discounted oil. Clumsy Jordanian interference in Iraqi politics also backfired. King Abdullah II has spun his theories at the White House, letting his personal animus to Ahmad Chalabi color Jordanian policy toward Iraq. The King's attempts to subsidize Arab nationalist politicians led Iraq's interim governing council to revoke the license of Jordan's Arab Bank to operate in Iraq. In December 2004, he raised hackles in Iraq when he spoke of the danger of a "Shi'a crescent," and, in a Spring 2005 Middle East Quarterly interview, he again spoke out against the de-Ba'thification which so many Iraqis demand. Jordan may be a key U.S. ally, but Amman has its own regional interests which do not necessarily correlate with the interests of either Washington or Baghdad. If Iraq is to succeed, American policymakers should compartmentalize their diplomacy, and give greater weight to Iraqi input rather that of Iraq's neighbors. To do otherwise would both create a perpetually weak Iraq and encourage external interference in the country.

With the exception of Turkey, none of Iraq's neighbors are democratic. Strength matters in the Middle East. Autocrats prey on weak neighbors. If Iraq is to succeed, it must be allowed to develop an independent policy that, at times, may put it at odds with its neighbors. This requires strength. While the newly-trained Iraqi security forces can increasingly patrol the streets of Baghdad, Basra, and Mosul, U.S. forces remain in the country, albeit in the background. A long-term U.S. military commitment, albeit one that is non-intrusive to most Iraqis, will enable Iraq the space to develop its own identity and better immunize Iraqi society from the interference of its neighbors. For a continued U.S. presence to be palatable to Iraqis, U.S. officials should formalize a Status of Forces Agreement governing the presence of foreign troops. Many Iraqis would be amenable to such a presence. In contrast, calls for a commitment to withdraw completely from Iraq undercut stability and security on one hand by encouraging insurgents that they can outlast the United States in Iraq, and also by reinforcing the Iraqi psychosis of abandonment that has remained ever since President George H.W. Bush's decision not to support the 1991 Iraqi uprising which he helped spark.


The future of Iraq is anything but bleak. Newspapers carry headlines of devastating suicide bombings. But as tragic as these events are, Iraq has demonstrated a great deal of stability. Concerted efforts to launch popular rebellions have fallen flat. The insurgents still must enforce discipline through intimidation rather than win converts through ideology. While Iraq's road to democracy is anything but assured, Iraqis from a wide range of backgrounds appear determined not to revert back to dictatorship. The fracturing of Saddam Hussein's security system may have made returning to dictatorship impossible. Many Iraqi political leaders recognize the futility of civil war to impose one ethnic or sectarian group's will upon other Iraqi regions, especially since Kurds and Shi'a both increasingly favor regional federalism and many Arab Sunnis, even if they say they oppose the idea, nevertheless endorse its principles when they insist they do not want Kurds or Shi'a to govern their daily lives.

Iraq has come far in the two and a half years since the fall of Saddam Hussein. There has been considerable political progress in Iraq, evident not only in the electoral and constitutional milestones, but also in the Iraqi willingness to compromise and complain. The political process may not be efficient, but most democracies are not. Rhetoric may be shrill. The politics of brinkmanship often invites such positions. Brinkmanship in and of itself is not a threat to Iraq's stability, so long as Iraqis political factions ultimately respect the primacy of the rule of law. For Iraqi political factions--especially the predominantly Sunni Arab parties which may feel themselves the losers in the new Iraq--to uphold the rule of law, it is essential that U.S. policymakers do not pressure Iraqis to compromise or reach consensus. In politics and democracy, some factions win, others lose. So long as each has a chance to reverse their political fortunes through the ballot box, there should be no need to threaten, let alone resort to violence. By responding to threats and seeking to impose a political solution to Iraq's insurgency, U.S. policymakers encourage violence, enable factions to augment their demands, and generally undercut Iraq's political development.

Democracy need not be forever a foreign concept in the Arab (and Kurdish) world. Culturally, Arabs are as capable of democracy as were Germans, Japanese, and Koreans. If Bush holds true to democracy as a goal in Iraq, though, his administration should accept that Iraqis may pursue some policies which contradict the desires of the U.S. foreign policy elite. Washington should not seek to impose re-Ba'thification or interfere in internal Iraqi purges of insurgents and their sympathizers. The complaints of outside parties like King Abdullah II are irrelevant; he is not Iraqi. Defeating the insurgency can be tough; it may require a decade. But if U.S. policymakers listen to the Iraqis, the future can be bright.

*Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is editor of the Middle East Quarterly.


[1] "President Congratulates Iraqis on Election," January 30, 2005. www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/01/20050130-2.html.

[2] Leslie Gelb and Peter Galbraith, "Why January 30 Won't Work," The Los Angeles Times, December 3, 2004.

[3] Juan Cole "Informed Comment" weblog, www.juancole.com/2005_01_01_juancole_archive.html.

[4] See Michael Rubin, "Academic Standards, RIP," Frontpage Magazine, June 14, 2005 www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/Printable.asp?ID-18419 (Review of Rashid Khalidi's Resurrecting Empire: Western Footprints and America's Perilous Path in the Middle East (Boston: Beacon Press, 2004).

[5] David Phillips, Losing Iraq (Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2005).

[6] Robert Pollock, "The Armchair Analyst," Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2005.

[7] See, for example, Jessica Mathews, "Iraqis Can do More," The Washington Post, September 29, 2003; and Jessica Mathews, "Match Iraq Policy to Reality," The Washington Post, September 23, 2004, both of which were based on a Defense Department-sponsored trip subject to Defense Department security regulations.

[8] See, for example, Neila Charchour Hachicha, "Tunisia's Election was Undemocratic at All Levels," The Middle East Quarterly (Summer 2005). www.meforum.org/article/732.

[9] Comments by a Baghdad-based New York Times correspondent in an interview with an Iraqi political figure. Baghdad, January 8, 2005.

[10] Christine Chinlund, "Dateline: Baghdad," The Boston Globe, June 21, 2004.

[11] Michael Rubin, "Less is More in Iraq," The Washington Post, August 9, 2005. www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2005/08/08/AR2005080801147.html.

[12] Paul Delgrado, "Shi'a Alliance Declared Winner of Iraq Election," The Times, February 17, 2005.

[13] See, for example, Marina S. Ottaway, "Iraq Calls for Unhurried Negotiations,F" Financial Times, July 20, 2005.

[14] Anthony Shadid, "Picnic is no Party in the New Basra," The Washington Post, March 29, 2005.

[15] Ellen Knickmeyer and Omar Fekeiki, "Alcohol Banner in Baghdad Airport," The Washington Post, July 30, 2005.

[16] See for example, the website of the multi-ethnic, multi-sectarian Women's Alliance for a Democratic Iraq, www.wafdi.org.

[17] League of Nations, Report submitted to the Council by the Commission instituted by the Council Resolution of September 30th, 1924. Document C.400, M.147, vii (Geneva, 1925), as cited in David McDowall, A Modern History of the Kurds. (London: I.B. Tauris, 1996), pp. 145-46.

[18] "Interview with Nasreen Mustafa Sideek, Kurdistan Regional Government Minister of Reconstruction and Development," Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. 3, No. 7 (July 2001). www.meib.org/articles/0107_iri.html.

[19] "Excerpts from Two Statements by Bush on Iraq's Proposal for Ending Conflict," The New York Times, February 16, 1991.

[20] "Iraq Delays Vote on Draft Constitution," CNN.com, August 22, 2005.

[21] Bartle Breese Bull, "Islam, Federalism, and Oil," The Wall Street Journal, August 17, 2005.

[22] Dan Murphy and Jill Carroll, "Why Iraq's Sunnis fear Constitution," Christian Science Monitor, August 24, 2005.

[23] Dexter Filkins, "3 Sunni Election Workers Seized and Killed in Mosul," The New York Times, August 20, 2005.

[24] Hannah Allam, "Saddam's Baath Party is Back in Business," Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service, September 7, 2004.

[25] David Petraeus, "Lessons of the Iraq War and Its Aftermath" (Summary of Remarks), Policywatch #855, April 9, 2004. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. www.washingtoninstitute.org/templateC05.php?CID=1733.

[26] Richard Oppel and James Glanz, "More Iraqi Army Dead Found in Mosul," The New York Times, November 23, 2004.

[27] "Remarks by the President at National Republican Congressional Committee Dinner," Office of the Press Secretary, April 1, 2004. www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/04/20040401-7.html

[28] "Many Say only Political Solution Possible in Iraq," Detroit Free Press, June 13, 2005.

[29] "Ankara 'directionless' as US row over PKK deepens," Turkish Daily News, August 24, 2005.

[30] See, for example, King Abdullah II, "Iraq is the Battleground: The West against Iran," Middle East Quarterly (Spring 2005). www.meforum.org/article/688.

[31] "Rumsfeld tells Syria and Iran to stay out of Iraq war," Agence France Presse, March 28, 2003.

[32] Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat, April 25, 2003.

[33] Al-Hayat, April 6, 2004.

[34] Candito Mimmo, "La Repubblica Islamica Muove le Sue Pedine Tentando di non Scoprirsi con Washington I Lunghi fili dei burattinai di Teheran Un Confine Senza Controlli e un Inviato Speciale di Khamenei," La Stampa, April 8, 2004.

[35] Robert Burns, "Marines said to have Tightened Iraqi Border with Syria, but Taken More Casualties," Associated Press, April 16, 2004.

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Abu Graib Ruling

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Trying to behave like a proper state

Breakaway Somaliland has impressed the Americans by hitting al-Qaeda

THE breakaway northern bit of Somalia, Somaliland, struck a blow for full independence last week by busting an al-Qaeda cell. Embracing perhaps 3.5m of Somalia's 11m or so people, the former British Somaliland has long been a lot more secure than the country's anarchic, formerly Italian, south. If multi-party elections due this week in Somaliland are reasonably fair and open, the outside world, including the African Union and the United Nations, may have to start seriously reconsidering its status, which has been fudged since the collapse of unitary Somali in 1991. All three of Somaliland's parties contesting the election are adamant about wanting outright independence.

A shoot-out on September 23rd in Hargeisa, Somaliland's capital, resulted in the arrest of seven men loyal to the al-Qaeda brand. Somaliland's president, Dahir Riyale Kahnin, said the men were mostly locals, trained at a camp outside Mogadishu, the still-chaotic capital of Somalia proper. Some had received training in Afghanistan; at least one was internationally known. Their aim, he said, was to destabilise Somaliland by killing leaders and foreign aid workers, four of whom have been murdered by Islamist radicals since 2003.

There was a heady whiff of convenience about the arrests. What better, the week before an election in such a fervently patriotic fief, than to demonstrate a threat to Somaliland? Some in Somalia's fragile transitional federal government, which still lays claim to Somaliland, privately say the raid was contrived. They are probably wrong. The timing may have owed something to Somaliland politics, where voters are softened up with gifts of narcotic qat leaves, and people's votes are divided along clan lines. But western worries about al-Qaeda's penetration into the Horn of Africa are nonetheless genuine.

American counter-terrorism work, mostly in collaboration with local militias and the Ethiopian secret service, has gone some way to identifying extreme Islamists inside Somalia. Catching them is harder. A few operational figures are thought to be hiding in and around lawless Mogadishu, which is mostly off-limits to diplomats, UN types and aid-workers. Though a transitional government for the whole of Somalia was set up last year in Kenya, it has failed to establish an effective presence in any part of the country, and has already broken into factions. One lot has been trying in vain to run the show from Jowhar, north of Mogadishu. To complicate matters further between north and south, a self-proclaimed breakaway government of Puntland, with its capital at Bossaso, has been demanding autonomy within a federal Somalia. And the Puntlanders claim bits of eastern Somaliland.

Some of the Islamists scattered around Somalia's various parts have roots in the Egyptian bit of Islamic Jihad, others are closer to al-Qaeda. Those caught in Hargeisa may have been connected to al-Itihaad al-Islami, a group that wants to create an emirate of Somalia along the lines of Saudi Arabia's austere Wahhabi sect. They sound particularly hostile to Ethiopia, with which Somaliland's fledgling government has been cultivating friendlier relations. In July, the Ethiopians agreed to ship some of their goods through the Somaliland port of Berbera, on a road improved with European Union funds.

Even if magnified for political effect, the arrests are a powerful signal to Islamist radicals that Somaliland is no longer a completely safe haven for them—a fact underlined by the expulsion of some foreign mullahs after the raid. That is especially notable since the Saudi government's own crackdown on radical preachers means that more of them had been looking to Somaliland as a handy refuge.

The efficiency of the locally organised swoop and the steady march of democracy in breakaway Somaliland have impressed the Americans, who have a regional military hub next door in less democratic Djibouti. Expect them to give a puff to Somaliland's chances of attaining statehood proper.

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What If Iran Gets the Bomb?

By Marc Schulman, American Future

This report was written by Ephram Kam of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The Failure of the Reformists

Iran has been undergoing important domestic change since the late 1980s, in fact, since the death of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. This change is reflected by the fact that the Iranian political system is now more open, there is more freedom. People allow themselves to criticize the regime or at least the policy of the regime. People speak more freely.

After the election of former president Muhammad Khatami in 1997, a majority in parliament was captured by those who wanted reform. The elected institutions in Iran - the presidency, the parliament, many municipal councils - were in the hands of reformists, moderates who wanted change, while the unelected institutions - the army, the revolutionary guards, the legal system, the economic system, and, above all, the spiritual leadership - remained in the hands of the radical wing of the regime.

There were many expectations. Immediately after his election, former president Khatami referred to his admiration of Western culture and suggested a dialogue between the Iranian people and the American people. The feeling was that things were moving toward further important changes inside Iran and in its foreign policy, but this has not happened. During the last two years, change has occurred in the other direction, which means the reformists lost their strongholds one by one. They lost a majority in many municipal councils; last year they lost the majority in the parliament; and this year they lost their last stronghold, the presidency, when a radical president was elected.

The election of a radical as the new president of Iran was not a surprise because there was no chance that a reformist would be elected this time. The surprise was that an unknown politician like Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former mayor of Teheran and an ultra-radical, won. He won because he managed to deliver a message that he's going to take care of the poor and transfer money from the rich to the poor. Many of the poor people voted for him. The other reason he won is that the radical establishment and spiritual leader Ali Khamenei himself supported him.

What are the reasons for the failure of the reformists in the last two years? Although they had a leader, former president Khatami, he was not determined enough to lead the struggle and eventually many of those who wanted change despaired of the current situation and didn't come to the polls to vote.

In the short run, the election of the new president is a clear victory for the radical establishment and for Khamenei, but the president doesn't have much ability to change foreign policy. Even with eight years of Khatami as president, he did not manage to advance his call for improving relations with the United States. He did not differ with regard to Iran's nuclear policy, and he never said one positive word with regard to Israel.

Iran's Drive to Acquire Nuclear Weapons

The other bad news relates to the nuclear arena. Beginning three years ago, there have been a series of revelations regarding the Iranian nuclear program. We know now about an entire series of nuclear sites which had been unknown before. The Iranians are conducting a clandestine nuclear program in parallel to the public one, under the title of building a full nuclear fuel cycle, the aim of which - though not of course admitted by the Iranians - is clearly the acquisition of nuclear weapons.

The bottom line is that Iran is close to having these weapons. The Israeli intelligence assessment speaks of three or four years, which means they need about another year to get control of the technology, and another year or two to gather a sufficient amount of fissile material, probably highly enriched uranium, and then to turn it into an atomic bomb. The Americans add another year or two to this timetable. In the past, both the American and Israeli intelligence communities were mistaken, predicting since 1992 that Iran would acquire its first bomb in five to eight years. This was not accurate because it is difficult to make a really accurate assessment. But three to five years is the timetable we have to think about until Iran acquires its first atomic bomb.

Iran is under heavy pressure emanating from American military moves around Iran, mostly in Afghanistan and more importantly in Iraq. Iran is now encircled by pro-American regimes and in some of the countries bordering on Iran there are American troops. The message of the American move into Iraq is very clear to the Iranians. The Americans conducted a large-scale operation in Iraq in order to bring down a regime which was engaged, it was thought at the time, in supporting terrorism and having weapons of mass destruction programs. Iran is clearly in the same category. According to the American definition, Iran is the country most involved in terrorism around the world.

Consideration of a Pre-emptive Strike

The American administration under President Bush is indicating quite clearly that it is not ignoring the military option with regard to the Iranian program if the diplomatic option fails. The outcome is that Iran is very much concerned about an American/Israeli operation against its nuclear facilities.

There is very little to compare when considering a possible military strike on Iran's nuclear facilities and the case of the Israeli attack on the Iraqi nuclear plant in 1981. The Iranian site is much better protected. It's not a matter of one plant, as in the Iraqi case, but a series of three or four important sites. Some of them are deep underground, and the Iranians may have some secret sites we don't even know about. Furthermore, even if Iran's known sites are destroyed, it might take Iran a relative short time to rebuild them?

There are other difficulties. Any country that attacks Iran will have to pay a political price, especially Israel. Even those who may benefit from such an attack will condemn it. In addition, Iran can respond to an attack, unlike Iraq in 1981. It can respond, for example, by using Hizballah to fire its large rocket system against the north of Israel. It can try to disrupt the oil flow from the Gulf area. It can act against American targets in the Middle East and the Gulf area. And Iran says explicitly that if Israel attacks Iranian nuclear sites, it will respond by using its new operational missile, the Shihab III, which can reach Israeli targets.

The bottom line is that to carry out such an attack is a huge mission. It may be necessary to repeat such an attack two or three times because one attack may not be enough. In my judgment, it's a matter for a superpower to consider, not a local power, even if its name is Israel.

A Change in European Attitudes

Another outcome of the revelations about the Iranian nuclear program has been a real change in position by many European governments and, above all, the French government, which until a few years ago did not believe that the Iranians really intended to acquire the bomb.

Since 2003 the International Atomic Energy Agency, with the encouragement of the European governments and the blessing of the American government, has been sending inspectors to the Iranians' known nuclear sites, and the agency publishes a report every three months about the Iranian nuclear program. All of these reports very harshly criticize the Iranians for hiding their activities. On the other hand, the agency has failed to declare that the Iranians are violating their commitment to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and that they are really aiming to acquire the bomb.

The European governments, backed by the American administration, have been conducting negotiations for the last two years with the Iranian government in order to find some compromise which will stop, if not end, the Iranian nuclear program. In my judgment, on the one hand, Iran is not going to give up its nuclear program. For the Iranians this is a national project. There is much agreement inside the Iranian establishment to continue this program and they say it explicitly, without any reservations.

On the other hand, the European governments did manage to conclude two agreements with the Iranians - one in October 2003 and the other in November 2004 - to at least temporarily suspend their nuclear activities. These temporary agreements did manage to delay the Iranian timetable for acquiring the bomb by perhaps one year.

If the negotiations with Iran fail, the next step could be to refer the matter to the UN Security Council, but it is not at all clear that the council will impose sanctions on Iran. While the Americans and the Europeans will support such a move, the position of the Russians and the Chinese is not at all clear and either could veto such a resolution. And if they don't veto, are there real, substantial sanctions that could be imposed on Iran?

Furthermore, both China and especially Russia are important partners of Iran, especially in the economic field. The Russians are investing a lot of money in Iran, and are building the nuclear plant in Bushehr. The Chinese are supplying the Iranian army with military material and technology. In addition, both Russia and China regard American attempts to contain Iranian nuclear efforts as manifestation of American patronage over the Middle East, and they want to contain that too.

Can a Political Deal be Struck?

To what extent can we expect a grand deal between the Western world and Iran like the one that took place with Libya? The conditions for such a deal are clear to both sides. Iran is required to give up its nuclear program, give up its involvement in terrorism, and not try to disrupt the Arab-Israeli peace process. The Europeans add a fourth condition, which is better treatment of human rights inside Iran. The Iranians want guarantees for their security, especially on the part of America which poses the main threat to Iran. They want agreements on large-scale technological assistance by the West, especially with regard to the oil sector. Iran would also like to have greater influence on what happens in its neighborhood, especially in the Persian Gulf area, and recognition of their interests in that area.

Yet despite the fact that there has been some dialogue between the Iranians and the American administration for the past five years, there is no trust between the parties and without that, no real dialogue has developed.

The key obstacle is the position of the Iranian regime. The radical wing of the regime is refusing to negotiate with the Americans on substantial issues because the lack of a relationship with the United States is one of the last symbols of their revolution. If they initiate a real dialogue with the United States, or even with Israel, what is left of the revolution? So they are not willing to give this up.

The Israeli Perspective

So what happens if Iran acquires the bomb? For some Israeli leaders, this is the most significant strategic threat, especially considering that Israel is not bothered about Egyptian or Jordanian threats, the Syrian threat is relatively limited, and Iraq is now out of the picture.

An Iranian bomb will mean that for the first time an enemy country - and Iran is an enemy country by all definitions - will acquire the capability to inflict a very heavy blow on Israel. The more so since the formal Iranian position is that Israel should disappear from the map, that the solution of the Palestinian problem should be the establishment of a Palestinian state not alongside Israel but instead of Israel. Even more moderate leaders like Khatami said specifically: The Jews should go back to their countries of origin; the State of Israel should be part of the Palestinian state. No Arab government today holds such a position.

Why is Iran So Hostile to Israel?

Why is Iran so hostile to Israel? Before the establishment of the regime, Khomeini and his followers regarded Israel as a political entity which should not exist for several reasons: Israel is occupying Muslim territory and suppressing Muslim people, the Palestinians; Israel is controlling Muslim holy sites, especially Jerusalem.

The Israelis are also regarded by the Iranians as linked to the United States and to the former hated regime of the Shah. In addition, there is the security aspect. Since the early 1990s, the Iranians have come to regard Israel as a threat to their regional aspirations.

A State Sponsor of Terror

Continued Iranian assistance to Hizballah and, for the last three years, substantial assistance to Islamic Jihad and Hamas inside the Palestinian territories has become part of the game. By supporting Palestinian terrorism, Iran continues its struggle against Israel, while Iran pays no price for its actions. They have never been punished by Israel, the Americans, or anyone for their support of terrorism.

However, since the 9/11 terror attack, the Iranians are much more cautious on the question of sponsoring terrorists. They understand very well that fighting terrorism has become a key issue around the world and they cannot associate themselves with terrorist organizations. They are making an effort to show a clear distinction between themselves and al-Qaeda or other radical Islamic organizations. From time to time they leak reports to the press that they have arrested some al-Qaeda operatives inside Iran, where some of them indeed moved after the American operation in Afghanistan.

The Iranians have spoken of "the export of revolution" to other Muslim countries, especially during the first decade under Khomeini. However, since the 1990s, we have heard much less about this idea for two reasons. First, the Iranians were not very successful in exporting the revolution to any country. Second, they learned very quickly that the concept of "exporting the revolution" alienated many governments against the Iranians. So they made it clear that "exporting revolution" did not refer to using force but to providing a model for other countries.

The Iranians have taken advantage of the vacuum in Iraq which has existed for the last two years in order to improve relations with the Shi'ite community in that country. Certain Shi'ite organizations get a lot of money from Iran. The Iranians are also sending all kinds of instructors to Iraq. While the Americans are trying to limit Iranian influence in Iraq, in the long run it could be significant. However, I don't see an axis of Shi'ite Iraq and Shi'ite Iran. There is a lot of animosity between the two countries after a very traumatic war between them. Yet Iran's position in Iraq is much better today than what it was under Saddam Hussein's regime and this should be a matter of concern.

Constraints on Iran's Use of the Bomb

A nuclear Iran has to take into account certain important constraints. One is American deterrence. The Iranians have no doubt about the balance of power between themselves and the Americans. And if they had any doubts, the American conduct of the war in Iraq left no doubt about American capabilities. The Iranians must also take into account that if Iran uses a nuclear bomb against any of the allies of the United States, especially against Israel, the U.S. will regard this as an attack against itself, and will react accordingly.

Another constraint involves Iran's reasons for seeking a nuclear bomb. One reason is deterrence. The Iranians started their nuclear program back in the late 1980s because Iraq was intending to acquire the bomb. Iraq was perceived as the most important threat to Iran and the Iranians wanted an answer to this threat. In Iran's view, the Iraqi threat was replaced in the 1990s by the American threat. Israel is seen as a limited threat, but the Americans are projecting the most important threat from the Iranian viewpoint and the Iranians want an answer to this threat.

Moreover, the Iranians regard their nuclear capability as a very important symbol for acquiring hegemony in the Middle East, especially in the Gulf area. If I'm correct that the Iranians want a bomb mostly for deterrence and not so much for offensive intentions, Iran is not likely to waste this weapon, once it acquires it, against a country like Israel that does not pose a real threat to its existence.

Consequences of a Nuclear Iran

However, even if Iran is not going to use the bomb against anybody including Israel, there are still very negative implications from its acquisition of the bomb. First, if Iran acquires the bomb, it will encourage other countries in the Middle East to join this nuclear arms race, especially Egypt, and perhaps Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Algeria, and Syria. It would be difficult for a country like Egypt, the leader of the Arab world, to stay out of this circle.

Secondly, an Iran with the bomb is going to be a more aggressive country. This could be seen, for example, in encouragement of Hizballah to initiate new attacks against Israel. It could be in the field of oil prices. With the safety net of a nuclear capability, Iran might behave differently and more aggressively.

Finally, Iran with the bomb is going to be the cornerstone of the radical camp in the Muslim world and in the Middle East as well. More moderate countries like Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states will have to accommodate themselves more than in the past to this new situation in which a central radical country will have the bomb.

Despite the trends of the last two years, which were negative ones for the reformists, change in Iran will continue because there is a genuine demand for a change. The younger generation in Iran, which now is the majority of the population, demands more personal freedom, more political freedom, less corruption, a better life, and a better economy. If this is the will of most of the Iranian people, it's going to be very difficult for the radical regime to contain this change. At the end of all this I expect a dialogue between Iran and the United States, and a dialogue between Iran and Israel. And if this is to be the case, even if Iran has the bomb by that time, the bomb will have a different meaning.

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Abu Azzam's Ranking

By Dr. Robert Katz

There seems to be some faux controversy over whether Abu Azzam was indeed Al - Qaida's "number 2 man" in Iraq. What's missing from this discussion is that this amoral, atrocity committing "militant", was a grotesque malformation of what it means to be a human being. He was guilty of crimes against humanity and if a politician wants to ballyhoo his ranking, it's not the end of the world. My gosh -- the horror!!! A politician claiming credit, and putting positive spin on one of his purported accomplishments!! It's a subjective call anyway. The point is: he's out of commission -- permanently, and that can only be a good thing. To bicker back and forth as to his true numerical place in the terror perpetrating world, or the circle of Hell he shall burn in, in the next life, is to miss the point. And that salient point is taken from the age old classic "The Wizard of Oz" --- to wit --- "Ding-dong, The witch is dead". This is what matters. One does not argue over which hair on Medusa's head was longer, or more powerful, or stronger -- all the hairs on that Greek mythological figure's head were snakes. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition -- and move on to the next one --- and stop needlessly squandering unity. Full speed ahead with the mission.

Dr. Robert Katz is the Exucutive Director of The Intelligence Summit

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Tiny minority of extremists world map

Abbas Seeks Help from Egypt / Hamas & al Qaeda in Gaza

Tony Blankley, Prophet?

In Tony Blankley's recent book, "The West's Last Chance," (written before the London bombings) he describes a nightmare scenario in which Muslim extremists demand the removal of offensive types of art, which results in violence and then a clash of civilizations. Apparently some people are using this book as a textbook:

London museum pulls religious art
By Al Webb
September 29, 2005

LONDON -- The Tate Britain museum has made an unprecedented decision to pull a work of religious art from an exhibition over fears that it might offend Muslims.
Artist John Latham's 'God is Great' features copies of the Koran, Bible and Judaic Talmud that have been cut apart and embedded in thick glass.
'We believe the particular circumstances we find ourselves in post-7 July make it difficult for this work to be viewed as the artist had intended -- as a commentary on the evolution of religious thought from an original state of nothingness -- but instead as an overtly political act,' a Tate spokeswoman told The Washington Times. "

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Al-Qaradawi Interview

by Marc Schulman, American Future

In an interview with Spiegel Online, Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi (Red Ken Livingstone’s buddy), when asked why no Muslim judges or laws have officially expelled bin Laden and his followers from the faith, responded:

We condemn their acts, but I am categorically opposed to the idea of expulsion. That would be committing the same sort of sin as these people themselves commit: They want to make us and their other critics out to be heretics. The day will come when they will have to stand in front of the Kadi (Islamic judge), but at this point, we are not so far along. First we have to decide who should be their judges.

In Qaradawi’s mind, then, it would be a sin for Muslim clerics to proclaim bin Laden a heretic. This is no small matter, as Qaradawi is chairman of a world foundation of Muslim legal scholars founded last year and appears weekly on Al-Jazeera television.

Qaradawi isn’t even willing to condemn bin Laden for condemning him. What we have here is intra-Islamic d’himmitude. Can we realistically expect ordinary, “moderate” Muslims to condemn al Qaeda when legal scholars who proclaim their opposition to al Qaeda’s acts won’t?

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'No' to Islamist Turkey

Harold's List

By Frank J. Gaffney Jr.
Published September 27, 2005

On Oct. 3, representatives of the European Union and the Turkish government of Islamist Recep Erdogan will meet to determine if Muslim Turkey will be allowed to seek full membership in the EU. It will be best for Turkey, to say nothing of Europe and the West more generally, if the EU answer under present circumstances is: "Thanks, but no thanks."

The reason Europe should politely, but firmly, reject Turkey's bid should be clear: Prime Minister Erdogan is systematically turning his country from a Muslim secular democracy into an Islamofascist state governed by an ideology anathema to European values and freedoms.

Evidence of such an ominous transformation is not hard to find.
  • Turkey is awash with billions of dollars in what is known as "green money," apparently emanating from funds Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states withdrew from the United States after September 11, 2001. U.S. policymakers are concerned this unaccountable cash is laundered in Turkey, then used to finance businesses and generate new revenue streams for Islamofascist terrorism. At the very least, everything else on Mr. Erdogan's Islamist agenda is lubricated by these resources.
  • Turkey's traditionally secular educational system is being steadily supplanted by madrassa-style "imam hatip" schools and other institutions where students are taught only the Koran and its interpretation according to the Islamofascists. The prime minister is himself an imam hatip school graduate and has championed lowering the age at which children can be subjected to their form of radical religious indoctrination from 12 years old to 4. And in 2005, experts expect 1,215,000 Turkish students to graduate from such schools.
  • Products of such an education are ill-equipped to do much besides carrying out the Islamist program of Mr. Erdogan's AKP Party. Tens of thousands are being given government jobs: Experienced, secular bureaucrats are replaced with ideologically reliable theo-apparatchiks; 4,000 others pack secular courts, transforming them into instruments of Shari'a religious law.
  • As elsewhere, religious intolerance is a hallmark of Mr. Erdogan's creeping Islamofascist putsch in Turkey. Roughly a third of the Turkish population is a minority known as Alevis. They observe a strain of Islam that retains some of the traditions of Turkey's ancient religions. Islamist Sunnis like Mr. Erdogan and his Saudi Wahhabi sponsors regard the Alevis as "apostates" and "hypocrites" and subject them to increasing discrimination and intimidation. Other minorities, notably Turkey's Jews, know they are likely next in line for such treatment -- a far cry from the tolerance of the Ottoman era.
  • In the name of internationally mandated "reform" of Turkey's banking system, the government is seizing assets and operations of banks run by businessmen associated with the political opposition. It has gone so far as to defy successive rulings by Turkey's supreme court disallowing one such expropriation. The AKP-dominated parliament has enacted legislation that allows even distant relatives of the owners to be prosecuted for alleged wrongdoing. Among the beneficiaries of such shakedowns have been so-called "Islamic banks" tied to Saudi Arabia, some of whose senior officers now hold top jobs in the Erdogan government.
  • Grabbing assets -- or threatening to do so -- has allowed the government effectively to take control of the Turkish media, as well. Consolidation of the industry in hands friendly to (or at least cowed by) the Islamists and self-censorship of reporters, lest they depart from the party line, have essentially denied prominent outlets to any contrary views. The risks of deviating is clear from the recently announced prosecution of Turkey's most acclaimed novelist, Orhan Parmuk, for "denigrating Turks and Turkey" by affirming in a Swiss publication allegations of past Turkish genocidal attacks on Kurds and Armenians.
  • Among the consequences of Mr. Erdogan's domination of the press has been an inflaming of Turkish public opinion against President Bush in particular and the United States more generally. Today, a novel describing a war between America and Turkey leading to the nuclear destruction of Washington is a runaway best-seller, even in the Turkish military.
  • This data point perhaps indicates the Islamists' progress toward also transforming the traditional guarantors of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's legacy of a secular, pro-Western Muslim state: Turkey's armed forces. Matters have been worsened by Mr. Erdogan's skillful manipulation of popular interest in the European bid to keep the military from serving as a control rod in Turkish politics.

At the very least, over time, the cumulative effect of having the conscript-based Turkish army obliged to fill its ranks with products of an increasingly Islamist-dominated educational system cannot be positive for either the Europeans or the Free World beyond. Especially as Mr. Erdogan seeks to put into effect what has been dubbed a "zero-problem" policy toward neighboring Iran and Syria, the military's historical check on the gravitational pull toward Islamofascism is likely to recede.

Consequently, the EU's representatives should not only put on ice any invitation to Turkey to join the European Union next week. They should make it clear the reason is Mr. Erdogan's Islamist takeover: The prime minister is making Turkey ineligible for membership on the grounds that the AKP program will inevitably ruin his nation's economy, radicalize its society and eliminate Ankara's ability to play Turkey's past, constructive role in the geographic "cockpit of history."

It is to be hoped this meeting will serve one other purpose, as well: It should compel the Europeans to begin to address their own burgeoning problem with Islamofascism. Both Europe, Turkey and, for that matter, the rest of the world, need to find ways to empower moderate Muslims who oppose Islamists like Turkey's Erdogan. Oct. 3 would be a good time to start.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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New Arrest in London Bombings / al Qaeda in Iraq

India's Vote Against Iran Explained

By Marc Schulman, American Future

A few days ago, I noted that India was among the countries that voted in favor of the watered-down IAEA resolution stating that Iran has violated its nuclear treaty obligations by secretly developing a nuclear program. Subsequently, I noted that India’s yea vote surprised the Iranians and called into question a recent deal that would have India import $22 billion of liquefied natural gas from Iran.

Why was India willing to risk Iran’s wrath?

For the answer, we need to go back to mid-July, when President Bush reached an agreement with Prime Minister Singh to let India secure international help for its civilian nuclear reactors while retaining its nuclear arms. The agreement, if approved by Congress (and other nuclear countries), would remove a ban on civilian nuclear technology sales to India and with it a decades-long source of antagonism between the two countries. India could obtain nuclear fuel and reactor components from the US and other countries, and in return would allow international inspections and safeguards on its civilian nuclear program, and refrain from further weapons tests and from transferring arms technology to other countries.

For the Bush administration, the agreement represents a major step forward in its effort to improve ties with India, in part as a counterweight to China. For India, it elevates the international standing and prestige of the world’s most populous democracy. In the words of their Foreign Secretary,

We are looking at complete removal of the restrictive technology regimes that India has been subjected to for decades. What this agreement says is that we are willing to assume the same responsibilities and practices — no more and no less — as other nuclear states.

Needless to say, the likelihood of our Congress approving the agreement would have been diminished had India not voted in favor of the IAEA resolution. In deciding how to vote, India had to consider the possible consequences of voting no, as well as yes.

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