Friday, October 31, 2003

Uja-Booga!

The US has put in place a plan that aims to quell some of the violence coming from the Tikrit region of Iraq. Residents of the town of Uja, located 6 miles from Tikrit, will need an ID card to move in or out of the town.

American soldiers on Friday sealed off the village where Saddam Hussein was born and ordered adults to register for identity cards that will allow them to move in and out of the community.

[...]

Russell said he did not know whether Saddam was directing parts of the insurgency, but the village is the family home of many former Baathist regime members.

"There are ties leading to this village, to the funding and planning of attacks against U.S. soldiers," Russell said.

Saddam was born in Uja.


Who would have thought?

Shocking news out of Lebanon:

Local officials are not expected to intervene with Hizbullah’s Al-Manar Television to stop it from airing the series entitled Al-Shatat Arabic for The Diaspora ­on the history of Zionism over a period of 136 years. It starts in 1812 and outlines what has been described as a Jewish plan to dominate the world, political sources said Thursday.

The TV station began airing the first episode of the Syrian-made mini-drama on Monday and the following day the US complained to the Lebanese and Syrian governments for allowing the series to be aired.

And you thought Eygpt and the Palestinians had the market cornered on Anti-Semitic television!


Disgusting

Lt. Col. Allen B. West is accused by the US Army, of which he is a member, of criminal assault because he fired his gun close to an Iraqi man's head while the Iraqi was under interrogation. During this interrogation the Iraqi man divulged information that was used to foil a terrorist attack in the city of Saba al Boor.

Lt. Col. Allen B. West is a hero and the Army wants him to quit or face a court-martial.

West refuses to quit and I don't blame him. Doesn't the Army, of all people, realize that this is a war, and that ugly things happen in war? Further, is firing a gun close to someone's head a big deal in the grand scheme of things? This is a war zone, where people are being shot to death every day, where terrorists are bombing civilian buildings, and where international aid employees are being killed at random.

Has the Army forgotten who the good guys are?


Who to believe?

Is Izzat Ibrahim coordinating the attacks inside of Iraq?

From the NY Times:

Mr. Hussein is believed to have met with Izzat Ibrahim, an Iraqi general who was officially the second highest ranking member of the Iraqi government at the time of the invasion, and who is described by American officials as playing a significant role in the insurgency.

General Ibrahim, who is No. 6 on the American most-wanted list, has been described by some Defense Department officials as having recently been in contact with members of Ansar al-Islam, a militant group that had been based in northern Iraq before the American-led invasion and which is linked to Al Qaeda.

Such contacts would be the clearest evidence to date of coordination between forces loyal to Mr. Hussein and members of the extremist group in the campaign against American forces in Iraq. But one senior American official said Thursday that while General Ibrahim was clearly playing a role in coordinating attacks by those loyal to Mr. Hussein, it was much less clear whether he had been in contact with Ansar al-Islam.

From the Washington Times:

Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri, a top aide to ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, is dying of leukemia and cannot be playing any major role in orchestrating the current wave of attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces and their Iraqi allies, according to sources familiar with the old regime's functioning.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld yesterday appeared to pull back from earlier comments by U.S. defense officials that al-Douri had been masterminding strikes such as last week's wave of suicide attacks in downtown Baghdad, reportedly working with an al Qaeda-linked terrorist group that had operated before the war out of a small enclave in northern Iraq.

"I really don't have enough conviction on the subject that I would want to try and confirm or deny it," Mr. Rumsfeld told a Pentagon briefing.


Thursday, October 30, 2003

Score for Australia, France still questionable

Australia has caught a terrorist cell, but is wondering why France took so long to tip them off regarding one particular member of the cell.

Federal police say authorities have smashed an Australian terrorist cell linked to the French national Willie Virgile Brigitte, who they have confirmed has direct al-Qaeda connections.

The Australian Federal Police Commissioner, Mick Keelty, said last night that the actions of ASIO, AFP officers and NSW police over the past few days and weeks had "broken up and disrupted a [terrorist] group".

Asked whether the 35-year-old Brigitte, who has been deported, was the most serious al-Qaeda link arrested in Australia, Mr Keelty said "well, from what we know so far that is true".

Reports coming out of France "clearly indicate he wasn't here for a holiday, and he was here for an untoward purpose", he told the Nine Network.

French authorities are investigating Brigitte's role in the murder of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the Northern Alliance leader in Afghanistan.

The Caribbean-born Brigitte is also suspected of operating survival training camps for al-Qaeda sympathisers in the Fontainebleau forest, near Paris, according to French media reports.

Mr Keelty said he did not know why it took French authorities almost five months to warn Australia of Brigitte's terrorist links.

Way to go, France.


Protecting Taiwan

The US is attempting to improve Taiwan's ability to protect itself from China, but is apparently meeting some resistance from Taiwan itself.

The Bush administration has quietly embarked on an ambitious effort to restructure Taiwan's military and improve the island's ability to defend itself against China. But the U.S. plan is foundering because Taiwan's leaders are reluctant to foot the enormous bill and force change upon the island's highly politicized and conservative military, U.S. and Taiwanese officials said.

[...]

U.S. military representatives, once almost completely banned from visiting Taiwan, are currently involved in dozens of programs on the island, including both classroom seminars and training in the field. U.S. officers are advising Taiwan's military at all levels in policy, implementation and training, U.S. and Taiwanese officials said. In addition, the two militaries have established a hotline for communicating in case of an emergency, a U.S. official and a senior Taiwanese diplomat said. Meanwhile, hundreds of Taiwanese military personnel are now undergoing training and education in the United States, U.S. officials said.

The sharp expansion of military ties risks angering China, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory. "China will not tolerate a de facto alliance," said a senior Chinese official, speaking on condition of anonymity. China's defense minister, Gen. Cao Gangchuan, is in Washington for talks that will focus in part on Taiwan.

But many officials acknowledged that the program has thus far done little to improve Taiwan's ability to defend itself. "The United States has put a lot effort into this project, but there's really no improvement," said retired Adm. Nelson Ku, the former commander of Taiwan's navy and now a member of Taiwan's congress.

U.S. officials said many Taiwanese officials, including President Chen Shui-bian, are reluctant to lock horns with the powerful military to push the reforms; others have not acknowledged that Taiwan needs to improve its war-fighting capabilities. Taiwanese government officials and legislators acknowledged the pace of change was glacial.

"It's like the end of the Qing dynasty when the emperors bought fancy weapons but there was no change in thinking," said Shuai Hua-min, a former army two-star general and one of the main advocates of military reforms here. "They don't care whether the weapons systems are useful or not. It's become purely political to show China how close Taiwan is to the United States."


Another Vietnam

It's looking like another Vietnam out there:

Plans for a groundbreaking visit by a U.S. frigate next month reflect Vietnam's increased interest in mutual cooperation against terrorism in Southeast Asia, a U.S. official said yesterday.

Military officials first disclosed plans for the visit to The Washington Times during a briefing in Hawaii earlier this month.

"A U.S. Navy ship should be steaming up the river to Ho Chi Minh [City] later in November," the U.S. official said yesterday, referring to the former Saigon.

[...]

"Both countries recognized that there are transnational issues that require cooperation," such as terrorism, piracy on the high seas and trafficking in drugs and people, the official said.

Terrorism seemed a remote issue to the Vietnamese until the Bali bombing that left 202 dead in Indonesia, the Marriott Hotel explosion in Jakarta, the capture of Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist Hambali in Thailand, and the appearance in Cambodia of radicals linked to Jemaah Islamiyah.

"All of that gave them a sense that maybe it's not so far away after all," said the U.S. official. "In the last few months, Vietnam has been viewing the issue with a greater sense of the fact that it could affect Vietnam."


Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Japanese hardliners targeted?

Is someone trying to kill Japanese politicians who advocate a "hard line" against North Korea?

Tokyo Gov. Shintaro Ishihara said Tuesday he has been hearing "rumors" that a bomb found in the garage of Deputy Foreign Minister Hitoshi Tanaka in September was placed by people seeking to discredit hardliners on North Korean issues -- like the governor himself.

"The bomb did not explode, even though it was complete with a fuse. . . . It is widely rumored that somebody who is critical of us did it to attract sympathy," Ishihara told a gathering in Tokyo.

The gathering was organized by supporters of people whose families were abducted by North Korea in the 1970s and 1980s.

Police found a bomb Sept. 10 in Tanaka's Tokyo home. He is a key Foreign Ministry official for negotiations and policymaking on North Korea.


Kyrgyzstan

In the country of Kyrgyzstan the US and Russia both have air force bases just miles away from one another. The BBC has a nice article detailing the obvious juxtaposition. Here is an interesting excerpt:

The base was a slice of America plonked in the dusty heart of Asia. Gun-metal grey transport aircraft sat on the tarmac. A few yards away was a jumbled pile of old Soviet aircraft - Ilyushin airliners and MiG helicopters gently decaying in the grass.

Young US airmen were busy doing maintenance. When they're finished, they can head to a fully-equipped gym or have a gentle head massage in the base's hairdressing salon.

[...]

At the Russian base, five modern fighter jets were lined up on the runway. Here, it wasn't so much efficient and mechanical as a bit cloak and dagger. The base was shabby and broken-down. Scruffy conscripts were wiping the jets down with filthy rags.

When I tried to get close to the planes, I was shooed away. It all seemed a bit mysterious, this sudden Russian presence high on these remote plains. Security men in overcoats strode to and fro.

I felt like I was on the set of a James Bond movie, witness to some clandestine manoeuvrings, chess moves in an international power play.

Russia's President Vladimir Putin strode onto the base. With the mountains behind, he declared it open, then watched his planes in a spectacular air show.

We journalists were corralled into a tight group, made to kneel so the cameras behind us could get a clear view of Mr Putin.

He came and addressed us. Then I pounced with my question. "Mr President, are you just opening this base because the Americans have one here?" I asked.

This world leader looked down at me on my knees in front of him.

His eyes narrowed a little, almost dismissively. "We're partners with the Americans," he said. "I'm sure we'll co-operate," then strode off, leaving me to struggle back to my feet. Partners, I thought, it doesn't look like it to me.


More EU stupidity

The EU is progressively creating closer ties with Syria, even as the US singles it out as being a country on the wrong side of the war on terror.

The European Union's efforts to establish closer ties with Syria are creating an additional source of tension with the United States, diplomats say.

While Washington continues to accuse Syria of harboring terrorist organizations, the EU is on the verge of signing an economic cooperation agreement with the government of President Bashar Assad.

[...]

The United States also accused Syria of holding in its banks an estimated $3 billion of Iraqi funds. Some U.S. officials say the funds could be used to finance terrorist attacks by Palestinian extremists.

The EU considers most American claims about Syria to be exaggerated and is increasingly distancing itself from such a policy, thus contributing to the difficulties in trans-Atlantic relations.

With friends like these...


Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Prince Abdullah bugged?

Perhaps all it not well between Pakistan and Saudi Arabia?

A Pakistan web newspaper has claimed that Islamabad regime had bugged the room of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah during his recent visit and it came to the knowledge of the visitors who even removed the "bed sheets" from the suite where he was staying.

Quoting police sources, the US-based newspaper South Asia Tribune said that some bed sheets had been removed from the Royal Suite. The real concern was about bugging devices in the room which, the security officials feared, had been detected by the royal guests, even before Prince Abdullah had entered the suite.

Apparently the Saudi Secret Police accompanying the royal guest carried out their own scanning and detected that the room was bugged. They ripped apart all the devices and restored the room for the Saudi monarch, who was not informed until the schedule was over and the guests were leaving the Punjab House, the newspaper claimed.

Both Saudi and Pakistani government kept silent about the episode "but certainly the guests expressed their anger and disgust when they left the room. It was all ripped apart to show the non-professional Pakistani agencies that they had been caught and disarmed," the newspaper said.

It said if Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf paid a quick unscheduled visit to Saudi Arabia soon, he would obviously be addressing the embarrassment and apologising for the "unauthorised" behaviour of his agencies.

It is a bit curious that this news comes out on the heels of the Pakistan-Saudi Arabia nuclear weapons story.


The final word?

It looks like the idea of having Turkish troops in Iraq is dead:

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that the United States had suspended talks on a request for Turkey to send thousands of troops to Iraq, the NTV news channel reported Friday.

The remarks came amid intense speculation here that Washington is about to give up on the idea of a Turkish deployment in Iraq, which has triggered harsh objections from the country's interim leadership.

"The United States called our general staff some time ago and said 'give us some time... and we will continue later,'" Erdogan told Turkish reporters during a visit to Tajikistan, according to NTV.


Sticks and stones...

Walid Jumblatt, leader of the Druze community and head of the Progressive Socialist Party in Lebanon, had these kind words to say about US Deputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz after the hotel he was staying at in Baghdad was struck by missiles:

"We hope that next time the rockets will be more accurate and effective in getting rid of this virus, and his like, who wreak corruption in the Arab land of Iraq and in Palestine"

Mr. Wolfowitz was unhurt in the attack.


The AL strike again!

As you might have heard, Australia is moving some used nuclear fuel via boat to France, who will reprocess the fuel and later send it back to Australia.

This has the Angry Left, including Greenpeace, hopping mad because this nuclear fuel could be hijacked by terrorists.

To wit, Greenpeace spokesman James Courtney complains "These casks are vulnerable to terrorist attack....I think that the federal government is downplaying the risk of terrorism when it suits them and playing it up when they want to use it to their advantage."

Then, as if to show the world once and for all how lame and inept the Angry Left truly are, "activist" Danny Kennedy is quoted as saying "There were 10 police launches protecting the vessel, including fast inflatable vessels with guys in black helmets and night-vision goggles... racing around the water...It is an obscene abuse of the public purse."

In other words, it's a waste of tax money to pay these guys to protect the nuclear cargo.

So, the Angry Left wants the Australian government not to ship the spent nuclear fuel to France because it could be hijacked by terrorists, but they don't want to spend any tax monies protecting it either.

You have just witnessed the complex mind of the Angry Left.


Monday, October 27, 2003

Chirac imitates Bush

France publicly opposes the US at every turn. However, in private France seems to look to the US for guidance:

President Jacques Chirac's office Monday denied a newspaper report that France plans a shift in its nuclear defense policy to take account of new threats from what Washington has identified as "rogue states."

[...]

The report, commissioned by President Jacques Chirac's office Monday denied a newspaper report that France plans a shift in its nuclear defense policy to take account of new threats from what Washington has identified as "rogue states."
The daily Liberation quoted an unidentified senior military official as saying that a revamp of France's nuclear deterrent could happen in early 2004, and said Chirac could unveil the new policy at a visit to a navy base in Brest in the weeks ahead.

"Without citing any country, the French (nuclear) capacity to strike will from now on target what the Americans call 'rogue states' -- nations which equip themselves with weapons of massive destruction," Liberation wrote.

It said the new strategy would take account of states believed to have biological and chemical weapons at their disposal, as well as those with nuclear arms, and in the longer term "would take into account the threat from China."

First Russia adopts US military ideology, now France does as well? Why do people still take their opinions concerning world affairs seriously?


UN in error, Kucinich still a nut

The United Nations has issued its final assessment regarding the August 19 truck bombing of their headquarters in Iraq.

The report, commissioned by Secretary-General Kofi Annan under pressure from the U.N. Staff Union, found so much blame to go around that it's hard to say where the ax might fall.

An independent panel faulted the United Nations' overlapping security services, the failure of supervisors to follow published safety guidelines, the ambition of agency directors in Iraq, a failure to heed warnings, and a refusal to accept help from U.S. or other soldiers in the occupation coalition.

This report stands in stark contrast to the comments Kofi Annan made immediately after the bombing. Then Mr. Annan blamed the US for not providing enough security.

Annan criticised the US for failing to secure the situation in Iraq for international humanitarian workers: "The occupying power is responsible for law and order and the security of the country," he said.

"We had hoped that by now the coalition forces would have secured the environment for us to be able to carry on the essential work of political and economic reconstruction, institution-building and for Iraqis to carry on with their work," he said.

"That has not happened," he said, while acknowledging that it was difficult to prevent such an attack.

Meanwhile, Dennis Kucinich is still calling for the US to get out of Iraq because the UN could do a much better job.


Ambulance

The terrorist bombing of the Red Cross building in Baghdad was carried out using an ambulance.

An Iraqi police major said the attacker was driving an ambulance and crashed through the security gate. The bomb exploded about 50 feet from the building. Most of the dead appeared to be Iraqis, although at least one Red Cross worker died. Most of the Red Cross staff had not yet arrived for work when the blast went off around 8:30 a.m.


Saturday, October 25, 2003

A new permanent member of the UNSC?

Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs K R Holmeshas has presented a 7 point plan for reforming the UN Security Council. Among the reforms is the suggestion that any country who "threatens its neighbours, supports terrorism and abuses the rights of its citizens " should not be allowed on the Security Council (hello Syria!). The plan also suggests that Japan should be allowed a permanent seat.

The US has proposed barring UN Security Council membership to countries that threaten their neighbours and support terrorism, a development that is expected to be widely welcomed in India.

As part of a seven-point UN reform package, Assistant Secretary of State for International Organization Affairs K R Holmeshas said: "A regime that threatens its neighbours, supports terrorism and abuses the rights of its citizens should be ineligible for Security Council membership."

The proposal is bound to play well with India, which has accused Pakistan of sponsoring and supporting terrorist activity in Kashmir.

Citing Japan's contribution in world affairs, Holmeshas also proposed that Japan be made a permanent member of the Security Council.

He said Japan's budget assessment was 20,000 times greater than the lowest assessment, which was paid by over 40 nations. Yet, Japan does not have a seat on the UNSC.

"We support exploring ways to make the Security Council more truly representative. The best way to do so is to ensure that democratic countries serve on it.

Finally someone is making some sense.


Such an attitude

Belgian Development Cooperation Minister Marc Verwilghen has critized France and Germany for their failure to donate any funds to Iraqi reconstruction outside of their EU contribution:

"I find it a shame that France and Germany have stuck to their positions," Development Cooperation Minister Marc Verwilghen told Belgian reporters at the conference.

"I deplore the fact that certain countries have come here to restate their position [against the war]. Iraqis are confronted with immediate needs. Such an attitude does nothing for the Iraqi people," the Belga news agency quoted Mr. Verwilghen as saying.


Friday, October 24, 2003

No offense

The US is now, and has been for some time, refusing to sell Pakistan "offensive" weapons:

Notwithstanding Pakistan's support to the fight against terrorism, United States has refused to sell any "offensive" weapons systems to Islamabad fearing that this would upset India and might fuel arms race in the region, a local daily quoting officials in Washington reported on Friday.

"Only the sale of Hawk Eye radar system is under consideration for Pakistan. The US cannot give any offensive weapons system to Pakistan and the Hawk Eye can only be used for defensive purposes," The Nation quoted the officials as saying.

Pakistan, being a "close US ally", had sought Washington's help to upgrade its ageing weaponry which would help improve the conventional balance vis-à-vis India, but the US has given a cold shoulder, the report, which followed the high level talks between the defence officials of the two countries, said.

The US has turned down a long weapons list forwarded by Pakistan, it said adding that the United States on the other hand "wooed" India to start buying American weapons.

Bush administration was lobbying with India because arms sale contracts would give boost to US weapons industry, it said.


Thanks and no thanks

Germany has offered some good news, and some bad news.

First the good:

As the German Bundestag on Friday voted to expand the scope of Germany's peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan, Defense Minister Peter Struck said German troops wouldn't get mixed up in the country's war on drugs.

Until now, the mission of the German army, or Bundeswehr, in Afghanistan has been contained to the area in and around the capital, Kabul. But to combat increasing lawlessness in remote parts of the country, the leaders of NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan say it's necessary to set up a center of command in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz.

Due to constitutional requirements, the German parliament has to approve any military deployments or, as in this case, significant changes to deployments. The petition before parliament on Friday included an extension of the German ISAF contingent's mandate to October 13, 2004, as well as increasing the number of soldiers from 1800 to as many as 2250. A team of 230 - 450 soldiers is set to be deployed in Kunduz.

An overwhelming majority of 531 out of 593 MP's voted in favor of the motion. Only 57 MP's voted against, while 5 abstained. Despite criticism about the government's handling of the expansion plan, the opposition conservatives and liberals supported the new mission.

Now the bad news:

Just two days before the Iraq donors conference in Madrid, Germany’s Minister for Cooperation and Development, Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul, has said that Germany is opposed to the cancellation of Iraq's huge debt burden, which is estimated at €110 billion ($128 billion) and called for a new UN resolution that will share out responsibility for reconstruction. Wieczorek-Zeul said that, given Iraq's oil riches, it would be better to have credit financing ahead of the windfall oil revenues will bring to the country. She also added that steps should be taken to prevent the United States from taking control of Iraqi oil revenues, saying profits should be used for reconstruction and not to support U.S. companies. Donor countries and organizations will gather this week to discuss ways of financing Iraq's total reconstruction which the World Bank and the United Nations have estimated at around $36 billion for 2004-2007.

How's that for passive-aggressive?


Money, money, money

Well, the donations are rolling in for the reconstruction of Iraq.

The United Arab Emirates have pledged 215 million but have set no timeline for doing so.

Belgium has pledged 5.8 million dollars.

Kuwait has pledged 500 million dollars.

Saudi Arabia has pledged 1 billion dollars in the way of loans and export credits. Saudi Arabia might also forgive some of the 24 billion dollars Iraq owes it.

Slovakia even got in the game with a 290,000 dollar pledge.

Italy has pledged 232 million over 3 years.


Thursday, October 23, 2003

Say it again, George

Member of Parliament George Galloway has been kicked out of the Labour Party.

Rebel Labour MP George Galloway has been kicked out of the party following his outspoken opposition to the war in Iraq.

Mr Galloway, who was found guilty of bringing Labour into disrepute, described the expulsion as a "travesty of justice".

[...]

Now Labour's National Constitutional Committee has upheld four out of five charges brought against Mr Galloway by the party's leadership.

The charges included inciting Arabs to attack British troops and urging UK forces to defy orders.

George Galloway was also accused to taking money from Saddam in exchange for his support:

A British politician who vehemently opposed the war on Iraq has denied a newspaper report that he received money from Saddam Hussein's regime through the oil-for-food program.

George Galloway, an outspoken member of the governing Labour Party, said the report in London's Daily Telegraph was part of a "smear campaign" against opponents of the war.

[...]

The Telegraph said its correspondent in Baghdad, David Blair, had seen a memo to Saddam from the Iraqi intelligence service. It said Mr Galloway had asked an Iraqi agent for a larger cut of Iraq's exports under the oil-for-food program.

The newspaper reported that the memo said Mr Galloway had asked for a bigger share of the oil income and for "exceptional" commercial contracts, and had entered into partnership with an Iraqi broker to sell oil on the international market.

Yesterday the newspaper reproduced a memo allegedly written in response to the request by an aide to Saddam with an illegible signature. It said Mr Galloway had asked for "exceptional support which we cannot afford".

The newspaper said its reporter found the document in Baghdad's looted Foreign Ministry.

Some quotes from the great George Galloway:

"Even if it is not realistic to ask a non-Iraqi army to come to defend Iraq, we see Arab regimes pumping oil for the countries who are attacking it. We wonder when the Arab leaders will wake up. When are they going to stand by the Iraqi people?"

"They (Bush and Blair) have lied to the British air force and navy when they said the battle of Iraq would be very quick and easy. They attacked Iraq like wolves. They attacked civilians."

"It is better for Blair and Bush to stop this crime and this catastrophe. It is time for them to return to the UN security council and give diplomacy a chance."

"The wolves are Bush and Blair, not the soldiers. The soldiers are lions led by donkeys, sent to kill and be killed."

"The best thing British troops can do is to refuse to obey illegal orders."


Where there is smoke?

Major General Aharon Zeevi, the Israel Defense Force's senior intelligence officer, concurs that Saudi Arabia is trying to buy nuclear weapons from Pakistan:

A top Israeli intelligence official has charged that Saudi Arabia is pressing forward with a secret program to acquire nuclear-weapons technology from Pakistan, even as senior U.S. officials said yesterday they had seen "no information to substantiate" reports that a deal was in the works.

[...]

Such a deal would profoundly alter the balance of power in the Middle East, violate Saudi obligations under the nuclear NonProliferation Treaty, and break promises made to Washington by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf about controlling his country's nuclear arsenal.

Both Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have strenuously denied the reports, with a Saudi Embassy spokesman dismissing the story yesterday as "not even worth a denial."

Talat Waseem, press counselor to the Pakistani Embassy, said in a letter to The Times there was "not a shred of truth" to the "wildly speculative story."

[...]

But Israeli radio and the New York Post reported yesterday that Maj. Gen. Aharon Zeevi, the Israel Defense Force's senior intelligence officer, told a parliamentary committee Tuesday that the Saudis had in fact gone to Islamabad with the intention of buying Pakistani warheads, to be placed on Saudi land-based missiles.

Gen. Zeevi said the Saudi drive for atomic weapons was motivated by the advanced nuclear program under way in Iran, its strategic and religious rival in the region. Saudi Arabia is predominantly Sunni Muslim while Iran has a Shi'ite Muslim majority.


One without the other?

41 members of the Australian Parliament let loose with this one today:

While many of us didn't support the war on Iraq, all Australians welcome the end of Saddam Hussein's brutal regime.

As if you can have one without the other.


Generous aid

Kuwait has pledged to give "generous aid" to Iraq at the donor's confrence taking place in Spain.

Kuwait said yesterday it will offer "generous aid" at an Iraq donors conference opening today in Madrid, but France and Germany said they would be offering no new funds for postwar reconstruction.

Kuwait, which has already spent $900 million on humanitarian aid to its neighbor, is one of more than 70 nations gathering for the two-day conference, where U.S. officials are hoping to capitalize on the spirit of last week's unanimous U.N. Security Council vote.

So far the donations break down like this:

Other contributions are trickling in: The World Bank has promised to lend Iraq between $3 billion and $5 billion in the next five years; Japan has promised $1.5 billion; Britain has pledged $439 million through 2005; Spain has promised $300 million; South Korea has offered $200 million; Canada has pledged $150 million; and Denmark has promised $50 million and 500 troops.


Worry?

What us? Worry?

French leaders, inspecting a simulated chemical attack where volunteer victims feigned agony, said Thursday that they want all major towns to train for the nightmare scenario of such terrorist strikes.

Paris got its exercise in terror first, with police and rescue officers in white protective suits swarming to a train station to contain a pretend attack with a deadly nerve agent.

The simulation, involving 500 officers, turned the area around one of the French capital's most famous landmarks into something resembling a Hollywood movie set, with flashing police lights, decontamination tents and rescuers breathing heavily through gas masks.

The exercise illustrated the extent to which France considers itself a potential terrorist target. Last December, French authorities dismantled what they said was a terror cell with ties to Chechen rebels and al-Qaida that planned bomb or toxic gas attacks in France and Russia.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, who walked among wailing "victims" prostrate on the rain-sodden ground, said "there is no particular threat today of chemical terrorism in France."

Apparently Jean-Pierre Raffarin doesn't know about this:

The Italian anti-terrorist police foiled a plan to test a toxic chemical in France this week.

The Italian anti-terrorist police eavesdropping telephone conversations foiled a plot by Moslem extremists to launch a chemical attack in France. The suspects have been caught and were imprisoned on Wednesday. The terrorists, situated in Milan, were planning to test a ?flask of liquid¦ in France, according to the intercepted calls.

A key excerpt from the conversation:

?Is this better than the other product?
?Yes it is better because it-s more efficient. It suffocates people as soon as you open it."

The product was sealed in cans of tomatoes and from the description, could be Sarin or Mustard Gas.


Wednesday, October 22, 2003

President Lien?

There are some interesting things happening in Taiwan, which is soon to have a Presidential election:

The front-runner in Taiwan's presidential race accused his government Monday of trying to provoke China by demanding a decision on independence.

Lien Chan, leader of the Nationalist Party, said unification with China should come "one day, but ... first of all we insist on the maintenance of status quo."

Taiwan should not create a new crisis in Asia when the United States already has "its hands full" with problems in Iraq, North Korea and the war on terrorism, he said. The best way to do this is "do not try to needle or to provoke unnecessarily the other side."

Chinese leaders insist that Taiwan belongs to China, though the self-governed, democratic island has never been ruled by Beijing's Communist Party government. A civil war separated the two sides in 1949, and China has threatened to use its massive military to force Taiwan to unify.

Lien, who leads President Chen Shui-bian in opinion polls, spoke to a small group of United Nations-based reporters over the weekend before heading to Washington for a series of meetings and speeches, including one at the National Press Club on Tuesday.

It is interesting to note that Lien states that unification with China will happen at some point, albeit not anytime soon. It is also interesting that Lien thinks that Taiwan should not be thumbing its nose at China right now, since the US is busy with Iraq, North Korea, and the war on terror. At least Lien is taking this in to account, as opposed to Chen, who has recently said he won't be bothered with US interests.


Interview with the Arafat

James Reynolds, of the BBC, had the chance to sit down with Yasir Arafat for an interview. Here is how he recounts the meeting:

Anyway, for two years I've reported on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And until this week, I'd never actually met the Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat.

But the chance came on Wednesday night.

An American convoy heading into the Gaza Strip had just been attacked - three US security guards were dead.

Politically this was bad news for the Palestinians - it seemed that they were picking a fight with the country meant to be mediating in this conflict.

Now, the Americans will no longer speak to Mr Arafat.

But he clearly wanted to get his own message across. So, late at night, he called us in to his compound in Ramallah for an interview.

'Tiny figure'

His is not much of a kingdom. Most of his offices have been destroyed by Israeli army bulldozers.

The Palestinian leader has been stuck here amid the rubble for more than a year.

Israel has threatened to remove him - but despite this, the security at Mr Arafat's ruined compound was fairly passive.

Half a dozen guards lounged around on plastic chairs outside the sandbagged entrance.

They were watched by a white cat - who looked much more alert than any of the guards.

We were led up past the sandbags into a small office on the first floor - opposite what looked like a bedroom. We set up our cameras and lights. One of Mr Arafat's men looked in and called the lighting romantic.

Then, Mr Arafat himself walked in slowly. He was a tiny figure - dwarfed by his baggy uniform and his head-dress.

He shook hands with each of us, sat down and announced that he didn't like the romantic lighting. So we switched on the fluorescent lights instead.

Angry

And then we began.

I started off with what I'd ranked as my killer point - the fact that President George Bush had just released a statement blaming Mr Arafat for getting in the way of peace.

But it didn't seem to bother him at all.

"It's his point of view," he said.

So, I pressed him a bit further. And then he got angry.

"You are speaking for the Americans?" he asked me. "Do not forget," he said, leaning forward and pointing, "you are speaking with Yasser Arafat."

This proved to be the pattern for the next 20 minutes or so.

I would ask a question. He would dodge it, accuse me of forgetting a key point and then start into a mini-speech which I could never quite cut short.

At times he didn't even like the most innocuous of openings.

"You are the acknowledged leader of the Palestinians..." I began.

"This is a problem for you?" he interrupted. "You are against our constitution?"

And on we lurched. I asked him why he and his first Prime Minister Abu Mazen had argued so much.

"This is not accurate," he said.

"You have made another fatal mistake," he added, looking fairly pleased with himself.

I changed the subject: "What will you do if Israel comes to get you?"

"Welcome Israel," he said with a smile. It was obviously his standard reply - it certainly amused his entourage who were crowded all around me.

Silence

And then I ended by asking him about his health - since there'd been so many recent rumours of heart attacks, of stomach cancer, even of mysterious poisonings.

But he said nothing. Instead he kissed his hands and looked upwards. He seemed very pleased with this silent answer.

And we then moved onto what seemed to be Mr Arafat's favourite part - the photocall.

First, there was a group photo.

"And now, one by one," the leader called out happily. So we obediently queued up to have individual portraits taken with him. He very much enjoyed this.

Then we stood around talking.

Small talk

This, of course, should have been my chance to ask all those vital offbeat questions I should have been storing up in my mind for two years.

Instead - fairly crushingly - I drifted into the most banal of small talk.

"Do you ever miss going outside?" I asked Mr Arafat.

He walked over to the window and pulled open the curtains.

"This is the only place I can get air," he said.

He opened the window and breathed in dramatically, looking at me - it seemed - for approval.

I then found myself looking at the many badges he wears on his crowded lapel - there was one in particular of entwined Israeli and Palestinian flags.

I wanted to ask him about it - but his aides were calling him. And he was gone.

Now, at least, I can say that I've met the man whose daily words, actions and illnesses I cover.

But I'm not sure I'm much wiser.

I can't say I worked out who was more real - the eager old man breathing in fresh air, or the angry leader who warned me never to forget who he was.

This is the man the French insist on dealing with.


Tuesday, October 21, 2003

The give, and the give nots

India will give 10 million dollars to help reconstruct Iraq, in addition to the 30 million they have already donated:

India has offered an additional 10 million U.S. dollars towards rebuilding Iraq, taking its total contribution to 40 million U.S. dollars, it was reported Tuesday.

Russia, on the other hand, will give nothing, although they are open to the idea of Russian companies making money in Iraq.

Russia is not planning any assistance to Iraq at this stage, but Russian companies are ready to invest in Iraq, Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said on Tuesday.

"We see no conditions at the moment for Russia's involvement in the rebuilding of Iraq as a donor," said Fedotov, who will head Russia's delegation to the Madrid Conference on the Reconstruction of Iraq, scheduled for Oct. 23-24.


Shamser Mobin Chowdhury says what?

Bangladesh has decided not to send troops to Iraq for reasons that are not entirely coherent.

Bangladesh said on Monday that a new UN resolution on Iraq does not meet its key condition for sending peacekeeping troops to the war—ravaged nation.

"Bangladesh wants the UN to play a primary role in all the matters of Iraq. And that condition has not been fulfilled in the UN resolution," Foreign ministry official Shamser Mobin Chowdhury said.

So what would be a "primary role"? We all know that the UN wants nothing to do with anything that might be dangerous.


Yes means no?

First we wanted them, now we don't?

Washington looks likely to drop its request that Turkey send troops to Iraq to back up harried U.S. forces, a decision that could be something of a relief for the Ankara government, Turkish officials and analysts say.

[...]

But analysts say Washington now seems to be soft-pedalling the idea in the face of opposition from both the U.S. appointed Iraqi Governing Council and northern Iraqi Kurds -- particularly after a United Nations resolution last week improved chances of winning military support from less controversial contributors.

I understand the misgivings that the northern Kurds have regarding Turkish troops, but why can't they serve in southern Iraq or in the Sunni Triangle area?


Saudi Abombia?

This doesn't sound good:

Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have concluded a secret agreement on nuclear cooperation, UPI reported, quoting an unimpeachable source.

"It will be vehemently denied by both countries," added this ranking Pakistani source, described as "a knowledgeable insider" by Arnaud de Borchgrave, the editor-in-chief of UPI.

"But future events will confirm that Pakistan has agreed to provide Saudi Arabia with the wherewithal for a nuclear deterrent."

In a lightning, hastily arranged, 26-hour "state visit" in Islamabad, Crown Prince Abdullah Abdulaziz, Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, flew across the Arabian Sea with an entourage of 200, including Foreign Minister Prince Saud and several cabinet ministers.

The pro-American Saudi Defence Minister Prince Sultan, who is next in line to succeed to the throne after Abdullah, was not part of the delegation.

There was talk a while back that Saudi Arabia had decided to acquire nuclear weapons, but it was (not surprisingly) denied by Saudi officials.


Monday, October 20, 2003

Quagmire!

The bad news just keeps rolling in:

Despite predictions of pandemonium and terror in the streets, Baghdad and most other Iraqi cities remained quiet on Wednesday as the transition to the new, Saddam-free Iraqi Dinar officially began. Threats of bombings and terror campaigns failed to materialize, and Baghdad's moneychangers began accepting the crisp new currency.


"Certain ethnic groups"

There is some interesting stuff going on in Switzerland:

The nationalist Swiss People's Party won the highest share of votes in parliamentary elections yesterday after running a campaign that accused the government of being soft on crime and immigration, state-owned Swiss television projected.

[...]

The Swiss People's Party has been gaining strength in recent years, warning that cherished Swiss values of independence and neutrality are being lost and evoking a time when Switzerland had less crime and fewer foreigners.

Full-page newspaper ads by the party last week said, "Certain ethnic groups dominate the criminal statistics," noting that the number of rapes in Switzerland had risen 70 percent and murders 32 percent in recent years.

Funny, I figured the Swiss would be neutral on rape.


Run Kofi, run!

The UN decided to "cut and run" after their headquarters in Iraq was bombed.

Now, they have decided to cut, run, and never look back:

Despite a new resolution giving the United Nations a bigger role in Iraq, the organization won't beef up the skeleton staff still in the country after two bombings because of security concerns, a U.N. spokesman said Friday.

A day after the U.N. Security Council unanimously adopted the U.S.-backed resolution, spokesman Fred Eckhard said Secretary-General Kofi Annan isn't prepared under current conditions to send back more than 500 international staffers who were ordered to leave after the bombings in August and September.

If this is the kind of commitment the UN is going to make to Iraq, why would we want them involved at all?


Saturday, October 18, 2003

Troops

There will be no Pakistani troops in Iraq:

Pakistan has bluntly refused to send any troops to Iraq, dealing an early blow to US hopes that Washington will be able to lever its diplomatic victory at the UN Security Council yesterday into a speedy boost in resources for its campaign in Iraq.

But there will be more South Korean troops:

In a boost for the United States, South Korea pledged Saturday to send more troops to Iraq but did not specify how many or whether they would be combat troops.

[...]

"The government will decide on the number, characteristics and timing of the dispatch after considering the U.S. request and public opinion," said Yoon Tae-young, a spokesman for South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun.

South Korea's military's capacity and other factors would also be taken into account, Yoon said. South Korea sent 675 non-combat troops to Iraq earlier this year.

Alongside 130,000 American soldiers, there are currently more than 20,000 troops or security forces in Iraq from 26 nations, most of them organized under two peacekeeping contingents: under the British in the south and under the Poles in central Iraq.


Honest Abe?

Japan's Senior Vice Foreign Minister Masatoshi Abe lobbied France, Germany, and Syria to back the recent UN resolution regarding the reconstruction of Iraq.

Is there any doubt that Japan is among the "good guys"?

Senior Vice Foreign Minister Masatoshi Abe on Thursday met with the ambassadors of France, Germany and Syria, urging them to support a U.S.-sponsored resolution on the reconstruction of Iraq.

Abe's ultimate aim is to have the resolution adopted unanimously by the U.N. Security Council.


The Jews and the crusaders

I'm not quite sure what to make of this report:

Australia's leading radical Islamic cleric has revealed he was told of a planned terrorist attack in Australia only months before the Sydney Olympic Games.

Sheik Mohammed Omran, the Melbourne-based leader of the fundamentalist Ahl Sunnah wal Jama'ah Association, claims he advised against a plot to bomb targets in Australia in 2000 and threatened to go to the police.

And a separate source has supported Sheik Omran's extraordinary revelation, saying a letter sent to Indonesian terrorist figure Abu Bakar Bashir prominently quoted the Melbourne cleric's view that bombings should not be carried out on Australian soil.

[...]

Sheik Omran says he does not support terrorism and claims he is a force for peace within Australia's fundamentalist Muslim community.

But he admits to knowing many people who have been jailed for terrorist activities around the world. These include his long-time friend Abu Qutadar, the suspected head of al-Qa'ida in Europe, who is under arrest in Britain, and Bashir, , who is serving a jail sentence in Indonesia.

Sheik Omran was recently named in Spanish court documents as having links with the suspected leader of al-Qa'ida in Spain, Abu Dahdah - claims which the sheik has denied.

It's good that the attack was stopped, but Sheik Omran isn't sqeaky clean:

Sheik Mohammed Omran said court documents detailing alleged phone conversations he had with al-Qaida operatives in Madrid, including detained terror suspect Abu Dahdah, were "absolute rubbish".

"This allegation, it has no basis, it has no foundation," he said outside his home in Coburg.

"I never had any contact with Spain, in personal (sic) or in organisation-wise."

Sheik Omran said he had never been interviewed by the Australian Federal Police and claimed his organisation -- the Islamic Information and Support Centre of Australia -- had a great relationship with the Federal Government.

[...]

The centre's website, www.iisca.org, has information on raising Muslim children and interpreting the Koran.

It also has an essay by Sheik Abdus-Salaam Zoud that calls for support for Muslim guerillas and condones violence against Jews.

"Allah digrace (sic) the Jews and the crusaders -- Crush them," the article says.


Friday, October 17, 2003

New Zealand

New Zealand has pledged 5 million dollars in relief aid to Iraq, in addition to the 5.3 million it has already donated:

The Government has welcomed the United Nations Security Council's new resolution on Iraq and promised to chip in another $5 million in humanitarian aid.

Acting Foreign Minister Marian Hobbs said the resolution, which was passed unanimously today, made it clear the needs of the Iraqi people would come first.

"The importance of United Nations involvement in Iraq is clearly flagged," she said in a statement.

[...]

Ms Hobbs said the NZ Defence Force engineering detachment, sent to Iraq to assist with reconstruction, had arrived at the end of September and was already hard at work.

New Zealand would be represented at the Madrid Conference and would announce $5 million to support the reconstruction and humanitarian activities of the NZDF engineers, and a further $500,000 to support New Zealand non-governmental organisations working with partners in Iraq, Ms Hobbs said.

New Zealand had already provided $4.3 million for emergency humanitarian relief efforts and had committed a further $1 million for rehabilitation of the Iraq agriculture ministry in Baghdad.


Snag?

Have plans to bring Turkish troops in to Iraq hit a snag?

Turkey welcomed a U.N. resolution expected to attract more foreign troops and money to restore order in Iraq but signaled its troops could stay out if the resolution succeeds in convincing more countries to send soldiers into the war-battered country.

Several countries have told the United States that they would not send troops to Iraq to boost the U.S. forces there in the absence of a U.N. mandate, but the Turkish Parliament has authorized a deployment without a resolution.

"We may stay out if everyone else goes to Iraq," Turkish officials said on Friday, noting that the resolution, which cleared the U.N. Security Council with a unanimous vote on Thursday, would provide an incentive for other countries to send troops to Iraq.

The statements from Ankara highlight the growing uncertainty over plans to send Turkish troops to Iraq. U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has said the United States was trying to overcome difficulties associated with Turkish troops, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld indicated a final solution might take time, characterizing the issue of a Turkish military contribution as a "complicated" one. Officials, however, welcomed the resolution, saying it was a "step in the right direction."

"This is a step in the direction of Iraq's normalization and a positive development. It will end discussions on international legitimacy," Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, in Malaysia for an Islamic summit, said about the U.N. resolution, adding that Turkey was not "obliged or desirous to go to Iraq."

Turkey and the United States have been expected to start technical talks on details of a possible deployment, but Ankara is getting increasingly uneasy over the slow pace at which Washington is handling the issue.

Strong opposition from Iraq's U.S.-picked Governing Council to a possible move to deploy Turkish troops may have forced Washington to revise plans for Turkish troops, comments in the media said.

Massoud Barzani, a member of the Governing Council and leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), reiterated on Thursday that Turkish troops would bring instability and threatened to resign from the council if the council approves the deployment. "It is not just the Kurds who are opposed to a Turkish military presence. This is our country and our right, and we insist on our stance. ... If the Governing Council agrees on this, I will hand in my resignation," Barzani told Asharq al-Awsat newspaper.

Heeding objections from the council, Rumsfeld said Washington, Ankara and the council must agree on the terms of a Turkish deployment.

Amid an exchange of criticism between Ankara and the Iraqi Kurds, major Iraqi Kurdish leader Jalal Talabani of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) is coming to Ankara for talks in November.

Diplomatic sources said the United States should convince the Governing Council, whose members were chosen by Washington. "We have difficulty in understanding the Americans on Iraq. They are confused," Turkish officials said.

If the White House screws this up they deserve all the criticism they will get.


Thursday, October 16, 2003

What is folklift in French?

The following sentence from an AP story is typical of the rhetoric I have heard of late:

Two Democratic lawmakers say Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, Halliburton, is gouging U.S. taxpayers while importing gasoline into Iraq.

What's the problem? Well, the sentence implies that Dick Cheney formerly owned Halliburton. The fact is he formerly *worked* for Halliburton. That's like calling Anheuser-Busch Jacques Chirac's former company when the truth is he drove a forklift for them 50 years ago.


2 billion a year

From Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper, an official government publication:




I guess the idea is that big bad President Bush is forcing Kofi Annan to give up his "wind up" key, essentially making him, and the UN, lifeless.

See what 2 billion a year in aid gets us?


Internal support?

The Egyptian Al-Ahram Weekly has an article that outlines the support, or lack there of, for Iran's nuclear program from within Iran:

Since the former Shah's rule, Iran has been developing nuclear programmes to maintain its position as a regional power with nuclear capabilities like those of India, Pakistan and Israel. Accordingly these programmes should be viewed as a way of supporting regional capabilities and protecting higher Iranian national interests. However, the Iranian nuclear programme, as observers see it, does not have the support of a specific lobby, such as the military which supports the nuclear programme in Pakistan, or the civil-technological lobby which supports the Indian nuclear programme. This weakens Iran's ability in its attempts to confront internal and external pressures. The issue of signing a new protocol is a new reason for the divisions in the Iranian regime between the conservatives and the reformists.

That being said, it is clear that there are many in government that are in favor of the program (why else would it be happening?). What is sickening is that the International Community is laying back and letting it happen. Sure, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is involved in monitoring Iran's program to make sure it is "peaceful", but does anyone seriously think it will stop Iran from building a nuclear bomb when push comes to shove?

And this is a country that parades missiles through its streets with signs attached to them stating "we will crush America under our feet" and "Israel must be wiped off the map".


Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Show me the...

Japan has pledged to immediately donate 1.5 billion dollars to help reconstruct Iraq. Japan has also stated that they are willing to give 3.5 billion more over the next 4 years.

After Great Britain, Japan has stepped up to be the biggest supporter our Iraq policy.

Ahead of a visit by President Bush, Japan announced Wednesday it will contribute $1.5 billion next year for the reconstruction of Iraq.

The $1.5 billion, announced by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, would go toward electricity, education, water and health support.

Media reports have said the sum would be the first installment of a package expected to reach a total of $5 billion over the next four years. But Fukuda said medium term aid was still under consideration.

Compare that to the measley 233 million dollars the European Union has donated:

The European Union approved $233 million in reconstruction aid for Iraq on Monday, with Britain the only EU nation for now to provide additional funding from its national budget.

[...]

Even that came with conditions. The EU foreign ministers stressed the need for a ''realistic schedule for handing over political responsibility to the Iraqi people.'' Their statement also said the United Nations must play ''a strong and vital role'' in Iraq's reconstruction.

I hope they are ashamed of themselves.


US out of UN?

Congressmen Tom Feeney and Dave Weldon are calling for the US to withdraw from the United Nations:

The United Nations is a failure and America should withdraw its membership or taxpayer-funded support until the U.N. more closely mirrors American interests, two Central Florida Republican congressman said Monday.

"The U.N. is useless," said U.S. Rep. Tom Feeney, R-Oviedo, who joined fellow U.S. Rep. Dave Weldon, R-Palm Bay, in mostly berating the global aid and peacekeeping body. "It's more useless than it's ever been."

Tom Feeney also co-sponsored a bill in the House of Representatives that sought to lower the amount of money the US gave to the UN. This article about it brings up some interesting points:

Rep. J. D. Hayworth, a Republican Congressman from Arizona, and seven co-sponsors have submitted a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would lower the amount of money the United States sends to the United Nations by more than $240 million per year.

Hayworth's bill, H.R. 2303, would make the contribution by the U.S. to the U.N. equal to the largest contribution from any of the other four permanent, veto-wielding members of the U.N. Security Council.

"Our veto power should cost no more than that of the other permanent members, China, France, Russia, or the United Kingdom," remarked Rep. Hayworth. "Even though their combined Gross Domestic Product nearly equals that of the U.S., we contribute about $115 million more to the U.N. regular budget than those four countries combined. That doesn't make sense, and Congress should put a stop to it."

Currently, the law requires the United States to contribute a fixed 22 percent of the U.N.'s administrative budget. In 2003, the U.S. contribution to the U.N. budget was $341 million. Under the Hayworth proposal, the U.S. payment would be lowered to $100 million annually, matching France's 6.5 percent contribution to the budget. France is the second highest contributor to the U.N.

"The current dues arrangement is particularly objectionable when you consider that each of the other permanent members of the Security Council regularly vote against U.S. proposals," Hayworth argued. "Equal power should be matched by equal dues."

State Department records show that in 2002 China voted against the U.S. over 80 percent of the time. Russia disagreed with the U.S. 78 percent of the time. Great Britain and France both voted with the U.S. 50 percent of the time.

Hayworth is hopeful that his bill will inspire a larger debate about the future role of the U.S. in the U.N.

"The outrages are not limited to the meltdown over Iraq," he said. "Cuba began its recent crackdown on dissidents as it was elected to a new three-year term on the U.N.'s human rights commission. That commission is being chaired by Libya and includes some of the worst abusers of human rights in the world, including Vietnam, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Zimbabwe."

Hayworth warns that something must be done, or the U.N. will become useless.

"There must be reforms if the United Nations is to avoid being reduced to an irrelevant international theater of the absurd," he predicted.

This bill is currently in the House Committee on International Relations.

The seven co-sponsors of the bill are Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO), Rep. Gresham Barrett (R-SC), Rep. Tom Feeney (R-FL), Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA), Rep. Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-NC), Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA), and Rep. Ron Lewis (R-KY).


Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Juxtaposition of the day

Juxtaposition of the day: Pakistani Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri vs. Democratic Congressman Dennis Kucinich.

First, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri:

Pakistani Foreign Minister, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, said on Monday that Pakistan would send troops if it had a UN mandate, was part of a multilateral Muslim force, or received an Iraqi request that would ensure the troops were welcome.

He dismissed calls from some quarters, voiced over the weekend by the OIC's Moroccan Secretary-General Abd al-Wahid Belkeziz, that foreign forces should be evicted from Iraq.

Kasuri said it was unrealistic to demand that the United States should pull out, as it was unlikely other nations had the capacity to stabilise the country without US troops there too.

"Nobody's asked for that, neither France, nor Germany. People are not so unrealistic," Kasuri said.

"After all the US has 150,000 troops (in Iraq). Who's going to come up with that?"

And now, Dennis Kucinich:

I'm the only candidate who has a plan to get out of Iraq. We need to get the U.N. in and the U.S. out.

We have to bring our troops home. And I think that issue alone will cause many Americans to flock to my campaign when they see there's a real alternative to this endless spending of the resource of this country and waste of lives which the Iraq debacle has become.

[...]

I'm not only in favor of ending the occupation, but stopping the waste of our tax dollars and bringing our troops home, the American people will be aware that they do have a choice.

Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri was wrong. People are that unrealistic, and one of them wants to be President!


Shhh!

Afghanistan's security situation is getting better and better.

The UN Security Council on Monday unanimously passed a resolution expanding the mandate of international peacekeepers in Afghanistan outside the capital Kabul.

The measure, which passed 15-0 with no abstentions, clears the way for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to work in other areas of the country, a request that has gained urgency amid an upsurge of violence.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato), in command of the 5,300-strong ISAF since August, said earlier this month that it would be willing to expand the force beyond the environs of Kabul.

'This resolution helps pave the way for the increased security in Afghanistan upon which nearly everything else is dependent,' US Ambassador John Negroponte said.

'Afghanistan is a country that deserves the freedoms that international security assistance can help bring,' he said.

Of course, don't tell that to Bob Graham, former Democratic Presidential nominee. Graham voted against the Iraq war because he thought it would "distract" the US from the war on terror. And the same can be said for Sen. Jay Rockefeller. Mr. Rockefeller stated "'Everything distracts us from the war on terrorism. I don't know how many wars one can fight." Even Sen. Russ Feingold got in on the action: "He (Bush) seems so focused on Iraq, and it seems that not enough attention is being paid to the No. 1 threat against Americans, which are terrorist groups."


Se la vee...or whatever

Apparently all it not well in France these days:

From record unemployment to a chronic budgetary deficit, France's economic woes are taking a toll on the morale of the French.

France is increasingly painted as a country which is not only failing to make the grade internationally, but seems hell bent on continuing in that downward spiral.

A recent editorial in Le Figaro declared: 'French morale is in its socks.'

[...]

Official data published on Thursday showed that gross domestic product will expand by only 0.2 per cent this year - the least in a decade and less than half the 0.5 per cent growth forecast in the budget.

That will add to pressures on the budgetary deficit.

At 4 per cent of gross domestic product, it is already one percentage point above the limit set for the eurozone.

Unemployment, meanwhile, is hovering at 10 per cent, with hundreds of thousands of more jobs at risk.

[...]

'Since the 1970s the average growth in France has fallen from 3 per cent to 1.8 per cent a year and productivity gains from 4.2 per cent to 1 per cent annually,' he noted.

He said France was the only developed country where unemployment rates had stayed at around 9 per cent for a quarter of a century and where 20 per cent of the working age population were excluded from the workforce.

How did France get into such dire straits?

Mr Baverez pointed to an inability to adapt to modern realities and the global economy.

The WEF highlighted 'infernal social regulations, repetitive strikes, and a debilitating fiscal system which hinder the competitiveness of French enterprises'.

The problem is often linked to heavily-taxed businesses, inflexible labour laws and a very costly but inefficient public sector, which employs one in four workers.

Thirty per cent of state workers are unionised and there is a strike nearly every month in public sectors.

Some blame the 35-hour work week for aggravating the productivity problem and generating a non-enterprising and anti-innovative mentality.

And I hate to say "I told you so" but...

Experts warn that the French decline is not limited to the economic malaise.

It shows in the dysfunctions of the public service and government system, political and business scandals, the rise of extremist parties and the marginalisation of France in Europe and in the world, due partly to its stance on Iraq and defiant violations of its financial obligations in the EU.

France marginalized in Europe because of its "stance on Iraq?" But I thought the US lacked "international support" for the war? Looks like Chirac's plan has gone awry.



Monday, October 13, 2003

The Kremlin doctorine?

Where have I heard this before?

While taking pains to play down possible new nuclear threats to NATO, the Kremlin has made it clear it is prepared to use pre-emptive strikes against perceived threats and will continue to mobilise Russia's vast nuclear arsenal to deter a new generation of low-level instability on its borders.

[...]

Terrorism and instability in the former Soviet states along its borders are seen as Russia's greatest military peril, and Kremlin officials have emphasised that the kind of pre-emptive strikes upon which the US has relied in Iraq - the subject of substantial criticism from Moscow - are potential tools for the Russian armed forces as well.

The Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov, told a recent meeting of the Russian military leadership in Moscow: "The specifics of contemporary external threats require that the Russian armed forces be able to perform various duties in various regions of the world. We cannot absolutely rule out pre-emptive use of force if this is dictated by Russia's interests or its commitments to allies."

Nuclear weapons to "deter a new generation of low-level instability on its borders"? If Bush had said this the world would be in an uproar!

Anyhow, it seems as though the "Bush Doctrine" of pre-emptive strikes isn't so crazy after all.


Just in time manufacturing

Charles Krauthammer has written an excellent article that should spark some thought, especially amongst the "one vial of botulinum bacteria is no big deal" crowd.

Rolf Ekeus, living proof that not all Swedish arms inspectors are fools, may have been right.

Ekeus headed the U.N. inspection team that from 1991 to 1997 uncovered not just tons of chemical and biological weapons in Iraq, but a massive secret nuclear weapons program as well. This, after the other Swede, Hans Blix, then director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, had given Saddam a perfectly clean bill of health on being non-nuclear. Indeed, Iraq was sitting on the IAEA Board of Governors.

Ekeus theorizes that Saddam decided years ago that keeping mustard gas and other poisons in barrels was unstable and corrosive, and also hard to conceal. Therefore, rather than store large stocks of weapons of mass destruction, he would adapt the program to retain an infrastructure (laboratories, equipment, trained scientists, detailed plans) that could ``break out'' and ramp up production when needed. The model is Japanese ``just in time'' manufacturing, where you save on inventory by making and delivering stuff in immediate response to orders.

Krauthammer also comments on David Kay's report that Saddam was experimenting with Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever:

Kay's list is chilling. It includes a secret network of labs and safe houses within the Mukhabarat, the Iraqi intelligence service; bioorganisms kept in scientists' homes, including a vial of live botulinum; and my favorite, ``new research on BW-applicable agents, Brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever, and continuing work on ricin and aflatoxin'' -- all ``not declared to the U.N.''

I have been to medical school, and I have never heard of Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever. I don't know one doctor in 100 who has. It is an extremely rare disease, and you can be sure that Saddam was not seeking a cure.

He was not after the Nobel in physiology (Yasser Arafat having already won the peace prize). He was looking for a way to turn these agents into killers. The fact that he was not stockpiling is relevant only to the question of why some prewar intelligence was wrong about Iraq's WMD program. But it is not relevant to the question of whether a war to pre-empt his development of WMDs was justified.

In short, it was Saddam's plan to keep a small biological warfare program that could be revived at a moments notice. The program had to be small enough to fool the UN weapons inspectors but also had to have the essentials, such as samples of botulinum bacteria and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever, so that it could restart after the inspectors left.

And he would have gotten away with it too...


France and the hijab, again

France has been dealing with the hijab issue in its public schools for some time now and I have tried to post news regarding it as it comes avalible.

Recently Tokia Saifi, the Development Director and sole Muslim woman in France's current government, has stated that she believes the hijab should be banned in public schools.

The only Muslim woman in France's centre-right government has broken a long silence to say she opposed letting girls wear traditional Islamic headscarves in school and wanted the practice outlawed.

Development Minister Tokia Saifi told RTL radio on Wednesday she hadn't spoken out before because she did not think the fact she was the French-born daughter of Algerian immigrants meant she had to make statements on every Islamic issue that arises in France.

With the headscarf's growing popularity among Muslim girls in the poor suburbs of big cities, the government has launched an inquiry into the place of religious symbols in state schools. The cabinet is split over whether to ban them officially or not.

"I am against the wearing of headscarves in school," Saifi, 44, said. "We should include (a ban) in the school guidelines law for 2004. I don't think we can do otherwise."

She said a ban would apply to other religious symbols, such as necklaces with a Christian cross or Jewish Star of David.



Saturday, October 11, 2003

In it to win it?

Japan has decided to continue its supportive role in the war on terror.

Japan's House of Councillor on Friday passed a bill to extend the term of a special antiterrorism law for two years, paving the way for its enactment before a general election on Nov. 9.

The bill cleared the lower house last Friday. The Japanese parliament endorsed the antiterrorism law, which expires on Nov. 1,soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks against the United States.

The ruling coalition, led by Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's Liberal Democratic Party, supported the bill, while the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan opposed it.

Under the law, Japan has sent Maritime Self-Defense Force (MSDF)vessels to the Indian Ocean to refuel foreign naval ships participating in the US-led antiterrorism operations in and around Afghanistan since 2001.

Critics argue the law is not in compliance with Japan's pacifist constitution which forbids the nation to get involved in warfare.

Also, Japan is preparing to send the Self-Defense Forces to Iraq for humanitarian aid and post-war reconstruction under a newly enacted legislation. The leading Asahi Shimbun said Thursday a spearhead of around 100 troops is expected to embark in December.


The New Dehli omission

It seems that Bush snubbed India in his last speech to the UN, but he's trying to make up for it:

Making amends for his omission of India as a victim of terrorism in his address to the UN General Assembly, US President George W. Bush yesterday listed New Delhi among the cities which have been targeted by terrorists in their global effort to spread chaos.

“Since September the 11th, the terrorists have taken lives — since the attacks on our nation that fateful day, the terrorists have attacked in Casablanca, Mombasa, Jerusalem, Amman, Riyadh, Baghdad, Karachi, New Delhi, Bali, and Jakarta,” Bush said in a speech to the New Hampshire Air National Guard, Army National Guard, reservists and their families at Pease Air National Guard Base in Portsmouth.

On September 23, in his address to the UN on the eve of meeting Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in New York, Bush had said: “Twenty four months ago — and yesterday in the memory of America — the center of New York City became a battlefield and a graveyard and the symbol of an unfinished war. Since that day, terrorists have struck in Bali, Mombassa, in Casablanca, in Riyadh, in Jakarta, in Jerusalem — measuring the advance of their cause in the chaos and innocent suffering they leave behind.”

Within hours of the American President’s UN address, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani reacted in Kochi. “I wish the world would become acutely aware of the fact that for India, ISI, which is a limb of the state of Pakistan, is more dangerous than al Qaida or Taliban,” he said.


Friday, October 10, 2003

Study?

A report in the Christian Science Monitor states that, according to a study, people who watch news channels such as Fox are misinformed regarding the war in Iraq and those who watch PBS and listen to NPR are better informed.

A Knight Ridder report on a major new study released last week, shows that a majority of Americans have held at least one of three mistaken impressions about the US-led war in Iraq, and those misperceptions contributed to much of the popular support for the war. The study, entitled "Misperceptions, The Media and the Iraq War," conducted by the Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) at the University of Maryland, also showed that the more people watched certain commercial news media, the more likely they were to hold at least one of the misperceptions. The study found that those who primarily watch Fox News are significantly more likely to have misperceptions, while those who primarily listen to NPR or watch PBS are significantly less likely.

"When evidence surfaces that a significant portion of the public has just got a hole in the picture ... this is a potential problem in the way democracy functions," says Clay Ramsay, research director for the Washington-based Program on International Policy Attitudes, which studies foreign-policy issues.

The study looked at three propositions, which to date – according to government reports and accepted public surveys – are false:

US forces found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

There's clear evidence that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein worked closely with the Sept. 11 terrorists.

People in foreign countries generally either backed the US-led war or were evenly split between supporting and opposing it.

The main problem I see in all of this deals with the 3 supposed falsehoods. To wit, the US has not found massive amounts of WMD in Iraq but it has found buried nuclear weapons equipments, a vial of botulinum bacteria that has been hidden in a Iraqi scientist's refrigerator since 1993, that Saddam had a 10 million dollar missile deal with N. Korea, and that Saddam had barrels of SCUD missile fuel (SCUD missile fuel can only be used in SCUD missiles...nothing else. Iraq was banned from having SCUD missiles by the UN after the Gulf War.) Furthermore, we know that Iraq sent convoys of trucks to Syria full of who-knows-what.

In addition, Saddam may not have worked closely with the terrorists that carried out 9-11, but he contributed to global terrorism by paying Palestinians to carry out suicide bombings and sheltering wanted terrorists like Abu Nidal.

Lastly, a great portion of the world did support the US action against Iraq. The list includes, but is not limited to:

Afghanistan, Albania, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Colombia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, El Salvador, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Honduras, Kuwait, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Mongolia, Palau, Portugal, Rwanda, Singapore, Solomon Islands, and Uganda.

I wonder what the better informed PBS and NPR patrons would say to all that.

This reeks of leftist propaganda to me.