Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Poland/Israel

Israel has agreed to sell Poland 350 million dollars worth of missiles.

After going out on a limb as one of the United States' staunchest allies in the war in Iraq, Poland is starting to see some payback. The latest reward comes not from the US but from Israel in the form of a ten-year missile contract valued at around $350 million.

The anti-tank "Spike LR" missiles, which can be shoulder-fired, will be produced in Poland under license from the state-owned Israeli Rafael arms corporation by the Polish firm Mesko, reports the Associated Press. This deal, which will help bring Poland's Soviet-era missile program up to NATO standards, will also "give Mesko financial breathing room after a decade of losses," reports AP.

As The Jerusalem Post reports, "the deal was so important for Poland that [its] Minister of National Defense Jerzy Szmajdzinski was on hand to sign it" in Skarzysko Kamienna, 90 miles south of Warsaw.

According to the Post, the Israeli Defense Force "has used the Spike and various derivatives for a number of years," including in Lebanon, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip. Director general of Israel's Defense Ministry Amos Yaron pointed out that "this decision is not confined solely to the industrial sphere but rather reflects a strategic choice that will hopefully pave the way for a further enhancement of Polish-Israeli defense relations."


IED attack in India

An IED attack took place recently in India:

36 army men and two civilians were injured in a blast in Lawaypora on the National Highway near Srinagar.

The Army personnel were travelling on a bus when the blast took place.

According to reports, the Hizbul Mujahideen has claimed responsibility for the attack, in which militants exploded a massive improvised explosive device.

The militants triggered the IED kept inside a roadside shop at around 10.30 am when an army convoy was passing by the Lawaypora market in Narba area of the city, said senior superintendent of police Syed Javed Mujtaba Gilani.

He said the powerful explosive device completely damaged one of the civilian buses hired by the army.

However, unofficial sources said the number of injured could be higher and some of the wounded jawans were taken to a hospital in critical condition. 5 soldiers are reported to be in a critical condition.

Militants owing allegiance to Hizbul Mujahideen called up a local news agency claimed responsibility for the attack. (With PTI inputs)

A profile for Hizbul Mujahideen can be found here.


Who will replace Musharraf?

Should the US be considering who would replace Pakistan's President Musharraf?

According to a very sceptic Christian Science Monitor (CSM), Washington should not only look for Musharraf's replacement, but also work on its futuristic policies on this premise.

According to the CSM, one of the most respected newspapers in the United States, each coup in Pakistan has further eroded democracy, as the generals have relied on Islamist extremist groups to neutralise political parties.

The editorial also expresses scepticism about the Jamali Government's deal with the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) religious alliance that gives Musharraf four more years in power in exchange for shedding his uniform by December 31, 2004.

"Observers are still scratching their heads over his announcement last week of a deal with the MMA to surrender his post as army chief in return for extending his term of office to 2007," says the editorial.

"The next day suicide bombers tried to kill him, possibly with inside help. The problem is that no one can see an alternative to General Musharraf. Pakistan's civilian politicians have been notoriously incompetent rulers," it adds.

It further goes on to warn that attempts to assassinate Musharraf "expose again the fragile foundation underlying US policy regarding Pakistan's neighbour, Afghanistan, and the broader war on terrorism."

"Before 9/11, Western capitals widely viewed Pakistan as a failed state soon to become the next Somalia or Taliban-led Afghanistan. Pakistan is exporting trouble in almost every direction. The government tolerated the infiltration of Islamist militants into Kashmir, the Pakistani security service supported the Taliban regime; and the country's nuclear scientists were trading secrets to other nations," the editorial claims.

"The Islamists' power has only strengthened as the state has failed to address a collapsing economy and education system. Thousands of young men and boys study in militant Islamic schools, from which both the Taliban and anti-Indian guerrillas have emerged.

Discrimination against minority Muslim groups such as the Ahmedias was enshrined in the Constitution, open street fighting often rages between the Sunni and Shiite communities, and Islamist extremists attack the indigent Christian minority. The government's control in tribal areas along the Afghan border can sometimes be shaky," the Daily Times quotes it as saying.

Pointing out that the Bush administration had "little choice" but to work with Musharraf after September 11, "yet he has not delivered on many promises, either because of weakness or unwillingness. While he's detained some 500 Al-Qaeda militants, he hasn't really cracked down on the Taliban exiles and the extremists who support and shelter them."

The editorial also claims that, "he (Musharraf) hasn't worked hard enough to cut off terrorist infiltration into Kashmir.

There have been two serious assasination attempts on him lately...it's scary to think who might get control of Pakistan's nukes if Musharraf is killed.


Sunday, December 28, 2003

Programing note...

Please note that updates will be irregular until the new year begins.

Life for Saddam?

Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, says that we should offer Saddam life in prison if he goes on Iraqi television and "publicly, repeatedly, emphatically and unambiguously tell resistance fighters to lay down their arms."

In recent months, as the pace and lethality of insurgent activity have increased, and as attacks have taken on a nationwide character, it has become clear that there is some loose countrywide insurgency driving much of the violence in Iraq. Hussein may not have operationally controlled the resistance from the spider holes he was presumably frequenting over that time, but he probably was key player nonetheless.

Knowing he was alive and free, his subordinate commanders may have resumed jobs similar to their previous ones in the Ba'athist leadership rather than jockeying for power among themselves. That probably made their work more efficient and deadly. Hussein's ability to elude capture also surely helped motivate his followers, who in the eyes of U.S. authorities probably continue to constitute the overwhelming majority of the 5,000 or so dedicated resistance fighters that coalition troops face in Iraq.

So eliminating Hussein from the picture probably weakens the Ba'athists substantially. Most of all, however, the general Iraqi population will gradually digest the news that Hussein is not coming back. This should allay the fears of many. It should help counter the prevalent impression that U.S.-led forces do not have a good strategy for victory. It should therefore help more people clearly choose to support the coalition and new Iraqi political leaders rather than hedge their bets out of worry of a possible return to power by Hussein.

But while U.S. President George W. Bush and all of us can be quite happy about this news, we should see this as a moment to build on opportunity rather than to celebrate too much. Clearly, coalition forces are looking for opportunities for followup raids that may net some of the dozen or so top Ba'athist officials from the famous deck of 55 cards still at large.

We should go even further. As counterintuitive as it sounds, Iraqi and U.S. officials should also consider offering Hussein a deal. In exchange for sparing his life, and providing perhaps slightly more comfortable prison conditions than he would otherwise receive, they should ask him to publicly, repeatedly, emphatically and unambiguously tell resistance fighters to lay down their arms.

I don't think it would help much...


Protests hit France

Protests have occured in France regarding the French ban on headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and large crucifixes in public schools:

An estimated 3000 protesters, including many young women in headscarves, have demonstrated against the French Government's plan to ban overt religious symbols in schools.

The proposal, announced by President Jacques Chirac last week, has been welcomed by most local religious leaders but has angered Muslims in France and abroad.

The draft law, which the Government hopes to submit to parliament in February, would ban religious symbols such as headscarves, Jewish skullcaps and large crucifixes.

The demonstrators brandished French identity cards or the national flag as they marched through central Paris on Sunday carrying banners that read "My veil, my voice" or "Veil, cross, kippa, leave us the choice".


Summary on Pakistan

The CSM has a nice summary regarding Pakistan selling nuclear nuclear technology to other states:

Pakistani officials insist that there has been no transfer of nuclear technology since President Pervez Musharraf took power four years ago and that, if the country's scientists and engineers had done anything wrong in the past, it was without government approval, according to the Times. As the BBC reports, Information Minister Sheikh Ahmed Rashid conceded on Monday that certain scientists may have been acting independently.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that "evidence discovered in a probe of Iran's secret nuclear program points overwhelmingly to Pakistan as the source of crucial technology that put Iran on a fast track toward becoming a nuclear weapons power." Iran has not directly identified Pakistan as a supplier, but documents provided by Iran to UN nuclear inspectors since early November have strongly implicated Pakistani individuals and companies as sources of key blueprints, technical guidance, and equipment for a pilot uranium-enrichment plant, reports the Post.


Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Scrambling

Libya's decision to give up its WMD programs and allow UN inspectors in the country have Egypt and Syria scrambling:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad flew to Egypt on Wednesday as major events in the region put pressure on Damascus.
He and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak are scheduled to consider Libya's move to give up banned weapons programmes, the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and US pressure on Syria.

Egyptian Prime Minister Ataf Obeid said the summit came at a "critical time".

Mr Assad has recently made overtures to both Israel and Washington, which is threatening Syria with sanctions.

The Syrian Government called for talks with the US after President George W Bush approved a law threatening punishment if Syria does not rein in militants and stop seeking weapons of mass destruction.

Syria denies both sets of allegations.

Damascus said it wanted "a frank and constructive dialogue" over the law, which could ban US exports to Syria and freeze Syria's assets in the US.

Libyan President Muammar Gaddafi brought the issue of weapons of mass destruction into sharp focus recently by agreeing to give up his arms programmes.

Syria welcomed Libya's move on Tuesday.


Iran says it will hit back

Iran says it will hit back if Israel attacks its nuclear plants as they did in Iraq.

President Mohammad Khatami of Iran has said Israel would be making a mistake if it carried out its threat to destroy Tehran's nuclear capabilities.

He was reacting to comments made last week by the Israeli defence minister.

The minister, Shaul Mofaz, had implied that Israel was making plans to destroy Tehran's nuclear sites.

Mr Mofaz's comments were the latest in a series of threats by Israel on the danger they believe Iran poses in the Middle East.

President Khatami's dismissive remarks were mild in comparison to those of other senior members of the government.

According to the Mehr news agency, the head of the Iranian air force General Seyed Reza Pardis said if Israel launches an attack on Iran, it will be "digging its own grave."


Tuesday, December 23, 2003

Rules of engagement

The rules of engagement have been set for Japanese troops headed to Iraq, and they seem quite limited:

The Defense Agency has compiled limited attack-response rules of engagement for Iraq-bound personnel of the Ground Self Defense Force, who have no combat experience.

The rules call on the GSDF members to hold their fire until it is clear their foes are aiming weapons at them, government sources said.

The guidelines state, for example, that GSDF troops can open fire at attackers whose weapons specifically appear to be aimed at them, and they can fire from armored vehicles if their occupants are about to come under fire from armor-piercing weapons.

The attack-response issue is a politically sensitive one for Self-Defense Forces personnel, even though they may be as heavily armed as soldiers of other countries, due to the Constitution's renunciation of war.

The rules, compiled in advance of the first postwar dispatch of Japanese ground troops to an area in which fighting is taking place, remain incomplete, including the terms under which warning shots may be fired.

The GSDF plans fuller instructions before the troops are dispatched, the sources said.

Under the rules, an SDF "officer" could open fire first, for example by using a mounted machinegun, if SDF troops in an armored vehicle are clearly about to be attacked, including with long-range antitank guns.


Slavery in Pakistan?

Does slavery still exist...in Pakistan?

When peasant Tago Bheel and his wife, Mira, fled from the captivity of their feudal lord last month, they knew it was a matter of life or death. Barefooted and starving, both ran all night, collapsing on reaching safety as the sun dawned on a new day for the couple.

They escaped from agricultural fields where they had worked for the past ten years as bonded laborers in Pakistan's Sindh Province. "We were living like slaves," says Mr. Tago after his escape. "We used to dream of freedom every day and now it has become a reality."

There are more than 7,000 bonded laborers like Tago, who either escaped or were released by human rights activists in Sindh Province during the past decade from the clutches of feudal lords.

Human rights activists say there are thousands more still forced to work in the fields, struggling to pay off debts taken anywhere from a few years to a few generations ago. In Sindh Province, feudal lords have clout in the main political parties and some are even members of parliament - while the peasants have been long disadvantaged as part of a low-caste Hindu minority.

"Bonded laborers are the new face of slavery," says Hassan Dars, a sociologist in Hyderabad. "Here, people are still being bought, sold, and bartered."


Arab leaders to combat terrorism

Leaders from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates have agreed to combat terrorism:

Leaders of Arab countries in the Persian Gulf agreed Monday to form a pact to combat terrorism and praised Washington for planning to transfer power to Iraqis by mid-2004.

Officials from the six Gulf Cooperation Council states — Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates — ended a two-day summit with the agreement.

Council Secretary-General Abdulrahman Attiyah said the pact would be a "big achievement that will benefit the Gulf and the whole world."

Officials did not provide details or say when the pact would be finished. Details will probably be made public in Kuwait when it is deliberated by lawmakers.

But the council said members of the political and economic alliance "support every international measure to fight terrorism and cut the sources of its finances." The United States accuses many Arab charitable organizations of feeding terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda.

The summit opened Sunday with Kuwait's prime minister, Sheik Sabah al Ahmed al Jabbar al Sabah, saying terrorism is "among the most grave dangers and challenges" facing the region.


"Sister Cities"

Dean's World is on to something:

Homeland Security has a color chart. It's okay but I think there are better ways for securing our nation. I just read, in our comments, an idea for securing our homeland. Commenter SKS, I like the way you think.

We create a list of sister cities, publish it for the world to see and our nation will see cooperation from Islamic nations like never before.

U.S. Sister City Program
It works like this: You bomb one of our cities and we unleash 10,000 times the explosives on our "sister city" as a response.

Sister Cities:

New York City - Mecca
Washington D.C. - Medina
Los Angeles - Riyadh
Chicago - Damascus
San Francisco - Tehran
Seattle - Tripoli

And so on... You get the idea. I think that is an idea worth looking into. It could really get some cooperation on our War on Terror. Don't you think?


Mini-nukes

Some "diplomats" and "nonproliferation experts" think that US research on "mini-nukes" could "undermine international efforts to stop the spread of nuclear arms."

Research on a new generation of precision atomic weapons by the Bush administration threatens to undermine international efforts to stop the spread of nuclear arms and to tarnish recent successes, according to diplomats and nonproliferation experts.

The criticism focuses on the administration's decision to lay the groundwork for developing low-yield weapons — known as mini-nukes — while pursuing President Bush's doctrine of preemptive strikes against rogue states.

The diplomats and independent experts said Washington's strategy weakens support for more stringent controls at a time when the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty faces serious challenges from North Korea and Iran and amid widespread fears of terrorists acquiring atomic weapons. The U.S. strategy, critics say, may cause other countries to pursue nuclear arms.

"The U.S. follows a double standard that allows it to develop and threaten to use nuclear weapons while denying them to smaller countries," said Hussein Haniff, Malaysia's ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna. "We do not know whether the nuclear nonproliferation treaty can survive with these U.S. policies."

The only problem with their theory is that both Iran and North Korea were working on nuclear weapons far before Bush came in to office, and far before the "mini-nuke" research began.


Iran's nuclear quest

It is becoming more evident that Pakistan is involved with Iran's nuclear quest:

Pakistani authorities said Monday that they were questioning Abdul Qadeer Khan, the father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, about possible links between the nuclear programs in their country and Iran.

The interrogation comes after diplomats said last month that the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna was investigating information provided by Iran that linked some Pakistanis to Tehran's nuclear program.

An Iranian uranium enrichment process used centrifuge designs identical to those once used by Pakistan, officials said. Khan originally took the designs from a European company where he worked in the 1970s, intelligence officials said.

A Pakistani diplomat said in a brief telephone interview that authorities in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, were questioning Khan. The diplomat stressed that Khan had not been implicated in any wrongdoing.

"Dr. Khan is simply being asked what he knows about this matter," said the diplomat, who spoke on condition that his name not be used.


Monday, December 22, 2003

Be Gone Demons!

Saddam spent his final days as the "President" of Iraq writing a novel depicting himself as a "resistance fighter" who will retake Iraq after it is captured by "Ezekiel", a Jew who seems to modeled on Ariel Sharon.

Saddam Hussein spent the final weeks before the war writing a novel predicting that he would lead an underground resistance movement to victory over the Americans.

He was not, as most of the world imagined, planning the defence of his nation.

As the war began and Saddam went into hiding, 40,000 copies of Be Gone Demons! were rolling off the presses. Most were destroyed by bombing and looting.

The historical epic reveals Saddam's increasing detachment from the world and his inflated sense of self in a narrative that meanders through the history of Iraq from biblical times and is filled with paranoid invective against the Jews, who delight in inciting troubles between Muslim nations and encouraging the Romans (Americans) - to attack Iraq.

The arch-villain is Ezekiel, an immortal Jew whose presence runs throughout time. He is a fat, evil, old man; Saddam probably had Ariel Sharon in mind.

The Iran-Iraq war began when Ezekiel persuaded the Iraqis' leader to invade his neighbour. The Iraqis, led by a doddering sheik, are soon defeated and Ezekiel seizes power.

Enter Saddam as the resistance fighter Salim - "a pure, virtuous Arab" . . . "Salim is tall and handsome with a straight nose".

A journalist involved in producing the novels, Saad Hadi, said: "He lost touch with reality. He thought he was a god who could do anything, including writing novels."


Saudi to start own news station

Saudi Arabia is starting its own TV news station:

Saudi Arabia will launch its own satellite news TV channel early next year, it was announced yesterday. Culture and Information Minister Dr. Fouad Al-Farsy said the new channel would offer continuous coverage of international news and current affairs.

“Preparations for the launch of the channel... are in the final stages. The channel will start satellite transmission by the middle of the Hijri month of Dul Qaada,” the minister said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.

He said the channel would strive for credibility and a swift response to news of national, Arab and international importance. A portion of programs would be devoted to covering events in the Kingdom, he added. Al-Farsy said the channel would air live talk shows about topical issues in addition to recorded programs on the Kingdom and other countries.


Desertions

Desertions are affecting the Afghan Army as well:

Building a cohesive, ethnically diverse Afghan National Army (ANA), while gradually coaxing powerful local militia totaling some 100,000 men to lay down their arms are cornerstones of security and independence for Afghanistan. They are also vital preconditions for the withdrawal of the 16,000 US and other foreign troops here.

But General Karimi says that these remain far-off goals, complicated by competing allegiances among his soldiers and the nation's faction-ridden history. As ANA's chief of operations, he speaks of "the distant future, when Afghanistan is standing on its feet."

"We have problems, particularly the problem of attrition and desertion," says the Western-trained infantry officer, with the hint of a British accent.

Indeed, about half of the 9,000 Afghan Army recruits trained so far have quit, taking their boots and uniforms with them, he says. As a result, the ANA is rushing to enlist and meet a timetable of completing the Central Corps, with 10,000 soldiers in three brigades, before national elections planned for June. Even that number falls short of the goal of 12,500 ANA soldiers by June projected by a top US military official, Gen. Peter Pace, as recently as September.

At the current pace, Karimi estimates it will take until 2010 for the coalition to achieve its target of training 70,000 Afghan soldiers. Deserters must be tracked down and punished rather than left alone as they are now, he says.


French try to get at the VP

A French prosecutor is trying to get at Dick Cheney:

A French prosecutor is examining whether to prosecute Vice President Dick Cheney over suspected complicity in the abuse of corporate assets dating from the time he was head of the services company Halliburton, the newspaper Le Figaro said during the weekend.

Such a prosecution would be bound to exacerbate diplomatic strains between the United States and France over Paris' action to block a U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

The case stems from a contract by a consortium including the American company Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR), a Halliburton subsidiary, and a French company, Technip, to supply a gas complex to Nigeria.

A Paris magistrate has been investigating complaints that $180 million was paid in secret commissions from the late 1990s to 2002 from funds established by the consortium, the report said.

Mr. Cheney was Halliburton's chief executive from 1995 to 2000.

In a letter to the attorney general's department, magistrate Reynaud van Ruymbeke ruled out directly prosecuting Mr. Cheney on a charge of bribing foreign officials, Le Figaro said.

But the official did not exclude prosecution on the grounds of complicity in the misuse of corporate assets, it added.


Friday, December 19, 2003

Greatest Arab

Would you pick bin Laden or Saddam as the "greatest Arab" of all time?

Al Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden, and ousted Iraqi dictator, Saddam Hussein, have been nominated for the title of the 'Greatest Arab' of all time in a Middle Eastern variant of the BBC's Great Britons series.

An Arabic television channel began accepting nominations last week, after buying the format for the popular programme from the BBC. Thousands have already logged on to the website for the series or sent text messages to vote for their preferred candidate.

According to a report in The Sunday Telegraph, both Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein have already received votes.

Other nominations include Saladin, famous for having recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders; Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian leader; King Abdul Aziz al Saud, the creator of modern Saudi Arabia; and Omar Sharif.

The late King Hussein of Jordan; Naguib Mahfouz, the Egyptian novelist; and Anwar Sadat, the former Egyptian president have also been nominated.

[...]

Producers at MBC, which claims to have an estimated 130 million Arab viewers worldwide, said there was no intention to exclude controversial figures, but admitted that it might prove embarrassing if bin Laden or Saddam gained a large number of votes.

Ramzi Rassi, the executive producer of the programme, said: "Our main incentive is to allow all the Arab people to express their views. If controversial figures prove very popular, they will be considered by the steering committee, which may decide to disqualify them. The mainstream opinion will rule," he added.


Appeasing China?

Richard Halloran, writing in The Japan Times, wonders if President Bush is "appeasing" China:

After nearly three years of careful strides toward strategic clarity on a China policy, U.S. President George W. Bush has slipped back into strategic ambiguity, a posture that is certain to raise diplomatic questions in Asia and to cause him political problems at home.

The president's statements during a White House visit on Tuesday by the premier of China, Wen Jiabao, so angered some of his conservative supporters that they accused him of "appeasement." His equivocal stance has also left the president open to a Democratic charge during the re-election campaign next year that he has gone soft on China.

Moreover, hazy briefings by the White House press secretary and two unnamed senior officials, one evidently from the National Security Council staff and the other from the State Department, left the distinct impression of a policy in disarray.

The ambiguities of earlier administrations on China were intended to keep Beijing and Taipei guessing about U.S. intentions in the event of hostilities over the fate of the island that China claims, and thus to deter them from war. This new ambiguity, which may be inadvertent, will leave American voters and Asian leaders wondering if Bush has any China policy at all.


The Swiss?

The Swiss have discovered several Al-Qaeda cells that were preparing to attack in Saudi Arabia:

Swiss security forces have uncovered a number of Al-Qaeda cells planning terrorist attacks in Saudi Arabia, Al-Watan Arabic daily reported yesterday quoting Swiss judicial sources.

The Swiss authorities were alerted to the terrorist cells while tapping telephone conversations of Khaled Sheikh Muhammad, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks. Khaled Sheikh was arrested in Pakistan last March and has been extradited to the US.

“Investigations identified telephone numbers of incoming and outgoing calls from Khaled Sheikh’s phone,” the paper said, adding the Al-Qaeda operative used dozens of cell phones until September 2002.

Swiss intelligence knows about Al-Qaeda cells, some of them operating in Asia, who are preparing to carry out explosions in the Kingdom, the paper said.


Iraqi scientists

The US has recently put in place a program to employ Iraqi scientists:

The Bush administration yesterday announced a program to spend up to $22 million over the next two years to find nonmilitary jobs for Iraqi scientists, researchers and technicians who had worked on Saddam Hussein's chemical, nuclear and biological weapons programs.

State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the purpose of the program is twofold: to tap the talents of the scientists in the reconstruction of Iraq and to prevent them from selling their skills to hostile states or terrorist groups abroad.

"This is a program to put people to work, to give them more productive uses of their expertise and their energy than work on Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction programs," Mr. Boucher said.

Couldn't we have done this months ago?


Missile defence

Japan is going forward with their missle defence system.

Japan says it will begin building a missile defense system, the first step in a plan to protect the nation amid mounting concern of an attack from North Korea.

Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's government gave the green light for the project on Friday, citing "a spread of missiles and a rise in weapons of mass destruction," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda said in a statement.

"Ballistic missile defense is a purely defensive -- and the sole means of protecting the lives of our country's people and their property against a ballistic missile attack," the statement said.

Japan has studied the technology for missile defense with the United States, but until now it has only mulled plans to build such a system.


Assad: no worries

Syrian President Bashar Assad says that he does not fear US invasion and that Syria plays a large role in the "struggle against terrorism."

Syrian President Bashar Assad, beginning a visit to Greece on Monday, said he was not worried that his country would become the Bush administration's next target after Iraq.

"What happens in Iraq concerns Iraq, not Syria ... Syria is not Iraq," Mr. Assad said when a reporter asked whether Syria had felt threatened since the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of its eastern neighbor.

"This question does not worry us," the Syrian leader said after a meeting with the president of the Greek parliament, Apostolos Kaklamanis.

"There are no common points to suggest that what happened in Iraq could begin in Syria," Mr. Assad said.

On Friday, President Bush signed a law providing for economic and diplomatic sanctions against Syria for what the United States said were ties to terrorists, tacit support for anti-U.S. insurgents in Iraq and efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction.

But Mr. Assad said Syria plays "an active role on the international scene, especially concerning peace, the struggle against terrorism and the Iraq question." It also has "good relations with the European Union," he said.


Update on West

Another update on Col. Allen B. West:

Lt. Col. Allen B. West yesterday said that if faced with the same situation in which he fired a pistol near an Iraqi prisoner during an interrogation, an act for which he was later punished, he would again make the same "sacrifice."

"I don't base my actions on the punishment, because I knew that there would be a punishment," Col. West said in a TV interview yesterday.

"One of the role models in my life is Jesus Christ, and he went through a lot of suffering for each and every one of us. And I think it's important as a commander you are willing to make the sacrifices for your men," the colonel said.

A court-martial was initially sought by 4th Infantry Division lawyers after Col. West was charged with an assault attempt inside the dangerous Sunni Triangle in Iraq — Saddam Hussein's home turf.

Intelligence reports revealed an Iraqi policeman was part of a plot to assassinate Col. West and his soldiers. The policeman was detained and after refusing to talk was taken outside and two gunshots were fired near the suspect. The detainee then confessed to the plot and also informed on other Saddam loyalists involved.

Col. West said he resorted to the psychological tactic because his soldiers were in an dangerous environment and their lives threatened.

"As a commander, you have a responsibility, a moral obligation to protect your soldiers and I went outside the lines. I understand that, and that was a choice I made and I had to accept those consequences."

Col. West said it is "my responsibility to try to thwart that attempt."

He did not dispute the charges against him and was instead given a nonjudicial punishment and allowed to retire.

According to testimony at the hearing, four soldiers under Col. West tried to get the Iraqi to talk, some hitting him, before Col. West took charge of the interrogation and threatened to shoot the prisoner. The Iraqi was not badly hurt, and no testimony suggested that the colonel ordered the beating.

With his wife Angela by his side, Col. West made his comments yesterday on Fox News Channel's "Dayside With Linda Vester." The remarks were his first television interview since the Army's Dec. 12 decision to fine the officer $5,000. The couple appeared from their home in Texas.

Mrs. West said she was overwhelmed by thousands of letters and e-mails in support of her husband's situation, which was first reported by The Washington Times. "The support I received was phenomenal, it would just uplift me," Mrs. West said.

Asked whether military interrogators are limited by rules or if detainees don't cooperate because they know they won't be harmed, Col. West said officials should still be respectful of each person.

"The benevolence of the American solider is historic, going back to WWI to the present. Sometimes that benevolence can work against us in the hands of our enemies," Col. West said.

"Whether or not that was the case going on with me, I don't know, but I think that sometimes the goodness, and the fact that we are very morally abiding soldiers, that can be used against us," Col. West said.

"But we still have to stay within the letter of the law, and I went outside that letter, and I received my punishment," he said.

If Col. West had been court-martialed he faced an eight-year prison sentence and a criminal record for his action. He would have faced dismissal from the Army and his pension and medical benefits would have been stripped from the 20-year veteran.

Col. West said he is not "angry" nor does he harbor "malice" toward the Army or resent his punishment.

"I have no regrets towards that and no malice whatsoever. I think one of the things that everyone has to understand is that the Army has been my love for 20 years and I have been wearing a uniform since the 10th grade when I was in high school ROTC," Col. West said.

"It has helped to make me what I am today," said the Atlanta native, who rose quickly through the ranks and commanded an artillery battalion before being deployed to Iraq from Fort Hood.

Also, from "Inside the Ring":

We've gotten a host of e-mails asking how to contribute to Lt. Col. Allen B. West's defense fund. Col. West, as many of you know, was fined $5,000 last week for firing his weapon twice to scare an Iraqi detainee. Col. West says he resorted to the tactic only to force the Iraqi to fess up about a planned ambush. The colonel already had been the target of one assassination attempt.

Here's the address: The Allen West Defense Fund, c/o Angela West, 6823 Coleman Road, Fort Hood, TX 76544.


Thursday, December 18, 2003

PM Howard: "Death's OK by me"

Australian Prime Minister John Howard has stated that the death penalty for Saddam is fine by him. He is also in favor of an Iraqi trail, as opposed to an international one.

Prime Minister John Howard said today he supported the death penalty for Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

Asked if he would support the death penalty, Mr Howard told the Nine Network: "If it were imposed, absolutely."

He said he would prefer to see Saddam tried in Iraq than in an international tribunal.

"I want him tried in circumstances where he will receive the justice he denied the other people," Mr Howard said.

Prime Minister Howard did not comment on whether or not Osama bin Ladren should be sent to a Dutch prison.


It's the second wife that will ruin you every time

Did Saddam's wife tell the US where Saddam was hiding?

Well-informed Lebanese sources said today that former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein's second wife supplied the US with "some information" about where her husband was hiding in Iraq.

Samira Shahbandar, who lives with the ousted Iraqi leader's only surviving son Ali, "is believed to have given the Americans and their allies some information about the area where Saddam was hiding in," the sources said.

Saddam was captured based on information from a member of a family "close to him", Major General Raymond Odierno said.

Odierno, the commander of the 4th Infantry Division that captured Saddam, said that over the last 10 days soldiers had questioned "five to 10 members" of families "close to Saddam".

"Finally we got the ultimate information from one of these individuals," he said.

Lebanese security sources failed to confirm whether Samira was living in Beirut under an assumed name with her son, as was reported by the Sunday Times in London.

The Times report claimed that Samira spoke to her husband on the phone weekly and received letters from him regularly.


Streamline

King Fahd has called for the "streamlining" of fatwas:

Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Fahd yesterday called on Islamic scholars to counter extremism and misguided religious edicts by correcting Islamic thinking and streamlining fatwas.

In a written message to the opening session of a conference of the Islamic Fiqh Academy in Makkah, the king said scholars must “highlight the dangers which extremism poses to Muslim faith and conduct,” the Saudi Press Agency reported.

Islamic scholars must join hands to “correct the flaws in the thinking of some Muslims through dialogue in seminars, conferences and via the media,” said the king in the message, which was read out by Makkah Deputy Governor Abdullah ibn Dawood Al-Faiz.


Only serious option?

More information on Israel's unilateral withdrawl from the West Bank has become available:

Tens of thousands of Jews will be moved out of their homes and behind an Israeli security fence next year if the U.S.-backed "road map" to peace fails, Deputy Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said yesterday.

The process, Mr. Olmert said, will be "very painful and difficult and heartbreaking," but will be done to protect Jews both from terrorist attacks and from becoming outnumbered by Palestinian Arabs in their own state.

If Palestinians do not meet their obligations to fight terror and engage in "meaningful serious dialogue" he said, "we will have to take unilateral steps to separate ourselves from the Palestinians."

"Consequently, we will have to move out of territories that were administered by Israel for many years," Mr. Olmert said in a conference call with reporters from Jerusalem.

Unilateral withdrawl is probably the only serious option at this point...


NATO

NATO chief George Robertson thinks that NATO should be active in Iraq.

Outgoing NATO chief George Robertson said yesterday that the trans-Atlantic alliance should take up a U.S. invitation to deploy in Iraq as long as it does not harm NATO's mission in Afghanistan.

[...]

Opposition led by France and Germany to the war in Iraq had produced one of the deepest splits in NATO's history, but 16 of its members are involved in the Iraq reconstruction and stabilization effort.

At the State Department yesterday, European Union defense chief Javier Solana, Mr. Robertson's predecessor in the NATO top post, said he would "not close off the possibility" of a NATO deployment in Iraq.

Mr. Solana said the Afghan mission has set a precedent for "out-of-area" missions for NATO, something that would have been "unthinkable" a few years ago.

Somewhere in France faces are turning red.


Wednesday, December 17, 2003

Saddam knocks Dean off

Saddam knocks Howard Dean off the cover of Newsweek:

In Newsweek's case, the deposed cover figure was more modest -- former governor of Vermont and front-runner for the Democratic presidential candidacy, Howard Dean.

There was some irony in Dean's demotion at the hands of Saddam, in that many Democrats fear the Iraqi leader's capture will provide President George W. Bush with a strong enough boost to see off the party's challenge in next year's election.

Sometimes things just have a way of working themselves out...


What saved Musharraf?

A radio jamming device might have saved Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's life:

The car carrying Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf may have escaped a roadside bomb blast thanks to a radio jamming device, officials say.

Five bombs exploded under a bridge in the city of Rawalpindi on Sunday, mere seconds after President Musharraf had passed over it.

The jamming device may have blocked the signal to the remote-controlled bomb.


Pakistan "most dangerous country" in S. Asia

Richard Haass, a foreign policy advisor to President Bush, says that Pakistan is the most dangerous country in South Asia.

Pakistan is the "most dangerous country" in South Asia, says Richard Haass, former State Department official and a foreign policy adviser to the Bush administration.

Haass, who is head of the American Council on Foreign Policy and was in New Delhi last week, was responding to a question on NBC television news on the reported attempt on President Pervez Musharraf's life on Sunday.

Haass said Pakistan was dangerous because it had nuclear weapons and a military regime that was not entirely in control of the country.

Speaking at a seminar in New Delhi, Haass described Pakistan as a "threat to the entire South Asian region and the world."


The "Supreme Leader" bashes US/Israel

The "Supreme Leader" of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, recently gave a speech in which he denounced the US, Israel, and Saddam..

“Twenty-five years ago, the Iranian nation regarded the U.S. as an aggressive world devourer, but those days the powerful propaganda machine of imperialists did not allow nations to realize the truth of the Islamic Iranian stance. But today the U.S. measures in Iraq and Afghanistan have proven to everyone the violence of the U.S. beautified face as the slogans of the Iranian nation about the Zionist regime have been proven to the world.”

[...]

“Today’s humiliation of Saddam is the ultimate fate of all world imperialists like the U.S. and the Zionist regime, while the U.S. president must realize that the region is better off without Saddam as the world will be better off without George W. Bush and Ariel Sharon.”


Tuesday, December 16, 2003

CIA sends more

The CIA has sent more people to Iraq to help stop the "insurgency."

Under growing pressure to produce better information on the insurgency in Iraq, the CIA has embarked on its largest mobilization of manpower to the region since the war began, said U.S. intelligence sources familiar with the operation.

In recent weeks, the agency has begun a buildup that one source said could add as many as 100 people to an agency presence that is already several hundred strong in the war-torn country. Among those being sent, sources said, are case officers, counter-terrorism analysts and a small contingent of senior officials from the agency's clandestine service.

The moves come at a time when many in the intelligence community acknowledge that they are frustrated with their inability to penetrate an insurgency that continues to carry out deadly attacks on American soldiers and Iraqi civilians almost every day.

The deployment also gives the CIA ammunition to counter criticism that it is not doing enough. One official briefed on the plans said the agency had described the mobilization as part of a broader push to "get on top of the problem." The deployment coincides with an ongoing effort by the CIA to begin assembling a new Iraqi intelligence service, partly by tapping remnants of deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's vast but notoriously corrupt spying and security apparatus.


"main military justification"

Was Iraq the "main military justification" for Israel's control of the West Bank? An article in the Sydney Morning Herald says so:

But the realpolitik is more complicated. The fall of Saddam's regime eight months ago removed from the battlefield the Israeli right's main military justification for keeping a stranglehold on the occupied Palestinian territories.


Message?

Will Saddam's capture send a message to the rest of the Arab world?

The image of Saddam Hussein in custody, his power and bravado gone, is a sobering sight for other Arab rulers whose regimes are based on might, not on the consent of their people, Arab politicians and commentators said Monday.

"Saddam's capture is a lesson to others who should know that democracy is important, that people should have a say in the decision-making, that leaderships must have relations and dialogue with their people," Ayman Majali, a former Jordanian deputy prime minister, told The Associated Press.

"But unfortunately, many leaderships in the Arab world are distanced from their people, and those should know that their fate may be like Saddam's," he said.

In Kuwait, "Lessons to the likes of Saddam," was the headline of a front-page editorial in the daily Al-Siyassah. Written by editor-in-chief Ahmed al-Jarrallah, it said Saturday's seizure of the deposed Iraqi leader provided a shock "to all the evil regimes that until now follow the example of Saddam, use his methods of tyranny and despotism."

Such regimes, al-Jarrallah wrote, "know they are like him ... and that they are the prisoners of the slogans they used to lie to their people. ... Saddam has fallen because of what his wooden mind produced, and similarly, what their minds produce will lead to their fall."

Neither al-Jarrallah nor others who described the dilemma of Arab leaders were specific about which of them had the most to fear. But all saw the arrest as a signal that the Middle East could be at an important turning point.

In Saudi Arabia, political analyst Dawood al-Shirian said the capture of Saddam was a positive development in Arab politics, but he noted it might not be so positive for some Arab rulers.

"For the first time, an Arab dictator is being held accountable for his actions. That will encourage the Arab street to be more forceful in pushing for their rights because they now know that it's not impossible to hold a dictator accountable," al-Shirian said.

Oppressive Arab governments "must feel unhappy ... because they can now see that a society without institutions, human rights and democracy will meet the same fate as Saddam's regime," he added.

An editorial in the English-language Daily Star said Arab governments would be under pressure to change from Washington's destruction of Saddam's regime.

"Like a force of nature, an emboldened America is now bearing down on a Middle East whose habitual status is somnolence," the editorial said. "If the countries of the region continue to let others decide the pace and direction of events, the storm will be a highly destructive one."

"For far too long, governments in the Middle East have moved with all the agility and imagination of a glacier. That will simply not do any longer," the editorial said.

However, it added that if the Arab nations can accept democracy and freedom, "the effect will be like a cleansing rain, washing away the stains left by decades of failed statecraft and illegitimate leadership."


Monday, December 15, 2003

India helps with IEDs

Some member of the US military have recently gone to India and were briefed there on how to defuse improvised explosive devices.

India and the United States have agreed to hold bigger joint exercises next year as part of measures to enhance military-to-military cooperation.

The decision to have larger exercises was taken at the eighth meeting of the Indo-US army executive steering group, which met at the Southern Army Command headquarters in Pune on Tuesday and Wednesday, an army spokesman said.

Prior to the deliberations, the visiting US army delegation led by Lt Gen James L Campbell, commanding general, US Pacific Command, had an extensive briefing on defusing of improvised explosive devices, which are being used extensively by Iraqi rebels.


Anti-American books popular in Germany

Anti-American books are becoming very popular in Germany and the US embassy there is starting to take action.

Wenzel Mielke doesn't trust the United States. And he has begun devoting an increasing amount of his free time searching for confirmation of his suspicions.

In the past six months, Wenzel, a teenager from the eastern German town of Strausberg has read four books by his new favorite author - American filmmaker, humorist, and vocal critic of President Bush - Michael Moore. Wenzel recently attended one of two sold-out appearances by Mr. Moore in one of Berlin's largest concert halls.

"Not only do I really like what Michael Moore is saying, but I can really imagine that Bush had something to do with the [Sept. 11] attacks," says the ninth-grader. "It could, of course, be a coincidence - but a really good one for Bush; it is too good an excuse for his wars. The Americans needed a good reason to attack so that they could exploit other countries for oil or whatever."

The US Embassy in Berlin has begun to take notice of the increased wariness toward the US among young Germans like Wenzel. Citing a fear that an entire generation of young Germans is coming of age politically amid an atmosphere of anti-Americanism - and what officials are calling a growing potential for violent anti-Americanism - the Embassy's public-affairs department has recently started sending Americans into German schools to talk to children and youth about life in the US.

[...]

Books critical of the US are selling rapidly in Germany and elsewhere. Moore's newest book, "Dude, Where's My Country?" has topped German nonfiction bestseller lists since its release on Nov. 14, and is second overall only to the new Harry Potter book. And books promoting the idea that the US itself was behind the Sept. 11 attacks, including "The CIA and the 11th of September," by Andreas von Bülow, the minister for research under former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, remain stubbornly high on German bestseller lists. Likewise, "The Frightening Fraud" by French author Thierry Meyssan, has sold 200,000 copies in France since its publication in 2002.

Any chance that Michael Moore will move to Germany then?


Musharraf almost killed

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was the subject of a recent assassination attempt:

President Pervez Musharraf narrowly survived an assassination attempt here tonight when a large bomb detonated on a bridge 30 seconds after his motorcade had crossed.

Visibly shaken, General Musharraf appeared on state television and described what was by far the most serious attempt on his life since he sided with the United States in the campaign against terrorism in September 2001.

"The bomb exploded half a minute after I crossed," General Musharraf said. "I felt the explosion in my car. That is all I know. Certainly it was me who was targeted.

"I am used to such things. They have happened before. God is great. No problem, life continues."

The location of the assassination attempt was unusual: Rawalpindi lies near the nerve center of Pakistan's military establishment. It is considered one of the most secure cities in the country.

The bomb, described by officials as large, exploded 500 yards from the headquarters of the Pakistani Army 11th Corps and only a few miles from the Pakistani Army headquarters, where General Musharraf lives.

A senior Pakistani intelligence official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was unusual that someone outside General Musharraf's close circle of aides would know the exact timing of his movements.


Aziz turns to the French

Tariq Aziz is asking a famous French attorney to represent him during his war crimes trail.

The family of Tariq Aziz has approached a celebrated French defense attorney nicknamed the "devil's advocate" to defend the former Iraqi deputy prime minister before a proposed war crimes tribunal in Baghdad.

Mr. Aziz's daughter, Zeinab, wants Jacques Verges, who has defended the international terrorist Carlos the Jackal and the Gestapo officer Klaus Barbie, to represent her father when he is tried for his role in Saddam Hussein's regime.

Her move follows last week's announcement the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council has established a war crimes tribunal to prosecute hundreds of former Saddam associates for genocide and crimes against humanity.


Friday, December 12, 2003

Pakistan questions nuclear scientists

Pakistan is questioning two of their nuclear scientists, possibly for being involved with Iran's nuclear program:

Pakistani officials said two scientists at the country's top nuclear lab were being questioned by intelligence agents.

Some newspapers suggested the pair were being questioned over allegations Pakistan transferred nuclear technology to Iran. The Foreign Office denied that, saying it was a "routine debriefing," and that Pakistan had no links with Iran's program.


Will plays 20 questions

George Will has some questions for the Democratic presidential candidates:

Democrats denounced George W. Bush's "unilateralism" long before the Iraq war, partly because of his refusal to seek Senate ratification of the Kyoto treaty on global warming. The Clinton administration, which negotiated the protocol for two years and signed it in 1998, refused to send it to the Senate, which had voted 95 to 0 against ratifying anything resembling it. The European Union's environmental commissioner says 13 of the 15 EU members will not meet this year's emissions targets stipulated by the protocol. Only Britain and Sweden will comply; France, which lectures America about multilateral responsibilities, will not. Europe is failing to limit emissions even though its economy is stagnant, which makes compliance easier. Canada, another of America's moral auditors, is having second thoughts about a climate treaty that does not regulate such developing nations as China and India -- more than one-third of the human race is in those two nations -- because the treaty is an impediment to economic growth. An adviser to President Vladimir Putin says Russia will not sign the protocol. Doing so would sap Russia's economic vigor, ending Putin's dreamy goal of doubling Russia's GDP by 2010. So what exactly is distinctively unilateral with Bush's policy regarding Kyoto?

Exhibit B for the prosecution of the president's "unilateralism" is his wariness of the International Criminal Court, lest it target U.S. military personnel. How does Bush's policy differ from President Clinton's?

Exhibit C in the "unilateralism" indictment is that Bush withdrew from the 1972 ABM Treaty, an agreement with a deceased entity, the Soviet Union, to inhibit development of defenses against things now proliferating -- ballistic missiles. Bush's withdrawal was in complete compliance with the treaty provision for either party to unilaterally conclude that the treaty no longer serves its national interest. Given that since 1972 the world has been transformed, technologically as well as politically, should the treaty have been immortal? And why were Democrats more disturbed than Putin by the withdrawal?

The Bush administration's really lawless unilateralism was its 21 months of steel tariffs. The imposition of them, for purely political reasons, was reprehensible. The manner of lifting them, after two adverse rulings by the World Trade Organization and the credible threat of politically costly retaliations, was disgraceful. In a perverse tribute to the centennial of the birth of George Orwell, who said insincerity is the "great enemy" of clear language, the administration, showing contempt for the public's intelligence, insisted on lifting the tariffs without using the word "tariffs," preferring the Orwellian locution "temporary steel safeguard measures." And the administration, which is struggling to have its words about Iraq taken seriously, insisted that the sudden lifting of the tariffs, 15 months early, had nothing to do with the WTO and everything to do with "changed economic circumstances," and the alleged fact that the tariffs "have now achieved their purpose." If Democrats strenuously oppose unilateralism, why has the president's belated conformity to international norms been denounced by the two leading Democratic candidates, Howard Dean and Dick Gephardt?

For the July-September quarter, economic growth was 8.2 percent, the fastest since 1984, productivity growth was 9.4 percent, the fastest since 1983, and manufacturing reached its highest level since 1983. Is it pure coincidence that in 1983-84, as today, the nation was deep into the first term of a tax-cutting Republican administration?


Tenacity

The editors at the Christian Science Monitor opine that the only way we will win in Iraq is through tenacity. And they say President Bush has it.

Too much in Iraq still rests on Mr. Bush's willingness to stick it out rather than the self-evident logic of the task. His secretive trip was in large part designed to deliver this message to anxious troops, Americans, and allies in what's become a war of wills: "We did not charge hundreds of miles into the heart of Iraq, pay a bitter cost of casualties, defeat a ruthless dictator, and liberate 25 million people only to retreat before a band of thugs and assassins."

Bush's visit was a personal display of stoic tenacity. He took both physical and political risks to show he's determined to put Iraq on some sort of road to democracy and create a shining model nation for Arabs. Words and Oval Office edicts weren't enough.

That stoicism was also on display among a few key allies in recent weeks. Spain, Italy, South Korea, and Japan were the latest US partners - beyond Britain - to have their nationals in Iraq targeted by "assassins" eager to deflate the staying power of the US-led coalition.

Despite the shock of those killings and enormous opposition to the war, leaders in those countries have decided to stand by the United States, seeing the effort in Iraq as part of the global campaign against terrorism.

Their perseverance far surpasses that of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. After their workers were killed, those groups all but folded up their tents and went home.

Still, finding the best role for the UN in Iraq remains a priority for both Bush and the UN's secretary-general. Monday, Kofi Annan met with a group of 17 nations (including the US) that he selected to advise him on Iraq. If the process to hand over sovereignty to Iraqis falters in the next few months, the UN might need to step in.

So far, Bush has found the 24 members of the US-chosen Iraqi Governing Council to be more eager to linger in power than quickly move to an elected, constitutional government. That group, along with the Islamic leaders of Iraq's Shiite majority, appear eager to take advantage of any American inclination to bolt from Iraq under pressure.

As the political and military "fronts" in Iraq become more complex for the US, Bush must reemphasize his simple doggedness to stay the course toward a free and democratic Iraq. His tenaciousness is still winning, even if events on the ground are slow to follow.


Religious symbols in French public schools

A report to French President Jacques Chirac recommends that "Muslim head scarves, Jewish skullcaps and large crosses" be banned from private schools while ""discreet" religious symbols, such as small crosses, the hands of Fatima (a traditional Muslim symbol of protection) and stars of David" are permissible.

Muslim head scarves, Jewish skullcaps and large crosses should be banned from French public schools, according to a report presented yesterday to President Jacques Chirac.

More "discreet" religious symbols, such as small crosses, the hands of Fatima (a traditional Muslim symbol of protection) and stars of David, should be allowed, a 20-member committee led by former Education Minister Bernard Stasi suggested after a three-month study.

Mr. Chirac will announce next week whether he supports putting the suggestions into law. He previously has taken a tough line on France's church-state separation, which many French citizens — and other Europeans — consider threatened by the increasingly frequent appearance of the "hijab," or veil, on the heads of Muslim teachers or adolescent female students.

This seems reasonable to me.


Yongbyon

US satellites have detected that the North Korean nuclear plant at Yongbyon is active again.

South Korea is investigating reports of fresh activity at the Yongbyon nuclear facility in North Korea.

South Korea's JoongAng Ilbo newspaper quoted US and South Korean officials as saying that a US satellite detected fumes rising from a boiler at the lab.

Unification Minister Jeong Se-hyun said Seoul was trying to confirm this.

Pyongyang said in July that it had reprocessed 8,000 spent fuel rods to extract plutonium, and has since vowed to boost its nuclear deterrent.

JoongAng Ilbo said a US intelligence satellite had detected "signs of vapour and fumes" from a coal-fired boiler linked to a nuclear laboratory at the plant on four days this month.

It said a truck was also spotted in the area where the nuclear reactor is located.


Thursday, December 11, 2003

Coalition Of The Willing

Around the Blog-iverse in five minutes. Go!

Hippercritical has some nice stuff regarding the recent anti-terror rally in Iraq. And what's this about Sammy Davis Jr.?

Balloon-Juice has a prediction regarding who will be the Democratic candidate for Vice President.

Winds of Change has a good entry about the role of women in Iran and in Islam.

Dean's World says that Howard Dean is the Pat Buchanan of today's Democratic Party, and I think he's on to something.

Sully posts on Palestinian student politics at Bir Zeit University.

The San Francisco Republican has been outed.

SWLIP says "Cede the Internet to the UN? Never!"

The former Belgian has the goods on why some French want to kill Guy Millière.


Sergeant Uday Singh

Uday Singh was an Indian-born member of the US military. He was killed in Iraq on the same day he received notice that his request to become a US citizen was granted.

I bring this story to attention to illustrate the multi-cultural nature of the US and the US military. Every time that the terrorists are reminded that people from all countries and cultures can come together in America and live with freedom and liberty it must drive them crazy.

In what was the first time that a foreign army held a funeral ceremony in India, a young US Army sergeant who died in Iraq was Thursday cremated in his hometown here with full US honours.

It wasn't the tricolour that the body was draped in, but the stars and stripes. It wasn't The Last Post that was played, but Taps, its US Army equivalent.

And both India and the US mourned the loss of Uday Singh, the 21-year-old US Army sergeant of Indian origin - an American hero and an Indian son.

The funeral pyre was lit by Uday's father Preet Mohinder Singh, a former Indian Army officer, in the presence of grieving relatives, friends and the Commander of the US Army's Pacific Command Lieutenant General James Campbell, who had flown in specially from Hawaii.

Uday's body was flown from the US in a commercial airline to New Delhi from where it was brought to his home here by road around 10 a.m.

The coffin draped in the US flag was brought out from the vehicle and a group of US soldiers folded the American flag into a triangle.

Campbell handed over the flag to Uday's father after laying a wreath on the coffin.

The US soldiers then presented a guard of honour to Uday, whose body was draped in "Class A" uniform, by firing a volley of shots.

Indian Army soldiers belonging to the Western Command here, who were loaned for the ceremony, sounded the bugle playing Taps.

There was pin drop silence during the funeral ceremony as Uday's relations, including his grandmother and 11-year-old sister, Bani, watched with their eyes glistening with tears.

Addressing the Singh family and the gathering of their relations and friends, Campbell said: "Sergeant Uday Singh was and always will be an American soldier. He always placed the mission first. He never accepted defeat and he never quit.

"He is our hero. Today, we stand tall as a nation and an army and in our grieving take enormous pride in saluting Sergeant Uday Singh for his noble stance to make the world safer, his sense of honour and commitment and his loyal and faithful service to our country."

Playing glowing tributes to "a brother in arms and India's son", the US general said: "Today, two great democratic nations pause and mourn the loss of this courageous young man who chose the life of a soldier.

"In so doing, he knew fully well that he could be called upon to place his life on the line in order to give people, who have only known tyranny and despair, a chance to be free and to control their own destiny."

Campbell said in Uday's loss the world was reminded once again that freedom was not free and it was paid for in blood, sweat, tears and in the lives "of our most treasured resources - our sons and daughters in uniform".

Praising the rich military tradition of the Singh family, he described Uday as an extraordinary soldier like his father.

"Poised, professional, dedicated to both his missions and to his fellow soldiers, previously decorated for his services in Kuwait, he also was a magnificent role model and a standard setter for his entire company."

Campbell said the motto of the first infantry division was - "no mission too difficult. No sacrifice too great - duty first". And Uday epitomised that spirit.

The US general left after spending about two hours in the Singh household, which was cordoned off by the police for security reasons.

Other than Campbell and the US soldiers, several officials from the US embassy in New Delhi were present. They included Deputy Chief of US Mission Walter North and US Defence Attaché Steven Sboto.

Uday's ashes would be flown to Arlington National Cemetery near Washington where the US Army wanted to bury his body.

Uday passed his Class 12 examinations from this city's St. Stephen's School in 2000 and headed straight for the US to enlist in the army.

He was killed in Habbaniyah in Iraq on December 1, 2003, while serving as a gunner in the US forces - which he had joined only three years ago much against his mother's wishes.

He was the first Indian in the US Army to have been killed in Iraq.

NPR also did a great story about Sergeant Singh.


AQ in SA?

Al-Qaeda training in Saudi Arabia?

A video attributed to al-Qaeda shows members of the Islamist militant group training in Saudi Arabia, NBC news reported today.

The video was posted early today on a known al-Qaeda website and produced by a company that has made other videos for the group, NBC reported.

In the video, Abdel al-Otaibi, a militant later killed by Saudi authorities, is heard saying: "I strongly encouraged young Muslims to join the jihad for Allah's sake to protect our land and to drive Christians and Jews out of Muslim countries."


German police raid 1,000

German police have raided over 1,000 homes in a huge anti-terrorism sweep. The sweeps target a goup called the Caliphate State, a group that seeks to overthrow the Turkish government.

Police raided more than 1,000 apartments of suspected Islamic militants across Germany on Thursday, including those of four people believed to have planned terror attacks, authorities said.

No arrests were immediately announced. The nationwide sweep was aimed against members of Caliphate State, a group seeking the overthrow of Turkey’s secular government that Germany outlawed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Federal Criminal Office said.

Police searched nearly 1,200 apartments in 13 of Germany’s 16 states in pre-dawn raids, including the home of group leader Muhammed Metin Kaplan, said Christian Brockert, a spokesman for the anti-crime agency. More than 5,500 police officers took part.

Raids in Cologne, Braunschweig and Peine were part of an investigation into four former Caliphate State members in Germany suspected of planning terror attacks on as yet unspecified targets, federal prosecutors said.

The raids were launched because Caliphate State members were violating the German government’s December 2001 order disbanding the group, Interior Minister Otto Schily said. The searches were aimed at subscribers of the group’s underground newsletter, Brockert said.

Schily has described Caliphate State, which calls for establishing an Islamic state in Turkey, as a “breeding ground for Islamic terrorists.”

“With today’s searches, we have stopped successor activities,” said Schily, Germany’s top security official. At the same time, the measures were “a clear warning” to other Islamic extremists in Germany, he said.

The government banned Caliphate State after Germany, tightening security legislation following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States, scrapped strict laws protecting religious groups.

Germany is currently trying to extradite Kaplan to Turkey, where he is wanted on treason charges.


Wartime command center

Israel is building a new wartime command center that can withstand a nuclear attack.

Israel is building a wartime command center under the hills outside Jerusalem that will be able to withstand nuclear, biological or chemical attacks, officials said Monday.

The compound would enable the Israeli prime minister and Cabinet to conduct state affairs during an all-out attack. Israel has been warning of a concerted Iranian effort to acquire nuclear weapons.


Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Al-Jazeera to air in Canada?

The Canadian Jewish Congress is trying to keep Al-Jazeera off the air in Canada:

You won't find Al-Jazeera, described almost ad nauseam since its creation in 1996 as "the CNN of the Arab world," in any TV Guide-type listing or on the digital-cable menus of Rogers, Shaw, Videotron and other big Canadian carriers. Indeed, it's illegal right now for anyone in Canada to carry the unexpurgated 24-hour-a-day Al-Jazeera signal, either via cable or DTH satellite -- something, in fact, this halal chicken emporium has been doing for close to two years now, usually between noon and 1 a.m., seven days a week.

Videotron, Quebec's largest cable company, and the Canadian Cable Television Association, which includes Rogers, want to change all this. Earlier this year, they asked the broadcast regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, to list Al-Jazeera and a dozen or so other "foreign-language" or "ethnic" channels as permissible viewing for Canadians.

A decision is expected some time this month, and sources close to the CRTC say it's expected to be favourable. If so, it means the cable companies can soon begin negotiations with executives at Al-Jazeera, RAI International, Cine Latino, Romanian Television International and the rest to pull down their satellite fare and have it digitally distributed as specialty programming across Canada. (In fact, there are reports that the CRTC is having greater difficulty deciding what to do about the Italian service RAI International than it is with Al-Jazeera. The fear here is that by licensing RAI, it will damage the content of Canada's Telelatino Network, which includes many RAI programs in its menu.) This will no doubt please many of the estimated 600,000 Canadians of Arab and West Asian origin who have been going to places like the Bloor West halal restaurant, with their U.S. satellite dish and other so-called "grey-market technologies," for the Al-Jazeera broadcasts. But it will prove irksome to organizations like the Canadian Jewish Congress, which has strongly opposed the addition of Al-Jazeera to the list of satellite services eligible for digital carriage.

In the cover letter for its 37-page, Aug. 8 submission opposing the legal introduction of Al-Jazeera into Canada, the Congress argued that Al-Jazeera's "programming content contains hate propaganda, in contravention of Canadian laws and broadcast standards." Indeed, Jews on Al-Jazeera "are frequently characterized . . . as a duplicitous, corrupt, world-dominating conspiratorial force," the CJC said. Holocaust denial, too, is "commonplace" on the network. Authorizing Al-Jazeera for distribution places control of its content far beyond the reach of the CRTC. "That is why [the] application must be denied at the outset."


Japanese troops to the front

Janapese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi wants Japan to send troops to the front lines in Iraq.

Despite the recent fatal ambush of two Japanese diplomats in Iraq, Japan should send Self-Defense Forces troops to the country to help speed up its reconstruction, Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said Thursday.

"Time is important in the reconstruction of (Iraq), as Mr. Oku once told me," Kawaguchi said in an interview with The Japan Times, referring to Katsuhiko Oku, one of the victims of the attack.

Supporting Iraq's reconstruction will help stabilize the security situation, Kawaguchi noted, adding that they are "two sides of the same coin."

The foreign minister also claimed that dispatching troops would serve Japan's interests, since 86 percent of its oil comes from the Middle East.

"If terrorists throw their weight about in Iraq, the Middle East and the rest of the world will become unstable," Kawaguchi said.

She further stressed that public order in Iraq would not be restored merely by offering financial assistance.

"We have to send (Japanese) people to the frontline and carry things forward to promote assistance," she said. "Mr. Oku and Mr. (Masamori) Inoue did their best and died on duty."

China, Pakistan cooperation

China to build a nuclear power plant in Pakistan:

China has agreed to sell Pakistan another nuclear power plant next year to help solve its energy problems, reported agencies quoting Pakistan government officials Wednesday.

Requesting anonymity, officials said the plant, to be built in Chashma, 225 km southwest of Islamabad, will be able to generate 600 megawatts of power. A similar Chinese built plant with the same capacity exists there since the early 1990s.


Ebadi slams US

Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi, who won a Nobel Peace Prize this year, recently criticised the US for "human rights violations."

Nobel Peace Prize winner and Iranian human rights lawyer Shirin Ebadi has criticised nations that use 11 September as a justification for violating international law.

In a speech at the official prize award ceremony in Oslo on Wednesday, Shirin Ebadi clearly targeted the US human rights record.

"In the past two years, some states have violated the universal principles and laws of human rights by using the events of 11 September and the war on international terrorism as a pretext," the first Muslim woman peace prize winner said.

Ebadi also criticised America’s allies, claiming human rights laws are breached not only by recognized opponents, but by Western democracies too.

Note that Shirin Ebadi lives in Iran, where 1,500 students just gathered to demonstrate "against the Islamic regime and its clerical leadership."

About 1,500 Iranian students gathered at Tehran University on Sunday, shouting slogans against the Islamic regime and its clerical leadership, and demanding the freeing of political prisoners, an AFP journalist at the scene said.

The students were massing to mark national students day, commemorating the 1953 shooting by police of three students who were protesting against the then regime of the Shah.

"Death to the dictator", "We don't want an repressive regime or its police",

"Free students" and "Free political prisoners" were among the slogans heard inside the campus where the group was confined by security forces.

Slogans were directed against supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the head of the hardline-controlled judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi. Criticising Khamenei is a crime in Iran.


Unilateral withdrawl?

Ariel Sharon might take "unilateral steps", aka unilateral withdrawl, in some areas in the West Bank:

Israel and Egypt hold unusual high-level talks on Wednesday amid signs that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon might take unilateral steps to break a Middle East stalemate with the Palestinians.

[...]

Sharon hardened hints on Tuesday that he would order some Jewish settlements in occupied territory evacuated for security reasons, raising not only a furor in his right-wing coalition but confusion and concern in Washington.

U.S. officials said any summary move to impose a peace arrangement would not work. "We don't consider that to be a viable solution...that would add to the security and safety of Israel," one official told reporters.

Any unilateral pullback by Israel would probably lay down de facto borders along an internationally condemned barrier Israel is building inside the West Bank, leaving Palestinians with a much smaller state, truncated into cantons, than they envisaged.


News on West

A small victory for Allen West:

An Army hearing officer has recommended administrative punishment — but not a criminal court-martial — for Lt. Col. Allen B. West, who is charged with assault for firing a gun to scare a confession from an Iraqi detainee.

For background on West, see this and this.

I still think any punishment is too much.


Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Is this what the ICC is like?

The Angry Left have outdone themselves this time. They are staging a mock-trail, in Japan, trying George W Bush on charges of "aggression, attacks against civilians and nonmilitary facilities, and torturing and executing prisoners."

The final hearings of a citizens' tribunal trying the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush over its military operations in Afghanistan will be held in Tokyo over two days ending Dec. 14.

The indictment charges Bush with aggression, attacks against civilians and nonmilitary facilities, and torturing and executing prisoners. The hearings have been organized by criminal jurist Akira Maeda and others.

Testimony will be heard from the mother of an Afghan who was killed in an air raid, and a Pakistani who was held in the Guantanamo base in Cuba. Scientists will present reports on the effects of depleted uranium bullets on humans.

A ruling will be handed down by five legal experts from Japan, the U.S., Britain and India.

The hearings will be held between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. on both days at Kudan Kaikan, which is a one-minute walk from the Kudanshita subway station. English translations will be available.

Admission is 2,000 yen per day or 3,000 yen for both days.


Hamas shows true colors, again

Hamas has again confirmed that a "single state solution", which is code for the destruction of Israel, is the only option that they are interested in.

The spiritual leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas has rejected Israel's existence, saying it's "a Jewish apartheid state on the land of Palestine", while talks drag on towards a possible Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire.

In an interview published in Germany's Der Spiegel, Sheikh Ahmed Yassin said there was no place in the region for an exclusive Jewish state and that if Israelis want one "they can found a state in Europe".

Nice of them to give the OK for the state in Europe, though.

I wonder if Howard Dean still thinks that members of Hamas are soldiers? And I wonder if anyone still thinks that cease-fire was for real?


Education City

Some American colleges are showing a remarkable amount of courage by opening schools in Qatar:

The recent inauguration of the Education City complex of U.S. and other foreign campuses in the desert has thrust Sheika Mozah Nasser al-Misnad into the international spotlight.

In a region where women customarily maintain a low profile, the wife of Qatar's ruler has emerged as the leading force behind one of the most ambitious recent projects in the Middle East.

Western sources say it was Sheika Mozah's idea to set up and finance Education City on the outskirts of the capital, Doha, and that she was responsible for every phase of the project — from making the initial approach to the universities to approving building plans.

In the autumn, the sheika opened the Doha campus of two of her choices — Cornell University's Weill Medical College and a Texas A&M University petrochemical college. A school of design from Virginia Commonwealth University already was up and running.

Qatar is a one of the few pro-US countries in the region, but it's still a high-risk move to open up an American school in there.