July 2007 Archives

July 25, 2007

President Bush Still Using Al-Qaeda to Justify U.S.-British Invasion of Iraq

(Editor's note: Below are excerpts from a speech that U.S. President George W. Bush delivered at Charleston Air Force Base in Charleston, South Carolina, on July 24, 2007. The portion on Al-Qaeda in Iraq is presented so readers of The Diplomatic Times Review Online can read Mr. Bush's words on Al-Qaeda unfiltered by TDTRO. This excerpt is from a White House transcript that may or may not be totally as delivered. Links have been added to give background on some of the terms used in the speech. Al-Qaeda was not in Iraq prior to the U.S.-British  invasion and occupation of that Middle Easter nation in March 2003).

By President George W. Bush

Nearly six years after the 9/11 attacks, America remains a nation at war. The terrorist network that attacked us that day is determined to strike our country again, and we must do everything in our power to stop them. A key lesson of September the 11th is that the best way to protect America is to go on the offense, to fight the terrorists overseas so we don't have to face them here at home. And that is exactly what our men and women in uniform are doing across the world.

The key theater in this global war is Iraq. Our troops are serving bravely in that country. They're opposing ruthless enemies, and no enemy is more ruthless in Iraq than al Qaeda. They send suicide bombers into crowded markets; they behead innocent captives and they murder American troops. They want to bring down Iraq's democracy so they can use that nation as a terrorist safe haven for attacks against our country. So our troops are standing strong with nearly 12 million Iraqis who voted for a future of peace, and they so for the security of Iraq and the safety of American citizens.

There's a debate in Washington about Iraq, and nothing wrong with a healthy debate. There's also a debate about al Qaeda's role in Iraq. Some say that Iraq is not part of the broader war on terror. They complain when I say that the al Qaeda terrorists we face in Iraq are part of the same enemy that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001. They claim that the organization called al Qaeda in Iraq is an Iraqi phenomenon, that it's independent of Osama bin Laden and that it's not interested in attacking America.

 image That would be news to Osama bin Laden. He's proclaimed that the "third world war is raging in Iraq." Osama bin Laden says, "The war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever." I say that there will be a big defeat in Iraq and it will be the defeat of al Qaeda. (Applause.)

Today I will consider the arguments of those who say that al Qaeda and al Qaeda in Iraq are separate entities. I will explain why they are both part of the same terrorist network -- and why they are dangerous to our country.

 A good place to start is with some basic facts: Al Qaeda in Iraq was founded by a Jordanian terrorist, not an Iraqi. His name was Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Before 9/11, he ran a terrorist camp in Afghanistan. He was not yet a member of al Qaida, but our intelligence community reports that he had longstanding relations with senior al Qaida leaders, that he had met with Osama bin Laden and his chief deputy, [Ayman al-] Zawahiri.

In 2001, coalition forces destroyed Zarqawi's Afghan training camp, and he fled the country and he went to Iraq, where he set up operations with terrorist associates long before the arrival of coalition forces. In the violence and instability following Saddam's fall, Zarqawi was able to expand dramatically the size, scope, and lethality of his operation. In 2004, Zarqawi and his terrorist group formally joined al Qaida, pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, and he promised to "follow his orders in jihad."

Soon after, bin Laden publicly declared that Zarqawi was the "Prince of Al Qaida in Iraq" -- and instructed terrorists in Iraq to "listen to him and obey him." It's hard to argue that al Qaida in Iraq is separate from bin Laden's al Qaida, when the leader of al Qaida in Iraq took an oath of allegiance to Osama bin Laden.

According to our intelligence community, the Zarqawi-bin Laden merger gave al Qaida in Iraq -- quote -- "prestige among potential recruits and financiers." The merger also gave al Qaida's senior leadership -- quote -- "a foothold in Iraq to extend its geographic presence ... to plot external operations ... and to tout the centrality of the jihad in Iraq to solicit direct monetary support elsewhere." The merger between al Qaida and its Iraqi affiliate is an alliance of killers -- and that is why the finest military in the world is on their trail.

 Zarqawi was killed by U.S. forces in June 2006. He was replaced by another foreigner -- an Egyptian named Abu Ayyub al-Masri. His ties to the al Qaida senior leadership are deep and longstanding. He has collaborated with Zawahiri for more than two decades. And before 9/11, he spent time with al Qaida in Afghanistan where he taught classes indoctrinating others in al Qaida's radical ideology.

After Abu Ayyub took over al Qaida's Iraqi operations last year, Osama bin Laden sent a terrorist leader named Abd al-Hadi al Iraqi to help imagehim. According to our intelligence community, this man was a senior advisor to bin Laden, who served as his top commander in Afghanistan. Abd al-Hadi never made it to Iraq. He was captured, and was recently transferred to the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. The fact that bin Laden risked sending one of his most valued commanders to Iraq shows the importance he places on success of al Qaida's Iraqi operations.

According to our intelligence community, many of al Qaida in Iraq's other senior leaders are also foreign terrorists. They include a Syrian who is al Qaida in Iraq's emir in Baghdad, a Saudi who is al Qaida in Iraq's top spiritual and legal advisor, an Egyptian who fought in Afghanistan in the 1990s and who has met with Osama bin Laden, a Tunisian who we believe plays a key role in managing foreign fighters. Last month in Iraq, we killed a senior al Qaida facilitator named Mehmet Yilmaz, a Turkish national who fought with al Qaida in Afghanistan, and met with September the 11th mastermind Khalid Shaikh Muhammad, and other senior al Qaida leaders.

A few weeks ago, we captured a senior al Qaida in Iraq leader named Mashadani. Now, this terrorist is an Iraqi. In fact, he was the highest ranking Iraqi in the organization. Here's what he said, here's what he told us: The foreign leaders of Al Qaida in Iraq went to extraordinary lengths to promote the fiction that al Qaida in Iraq is an Iraqi-led operation. He says al Qaida even created a figurehead whom they named Omar al-Baghdadi. The purpose was to make Iraqi fighters believe they were following the orders of an Iraqi instead of a foreigner. Yet once in custody, Mashadani revealed that al-Baghdadi is only an actor. He confirmed our intelligence that foreigners are at the top echelons of al Qaida in Iraq -- they are the leaders -- and that foreign leaders make most of the operational decisions, not Iraqis.

Foreign terrorists also account for most of the suicide bombings in Iraq. Our military estimates that between 80 and 90 percent of suicide attacks in Iraq are carried out by foreign-born al Qaida terrorists. It's true that today most of al Qaida in Iraq's rank and file fighters and some of its leadership are Iraqi. But to focus exclusively on this single fact is to ignore the larger truth: Al Qaida in Iraq is a group founded by foreign terrorists, led largely by foreign terrorists, and loyal to a foreign terrorist leader -- Osama bin Laden. They know they're al Qaida. The Iraqi people know they are al Qaida. People across the Muslim world know they are al Qaida. And there's a good reason they are called al Qaida in Iraq: They are al Qaida ... in ... Iraq.

 Some also assert that al Qaida in Iraq is a separate organization because al Qaida's central command lacks full operational control over it. This argument reveals a lack of understanding. Here is how al Qaida's global terrorist network actually operates. Al Qaida and its affiliate organizations are a loose network of terrorist groups that are united by a common ideology and shared objectives, and have differing levels of collaboration with the al Qaida senior leadership. In some cases, these groups have formally merged into al Qaida and take what is called a "bayaat" -- a pledge of loyalty to Osama bin Laden. In other cases, organizations are not formally merged with al Qaida, but collaborate closely with al Qaida leaders to plot attacks and advance their shared ideology. In still other cases, there are small cells of terrorists that are not part of al Qaida or any other broader terrorist group, but maintain contact with al Qaida leaders and are inspired by its ideology to conduct attacks.

Our intelligence community assesses that al Qaida in Iraq falls into the first of these categories. They are a full member of the al Qaida terrorist network. The al Qaida leadership provides strategic guidance to their Iraqi operatives. Even so, there have been disagreements -- important disagreements -- between the leaders, Osama bin Laden and their Iraqi counterparts, including Zawahiri's criticism of Zarqawi's relentless attacks on the Shia. But our intelligence community reports that al Qaida's senior leaders generally defer to their Iraqi-based commanders when it comes to internal operations, because distance and security concerns preclude day-to-day command authority.

Our intelligence community concludes that -- quote -- "Al Qaida and its regional node in Iraq are united in their overarching strategy." And they say that al Qaida senior leaders and their operatives in Iraq -- quote -- "see al Qaida in Iraq as part of al Qaida's decentralized chain of command, not as a separate group."

 Here's the bottom line: Al Qaida in Iraq is run by foreign leaders loyal to Osama bin Laden. Like bin Laden, they are cold-blooded killers who murder the innocent to achieve al Qaida's political objectives. Yet despite all the evidence, some will tell you that al Qaida in Iraq is not really al Qaida -- and not really a threat to America. Well, that's like watching a man walk into a bank with a mask and a gun, and saying he's probably just there to cash a check.

You might wonder why some in Washington insist on making this distinction about the enemy in Iraq. It's because they know that if they can convince America we're not fighting bin Laden's al Qaida there, they can paint the battle in Iraq as a distraction from the real war on terror. If we're not fighting bin Laden's al Qaida, they can argue that our nation can pull out of Iraq and not undermine our efforts in the war on terror. The problem they have is with the facts. We are fighting bin Laden's al Qaida in Iraq; Iraq is central to the war on terror; and against this enemy, America can accept nothing less than complete victory. (Applause.)

There are others who accept that al Qaida is operating in Iraq, but say its role is overstated. Al Qaida is one of the several Sunni jihadist groups in Iraq. But our intelligence community believes that al Qaida is the most dangerous of these Sunni jihadist groups for several reasons: First, more than any other group, al Qaida is behind most of the spectacular, high-casualty attacks that you see on your TV screens.

Second, these al Qaida attacks are designed to accelerate sectarian violence, by attacking Shia in hopes of sparking reprisal attacks that inspire Sunnis to join al Qaida's cause.

Third, al Qaida is the only jihadist group in Iraq with stated ambitions to make the country a base for attacks outside Iraq. For example, al Qaida in Iraq dispatched terrorists who bombed a wedding reception in Jordan. In another case, they sent operatives to Jordan where they attempted to launch a rocket attack on U.S. Navy ships in the Red Sea.

And most important for the people who wonder if the fight in Iraq is worth it, al Qaida in Iraq shares Osama bin Laden's goal of making Iraq a base for its radical Islamic empire, and using it as a safe haven for attacks on America. That is why our intelligence community reports -- and I quote -- "compared with [other leading Sunni jihadist groups], al Qaida in Iraq stands out for its extremism, unmatched operational strength, foreign leadership, and determination to take the jihad beyond Iraq's borders."

Our top commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, has said that al Qaida is "public enemy number one" in Iraq. Fellow citizens, these people have sworn allegiance to the man who ordered the death of nearly 3,000 people on our soil. Al Qaida is public enemy number one for the Iraqi people; al Qaida is public enemy number one for the American people. And that is why, for the security of our country, we will stay on the hunt, we'll deny them safe haven, and we will defeat them where they have made their stand. (Applause.)

image Some note that al Qaida in Iraq did not exist until the U.S. invasion -- and argue that it is a problem of our own making. The argument follows the flawed logic that terrorism is caused by American actions. Iraq is not the reason that the terrorists are at war with us. We were not in Iraq when the terrorists bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. We were not in Iraq when they attacked our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. We were not in Iraq when they attacked the USS Cole in 2000. And we were not in Iraq on September the 11th, 2001.

Our action to remove Saddam Hussein did not start the terrorist violence -- and America withdrawal from Iraq would not end it. The al Qaida terrorists now blowing themselves up in Iraq are dedicated extremists who have made killing the innocent the calling of their lives. They are part of a network that has murdered men, women, and children in London and Madrid; slaughtered fellow Muslims in Istanbul and Casablanca, Riyadh, Jakarta, and elsewhere around the world. If we were not fighting these al Qaida extremists and terrorists in Iraq, they would not be leading productive lives of service and charity. Most would be trying to kill Americans and other civilians elsewhere -- in Afghanistan, or other foreign capitals, or on the streets of our own cities.

Al Qaida is in Iraq -- and they're there for a reason. And surrendering the future of Iraq to al Qaida would be a disaster for our country. We know their intentions. Hear the words of al Qaida's top commander in Iraq when he issued an audio statement in which he said he will not rest until he has attacked our nation's capital. If we were to cede Iraq to men like this, we would leave them free to operate from a safe haven which they could use to launch new attacks on our country. And al Qaida would gain prestige amongst the extremists across the Muslim world as the terrorist network that faced down America and forced us into retreat.

If we were to allow this to happen, sectarian violence in Iraq could increase dramatically, raising the prospect of mass casualties. Fighting could engulf the entire region in chaos, and we would soon face a Middle East dominated by Islamic extremists who would pursue nuclear weapons, and use their control of oil for economic blackmail or to fund new attacks on our nation.

We've already seen how al Qaida used a failed state thousands of miles from our shores to bring death and destruction to the streets of our cities -- and we must not allow them to do so again. So, however difficult the fight is in Iraq, we must win it. And we can win it.

Less than a year ago, Anbar Province was al Qaida's base in Iraq and was written off by many as lost. Since then, U.S. and Iraqi forces have teamed with Sunni sheiks who have turned against al Qaida. Hundreds have been killed or captured. Terrorists have been driven from most of the population centers. Our troops are now working to replicate the success in Anbar in other parts of the country. Our brave men and women are taking risks, and they're showing courage, and we're making progress.

For the security of our citizens, and the peace of the world, we must give General Petraeus and his troops the time and resources they need, so they can defeat al Qaida in Iraq. (Applause.)

Thanks for letting me come by today. I've explained the connection between al Qaida and its Iraqi affiliate. I presented intelligence that clearly establishes this connection. The facts are that al Qaida terrorists killed Americans on 9/11, they're fighting us in Iraq and across the world, and they are plotting to kill Americans here at home again. Those who justify withdrawing our troops from Iraq by denying the threat of al Qaida in Iraq and its ties to Osama bin Laden ignore the clear consequences of such a retreat. If we were to follow their advice, it would be dangerous for the world -- and disastrous for America. We will defeat al Qaida in Iraq.

In this effort, we're counting on the brave men and women represented in this room. Every man and woman who serves at this base and around the world is playing a vital role in this war on terror. With your selfless spirit and devotion to duty, we will confront this mortal threat to our country -- and we're going to prevail.

I have confidence in our country, and I have faith in our cause, because I know the character of the men and women gathered before me. I thank you for your patriotism; I thank you for your courage. You're living up to your motto: "one family, one mission, one fight." Thank you for all you do. God bless your families. God bless America. (Applause.)

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Tony Blair, Avoiding Hamas Won't Solve Israeli, Palestinian Conflict

I see Former British Prime Minister Anthony "Tony" Blair has completed his first visit to the Middle East as the special envoy for the so-called Middle East Quartet, which is comprised of the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations. Strangely, wait, I guess it's not strange, he goes to the region and refuses to talk with Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya  (Islamic Resistance Movement), better known as Hamas. It is perhaps the most significant player in current Palestinian politics.  Yet Western leaders would rather deal with the the weak, ineffectual Palestinian Authority headed by President Mahmoud Abbas than with a force that was triumphant in the January 25, 2006,  Palestinian legislative election, but fail victim to an economic boycott by some of the participants in the Quartet. Why? It wasn't the democratic outcome they and Israel wanted. 

image But this isn't really out of the ordinary. Western leaders playing at trying to resolve the conflict between the Palestinians and Israelis have a history of refusing to talk to the most significant players until it's almost too late. Remember how the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) was avoided for years after Israel and her Western allies couldn't destroy it physically? They tried it for years but the organization just wouldn't die.  Well, in the end, the PLO had to be engaged politically and diplomatically. The Quartet will have to include Hamas in negotiations sooner or later. So, why not do it now? Talk to Hamas whether Israel approves or not.

It's better to have Hamas in the tent pissing out instead of outside pissing in. 

And why is Tony Blair the Quartet's Middle East envoy? Anybody would be better than the man derisively called "Bush's Poodle." Why should the man who helped U.S. President George W, Bush cynically invade Iraq in March 2003, under false pretenses and without provocation, be trusted to deal fairly with other Arabs? Besides, Mr. Blair, like most western leaders, has a history of complying with Israeli wishes.

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton would be a far superior envoy. At least he has credibility and the intellectual agility to get to the heart of the matter. He also has a history of trying to truly deal with the Palestinian questions although his hands were tied by U.S. politics, while trying to do so.  In other words, the United States Congress for Israel--gave him hell for trying to be fair.

So, at the end of Mr. Blair's visit the question still remains: How can the Quartet, founded in 2004, lay the foundation for a viable, truly indent Palestinian state under their so-called two state plan by avoiding Hamas?

Maybe finding a solution with dignity for the Palestinians, which means a truly independent state not under Israel's heel and the constant threat of invasion and boycotts,  is  not the goal although they tell us it is. Maybe the Quartet's goal is to stall for another fifty plus years hoping the Palestinians will finally give up and resolve themselves to the same fate the U.S. imposed on the Native Americans. That is life on a reservation with sham sovereignty and poverty for the majority of inhabitants.

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July 21, 2007

Time's Blueprint on 'How to Leave Iraq'

A July 19, 2007 article at Time magazine online says, "There are two big schools of thought about what the U.S. should do next in Iraq, and both schools are almost certainly wrong." See "How to Leave Iraq."

The article was written by Michael Duffy. Reporting came from Mark Kukis and Charles Crain in Baghdad, Iraq. Scott Macleod contributed from Cairo, Egypt. Washington correspondents Brian Bennett, Massimo Calabresi, Jay Newton-Small and Mark Thompson added the Washington angle.

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Would the U.S. Quitting Iraq Be So Terrible?

Gregory Djereijan at The Belgravia Dispatch notes in a July 21, 2007, post headlined "Hold Forever, or Gradually Fold?": "Tom Friedman writes: "(q)uitting Iraq would be morally and strategically devastating."

"There is a broad consensus, from McCain/Lieberman, to Friedman/Pollack, even to Zinni/Batiste, that the consequences of an Iraq withdrawal, precipitate or otherwise, are profoundly dismal," Mr.  Djereijan writes." But would quitting Iraq, over 20 months, say (logistics likely require such a protracted time-frame), be so terrible, unleashing regional conflict, genocide and other horribles? Perhaps not."

image I say leave tomorrow. Forget about saving face. In fact, it's time for the Bush Administration to swallow what little pride it has left and bring U.S.. soldiers home. They will never win the war although they can win the battles, if they use overwhelming force. But politically, that's not feasible. And since Iraqi politicians aren't American clones there is no way they will do things exactly as the Bush Administration wants, regardless of the blueprint President George W. Bush gave them to follow. Before things settle down, a strong, dominant personality or party will have to emerge that most people will willingly, or unwillingly, coalesce around out of expediency, whether for political or religious reasons. 

So, staying in Iraq is not good for U.S. soldiers or the Iraqis. As long as the U.S. remains, Muslims fighters from abroad will continue to enter Iraq to fight the Americans and their Iraqi allies, and even engage in sectarian warfare. Once the U.S. and British invasion of Iraq destroyed what the social fabric and cohesiveness that former President Saddam Hussein kept in place with his iron-fisted rule during his long reign all bets were off for a stable Iraq. The result is the chaos and daily death we see today. Here, the but for rule applies. But for the invasion, occupation and attempt to impose the U.S. will on Iraq, there probably wouldn't wouldn't be the level of carnage and political impotence that's associated with Iraq.

Also, Iraq has been destroyed, so what else is there for the U.S. to fight for? Iraqi oil in so-called Iraqi Kurdistan? Military bases from which to project U.S power into the region for generations to come? Lucrative supply and building contracts? According to a July 4, 2007, Los Angeles Times report, currently  "Private contractors outnumber U.S. troops in Iraq. Will U.S. troops remain in Iraq just to protect them?  What do you think?

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Sergey Lavrov's Dispute With Foreign Affairs

"Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov issued a statement" July 19, 2007 "explaining his withdrawal of an article that was accepted for publication in the September/October 2007 issue of Foreign Affairs," Maxims News.com reported July 19, 2007  

Maxims News.com said, "In  response to the foreign minister's characterizations, Foreign Affairs Editor James F. Hoge issued a statement, rejecting all suggestions of censorship."

Maxims also provided "the full text of the article as edited by Foreign Affairs and posted on the Russian foreign ministry's website" July 19, 2007.

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Taiwan to Renew Effort to Join the U.N

The China Post online reported July 20, 2007, that "Vice President Annette Lu yesterday [July 19, 2007] revealed that Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian is poised to formally launch a bid for Taiwan (Republic of China) to join the United Nations before the world organization opens its General Assembly this year." See "President to start United Nations bid soon: Vice President.

I suspect it will just as futile this year as it was in previous years. As Wikipedia notes, United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2758, adopted on October 25, 1971, replaced the Nationalist Republic of China (ROC) with the Communist People's Republic of China (PRC) as the sole representative of China in the United Nations.

Before then, as Wikipedia also notes, "Because of the Cold War, most Western nations and the United Nations regarded the ROC as the sole legitimate government of China (while being merely the de-facto government of Taiwan) until the 1970s, when most nations began switching recognition to the People's Republic of China (PRC)."  The United States (U.S.) was no exception although the ROC had, and still has, a lot of supporters in the U.S.

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July 18, 2007

Russia, Britain and the Lugovoi Affair

In a January 17, 2007, post in Russia Profile, writer Shaun Walker observed: "The decision by new British Foreign Secretary David Miliband to expel four Russian diplomats from Britain and tighten visa regulations for Russian officials dominated the front pages of British and Russian newspapers this morning. Both sides were indignant with the other, with only isolated voices of reason among the rhetoric." It's all related to the Litvinenko affair and the extradition of  Andrei Lugovoi, described by Wikipedia as:

a former KGB operative and millionaire who met with Alexander Litvinenko on the day Litvinenko fell ill (1 November 2006). Litvinenko died later that month from radiation poisoning caused by polonium-210, and on 22 May 2007 British officials charged Lugovoi with Litvinenko's murder, announcing they would seek his extradition from Russia. However, a Russian official stated it was against the Russian constitution to perform extraditions of Russian citizens.
Britain wants Lugovoi "to face trial" for the murder of Mr. Litvinenko, a London-based Russian writer, dissident and himself a former operative of  the "Russian Federation's Federal Security Service (FSB)." He became a British citizen a week before he died.

Some observers say he was murdered because of his outspoken views about the government of Russian President Vladimir Putin, especially its policy in Chechnya.

As Wikipedia notes, Litvinenko "tried to publish a book in Russia in which he described Vladimir Putin's rise to power as a coup d'état organised by the FSB. He stated a key element of FSB's strategy was to frighten Russians by bombing apartment buildings in Moscow and other Russian cities. He alleged the bombings were organised by FSB and blamed on Chechen terrorists to legitimise reprisals using military force in Chechnya.". 

To read Walker's entire article, please see "Media Fallout Polarizes Around Lugovoi." Also see Reuters UK's "TIMELINE: The case of poisoned ex-spy Alexander Litvinenko.

Note: Links added for background purposes.

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July 17, 2007

Oxford Analytica's Report on Syria

SYRIA: Regime survival depends on Hariri outcome.” That's the headline on a July 16 2007 Oxford Analytica report and Joshua Landis, Co-director of the Centre of Peace Studies at the University of Oklahoma in the American state of Oklahoma, takes issue with it.

According to Mr. Landis, editor of Syria Comment, the report "is sound. The title is unfortunate. No one I have talked to in or out of the government actually believes that the International Court endangers the Syrian regime," he writes. "The analyst who wrote this must have howled with embarrassment when he read the title. "

"My only other quibbles with the analysis is that the opposition in Syria never presented a threat to the regime," Mr. Landis asserts. "There were hopes in the West that it could form the basis for gaining some leverage in Syria, but these hopes were not based on anything but unsound speculation. No opposition leader has had a mass following in Syria or institutional organization that can deliver political or military action on the ground since the Muslim Brotherhood in the early 1980s."

Mr. Landis is Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies in the University of Oklahoma's School of International and Area Studies. He's a Syria specialist and his wife has Syrian roots.

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Juan Cole: Talabani, Zebari Manipulating Washington

University of Michigan History Professor Juan Cole, the proprietor of Informed Comment, a blog in which he daily offers "thoughts on the Middle East, history and religion," continues to make astute observations about events in Iraq.

On July 17, 2007, in a commentary on the three bombings that struck Kirkuk in northern Iraq on July 16, 2007, Mr. Cole wrote:

I am horrified at the loss of innocent life, and hate to see the incident used for politics. I would be very suspicious of assigning blame to "al-Qaeda" for this one. The bombs hit the party offices of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan in Kirkuk as well as (Kurdish) policemen. The Kurds are trying to annex oil-rich Kirkuk province to their Kurdistan provincial confederacy. Turkmen and Arabs do not want to be annexed. Turkey does not want to see it annexed.

There are lots of social forces that would like to hit the PUK over this issue, not just "al-Qaeda." The Kurds know that blaming the bombing on that organization (does anyone in Iraq really have Bin Laden`s phone number?) will gain them the sympathy of clueless Americans for their planned annexation.

Mr. Cole said, "Everyone in the U.S. now complains about the way we were spun by corrupt financier Ahmad Chalabi. But it is seldom appreciated how much Kurdish leaders like Jalal Talabani and Hoshyar Zebari were involved in feeding the U.S. loads of bull about Iraq. Their ultimate goal is partition of the country, and they are manipulating Washington toward that end."

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What Should Be The Objective of British Policy In Iraq?

"The objective of British policy must be to secure American acceptance of the need for a medium-term deadline for withdrawal" from Iraq, argues David Clark, a former British Labour "government adviser in a July 16, 2007, article in The Guardian headlined "Britain must take the lead in Iraq - by getting out first."

Mr. Clark contends that, "Once a timetable is set, it will be possible to focus the minds of Iraqis on the need to work with each other and to draw in regional powers such as Jordan, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia as part of a UN-sponsored initiative to underwrite Iraq's stability and progress. The alternative is to stumble on hopelessly while more Iraqis and British and American troops die."

While I agree that Britain needs to get out Iraq tomorrow, I think Mr. Clark is engaged in wishful thinking if he thinks the Iraqis are going to make peace with each other anytime soon. Just as some Iraqis are at each others throats now--thanks to the invasion of Iraq that disturbed of the social and politic fabric, though iron-fisted under former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein,  that tenuously held the country together, they will be at each other's throats after the the U.S. and Britain pulls out.

Sunnis and Shia will fight until some party or community--most likely Shia--emerges out of the morass in a dominant position politically, with the ability to control the military. Elections won't crush lawlessness in Iraq but a strong leader will keep it at a minimum. Of course, a civil war could result. In fact, I think it will. However, that's no reason to stay in Iraq.

Then don't forget about Kurdistan and the oil question. What Iraqi Government in its right mind would let the Kurd's control Iraq's oil supply? Certainly Iraq's neighbor, Turkey, wouldn't tolerate it, even if an Iraqi Government would.

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Can Things Get Any Worse For U.S. Foreign Policy?

Columnist Zuheir Kseibat, writing in the July 16, 2007, issue of Beirut, Lebanon-based Dar Al-Hayat, which bills itself as "a primary source of information for all English-speaking readers seeking an alternative perspective and in-depth reporting on the Middle East and the Arab world", opines:
More bad news has been raining down on [U.S.] President George Bush and his administration, and those neoconservatives who failed to maintain the minimum requirements for managing international relations or the minimum level of international equilibrium and stability, preferring a policy of "bullying." This trait even characterized its dealings with allies on the other side of the Atlantic. As soon as the "dependent" Tony Blair left office and the Elysees Palace [France} received a new occupant, the US quickly appeared to be the only enthusiast of a path of isolation. Europeans, who have supported the world war against terror, became fed up with footing the bill for the battle with the extremist al-Qaida network, which was brought to its territory and house thanks to a policy of blind extremism by the neo-conservatives, who blackmailed the world into splitting into two camps: either for us or against us.
Mr. Kseibat added: "More bad news has been arising for the American president, who believes in the march of armies of democracy… by force majeure. In his own home, intelligence agencies acknowledge that al-Qaida is recovering, after people stopped believing the lie that the arena of the war on terror was confined to the Iraqi front, and after a huge price in Iraqi blood."

Now that's strong language but it needs to be said.

If you want to read the entire article, please see "Insurgents and Isolationists."

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July 16, 2007

Stratfor Looks At 'Israel And Fatah's Strange Relationship'

On July 15, 2007, Stratfor, the private intelligence service that provides "businesses, trade associations, government agencies, and individuals" with "global intelligence, analysis, and forecasting for making their most important strategic decisions," published an article headlined "Geopolitical Diary: Israel and Fatah's Strange Relations." It's worth reading. May require registration.

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Is Abbas Strong Enough To Help U.S. Achieve Its Goal in Palestine?

The Washington Post reported July 16, 2007, that, "Several intelligence assessments have warned that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, the man U.S. policymakers hope can help salvage the Middle East peace process, may not be politically strong enough to achieve that goal, according to U.S. officials." See "U.S. Bet on Abbas For Mideast Peace Meets Skepticism."

The article, written by veteran correspondent Robin Wright, says "The assessments have also cautioned that his opponents in Hamas -- the Islamic movement that is being shunned by Abbas, Israel and the United States -- will not be easily marginalized."

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July 15, 2007

Correspondent Larry Kaplow's Advice To U.S. Law Makers Visiting Iraq

Albert Eisele, a reporter for The Hill, a Washington, D.C., USA-based publication that specializes in covering the U.S. Congress, posted a revealing interview with  Larry Kaplow, a former newspaper reporter who joined Newsweek's Baghdad bureau in May 2007, "after more than four years covering the war for Cox Newspapers."image I was especially struck by Mr. Kaplow's warning to American lawmakers who make quick visits to Baghdad and return to the U.S. acting as if they are experts on the war.

“It takes a very discerning and open-minded effort to get something out of [a] quick visit here,” he was quoted as saying, adding: “It’s possible but you have to look past what you see.”

According to Mr. Eisele, Mr. Kaplow's opinion is that American lawmakers come away with a perspective on the hotly debated war that “will necessarily be limited in time and scope. You do learn from it but any sweeping judgments take expertise or repeated visits over time,” Mr.Kaplow told Mr. Eisele in an e-mail interview.

Mr. Eisele said Mr. Kaplow wants U.S. lawmakers to understand that Iraqis “will speak strategically, each word measured for its effect on the listener. It takes a lot of conversation and reading between the lines — and experience — to get at their real sentiments,” he cautioned.

To read the entire interview, please see "Kaplow: Newsweek’s new man in Baghdad."

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David Miliband, Please keep Blogging

I hope David Miliband's new position as Britain's Foreign Secretary doesn't keep him from blogging again.  Before Prime Minister James Gordon Brown appointed him to his new position on June 28, 2007, Mr. Miliband was Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. As such, he blogged in an  "attempt to help bridge the gap - the growing image and potentially dangerous gap - between politicians and the public."  He blogged regularly about issues related to his portfolio. He commented on environmental issues on both sides of the Atlantic. See his other blog.

How about it David, will you continue to blog?  Foreign affairs is an excellent topic to blog on. The more informed the public is about international affairs the better. Besides, when the press starts beating you up you can use your blog to clarify your positions and engage directly with the public. Of course some old foreign service hands won't like it. Well, too bad. After the secrecy and lies that resulted in the Iraq invasion and occupation, no government should even dare to keep policy formation matters secret.

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Is The U.S. State Department Stretched Too Thin?

"While the press has focused on the damage done to the military by constant tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, the State Department has been stretched nearly as thin," contends Joshua Kurlantzick, a special correspondent for The New Republic, in a July 3, 2007,  TNR Online article headlined "The State Department's critical personnel shortage. Manpower Failure." The article was reprinted in the July 15, 2007, online edition of The Dallas Morning News, a Dallas, Texas, USA-based publication.

Mr. Kurlantzick notes that, "A recent study by the Foreign Affairs Council found that the State Department needs to hire 1,100 new staff members to meet its global image obligations. (The entire Foreign Service has 9,000 employees.)"

He said,  "The gutting of the State Department dates back to the 1990s, when a Republican Congress, looking at a post-Cold War world, slashed its personnel numbers by roughly a third. Several blue-ribbon studies revealed that the U.S. government cut funding for foreign affairs programs from more than $5 billion in 1996 to $3.64 billion in 2000 (in 1996 dollars.)," he adds.

By the way, to read the study cited by Mr. Kurlantzick, please see the Foreign Affairs Council Task Force's June 2007 report titled "Managing Secretary Rice’s State Department:An Independent Assessment."

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LA Times: Few Foreign Fighters In Iraq; Most Are From Saudi Arabia

Los Angeles Times Correspondent Ned Parker, writing from U.S.-occupied Baghdad, Iraq, has a report in the July 15, 2007, edition of Latimes.com that says:

Although Bush administration officials have frequently lashed out at Syria and Iran, accusing it of helping insurgents and militias here, the largest number of foreign fighters and suicide bombers in Iraq come from a third neighbor, Saudi Arabia, according to a senior U.S. military officer and Iraqi lawmakers.

About 45% of all foreign militants targeting U.S. troops and Iraqi civilians and security forces are from Saudi Arabia; 15% are from Syria and Lebanon; and 10% are from North Africa, according to official U.S. military figures made available to The Times by the senior officer. Nearly half of the 135 foreigners in U.S. detention facilities in Iraq are Saudis, he said.

Parker, whose article is sure to add to the growing call in the U.S. and the public to pull out of Iraq, added:
Fighters from Saudi Arabia are thought to have carried out more suicide bombings than those of any other nationality, said the senior U.S. officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the subject's sensitivity. It is apparently the first time a U.S. official has given such a breakdown on the role played by Saudi nationals in Iraq's Sunni Arab insurgency.

He said 50% of all Saudi fighters in Iraq come here as suicide bombers. In the last six months, such bombings have killed or injured 4,000 Iraqis."

The U.S. does not keep figures on the number Iraqis its troops have killed or injured since the country was invaded and occupied in 2003. However, Iraq Body Count does, to the best of its ability. AntiWar.com tracks U.S. casualties.

To read Mr. Parker's entire report, please see "Saudis' role in Iraq insurgency outlined." Also see "Few Foreign Fighters in Iraq; Many are Saudi' Al-Maliki Says Iraqi Troops ready,"

Informed Comment editor Juan Cole's commentary on The Times reports. 

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Why Azerbaijan Opened Academy To Train New Diplomats

On July 11, 2007, the New York Times Co.-owned International Herald Tribune (IHT) reported that the "small Caspian nation" of Azerbaijan, "hoping to drum up business for its non oil sector, and to improve its image, ... has more than doubled its diplomatic presence abroad since 2004, opening 32 new embassies in the last three years in capitals from Athens to Tokyo." See "Azerbaijan creates diplomatic academy."

"But now the country faces another problem," IHT reported, " not enough diplomats to staff the missions."

image According to reporter Daria Vaisman, this "is why, after 13 years as Azerbaijan's ambassador to the United States, Hafiz Pashayev has found himself with an unexpected second career: running the state-run" Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy, the " country's first academy for aspiring diplomats."

The academy "opened in March [2007] with the goal of training its recruits in a Western-style diplomacy new to this country," according to IHT. "The idea is to quickly staff Azerbaijan's empty embassies, fast-tracking aspiring diplomats who would normally work their way up as Foreign Ministry staffers."

IHT said Azerbaijan is preparing "for an oil windfall expected to top $230 billion over the next 20 years."

And that spells incredible wealth and potential trouble in the rough and tumble world of oil economics. In this game, skilled diplomats are essential. Hopefully, Azerbaijan's diplomats will take an ethics course along the way. If so, hopefully, they won't succumb to bribes from hucksters seeking oil contracts. As for Azerbaijan's politicians, look for some to become millionaires and billionaires.

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July 14, 2007

Canadian Prime Minister To Visits Latin America, Caribbean

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper embarks July 15, 2007, "on an ambitious six-day visit to Latin America and the Caribbean, where he is expected to spell out his government's new foreign policy focus on the Americas," Alan Freeman reported July 12, 2007, in a Globe and Mail.com post headlined "Latin America visit by Harper to focus on foreign policy."

Mr. Freeman said, "The six-day trip, which will take the Prime Minister to Colombia, Chile, Barbados and Haiti, reflects a new emphasis on the Western Hemisphere when it comes to trade, development assistance and broader foreign policy aims."

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The Instinctive European

Guardian Unlimited of England says in its July 14, 2007, leader that, "One other sign of change" in the relationship between Britain and the United States is the fact that Mr image James Gordon Brown, the British prime minister as of June 27, 2007, "will travel to Washington [the U.S. capital] only after he has first visited Germany and France."

"The election of a new generation of European leaders in Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy gives him a chance to make a new start with the EU," the Guardian contends, adding: "Britain does not have to agree with them, but it does have to engage in building a common energy policy, a common strategy to combat climate change and a stronger foreign policy voice. Mr [David] Miliband [the new British Foreign Secretary] is an instinctive European, and he should be allowed to show it."

"But a new engagement with Europe should only be one aspect of a reconsidered British foreign policy," the Guardian opines. To read the entire post, please see "Starting a new relationship."

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Will Gordon Brown Be Bush's Poodle No. 2?

Columnist John O'Sullivan,  a senior fellow of the Washington, D.C, USA-based Hudson Institute, says the special relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom will survived despite the fact that Prime Minister James Gordon Brown won't be joined at the hip with U.SA President George W. Bush the way his predecessor, Mr. Anthony Blair, seemed to be. In fact, Mr. Blair was often called Bush's poodle. See "Special relationship will survive - as before" for Mr. O'Sullivan's perspective.

According to Times Online correspondents Sarah Baxter and David Cracknell , Mr. Brown "will fly to Washington this month to ease tensions with the Bush administration, which has been “severely irritated” by suggestions that he intends to distance British foreign policy from America." 

Douglas Alexander, Secretary of State for International Development, set off speculation during a July 12, 2007, address at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, DC, the U.S. capital. See his speech titled "The Role of International Development in a Changing World: The Perspective from Britain."

As the BBC noted July 14, 2007, "There was another instance of the distancing on Saturday when a new foreign office minister Mark Malloch Brown, a critic of US policy when he was at the UN, said that the US and UK would no longer be "joined at the hip". See an analysis by Paul Reynolds, World Affairs correspondent BBC News website, headlined "The subtle shift in British foreign policy.

David Miliband, Britain's foreign secretary since July 28, 2007, takes the position that the U.S. and Britain"...are stronger together than apart. Our shared values give us real strength." See "Miliband defends UK-US relations."

Does that mean that Britain would side with the U.S. against the European Union (EU)  in the event of a diplomatic crisis between the EU and the U.S.? Just asking.

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Western Sahara Negotiations to Resume in August 2007

During the 1970s I regularly interviewed a representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Saguia el-Hamra and Río de Oro" (Polisario Front) who was frequently in the United States to drum up support for independence in the Western Sahara . Spain unloaded the colony, which has always been claimed by  Morocco. I spoke with him regularly in an effort to keep abreast of the Western Sahara's little known liberation struggle, which could not compete in the 1970s for publicity with the Palestinians, the South African liberation groups and the liberation movements in Mozambique, Angola and Zimbabwe. I think it was because the Cold war didn't factor into it.

image Over the years, I've periodically checked to see if there was still fighting over the territory. I also had an interest in Western Sahara-related diplomatic efforts in the region and the United Nations. Frankly, the diplomatic efforts seem designed to really go nowhere. Sort of like negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Any honest, informed observer  knows  before they get underway that diplomatic forays to Jerusalem and various Arab capitals are not going to solve the Middle East crisis.  The trip U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates are scheduled to take to the region later this month will be no exception.   

Now, according to Spain-based freelance writer James Badcock, who specializes in North African and Middle East affairs: 

Over three decades after Spain withdrew from Western Sahara, the fate of the region is back on the negotiating table. However, Sahrawis longing for a free and independent homeland fear that it is their dream that will be served up on the United Nations-sponsored menu, fit to be gobbled up as an appetizer for broader deals concerning political unity in the Maghreb and international cooperation against Islamist terrorism.

Mr. Badcock, notes in a July 13, 2007, article for The Daily Star of Lebanon that, "Although representatives of the disputed territory were present at UN-organized talks in New York last month [June 18 and 19, 2007], the pro-independence Polisario Front members left Manhasset [New York, USA] with the same attitude with which they had arrived: "The land has never been Moroccan, is not Moroccan and never will be."

On April 30, 2007, the United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1754 (2007)  on Western Sahara. According to the U.N., 

The Secretary-General [Ban Ki-Moon] arranged for Morocco and the Frente Polisario to enter into negotiations, without preconditions, in good faith, taking into account the developments of the last months, with a view to achieving a just, lasting and mutually acceptable political solution, which would provide for the self-determination of the people of Western Sahara.

During the Greentree Estate meeting, Morocco and the Polisario agreed to meet again "in Manhasset in the second week of August 2007."  See "Text of the UN Communiqué after the first round of Morocco-Saharawi negotiations."   As http://www.time.com/time/magazine magazine's  Scott MacLeod noted in a June 18, 2007, blog post, "both sides deserve some credit for heeding the U.N. call to resume negotiations on the issue after a seven-year lapse." See "Hope for Western Sahara?"

To read Mr. Badcock's entire post, please see "Shifting diplomacy over Western Sahara."  Western Sahara Online has what it calls "The latest on Polisario-Moroccan Negotiations."


Also see the controversial "Report of the Secretary-General on the status and progress of the negotiations on Western Sahara."

The International Crisis Group (ICG) also has a 32-page report with exceptional background on Western Sahara. See "Western Sahara: The Cost of the Conflict."  ICG has another report on the issue titled "Western Sahara: Out of the Impasse." Both reports were issued in June 11, 2007.

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July 13, 2007

USC's Center For Public Diplomacy

Are you interested in public diplomacy? If so, why not visit the University of Southern California, USA's, Center for Public Diplomacy" website. There are a number of articles there that discuss the subject and offer a number of ideas.

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The Hindu: Ex-Diplomats Say 'Musharraf Has a Tough Road Ahead'

Sandeep Dikshit, an analyst with The Hindu, India's "India's national newspaper," has an article in the July 14, 2007, online edition in which he presents the observations of several former diplomats who've analyzed the implications of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's assault on the Red Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan on July 10 and 11, 2007. According to the Associated Press, "at Least 106" died during the assault.

According to the Los Angeles Times, "Leaders of hard-line religious parties put the death toll far higher, saying at least 400 people were killed, but they were unable to substantiate their claims."

Mr. Dikshit said, "According to former Foreign Secretary Salman Haider, the General’s statement ["Extremism and terrorism will be defeated in every corner of the country"] seemed a little ambitious and could make his political life less easy in a situation where political backing to him appeared feeble. Mr. Haider and former diplomats G. Parthasarathy, Hamid Ansari and Satish Chandra also referred to the long years of patronage by the Pakistan Army to the Lal Masjid and wondered what effect the contradictory action of storming would have on public opinion," Mr. Dikshit reported.

“This is not the end of the story. It is the beginning of something,” Mr. Haider was quoted as saying.

According to Mr. Dikshit, "Mr. Parthasarathy, a former High Commissioner to Pakistan, pointed out that the action had pleased China and the U.S. but his stance could result in heightened personal threat to General Musharraf.

“The fact is that his army has run with the Jehadi hare and hunted with the U.S. hounds," Mr. Parthasarathy said, according to Mr. Dikshit. "When you adopt such contradictory policies, the result is you trip yourself up.”

To read more, please see "Musharraf has a tough road ahead: ex-diplomats."

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Najum Mushtaq Analyzes 'Musharraf's Madrasa Muddle'

Recommended: Journalist Najum Mushtaq's July 13, 2007, post at Foreign Policy in Focus' website headlined "Musharraf’s Madrasa Muddle." Asserts Mr. Mushtaq, a FPIF contributor:

"The storming of the Red Mosque is not the victory that GeneralPervez Musharraf and his supporters in Washington proclaim. Rather, it represents the abject failure of the Pakistani president’s policies. The shaky military junta seems to have few answers to the central question of containing religious extremism in the sect-ridden Pakistani society. With a growing number of citizens challenging the authoritarian system, U.S. support for Musharraf is more and more out of touch with Pakistani reality."

Mr. Mushtaq's post is definitely worth your time if you are interested in the long-term implications of Mr. Musharraf's attack on the mosque and U.S. President George W. Bush's support for it.

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July 12, 2007

India, China Vying For Influence In Africa

Sudha Ramachandran, writing in the July 13, 2007, edition of Asia Times Online, reports that,  "China has outpaced India in the race for influence in Africa, but India has signaled that it is not about to give up the fight. See "India pushes people power in Africa.

Ramachandran said, "During his recent visit to Ethiopia, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee inaugurated an e-network initiative that will enable Delhi to reach out to people in Africa's 53 countries."

"The pan-African e-network will allow schools and hospitals across Africa to link up with top institutions in India,"Ramachandran noted, adding: "The initiative will bring Indian expertise in health care and education to the African people at low cost."

According to Ramachandran, Indian diplomats will hope the initiative will earn the Indian public and government goodwill and influence in Africa."

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FT.com Has Interview With United Kingdom's New Foreign Minister

Simon Collister over at the blog Simon Says has provided a link to what he calls "a good interview in the July 10, 2007,  Financial Times with David Miliband, the United Kingdom's "new Foreign Minister. Even better," Mr. Collister says, "you can read a full transcript of the interview over at FT.com."

By the way, Mr. Miliband is a a blogger. For more of Mr. Collister's  post, please see "Can David Miliband blog from within the Foreign Office's closed diplomatic network?

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'Bloody End' to Red Mosque Crisis 'Will Be Costly'

Tanvir Ahmad Khan, a former Pakistani foreign secretary and ambassador thinks Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's assault on the Red Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan "may have caused a major setback to Pakistan's prospects of developing into a full-fledged Muslim democracy.

To read why Mr. Khan thinks so, please see his July 12, 2007, Gulf News special headlined "
Bloody end will be costly.

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The Times Of London Says It's 'Musharraf’s Moment'

"When Pakistani special forces launched their assault on the Red Mosque) in Islamabad [Pakistan], the army asked for 400 white shrouds for the dead," notes the Times Online of London in a July 12, 2007, editorial .

"Mercifully," the publication opines, "not all of them have been used. There is still no accurate tally of the militants killed in the operation, though among them was Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the radical cleric who had turned the mosque and its adjoining madrassa [school] into a rebel fortress in the heart of Pakistan’s capital."

The Times says, " As the clean-up began yesterday [July 11, 2007] it seemed likely that hostages would be found among the dead, and critics rightly asked why such an enclave was allowed to form in the first place. But the violence could have been far worse. President [Pervez] Musharraf's  decision to clear the mosque by force appears to have been carried out with relative restraint, and to have had broad public support."

According to the Times, "General Musharraf appears to have breathing space. He would be very wrong, however, to interpret this as a vote of confidence in the febrile status quo over which he presides eight years after taking power in a bloodless coup. Pakistan’s crisis remains acute."

I thinks the political explosion will come later.  To read the Times' entire editorial, please see "Musharraf’s Moment.

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July 11, 2007

Did Pakistan's Musharraf Do The Right Thing By Storming Red Mosque?

Asian Times Online Pakistan Bureau Chief Syed Saleem Shahzad notes in a July 12, 2007, dispatch from Karachi, Pakistan, that, "Following the military storming of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad [Pakistan], considered a hotbed for support of the Taliban and al-Qaeda, U,S. President George W. Bush has praised Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf's role in checking extremism." Adds Shahzad:

"Musharraf is a strong ally in the war against these extremists. I like him and I appreciate him," Bush said.
But while such praise from Musharraf's international allies is to be expected (see Pakistan's iron fist is to the US's liking, Asia Times Online, July 11), within the country not everyone is convinced the government did the right thing.
Shahzad quotes Maulana Hanif Jalandari, the secretary general of the Federal Board of Islamic Seminaries as saying  during a television debate:
Whether they were security forces personnel or Lal Masjid militants, both were Muslims and both were martyrs.
He said, "Jalandari was part of the negotiating team that failed to prevent the troops from being sent into the mosque after their bid to grant the occupants a safe passage out was rejected. "

For more of Mr. Shahzad's analysis of the potential consequences of the Mosque affair, please see "Pakistan's post-mortem

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July 5, 2007

A Diplomatic History Lesson For U.S. Presidential Candidates

When 87-year old American correspondent Helen Thomas, who has served as a White House correspondent since 1960,  writes about politics from a historical perspective, U.S.   presidential candidates should take time to read her opinions, if they don't already.  Mrs. Thomas, currently a columnist for Hearst Newspapers, "served for fifty-seven years as a correspondent and White House bureau chief for United Press International (UPI)." She gave U.S. Presidential Candidate Hilary Rodham Clinton, Democrat of New York, USA, a valuable diplomatic  history lesson in an informative column I read in the August 3, 2007, edition of The Seattle (Washington, USA) Post-Intelligencer. See "Obama has the right idea about diplomacy.

The commentary was prompted by Ms. Clinton's accusation that Democratic Presidential contender Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, USA, was being naive and irresponsible when he declared during a a July 24, 2007, Democratic presidential debate in Charleston, South Carolina  he would be willing to meet without preconditions the leaders of Cuba, Iran,  , North Korea Syria and Venezuela during his first year as president. See "Obama Debate Comments Set Off Firestorm."

After noting that, "During the Cold War, [U.S. Republican] President [Dwight David] Eisenhower often said he would go anywhere, any time, any place in pursuit of peace." Ms. Thomas, whose latest book is "Watchdogs of Democracy?: The Waning Washington Press Corps and How It Has Failed the Public, recalled:

Ike promoted co-existence with the former Soviet Union and invited Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to visit the United States.

Conservative Republicans were unhappy when President [Richard Milhous] Nixon made his surprise journey to hard-line communist China in 1972. But the move was mostly applauded as a diplomatic breakthrough, leading to better relations between the two nations.

The American people rejoiced at those peacemaking gestures and didn't think that Eisenhower, a World War II hero, was naïve to talk to the Soviets with the goal of easing tensions between the two superpowers, particularly as each had doomsday nuclear arsenals.

imageMs. Thomas, who has interviewed or covered every U.S. president since John F. Kennedy, said, "There were some hints and hopes -- among liberals at least -- that President [William Jefferson "Bill"] Clinton would open a dialogue with Cuba during his years in the White House. But he was not willing to take the risk and pay the political price -- especially in Florida, traditional hotbed of anti-Castro sentiment."

"So," Ms. Thomas told her readers, "it is disturbing for Sen. Hillary Clinton, D.N Y, to ridicule Sen. Barack Obama, D. Ill -- her main rival for the Democratic presidential nomination -- for saying he would be willing to meet with the reviled leaders of Cuba, Venezuela, Syria and North Korea, if he's elected president.

"And why not?" Thomas asks. "What's wrong with diplomacy? "

Ms. Thomas, who is of Lebanese descent, said, "It may shock Clinton, but we often deal with dictators and others who espouse policies that are distinctly at odds with U.S. goals."

"Clinton is wrong and Obama is right," Ms. Thomas contends, adding: "Both should be emphasizing the need for a more peaceful world and an end to the daily slaughter in Iraq that has shamed this country's world image. The first order of business for the new president in 2009 should be to repair the damage inflicted by President Bush's disastrous unilateralism."

Not many White House correspondents have the balls to say that. Unfortunately, in recent years, with the exception of a few, American reporters covering the White House, The Pentagon and the State Department, have acted more like stenographers currying favor with those they cover rather than curious spectators analyzing and reporting on what really goes on in the corridors of power. The serious reporting and analysis is usually done by outsiders. 

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