Tuesday, September 28, 2004

World Tribune.com--Front Page Bush administration completes get-tough plan for Syria

Two weeks ago, Syria and the United States met in Damascus in what officials termed was a hard-nosed review of bilateral relations that focused on the Assad regime's policy in Iraq.

The U.S. delegation, headed by Assistant Secretary of State William Burns contained members of the Pentagon, White House and National Security Council.

The talks reviewed Syrian WMD programs, support for the insurgency in Iraq and Syria's harboring of billions of dollars sent by the Saddam Hussein regime in 2002 and 2003.

"What we said in Damascus is that this has to stop," the senior official said. "Our message to Syria was a warning that this is very serious. Because this means Syria shares responsibility for the killing of Americans and Iraqis, and it has to stop."

At the meeting, Damascus agreed to participate in talks with Iraq and U.S. Central Command to launch cooperation that would halt the flow of insurgents and weapons from Syria, officials said. Officials said the Assad regime was warned that the failure of the military talks, which began on Tuesday in Damascus, could trigger what they termed a major deterioration in U.S. relations with Syria.

"Our job is to convince them that the risk of undermining us is much greater than the opposite," the senior official said.

Monday, September 27, 2004

BBC NEWS | Americas | Carter fears Florida vote trouble:

Voting arrangements in Florida do not meet 'basic international requirements' and could undermine the US election, former US President Jimmy Carter says.

He said a repeat of the irregularities of the much-disputed 2000 election - which gave President George W Bush the narrowest of wins - 'seems likely'.

Mr Carter, a veteran observer of polls worldwide, also accused Florida's top election official of 'bias'.

His remarks come ahead of the first TV debate between Mr Bush and John Kerry."

I've heard these rumblings for a while now. I'm convinced the Democrats are planning to try to steal the election like they tried to the last time.
9news.com | News Crowd cheers after Heinz Kerry rebuts heckler :

"In appearances here and before a crowd of 1,700 in Fort Collins, Heinz Kerry echoed her husband's views about terrorism, national security, crime, health care and education.

She said the United States needs a different approach in the world.

'The way we live in peace in a family, in a marriage, in the world, is not by threatening people, is not by showing off your muscles. It's by listening, by giving a hand sometimes, by being intelligent, by being open and by setting high standards,' she said at the CSU rally.

In Pueblo, Heinz Kerry sounded a similar theme, criticizing the Bush administration for sending warning signals to Iran about developing nuclear weapons.

'There are about 50 countries in the world that have the capability to build nuclear weapons. Are we going to attack them all?' she said."
I won't be intimidated for expressing my views
People who object to her criticism of Islam should take her to court rather than take the law into their own hands, Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali tells Abi Daruvalla.


Hirsi Ali has been moved to a safe house following new death threats and the publication of her private address on an Islamic website just four days after her controversial film 'Submission' was screened on Dutch TV.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali was always irritated at the lack of freedom under Islam
Somali-born Hirsi Ali, 34, is herself a former Muslim and an outspoken critic of Islam's treatment of women. Her film 'Submission' which depicts the text of the Koran on the naked flesh of Muslim women, is provoking a furore in the Netherlands.

With the assassination of right-wing political leader Pim Fortuyn in May 2002 still horribly fresh in people’s minds, the Dutch security services are clearly taking no chances and have mounted round-the-clock protection.

But Hirsi Ali is undaunted: "Reactions to my film have been varied and I accept some people are offended, that's legitimate, but in a democracy it is not legitimate to intimidate and threaten someone for expressing her views. I made the film to publicise an injustice that is being ignored not only in Holland but throughout the world."

Hirsi Ali reflects the spirit of today's Dutch society with her conviction that 'tolerance' means Muslims in the Netherlands – almost one million in a total population of 16 million – must accept Western values.

"That means people from non-Western countries need to be educated about democratic values which include the freedom of expression," said Hirsi Ali. If people feel she has gone too far with her film they must take her to court and not take the law into their own hands, she said defiantly. "Otherwise the rule of the jungle will prevail," she added.

In 2002, Hirsi Ali left the country and went into hiding in the US for a few weeks following death threats after she accused Islam of being a "backward religion". It was not the first time Hirsi Ali has had to flee persecution. The daughter of a leading Somali opposition leader, she was forced into exile when she was just 10 and was brought up in Kenya.

Even as a child, Hirsi Ali said she had trouble in submitting her will to Allah and her irritation at the lack of freedom imposed on her by her religion became stronger as the years past and she became integrated into Dutch society (she sought refuge in Holland in 1991 to avoid an arranged marriage). "I wanted to be part of Dutch society, to be financially independent, take off my headscarf and drink alcohol." She finally gave up her faith two years ago.

'Submission' is written and narrated in English by Hirsi Ali. The 11-minute film takes the form of four monologues by women praying to Allah: one has been whipped for having an illicit love affair; another faces an arranged marriage to a man she finds sexually repulsive, a third was beaten by her husband and the last is pregnant after being raped by her uncle. Their injuries are clearly visible through their transparent chador.

Hirsi Ali claims more than 60 percent of those fleeing domestic violence in Dutch women’s shelters are Muslim. But Muslim organisations say 'Submission' contributes nothing towards a solution.

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Belmont Club

Dark Networks

Vladis Krebs has a case study page examining how mapping social networks and understanding their properties can be used to take down of terrorist networks. Network analysis was used to take down Saddam Hussein. The Washington Post has some of the details.

The Army general whose forces captured Saddam Hussein said yesterday that he realized as far back as July that the key lay in figuring out the former Iraqi president's clan and family support structures in and around Hussein's home city of Tikrit.

Following a strategy similar to that pioneered by New York City police in the 1990s, who cracked down on "squeegee men" only to discover they knew about far more serious criminals, Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno said his analysts and commanders spent the summer building "link diagrams," graphics showing everyone related to Hussein by blood or tribe.

While U.S. forces up to then had been preoccupied with finding "high value targets" from the Bush administration's list of the top 55 most-wanted Iraqis, Odierno said those family diagrams led his forces to lower-level, but nonetheless highly trusted, relatives and clan members harboring Hussein and helping him move around the countryside.

And the rest as they say, is history. John Robb took at look at the September 11 network and analyzed its characteristics. The Mohammed Atta network had evolved under Darwinian pressure until it reached the form best suited for its purpose: to conduct strategic attacks against the United States of America. Robb concludes that a cell of 70 persons will answer to the purpose, yet be sparse enough to allow its members to remain in relative isolation. For example, no one member of Atta's cell knew more than five others. Moreover, the average distance between any two members was more than four persons. Crucially, but not surprisingly, this disconnected network of plotters maintained coherence by relying on a support infrastructure -- probably communications posts, safe houses, couriers -- to keep themselves from unraveling. Because security comes at a price in performance and flexibility, Robb arrives at an astounding conjecture: you can have small, operationally secure terrorist groups, but you can't have large, operationally secure cells without a state sponsor.

Distributed, dynamic terrorist networks cannot scale like hierarchical networks. The same network design that makes them resiliant against attack puts absolute limits on their size. If so, what are those limits?

A good starting point is to look at limits to group size within peaceful online communities on which we have extensive data -- terrorist networks are essentially geographically dispersed online communities. Chris Allen does a good job analyzing optimal group size with his critique of the Dunbar number.

His analysis (replete with examples) shows that there is a gradual fall-off in effectiveness at 80 members, with an absolute fall-off at 150 members. The initial fall-off occurs, according to Chris, due to an increasing amount of effort spent on "grooming" the group to maintain cohesion. The absolute fall-off at 150 members occurs when grooming fails to stem dissatisfaction and dissension, which causes the group to cleave apart into smaller subgroups (that may remain affiliated).

Al Qaeda may have been able to grow much larger than this when it ran physical training camps in Afghanistan. Physical proximity allowed al Qaeda to operate as a hierarchy along military lines, complete with middle management (or at least a mix of a hierarchy in Afghanistan and a distributed network outside of Afghanistan). Once those camps were broken apart, the factors listed above were likely to have caused the fragmentation we see today (lots of references to this in the news).

His last paragraph is crucial to understanding why the defeat of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the toppling of Saddam Hussein may have cripped global terrorism so badly. Without the infrastrastructure of a state sponsor, terrorism is limited to cells of about 100 members in size in order to maintain security. In the context of the current campaign in Iraq, the strategic importance of places like Falluja or "holy places" is that their enclave nature allows terrorists to grow out their networks to a larger and more potent size. Without those sanctuaries, they would be small, clandestine hunted bands. The argument that dismantling terrorist enclaves makes "America less safe than it should be in a dangerous world" inverts the logic. It is allowing the growth of terrorist enclaves that puts everyone at risk in an otherwise safe world.

another interesting post on the Belmont Club
My Way News:

"CHICAGO (AP) - Beyond the tired cliches and sperm-and-egg basics taught in grade school science class, researchers are discovering that men and women are even more different than anyone realized.

It turns out that major illnesses like heart disease and lung cancer are influenced by gender and that perhaps treatments for women ought to be slightly different from the approach used for men.

These discoveries are part of a quiet but revolutionary change infiltrating U.S. medicine as a growing number of scientists realize there's more to women's health than just the anatomy that makes them female, and that the same diseases often affect men and women in different ways.

'Women are different than men, not only psychologically (but) physiologically, and I think we need to understand those differences,' says Dr. Catherine DeAngelis, editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association."

Saturday, September 25, 2004

My Way News- Kerry Faults Bush for Pursuing Saddam:

"Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry faulted President Bush on Friday for pursuing Saddam Hussein instead of Sept. 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden, a part of a Bush strategy he contended had made defeating terrorism more difficult.

'The invasion of Iraq was a profound diversion from the battle against our greatest enemy, al-Qaida,' Kerry said in a speech at Temple University. 'There's just no question about it. The president's misjudgment, miscalculation and mismanagement of the war in Iraq all make the war on terror harder to win.'

Kerry, in offering a detailed strategy to contain terrorism and to draw a sharp distinction between his and the president's views on national security, added, 'Iraq is now what it was not before the war, a haven for terrorists.'

While campaigning Friday in Lafayette, La., Vice President Dick Cheney told supporters, 'John Kerry is trying to tear down and trash all the good that has been accomplished.'

(AP) Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass, looks up a fire pole during a campaign...
Full Image
A day earlier, Kerry told The Columbus Dispatch that the president's actions in Iraq and elsewhere show Bush masquerading as a mainstream conservative while pursuing extremist policies.

'I don't view these people as conservatives,' Kerry said. 'I actually view them as extreme, and I think their policies have been extreme, and that extends all the way to Iraq, where this president, in my judgment, diverted the real war on terror - which was Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida - and almost obsessively moved to deal with Iraq in a way that weakened our nation, overextended our armed forces, cost us $200 billion and created a breach in our oldest alliances.'"

Friday, September 24, 2004

Heinz Kerry helps Democrats raise $1M at Phoenix event - 2004-09-23 - The Business Journal of Phoenix - Heinz Kerry helps Democrats raise $1M at Phoenix event:

"Heinz Kerry criticized the Bush administration on tax cuts, Iraq and the war on terrorism at the event, which was held at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa.

In regard to the hunt for terror leader Osama Bin Laden, Heinz Kerry said she could see the al-Qaida chief being caught before the November election.

'I wouldn't be surprised if he appeared in the next month,' said Heinz Kerry, alluding to a possible capture by United States and allied forces before election day.

The spouse of Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry also hit President Bush on Iraq, saying it should not be equated with anti-terrorism efforts and that the current administration chose to create a 'hotbed for terrorism' in Iraq when dictator Saddam Hussein did not pose an immediate threat. Heinz Kerry also said she agrees with her husband that a military draft may be reinstated under Bush."
DRUDGE REPORT FLASH 2004 "EUROPEAN UNION COULD 'SPLIT' OVER CONSTITUTION:

THE EUROPEAN Union could be destroyed by divisions over plans for a new constitution, the world's most influential business journal declared today.

In a warning to Europe's leaders, The Economist said it was 'probable' the EU would split into rival camps if one or more countries votes against the constitution.

But it argued that such a collapse would actually be a good thing with Britain and other countries able to choose how much - or how little - they wanted to be involved.

'These referendums could throw the EU into the sort of crisis that puts the integration process into reverse or even causes the EU to split,' warned the magazine.

'The EU may indeed split. But a split need not be a dis-aster. It could lead to a multi-layered EU in which different countries adopt different levels of political integration and experiment with different economic models.'

However, the magazine added that there was also the potential for a 'darker' out-come. 'A split could cause Europe once again to divide into rival power blocks. 'That could threaten what most agree is the Union's central achievement - peace in Europe.'"

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Guardian Unlimited | World Latest | Kerry: Allawi's Take on Iraq Unrealistic:

"Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry said Thursday that Iraq's Ayad Allawi was sent before Congress to put the ``best face'' on Bush administration policy.

Shortly after Allawi, the interim government's prime minister, gave a rosy portrayal of progress toward peace in Iraq, Kerry said the assessment contradicted reality on the ground.

``The prime minister and the president are here obviously to put their best face on the policy, but the fact is that the CIA estimates, the reporting, the ground operations and the troops all tell a different story,'' Kerry said.

Allawi told a joint meeting of Congress that democratic elections will take place in Iraq in January as scheduled, but Kerry said that was unrealistic.

``The United States and the Iraqis have retreated from whole areas of Iraq,'' Kerry told reporters outside a Columbus firehouse. ``There are no-go zones in Iraq today. You can't hold an election in a no-go zone.''

Kerry's remarks come one day after he told The Associated Press that President Bush's statement that a ``handful'' of people are willing to kill to stop progress in Iraq was a blunder that showed he was avoiding reality."
Public schools no place for teachers' kids - The Washington Times::

More than 25 percent of public school teachers in Washington and Baltimore send their children to private schools, a new study reports.
Nationwide, public school teachers are almost twice as likely as other parents to choose private schools for their own children, the study by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found. More than 1 in 5 public school teachers said their children attend private schools.
In Washington (28 percent), Baltimore (35 percent) and 16 other major cities, the figure is more than 1 in 4. In some cities, nearly half of the children of public school teachers have abandoned public schools.
In Philadelphia, 44 percent of the teachers put their children in private schools; in Cincinnati, 41 percent; Chicago, 39 percent; "

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

nbc4i.com - News - Decorated Soldier Reportedly Attacked At Concert:

"Barton Cannot Return To Iraq Due To Injuries
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- A local soldier back from the war in Iraq said he was beaten at an area concert because of what was printed on his T-shirt, NBC 4's Nancy Burton reported.


Foster Barton, 19, of Grove City, received a Purple Heart for his military service in Iraq. He almost lost his leg last month after a Humvee he was riding in ran over a landmine.

Barton said he was injured again Friday night in a crowded parking lot as he was leaving the Toby Keith concert at Germain Amphitheatre. The solider was injured so badly that he can't go back to Iraq as scheduled.

'I don't remember getting hit at all, really,' said Barton, a member of the 1st Calvary Division. 'He hit me in the back of the head. I fell and hit the ground. I was knocked unconscious and he continued to punch and kick me on the ground.'"

Monday, September 20, 2004

Quick exit from Iraq is likely:

"Whether Bush or Kerry is elected, the president or president-elect will have to sit down immediately with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The military will tell the election winner there are insufficient U.S. forces in Iraq to wage effective war. That leaves three realistic options: Increase overall U.S. military strength to reinforce Iraq, stay with the present strength to continue the war, or get out.

Well-placed sources in the administration are confident Bush's decision will be to get out. They believe that is the recommendation of his national security team and would be the recommendation of second-term officials. An informed guess might have Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state, Paul Wolfowitz as defense secretary and Stephen Hadley as national security adviser. According to my sources, all would opt for a withdrawal.

Getting out now would not end expensive U.S. reconstruction of Iraq, and certainly would not stop the fighting. Without U.S. troops, the civil war cited as the worst-case outcome by the recently leaked National Intelligence Estimate would be a reality. It would then take a resolute president to stand aside while Iraqis battle it out.

The end product would be an imperfect Iraq, probably dominated by Shia Muslims seeking revenge over long oppression by the Sunni-controlled Baathist Party. The Kurds would remain in their current semi-autonomous state. Iraq would not be divided, reassuring neighboring countries -- especially Turkey -- that are apprehensive about ethnically divided nations.

This messy new Iraq is viewed by Bush officials as vastly preferable to Saddam's police state, threatening its neighbors and the West. In private, some officials believe the mistake was not in toppling Saddam but in staying there for nation building after the dictator was deposed.

Abandonment of building democracy in Iraq would be a terrible blow to the neoconservative dream. The Bush administration's drift from that idea is shown in restrained reaction to Russian President Vladimir Putin's seizure of power. While Bush officials would prefer a democratic Russia, they appreciate that Putin is determined to prevent his country from disintegrating as the Soviet Union did before it. A fragmented Russia, prey to terrorists, is not in the U.S. interest."

Sunday, September 19, 2004

The New York Times > International > Middle East > For Hussein, a Spartan Life at His Former Palace: "In prison, Mr. Hussein has asked for some vestiges of the pleasures he enjoyed when he moved between dozens of palaces. 'This was a man whose regime used a shredder to turn human bodies into ground beef,' said Mr. Amin, the 46-year-old rights minister, who spent years abroad as an exile chronicling the abuses of Mr. Hussein's government and petitioning foreign governments and rights organizations to shun the Iraqi government.

'And now he sits there in his cell and asks for muffins and cookies and cigars,' he said.

Mr. Hussein and his top lieutenants are being held at Camp Cropper, a heavily fortified compound that crouches behind high walls topped with rolls of razor wire, beneath sandbagged watchtowers manned by soldiers with machine guns. The camp lies within a vast American complex known as Camp Victory, which includes a network of palaces as well as lakes that Mr. Hussein filled with fish. Planes using Baghdad International Airport pass low over the prison, 10 miles from the center of Baghdad.

For the trials, courtrooms are being readied in one of the vast, neo-imperialist buildings inside the former Republican Palace compound in central Baghdad that make up the Green Zone, the headquarters for the Allawi government and 2,500 American military and civilian officials. The five-judge panels that will preside at the juryless trials will have the power to impose death sentences on Mr. Hussein and his associates, some of whom wept when they were told at the July hearing that they faced possible execution. For Mr. Hussein and his victims, a trial in the new court building, which The New York Times was asked not to identify for security reasons, will have a special irony. Mr. Hussein, who favored an architectural style emphasizing huge sandstone columns and portals, will face a reckoning in one of the buildings he erected to glorify his rule. In the dock, he will be a short walk away from the Republican Palace beside the Tigris River, once his main seat of power.

The Allawi government believes that the Iraqis, subjected to decades of terror, will begin to recover only when they see the men responsible brought to account. 'Without justice, I don't see any possibility of healing the wounds in this society,' Mr. Amin, the human rights minister, said. 'These people turned Iraq into a 'massgrave-istan' by the scale of their crimes.'"
IHT: Japan to list China as major threat:

"TOKYO Reflecting growing wariness between the two giants of Asia, an advisory panel to Japan's prime minister will recommend that China be viewed as a potential military threat for the first time, a newspaper here reported Wednesday. Since the end of World War II, Japan has regarded its main military threat as coming from the north, Russia, and from the west, North Korea. But now, according to the report in Japan's leading business newspaper, Nihon Keizai, the 10-member advisory panel to Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi will recommend that China, to the southwest, be regarded as a potential military threat.
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Although China has about 10 times Japan's population, its traditional dominance of Asia was in remission in the 20th century, hobbled by civil war and Japanese rule, then by half a century of communist economic policies."

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Channelnewsasia.com

Syria tested chemical arms on civilians in Darfur region: press
:

"Syria tested chemical weapons on civilians in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region in June and killed dozens of people.

The German daily Die Welt newspaper, in an advance release of its Wednesday edition, citing unnamed western security sources, said that injuries apparently caused by chemical arms were found on the bodies of the victims.

It said that witnesses quoted by an Arabic news website called ILAF in an article on August 2 had said that several frozen bodies arrived suddenly at the 'Al-Fashr Hospital' in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in June.

Die Welt said the sources had indicated that the weapons tests were undertaken following a military exercise between Syria and Sudan.

Syrian officers were reported to have met in May with Sudanese military leaders in a Khartoum suburb to discuss the possibility of improving cooperation between their armies"

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

CNN.com- Gallery
Here are photos taken in a Spanish train station on 3-11.
Yahoo! News - AP: Israel Sends Experts to Help Russia

Israel has sent intelligence officers to Russia and is hosting at least two senior Russian officers in Tel Aviv — quietly moving to upgrade anti-terror cooperation with Moscow in the wake of a series of devastating attacks in Russia, officials told The Associated Press.

The Israeli moves come as President Vladimir Putin (news - web sites) revamps Russia’s anti-terrorism capabilities after a school seizure by separatists in southern Russia ended with the deaths of at least 330 hostages, including many children.

A team of Israeli intelligence officers arrived discreetly in Russia shortly after the hostage standoff to discuss a program to share Israeli expertise, said three officials close to the mission.

Because of the political sensitivities surrounding the contacts, the officials asked that their names and nationalities not be revealed.

Wednesday, September 08, 2004

My Way News: Thousands of Iraqis Estimated Killed:

"BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - At Sheik Omar Clinic, a big book records 10,363 violent deaths in Baghdad and nearby towns since the war began last year - deaths caused by car bombs, clashes between Iraqis and coalition forces, mortar attacks, revenge killings and robberies.

While America mourns the deaths of more than 1,000 of its sons and daughters in the Iraq campaign, the U.S. toll is far less than the Iraqi. No official, reliable figures exist for the whole country, but private estimates range from 10,000 to 30,000 killed since the United States invaded in March 2003.

The violent deaths recorded in the leather ledger at the Sheik Omar Clinic come from only one of Iraq's 18 provinces and do not cover people who died in such flashpoint cities as Najaf, Karbala, Fallujah, Tikrit and Ramadi.

Iraqi dead include not only insurgents, police and soldiers but also civilian men, women and children caught in crossfire, blown apart by explosives or shot by mistake - both by fellow Iraqis or by American soldiers and their multinational allies. And they include the victims of crime that has surged in the instability that followed the collapse of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Adding to the complexity of sorting out what has happened, the records that have been kept don't always say whether a death came in a combat situation or from some other cause.

The prospect of violent death is the latest burden for a people who suffered through decades of war and a brutal dictatorship under Saddam, whose regime has been accused by human rights groups of killing as many as 300,000 Iraqis it deemed enemies.

'During Saddam's days killings were silent. Now the killing is done openly and loudly,' said Ghali Karim Hassan, who lost his 31-year-old son, Ghaidan, last April."
Mirror.co.uk - PUTIN SLAMS CALL FOR CHECHEN TALKS:

"OUTRAGED Russian President Vladimir Putin has slammed Western critics who called on the Russian premier to hold talks with Chechen separatists in the wake of the Beslan hostage siege.

He told reporters: 'Why don't you meet Osama bin Laden, invite him to Brussels or to the White House and engage in talks, ask him what he wants and give it to him so he leaves you in peace?

'You find it possible to set some limitations in your dealings with these bastards, so why should we talk to people who are child-killers?'"

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Yahoo! News - Russia School Seizure Was Long Planned

MOSCOW - Militants appear to have planned their seizure of a Russian school carefully, starting months earlier and sneaking weapons into the building in advance. Still, some of the raiders may not have known what they were getting into and were appalled to find they were holding children hostage.



Some of the objecting militants were killed by their own comrades, the lawyer for a captured militant told The Associated Press.

Pieces of the picture of how militants took more than 1,000 hostages at the school in Beslan were falling into place, mainly from news reports citing unspecified but presumably official sources. Officials are saying little publicly — Federal Security Service spokesman Sergei Ignatchenko declined to immediately respond to questions from The Associated Press on Monday.

But the reports portray the raid as a fastidiously prepared operation — in which militants used renovation work as a cover to plant arms and explosives in the school — almost literally under authorities' noses.

Friday, September 03, 2004

Chrenkoff: "Najaf realpolitik
One thing no one can deny the Grand Ayatollah Sistani - he's a smart man. Sistani returns from his surgery in Great Britain just at a time when al Sadr's Mahdi army is facing annihilation in his home town of Najaf, steps in to broker a peace deal between al Sadr and Iraqi government, and in a space of a few hours he demonstrates to everyone who's really in charge in the south. You might recall that Sistani left for London the day after al Sadr restarted his Shia uprising.

A mere coincidence or a clever plan? The upstart al Sadr's radical and largely uncontrollable forces have been significantly degraded over three weeks of fighting, with the dirty work being all done by the 'infidel' Americans; al Sadr himself has been humbled and put in place; the provisional Iraqi government is grateful for this respectable way out; and the Shias are ecstatic that peace has finally returned to Najaf.

Surely the Shia establishment in Iraq could not be that Machiavellian?

Update: The question whether Sistani purposefully bloodied al Sadr's nose with the American fist becomes even more interesting when you throw Iran into the equation.

Al Sadr likes to play the chauvinistic Arab card, being an Iraqi-born Shia as opposed to Sistani, who like many other prominent Shia clerics in Iraq actually hails from Iran, yet it's al Sadr who has recently visited Iran, and seems to enjoy the support of the mullahs form Tehran (more here) - despite their denials.

Sistani, for his foreign origins, is said to represent a different strain of Shiism: 'The Persian-born ayatollah represents the conservative and mainstream of Iraqi Shias - rejecting the model of Iranian-style theocracy in favour of a separation between religion and politics.' (more on Sistani's political views here).

There's certainly no love lost between the two: 'In April 2003, just after the fall of the regime, club-wielding members of the Sadr Group besieged Ayatollah Sistani's house, demanding that he leave the country and that he recognise Moqtada Sadr as a marja.' Amir Taheri writes that Sistani in turn, has been starting to cause troubles inside Iran:

'By the end of June [2004] Ayatollah Sistani had named representatives in 67 Iranian towns and cities, including the capital Tehran. At the same time a stream of visitors from Iran, including many clerics, are received by the ayatollah in his mud-brick home in downtown Najaf each day. Ayatollah Sistani's Persian-language Web site is attracting more than three millions visitors each month from Iran.

' 'Today, Sistani is probably the most influential Shi'ite [religious] leader in the world,' says Sabah Zangeneh, who was Tehran's ambassador to the Organization of Islamic Conference until last year. 'Many Iranians see in him a revival of the mainstream Shi'ite theology.'

'Many clerics agree. 'It is now clear to most Shi'ites that Khomeinism is a political ideology and a deviation [from the faith],' says Ayatollah Mahmoud Qomi-Tabatabi. 'Those who represent authentic Shi'ism cannot speak out in Iran. This is why the Najaf clergy, especially Sistani, are emerging as a pole of attraction for Iranians'.'

It's starting to look like Sistani might have used the American fist not only to bloody al Sadr's nose, but also - indirectly - touch up the Iranian hard-line mullahs. "

This is from Chrenkoff's blog. Sistani has the potential not only to bring moderates to power in Iraq, but also in Iran, where people are increasingly unhappy with the hard line ayatollah's government. Sistani outranks the leaders of Iran, and may be a figure that moderates in Iran can rally around. Let's hope there's political change in Iran before the get nuclear weapons.
Chrenkoff: "Al Sadr likes to play the chauvinistic Arab card, being an Iraqi-born Shia as opposed to Sistani, who like many other prominent Shia clerics in Iraq actually hails from Iran, yet it's al Sadr who has recently visited Iran, and seems to enjoy the support of the mullahs form Tehran (more here) - despite their denials.

Sistani, for his foreign origins, is said to represent a different strain of Shiism: 'The Persian-born ayatollah represents the conservative and mainstream of Iraqi Shias - rejecting the model of Iranian-style theocracy in favour of a separation between religion and politics.' (more on Sistani's political views here).

There's certainly no love lost between the two: 'In April 2003, just after the fall of the regime, club-wielding members of the Sadr Group besieged Ayatollah Sistani's house, demanding that he leave the country and that he recognise Moqtada Sadr as a marja.' Amir Taheri writes that Sistani in turn, has been starting to cause troubles inside Iran:

'By the end of June [2004] Ayatollah Sistani had named representatives in 67 Iranian towns and cities, including the capital Tehran. At the same time a stream of visitors from Iran, including many clerics, are received by the ayatollah in his mud-brick home in downtown Najaf each day. Ayatollah Sistani's Persian-language Web site is attracting more than three millions visitors each month from Iran.

' 'Today, Sistani is probably the most influential Shi'ite [religious] leader in the world,' says Sabah Zangeneh, who was Tehran's ambassador to the Organization of Islamic Conference until last year. 'Many Iranians see in him a revival of the mainstream Shi'ite theology.'

'Many clerics agree. 'It is now clear to most Shi'ites that Khomeinism is a political ideology and a deviation [from the faith],' says Ayatollah Mahmoud Qomi-Tabatabi. 'Those who represent authentic Shi'ism cannot speak out in Iran. This is why the Najaf clergy, especially Sistani, are emerging as a pole of attraction for Iranians'.'

It's starting to look like Sistani might have used the American fist not only to bloody al Sadr's nose, but also - indirectly - touch up the Iranian hard-line mullahs."

This is from Chrenkoff's blog. This is the angle the press never talks about. Sistani, besides being a moderate Shia, is the highest ranking Shia clergyman, even higher than the Ayatollahs of Iran. That means that he has the ability not only to shape events in Iraq, but also in Iran, where people are more and more dissatisfied with the hard line regime there. Let's hope there's political change in Iran before they get nuclear weapons.

Thursday, September 02, 2004

WorldTribune.com Kerry and EU would offer Iran a nuclear deal

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COM
Thursday, September 3, 2004

WASHINGTON – Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry has signaled a departure in U.S. policy regarding Iran's nuclear weapons program.

Kerry aides said that, if elected, his administration, in cooperation with the European Union, would offer a deal to Iran that would allow the Islamic republic to retain its nuclear facilities. In return, Teheran would have to pledge to return all imported nuclear fuel acquired for its reactor at Bushehr.

The Kerry position has long been recommended by State Department circles. Current and former U.S. diplomats have warned against a U.S. confrontation with Iran, instead proposing a so-called "grand bargain" with Teheran that would include a removal of sanctions imposed on Iran.