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This article originally appears in The American Thinker

The traditional folk dance of Lebanon is called the Dabke, or literally “stomping of the feet” – a descriptive that refers to the communal nature of the dance and the fact that it is most often performed at joyous occasions like weddings. As in other traditional folk dances like the Jewish Hora, it’s purpose is to unite the celebrants with feelings of nationhood while drawing on the emotional power of the community and family.

For the Lebanese people, who have endured 3 months of being on the edge of civil war, teetering over the abyss while the politicians have exchanged bitter and personal denunciations of each other, recent events have given them hope that soon, the political impasse that has led to strife and bloodshed will be broken and they can dance the dabke with abandon.

Yesterday, Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Berri of the opposition Amal Party sat down with Said Hariri, leader of the majority March 14th coalition for talks aimed at resolving the crisis. What made the meeting so significant was that it was the first time in months that the two sides sat in the same room, face to face, to discuss a way to cut the Gordian knot of sectarian differences that threatens to plunge the country into the unimaginable tragedy of civil conflict.

In a nutshell, Hezb’allah has been in the streets since December 1 calling on the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora to resign or to give the Shia parties enough ministries in the cabinet so that they would have veto power over measures they dislike. And the measure they most definitely want to see vetoed is the establishment of an international tribunal, authorized by the United Nations and approved by the Security Council, to try the assassins of the former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri.

Quite simply, Siniora refuses these demands on the very practical grounds that his coalition received roughly 2/3 of the vote in the last Parliamentary elections and giving the opposition veto power over the decisions of the majority would be tantamount to nullifying the election. Hezb’allah’s real game is to act as a cat’s paw for Syria, who desperately wants to stop the tribunal from sitting since it is clear from the 2 year investigation by UN special prosecutors that responsibility for Hariri’s death extends to the highest levels of the Syrian government.

The very highest levels.

The prospect of a tribunal has President Bashar Assad of Syria so spooked that during a phone conversation with his friend and partner President Ahmadinejad, he lost his temper when the Iranian came out in favor of seating the international body. The Kuwaiti newspaper Al-Siyassah reported on Wednesday that “Assad became enraged and launched into an angry tirade, cursing the Iranians at the end of the conversation.”

Why would Ahmadinejad break with his ally over an issue that Assad feels so strongly about? The fact is, the Iranian president has his own agenda with Hezb’allah and Lebanon. Right now, it will be in Iran’s best interests to help get the best deal possible for Hezb’allah and end the crisis that is threatening the Lebanese economy as well as political stability in the country. Neither Ahmadinejad nor Hezb’allah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah desires a civil war. And if they can get a much larger presence in the cabinet without having to bother with messy democratic details like elections, it is time to pick up their winnings and leave the table a winner.

Hence, the meeting between Berri and Hariri and the start of the endgame for the two sides. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has been extremely active in trying to work out a compromise solution that will get Hezb’allah off the streets of Beirut – where they’ve been since December 1, strangling the economy and causing jitters among foreign investors who are waiting to pour more than $7 billion into rebuilding the country so devastated by the war with Israel last summer. Abdullah’s close relationship with Siniora as well as being Lebanon’s number one financier gives him a unique position that enables him to work with both sides while acting as a go between for Siniora to President Assad.

Up to this point, Assad has absolutely refused any compromise that includes the sitting of the tribunal. But he is alone now, having been abandoned in that position by his erstwhile ally Ahmadinejad whose recent visit to Saudi Arabia underscores Assad’s growing isolation. It is not known whether Ahmadinejad gave the go ahead for the tribunal at that meeting but his subsequent phone conversation with Assad would seem to indicate he has at least dropped his objections to it. This could mean a relatively quick end to the crisis if some face saving deal on the tribunal can be worked out that would satisfy Nasrallah. In the past, some ideas for such a deal included a substantial representation of Lebanese judges on the tribunal or limiting the scope of its mandate.

In the meantime, the diplomatic dance continues behind the scenes with King Abdullah and the Arab League in the lead. It should be noted that Abdullah is acting with the full blessing and support of the United States who have quietly urged the Saudis to take a more active and forceful role in combating the influence of Iran in the region. The Saudi King hasn’t shied away from this task, becoming more active in brokering peace in the Palestinian conflict between Hamas and Fatah while also taking a more pro-active role in Iraq with the Sunnis. You can say what you wish about Saudi support for ultra-conservative Wahabbists in the region but the fact is, the King is performing very well in this expanded role.

And Washington has not been idle either. When George Bush took office, aid to Lebanon amounted to around $35 million. This year, in keeping with our pledges made at the recently concluded Paris Roundtable on aid to Lebanon, the President is asking Congress for $770 million which would make Lebanon the third largest recipient of US aid per capita. This is an amount that Iran can’t come close to matching. Clearly, Lebanon has become one of the most important Middle Eastern countries to American interests.

As if to underscore that point, the canny old Druze warlord Walid Jumblatt paid a visit to Washington a few weeks ago and sat down with President Bush for an extraordinary 35 minute, face to face meeting. In contrast, the President met with Prime Minister Ohlmert for 45 minutes on his recent trip to Washington. There is little doubt the passionate Jumblatt impressed on Mr. Bush the continued support of the United States for the government of Prime Minister Siniora was vital to maintaining Lebanon’s independence.

But the United States is severely limited in exactly what kind of diplomatic help we can give Beirut given Siniora’s sensitivity to the opposition charges of being in the pocket of France and the US. Thus, our quiet and effective support of King Abdullah, backing up his efforts to resolve the crisis while working behind the scenes with other regional actors to bolster support for Siniora’s government.

While the meeting between Berri and Hariri didn’t solve anything, there is no doubt that there has been positive movement. There appears to be agreement that the March 14th forces will be granted 19 ministers in an expanded 30 member cabinet with the Hezb’allah led opposition allowed 10 posts. The sticking point involves the issue of who will name the “11th” minister? That minister is supposed to be “neutral” – a near impossibility in a country so divided. Hezb’allah says that they will name the “neutral” minister. But just recently, Abdullah got Ahmadinejad to sign off on a plan that would have the Saudi King naming that minister. This sits well with his good friend Prime Minister Siniora but didn’t go down well with the opposition.

The important thing, as Hariri points out, is that both sides recognize the fact that they need each other to rule. “”We can only accept the no victor, no vanquished formula,” the son of the martyred ex-Prime Minister said yesterday. Can Nasrallah find the statesmanship to agree? He has gone out on a very long limb by proclaiming early in the crisis that his people would be in the streets until the government fell. He is finding it very hard to find his way back from that position. It appears, however, that his partner Mr. Berri is willing to act as a bridge between the opposition and the majority. Given the determination of the two men to come to an agreement, this bodes well for the near future.

Coaxing Hezb’allah back into the government will not solve Lebanon’s problems. A new electoral law must be drafted and Presidential elections held. There’s the issue of the small spit of land called Shebaa Farms currently occupied by Israel but claimed by Lebanon. And the issues raised by the sitting of the Hariri tribunal will almost certainly affect the effort to normalize relations with its powerful and intrusive neighbor Syria. There is war reconstruction to think of, economic reforms promised to the Paris Roundtable to enact, and the stickiest problem of all – how to get the guns away from Hezb’allah without starting a civil war.

Daunting tasks all. But first things first. And before the people can celebrate, the forces that threaten to tear the country apart must be harnessed and turned towards building a future where all Lebanese regardless of sect can enjoy independence and freedom.

By: Rick Moran at 8:50 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)

The Glittering Eye linked with Eye on the Watcher’s Council

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French President Jacques Chirac shrugs off Iranian nukes in response to a question at a press conference held yesterday.

The last time I did a post on French President Jacques Chirac readers walked away with the impression that I hate the French people and treat them unfairly when I make fun of some of their national peculiarities.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Like P.J. O’Rourke, I have a soft spot in my heart for the French:

The French are a smallish, monkey-looking bunch and not dressed any better, on average, than the citizens of Baltimore. True, you can sit outside in Paris and drink little cups of coffee, but why this is more stylish than sitting inside and drinking large glasses of whiskey I don’t know.
O’Rourke, P.J. (1989), Holidays in hell. London (Picador), 199

Perhaps if the French drank more whiskey and tried harder not to undermine the United States on Iran, we would quit calling them “cheese eating surrender monkeys” and simply refer to them as weasels:

President Jacques Chirac said this week that if Iran had one or two nuclear weapons, it would not pose a big danger, and that if Iran were to launch a nuclear weapon against a country like Israel, it would lead to the immediate destruction of Tehran.

On Tuesday, Mr. Chirac summoned the same journalists back to Élysée Palace to retract many of his remarks.

Mr. Chirac said repeatedly during the second interview that he had spoken casually and quickly the day before because he believed he had been talking about Iran off the record.

“I should rather have paid attention to what I was saying and understood that perhaps I was on the record,” he said.

I shouldn’t have insulted weasels so.

To say that the French are being unhelpful with regards to Iran wouldn’t be true. They have been of enormous help to the Iranians. The only possible way to convince the Iranian government to cease enriching uranium or, at the very least, allow for intrusive, on site inspections of the enrichment process is for the Big Three in Europe – Great Britain, France, and Germany – to stand shoulder to shoulder and speak with one voice along with the United States on the question of Iranian nukes.

The United States worked extremely hard last summer and early fall trying to reach a consensus with our European partners on Iran. We worked even harder to bring the Russians and Chinese on board for even the limited, watered down sanctions that were eventually passed by the Security Council. All the major players in the game seemed to agree on at least one thing; no nuclear weapons for Iran under any circumstances at any time.

This united stance actually seemed to be having a limited effect in Iran as prices for basics went through the roof because speculators were worried that even harsher sanctions would be in the offing thanks to the unity of the major powers. Ahmadinejad lost some prestige and perhaps even some support as a result of the sanctions regime being passed by a united Europe and America.

And now Mr. Chirac has detonated a bomb right in the middle of this coalition. It doesn’t matter that he tried to take it back. What matters is that the Iranians know that when push comes to shove at the United Nations, the chances are good that France will abandon consensus and once again pursue its own agenda. Not out of any over riding national interest but because they feel it their duty to oppose the Americans while pretending that France still has influence in the world beyond their former colonies and certain segments of what we used to call the “Non-Aligned Nations.” By giving a wink and a nod to Tehran on their nuclear program, Chirac has almost single handedly guaranteed that someone – either the Israelis or us – will have to go in and take out the Iranian nuke program before it can build a bomb.

Granted the chances of the Iranians giving in to the Security Council demands were remote even before Chirac’s casually stupid remarks. But Chirac’s comments guarantee that those chances now sink to near zero.

Chirac will be gone in a couple of months. It will be interesting to see if his successor continues the game of “now you see our support and now you don’t” that Chirac has played for years on a variety of issues. Just about anything would be an improvement over this insufferably arrogant man.

By: Rick Moran at 11:25 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (3)


It appears that Israeli Prime Minister Olmert may be in some legal hot water. The Jerusalem Post is reporting that the State Attorney will announce that a criminal investigation will proceed when the PM returns from a far east trip:

The state has decided to open a criminal investigation against Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on his alleged role intervention in the government tender for the sale of the controlling interest in Bank Leumi stock, Channel 10 reported Tuesday evening.

Due to a conflict of interest, Attorney General Menahem Mazuz, who would ordinarily be the official to declare a criminal investigation involving a head of state, has removed himself from the Olmert affair. According to Channel 10, Mazuz’s sister may have had a role in the Bank Leumi affair.

Instead, State Attorney Eran Shendar will announce the criminal investigation after Olmert returns from his visit to China.

According to Channel 10, the extent of the investigation has not yet been announced. While police will likely concentrate on the alleged Bank Leumi improprieties, it is possible that other scandals in which Olmert is suspected of taking a role will also be addressed, such as a number of real estate deals that may have been conducted illegally, including the purchase of Olmert’s home on Rehov Cremieux in Jerusalem.

Olmert is alleged to have intervened in the government tender for the sale of the controlling interest in Bank Leumi stock. And the real estate deals that are under investigation were sweet:

A Jewish-American businessman who has donated money to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert bought a home owned by the Olmert family for 30 percent more than its market value in the mid-1990s, the Haaretz daily reported Wednesday.

The reported deal marked the latest sign of trouble for the Israeli leader, who is already facing criticism for his handling of the war in Lebanon and is being investigated for other another questionable real estate deal.

According to the report, Uri Harkham bought the home in Jerusalem’s Nahlaot neighborhood in 1995 for the inflated price of about $660,000. He sold the house several years later for $430,000 a significant loss, the report said.

Harkham, a California real-estate owner and clothing maker, contributed $25,000 to Olmert’s 1993 campaign for mayor of Jerusalem, according to the paper.

And that’s just one of Olmert’s problems. He may also be in trouble for trying to stack the Income Tax Authority with cronies:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is a suspect in the case that exploded into the headlines today, in which “connected” businessmen are suspected of influencing top officials at the Income Tax Authority, some allegedly through the prime minister’s bureau chief Shula Zaken, to get tax breaks, reports journalist Yoav Yitzhak.

He claims the police have preliminary information but it isn’t clear if and when Olmert will be questioned.

Through his website News First Class, Yitzhak claims that Olmert enabled Zaken and her brothers to influence appointments at the Income Tax Authority, though he knew of her contacts and the businesses of her brothers.

The apex was the appointment of Jacky Matza as tax commissioner, whom the police suspect Olmert appointed at Zaken’s urging.

But Olmert had an interest in the matter, according to the suspicion, because Zaken and her brother Yoram Karashi had been involved in obtaining tax breaks for the prime minister’s personal friends and supporters.

For a guy who showed a curious lethargy in prosecuting a war against Israel’s deadliest enemy, Olmert sure exhibits a lot of energy when it comes to the finer points of political corruption and influence peddling.

In the meantime, the military man most responsible for the Lebanon debacle, IDF Chief of Staff Dan Halutz, has refused to resign and Olmert refuses to fire him. This has caused a crisis in the upper echelons of the IDF:

A senior Israel Defense Forces officer told Haaretz on Monday that many of the army’s senior officers believe the confidence crisis among the top brass is still strong, and that the coming months will test Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Dan Halutz’s ability to lead the army in reforms.

“A large segment of conference participants doubt the ability of the current leadership to lead,” a major general on the General Staff told Haaretz, during the first day of a two-day conference for senior IDF commanding officers.

The conference, located at the Hatzor air force base in southern Israel, was held to discuss the findings of the in-house investigations into the army’s wartime performance.

And given some of the criticisms emanating from this conference, Olmert may have to bite the bullet and fire Halutz due to the performance of the general staff during the war:

The following were mentioned among the lessons of the war: over-reliance on the Israel Air Force as a counter to Hezbollah; late call-up of reservist divisions; inability to solve the threat posed by short-range rockets; poor training and equipping of ground forces, particularly of reservist units; and failures in how decision making was made at the General Staff level.

Sources at the conference told Haaretz that in taking lessons from the war, Halutz is focusing on ways to prepare the IDF for future confrontations. They also stressed that the gathering was not presented as a setting for disagreements, and therefore many of those in attendance chose not to challenge the investigators’ findings and the relatively minor measures taken against individual officers.

It sounds like what’s wrong with the IDF won’t be fixed over night, especially the training of reserves that in recent years has suffered from budgetary concerns and perhaps a false sense that with Egypt and Jordan at peace with the Jewish state, the regular IDF forces would be able to handle most conflict scenarios that would come up. This kind of wake up call was a painful lesson and will almost certainly be addressed by Halutz or whoever is appointed to replace him.

And Olmert? He has chosen a foreign venue to admit his policy of unilateral concessions to Hamas and Hizbullah has been a failure:

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert recently expressed his disappointment with the results of Israel’s two unilateral withdrawals, saying that the violence that broke out in both Lebanon and the Gaza Strip in recent months convinced him that there is no point in any future unilateral moves of this kind.

In an interview with the Chinese news agency Xinhua prior to his departure Monday for a three-day visit to China, the prime minister said that he believes in the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel. In order to achieve this, he added, Israel will have to withdraw from a large part of the territories that it controls today, and “we are ready to do this.”

“A year ago, I believed that we would be able to do this unilaterally,” the prime minister said, referring to a withdrawal from the West Bank. “However, it should be said that our experience in Lebanon and the Gaza Strip is not encouraging. We pulled out of Lebanon unilaterally, and see what happened. We pulled out of the Gaza Strip completely, to the international border, and every day they are firing Qassam rockets at Israelis.”

My reaction to that can be summed up in one utterance:


Here’s a man who has a knack of “trivializing the momentous and complicating the obvious.” (HT: Gettysburg)

It will be interesting to see how long Olmert can survive these scandals and investigations. And it will also be interesting to see if there will be new elections in the next 6 months in Israel that may bring big changes both to the office of the Prime Minister as well as the Knesset.


US AC-130 gunships attacked some fleeing al-Qaeda members along the Somalia-Kenya border wreaking havoc, sowing confusion, and evidently killing several terrorists – including a possible al-Qaeda financier who may have assisted the bombers who destroyed our African embassies in 1998:

A U.S. Air Force AC-130 gunship attacked suspected al-Qaeda members in southern Somalia on Sunday, and U.S. sources said the operation may have hit a senior terrorist figure.

The strike took place near the Kenyan border, according to a senior officer at the Pentagon. Other sources said it was launched at night from the U.S. military facility in neighboring Djibouti. It was based on joint military-CIA intelligence and on information provided by Ethiopian and Kenyan military forces operating in the border area.

Sources said last night that initial reports indicated the attack had been successful, although information was still scanty.

“You had some figures on the move in a relatively unpopulated part of the country,” said one source confirming the attack, who, like several others, would discuss the operation only on the condition of anonymity. “It was a confluence of information and circumstances,” he said. The attack was first reported by CBS News.

This is more like it. First, we had cooperative intelligence sharing from both Ethiopia and Kenya – the two major players in that part of the world and both of whom want nothing to do with al-Qaeda and radical Islam. Secondly, the operation appeared to be well planned and expertly carried out. Third, the bonus to the operation may be the timely deaths of two higher ups in al-Qaeda who have been responsible for aiding the perpetrators of attacks on American interests:

One target of the strike, sources said, was Abu Talha al-Sudani, a Sudanese who is married to a Somali woman and has lived in Somalia since 1993—the year of the attack against U.S. troops that was chronicled in the book and movie “Black Hawk Down.” In a 2001 U.S. court case against Osama bin Laden, Sudani was described by a leading witness as an explosives expert who was close to the al-Qaeda leader.

More recently, Sudani was identified by U.S. intelligence as a close associate of Gouled Hassan Dourad, head of a Mogadishu-based network that operated in support of al-Qaeda in Somalia. Dourad is one of 14 “high-value” prisoners transferred last September from CIA “black sites” to the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence then disclosed that Dourad “worked for the East African al-Qaeda cell led by . . . al-Sudani” and carried out at least one mission for him, related to a plan to bomb the U.S. military base in Djibouti.

And that’s not all. US intelligence has fingered Sudani as the financier for the terrorist attack on our embassies in 1998. And the terrorist who was the beneficiary of that financing may have been killed in the raid as well:

Others have identified Sudani as the financier for Fazul Abdullah Mohammed and Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan, believed responsible for the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. All are among the senior al-Qaeda operatives the Bush administration has charged were sheltered by Somalian Islamic fundamentalists controlling Mogadishu, the country’s capital. They are believed to have fled late last month when Ethiopian troops drove the fundamentalists out of the capital and toward the Kenyan border.

[In an interview early Tuesday, Abdirizak Hassan, chief of staff for Prime Minister Ali Mohamed Gedi, confirmed the strike. Hassan said he heard from American officials that Fazul Abdullah Mohammed had been killed, although U.S. officials said he had not been in their immediate sights. “Among the targets was Fazul,” he said, “and we understand that Fazul is no more.”

Hassan also said Somali officials authorized the strike. “We gave permission for actions that are more than airstrikes,” Hassan said. “Whatever it means to rout these people out, we have given them permission.”]

So to sum up; a multi national effort to destroy fleeing al-Qaeda terrorists, carried out with precision and our military’s usual deadly efficiency, with the permission of the UN approved and backed Somali government, may have sent two major al-Qaeda figures along with several others to hell.

One would think that such an operation could be supported by all Americans who wish to fight terrorism. In fact, I would say that this is a no brainer – even for the left.

But what do I know?

These men are believed responsible for acts of terrorism, and the people who were attacked were believed to be the men in question. Evidently that forms a sound basis for administering (or, at least, attempting to administer) the death penalty, at least by U.S. standards.

While this person represents the loopy left, even “mainstream” liberals are clucking their tongues and wagging their fingers in disapproval:

See, here’s the thing. The US, again, refused to talk directly to the ICU. The ICU, like Hezbollah, wanted, needed, recognition (even more than Hezbollah). A deal could have been made. But it wasn’t. Instead what the US has done is back a foreign invasion in support of a puppet government with no popular support…

If the ICU had taken over Somalia they could have been dealt with as you deal with nations – pressure, sanctions, maybe even bombing runs – plus the carrot of aid and trade relations. As a guerilla movement there is nothing the US can do to them that it has not already done.

The ICU will win in the long run. A lot of people will die in the meantime. Al-Qa’eda will have another haven, and the US will be reviled for putting a bunch of bloodthirsty raping monsters back into power.

All in a day’s work in the Bush administration.

I don’t know whether to fisk this idiocy or simply sit back and laugh at the breathtaking naivete and appalling ignorance.

First of all, we spent the last 6 months urging the Transitional Government to talk with more moderate elements in the Islamic Courts Union:

Frazer, the top U.S. diplomat for Africa, had said late Sunday in Nairobi that Yusuf’s government, which was formed by an international conference in 2004 and has never controlled Mogadishu, needed to bring moderate Islamists into the regime.

“I support reaching out to the … Islamic Courts,” Frazer said. “We see a role in the future of Somalia for all who renounce violence and extremism.”

The message signaled a more conciliatory U.S. stance on the Islamic Courts Movement, which had seized Mogadishu in June from U.S.-backed warlords. Initially U.S. officials based in Kenya had some contact with moderates within the movement, including Sheik Sherif Ahmed, a geography teacher who emerged as their leader.

But Ahmed soon was edged out by hard-liners, led by suspected al-Qaida operative Hassan Dahir Aweys, who laid claims to territory in neighboring countries and called for jihad against Ethiopia. Frazer made a series of statements starting in November claiming that al-Qaida terrorists had overrun the courts movement.

U.S. officials think that the militants are sheltering three terrorists who masterminded the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The Bush administration is widely thought to have given neighboring, Christian-led Ethiopia the green light to expel the Islamists.

Funny how the Agonist writer failed to mention that tiny detail of a declaration of jihad against largely Christian Ethiopia by the radicals in ICU long before the invasion. But then, that just doesn’t fit the narrative of the US as bloodthirsty warmongers so it could be safely jettisoned in favor of a comparison of the those gentle souls in the ICU with democratic reformers from Hizbullah.

The stupidity of such a comparison boggles the mind. Hizbullah was enormously unpopular in Lebanon even before they declared their intention to overthrow the legitimately elected government of Prime Minister Siniora. The overwhelming majority of Lebanese place the blame for starting the destructive war against Israel right where it belongs; in Hassan Nasrallah’s lap. To say that Hizbullah has any “popular support” at all beyond the Shia minority (and a sizable segment of secular Shias oppose them as well) is laughable and demonstrates a towering ignorance of what Hizbullah is doing in Lebanon – mainly the bidding of their masters in Syria and Tehran.

And the “popular support” for the ICU in Somalia?

Jubilant Somalis cheered as troops of the U.N.-backed interim government rolled into Mogadishu unopposed Thursday, putting an end to six months of domination of the capital by a radical Islamic movement.

Ethiopian soldiers stopped on the outskirts of town, after providing much of the military might in the offensive that shattered what had seemed an unbeatable Islamic militia. Islamic fighters fled south vowing to continue the battle.

“We are in Mogadishu,” Prime Minister Mohamed Ali Gedi declared after meeting with local clan leaders to discuss the peaceful hand-over of the city.

The ICU had been taken over by radical foreign Islamists in the previous months. Whatever “law and order” they brought to the country came at the expense of the security of their neighbors in Ethiopia and Kenya as the direct threat of jihad against Ethiopia proves conclusively. Not only that, it became apparent that the ICU was setting up a safe haven for terrorists who could strike US and western interests (and friends) in the region:

“We had seen intelligence evidence these three al Qaeda operatives were very much influencing the leadership of the council of the ICU —for example providing logistics, fuel and arms to the militias,” said Jendayi Frazer, the U.S. State Department’s Assistant Secretary for African Affairs.

U.S. officials in East Africa said earlier this week that al Qaeda operatives were developing the ability to attack U.S. targets just as they did when the embassy bombings killed hundreds.

Intelligence shows al Qaeda stepped up its operations in Somalia in June after an Islamic militia took power.

Their camps taught radical Islam to young men, weapons flowed in from eastern European arms dealers and money arrived from the Middle East, U.S. officials said.

“What we were really concerned about was there seemed to be much more recruiting, much more training going on. They were positioning themselves to expand their area of influence beyond Somali borders,” said Rear Adm. Richard Hunt of Task Force Horn of Africa.

Before I condemn the entire left for the stupidity exhibited above, let’s wait and see if any liberals cheer this victory against al-Qaeda. I am hoping that there is some sanity both in Congress and among the netroots who recognize that as flawed as the Transitional Government might be, they are a damn sight better than an Islamist-backed, radical fundamentalist outfit like the ICU running things.

And if we can convince the legitimate government to talk with more moderate elements in the ICU and perhaps bring them into the government in some sort of power sharing arrangement, even the left might celebrate.

Analysts who had been critical of U.S. policy in Somalia said the Bush administration might be focusing on achieving political stability there after years of being preoccupied with preventing al-Qaida cells from taking root.

“If the U.S. is indeed doing more than making a few public statements in support of dialogue with moderates, then it does represent a shift in the public face of its policy,” said John Prendergast, senior adviser to the International Crisis Group, a research center on global conflict.

The Islamists’ ouster left a power vacuum in Mogadishu, where the transitional government has little support. The city’s powerful Hawiye clan accuses Yusuf, who’s of a rival clan, of being a puppet of Ethiopia.

“If southern Somalia is to stabilize, it is essential that the transitional government hold substantial power-sharing talks with the Hawiye clan elders and Islamic Courts officials,” Prendergast said.

Trying to sweeten the deal, the U.S. has pledged $40 million in new aid to Somalia, including $14 million to support a proposed African peacekeeping mission. Frazer said the money wasn’t conditional on the transitional government negotiating with the Islamists.

We appear to be undertaking a substantial, determined effort to make the right moves in Somalia now – both militarily and diplomatically. As to the latter, patience may be a virtue that I would urge on my lefty friends. Somalia has resisted efforts to coalesce into a nation for the past 15 years and it will take time for our policies to bear fruit; that is, if we can sustain them.

But if the above excerpts from lefty blogs is the kind of mindless, knee jerk reaction to our efforts and the efforts of a sizable portion of Africa to defeat the ICU and establish a viable government in Somalia, then we can do well to ask our lefty friends a very pointed and pertinent question:

Just what will it take for you to support military action to kill our enemies?


Ed Morrissey:

The Ethiopians did us a big favor by dislodging the Islamists from Mogadishu. Once on the run, the US could bring all of its technological assets on line to track them, and the Air Force waited long enough for all of them to run into the trap. The Navy positioned the USS Eisenhower in the waters nearby Somalia just in case it finds even more targets to strike.

That hasn’t stopped the Ethiopians, either. Their forces have surrounded an al-Qaeda base and may have overrun it by the time you read this post. Between the three forces, including those loyal to the Somalian transitional government, AQ in Africa is about to take a huge blow, perhaps even a fatal defeat.

It may have taken us a long time, but we do not forget. Let’s hope that our attack took out these high-value targets and plenty of their followers to boot.

By: Rick Moran at 7:25 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (17)

Doug Ross @ Journal linked with Democratic Party Site's Search Engine is Broken!
A Blog For All linked with Terrorist Hunting in Somalia
Right Truth linked with Key front in war on terror, Somalia
Wizbang linked with US Strikes Al Qaeda in Somalia: Update

“What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving, how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension, how like a god!”
Hamlet Act II Scene 2

“There’s many a man alive of no more value than a dead dog.”
Sgt. Buster Kilrain from the movie Gettysburg

Saddam Hussein is not the most prolific mass murderer in history. Mao’s rampages make the Butcher of Baghdad appear meek and mild by comparison. Nor is Saddam one of the more inventive killers in history. Vlad the Impaler had a particularly unique and exquisitely painful method of dealing with his enemies. And Genghis Khan took great pleasure in coming up with new and exciting ways to end human life.

In fact, in the grand sweep of history, Saddam will be remembered as pretty much of a run-of-the-mill 20th century tyrant, a second tier mass murderer who will be mentioned in the same breath as Idi Amin and Slobodan Milosevic.

Regardless of how history remembers him, the Iraqi people will never forget his brutal, sadistic rule. And now the tyrant and his reign, ended by force of American arms, has been judged:

An Iraqi court on Sunday sentenced Saddam Hussein to the gallows for crimes against humanity, convicting the former dictator and six subordinates for one nearly quarter-century-old case of violent suppression in this land of long memories, deep grudges and sectarian slaughter.

Shiites and Kurds, who had been tormented and killed in the tens of thousands under Saddam’s iron rule, erupted in celebration — but looked ahead fearfully for a potential backlash from the Sunni insurgency that some believe could be a final shove into all-out civil war.

Saddam trembled and shouted “God is great” when the hawk-faced chief judge, Raouf Abdul-Rahman, declared the former leader guilty and sentenced him to hang.

What is it that makes a man like Saddam? Certainly an essential part of humanity is missing from his soul – the ability to feel empathy, pity, or any of the other “angelic” attributes that Hamlet praised in his soliloquy. But in context, Hamlet was also torn between this majestic view of humanity – made in the image and likeness of God – and the view given voice by the rough hewn Kilrain whose dismissal of any elevating characteristics in most men rings as true as Hamlet’s paean to man’s perfectibility.

We are all of us monsters and saints. The potential for both is present in each of us. Saddam’s brutality cannot be laid at the feet of any cultural or religious peculiarities. Psychiatrists might point to his childhood where he was constantly beaten and abused by his uncle or some other aspect of his development where the finer instincts that adhere to most people either died or were never implanted in his soul. But in the end, Saddam’s evil was the result of his own deliberate choices.

Whether Saddam had been tried under the auspices of the World Court or some other supra-national judicial forum doesn’t matter. The atmospherics may have been different than a trial in Iraq. The lawyers would have been able to maneuver, delay, obfuscate, and preen for the cameras with more freedom than they had in the Iraqi courtroom. But the facts of the case – overwhelming physical and documentary evidence – would have sealed his fate regardless.

The calls are already coming fast and furious to spare his life. I am ambivalent about his execution. There are political, military, and even strategic arguments against hanging the tyrant. But what does civilization do with someone who is directly responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of human beings? In cases like Saddam’s, “punishment” has no meaning in a legal sense. There is simply no sentence that could have been handed down to fit the crimes committed by this bloodthirsty sadist. Death is as good as any. And if justice were indeed blind, hanging would be seen as merciful indeed.

In the midst of the bloodletting that is his legacy (and, to some extent, ours), the Iraqis who suffered so long under the heel of the dictator’s jackboot are celebrating. I just wish they could unite in their recognition that Saddam’s judgement has offered them a new start, a new way to live that doesn’t include killing their neighbor because of what occurred in the past.

By: Rick Moran at 5:18 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (2)


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I am running out of English language adjectives to describe what a dirty rotten, low-down, double-crossing, two-timing, floor four-flushing, loutish galoot French President Jacques Chirac is. And since there really are no nasty sounding adjectives that I could use in French (a beautiful language, music to the ear), I’m going to try some in German:

Chirac ist ein Schurke.

(Chirac is a scoundrel.)

Der französische Präsident hat das Gesicht eines Kojoten.

(The French President has the face of a coyote.)

Ich habe Schildkröten als altes Jacques besser schauen gesehen.

(Ive seen better looking turtles than old Jacques.)

Thank God for the Anglo Saxons. There’s something marvelously guttural about the German language, alternately spitting and swallowing words. It’s the perfect language to express the absolute and utter disdain I feel for the French President at this moment.

What has our wussy friend done now? Oh, nothing much. Just undermined the position of the United Nations Security Council, the United States, the European Union, and anyone else trying to get Iran to stop enriching uranium. In what only can be described as a towering conceit born of a false sense of French superiority in diplomatic affairs, the weasel has offered to allow Iran to continue enriching uranium until “formal” negotiations begin:

In an effort to jump-start formal negotiations between six world powers and Iran over its nuclear program, President Jacques Chirac of France suggested Monday that Iran would not have to freeze major nuclear activities until the talks began.

Over the years, Mr. Chirac has consistently taken an extremely hard line against Iran both in public and private. But his remarks in a radio interview could be interpreted as a concession to Iran, whose officials have said they will not suspend their production of enriched uranium as demanded by the United Nations Security Council.

“Iran and the six countries together, we must first find an agenda for negotiations, then start a negotiation,” Mr. Chirac told Europe 1 radio. “During this negotiation I propose that on the one hand, the six refrain from referring the issue to the Security Council, and that Iran refrain from uranium enrichment during the duration of the negotiation.”

Anyone want to guess how long it will take to find that elusive “agenda” that Chirac says is necessary to come up with before formal negotiations begin? As long as the Iranians will be able to continue to work toward building a bomb, it may take years to come to an agreement.

Is that the extent of Chirac’s perfidy? Hardly:

Ahead of what is now certain to be a contentious meeting with President Bush today, President Chirac of France reneged on his previous support for a united international approach to halting Iran’s nuclear program.

In two interviews on the eve of his trip to Turtle Bay to attend the U.N. General Assembly, Mr. Chirac threatened to restart negotiations with Iran. His comments called into question the united position of the five permanent members of the Security Council and Germany, whose foreign ministers had said that unless Iran suspended enrichment by the end of August, the council would consider punitive measures.

“I don’t believe in a solution without dialogue,” Mr. Chirac told Europe 1 radio. “We must, on the one hand, together, Iran and the six countries, meet and set an agenda, then start negotiations.”

The French president added, “I suggest that the six renounce referring” Iran to “the U.N. Security Council and that Iran renounce uranium enrichment during negotiations,” according to an Associated Press translation.

(HT: Malkin)

Not even the insufferable DeGaulle would have pulled something like this. Chirac’s contempt for his European partners and his intense dislike of America could end up burying us all unless someone takes him down a peg or two. Unfortunately, we’re stuck with the lickspittle for at least another 7 months. Elections are scheduled for next year at which time it is possible Anglo-French relations could take a turn for the better.

One of the candidates on the right is Nicolas Sarkozy. He has expressed a strong desire to improve relations with the United States, even going so far as to say nice things about America both in France and here during a recent visit. Of course, that won’t erase the virulent strain of anti-Americanism among ordinary Frenchmen – especially those on the left. And the far right, with their hyper-patriotic notions of the French nation as a world power (not to mention being ferocious guardians of French culture and language that they feel is under constant attack by us yanks) looks at America with suspicion.

Where France does exercise world class clout is among the so-called non-aligned nations. And with the French wavering on sanctions against the Iranians, members from that bloc may be getting cold feet:

But though the steering group appeared to be diverging yesterday, with some nations calling for more dialogue and others urging a more muscular stance, there were also indications it could expand.


With Mr. Chirac’s remarks, France joins China and Russia, whose officials have expressed strong reservations about imposing sanctions, making a Security Council decision on punishing Iran unlikely. “We, too, don’t like sanctions,” Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters at Turtle Bay yesterday.

Bush administration officials, as well as British diplomats, indicated Mr. Chirac’s change of tack was not part of a coordinated new strategy for the international group. The American ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, told reporters that the Iranian nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani, did not even bother to explain his country’s decisions to council members.

“The discussions with Iran appear to have come to a stop, in the sense that Mr. Larijani, whom we expected in New York, is not here,” Mr. Bolton said. “We are now 18 days, by my calculation, after the August 31 deadline. Our position remains unchanged: Unless there is a full and verifiable suspension of uranium enrichment activities, we will seek sanctions in the Security Council.”

Leave it to Bolton to remind the UN of its responsibility. The idea that the Democrats refuse to confirm this guy is just incomprehensible to me. He has been a breath of fresh air not only representing America’s interests very well but also in his advocacy for making the United Nations Security Council into a serious body that serves the cause of peace rather than the laughingstock of thugs and dictators that it currently is.

Iran is still on the agenda at the Security Council. I hope that Bolton can hold them together long enough so that at least a formal vote can be taken on sanctions in order to reveal who is standing in the way of putting pressure on the Iranians to halt their drive to acquire nuclear weapons.

And at the head of the pack of betrayers and renegers; Jacques Chirac. Perhaps we can impose on Ahmadinejad to have his picture taken kissing the French President on the cheek. Thanks to the weasel Chirac, he’s already gotten his 30 pieces of silver.


Commenter John points out that the correct adjective is “four-flusher” not “floor-flusher” that I had originally. Must brush up on my poker nomenclature.

Also, I couldn’t resist. Two commenters have mentioned the perfect epithet to call Chirac: Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey. Here it is in German (courtesy Alta-Vista):

Käse, der Auslieferungaffen ißt

By: Rick Moran at 12:09 pm | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (17)

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Alabama Liberation Front linked with Wednesday A.M. update

I must admit it brought me up a little short this morning after reading Ed Morrissey’s take on the agreement made between the Pakistani government and tribal leaders in North Waziristan that essentially gives the Taliban a free hand in the province. Ed was quoting from this piece in the London Times that appeared to view the agreement as a way to trap the Taliban between NATO forces in Afghanistan and the Pakistani border:

Kabul and Islamabad have been blaming each other for allowing Islamic militants to cross the 1,500-mile (2,400km) frontier and attack security forces. Yesterday Pakistan took a big step towards ending the fighting in the lawless Waziristan region when it signed a peace deal with tribal leaders. The agreement commits local militants to halt attacks on both sides of the border.

In return Pakistan will reduce its military presence and compensate tribesmen whose relatives have been killed or whose properties have been damaged.

A key provision of the deal is that tribesmen will expel foreign fighters from the area. The region is believed to be a haven for al-Qaeda fighters and members of the former Taleban regime in Afghanistan. Without a base in Pakistan their operations could be seriously disrupted.

The problem with this rosy scenario is that it is belied by other news reports as well as the analysis of none other than Bill Roggio.

First, here’s the take on the agreement by the New York Times:

The central government and tribal elders signed a peace agreement on Tuesday that will allow militants to operate freely in one of Pakistan’s most restive border areas in return for a pledge to halt attacks and infiltration into Afghanistan.

The deal is widely viewed as a face-saving retreat for the Pakistani Army, which has taken a heavy battering at the hands of the mountain tribesmen and militants, who are allied with the Taliban and Al Qaeda. But the government may have in effect ceded the militants a sanctuary in the area, called North Waziristan.

In one of the most obvious capitulations since it began its campaign to rout foreign fighters from the area, the government said foreigners would be allowed to stay if they respected the law and the peace agreement. Osama bin Laden and other leaders of Al Qaeda are believed to be among the foreigners who have taken refuge in the area.

The spin here is decidedly negative. And the problems with the agreement are readily apparent when you look at the fine print:

In the agreement, signed by seven representatives of the Taliban council in North Waziristan, the militants pledged, “There will be no cross-border movement for militant activity in neighboring Afghanistan.” They also vowed to stop attacks on government and security forces.


The government also agreed to release all detainees and the militants pledged not to attack government forces or property or set up a parallel administration. Both parties agreed to return weapons and other equipment seized during the fighting.

The agreement appeared similar to an earlier one signed in South Waziristan, which essentially allowed the militants to remain armed and at large in return for not attacking the Pakistani military.

A spokesman for the militants, Abdullah Farhad, denied in a telephone call from an undisclosed location that there were any foreign militants in North Waziristan, and said the government should provide evidence of their presence.

“Why should we bother if they are not here,” he said, speaking of foreign fighters.

“Pay no attention to those Arabs behind the curtain!”

There are several points to be made here:

1. Can we trust these “tribal leaders” to keep their end of the bargain? Who are they? The “Taliban council in North Waziristan” would indicate they are in fact the enemies of the Afghanistan government. And we expect them to abide by an agreement that prevents them from giving aid and shelter to their fighters engaging NATO forces across the border? If the Pakistani government can’t “prove” that there are foreign fighters in Pakistan how are they going to be able to enforce an agreement where it will be equally difficult to “prove” that the Taliban has violated the agreement?

“Face saving” indeed!

2. Pakistan has agreed to release “detainees.” One assumes there are both Taliban fighters and possibly Pakistani members of al-Qaeda who would be set free. Arabs may or may not be involved in this release but isn’t just a bit worrying that people who were perfectly willing to kill Pakistani soldiers are now free as long as they only target Afghans and NATO soldiers?

3. Pakistan is forced to return weapons and equipment seized from the Taliban. This means they will have to buy that many fewer weapons although the doubling of the value of the opium crop has been a godsend to their efforts in that regard.

4. The “militants” have vowed not to set up a “parallel administration.” Why bother? They’ve been governed by their tribal councils forever. Ignoring what the Pakistani government tells them to do is now that much easier with no troops to interfere in their effort to set up Sharia law throughout the area.

Bill Roggio says it’s a surrender:

The news of the Pakistani government signing a truce agreement with the Taliban in North Waziristan is far worse than being reported. We raised the alarm early morning on September 4, and newly uncovered information on the terms of the agreement indicate Pakistan has been roundly defeated by the Taliban in North Waziristan. The “truce” is in fact a surrender. According to an anonymous intelligence source, the terms of the truce includes:

– The Pakistani Army is abandoning its garrisons in North and South Waziristan. – The Pakistani Military will not operate in North Waziristan, nor will it monitor actions the region. – Pakistan will turn over weapons and other equipment seized during Pakistani Army operations. – The Taliban and al-Qaeda have set up a Mujahideen Shura (or council) to administer the agency. – The truce refers to the region as “The Islamic Emirate of Waziristan.” – An unknown quantity of money was transferred from Pakistani government coffers to the Taliban. The Pakistani government has essentially paid a tribute or ransom to end the fighting. – “Foreigners” (a euphemism for al-Qaeda and other foreign jihadis) are allowed to remain in the region. – Over 130 mid-level al-Qaeda commanders and foot soldiers were released from Pakistani custody. – The Taliban is required to refrain from violence in Pakistan only; the agreement does not stipulate refraining from violence in Afghanistan.

There are some on the right who are hopeful that the abandonment of this area by the Pakistani army means that our military can engage at will:

Is this bad news for the US or is it a strategic softball being thrown to us by Pakistan? It has been my understanding that the hands of the US forces have been metaphorically tied by the refusal of Pakistan to allow our troops unfettered access to this region. If Pakistan cedes its claim to this area does this allow the US to go into the region at its own will? Pakistan is out and is no longer providing the protection of a “sovereign state”. No protection from the UN, since it is not a member. No diplomatic ties with any other nations. The Islamic Emirate of Waziristan is now a rogue state. To me it sounds like a new front in the war on terror has opened.

If 80,000 Pakistani troops couldn’t deal with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in the province then there is little that NATO could do unless there was a massive increase in the alliance’s commitment to the fight.

No, I’m sorry. I see nothing but disaster in this agreement. And lest anyone doubt who is in charge in the “Islamic Emirate of Waziristan” (the new name of the Province), here’s Roggio:

The truce meeting was essentially an event designed to humiliate the Pakistani government and military. Government negotiators were searched for weapons by Taliban fighters prior to entering the meeting. Heavily armed Taliban were posted as guards around the ceremony. The al Rayah – al-Qaeda’s black flag – was hung over the scoreboard at the soccer stadium where the ceremony was held. After the Pakistani delegation left, al-Qaeda’s black flag was run up the flagpole of military checkpoints and the Taliban began looting the leftover small arms. The Taliban also held a ‘parade’ in the streets of Miranshah. They openly view the ‘truce’ as a victory, and the facts support this view.


The Pakistani government has ceded a region the size of New Jersey, with a population of about 800,000 to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The establishment of the Islamic Emirate of Waziristan is not the end of the Taliban’s expansion, however. An intelligence source indicates similar negotiations between the Taliban and the Pakistani government are being held in the agencies of Khyber, Tank, Dera Ishmal Khan and Bajaur. The jihadi dreams of al-Qaeda’s safe havens in western Pakistan have become a reality. And the gains made by the Coalition in Afghanistan have now officially been wiped away with the peace agreement in the newly established Islamic Emirate of Waziristan.

I await with interest the inevitable spin on this agreement that will come from our State Department as well as the Presidential palace in Kabul as both our government and Karzai try to put the best face on this huge setback in our efforts in the War on Terror.


Via Allah, we get this from AP:

Visiting President Gen. Pervez Musharraf also said Pakistan would never allow U.S.-led coalition forces currently hunting al-Qaida and Taliban fighters on the Afghan side of the border into tribal areas on its side.

“On our side of the border there will be a total uprising if a foreigner enters that area,” he said. “It’s not possible at all, we will never allow any foreigners into that area. It’s against the culture of the people there.”

So much for the idea that we could engage Taliban and al-Qaeda forces in the province now that the Pakistani military has been forced into a humiliating retreat.

By the way, the AP link has a picture of Musharraf and Karzai standing together at the start of the Pakistani President’s visit to Kabul. Neither look too comfortable and poor Karzai looks like he swallowed something that didn’t agree with him.

And Musharraf had the gall to say that Pakistan and Afghanistan should join together to fight the “common enemy” of terrorism and extremism being fanned by al-Qaida and Taliban militants.

Who’s he kidding?

By: Rick Moran at 10:39 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (9)

ProCynic linked with One step forward, two steps back

The Washington Post is reporting that the Pakistani government has signed a peace treaty with the Taliban who have been operating in the mountainous tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan:

The government of Pakistan signed a peace accord Tuesday with pro-Taliban forces in the volatile tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, agreeing to withdraw its troops from the region in return for the fighters’ pledge to stop attacks inside Pakistan and across the border.

Under the pact, foreign fighters would have to leave North Waziristan or live peaceable lives if they remained. The militias would not set up a “parallel” government administration.

Reached as Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, prepared to visit the Afghan capital Wednesday, the accord aroused alarm among some analysts in Afghanistan. They expressed concern that, whatever the militias promise, a Pakistani army withdrawal might backfire, emboldening the groups to operate more freely in Pakistan and to infiltrate more aggressively into Afghanistan to fight U.S. and allied forces there.

“This could be a very dangerous development,” said one official at an international agency, speaking anonymously because the issue is sensitive in both countries. “Until recently there has been relative stability in eastern Afghanistan, but now that could start to deteriorate.”

Obviously this is very bad news. The Taliban will likely honor the agreement in the breach which means that for all intents and purposes, they have a protected area to flee following their operations against NATO forces in Afghanistan. And even more problematically, it almost certainly means an increased troop committment will be necessary by NATO - if the Europeans are willing to pony up the men and material in an effort to combat the two headed monster of the Taliban resurgence and opium warlords who have doubled poppy production this year.

Can it get worse?

Osama bin Laden, America’s most wanted man, will not face capture in Pakistan if he agrees to lead a “peaceful life,” Pakistani officials tell ABC News.

The surprising announcement comes as Pakistani army officials announced they were pulling their troops out of the North Waziristan region as part of a “peace deal” with the Taliban.

If he is in Pakistan, bin Laden “would not be taken into custody,” Major General Shaukat Sultan Khan told ABC News in a telephone interview, “as long as one is being like a peaceful citizen.”

This is what has most of the blogosphere wagging their tongues about this morning. But it important to remember that 1) No one knows where Bin Laden is; and 2) There is a better chance he is actually in Afghanistan than Pakistan although with this “peace agreement” that may change.

Bin Laden is the least of our worries right now. How to recover from this devastating blow – some might call it a betrayal – delivered by an erstwhile ally should be the focus of American policy makers as they scramble to assess what it all means and develop a counter strategy that will salvage something of our relationship with Musharraf as well as satisfy the Afghan government that must be going ballistic right about now.

Musharraf is scheduled to head for Kabul today for talks with Karazai. I will be very surprised if these meetings take place as scheduled and if they do – wouldn’t you like to be a fly on the wall when those two get together?

The agreement could add a new element of tension to Musharraf’s visit, aimed at smoothing over his relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The two Muslim leaders, both allies in the U.S.-led war against Islamic extremists, have clashed heatedly over allegations that Taliban forces in Afghanistan are receiving support and shelter from inside Pakistan.

Pakistan’s move also appeared to complicate the U.S. role in the region. U.S. officials have praised Musharraf for his help in capturing al-Qaeda members and refrained from pressing him hard on cross-border violence. A withdrawal of Pakistani forces could reduce pressure on al-Qaeda figures believed to be hiding in the region, including Osama bin Laden, allowing them more freedom of action.

What possessed Musharraf to make this Faustian bargain in the first place?

The death of a Baluchistan rebel leader may have roiled Musharraf’s government and endangered his hold on power to the point that he felt he had little choice:

ISI’s (Pakistan’s CIA-FBI agency) latest successful assignment was to locate Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti, an aristocratic octogenarian tribal chief and leader of Baluchistan’s fourth insurgency in the last 70 years, this time to get a fair share of massive gas and mineral deposits. Government troops attacked the cave where this former Cabinet minister was hunkered down. An artillery shell buried him alive. ISI has yet to locate bin Laden, widely believed headquartered in Pakistan’s FATA, protected by fiercely loyal tribes that are clearly disinterested in a $25 million U.S. reward.

The Aug. 26 blunder sparked violent protests and shut down most of the country in a general strike to protest Bugti’s “assassination.” Even retired generals called on President-Gen. Pervez Musharraf to take the army out of politics and return Pakistan to civilian rule.

The Baluchistan rebellion predates the partition with India and has been marked by struggles to control the natural resources in the area as well as brutal suppression by the Pakistani government of the Baluchi tribal system and culture. The nearby province of North Waziristan also has restless tribal minorities who resent the control of the Pakistani government by the military, most of whose leaders hail from the country’s largest province of Punjab.

The death of the powerful Baluchi leader Bugti and subsequent nationwide unrest may have backed Musharraf into a corner with both his own military supporters and the shadowy elements of the ISI who created the Taliban in the first place. By making “peace” with the Taliban, Musharaf frees up several thousand Pakistani soldiers and quiets the rumblings of discontent coming from the ISI - a good move if one has a finely honed instinct for self preservation. And by proving that he’s flexible with one tribal headache, he may showing the Baluchis that talking to Islamabad is the best way to get what they want as opposed to continuing their rebellion.

This doesn’t explain Musharraf’s seeming diffidence toward the United States whose $2 billion a year in aid has been supplemented with generous loans from the IMF as well as debt reduction totaling more than $1 billion. The cutoff of US assistance to his military and economy would be a devastating blow to Musharraf’s rule and could cause him even more domestic problems. Is he taking a calculated risk that our anger at the Taliban deal will be tempered by the realization that he is the indispensable anti-terror man in the region?

Allies in the War on Terror are growing scarce. And our recent setbacks in Iraq as well as what some analysts see as a loss of American prestige and the myth of our invincibility may be contributing to Musharaf’s calculated risk in dealing with the Taliban. At the same time, Musharraf must realize he is still extremely valuable to our intelligence efforts in the War on Terror. His recent assistance in the British investigation of the liquid bomb plot in tipping off the Brits to some of the terrorists involved proves that we may not be able to get along without him.

So while we may express our extreme displeasure at Musharraf for this action, do not expect a reduction in aid or any other serious sanction against him. At the moment, he is still a powerful and valuable ally in the War on Terror and will remain so for the foreseeable future.


There is immense confusion over what this deal actually means. Is it with the Taliban? Or is it with tribal leaders who support the Taliban and al-Qaeda?

My take may be wildly off base here if what Ed Morrissey says is true:

However, it does appear that the two agreements add up to something other than an abject surrender. It seems more likely that Hamid Karzai would reject any such sanctuary for Taliban fighters, not embrace it and embrace Musharraf after allowing that to develop. After all, a free reign in Waziristan would allow the Islamists to gather their strength and attack in force. Karzai does not want Musharraf’s friendship so desperately that he would commit suicide for it, nor does Musharraf have any particular love of the radicals that have twice tried to assassinate him.

Musharraf wants to visit Karzai to put a coordinated plan for security in the cross-border region. That makes it look much more like Musharraf bought the cooperation of local tribes in an effort to flush out the foreign fighters exploiting the territory. That deal did include compensation—the region has a tradition of blood money—for lost relatives in earlier fighting. Musharraf wants the tribes out of the way so that the combined forces of Pakistan and Afghanistan—which means Pakistan and NATO —can attack the Taliban and their foreign terrorist supporters.

The problem with Ed’s otherwise excellent analysis is that it appears Karzai has been blindsided by the agreement, if the WaPo story can be believed:

The agreement could add a new element of tension to Musharraf’s visit, aimed at smoothing over his relations with Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The two Muslim leaders, both allies in the U.S.-led war against Islamic extremists, have clashed heatedly over allegations that Taliban forces in Afghanistan are receiving support and shelter from inside Pakistan.

Pakistan’s move also appeared to complicate the U.S. role in the region. U.S. officials have praised Musharraf for his help in capturing al-Qaeda members and refrained from pressing him hard on cross-border violence. A withdrawal of Pakistani forces could reduce pressure on al-Qaeda figures believed to be hiding in the region, including Osama bin Laden, allowing them more freedom of action.

Stay tuned for updates on this story. As the dust settles, I’ll have further analysis.

By: Rick Moran at 6:31 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (14)

Stop The ACLU linked with Pakistan Denies Bin Laden Gets a Pass

Two examples today from different international bodies prove that those in the west who seek the shelter of law to justify both individual actions of self defense and national wars to ward off aggression are better off either groveling before their enemies and begging for mercy or simply committing suicide.

First, via the Claremont Institute, we discover that the UN General Assembly has decided to divorce itself entirely from natural law by taking away an individual’s right of self defense:

Glenn Reynolds alerts us to this U.N. Report which denies that there is such a thing as a right to self-defense in international law.

No international human right of self-defence is expressly set forth in the primary sources of international law: treaties, customary law, or general principles.

The second amendment implications are expertly dealt with by David Hardy:

I think the point is that the Special Rapper wants to class self-defense as something less than a “right” (i.e., as a manner of criminal defense) because if it were recognized as a “right” it would be something governments would be bound to guarantee—and that leads right to Prof. Glenn Harlan Reynold’s argument that a right to arms should be guaranteed as an international right. How could governments “guarantee” such a right (in the sense of doing something more than saying “you can plead this as a defense if prosecuted”—as might be expected the UN document treats “rights” as something more than “the government must leave you alone”—while outlawing the items a person needs to exercise that right? This leads to the anomaly that the report claims that the right to life is a “right,” but the right to keep from having your life taken is not. I suppose it equates to—you have a “right,” however unenforcable, to be protected by government, but not to defend yourself if it fails to do so. As might be expected from the source, the concept of “right” is rather ineptly socialist: rights are what you may ask the government to do for you. (And of course strongly of the legal positivist school: rights are not something that pre-exist government, and any official declaration of them, derived from a deity, morality, or man’s nature. Rather, in this view they are created by the document, or government, that acts to write them down. Created, as opposed to guaranteed).

Hardy nails this execrable piece of illogic to the church door. He points out the fundamental flaw in the direction that international law has been headed these past few years; the denial that there are independent of government a set of “natural laws” that are vitally necessary to the existence of human liberty.

This, of course, has been a foundational belief in American law and American life since the Declaration’s “self evident” truths completed the work of 17th century political philosophers like Hobbes and Locke. And as Samuelson points out in the Claremont post, the UN has divorced itself from this legal philosophy in order to adopt a much more capricious and arbitrary set of guidelines:

As Reynolds notes, David Hardy shows the pretzels of logic, or perhaps of illogic, that the U.N. needs to make in order to reach that conclusion. As he notes, the U.N.’s conception of law is simply positivistic, and hence divorced from nature. In other words, it is arbitrary ideology, not law.


Of course, as I have noted before the U.N., has grown to be hostile to the natural rights foundation of the United States by its very nature. At the foundation of the U.N.’s understanding of law is an idea that is irreconcilable with the natural rights foundation of the U.S. Hence the U.N. does not grasp the necessity of a natural right to self-defense, a right of inestimable importance to us, and formidable only to those who would be tyrants.

And speaking of arbitrary ideology, Alan Dershowitz looks at Amnesty International’s report on the recently concluded Israeli-Hizbullah war and rails against its extraordinarily biased conclusions:

In fact, through restraint, Israel was able to minimize the number of civilian casualties in Lebanon, despite Hizbullah’s best efforts to embed itself in population centers and to use civilians as human shields. The total number of innocent Muslim civilians killed by Israeli weapons during a month of ferocious defensive warfare was a fraction of the number of innocent Muslims killed by other Muslims during that same period in Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Algeria, and other areas of Muslim-on-Muslim civil strife. Yet the deaths caused by Muslims received a fraction of the attention devoted to alleged Israeli “crimes.”

This lack of concern for Muslims by other Muslims – and the lack of focus by so-called human rights organizations on these deaths – is bigotry, pure and simple.

AMNESTY’S EVIDENCE that Israel’s attacks on infrastructure constitute war crimes comes from its own idiosyncratic interpretation of the already-vague word “disproportionate.” Unfortunately for Amnesty, no other country in any sort of armed conflict has ever adopted such a narrow definition of the term. Indeed, among the very first military objectives of most modern wars is precisely what Israel did: to disable portions of the opponent’s electrical grid and communication network, to destroy bridges and roads, and to do whatever else is necessary to interfere with those parts of the civilian infrastructure that supports the military capability of the enemy.

What does the report have to say about the gross violation of international law and the war crimes committed by Hizbullah when they fired 4,000 missiles into Israeli towns and villages with the sole purpose of killing as many civilians as possible:

THE MORE troubling aspect of Amnesty’s report is their inattention to Hizbullah. If Israel is guilty of war crimes for targeting civilian infrastructure, imagine how much greater is Hizbullah’s moral responsibility for targeting civilians! But Amnesty shows little interest in condemning the terrorist organization that started the conflict, indiscriminately killed both Israeli civilians (directly) and Lebanese civilians (by using them as human shields), and has announced its intention to kill Jews worldwide (already having started by blowing up the Jewish Community Center in Argentina.) Apparently Amnesty has no qualms about Hizbullah six-year war of attrition against Israel following Israel’s complete withdrawal from Southern Lebanon.

As has been widely reported, even al-Jazeera expressed surprise at the imbalance in the Amnesty report:

During the four week war Hizbullah fired 3,900 rockets at Israeli towns and cities with the aim of inflicting maximum civilian casualties.

The Israeli government says that 44 Israeli civilians were killed in the bombardments and 1,400 wounded.

AI has not issued a report accusing Hizbullah of war crimes.

In fact, AI specifically notes that they have no evidence that Hizbullah used Lebanese civilians as human shields to protect themselves from retaliatory attacks by the IDF. This blatant lie is only one indication of Amnesty International’s selective bias against Israel and its arbitrary application of international law. In fact, as Dershowitz points out, AI applies the law to the IDF in such a way as to make it impossible for Israel to legally defend itself:

Consider another example: “While the use of civilians to shield a combatant from attack is a war crime, under international humanitarian law such use does not release the opposing party from its obligations towards the protection of the civilian population.”

Well that’s certainly nice sounding. But what does it mean? What would Amnesty suggest a country do in the face of daily rocket attacks launched from civilian populations? Nothing, apparently. The clear implication of Amnesty’s arguments is that the only way Israel could have avoided committing “war crimes” would have been if it had taken only such military action that carried with it no risk to civilian shields – that is, to do absolutely nothing.

For Amnesty, “Israeli war crimes” are synonymous with “any military action whatsoever.”

This points up a philosphy that seems to have taken over Amnesty International as well as other international bodies with regards to the application of the law as it relates to western countries; you are always wrong and third world countries are always right.

Simplistic? Recent UN pronouncements on vital western freedoms like freedom of the press as well as Amnesty International’s recent comparison of Gitmo to the old Soviet Gulags continue a pattern that has been in motion for most of the last quarter century; hostility to western beliefs in freedom as well as a politicization of the law in order to achieve propaganda ends.

By bending over backward to appease third world peoples who suffered under western domination for most of the last 100 years, these international bodies are destroying the foundation of international law by divorcing it from its roots. Those roots are found in western thought about the nature of law and how it relates in the real world to people’s freedom. By substituting arbitrariness for logic and tradition, the UN and groups like AI risk overturning fundamental protections for all people.

This is too high a price to pay in order to pander to third world sensibilities.

By: Rick Moran at 6:43 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (7)

Stop The ACLU linked with United Nations: You Have No Right To Self-Defense

“Hold fast to dreams. For if dreams die. Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly.”
(James Langston Hughes)

The resolution passed by the United Nations mandating a cease fire between Israel and the terrorists of Hizbullah was approved unanimously by the Lebanese cabinet yesterday with “reservations:”

Lebanon’s Cabinet late Saturday unanimously accepted the UN cease-fire plan to halt fighting between Israel and Hizbullah fighters, moving the deal a step closer to implementation, the prime minister said.

“It was a unanimous decision, with some reservations,” Prime Minister Fuad Saniora said in announcing Lebanon’s acceptance of the resolution after a four-hour Cabinet meeting.

Hizbullah’s Mohammed Fneish, minister of hydraulic resources, said the two Hizbullah members expressed reservations, particularly over an article in the resolution that “gives the impression that it exonerates Israel of responsibility for the crimes” and blames Hizbullah for the month-long war.

“We will deal with the requirements of the resolution with realism in a way that serves the national interest.”

Will they? Will Hizbullah “serve the national interest?” Or do they have something more sinister in mind?

“We believe that the resolution that was taken last night was unfair,” Nasrallah said. “But if there is an agreement on the cessation of hostilities between the Lebanese government and the enemy, we will observe it without delay.”

He said that Hizbullah would support any decision by the Lebanese government to end the war. “We will not be an obstacle to any decision that it finds appropriate, but our ministers will express reservations about articles that we consider unjust and unfair,” he said.

Nasrallah also expressed his support for plans to deploy Lebanese army and additional UNIFIL troops in southern Lebanon. “Regardless of our reservations and political positions, we will cooperate when the Lebanese soldiers and UNIFIL forces are deployed,” he said.

Nasrallah described the decision to dispatch Lebanese soldiers to the south of the country as an “achievement” for Hizbullah and Lebanon, saying it resulted from the steadfastness of the Lebanese people and the “heroes” of his organization.

Nasrallah is pushing himself away from the table and will be able to carry off most of his winnings thanks to the inexplicable timidity of the Israelis and the myopia of the Security Council. If his only reservation to the cease fire is that he is uncomfortable with the idea of being blamed for the war in the first place, he has indeed won a great triumph.

The question on the minds of most Lebanese today is what he will do with this victory. Nasrallah demonstrated by starting the conflict that he not the government controlled the destiny of Lebanon. Indeed, treating Prime Minister Siniora like an errand boy, a middleman in negotiations with the UN, the Hizbullah leader demonstrated that he had veto power over any and all decisions made by the Lebanese cabinet having to do with the cease fire.

He forbade the Prime Minister from accepting any cease fire that would have placed an independent foreign force on Lebanese soil, seeing quite rightly the potential that such a force could force him to accept the stipulations in Resolution 1559 that called for the disarmament of the terrorists and the loss of his autonomy in the south.

Instead, he got exactly what he wished for; an augmented UNIFIL force along with the Hizbullah-friendly and incompetent Lebanese army standing between he and Israel. Nasrallah correctly believes that such a force will not be able to keep him from returning to his bases in the south, much less “disarm” him in any meaningful way. In a few months, he will be able to marginalize this force as easily as he intimidated UNIFIL. At that point, his victory will be complete.

Meanwhile, Lebanon bleeds:

Lebanon today lies ravaged, its inhabitants suffering the consequences of Hezbollah’s hubris and Israel’s terrible, wanton retribution. Since July 12, when party militants abducted two Israeli soldiers and killed three on the Israeli side of the border, Lebanon has been under a virtually complete Israeli blockade. At the time of writing, nearly 1,000 people have been killed, mostly civilians. Predominantly Shiite areas in the south, Beirut’s southern suburbs and the northern Bekaa Valley have been turned into wastelands; Beirut seems empty. Businesses, when they do open, close early; store owners have cleared out their showrooms. The mood is one of ambient disintegration. Tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of refugees have moved into the capital, even as many of its residents have headed for the mountains. The economy, already precarious before the conflict started, lies in shambles, as does public confidence in the country’s future.

Michael Young is opinion editor at the Daily Star of Lebanon. His piece quoted above in the New York Times Magazine is an absolute must-read if you wish to understand the history of Hizbullah and the cultural and political reasons it plays such a large role in Lebanese society.

The post war situation in Lebanon looks bleak. Nasrallah ascendant, a massive rebuilding task facing the government, continued Syrian and Iranian meddling that led to the war in the first place, and the unthinkable prospect that once again the factions will take up arms and engage in a ruinous civil war.

The dream of a stable, prosperous, and free Lebanon embodied in the ideas of the “Cedar Revolution” are now shattered, its promises broken on the jagged shoals of cynicism and self interest. It is hard to see how the Lebanese democrats can retrieve the situation given the growing influence of Hizbullah in the councils of government. Because Nasrallah’s men still have their guns and with little or no prospect that anyone will be able to take them away, there is the real possibility that the Hizbullah leader will be able to hold the government hostage indefinitely.

Michael Young sees some signs for hope:

[The] starting point is the assumption that Lebanon really must be governed through mutual concessions and dialogue. Amid the general sectarianism, this may sound absurd. The ideal of Lebanon as a mosaic of separate but collaborating communities has been shattered so many times that it is difficult even to know what collaboration might mean. But it is also true that grounds for hope exist. Over the past half-century, the once-marginalized Shiites have steadily integrated themselves into Lebanese politics and society. While Shiites today largely accept Hezbollah’s claim to be their representative and protector, in the future new forms of Shiite politics and expression may emerge — must emerge.

Even before the war, the cynicism of factionalism reared its ugly head on more than one occasion. As far back as the parliamentary elections last year, Druse leader Walid Jumblatt actually aligned his party with several pro-Syrian politicians in order to counter the strength of Christian leader and former anti-Syrian Prime Minister Michel Aoun. This angered some of his allies in the revolution, especially in Saad Hariri’s Future Party. Aoun himself then showed how cynical politics in Lebanon could get by signing a Memorandum of Understanding with Hizbullah about disarmament discussions taking place only in the context of the National Dialogue, a roundtable of Lebanese leaders charged with solving the thorniest problems in Lebanese society.

Aoun allowed his personal ambition to be President to override both his natural anti-Syrian inclinations as well as common sense. Making common cause with Hizbullah – a group who wishes to establish Lebanon as an Iranian style theocracy – seems the height of stupidity for a Christian Maronite like Aoun. But when Lebanon’s parliament was constituted, Aoun found himself on the “outs” with the largest bloc of democratic reformers. By allying himself with the second largest bloc in parliament – the Hizbullah-Amal alliance – he found a vessel for his ambitions.

So in a sense, when the war came along, the leaders of the revolution had already failed in many respects to unite in a meaningful way in order to take on Hizbullah and re-establish Lebanese sovereignty over the entire country. They are now paying for their disunity and weakness. Michael Young explains:

Meanwhile, Siniora also had to handle relations with Hezbollah. Five of the ministers in his cabinet were Shiites, either members of Hezbollah and Amal or named by them. Members of the parliamentary majority affirmed their desire to see Hezbollah integrated into the armed forces and to see the state regain control over all the national territory — meaning Hezbollah must no longer rule over the border with Israel. But desiring Hezbollah’s disarmament was one thing; achieving it, another. When it came to such matters, the parliamentary majority was reluctant to act like a majority. Hariri was especially diffident, probably because his Saudi sponsors advised him to avoid precipitating any Sunni-Shiite showdown that might boomerang in the kingdom. But the chief obstacle, of course, was Hezbollah itself. The militia realized that without its weapons, it would lose its reason to exist as a militant movement, lose its élan and lose its value to Syria — as well as its ties to its main financier and advocate, Iran.

I have pointed out on numerous occasions that Nasrallah simply cannot afford to give up his guns. Without them, he is head of a minority party in a secular government, not a good jumping off position to precipitate his Islamic revolution.

With no one willing to disarm him, Nasrallah could be emboldened to strike back at the Christians, Druse, and Sunnis who heaped criticism on he and his group at the outset of hostilities with Israel. In an interview with al-Jazeera that went largely unnoticed in the west but which sent chills down the spines of several Lebanese politicians, Nasrallah threatened payback against those who didn’t support him:

As the violence continues, retribution is in the air. Israel has focused its attacks on Shiites, leaving Sunni, Christian and Druse areas (though not their long-term welfare) relatively intact. Amid all the destruction, many a representative of the March 14 movement has denounced Hezbollah’s ‘‘adventurism,’’ provoking Shiite resentment. As one Hezbollah combatant recently told The Guardian: ‘‘The real battle is after the end of this war. We will have to settle score with the Lebanese politicians. We also have the best security and intelligence apparatus in this country, and we can reach any of those people who are speaking against us now. Let’s finish with the Israelis, and then we will settle scores later.’’

This essentially repeated what Hassan Nasrallah told Al Jazeera in an interview broadcast a week after the conflict began: ‘‘If we succeed in achieving the victory . . . we will never forget all those who supported us at this stage. . . . As for those who sinned against us . . . those who made mistakes, those who let us down and those who conspired against us . . . this will be left for a day to settle accounts. We might be tolerant with them, and we might not.’’

It goes without saying that the assassination of Mr. Hariri, Mr. Jumblatt or other prominent politicians who opposed Nasrallah’s war could set off another round of sectarian blood letting:

Meanwhile, the country has sunk into deep depression, and countless Lebanese with the means to emigrate are thinking of doing so. The offspring of March 8 and March 14 are in the same boat, and yet still remain very much apart. The fault lines from the days of the Independence Intifada have hardened under Israel’s bombs. Given the present balance of forces, it is difficult to conceive of a resolution to the present fighting that would both satisfy the majority’s desire to disarm Hezbollah and satisfy Hezbollah’s resolve to defend Shiite gains and remain in the vanguard of the struggle against Israel. Something must give, and until the parliamentary majority and Hezbollah can reach a common vision of what Lebanon must become, the rot will set in further.

The continued powerlessness of the government in the face of Hizbullah’s brazen independence does not bode well for the future. And unless the sides are willing to fight it out once again in the streets, it seems unlikely that there will be any attempt to rein in Hizbullah and set a steady course for national reconciliation.

How far the politicians go to avoid a civil war will determine how much power Nasrallah will be able to exercise. And given the trauma the last conflict engendered, it would seem that the current government will go very far indeed before fighting the terrorists in their midst for control of the country.

By: Rick Moran at 7:54 am | Permalink | Comments & Trackbacks (6)

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