Morning Report: September 23, 2005

Debka: Sharon likely to step down. Citing "sources", Debka states that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is about to retire. 'DEBKAfile Reveals Exclusively: Ariel Sharon is on the point of stepping down. Barring a last-minute change of heart, the Israeli prime minister plans to retire to his Sycamore Ranch. DEBKAfile’s political sources report that private opinion polls conducted by his team indicated that all critical Likud votes would go against him. Monday, the central committee will decide to bring forward the leadership primary from April to December, as demanded by his rivals Netanyahu and Landau. He is not expected to fight this decision or respond by setting up a new party alliance. Our Washington sources add that President Bush has been informed of Sharon’s plan to retire.' (Debka)

Why Iraq? Taking stock of the political developments around the Iraqi constitution, The Belmont Club writes: 'But perhaps the strategic rationale for choosing Iraq versus Saudi Arabia consisted in that Iraq lay along a major fault line in the Muslim world, not simply with respect to religion, but in the case of the Kurds, ethnicity as well. It was the one place where America was guaranteed to find local allies whichever way it turned; it was the last place where the population could easily put aside their differences to oppose the United States. And if the objective were to set the region on its ears, here was the pillar in temple of Dagon around which everything could be sent crashing down.' Full analysis at link. (Belmont Club)

Treasury Department's FinCEN e-mail list hacked. The Counterterrorism Blog reports: 'The e-mail list used by the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) to send announcements was hacked and abused by an outsider this morning. The outsider sent the following message to the FinCEN e-mail list:
go away from iraq
takeback your monsters (army)
you killed my father and mother
what you want???
i know (oil)

and followed the text with two pictures supposedly from Iraq. FinCEN quickly sent a new message to its e-mail list to disregard the first message and that it is investigating the origin of the bad e-mail. As of this writing, the FinCEN site for subscribing to e-mail announcements is closed.' (CTB)

Iraqi security forces kill five terrorists in Baghdad. Al-Sabah reports: 'Baghdad, Sept. 22 p1 - Security forces managed in killing five terrorists holding Sudanese nationality when the forces stormed a house near the UAE embassy in Mansour district Wednesday.News reports described the raid as a battle thanks to fierce resistance of the terrorists who were keeping medium and heavy weapons and hand grenades.The battle started when a police patrol found a survivor hijacked as he fled the terrorists and led the police patrol to the position.The terrorists replied with grenades a matter needed to special forces interference, who have used heavy weapons before they lost three casualties between dead and injuries.' Sabah also notes that citizens have complained of increased terrorist activity in Samarra (about 125 km north of Baghdad), where the security situation is at its worst in several weeks. (Sabah)