Morning Report: March 22, 2006

Russia opposes Iran ultimatum. IranMania: ' According to an AFP report, Russia remains opposed to issuing Iran an "ultimatum" on its nuclear activities that involves sanctions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday. Lavrov reiterated Russia's opposition to a draft statement currently before the United Nations Security Council that would press Iran to suspend uranium enrichment and develop a broader strategy to deal with Tehran's nuclear program.' (IranMania)

US and Iraqi forces capture 50 bad guys. AP via Yahoo: ' Insurgents attacked a police station Wednesday for a second day in a row, but U.S. and Iraqi forces captured 50 of them after a two-hour gunbattle. About 60 gunmen attacked the police station in Madain, south of Baghdad, with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic rifles, said police Lt. Col. Falah al-Mohammadawi. U.S. troops and a special Iraqi police unit responded, catching the insurgents in crossfire, he said. Four police were killed, including the commander of the special unit, and five were wounded, al-Mohammadawi said. None of the attackers died, and among the captives was a Syrian.' (AP)

More Saddam-terror ties revealed. Via Gay Patriot, The Worldwide Standard quotes a Foreign Affairs article: 'The Saddam Fedayeen also took part in the regime's domestic terrorism operations and planned for attacks throughout Europe and the Middle East. In a document dated May 1999, Saddam's older son, Uday, ordered preparations for "special operations, assassinations, and bombings, for the centers and traitor symbols in London, Iran and the self-ruled areas [Kurdistan]." Preparations for "Blessed July," a regime-directed wave of "martyrdom" operations against targets in the West, were well under way at the time of the coalition invasion.' (Standard via GP)

CTB on Afghan Christian convert. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at the Counterterrorism Blog: 'Yesterday, Bill West wrote about the case of Abdul Rahman, a 41-year-old Afghani man who may face the death penalty for converting from Islam to Christianity. This case has generated an enormous amount of media attention because the U.S. and its allies liberated Afghanistan from the fundamentalist Taliban regime, so Westerners find it disconcerting that people can still be killed in that country for leaving the Islamic faith. While this media attention is warranted, it is important for observers to understand that the problem of apostasy laws reaches far beyond Abdul Rahman and Afghanistan. This is fundamentally an issue that people in the counterterrorism field and those who follow terrorism should care about. The Bush administration has invested in a strategy of democratization to counter the extremism that can be found in the Islamic world. But voting rights will not serve as an effective counterbalance to extremism if voting is simply superimposed over the current Middle Eastern political systems, with their lack of basic political freedoms. The most crucial freedoms for creating true democracy in the Middle East are freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion -- and of these, the lack of freedom of religion in the region is the most dramatic.' (CTB)

Chavez: There are no Americans in the airport! AP via Yahoo: 'enezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Tuesday that U.S. troops have been routed by a strong resistance movement in Iraq, but haven't pulled out because officials in Washington won't acknowledge defeat. The United States would also suffer a tremendous military defeat if the Bush administration decided to invade Iran, Chavez told a group of foreign diplomats and government supporters at the Miraflores Presidential Palace.' (AP)