Morning Report: December 14, 2006

Thursday roundup. An Iraqi analysis of The Report That Shall Not Be Named, a threat is uncovered in northern Iraq, and things heat up in Gaza.

ITM on ISG. Omar at Iraq the Model responds to a certain report:
The strange thing is that although the report is highly publicized and the recommendations touch on many critical topics few of ordinary Iraqis here seem interested in discussing it and the interest can be seen almost only among politicians.

It's actually not that strange; many people see this report and other political movements as an effort among politicians to make deals that can only by coincidence be in the interest of the people.
Anyway, that's not the way I feel—the report addresses both Iraq's and America's problems and needs and it did open a new dimension to the debate or at least, refreshed the debate.

Of course I'm not going to discuss or comment on every single one of the 79 recommendations but I'd like to share my general impressions about the document and will make that brief.

The External Approach; I basically do not think this can work especially when it comes to dealing with the main regional players; Syria and Iran and particularly Iran. I simply can't see a chance for the US to find common grounds with the current regime in Iran whose main goal is to extend its "Islamic revolution" throughout the middle east.

And I have no doubt that Iran, with the mullahs in power, is not willing to accept a compromise that offers the US even a marginal level of benefit. The goals and visions of the two countries are so at odds that they can't agree on anything, let alone work together.

Syria represents a rather different issue but still, what applies to Iran applies to Syria as well; the history of the middle east-one full of blood from coups-taught us not to trust clerics nor dictators. ...

All I want to say is that the political offensive described in the ISG report must evolve into an intensive political assault if it's to become a valid strategy. ...

What I want to say is; if the external approach is really important to success then it has to go side by side with the internal one, and that I doubt would happen in the way it's presented in the report.

On the other hand and contrary to the external approach I think the Internal Approach has outlined several very thoughtful and astute recommendations for policy adjustments particularly in areas such as increasing the numbers of embedded US military advisers, the judicial system, fighting corruption, the oil sector (the meters and the way to deal with local tribes for example), putting police commandos and border guards under the defense ministry…These are good ideas that when implemented will make a difference.

Read the full analysis at the link. (ITM)

Iraqi Police discover rockets aimed at Coalition Forces base. MNF-Iraq: 'Iraqi Police discovered three rockets emplaced by insurgents and aimed at Forward Operating Base Warrior Wednesday while on patrol in Kirkuk. The rockets were set on fabricated launchers and equipped with improvised timing devices. Iraqi police patrolling a southwest neighborhood of the city identified a suspicious vehicle in the area. When IP approached, the vehicle abruptly sped away,
and the police then discovered the rockets at the location. The Provincial Joint Communication Center notified a Coalition Forces’ explosive ordnance disposal team which moved to the scene. The EOD team disarmed the rockets and conducted a controlled detonation at the site. Analysis by the team determined that the intended target appeared to be the U.S. base on the western edge of the city. However, the improvised set up and relative inaccuracy of the rockets also posed a credible hazard to the citizens in the neighborhood.' (MNFI)

Breaking: Blasts on Egypt-Gaza border. MSNBC: 'RAFAH, Gaza Strip - Two loud explosions rocked the Gaza-Egypt border after nightfall Thursday, and security officials said militants had blown a hole in the border fence. There were no immediate details on who carried out the explosion. But it came shortly after Hamas militants seized control of the Rafah border crossing. Israel had closed the border to prevent Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh from returning with millions of dollars for his Hamas government.' Jerusalem Post (also from AP): 'Hamas gunmen angry that Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh was prevented from returning to Gaza, burst into the Rafah border terminal Thursday, sparking a gunbattle with guards before taking control of the crossing. The Hamas members waiting outside the terminal grew impatient for Haniyeh's return and broke into the compound, shooting in the air. The Palestinian Presidential Guard, responsible for security at the terminal, began firing at them, according to an Associated Press journalist at the terminal.' Debka:
Hundreds of Hamas Ezz e-Din al-Qassam militiamen firing guns seize control of the Egyptian-Gaza Rafah crossing. Hamas sends a missile barrage flying against Sderot. European inspectors and Fatah Presidential Guard 17 troops fled the heavy Hamas fire, after shutting the crossing at Israel’s demand against the returning Hamas prime minister Ismail Haniya Thursday evening. The gunmen are now tearing down the border hangars, destroying the monitoring equipment and blowing up the border fence as hundreds stream to the border to welcome the Hamas leader. Israel refuses to allow him to access the Gaza Strip carrying suitcases packed with an estimated $30-35 million dollars out of the quarter of a million Iran donated to Hamas’ war effort during his visit to Tehran. Israel also accuses Haniya of bringing with him a group of militiamen who signed military accords inviting Iranian trainers to the Gaza Strip. Iranian officers may also be in his party.

More details on this as it develops. (various)

Commentary. Here's a piece in the Standard that dovetails with Ghazal Omid's message in this blog. S. Enders Wimbush at the Standard critiques the current format of Radio Farda:
Originally intended by Congress to operate as Radio Free Iran, the station was abruptly morphed into Radio Farda ("Tomorrow" in Persian) in 2002. It now broadcasts chiefly music and American popular culture aimed at Iran's kids. Mostly gone is the "ideas" menu--history, culture, religion, economics, law, human rights, labor, business, critical thinking--employed to great effect during the Cold War by its parent organization, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, whose intended listeners were critical elites and the populations that supported them.

To become an effective instrument in the war of ideas, Radio Farda should be completely overhauled, not just tinkered with.

In a nutshell, Enders' "Six Strategies" are: Question the regime's legitimacy (specifically, its claim to "Islamic legitimacy"); highlight the leadership's disunity; highlight threats to Iran's culture; describe Iran's isolation, economic decline, and growing lack of competitiveness; build critical/pragmatic thinking; and empower alternative power centers with new ideas.

Regular readers of this site will recall Ghazal Omid's words last April:
VOA and Radio Farda, use entertainment and pop music and culture to gain the wrong kind of popularity among the youth; it may sell an album but will not sell a nation. ...

VOA, Radio Farda and many other Iranian radio and television stations generously subsidized by the United States teach the wrong way to fight the Iranian regime. For instance, in an article in Time magazine about the youth resistance in Iran, the writer asked dissident Iranian youth how they were fighting the government of Iran. They said they demonstrated their opposition by drinking home made whisky on the streets, listening to pop music, dancing the night away, speeding 120 km per hour in the busy streets and smoking marijuana.

Also cited at Dreams Into Lightning / Morning Report recently, Azarmehr recounted his experiences at the VOA Persian studios:
When I left [former VOA Farsi Service head Bill] Royce's office, I heard him say behind my back, "What is that right wing Fascist doing here in the studio?". What an unfair comment, from an elderly man who should know better and choose his words more carefully.

Azarmehr had previously criticized VOA's programming on his weblog.

As the Standard article says, 'President Bush has incessantly asserted that fighting the war of ideas is his top priority, but he seems not to understand that public diplomacy, which aims to make people like America, is not the solution. It's time he got serious about the war of ideas and unleashed Radio Farda.' The Government should review its approach to Iranian programming, and focus on a message of liberty, not libertinism. Radio Farda must become an effective weapon against the mullahs' tyranny.