2007-12-31

Morning Report: December 31, 2007

The times, they are a-changin'.

Feeling the pinch. Citing the latest unhinged rant from the New York Times, a friend of John Weidner at Random Jottings comments: 'This amounts to a fists-pounding-on-the-floor temper tantrum. My favorite theory is that Pinch found himself alone in the editorial room last night and got this thing out before “cooler” heads (Andy Rosenthal??) arrived. This could only happen on a Monday before a major Tuesday holiday. They are probably hoping no one reads it.' What's got the Gray Lady in such a tizzy? Maybe it's the latest good news from Iraq:
With 24 hours remaining...
The US military is on track to see the lowest number of monthly fatalities in Iraq since the war began in March, 2003.

In February 2004 the US lost 20 soldiers in the 29 day period.This month the US has lost 21 soldiers in the 31 day period.

The Bush Surge continues to show amazing results.

This follows the news yesterday that 75% of the Al-Qaeda network has been eliminated in Iraq.

Then again, maybe some folks at the NYT are flustered by the impending arrival of William Kristol in the New York Times op-ed pages.

Commentary. I'll be interested to see what Bill Kristol has to say in the Times' pages. Maybe this is a sign of healthy change for the paper; I will do my part to encourage this development by buying the Times on Mondays at least. Here's the official scoop from the Times:
December 30, 2007
The Times Adds an Op-Ed Columnist
By THE NEW YORK TIMES

William Kristol, one of the nation’s leading conservative writers and a vigorous supporter of the Iraq war, will become an Op-Ed page columnist for The New York Times, the newspaper announced Saturday.

Mr. Kristol will write a weekly column for The Times beginning Jan. 7, the newspaper said. He is editor and co-founder of The Weekly Standard, an influential conservative political magazine, and appears regularly on Fox News Sunday and the Fox News Channel. He was a columnist for Time magazine until that relationship was severed this month.

Mr. Kristol, 55, has been a fierce critic of The Times. In 2006, he said that the government should consider prosecuting The Times for disclosing a secret government program to track international banking transactions.

In a 2003 column on the turmoil within The Times that led to the downfall of the top two editors, he wrote that it was not “a first-rate newspaper of record,” adding, “The Times is irredeemable.”

Should be fun.

2007-12-27

Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

Wikipedia: Benazir Bhutto
Bhutto was the first woman elected to lead a Muslim state, having been twice elected Prime Minister of Pakistan. She was sworn in for the first time in 1988 but removed from office 20 months later under orders of then-president Ghulam Ishaq Khan on grounds of alleged corruption. In 1993 Bhutto was re-elected but was again removed in 1996 on similar charges, this time by President Farooq Leghari.

Bhutto went into self-imposed exile in Dubai in 1998, where she remained until she returned to Pakistan on 18 October 2007, after reaching an understanding with President Musharraf by which she was granted amnesty and all corruption charges were withdrawn.

She was the eldest child of former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, a Pakistani of Sindhi descent, and Begum Nusrat Bhutto, a Pakistani of Iranian-Kurdish descent. Her paternal grandfather was Sir Shah Nawaz Bhutto, who came to Larkana Sindh before partition from his native town of Bhatto Kalan, which was situated in the Indian state of Haryana.

She was assassinated on 27 December 2007, in a combined suicide bomb attack and shooting during a political rally of the Pakistan Peoples Party in the Liaquat National Bagh in Rawalpindi.

Phyllis Chesler: RIP Benazir.
Benazir: Rest in Peace. May your death be a turning point, may it inspire your long-suffering people and their leaders to finally say NO! to death cult suicide killers; NO! to Islamism; NO! to despotism.

Evan Kohlmann, CTB: Al-Qaeda to claim responsibility.
There are now widespread reports suggesting that an imminent official statement is expected from Egyptian Al-Qaida spokesman Mustafa Abu Yazid claiming responsibility for the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Earlier today, Al-Qaida issued a separate statement from Mustafa Abu Yazid denying any role in recent blasts targeting mosques in the Pakistani border city of Peshawar. According to that communique from Abu Yazid (dated December 24), "We do not attack targets in mosques or in public places where there are crowds of Muslims in order to safeguard Muslim blood and to respect the sanctity of mosques. This is our approach generally, and we inform all of our supporters in Pakistan--and everywhere else--about these facts."

In from the Cold: The real Pakistan.
Who killed Benazir Bhutto? The real Pakistan, [Andrew McCarthy] writes, a country where Osama bin Laden has at 46% approval rating. He compares the Pakistan of western fantasy, against the reality on the ground:

There is the Pakistan of our fantasy. The burgeoning democracy in whose vanguard are judges and lawyers and human rights activists using the “rule of law” as a cudgel to bring down a military junta. In the fantasy, Bhutto, an attractive, American-educated socialist whose prominent family made common cause with Soviets and whose tenures were rife with corruption, was somehow the second coming of James Madison.

The real Pakistan is a breeding ground of Islamic holy war ...

Passages in italics are from Andrew McCarthy's article.

Aaron Mannes, CTB: Real investigation needed.
Facts about Benazir Bhutto's assassination are in short supply. Unfortunately that is unlikely to change. There is a long tradition of failure to investigate political murders in Pakistan. This cannot continue if Pakistan is to become a stable democratic state that serves its people and exists at peace with the world. The first step is that Musharraf invite the international community to advise in the investigation into Bhutto’s death. The investigation will be politically expensive - it may not reach Musharraf himself but it will reach deep into the civilian and military elites running Pakistan. Broad, tough international engagement is essential to seeing this forward - the stakes are very high. ...


Bill Roggio, Long War Journal: Benazir Bhutto assassinated.
Bhutto supporters have begun to blame President Pervez Musharraf for her death. The sophistication of the attack, the governments reported refusal to provide adequate security, and the location of the bombing have created distrust among Bhutto supporters.

But this attack was most likely carried out by the Taliban and al Qaeda. Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the newly united Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, or Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, threatened to kill Bhutto upon her return in October. The Taliban and al Qaeda manage training camps in Pakistan's tribal areas and have trainers and recruits from the Pakistani military in their ranks.

"My men will welcome Bhutto on her return," Baitullah told a former senator. "We don’t accept President General Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto because they only protect the US interest and see things through its glasses. They’re only acceptable if they wear the Pakistani glasses."

Mustafa Abu al Yazid, al Qaeda's commander in Afghanistan, has taken credit for Bhutto's assassination. "We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen," Yazid told Syed Saleem Shahzad, a Pakistani reporter. The attack was reportedly ordered by Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaeda's second in command, and carried out by a "defunct Lashkar-i-Jhangvi’s Punjabi volunteer."


Muslims Against Sharia: We condemn the murderers.
Muslims Against Sharia condemn the murderers responsible for the assassination of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and her supporters.

Our prayers are with the victims of this atrocity. We send our condolences to their loved ones.

May the homicide bomber rote in hell for eternity. May his accomplices join him soon!


NRO symposium features Jonathan Foreman, Sumit Ganguly, Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, Victor Davis Hanson, Mansoor Ijaz, Stanley Kurtz, Bill Roggio, and Henry Sokolski.

2007-12-18

Morning Report: December 18, 2007

A murder in the West Bank casts shadows in Jerusalem, an American reflects on his party's - and his country's - future, and fresh water flows in Iraq. Finally, an Iranian activist reminds us of the common enemy.

Return on investment. IRIS:
One month ago, on the day Israel approved the delivery of a Jordanian weapons shipment to the Palestinian Authority (including two million bullets), I wrote:

How many Jews (and Arabs) has Olmert just consigned to be murdered?


Today there is documentation of the first murder from that weapons cache:

The terrorists who killed Ido Zoldan near Kedumim in the West Bank last month used weapons the PA received from Jordan with Israel's approval, a government official said Monday.

The three members of the terrorist cell were members of the PA security forces.


GayPatriotWest on GOP. Gay Patriot:
The volatility of this race suggests that our party is still looking for a leader and a platform to bring us together after the lack of focus of Bush’s second term. Let us hope that the candidate who leads the pack after “Super Duper Tuesday” can unite the party of Lincoln and Goldwater as Ronald Reagan did now nearly twenty-years ago..

While it may appear now that none of the leading GOP candidates can unite the party, we should note that at the outset of the 1980 campaign, many Republicans were wary of the former California Governor. Then-President Carter was supposedly delighted at his nomination, believing him to be easy to beat.

Should our nominee next year succeed as did the Gipper, then not only will the tale of the GOP nomination battle be a story of our party’s search for itself, but also of the nation’s search for itself.

Go to the link for the whole thing.

Soldiers open well in al Wardiya. MNF-Iraq:
FORWARD OPERATING BASE HAMMER — Soldiers from the 1st Battalion, 15th Infantry Regiment joined local leaders and Iraqi Security Forces at a well opening in Al Wardiya Dec. 14.

Leaders from the 1-15th Inf. Regt. worked with local leaders for four months to construct the well and provide a long-term, reliable source of water for the community which had long dealt with water distribution problems.

“The contractor performed exceptionally and the facility is extremely well done,” said Capt. Matt Givens, from Columbus, Ga., the civil-military operations officer for the 1-15th Inf. Regt. “The facility is currently producing water for the people of al-Wardiya.”


Commentary. For a few words of reflection I'll just take you on over to The Spirit of Man:
Iranian embassies and diplomatic missions around the world are not just diplomatic centers. They're evil places run, mostly, by the former IRGC officers currently disguised as diplomats that keep an eye on the Iranian immigrants, opposition groups and anti-regime institutions as well as trying to obtain weapons for the mullahs and recruit future terrorists. That's how incidents like Berlin's Mykonos murder, Bombing of the Jewish center in Argentina or crisis after crisis in Lebanon...etc can happen. Iranian regime sponsors Terrorism around the world and these religious freaks must be the main source of concern for any sane person that might be worried about the peace and stability around the world.

It ain't matter if you're a hardcore liberal, socialist, a conservative, a Jew or a Christian or even an tree-hugging-green-voting vegetarian environmentalist, this regime is against any thing you are or you believe in. The Islamic regime of Iran is against homosexuals, against women's and children's rights, and it is not doing any thing to protect the rich environment of the country, it jails its own people who may question its legitimacy, it kills dissidents who publish stuff against the regime's system of beliefs. How on earth can a sane person of any creed, belief or ethnicity defend this regime? Join us in our struggle against this regime for your own sake. ...

2007-12-10

Morning Report: December 10, 2007

Portland's man in the Middle East visits a once-deadly city.

Fallujah today. "None of the 3/5 Marines – in India Company or any other – have been killed or even wounded since their current tour began in the summer this year." Michael Totten spoke with Corporal Brandon Koch and Sergeant Charles Smith of the 3/5 Marines:
Fallujah today is an impoverished ramshackle mess, but it's not a war zone anymore. In 2004 it was by far the worst place in the country. It was still a hotbed of insurgent activity as recently as the first half of 2007.

“The unit we relieved was monitoring the city, watching the city,” Corporal Koch said. “We took that over from them. Then we started our push. It was a couple of months before the regular civilians got back in the city.”

“Months after you came in?” I said.

“We came in in November, on November 6th,” he said. “It took about two or three weeks altogether. The civilians stayed out of the city for another month or month and a half after that. We were still doing operations then, but it wasn't an all out push. It was just cleaning up. It was loose ends. Weapons caches. Just basically getting this place ready for the civilians to come back in. We made sure people weren't going into their homes while they were rigged to blow.”

Civilians were evacuated from the city before Al-Fajr began. ...

“I don't talk to my friends back home about it,” he said. “We pretty much only talk amongst ourselves.”

“Is it because they don't want to hear about it,” I said, “or you don't want to talk about it?”

“It's because everybody glorifies it so much, I think,” he said softly and a little bit sadly. “Everybody thinks it's cool. You know?”

“You mean American civilians glorify it?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Guys our age. You go home and you always get those stupid questions. Did you shoot anybody? Did you kill anybody? How many people? I just don't personally deal with that. I had a great uncle who was in the Korean War. I talk to people like him about it. As far as regular people, I don't. If they ask I just tell them it was nothing. That's what I hear from everybody else, too. They feel the same way.”

“How do you feel about what happened here?” I said.

“I definitely think it was necessary,” he said. “I don't have any regrets. I'm glad I did it, and I would do it again. It's good to see the city the way it is and to go to the same neighborhoods. They're so much cleaner now. These people are doing things on their own, they're taking care of their own stuff. When I was here three years ago, I never would have imagined this place would ever be like it is now. It reminded me of Tijuana. When we got here it just seemed like everything you could think of that was bad, this city had it going on. Now they have regular families thriving in the city. There are people working neighborhood watch, working together. It has turned around a lot. I didn't even want to come on this deployment, but now seeing the city the way it is, I'm glad I did. It's like a closure on everything.” ...

I hear criticism of Iraqis of some kind almost every day when I'm in Iraq. There is a lot to criticize. Iraq is a broken country. Its infrastructure and economy are shot, its political culture dysfunctional. In my experience, though, contempt for Iraqi culture specifically, and Arabs and Islam more generally, is far more prevalent in the American civilian population, even in liberal coastal cities, than it is among American soldiers and Marines who interact with Iraqis every day, forge sometimes intense personal bonds with Iraqis, eat Iraqi food, and speak at least a little Arabic. Stereotypes about racist and psychotic Marines, as well as fanatical and psychotic Iraqis, can't survive a lengthy trip to Fallujah, at least not to the Fallujah of late 2007. ...

“I don't think people really know what to expect from any of this,” he continued. “It's like people say: you only get the bad news on TV. They don't get to hear about how Fallujah is doing good now. I'm sure they'd hear about it if something bad happened. But these people are doing better, the schools are open, businesses are open, people are cleaning up their own city. They're starting their own neighborhood watch. They have their own police force now, their own government. People don't get to hear about that. I think that's important for people to know. You shouldn't focus so much on people who mess up. I mean, people have messed up. Bad stuff has happened. But you should focus on the percentage of people who are doing good as opposed to the percentage who are doing bad. There's a lot of good going on over here. And there's a lot of good people in this city.” ...

“Was it worth it, do you think?” I said.

“Yes,” [Sgt. Smith] said without hesitation.

“Why?” I said.

“We got rid of an insurgency and fought the bad guys,” he said. “That's why people join the Marine Corps, to go and fight.”

Go read the whole thing.

Commentary. There are other things in the news this morning, but I'm just going to focus on Michael's piece. I am personally familiar with those "stereotypes about racist and psychotic Marines". I related to Cpl. Koch's words about "closure", too, even though I am not able to see Iraq for myself.

One of the key concepts in Michael's article, I think, is the role of the "fence-sitters", and of the enemy fighters who are not hardcore "bad guys" but ordinary people fighting for ordinary reasons. I'll let Cpl. Koch tell it:
"But like I said, I think it was a mixture. There were serious guys, then some less serious guys and people who were pressured into it. We could usually tell the difference when we fought them. Some were really there to fight. Others, halfway through, would sometimes think about it and then take off. They'd run or just give up.”

“Did you get many who surrendered to you?” I [MJT] said.

“Not so much,” he said. “But there were houses where we would come in, they'd put their guns down, and be like, okay, we don't want to do this. So we would just detain them. There was a detention facility where they would have to be checked. It kind of sucks, it gives you kind of a weird feeling, because they were fighting, but they're not necessarily bad people. People do weird stuff to feed their family. It goes back to the fence-sitter thing. That makes it hard.”

I'll leave you with what Sgt. Smith said about the Iraqis in Fallujah:
“I think they're normal everyday people who are just trying to get their lives back,” he said. “They're tired of being threatened by Al Qaeda. They're tired of having war in their country. They just want to be left alone. They don't necessarily want to go back to the way things were when Saddam was here. They just want a normal life.”

2007-12-09

Morning Report: December 9, 2007

Views of the Middle East for a Sunday morning.

IraqPundit on Juan Cole. IraqPundit:
There are many advantages to writing about a country you don't know. For example, you have the benefit of creating the image you want of the Iraq that you've never seen. You can complete it with all the details necessary to support your distorted vision. You don't need facts or other such bothersome matters. Build the image, as Juan Cole can tell you, and the media will come.

From his office in Ann Arbor, the professor shares his fantasy today of the troop surge:

"First, it allowed the Shiite militias to take advantage of the disarming of many Sunni Arabs, and to ethnically cleanse hundreds of thousands of Sunnis from the capital during the past six months. As a result, Baghdad is virtually a Shiite city now, like Isfahan or Shiraz."

Some graduate assistant should help Cole read a map and find an Iraqi example such as Karbala or Najaf. And maybe the same kid can tell Cole that the al-Qaeda groups are not the same as Sunni Arabs of Baghdad. It appears that when the murders are kicked out, Cole imagines the Sunni civilians are gone, too. Guess he thinks that all the Sunnis are murderers. ...

Read the rest at the link.

Tehran students: "Death to the dictator." The Spirit of Man:
Once again, the brave students at the Tehran university showed us that no matter what happens on the world stage, they've not forgotten the cause of freedom and democracy. Today, thousands of "angry students" broke the main gates of the university campus and invited the people to unite with them in their protest against the theocratic regime of Iran. The students chanted: "Death to Dictator", "Referendum is what nation wants", "Free Jailed Students".

The student movement in Iran has not died and has not lost its momentum and it is something that we, outsiders, have to support and spread the word about. Those living inside of Iran want regime change and would like to see a day when Iran is not run by these religious maniacs and to achieve that goal, every one of us must unite and give them a helping hand. To those who would suggest that we should leave these students alone and let them fight their own fight, I say this: Look at all those English language signs and banners that students carry with them all the time. It means that the students inside of Iran want foreign press coverage and want the foreign observers to know what's going on in that country occupied by the mullahs. I'll keep you posted on this!

Go to the post for photos.

Aleppo synagogue. A longtime acquaintance of mine is a Syrian Jew of Halabi (Aleppan) heritage. Or Does It Explode posts a haunting photo of the ruins of the synagogue at Aleppo. Follow ODIE's link to the Jews of Alepo.

2007-12-07

NIE: Intentions, Capabilities, and Choices

In reading the controversy over the new National Intelligence Estimate, I've had odd feelings of deja vu. I am persistently reminded of the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group report of a year ago. But I'll come back to this later. First, I want to look at the wording of two passages in the "Key Judgments" section of the report.

Here's a link to the unclassified summary of the NIE:
National Intelligence Estimate - Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities (DNI release) - PDF document

In reading the text of the NIE summary itself, I was struck by the peculiar wording of the following passages:
Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005. Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure suggests Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.

and
Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs. This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might—if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible—prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program. It is difficult to specify what such a combination might be.

Emphasis added. Now an "assessment" is an evaluation of the available data; it is not, in and of itself, an objective fact. An assessment cannot directly "suggest" or "indicate" anything except the beliefs of the person making the assessment. A more natural way to word the foregoing paragraphs might have been:
Our assessment that the program probably was halted primarily in response to international pressure, if correct, implies Iran may be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.

and:
Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure is consistent with the theory that Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs.

But that's not what the report says. And the strange locution it uses instead suggests - to me - something close to a reversal of cause and effect in the writer's mind. It's as though the NIE's "assessments" on these points have been magically transmuted into empirical, incontrovertible "facts on the ground" from which other things - specifically, foreign policy prescriptions - may be deduced.

You may think I'm quibbling here over a minor point of semantics. I invite you to read the "Key Judgments" section of the report aloud to yourself, all the way through, and see if the awkwardness of those two passages doesn't just jump out at you.

Now go to the second passage in question and read the whole paragraph:
Our assessment that Iran halted the program in 2003 primarily in response to international pressure indicates Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon irrespective of the political, economic, and military costs. This, in turn, suggests that some combination of threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might—if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible—prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program. It is difficult to specify what such a combination might be.


Now, notice how quick the authors are to translate their "assessment", which becomes an objective fact, into foreign policy prescriptions. Just in case you didn't get the point when they claimed that "Tehran’s decisions are guided by a cost-benefit approach rather than a rush to a weapon", they spell out for you the implication that
threats of intensified international scrutiny and pressures, along with opportunities for Iran to achieve its security, prestige, and goals for regional influence in other ways, might—if perceived by Iran’s leaders as credible—prompt Tehran to extend the current halt to its nuclear weapons program.

At this point, the sages of the NIE modestly refrain from offering any advice on "what such a combination might be", but I think it's awfully nice of them to be so concerned for Iran's "security, prestige, and goals for regional influence", don't you?

John Bolton sees 'a more fundamental problem: Too much of the intelligence community is engaging in policy formulation'; Michael Ledeen thinks 'those “intelligence professionals” were very happy to take off their analytical caps and gowns and put on their policy wigs.' I agree.

Now about the other thing I was saying. Remember the Baker-Hamilton report? I wrote a couple of posts on it about a year ago. I concluded that with Baker-Hamilton spelling out in such stark terms the choices in Iraq, the public and the Administration would "consider, and reject, the empty and failed policies of the past". I quoted Michael Ledeen saying:
The Surrender Commission Report underlines the basic truth about the war, which is that we cannot possibly win it by fighting defensively in Iraq alone. So long as Iran and Syria have a free shot at us and our Iraqi allies, they can trump most any military tactics we adopt, at most any imaginable level of troops. Until the publication of the report this was the dirty secret buried under years of misleading rhetoric from our leaders; now it is front and center.

As I said earlier, I've been trying to put my finger on why the NIE debate reminded me so strongly of the ISG debate; that's it right there. Now you might argue that Ledeen was wrong - that we did, in fact, win in Iraq by fighting defensively in Iraq. But his point was simply that the report had the unintended value of exposing the utter moral and strategic bankruptcy of the appeasement position.

Which brings us to the new post at The Belmont Club: "Not that far."
What the new NIE has done -- and why I think even the liberals are so worried -- is that the intelligence assessment has made it very difficult to sustain even the bluff of working towards regime change; a threat they would have no truck with but at the same time probably found useful for so long as they could get a President George W. Bush to articulate it. Now that the doves have got what they ostensibly wanted, whether by design or misadventure, it has become apparent that it's not everything they wanted after all. It's ironic that an NIE which was supposed to have "proved" the usefulness of sanctions and diplomacy may wind up underlining its ultimate inadequacy without the threat of more dire action to give it teeth.

And you remember what happened after Baker-Hamilton was released? President Bush smiled politely, thanked the authors of the report, and went ahead and did as he damn well pleased. What Baker-Hamilton wanted was withdrawal from Iraq.

What they got was the surge.


...

Morning Report: December 7, 2007

Misunderestimations: More on the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).

National Intelligence Estimate - Iran: Nuclear Intentions and Capabilities (DNI release) - PDF document

John Bolton: Flaws in the NIE. John Bolton at the Washington Post notes that the 2007 NIE differs from the 2005 model more in style than in substance, and enumerates five key areas where he considers the current document flawed:
First, the headline finding -- that Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 -- is written in a way that guarantees the totality of the conclusions will be misread. ...

Second, the NIE is internally contradictory and insufficiently supported. It implies that Iran is susceptible to diplomatic persuasion and pressure, yet the only event in 2003 that might have affected Iran was our invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, not exactly a diplomatic pas de deux. ...

Third, the risks of disinformation by Iran are real. ...

Fourth, the NIE suffers from a common problem in government: the overvaluation of the most recent piece of data. ...

Fifth, many involved in drafting and approving the NIE were not intelligence professionals but refugees from the State Department, brought into the new central bureaucracy of the director of national intelligence. These officials had relatively benign views of Iran's nuclear intentions five and six years ago; now they are writing those views as if they were received wisdom from on high. ...

A tip of the hat to LGF; go read Bolton's full article at the link.

Michael Ledeen: The great scam. Michael "Faster, please!" Ledeen: 'At this point, one really has to wonder why anyone takes these documents seriously. How can anyone in his (there was no female name on the document, nor was any woman from the IC [intelligence community - aa] present at the press briefing yesterday) right mind believe that the mullahs are rational? Has no one told the IC about the cult of the 12th Imam, on which this regime bases its domestic and foreign policies? Does not the constant chant of “Death to America” mean anything? I suppose not, at least not to the deep thinkers who wrote this policy document.'

Michael Tanji: Not BDS, just BS. Taking a dissenting view, Michael Tanji at Haft of the Spear doesn't see a sinister plot to discredit the Bush Administration and aid the IRI; he just sees a typical, muddled, committee-written, bureaucratic document.

Finally, building an NIE is not unlike any other bureaucratic exercise that involves multiple agencies of the government. Competing opinions are argued, disputes are mediated, and dissent noted. At the end of the day a deliverable is due – the rough draft – and the involved parties get to sit at their home offices for a period of time, ruminate on the work, and forward to the principle drafter their comments, edits, suggestions and recommendations. What follows are several rounds of review and edit sessions with increasingly more senior members of the agencies involved and the National Intelligence Council, until the final draft is ready for review, approval and dissemination. ...

If there is a bias being exerted here (and again, I do not dispute the presence of Bush Derangement Syndrome sufferers in the IC) it is a bias driven by intellectual and professional fear and less raw politics. That may be parsing to some, but I think the distinction is important. Regardless of where an intelligence officer falls out on the political spectrum, none of them can stand being the experts that never get anything right (or more accurately, have their failures so publicly exposed). I’ve been as guilty as anyone in the business: I knew secrets, I should have been able to make better calls that people who did not, but often times I did not. So the dramatic shift in the NIE may have less to do with any killer piece of new information and everything to do with the fact that the community is in a mindset that has them prepared to do anything (anything but apply a full-court intel press against hard targets – and pay the associated human cost) to avoid being exposed as ineffective. ...

... Ignore the hype and rhetoric and read the key judgments carefully for yourself. Assume everything used to construct the work is accurate and base your own assessment on the language used: do you feel highly confident?

Well, do ya?

George Friedman: Solving a geopolitical problem. Stratfor's George Friedman, taking a more realpolitik view, believes the nuclear program was only ever a "bargaining chip" for the IRI, and that what is at stake here is really the future of Iraq, and Iran's role in the region.
As we have argued, the central issue for Iran is not nuclear weapons. It is the future of Iraq. The Iran-Iraq war of 1980-1988 was the defining moment in modern Iranian history. It not only devastated Iran, but also weakened the revolution internally. Above all, Tehran never wants to face another Iraqi regime that has the means and motivation to wage war against Iran. That means the Iranians cannot tolerate a Sunni-dominated government that is heavily armed and backed by the United States. Nor, for that matter, does Tehran completely trust Iraq’s fractured Shiite bloc with Iran’s national security. Iran wants to play a critical role in defining the nature, policies and capabilities of the Iraqi regime. ...

The NIE solves a geopolitical problem for the United States. Washington cannot impose a unilateral settlement on Iraq, nor can it sustain forever the level of military commitment it has made to Iraq. There are other fires starting to burn around the world. At the same time, Washington cannot work with Tehran while it is building nuclear weapons. Hence, the NIE: While Iran does have a nuclear power program, it is not building nuclear weapons.


Deputy DNI Donald Kerr: Iran regime's intentions "not benign". YNet (from Reuters): 'The deputy director of National Intelligence, Donald Kerr, told a House of Representatives Intelligence subcommittee that there was reason to believe Iran still wanted an ability to make nuclear weapons. Iran still had the "most important" component of a future program, a uranium-enrichment plant, Kerr told the panel. "We did not in any way suggest that Iran was benign for the future," Kerr told the panel.'

Sarkozy, Merkel: Iran remains a danger. YNet (from AP): '''I think we are in a process and that Iran continues to pose a danger,'' German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in Paris at a joint news conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in response to a new US intelligence report indicating Iran stopped nuclear weapons development in 2003.'

Commentary. I'm going to devote a separate post to this, but here's an outline of my impressions of the new NIE.

First, I find Michael Tanji's comments helpful and probably credible. There's a temptation for ideological neocons (including yours truly) to read more into the report than may be there. And I definitely encourage you to follow Michael's suggestion and "read the key judgments carefully for yourself". It doesn't take long, we're only talking two and a half pages. I've put the link right at the top of this post.

Now about those key judgments. A lot of people are claiming this report discounts the Iranian nuclear threat. My reaction to this is, "I do not think that report doesn't say what you think it doesn't say." What the report does say is that
We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program; we also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.

and:
We judge with high confidence that the halt lasted at least several years. (Because of intelligence gaps discussed elsewhere in this Estimate, however, DOE and the NIC assess with only moderate confidence that the halt to those activities represents a halt to Iran's entire nuclear weapons program.)

and:
We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon.

Whoa. I feel better already, don't you? Let's read that last sentence again, out loud, with feeling: "We continue to assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Iran does not currently have a nuclear weapon."

Nowhere does the report assert, as Friedman claims, that "there is no Iranian nuclear weapons program". It does state "with high confidence" that the program was "halted" in 2003, and with similar confidence that the halt lasted "at least several years" (whatever that means). But the report states with only moderate confidence that Iran has not re-started its program ... and with only "moderate-to-high" confidence that Iran doesn't already have a nuclear weapon.

There's something rather peculiar, though, about the wording of a couple of phrases in the Key Judgments that does make me think that there's an agenda to promote the idea that Iran's nuclear program was halted "primarily in response to international pressure". I'm going to go into this at length in the next post. So, with the greatest respect to Michael Tanji, I assess with moderate or maybe even high confidence that there's an ideological agenda here.

Finally, I keep being reminded of the Baker-Hamilton report on Iraq a year ago. There was a great kerfluffle and brouhaha around the report ... and President Bush thanked its authors politely, and then proceeded to do exactly as he pleased.

2007-12-06

Morning Report: December 6, 2007

Estimated prophets: A round-up of reactions to the controversial National Intelligence Estimate (NIE).

Belmont Club: Less than moderate confidence. The more Wretchard reads about the sources and methods of the NIE, the less confident he feels:
Hmmm. The US has a source who has access to the minutes of meetings by Iranian military officials "involved in the weapons development program". How many persons had this access? Thousands, hundreds? Or maybe a half dozen whose names are on an Iranian counterintelligence list now?

These findings were corroborated, we're told, by communications which conveniently were vulnerable to our interception. Go to the post to find out why, after a careful reading of the public disclosures, Fernandez discerns a calculated efforet " to sell the public on the authenticity of the intelligence finding that the Iranians have stopped their nuclear weapons program."

In from the Cold: More eyes needed. Spook86 at In from the Cold writes:
This much we know: the full version of the NIE covers 150 pages, including appendices and other supporting documentation. The report's key judgments section, declassified earlier this week, runs only four pages, including a chart that highlights key changes between the latest assessment and the 2005 version. Without the declassification of some supporting data, we can only accept the conclusions of an intelligence community with a poor track record on WMD matters, particularly among rogue states.

As with any National Intelligence Estimate, we assume the new Iran assessment makes use of the full array of intel sources and methods--SIGINT, HUMINT, IMINT, MASINT and even open-source reporting. But we also recognize that information from these same sources led to a dramatically different conclusion just two years ago. Moreover, the volume and quality of collection from these platforms has not improved dramatically--as far as we can tell. Technological refinements in our intel systems are offset by the adversary's own advances, and their attempts at denial and deception. ...

Obviously, any intelligence estimate is only as good as the information it's based on. Political agendas and personal biases aside, it's clear that the bottom-line assessment of the new NIE raises questions about the quality and reliability of its source data. No one can reasonably expect the intel community to reveal all sources and methods that were used in generating the report. However, it is not unreasonable for lawmakers--and the public--to demand a more detailed explanation as to how intelligence analysts arrived at their astounding conclusion, and the data they used to support that assessment.


Cliff May: Ask yourself. Clifford D. May invites you to ask yourself three questions about Iran, America, and the NIE. How you answer could affect your career options.
Ask yourself a simple question: Why is Iran still violating international law by enriching uranium? Do you think Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and associates worry that more electricity may be needed to keep air conditioners humming in Tehran? Or do you think perhaps they want highly enriched uranium to make nuclear weapons?

If your answer is: “Gee, I dunno,” you may be qualified for a job in the American intelligence community — along with all the CIA analysts who in the past came to erroneous conclusions about the nuclear-weapons programs of Iraq, Libya, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Syria. ...

Second question: If Tehran's rulers did suspend its nuclear weapons program - a big if - what caused them to do that? (Hint: Think back to 2003, the year Iran allegedly suspended - not "abandoned" - its nuclear weapons program.) Cliff May's third and final question is your take-home assignment.

JINSA: Estimative language. JINSA, thinking along the same lines as May, offers the following:
Most prominently in the news, the NIE asserts with “high confidence” that Iran shut down its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and has “moderate confidence” that it has not restarted. “Our assessment that the program probably was halted in response to international pressure suggests Iran might be more vulnerable to influence on the issue than we judged previously.”

Let us assume for the moment that the NIE is entirely correct. (We know, we know. Hold the nasty e-mails; just suspend disbelief and follow the first train of thought.)

-Question: What international pressure?

-Answer: The American invasion of Iraq in May 2003 followed by the interception through the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI, the brainchild of John Bolton) of an illegal shipment of uranium-enrichment equipment bound for Libya in October. Iran’s nuclear weapons program began in the early days of the Revolution and continued unabated through periods of relative freeze and thaw with the United States. The Iraq war and the PSI, however, certainly convinced Libya and may have convinced Iran that the United States had become serious about stopping proliferation.

-Implication: The NIE doesn’t do implications, but we do. That might change the answer to the question, “Was the invasion of Iraq ‘worth it’?”

Before the invasion, the UN was convinced - through intelligence estimates, including British inspectors’ field reports - that Iraq had a hidden nuclear and chemical/biological weapons program. Even countries strongly opposed to the American invasion [mainly because they were making millions of dollars on the UN Oil for Food (read weapons) Program], agreed with the intelligence assessment that Saddam had non-conventional programs in defiance of UN demands for transparency.

Full post at the link.

Arutz Sheva: Israel intel chiefs unhappy with report. Israel National News:
Israel's intelligence and military leaders are disappointed and feel isolated by the American intelligence assessment that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons, the Associated Press reported. "With the U.S. now less likely to take military action, an increasingly nervous Israel might feel compelled to strike out on its own if it perceives a dangerous threat," according to the report.

President Shimon Peres also expressed concerns about the American assessment when he met on Wednesday with former American Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who is visiting Israel. He noted that American intelligence reports have been wrong in the past but did not specifically refer to the Americans' mistaken report that Iraq had developed a mass destruction program.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak responded, "We cannot allow ourselves to rest just because of an intelligence report from the other side of the Earth, even if it is from our greatest friend."


Gateway Pundit: NIE authors' about-face. Gateway Pundit quotes a Wall Street Journal editorial (correct link is here):
Our own "confidence" is not heightened by the fact that the NIE's main authors include three former State Department officials with previous reputations as "hyper-partisan anti-Bush officials," according to an intelligence source. They are Tom Fingar, formerly of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research; Vann Van Diepen, the National Intelligence Officer for WMD; and Kenneth Brill, the former U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

GP has an excellent round-up, documenting just how recent is this reversal on Iran.

Neocon Express: A train wreck, etc. Neocon Express oberves: "the US steps all over it's own %$#!, shoots itself in the foot", which is quite a colorful metaphor as well as an excellent way to get gangrene. The Matrix also posts a clip from Fox News of an interview with Dan Gillerman, the Israeli ambassador to the UN. Key concept: One report doesn't change Ahmadinejad's nature.

American Thinker: Disinformation? Finally, Ed Lasky at American Thinker speaks the unspoken question: "Given that the Iranians knew we were trying to uncover as much information as we could regarding their nuclear program, is it to be believed that they were incapable of planting written notes and engaging in over the air conversations that would mislead America?"

Commentary. No remarks this morning.

2007-11-30

Morning Report: November 30, 2007

A Sunni outlook.

Sistani fatwa: Shi'a must protect Sunnis. ThreatsWatch:
The significance of Iraq’s Shi’a leader Ayatollah Ali Sistani’s fatwa instructing his followers to protect Iraqi Sunnis is difficult to overstate in the context of Iraq’s crucial reconciliation process.

Leading Shiite cleric in Iraq Ali Sistani Tuesday banned the killing of Iraqis, particularly the Sunnis, and urged the Shiites to protect their brother Sunnis.

Sistani bans the Iraqi blood in general the blood of Sunnis in particular. His announcement came during a meeting with a delegation from Sunni clerics from southern and northern Iraq. The clerics are visiting Najaf to participate in the first national conference for Ulemaa of Shiites and Sunnis.

Sistani called on the Shiites to protect their Sunni brothers, according to Sheikh Khaled Al-Mulla, head of the authority of Ulemaa of Southern Iraq, noting that the Fatwa of Sistani would have positive impacts nationwide.

“I am a servant of all Iraqis, there is no difference between a Sunni, a Shitte or a Kurd or a Christian,” Al-Mulla quoted Sistani as saying during the meeting.

Sistani warned the Sunni clerics from the plans of the enemies to plant seeds of discord among the Iraqis.

The visiting delegation voiced relief for the meeting and said they backed Sistani’s stance.


Western observers should note the significance of Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Among the world’s Shi’a, he is seen as a direct (and rational) competitor to Iran’s radical Ayatollah Khameini for the true leadership of the Shi’a ummah (community).

Full post, with background, at the link. [UPDATE: The bad link has been fixed. Sorry for the error.]

IraqPundit on US/Sunni pact. IraqPundit: 'Iraqi politicians voiced their opposition [Arabic] to the agreement signed Monday between Nouri Al Maliki and the United States. The delcaration of principles says that the U.S. and Iraq will have bilateral relations for a long time, including economic ties and U.S. military presence. The pact also promises the U.S. would defend Iraq against foreign aggression. My question is, what's the agreement all about? Both sides must know this is a weak deal. Maybe Al Maliki is feeling unsettled, and Bush wants to reassure him.' BBC:
Iraqi opposition groups have criticised moves towards a long-term US-Iraqi pact following the expiry of the UN mandate governing foreign troops in Iraq.
On Monday US and Iraqi leaders signed a "declaration of principles" on enduring military, political and economic ties.

Sunni Arab and Shia politicians said it would lead to what they described as "US interference for years to come".

The Iraqi parliament will have to approve any final agreement before it can come into force.

The declaration was signed separately by President George W Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki on Monday.


Bill Roggio on Swat operation. Bill Roggio at the Standard: 'More than a month after the Taliban took over the settled district of Swat, once the most visited tourist spot in Pakistan, the Pakistani Army has yet to dislodge the Taliban from the scenic valley. The Pakistani military, beset by problems with poor morale and a poor counterinsurgency strategy, have made few gains since launching their ground offensive after weeks of bombarding civilian centers. ...'

GOP debate. Goldfarb at the Standard: 'The whole thing was an embarrassment, with CNN picking questions guaranteed to make the party look out of touch with American voters. I had the same reaction to the Chris Nandor song--he took a wicked jab at Romney. And why the big stink about gays in the military, which just isn't a major issue within the Republican party. All the candidates share what is basically the same position, and it turns out of course that Brig. Gen. Kerr is closely affiliated with the Clinton campaign--"a co-chair of Hillary Clinton's National Military Veterans group," according to the Politico. For all Kerr's complaining about don't ask, don't tell, he still seems to live by it. And he didn't do his cause any favors last night.'

More on Democratic plant Keith Kerr. Oops: Michelle Malkin links to Anderson Cooper's moment of shame (video).

Logo covers Iranian gays. GayPatriotWest at Gay Patriot:
Earlier this month when I wrote about Logo’s logo’s first ever half-hour gay newscast,” I wondered if it would
“cover important gay issues which the rest of the gay media has been largely ignoring, notably the increasing persecution of gay people in such Islamofascist regimes as Iran.” Well, when a friend of mine e-mailed me a link to recent program, I found that the program was doing just that, reporting on the plight of gays in Iran and alerting viewers to a longer program on that topic.

Kudos to Jason Bellini and the staff at Logo for covering a story that all too many gay leaders and organizations have been ignoring (or to which they have been giving short shrift).


CTB's Farah on Darfur. Douglas Farah at the Counterterrorism Blog: 'To the surprise of no one, the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government of Sudan is making it impossible to deploy the promised peacekeeping mission in Darfur, the a senior UN official says. Jean-Marie Guehenno told the United Nations Security Council that excessive demands from Khartoum "would make it impossible for the mission to operate".' Read the rest at the link.

Briefly noted. Melanie Philips has a question for President Bush.

Commentary. On Wednesday night's meeting of the 911 Neocons, one of our members predicted that the next thing to emerge from all the various machinations in the Middle East would be a US-led Sunni alliance. Sounds like he was on the money.

2007-11-29

Major Issues

Michael Goldfarb at the Standard wonders, "why the big stink about gays in the military, which just isn't a major issue within the Republican party."

But then again, there's this.

.

Morning Report: November 29, 2007

Dirty bombs and dirty tricks lead today's roundup.

Uranium powder plot busted in Slovakia. AP via Fox: 'Two Hungarians and a Ukrainian arrested in an attempted sale of uranium were peddling material enriched enough to be used in a radiological "dirty bomb," Slovak authorities said Thursday. First Slovak Police Vice President Michal Kopcik said the three suspects, who were arrested Wednesday afternoon in eastern Slovakia and Hungary, had just under half a pound of uranium in powder form that investigators believe came from somewhere in the former Soviet Union.'

Log Cabin Democrat. Via Gay Patriot, The Corner posts CNN's statement on Keith Kerr, his background, and his presence at the Republican debate:
Following the debate, CNN learned that retired brigadier general Keith Kerr served on Clinton's lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender steering committee.

CNN Senior Vice President and Executive Producer of the debate, David Bohrman, says, "We regret this incident. CNN would not have used the General's question had we known that he was connected to any presidential candidate."

Prior to the debate, CNN had verified his military background and that he had not contributed any money to any presidential candidate.

Following the debate, Kerr told CNN that he's done no work for the Clinton campaign. He says he is a member of the Log Cabin Republicans and was representing no one other than himself.

It's not entirely clear at the moment what the retired officer's rank is; most sources list him as a brigadier general but the text of the Fox News story identifies him as a colonel. According to the Fox article,
The retired officer said his activities with the Clinton campaign are minimal. He receives e-mails from the campaign and has been invited to a fundraiser in San Francisco. He said he offered to pay "some token amount like 100 bucks" to attend the fundraiser, but as of yet has given no contribution.

"I have not done any work. Several friends asked me if I would allow my name to be listed and I agreed. She's been such a strong advocate for gay rights," he told CNN on Thursday.

He added that he had been a Log Cabin Republican for a long time and recently changed from Republican to independent in California. He said he had supported the GOP but "these guys are just partisanly homophobic."

Hot Air adds (and I agree): "Just identify the guy, CNN. His question’s perfectly fair. And, apropos of nothing, Hunter’s answer is awful."

Israeli girl takes top honor in world chess. JTA: 'An Israeli girl won a world chess contest. Marsel Efroimski came first in Wednesday's final round of the World Youth Chess Championship in the under-12 girls category. Marsel, 12, was introduced to chess by her grandfather in her hometown of Kfar Sava and has been competing internationally for three years. Her parents immigrated to Israel from the former Soviet Union. More than 1,500 players from 103 countries participated in the World Youth Chess Championship, which took place in Kemer, Turkey.'

New IDF policy makes all Hamas a target. Arutz Sheva: 'The attack on a Hamas terrorist position in Khan Yunis Wednesday afternoon which killed two was the first sign of a new IDF policy regarding Gaza terrorists. Military sources told Maariv/NRG that from now on, the IAF will attack a random Hamas target in Gaza every time a mortar shell or rocket hits an Israeli community, and will no longer limit itself to striking the terrorists who launched the rockets. They said that the IDF has now established that Hamas is behind all of the terror emanating from Gaza and will thus retaliate against Hamas targets regardless of which organization takes credit for terror attacks.'

Commentary. Both the suspected dirty bomb plot and the Democratic sympathizer at the GOP debate are breaking stories, so I'm not going to try to comment on either one until there's more information available.

2007-11-19

AP's Bilal Hussein to be charged.

AP:
NEW YORK (AP) - The U.S. military plans to seek a criminal case in an Iraqi court against an award-winning Associated Press photographer but is refusing to disclose what evidence or accusations would be presented.
An AP attorney on Monday strongly protested the decision, calling the U.S. military plans a "sham of due process." The journalist, Bilal Hussein, has already been imprisoned without charges for more than 19 months.

A public affairs officer notified the AP on Sunday that the military intends to submit a written complaint against Hussein that would bring the case into the Iraqi justice system as early as Nov. 29. Under Iraqi codes, an investigative magistrate will decide whether there are grounds to try Hussein, 36, who was seized in the western Iraqi city of Ramadi on April 12, 2006.


Hot Air:
Bilal Hussein is the AP stringer photographer who was arrested in Iraq by US forces in April 2006 and held on suspicion that he had serious connections to terrorists. Trying him in the Iraqi justice system does make sense. Whether he’s guilty or not (and the evidence suggests that he’s as guilty as a Kennedy in a sorority house), his alleged crimes were against the Iraqi people and committed inside Iraq. But the Associated (with terrorists) Press isn’t happy.

Michelle Malkin has a refresher course in Bilal Hussein's career. Please take a moment to go check out those photos, and the accompanying text.

Sweetness and Light recaps Bilal Hussein's oeuvre, and reminds us that "The last two photos are of the heroic “insurgents” who kidnapped and then murdered the Italian national, Salvatore Santoro."

The Belmont Club comments:
The poor performance of government lawyers so far probably means that Bilal Hussein will have better defense lawyers than the prosecution. On the other hand, the plethora of captured insurgent documents and the number of former insurgents who have switched to the coalition side may mean that the government case, if Hussein is guilty, may be unstoppable.

The expression "to the victors go the spoils" is true in more than the military sense. The winners get to write history because theirs by definition is the winning narrative. Bilal Hussein will get his day in court, but the defeat of al-Qaeda in Iraq -- which the press is only now and very reluctantly beginning to admit -- means that many of the "freedom fighters" and "Minutemen" they devoted such space to have gone from Hero to Zero in the land between the rivers. This should be interesting to watch.


And I'll be watching it here. Stay tuned.

Iran and the shifting battlefield.

Joshua Goodman at ThreatsWatch:
In recent meetings with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Iran made “guarantees” to stop supplying explosively formed penetrators (EFPs). While these guarantees and those before them were met with skepticism, Major General James Simmons, the deputy commanding general of Multinational Corps-Iraq, sees reason to be optimistic: “I’m hopeful… What I see is a diplomatic effort being undertaken by the United States government – and I see a positive response from the Iranian government and that’s good.” A few weeks later, Simmons once again noted additional signs of Iranian cooperation: “We have not seen any recent evidence that weapons continue to come across the border into Iraq.” Simmons’ comments echo an early November statement by Defense Secretary Robert Gates that Iran was playing some role in the reduction of bombings by Shi’a militias. Gates did acknowledge, though, that it was difficult to quantify exactly how much of a positive influence Iran was playing in this matter. Nevertheless, there was a clear recognition that positive steps were being taken.

Similarly, Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari noted Iran’s effort to “rein in” Shi’a militias. In a November 6 interview with Ross Colvin of Reuters, Zebari clearly stated that “Iran has been instrumental in reining in the militias and the Mehdi Army by using its influence.” As such, “Part of the security improvement was their [Iran’s] control of the militias. We see this as a positive development.”

For its part, the United States is making a few overtures to Iran as a gesture of goodwill. On November 6, Rear Admiral Gregory J. Smith announced that the U.S. military would release 9 of the 20 Iranians they have captured in Iraq. And while the 9 released Iranians do not include the highest ranking or “most troubling” of the detainees, the U.S. is clearly offering Iran a carrot in the hopes of continuing the cooperation.

Some of these developments were noted in this site's November 18 Morning Report, which cited a Reuters story indicating a perception by the Iraqi government of a "thaw" in US/Iranian relations. That post also cited the NYT article stating that
The Iraqi government on Saturday credited Iran with helping to rein in Shiite militias and stemming the flow of weapons into Iraq, helping to improve the security situation noticeably. The Iraqi government’s spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, speaking at a lunch for reporters, also said that the Shiite-dominated government was making renewed efforts to bring back Sunni Arab ministers who have been boycotting the government for more than four months.

American Future speculated on the possibility of a behind-the-scenes deal between the US and the IRI. Here, Goodman raises another possibility:
The motives for Iran’s temporary shift in strategy with regards to Iraq are unclear, although a number of dynamics are likely to have factored into the equation. For one, with al-Qaeda in Iraq becoming weaker everyday, the focus of the U.S. military was shifting to Iran’s Shi’a network. In fact, the coalition forces have already taken a number of steps in combating the Shi’a threat with notable success – particularly in Baghdad. More importantly, perhaps, is the fact that Iran’s involvement in Iraq seemed on the verge of spiraling to direct conflict with the U.S. By following through on its promise to stop the flow of weapons and fighters, Iran seems to have temporarily brought calm to an almost certain clash.

If I'm understanding Goodman correctly, he believes that it is the Iranian regime, and not the US government, that has been pressured to cut its losses in Iraq - specifically, in order to avoid a disastrous confrontation with the US and save its own resources for its number one priority, the nuclear program. Goodman's concluding paragraph words it this way:
While Iran has grand ambitions for regional hegemony, it views its nuclear program as a basic necessity to achieve all ends. Iran’s support of Shi’a militias in Iraq was, for the time being, endangering its nuclear endeavors. Although Iran is currently quite secure on the nuclear issue, it is unlikely to take any action in the near future to jeopardize its current position. Thus, in the interim, Iran’s behavior in Iraq will likely continue to foil its actions on the nuclear front.


Now I'm going to zoom back to the beginning of Goodman's article to take a look at the other entity he mentions: the IRGC.
The United States government’s October 25, 2007 “Designation of Iranian Entities and Individuals for Proliferation Activities and Support for Terrorism,” was a clear indication of where the administration’s Iran policy will focus on in the near future: namely curbing the threat Iran poses to American forces in Iraq and ending its pursuit of nuclear weapons. At the center of both of these issues is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Crops (IRGC), the elite Iranian military organization that was singled out as a terrorist entity under Executive Order 13382. As my colleague Steve Schippert rightly noted back in August before the formal State Department designation, “the intent in the President’s Executive Order to specifically designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terrorist entity may be to increase international pressure to divest from the Iranian regime and injure the elite IRGC.”

The IRGC plays a central role in Iran’s activities in Iraq, where the Quds force and the Iranian-proxy Hizballah have been actively training and arming Shi’a militias, and in its pursuit of nuclear weapons, as past United Nations Security Council resolutions have suggested. By targeting the IRGC, a military body whose business operations make it susceptible to economic pressure, the administration may well be trying to pressure those elements close to the source of the problem in the hopes of forcing Iran to cooperate.

He's talking about the recently enacted sanctions, which I previously noted in this October 25 post on new Iran sanctions. I quoted the Treasury Department's press release at some length, and cited Walid Phares at the Counterterrorism Blog, who called it "a master strategic strike into the financial web of the major power centers of the Iranian regime". Phares' CTB colleague Andy Cochran expressed similar enthusiasm:
In my opinion, the broad scope of this sweeping announcement signals a decisive foreign policy decision, in concert with other countries, to significantly ratchet up sanctions against Iran to avoid a more dangerous confrontation (the Associated Press characterizes them as "the harshest since the takeover of the U.S. Embassy in 1979").

And this view would appear to be supported by Goodman's analysis of today's post. Here, though, Cochran's reference to a "more dangerous confrontation" invites the question: Dangerous for whom? In general, a confrontation is more "dangerous" for the side that expects to lose. The way I'm reading this is that both the US and the IRI have decided against coming to blows over Iraq, each party for its own reasons: Iran because it cannot win such a battle and because it needs to conserve its resources for its nuclear program; and the US because the battle, even if won, would prove costly and a Pyrrhic victory.

So it looks as if what's happening is that the arena of confrontation is being narrowed. Neither the US nor the Iranian regime seems to think a conflict over (or in) Iraq is worth the cost. Where we go from here is anybody's guess, but while I'm on the subject of the IRGC, I want to return to The Spirit of Man's post citing Amir Taheri:
A very well written piece on WSJ by Amir Taheri about the nature and goals of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards:

"A few IRGC commanders, including some at the top, do not relish a conflict with the U.S. that could destroy their business empires without offering Iran victory on the battlefield. Indeed, there is no guarantee that, in case of a major war, all parts of the IRGC would show the same degree of commitment to the system. IRGC commanders may be prepared to kill unarmed Iranians or hire Lebanese, Palestinian and Iraqi radicals to kill others. However, it is not certain they would be prepared to die for President Ahmadinejad's glory."

And this is what I have always thought to happen in case of a foreign military intervention. No body will die for this corrupt and monstrous regime and many will not sacrifice their lives for the mullahs. Many many Iranians are willing to take the risk of being bombed if their evil rulers get what they deserve which is what happened to Saddam and Milosevic.

Now read this:

"While many Iranians see it as a monster protecting an evil regime, others believe that, when the crunch comes, it will side with the people against an increasingly repressive and unpopular regime."

And this is exactly what concerns me. A limited bombing strike against the command and control sectors of the Iranian regime will eventually help accelerate the fall of the clerical establishment.

In Taheri's and Winston's view, then, the IRGC is not a monolithic mass but a structure which, with the application of the right kind and degree of pressure, may at least in part be turned to ends other than those which it was originally created to serve.

And if this view is correct, then the application of targeted economic pressure may serve as a means of testing the organization's response to that pressure - and a possible prelude to further action in the future.

But this leads to the other important question, and the one that Winston asks: Who, in the event of the Mullahs' fall, would take over in Iran?

And before you ask, no, I really don't have anything better to do, so ...

... here's a few links I couldn't resist sharing.

The invaluable MJ at Friday Fishwrap has a roundup of enlightening and edifying links to improve your life. Go to the post to find out how to do DC on $85 a day, why C sometimes means F, some of the most disturbing toys (from Japan and elsewhere) ... and much more.

And do not miss her music roundup!

Speaking of Japan, Zoe at A. E. Brain gives us an awesome photo of the Earth from the Japanese moon probe Kaguya.

From the LiveJournal cohorts:

Israel-based cabal plans world domination!

Rabbits. And more rabbits.

Morning Report: November 19, 2007

Washington plays whack-a-mole, and we bid good riddance to a Homeland "Security" official.

Prouty case. New York Post: 'FBI fraudster Nada Nadim Prouty not only used a sham marriage to get jobs with access to secret terrorist intelligence - her current husband is a State Department employee who has held sensitive posts in Middle Eastern embassies, The Post has learned. Her third hubby, Gordon Prouty, 40, now works for the State Department in Washington, a spokesman confirmed Friday night. He had been stationed at American embassies in Egypt and Pakistan. ...' Clarice Feldman at American Thinker:
Now, not only are the CIA and FBI tarnished badly by the Prouty matter, a woman working for both agencies with access to top secret information and quite obviously spying for the Syrians -- no matter how much the government tries to pretend otherwise.

Michelle Malkin:
The case of Nada Nadim Prouty is a Bush national security nightmare. If the Democrats weren’t themselves such open-borders incompetents, they could be screaming at the tops of their lungs about this story’s flabbergasting implications–and justifiably embarrassing the hell out of the White House. Instead, the story has gotten nearly zero traction.

And via Malkin, The Daily News reports:
Several other CIA officers also shrugged off her pleading guilty to rifling FBI files for information on family members and a Hezbollah counterterror case in Detroit.

"As far as I can tell, she was just looking out for her family," another senior official said. ...

Lovely. Go read the rest at the link, if you can stand it.

Homeland security adviser Fran Townsend resigns. Michelle Malkin, again, has the scoop.

2007-11-18

You gonna shoot us a skeet for dinner?

Longtime screen pal Elisa from Madison has launched a fabulostic new blog on lesbian, gay, and queer themes in science fiction, fantasy, and geek culture. Please welcome Queer Universe to the blogroll.
The lesbian characters of Logo’s Exes and Oh’s are a little nerdy. Main character Jennifer is charming, but she’s no L Word beauty: she’s a flat-chested ectomorph with a cute smile.

Baby dyke Crutch is played by Heather Matarazzo, the actress from Welcome to the Dollhouse. Perhaps it's some intertextual bleed, but to me, for all her Seattle plaid and brightly dyed hair, something about Crutch’s awkwardness says former Debate team member. I saw about a dozen women who looked like her at this year’s Wiscon.

Lesbian couple Chris and Kris are dorks, too -- when Kris finds Chris at the skeet-shooting range, she gets out and asks her girl, fake drawl, "You gonna shoot us a skeet for dinner?" These ladies are not cool.

There’s one non-nerd character, Sam, effortlessly beautiful femme and ex of Jennifer. It’s clear to me that deep down, Sam is a nerd chaser.


You gotta to to the link if you want to see that adorable picture of Heather Matarazzo.

Morning Report: November 18, 2007

An about-face, or two, from the US government - and an Israeli official surprises liberals with her comments.

US - Iran deal behind the scenes? Reuters, November 17: 'Iraq is encouraged by signs of a thaw in ties between Iran and the United States over security in Iraq but wants the two sides to have a "proper dialogue" about the issue, the Iraqi government spokesman said on Saturday. U.S. ambassador Ryan Crocker has held three rounds of talks with his Iranian counterpart this year on Iraqi security, easing a diplomatic freeze that lasted almost three decades. Crocker has said he expected more discussions soon.' Full article at the link. American Future:
The following [New York Times article] makes me wonder whether some kind of quid pro quo has been reached between the U.S. and Iran. If so, is it in any way related to the U.S. position on the Iranian nuclear program and is it a signal that Washington and Tehran may soon be (or already are) negotiating?

The New York Times: 'The Iraqi government on Saturday credited Iran with helping to rein in Shiite militias and stemming the flow of weapons into Iraq, helping to improve the security situation noticeably. The Iraqi government’s spokesman, Ali al-Dabbagh, speaking at a lunch for reporters, also said that the Shiite-dominated government was making renewed efforts to bring back Sunni Arab ministers who have been boycotting the government for more than four months. ... Mr. Dabbagh’s comments echoed those of the American military here, who in recent days have gone out of their way to publicly acknowledge Iran’s role in helping to slow the flow of weapons into the country.' That last bit is quite interesting.

Oil prices vs. Iran sanctions. Victor Comras at CTB:
A major debate is ranging in European capitals on how best to deal with the growing prospect of confrontation with Iran over its ongoing nuclear weapons development program. Last month French President Sarkozy and British Prime Minister Gordon Brown called on their EU colleagues to impose new EU sanctions against Iran. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner also warned that dire consequences could result if Iran were permitted to continue unimpeded on its presence course. G7 Ministers meeting in Washington also praised new warnings issued by the 34 nation Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that Iranian banks posed serious international money laundering and terrorism financing risks. The United States had hoped that against this background EU countries would follow-suit after the US targeted new sanctions measures against Iran’s largest banks, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and IRGC controlled companies. But, this has not happened. Rather, the EU council has put on hold any new measures pending further developments and further reports from EU negotiator Javier Solana and IAEA director Mohamed El Baradei.

Some of my colleagues have suggested that the new US measures, and threats that the US will look more closely at those institutions doing business with designated entities in Iran, would persuade major European and other financial institutions to disengage from such relationships. But, without EU Countries adopting their own new sanctions measures, this may be no more than wishful thinking given the rise in the price of oil, significant increases in Iran’s oil revenues, and profit motivations.

Comras concludes that 'increased oil revenues have resulted in a government revenue surplus which can be used to substitute for the loss of foreign funding for current critical infrastructure projects. However, this increased oil revenue has not insulated Iran’s vulnerable commercial class from the potential impact of any new European trade restrictions that might be directed at them. And this commercial class, which is crucial to providing new job development and for moderating current high urban unemployment rates, could prove to be Iran’s Achilles Heel.' Oh, and speaking of the IRGC, The Spirit of Man cites Amir Taheri (WSJ subscription) an illuminating post this morning. Here's Taheri as quoted by TSOM:
A few IRGC commanders, including some at the top, do not relish a conflict with the U.S. that could destroy their business empires without offering Iran victory on the battlefield. Indeed, there is no guarantee that, in case of a major war, all parts of the IRGC would show the same degree of commitment to the system. IRGC commanders may be prepared to kill unarmed Iranians or hire Lebanese, Palestinian and Iraqi radicals to kill others. However, it is not certain they would be prepared to die for President Ahmadinejad's glory.

TSOM adds: 'A limited bombing strike against the command and control sectors of the Iranian regime will eventually help accelerate the fall of the clerical establishment. Let's get rid of this regime without much bloodshed. To be honest, we the people of Iran haven't been able to do this on our own and an assistance is needed. All we can do now is to be more prepared for the mess when the mullahs are gone. That's when a shadow government in exile will come to be an important element of our struggle against the evil clerics. ...' Winston's main concern is whether Iranian opposition groups at home and abroad are yet ready to assume leadership, once a power vacuum is created by the regime's fall.

Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, 12 companies delisted. Meanwhile, there's this, from Jonathan Winer at Counterterrorism Blog:
In a move subject to no publicity whatsoever, and so far not reported by the press, the UN Security Council today without explanation removed Ahmed Idris Nasreddin and 12 of his companies from the terrorist sanctions list, freeing them from sanctions on a global basis. The UN action followed a similar action by the United States dated yesterday.

The move reflects a 180 degree change from previous assessments of Nasreddin, as articulated by the U.S. Treasury when he and his companies were designated as terrorist financiers by the G-7 on April 19, 2002 and by the UN a week later.

At that time, Treasury stated that Nasreddin operated an extensive financial network providing support for terrorist related activities through commercial holdings which included "an extensive conglomeration of businesses" from which he derived income and conducted transactions. Back then, Treasury stated without qualifiication that "Nasreddin’s corporate holdings and financial network provide direct support for Nada and Bank Al Taqwa," themselves designated as terrorist financiers by the U.S. on November 7, 2001, and the UN on November 9, 2001.

Five years ago, the U.S. Treasury stated that Nasreddin held a controlling interest in Akida Bank, also on the terrorist finance sanctions list, which it described as not being a functional banking institution but a shell company lacking a physical presence, and which had its license revoked by the Bahamian government.

Treasury further stated that Bank Al Taqwa, for which Nasreddin was a director, was established in 1988 with significant backing from the Muslim Brotherhood, which had been involved in financing radical groups such as the Palestinian Hamas, Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front and Armed Islamic Group, Tunisia's An-Nahda, and Usama bin Laden and his Al Qaida organization. ...

The article doesn't mention any connection between Nasreddin & Co. and Iran, but the timing is interesting nevertheless.

You say that like it's a bad thing. Arutz Sheva: 'Labor Knesset Member Ofir Pines-Paz asserted that Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni "sounds like [Israel Is Our Home party leader] Lieberman" after she insisted that Israeli Arabs accept Israel as a Jewish nation. "I call on Foreign Minister Livni to retract her statement," the Labor MK said. "The State of Israel is the home for the Jewish people, but we have to remember that it also is the country and home of non-Jews."' He's talking about this remark: 'Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni lashed out at Arab Knesset Member Ahmed Tibi Sunday for his rejection of the government demand that the Palestinian Authority (PA) recognize Israel as a Jewish state. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said last week that "anyone who wants to negotiate with me" must define Israel as a Jewish home, as it was described in the Balfour Declaration 90 years ago. Foreign Minister Livni said that Arabs cannot ask for a new Arab country to be established within Israel's current borders without recognizing Israel as Jewish.'

Commentary. This morning, I'm going to let Michael Totten have the last word. He's in Fallujah. He says it's lovely.

2007-11-15

Morning Report: November 15, 2007

Pashtunistan: South and Central Asia dominate today's report. But first, The Living Theatre takes Manhattan (or at least the Village) ...

Bhutto/Pakistan updates. Pakistan is the big story that's getting bigger. CNN reports Benazir Bhutto freed from house arrest: 'Hundreds of police who had lined up outside her home Friday left after the order was withdrawn. A smaller number of police who had previously been outside her home providing security remained. The lifting of the order came as Pakistan suffered its first deadly blast since a declaration of emergency by President Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The attack, possibly a suicide bomb, at the house of Amir Muqam, Minister for Political Affairs in Peshawar, northwestern Pakistan killed four people Friday, police told CNN. The minister escaped unharmed.' MSNBC reports that Bhutto called Pakistan a "pressure cooker" and adds that 'a detention order against her was later lifted due in part to pressure from the United States, but when she tried on Saturday to visit Pakistan’s deposed chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, who has been under house arrest for the past week, she was stopped from approaching his house.' The Belmont Club has some analysis of the Afghan/Pakistani theatre:
The center of gravity of the Afghan/Pakistani theater (which should conceptually be regarded as a single, complex battlefield) is now in Pakistan. The basic strategic dilemma of this theater is that a) US forces cannot directly attack the enemy center of gravity in Pakistan. They can only fight it indirectly from Afghanistan; but b) any reinforcement of Afghanistan enlarges the forces that have to be supplied through Pakistan. That in turn means more forces will be cut off if Pakistan is lost. Basically America is fighting an enemy which is in its logistical rear without really being able to fight it.

The obvious strategic choices that are open to the US are: a) to enlarge the battlefield to include the direct military occupation of Pakistan; b) to limit operations in Afghanistan to forces which can be realistically supplied in the event of Pakistan's loss. My guess is that the Option B is the only realistically available option. This means that Afghanistan will only ever be a holding action. It will never become the decisive area of operations. That dubious honor is reserved for Pakistan, where the battle against al-Qaeda will have to be prosecuted by indirect means. This implies a greater covert, diplomatic and advisory effort in an unstable country which possess nuclear weapons.

Wretchard goes on to address ways of dealing with this "inoperable cancer".

ITM: Ba'ath holds the white flag. Iraq the Model:
Saddam accepted dialogue and negotiations only after he had met defeat. Power always came first in the ideology of the Baath and the cruelty with which Saddam oppressed his domestic adversaries reminds us that searching for negotiations means that the regime, or those who represent its way of thinking, are incapable of sustaining meaningful resistance.

The call for negotiations reflects the failure of the Baath's military option. This failure can be attributed to a number of reasons, the most significant of which is the determination of the Iraqi people and American administration to continue the march in spite of the pain involved in doing so. It became evident with time for the "resistance" that for the average Iraqis, going back to totalitarian rule is not an option and that an American pullout is not visible in the horizon.

Add to that the growing split between the two main current wings of the Baath; the more Islamist one led by Izzat Dori and the secular nationalist one led by Mahmoud Younis al-Ahmed and the deep conflict of interests between al-Qaeda and several Sunni militant groups. More important are the blows the joint troops dealt al-Qaeda and other extremists. For a long time the figures seemed inconclusive but now it seems obvious that the cumulative effect of their losses has made them hold the white flag.

Meanwhile, troops and locals stop twenty car bombs and Iraq the Model celebrates four years. Congratulations to the brothers from Baghdad, and many thanks.

Foreign workers outnumber citizens in UAE. Or Does It Explode notes that foreign workers - many of them domestic helpers - outnumber Emirati citizens in the Emirates by a wide margin.

"Because we want to re-capture New York from the Americans!" Jeremayakovka takes an affectionate look at The Living Theatre, celebrating its 60th anniversary:
Almost 20 years ago on 3rd & C in the East Village, in a cabaret-style, black box basement storefront, I caught the Living's enthusiastic production of Else Lasker-Schüler's anti-Nazi allegory I and I. It was a night to remember. A high school friend, back from his first semester at Harvard, sporting sideburns and smoking Marlboro reds, joined me again in our native Manhattan. Whereas I'd bused in from Berkeley (3 days nonstop by Greyhound), having recently bought a $99 black motorcycle jacket and sticking by a still-pending "not guilty" plea for a minor charge incurred several weeks previously for civil disobedience. For two otherwise untested liberal New York Jewish teenagers to whom anti-Nazism was the lone inherited pose of anti-fascism, I and I was, or seemed, just what die Frau des Doktors ordered. ...

Go to the link for the rest, and a video.

Commentary. Here's The Middle Ground on al-Qaeda's last stand:
As Iraq cools down, Afghanistan heats up. Al Qaeda and it's Islamic terrorist affiliates are being pushed back on many fronts including the destruction of Fatah al-Islam in Lebanon, MILF and Abu Sayaf in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines among the many places. It has sought to expand into the contested territories in the Caucuses including places like Ingushetia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, and the like.

Al Qaeda has begun to concentrate foreign fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan as this represents their last, best hopes for establishing a long term and protected base from where they can launch attacks and, hopefully, from where they can establish and expand the planned for caliphate. Their current plan is focusing on controlling the area referred to as "Pashtunistan": the traditional tribal lands of the ethnic Pashtun that spans both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Kat goes on to spell out a number of reasons why the challenge facing us in Afghanistan is greater than - and qualitatively different from - Iraq:
Afghanistan, on the other hand, has a number of ongoing issues that allows the Taliban and Al Qaeda to continue to use it for a base, not the least of which is the protected base it has established in Waziristan, Pakistan. From there, the highest echelon of the Taliban and Al Qaida issue orders, train forces, obtain money and arms. They easily transit the area through the Paktika and Paktia provinces on the Afghan/Pakistan border.

Afghanistan, like Iraq, has both rural and urban populations. Unlike Iraq, Afghanistan's populations, though still close to urban areas, are more rural in situation and tradition. Kandahar, Jalalabad, Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-sharif do not hold a quarter or more of the population of the nation as Baghdad, Fallujah, Basrah, Mosul, Tall Afar, Najaf and other notable cities do in Iraq. This means that the problem areas and reconstruction efforts are spread out into the countryside, making security for the population difficult to manage. It also means that reconstruction efforts, such as new hydro-electric dams or irrigation canals, will have a more localized and limited effect, are difficult to manage and secure over the long distances between the capitol and main security forces.

Afghanistan's physical and cultural terrain is a lot different from Iraq's:
In Afghanistan, the tribes are much more isolated from each other by geography and equally isolated by lack of infrastructure and shared interests with other tribes. It is much more ethnically diverse. While Iraq had two main ethnicities, Kurds and Arabs, though complicated by religious and political affiliation, language is not a barrier. Afghanistan has at least eleven ethnicities with diverging ethno-politico-religious affiliations, separated by language, customs, and economic interests.

These ethno-politico-religious affiliations do not simply or easily breakdown into "Sunni/Shia" or "Fundamentalist/Moderate" or even "Democrats/Royalists/Kalahfistas". The needs and beliefs of these tribes are more likely to be insular and limited. It is one reason that the centralized government in Kabul does not easily translate into projected power or control in these areas. Additionally, it is one of the reasons that the centralized government is hard pressed to respond to the needs of the people in these areas, leaving them exposed to the mercies of either the resurgent Taliban or the established warlords.

As far as the tribes are concerned, even though many of the leaders and elders were invited into the central government, Karzai's government is the government of Kabul and Kandahar. That government has little capacity to shape politics or provide necessities within these regions, much less project military or other authoritative power. ...

Afghanistan lacks Iraq's infrastructure, particularly roads:
Without a road, goods and foods cannot be delivered to national markets or even international markets. Without a road, resources cannot be delivered to manufacturing centers that create textiles and other products. Without a road, security forces cannot provide the cover necessary to secure the population. However, roads also make it easier for enemy forces to travel to areas of concentration as well as warlords to extend their control over their areas. Proliferation of opium and its export can also be tied to the new roads.

Following a detailed report on the security situation, Kat notes that:
Economically, Afghanistan is a train wreck that will take many years to improve. It needs an influx of forces to reduce Taliban re-appearance in key areas, beef up over all security, assist with developing better and more representative governance at the local level and improve the economic connectivity and future of Afghanistan. Until Afghanis feel they have an ability to seek and obtain redress for corruption and crimes, Warlords will continue their behavior which is contrary to the US mission. Afghanis will continue to fluctuate between supporting the Taliban, thus al Qaida, as some sort of force against crime. Poppy money will still fuel the insurgency and keep all other legitimate business from making any significant difference or leading people away from criminal, Taliban or Al Qaida related enterprises.

Go to the link for the conclusion.