Morning Report: April 4, 2007

A setback for women in one Middle Eastern country, new developments on some British sailors, one American politician's visit to an Arab capital ... and much more. However, we regret that Morning Report is unable to bring you any information on Keith Richards, Alanis Morissette, or Kermit the Frog.

Saudi women still can't register their own babies. Sand Gets In My Eyes: 'At the same time, Prince Naif Bin Abdul Aziz handed down a decision saying that male relatives over 17 can legally register a newborn if the father has not done so after the first 15 days. Women – mothers – are still not allowed to register their own babies. Let me get this straight. Mothers aren’t responsible enough to register their own babies, but their teenage sons, brothers, uncles or cousins are? Oh and once those newborn babies are registered, their mothers are only responsible enough to have copies of the official papers – not the actual official papers?' (SGIME)

British hostage crisis. In From the Cold:
As we predicted more than a week ago, resolution of the British hostage crisis may well hinge on the fate of those five Iranian "officials," arrested by the U.S. military in Iraq back in January. The five were nabbed during a raid on a non-accredited Iranian diplomatic facility in Irbil, in Iraq's Kurdistan region. Tehran insists that the officials were engaged in consular work, but military officials claim that the Iranians are linked to a military faction that provides support for terrorists in Iraq.

Today, an Iranian diplomat emphasized that release of the five would be helpful in securing freedom for 15 British military personnel, who were taken captive on 23 March. The Brits were abducted while conducting anti-smuggling operations in the Shatt al-Arab Waterway, along the Iran-Iraq border.

"We are intensively seeking the release of the five Iranians," the Iraqi foreign ministry official said. "This will be a factor that will help in the release of the British sailors and marines."

Tehran's efforts to link the British hostages to its own detainees underscores the importance of that raid in Irbil, and suggests that the captured "officials" were more than mere diplomats. Since their arrrest, coalition forces have scored a number of victories against Iranian-supported terror networks, and Tehran wants to get these "consular officials" back before they can divulge more information.

Winston at The Spirit of Man is majorly peeved: 'I have always disliked the concept of European Union and the fact that it is an identity-less group of nation-states which may not even share any common background with each other at all and I also disliked Europeans for terrible things they have done towards the Iranian people i.e supporting Khomeini and his followers through 1960s and 70s, their support for Iraq during Iraq-Iran war and their firm support for the mullahs. They are not just bunch of appeasers, they are simply evil when it comes to despots and people who have to endure in countries like Iran. I mean EU is comprised of pathetic nation-states that don't even care about their own neighbors. Check it here: EU refuses to back Britian on Iran export threat. 15 British military personnel are held hostage in Iran and the rest of the useless EU doesn't give a $hit to the plight of the UK government and their demand to halt trade with Iran for a short time. European Union is, effectively, one of the many major obstacles Iranian people face in order to change the mullahs' regime. And EU is to blame if the mullahs have been able to live this long.' The Belmont Club reports on a demonstration in London in support of the sailors. (IFTC, TSOM, TBC)

Pelosi visits Damascus. MSNBC: 'House Speaker Nancy Pelosi toured Damascus on Tuesday, the highest-ranking American politician to visit Syria since relations began to deteriorate four years ago. President Bush criticized the trip, saying it sends mixed signals to President Bashar Assad. ... Pelosi, D-Calif., is scheduled to meet Assad and other Syrian officials on Wednesday.' Andrew Cochran at Counterterrorism Blog: 'The internet sites and cable TV shows are buzzing about the visit by U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Syria today. She's not the only Member of Congress meeting with the Assad regime - three Republican Congressmen, including the normally sensible and reliable Rep. Frank Wolf of Virginia, also met with Assad this week against the express wishes of the Bush Administration. Do the four of them remember that they voted for the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003? The "Findings" in that Act include: "Terrorist groups, including Hizballah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine--General Command, maintain offices, training camps, and other facilities on Syrian territory, and operate in areas of Lebanon occupied by the Syrian armed forces and receive supplies from Iran through Syria." and "The Government of Syria is pursuing the development and production of biological and chemical weapons and has a nuclear research and development program that is cause for concern." Did Speaker Pelosi, second in line to succeed to the office of President of the United States, forget what she said on October 15, 2003, when she supported the Act? "The people of Israel and the cause of peace in the Middle East have been the traditional targets of the groups helped by Syria, but today’s attack on the U.S. convoy in Gaza is a reminder that the United States, and our interests around the world, are foremost on terrorist target lists." What possible good could come out of meeting with Syria and why send the unmistakable signal that the Act was a mistake?' But via Sandmonkey, here's Mustapha at Beirut Spring with some words in Pelosi's defense:
Are we going to be sold out? There are signs that perhaps not. Two things indicate that Pelosi's position will be more nuanced than paranoid Lebanese fear.

First, madame speaker is traveling with Tom Lantos, a democratic Representative well known for his Hardline stances on Syria. If anything, he will help her understand the nature of the Syrian regime and reduce her rose-tainted vision on Syria.

Second, the symbolism in her itinerary.

The first thing Pelosi did after landing in Beirut (which she visited before Damascus), is visit [assassinated former Prime Minister Rafik] Hariri's grave. She then visited Majority Leader Saad Hariri, then P.M Seniora, in that order. If she weren't Pelosi herself, you'd be sure Assad would have cancelled the meeting with her by now.

Go to the post for the full text plus links, and don't forget to bookmark The Beirut Spring on your browser. (various)

Somalia deteriorates, US dithers. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross at Counterterrorism Blog: 'A congressional report on Somalia was released last week. The gist is that al-Qaeda's East African operations are intact, and they're out for revenge. After the ICU lost its hold on Somalia following the Ethiopian invasion, the group's donors started pumping more money into the country. Al-Qaeda's senior leadership is also clearly prioritizing Somalia, as virtually all the tapes they have released since early January mention Somalia in some way. I spoke with a senior U.S. military intelligence officer over the weekend who reports that a number of Yemeni tribes who would have previously sent jihadists to Iraq are now sending them to Somalia instead. ... The truly infuriating thing about the situation in Somalia is that after committing military resources to defeat the ICU, the U.S. has utterly failed to provide our ally, the TFG, with financial and political support. This shows that we have not learned the right lessons from past failures. The cost of our failures in Somalia will be heavy: U.S. prestige will be diminished, it will be harder to attract allies in the future, and Somali lives are being needlessly lost.' (CTB)

Operation leaves eight terrorists dead. MNF Iraq: 'BAGHDAD, Iraq – During a recent four-day operation beginning March 30 in Arab Jabour targeting al-Qaida in Iraq terrorists, Coalition Forces killed eight terrorists, detained 13 suspects, destroyed two explosives production facilities and several weapons caches. Coalition Forces were engaged by the enemy multiple times during the operation. Coalition Forces used appropriate defense measures to eliminate the threat resulting in eight terrorists killed. Among the weapons caches discovered, Coalition Forces found six DShK anti-aircraft heavy machineguns, 150 rocket propelled grenades, more than 30 rockets, plastic explosives, and several hundred mortar rounds. The weapons caches were destroyed to prevent future use by terrorists.' (MNFI)

California may lead Iran pension divestment movement. Or Does It Explode:
Granted the move does not come purely out of human rights concerns, but it's still noteworthy that eight US states have begun to divest their retirement funds from any companies doing business in Iran. Divestment was a tool wielded to great effect against South Africa during Apartheid, a fact noted a few days ago by a Guardian columnist calling for a Saudi divestment campaign over gender Apartheid.

Now it's Iran in the divestment crosshairs, and California, with one of the world's largest economies and public pension funds, is making moves:

The measure would force two of the nation’s largest pension funds — devoted to the state’s public employees and its teachers, with combined holdings of nearly $400 billion — to remove their money from any foreign company doing business in Iran. American companies are already barred from such dealings...
Full article at the link. (ODIE)

Don't laugh at this guy's name. Via Irshad Manji, here's an important item from CBS News: 'Hassan Butt admits he sent a 17-year-old boy from England to Pakistan to be involved in terrorist training. Butt was only 16 when he was recruited by the network. Like thousands of other young British Muslims, he became exposed to some of the most radical Imams in Britain – Imams who supported attacks on westerners all over the world and believed that they had a tacit agreement with the British authorities.' But unlike so many others, Hassan Butt made a different choice: 'Why is he revealing all this? Because, he told [CBS interviewer Bob] Simon, the London bombings changed him. He began asking questions of his handlers, theological questions. He wanted to know whether the bombings could ever be justified in Islam. He waited and waited for answers. Months later, he was summoned by his handlers to a meeting in the Middle East. But he wasn’t given answers, only new orders. ... ' There's a long and highly informative text of the interview at the link. Click on the video link on the right for the Hassan Butt interview, and then go to the one on the left for Irshad Manji. And kudos to CBS for making this information available - let's hope more of the mainstream media follow this example. (Irshad Manji, CBS)

Tammy: Cut-and-run meets screw-the-troops. Tammy Bruce: 'Harry Reid and John Kerry are now threatening our troops on the battlefield with complete abandonment if the president doesn't follow their orders. This should clear up once and for all any doubt about the level of depravity of Democrat party "leadership." [Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid may move to cut Iraq war funds.] ... n other words, they'll spend more weeks on another bill they know will be vetoed, all to send more reassuring love letters to the enemy as they tell our troops they're failures who don't deserve support. We know, of course, it's not the troops who are the problem--it's politicians and Washington, DC generals who don't have the courage to allow our military to do its job. In fact, I agree funding should be cut--to the House and Senate until those poseurs agree to act like adults who actually care about this nation.' (Tammy Bruce)

Commentary. Well, there are some positive developments here. Notwithstanding the short-term symptoms of political posturing, today's items suggest that there's a healthy, ongoing, long-term growth in support for a freer and better world.