Richard Fernandez on the Manila mall explosion. The Belmont Club:
"A spokesperon from the group Rajah Solaiman said that the group was behind the explosion at Glorietta 2 in Makati City that killed nine people yesterday. In a text message that was sent to ABS CBN, a certain Sheik Oman said the group was responsible for the blast and that they have scattered bombs in various public places if one of their members Amad Santos is not released within the next 24 hours." [The Philippine Star]
If Rajah Soliman Group is behind the attacks, that would indicate that the Islamic insurgency in the Philippines has become qualitatively different. It means the existence of a strike force based on Christian converts, some recruited while working as contract workers in Saudi Arabia, and with links to the Communist New People's Army. Such a force could move essentially undetected on Luzon. These dangers have long been understood by Filipino cops but denial and an addiction to shambolic solutions has blinded the Philippine political leadership to them.
More information as it becomes available.
Neo on Pakistan attack. Neo-Neocon:
There’s no dearth of conspiracy theories to explain the audacious attack on Bhutto’s convoy, and Bhutto herself has hinted that the government may have been involved.
Has she just been watching too many Oliver Stone movies? No. The sad fact is that there are so many possibile suspects that the culprits may never be known, although the complexity of the mode of attack has al Qaeda written all over it. But it’s also possible that copycats are involved.
One fact that seems relatively new in the field of political assassinations is that the perpetrators of this one didn’t care how many Pakistani citizens they killed in reaching their target.
Ledeen on Larijani resignation. Michael Ledeen at NRO:
Whatever Larijani’s job change may mean, it doesn’t represent a change in policy. The differences between Larijani and Ahmadinejad were only tactical. On the basic question — should Iran suspend its enrichment program — you couldn’t get the tip of a scimitar between the two. Both said repeatedly — as they had to, since the Supreme Leader had laid down the law — that Iran would never abandon enrichment. Theirs was a debate over style. Ahmadinejad wanted to tell the West to go to hell, while Larijani charmed them. Indeed, Larijani was the West’s favorite interlocutor. From EU Solana to a parade of foreign ministers and secret back channels (including Secretary of State Rice’s personal emissary, former Spanish President Felipe Gonzales), Larijani was universally liked. To be sure, he never gave a centimeter, but he was popular. I suppose President Bush would consider him “a good guy,” in the mold of, say, Vladimir Putin.
No doubt Larijani and Ahmadinejad don’t love one another, and their more or less public spat has been going on for quite a while. The ruling class of the Islamic Republic is in the throes of a succession struggle, as Khamenei continues to defy the prediction of his doctors that he would die several months ago, and Larijani and Ahmadinejad, along with other celebrities such as former President Hashemi Rafsanjani, are major players in that battle, as John Bolton observed on Sunday.
The personnel shift may also be related to the mysterious meeting between Khamenei and Putin a few days ago, about which very little has become public. I am told, in fact, that the Russian president memorized his key message in Farsi, and delivered it in a private meeting with the Supreme Leader, with not even an interpreter present. If you think that is a foolish way to conduct diplomacy, I’m inclined to agree, but then I’m not a former high official of the KGB. Perhaps Putin made some interesting proposal that requires the talents of a Larijani. In that case, Larijani would need more time to devote to the Putin project. It’s not as if his successor at the Supreme National Security Council is a dominant figure in the Iranian political world. Indeed the new guy is generally considered a nobody, which further reinforces the view that we are not witnessing a fundamental political shift in Tehran.
Two views on Turkey. William F. Buckley isn't keen on the idea of provoking the Turkish government with the proposed Armenian genocide resolution: 'On the moral point, there is no way in which Turkey can advance its credentials by trivializing what in fact was done to the Armenians, more than 1 million of them having been killed, allowed to starve, or exiled. But this ought not to be a quarrel that affects contemporary points of contention in Iraq. Those who linger with the muse of Clio are giving no aid whatever to the dead Armenians, but are jeopardizing our Iraq enterprise by provoking Turkish hubris. ... We are constantly being told about the high-octane pride of Turks, Kurds, Iraqis, whomever. Is the congressional resolution simply an exercise in American pride?' But Jonathan Foreman thinks the US should re-evaluate its relationship with Ankara:
For the sad fact is that Ankara no longer seems to be an ally worthy of the name — indeed its threatened invasion of Iraq would be the act of an outright enemy. Nor has Turkey behaved like a genuine ally for more than four years.
It’s not merely that Turkey refused at the last minute to let Coalition forces invade from the north in March 2003 — though that did affect the war and its aftermath in unfortunate ways. There have been other equally serious derelictions, ranging from the refusal to allow a damaged U.S. warplane to make an emergency landing in March 2003, to active subversion of the Coalition and the post-Saddam Iraqi authorities. Unfortunately, the Bush administration has consistently played these incidents down or ignored them, thereby encouraging Turkish bullishness and contempt for American neediness. ...
In any case it is inimical to the interests of the United States to tolerate a foreign military invasion of Iraq by any foreign power. Far too much blood and treasure has been expended in the Coalition effort to bring stability to post-Saddam Iraq to justify any but the toughest response to Turkey’s saber rattling. This is why the Bush administration should stop being so mealy-mouthed and immediately shift U.S. troops North — nominally to assist the KRG in efforts to expel the PKK, but mostly to make it clear to the Turkish military that invasion will come at a heavy cost — namely the destruction of any trace of friendship with Washington.
The United States should then initiate a policy that will have a powerful and salutary effect on the region: It should start to construct a massive military airbase in Iraqi Kurdistan itself. ...
CTB on Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani. Counterterrorism Blog:
It's a sure bet that you'll hear a lot this election season about Al Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden still being on the loose and thumbing his nose at America from his hideout in Pakistan's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. But I think eventually you'll also hear about a couple of other evildoers, to use President Bush's term, who are responsible for killing hundreds of American troops in Afghanistan since 2001.
Maulavi Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son SiraJuddin Haqqani, who goes by Siraj, are often labeled by the catch-all term "Taliban," though it's not entirely clear these warlords behind the failed Al Qaeda and Taliban spring offensive would call themselves anything other than Pashtun, the tribe they belong to that dominates the Afghan-Pakistan border.
Incredibly, during the Soviet resistance Jalaluddin Haqqani was an ally of the Central Intelligence Agency, as was another warlord killing G.I.s today, ex-Afghan premier Gulbuddin Hekmatyar ...
ThreatsWatch on Special Forces in Iran. ThreatsWatch: 'Britain’s Sunday Times reports that British SAS and American and Australian Special Forces have been engaged in operations inside the Iranian border to interdict weapons shipments. ... That this is happening is less surprising than its reporting. Of course the US and allied forces would want to keep this quiet. But, considering the apparently nasty engagements, Iran’s silence on it is more telling than might otherwise meet the eye.' From The Times:
BRITISH special forces have crossed into Iran several times in recent months as part of a secret border war against the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Al-Quds special forces, defence sources have disclosed.
There have been at least half a dozen intense firefights between the SAS and arms smugglers, a mixture of Iranians and Shi’ite militiamen.
The unreported fighting straddles the border between Iran and Iraq and has also involved the Iranian military firing mortars into Iraq. UK commanders are concerned that Iran is using a militia ceasefire to step up arms supplies in preparation for an offensive against their base at Basra airport.
An SAS squadron is carrying out operations along the Iranian border in Maysan and Basra provinces with other special forces, the Australian SAS and American special-operations troops.
Commentary. No commentary today, but regular posting resumes - stay tuned for new developments.