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.

2007-11-11

Veterans' Day

Countercolumn: Disabled.
... Now, he will spend a few sick years in institutes,
And do what things the rules consider wise,
And take whatever pity they may dole.
To-night he noticed how the women's eyes
Passed from him to the strong men that were whole.
How cold and late it is! Why don't they come
And put him into bed? Why don't they come?

--Wilfred Owen
1893-1918

Mudville Gazette: In Flanders Fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

— John McCrae (1872-1918)

Anonymous US Army soldier in Fiji, 1943: Soldier, where's your hatred now?
SOLDIER, WHERE'S YOUR HATRED NOW? (F.I., March 1943)

Soldier,
Where's your hatred now?
You haven't any? But you ought to have.
Remember the advice we gave.
Where will you be anyhow
If you forget that you must fight,
That they are wrong, and we are right?
You must make their heads to bow.

"I will fight because I must.
My hatred falters. In the heat of war
The hatred that was once a sore
Festered with a bitter lust,
Becomes a heartache, throbbing deep,
So that I cannot help but weep
Seeing comrades fall to dust."

Soldier,
Why that tear-wet eye?
Your fallen comrades you won't see again?
Remember, this affair is plain:
You may be about to die
Like them; but while you live, be strong,
For right will conquer all that's wrong.
Fight till they for mercy cry.

"You are right, my hatred's gone,
But I remember they are human too -
Those boys who in a sick world grew,
Groping - while afar, the dawn
Awaits to shine on them again
As it has on Freedom's men.
Can I , hating, speed the dawn?"

Soldier,
Spare no love for those
Who try to tear down what we want to save.
They're bestial, and they're not so brave.
Bring conflict to a quicker close:
Destroy their tanks, destroy their planes;
It is this Justice ordains.
Give them death if death they chose!

"I will wreck their tanks and planes
And let their cities fall, for all I care,
And in the name of right, I'll tear
Their bowels out, and smash their brains,
(For you, my country, killed my soul)
And as we approach the goal,
Clamp them in Revenge's chains!"

Soldier,
Bear it for a while,
And if you find no hatred for the foe,
Hate, then, the evil that brought woe.
Hate the greed and hate the guile.
Hate, then, the motive, not the man.
Love the Truth, for if you can,
Soldier, you have won God's smile.

My father's memoir of the Second World War may be found at Pacific Memories.

2007-11-08

Posting Break

I'm going to go to light-posting mode on the political front for a couple of weeks, probably through the end of November, due to busy life in the family, work, and creative departments.

Meanwhile, I encourage you to visit the friends on my sidebar.

Here on the Blogger site, you can view the DiL archives going all the way back to April 2004. If you go to the right-hand sidebar and scroll way down, you can find "MISSED OPPORTUNITIES:Important posts from Dreams Into Lightning" which links to some of my better posts. I consider Journey to America some of my best work. To find out where those rotating headlines come from, and for other trivia, visit the About page (DiL at Blogger).

Currently, my ongoing creative projects include the Gilkesh Language, the Gilkesh Encyclopedia, and The Queen's Courtesan, a serial story of romance and intrigue set in the Gilkesh universe.

You can read my other writing at the fiction tag. "The Rose of Paradise" is based on the creation story in Genesis, and "The Zero Ring" is loosely based on King Lear.

My greatest inspiration in writing has been my sister Stephanie (1964-1992), who is never far from my thoughts. You can read her writing at Wilderness Vision, Iridescence, and Stephanie Online.

To see some really great work by the artist in my life, go pay a visit to Georgianne Fastaia at BadfishStudios.

That's all for now. See you soon.

2007-11-02

Morning Report: November 2, 2007

Developments in Kurdistan; journalistic integrity, and otherwise; and bad news for the bad guys in Iraq.

Iraqi Kurdistan's Nechirvan Barzani condemns PKK attacks. CBS: 'The prime minister of Iraq's northern Kurdish region Friday condemned attacks by Kurdish rebel fighters inside Turkey and said he hopes a weekend summit in Istanbul will reduce the threat of Turkish military strikes inside Iraq. ... Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani of Iraq's semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government, issued a statement Friday saying there was "no place in the modern civilized world" for the type of violence carried out by PKK guerrillas.' VOA: 'U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says the United States, Turkey and Iraq will jointly counter Kurdish rebels launching attacks inside Turkey from their bases in northern Iraq. Speaking to reporters aboard a flight to Turkey Friday, Rice called the rebel Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, a "common enemy," and said the allies will work together to have an "effective" way of dealing with them. Rice also warned against any action that could destabilize the situation in northern Iraq. The top U.S. diplomat is to hold talks with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul in Ankara later Friday.'

Iraq civilian, US military death tolls hit new low in October. Reuters: 'Civilian deaths from violence in Iraq fell again in October to their lowest level this year, government figures showed on Wednesday, bolstering the U.S. military's assertion that a troop surge is reducing bloodshed. U.S. military fatalities also showed a significant drop in October -- so far 36 have been reported for the month, the lowest since March 2006, and well below 65 deaths in September.'

Mark Corallo on NYT's Blackwater interview. Mark Corallo was interviewed by John Broder of the New York Times about his former clients at Blackwater. But, he says in this piece at NRO, he scarcely recognizes the interview that the paper printed:
I’m not naïve and I’m no rookie in dealing with the media. But when one spends 40 minutes on the phone with a highly respected reporter, singing the praises of a company that does heroic service to our country, one expects those comments to be reflected in the story. ...

At the end of my conversation with Mr. Broder, he said that “after this story, the company ought to send you a check.” I told him I didn’t want money from Blackwater. I was just glad that I could finally tell their story, defend them, take a few hard whacks at the elected officials and bureaucrats who were so ungrateful to these brave men who were protecting them from an enemy that draws no distinction between uniformed military and civilians. I’m pretty sure that Dennis Kucinich would not have appreciated the things I said about his ignorant ranting, his uninformed accusations, his general idiocy.

A million people will tell me that I shouldn’t be surprised that the New York Times mischaracterized my comments and omitted 99.9 percent of what I said because it didn’t fit the story the Times wanted to tell.

Go to the link to find out what Corallo actually said about Blackwater.

Huffington Post does the right thing. The Standard's Michael Goldfarb knows a thing or two about spotting inconsistencies in the liberal media. But the Huffington Post's commendable response to Goldfarb's critique of a Barry Sanders article might just be a new experience for the Worldwide Standard writer.
Earlier this week, THE WORLDWIDE STANDARD exposed the numerous factual errors in an article by Barry Sanders at the Huffington Post titled "The Military's Addiction to Oil." The author was clearly out of his depth--he knows nothing about the military, and even less about global warming. But that didn't stop the Huffington Post from inviting him to run a weeklong series on the subject. Still, credit where credit is due. The WWS may rarely see eye to eye with Arianna Huffington, but she could give remedial training to her fellow travelers at the New Republic and the Los Angeles Times in how to issue corrections and retractions when faced with obvious error. Arianna's response to what surely was an unprecedented display of ignorance from one of her contributors impresses us greatly.

The Huffington Post has canceled the series. Here's their repudiation of author Barry Sanders in the form of an editor's note:

After this post was published, some commenters and bloggers, especially Michael Goldfarb of the Weekly Standard raised a number of questions about its accuracy. As is our policy, we asked Mr. Sanders to either provide backup for his factual claims or retract them. His response follows. In it, he acknowledges three "flat-out" inaccuracies: Apache helicopters fall under the auspices of the Army not the Air Force; the USS Independence was not, as claimed, headed to the Persian Gulf in 2002 (it was decommissioned in 1998); and Sanders left out the word "battalion" in the sentence, "a pair of Apache helicopter battalions can devour more than 60,000 gallons of fuel in a single night's attack." These have been corrected in the post.

Read the rest here. Kudos to the Huffington Post for this example of responsible journalism. Franklin Foer, are you listening?

Hezbollah propaganda at the San Francisco Chronicle. Across the Bay shreds the Chron's puff piece on Hezbollah:
It seems that every other day we undergo the same exercise of trashing some dilettante journalist in Lebanon who knows nothing about that which s/he writes. The latest case is Hugh Macleod, in a remarkably bad and ignorant article on Hezbollah in the SF Chronicle.

What's the latest? Hezbollah's "expanding its military power by recruiting Sunnis, Christians and Druze in preparation for another conflict with Israel."

Mmmm, yes. Aside from the fact that this was fed to Macleod by "sources close to Hezbollah," what's the evidence supporting this? Well, your guess is as good as mine, or Macleod's for that matter. Not a single example of a Christian or Druze recruitment is given. What is given is Christian and Druze support in the rallies against the Seniora government last January, which have fizzled out and failed completely in achieving their objective.

Read the whole thing. Tony Bey concludes: '... Macleod has produced a fine piece of Hezbollah propaganda and participated in their and Syria's info ops. This is the danger of irresponsible and dilettante journalism.'

Commentary. I'll just take a moment to focus on John Broder's gratuitous and smug comment to Mark Corallo: 'At the end of my conversation with Mr. Broder, he said that “after this story, the company ought to send you a check.”'

How typical. John Broder already knows the truth; the interview, the whole process of asking questions and pretending to be interested in the answers, is just a formality. Because Broder's masters at the Grey Lady have already decided what kind of story they want to tell, and they just need to be able to say they "interviewed" Mark Corallo to lend the story a veneer of credibility.

And at the end of the day, why does anybody say or do anything? It's not because of duty or honor or ethics or commitment or just because it's the right thing to do; it's just because somebody is going to "send them a check". Broder's moment of candor is refreshingly revelatory about a certain mentality in the world of journalism today.

Here's what Corallo does say about Blackwater and its founder:

I went on at length about the vision and commitment of Blackwater’s founder and owner Eric Prince. Instead of spending the rest of his life relaxing on the interest from a sizeable inheritance, Prince decided to become a Navy Seal. While serving on active duty he realized that the Navy lacked the facilities to conduct the kind of training that would make our soldiers, sailors, and Marines even more proficient and skilled war fighters. When he left active service, he created Blackwater USA and dedicated his life to making America even safer. ...

I told Broder that I stopped representing Blackwater for a number of reasons, chief among them my inability to help them under the State Department’s gag order. I told him of sitting in a meeting with the State Department’s contracting officer, who told the company’s representatives that if they so much as popped their heads up in the media, he would ruin them.

I did say that — as would be true of just about any corporation — there were some inside Prince’s organization (but not Prince or his senior team) who were unsophisticated in the ways of Washington and didn’t understand or particularly like the congressional-oversight process.

I did say that there were a couple of guys who had a “cowboy mentality.” But those comments were in the context of the company’s image — a necessary one for business purposes. Let’s face it, nobody is going to hire a bunch of wimps or trust their lives to guys who aren’t willing to act with speed and determination under fire. So the cowboy tag was a double-edged sword. ...

I'm going to stop quoting here, but please take a few moments to read the article.

The other day I quoted IraqPundit on the Blackwater shooting investigation. I don't know the full facts of the incident, but with 17 Iraqis dead, I don't blame IraqPundit for being angry, and we all have a right and a duty to demand a full investigation of what happened. If malice or negligence lead to the deaths of innocent people, then those responsible must be identified, apprehended, and puinished to the full extent of the law - and the system needs to be re-examined to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

But we also have the right and the duty to demand an honest presentation of the facts from our news media - not propaganda pieces written by hacks who'll do anything for a buck. That's why John Broder's remark is so revealing: it's a case of projection. The press imagines that the rest of the world is made up of people like themselves.

But it is only the journalists, not the Blackwater contractors, who are soulless mercenaries.

2007-11-01

Salah Uddin Shoaib Coudhury Won't Let Islamists Run Him Out of Bangladesh

Judith Apter Klinghoffer:
It is easy to lose heart, become cynical, give up on the human race. One has to look at Saudi King Abdullah's visit to Britain, the feminists efforts to justify the subjugation of Muslim women (recently joined by Laura Bush!) or, for that matter, the current preparation for the upcoming "no concessions" Israeli Palestinian conference in Annapolis. But it would be wrong. For it would fail Salah Uddin Shoaib Coudhury and no one has the right to do that.

Last night I had the unique honor of shaking his hand. I knew of his plight. Only six months ago I asked you to sign a petition on his behalf so I was delighted to discover that he is safe, in the US. He is charged with "Sedition - treason -blasphemy" because he tried to board a flight from Dhaka to Tel Aviv to attend a peace conference in 2003. Yes, "is" is the correct tense. International agitation led to his release on bail in 2005 but not to the dropping of the charges. That means he can be rearrested any minute, tortured and placed in solitary confinement or even worse.

What can be worse? He can be held in the same prison that holds Bin Laden supporters of the type who do not tolerate sharing space with Muslims who have a moderate interpretation of Islam. They have tried to assassinate repeatedly and he has narrowly escaped them at least twice before.

So, imagine my surprise when he told be that he is going back on November 5th . Even Sharansky did NOT go back. Yet, this smiling 42 year old insisted that he is. "I have a family there. I have followers there. If I leave they will be disappointed, lose heart. I must go back." I could only shake my head in wonder. We have asked where are the Muslim moderates? He stepped forward and in so doing demonstrated the price such moderates have to pay. I hope those who advocate cutting and running from the Muslim world realize who they are leaving behind and who they are embracing in their stead.

With these thought swirling in my head, I sat down to listen to his talk. Trust Choudhury to surprise me yet again. "Do not think that if you let Israel fall, the US will be safe," he said. "Israeli flags are always burned together with the American ones. I heard a former Bangladeshi supreme court judge say that peace will come only after Israel and the United States will be erased from the map." ...
Go read the rest.