Morning Report: February 13, 2008

A big terrorist is killed in Syria, and another suspicious death in London.

Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyeh killed in Damascus car bomb explosion. The Belmont Club reports that
Imad Muganiyeh, known to Americans as the man who killed Navy diver Robert Stethem; the man who tortured and killed CIA station chief William Francis Buckley, and possible mastermind of the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut died in car bomb explosion in a posh suburb of Damascus. Hezbollah has blamed Israeli agents.

However, Israel has denied any involvement. The Times Online says "Israel today denied any involvement in Mughniyeh’s death. 'Israel rejects any attempt by terrorist organisations to attribute to it any implication in this affair,' said a statement from the office of Ehud Olmert, the Prime Minister." And indeed he had no shortage of enemies, ranging from the Saudi backers of Hariri to the United States.

Georgian opposition leader's death called suspicious. IHT: 'Badri Patarkatsishvili became rich in Russia during the 1990s through a partnership with fellow tycoon Boris Berezovsky — one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's most vocal foes. Police said they were treating the billionaire's death as suspicious.' Patarkatsishvili, 52, was said to have died of heart failure. Bloomberg:
U.K. police are treating as ``suspicious'' the death of Badri Patarkatsishvili, a Georgian businessman accused of plotting a coup against pro-Western President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Patarkatsishvili, a business partner of fugitive Russian billionaire Boris Berezovsky, died at 52 in the county of Surrey, near London late yesterday of an suspected heart attack.

The Telegraph: 'Friends of Mr Patarkatsishvili had handed a tape to Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, which allegedly carries a conversation between a Georgian official and a Chechen warlord, Uvais Akhmadov, recorded in the summer of 2006, in which he offers to pay the Chechen to assassinate Mr Patarkatsishvili.'

Mo'toons return. Those dreaded Mohammed cartoons are back in the news. Fox: 'COPENHAGEN, Denmark — Denmark's leading newspapers Wednesday reprinted a caricature of the Prophet Muhammad that triggered rioting in Muslim countries two years ago. The newspapers said they republished the cartoon to show their firm commitment to freedom of speech after the arrest Tuesday of three people accused of plotting to kill the man who drew the cartoon depicting the prophet wearing a turban shaped like a bomb with a lit fuse.' Kudos to those Danish newspapers.

IraqPundit on Obama. IraqPundit responds to a Washington Post editorial:
We already know John McCain has had the courage to support Iraq even when it has been unpopular to do so. But the Democratic candidates are another story. "Thanks to Mr. Gates's readiness to adjust, it's more likely that President Bush's successor will inherit an Iraq that is moving slowly toward stability rather than spiraling into chaos," the WaPo writer says. "So it's worth asking why Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton remain so unwilling to alter their outdated and dogmatic views about the war."

Here's what the Washington Post had to say:
DEFENSE Secretary Robert M. Gates on Monday exhibited the sort of sensible and pragmatic judgment on Iraq that has been sorely missing in Washington during the past five years. Mr. Gates took office 14 months ago with the goal of reshaping the U.S. mission so that it would be sustainable past the end of the Bush administration; to that end he publicly embraced the goal of reducing the U.S. troop level to 10 brigades, or about 100,000 troops, by the end of this year. That would be a sharp reduction from the peak of 20 combat brigades and more than 170,000 troops after last year's "surge" -- which has succeeded in dramatically reducing violence in greater Baghdad and western Iraq.

After meeting in Baghdad with U.S. commander Gen. David H. Petraeus, Mr. Gates announced a change of tack. He said he agreed with Gen. Petraeus and other U.S. commanders that after the already-announced drawdown to 15 brigades and 130,000 troops by July, there should be "a brief period of consolidation and evaluation" before any further withdrawals are ordered. That means it's unlikely that the U.S. troop level will reach 100,000 by the time the next president takes office. But it also means that Mr. Gates is listening to his commanders and reacting to the actual situation in Iraq rather than insisting on a preconceived policy.

His judgment looks sound. ...

Go to the link to read the rest.

"We have been this young before." Neo-Neocon has a great post on Leon Wieseltier's piece on Obama in The New Republic.

Commentary. When I've heard liberals talking about the Democratic contest (and I live in San Francisco, where there's no shortage of liberals), I hear a consistent theme in criticism of Obama: that is, that he's a stuffed shirt, or lacks substance, or that there's no there there.