2009-03-25

Morning Report: 2009-03-25

President Obama's good intentions. AP via MSNBC: 'STRASBOURG, France - The Czech head of the European Union presidency says the U.S. economic rescue plans are “a way to hell.” Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek says the Obama administration’s stimulus package and financial bailout “will undermine the stability of the global financial market.”' Meanwhile, The Belmont Club has a few thoughts from Daniel Hannan, MEP, on the subject of borrowing from one's grandchildren.

Terrorism and the UK. Also from the Belmont Club, a report from the UK suggests a high likelihood of a large-scale attack on British soil one day soon:

The British authorities alluded to UK citizens who traveled abroad specifically to learn how to blow up their countrymen. “We know that some British citizens still travel abroad to be trained in how to commit terrorist attacks, that terrorists want to strike the UK again and that they will keep on trying. … From experience and through research we now know more than ever before about how some British citizens are being drawn into terrorism. We are using this understanding with partners to divert people away from this path.”

Translation: Pakistan. Some of these British citizens are already back. The Herald says that “more than 20 Britons monitored by Pakistan’s intelligence service, who are believed to have spent time with radical militant groups, have returned to the UK, according to a report yesterday. The men are said to have trained with extremists linked to al Qaeda and the Taliban and are thought to pose a potential threat to British security. The dossier of names is expected to be handed over to British anti-terrorist teams soon and is being seen as a “big leap forward” in the sharing of intelligence between the two countries, the report claimed.”

Those 20 whose dossiers will be handed over after the press release is distributed are a drop in the bucket. ...

Full article at the link. Walid Phares at the Counterterrorism Blog sees trouble in Britain's direction:

The British government’s announcement to open a dialogue with “the political wing of Hizballah” is most troubling. In a statement to a parliamentary committee, Bill Rammell, the British foreign office’s minister for Middle East affairs, rationalized the decision on the grounds of what his office perceives to be “more positive developments within Lebanon.”

This British declaration underscores a pervasive failure to properly understand the structure of the Iranian-backed terrorist organization. At worst, the call to distinguish between the group's political and military wings (in terms of decision-making) may be driven by a desire to construct imaginary facts for diplomatic and political purposes. Are officials selling a false image of what Hizballah is so that they join the foray of the “sitting, talking and listening” with Iran and Syria's regimes now underway?

Very possible. But it would have been much better to inform the public that the government intends to talk to a terrorist organization for purpose of national interest, rather than claiming the talks are only with the political wing.

Phares adds, "Even if the British government chooses to engage with Hizballah -- which is certainly a questionable strategy -- they should not do so on the false pretense that there are “two Hizballah’s” just as there were two IRA’s. There are not, and the British people are well aware of that fact."

SGIME on Saudi hardliners. Saudi Arabia's social environment is just too permissive for some folks, and Sand Gets In My Eyes fills us in:

If Saudi’s conservative clerics have their way, images of women will disappear from the Kingdom. No more women on television. No more photos of women in newspapers or magazines. No more billboards or advertisements featuring women.

No more women anywhere.

That’s the apparent goal behind a letter 35 clerics sent to Dr. Abdulaziz Khoja , Saudi’s new Minister of Information and Culture.

Or at least one of them.

The group also wants to ban music.

The good news is that none of those goals are likely to be achieved.

Khoja, who just took over as head of the ministry last month, is on record as supporting forward change in both the Kingdom and the Kingdom’s media.

"I intend to bring about great openness and I have a clear vision that everyone in this world is open to one another," he said. “This brings us face-to-face with a reality with which we must deal with courage, acumen, and a clear vision.” ...


Turkey, Iraq, and the Kurds. IraqPundit covers recent developments:
T

urkish President Abdullah Gul visited Iraq, the first visit of a Turkish head of state to Iraq is some 30 years. The leaders were expected to talk about water and the PKK, or the Kurdish Workers' Party.

Water has nearly always been an issue. And Turkey's construction of dams on the Euphrates and Tigris rivers project to irrigate its southern Anatolia region has considerably reduced the flow of water to Iraq. And the Kurds have been a problem for Turkey since at least 1984.

Iraq's President Jalal Talabani asked the PKK guerrillas to disarm or leave during a press conference with Abdullah Gul. The Kurdish rebels rejected Talabani's demands, and they vowed to keep fighting. The PKK stage cross-border raids into Turkish territory from sanctuaries in northern Iraq. They have been fighting for autonomy in Turkey's southeast since 1984.

Turkey promised [Arabic] to do what it takes to help with stability in Iraq. ...


Briefly noted. ThreatsWatch Daily Briefings:

1. A missing Somali man believed to have traveled to Somalia for training with al-Qaeda-linked terrorists is said to have been spotted back in Minneapolis. One witness says he was seen at a mall. This follows discovery of published AQ recruiting document detailing setting up cells within Western countries.

2. Yemeni court gives death sentence to an Islamist charged with attempting to spy for Israeli intelligence.

3. After Taliban signs peace agreement recently reached in Swat agency with the Pakistani government, Taliban outlaws government courts and effectively dismisses over 500 lawyers in implementation of sharia law. Further sign that Swat has essentially been surrendered and ceded to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. ...


Commentary. Here's Goldfarb:

The boss notes that during tonight's press conference Obama seemed to have dropped the audacity that characterized his campaign rhetoric in favor of a new incrementalism and persistence on everything from the economy to energy to education. Obama also said he was only seeking "steady progress" in his dealings with Iran. ...