Undisclosed Location

Where is the Secretary of State?
Nile Gardiner at the Daily Telegraph writes: “The White House should send a search party to track down Hillary Clinton. America’s foreign policy chief has been missing from the world stage for several days, and has become as elusive as the Scarlet Pimpernel at the height of the French Revolution.”

Come to think of it, we haven’t seen or heard from her since the Flight 253 bombing attack. ...


Barry Rubin on Obama and Iran

Barry Rubin at GLORIA Center: Obama's 2010 Policy
A friend of mine is angry, saying I'm too tough on President Barack Obama and that nothing he does pleases me. Well, I wish he'd do more that pleases me, and disconcerts America's enemies.

True, he has done three good things lately: his Nobel speech, which sounded like it was actually given by a U.S. president; his remarks on the demonstrations in Iran (better six months late than never), and his tough verbal stance about investigating the mistakes that led to the near disaster (though I worry they're less about dramatic change and more just a show to reassure the public that something will be done). I also pointed out that the administration's relationship with Israel was pretty good overall.

Yet on the single most important Middle East issue, Iran's nuclear program and its aggressive ambitions, hints about his policy are getting worrisome both because of what this administration isn't doing and what it's obviously thinking. The year has now ended with no major public move toward imposing serious sanctions. True, there are a few statements you can dig out indicating a turn in that direction. Yet what should have happened was a major public speech by December 31 about the administration's sanction plans. After all, it set that date as a deadline for action ten months ago yet let it pass with no visible action.

There are other bad signs that the administration still doesn't comprehend the problems it faces. ...

Full post at the link.


Iran's Khamenei Planning to Escape to Russia?

According to this report, Iran's Supreme Leader and his family and henchmen may be planning to escape to Russia in the event that their criminal regime falls. Zand-Bon at Planet Iran:
December 29, 2009

Iran Global website has exposed a document that discloses information on Khamenei and various authorities of the regime’s possible escape to Russia.

The document is on the National Security Agency of the Islamic regime’s letterhead addressed from the office of the High Assembly of the Islamic Republic’s National Security official [name is redacted] to an individual [name redacted] in the revolutionary guards. The letter is dated 6th of Dey (December 27th).

It reads:

Re: Response to a letter number [redacted] written on the 5th of Dey (December 26th).

Salam Aleykom

With respect, we would like to inform you of the inspection, check up and preparation of the aircraft, destination Russia, for the purpose of transporting the Supreme Leader ....

Report: CIA Had Info on Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab

The father of terrorism suspect Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab talked about his son's extremist views with someone from the CIA and a report was prepared, but the report was not circulated outside the agency, a reliable source told CNN's Jeanne Meserve on Tuesday.

Had that information been shared, the 23-year-old Nigerian who is alleged to have bungled an attempt to blow up a jetliner as it was landing in Detroit, Michigan, on Christmas Day might have been denied passage on the Northwest Airlines flight, the source said.

Read the rest at the link.

UPDATE: Breitbart covers a certain 'Farouk1986' whose profile looks a lot like UFAM's:
Internet postings purportedly written by a Nigerian charged with trying to bomb a U.S. airliner on Christmas Day suggest a fervently religious and lonely young man who fantasized about becoming a Muslim holy warrior.

Throughout more than 300 posts, a user named "Farouk1986" reflects on a growing alienation from his family, his shame over sexual urges and his hopes that a "great jihad" will take place across the world.

While officials haven't verified that the postings were written by Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, details from the posts match his personal history. ...

RTWT. H/T Van W. at Facebook. Breitbart credits the Washington Post with breaking the story.

Obama Condemns Tehran's "Iron Fist of Brutality"

US President Barack Obama has condemned the Iranian government's attempts to quell recent protests, in which eight people have been killed.

He said the "iron fist of brutality" had been used to silence protesters, calling the actions of officials an "unjust suppression".

Barack Obama also urged the government to release detained opposition figures.

Notwithstanding the criticism some of us have directed at President Obama and his Middle East policies, the President deserves praise for this unequivocal and strongly worded statement. Go to the BBC's video link for the clip.

Star: Saleh 2009 = Saddam 1990 ?

Again via Jane, here's Lebanon's Daily Star:
Like Saddam Hussein, Ali Abdullah Saleh is an autocrat with a fair amount of blood on his hands, perched atop a decades-old security-oriented regime.

This regime does some things well, such as managing a personality cult, but it’s much less proficient at other tasks, such as running the country’s tribal and regional politics and generating stability.

Saudi Arabia and Egypt have stood with Saleh and the US is now getting heavily involved, providing the regime with missiles, sending unmanned drones to bomb areas affected by the Houthi rebellion, and dispatching covert military teams to join Yemen’s Army in pursuing threats to stability, under the rubric of the “war on terror” policy.

And like Saddam, Saleh deals with a large part of his country as if it’s the enemy. Iraq’s Kurds suffered atrocities in the weapons during the Saddam era, while the southerners of Yemen have also been treated horribly by the Saleh regime, and we’ve heard calls for secession from the central government in both countries. ...

UPDATE: Bill Roggio at Long War Journal has this on Yemen and Al-Qaeda:
As the US has stepped up cooperation with Yemen in targeting al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, known terrorists wanted by the US government continue to operate in the open while the Yemeni government looks the other way.

The US has stepped up military and intelligence support with the weak Yemeni government and President Ali Abdullah Saleh over the past several months as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has grown more bold. The terror group has been plotting to target the Yemeni state as well as US and other foreign targets inside and outside Yemen, according to US intelligence officials.

The US deployed special operations forces to Yemen in the fall to work with the country's army and security serves to root out al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. The terror group has opened large training camps in Sana'a, Abyan, and Shabwa provinces over the past year.

Read more: http://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2009/12/yemen_permits_wanted.php#ixzz0b8CtxvPx

UPDATE: CNN reports
The U.S. and Yemen are now looking at fresh targets in Yemen for a potential retaliation strike, two senior U.S. officials told CNN Tuesday, in the aftermath of the botched Christmas Day attack on an airliner that al Qaeda in Yemen claims it organized.

The officials asked not to be not be identified because of the sensitive nature of the information. ...

David Savage at the L.A. Times:
Yemen's emergence as a center for Al Qaeda activity has added another complication to the Obama administration's plan to close the U.S. military-run prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Yemenis make up the largest bloc of the remaining detainees. This month, six men from that country were sent home, and their lawyers expected that up to 40 more could soon be released from Guantanamo.

Now that an Al Qaeda affiliate in Yemen has claimed to be behind the attempted bombing of an airline flight bound for Detroit on Christmas Day, however, the lawyers fear the administration will block further releases. ...

Dreams Into Lightning notes that that would just break our heart.

Yemen Passes Terror Financing Law

Yemen's Parliament today ratified the Tuesday the International Convention for the Suppression of Financing of Terrorism. Armies of Liberation reports:
After years of delay during which this bill was brought forth and then rejected by Parliament, Yemen passed a counter-terror financing law. The argument against the law was that it would hamper efforts to fund “legitimate resistance” movements like Hamas and other charitable giving. Also recall in 2005, when the UN circulated a list of 144 bank accounts associated with al Qaeda and/or the Taliban, Yemen closed one and took no further action in subsequent years. ...

More here.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab and NWA 253: Roundup

CNN, December 27:
The alleged terror incident aboard a passenger flight from Amsterdam to Detroit has raised questions as to how a Nigerian man carried explosives through stringent security measures.

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab has been charged with attempting to destroy a passenger plane after he detonated a device on board a jet on Friday.

Authorities in the United States are investigating whether Abdulmutallab had any connections with terrorist organizations or was acting alone. ...

In from the Cold on Janet Napolitano's claim that "the system worked::
Of course, Napolitano didn't mention all the red flags that Farouk Abdulmutllab managed to raise over the past 4-5 months. Or the failure of various government agencies to connect the dots, and identify the Nigerian as a potential terrorist. Instead, she assures us, that the system worked as advertised. Never mind that we were just moments away from a "man-caused disaster," to use one of Ms. Napolitano's politically-correct terms for a terrorist attack.

Our number one Yemen woman, Jane points out possible Yemeni links:
PETN, our new vocabulary word, was used in both the attack of Prince Naif and in the recent airliner incident. In both cases the explosive device was sewn into underware. The Nigerian says he was trained at a camp near Sana’a (Arhab?), and recruited online by a “radical cleric” who facilitated contact with al Qaeda in Yemen. The Yemeni government hasn’t yet recieved any official communications from the US on the matter. ...

More here.

DEBKAfile's counter-terror sources note that in the past year, Washington was strangely deaf to a flood of notices from Saudi, Egyptian and Yemeni security agencies warning that al Qaeda networks had established themselves in Yemen and so gained a jumping-off base into the Arabian peninsula and across the strategic Gulf of Aden. The network was now directly linked from Yemeni shores to Osama bin Laden at his new headquarters in Pakistani Baluchistan.

These warnings went unheeded by the relevant agencies in Washington.

Only two months ago, on Oct. 7, President Barack Obama told the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean, Virginia: "We're making real progress in our core mission - to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda and other extremist networks around the world."

Citing a counterterrorism expert, Obama added: “Because of our efforts, Al Qaeda and its allies have not only lost operational capacity, they’ve lost legitimacy and credibility.”

Only three days before the US president's speech, on Oct. 3, the FBI arrested the Chicagoan David Headley at O'Hare Airport and charged him with targeting and conducting reconnaissance for the al Qaeda branch Lashkar e-Taibe's terror massacre in Mumbai of November 2008, which left more than 170 people dead.

A month later, US Maj. Malik Nadal Hasan shot dead 13 comrades at the Fort Hood base in Texas. Federal investigators persist in refusing to call the crime an act of terror although Hasan was shown to have been in regular correspondence with Anwar al-Awkali, the imam who was religious mentor to 9/11 hijackers and himself, from the time he relocated to Yemen in 2008.

The failed Christmas Day airliner bombing has strong leads to Yemen indicating that the attempt was plotted, planned and aided from that country.

Read the full article at the link. Debka concludes that "the weakness is conceptual rather than technical or human."

Finally, Roderick Jones at Counterterrorism Blog has a comprehensive analysis:
The visible US response to the latest attempted terrorist attack on the country, has so far sadly conformed to past mistakes and strategic blunders. The attempted attack by the Nigerian Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab as the NorthWest Airlines flight 253 was coming into land at Detroit airport has led to an increase in security by the TSA, which has so far taken the following form: restrictions surrounding in-flight entertainment on International flights coming into the USA, extra screening on flights coming into the USA, extra screening at domestic airports, restrictions on moving around the cabin one-hour before landing and discussion of restrictions on taking electronics on the airplane and of course the default extra screening of baby food, which seems to happen after every terrorist event. This is eloquently described as, 'TSA Security Burlesque' by an Atlantic Commentator.

It could reasonably be claimed that most people regard the security regime surrounding air-travel as at best a nuisance and at worst a catastrophic drain on economic resources. In large part the west's terrorist opponents have won this battle. Low-cost terrorist attempts at aviation infrastructure create enormous security reactions - truly exhausting and bleeding the west's financial and psychological capital to resist. Nobody who has suffered through a US domestic flight since 9/11 would argue the airline industry is in good-shape. As a key-component in global economic growth destroying the aviation industry is a good place for a nihilistic terrorist movement to start.

What has caused this? At this point, it is the reaction of United States Department of Homeland Security to any terrorist event involving aviation [which then spreads throughout the global aviation system], which heightens the operational success of militant Islamist terrorists against aviation targets. The noted, counter-insurgency expert David Kilcullen expertly puts this into focus [in his book Accidental Guerrilla] by highlighting the detrimental effects of US counter-terrorism policy. In short al-Qaeda does not represent an existential threat to the US, it has no path to victory looking at any reasonable scenario including the use of WMD-- but the US can defeat itself by unnecessary over-reaction and a fundamental misunderstanding of basic risk management and terrorist theory. Once again this is being demonstrated by the events in Detroit and the DHS reaction, which creates more disruption than the attack itself, destroys DHS and US credibility by mandating absurd responses, which focus on securing events after they have happened (for example, turning off in-flight entertainment because passengers can see a map - passengers can still look out the window or use their watches). ...


Noel, Noel (Christmas 1940)

... I wanted to tell you about us, how wicked we are.
And yet also to say that the Star—you know the star I mean—
Is for some of us clearly visible still in the east at midnight rising, and all the night long burns serene—
And that on such nights on unaccustomed knees we kneel and in sweet discomfort
Pray for hours, and mean it, to be better than we are.
I am not one of these, I fear;
I loved you always for the things I read
About you in a book we had.
I did not meet you for the first time through the incense and stale smell
Of a room seldom aired, where people purred of heaven and howled of hell.
I used to read all day, when I was ten:
—You and Don Quijote were my heroes then.

Perhaps because of him I have been kind
Often with my heart, before consulting my mind.
I might have been wiser, had I learned direct from you—
Learned to make curlicues in the sand or on a scratch-pad while deciding what to say or do ...
Such as, "Sin—the waves come in—all pushing pebbles—each alone ...
I have it!—Let him among them who is without sin!—cast the first stone!"

I learned so young to know you, I could never see
Why we should not be playmates; you were wonderful,—
Oh, you were shiny!—and for some strange reason, fond of me.
But nothing will be done. I can do nothing. Nothing at all.
Only remember what you said, your voice, the way you said it,—
For it never was like something read, it was something heard, even while I read it—
And try to be wiser and kinder, in a world where Pity from place to place
Flees under cover of darkness, hiding her face;
Give Pity breathing-space.

- Edna St. Vincent Millay
from Make Bright the Arrows


One more for the holiday, couldn't resist; it's Leonard Cohen with 'Suzanne'. Dutch subtitles at no extra charge.


O Light Divine

Oh, all right. Here's something for the holiday. It's Celine Dion with an utterly breathtaking version of "O Holy Night". Enjoy.

Wieseltier on the Uses of Hatred

"As all hatred will ever be wrong." Leon Wieseltier begs to differ:
To be sure, hatred is not quite an analysis; but still a word must be said on its behalf. Hatred may be a sign that something has been properly understood. If you do not hate racism, then you do not understand what it is. If you do not hate Ahmadinejad, then you do not understand who he is. ...

Via Michael Totten.

Iraq's Mithal al-Alusi: Iran Nuclear Sooner than You Think

Via Planet Iran, here's JPost:
Dec. 25, 2009

Iraqi parliamentarian Mithal al-Alusi is warning that Iran is much closer to attaining nuclear capability than most sources, including the International Atomic Energy Agency and the US State Department, believe. In fact, he predicts the Iranians could have a nuclear capability - and may announce that they have it - as soon as next month.

"We are receiving information which says Iran is so close to producing an atom bomb," Alusi said in an interview earlier this month, the latest in a series of interviews conducted since September. "All the international community, they don't realize how close [the Iranians] are to the goal... The Iranians will surprise us one day [soon] and say, 'We have it.'"

Alusi said he cannot reveal his sources of this information, because that would place in grave and imminent danger individuals within the Iranian "establishment" who risked their lives to share it with him.

"I am talking about Iranian insider information. Very clear, from inside Iran," he said. "There are people within Iran who want to be normal... They know this is a dangerous regime. You see how they treat their own people... Iran is terrorizing the world already. What will they do once they have the bomb and they are stronger?" ...

Go to the link for the rest. Now if that's not enough, Muslims Against Sharia links John Noonan at The Weekly Standard, who says that Iran could be working on not just a fission bomb (A-bomb), but a thermonuclear fusion device (H-bomb):
Iran's nuclear program is spread throughout a variety of experimental laboratories, hardened enrichment facilities, heavy water manufacturing plants, and two plutonium reactors currently under development (Bushehr could come online within a few months). That far exceeds what's needed to turn on the lights, but it's also beyond what's needed for a basic nuclear weapons program.

Consider North Korea, which manufactured two limited yield nuclear weapons using only a plutonium reactor, a plutonium reprocessing facility, and -- presumably -- some sort of weapons laboratory. Why is Iran pumping billions more into building and protecting triple the number of facilities required to build a basic nuclear weapon, akin to the Fat Man or Little Boy bombs detonated in 1945?

The answer could be that Tehran is skipping basic weapons construction and moving towards an advanced thermonuclear design. Consider that they've already experimented with advanced weapons designs like two-point implosion, nuclear triggers, and have built their own facility at Arak that could be used to produce both tritium, which is a suspected boosting agent in hydrogen bomb designs, as well as weapons-grade plutonium. They've spent billions building, hardening, and protecting uranium enrichment, which could be used along with plutonium in a staged nuclear device. All this at an astronomical cost and effort compared to the similar North Korean nuclear program.

And what of Ahmadinejad’s recent visit to South America, where he showed keen interest in Bolivia's massive lithium reserves? ...

Merry Christmas.

Yemen Airstrike Kills 30 Including Top Al Qaeda Figures

Internet Haganah has a roundup.