2009-03-30

Morning Report: 2009-03-30

Lahore, Pakistan attacks. Animesh Roul at CTB:

Almost a month after the attack on Sri Lankan cricketers, Lahore city experienced another major Terrorist strike. On Monday, March 30, at least five grenade blasts reportedly took place inside a police training center in Manawan, Lahore and at the same time, around 25 armed terrorists stormed the center, taking around 500 inmates hostage.

According to reports, terrorists wearing police uniforms and carrying loads of arms and ammunition have entered into the police center, firing and lobbing grenades indiscriminately. While the fatality figure is likely to increase, as per the latest media reports, 20 people have been killed and more than 50 others injured thus far.

According to Geo TV News, Pakistan Army and paramilitary already taken position around the police training center and a gun battle is undergoing now. The injured policemen have been evacuated from training facility.

The terrorists tactics and the fidayeen style operation suggests Lashkar e Taiba (LeT)’s and Jaish-e-Muhammad's (JeM) hand in the siege. However, involvement of foreign Jihadists (there are plenty: Uzbeks and Afghans), Taliban and Al Qaeda elements can’t be ruled out.


Gates "might consider" shooting down a missile headed for Hawaii. Via LGF, this breathtaking statement from Defense Secretary Robert Gates:

Appearing on “FOX News Sunday,” Gates said North Korea “probably will” fire the missile, prompting host Chris Wallace to ask: “And there’s nothing we can do about it?”

“No,” Gates answered, adding, “I would say we’re not prepared to do anything about it.”

Last week, Admiral Timothy Keating, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, said the U.S. is “fully prepared” to shoot down the missile. But Gates said such a response is unlikely.

“I think if we had an aberrant missile, one that was headed for Hawaii, that looked like it was headed for Hawaii or something like that, we might consider it,” Gates said. “But I don’t think we have any plans to do anything like that at this point.”

I feel better already. Well, it's a good thing Hawaii has never been, you know, attacked or anything like that.

Obama on Don't Ask Don't Tell: It depends on what the meaning of "yes" is. Seems the President has got quite a lot going on these days, and as much as he'd like to, he's just not quite ready to abolish the long-standing anti-gay military policy known as "Don't ask, don't tell." Fox:

A change to the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy toward gays in the military will be delayed despite promises by the Obama administration to overturn the rule, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Sunday.

"The president and I feel like we've got a lot on our plates right now and let's push that one down the road a little bit," Gates told "FOX News Sunday."

In January, President Obama's spokesman, Robert Gibbs, was asked whether his boss would overturn "don't ask, don't tell.” Gibbs' reply -- videotaped for YouTube -- was unequivocal.

"You don't hear politicians give a one-word answer much. But it's 'Yes,'" Gibbs said.

That was then, this is now.

Belmont Club on Obama and AfPak. The Belmont Club:

Taken in toto the BBC article leaves the reader with the distinct suggestion that while the US military will loyally carry out the instructions of the Commander in Chief, they do not repose a great deal of confidence in the willingness of Pakistani intelligence agencies to lift their end of the load. In fact, the BBC article has quotes which stop just short of suggesting that parts of the ISI are in league with the enemy.

General David Petraeus, head of the US Central Command, spoke of cases “in the fairly recent past” where the ISI appeared to have warned militants that their positions had been discovered.

Given this difficulty, a successful campaign in Afghanistan/Pakistan will require either a) the reform of the ISI so that it becomes a more suitable partner for the enterprise or; b) there is some kind of operational insurance to ensure the task can be carried out in the event the ISI falls down on the job, a kind of Plan B in case things miscarry.

That BBC article is here.

Commentary. Abe Greenwald at Commentary magazine on the limits of "leadership by example":

"I will not let anyone tell me that we must spend more money,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The sentiment was echoed by French and Spanish statesmen. As the Times of London points out, “The assault by European Union leaders also represents a defeat for President Barack Obama, who is desperate for other big economies to copy his $800 billion stimulus plan.” ...

Taking personalities out of the equation, what indicates a higher degree of American arrogance: a president who understands the need to “go it alone” because he knows that other countries will sometimes cling to their own agendas no matter what, or a president who assumes that the rest of the world will follow America’s example because we are simply worth following?

2009-03-25

Iranians Defy Regime, Celebrate Chaharshenbe Souri

While President Obama was mouthing his vapid drivel about Iran, Iranian youths were celebrating in defiance of the islamist regime. CRIME Report:

Held on the last Tuesday before the spring equinox - when the Persian new year holiday of Noruz is celebrated - Chaharshanbe Suri marks an ancient tradition where people jump over the bonfires to wish each other a healthy year.

Iran's ruling theocrats do not particularly like these ancient "pagan" feasts, which barely survived the Islamic Revolution. Over the years, the regime has taken steps to co-opt the holidays by inserting new religious elements. For example, a special prayer for Noruz has been introduced. The minute the new year begins all channels in the state-run TV and radio broadcast live Supreme Leader Khamenei's new year speech, where he bestows a thematic name on the year - for instance, "Imam Khomeini Year" or "Responsibility of the Officials to the People."

Yet it is hard to slip ideological symbols into Chaharshanbe Suri. Given the normally harsh legal restrictions on social and civic life, the holiday offers a unique moment where the regime's pressure is largely gone and rowdy behavior is tolerated. This gives youth an opportunity to go "wild" with impunity. Young Iranians have learned to enjoy this night to full by setting off fireworks, mixing in large numbers with the opposite sex, and playing pranks. These outbursts of pent-up energies have turned this ancient feast into a nightmare for the authorities, prompting the security officials go on high alert every year.

Amnesty International is using the Noruz holiday to launch an alert of its own - a call to stand in solidarity with several leading Iranian activist currently behind bars. These include Mansour Ossanloo, previously profiled in The CRIME Report for leading a strike by Tehran's bus drivers and currently sentenced to five years in jail for his activism. The call is to send Noruz greetings to Ossanloo and two Iranian Kurds, one a journalist and the other an artist, who have to celebrate the approach of the spring and the new year in their cold cells. One sad coda: during the holiday last week blogger Omid Reza Mir-Sayafi, who had been jailed for allegedly "insulting" the Supreme Leader committed suicide in Evin Prison.

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. ...

2009-03-22

Morning Report: 2009-03-22

Obama to Tehran: Mutual respect. Tehran to Obama: Drop dead. President Obama's televised message to Iran for Nowrooz (Persian New Year) drew a quick response from the regime:

In a speech on Saturday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei responded directly to Barack Obama's video mash note from late last week. According to the Associated Press: "Khamenei, wearing a black turban and dark robes, said America was hated around the world for its arrogance, as the crowd chanted 'Death to America.'"

Hmmm, so much for Obama's commitment to a showing of "mutual respect" between his administration and the terror-sponsoring mullahs.

Khamenei: "Have you released Iranian assets? Have you lifted oppressive sanctions? Have you given up mudslinging and making accusations against the great Iranian nation and its officials? Have you given up your unconditional support for the Zionist regime? Even the language remains unchanged."

The Spirit of Man:

I am not overly concerned with liar-in-chief Obama's naive and dangerous approach towards the current Iranian regime. What I'm really concerned about is his stupid approach will extend the life of already dying mullahs. I know that crazy Islamofascists of Tehran won't stop being themselves. Because if they did, they wouldn't be called crazy or Islamofascists and their regime crumbled faster. And as I thought, they just laughed their butts off when they heard Obamble's stupid message. I wonder how far Teleprompter in Chief will go to appease the regime. ...

IraqPundit:

Iran's government surely read the New Year greeting as a sign of weakness on the part of the U.S., and that's why they responded the way they did. The changes Iran demands are not like rearranging White House furniture. You don't want to know what the ayatollahs want.

Is it really appropriate to reward the Islamic Republic at this time? Iran is the country that meddles in Iraq, which U.S. troops hope to leave soon. A message such as this can be read as an invitation by Iran to do what the ayatollahs wish in Iraq. Iran is also the country that messes with Lebanon, and it's a country that frightens the Gulf states.

The Islamic Republic doesn't even treat its own people well. A 29 year-old blogger just died in Evin prison. Omid Mirsayafi had been jailed for criticizing Khamenei. And it doesn't treat Americans so well. Roxana Saberi, who probably voted for Obama, is still being held in Iran. It's unclear why she's being held, but some have said the Iranian-American journalist is accused of trying to buy wine.

Walid Phares at Counterterrorism Blog:

In an interview with Beirut-based NBN TV this afternoon I argued that this statement by Obama may be an opportunity for the Iranian decision-makers to consider a u-turn on strategic matters, but the fact is that the regime feels it has the upper hand everywhere in the Middle East. Why would they make concessions if their perception is that the US is already withdrawing from Iraq, is requesting their help in Afghanistan and is not committed to support democracy in Iran? In my recent book The Confrontation: Winning he War against Future Jihad, I recommended a full fledged support to forces of change inside Iran as a strategic path to influencing Tehran. Without internal leverage over the regime it is less likely that American new messaging would bare fruits. What we are witnessing now is an experiment with the Iranian regime which may harden the regime even further, unless Ahmedinijad loses the forthcoming election next June. But let's keep in mind, that power, real power in Iran, is in the hands of Khamenei. And I don't think the Ayatollah is interested in de radicalizing his own regime.

Times Online has more.

Car bomb attack fails in Israel. Debka: 'By a fluke, the Free Galilee Brigades failed to bring off a multiple-casualty bomb attack on the Saturday night crowds at the Haifa Lev Mifratz shopping mall on March 21. But DEBKAfile's military sources report that security officials fear that the shadowy group, based in northern Israeli Arab villages and Jerusalem, is spreading its wings after killing 12 Israelis in a string of attacks since 2003. The small blast which alerted the Haifa mall's security guards to a white Subaru parked outside the building was rigged to detonate 1,000 kilos of explosives with ball bearings in several packets hidden in the trunk in a chain reaction. By good fortune, the mechanism failed and no-one was hurt. Had it worked, the casualty count would have run to scores. The mall's shops and cinemas were cleared in seconds. Lacking an advance tip-off, Israel's counter-terror agencies were caught off-guard.'