2010-09-22

Al-Qaeda Threats: More, Smaller Attacks in US and Europe

Washington Post: 'Al-Qaeda and its allies are likely to attempt small-scale, less sophisticated terrorist attacks in the United States, senior Obama administration officials said Wednesday, noting that it's extremely difficult to detect such threats in advance. "Unlike large-scale, coordinated, catastrophic attacks, executing smaller-scale attacks requires less planning and fewer preoperational steps," said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, testifying before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. "Accordingly, there are fewer opportunities to detect such an attack before it occurs." '

Telegraph, UK (September 20):
French intelligence services are hunting a female would-be suicide bomber who they believe could be planning to target the Paris metro.

The alert followed a tip-off from a friendly intelligence agency - thought to be Algeria’s - warning of an imminent al-Qaeda threat.

Five French nationals have been kidnapped close to a French uranium mine in Niger in the last week, while a bomb scare caused alarm at the Eiffel Tower.

In a separate development armed guards were deployed to protect prominent Islamic moderate Dalil Boubakeur, rector of the Paris mosque.

“The terrorist threat is real and today our vigilance, therefore, is reinforced,” said Brice Hortefeux, the interior minister. ...


Debka: 'The high level of preparedness for terrorist attack - "reinforced red" - maintained in France since Sept. 16 was quietly expanded this week to most of the big international air hubs of Europe, including London's Heathrow, Amsterdam's Schiphol andairports in Moscow, Berlin and Rome. Security measures were also redoubled at the important railways and subway stations of Europe. The commander of French police and security services Frederic Pechenard went on the air Wednesday Sept 22 with a statement for the public: "I'm not here to frighten people," he said, "but we have serious evidence coming in from reliable intelligence sources telling us that there is a risk of a major attack." He declined to say whether the alert level had been raised from "reinforced red" to "reinforced scarlet." He said the danger could come in the form of "the assassination of an important figure or an attempted mass casualty attack on a crowded public area like a metro train or department store." ...'

2010-09-17

Afternoon Roundup: 2010-09-17

Patti Villacorta is looking for feminist icons to stand up against increasing social and institutional pressure on young women in Gaza (and elsewhere in the Arab world) to wear the hijab.

New York School of Visual Arts asks, "Raye-man kojast?" Via Banafsheh:

School of Visual Arts (SVA) presents “Where Is My Vote? Posters for the Green Movement in Iran,” an exhibition of 150 political posters by graphic artists world wide created in support of the protests in Iran that followed the 2009 presidential election. The exhibition is the first public viewing of these posters in printed form and was organized by designers Anita Kunz and Woody Pirtle along with Francis Di Tommaso, director of the Visual Arts Gallery, and Steven Heller, author, design historian and co-chair of the MFA Design Department at SVA.

“Where Is My Vote?” highlights the unique role that socially responsible designers can play in rallying support for free speech, and the power of design to inspire political activism. The exhibition features posters by some of the most celebrated graphic artists working today, including R. O. Blechman, Cathie Bleck, Seymour Chwast, Ivan Chermayeff, Milton Glaser, Robert Grossman, Anita Kunz, Yossi Lemel, Jennifer Morla, Istv├ín Orosz, Woody Pirtle, Andrea Rauch, Ralph Steadman, Gary Taxali, James Victore and Massimo Vignelli, among others.


Hamas official reported detained in Cairo. According to Debka, 'Egyptian security detained Hamas' head of security Mohammad Dababesh at Cairo international airport Friday, Sept. 17, the first high-ranking Palestinian held for questioning by Egyptian security. It is not clear whether Dababesh was on his way back to or from the Gaza Strip. Our sources report that he is no doubt being grilled on the Grad missile attack launched against Eilat and Aqaba from Sinai on Aug. 3, in which two Egyptian border posts were destroyed.' The article also reports an imminent Hamas attack planned to take place within the next 24 hours (i.e. during the Yom Kippur holiday).

CSP on the Shariah threat. The Center for Security Policy has released its report on the threat of political islamist ideology:

Shariah is the crucial fault line of Islam’s internecine struggle. On one side of the divide are Muslim reformers and authentic moderates – figures like Abdurrahman Wahid, the late president of Indonesia and leader of the world’s largest libertarian Muslim organization, Nahdlatul Ulama – whose members embrace the Enlightenment’s veneration of reason and, in particular, its separation of the spiritual and secular realms.

On this side of the divide, shariah is a reference point for a Muslim’s personal conduct, not a corpus to be imposed on the life of a pluralistic society.

By contrast, the other side of the divide is dominated by Muslim supremacists, often called Islamists. Like erstwhile proponents of Communism and Nazism, these supremacists – some terrorists, others employing stealthier means – seek to impose a totalitarian regime: a global totalitarian system cloaked as an Islamic state and called a caliphate. On that side of the divide, which is the focus of the present study, shariah is an immutable, compulsory system that Muslims are obliged to install and the world required to adopt, the failure to do so being deemed a damnable offence against Allah. For these ideologues, shariah is not a private matter. Adherents see the West as an obstacle to be overcome, not a culture and civilization to be embraced, or at least tolerated. It is impossible, they maintain, for alternative legal systems and forms of governments peacefully to coexist with the end-state they seek.

"Life is sacred, but books and beliefs are not."

Jerry West of the Salem News (Oregon) talks sense on the Koran burning affair:
Well, Terry Jones backed off on the Koran burning. So what? Why should any rational person care if someone burns a Koran, or a Bible, the Sears catalogue or a Donald Duck comic book? That would depend on the nature of the burning.

Book burnings by governments or others with the intent to deprive society of their content would be a direct attack on the right of free expression and the open exchange of ideas.

Two important elements of an enlightened democracy.

On the other hand, private individuals burning books to make a point, so what? Doing that is also part of one's right of free expression. ...

Jerry West touches an all the important points, and his piece is well worth reading in full.

2010-09-12

Koran Burning: Freedom Rears Its Ugly Head

Hell has officially been turned into a very large hockey rink. I am now "to the right" of Robert Spencer, Brigitte Gabriel, and even Pamela Geller in rushing to the defense of a book-burning fundamentalist preacher. Or rather, a would-be book-burner, as it seems the Reverend Terry Jones was talked out of the act by the President and General Petraeus. While I have no particular admiration for Jones and his little stunt, I am beginning to see this episode more in the light of the Mohammed cartoons. The West bravely stuck to its guns on that round, but what's going on here? It looks as if, in the five years since then, we have moved backward.

Also the Nazi book-burning metaphor needs to be checked. You have every right to burn a book if you own the book. It's burning other people's books that's the problem. On comparing the putative Koran-burning in Florida with other book-burnings, I find more differences than similarities. Take a look, for instance, at the history of Talmud burnings - among which, for example, we find:

On Sept. 9, 1553, the Jewish New Year, a huge pyre was set up in the Campo de' Fiori in Rome of Hebrew books that had been seized from Jewish homes.


I don't think Pastor Jones' burning of the Koran falls even remotely in this category. I would put it more in the league of the burnings of "Harry Potter" that made a blip in the news a few years back.

(Admittedly comparing the Koran to Harry Potter is disrespectful, and I apologize to all Harry Potter fans.)

Really, did anyone think that the fallout from 9/11 would not include, inter alia, this? That in a nation of 300 million people, mostly non-Muslims, there would not be, somewhere, someone who would see fit to take a match to the writings of the Prophet Mohammed? If the architects of our post-9/11 strategy could not see this coming, I think we are entitled to use phrases like "failure of imagination".

Book burning gives all of us a queasy feeling but in these times we had damn well better develop a strong stomach.

***

Now the President has stepped in to condemn the contemplated burning, saying it endangers the lives of our troops in Afghanistan. General Petraeus gets involved too: "It could endanger troops and it could endanger the overall effort in Afghanistan," the General said in a statement.

Really? Burning a book does that? I thought the danger came from terrorists. And for that matter, I thought our troops were over there to BE a danger to the terrorists. If they are only there to be hostages to one fanatic with a match, then bring them home now.

When I was in the service we used to be fond of slogans like "I'm fighting for your right to spit on that flag." Now no more. Our Commander-In-Chief and our most renowned general have made it their business to beg American citizens to behave properly, lest they cause trouble for the soldiers who are supposed to be defending the rights of Americans. They have now given ominous warnings about the proposed Koran burning becoming a recruiting tool for al-Qaeda.

And so it will, if Obama has his way: With Reverend Terry Jones duly chastened, the islamists of al-Qaeda will see their first tangible success in the American homeland in - well, nine years, but who's counting? They will see that, with patience and persistence, they have been able to retake the ground they had seeimingly lost with the Mohammed cartoons. They'll be able to point with pride to the fact that their holy warriors in Afghanistan have intimidated President Obama and General Petraeus into taking up their cause for them, and telling an American citizen: "Yes, technically you have the right to do that - but we really wish you wouldn't." It's small, but it's a first step. And the argument that "if you do that, the enemy will make things harder for the American troops" has limitless possibilities.

It is very, very hard for me to see this as a victory for our side.

***

And what happened to the President who waxed so eloquent about the Imam's "constitutional right" to build a mosque near Ground Zero?

The Belmont Club comes closest to expressing my thoughts on this.
Comparing Jones to Imam Rauf reduces President Obama’s defense of the Ground Zero mosque to absurdity. How could an administration which ordered Bibles sent to Afghanistan burned and endorsed the right of the Ground Zero mosque builders to proceed with their construction turn 180 degrees on the matter of Koran burning without spinning like a top? They were hoist by their own petard.

I hadn't known the bit about the Army burning Bibles. But it is a fine mess indeed for the President.

***

Is the Koran-burning a provocation?

In 2006, gay-rights organizations planned a gay pride parade in Jerusalem. The event was highly controversial, and my sympathies were divided. At first I opposed the event, arguing that it would be a "provocative gesture". But after further reflection I realized that people are responsible for their own actions: one must agree to be provoked.

And that's what I'm saying now. Terrorists, fascists, and extremists are responsible for their own actions. If we are serious about our defense of freedom, we must not allow ourselves to be blackmailed.

***

But it turns out it wasn't that easy.

I almost feel sorry for General Petraeus today. He's just spent the past few days running around and "putting out fires" - literally in this case - and succeeded in getting the Gainesville Koran-burning canceled. But just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water, freedom rears its ugly head and some guy - we still don't know who - comes out of nowhere and starts burning pages from a Koran. Not in Gainesville, Florida, but at Ground Zero, New York City.

As one observer noted, there's almost an anti-climactic quality about the video. Some random, nameless guy - we'll call him Joe the Lighter - holds up a Koran, tears a few pages out and burns them, gets shouted at by angry New Yorkers, and is uneventfully escorted away by police. And that's it.

The contrast between the Reverend Terry Jones affair and Joe the Lighter could not be more striking. No signs, no press releases, no fanfare. He just does what he does. And after the event, he walks away without a single word.

Whatever will happen in Afghanistan or elsewhere in the Islamic world, will happen. I'm sorry if people get hurt. But as Americans and as free human beings, we are under no obligation to conform to any President's or General's idea of how we ought to act.


UPDATE:
Joe the Lighter is Derek Fenton an employee - now, former employee - of New Jersey Transit.

2010-09-07

What's gotten into Russia?

Jerusalem Post:
Israel and Russia made history on Monday, signing for the first time a military agreement that will increase cooperation on combating terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but also could lead to the sale of Israeli weaponry to the Russian military.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak and his Russian counterpart, Anatoly Serdyukov, signed the agreement during a ceremony in Moscow. Later in the day, Barak met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin at his private residence in Sochi. ...

Arutz Sheva adds that 'The wide ranging agreement is the fruit of a long period of discussions.'

JPost again:
Russian Foreign Minsiter Sergei Lavrov on Tuesday called for clarity on all issues pertaining to the Iranian nuclear program.

"Clarity in all remaining issues of the Iranian nuclear program is not only necessary, but would also primarily serve the interests of Iran itself," Lavrov said.

A7: 'In a statement, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that "he IAEA must continue its work,” and that “Iran must answer the demands of the IAEA." Lavrov was in Paris meeting with his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner on Iran, among other issues.'

IMRA quoting AFP:
The defense ministers of Russia and Israel on Monday (6 Sept.) signed an agreement on military cooperation, hailing the unity between Moscow and the Jewish state. Russian Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and visiting Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak did not give details on the nature of the deal, which came after disputes over Russian arms contracts in the Middle East.

"I am sure the agreement we are signing today will give a new boost to our
bilateral relations," said Serdyukov, quoted by Russian news agencies.
"Our views on many challenges of today are close or identical," he said.
"Primarily this concerns issues of terrorism and non-proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction."

Go to the link for more details. Interesting stuff.

2010-09-01

Department of Bugs and Features

FCC complains court ruling would make it "impossible" to enforce indecency regulations.

Morning Report: 2010-09-01

Obama marks end of Iraq combat mission. MSNBC: 'President Barack Obama set the tone for changing the role without fanfare, making clear in a major speech on Iraq on Tuesday that this was no victory celebration.' Full article at the link. At Commentary, Peter Wehner thinks the "most damage" was done on the subject of Afghanistan, while Max Boot is more charitable.

UN Chief Ban condemns the terrorist murder of four Israelis. Arutz Sheva: 'UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Wednesday called Tuesday's terror attack near Kiryat Arba in which four Israelis were shot and killed a "blatant attempt" to derail upcoming peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians, AFP reported. "The secretary-general condemns the killing of four Israeli citizens in the West Bank on 31 August," Ban's spokesman said in a statement.'

Commentary. Iranian expat Winston at The Spirit of Man has some thoughts on Iraq:
President George W. Bush must be smiling today. He must be proud too.

It is the eve of "Operation New Dawn" in Iraq. The day that the Iraqi people will finally become somewhat independent of US combat forces and will fully gain the control of their country. Just like S. Korea, Germany, Italy and Japan where US presence has secured safety and freedom, a US presence in Iraq will also be necessary for some time to come. Though the former US ambassador 'Ryan Crocker' also believes Iraq still needs the America's enduring support and engagement. Of course, the Iranian regime will always be trying to duplicate its Lebanon style plots in Iraq dividing the country. Therefore that's just one solid reason to keep the US military there for now. But the point of this entry today is not about the strategic weight of today's developments. It is just about emotions.

Today I am cheerful and again envious. I had this same feeling once before: When the former US led 'Coalition Provisional Authority' transferred sovereign authority to the Iraqi interim government on June 28th, 2004. That day I was in Iran and was filled with joy and envy. It's difficult to describe how we, in Iran, felt as we saw the liberation of Iraq. ...

Read the rest at the link.