Morning Report: January 30, 2007

The latest terror attack strikes in Iraq, and an American vet faces hostility on the home front. But there's more to the picture.

Attacks kill 23 Iraqis. Debka: 'At least 23 Iraqis killed in attacks targeting Shiites Monday at the high point of their Ashura rites. A suicide bomber attacked a Shiite mosque in Mandali near the Iranian border, killing 12 people and injuring 40. Further north, a roadside bomb killed 11 Kurdish Shiites walking in procession through the ethnically mixed town of Khanaqin. More than two million pilgrims are gathered at the Shiite shrine city of Karbala south of Baghdad, where there have been no reports of violence.' Yedioth: 'The death toll from a suicide bomb that hit Shi'ite worshippers marking the climax of the Ashura religious festival in a town northeast of Baghdad on Tuesday has risen to 23, with 57 wounded, a doctor said. Doctor Yassir Ahmed of Baladruz hospital said the bomb was at a Shi'ite mosque in an area of Baladruz called Dur Mandali.' (Debka, YNet)

Guardian unhappy with Nick Cohen's portrait of the Left. The Belmont Club: ' I have an extract, provided courtesy of a reader, which suggests why the Leftist readers would find Cohen's book infuriating. All I can say is that Cohen barely fails to scratch the surface; in terms of absurdity and tragedy, of the Leftist Deep. ...' (Belmont Club)

OpFor: Progress amid the violence. LtCol P at OpFor interviews fellow Marine historian Kurt Wheeler (who served during the same period as your present blogger). Wheeler reports the following: 'Obviously the violence is being reported, as we continue to suffer casualties from IEDs, SAF and IDF. There are two problems with the violence-only reporting: 1) Almost none of the steady progress being achieved in the development of Iraqi security forces, enhancement of the security of communities, improvement of local government or setting conditions for economic growth is being reported. (The argument I always here is that "news" is reporting the exceptional not the routine. By that standard, isn't a new police station far more newsworthy than the ubiquitous 120 mm mortar shell?) And, 2) Some equate the continued violence with a lack of progress. Specifically: The numbers of Iraqi police have grown dramatically during the past year (from less than 2000 to 9000 by the end of this rotation). Iraqi Army units in this AO have not grown in numbers, but they have fought, stood their ground, become much more effective and have taken over significant amounts of battle space. Overall, Marines and soldiers in this AO are doing the couterinsurgency basics extremely well. They are getting out, patrolling on foot in neighborhoods, making connections with locals. These connections are increasingly leading to intel and tips which are making us much more effective. The second piece is that you can't measure our success by the number of attacks received because our increased activity, "taking the fight to the enemy," has as much to do with the level of violence as does enemy will/actions. ...' Worth reading in full. (OpFor)

Disabled Iraq vet gets abuse from anti-war protesters. Gateway Pundit: 'CPL Joshua Sparling, an Iraqi War veteran and amputee, talks about getting spit on, flipped off, and having cigarette butts thrown at him during a "peace" rally in Washington DC on Saturday January 27, 2007.' Michelle Malkin has more. (Gateway Pundit, Michelle Malkin)

Commentary. So, what happened to "supporting the troops"?


Morning Report: January 29, 2007

Killers strike in Israel and Iraq, but the good guys are striking back with a major terror bust. A specter is haunting Europe. And a high-tech aircraft has some surprising limitations.

Pigua in Eilat. A terrorist killed three innocent Israelis in Eilat on Monday. Debka:
'Israeli military and security chiefs fear first Palestinian suicide bombing in Eilat, which killed 3 Israelis Monday, signals deadly new wave funded from Tehran and Damascus. The bomber, Mohamed Faisal al-Siksik, 21, from Gaza, blew himself up in a bakery in the Red Sea resort of Eilat Monday, Jan. 29, killing the two proprietors and a third Israeli. This was the first such attack the holiday paradise has ever experienced. DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources report that the next wave of suicide attacks is expected to be mounted from Gaza and Sinai by the Palestinian Jihad Islami in conjunction with local al Qaeda cells with funding from Tehran and Damascus. Although two Palestinian groups – Jihad Islami and Fatah-al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades claimed the attack, DEBKAfile’s counter-terror sources disclosed it was in fact the first joint operation of the third group, the Army of Believers – an al Qaeda cover name – and Jihad Islami of the new anti-Israel terror offensive. A senior Israeli officer familiar with the Israeli-Egyptian Sinai border region told DEBKAfile after the Eilat attack: “Olmert and Peretz have missed the train. Their policy of military restraint in the face of Qassam missile attacks and a terrorist build-up has given the most violent elements free rein to get set for a fresh, well-organized assault.” Some attacks may also come from the sea. He stressed: “It’s no use expecting the Egyptians to secure the Sinai border. Since Israel pulled out of the Gaza Strip 15 months ago, the Egyptian-Gazan-Israeli borders are a highway for smugglers of terrorists, missiles, explosives and traffickers of every kind. The IDF is the only force capable of putting a stop to this traffic and suppressing the collaboration between Hamas, Jihad Islami, Fatah-al Aqsa Brigades and al Qaeda. Unfortunately, its hands are tied by the government.”'

Arutz Sheva:
For the first time, a suicide terrorist detonated himself in the southern port city of Eilat. After he hitchhiked to the city, the man who innocently drove him called the police - but too late.

Three Jews were murdered, and five people were treated for shock.

Initial reports implied that the explosion inside a small bakery in Eilat around 9:45 AM was caused by a gas canister explosion. However, shortly after 10:30, the police abruptly issued an announcement saying that it was the work of an Arab suicide terrorist. The police announced that the murderer had entered the bakery carrying a large bag and detonated himself. Three dead were reported, in addition to the terrorist himself.

The Al Aksa Brigades of Fatah - an arm of Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah organization - and Islamic Jihad have claimed joint responsibility for the murderous attack. In general, Fatah's Al Aksa Brigades has shared responsibility with Islamic Jihad for the terror attacks against Israel over the past two years.

MK Levy urges response: 'National Union-NRP MK Yitzhak Levy urged Israel to react to the suicide bombing attack in Eilat, saying the government policy of restraint is a failure. "I believe that the government is erring by acting with restraint. We need to set a price tag for attacks like this," he said.' Eilat's mayor responds: 'Meir Yitzhak Halevi, mayor of Eilat, called the fact that suicide bombers had managed to infiltrate the city "very disturbing," and said that he hoped that city officials would soon have all the information necessary to address the threat.' Internal security minister cites infiltration: 'Internal Security Minister Avi Dichter said Monday afternoon that the bomber who killed three Eilat residents in a suicide attack on Monday morning had infiltrated Israel from Egypt, echoing the conclusion of all of the Israeli intelligence agencies.' A reservist who gave the terrorist a ride became suspicious: 'An Israeli reservist who gave a ride to Muhammed Faisal al-Saksak, the suicide bomber who killed three people in Eilat on Monday morning, said Monday evening that he had suspected al-Saksak was up to something, but that he could do nothing until the terrorist got out of the car. Lt.-Col. (res.) Yossi Voltinski said in an interview with Channel 10 that he had told the man to get out before reaching his destination. "Still, unfortunately, he succeeded in his plot," Voltinski lamented. "He succeeded in killing innocent people, and I don't feel good about that."' IRIS: 'The southern resort city of Eilat has had its first suicide bombing, thanks to the decision of Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert to turn over Gaza to Islamists. Precisely as I predicted the terrorist strategy was two-pronged: arm Gaza and then use that base to move terror into Israel. In this case, the suicide bomber apparently travelled from Gaza across the now open border to Egypt, and then through the desert border into Israel.' (various)

Terrorists continue murdering in Iraq. CENTCOM: 'FORWARD OPERATING BASE LOYALTY, Iraq – Fifteen Iraqis were killed in two vehicle-borne improvised explosive device attacks in a New Baghdad commercial district Jan. 27. The first attack, at approximately 12:12 p.m., killed 11 Iraqis and wounded 30 more, including two Iraqi police officers. Small arms fire broke out immediately following the explosion but stopped after Iraqi police arrived on the scene. The second attack, minutes later, killed four Iraqis and wounded 20 more. Fire trucks arrived and starting treating victims. The wounded in both attacks were taken by Iraqi emergency personnel to nearby hospitals.' (CENTCOM)

Coalition forces capture suspected terrorists. CENTCOM: 'BAGHDAD, Iraq – Coalition Forces captured 21 suspected terrorists including a senior al-Qaida in Iraq courier, an improvised explosives devices cell leader and a foreign fighter facilitator during operations Sunday morning around Iraq. In Baghdad, Coalition Forces captured three individuals with ties to senior al-Qaida in Iraq leadership. During operations in Karmah, Coalition Forces captured 11 suspected terrorists including a high-level al-Qaida courier who is a known associate of multiple senior al-Qaida in Iraq personnel. He is also known for facilitating the movement of multiple senior al-Qaida personnel in the region.' (CENTCOM)

Update on Iraqi-led operation in Najaf. Bill Roggio at The Fourth Rail:
Iraqi security forces, backed by American tanks and air support, attacked what appears to be a mixed group of Sunni insurgents and a Shia end-times cult known as the "Soldiers of Heaven." The battle occurred in the suburbs and orchards north of Najaf. "Police Colonel Ali Nomas said 250 militants had been killed," reported Reuters. "The political source said up to 1,000 had been involved. An army source said they wore camouflage and appeared well organised." They were also believed to have possessed anti-arircraft missiles.

Later counts put the number of enemy fighters killed at up to 350, with a minimal loss to Iraqi and U.S. troops. Three Iraqi soldiers were killed and 21 wounded, five police were killed and 19 wounded, and two U.S. soldiers were killed when their helicopter was downed. The leader of the Shia cult, Ahmed Hassani al-Yemeni "who claimed to be the Mahdi, a messiah-like figure in Islam," was killed during the fighting, which lasted over 24 hours. ...

An American military intelligence informed us the early indications are that the Omar Brigade, al-Qaeda in Iraq's unit designated to slaughter Shia, was involved in the fighting. Al-Qaeda in Iraq would have a vested interest in causing mass casualties of Shia during the pilgrimage to Karbala for the festival of Ashura. Over 11,000 Iraqi Army and police have been deployed to Karbala to provide security for the event. ...

Read the rest for more great intel, and links. (TFR)

Anti-Semitic acts in Europe rose in 2006. Ha'Aretz: 'The number of anti-Semitic incidents rose significantly in Europe last year, according to a joint study released Sunday by the Jewish Agency's Forum for the Coordination of the Struggle Against Anti-Semitism, the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office. Figures for anti-Semitic acts in Germany, Austria and the Scandinavian countries increased dramatically in 2006, the study said. The study indicated that 360 incidents were registered in France in 2006 (compared to 300 in 2005), 312 in Britain (compared to 321), some 300 in Russia (250), 83 in Austria (50) and 53 in Scandinavia (35). The study shows an increase of 60% in anti-Semitic incidents in the Berlin area, though figures were not provided for Germany as a whole.' (Ha'Aretz)

And if that doesn't work, they can install a Morse Code key. The Standard: 'There's no denying it, the F-22 is the most advanced fighter in the world. Stealthy, maneuverable, and lethal, it is without rival. Still, there may yet be a few kinks to work out. First, Defense Tech reports that the F-22, unlike many older fighters, was built without the ability to send data. Hard to believe, but F-22 pilots need to pass on all information through the comm system. Defense Tech's David Axe: "I asked the Raptor jockeys at Virginia's Langley Air Force Base about this last year and they shifted uncomfortably in their seats while feeding me some line about how voice comms work just fine." Axe says a fix is in the works. But according to Aviation Week & Space Technology (via Defense News), the F-22 is also having problems receiving data. ...' Read the rest at the link. (Standard)

Commentary. As of this morning, I'm officially dropping my former policy of not reporting terror attacks unless they are unusual in some way. From now on, all terror attacks get reported.

My original reasoning was that I didn't want to play the MSM's game by giving you a steady stream of demoralizing, bad news. I figured that if a car bomb killed fifteen people in Baghdad this morning, you had probably already heard about it from the news and didn't need to hear it again from me. I could concentrate on providing the information that went unreported in the media.

But terror attacks are certainly part of the reality in the Middle East, and I don't want to create the idea that I'm ignoring them or selectively reporting them. Better you should get the whole picture. And anyway, why should I give you a reason to watch CNN?

Dreams Into Lightning and its Morning Report feature aim, first and foremost, to inform. My goal is to provide you with a collection of information that will help you understand the world better. If you're reading this, I assume you are capable of handling the information.

Regarding today's attack in Israel, a Stratfor analysis (subscription) echoes the view of A7 and others that the bombing was a rushed or botched affair - that is, the killer had intended to detonate in a more crowded location, but became concerned that he would be apprehended soon, and so chose a target of opportunity - resulting in fewer innocent deaths than the terrorist might have wished. According to Stratfor, "The bomber struck at approximately 9:40 a.m. local time, missing the morning rush hour -- and thus an opportunity to kill or maim a greater number of people. In addition, rather than striking an area crowded with tourists, he hit a bakery in a residential area."

I'll post more information as it becomes available.


Michael Yon in Mosul

Michael Yon: Desolate roads.
Mosul is poised. Mosul is poised to become an example of progress and success. Yet with each passing day here, it becomes clear that Mosul is at least as equally poised to fall again into the wretched chaos of crime, violence and anarchy that define certain other areas of Iraq. ...

History shapes the future. In 2005, I spent five months in Mosul, chronicling a little of both. As “The Surge” begins down in Anbar and Baghdad, Mosul’s back alleys likely will tremble with at-first-imperceptible aftershocks, because historically, this crossroads city has served as a reliable bell weather. Sensing that this 2-7 battalion is suddenly about to become an important pivot in the war, I changed course. Instead of heading back down to Baghdad or Anbar, on 14 January, I requested to extend my time with the lone infantry battalion in Mosul. The commanders-that-be, whoever they are, permitted my stay.

Next morning, the Iraqi Army 2nd Division was to officially take over its battle space in Nineveh, meaning there are now two Iraqi Divisions operating in Nineveh, leaving 2-7 CAV in a largely supporting role. Yet there is more to standing up an army than giving people guns and training them to fight, and the Iraqi Army depends on the Coalition for much of its logistics. On 31 December 2006, free fuel was mostly cut off to the IA in a further attempt to show the Iraqi government that the Coalition means business. There is finite time to stand up; the Coalition wants to go home sooner than later, and if we leave the nipple wet, the baby will never grow up. Free fuel was cut.

As predicted by our military leadership, this caused lurches in the system. In Mosul the IA scaled back patrols. This is where national policy meets the road. Literally. At the battalion level. The route where the giant bomb was hidden had not been swept by IA in four days.

There were five occupants in the humvee: 2LT Mark Daily born in Los Angeles; SSG John Cooper born in Cleveland; SGT Ian Anderson born in Prairie Village, Kansas; Specialist Matthew Grimm from Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin. Matt Grimm had recently been awarded a Purple Heart for injuries he suffered while on patrol in a humvee that came under attack. It was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade that killed Sergeant Brent Dunkleberger. Matt had been driving the day Brent was killed, and he was driving again on the morning of 15 January. The fifth occupant was “Jacob,” a Christian Assyrian-Iraqi, born in Mosul in 1967, now performing arguably the most dangerous job in Iraq: interpreter for American combat forces. ...

Read the rest at the link.

Nabil Soliman Amer - Update

Via Freedom For Egyptians:
This update is driven from Wa7damasrya blog (Arabic) who attended detained Egyptian blogger Abdelkareem Nabil Soliman Amer's trial in Alexandria last Thursday. I m writing the heads-up in English for a better reach out. The update is followed by response from human rights organizations like RSF and U.S. Congress.

Thursday, January 25, 2007 was the trial session of Egyptian Blogger Kareem Amer who is accused of insulting Islam among other accusations that level to disrupting public state security and insulting the President.

Some Egyptian and foreign journalists as well as bloggers were there to attend the court session. Egyptian bloggers included wa7damasrya, Benhawy and Sandmonkey . Journalists were from the daily Egyptian Al Masry Al Youm , Reuters and other press outlets.

Lawyers attending on behalf of Kareem were from Hisham Mubarak Center, on top of which was Mr. Ahmed Seif. He was the first to come to court. Mr. Seif is known to be among top lawyers in the field of defending human rights in Egypt.

Television stations were not allowed to film inside the court hall. Video cameras were not allowed as well. A crew from Dream TV channel was there and could not film the trial.

Kareem was not seen entering the building as he was given access to the trial through the garage and from there to the dock.

The trial started at noon. The judge was surprised to find a big number of interested people in Kareem's trial. The session started with Mr. Ahmed Seif's defense. He pleaded that there are no regulations or laws for internet publications or blogging in Egypt that justify the trial. He confirmed that the Egyptian laws have no say on blogging. He also requested delegating a professor from the faculty of engineering from Alexandria University to identify the venue and the owner of Elaph site. This is the site from which the prosecution printed Kareem's articles. If it was proved that the site has a non-Egyptian domain or server, Kareem cannot be charged in Egypt for that.

Following the lawyers' defense, a man stood up to say he is filing a lawsuit against Kareem. The lawsuit is called "Hessba" in Islamic Jurisdiction. The "Hessba" lawsuits are (voluntary) soliciting good and advising against evil in Islam. ...

Full post at the link.

US, Iraqi forces kill terrorists in Najaf.

Reuters: 'U.S. and Iraqi forces killed 250 gunmen in a fierce battle involving U.S. tanks and helicopters on the outskirts of the Shi'ite holy city of Najaf on Sunday, a senior Iraqi police officer said. The day-long battle was continuing after nightfall, Colonel Ali Nomas told Reuters, as tens of thousands of pilgrims converged on the nearby city of Kerbala for the climax of the Ashura commemorations. A U.S. helicopter was shot down in the fighting, Iraq security sources said. The U.S. military declined comment. A Reuters reporter saw a helicopter come down trailing smoke.'

Wizbang: 'The US military isn't commenting on the helicopter that crashed because the mission is still ongoing, but I expect we'll have more successful missions where we send terrorists to their waiting virgins. The question is will the media actually report on our and the Iraqi troops' successes or will they completely ignore them?'

Debka: 'The US military confirmed the downing of the helicopter and the death of the two-man crew in fighting near Najef as hundreds of thousands of Shiite pilgrims converged on the Shiite shrine city of Karbala for the Ashura festival marking the 7th-century Battle of Karbala. The governor of Najef said Iraqi troops fought all day with hundreds of Sunni gunmen, including foreign fighters, who had plotted to murder Shiite clergy on the 10th day of the festival which falls on Monday. About twenty were captured, including a Sudanese national. They said they belonged to the Army of Imam Ahmed al-Yemeni.'

LGF thread here.

Afternoon Roundup

Tammy Bruce: Jihad Jane. 'In this love-letter disguised as a "news story" from the Washington Post, it's apparent Jane Fonda really meant that apology for encouraging the Vietnamese enemy and has clearly moved on. Fom Hanoi Jane to Jihad Jane. ...'

Via Sandmonkey: Ahmadinejad catches a few Z's. A picture is worth a thousand words.

Via YNet: Mortars kill five at Baghdad girls' school. 'Mortar shells hit the courtyard of a girls' school in a mostly Sunni Arab neighborhood of the capital Sunday, killing five pupils and wounding 20. At the time, US troops and Iraqi government forces were fighting gunmen allegedly plotting to kill Shiite pilgrims and clerics during a religious festival.'

Morning Report: January 28, 2007

Iran gears up to go orbital (read: intercontinental) while the allies score successes in Iraq ... and may start scoring against Iranian troops soon. The BBC doesn't want you to know what's happening in England, but a Portland blogger has the scoop on Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Debka: Iran close to acquiring satellite launch capability. Debka: 'Iran is closer than ever before to the launch of a spy satellite by a BM25 ballistic missile, 18 of which were purchased from North Korea, notwithstanding Pyongyang’s denials of aid to Iran’s nuclear program. Allaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security and foreign policy commission, said last week that Iran had finished building a reconnaissance satellite and converted a ballistic missile into a space launcher. If this claim is correct, then Iran has a launcher able to put 300 kg into earth orbit - and by the same definition, an ICBM that could drop more than 300 kg anywhere in the world, including Washington DC. While the new Shehab 3ER can strike any part of the Middle East as far west as Turkey, according to the former head of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, Uzi Rubin, the BM25s with a range of up to 4,000 km can reach targets in Europe. Little is known about this missile. However, its conversion to a space launcher would produce an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) able to drop a payload weighing 300 km, the estimated weight of a reconnaissance satellite, anywhere in the world. DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Iran has just finished upgrading its Shehab series, adapting them to solid fuel.' (Debka)

ITM: Operation Baghdad to begin. Iraq the Model:
The head of one of the two city councils in Sadr city told AFP that he's ready to cooperate with the Iraqi forces in implementing the security plan. In the statement that appeared on al-Mada Kareem Hassan said "The presence of popular armed committees [Sadr militias] will end automatically when Iraqi forces enter the city because the need for the committees will cease to exist".

We talked earlier about insurgents and terrorists fleeing Baghdad to Diyala, and today there's another report about a similar migration, from al-Sabah:

Eyewitnesses in some volatile areas said that large numbers of militants have fled to Syria to avoid being trapped in the incoming security operations. According to those witnesses, residents and shopkeepers are no longer concerned about militants whose existence in public used to bring on clashes that put the lives of civilians in danger. A shopkeeper in al-Karkh [western Baghdad] said that many of them [militants] packed their stuff and headed to Syria to wait and see what the operations are going to be like. While experts consider this a failure in protecting the plan's secrecy which might lead to the loss of the surprise factor, they also say it indicates the seriousness and resolve in this plan that is already scaring away the militants. PM Maliki pointed out that seeing them run away is a good thing but he returned and said the security forces would chase them down everywhere after Baghdad is clear.

As we said in the last update, Maliki won unanimous support for his plan in the parliament and despite some opposition from the radical factions the major blocs are expressing their support and approval of the plan:

Spokesman of the Accord front Saleem Abdullah said after the session that the principles of the security plan have the approval of the front and "constitutes a quality leap toward serving Iraq's people". Hussein al-Sha'lan of the Iraqi bloc stressed on the importance of cooperation among political powers to ensure the success of the plan which he called "realistic and well-thought". Abdul Khaliq Zangana of the Kurdish alliance said the plan would deal a heavy blow to Iraq's enemies and put an end to the crimes of outlaws and their backers.

On the other hand citizens we talked to after the prime minister made his speech before the parliament say that there's no place for mistakes or weakness this time but they also seemed confident that Maliki has prepared the right tools for success.

Immediately after president Bush authorized the US military to capture and kill Iran's agents who are involved in the violence in Iraq, the Iranian Khalq [Mojahedin-e-Khalq, or People's Mujahidin - aa] opposition group released a list with the names of 31,000 Iraqis the group said are paid agents for Tehran operating in Iraq, story in the same report linked above. Jawad Dberan the spokesman of the national council of Iranian resistance, the political wing of Khalq duing a press conference in Germany, accused Tehran of sending weapons and millions of dollars in cash to Iraq every month. According to Azzaman which quoted from Jawad's statement, that list includes only elements who were directly recruited by the Quds force in Iran. The list is said to provide the Arabic and Farsi names of recruits, their monthly payment in Iranian money along with the code name they use during operations.

Full post at the link. (ITM)

How do you define "overreact"? The Belmont Club links to Bill Roggio's post on a possible Iranian connection in the Karbala attack, in which 'On January 20th, a team of twelve men disguised as U.S. soldiers entered the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, where U.S. soldiers conducted a meeting with local officials, and attacked and killed five soldiers, and wounded another three.' So, are American soldiers now finally authorized to use deadly force to defend their own lives? (Belmont Club, The Fourth Rail)

BBC bans LGF. For a second time in as many days, Little Green Footballs has been banned from BBC message boards. What the BBC doesn't want its readers to know is that the Muslim Council of Britain forced the Bolton City Council (in Manchester, England) to shut down observance of Holocaust Memorial Day. Here's the item in Manchester News - Jewish Telegraph (UK):
IN A move widely seen to be bowing to Muslim pressure, Bolton Council has scrapped its Holocaust Memorial Day event.

The council is to replace it with a Genocide Memorial Day in June. This is in line with the policy of the Muslim Council of Britain, which continues to boycott HMD and is asking for a Genocide Day, which will also mark "the ongoing genocide and human rights abuses of Palestinians" by Israelis.

The council decision was made in consultation with the town's Interfaith Council.

But Rabbi Joseph Lever of United Synagogue who has participated in the Bolton event for around three years was not consulted on the decision. He said: "I mourn the fact that the Holocaust Memorial Day event will not take place in Bolton this year."

Louis Rapaport, president of the Jewish Representative Council of Greater Manchester, was equally disappointed that the Jewish community was not consulted.

Second banning here. Before the thread was shut down by the BBC thought police, one commenter wrote:
Towards the end of last year I saw a BBC news report on the continuing anarchy in the Paris suburbs with protests by French police against the increasing number of attacks they were coming under. This was around three weeks after the same story first began circulating on the blogs.

By now all of us will have familiarised ourselves with the anodyne Mohammed cartoons that provoked such controversy last year - not through the MSM but through the blogosphere. Would any of us know about last years riots in Windsor, the Reuters fauxtography scandal or the home office ordering 12,000 nuclear protection suits for the Met over Christmas if it wasn't for the blogs? Do you know what one of the main uses of Polonium-210 is? Look it up on the internet because the recent Panorama programme didn't tell us.

And more recently have you heard about last week's conference in London hosted by the Mayor where Ken Livingstone was debating with Daniel Pipes on the topic of 'A World Civilisation or a Clash of Civilisations'? No? Didn't you hear about it on the BBC? Odd that, particularly since the debate was chaired by the Beebs own Gavin Esler.

However if you do rely on the BBC for your news coverage you will today know which Archbishop turned down an appearance on Celebrity Big Brother and that a photo of David Beckham slaying a dragon is on display at Disneyworld. You will also no doubt recall the story of motorists caught on CCTV driving into traffic bollards in Manchester and of the pelican that swallowed a pigeon. ...

More information at the links. And if you depend on the BBC for information, even about Britain, please consider adding Little Green Footballs to your browser bookmarks. (LGF)

Pelosi in Afghanistan; hears Karzai request more troops. Reuters: 'New U.S. House of Representatives speaker Nancy Pelosi met senior Afghan leaders on Sunday, days after Washington announced a major boost in troops and money to bring peace after the bloodiest year since the Taliban's ouster in 2001.
Pelosi met President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, as well as other officials and U.S. military commanders.
She did not speak to journalists.' Houston Chronicle: 'The Afghan president told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that his security forces need to be stronger as the two discussed possible U.S. troop increases on Sunday, days after the Pentagon extended the tour of 3,200 soldiers, an Afghan official said. President Hamid Karzai stressed his desire for increased training and equipment for Afghanistan's fledgling army and police forces, the Afghan official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to release the information publicly. Pelosi, D-Calif., and Karzai discussed plans announced last week by the Bush administration to ask Congress for $10.6 billion for Afghanistan, a major increase aimed at rebuilding the country and strengthening government security forces still fighting the Taliban five years after the U.S.-led invasion.' (Reuters, AP)

Kerry to Iranian regime: America is "international pariah". The ever-witty John F. Kerry, in a cordial meeting with former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami in Davos, Switzerland, declared that the United States has become "a sort of international pariah". Fox: 'DAVOS, Switzerland — Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry slammed the foreign policy of the Bush administration on Saturday, saying it has caused the United States to become "a sort of international pariah." The statement came as the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee responded to a question about whether the U.S. government had failed to adequately engage Iran's government before the election of hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005.' The Spirit of Man: 'Two idiots, one a very crazy mullah from Iran and one clueless senator from the United States, are chatting and thinking how to screw the world harder. Given the fact that Kerry has met with all enemies of the United States so far, this does not surprise me at all but what makes me feel terrible is that people like Sen. Kerry, and those who support him, are the most clueless people of this planet. They are not just ignorant, they are really dangerous to the world.' (various)

Bahrainis face jail for downloading articles. Or Does It Explode has the latest on Dr M. Al Sahlawi (Dentist, age 35) and Mr. H. Al Hebshi (Insurance sales executive, age 32), who were sentenced to seven years for downloading articles critical of the Bahraini government. Please take a moment to sign the petition. (ODIE)

The Tharwa Foundation. Amarji wants you to know about the Tharwa Foundation: 'Awareness, activism, empowerment, and education. These goals of the Tharwa Foundation are what direct its tireless efforts to develop and strengthen Muslim communities throughout the Mideast. The institution's Director, Ammar Abdulhamid, explains that one of the ultimate objectives is for individuals to make greater political strides, becoming more involved in their governments' futures, and to personally define what they expect from their fellow countrymen and themselves. This Maryland-based non-profit acts as the mechanism to help thousands of Muslims highlight cross-culture commonalities and set aside divergent ideologies. In operation since 2001, the Tharwa Foundation has outlined a number of exciting proposals, such as the Tharwa Institute for Leadership and Tharwa Radio & TV, to launch its business capabilities to the next level.' (Amarji)

Iranian women's rights activists arrested. Azarmehr: 'The following three Iranian women’s rights activists were arrested yesterday in Tehran's Imam Khomeini airport as they tried to attend a journalism workshop in New Delhi, India. They are held in the section 209 Evin Prison in Tehran. The three are Talat Taghinia, Mansoureh Shojaee and Farnaz Seifi. After the three were arrested at the airport, the security agents escorted them to their homes, searched their houses, and seized their personal belongings such as their computers, books and writings.' Azarmehr has a lot more to say about this. Go read the rest at the link. (Azarmehr)

Ich bin ein Israeli. YNet: 'Several hundred demonstrators marched to Berlin's Holocaust memorial Sunday to call for solidarity with Israel against threats from Iran's hardline president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Some 700 people participated, in driving rain, some carrying Israeli flags and placards demanding that the international community "defend Israel."' (YNet)

100 terrorists killed in Diyala province. CENTCOM: 'WASHINGTON – U.S. and Iraqi forces killed 100 terrorists, detained 50, and dismantled a large terrorist group in January during Operation Turki Bowl, the senior U.S. Army officer in Iraq’s Diyala province said yesterday. The operation, conducted from Jan. 4 to 13, occurred south of Balad Ruz in the Turki Village, Tuwilla and 30 Tamuz areas of the province. During the operation, U.S. Army and Iraqi soldiers isolated and defeated a terrorist group known as “The Council,” Col. David W. Sutherland, commander of 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division, told reporters via satellite connection from a news conference in Iraq. “The group, made up of former Baath Regime members, al Qaeda and Sunni extremists, refused to participate in any political dialogue and preferred attacking innocent civilians in the Diyala province,” Sutherland said. The council killed as many as 39 civilians in one kidnapping and mass murder in November, he added.' (CENTCOM)

Petraeus supports troop increase. Also from CENTCOM: 'WASHINGTON – President Bush’s pick for command of Multinational Force Iraq today supported the new strategy for Iraq, emphasizing that additional U.S. forces are essential in accomplishing the mission there. “If we are to carry out the Multinational Force Iraq mission in accordance with the new strategy, the additional forces that have been directed to move to Iraq will be essential, as will greatly increased support by our government’s other agencies, additional resources for reconstruction and economic initiatives, and a number of other actions critical to what must be a broad, comprehensive, multifaceted approach to the challenges in Iraq,” Army Lt. Gen. David Petraeus said at his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. Petraeus was nominated Jan. 17 to be promoted to general and take over command of MNFI from Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., who has been nominated to become the Army’s chief of staff. ' (CENTCOM)

Iraqis, Coalition reestablish security on Haifa Street. MNF-Iraq: 'The company of Soldiers starts the day before the sun, knowing in the back of their minds that it is going to be a long day full of fire fights with the enemy. As grenades detonate around them and bullets fly by, they target the enemy and engage immediately, proving that “courage is the absence of fear.” For the second time in the past several weeks, Soldiers from 1st Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division teamed up with Iraqi Army troops to take on insurgents on Haifa Street, in Baghdad’s Karkh district Jan. 24. The Haifa Street operation, dubbed Operation Tomahawk Strike 11, aimed to disrupt insurgents in order to establish security, said Capt. Isaac Torres, commander, Company C, 1-23 Inf. ' (MNFI)

Iraqi-led team finds torture house, weapons. MNF Iraq: 'Iraqi Police and Marines completed Operation Three Swords in an area south of Fallujah Tuesday. The purpose of the operation was to detain members of murder and intimidation cells within the rural area of Zaidon and the villages of Albu Hawa, Fuhaylat and Hasa. It was led by the Iraqi Police with support from the Marines of Regimental Combat Team 6 and Marines and soldiers of I Marine Expeditionary Force (Forward) Headquarters Group. During the operation, members of the Fallujah police Department and Coalition Forces discovered a torture house and rescued three individuals. Two of the hostages were transported and treated at Camp Fallujah. The third hostage was transported by helicopter to Camp Taqqadum for further treatment. Torture devices were found and confiscated. The house was demolished by Coalition Forces in order to remove the reminder of such violence from the landscape. Also, one of the victims asked that it be destroyed so that no one will ever be taken there and tortured like him.' (MNFI)

Commentary. Today's MR is pretty long - I haven't posted for a few days and I guess I'm trying to make up for lost time. I hope you get a chance to read at least some of the items, because (I know, you've heard me say this a zillion times) the information war is important. Well, it is.

But I'm fighting the information war from the comfort of my apartment in Portland. One infowarrior who isn't content to do that is Michael Totten. If you follow The Blog Which Shall Not Be Linked At The BBC, you might have already found Charles' link to Michael's latest post: "They had machine guns welded in windows." Here, addressing the question of whether or not Hezbollah used human shields, Michael recounts his interview with a pseudonymous Israeli soldier in a long-range patrol unit:
MJT: There is a controversy about whether or not Hezbollah was using the civilian population and infrastructure as shields, whether were hiding behind people and apartment buildings and the like.

Eli: Did they use populated areas to fire? It was clear that they did. Except Israel also dispersed flyers ordering all the civilian population of South Lebanon to leave. So it was in those villages after the, I don’t remember the date, except anyone who was in those villages was probably helping Hezbollah fighters.

MJT: Where in Lebanon was your unit?

Eli: We went all around the West. Opposite Metulla there’s all these villages called Hula, Abbasieh, Markaba, Jwayya. It was 15 kilometers in. So we would go in 15 kilometers, mark targets.

MJT: So you were marking targets yourself? What kind of targets were you marking? I was on the border at the end of the war, and I watched a lot of Israeli artillery being fired, but it was impossible to tell what you guys were shooting at.

Eli: I can’t explain exactly what we use, but we use very advanced scopes and thermal scopes and stuff like that so you can see exactly what’s going on in villages at night or during the day or whenever. We could see armed personnel walking around there, carrying big bags. So as long as they’re armed they are targets for us to mark, for Air Force and artillery.

MJT: The reason I ask what kind of targets you were marking is because the majority of people inside Lebanon think the Israelis were firing at civilians deliberately.

Eli: If you ask me what should have been done in the villages in Lebanon during this war, I think Israel wasn’t harsh enough. Now, I’m not right-wing, I’m not…I just think that if we are in a war…it’s like, if you play with fire, people get burned. There’s nothing you can do about it. These whole villages, they were empty, just filled with Hezbollah terrorists. They should have been totally wiped off the map. Except Israel left them standing. Many of our soldiers were killed because of that, so Israel wouldn’t be blamed after the war for war crimes and destroying civilian houses. ...

So today's overlong post has just gotten longer. What can I tell you? Go read the rest at the link. What I want you to know, and the reason I'm consuming so many pixels on your monitor this morning, is just how deep and depraved the double standard against Israel is in the mainstream media and the so-called "international community".


Rabbi Steven Greenberg in Portland

This post explores some of the issues around Judaism, homosexuality, and gender raised by Rabbi Steven Greenberg at his brunch appearance in Portland. This is not a transcript of the talk, but rather a reflection on its main points.

Rabbi Greenberg begins by discussing lesbianism in the Jewish tradition. Traditional rabbis tend to avoid the subject because it is a "doubled alienness" and because it is seemingly less of a biblical challenge than male homosexuality. The result is the perception that male homosexuality, rather than homosexuality itself, is an issue in Judaism. ...

Rabbi Greenberg opens up the issue of gender differences within the G&L community and invites guests to suggest some common differences between lesbians and gay men. ...

"Lesbian Relations" handout is passed around ...

RSG: The HRC worked for many years, doing important work, but never addressed the question of religion - because religion was never seen as a potential ally. Then they hired Harry Knox ...

How can the gay Jewish community reach beyond the victim identity? Can we offer some insights from our own experience that are relevant for the non-Jewish world?

Lesbianism: "Doubled alienness" and the lesser challenge. Almost inevitably, discussions on homosexuality and Judaism begin with the topic of male homosexuality, which is explicitly prohibited by the Torah (Leviticus 18:24 and 20:13). By comparison, lesbianism appears to be a "lesser challenge" scripturally speaking, and therefore gets less attention. Rabbi Greenberg challenged this approach, opening the talk with a discussion of lebianism. Lesbians, he noted, experience the "doubled alienness" of being both homosexual in a heterosexual culture and female in a male-dominated culture. The general rabbinic reticence around the subject, he said, owed in large part to the difficulty of finding solid legal ground to declare lesbianism forbidden.

"I did not have sex with that woman!" Is lesbian sex sex? Don't laugh, it was a real question for the Rabbis. Talmudic sources disagreed as to the degree to which a sexual encounter between women could be counted as "sex" for purposes of establishing infidelity or eligibility to marry a man of the priestly caste (kohanim).

Lesbians and gay men. For political reasons, it's natural for lesbians and gay men to join together in LGBT organizations. But, Rabbi Greenberg observed, in real life they form separate communities. Greenberg suggested that recognizing the differences between gay men and lesbians (which, after all, are a subset of the differences between men and women) is an important step toward building a truly cohesive community.

Traditional religion as an ally. "The Human Rights Campaign did important work with governments for many years, but they never worked with churches because they didn't see religion as a potential ally. Then they hired Harry Knox ... " Traditionally religious people and secularists often have an adversarial relationship (as was made evident by one very argumentative non-religious guest).

Beyond the victim identity: finding our voice. Rabbi Greenberg asserted that the generosity necessary to dialog with people very different from ourselves is exactly what is asked of the queer community today. We delude ourselves, he said, if we deny that there are some people whose "otherness" makes us uncomfortable; the challenge is to learn what these people come to teach us. Regarding the gay community, Rabbi Greenberg envisioned a future where we can look "beyond our victim status" and find lessons in our own experience that will be meaningful to the world at large.

Gender and power. Drawing on the legend of Lilith, whose "sin" was her refusal to take a subordinate sexual postition to Adam, Greenberg explored the ways in which "top" and "bottom" sexual positions (in both heterosexual and homosexual acts) have been read as indicators of power relationships. The equation "bottom = submissive = female" has profound and far-reaching implications.


Morning Report: January 21, 2007

An assassin is caught, but his words are ignored; an Iranian resistance icon is in prison; and some ship movements come to light.

Hrant Dink killer caught. Gateway Pundit: ''Turkish officials captured the murderer of Turkish-Armenian writer, Hrant Dink!' Citing Reuters: 'A man identified as Ogun Samast (C), accused of killing Turkish-Armenian author Hrant Dink, hides his face as he is led away by police officers after he was captured in Turkey's Black Sea town of Samsun, late January 20, 2007. Turkish police on Saturday arrested the suspected killer of [Dink] who had angered nationalists with articles referring to a Turkish 'genocide' of Armenians.' Little Green Footballs reports on a little detail the American MSM seem to have overlooked: 'NTV television said Dink had been shot three times in the head and neck. Muharrem Gozutok, a restaurant owner near the newspaper, said the assailant looked about 20, wore jeans and a cap and shouted “I shot the non-Muslim” as he left the scene. This little piece of essential information is now being excised from all wire service and media reports.'

SKF: Update on Ahmad Batebi. You might remember Ahmad Batebi, the Iranian activist who was photographed holding up his friend's bloodied T-shirt. Shiro-Khorshid Forever reports: 'Ahmad Batebi is still in prison. The best thing we can do is keep on writing letters to different human right agencies and gov. officials on his behalf. I will have a few samples up in the next few days. Let us not forget about him in his time of need.'

Debka: Stennis heading for Persian Gulf. Debka: 'The USS Stennis carrier with thousands of troops and 80 warplanes aboard is heading for Persian Gulf. Saturday, Jan 20, the ship picked up 2,500 troops at San Diego. The Stennis Strike Group has still to collect two ships at Hawaii before heading east with a complement of 6,500 US soldiers.'

Commentary. So, is Bush ready to do more than bluff this time?


Open Letter to Jay Dixit

Dear Jay Dixit:

Last week I was having lunch with Cinnamon Stillwell and she mentioned that she'd been the subject of a Psychology Today article on political conversions. Turns out that this was the same article for which your intern contacted me last August. At the time, I wrote a somewhat lengthy response indicating that I didn't feel my politics had changed abruptly and that I didn't consider myself a case of "political conversion".

I'm curious, though, to know what it is exactly that your article is trying to establish. Because it looks as if you're trying very hard to find psychological, i.e. non-rational, explanations for cases where people adopt "conservative" political beliefs. There's no acknowledgment that such a political shift could come about as the result of a rational assessment of the relevant facts and arguments; nor, conversely, is there any discussion of fear-related psychology on the political left (dire warnings about global warming and the ever-impending American police state spring to mind). And instead of encouraging people to inform themselves on political issues while listening with an open mind to different points of view, your article prescribes the simple expedient of "reminding ourselves to think rationally", as if the fear itself, rather than its objective cause, were the real problem.

In fact, in an entire article devoted to what you call the "9/11 effect", there is not a single direct reference to the terrorist attacks that killed almost 3,000 Americans.

In this light, it's difficult for me to escape the conclusion that your article is ideologically driven. The agenda seems to be to encourage readers to dismiss precisely those fears which, in your analysis, lead to conservative politics. In short, you want to "cure" people of being conservative.

Is this a fair assessment of the goal of your article? Or am I missing something?

If I receive a reply from Jay Dixit, I will post it here.

Psychology Today Examines "The Ideological Animal"

"First, let me just say: Bullshit!" - Dr. Sanity

"This article tends to end up spouting nonsense." - Shrinkwrapped

"The author, Jay Dixit, is an idiot." - Sigmund, Carl and Alfred

The subject of these accolades is the article "The Ideological Animal" by Jay Dixit, which appears in the current issue of Psychology Today and may be read at the link. An audio interview program by The Sanity Squad, four political bloggers who are also practicing psychologists, produced the reactions quoted above.

Dixit's article featured an interview with Cinnamon Stillwell, who is presented as the prototype of a formerly liberal American who underwent a sudden "political conversion" on September 11, presumably (so the article suggests) as the result of an irrational, fear-based reaction.

Neo-Neocon, who has argued at great length precisely the opposite position - that is, that "A Mind Is a Difficult Thing to Change" - was also interviewed for the article by Jay Dixit, and she recalls that Dixit kept hammering her with questions about "fear", notwithstanding her insistence to the contrary. Her interview was not used for the article.

I was also contacted by Dixit's staff for this article; I replied that I didn't feel I'd undergone a "political conversion" but rather - at most - a subtle and gradual political evolution. But that wasn't what Jay Dixit was looking for.

(More posts on this topic to follow.)

Morning Report: January 19, 2007

It's baaack. Morning Report returns with news of Iranian overreach and inflation, the latest on Kareem, a report from a Hezbollah stronghold ... and some interesting statements from an Iraqi official.

Iran "overplaying its hand", says Gates. Debka: 'Iran is overplaying its hand in the belief that the US is weakened by setbacks in Iraq, says defense secretary Robert Gates. He spoke at US 5th Fleet HQ in Bahrain Thursday, Jan. 18, where he is supervising US military and naval preparations to stress the US presence in the Persian Gulf and American opposition to Iran’s nuclear plans. He added: "I think our difficulties have given the Iranians a tactical opportunity in the short term, but the United States is a very powerful country." Gates is also visiting Gulf capitals to underline the US commitment to defend its allies. Washington has been applying pressure on Iran for harboring networks attacking US troops in Iraq. Thursday, Gates met with US and coalition naval commanders in Bahrain to plan operations in the Persian Gulf including the arrival next month of another US aircraft carrier, the USS Stennis has taken aboard 80 fighter-bombers, and 600 more Patriot anti-missiles meant as a warning to Iran. The secretary flew to Qatar for a private meeting with Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani. Later, he visited an air base that hosts a high-tech war room which is the nerve center of all US and coalition air operations through the Middle East and Central Asia. Reporters traveling with the secretary of defense were prohibited from identifying the base or the country in which it is located.'

TSOM: Runaway inflation is ruining Iran. The Spirit of Man: 'This post, in Persian, is basically about a chat I had with a friend of mine who lives in a northern Iranian town. He was telling me really awful stuff about how bad inflation is. One really funny but truly upsetting thing he told me was that eggs are getting expensive and also being hard to find in the market since poultries can't afford feeding their hens and chickens. And he also told me that 2 lbs of tomato cost around 6.5 US Dollars (5000 tomans). To give you a better picture of the conditions on the ground, I should say that a high ranking government clerk may receive a salary of up to 350 USD a month. It means nothing, especially if the individual is responsible for his/her family and has to pay rent and debts and also feeds his dependents. Iran, a rich country in natural resources, that can't even feed its own people yet it wants to take on the world and wipe that state or this nation off the map. ...' See post for Persian text.

FFE: Update on Kareem in English. Freedom for Egyptians:
“The pronouncement of a sentence on Egyptian blogger Abdel kareem Nabil Soliman Amer was adjourned to Thursday, January 25, 2007. He was accompanied in today’s court session by lawyers Ahmed Seif Al Islam from Hisham Mubarak Center, Rowda Ahmed from the Arab Network and Mohamed Baymoumy from the Legal Support Association. The session was adjourned upon a request from the lawyers for further case study and pleading preparations.

The session was attended by the three lawyers and two persons me (Jar El Kamar) and Mahmoud Al Banhawy. The latter took pictures with his cell phone for Karim. More pictures can be seen here. Karim seemed to be in a terrible situation. The accompanying state security officer to Karim prevented us from talking to him. He was hastily led to custody following the court session. The lawyers got a photocopy from the case file for study. Articles from some sites like Al Hewar Al Motamaden were attached to the file as evidence to Karim’s internet writings. Charges included religion disdain, insulting the president, attempts to flare up sectarian unrest and turmoil and disrupting public security.

The case file also included confessions for Karim during the first interrogation process. Confession records contained that he is no longer a Muslim except in the national identity card and that Karim calls for the deletion of any information in the identity cards that indicates religion. ... Please bear in mind that Karim is subject to a prison sentence up to nine years to expiate his crime of expressing his opinion peacefully or through a medium (internet), provided that this medium so far has no censor or limits. Sentencing Karim will be the first legal internet case in Egypt and that will set a precedence to violate internet freedoms.

Full post at the link. Arabic text at Jar al-Kamar. Kareem's homepage is here. Many thanks to FFE for making this available to us.

MJT: "Missile war may be replacing terrorist war." Michael Totten visits Haret Hreik, the Hezbollah "capital" in Lebanon. 'Haret Hreik is vertically packed with civilians, including the liberal cleric [ Sayyed Mohammad Ali El Husseini] who was my guide and who is completely innocent of this war. Tens of thousands of people live in the area. Some of their homes were destroyed. Those whose homes weren’t destroyed now fear theirs could be next. Haret Hreik also is packed with the infrastructure of a warmongering militia that unilaterally instigated the conflict on purpose. That’s why it was hit harder than any other urbanized section of Lebanon.' And while touring, Michael takes a trip down memory lane and pays a visit to Security Square: 'My old nemesis Hussein Naboulsi worked there, in that Security Square office that now is a crater ...' Read the rest at the link.

Iraqi Army patrol thwarts ambush. CENTCOM: 'BAGHDAD - An Iraqi Army patrol thwarted an ambush by a group of armed insurgents in western Baghdad Jan. 17. While conducting a routine patrol in Baghdad's Fahhama neighborhood, an element of the 1st Battalion, 1st Brigade, 6th Iraqi Army was ambushed by a group of insurgents armed with pistols and AK-47s. The patrol immediately returned fire on the men attacking them. Two insurgents were killed and four others wounded in the fire fight. After treating their wounds, the four wounded insurgents were taken into custody.'

Iraqi Police captures leader of Al-Qaeda In Iraq cell. MNF-Iraq: 'BAGHDAD – Iraqi Police Forces captured the suspected leader of several Al Qaeda in Iraq terror cells during operations with Coalition advisers Jan. 18 in Samarra. The suspect was detained on suspicion of directing several improvised explosive device and small arms attacks against Iraqi security and Coalition forces. The insurgent and his followers are reportedly involved in the continuing, indiscriminate violence against civilians, and resulting economic and security instability, in the area. Iraqi Police confiscated numerous assault rifles, ammunition and IED components during the operation. Iraqi forces also detained one additional person for questioning. The increasing capability and determination of Iraqi Security Forces to provide for their own security was demonstrated by this successful operation to capture insurgents responsible for attacks, violence and criminal activity in the area. There was minimal damage done to the objective. There were no Iraqi civilian, Iraqi forces or Coalition forces casualties.'

Commentary. Does the Iranian regime have the best interests of Iraq - and America - at heart? I think the answer is obvious, and I've been assuming that it's equally obvious to President Bush and his team. But if Eli Lake at the New York Sun (via Regime Change Iran) is right, then maybe I've been wrong.

Lake recalls the case of Larry Franklin, sentenced a year ago for discussing classified information with two former lobbyists from the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. Why'd he do it? Well, he had information which contradicted the cheerful beliefs about Iran prevalent in some quarters. 'He provided Aipac's Iran specialists, Steve Rosen and Keith Weissman, with his own list of specific instances of how Iran was sending teams from its Quds Force to sow terror, kill American soldiers, and pose a threat to Israeli operatives in northern Iraq. He hoped his list could find its way to the National Security Council, through the two lobbyists, to counter the intelligence from other channels suggesting that Iran had an interest in stabilizing Iraq.'

Why was Franklin so desperate to blow the whistle on the slick gangsters in Tehran? 'One reason was that in 2002, the Bush administration, as part of its efforts to coordinate the Iraqi opposition, was resigned to working with Iran's proxies, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the Dawa party.'

Which brings us to this news item at ThreatsWatch: 'Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari has pledged to Iran that Iraq will ensure the release of five Iranians the US is holding. The Iraqi Kurd has criticized the US raid on an Iranian office in Irbil and the detention of 5 Iranians linked to the IRGC’s Qods Force since the event happened late last week.' Tehran's ambassador provides comic relief by complaining that "[the Americans] want to destabilize relations between Iraq and Iran."

Debka has this on the incident: 'Leading Iraqi Shiite politician Abdel Aziz al-Hakim accuses US forces of violating Iraqi sovereignty by arresting Iranian nationals. The SCIRI leader’s comment to the BBC referred to two recent raids. In one, US troops last year attacked Hakim’s residential compound in Baghdad and detained two Iranian officials. They were later released. Last week, five more were taken into custody in the Iranian liaison office in the northern town of Irbil. US officials allege they are Revolutionary Guards agents who are training and arming Iraqi insurgents. ...'

So you'll notice it didn't take long for SCIRI's name to pop up in connection with this story. ThreatsWatch concludes: 'While Zebari states that the United States clearly and openly seeks to “destabilize relations between Iraq and Iran” the evidence shows that Iran has been fueling both sides of the rising sectarian violence - arming, funding and coordinating with both al-Qaeda in Iraq and Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army. Iraqi politicians who defend Iran and seek to have members of their Qods Force released under the guise of diplomatic status should be looked at with much scrutiny.'




I'm back in Portland from a short visit to San Francisco. I returned Tuesday to find the city buried under some six inches of snow - a blizzard by Portland standards - and what's more, I had a mild case of the flu. So it's probably a lot of rest and indoor time for me for the rest of the week.

By Sunday I expect to be back to regular posting, Morning Report, the works.

Also upcoming: I'll be posting on Rabbi Steven Greenberg's visit to Portland. Rabbi Greenberg, at present the world's only "out" gay Orthodox rabbi, was scheduled to speak at Portland State University on Wednesday night, but the event was postponed on account of, you guessed it, the weather. So we're looking at Tuesday evening, January 23 for the event, and yes, you can bet I'll be posting on it here at Dreams Into Lightning. And if all goes well, I may also be able to attend a private event with Rabbi Greenberg; I'll post updates as I find out more.


Alice Coltrane, 1937-2007.

Alice Coltrane has died.
Alice Coltrane, widow of the jazz saxophonist John Coltrane and the pianist in his later bands, who extended her musical searches into a vocation as a spiritual leader, died on Friday in Los Angeles. She was 69.

Alice Coltrane was already an accomplished bop pianist when she married John Coltrane in 1965, having played under luminaries such as Barry Harris, Stan Getz, Terry Gibbs and Yusef Lateef. She served as John's pianist in his final year and a half, replacing McCoy Tyner in 1966.

Along with former bandmate Pharoah Sanders, she has done the most to carry and even expand JC's vision of spiritual, free form, Eastern mysticism music that sometimes went well beyond the normal boundaries of what was widely held as being "jazz". She didn't just stick with the piano, but also organ and later, synthesizers. She could also play a mean harp. 1970's Ptah the El Daoud was an early post-John high point for her, which demonstrated that the modal form of jazz championed by her late husband was not quite yet exhausted for ideas.

Alice Coltrane homepage.

Remarks. Jazz was always an acquired taste for me, to the extent that I acquired it at all. Of the jazz classics, I learned to love John Coltrane, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk, but it took time to adapt my ears to their abstract sounds. (An exception was John Coltrane's "Blue Train", which I liked instantly.)

Alice Coltrane, though, was another matter. She seemed to be, literally, sui generis - a musical genre all her own. As a teenager in the 1970s my tastes tended toward the eclectic - Yes, Ravi Shankar, and Beethoven. When I discovered Alice Coltrane years later, her music seemed to pick up where progressive rock left off - where Rick Wakeman had provided excitement, Alice Coltrane added subtlety and grace.

I own most of Alice Coltrane's recordings, and if you haven't listened to her music I encourage you to experience it for yourself. My personal favorite (among many) is "Jagadishwar" from Translinear Light; it's probably my single favorite instrumental in contemporary music. Alice won't see the release of her forthcoming album Sacred Language of Ascension but you can be sure I won't miss it.

Alice Coltrane's passing is our loss. Rest in peace, Turiyasangitananda.


Americans Raid Iranian Consulate

Debka reports:
Kurdish sources report five helicopters carried US forces to pre-dawn raid of Iranian consulate in N. Iraqi town of Irbil. They were dropped on the roof while armored vehicles encircled the building. The troops used loudspeakers to call out in Farsi and Arabic to the consulate staff not to resist “or else they would be killed.” Five Iranian diplomatic staff members were detained and documents and computers impounded. Tehran has strongly protested this breach of its sovereign territory [Kinda sucks when that happens, doesn't it? - aa] and summoned the Swiss ambassador who represents US interests in Iran and the Iraqi ambassador to demand the immediate release of the Iranian diplomats. Later Thursday, Jan. 11, Tehran reported three large explosions shaking the southern town of Khorramshahr north of the oil port of Abadan on the Shatt al-Arb waterway. DEBKAfile: Khorramshahr, which faces the Iraqi town of Basra, is one of the key towns from which Iran delivers smuggled fighters, weapons and explosives to its Shiite supporters in Iraq. Our sources also report that some hours before President George W. Bush’s policy speech, a series of explosions were heard in Iranian Balochistan. Tehran imposed a blackout on the incident. These statements and events tie in closely with the new Iraq strategy announced by the US president of confronting Iran and Syria for “allowing networks to use their territory to attack US forces.”

Regime Change Iran reports that Iran's strategic guru Hassan Abbassi may have been among those arrested:
Iran Press News reported that based on unconfirmed received reports from reliable sources in Iraq, Hassan Abbasi was among those who was arrested in the Thursday, January 11th early-morning raid in the Iraqi town of Erbil. An excerpt:
Abbasi has been among the highest ranking members of the Islamic regime’s terror operations for many years, acting as Khamenei’s foreign policy and defense advisor. Abbasi has had an active voice under not only Khamenei but also Rafsanjani and Khatami as well. The Martyrdom Brigades of the Global Islamic Awakening is controlled by Abbasi.
The full text:
Based on unconfirmed received reports from reliable sources in Iraq, Hassan Abbasi was among those who was arrested in the Thursday, January 11th early-morning raid in the Iraqi town of Erbil.
Hassan Abbasi known by his friends as "The Dr. Kissinger of Islam," is the guru of the Islamic Republic's revolutionary guard corps which puts volunteers and recruits through rigorous training in four camps funded and run by the Revolutionary Guard. The boot camp includes physical training, ideological indoctrination, building explosives, code-cracking classes, and finally foreign languages classes, specifically Arabic and English as well as many other 'useful' languages.

Iran Press News (Farsi).

Stratfor (subscription) believes the recently announced "troop surge" in Iraq caught the IRI by surprise; the regime had been expecting a drawdown after the Democratic victory in November. Today's analysis also notes that regime officials are acutely aware of the "resourceful and treacherous" nature of their American adversary.


Radical Republicans

Hip Hop Republican:
Instead of calling ourselves Neo Cons lets resurrect the "The Radical Republicans."

The Radical Republicans were an influential faction of American politicians in the Republican party during the American Civil War and Reconstruction eras, 1860-1877. They took a hard line against the Confederacy during the war and opposed Lincoln's "too easy" terms for reuniting the nation. By 1866 they supported federal civil rights for freedmen, and by 1867 set terms that allowed free slaves the right to vote in the South but not ex-Confederates. They fought with moderate Republicans, especially president Abraham Lincoln, as well as with his successor Andrew Johnson. Using as a base the Joint Committee on Reconstruction the Radicals demanded a more aggressive prosecution of the war and the faster destruction of slavery and Confederate nationalism. After their victory in the Congressional elections of 1866 they finally had enough votes to enact their legislation over Johnson's vetoes. They replaced ex-Confederates with a Republican coalition of Freedmen, Carpetbaggers and Scalawags. They impeached Johnson in the House but failed by one vote to remove him from office.

During the war and the first part of Reconstruction, the leading Radicals were Thaddeus Stevens in the House and Charles Sumner in the Senate. After his election as president in 1868 Ulysses Grant became the leading Radical. ...

Richie at HHR adds:
-I say its about time we take back our name and use it more often. We have a proud history. Neo Con sounds to much like Neo Nazi and I am not too fond of it.

The Radical Republicans have come back they were resurrected on September 11th just as they arose during the fight against slavery. It was The Radical Republicans who pushed for the Civil Rights Act of 1866 which made African Americans American citizens and forbade discrimination against them, with enforcement in federal courts. It was also these same Radical Republicans who with courage and faith passed the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution of 1868, (with its equal protection clause) It was The Radical Republicans led the Reconstruction of the South and the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.

Today the Radical Republicans fight for justice and equal rights not just in America but also in the Middle East and around the world. As president Bush so eloquently stated I believe freedom is not America's gift to the world; I believe freedom is the almighty God's gift to each man and women in this world.

It was another Radical Republican who while fighting a war ignored the pundits and said "In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free - honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just - a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless." Lincoln's Second Annual Message to Congress, December 1, 1862.

The Radical Republicans who so long ago fought for equal rights and freedom for blacks against the racist segregationist who justified his acts by quoting holy scripture, today fight against Arab Islamist supremacist which is a racist ideology that holds the belief that Arab Muslims are superior to other races and religions.

Some Radical Republican quotes:
"The war will not end until the government shall more fully recognize the magnitude of the crisis; until they have discovered that this is an internecine war in which one party or the other must be reduced to hopeless feebleness and the power of further effort shall be utterly annihilated. It is a sad but true alternative. ... How, then, can the war be carried on so as to save the Union and constitutional liberty? Prejudices may be shocked, weak minds startled, weak nerves may tremble, but they must hear and adopt it. Universal emancipation must be proclaimed to all." - Thadeus Stevens

"The question is thus presented between Barbarism and Civilization; not merely between two different forms of Civilization, but between Barbarism on the one side and Civilization on the other side. If you are for Barbarism, join the Rebellion, or, if you can not join it, give it your sympathies. If you are for Civilization, stand by the Government of your country with mind, soul, heart, and might! ... Therefore, the battle which is now waged by the Union is for Civilization itself, and it must have aid and God-speed from all who are not openly for Barbarism. There is no word of peace, no tone of gentleness, no whisper of humanity, which does not become trumpet-tongued against the Rebellion. War itself seems to "smooth its wrinkled front" as it undertakes the championship of such a cause. The armed soldier becomes a minister of mercy." - Charles Sumner

"In giving freedom to the slave, we assure freedom to the free - honorable alike in what we give, and what we preserve. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, the last best hope of earth. Other means may succeed; this could not fail. The way is plain, peaceful, generous, just - a way which, if followed, the world will forever applaud, and God must forever bless." - Abraham Lincoln

"I believe freedom is not America's gift to the world; I believe freedom is the almighty God's gift to each man and women in this world." - George W. Bush


Morning Report: January 3, 2007

Khamenei dead? AKI recently reported that 'Iran's top spiritual and political figure, Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei is seriously ill and will have to be replaced in the coming months as he is no longer capable of holding office, according to Assembly of Experts member Ayatollah Nasseri. The powerful clerical body appoints and oversees the country's supreme leader.' Khamenei succeeded Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. AKI adds: 'The names of three possible successors to Khamenei are currently on the lips of Iranians: Khamenei's son, Mjtaba; Iran's former reformist president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani; and Gholam Ali Mesbah Yazdi, the ultra-conservative ayatollah who is considered the spiritual father of Iran's current hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.' Pajamas Media is now carrying conflicting reports of Khamenei's condition. Winston at The Spirit of Man says: 'I just talked to my folks and my mom said TV is showing video clips and music. Nothing extra ordinary out there at 7:30 am of 5th of Jan, 07. And you know what, if the regime wanted to prepare the masses for khamenei's death, they had to ask people to pray for him just like the way they asked people to do the same for khomeini in 1989 and before he died. Nothing of this sort is going on inIran right now but I keep my fingers crossed... '

Captain Jamil Hussein found? Via Little Green Footballs, the AP reports:
Ministry spokesman Brig. Abdul-Karim Khalaf, who had previously denied there was any such police employee as Capt. Jamil Hussein, said in an interview that Hussein is an officer assigned to the Khadra police station, as had been reported by The Associated Press.

The captain, whose full name is Jamil Gholaiem Hussein, was one of the sources for an AP story in late November about the burning and shooting of six people during a sectarian attack at a Sunni mosque.

The U.S. military and the Iraqi Interior Ministry raised the doubts about Hussein in questioning the veracity of the AP’s initial reporting on the incident, and the Iraqi ministry suggested that many news organization were giving a distorted, exaggerated picture of the conflict in Iraq.

Pakistan: Marriage without family approval a serious offense. The Muslim Woman: 'Rural areas of the Province are still drenched in dogmatic existence. Many men consider it an insult if their female relatives marry without their consent. Killing or attacking women and their partners in such cases is assumed to reinstate family honor. And to make the situation more worse, the offenders escape the lariat of justice just because of poor policing, corruption and legal loopholes. Lately, a young chap of 22 year old was severely battered by his wife’s relatives. His crime was that his wife belonged from so-called ‘upper caste’ family and they got betrothed against their wishes. The girl’s male relatives, around 30 in number, assaulted the man and slashed his nose and ears. Hundreds of women are killed in Pakistan every year in the name of ‘honor killings’.'

Belmont Club on Islamic insurgency in the Philippines. The Belmont Club: 'The story of the Islamic insurgency in the Philippines is the story of the gradual and partial reversion of Philippine territory, originally incorporated by the American wars against the Moros in the early 20th century, to its former state. Prior to the US pacification campaign against the Moros between 1899 and 1913 the Sultanates of Sulu, Maguindanao and Buayan -- Muslim Mindanao -- were effectively independent from Spain. Although the Spaniards nominally claimed the entire extent of what is now called Palawan, Mindanao and the Sulu archipelago, they did not exert effective control over it, anc could not have bequeathed it to a successor Filipino state. It was the Americans who accomplished that. ...' Read the full article at the link.

CTB on Bangkok bombing. Counterterrorism Blog:
With no claims of responsibility for the eight New Year’s Eve bombings and two confirmed defused bombs, that killed 3 and wounded 42, Bangkok is awhirl with speculation and rumors. Here are the different hypotheses that attribute the bombings to the deposed prime minister, his government, the police, the military and southern separatists.

In a three-page hand written letter faxed to his lawyer on 2 January, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra denied any role in the bombing. He attributed it to southern insurgents, which is interesting because for the past three years he almost denied that there was an insurgency, laying the unrest on drug gangs, and by denying that there could ever be bombings in Bangkok. In his letter he asserts that he warned government officials that the insurgents “will go to Bangkok” if they are not stopped. It is unlikely that Thaksin had any direct involvement: though unhappy with the 19 September coup that ousted him from power, he wants to return to Thailand and he clearly doesn’t want to give the authorities to go after his family’s assets, especially the illiquid fixed real estate holdings.

Thaksin’s Thai Rak Thai Party (TRT) likewise and unsurprisingly denied any involvement. All eyes at first were on them. Thaksin was corrupt, but he was smart enough to spread his wealth widely and a lot of people made their fortunes because of him. The coup led to a lot of lost earnings potential.

On Thursday, the interim Minister of Defense, Boonrawd Somtas, revealed that the bombers “were in uniform,” without elaborating. Rogue members of the police have been suspected. Thaksin, himself a former police, favored his former colleagues. After the coup, the police stood to lose a lot and were unhappy with the proposed reforms that the army was going to begin to impose on them.

But rogue elements in the military could also be blamed ...

Read the rest at the link.

Bush names new national security team. Fox News: 'President Bush named a new intelligence chief Friday morning during an official announcement that his current top spy man is stepping down. John Negroponte, an Iraq specialist, who oversees the nation's 16 intelligence agencies and reports directly to the president, resigned from his position to move over to the State Department. Bush tapped former National Security Agency Director Mike McConnell, a retired Navy vice admiral, as his replacement.' It's a good week for the Navy: ABC reports that 'the president intends to nominate Admiral William J. Fallon to replace General John Abizaid at Central Command. The announcement is expected next week, before the president gives his Iraq strategy speech, according to US officials. ... Fallon, who is in the Navy, is currently head of Pacific Command; he will be overseeing two ground wars, so the appointment is highly unusual.' Indeed. Iraq has very little coastline, and Afghanistan has none at all. So, what's with the Navy presence? Via Pajamas Media, Astute Blogger Reliapundit has an idea:
Could it really be because the NAVY would lead any military move - like an embargo - against Iran, and also launch any preemptive military attack on IRAN? I think so.The Navy would likely be our lead force against Iran: The Gulf Cooperation Council plans to launch its largest ever military exercise:
GCC sources said the six Gulf Arab members would conduct an exercise by the regional Peninsula Shield force over the next two months. They said the exercise, hosted by Oman, would contain air, ground and naval components in the Gulf region. "The exercise is designed to begin a serious effort at interoperability and regional defense," a GCC source said. "We have been planning this exercise carefully with our allies."

The source said Britain and the United States have been advising Peninsula Shield on the forthcoming exercise. The six GCC militaries employ mostly U.S. and British weapons platforms and also receive training from London and Washington.

More links at the post. See also Middle East Newsline.

Hamas critic shot dead outside of mosque. Fox News: 'A local religious leader who was a frequent critic of the Islamic militant group Hamas was killed in a drive-by shooting Friday as he walked out of a Gaza mosque, witnesses and medical officials said as violence seemed to be spiraling out control in the area. There was no claim of responsibility in the death of Adel Nasar, who was shot by gunmen who were waiting in a car outside the mosque in the Mughazi refugee camp in central Gaza. Nasar was not openly affiliated with any political party, but he was a well-known in the refugee camp and often spoke against Hamas in his sermons.'

Saddam hanging hijacked? As pleased as I was to report the execution of Saddam Hussein, some disturbing aspects of the hanging have come to light. FDD: 'Iraqi law provides that no executions shall be carried out on a major public holiday. This was the principal reason behind the rush to hang Saddam Hussein on Saturday December 30th, before the holy day of Eid al-Adha. Except, and shockingly, it is Shiites who celebrate Eid on the 31st; most Sunnis, however, celebrate it the day before, the very day Saddam Hussein was executed.' Sandmonkey:
Ok, so the timing made me a bit queasy. To kill him on the feast of sacrifise is disturbing and offensive. Think of it as Hitler getting crucified on Christmass Morning. Not exactly celebratory, is it?

And then I saw the video of his execution, and it just turned my stomach: They pulled the lever as before he finished the recitation of faith, as if to gurantee that he doesn't go to Heaven on something. The people executing him were screaming to Hell all the way through, and then started screaming Muqtada's Al Sadr's name afterwards. It looked like A Shia lynch mob more than anything. Add to this the fact that the people executing him, supposidly representing the legitimate authority of the Iraqi government were hiding their faces under masks but had the courage to chant to hell as they killed him, well, yeah. Not good.

This wasn't a professional execution of a man by the power of a state. This was personal. I am more and more convinced that the story that the US tried to delay the execution for 2 more weeks so it wouldn't co-incide with the feast to be true. This was Muqtada's little party. It was his men in the government who pushed for it, his men who hung Saddam and he is the one who now owns the rope Saddam was killed in. The message is clear: There is a new leader in town who is as crazy and brutal as the one he just killed.

Big Pharaoh:
* Readers of this blog know how I regard the Arab street. However, every now and then I find myself understanding a certain reaction emanating from the Arab street. I fully understand the repulsiveness many felt here towards executing Saddam on the first day of the Muslim feast. It was like executing a person on Christmas eve and airing the process instead of Christmas carols.

*No matter what evidence available indicating that it was solely the Iraqi government who executed Saddam, the average Middle Eastern (minus Kuwaitis) in the street believe that it was the US who executed the guy on the first day of the feast to continue its "ridiculing of Islam" and "humiliation of Muslims".

Counterterrorism Blog: 'According to the Saudi daily Al Riyad, citing a witness to the execution of Hussein, one of the masked men was indeed Moqtada Al Sadr. Knowing that Saddam Hussein had Moqtada's father killed, this would not be surprising. In fact the son would want to take part in taking revenge. But if this turns out to be true, this would be another major faux pas for Iraqi authorities.' IraqPundit: 'The cellphone footage of Saddam Hussein's hanging reveals that Iraq's government was content to let the execution become a circus. For example, it features a chant of "Moktada! Moktada! Moktada!" as the dictator is being led to the gallows. Who allowed the miserable, ignorant thugs who follow Moktada Al Sadr to participate in the execution? Was Al Maliki's government afraid that the execution might be a solemn event?' Healing Iraq: 'It utterly disgusts me that Sadr's supporters have infiltrated every level of the state, and that the witnesses, including Iraqi government officials, have made this look like a sectarian issue. They were doomed to repeat Iraqi history by hanging their former oppressor and labeling it as justice. In a perfect situation, Saddam's execution would have united Iraqis, but thanks to the actions of the new Iraqi rulers, it will only serve to divide further. I doubt any of them will prevail as much as Saddam did, though. ... Some Iraqis are saying this was part of the deal for the Sadrist bloc to return to parliament, that they would take care of Saddam's execution themselves.' Big Pharaoh notes this report from CBS indicating that the US tried to pospone Saddam's execution, but to no avail. LightningBaron has more.

Commentary. I've maintained from the beginning that the war against the jihadis and against Middle Eastern fascism is too important to be left to one ideological camp alone. As events progress in both the West and the Middle East, it becomes increasingly clear that Western liberals must see this as their battle too. Fortunately I think this is beginning to happen - and fortunately (but not coincidentally) the number one item on the agenda is Iran.

The Spirit of Man links to Andrei Codrescu who makes a similar claim: 'The Iranian drama is a great opportunity for American liberals to reassert their proud tradition of defending human rights at a time when radicals on the left and the right can’t see past their hatred of each other.'

Codrescu's claim, and that of Danny Postel whose book Codrescu cites, is that the neocon warmongers are using human rights as an excuse to pick fights with Middle Eastern countries. Now this simply isn't true, nor would it explain why Rolling Stone misrepresented the position of Michael Ledeen, who opposes armed intervention in Iran, or why Time Magazine misdirects its readers from an anti-regime website. But let's set all that aside and look ahead.

The objective is regime change in Iran. I suppose I could split hairs and talk about "changing the nature of the regime" but I think you get the point. And as to how this objective can be achieved, I'm going to say "whatever works best". We can come back to this point later.

I think it will be easier to get Western liberals on board for Iran (as compared to Iraq) for several reasons. First, Iran is not Iraq and its recent history with the West is different from Iraq's. No one who was alive at the time can forget the "444 days", and Ahmadinejad's rhetoric to this very day is a message of direct threats to the West. Even now, Iran is at war with America in all but name on the battleground of Iraq. It is simply impossible to claim, as the Iraq-era antiwar movement did, that the country in question does not pose a direct threat to the West.

Second, the facts on the ground are different. Saddam's Ba'athist regime was hated and despised, but its iron grip on the Iraqi people utterly precluded the possibility of an uprising from within. But Ahmadinejad's hold on power is questionable, and even the regime itself - though still firmly in command - is showing signs of stress. Over the last two years, anti-regime demonstrations and even riots, while not widely publicized by the Western media, have spooked the mullahs pretty good. Add to that the fact that Iran now has an American military presence across both its Afghan and Iraqi borders. (An Iraq hawk might point out that this is a consequence of the Iraq war.)

Third, there's Iran versus the Arab world. The neighboring Arab states will be the first ones threatened by Iran's nukes if it gets them. As much as those regimes may dislike dealing with America, they're going to prioritize. Add to that the ethnic aspect - for all the rhetoric of "we're all Muslims", it's clear that the Arab world is not keen about having a non-Arab (i.e. Persian) superpower in its midst.

Fourth, there's Iran versus Israel. Despite the impression you might have gotten from the Democratic Party of Howard Dean, there are pro-Israel Democrats out there. And there's a significant portion of the liberal world (not necessarily the folks you'll see at Zombietime) who are pro-Israel and who opposed the Iraq war mainly because they believed Iran's threat to Israel was the more urgent priority.

Fifth, the humanitarian case is easier to make becase (at least in my observation) the repressive nature of the Iranian regime has been better known to Westerners. And finally, politically speaking, there seems to be something about religious fundamentalism that stirs the ire of Western liberals on a visceral level that secular dictatorshops simply do not. It sucks that it's that way, but it is.

And the domestic picture in America is different from what it was a couple of years ago. George W. Bush, a "lightning rod" (as Michael Totten put it to me) for so much animus from the Left, is nearing the end of his presidency, and there's a Democratic majority in Congress. People often behave very differently when they acquire responsibility, and a majority Democratic Party may turn out to be a very different animal from the minority party of the same name.

What to do about Iran? This is the challenge before America and the West. But it is in particular a challenge to Western liberals, because their answer will shape the course of the liberal tradition in the future. If the West's liberals are truly liberal, they should embrace the cause of freedom and democracy in Iran, and the only debate should be about means, not ends. Do you oppose an American invasion of Iran? Very well - and you might be surprised how many "neo-cons" agree with you. So let's talk instead about what we can do, working together, to help the Iranian people topple the sadistic fundamentalists in Tehran ... and bring about a free, secular, liberal Iranian nation.

Personal note. As I posted earlier today, I'm going on hiatus. I need some time away from dealing with the day-to-day battles of the current conflict, and I want to broaden and deepen my understanding of the world. I enjoy maintaining this site, but it takes time: one Morning Report alone typically takes me about two hours to compile and post. That's two hours out of my morning that I don't have for doing other stuff.

It should be obvious that I'm not a Middle East expert. My only direct involvement in American foreign policy has been the few years I spent in the enlisted ranks of the Air Force and the Marines. (My day job is working as an office clerk for twelve dollars an hour.) What I can do is to speak as an interested layperson and direct you to the folks who do know what they're talking about, and occasionally throw in a few thoughts of my own.

As I've indicated in this post, I believe Western liberalism can and should play an important role in the struggle against the dangers of terrorism, jihadism, and secular Arab fascism - but only if it chooses. The blurb for this blog - "culturally liberal, politically neoconservative" - is a clumsy but descriptive way of saying where I'm coming from on this.

People who don't fit neatly into one political/ideological camp are going to take their lumps. Look at President Bush - the Left loves to portray him as a "right-wing fanatic" but that's only because they need their enemies to be right-wing fanatics. Meanwhile the conservatives are hitting Bush for his insistence on reaching out to moderate Muslims, and his administration's pursuit of a two-state solution for Israel/Palestine. Do the liberals give Bush any credit for the things he's liberal on? Ha!

I make a continuing effort not to get so attached to one faction or ideology that I can't think for myself. I never jumped on the neocon bandwagon about Keith Ellison because, frankly, if he wants to take the oath of office on the Jefferson Qur'an then that's fine with me. Sandmonkey thinks it's cool. He also wonders if you've read Ellison's statements on Israel and the Middle East:
The template set forth by the roadmap for peace currently provides the best outline for achieving a two-state solution to bringing about a lasting settlement. Right now Hamas represents the greatest obstacle to this path, and until Hamas denounces terrorism, recognizes the absolute right of Israel to exist peacefully and honors past agreements, it cannot be considered legitimate partners in this process. Sensible and moderate elements in Palestinian society could possibly provide credible negotiating partners. The United States should encourage dialogue with peaceful Palestinian leaders that recognize Israel, condemn terrorism, and honor past accords.

Terrorism is the greatest impediment to peace. At this point the Palestinian Authority (PA) has yet to dismantle the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza and the West Bank. ...

The other serious threat to the security of the region is Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. This must be stopped. A nuclear-armed Iran would upset the strategic balance in the region and pose a clear threat to world peace. Iran's sponsorship of international terrorism as well as financial aid to terrorist organizations endangers peace around the globe. I believe that the United States must engage Iran in a diplomatically meaningful way, through direct or multi-lateral negotiations, before resorting to military force.

Iran is the leading sponsor of international terrorism as well as the major financial supporter of many radical groups that threaten moderate regimes throughout the Middle East.

I'm going to let you read the rest at the link.

Have a great new year in 2007, and please keep an eye on this spot. I'll be posting updates periodically, and regular posting will resume before too long. Meanwhile, keep working for freedom, peace, and a better world.