Morning Report: June 5, 2007

One terrorist plot busted, but many more to go. Are we surprised that Iran's name is coming up? Sometimes the biggest challenge is keeping the power on.

JFK terror plot "tip of the iceberg". The Telegraph: 'The alleged conspiracy to blow up John F Kennedy airport, in New York, and a recent plot to kill soldiers at a nearby United States Army base represent only the "tip of the iceberg" of terrorist plots against America, according to US officials. "There's a lot of activity out there," a counter-terrorism official said yesterday. "Obviously, you don't want to tip off every suspect that they are being monitored. On the other hand, we are not going to wait until the fuse is lit." He said that the airport plot, which sparked a lengthy FBI sting operation, was first detected by CIA operatives in the Caribbean and South America nearly 18 months ago. "Our intelligence agencies pay careful attention to what goes on there," the official told The Daily Telegraph. ... The FBI announced at the weekend that they had foiled a plan to blow up a 40-mile fuel pipeline to JFK airport, which handles a thousand flights a day. It was allegedly hatched by Russell Defreitas, a Guyanese-born American citizen who had enlisted the help of a Guyanese politician and a radical Islamist group in Trinidad, when he worked as a cargo handler at the airport before 1995. The counter-terrorism official said that although the plan "was not technically possible" it was one of many cases being investigated by the US government and highlighted the twin dangers of Muslim Islamists holding American passports and plots with links to other countries.'

Iran connection? Via Power Line, The New York Sun reports: 'As New York police and the FBI interview suspects in an alleged plot to attack John F. Kennedy International Airport, one thread the ongoing investigation will explore is why one of the suspects was planning to go to Iran. A former Guyanese legislator, Abdul Kadir, was arrested in Trinidad on Friday on a plane bound for Caracas, Venezuela. According to Mr. Kadir's wife, Isha Kadir, he was in the island nation to pick up an Iranian visa so he could attend an Islamic conference in Tehran. Two of Mr. Kadir's children are studying in Iran, according to Mrs. Kadir. Trinidad's counterterrorism police are also investigating whether one of Mr. Kadir's alleged co-conspirators, a 56-year old Shiite imam in Trinidad named Kareem Ibrahim, had ties to Shiite organizations in southern Iraq and Iran through an Islamic discussion group he hosted, according to the Trinidad Express.'

Power surge. CENTCOM: '“The surge has assisted civil military operations by putting more coalition eyes on the environment, so that we get a more responsive analysis of what essential services and economic development services are needed by the populace,” said Lt. Col. John Rudolph, the assistant chief of staff of civil military operations for Multi-National Division – Baghdad. Rudolph said civil military operations in MND-B’s area of operation, which run the gamut from governance to agriculture to infrastructure to economic improvements, have already dedicated more than $163 million of Commander’s Emergency Relief Project (CERP) funds to projects all aimed at improving the quality of life for Iraqis living in and around Baghdad. “This really is about improving the quality of life for the Iraqis,” said Brig. Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, the deputy commanding general for support with MND-B. That “support” role not only touches the lives of the 50,000-plus troops working under MND-B, but also the Iraqi people. He said it’s challenging to move ahead with quality of life initiatives in the face of extremist efforts to stop them. “There is a perception that I’ve seen in every sector of this region we have responsibility for - when I talk to the Iraqis - that the Americans have the ability to put a man on the moon, and yet they can’t provide us with electricity,” Brooks said. “That whole idea of an expectation that we promised and haven’t delivered causes a great deal of problems.” Most westerners and Americans, for sure, cannot conceive flicking on a light switch on the wall and having it click with no effect. But, Baghdad has never had electricity flowing to its six million residents 24 hours a day. Electricity, or the lack thereof, was also tool used by the Ba’athist regime to reward or punish the population. “You saw areas favored by Saddam and his regime see power longer throughout the day, but they still didn’t get power 24/7,” Rudolph said. “They still had to use what they called the ‘generator men,’ who were entrepreneurs who had their own generators and supplied power to local neighborhoods for the ‘off power’ periods - even during Saddam’s period.”'

Suspected terrorists detained. MNF-Iraq: 'Coalition Forces detained four suspected terrorists including one suspected terrorist cell leader Tuesday morning during raids in northeast Baghdad. The individuals detained during the raid are believed to be members of the secret cell terrorist network known for facilitating the transport of weapons and explosively formed penetrators, or EFPs, from Iran to Iraq, as well as bringing militants from Iraq to Iran for terrorist training.'

Commentary. The official quoted in this morning's first item says the plot was "not technically possible", which comes as a relief and will no doubt provide amusement for those who insist that concerns about terrorism are exaggerated. Well, good; and let's hope the rest of the terrorist iceberg isn't technically possible either, but my money's on keeping the fight on.

There are two things going through my mind right now. The first is that it's a well-established technique of the Left to practice the art of misdirection. Whenever the concern is raised about domestic terrorism, or a foreign islamist threat, or Communist influence in our government, the response is to shift the focus from the concern itself to a counter-concern: "Some people think terrorism is a threat [primary concern], but what about the threat from domestic wiretapping [counter-concern]?" The function of the counter-concern is to divert attention from the primary concern, which is left unaddressed. There is no interest in the question, "Why might some people consider terrorism a threat? Is terrorism a threat?"

The second is the principle noted by Jonathan Weiner in the Counterterrorism Blog, "What we have seen in common with each of these dangerous movements fizzling out is the lost of belief in the underlying ideology that sustained the terrorist fervor, and the integration of persons who once could have been subjects from recruitment into the opportunities of mainstream society." In this process - as in the ground war itself - patience and persistence will be the key.

I remember reading a comment on a liberal friend's journal worrying about the "'war on terror' mentality". It is this "mentality" that most spooks our enemies and their enablers, and it is indeed precisely this "mentality" that we must maintain. This means holding our ground and being clear in our conviction that the blessings of freedom and liberal democracy are worth defending.