Gleanings on Global News at the Time of the End
The London Bombing – July 7, 2005 (7/7/7)
The Power of Numbers
London – July 7, 2005 7/7/7 (2005) or 777
London – July 21, 2005 7/ (7+7+7) /7 (2005) or 777 77
???? – July 28, 2005 7/ (7+7+7+7) /7 (2005) or 777 777
London Subway, Bus Are Targeted by Attempted Bombings (Update9) - July 21, 2005
7+777+2005 (777 77)
July 21 (Bloomberg) -- Three London subway trains and a bus were targets of attempted bombings today, leaving parts of the Underground network paralyzed, two weeks after the worst attack on the capital since World War II. One person was injured in the incidents, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair said in an interview aired by Sky News. One device may have exploded while three others failed to go off properly, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported. ``We've just got to react calmly and continue with our business,'' Prime Minister Tony Blair said at a press conference at his Downing Street office. ``We know why these things are done. They're done to frighten people.''
The incidents occurred at about 1 p.m. and at the four points of the compass, in a pattern resembling the July 7 terrorist attacks that killed 56 people. Today, Warren Street, Oval and Shepherds Bush Underground stations and a bus in east London were evacuated. Eyewitnesses told Sky that smoke appeared from a rucksack carried by a passenger in one subway carriage. ``There is nothing to indicate any kind of attack that involves chemicals or anything else,'' said Ian Blair of the police. ``It's broadly conventional. The situation is absolutely at the moment under control.'' The driver of the number 26 bus in Hackney, east London, heard a bang from the upper deck of the vehicle and said the windows were blown out, according to Steve Stewart, a spokesman for Stagecoach Plc, which operates public transport services. The bus is intact and there are no injuries, he said. The BBC said a split backpack was left on the floor of a bus.
``There was a nasty burning rubber smell but no smoke,'' Caroline Russell, who was traveling on the subway at Warren Street, told the BBC in an interview today. Police also cordoned off University College Hospital in central London today and sent an ``armed response'' unit there, police spokesman Steve Sherwood said in an interview. A memo was distributed to hospital employees indicating a suspect in the Warren Street incident had been spotted nearby, Sky News reported. He was described as being black or Asian wearing a blue shirt with wires protruding from the top, Sky said. Two arrests were made near Downing Street and Scotland Yard, police said, without elaborating. ``The emergency services are getting control over a very confused scene. It's unclear as to what happened,'' Ian Blair said. ``We don't know the implications of all this yet and we'll have to examine the situation very carefully.''
Warren Street, Oval and Shepherds Bush stations were evacuated and five Underground lines were suspended. By 5 p.m., reduced services resumed on all lines except the Hammersmith and City and Circle lines.
U.K. stocks and the pound pared gains after the subway stations were evacuated today. Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard were informed as they dined at Blair's office, an Australian official told journalists standing in front of Blair's office. Blair delayed a press conference with Howard due at 2:15 p.m. Foreign Secretary Jack Straw entered Blair's office shortly after 2 p.m. Defense Secretary John Reid, entering Blair's office at about 2:30 p.m., told reporters he was going to a meeting of the Cabinet's crisis management committee. Reid later left the meeting, as did Home Secretary Charles Clarke and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
July 7 Investigation
Blair today was due to meet senior police offices and representatives of security services to discuss powers to combat terrorism, amid indications terrorists in Pakistan are becoming a focus of the investigation into the July 7 bombings. Police have identified four men they say were bombers in the July 7 incidents, three on underground trains and one on a bus. All of them died in the explosions. ``It was almost guaranteed that there would be other attacks,'' said Bob Ayers, an associate fellow of the International Security Program at Chatham House in London today. ``It's quite easy to acquire more madmen willing to blow themselves up. Whatever these devices were, they weren't as powerful as the devices used on July 7. Whether this is a result of the way they were designed, or not, we don't know.''
The emergency services were called at 12:38 p.m. to Oval station and at 12:45 p.m. to Warren Street station, a spokeswoman for the Ambulance Service said.
"Plot to scar London with 'burning cross' ", - July 14, 2005
SMH.com.au, - "London's four suspected suicide bombers had wanted to scar the city with a ``burning cross'' of blasts in its north, south, east and west, in the hope of being declared Islamic martyrs ... The four suspects were caught on security cameras at London's Kings Cross station, heading off in different directions shortly before the three bombs went off near Aldgate, Edgware Road and Russell Square Underground stations early last Thursday. A fourth bomb exploded on a bus nearly an hour later.""Police suspect three of the young men carried bombs east, west and south, while a fourth had planned to take the north-bound Northern Line, but, as this was disrupted, he changed plans and boarded a bus, London's Evening Standard said."
One Cutting Edge researcher had noted some interesting facts about the bombings as she plotted the actual bombing locations. Please now look at this map carefully, above. The circles drawn on the map represent the four locations at which the bombs went off, while the asterisks ( * ) depicts locations of interest.
1) Note that two of the bombs went off just south of the King's Cross subway station. This Australian news article, above, further states that the four bombers met King's Crossing subway station with the plans to head off in opposite directions. The bombers did get their explosions off to the east and west, but not to the north and the south, as this article states was their original plan.
Obviously, explosions would have had to be set off directly north and directly south of King's Cross for a "burning cross" to be etched on the ground. In this regard, I find it interesting that initial reports indicated that as many as six, and possibly seven, bombs had exploded. For a "burning cross" to have been created on the ground by these explosions, three more would have been ideal. Was that the plan, and were the other three bombers inhibited by chance circumstance from exploding their devices? We shall never know.
2) Notice the British Medical Association headquarter building lies just across the street from the King's Cross explosion. As we explain in NEWS2054, this building was originally built by the Black Magick secret society, the House of Theosophy, as their headquarters. Because one of the bombs exploded very close to the location of such an occult location, fellow occultists throughout the world would have instantly recognized this location as highly symbolic.
3) Notice that just to the right (East) of the first bomb the Old Sessions House is located. This building is a major Masonic Lodge.
4) Just East of Old Sessions House lies the Tavistock Institute, home of the infamous Mind Control experiments since World War I. We explain this very important connection also in NEWS2054.
5) Notice that directly south of Bomb #1, and directly south of King's Cross station, lies the Freemason's Hall, the Grand Lodge of England. Had a bomb exploded close to this location, a southern point would have been established to create a "burning cross" on the ground. Only one more explosion would have been needed, northward of King's Cross station.
failed to protect London even after Israel warned Britain of coming Al-Queda
terror – inefficiency or conspiracy? - July 7, 2005
Indian Daily News - Israel knew and warned United Kingdom of possible terror plots to disrupt life in London. But British authorities failed to respond accordingly to deter the attacks, according to an unconfirmed rumor circulating in intelligence circles. Israel is keeping quiet for the time being with a lot of pressure on them.
Fact of the matter is that British Authorities knew it is coming, warned the Israelis before the first bomb. The Associated Press reported July 7 that an anonymous source in the Israeli Foreign Ministry said Scotland Yard had warned the Israeli Embassy in London of possible terrorist attacks in the U.K. capital. The information reportedly was passed to the embassy minutes before the first bomb struck at 0851 London time. The Israeli Embassy promptly ordered Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to remain in his hotel on the morning of July 7. Netanyahu was scheduled to participate in an Israeli Investment Forum Conference at the Grand Eastern Hotel, located next to the Liverpool Street Tube station -- the first target in the series of bombings that hit London on July 7.
The biggest question of the day is British Authorities knew and protected Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, then why not common British citizens in London? Several hours later, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom officially denied reports that Scotland Yard passed any information to Israel regarding the bombings, and British police denied they had any advanced warning of the attacks. The British authorities similarly denied that any information exchange had occurred.
But the fact is Israeli Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stayed in his hotel knowing very well what was coming. Why British Authorities did not tell the common people of Britain about what was coming if they knew that Al-Queda was about to strike? According to international rumor circle, Britain just failed to act even after being warned by the Israelis days before the attack.
What Will it Take for Europe to "Wake Up"? – July 10, 2005
Lekerev Report - Israeli diplomats have blasted British Prime Minister Tony Blair, accusing him of hypocrisy and out of touch with reality for blaming the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for instigating terrorism, in the wake of last week's attack in London. "It is a widespread approach in Europe," said one diplomat in Jerusalem. "They really believe that we are responsible for all their problems."
Other diplomats said Blair's outburst is yet one more sign Europeans has not yet come to grips with the dangers of radical Islam. They also point to comments made by European Parliament President Josep Borell Fontells during last month's visit to Israel to show Europeans refuse to recognize the "dormant terror cells" amongst Europe's large Muslim population. "You think we are here as some sort of 'rich uncles,'" said Fontells. "But we are here because 'your' conflict is starting to work it's way over to us."
"Blair's comments are an attempt to calm things down," said one source, "to tell British Muslims, 'it's not you, it's the mid-east conflict.' He's apparently hoping for quiet in England but that mentality will only pave the way for appeasing terrorism, the very thing he said England would not do.
For those of you who may not have seen or read his remarks, Blair said over the weekend that the terrorism is the result of poverty and the mid-east conflict. Rubbish!!!!!! Nonsense!!!!! First of all, if he wants to deal with poverty, how about calling the Palestinian Authority to task for the billions in aid it has received over recent years with NO visible benefit reaching the population. How about an inquiry into corruption? How about looking into the elaborate mansions that have been built for Palestinian leaders while many Palestinians struggle? And how about also taking a tour of the so- called 'refugee camps' which are in actual fact, full blown cities with high rise apartment houses and single family dwellings in many locations???
No, Mr. Blair, terrorism will not be cured by "throwing money at it". After all, how rich is Osama Bin Laden? Multi-millionaire??? Is that the 'poverty' that moved him to plan and carry out the September 11 attacks and the attacks in London last Thursday?
Israel Grieves With London – July 10, 2005
Lekerev Report - In a scene all too familiar to Israelis, British newspapers report this morning that 55 people lost their lives and more than 700 were injured, many of them critically, in the wake of a series of terrorist bombings in London yesterday. Prime Minister Sharon phoned British Ambassador to Israel Simon McDonald and asked him to pass on to British Prime Minister Tony Blair the condolences of all of Israel to the bereaved families and the British people at large and said that at these moments, Israel expresses solidarity with them. The world must unite in the war against terror, Sharon said and added that Israel was ready and willing to provide any assistance, medical or otherwise, that Britain may require.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the attack bore the hallmarks of an al-Qaeda strike, and an unknown al-Qaeda-affiliate in Europe said it carried out the attack on the "crusading Zionist nation of Britain" in revenge for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The group also warned Denmark, Italy "and all the Crusader governments" to pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan or face similar attacks.
It has now been confirmed that the explosion on the double decker bus was certainly the work of a suicide bomber. DebkaFile experts project that the entire operation was a suicide bombing mission, carefully orchestrated and carried out by 6-8 bombers. We will wait to see if Scotland Yard confirms their projection. Bleary-eyed but resolute Londoners reluctantly ventured back to subways and buses early today after yesterday's mass shutdown in response to the terrorist bombings. Tube stations opened between 5:20 and 5:30 a.m. on Friday, their normal time, although delays were expected due to partially or fully closed underground routes. Buses in London were to resume their usual routes with no foreseen closures. Many of London's 8 million residents rely heavily on the network.
Debka - This is the first conclusion drawn by DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s terror experts from the type and strength of the explosives used and they way the bombers, in three out of the four attacks, were able to deliberately spread the damage to secondary vehicles outside their primary targets. The explosion on the trains at Kings Cross and Edgware Road stations- and the bomb that wrecked the bus at Tavistock Square - were also aimed at hitting passing trains and cars to maximize the casualty toll. To accomplish this, the bomber needed to watch out for moving vehicles and judge the exact moment for detonating the explosive with zero chances of surviving the blast. The bombs were not large, smaller than the ones that were planted on the Madrid trains in March 2004, because they had to be worn on the terrorists’ bodies without arousing suspicion. In Madrid they were left in bags.
At the big Kings Cross station, two trains were caught in the blast; at Edgware Road station, three trains were hit. As for the bus, two suicide bombers sat at the back of the bus well separated, ready to detonate their vests as soon as they saw a second bus came close through the rear window. They then both tripped the cords on their bombs. The bus’s upper deck was ripped off and hurled in the air. Had there been one bomber, only one side of the bus would have been wrecked. These details are vital leads for the investigation. Scotland Yard and British anti-terrorist agencies must determine how a large team of suicide killers reached central London without prior warning from the British and foreign intelligence agencies engaged in the war on al Qaeda.
There could be three explanations:
1. A home-grown covert Muslim cell that escaped the notice of the anti-terrorist intelligence network that was spread across Britain after the 9/11 al Qaeda attacks in America.
2. It was the work of an al Qaeda suicide team which had never been to the UK before and had no previous ties with local terrorist cells. They simply mingled with the stream of summer tourists entering the country. This team would have been made up of three groups, one to collect intelligence, select targets and transport the killers to the scenes of attack; one to smuggle in the bomb-vests and finally, the actual suicide bombers.
3. The terrorists arrived in London singly without attracting attention and found an intelligence infrastructure and explosives already set up by a local cell unknown to the British security authorities.
More than a few British Muslims have spent time in Arab countries studying at religious institutions whose curriculum includes military training and bomb-making instruction. Two such British Muslim suicide killers, Asif Mohammed Hanif and Omar Khan Sherif, were dispatched to Tel Aviv to blow up the American embassy on April 30, 2003, When they saw the building was a fortress, they switched to an attack on the neighboring Mike’s Bar. A joint British-Israeli probe traced the two bombers’ movements from London to Damascus where they studied and were recruited at a medressa run by al Qaeda’s adherents. The pair picked up their bomb vests from Hizballah agents in the Gaza Strip which they entered as British tourists supporting the Palestinian cause. The London bombers’ modus operandi recalls that of Hanif and Sherif two years ago. It could take weeks if not months before forensic lab. tests come up with a lead to the identifies of the suicide killers – unless of course video cameras were placed strategically enough to pick them out. Even then, the quality may not be good enough. But with luck, the British police have been able to name the wanted men, just as the Boston police were helped by a convenient video camera in September 2001.
Gaza Mosque: London Attacks were "Blessed Acts” – July 12, 2005
Lekerev Report - In a reaction similar to the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks in New York, the blood spilt in the London terror attacks has been celebrated within the Palestinian territories. The Gaza based Sut Al Quds radio station, which identifies itself with Palestinian Islamic Jihad, has praised the London terrorist atrocities.
The broadcast was carried live on Saturday evening, two days after the attack.
Is Paris Next? – July 10, 2005
Lekerev Report - The Islamic and Arab nations are overjoyed because the time has come to exact revenge on the British "Jewish crusader" government - these are the words that open al-Qaeda's claim of responsibility for the July 7 attacks in London.
However, despite the terrorist organization's explicit announcement, and despite the slaughter caused by the bombs detonated by the group in the name of and for the sake of Islam, the so-called "progressive" public opinion in Britain has invested in the past 24 hours immense efforts to repress, blur, and cover up the connection between the terror attacks and radical Islam. A senior London police official has been quoted at length after baselessly claiming that the words "Islam" and "terrorism" do not go together. The attempt to bury reality as it is under heaps of empty words is futile. The following truths are obvious to any intelligent person examining the 21st century's terror waves.
Firstly, this is Muslim terrorism. Not anarchist, not Zionist, and not neoconservative. This terror comes from Islam's zealots, who believe in the need to initiate a global jihad at this time against the infidels, the Jews, the "Christian crusaders," and moderate Muslims. Secondly, this terror comes from wealthy, educated Muslims, not poor, mindless ones. Islamic countries are flooded with hundreds of billions of dollars they received from selling high-priced oil. The terrorists who planned and perpetrated the terror attacks in New York and Madrid were established individuals who spoke foreign languages and were familiar with technology. This is also the socioeconomic profile of Hamas and Hizbullah leaders.
There is no connection, even not a slight one, between the war on poverty and the war on terror.
Thirdly, the jihadists initiated a terror war against the West because it is the West, and not in order to "advance" the Israeli-Palestinian conflict's resolution or push the United States to pull its forces out of Iraq. Their one and only motive was, and still is, to undermine the basis of the despised Western culture and expose it as weak. Sowing destruction for the purpose of sowing destruction. Terror experts and even Pope Benedict are already saying that Paris will be the next target. Will anybody in Europe come to grips with reality before that happens?
Zarqawi redeploying fighters to Europe in preparation for August attack – ‘Al-Qaeda Chief has well-stocked teams in place’ - July 24, 2005
The Rantburg - BRITISH intelligence
and security services are on high alert in preparation for terror attacks in
major UK cities following the double assault on London. Emergency planners are
keyed up for terror strikes in cities such as Glasgow and Birmingham.
The net has also widened across the world in the hunt for those who planned and
helped prepare the July 7 and July 21 attacks in London.
Intelligence and security analysts believe that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an al-Qaeda chief in Iraq, has built up such a well-stocked team of fighters that he has been able to send a number of trained terrorists back to their countries of origin in recent months.The fact that Islamic terrorists have been able to sustain daily suicide attacks in Iraq while still drafting seasoned veterans out of the country for operations in Europe and the Middle East underscores the strength of the insurgency in Iraq.
Prior to the London bombings, Zarqawi threatened Britain, Italy, France, Denmark and Russia. The UK and Italy were top of the hit list. Also under threat were the nations of Egypt – which was hit early yesterday morning with devastating car bombs – Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Zarqawi also warned Israel that the state was “in his sights – and very soon”. There are major fears that the next al-Qaeda-inspired terror strike could employ some sort of dirty bomb in order to ramp up global panic.
Some intelligence analysts estimate up to 1000 foreign fighters in Iraq may have been ordered back to their homelands in countries as disparate as Egypt and Britain to prepare for assaults in their own states. Zarqawi’s base is in Iraq’s western province of Anbar – an area in which he appears to operate with relative impunity. Terror cells affiliated in some way to al-Qaeda are now operating in Europe, the Middle East, north and west Africa and southeast Asia. Terrorists are believed to have established links with criminal organisations in Europe and Africa to help them move men, money, weapons and explosives. The latest warnings have given European countries still engaged in Iraq until August 15 to pull out or face “a bloody war in the service of God”.
A statement from the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade, which claimed responsibility for the London atrocities, said: “There will be no more messages, just actions that will be engraved on the heart of Europe … these are our last words. The mujahidin, who are on the look-out, will have other words to say to your capitals.” Globally, intelligence agencies, including MI6 and the CIA, are beginning to look more and more at west Africa as the possible hide-out of some of the most wanted Islamic terrorists in the world – including those suspected of having connections to the London bombings.
Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade - “There will be no more messages, just actions that will be engraved on the heart of Europe …
these are our last words. The mujahidin, who are on the look-out, will have other words to say to your capitals.”
US and British intelligence representatives met recently with intelligence officers from Algeria, Mali, Mauritania and Niger in the Mauritanian capital of Nouakchott on July 13, shortly after the first London bombings. One theory is that the London bomb team may have received their final orders – and perhaps even their funding and explosives – from terror leaders operating the west African “franchise” of al-Qaeda.
Last month, Mauritania’s authorities seized documents they say were used by Islamic militants to “justify terrorism” and which gave practical tips on staging attacks. Al-Qaeda can no longer be considered the same organisation that it was prior to the toppling of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Instead it now operates more as an exportable ideology with local terror groups affiliating themselves to Osama bin Laden. These groups act independently of bin Laden and it is unlikely he would have known much, if anything, of any planning for atrocities such as the July 7 bombings in London. West Africa is a perfect hide-out for international terrorist, given its remoteness and the fact that there are so many tribes among whom operatives can hide. The main countries in which the al-Qaeda affiliates are based include Algeria, Mali, Burkino Faso, Benin, Niger, Nigeria and Mauritania.
Bin Laden 'in good health' – July 15, 2005
BBC News - An influential Arabic newspaper editor has been told that Osama Bin Laden is still alive - the second such report in a week. Abdel-Bari Atwan says the leader of the al-Qaeda network is in good health, but had been wounded in an attack on his base in Afghanistan last December.
Bin Laden "still the figurehead" of his al-Qaeda network
Mr Atwan, editor of the London-based Al-Quds newspaper, said Bin Laden's followers had told him that he would not make more video statements until his group launches another attack on the United States.
Bin Laden is alleged by the US to be behind the 11 September attacks in New York and Washington, which killed about 3,000 people.
Mr Atwan is one of few journalists to have interviewed Osama Bin Laden before the US attacks. He said he had started his hunt for news of Bin Laden's whereabouts after the latest video footage showing the al-Qaeda leader - who is left-handed - barely moving his left arm. "His [Osama Bin Laden's] people said he was wounded in the shoulder by shrapnel. He is in good health now," Mr Atwan said on Monday. He said the injury was sustained during a US-led assault on his headquarters in the Tora Bora mountains in eastern Afghanistan in December. "They [Bin Laden's followers] also said Bin Laden would not appear in a video and just speak words. He will make another appearance only after his people attack the Americans again," Mr Atwan said.
US officials have made several warnings about a possible attack against American targets, by members of al-Qaeda. US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told American troops in Afghanistan on Monday that the organisation remained active despite the successes of the US-led campaign. "We have taken out maybe half of the top al-Qaeda and almost half of the Taleban leadership," Mr Wolfowitz said. "It's going to be a long struggle," he added.
Last week, the head of Germany's foreign intelligence agency also said Osama Bin Laden was alive and believed to be hiding in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Bin Laden's group has threatened more attacks
August Hanning told German newspaper Welt am Sonntag that the wanted Saudi dissident was still very much a key figure within the al-Qaeda terror network. "Given the information we have we are convinced that Bin Laden is still alive," he said. "He is still the figurehead of al-Qaeda, but doesn't appear to move around very much." Mr Hanning said that an estimated 5,000 al-Qaeda operatives still remained in Afghanistan and Pakistan, while others had returned to their countries of origin to plan new attacks.
"They are preparing new attacks from their new locations," he said.
Bin Laden Said To Be Healthy – June 15, 2005
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CBS) - Osama bin Laden is alive and in good health, as is fugitive Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, a purported senior commander of the ousted Afghan religious militia said in a TV interview broadcast Wednesday. Pakistan's Geo television broadcast the interview with a man it identified as Taliban military commander Mullah Akhtar Usmani, a former Afghan aviation minister who said he still receives instructions from Omar.
Osama bin Laden and fugitive Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar (Photo: AP / CBS)
whether bin Laden is hiding in areas of Afghanistan that are under Taliban
control, the man said he would not specify where the terrorist mastermind was
hiding. "Thanks be to God, he is absolutely fine," the man said. The
man wore a black turban to shield his face, making it impossible to recognize
him or verify his identity. He wore a gray jacket, and an AK-47 rifle was
propped next to him as he spoke in front of a red-patterned, Afghan-style rug.
Geo said the interview was recorded last week, but declined to say where. A senior journalist at the independent station said on condition of anonymity that the interview was done near the Afghan town of Spinboldak, which is close to the Pakistani border. The interview was conducted in broken Urdu, Pakistan's main language and the language in which Geo broadcasts most of its programs. Most senior Taliban speak Pashtu. The man said the Taliban are still organized and senior Taliban leaders hold regular consultations. "Our discipline is strong. We have regular meetings. We make programs," the man said.
He said Omar does not attend the meetings but "decisions come from his side." He did not say where those meetings take place. In speaking about Omar, the man referred to the Taliban chief by his self-proclaimed title of "ameerul momineen" — "leader of the faithful." "Ameerul momineen is our chief and leader. No one is against him. Our ameerul momineen is alive. He is all right. There is no problem. He is not sick. He is my commander. He gives me instructions," the man said. Asked whether he has direct contact with Omar, the man said: "I will not say whether I meet with him or not. But he is giving instructions."
A U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban in late 2001. The offensive was launched after the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden and dismantle al Qaeda bases in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.
Osama bin Laden and “The Terror Network” – a CBS Interactive
DEBKAfile Special Analysis - Al Qaeda’s first coordinated bomb attacks on London’s public transport which shocked Britain on July 7 were mounted at the same time as the G8 summit in Scotland. The death toll rose to 56 with 700 wounded and an unknown number of victims still missing. The Islamists not only directed their destructive urge against London, but addressed a graphic threat to the 20 leaders of the world’s industrialized nations headed by US president George W. Bush who were meeting at Gleneagles. Since the failed September 11 2001 attempt to bomb the White House, this was the closest al Qaeda terrorists had come to key Western leaders gathered in one place.
Yet, strangely enough, all those leaders lined up to consign the attack to the British arena, as though it came from problems in British-Muslim relations rather than being an assault on the West. The string of bombings at Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm al Sheikh July 23, two days after the second round of London bombings, also coincided with the Middle East trip of the US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice to Jerusalem and Ramallah. (She popped over to Beirut in between.)
Here too there was method in al Qaeda’s timing.
The distance between London and Gleneagles is comparable to the distance between Rice’s Jerusalem hotel and the Egyptian Red Sea resort. Al Qaeda chose its moment to devastate the Sharm paradise when the US, Britain, Egypt and Israel were immersed in an intense effort to clear away obstacles to Ariel Sharon’s evacuation of Israelis from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank, and make sure it will be free of Palestinian terrorist violence. By hitting Sharm al Sheikh, Osama bin Laden hammered home to Egyptian, British, American and Israeli leaders: We are now sitting on your doorstep. Get Sharon’s plan off the ground and you will find us entrenched on the map of Sinai next door to the Gaza Strip. In October 2004, we landed in northern Sinai, blowing up the Taba Hilton on the Egyptian-Israeli border and other resorts and killing 34 people including 13 Israelis. Now we have arrived at the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, Sharm al-Sheikh. The Gaza Strip is our next destination. Just as our fighting men reached Iraq from all over the Middle East and the Muslim world, nothing will stop us pouring into the Gaza Strip from Egypt the moment Israel hands the border crossing over to the Egyptians and the Palestinians. We will then be in forward bases for fighting Israel, Egypt and the Palestinian Authority just as we fight the Americans in Iraq.
Al Qaeda makes no secret of its plans. It is looking forward to the free ride to its first Mediterranean base afforded by the Israeli prime minister’s much-praised evacuation-disengagement plan, which goes into effect from mid-August. The terrorist group will also win a springboard to Israel and Europe across the water.
Yet the only controversy in Israel over the pros and cons of the pull-back operation is confined to the domestic, political plane, the dispute between so-called “right” and “left”. Even the arguments put forward by its most avid opponents lack strategic depth. Washington and London, aside from certain anti-terror experts, are blind to the fact that by exiting from Gaza, Israel will open the Mediterranean basin to al Qaeda’s spreading campaign of terror. They are pushing Israel and the Palestinians as hard as they can to make sure that Gaza’s handover takes place. Rice arrived post-haste to make sure the revival of Hamas suicide attacks would not delay the operation and that the Israeli government stays squarely on course for the home run.
American and British spokesman keep on reiterating that Israel’s first evacuation of complete communities will, as day follows night, cool the flames of Middle East terrorism – Palestinian and Iraqi alike. They insist that the more land Israeli cedes - on the West Bank too - the faster terrorist violence will disappear. The facts on the ground in London, Baghdad and Egypt in a single week fly in the face of this theory. As the date of the pull-back draws near, the flames of Islamic violence climb higher. This should be no surprise to any Western or Israeli decision-makers following al Qaeda’s broadcast messages. The group claiming the Sharm el-Sheikh bombings, for instance calls itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades of Egypt and the Levant (Syria and Lebanon). It is named for the Palestinian terror ideologue who was Osama bin Laden’s early mentor in 1986-1987. The name is a pointer to the Palestinian link and the countries targeted. The timing of the attack rounds off the picture of al Qaeda’s motivation. Al Qaeda has never concealed its long term operational strategy. But its operational plans have been hidden well enough to miss being thwarted by the counter-terror agencies.
In the article in the opposite column, DEBKA-Net-Weekly and DEBKAfile’s terrorism experts offer new information on how al Qaeda is getting organized for action in the Middle East. The world Islamist organization is now active not only in Sinai south of Israel, but also in Jordan across from the Jewish state’s heartland, in the north in the Levant and among the Palestinians who live cheek to jowl with Israelis. Israeli officials are so busy second-guessing Hamas and trying to decide whether the radical Muslim group will shoot or hold its fire during the pull-backs that no one thinks of asking what will happen after it is over, when Al Qaeda’s bombers move over from Iraq – and from Sinai - to join forces with the Hamas and likeminded Palestinian terror groups sworn to destroy Israel - the Jihad Islami, and the radical Palestinian fronts. The blueprints drawn up in Washington, Jerusalem, Cairo and London, for securing the evacuations and their aftermath provide American, British and Egyptian assistance for setting up Palestinian intelligence and security bodies untainted by terrorism. This plan looks impressive – until it is examined in the light of the latest events in London and Egypt.
It may be recalled that five years ago, DEBKAfile’s analysts predicted in its first editions that a Palestinian-Israel war would erupt by the end of that year, 2001.
Four and a half years ago, the first issues of DEBKA-Net-Weekly warned that Osama bin Laden was preparing an attack in America and named New York’s Twin Towers. Two years ago, just before the US-led invasion of Iraq, we reported that Saddam Hussein, his sons and the Baath leadership were preparing a vicious guerrilla campaign against American forces. Now, in July 2005, DEBKAfile’s counter-terror analysts believe that, as soon as the last Israeli leaves the Gaza Strip towards the end of the year, and the northern West Bank in early 2006, al Qaeda’s networks will move in.
DEBKAfile’s terrorism sources note Al Qaeda struck in Sharm al Sheikh Friday night, July 22, just 24 hours after US secretary of state Rice landed in the Middle East. At least 59 people were killed, 200 wounded in a series of al Qaeda car bomb attacks minutes apart. Britons, Dutch, Spaniards, Qataris, Kuwaitis and Egyptians were among the casualties. One Israeli was initially reported with minor injuries. Egyptian police say there were 4 to 7 car bombs – starting at the Old Market area and following in Naama Bay near the Ghazala Gardens and Moevenpick hotels. The bars and market were packed. People fleeing from one explosion were trapped in another.
Last October, al Qaeda struck resorts in northern Sinai resorts including Taba Hilton killing 34, among them 13 Israelis.
On July 15, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 214 reported that al Qaeda was diluting its Iraq force for a major terror offensive in Europe and Middle East engineered by Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and on its recommendation.
The countries targeted were named as Britain, Italy, France, Denmark, Russia – with the UK and Italy at the top of the list; and, In the Middle East, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel. Zarqawi in one recent release: Israel is in our sights – and very soon.
Al Qaeda’s ability to carry out tightly coordinated strings of attacks very close together in different parts of the world has shocked many terrorism experts. According to our sources, the organization’s networks are now operating across the Middle East, Europe and West Africa from a headquarters established by Zarqawi in Iraq’s western province of Anbar. This large area bordering Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia has passed under his control. To relay operatives, instructions, explosives and funds to the bomber teams on the ground, the Jordanian terrorist is working with Middle East criminal smuggling rings linked to European and African mafias.
The car bombs blown up at Sharm el Sheikh bore Egyptian customs marks, indicating they were imported from outside Egypt. One fairly easy route would be the sea car ferry connecting Sharm el Sheikh to the Jordanian port of Aqaba.
Exerpts from DEBKA-Net-Weekly July 15.
While the Bush administrations prepares a troop buildup in Iraq, al Qaeda is engaged in the elaborate logistic process of shifting 1,000-1,200 terror combatants out of Iraq and getting them ready to fight on new warfronts. Everything is done in total secrecy. The terrorists are first repatriated to their countries of origin and provided with new passports and identities, before going on to join networks in Europe and the Middle East. Reporting exclusively on these surreptitious movements, DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s Al Qaeda and counter-terror experts estimate that the terror group has already kicked off its new offensive. The coordinated bomb blasts on three London Tube trains and a bus on July 7 was one of its initial strikes – although not the only one - and there are more are to come.
At least two major attacks already carried out in London and Damascus herald the new terror offensive:
The Syrian authorities have never released any figures or details of this attack. Scores are believed to have died and hundreds injured, including holidaymakers from Gulf Arab states, when a busload of armed men opened fire on the teeming cafes and restaurants of the Mount Qassioun resort overlooking the Syrian capital. DEBKA-Net-Weekly reveals here for the first time that it was the work of a Jordanian crime mob known as the Semadi Gang. They were aided by several al Qaeda adherents who were resting in Syria from their terrorist activity in Iraq.
Our counter-terror experts describe the Mount Qassioun attack as a landmark in al Qaeda methods as well as marking the onset of its Middle East offensive.
The gangster Muhammed Sharif Semadi who planned the operation has a lurid past. He spent time in a Jordanian prison where he got together with inmates associated with al Qaeda. After his release, he took his mob to Iraq and joined up with a fellow Jordanian, al-Zarqawi and persuaded him to press Jordanian criminal elements into service for the first time as terrorists. This influx would boost the terrorist network’s ranks while making use of the gang’s far-flung connections with crooks across the Middle East and Europe.
This experiment work so well, that DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s counter-terror experts report that Zarqawi has hooked up with another three large Jordanian crime outfits. One is the Jerabiya Gang, which based in the south Jordanian town of Maan, a notorious stronghold of Muslim extremists. Another is the Mustafa Abu Roman Gang from Salt and a third is a mixed Palestinian-Jordanian group called the Kuwait Returnees, which engages in criminal activities to support adherents, but whose basic philosophy is religious and extremist. Most of its members are Palestinians deported from Kuwait in 1992 after the Gulf War for collaborating with Saddam Hussein. One sub-faction calls itself “Disappointed with the Palestinian Revolution” and is dedicated to overthrowing Mahmoud Abbas.
Zarqawi designed an ambitious multiple attack for Jordan as his crowning venture. It did not come off. The scheme had four parts: One, to blow up the Iraqi-Jordanian oil pipeline from Kirkuk to Zarqa; two, to torch the hundreds of American and Jordan tanker trucks waiting outside Jordanian pumping stations including H4. The Jordanian-Iraqi border terminals were to have been attacked at the same time and the villages around the terminals and oil pipeline set on fire.
Four would have emanated from the first three: the cutoff of the main energy lifeline from Jordan to the US army in Iraq and Baghdad. Jordanian intelligence got wind of the danger in time and aborted the plot.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s anti-terror sources reports that Zarqawi placed one of his lieutenants, Abu Abd al Raham al-Afghani in charge of this operation. His real name is believed to be Ismail Abu Awda. The man on the ground in Jordan was to have been Fahd Faiqi, a Saudi Arabian aged 26, who lives in Jordan and acts as Zarqawi’s main contact with Jordanian crime gangs. It was not the only success chalked up by Jordan’s intelligence services. However, the information elicited from the dozens of detained members of Zarqawi’s networks and the frequency of the major attacks thwarted – an average of one every three or four weeks - sheds a sinister light on the Jordanian master terrorist’s immediate plans. He and al Qaeda are edging the focus of their operations out of Iraq into new arenas.
The extensive operational network al Qaeda and its top-flight operations chief have laid down in Jordan is matched in Syria. This organization, according to our sources, goes under the name of The Organization of Syrian Fighters” (Tanzim Jund al Shem). Many of its Syrian members fought in Afghanistan in the late 1980s and early 1990s and have joined the terror war against US forces in Iraq.
Al Qaeda-Syria has two commanders: Abu Rida al Shemi, a Syrian extremist close to Zarqawi. He was falsely reported killed in battle in the west Iraqi Anbar Province; and Abu Huzeifa, about whom nothing is known. All Qaeda’s Syrian logistical infrastructure depends largely on pacts its Iraq commander struck with elements of the two Iraqi tribes, the Rawi and the Dulaim, which straddle the two countries and whose sub-groups are scattered around the Middle East.
According to intelligence estimates, Zarqawi holds on to Anbar – a territory roughly the size of Texas - with a little more than 5,000 men, of whom roughly 1,000 are Saudi and Yemeni zealots, 300 Jordanian and an unknown number of Syrians, Moroccans and Palestinians. His firm grip on Anbar persuaded the al Qaeda hierarchy in Pakistan and Afghanistan that 1,000 men could be expended from other parts of Iraq and diverted to the new terror offensive outside Iraq.
In a message to his superiors, revealed here for the first time, Zarqawi offered his estimate that after three years of joint combat, Iraqi insurgents ought to be capable of running the guerrilla war against the Americans on their own. He therefore recommended reducing the terror organization’s involvement in Iraq to the minimum needed to retain its control and focus on preserving al Qaeda-Iraq’s grip on Anbar Province for use as a territorial base and springboard for attacks in other parts of the Middle East and Europe. These attacks will aim at engulfing additional territories in the region and toppling regimes. The onset of the new al Qaeda offensive in London, Syria, Jordan and now Egyptian Sinai, indicates that Zarqawi’s superiors gave him the go-ahead.
Gunmen kill fourth Afghan cleric – July 13, 2005
BBC News - Suspected Taleban militants have shot dead a pro-government cleric in southern Afghanistan, the fourth such killing in the past two months.
Maulvi Saleh Mohammad was shot by gunmen on a motorcycle in Lashkargar, the capital of Helmand province. A leading cleric in Paktika province and two in Kandahar have also been killed in recent weeks.
Separately, the US military said it had killed 17 suspected militants in two days of clashes in the south. Maulvi Saleh Mohammad was the head of the powerful clerics' council, or ulema, in Helmand. No one has yet said they carried out the attack, but Haji Mohammed Wali, spokesman for the provincial governor, blamed Taleban fighters. "He was on his way home from the mosque after prayers and he was shot and martyred by two gunmen on motorcycles," Mr Wali said. "The attackers fled the area."
The killing follows the murder of leading cleric Agha Jan and his wife in south-eastern Paktika province last Friday.
On 3 July, Maulvi Mohammad Musbah was shot dead in Kandahar and in late May gunmen there killed another supporter of President Hamid Karzai, Maulvi Abdullah Fayaz.
Taleban spokesman Mullah Abdul Latif Hakimi said its fighters carried out the three attacks. On Wednesday, the US military said it had killed 17 suspected insurgents in two days of fighting in southern Zabul province. Six more suspected militants were captured and 23 other people were being questioned, a US military statement said. The fighting took place in mountainous terrain close to where the US said it killed more than 70 suspected militants in fighting last month. Violence linked to the Taleban has risen this year ahead of parliamentary elections in September. More than 500 people, most of them suspected militants, are estimated to have lost their lives in bloodshed in the south and east in the past four months.
Al-Qaida's prime targets for launching nuclear terrorist attacks are the nine U.S. cities with the highest Jewish populations, according to captured leaders and documents. As first revealed last week in Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin, the premium, online intelligence newsletter published by the founder of WND, Osama bin Laden is planning what he calls an "American Hiroshima," the ultimate terrorist attack on U.S. cities, using nuclear weapons already smuggled into the country across the Mexican border along with thousands of sleeper agents.
The series of attacks is designed to kill 4 million, destroy the economy and fundamentally alter the course of history.
The series of attacks is designed to kill 4 million, destroy the economy and fundamentally alter the course of history.
At least two fully assembled and operational nuclear weapons are believed to be hidden in the United States already, according to G2 Bulletin intelligence sources and an upcoming book, "The al-Qaida Connection: International Terrorism, Organized Crime and the Coming Apocalypse," by former FBI consultant Paul L. Williams. The cities chosen as optimal targets are New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Boston and Washington, D.C. New York and Washington top the preferred target list for al-Qaida leadership.
Bin Laden's goal, according to G2 Bulletin sources, is to launch one initial attack, followed by a second on another city to simulate the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The optimal dates for the attacks are Aug. 6, the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, Sept. 11 and May 14, the anniversary of the re-creation of the state of Israel in 1948. No specific year has been suggested, however, this Aug. 6 represents the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima attack.
The cities chosen as optimal targets are New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Chicago,
San Francisco, Las Vegas, Boston and Washington, D.C.
The captured terrorists and documents also suggest smaller attacks may take place on American soil before the nuclear incidents. They may include some involving automatic weapons at schools and shopping malls, but will not include any airplane hijackings. Why? Because bin Laden does not want any failed efforts to overshadow "the success of Sept. 11." There will also not be any attacks on U.S. nuclear power plants. The rationale? The nuclear power plants can act as force multipliers when the weapons of mass destruction are detonated.
Another requirement dictated from the top at al-Qaida is that the attacks take place in daylight, so that the whole world will be able to see the images of a mushroom cloud over an American city. One of the sources for the information is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the chief planner of the Sept. 11 attacks, who is now in U.S. custody. As previously reported by G2 Bulletin, al-Qaida has obtained at least 40 nuclear weapons from the former Soviet Union – including suitcase nukes, nuclear mines, artillery shells and even some missile warheads. In addition, documents captured in Afghanistan show al-Qaida had plans to assemble its own nuclear weapons with fissile material it purchased on the black market.
The optimal dates for the attacks are Aug. 6, the anniversary of the Hiroshima bombing, Sept. 11 and May 14,
the anniversary of the re-creation of the state of Israel in 1948. No specific year has been suggested, however,
this Aug. 6 represents the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima attack.
U.S. military sources also say there is evidence to suggest al-Qaida is paying former Russian special forces "Spetznaz" troops to assist the terrorist group in locating nuclear weapons planted in the U.S. during the Cold War. Osama bin Laden's group is also paying nuclear scientists from Russia and Pakistan to maintain its existing nuclear arsenal and assemble additional weapons with the materials it has invested hundreds of millions in procuring over a period of 10 years. Al-Qaida sources indicate they would prefer to use Russian-made weapons for symbolic reasons. The plans for the devastating nuclear attack on the U.S. have been under development for more than a decade. It is designed as a final deadly blow to the U.S., which is seen by al-Qaida and its allies as "the Great Satan."
At least half the nuclear weapons in the al-Qaida arsenal were obtained for cash from the Chechen terrorist allies.
But the most disturbing news is that high level U.S. officials now believe at least some of those weapons have been smuggled into the U.S. for use in the near future in major cities as part of this "American Hiroshima" plan. According to Williams, former CIA Director George Tenet informed President Bush one month after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that at least two suitcase nukes had reached al-Qaida operatives in the U.S. "Each suitcase weighed between 50 and 80 kilograms (approximately 110 to 176 pounds) and contained enough fissionable plutonium and uranium to produce an explosive yield in excess of two kilotons," wrote Williams. "One suitcase bore the serial number 9999 and the Russian manufacturing date of 1988. The design of the weapons, Tenet told the president, is simple. The plutonium and uranium are kept in separate compartments that are linked to a triggering mechanism that can be activated by a clock or a call from the cell phone."
According to the author, the news sent Bush "through the roof," prompting him to order his national security team to give nuclear terrorism priority over every other threat to America.
However, it is worth noting that Bush failed to translate this policy into securing the U.S.-Mexico border through which the nuclear weapons and al-Qaida operatives are believed to have passed with the help of the MS-13 smugglers. He did, however, order the building of underground bunkers away from major metropolitan areas for use by federal government managers following an attack. Bin Laden, according to Williams, has nearly unlimited funds to spend on his nuclear terrorism plan because he has remained in control of the Afghanistan-produced heroin industry. Poppy production has greatly increased even while U.S. troops are occupying the country, he writes. Al-Qaida has developed close relations with the Albanian Mafia, which assists in the smuggling and sale of heroin throughout Europe and the U.S.
Some of that money is used to pay off the notorious MS-13 street gang between $30,000 and $50,000 for each sleeper agent smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico. The sleepers are also provided with phony identification, most often bogus matricula consular ID cards indistinguishable from Mexico's official ID, now accepted in the U.S. to open bank accounts and obtain driver's licenses. According to Williams' sources, thousands of al-Qaida sleeper agents have now been forward deployed into the U.S. to carry out their individual roles in the coming "American Hiroshima" plan.
Al-Qaeda leadership still in control – July 24, 2005
Washington Post - The back-to-back nature of the deadly attacks in Egypt and
London, as well as similarities in the methods used, suggests that the al Qaeda
leadership may have given the orders for both operations and is a clear sign
that Osama bin Laden and his deputies remain in control of the network,
according to interviews with counterterrorism analysts and government officials
in Europe and the Middle East. Investigators on Saturday said that they
believed the details of the bombing plots in Egypt and Britain -- the deadliest
terrorist strikes in each country's history -- were organized locally by groups
working independently of each other. In Sharm el-Sheikh, where the death toll
rose to 88 people, attention centered on an al Qaeda affiliate blamed for a
similar attack last October at Taba, another Red Sea resort. In London, where 52 bystanders were killed in the subway and on a bus, police have identified
three of the four presumed suicide bombers as British natives with suspected
connections to Pakistani radicals.
But intelligence officials and terrorist experts said they suspect that bin Laden or his lieutenants may have sponsored both operations from afar, as well as other explosions that have killed hundreds of people in Spain, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Morocco since 2002. The hallmarks in each case: multiple bombings aimed at unguarded, civilian targets that are designed to scare Westerners and rattle the economy. The officials and analysts also said the recent attacks indicate that the nerve center of the original al Qaeda network remains alive and well, despite the fact that many leaders have been killed or captured since the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackings in the United States. Bin Laden may be in hiding, the officials and analysts said, and much is still unknown about the network. But they added that his organization remains fully capable of orchestrating attacks worldwide by recruiting local groups to do its bidding. "What the London and Sharm el-Sheikh attacks may have in common are the people giving directions: This is what needs to be done, and this is how you do it," said Magnus Ranstorp, director of the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.
Prince Turki al Faisal, the former director of foreign intelligence for Saudi Arabia who was named this past week as the kingdom's new ambassador to the United States, said in an interview, "All of these groups maintain a link of sort with bin Laden, either through Internet Web sites, or through messengers, or by going to the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan and maybe not necessarily meeting with bin Laden himself, but with his people. "Since September 11, these people have continued to operate," he said, speaking at his residence here, where he has been serving as ambassador to Britain. "They are on the run, but they still act with impunity. They can produce their material and get it to the media, it seems, anytime they like. Along with that, of course, are the orders they give to their operatives, wherever they may be." Overthrowing the Saudi monarchy has been a longtime goal for bin Laden, a wealthy Saudi native who was once close to the kingdom's rulers but was stripped of his citizenship in 1994.
Some senior U.S. officials have argued that bin Laden has been effectively bottled up since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and question whether al Qaeda still has the ability to plan major operations such as the Sept. 11 attacks. In April, for example, the State Department concluded in its annual report on terrorist activity around the world that al Qaeda had been supplanted as the most worrisome threat by unaffiliated local groups of Islamic radicals acting on their own, without help from bin Laden or his aides. The pattern of attacks in 2004, the report stated, illustrates "what many analysts believe is a new phase of the global war on terrorism, one in which local groups inspired by al Qaeda organize and carry out attacks with little or no support or direction from al Qaeda itself."
Some regional Islamic radical groups function independently of al Qaeda but enter into mutual alliances for specific operations or campaigns, experts say. In Iraq, for instance, one of the primary networks of insurgents fighting the U.S. military is led by Abu Musab Zarqawi, a Jordanian who has pledged his loyalty to bin Laden and acts publicly on behalf of al Qaeda but has developed his own organization. But intelligence officials and analysts from European and Arab countries say there is increasing evidence that several of the deadliest bombings against civilian targets in recent years can be traced back to suspected mid-level al Qaeda operatives acting on behalf of bin Laden and the network's leadership. In some cases, counterterrorism investigators have concluded that bin Laden or his emissaries set plans in motion to launch attacks and then left it up to local networks or cells to take care of the details. "The rather well-formed structure that they had prior to 9/11 does seem to be degraded," said a senior British counterterrorism official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "But there is still a fairly potent, if diffuse network out there that still aspires to make decisions. We should be very wary about writing them off." Saudi officials said the interrogation of terrorism suspects in that country, as well as intercepted electronic communications, show that bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, dispatched cell organizers to Saudi Arabia in 2002 and weighed in on basic strategic decisions made by the local al Qaeda affiliate. The al Qaeda leadership also gave direct orders to attack specific targets in the kingdom, Saudi officials said.
The local al Qaeda network carried out its first attack on May 12, 2003, driving explosive-laden cars into the gates of Western residential compounds in Riyadh, killing 35 people, including nine Americans. The explosion stunned Saudi government leaders, who only a few months before had said publicly that there were no terrorist groups operating inside the kingdom. Less than one week after the Riyadh bombing, explosions hit Morocco, which has a long history of close relations with the United States and little history of terrorism. On May 16, 2003, suicide bombers launched multiple attacks on hotels, restaurants and other civilian targets in Casablanca, killing 45 people. At first, counterterrorism officials in Saudi Arabia and Morocco saw no connection between the two attacks other than the fact that they occurred four days apart. They assumed that the timing was coincidental, or that the Moroccan bombings were prompted in part by the publicity generated by what happened in Riyadh. Today, however, counterterrorism officials in both countries say there were connections between the two groups that carried out the attacks. Two Moroccan al Qaeda operatives suspected of helping to organize the Casablanca bombings, Karim Mejjati and Hussein Mohammed Haski, surfaced as leaders of the local al Qaeda network in Saudi Arabia and were named to the kingdom's list of most wanted terrorist suspects. Mejjati was killed in a shootout with anti-terrorism police in a small Saudi town in April. Haski was arrested in July 2004 in Belgium, where he faces charges of helping to organize another sleeper cell with al Qaeda connections, according to Belgian officials and court documents. Both Haski and Mejjati were veterans of al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan, documents show. A similar connection has emerged between the Casablanca bombings and the March 11, 2004, train explosions that killed 191 people in Madrid. Spanish investigators have identified a suspected ringleader of the Madrid attacks as a Moroccan al Qaeda operative named Amer Azizi, who is also wanted by authorities in Morocco on charges of involvement in the network that organized the Casablanca attacks.
Like Mejjati and Haski, Azizi spent time at al Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan before 2001 and is believed to be a conduit to the al Qaeda leadership, intelligence officials said.Counterterrorism investigators and analysts said it was highly unlikely that the people who organized the July 7 London bombings were directly involved in the Sharm el-Sheikh attacks. But they predicted that both plots would eventually be traced directly to al Qaeda.
Ranstorp, the terrorism expert in Scotland, predicted that Egyptian investigators would pursue possible links to Zawahiri, an Egyptian-born physician who has served as bin Laden's top deputy and al Qaeda's leading ideologue since the early 1990s. "I doubt very much that this was done by the same group of Pakistanis who were apparently responsible for what happened in London," Ranstorp said. "But this very well could have been directed by Zawahiri, in terms of activating the Egyptian front." U.S. and European intelligence officials said they believe bin Laden and Zawahiri remain in hiding along the rugged border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, where access and communications with the outside world remain difficult. But many other al Qaeda leaders have found refuge in Pakistan's urban areas, where they are freer to move around and make contact with operatives visiting from other countries.
Pakistani officials have confirmed that three of the four suicide bombers involved in the London attacks this month visited Pakistan for extended periods over the past two years, spending time in Karachi and Lahore, Pakistan's largest cities. Investigators suspect they may have met with al Qaeda operatives who gave them instructions for carrying out the bombings. British officials and counterterrorism analysts said the trail of the investigation was clearly leading to Pakistan, which has faced renewed criticism for giving haven to al Qaeda sympathizers and other Islamic radical groups. Several highly wanted al Qaeda leaders who have been captured in recent years by the FBI and CIA were caught not in the remote terrain along the Pakistani border, but in major cities such as Karachi, Rawalpindi and Lahore. "Why is it that all the roads keep going back to Pakistan?" said M. J. Gohel, a terrorism analyst and chief executive of the Asia-Pacific Foundation, a London-based think tank. "Is it a coincidence, or is there something more? The linkages there are just too strong and consistent. The whole backbone of the jihadi infrastructure is not being dismantled. It is still functioning."
The Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, pledged this week to renew his crackdown on "extremists" and Islamic radicals in the country and said officials were doing everything they could to cooperate with the investigation into the London bombings. But he bristled at the idea that Pakistan has remained a haven for al Qaeda.
Sharm el-Sheikh body count hits 90 - Jun 24, 2005
death toll from three bombs at this Red Sea resort rose sharply on Saturday.
The Egyptian authorities said at least 90 people had been killed in an attack
strikingly similar to one that tore apart resorts farther up the coast of the Sinai Peninsula nine months ago.
The latest attack, the worst in Egypt, ripped through an upscale hotel, a local market and a parking lot beginning shortly after 1 a.m., a synchronized series of blasts that witnesses and the authorities said had occurred about five minutes apart.Citing police officials, Reuters reported that 35 people had been arrested here Saturday, though it was not clear if they were suspected of close ties to the bombers or whether it was part of a general roundup.
Several hours after the bombings an extremist group claimed responsibility on an Islamic Web site. The group, the Abdullah Azzam Brigades of Al Qaeda in Syria and Egypt, also claimed to have carried out a similar series of bombings that killed 34 people last October at and near the resort town of Taba. Within hours, a second group, which identified itself as the Holy Warriors of Egypt, claimed responsibility in a fax to newspapers and gave the names of five people it identified as the bombers. Neither claim could be verified.
After the Taba attacks, the government made sweeping arrests throughout the area, saying local Bedouins were involved. Three men have been charged in the attacks and are facing trial, though there are widespread suspicions that the attacks were organized by a sizable, well-organized network. Egypt's interior minister, Habib el-Adly, who visited the latest blast sites on Saturday, said those behind the Taba explosions "could be linked" to the ones here. President Hosni Mubarak visited the wounded and later addressed the nation on television, vowing to track down those responsible. World leaders quickly condemned the bombings. "This cowardly, criminal act is aimed at undermining Egypt's security and stability and harming its people and its guests," Mr. Mubarak said. "This will only increase our determination in chasing terrorism."
The dead and injured included significant numbers of European tourists and Egyptians, with at least 240 people wounded, said Essam Sharif, director of emergency medicine in Sharm el Sheik. The foreign casualties included Spaniards, British, French and Italians, as well as Qataris and Kuwaitis. The bombings were all the more devastating as they provided a blunt coda to a month in which suicide bombers have also struck in Iraq, Israel and Britain, lending to the impression of a rising tide of terrorism.
Iraqi cities have seen a surge in bombings in recent weeks, including one by a suicide bomber who blew up an oil tanker last weekend in a small town south of Baghdad, killing at least 71 people. Londoners had barely been relieved of the shock of the first suicide bombings in Europe on July 7, when four more suspects apparently failed in trying to set off a new series of bombs on the city's transportation system on Thursday. Even as the London police released videotaped images of those suspects, the attacks in Egypt, two of which were carried out by suicide bombers, added fresh scenes of carnage to the already grisly tableau.
The first of the three explosions on Saturday was apparently set off by a suicide bomber in a car between the town's Old Market and a new shopping center, killing several people.
second and worst of the bombings took place along the main strip of beachfront
hotels when a bomber drove a small truck through a plate glass window and into
the lobby of the Ghazala Gardens hotel. The entire entrance of the two-story
building was reduced to rubble.
third and least damaging of the bombs exploded in a bag in a parking lot where
there were relatively few people. Sharm el Sheik hosts many tourists this time
of year, but the bombing sites were less than packed because of the late hour.
The bombings came about nine months after attacks in Taba and Nuweiba, north of Sharm, and south of Israel's border, which also included three closely timed explosions. Those bombs were aimed at popular sites for vacationing Israelis - among the only places in the Arab world where Israeli tourists traveled in large numbers. Egypt allowed Israeli ambulances and military units to cross the border at Taba to help with the rescue and forensic efforts.
While Saturday's bombings were similar in style, the target was somewhat different. The bombers attacked the largest resort city in a country heavily dependent on tourists from Europe and other Arab nations. The attacks could scare away visitors as happened in the 1990's with a previous round of terrorism. There have been recent indications of the possibility of pending attacks. In June, Mr. Mubarak told the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot that his security forces had broken a cell that was planning to attack Israeli vacationers in the Sinai.
Sharm el Sheik has more than 100 hotels with more than 20,000 rooms - some for backpackers, some for Persian Gulf royalty. Most of the big hotel chains are represented there. The attacks came as Egypt was preparing for its first multicandidate presidential elections, to be held in September. Mr. Mubarak, who has served for 24 years, is expected to seek his fifth six-year term. The president says he has kept Egypt stable in a turbulent region; critics say he has undermined opposition.
The White House issued a statement saying that "the United States condemns in the strongest possible terms the barbaric terrorist attacks in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, that killed and injured scores of innocent civilians from many nations and religious faiths." The statement said that President Bush spoke with President Mubarak on Saturday and offered his condolences and the support of the American people.
Egypt and Mr. Mubarak have been fiercely criticized by Al Qaeda and its adherents for supporting American policy, as well as for its peace treaty with Israel. Egypt has also tried to crush or severely restrict Islamic political movements. The No. 2 man in Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is an Egyptian who was chief of Al Jihad, which helped produce a wave of violence in Egypt from 1991 to 1997. The bombings last fall ended a long period without large-scale attacks. The last major attack had been in 1997, when militants killed 58 foreign tourists and 4 Egyptians outside Luxor. An Israeli government spokesman, Avi Pazner, said Israel was closely monitoring the situation in Egypt but saw no reason now to call on the 10,000 or so Israelis vacationing in the Sinai to return home.
Yuval Steinitz, a Likud legislator and a sharp critic of Egypt, called the bombings a major failure by Egyptian intelligence. As the chairman of the Israeli Parliament's foreign affairs and defense committee, he has access to intelligence."At first sight, it looks like a failure on the intelligence and security front of the first degree," Mr. Steinitz told Israel radio. "There was a terrible attack less than a year ago in similar circumstances and all the red lights should have been flashing. The population of the entire southern Sinai is only in the thousands. In such a small population, in contrast to London, you should be able to control the intelligence situation."
On Saturday, a video posted on the Internet showed Egypt's envoy to Iraq, who was kidnapped in Baghdad on July 3 and is believed to have been killed, discussing the Israeli presence in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. A statement with it said, "In the land of Egypt the Jews have taken possession of its Sinai and dominated its Muslims through the services of the Egyptian tyrants," according to a translation by the Site Institute, which translates statements made by terrorist organizations. One of the Europeans killed in the attack was Sebastiano Conti, a 34-year-old Italian. He was in the last days of a vacation with his wife, his brother, and his brother's girlfriend, an Italian newspaper, Corriere della Sera reported. The others were injured. Mr. Conti worked at a shopping center in Riposto; his wife is a cashier there. The Italian newspaper quoted a friend of the Contis as saying that they usually vacationed in Spain, "but this year they chose Egypt because it cost less." Mr. Conti leaves behind two children, who had remained in Italy with their grandparents.
Egypt's Tourist Resort: 88 Dead – July 24, 2005
Zaman - As the shockwaves from the London blasts continue, terror this time turned Egypt's renowned tourist resort of Sharm al Sheikh into a blood bath on Saturday July 23.
Three simultaneous blasts in the Egyptian Red Sea resort killed at least 88 and injured 200. An al-Qaeda linked terrorist organization calling themselves the Abdullah Azzam Brigades have claimed responsibility for the attacks. Three blasts that are believed to have been two suicide car bombs and a bomb in a suitcase damaged neighboring buildings and buried several under the debris. It was announced that eight out of 88 dead were foreigners. A 26 year-old Turkish citizen whose name was reported as Cagla has been seriously injured but there is no information on the other four Turkish nationals yet. World leaders sent their condolences and offered aid to Cairo. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said the fight against terrorism was international and added, "Their fight is ours, our fight is theirs."
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, "I condemn the attacks and repeat our call to the entire world for a common fight against terror."
Reportedly, seven bombs were used in the attacks. The first explosion was set off by a suicide bomber in front of a cafe between the Old Market and a new shopping center. Twenty people, most of whom were Egyptians, were killed in the explosion and their bodies were unrecognizably burned. Fifteen minutes after the first explosion at 01:15 local Egypt time, two more explosions were heard at Naama Bay where Western tourists stay at luxurious hotels. The two explosions one in front of the entrance of Ghazala Hotel and the other in the autopark of Movenpick Hotel caused many causalities. The Ghazala Hotel was ruined after the explosion and front wall of Movenpick Hotel, where a heavy duty bomb exploded, was completely destroyed. The hospitals in the city were not sufficient to care for the injured so they were sent to Cairo.
It was interesting that the attacks in the town took place prior to the first multi-candidate presidential elections in the country and especially on the National Day of Egypt. Tourism, which is the most important income sector of Egypt, rapidly developed in Egypt after the tsunami in southeastern Asia. A lot of tourists, among whom there are also Turks, began to return to their countries after the explosions. Egyptian Security sources noted that there are 2 English, 2 Italians, 1 Ukrainian, 1 Russian, 1 Dutch and 1 Israeli Arab among the victims. The attack, that shocked Egypt, has also exceeded the Luksor carnage in 1997 which caused killed 58 tourists and 4 Egyptians. President Mubarek ended his vacation immediately and visited the region after the explosions. He said: "This wretched attack, which aims to destabilize Egypt, will empower our determination to struggle against terror."
The blasts damaged the surrounding buildings and created panic among the public. Witnesses asserted that the blasts "rocked buildings within a 10-kilometer distance." A witness describing the blast in front of the cafe said, "the blast turned the cars into metal skeletons, demolished the walls of the buildings nearby, and flung glass fragments hundreds of meters away." Other bloody terror incidents that took place in Egypt, besides those of Luxor and Sharm Al Sheikh were: the killing of 18 Greek Tourists mistaken for Israelis by radical militants near the pyramids on April 18, 1996, the killing of 9 German tourists and an Egyptian driver in Cairo by armed men on September 18, 1997, the bomb attacks targeting the Taba Hilton Hotel near the Israel border and two beaches in the south that killed 34 people including 10 Israelis.
Tourists Run Away
Following the attacks that hit the famous tourist resort, tourists begun to leave Sharm al Sheikh. European tour operators canceled tours to the region. The bomb loaded car that exploded in the Gardens Hotel's entrance ruined the hotel building. Movenpick Hotel's facade where valises of explosives were detonated was completely destroyed. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak who interrupting his vacation to visit the site of the incident said the attacks that "targeted Egypt's stability" would not affect the fight against terror. Mubarek was vacationing in a Villa ten kilometers away from the Ghazala Gardens Hotel.
Haaretz - Through the windows of
the Movenpick Hotel at Sharm al-Sheikh, the Straits of Tiran are visible - the
waterway that, in 1967, sparked the Six-Day War and Israel's lightning victory,
resulting in the prolonged occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. It was on
this shore that the Egyptians perched the cannons that threatened Israel's freedom of navigation to Eilat. Nowadays the fruits of peace are planted here, in
the form of rows of hotels and vacation resorts, and thus is Egyptian President
Hosni Mubarak's favorite place to host visiting dignitaries outside Cairo. Security arrangements at Sharm are simpler than in the crowded capital. A chain of
policemen is stationed from the airfield, which was upgraded during the period
of Israeli rule, to the convention center, and the Israeli journalists check to
see whether blue-and-white flags have been hoisted along the way. That is the
"red carpet index" in official trips to Egypt.
The last visit of an Israeli leader to Sharm al-Sheikh was in October 2000, when Mubarak hosted Ehud Barak, Yasser Arafat and U.S. President Bill Clinton, who flew in specially, in an effort to stop the violence that had been raging between Israelis and Palestinians for three weeks. The effort failed. Now, after thousands of casualties, mutual attrition and new leadership on both sides, the Israelis and the Palestinians are returning to Mubarak's backyard for a highly publicized event that will herald a new era in the relations between the two nations and symbolize the end of the Palestinian intifada. King Abdullah of Jordan, host of the last Red Sea summit - held at Aqaba in June 2003 - will this time participate as the junior invitee.
Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) will this time be at center stage, without Arafat to pull the strings, as at Aqaba. The Palestinian leader in the suit and tie is the great hope of the international community and the favorite of U.S. President George W. Bush, who called him "President Abbas" in his State of the Union address on Wednesday - no longer "chairman," as Israel still insists on calling him. Alongside him will be Ahmed Qureia, the senior vestige of the Arafat regime.
"The Abu's," architects of the Oslo accord, will be facing Ariel Sharon, who viewed the Oslo process as a national disaster and is now trying an improved version. In fact, it may be even more far-reaching than the original: Yitzhak Rabin, Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak did not dare to evacuate settlements. Sharon is moving to disengage from the Gaza Strip and from northern Samaria, and in return is getting his first invitation to visit Egypt, as a down payment.Thus Sharon, too, like his predecessors, has arrived at the moment when he will hand over security responsibility to Palestinian hands. And he too is making a pilgrimage to Mubarak, a move that "the old Arik" would surely have savaged. The press releases in the past few days recall those of the Oslo period. Cabinet ministers who only yesterday were competing over who would be the first to expel Arafat are now lining up to meet with Salam Fayad, Saeb Erekat and Mohammed Dahlan. Next they'll be fighting over the seats on the plane to Sinai and over the places in the joint photo.
A month and a half ago, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom suggested that a "summit meeting on the Aqaba model" be convened, with the participation of Egypt. Appalled by the idea, the Prime Minister's Office immediately issued an acidly worded statement to the press that ruled out any such "international conference." Sharon also humiliated British Premier Tony Blair by rejecting his invitation to the London conference. Now Sharon has accepted without hesitation the surprising invitation he received from Omar Suleiman, the "number two" in the Egyptian leadership, who dropped in on Wednesday. Sharon is going to a quadrilateral summit, and in an Arab state, too. Just like Rabin and Barak. "It is not an international conference," Sharon's aides say. "All we did was to move the Sharon-Abbas meeting from the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem to Mubarak." In the preparatory talks held by Sharon's adviser Dov Weisglass with senior Palestinian officials Erekat, Dahlan and Hassan Abu Libdeh, an argument broke out over whether the summit meeting would include speeches by the leaders or only a brief photo opportunity. Abbas lost points among the Palestinian public when he spoke at a podium on which was engraved a menorah, the Israeli symbol, when he visited Sharon as Palestinian prime minister. Mubarak solved the problem for everyone - they will all speak under the wings of the Egyptian eagle.
Liberation in the British sense
From Israel's point of view, the Sharm al-Sheikh summit is a "security event" that will focus on the cease-fire. Sharon will mumble something about his commitment to the "road map" - the international plan for a Palestinian state - and will express the hope that the next steps will pave the way to the big plan. But the messages that will emanate from the summit will focus on security arrangements and Israel's confidence-building measures. Abbas will declare an end to acts of terrorism against Israel, and Sharon will respond with a declaration of the end of Israeli military operations in the areas of the Palestinian Authority (with the exception of neutralizing "ticking bombs"). Five West Bank cities will be transferred to Palestinian responsibility, security coordination between the sides will resume, Israel will release hundreds of prisoners, "launder" the wanted individuals and let West Bankers who were deported to the Gaza Strip return home.
Will it all succeed? Sharon sounded suspicious, as is his wont, in a meeting with journalists this week. His confidants say they are not sure the Palestinians will honor the agreements, but they are convinced that they have to play out the current opportunity to the hilt. The risks are not great, they say, and the steps Israel will take are consistent with those that were offered to Abbas in the summer of 2003, when Arafat was still in power.The most sensitive items in the package have to do with the prisoners and wanted individuals. To the Palestinians' question of how many prisoners they would get, Weisglass replied "a couple of hundred." The Palestinians were taken aback: "Only 200?" Weisglass replied, "I meant `a couple' in the British sense, meaning between 200 and 900." After the meeting, Erekat and his colleagues let it be known that Israel would release 900 prisoners. Later this was confirmed by the Israelis, who said they would be released in two stages.
The extreme line in Israel was expressed, as always, by Avi Dichter, chief of the Shin Bet security service. At a night meeting in the office of Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz on Wednesday of this week, Dichter spoke ardently against the release of prisoners "with blood on their hands." There is no such intention, he was told, and then he objected to the initiative to stop the hunt for wanted individuals. To this, IDF (Israel Defense Forces) officers retorted, "If we go on pursuing them how will the cease-fire be implemented? If the wanted person is about to perpetrate a terrorist act, we will strike at him as a ticking bomb, but what will we do if he is sitting quietly at home? Arrest him?" Dichter: "Why not?" The officers: "Then what kind of cease-fire will it be, when the Palestinians stop the terrorism and we continue with the raids?" Dichter, who will soon be stepping down, appears to have lost his usual ally, Mofaz, this time, the defense minister now leaning toward a more moderate posture. Mofaz learned a lesson from the failed negotiations with Abbas and Dahlan in the previous round, when Israel came across as too stingy.
The Americans observe from afar
The U.S. administration remains in the background. Jerusalem had been concerned that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who arrives on Sunday for her first visit, would want to mediate between Sharon and Abbas and tie up the loose ends ahead of their meeting. Hearing the enthusiastic backing for Abbas from Washington, the Sharon aides figured that nothing good would accrue to Israel from Rice's mediation. Urgent calls to the White House drew a reassuring reply: Rice doesn't want to intervene. From the Americans' viewpoint, the Sharm al-Sheikh summit is pure profit, even if they view it from afar, via CNN. Bush will be able to tell the Europeans that the peace process is being renewed and neutralize the criticism that the Americans have "given up on" the subject.Bush announced increased aid for the PA, and the administration will also promote an initiative - which originated in conversations between Weisglass and Fayad - to pay $100 a month to every Palestinian living below the poverty line. Under this idea, which was discussed this week in the Weisglass-Rice meeting in Washington, the Americans will press the rich Gulf states to assist their indigent Palestinian brethren.
The Sharm al-Sheikh summit will be the high point of a week of multiple events, beginning with the Rice visit and ending with the government's decision in the evacuation of the settlements in the Gaza Strip and northern Samaria. Sharon will introduce many controversial moves during the week, and thus try to thwart the criticism. Everyone will get carrots and sticks. One of the upcoming cabinet meetings will approve the route of the separation fence in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc south of Jerusalem, which would annex thousands of Palestinians and a great deal of Palestinian land (and will probably not get past the High Court of Justice), and with it the section of the Mount Hebron area that will be attached to the Green Line. The summit atmosphere and the attendant embraces are meant to silence Palestinian outcries that their land is being plundered. In the next few days attorney Talia Sasson will submit her report on the illegal settler outposts, which is going to rankle the settlers. The report is meant to satisfy the U.S. administration and show that Sharon is keeping his promises. During the week, the Evacuation-Compensation Law will be submitted to the Knesset, ahead of the government's approval. And hovering in the background are the Knesset's approval of the budget and coalition talks with the Shas party.That's a lot of activity and a great many power centers and pressure spots. Sharon is gambling on his ability to maneuver among all of them and catch the balls he has thrown into the air without their landing on his head. The joint photograph with the Arab leaders on the shores of the Red Sea should give him a shot of energy, shunt the political rivals aside and show the public that he is keeping his old election promise that "only Sharon can bring peace."
in six countries facing food shortage - June 30, 2005
The Guardian - One in six countries in the world face food shortages this year because of severe droughts that could become semi-permanent under climate change, UN scientists warned yesterday. In a stark message for world leaders who meet in Gleneagles next week to discuss global warming, Wulf Killman, chairman of the UN food and agriculture organisation's climate change group, said the droughts that have devastated crops across Africa, central America and south-east Asia in the past year are part of an emerging pattern. "Africa is our greatest worry," he said. "Many countries are already in difficulties ... and we see a pattern emerging. Southern Africa is definitely becoming drier and everyone agrees that the climate there is changing. We would expect areas which are already prone to drought to become drier with climate change."
The food and agriculture organisation and the US government, both of which monitor global food shortages, agree that 34 countries are now experiencing droughts and food shortages and others could join them. Up to 30 million people will need assistance because of the droughts and other natural disasters such as the Asian tsunami. The worst affected countries include Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Eritrea and Zambia, a group of countries where at least 15 million people will go hungry without aid. The situation in Niger, Djibouti and Sudan is reported to be deteriorating rapidly. Many countries have had their worst harvests in more than 10 years and are experiencing their third or fourth severe drought in a few years, the UN said.
Climate change could also trigger the growth of deserts in southern Africa. A report published in Nature today predicts that as greenhouse gases fuel global warming, the dunes of the Kalahari could begin to spread. By 2099, shifting sands could be blowing across huge tracts of Botswana, Angola, Zimbabwe and western Zambia. Much of the region was covered by shifting dunes more than 4,000 years ago. "Dunes are composed of soft sand. If you sift away their protective vegetation cover, and there is enough energy in the wind, then that sediment has the potential to move, especially if it is dry," said David Thomas, of the University of Oxford. "In western Zambia there are quite a lot of these ancient sand dunes. They were quite active 4,000 years ago, which isn't long in geological terms. There have been plenty of times when it has not been a great place to live." Severe droughts have also badly affected crops in Cuba, Cambodia, Australia, Afghanistan, Vietnam, Morocco, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. According to the UN's famine early warning system, 16 countries, including Peru, Ecuador and Lesotho, face "unfavourable prospects" with current crops.
In Europe, one of the worst droughts on record has hit Spain and Portugal and halved some crop yields. Both countries have applied to the EU for food assistance. In Morocco the same regional drought has devastated farming and the government fears an influx of people into the cities. Researchers are reporting a general drying of the land and growth of desertification in the Mediterranean region. "The 20-year average clearly shows a dramatic increase of desertification and drought," said a leading agricultural economist, Professor Giovanni Quaranta, of the University of Basilicata in southern Italy. Henri Josserand, the UN's famine early warning system director, said: "In southern Africa especially, there is no question that drought has become much more frequent in the past few years. There has been a sequence of drought years for four or five years. What is unusual is the repeat patterns". The situation in Malawi and Zimbabwe is giving particular cause for concern.
In Malawi, where a government report suggests more more than 430,000 tonnes of maize will be needed to avert the second food shortage in three years, one in three people are expected to need help by the end of the year following poor rains. Thousands of people died in 2002-03 in what became known as a "hidden famine", which affected the poorest and remotest people. "It's going to get rapidly worse and we will have to move substantial amounts of food very fast," said one non-governmental group working in the worst-hit southern region of Malawi.
In Zimbabwe, where the effects of drought have been exacerbated by a deteriorating political situation, 4 million people may need help this year, the US government's famine early warning system showed. "In all rural districts of Zimbabwe, crop production was poor and well below normal," said a report last week. UN sources suggest that getting food to the country will not be difficult because neighbouring South Africa had a surplus this year, but distribution in the politically volatile circumstances may be hard.
A report by
Britain's leading development and environment groups this week backed the UN
studies that suggest Africa will most feel the effects of drought and
desertification under climate change, and will experience continued food
shortages. "Africa is more exposed to the impacts of climate change than
many other regions in the world. Climate change is happening, and it is
affecting livelihoods that depend on the natural environment, which, in Africa, means nearly everyone," said Andrew Simms, spokesperson for the Working Group
on Climate Change and Development.
'will hit $100 by winter' - Worst-ever crisis looms, says analyst ·
Surging demand to keep prices high – July 3, 2005
The Observer - Oil prices could rocket to $100 within six months, plunging the world into an unprecedented fuel crisis, controversial Texan oil analyst Matt Simmons has warned. After crude surged through $60 a barrel last week, nervous investors were pinning their hopes on a build-up in US oil-stocks to depress prices in the coming months. But Simmons believes surging demand will keep prices bubbling well above $50. 'We could be at $100 by this winter. We have the biggest risk we have ever had of demand exceeding supply. We are now just about to face up to the biggest crisis we have ever had,' he said.
Opec producers held emergency talks last week to consider making their second 500,000 a barrel increase in production quotas in a fortnight: but the discussions were suspended last Thursday after prices dipped back below $60. The looming oil crisis is not high up the agenda at this week's G8 meeting, although the heads of state are expected to repeat their finance ministers' call for greater transparency from Opec and other oil-producing nations about their reserves.
However, global warming is one of Britain's two major priorities, and Tony Blair hopes to secure a pledge to pour more cash into developing alternatives to the oil-intensive technologies that cause climate change. Simmons believes such moves will be too little, too late. He will publish a hard-hitting book this week in which he argues that Saudi Arabia, the world's largest producer, is running out of oil, and further price rises are inevitable as supplies decline. He warns that the scramble for resources could eventually descend into war. Many analysts expect extra production over the next year, as high prices boost investment by energy firms. But Simmons says after many years of underinvestment, there is even a shortage of drilling rigs. 'Many of these projects are aspirations; many of them won't create peak production in the first year, and many of them within five years will be in decline,' he said.
However, the Economist Intelligence Unit predicts that oil prices will peak by the end of this year, and decline by 10 per cent in 2006 as the Chinese economy slows, reducing demand. Chinese imports have been crucial to propping up the oil price in the last two years. But the EIU warned that its forecasts - which show a 30 per cent increase in oil prices for 2005 - could prove too conservative if there are further wobbles in supply. 'The narrow margin of spare production capacity has made prices vulnerable to unforeseen reductions in supply or rises in demand,' it said. Paul Horsnell, head of commodities analysis at Barclays Capital, said supply constraints would continue to bite for the rest of the year. 'It's all getting a bit tight' Brent crude closed almost $2 a barrel higher in New York on Friday night, while futures contracts for heating oil, widely used in the US, hit a record high, which analysts said was unusual for summer. 'It's fear,' said Kyle Cooper, an analyst at Citigroup. 'It's not based on what is happening now. It's based on fear of what could happen.'
New Congress warning on nuclear EMP threat - U.S. vulnerable to attack by terrorists that could cripple nation, kill millions – June 20, 2005
WASHINGTON (WorldNetDaily) – Joining Sen. John Kyl, who earlier warned of how an electromagnetic pulse attack threatens U.S. survival, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, chairman of the House Projection Forces Subcommittee, says an EMP attack – even by an underfunded, unsophisticated terrorist group – has the potential to cripple U.S. society and kill millions. "Today we are very much concerned ... about asymmetric weapons," Bartlett told his colleagues. "We are a big, powerful country. Nobody can contend with us shoulder-to-shoulder, face-to-face. So all of our potential adversaries are looking for what we refer to as asymmetric weapons. That is a weapon that overcomes our superior capabilities. There is no asymmetric weapon that has anywhere near the potential of EMP." EMP attacks are generated when a nuclear weapon is detonated at altitudes above a few dozen kilometers above the Earth's surface. The explosion, of even a small nuclear warhead, would produce a set of electromagnetic pulses that interact with the Earth's atmosphere and the Earth's magnetic field.
Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin first reported the shocking findings of the U.S. EMP commission that rogue nations, such as Iran and North Korea, have the capability of launching an undetected, catastrophic EMP attack on the U.S. – and are actively developing plans. "These electromagnetic pulses propagate from the burst point of the nuclear weapon to the line of sight on the Earth's horizon, potentially covering a vast geographic region in doing so simultaneously, moreover, at the speed of light," said Dr. Lowell Wood, acting chairman of the commission appointed by Congress to study the threat. "For example, a nuclear weapon detonated at an altitude of 400 kilometers over the central United States would cover, with its primary electromagnetic pulse, the entire continent of the United States and parts of Canada and Mexico."
The commission, in its work over a period of several years, found that EMP is one of a small number of threats that has the potential to hold American society seriously at risk and that might also result in the defeat of U.S. military forces. "The electromagnetic field pulses produced by weapons designed and deployed with the intent to produce EMP have a high likelihood of damaging electrical power systems, electronics and information systems upon which any reasonably advanced society, most specifically including our own, depend vitally," Wood said. "Their effects on systems and infrastructures dependent on electricity and electronics could be sufficiently ruinous as to qualify as catastrophic to the American nation."
The commission concluded in its report to Congress earlier this year: "EMP is one of a small number of threats that may hold at risk the continued existence of today's U.S. civil society.'' "The number of U.S. adversaries capable of EMP attack is greater than during the Cold War," said Bartlett. "We may look back with some fondness on the Cold War. We then had only one potential adversary. We knew him quite well." Bartlett pointed out that Iran has tested launching of a Scud missile from a surface vessel, "a launch mode that could support a national or transnational EMP attack against the United States." "Iran has conducted tests with its Shahab-3 missile that have been described as failures by the Western media because the missiles did not complete their ballistic trajectories, but were deliberately exploded at high altitude," he said. "This, of course, would be exactly what you would want to do if you were going to use an EMP weapon. Iran described these tests as successful. We said they were a failure because they blew up in flight. They described them as successful. Of course, they would be, if Iran's intent was practicing for an EMP attack."
Bartlett added: "Potential adversaries are aware of the EMP's strategic attack option. Ninety-nine percent of Americans may not know very much about EMP, but I will assure you ... that 100 percent of our potential enemies know all about EMP. I think that the American people need to know about EMP because they need to demand that their government do the prudent thing so that we will be less and less susceptible, less and less at risk to an EMP attack year by year. The threat is not adequately addressed in U.S. national and homeland security programs. Not only is it not adequately addressed; it is usually ignored, not even mentioned, and it certainly needs to be considered." "Terrorists could steal, purchase, or be provided a nuclear weapon and perform an EMP attack against the United States simply by launching a primitive Scud missile off a freighter near our shores," he said. "We do not need to be thinking about missiles coming over the pole. There are thousands of ships out there, particularly in the North Atlantic shipping lanes, and any one of them could have a Scud missile on board. If you put a canvas over it, we cannot see through the thinnest canvas. We would not know whether it was bailed hay or bananas or a Scud launcher. You cannot see through any cover on ship. Scud missiles can be purchased on the world market today for less than $100,000. Al-Qaida is estimated to own about 80 freighters, so all they need, ... is $100,000, which I am sure they can get, for the missile and a crude nuclear weapon." Bartlett revealed Russian, Chinese, and Pakistani scientists are working in North Korea and could enable that country to develop an EMP weapon in the near future.
The congressman also raised the question of retaliation – and how an EMP sneak attack could not only go undetected, but that it might be impossible to find out who was responsible after the fact. "If it were launched from the ocean, we would not know who launched it," he said. "So against whom would we retaliate? Even if we knew who launched it ...if all they have done is to disable our computers, do we respond in kind, or do you incinerate their grandmothers and their babies? This would be a really tough call. Responding in kind might do very little good. There is no other country in the world that has anything like our sophistication in electronic equipment, and no other country in the world is so dependent as we are on our national infrastructure." Yet, over time, an EMP attack would likely result in much more death than a nuclear attack on a major city, he said. "Can you imagine our country ...with 285 million people, no electricity, and there will be no electricity, no transportation, no communication?" he asked. "The only way you can go anywhere is to walk, and the only person you can talk to is the person next to you. What would we do? How many of our people might not survive the transition from that situation to where you had established a sort of infrastructure that could support civil society as we know it today."
An EMP attack is far more dangerous to the West than it is to other less technologically developed countries, he said. Russian officers have told U.S. officials, Bartlett said, that the knowledge and technology to develop what they called super-EMP weapons had been transferred to North Korea and that the rogue state could probably develop these weapons in the near future, within a few years. EMP, he warned, can cause catastrophic damage to the nation by destroying the electric power infrastructure, causing cascading failures in the infrastructure for everything: telecommunications, energy, transportation, finance, food, and water.
Bartlett is urging a major national commitment to preparing for such an attack, which, he said, would not be nearly as costly as might be expected. "Every new water system we put in, every new sewage system we put in, every new power line we run, every new distribution system we put in needs to be hardened," he explained. "It is not all that expensive to do. You just need to do it."
U.S. government secrecy reaches historic high – July 3, 2005
WASHINGTON (Seattle Times — Government secrecy has reached a historic high by several measures, with federal departments classifying documents at the rate of 125 a minute as they create categories of semisecrets bearing vague labels such as "sensitive security information." A record 15.6 million documents were classified last year, nearly double the number in 2001, according to the federal Information Security Oversight Office. Meanwhile, declassification, which made millions of historical documents available annually in the 1990s, has slowed to a relative crawl, from a high of 204 million pages in 1997 to 28 million pages last year.
The increasing secrecy and its rising cost to taxpayers, estimated by the office at $7.2 billion last year, are drawing protests from a growing array of politicians and activists, including Republican members of Congress, leaders of the independent commission that studied the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the top federal official who oversees classification. The acceleration of secrecy began after the 2001 attacks, as officials sought to curtail access to information that might tip off the al-Qaida terrorist network about the nation's vulnerabilities. Such worries have not faded; last week, the Department of Health and Human Services sought unsuccessfully to prevent publication of a scientific paper about the threat of a poisoned milk supply on the grounds that it was "a road map for terrorists."
But there is concern the hoarding of information could backfire. Thomas Kean, chairman of the Sept. 11 commission and a former Republican governor of New Jersey, said the failure to prevent the 2001 attacks was rooted not in leaks of sensitive information but in the barriers to sharing information among agencies and with the public. "You'd just be amazed at the kind of information that's classified; everyday information, things we all know from the newspaper," Kean said. "The best ally we have in protecting ourselves against terrorism is an informed public."
Kean said he could not legally disclose examples. But others cited cases of what they call secrecy running amok: the CIA's court fight this year to withhold its budgets from the 1950s and '60s; the Defense Intelligence Agency's deletion of the fact that Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet was interested in "fencing, boxing and horseback riding"; and the Justice Department's insistence on blacking out a four-line quotation of a published Supreme Court decision.Secrecy has long been denounced by liberal watchdog groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union. But more conservatives are emerging as skeptics, including Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, whose bill to strengthen the Freedom of Information Act passed the Senate last week. The bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., requires that legislation creating new exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act explicitly disclose them. It is only part of overhaul efforts proposed by the two senators.
Cornyn, a former state attorney general, said he had been trying to persuade his colleagues that freedom of information was not just a concern of the news media. "The people should get the information they need to see if government is doing what they want," he said.
He gets no argument from J. William Leonard, who in his three years as director of the Information Security Oversight Office has waged a lonely battle against overclassification. "I've seen information that was classified that I've also seen published in third-grade textbooks," Leonard said. Such missteps may come in part from inexperience. Since 2001, President Bush has extended the power to classify documents to the heads of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture. Labels for unclassified information deemed sensitive have multiplied in recent years, going beyond the traditional "for official use only" to "law enforcement sensitive," "homeland security sensitive" and other vague tags. "We find there's such a proliferation of these bogus categories," which lack clear rules or definitions, said Lawrence Halloran, an aide to Rep. Christopher Shays, R-Conn., who held a hearing on excessive secrecy in March.
Group Claims Texas Explosion – March 25, 2005
Houston, Texas (Turkish Zaman Daily News) - An explosion at a British Petroleum (BP) petrochemical plant in the US state of Texas, killing 14 and injuring over 100, has been claimed by a fundamentalist group. A manifesto broadcast on the Internet from the "Military Organization of the Middle East" (MOME) stated that the recent attack was a new form of operation. The name of the organization was heard for the first time with another manifesto published on the Internet on Monday (March 21st), which claimed an attack with a bomb-loaded vehicle in the capital of Qatar, Doha, on March 19th.
Another manifesto published by the organization on the Internet on Tuesday (March 22) threatens the US, Great Britain and Italy with possible attacks against oil plants and military bases in the West and churches in the Middle East.
oil meltdown shows U.S. economy's vulnerability – June 24, 2005
WASHINGTON (Knight Ridder Newspapers) - Former CIA Director Robert Gates sighs deeply as he pores over reports of growing unrest in Nigeria. Many Americans can't find the African nation on a map, but Gates knows that it's America's fifth-largest oil supplier and one that provides the light, sweet crude that U.S. refiners prefer. It's 11 days before Christmas 2005, and the turmoil is preventing about 600,000 barrels of oil per day from reaching the world oil market, which was already drum-tight. Gates, functioning as the top national security adviser to the president, convenes the Cabinet to discuss the implications of Nigeria's spreading religious and ethnic unrest for America's economy. Should U.S. troops be sent to restore order? Should America draw down its strategic oil reserves to stabilize soaring gasoline prices? Cabinet officials agree that drawing down the reserves might signal weakness. They recommend that the president simply announce his willingness to do so if necessary.
The economic effects of unrest in faraway Nigeria are immediate. Crude oil prices soar above $80 a barrel. June's then-record $60 a barrel is a distant memory. A gallon of unleaded gas now costs $3.31. Americans shell out $75 to fill a midsized SUV. If all this sounds like a Hollywood drama, it's not. These scenarios unfolded in a simulated oil shock wave held Thursday in Washington. Two former CIA directors and several other former top policy-makers participated to draw attention to America's need to reduce its dependence on oil, especially foreign oil.
Fast-forward to Jan. 19, 2006. A blast rips through Saudi Arabia's Haradh natural-gas plant. Simultaneously, al Qaida terrorists seize a tanker at Alaska's Port of Valdez and crash it, igniting a massive fire that sweeps across oil terminals. Crude oil spikes to $120 a barrel, and the U.S. economy reels. Gasoline prices hit $4.74 a gallon. Gates convenes the Cabinet again. Members still disagree on whether America should draw down its strategic oil reserves. Homeland Security chief James Woolsey, who ran the CIA from 1993 to 1995, argues that a special energy czar is needed with broad powers to bypass the bureaucracy and impose offshore oil drilling and construction of refineries.
That won't help now, though, or resolve any short-term issues, counters Gene Sperling, who was President Clinton's national economic adviser.
The energy secretary suggests that relaxing clean-air standards could help refiners squeeze out every last drop of gas. That makes the interior secretary, former Clinton Environmental Protection Agency chief Carol Browner, bristle. She blames Detroit for the mess because automakers failed to develop hybrids and other fuel-efficient cars. The Cabinet can't agree on even the simplest short-term solutions. There aren't many options beyond encouraging car pools and lowering thermostats. There's no infrastructure in place to deliver alternative fuels such as ethanol or diesel made from soybeans or waste products.
Fast-forward again, to June 23, 2006. Emboldened Saudi insurgents attack foreign oil workers, killing hundreds. A mass evacuation follows from the world's pivotal oil producer, the one country that could be counted on to boost production during shortages in global supplies. A take-charge guy with a Texas accent who led the CIA from 1991 to 1993, Gates calls yet another war-room meeting. Global recession looms. The world economy turns on cheap oil. Without foreign oil workers, how will Saudi Arabia meet its production targets and quench the oil thirst of America, China and India?
Oil prices have reached an unthinkable $150 a barrel. In Philadelphia, Miami and Kansas City, Mo., gas prices reach $5.74 a gallon. Now it takes $121 to fill that midsized SUV. You get the picture. The scenario is intended to show how vulnerable the U.S. and world economies are because of dependence on oil from places where political instability threatens orderly production and distribution.
This year the world is consuming about 84 million barrels of oil a day. America alone guzzles about 20.8 million barrels a day. Experts think oil-producing nations have only 1.5 million barrels a day or less of unused production capacity right now. A disruption anywhere could cause market panic and spiking prices. That's largely why oil and gasoline prices are so high right now. Saudi Arabia and other countries are trying to increase production, but that won't help much before next year at the earliest. Meanwhile, any hiccup in production, delivery or refining could cause disaster. "A million or a million and a half barrels of oil a day off the market is a very realistic kind of scenario. You can think of a dozen different countries around the world ... where you can see that happening. Or even a natural disaster could do that," Gates said in an interview.
Former CIA chief Woolsey described as "relatively mild" the scenarios that the National Commission on Energy Policy and the advocacy group Securing America's Future Energy simulated. Both groups are pushing for reduced dependence on conventional oil. "It was striking that by taking such small amounts off the market, you could have such dramatic impact" on world oil prices, said Robbie Diamond, the president of Securing America's Future Energy. Richard Haass was a top adviser to former Secretary of State Colin Powell until 2003. The simulation taught him how little influence policy-makers would have in reversing an oil shock wave. "I think where most of the work has to happen now, both intellectually and politically, is on demand" reduction, Haass said.
THIS LAND WAS YOUR LAND
rules cities can seize homes-Supremes decide private project
trumps rights of property owners - June 23, 2005
WorldNetDaily - Property-rights advocates condemned the Supreme Court's split decision today allowing a local government to seize a home or business against the owner's will for the purpose of private development. "It's a dark day for American homeowners," said Dana Berliner, senior attorney with the Institute for Justice, which represented a group of Connecticut residents in the case. "While most constitutional decisions affect a small number of people, this decision undermines the rights of every American, except the most politically connected," Berliner said. "Every home, small business or church would produce more taxes as a shopping center or office building. And according to the court, that's a good enough reason for eminent domain."
The 5-4 ruling went against the owners of homes targeted for destruction to make room for an office complex. Susette Kelo was among several residents of New London, Conn., who sued the city after officials announced plans to raze their homes for a riverfront hotel, health club and offices. "I was in this battle to save my home and, in the process, protect the rights of working class homeowners throughout the country," Kelso said. "I am very disappointed that the court sided with powerful government and business interests, but I will continue to fight to save my home and to preserve the Constitution."
The debate centered on the scope of the Fifth Amendment, which allows governments to take private property through eminent domain if the land is for "public use."
Until now, that has been interpreted to mean projects such as roads, schools and urban renewal. But New London officials argued that the private development plans served a public purpose of boosting economic growth, even though the area was not blighted. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, writing in dissent, said cities shouldn't be allowed to uproot a family in order to accommodate wealthy developers. "Any property may now be taken for the benefit of another private party, but the fallout from this decision will not be random," O'Connor wrote. "The beneficiaries are likely to be those citizens with disproportionate influence and power in the political process, including large corporations and development firms." O'Conner was joined in her opinion by Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas.
Writing for the majority, Justice John Paul Stevens said, "The city has carefully formulated an economic development that it believes will provide appreciable benefits to the community, including -- but by no means limited to -- new jobs and increased tax revenue." He was joined by Justice Anthony Kennedy, David H. Souter, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer. Chip Mellor, president of the Institute for Justice, said both the majority and the dissent recognized that the action in this issue now turns to state supreme courts where the public-use battle will be fought out under state constitutions. "Today's decision in no way binds those courts," he said. Mellor said his group will work to ensure the property owners in New London keep their homes. "This is a terrible precedent that must be overturned by this court, just as bad state supreme court eminent domain decisions in Michigan and Illinois were later overturned by those courts," he said. Another homeowner in the case, Mike Cristofaro, has owned property New London for more than 30 years. "I am astonished that the court would permit the government to throw out my family from their home so that private developers can make more money," he said. "Although the court ruled against us, I am very proud of the fight we waged for my family and for the rights of all Americans."
The Institute for Justice says more than 10,000 private properties have been threatened or condemned in recent years. The neighborhood slated for destruction includes Victorian-era houses and some small businesses that have remained in a family for several generations. The residents are entitled to "just compensation" for their homes under the Fifth Amendment.
Al-Jazeera to look at open U.S. border - Arab news network interested in lack of security – June 25, 2005
WorldNetDaily - The Arab TV news network criticized by the new Iraqi government and others for its anti-American bias and willingness to carry the messages of terrorist organizations, including al-Qaida, is headed for the U.S.-Mexico border to document how easy it is to enter America illegally.
Al-Jazeera has contacted Minuteman Civil Defense Corps leader Chris Simcox to try to arrange interviews. Simcox, who rejected the request for cooperation with the TV network, says al-Jazeera, seen by millions throughout the Arab world and elsewhere, is producing an hour-long documentary news special on lack of security at the U.S. southern border.
Chris Simcox - Author
Al-Jazeera reporter Naisser Hssaini mentioned the increase in apprehensions of illegal aliens known as OTMs – other than Mexicans. These foreigners increasingly include Arabs, Muslims and others from the Middle East. The reporter also mentioned his familiarity with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement police of catching and releasing OTMS – particularly those not specifically known to be on any terrorist watch list. "The group has been denied requests for interviews by Minuteman Civil Defense Corps organizers but they still insist on filming the groups’ activities along with the rest of the media during a July 4th weekend mission near Arivaca, Arizona," said Simcox.
Simcox has contacted the offices of Arizona's two Republican U.S. senators – John McCain and Jon Kyl – to invite them to do interviews with al Jazeera, "so perhaps they can explain to the viewers of this news outlet just how secure America's borders really are." "The offices of the Arizona members of the United States House of Representatives will also be contacted to alert them to the presence and the intent by the al-Jazeera news crew to film the lack of security along the U.S. border with Mexico," said Simcox. "The office of the Department of Homeland Security will also be notified. The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps also wonders just what DHS would tell al-Jazeera about the condition of our border security."
Simcox also mentioned the U.S. Border Patrol has already been notified. "Would we allow Japanese or German television to film the unsecured border during World War II?" asked Minuteman spokeswoman Connie Hair. "These people broadcast to the enemies of America. It's not a news story, it's recon." The Minuteman Civil Defense Corps is the citizen border patrol that virtually stopped illegal crossings from Mexico in a highly trafficked area of Arizona. It is now making plans for similar actions in other areas, other states and along the Canadian border.
Mexican drug commandos expand ops in 6 U.S. states - Feds say violent, elite paramilitary units establish narcotics routes north of border – June 21, 2005
WASHINGTON (WorldNetDaily) – The ultra-violent, U.S.-trained elite, Mexican paramilitary commandos known as the "Zetas," responsible for hundreds of murders along the border this year, have expanded their enforcement efforts on behalf of a drug cartel by setting up trafficking routes in six U.S. states. A U.S. Justice Department memo says the U.S.-trained units have recently moved operations into Houston, San Antonio and the states of California, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Georgia and Florida. They have been operating in Dallas for at least two years, according to the feds.
The original Zetas are former Mexican army commandos, some apparently trained in the U.S. by Army special forces to combat drug gangs. Members of a broader Zetas organization have worked for the Gulf cartel since 2001. They provide firepower, security and the force needed to oversee shipments of narcotics and smuggled aliens along the border and up Interstate 35, which runs through Texas and Oklahoma. According to FBI officials, the Zetas are attempting to consolidate their grip on the smuggling route along I-35. Anyone caught not paying the 10 percent commission they charge on all cargo – drugs or humans – is killed, according to U.S. and Mexican law enforcement sources. The Zetas have also brought their cold-blooded killing tactics to the U.S., say federal law enforcement authorities – murdering rival drug dealers and sometimes innocent bystanders. "Texas law enforcement officials report that the Zetas have been active in the Dallas area since 2003," said the Justice Department intelligence bulletin circulated among U.S. law enforcement officials. "Eight to ten members of the Zetas have been involved in multiple assaults and are believed to have hired criminal gangs in the area ... for contract killings."
The feds say the group has begun establishing its own trafficking routes into the United States and will protect them at any cost. "U.S. law enforcement have reported bounties offered by Los Zetas of between $30,000 and $50,000 for the killing of Border Patrol agents and other law enforcement officers," the bulletin said. "If a Zeta kills an American law enforcement officer and can successfully make it back to Mexico, his stature within the organization will be increased dramatically."
The Zetas take their name from a radio code once used by its members. While originally there were 68, the Zetas have trained a second generation of commandos – many of them sons and nephews of those trained by U.S. military forces to combat drug trafficking in Mexico. U.S. law enforcement officials say they now number more than 700. Their numbers also include some Mexican army deserters and former federal police officers.
U.S. and Mexican law enforcement authorities say the Zetas operate special training camps in the Mexican states of Tamaulipas and Michoacán, where newly recruited Zetas take intensive six-week training courses in weapons, tactics and intelligence gathering. The Zetas conducting a bloody war for control of the entire southern border in an effort to secure a monopoly on drug-smuggling and people-smuggling routes, according to law enforcement officials. At least 600 have been killed this year in a wave of violence waged by the Zetas gang, headed by reputed drug kingpin Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, said Mexico's Attorney General Daniel Cabeza de Vaca.
Among the victims of the U.S-trained Zetas have been other suspected smugglers, hit men, police, soldiers and civilians on both sides of the 2,000-mile border.
There are widespread reports of the commandos making cross-border runs into U.S. territory in military-style vehicles, armed with automatic weapons.
The U.S. government spent millions of dollars training Los Zetas to intercept drugs, some of them coming from Mexico's southern border, before they could reach the U.S. The U.S. government has also sent U.S. Border Patrol agents to Mexico's southern border with Guatemala to train law enforcement and military forces to intercept human smugglers destined to reach the U.S. Guzman, whose nickname means "Shorty," bribed guards to escape from prison in 2001. He is one of Mexico's most-wanted fugitives. U.S. authorities have offered a $5 million reward for his capture.
The spike in killings and kidnappings in northern Mexico in recent months has made headlines and prompted federal agents and soldiers to patrol the streets of Nuevo Laredo, across from Laredo, Texas. Recently, a new police chief in Nuevo Laredo was assassinated nine hours after taking office. Among the 600 people murdered in gang shootings across the Mexican border this year, many were slain execution-style, with their hands tied behind their backs. The violence along the border has reached a point where some are questioning President Vicente Fox's ability to govern the country.
A senior U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration official, Anthony Placido, told Congress last week that Mexico's corrupt police forces were "all too often part of the problem rather than part of the solution" in fighting the drug cartels. Fox won office in 2000, ending 71 years of one-party rule and promising to clamp down on the multibillion-dollar cross-border trade in cocaine, marijuana and heroin. While initially winning praise for putting bosses like Benjamin Arellano Felix and Osiel Cardenas behind bars, his crime-busting reputation has been undermined by the alarming rise in violence, along with evidence Fox has failed to clean up Mexico's police forces.
Faced with the fallout on its southern frontier, the State Department has twice issued travel warnings for the Mexican border, where more than 30 U.S. citizens have been kidnapped. Mexico's apparent inability to curb the bloodshed on the 2,000-mile border is affecting the financial markets. Banking group HSBC said "staggering" levels of violence could raise questions about Mexico's stability in the run-up to next year's presidential election. Fox is constitutionally barred from running for re-election.
His approval rating has taken a hit, dropping 3 points to 56 percent in a poll in May, with many Mexicans complaining of safety fears, particularly in the north.
Fox has pledged a "mother of all battles" against the drug traffickers he says are openly challenging the government. "We have taken on the challenge and we will do battle against all the cartels' criminals and against organized crime," Fox said in a speech Friday. He sent hundreds of troops and federal agents to the states of Tamaulipas, Sinaloa and Baja California last week after suspected drug hit men killed the police chief of Nuevo Laredo. Despite the move, drug gangs shot and killed at least 11 people across the three states during the week, prompting observers to declare the operation, dubbed "Mexico Secure," a failure.
Italian anger over U.S. terror tactics deepens rift – June 27, 2005
MILAN The extraordinary decision by an Italian judge to order the arrest of 13 people linked to the CIA on charges of kidnapping a terrorism suspect here dramatizes a growing rift between American counterterrorism officials and their counterparts in Europe. European counterterrorism officials have pursued a policy of building criminal cases against terrorism suspects through surveillance, wiretaps, detective work and the criminal justice system. The United States, however, has frequently used other means since Sept. 11, 2001, including renditions - abducting terror suspects from foreign countries and transporting them for questioning to third countries, some of which are known to use torture. The two approaches seem to have collided for an Egyptian cleric, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, or Abu Omar, accused of leading a militant mosque in Milan.
By early 2003, the Italian secret police were aggressively pursuing a criminal terrorism case against Nasr, with the help of American intelligence officials. Italian investigators said they had told the Americans they had strong evidence that he was trying to build a terror recruitment network, possibly aimed for Iraq if the United States went forward with plans to topple Saddam Hussein.
On Feb. 17, 2003, Nasr disappeared. When the Italians began investigating, they said, they were startled to find evidence that some of the CIA officers who had helped them investigate Nasr were involved in his abduction. "We do feel quite betrayed that this operation was carried out in our city," a senior Italian investigator said. "We supplied them information about Abu Omar, and then they used that information against us, undermining an entire operation against his terrorist network." He and other senior Italian officials in the police and prosecutor's offices in Milan were angry enough to answer detailed questions about the case. But they insisted on anonymity because the investigation was continuing. "This whole investigation has been very difficult because we've been using the same methods we used against organized crime to trace the activities of people we considered to be our friends and colleagues," the senior Italian investigator said. "It has been quite a troubling affair."
The Italian warrants, requested by Milanese prosecutors after two years of investigations, accuse 13 people identified as CIA officers and operatives of illegally abducting Nasr from a Milan street and flying him to Egypt for questioning. The whereabouts of the 13 are unknown, but the charges are criminal. If convicted, they face a maximum penalty of 10 years and 8 months in prison. The CIA has declined to comment, and officials at the U.S. Consulate in Milan and the U.S. Embassy in Rome have also declined to talk about the case. The Italian police and prosecutors said the CIA's top official at the U.S. Consulate in Milan, a man accused in the arrest warrant of coordinating Nasr's abduction, had been in close contact with them as they pursued intensive investigations into Al Qaeda and other Islamic militant networks in Europe. Italian investigators said they were surprised when they discovered that he had placed a cellphone call to one of their own police officers not long after Nasr disappeared, but made no mention of what had happened, they said.
The frustration expressed by the Italians echoes similar sentiments among some counterterrorism officials in other European countries. Besides their objections to the American rendition policy, European counterterrorism officials also partly blame a lack of access to terrorism suspects and information held by the United States for their failure to convict a number of their own high-profile terrorism suspects. "The American system is of little use to us," a senior Italian counterterrorism investigator said. "It's a one-way street. We give them what we have, but we are given no useful information that can help us prosecute people."
Sharing access has become a sore point between American and European officials in high-profile terrorism cases in Europe, including that of Mounir el-Motassadeq, a suspected associate of several Sept. 11 hijackers. On Feb. 19, 2003, he was convicted in Germany on charges related to the attacks in 2001 - the only conviction thus far - but the case crumbled on appeal. He was released in April 2004. German officials blamed American officials for failing to provide evidence. He is being retried. And the Bush administration has refused to allow Spanish officials to interview Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a central Qaeda suspect, in their case against two men on trial in Madrid on charges of helping to plan the attacks in 2001. Some former American intelligence officials said in interviews that there might be political motivations behind the warrants. On Saturday, Armando Spataro, Milan's deputy chief prosecutor who led the investigation of Nasr and the kidnapping inquiry, declined to comment on accusations of political bias. An Italian judicial official said that Spataro, 56, was not a member of any political party. He faced accusations of a rightist bias when he led prosecutions of the Red Brigade terrorist organization in the late 1970s and 1980s. Two of his colleagues, the official said, were killed by the Red Brigades. "I think people in Washington may not understand that in Italy a prosecutor does not choose what to investigate," the official said. "He has a legal obligation to investigate any crime." Spataro, in a recent interview, expressed his disdain for the Americans' use of rendition, though he denied that he was motivated by that when he asked a judge, Chiara Nobili, to sign the arrest warrants against the CIA officials. "I feel the international community must struggle against terrorism and international terrorist groups in accordance with international laws and the rights of the defendant," he said. "Otherwise, we are giving victory to the terrorists."
Italy knew about CIA plot to kidnap the Imam – June 30, 2005
Aljazeera - A report published Thursday by The Washington Post, quoting current and former CIA veterans, revealed that the CIA informed Italy's intelligence service about its plan to kidnap an Islamic leader in Milan two years ago.
However, neither the Italian authorities nor Washington have officially acknowledged the abduction.
On Friday, the Corriere della Sera daily in Rome reported that a judge had issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents.The Imam’s kidnapping fueled anti-U.S. feelings in Italy.
On Friday, a judge issued arrest warrants for 13 CIA agents
On February 17, 2003, Abu Omar, or Usama Mustafa Hassan, was snatched by two Italian-speakers who claimed they want to check his identity in a street of Milan. The Imam has been missing since, the paper said.
Abu Omar was the former imam of a Milan mosque; placed under close watch, following the Sep 11 attacks in the United States.The CIA is accused of kidnapping the Muslim Imam and transferring him to the U.S. military base at Aviano in Italy, and from there to Egypt, where he was put in jail.
Italian Judge Chiara Nobili issued the request of the anti-terrorist division of the state prosecutor's office. Among the 13 wanted CIA agents is the alleged head of the operation, who was an accredited diplomat with the U.S. consulate in Milan in 2003, the Italian daily said. A CIA veteran told The Washington Post on Thursday that the CIA "told a number of people" about its kidnapping plan, but "certainly not the magistrate, not the Milan police".
he CIA station chief in Rome, who retired at that time but remains undercover, sought approval from his counterpart in Italy for the operation, the agents said. But it remains unclear how far up the chain of command the information was shared or whether the office of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi was aware, according to the Italian newspaper. CIA officials say that the operation was conceived by the Rome CIA station chief and organized by the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, and approved by the CIA leadership and at least one person at the National Security Council.
The officials added that it was standard practice for the CIA and its Italian counterpart to agree to keep official silence on the covert kidnapping operation if it became public. The Post said it was informed by Knowledgeable intelligence officials that the CIA has conducted at least 100 such operations since September 11.
The Italians are now demanding their government to say whether it did secretly authorize the kidnapping. If it turned out that Italy’s government did not approve the operation, the center-left opposition says it would raise serious concerns about U.S. intervention.
The 13 agents are believed to have left Italy; none of them have been arrested. According to some analysts, the Milan abduction threatens the relations between the two allies, already strained since March when U.S. troops killed an Italian intelligence agent in Iraq. "Either the (Italian) government knew about the kidnapping ... or the government was not even informed by the American intelligence service over its activity in Italy," opposition Senator Antonello Falomi told Italian media."In either case, it's another terrible sign of this government's submission to U.S. interests."
DOE to Resume Production of Plutonium-238 – June 27, 2005
The Energy Department is moving to resume production of plutonium-238 as an energy source for spacecraft and some national security activities, because existing supplies will be virtually gone in five years. The department said a decision on production of plutonium-238, reaffirmed last year, "will not be revisited" and that production activities should be consolidated at the government's Idaho National Laboratory to increase security.
A final decision on consolidation is expected later this
year by Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman, department spokesman Mike Waldron said
The U.S. plans to produce highly radioactive plutonium 238 for the first time since the Cold War.
But Waldron reiterated that the decision to resume production of plutomiun-238 was made years ago and reaffirmed last year because it has become clear current stocks of the unique isotope will be depleted shortly after 2010. Plutonium-238 is not used for nuclear weapons, but its steady, virtually infinite release of heat during decay makes the isotope valuable as a heat source to produce electricity in spacecraft and for some satellites that are unable to rely on the sun as an energy source. It is many times more radioactive than weapons-grade plutonium-239, however, and ingesting a speck can be fatal.
The United States stopped producing plutonium-238 when it shut the last weapons reactor at the Savannah River complex in South Carolina in the mid-1990s. Instead it has relied on existing stockpiles and a supply provided by Russia that is limited to use by NASA in the space program. Currently the government has about 87 pounds of plutonium-238 but expects all but 14 pounds to be used up by 2010 including about 55 pounds for national security related programs. "These power systems have been used for the past 30 years, and we expect that their need will continue," Waldron told The Associated Press. "Production of plutonium-238 is critical if the United States is to continue its leadership in areas of space exploration and provide for certain classified security operations. ..."
A draft environmental analysis concludes that consolidation of the program at the Idaho research lab would not cause additional health concerns from radiation releases and have minimal impact on the environment. It also would end the need to transport plutonium-238 over highways. "The EIS clearly shows the environmental impact ... would be far less than resuming production at three sites around the country," said Waldron. Under the plan, activities that otherwise would be at the Oak Ridge facility in Tennessee and the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico would be shifted to the Idaho site.
The new complex, if approved, would be expected to be finished by 2009 and cost as much as $300 million. Plans call for making 11 pounds of plutonium-238 a year over 35 years. Some area residents in Idaho and adjacent Wyoming have raised concerns about resuming plutonium production at the Idaho National Laboratory, a vast complex that covers 570,000 acres in southeastern Idaho, about 34 miles west of Idaho Falls. In a series of hearings last year on the plan, dozens of Idaho residents opposed the consolidation for fear it would increase cancer deaths, threaten the nearby Yellowstone ecosystem and make the region a potential terrorist target.
In fact, the government's main argument for consolidation is that the Idaho facility affords greater security. "They refused to look at how many dead and diseased Americans would be affected by a terrorist strike at this facility," said Peter Rickards of Twin Falls, about 160 miles west of the site. Jeremy Maxand, director of the nuclear watchdog group Snake River Alliance in Boise, said Monday, "Everybody is downwind from the Idaho National Laboratory. There is no safe place to put this stuff."
Felt in charge of
ID'ing 'Deep Throat' - Report says 'master manipulator' in perfect position to
protect himself – June 14, 2005
WorldNetDaily.com - The Nixon administration put the FBI's Mark Felt – who recently admitted to being "Deep Throat," the Watergate source of the Washington Post – in charge of finding out the informant's identity, reported The Nation. The publication says it has obtained once confidential FBI documents that reveal Felt was asked to find out who in the administration was leaking damaging information to the Post's Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the reporters who published a series of stories credited with bringing Nixon down.
An article by The Nation Washington editor David Corn and independent TV producer Jeff Goldberg states Felt, who at the time was responsible for overseeing the FBI's Watergate probe, "was able to watch his own back and protect his ability to guide the two reporters whose exposes would help topple the president whom he served." According to a statement from the magazine, Corn and Goldberg in their piece explain how the Nixon White House believed someone in the FBI was leaking information, why the White House thought that person was Felt but asked him to uncover and plug the media leaks, and how Felt used his leaks investigation to direct suspicion away from himself.
Wrote Corn and Goldberg: "Felt at different points became an FBI plumber – in the parlance of the Nixon White House, a 'plumber' was an operative who took care of leaks – even though he was the No. 1 leaker. He was in the perfect spot to deflect any accusations that might implicate him and to misdirect suspicion. And when President Nixon and his top aides became convinced that Felt was a key source for the Washington Post – they still couldn't touch him because of what he knew about their skulduggery." In some of the memos, Felt took the opportunity to steer other officials away from the FBI as the source of the leaks. One such memo cast suspicion on the county prosecutor in Miami, Richard Gerstein, who was investigating how a $25,000 check from Nixon's campaign had ended up in the account of a Watergate burglar. No FBI leakers were ever found via the Miami inquiry Felt orchestrated.
The article quotes one memo Felt wrote to his subordinate
about the leaks: As you know, Woodward and Bernstein have written numerous
articles about Watergate. While their stories have contained much fiction and
half truths, they have frequently set forth information which they attribute to
federal investigators, Department of Justice sources, and FBI sources. We know
that they were playing games with the case agent in the Washington Field Office
trying to trick him into giving them bits of information. On balance and
despite the fiction, there is no question that they have access to sources
either in the FBI or in the Department of Justice. Wrote Corn and Goldberg of
Felt: "He was not just a high-level leaker or undercover whistleblower. He
was a master manipulator."
Washington (CNN) -- Amid new questions about President Bush's drive to topple Saddam Hussein, several House Democrats urged lawmakers on Thursday to conduct an official inquiry to determine whether the president intentionally misled Congress. Rep. John Conyers of Michigan and a half-dozen other members of Congress were stopped at the White House gate when they hand-delivered petitions signed by 560,000 Americans who want Bush to provide a detailed response to the so-called Downing Street memo.
At a public forum where the word "impeachment" loomed large earlier in the day, Exhibit A was the Downing Street memo, a prewar document leaked from inside the British government to The Sunday Times of London a month and a half ago. Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, organized the event.Recounting a meeting of Prime Minister Tony Blair's national security team, the memo says the Bush administration believed that war was inevitable and was determined to use intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to justify the ouster of Saddam."The intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," one of the participants was quoted as saying at the meeting, which took place just after British officials returned from Washington.
The president "may have deliberately deceived the United States to get us into a war," Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat, said. "Was the president of the United States a fool or a knave?"The Democratic congressmen were relegated to a tiny room in the bottom of the Capitol, and the Republicans who run the House scheduled 11 major votes to coincide with the afternoon event. "We have not been told the truth," Cindy Sheehan, whose soldier son was killed in Baghdad a year ago, told the Democrats. "If this administration doesn't have anything to hide, they should be down here testifying."
The White House refuses to respond to a May 5 letter from 122 congressional Democrats about whether there was a coordinated effort to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy, as the Downing Street memo says.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan says Conyers "is simply trying to rehash old debates." When Conyers couldn't get inside the White House gates Thursday, an anti-war demonstrator shouted, "Send Bush out!" Eventually, White House aides retrieved the petitions at the gate and took them into the West Wing. "Quite frankly, evidence that appears to be building up points to whether or not the president has deliberately misled Congress to make the most important decision a president has to make, going to war," Rep. Charles Rangel of New York, senior Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, said earlier at the event on Capitol Hill. Misleading Congress is an impeachable offense, a point that Rangel underscored by saying he's already been through two impeachments. He referred to the impeachment of President Clinton stemming from an affair with a White House intern and of President Nixon for Watergate, even though Nixon resigned to avoid impeachment. Conyers pointed to statements by Bush in the run-up to invasion that war would be a last resort. "The veracity of those statements has -- to put it mildly -- come into question," he said.
Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson said, "We are having this discussion today because we failed to have it three years ago when we went to war." "It used to be said that democracies were difficult to mobilize for war precisely because of the debate required," Wilson said, going on to say the lack of debate in this case allowed the war to happen. Wilson wrote a 2003 newspaper opinion piece criticizing the Bush administration's claim that Iraq had sought uranium in Niger. After the piece appeared, someone in the Bush administration leaked the identity of Wilson's wife as a CIA operative, exposing her cover. Wilson has said he believes the leak was retaliation for his critical comments. The Justice Department is investigating. John Bonifaz, a lawyer and co-founder of a new group called AfterDowningStreet.org, said the lack of interest by congressional Republicans in the Downing Street memo is like Congress during Nixon's presidency saying "we don't want" the Watergate tapes.
Bush: Iraq war plans memo wrong – June 7, 2005
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President George W. Bush said Tuesday that there was "nothing farther from the truth" than allegations in a British government memorandum that his administration had decided to go to war in Iraq months before he took his case to the American people.
The British document -- known as the Downing Street memo since its publication in a British newspaper --says the Bush administration considered an invasion of Iraq to be "inevitable" as early as July 2002 and that "the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy."
Tony Blair, left, and George W. Bush, said the invasion of Iraq was necessary because Saddam flouted U.N. sanctions.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who met Tuesday with Bush at the White House, told reporters, "The facts were not being fixed in any shape or form at all." Both leaders said they viewed military action as a last resort.
"Somebody said, well, you know, we had made up our mind to use military force to deal with Saddam. There's nothing farther from the truth," Bush said. A U.S.-led invasion in March 2003 deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and led to an ongoing conflict that, so far, has killed nearly 1,700 U.S. troops and 89 British troops. Bush and Blair said the invasion was needed because Saddam was maintaining clandestine stockpiles of nerve gas, biological weapons and secret nuclear weapons and missile programs, but no such weapons turned up after the invasion.
The case for war
Bush administration officials began building the case for war in the late summer of 2002, warning Americans that Iraq was defying international sanctions mandating its disarmament. In September 2002, Bush urged the United Nations to demand Iraq allow weapons inspectors back in. A month later, Bush warned that the United States could not wait for "the smoking gun that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud." And in the same month, the U.S. Congress gave him the authority to launch military action against Iraq -- authority he used in March 2003.
The Downing Street memo quotes the head of British intelligence, identified as "C," as saying in July 2002 that Bush "wanted to remove Saddam through military action justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and the facts were being fixed around the policy." It states the U.S. National Security Council had "no patience" for going to the United Nations, but described the case for war as "thin." It also questioned whether the invasion would be legal under international law.
British officials have not disputed the authenticity of the document, first published last month by the Times of London. Blair said Tuesday the memo was written "before we then went to the United Nations" to demand Iraq demonstrate that it had complied with U.N. resolutions mandating its disarmament. "No one knows more intimately the discussions that we were conducting as two countries at the time than me," he said. "And the fact is, we decided to go to the United Nations and went through that process, which resulted in the November 2002 United Nations resolution to give a final chance to Saddam Hussein to comply with international law. He didn't do so, and that was the reason why we had to take military action."
After the minutes of the British meeting became public, 89 Democratic members of Congress sent a letter to Bush asking for an explanation. Rep. John Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, has said the White House has not answered the letter. U.N. weapons inspectors were allowed back into Iraq in November 2002 and stayed in the country until March 17, 2003, when Bush issued an ultimatum to Saddam to leave power within 48 hours or face war. U.S.-led inspectors later confirmed that Iraq had dismantled its weapons programs, though it had concealed some weapons-related research from the United Nations.
Tuesday, both leaders said the invasion was necessary because Saddam had flouted U.N. sanctions requiring his government to give up its weapons programs.
"The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power," Bush said.
Iraq and Afghanistan the United States Golden Internationale
worst yet to come in Iraq? – June 17, 2005
WASHINGTON -- During a terrible week for violence in Iraq, a senior administration official yesterday warned that the worst is yet to come. Five Marines and a sailor were killed Wednesday in attacks west of Baghdad, the U.S. military announced yesterday, a day that also brought news of a suicide bomber in Baghdad who killed at least eight police officers and wounded 25 others. "I think you'll see it continuing up, because the terrorists know what's coming," said the official, speaking as peace demonstrators chanted outside the White House.
He said that militants are "once again trying to derail" progress in Iraq, in this case the writing of a constitution and holding of elections tentatively scheduled for later this year. "We have a rough road ahead of us," the official said in an unusual moment of openness by the Bush administration on the war. His comments appeared aimed at preparing a public - that polls show is increasingly disillusioned by the war - for even more bad news.
official spoke after one of the bloodiest weeks in the war, in which at least
17 U.S. servicemen and 155 Iraqis have been reported killed. The violence comes just four months
after U.S. generals had begun to predict the beginning of a U.S. pullout from Iraq early next year. Such predictions have completely stopped. Now, in addition
to Gallup and Washington Post/ABC News polls showing a decrease in public
support for the war, there are signs of restlessness on Capitol Hill as well.
Yesterday, four U.S. lawmakers, including two Republicans from the South,
announced they would introduce legislation requiring President George W. Bush
to submit a timetable for a U.S. pullout.
The senior official yesterday rejected any deadlines, saying they would either increase attacks or give the insurgents reason to wait for the pullout. He said the administration remains convinced that its strategy is working, with progress on the political front as well as in training and equipping Iraqi soldiers to take over the fight themselves. "There is a timeline, and we're still on it," he said. But he came back to the new, realistic tone about Iraq. "Nobody denies the loss of life and the carnage that is being wreaked on the Iraqi people and on us by the terrorists," he said.
Amid the violence, Iraqi lawmakers yesterday celebrated a political breakthrough: After weeks of back-and-forth, Shia politicians reached a compromise that will include Sunni Arabs, who largely boycotted January's elections, in drafting Iraq's new constitution. The stalemate over who should be allowed to draft it had threatened Iraq's political process as it was entering its final stretch, with two key nationwide votes planned for later this year: a referendum on the constitution in October and, if it passes, a general election in December. Under the compromise announced yesterday, the new panel will include the existing members, 15 additional Sunni Arabs with full voting rights and 10 more Sunnis in an advisory, nonvoting role. Adnan Janabi, head of a subcommittee that has been negotiating for weeks to involve more Sunnis in the process, called the compromise "the best we could reach. It was unanimously agreed upon by both sides." But Salih Mutlak, who leads a Sunni coalition known as the National Dialogue Council, said: "We bitterly agreed on the decision. The country is in a critical situation, and if we don't agree, the political process will be delayed."
Nearly 1,100 people have died in violence since the Shia-led government took office seven weeks ago. The American deaths announced yesterday occurred in volatile Anbar province, a longtime hotspot. The Marines died after their vehicle was attacked near Ramadi, the military said. A sailor attached to the Marines' unit, the 2nd Marine Division's II Marine Expeditionary Force, was killed in Ramadi by gunfire, the military said. In Baghdad yesterday, the suicide bomber plowed his black sedan into a truck carrying police officers on the road connecting Baghdad with its airport.
In other developments:
A judge and his bodyguard were killed by gunmen
in eastern Mosul. A roadside bomb in Mosul killed an Iraqi police officer,
officials said.Police found the bodies of 11 people in two towns in the
so-called Triangle of Death area south of Baghdad, an official said.
U.S. casualties in Iraq
March 20, 2003 - War begins
Jan. 17, 2004 - 500 killed
Sept. 7, 2004 - 1,000 killed
March 3, 2005 - 1,500 killed
To date - 1,714 killed
This month - 47 killed
Bremer, where did all the money go? – July 7, 2005
At the end of the Iraq war, vast sums of money were made available to the US-led provisional authorities, headed by Paul Bremer, to spend on rebuilding the country. By the time Bremer left the post eight months later, $8.8bn of that money had disappeared. Ed Harriman on the extraordinary scandal of Iraq's missing billions
When Paul Bremer, the American pro consul in Baghdad until June last year, arrived in Iraq soon after the official end of hostilities, there was $6bn left over from the UN Oil for Food Programme, as well as sequestered and frozen assets, and at least $10bn from resumed Iraqi oil exports. Under Security Council Resolution 1483, passed on May 22 2003, all these funds were transferred into a new account held at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, called the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), and intended to be spent by the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) "in a transparent manner ... for the benefit of the Iraqi people".
The US Congress also voted to spend $18.4bn of US taxpayers' money on the redevelopment of Iraq. By June 28 last year, however, when Bremer left Baghdad two days early to avoid possible attack on the way to the airport, his CPA had spent up to $20bn of Iraqi money, compared with $300m of US funds. The "reconstruction" of Iraq is the largest American-led occupation programme since the Marshall Plan - but the US government funded the Marshall Plan. Defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Bremer have made sure that the reconstruction of Iraq is paid for by the "liberated" country, by the Iraqis themselves. The CPA maintained one fund of nearly $600m cash for which there is no paperwork: $200m of it was kept in a room in one of Saddam's former palaces. The US soldier in charge used to keep the key to the room in his backpack, which he left on his desk when he popped out for lunch. Again, this is Iraqi money, not US funds. The "financial irregularities" described in audit reports carried out by agencies of the American government and auditors working for the international community collectively give a detailed insight into the mentality of the American occupation authorities and the way they operated. Truckloads of dollars were handed out for which neither they nor the recipients felt they had to be accountable. The auditors have so far referred more than a hundred contracts, involving billions of dollars paid to American personnel and corporations, for investigation and possible criminal prosecution. They have also discovered that $8.8bn that passed through the new Iraqi government ministries in Baghdad while Bremer was in charge is unaccounted for, with little prospect of finding out where it has gone. A further $3.4bn appropriated by Congress for Iraqi development has since been siphoned off to finance "security".
Although Bremer was expected to manage Iraqi funds in a transparent manner, it was only in October 2003, six months after the fall of Saddam, that an International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB) was established to provide independent, international financial oversight of CPA spending. (This board includes representatives from the United Nations, the World Bank, the IMF and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development.) The IAMB first spent months trying to find auditors acceptable to the US. The Bahrain office of KPMG was finally appointed in April 2004. It was stonewalled. "KPMG has encountered resistance from CPA staff regarding the submission of information required to complete our procedures," they wrote in an interim report. "Staff have indicated ... that cooperation with KPMG's undertakings is given a low priority." KPMG had one meeting at the Iraqi Ministry of Finance; meetings at all the other ministries were repeatedly postponed. The auditors even had trouble getting passes to enter the Green Zone.
There appears to have been good reason for the Americans to stall. At the end of June 2004, the CPA would be disbanded and Bremer would leave Iraq. There was no way the Bush administration would want independent auditors to publish a report into the financial propriety of its Iraqi administration while the CPA was still in existence and Bremer at its head still answerable to the press. So the report was published in July. The auditors found that the CPA didn't keep accounts of the hundreds of millions of dollars of cash in its vault, had awarded contracts worth billions of dollars to American firms without tender, and had no idea what was happening to the money from the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI), which was being spent by the interim Iraqi government ministries. This lack of transparency has led to allegations of corruption. An Iraqi hospital administrator told me that when he came to sign a contract, the American army officer representing the CPA had crossed out the original price and doubled it. The Iraqi protested that the original price was enough. The American officer explained that the increase (more than $1m) was his retirement package.
When the Iraqi Governing Council asked Bremer why a contract to repair the Samarah cement factory was costing $60m rather than the agreed $20m, the American representative reportedly told them that they should be grateful the coalition had saved them from Saddam. Iraqis who were close to the Americans, had access to the Green Zone or held prominent posts in the new government ministries were also in a position personally to benefit enormously. Iraqi businessmen complain endlessly that they had to offer substantial bribes to Iraqi middlemen just to be able to bid for CPA contracts. Iraqi ministers' relatives got top jobs and fat contracts.
Further evidence of lack of transparency comes from a series of audits and reports carried out by the CPA's own inspector general's office (CPAIG). Set up in January 2004, it reports to Congress. Its auditors, accountants and criminal investigators often found themselves sitting alone at cafe tables in the Green Zone, shunned by their CPA compatriots. Their audit, published in July 2004, found that the American contracts officers in the CPA and Iraqi ministries "did not ensure that ... contract files contained all the required documents, a fair and reasonable price was paid for the services received, contractors were capable of meeting delivery schedules, or that contractors were paid in accordance with contract requirements".
Pilfering was rife. Millions of dollars in cash went missing from the Iraqi Central Bank. Between $11m and $26m worth of Iraqi property sequestered by the CPA was unaccounted for. The payroll was padded with hundreds of ghost employees. Millions of dollars were paid to contractors for phantom work. Some $3,379,505 was billed, for example, for "personnel not in the field performing work" and "other improper charges" on just one oil pipeline repair contract. Most of the 69 criminal investigations the CPAIG instigated related to alleged theft, fraud, waste, assault and extortion. It also investigated "a number of other cases that, because of their sensitivity, cannot be included in this report". One such case may have arisen when 19 billion new Iraqi dinars, worth about £6.5m, was found on a plane in Lebanon that had been sent there by the American-appointed Iraqi interior minister.
At the same time, the IAMB discovered that Iraqi oil exports were unmetered. Neither the Iraqi State Oil Marketing Organisation nor the American authorities could give a satisfactory explanation for this. "The only reason you wouldn't monitor them is if you don't want anyone else to know how much is going through," one petroleum executive told me. Officially, Iraq exported $10bn worth of oil in the first year of the American occupation. Christian Aid has estimated that up to $4bn more may have been exported and is unaccounted for. If so, this would have created an off-the-books fund that both the Americans and their Iraqi allies could use with impunity to cover expenditures they would rather keep secret - among them the occupation costs, which were rising far beyond what the Bush administration could comfortably admit to Congress and the international community.
In the few weeks before Bremer left Iraq, the CPA handed out more than $3bn in new contracts to be paid for with Iraqi funds and managed by the US embassy in Baghdad. The CPA inspector general, now called the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (Sigir), has just released an audit report on the way the embassy has dealt with that responsibility. The auditors reviewed the files of 225 contracts totalling $327m to see if the embassy "could identify the current value of paid and unpaid contract obligations". It couldn't. "Our review showed that financial records ... understated payments made by $108,255,875" and "overstated unpaid obligations by $119,361,286". The auditors also reviewed the paperwork of a further 300 contracts worth $332.9m: "Of 198 contract files reviewed, 154 did not contain evidence that goods and services were received, 169 did not contain invoices, and 14 did not contain evidence of payment."
Clearly, the Americans see no need to account for spending Iraqis' national income now any more than they did when Bremer was in charge. Neither the embassy chief of mission nor the US military commander replied to the auditors' invitation to comment. Instead, the US army contracting commander lamely pointed out that "the peaceful conditions envisioned in the early planning continue to elude the reconstruction efforts". This is a remarkable understatement. It's also an admission that Americans can't be expected to do their sums when they are spending other people's money to finance a war.
Lack of accountability does not stop with the Americans. In January this year, the Sigir issued a report detailing evidence of fraud, corruption and waste by the Iraqi Interim Government when Bremer was in charge. They found that $8.8bn - the entire Iraqi Interim Government spending from October 2003 through June 2004 - was not properly accounted for. The Iraqi Office of Budget and Management at one point had only six staff, all of them inexperienced, and most of the ministries had no budget departments. Iraq's newly appointed ministers and their senior officials were free to hand out hundreds of millions of dollars in cash as they pleased, while American "advisers" looked on. "CPA personnel did not review and compare financial, budgetary and operational performance to planned or expected results," the auditors explained. One ministry gave out $430m in contracts without its CPA advisers seeing any of the paperwork. Another claimed to be paying 8,206 guards, but only 602 could be found. There is simply no way of knowing how much of the $8.8bn has gone to pay for private militias and into private pockets.
"It's remarkable that the inspector general's office could have produced even a draft report with so many misconceptions and inaccuracies," Bremer said in his reply to the Sigir report. "At liberation, the Iraqi economy was dead in the water. So CPA's top priority was to get the economy going."
The Sigir has responded by releasing another audit this April, an investigation into the way Bremer's CPA managed cash payments from Iraqi funds in just one part of Iraq, the region around Hillah: "During the course of the audit, we identified deficiencies in the control of cash ... of such magnitude as to require prompt attention. Those deficiencies were so significant that we were precluded from accomplishing our stated objectives." They found that CPA headquarters in Baghdad "did not maintain full control and accountability for approximately $119.9m", and that agents in the field "cannot properly account for or support over $96.6m in cash and receipts". The agents were mostly Americans in Iraq on short-term contracts. One agent's account balance was "overstated by $2,825,755, and the error went undetected". Another agent was given $25m cash for which Bremer's office "acknowledged not having any supporting documentation". Of more than $23m given to another agent, there are only records for $6,306,836 paid to contractors.
Many of the American agents submitted their paperwork only hours before they headed to the airport. Two left Iraq without accounting for $750,000 each, which has never been found. CPA head office cleared several agents' balances of between $250,000 and $12m without any receipts. One agent who did submit receipts, on being told that he still owed $1,878,870, turned up three days later with exactly that amount. The auditors thought that "this suggests that the agent had a reserve of cash", pointing out that if his original figures had been correct, he would have accounted to the CPA for approximately $3.8m more than he had been given in the first place, which "suggests that the receipt documents provided to the DFI account manager were unreliable".
So where did the money go? You can't see it in Hillah. The schools, hospitals, water supply and electricity, all of which were supposed to benefit from these funds, are in ruins. The inescapable conclusion is that many of the American paying agents grabbed large bundles of cash for themselves and made sweet deals with their Iraqi contacts. And so it continues. The IAMB's most recent audit of Iraqi government spending talks of "incomplete accounting", "lack of documented justification for limited competition for contracts at the Iraqi ministries", "possible misappropriation of oil revenues", "significant difficulties in ensuring completeness and accuracy of Iraqi budgets and controls over expenditures" and "non-deposit of proceeds of export sales of petroleum products into the appropriate accounts in contravention of UN Security Council Resolution 1483". In the absence of any meaningful accountability, Iraqis have no way of knowing how much of the nation's wealth is being used for reconstruction and how much is being handed out to ministers' and civil servants' friends and families or funnelled into secret overseas bank accounts. Given that many Ba'athists are now back in government, some of that money may even be financing the insurgents.
Both Saddam and the US profited handsomely during his reign. He controlled Iraq's wealth while most of Iraq's oil went to Californian refineries to provide cheap petrol for American voters. US corporations, like those who enjoyed Saddam's favour, grew rich. Today, the system is much the same: the oil goes to California, and the new Iraqi government spends the national wealth with impunity.
· Bremer maintained one slush fund of nearly $600m in cash for which there is no paperwork: $200m of it was kept in a room in one of Saddam's former palaces
· 19 billion new Iraqi dinars, worth about £6.5m, was found on a plane in Lebanon that had been sent there by the new Iraqi interior minister
· One ministry claimed to be paying 8,206 guards, but only 602 could be found
· One American agent was given $23m to spend on restructuring; only $6m is accounted for
This is an edited version of an article that appears in the current issue of the London Review of Books (lrb).
Command Responsibility – June 28, 2005
The Washington Post - Who "lost" Iraq? With blame for the unhappy course of events since U.S. forces occupied Baghdad in April 2003 routinely heaped on civilian officials, the military itself has gotten a pass. In fact, senior U.S. commanders have botched the war. Acknowledging that fact is an essential first step toward improving the quality of U.S. generalship. For this reason, reported plans to promote Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez deserve particular attention. According to media reports, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld intends to nominate Sanchez for a fourth star. But the general does not merit promotion; he can best serve his country by retiring forthwith.
Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the U.S. military commander in Iraq gestures during press conference in Baghda Saturday Nov. 29, 2003. Sanchez said that the United States is boosting the number of infantry soldiers in Iraq and moving from a force based on tanks and heavy armored vehicles to one specializing in urban assault raids, using lighter vehicles and intelligence. (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic) (Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez In Iraq In 2003/By
The public knows Sanchez as the senior commander in Baghdad when the Abu Ghraib story broke last year. Since then several Pentagon investigations into the scandal have cleared him of any personal wrongdoing. Yet, if this conclusion insulates Sanchez as an individual from disciplinary action, it cannot acquit him of his accountability as a commander. On this point the code of officership is unambiguous: Commanders bear responsibility for all that happens on their watch. This tradition applies to those at the top no less than to lieutenants and captains. Given the egregiousness of Abu Ghraib, it cannot exempt Sanchez. On that score alone, his advancement would do untold damage to the military professional ethic.
But pretend that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners never happened. Sanchez still does not qualify for promotion for one simple reason: He failed to accomplish his assigned mission in Iraq. When Sanchez assumed command of U.S. and coalition ground forces in Iraq in June 2003, the insurgency was barely in its infancy. When he left Iraq a year later, it was raging all but out of control. By any measure -- estimated number of enemy fighters, frequency of attacks, Iraqi civilian casualties and U.S. troop losses sustained -- conditions in Iraq worsened appreciably during Sanchez's tenure in command. His task was to provide security; his efforts produced chaos.
Historians will remember Sanchez as the William Westmoreland of the Iraq war -- the general who misunderstood the nature of the conflict he faced and thereby played into the enemy's hands. Vowing in December 2003 to use "whatever combat power is necessary to win," Sanchez echoed promises of victory made by Westmoreland in Saigon a generation earlier. "That's what America expects of me," Sanchez declared, "and that's what I'm going to accomplish." But victory is precisely what he did not accomplish. Combat power as such was never the answer. Indeed, as with Westmoreland, whose doctrine of search-and-destroy committed U.S. forces to an unwinnable war of attrition, Sanchez fought his war in ways that turned out to be monumentally wrongheaded. His kick-down-the-door tactics served only to harden resistance to the U.S. occupation. Rather than winning Iraqi hearts and minds, he alienated them.
Critics fault the Bush administration for not having provided U.S. commanders with enough "boots on the ground." This, they say, accounts for the current stalemate. Such an interpretation conforms nicely to the reigning demands of political correctness, absolving the military of any responsibility for its current predicament. But it will not wash. The principal defect of the war effort is not that field commanders have lacked sufficient troops. The real problem is that they -- and Sanchez in particular -- have never devised an effective strategy.
In Baghdad this month, the senior U.S. military spokesman announced that it was time "to concede that . . . this insurgency is not going to be settled . . . through military options or military operations," tacitly acknowledging that the exertions of the past two years had failed. In that acknowledgment lies the definitive judgment of what Sanchez -- although not he alone -- has wrought.There is no doubt that Sanchez, an honorable man, did his best under extraordinarily trying circumstances. But his best wasn't good enough. He did not get the job done. It's time to recognize that and to make way for leaders who can. American soldiers deserve no less.
Two E-Mails Contradict Annan on Oil-for-Food – June 14, 2005
NEW YORK — U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan (search) faces new questions over whether he lied to independent investigators probing the scandal-scarred Oil-for-Food program. Those investigators said Tuesday they were "urgently reviewing" fresh evidence. That evidence, obtained by FOX News, appears to contradict Annan's claim that he knew nothing about the awarding of a major Oil-for-Food (search) contract to a company that employed his son.
Kojo Annan worked for Cotecna Inspection S.A. (search ), a Swiss firm that won one of the most lucrative contracts in the multibillion-dollar program. One of Kojo Annan's (search) supervisors there was a man named Michael Wilson, a lifelong friend of Kofi Annan. The secretary-general has consistently denied ever discussing the Cotecna contract with any of the company's executives. "I have no involvement with granting of contracts either on this Cotecna one or others," Kofi Annan said in November. But Cotecna has given new documents to investigators with the Independent Inquiry Committee, the U.N.-approved panel headed by former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker charged with looking into corruption associated with the Oil-for-Food program.
The documents are e-mails from Wilson, the old Annan family friend, to other executives at Cotecna describing a meeting in Paris just weeks before the Oil-for-Food contract was awarded. One e-mail refers to the U.N. program and says: "We had brief discussions with the SG [the acronym for secretary-general] and his entourage. Their collective advise [sic] was that we should respond as best as we could to the Q and A session of the 1-12-98 and that we could count on their support." The contents of that e-mail were first reported by The New York Times. The numbers "1-12-98 " refer to a Dec. 1, 1998, meeting between Cotecna executives and U.N. officials in New York at which the contract was discussed. The second from the same Cotecna executive, sent minutes after the first, discussed a meeting that took place three days earlier with U.N. procurement officials to talk about the contract bid and expressed his confidence that the company would get the bid because of "effective but quiet lobbying" in New York diplomatic circles. Asked to explain the contradiction between this evidence and Kofi Annan's claim never to have been involved in contract discussions, a spokesman for the secretary-general said the office was looking into it. "We are still checking our files to see if this encounter took place, so I cannot give you any explanation yet," said spokesman Fred Eckhardt.
The Volcker panel is also examining the documents. In a statement released Tuesday, panel spokesman Michael Holtzman said investigators were "urgently reviewing" the two e-mails, which it received from Cotecna on Monday night. "This information was first provided to the IIC late last evening. The IIC will conduct additional investigation regarding this new information," the statement said. "Does this raise a question? Sure," said Reid Morden, executive director of the probe.
The previously unknown e-mails will be a new distraction for the U.N. secretary-general, who had claimed he was exonerated by the interim report and had hoped that the committee was finished investigating his personal involvement. Morden said investigators had planned to interview Annan soon as part of its investigation into management of Oil-for-Food. "This certainly adds another topic," he said of the Cotecna e-mails.
The first Dec. 4, 1998, e-mail from Michael Wilson, then a vice president of Cotecna and a friend of both Kofi and Kojo Annan, mentions brief discussions with the secretary-general "and his entourage" at a summit in Paris in 1998. He wrote that Cotecna's bid was discussed and Cotecna was told it "could count on their support."
Wilson's memo also refers to a "KA" who made courtesy calls to various African leaders at the Paris summit. That would appear to be Kojo Annan, then a Cotecna consultant. Eckhard said it would be reasonable to assume that Kofi and Kojo Annan would have met in Paris if Kojo Annan was there, though he knew of no record of it. The e-mails from Wilson add to doubts about Kofi Annan's denials of familiarity with the Cotecna contract.
In March, a report from the Volcker panel concluded there was no evidence the U.N. chief tried to influence the world body's decisions in order to benefit his son's business interests. The panel reached its conclusion despite Annan's own omissions about his contacts with Cotecna. Annan at first did not tell investigators that he had met twice with Cotecna representatives as the Swiss company began soliciting United Nations business. One investigator for Volcker reportedly was so concerned with Annan's veracity that he sought to make note of it in the report. But the final report toned down the language offered by Robert Parton. He and another member of the IIC quit the panel following the report's release. Kofi Annan "had checked the records and now remembered the meeting," the final report said about one of the two meetings Annan did not initially disclose.
China, Russia warn of world domination – July 1, 2005
By Vladimir Isachenkov, Associated Press Writer
MOSCOW (USA Today) - Russia and China warned other nations Friday against attempts to dominate global affairs and interfere in the domestic issues of sovereign nations in what appeared to be a veiled expression of their irritation with U.S. policy. Presidents Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao signed a joint declaration after two days of talks calling for a stronger United Nations role in global affairs and opposing attempts "to impose models of social and political development from outside."
The two leaders also urged other states to renounce "striving for monopoly and domination in international affairs and attempts to divide nations into leaders and those being led." While the declaration did not identify any specific country, it echoed similar veiled hints by Moscow and Beijing about U.S. policy in global affairs. After decades of rivalry, Moscow and Beijing have developed what they call a strategic partnership since the 1991 Soviet collapse, pledging their adherence to a "multipolar world," a term that refers to their opposition to U.S. domination.
China and Russia share a concern about increased U.S. influence in Central Asia since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, which led to American troop deployments in Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan for operations in neighboring Afghanistan. While Russia remains a U.S. ally in fighting terror, relations often have been strained by U.S. concerns about backtracking on democracy under Putin and Moscow's worries about what it sees as U.S. meddling in ex-Soviet republics. Russia also bristles at western calls for peace talks with rebels in Chechnya. Beijing is unhappy about U.S. ties with Taiwan. Beijing claims Taiwan as part of its territory and says the island has no right to conduct foreign relations. "We reinforced our mutual support on key issues like Taiwan and Chechnya which concern our vital interests," Hu said after the talks.
The two leaders gave an upbeat assessment on Russian-Chinese relations, which have flourished in recent years and were cemented in a border treaty ratified this year. "We have set a solid foundation for friendship, trust and cooperation for Russia and China for a long time to come," Putin said Friday.
Moscow and Beijing dominate the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a regional security grouping that also includes the ex-Soviet Central Asian nations of Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov, facing Western criticism for his government's bloody suppression of a May uprising, has found staunch support in Moscow and Beijing. After their meetings in Moscow, Putin and Hu were due to meet again Tuesday at the SCO summit in Kazakhstan. "We are increasing coordination and cooperation on important regional and international issues, such as guaranteeing stability in Central Asia, the SCO, reform of the United Nations and the nuclear problem of the Korean Peninsula," Hu said.
The Russian and Chinese militaries are due to hold their first joint maneuvers later this year — which some observers have seen as Russia's response to cooling relations with the U.S. and other Western nations. China has purchased billions of dollars worth of fighters, missiles, submarines and destroyers after the Soviet collapse, becoming the main customer for struggling Russian defense industries. Now it is eager to tap into Russian oil and gas to fuel its booming economy, and has lobbied hard for priority access over Japan to an oil pipeline carrying Siberian crude to Asian markets. Russian-Chinese trade amounted to about $20 billion last year, and Hu told the ITAR-Tass news agency that it could reach between $60 billion and $80 billion by 2010.
China's new missile 'warning to U.S.' - Taiwan military experts say America should take notice – June 20, 2005
WorldNetDaily - China's newly developed submarine-launched Ju Lang-2 missile should serve as a warning to the U.S. not to underestimate Beijing's military power, say Taiwanese military experts. "The Ju Lang-2 poses a great threat to the U.S. because it has better precision and guidance and is harder to detect," said Weng Ming-hsien, a professor from the Institute of Strategic Studies at the Tamkang University. Weng said China probably would deploy the Ju Lang-2, which carries nuclear warheads, on its Han-class nuclear submarines. "China wants to tell the U.S. that it has never stopped developing nuclear arms," he said. "China also wants to warn Russia not to get too close to the U.S."
Lee Shih-ping, a military expert specializing in warplanes and warships, said Ju Lang-2 posed a new security threat to the U.S. because it could be fired from the sea and reach the U.S. interior. "China now has a platform to carry and fire nuclear arms," he said. "It now ranks along with Britain, France, Russia and the US as the countries which have nuclear capability. Ju Lang-2 is a more lethal weapon and it is a weapon for invasion." Both Weng and Li said that the test-firing of Ju Lang-2 on July 16 last year was a warning for the U.S. not to meddle in China's affairs, especially the Taiwan issue. The Japanese government said Friday that China on Thursday had test-fired the Ju Lang-2 missile, a modified version of China's Dongfeng-31 intercontinental ballistic missile. Ju Lang-2 was believed to have been fired from a nuclear sub in waters off Qingdao, landing in a desert in China several thousand kilometers away.
The Washington Times - The
release of an official Chinese government report in December called the
situation on the Taiwan Strait "grim" and said the country's military
could "crush" Taiwan. Earlier this year, Beijing passed an
anti-secession law, a unilateral measure that upset the fragile political
status quo across the Taiwan Strait. The law gives Chinese leaders a legal
basis they previously did not have to conduct a military attack on Taiwan, U.S. officials said. The war fears come despite the fact that China is hosting the Olympic
Games in 2008 and, therefore, some officials say, would be reluctant to invoke
the international condemnation that a military attack on Taiwan would cause.
Army of the future
In the past, some defense specialists insisted a Chinese attack on Taiwan would be a "million-man swim" across the Taiwan Strait because of the country's lack of troop-carrying ships. "We left the million-man swim behind in about 1998, 1999," the senior Pentagon official said. "And in fact, what people are saying now, whether or not that construct was ever useful, is that it's a moot point, because in just amphibious lift alone, the Chinese are doubling or even quadrupling their capability on an annual basis." Asked about a possible Chinese attack on Taiwan, the official put it bluntly: "In the '07-'08 time frame, a capability will be there that a year ago we would have said was very, very unlikely. We now assess that as being very likely to be there."
Air Force Gen. Paul V. Hester, head of the Pacific Air Forces, said the U.S. military has been watching China's military buildup but has found it difficult to penetrate Beijing's "veil" of secrecy over it. While military modernization itself is not a major worry, "what does provide you a pause for interest and concern is the amount of modernization, the kind of modernization and the size of the modernization," he said during a recent breakfast meeting with reporters. China is building capabilities such as aerial refueling and airborne warning and control aircraft that can be used for regional defense and long-range power projection, Gen. Hester said. It also is developing a maneuverable re-entry vehicle, or MARV, for its nuclear warheads. The weapon is designed to counter U.S. strategic-missile defenses, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity. The warhead would be used on China's new DF-31 long-range missiles and its new submarine missile, the JL-2.
Work being done on China's weapons and reconnaissance systems will give its military the capability to reach 1,000 miles into the sea, "which gives them the visibility on the movement of not only our airplanes in the air, but also our forces at sea," Gen. Hester said. Beijing also has built a new tank for its large armed forces. It is known as the Type 99 and appears similar in design to Germany's Leopard 2 main battle tank. The tank is outfitted with new artillery, anti-aircraft and machine guns, advanced fire-control systems and improved engines. The country's air power is growing through the purchase of new fighters from Russia, such as Su-30 fighter-bombers, as well as the development of its own fighter jets, such as the J-10.
Gen. Hester compared Chinese warplanes with those of the former Soviet Union, which were less capable than their U.S. counterparts, but still very deadly. "They have great equipment. The fighters are very technologically advanced, and what we know about them gives us pause for concern against ours," he said.
Missiles also are a worry.
"It is their surface-to-air missiles, their [advanced] SAMs and their surface-to-surface missiles, and the precision, more importantly, of those surface-to-surface missiles that provide, obviously, the ability to pinpoint targets that we might have out in the region, or our friends and allies might have," Gen. Hester said. The advances give the Chinese military "the ability ... to reach out and touch parts of the United States -- Guam, Hawaii and the mainland of the United States," he said. To better deal with possible future conflicts in Asia, the Pentagon is modernizing U.S. military facilities on the Western Pacific island of Guam and planning to move more forces there.
The Air Force will regularly rotate Air Expeditionary
Force units to Guam and also will station the new long-range unmanned aerial
vehicle known as Global Hawk on the island, he said. It also has stationed B-2
stealth bombers on Guam temporarily and is expected to deploy B-1 bombers
there, in addition to the B-52s now deployed there, Gen. Hester said.
China's rulers have adopted what is known as the "two-island chain" strategy of extending control over large areas of the Pacific, covering inner and outer chains of islands stretching from Japan to Indonesia. "Clearly, they are still influenced by this first and second island chain," the intelligence official said. The official said China's buildup goes beyond what would be needed to fight a war against Taiwan. The conclusion of this official is that China wants a "blue-water" navy capable of projecting power far beyond the two island chains. "If you look at the technical capabilities of the weapons platforms that they're fielding, the sea-keeping capabilities, the size, sensors and weapons fit, this capability transcends the baseline that is required to deal with a Taiwan situation militarily," the intelligence official said. "So they are positioned then, if [Taiwan is] resolved one way or the other, to really become a regional military power as well."
The dispatch of a Han-class submarine late last year
to waters near Guam, Taiwan and Japan was an indication of the Chinese
military's drive to expand its oceangoing capabilities, the officials said. The
submarine surfaced in Japanese waters, triggering an emergency deployment of Japan's naval forces. Beijing later issued an apology for the incursion, but the political
damage was done. Within months, Japan began adopting a tougher political
posture toward China in its defense policies and public statements. A recent
Japanese government defense report called China a strategic national security
concern. It was the first time China was named specifically in a Japanese
Energy supply a factor
For China, Taiwan is not the only issue behind the buildup of military forces. Beijing also is facing a major energy shortage that, according to one Pentagon study, could lead it to use military force to seize territory with oil and gas resources. The report produced for the Office of Net Assessment, which conducts assessments of future threats, was made public in January and warned that China's need for oil, gas and other energy resources is driving the country toward becoming an expansionist power.
China "is looking not only to build a blue-water
navy to control the sea lanes [from the Middle East], but also to develop
undersea mines and missile capabilities to deter the potential disruption of
its energy supplies from potential threats, including the U.S. Navy, especially
in the case of a conflict with Taiwan," the report said. The report said China believes the United States already controls the sea routes from the oil-rich Persian Gulf
through the Malacca Strait. Chinese President Hu Jintao has called this
strategic vulnerability to disrupted energy supplies Beijing's "Malacca
To prevent any disruption, China has adopted a "string of pearls" strategy that calls for both offensive and defensive measures stretching along the oil-shipment sea lanes from China's coast to the Middle East. The "pearls" include the Chinese-financed seaport being built at Gwadar, on the coast of western Pakistan, and commercial and military efforts to establish bases or diplomatic ties in Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Thailand and disputed islands in the South China Sea. The report stated that China's ability to use these pearls for a "credible" military action is not certain.
Pentagon intelligence officials, however, say the
rapid Chinese naval buildup includes the capability to project power to these
sea lanes in the future. "They are not doing a lot of surface patrols or
any other kind of security evolutions that far afield," the intelligence
official said. "There's no evidence of [Chinese military basing there]
yet, but we do need to keep an eye toward that expansion." The report also
highlighted the vulnerability of China's oil and gas infrastructure to a
crippling U.S. attack. "The U.S. military could severely cripple Chinese
resistance [during a conflict over Taiwan] by blocking its energy supply,
whereas the [People's Liberation Army navy] poses little threat to United States' energy security," it said.
China views the United States as "a potential threat because
of its military superiority, its willingness to disrupt China's energy imports, its perceived encirclement of China and its disposition toward manipulating
international politics," the report said.
The report stated that China will resort "to extreme, offensive and mercantilist measures when other strategies fail, to mitigate its vulnerabilities, such as seizing control of energy resources in neighboring states." U.S. officials have said two likely targets for China are the Russian Far East, which has vast oil and gas deposits, and Southeast Asia, which also has oil and gas resources. Michael Pillsbury, a former Pentagon official and specialist on China's military, said the internal U.S. government debate on the issue and excessive Chinese secrecy about its military buildup "has cost us 10 years to figure out what to do" "Everybody is starting to acknowledge the hard facts," Mr. Pillsbury said. "The China military buildup has been accelerating since 1999. As the buildup has gotten worse, China is trying hard to mask it."
Richard Fisher, vice president of the International
Assessment and Strategy Center, said that in 10 years, the Chinese army has
shifted from a defensive force to an advanced military soon capable of
operations ranging from space warfare to global non-nuclear cruise-missile
strikes. "Let's all wake up. The post-Cold War peace is over,"
Mr. Fisher said. "We are now in an arms race with a new superpower whose
goal is to contain and overtake the United States."
Part II: Thefts of U.S. technology boost China's weaponry
Official: China, Vatican Will Establish Ties – June 26, 2005
HONG KONG (Fox News) - A Chinese Catholic official said Beijing (search) and the Vatican (search) will establish ties, but the process will take a long time, a Hong Kong newspaper reported Sunday. Liu Bonian, identified as an official at the state-approved Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (search), praised a recent comment by Vatican foreign minister Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo that difficulties preventing official ties are not "insurmountable," the Wen Wei Po newspaper reported. Liu said Lajolo's comments showed the Vatican was working to forge official links with China under new Pope Benedict XVI (search), who assumed his position in April, according to the report.
China doesn't recognize the Holy See and requires followers to worship at state-sanctioned churches. About 4 million Chinese worship at official churches, while foreign experts say up to 12 million more do so at underground churches. Priests and bishops of the underground church are regularly arrested and harassed. The communist Chinese government wants the Vatican to drop its recognition of Taiwan, an island its rival Nationalists retreated to amid civil war on the mainland in 1949. Taiwan has been separately ruled since. Beijing has also expressed reservations about the pope's power to appoint bishops — a prerogative it considers an interference in domestic affairs. The Vatican is believed to be willing to drop Taiwan, but the pope's appointment powers appear to remain a stumbling block. Liu said one solution would be to allow the Holy See (search) to nominate bishops and let Beijing formally appoint them, Wen Wei Po reported.
Liu said no matter how the bishops are picked they must be "patriotic" — a code word for loyal to the communist regime.
China activates bomb
shelters - Intelligence sources suspect reopening to public is part of
strategic deception – June 28, 2005
WorldNetDaily - China's decision to open up massive bomb shelters to the public, ostensibly to provide a respite from summer heat, has U.S. intelligence analysts concerned about a possible strategic deception by Beijing, reports Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin. The government made a high-profile public announcement, carried by the official Xinhua news agency, this week that bomb shelters in central Chongqing would be opened to the public to allow residents to cool off during a heat wave in which temperatures are reaching into the 90s. Specifically, the announcement said, the government had decided to open 24 cool, underground air-raid shelters, most of them built in the 1960s and 1970s. "A heat wave with high humidity has hit Chongqing since last week, making life unbearable to residents, many of whom only have electric or palm-leaf fans to cool off," the Xinhua report explained. The government even planned to equip the shelters with free tea, chairs, books and newspapers for those trying to escape the heat.
The bomb shelters, the report said, covered an area of more than 70,000 square meters – or some 17.3 acres – and could accommodate tens of thousands of people. While "civil defense" fallout shelters may sound like an anachronism to many in the West, the Chinese have maintained an elaborate, large and sophisticated system, as the size of the Chongquin facility suggests. The shelters are built for quick and easy access to the public from home or work.
But some Western intelligence analysts believe there is more to this official announcement by the Chinese than public relations, reports Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin. "I don't think the Chinese leadership is only interested in appearing beneficent and caring toward its people," one well-placed intelligence source told the premium online intelligence newsletter. "That might be a side benefit to this announcement, but I strongly suspect there is much more to this story than meets the eye." The Chinese specialist agreed with others knowledgeable about nuclear arms that such a maneuver – opening up large fallout shelters to the public on a regular basis would serve two strategic purposes for Beijing:
· It would familiarize the Chinese people with the shelters, making it easier to evacuate the public in times of potential nuclear attack.
· It would confuse Western intelligence analysts who monitor movements of the Chinese public by satellite as evidence of the government's intentions.
In addition to monitoring missile launches, U.S. national security officials keep an eye on large-scale public movements in countries like China. If, for instance, city residents were seen moving in large numbers into fallout shelters, it would be a sign the government might be preparing for an attack of some kind. But if such massive movements became routine – because shelters are opened up in the heat of summer and in the cold of winter to provide shelters from the elements – then such movements would more likely be disregarded as militarily insignificant in the West. "Think about it," said one U.S. intelligence source. "If you were planning, at some point in the future, to launch a pre-emptive first strike on some enemy, wouldn't it make sense to do what the Chinese are doing?"
Nature's anomaly blamed for Chernobyl disaster – May 15, 2005
Pravda - People will certainly have shivers running down their spines at the mention of "Chernobyl" for many years from now. Why did the catastrophe happen? 19 years have already passed since the day of the terrible disaster that claimed so many lives. These days Russian and Ukrainian scientists put forth a new version of the accident. Their report to the International Atomic Energy Agency says that an natural anomaly caused the accident. The State Commission set up to investigate the cause of the accident came up with three main version of the events. The version No1 blamed some terrorists who allegedly sneaked into a central room of the Block 4 and put explosive devices on the premises. Another version put all the blame on the operators who were on duty that night. Their neglect was alleged to have caused an uncontrolled runaway of the reactor. And the final version pointed to "design flaws" of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant.
No official report on the accident ever mentioned geophysical anomalies preceding the disaster, according to Valery Vasiliev, who worked for IAEA from 1984 to 1888. He also worked for more than 30 years in the Soviet Ministry of Nuclear Energy. A team of Russian and Ukrainian scientists learned of strange power outages which began affecting towns and villages near Chernobyl power station two weeks prior to the accident. The scientists also found out that industrial electronic equipment failed to operate properly and road accident rate was higher than usual at the time. The atmospheric pressure went up and down abruptly a few times in the area. Some declassified information shows that a local deflection of ionospheric layer took place over the Chernobyl area at the time, according to researchers of the Institute of Meteorology under the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. Their opinion is shared by specialists at the Kharkov Research Institute of Radio Engineering and Automatic Equipment.
Another sensational discovery was made when scientists studied a number of seismograms dating back to the time of Chernobyl disaster. A special commission concluded that a regional earthquake occurred in the vicinity of the Chernobyl power plant 20 seconds prior to the explosion of the reactor. "Until recently nobody seemed to pay any attention to the fact that it took a mere 20 seconds for putting the reactor out of order," says Academician Vitaly Starostenko, director of the Ukrainian Institute of Geophysics, a member of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine. It is quite amazing that members of the State Commission disregarded the lack of substantial destruction inside the reactor room as opposed to a service basement beneath the reactor, its support crossbar had a few burn-outs measuring up to 1.7 meter. All the communications lines were simply vaporized. The temperature soared up to 50 degrees Celsius in no time. There are flows of solidified lava hanging on the walls in a room that is located under the basement. It looks very much like the consequences of a volcano's eruption. "This is a high-temperature plasma that came in through the fractures which became active during the so-called called process of disturbance of all fields and environment resulting in pathology," as Mr. Vasiliev puts it. He believes the weather abnormalities and the earthquake were the portents of the phenomenon. The Chernobyl nuclear power plant was built in a unique location featuring a conjugation of a few linear and two concentric fractures.
Back at the turn of 20th century, scientists
first discovered the existence of fractures in earth's crust and the impact
they cause on the structural strength of buildings. According to researchers of
the Institute of Physics of Earth, the maximum proximity of a river network to
a nuclear power station became one of the main official requirements that was
taken into account while choosing locations for nuclear power plants in the Soviet Union in the 1960s. A great deal of water was required for cooling nuclear power
plants. Since the deep fractures are normally located in the vicinity of
rivers, all the nuclear power plants were built in the most difficult places in
terms of engineering and geological conditions. Scientists believe that
an external source of energy triggered a surge of high-temperature plasma that
went along the regenerating fracture and caused the explosion. Earth is
constantly drawing energy from space. Various ways are used for throwing back
energy surplus. Using fractures is the most simple way.
Such geophysical developments always have a negative effect on the bodies and minds of those who happen to be around, according to Valery Vasiliev. He points out that the duty operators at the Chernobyl plant (they minimized the effects of the disaster) performed in a truly heroic manner. All of them passed away. They were accused of neglect causing uncontrolled runway of the reactor. The results of tests conducted in hospital should have cleared the operators of all the allegations. The tests showed no traces of natrium-24, a neutron component, in their blood. If there really had been an uncontrolled runway of the reactor, the blood tests would have shown the presence of the above neutron component.
Debkafiles - A virtual nobody on Iran’s national scene, Tehran mayor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, 49, was picked by Iran’s radical Islamic leaders and swung ahead of the presidential race to deal “the heaviest psychological blow to Iran’s enemies.” Those words were uttered by the new president in his first post-election statement Saturday, June 25. They attested to the fact that Iran had chosen him as its tool for getting back at the Bush administration for seeking to bring regime change and democracy to the Middle East and Iran in particular.
Everyone but the radical wire-pullers in Tehran was surprised by the victory of a candidate whom most of the Iranian electorate had never heard of. He beat the familiar former president Hashemi Rafsanjani by a resounding 62%: 35%. But nothing had been left to chance. Ahmadinejad was thrust into the presidency by careful engineering, organization and the deployment of every single cog the powerful machine of the heavily centralized government could muster. The Revolutionary Guards in which the candidate once served as an officer was brought into play. With the help too of massive vote-rigging, the ruling clique could cynically claim to have achieved regime change through the ballot box - only it turned out to be more Islamic, more militant, and more Iranian than before.
DEBKAfile’s Iran experts note that this is the second victory Iran’s unelected spiritual ruler Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has scored against Washington in a month.
In early June, the Bush administration quietly gave up hope of the European-Iranian diplomatic track – or even UN Security Council penalties - persuading Tehran to relinquish its nuclear weapons program. The European option was dropped after of Britain and Germany edged away from a showdown with Tehran over uranium enrichment. The notion of UN sanctions was set aside when it became obvious that China and Russia would veto a Security Council oil embargo against Iran.
(This tidal shift in Washington’s posture was first revealed by DEBKAfile on June 13:
Washington gives up on Iran’s nuclear bomb, therefore backs ElBaradei’s reappointment. article)
Having faced down the United States and Israel in this issue, the Islamic regime came to the conclusion that there was no power on earth left to interfere with its progress towards achieving a nuclear bomb. The Bush administration had meanwhile changed course and opted to strike the Iranians on their home front:
1. By backing an ethnic Arab uprising in Khuzestan, the province that produces 80% of Iran’s oil. This revolt is turning into an Arab guerrilla war against the Iranian rulers –sustained mainly by American, British, Iraq, Kurdish support and assistance from the Gulf emirates Abu Dhabi and Kuwait. However, the Khuzestan rebels are not strong enough yet to stand up to the Iranian army or seriously damage Iranian oil production.
(The Khuzestan uprising was first exposed in DEBKA-Net-Weekly Issues 203 of April 22 and 204 of May 6).
2. By sending US Special Forces and CIA instructors to train Iraqi Kurdish fighters for combat in north Iranian Kurdish provinces, in the hope sparking an uprising there too. (This move was also first aired in DEBKA-Net-Weekly 204).
3. By initiating active steps to change the regime in Syria. Tehran believes the Bush administration is bent on toppling Syrian president Bashar Assad and views the forced expulsion of Syrian troops from Lebanon under extreme US-French pressure as one of those steps. Iran’s rulers are not prepared to witness the downfall of Assad who is regarded as ally and backer of their protégée, the Lebanese Hizballah with political, diplomatic and logistic aid.
4. American action to hamper Iran’s air freight of arms to Lebanon has succeeded in gaining Ankara’s consent to close Turkish air space to those flights. Iranians see this step as another mark of American hostility, like -
5. American pressure for Hizballah to disarm and dismantle the more than 10,000 rockets pointing at Israel. Tehran needs those rockets to stay where they are as its second-strike military capability on the shores of the Mediterranean and a deterrent to Israeli attack. Attempts to remove this menacing array are viewed as a direct assault on Iran’s strategic interests.
6. The US demand for Hizballah units to pull back from southern Lebanon and distanced from the Israeli border. Tehran views Hizballah’s redeployment as the removal of its military threat against Israel and the severance of the group’s collaborative ties with Iran-funded Palestinian terrorist organizations operating out of Damascus and Beirut, like the Jihad Islami and Hamas.
With this mindset prevailing in Tehran, the Rafsanjani candidacy was bound to be rejected by the radical Islamic rulers as soon as he began voicing pragmatic willingness to talk terms on the nuclear issue with the United States, pledging greater freedom for national minorities and spreading words of encouragement to reform advocates including students.
Iran's President-Elect Calls for Moderation - 'Peaceful' Nuclear Rights Asserted – June 27, 2005
TEHRAN (Washington Post) -- Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former militiaman and military commander who will be Iran's next president, moved to calm global concerns about his hard-line politics Sunday, vowing at a news conference to "avoid any extremism inside the government" and to pursue "a policy of moderation."
In his first extended remarks since his stunning landslide victory in the presidential runoff election Friday, Ahmadinejad told Iranian and foreign journalists that his views had been distorted by rivals in the bitter race, and that foreign policy decisions under his administration would continue to be reached by consensus.
"We are going to stand firm. We want this technology, and we are going to have it" -- Iran's President-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. (By Raheb Homavandi -- Reuters)
Ahmadinejad repeated the longstanding government line on Iran's nuclear program, saying that as a party to the Non-Proliferation Treaty the country has the right to develop "peaceful nuclear technology." "We need this technology for energy and medical purposes," Ahmadinejad said. "We are going to stand firm. We want this technology, and we are going to have it."
But Ahmadinejad, a foreign policy novice, made clear that talks over the future of the nuclear program would remain in the hands of the current negotiating team.
"Your conception of a president who should be a jack of all trades is wrong," Ahmadinejad told a reporter who noted his lack of diplomatic experience. "The art of a presidency is good management." Britain, Germany and France have secured a promise from Iran that it would suspend a program to enrich uranium, a necessary step to produce nuclear power or nuclear weapons. The suspension was cast as a trust-building measure intended to reassure the rest of the world that the nuclear research Iran had kept secret for nearly two decades was not geared toward producing a bomb. Iran and the Europeans are still negotiating over the program.
The Bush administration, which, with Israel, has been most publicly skeptical of Iran's claims, has endorsed European efforts to negotiate a compromise that respects Iranian pride and entitlements while also verifying that Iran's program is peaceful. At a separate news conference, Hamid Reza Asefi, the spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry -- still led by Mohammad Khatami, the outgoing reformist president -- sounded a similar note of continuity. "Our detente policy will definitely continue, and I don't think our macro policies will change," said Asefi. "The nuclear talks are part of our macro policies, which we decide on by consensus. Changing the president will not change this."
Ahmadinejad, 49, is known for his loyalty to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran. Khamenei is said to have hand-picked the civil engineer to be Tehran's mayor two years ago, after conservatives unexpectedly prevailed in municipal elections. At the time, Ahmadinejad had served as governor of a small province and as an officer in two hard-line military groups, the Revolutionary Guard and the basij militia. Ahmadinejad repeated the position he often articulated during the campaign that Iran did not need to continue to pursue rapprochement with the United States. While other candidates said the restoration of diplomatic ties was key to Iran's economic development, Ahmadinejad echoed the rhetoric of the 1979 Islamic revolution, advocating self-reliance and orienting Iran away from the Western economic power. But while Ahmadinejad said that Iran had "no significant need for the United States," he nonetheless appeared to soften his earlier position. He denied telling an Iranian news agency that he would close Tehran's stock exchange on the grounds that securities trading amounted to gambling. Instead, he urged foreign investment -- all but barred for many years after the revolution -- and suggested changes that would coax small investors into the exchange. Ahmadinejad emphasized, however, that revenue from oil exports should be used to ease the lot of the poor. He sat before a banner reading "A cabinet of 70 million," the campaign slogan that, by referencing Iran's total population, evoked both populism and the corruption often associated with the selection of government ministers.
Ahmadinejad said that even after assuming office in August he would continue to live in the modest middle-class rowhouse that his campaign made a potent symbol of his honesty and humility. "He's a moderate man," said Rahim Khaki, a supporter who acted as an informal spokesman during the campaign. "He's in full coordination with the leader, and has the full support of the nation." Speaking to an American reporter as the news conference wound down, Khaki added: "He feels there are good potentials inside both Iran and the United States for a durable, stable relationship."
Iran's sham election- June 16, 2005
Washington Times - As Iranian voters get ready
to go to the polls tomorrow in the first round of presidential elections, the
avalanche of breathless media hype has already begun. We've been treated to
plenty of pontificating over the supposed "liberals" (the enlightened
ones who tell us what we want to hear about women's rights and political
freedom). To win, these liberals will need to fend off the evil
"conservatives" -- the most backward of the ayatollahs, men who won't
even give interviews to the New York Times pretending to be for democracy,
transparency and women's rights and opening up the economy.
all of this is a sham. Recent polls suggest that the Iranian people want
democracy and loathe the clerical dictatorship run by the Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei -- who will continue to control the country regardless of which of the
candidates on the ballot wins the election. (There may be a runoff election
between the top two vote-getters next week.) Iran's Constitution invests actual
authority in Ayatollah Khamenei, and stipulates that "All laws and
regulations" must "be based on Islamic principles." The
authority to determine whether a statute adheres to such principles is granted
to the Supreme Leader of the country (Ayatollah Khamenei) and the Guardian
Council, an institution where the supreme leader chooses most of the members.
In the current election, the council approved just six of the more than 1,000
candidates who sought to run for president. In short, tomorrow's election is
designed to ensure that the world is gulled by the pretense of democracy while
Ayatollah Khamenei and the clerics retain dictatorial control over the country.
One of the more bizarre things to watch will be the likely effort made by European Union diplomats to portray the favorite, Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani -- an ally of Ayatollah Khamenei who served as president of Iran from 1989 to 1997 and has been a mainstay of the regime since the 1979 Iranian Revolution -- as a moderate and reformist. It's simply nonsense.
facing page, Hossein Abedini, an opponent of the clerical dictatorship in Iran, describes an attempt by the regime to murder him in 1990, while Mr. Rafsanjani served as
president of Iran. Although Mr. Abedini and his organization, the National
Council of Resistance of Iran, are extremely controversial and have made many
enemies among rival Iranian dissident groups, the attempt on his life is just
one of many tied to Mr. Rafsanjani over the years. To take just one example, a
German court ruled that Mr. Rafsanjani and Ayatollah Khamenei, among other
Iranian officials, ordered the 1992 murders of Iranian Kurdish leaders at a Berlin restaurant. In December 2001, Mr. Rafsanjani hinted that it might not be such a bad
thing for Iran to target Israel with a nuclear weapon. The truth is that
whoever becomes Iran's next president will do the bidding of the Islamofascist
clerics who have ruled the country for 26 years.
Iran Steps Back to the Future – June 28, 2005
“As I was saying, isn’t democracy wonderful?’ joyfully exclaims a caricature resembling Condi Rice in yesterday’s Guardian. On the left of Martin’s Rowson’s version of the US secretary of state is an explosion labeled “Iraq”, while on the right stands Iran’s new leader holding a nuclear missile above his head. For me it succinctly sums up America’s failed policies in the region under the faux banner of spreading “freedom and democracy”.Not only is US policy not achieving the desired effect from Washington’s perspective, it appears to be producing a reverse backlash. If anyone harbors doubts about this, surely the Iranian election of a religious and political hard-liner is yet one more proof positive sign. Moreover, the fact that former Mayor of Tehran Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s spectacular electoral triumph caught the US and Europe napping, on the surface, says much about the lack of political expertise among so-called Western Mideast specialist advisors.
Indeed, American and European leaders seem so bound up with regional minutiae that they appear to have forgotten the basic principle of “every action has a reaction”, which clearly applies to the state of play in today’s Iran. The accent here is on “appears”.
Prior to the arrival of the neocon/born again bandwagon on Pennsylvania Avenue, a research paper on the Brookings Institution website written by Suzanne Maloney and dated June 2000 is headlined: “Elections in Iran: A New Majlis and a Mandate for Reform”. Writes Maloney: “After a campaign marked by bitter factional rivalries and unprecedented public liberties, Iranians went to the polls on Feb. 18 to elect a new Parliament. They handed an overwhelming victory to the advocates of reform and a humbling setback to the stalwarts of the revolution.”
Five years on, Iranians appear to have completely swung the other way with the stalwarts firmly in the driving seat, leaving wealthy modernizers, along with middle-class intellectuals, reformists and democracy activists contemplating packing their bags. What happened in the interim? Why has the public mood been so radically altered? Forget election fraud. The guy won by a whopping eight million votes.
Let’s go back to Sept. 14, 2001 when hundreds of young Iranians, clad in black as a sign of mourning, held a silent candle-lit gathering in Tehran to pay homage to the thousands of victims of the terror attacks in the United States. At the time, AFP quoted one of those demonstrators as saying: “We wanted to show our solidarity with the American people, which is in pain.” Just five months later, in his first “State of the Union” address, George W. Bush singled out Iran, along with Iraq and North Korea, claiming these states “and their terrorist allies constitute an axis of evil arming to threaten the peace of the world”. An analysis on the BBC’s website “Iran and the Axis of Evil” dated Feb. 11, 2002 reads: “Iran’s inclusion in Washington’s ‘Axis of Evil’ has caused anger in Iran and consternation among several European governments.”
The BBC article predicts that the “Axis of Evil” concept “can only radicalize Tehran further, make the work of Iranian moderates and reformists far harder and, in the long-run destabilize the region.” All that has been achieved by reform and international engagement...”could be stopped and reversed by Tehran’s inclusion in the ‘Axis of Evil’”, it concludes. And that’s exactly what has happened folks! Now that this prediction has come true, should we conclude that the BBC is staffed with psychics? I don’t think so, this was merely common sense based on the “every action has a reaction” principle. But why did Washington get it so very wrong?
Let’s face it, if you go out into your garden and scream invective and threats at your neighbor while he’s mowing his lawn, you might want to consider the possibility of receiving an earful of expletives, a visit from a nice policeman or even a brick through your window.
Now given that Washington is choc-a-bloc with political talking heads, erstwhile institutions and think-tanks you might wonder why the US government didn’t similarly conclude that its Iranian strategy was doomed to fail — if, indeed, it wanted a free and democratic Iran that is. And this is the nub. Iranians could well have fallen right into a carefully laid trap. What if “call me Hashemi, I wanna be America’s buddy” Rafsanjani had come out on top in last week’s run-off poll? In a country where two-thirds of the population is under-30, the disco-type balls decorating the 70-year-old cleric’s campaign headquarters and the accompanying techno music should have lured the jeans-sporting youth to board his bandwagon.
But on this occasion, those hip accoutrements didn’t work with the majority of voters. While his bandana-wearing supporters were chanting “Disco Hashemi, freedom, democracy”, the majority of young Iranians were grooving to another tune, in an environment where Condi’s future as a poster girl looks bleak.
Instead, their budding hero was a simple man, who is committed to Iran’s nuclear ambitions for peaceful purposes, which is its right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and who vows to uphold their nation’s dignity. In sync with the “behind-the-scenes” ruling mullas, Ahmadinejad, while proclaiming his eagerness to cooperate with friendly nations, has virtually told the United States and its client state Israel (or is the other way around?) to shove it. In response, the Tehran Stock Exchange has dived, oil prices have gone through the $60 ceiling and foreign investors are suffering a bad case of the jitters.
The Guardian has quoted a British Foreign Office official as unflatteringly labeling Ahmadinejad as “a head case”, while another has referred to him as “a throwback to the early 80s”. Britain, along with France and Germany, has been instrumental in seeking a peaceful conclusion to the Iranian nuclear contretemps.
But does the US want a peaceful conclusion? Does Israel? Neither has come forward to cooperate with European efforts and there have been indications that one or both of those countries would like to see Iranian nuclear facilities bombed to smithereens, in the same way as Iraq’s was in 1981. The main obstacle to those ambitions has been objections from the international community. Hardly were the votes counted before Israel’s foreign minister called for a stern and unified international policy toward Iran. Iranian voters may have unwittingly handed Israel ammunition to succeed in that aim. Alternatively, Ahmadinejad’s may be posturing vis-a-vis Washington and Tel Aviv. It’s too early to tell. One thing is certain. The world and its wife are holding Iran’s self-styled “street sweeper” firmly under the spotlight.
Ethnic Arab Intifada Targets Richest Iranian Oil Resource – June 14, 2005
DEBKAfile - On the march against the Tehran regime since April, the ethnic Arab rebels of Iran’s southwest province of Khuzestan have for the first time struck an Iranian oil target. This attack, revealed here by DEBKAfile’s Exclusive Iranian sources, took place Wednesday, June 8. The guerrillas struck the new petrochemical installations of the Karoun Oil and Gas Production’s drilling and well services, east of the provincial capital of Ahwaz.
Saturday night, June 11, President Mohammed Khatami flew in to the restive region which supplies 80% of Iran’s oil output to assess the damage. Four hours after he returned to Tehran, Arab guerrillas detonated four bombs in Ahwaz – one at least by a suicide bomber - against the Iranian planning ministry near the governor’s seat, the central post office, the housing ministry and the home of the Tehran-appointed director of the local television station. At least eight people were killed, up to 35 injured Later Sunday, June 12, a busy Tehran square was the scene of another bombing attack, the first the Iranian capital had experienced in a decade. One person was killed, according to the Iranian interior ministry.
The Khuzestan Arab guerrillas, calling their movement Nahda (Renaissance), hit the two Iranians cities five days before the June 17 presidential election. They brought to a climax bombing attacks for weeks against trains, banks and government buildings - and most recently nightly shooting attacks on the Ahwaz campaign offices of presidential candidates Hashemi Rafshanjani and former Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsein Rezai. Nahda appears to represent a coalition of Khuzestan’s at least eight anti-government groups.
About two weeks ago, Iranian security arrested thousands of Arab community leaders in Khuzestan, releasing them later against bonds running into hundreds of thousands of dollars against their abstinence from anti-government activities. A second round of mass arrests took place Sunday. Khuzestani Internet links were also cut. The ethnic Arabs of Khuzestan, some 3% of Iran’s 67 million inhabitants, are now threatening to boycott next Thursday’s election. This organized protest by the 2 million Shiite Arab inhabitants of Iran’s most abundant oil center would be a severe blow for the Islamic regime.
Teheran has accused US and British intelligence of engineering Arab unrest in Khuzestan from across the border in Iraq. Iraq Kurds are also believed to be assisting the rebels. The Iranians countered two weeks ago by halting all Iranian pilgrimage to Iraqi Shiite shrines, virtually shutting their borders with Iraq. Iranian Arabs, mostly Shiites, had been making regular pilgrimages to Najef and Karbala in the last two years. Officials in Tehran accused US and Iraqi intelligence of recruiting these pilgrims and sending them back home trained for anti-government guerrilla action.
On April 22, DEBKA-Net-Weekly 203 lead article explored the Khuzestan Arab Spring offensive. On May 6, DNW 204 revealed that April 23, the Khuzestan Front’s No. 2 leader Said Taher Naamahad paid a secret visit to the White House.
Washington and Tehran (DEBKAfile) - The Bush administration has given up on the battle against Iran’s nuclear armament. This is the meaning of Washington’s decision to back the UN nuclear watchdog IAEA’s board vote Monday, June 13, to reappoint Mohamed ElBaradei as agency director for a fifth term.
Israel thus finds itself alone in the ring with the Iranian nuclear menace. Nothing now remains to stop Tehran attaining its goal of a nuclear bomb or bombs by the end of 2006 or early 2007 - except for the extreme eventuality of direct Israeli military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
The question is what brought about this drastic reversal in Washington? And why are Bush administration officials willing now to endorse ElBaradei after reviling him for four years (not forgetting the row over Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction) as responsible more than any other international agent for letting Iran run off with a military nuclear capability?
One answer is that US president George W. Bush’s team now believes time is running out too fast for preventive action to take effect – and not only on Iran.
Towards the end of President George W. Bush’s first term in late 2004, the mood in Washington was upbeat; a second term was seen as the chance to bring the administration’s military and diplomatic objectives to fruition. This has been replaced today by a sense in administration circles that the tough projects, like the campaign against al Qaeda, the Iraq war, the chances of thwarting the forward march of North Korea and Iran towards a nuclear bomb, the creation of an independent Palestinian state and an Israel-Palestinian peace treaty, cannot be resolved by 2008. There is a willingness to leave solutions in abeyance for the next occupant of the Oval Office.
Top officials Vice President Dick Cheney, defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld, secretary of state Condoleezza Rice and national security adviser Stephen Hadley are therefore busy consolidating the administration’s achievements to date and working on stopgap remedies that will hold up until after the next presidential election. Bush will then wind up his presidency on a high note and the public will expect his successor to solidify his gains. On Iran in particular, the Bush administration has concluded that turning back the clock on its nuclear bomb project is no longer realistic. Washington is therefore bending all its diplomatic and intelligence-related resources to the goal of delaying the actual production of the bomb as long as he is president. In adopting this posture, the Bush administration is not operating in a vacuum.
On the other side of the Atlantic, most of the European leaders on whom Bush relied are groping for solid ground. With the exception of French President Jacques Chirac, the European Union in early May threw in the sponge on the diplomatic strategy which Washington had adopted as the keystone of its effort to pre-empt Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. UK prime minister Tony Blair, who is hanging on by a thread after a disappointing general election in May - and not generally expected to last full term, is one of the few British politicians still staunchly standing by UK-US strategic collaboration on the Iranian issue. Blair is making a well-publicized tour of European capitals in the run-up to this week’s EU crisis summit on the anti-constitution groundswell and his assumption of the Union’s presidency for six months on July 1. But his foreign secretary Jack Straw, according to DEBKAfile’s Washington and Tehran sources, has been raring for some weeks now to inform the Iranians that Britain and Europe at large no longer oppose their nuclear designs. He is stopped only by Blair’s objections.
In Berlin, were it not for Gerhard Schroeder’s dire straits and impending snap election, his foreign minister Joschke Fischer would have long ago been on the same flight to Tehran as his British counterpart. Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi is fast losing points, while Chirac was set back critically by his country’s refusal to ratify the EU constitution. All in all, the health of the European alliance suddenly looks pretty fragile. This renders pretty futile the strenuous efforts Bush and Rice invested in the past year to mend fences with European leaders. Paradoxically, aside from the British premier, the French president is the only substantial European leader willing and able to ally himself with Washington’s effort to vanquish Iran’s nuclear ambitions, defeat Syria and bring the New Lebanon exercise to a positive conclusion.
But Washington is under no illusion that this support is enough for a uniform international front capable of eliciting UN Security Council economic sanctions stringent enough to deter Iran from implementing its nuclear plans. Even if this front was feasible, the prospect of sanctions recedes in the face of potential concerted Russian and Chinese opposition. The deepening animosities prevailing in relations between the White House and the Kremlin and Moscow’s assistance in Iran’s nuclear projects, including the sale of nuclear fuel and technology, makes a Russian veto of any Security Council penalty against Tehran more than likely.
China too is strengthening its economic ties with the Islamic Republic and sees itself as a big buyer of Iranian oil. Beijing moreover entertains objections in principle to UN sanctions. The heads of the Islamic regime in Tehran sense a major victory in the offing for their plans for a nuclear weapon. They see another eighteen to twenty-four months’ grace to complete their project undisturbed. For Israel, Washington’s quiet retreat from its campaign against an Iranian bomb spells disaster, the collapse of yet another vital strategic asset intrinsic to the Sharon government’s defense posture.
Korean nuclear olive branch - June 19, 2005
Scotsman - SOUTH Korea plans to send envoys to consult other participants in six-nation nuclear talks after North Korea's leader raised hopes of resuming negotiations. In an unexpected meeting with a South Korean official, Kim Jong Il said his communist regime could rejoin the nuclear talks as early as next month if the United States respected North Korea as a partner.
Kim Jong Il Holds Rare Meeting with Senior South Korean Official – June 17, 2005
Voice of America News - North Korea's leader, Kim Jong Il, has held a surprise meeting with a South Korean official who has been visiting Pyongyang. The meeting comes as Seoul continues to push its neighbor back to nuclear disarmament talks. Officials in Seoul say Pyongyang informed South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young of the unexpected meeting just hours before he was to return to Seoul on Friday morning.No details about the discussions were immediately available.
In this photo released from the South Korean Unification Ministry, South Korean Unification Minister Chung Dong-young, left, poses with North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, Friday
The meeting comes as Seoul is urging the North to end its year-long boycott of multinational talks aimed at dismantling its nuclear weapons capabilities.
Cheon Hyun-chun, with Seoul's Korean Institute of National Unification, says the importance of the meeting with the reclusive Mr. Kim should not be underestimated.
Mr. Cheon says Mr. Kim may use the meeting to convey an important message to South Korea.
Mr. Chung, who returns to Seoul later Friday, was in Pyongyang to attend celebrations commemorating a historic 2000 summit between the two countries.
EU in disarray over treaty freeze – June 17, 2005
BBC News - Sweden, Finland and Portugal have joined other EU members in postponing votes on the ill-fated constitution. EU leaders agreed on Thursday to extend the November 2006 deadline to ratify the treaty, which was resoundingly rejected by French and Dutch voters. EU President Jean-Claude Juncker, chairing the Brussels summit, said a "period of reflection" was necessary. Earlier Denmark, Ireland and the Czech Republic said they were postponing their referendums.
Nine states have ratified the treaty - only Spain so far through a referendum. Portugal has now postponed a referendum it was due to hold in October. In Sweden and Finland the treaty was to be put before parliament for ratification. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said it was important to consider why French and Dutch voters had rejected the constitution, but it was too early to abandon the treaty. "We don't want to give up the constitution, nor do we want to carry on with business as usual and pretend nothing has happened," he said. "We have decided to undertake a stock-taking exercise and have a wide-ranging debate amongst all Europeans. We can't, at the moment, forecast the results of that debate."
Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson said his country would not ratify the treaty unless France and the Netherlands held new referendums on it. "If they are not ready to go to their people again... well, then it has fallen by definition," he said. French President Jacques Chirac has suggested holding an emergency summit to discuss the EU's future. "In this new situation, can the union continue to expand without us having the institutions capable of making this enlarged union work efficiently?" Mr Chirac said. Mr Juncker, Prime Minister of Luxembourg, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, insisted there would be no renegotiation of the constitution, which needs to be ratified by all 25 member states. "We believe that the constitutional treaty has the answers to many questions that Europeans are asking, so we believe the ratification process must continue," he said.
Unlike other EU members, Estonian Prime Minister Andrus Ansip said his country would press ahead with ratification as it was a "good treaty for Europe and also a good treaty for Estonia". Mr Juncker said most EU leaders agreed that the bloc should honour its pledges to take in more new members. Romania and Bulgaria signed accession treaties in April paving the way for them to join in January 2007, although a one-year delay is still possible. Croatia's membership talks have been delayed because of a row over a fugitive war crimes suspect, General Ante Gotovina. Turkey is due to begin accession talks on 3 October, although politicians in several EU countries have voiced opposition to Turkey joining.
Europe turning cold on Turkey – June 13, 2005
ISTANBUL, Turkey — For Turks, the latest developments in Europe have been understandably dispiriting. At a European Union summit to be held later this week, all references to Turkey and other candidates for EU expansion have been dropped from the summit declaration. This comes on the heels of the rejection of a new EU constitution in recent referendums in the Netherlands and France, due at least partially to opposition to predominantly Muslim Turkey's joining the EU. Meanwhile, upcoming elections in Germany could bring into power the conservative Christian Democrats, who oppose Turkish membership in the bloc; and the presumed front-runner for the 2007 presidential elections in France, interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy, also opposes Ankara's EU bid. Even the new pope, Benedict XVI, has previously stated that he believes that Turkey integrating with Europe would be a "mistake." -for EU membership suddenly seems a whole lot longer.
"People have become quite worried about the tensions of the upcoming German elections and the [results of the] French and Dutch referendums," says Suat Kiniklioglu, director of the Turkish office of the German Marshall Fund. "They understand that the parameters of the game are changing."
What observers in Turkey and Europe are now asking is whether the EU's political disarray and the more pronounced opposition to Turkish membership in Europe will cause Ankara to reorient itself away from the EU and to ease up on the reforms it had put in place as part of its membership drive. "Political confusion in Europe ... could initiate a lot of soul searching in Turkey," says Kiniklioglu. It could lead to calls for everything from creating stronger alliances with [central Asia's Turkic republics] to opening up to the Middle East to getting closer to Russia, he says. The clearest reaction to the EU's internal turmoil so far has been a turn to Turkey's old ally, the United States. Realizing that his country can't put all its eggs in the EU basket, Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in Washington last week on a fence-mending trip aimed at restoring ties with the U.S. Despite the two countries' decades-long strategic partnership, Turkish-U.S. relations had hit a rocky patch for the past two years, particularly following Ankara's refusal to allow American troops through its territory at the start of the invasion of Iraq. "Having the U.S. as a strong ally increases Turkey's power in the bargaining process, because otherwise the EU will be able to push Turkey for 100% compliance in the negotiations," says Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. "If the EU sees that it's the only game in town for Turkey, it will see that it will be able to push for maximum demands. Come October [when accession negotiations with the EU are set to start], Turkey wants to be able to show Brussels that there's another game in Ankara."
For now, both Turkish and European officials are saying that membership negotiations will begin as planned. Speaking to parliament after the French and Dutch referendums, Erdogan said: "This result has nothing to do with Turkey's candidacy, we will continue on our path with the same enthusiasm." Erdogan Monday also brushed aside the report that references to Turkey were removed from this week's summit text. But Daniel Gros, director of the Centre for European Policy Studies, based in Brussels, says the recent events in Europe will undoubtedly have an impact on how the negotiations are managed and what direction they take.
One scenario that could gain ground in Europe is that of a "privileged partnership" being offered to Turkey. This would enlarge Turkey's role in the EU's commercial and foreign-policy activities, but keep Turkish workers out of Europe and give Ankara little say in European domestic affairs. Angela Merkel, leader of the German Christian Democrats, has been a strong advocate of this kind of arrangement. Turkey has said that it would not accept anything other than full membership in return for fulfilling the EU's requirements for joining the bloc. For now, the best path Turkey can take will be to continue with its political and economic reforms no matter what winds blow out of Europe, Gros says. "It will actually strengthen their hand because they can show that they had ben doing the reforms even without the guarantee of membership," he says. Kiniklioglu says, though, that the Turkish government will find it difficult to continue with its reforms if there is a perception that the EU is having second thoughts about letting Turkey join. "You could probably see a lot of reluctance by officials to implement even formally passed reforms," he says. "If the carrot is taken away and the road to the carrot becomes so uncertain, there will be a lot of pressure on the government to back off on reforms."
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