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Monthly Archives: March 2007

Biden and Hagel…in 2002

March 29th, 2007 - 8:36 pm

Every U.S. Senator believes he or she should be president. Just listen to them talk, and watch the way they walk; it’s obvious. They’re rarely called to account, but every now and then they write something, and it goes into the record, and then someone googles it out. So take a look at this very statesmanlike op-ed that Biden and Hagel wrote four and a half years ago. Notice they had no clue what would happen after the overthrow of Saddam. Notice that they bought into the Saudi view of life, namely that nothing of merit can be accomplished until there is some deal with Israel and the Palestinians. And notice they knew, long ago, that this would be slow,and we’d have to remain for quite a while. Ten years anyway.

So here goes, from the WaPo, December, 2002:

OP-ED: Iraq: The Decade After

This op-ed originally appeared in THE WASHINGTON POST on December 20, 2002.

IRAQ: THE DECADE AFTER

By Joseph R. Biden and Chuck Hagel

The United States will face enormous challenges in a post-Saddam Hussein Iraq, as well as broad regional questions that must be addressed. These are both matters that members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have been focusing on for some time. During a week-long trip to the region, we came away with a better understanding of the possibilities and perils that lie ahead.

In northern Iraq we saw the extraordinary potential of Iraqis once they are out from under Saddam Hussein’s murderous hand. New hospitals, schools, roads and lively media are testimony to the determination of Iraqi Kurds and to the bravery of coalition air crews patrolling the no-fly zone. Just a few hours’ drive from the oppressive rule in Baghdad, a freely elected regional government and legislature (which we were honored to address) are embarked on a path of clear-eyed realism. While neighboring countries fear an independent Kurdistan, Kurdish leaders appear committed to working together for a united Iraq. They realize they could lose everything they have built in the past decade by pursuing independence.

Although no one doubts our forces will prevail over Saddam Hussein’s, key regional leaders confirm what the Foreign Relations Committee emphasized in its Iraq hearings last summer: The most challenging phase will likely be the day after — or, more accurately, the decade after — Saddam Hussein.

Once he is gone, expectations are high that coalition forces will remain in large numbers to stabilize Iraq and support a civilian administration. That presence will be necessary for several years, given the vacuum there, which a divided Iraqi opposition will have trouble filling and which some new Iraqi military strongman must not fill. Various experts have testified that as many as 75,000 troops may be necessary, at a cost of up to $ 20 billion a year. That does not include the cost of the war itself, or the effort to rebuild Iraq.

Americans are largely unprepared for such an undertaking. President Bush must make clear to the American people the scale of the commitment.

The northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk is an example of the perils American forces may encounter. It sits atop valuable oil fields and is home to a mixed population of Arabs, Turkmen and Kurds. In recent years, Saddam Hussein has expelled Turkmen and Kurds as part of an “Arabization,” or ethnic cleansing, campaign. We toured a refugee camp housing 120,000 displaced people and heard countless stories of brutality and the loss of loved ones. Kirkuk could become the Iraqi version of Mitrovica, the volatile city in Kosovo where the U.N.-led administration has faced the dilemma of forcibly resettling people from various ethnic communities who have been evicted from their homes.

This is one reason why we will need our allies to help rebuild Iraq. Cementing a broad coalition today will keep the pressure on Hussein to disarm, build legitimacy for the use of force if he refuses, reduce the risks to our troops and spread the burden of securing and reconstructing Iraq. Going it alone and imposing a U.S.-led military government instead of a multinational civilian administration could turn us from liberators into occupiers, fueling resentment throughout the Arab world.

Iraq cannot be viewed in a vacuum. Disarming and stabilizing that country will be all the more difficult because of the unsettled regional environment, in particular the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While it is essential that the United States aggressively pursue Israeli-Palestinian peace on its own merits, doing so has ancillary benefits for the disarmament of Iraq. Simply put, we will make it easier for Arab governments to participate in, or at least support, our actions in Iraq if they can show their people we are engaged in the peace process.

Meetings with Israeli officials and Palestinian reformers led us to believe new opportunities exist for American diplomacy. Recent polling shows that nearly three-quarters of Israelis and Palestinians seek reconciliation and a two-state solution. For the first time since the violence began, a majority of Palestinians support a crackdown against terrorism as part of a peace process. A large majority have no confidence in Yasser Arafat.

The key is to empower Palestinian reformers and encourage Arab moderates. President Bush should lose no time in publicly endorsing the “road map” developed by the Quartet — an informal group of mediators on the Middle East from the United States, the United Nations, the European Union and Russia. The road map provides for a series of reciprocal steps to jump-start a renewed peace process. That would give hope to Palestinian reformers and send a clear message to the Arab world that the United States remains determined to pursue an Israeli-Palestinian settlement even as we deal with Iraq.

Working on multiple fronts poses a difficult test for American leadership, but there is no escaping the fact that we face several related, interlocking crises in the region. As the bulwark of freedom and democracy, the United States faces the need to disarm Saddam Hussein and set the stage for a stable Iraq, win a protracted war on terrorism and engage fully on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Working with our friends and allies, it is a challenge we can, and must, meet.

###

Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) is chairman and Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

© 2003 The Washington Post Company

I’ve received a couple of comments in response to my claim that the Iranians are paying Syrians to convert to Shi’ism, and paying them to do it.

Here is one story about it, from an excellent journalist, Olivier Guitta:

Here’s the key part of the article:

“Another country, which is also clearly a target of Iranian proselytizing, is Syria. According to some recent reports, Iran gives $10,000 to each Syrian family that converts to Shiism. Noted Middle East expert Amir Taheri recently acknowledged what he calls the “Iranization” of Syria.

For instance, Syria has lifted the ban on Shiite proselytization and therefore allowed hundreds of Iranian mullahs to convert Syrian Sunnis, including huge numbers of Alawites, President Bashar Assad’s own sect. Iran has also set up 11 centers of Khomeinist indoctrination in cities other than Damascus and, according to Taheri, as of last September, 17,000 Syrians had enrolled to follow classes there. Last but not least Taheri noticed the number of men and women in the streets conforming to the Khomeinist “look.”

I’m crashing on a book right now and don’t have time to hunt down the Taheri article to which Guitta refers, but it’s enough enough to find it.

Hope this helps.

Our Dear Friends, the Syrians

March 27th, 2007 - 5:16 pm

So here’s a really startling story from al-Reuters

March 27 (Reuters) – Washington estimates up to 90 percent of suicide bombers in Iraq enter the country via Syria which has not acted to stop this flow of attackers, the U.S. State Department’s Iraq adviser said on Tuesday.

David Satterfield, who is Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s key adviser on Iraq, said Syria had an obligation to stop “jihadists” crossing into Iraq where suicide bombings are an almost daily occurrence.

He estimated 90 percent of suicide bombers in Iraq were foreigners and while the mix of nationalities changed, some 85 to 90 percent of them crossed over from Syria.

“They (suicide bombers) see Syria as a more accommodating country through which to transit across the border to come into Iraq to perpetrate their terror,” Satterfield said in a speech to the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, .

“It has to stop, it is not in Syria’s long term interests to let this violence continue,” he added.

Let’s work backwards, starting with that idiotic last line about Syria’s interests. It is dead wrong. Syria has clearly judged that it is very much in its national interest to support jihad in Iraq. That’s why they’re supporting–and no doubt are involved in recruiting and training–the suicide bombers.

You’d think they’d have figured that out by now, but people like David Satterfield, who recently got kicked in a tender part of the male anatomy by the Iranians at a Baghdad conference, still somehow wants us to believe that if only the Syrians behaved just a little bit better, they’d get better relations with us. Which MUST be what they really want.

Not. They want us killed, humiliated, and driven out of the region so they can extend the range of their depredations. Assad knows that terrible things will happen to him if he cooperates with the United States, because his own country is very much in the grips of a massive Iranian operation. Lots of Syrians are now being paid by the mullahs to become Shi’ites, and there is a big contingent of Iranian Revolutionary Guards there as well.

There is still no sign that the senior people at Foggy Bottom have the vaguest understanding that we are at war. It’s still business as usual for them.

The “Rogue Elements” Hoax Redux

March 25th, 2007 - 3:30 pm

Sometimes I think the MSM journalists coordinate their memes. Time Magazine talks about the Revolutionary Guards in the same misleading way as the BBC. After pointing out that the British hostages were taken by the Revolutionary Guards Naval Forces, Time “explains”:

The IRGC is a powerful, separate branch of the Iranian armed forces. Soaked with nationalist ideology, it has grown into a state within a state in Iran, with its own naval, air and ground forces, parallel to official government institutions. The IRGC is directly controlled by Supreme Leader Ayatullah Ali Khamenei, the ultimate font of religious and political power in Iran. The IRGC also has its own intelligence arm and commands irregular forces such as the basij — a voluntary paramilitary group affiliated with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad — and the Quds force, which has been accused by the U.S. of supplying material to Iraqi insurgents bent on killing American soldiers. The IRGC is also known for its clandestine activities including logistical support for militant organizations like Lebanon’s Hizballah, which it helped to set up in the 1980s, and several Shi’a militia groups in Iraq. The IRGC’s activities are often a thorn in the side of Iran’s Foreign Ministry, which is forced to repair the ruptures in Tehran’s diplomatic relations with countries the Guard has inflamed with its self-directed adventures. Nevertheless, it has been one of Iran’s main instruments in projecting power and influence over the last few decades.

Because the IRGC’s actions are always interwoven with the religious-nationalist ideology of Iran’s hardliners, extricating the British may be complicated.

Time would have us believe that the IRGC are something other than the regime–look at all the heartburn they create for those poor diplomats at the Foreign Ministry. And unlike the rest of the government, the Revolutionary Guards are tied in to the wackos, the “religious-nationalist…hardliners.”

One should ask Time’s journalists just what exactly they believe this regime is, if not a bunch of religious fanatics. Religious fanaticism is what the Islamic Republic of Iran is all about, and has been since its creation by that great Islamic Fascist, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The IRGC was created in order to protect the regime from anyone who might prefer freedom to Islamic Fascism, and to extend the domain of the Islamic Republic outside Iran’s borders.

The IRGC IS the regime, not some aberration.

The “Rogue Elements” Hoax

March 25th, 2007 - 11:20 am

One gloomy morning at the State Department a very long time ago, a colleague brightened my day by saying “you know it’s a good thing we don’t have an embassy in Tehran any more.” “Why?” I asked. “Because then we’d have to read yet another cable saying “yes, it’s true these guys are bad, but we’d better support them because if they fall, the extremists will take over.”

There are several variations on this theme, ranging from “if only Stalin knew what his people are up to, he’d take care of it,” to “well you know he (pick your dictator) can’t control some of these crazy people.”

The latest version is the attempt to portray the various aggressive actions of the Revolutionary Guards and its Qods Force as independent of the true leaders of the regime. The BBC has long excelled at peddling this nonsense, and trots it out again this morning.

Iranian political scientists say there are factions in the Revolutionary Guards who are spoiling for a fight – extreme hardliners who think if a confrontation with the West is inevitable it is better it happen over the nuclear issue than Iran’s human rights record.

But for the most part, the BBC contents itself by repeating the old cliches of moral equivalence: Khamenei’s fierce New Year’s speech is equated with Bush’s “Axis of Evil” address, and what-can-you-expect-from-the-poor-darlings-since-the-ugly-americans-have-backed-them-into-a-corner?

It’s ridiculous. Khamenei’s speech was cut from the same cloth as hundreds of similar tirades going back to Khomeini’s teachings long before the overthrow of the shah. And the notion that the Revolutionary Guards are in any way “independent” is utterly fanciful. Outfits like the BBC are running from the truth as fast as possible, trying to paralyze the West. Just like Nancy Pelosi and the fat ex-Marine from Pennsylvania.

Most Amazing Story of the Year?

March 24th, 2007 - 9:50 am

From U.S. News & World Report, by far the best of the American weeklies, comes an amazing story. Captain Ed at Captain’s Quarters has also remarked on this report.

It dates from early last September. The facts are pretty straightforward:

5-73 Cav was conducting a joint border patrol of the Iraq/Iran border with soldiers of the 2nd Battalion, 1st Brigade, 5th Iraqi Army Division east of Balad Ruz. During the conduct of the patrol, the patrol observed two Iranian soldiers run from Iraq back across the Iranian border as they approached. Later, the patrol came upon a single Iranian soldier on the Iraqi side of the border who did not flee.

As the patrol was speaking to the Iranian soldier, they were approached by a platoon-size element of Iranian soldiers. An Iranian border captain informed the joint Iraqi and Coalition force patrol that if they tried to leave their location the Iranians would fire upon them. While talking to the Iranian border captain, the patrol was engaged by Iranian forces with smallarms and RPG fire. The CF Soldiers returned fire to break contact and left the area to report the incident. The Iranian forces continued to fire indirect fire well into Iraq as CF Soldiers withdrew; for reasons unknown at this time, the Iraqi Army forces remained behind.

In other words, Iranian troops lured a joint US/Iraqi border patrol unit into a trap, ordered them to remain where they were, and opened fire on them with pistols and grenade launchers. The Americans fought back and got away. The Iraqis, for reasons unknown, stayed there.

It’s hard to say whether the Iranians were trying to kidnap or “just kill” the Americans of 5-73 Cavalry.

For me, there are two fascinating questions.

–First, was this the first time for such an event? Was it unusual to find Iranian soldiers–presumably in uniform, otherwise how could we tell they were “soldiers”?–running back and forth across the border? And, to followup, why didn’t we attempt to arrest the one guy, instead of chatting him up?

Apparently, our policy changed after this, leading to the arrests of several Iranian military officers later in the year.

–Second, were the Iraqis in the “joint patrol” in cahoots with the Iranians? It does sound that way, doesn’t it? Or were they paralyzed by fear and unable to move?

A great story. I’m trying to get answers, but kudos to U.S. News.

The Latest Imaginative Reportage from al-AP

March 17th, 2007 - 6:19 pm

From our favorite story tellers:

Delayed nuke plant bolsters Iran resolve

By ALI AKBAR DAREINI
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

BUSHEHR, Iran — For Iranians across the political spectrum, delays in construction of Iran’s first nuclear reactor have become proof that they have to master their own nuclear technology and resist U.N. efforts to stop them. The reactor, already eight years behind schedule, is now snagged on what Iran calls a politically motivated business dispute with longtime ally Russia.

Frustrated Iranian officials says the dispute has made them even more determined to pursue every part of the cycle that can produce either reactor fuel or fissile material for a warhead. Iran also says it wants even more than before to be able to build its own nuclear reactors without outside help.

“The pattern of Russia’s behavior has strengthened Iran’s determination to obtain the full technology to build nuclear power plants and end its dependence,” conservative lawmaker Kazem Jalali told the Associated Press on Saturday.

Ali Akbar Dareini has three or four guys who echo the last line, but “Iran resolve” requires more than a few names. This from the same al-AP that considers the tens of thousands of teachers and workers who demonstrated across the country the past week or so…marginal.

So three-four guys is a national reaction, but tens of thousands is a nuisance of nobodys.

I wonder what the deep thinkers over at Foggy Bottom make of it all?

I know, I know, it’s St Patrick’s Day, they are all celebrating…

Just read this email I received this morning:

We the political parties of Balochistan-Iran passionately appeal to you to take the necessary actions urgently to stop imminent execution of an innocent 17 years old Baloch teenager Mr. Saeed Kamberzai by the Iranian regime.

According to yesterday’s press interview of Zahedan’s well known anti Baloch MP Mr. H. Shahryari there are 700 Baloch detainees in the hands of armed and security forces who are in the execution queue which this teenager is one of them that his photos along many others released by the government local TV today.
It is reported that he is in imminent danger of being executed by hanging in Zahedan by the regime. He was sentenced to death without any shred of credible evidence. He was charged with utterly non-substantiated allegations of being involved in outlawed activities!
His mere age is a clear indicator of non-existence of justice for oppressed people of Balochistan under the Islamic Republic of Iran. The innocent Baloch teenager Mr S Kamberzai’s only crime is his family relation with a Baloch fighter. It shows that his arrest was arbitrary and all the alleged charges are fabrications. Hence his trial speeded up contrary to all standard norms of fair trial in everywhere in the world, except in Iran. His trial unquestionably mounts to a summary trial and inhumane sentence of execution.

Baloch people In Iran are discriminated in all aspects of life, even in the process of provision of justice. The Iranian regime made the situation in Balochistan dire and people are made subject to draconian measures. Arbitrary mass arrest followed by sever torture, summary trials of Baloch people in Balochistan is widespread as the acceleration of such unjust and cruel practices by the regime in the past few months on Baloch people is self-evident.

In the past month alone over a hundred innocent Baloch were arbitrarily rounded up and are being tortured and in Zahidan jails. Every week there is execution of innocent Baloch people. The regime carries these inhumane executions in public places with full publicity to terrorize Baloch people in order to succeed in bringing them into submission.

We once again with tress and urgency kindly appeal to you to be very prompt to take appropriate steps for necessary actions in order to spare 17 years innocent Baloch teenager Mr Saeed Kamberzai from imminent execution in the hands of the Iranian regime.

We look forward to your kind and humanitarian response to our appeal and for your active involvement in saving 17 years innocent Baloch teenager Mr Saeed Kamberzai from imminent execution.

Regards,

1. Balochistan National Movement-Iran
2. Balochistan People’s Party
3. Balochistan United Front(Federal Republican)

The Death of Italy

March 15th, 2007 - 10:35 pm

I just sent in a real blockbuster to The Corner, a story that shows you what happens when sublime political correctness slides effortlessly into self-caricature. Here’s the stuff I sent to The Corner, and then I’ll have a couple of comments:

Never Mind Demography, Italy Died Today

It’s the end of Italy as we knew and loved it. Something called “The Garantor forst issued an edict, which has immediate effect, forbidding “all information organs” (that means us, all of us, even the New York Slimes) from spreading stories that:

1. Refer to private behavior that has no public interest (which, for any normal Italian, does not exist by definition. ALL private behavior is publicly interesting in my extended experience in that country);
2. Concern facts, details and circumstances that go beyond the essentials of the information;
3. Deal with details of private lives of persons in violation of the protection of their “sexual sphere” (I particularly love that one, and I find myself asking where I can go to buy a good sexual sphere).

This will be published in Friday’s “Gazzetta Ufficiale,” which gives it full force, and penalties will range from 3 months to two years in jail, and entitle anyone who feels his/her privacy (or sexual sphere) has been violated to sue for damages.

I know you can’t believe it, and you’re thinking I must have mangled the translation, so here it is in the original:

Il Garante per la protezione dei dati personali nel provvedimento vieta «con effetto immediato» a «tutti gli organi di informazione di diffondere notizie, in particolare quando:
1) si riferiscano a fatti e condotte private che non hanno interesse pubblico;
2) riguardino notizie, dettagli e circostanze eccedenti rispetto all’essenzialità dell’informazione;
3) attengano a particolari della vita privata delle persone diffusi in violazione della tutela della loro sfera sessuale».
Il Garante sottolinea inoltre che «la violazione di tale provvedimento, che sarà pubblicato domani nella Gazzetta Ufficiale, costituisce reato punito con la reclusione da tre mesi a due anni ed è fonte di responsabilità per una eventuale richiesta di risarcimento danni.

My Comments:

When I studied Italian, way back in the mid-sixties, I discovered that there was no word for “privacy”; indeed, when the idea crept in to Italian life, it was just lifted from English. The Italian word for privacy is “privacy.” For a long time, the very idea was alien to tradition, and in many parts of the country it still is. In Naples, for example (about which I have just finished writing a book), privacy has long been simply impossible, because the density of the city, and lack of anywhere to hide for all but the wealthiest Neapolitans, means that most everything that happens is seen (and most definitely heard) by someone, usually by lots of someones. Furthermore, like most normal human beings, Italians love gossip, and one of the attractions of Italian newspapers and magazines is that they are full of it. I mean, the word Papparazzi isn’t English or German, is it? That should tell you something.

This “Garantor” was created to protect personal data from snoopy investigators, marketers and, I rather suspect, scholars, especially sociologists. It might also have something to do with banking information. It is part of the European regulation of all aspects of human activity, part of the deadening of the European mind.

We are very jealous of our privacy, but we are also zealous about the protection of the free press, for all its evils. The Italians seem to be taking the first and chucking the second.

I don’t think it will stand up, but I can’t wait to read the editorials tomorrow morning.

It was in the logic of the situation, after all. Rats scrambling off the sinking ship, etc. And now we have even more:

This story is doubly interesting. First because Colonel Shirazi, a Qods Force officer serving in Iraq (don’t tell the Washington Post or the New York Times, they don’t believe such people exist, or, if they do, if they actually work for the regime or are just out there on their own, Iranian cowboys, etc.), can contribute more information about the Iranian terror network. And second, because his apparent defection could well be a part of the War of the Persian Succession. His father was murdered by Rafsanjani’s people some years ago.

And Ken Timmerman has heard about yet another defector! Yet another Pasdaran officer, a General Soltani. He went to Bandar Abbas…and disappeared.

Has the CIA hired Jack Bauer? Or are all these worthies on the beach in Tel Aviv? I suppose we will find out some day. Or not…

Meanwhile you might enjoy the thoughts of America’s greatest non-living spook, which I posted on NRO earlier today.

Happy Wednesday evening. It’s fun, watching them all run, isn’t it?