Saturday, May 02, 2009

RIP, friend Alia

The world lost one of it's brightest stars when God reclaimed one of his greatest creations in Alia Darrow. She left our world, and it's woes, for paradise on April 21st, 2009... way too early for us.

Rest in peace, my friend. You live on in my heart, my writings, and in my head. Like your family, I shall try to do you proud.

Me? MataHarley? I can be found as one of the Flopping Aces authors.

Monday, July 07, 2008

When cultural worlds collide
The duel over dual (religious vs civil) courts

When the Archbishop of Canterbury gave a lecture on civil and religious law… from the religious perspective… at the Royal Courts of Justice on Feb 7th of this year, I was quick (as were the media and other bloggers) to hit the “publish” button with my opinion. I figured this is a “no brainer”, right?

Certainly the Archbishop has taken more than his fair share of criticism in the wake of his published opinion. But first, let’s establish just what the Archibishop said as perspective: You can read his lecture, linked above. But I’ll pull shorter summaries from a report about his interview with BBC on his website.
The Archbishop made no proposals for sharia in either the lecture or the interview, and certainly did not call for its introduction as some kind of parallel jurisdiction to the civil law.

Instead, in the interview, rather than proposing a parallel system of law, he observed that "as a matter of fact certain provisions of sharia are already recognised in our society and under our law" . When the question was put to him that: "the application of sharia in certain circumstances - if we want to achieve this cohesion and take seriously peoples' religion - seems unavoidable?", he indicated his assent.

Since February, I’ve been watching to see just how the UK was going to respond to what appears to be the advocation of a dual court system (however the Archbishop doth protest...). I certainly got a whiff of the latest news - first on our Independence Day when The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Phillips of Worth Matravers, weighed in on the issue in a speech to a Muslim audience at the London Muslim Centre, saying that residents of Wales and England had to accept the laws as they found them.
“There is no question of such [Sharia] courts sitting in this country or such sanctions being applied here.

“So far as the law is concerned, those who live in this country are governed by English and Welsh law and subject to the jurisdiction of the English and Welsh courts,” he said.


“Those who come to live in this country and benefit from the rights enjoyed by all who live here also necessarily come under the same obligations that the law imposes on all who live here.”

He stressed that Muslims were free to practice their religion without being in conflict with UK laws, but that some Sharia court sanctions (i.e. flogging, chopping off hands, stoning, executions) were clearly not applicable to Muslims in the UK's jurisdiction. All in all, sounds like a strong statement, yes? As the infomercials say... but wait! There's *more*!

Let's get a bit of groundwork leading up to this most current debate. One might say it came to the forefront (again...) just a month before when Dr. Suhaib Hasan, a judge in an east London Sharia court... yes you heard me right, a judge in an existing Sharia court in London... started pushing for integrating Sharia law into the British legal system, saying if Sharia law is implemented, this country will be a haven of peace."
Dr Hasan, who has been presiding over sharia courts in Britain for more than 25 years, argues that British law would benefit from integrating aspects of Islamic personal law into the civil system, so that divorces could be rubber-stamped in the same way, for example, that Jewish couples who go to the Beth Din court have their divorce recognised in secular courts.

He points out that the Islamic Sharia Council, of which he is the general secretary, is flooded with work. It hears about 50 divorce cases every month, and responds to as many as 10 requests every day by email and phone for a fatwa - a religious verdict on a religious matter.

Dr Hasan, who is also a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain on issues of sharia law, says there is great misunderstanding of the issue in the West.

In fact, the first English Muslim court opened for business in 1982. Since then, they've grown to ten courts: three in London, others in Birmingham, Rotherham and Dewsbury. Unlike the hardline courts in Islamic law Muslim nations, they handle more mundane and financial issues according to Muslim beliefs.
Speaking to The Times, Suhaib Hasan, from the Islamic Sharia Council, who also acts as a judge, said his organisation receives 10 to 15 e-mails a day about different aspects of Sharia, from inheritance to marriage.

“From the beginning, people have wanted our services. More and more come back to us,” said Dr Hasan. “Each month we deal with 20 cases.”


Though their rulings have no basis in law, participants abide by them voluntarily and often settle their disputes without referral to British law authorities.

I certainly think the "haven of peace" bit from Dr. Hasan escapes me with his argument, but I sure got the idea that he wanted that "no basis in law" bit to change so that their rulings can be accepted as legitimate in British law. Which seems rather one sided as the Sharia law doesn't appear to accept English law decisions (i.e. divorce) with the same legitimacy.

Naturally we all make leaps to Sharia court decisions that are the height of western injustice. One relatively "tame" example might be the 28 year old Malaysian woman who's husband converted not only himself, but their three children to Islam without telling her. Then he forced her into a Sharia law court for a divorce and custody terms. As a non-Muslim in an Islamic law nation, she did not have the Malaysian constitution on her side.

Then there are the more brutal sentences associated with Islamic law, an example of which is the Afghanistan student, sentenced to death in Feb of this year for downloading and distributing a report on abuse of women in Islam, and asking for a debate.

But this is not the first time the Sharia court debate - or in fact it's Jewish court counterparts - has been raised. Canada also has it's history of addressing the same problem, and a recent Feb 2008 article by James Sturcke on the Guardian blog, gives us a recap.

After Canada's 1991 Arbitration Act, both Catholic and Jewish communities set up faith based tribunals to alleviate the back log of court cases on divorce, inheritance and custody issues. In 2003, the Islamic Institute of Civil Justice announced it's intention to follow suit for the 400K Muslims in Ontario.

Needless to say, da sheeeet hit the fan and the protestors hit the streets in Canada. And that included many Muslims averse to the prospect... such as Iranian Homa Arjomand, who organised International Campaign Against Sharia Court in Canada, saying that such a creation would set back Canadian law by 1,400 years.

Premiere Dalton McGuinty equalized all with a stroke of a pen, deciding to ban all faith based arbitrations in Canada in 2005.

I admit I had no knowledge of the existence of the Jewish or Catholic courts in other countries. Even Australia's Melbourne has a Jewish court, and in 2005, Australia underwent the same debate Canada did - also rejecting the proposal. Under the circumstances, Canada's Premiere McGuinty did exactly as he should... separate *all* church and state courts.

Back to Britain's current day debate and the pros and cons. As was pointed out, there are already 10 Sharia courts operating in the UK today. Those that have benefited are those caught between two cultures and Muslim lands. i.e the cases of divorce. In Islam, unless the husband says he divorces you, women cannot remarry. Thus Islamic women can obtain UK or Australia civilian divorces, but they are not recognized by the Muslim faith, and are not free to remarry.

In this instance, an Islamic woman's divorce thru western civil courts gives her no relief. In order to claim her rights and status as an unmarried woman, she must go thru the Sharia court. One might almost say that the lack of those courts is actually denying her a right to be divorced according to her religion. ahhhh... the plot thickens.

On the flip side, some of these same Islamic courts have taken overstepped the bounds of sensibility by taking their justice into the criminal realm as well, freeing some London Somali youths accused of stabbing another.
Youth worker Aydarus Yusuf, 29, who was involved in setting up the hearing, said a group of Somali youths were arrested by police on suspicion of stabbing another Somali teenager.

The victim's family told officers the matter would be settled out of court and the suspects were released on bail. A hearing was convened and elders ordered the assailants to compensate the victim.

"All their uncles and their fathers were there," said Mr Yusuf. "So they all put something towards that and apologised for the wrongdoing."

As is usual with most our debates, what appeared to be a "no brainer" issue is actually clouded by legitimate concerns on both sides of the religious court debate. But one overwhelming issue remains at the center. If Sharia courts are granted some legitimacy with British law, where does that legitmacy begin and end? How can one draw a dividing line between the more mundane financial and divorce decrees, and those that may then tread on a UK citizen's human rights?

And more importantly, should we be setting up these "compromise" legal systems anyway?

Which brings us to today's latest from the London Times, "The Sharia debate: we can't all be equal under different laws", where journalist Matthew Parris was less than bowled over the Lord Chief Justice's speech to the Muslim audience.
“Equality” is a dummy concept in the philosophy of law. Here it allowed both speaker and audience to overlook real differences between them, because everyone is in favour of equality. But Lord Phillips was wrong to say that only recently has English law developed a respect for equality. Common Law and Statute have always regarded everyone as “equal before the law”, but depending on who and what you are and what you've done, your rights may differ. A cat burglar and a householder are not equal before the law.... snip

The only interesting question is whether these inequalities are fair and in the public interest. This must depend on moral and cultural standpoints, which change over time. The argument about “equality” for (say) women who wanted the right to vote, gays who want the right to marry, slaves who wanted to be free, or convicted paedophiles who want the right to be considered for employment in children's homes, has only and always been about the suitability of these categories to enjoy the rights urged for them; not whether the law should be “equal”.

No more than English law does even the most brutal Sharia advocate “inequality”. It simply reflects a cultural belief that women are different. Lord Phillips ducked that by taking equality as his theme.

Certainly Parris has valid points here, for women's rights in Islam are far from equal... even in divorce. But it is later on that he brings this down to a subject near and dear to both my own, and Wordsmith's, hearts. And that is this whole collide of cultural worlds highlights nations created of a subset of hyphenated citizens, each adhering to, and demanding, a different perspective of laws.
But the second claim that Lord Phillips endorses is more dangerous. Decoded, Dr Williams is saying that in a multicultural society it is fine for people within a culture to agree not to exercise certain rights, even if English law would allow them to.

This is a charter for male dominance. It's a charter for cultural bullying; for peer-group pressurising; for self-oppression.... snip

Peer-group pressure and cultural bullying. Yes, that can describe America's prevalent affirmative action mentality in a nut shell. We already see the resurgence (and worse yet, acceptance) of hypenated Americanism as this 2008 POTUS election progresses. We, ourselves, have a large constituency of American Muslims who may see both the benefits, and pitfalls, of attempting to force a legally recognized Sharia court in the US.

The burning question is, will we see this same battle come to our shores? And how will that legalized "hypenating" affect our nation's unity?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Blogging at Flopping Aces now!

As of June 5th, 2008, the illustrious posse at Flopping Aces has invited me to become a regular contribution author there.

As most other authors are either post, or current serving military - plus the lovely activist, Skye - I am humbled by the company I am now keeping.

So if you're looking for me, do check out the FA site, and comment away!

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Supremes: The road to todays SCOTUS opinion

I've been reading the 134 page SCOTUS opinion Boumediene vs Bush, and archiving previous related decisions. So I thought I’d post this to complement Curt’s post at Flopping Aces, The Nation will live to regret what the Court has done”, Here I’ve filled in some of the blanks that led to today’s close decision, and included some of the arguments from past referenced cases.

First… disclaimer. I am not attorney. But I’ve written a few briefs for per se appearances, and read more than a few briefs in my time. I guess you could say I consider it an S&M hobby… But I’ll stay mostly generic, and use excerpts. Law, as we all know, has varying degrees of interpretations of absolutes… as our Supreme Court exhibits flawlessly. Justice may be “blind”, but it’s also in a constant state of conflict.

This legal battleground has endured incoming since Coalition of Clergy, et al. v. Bush, et al In February 2002, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California held:

That court dismissed the petitions for writ of habeas corpus on behalf of the absentee detainees for two reasons. One was that the petitioners themselves did not have standing. The other was that the court ruled it did not have jurisdiction as Cuba retained sovereignty over Gitmo. The opinion recaps history in the first pages, stating the sequence of events as below:

Denying membership in the al Qaeda terrorist network that carried out the September 11 attacks and the Taliban regime that supported al Qaeda, each petitioner sought a writ of habeas corpus in the District Court, which ordered the cases dismissed for lack of jurisdiction because Guantanamo is outside sovereign U. S. territory. The D. C. Circuit affirmed, but this Court reversed, holding that 28 U. S. C. §2241 extended statutory habeas jurisdiction to Guantanamo.

The Supreme’s reasoning for reversing has everything to do with Gitmo’s base status and the lease agreement for Gitmo with Cuba, originally struck in 1903.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Obama Spending and Lessons from Venezuela

Faced with shortages of food, building materials and other staples, President Hugo Chávez is intensifying state control of the Venezuelan economy through a new wave of takeovers of private companies and the creation of government-controlled ventures with allies like Cuba and Iran.

The moves come just months after voters rejected a referendum to give the president sweeping constitutional power over the economy and public institutions, leading to new accusations that Chávez is more interested in consolidating power than in fixing Venezuela's problems.

And while he has argued that aggressive action against the private sector is needed to correct social injustices and fight soaring inflation, his critics say his moves are instead compounding those troubles.

Above are excerpts from an Int'l Herald Tribune article - Chávez tightens reins on Venezuelan economy - just a month ago. It has some disturbing rumblings of familiarity... most especially that final sentence.

Obama, the likely DNC candidate, has tax incentive proposals on his possible Oval Office desk for $50 billion into energy venture capitalist funds, $150 billion for more biofuel issues, doubling existing science and research for clean energy products, doubling existing federal funding for research on job creation, more federal workforce training programs, distressed home owners funds, quadrupling Early Head Start funding and increasing existing Head Start funding, $5 billion for transitional jobs for the low income, and creating an Affordable Housing trust fund.

And... oh yeah, all of rural America should have high speed internet. Hasn't he heard of Directway?? And is he proposing we put a net satellite in orbit for those that those who do not have a shot at the southern skies satellite? Boy won't that be a pretty penny.

Then of course, we can't leave out the most overt large scale government creation - universal health care.

The above programs are merely a drop in the bucket for a President Obama spending frenzy, in conjunction with his merry bank of progressives leading the House and Senate. It has to be obvious even to the blissfully oblivious that Obama will be one expensive President to maintain. With cronies in charge of Congressional purse strings, what way is there to stop America from becoming a total welfare state, such as Cuba or Venezuela?

We hear little of the big spending Obama plans in the media. Instead, mesmerized by his appealing baritone, we're to get all a'twitter about a middle class tax cut. So do we get the new x% tax cut on the amount we're at now *with* the Bush tax cuts? Or will Obama increase our taxes by letting the Bush cuts expire, *then* give us our x% cut? Makes a difference, don't you think? We might just come out in the wash with it all. But it sure makes for good campaign fodder amongst the true believers.

Reality is Obama's cuts won't mean much difference in the large scheme. The taxes to be added on for all his desired programs have yet to be tallied for the public. By the time he's done with his socialist program reforms we will have redefined a large portion of America's economic class - combining raised lower classes with the lowered middle class, and creating a newer, larger lower-middle class. Whether that's good comes from where you are sitting now.

Reading thru a President Obama's plans of a socialist USA on his website, I have to wonder just how long will it be before we see excerpts, like above, about the US and Obama instead of Chavez and Venezuela? The propositions of both leaders are eerily parallel in substance and end goals. They share the belief that the fix all for economic problems is by government seizing profits - whether by de-privatization, or by taxes - and redistributing to the masses. And certainly Obama's youthful adulation of Frank William Marshall is just one more troublesome association to add to his other collection of raging pastors, US terrorist bombers, sleazier than usual real estate investors, and a magically, squeaky clean mortgage CEO from the financially troubled Countrywide Mortgage.

Before we step hastily into an Obama socialist quagmire, we would be wise to observe, in real time, some serious lessons from Venezuela. Chavez - despite serious financial woes - is not abandoning his Marxist dream. Instead, he continues to consolidate ultimate state power by going after productive private businesses. Even using his own version of the US's "eminent domain" by offering some, if not low, compensation.

Still, Chávez is pressing ahead with the takeovers of companies big and small. These include Sidor, a large, Argentine-controlled steelmaker; cement companies owned by Mexican, Swiss and French investors; more than 30 sugar plantations; a large dairy products company; and a sprawling cattle estate on the southern plains.

Chávez has avoided outright confiscations of private companies, by offering some compensation, but the terms of these deals are growing increasingly contentious, with the president threatening to withhold payments. In Sidor's case, the company had asked for up to $4 billion in compensation; Chávez is giving it $800 million.

Needless to say, Venezuelan business owners aren't feeling comfortable these days. Even small business are feeling the pinch. From an AP article just two days ago:

Mirina Kakalanos has been forced to double prices at her family's shoe store in the last year. Customers turn away after browsing the pumps and sandals, but Kakalanos says she has no choice.

"There is less money coming in, and more costs to cover," said the 40-year-old mother of three, whose Greek immigrant father opened the shop after moving to Venezuela in search of a better life. Now she barely makes enough to get by.

Gas is cheap in Venezuela. But before you get too envious, that's only a part of the story. Or, as Rory Carroll, reporting from Caracus, put in in his Jan 2008 article in the Guardian:

Venezuela, a major oil producer which introduced the subsidy as a populist measure in the 1940s, is probably the most extreme case of a gas-guzzling dream becoming a policy nightmare.

A lack of rigs and other problems has reduced the output of the state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, just as domestic consumption has soared to 780,000 barrels a day. The subsidy costs the government around £4.5bn annually. It also encourages a brisk trade in contraband petrol across the Colombian border, where prices are higher.


Some economists call the subsidy "Hood Robin", because it steals from the poor and gives to the rich by favouring relatively wealthy car owners above the poor who rely on public transport.

Oil revenues to the state has tripled since 2004 to $63.9 bil, and account for 50% of the nation's budget. Chavez has also taken over the electricity and phone utilities in the name of the state. There is no doubt the palace is awash in govt cash. This should be good for a socialist nation, right?

Wrong. What Chavez didn't pump of govt cash into his neighborly FARC terrorists, political buds, and other similar human scum, he funneled into welfare/social programs. Fresh with "free money", the population went into a spending binge and banks increased lending... all atop the booming new car purchases (500,000 sold last year alone, population of 25.5 mil)

But now life is different and the fruits of socialism are coming home to roose. With massive govt constraints and constantly morphing laws, foreign investments for business have fallen to record lows. There's food shortages, high unemployment, and serious inflation. Six years after Chavez came to power, the nat'l poverty level still was standing at 37%. Historically poor, it's not hard to understand Venezuelan's ran amok with free cash in fist.

In a desperate attempt to fix what is, and was inevitably going to, go wrong, Chavez's govt giveaway of oil money continues. Last month Chavez increased the minimum wage 30% (about $372 US). Still, only half of the Venezuelan's will see that raise in wages. Including a woman selling vegetables in an open market. Yorbelis Suarez says she pays three times what she did just two months ago for her stock.

Now Chavez plays with the currency to gain the upper hand.

As prices now climb again, Chavez's government has tried to tame the trend - issuing US$4 billion in bonds in April to absorb excess cash, enforcing price controls on basic foods and holding the currency to a fixed exchange rate. It introduced a new monetary unit in January to boost confidence in its sagging "bolivar," and changed the way inflation is measured, incorporating data from smaller cities with less cash on hand.

The Central Bank embraced a more traditional anti-inflationary measure in March, raising interest rates on credit cards to 32 percent and on savings deposits to 10 percent to slow consumer spending.

But inflation is galloping, with rates of roughly 30 percent after running at nearly 20 percent a year earlier. And some of Chavez's tactics have backfired.

Price caps have caused sporadic shortages, as some food producers sought other, more profitable work. And foreign exchange controls make it harder for businesses to get dollars to buy imports, driving them to buy the U.S. currency on the black market, where it has sold at times for twice the official rate - further inflating prices.

Investors complain that these restrictions - not to mention the fear that their lands or companies could be taken over by the government - are making it harder to do business in Venezuela.

It's no historic secret that communism/socialism/Marxist regimes are short lived failures that lead to poverty for unpriviliged masses. But still some leaders persist in bucking history.

Stanford Terry Karls says oil booms always results in rapid growth... until they reach what she calls "absorption crunch".

You just can't absorb that huge influx of money properly," Karl said. "You get problems with your prices, you get problems of supply. ... All those bottlenecks slow down growth and eventually create inflation."

And so it comes down to the economic unstability of socialism - internally and externally. It is a concept that only works in smaller, personal units, and where the resources are boundless. But the catch 22 is they have created a state where there is no incentive for foreign investment, and the production of Venezuala's wealth - oil - slows. There is no incentive for private enterprise from within to increase the govt socialist network. Much easier to sit back and "take". So the money supply is dwindling, and the consumption is rising. The gap will only widen until ultimate failure.

If socialist principles can not work in a country with 16% of our population, and one of the 10 largest oil reserves in the world, how can we expect a socialist America to survive with our consumption, our advanced technology, and our out of control immigrant population? Especially when you consider the largest percentage of our exports is commodities like transistors, aircraft, motor vehicle parts, computers, telecommunications equipment? All of which require importing of oil to manufacture.

And so we come to see what well be America's future under a President Obama, as reflected in Venezuela under Chavez's govt giveaway policies - or perhaps better described as life in Obama's proposed United States Socialist Republic.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Middle East two-step
and the Syria-Israel talks that "aren't"

There is no doubt that the bulk of the Middle East is in the middle of a two-step dance. The region, as a whole, stands on the brink of reforms and - using that massively popular catch word today - change. Whether those changes are for the good, only time will tell. But there is no doubt there are hotbeds of "talk" going on everywhere.

Lebanon finds itself not only sans President, but slowly being devoured by Hezbollah, demanding and receiving legislative veto powers. Meanwhile Hezbollah and Israel came to terms, via a German broker, for a prisoner swap - Israel is to receive the remains of the two Israeli soldiers captured in 2006, plus information on a missing Israeli AF pilot from 1986. In exchange Israel hands over "the longest-serving Lebanese prisoner in Israel, Samir Qontar, four other Hizbullah prisoners, the bodies of Hizbullah fighters and maps of mines planted by the Israeli Army in South Lebanon."

Pakistan is busy striking deals with the tribal militants, but honoring the terms seems optional for both sides. S. Waziristan militants insist they remain open for business as a "centre for jihad". Meanwhile the Pak leadership assures the US they will not be pulling the army out of the mountainous regions (violating the agreement), and the militants refuse to exile, or turn over, foreign militants in their midst (also violating the agreement).

Instead some tribal areas are now, effectively, under Taliban rule. A side effect, of course, hits Afghanistan - seeing increased terrorist attacks as Pak militants, temporarily playing nice on their soil, cross the border to reek jihad havoc in Karzai's back yard.

On other fronts, Abbas wants to talk to Hamas. And Ahmadinejad is sipping cha in Japan. Not to be left out of all the talking goin' on, Iraq and US officials wrestle with the base foundation of the two security agreements meant to replace the UN Security Council mandate that expires in Dec 2008. This, of course, has commenter Doug over at Flopping Aces in an apocalyptic tizzy in the "lull in Iraq news" thread, anticipating doom with each leak of yet another 2nd hand, hearsay detail on the undrafted agreements. We'll all have to be patient to see what comes just how much control (or restrictions) the US wants Iraq to possess over our bases and military personnel.

Each of these constantly morphing talk-spots has their own indepth stories unfolding, and short of a great Disney/Pixar flick, is probably the best entertainment around... if you can keep up with it all.

But what's caught my eye this week is the continued attempts at talks, negotiations, and/or appeasement using Turkish eyes between Syria and Israel. Or should I say sorta "talks". Or perhaps talks that really aren't talks, because no one's talking. And if they are, they aren't saying the same thing.

Today we find the media still hasn't got a clue, and the stories vary in this May 30th article from the Jerusalem Post, depending upon the source info. But, by all standards, the two States haven't thrown in the towel on their unofficial efforts. Reaching an agreement is a major step forward for transforming ME relations. It not only affords Israel an additional buffer in the region - a Syrian policeman, so to speak - but puts a rift between Hezbollah, Iran and Syria. And there would be one more "sorta" western ally in the ME fold.

To add to the confusion, a May 21sth media account from Haaretz says that effort went down in flames "following Israel's refusal to hold talks on an official level - and a Syrian refusal to restrict the talks to an "academic level". But an Islam Online account the same day seems to indicate the efforts are still underway.

If we read today's June 6th Asian Times, it appears that the talks do seem to have some underground life - despite all the media confusion. More than interesting in this account is that Iran is rather miffed with Syria's steps closer to not only Israel and western allies, but also towards other modern Arab states.

What with chasing our tails on the carousel of conflicting info, it's almost impossible to confirm exacatly what is going on between the two. These vague "secret meetings", but done with full knowledge of Israel and Syrian officials (huh?), were (and still are?) considered indirect. (underline emphasis added for Obama fans...) They were meant to create a principle of agreement as a "non-document" ... or "a document of understandings that is not signed and lacks legal standing", and is political in nature. And all of this has been going on, in some fashion off and on, since 2004. So to avoid misinformation on specifics that no on can agree on as fact, I'll speak in generalities.

The historic bone of contention with Israel and Syria has always been the Golan Heights borders (using territory as of June 4th, 1967), water (Sea of Galilee, Jordan River, and Lake Kinneret), and Syria's promise to end support for Hezbollah and Hamas, plus distance itself from Iran.

Israel's Olmert is ready to give up the Golan Heights, despite the objects of the Israeli's (70% per those pesky polls...). Israeli's firmly believe this is Olmert's way of diverting attention from accusations of accepting bribes from a US businessman. 18,000 supporters of the Jewish Golan settlers have promised to bolt the coalition of Olmert gives away the territory.

Israel's motivation for a tentative peace with Syria... as long as the price is not too high to accept... is self-evident. They remain an island in the Middle East under constant threat and assault. But what is Syria's motivation in bolting the Hamas/Hezbollah/Iran fold?

Certainly, in the wake of Israel's bombing of the suspected Syrian nuke site last year, and their only partial cooperation with the IAEA to inspect other sites, they have first hand experience that Israel doesn't hesitate to exercise preemptive strikes when they feel it's warranted.

But Syria has other reasons. And it comes down to simply economic survival and oil.

Syria is a non-OPEC oil producer. And the oil output of Syria, and other non-OPEC members (including Bahrain, Oman, Yemen) has been steading dwindling in the past years. Add the fact that al Qaeda strikes in Yemen have hindered their oil exploration, effectively scaring off companies who would willingly come in to increase production.

Syrian Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Sufian Alaw worries that the decline, due to technological problems and depletion of reserves, will lead to Syria soon becoming an oil importer instead of supplier. Tho Syria is not an OPEC member, they are dependent upon the organization for defense of their oil prices. With the rising costs of oil, and the effect of int'l sanctions on Syria, they are taking some economic hits that do not envision such a rosy future.

Thus Syria has been playing both sides... on one hand, they show up at the Annapolis Middle East Peace Conference last year, as if to prove they do not take their marching orders from Tehran. On the other hand, they assure Iran that a working alliance with the west will not cause them to abandon their Iran/Hezbollah and Hamas allies.

Yet it is these half-hearted steps that has the US, which has previously opposed Israeli-Syrian chats, now stand neutral and without major opposition. Bush recognized that Syria had the most to gain by peace with Israel, enabling a lifting of the isolation imposed by the beltway since 2003.

As far as Hezbollah, giving up support for them is not so costly for Syria, per Joshua Landis of Syria Comment. In an interview for CFR discussing the possibilities of such a peace between the two states, Landis points out that if Israel willingly cedes Golan Heights back to Syria, they have no need to arm Lebanese Hezbollah for armed resistance against Israel. A very easy concession to make.

The one sticking point, per Landis, is Hamas in Syria. They cannot turn over Hamas leader, Khaled Meshaal. Turning away Palestine would be a "bitter pill" for the Syrians.

Syria faces a cross roads of what is their greater need... a tentative peace with Israel, and the financial relief of being a quasi-western ally, open to foreign investments? Or continued alliance with the enemies of the west, and a paralyzed economy. We already know they will concede... now it's to see just how much.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Obama's Chicago style diplomacy?
Corners Lieberman after critique

Jake Tapper sets the imagination a'whirling. His Political Punch entry today, "Obama Confronts Lieberman On McCain Advocacy, Tone, on Senate Floor", conjures visions reminiscent of 1900s Chicago mob bosses and their intimidation "diplomacy".

To set the stage, Lieberman had just finished a critique on the Senate floor of BHO's AIPAC speech on Wednesday - the day following his self-coronation - when Obama ushered him off to the side for some private "words".

Returning to the Senate after his securing the Democratic presidential nomination, Obama and Lieberman greeted each on the Senate floor in the Well as they were voting on the budget resolution.

They shook hands. But Obama didn’t let go, leading Lieberman - cordially - by the hand across the room into a corner on the Democratic side, where Democratic sources tell ABC News he delivered some tough words for the junior senator from Connecticut, who had just minutes before hammered Obama's speech before the pro-Israel group AIPAC in a conference call arranged by the McCain campaign.

Watch video of the encounter on the Senate floor HERE.

The two spoke intensely for approximately five minutes, with no one able to hear their conversation. Reporters watched as Obama leaned closely in to Lieberman, whose back was literally up against the wall.

Neither party is officially talking. But while Lieberman spokesman Marshall Whitman says the conversation was "a cordial and friendly discussion" and Obama campaign spokesman Bill Burton says it was "private and friendly," Democratic sources tell ABC News that the conversation was a stern rebuke to Lieberman for his criticism of the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee on the conference call, as well as a discussion about how far Lieberman is willing to go in his advocacy of McCain, and the tone of the campaign.

The video link provided is a long shot, and captures only the part of Obama's firm clasp on Lieberman amidst the crowd, until they exit out of frame to the right. The rest is presumably constructed from witnesses. Tapper's accounting does rightfully deserve this caveat... the full encounter, nor the video, is not available on tape. So on can only guess what was said, and in what manner. I'll wager "body language" interpretators are going to have a ball with this one....

However this bizarre event, an obviously more virulent and younger Senator physically pulling the older and smaller Lieberman out of the crowd, and instead to a private wall, begs the most simple of observations. You can take the boy out of Chicago. But can you take the Chicago out of the boy?

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

DNC need for "exit strategy" dooms Hillary run?
Not so fast....

“We pledged to support her to the end. Our problem is not being able to determine when the hell the end is.”

Rep-NY Charles Rangel

Typical of the cowardly party that has neither balls, nor patience and loyalty. Per their own rules, he/she with the most delegates wins.

However, as a result of the last two primaries, neither Hillary nor Obama had the needed pledged delegates to cross the finish line. Obama declares victory, but only with the aid of promises from the super delegates.

One hitch... supers don't cast their official votes until the DNC Convention in August. And while they may promise a vote today, events tomorrow allows them wiggle room to change their minds - all within the wacky and hardly Democratic DNC rules.

This means Obama's strutting is truly premature... unless, of course, he and other party leaders force Hillary out against her better judgment. And evidently, they have.

Her decision came after a day of conversations with supporters on Capitol Hill about her future now that Mr. Obama had clinched the nomination. Mrs. Clinton had, in a speech after Tuesday night’s primaries, suggested that she wanted to wait before deciding about her future, but in conversations throughout the day on Wednesday, her aides said, she was urged to step aside.


Mrs. Clinton’s decision came as some of her most prominent supporters — including former Vice President Walter F. Mondale — announced they were now backing Mr. Obama.


The desire of the party for Mrs. Clinton to leave the race was signaled — if politely as four top Democratic leaders issued a statement on Wednesday morning asking all uncommitted delegates to make their decisions by Friday. The statement from the party officials — Howard Dean, the Democratic chairman; Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker; Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, and Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — stopped short of endorsing Mr. Obama, but aides said they would likely move in that direction if Mrs. Clinton lingered in the race.

“The voters have spoken,” they said in their joint statement released before 7 a.m., purposefully timed to set the tone for the day after the election. “Democrats must now turn our full attention to the general election.”

The voters have spoken? What BS... Obama is a super delegate creation. And not even an official one until Denver at that. But let's not get facts get in the way of railroading.

But the Democrats are not known for their endurance. And the lack of a Hillary exit strategy - or "when the hell the end is", as Charlie puts it - isn't giving the lily-livered, high-profile supporters much to go on. So the big guns come out en masse to bully Hillary out of the running. Just as they've done over and over on Iraq, the powerful DNC elite declare defeat early, and prepare to abandon ship.

Perhaps more admirable is the core Hillary base... loyal and feeling every inch cheated, swindled, and disenfranchised. They know the rules too. And they're having to face the fact that the "every vote must count" of their beloved party is nothing more than an meaningless, feel-good slogan, empty of meaning and implementation.

His Messiahship and the big guns have spoken. Still I wonder how they'll deal with inevitable, and likely severe, "buyers' remorse".

But there is still the glimmer of a chance. Hillary will officially "suspend" her campaign, and throw her endorsement to Obama. However "suspend" is entirely different than "end". This is being done in order for her to continue fund raising to pay off debts.

Or is it just a way to wait quietly in the wings without officially withdrawing in the race? Only time will tell. And if that buyers' remorse does set in prior to Denver, they may be very glad they couldn't shake the lady.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

6-06: Thought for the Day

For 40 years I've read and ad nauseum heard how we must respect the culture of this group or that, this country or that. But why is it the same proponents of "respecting other cultures" exhibit no respect for the unique American culture?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

World praises Iraq progress
DNC "stays the course" on "failed policy" rhetoric

Evidently the rest of the world isn't so consumed with Bush hate as they cannot acknowledge from Iraq's fledgling govt has accomplished against all odds.

A declaration adopted by 100 delegations at a Stockholm conference said the participants "recognised the important efforts made by the (Iraqi) government to improve security and public order and combat terrorism and sectarian violence across Iraq."

It also acknowledged political and economic progress made, and said that "given the difficult context, these successes are all the more remarkable."

In a speech earlier to the conference, Ban said Iraq was "stepping back from the abyss that we feared most," adding that with international help the war-torn country could fulfill its "vision of becoming a free, secure, stable and prosperous nation."

He cautioned however that "the situation remains fragile."

In the meantime, the likely DNC candidate for POTUS stubbornly "stays the course". Just two days ago, Obama has the "audacity" to speak thru his spokesman, Bill Burton, responding to McCain's offer for a joint exploratory trip to Iraq:

"John McCain's proposal is nothing more than a political stunt, and we don't need any more 'Mission Accomplished' banners or walks through Baghdad markets to know that Iraq's leaders have not made the political progress that was the stated purpose of the surge. The American people don't want any more false promises of progress, they deserve a real debate about a war that has overstretched our military, and cost us thousands of lives and hundreds of billions of dollars without making us safer."

Not confined to the Presidential hopeful, Pelosi herself regurgitated the same ol' line in an interview with the SF Chronicle.

Asked if she saw any evidence of the surge’s positive impact on her May 17 trip to Iraq she responded:

Well, the purpose of the surge was to provide a secure space, a time for the political change to occur to accomplish the reconciliation. That didn’t happen. Whatever the military success, and progress that may have been made, the surge didn’t accomplish its goal. And some of the success of the surge is that the goodwill of the Iranians-they decided in Basra when the fighting would end, they negotiated that cessation of hostilities-the Iranians.

Blind hatred and selfish arrogance in order to secure the nation's top political seat are qualities in a leader that requires the US voter to adopt a "willing suspension of disbelief".


On a side note, symbolic of Obama's refusal to even recognize, let alone honor, our military's success can be found at his Portland, OR rally... where literally the Obamabots "took a dump" on Portland's fallen law enforcement officers.

Brennan, who controlled the crowd near the Portland Police Memorial, noticed several Porta Potties set up in the middle of the memorial. Brennan had been at the site five days earlier for an annual memorial service and a flag was still set at half mast on the day of the rally.

"There was plenty of room elsewhere so space wasn't an issue," Brennan said. "So someone used some really poor decision making, whoever elected to put them there. I mean, it's somewhat hallowed ground, I guess you could call it."

After several days, Brennan attached a photo he took to a letter and e-mailed it to dozens of media outlets and the Obama campaign.

Brennan said officers haven't heard back from the Obama campaign. He said someone owes an apology to the families of the fallen officers.

The officer, of course, doesn't blame Obama personally. However it's ironically insightful that his followers are just as oblivious to the honor and accomplishments of those that serve as the "messiah" they follow.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

More "plans to bomb Iran"
Feinstein/Lugar briefed?

Truly a bizarre article in yesterday's Asia Times. Again the usual headline catches my eye - "Bush 'plans Iran air strike by August'.

But this article provides startling details... rather like predicting rain drops to the minute, journalist, Muhammad Cohen says to watch for a NYTs op-ed in the next few days by Senators Feinstein and Lugar, protesting the proposed plan.

Even more startling... if it does happen to be factual... is the amount of detail laid out to the awaiting targets. Like Saddam's warning months in advance, again the target has ample time to move the palace patio furniture, so to speak.

The source, a retired US career diplomat and former assistant secretary of state still active in the foreign affairs community, speaking anonymously, said last week that the US plans an air strike against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The air strike would target the headquarters of the IRGC's elite Quds force. With an estimated strength of up to 90,000 fighters, the Quds' stated mission is to spread Iran's revolution of 1979 throughout the region.

Targets could include IRGC garrisons in southern and southwestern Iran, near the border with Iraq. US officials have repeatedly claimed Iran is aiding Iraqi insurgents.

Cohen points to the Senate's majority vote resolution to declare the IRGC a terrorist organization as a precursor to the military action - used as part of defense of Iraq and the Quds Forces persistent interference.

One thing is for sure. If this has any fact to it, the NYTs should be running an article quite soon. If they don't, August isn't that far away to see the proof in the pudding.

I've long held this is a DNC pipedream. Short of this being some sort of a power play to force int'l action in the wake of the IAEA's unusually stern report this week, - ala good cop/bad cop - I still would find this highly surprising. With the int'l chess pieces of power on the political ME board morphing daily, it is a risky move indeed.

I guess we'll find out if my crystal ball is not only dusty, but made of cheap plexiglass.

Pakistan Update: Musharraf out?
Foreign fighters okay...

With the DNC bent on taking over all branches of US government, fulling overdue promises of "tough love" by yanking the US troops out of Iraq, ignoring Lebanon, and Pakistan's peace deals further inflaming Afghanistan under NATO's command, it can be said that Middle East allies for the US might be getting to be an endangered species.

Quietly behind the scenes, and out of the western media spotlight, Pakistan is steadily traveling the yellow brick road to rogue and defiant ally-in-name-and-money-only status... content just to silence bombs in their back yard while allowing Taliban/AQ and fellow ilk militants to ping pong back and forth across the Afghanistan border at will.

Two deals were cemented over the past month, involving exchanging of prisoners and, in theory, either exiling or handing over foreign militants. However S. Waziristan Taliban leaders have made it abundantly clear that they have no intentions of halting their jihad battles on Afghan soil.

“First, we will not accept such a ban. But we hope the peace deal will be inked without a clause that puts restrictions on mujahideen to cross the border (into Afghanistan),” Abu Zakwan, Taliban commander in the Kotkai area of South Waziristan, told Daily Times on Saturday. Using the alias of Abu Zakwan, the commander said that government negotiators are asking for a pledge to stop cross-border attacks, but the Taliban were not committing to such an agreement.

Jihad centre: He said Waziristan was serving the region as “centre for jihad” and people from across the country were being trained for holy war “against the United States”.

To date, the peace deals have not resulted in any militants of note being either expelled or turned over to the Pakistan govt. Indeed, all they've done is add to the terrorists in the region, using their get-out-of-jail-free cards as an exchange for Pakistan Army hostages. As predicted, the militants deny knowing of any foreign fighters' whereabouts. Mehsud claims they are not harboring Zawahiri, OBL or ilk. Indeed, he insists Bin Laden is dead. I've seen this story on quite a few blogs, however not one link to the original story works. Take away what you wish from that note.

Meanship Nawaz Sharif continues his pressure on PPP's Zardari to not only oust Musharraf, but calls for trials for sedition. In today's Khaleej Times, he suggests that Zardari's party has
agreed to expel Musharraf from the Presidency. Thus far, there has been no comment or confirmation from the PPP representative, nor PM Gilani.

One can safely say that Pakistan's efforts to curb jihad violence may offer temporary benefits for them... however making deals while they continue to foster jihad against the US doesn't benefit us, or the war on Islamic jihad movements, one bit. This would be the same US/Uncle Sam who's shelled out incentive cash, hand over fist, to Pakistan. And now, to add insult to injury, we're about to lose the rare military general ballsy enough to give a silent nod to US operations over Pakistan soil, and incur/endure the wrath of his country.

Pakistan, however, sees Obama with his incentive packages and "talk nice" coming. They have their hands already outstretched, whining that their anti-terror efforts on the behalf of the US
costs twice what the US pays in the Coalition Support Fund.

A US Government Accountability Office report issued last week said that of $5.8 billion in US support for anti-terrorism efforts in the Fata between 2002 and 2007, about 96 per cent had gone towards reimbursing the Pakistani military, three per cent on border security and one per cent on development aid projects.

Talking to Dawn, sources said the $5.8 billion Pakistan received from the CSF was reimbursement of what the country had already spent.

“It is not easy to deploy 100,000 troops in a troubled area,” said one diplomatic source. “Look, how the Americans are spending billions of dollars on maintaining troops in Iraq. If the Americans feel that the Iraq war is draining their resources, imagine how it affects Pakistan.”

I have to ask... just how many times has Pakistan has deployed troops, especially in that number? Last year was filled with western media, accusing Musharraf of not doing anything. Yet now we are to believe that they're in the red, deploying troops on our behalf at every turn? Apparently the Pakistanis believe the US should carry the financial load of maintaining peace in their own tribal regions.

There is a smidgen of validity in that argument, of which they will have no problems in convincing a naive POTUS Obama that smidgen is much larger in US dollars. Tho many tribal elders may not seek war against the US or the west, they do harbor and benefit from those who do. However Pakistan's internal battles did not begin with America's more prominent presence in the Middle East. Nor will they end when we withdraw and come home. Jihad was there before we came, and will always be there.

Come the era of a possible President Obama in the WH, there are very different positions on the ME political chess board now. NATO falters in Afghanistan, and NATO alliance countries refuse to pony up the needed troops. Iraqis and US forces in Iraq are making headway, but live under the threat of having their progress reversed the moment a DNC leader takes the oath of office. Lebanon is morphing before our very eyes, with the Hezbollah shadow puppet government becoming more powerful with their legislative veto powers just acquired. Last year, Iran has no nuke program via an NIE - a report Obama buys hook, line and sinker. But today even the IAEA is concerned. Still the int'l community that makes up the corrupt and anti-semite UN, dances around significant action. And Obama will make sure US actions are blessed by the corrupt before implementing.

Pakistan, already proving the appeasement path benefits only their own backyard, and that terrorists will not budge on the bigger battle of training jihad, will be perhaps the next President's biggest problem. A President Obama will make nice, pass over more cash, and
terrorists and dictators will continue to smile.

Fasten your seat belts, because we're in for a bumpy ride...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

PT I: Hezbollah & Clinton era DTSA...
6 Degrees of Separation?

May 22nd turned into an odd cascade of bizarrely related events. Greg Grant over at Tribal Wars drew my attentions to a WSJ article with his post ... Communications Networks and Irregular War. Simultaneously on the Hill, Hawaii's Sen. Akaka was giving a speech on Dodd's Export Enforcement Act of 2007. The link between these two events is not only a "six degrees of separation" convergence, but may potentially span events and whistle blowing from over a decade ago.

From Grant's Tribal Wars article:

You think irregular fighters realize the force multiplier effect of a secure communications network? An interesting article in todays Wall Street Journal details Hezbollah's victory in Lebanon. I found the bit about Hezbollah's comms network, and the lengths they went to wire the country with fiber optic, fascinating. After the fighting in 2006, it was obvious command and control was one of Hezbollah's strong points. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah apparently calls the network the group's "No. 1 weapon."

"Fascinating"? I was beyond fascinated... Something started clicking upstairs. More from the referenced WSJ article:

Hezbollah reached a bargain with the weak Lebanese government that essentially gave the Islamic group veto power in a new government to be formed.

The deal comes two weeks after Hezbollah flashed its military might by seizing Beirut neighborhoods to protest efforts to rein it in. The trigger was unusual: Hezbollah was expanding a secret communications network, and the government wanted it dismantled.

Okay... Hezbollah's getting a more powerful foot in the door with veto powers. Got that. But what was that about a "secret communications network"??

The catalyst for Lebanon's recent spasm was the government's discovery several months ago that Hezbollah was secretly expanding a network that could provide secure communications in times of battle. The network, the fight it sparked and Wednesday's resolution provide a dramatic illustration of Hezbollah's surging power in Lebanon.

Prime Minister Siniora ordered the network dismantled in early May. He also ordered the dismissal of an airport official his government labeled an ally of Hezbollah. After Hezbollah's violent response -- it seized neighborhoods, then handed them over to the neutral army -- the government was forced to rescind both orders last week.

To paraphrase the next events, the suspicions were raised last year when the Telecommunications Minister got a tip that there were spools of fiber optics being purchased in a southern Lebanon village. After investigations and reports of mysterious workers doing installations over private lands, they discovered that Hezbollah had expanded the network to over 200 miles... wireless, and safeguards to continue even if damaged in times of war.

State officials always knew Hezbollah had a wireless network communication system direct to Syria. However they thought it "limited" and not a threat. In fact, they had reported it to the UN some years ago.

However they had no idea the scope of the secret expansions - with miles of cable laid under the newly paved roads. A feat accomplished in conjunction with the
Iranian Headquarters for the Reconstruction of Lebanon, who's completed about 400 reconstruction projects in the country since 2006. Needless to say, the Lebanese government officials are most unhappy.

The telecom minister said some of the equipment was imported from "the West," declining to be specific. Lebanese officials also believe Iran supplied some.

Since the government's public challenge to the network, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has left little doubt of its importance. In a news conference May 8, he defended it as a vital weapon against Israel, whose occupation of southern Lebanon from 1982 to 2000 helped give rise to Hezbollah.

Calling the system Hezbollah's "No. 1 weapon," the black-turbaned leader declared that "it is forbidden to touch [anything] linked to the networks, whether an engineer, a company or a mayor. Touching them is like touching me."
Meanwhile, back on the Hill... Sen. Akaka says:

...snip... The U.S. export control system is a relic of the Cold War and does not effectively meet our national and economic security needs.

Recent examples demonstrate the challenges of controlling sensitive exports. Dual-use technology has been diverted through Britain and the United Arab Emirates, UAE, to Iran. A recent attempt by two men to smuggle sensitive thermal imaging equipment to China shows that Iran is not alone in its desire for sensitive technology. However, the effort to control the flow of dual-use technology goes beyond our borders. Working with the international community is critical as technologies which were once only produced in the U.S. are now being produced elsewhere.

Let's see. Syria, Iran, China, telecommunications, imports from west, US export controversies. I feel the dust blow off a few brain cells, filled with hazy memories... This is not a new story. YES! Got it! Dr. Peter Leitner. A Clinton era whistle blower who achieved considerably less fame, nor the revered iconic status awarded to la femme Plame. A rather warped reality when you consider Valerie's concern and "damage" was centered on, and confined to, her personal life. That's if you call book deals, movies and lucrative private enterprises... "damage".

But Leitner and his whistle blowing subject - export licensing - is considerably less sexy and appealing to Joe Q. Public. The nation was captivated with the dramatized "outing" of a domestic-based, paper-pusher-and-personnel-recruiting spy with a good set of gams. "Ho hum" about export licensing and a few radios, right?

So I once again dug out some old links under "Syria" I had stored for the Paul Sperry WND article, "US Equipped Terror Sponsors" back on Sept 12, 2001. Leitner was discussing how the Clinton admin "rubber-stamped the shipment of top-end military-related telecommunications equipment to Syria". Much of this article bears repeating today, almost seven years later.

"We're giving them spread-spectrum radios, which are almost impossible to break into. We're giving them fiber optics. We're giving them a high level of encryption. We're giving them computer networks that can't be tapped," Leitner said.

Spread-spectrum radios, originally designed for military use only, change their frequency constantly.


Leitner posits that the NSA wasn't able to detect the Islamic terrorists' plot because of the "high quality of the communications gear that they've been acquiring over the last couple of years, thanks to the Clinton administration's decontrols on advanced telecommunications equipment."

Terrorists' secured telecom gear "makes it infinitely more difficult to get even early warning signs" about their activities, he said.


"I've testified to Congress that it will take serious numbers of body bags before we wake up to the need to tighten dual-use export controls," he said. "Unfortunately, we've got them now."

"This is so tragic and yet so preventable," he said. "Now we're going to have to knock out their [terrorist] camps, just like we had to bomb the Iraqis several times now to try to take out the fiber-optics network that the Chinese are installing in Iraq's air-defense systems."

"Yet, it was the Clinton administration that gave the Chinese the technology to give to Iraq," he noted.

This was 2001. Just three months earlier that year, now under the early Bush admin, the Commerce Dept was still asking Leitner to okay "exports of dual-use telecom equipment to Syria".

He denied the request, and was asked to reconsider. He denied it again, arguing in a letter to Karen Vogel, the Commerce export licensing officer who requested the approval, that:

"Doing so vastly upgrades the C3 and C41 systems of the Syrian military and Intelligence Services. My concerns are also obviously compounded by the fact that Syria is one of the foremost state sponsors of terrorism."

Leitner continued: "Since an 'upgraded telecom infrastructure' will also greatly facilitate Syrian planning, coordination, secrecy and execution of terrorist acts, as well as direct military communications, I see absolutely no basis for any position other than a denial."

Vogel argued in an earlier letter that her request came on the heels of eight previous approvals of licenses for similar exports to Syria.

Which brings me back to the Hezbollah/Syria network. A network "secure in times of battle" suggests to me technology such as spectrum spread with it's random changing frequencies. Fiber optics? Could it be that this network was undetectable by Israel's usually superior intelligence? And, if equipped with masking technology, how likely is it that we, ourselves, managed to provide the very equipment that allows the enemy to... yet again...plot right under our noses? All this 7 years after 911?

Part II is the story, as much as I can piece together, of Leitner - both before this article, after and where he is now. What he had done and tried to do in the 90s, and what the Commerce and admin officials did to him.

But most importantly, what is the status today of these lackadaisical export regulations that allows the enemy to not only hide their plans, but potentially put dual use nuclear weapon technology within their reach?

Stay tuned for Part II... coming soon.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dangerous liaisons, oil & appeasement policy
A vision of our future?

There is a slow groundswell in the West. There is no longer a proud and defiant movement to battle the jihad movements who carried out, assisted, or cheered on the 911 bombers that hit US soil in 2001.Instead the US finds itself inexplicably drawn to appeasement foreign policy, driven by war weary denizens.

It is the military families who bear the sacrifices for the war. For the majority, Americans are unaffected… except now – in their minds - in their wallets. Not for the actual war spending mind you, but because of the link from Iraq to the rising price of oil worldwide.

And so we come to the odd 6 degrees of separation between dangerous liaisons, appeasement foreign policy and the price of oil. It's ironic that it will ultimately be gas prices that herd Americans thru the gates to appeasement. But years of "the war is lost" or "this war cannot be won militarily" have taken their toll on the dangerously misinformed US voter.

We are taught Iraq and Bush are the cause for oil prices. They listen to Cindy Sheehan, as she
continues the lie that Cheney still owns part of, and profits off of, Halliburton. Too many give a derelict Congress a pass. Increased global demands by a fast developing India and China, an ailing dollar, and topped with speculators fueling commodies are never factored into reality.

Facts tend to be inconvenient to political ends, and mean nothing to the disgruntled. They only know they are paying almost twice the amount they did last year for filling up their gas tanks, and seeing the effect domino into the cost of groceries. We are a nation of blame... as long as it's anyone but ourselves.

And any villain at hand will do. Mostly especially big oil - the industry America so loves to hate. Yesterday we had yet another rerun in Senate Hearings… just as in Nov 2005, Mar 2006 and May 2007, the oil industry execs appear for their annual reaming from Senators, diverting the attention from themselves to wealthy oil barons. Just as nothing happened back in 2005, nor in the decades before, nothing will again be done. But it makes for good political theatre in an election year.

As long as the US equates war on jihad elements with oil, they will support any and all attempts to extract ourselves from that battle... and hang the consequences. This same mentality that ties the two will curtain future military endeavors as a way to guarantee lower gas prices. Therefore a withdrawal from Iraq goes hand in hand with a new approach in foreign policy to accomplish that objective. Appeasement replaces military response.

Thus we come to a vision of our future. A world where our military hesitates to enter Middle East battlegrounds, and diplomats cut deals that ply our enemy with enough incentives to stop the bombs going off daily, achieving a false sense of relative peace.

Americans, desperate for a return to what they see as prosperity lost, are set to elect leadership that will lead us down the rosy path of appeasement foreign policy to accomplish just that end. Even more distressing, that trend is global in nature.

Obama, likely nominee (if you ask him), promises he will be an American President who sits down unconditionally with the enemy. Britain, formerly one of the US's strongest allies, has already placed a pacifist - PM Gordon Brown - at the helm who fits nicely with a President Obama's ideas. Brown has been busy making
appointments of diplomats that echo his own sentiments.


UPDATE 5/24/08 - Britain's Foreign Sec'y "queries" Obama's Iran policy

Well now, surprises never cease. While on the surface it appears an Obama Presidency would be a match made in heavey with Britain's PM Brown and Foreign Sec'y Miliband, it's even more likely (and frightening...) that Mr. Obama is too extreme even for the very liberal Brits in power. Oh my...

David Miliband (see "appointment of diplomats" link above) has met with all three Presidential candidates during a trip to the US this week, feeling them out individually on their foreign policy. Apparently, in as polite of terms as possible, he's not terribly impressed with BHO.

Exact accounts of the conversation with Mr Obama differ and there is certainly acute anxiety on the part of the British not to be seen as stoking political controversy in America’s presidential elections. In the past week Mr McCain has repeatedly hammered Mr Obama for what he claims is a “naive” commitment to hold direct talks with foreign dictators.


Mr Miliband, in a press conference with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, reiterated Britain’s support for the united front on Iran adopted by the US and its European allies, which he believes is beginning to pay dividends. “Our position, jointly, has always been that as long as Iran exercises responsibilities, then it will be able to forge a more productive and positive relationship with the international community,” Mr Miliband said.

An aide later told The Times that the Foreign Secretary was being very careful to avoid direct criticism of any presidential candidate’s positions. But the same source added: “We know Obama wants to engage more, but we don’t know what route he will take or what he means by ‘no pre-conditions’. It has not unravelled yet and, when it does, we will be able to see where it converges or conflicts with what we’re doing.”

A Foreign Office spokesman later said: “I just want to stress that David Miliband is not confused about Obama’s policy. It would be quite wrong to say that.”


Australia’s Kevin Rudd is certainly more reserved in military use than John Howard, the previous strong US ally. Tho Rudd remains a strong ally in Afghanistan, and rejects Ahmadinejad, he is still a question mark in the march to appeasement foreign policy.

Pakistan, now under the PPP, has already implemented Obama'esque appeasement policy. They have made
pacts with Baitullah Meshud in the S. Waziristan area, and finalizing a similar pact with the Maulana Fazlullah in the NWTA.

Mehsud has had Pakistan dancing to his tune over the past few months. At the beginning of the year, militants ravaged Pakistan with numerous suicide attacks and then suddenly proposed a peace agreement. Under immense pressure from its vulnerable domestic political and economic situation, Pakistan accepted the peace deal and then also accepted the militants' demand for the swapping of prisoners.

The world's reaction to Pakistan’s back room deals? Britain's Brown officials predictably applaud Pakistan's appeasement deals. The Taliban themselves are overjoyed. With the agreements, they have again reinforced their numbers, freeing 55 Taliban militants ranging in importance from the lowly fighter to commanders. As if freedom wasn't enough, Islamabad also "paid a sum of 20 million Pakistani rupees (US$287,000) to the militants."

We all must wonder - was the money paid to the freed jihad terrorists provided by the US for their cooperation in the global war on jihad movements? And will future appeasement deals – paying freed terrorists - also be funded by US incentive money? Such is the ugly reality of striking “deals” with the enemy.

A few of these jailed militants are former guests of Club Gitmo, including Muslim Dost. Mufti Yousuf is again running around free, while Maulana Abdul Aziz of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad is expected to be released soon. A fighter who promises to drive Pakistan to a Islamic revolution.
Where is the sanity in the Pakistan government letting loose a fighter, determined to evoke revolution?

Qari Ziaur Rahman, another freed militant they say is destined to become legendary, was also released in exchange for Pak military hostages in the Meshud appeasement agreement. Ziaur is in charge of Taliban finances.

The few not applauding this foreign policy movement is the current WH administration, and those countries who will be most affected by this “illusion of peac” - countries (like Afghanistan) who end up with these beasts proliferating in their own back yard because of another country's "truce". Other traditionally liberal countries, also directly affected with an increasing Muslim immigration that refuses to assimilate, have elected new, more conservative leadership (i.e. Italy, France and the Netherlands). Apparently, for those on the direct receiving end of these kinder/gentler tactics, it’s only a matter of time before the truth hits - one side of the parties only honors compromise.

As the US, as well as other western nations, start caving in to the appeasement trend, what is it we can expect from "peace" with such men, again running free? Do we assume that their hatred of the west dissipated with their release? Will the west be left alone if the US pulls out of Iraq, but stays in Afghanistan?

These beliefs are the delusions of the hopeful and naivel. The Taliban and other jihad movements, fresh off a propaganda victory, are recognized, forgiven, released *and* compensated for their "unjust" confinement. They have reprieve to regroup, re plan. Only this time, they may enjoy new financial and political incentives to bolster their cause. They already head back to their respective battlefields, relishing their second chance to fight the US and the west.

The bombs may go dormant in Pakistan and other places temporarily. But the new wave of global leaders, embodied by a President Obama, leads us to a fool’s paradise. A world of dangerous liaisons where the enemy has been enabled financially, politically and militarily by us - their targets. Time is not on our side.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

UPDATED: Pakistan cuts 2nd "appeasement" deal
Afghanistan royally PO'd

Here we go. Round #-who-can-keep-count. AP's Riaz Khan's headline screams "Pakistan, Militants agree to Peace Deal" in the NWFP, including the hotbed of activity in Swat.

A senior minister in the government of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province said the two sides sealed the 15-point plan on Wednesday during talks in the provincial capital, Peshawar.

Militants agreed to recognize the government's authority, halt suicide and bomb attacks and hand over any foreign militants in the area, minister Bashir Bilour told reporters after the talks.

In return, the government will release prisoners and make limited concessions on the demands of the cleric, Maulana Fazlullah, for the imposition of Islamic law in the region, he said.

Bilour also said that the army would "gradually" withdraw from the area - a key demand of the militants.


Ali Bakht Khan, an envoy for Fazlullah, called on the government to release 202 of his associates from custody within the next two weeks.

"We will follow this agreement and shall cooperate to bring peace to Swat," Khan said.

It was unclear whether either Fazlullah or his commanders, whose men allegedly beheaded captured soldiers and pro-government elders, would face any punishment.

Ah yes, there's that we-will-impose-Islamic-law-and-you-will-not-interfere bit. The common denominator among terrorists. Needless to say the Taliban are happier than a pig in a poke about the negotiations. And why shouldn't they be? The aces fall mostly into their hands. However what comes to mind is again, Barry Rubin's article in the Israeli Insider, where he said:

If the dictators and terrorists are smiling, it means everyone else is crying.

But note this deal bears remarkable resemblance to the truce with Baitullah Mehsud's little deal last month. Per an
April 24th, 2008 Dawn news blurb:

Pakistan closing in on pact with militant Mehsud tribe PESHAWAR, Pakistan, April 25 (Reuters) - Pakistan is close to clinching a peace pact with the Mehsuds, one of the most recalcitrant tribes in its tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

“It's now a matter of days before we have an agreement. The talks are in a very advanced stage,” a senior government official involved in the negotiations told Reuters.

A draft of the 15-point accord with the Mehsud tribal elders was shown to Reuters. It included a call for an end to militant activity, exchange of prisoners and gradual withdrawal of the army from South Waziristan. The draft did not explicitly say whether militants should stop cross-border attacks into neighbouring Afghanistan. But it did say Mehsud tribesmen should expel al Qaeda and other foreign fighters from their area within a month and stop their lands being used as a base for attacks.

While the authorities and tribal elders made final touches to the pact, Baitullah Mehsud, who was declared as the leader of the Pakistani Taliban late last year, on Wednesday ordered his followers to stop attacks inside Pakistan. A government official described the ceasefire as part of a series of confidence building measures that will be taken before the agreement is signed. He said the government also planned to lift blockade of Mehsud territory by the military. (Posted @ 16:30 PST)

This earlier agreement has been moving forward with little western press. Prisoners have been exchanged, the Pak military pulled back because Baitullah threatened to halt talks when they didn't, and Mehsud met with with the NWFP Governor yesterday to demand reopening of the roads.

Just how does
Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta feel about Pakistan's new found friendship with their militants? Needless to say, they are quite unhappy, and sound remarkably like the US Cowboy President.

“Anyone thinking that they are able to reach peace in the region through what we call an appeasement policy — we consider it is a wrong and dangerous policy,” Afghan Foreign Minister Rangeen Dadfar Spanta told reporters.

A peace deal with the Pakistani Taliban in 2006 reportedly led to a spike in violence across the border.

Describing the 2006 deal as bad for Afghanistan, Spanta said the government was “extremely and infinitely concerned” about Islamabad’s moves, which officials in Pakistan say have seen troops redeployed in the tribal zone.

He cited media reports as saying the Taliban wanted peace in Pakistan so they would be able to continue jihad in Afghanistan.

“As the victim of terrorism, we have the right to say we’re concerned,” the minister said, adding Kabul had spoken of its fears with Islamabad and Washington.—AFP

While it's highly touted by western media that the US military is on the brink of "breaking", and "spread too thin", it is less reported that the enemy is in the same boat. They are but a shadow of their former selves, reconstituting their organization in Pakistan. If part of these agreements are to again shuffle the fighters back across the borders, Afghani leaders are right to be concerned.

And for what end? Peace talks and truces between the Pak government and their militants do not have a history of success. Afghanistan's concern that this may be merely a bait and switch maneuver is
echo'ed by the US and John Negroponte, also citing the last failure with Baitullah Mehsud in 2006. The Afghanis and US/NATO forces will beat the militants back again, and they will - once again - land in the laps of the Pakistanis who seem content merely to get them out of their own back yards.

Fact is, until the Pak govt stops refusing int'l help in controlling these cockroaches (or takes assertive moves to control them theirselves), this ping pong of the enemy will go on, unabated. Yes... Pakistan remains a looming problem for the next POTUS.

Considering the terms of these "truces", one might say it's time to sent our stop watches. To see signs of cooperation at the onset, Mehsud terms dictate he should be expelling foreign fighters within a month. The Fazlullah is supposed to hand them over to the Pak government... but with no stated time frame in the AP article.

From what we've seen of Mehsud's deal in the early weeks, his demands have been fast and furious, and the threats of resuming hostilities remain bubbling ever close to the surface. Yet there is still no line of exiled foreign AQ/Taliban crossing the border to Afghanistan enmasse. Meshud has what he wants. And what of the Pak goverment? They have temporarily quieted the bombs and deaths, and still await bussing of the enemy to anywhere but Pakistan. Yet despite the "peace" deal, the fostering and support of jihad movements - source of Pakistan's bombs - continues. The problem has not been solved. Merely relocated and postponed.

This dependence upon the bad guys to police their own militant buddies contrasts starkly with Iraq military's recent launching of Operation The Lion's Roar - a mission to forcibly expel the foreign elements from their soil. Already in their short history, the Iraqi government has learned that you cannot depend upon those that harbor the foreigners to kick them out into the cold.

But note the word used by Afghanistan's Foreign Minister - "appeasement". This is not a media pundit or candidates for POTUS. This is a word used by a leader who sees the results of "appeasement" in their own back yards. It is a very real result of an oft tried and failed policy.

Which brings us, once again, to our regional ally Afghanistan and their objections to Pakistan's "appeasement" (their words) process. This is a policy that US hopeful, Barack Obama, has every intention of mimicking. The likelihood of a President Obama succeeding in peace with such appeasement deals is just as unlikely as Pakistan will be with theirs.

But obviously, it's extremely likely that he will accomplish royally pissing off our allies...



According to today Adnkronos article, Britain has decided to back the negotiations with the Pakistani militants.

Britain supports talks between Pakistan’s new rulers and tribal leaders aimed at curbing insurgency along the Afghan border, Foreign Secretary David Miliband told a US audience late on Wednesday.

In a speech to a Washington think-tank, Miliband said there was “no military solution” to the spread of militancy in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Miliband and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said at a joint press conference in Washington on Wednesday that promoting democracy was the best way to fight terrorism in Pakistan and neighbouring Afghanistan.

He visited Pakistan last month for talks with the new government and backed the government’s effort to seek a negotiated solution to the insurgency in its tribal region.

But Miliband warned that there should only be reconciliation with those who renounce violence.

Miliband is Britain's youngest foreign sec'y in three decades. Appointed by PM Gordon Brown, he's part of the kinder/gentler British rule that is slowly emerging after the departure of the US ally, Tony Blair. An outspoken "skeptic" of the OIF from the get go, Miliband has been busy shaking up his department, moving diplomats to cover the Asian and Middle East areas more heavily.

He is, evidently, a believer that the days of the US as a superpower are on the decline.

While the world's balance of power is moving from West to East, some have overstated the decline of the United States as the world's superpower, he told the audience.

"In economic terms, and even more so in military terms, the U.S. will have at least another generation as the global superpower," Miliband said. "Nevertheless, this century may come to be known as the Asian century."

Miliband said the United States remains Britain's most important ally, but acknowledged links with a host of other countries are becoming increasingly important.

Our allies... oh joy. Well, he and a President Obama should see eye to eye on the increasing irrelevance of the US in a world dominated by appeasement and politically correct behavior. I guess between the two, they will only piss off our allies who are actually engaging the jihad movement enemies...