After a new surge in car bombings that killed at least 30 Iraqis and a wave of kidnappings aimed at westerners, wanted posters offer a reward for the capture of leading insurgent Al-Zarqawi, but some fear that the new Shiite majority and ethnic divisions may be even more dangerous.
WILL IRAQ GO THE WAY OF IRAN?
Both Vice-President Dick Cheney and
Donald Rumsfeld were at pains to stress on TV talkshows over the weekend that Iraq is unlikely to adopt Iran's vision of a theocratic state, but that does not rule out Iraq's own version, which may turn out to be just as anti-American and just as troublesome. Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who emerged from the elections with effective control over Iraq's new parliament has made it clear that he wants a new constitution based on Islamic Sharia law. Sistani has so far refused to meet or talk with U.S. representatives. Sistani kept relatively quiet while the U.S. organized the elections that gave him the upper hand over other Iraqi minorities. Whether he will remain passive now is another matter. Ehsan Ahrari comments in Asia Times, (February 8, 2005)
-Sistani demands Islamic Law for Iraq
(AFP, February 7, 2005)
DICK CHENEY ON FOX NEWS SUNDAY
Cheney explained: "We're trying to forecast what a as-yet-unformed government is going to do, based on partial election returns, without really having heard or let the debate the unfold. We also have to be careful, Chris, I think, to remember this is going to be Iraqi, whatever it is. It's not going to be American. It's not going to look like Wyoming or New York when they get their political process all put together..." (Dick Cheney, Fox News, February 6, 2005)
A SHIITE CRESCENT? NOT EXACTLY. THINK ANTI-AMERICAN INSTEAD
Kamran Taremi, writing in the Beirut Daily Star notes that the weak link in a Shiite alliance slicing through the Middle East is Syria, which sees itself as Arab nationalist and secular. The foundation of an alliance is more likely to be based on anti-Americanism and a shared opposition to Israel than on religion. (Kamran Taremi, Beirut Daily Star, February 7, 2005)
RUMSFELD ON THE STRESS EXPERIENCED BY AN OVERSTRETCHED MILITARY
"It's clearly stressed, but they're performing brilliantly," Rumsfeld said on CNN's "Late Edition." "They're doing a fabulous job, and we're adjusting the incentives and the number of recruiters that are out." But Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, had a different assessment testifying to Congress last week. "As it pertains to the National Guard, the Army National Guard in particular, we were woefully underequipped before the war started," said Blum. "It's getting -- gets a little bit worse every day." (Donald Rumsfeld, CNN Late Edition, February 6, 2005)
AND DON'T FORGET TURKEY AND THE KURDS
Tensions in the oil-rich Kirkuk region, where the political ambitions, historical claims and economic interests of the principal communities -- Kurds, Arabs, Turkomans and Chaldo-Assyrians -- clash, have been escalating since U.S. forces toppled the Baathist regime in April 2003. Turkey, with its own large Kurdish population, is watching with growing anxiety, and has threatened intervention if the situation goes out of control. (ICG, January 26, 2005)
CONDI RICE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
AN UNDECLARED and imperfect ceasefire in the Gaza strip has now been in place for almost three weeks. The newly elected president of the Palestinian Authority (PA), Mahmoud Abbas, has begun making good on the promise to keep, deploying the PA's police to stop militants launching attacks on Israeli targets...There is nervousness in the Israeli government that Ms Rice's visit heralds a change in the Bush administration's Middle East policy, towards being rather more even-handed. (The Economist, Feb 6, 2005)
ISRAELIS SPLIT ON HOW TO APPROACH PALESTINIAN AUTHORITY
The disagreement between Shin Bet head Avi Dichter and Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon on how best Israel can act to bolster new Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas goes deeper than the question of Palestinian prisoner release; it includes issues of timing of the withdrawal from Palestinian cities and whether to continue the hunt for Palestinian fugitives that have been involved in the killing of Israelis.For Dichter the dispute is not only with Ya'alon but also includes opposition within the security service he heads. (Ze'ev Schiff, Haaretz, February 6, 2005)
ABBAS ALREADY SCORES A MINOR VICTORY IN JERUSALEM
Graham Usher reports in Al Ahram on the Israeli decision to abandon a secret plan to appropriate nearly half the Palestinian property in East Jerusalem on the grounds that the Wall turned the owners in the West Bank into absentee landlords. The battle from now on, Usher predicts, will be over property in Jerusalem. (Graham Usher, Al Ahram, February 3, 2005)
UKRAINE SOLD NUCLEAR-CAPABLE MISSILES TO IRAN AND CHINA
Ukraine's intelligence agency, the State Security Service, launched its investigation of the case involving Iran and China on Feb. 14, 2004. Six missiles purportedly ended up in Iran and another six allegedly went to China, although export documents known as end-user certificates recorded the final recipient of some 20 Kh-55 missiles for sale as "Russia's Defense Ministry."(Aleksandar Vasovic, AP via Moscow Times, February 7, 2005)
U.S. RELEASES DOCUMENTS ON GEHLEN BUREAU
The National Security Archive has posted the CIA's secret documentary history of the U.S government's relationship with General Reinhard Gehlen, the German army's intelligence chief for the Eastern Front during World War II. At the end of the war, Gehlen established a close relationship with the U.S. and successfully maintained his intelligence network (it ultimately became the West German BND) even though he employed numerous former Nazis and known war criminals. The use of Gehlen's group, according to the CIA history, Forging an Intelligence Partnership: CIA and the Origins of the BND, 1945-49 , was a "double edged sword" that "boosted the Warsaw Pact's propaganda efforts" and "suffered devastating penetrations by the KGB." (National Security Archives, February 7, 2005)
On January 30 Kuwaiti security forces stormed a building in the Salmiyya residential district of the capital. From the total of arrests and fatalities to date, the cell operating in Kuwait numbered about 30 and, according to official sources, was made up of various nationalities -- Kuwait, Saudi, Jordanian, Yemeni and Bidoon (stateless Arabs resident on Kuwaiti territory). Information tallies with a posting on February 1 on an Islamist forum, which featured a statement addressed to the Kuwaiti government of a 'Great War' coming if the U.S. forces did not leave the country. It warned of "an event in which many innocent victims will fall, and you will be responsible for these victims for your opposition to our demands ... if you refuse, then you have chosen the perilous course and it will be the end to your tyranny." (Stephen Ulf, Jamestown Foundation, February 5, 2005)
-KUWAITIS THOUGHT THEY WERE IMMUNE FROM TERRORISM BECAUSE OF OIL (Dar al-Hayat, February 7, 2005)
GUANTANAMO'S "POOR LITTLE NIGGER"
Martin Mubanga was
mistakenly arrested on trumped up charges, denied legal consultation, and sent to Guantanamo as an alleged terrorist, where he was held for nearly three years, before sheepish officials admitted that they had gotten their facts wrong. The low point in his captivity came when an American interrogator forced Mubanga to soil himself, and then used a mop to cover him with his own urine while chortling, "Oh the poor little nigger." "He seemed to think it was funny," recalls Mubanga. Less amused, Mubanga's lawyers are now planning legal action against the British government for complicity with the United States in kidnapping and violations of international law. Mubanga intends to publish a series of rap songs on the experience. (The Guardian, February 6, 2005) The Guardian recaps the facts in the case
"IT'S FUN TO SHOOT SOME PEOPLE..."
"Actually, it's a lot of fun to fight. You know, it's a hell of a hoot," says Lieutenant General James Mattis. "It's fun to shoot some people. I'll be right upfront with you, I like brawling." Mattis' remarks on the thrills of combat, might have attracted less attention if it weren't for the fact that Mattis has been assigned to develop and improve the doctrine for training future U.S. marines. Mattis was even more blunt about the U.S. approach in Afghanistan: "You go into Afghanistan," he said, "you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn't wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain't got no manhood left anyway. So it's a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them." (John Lumpkin, AP, San Diego.com, February 3, 2005)
-Mattis on video and still pix broadcast on NBC in San Diego (NBC, San Diego)
-TIME reports on medical abuse at Abu Ghraib
-U.S. Army investigates lewd behavior at its Camp Bucca prison in Iraq (NY Daily News, February 7, 2005)
DAVID IGNATIUS: THE NEOCONS MAY BE FADING
Writing in the Beirut Daily Star, David Ignatius notes that while the White House is still putting out neocon rhetoric, there are signs hinting that the policy emphasis may be shifting. Doug Feith is scheduled to step down this summer, and the Justice Department is continuing its investigation of AIPAC. (David Ignatius, February 6, 2005)
Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena is the latest kidnapping victim in Iraq. A television news crew escaped kidnapping thanks to a warning from bystanders.
AN OPEN LETTER FROM THE EDITORS OF THE ITALIAN NEWSPAPER "IL MANIFESTO" TO THEIR CORRESPONDENT
"Dear Giuliana, please forgive us for writing you a letter that you won’t be able to read right away, but only later, when you phone us as you’ve been doing every day, to tell us, as you were planning to do yesterday, what you were going to write about from Iraq for this morning's edition of the newspaper. Please forgive us if we have put you on the front page. Today, you are the news, and our job, the best part of our job, is to say what happens, including what lies in the shadows, what isn’t apparent or “official”, what happens to flesh-and-blood people. Our job is a job on the border line and, for that reason, as a Mexican writer used to say, “one of the jobs worth doing”. Sometimes it’s reduced to simple daily routine, and it’s up to us to make something real of it. That’s why you are in Iraq now, as you were many other times. A country you love, not abstractly, but because you love its people, tormented by so many years of war, tyranny, embargo, terrorism. That’s why you decided to run the risk always run when the official dispatches are pushed to one side and you leave the hotel. That’s why you preferred to go out and look for the truth, with its difficult ambiguities..." [Il Manifesto (Italy), February 5, 2005]
KNIGHT STUDY SHOWS A GROWING NUMBER OF HIGHSCHOOL STUDENTS DO NOT KNOW OR CARE ABOUT THE FIRST AMMENDMENT
The decline in civics education combined with large scale immigration means that a growing number of Americans are unaware of the Constitution. The Knight study polled 100,000 students (Knight Foundation, January 31, 2005)
THE STATE OF FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
The Center for Public Integrity polled four journalists-from Russia, Peru, Zimbabwe, and the United States, and asked them to describe the deteriorating state of press freedom in their respective parts of the world and the risks they face personally in trying to uncover the truth.
IN THE U.S., THE PROBLEM IS DIMINISHING GOVERNMENT TRANSPARENCY
"In the world's oldest democracy, "Charles Lewis writes, "pressure on investigative journalists is usually exerted in sophisticated, non-lethal ways, under the public radar. Every day in Washington, D.C., thousands of government and corporate public relations flaks and lobbyists purvey their "talking points" with a friendly smile, no matter how odious the client, no matter how intellectually dishonest or morally dubious their message. Journalists must trudge through the shameless "spin"-that vanilla word admiringly used these days instead of "lying," which has a harshly judgmental, jarringly rude ring in Washington power circles. Sometimes the persuasion becomes less subtle. For example, when the Center for Public Integrity obtained and prepared to publish online the secret, proposed draft sequel to the USA Patriot Act, known as "Patriot II," we got calls from the U.S. Justice Department beseeching us not to publish..."(Charles Lewis, Center for Public Integrity, February 3, 2005)
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