BROOKINGS: IRAQ INDEX
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U.S. soldiers inspect the rubble left by the continuing wave of suicide bombs which they have been powerless to prevent. The war has now spread to London and Egypt, but Iraq remains the engine of the conflict.
Tony Miller holds a photograph of his daughter, Kristin, a victim of the bombing in Egypt
AL AHRAM REPORTS THE EGYPTIAN VIEW OF THE SHARM EL-SHEIK ATTACK
The attack on the Sharm market area -inhabited mostly by the Egyptian workers who serve the airport, hotels, shops and tourism services -was the worst hit, and the explosion here was heard throughout an entire one-km radius.In other words, the target was the very core of Sharm, and not just what it stands for within the context of a globalize economy. "It was hell," Mustafa told the Weekly. "This is nothing like Taba, believe me, it goes far beyond that."(Serene Assir, Al Ahram Weekly, July 23, 2005)
THE IMPACT ON EGYPT
The Economist notes that whoever turns out to have been behind the attack on tourist hotels at Sharm el-Sheik, it is unlikely to encourage President Hosni Mubarak to push on with the limited political reforms made so far... "Least certain of all, at this stage, is who was responsible. Two separate groups claiming links to al-Qaeda each posted messages on the internet claiming to have been behind the bombings. But similar claims made after previous terrorist attacks have sometimes proved false. After last October’s bombings—at Taba and on two beaches to the south of the resort, also on the Red Sea—there were claims of responsibility by two hitherto unknown Islamist groups. But the Egyptian government concluded after an inquiry that the October 2004 bombings had been carried out by an unaffiliated group, led by a Palestinian..." (The Economist, July 25, 2005)
WHO DID IT?
Former CIA analyst, Michael Scheuer and Georgetown's Samer Shehata discuss the usual list of suspects on PBS' Jim Lehrer News Hour. Scheuer believes that Al Qaeda has franchised itself. The one thing that is sure is that Egypt's draconian crackdown on radicals in the 1990s, have not served to protect it now. Scheuer observes: "we're not being well served -- Mr. Blair, Mr. Bush don't serve their electorate well by the Pavlovian response of they hate our freedoms and they hate our liberties and they hate gender equality and all of that stuff. They downplay these people as simply haters.And in many ways these people are lovers in the sense that they love their religion and they love their society and they deem our foreign policy an attack on that. This is not going to end any time soon. And, indeed, as long as Western and U.S. policies in the Middle East remain the same the growth potential for what I guess you could call al-Qaidaism is enormous..." (Jim Lehrer, PBS NewsHour, July 25, 2005)
WHAT IS AL QAEDA REALLY AFTER?
It is easy to assume that terrorists hate "democracy" and America's way of life, but the truth is more complex. Olivier Roy, a French expert on Islam, sees the radicals' goal more as a globalized response to a world increasingly submissive to America's hyper-power definition of globalization. The terrorists are, in fact, engaged in their own globalization campaign; it just isn't the one that Washington envisioned. (Olivier Roy, OpEd in the New York Times, July 22, 2005)
REFINING THE STRATEGY
The number of insurgent attacks in Iraq is remaining stable--roughly 65 a day--but the unsettling sophistication of the attacks is increasing daily. Instead of taking U.S. forces head-on, the insurgents are concentrating on polarizing the Iraqis, making it dangerous for moderates to assert a stabilizing influence. Even more disturbing, their ranks are being filled faster than the U.S. ability to stop them. (Dexter Filkins, David Cloud, The New York Times, July 24, 2005)
--John Burns on the prospects for civil war in Iraq
MICHAEL SCHEUER ON THE LONDON BOMBINGS
Former CIA analyst, Michael Scheuer, notes that the 7 July London bombs "are best understood as an episode in al-Qaeda's campaign against U.S. allies, a campaign separate from but running parallel to its campaign against the United States." The campaign against U.S. allies was announced by al-Qaeda deputy chief Ayman al-Zawahairi in 2002. "Some messages have already been sent to the deputies [allies] of America, so that they may restrain themselves in getting entangled in this Crusader assault," al-Zawahiri said in September 2002. "The Mujahid youth had already sent messages to Germany and France. However, if these doses are not enough, we are prepared with the help of Allah to inject further does..." (Michael Scheuer, Jamestown Foundation, July 22, 2005)
ROBERT A. PAPE'S TAKE ON THE SUICIDE BOMBER
Although he wrote his controversial OpEd last May, political science professor Robert A. Pape's analysis of the rationale behind suicide bombing is becoming even more relevant now. Pape's thesis: suicide bombing is motivated more by a rejection of western interference in local affairs than by religion. "What nearly all suicide terrorist attacks actually have in common," Pape contends, "is a specific secular and strategic goal: to compel modern democracies to withdraw military forces from territory that the terrorists consider to be their homeland." (Robert Pape, IHT, May 19, 2005)
--THE CARNEGIE ENDOWMENT ON THE ODD DRAFTING OF A CONSTITUTION FOR IRAQ WHICH LEAVES NO ONE REALLY SATISFIED
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Nathan Brown notes that the fixation on the August 15 deadline is odd: It was established in the country’s interim constitution, the Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), a document that the country’s current prime minister, Ibrahim Al Jaafari, almost refused to sign. And the United States
initially hoped that a constitution would be written in a very different manner. The date
emerged out of complex political maneuvering in the fall of 2003 and spring of 2004. The
U.S. occupation in the spring of 2003 was initially accompanied by a pronounced lack of
clarity regarding either goals or timetables. ( Nathan Brown, CEIP, July 2005)
INDEFENSIBLE MISSILE DEFENSE
Aside from Iraq, Donald Rumsfeld's Ballistic Missile Defense Program may be the biggest boondoggle handed to defense contractors in recent memory. Not only is it not clear who the system is supposed to protect against (since it won't work against a massed ICBM attack), but the program has never worked the way it was supposed to in testing. That hasn't stopped the Pentagon from deploying parts of the semi non-functional system in defiance of traditional procurement practices. A new report compiled by the Center for Defense Information, co-sponsored by the Union of Concerned Scientists and Council for a Livable World, and released by Senator Jack Reed's office analyzes the problems that have plagued missile defense since the 1980s and which stubbornly persist to today.(CDI, July 25, 2005)
--Read the report
--Read the Congressional Research Service's report on the missile debate
TAKING A LOOK AT PAKISTAN'S ARMY AND ITS LINKS TO ISLAM
The Washington Post's Steve Coll and former ambassador Robert Oakley joined a discussion with Husain Haqqani on his new book, Pakistan: between Mosque and Military. (This is an on-line audiofile)
(Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, July 26, 2005)
RUMSFELD TRIES TO STOP EROSION OF INFLUENCE IN CENTRAL ASIA
Political leaders in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have sent signals in recent weeks that American military personnel are wearing out their welcome. The grumblings followed a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, during which member states urged Washington to establish a withdrawal time-table. (Eurasianet.org, July 25, 2005)
--KYRGYZSTAN OKs U.S. BASES FOR THE MOMENT
RUMSFELD'S IN-FLIGHT BRIEFING ON KYRGYZSTAN
"Rumsfeld: We are off to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
Gosh, I'm trying to think, the last time I was in Kyrgyzstan was probably April...Tajikistan, of course, has a border with Afghanistan. We have a gas and go arrangement with them as we have some -- We have I guess about a thousand people in Kyrgyzstan, 950.
But the Tajikistan situation, they've taken over the border from the Russian troops that guarded it for I guess the last decade or so. They have -- We work with them on various Partnership for Peace activities with NATO. We work with them on counternarcotics. The flow of narcotics that moves through that area towards Russia. And I guess I've not been in Tajikistan probably for two or three years...(Pentagon transcript, July 24, 2005)
CHINA AND THE U.S.
Beltway observers have been speculating that Condoleeza Rice is quietly trying to move the State Department away from the "us-against-them" approach of the neocon radicals, and back towards a more traditional balance-of-power-based diplomacy. Rice's approach calls for engaging China on trade and North Korea, while Rumsfeld and others prefer to cast China as an ominous strategic competitor. Michael Weinstein points out in Power and Interest News Report that the latest annual report to Congress on Chinese military power is a compromise between warring factions in the administration. As such it reveals more about beltway bickering than it does about America's true relationship with China. (Michael Weinstein, PINR, July 26, 2005)
--Text of The Annual Report to Congress on the Military Power of the People's Republic of China
CHINA MERITS KUDOS ON NORTH KOREA
Jing-dong Yuan observes in Asia Times that China deserves the lion's share of credit for getting the U.S. out of a bind concerning North Korean nukes. Pyongyang was impervious to U.S. pressure tactics, and an invasion was too costly and too dangerous. Instead, during a particularly volatile period, Beijing served as a go-between linking Washington and Pyongyang, and substituting calm diplomacy for coercion that probably would have proved ineffective. (Asia Times, July 26, 2005)
SHOULD WE FEAR VIDEO SURVEILLANCE?
Police in London were able to identify terrorist bombers almost immediately thanks to the help of saturation video surveillance, but security has its downside. Robert O'Harrow, Jr., notes in his new book, "No Place to Hide," that "Surveillance comes with a price. It dulls the edge of public debate, imposes a sense of conformity, introduces a feeling of being watched. It chills culture and stifles dissent." David Brin reviews the book in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (July-August 2005).
TONY KARON ON DISENGAGING FROM GAZA
"...Sharon’s planned “disengagement” from Gaza is not connected to any peace process, not even President Bush’s “roadmap” which Sharon has made clear may or may not eventually go into effect - but only after the Palestinian Authority dismantles the militias of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the Fatah movement. In other words, not for the foreseeable future. But the plan is, nonetheless, part of a political offensive by Sharon to decisively reorder the battlefield of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which will likely have profound consequences for all parties to that conflict..." (Tony Karon, July 25, 2005)
--Israeli Troops begin training for Gaza withdrawal (Ha'aretz, July 26, 2005)
DIPPING INTO THE GULF OF GUINEA
In the past two years, the U.S. European Command (EUCOM) has drawn considerable U.S. attention to the Gulf of Guinea, identifying major gaps in the region’s security forces and emphasizing the vulnerability of U.S. interests to terror, criminality, and instability. EUCOM’s assertions have stirred a valuable and constructive debate in Washington on the nature of regional threats and on how best to address them. The CSIS Task Force on Gulf of Guinea Security, launched in October 2004, assembled a broad array of expertise and interests—including corporations, human rights and activist groups, military experts, academics, diplomats, and energy analysts— to move this debate forward and to craft forward-looking, practical recommendations for U.S. policymakers. (Center for Strategic and International Studies, July 25, 2005)
SUDAN PEACE AGREEMENT LAGS
The January 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) formally ended war between the Khartoum government and the insurgent Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A), Africa's longest civil conflict. Yet as SPLM Chairman John Garang was sworn in as 1st Vice-President on 9 July, implementation lags badly. The main obstacles are the old regime's lack of will to embrace genuine power sharing and elections, and ultimately allow a southern self-determination referendum after the six-year interim period and lack of capacity in the South to establish and empower basic structures of governance. (International Crisis Group, July 25, 2005)
WHAT IS THE ADMINISTRATION NOT TELLING US ABOUT ABU GHRAIB?
Editor and Publisher ponders the desperate attempts by the White House and Donald Rumsfeld's Pentagon to shield the public from the worst photographs of atrocities at Abu Ghraib. Notes E&P: “One clue: Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told Congress last year, after viewing a large cache of unreleased images: "I mean, I looked at them last night, and they're hard to believe.” They show acts "that can only be described as blatantly sadistic, cruel and inhumane," he added.
A Republican Senator suggested the same day they contained scenes of “rape and murder.” No wonder Rumsfeld commented then, "If these are released to the public, obviously it's going to make matters worse."
(Editor and Publisher, July 23, 2005)
LOOKING FOR THE METRICS ON IRAQ
Donald Rumsfeld complained quite awhile ago that it was hard to tell if the U.S. effort in Iraq was succeeding or not, because the metrics, or benchmarks to judge the course of the war were missing. At the urging of Congress, the benchmarks are now in place, but the Pentagon is understandably edgy about letting the public in on the results. At a Pentagon press gaggle on July 22, reporters complained that briefers spent their time describing the criteria without actually mentioning any credible statistics. The reporter asked: "...You say you can't give any breakdown of figures. What this is is a 26-page report on metrics, process, how to measure, and it gives no analysis on how many of the Iraqi forces and what types of Iraqi forces are prepared to fight. And yet, a seven-sentence unclassified report sent by General Pace to the Senate Armed Services Committee on June 29th lays out a lot of these figures, which while perhaps not intended, is damning in terms that approximately one-third of their army battalions are capable of planning, with coalition support; approximately two-thirds of their army battalions and one-half of their police are partially capable, with coalition units....I mean, why wasn't this in this report? It's unclassified. Do you just not want them to see it?" (Pentagon background briefing, July 22, 2005)
A London police constable watches a demonstration for Brazilian immigrant, Jean Charles de Menezes, who was mistakenly shot 7 times in the head and once in the shoulder by police hunting for suicide bombers.
THE INDEPENDENT ON THE LATEST ARRESTS (July 27, 2005)
HOW DID WE GET THERE?
As Britain prepares for a new onslaught of terrorism and paranoia, John Pilger, writing in The New Statesmen, recommends pausing a moment to figure out why London emerged as a target. Writes Pilger: "In all the coverage of the bombing of London, a truth has struggled to be heard. With honourable exceptions, it has been said guardedly, apologetically. Occasionally, a member of the public has broken the silence, as an east Londoner did when he walked in front of a CNN camera crew and reporter in mid-platitude. 'Iraq!' he said. 'We invaded Iraq and what did we expect? Go on, say it.'" (John Pilger, The New Statesman, July 25, 2005)
THE SPECTATOR: BRITAIN HATES ITSELF
"It is true that Britain, more cursed with political correctness than most, has shown a joyfully optimistic tolerance of Islamic extremists," writes Anthony Browne in The Spectator.
"The BBC, the Guardian and the Metropolitan Police promote groups like the Muslim Association of Britain, even though it openly supports terrorism (just not in Britain).No, the real answer to why Britain spawned people fueled with maniacal hate for their country is that Britain hates itself. In hating Britain, these British suicide bombers were as British as a police warning for flying the union flag..."(Anthony Browne, The Spectator, July 23, 2005)
Did the President skip over Gonzales for the Supreme Court because of his proximity to the Karl Rove scandal?
THE AFTERSHOCKS OF A
Frank Rich, writing in The New York Times, notes that one clear sign that the Karl Rove affair is beginning to have a corrosive effect on the White House's inner workings was the quiet decision not to put Gonzales' name forward for a seat on the Supreme Court. Writes Rich: "... When a conspiracy is unraveling, and it's every liar and his lawyer for themselves, the story takes on a momentum of its own. When the conspiracy is, at its heart, about the White House's twisting of the intelligence used to sell the American people a war - and its desperate efforts to cover up that flimflam once the W.M.D. cupboard proved bare and the war went south - the story will not end until the war really is in its 'last throes.'… the scandal has metastasized so much at this point that the forgotten man Mr. Bush did not nominate to the Supreme Court is as much a window into the White House's panic and stonewalling as its haste to put forward the man he did. When the president decided not to replace Sandra Day O'Connor with a woman, why did he pick a white guy and not nominate the first Hispanic justice, his friend Alberto Gonzales? Mr. Bush was surely not scared off by Gonzales critics on the right (who find him soft on abortion) or left (who find him soft on the Geneva Conventions). It's Mr. Gonzales's proximity to this scandal that inspires real fear…." (Frank Rich, NYTimes, July 24, 2005)
HOW MUCH DID THE PRESIDENT KNOW, AND WHEN?
Water Gate and the collapse of Richard Nixon began with a silly break-in more revealing of a repugnant political style than of an egregious wrongdoing. The outing of Valerie Plame may end up playing a similar role-- opening a crack which allows light to shine on the administration's methods of dealing with friends and enemies. In Washington Post.com, Dan Froomkin writes: "Fitzgerald's investigation appears to have turned its focus to discrepancies in the testimony of White House senior adviser Karl Rove and vice presidential chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Fitzgerald may be trying to determine whether evidence exists to bring perjury or obstruction of justice charges.And that raises the issue of what -- if anything -- Rove and Libby told Bush and Cheney about their roles.So does that mean Fitzgerald might call Bush and Cheney to testify before the grand jury -- under oath? Might he even have done so already? We have no idea, of course, because the White House isn't saying anything at all about the investigation any more..."(Daniel Froomkin,Washington Post.com, July 25, 2005)
"SOMETHING IS ROTTEN IN..." THE PROSECUTOR LOOKS AT A WIDER WEB
Like Hamlet, Special Prosecutor Dennis Fitzgerald may have stumbled onto a wider-range of obstruction and perjury than first appeared on the surface. The Washington Post notes that the investigation is now much broader than first thought. An ongoing question is why Judith Miller was targeted. Miller had had close contacts with several members of the administration--particularly when it was trying to push Ahmed Chalabi as a possible leader in Iraq--but she had not published anything on the Plame case. (Walter Pincus, Jim VandeHai, Washington Post, July 27, 2005)
GARRISON KEILLOR LOOKS AT THE VALERIE PLAME CASE
"...He picked up the phone and the voice at the other end sounded like a rat trapped in a coffee can. "Novak," whispered Mr. Rove and he pretended to stick a finger down his throat. He listened for several minutes. "Yes, I've heard that too," he said..."
(Garrison Keillor, Chicago Tribune, June 26, 2005)