BROOKINGS: IRAQ INDEX
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With pro-Iranian Shiites destined to run Iraqt, Iran has been plowing money and support into the militant Shiite Hizbollah movement in Lebanon. The Iranians are forging ahead with their nuclear program, but it is the Shiite arc, which now bisects the Middle East, and is becoming increasingly alienated by the ineffectiveness of the U.S. strategy in Iraq, which has analysts concerned.
|Saudi mourners carry King Fahd's body for burial
SAUDI ARABIA HAS A NEW KING
Anthony Cordesman notes that Saudi Arabia's new king has effectively been the ruler for the last decade. Now it has been confirmed…Prince Abdullah was selected as Crown Prince in 1982 -nearly a quarter of a century ago. He has acted as de facto regent since King Fahd's stroke in 1995. Since that time, he has been seen as both a supporter of reform, and traditional in values - free of corruption and deeply Islamic. He has encouraged the next generation of princes to support reform, pushed for an Arab-Israeli peace settlement, and supported dialogue with the West to counter Islamic extremism. He has also steadily expanded his de facto control of the Royal Court, the Council of Ministers, Majlis, and royal appointments. King Fahd's death will now give him full power, and he may well be able to move forward in several areas of reform, exploiting the ties he has already developed to "reform" factions in the family, technocrats, and elite. (Anthony Cordesman, Center for Strategic and International Studies, August 1, 2005)
JON ALTERMAN: SAUDI ARABIA'S DANGER ZONE COULD BE THE AGE OF ITS RULERS
For more than a half century, the Saudi royal family has been led by the sons of King Abdel Aziz. At some point, the leadership will move to his grandchildren. Before that, Saudi Arabia could potentially go through a period similar to the Soviet Union in the early 1980s, when a series of elderly rulers followed each other in quick succession. It is worth remembering as well that the oldest of Abdel Aziz’s grandsons are now in their late 60s. An increasing number of Arab states are being led by young and dynamic leaders. While a future Saudi ruler may be dynamic, it is unlikely one will be young in the foreseeable future.
The Saudi royal family is united on the need for reform, but they are divided in how those reforms should be implemented. Strong leadership will make a dramatic difference in how change unfolds in the Kingdom, and the health or illness of Fahd’s successors could be the crucial—and most unpredictable—determining factor. (Jon Alterman, CSIS, August 1, 2005)
NEWSHOUR ON THE TRANSITION
"...We have to remind ourselves that while the king is an absolute monarch,
in practice the Saudi royal family is made up of thousands of princes and at least dozens and dozens of them have to buy into these decisions...(PBS NewsHour, August 1, 2005)
KING FAHD'S WEBSITE
U.S. DEATH TOLL IN IRAQ PASSES 1800 MARK
In the past month, nearly 80 U.S. troops have died, including five who were killed in two roadside bomb attacks in Baghdad over the weekend, and 14 who were killed Wednesday by a roadside bomb in northwestern Iraq. Iraqis are suffering far worse casualties. (Washington Post, August 3, 2005)
STEVEN VINCENT, FREELANCE AMERICAN JOURNALIST KILLED IN IRAQ
In a recent New York Times article, Vincent wrote that Basra's police force had been infiltrated by Shia militants. He quoted a senior Iraqi police lieutenant saying some officers were behind many of the killings of former Baath party members in Basra.
(Times of London, August 4, 2005)
-Vincent's OpEd in the New York Times (July 31, 2005)
-Vincent's blog: "In The Red Zone"
-Vincent in The National Review
BRITAIN, FRANCE AND GERMANY WARN IRAN ON RESTARTING NUCLEAR PROGRAM
Threats by Iran to re-start the process of enriching uranium could indicate that it has taken a strategic decision to develop a nuclear fuel production cycle. Analysis by Paul Reynolds, BBC, August 2, 2005)
IRANIAN NUCLEAR WEAPONS STILL A DECADE AWAY
The new National Intelligence Estimate includes what the intelligence community views as credible indicators that Iran's military is conducting clandestine work. But the sources said there is no information linking those projects directly to a nuclear weapons program. What is clear is that Iran, mostly through its energy program, is acquiring and mastering technologies that could be diverted to bombmaking. (Dafne Linzer, Washington Post, August 2, 2005)
--GEOFFREY KEMP AND PAUL LEVENTHAL DISCUSS IRAN ON THE PBS NEWSHOUR
IRAN'S NEW PRESIDENT CONFIRMED
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the former mayor of Teheran, has been confirmed as Iran's next president. Unlike his predecessors, he ran on a populist ticket that had little to do with modernizing the country, but concentrated instead on challenging corruption and profiteering by government officials.
BBC, August 3, 2005)
--WHO REALLY RUNS IRAN?
An interactive map of Iran's complex theocratic authoritarian vision of limited democracy.
PBS' WIDE ANGLE LOOKS AT IRAN'S REDLINE DEADLINE: THE SHARG NEWSPAPER vs PRESS CENSORSHIP
Bill Moyers hosts an exceptional look at a crusading newspaper in Teheran, where freedom of the press is a daily battle. Interviews and comprehensive background material available online.
--The Washington Post
hosts an online chat on the film...
PENTAGON EVICTED FROM UZBEKISTAN
Donald Rumsfeld's "Lily Pad" strategy of placing highly mobile resources at small jumping-off points around the world, is largely in doubt after Tashkent's invitation to get out of town within the next few months. Although the U.S. has criticized Uzbekistan's ghastly human rights record, the real impetus behind the rejection appears to be a counter-offensive by Russia's Vladimir Putin, who is interested in re-establishing Moscow's predominant influence in Central Asia. The outlines of the strategy were presented at the "Shanghai Cooperation Organization " meeting on July 5. (Eurasianet.org, August 1, 2005)
CHINA'S MILITARY IS MODERNIZING FAST
Since last year, Hu Jintao has masterminded a series of changes in the military establishment, particularly its staid command-and-control apparatus. The primary goal of Hu’s CMC was to lick together a leaner – and more combat-ready – force with special emphasis on air, naval and missile prowess. Thus, Hu has overseen the further demobilization of about 200,000 PLA personnel, mainly from the ground forces and non-combat divisions. While the archaic military-region command structure has been preserved for the time being, the great majority of local-level commands in the Air and Naval Forces have been abolished. Most importantly, Hu has decided to earmark more funds for the digitization of operations as well as the development and procurement of weapons. (Willy Lam, Jamestown Foundation, August 2, 2005)
SUDAN, BACK TO THE BRINK
The death of former Sudanese People's liberation Army leader, John Garang, in an unexpected helicopter crash has thrown the shaky truce in Africa's longest running civil war into doubt. The immediate impact was rioting in Khartoum and Juba. Al Jazeera reported that anyone of Arab descent was immediately a target."They are beating anybody who looks like Arab," said Swayd Abdullah, a student.The southern Sudanese, who recently gave Garang a tumultuous welcome when he travelled north to take up his post as vice-president in the new power-sharing government, smashed cars and shops in several hours of rioting, the witnesses said.
(Al jazeera, August 2, 2005)
--A return to fragmentation leaves donors facing a return to insecurity
Adam Wolfe observes in Power and Interest News Report that the countries supporting Sudan were counting on Garang to bring the disparate pieces together. The question is whether Garang's successor, Salva Kir Mayardit, will have the same intention. Says Wolfe: "Sudan is currently engaged in a center-periphery conflict that pits Khartoum against rebels in the west and northeast. It was the international donor community's expectation that resolving the north-south aspect of this conflict would provide a model for resolving the other regional clashes. The implementation of this was to fall into Garang's hands. Unless Mayardit can quickly and decisively indicate to the other rebel groups that he can control the divisions within the S.P.L.M./A., while holding his own in the cabinet negotiations with al-Bashir and win the support of the donor community, this model of spreading peace to Darfur and the northeast appears destined for failure. " (Adam Wolfe, PINR, August 4, 2005)
--Background to the dispute
Report in Sudan Tribune: Salva Kir Mayardit named to replace Garang
TROUBLE WAS BREWING BEFORE GARANG'S DEATH
The main obstacles, reported the International Crisis Group, 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. (ICG, July 25, 2005)
MARK LEVINE ON LOSING FRIENDS IN THE MIDDLE EAST WHILE MAKING ENEMIES
University of California at Irvine history professor, Mark Levine,
observes that the administration's decision to deny Tariq Ramadan a visa to teach at Notre Dame University last year illustrates the confusion that has reigned over U.S. foreign policy towards the Middle East. "The reality is that the US can't have it three ways," writes levine. "It can't ostracize some figures, offer support for others with nearly identical views, yet at the same time provide hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars of aid to the governments that oppress them... America has to choose: either we continue supporting corrupt, authoritarian and often brutal governments or we support democracy and justice for the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa. There can be no middle ground; no lofty rhetoric undermined by realpolitik; no exceptions because of "security" or "strategic" considerations--They are what got us into this mess in the first place..." (Mark Levine, guest editorial on Juan Cole's Informed Comment, August 2, 2005)
SHOUT T.V. CATCHES ON IN THE MIDDLE EAST
MEMRI--the Middle East Media Research Institute's Arab TV monitoring project--is clearly no friend of Arab or Muslim causes. Some of the TV clips captured and translated by the pro-Israeli group are almost hilarious in the absurdity of their illogic. If the model is right-wing American talk TV, in the Egyptian case, the presenter seems as dumbfounded by the talk gone out of control as the viewer. In the latest clip, two Egyptian members of parliament debate the assassination of Egypt's ambassador to Iraq; one contends that any attack against an American is justified. The other contends that Iraqi insurgent, Zarqawi is actually working for the CIA in order to keep Americans in Iraq for the next million years. The proof is that he has done nothing to help Palestinians. Washington has quite a ways to go to counter that kind of TV programming and the logic behind it. The programming is obviously making an impact on average Egyptians. Of course the same could be said about Fox TV in the U.S., which seems to have served loosely as a model. A transcript of the exchange is available on line, as well as the video clip itself in a button on the right side of the page. (MEMRI, August 1, 2005)
RAND: IMPACT OF THE INFORMATION REVOLUTION ON POLICY MAKERS USE OF INTELLIGENCE INFORMATION
The intelligence community’s Intelink nework, the Internet, and web-based sources of analysis have not become major contributors to the policymaking process. Policymakers still find intelligence analysis useful for supporting the policymaking process, especially when it is conveyed through a one-on-one intelligence briefing. (An interesting contrast to Al Qaeda, which is making up to date use of the internet as a vehicle for distribution of strategic documents).
(Lorne Teitelbaum, Rand, dissertation 233 pages pdf, October 2004)
ABC NEWS 'PERSONA NON GRATA' IN RUSSIA
U.S. television network ABC's future in Russia was put in jeopardy after the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said it would not renew the accreditation of ABC journalists following the broadcast of an interview with Chechen warlord Shamil Basayev. The ministry said in a statement that it would not "renew accreditations of this television company's staff after they expire." It was not clear from the statement, however, whether the decision would bar the network from reporting in Russia or affect only reporters currently working in the country. (Greg Walters and Valeria Korchagina, Moscow Times, August 3, 2005)
-ABC News' Report on Chechen Guerrillas
-Committee to Protect Journalists wrap-up on ABC situation
--CPJ's report on Russia and Chechen news coverage
WHAT IF HE BLOWS UP?
"...This young man who is in his early twenties, said that he was on his way to work at some stage in the second wave of explosions in the British capital. He took the underground and grabbed a seat. He was carrying a briefcase that contained nothing more than personal documents and papers. He added that after a few minutes he noticed another man who was sitting next to him left his seat and moved away. He turned around and saw other passengers were gazing at the briefcase and its owner..." (Ghassan Charbel, Al Hayat, August 2, 2005)
Not exactly everyone's choice
THE EDUCATION OF JOHN BOLTON
It has been a tough period for Washington neocons. The death toll in Iraq has now passed the 1800 mark. No one can explain why we are there, but everyone is pretty much agreed that there is no easy way out. Uzbekistan and other central Asian republics have politely asked Donald Rumsfeld to shut down American bases in the next few months, leaving his "lily pad" scheme for strategically placed rapid response forces basically in tatters. The British have lost faith in Washington's ability to deal with terrorism. Even Washington has had to admit that the President's much vaunted "Global War on Terror" got it wrong. We should have been waging a campaign against "extremism" instead. Having botched just about everything in foreign policy, George W. Bush then decides--just before going on another of his extended working vacations in Crawford, Texas--to place a bull-in-the-china-shop diplomat with foot-in-mouth disease as the U.S. representative to the U.N., which incidentally represents one of the only viable escape routes from the administration's cumulative disasters. Is this the end of the world? Well, maybe, but maybe not quite. unless he is totally deaf and blind, John Bolton knows that he arrives at the U.N. if not as "damaged goods" at least as "questionable goods." Bolton is getting an unreasonable second chance, and if he decided to learn something from the experience, he could become a powerful influence on a president who clearly doesn't get it. If Bolton decides not to listen to his colleagues at the U.N., the damage probably won't be that much greater than it has been up to now. The president's stubborn insistence on picking Bolton despite the fact that so many knowledgeable people had advised him not to, shows that the real problem is more serious than the imposition of a less-than-popular ambassador. Many diplomats at the U.N. , including the Secretary General, see Bolton's nomination as a chance to get a pipeline to the White House--Bolton's biggest problem could be that the president, who is more comfortable at Crawford, Texas than in Washington, is not likely to be there when it counts.
--The Economist predicts that Bolton will find a working relationship at the U.N.
The most likely outcome is that, whatever the differences in style, America’s new man at the UN and his interlocutors will find a way to talk to each other. There is too much at stake—the future of Iraq, nuclear crises in Iran and North Korea, atrocities in Sudan—for either side to give up on the other entirely. (Economist, August 1, 2005)
RON STEINMAN: COMPARING IRAQ, VIETNAM AND NORTHERN IRELAND
This column is about Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland. It concerns war and insurgency. It has nothing to do with whether I am for or against these wars or rebellions. It has everything to with the reality of insurrection.
There have been many comparisons between the war in Vietnam and the war in Iraq. Most do not apply. The few that do are enough to make us wince, because they strongly hint how it might not be possible to win the war in Iraq, at least not in the way we American’s perceive victory. Time may not be our best ally...To understand insurgencies, Vietnam should be our prime textbook. However, Northern Ireland must be part of the mix. It is an object lesson of a how a small band of dedicated men and women, fanatics if you will, can, and still do, affect the fragile psyche of a nervous nation. It is also a lesson that insurgencies never really die unless the insurgents win their battle against entrenched authority, even if that authority’s stipulated aim is the good of all the people... (Ron Steinman, DVN, July 2005)
LETTERS FROM IRAQ:WHAT HAVE WE COME TO?
"....This is my sadness. Our children are being weaned on hatred and violence in this country. It starts with television, gets reinforced and is refined with violent video games (one, in particular, produced and distributed by the U.S. Army), and finally the infection spreads through violent team sports in high school. Football in the South is the battlefield training ground for the next generation of cannon fodder. Kids are told to go out there and "hurt ‘em, tear ‘em up, kill ‘em." It is ingrained... (Chris Christensen, Tom Disptach.com, August 3, 2005)
U.S. ACCUSED OF RIGGING SECRET TRIALS AT GUANTANAMO
A U.S. Judge Advocate General prosecutor, U.S. Air Force Major Robert Preston, warned in an email that the Bush administration's cooked up procedures at Guantanamo are a direct threat to the American military justice system. Writes Preston: "I consider the insistence on pressing ahead with cases that would be marginal even if properly prepared to be a severe threat to the reputation of the military justice system and even a fraud on the American people...Surely they don't expect that this fairly half-arsed effort is all that we have been able to put together after all this time."
Another U.S. Army prosecutor, Captain John Karr, clearly considered the behind-closed-doors show trials to be rigged in advance. "You have repeatedly said to the office that the military panel will be handpicked and will not acquit these detainees," he writes, "and that we only needed to worry about building a record for the review pane." Leigh Sales, ABC on-line (Australian Broadcasting), August 1, 2005)
--New York Times Report
--Wall Street Journal provides details on torture allegations as well as trial rigging
--Pentagon denies that it fixed GITMO show trials
The Pentagon's spokesman, Lawrence DiRita, borrowing from Shakespear, insists that the charges are "much ado about nothing," (Washington Post, August 2, 2005)
NEWSWEEK'S FBI MEMO: SEND TO BE TORTURED
THE FBI warned three years ago that U.S. officials who discussed plans to ship terror suspects to foreign nations that practice torture could be prosecuted for conspiring to violate U.S. law, according to a copy of the memo obtained by NEWSWEEK. The strongly worded memo, written by an FBI supervisor then assigned to Guantanamo, is the latest in a series of documents that have recently surfaced reflecting unease among some government lawyers and FBI agents over tactics being used in the war on terror. This memo appears to be the first that directly questions the legal premises of the Bush administration policy of "extraordinary rendition"—a secret program under which terror suspects are transferred to foreign countries that have been widely criticized for practicing torture. (Newsweek, August 1, 2005)
IN THE ONGOING KARL ROVE-VALERIE PLAME INVESTIGATION, THE PROSECUTOR LOOKS FOR SIGNS OF OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE
Special prosecutor Patrick J. Fitzgerald has asked not only about how CIA operative Valerie Plame's name was leaked but also how the administration went about shifting responsibility from the White House to the CIA for having included 16 words in the 2003 State of the Union address about Iraqi efforts to acquire uranium from Africa, an assertion that was later disputed.(Walter Pincus, Jim VandeHai, Washington Post, July 27, 2005)