BROOKINGS: IRAQ INDEX
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Israeli soldiers comfort a fellow soldier emotionally shattered by having to take part in the forced eviction of Israeli settlers from occupied Palestinian territory in Gaza
Former Marine corporal Mike McNeil, a veteran of Desert Storm, reads the names on more than 1,000 crosses on the road to George Bush's ranch in Crawford
DEALING WITH CINDY SHEEHAN
While the president's advisors see nothing to be gained from contact with anti-war protesters, the refusal to meet with the mother of a soldier who died in Iraq, in order not to be disturbed during a liesurely holiday, has turned Sheehan into an odd political phenomenon. Technorati, which measures impact on the internet, lists Sheehan as the hottest subject on the web, outweighing interest in the Israeli pullout from Gaza. Sheehan's protest has also boosted the fortunes of the Lone Star Iconoclast, Crawford's homegrown newspaper, which now updates local news from the nation's defacto summer capital.
The Iconoclast is mostly interesting for its stream-of-consciousness reporting on the mood in Crawford, including an explosive protest by Larry Mattlage, a local rancher who began firing a shotgun in the air on Sunday in order to make his feelings clear. Mattlage declared war against the protesters while pledging to act "underneath the law." An audio interview is posted on the Iconoclast website. (Iconoclast, August 14, 2005)
-TomDispatch on Cindy Sheehan's War
-The ranch protest scene in the Waco Tribune
-Salon Editor-in-Chief Joan Walsh on "The Mother of all Battles..."
-Frank Gaffney in the Washington Times on what he sees as the "Poster Child for Surrender"(August 16, 2005)
A PAINFUL DEMOGRAPHIC REALITY
To a certain extent, the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza this week represents more than a simple surrender of territory. On a larger scale, it is a recognition that Zionist dreams of a "Greater Israel" in a hostile Arab world are unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future. The problem, as Ethan Bronner points out in the New York Times' Week in Review, is that not enough people around the world who are Jewish were willing to pull up stakes and physically move to Israel. "Ideologically, we are disappointed," acknowledged Arye Mekel, Israeli consul general in New York. "A pure Zionist must be disappointed because Zionism meant the Jews of the world would take their baggage and move to Israel. Most did not." David Kimche holds a similar view: "The old Zionist nationalists' anthem was a state on 'the two banks of the River Jordan.'" says Kimche. "When that became impractical, we talked about 'greater Israel,' from the Jordan to the sea. But people now realize that this, too, is something we won't be able to achieve."Numerically outnumbered by Arabs, the state of Israel faces painful choices: surrender democracy or face a voting population that will no longer have predominantly Jewish values. The option of choosing a two-tier democracy such as the one followed by South Africa during apartheid, is repellent. The only alternative, as Ariel Sharon finally realized, is to consolidate the population on a smaller territory in which the population could be more homogenous. (Ethan Bronner, The New York Times, August 14, 2005)
STEVE COHEN AND OMAR DAJANI ON THE BACKGROUND OF THE GAZA SETTLERS
"The first group of settlers came to Gaza in the same way that other settlements were created in the period right after the 1967 war and these were paramilitary settlements. Then, about 10 years later...the Likud came to power... and then many more people moved in..."(Steve Cohen and Omar Dajani, PBS NewsHour, August 15, 2005)
MOSHE ARENS QUESTIONS WHETHER THE WITHDRAWAL WILL BRING A POSITIVE CHANGE
Interviewed by Bitter lemons, the former Israeli defense minister, questions whether a unilateral withdrawal will encourage more Palestinian terrorism. "The Palestinians don't hide their jubilation and conviction that this is a direct result of their use of terror," argues Arens. "This will encourage further terror. We were successful in the battle against terrorism until this idea came along. "(Moshe Arens, Bitter lemons, August 15, 2005)
SHARON SPEAKS TO THE NATION
These have not been easy times for Sharon, and Netanyahu is not making things any easier. Aluf Benn comments in Haaretz (August 15, 2005)
TONY KARON: ON WHERE ONE REALLY BELONGS
In a thought-provoking piece, written for the South Africa Times in December 2003, Tony Karon asks whether Zionist obsession with occupying territory, which picked up much of its force as a reaction to the Holocaust, isn't at odds with traditional Talmudic thinking. "A Jew’s place," argues Karon, "is in the world."(Tony Karon, The Rootless Cosmopolitan, December 2003)
WHAT IRAN GOT FROM PLAYING TOUGH ON ITS NUCLEAR OPTIONS
Interviewed on Iranian television, Hosein Musavian, Iran's chief negotiator on nuclear issues, presents an interesting take on Iran's diplomatic strategy. Asked by a moderator whether North Korea's approach wasn't more productive, Musavani responds that, in fact, Iran was able to avoid U.N. sanctions and obtain a 2-year delay by playing Britain France and Germany off against the International Atomic Energy Agency. In the process, Iran managed to complete construction on its facilities in Isphahan, and to pressure the U.S. into dropping its objections to Iran entering the World Trade Organization. the most important concession, however, may have been international recognition that Iran is now part of the international nuclear club, at least for peaceful purposes. The film clip, provided through the Middle East Media Research Institute TV project, is available online with subtitles.
Watch the TV clip
-Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Non-proliferation resources on Iran
IRAN'S BARGAINING POSITION WAS AIDED BY CONFLICTS AMONG THE COUNTRIES TRYING TO CONTROL ITS NUCLEAR AMBITIONS
Michael Weinstein, writing in the Power and Interest News Report notes that the Iraq intervention was supposed to break the weakest link in the "axis of evil" composed of Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Instead, it has had the opposite result. The intervention failed to uncover a nuclear weapons program in Iraq and the occupation has foundered in an unanticipated insurgency and incipient civil war. Mounting evidence of the limitations of U.S. military power has emboldened Pyongyang and Tehran, and has driven Washington to pursue multilateral diplomacy rather than military and economic pressure...(Michael Weinstein, Power and Interest News Report, August 16, 2005)
IRAN'S SECRET WAR IN IRAQ?
Clandestine U.S. help to Mujaheddin guerrillas played a critical role in convincing the Soviets to withdraw from Afghanistan. Time Magazine, this week, reports that the Iranians may be employing the same strategy against the U.S. in Iraq. One lethal innovation is the upgrading of roadside bombs with shaped-explosive charges that can punch a hole through the wall of a tank. ( Michael Ware, Time, August 15, 2005)
When George Bush decided to send his latest warning to Iran about the dangers of nuclear proliferation, he opted to do it via an exclusive interview on Israeli television--a gesture tantamount to waving a red flag in front of an enraged bull. In case, the Iranians missed the point, Bush stressed that the U.S. is uniting with Israel to make sure that Iran does not become a nuclear power. Since Israel is the only regional power in the Middle East to have some 200 nuclear warheads, the message to the Iranians was clear: get a nuclear weapon fast, or be ready to accept domination by Israel and the United States. The Iranian response was just as clear: with the U.S. tied down in Iraq, Iran has many more options than Washington. (Haaretz, August 14, 2005)
-The Los Angeles Times: Bush's blind spot on Iran
IRAQ'S CONSTITUTIONAL DILEMMA
Condoleeza Rice's press conference on the constitutional impasse in Iraq seemed to be emanating from a reality distortion field. The differences between Iraq's opposing factions appear nearly insurmountable. In technical terms, the interim constitution and provisional transitional assembly are no longer valid. No one wants to push that point, but few Iraqis, apart from those dragooned by the U.S., seem to believe that the current interim national assembly is really democratic, or will dramatically change the situation.
-Condoleeza Rice on the latest developments
-Juan Cole on why, according to the interim Constitution, the transitional parliament is no longer technically valid
-Andrew Arato on where the process went wrong
-The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace's Nathan Brown on the main points of contention on the constitution
KNIGHT-RIDDER ON U.S. APPOINTED OFFICIALS SKIMMING FUNDS IN BAGHDAD
The Iraqi Board of Supreme Audit, in a report reviewed by Knight Ridder, describes transactions that suggest senior U.S.-appointed Iraqi officials in the Defense Ministry used three intermediary companies to hide the kickbacks they received from contracts involving unnecessary, overpriced or outdated equipment. Knight Ridder reported last month that $300 million in defense funds had been lost. But the report indicates the audit board uncovered a much larger scandal.The contracts under scrutiny total $1.27 billion, nearly equal to the estimated $1.3 billion allocated for the Defense Ministry's budget this year. (Houston Chronicle, August 11, 2005)
CHINA MAKES A MOVE ON CASPIAN OIL
The Caspian Sea has the largest untapped oil reserves since the North Sea, and the biggest fields are largely being handled by Kazakhstan. Eurasianet.org points out that Kazakhstan’s energy players have long courted Chinese investment. Now -- following the failed attempt by the Chinese government-controlled oil giant, China National Offshore Oil Co. (CNOOC) Ltd, to acquire the American-based Unocal – Beijing is looking for a more politically friendly environment in which it can secure a steady supply of energy for the country’s fast-growing economy. (Alec Applebaum, Eurasianet, August 15, 2005)
CHINA HOPING TO STABILIZE RELATIONS WITH U.S.
The visit to the U.S. by Chinese premier Hu Jintao next month could have an important impact on the future power balance for the 21st century. Willy Lam, writing in the Jamestown Foundation's China Brief, notes that although Hu apparently has more confidence in Russia than in the U.S., he would like to put relations with the U.S. on a more positive footing. (Willy Lam, China Brief, Jamestwon Foundation.org, August 16, 2005)
IS CHINA GETTING READY TO FLOAT ITS OWN AIRCRAFT CARRIER?
Chinese shipyard workers have been repairing a badly damaged ex-Russian aircraft carrier and have repainted it with the country's military markings, raising the question once again of whether China is pursuing longer-term plans to field its first carrier.
In the latest developments, images show that workers at the Chinese Dalian Shipyard have repainted the ex-Russian Kuznetsov-class aircraft carrier Varyag with the markings and colour scheme of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) Navy (PLAN). Additional new photographs show that other work, the specifics of which could not be determined, appears to be continuing and that the condition of the vessel is being improved.
JDW believes that PLAN technicians have also conducted thorough studies of the basic structure of the Varyag during the past few years to obtain a comprehensive understanding of the carrier's structural design. Former PLAN commander General Liu Huaqing stated in his memoirs that China had purchased blueprints for the carrier - a fact that Russian sources confirmed to JDW. Moreover, Gen Huaqing added: "The competent departments of the defence industry employed Russian aircraft carrier designers to come to China and give lectures." (Janes Defense Weekly, August 16, 2005)
THE BIZARRE HISTORY OF THE HAPLESS VARYAG
Once considered as a candidate for a floating casino, the Varyag has gone through a number of different incarnations, while the Russians tried to unload it. (Answers.com)
THE SPAWNING OF ANOTHER AL QAEDA STRATEGIST
As with antibiotic-resistant bacteria, awkward or unsuccessful attempts to control extremist movements can lead to the emergence of new movements that are hyper-extreme. That appears to be the case of Syria's Salafist movement, which emerged after Assad's efforts to annihilate the Muslim Brotherhood by mass slaughter in 1982. The Jamestown Foundation profiles Abu Mus’ab al-Suri, is believed to be in Iraq and is suspected of being a key Al Qaeda theoretician. (Murad al Shsishani, Jamestown Foundation, August 11, 2005)
--Jamestown's Global Terrorism issue on Syria(pdf)
--Terrorism issue (html)
--Abu Mus’ab al-Suri and the Third Generation of Salafi-Jihadists By Murad Al-Shishani
--Syria: A Haven for Terrorists? By Sherifa Zuhur
--The History of Political and Militant Islam in Syria By Sami Moubayed
--The Battle within Syria: An Interview with Muslim Brotherhood Leader Ali Bayanouni
RAND LOOKS AT THE RELIGIOUS ROOTS OF CONTEMPORARY INTERNATIONAL VIOLENCE
Rand, working on a study funded by the CIA’s Directorate for Intelligence, has produced an intriguing exploration of the ways in which contemporary political movements exploit religious passion as justification for unspeakable acts. The emphasis is on Islamic extremism, although the ideological arguments used to justify terrorist violence are visible in all three Abrahamic religions not to mention Washington's obsession with its vision of the "axis of evil." The study, which incorporates contributions by Juan Cole, Mark Juergensmeyer, Philip Jenkins, Ian Lustick and Jack Miles, concludes: "In all of these stories and narratives, there is a dark side, one that identifies the Enemy with evil powers that God has set out to vanquish. This cosmic struggle between the forces of Good and Evil, therefore, is the key to understanding how religiously inspired violence is perceived by its perpetrators and what motivates them to kill in the name of God. Thus, the transcendence of religion, with its impulse to engage in a war between Good versus Evil, provides a ready justification for the “extremists” to commit unspeakable acts of violence. That “evil” exists in the world is clearly not a contentious or wavering issue for the “warriors” of holy zeal. For them cosmic war is defensive, not offensive..."(RAND, 2005, 84 pages-pdf)
George Bush leads his cabinet to his vacation ranch in Crawford, Texas
A sea change of sorts seems to be taking place over Iraq. Frank Rich points out in a New York Times OpEd, the only one who seemed to have missed the obvious is President Bush, who is in relative isolation on an extended 5-week vacation at his "Broken Spoke Ranch" in Crawford, Texas. While the cabinet tried to reposition Iraq and GWOT (The Global War against Terror) as a struggle against extremism, the president complained that he was too busy to deal with anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan, and "needed to get on with my life..." He then went for a 2-hour bicycle ride with reporters on his ranch.
Frank Rich's piece in the New York Times emphasizes that domestic and international constraints, combined with insufficient boots-on-the-ground in Iraq and waning public support mean that the administration is running out of options. The proof is that the neocons are turning on each other in their haste to scramble out from under the wight of an increasingly messy situation. No one wants to take credit these days for the tough-talking fantasizing about global power that got us into Iraq in the first place.
Robin Wright and Ellen Knickmeyer, writing in the Washington Post, quote a senior official involved in policy as saying, "What we expected to achieve was never realistic given the timetable or what unfolded on the ground. We are in a process of absorbing the factors of the situation we're in and shedding the unreality that dominated at the beginning."
Ronald Brownstein and Mark Mazzetti note in the Los Angeles Times that the Pentagon and policy planners in Washington have been sending out one message on Iraq and the President 1,742 miles away in Crawford has been sending out another.
-Frank Rich in the New York Times
-Robin Wright and Ellen Knickmeyer in the Washington Post
-Ronald Brownstein and Mark Mazzetti in the Los Angeles Times