|THE U.S. UNDER ATTACK IN SAUDI ARABIA
A terrorist commando, claiming connections to Al Qaeda, overran the heavily fortified U.S. consulate in Jeddah, killing five local staffers, and challenging the U.S. presence in the Kingdom.
ATTACK AGAINST THE U.S. IN SAUDI ARABIA
Despite heightened security precautions, an Al Qaeda terrorist commando managed to break into the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah and kill at least five local consular staff members. The underlying message was clear: the U.S. may be a superpower, but it remains vulnerable. (Beirut Daily Star, December 7, 2004)
SAUDIS PROVIDE DETAILS ON HOW AL QAEDA DID IT
Attackers approached the mailroom entrance on foot, and then used handgrenades to blast their way inside. (Mark Huband, FT, December 7, 2004)
HOW SECURE IS SAUDI OIL?
The Middle East accounts for nearly 63% of the world's oil. Saudi Arabia, alone, has 25% of the proven reserves. Destroying or interrupting the supply could deal a nearly lethal blow to the world's economy. The Center for Strategic and International Studies' Anthony Cordesman is preparing a working paper that puts the situation into perspective. (Anthony Cordesman, CSIS, November 30, 2004)
ACLU REPORTS THAT A U.S. SPECIAL OPS UNIT TRIED TO KEEP AMERICAN INTELLIGENCE OFFICERS FROM REVEALING TORTURE AT ABU GHRAIB
Freedom of Information documents include: A June 25, 2004 memo from Vice Admiral Lowell E. Jacoby, Defense Intelligence Agency chief, entitled “alleged detainee abuse by TF 62-6,” describing how DIA personnel who complained about abuses were threatened, had their car keys confiscated and e-mails monitored, and were ordered “not to talk to anyone in the U.S.” or leave the base “even to get a haircut.”• The June 25 memo also describes how the task force’s officers punched a prisoner in the face “to the point he needed medical attention,” failed to record the medical treatment, and confiscated DIA photos of the injuries. The date of the incident is unclear.• FBI emails showing a rift between the Department of Defense and the FBI on the use of harsh interrogation techniques on detainees. One email notes that Major General Miller “continued to support interrogation strategies [the FBI] not only advised against, but questioned in terms of effectiveness.” (ACLU, NYCLU, December 7, 2004)
-Index to released documents and pdfs of originals...
RUMSFELD FACES QUESTIONS FROM U.S. TROOPS
It is easy to forget that just two years ago, Donald Rumsfeld was telling senior U.S. commanders--notably Army Chief of Staff General Shinseki--that they didn't know what they were talking about, "didn't get it" about Iraq. Rumsfeld wanted to go in with a fraction of the troops there now, and by adopting a radical and highly risky strategy, he discarded decades of lessons learned by U.S. forces in bloody combat. Retired Marine Corps General Michael De Long, Paul Rieckhoff a former lieutenant in Iraq discuss the equipment and armor shortages on Jim Lehrer's News Hour( December 9, 2004).
CHAOS MAKES ARMY RETHINK TACTICS
The desintegrating situation in Iraq has convinced some military planners that the U.S. has made fundamental mistakes in analyzing how an enemy is likely to confront the U.S. in future warfare. An emphasis on mobility and concentrating firepower against enemy positions misses the point that the enemy may disperse to such an extent that there never is an identifiable target. By failing to win over local populations, the military loses the eyes and ears it needs to identify the threat. (Greg Jaffe, the Wall Street Journal, December 8, 2004)
CIA'S BAGHDAD STATION CHIEF WARNS THAT THE SITUATION IS DETERIORATING BADLY
The CIA classified cable has been circulating widely in Washington despite the White House's insistence that the situation is not as dire as some critics charge. (Douglas Jehl, New York Times, December 7, 2004) NPR also reported today that U.S. personnel have been advised against traveling by car to Baghdad airport. The U.S. has been unable to guarantee security over the 10-mile stretch of roadway. To reach the airport, personnel are now required to travel by helicopter.
WHAT ABOUT IRAQ'S OIL?
Getting Iraq's oil business up and running again has turned out to be an elusive objective. US authorities have had to take on the ... task of importing sufficient petroleum products from neighboring countries to bridge the gap between rising local demand and declining processing capacity. This has been no easy task, since despite the fact that the oil facilities were not destroyed during the invasion, unlike the situation during Desert Storm in 1991, there was extensive looting, theft and sabotage after the war. It is estimated that the oil industry alone lost around $1bn in this systematic and organized theft in the first few months after the war. The smuggling of products from Iraq to neighboring countries continues to this day.... (Walid Khadduri, Middle East Economic Survey, November 29, 2004)
SOUTH KOREA WAS EXPLORING ITS OWN NUCLEAR OPTIONS
It now emerges that North Korea has not been alone in investigating nuclear defense possibilities. In August the South Koreans admitted that they had enriched uranium, without declaring it. The retrospective transparency forces a major reevaluation of what governments and analysts around the world thought they knew about South Korea's nuclear history. (Jungmin Kang, Peter Hayes, Li Bin, Tatsujiro Suzuki and Richard Tanter, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, January/February 2005)
THE WASHINGTON POST'S THOMAS RICKS ON THE POWER OF BLOGGING BAGHDAD
Ricks notes that while the Pentagon has been busily super-spinning its justifications for destroying Fallujah, an internet blogger has almost single handedly succeeded in redirecting attention to the enormous civilian cost of the U.S. onslaught. Apart from questions about the war in Iraq, the phenomenon is another indication of the growing power of the internet. (Thomas Ricks, Washington Post, December 5, 2004)
-FALLUJAH IN PICTURES.COM
THE TEN LEADING CRISES ACCORDING TO THE INTERNATIONAL CRISIS GROUP
The rigged 21 November presidential runoff elections in the Ukraine, Cote d'Ivoire's dramatic step backward, with government planes breaking the ceasefire in the north, 19,000 fleeing to Liberia, and French destruction of the Ivorian airforce in retaliation for air strikes that killed nine French peacekeepers. The Democratic Republic of the Congo coming under repeated threats of invasion by Rwanda as Kigali worried about rebels in eastern DRC. Despite positive movement in peace talks between the Sudanese government and southern rebels, Darfur experienced increasing violence. The situations in Central African Republic, Guinea, Kosovo, Nepal, Serbia & Montenegro and Uzbekistan also worsened in November. (ICG, December 1, 2004)
RAND: LOOKING FOR TERRORISM IN DEVIATIONS FROM THE NORM
The Atypical Signal Analysis and Processing schema identifies atypical behavior potentially related to terror activity; puts it into context; generates and tests hypotheses; and focuses analysts' attention on the most significant findings. A supporting conceptual architecture and specific techniques for identifying and analyzing out-of-the-ordinary information are also described. (RAND, November 17, 2004)
U.S. MARINES DECIDE TO RESUME RELEASING CASUALTY STATISTICS
After a lame explanation that the Marines had been trying to deny Iraqi insurgents with information on how successful they were being, the Marines have decided to report casualty figures again. (Reuters, December 2, 2004)
FALLUJAH: OPENING THE DOOR TO VENDETTA
There were plenty of tactical reasons for taking on Fallujah, but the political costs may add up to more than the U.S. expected. (Mariam Fam, AP, December 4, 2004)
THE U.S. ARRESTS CHIEF ELECTION ORGANIZER FOR SHIITE SISTANI
Aides to Iraq's leading Shiite cleric Ayatollah Sistani claim that the U.S. has arrested Mohammed Hashem al-Yehya, coordinator of the six-person committee set up by the Marjaiya (Iraq's highest Shiite authority) to supervise the drawing up of an electoral list with the backing of the ayatollah. The U.S. military authorites say they have heard the reports and are trying to find out what happened.(AFP via Turkish Press, December 5, 2004)
WHAT TO THINK ABOUT KARZAI
Ed Girardet muses on the latest developments following the presidential inauguration of the U.S.-backed "Mayor of Kabul" (Ed Girardet, Afghan Journal, December 4, 2004)
PUTIN WARNS THE WEST TO BACK OFF ON UKRAINE
Following a meeting with Turkey's president in Ankara, Vladimir Putin warned the west not to try to impose its vision of democracy on the Ukraine. (Steve Gutterman, AP via Moscow Times, December 7, 2004)
A NEW CANDIDATE TO FURTHER CONFUSE UKRAINE'S ELECTION?
there are signs that the ruling elite is considering a new candidate. This is Serhiy Tyhypko, who on November 29 simultaneously resigned from two positions: manager of Yanukovych's election campaign and chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine (NBU). "I will be a full-time politician," Tyhypko told a press conference in the morning. (Oleg Varfolomeyev, Jamestown Foundation, December 1, 2004)
THE FACTORS DRIVING THE UKRAINE--
A blue ribbon panel headed by Zbigniev Brzezinski discusses the forces behind Ukraine's astonishing political upset. (The Center for Strategic and International Studies, November 30, 2004)
GEORGIA STEPS UP ITS DEFENSE SPENDING TO 10% OF THE BUDGET
Georgia's planned defense expenditures for 2005 have nearly doubled. Preliminary plans called for a 34 percent hike in defense spending next year in comparison with 2004, totaling 119 million lari, or $65 million. As security conditions have deteriorated in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia, however, the government has hiked its estimates. (Eurasianet.org, December 3, 2004)
CIVIL GEORGIA:BREAKAWAY ABKHAZIA'S OUTGOING PRESIDENT REFUSES TO STEP DOWN
Abkhazia seems headed for a showdown with the outgoing president refusing to acknowledge defeat (Civil Georgia, December 5, 2004)
THE CENTER FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY ON THE UKRAINE
The Center for Public Integrity offers a comprehensive background file on corruption charges and other political dealings in the Ukraine.
CHINA'S JET FUEL SCANDAL
China's jet fuel import monopoly, Singapore-listed China Aviation Oil (CAO), last week reported whopping losses to the tune of US$550, due largely to speculation and unwise derivative trading. But that's only half the story. The financial scandal has raised serious questions about the way Chinese firms are managed, their lack of transparency, accountability and fairness, as well as the efficiency of Singaporean financial authorities. (Kosuke Takahashi, Asia Times, December 7, 2004)
CHINA PROBES LATIN AMERICA
Call it "Operation American Backyard." Hu Jintao's first trip to Latin America as president is emblematic of the fact that China's power projection has reached the furthest corners of the world - including Latin America, the United States' largely neglected backyard.
Hu's fortnight-long journey involves much more than the Chinese supremo's participation in the annual Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Santiago, Chile - more than even the much-awaited summit last Friday between Hu and President George W. Bush on the sidelines of the APEC Head of States conclave. Firstly, Hu's historic Latin American tour, which included Brazil, Argentina and Cuba, underscores the fact that "energy diplomacy" has become top priority for Chinese foreign and security policy in the wake of the spike in oil prices and continued instability in the Middle East.
(Willy Lam, Jamestown Foundation, November 24, 2004)
The U.S. dollar has lost 35% of its value under the Bush administration, and the decline has accelerated dramatically in the last few weeks.
THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING DAMAGED DOLLAR
Not too long ago, the Euro was worth 85 cents. Last week, the Euro exchanged at $1.32. More than a problem for American tourists, the weakened dollar is pricing European goods out of the American market. The danger is that if the slide continues, the dollar may cease to be the currency of reference throughout the world. That could prove expensive. As the Economist points out: "If America keeps on spending and borrowing at its present pace, the dollar will eventually lose its mighty status in international finance. And that would hurt: the privilege of being able to print the world's reserve currency, a privilege which is now at risk, allows America to borrow cheaply, and thus to spend much more than it earns, on far better terms than are available to others. Imagine you could write cheques that were accepted as payment but never cashed. That is what it amounts to. If you had been granted that ability, you might take care to hang on to it. America is taking no such care, and may come to regret it.(The Economist, December 2, 2004)
THE WORLD ECONOMY INCREASINGLY QUEASY
EACH year, the 30 relatively wealthy nations of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) make, sell and buy about $30 trillion-worth of goods and services. Forecasting whether these nations will add another trillion, or merely a few hundred billion, to this total next year is no easy matter. On Tuesday November 30th, the OECD once again gazed into its crystal ball, offering its latest projections for the world’s big economies. It foresees growth of 2.9% next year among its members, slower than this year’s pace of 3.6%. OECD economies’ fortunes have darkened since the spring, when they were expected to expand by as much as 3.3% in 2005.
What has changed since then? The answer is not very mysterious. When the OECD made its June forecast, its members could buy a barrel of Brent crude oil for about $32. By mid-October, they were paying $50. Of the OECD’s members, only Canada, Denmark, Mexico, Norway and Britain (for the time being) are net exporters of oil. The rest spent over $260 billion last year importing the stuff. (The Economist, December 3, 2004).
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