Sunday, September 30, 2007

The Hidden Facts - A Message From The Iraqi Resistance (transcript & video)

"ICH" - Free people of the world, we believe it is time to provide you with another updated report on the status of the war as we in the resistance factions perceive. We have several indications from the fields and from within the puppet government in Baghdad that the tactics used by the occupation forces have developed, yet the strategic aims that drive them, remains the same and in order to clarify the nature of such developments we must return to the facts.

The invasion of Iraq was based on lies mainly as we all must not forget, that the previous government was stocking weapons of mass destruction and had links to the infamous Al-Qaida. After the initial stages of this war, the world discovered the scale of the White House deception. To avoid accountability and responsibility, the declared reasons gradually shifted to spreading democracy and taking the war to them; as if the Iraqi people were responsible for the events of 9/11. Buying time, while testing different tactics to achieve any levels of success that maybe marketed as a victory or achievement, became a priority.

The project then collapsed, and the Pentagon woke up to a new reality. The Iraqi people did not welcome an invasion, as some traitors have guided. And the Iraqi Army which could not engage such a superior force with its outdated equipment in a classic battlefield, has handed over the cities to the occupier.

Large urban societies would require enormous financial support and the funds found in Iraq’s Banks would eventually disappear in the hands of looters. New funds would be required. Bush cannot simply ask for more funds from the US tax payer. But now that Bush controls Middle East Oil, he has no option but to increase the international price of oil, to cover the increasing cost of occupying our Country. This decision was the next mistake, we in the resistance were praying for. The additional revenues that would be available for Bush would also be available for other oil producing states, mainly Russia, Venezuela, and Iran. Each would benefit from the extra revenues in enforcing their position in the international arena. Russia today after five years is stronger and is rebuilding its previous glory. Iran, which aided US intervention in Afghanistan then Iraq succeeded in using US power to weaken two fronts; build a larger and more powerful army, fund its nuclear ambitions, and support any organization in the Middle East that is opposed to Israel and the US, regardless of sect or agenda, in an attempt to extort the US into giving any concessions a defeated and cornered White House could spare. Venezuela today nationalized many of its industries reviving its economy and having more to say, when it comes to oil pricing. China has a growth rate that is confidently reaching the 4th. As for Europe, it is lost in between. With a Euro currency too strong to allow a considerable rise in exports, a union which requires restructuring before accepting new members, a birth rate that is at its lowest due to strains and taxations on its working class, and energy requirements that increase along with costs, the future of Europe and its weak governments is not so promising. Europe, must find ways to enforce its own will and interests and work in conjunction with Russia to restore world stability and balance. As for the fragile sheikhdoms that export oil in the Arabian Gulf, we assure you that they are exporting at maximum output. They are also in fear of Iran which could easily cause havoc by firing a few missiles across the Gulf. This will devastate the stock markets, and booming property based industries which add up to their financial back bone. They also cannot publicly assist the Iraqi Resistance until the US simple evacuates to avoid being labeled as funders of terrorism.

In Iraq, Bremer disbanded the Iraqi Army, giving us more men and eagerness to free Iraq of its occupiers. And the amount of weapons stocks we stored will last us for fifty years if not more.

The White House faced with all this, decided that a puppet government would assist in reducing the financial and administration strains in Iraq, Bush then turned to the Kurdish Parties and the Persian backed militias for assistance. But, at what cost? Neither Turkey will accept an independent Kurdish state on its southern borders, nor Iran, will stop at simply aiding the US and easing its burden by controlling the south of Iraq and have the US concentrate their efforts on central Iraq. On the contrary, the puppet government’s ministries of influence such as the Interior and Defense, were handed over to the Iranian backed militias. Clarifying even more the secret arrangement between the US and Iran. Here the White House believed that by trying to enforce sectarian violence amongst Iraqis the level of attacks on US troops will be reduced, but this tactic, as we also predicted, has also failed. Iraqis have a high rate of intersect marriages, and that deprives anyone the ability to divide such a society by sect. Also the amount of killings and sadistic brutality of these militias has left the US and its puppet government in Baghdad exposed internationally. Today these militias, have become the major source of instability in Iraq.

We must also not forget that the atrocities at Abu-Ghraib prison and the use of chemical weapons on our civilians added to the failure. The Pentagon then increased the numbers of security contractors who have a high price tag, and gave them more field duties, this way if any are killed, there figures are not disclosed as is the case with the green-card soldiers. Also today the number of security contractors in Iraq is almost equal to the amount of military personnel. As for the Islamic Party which claims it represents the Sunnis in the puppet government; they have played all their cards with no positive gains, and more pressure is being enforced on them by us, to withdraw, and deprive it from its legal status. We know they will pull out sooner or later for they have nothing to offer to the Iraqi people. And staying in power will do more harm.

The Pentagon and under order of Rumsfield resorted to a new tactic. If Iraqis are not accepting what the US wants, they must simply leave Iraq. In essence, change people of Iraq. Make them refugees in neighboring countries until they dissolve in their host societies. And when these counties complain, bully or bribe them into silence. True, it will effect our people and create an imbalance in the composition of our society, but again to our advantage. Our people who leave as refugees will be safer, and when they find jobs whatever they may be, in neighboring countries, they provide the minimums for their families and acquire the working skills required to rebuild Iraq after victory.

Free people of the world as this conflict develops we are more sure of our predictions and analysis. And the foreign players in Iraq today have reached the state where their interest are no longer common. There is more to disagree on and conflict is present. And looking at all the details of the timeline of this conflict as we have explained, we do not see one correct decision or action taken on the part of the US. Not one single positive achievement. This by far, is the most costly pack of lies any criminal has come up with. This is why Bush today, is alone and isolated in his own little world. All his generals and strategists cannot offer him a solution. His people do not believe in him and his army of looters and thieves is lost, tired, and disoriented. The true reasons of this war as we all know is oil, world domination, corporate government, and the guarantee of existence to the so called state of Israel.

Here we must not forget that the Iraqi Resistance, and despite all the reservations that some might have, has set a unique example that will be studied by historians and analysts for years to come. Most importantly it has taught the world of oppressed nations and societies that a self sufficient resistance movement in our modern times is possible, and can destabilize the most powerful opponents let alone local governing bodies that cooperate with imperial powers. They are much easier to remove and eradicate and this reverses the known equation. One free man, can change the outcome of a day.

The Resistance has proved to the world that it is through morality and determination that you can achieve and gain your rights and that ideological pretext that is marketed by the US media as being the cause of this war, is nothing but another lie. Religions have coexisted for thousands of years in peace, why is it now a problem. Idealogic and religious fanaticism on all sides is only the excuse and not the reason which is economic gain and influence. The Resistance has also proved that the highly consumable capital based economies cannot fight long wars, and their greed for energy to sustain a specific lifestyle will eventually grind humanity into a global market of exploitation and slavery only to be followed by total collapse. Capitalism as is tested more and more with less energy available will eventually fail.

In all what we have stated, we are proud to say that the Iraqi Resistance has and continues to redefine the meaning of the word conquest .

We also extend our hands again and again to those troops in Iraq who are still holding on to their morality and humanity, to those who do not want to be part of this crime, that the doors of our mosques and churches will always remain open for. And we in the resistance will honor your humanity and will assist you in discreetly taking you out of Iraq into neighboring countries where you will not be prosecuted and labeled as deserters. We know there are many amongst you who want to leave, but we can only help if you gather the courage to express sorrow, remorse, and detachment from this crime.

We have smuggled out tens and tens of honest men who thought they were coming to Iraq for a cause. Only a few cases such as US Marine Wassef Ali Hasoun who was captured then during interrogation it was clearly evident that this man was not a criminal and thus, we could not harm him. We undertook the task of taking him out of Iraq to safety. We are usually more heavy handed with punishment, when we find people of Arab or Iraqi origin who aid the US.

Another is a supplies driver by the name of Mohammad Ali Sanad, who was working for a Kuwaiti company that was supplying goods to US Bases. During interrogation and extensive dialogue it was clearly evident that this man was sorry for what he did, even the transport company he worked for, known as “Faisal al Neheet” stopped its cooperation with the occupation, closed its offices in Baghdad, and left. He was also released and these are only two examples that we can declare only because the cases went public, as we do not intend to jeopardize the lives of others we helped.

We also extend our appreciation and respect to all the honorable people around the world, the heroes of dignity and freedom, the brave men and women of the anti-globalization and Peace movements. We in Iraq are thankful and grateful for all what you have done and your continued efforts to end this conflict and confront the white collar criminals of corporate governments. May God bless you all and continue to engulf you with patients and resolve.

To the American people we say, you have finally awakened and the millions of honorable people amongst you have now realized that the Iraqi people are not your enemies, and they are not responsible for your grief. It is your troops which occupied our country, and not us yours. The arrogant war criminal who rules in your name has humiliated your nation & military honor and we believe, that a democracy that is not willing to fight for its own freedom, is no better that a raw dictatorship. Your great efforts to remove the ware criminal from the White House has changed the equation in your government tremendously. But it to great disappointment that Bush is insisting even more in his arrogance to go against your will in ending this war. Bush does not respect his own people and we believe that because he knows that a political solution will not be reached with the Iraqi Resistance, he will leave to democrats a heavy burden by the time he leaves office. He cannot comprehend that a few good men have brought has project in the Middle East to a complete halt. Bush cannot stay in Iraq where he is caught between the fire of the resistance and that of Iran.

And if he leaves after all these losses and humiliation the oil rich south of Iraq will be in the hands of Iran. And this is what US strategy cannot accept. Bush’s last attempt and revenge will be to pull out of Iraq and plan its disintegration into 3 geographically carved states. Then strike the strategic assets of Iran, to bring its already strained economy down to collapse.

Thus the democrats will be left with a Middle East that is even more unstable than it is now. And despite our knowledge that when it comes to strategic interests both parties do not conflict and it is only the methods that bear the difference, The democrats have a chance to end this conflict in a face saving solution for the US, by first declaring that they recognize the factions of the Iraqi resistance as the representatives of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi Republic. After which a negotiating team would be arranged to negotiate your troop withdrawal, compensation of Iraq, and matters of future interest. It is only through the Iraqi resistance, that a solution may be born.

Finally we say to Bush and those behind him. You can go all you want with your plans, strategies, and executions, and we with ours. Lead your troops into battle with every high tech gadgetry and equipment, military science as ever developed, and we will go as primitive and creative as we can, creating the necessary gap that continues to deprive you of the upper hand. Attack with all your force if we leave you a trace, for so many traces were left for fool & arrogant. Hide all you true casualties and we will deprive you of new recruits. Raise the oil prices more and strengthen other aspiring nations & we will deprive you of ours, then raise the cost of occupation till we break your bones in Baghdad and Babylon.

Wander the shelves of history in search of methods to adapt, and we will confront you with a form of variable, adaptable, and reversible asymmetric warfare that will set the standard for years and years to come.

And may the best man win !

The Nineteen Twenty Revolution Brigades
Media Office
Baghdad, on the 8th of September 2007

Ruling Parties Reject Iraq Division

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's major political parties denounced the US Senate proposal calling for a limited centralized government with the bulk of the power given to the country's Shiite, Sunni or Kurdish regions, saying it would seriously hamper Iraq's future stability.

At a news conference earlier Sunday, at least nine Iraqi political parties and party blocs representing both Shiites and Sunnis said the Senate resolution would diminish Iraq's sovereignty and called for parliament draft a law permanently banning any division of Iraq along sectarian or ethnic lines.

"Our goal in Iraq remains the same: a united, democratic, federal Iraq that can govern, defend, and sustain itself,'' the statement said. "Iraq's leaders must and will take the lead in determining how to achieve these national aspirations. ... attempts to partition or divide Iraq by intimidation, force or other means into three separate states would produce extraordinary suffering and bloodshed.''

A nonbinding Senate resolution adopted last week calls for Iraq to be divided into federal regions under control of Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis in a power-sharing agreement similar to the one that ended the 1990s war in Bosnia. Sen. Joseph Biden was a prime sponsor of the measure.

"This proposal was based on the incorrect reading and unrealistic estimations of Iraq's past, present and future,'' according to the statement read by Izzat al-Shahbandar, a representative of the Iraqi National List, a secular political party, during a news conference.

"(The proposal) opposes all laws of the international community and its legitimate institutions which protect all the rights of people in self-decision, building their future and defending their unity and sovereignty,'' he said, adding that the international community should denounce the proposal and "support Iraq in its crisis and its efforts to restore security and stability in all its areas.''

The Kurds in three northern Iraqi provinces support a formal division, but both Sunni and Shiite Muslims have denounced the proposal.

On Friday, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki told The Associated Press that "dividing Iraq is a problem, and a decision like that would be a Catastrophe".

Iraq's constitution lays down a federal system, allowing Shiites in the south, Kurds in the north and Sunnis in the center and west of the country to set up regions with considerable autonomous powers.

Shifting Targets - The Administration’s plan for Iran (video)

by Seymour M. Hersh

In a series of public statements in recent months, President Bush and members of his Administration have redefined the war in Iraq, to an increasing degree, as a strategic battle between the United States and Iran. “Shia extremists, backed by Iran, are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on our forces and the Iraqi people,” Bush told the national convention of the American Legion in August. “The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied munitions have increased. . . . The Iranian regime must halt these actions. And, until it does, I will take actions necessary to protect our troops.” He then concluded, to applause, “I have authorized our military commanders in Iraq to confront Tehran’s murderous activities.”

The President’s position, and its corollary—that, if many of America’s problems in Iraq are the responsibility of Tehran, then the solution to them is to confront the Iranians—have taken firm hold in the Administration. This summer, the White House, pushed by the office of Vice-President Dick Cheney, requested that the Joint Chiefs of Staff redraw long-standing plans for a possible attack on Iran, according to former officials and government consultants. The focus of the plans had been a broad bombing attack, with targets including Iran’s known and suspected nuclear facilities and other military and infrastructure sites. Now the emphasis is on “surgical” strikes on Revolutionary Guard Corps facilities in Tehran and elsewhere, which, the Administration claims, have been the source of attacks on Americans in Iraq. What had been presented primarily as a counter-proliferation mission has been reconceived as counterterrorism.

The shift in targeting reflects three developments. First, the President and his senior advisers have concluded that their campaign to convince the American public that Iran poses an imminent nuclear threat has failed (unlike a similar campaign before the Iraq war), and that as a result there is not enough popular support for a major bombing campaign. The second development is that the White House has come to terms, in private, with the general consensus of the American intelligence community that Iran is at least five years away from obtaining a bomb. And, finally, there has been a growing recognition in Washington and throughout the Middle East that Iran is emerging as the geopolitical winner of the war in Iraq.

During a secure videoconference that took place early this summer, the President told Ryan Crocker, the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, that he was thinking of hitting Iranian targets across the border and that the British “were on board.” At that point, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice interjected that there was a need to proceed carefully, because of the ongoing diplomatic track. Bush ended by instructing Crocker to tell Iran to stop interfering in Iraq or it would face American retribution.

At a White House meeting with Cheney this summer, according to a former senior intelligence official, it was agreed that, if limited strikes on Iran were carried out, the Administration could fend off criticism by arguing that they were a defensive action to save soldiers in Iraq. If Democrats objected, the Administration could say, “Bill Clinton did the same thing; he conducted limited strikes in Afghanistan, the Sudan, and in Baghdad to protect American lives.” The former intelligence official added, “There is a desperate effort by Cheney et al. to bring military action to Iran as soon as possible. Meanwhile, the politicians are saying, ‘You can’t do it, because every Republican is going to be defeated, and we’re only one fact from going over the cliff in Iraq.’ But Cheney doesn’t give a rat’s ass about the Republican worries, and neither does the President.”

Bryan Whitman, a Pentagon spokesman, said, “The President has made it clear that the United States government remains committed to a diplomatic solution with respect to Iran. The State Department is working diligently along with the international community to address our broad range of concerns.” (The White House declined to comment.)

I was repeatedly cautioned, in interviews, that the President has yet to issue the “execute order” that would be required for a military operation inside Iran, and such an order may never be issued. But there has been a significant increase in the tempo of attack planning. In mid-August, senior officials told reporters that the Administration intended to declare Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. And two former senior officials of the C.I.A. told me that, by late summer, the agency had increased the size and the authority of the Iranian Operations Group. (A spokesman for the agency said, “The C.I.A. does not, as a rule, publicly discuss the relative size of its operational components.”)

“They’re moving everybody to the Iran desk,” one recently retired C.I.A. official said. “They’re dragging in a lot of analysts and ramping up everything. It’s just like the fall of 2002”—the months before the invasion of Iraq, when the Iraqi Operations Group became the most important in the agency. He added, “The guys now running the Iranian program have limited direct experience with Iran. In the event of an attack, how will the Iranians react? They will react, and the Administration has not thought it all the way through.”

That theme was echoed by Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former national-security adviser, who said that he had heard discussions of the White House’s more limited bombing plans for Iran. Brzezinski said that Iran would likely react to an American attack “by intensifying the conflict in Iraq and also in Afghanistan, their neighbors, and that could draw in Pakistan. We will be stuck in a regional war for twenty years.”

In a speech at the United Nations last week, Iran’s President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, was defiant. He referred to America as an “aggressor” state, and said, “How can the incompetents who cannot even manage and control themselves rule humanity and arrange its affairs? Unfortunately, they have put themselves in the position of God.” (The day before, at Columbia, he suggested that the facts of the Holocaust still needed to be determined.)

“A lot depends on how stupid the Iranians will be,” Brzezinski told me. “Will they cool off Ahmadinejad and tone down their language?” The Bush Administration, by charging that Iran was interfering in Iraq, was aiming “to paint it as ‘We’re responding to what is an intolerable situation,’ ” Brzezinski said. “This time, unlike the attack in Iraq, we’re going to play the victim. The name of our game seems to be to get the Iranians to overplay their hand.”

General David Petraeus, the commander of the multinational forces in Iraq, in his report to Congress in September, buttressed the Administration’s case against Iran. “None of us, earlier this year, appreciated the extent of Iranian involvement in Iraq, something about which we and Iraq’s leaders all now have greater concern,” he said. Iran, Petraeus said, was fighting “a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq.”

Iran has had a presence in Iraq for decades; the extent and the purpose of its current activities there are in dispute, however. During Saddam Hussein’s rule, when the Sunni-dominated Baath Party brutally oppressed the majority Shiites, Iran supported them. Many in the present Iraqi Shiite leadership, including prominent members of the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, spent years in exile in Iran; last week, at the Council on Foreign Relations, Maliki said, according to the Washington Post, that Iraq’s relations with the Iranians had “improved to the point that they are not interfering in our internal affairs.” Iran is so entrenched in Iraqi Shiite circles that any “proxy war” could be as much through the Iraqi state as against it. The crux of the Bush Administration’s strategic dilemma is that its decision to back a Shiite-led government after the fall of Saddam has empowered Iran, and made it impossible to exclude Iran from the Iraqi political scene.

Vali Nasr, a professor of international politics at Tufts University, who is an expert on Iran and Shiism, told me, “Between 2003 and 2006, the Iranians thought they were closest to the United States on the issue of Iraq.” The Iraqi Shia religious leadership encouraged Shiites to avoid confrontation with American soldiers and to participate in elections—believing that a one-man, one-vote election process could only result in a Shia-dominated government. Initially, the insurgency was mainly Sunni, especially Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Nasr told me that Iran’s policy since 2003 has been to provide funding, arms, and aid to several Shiite factions—including some in Maliki’s coalition. The problem, Nasr said, is that “once you put the arms on the ground you cannot control how they’re used later.”

In the Shiite view, the White House “only looks at Iran’s ties to Iraq in terms of security,” Nasr said. “Last year, over one million Iranians travelled to Iraq on pilgrimages, and there is more than a billion dollars a year in trading between the two countries. But the Americans act as if every Iranian inside Iraq were there to import weapons.”

Many of those who support the President’s policy argue that Iran poses an imminent threat. In a recent essay in Commentary, Norman Podhoretz depicted President Ahmadinejad as a revolutionary, “like Hitler . . . whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it . . . with a new order dominated by Iran. . . . [T]he plain and brutal truth is that if Iran is to be prevented from developing a nuclear arsenal, there is no alternative to the actual use of military force.” Podhoretz concluded, “I pray with all my heart” that President Bush “will find it possible to take the only action that can stop Iran from following through on its evil intentions both toward us and toward Israel.” Podhoretz recently told that he had met with the President for about forty-five minutes to urge him to take military action against Iran, and believed that “Bush is going to hit” Iran before leaving office. (Podhoretz, one of the founders of neoconservatism, is a strong backer of Rudolph Giuliani’s Presidential campaign, and his son-in-law, Elliott Abrams, is a senior adviser to President Bush on national security.)

In early August, Army Lieutenant General Raymond Odierno, the second-ranking U.S. commander in Iraq, told the Times about an increase in attacks involving explosively formed penetrators, a type of lethal bomb that discharges a semi-molten copper slug that can rip through the armor of Humvees. The Times reported that U.S. intelligence and technical analyses indicated that Shiite militias had obtained the bombs from Iran. Odierno said that Iranians had been “surging support” over the past three or four months.

Questions remain, however, about the provenance of weapons in Iraq, especially given the rampant black market in arms. David Kay, a former C.I.A. adviser and the chief weapons inspector in Iraq for the United Nations, told me that his inspection team was astonished, in the aftermath of both Iraq wars, by “the huge amounts of arms” it found circulating among civilians and military personnel throughout the country. He recalled seeing stockpiles of explosively formed penetrators, as well as charges that had been recovered from unexploded American cluster bombs. Arms had also been supplied years ago by the Iranians to their Shiite allies in southern Iraq who had been persecuted by the Baath Party.

“I thought Petraeus went way beyond what Iran is doing inside Iraq today,” Kay said. “When the White House started its anti-Iran campaign, six months ago, I thought it was all craziness. Now it does look like there is some selective smuggling by Iran, but much of it has been in response to American pressure and American threats—more a ‘shot across the bow’ sort of thing, to let Washington know that it was not going to get away with its threats so freely. Iran is not giving the Iraqis the good stuff—the anti-aircraft missiles that can shoot down American planes and its advanced anti-tank weapons.”

Another element of the Administration’s case against Iran is the presence of Iranian agents in Iraq. General Petraeus, testifying before Congress, said that a commando faction of the Revolutionary Guards was seeking to turn its allies inside Iraq into a “Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests.” In August, Army Major General Rick Lynch, the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, told reporters in Baghdad that his troops were tracking some fifty Iranian men sent by the Revolutionary Guards who were training Shiite insurgents south of Baghdad. “We know they’re here and we target them as well,” he said.

Patrick Clawson, an expert on Iran at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told me that “there are a lot of Iranians at any time inside Iraq, including those doing intelligence work and those doing humanitarian missions. It would be prudent for the Administration to produce more evidence of direct military training—or produce fighters captured in Iraq who had been trained in Iran.” He added, “It will be important for the Iraqi government to be able to state that they were unaware of this activity”; otherwise, given the intense relationship between the Iraqi Shiite leadership and Tehran, the Iranians could say that “they had been asked by the Iraqi government to train these people.” (In late August, American troops raided a Baghdad hotel and arrested a group of Iranians. They were a delegation from Iran’s energy ministry, and had been invited to Iraq by the Maliki government; they were later released.)

“If you want to attack, you have to prepare the groundwork, and you have to be prepared to show the evidence,” Clawson said. Adding to the complexity, he said, is a question that seems almost counterintuitive: “What is the attitude of Iraq going to be if we hit Iran? Such an attack could put a strain on the Iraqi government.”

A senior European diplomat, who works closely with American intelligence, told me that there is evidence that Iran has been making extensive preparation for an American bombing attack. “We know that the Iranians are strengthening their air-defense capabilities,” he said, “and we believe they will react asymmetrically—hitting targets in Europe and in Latin America.” There is also specific intelligence suggesting that Iran will be aided in these attacks by Hezbollah. “Hezbollah is capable, and they can do it,” the diplomat said.

In interviews with current and former officials, there were repeated complaints about the paucity of reliable information. A former high-level C.I.A. official said that the intelligence about who is doing what inside Iran “is so thin that nobody even wants his name on it. This is the problem.”

The difficulty of determining who is responsible for the chaos in Iraq can be seen in Basra, in the Shiite south, where British forces had earlier presided over a relatively secure area. Over the course of this year, however, the region became increasingly ungovernable, and by fall the British had retreated to fixed bases. A European official who has access to current intelligence told me that “there is a firm belief inside the American and U.K. intelligence community that Iran is supporting many of the groups in southern Iraq that are responsible for the deaths of British and American soldiers. Weapons and money are getting in from Iran. They have been able to penetrate many groups”—primarily the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias.

A June, 2007, report by the International Crisis Group found, however, that Basra’s renewed instability was mainly the result of “the systematic abuse of official institutions, political assassinations, tribal vendettas, neighborhood vigilantism and enforcement of social mores, together with the rise of criminal mafias.” The report added that leading Iraqi politicians and officials “routinely invoke the threat of outside interference”—from bordering Iran—“to justify their behavior or evade responsibility for their failures.”

Earlier this year, before the surge in U.S. troops, the American command in Baghdad changed what had been a confrontational policy in western Iraq, the Sunni heartland (and the base of the Baathist regime), and began working with the Sunni tribes, including some tied to the insurgency. Tribal leaders are now getting combat support as well as money, intelligence, and arms, ostensibly to fight Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia. Empowering Sunni forces may undermine efforts toward national reconciliation, however. Already, tens of thousands of Shiites have fled Anbar Province, many to Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad, while Sunnis have been forced from their homes in Shiite communities. Vali Nasr, of Tufts, called the internal displacement of communities in Iraq a form of “ethnic cleansing.”

“The American policy of supporting the Sunnis in western Iraq is making the Shia leadership very nervous,” Nasr said. “The White House makes it seem as if the Shia were afraid only of Al Qaeda—but they are afraid of the Sunni tribesmen we are arming. The Shia attitude is ‘So what if you’re getting rid of Al Qaeda?’ The problem of Sunni resistance is still there. The Americans believe they can distinguish between good and bad insurgents, but the Shia don’t share that distinction. For the Shia, they are all one adversary.”

Nasr went on, “The United States is trying to fight on all sides—Sunni and Shia—and be friends with all sides.” In the Shiite view, “It’s clear that the United States cannot bring security to Iraq, because it is not doing everything necessary to bring stability. If they did, they would talk to anybody to achieve it—even Iran and Syria,” Nasr said. (Such engagement was a major recommendation of the Iraq Study Group.) “America cannot bring stability in Iraq by fighting Iran in Iraq.”

The revised bombing plan for a possible attack, with its tightened focus on counterterrorism, is gathering support among generals and admirals in the Pentagon. The strategy calls for the use of sea-launched cruise missiles and more precisely targeted ground attacks and bombing strikes, including plans to destroy the most important Revolutionary Guard training camps, supply depots, and command and control facilities.

“Cheney’s option is now for a fast in and out—for surgical strikes,” the former senior American intelligence official told me. The Joint Chiefs have turned to the Navy, he said, which had been chafing over its role in the Air Force-dominated air war in Iraq. “The Navy’s planes, ships, and cruise missiles are in place in the Gulf and operating daily. They’ve got everything they need—even AWACS are in place and the targets in Iran have been programmed. The Navy is flying FA-18 missions every day in the Gulf.” There are also plans to hit Iran’s anti-aircraft surface-to-air missile sites. “We’ve got to get a path in and a path out,” the former official said.

A Pentagon consultant on counterterrorism told me that, if the bombing campaign took place, it would be accompanied by a series of what he called “short, sharp incursions” by American Special Forces units into suspected Iranian training sites. He said, “Cheney is devoted to this, no question.”

A limited bombing attack of this sort “only makes sense if the intelligence is good,” the consultant said. If the targets are not clearly defined, the bombing “will start as limited, but then there will be an ‘escalation special.’ Planners will say that we have to deal with Hezbollah here and Syria there. The goal will be to hit the cue ball one time and have all the balls go in the pocket. But add-ons are always there in strike planning.”

The surgical-strike plan has been shared with some of America’s allies, who have had mixed reactions to it. Israel’s military and political leaders were alarmed, believing, the consultant said, that it didn’t sufficiently target Iran’s nuclear facilities. The White House has been reassuring the Israeli government, the former senior official told me, that the more limited target list would still serve the goal of counter-proliferation by decapitating the leadership of the Revolutionary Guards, who are believed to have direct control over the nuclear-research program. “Our theory is that if we do the attacks as planned it will accomplish two things,” the former senior official said.

An Israeli official said, “Our main focus has been the Iranian nuclear facilities, not because other things aren’t important. We’ve worked on missile technology and terrorism, but we see the Iranian nuclear issue as one that cuts across everything.” Iran, he added, does not need to develop an actual warhead to be a threat. “Our problems begin when they learn and master the nuclear fuel cycle and when they have the nuclear materials,” he said. There was, for example, the possibility of a “dirty bomb,” or of Iran’s passing materials to terrorist groups. “There is still time for diplomacy to have an impact, but not a lot,” the Israeli official said. “We believe the technological timetable is moving faster than the diplomatic timetable. And if diplomacy doesn’t work, as they say, all options are on the table.”

The bombing plan has had its most positive reception from the newly elected government of Britain’s Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. A senior European official told me, “The British perception is that the Iranians are not making the progress they want to see in their nuclear-enrichment processing. All the intelligence community agree that Iran is providing critical assistance, training, and technology to a surprising number of terrorist groups in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, through Hezbollah, in Lebanon, and Israel/Palestine, too.”

There were four possible responses to this Iranian activity, the European official said: to do nothing (“There would be no retaliation to the Iranians for their attacks; this would be sending the wrong signal”); to publicize the Iranian actions (“There is one great difficulty with this option—the widespread lack of faith in American intelligence assessments”); to attack the Iranians operating inside Iraq (“We’ve been taking action since last December, and it does have an effect”); or, finally, to attack inside Iran.

The European official continued, “A major air strike against Iran could well lead to a rallying around the flag there, but a very careful targeting of terrorist training camps might not.” His view, he said, was that “once the Iranians get a bloody nose they rethink things.” For example, Ali Akbar Rafsanjani and Ali Larijani, two of Iran’s most influential political figures, “might go to the Supreme Leader and say, ‘The hard-line policies have got us into this mess. We must change our approach for the sake of the regime.’ ”

A retired American four-star general with close ties to the British military told me that there was another reason for Britain’s interest—shame over the failure of the Royal Navy to protect the sailors and Royal Marines who were seized by Iran on March 23rd, in the Persian Gulf. “The professional guys are saying that British honor is at stake, and if there’s another event like that in the water off Iran the British will hit back,” he said.

The revised bombing plan “could work—if it’s in response to an Iranian attack,” the retired four-star general said. “The British may want to do it to get even, but the more reasonable people are saying, ‘Let’s do it if the Iranians stage a cross-border attack inside Iraq.’ It’s got to be ten dead American soldiers and four burned trucks.” There is, he added, “a widespread belief in London that Tony Blair’s government was sold a bill of goods by the White House in the buildup to the war against Iraq. So if somebody comes into Gordon Brown’s office and says, ‘We have this intelligence from America,’ Brown will ask, ‘Where did it come from? Have we verified it?’ The burden of proof is high.”

The French government shares the Administration’s sense of urgency about Iran’s nuclear program, and believes that Iran will be able to produce a warhead within two years. France’s newly elected President, Nicolas Sarkozy, created a stir in late August when he warned that Iran could be attacked if it did not halt is nuclear program. Nonetheless, France has indicated to the White House that it has doubts about a limited strike, the former senior intelligence official told me. Many in the French government have concluded that the Bush Administration has exaggerated the extent of Iranian meddling inside Iraq; they believe, according to a European diplomat, that “the American problems in Iraq are due to their own mistakes, and now the Americans are trying to show some teeth. An American bombing will show only that the Bush Administration has its own agenda toward Iran.”

A European intelligence official made a similar point. “If you attack Iran,” he told me, “and do not label it as being against Iran’s nuclear facilities, it will strengthen the regime, and help to make the Islamic air in the Middle East thicker.”

Ahmadinejad, in his speech at the United Nations, said that Iran considered the dispute over its nuclear program “closed.” Iran would deal with it only through the International Atomic Energy Agency, he said, and had decided to “disregard unlawful and political impositions of the arrogant powers.” He added, in a press conference after the speech, “the decisions of the United States and France are not important.”

The director general of the I.A.E.A., Mohamed ElBaradei, has for years been in an often bitter public dispute with the Bush Administration; the agency’s most recent report found that Iran was far less proficient in enriching uranium than expected. A diplomat in Vienna, where the I.A.E.A. is based, said, “The Iranians are years away from making a bomb, as ElBaradei has said all along. Running three thousand centrifuges does not make a bomb.” The diplomat added, referring to hawks in the Bush Administration, “They don’t like ElBaradei, because they are in a state of denial. And now their negotiating policy has failed, and Iran is still enriching uranium and still making progress.”

The diplomat expressed the bitterness that has marked the I.A.E.A.’s dealings with the Bush Administration since the buildup to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. “The White House’s claims were all a pack of lies, and Mohamed is dismissive of those lies,” the diplomat said.

Hans Blix, a former head of the I.A.E.A., questioned the Bush Administration’s commitment to diplomacy. “There are important cards that Washington could play; instead, they have three aircraft carriers sitting in the Persian Gulf,” he said. Speaking of Iran’s role in Iraq, Blix added, “My impression is that the United States has been trying to push up the accusations against Iran as a basis for a possible attack—as an excuse for jumping on them.”

The Iranian leadership is feeling the pressure. In the press conference after his U.N. speech, Ahmadinejad was asked about a possible attack. “They want to hurt us,” he said, “but, with the will of God, they won’t be able to do it.” According to a former State Department adviser on Iran, the Iranians complained, in diplomatic meetings in Baghdad with Ambassador Crocker, about a refusal by the Bush Administration to take advantage of their knowledge of the Iraqi political scene. The former adviser said, “They’ve been trying to convey to the United States that ‘We can help you in Iraq. Nobody knows Iraq better than us.’ ” Instead, the Iranians are preparing for an American attack.

The adviser said that he had heard from a source in Iran that the Revolutionary Guards have been telling religious leaders that they can stand up to an American attack. “The Guards are claiming that they can infiltrate American security,” the adviser said. “They are bragging that they have spray-painted an American warship—to signal the Americans that they can get close to them.” (I was told by the former senior intelligence official that there was an unexplained incident, this spring, in which an American warship was spray-painted with a bull’s-eye while docked in Qatar, which may have been the source of the boasts.)

“Do you think those crazies in Tehran are going to say, ‘Uncle Sam is here! We’d better stand down’? ” the former senior intelligence official said. “The reality is an attack will make things ten times warmer.”

Another recent incident, in Afghanistan, reflects the tension over intelligence. In July, the London Telegraph reported that what appeared to be an SA-7 shoulder-launched missile was fired at an American C-130 Hercules aircraft. The missile missed its mark. Months earlier, British commandos had intercepted a few truckloads of weapons, including one containing a working SA-7 missile, coming across the Iranian border. But there was no way of determining whether the missile fired at the C-130 had come from Iran—especially since SA-7s are available through black-market arms dealers.

Vincent Cannistraro, a retired C.I.A. officer who has worked closely with his counterparts in Britain, added to the story: “The Brits told me that they were afraid at first to tell us about the incident—in fear that Cheney would use it as a reason to attack Iran.” The intelligence subsequently was forwarded, he said.

The retired four-star general confirmed that British intelligence “was worried” about passing the information along. “The Brits don’t trust the Iranians,” the retired general said, “but they also don’t trust Bush and Cheney.”

Video of Sy Hersh interviewed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN:

Hizbullah spiritual leader: Senate declared war on Iran

Sheik Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah slams vote to label Revolutionary Guard a terror organization

by Roee Nahmias and Dudi Cohen

"The declaration of the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group is a declaration of war," Sheik Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah, Hizbullah's spiritual leader, said Sunday in response to a Senate resolution on Wednesday calling on the State Department to include the dominant branch in Iran's army on its list of terrorist organization.

"The American Senate's decision to include the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which are an integral part of the Iranian army, as a terrorist organization, amounts to a declaration of war and so does the Senate's daring decision to vote in favor of a resolution to divide Iraq," Fadlallah said.

"This reflects the dangerous intentions for the region and we can see it as an American move ahead of more wars in countries in the region in order to destabilize them and shake their security and politics," he added.

"He who follows America's political moves understands clearly that the Bush administration has not given up its ambition to plunge the region into war and chaos," he said. "The American Congress is pretending to be trying to change the attitude of this administration but in fact they are working together and are towing the line of the Zionist lobby to widen the scope of American aggression in the region."

"The escalation caused by the Bush administration under the banner of 'a conflict against Iran's regional hegemony,' despite the calming role played by the Iranian government in the political and religious fields and despite its willingness to sacrifice its scientific knowledge in the nuclear field to peaceful purposes, proves that the American administration wants the Arabs to enter a new arms race that serves American coffers and turns them into a tool for the American Army when Bush decides to make another stupid move in the region," Fadlallah said.

Note: the article incorrectly identifies
Sheik Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah as the "spiritual leader of Hezbollah". In reality, while Fadlallah is the senior spiritual leader for many of the Shia Muslim in Lebanon, the spiritual leader of Hezbollah is Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei, the current Supreme Leader of Iran.

So What About Iran?

By Uri Avnery

"ICH" -- -- A respected American paper posted a scoop this week: Vice-President Dick Cheney, the King of Hawks, has thought up a Machiavellian scheme for an attack on Iran. Its main point: Israel will start by bombing an Iranian nuclear installation, Iran will respond by launching missiles at Israel, and this will serve as a pretext for an American attack on Iran.

Far-fetched? Not really. It is rather like what happened in 1956. Then France, Israel and Britain secretly planned to attack Egypt in order to topple Gamal Abd-al-Nasser (`regime change` in today`s lingo.) It was agreed that Israeli paratroops would be dropped near the Suez Canal, and that the resulting conflict would serve as a pretext for the French and British to occupy the canal area in order to `secure` the waterway. This plan was implemented (and failed miserably).

What would happen to us if we agreed to Cheney`s plan? Our pilots would risk their lives to bomb the heavily defended Iranian installations. Then, Iranian missiles would rain down on our cities. Hundreds, perhaps thousands would be killed. All this in order to supply the Americans with a pretext to go to war.

Would the pretext have stood up? In other words, is the US obliged to enter a war on our side, even when that war is caused by us? In theory, the answer is yes. The current agreements between the US and Israel say that America has to come to Israel`s aid in any war - whoever started it.

Is there any substance to this leak? Hard to know. But it strengthens the suspicion that an attack on Iran is more imminent than people imagine.

Do Bush, Cheney & Co. indeed intend to attack Iran?

I don`t know, but my suspicion that they might is getting stronger.

Why? Because George Bush is nearing the end of his term of office. If it ends the way things look now, he will be remembered as a very bad - if not the worst - president in the annals of the republic. His term started with the Twin Towers catastrophe, which reflected no great credit on the intelligence agencies, and would come to a close with the grievous Iraq fiasco.

There is only one year left to do something impressive and save his name in the history books. In such situations, leaders tend to look for military adventures. Taking into account the man`s demonstrated character traits, the war option suddenly seems quite frightening.

True, the American army is pinned down in Iraq and Afghanistan. Even people like Bush and Cheney could not dream, at this time, of invading a country four times larger than Iraq, with three times the population.

But, quite possibly the war-mongers are whispering in Bush`s ear: What are you worrying about? No need for an invasion. Enough to bomb Iran, as we bombed Serbia and Afghanistan. We shall use the smartest bombs and the most sophisticated missiles against the two thousand or so targets, in order to destroy not only the Iranian nuclear sites but also their military installations and government offices. `We shall bomb them back into the stone age,` as an American general once said about Vietnam, or `turn their clock back 20 years,` as the Israeli Air Force general Dan Halutz said about Lebanon.

That`s a tempting idea. The US will only use its mighty Air Force, missiles of all kinds and the powerful aircraft-carriers, which are already deployed in the Persian/Arabian Gulf. All these can be sent into action at any time on short notice. For a failed president approaching the end of his term, the idea of an easy, short war must have an immense attraction. And this president has already shown how hard it is for him to resist temptations of this kind.

Would this indeed be such an easy operation, a `piece of cake` in American parlance?

I doubt it.

Even `smart` bombs kill people. The Iranians are a proud, resolute and highly motivated people. They point out that for two thousand years they have never attacked another country, but during the eight years of the Iran-Iraq war they have amply proved their determination to defend their own when attacked.

Their first reaction to an American attack would be to close the Straits of Hormuz, the entrance to the Gulf. That would choke off a large part of the world`s oil supply and cause an unprecedented world-wide economic crisis. To open the straits (if this is at all possible), the US army would have to capture and hold large areas of Iranian territory.

The short and easy war would turn into a long and hard war. What does that mean for us in Israel?

There can be little doubt that if attacked, Iran will respond as it has promised: by bombarding us with the rockets it is preparing for this precise purpose. That will not endanger Israel`s existence, but it will not be pleasant either.

If the American attack turns into a long war of attrition, and if the American public comes to see it as a disaster (as is happening right now with the Iraqi adventure), some will surely put the blame on Israel. It is no secret that the Pro-Israel lobby and its allies - the (mostly Jewish) neo-cons and the Christian Zionists - are pushing America into this war, just as they pushed it into Iraq. For Israeli policy, the hoped-for gains of this war may turn into giant losses - not only for Israel, but also for the American Jewish community.

If President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad did not exist, the Israeli government would have had to invent him.

He has got almost everything one could wish for in an enemy. He has a big mouth. He is a braggart. He enjoys causing scandals. He is a Holocaust denier. He prophesies that Israel will `vanish from the map` (though he did not say, as falsely reported, the he would wipe Israel off the map.)

This week, the pro-Israel lobby organized big demonstrations against his visit to New York. They were a huge success - for Ahmadinejad. He has realized his dream of becoming the center of world attention. He has been given the opportunity to voice his arguments against Israel -- some outrageous, some valid - before a world-wide audience.

But Ahmadinejad is not Iran. True, he has won popular elections, but Iran is like the orthodox parties in Israel: it is not their politicians who count, but their rabbis. The Shiite religious leadership makes the decisions and commands the armed forces, and this body is neither boastful nor vociferous not scandal-mongering. It exercises a lot of caution.

If Iran was really so eager to obtain a nuclear bomb, it would have acted in utmost silence and kept as low a profile as possible (as Israel did). The swaggering of Ahmadinejad would hurt this effort more than any enemy of Iran could.

It is highly unpleasant to think about a nuclear bomb in Iranian hands (and, indeed, in any hands.) I hope it can be avoided by offering inducements and/or imposing sanctions. But even if this does not succeed, it would not be the end of the world, nor the end of Israel. In this area, more than in any other, Israel`s deterrent power is immense. Even Ahmadinejad will not risk an exchange of queens - the destruction of Iran for the destruction of Israel.

Napoleon said that to understand a country`s policy, one has only to look at the map.

If we do this, we shall see that there is no objective reason for war between Israel and Iran. On the contrary, for a long time it was believed in Jerusalem that the two countries were natural allies.

David Ben-Gurion advocated an `alliance of the periphery`. He was convinced that the entire Arab world is the natural enemy of Israel, and that, therefore, allies should be sought on the fringes of the Arab world - Turkey, Iran, Ethiopia, Chad etc. (He also looked for allies inside the Arab world - communities that are not Sunni-Arab, such as the Maronites, the Copts, the Kurds, the Shiites and others.)

At the time of the Shah, very close connections existed between Iran and Israel, some positive, some negative, some outright sinister. The Shah helped to build a pipeline from Eilat to Askelon, in order to transport Iranian oil to the Mediterranean, bypassing the Suez Canal. The Israel internal secret service (Shabak) trained its notorious Iranian counterpart (Savak). Israelis and Iranians acted together in Iraqi Kurdistan, helping the Kurds against their Sunni-Arab oppressors.

The Khomeini revolution did not, in the beginning, put an end to this alliance, it only drove it underground. During the Iran-Iraq war, Israel supplied Iran with arms, on the assumption that anyone fighting Arabs is our friend. At the same time, the Americans supplied arms to Saddam Hussein - one of the rare instances of a clear divergence between Washington and Jerusalem. This was bridged in the Iran-Contra Affair, when the Americans helped Israel to sell arms to the Ayatollahs.

Today, an ideological struggle is raging between the two countries, but it is mainly fought out on the rhetorical and demagogical level. I dare to say that Ahmadinejad doesn`t give a fig for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he only uses it to make friends in the Arab world. If I were a Palestinian, I would not rely on it. Sooner or later, geography will tell and Israeli-Iranian relations will return to what they were - hopefully on a far more positive basis.

One thing I am ready to predict with confidence: whoever pushes for war against Iran will come to regret it.

Some adventures are easy to get into but hard to get out of.

The last one to find this out was Saddam Hussein. He thought that it would be a cakewalk - after all, Khomeini had killed off most of the officers, and especially the pilots, of the Shah`s military. He believed that one quick Iraqi blow would be enough to bring about the collapse of Iran. He had eight long years of war to regret it.

Both the Americans and we may soon be feeling that the Iraqi mud is like whipped cream compared to the Iranian quagmire.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli author and activist. He is the head of the Israeli peace movement, "Gush Shalom".

US House votes to 'strongly back' illegitimate Siniora Government

AIM news reports that US Congressman Gary L. Ackerman led the House of Representatives Wednesday in pass a resolution calling for strong US support for the government of Lebanon by a vote of 415 to 2. Ackerman, the chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, warned the House that "Lebanon is being bullied by Iran, Syria and their proxies, Hizbullah, Amal and Michel Aoun's Free Patriotic Movement."

Citing the campaign of assassinations, bombings, weapons smuggling and the instigation of a jihadi insurgency, Ackerman accused Damascus and Tehran of destabilizing Lebanon in order to pursue their own national interests.

"Now is the time for Congress to send a strong message of support for the democratically elected and fully legitimate government in Lebanon" Ackerman said.

"Time is short. The Syrian-backed campaign of murder is creeping ever closer to its goal of destroying the majority of the Lebanese Parliament, bringing down the government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and again imposing a pro-Syrian president on Lebanon."

"The current Lebanese government, which is under siege, is both legitimate and representative of the majority of Lebanese. The attempts to undermine it are not some kind of retaliation. Lebanon's government is being systematically attacked only because it is unwilling to subordinate its authority and Lebanon's sovereignty to external and extra-legal demands," Ackerman added.

The resolution condemns Syria and the Islamic Republic for "providing weapons" to Lebanese militias, particularly to Hizbullah, and Palestinian factions in Lebanon in clear contravention of Security Council resolutions, and endorses "prompt action" by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon established by the Security Council to investigate the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005. The resolution also pledges continued US material support to help preserve and strengthen Lebanese sovereignty and independence.

Are the Taliban "The Enemy" or Not?

By Jeffrey Imm

Once again, another national leader of an American "ally" in the "war on terror" has offered to help the Taliban regain political power. AP has reported that Afghanistan's President Hamid Karzai offered "to meet personally with Taliban leader Mullah Omar for peace talks and give the militants a high position in a government ministry as a way to end the rising insurgency in Afghanistan." AP reports that Karzai stated: "If a group of Taliban or a number of Taliban come to me and say, 'President, we want a department in this or in that ministry or we want a position as deputy minister ... and we don't want to fight anymore ... If there will be a demand and a request like that to me, I will accept it because I want conflicts and fighting to end in Afghanistan." This echoes comments this week by the UK Defense Minister that "the Taliban will need to be involved in the peace process".

In February 2007, the Afghanistan parliament granted immunity to the Taliban's Mullah Omar and other Mujahideen for 25 years worth of activities. Now Afghan President Karzai wants to meet personally with Taliban leader Mullah Omar for peace talks to allow the Taliban to join the Afghanistan government. (There is no word if the U.S. State Department would continue to offer $10 million for the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, although he is no longer on their main page of wanted terrorists.) Taliban leader Mullah Omar was reputed to have signed last year's Taliban peace truce with Pakistan.

But isn't the Taliban "the enemy" of the United States of America?

If not, what exactly does the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) call for? The AUMF called for war against "those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations", which surely included the Taliban. Furthermore, there are 171 clustered references to the Taliban in the Final Report of the 9/11 Commission. What more exactly does the United States need to view the Taliban as "the enemy"? Based on the AUMF, how can the Taliban be any less of an enemy to the United States, than Al Qaeda itself?

And if the Taliban are "the enemy", how can Americans accept the Taliban or the Taliban ideology in any political organization of an "ally" nation, let alone ones that American taxpayers provide millions of dollars to? Where is the outrage from American political leadership on this? Why is there no outrage among American political leaders at offers to "legitimize" the same Taliban that helped Al Qaeda in its Jihadist camps to kill 3,000 Americans? As previously discussed, the lack of clarity in identifying the enemy in this war is precisely what allows such disturbing realpolitik considerations.

What do such "peace at any cost" negotiations with an enemy of the United States mean to Jihadists in justifying the use of political terrorism? If the Taliban regain political power in Afghanistan, does American leadership agree that we should lose the Afghanistan war to end the fighting? Isn't that what, in other words, we call "surrender"? Or has our ambiguity about the identity of the enemy gotten so dense that American leadership can now rationalize the Taliban itself?

Earlier this month, Karzai called for peace talks with the Taliban, but the Taliban rejected such talks until "foreign troops" leave Afghanistan. This is a demand that Karzai has rejected on the basis: "[i]t should be very clear until all our roads are paved, until we have good electricity and good water, and also until we have a better Afghan national army and national police, I don't want any foreigners to leave Afghanistan". Is Karzai saying that he just doesn't want western aid to stop, as it did for Hamas?

Karzai's offer for political empowerment to the Taliban in Afghanistan comes as UPI and the Daily Telegraph report that the Taliban has publicly released its "Constitution of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan", which provides insight into what the Taliban would do if indeed such political empowerment was realized. The Daily Telegraph reports that the "23-page document envisages a country where women would remain veiled and uneducated, 'un-Islamic thought' would be banned and human rights would be ignored if 'contrary with the teachings of Islam' ", where "violators will be punished according to sharia", and that stipulates that all other constitutions are void. Furthermore, the Taliban constitution has called for "good relations" with those countries supporting Afghanistan "during jihad". I think we can make an educated guess that the Taliban would not consider such countries to include the United States.

Is this the legal system with "its roots in Islamic law" that the UK Defense Minister was stating this week would be a solution to fighting in Afghanistan?

This follows the August offer by Pakistan President Musharraf to help the Taliban become a mainstream political organization. At the August 12 jirga meeting, President Musharraf reflected that as "Taliban are a part of Afghan society", and "all of them are not diehard militants and fanatics", that reaching the Taliban and pro-Taliban population required "a more comprehensive political and development approach". President Bush was reported to have congratulated Pakistan President Musharraf on his efforts at the jirga.

Realpolitik negotiators may believe that there is a "bad Taliban" and a "good Taliban". In Presidents Karzai and Musharraf's views, the "bad Taliban" is violent, and the "good Taliban" is well, just simply "fundamentalist" in their Islamist view of the world. Does America agree with that assessment? Because that is the direction that war in Afghanistan is going based on these outreach efforts to bring the Taliban into the political mainstream. Realpolitik negotiators may believe that bringing the Taliban into a "democratic" political process will end the conflict and fighting in Afghanistan.

Did bringing Hezbollah into the Lebanon government end fighting in Lebanon?
Did Hamas' election to the Palestinian government bring peace to the Palestinian territories?
Did the Ayatollah Khomeini's Islamic government in Iran bring peace to Iran and its relations with the world?
Has the growing influence of Islamist political and other groups in Pakistan brought stability and peace to Pakistan?

Yet NATO, UN, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the US are all tolerating the idea of peace talks with the Taliban to bring them back into political power in the Afghanistan government. Americans don't even have to compare this to Islamist Iran as an analogy. We have already seen what the Taliban did when they held political power in Afghanistan. Our national homeland was physically attacked and thousands of Americans died as a result. On this near anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, how could we forget that? What next - will we be negotiating a political "mainstream" party for Al Qaeda?

Moreover, with their latest constitution, the Taliban has told us specifically what they plan to do, if they do get back into power. We know who and what the Taliban are and what they plan to do if they regain power. Yet still, American leadership is not denouncing talks to allow the Taliban to return to Afghanistan government power.

If so, this begs the obvious question, what are we fighting for?

Iran MPs brand U.S. army and CIA "terrorists"

TEHRAN - Iranian lawmakers hit back on Saturday at the United States for considering sanctions against the Islamic state's Revolutionary Guards, branding the U.S. armed forces and the CIA as "terrorist".

A statement, signed by 215 MPs and read out at a session of the 290-seat legislature, criticised the U.S. military and the Central Intelligence Agency for what it called terrorist actions, the official IRNA news agency said.

It cited the World War Two atomic bombing of Japan, the Vietnam war and the conflict in Iraq as examples.

"Iranian lawmakers ... labelled the American army and the country's intelligence services (CIA) as terrorist," IRNA said.

The statement came four days after the U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill mandating sanctions on foreign energy companies doing business with Iran and urging the U.S. government to brand the Revolutionary Guards "terrorist".

The two nations, who have not had diplomatic ties since shortly after Iran's 1979 Islamic Revolution, are embroiled in a deepening rift over Tehran's nuclear ambitions. They also blame each other for the bloodshed in Iraq.

Iran has said any U.S. move to label the Guards a terrorist organisation -- which would enable Washington to target the force's financing -- would be illegal and amount to a confrontation with the entire Islamic Republic.


U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this week Washington was considering sanctions against the Guards' Qods force which it accuses of inciting violence in Iraq.

The Qods force is considered the elite unit of the Guards, which is an ideologically-driven wing of Iran's armed forces.

A month ago, there were plans within the U.S. administration to label the entire Guards Corps a terrorist group -- the first time the United States would place the armed forces of any sovereign government on such a list.

But U.S. officials have said the thinking now was that the Qods unit was easier to target. Washington accuses it of training and equipping insurgents who have attacked U.S. troops.

Iran denies this, as well as Western allegations its nuclear programme is aimed at developing atomic weapons.

The Iranian lawmakers' statement condemned "the violations by the American army and the creation of insecurity in the region."

It also listed the United States' "unlimited support for the racist and aggressive Zionist regime (Israel) and involvement in the terrorist operations of the government of that regime against the oppressed nations of Palestine and Lebanon".

The MPs called on the United Nations to intervene to prevent "places of torture" such as Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib and secret U.S. prisons, IRNA added.

The handling of detainees in the U.S. military lockup at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and at secret CIA prisons has fuelled allegations that the United States has wilfully violated international law.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The bin Laden needle in a haystack

By Michael Scheuer

More than six years after the September 11, 2001, attacks, Osama bin Laden remains free, healthy and safe enough to produce audio and videotapes that dominate the international media at the times of his choosing.

Popular attitudes, and some official ones, in the United States and its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies tend to denigrate the efforts made by their military and intelligence services to capture the al-Qaeda chief. The common question always is, "Why can't the US superpower and its allies find one six-foot, five-inch Saudi with an extraordinarily well-known face?"

The answers are several, each is compelling, and together they suggest that the US-led coalition's military and intelligence forces are too over-tasked and spread far too thin to have more than a slim chance of capturing or killing bin Laden and his senior lieutenants.

The first factor is the issue of topography. Few US citizens or Europeans have any idea of what the terrain of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border looks like.

This shortcoming must be attributed to the failure of Western leaders to educate their electorates using the abundant and commercially available satellite photography that depicts the nightmarish mountains, forests and roadless terrain in which Western forces conduct their search. The border area is genuinely a frontier in the sense of the American Old West, but with mountains that dwarf even the Rockies. Such use of satellite photography would likewise show voters that the Western concept of a "border" as a well-defined and manageable demarcation between two nation-states is not remotely applicable regarding the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

The second factor is the role of the indigenous population. Bin Laden and his lieutenants appear to currently reside in a region dominated on both sides of the border by Pashtun tribes. Ethnically and linguistically, the Pashtun are fairly homogenous, but the multiple tribes are divided and subdivided into myriad, often rival, clans. What all Pashtuns share, however, is a quite conservative brand of Islam and a tribal tradition that insists that no individual, once accepted as a guest by the tribe, ever be surrendered to those seeking him and that he be defended to the death.

Buttressing this tribal stricture in bin Laden's case is the fact that the Pashtuns are conservative Muslims, and regard him - as does much of the Muslim world - as an Islamic hero. The strength of this combination is evident when it is noted that no Pashtun has stepped forward to collect a cent of the tens of the millions of dollars the United States is willing to pay for information leading to bin Laden's capture or death.

It also is worth noting that the Pashtun custom of guest protection and their tendency to evaluate bin Laden as an Islamic hero is more or less shared by all Sunni Afghans, that it is a near-countrywide Afghan characteristic. Thus, the US-led coalition's military and intelligence personnel are likely to encounter these attributes along most of the 1,700-kilometer Pakistan-Afghanistan border in areas north and south of the Pashtun-dominated central border area.

In addition, the Afghans' traditional hostility to foreign occupation traverses all ethnic groups and this nearly universal attitude is likely to be encountered with increasing stridency as the coalition's presence progresses through its seventh year. Recent media reporting, for example, shows that some mujahideen groups in the pro-Karzai Northern Alliance's heartland are beginning to reform on the basis of a desire to rid Afghanistan of what they view as its current set of foreign occupiers.

The third factor is the coalition's choice of major search areas. In many ways, the hunt for bin Laden depends on clandestinely acquired information, and those who comment on the effort - including the present author - must admit that they are commenting and analyzing on the basis of informed speculation, common sense and historical precedent.

For the past several years, the hunt for bin Laden has been concentrated in Pakistan's Waziristan region and the area adjacent to it on the Afghan side of the border. Coalition and Afghan forces, Pakistan's intelligence service and border guards, and the Pakistani regular army have been involved in the hunt. One must assume that credible information has led them to that location. Nevertheless, there are several good reasons that make Waziristan an unlikely top choice as a hiding spot for bin Laden and his lieutenants.

A. Although clearly a remote area, Waziristan is an area through which much commerce and smuggling takes place. In addition, there is a great deal of simply tribe-, clan- or family-related movement through the area because of the trans-border ethnic homogeneity. Of the entire length of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, only the Kandahar-Chaman-Quetta and Kabul-Jalalabad-Peshawar corridors have more of such activity, making Waziristan an area in which everyday human and business traffic provides substantial cover for those hunting a fugitive, and thereby making it a relatively unattractive refuge.

B. Waziristan was a major staging and training area for the Afghan mujahideen and their non-Afghan allies during the anti-Soviet jihad of the 1980s. As a result, the Pakistani, American and Russian governments hold a good deal of information about the location of camps, depots and hideouts built by the Afghan mujahideen. This kind of information also is held by some of the war correspondents who covered the Afghan-USSR war, and who are now covering the present insurgency. It seems fair to conclude that the anti-Soviet mujahideen built their facilities in what they determined were the most secure locations in Waziristan, and that bin Laden and his lieutenants are fully aware that their current enemies have knowledge of these bases, and so they would not seek safe haven in places known to those hunting them.

C. The US government, its NATO allies, President Hamid Karzai's administration and scores of Western media reporters and terrorism "experts" have, over the past six years, made no secret of their belief that bin Laden and his leadership team is in Waziristan. The US-led coalition's military, diplomatic and political officials repeatedly have said publicly that they are putting much of their resources into the Waziristan-focused hunt for bin Laden and his organization. As a result, bin Laden would have to be dimwitted to stay in Waziristan in the face of his enemies' providing him with credible and detailed intelligence about their focus and intentions.

While based on the region's history and informed speculation, the northeastern Afghan areas of Konar province and Nuristan and the adjacent Bajaur Agency in Pakistan lend themselves far better to bin Laden's security needs:

A. This mountainous region is one of the most remote and rugged in Afghanistan; it is the virtually inaccessible area in which Rudyard Kipling set the events of his timeless story, The Man Who Would Be King. Roads are few, the population is scattered and it hosts nothing like the commercial and smuggling activity found in Waziristan. Additionally, in terms of the quality of maps available to bin Laden hunters, this region is much less well-documented than the admittedly poorly mapped Waziristan area.

The topography, therefore, favors anyone trying to hide because, once positioned on the high ground, fugitives will have an early visual warning of any approaching foe. The terrain likewise favors the hit-and-run and ambush tactics of insurgent fighters. During the anti-Soviet jihad, for example, the communist garrison stationed in Konar's capital of Asadabad was more or less marooned. Operations staged from the city were never a surprise, and were often met by ambushes. Likewise, convoys bringing reinforcements and supplies from the south were often ambushed.

B. The areas of Konar and Nuristan also were strong mujahideen redoubts during the Afghan-Soviet war. Indeed, the first resistance to the Soviet-backed regime in Kabul originated in Nuristan in 1978, and the region itself hosted forces belonging to several prominent mujahideen commanders. The most important of these, from bin Laden's current perspective, is Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his Hezb-e-Islami organization.

An early sponsor and longtime friend of bin Laden - he helped facilitate the al-Qaeda chief's return to Afghanistan in May 1996 - Hekmatyar maintains strong forces in parts of Konar province and most of adjacent Laghman province to the east. Media reporting likewise indicates that another al-Qaeda ally, the Kashmiri Lashkar-i-Taiba maintains a presence and perhaps training facilities in Konar province. In terms of jihadi colleagues, the region appears well-stocked with bin Laden's allies.

C. The Konar-Nuristan-Bajaur Agency area also has been a region on which Salafi missionaries from Saudi Arabia and other Arabian peninsula states have focused their proselytizing efforts for several decades. Saudi fighters were allowed by the population to train in the region during the war against the USSR, and today it stands as one of the most - and perhaps the most - Salafi area in South Asia. As a Salafi himself, bin Laden would be sure to find the area both welcoming and religiously comfortable. This shared Salafism, moreover, would add another measure of security for bin Laden as his co-religionists are unlikely to cooperate with those seeking his apprehension.

D. This region also is one that bin Laden had his eye on as home since his 1996 return to Afghanistan. When in the spring of 1997 he was preparing to leave his residence in Nangarhar province after several attempts on his life, bin Laden's inclination was to proceed north into the Konar-Nuristan area. He decided against this plan, however, when the Taliban invited him to live in its capital at Kandahar. He then believed it would be politically unwise for al-Qaeda to turn down an invitation from Afghanistan's de facto government. No such consideration is now relevant.

The fourth and final factor is the lack of resources devoted to the hunt. Given Afghanistan's sheer size and extraordinarily mountainous terrain, the current level of forces available to the US-led coalition appears inadequate to perform all the tasks it has been assigned. In addition to eliminating bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and al-Qaeda, for example, the coalition's forces are being asked to keep President Karzai's government in power, rebuild the country's economy and transportation infrastructure, help organize a democratic political system, defeat the growing Taliban-led insurgency and eliminate the world's largest heroin industry.

Of the 50,000 total coalition troops at their command, it seems unlikely that US and NATO commanders can field more than half of that total as combat forces; indeed, some NATO contingents are forbidden by their governments from performing combat duties. That force seems inadequate for the tasks assigned to it, and may well be outnumbered by the manpower involved in the growing Islamist insurgency.

Michael Scheuer served as the chief of the bin Laden Unit at the CIA's Counterterrorist Center from 1996 to 1999.

Iran Monitors Movements in Persian Gulf

TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- The Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) said its defense troops have launched a new system which brings all movements in the Persian Gulf and the Straight of Hormoz under Iran's online control.

The system called 'Hod Hod' (Hoopoe) has been designed by IRGC experts and provides the Iranian troops with the possibility to monitor even the subtlest moves on the surface or in the air.

According to IRGC, Hod Hod which is equipped with the most advanced cameras and electronic boxes dispatches the recorded footages and photographs to different military centers round the clock 24 hours a day.

Hod Hod which is capable of taking high resolution and high quality pictures and images even at nights, will provide the opportunity to the IRGC troops - who are currently using different radar and electronic systems - to gain a better online control over the entire region.

'The President Has Accepted Ethnic Cleansing' - Seymour Hersh

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh has consistently led the way in telling the story of what's really going on in Iraq and Iran. SPIEGEL ONLINE spoke to him about America's Hitler, Bush's Vietnam, and how the US press failed the First Amendment.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was just in New York for the United Nations General Assembly. Once again, he said that he is only interested in civilian nuclear power instead of atomic weapons. How much does the West really know about the nuclear program in Iran?

Seymour Hersh: A lot. And it's been underestimated how much the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) knows. If you follow what (IAEA head Mohamed) ElBaradei and the various reports have been saying, the Iranians have claimed to be enriching uranium to higher than a 4 percent purity, which is the amount you need to run a peaceful nuclear reactor. But the IAEA's best guess is that they are at 3.67 percent or something. The Iranians are not even doing what they claim to be doing. The IAEA has been saying all along that they've been making progress but basically, Iran is nowhere. Of course the US and Israel are going to say you have to look at the worst case scenario, but there isn't enough evidence to justify a bombing raid.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is this just another case of exaggerating the danger in preparation for an invasion like we saw in 2002 and 2003 prior to the Iraq War?

Hersh: We have this wonderful capacity in America to Hitlerize people. We had Hitler, and since Hitler we've had about 20 of them. Khrushchev and Mao and of course Stalin, and for a little while Gadhafi was our Hitler. And now we have this guy Ahmadinejad. The reality is, he's not nearly as powerful inside the country as we like to think he is. The Revolutionary Guards have direct control over the missile program and if there is a weapons program, they would be the ones running it. Not Ahmadinejad.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Where does this feeling of urgency that the US has with Iran come from?

Hersh: Pressure from the White House. That's just their game.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What interest does the White House have in moving us to the brink with Tehran?

Hersh: You have to ask yourself what interest we had 40 years ago for going to war in Vietnam. You'd think that in this country with so many smart people, that we can't possibly do the same dumb thing again. I have this theory in life that there is no learning. There is no learning curve. Everything is tabula rasa. Everybody has to discover things for themselves.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Even after Iraq? Aren't there strategic reasons for getting so deeply involved in the Middle East?

Hersh: Oh no. We're going to build democracy. The real thing in the mind of this president is he wants to reshape the Middle East and make it a model. He absolutely believes it. I always thought Henry Kissinger was a disaster because he lies like most people breathe and you can't have that in public life. But if it were Kissinger this time around, I'd actually be relieved because I'd know that the madness would be tied to some oil deal. But in this case, what you see is what you get. This guy believes he's doing God's work.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So what are the options in Iraq?

Hersh: There are two very clear options: Option A) Get everybody out by midnight tonight. Option B) Get everybody out by midnight tomorrow. The fuel that keeps the war going is us.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: A lot of people have been saying that the US presence there is a big part of the problem. Is anyone in the White House listening?

Hersh: No. The president is still talking about the "Surge" (eds. The "Surge" refers to President Bush's commitment of 20,000 additional troops to Iraq in the spring of 2007 in an attempt to improve security in the country.) as if it's going to unite the country. But the Surge was a con game of putting additional troops in there. We've basically Balkanized the place, building walls and walling off Sunnis from Shiites. And in Anbar Province, where there has been success, all of the Shiites are gone. They've simply split.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Is that why there has been a drop in violence there?

Hersh: I think that's a much better reason than the fact that there are a couple more soldiers on the ground.

SPIEGEL ONLINE:So what are the lessons of the Surge?

Hersh: The Surge means basically that, in some way, the president has accepted ethnic cleansing, whether he's talking about it or not. When he first announced the Surge in January, he described it as a way to bring the parties together. He's not saying that any more. I think he now understands that ethnic cleansing is what is going to happen. You're going to have a Kurdistan. You're going to have a Sunni area that we're going to have to support forever. And you're going to have the Shiites in the South.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the US is over four years into a war that is likely going to end in a disaster. How valid are the comparisons with Vietnam?

Hersh: The validity is that the US is fighting a guerrilla war and doesn't know the culture. But the difference is that at a certain point, because of Congressional and public opposition, the Vietnam War was no longer tenable. But these guys now don't care. They see it but they don't care.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: If the Iraq war does end up as a defeat for the US, will it leave as deep a wound as the Vietnam War did?

Hersh: Much worse. Vietnam was a tactical mistake. This is strategic. How do you repair damages with whole cultures? On the home front, though, we'll rationalize it away. Don't worry about that. Again, there's no learning curve. No learning curve at all. We'll be ready to fight another stupid war in another two decades.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Of course, preventing that is partially the job of the media. Have reporters been doing a better job recently than they did in the run-up to the Iraq War?

Hersh: Oh yeah. They've done a better job since. But back then, they blew it. When you have a guy like Bush who's going to move the infamous Doomsday Clock forward, and he's going to put everybody in jeopardy and he's secretive and he doesn't tell Congress anything and he's inured to what we write. In such a case, we (journalists) become more important. The First Amendment failed and the American press failed the Constitution. We were jingoistic. And that was a terrible failing. I'm asked the question all the time: What happened to my old paper, the New York Times? And I now say, they stink. They missed it. They missed the biggest story of the time and they're going to have to live with it.

Interview conducted by Charles Hawley and David Gordon Smith