June 23, 2005

"A Lifeline to Terrorists"

From the WaPo:

Of a [Iraq withdrawal] deadline, Rumsfeld testified: "It would throw a lifeline to terrorists, who in recent months have suffered significant losses in casualties, been denied havens, and suffered weakened popular support."

But the committee's top Democrat, Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, said a withdrawal deadline should not be ruled out.

"The Iraqis have approved a timetable for adopting a constitution: August 15th, with the possibility of one and only one six-month extension," Levin said.

"The United States needs to tell the Iraqis and the world that if that deadline is not met, we will review our position with all options open, including but not limited to setting a timetable for withdrawal," Levin said.

"We must demonstrate to the Iraqis that our willingness to bear the burden of providing security has limits. We have opened the door for the Iraqis at great cost, but only they can walk through it. We cannot hold that door open indefinitely," Levin added.

Don Rumsfeld is most assuredly right on this one; and Carl Levin most assuredly wrong. This tendency to cut and run before the job is done is one of the major reasons B.D. is consistently dubious about the seriousness of Democrat national security teams. They can't help themselves, it seems. Meantime, I have to say, I like Rumsfeld's description of setting an exit date as constituting "a lifeline to terrorists." That's really well put, and I say that despite being, of course, a frequent Rummy critic.

P.S. Don't miss Abizaid's refusal to endorse the "last throes" crapola:

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.: "General Abizaid, can you give us your assessment of the strength of the insurgency? Is it less strong, more strong, about the same strength as it was six months ago?"

Gen. John Abizaid, top U.S. commander in the Persian Gulf: "In terms of comparison from six months ago, in terms of foreign fighters, I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago.

"In terms of the overall strength of the insurgency, I'd say it's about the same as it was."

Levin: "So you wouldn't agree with the statement that it's in its last throes?"

Abizaid: "I don't know that I would make any comment about that other than to say there's a lot of work to be done against the insurgency."

Levin: "Well, the vice president has said it's in its last throes, that's the statement the vice president — it doesn't sound to me from your testimony or any other testimony here this morning that it is in its last throes."

Abizaid: "I'm sure you'll forgive me from criticizing the vice president."

Levin: "I just want an honest assessment from you as to whether you agree with a particular statement of his — it's not personal. ...

Abizaid: "I gave you my opinion of where we are."

"A lot of work to be done." That's not quite the same as "last throes" now is it?

Posted by Gregory at June 23, 2005 07:57 PM | TrackBack (7)
Comments

Biden doesnt seem to endorse Levins views, afaict.

Posted by: liberalhawk at June 23, 2005 09:39 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have to disagree with you on both counts. Carl Levin did not say "Let's have a hard timetable for withdrawal". he said (paraphrasing) "Let's tell our _allies_ in Iraq that if they do not get their act together, we will consider setting a timetable." This has quite a different effect on the terrorists than an actual time table. If we set a timetable, the terrorists know that they just have to bide their time, so they will slow down the attacks and save their powder for when we are gone. If we say we will leave if the constitution does not got through, then they will work to disrupt the constitution. But if we merely say we will reconsider, what do they do? If they bide thier time, then they lose a chance to disrupt the next step in democratizing the country. If they step up the attacks then they give us a pretext for staying. Meanwhile our allies have an extra incentive to work harder.

As for the tendency to cut and run, imagine a world in which the Iraq project has failed. In that world, won't we wish that we had gotten out just as soon as our efforts were useless? If we refuse to even countenance the possibility of failure, we make virtually certain that we will miss that point, and then we will be truly wasting the lives or our servicemen.

I expect an administration that refuses to consider the costs of this war (which I supported and still do support BTW) to also refuse to consider the possibility of failure, but I expect better of you, BD.

Posted by: rcriii at June 23, 2005 10:12 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

You praise Rumsfeld for his saying that the insurgents are taking a beating, yet you condemn Cheny for saying virtually the same thing. This is one time when you are so wrong as to be off the chart, and Levin has the right idea. Our presence in Iraq is the equivilant of being the red flag in a bull fight. The longer we stay the greater the the damage that is done. We must convince the Iraqis that there is a limit to our being there. Our army is being destroyed, the pentagon is violating the privacy of 16-21 year olds in order to shore up it declining enlistments - all this reminds me of the comment of General Mark Clark: "we went into Vietnam to save Vietnam, we withdrew to save the army."
How many have to die for this foolish, unwise and unnecessary war.

Posted by: Bill at June 23, 2005 11:44 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Don Rumsfeld is most assuredly right on this one;

no he's not.

A decision by the US to withdrawal is just as likely to be considered a "lifeline to the terrorists" as it is to "suck the air out of terrorist's support" because those who are supporting the terrorist know the US is leaving anyway, and their goals have been met.

We have to stop treating Islamic terrorism in Iraq as if its a fire that we can blow out like a candle, and recognize that our presence there is merely fanning the flames.

The rest of the world knows that if the US leaves, and a "failed state" results in Iraq, the consequences would be disasterous. At the same time, the world knows that the Bush regime cannot be trusted to learn the proper lesson from Iraq, and instead learn that the US can engage in destructive military adventurism, and the rest of the world will "fix" things when they go wrong (this is how Bush has lived his whole life----never dealing with the consequences of his willful decisions, and letting "Daddy" and his friends "fix" things when he screws up.)

At this point, Iraq is a "no-win" proposition for the USA, and a potential "huge loss" proposition. Iraq is breeding a whole new generation of potential anti-US terrorists....but that isn't even the real problem. Iraq is literally destroying the concept of an "all volunteer Army", and severely damaging our future ability to respond effectively in a real crisis. It is doing enormous damage to the US position as the leader of the free world --- damage that may, at this point, be irreparable, but in any event will take over a decade to fix.

When you know you can't win, the smart thing to do is cut your losses. We've have four and a half years of a completely disasterous Bush regime foreign policy --- and look what its brought us to. We simply cannot afford to "stay this course".

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 23, 2005 11:45 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

It was a Republican Congressman who asked that a withdrawal timetable start by October 06. Let's see, that would be one month before the Congressional elections. So if the insurgency is still getting worse then, and we are still staying the course, Republicans may not hold onto their House majority. That's one time limit. Another is suggested by this question. If we hold on as long as the Crusaders did (about two hundred years), will the jihadists give up? The US long term intentions in Iraq remain murky. To many Muslims, our intentions are clearly to occupy and control through puppets. It is inspiring to talk about securing democracy for the people of Iraq, but if the administration has other, long term objectives that are being kept from public view, there will be another time limit tied to how long it takes for the truth to out.
Doppler

Posted by: Doppler at June 24, 2005 12:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I have a great deal of regard for Cheny's usually steely demeanor. In this case, unless he is in possession of information that has not yet been made public, I think he overstated the success of our operation to this point, and that such overstatement is a mistake.

That said I think history will show Mssrs. Kennedy, Levin, and, on this string, Bill and p.lukasiak to be wrong in their assessment of the possibilities of ultimate success in the Iraq endeavor.

I am confident we will support the current Iraqi government through the end of this President's term
and that Mssrs. Kennedy and Levin or the rest of the democratic leadership will not be able to change that.

I do not see both houses of Congress changing control in 2006. Unless that were to happen, the balance of the Bush term will be devoted to assuring that the "insurgency" will be defeated.

Unless someting goes much worse than what is happening now, I don't see anything changing this course.

For perspective, as of this time in June, 1945, we had on two small Japanese islands, Iwo Jima and Okinawa, over the previous eighty-seven days suffered over 115,000 casualties, of which over 25,000 died. Roosevelt had been dead a little over 2 months, and Truman had only sixty days before (12 days after he took office) first learned that the atomic bomb (the U.S. top secret "exit strategy")had been developed and was ready for testing.

The country had been at war on several fronts since December 1941, having lost over 300,000 of its sons and daughters.

Have you ever heard about any Congressional hearing of the like we heard today during that time?

If there was one, it was never publicised.



Posted by: Jim Rhoads at June 24, 2005 12:29 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

"A decision by the US to withdrawal is just as likely to be considered a "lifeline to the terrorists" as it is to "suck the air out of terrorist's support" because those who are supporting the terrorist know the US is leaving anyway, and their goals have been met."

Sorry, I see no evidence to support that assertion, Lukasiak. Orientalists and Arab Nationalists would no doubt agree with you, if that is any comfort. Had there not been a successful election the insurgency could have crossed sectarian lines and gained popularity. By all accounts it is becoming less and less popular while the Iraqi armed forces are gaining in numbers and capability. Meanwhile the terrorist attacks are targeting civilians and police more and more. The rejectionists and their Islamicist allies now have a new enemy, the Sunni Tribal leaders who have had enough.

Still I expect the drumbeat for withdrawal to get louder with every suicide attack.

Posted by: Chuck Betz at June 24, 2005 02:06 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Consider this: http://billroggio.com/archives/2005/06/in_response_to.php
Makes sense to me.

Posted by: Tamquam Leo Rugiens at June 24, 2005 03:02 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

I think it would cut both ways - helping and hurting.

It might lower some support from "moderate" Sunnis but amp up the hardcore "look, we're winning!"

Though if the percentage of foreign fighters is up, I'd suggest that's a good sign, in general.

They could perhaps give some rough dates for troop withdrawls from the Basra area, etc. That might be splitting the difference.

Posted by: Aaron at June 24, 2005 09:21 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry, I see no evidence to support that assertion, Lukasiak.

And there is no evidence that announcing a withdrawal would be a "lifeline to the terrorists". Its all just rhetoric, designed to support the "stay the course" policy---and that was my point.

I don't know what impact an announced withdrawal would have on support for the Islamic fundamentalist terrorists or the Iraqi-based insurgency, and we can't assume that an announced withdrawal would have the same effect on both groups. But Donald Rumsfeld doesn't know either --- he may think he knows, but he's "known" so many other things that haven't been true that we can't rely on what Rumsfeld tells us he "knows."

What we do know is that "staying the course" isn't going to "suck the air out of terrorism" .

Posted by: p.lukasiak at June 24, 2005 12:25 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The Democrats seem to be obsessed with obstructing and opposing the Bush administration in every possible way. They have fought tooth and nail against his judicial appointments, against his nominations for posts, against his foreign policy and against almost every domestic initiative as well.
It is as if they fear that he will succeed in something and become a hero, the way that Reagan did, and they will be damned if they allow this to happen.
There may have been some political point to this during his first term, when his success might help him win reelection.
At this point in time though, the policy is senseless. Bush cannot and will not run again.

This attitude has causd people like Levin to make every effort to see to it that Bush's ambitious plan to bring democracy to the Biddle East, is a failure.

At the moment it looks like the plan is succeeding remarkably well. There are signs of rifts among the enemy belligerants, and so far the Iraqi politicians in the government have behaved as well as anyone could have hoped.

Militarilly, trained Iraqi forces are coming on line, and our troops seem to be attacking enemy strong points systematically. It is hard to discern a short term trend that is unfavorable to our efforts.

This does not make long term prospects completely rosy, since we know that republican government forms are often unsuccessful, and are only probably the best among a set of pretty awful alternatives for governments.

But be that as it may, if we are able to set up a functioning democracy that brings economic prosperity to Iraq, and we then withdraw without imposing ourselves at all on its government, we (Bush) will have done an awesome thing that will have a vast impact on the world.

It would be nice if the democrats even now joined up in hoping for this and helping it out.

Instead they seem intent of "snatching defeat from the jaws of victory" , to keep Bush down.

Perhaps they remember how their getting Bush pere to agree to a tax increase after his read my lips statement to the American people that he would not do so, sunk him and caused his ultimate defeat.

They seem intent on forcing Bush to give in to them, and to do something that can revitalize his foreign enemies. Setting a timetable for withdrawal would do precisely that.

It would universally be taken as a sign of weakness, allow those enemies to claim a victory, give them a strategy to take advantage of that timetable, undermine the current Iraqi government, and show the world that we, for our own political purposes, seek to pressure that government by arbitrary and senseless behavior taken against their interests for no apparent reason at all, except to undermine their possibilities of success.

Our present policy, that we intend to leave when the Iraqi government asks us to leave, or when it is capable of defending itself against domestic and foreign enemies, whichever comes first, is perfectly adequate, and needs no modification.

We have had enough Bush-whacking by democrats.

If only they would let Bush alone. I imagine he would have some successes and some failures. Surely they would be able to capitalize on the failures. At least they could start using their brains once again at something constructive in place of their current constant mechanical harping and obstruction, which is destroying themselves, not him.

Posted by: Daniel at June 24, 2005 12:47 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Daniel -- Can I have some of whatever you're smoking?

Posted by: farmgirl at June 24, 2005 03:03 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

-- "To expect defeat is nine-tenths of defeat itself." - Francis Crawford


p.lukasiak: "We have to stop treating Islamic terrorism in Iraq as if its a fire that we can blow out like a candle, and recognize that our presence there is merely fanning the flames. "

The US must stop thinking of terrorism as a fire, and at the same time realize that our presence is fanning the flames of terrorism... Thank you. That is the single greatest summation of far-left thinking on terrorism I have ever read.

p.lukasiak: "And there is no evidence that announcing a withdrawal would be a "lifeline to the terrorists". Its all just rhetoric, designed to support the "stay the course" policy”

I would also point out that there is no evidence the sun will come up tomorrow either, but common sense provides some guidance in that area. As it does about telling the terrorists "Ok, we'll be out of here by close of business on Friday, so you have the weekend to celebrate then get down to claiming your victory through blood and bombs first thing Monday morning. Have a nice day!".

What would we do if the terrorists held a press conference to announce that they will withdraw from Iraq by August 17, 2006? You don't need a formal education in military battle strategy to understand that if you tell the enemy to just how long to hang in there before they can claim victory, you are guaranteeing your own defeat.

Setting a timetable would result in a temporary reduction of insurgent attacks. They need no longer waste their time or resources battling a retreating enemy. Between the announcement of the timetable and the time when the retreat is complete they will regroup and gain strength. Then just after the door can hits us on the butt on our way out, they launch their final offensive.

I’m sure everyone in our military wish with all their hearts that our enemy would be stupid enough to tell us they will be leaving soon. Unfortunately, our enemy is far from being that stupid.

Posted by: F15C at June 24, 2005 05:55 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Wow Farmgirl - what a contribution to the debate

Back to the plow now

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at June 24, 2005 07:23 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

The thinking by those desiring a timetable for retreat would seemingly be that by not doing so means the timetable is infinite. There folly in that way of thinking astounds me - if that is truly the thinking. Assuming for a moment the thought given is the true concern of the far-left, I will explain why such thinking is flawed.

Just because I don’t tell you when I’m leaving, does not mean I don’t know when I’m leaving... Why is that so hard to understand?

Why do those like rcriii who state they: “expect an administration that refuses to consider the costs of this war (which I supported and still do support BTW) to also refuse to consider the possibility of failure, but I expect better of you, BD.”?

Are they so simplistic to think that because Bush does not go around publicly wringing his hands and wailing about the cost of this war in no way proves that he does not consider the costs, or the possibility of failure? True, there is a very simplistic element to the radical left that may well think this way, but not so the core of the radical left.

To me it is expected of any leader, especially the CIC not to exhibit such defeatist behavior, even though I know that behind closed doors, the weight on his shoulders from the decision’s he’s made, or will have to make, is not something I would want to bear. Any leader behaving in such a way will not be successful in any major endeavor.

As a kick boxer, I would be a fool to think I’m going to win any matches by telling my opponent exactly how long I'm willing to fight. If I announce mid-way through the third round that I'm leaving the ring at one minute into the last round, he's won. There is nothing I could do to win from that point. It is not a matter of the physical, I may well be the far better fighter, but I have empowered him to simply avoid me for a period of time if he wants to win.

The “no timetable is war forever” theme is a straw man put up by the left in an attempt to force the public debate to an area favorable to their political goals. The call for a timetable is a call to create our own defeat. This defeat is highly desired by elements of the far-left as it would be, like Viet Nam before it, yet another defeat engineered by them. Few if any far-leftist’s care for the welfare of our troops, nor for our country’s democratic-economic based interests in the world.

I do not wish to paint the entire left with the same brush. I recently had a face to face discussion on a plane with a person who sincerely did not understand the military implications of a timetabled full retreat. She also sincerely cared about the troops and sincerely disagreed with the war in Iraq, which I fully respect. I believe there are many like her out there that are being deluded by the radical wing of the democratic party. And it is that radical wing that I hold accountable for continuing to empower the enemy and invite defeat through coercion and sedition.

-- "To expect defeat is nine-tenths of defeat itself." - Francis Crawford

-- "Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty."
-- President John Fitzgerald Kennedy

JFK did not feel the need to include timetables or limits on our mission to “assure the survival and the success of liberty". He knew that to do so would doom the mission to defeat.

Posted by: F15C at June 24, 2005 07:26 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Sorry for posting the Francis Crawford quote twice. Though it is tellingly pertinent to this overall discussion, once should have been enough. (Repeat to myself: Preview is your friend...)

Posted by: F15C at June 24, 2005 07:30 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Great post F15C - of course you know this will not penetrate the "I Hate Chimpymchalliburton" hard core

In fact, it won't penetrate most Democrats

And no Europeans

see - the sooner they are proven right - ie: US Withdrawl, tail between legs, Iraq taken over by islamic facists ( which is what those sorts prefer ) - the better

Why not demand some date for withdrawl to hasten this, inevitable of course, result

Posted by: Pogue Mahone at June 24, 2005 09:08 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

If MacArthur or Nimitz had said in early 1945 that Japan was in its last throes, they would have been correct. Clearly the Allies were going to win the war, clearly the Japaneses were resorting to desperation tactics. And yet there remained much work to be done.

Posted by: exhelodrvr at June 24, 2005 10:42 PM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Pogue: You are absolutely correct of course. I continue to hope that one my overcome their aversion to reality, but alas, few have. I honestly sometimes think that something they eat, drink, or slather on their bodies is in fact a powerful 'reality repellent'.

Also, I love your term for them. I refer to them as Bu_Shitlers myself, but a rose by any other name, right?

Posted by: F15C at June 25, 2005 12:07 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Excellent historical observation exhelodrvr. The situations are highly analogous, now that you made me think about it.

Posted by: F15C at June 25, 2005 12:11 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Withdrawal deadlines and exit strategies are the crutches of the opposition or the defeated. No one seriously pursuing victory in a complex environment would use either framework. As Shali said re: Bosnia 1996 (paraphrasing), I'm more interested in a success strategy than an exit strategy.

BD, the comments about the seriousness of Dem National Security Teams and "cutting and running" are shortsighted and laughable. Who saw the US through WWII? Who didn't "cut and run" in October 1962? Who gave up but only slowly crawled out of Vietnam? Who "cut and ran" from Lebanon in 1983? Who "cut and ran" from taking Saddam out in 1991? Who wanted to "cut and run" from Bosnia in 1996-97 (and who stuck it out)? Who stuck with a rough 78 day air campaign in Kosovo (despite miserable contingency planning).

We have enough problems without mindless partisan name calling. Nice blog though.

Posted by: POTUS B at June 25, 2005 05:35 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Any of you "freedom fighters" here ever actually fire a shot in anger? Ever been in a forward area? Have a loved one in harm's way in Iraq?

Can't talk about withdrawal because it would be "defeatist"....sounds a lot like Vietnam to me, any of you Freedom fighters old enough to remember that (if you're not, you're young enough to get your sloppy civi asses down to the recruiting station and put your money where your mouth is).

Time tables must be discussed. There are major finances involved (my $, your$). There are lives involved. There is the US military preparedness to meet other challenges in the world at stake.

The "free" Iraqis need to have a drop dead date at which time they must demonstrate that they are ready and willing to defend and mantain a democracy; their democracy.

These people really want democracy, then prove it. Stop free loading off our blood and treasure and get busy.

There is no reason my son - or yours- (Greg, do have have children in the service or did you advice against it) should die for Iraqi freedom when the Iraqis themselves aren't willing to go all the way, now.

All reports are that the Iraqi military is a cluster fook of the first order (excepting the Kurdish troops).

Time is leverage. The "free" Iraqis must get their shit together or the insurgents get the country; and at this point the insurgents seem to want it more. They're showing more will.

Shades of Vietnam again.

Oops, sorry. I know that it's a faux pas in the Bush league to make comparisons, unless it's Hitler at Munich or post WW2 Japan.

At any rate, get yourselves down to the recruiting station- or at least drive your children down.

Posted by: avedis at June 25, 2005 06:03 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

Avedis --

You missed the point entirely. Of course withdrawal and timetables for actions can be discussed. Its certainly an appropriate discussion for Iraq.

What we are talking about is the irresponsibility of having forces engaged in harms way with a clock ticking on their departure. You either are there to succeed or you get them to safety.

Otherwise, that is how people become the last person to die for a mistake (paraphrasing J. Kerry).

Posted by: POTUS B at June 26, 2005 01:23 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink

POTUS,
There is no doubt that you - like Greg - have a valid point (though an insignificant one) regarding setting an inflexible withdrawal date; especially if that date is known to opposing forces.

I also appreciate your recognition of the appropriateness of discussing time tables and conditions pertinent to our withdrawal from Iraq.

However, I think you both seriously under-estimate the opposing forces' ability to accumulate salient information and to use the information to accurately assess the situation as it develops.

At some point our commitment in Iraq will likely become unsustainable, regardless of whether or not we show our hand by establishing dates for withdrawal.

Any combination of circumstances would provide a defacto withdrawal date to opposing forces;

Iraqi forces may continue to fail to form as a coherent and effective fighting force capable of providing the security and stability necessary to allow the departure of US forces.

Situations requiring a significant committment of US military resources elsewhere on the globe.

Increasing US federal budgetary problems.

Growing disillusionment of the US electorate with the mission (whatever the f_ _ _k it is) in Iraq.

etc, etc, etc

All the opposing forces have to do is keep an eye on the dashboard and ensure that they can sustain the necessary level, direction and intensity of activity to increase the probability that, given events exampled above, the US will withdraw.

At any rate, it appears foolhardy to believe in a scenario in which the US sets a withdrawal date and the insurgency lies low, gathering its resources, waiting for that date, to emerge as a dominate force in Iraq.

The US has already publicized withdrawal criterion.

The US has stated that when Iraq can stand on its own two feet we will leave.

If there's anything truly meaningful to the Greg and POTUS theory of the negative aspects of date setting, then the opposing force would be enjoying that strategy now (eg they would stay quiet, allow a false sense that the insurgency had died, allow the current state of Iraqi troops to be seen as sufficient, allow the Iraqi people to see themselves as stable and sovereign and consequently requesting the departure of US forces.

Then, after the departure of US forces, the insurgency would, as feared by Greg & co. , re-emerge to wreak havok upon Iraq.

At the end end of day this is probably a moot discussion anyhow. The US is constructing several elaborate, expensive, state of the art, permanent military bases in Iraq as we post.

This seems fair evidence to me that the US has little intention of pulling its forces out of Iraq regardless of stability and/or successful democratization. The permanent bases were always the objective (as outlined in several pre-2000 documents produced and signed by the various prominent members of the Bush administration).

A democratic Iraq was an after-thought arising after the self-destruction of White House favorite and would be Iraqi strong man, the convicted criminal Chalabi).

All of this is, of course, known to the insurgency, who will fight a war of attrition and vengenance.

But the real problem with setting a withdrawal date; someone might actually hold Bush to it if he lies or hang him for it if he tells the truth.

Posted by: avedis at June 26, 2005 06:40 AM | Permalink to this comment Permalink
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