August 29, 2003

Najaf Bombing This is really

Najaf Bombing

This is really bad news. Ayatollah Hakim was one of those (increasingly) rare commodities--a moderate Shi'a cleric with a strong following who was also willing to work with the CPA. Initial speculation on who killed him (and scores more) centers on die-hard Baathists. But who knows? Might Sadr's followers (more radical Shi'a who want to model Iraq on the post-revolution Iranian model) have been behind it?

Either way, it's a bad development. I fear we are moving towards a new pattern in Iraq. Aside from losing roughly a G.I. a day, we seem to now be facing a major terror or sabotage event a week, ie. oil pipeline sabotage, Jordanian Embassy bombing, U.N HQ bombing, and now today's bloody attack.

We simply must do a better job on the security front. When a guy like Ahmed Chalabi, who probably doesn't have a shot in hell to run Iraq were it not for American backing, says stuff like this you know you have issues that need to be addressed. (Note: Chalabi subsequently denied he made these comments on al-J T.V.)

Keep in mind too, even if we do get a U.N. resolution that has myriad countries suddenly anteing up troops and cash--significant contingents won't actually hit the ground for many months. That might be too late. Sure, Abizaid thinks that we don't need more U.S. GIs in country at this juncture.

He talks about the dangers, in terms of impact on Iraqi opinion, for the forces on the ground to become even more heavily, in absolute numbers and proportion, American. He urges that some Arab countries provide troops. But, even if an Egypt did so, that's way down the road. And we've got attacks that continue to keep key parts of Iraq in quite chaotic footing.

Abidzaid knows a lot more than arm-chair commentators like myself about what's needed and what isn't on the ground, doubtless. But what if significant contributions from other nations are a) not in the offing or b) going to happen but six months plus down the road? If we can't provide security and repair key services during that time, and you add increasing Kurdish-Turkomen (and so the Turks) tensions and increasing intra-secretarian Shi'a difficulties to the "Sunni Triangle" guerrilla war--we might be shooting ourselves in the foot by not putting more boots on the ground on a more expedited basis.

Posted by Gregory at 04:57 PM | Comments (3)

Dominique de Villepin Watch What

Dominique de Villepin Watch

What exactly does this mean? Would France provide troops via a U.N. umbrella (but under overall U.S. command) or not? But Dominique just loves emitting inscrutable signals. We've certainly learned that over the past year.

Le Figaro's article (very similar to the NYT piece) says as follows:

"Dans ces conditions, on voit mal sur quelles bases un compromis pourrait źtre trouvé entre Franćais et Américains ą l'ONU dans les semaines qui viennent..."

Translation: "Under these conditions, it's hard to see under what basis a compromise could be found between the French and Americans at the U.N. in the weeks to come...."

Guess that bodes poorly for the issue presented in the last graf of this article. Still, the French do have a dog in this fight. It's not in their interests to see the Iraq reconstruction fail--no matter the sophomoric glee that might well trigger in certain circles.

And they need to be seen as responsible players in the U.N. Vetoing a resolution allowing for insertion of U.N. troops, simply because they would be under the command of a U.S. commander (particularly given that the U.S. and U.K. fought the war), might even strike Berlin as a bit gratuitous. Developing.

Posted by Gregory at 03:14 PM | Comments (3)

Campbell Steps Aside Alistair Campbell

Campbell Steps Aside

Alistair Campbell has stepped down as Blair's communications honcho as this Guardian article details. Not ultimately highly detrimental to Tony Blair but, nevertheless, he will doubtless miss Campbell's services.

Odd timing for a resignation, isn't it? Might it not have been better, at least on a P.R. level, to wait until the Hutton inquiry had ended (Campbell's statement does say he found it inappropriate to resign on a day Hutton's inquiry is sitting--it's not today--and that he is available going forward to cooperate with the Hutton inquiry)? On the other hand, various carping would have doubtless occurred whenever he resigned.

Blair issued this statement:

"The picture of Alastair Campbell painted by parts of the media has always been a caricature. The Alastair Campbell I know is an immensely able, fearless, loyal servant of the cause he believes in, who was dedicated not only to that cause but to his country. He is a strong character who can make enemies but those who know him best, like him best."

Posted by Gregory at 02:40 PM | Comments (4)

UBL's Whereabouts A Guardian

UBL's Whereabouts

A Guardian UBL update. Most of the information comes from Mansoor Izaz and had been written up earlier in the New Yorker. Take it all with a big grain of salt but do check it out.

Posted by Gregory at 02:39 PM | Comments (8)

August 28, 2003

WaPo Article on Roadmap The

WaPo Article on Roadmap

The article basically reads like a roadmap postmortem.

Some key quotes from Yossi Beilin:

"The cease-fire between the Palestinian factions overshadowed the first phase of the road map," said Yossi Beilin, who has played key roles in Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations for the past decade on behalf of Israel. "The world went on vacation and left us alone. When the cease-fire broke, it exposed an unimplemented road map, and we did nothing. We are back to square one."

Beilin, like many analysts, said none of the parties met its obligations: "The Israelis did not dismantle outposts, and the Palestinians did no visible acts to fight terrorism." U.S. monitoring of the peace process, he added, was "a big failure."

On the U.S. monitoring role Beilin makes an excellent point:

The monitoring was important not just to apportion blame for any problems, observers said. More critically, public scrutiny was supposed to provide incentive for both sides to meet their obligations and not allow the process to collapse.

"You cannot monitor things in this situation with . . . such a low profile," said Beilin, the longtime Israeli peace negotiator. Wolf "has to report not only to his superiors, but also publicly."

I had blogged about the need for Wolf to (somehow) intensify his efforts here a few days back. I should have noted Beilin's important point as well. We need to have the U.S. "umpire" role more out in the open. That also helps keep us fair--so as to better retain our "honest broker" status. Put differently, other countries in the Quartet could thus better see, in transparent fashion, what party is doing what when.

Posted by Gregory at 05:31 PM | Comments (7)

Euro-U.S. Relations Watch The U.S.-German

Euro-U.S. Relations Watch

The U.S.-German rapprochment continues.

Where's Paris in all this? Why the lack of bonne volonte? All minds out and about 'round the Seine still feeling schadenfreude-y and watching the U.S. stew in Iraq? (via Merde in France )

See the last graf of this WaPo article to see how Paris could show it was ready to help resucitate the bilateral relationship. Stay tuned.

Posted by Gregory at 02:57 PM | Comments (4)

Clintonistas Take Over Foreign Affairs!

Clintonistas Take Over Foreign Affairs!

Or at least the September/October issue of that periodical.

First, Madeline Albright, while hawkish here and there, basically criticizing Dubya's handling of Iraq and, more broadly, his conduct of the war on terror writ large.

Second, her old press spokesman, Jamie Rubin, resurrecting the botched diplomacy argument re: Dubya's diplomatic efforts in the run up to the Iraq war (summed up as "a textbook study in how not to wage a diplomatic campaign").

Third, Ronald Asmus, Clinton's Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs--writing on how to revivify the Atlantic Alliance.

Finally (I think!), you've got Steven Radelet, a Clinton Deputy Assistant Secretary of State at Treasury, writing about foreign aid and Bush's alleged shortcomings in that area (only a preview available).

Need an antidote to this Clinton alum fest? Check out Chet Crocker on failed states (only a preview available).

I hope to, at minimum, get to Rubin's piece soon. Albright, by the way, is pretty fair at points. But her description of how a Gore Administration would have handled matters differently is highly speculative and not particularly convincing. More soon.

Posted by Gregory at 02:31 PM | Comments (7)

Tony Blair: "I Would Have

Tony Blair: "I Would Have Resigned if BBC was Right"

Story here.

Posted by Gregory at 02:20 PM | Comments (9)

August 27, 2003

Armitage Signals Flexibility on U.N.

Armitage Signals Flexibility on U.N. Role in Iraq

Douglas Jehl has the story:

"In his remarks, Mr. Armitage declined to discuss details of the plan, saying, "I don't think it helps to throw them out publicly right now." But he described the plan as "a multinational force under U.N. leadership" in which "the American would be the U.N. commander."

Posted by Gregory at 10:17 PM | Comments (8)

The Gray Lady Swoons For

The Gray Lady Swoons

For Howard Dean. The tone of the piece is almost breathless. Note too such adventurous alliteration:

"The staggering, seemingly spontaneous crowds turning up to meet him — about 10,000 in Seattle on Sunday and a similar number in Bryant Park in Manhattan last night — are unheard of in the days of the race when most candidates concentrate on the early-voting states of Iowa and New Hampshire and would seem formidable even in October 2004." [my emphasis]

UPDATE: More breathless from Katha Pollitt writing in the Nation.

A teaser: "So what if on Meet the Press Dean gave ballpark answers to Tim Russert's gotcha questions about the number of soldiers in Iraq? Compared with the President he's a Talleyrand reborn."

ANOTHER UPDATE: David Adesnik has an interesting, contrarian take on all this.

Posted by Gregory at 12:56 PM | Comments (5)

The View from NYU Arthur

The View from NYU

Arthur Hertzberg (normally an academic at Columbia?) says it's time for some "tough love" from Washington towards both the Israelis and Palestinians. These proposals are, however, too much the musings of an academic--albeit a respected expert in the region.

Neither of his main proposals (pulling about $1BB, an estimate of per/annum costs related to settlements, from Washington's annual aid budget to Israel and/or compelling all our allies and enemies to freeze the accounts of Palestinian militant groups are particularly realistic given political realities domestically and the international climate.

Posted by Gregory at 12:40 PM | Comments (5)

Iran's Nuclear Program How soon

Iran's Nuclear Program

How soon might Iran possess a nuclear weapon? By the end of 2005, if you believe this report from the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists.

Posted by Gregory at 12:03 PM | Comments (8)

August 26, 2003

Blair's Back No, not Tony

Blair's Back

No, not Tony B. back in London prepping for Hutton post-Barbados holiday. I mean the other Blair--strutting confidently about W. 43rd St. Has he no shame?

Posted by Gregory at 10:51 PM | Comments (0)

A Positive Development from Riyadh

A Positive Development from Riyadh

Saudi Arabia ratchets up cooperation with U.S. authorities in meaningful fashion. This is the latest development in an increasingly convincing crackdown on Islamic extremists operating in that country.

More than the lame flypaper thesis bandied about the blogosphere--I suspect a good number of Saudi fanatics are fleeing to Iraq to escape apprehension near as much as to pursue the jihad. Noted terrorism expert Peter Bergen agrees per his TPM interview--and also explains that most jihadis are not pouring in from Syria or Jordan.

That said, some are doubtless getting in from all these countries as Deputy Secretary Armitage has stated. Josh Marshall asks what Armitage's grouping of Saudi with Syria and Iran mean in terms of the latter's statement that, while the borders are porous and he has no evidence that any of Teheran, Damascus or Riyadh are aware or assisting said movements, those governments are certainly not stopping said individuals at the border with alacrity.

I agree with Marshall that grouping Iran and Syria with Saudi Arabia is a signal to Saudi that, despite their crackdown, we want more out of them--ie, better monitoring of their border to stop the jihadis. (Note: I disgree with Marshall that we have recently, whether explictly or not, threatened military action on Syria. Some think-tankers at places like AEI may have, but no one in the Administration since the night goggle episode during the Iraq war when Rummy put pressure on Damascus from the Pentagon podium).

And the reason that a careful, seasoned diplomat like Armitage would group an ally like Saudi Arabia with a rogue state like Iran, even if only in such a highly specific context, signals to me that most of the infiltrators are coming in from Saudi. Syria is boxed in right now among an unfriendly Turkey, U.S. occupied Iraq, highly Western-oriented Jordan, and Israel.

They aren't looking for a fight. Providing a passe-partout to jihadis is an action even an unseasoned Bashar Assad is unlikely to take. Remember too that the Syrian regime is secular. Bashar's father Hafez Assad brutally cracked down, in 1982, on the Muslim Brotherhood in Hama, likely killing over 20,000. Religious extremists are a threat to Bashar's nascent and unsteady authority.

Iran, meanwhile, is concentrating on getting her nuke program up and running. Through a mixture of feigned cooperation with nuclear watchdogs, guile, and surreptitious advancement of the program--they hope to gain nuclear capability within the coming years. Best to keep a low profile then, Iranian leaders likely calculate. Thus Iranian troublemaking in Iraq has been relatively de minimis--at least to date.

That leaves Saudi. I'd be very interested in seeing a breakdown on the nationalities of the foreign jihadis the coalition apprehends and/or kills in Iraq (if anyone has seen such figures please contact me). My guess is that the majority, by a healthy margin, are Saudis. And part of the reason they are getting in is likely that the Saudi government, given the highly charged domestic environment (particularly given the crackdown on Islamic militants), is all too happy to deal with the problem cheaply in terms of blood and treasure. In other words, if they get to Iraq, they are the coalition's problem.

Thus Armitage is signalling that Riyadh make all best efforts to apprehend Saudi extremists on their side of the border. So people like Prince Bandar will get the coded message from Armitage--we don't normally put you guys in the same camp as Iran and Syria. We take this very seriously. Help us deal with it asap. Yeah we appreciate your other "crackdown" efforts including the one made public today. But we want fuller cooperation.


Posted by Gregory at 05:40 PM | Comments (0)

The Mumbai Bombing Might Pakistan's

The Mumbai Bombing

Might Pakistan's ISI have had a hand in the carnage? Some Indian officials believe so. I am more reticent to believe Musharraf (to the extent he controls the ISI) would allow for such folly.

Regardless, Indian-Pakistani relations, which initially appeared not to have been unduly damaged by the attack, look set to worsen in the coming days. Especially if Islamabad doesn't give up these individuals.

Posted by Gregory at 04:39 PM | Comments (3)

Bring on the U.N.! Says

Bring on the U.N.!

Says the ICG, in a report worth reading.

Posted by Gregory at 02:10 PM | Comments (8)

How Many More Troops in

How Many More Troops in Iraq? What Kind? What Would They Accomplish?

I recently blogged about the likely need for more troops in Iraq. Easy to say some readers have written in. How many more? What kind? And what will an infusion of troops really accomplish on the ground?

On the "how many more" front take a look at this Q&A that has outside experts looking for a total committment of troops from the 300,000-500,000 range (ie. up to 350,000 more) to smaller troop deployment recommendations of about 2-4 combat brigades (10,000-25,000 troops).

Keep in mind that, just yesterday, Rummy stated commanders on the ground like Gen. John Abizaid tell him they have all the troops on the ground they need--and haven't requested more to date.

Fair enough. But other informed sources like John McCain or this three-star retired general both think we need more guys and gals on the ground.

Despite Rummy's protestations, I think that Dubya, and likely pretty soon, is going to approve a greater troop deployment in Iraq. The number chosen will obviously be important and ought to be debated vigorously in the Administration, ie. should the Administration keep the force more on the nimble side and merely add a couple brigades, put in another 200,000 boots on the ground who can really saturate the country so, for one, the U.S. looks more overpowering to insurgents, or something in the middle?

But likely even more critical is what kind of troops to send. Sure we likely need traditional combat troops to more effectively quash the insurgents. We also need need military police types to help create a more secure environment to, for instance, better protect international organizations post-U.N. bombing so key humanitarian groups don't leave or scale back operations in Iraq.

On this subject (what kind of troops), go check out if you haven't already Phil Carter's excellent post (via David Adesnik).

Carter discusses sending constabulatory forces to the theatre (on a related topic see this old B.D. post that looks into the impact of peackeeping duties on traditional troop's morale). Carter writes:

"So why not just build more MP, Civil Affairs and SF units? Because the true value in these units is not their hardware or their organizational setup -- it's their people. What makes an MP unit so special is its experience in dealing with law enforcement and peacekeeping situations -- experience which is earned through decades of collective work on those missions. You can't build an MP sergeant overnight, just as you couldn't create a civilian police sergeant overnight. It takes years to build the kind of "street smarts" and professional maturity that is necessary for troops in Iraq. So even if you reclassify infantrymen and scouts and tankers as MPs, they will take time to develop the necessary experience levels. There are alternatives, such as cross-assigning personnel to put a critical mass of old MPs in new units. But it still takes time."

Carter is absolutely right on this score. Training a few effective gendarmarie forces that would "add value" in Iraq could take a good while. Which led me to think, why don't we use some of our old Bosnia and Kosovo peacekeepers? They have worked in predominately Muslim (if European) areas. They have already done ( the often thankless, routine, and tedious) peacekeeping. The government could perhaps compensate such forces some form added salary if they volunteered or came out of retirement for military police type duties in Iraq.

What about other kinds of troops we might send in in greater number? If you read the Bernard Trainor interview (link above re: 3 star general), you will note he wasn't hugely keen on additional marine deployments but did see some upside.

"Q: The Marines have been given good marks in certain parts of Iraq for doing well in civil affairs. Do you think the Marines should take on more of these responsibilities? It's not their usual job, is it?

A: I can't say it is their usual job. But the Marines are the closest thing the United States has ever had to colonial infantry, such as the British and French had in their imperial days. And they are used to operating in the third world and taking on odd jobs for which there is no manual. As a matter of fact, the Marines did write a manual in the 1930s based on their experiences in places like Santo Domingo, Haiti, and Nicaragua. It's called the "Small Wars Manual," and is still very applicable today. It tells you what to do when you are put in what are today called "peace enforcement operations." For the Marines, this is a cultural sort of thing. They are used to operating in weird places, under weird circumstances, and they've just adjusted to it. So, I think they have done very well, as have the British in the southern part of Iraq." [Note: Rest of quote in link]

So here's another idea. What about looking at, initially, all our marines who have prior Middle East experience, including marines who have guarded our embassies, day in and day out, for years. These are modest proposals (and involve small numbers of Marines)--but every slightly culturally atuned potential MP or Marine with gendarmarie type experience that we can get on the ground in Iraq to perform constabulatory duties would be, in aggregate, a boon to the difficult task we are facing in Iraq.

Finally, what can more people on the ground accomplish? First, it's important to note that I think we need to look at a mixture of added forces. More standard Army forces to, at least in the Sunni Triangle, saturate the area more to signal to the locals that we are in for the long haul and that the past four months of losing a GI roughly every other day hasn't deterred America's determination in the least.

Related to this, and per Phil Carter, look at sending in more special forces to out-guerrilla the guerrillas. And help spearhead efforts to find foreign infiltrators, the Ace of Spades, and so on.

But finally, and likely most important, put together joint military police brigade made up of troops that had served in Bosnia and Kosovo and Marines--particularly those with Middle East experience. As Gen. Trainor said, Marines are the closest thing we have in the U.S. Army resembling a "colonial infantry." And, of course, start training constabulatory forces going forward--we might be in Iraq for many years and other hot spots requiring such services will doubtless erupt too.

What might be accomplish then? More standard army forces will help stem the insurgency and show our will to get the job done to the Iraqi people. Some MPs and Marine combo might best be deployed, at least initially, in large cities where they can "show the flag" in a less intimidating fashion than a standard grunt, help protect key targets (embassies, NGO HQ's), help restore added order and protect services (electricity, water etc). and help facilitate interaction with the local populace through greater cultural sensitivity. Finally, more special forces guys to hunt down Saudi jihadi infiltrators and hard-core Ba'athist remnants.

Note: Check out Patrick Belton's interesting link-filled post on this whole troop deployment issue as well.

Posted by Gregory at 12:59 PM | Comments (4)

August 25, 2003

Afghanistan Reconstruction Aid Watch Skeptics

Afghanistan Reconstruction Aid Watch

Skeptics say that the situation in Afghanistan is so dire as to be described as akin to "Alice in Wonderland Meets Franz Kakfa." But Dubya's decision to double reconstruction aid destined for Afghanistan is definitively a positive development--whether he's doing it because he needs an effective turn-around tale for the impending elections (the NYT found unnamed aid sources on the ground willing to so speculate) or more cogent rationales.

And here's more good news from Afghanistan.

Posted by Gregory at 06:36 PM | Comments (4)

Bring Back the U.N.'s Trusteeship

Bring Back the U.N.'s Trusteeship Council

Says Suzanne Nossel in an interesting op-ed in today's WaPo. After you've read her piece check out this (somewhat related) article too.

Posted by Gregory at 06:32 PM | Comments (3)

August 21, 2003

Roadmap RIP? The hudna is

Roadmap RIP?

The hudna is now dead. The key question at this hour is whether the death of the hudna means that the Abu Mazen government is no longer (and with it the roadmap). Hamas, for one, is certainly rooting for such an outcome. And if it comes about, the parties are doubtless in for a long period of intensified bloodshed until they exhaust themselves again.

Former peace processors are casting about for options, aside from the road-map, that would lend the "peace process" some viability. Indyk talks about having Washington force simultaneous concessions from both sides. He writes:

"Mr. Abbas and Muhammad Dahlan, the Palestinian security minister, cannot and will not act against terrorist groups until they gain greater popular support from Palestinians. To achieve this support, they need Israel to remove settlement outposts and checkpoints, release prisoners in significant numbers and withdraw the Israeli Defense Forces from West Bank cities and towns. But Mr. Sharon cannot make serious moves in these areas until Mr. Abbas and Mr. Dahlan act against the terrorist infrastructure.

To break this cycle, the Bush administration should negotiate a package deal: the Palestinians would agree to act against Fatah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. The Israelis would agree to dismantle the outposts, freeze settlement activity and withdraw the Israeli Defense Forces from Palestinian territory. The United States would then act as guarantor, developing a detailed monitoring and reporting plan to ensure that each side carries out its commitments fully and promptly."

Well, sounds great, but unfortunately incredibly difficult to implement. And Indyk knows this. That why he goes on to say that any such plan needs to take a realistic view of Mazen and Dahlan's security forces ability to crack down on the terror groups, ie. they can't really do it fully right now.

Not surprisingly, that's not good enough for the Israelis. This last suicide bombing (poignantly named the Children's Attack in Israel) has all but derailed the roadmap. One more that kills so many innocents would likely be the nail in the coffin. Put another way, Israelis don't want to wait around given the inefficacy of PA efforts to crackdown on the terror groups. They want to again try to do the job themselves. But as sober observers realize, a morally acceptable military solution simply isn't feasible.

Realizing how quixotic such paths might well prove, Indyk again offers up his trusteeship idea to bolster his "simultaneous concessions" suggestion. Send the GIs into the Occupied Territories to begin to give Israelis more comfort on security issues. Help the PA reform and strengthen their security apparatus.

Meanwhile, nudge the Israelis forward on settlement dismantlement. And in a trusteeship arrangement, the Israelis would no longer be manning the roadblocks, the closures, or pursuing house demolitions. As a result, the general climate would ostensibly improve over the months (years?). Political negotiations might be resuscitated, leading to the resolution of final status issues and, voila, a generalized settlement might be in the offing.

But as others have pointed out here, such a plan is a non-starter at this stage given our committments in Iraq and Afghanistan. Few in the Beltway have the appetite for another trusteeship type committment at this stage (remember too, the Israelis have always been reticent to "internationalize" the issue just as the Indians don't want to do so with Kashmir. Such internationalization ends up working in favor of the weaker party, ie. the Palestinians or Pakistanis).

So what does that mean for the current state of Israeli-Palestinian affairs? Well if you're an LGF'er, it means, in one apt summation: " please." But a swashbuckling Sharon letting the IDF loose throughout the Territories and Gaza is just a recipe for more death and misery for both sides.

The next time an IDF helicopter gunship aiming at a Hamas operative hits a nearby building and kills a dozen or so civilians myriad Palestinians will be lining up to "martyr" themselves in Israel proper (yes, more so than are currently hoping to kill themselves in this grotesque new form of nihilistic, terroristic asymmetrical warfare called suicide bombing). Not all will successfully pull off said suicide missions--but enough to cause deep grief and sorrow on the other side of the Green Line.

And major IDF actions would also help spell the end of the Abu Mazen government and a return to Arafat's two-faced approach to policymaking--mouthing the right words to EU envoys but continuing to use terror as a tool of state policy.

Exiling or otherwise getting rid of Arafat? That basically would anoint Hamas (and Jihad Islami) as the leaders of a roiling and despondent Palestinian polity. Even worse than Arafat preening about Ramallah.

The only hope, then, is to keep the Abu Mazen government alive. Some think this is not really in the cards any more. And they are not sad to see Abu Mazen go--viewing him as a meek, ineffective leader.

But at least Abu Mazen doesn't say asinine things like Arafat's response to the latest Jerusalem bombing where he stressed that the bomber came from Hebron and, as that city is still under IDF control, the PA was not responsible. In other words, at least Abu Mazen appears to be trying to bring an end to the bloodshed.

So how to repel the total collapse of the ceasefire?

First, apprehend all responsible for the latest attack. Second, ensure that State and the CIA are acting as proactively as possible as go-betweens the PA and the Israelis. Relatedly, draw up, immediately, a list of security actions Abu Mazen must complete within a week that will significantly harm Hamas and Islamic Jihad's operational capability. Have John Wolf on the ground constantly monitoring said arrangements. Third, ask Sharon to moderate his response--which he may be doing. And fourth, send Powell or Condi in a week or so--if Abu Mazen has really cracked down--to ask for small confidence-building measures from the Israelis.

In a word, keep trying, as there is no other way forward. The alternatives are all to bleak to contemplate. And if all the above fails, Dubya must use the Presidential coin again, and personally re-insert himself and the prestige of his office in the process.

His historical legacy will always reflect his admirable leadership in the aftermath of 9/11. But the policy direction he took post 9/11 (I think correctly) landed him squarely in the Middle East thicket. He's now got to finish the job in Iraq even if it means more troops. And he's got to keep the road map alive even if it means he must devote more of his time than he would like to it. Anything less represents a cowardly American abdication. That cannot be viewed as an acceptable solution by anyone who cares about American credibility on the world stage or the direction of American foreign policy in a perilous new era.

Posted by Gregory at 09:11 PM | Comments (6)

U.N. Iraq HQ Bombing Update

U.N. Iraq HQ Bombing Update

Saddam loyalists are currently the leading suspects. For the record, and with all due respect to David Adesnik, I disagree that the attack will be viewed with such horror by myriad countries (or Iraqis themselves) that it will be detrimental to the Ba'athist forces in terms of severely worsening their reputation.

Nor do I think countries like India, Pakistan or Germany will suddenly be bursting with fellow-feeling because of an attack on a U.N. compound so that they rush troops to back up coalition forces currently in place. Despite efforts like these, which may help to some degree, I think it's still going to be pretty heavy slogging to get significant numbers of troops, from other countries, in theater.

Instead, the attack against the U.N. HQ will likely be viewed by many as an attack, not against the U.N, but against the U.S. In other words, the attack, along with pipeline sabotage, the attack on the Jordanian Embassy, daily attacks on coalition forces, and the like, will be seen by many as one in a series of operations that are meant to continue to keep Iraq in as chaotic a state as possible. In other words, vicious, reprehensible terrorist tactics to be sure--but ones meant to support a guerrilla campaign and aimed squarely against the U.S.

At this juncture, I think serious consideration needs to be given to increasing our troop deployment in theater. Regretable, but likely needed if we mean to get the job done. The key is to stabilize the country asap, get basic services on tap, and have the Iraqi interim government become more visible and proactive.

Later, of course, we can internationalize the effort as much as possible so that it looks less like an occupation force. But right now--security and restoration of services is paramount--and we can't seem to create a secure environment with the current amount of troops on the ground. Remember, during peacemaking efforts in Bosnia, for instance, if memory serves, we (ie, SFOR) had 30,000-40,000 odd troops deployed in a significantly smaller country that was more exhausted by 3 solid years of combat. And one where a formal end to hostilities had been consummated and we weren't facing somewhat of a guerrilla campaign.

Posted by Gregory at 03:55 PM | Comments (5)

August 20, 2003

Flypaper Redux Lots of people

Flypaper Redux

Lots of people are talking about the whole flypaper thesis again given yesterday's horrific bombing of the U.N. compound in Baghdad. MaDo is the latest to jump on the flypaper bandwagon. Instapundit blogs about it here.

I had earlier blogged about this here.

Remember, Warren's risible argument was that Bush had consciously set up a "playground" by which to have terrorists operate in the Iraqi theater (away from Israel and the West).

How does the flypaper thesis hold up given yesterday's bombing in Jerusalem? I thought all the Jihad Islami types had rushed off to Baghdad?

My main beef with his argument was also related to the fact that groups like al-Qaeda remain hell-bent on mega-terror attacks that occur in major metropolitan centers like NY and London. They are intelligent enough to realize that those types of attacks will stoke fear and resonate with the Western publics even more than tragic attacks like that of the U.N. compound yesterday.

Put simply, I never meant to suggest that assorted Saudi fanatics and others might not cross into Iraq and wage the good holy war (a la Afghanistan mujahedeen against the Soviets) causing the coalition trouble. But such a phenomenon is separate from the blows al-Qaeda is doubtless still planning in major Western centers. We need to remain keenly aware of that.

Note: Still on the road so blogging looks set to remain intermittent. I will have more on all this soon, however.

Posted by Gregory at 12:50 PM | Comments (4)

August 14, 2003

Abdullah Sounds Like Dubya Ratcheting

Abdullah Sounds Like Dubya

Ratcheting up the war (at least of words) against terrorists operating from and in Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Abdullah recently used rhetorical constructs very similar to some often employed by the U.S. president.

"Our noble Saudi people are engaged in a decisive battle against the forces of evil and destruction, represented in the oppressive deviant group of terrorists," Prince Abdullah told security officials.

He warned that those who helped "terrorists" would be considered "terrorists" themselves and would be punished accordingly.

"In the struggle between forces of good and forces of evil, there is no room for being neutral or hesitant," he said. [my emphasis]

But hey, we know Abdullah and Dubya are pretty tight, right? (relevant portion towards bottom of post)

Check out this FT piece too.

Posted by Gregory at 07:28 PM | Comments (6)

France's Heat Epidemic France appears

France's Heat Epidemic

France appears to have lost approximately 3,000 people to the blistering heat wave striking the continent. An English language treatment here.

Posted by Gregory at 04:06 PM | Comments (4)

August 13, 2003

Beeb Watch Ouch. UPDATE: The

Beeb Watch


UPDATE: The NYT take.

Posted by Gregory at 09:20 PM | Comments (7)

Why do Arabs Hate the

Why do Arabs Hate the West?

Is part of the title of an op-ed that recently appeared in Dar al Hayat.

Don't expect a far reaching inquiry into that complex question in the piece. But check out some particularly interesting snippets having to do with the author's contention that, while the Arab world often denigrates the West's impressive technological innovations of the past century, it uses said technologies in humiliating, self-defeating fashion.

Some key grafs:

"The invention of radio transmission, then television then satellite channels, then electronic communications devices. Most Arabs misused these means, and used them as channels for religious extremism, political provocation, and transmission of erroneous information. The young generation spends long hours on the Internet to view pornographic pictures, mainly in the highly conservative societies, which foster frustration. Before the modern communication means (visual and audio), we had enlightened religious scholars such as Mohamad Abdu and Jamaleddine Al Afghani. After the confusion resulting from these means, we have Sheikhs like bin Laden, Al Dhawahiri and many others we watch and hear on the Arab satellite channels.

The weapons were highly and unusually developed during the last century. From 1948 to this day, arms purchases in the Middle East occupied the first place among the countries in the world and reached between 1995 and 1997, about 38% from world purchases in comparison to 3% in South America, according to the U.S. State Department's report: "Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers 1998." Most of these purchases were made under the pretext of liberating Palestine and fighting the enemies. They were either used against the people or during the civil wars or to attack neighboring countries. As for Israel, it remains the most powerful in terms of arms."

A depressing theme indeed. Technological advances in the West cause the Arab world to resent a vibrant, innovative West. Said achievements are denigrated (likely out of envy). And then, the very same technology is used to unfortunate and/or self-defeating ends ranging from internecine warfare, surfing cyber-porn in the environs of Riyadh, or broadcasting jihadist notions of theocratic barbarism via satellite television.

It's when you get depressed about the state of coalition efforts in Iraq that you might keep such broader realities in mind. Sure, Bush made a huge gamble and the post-war planning wasn't where it should have been. Its been a rocky summer. But the rewards, if we slog through and create a vibrant, democratic polity in Iraq, could still prove of major historical import.

Put simply, the area cannot continue to fester as it does today. Whether we had gone into Iraq or not--the region represents something of a ticking timebomb.

Just take a look at the demographics of the region. There are simply too many young individuals boiling with anger at the atrophying autocracies in the Levant and Maghreb, corrupt Gulf states, rising unemployment, limited educational opportunities, and the like.

These variables require urgent attention. The only question (too early to answer) is whether the invasion of Iraq made a bad situation worse or represented a historical pivot point for the better. I still think smart money is on the latter.

But let's not kid ourselves about the scope of the effort. If we are serious--it's a generational challenge--on par with the reconstruction of Europe after WWII. So we are going to need to do things like internationalize the effort so we have the requisite resources, create and field constabulatory forces, have experts on the ground who really understand the region, its languages, its mores.

Update: Bad news on the internationalization of the Iraq effort front. Contra Rumsfeld, I believe there is a middle ground between putting out a broad welcome mat to the likes of Paris, Delhi and Berlin in a fashion that would dangerously dilute the U.S. military's ability to effectively operate in the theater and relying solely on smaller countries that will likely provide merely de minimis contributions.

I mean, how much are the likes of Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Mongolia, Nicaragua, the Philippines, Portugal and Thailand really going to contribute (whether troops or cash) to the effort?

That said, the Weisman piece may be another NYT style Rummy is running Washington piece that simplifies the state of bureaucratic play on the issue. I'd be surprised, for instance, if Jerry Bremer fully endorses a strategy that cuts out countries that might provide more significant military contingents at this early stage.

Not only because of need for troops, but also because if we get countries on board now on troop deployments via compromise U.N. resolutions and the like, said countries are also more likely to contribute significant funds to the reconstruction effort down the road.

Posted by Gregory at 07:55 PM | Comments (7)

An Iranian Osirak? Jim Hoagland

An Iranian Osirak?

Jim Hoagland tells us why it's a bad idea and how multilateral diplomatic containment strategies are the better options in Iran and NoKo at this juncture.

UPDATE: Sharon denies the thrust of Hoagland's story.

Posted by Gregory at 06:42 PM | Comments (8)

August 09, 2003

On the Road Business travel

On the Road

Business travel beginning tomorrow through August 26th. Blogging will continue but not as regularly.

Posted by Gregory at 09:44 PM | Comments (8)

Independent Watch There's been a

Independent Watch

There's been a slew of stories on the 100-day mark since Dubya declared major combat in Iraq over. The Independent has a roundup that includes quotes from the likes of Jerry Bremmer, Robin Cook, Robert Fisk and various Iraqis (including some 'man on the street' style interviews). OK, fair enough.

But then they tabulate casualties (ostensibly) post May 1st at the bottom of the article:

"57 US troops, 11 British troops killed since 1 May
35 allied troops died in accidents,
3 possible suicides, 3 drowned
1,000 children injured by unexploded ordnance
15 to 25 civilians shot dead daily in Baghdad
1 UK journalist shot dead"

The U.S. troops number is a tad higher than the Pentagon's official number but close enough. And, while we are not even told who committed suicide or "drowned" (coalition troops, Iraqis?)--I can accept those figures too. But 1,000 children injured by unexploded ordnance? And 15 to 25 civilians shot to death daily in Baghdad alone?

Hard to believe. So take a look at this anti-war site, Iraq Body Count, that attempts to tabulate civilian casualties. There is no evidencing here of a daily tally of civilian deaths in Baghdad alone (or, for that matter, even country-wide) of 15-25 individuals.

Perhaps the Independent might clue us into their source on this figure? Or did they just make the number up?

Listen, it's quite clear that more Iraqi civilians died during major hostilities in Iraq than during 9/11. We need to take stock of that more often. Every death of innocents like these is to be deeply regretted.

But that doesn't mean newspapers can just fabricate numbers from whole cloth willy-nilly to suit their anti-american agendas.

Posted by Gregory at 07:04 PM | Comments (8)

August 08, 2003

FT vs NYT Here's what's


Here's what's on offer from the NYT today on the WMD front. And here's what the FT has got (subscription required).

UPDATE: Instapundit has some of the FT op-ed text up.

Posted by Gregory at 01:33 PM | Comments (19)

Security Fence Watch As predicted

Security Fence Watch

As predicted here a couple days back it appears the Israelis are going to delay construction of portions of the security barrier.

Ethan Bronner has some thoughts on all this. And Charles Krauthammer does too.

Krauthammer denigrates the "hardball" State Dept. strategy of potentially holding back loan guarantees in amounts meant to correllate to construction costs for parts of the security wall being built east of the Green Line. He describes the funds as "badly needed."

Meanwhile, Bronner writes: "...the cost of the diversions is unlikely to be very high, so the effect of such a withholding of funds would not be great."

I think, all told, Bronner's got a better sense of the economic impact than Krauthammer on this one. It's not quite de minimis-but it's no biggie given the scope of U.S. aid to Israel writ large.

Regardless, however, we're not there yet. As I had earlier speculated the leak regarding State's proposal was likely just a pressure tactic. And it appears to be working (if to a limited degree) given that Sharon will delay construction of parts of the barrier and discuss more problematic trajectories of the wall with the Bush administration going forward. Not a bad start.

Another take per the NYT article (link above):

"Administration officials have said that the administration is considering reducing $9 billion in loan guarantees for Israel in proportion to the costs of the barrier, to press for changes in its path. But Congressional Democrats were quick to attack the Bush administration for suggesting such cuts.

The senior Israeli official, speaking of the relationship with the Bush administration, said, "we are not under any pressure." He added: "The United States is a very vibrant democracy, and this is a very politically oriented administration. Reality is made sometimes by political constraints."

If the administration did resort to a cut in the loan guarantees, it may amount to only a few million dollars, given the relatively limited portions of the barrier that appear to be at issue."

I'm a bit uncomfortable with the "(r)eality is made sometimes by political constraints" language. It sounds, well, a bit gloating, doesn't it? I think senior Israeli officials (or Palestinian ones for that matter) are better served touting their perceived advantages in negotiations surrounding a contentious issue in more muted fashion.

UDPATE: Here's a pretty good primer on issues not specifically dealt with in the roadmap that have, nevertheless, become pretty central to the current state of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.

Meanwhile, Haaretz is a bit gloomy that roadmap implementation (remember when we used to call it the peace process?) might go the way of Tenet or Mitchell.

Elsewhere, Yoel Marcus cautions Israelis that, while the national mood is now high, Israelis are "skating on very thin ice." It's not time to fire those security guards just yet, he warns.

Posted by Gregory at 09:50 AM | Comments (4)

August 07, 2003

The Nation and Perle Richard

The Nation and Perle

Richard Perle tells the Nation, more or less, to bugger off:

"Perle heatedly denied suggestions of impropriety regarding the broadcast payments. "There is no law, regulation or ethics guideline that would preclude my being compensated for articles, speeches or interviews," he said. "When I agreed to serve on the Defense Policy Board I agreed to its rules and I abide by them. I couldn't care less how many of your left wing friends you can quote, by name or anonymously, in support of standards of conduct that would be far more restrictive than anything in the current rules and regulations."


"The suggestion that being paid for work I do is somehow an abuse of my role as a member of a government advisory board is the sort of slander I expect from The Nation which, since the collapse of regard for the vision of its founders, and the paucity of ideas to replace it, has been reduced to impugning the character of those whose ideas have prevailed over yours."

Hey, tell us what you really think!

For the record, I agree with Perle that he is in full compliance with government regulations on this issue. Permit me to don my lawyer hat for a second.

Take a look at the U.S. government's Standards of Ethical Conduct, 5 CFR Part 2635.807 (applicable to Special Government Employees ("SGE's) like Perle) that are relevant here.

The regulations say that:

" employee, including a special Government employee [ie., Perle's status], shall not receive compensation from any source other than the Government for teaching, speaking or writing that relates to the employee's official duties."

So what is the standard regarding what "relates to the employee's official duties"?

The rules, again:

(i) Teaching, speaking or writing relates to the employee's official
duties if:
(A) The activity is undertaken as part of the employee's official
(B) The circumstances indicate that the invitation to engage in the
activity was extended to the employee primarily because of his official
position rather than his expertise on the particular subject matter;
(C) The invitation to engage in the activity or the offer of
compensation for the activity was extended to the employee, directly or
indirectly, by a person who has interests that may be affected
substantially by performance or nonperformance of the employee's
official duties;
(D) The information conveyed through the activity draws
substantially on ideas or official data that are nonpublic information
as defined in Sec. 2635.703(b); or
(E) Except as provided in paragraph (a)(2)(i)(E)(4) of this section,
the subject of the activity deals in significant part with:
(1) Any matter to which the employee presently is assigned or to
which the employee had been assigned during the previous one-year
(2) Any ongoing or announced policy, program or operation of the
agency; or
(3) In the case of a noncareer employee as defined in
Sec. 2636.303(a) of this chapter, the general subject matter area,
industry, or economic sector primarily affected by the programs and
operations of his agency.

Let's take each one in turn. (A) doesn't apply as Perle's T.V. appearances were not undertaken as per his official duties. (C) is out as the journalists paying Perle his fees have no financial interest in the performance of his advisory duties. Regarding (D), no one has alleged Perle ever disclosed non-public information. A lawyer might aggressively argue that Perle could potentially run afoul of (E) as his paid media appearances arguably dealt with, for instance, an "ongoing policy, program or operation of the agency."

Put differently, the argument would be that granting a paid interview about, say, prospects for war in Iraq while serving on a Pentagon advisory board whilst said "agency" is involved in war planning might be in violation of the standard.

A stretch. And regardless, SGEs are specifically exempted from the requirement:

(4) The restrictions in paragraphs (a)(2)(i)(E) (2) and (3) of this
section do not apply to a special Government employee. The restriction
in paragraph (a)(2)(i)(E)(1) of this section applies only during the
current appointment of a special Government employee; except that if the
special Government employee has not served or is not expected to serve
for more than 60 days during the first year or any subsequent one year
period of that appointment, the restriction applies only to particular
matters involving specific parties in which the special Government
employee has participated or is participating personally and

That leaves (B): "The circumstances indicate that the invitation to engage in the activity was extended to the employee primarily because of his official position rather than his expertise on the particular subject matter."

But media outlets are paying him to appear not because of some Pentagon advisory position he has--but because he is a prominent neo-conservative well known in the Beltway since his days working for Scoop Jackson.

Of course, the gotcha-style tone of the Nation's piece tries to portray all the media outlets panting at Perle's door solely because of his former position as Chairman of the Defense Advisory Board. But merely quoting an anonymous declaration by an European correspondent that his channel paid Perle because of his advisory role to the Pentagon doesn't make the case.

Particularly when you take a look at this further clarification in the code:

Section 2635.807(a)(2)(i)(E) does not preclude an employee,
other than a covered noncareer employee, from receiving compensation for
teaching, speaking or writing on a subject within the employee's
discipline or inherent area of expertise based on his educational
background or experience even though the teaching, speaking or writing
deals generally with a subject within the agency's areas of

U.S. foreign policy in Iraq is definitively within Richard Perle's "inherent area of expertise." Whatever you make of Perle's decision to charge for some of his airtime--this story doesn't really have legs.

Full disclosure: I worked for Perle in Washington in the late 90's.

UPDATE: Check out this PBS Ben Wattenberg interview of Perle:

Ben Wattenberg: Richard, you are Chairman of the Defense Policy Board. What is that?
Richard Perle: It’s a group of volunteer civilians who advise the Secretary of Defense. It now includes a pretty illustrious list of people, Henry Kissinger, James Schlesinger, Harold Brown, Tom Foley and Newt Gingrich, two former Speakers. These are wise men with deep experience who come together half a dozen times a year for extensive briefings, discussions, meetings, and advice for the Secretary of Defense.
Ben Wattenberg: And does the Board itself put out dicta? I mean, does it say, this is what we believe?
Richard Perle: No, no. But the term “board” is a little misleading. It sounds like a zoning board that either gives you or doesn’t give you a permit. The Board doesn’t take corporate views. It’s simply a means by which the Secretary of Defense can come together with a group of people who have interesting things to say and they, in turn, can look into what’s going on in the Defense Department and give him advice, but there are no votes or anything like that.
Ben: And in your case because you are the Chairman and because you are well-known in this whole argument, people impute to that role that you are a part of the Bush Administration. That is not correct?
Richard: No. I’m completely independent of the Administration. I think that prefer it that way.
Ben Wattenberg: Does Secretary Rumsfeld sometimes get a little agitated that you say things that they aren’t necessarily ready to say and it says Chairman of the Defense Policy Board and it sounds as if it’s linked?
Richard Perle: Yes. I go to great lengths to discourage people from identifying me as Chairman of the Defense Policy Board, because it does confuse people and from time to time I say something that people wish I hadn’t said. In fact, I sometimes say things that I wish I didn’t say. [my emphasis].

With that Perle statement in mind, now look at this part of Berman's Nation article: "Federal laws place restrictions on the behavior of SGEs like Perle. Regulations Code 5 CFR 2635.702--barring the use of public office for private gain--also warns of the "appearance of government sanction," and cautions against using public standing "in a manner that could be reasonably construed to imply that his agency or the Government sanctions or endorses his personal activities."

Hmmm. So Perle would go to "great lengths to discourage people from identifying" him as Chairman of the Defense Advisory Board. Hardly running afoul of CFR code prohibiting the appearance by an individual that the government is endorsing his personal activities, wouldn't you say?

Posted by Gregory at 05:01 PM | Comments (10)

More Problems at the BBC

More Problems at the BBC

No, no it's not villainous Gilligan. It's the dearth of sound, grammatical writing over at the Beeb.

"Periodically an old (or hoary old) question is raised. Is the standard of writing at the BBC declining (or plummeting or plunging or even in free-fall)? Or is it improving (or soaring or rocketing)? A couple of months ago an old friend and former colleague of mine was scratching his receding hairline as he pondered a familiar task for BBC subs: how to convey clearly and in an irreducible number of words a complex international situation. In Duncan’s case, he was required to inform the Radio Four audience that the American peace plan for the Middle East was in trouble because of suicide bombings. With one eye on the clock and one hand rummaging in the newsroom sack of serviceable phrases, he conjured the possibility of the road map being derailed before it had got off the ground.

I felt for him. By taking elements innocuous on their own (derail — an invaluable cliché, with no single-word synonym; got off the ground — stale but handy figure of speech) and applying them to a nonsensical tag dreamed up by some language assassin in the State Department, he achieved a mixture of metaphors almost miraculous in its compression and absurdity."

And here's an example where they achieve a "mixture of metaphors" that is quite amusing in its transparent political undertones.

Sharon and Bush fence over the roadmap. Sharon stonewalls Dubya.

That damn fence, wall, barrier etc!

They should have simply put it all in one sentence: Sharon is stonewalling Dubya on the security fence issue thus creating a barrier for forward movement on the roadmap.

Posted by Gregory at 02:31 PM | Comments (9)

Keller Watch Today's lead NYT

Keller Watch

Today's lead NYT masthead feels very Rainesian in tone. Few of these types of screeds, I seem to recall, were penned during the Lelyveld interregnum.

"For Americans unwilling to accept the White House's flimsily backed assertions of imminent danger from Iraq, Mr. Blair offered his supposedly independent intelligence dossiers. For those unswayed by the administration's belligerent rhetoric, Mr. Blair stepped forth with a mellifluous moral summons to action." [my emphasis]

Belligerent rhetoric? Not this seminal (and quite sober) speech?

Supposedly independent British intelligence dossiers? Readers, please lend a hand. What is the NYT alleging here?

Posted by Gregory at 12:42 PM | Comments (8)

Condi Audition Watch More SecState

Condi Audition Watch

More SecState warm-up?

Meanwhile, Jim Hoagland, in a column mostly on Saudi, writes as follows:

"A Post story reporting that Powell's deputy and closest friend, Richard Armitage, recently told the White House that the two would not be around for a second Bush term smoked out strong official denials this week that hint at the true state of affairs: The only people Powell and Armitage have not told about their intentions seem to be those who work at the White House.

They have told co-workers in Washington and relatives, bankers and foreign policy sages in New York. Powell had made indirect but clear public references to his plan to leave, and astute diplomats based here concluded a month or two ago that they were working with a lame-duck chief diplomat 18 months before the end of George W. Bush's electoral mandate.

This burbling about his tenure handicaps Powell in achieving a meaningful legacy in whatever time he has left. That legacy should include the vital task of updating the U.S.-Saudi relationship to reflect the changes brought about by 9/11, the American military victory in Iraq and what one Bush aide calls a "generational commitment" by Americans to transform the Middle East into a more democratic and pacified region that does not directly threaten American lives or interests."

But wait, Hoagland shouldn't worry--Condi's got all that covered per today's op-ed!

Note: I blogged on related topics a few days back. Check it out if you haven't yet.

Posted by Gregory at 11:20 AM | Comments (5)

August 06, 2003

Triumphalism in the Air? I'm

Triumphalism in the Air?

I'm increasingly detecting whiffs of triumphalism in the air in relation to the war on terror. They make me a bit queasy.

Trust me, I've got a sense of humor. But comments like these remind me of the old Nietzsche aphorism that a joke is an epigram on the death of a feeling. (Both links via Instapundit).

The feeling that is being killed is what we all felt on 9/11. Of course, it's natural for it to dissipate as the years go by. And like some have speculated, perhaps 9/11 was a singular (though still epoch-making event) that won't ever be replicated to such devastating scale.

Why? For one, there was certainly an asleep at the switch quality to the 90's. Most people were too busy trying to get in on the latest tech sector IPO to bother about bombings of embassies in distant African lands or U.S. ships off the Yemeni coast. We're all much more vigilant now (though that vigilance may be slipping a bit, partly as a result of these manifestations of triumphalism).

And maybe that was al-Qaeda's A-team hijacking those four planes that day and the group can't field similarly sophisticated, Westernized operatives in requisite numbers at this juncture to pull off such a complex operation.

But I doubt it. That's one of the key reasons I remain in favor of the decision to go to war in Iraq (and still believe we will unearth significant evidence of WMD programs and/or materiel). The intersection of transnational terror groups, states with links (even remote, disparate ones) to terror groups, and WMD indicated to me that some unconventional attack on a major metropolis was only a matter of time.

I still feel that way. And let's not forget that 9/11, even for people unborn at the time, continues to have effects today.

So keep the champagne stowed away for now. It's not time for joyous self-congratulation and jocular allusions to plane hijackings being old hat. Terror groups might not be planning "just" another plane sequel to 9/11. They could be planning something far worse. If 9/11 thought us anything-- it's to expect the unexpected.

Posted by Gregory at 12:58 PM | Comments (8)

The Iraqi Press A key

The Iraqi Press

A key prerequisite for any sustainable democracy is the free flow of uncensored information. So the news that post-Saddam Iraq already has over 100 newspapers (along with unrestricted Internet access and the like) should be celebrated (the Coalition Provisional Authority did shut down one paper that advocated "(d)eath to all spies and those who cooperate with the U.S.")

And while I've overheard whispers here in Europe about the "brutish" handling of Saddam's sons-- here's what the newly unshackled Iraqi press is saying--written by people who were actually subjected to the monstrous whims of Uday and Qusay.

A sample:

"Yesterday, the Iraqis happily welcomed the death of the greatest symbols of evil, of torment and degradation of the Iraqi people… [v]ery few nations in the world suffered such humiliation [as Iraqis suffered] and abuse from those who, regretfully, died at the hands of the occupiers, while the Iraqi people were unable to stand face to face with those murderers and exact revenge from those savage executioners who engaged in abnormal terror against the whole nation, the army, a woman, a young woman, a young man, teenagers, innocent old men, and mothers who had tears on their cheeks during years of torture. Unfortunately there was no opportunity for millions of people to settle the accounts with the sons of Saddam Hussein who terrified the people and who practiced all kinds of savage torture against the weakest of Allah's creations… Despite all the rejoicing, we cannot help admitting that we wish we could have settled the accounts with Saddam's sons. This is the wish of every Iraqi." [my emphasis]

Given such sentiments, I say, better to catch Saddam alive, if possible, than to kill him in a firefight. A full-blown crimes against humanity style trial would serve a function similar to the Truth and Reconciliation Committee in South Africa or the war crimes tribunals for the former Yugoslavia in the Hague.

There is a deep hunger in Iraq for his myriad heinous crimes to be systematically detailed, enumerated, fully aired. This can only be done effectively if he is actually alive to stand trial.

In addition, such a trial might also help investigators and judges discover to what extent some so-called "moderate" Ba'athists might well have been relatively untainted by much of the endemic corruption and ruthless violence employed by many of Saddam's henchmen.

As Richard Joseph puts it in the FT (link immediately above):

"Ba'athists should not be allowed to serve in Iraq's government without preconditions. Those with the most complicity in the crimes of the old regime should be excluded. All others should be required to disavow armed struggle and commit to parliamentary practice and gradual reform."

Put differently, many Ba'athists (even relatively senior ones) may not have been significantly complicit regarding some of the most egregious aspects of Saddam's reign. And some of these individuals doubtless possess significant institutional knowledge and expertise that might help the Coalition Provisional Authority more expeditiously handle varied reconstruction tasks.

Given the mammoth costs of the reconstruction undertaking--any reasonable amnesty for "moderate" Ba'aathists should be considered with seriousness by Jerry Bremmer and his team. The faster the U.S. gets a self-governing, viable Iraqi polity up and running--the better. Not at the expense of bringing Saddam's cronies to justice, of course. But out of the 30,000 odd senior Ba'aathists I wager a good chunk of those were not culpable for war crimes, crimes against humanity, or other gross human rights violations. Regardless, a Saddam trial would help us get to the bottom of some of these issues.

Posted by Gregory at 11:06 AM | Comments (6)

August 05, 2003

Mideast Roundup Lots of news

Mideast Roundup

Lots of news stories recently on the security fence (or wall, barrier, etc) being erected by Israel. Moshe Arens has an interesting take in Haaretz today. But it ignores some legitimate Palestinian grievances.

Meanwhile, the NYT reports that the U.S. might reduce aid to Israel as a way of pressuring Tel Aviv to stop construction of the security wall.

Don't hold your breath if you advocate this increased pressure on Sharon's government. Between the leak to Steve Weisman and the actual implementation of punitive economic diplomacy there are many questions marks.

For one, this supposed State Department proposal still has the feel of a work in progress that hasn't yet gotten the White House seal of approval. And while the idea of cutting loan guarantees in an amount calibrated to reflect security fence construction costs east of the Green Line sounds theoretically of interest--the reality of making such calculations in an accurate, non-politicized fashion is more of a chimera. Put simply, it sounds like this idea likely isn't really going to take off.

My guess is that part of the reason this is being made public is to make it easier for Sharon (the pressure from Washington look more real to his constituents) to make some compromises on the trajectory of the wall (leaving a few more settlements on the "wrong" side of the barrier and ensuring more contiguity for Palestinian farmers' land and the like) while perhaps slowing the pace of construction a bit.

And Dubya will seek greater assurances from Sharon, the more the fence deviates from the Green Line, that the barrier in no way constitutes "facts on the ground," ie. a political boundary. That message Sharon stressed to a Washington audience via Lally Weymouth recently.

But major cutbacks in aid from Washington to Israel unless a full halt to construction occurs (leaving aside demolition of existing sections)? Or even cutbacks in loan guarantees, in some amount reflecting east of Green Line barrier construction costs?

Not happening, at least at this juncture. If the peace process make great strides in the mid-term (ie, before 'final status' issues like right of return and Jerusalem are addressed) the pressure on Sharon to halt construction and/or dismantle the wall would get more serious. But it's not at that level yet.

In other Mideast related matters, check out this interesting NYRB piece on Sharon, Abu Mazen and Arafat. The piece strives to equate Sharon and Arafat as the bad guys with a noble Abu Mazen trying to keep the road map alive which strikes me as too trite a thesis. But it's worth reading regardless. (And it's worth noting that Abu Mazen is pressuring "rogue" Fatah elements pretty hard these days).

At the same time, Mazen is cancelling a meeting with Sharon because the Palestinians were underwhelmed by the list of prisoners Israel is to release. So are some Israeli commentators, btw.

Also take a look at this interesting story on FM Silvan Shalom's attempts to improve Israel's diplomatic position at the U.N. Good luck Silvan!

Posted by Gregory at 10:05 AM | Comments (10)

August 04, 2003

Iran Watch Thanks to reader

Iran Watch

Thanks to reader DB for pointing out to me this major LA Times story on the extent of Iran's nuclear program.

Read it all. And the WaPo on Powell in post below.

The NYT feels a bit scoop-less today...

Posted by Gregory at 03:48 PM | Comments (2)

Powell to Go The WaPo

Powell to Go

The WaPo is reporting that Colin Powell (along with his deputy and best friend Richard Armitage) plans to step down at the commencement of Dubya's prospective second term. Rumors center on Condi Rice or Paul Wolfowitz as possible replacements.

Let me briefly explain why, in my view, either would probably be a poor choice to replace Powell.

First, Wolfowitz. To begin with, assuming Rumsfeld stays on, it is not an arrangement that lends itself to having a Secretary of State that can square off effectively with the Secretary of Defense and provide significantly different policy counsel.

Of course, Wolfowitz will no longer be Rummy's deputy. And he is likely the brightest high-level administration figure currently serving who, once he is heading his own department, would grow into the role and ably throw his weight around. Further, there is a built-in bureaucratic predisposition for State and Defense to frequently be at odds and clash.

So there are a lot of factors that would argue that Wolfowitz wouldn't be viewed as an ineffective counterweight to Rummy. On top of all of this, Wolfowitz has served, with distinction, in diplomatic roles such as Ambassador to Indonesia in the past. He knows Foggy Bottom well already.

And yet Wolfowitz is just too closely associated with a hawkish foreign policy stance that, fairly or not, is viewed as too similar in nature to Rumsfeld's worldview. It would spook allies (and I'm not just talking about the French and Germans) and perhaps limit presentation of diverse policy options to Dubya to have Rummy at the Pentagon and Wolfowitz at State.

Of course, the reality is more complex. Rumsfeld (and Cheney) are hardened realpolitik style American nationalists. Nation-building, even in the post 9/11 era when failed states are considered a major threat to the U.S. because they are often terror breeding grounds, is not what they like doing.

Wolfowitz, on the other hand, can dream almost as much as a Shimon Peres (albeit from a very different intellectual vantage point) about a "new" Middle East that democraticizes at a rapid clip post-securitization and democratization of Iraq.

But the bottom line is that a Wolfy/Rummy State/Defense combo would likely limit the diversity of policy options presented to the President, not provide a real counterweight to a "hawkish" tendency in Dubya's foreign policy, and likely not end up proving the most judicious or efficacious foreign policy team. (BTW, might it not be time for Rummy to go in a hypothetical Bush II and let Wolfowitz become Defense Secretary?)

Regarding Condi Rice, I have mixed feelings on this one. Like many, I see her as a capable, devoted policy processor that the President is comfortable being around and digesting complex foreign policy issues from. This is not to sound patronizing. She is more than Dubya's foreign policy nanny. She is shrewd, smart and a capable bureaucratic player.

But I wonder if she would really provide a strong, independent foreign policy advisory voice to the President. Being Secretary of State is far removed from National Security Advisor. You've got a sprawling bureaucracy stretched worldwide to oversee and myriad interests to protect. Defense is always clawing at you. A slew of Under Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries have strong views on policy matters (see John Bolton on NoKo operating, ostensibly, under Powell).

Sure, her appointment must look attractive to Bush on a variety of levels. He likes Condi a lot and he's very comfortable around her. She has broadened her Soviet expertise by making forays to vital regions like the Middle East to deepen her knowledge of other key areas. Bill Clinton appointing the first female SecState? How about Bush appointing the first African-American female Secretary of State?

Still, Dubya has ample time to pick a successor and he should also look at people like Dick Lugar very seriously before settling on a Condi Rice. Lugar will bring decades of experience thinking soberly and methodically about foreign policy issues including (before such initiatives were really in vogue) crucial 9/11 related policy areas like WMD.

Bush should also look at sometime Adminstration foreign policy critic Chuck "We Need Friends" Hagel as a potential SecState. And, if he were willing, a John McCain as well. All this to say, no reason to rush to tap current Administration figures for the key post.

As for Powell, I don't buy that this announcement of his early exit resulted simply because Alma Powell didn't want him to serve another term. His wife is the reason he didn't go for the Presidency. Recall the rumors that Alma Powell had feared, that as America's first prospective African-American President, her husband would be too tempting a target for assassination. She might not be overjoyed at the prospect of Powell facing another four years of grueling schedules. But there is more to this story, I suspect, than merely a wife's retinence to having her husband serve a second term.

Note too that Powell's hero and role model was less general turned to politics Eisenhower but rather general turned to top diplomat George Marshall, ie. he's wanted this job for a long time. And by signaling his early departure Powell risks becoming somewhat of a lame duck. This in an Administration where the more hawkish national security figures already enjoyed a stronger hand--even before 9/11.

I'll have more on other reasons why he is likely stepping down soon.

UPDATE: State is denying the story:

"But the No. 2 spokesman at the State Department vigorously denied the story on Monday.

"There's no basis to the story at all,'' said Philip T. Reeker. "There was no such conversation. It must be August.''

Witty aside regarding the dog days of summer, but not convincing.

Meanwhile, CNN's version of the story mentions that only George Schultz, among Secretaries of State serving in recent administrations, stayed on the second term. But who doubts that Jim Baker would have stayed on if Herbert Walker had beaten Clinton in '92? I simply don't buy the spin that Powell's decision not to stay on is somehow the norm.

Posted by Gregory at 08:40 AM | Comments (8)

Great Moments in Journalism Department

Great Moments in Journalism Department

Check out this humorous piece.

Best graf:

"The conference at the New School, titled "The Media at War," was hosted by The Guardian newspaper and New York magazine. The Guardian has lately established a beachhead in America because readers here (two million a month, it says) have sought out the war coverage on its superb Web site. Those readers are getting a strong alternative voice that is not available in our own mainstream media."

Posted by Gregory at 08:00 AM | Comments (8)

August 03, 2003

Bring the Blue Helmets into

Bring the Blue Helmets into Iraq?

Marty Peretz says no, Max Boot yes.

UPDATE: I had blogged about a similar topic a while back.

Posted by Gregory at 10:47 PM | Comments (0)

UBL Hunt Where (if alive)

UBL Hunt

Where (if alive) is he? Some informed speculation:

"Mansoor Ijaz is an American financier with family members in Pakistan who are connected with intelligence circles there. A New York-based investment company he owns, Crescent Investment Management, has ties to the international intelligence community through James Woolsey, a former director of the C.I.A., who serves on the company’s board. Ijaz recently returned from a trip to Pakistan. In an interview, he contended that bin Laden was “very much alive, and hiding in the tribal areas”—that is, in the borderlands dominated by ethnic Pashtuns. Ijaz said that, during his trip, he spoke with top intelligence figures in the region. “Bin Laden is travelling around within about a hundred-and-fifty-mile diameter,” he said. “He’s essentially being babysat by tribal leaders who have an arm’s-length relationship with the Pakistani government. The tribal leaders have said he can’t move except at night, and he can’t communicate by phone, radio, or walkie-talkie. He knows it is too dangerous. They have constructed a perfect spider’s web of communication.” Ijaz said he had been told that bin Laden communicated via “handwritten notes” transmitted by “a human chain-link fence,” because word of mouth had proved unreliable. “Some of his messages were not being correctly communicated,” he said.

Ijaz said he’d been told that bin Laden was surrounded by concentric circles of security: an outer ring of loyal villagers, a second ring of tribal leaders, and an inner ring of personal aides and bodyguards. “Since he’s surrounded by devout followers, there’s virtually no chance of the U.S. being able to pinpoint him,” he said."

Meanwhile, in a likely Clinton approved leak, we are treated to this blast from the past:

"Soon afterward, he told me, C.I.A. officials went to the White House and said they had “specific, predictive, actionable” intelligence that bin Laden would soon be attending a particular meeting, in a particular place. “It was a rare occurrence,” Clarke said. Clinton authorized a lethal attack. The target date, however—August 20, 1998—nearly coincided with Clinton’s deposition about his affair with Monica Lewinsky. Clarke said that he and other top national-security officials at the White House went to see Clinton to warn him that he would likely be accused of “wagging the dog” in order to distract the public from his political embarrassment. Clinton was enraged. “Don’t you fucking tell me about my political problems, or my personal problems,” Clinton said, according to Clarke. “You tell me about national security. Is it the right thing to do?” Clarke thought it was. “Then fucking do it,” Clinton told him."

Sounds great, except that old story that, on another occasion, a hapless Sandy Berger couldn't find POTUS for over an hour when UBL was in the gunsights.

Posted by Gregory at 10:29 PM | Comments (0)

Keep the Troops in Ramstein

Keep the Troops in Ramstein

Argues Larry Korb in the IHT.

Posted by Gregory at 10:09 PM | Comments (0)

U.S. Embassies Overseas U.S. embassies

U.S. Embassies Overseas

U.S. embassies are not just physical structures that merely provide a workplace for our diplomats while they are on tour overseas. They also serve to project a certain image of America to the host country. Therefore, for a while now, I've been worried about the rise of "fortress embassies" resulting from security concerns. And recently, after my latest walk by our heavily barricaded and blocked off Embassy in London (with all the attendant "set-backs," in sharp contrast, for instance, to the German and Spanish embassies just around the corner from my flat), I decided to blog about the phenomenon. Over vacation, however, I saw an excellent treatment by someone much better qualified to address the topic. Check it out.

Of course, it's easy to say we've "flinched" in terms of our embassies' design overseas from an architectural perspective. But the author doesn't really address the very real security concerns per incidents like Tanzania and Kenya in the 90's. The reality is that too many individuals and groups are seeking to inflict harm on U.S. interests given how America's hyperpower role will inevitably fuel myriad grievances in far-flung spots. An attack on a U.S. embassy provides a particularly dramatic backdrop for terror attacks and typically kill U.S. government individuals while providing much publicity for the perpetrators (unlike commercial targets like, say, a Citibank or McDonalds).

My point? We need to strike some kind of balance. We can't withdraw from downtowns completely and set up shop in the suburbs removed from the embassy districts, foot traffic past the embassy showcasing our presence to locals, easy proximity to host government officials, and the like. And yet, of course, our highest priority must be the protection of our diplomats posted overseas.

So it looks like we're going to have more London-looking presences. Smack in the middle of Mayfair to be sure--but with major security, fences and blocked roads around the compound. That said, all efforts must be made to maximize efficient access to the embassy buildings for non-VIPs having (often) their initial interaction with a U.S. governmental entity (often for mundane matters like visas and the like).

In other words, horrifically long lines and stone-faced marines staring down the locals is not the kind of image we should portray at our Embassies--or Jerry Bremer's HQ in Baghdad. But transparent, welcoming majority-glass structures just off the street that look good to an architect's eyes aren't going to cut it in this perilous era either.

UPDATE: A reader writes in:

"I'm sitting in a "pre-Inman" embassy. It's got lots and lots of glass that is going to turn into projectiles in the event of a blast. All the glass is
Mylar-sealed, to prevent it from simply shattering and flying about, but the result is that each pane turns into a 300 lb. flexible sheet that goes
flying across the room, depending on the size/proximity of a blast.

The Inman legislation followed the bombings of the Embassy in Beirut (and other attendent USG disasters). On its face, it's not filled with bad ideas.
Implementation, however, is the key.

The U.S. Embassy building in Manama--actually several buildings--were the relics of a former palace of a minor royal. Funky traditional architecture, to be sure: my ceilings were made of palm beams with mosaics in between. The US Embassy in Sanaa was in a
similar collection of old Yemeni buildings: essentially mud on wooden beams, three and four stories high.

Both buildings were very accessible, treats to the eyes. But both would have been gone completely if anyone cared to bomb them with anything larger than a hand grenade.

Both Sanaa and Manama are in Inman buildings now. In both cases, though they were originally constructed on the fringes of the city--a distance much moaned-about by then residents--the cities have now grown around them.

[There is also] New Delhi's American Center [not the Embassy per se], smack downtown and a fairly well designed building, though the architectural style left a bit to be desired IMO. But it was right on a major street, one favored for all sorts of Indian demonstrations against just about anything. The volatility of Indian crowds made the building a true hazard. In my [time] there, we got locked down four times because it was just too dangerous to venture outside the building. (BTW, none of the demonstrations were against the US.)

It's a hard choice to make between accessibility and security. It's not easy to get USG employees (who are, contrary to popular opinion, people) to say
that security should take second place to accessibility or style. Who, really, wants to work in a building that looks and acts like a bullseye?"


Posted by Gregory at 09:24 PM | Comments (0)

Iraq Watch Max Rodenbeck in

Iraq Watch

Max Rodenbeck in the NYRB. Most readers will find this a pretty gloomy read. I actually think, all told and looking towards the future, that it's pretty positive. Some key grafs:

"Slowly but steadily, Iraqi grievances are beginning to be addressed. The repair of infrastructure in Baghdad itself has lagged, but progressed elsewhere. In mid-July, Paul Bremer, the American proconsul who heads the Coalition Provisional Authority, initialed a half-year budget that doubles the expenditure level of Saddam's government. A rush of new goods and fresh opinions has begun to give Iraqis a taste of the potential rewards of freedom."


"In Iraq today there are plenty of scenes to warm American hearts: Marines graciously losing soccer games or performing magic tricks for delighted street kids; civilians being treated with skill and kindness in American field hospitals. For most Iraqis, however, the experience of contact with the occupiers is one of small humiliations.


"They smash ours and then we have to watch them chatting away on their own," muttered a Baghdad matron within my hearing, seeing a foreign reporter laughing into his sat phone on a street corner in the upscale Mansour district. A friend "embedded" with US troops west of Baghdad was appalled to witness an officer tossing MREs to children: if you don't know how to use their flameless heat packets, it's easy to get scalded. In Mosul, I saw a worried father with his young son, trying to explain to an impatient American foot patrol that there was an unexploded bomb in his garden. "We're not authorized to leave the patrol route," was the answer I had to translate for the man. He would have to go to US headquarters in Mosul's fortified municipality building, stand behind coils of concertina wire with the daily heaving mob of citizens hoping for jobs or information, and shout for the unlikely attention of the blank-faced soldiers inside."

Back to some good news. Bremer has shown himself to be a talented, intelligent and sensitive proconsul so far:

"In late June, the most revered and authoritative Shiite spiritual leader in Iraq, Ayatollah Sistani, ended months of haughty disengagement from politics with a stunning rebuke to Bremer (whom he has refused to meet, even while cordially receiving Sergio de Mello, the United Nations' special representative in Iraq). Sistani's fatwa described as "fundamentally unacceptable" the idea that the Americans might appoint a constitution-drafting committee and called for national elections to choose delegates to a constitutional congress. Given the 15 million Shiites' cautious acquiescence to American rule so far, despite calls from radicals for active "resistance," the ayatollah's expression of impatience represented a serious challenge.

It is to Bremer's credit that he responded gracefully. In early June, he announced the intention to appoint a council of Iraqis to advise the occupation authority. By early July, this body was being described as having a governing, not merely an advisory, role. Its first meeting in mid-July was not entirely smooth, as members bickered over whether to term America "liberator" or "occupier." Yet at least it gave the impression of momentum for change. Meanwhile, some of the more unsavory early American appointees to figurehead governorships were removed. District and municipal elections were held in several cities, including Baghdad. At every level, newly installed Iraqi officials were beginning to be more visible.

The reforms have come amid other signs of a more enlightened approach. American officials now say it would be a good idea to consider trying members of the former regime before Iraqi courts."

Read the whole thing if time allows.

Meanwhile, check out Charles Glass' Syria sketch here.

Posted by Gregory at 08:46 PM | Comments (0)

Sharon WaPo Interview Lally Weymouth

Sharon WaPo Interview

Lally Weymouth interviews Arik. He's got some interesting comments on Israel's take on Saddam's WMD capability and the "fence."

Posted by Gregory at 08:08 PM | Comments (3)

Back in London Back in

Back in London

Back in London and normal blogging to resume. By the way, London was jam packed with people today. Not sure if this is typical of the high tourist season but walking from Belgravia to my office in Mayfair was a struggle with a dense pack of humanity spilling over Piccadilly from Hyde Park Corner towards the West End. Despite the heat--people's spirits appeared pretty high. Hyde Park too was very crowded.

A sharp contrast to a very empty London in February/March. Then, with the confluence of SARS/Iraq/terror/lingering post-recessionary environment (and the just passed congestion charge) central London was akin to a ghost town. Not today. SARS and Iraq no longer keep travellers away. Of course, the economy is still not performing robustly and terror remains a threat--but you wouldn't have believed it walking/biking about London today.

Posted by Gregory at 08:06 PM | Comments (0)
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