"Evil is powerless if the good are unafraid" - Ronald Reagan

New York

Targeted deaths curb al-Qaida's expansion

From Paisley Dodds writing for the AP.

Recent targeted attacks that killed militants in Somalia, Indonesia and Pakistan have chipped away at al-Qaida's power base, sapping the terror network of key leaders and experienced operatives who train recruits and wage attacks.

Intelligence officials said Friday that the military strikes have reduced al-Qaida's core leadership to only a handful of men and diminished its ability to train fighters. This, they said, has forced al-Qaida to turn to its global affiliates for survival.

Not only are experienced leaders in short supply, but finances are short too.

A Pakistani intelligence official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of his work, said it appeared many factions were starting to fight among themselves for leadership, and ranks are turning on each other because they are suspicious and the finances are slowing.

To read the complete article, click here.

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The Emerging Axis of Iran and Venezuela

From Robert M. Morgetnheu writing for the Wall Street Journal.

The diplomatic ties between Iran and Venezuela go back almost 50 years and until recently amounted to little more than the routine exchange of diplomats. With the election of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005, the relationship dramatically changed.

Today Mr. Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez have created a cozy financial, political and military partnership rooted in a shared anti-American animus. Now is the time to develop policies in this country to ensure this partnership produces no poisonous fruit.

Why should we be concerned?

The public needs to be aware of Iran's growing presence in Latin America. Moreover, the U.S. and the international community must strongly consider ways to monitor and sanction Venezuela's banking system. Failure to act will leave open a window susceptible to money laundering by the Iranian government, the narcotics organizations with ties to corrupt elements in the Venezuelan government, and the terrorist organizations that Iran supports openly.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Capitalism After the Crisis

From Luigi Zingales writing for National Affairs.

The economic crisis of the past year, centered as it has been in the financial sector that lies at the heart of American capitalism, is bound to leave some lasting marks. Financial regulation, the role of large banks, and the relationships between the government and key players in the market will never be the same

Mr. Zingales goes on to discuss the difference between a pro-business and a pro-market approach to capitalism. America, for the most part, has favored pro-market capitalism vice pro-business capitalism despite lobbiest being pro-business. It is an important distinction as pro-business lobbiest tend to lobby for established businesses whereas pro-market forces tend to favor newly established businesses' ability to compete equally with established businesses.

Capitalism has long enjoyed exceptionally strong public support in the United States because America's form of capitalism has long been distinct from those found elsewhere in the world — particularly because of its uniquely open and free market system. Capitalism calls not only for freedom of enterprise, but for rules and policies that allow for freedom of entry, that facilitate access to financial resources for newcomers, and that maintain a level playing field among competitors. The United States has generally come closest to this ideal combination — which is no small feat, since economic pressures and incentives do not naturally point to such a balance of policies. While everyone benefits from a free and competitive market, no one in particular makes huge profits from keeping the system competitive and the playing field level. True capitalism lacks a strong lobby.

That assertion might appear strange in light of the billions of dollars firms spend lobbying Congress in America, but that is exactly the point. Most lobbying seeks to tilt the playing field in one direction or another, not to level it. Most lobbying is pro-business, in the sense that it promotes the interests of existing businesses, not pro-market in the sense of fostering truly free and open competition. Open competition forces established firms to prove their competence again and again; strong successful market players therefore often use their muscle to restrict such competition, and to strengthen their positions. As a result, serious tensions emerge between a pro-market agenda and a pro-business one, though American capitalism has always managed this tension far better than most.

Needless to say for somebody attempting to understand the current financial issues and what can and should be done about them, Mr. Zingales' article functions as an exceptional primer to understand the American form vice the European form of capitalism.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Afghan war reaches a tipping point

Below is a great article from Asia Times Online which not only discusses the tactical implications of the airstrike against the Taliban in Kunduz, but also the strategic implications for NATO as a whole. For strategic implications we have:

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) handed down to the Taliban a big political victory as a result of the air strikes in the northern province of Kunduz on Friday, which left over 100 people dead and injured. The Taliban propaganda portrayed the incident as "an intentional massacre".

However, the political impact is felt on several planes. These include, first and foremost, the sense of shock in Germany, where well over two-thirds of people already favor a withdrawal of the 4,500-strong German contingent from Afghanistan. Given the burden of history that Germany is fated to carry, the mere suggestion of the Bundeswehr having committed a war crime abroad becomes a sensitive issue. The political class in Berlin will keenly watch how the groundswell of public opinion pans out in the federal election due on September 27.

On the tactical/operational level, we have:

On the other hand, the Taliban are spreading their wings in the northern provinces, all according to a plan. The stage has come when it is important for the Taliban to demonstrate in political terms that they can expand the war to places of their choice. In military terms, the Taliban tactic aims at overstretching NATO....

No one needs to explain to the Taliban the strategic importance of Kunduz, which used to be center of their military command in northern Afghanistan before their ouster in October 2001. The demographic structure of the region provides an ideal platform for the Taliban's political work.

Finally, Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar discusses what is really at stake during the war in Afghanistan.

Germany is well aware that wars abroad are a serious business. In Afghanistan, in particular, the war has far-reaching consequences, being vastly more than a mere fight against international terrorism; it is also about NATO's future role as a global political organization and the "unfinished business" of the Cold War, as well as about defining the new world order.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Afghan Provincial Governor Praises German Army

From Der Spiegel.

The German army has been inundated with international criticism for ordering an air strike on two hijacked fuel tankers in Afghanistan. But the governor of Kunduz province where the attack happened has now praised the German forces. "They made the right decision at the right time," Mohammed Omar told SPIEGEL.

If you find this interesting, look at this.

German soldiers had always been criticized in the past for not taking robust enough action, he said. "They either flee back to their camp or they sit around crying," said Omar. The population had gotten the impression that the Germans were working together with the Taliban, he added. Now a gang of criminals had been caught in the act, he said.

Omar visited the German military base in Kunduz on Monday. He said he didn't know how many civilians were killed in the air strike. "But the Germans have the support of the population. We didn't receive any of the complaints one usually gets in cases where civilians are killed."

Eyewitnesses said there were 60 armed Taliban on the scene along with 15 to 20 other people. "But at half past two at night, no normal civilians would dare to go out in this area, which is more than four kilometers from the nearest village," said Omar.

Anyone in the vicinity of the fuel tankers must have been criminal or a supporter of the Taliban, he said. The US criticism of the attack appeared to be a gut reaction, he added. "The Americans probably didn't eat well and had bad dreams."

So, the attack was at 0230 in the morning. I agree with this article. Anybody 4 kms from their village at 0230 in the morning must have been supporting the insurgents.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Sharia-Sanctioned Death Vs. Western Toleration

From the Wall Street Journal.

"I don't know if you know about honor killings? But this faith—you guys don't understand, Islam is very different than you guys think." So avows runaway apostate Rifqa Bary, the focus of a so-called dependency battle that is expanding into a national debate on the conflict between Islamic mores and American freedom.

The 17-year-old had been practicing Christianity in secret for four years when she fled her home in central Ohio in July, fearing for her life after her parents discovered her defection. The Sri Lankan Bary family has been in the U.S. since 2000.

Having been in Iraq for the last year, I have adopted many Iraqi customs to include giving kisses to males on their cheek as a greeting, putting my hand over my heart when saying hi, and shaking everybody's hand in a room upon entering. I believe it shows a sense of understanding and acceptance of a country's culture.

I have also witness Muslim cultural norms which are as foreign to me, a Christian, as night is to day. While in this country, I accept and practice many Iraqi cultural norms. It is their country. One's which are harmless, like putting a hand over the heart during a greeting, I practice to fit in. One's that are harmful, I do not condone Iraqis for practicing them, nor do I condemn them for practices which, in America, are outright illegal. It is their country. I explain my norms and seek to understand theirs and occassionally get in good debates about both country's norms and practices.

However, just as I do not condone nor condemn their cultural norms in their country, I would not expect Muslims to practice their cultural rituals in an Christian society which are clearly illegal. We cannot have two laws in a country, one for this religion and one for that religion. It would lead to anarchy.

They saying, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" goes both ways. I have accepted many cultural customs during my stint in Iraq which do not conflict with my Christian beliefs. I would expect Muslims to do the same in my Christian dominated country.

This article is insightful for that reason, but never gets to the heart of the question.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Maliki to send several senior officers to early retirement

From Iraq the Model.

There are unconfirmed reports that Prime Minister Maliki has issued orders to send several top security officials to early retirement. The list includes the chief of the explosives department and the director of internal affairs at the ministry of interior (MOI). The news came only a day after Maliki fired the director of operations at the MOI. Less than two weeks ago, the director of the national intelligence service was also fired, or made to resign his position.

To read the complete article, click here.

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An oft-told tale of job survival

From Terry Savage writing for the Chicago Sun-Times.

In honor of this Labor Day holiday, here is a little fable. And like all fables, it comes with a moral at the end.

Once upon a time, in a beautiful city by a lake, there was a company that was in the business of building outboard engines for boats. It had prospered in this town for 70 years. The factory employed 850 workers, and the world headquarters building employed an equal number of people.

Ms. Savage tells the story like a fable. But it isn't. It is a true, current story. To see how it ends, click here.

But like a fable, it has a mean old wolf. Is the wolf the company, the workers, or the union?

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Barack Obama accused of making 'Depression' mistakes

From Edmund Conway writing for the Telegraph.

Barack Obama is committing the same mistakes made by policymakers during the Great Depression, according to a new study endorsed by Nobel laureate James Buchanan.

This article provokes some interesting discussion points. It ends with a recommendation to let capitalism work and to keep politicians out of the mix. An iteresting idea which worked for most of this country's history.

The paper, which recommends that the US return to a more laissez-faire economic system rather than intervening further in activity, has been endorsed by Nobel laureate James Buchanan, who said: "We have learned some things from comparable experiences of the 1930s' Great Depression, perhaps enough to reduce the severity of the current contraction. But we have made no progress toward putting limits on political leaders, who act out their natural proclivities without any basic understanding of what makes capitalism work."

One thing the article does not site is the affect of winning or losing a war has on a recession in a capitalistic society.

To read the complete article, click here.

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By the Book: How Democracies Perish

From the American Thinker.

Exaggerated self-criticism would be a harmless luxury of civilization if there were no enemy at the gate condemning democracy's very existence. But it becomes dangerous when it portrays its mortal enemy as always being in the right. Extravagant criticism is a good propaganda device in internal politics. But if it is repeated often enough, it is finally believed. And where will the citizens of democratic societies find reasons to resist the enemy outside if they are persuaded from childhood that their civilization is merely an accumulation of failures and a monstrous imposture?

- Jean Francois Revel, How Democracies Perish

Sounds like a good book to read, understand, and examine how political entities use exaggerated self-criticism and extravagant criticism to undermine a democracy from within. I have often seen both of these traits among Americans. In the last year, I have also seen it among Iraqis. It is an interesting premise worth reading, understanding, and debating.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Poll: Hamas approval rating extremely low

From The Jerusalem Post.

Hamas's approval rating has sunk to significantly low levels in the West Bank and even lower levels inside the Gaza Strip, according to a recent poll for The Israel Project that gathers Arab public opinion on a number of key issues.

This entire article is a good read. It provides some striking poll numbers not only against Hamas but also Arafat and appears to show Palestinians are ready to negotiate with Israel for peace and security. The time may be right for continued negotiations, unless of course Hamas, seeing their sinking poll numbers decides once again to thwart the will of the people.

To read the complete article, click here.

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After Baitullah, TTP loses support at home and abroad

From Shaukat Qadir writing for The National.

More than a month after Baitullah Mehsud was killed by a US drone strike at his father-in-law’s house, the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) remains a diminished force. Not that the death of one man can spell the end of the organisation – many of the Mehsud tribe would say Baitullah was a CIA agent anyway – but the TTP has lost both support inside Pakistan and a connection to al Qa’eda’s foreign forces.

Shaukat Qadir provides and interesting prespective, backed by the history of tribes in the region, and an even more interesting conclusion.

While the struggle against US occupation is unlikely to diminish in intensity, military operations in Waziristan may not even be necessary. If a ground attack proceeds, it is likely to be much easier than it would have been were Baitullah alive and supported by his foreign troops. Has the tide turned? The anti-Taliban feeling in mainland Pakistan certainly seems to have become more unanimous than the anti-American feeling, at least for the time being.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Who Was Behind Wednesday's Attacks? [In Baghdad]

From Omar writing for Iraq the Model.

There is near-full agreement in Iraq that Wednesday’s wave of attacks were more than indiscriminate acts of terrorism. Most politicians, commentators and observers believe those behind the attacks want to influence political alignments and voter decisions before general elections next January.

Reading OSINT, it seemed that all were in agreement that the attacks in Baghdad on Wednesday were perpetuated by Sunni insurgents. However, Omar wraps up below why it could have possibly been Shia insurgents or Special Group cells from Iran. When you take the events in Baghdad together with the Iraqi Government recent seige of Ashraf, it provides and interesting perspective on why certain events are unfolding.

First of all, the deterioration in security undermines Maliki’s reputation and weakens his position in a critical time before elections. Second, it spreads fear among the people about a possible return to the dark days of 2006-2007. This in turn reduces the chances of secular parties and encourages voting along sectarian lines as a means to seek protection from the perceived threat other sects poses. Third, it sends a message to Maliki that if he stays close to the U.S. and insists on his increasingly nationalist, non-sectarian course, then he would not have much of a country left to rule.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Pakistan Taliban appears in turmoil

From Yahoo.

Pakistan's Taliban appears in turmoil after reports of a deadly shootout between contenders to replace the shadowy movement's leader, believed to have been killed in a US drone attack.

This article should be read in unison with these other articles to get a complete picture of what is happening in Pakistan. The most important point comes out in this article from the Daily Times.

The people of Mingora have long been used to the sight of bullet-riddled bodies dumped on the streets. For months these used to be government officials, policemen or women killed by the Taliban, the Times has reported. Now the pattern has been reversed.

The Taliban are being hunted down by the security forces and families of their former victims.

Other important articles are here, here, and here. Needless to say, most of them point to a general dissatisfaction with extremists by the population. An insurgency first and foremost needs tacit support of the population. It appears that both the Taliban and Al Qaeda have lost their popular support.

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Put Moussavi, Khatami, Karroubi on trial says Iran general (Roundup)

From Monsters and Critics.

A senior general of the Iranian revolutionary guards said Sunday that top opposition leaders should be tried for having planned a coup against the Islamic establishment, the official news agency IRNA reported Sunday.

Yadollah Javani, head of the guards' political bureau, demanded that Mir-Hossein Moussavi, former president Mohammad Khatami and former parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi be put on trial.

President Ahmadinejad is floating the idea of putting key figures on trial. While Iran has put normal citizens on trial with no real loss in support, trying to put these leading figures on trial will cause the regime to crumble. These figures have not yet really taken sides against the regime. If this trial gains traction, they will be forced to take sides against the regime. If and when they do, it will be an ugly day for Iran.

To read the complete article, click here.

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EXCLUSIVE: Report sees recipe for civil war in Iraq

From The Washington Times.

A report to be published this month by the U.S. government's prestigious National Defense University warns that the Iraqi army and police are becoming pawns of sectarian political parties -- a trend that it calls "a recipe for civil war."

The report by Najim Abed al-Jabouri, a former Iraqi mayor and police chief who helped run the first successful counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq after the U.S. invasion, also concludes that U.S. forces have failed to use their remaining leverage as trainers to insulate the Iraqi army and police from the influence of powerful Shi'ite and Sunni Muslim and Kurdish parties.

This article is very interesting in that it accurately portrays many dynamics currently ongoing in Iraq. The Iraqi Security Forces are for the most part nonsectarian and generally do operations which are nonsectarian, especially the Iraqi Army. However, there are loyalties to political parties which occassionally swing operations for purposes of different political parties. It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the course of the next year as US Forces withdraw from Iraq.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Khatami: Referendum can end Iran's election crisis

From AP via Yahoo.

Former president Mohammad Khatami has called for a nationwide referendum on the legitimacy of the government, saying Iranians have lost faith in their political leaders after last month's disputed election, according to reports posted Monday on several reformist Web sites.

It seems the forces in Iran are beginning to take sides. Between Rafsanjani's sermon Friday and now Khatami calling for a nationwide referendum, things are not going well for the regime. The fact that both are publicly stating these things like this show how much power and control the regime has lost in Ahmadinejad's bid for reelection.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Failed Peace Deal: Iran Regime Nixes Compromise

From Amir Taheri writing for the New York Post.

IRAN moved a step closer to prolonged civil strife yester day when the government rejected a compromise offered by a key figure of the regime to settle the dispute over last month's election.

The deal was offered byformer President Hashemi Rafsanjani, a prominent mullah-cum-businessman and one of the founders of the Islamic Republic. In his proposal, the dispute over the presidential results would be referred to the Supreme Court for final judgment, while the opposition would stop daily skirmishes between its supporters and security agents. The government would then release the 5,000 or so people arrested since the dispute broke out June 13 and publish the full list of those killed in the insurrection.

Mr. Taheri point out other parts of the compromise which the Iranian regime rejected. He also goes on to site how the sides are lining up and the cold shoulder being given to Ahmadinejad in Mashad. But most importantly, he ends with the following statement which shows where the regime is heading.

The split within the Khomeinist establishment is deepening by the day, creating the impression of a regime adrift in a sea of troubles.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Thousands throng again as Rafsanjani speaks in Tehran

From Monsters and Critics.

Thousands thronged to Friday prayers in Tehran to hear an address by former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani. The event rekindled open protests at alleged fraud in the June 12 presidential election, which saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad retain power.

Witnesses said as many as 100,000 opposition supporters took part in the demonstrations in searing heat of 40 degrees centigrade or more. Police used tear gas when clashes broke out after the event.

Things are still not right in Iran. Rafsanjani spoke out defiantly against the establishment. The fact that he was able to do this with carefully chosen words is indicative that the ruling establishment in Iran has lost a certain amount of control.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Pakistan wields a double-edged sword

From Syed Saleem Shahzad writing for the Asia Times Online.

The first few thousand of more than 3 million people displaced by fighting in Pakistan's Swat and Malakand regions in North-West Frontier Province (NWFP) have returned to their homes. Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the United States Joint Chiefs of Staff, on a tour to a refugee camp, said this week he was "optimistic" about the job more than 30,000 troops are doing in tackling militants in the area.

The months-long offensive in and around Swat has, however, stirred bitter resentment against the Pakistan Army and its Operation Rah-e-Raast (Operation for the Right Path), despite the positive spin the authorities try to put on the operation and their claims of killing top Taliban commanders.

Syed Saleem Shahzad describes some interesting missteps by the Pakistani Army in this article. He describes a credibility problem which has resulted in the Pakistani Taliban uniting vice being fragmented.

The incident stunned the army and it was faced with the reality that far from eliminating Baitullah, he had emerged as the leader of all of the Pakistani Taliban; tribal feuds had been put aside. This was despite the fact that the army clarified on a number of occasions that the military operation was only against Baitullah, not even against his tribe. Clearly, no one believed the army.

One thing which is certain is that a fight against an insurgency the population must be protected, respected, and secured. If the Pakistani Army is not keeping this in mind, it will not succeed. The insurgents will, when attacked, hide among the population and use them as shields. The Pakistani Army needs to restain itself to ensure it does not appear to be fighting the population and focus its efforts on the insurgents. If that means a known insurgent goes free, so be it. But collateral damage must be minimized. In this way, the population will decide to not support the insurgent and will begin to support the government.

A counter-insurgency is a tricky, tricky road to travel on and it must be done with care. The US learned this tough lesson in Iraq. The Pakistani Army will eventually learn this lesson in Pakistan. Unfortunately, until it does, civilians may suffer, from both sides of the conflict.

The good news is Pakistan is now starting to fight the insurgents in their country. The bad news is that tacit support of an insurgency comes not from believing in the insurgent's cause, but from fear of the insurgent's brutal methods. It is difficult to fight a war without brutality, but that is what a counter-insurgent must do everyday. And that is the lesson which Pakistan is now learning.

A final note. The Pakistani Army will learn how to fight the insurgency since the government is a freely elected entity. It will change its methods because it must to survive. An insurgent does not need to, and in fact, when push comes to shove, an insurgent will always sacrifice a civilian. This note is why an insurgency is best dealt with by a democracy which is answerable to its people.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Iraq to Increase Crude Production to 4 Million B/D


Iraqi Oil Minister Hussein Al-Shahristani has announced that Iraq will increase its oil production to four million barrels a day (b/d) as an intermediate step toward production of six million b/d.

Finance Minister Baqir Al-Zubeidi said the increase will generate an additional income of $200 billion in the forthcoming period that would help Iraq carry out its development programs.

He added that by reaching this level of production, Iraq will become a center of economic power in the region that would influence the relations with the neighboring countries.

Iraq has sites on becoming a center of economic power in the region.


Abu Risha Sends a Stern Message to Kurdish Leaders

From Iraq the Model.

The chief of the Awakening Councils in Iraq Ahmed Abu Risha told the press that it was not unlikely to form an alliance with PM Nouri al-Maliki in the future because Maliki “presented a national project that transcends ethnic and sectarian lines that strengthens Iraq’s unity”.

When asked about Iran, Abu Risha called Iran’s role in Iraq “worrisome” and that “facing this [intervention] requires that Iraqis adhere to their choice of national independence and reject interference in their internal affairs”.

It seems that Maliki may be able to draw a major Sunni party into his new government. If true, his dependence on Sadr is significantly less important.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Taliban uses Afghan fear to fight surge

From The Washington Times.

The Taliban is seeking to blunt the surge of an additional 20,000 U.S. troops through stepped-up attacks on Afghans working with the U.S.-backed government, U.S. and Afghan officials say.

This is the first mistake insurgents make when confronted with death. They start attacking the population indiscriminantly.

A U.S. defense official, who also spoke on the condition that he not be named because of the nature of his work, said the Taliban has been "invoking fear" by targeting innocent people who work for the U.S.-led coalition.

They will target known collaborators with the Coalition Forces, but also innocent folks. This word will get around, just like it has in Iraq. Mark my word, this is the beginning of the end for the Taliban. An insurgency cannot survive without the tactic support of the population. Fence sitters will stop becoming fence sitters when they see innocent people murdered.

When the insurgents need to resort to murder to maintain control, they have lost.

To read the complete article, click here.

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Iraqi Chief of Staff Asks Al-Sistani for Fatwa in Support of Security


Iraqi Chief of General Staff General Babaker Zibari called on senior Shi'te cleric Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani to issue a fatwa [religious edict] calling on Iraqis to support security and stability.

Zibari, a Kurd, also asked Al-Sistani to encourage Iraqis to join the armed forces. The request is the first of its kind in Iraq.

It is assumed that Zibari, who is the second most senior army senior officer under Prime Minister Al-Maliki, who is commander-in-chief, has acted at the behest of Al-Maliki, who may have been reluctant for political reasons to approach Al-Sistani directly.

It will be interesting if Sistani delivers the fatwa asked for.

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Predators and Civilians

From the Wall Street Journal.

Several Taliban training camps in the Pakistan hinterland were hit last week by missiles fired from American unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), or drones, reportedly killing some 20 terrorists. Remarkably, some people think these strikes are a bad idea.

This article provides an interesting account of predator attack vice other fixed wing attacks. Keys to the discussion are low yield explosives and loiter time which limit collateral damage.

To read the full article, click here.

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Iran opposition: Election result 'unacceptable'

From Hareetz.

Iran's embattled opposition leader has branded last month's presidential election "illegitimate" and has demanded the regime release all political prisoners.

Mir Hossein Mousavi's defiance came Wednesday in a new message on his Web site that also called for election reforms and press freedoms.

Mousavi insisted that Iran's disputed June 12 election was riddled with fraud. He contended that he - not incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad - was the rightful winner.

The pot continues to stew. One thing is important to note in this article. It is the title. "Iran Opposition". These are important, and very new words.

To read the full article, click here.

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Sadr Front calls to halt resistance in cities of withdrawal

From Alsumaria.

In a statement read out by Al Sadr Front spokesman Salah Al Ubaidi, the front called on followers to halt resistance in Iraqi cities and villages from which US troops have pulled out.

If Coalition Forces have pulled out of all cites, then does that mean they will stop all resistance. I guess, we will see.

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Pakistan now facing 2-front war in Waziristan

From Saeed Shah writing for the Mcclatchy Newspapers published in the Miami Herald. The article starts with:

A militant commander in northwest Pakistan tore up a peace deal with the Pakistani government Tuesday, dealing a major blow to the government's campaign against Islamist insurgents in the extremist-controlled Waziristan region.

So the militant commander "tore" up the peace deal which will deal a "major blow" to Pakistan. Why?

"This accord is being scrapped because of Pakistan's failure to stop the American drone attacks in North and South Waziristan," said Ahmadullah Ahmadi, a spokesman for Bahadur. "Since the army is attacking us in North and South Waziristan, we will also attack them."

So, the Predator attacks must be hurting them, and hurting them hard, so hard, in fact, they have decided it is better to go to war with Pakistan than continue to be hit by predator attacks. However, this conclusion is never reached. Instead the conclusion that is reached is Pakistan now has to face a 2-front war.

"You have to have a strategy to isolate Baitullah, clear the Mehsud area, then make arrangements for (fighting) Maulvi Nazir and Gul Bahadur," said Asad Munir, a former head of military intelligence for the tribal area. "You have to make every effort to separate the Wazirs and the Mehsuds."

Well really. That is surprising. I bet the only person who knew Pakistan was going to try to deal with Mehsud first and then Nazir and Bahadur was Mr. Munir. That is probably the reason Pakistan has been denying they are aware of the attacks and is representing they are powerless to stop the attacks.

I bet the fact that Pakistan was aware of the attacks never entered into the thought process of Nazir and Bahadur. I bet, seeing their fellow Taliban wiped out in Swat and a major offensive ongoing in South Waziristan and knowing they were next, never entered into their thought process that they better now side with Baitullah before his forces are wiped out.

I believe in this particular case, the Obama administration is on target.

The Obama administration contends that the drone attacks are hurting the ability of Taliban and al-Qaida commanders to plan and mount operations in Pakistan and Afghanistan, and that the domestic political fallout from the strikes hasn't hurt the Pakistani government too badly, said two U.S. officials who requested anonymity because they weren't authorized to speak publicly.

Yes folks, Afghanistan and Pakistan are connected. They are linked. You cannot win one without the other. Surprise. We haven't heard that before. If that means you have to fight all enemy forces at one time, that is what it means. Would you rather fight one at a time? Of course, and Pakistan has been doing a great job up until now to fight only one, but Pakistan nor the US get to decide when the enemy will begin to fight. The enemy does. And the enemy has.

Will it be a different battle now? Sure. Were contingencies drawn up in case this happened? Undoubtedly. Did everybody know this day was coming? Of course.

What is more important is to see what comes next. And that will begin to shed some light on what the contingency plan really is.

To read the full article, click here.

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Iraq Opens Bids for Oil Fields

From Bloomberg.

Iraq auctioned contracts Tuesday to run eight huge oil and gas fields, but only made a deal on one of the fields.

This is the second thing Iraq needs, jobs. Its national resource is oil. While only one of the eight fields received a deal, it points to changing times in Iraq. Iraq is moving from a wartime state to a peace time economy. These oil bids are just the first in a long line of future economic enterprises.

The fact that no companies bid on the other seven fields means Iraq has to go back and make them more competitive to oil companies.


Pakistan Rejects Talks With Militants Amid Offensive

From Paul Tighe and Farhan Sharif writing for Bloomberg.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said there will be no talks with militants because the army is taking decisive action against them “in a guerrilla fight” in the tribal region and in the Swat Valley.

“Our army is fighting very efficiently against cowardly people,” the state-run Associated Press of Pakistan cited Gilani as saying in Lahore yesterday. It’s not the time for dialogue with terrorists, he said.

Awhile back I stated that Pakistani's voted in businessmen and that terrorism was bad for business. This is now proving to be the case.

To read the full article, click here.

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Turkey increases Iraq water flow

From Alsumaria.

Turkey increased the volume of water flow in Euphrates River by 50% to reach 570 cubic meters per second, a percentage claimed by Iraq to plant rice in half of its land in the middle and the south of the country, Ministry of Water Resources declared on Sunday. Iraq hopes that Turkey will keep on increasing the water flow in order to provide water for agricultural purposes and other uses, said an official statement

This simple act, increasing water into Iraq, will do more to eliminate the insurgent threat in Iraq than any additional increase in American Soldiers or Iraqi checkpoints at this stage of the conflict.

As I interface with Iraqis daily, this one issue always surfaces. Water is not only the key to life; in Iraq it is a key ingredient in developing jobs and commerce in this young democracy. It is also critical at returning dependents to their homes, many of which still remain displaced due to lack of drinking or agricultural water.

Reports like this make the chances increase dramatically of this young, fragile democracy surviving to become a solid democracy which will be a beacon for all other countries in the Middle East.

This increase in chance that this additional water brings is as dramatic as the revoluion going on in Iran right now.

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In Afghanistan, crackdown hurts Iran's once-sterling image

From Philip Smucker wrtiing for McClatchy.

"The Iranian government has finally exposed itself as a theocratic, totalitarian regime," said Faqiri, 23, a leader of the organization of a dozen students who meet secretly once a week because the Afghan government frowns on their independent political activities. "Iranian leaders are trying to hang onto power by killing people and destroying their free media."

What is important here is Iranian influence which is rapidly degrading among Middle Eastern nations. What is happening in Iran is a revolution. What is happening to Iranian influence in the region, is revolutionary.

By virtue of its economic ties and support for key areas of the Afghan government, Iran still wields considerable influence in Afghanistan. Increasingly, though, it's viewed by the broader public and by university students in Herat as an anachronistic and authoritarian regime that opposes the will of its own people.

Indeed, after the government crackdown and the popular defiance following the disputed June 12 election, Iran's political influence in Afghanistan is in a downward spiral.

For a full read of the article, click here.

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Fireworks over Baghdad as Iraqis take over cities

From AP via Yahoo.

"The withdrawal of American troops is completed now from all cities after everything they sacrificed for the sake of security," said Sadiq al-Rikabi, a senior adviser to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. "We are now celebrating the restoration of sovereignty."

Being here, in Iraq, and working with Iraqis on a daily basis, I can tell you for them, this marks a turning point in their history. They are now a sovereign nation. They are now in charge of their destiny. Will insurgents try to take this day from them, undoubtedly. Will Iraqis win at the end of the day, most assuredly.

For a full read of the above article, click here.


Support for Pakistan's anti-Taliban war seen solid

From Faisal Aziz writing for Reuters.

I wrote awhile back that Al Qaeda and the Taliban create enemies where ever they go. It takes awhile, but it is always the endstate. This seems to have finally happened in Pakistan.

In the 1980s, Pakistan began used Islamist guerrillas for foreign policy aims, first in Afghanistan to fight Soviet invaders and later in the disputed Kashmir region where Pakistan- backed Muslim fighters battled Indian rule.

That engendered considerable sympathy for the "jihadis".

But Pakistanis were shocked when the Taliban defied a peace deal that had given them virtual control of the Swat valley northwest of Islamabad and went on the offensive, seizing a district just 100 km (60 miles) from the capital in April.

Video footage of Taliban flogging a teenaged girl in Swat and a pro-Taliban cleric's proclamation that the constitution was un-Islamic contributed to a sea-change in opinion.

"It's an existential threat now to the state.

It is the same story everywhere, but this realization represents the death of Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the region. Yes there will be fighting, probably even years of it, just like in Iraq, but the fact is, the insurgency will lose more and more support daily from this point forward.

The siginificance of Pakistan is this is the last unassailable base for Al Qaeda. Al Qaeda will lose here, not only militarily, but also its economic support from other Islamic countries.

For a full read of the article, click here.

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Iran is the Key

From Robert D. Kaplan writing for the New York Post.

Iran is so central to the fate of the Middle East that even a partial shift in regime behavior -- an added degree of nuance in its approach to Iraq, Lebanon, Israel or the United States -- could dramatically affect the region. Just as a radical Iranian leader can energize the "Arab street," an Iranian reformer can energize the emerging but curiously opaque Arab bourgeoisie. This is why the depiction of presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi as but another radical, albeit with a kinder, gentler exterior than Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, completely misses the point.

Mr. Kaplan points out that like the old USSR, Iran can only change from the inside. It is an insightful article with many interesting comments.

For a full read, click here.

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