Friday, February 10, 2006

DAILY WAR NEWS FOR FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2006 Photo: Relatives of the victims of a blast comfort each other outside the Yarmouk hospital in Baghdad, Friday, Feb. 10, 2006. A car bomb exploded outside a Sunni Muslim mosque in southwestern Baghdad on Friday, killing at least eight Iraqis and wounding 21, a hospital official said (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban) Bring ‘em on: Car bomb outside a Sunni mosque kills at least eight people and wounds at least 21 more. This happened in the Dora neighborhood of Baghdad. Masked gunmen appeared at the scene, killing one woman and wounding several others. Bring ‘em on: Sunni cleric abducted from his home in Baghdad. They were wearing Interior Ministry police uniforms. Bring ‘em on: Two Marines killed on Thursday by roadside bomb near Fallujah. Bring ‘em on: New videotape of kidnapped journalist, Jill Carroll. Bring ‘em on: Car bomb outside a Shi’ite mosque in Baghdad killed at least nine people and wounds more than 28 on Friday. (I think this is the same car bombing as mentioned above, but one article says a Shi’ite mosque, and another says a Sunni mosque. Both happened in Dora neighborhood of Baghdad. Another report says that eleven were killed and 38 wounded.) Bring ‘em on: Suicide car bomb attacks US patrol north of Baghdad, no American casualties. Bring ‘em on: Iraqi policewomen killed by gunman at her home in Baquba. The gunman were wearing Iraqi army uniforms. Bring ‘em on: Gunman ambushed two policemen, killing one and wounding the other in Baquba. Bring ‘em on: One Iraqi soldier killed and another wounded when gunmen opened fired on them in Baquba. Bring ‘em on: Three Iraqi National Guards killed and two wounded by bomb in the Al Mshahedah district in Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Gunmen kidnapped brother of a member of the Iraqi National Assembly. Bring ‘em on: Two bodies found blindfolded and shot near al Nour oil field south of Baghdad. Bring ‘em on: Two civilians killed by US gunfire in al Karma village near Fallujah. The shooting was reportedly random, and killed one teenager and one elderly man. REPORTS State Department Contractors Kill Two Civilians in Northern Iraq Private security workers under contract with the State Department shot and killed two Iraqi civilians Tuesday in the restive northern city of Kirkuk, police, U.S. officials and relatives of the dead said Wednesday. Gunmen in a convoy of three dark-colored GMC sport-utility vehicles opened fire on a taxi north of downtown Kirkuk, killing two men, both ethnic Kurds, Capt. Honer Ahmed of the Kirkuk police said. "Contract security personnel employed by the Department of State were involved in an aggressive vehicle incident on Feb. 7 in Rahimawa neighborhood of Kirkuk," the U.S. Embassy said in a statement. "Two civilians died and one was injured. We've launched an investigation and it is ongoing." The embassy would not name the security company. Maj. Gen. Sherko Shakir, the Kirkuk police chief, said U.S. forces took the contractors into custody for interrogation. Iraqi government officials and U.S. commanders have condemned what they have termed indiscriminate and unpunished shootings of Iraqi civilians by some of the estimated 25,000 private security contractors operating throughout the country. Late last year, video footage that appeared to show contractors opening fire on civilian vehicles surfaced on an Internet site that claims to be independently operated by former employees of a London-based security company, Aegis Specialist Risk Management, which has a $293 million contract with the U.S. government. The video prompted investigations by the company and the military, the results of which have not been announced. A U.S. military official said at the time that the identities of those responsible would be difficult to determine because no faces could be seen and voices were largely muffled. But the same site that posted the initial videos -- http://www.aegisiraq.co.uk,/ -- has since posted what it says are unedited versions, complete with audible dialogue. In one segment, shot through the rear window of a vehicle, men can be heard joking about wounds caused to an Iraqi driver. (The US press continues to call them “security contractors” even though they are clearly mercenaries. – Susan) In Kirkuk, a diverse and oil-rich city rife with tension among Iraq's main religious and ethnic factions, relatives of Khalid Mahmoud Nadir, an elderly taxi driver killed in Tuesday's shooting, vowed to avenge his death. They did not appear to distinguish between U.S. troops and the contractors, who many Iraqis say resemble foreign soldiers. "We don't want any compensation from the Americans," said Nadir's brother, Nidham. "I swear to God that I will take revenge for my brother, even if I have to blow up myself for my brother whom they killed. He was a simple man who lived on the taxi income and was the breadwinner of his five-member family." "They did not even stop to take him to the hospital," Nidham added. "This is their new democracy, and this is the freedom they brought." (And they wonder where the suicide bombers come from. – Susan) Iraq Election Results Confirmed The final certified results of Iraq's election have been announced, almost two months after votes were cast. Electoral Commission head Adil al-Lami said 128 seats were won by the conservative Shia coalition, the United Iraqi Alliance. It will be the dominant party in the new assembly, but failed to get an outright majority. The figures confirm the provisional outcome announced last month. The new assembly must now meet within 15 days. UN representative Ashraf Qazi welcomed the results. "I urge the political leaders to quickly form the new government and offer stability and security to Iraq," he said in a statement, quoted by AFP news agency. "There are many challenges but human rights is the main concern." Two Sunni blocs, the Iraqi Accordance Front and the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, received a combined total of 55 seats. The Kurdish alliance gained 53, and the secular Iraqi National List 25. Mr Lami said 24 complaints were investigated but none of them changed the results. More Belt-tightening in Store for Iraqis Iraqis will have to do without their almost free food rations and stand yet another spiral of hikes in fuel prices. This exactly what any new government must to do to meet conditions the World Bank and international creditors and donors have set for the country. The outgoing government is reported to have agreed to these conditions, which among other things, require that Iraq to enter into long-term partnership deals with foreign firms to develop the country’s massive oil wealth. Sources, refusing to be named, leaked information of the deal which the government has so far opted to keep under wraps. Fuel prices will have to be raised to levels comparable to those in neighboring countries, according to the deal. The expected upsurge in fuel prices will come on top of the hikes the government made recently and which led to demonstrations across the country. The sources said millions of Iraqis dependent on food rations for a living need now to prepare themselves to do without government-subsidized food. The deal will have to be ratified by the parliament but the outgoing government of Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, though agreeing to it, has refused to send it to the legislators. World Bank, International Monetary Fund and creditor countries have written off most of Iraqi debts. But these institutions and countries, the sources said, would like Iraq to open up its oil fields to foreign investments. Million Shi’ites Mark Ashura in Iraq in Safety Eight-thousand security personnel imposed a massive lockdown on Karbala Thursday, forbidding access to cars, searching hotels and conducting body searches on thousands of black-clad pilgrims. "The ceremony was attended by more than a million pilgrims who participated since sunrise," Karbala police chief General Razeq Abd Ali al-Tayi told AFP. Large groups of men with shaven heads marched towards the mausoleum of Imam Hussein flagellating their heads with knives and swords as part of the mourning ceremonies commemorating Hussein's martyrdom. "I am participating in this ceremony as it is the least I can offer to Imam Hussein who gave his life for Islam," said Riaz Mustafa, 30, whose head was bleeding from deep gashes after series of cuts. Clad in white burial shroud, now drenched in blood, Mustafa was among the hundreds who were bleeding profusely from the rituals of self-flagellation meant to evoke sufferings of Hussein in his final hours. IRAQ: Judge Describes Corruption Case Against Lawmaker Radi al-Radi, head of the Commission on Public Integrity, on 7 February spoke with RFE/RL's Radio Free Iraq (RFI) about the corruption charges against parliamentarian Mish'an al-Juburi. Al-Juburi has been charged with graft under suspicion that he siphoned off salaries for ghost employees of a pipeline-protection force he oversaw in the Salah Al-Din Governorate. His son, Yazin, has also been charged, as his company is accused of misusing funds earmarked for feeding the protection force. As the number of explosions targeting oil pipelines was growing, the Council of Ministers discussed [in 2005] the issue with the Defense Ministry and the National Assembly in order to make a specific decision to solve this problem. There were a number of suggestions, one of them being to delegate the protection to local tribes in the areas crossed by the pipelines. As a member of the National Assembly, Mr. Mish'an [al-Juburi], together with [his relatives in the] Al-Jubur tribes, was to be put in charge of guarding the pipeline north of Baghdad. He was charged with this task. He had to form, supervise, and command armed units. Indeed, he presented lists [with names of members] of these units, and money was allocated for their subsistence allowances. But the problem was that no matter how much was spent and how much was paid to these units, explosions on that pipeline continued. That prompted the government to investigate the matter. The issue was passed to us, and as we worked on it we came to see that it included numerous elements of corruption and embezzlement. It seems there were many fictitious names and that the funding was fabricated. In some areas, no one was protecting the pipeline. Continuous explosions could be seen as a guarantee of the continued existence of the armed units and a continuous supply of financing -- but this also meant a continuous problem of embezzlement. Therefore, we presented the issue to the courts. Having found there is evidence, the court opened a case against Mish’an [al-Juburi], and issued a warrant for him. Iraq: Kill One, Frighten a Thousand Sheik Kamal Nazal, a Sunni preacher and chairman of the Fallujah city council, was gunned down in a hail of bullets from two passing cars as he walked to work, police Chief Brig. Hudairi al-Janabi said. No group claimed responsibility for the killing, which occurred in one of the most tightly controlled cities in Iraq. However, it appeared part of a campaign of intimidation by Sunni insurgents against Sunni Arabs interested in promoting a political settlement to stem the violence. Last month, Nazal welcomed Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari and U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad to the city 40 miles west of Baghdad. U.S. officials have been working hard to encourage Sunni Arabs to abandon the insurgency, and have been urging Shiite and Kurdish leaders to give major government posts to the disaffected minority. Shiite officials concede some in their ranks may be guilty, but months of investigations have failed to yield a single arrest, CBS News correspondent Kimberly Dozier reports from Baghdad. American diplomats and military commanders believe that strategy offers the best way to calm the insurgency so U.S. and other international troops can begin heading home. (I guess they have not noticed that Bush does not intend to ever bring troops home. – Susan) Weapons Smuggling Booms in Southern Qurna Smuggling of weapons is a thriving business in Qurna, 74 kilometers northwest of the southern city of Basra. The contraband trade, involving a variety of weapons, is most noticeable in the district of Muzairia, on the eastern bank of the Tigris River. Residents said the trade was not confined to small arms. They said smugglers openly put for sale mortars, rockets and landmines. The source of the weapons is not known. The smugglers say the weapons are remnants of the 1980-1988 Iraq-Iran war. Most traders are young Iraqis. Buyers are not hard to find. Residents in Qurna say they have already informed the authorities on the illegal trade but no action has been taken. The smugglers are moving their business from villages and districts across the Tigris to Qurna itself, the residents added. Occupation Troops Involved in Antiquities Smuggling Many smugglers of antiquities in the country sell their stolen items to the U.S.-led occupation troops in the country, a senior official from the Antiquities Department said. Mohammed Mehdi said smugglers seized recently admitted that they were specifically working for foreign troops in the country. Mehdi, who is in charge of antiquities in the Province of Najaf, said the smugglers were given badges that allowed them to enter foreign military camps in southern Iraq. Medhi did not mention the nationality of the foreign troops but said the smuggled antiquities were mainly sold to the troops serving in Diwaniya. He said police in southern Iraq have recently apprehended seven smugglers on their way to sell 174 precious pieces to foreign troops. “These smugglers carry badges that give them access to these troops’ camps and sell the relics stolen from Iraqi museums and archaeological sites to soldiers there,” Medhi told Azzaman in an interview. The command of the U.S.-led occupation troops in Baghdad declined comment. Amid the chaos and political instability gripping the country since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, Iraq’s antiquities have suffered a great deal. The Iraq Museum in Baghdad, with the world’s largest collection of Mesopotamian artifacts, was looted along with several other provincial museums. The government, embroiled in fight against insurgents, simply lacks the resources to guard the more than 10,000 archaeologically significant sites across the country. POSSIBLE FUTURE WARS Nuclear War Against Iran The launching of an outright war using nuclear warheads against Iran is now in the final planning stages. Coalition partners, which include the US, Israel and Turkey are in "an advanced stage of readiness". Various military exercises have been conducted, starting in early 2005. In turn, the Iranian Armed Forces have also conducted large scale military maneuvers in the Persian Gulf in December in anticipation of a US sponsored attack. Since early 2005, there has been intense shuttle diplomacy between Washington, Tel Aviv, Ankara and NATO headquarters in Brussels. In recent developments, CIA Director Porter Goss on a mission to Ankara, requested Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan "to provide political and logistic support for air strikes against Iranian nuclear and military targets." Goss reportedly asked " for special cooperation from Turkish intelligence to help prepare and monitor the operation." (DDP, 30 December 2005). No dissenting political voices have emerged from within the European Union. Iraq Braces For Civil War Officials said the resurgence of suicide bombings and other violence could mark the start of a civil war that would pit Sunnis against Shi'ites and Kurds in Iraq. They said the Sunnis have sought to infiltrate and control the nation's security forces to support such an effort. On Jan. 8, the Iraqi Defense Ministry issued a statement that warned of a civil war between the nation's three main ethnic communities. The ministry said the war could be sparked by the current outbreak of terrorism. Attack on Iran: A Looming Folly The wires have been humming since before the New Year with reports that the Bush administration is planning an attack on Iran. "The Bush administration is preparing its NATO allies for a possible military strike against suspected nuclear sites in Iran in the New Year, according to German media reports, reinforcing similar earlier suggestions in the Turkish media," reported UPI on December 30th. "The Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel this week," continued UPI, "quoted 'NATO intelligence sources' who claimed that the NATO allies had been informed that the United States is currently investigating all possibilities of bringing the mullah-led regime into line, including military options. This 'all options are open' line has been President George W Bush's publicly stated policy throughout the past 18 months." An examination of the ramifications of such an attack is desperately in order. Unlike Iraq, Iran has not spent the last fifteen years having its conventional forces worn down by grueling sanctions, repeated attacks, and two American-led wars. While Iran's conventional army is not what it was during the heyday of the Iran-Iraq war - their armaments have deteriorated and the veterans of that last war have retired - the nation enjoys substantial military strength nonetheless. According to a report issued by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in December of 2004, Iran "has some 540,000 men under arms and over 350,000 reserves. They include 120,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards trained for land and naval asymmetrical warfare. Iran's military also includes holdings of 1,613 main battle tanks, 21,600 other armored fighting vehicles, 3,200 artillery weapons, 306 combat aircraft, 60 attack helicopters, 3 submarines, 59 surface combatants, and 10 amphibious ships." "Iran is now the only regional military power that poses a significant conventional military threat to Gulf stability," continued the CSIS report. "Iran has significant capabilities for asymmetric warfare, and poses the additional threat of proliferation. There is considerable evidence that it is developing both a long-range missile force and a range of weapons of mass destruction. It has never properly declared its holdings of chemical weapons, and the status of its biological weapons programs is unknown." US Backs Europe Over Nuclear Iran Britain, France and Germany have called for the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog to refer Iran to the Security Council over the country's atomic ambitions. In Washington, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the United States strongly supports the move and joins the European Union "and many other members of the international community in condemning the Iranian government's deliberate escalation of this issue." U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Thursday Iran's representative on the nuclear issue told him Iran's leaders "are interested in serious and constructive negotiations." Annan told reporters that he spoke by telephone for 40 minutes with the representative. "Basically, I called him to urge him to avoid any escalation, to exercise restraint, to go back to give the negotiations a chance, and that the only viable solution lies in a negotiated one," he said. "He, in turn, affirmed to me that they are interested in serious and constructive negotiations, but within a time frame, indicating that last time they did it for two-and-a-half years with no result." Iran broke U.N. seals on its nuclear enrichment facility this week, insisting it only wants to develop a civilian nuclear power program in accordance with international law. But several Western countries fear Tehran is intent on developing a nuclear bomb. Iran's hard-line conservative government insists its nuclear programs have peaceful aims, and it has the right to restart nuclear facilities and enrich uranium for the production of nuclear energy. Their Armageddonites, and Ours Pat Robertson and 20 million American fundamentalists are not alone. The new president of Iran also believes that the end of the world is nigh and "believers" can help speed it up. His government has now allocated millions of dollars for the Jamkaran mosque to help believers prepare for the event. It is staffed by the Bright Future Institute, which fields inquiries and prepares Iranians for the end of this world and eternal life in the next. Among Muslims, especially Shias, much attention is given to this coming battle between good and evil: some 20 percent of the population in Iran is reported to believe in an Armageddon-type scenario – except the roles are reversed, with America representing evil. The ascetic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad lives so modestly that his only declared assets include a 30-year-old car and a small house, and no money in a bank account. Muslims also believe in Jesus Christ, called Issa or the Maseeh (Messiah), and the Second Coming. It is indeed a foreboding confluence of interests. For our American Armageddonites, the major belief is that the founding of Israel and the return of most Jews to the Holy Land is a precondition for the end of the world, when all the billions of human beings who are not "born again," including Jews who don't convert, will be killed. Born-again Christians (and children under 12 who are innocent of sexual sins) will be "Raptured" to heaven to live happily ever after. (Incidentally, though Muslim and Christian fundamentalists are both known for their sexual puritanism, Muslims dream of a heaven with sex, while evangelicals long for a heaven without it.) Many evangelicals are trying to hurry up the process by collecting millions in their churches to subsidize settlements on the West Bank and to pay for more Russian Jews to go to Israel. For Shi'ite Muslims, their "victory" will bring a new world order of eternal justice and peace, and the triumph of the Shi'ite order, which will last for a millennium. The apparently hopeless military weakness of the Muslims compared to America is waved aside thusly: "If we delve in the history of mankind it becomes apparent that Allah's wars are always an exercise in inequality. The forces of evil are always mighty and strong. The truth is represented by the frail and weak, who appear inconsequential in the eyes of the enemy. Hazrat Musa (Moses) and Pharaoh, Hazrat Daud (David) and Jalut (Goliath), Hazrat Issa (Jesus) with his bare feet and patched clothes and countless other are a testimony to this Sunnah of Allah. Today we are again fighting Allah's war. The bells have started to toll signaling the count down [sic] to the bloodiest battles ever witnessed by mankind – the Armageddon – prophesized [sic] in the Bible and Torah as well. The mightiest nation on earth is pitted against the weakest – a most glaring mismatch. For the Muslims it is a time for intense prayers and supplications to the Almighty Lord to forgive us our sins and to bless us with the presence of Hazrat Imam Mahdi, so that the events leading to the annihilation of the evil empire may start to unfold." Ariel Sharon Sharon was a lot of things, but he was not a man of peace. He never trusted peace. He never trusted the Palestinians. He never negotiated with the Palestinians, and he never intended to. He and his closest friends must have gotten a great laugh when President George Bush uttered that canard about him being a man of peace. The old man treated Bush and Condoleezza Rice like children, ignoring them when it suited him and easily manipulating them whenever he wanted. He treated the so-called road map to peace like the joke that it is. As I pointed out, not once in five years did he negotiate with the Palestinians. One of his cronies admitted in an interview with an Israeli newspaper that the purpose of pulling out of Gaza was to put off negotiating with the Palestinians. He said they would negotiate with the Palestinians when the Palestinians turned into Finns. If the Palestinians observed a cease-fire, Sharon would provoke them with attacks and assassinations and then claim he had no partners for peace. In the meantime, he intended to use the wall to provide for a secure Israel and leave the Palestinians in impossible little "homelands" that would make a viable Palestinian state impossible. Sharon's intention was to do this unilaterally and tell the Palestinians to take it or leave it. Israeli Warplanes Violate Lebanese Airspace Two Israeli warplanes violated Thursday the Lebanese airspace and flew over some areas, the Lebanese army said. It said in a statement two Israeli jets entered the Lebanese airspace and reached Baalbek. They then turned towards the west. Israeli warplanes are regularly violating the Lebanese airspace. Meanwhile, the UN interim force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) said the situation in the UN-drawn blue line was calm over the past three weeks but tense because of some Israeli violations. Pakistan: Why Blame America? US Air Strikes in Northern Pakistan. US air strikes carried out on the 13th of January 2006, on the remote Pakistani village of Damadola was a clear act of terrorism. Out of the 18 civilians killed, 10 were women and children. It seems US terrorism inside Pakistan is becoming routine, earlier on the 7th of January 2006 at least eight civilians were killed by the US helicopters attack. To be precise, such acts are state-terrorism or primary-terrorism as opposed to the usual: secondary-terrorism of individuals or groups! The bombings were indiscriminate and without warning, like the routine bombings of the defenceless Iraqi cities or the Palestinian villages and towns. Subsequently, the US tried to mitigate the severity of the crime, by claiming that they were targeting al-Qaeda members. Even if the alleged al-Qaeda members were present, that does not automatically give the US right to bomb houses inside a foreign territory, with total disregard for the innocent civilians. Unless, the US is above the law or inflicting collateral damages with impunity is an automatic entitlement for the leader of the free world! The air strike was a clear violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan, according to international law it was an act of war. So where is the UN now? Where is the Morgan Freeman look-alike UN-Muppet, Kofi Annan? The US decision to bomb the village must have been based on credible ‘intelligence’. In that case, why not surround the area with armed forces, and then give the innocent civilians in the village a safe passage to vacate, and demand the surrender of the alleged al-Qaeda members? For sure the US has more than adequate resources and firepower to take on a small band of men lightly armed. If this route was pursued, the al-Qaeda members would have been taken prisoners or they would have died resisting the US firepower. Taken alive they might have provided valuable information; if they died, that could be argued to have prevented future attacks on the US. Either result would have yielded benefit for the US. However, instead of attempting to seize the alleged al-Qaeda members, the US decided to kill them by bombing the place. Why did the US opt for the least beneficial route in terms of the “war on terror”? (And the answer is…… to create chaos and turmoil in the area. – Susan) Iran: the Next War Has Tony Blair, our minuscule Caesar, finally crossed his Rubicon? Having subverted the laws of the civilised world and brought carnage to a defenceless people and bloodshed to his own, having lied and lied and used the death of a hundredth British soldier in Iraq to indulge his profane self-pity, is he about to collude in one more crime before he goes? Perhaps he is seriously unstable now, as some have suggested. Power does bring a certain madness to its prodigious abusers, especially those of shallow disposition. In The March of Folly: from Troy to Vietnam, the great American historian Barbara Tuchman described Lyndon B Johnson, the president whose insane policies took him across his Rubicon in Vietnam. "He lacked [John] Kennedy's ambivalence, born of a certain historical sense and at least some capacity for reflective thinking," she wrote. "Forceful and domineering, a man infatuated with himself, Johnson was affected in his conduct of Vietnam policy by three elements in his character: an ego that was insatiable and never secure; a bottomless capacity to use and impose the powers of his office without inhibition; a profound aversion, once fixed upon a course of action, to any contradictions." That, demonstrably, is Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest of the cabal that has seized power in Washington. But there is a logic to their idiocy - the goal of dominance. It also describes Blair, for whom the only logic is vainglorious. And now he is threatening to take Britain into the nightmare on offer in Iran. His Washington mentors are unlikely to ask for British troops, not yet. At first, they will prefer to bomb from a safe height, as Bill Clinton did in his destruction of Yugoslavia. They are aware that, like the Serbs, the Iranians are a serious people with a history of defending themselves and who are not stricken by the effects of a long siege, as the Iraqis were in 2003. When the Iranian defence minister promises "a crushing response", you sense he means it. Listen to Blair in the House of Commons: "It's important we send a signal of strength" against a regime that has "forsaken diplomacy" and is "exporting terrorism" and "flouting its international obligations". Coming from one who has exported terrorism to Iran's neighbour, scandalously reneged on Britain's most sacred international obligations and forsaken diplomacy for brute force, these are Alice-through-the-looking-glass words. Pakistan: US Airstrike Can’t Be Repeated Pakistan's president told a senior U.S. official on Saturday that the airstrike on a Pakistani village last week cannot be repeated, a foreign ministry official said. Gen. Pervez Musharraf also assured U.S. Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns Pakistan would not waver in its support for Washington's war on terrorism, the foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak on the record. The official said Musharraf told Burns: ``What happened in Bajur must not be repeated.'' Pakistan is a key ally of the United States in its war on terrorism, but it has lodged a protest with the United States over the airstrikes that have angered many in this Islamic nation of 150 million. Iran Calls for Oil Output Cut Iran has called for a cut in global oil production while simultaneously preparing to shift its foreign assets out of Europe. The moves were widely interpreted as a signal that Iran is preparing for a long stand-off with the west and sees oil production as a counter weight to international economic pressure. (The rest of the article is a paid subscription. If anyone has a copy, please post in comments. – Susan) What Kind of War Does Not Allow For a Truce? We’re told that a new Osama bin Laden audiotape has emerged, and America's Most Wanted said he would like to strike a deal with the US: Let's stop fighting. You leave us alone, we'll leave you alone. The Bush Administration rejected the offer out of hand. "We don't negotiate with terrorists," Vice President Cheney said. Instead, we have to "destroy them." No surprise there. We're at war. The 9/11 attacks were an "act of war," the president insisted. They weren't a crime to be dealt with by using police and courts. This was war, full-bodied, bomb-your-enemy-and-invade-his-capital-city war. But wait. In full-out wars, the combatants negotiate truces. They stop fighting if they can achieve their goals by political means. Indeed, the government has a duty to use its temporarily-increased powers, its "war powers," to bring the war to a close as quickly as possible. Osama bin Laden just offered the US what it says it wants. Most Americans want to end the war on terror. Most Americans want to be free of the fear of another big terrorist attack. Isn't that what we're fighting for? Bin Laden says that the US should withdraw its troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. Americans have said they don't want the war to continue indefinitely. Why should we? The war is not benefiting us. It is killing us and our children. It is putting us all at the risk of further terrorist attacks. It is bleeding dry the government that is supposed to serve us, causing us to get less and less for our hard-earned tax dollars. The deficit that the federal government is running up will burden our children and grandchildren. In short, we've won. Most Americans initially supported the "War on Terror" as a way of reducing the threat of terrorist attacks. They do not support it so that we could control the oil and other resources in the Arab world. The war's not about that, its supporters have (often angrily) maintained. The president has been given a rare second chance: The Taliban offered to turn bin Laden over after 9/11, if the US would present evidence that bin Laden perpetrated those attacks. The president refused. More than four years later, all of the president's unmanned aircraft, Tomahawk missiles, 2000-lb bombs, and overworked and underpaid troops still can't catch bin Laden. We've killed many others, though, including tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children. We've tortured. We've built secret prisons and run a gulag in Cuba. Yet after all this effort and all this money, bin Laden is still capable of attacking our homeland. We aren't even prepared: all sorts of soft spots remain vulnerable. To refuse even to negotiate is irresponsible and reckless, and unrealistic. We cannot destroy an invisible enemy, no matter how many bombs we drop, no matter how many civil rights we erase. We will merely impoverish ourselves, and our brutality will only win the enemy more recruits--who will attack us again and again. A truce is what we need. It is better than anything we could have hoped for in the dark days after 9/11. Iran Faces “Destruction” – Israel Warns Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz warned the Iranian people Saturday that they faced 'destruction' unless they managed to restrain their new President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. 'Look at the fate of others who sought the destruction of the Jewish people. They only brought havoc and destruction to the own people,' Mofaz said. 'I know that a large part of the people of Iran do not support his policies but his despicable acts could bring destruction to all of you. You understand what must be done to prevent this,' Mofaz added, directly addressing the Iranian people. It was the toughest statement of Israel`s determination to block Iran`s nuclear ambitions since the stroke that felled Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon two weeks ago, and it came just two days before the next scheduled international inspection of Iran`s nuclear research facilities. Mofaz`s speech to an international conference of security experts in Herzliya, an exclusive resort just north of Tel Aviv, contained a clear warning that Israel if the United Nations and the international community failed to act, Israel would do so. Iran’s Oil Exchange Threatens the Greenback The Bush administration will never allow the Iranian government to open an oil exchange (bourse) that trades petroleum in euros. If that were to happen, hundreds of billions of dollars would come flooding back to the United States crushing the greenback and destroying the economy. This is why Bush and Company are planning to lead the nation to war against Iran. It is straightforward defense of the current global system and the continuing dominance of the reserve currency, the dollar. The claim that Iran is developing nuclear weapons is a mere pretext for war. The NIE (National Intelligence Estimate) predicts that Iran will not be able to produce nukes for perhaps a decade. So too, IAEA chief Mohammed ElBaradei has said repeatedly that his watchdog agency has found “no evidence” of a nuclear weapons program. There are no nuclear weapons or nuclear weapons programs, but Iran’s economic plans do pose an existential threat to America, and not one that can be simply brushed aside as the unavoidable workings of the free market. COMMENTARY OPINION: Primal Smirk I ache with fresh hope and foreboding at this time of year. The time is ripe for an overarching vision of a world without war — a tough, smart vision that can claim headlines and hold its own with the spin machines of government. Without it, we’re doomed to . . . war with Iran? “Of course, Bush has publicly stated for months that he would not take the possibility of a military strike (against Iran) off the table. What’s new here, however, is that Washington appears to be dispatching high-level officials to prepare its allies for a possible attack rather than merely implying the possibility as it has repeatedly done during the past year.” This is from the German publication Der Spiegel, at the end of 2005. Even the cynic in me is shocked by the lack of subtlety in these calculations: “During his trip to Turkey,” the article goes on, “CIA chief (Porter) Goss reportedly handed over three dossiers to Turkish security officials that purportedly contained evidence that Tehran is cooperating with Islamic terror network al-Qaida. A further dossier is said to contain information about the current status of Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program.” Terror link, WMD program. Uh oh. OPINION: Iran’s Nuclear Challenge IRAN'S RESUMPTION of uranium enrichment dramatically narrows the options of Western governments that hope to prevent its Islamic regime from acquiring nuclear weapons. The breaking of seals at its Natanz plant Tuesday directly violated an agreement Tehran struck with Britain, France and Germany in 2004 to suspend its enrichment program; that should end European hopes that economic favors could be exchanged for a permanent freeze. A Russian offer to enrich Iranian uranium has no greater prospect of success: Tehran announced its new, supposedly experimental work before it had responded to Moscow. Notions of a broader "grand bargain" between Iran and the West have been rendered ludicrous by the rantings of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has denied the Holocaust more vigorously than he has Iran's plans to become a nuclear power. And thanks to better footwork by the Bush administration, European governments no longer have the option of blaming the United States for the failure of diplomacy. That leaves the strategy that the United States has been pressing all along, which is referring Iran's case to the U.N. Security Council. Such a referral, which must come from the board of the International Atomic Energy Agency, probably won't change Iranian behavior or lead to Security Council action; North Korea has been before the council for three years without result. But having promised that consequence in the event of a resumption of enrichment, European governments must now move forward. To shrink from referring Iran to the Security Council now would strip the West of its remaining credibility in Tehran and all but eliminate the possibility of a peaceful solution. (I think this is bullshit. – Susan) Russia, which just signed a $1 billion arms sale agreement with Iran, is increasingly hostile to Western initiatives, and China is a major consumer of Iranian oil. (The real reasons they want another war. – Susan) OPINION: On Democracy, Arabs Mistrust the American Messenger I took advantage of being in Washington this week to speak with one of the most astute observers of Arab attitudes toward the U.S., and options for the U.S. in responding to the Hamas victory. Shibley Telhami, the Anwar Sadat Chair for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, regularly conducts opinion surveys that help assess the political mindset and worldview of people throughout the Arab world. His thoughts on American policy options are anchored in part in the results of a recent public opinion survey he conducted jointly with the respected polling company Zogby International, covering samples of people in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Jordan, Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates. One of the significant findings of his latest poll was that Arab citizens, by a margin of 75 percent, did not believe that democracy was the real objective of American efforts to promote reform and change in the Arab world. A full 58 percent of Arabs thought that the Iraq war resulted in less rather than more democracy in the region. Very large majorities of Arabs - three out of every four persons - believed that the main motives of American policies in the Middle East were "oil, protecting Israel, dominating the region, and weakening the Muslim world." While these findings are not so surprising, they take on fresh, major significance in view of the Hamas victory and how the U.S. responds to it. The U.S. faces a huge dilemma now in this respect, precisely because people throughout the Middle East will judge its response to the Hamas victory as a litmus test of its attitude to promoting democracy in Arab lands. Washington has already stated clearly its view - shared by others in the West - that it will not deal with or fund a Palestinian government that includes Hamas. It takes this position because Hamas does not recognize the legitimacy of Israel and actively fights it, using violent means that sometimes include terror attacks against civilians. If the U.S. pushes for sanctions against Hamas, which seems likely in view of bills to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) already moving through Congress, skepticism about the Bush administration's democracy promotion policy will skyrocket throughout the region, and probably all around the world. OPINION: What Would Jesus Do? Picture this: A cartoon of Jesus, with his pants down, smiling, raping a little boy. The caption above it reads “Got Catholicism?” Or how about a picture of a Rabbi with blood dripping from his mouth after bludgeoning a small Palestinian boy with a knife shaped like the Star of David—the caption reads “The Devil’s Chosen Ones.” I wonder if people around the world would just consider this free speech? Of course, some would condone or agree with one, two or all three, while others would say “it’s free speech,” although they “find it offensive and in poor taste.” But do you honestly think media outlets such as the BBC, Le Monde, or any media outlet in Copenhagen would pick up these cartoons? The outrage would begin instantly and advertisers would pullout. Yet, those in Denmark and their supporters around Europe call it freedom of speech to have a cartoon of the prophet Mohammed—who is not supposed be depicted to prevent idolatry according to clerical interpretation of the Koran—with a turban shaped like a bomb on his head. The double standard the West has set for the rest of the world is disgusting. We live in a foolish bubble where we think we are free to say or do whatever we want without consequence. I remember watching Saturday Night Live when Sinead O’Connor ripped up a picture of the Pope. The furor was enormous, which led to NBC receiving a 2.5 million dollar fine by the Federal Communications Commission. Imagine if it was a picture of Jesus—the US Congress would have made the Teri Schiavo intervention look like a joke. Where are the pictures of the dead soldiers, the dead women and children in the Western media? Some governments won’t allow it and other media outlets just fear the backlash. When I need journalistic honesty, I have to turn to Al Jazeera, why is that? One cannot even deny the Holocaust in Europe, question 9/11 in America (unless you want the Ward Churchill treatment), but the West claims they’re all about free speech. It is no coincidence the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is grossly pro-Israeli. It is no coincidence that you never heard the full quotes of Iranian president Ahmadinejad’s comments on Israel and the Holocaust—no matter the basis. PEACE ACTION: United for Peace and Justice has a page on US legislation concerning the Iraqi war, and information on how to contact your Representative and Senators. They also have material on grass-roots lobbying materials. CASUALTY REPORTS Local Story: New York soldier killed in Iraq by vehicle roll-over. Local Story: Two Fort Wainwright soldiers killed by IED in Iraq. Local Story: Texas soldier killed in Iraq. Local Story: Central Ohio Marine killed in Iraq. Local Story: South Dakota soldier dies from December blast. QUOTE OF THE DAY: A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves. - Edward R. Murrow


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