Monday, January 29, 2007

Iraq : Hundreds Dead As Iraqi Army, US And UK Air Strikes Kill Messianic Cult Leader And Followers

But Claims Emerge That "Successful" Joint Operation Against Crazed Armageddonists Was An Horrific Slaughter Of Innocent Men, Women And Children

A swirling mass of unconfirmed, unverifiable reports have swamped the world's media about what will go down in the history books as 'The Battle Of Najaf': one of the deadliest, most chaotic and downright strange confrontation between Shiite Iraqis and the combined forces of the UK, the US and the Iraq Army.

Hundreds were killed, an American helicopter was shot down, and the Iraqi Army failed to stand up as fully expected, requiring British and American aircraft to launch devastating air strikes on trenches, tunnels and fortifications manned by members of a Shiite cult, looking forward to Armageddon.

Or so it would seem. But is the 'official narrative' being foisted up by American news agencies, the US government, the Iraqi government and the American military the true story of what happened twelve or so miles outside of Najaf?

First a quick chew through some of the official accounts.

Here's some extracts from a London Times report :
They came from nowhere, a Shia cult reversing the murderous cycle of Sunni-Shia violence to start one of the largest battles in recent years — against their fellow Shia.

When the day-long combat ended, the Shia of Iraq had to confront a disturbing truth: a schism had spawned an apocalyptic splinter group bent on slaughtering as many Shia pilgrims and religious leaders as possible — in their holiest city, on their holiest day.

Their hit-list included Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most senior Iraqi Shia cleric.

Iraqi officials released a picture of the Soldiers of Heaven leader yesterday, naming him as Samer Abu Kamar. He was killed, with between 200 and 400 of his fighters and their wives and children, in trenches dug into the orchards north of Najaf.

Assad Sultan Abu Klil, the governor of Najaf, said that the sect planned to kill Shia pilgrims as they marched to Karbala on Ashoura, which commemorates the death of Imam Ali’s son, Hussein, in AD680.

Three of the cult were captured near the golden-domed shrine of Imam Ali, in Najaf, officials said, after renting a hotel room in front of the office of Grand Ayatollah al-Sis-tani. They had planned to kill him and demolish the shrine.

The group’s “zero hour” was 6am yesterday, as more than a million Shia were descending on Karbala, according to a document obtained from security sources.

It indicated that different units were assigned specific tasks: one to bring chaos to the city; an explosives unit to plant bombs smuggled into the old city, in shoes and drums, used by Shia pilgrims during Ashoura; another to assassinate senior ayatollahs; others to carry out mortar attacks and blow up the Shrine of Imam Ali.

Some reports claim up to 400 cult members were killed in the hours of fighting, although this figure may include their wives and children, who were with them in the encampment.

Other reports claim that cult fighters were roped or chained together, so they couldn't run from the fighting.

The cult, so it is said, had had enough time to extensively prepare for its battle. It was well armed with hand and shoulder mounted rocket-propelled grenades, at least 500 automatic rifles, heavy machine guns capable of bringing down helicopters and aircraft, as well as a number of Russian-made Katyusha rockets.

Extracts from yesterday's report from the Associated Press :
Iraq's army announced Monday it killed the leader of a heavily armed cult of messianic Shiites called "the Soldiers of Heaven" in a fierce gunbattle aimed at foiling a plot to attack leading Shiite clerics and pilgrims in the southern city of Najaf on the holiest day of the Shiite calendar.

The fierce 24-hour battle was ultimately won by Iraqi troops supported by U.S. and British jets and American ground forces, but the ability of a splinter group little known in Iraq to rally hundreds of heavily armed fighters was a reminder of the potential for chaos and havoc emerging seemingly out of nowhere.

Members of the group, which included women and children, planned to disguise themselves as pilgrims and kill as many leading clerics as possible, said Maj. Gen. Othman al-Ghanemi, the Iraqi commander in charge of the Najaf region.

The cult's leader, wearing jeans, a coat and a hat and carrying two pistols, was among those who died in the battle, al-Ghanemi said.

The gunmen had put up tents in fields lined with date palm groves surrounding Najaf, 100 miles south of the capital. They planned to launch their attack Monday night when Ashoura celebrations would be getting under way...

In the battle to foil the attack on the pilgrims, Iraqi and U.S. forces faced off against more than 200 gunmen with small arms fire, rocket-propelled grenades and hand grenades, the U.S. military said. The battle took place about 12 miles northeast of Najaf.

The American military said U.S. air power was called in after the Iraqis faced fierce resistance. American ground forces were also deployed after small arms fire downed a U.S. helicopter, killing two soldiers.

U.S. and British jets played a major role in the fighting, dropping 500-pound bombs on the militants' positions, but President Bush said the battle was an indication that Iraqis were beginning to take control.

"My first reaction on this report from the battlefield is that the Iraqis are beginning to show me something," Bush told National Public Radio on Monday.

So far, so successful, so victorious, outside of the dead women and children, but so constant is the slaughter of Iraqi civilians - men, women, children, infants alike - a few dozen dead civilians lying amongst the corpses of hundreds of crazed, messianic cult fighters would hardly seem to matter.

It's war, the argument, and wars are cruel and bloody and know the rest.

But will we look back in years to come and see that 'The Battle Of Najaf', as far as the 'official narrative' and the semi-official narratives go, and see that it was actually nothing more than a huge hoax?

An incredible spin and psy-op campaign to cover up an horrific massacre of innocent Iraqis?

Alexander Cockburn, reporting in the UK Independent, says this may well be the case. In the following report, he cites fatality figures of over 260, with more than 240 injured :

A picture is beginning to emerge of a clash between an Iraqi Shia tribe on a pilgrimage to Najaf and an Iraqi army checkpoint that led the US to intervene with devastating effect.

The story emerging on independent Iraqi websites and in Arabic newspapers is entirely different from the government's account of the battle with the so-called "Soldiers of Heaven", planning a raid on Najaf to kill Shia religious leaders.

The cult denied it was involved in the fighting, saying it was a peaceful movement.

The incident reportedly began when a procession of 200 pilgrims was on its way, on foot, to celebrate Ashura in Najaf. They came from the Hawatim tribe, which lives between Najaf and Diwaniyah to the south, and arrived in the Zarga area, one mile from Najaf at about 6am on Sunday.

Heading the procession was the chief of the tribe, Hajj Sa'ad Sa'ad Nayif al-Hatemi, and his wife driving in their 1982 Super Toyota sedan because they could not walk. When they reached an Iraqi army checkpoint it opened fire, killing Mr Hatemi, his wife and his driver, Jabar Ridha al-Hatemi. The tribe, fully armed because they were travelling at night, then assaulted the checkpoint to avenge their fallen chief.

Members of another tribe called Khaza'il living in Zarga tried to stop the fighting but they themselves came under fire. Meanwhile, the soldiers and police at the checkpoint called up their commanders saying they were under attack from al-Qai'da with advanced weapons. Reinforcements poured into the area and surrounded the Hawatim tribe in the nearby orchards. The tribesmen tried - in vain - to get their attackers to cease fire.

American helicopters then arrived and dropped leaflets saying: "To the terrorists, surrender before we bomb the area." The tribesmen went on firing and a US helicopter was hit and crashed killing two crewmen. The tribesmen say they do not know if they hit it or if it was brought down by friendly fire. The US aircraft launched an intense aerial bombardment in which 120 tribesmen and local residents were killed by 4am on Monday.

The messianic group led by Ahmad al-Hassani, which was already at odds with the Iraqi authorities in Najaf, was drawn into the fighting because it was based in Zarga and its presence provided a convenient excuse for what was in effect a massacre.

Middle East expert Juan Cole supplies some analysis of the various narratives and some background :
"...the fighting erupted when American and Iraqi troops attempted to arrest (cult leader) al-Hasani al-Sarkhi. The latter tried last summer to take over the shrine of al-Husayn in Karbala.

It may have been feared that he would take advantage of the chaos of the Muharram pilgrimage season to make a play for power in Najaf.

The group follows Ayatollah Ahmad al-Hasani al-Sarkhi, called al-Yamani, who is said by his followers to be in direct touch with the Hidden Imam or promised one.

Al-Hayat, however, quotes a member of the group, Abu al-Hasan, who is said to be close to al-Hasani al-Sarkhi. He said that the rumors that the group intended to conduct a campaign of assassinations inside Najaf was "devoid of truth."

It says that an attempt had been made to arrest al-Hasani al-Sarkhi, who was present in the al-Zarkah, an agricultural area east of Najaf, which caused his followers to revolt.

...there is yet a third narrative... The holy city of Najaf, where Ali is buried, is the seat of Shiite religious authority in Iraq. The militiamen, devotees of an obscure religious leader named Ahmad Hassaani, are said to have infiltrated the area from Hillah, Kut and Amara. The well-armed, black-clad militiamen were heard to call upon the Mahdi, the awaited Promised One of the Muslims, to return on that night.

It seems most likely that this was Shiite on Shiite violence, with millenarian cultists making an attempt to march on Najaf during the chaos of the ritual season of Muharram.

The dangers of Shiite on Shiite violence in Iraq are substantial, as this episode demonstrated. Ironically, given Bush's mantra about Iran, the trouble makers here are a sect that absolutely hates Iran

Iraq Plunging Into Total Civil War, Brookings Institute Report Urges US To Pull Out Of All Iraqi Cities

'Battle Of Najaf' Suggest Dangerous New Sectarian Divides In Iraq

Widespread Condemnation Of Fatal Mortar Attack On Iraqi Girl's School

770 Civilian Contractors (Mostly Americans) Have Died In Iraq, Yet Haliburton Claims It Is "Inundated" With Resumes

US Senators Roundly Reject Iraqi Troop "Surge", Democrats And Republicans Alike

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Coming Sunni, Israel, US Front Against Iran

"The US Is Going To Have To Shut Up About Democratization..."

Iran appears to be almost relentlessly prodding the United States and/or Israel to open up another new front in the Fourth World War, against themselves.

The United States and Israel continues to quietly poke and light fires amongst the opposition groups ranged against the Iranian president, within Iran and across the Middle East.

There are numerous stories in the Western media causing a swirl of confusion about whether or not Iran is in the early days of developing a nuclear bomb, or in the final stages, or even if they're building one at all.

The LA Times has run a credible investigative piece de-mything the BushCo tales that Iran is funnelling the most dangerous and deadly of the roadside bombs into Iraq. The story just won't stick yet in the world public opinion on what Iran is up to across the border.

But the bombs exploding out of corpses, sewers and the sides of houses into American armoured vehicles are clearly far more deadly, accurate and therefore professionally made.

No longer are just rigged-up butane bottles ripping the doors off Humvees. Bombs are taking out the entire vehicle and killing all the Americans inside.

Iran's president has claimed in the past that the Israel government will cease to exist. Now he is reported to be predicting the demise of both Israel and the United States.

But Iranians are not unanimously behind their president. The 'Holocaust Cartoon Competition' and the recent seminars questioning the validity of the Holocaust itself have angered millions of Iranians, who find the vehement anti-semitism somewhat embarrassing in their dealings with Western businesspeople, and in front of their new online friends from the US, UK, Israel, Australia and Europe.

Plus, the derided conference cost money that could have been spent on education reforms. That in particular has been a very strong and enthusiastic argument online.

The westernisation of Iran's culture and education is well underway, and tens of thousands of Iranian bloggers are in contact with people and culture from across the planet (MySpace is proving invaluable to this communication

Israel has been promoted as the 'lone gunman' who would attempt to strike Iran's nuclear reactors and research centres, leaving the US to stand back and stay out of the fight (at least as far as the Western media, US Congress and the American people was concerned).

But now a credible new alliance appears to be forming, piled up against the Iranians, and their Shiite allies in Lebanon and Iraq, in particular.

It is a barely previously discussed new alliance between Israel, the United States and Sunni Middle East nations, kingdoms and, more quietly, 'extremist' groups - until recently referred to by Bush as "terrorists".

Some suggest the United States is successfully seeking something of a 'free pass' for Sunni insurgents in Iraq, to wedge the Iranian backed Maliki government.

Maliki doesn't want an amnesty or reconciliation with insurgents who have attacked their own countrymen. But both Maliki and the United States appear to agree that they might give a quiet okay to the pressure being lifted off some Sunni insurgents, to keep the Saudis out of Iraq, and to win support from the Saudis, Jordan and Egypt to go after the Iranians.

At least, go after them until thy submit, and enter negotiations over their nuclear and military future goals.

Bush has used the words "sacrifice" and "sacrifices" and "more sacrifices" in the past two months, repeatedly, in almost speech and press conference and address, laying the ground for Americans to accept that while Sunni insurgents are killing Americans, they are only "sacrifices" and for the greater good of peace and stability in the Middle East, Sunni insurgents will become the glue helps to bind together a formidable new front against Iran.

This is also why Bush rarely refers to "terrorists" anymore when he discusses Iraq. And he particularly does no say "terrorist" when talking about Sunni insurgents.

They are now "extremists" and "insurgents", so he will not break his promise about never dealing with terrorists when it comes time to give the free pass to the Sunni insurgents that the Saudis, Egyptians and Jordanians are asking for.

Below are excerpts of a Q & A with Gary G. Sick, a former National Security Council advisor on Iraq, who backs the claim that there is an "emerging strategy" of co-operation between Israel, the United States and Sunni Arab states.

Sick disagrees with the heavy rumours that Iran will be hit by US air strikes soon, and argues against the possibility that the United States will put troops into Iran. He says the US simply doesn't have the military numbers to do so.

From the Council on Foreign Relations (excerpts) :

Sick : " is a strategy that is being adopted. It has several very real advantages. First, all three parties—the Sunni states in the Gulf, plus Jordan and Egypt—are very worried about Iranian expansion in the region and of Shiite expansion in the Middle East. And of course Israel is very worried about Iran and makes no bones about it quite openly.

For the United States, I think there’s a perception that by focusing on Iran, you can remove some of the emphasis on Iraq, which of course is a catastrophe. So there are some advantages to all sides and there also have been real contacts among all of the parties, which I think go beyond just casual talk.

Q: ..we’re seeing this problem in action right now in Lebanon, where there’s a major confrontation going on between the Shiite Hezbollah and the Sunni-led government.

Sick : I do believe the whole Lebanese situation was the galvanizing moment for this emerging strategy. The action by Hezbollah in attacking Israel [last summer] was seen as an extension of Iranian power and an extension of its influence in the region. And the outcome of this, which is taking the form of Hezbollah challenging the Christian/Sunni government of [Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad] Siniora, I think, is also perceived as an Iranian plot. I personally think that’s an exaggeration, at least in terms of Iranian direct control or involvement in this.

But if you look at Hezbollah as an Iranian creature—which I don’t, but many people do—you come to the conclusion this is a battle between Israel and Iran or even, by extension, the United States and Iran, and that Lebanon is the battlefield where this is being fought out.

Q: Of course when you look at this, when you talk about this kind of strategic alliance, or whatever you call it, then the Iraq invasion was a total mistake, right, because it empowered Shiites?

Sick : I think it was. And I think it was by almost any consideration that you want to take. Certainly the way it’s played out has been a complete disaster for, I think, just about everyone involved.

...if there is a new strategy emerging.......the United States is going to have to shut up about democratization—that this has put our authoritarian Sunni allies in the region on the defense and it complicated their lives. I think the days of pushing democratization in the Middle East are probably over, at least for the time being.

Q: The United States has also announced it’s increasing its naval strength in the Persian Gulf. Another aircraft carrier is going out there, making two aircraft carriers on station. What do you think the likelihood is of any military action against Iran?

Sick : In addition to sending the aircraft carrier, the United States is placing Patriot missiles in the Gulf. You’ve got to remember that in the event of a real or threatened military strike against Iran, the big concern is how Iran might retaliate. And one way they could is to use their existing, relatively short-range missiles to attack Europe by attacking, for instance, oil loading on the Gulf. So I think the Patriot missiles are there to demonstrate that the United States is prepared to defend those countries if it comes to that. It’s also clear the Iranians have been actively building an infrastructure that would give them the capability to retaliate against American forces in Iraq.

As to the likelihood of an actual military campaign against Iran, I continue to believe that’s not going to happen. And I think the logic of the thing is that if you think you can do it with a quick air strike, you’re kidding yourself.

....I personally think that the U.S. administration is going to talk about it as the Israelis are talking about it, very openly, but not in fact do it.

Q: You think there’s a possibility at that point that Iran might agree to a temporary suspension of its enrichment?

Sick : I think that is a very real possibility. And I’ve been hearing this from some Iranians who are quite well-plugged-in to their nation’s policies.

Q: That would open the door to U.S.-Iranian talks.

Sick : That’s right. And I think that after the celebration is going to be the moment when that idea can be tested. And my guess is that Iran will actually be willing to consider a suspension of testing at that point.

Iran Tests Short Range Missiles As US Sends Second Aircraft Carrier To Gulf

LA Times : Scant Evidence Found Of Iran-Iraq Arms Link

Bush Says Lethal Force Against Iranians In Iraq Is Justified

Iran Confirms Arrival Of Russian Air Defence Systems, Begins Three Days Of Military Manouvers

Israel Tries To Cut Iran Off From World Oil And Investment Markets - US Pension Funds Still Doing Business With Iran-Linked, Iran-Based Companies

Iranian President Claims United States See Iran As "An Obstacle In The Way Of Reaching Their Goals In The Region," Declares US And Israel Won't Damage Iran In Rumoured Air Strikes.

Israel Claims Iran Is An "Existential Threat", Ramps Up Near-War Rhetoric, Threats

US Claims 150 Iranian Intelligence Officers, Revolutionary Guard Active In Iraq At Any One Time
Taliban Claims It Has 2000 Suicide Bombers Ready To Attack In Coming Summer Offensive

The Taliban claims it has a suicide bomber force of some 5000.

So many in fact, there is not enough explosives to go round, or enough viable, valuable targets for them to hit.

So for the moment they are threatening NATO forces with 2000 suicide bombers in what is believed to be a great increased offensive in the coming spring.

So many suicide bombers, so few explosives with which to blow themselves, and others, up.

Such is the insanity of Islamist-Jihadi war.

From Reuters :
The Taliban is gearing up for a massive summer offensive, with more than 2,000 suicide bombers ready for action and even more preparing, a senior commander said on Saturday.

The warning comes a day after a top U.S. diplomat warned Afghanistan was in for a bloody and dangerous spring after the bloodiest year since the hardline Islamist Taliban was ousted by U.S.-led forces in 2001.

"The Taliban will intensify their guerrilla and suicide strikes this summer," Mulla Hayat Khan told Reuters from a secret location. "This will be a bloodiest year for foreign troops."

He said 2,000 suicide bombers were ready -- about 40 percent of the total suicide force -- adding numbers were so high it was sometimes hard to find enough explosives and targets.

More than 4,000 people died last year, a quarter of them civilians, as the resurgent Taliban fought back with what NATO generals said was surprising ferocity.

Pakistan Claims Kharzi Government Shifting Blame For Rise On Taliban Attacks Inside Afghanistan

Afghanistan Rejects US Plan To Eradicate Opium Poppies - 90% Of The World's Heroin Waiting For Buyers

British Commanders Says Reinforcements Are On The Way - 3200 American Troops To Stay 4 More Months After Year's Deployment

Suicide Bomber Strikes In Kandahar - Senior Taliban Leader Thought Killed In Airstrikes

Friday, January 26, 2007

Bush Quietly Declares War On Iran And Syria

China Warns United States Not To Mess With Its Interests In Iran

Some of these stories are a few weeks old now, but they should be a part of this blog, and the 'narrative' of the Fourth World War, as they clearly signal the American president's interests in escalating the 'War On Iraq' and broadening the 'War On Terror' across the Middle East.

Syria and Iran are now clearly in his sights.

From The Washington Note :

Washington intelligence, military and foreign policy circles are abuzz today with speculation that the President, yesterday or in recent days, sent a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran.

The President may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress or any broad discussion with the country.

Bush's words follow, when he announced the "troop surge" that has already become widely known in the American mind and the mainstream media as the 'Iraq Escalation', despite the attempts of Secretary Of State, Condoleezza Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney and Bush himself to ingrain the word "surge".

US President George W. Bush : "Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops.

"We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.

"We're also taking other steps to bolster the security of Iraq and protect American interests in the Middle East.

"I recently ordered the deployment of an additional carrier strike group to the region. We will expand intelligence-sharing and deploy Patriot air defense systems to reassure our friends and allies. We will work with the governments of Turkey and Iraq to help them resolve problems along their border. And we will work with others to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons and dominating the region."

From the Australian :
George W. Bush has defied popular opinion, top generals and Congress with a plan to escalate US military involvement in the Middle East by sending more troops into Iraq and threatening attacks against terror cells in Iran and Syria.

The US President yesterday admitted mistakes in the war in Iraq but warned that withdrawal would cause mass killing "on an unimaginable scale".

Instead, he committed to boosting American troops involved in the long-running war by another 21,500 to more than 150,000, with most to be sent to tackle the heart of sectarian violence in the capital, Baghdad.

Delivering a much-anticipated address in Washington yesterday, Mr Bush accused Iran and Syria of aiding the insurgent attacks on US troops in Baghdad.

And he vowed to "seek out and destroy" any terror networks supporting the insurgency, saying the move was an essential step towards securing victory in the war, which has claimed more than 3000 US lives and cost more than $US400 billion ($511 billion).

The US appears to have already moved to carry out its threat, with American troops yesterday raiding the Iranian consulate in northern Iraq, detaining five staff.

John Howard yesterday backed Mr Bush's strategy and refused to rule out boosting Australia's Iraqi force of 800 troops. The Prime Minister said defeat in Iraq would be an "unbelievable boost to terrorism", carrying "enormous consequences for the stability of the Middle East".

"The alternatives the President faced were either to announce what he announced or effectively indicate that the West could not win in Iraq and start making arrangements, however it might be camouflaged, for a withdrawal," Mr Howard said.

Many in the foreign policy elite in Washington - including the bipartisan panel known as the Iraq Study Group - had recommended Mr Bush step up a diplomatic push to try to engage Iran and Syria for assistance in helping secure Iraq's future.

Yesterday he said succeeding in Iraq required defending its territorial integrity and stabilising the region in the face of extremists.

This, he said, began with addressing Iran and Syria, which were allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq.

U.S. troops raided an Iranian consulate in northern Iraq late Wednesday night and detained several people, Iran's main news agency reported today, prompting protests from Tehran just hours after President Bush pledged to crack down on the Islamic Republic's role in Iraqi violence.

Iran released news of the raid through its Islamic Republic News Agency in a dispatch that was broadly critical of Bush's plan to deploy about 21,500 additional troops to Iraq.

The IRNA report said that U.S. forces entered the Iranian consulate in Irbil, in Iraq's Kurdish-dominated north, and seized computers, documents and other items. The report said five staff members were taken into custody.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry appealed to the Iraqi government to obtain the release of its personnel.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the United States is systematically trying to identify networks of people who bring weapons and explosives into the country -- a central allegation against Iran -- and will move to shut them down.

Improvised explosives have been a key source of U.S. casualties and deaths since the war began.

"We will do what is necessary for force protection," Rice said at a press conference. "Networks are identified. They are identified from intelligence and they are acted upon . . . whatever the nationality."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff , Gen. Peter Pace, referring to the earlier arrest of Iranians, said that Tehran's involvement in Iraq "is destructive. . . . They are complicit . . . and we will do what is necessary."


From the Khaleej Times :

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Iran on Thursday that the United States won’t ”stand idly by” while Teheran operates against US interests in neighbouring Iraq.

Speaking hours after US troops raided Iran’s consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Arbil and arrested five employees, Rice said Washington was determined to “pursue” Iranians trying to disrupt US efforts to stabilize Iraq.

“You will see that the United States is not going to simply stand idly by and let these activities continue,” she said on Fox News television.


From the UK Independent :

Until now, the Bush administration had been content to deal with the perceived Iranian threat diplomatically. The United Nations adopted sanctions against Tehran on 23 December.

However, the economic measures adopted by the UN have failed to convince Iran to halt its uranium-enrichment programme which could lead to production of a nuclear weapon. The US is calling on allied states to adopt tougher unilateral sanctions.

President Bush appointed Admiral William Fallon to replace General John Abizaid as head of Central Command for Iraq and Afghanistan last week in a sign that change could be afoot. This week, Mr Bush ordered a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf, along with its support ships, which could be used to contain Iran.

The US Treasury named Iran's Bank Sepah as a proliferator of weapons of mass destruction on Tuesday, banned US companies or citizens from doing business with it and blocked any of its assets that come under American jurisdiction.

But if the US is preparing to confront Iran militarily - which some top military officials in Israel are reportedly recommending - the Bush administration will find itself involved in conflicts on four fronts.

In Somalia, US special forces have been pounding suspected al-Qa'ida suspects since early on Monday, in a continuing operation that risks pulling the Americans back into a conflict in a failed state. US forces are also active in southern Afghanistan in the hunt for the al-Qa'ida leader, Osama bin Laden, and his top associates. Al-Qa'ida has reactivated its Taliban allies who have become bolder in their attacks on coalition forces.

In Iraq, US troops are losing soldiers on an almost daily basis to the bombs of Sunni and Shia insurgents. The Shia-led government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki was warned by Ms Rice yesterday that his days were numbered unless he was able to take on Shia militias who are his allies in government.

Ironically, Iran had been contained by Saddam Hussein, until his overthrow by the Americans in 2003.

Obsessed by a threat from "Persian hordes", Saddam maintained ambiguity about his weapons of mass destruction so Iran would believe that it had reason to fear its western neighbour.


From the Associated Press

China warned the United States on Thursday not to meddle in its trade relations with Iran after Washington expressed concern about a planned investment by a Chinese oil company in an Iranian gas field.

“We think this kind of cooperation and relationship is legitimate. Normal cooperation should not be interfered (with),” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.

Asked whether that meant Beijing believed the United States was interfering in its dealings with Iran, Liu said: “This is our position.”

The US government expressed concern last month to Beijing about a planned investment by state-owned Chinese oil company CNOOC Ltd. in Iran’s Northern Pars gas field. Washington said major business dealings with Teheran were inappropriate at a time when Iran was defying UN resolutions over its nuclear program

Does The United States Really Want Peace With Iran?

BushCo. Rejected Dramatic Peace And Cooperation Offers From Iran

"We Don't Talk To Evil..."

How can you have a global war if you don't have enough enemies?

Iran made a signifcant overture for peace and co-operation with the United States in 2003, as well as an offer to help calm down Iraq, but these offers were soundly, if not rudely, rejected.


From 'The Australian' :
Iran offered to cut off aid and support for the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas, and promised full transparency on its nuclear program, in a secret letter to the US soon after the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The offer was contained in a letter obtained by the BBC which, though unsigned, was understood by the US State Department to come with the approval of the highest Iranian authorities.

The Islamic republic also offered to use its influence to support stabilisation in Iraq, and in return asked for a halt in hostile American behaviour, an abolition of all sanctions, and the pursuit and repatriation of members of the Mujahedeen Khalq (People's Mujahedeen MKO).

The MKO is an exiled Iranian opposition group that fought alongside former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's army in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, and is currently based in Iraq.

Initially, the State Department looked positively on the offer, Lawrence Wilkerson, former US secretary of state Colin Powell's chief of staff, told the BBC.

"As soon as it got to the White House, and as soon as it got to the Vice-President's (Dick Cheney) office, the old mantra of 'we don't talk to evil' ... reasserted itself," Mr Wilkerson said.

"To our embarrassment at State ... the cable that I saw go back to the Swiss actually upbraided the Swiss for being so bold and audacious as to present such a proposal to us on behalf of the Iranians."

He said the State Department was also offered a deal by the Iranians after the US led the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, which involved Iran giving up senior al-Qa'ida figures in return for help pursuing the MKO.
According to Wilkinson, and the document obtained by the BBC, iran offered to help the US pursue former allies of Saddam Hussein, they offered to help calm Iraq before the insurgency had truly taken hold, they offered help in undermining Hezbollah and Hamas and offered "full transparency" to the United States in regard to their nuclear energy programs.

US Vice President Dick Cheney rejected all the offers from the Iranians and then busted diplomatic niceties to insult the Swiss, who clearly thought they were helping to fight the 'War On Terror' by negotiating peace with the Iranians for the good of the United States and Iraq.

The Swiss helped Iran to offer up to the US virtually everythig they wanted.

But Cheney didn't want peace, then, as he does not want peace now.

Israel Warns And Threatens Russia For Daring To Sell Defence Systems To Iran

The Growing Threat Of A Middle East Wide Sunni Vs Shiite War

United States Arms Iran (Again) Via Pentagon Military Surplus Auctions

We Can Work Together To Bring Peace To Iraq, Iranian President Tells Saudi King

Thursday, January 25, 2007




From the Sydney Morning Herald :

For a president with the third-lowest approval rating on the eve of a State of the Union address (only Harry Truman and Richard Nixon had worse), it must be said George Bush did his best on Tuesday night in Washington as he faced a Congress heavy with Democrats and at least 10 presidential hopefuls. Indeed, applying his best gravitas and Churchillian rhetoric, he had this to say about Iraq: "On this day, at this hour, it is still within our power to shape the outcome of this battle. So let us find our resolve and turn events toward victory." Such confidence might have stirred conscience and patriotism at the height of World War II, but on a cold January night it rang hollow within the walls of the congressional chamber, sending gloomy echoes across a country and out over a world largely opposed to American involvement in Iraq and increasingly disapproving of the Bush Administration's role in it.

This was not the President's finest hour. Rather, it was a fumbled 60 minutes, used by Mr Bush to convince his people and their representatives that he is doing the right thing in Iraq even when many think he is wrong. It is unlikely this will make any significant difference to the opinion polls that show a deep national pessimism, with almost three-quarters of Americans disapproving of their leader's handling of Iraq, and almost half believing Iraq to be the most important issue to be dealt with by the President and Congress — well ahead of any other issue. Internationally, it is not much better. A poll of 25 countries, commissioned by the BBC and The Age, has showed a growing hostility to the US's role in world affairs. Three-quarters of the 26,000 surveyed oppose America's handling of Iraq, and two-thirds believe the US military presence in the Middle East provokes more conflict than it prevents. At the same time, Gordon Brown (the likely successor to Tony Blair) has indicated a harder line on Britain's Iraq involvement, leaving just Australia's Prime Minister, John Howard, as a staunch supporter of the President's policy.

The main feature — almost half — of President Bush's address was devoted to the war on terrorism. First, though, he dealt with domestic issues: eliminating the federal deficit within five years; reforming of budget and public health systems; increases in education funding increases; controlling of immigration; and "the serious challenge of global climate change". The President's new-found green heart is at least an indication of his recognition of the seriousness of the international energy crisis — even if his intentions to reduce petrol usage in the US by 20 per cent over the next 10 years and to increase environmentally friendly domestic oil production seem predicated more on reducing America's dependence on foreign oil, which, Mr Bush said, "… leaves us more vulnerable to hostile regimes, and to terrorists".

This gave the President the reason to segue into his familiar refrain with the usual lyrics ("protect", "freedom", "danger", "security"), along with the plea, "… whatever you voted for, you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq — and I ask you to give it a chance to work". Since he provided no new reasons to strengthen his argument in favour of a strategy he admits is based on failure previously to stabilise Iraq, the President's chances are slim. Democratic senator Jim Webb responded to the address in condemnatory terms: "The President took us into this war recklessly. He disregarded warnings from the national security adviser during the first Gulf War, the chiefs of staff of the army, two former commanding generals of the Central Command … and many, many others. We are now, as a nation, held hostage to the predictable and predicted disarray that has followed."

George Bush is caught between the impossibility of his beliefs and the harsh realities of the political and public opinion he continues seriously to misjudge. To him, Iraq is a war in which America can be victorious; to much of the wider world, it is a diabolical mess largely of America's making that has to be cleaned up, not won. The President is marooned; America is isolated.

From The Australian :
Hours after pleading with the American people to give his new war strategy a chance, President Bush faced a growing Republican revolt on Capitol Hill yesterday and intense public hostility to his Iraq troop ¿surge¿.

After a State of the Union address in which Mr Bush cut a drastically diminished figure, Republicans and Democrats rejected his call for steadfastness and pressed ahead with resolutions opposing his plan to send 21,500 extra troops to Iraq.

In the Senate, a growing number of Republicans broke ranks to oppose the plan as the chamber debated two resolutions repudiating the troop increase.

The rebuffs came after Tuesday’s speech in which Mr Bush’s efforts for consensus on domestic issues were subsumed by the dominant and destructive issue of Iraq.

One by one, senior Republican senators voiced their opposition to sending more troops. Richard Lugar, the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and a respected elder statesman, broke his silence to declare: “I am not confident the President’s plan will succeed.”

Mr Bush had already suffered a devastating blow on Monday when John Warner, the former Republican Armed Services Committee chairman and Navy Secretary, said that he could not support the plan. With polls showing that the President had already decisively lost public support for his war strategy, it was clear last night that he was perilously close to losing his own party.

At least eight other Senate Republicans were on record opposing the plan yesterday, including Norm Coleman — hitherto a Bush loyalist — and Sam Brownback, a conservative and 2008 presidential hopeful.

In the House of Representatives, John Boehner, the Republican leader, said he wanted to see positive results from the surge within 60 to 90 days — even though the last of the extra troops are not due in Baghdad until May.

With the White House and congressional elections looming next year, the deadline was a clear sign of how little time even loyal Republicans will give the Iraq mission before they abandon it and their President. Republicans will defend 21 Senate seats next year, compared with only 12 for the Democrats. For vulnerable incumbents like Mr Coleman, backing a deeply unpopular war has become untenable.

In previous State of the Union addresses Mr Bush had insisted that progress was being made in Iraq, but on Tuesday he conceded that the US was bogged down amid a bloody sectarian conflict.

He focused on the “nightmare scenario” should Iraq slide into chaos, and then implored the assembled Congress: “Whatever you voted for (on the war), you did not vote for failure. Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq, and I ask you to give it a chance to work.”

But within hours two bipartisan resolutions were taken up in the Senate, one sponsored by Mr Warner, the other by a Republican colleague, Chuck Hagel. Although competing — Mr Warner’s is less strident — they agree on one fundamental: Mr Bush’s war plan is unacceptable. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved Mr Hagel’s resolution yesterday but there were negotiations later to merge the two proposals, for a full Senate vote next week. If passed, the resolution would be non-binding on Mr Bush, but it would represent a cross-party vote of no confidence in the Iraq war and could lay the ground for Democrat-inspired moves to frustrate the mission.

Although Democrats are wary of cutting off funding for the war, they could introduce other obstacles, such as limiting troop deployments to one year, which would greatly complicate a sustained military commitment in Baghdad.

Mr Bush’s address came at the nadir of his presidency, facing a Democrat-controlled Congress for the first time and with Nixonian approval ratings. But he issued a stark warning with profound ramifications for the ten White House hopefuls in the audience: Iraq will be a problem long after he has left office, so it is their problem too. “The War on Terror we fight today is a generational struggle that will continue long after you and I have turned our duties over to others,” he declared.

For the 2008 presidential contenders, Iraq represents the most toxic political issue since Vietnam, one that poses problems for all of them.

After Mr Bush’s speech, the three Republican frontrunners — John McCain, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney — all backed the surge strategy. They now find themselves hostage to a war plan that even General David Petraeus, the new ground commander in Iraq, said on Tuesday has no guarantee of success.

Democrat presidential hopefuls, meanwhile, fear being on the wrong side of the war policy, should it succeed. They are thus happy to criticise it without taking concrete steps to end the war.

Hillary Clinton called Mr Bush’s speech “more of the same”. Barack Obama, her main rival, called for a “phased redeployment”. He said: “Most American believe that escalation will not bring the war in Iraq to a responsible end.”

John Kerry, Mr Bush’s 2004 challenger, who announced yesterday that he would not be running next year, called for a withdrawal date to be set.


“We’ve had four other surges since we first went into Iraq. None of them produced a long-lasting change in the situation”

Senator Susan Collins

“The American GI was not trained, not sent over there — certainly not by resolution of this institution — to be placed in the middle of a fight between the Sunni and the Shia”

Senator John Warner

“We better be damn sure we know what we’re doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder”

Senator Chuck Hagel

“The premise that clearing and holding high-risk areas of Baghdad will create enough space for an effective political reconciliation is dubious”

Senator Richard Lugar

“I think we have to have a bipartisan buy-in on the war in Iraq. The key is for the President to reach out to the Democrats to ask what they will support”

From the UK Guardian :

Democrats and Republican senators yesterday rebuffed George Bush's state of the union appeal to be given more time on Iraq, and pressed ahead with a resolution condemning his proposed 21,500 US troop increase.

After a debate, the Senate foreign affairs committee gave the go-ahead to the resolution, saying the increase was "not in the national interest", a rare repudiation of a president in wartime. The rejection mirrored widespread indifference in the US and beyond towards the speech, which was delivered less than 24 hours earlier.

Mr Bush devoted most of his address on Tuesday night to defending his stance on Iraq and setting out new energy and health policies. Wounded by recent events, he was less bullish than previous years and urged the Democratic-led Congress to cooperate in his final two years in office.

Senior Democrats hinted yesterday that while they welcomed Mr Bush's broad interest in climate change, health and immigration, they were uneasy with the specific proposals and were unlikely to cooperate.

The most charged part of his speech on Capitol Hill was when he defended his new Iraq strategy. "Our country is pursuing a new strategy in Iraq - and I ask you to give it a chance to work," he said.

The response of Democrats and Republicans in the audience illustrated the extent to which the war has divided America. The Democratic speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, sitting behind him, refused to applaud all but the last of his comments on Iraq, and other Democrats took their cue from her, while Republicans stood to applaud, albeit sometimes reluctantly.

The Senate foreign relations committee voted 12 to 9 in favour of adopting the anti-war resolution, which is scheduled to go before the whole Senate next week. At that time, at least nine Republican senators intend to back the resolution, though they will negotiate with Democrats over the next few days to change the language. The Democrats are likely to agree in an effort to win as many votes as possible.

Chuck Hagel, the only Republican to vote with the Democrats on the committee yesterday, said: "We better be damn sure we know what we're doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder."

The Democratic committee chairman, Joe Biden, said the resolution was designed "to save the president from making a significant mistake".

Mr Bush still enjoys the support of two leading candidates for the Republican nomination, Senator John McCain and the former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Senator Richard Lugar, the senior Republican on the foreign affairs committee, opposed the resolution. "This vote will force nothing on the president, but it will confirm to our friends and allies that we are divided and in disarray," he said. But he added: "I am not confident that President Bush's plan will succeed."

Mr Bush flew yesterday to the science company DuPont's research base in Wilmington, Delaware, to promote his plan to cut US petrol consumption by 20% over the next 10 years. Business leaders meeting in Davos welcomed his acknowledgment of climate change as "a serious challenge", but called for long-term standards on cutting carbon emissions.

Critics said Mr Bush's proposal to offer tax incentives to encourage millions to take out health insurance risked encouraging people to drop out of company scheme
"The War On Terror Doesn't Exist"

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has had far more trouble trying to sell the notion to his people that the country, like the United States, is involved in a 'War on Terror' that could last for decades, or generations.

Although they weren't in the majority, millions of Brits blamed the actions of Blair and his involvement in the War On Iraq for bringing the violence of jihadi terrorism to London on July 7, 2005.

This blame-Blair reaction for the attacks increased in fervour when videotapes of at least one of the July 7 bomber surfaced, where he said exactly what some Brits already believed : that the War On Iraq had inspired him to strike in London.

But the British public clearly no longer believe that the War On Iraq is, as Blair has parroted Bush in saying, the central front in the War On Terror.

And this sentiment is being regularly acknowledged by former officials of the Blair government, former British intelligence agents and experts and high profile lawyers and civil libertarians.

The most popular article on the UK Guardian (one of the most popular news sites in the world) in the past three days is this story entitled 'The War On Terror Doesn't Exist'. The argument made is credible and realistic, and clearly a popular sentiment amongst the British.

Excerpts follow :
The director of public prosecutions, Sir Ken Macdonald, put himself at odds with the home secretary and Downing Street last night by denying that Britain is caught up in a "war on terror" and calling for a "culture of legislative restraint" in passing laws to deal with terrorism.

Sir Ken warned of the pernicious risk that a "fear-driven and inappropriate" response to the threat could lead Britain to abandon respect for fair trials and the due process of law.

He acknowledged that the country faced a different and more dangerous threat than in the days of IRA terrorism and that it had "all the disturbing elements of a death cult psychology".

But he said: "It is critical that we understand that this new form of terrorism carries another more subtle, perhaps equally pernicious, risk. Because it might encourage a fear-driven and inappropriate response. By that I mean it can tempt us to abandon our values. I think it important to understand that this is one of its primary purposes."

Sir Ken pointed to the rhetoric around the "war on terror" - which has been adopted by Tony Blair and ministers after being coined by George Bush - to illustrate the risks.

He said: "London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on July 7 2005 were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, 'soldiers'. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a 'war on terror', just as there can be no such thing as a 'war on drugs'.

"The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement."

Sir Ken, head of the Crown Prosecution Service, told members of the Criminal Bar Association it should be an article of faith that crimes of terrorism are dealt with by criminal justice and that a "culture of legislative restraint in the area of terrorist crime is central to the existence of an efficient and human rights compatible process".

The criminal justice response to terrorism must be "proportionate and grounded in due process and the rule of law," he said. "We must protect ourselves from these atrocious crimes without abandoning our traditions of freedom."

Five British Men Arrested Under The Terrorism Act

Unlike Churchill Or Thatcher, Blair Chooses Business Meeting Over Commons Debate On War On Iraq - UK Troops To Stay Beyond Christmas

The Royal Navy Is Being Scuttled

MI5 Issues Bioterror Warning, Labs Check Stocks Of 100 Most Deadly Bacteria And Viruses

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Kissinger Demands Escalation In Iraq

"Withdrawal Is Not An Option"

From 'Your New Reality' (excerpts) :

Witness the demands for more American lives to be sacrificed in the meat grinder of Baghdad by one of the 20th century's most appalling monsters.

To Henry Kissinger, war is not about winning, it is not about victory, or better days, or a better world.

It is only about more war. More pain, more blood, more human sacrifice.

America stands on the brink of something close to a second Revolution - as fury, outrage, disgust and bone-chilling reality spreads across the nation; as dissent grows to levels that may already be beyond even that of the Vietnam War; as a full-blown mutiny brews throughout the Military, the Reserves and the National Guard, and as some Iraq War veterans now choose suicide to returning for a second, third or fourth tour - Kissinger demands that the war not only continues, but that it escalates.

He wants war across the entire Middle East, in pursuit of his decades long, endlessly failing dream of inflicting his New World Order upon all free nations of the world.

Kissinger will sound like he is making sense, but he will never tell you all that he knows. He will never reveal that behind his leaden, bone-dry talk of the state of the world, and in particular the Middle East, another secret war rages, as it has for decades.

It is a war against the worldwide resistance. The resistance by people who wish to have no part of his Grand Scheme to fold the nations into a unified world government system that will burn democracy, freedom, liberty and sovereignty as its fuel.

Kissinger appears to make sense, for this is his gift. This is why he has been listened to for decades by the world's most powerful people. He tells them what they want to hear : I have the solution, and it will be good for you and good for the people.

He exists only to ensure the Great Game continues, that the wars go on, that the bloodshed will never cease.

That the human sacrifices flow on; so the rivers of blood may never run dry.

He is a monster of history, a destroyer of nations, a bringer of Armageddon :

The war in Iraq is part of another war that cuts across the Shia-Sunni issue: the assault on the international order conducted by radical groups in both Islamic sects.

Such organizations as Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Mahdi army in Iraq and the Qaeda groups all over the Middle East seek to reassert an Islamic identity submerged, in their view, by Western secular institutions and values.

The most important target is the United States, as the most powerful country of the West and the indispensable component of any attempt to build a new world order.

The disenchantment of the American public with the burdens it has borne alone for nearly four years has generated growing demands for some form of unilateral withdrawal.

But under present conditions, withdrawal is not an option.

Do you understand? He pays no heed to the wishes or desires of Americans or the Iraqis. Not for him is the advice of generals, past presidents or the man in the street. All are beneath him. All advice other than his own is worthless.

Withdrawal is not an option.

But of course it is. Withdrawal is always an option.

Unless you are Henry Kissinger.

Go Here For The Full Story

Dahr Jamail : Southern Iraq Tribes Are Now Joining The Armed Resistance

13 Killed As Helicopter Brought Down In Iraq

Senator Rockerfeller : Campaign Against "International Terorrism" Is "Still A Mystery" To Bush

Kurdish Soldiers Are Choosing To Desert Rather Than Go To Fight In Baghdad

Moqtada a-Sadr Factions Claim United States Is Trying To Provoke Them Into Attacking

US Marines Asks Thousands Of American Iraq Veterans To Return To The War

Friday, January 19, 2007

China Freaks Out America "Other Nations" With Stunning Display Of New Weapon

Takes Out Satellite With Ground Launched Missile

There's been a certain level of panic and a few outbreaks of hysteria over China's alleged testing of a missile that destroyed a satellite, launched from the ground.

The test is supposed to have destroyed one of its old weather satellites.

One of the most interesting things about China's successful test (if that's what it was) and the reaction from the United States is that the US has been trying to develop the exact same kind of weapon for decades.

So their 'outrage' may be more to do with jealousy than pure strategic threat fallout.

From the New York Times (excerpts) :

China successfully carried out its first test of an antisatellite weapon last week, signaling its resolve to play a major role in military space activities and bringing expressions of concern from Washington and other capitals, the Bush administration said yesterday.

Only two nations — the Soviet Union and the United States — have previously destroyed spacecraft in antisatellite tests, most recently the United States in the mid-1980s.

Arms control experts called the test, in which the weapon destroyed an aging Chinese weather satellite, a troubling development that could foreshadow an antisatellite arms race. Alternatively, however, some experts speculated that it could precede a diplomatic effort by China to prod the Bush administration into negotiations on a weapons ban.

“This is the first real escalation in the weaponization of space that we’ve seen in 20 years,” said Jonathan McDowell, a Harvard astronomer who tracks rocket launchings and space activity. “It ends a long period of restraint.”

White House officials said the United States and other nations, which they did not identify, had “expressed our concern regarding this action to the Chinese.” Despite its protest, the Bush administration has long resisted a global treaty banning such tests because it says it needs freedom of action in space.

The weather satellite hit by the weapon had circled the globe at an altitude of roughly 500 miles. In theory, the test means that China can now hit American spy satellites, which orbit closer to Earth.

An administration official who had reviewed the intelligence about China’s test said the launching was detected by the United States in the early evening of Jan. 11, which would have been early morning on Jan. 12 in China. American satellites tracked the launching of the medium-range ballistic missile, and later space radars saw the debris.

The Soviet Union conducted roughly a dozen antisatellite tests from 1968 to 1982, Dr. McDowell said, adding that the Reagan administration carried out its experiments in 1985 and 1986.

The Bush administration has conducted research that critics say could produce a powerful ground-based laser weapon that would be used against enemy satellites.

The largely secret project, parts of which were made public through Air Force budget documents submitted to Congress last year, appears to be part of a wide-ranging administration effort to develop space weapons, both defensive and offensive.

The current research takes advantage of an optical technique that uses sensors, computers and flexible mirrors to counteract the atmospheric turbulence that seems to make stars twinkle. The weapon would essentially reverse that process, shooting focused beams of light upward with great clarity and force.

From The Australian :
In a little-reported testimony last week, a US intelligence chief warned that US satellite assets - vital to its role as a superpower - were at risk to new missile technology. Lieutenant General Michael Maples told a congressional hearing in his annual threat address that China and Russia were the "primary states of concern" regarding military space programs.

"Several countries continue to develop capabilities that have the potential to threaten US space assets, and some have already deployed systems with inherent anti-satellite capabilities, such as satellite-tracking laser range-finding devices and nuclear-armed ballistic missiles," the director of the Defence Intelligence Agency said in his written testimony.

That was on January 11, the same day it appears China's satellite missile test was conducted.

Chinese officials said yesterday that Washington was overreacting, but these things are not without calculation. It is another expression from Beijing of its emerging international standing.

China is big on so-called soft power but this satellite missile test raises the stakes. And it came just as there appeared to be a breakthrough between the US and North Korea on its nuclear weapons program.

China : "No Need To Feel Threatened" - Promises No New Arms Race In Space

Japan Demands Explanation For 'Satelite Killer' Test - No Official Protest Lodged

China Can Now World Powers Where It Hits - Right In Their Communications Systems

Australia : We Need United States To Have Positive Relationship With China

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Iraq : Maliki Demands United States Arm His Government Properly

Rips Into Bush And Rice For Threats To His Government

The US wanted the Iraqi government to develop some teeth, and they have. But they're baring those teeth at the US. He has railed against Secretary Of State Condoleezza Rice and President Bush for their criticisms and comments where they pretty well threatened his government if they didn't crack down on the Shiite militias controlling many suburbs of Iraq.

Secretary Rice has since apologised to Maliki for saying his government was existing on "borrowed time".

Prime minister Maliki is demanding the United States give the Iraqi Army the weapons they need to clear out the militias and insurgents. But the US is reluctant to give superior weaponry to a government they still claim is in cahoots with the Iranians.

Maliki has said that the huge death tolls in Baghdad are partly the fault of the US and BushCo. policies, and if the Iraqi Army had been properly, and more effectively, armed sooner, then the casualties wouldn't have been so high.

Meanwhile, in Baghdad, US forces and the Iraqi Army are reported to be cracking down on Moqtada al-Sadr's Medhi Army. Gun fights in the streets and much chaos and bloodshed for civilians is expected to follow.

From the London Times :
America’s refusal to give Baghdad’s security forces sufficient guns and equipment has cost a great number of lives, the Iraqi Prime Minister said yesterday.

Nouri al-Maliki said the insurgency had been bloodier and prolonged because Washington had refused to part with equipment. If it released the necessary arms, US forces could “drastically” cut their numbers in three to six months, he told The Times.

In a sign of the tense relations with Washington, he chided the US for suggesting his Government was living on “borrowed time”.

Such criticism boosted Iraq’s extremists, he said, and was more a reflection of “some kind of crisis situation” in Washington after the Republicans’ midterm election losses. Mr al-Maliki conceded that his administration had made mistakes over the hanging of Saddam Hussein. But he refused to accept all criticism over the execution. When asked about the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi’s attack on Iraq’s capital punishment laws, Mr al-

Maliki cited the Italians’ summary killing of Benito Mussolini and his stringing-up from a lamppost.

Asked how long Iraq would require US troops, Mr al-Maliki said: “If we succeed in implementing the agreement between us to speed up the equipping and providing weapons to our military forces, I think that within three to six months our need for American troops will dramatically go down. That is on condition that there are real, strong efforts to support our military forces and equipping and arming them.”

The US Government is wary of handing over large amounts of military hardware to the Iraqis because it has sometimes ended up in the hands of militias and insurgents.

Although Mr al-Maliki’s tone was measured throughout, he is clearly irritated at US criticism that he has failed to curb Shia militias.

Robert Gates, the new US Defence Secretary, said that Mr al-Maliki could lose his job if he failed to stop communal bloodshed and Condoleezza Rice, the Secretary of State, gave a warning that he was living on “borrowed time” and that American patience was running out.

Challenged on the point, Mr al-Maliki remarked acidly: “Certain officials are going through a crisis. Secretary Rice is expressing her own point of view if she thinks that the Government is on borrowed time, whether it is borrowed time for the Iraqi Government or American Administration. I don’t think we are on borrowed time.”

He added: “I wish that we could receive strong messages of support from the US so we don’t give some boost to the terrorists and make them feel that they might have achieved success. I believe that such statements give moral boosts to the terrorists and push them towards making an extra effort and making them believe that they have defeated the American Administration, but I can tell you that they haven’t defeated the Iraqi Government.”

He rejected the accusation that his Government was “lenient” with Shia militias, saying 400 al-Mahdi Army members had been arrested in recent days, in crackdowns in southern towns such as Karbala, Samawa, Diwaniya and al-Nasiriya.

And he insisted that he was prepared to fulfil his promises to Washington and confront the militias of Shia parties within his coalition, including Moqtada al-Sadr’s widely feared al-Mahdi Army. He conceded that some “sectarian” acts were being perpetrated. But he said there would not be a civil war because Sunni and Shia had lived in peace for many years

A report on the 'war' Maliki is now said to be raging against the Medhi Army and Shiite militias, just as he promised the Americans he would.

From the Washington Times :

Mahdi Army fighters said yesterday they were under siege in their Sadr City stronghold as U.S. and Iraqi troops killed or seized key commanders in nighttime raids. Two commanders of the Shi'ite militia said Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has stopped protecting the group under pressure from Washington and threats from Sunni Muslim Arab governments.

The commanders' accounts of a growing siege mentality inside the organization could represent a tactical and propaganda feint, but there was mounting evidence the militia was increasingly off balance and had ordered its gunmen to melt into the population. To avoid capture, commanders report no longer using cell phones and fighters are removing their black uniforms and hiding their weapons during the day.

Violence continued in Baghdad yesterday, claiming 59 lives, including 10 from a triple car bombing at a vegetable market.

An al Qaeda-linked coalition of Iraqi Sunni insurgents claimed responsibility for an attack on a convoy of the Washington-based National Democratic Institute. The attack Wednesday killed Andrea Parhamovich, 28, of Perry, Ohio, and three security contractors from Hungary, Croatia and Iraq.

During much of his nearly eight months in office, Mr. al-Maliki has blocked or ordered an end to many U.S.-led operations against the Mahdi Army, which is run by radical Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the prime minister's key political backer. But he reportedly had a change of heart in late November while going into a meeting in Jordan with President Bush.

Iraq Tells Iran And The United States To Take Their Fight Elsewhere

An Horrifically Detailed Report From The Scene Of The Baghdad University Bombings That Killed More Than 80 People, Mostly Students, And Wounded Hundreds More

The Reality Of A Middle East Wide Sunni Vs Shiite Clash Grows Closer

Retired Generals Slam Bush's New Plans To Win The War On Iraq

Maliki Corrects Bush : Saddam Was Not Subjected To Torture, Execution Wasn't Revenge Killing