Inquiry at Bank Looks at Accounts of Diplomats
By TIMOTHY L. O'BRIEN
As the F.B.I., banking regulators and a Congressional committee look more deeply into Saudi Arabian transactions at a Washington bank used widely by diplomats, a host of accounts controlled by representatives of several Mideast countries have also come under scrutiny, according to a person briefed on the investigations.
Investigators have been examining cash transactions in foreign accounts at the bank, Riggs National, especially those for Saudi Arabia, for possible connections to terrorist groups or money-laundering activities. Accounts controlled by diplomats from Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Oman have been included in the inquiry as well, this person said. Saudi representatives said that investigators had told them that their Riggs accounts were not tainted.
In addition to the Middle Eastern accounts, a corporate account controlled by the president of the West African nation of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasago, is also being examined. Millions of dollars in money that regulators and the bank have identified as questionable have flowed through that account. It was opened under the name of a corporation called Otong, and money began moving through it as early as 1999, according to a regulatory report dated Jan. 30 that Riggs filed with federal regulators.
Although Riggs closed all of its Equatorial Guinean accounts in February, activity in accounts before then has drawn attention because Exxon Mobil, the oil giant, deposited about $300 million into Mr. Mbasago's personal Riggs accounts. Although Equatorial Guinea has struggled with poverty, its economy has grown sharply in recent years because of the discovery of large oil reserves there. Exxon Mobil is one of the country's biggest oil producers.
It is not clear whether money from Exxon Mobil found its way into the Otong account. Exxon Mobil and Equatorial Guinean officials could not be reached for comment.
Seven transactions in the Otong account from September 1999 to April 2002 that totaled about $11.5 million have drawn special scrutiny. A Riggs compliance officer told Riggs's own investigators last September that money in the Otong account came from overseas accounts that Mr. Mbasago had closed - an explanation that federal investigators have found unsatisfactory. Federal officials are looking into the possibility that money in the Otong account was used to bribe employees of American companies or involved the proceeds of political graft, according to an individual with direct knowledge of the investigation.
The role played by Equatorial Guinea's ambassador to the United States, Teodoro Biyogo Nsue, in the transfers is also being investigated.
Riggs has been cooperating with the F.B.I. investigation and regulatory examinations since the fall of 2002 and said it had not "willfully" violated any laws. "Riggs always cooperates with regulators and law enforcement officials, but Riggs has no indication that we are or ever were the target of an F.B.I. investigation," Adam Weiner, a spokesman for the bank, said.
The investigation was touched off by an examination of transactions at Riggs by Saudi Arabia's ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, and his wife, Princess Haifa, in 2002. At the time, F.B.I. officials were investigating whether money from the princess's accounts wound up in the pockets of two of the people involved in the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center. The New York Times reported in late 2002 that the F.B.I. found no evidence that the money went to the hijackers. F.B.I. officials could not be reached for comment last night.
Saudi Arabia's possible financial sponsorship of terrorist groups has drawn close attention from law enforcement officials since the Sept. 11 attacks and the Riggs accounts initially drew attention as part of that inquiry, according to one federal investigator briefed on the inquiry.
A spokesman for the Saudi Arabian Embassy said that the "F.B.I. has repeatedly and as recently as a week ago informed the embassy that there were no concerns" now that the Saudi accounts at Riggs involved terrorist funds or the proceeds of money laundering.
Riggs closed all of its Saudi accounts in early March after it became concerned that the Saudis were not complying with tighter supervisory guidelines the bank imposed on all of its diplomatic accounts a year ago. A person briefed on the matter said that although activity in the accounts had quieted down last summer and fall, largely because Prince Bandar was in Saudi Arabia and Britain most of that time, unusual spikes in banking transactions began occurring again last winter, prompting the bank's action.
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that regulators were examining $50 million in Saudi withdrawals from Riggs accounts, some in increments exceeding $1 million.
In addition to the F.B.I. investigation, Riggs is also being investigated by the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Governmental Affairs and by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the banking regulator for the Treasury Department.
In March of last year, the comptroller's office identified several areas where Riggs had fallen short in terms of complying with federal guidelines to combat money laundering. Its examiners were in the bank almost daily from last March until July. During that time, and since, the bank began instituting what it considered to be more stringent controls to combat money laundering at the bank, including the hiring of extra employees and specialists in fraud supervision, according to a long list of measures provided by Riggs.
Last July, the comptroller's office took the unusual step of imposing a strongly worded "consent order" on Riggs. The order, a public document, outlined the steps the bank needed to take to comply more fully with standards on laundering. But the comptroller's office continued to be disappointed by the steps Riggs was taking to tighten standards.
In March, the comptroller's office told the bank that it planned to designate it as a "troubled" institution, according to Securities and Exchange Commission documents Riggs filed about two weeks ago. The bank may also face substantial fines. Designation as a troubled institution means that Riggs, a midsize concern with about $7 billion in assets, would no longer be able to appoint senior officials to manage its affairs without first securing regulatory approval.
Though there has been speculation on Wall Street that Riggs's woes may result in a forced sale of the bank, it is unlikely that regulators would push for such a sale. Regulators force the sale of a bank only when it is insolvent, has serious liquidity problems, or is designated as a criminal enterprise - conditions that do not apply to Riggs at this point.
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company
Not A Diversion
From the April 12 / April 19, 2004 issue: The war in Iraq has advanced the campaign against bin Ladenism.
by Reuel Marc Gerecht
04/12/2004, Volume 009, Issue 30
"I DON'T FAULT George Bush for doing too much in the war on terror, as some do. I believe that he's done too little and done some things that he didn't have to. When the focus of the war on terror was appropriately in Afghanistan and on breaking al Qaeda, President Bush shifted his focus to Iraq and to Saddam Hussein. He pushed away our allies at a time when we needed them the most. He hasn't pursued a strategy to win the hearts and minds of people around the world, and win the war of ideas against the radical ideology of Osama bin Laden."
So spoke Senator John Kerry on March 15. This could, of course, have been Richard Clarke, the former counterterrorism chief, or Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft, the former national security advisers who often do tandem "realist" critiques. Or it could have been Al Franken, the liberal comedian-turned-less-witty-broadcaster, or Patrick Buchanan, the standard-bearer of conservative blue-collar America. From the far left to the far right, a common theme has developed among those who opposed the Iraq war: The campaign against Saddam Hussein diverted us from the battle against al Qaeda in Afghanistan and beyond. Indeed, the invasion and occupation of Iraq has made, to quote Clarke, "America less secure and strengthen[ed] the broader radical Islamic-terrorist movement."
Of course, this view did not occur to all of the above before March 2003--if John Kerry actually believed back then that the war would imperil America's national security, then his vote for it was inexcusably reckless (Howard Dean's logic was at least impeccable). But retrospective clairvoyance, fortified by a good sense for the jugular, has won the day. If you can collapse the central pillar of the Bush war presidency, the odds are good that you can win in November. Politics aside, do these folks have a point? There are always unintended, adverse consequences to any military action. Could those from the Iraq war be the very ones that Clarke, the "realists," and the antiwar Democrats envision?
Not likely. Point by point, their case actually inverts the reality, often the history, of what has happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the rest of the Muslim Middle East. Let us start with the war in Afghanistan, before we get diverted by President Bush's preemptive campaign against Saddam Hussein.
THERE ARE CERTAINLY LEGITIMATE CRITICISMS of the way the administration fought the war in Afghanistan. This magazine made a few, with which the White House took issue. It shouldn't be that hard to see now--it really wasn't that hard to see then--that the Pentagon moved too slowly south, that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's fascination with "new-age" warfare, where very small deployments of special forces, reinforced with awesome air power and what the British used to call "tribal levies," slowed the campaign at critical points. The real issue was never whether the United States was going to get bogged down in an Afghan quagmire, as did the Soviets in the 1980s and the British (briefly) in 1842. Victory for America, once President Bush made the decision to invade and destroy the Taliban state, was never in doubt. The issue was whether we would rapidly fracture Taliban power in Kandahar and possibly catch al Qaeda in disarray. The military brass chose not to throw much manpower at southeastern Afghanistan, the area bin Laden knew best, and to which, it strongly appears, he withdrew. Doing so surely would have cost many U.S. soldiers their lives, but it probably would have increased the odds of catching Osama bin Laden, his number two, Ayman al Zawahiri, and their inner circle and families. It is impossible to say, however, by how much the odds would have improved. With the possible exception of the deep jungles of the Amazon, the southeastern border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan is the worst area imaginable to play a lethal version of hide and seek. You could pour tens of thousands of troops into that terrain and only marginally improve the chances of finding your target.
Which brings us to Iraq. The tactics used in Afghanistan were not predicated on an ensuing war in Mesopotamia. Rightly or wrongly, Rumsfeld likes "new-age" warfare, regardless of the locale. There simply is no serious argument that the actions of the first campaign were diminished by the planning, logistics, and execution of the second a year later.
There is a pretty good case to be made that in 2001-02 the Bush administration didn't seriously pressure Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf to understand the urgent need to move aggressively against the unpatrolled tribal regions bordering Afghanistan. But again, that had nothing to do with Iraq, and everything to do with internal Pakistani politics. And America's second Gulf War certainly did not discourage Musharraf from becoming more aggressive against domestic and foreign holy warriors in 2003-04. It beggars the imagination to believe that al Qaeda's foreign holy warriors and their Pakistani sympathizers want to kill Musharraf for the war in Iraq more than they want to kill him for the war in Afghanistan and his current efforts to extinguish them and their Pakistani base of operations.
It is certainly true, as Clarke and others have charged, that the Bush administration should have done, and still should do, a lot more in reconstructing Afghanistan and in aiding those who want to reform, and eventually end, the warlord system that prevails outside of the capital, Kabul. The holy-warrior camps in Afghanistan that General Musharraf and his predecessors developed for the battle against India in Kashmir--the camps that starting in 1996 came under the control of bin Laden--could come back, particularly if there were a change of heart in Islamabad. If the Bush administration allowed this to develop--and this scenario remains hypothetical--then it would deserve to be damned for shortsightedness and gross negligence. But in the Pentagon, at the State Department, and in the National Security Council, they are well aware of the dangers. It is very hard to see this administration, any administration after 9/11, not doing the minimum necessary to keep Afghanistan from experiencing a Taliban renaissance where jihadist camps could operate.
Let's be honest: It was perfectly clear that the Bush administration was not going to invest massively in Afghanistan way before the White House made the decision to fight in Iraq (it strongly appears that former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill actually doesn't know anybody at Defense, for if he did, he would know, as we did, that the decision to fight in Iraq was neither quick nor easy nor foreordained). As Olivier Roy, the renowned French scholar of Afghanistan and Islamic militancy, has pointed out, the average Afghan certainly wanted us to play the khan, the overlord who takes care of the family. But this runs against the American grain, be it liberal or conservative. Wipe the Iraq war from history, and it remains hard to imagine Secretary Rumsfeld, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of State Colin Powell, or President Al Gore if he were in power, putting tens of thousands of troops and tens of billions of dollars into a country that is, in virtually every way, nondeveloped. It is easy, and maybe wise, to throw large amounts of money and manpower at a developed or even developing country after it's been blown to bits by years of war and civil strife. It is much more difficult, and far less wise, to invest too quickly and too massively in a place like Afghanistan.
Baseline point: The Americans aren't going to run away from Afghanistan--odds are we will be in that country for far longer than we will be, in any force, in Iraq. With a little luck, a bit more money and manpower, and a willingness to play hardball with Pakistan in case it returns to its former ways, Afghanistan will muddle through. Certainly, we won't want to use it as an ideal case study at a Harvard seminar on American-led postwar reconstruction in the third world. But it will do. And by the time we leave, it will be perfectly clear to both Democrats and Republicans that neither the time nor the money the United States spent in Afghanistan had much to do at all with George Bush's decision to invade and occupy Iraq.
NEXT CRITICISM: What about our allies, the ones critical to our war on terror, whom we've angered and dissed? Have we not, as General Scowcroft predicted in August 2002 and as Senator Kerry regularly reminds us from the stump, just shot to hell the international system? As Scowcroft wrote in the Wall Street Journal, "And make no mistake, we simply cannot win that war [against bin Laden] without enthusiastic international cooperation, especially on intelligence." According to the Washington Post, Rand Beers, who was President Bush's senior director for counterterrorism, resigned just before the Iraq war because he thought the president's decision to invade had, among other things, "created fissures in the United States' counterterrorism alliances."
Okay, name an important intelligence service in the Middle East that doesn't have a stronger liaison relationship with the United States today than it had on, say, the day after Kandahar fell? Though the Central Intelligence Agency likes to think of itself as an airtight shop, we all know, given what's happened since the end of the Iraq war, that unhappy employees who don't get the foreign policies they prefer leak. And the senior grades of the Clandestine Service in particular love to leak, especially via their retired friends, when they are upset. Can anybody recall, even in the vaguest way, a planted story about anti-al Qaeda operations getting aborted because an Arab service didn't want to touch us?
Anybody hear about the French DST (internal security) or the DGSE (foreign intelligence) turning off a spigot of information about Islamic extremists? According to a senior French intelligence officer, the first and principal exchange point for the United States and continental European security services is Paris. Does this sound like the French elite (which really would like to see George Bush get demolished in Iraq and John Kerry elected) has a problem with intelligence cooperation? Anybody heard of any problems with the Spanish, who just got scorched, so the theory goes, because of their alliance with us in Iraq? How about the Russians, Pakistanis, Uzbeks, or Chinese?
A pretty good argument could be made that we would be better off if the CIA didn't have such friendly relationships with its counterparts in Tashkent, Cairo, Islamabad, or Algiers; that the short-term gain from these relationships, though undoubtedly vital at times of great urgency, fundamentally compromises us in the long-term and ultimately more important task of opening up these societies so that domestically generated Islamic extremism doesn't attack us. In any case, our intelligence and security liaison relationships have never been better. For our Middle Eastern "allies" in particular, it's as if they'd died and gone to heaven. The CIA, often more accurately addressed as Sugar Daddy, has never before come calling with so many gifts. Egypt's president-for-life Hosni Mubarak, who would strongly prefer that the United States not create a functioning democracy in Iraq, knows that his intelligence-liaison relationship with the United States is an ace in the hole. That fraternal tie will certainly stay warm as long as Mubarak thinks there's a chance that President Bush might be serious about transforming the dictatorial politics of the Middle East.
NEXT CRITICISM: George Bush's war in Iraq has inflamed Islamic opinion, radicalized more Muslim youth, and created a new legion of anti-American holy warriors. This is probably the most damning, if the most ethereal, of the charges against President Bush. Odds are, this will be the charge that Senator Kerry and his minions hurl most often at the president (the possible exception being the gravamen that George W. has neglected homeland defense).
Now, the first thing that ought to be said is that we really don't know how many jihadists got born during the first Bush presidency and the eight years of Bill Clinton. Al Qaeda slowly evolved from the Maktab al-Khadamat ("The Office of Services"), an organization started during the Soviet-Afghan War to transport Muslims, primarily Arabs, to Pakistan to join the battle against the Red Army. We really don't know how many Muslims went. If one tracks down the figures for the Maktab, all one can say for sure is that the sources on the numbers are all Pakistani and that Pakistani sources are notoriously unreliable. We have no firm idea how many of the Muslims who did go actually ever crossed into Afghanistan and fought, or how many of them stayed in Pakistan, living lives often more comfortable than those they'd had at home. (This was particularly true when it came to having wives. The cult of the Afghan woman--and there were hundreds of thousands of Afghan women in distress in Pakistan during the war--was very popular among the "jihadists.") And it is difficult to say precisely when al Qaeda became an independent, self-conscious organization developing anti-American holy warriors. This may have happened as early as 1989, or it could have been only two or three years later that a real organization developed with a clear raison d'?tre and a full-time staff.
The afterword of Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon's The Age of Sacred Terror, which is easily the best book about the rise of bin Ladenism and the Clinton administration's response to it, tells us the following: "U.S. officials have spoken of 'tens of thousands' of individuals who were trained in the camps of Afghanistan, and Germany's intelligence chief put the number at seventy thousand, though many were trained as soldiers to fight alongside the Taliban, not as terrorists. Still the number of operatives at large is probably multiples greater than that on any other terrorist group in memory."
Benjamin and Simon were once the director and senior director for counterterrorism in the Clinton administration's National Security Council, and they, too, are highly critical of the Bush administration. I strongly suspect the numbers above are grossly exaggerated. When I visited Ahmed Shah Massoud, the legendary Tajik leader of the Northern Alliance, in the fall of 1999, he told me that he was then facing around 700 Arab Afghans. This figure fluctuated a bit, perhaps, but the Taliban never deployed more than 1,000 Arab Afghans against him.
But, for the sake of argument, let's accept the numbers suggested by Benjamin and Simon. In other words, during the eight years of Bill Clinton's presidency, when the United States studiously avoided invading Iraq, the number of Islamic holy warriors fully formed in the Afghan training camps skyrocketed. Let us recall these were the glory years of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, when the president often worked night and day to bring conciliation and settlement to the two sides. These were the years, too, when the Americans went to the rescue of the Bosnian Muslims. And these were the times when President Clinton tried to make nice-nice with President Mohammad Khatami of Iran (of course, Sunni Muslim holy warriors might not care for this too much; but since bin Laden knew he hadn't blown up the American barracks at Khobar Towers in 1996, and since his contacts inside the Saudi royal family were pretty good, he might have drawn the right conclusion when the Clinton administration didn't retaliate against the real perpetrator of the Khobar bombing, the regime in Tehran--to wit, Clinton wasn't tough).
So, during the best of years--or at least, according to Clarke and Kerry, vastly better years than what followed--al Qaeda grew from scratch to an umbrella organization, drawing into its apocalyptic designs holy warriors from the Middle East, America, Europe, Africa, Latin America, and the Orient. These were the years when bin Laden promised the faithful that they, not the Americans, were the "stronger horse."
And now, according to the "realists" and antiwar Democrats, the Bush administration has made things worse. It's theoretically possible, of course. It's possible the Clinton years were less energizing to the enemy than the Bush years, when the Taliban were destroyed, bin Laden was put to chase, and al Qaeda as an organization was badly battered. It is possible that America's invasion and (temporary) occupation of Iraq will galvanize holy warriors as did the first Gulf War for an earlier generation. Professor Bernard Lewis's textual analysis showing that bin Laden used the first Gulf War as a clarion call for holy war is undeniable. (And was not the first Gulf War worth angering Islamic militants?)
But we should be enormously cautious in suggesting, as Bush's critics eagerly do, that apocalyptic holy warriors come into being primarily because of specific American actions. We know this is certainly not true for the deadliest of the Wahhabi jihadists--the highly Westernized ones reared or educated in Western Europe. These men are born from their troubled assimilation into Europe's secularized societies. And killer Sunni fundamentalism predates the first Gulf War by decades. Its evolution is attached to no specific Western event--certainly not to the creation of Israel, which in fundamentalist literature is just one more proof, a particularly painful proof since Jews are among the weakest of people in Islamic history, that civilization has gone to hell. But the primary culprits for this fall are not Europeans or Americans--"Christendom," to the fundamentalists. Christendom has been there, in one shape or another, since the beginning of the Islamic era. The real villains, according to the first few generations of fundamentalists, are the Muslims who ape Western ways. The new breed of Muslim activists, the killer elite of bin Laden's deracinated young men who know not love of country or father, have elevated the old disgust at the despotic Westernizing rulers of the Middle East--the men many "realists" still see as our friends--into a global hatred of the West and its cutting edge, the United States. These young men were coming for us, regardless of whether the Bush administration invaded Iraq. Or whether the Clinton administration quarantined and bombed Iraq for eight years. They live to kill. The most devout live to die. It is not surprising at all that Americans, particularly those who work in Washington, who are mostly good secular sorts, view so mundanely the causes of holy war.
On the biggest of issues, Benjamin and Simon are definitely right: "Democratization, however hazardous and unpredictable the process may be, is the key to eliminating sacred terror over the long term." Which is why, of course, the war in Iraq--the attempt to build a democracy on the ruins of the Middle East's most despicable regime--has been worth the blood and treasure. There were many reasons to go to war; as Robert Kagan and William Kristol recently pointed out in these pages, President Clinton and his national security adviser Sandy Berger did a very convincing job of enumerating them in their finest speeches. But a compelling reason, even if it is not one that many in the Bush administration fully understand, was bin Ladenism itself and the need to strike boldly to give us, and Muslims in the Middle East, a way out.
We should be skeptical of those voices who tell us that success in Iraq won't have serious repercussions for the rest of the Middle East (the same voices that are usually quick to point out the adverse effects of failure). The trial of Saddam Hussein, in whom many Muslims of the Middle East will see the image of their own rulers, will make gripping television, even on the anti-American Al Jazeera satellite channel. Iraq's coming great debates, for all the country's enormous problems and attendant violence, will echo through the region on television and radio. The Sunni Arabs of the region will watch Shiite Arabs, long cursed creatures, moving forward, however fitfully and slowly, toward more democracy than they themselves have ever imagined. The shame could be unbearably provocative. The now famous letter to al Qaeda from Abu Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian holy warrior operating in Iraq, tells, we can hope, the future of the entire region. Jihadism cannot survive people power. When the common Muslim man is responsible for his own fate, human decency and civility will win out.
The liberal Washington Post columnist Jackson Diehl, who writes often on the Arab world, recently provided the most honest description of what George W. Bush has wrought in the Middle East:
The most underreported and encouraging story in the Middle East in the past year has been the emergence in public of homegrown civic movements demanding political change. Two years ago they were nonexistent or in jail. Now they are out in the open even in the most politically backward places in the region: Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Syria. They are made up not only of intellectuals but of businessmen, women, students, teachers, and journalists. Unlike their governments--and the old school of U.S. and European Arabists--they don't believe that change should be gradual, and they reject the dictators' claim that democracy would only empower Islamic extremists. It is the delay of change, they say, that is increasingly dangerous.
These people weren't created by George W. Bush. They are the homegrown answer to a decadent political order, and they ride a powerful historical current. But they will tell you frankly: The new U.S. democratization policy, far from being an unwanted imposition, has given them a voice, an audience and at least a partial shield against repression--three things they didn't have one year ago.
These words are the best retort to Richard Clarke and John Kerry. But we have no time to waste. Under any circumstances, building democracy in the Muslim Middle East will be slow. And bin Ladenism is a resilient, captivating disease. We should pray, however, that it will not take generations. It certainly won't happen at all if the Bush administration pulls back from its "forward strategy of freedom." Voluntary change in the Middle East is no change at all. But we are off to a good beginning. The war on terror had, thank God, a second act. We will all have to wait until after November to see if there will be a third. Everyone in the Middle East, but especially the holy warriors, will be watching.
Reuel Marc Gerecht is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor to The Weekly Standard.
? Copyright 2004, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.
No Longer a 'Problem'
Clarke, Condi and the wars of September 11.
BY DANIEL HENNINGER
Friday, April 2, 2004 12:01 a.m. EST
From the moment the September 11 commission was authorized, the only important question was when it would propitiate the media gods. That moment has arrived. We have finally reduced the entire story of September 11, as always, to heroes and villains, winners and losers.
Richard Clarke divined how our system elevates its heroes. He extruded his long, honorable career through layers of major media--Simon & Schuster, CBS and then the Barnum & Bailey big-top of televised hearings. For a week, he became the man of the moment.
Now in another propitiation, Condoleezza Rice will go before the commission in the role the gods have ordained: Prove in public that neither she nor her colleagues in the Bush presidency are knaves who make policy in cynical disregard of truth or evidence. When this exercise is over, we will know very little important about September 11 that we didn't know on September 12.
Recall the famous phrase, "September 11 changed everything." What that meant is that September 11 changed the American mind about terror. That day, though awful, was of a piece with the radicalized Arab policy of annihilating civilians that began at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Across three decades, the West has "lived with" terror. Every now and then, some people died. However willing old Europe was to endure this occasional cost, Americans as of September 2001 were not. After September 11 the president of the United States declared war on terror. He then established the fact of war, not merely the sentiment of war, by defeating the Taliban and Saddam Hussein with armies.
What we had before September 11 was not a war. It was a problem. Wars have common goals and many offensive acts. Problems are open to constant debate, reducing acts. This distinction is crucial to understanding what many think is the September 11 commission's stated mandate: Why did the nation's security bureaucracies "fail" to prevent the attack?
All of the agencies under the commission's microscope--the CIA, the FBI, Defense, State Department and the NSC--are, no matter how elevated their titles, public bureaucracies. If you read the commission's already published papers--on diplomacy, the military, intelligence policy and national policy coordination--the shape of what happened becomes clear.
These are smart fiefdoms. They have their own opinions, all the time, about a host of factors--legal, political, operational--bearing on their work. It is always difficult outside the context of a war to sustain on-point bureaucratic compliance with a goal. The problem is not that these bureaucracies are incompetent. They are unfocused because they answer to several authorities--the president, Congress, their budget, the bureaucracy itself, their boss down the hall.
Read the commission's paper on national security coordination and the Clinton team's anti-terror planning that was led by Richard Clarke. It sounds well-intended and aware of the threat from al Qaeda. But consider just the authors' description of the hierarchy of advisory bodies to the NSC.
There is the National Security Council, "the formal statutory body," chaired by the president. Then "the Principals Committee, with cabinet-level representatives from agencies. . . . Next is the Deputies Committee, where the deputy agency heads meet under the chairmanship of the deputy national security advisor. Lower ranking officials meet in many other working groups or coordinating committees, reporting to the deputies, and, through them, to the principals."
The staff documents are replete with examples of bureaucratic concern and argument. There is nothing insidious in this. It is the nature of large, modern organizations. Agencies execute policy subject to myriad constraints imposed on any public bureaucracy. Amid the rubble and death of a September 11, it is everyone's instinct to say these agencies should have been focused on the problem laserlike and 24/7. That has never been and never will be--short of war.
Richard Clarke, for all his reputation as a bull in the bureaucracy's china shop, clearly thinks Mr. Bush's declared war was a mistake. He and others would let the world's security bureaucracies "work the problem." But over 30 years, an entire industry had grown up to work the terrorism problem. Abu Nidal and Carlos the Jackal were household names. And still the destruction of embassies, hotels, ships and finally skyscrapers continued.
After Mr. Bush's September declaration of war, the bureaucracies focused and functioned magnificently from Afghanistan to Baghdad. Policy moved out of the agency mists, Mr. Clarke's world, and was now in the realm of public and political consensus. It had the backing of the American people. Even bureaucracies understand esprit.
But that run from Kabul to Baghdad was a brief, shining moment. The future is less clear. Successful wars require national unity, in part to energize and focus the bureaucracies. The U.S., however, is at a point in its history when no subject--nothing--is immune to partisan disunity. What existed after September 11 is broken.
Unbending partisanship may be an American entitlement now, and Howard Dean exercised it this week in the wake of Fallujah and U.S. casualties in Iraq. "That is the legacy of this president," Mr. Dean told a dinner for the hopefully named 21st Century Democrats, "who did not tell the truth to the American people." But if we are as concerned as we say about preventing another September 11, we should understand the price of our indulgences. In a world in which the know-how to produce missile delivery systems and nuclear and biological weapons will soon be commoditized, you should want your bureaucratic warriors to be on a war-like footing. Assuming that they always are is foolish. Like the Supreme Court, bureaucracies follow the election returns. Their attention can revert to the norm.
This is not an argument against dissent and disagreement. It is an argument that George Bush's declaration of war on terror, including Iraq, is more right than it is wrong. The more we step down from that war, the closer we and our bureaucracies will return to the vulnerabilities that led to September 11.
Mr. Henninger is deputy editor of The Wall Street Journal's editorial page. His column appears Fridays in the Journal and on OpinionJournal.com.
GOP TERROR MYOPIA
By PETER BEINART
April 3, 2004 -- WE sometimes assume 9/11 inaugurated a brand new foreign- policy debate. If we see any precedents at all, we find them in the Cold War, the last time the United States faced a mortal threat and national security defined the two parties. The 1990s, by contrast, seem like a lull between two storms, an interlude whose relatively trivial foreign policy concerns were rendered obsolete when the World Trade Center fell.
But this isn't really true. In the '90s, both parties crafted visions of the world that 9/11 ratified. In many ways, Democrats and Republicans are engaged in the same debate today as they were a decade ago. All that has changed are the stakes.
When the Cold War ended, some Republicans decided the United States should turn inward. But isolationism, while prevalent at the GOP grassroots, never captured the party leadership. Pat Buchanan challenged George H.W. Bush in 1992 and Bob Dole in 1996, but control of the party remained in the hands of relative internationalists like Dole, Newt Gingrich, Trent Lott and, ultimately, George W. Bush.
These men believed the job of U.S. foreign policy was to figure out which states would threaten the United States in the future and to head them off - a job from which Bill Clinton's humanitarian adventures distracted. Sometimes GOP leaders imagined China as the new threat; sometimes they imagined "rogue" states like Iran, Iraq, Syria and North Korea. In either case, the Cold War was the template - America's relationship with hostile regimes would define the new era.
As a result, when Islamic terrorists began striking the United States in the '90s, Republicans talked about them not as an independent force, but as the outgrowth of hostile regimes. "Terrorist states have made a comeback during Bill Clinton's administration," claimed the 1996 GOP platform.
In January 2000, when Condoleezza Rice outlined the Bush campaign's international agenda for Foreign Affairs, she mentioned "the threat of rogue regimes and hostile powers, which is increasingly taking the forms of the potential for terrorism." In "Against All Enemies," Richard Clarke recounts telling Rice and her deputy, Steve Hadley, that his anti- terrorism office dealt with "post-Cold War security, not focused just on nation-state threats." It was a portfolio, he remembers, that they seemed to consider "strange."
In the Democratic Party, however, the '90s brought a different perspective. If "the economy, stupid" began as a statement about domestic policy, it gradually became a prism for international affairs.
Clinton identified globalization-the increased economic, technological, and cultural integration of the world - as his administration's central challenge. And, as he knew from his struggles to please the international bond market, globalization made governments weaker than ever before.
When terrorism hit the United States in the '90s, it became the foremost example of globalization's "dark side." In a 1999 interview with The New York Times, Clinton argued that terrorism was a threat not only distinct from rogue states, but greater than them.
In the Democratic rejoinder to Rice, in the March 2000 issue of Foreign Affairs, former Clinton officials W. Bowman Cutter, Joan Spero and Laura D'Andrea Tyson argued that "traditional security threats" were giving way to "nonterritorial" problems "like international terrorism, organized crime, drug trafficking and environmental degradation." For his part, John Kerry in 1997 authored "The New War," in which he argued the United States should "lead the world in the fight against 'private' criminal enterprises just as we led the world in the fight against 'public' criminal governments."
By 9/11, in other words, both parties had already assimilated terrorism into a broader view of the world. Two weeks after the attacks, conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer wrote that "the overriding aim of the war on terrorism is changing regimes."
In his first post-9/11 State of the Union, in a clear echo of Ronald Reagan's reference to the "evil empire," Bush spoke of an "axis of evil" comprising Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
Democrats saw things differently. They supported the war in Afghanistan. But they considered it a war against a terrorist organization that had hijacked a state, not against a government using terrorism as a means of state power. And, in their broader statements, party leaders made it clear they still regarded terrorism as largely independent of governments, not the expression of them - which predisposed them to see Iraq as a diversion. As Kerry put it in February, "The agents of terrorism work and lurk in the shadows of sixty nations."
Republicans say the difference between the two parties is that the GOP wants to wage a war, while Democrats simply want to run police operations. But that's not quite right. Kerry, and many other Democrats, urged the Bush administration to use force more aggressively to destroy al Qaeda remnants in the final days of the Afghan war.
The Bush team, by contrast, seemed to grow militarily complacent after the Taliban was overthrown. Relieved that Afghanistan was no longer a rogue state, the Bushies seemed relatively untroubled that it was no longer much of a state at all.
The distinction between the two parties isn't over military force per se; it's over whether to use military force - and every other tool of U.S. power - primarily against terrorist-supporting states or against terrorists operating independently of states.
For the GOP, the war on terrorism will be won - in an echo of 1989 - by toppling regimes. Not all the regimes will fall to U.S. tanks, but the Iraqi demonstration effect, combined with moral clarity and political pressure, will eventually bring the dominoes down.
I hope they're right. But, even if they are, their model won't win the war on terrorism. As we're learning in Iraq (and, for that matter, in parts of the former Soviet Union like Uzbekistan and Chechnya), toppling dictatorships doesn't necessarily usher in democracy and, thus, doesn't necessarily stop terrorism.
Ironically, the more success Republicans have in overthrowing rogue regimes, the more terrorism will become the nongovernmental force Democrats say it is. And the more the United States will have to focus on globalization's "dark side": anarchic states plagued by ethnic conflict, economic dysfunction, loose weapons and al Qaeda - in other words, pretty much what we're facing in Iraq.
Far from being irrelevant, the '90s are likely to be with us for a very long time.
Peter Beinart is editor of The New Republic. From the April 12 & 19 double issue
Al Qaeda-Hizballah Bomb Team on Amman Revenge Mission for Hamas
DEBKAfile Special Report
April 2, 2004, 6:31 PM (GMT+02:00)
Meridien-Amman - targeted for terror
The building in the picture, the five-star Le Meridien Hotel, in the Shmeisani district of Amman, walking distance from the Hussein sports center and the Palace of Culture, was projected for reduction to charred rubble Friday, April 2 by a joint Hizballah-al Qaeda bomb team. This is revealed by DEBKAfile's exclusive counter-terror sources. But part of that team was captured by Jordanian forces as it entered the kingdom from Syria at the Rahmtha crossing Wednesday, March 31, driving a suspicious looking pickup truck found on examination to be loaded with hundreds of kilos of explosives. The four detainees, questioned at Jordanian army security headquarters in Amman, soon gave them game away. They also disclosed that another one or two explosives-laden trucks with the rest of the terror team had managed to slip into Jordan before them and was at large - whereupon the royal security forces shot into pursuit mode and placed armed guards on the palaces, the US and Israeli embassies and strategic sites.
Amid the hue and cry, King Abdullah put in calls to the United States and Israel to report the captured terrorists had also divulged they were on their way to carry out a mega-strike against at least two hotels and a large Amman shopping mall to avenge Israel's killing of Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in the Gaza Strip on March 22.
The al Qaeda-Hizballah terrorist plot would have left several hundreds of people dead in Amman - a catastrophe several times greater than the Madrid train bombings. According to our Jordanian sources, the captured terrorists claimed that because the Hamas, Hizballah and al Qaeda were prevented thus far from carrying out a mass-casualty attack in any Israeli city by its heavy security build-up, they opted from the Jordanian capital as target. Initial input from the Jordanian inquiry has been relayed to Washington and Jerusalem.
The terrorists driving the missing truck or trucks were to have rendezvoused at an unknown location with a second team of fellow al Qaeda operatives who were to have collected the explosives and used them for suicide car bombings inside Amman. The truck seized at the border was to have blown up Le Meridien.
DEBKAfile's military sources add: the Jordanian army, police and security services have been on high alert for three days, special units reinforcing security at the royal palaces and for heads of government and economy. Royal Air Force craft are swooping up and down the kingdom hoping to spot the missing bomb vehicles and terrorists before they gain access to any Jordanian town. First thing Thursday, April 1, when they had still not been located, the king telephoned Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah in Riyadh and Hosni Mubarak in Sharm el Sheikh with bitter recriminations against Syrian President Bashar Assad for failing to avert the attempted assault on his capital city. He said the trucks could not have been packed with explosives on the outskirts of Damascus and then set off for the Jordanian frontier without the knowledge of Syrian military intelligence. Indeed, the captured terrorists admitted they had been assured they would not be bothered at the Syrian border crossing because the border guards had been told not to search the trucks.
Then and there, to avoid the embarrassment of shaking hands with the accused Syrian leader, the Egyptian president ordered their meeting later that morning to be cancelled. In case Assad turned up anyway, Mubarak took to the air and flew out of the Sinai resort to Cairo.
Had the Le Meridien Hotel hit been achieved on behalf of Hamas, DEBKAfile's counter-terror sources sketch the resulting scenario:
1. Hamas would have claimed its vow to avenge its dead leader vindicated with the help of forces outside the country.
2. The pick-up truck or trucks still loose might still strike an Israeli target such as the Israeli embassy in Amman or an Israeli-Jordanian factory in the kingdom.
3. Jordan would carry the brand of the most loyal ally of America and Israel in the Middle East.
4. Even though the Hamas had no direct role in the operation, its leaders would claim that its reach had crossed national Palestinian borders and the movement was now part of the al Qaeda-Hizballah terrorist network in the Middle East and beyond.
Jordanian media named the notorious al Qaeda operative Musab Zarqawi as the suspected mastermind of the attempted al Qaeda-Hizballah Hamas mega-strike in Amman. DEBKAfile's terror experts note that the familiar al Qaeda names bandied about after every terrorist action belong to the fundamentalist network's command level current until the end of 2002. They are yesterday's men. A new generation has meanwhile risen from the middle ranks whose names are unknown. Their anonymity has become the biggest obstacle facing Western intelligence in fighting or predicting al Qaeda actions. Zarqawi is a Jordanian himself and still active, but it is hardly credible that one man is capable of wreaking devastation over a short period in Baghdad, Karbala, Irbil, Madrid, Amman, Istanbul and every other world site targeted for terror.
lookout by Naomi Klein
Let's Make Enemies
[from the April 19, 2004 issue]
QUOT-Do you have any rooms?" we ask the hotelier.
She looks us over, dwelling on my travel partner's bald, white head.
"No," she replies.
We try not to notice that there are sixty room keys in pigeonholes behind her desk--the place is empty.
"Will you have a room soon? Maybe next week?"
She hesitates. "Ahh... No."
We return to our current hotel--the one we want to leave because there are bets on when it is going to get hit--and flick on the TV: The BBC is showing footage of Richard Clarke's testimony before the September 11 Commission, and a couple of pundits are arguing about whether invading Iraq has made America safer.
They should try finding a hotel room in this city, where the US occupation has unleashed a wave of anti-American rage so intense that it now extends not only to US troops, occupation officials and their contractors but also to foreign journalists, aid workers, their translators and pretty much anyone else associated with the Americans. Which is why we couldn't begrudge the hotelier her decision: If you want to survive in Iraq, it's wise to stay the hell away from people who look like us. (We thought about explaining that we were Canadians, but all the American reporters are sporting the maple leaf--that is, when they aren't trying to disappear behind their newly purchased headscarves.)
US occupation chief Paul Bremer hasn't started wearing a hijab yet, and is instead tackling the rise of anti-Americanism with his usual foresight. Baghdad is blanketed with inept psy-ops organs like Baghdad Now, filled with fawning articles about how Americans are teaching Iraqis about press freedom. "I never thought before that the Coalition could do a great thing for the Iraqi people," one trainee is quoted saying. "Now I can see it on my eyes what they are doing good things for my country and the accomplishment they made. I wish my people can see that, the way I see it."
Unfortunately, the Iraqi people recently saw another version of press freedom when Bremer ordered US troops to shut down a newspaper run by supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr. The militant Shiite cleric has been preaching that Americans are behind the attacks on Iraqi civilians and condemning the interim constitution as a "terrorist law." So far, al-Sadr has refrained from calling on his supporters to join the armed resistance, but many here are predicting that the closing down of the newspaper--a nonviolent means of resisting the occupation--was just the push he needed. But then, recruiting for the resistance has always been a specialty of the Presidential Envoy to Iraq: Bremer's first act after being tapped by Bush was to fire 400,000 Iraqi soldiers, refuse to give them their rightful pensions but allow them to hold on to their weapons--in case they needed them later.
While US soldiers were padlocking the door of the newspaper's office, I found myself at what I thought would be an oasis of pro-Americanism, the Baghdad Soft Drinks Company. On May 1 this bottling plant will start producing one of the most powerful icons of American culture: Pepsi-Cola. I figured that if there was anyone left in Baghdad willing to defend the Americans, it would be Hamid Jassim Khamis, the Baghdad Soft Drinks Company's managing director. I was wrong.
"All the trouble in Iraq is because of Bremer," Khamis told me, flanked by a line-up of thirty Pepsi and 7-Up bottles. "He didn't listen to Iraqis. He doesn't know anything about Iraq. He destroyed the country and tried to rebuild it again, and now we are in chaos."
These are words you would expect to hear from religious extremists or Saddam loyalists, but hardly from the likes of Khamis. It's not just that his Pepsi deal is the highest-profile investment by a US multinational in Iraq's new "free market." It's also that few Iraqis supported the war more staunchly than Khamis. And no wonder: Saddam executed both of his brothers and Khamis was forced to resign as managing director of the bottling plant in 1999 after Saddam's son Uday threatened his life. When the Americans overthrew Saddam, "You can't imagine how much relief we felt," he says.
After the Baathist plant manager was forced out, Khamis returned to his old job. "There is a risk doing business with the Americans," he says. Several months ago, two detonators were discovered in front of the factory gates. And Khamis is still shaken from an attempted assassination three weeks ago. He was on his way to work when he was carjacked and shot at, and there was no doubt that this was a targeted attack; one of the assailants was heard asking another, "Did you kill the manager?"
Khamis used to be happy to defend his pro-US position, even if it meant arguing with friends. But one year after the invasion, many of his neighbors in the industrial park have gone out of business. "I don't know what to say to my friends anymore," he says. "It's chaos."
His list of grievances against the occupation is long: corruption in the awarding of reconstruction contracts, the failure to stop the looting, the failure to secure Iraq's borders--both from foreign terrorists and from unregulated foreign imports. Iraqi companies, still suffering from the sanctions and the looting, have been unable to compete.
Most of all, Khamis is worried about how these policies have fed the country's unemployment crisis, creating far too many desperate people. He also notes that Iraqi police officers are paid less than half what he pays his assembly line workers, "which is not enough to survive." The normally soft-spoken Khamis becomes enraged when talking about the man in charge of "rebuilding" Iraq. "Paul Bremer has caused more damage than the war, because the bombs can damage a building but if you damage people there is no hope."
I have gone to the mosques and street demonstrations and listened to Muqtada al-Sadr's supporters shout "Death to America, Death to the Jews," and it is indeed chilling. But it is the profound sense of betrayal expressed by a pro-US businessman running a Pepsi plant that attests to the depths of the US-created disaster here. "I'm disappointed, not because I hate the Americans," Khamis tells me, "but because I like them. And when you love someone and they hurt you, it hurts even more."
When we leave the bottling plant in late afternoon, the streets of US-occupied Baghdad are filled with al-Sadr supporters vowing bloody revenge for the attack on their newspaper. A spokesperson for Bremer is defending the decision on the grounds that the paper "was making people think we were out to get them."
A growing number of Iraqis are certainly under that impression, but it has far less to do with an inflammatory newspaper than with the inflammatory actions of the US occupation authority. As the June 30 "handover" approaches, Paul Bremer has unveiled a slew of new tricks to hold on to power long after "sovereignty" has been declared.
Some recent highlights: At the end of March, building on his Order 39 of last September, Bremer passed yet another law further opening up Iraq's economy to foreign ownership, a law that Iraq's next government is prohibited from changing under the terms of the interim constitution. Bremer also announced the establishment of several independent regulators, which will drastically reduce the power of Iraqi government ministries. For instance, the Financial Times reports that "officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority said the regulator would prevent communications minister Haider al-Abadi, a thorn in the side of the coalition, from carrying out his threat to cancel licenses the coalition awarded to foreign-managed consortia to operate three mobile networks and the national broadcaster."
The CPA has also confirmed that after June 30, the $18.4 billion the US government is spending on reconstruction will be administered by the US Embassy in Iraq. The money will be spent over five years and will fundamentally redesign Iraq's most basic infrastructure, including its electricity, water, oil and communications sectors, as well as its courts and police. Iraq's future governments will have no say in the construction of these core sectors of Iraqi society. Retired Rear Adm. David Nash, who heads the Project Management Office, which administers the funds, describes the $18.4 billion as "a gift from the American people to the people of Iraq." He appears to have forgotten the part about gifts being something you actually give up. And in the same eventful week, US engineers began construction on fourteen "enduring bases" in Iraq, capable of housing the 110,000 soldiers who will be posted here for at least two more years. Even though the bases are being built with no mandate from an Iraqi government, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy chief of operations in Iraq, called them "a blueprint for how we could operate in the Middle East."
The US occupation authority has also found a sneaky way to maintain control over Iraq's armed forces. Bremer has issued an executive order stating that even after the interim Iraqi government has been established, the Iraqi army will answer to US commander Lieut. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez. In order to pull this off, Washington is relying on a legalistic reading of a clause in UN Security Council Resolution 1511, which puts US forces in charge of Iraq's security until "the completion of the political process" in Iraq. Since the "political process" in Iraq is never-ending, so, it seems, is US military control.
In the same flurry of activity, the CPA announced that it would put further constraints on the Iraqi military by appointing a national security adviser for Iraq. This US appointee would have powers equivalent to those held by Condoleezza Rice and will stay in office for a five-year term, long after Iraq is scheduled to have made the transition to a democratically elected government.
There is one piece of this country, though, that the US government is happy to cede to the people of Iraq: the hospitals. On March 27 Bremer announced that he had withdrawn the senior US advisers from Iraq's Health Ministry, making it the first sector to achieve "full authority" in the US occupation.
Taken together, these latest measures paint a telling picture of what a "free Iraq" will look like: The United States will maintain its military and corporate presence through fourteen enduring military bases and the largest US Embassy in the world. It will hold on to authority over Iraq's armed forces, its security and economic policy and the design of its core infrastructure--but the Iraqis can deal with their decrepit hospitals all by themselves, complete with their chronic drug shortages and lack of the most basic sanitation capacity. (US Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson revealed just how low a priority this was when he commented that Iraq's hospitals would be fixed if the Iraqis "just washed their hands and cleaned the crap off the walls.")
On nights when there are no nearby explosions, we hang out at the hotel, jumping at the sound of car doors slamming. Sometimes we flick on the news and eavesdrop on a faraway debate about whether invading Iraq has made Americans safer. Few seem interested in the question of whether the invasion has made Iraqis feel safer, which is too bad because the questions are intimately related. As Khamis says, "It's not the war that caused the hatred. It's what they did after. What they are doing now."
Petraeus to Get Key Job in Iraq
101st Airborne Chief to Take Charge of Developing Iraqi Military
By Thomas E. Ricks
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 3, 2004; Page A20
Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, who spent most of the past year in Iraq as commander of the 101st Airborne Division, is being sent back to that country to oversee the organization and training of all Iraqi military and security forces, Pentagon insiders said yesterday.
The selection of Petraeus, which has not yet been announced, is "all part of the thinking about the transition" to Iraqi sovereignty in 90 days, said a spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld who confirmed the choice but declined to be identified.
Essentially, Petraeus is being given charge of a major component of the U.S. exit strategy for Iraq -- developing Iraqi forces strong enough to maintain security and thereby permit the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Despite the behind-the-scenes moves being made to prepare for the transition of power, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul D. Wolfowitz sought yesterday to play down the military significance of the changeover.
"There's not going to be any difference in our military posture on July 1st from what it is on June 30th, except that we will be there then at the invitation of a sovereign Iraqi government, which I am quite sure will want us to stay there until killers like the ones who perpetrated these atrocities in Fallujah are brought under control," he told reporters on Capitol Hill after he briefed members of Congress on the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
As chief of an expanded Office of Military Cooperation, Petraeus is expected to take over many of the internal security functions currently overseen by the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority. Petraeus, whose command of the 101st during last spring's war in Iraq was recently the subject of a two-part series in The Washington Post, almost certainly will be nominated by Rumsfeld for a third star as part of the assignment, the Pentagon insiders said.
Petraeus's new position will be especially sensitive in the coming months because it will make him the point man for integrating various Kurdish and Shiite Muslim militias into the Iraqi security structure, or for eliminating them somehow. His experience over the past year in northern Iraq has allowed him to develop close relationships with several Kurdish leaders, whose pesh merga has 50,000 members, making the militia larger than many nations' armies.
Senior U.S. officials in Iraq say that breaking up the armed groups there is essential to the country's transition to democracy, and that the demobilization of the Kurdish and Shiite militias is the first step toward that goal.
Even so, having Petraeus in a top slot in Baghdad overseeing the distribution of weapons to Iraqi forces would be good news for the Kurds. It would likely be more problematic for the Shiite militias, especially the Mahdi Army, a force organized last year by Moqtada Sadr, a militant young Shiite cleric.
Petraeus is believed to favor a hard line against insurgents in the Sunni Triangle, north and west of Baghdad. He is said to favor a strategy of flooding especially hostile enclaves, such as Fallujah, with forces and slugging it out, accompanied by a policy of engagement that turns on heavy spending to boost local employment.
Petraeus is close to Army Gen. John Abizaid, chief of the U.S. Central Command, the U.S. military headquarters for the Middle East. Abizaid is said to have specifically asked the Army for Petraeus.
The Army said he will be succeeded as commander of the 101st Airborne, which is based in Fort Campbell, Ky., by Maj. Gen. Thomas R. Turner II, who currently commands the Army's Italy-based Southern European Task Force.
? 2004 The Washington Post Company
From the April 12 / April 19, 2004 issue: We cannot permit the outrages in Mogadishu and Falluja to have similar effects.
by William Kristol
04/12/2004, Volume 009, Issue 30
THE SIMILARITY struck everyone right away: Mogadishu, October 3, 1993--Falluja, March 31, 2004. But we cannot permit these two outrages to be similar in their effect. At this key moment, the Bush administration has to ensure that the reactions to Falluja and Mogadishu go down in the history books as studies in contrast, not in similarity.
Mogadishu triggered, in a few months, the withdrawal of American troops from Somalia, and victory for those who killed our soldiers. Slaughter in Rwanda followed in a few months--a slaughter the Economist this week (on the 10th anniversary) called "the purest genocide since 1945, and perhaps the single greatest act of evil since Pol Pot turned Cambodia into a killing field." The Economist further noted that the "West's reluctance to get involved was largely a consequence of America's shambolic intervention in Somalia the previous year." Or more precisely: a consequence of America's humiliating retreat from Somalia.
Mogadishu encouraged Osama bin Laden in his judgment that America was a "weak horse," a nation that could not take casualties. Mogadishu therefore deserves a place of dishonor at the head of a decade of failures to respond seriously to attacks against our soldiers, diplomats, and citizens. From Mogadishu to the Khobar Towers, the African embassies, and the USS Cole, American passivity helped Osama bin Laden make the case to prospective jihadists that their cause would prevail. Then came 9/11, and a decisive response.
And now Falluja. The New York Times last week warned, to its credit, against "a panicky, casualty-driven withdrawal" from Iraq. But then, to its discredit, it lapsed into worry that the "emotions" generated by "pictures of burned Americans hanging from a bridge" in Falluja might lead to "overwhelming reprisals." If only.
It would be unfair to dwell on the lame comment by one American commander on the day of the atrocity: "Should we have sent in a tank so we could have gotten, with all due respect, four dead bodies back? What good would that have done? A mob is a mob. We would have just provoked them. The smart play was to let this thing fade out." Really? Unprovoked by the sight of a tank, terrorists in the Falluja area continued in the following days their assaults against U.S. troops and Iraqis working with Americans. In any case, the alternative to inaction on March 31 did not have to be a single tank. We could have sent many tanks, along with air support, to disperse the mob, kill those who didn't disperse, intimidate onlookers, and recover the bodies of the dead Americans. And we could immediately have put a price on the head of the killers and those who desecrated the bodies.
Still, since that first day, the responses of the Bush administration and of American commanders have been commendable: assurances that we will not cut and run, and commitments to punish those involved, and to reenter and "pacify" Falluja. We expect a strong--even "overwhelming"--military response along those lines in the coming days.
It has been the great achievement of President Bush, since September 11, to break the bad habits of the 1990s. The president's critics now claim that any president would have done the same after the attacks on New York and Washington. This is by no means clear. The pattern of passivity ran deep. The temptations of accommodation and wishful thinking are still strong. Indeed, they are so strong that the administration arguably hasn't broken as sharply with the failed policies of the past decade as it should have. The size of the military has not been increased; there was a reluctance to send ground troops into Afghanistan in November-December 2001 and to commit enough ground troops to Iraq; there seems to be an unwillingness to hold Iran accountable for sheltering al Qaeda leaders; there is an aversion to pressuring Saudi Arabia.
Still, the Bush administration has shown real strength and impressive decisiveness in taking on terrorist groups and states. We trust that U.S. troops will soon move to uproot what seems to have become a kind of terrorist sanctuary in Falluja, and to ensure that those who seek to drive us from Iraq are thwarted and indeed routed. If the atrocities in Falluja lead to a deepening of the U.S. commitment to victory in Iraq, and to a sharpening of the Bush administration's sword in the war on terror, then we will have properly honored the sacrifice of those who died March 31 in Falluja--and a decade earlier in Mogadishu as well.
Brazil Shielding Uranium Facility
Nation Seeks to Keep Its Proprietary Data From U.N. Inspectors
By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, April 4, 2004; Page A01
The Brazilian government has refused to allow U.N. nuclear inspectors to examine a facility for enriching uranium under construction near Rio de Janeiro, according to Brazilian officials and diplomats in Vienna, home of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The IAEA and Brazil are at an impasse over the inspections, the diplomats said. Brazil maintains that the facility will produce low-enriched uranium for use in power plants, not the highly enriched material used in nuclear weapons. Nonetheless, Brazil refuses to let IAEA inspectors see equipment in the plant, citing a need to protect proprietary information.
The diplomatic standoff plays into fears that a new type of nuclear race is underway, marked not by the bold pursuit of atomic weapons but by the quiet and lawful development of sophisticated technology for nuclear energy production, which can be quickly converted into a weapons program.
Brazil's project also poses a conundrum for President Bush, who has called for tighter restrictions on enrichment of uranium, even for nuclear power, as part of a new strategy to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons.
Nonproliferation specialists also say that if the United States and the United Nations do not act to curtail Brazil's program, or at least insist on inspections, it could undermine White House calls for Iran and North Korea to halt their efforts to enrich uranium.
"If we don't want these kinds of facilities in Iran or North Korea, we shouldn't want them in Brazil," said former U.S. nuclear negotiator James E. Goodby. "You have to apply the same rules to adversaries as you do to friends. I do not see that happening in Brazil."
Brazil's shrouded technology at the plant in Resende belongs to a program considered legal under international treaties, but it remains subject to U.N. inspections, aimed at making sure it is not used for producing weapons-grade material for itself or customers.
The IAEA has dispatched inspectors to Resende in recent months, only to find significant portions of the facility and its contents shielded from view, diplomats said. Walls have been built and coverings are draped over the equipment, according to reports from specialists who have visited the plant, which is in the early stages of construction.
Brazilian officials maintain that the facility falls within rules allowing countries to develop the nuclear fuel cycle for peaceful uses. They say intrusive IAEA inspections are unnecessary because Brazil, which formally forswore nuclear weapons in the 1990s, is seeking a secure and inexpensive source of nuclear power, and has no lingering atomic weapons ambitions.
"We feel deeply bothered, almost offended, when suspicions are raised about Brazil," a senior Brazilian diplomat said.
The Brazilian official acknowledged that inspectors are not permitted to see all the equipment at the Resende plant, but he said the IAEA is free to conduct sensitive tests on the surroundings, as well as uranium fed into the centrifuges and exiting the other end.
The coverings are "necessary to protect our technological breakthroughs," said the diplomat, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He said the IAEA is "politically motivated to insist on visual access. We say that visual access is not indispensable.
"This is a natural process of negotiation," the official added, "which ought not to be the object of any fuss."
There has been no suggestion that the White House plans to prevent Brazil from perfecting its enrichment facility, although U.S. emissaries expect to push this month in Brasilia for better cooperation with the IAEA inspectors.
"We hope that Brazil will be part of the solution. We're not trying to describe them as part of the problem," said a senior State Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We understand they're going to establish an enrichment capability [for nuclear energy]. It will be safeguarded."
A series of Brazilian statements about nuclear matters raised worries in Washington and Vienna about Brazil's intentions, however. During his winning campaign, leftist Workers' Party presidential candidate Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva criticized the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty as unfair. "If someone asks me to disarm and keep a slingshot while he comes at me with a cannon, what good does that do?" da Silva asked in a speech. He later said Brazil has no intention to develop nuclear arms.
Suspicions rose anew after da Silva's science and technology minister, Roberto Amaral, said Brazil would not renounce its knowledge of nuclear fission, the principle behind the atomic bomb. Brazilian officials quickly said Amaral was out of line, and he later resigned.
The da Silva government announced it will expand its uranium enrichment capability not only for its own power plants but also to sell low-enriched uranium for use in energy production in other countries. The program is to begin this year. Only half a dozen countries now have such a capability.
Enrichment technology is not new to Brazil. The government, working with West Germany, developed a rudimentary ability to enrich uranium in the 1970s as part of an ambitious strategy to supplement hydroelectric power and natural gas. Two nuclear reactors, Angra-1 and Angra-2, now operate in the country's industrial belt.
Brazilian officials, who oversee one of the largest uranium deposits in the world, currently pay to ship the raw metal to Canada and on to Britain, where it is enriched for use in the power plants. If Brazil mastered the complete fuel cycle, it would save $10 million to $12 million per year, the government estimates, while laying the groundwork to sell to others.
"It is a very rich market that runs into the billions each year," the Brazilian diplomat said.
IAEA inspectors want to inspect for two reasons: to make sure Brazil is not making weapons-grade material; and as part of their investigation of global nuclear supply networks, including the one established by Pakistani scientist Adbul Qadeer Khan. Diplomats and nuclear experts said IAEA wants to learn more about the origin of the program in Brazil and its sources of supply.
"If you have an enrichment facility, you want to make sure that the material isn't being enriched to a level that would cause concern," a Vienna-based diplomat said. "There are just a lot of questions at this moment which are unresolved. There's an impasse."
The IAEA is expected to report in June on Brazil's performance. Agency officials working on the Brazil project declined to comment for this story.
A separate issue facing Bush is where to draw the line on Brazil and other countries seeking a uranium enrichment capability. Such projects are permitted under the Non-Proliferation Treaty when the purposes are peaceful, but Bush has proposed a change.
Under his plan, announced in a Feb. 11 speech, countries that do not already produce uranium would not be allowed to do so. Rather, they would be provided nuclear fuel at a reasonable cost -- and only if they also agreed to rigorous IAEA inspections.
For governments that already considered the treaty unfair, Bush's proposal seemed only to reaffirm the bias in favor of countries that already possessed atomic technology when the treaty was crafted in the 1960s. Three countries that later built nuclear weapons -- India, Pakistan and Israel -- did not sign.
"We don't like treaties that are discriminatory in their intent," said the Brazilian official, who described Bush's nuclear fuel proposal as "unacceptable to Brazil, precisely because we see ourselves as so strictly committed to nonproliferation, to disarmament, to the peaceful uses of nuclear energy."
Iran has made similar statements, as has North Korea, which U.S. intelligence experts believe has built one or two nuclear weapons. Iran and North Korea had secret enrichment programs, with Iran's hidden for 18 years. North Korea evicted U.N. inspectors and withdrew from the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
In Brazil, by contrast, one U.S. official said that "we don't have any reason to think there are problems." A diplomat in Vienna said, "It's not Iran, it's just not."
Yet permitting Brazil to proceed with the kind of enrichment program that Bush wants to limit, several analysts said, threatens to weaken efforts to make common rules. Lawrence Scheinman of the Center for Nonproliferation Studies said, "Brazil going forward could give cause to countries like Iran to do the same."
"It makes mincemeat of the president's speech," said Henry Sokolski, director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, a Washington think tank. He noted that Bush said countries must agree to rigorous IAEA inspection to get international help. "It sets a hell of a precedent if they go through with an enrichment facility."
? 2004 The Washington Post Company
Papers on 1964 Brazil Coup Declassified
Sat Apr 3, 4:44 AM ET
By TOM MURPHY, Associated Press Writer
SAO PAULO, Brazil - Newly declassified U.S. documents show the extent of American willingness to provide aid to Brazil's generals during the 1964 coup that ushered in 21 years of often bloody military rule.
* 40th Anniversary of Brazil Military Coup (Nat'l Security Archive)
The National Security Archive, a non-governmental Washington-based research group, posted the documents on its Web site this week to coincide with Wednesday's 40th anniversary of the coup.
Figuring prominently in the records is Lincoln Gordon, the U.S. ambassador to Brazil at the time and now a resident expert in Latin American affairs at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
"We were working at a frenzied pace in those days to get Washington ready for whatever might happen," Gordon, 90, said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. "It was the height of the Cold War and Brazil was a major country in Latin America."
The documents show members of Lyndon B. Johnson's administration actively preparing to aid the coup plotters.
In a March 27, 1964, cable to the State Department, Gordon requested a naval task force and deliveries of fuel and arms to the coup plotters "to help avert a major disaster here."
Gordon said in the cable that Brazil could fall under the spell of a communist-style regime led by President Joao Goulart, "which might make Brazil the China of the 1960s." Mainland China turned communist in 1949 under Mao Zedong.
The documents also reveal what some experts say was a major miscalculation by the CIA (news - web sites).
A CIA cable from Brazil, dated March 30, predicted a military coup "within the next few days." It added, "The revolution will not be resolved quickly and will be bloody."
In fact, the coup was put in motion the next day, March 31, and was over by April 4, when Goulart fled to exile in Uruguay. The entire episode was bloodless.
"The CIA was probably harking back to events in 1961, when the military was deeply divided over the issue of Goulart assuming power," said American political scientist David Fleischer, who teaches at the University of Brasilia. "But, just as there was no violence in 1961, there was none in 1964. It was a CIA miscalculation, not for the first time and not for the last."
A Brazilian historian, Gaudenico Torquato of the University of Sao Paulo, said, "They (the CIA) got it wrong. At that time, the U.S. was involved in the feverish competition against communism known as the Cold War. That colored their judgment."
In a March 31 reply to Gordon, Secretary of State Dean Rusk said the administration had decided to "immediately mobilize" a naval task force. He also promised fuel, ammunition and tear gas shipments to the Brazilian military.
"These new documents serve to reinforce what is now a well-known tale," said Fleischer. "The U.S. organized its support for the coup in an operation called Brother Sam. The task force ended up steaming toward the South Atlantic, but the aid was never needed. The coup ended quickly and without bloodshed."
Gordon said Rusk made it clear that the U.S. would only intervene under certain circumstances. "He wanted to make sure there was broad political support in Brazil for the military before advising any intervention."
The documents show President Johnson was keenly following events in Brazil. In one instance, Johnson instructs aides "to take every step that we can" to aid Brazilian military forces opposed to Goulart.
The audiotape presents a briefing between Johnson and national security aides. In it, Johnson says, "I'd get right on top of it and stick my neck out a little."
But Gordon said: "People like Rusk were cautious. I think they were influenced by the Bay of Pigs and didn't want a repeat of that experience."
In 1961, anti-Castro rebels, supported and armed by the U.S., were defeated by Castro when they attempted to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.
From 1964 to 1985, Brazil was ruled by a string of five colorless military presidents chosen by their fellow officers. The dictatorship ended in 1985 when a democracy movement swept the country.
On the Net:
National Security Archive: http://www.nsarchive.org
Probe eyes key concept of physics
By Beth Daley, Globe Staff, 4/3/2004
It took more than 44 years to build, was canceled seven times, and is considered by some scientists to be the most technically difficult mission NASA has ever undertaken.
Yesterday, the space agency announced that Gravity Probe B is finally ready for launch on April 17. Its goal is to help prove one of the most confounding concepts in physics: the strange twist in space-time predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity.
Despite the modest name, Gravity Probe B carries a payload of superlatives. It has taken longer to finish than any other project at NASA. It is armed with some of the most precise instruments ever built. And in a space agency known for its delays and cost overruns, the $700 million project remains singular in its ballooning schedule and budget, some observers say.
"Gravity Probe B has been 5 years away from launch for the 25 years I've been involved in space programs," said Keith Cowing, editor of Nasawatch.com, a group that monitors NASA.
Since the project was conceived by three scientists after a naked midday swim at Stanford University's pool, more than 1,000 people have worked on the satellite. Two of its founders are dead. More than 90 people have earned their doctorates working on the project. Gravity Probe B has been on the chopping block so many times that its bespectacled lead scientist has become a fixture on Capitol Hill for his successful lobbying to keep it funded.
Inside the satellite are four gyroscopes whose movement could confirm the theoretical underpinnings of modern physics -- or turn them on their head.
"The expectation is we are going to see [the movement]," said Robert Reasenberg, associate director of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, in Cambridge, which is helping calculate key astronomical measurements for the project. "If we don't see it, it is an astounding result. It will turn physics upside down."
In 1916, Einstein shocked the world of physics by introducing a new description of gravity, one that is caused by massive objects curving the fabric of space and time. Large objects like the earth can "warp" space-time, the way a basketball placed on a taut rubber sheet warps the sheet and causes other nearby objects to roll toward it. At the same time, if the basketball is turning, its motion will twist the sheet slightly -- a phenomenon known as "frame dragging."
Ever since it was proposed, scientists have wanted to test Einstein's general relativity theory using the earth itself. But the earth's "warping" effect on space and time is tiny -- more of a marble than a bowling ball -- and no precise measuring tools were available.
Now, the scientific supporters of Gravity Probe B say the extraordinary predictions made by general relativity can finally be tested. Thanks to dramatic, and expensive, advances by the project team, the probe will be able to measure once-undetectable changes in the gyroscope's spin related to a distant star.
The project has been hailed as a marvel for its work with cryogenics and engineering. The gyroscopes' four spherical rotors, each the size of a ping-pong ball, are considered the roundest manmade objects in the world. Scientists can also detect a change of angle equal to the width of a human hair as seen from 10 miles away. To ensure the experiment's success, scientists had to create almost unheard-of conditions inside the satellite, where the instruments will be kept chilled at minus 455 degrees Fahrenheit with liquid helium.
The probe can even boast its own spinoff technologies. Graduate students who worked on the project helped develop better GPS systems that are now used in aircraft landings. They also created a type of superglue that can stand up to the pressures of space.
Still, the project is not without its critics, who complain that its rising costs have sucked money from more worthy missions. Others say that the project has lost much of its value since it was first planned, because other experiments have been conducted that appear to prove Einstein's theory.
"When it was first conceived it would have taught us something new about gravity theory . . . but not now," said Kenneth Nordtvedt, a gravity specialist and retired physics professor at Montana State University.
The project's scientists, however, say the probe will provide the most accurate test yet -- and will be the first experiment to test the frame dragging effect.
They note that every time the project has been on the budgetary chopping block, it has been upheld by a review panel of researchers or by Congress.
"The thing that drives Gravity Probe B is the measurement accuracy," said Rex Geveden, program manager.
Now, as the launch date approaches at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base, invitations have been sent out to the scientists, engineers, and students that have in some way helped create it.
Few are as excited as Robert H. Cannon Jr., the lone surviving scientist who started the project and went on to be the Air Force's chief scientist and a US assistant secretary of transportation. When he first imagined the project with the physicists Leonard Schiff and William Fairbanks, the latter physicist said it might take 10 years to test. Cannon thought it would be more like 20 years.
That was 1959.
"It's been a long wait," Cannon said this week. "Bill Fairbanks was off by four and I was off by two. But I'll be there [at the launch]. My whole family will be there."
Beth Daley can be reached at email@example.com.
? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
Odd Sound Startles Space Station Crew Again
Saturday, April 3, 2004; Page A24
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- The two men aboard the international space station heard a strange metallic sound again Friday, four months after being startled by it the first time.
Cosmonaut Alexander Kaleri was talking to flight controllers in Moscow when he heard a loud, drumlike noise coming from the instrument panel of the station's Russian-built living quarters.
Kaleri and astronaut Michael Foale first heard the noise -- described as sounding like a flapping sheet of metal -- in late November. Neither the crewmen nor flight controllers were ever able to identify the source of the sound, although engineers suspected space junk may have damaged something on the exterior.
Kaleri said Friday morning's noise came from about the same place as before and sounded the same.
"I had the headset on, so I didn't hear it very clearly. But it sounded sort of like a drum. It sounds sort of like a sheet of something being bent," the cosmonaut reported.
Russian flight controllers told Kaleri that they would try to figure out where the noise was coming from, and speculated that perhaps one of the systems inside the station was the source of the problem, not something on the outside.
NASA officials, however, said all systems appeared to be operating properly.
"It's very strange," Russian Mission Control said. "I doubt that it would be a coincidence that you're hearing the same thing coming from the same place."
During a spacewalk in February, Kaleri and Foale were supposed to check the exterior of the space station where the noise originated last November. But Kaleri's spacesuit overheated and became damp, and the spacewalk had to be cut short, so the men did not have time to inspect the area.
Kaleri and Foale's six-month mission is almost over. A new crew is due to arrive in 21/2 weeks.
? 2004 The Washington Post Company
Putin Gives Chirac Tour of Space Center
By MARA D. BELLABY, Associated Press Writer
MOSCOW - French President Jacques Chirac became the first western leader to visit Russia's top secret Titov space control center, touring the site Saturday as part of Russian efforts to court the lucrative European satellite-launching business.
The center, which operates under tight security, is the control point for all of Russia's satellites, including its military satellites. After greeting Chirac, Russian President Vladimir Putin (news - web sites) handed over the floor to the center's chief, Lt. Gen. Nikolai Kolesnikov to outline its work and future plans.
Russia's cash-strapped space program has worked closely with the European Space Agency in recent years, launching ESA satellites and carrying ESA astronauts on research missions to the International Space Station (news - web sites). The Titov space control center is in Krasnoznamensk, about 25 miles southwest of Moscow.
In February, the ESA reached an agreement with Russia to launch Russian Soyuz rockets from France's Kourou launch pad in French Guyana. The launches are expected to begin in about three years.
France-based aircraft maker Airbus also signed a deal last year with Russia's Sokol, which will produce fuselage parts for Airbus A320 planes, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.
"These steps open good prospects for the development of industrial cooperation in the high-tech sectors of the economy," the Interfax news agency quoted an unidentified Kremlin official as saying.
Putin and Chirac were later expected to hold private talks about issues including Iraq (news - web sites). Moscow and Paris opposed the war, and both have called for the United Nations (news - web sites) to play a strong role.
Putin and Chirac are also expected to discuss European Union (news - web sites) expansion that will include eight countries that were either part of or allied with the Soviet Union.
The continuing violence in the Middle East and the international fight against terrorism are also likely to be on the agenda. The Kremlin said that Putin would also raise the issue of making it easier for Russians to receive visas to travel to France and other EU member states.
A French newspaper also reported that Chirac will invite Putin to attend this year's 60th anniversary commemorations of the D-Day invasion in France.
White House Opposes Bill on Fannie Mae
Fri Apr 2, 7:59 PM ET
By MARCY GORDON, AP Business Writer
WASHINGTON - The Bush administration came out Friday in opposition to Republican-written legislation that would tighten regulation of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac because it would let Congress overrule a decision by regulators to take over either of the mortgage giants in a financial failure.
Treasury Secretary John Snow and Alphonso Jackson, new head of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (news - web sites), said the bill approved Thursday by the Senate Banking Committee "would have been a substantial step forward" except for the provision giving Congress that override authority.
Snow and Jackson said in a statement the provision "would significantly weaken one of the core powers needed for a strong regulator (and) ... could reinforce a false impression that the American taxpayer provides an implicit guarantee" to the government-sponsored institutions.
The bill would tighten the reins on the two companies and create a new federal regulatory body to oversee them. It cleared the Banking Committee on a 12-9 vote, mostly along party lines as the panel's Republican majority prevailed. The slim margin means Democrats probably could use the Senate's procedural rules to block eventual passage.
The House has not acted on similar legislation.
The Senate bill would allow the new regulatory agency to put Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac into receivership should they become insolvent and to sell off their assets, favored by the White House. An amendment written by Sen. Robert Bennett, R-Utah, curbed the regulators' power, however, by giving Congress the right to review such a move and up to 45 days to override it.
The debate over receivership was kindled in February when Federal Reserve (news - web sites) Chairman Alan Greenspan (news - web sites) warned that Fannie Mae and smaller rival Freddie Mac could pose a threat to the U.S. financial system should their ability to assume new debt continued unrestrained.
Political pressure for restraints on the companies' operations already had been building after a $5 billion accounting scandal last year at Freddie Mac.
On the Net:
Fannie Mae: http://www.fanniemae.com
Freddie Mac: http://www.freddiemac.com
Pakistan Army Seeks Help Hunting al-Qaida
1 hour, 53 minutes ago
By AHSANULLAH WAZIR, Associated Press Writer
WANA, Pakistan - A Pakistan army helicopter dropped leaflets in a remote tribal region near the border with Afghanistan (news - web sites), urging tribesmen to help capture suspected al-Qaida fugitives, residents and officials said on Saturday.
The leaflets, in both Urdu and Pashto language, were dropped Friday in South Waziristan, the scene of a major military operation last month against al-Qaida holdouts and tribal sympathizers that left more than 120 people dead.
"Tribesmen are great friends of the Pakistan army," read the leaflet. "These foreigners are misusing your hospitality. They are not your friends ... they are terrorists. You should help your army to flush them out."
The fact the leaflets were dropped by air demonstrated the security forces' reluctance to travel in the area.
Many locals resent the presence of the army in this semiautonomous region, where dozens of homes of people suspected of harboring foreign terrorists were demolished and other properties were damaged in the two-week military operation -- Pakistan's largest since it became an ally in the U.S.-led war on terror in late 2001.
At least a dozen civilians were killed in the fighting, near the main South Waziristan town of Wana -- about 190 miles southwest of Pakistan's capital, Islamabad -- along with 63 foreign and local militants and at least 48 Pakistani troops and government officials.
Some 163 suspects were captured, but hundreds more militants escaped. An Uzbek militant leader, Tahir Yuldash, believed injured, was among those who escaped the military's net.
Uzbekistan has requested "detailed information" about Uzbeks captured during the operation, Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Masood Khan said Saturday, adding that Pakistan's government is considering the request and has yet to respond.
Pakistan has not specified the nationalities of the foreigners, saying they were under interrogation and in the process of being identified, but they are believed to include Uzbeks, Chechens and Arabs.
Uzbekistan -- like Pakistan a U.S. ally in its war on terror -- is reeling from bombings and attacks by suspected Islamic militants this week that killed at least 47 people.
A top Uzbek anti-terror official has told The Associated Press the militants were linked to the Wahhabi sect of Islam -- a term authorities here have also used to refer to the IMU, a group allied with al-Qaida that battled U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Government officials on Saturday were meeting with the tribal elders of the Yargul Khel and Zali Khel tribes, which have been accused of harboring foreign militants. Both tribes said they would not allow any foreigners to hide in their areas in the future, officials said.
However, Rahmatullah Wazir, a government official in Wana, threatened the "toughest action" against tribesmen if they did not expel foreign terrorists from their areas before a Thursday deadline.
"We have received assurances from tribal elders, but we will see how they act," he told The Associated Press. He gave no more details of what action the tribesmen would face.
After the end of the military operation on March 28, Pakistan withdrew its troops from a target area near Wana, but retained thousands of forces in South Waziristan, which a military spokesman said remain "combat ready."
U.S. looking at Aristide's possible role in drug trade
Deposed Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide is now the subject of a U.S. drug investigation, law enforcement sources say, and his record is also under scrutiny in Haiti.
BY LARRY LEBOWITZ
U.S. prosecutors in Miami are investigating whether former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide pocketed millions of dollars from drug traffickers who moved tons of cocaine through the poor nation, federal sources familiar with the inquiry said Friday.
''It's in the early stages,'' one law enforcement source told The Herald. ``It's a bit premature to say we've got anything yet. But you're not wrong if you say that's where we're going.''
Several officials in South Florida and Washington also said investigators have been briefed on reports that relatives of Aristide and his wife, Mildred, hold nearly $250 million in European banks. The officials added, however, that there is no indication yet whether the funds actually exist.
Haitian Justice Minister Bernard Gousse meanwhile said Friday he will establish a commission next week to investigate allegations against Aristide -- everything from misuse of government funds to human-rights abuses.
''It will look at what he was up to during his presidency, and the scope will be very broad,'' Gousse told The Herald.
Ira Kurzban, Aristide's Miami lawyer, attributed the probe to politics: ``After kidnapping President Aristide, the Bush administration is not content to simply end democracy in Haiti -- they need to politically assassinate Aristide.''
Spokesmen for the U.S. attorney's office and the Drug Enforcement Administration in Miami, and the Justice Department in Washington, declined to comment on the investigation, first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
Several of the South Florida sources said U.S. officials in Washington, who had refused to support a criminal case against Aristide when he was still president, changed their tune in recent weeks.
The political will shifted, they said, after Aristide started alleging that U.S. officials forced him to resign and go into exile. Washington has denied the accusations.
U.S. officials have long complained that Aristide was at least turning a blind eye to drug traffickers who used Haiti to transship Colombian cocaine to U.S. streets.
Ironically, his increased cooperation with DEA and U.S. Embassy personnel in the waning months of his tenure greatly accelerated the case now being built against him.
The Herald has learned that the Aristide government expelled to the United States four prominent drug trafficking suspects between June and October -- three of whom have pleaded guilty and are now cooperating with the DEA in the investigation against the former president.
Traffickers such as Beaudoin ''Jacques'' Ketant, under a 1997 indictment in Miami accusing him of moving 15 tons of cocaine through Haiti, had avoided deportation earlier because Haitian law enforcement and the judiciary were easily corrupted.
WENT TOO FAR
But last May, Ketant's thugs allegedly roughed up an administrator at the Union School in Port-au-Prince. Livid U.S. Embassy officials, whose children attended the school along with one of Ketant's children, demanded that Aristide give him up.
Believing he was being summoned to a meeting at the presidential palace, Ketant was taken by Haitian police on June 18 to waiting DEA agents who flew him to South Florida.
He has since told U.S. officials that he paid Aristide and the head of his palace security, Oriel Jean, up to $500,000 a month to let him land small planes loaded with cocaine on National Route 9, according to sources familiar with the case. Ketant also claims to have made massive payoffs to Aristide's political party and to one of his social-work foundations.
Over the three months after Ketant's expulsion to the United States, DEA operatives and embassy personnel in Haiti pushed Aristide to expel three other trafficking suspects: Eliobert Jasme, Carlos Ovalle and Eddy Aurelien.
Ovalle, a Colombian who lived in Haiti for more than a decade and acted as the transshipment coordinator, was expelled in September.
Aurelien, a former Miami resident and music promoter charged with distributing crack cocaine, turned up in Haiti shortly after he skipped bond in 1997. Aurelien was returned in handcuffs in August.
Ovalle and Aurelien immediately pleaded guilty and started giving extensive briefings to federal prosecutors and DEA and Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents. Jasme, who was brought to the United States in September, is not cooperating.
The investigation into Aristide's possible links to traffickers accelerated last month when Oriel Jean was detained in Canada on a U.S. drug-trafficking charge. Jean had been booted as chief of security in June, within days of Ketant's expulsion.
U.S. prosecutors and agents are leaning on Jean to cooperate, the law enforcement sources said. But Jean's Miami attorney, David Raben, said Friday his client intends to fight the charges vigorously.
The sources acknowledged that they may have trouble using several of the traffickers -- plus an unnamed Haitian policeman who informed on Jean -- as witnesses against Aristide because they may also have been working for the CIA.
''Some of these guys will have been working for the guys whose initials we shall not speak,'' one of the sources said. ``But it's so early in this, we will have to see.''
Herald staff writers Jacqueline Charles, Juan O. Tamayo and Nancy San Martin contributed to this report.
Afghanistan: Hekmatyar changes color again
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - With the Afghan resistance poised for a do-or-die spring offensive against occupying forces in the country, already torn by instability, details are emerging of a breakthrough agreement that could see the implementation of a truce, at least in the troubled east of the country.
Steady behind-the-scenes efforts on the part of Washington, Islamabad and Kabul to find a political solution to Afghanistan's woes appear to have finally borne some fruit. Asia Times Online has learned that Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of the Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) - the engine of the resistance in the east of the country - has provisionally agreed to call a ceasefire in resistance fighting in return for his party being allowed to contest September's general elections.
Such a move, though, is hinged on the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) setting a date for the withdrawal of the more than 13,000 US-led forces in the country.
Asia Times Online reported in February that Hekmatyar had been offered a truce by the US and a role in the future political mainstream, but the veteran fighter did not respond. (Afghanistan: Now it's all-out war Feb 24)
News of a possible breakthrough could not have come at a better time for Afghanistan. Donor nations on Thursday concluded a meeting in Berlin with pledges of US$8 billion for Afghanistan over the next three years.
According to quarters in Pakistan close to Hekmatyar, a delegation comprising the top HIA leadership, including Khalid Farooqui, Dr Qasim Hamat, Dr Jan Mohammed Hamkar and Engineer Tariq will visit Kabul at the invitation of Afghan President Hamid Karzai to start a new round of dialogue. On the government side, representatives of the ruling factions will include former president Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, Professor Abdul Rab Rasool Sayyaf and Qasim Fahim, the defense minister and first vice president.
The agenda of the talks will center on a ceasefire and the HIA's role in Afghan politics. The HIA has agreed to establish political offices in Kabul pending agreement on a ceasefire, which, the HIA stresses, is entirely subject to a deadline being set for the withdrawal of foreign forces.
Pakistan's initial plan to fill the vacuum left by the demise of the Taliban regime in late 2001 was to cultivate "moderate" Taliban, flushing out the hardline Taliban leadership, with the consent of local Afghan commanders. This third tier of Taliban leadership, such as Jalaluddin Haqqani, would be acceptable to the international community. However, these efforts were aborted at an early stage as few Taliban were prepared to betray 39-year-old Mullah Omar's leadership.
Subsequently, Pakistan initiated another move to persuade even lower-level Taliban leaders to establish their own parties, such as the Jamiat-i-Khudamul Koran (or Furqan) and the Jaishul Muslemeen. But this backfired as the Jamiat-i-Khudamul Koran - which was heavily funded by both the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) - ditched Islamabad and joined the Taliban's resistance movement against the US. Other parties, such as the Jaishul Muslemeen, could not elevate themselves beyond issuing statements to the local media.
Meanwhile, the ISI began to actively promote the HIA as a major force as a safeguard for Islamabad's interests in Afghanistan as it felt it was losing ground to the Northern Alliance, which India backed. The ISI, using the contacts it forged in the Afghan resistance to the Soviets in the 1980s, also helped reestablish local mujahideen commanders to counter the influence of the Northern Alliance. However, Pakistan's real motive was lost as many HIA commanders joined the resistance movement against the US.
However, both the ISI and the CIA retained their old connections with HIA leaders based in Peshawar in Pakistan. Additional pressure was exerted by the US when HIA spokesperson, political affairs leader in Islamabad and son-in-law of Hekmatyar, Dr Ghairat Bahair, was apprehended by the ISI and passed on to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Background and significance
Elections had been scheduled for Afghanistan in June, but these have been put back to September. The United Nations had imposed the condition that the voters' list should contain at least 10 million names, but to date hardly 15 percent of this enrollment target has been achieved. A vast belt of Pashtun regions in the east, including Kandahar, Kunhar, Nooristan, Nagarhar and Oruzgan, are inaccessible for the registration of voters due to the law and order situation.
The Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan was the largest fighting faction during the Afghan resistance against the Soviet invasion in the 1980s. At the same time, the HIA had vast political influence on Afghan campuses, in Islamic seminaries and in Afghan urban centers as it was also the most organized political force in the country.
But with the success of the Taliban, the HIA became the prime victim. Hekmatyar, who was prime minister in 1996 when the Taliban seized power, went into exile in Iran. Many HIA commanders surrendered to the Taliban, while those political leaders with Uzbek or Tajik origins either fled, joined the Northern Alliance or became politically neutral and chose to operate businesses in Pakistan and European countries such as Cyprus, France and England.
At present, interestingly, the Afghan bureaucracy in Kabul, Jalalabad, Khost and Kandahar is largely run by former HIA officials, even though their loyalties are viewed with some suspicion.
A part of Hekmatyar's strategy has been to restore communication with his former mujahideen friends from the war against the Soviets who are now a part of the US-sponsored Karzai administration. These include Ismail Khan from Herat, Uzbek warlord General Rashid Dostum and Sayyaf.
Hekmatyar has regrouped several thousand of his old fighters under a number of loyal commanders and he figures prominently in eastern Afghanistan in the fight against US forces in Afghanistan.
The million-dollar question, though, is whether Hekmatyar will retain his present clout if he betrays Mullah Omar and the Afghan resistance?
A possible answer to this can be drawn from the past.
The Jamiat-i-Islami of Rabbani and the late Ahmed Shah Masoud and Hekmatyar's HIA are ideologically the legacy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Afghanistan. However, they fell out over political differences that resulted in a bloody battle for the takeover of Kabul in the early 1990s. But the arch rivals immediately shook hands when the Taliban first emerged and began, without bloodshed, to take over major Afghan cities. Hekmatyar accepted the position of prime minister, and Rabbani became president in what turned out to be a doomed marriage of convenience to stave off the Taliban threat.
This political compromise for the first time caused serious differences within the HIA. Hekmatyar held a meeting with all his major commanders and party leaders in Peshawar, and tried to justify his alliance with Masoud. When he failed to convince his party, he tried to use his last card - his personal charisma gained as a fearsome mujahideen and leader of men. He placed his turban (a symbol of respect in Afghan tribal society) on the ground and asked those party leaders who did not want to support him to walk over his turban (in other words, over his honor). Most of the party members stood up and walked over the turban. It was at this point that Hekmatyar realized that he had lost ground against the newly emerging Taliban student militia, and he announced that he would not obstruct the way of the Taliban, and chose exile in Tehran.
Hekmatyar's withdrawal from the resistance at this stage would certainly be a setback in eastern areas such as Kunhar, and many of the plans of the Afghan resistance would face delays. But there is the possibility that - like before - most of his commanders would not follow him and would chose to melt with the Taliban instead.
Hekmatyar is not a man afraid to switch sides to satisfy his political ambitions, and ever since the Taliban took over Kabul he has been looking for a role in the country.
However, in the present global scenario, where the Afghan resistance has a global perspective as the International Islamic Front has special plans to use the resistance as a world-wide rallying call for anti-US activity, Hekmatyar will have to weigh his options with a lot of care as any hasty decision could leave him completely in the wilderness with no role to play on either side.
(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for information on our sales and syndication policies.)
France Lied to U.S. During Iraq Crisis
Posted April 2, 2004
By Kenneth R. Timmerman
Protesters in France demonstrate against the war in Iraq.
The following article is excerpted from Kenneth R. Timmerman's new book, The French Betrayal of America (Crown Forum, New York, $25). All rights reserved.
For Secretary of State Colin Powell, the U.S.-French divorce began on Jan. 20, 2003, when French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin blindsided him during a press conference outside the U.N.
After a special session of the Security Council devoted to the war on terror, held at de Villepin's personal request, Powell had driven over to the French U.N. ambassador's official Park Avenue residence, where de Villepin was to host him to an exclusive lunch.
Instead, de Villepin stayed behind at the U.N. and announced to the world that France would never support a U.S.-led military intervention against Saddam Hussein. As Powell saw the man he thought was his friend appear on the video monitors in the French ambassador's residence his jaws dropped, says his deputy and confidant, Richard Armitage. "He was very unamused," Armitage recalls. "When he's unamused, he gets pretty cold. He puts the eyes on you and there is no doubt when his jaws are jacked. It's not a pretty sight."
During the session, de Villepin "preened and postured," recalled a deputy to U.S. Ambassador John Negroponte. After a tepid homage to the victims of 9/11, de Villepin urged the United Nations to take over the global fight against terror by sending international bureaucrats to Third World nations that were harboring or sponsoring terrorist groups. He wanted the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to get involved, and proposed a new international arms-control treaty to track the commercial use and shipment of radioactive materials, surely a move that would prove as useful in preventing nuclear terrorism as the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty has been in preventing nations such as Israel, Pakistan, India and North Korea from going nuclear.
"Let us look at things with lucidity," the Frenchman said finally, his voice quivering with compassion. "Terrorism feeds on injustice. So an equitable model of development is therefore necessary to definitely eradicate terrorism."
After briefly summarizing these proposals, which no one took seriously, de Villepin told the news cameras that he now wanted to say "a few words" about Iraq. That caught Powell's ear.
Just the evening before, over a private dinner at the Waldorf Astoria, the two men had discussed possible wording the French government could accept in a new U.N. resolution (the 18th, in fact) that would authorize the use of force against Iraq. Powell would say later that he had thought they were close to an agreement. Diplomats at the U.N. were actually laying bets - at 100-to-1 odds - that the U.S. would get the votes for the resolution. None of them was prepared for what the Frenchman said next.
"If war is the only means of resolving the problem, then we have reached a dead end," de Villepin said. "A unilateral military intervention will be the victory of might makes right, an attack on the primacy of international law and morality." The U.N. should wait until the U.N. inspectors made their next report, scheduled for January 27, before deciding on any further action, he said. At that point, "Iraq must understand that it is time for it to cooperate actively."
To Powell and his advisers, it was clear that de Villepin was trying to run out the clock so Saddam could finish hiding his weapons and prepare for war.
Later, in the reconstruction of the day's events he and other top French officials gave to reporters, de Villepin denied he had tried to ambush Powell, or that he had disguised an intention to use the ministerial session of the U.N. Security Council on terrorism as a platform to attack the United States on Iraq. "There was no ambush," he said. "I did not mention the word 'Iraq' once in my speech. It was only at a press conference afterward that I discussed Iraq in reply to a very aggressive question."
I read that account to a U.S. official who knew de Villepin and had watched the tape of that press conference many times. "That's just a lie," he said.
Indeed, the written record of de Villepin's press conference, provided to me by the French foreign ministry, shows on the contrary that it was de Villepin who shifted directly to Iraq at the very beginning of his press conference, and made a lengthy condemnation of the United States well before the questions began. "We will not associate ourselves with military intervention that is not supported by the international community," he said finally. "Military intervention would be the worst solution." Even the Washington Post, which highlighted international opposition to the Bush administration's position on Iraq, called de Villepin's performance "theatrical."
When de Villepin finally showed up for the luncheon, it got worse. German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer berated Powell and President [George W.] Bush for having decided to move forward with military action, and claimed that Iraq "has complied fully with all relevant resolutions and cooperated very closely with the U.N. team on the ground," certainly an Alice-in-Wonderland version of the facts even as they were presented by the well-heeled U.N. chief inspector, Hans Blix.
Finally, Powell had heard enough. "He got an edge to his voice - something Powell prides himself at not doing - and said, 'You said the same thing before Panama and we went in and three days later, everyone forgot.'" The scales fell from Powell's eyes that day, an aide said. "He suddenly realized this was a game of hardball politics and that he had let himself be used and abused."
From that moment on, the relationship between the two men turned to ice. No more letters from de Villepin addressed, "Cher Colin." No more cozy lunches. Communications became stiff and formal, while the top leaders traded broadsides across the Atlantic.
Standing side by side with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder in Paris on Jan. 22, [French] President Jacques Chirac hurled another cannonball. "War is always an admission of defeat," he said, "the worst of solutions. Hence everything must be done to avoid it."
Some French officials suggested to me privately that Chirac had been "set up" by Schroeder, whose harsh criticism of the United States went way beyond the prepared speech he had given Chirac's advisers beforehand. Indeed, so thorough was the deception being played out by Chirac and de Villepin that many senior members of Chirac's own ruling party believed that Chirac still intended to join the U.S. and British-led war effort at the last minute, after squeezing from the U.S. a maximum of commercial concessions in postwar Iraq.
The next morning, writing in the New York Times, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice chastised the French and other critics who wanted to give Iraq more time to cooperate with U.N. weapons inspectors. "Has Saddam Hussein finally decided to voluntarily disarm?" she asked. "Unfortunately, the answer is a clear and resounding no. There is no mystery to voluntary disarmament. Countries that decide to disarm lead inspectors to weapons and production sites, answer questions before they are asked, state publicly and often the intention to disarm and urge their citizens to cooperate. The world knows from examples set by South Africa, Ukraine and Kazakhstan what it looks like when a government decides that it will cooperatively give up its weapons of mass destruction."
Iraq's behavior did not fit the bill. "By both its actions and its inactions," she concluded, "Iraq is proving not that it is a nation bent on disarmament, but that it is a nation with something to hide."
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz gave a more detailed presentation on the same theme to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "It is not the job of inspectors to disarm Iraq; it is Iraq's job to disarm itself," he said. "Think about it for a moment. When an auditor discovers discrepancies in the books, it is not the auditor's obligation to prove where the embezzler has stashed his money. It is up to the person or institution being audited to explain the discrepancy. It is quite unreasonable to expect a few hundred inspectors to search every potential hiding place in a country the size of France, even if nothing were being moved."
For 12 years Iraq had played a game of "rope-a-dope in the desert" with U.N. inspectors. That game was about to end because of renegade Saudi Osama bin Laden. "As terrible as the attacks of September 11 were, however, we now know that the terrorists are plotting still more and greater catastrophes," Wolfowitz said. "Iraq's weapons of mass terror and the terror networks to which the Iraqi regime are linked are not two separate themes - not two separate threats. They are part of the same threat."
French officials say they never bought into the U.S. argument of a "convergence" between Iraq, weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and terrorism. "The U.S. argument was highly speculative," a senior adviser to de Villepin told me in Paris. "If there was going to be convergence between terrorists and WMD, it would happen with renegade scientists from Biopreparat in Russia, who decide to go to work for al-Qaeda. It would happen in Pakistan, but not in Iraq. Saddam Hussein's regime was not known for spontaneous behavior. He had no objection to using terrorism, but he would never give weapons to groups that were not thoroughly under his control, who could act autonomously in ways that could pose a threat to his regime."
But of course, that was precisely what the U.S. contended when it cited Saddam's use of al-Qaeda offshoot Al Ansar al-Islam, which was operating with the support and protection of Saddam's intelligence arm, the dreaded mukhabarat. The U.S. presented evidence that Al Ansar was training with biological and chemical weapons, but the French remained unconvinced.
On Oct. 27, 2003, Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith sent a classified memo to the Senate Select Intelligence Committee detailing no fewer than 50 separate credible intelligence reports on contacts between top al-Qaeda members and Iraqi intelligence. It's simply inconceivable that the French, for all their close ties to Saddam, had seen none of it.
Powell and de Villepin continued to duke it out in Davos, Switzerland, during the World Economic Forum that weekend. De Villepin again warned that France would veto any U.S.-backed resolution at the U.N. to authorize the use of force, and said his European colleagues agreed with him that the U.N. inspections should be extended by "several weeks, or for several months."
Powell reminded the Frenchman of the bonds of blood tying America to France and the sacrifices Americans had made to free Europe from tyranny. "We've put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives," he said. "We've asked for nothing but enough land to bury them in." Now, things appeared to have changed. "One or two of our friends, we have been in marriage counseling with for 225 years nonstop," he said, indicating France. He didn't utter the word "divorce," but it was clear that the marriage counseling had reached an impasse.
The French never fully appreciated the dramatic changes in American thinking that followed 9/11, a top de Villepin adviser admitted. They found it inconceivable that the United States could feel threatened by the possibility of a nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein. But when I asked how French national security would have been threatened by acquiescing to U.S. war plans - what was so important to French vital interests to require them actively to oppose the U.S. - de Villepin's adviser sank into a stunned silence that lasted nearly a minute.
In the end, he uttered a mush about hurting the feelings of the Arabs. "Nations don't always act from self-interest, but also from conviction," he said finally. "We believed someone had to speak up to express the objections of a large majority of the international community who disagreed with the American policy and who had no spokesman. We were like the Roman tribune."
In fact, there was "very little debate" within the Foreign Ministry or elsewhere about opposing America during the crisis, another top official told me in Paris. "The policy was driven by de Villepin and by Chirac personally. Only five or six senior advisers dared to raise questions about how de Villepin was handling himself."
The naysayers were in a distinct minority at the Quai d'Orsay, and nonexistent at the presidential palace; indeed, they keep a low profile these days. "There was never any misunderstanding between us and the Americans," this official said. "Both sides knew each other's positions very well. It was a fundamental difference in viewpoints. We simply didn't share the U.S. perception of the threat and actively tried to block the U.S. from preventive military action it considered to be an act of legitimate self-defense."
A U.S. diplomat involved in the exchanges agreed - up to a point. "The French knew exactly what our thinking was. But until Jan. 20, we had thought they were totally with us."
There was good reason for the Bush administration's confidence, as I can reveal here for the first time. Until Jan. 20, I learned in interviews with a half-dozen administration officials directly involved in the negotiations, the French had gone out of their way privately to assure the president, the secretary of state and U.S. diplomats working the issue that they backed the U.S. in the showdown with Saddam, even if it included the use of force.
When the Iraqis stonewalled United Nations arms inspectors in late October 2002, Chirac picked up the phone and called President Bush in the Oval Office to reiterate French support for a strong United Nations resolution that would include the option of using force.
In early December, he sent a top French military official to CENTCOM [United States Central Command] headquarters in Tampa, Fla., to negotiate the specifics of the French participation in the war.
"Chirac personally told the president he would be with us," one senior U.S. administration official told me. "We didn't know until the ambush that France would not go to war with us. We thought they might complain, or abstain, or not vote - but not that they would actually veto." Added another, who was privy to the Oval Office conversation, "Chirac's assurances are what gave the president the confidence to keep sending Colin Powell back to the U.N. They also explain why the administration has been going after the French so aggressively ever since. They lied."
Back in Washington, Pentagon adviser Richard Perle said publicly some of the things Powell was too polite to utter even in private.
A former undersecretary of defense in the Reagan administration, Perle now headed the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board and was close friends with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and Powell's deputy, Richard Armitage. Far from being an automatic France-basher, Perle was a dedicated Francophile who owned a vacation home in France and for two decades had maintained close personal ties to many top figures in the French defense and security establishment.
The French government, he told Fox News Sunday, was acting not on principle as it claimed, but on behalf of its commercial interests. "It's ironic that people accuse the United States of being interested in oil," he said. "If you want to see who's interested in oil, look at French policy. It is entirely self-concerned, and it has to do with oil contracts and very little else."
At a conference on Iraq in Washington the day before Powell's Feb. 5 presentation to the U.N. on Iraqi WMD, he suggested that France by its behavior was demonstrating that it had parted company with the United States. "France is no longer the ally it once was. I think it is reasonable to ask whether this country should now or on any other occasion subordinate its most fundamental national-security interests to a show of hands that happens to include governments whose interests are different from our own. Deep in the soul of Jacques Chirac, he believes that Saddam Hussein is preferable to the alternative that is likely to emerge when Iraq is liberated."
Throughout the crisis, the French press painted a picture of the diplomatic tug of war that showed the United States as isolated and France as the voice of reason whose proposals to prolong the U.N. inspection regime "have been particularly well received." The arms inspectors had just reported that "the verification of Iraq's disarmament is now within reach," Le Figaro gushed, in a modern-day version of the infamous "peace in our time" comment by British prime minister Neville Chamberlain after he and his French counterpart had ceded Czechoslovakia to Hitler in Munich in 1938.
Foreign Minister de Villepin was an international celebrity, wrote Le Figaro, "whose speech [at the U.N.] received a standing ovation from the gallery reserved for the public and the press." Others were less flattering, and referred to de Villepin as the "Energizer bunny of diplomacy," or took to calling him "Zorro," and "Nero."
More significant, however, was de Villepin's adoration of two historical figures: Napoleon, whose slogan was "victory or death, but glory whatever happens," and Machiavelli, who perfected the art of the diplomatic lie.
"The problem with you Americans," de Villepin hectored a visiting United States senator in Paris last December, "is that you don't read Machiavelli." His meaning, the senator's aide told me, was crystal clear. De Villepin and Chirac had lied to the United States during the Iraq crisis, and if we didn't like it, we should get over it. That's how the "big boys" played politics.
Kenneth R. Timmerman is a senior writer for Insight magazine.
Energy Independence Is a Pipeline Dream in Ukraine
Post April 2, 2004
By Ilan Berman
In Eastern Europe a new chapter has opened in the quiet battle over a pivotal pipeline. That route is Odessa-Brody, and its fate will help shape the political and economic future of much of the "post-Soviet space."
When initiated by Ukraine back in 1993, Odessa-Brody was envisioned as a much-needed independent energy conduit for the Caspian region, one capable of linking Central Asian producers with European markets. The resulting 674-kilometer pipeline, stretching northwest from the Black Sea port of Odessa to Brody in western Ukraine, has the capacity to carry up to 14.5 million tons of oil a year. But since its completion in 2001 it has remained mostly idle, a casualty of the region's post-Cold War energy politics.
All that has begun to change, however. In mid-January, Warsaw and Kiev came to terms on a pivotal deal to extend Odessa-Brody into Poland. Under the agreement a new Polish-Ukrainian conglomerate will extend the pipeline 500 kilometers to the Polish port city of Gdansk during the next two to three years. Once operational, the route would be used to supply tankers bound for Western and Northern Europe with Caspian crude.
The deal represents a substantial blow to Russian plans. For years Moscow has intensively lobbied Kiev for a "reversal" of the pipeline. Under the scheme proposed by the Kremlin, the currently dormant Odessa-Brody route - intended for westward flows - would instead be used to ferry Russian oil south to the Black Sea, from where it would be shipped via tanker to world markets.
The reason for this intention is clear. Kremlin officials understand full well that Odessa-Brody has the potential to deal a fatal blow to Russia's current near monopoly on Caspian energy. Extended to Gdansk, the pipeline would be an important alternative to the Bosphorus Straits (already suffering from chronic tanker congestion) for bringing Central Asian oil westward. Worse still, from Russia's perspective, the resulting European and U.S. economic attention would all but cement Kiev's westward trajectory.
Poland is also an important factor in the Kremlin's thinking. Over the last year ties between Warsaw and Washington have seen an unprecedented political and military expansion, a result of plans now under way at the Pentagon to redeploy U.S. troops currently stationed in Europe to new bases farther east. Now the Odessa-Brody extension deal has positioned Poland to be a major energy hub for new, non-OPEC and non-Russian crude from Central Asia, as well.
Russian officials similarly understand that an Odessa-Brody reversal would eliminate many of these worries. Such a move would do more than simply tighten Moscow's grip over Ukraine's energy infrastructure, which would be dedicated in large part to the transportation of Urals crude to the Black Sea. It would also profoundly affect Kiev's political future, dampening Western investment and making the Ukrainian government increasingly dependent on Moscow's tender mercies. Not least, it would effectively isolate Poland from the emerging Caspian energy scene.
The Kremlin has, therefore, refused a more logical, eastern route for Russian crude through russified eastern Ukraine. That pipeline, dubbed "Kremenchuk-Sniherivka," boasts nearly double the capacity of Odessa-Brody. And at $3 less per ton than its western counterpart, shipment of oil through Kremenchuk-Sniherivka makes sound fiscal sense for Moscow. But since the Odessa-Brody issue has less to do with output than with controlling Ukraine's economic and political independence, Russia has continued to press for reversal.
Now the signing of the Odessa-Gdansk extension agreement has breathed new life into Ukraine's dreams of energy independence. Working with international investors and its neighbor to the northwest, Kiev has the opportunity to reverse its accelerating slide of the last several years into the Kremlin's orbit - the result of costly energy, political and economic concessions made to Russia.
Furthermore, Ukrainian officials appear to be seizing this opportunity. In consultations with Washington, they have made clear their intention to press forward with Odessa-Brody's European direction. And the Ukrainian Cabinet officially has given its blessing to such a plan, formally voting in early February to reject reversal.
Odessa-Brody, however, still can be derailed by power politics. With Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma again under fire politically - this time as a result of a series of controversial constitutional amendments aimed at manipulating the electoral process - the current administration in Kiev may find it tempting to turn once again to the Kremlin to broker its continued legitimacy. And with the Gdansk extension as yet unbuilt, Moscow still has reason to hope that Kiev could be coaxed into adopting reversal, ostensibly as an interim measure.
Nevertheless, Ukraine has taken a major step toward cementing its Westward orientation. The United States and its allies in Europe should do everything in their power to ensure that it stays the course.
Ilan Berman is vice president for policy at the American Foreign Policy Council in Washington. Contact Berman at email@example.com.
U.S. Slaps Sanctions Over Alleged Iran Nuke Supplies
Prague, 3 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The United States has imposed sanctions on 13 foreign companies because they are suspected of selling equipment to Iran that could be used to build nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons.
The companies will be banned from exporting goods to U.S. government agencies and U.S. firms will be barred from doing business with them for two years.
U.S. State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said the companies affected are from seven countries.
"Pursuant to the Iran Nonproliferation Act of 2000, the United States imposed penalties on 13 companies that engaged in providing prohibited items to Iran. Those companies include five Chinese, two Macedonian, two Russian and one of -- one from Belarus, one from North Korea, one from Taiwan, and one from the United Arab Emirates," he said.
Ereli did not name the companies concerned, except for the one in North Korea, a state-run company named Changgwang Sinyong Corp.
Ereli said the penalties apply only to the companies, but not to their respective governments.
"The penalties were imposed pursuant to the Act because there was credible information indicating that these companies had transferred to Iran, since January 1st, 1999, either equipment and technology on the export -- multilateral export control lists or items such as those on the list but falling below control list parameters or other items with the potential of making a material contribution to proscribed programs," he said.
Ereli said that 23 entities have been subject to sanctions since the law took effect.
Earlier this week sanctions were lifted on six Russian companies after U.S. authorities determined that the companies had stopped the activity for which they were originally sanctioned.
Ereli said U.S. officials regularly discussed the issue of exports to Iran with the governments of China and Russia, and are in the process of informing officials in the remaining countries.
"There is always, I think, more that we can all do, in terms of enforcement of regulations and making the regulatory environment more strict and implementing export control, existing export-control mechanisms. But it is, to put it simply, an important subject of ongoing discussion with the host countries, and it's something that we really engage on very, very consistently," Ereli said.
Undersecretary of State John Bolton last month accused Iran of concealing a nuclear weapons program and vowed to
maintain international pressure on Tehran to reveal its efforts.