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Saturday, 3 April 2004

Inquiry at Bank Looks at Accounts of Diplomats
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.
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

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

After Falluja
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.

--William Kristol

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.
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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, 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

? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

Odd Sound Startles Space Station Crew Again

Associated Press
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.
AP Photo
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.
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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.
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.
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 role
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 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
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.


Posted by maximpost at 11:47 PM EST
Friday, 2 April 2004


April 2, 2004 -- Is the clock ticking on Secretary General Kofi Annan's merry pranks at the United Nations?
Could be.
The rank corruption of the body's Iraqi Oil-for-Food program is bubbling slowly to the surface - promising to ensnare scores of European politicians and businessmen, as well as a gaggle of Annan's Turtle Bay colleagues.
An upcoming audit being prepared by a firm that successfully traced stolen Holocaust-era assets is expected to confirm the names of some 200 people and companies around the world who allegedly were bribed by Saddam's regime.
The list, found in Iraq's Oil Ministry, was first cited by an Iraqi newspaper, al Mada, at the end of January.
Meanwhile, the General Accounting Office estimates that Saddam Hussein skimmed as much as $10.1 billion from the $47 billion program - originally established in 1996 to buy humanitarian supplies for ordinary Iraqis.
Among those expected to be named are the head of the U.N. program, the Russian Communist Party, the PLO and "a French businessman close to President Jacques Chirac."
This, of course, may help explain Chirac's implacable opposition to the dispossession of Saddam a year ago.
And Kofi Annan's longtime pro-Saddam bent, as well.
As Andrew Apostolou notes on the preceeding page, Annan's immortal words - "I think I can do business" with Saddam - take on an entirely new meaning.
This much is clear: Saddam was able to turn the program into a mystery- shrouded tool for sanctions-busting, bribery and international influence-peddling.
The fog began to clear in February after the name of Benon Sevan - the U.N.-appointed executive director of the Oil-for-Food program - appeared on the al Mada list.
According to al Mada, individuals, corporations and political parties on the list received cash-convertible oil vouchers from Saddam.
Sevan apparently was given vouchers for at least 11 million barrels of oil, worth some $3.5 billion. No wonder the program he ran:
* Knowingly collaborated with Saddam's massive violations of the U.N.'s own sanctions.
* Said and did nothing about the Saddam regime's use of Oil-for-Food income to build presidential palaces.
* Ignored huge kickbacks, thereby making itself complicit in Saddam's bribery of foreign leaders, opinion-makers and companies.
* Permitted the regime to cheat Kurds in northern Iraq of billions - money, by the way, that is still unaccounted for.
This much, too, is clear: The vast profits for foreign companies made possible by abuses of the Oil-for-Food program helped buy foreign support for the Baghdad regime.
Saddam made a point of throwing Oil-for-Food business and oil-voucher bribes at contractors from key countries, especially those with vetoes on the Security Council, like France and Russia:
* Forty-six recipients of illegal allocations of oil were Russian companies or individuals - many with links to President Vladimir Putin.
* French interests were so deeply involved in corrupt Oil-for-Food dealings that France opposed the ending of sanctions even after Saddam had fallen.
And the scheme seems to have worked: France, Russia and Germany were all hostile to military action to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Is it any wonder that Russia and France now oppose independent inquiries into the scam, although Secretary General Kofi Annan - under extreme pressure - has nominally agreed to the idea?
The Iraqi Governing Council has been probing the scam since al Mada first revealed it. The audit, prepared for the council by KPMG and the law firm Freshfield Bruckhaus Deringer, is due in May.
Complicating the effort, however, is the refusal of the BNP Paribas Bank of France to make available critical Oil-for-Food program records.
And U.N. officials in New York have declined to send necessary statements for months.
Yes, the U.N. says an "internal inquiry" is under way.
But, given that Kofi Annan's son Kojo is linked to the scandal, it's not hard to imagine how hard that effort will be pressed.
And though the elder Annan has admitted to the need for an outside inquiry, there's no reason to believe that he - or anyone else at the U.N. - will be even slightly helpful when it counts.
Remember, folks as high-ranking as the president of Indonesia, former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua and pro-Saddam British politician George Galloway are implicated.
These are, after all, people with substantial influence at Turtle Bay.
And there are others - many others - who are similarly situated.
Plus, it has now become undeniable that the folks Kofi Annan had running the program were fully aware of the graft they were enabling.
Indeed, for Kofi Annan to say - as he did last week - that he was agreeing to an investigation "because I don't think we need to have our reputation impugned" is simply laughable.
His own son is part of it.
Here's the bottom line:
A U.N. program that was supposed to help the Iraqi people instead stole from them - and, worse, collaborated with their oppressor.
Those responsible for this colossal theft are international criminals - and the same goes for those who covered for them at the U.N. Secretariat.
The United Nations itself stands bereft of moral authority when it comes to Iraq, and to America's heroic effort to reclaim that tortured nation for its people.
Kofi Annan needs to disappear, and to take his son with him.
Neither Jacques Chirac nor Vladimir Putin possess a shred of decency, so nothing can be expected from them.
But none of them - not Annan, not Chirac, not Putin - has any standing in the debate over Iraq's future.
The same goes for the entire United Nations, as well.



April 2, 2004 -- ALMOST a year after the fall of Baghdad, everybody knows that Saddam Hussein stole billions from the Iraqi people. What is now emerging is that the United Nations was his partner in crime - aiding and abetting him during the eight-year Oil-for-Food program.
Initially an attempt to alleviate the hardship of U.N. sanctions on Iraqis, Oil-for-Food raises troubling questions not only about the United Nations' competence, but its role in propping up Saddam's tyrannical regime.
The program was theoretically designed to take Iraq's oil revenues out of Saddam's hands and use them for the benefit of the Iraqi people. The United Nations was to supervise the sale of Iraqi oil and then ensure that the oil money went for food and medicine, not tanks and mustard gas.
But Saddam - with U.N. compliance, if not connivance - subverted all of those aims. His grip on Iraq was tightened, not loosened, while his monstrous sons rolled in U.N.-provided riches.
Uday, the older son, even got U.N. funds for his Iraqi National Olympic Committee. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan agreed on June 13, 2002 to hand over $20 million to build an Iraqi Olympic arena, part of Uday's absurd bid for the 2012 Olympics. A renowned rapist, Uday used to torture Iraqi athletes if they failed to win international competitions.
His father? Saddam built new palaces throughout the eight years of the program. Gen. Tommy Franks got it right when he reached Baghdad in April 2003: The Iraqi dictator's rule was an "Oil for Palace" program.
Although the United Nations supposedly kept an eye on the price at which Saddam sold Iraqi oil, in reality the Iraqi strongman set the prices and forced his customers to pay him kickbacks. The Iraqi regime then used this money to bribe and buy influence abroad.
One recipient of that largesse was Shakir al-Khafaji, a Detroit businessman who stumped up $400,000 for former U.N. arms inspector Scott Ritter to make "In Shifting Sands," an anti-sanctions film. Meanwhile, back in Iraq, Saddam's secret police punished hundreds of thousands of Shi'a Iraqis by taking away their U.N. ration cards, forcing them into the very poverty from which the U.N. program was supposed to protect them.
Another group of Iraqis that never received their fair share of oil revenues, thanks to U.N. collaboration, was the Kurds. The oil revenues were supposed to be divided up in such a way as to protect Iraq's Kurds, whose regions Saddam had devastated with a genocidal campaign of village destruction and executions in the late '80s. Oil-for-Food theoretically guaranteed the Kurds their fair share of Iraq's national wealth - 13 percent of all Iraqi oil revenues - for the first time in their history.
Difficulties arose almost from the first day because of the way that Annan organized the program. Rejecting advice from experienced U.N. staff, he decided against having one U.N. agency oversee the whole scheme. Instead, Annan created an Oil-for-Food program office in New York to oversee the work of nine U.N. agencies which in turn dealt with the Iraqis, introducing a pointless and costly layer of bureaucracy.
Many of these U.N. agencies used their Middle East offices to implement Oil-for-Food. Staffed mostly with Sunni Arabs, they proved sympathetic to Saddam's Arab nationalism and uninterested in the welfare of Iraqis - especially Iraqi Kurds.
The Iraqi government was quick to exploit this bias for its own political ends. The Cairo office of the U.N.'s World Health Organization managed to stall the building of a new general hospital for the Kurdish city of Sulaimani, even though the funds were available in 1998.
Over the life of Oil-for-Food, the Kurds barely got half of the $8.4 billion allocated to them - they are still owed some $4 billion. Who owes it to them? Well, the United Nations was supposed to pay them, out of accounts entrusted to it. But the status of any funds remaining in those accounts is in dispute - and the U.N. is balking at efforts to clarify things. It won't even let anyone else examine its books.
Saddam didn't just use Oil-for-Food to give preferential treatment to Iraqis: He rewarded foreign friends, too. He favored Russian and French contractors, even insisting that all Iraqi oil earnings be paid into just one bank, BNP Paribas in Paris.
One of the largest shareholders in the bank as of 2000 was Nadhmi Auchi, an Iraqi Sunni who was involved in Saddam's 1959 assassination attempt on Iraq's then head of state, Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Qassem.
Auchi was the sort of business partner that Saddam liked. Auchi was convicted in a French court in November 2003 of accepting illegal payments in a major corruption scandal at a French state-owned oil company. (He got a 15-month suspended prison sentence and a $2.4 million fine.)
After Saddam and his cronies, the main beneficiary of Oil-for-Food was the U.N. payroll. To make the program self-financing, the United Nations took its cut off the top - 2.2 percent of Iraqi oil sales for its administrative costs, plus 0.8 percent to pay for weapons inspections (in four of Oil-for-Food's eight years), allowing the United Nations to walk away with $1.9 billion of Iraqi oil money. U.N. staff employed by the Oil-for-Food program ballooned to 3,000, the largest single U.N. program in the world.
No wonder that when Kofi Annan met Saddam Hussein in February 1998, he said that the Iraqi dictator was a man that "I can do business with."
Andrew Apostolou is director of research at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies. He has just returned from Iraq.


Chicago, L.A. towers were next targets
By Paul Martin
LONDON -- Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, al Qaeda's purported operations chief, has told U.S. interrogators that the group had been planning attacks on the Library Tower in Los Angeles and the Sears Tower in Chicago on the heels of the September 11, 2001, terror strikes.
Those plans were aborted mainly because of the decisive U.S. response to the New York and Washington attacks, which disrupted the terrorist organization's plans so thoroughly that it could not proceed, according to transcripts of his conversations with interrogators.
Mohammed told interrogators that he and Ramzi Yousuf, his nephew who was behind an earlier attack on the World Trade Center in 1993, had leafed through almanacs of American skyscrapers when planning the first operation.
"We were looking for symbols of economic might," he told his captors.
He specifically mentioned as potential targets the Library Tower in Los Angeles, which was "blown up" in the film "Independence Day," and the Sears Tower in Chicago.
A British newspaper over the weekend published a detailed account that it said was taken from transcripts of the interrogation of Mohammed, who was captured last year in Pakistan.
The transcripts are prefaced with a warning that Mohammed, the most senior al Qaeda member yet to be caught, "has been known to withhold information or deliberately mislead."
According to the transcript, Mohammed has maintained that Zacarias Moussaoui, the French-Moroccan facing trial in the United States as the "20th hijacker," had been sent to a flight school in Minnesota to train for a West Coast attack.
That would buttress Moussaoui's contention that he is improperly charged with participation in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, because he was preparing for a different al Qaeda operation.
The new transcripts confirm an earlier report by the Associated Press that al Qaeda originally had planned to crash hijacked airliners into targets on both coasts.
The London Sunday Times said the transcripts covered interrogations conducted during a period of four months after a bleary-eyed Mohammed was captured in a pre-dawn raid a little more than a year ago.
The confessions reveal that planning for the September 11 attacks started much earlier and was more elaborate than previously thought.
"The original plan was for a two-pronged attack with five targets on the East Coast of America and five on the West Coast," he told interrogators, according to the transcript.
"We talked about hitting California as it was America's richest state, and [al Qaeda leader Osama] bin Laden had talked about economic targets."
He is reported to have said that bin Laden, who like Mohammed had studied engineering, vetoed simultaneous coast-to-coast attacks, arguing that "it would be too difficult to synchronize."
Mohammed then decided to conduct two waves of attacks, hitting the East Coast first and following up with a second series of attacks.
"Osama had said the second wave should focus on the West Coast," he reportedly said.
But the terrorists seem to have been surprised by the strength of the American reaction to the September 11 attacks.
"Afterwards, we never got time to catch our breath, we were immediately on the run," Mohammed is quoted as saying.
Al Qaeda's communications network was severely disrupted, he said. Operatives could no longer use satellite phones and had to rely on couriers, although they continued to use Internet chat rooms.
"Before September 11, we could dispatch operatives with the expectation of follow-up contact, but after October 7 [when U.S. bombing started in Afghanistan], that changed 180 degrees. There was no longer a war room ... and operatives had more autonomy."
Mohammed told interrogators that he remained in Pakistan for 10 days after September 11, 2001, then went to Afghanistan to find bin Laden.
When he was captured in March last year in the home of a microbiologist in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, the 37-year-old was unshaven and wearing a baggy vest.
The interrogation reports also indicate that Mohammed had introduced bin Laden to Hambali, the Indonesian militant accused in the terror attack that killed more than 200 people in Bali, Indonesia, in October 2002.
Mohammed was running a hostel filtering al Qaeda recruits in Peshawar, Pakistan, when he scouted Hambali, whose real name is Riduan Ismuddin and who ran the Islamist group Jemaah Islamiyah in Asia.
Later, Mohammed moved to Karachi, Pakistan. There, posing as a businessman importing holy water from Mecca, Saudi Arabia, he acted as a fund-raiser and intermediary between militants and sponsors in the Gulf.
His first planned anti-American attack was Operation Bojinka (Serbo-Croatian for "big bang") -- a plot to blow up 12 U.S. airliners over the Pacific.
Yousuf and Hambali were involved in the scheme, which failed when the conspirators' Manila bomb factory caught fire. The men fled to Pakistan, where Yousuf was arrested.


Chalabi's road to victory?
By Arnaud de Borchgrave
With only three months to go before L. Paul Bremer trades in his Iraqi proconsul baton for beach ware and a hard-earned vacation, the country's most controversial politician is already well positioned to become prime minister.
Ahmad Chalabi, the Pentagon's heartthrob and the State Department's and CIA's heartbreak, has taken the lead in a yearlong political marathon. Temporary constitutional arrangements are structured to give the prime minister more power than the president. The role of the president will be limited because his decisions will have to be ratified by two deputy presidents, or vice presidents. Key ministries, such as Defense and Interior, will take orders from the PM.
Mr. Chalabi holds the ultimate weapons -- several dozen tons of documents and individual files seized by his Iraqi National Congress (INC) from Saddam Hussein's secret security apparatus. Coupled with his position as head of the de-Ba'athification commission, Mr. Chalabi, barely a year since he returned to his homeland after 45 years of exile, has emerged as the power behind a vacant throne.
He also appears to have impressive amounts of cash at his disposal and a say in which companies get the nod for some of the $18.4 billion earmarked for reconstruction.
One company executive who asked that both his and the company's name be withheld said, "The commission was steep even by Middle Eastern standards."
Mr. Chalabi is still on the Defense Intelligence Agency's budget for a secret $340,000 monthly stipend. The $40 million the INC received since 1994 from the U.S. also covered the expenses of Iraqi military defectors' stories about weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi regime's links with al Qaeda -- which provided President Bush a casus belli for the war on Iraq.
When Mr. Chalabi established the Petra Bank in Amman, Jordan, in the 1980s, he favored small loans to military officers, noncommissioned officers, royal guards and intelligence officers. He developed a close rapport with then Crown Price Hassan who borrowed a total of $20 million.
After Petra went belly up with a loss of $300 million at the decade's end, Mr. Chalabi escaped to Syria in a car supplied by Hassan -- minutes ahead of the officers who had come to arrest him for embezzling his own bank. The Petra fiasco debacle left him sufficient funds to launch INC a few days later.
Today, the mathematician, trained at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says he has the documents that will prove he was framed by two Husseins -- Saddam and the late king of Jordan -- who wanted to end his anti-Iraqi activities. Jordan used to get most of its oil needs from Iraq free or heavily discounted, which explains why King Hussein declined to join the anti-Iraq coalition in the first Gulf war.
Sentenced in Jordan, in absentia, to 22 years hard labor for massive bank fraud, Mr. Chalabi hints he also has incriminating evidence of a close "subsidiary" relationship between Jordan's King Abdullah and Saddam's depraved, sadistic elder son Uday, killed last year in a shootout with U.S. troops.
Potentially embarrassing for prominent U.S. citizens, Mr. Chalabi's aides hint his treasure trove of Mukhabarat documents includes names of American "agents of influence" on Saddam's payroll, as well as a number of Qatar-based Al Jazeera TV news reporters who worked for Iraqi intelligence.
The final selection for prime minister will need the assent of the president and his two deputies -- representing the country's three principal ethnic and religious groupings. Standard bearer for Iraq's 60 percent Shi'ite majority and free Iraq's first president will be Abdulaziz Hakim. He is the brother of Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, killed last year with 90 worshippers when a car bomb rocked the country's holiest Shiite shrine in Najaf. With an Islamic green light from Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Ayatollah Hakim will almost certainly opt for fellow Shi'ite Mr. Chalabi as prime minister.
Slated for one of the two vice presidencies is Adnan Pachachi, a Sunni octogenarian with a secular liberal outlook. He was foreign minister and ambassador to the U.N. before the Ba'athists seized power in a 1968 military coup. Mr. Pachachi's nod may also go to Mr. Chalabi.
For the third leg of the troika, rival Kurdish parties have agreed to unite behind Jalal Talibani, chief of the Kurdistani National Federation, His vote, now believed favorable, would make it 3 out of 3 for Mr. Chalabi.
Referring to Mr. Chalabi, a former U.S. ambassador recently back from an extended trip to Iraq, said: "Anyone who can get the U.S. to invade Iraq must be a very clever politician. As for the people his INC coached in London to disinform the U.S. intelligence community about Saddam's nonexistent weapons of mass destruction, you've got to hand it to the guy. Don't blame him. Blame the Pentagon for not seeing through him."
If Mr. Chalabi's fast track to power is not derailed and he becomes prime minister in July, the president won't be able to fire him unless his two deputies agree.
The provisional constitution seems tailor-made for Mr. Chalabi to call the shots into 2005. As head of the Governing Council's economic and finance committee, Mr. Chalabi already has maneuvered loyalists into key Cabinet positions in the provisional authority -- finance, oil and trade. The Central Bank governor, the head of the trade bank and the managing director of the largest commercial bank also owe their positions to Mr. Chalabi's influence.
While in London exile, he cultivated close contacts with Israeli officials. He has also visited Iran a number of times to confer with leading ayatollahs in a bid for their support. He was given permission to open an INC office in Tehran. His strongest backers in the U.S. are Vice President Dick Cheney, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, and neo-conservative theoretician ("An End to Evil") Richard Perle.
All the bases are loaded for a home run by MVP Chalabi. If successful, it will be an additional campaign issue President Bush could have done without.
Good riddance to sick sadist Saddam. But was Mr. Chalabi a worthy democratic trade? And how will voters react when they become convinced the U.S. taxpayers funded Mr. Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress to train defectors on how best to convince the Bush administration that Iraq was a clear and present danger? Two hundred billion dollars later, the mind reels.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.

Untested Islamic Militants Emerging, U.S. Official Says
By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 2, 2004; Page A20
A new cadre of untested Islamic militants is emerging to take the place of leaders in Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, which is now under "catastrophic stress" as a result of international operations over the past 30 months, the senior State Department counterterrorism official told a House International Relations subcommittee yesterday.
At least 70 percent of al Qaeda's senior leadership has been detained or killed since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks triggered a worldwide offensive against the network, and the remaining 30 percent is largely on the run, State Department counterterrorism coordinator J. Cofer Black testified. The movement has been "deeply wounded" by the elimination or arrest of more than 3,400 lower-level members and allies, forcing it "to evolve in ways not entirely by its own choosing," he said.
As a result, several newer and smaller groups, made up predominantly of Sunni Muslims, are moving in to take the lead in the jihadist holy war agenda against the United States and its allies, which has complicated the task of stamping out the threat from Islamic militants, said Black, a former CIA counterterrorism official.
"As al Qaeda's known senior leadership, planners, facilitators and operators are brought to justice, a new cadre of leaders is being forced to step up. These individuals are increasingly no longer drawn from the old guard, no longer the seasoned veteran al Qaeda trainers from Afghanistan's camps or close associates of al Qaeda's founding members," Black told the House subcommittee. "These relatively untested terrorists are assuming far greater responsibilities."
In another ominous sign, Black said, al Qaeda's ideology and its virulent anti-U.S. rhetoric are also spreading well beyond traditional strongholds, inspiring scores of Muslim groups. They include Ansar al-Islam in Iraq, the network of cells created by Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi; the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan; the Salafist Group for Call and Combat in North Africa; and the Salifia Jihadia in Morocco, which claimed credit for the 2003 bombings in Casablanca.
"Identifying and acting against the leadership, capabilities and operational plans of these groups poses a serious challenge now and for years to come," Black said.
Beyond the groups is the further problem represented by thousands of militants -- from conflicts such as Chechnya, Kashmir and Kosovo -- who migrate to other conflicts, Black told the subcommittee. The jihadists are a "ready source of recruits" for al Qaeda and its affiliates. And Iraq is a "focal point" for jihadists who are linking up with Sunnis opposed to the occupation.
But crackdowns by the United States and others have had an extensive impact on the al Qaeda network, disrupting the leadership, hampering coordination, isolating cells and eliminating potential sanctuaries or training bases, including facilities in Afghanistan where members were working on chemical and biological weapons programs, he said.
As a result, he said, al Qaeda and its allies have been forced to delay operations and have made mistakes, such as the 2003 attack in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, at a housing complex for foreigners who turned out to be mainly Muslims. "The decisionmaking process, the ability to process operational activity is increasingly difficult for them," Black said. "It is a challenge for them to conduct this type of [major] attack."

? 2004 The Washington Post Company


Group Linked to Al Qaeda Suspected in Uzbek Unrest
By Peter Baker
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, April 2, 2004; Page A17
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, April 1 -- The explosions and gunfire that have shaken this Central Asian nation this week appear to signal the return of a once crippled radical group closely affiliated with al Qaeda that is devoted to toppling the secular government, Uzbek security officials and foreign diplomats said Thursday.
Although President Islam Karimov initially attributed the unrest to Hizb ut-Tahrir, or Party of Liberation, an extreme but avowedly nonviolent Islamic organization, investigators have backed away from that theory. Instead, they increasingly are focusing on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan or IMU, a paramilitary force that fought alongside the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan in 2001 only to be devastated by a U.S. bombing campaign that killed its military commander, Juma Namangani.
If the IMU did orchestrate this week's attacks, it would indicate the group has managed to reconstitute itself into a dangerous force, despite initial claims by Karimov and U.S. officials that it had been destroyed. A non-American diplomat in Tashkent estimated Thursday that the IMU has 800 active members in Uzbekistan enlisted from the ranks of Muslims bristling at the repression of Karimov's authoritarian government. About 7,000 Muslims in the country have been jailed for their religious or political beliefs, according to human rights groups, and many have been subjected to torture.
"I'm almost certain it's the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan," said the diplomat, who declined to be identified to avoid offending the government. "They're regrouping and restrengthening. They have a lot of young male recruits who weren't part of the organization at the time of Afghanistan. And the recruiting ground is the people who have been tortured and abused."
The wave of violence that has left at least 44 people dead extended to a fifth day Thursday when a female bomber killed one person in the ancient city of Bukhara. Attackers, many of them women, have largely concentrated on police rather than civilian or foreign targets.
Uzbek security officials said they believe the militants had been preparing for the assaults for six months or longer, but their plan was put in motion prematurely when they accidentally set off a bomb in a hide-out in Bukhara on Sunday, killing at least eight members of their cell and an infant.
The government has arrested about 30 people on terrorism charges for supporting the insurgents and has identified several of the bodies of the dead, all of them Uzbek, according to the security officials. Authorities also found aluminum powder, fertilizer and detonators that resembled the materials allegedly used by the IMU in a series of bombings in Tashkent in 1999, leading them to suspect the group now.
"They used the same explosives they used in '99," said one security official who declined to be named out of concern for his safety. "They haven't invented anything new."
What is new is the use of suicide bombings. "It's the first time this has happened in Central Asia," said a terrorism investigator at Uzbekistan's National Security Service who also spoke on condition of anonymity. Such tactics, he noted, were previously restricted to such places as Israel and Russia. "Now we face it."
And never in modern times has this former Soviet republic and newly minted U.S. ally experienced a week quite like this one. No sooner was the blood washed away from one scene of carnage than ambulances were rushing to another.
"Absolutely innocent people died there," Narmat Karayev,58, a retired aviation police officer, said outside the Children's World store in Tashkent, where a suicide bomber killed herself and two police officers Monday. "What they've done here, I consider it fascism."
The IMU was formed in the early 1990s with the aim of ousting Karimov and setting up an Islamic state, but it eventually moved to Afghanistan and became a wing of Osama bin Laden's forces. Namangani, the IMU's military commander, took over as head of a legion of al Qaeda's foreign allies, but he was killed during a U.S. airstrike. His fighters were crushed, and those who survived scattered.
Remnants of the IMU turned up last month in the tribal areas of Pakistan as government troops there battled militants. The group's political leader, Tahir Yuldash, was reported to have been wounded during the fighting, although that remains unconfirmed. Uzbek officials said they saw no direct link between the events in Pakistan and the violence here this week, adding that the regenerating IMU retains its base either in Pakistan or Afghanistan.
The diplomat said it appeared the IMU might be trying to kindle a revolution. Asked if Tashkent were akin to Iran's capital just before the 1979 Islamic revolution, he said, "No, but we might be in Tehran 1977."
Unlike in Iran, Islam in Uzbekistan after seven decades of Communist rule has largely been a moderate force. Few women in cities wear head scarves, mosques do not broadcast the call to prayer, beards are rare and alcohol is plentiful. But discontent has spread in this land of 25 million people along with economic hardship. Some specialists estimate that urban unemployment exceeds 40 percent, and possibly 60 percent among city dwellers under 30.
The Chorsu bazaar near Children's World offers a tableau of the hardscrabble life endured by many Uzbeks. Every day women spread sheets and sit on the asphalt trying to sell disparate goods -- toothpaste, shoes, bras, razors, eggs, pens and a laundry detergent called Barf. "You need to study our economy to understand the place," grumbled one trader who would not give her name. "See how people live?"
The adversity has muted public anger at the terrorist acts, with some Uzbeks suggesting the government had it coming. "Karimov himself is guilty of the whole thing," said Vladimir, 28, who makes $70 a month working in two factories. "He led the country to this point." Uzbeks, Vladimir added, regard the police "with disgust" because "for a little thing they can put you in jail."
The suicide bomber outside Children's World on Monday morning apparently targeted patrolling police officers during a shift change. Nilufar Yusumetova and other store clerks were sweeping the sidewalk when the blast occurred a couple of yards away. The sight left her shocked a few days later. "The leg was right there," she said, pointing. "Her head was over there. Her body was here."
Nasiba Djamalova was inside fixing a window display when the glass shattered and something hit her leg. She thought it was a brick. Only later, she said, did she learn that she had been struck by the charred and decapitated head of the suicide bomber. "If I'd known," Djamalova said, "I would have fainted."
Across town, at an apartment complex in Yalangacha few miles from Karimov's residence on the city's outskirts, residents said militants who battled police on Tuesday made a point of trying not to target civilians.
One resident said a female militant followed her into the apartment building but did not try to chase her into her flat, choosing instead to blow herself up. "She didn't mean harm to the people," said the woman, who like other tenants declined to give her name after police told them to stop speaking to visiting journalists. "She didn't try to open the doors. She didn't do anything to us."
But the militants did kill one resident, possibly by accident, a death that the government has not acknowledged. Shakir Muslimov, 34, wearing a new suit, emerged from his door at the wrong moment and was shot to death by a pistol-wielding militant who might have mistaken him for a police officer, according to his brother Shavkat. "He ran right into them," Shavkat said. "He just came out by accident."
Several other women blew themselves up over the course of the next seven or eight hours, neighbors said, while male militants were shot by police. By day's end, 20 suspected militants and three police officers had been killed, the Uzbek Interior Ministry said.
"They were shooting back at the military," said a 30-year-old woman wearing a frayed blue robe and worn pink plastic sandals. "This was a real war."

? 2004 The Washington Post Company

Slain Contractors Were in Iraq Working Security Detail
By Dana Priest and Mary Pat Flaherty
Washington Post Staff Writers
Friday, April 2, 2004; Page A16
The four men brutally slain Wednesday in Fallujah were among the most elite commandos working in Iraq to guard employees of U.S. corporations and were hired by the U.S. government to protect bureaucrats, soldiers and intelligence officers.
The men, all employees of Blackwater Security Consulting, were in the dangerous Sunni Triangle area operating under more hazardous conditions -- unarmored cars with no apparent backup -- than the U.S. military or the CIA permit.
U.S. government officials said yesterday that they suspect that the men were not victims of a random ambush but were set up as targets, which one defense official said suggested "a higher degree of organization and sophistication" among insurgents. "This is certainly cause for concern."
A Blackwater spokesman said the men were guarding a convoy on its way to deliver food to troops under a subcontract to a company named Regency Hotel and Hospitality. Three of those killed were identified by their families or a family spokesman yesterday as Jerry Zovko, 32, an Army veteran from Willoughby, Ohio; Michael Teague, 38, from Clarksville, Tenn.; and Scott Helvenston, 38. The other Blackwater employee was a former SEAL, the Navy's elite counterterrorism force.
The bodies of the four men were dragged through the streets by jubilant crowds.
Blackwater issued a statement saying it did not intend to release the victims' names. "Coalition forces and civilian contractors and administrators work side by side every day with the Iraqi people," the statement said. "Our tasks are dangerous and while we feel sadness for our fallen colleagues, we also feel pride and satisfaction that we are making a difference for the people of Iraq."
The Fallujah killings this week resonated heavily among the dozens of companies providing security services in Iraq.
"No one is retreating," said Mike Baker, chief executive of Diligence LLC, a Washington security firm with hundreds of employees in Iraq. "No one is calling saying we ought to pull our guys out. I don't think it's stopping anyone from going in. They are fully aware of the security situation."
But Baker, a former CIA case officer, added that how the military is "responding is going to be very important. If there's not a harsh, well-thought-out response, they will take that as a complete sign of weakness and they will become emboldened."
Blackwater has about 400 employees in Iraq, said one government official briefed by the company. Its armed commandos earn an average of about $1,000 a day.
Although most of their work is to act as bodyguards for corporate, humanitarian or government employees, they sometimes perform more precarious jobs that are inherently riskier -- escorting VIPs, doing reconnaissance for visits by government officials to particular locations.
Employees of security companies such as Blackwater frequently come under fire from insurgents. When they do, they fire back.
"Nobody wants to be seen as a cowboy, but the truth is that if someone pops a weapon up, you respond," Baker said. ". . . This is a very difficult environment. There is always a potential for a problem."
Blackwater, security experts said, is among the most professional of the dozens of multinational security firms in Iraq, most of them there to protect U.S. government employees, private firms, Iraqi facilities and oil pipelines.
The firm also protects officials of the Coalition Provisional Authority, including the U.S. governor in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer. It has contracts as well with the departments of Defense, State and Transportation.
The company also did work in Afghanistan during the war there, said people who have worked with company employees.
Blackwater is in Moyock, N.C., just across the Virginia border, and U.S. law enforcement and military personnel frequently use its 6,000-acre site for weapons training.
Government contracting records show Blackwater Training was paid $13 million between April 2002 and June 2003 for security training of Navy personnel.
The firm's president and training director, and Blackwater Security Consulting's director, are veteran Navy SEALs. The name Blackwater alludes to covert missions undertaken by elite divers at night.
Government officials who have been briefed by the company said Blackwater carefully vets its employees, the vast majority of whom are former military personnel, and puts them through rigorous training requiring the same skill levels as those possessed by U.S. Special Operations troops.
Blackwater Security Consulting was formed a year ago and is one of five private companies within Blackwater USA. The training center was started in 1996, and according to the company's promotional material was formed in response to "the anticipated demand for government outsourcing" of firearms and security training. In January, it reported sales of nearly $14 million.
Staff writer Jackie Spinner contributed to this report.

? 2004 The Washington Post Company
Energy Task Force Data Not Private
Agencies Ordered to Release Papers
By Carol D. Leonnig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 2, 2004; Page A23
A federal judge yesterday ordered several federal government agencies to release documents concerning their work on Vice President Cheney's energy task force or provide a legal reason for withholding them.
U.S. District Judge Paul L. Friedman rejected arguments by Bush administration lawyers that employees from the Department of the Interior and Department of Energy can claim special confidentiality privileges for the period when they worked for the task force, which held private meetings with energy industry representatives as it crafted a national energy policy.
Ruling that those employees were not engaged in a deliberative process and were not temporary employees of the White House, Friedman said the agencies must search for and produce records of their employees' task force assignments.
The judge's order, which requires release of documents by June 1, could potentially open a new window into the workings of Cheney's task force. In a related 2001 case, the Justice Department has four times appealed federal court rulings that the vice president release task force records. That case, in which Cheney claims his office has executive privilege, is now pending before the Supreme Court.
In this case, however, Friedman's decision means that the records of even the task force's director, Energy Department employee Andrew Lundquist, should generally be made public.
The National Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, and Judicial Watch, a government watchdog organization, have been trying for three years to obtain the records. The organizations claim the documents will show the extent to which the task force staff met secretly with industry executives to craft the Bush administration's energy policies, such as drilling for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and weakening power plant pollution regulations.
Justice Department officials did not respond yesterday to inquiries about whether they will appeal Friedman's orders.
"The court's ruling is a wake-up call to the Bush administration: It's time to come clean about how it is doing the public's business," said NRDC senior attorney Sharon Buccino. "Once Congress and the American people finally get the details about what happened at the task force's closed-door meetings, the administration's energy plan will be revealed for what it is -- a payback to corporate polluters."
Friedman held a six-hour hearing on Jan. 26 on the issue of whether agency documents could be withheld after consolidating three lawsuits filed by NRDC and Judicial Watch that sought task force records.
After an order from the same federal court in 2002, the administration turned over tens of thousands of records. However, the administration had cited several privileges to avoid releasing the records of Lundquist and other federal agency employees who worked at the task force under him.
Buccino said the White House opposition is based on political considerations. "These records are going to show the top of the food chain -- who had direct access to the task force and what different industry representatives were asking the Bush administration for."
Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton called the judge's order "a brushback to the government. . . . I read it to mean we will finally get documents from the heart of the energy task force."

? 2004 The Washington Post Company

L'administration Bush souhaite "bon vent" ? M. de Villepin
LE MONDE | 01.04.04 | 13h10 * MIS A JOUR LE 01.04.04 | 13h49
Dominique de Villepin quitte le Quai d'Orsay, ? la faveur du remaniement du gouvernement annonc? mercredi 31 mars. Nomm? ministre de l'int?rieur, il est remplac? par Michel Barnier, jusqu'alors commissaire europ?en. M. de Villepin avait incarn? jusqu'? l'extr?me la nouvelle politique ?trang?re de la France. Ses plaidoyers pour un "monde multipolaire" exasp?raient ? Washington. Le secr?taire d'Etat am?ricain, Colin Powell, a d?clar? "regretter de ne plus travailler avec lui". Les deux hommes s'?taient oppos?s, en particulier au Conseil de s?curit? de l'ONU, sur l'Irak. D'un temp?rament diff?rent, son successeur Michel Barnier devrait entretenir une relation plus calme avec l'administration Bush. Depuis quelques mois, Paris et Washington s'efforcent d'expliquer que les d?saccords appartiennent au pass?.
Washington de notre correspondant
La diplomatie am?ricaine a r?agi avec un soin particulier, mercredi 31 mars, au d?part de Dominique de Villepin du minist?re des affaires ?trang?res et ? son remplacement par Michel Barnier. Le d?partement d'Etat a indiqu? au Monde que Colin Powell, qui participait, ? Berlin, ? la conf?rence sur l'aide ? l'Afghanistan, avait t?l?phon? ? M. de Villepin, pour lui dire qu'il allait "regretter de ne plus travailler avec lui", pour le f?liciter de sa nomination au minist?re de l'int?rieur et pour lui souhaiter plein succ?s.
Le secr?taire d'Etat a aussi adress? ses f?licitations ? M. Barnier et lui a dit qu'il esp?rait le rencontrer bient?t. Selon un responsable du d?partement d'Etat, M. Powell a ?t? le premier ministre ?tranger qui ait appel? le nouvel occupant du Quai d'Orsay. Il est probable que le secr?taire d'Etat et M. Barnier auront l'occasion de faire connaissance lors de la r?union des ministres des affaires ?trang?res de l'OTAN, vendredi, ? Bruxelles, mais aucun entretien particulier n'est pr?vu ? cette occasion.
L'attention mise par Washington ? d?montrer sa consid?ration pour la France confine au formalisme. Les gestes accomplis le sont de fa?on si appuy?e qu'ils en viennent presque ? signifier le contraire de ce qu'ils semblent dire. "Les relations avec la France sont excellentes", a d?clar? Adam Ereli, porte-parole adjoint du d?partement d'Etat, au cours de son point de presse, avant que la composition du nouveau gouvernement ait ?t? rendue officielle ? Paris. Cette phrase est devenue une sorte de paravent, destin? ? cacher des d?saccords dont, de part et d'autre, on pr?f?re ne pas parler pour le moment.
Les rapports entre les Etats-Unis et l'Allemagne, sortis de ce que les responsables allemands appellent "l'?re glaciaire" de la p?riode 2002-2003, sont maintenant plus d?tendus. Le chancelier Gerhard Schr?der a ?t? re?u par George Bush, ? la Maison Blanche, fin f?vrier, et M. Powell ?tait ? Berlin mercredi. Certes, le pr?sident am?ricain a fini par accepter l'invitation de Jacques Chirac ? venir ? Paris, le 5 juin, puis en Normandie, le lendemain, pour c?l?brer le 60e anniversaire du d?barquement, mais la crispation reste perceptible.
Dans ce contexte, le changement d'affectation de M. de Villepin est consid?r? avec circonspection ? Washington. Sur le ministre lui-m?me et sur son r?le dans la crise des relations franco-am?ricaines, le commentaire de la Maison Blanche ?tait, mercredi, minimaliste. "C'?tait un avocat vigoureux de la France et de ses vues. Nous lui souhaitons bon vent", a d?clar? au Monde un responsable de la pr?sidence, qui a refus? d'en dire davantage. Le propos ?tait poli, voire sportif, mais d'une bri?vet? ?loquente. On se montrait plus chaleureux au d?partement d'Etat, o? M. de Villepin ?tait qualifi? de "coll?gue estim? et respect?".
Sur le fond, les Am?ricains maintiennent qu'au sujet de l'Irak la France n'a pas respect? son alliance avec les Etats-Unis, mais ils ajoutent que cet ?pisode appartient au pass? et que la coop?ration entre les deux pays est active. "Il n'y a pas lieu de parler de rapprochement, dit un responsable du d?partement d'Etat. Le gouvernement fran?ais agit dans l'int?r?t de la France. Il estime, aujourd'hui, que le partenariat et l'alliance avec les Etats-Unis sont conformes ? cet int?r?t." De son c?t?, M. Bush, pour des raisons ?lectorales, a besoin d'une "tr?ve" avec les Europ?ens qui se sont oppos?s ? sa politique, analyse Simon Serfaty, qui dirige le programme europ?en du Centre de recherches strat?giques et internationales (CRSI), un des grands instituts politiques de Washington.
La pr?paration des rencontres internationales de juin - sommet du G8 aux Etats-Unis, sommet de l'OTAN ? Istanbul, sommet Etats-Unis/Union europ?enne en Irlande - n'a pas donn? lieu, jusqu'? maintenant, ? des oppositions sp?cifiques entre Paris et Washington. Il n'y a pas de sujet ? propos duquel seraient apparues, avec M. de Villepin, des difficult?s que le changement de ministre pourrait aider ? aplanir. Sur le plan bilat?ral, les deux pays agissent en concertation en C?te d'Ivoire et ont fait cause commune en Ha?ti. Le fait que la France ait ?t? la premi?re ? prendre position pour le d?part de Jean-Bertrand Aristide est apparu, ? Washington, comme une bonne mani?re, qui a aid? M. Bush et M. Powell ? faire accepter cette politique, malgr? les critiques des d?mocrates.
Pris pour cible par la droite r?publicaine et, particuli?rement, par les n?oconservateurs, M. de Villepin, bizarrement qualifi? d'"ol?agineux", a ?t? parfois d?crit, dans la presse, comme le type m?me du dirigeant fran?ais arrogant et p?dant, auquel on ne peut pas se fier. Il a ?t? populaire, ? l'inverse, dans une partie du mouvement antiguerre, sensible ? sa d?fense de l'ONU. Pour l'essentiel, il ?tait consid?r? comme l'interpr?te - enthousiaste - des d?cisions de M. Chirac, plut?t que comme leur inspirateur.

Patrick Jarreau


Jacques Chirac : des Fran?ais en Irak ?
Jacques Chirac serait favorable ? un engagement de l'OTAN en Irak avec un mandat de l'ONU, et ne serait pas oppos? ? une participation de forces militaires fran?aises, a indiqu?, mercredi 31 mars, le s?nateur d?mocrate am?ricain Joseph Biden. "Chirac soutiendrait un engagement de l'OTAN en Irak et serait pr?t ? envoyer des militaires fran?ais", a affirm? M. Biden en citant "une conversation de deux heures" avec le pr?sident fran?ais sans pr?ciser quand et o? cet entretien a eu lieu. M. Biden, num?ro deux de la commission des affaires ?trang?res du S?nat, a aussi indiqu? que M. Chirac lui a dit que le feu vert des cinq membres du Conseil de s?curit? pour un engagement de l'OTAN "serait suffisant". Il a fait ces d?clarations lors d'une audition de la sous-commission des affaires ?trang?res du S?nat sur l'Europe consacr?e ? l'impact des attentats de Madrid. - (AFP.)


SPIEGEL ONLINE - 02. April 2004, 17:41
Neues Qaida-Strategiepapier
Masterplan f?r Terroranschl?ge in ganz Europa
Das Terrornetzwerk al-Qaida plant nach neuen Erkenntnissen Bombenanschl?ge quer durch Europa. In einem neuen Strategiepapier werden die Anh?nger der Organisation aufgefordert "unter Vernachl?ssigung aller geographischen Grenzen, die L?nder der Gottesl?steter in Kriegszonen zu verwandeln".
Mainz - In dem 50-seitigen Schriftst?ck, das dem ZDF vorliegt, wird eine "milit?rische Diplomatie" skizziert - "geschrieben mit Blut und dekoriert mit K?rperteilen".
Als Ziele k?nftiger Anschl?ge in Europa werden an erster Stelle "Juden" genannt, zitierte das ZDF aus der Schrift. An zweiter Stelle folgen "Christen", bei denen zun?chst Amerikaner, dann Briten, Spanier, Australier, Kanadier, Italiener und weitere Nationalit?ten aufgez?hlt werden. Der Autor nimmt au?erdem Bezug auf die Terroranschl?ge von Madrid und fordert ?hnliche Attacken gegen wirtschaftliche Ziele im Westen.
"Als Ergebnis der gesegneten Schl?ge von Madrid hat die gesamte europ?ische Wirtschaft gelitten. Das war ein Doppelschlag gegen die Wirtschaft und die Regierungen der Kreuzfahrer, Juden und Gottlosen", hei?t es laut ZDF in dem Papier weiter.
Als weitere Ziele werden Anschl?ge auf "Gesch?ftsleute, Diplomaten, Politiker, Intellektuelle, Wissenschaftler, Rabbiner, Missionare und Touristen" propagiert. Unterzeichnet ist das Papier, das im Internet verbreitet wird, von Abdulaziz al-Mukrin, dem neuen Anf?hrer der al-Qaida im arabischen Raum. Amerikanische und deutsche Sicherheitsbeh?rden halten nach den ZDF-Angaben die Erkl?rung f?r authentisch. Derzeit werde das Papier von europ?ischen Sicherheitsbeh?rden analysiert.



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SPIEGEL ONLINE - 02. April 2004, 15:27
Motassadeq-Anwalt rechnet mit Einstellung des Verfahrens
Der Anwalt von Mounir al-Motassadeq erwartet, dass das Hamburger Oberlandesgericht das Verfahren gegen den Marokkaner einstellen wird. Das Gericht habe der Bundesanwaltschaft vorgeschlagen, die Einstellung des Verfahrens zu erw?gen, weil wichtige Beweismittel in den USA zur?ckgehalten w?rden.
Motassadeq: Angeblich entlastende Beweise aufgetaucht
Hamburg - "Das Gericht hat vorgeschlagen, dass das Verfahren eingestellt wird, weil der Fairness-Grundsatz nicht mehr gewahrt wird. Ich denke, es sieht gut aus f?r Herrn Motassadeq", sagte der Anwalt Josef Gr??le-M?nscher heute im Anschluss an zweist?ndige Beratungen des Oberlandesgerichts. "Wir kriegen eine schriftliche Entscheidung des Gerichts am Montag."
Der Vierte Strafsenat des Oberlandesgerichts hatte heute auf Antrag der Verteidigung ?ber die Aufhebung des Haftbefehls gegen Motassadeq beraten. Angaben zum Stand machte die Gerichtspressestelle zun?chst nicht.
Motassadeq war im Februar 2003 von dem gleichen Gericht wegen Beihilfe zum Mord in 3066 F?llen und Mitgliedschaft in einer terroristischen Vereinigung zu 15 Jahren Haftstrafe verurteilt worden. Der Bundesgerichtshof hob jedoch das Urteil auf und wies den Fall zur Neuverhandlung an das Hanseatische Oberlandesgericht zur?ck.
Bahaji-Fahndungsfotos mit und ohne Bart: Den Freund per Brief entlastet
Gleichzeitig legte die Bundesanwaltschaft nach Angaben der Verteidiger heute neue Beweise vor. Es handelt sich demnach um einen abgefangenen Brief und ein mitgeschnittenes Telefonat des seit 2001 fl?chtigen Terrorverd?chtigen Said Bahaji. Darin finden sich laut Gr??le-M?nscher jeweils ?u?erungen, die Motassadeq nach seiner Einsch?tzung vom Vorwurf entlasten, der Hamburger Terrorzelle angeh?rt zu haben. "In beiden Dokumenten sind entlastende Angaben", sagte der Anwalt. "In dem Brief ist Motassadeq w?rtlich erw?hnt. 'Mounir wusste nichts', hei?t es da", sagte Gr??le-M?nscher.
Das Telefonat wurde im vergangenen Jahr abgeh?rt. Damals hatte sich Bahaji bei seinen Eltern im marokkanischen Meknes gemeldet. Der Vater Bahajis erkl?rte sp?ter, sein Sohn habe nur kurz gesagt, dass es ihm gut gehe. Es werde sich bald alles aufkl?ren, er sei in guten H?nden.


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German Judge: Sept. 11 Retrial May Not Fly
22 minutes ago
By DAVID RISING, Associated Press Writer
HAMBURG, Germany - A German judge said Friday the case against the only Sept. 11 suspect ever convicted may collapse if it goes to a retrial, adding that he will decide next week whether to free Mounir el Motassadeq. At a hearing to rule on the Moroccan's request to be released from jail, Judge Ernst-Rainer Schudt pointed to a March appeals court ruling that the suspect failed to get a fair trial the first time.
AP Photo
AP Photo
Slideshow: September 11
Consequently, Schudt said that "in the further course of the proceedings it may have to be considered that ... the question of closing the case will arise," the Hamburg state court said.
It was the first time the court has publicly raised such doubts about the government's case.
Prosecutor Walter Hemberger said the government has no intention of dropping the charges.
El Motassadeq, 29, won a retrial after appeals judges ruled he was unfairly denied testimony from Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni in secret U.S. custody who is believed to have been the Hamburg cell's key contact with al-Qaida.
The Hamburg court heard el Motassadeq's plea for freedom in a closed hearing Friday. It said it would deliberate and issue a ruling next week.
New evidence emerged at the hearing that bolstered the Moroccan's argument that he knew nothing about the plot, the lawyer said.
Graessle-Muenscher said prosecutors on Friday introduced an intercepted letter that suspected cell member Said Bahaji wrote to his mother in 2002.
"In the letter, Bahaji says Mounir didn't know anything," the lawyer said.
German authorities say Bahaji, left Germany shortly before the Sept. 11 attacks and remains on the run.
Hemberger refused to comment on the evidence introduced Friday.
"We made our arguments, they made theirs and now it's up to the court to decide," he said.
El Motassadeq's retrial is scheduled to start June 16.
He was convicted in February 2003 of more than 3,000 counts of accessory to murder and membership in a terrorist organization, and sentenced to the maximum 15 years in prison.
Prosecutors allege he handled financial transactions for cell members to help keep up appearances of a normal student life as they plotted the attacks.
El Motassadeq has acknowledged knowing the cell members but denies any knowledge of the Sept. 11 plot.
U.S. authorities refused to allow Binalshibh to testify at el Motassadeq's trial or to allow German intelligence services to turn over copies of interrogation reports the United States had provided them.
The absence of Binalshibh's testimony also helped bring about the acquittal of el Motassadeq's friend and fellow Moroccan, Abdelghani Mzoudi, on the same charges in February.
Mzoudi's case took a turn toward acquittal when the Hamburg court heard a statement from an unnamed source that only Binalshibh and the suicide hijackers knew of the Sept. 11 plot -- an assertion that could exonerate el Motassadeq. The court said it believed the source was Binalshibh himself.

US officials knew Al-Qaeda planned plane attacks: whistle-blower
Fri Apr 2, 3:50 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) - US officials knew months before September 11, 2001 that Osama bin Laden (news - web sites)'s Al-Qaeda network was planning to use aircraft to carry out a terrorist attack, a former FBI (news - web sites) translator has alleged.
AFP/File Photo
AP Photo
Slideshow: September 11
Sibel Edmonds told the Independent newspaper, in an interview published Friday, that a claim by US President George W. Bush (news - web sites)'s national security advisor Condoleezza Rice (news - web sites) that there had been no such warnings was "an outrageous lie".
The former translator with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation said that she had discussed her claims during a three-hour closed-door session with a US commission looking into the September 11 attacks.
"There was general information about the time frame, about methods to be used -- but not specifically about how they would be used -- and about people being in place and who was ordering these sorts of terror attacks," Edmonds said.
"There were other cities that were mentioned. Major cities -- with skyscrapers."
The 33-year-old Turkish-American translator said that, based on documents she had seen during her time with the FBI, after September 11, it was "impossible" that US intelligence officials had no forewarning of the attacks.
In a significant about-face, Bush agreed Tuesday to let Rice testify before the independent bipartisan commission looking into September 11 attacks, in which three airliners were hijacked and flown into the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon (news - web sites) in Washington.
A fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania.
The Independent reported that the White House had sought to silence Edmonds and had obtained a gagging order from a court.
Edmonds emerged as a whistle-blower in July last year when, on the CBS television network, she alleged that FBI officials deliberately slowed down the translation of September 11-related documents to make it appear that the department was sorely understaffed.
Edmonds was among many language experts who had responded to appeals for translators in the days following September 11. She was tasked with translating documents and recordings from FBI wire taps.
From the documents she saw, she told The Independent, it was clear that there was sufficient information in spring and summer of 2001 to indicate that an attack was being planned.
"President Bush said they had no specific information about September 11 and that is accurate but only because he said September 11," Edmonds told the Independent.
There was, however, general information about the use of airplanes and that an attack was just months away.
The most damning criticism of the Bush administration has come from former White House anti-terrorism czar Richard Clarke, who has alleged that it failed to give the Al-Qaeda threat enough priority.
Clarke, who left the White House last year, testified before the September 11 commission, shortly after the publication of his memoirs which were highly critical of the Bush administration's counter-terrorist efforts.


Bush Aides Block Clinton's Papers From 9/11 Panel
WASHINGTON, April 1 -- The commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks said on Thursday that it was pressing the White House to explain why the Bush administration had blocked thousands of pages of classified foreign policy and counterterrorism documents from former President Bill Clinton's White House files from being turned over to the panel's investigators.
The White House confirmed on Thursday that it had withheld a variety of classified documents from Mr. Clinton's files that had been gathered by the National Archives over the last two years in response to requests from the commission, which is investigating intelligence and law enforcement failures before the attacks.
Scott McClellan, the White House spokesman, said some Clinton administration documents had been withheld because they were "duplicative or unrelated," while others were withheld because they were "highly sensitive" and the information in them could be relayed to the commission in other ways. "We are providing the commission with access to all the information they need to do their job," Mr. McClellan said.
The commission and the White House were reacting to public complaints from former aides to Mr. Clinton, who said they had been surprised to learn in recent months that three-quarters of the nearly 11,000 pages of files the former president was ready to offer the commission had been withheld by the Bush administration. The former aides said the files contained highly classified documents about the Clinton administration's efforts against Al Qaeda.
The commission said it was awaiting a full answer from the White House on why any documents were withheld.
"We need to be satisfied that we have everything we have asked to see," Al Felzenberg, a spokesman for the bipartisan 10-member commission, said. "We have voiced the concern to the White House that not all of the material the Clinton library has made available to us has made its way to the commission."
The general counsel of Mr. Clinton's presidential foundation, Bruce Lindsey, who was his deputy White House counsel, said in an interview that he was concerned that the Bush administration had applied a "very legalistic approach to the documents" and might have blocked the release of material that would be valuable to the commission.
Mr. Lindsey said he first complained to the commission in February after learning from the archives that the Bush administration had withheld so many documents.
"I voiced a concern that the commission was making a judgment on an incomplete record," he said. "I want to know why there is a 75 percent difference between what we were ready to produce and what was being produced to the commission."
The debate over the Clinton files was disclosed as the commission announced that it had reached agreement with the White House to schedule a public hearing for next Thursday at which Condoleezza Rice, President Bush's national security adviser, will testify under oath for two and a half hours.
It also came as the White House, in an effort to bolster Ms. Rice's credibility before the hearing, released some of the language of a presidential directive awaiting Mr. Bush's signature on Sept. 11, 2001. It instructed the Pentagon to plan action against Qaeda terrorists and their Taliban sponsors in Afghanistan, "including leadership, command-control-communication, training and logistics facilities."
White House officials said the language showed that the Bush administration had a tougher, more comprehensive plan than the Clinton administration had for dealing with Osama bin Laden's terrorist network and the Taliban. Ms. Rice has cited the directive in recent interviews in trying to undermine the credibility of Richard A. Clarke, Mr. Bush's former counterterrorism director, who has accused the Bush administration of largely ignoring terrorist threats before Sept. 11.
The disclosure that many Clinton administration files had been withheld took several of the members of the panel by surprise on Thursday.
"If it did happen, it's an unintentional mistake or it's another intentional act of the White House that will backfire," said Bob Kerrey, a former senator from Nebraska who is a Democratic member of the commission.
Another Democrat on the panel, Timothy J. Roemer, a former House member from Indiana, said he learned only on Thursday that so many documents had been withheld. "There could be some innocent explanation for it," he said. "I am assured that our staff will be looking into it."
Mr. Lindsey said that President Clinton and his foundation, which is based in Little Rock, Ark., had given authorization to the National Archives to gather evidence from Mr. Clinton's files that was sought by the independent commission, which was created by Congress in late 2002. But the Bush administration, he said, had final authority to decide what would be turned over.
Mr. Lindsey, who is Mr. Clinton's liaison to the National Archives, said he was surprised to discover from the archives in later months that the Bush administration, after reviewing the Clinton documents gathered by researchers there, had decided not to turn over most of the material.
He said he had read through many of the 10,800 pages that were collected and believed them to be valuable to the work of the panel.
"They involved all of the issues -- Al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, terrorism, all of the areas with the commission's jurisdiction," he said. He made his first public complaints about the handling of the documents in an interview with The Associated Press on Wednesday.
In February, Mr. Lindsey said, he complained to the commission's staff director, Philip D. Zelikow. He said he renewed his complaint in a meeting with Mr. Zelikow last month.
Mr. Felzenberg, the commission's spokesman, said that after the meeting, Mr. Zelikow and other staff members began pressing the White House for an explanation of what had happened. "The commission has voiced Mr. Lindsey's concern to the White House," he said. "We made the concerns known and we are awaiting a definitive answer."
The White House decision to release some of the wording of the classified September 2001 presidential directive on Al Qaeda and the Taliban was an opening volley in what is expected to be an aggressive public relations campaign on behalf of Ms. Rice in the days before her testimony next Thursday.
Mr. Bush bowed to political pressure this week and agreed to allow Ms. Rice to testify to the commission after insisting for weeks that public testimony by such an important White House aide would erode his constitutional authority.
The so-called National Security Presidential Directive envisioned the military action as the last step of a three-to-five year plan. It called for two earlier steps -- a diplomatic mission to the Taliban and covert action -- and envisioned military strikes only as a last resort.
The actual language in the directive could be interpreted in two very different ways when Ms. Rice testifies. On the one hand, she will undoubtedly use it to build her case that the administration took the Qaeda threat seriously.
But because the policy was supposed to unfold over three to five years, it suggests that the threat posed by Al Qaeda and its Taliban hosts in Afghanistan was not considered an urgent one by the White House, bolstering Mr. Clarke's accusations.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

More Bomb-Grade Uranium Found in Iran-Diplomats
Fri Apr 2, 8:26 AM ET
By Louis Charbonneau
VIENNA (Reuters) - The U.N. atomic watchdog has found traces of bomb-grade uranium in Iran at sites other than the two already named, but diplomats said on Friday it was unclear if this boosted U.S. claims that Tehran wants an atom bomb.
"They found highly-enriched uranium at more sites than Kalaye and Natanz," a Western diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The diplomat did not specify how many sites, where they were or when the traces were found.
Last year, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported finding traces of uranium that had been enriched to a point where it contained about 90 percent of the fissile uranium atom U-235 at the Natanz enrichment plant and a workshop at the Kalaye Electric Company.
Uranium with such a high concentration of U-235 has few civilian uses but is the ideal purity level for a nuclear bomb.
Vienna-based sources who follow the IAEA's work confirmed the U.N. watchdog had discovered traces at other sites, but the agency would not comment.
Tehran has said the traces at Natanz and Kalaye came from contaminated centrifuge components purchased abroad. The new traces could still support this explanation.
"One would expect to find traces of uranium everywhere these components were moved or stored," a second diplomat said.
But several diplomats said the further discoveries raised the question of whether Tehran has been engaging in more undeclared nuclear activities at sites it has been hiding from the IAEA.
Under fire over U.S. allegations that its atomic energy program is a front to build nuclear weapons, Tehran promised France, Germany and Britain last October it would suspend uranium enrichment and accept tougher inspections by the U.N. watchdog in exchange for peaceful nuclear technology.
Iran says its atomic ambitions are limited to the generation of electricity.
Last month, the IAEA passed a resolution deploring Iran's failure to declare potentially arms-related nuclear activities to the agency.
Tehran told the U.N. body the contaminated centrifuge components originally came from Pakistan. The IAEA has asked Pakistan to let it take samples of Pakistani HEU in order to verify Tehran's explanation.
But Pakistan's government, which recently pardoned its top nuclear scientist for leaking secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea (news - web sites), has refused.


Iran's nuclear facility erodes diplomatic victory
Ewen MacAskill, diplomatic editor
Thursday April 1, 2004
The Guardian
The British government made a tacit admission for the first time yesterday that its much-trumpeted diplomatic initiative to try to prevent Iran securing a nuclear weapon may be in trouble.
The Foreign Office expressed unhappiness with an Iranian government announcement on Saturday that it had inaugurated at Isfahan a uranium conversion facility, a necessary first step in the creation of a nuclear bomb.
In October last year the foreign secretary, Jack Straw, and his German and French counterparts, Joschka Fischer and Dominique de Villepin, flew to Tehran to persuade the Iranian government to avoid confrontation with the US by agreeing to spot checks of its nuclear facilities. The resultant agreement was hailed as a triumph for European diplomacy.
But the Foreign Office statement yesterday registered the disappointment of the three countries. By diplomatic standards, the language was strong and unequivocal.
It said the announcement sent "the wrong signal about Iranian willingness to implement a suspension of nuclear enrichment-related activities".
Parallel statements were issued in Berlin and Paris.
The British, German and French governments are to make another joint approach to the Iranian government.
The US, which expressed scepticism at the time the agreement was secured, has called on Iran to suspend all uranium-related activity.
Iran has repeatedly claimed it is merely interested in using nuclear technology for civilian purposes, and insists that it is sticking to the October agreement.
But a Foreign Office source said the steps being taken by Iran at Isfahan were incompatible with the promise to suspend its uranium enrichment programme.
Gholam-Reza Aghazadeh, the head of the Iranian nuclear programme, said the Isfahan facility would continue the process of turning uranium ore into gas.
He said it would produce uranium hexofloride, metallic uranium and uranium oxide. Hexofloride is used for uranium enrichment.


Europeans Criticize Iran's Plan to Start Up Enrichment Plant
BERLIN, March 31 - The foreign ministries of Germany, France and Britain Wednesday criticized Iran's decision, announced last week, to start up a uranium conversion plant in Isfahan.
"This announcement sends the wrong signal regarding Iran's readiness to implement a suspension of its activities relating to uranium enrichment," the German Foreign Ministry said in a statement. "It will make it more difficult for Iran to restore international confidence in its activities. Iran must explain its announcement and its intentions."
The German Foreign Ministry said identical statements were issued Wednesday in Britain and France.
The move comes after a much-heralded diplomatic initiative by the foreign ministers of Germany, France and Britain that resulted last October in a promise by Iran to suspend its uranium enrichment activities and to allow more intrusive international inspections of its nuclear program.
The agreement was widely viewed as an Iranian response to intense pressure by the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency to curtail activities aimed at making nuclear weapons. It was also welcomed by many people in Europe as a result of a successful European-American synergy in dealing with international crises.
Diplomats here referred to it as a good-cop, bad-cop approach, in which the Americans applied pressure on Iran and the Europeans offered a diplomatic way out.
But after the agreement in October and a round of international inspections, Iran admitted that it had concealed aspects of its nuclear development program for some 18 years. At one point earlier this year, after the international agency criticized Iran for failing to disclose aspects of its nuclear program, Iran banned further inspections.
The statements Wednesday by the foreign ministers of Europe's three major countries seemed an unmistakable sign of annoyance at Iran for its failure to cooperate fully with inspections or to stop its enrichment program definitively.
Reuters reported Wednesday on an internal report obtained by the news agency in Vienna concluding that Iran had "managed'' some of the agency's inspections. Reuters also cited unnamed Western diplomats as saying that Tehran had not stopped enriching uranium but had moved enrichment activities away from a known plant at Natanz to smaller sites that are part of a parallel program as yet undiscovered by inspectors.

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company |


Britain, France, Germany condemn Iran's work on nuclear fuel cycle
Wed Mar 31, 1:17 PM ET
LONDON (AFP) - Britain, France and Germany united to condemn Iran's decision to resume work on a key nuclear programme in apparent breach of a deal with the United Nation's nuclear watchdog.
Their criticism came after Iran's atomic energy chief Gholam Reza Aghazadeh said Sunday that work had resumed at the Isfahan installation in the centre of the country.
"This announcement sends the wrong signal about Iranian willingness to implement a suspension of nuclear enrichment-related activities," said a Foreign Office spokesman in London.
"It will make it more difficult for Iran to re-establish international confidence in her undertakings," he said, in a statement identical to ones issued in Paris and Berlin.
In a deal with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) brokered by Britain, France and Germany last year, Tehran agreed to suspend uranium enrichment and related activities while UN inspectors delved into suspicions Iran was using atomic energy as a cover for developing nuclear weapons.
Iran, under massive international pressure to maintain the suspension, has consistently emphasised its right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) to produce nuclear fuel for what it insists are strictly peaceful purposes.
"The uranium processing plant in Isfahan will produce all raw materials for the fuel cycle," Aghazadeh said on Sunday.
Britain, France and Germany have for the past seven months been working together in an effort to resolve international concerns about Iran's nuclear programme.
Foreign ministers from the three countries visited Tehran last October.
"Iran must explain her statement and her intentions," the Foreign Office statement said. "We reaffirm our firm support for the IAEA's ongoing work on this matter."
IAEA inspectors arrived in Iran on Saturday for a visit which Tehran had delayed earlier this month after the body condemned Iran for failing to report that it had designs for sophisticated P2 centrifuges for enriching uranium to levels that could be weapon-grade.
The IAEA has been investigating since February 2003 whether Iran's nuclear programme is peaceful, or devoted to secretly developing atomic weapons, as the United States alleges.
The body is to report its findings at a meeting in Vienna in June.
An IAEA ruling that Iran is in non-compliance with the NPT would send the issue to the UN Security Council, which could then impose sanctions on the Islamic republic.


More lies from Tehran
As it has for the past nine months, the radical Islamic regime in Iran continues to cheat the U.N.-affiliated International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the world when confronted about its nuclear weapons programs. Since March 13, when the United States joined with France, Germany and Great Britain to pass a tough resolution at the IAEA Board of Governors meeting criticizing Iran's nuclear proliferation, Tehran has continued to respond in an erratic, defiant manner.
On March 13, Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Hassan Rowhani, denounced the IAEA resolution as "unfair and deceitful," and declared that his government was canceling IAEA inspections indefinitely -- a move that would effectively freeze continued inspections of the country's nuclear facilities. Three days later, Iran agreed that the IAEA could resume inspections on March 27. The inspections have resumed for the time being, and Iran asserted Monday that it had suspended the production of components and technology for uranium enrichment.
But a careful look at Iran's pattern of behavior suggests that it is only a matter of time until it tosses aside even the pretext of cooperation. In June, the IAEA issued a report confirming longstanding U.S. charges that Iran was secretly attempting to develop nuclear weapons. For the next few months, the agency lobbied unsuccessfully to persuade Iran to permit the agency's inspectors to make surprise visits to the country's nuclear facilities. By early September, even IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei (who had been resisting pressure from Washington to declare Tehran in noncompliance with regulations governing the handling of nuclear materials) had finally lost patience. Mr. ElBaradei noted that, along with Iraq and North Korea, Iran "has been giving the international community the runaround." On Sept. 12, the IAEA gave Iran an Oct. 31 deadline to disprove the mounting body of evidence that it is developing nuclear weapons. Then, just days before the deadline, Tehran reached agreement with Britain, France and Germany to suspend uranium enrichment in exchange for promises from European countries to help it obtain nuclear technology for peaceful purposes.
In November, the IAEA issued a 30-page report documenting Iran's deceptions about its nuclear program going back to the mid-1980s. Washington insisted that Iran's behavior be condemned and that the matter be referred to the U.N. Security Council. But Iran declared that it would not cooperate with the IAEA if this took place, and the IAEA backed down.
In January, Iran brazenly announced it was building centrifuges in violation of its commitments to the Europeans. Then last month, IAEA inspectors announced that they had found traces of polonium, a radioactive substance that can help trigger a nuclear chain reaction. It was yet another item that Iran had failed to declare. Inspectors also discovered high-tech enrichment equipment on an Iranian military base -- the first known link between the nuclear program and the Iranian military. More ominously, there have been reports that Tehran has been helping North Korea with its atomic weapons development efforts.
In sum, when it comes to nuclear weapons, Iran's current behavior seems to be little more than a continuation of its policy over the last two decades: sustained cheating, occasionally interrupted by tactical retreats. These calculated cycles are inducing international inaction -- as the day of decisive action grows closer.


The democrat
Iran's leading reformist intellectual tries to reconcile religious duties and human rights
By Laura Secor, 3/14/2004
IF IRAN'S DEMOCRATIC REFORM movement has a house intellectual, it's Abdolkarim Soroush. A small, soft-spoken philosopher with fiercely expressive eyebrows, Soroush specializes in mysticism, Sufi poetry, Islamic theology, chemistry, pharmacology, and the philosophy of science. Although he once worked for Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's revolutionary government, he now advances a powerful argument for democracy and human rights -- and he does so drawing not only on John Stuart Mill and John Rawls, but also on the deepest intellectual traditions of Shi'ite Islam. Religion must remain aloof from governance, he is fond of saying, not because religion is false and would corrupt politics, but because religion is true and politics corrupts it.
Soroush's work is heady, abstract stuff. And yet, its hold on throngs of young Iranians -- hundreds of students show up to the typical Soroush lecture -- is so strong that Iran's ruling mullahs consider him a threat, and pro-clerical militias regularly harass and beat him when he speaks in his native land. That's why these days, he makes his home at Princeton University, where he teaches a seminar of fewer than 10 graduate students and passes all but unnoticed through the halls of the Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy.
That is where I met Soroush on Feb. 23, the day the dismal results of the latest Iranian parliamentary election began trickling out. The Guardian Council, a body of clerics with far-reaching powers, had disqualified some 2,000 candidates, mostly reformists, from so much as running for parliament. Unsurprisingly, though the level of voter turnout and hence the strength of the new parliament's mandate is disputed, the election results were clear: Pro-clerical conservatives packed 156 of the parliament's 290 seats, with 50 still left to be decided.
But the success of the reform movement, says Soroush, will be measured not in parliamentary seats but in attitudinal shifts, as Iran's educated youth embrace such notions as "freedom, justice, political participation, and the rights of man."
"The reform movement actually had two dimensions, if you like, two sides," he explains as we sit in his bare visiting professor's office. "One side was the political. Some of the reformists were part of the establishment, of the government. Now they've lost their power. But on the other hand, the most important part of the reform movement was intellectual, theoretical, educational."
That intellectual reform movement finds expression in Soroush's own work, which attempts to reconcile revelation and reason, religious duties and human rights. Whether or not such a reconciliation is possible is the subject of much debate and experimentation in the Muslim world today. But perhaps no one has attempted to develop so ambitious and unique a philosophical framework for that project as Abdolkarim Soroush.
ran's 1979 Islamic revolution seemed to herald a new era for the Muslim world. In place of the secular, corrupt, repressive government of the American-backed Shah, Iranians imagined they would create something entirely new: a regime that would promote social justice and spiritual fulfillment, and one that would draw on indigenous cultural traditions and the theory of the state embedded in the country's overwhelmingly dominant faith, Islam.
The charismatic Ayatollah Khomeini, who had suffered prison and exile under the Shah, would replace a crass, alien capitalism with a dignified, indigenous spiritualism that rejected worldly motives. As Khomeini admonished the people, the purpose of the revolution was not "to have less expensive melons" but to lead a more elevated life.
In the end, however, Khomeini saddled Iran with something not all his supporters bargained for: the doctrine of velayat-i-faqi, or the rule of the jurist. This doctrine effectively delivered autocratic executive powers to Iran's clerics, and particularly to the ayatollah deemed wisest by his peers -- in the first instance, Khomeini himself.
Initially, Soroush believed in the democratic and spiritual promise of the revolution. Born Husayn Haj Farajullah Dabbagh to a lower-middle-class, religious family in Tehran in 1945, Soroush studied religion and science side by side. He went to Britain in 1973 to pursue an advanced degree in analytical chemistry, followed by a course of study on the history and philosophy of science. During this time, he began publishing philosophical papers in Iran under the pen name Abdolkarim Soroush.
In 1980, scant months after revolutionary forces had closed Iran's universities, Khomeini invited Soroush to return to Iran as a member of a committee of seven scholars who would revise the country's higher education curriculum. At first Soroush was enthusiastic, working with his colleagues to develop courses that would educate students about their Islamic heritage and traditions. But as the revolutionary government exerted increasingly dogmatic control over the committee's work, Soroush soured on the project. He didn't approve of separating men and women in the classroom, forcing rituals on students, restricting the subjects professors could teach, or marginalizing the sciences or social sciences.
"I was a little bit more liberal-minded than some of the others," Soroush tells me. Feeling isolated -- "There were no ears to listen to me," he says -- he resigned in 1983, never again to work for the government. Instead, he would become its critic. "Undemocratic things were growing in the whole country," Soroush says of the post-revolutionary period.
In `92, Soroush established the Faculty of History and Philosophy of Science. It was Iran's first program of its kind. At the same time, his philosophical writings on Islam and democracy began to circulate through an eclectic intellectual journal called Kiyan. In these writings, Soroush directly challenged the political power of the clerics, even advocating that they cease working for pay so that they would no longer be corrupted by worldly interests. "They must remain lovers rather than dealers of religion," he explains in an e-mail. With these and other writings, Soroush became a professor with a following.
As Soroush's influence grew, so too did the influence of the defining figure of the reform movement's political wing: Mohammad Khatami, minister of Islamic Guidance for 10 years after the Revolution. Advocating constitutional law over strict religious law and parliamentary rule over clerical rule, Khatami won the presidency in a landslide in `97.
Soroush, who considers Khatami a friend, believes the president squandered the hopes reformists had vested in him. "I think he lost some of the best opportunities for reform in our society," Soroush says. "He was a very, very powerful man because he had more than 20 million votes." But Khatami was a cautious ruler, refraining even from criticizing such obvious abuses as the beating of students and closing down of newspapers, Soroush laments.
In July 2003, Soroush issued an open letter to Khatami in which he pulled no punches. "The present generation as well as generations to come must never forget this ominous message of religious despotism," he wrote. "That in Iran today, the best newspaper is the one that is closed, the best pen is the one that is broken and the best thinker is the one that is nonexistent."
The slide toward despotism had advanced past the point where Khatami could stop it, though he might have done so earlier, in Soroush's view. Nevertheless, when clerics manipulated the recent elections and Khatami again failed to take a resolute stand, many of the president's supporters came to think that he "betrayed the whole cause of reform," says Soroush.
But the intellectual reform movement, of which Soroush is an integral part, lives on. "If people think that even in theory the reformists have failed," he observes, "that will be the real death of this movement. But I think that will not happen, because I think the reform movement in theory is much more advanced and much richer than its rival."
he day I attend Soroush's Princeton seminar, the class is discussing a group of eighth-century rationalist Islamic philosophers called the Mu'tazilites, whom Soroush sees as among the precursors of the Iranian reform movement.
The Mu'tazilites, who drew on ancient Greek philosophical sources, believed that the Qu'ran was a created text, rather than an eternal one -- meaning that it was situated in the moment of its historical creation and could conceivably have been different, had external circumstances been different. Most intriguingly, the Mu'tazilites believed justice did not derive from God but guided God's actions. Therefore an action was not good or bad because God commanded or forbade it; God commanded or forbade it because it was good or bad. What this meant was that morality stood independent of God and in fact inhered in the actions themselves. It could be apprehended with reason, even by someone ignorant of God's injunctions. Soroush calls this vision of justice "moral secularism."
Though the Mu'tazilites produced the official doctrine of the Baghdad caliphate from 765 through 848, they were unpopular elitists who resorted to violent repression. When they were displaced by the orthodox Ash'arites, who held reason to be subservient to revelation, the Mu'tazilites went into near-permanent eclipse. Sunni Muslims embraced the Ash'arite view and came to see Mu'tazilite ideas as heretical. But the often subterranean Mu'tazilate influence became woven into the theology of the Persian Shi'ites and the Yemeni Zaydis.
Soroush's philosophical views owe much to the Mu'tazilite insights he explains to his graduate seminar, in particular the notion that reason can allow us to distinguish between good and evil, quite apart from divine revelation. From this notion of moral secularism follows Soroush's belief that "you can have a democratic debate about good and bad in politics" -- something implicitly denied by those who advocate rule by clerics or by the letter of the scriptures.
But while Soroush makes a business of separating the rational from the divine, he is everywhere clear that his aim is not to diminish the divine but to protect it. In his seminal Kiyan essay, "The Expansion and Contraction of Religious Knowledge," Soroush argued that the essence of religion, which is immutable, eternal, and sacred, can be separated from religious knowledge, which is mutable, relative, and historical. The implications of this simple theory were far-reaching. The interpretive work of the clergy, therefore, was not itself divine; rather, the pursuit of religious knowledge was human and historically situated. Religious ideology, like religious knowledge, also stood apart from religion itself as something ephemeral and, in Soroush's view, dispensable.
As Daniel Brumberg writes in "Reinventing Khomeini: The Struggle for Reform in Iran," it is precisely in separating religious knowledge from the core of religion that Soroush makes it possible to engage with Western ideas without invoking the Muslim bugbears of "cultural surrender, cultural superiority, or mechanistic `borrowing.' " Rather, one can apprehend justice, say, through reason, and reason can wield tools of worldly -- even of Western -- provenance. In any case, Soroush argues, contemporary Iran draws on three cultural wellsprings: Persian, Islamic, and Western.
Soroush believes that religious institutions and political ones should be kept separate. Doing so will allow religious life to truly flourish, because it will be chosen rather than imposed. But if this sounds like Western-style liberal secularism, it isn't. Rather, Soroush envisions what he calls a democratic religious society. Its goal is the freedom of believers to practice and live by their faith without compulsion -- but also without the "profanity" that pervades Western secular life.
Shari'ah law provides the Islamic framework for moral living, and Soroush does not seem prepared to do away with it, although he is clear that scripture should never form the sole basis of legislation. Indeed, Soroush sees Shari'ah as a form of religious knowledge rather than an article of religious faith. And so, in his view, it should be subject to rational discussion and adjustment.
It is here that my discussion with Soroush becomes most tangled and most intriguing. Shari'ah law is flexible, he tells me. It can be reinterpreted by religious scholars who may not feel that its actual provisions -- the stoning of adulterers, say -- still perform the functions God intended.
But is this not antidemocratic? Unelected, unaccountable jurists are left to make political decisions based on their interpretation of the divine intent, and the social expediency, of Qu'ranic injunctions. And what about human rights? I ask Soroush. The idea of human rights is still alien to Iranian jurists, he tells me, but when they are better educated that will change: "I am 100 percent sure that if our clerics become familiar with the ideas of human rights, not superficially but deeply, philosophically, that definitely this will influence their interpretation of Shari'ah."
What Soroush would like, then, is for Islamic thought to engage and adapt secular notions of rights. What he doesn't want, however, is for rights claims to take precedence over traditional religious morality. He certainly doesn't wish to see Iranian society become as permissive as American society, where he believes that human rights claims have unduly silenced religious believers. He says, "Like even the omnipotent god whose actions are conditioned by the concept of justice, human rights, though they are universal, must be conditioned by the idea of morality. I think human rights nowadays has been carried away." While those who advocate human rights may favor gay rights, for instance, Soroush believes homosexuality is simply immoral.
It is hard to discern exactly what Soroush means here by morality, but it certainly doesn't sound like moral secularism. For if, as the Mu'tazilites claimed, morality is rational, why shouldn't rights be a component of morality, subject to negotiation but not to unexplained moral censure of certain groups of rights-seekers? The idea of universality, I come away thinking, is an uncompromising one, whether it's the secular world's universal human rights or the religious world's universal power of God. Can there really be an independent idea of justice that conditions them both, and isn't ultimately founded on the conviction of one's supremacy over the other?
Certainly, it's a tension that runs through our own society, even if in the end we resolve it in a manner exactly opposite to Iran. That tension is not lost on Soroush, an Iranian liberal who laments the lack of power of American religious conservatives: "I don't have the statistic, but roughly 70 percent of American people are religious -- they go to church, they are regular churchgoers and things like that as far as I know. But they do not have the power in order to say something about homosexuality in this society. Their voice is virtually unheeded."

Laura Secor, a writer living in New York, is the former staff writer for Ideas.

? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

China Releases Kin of Tiananmen Victims
2 hours, 37 minutes ago
By CHRISTOPHER BODEEN, Associated Press Writer
SHANGHAI, China - China said Friday it has released a woman who lost her husband and two who lost their sons in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests after detaining them over "illegal activities sponsored by overseas forces."
Retired professor Ding Zilin, a leading spokeswoman for the Tiananmen Mothers group, Zhang Xianling and Huang Jinping were "released by police after being admonished and showing repentance," according to the official Xinhua News Agency.
It said Ding confessed to having "conspired with overseas forces" to evade Chinese customs and state security laws.
Ding's and Zhang's sons were killed when Chinese soldiers attacked the pro-democracy protesters. Huang lost her husband.
Ding's release could not be independently confirmed. However, earlier Friday, a veteran political activist said Zhang and Huang had been allowed to return to their Beijing homes after being detained at an undisclosed location for five days.
The women were taken from their homes in Beijing by police on Sunday. Ding was taken from her home in the eastern city of Wuxi.
"Ding Zilin and others have been detained based on evidence that they have participated in illegal activities sponsored by overseas forces," Xinhua said. It didn't say what the women had been accused of trying to import, or with whom they had allegedly colluded.
This year marks the 15th anniversary of the bloody June 4, 1989, crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations centered on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, prompting stepped-up measures to prevent commemorations.
The detentions came as Beijing faced renewed criticism from the United States over its human rights record. The U.S. State Department complained Wednesday that the detentions undermined China's claims that its human rights record is improving.
Last week, China suspended a human rights meeting with Washington after U.S. officials said they planned to seek a U.N. Human Rights Commission resolution criticizing China. The United States says China has failed to keep promises made during talks in 2002.
New York-based Human Rights in China said agents who detained the women also seized from their homes letters and T-shirts marking the anniversary of the crackdown, in which hundreds -- possibly thousands -- of people were killed.
Communist authorities labeled the nonviolent protests an anti-government riot and have never offered a full accounting of casualties. The party suppresses all efforts to commemorate the deaths or gather information about the protests.
The Tiananmen Mothers group has called on the Chinese government to exonerate victims and reverse its verdict on the protests.

U.N.: Angola's Decision May Disrupt Aid
Mon Mar 29,11:32 PM ET
By ALEXANDRA ZAVIS, Associated Press Writer
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa - A surprise decision by Angola to reject genetically modified food aid threatens to disrupt distributions to hundreds of thousands of people -- many of them newly returned after the country's two-decade civil war -- the U.N. food agency said Monday.
AP Photo
The decision, announced by Angola's Council of Ministers on March 17, comes at a time when the World Food Program is already battling funding shortfalls for its program in the oil-rich southern African country.
U.N. officials are currently in discussions with Angolan authorities to determine the implications for a 19,000-ton shipment of U.S. corn that had been earmarked for the country. If there is no clarity by Wednesday, the United States could redirect the corn to another country, officials said.
Angola, a nation of about 14 million people, was ruined by the war pitting the government against UNITA rebels. Up to a half-million Angolans fled their country before it ended in 2002. The fighting also drove some 4 million people from their homes.
Some 3.8 million have now returned to their rural homes, but about 1.5 million remain dependent on food aid, according to WFP figures.
Despite pressing needs, Angola is struggling to compete for funds with other aid-dependent countries.
Donors have privately questioned the government's commitment to resolving humanitarian problems in a country where one in every four dollars in oil earnings is unaccounted for, according to anti-corruption activists.
So far, WFP has only been able to raise 24 percent of the $143 million it needs for the year beginning April 1, the agency's regional director, Mike Sackett, said in Johannesburg.
Next month, it will be forced to reduce its cereal rations by 30 percent, he said. If no new donors are found by June, they will be cut again to 50 percent.
Details of the ban, which does not apply to milled grain, remain unclear, and the decision has not yet been officially implemented.
But it could have major implications for Angola, which receives up to 77 percent of its food aid from the United States. American biotech companies have been at the forefront of promoting genetically modified food, or GMOs, which can be made to resist insects or disease.
African countries such as Zambia and Zimbabwe have also rejected biotech food aid.

Human Rights Group Blasts Sudan Gov't
Fri Apr 2, 7:01 AM ET
By MATTHEW ROSENBERG, Associated Press Writer
NAIROBI, Kenya - Sudanese forces are killing, raping and forcing civilians from their homes in an effort to suppress an insurgency in western Sudan, an international human rights group said Friday, accusing the government of "crimes against humanity."
While government troops have participated in the fighting in the western Darfur region, allied Arab militia have carried out the bulk of the attacks against the region's inhabitants, Muslims of African descent, Human Rights Watch said in a report.
The insurgents draw most of their fighters from Darfur's African tribes and the government is "seeking to destroy any potential support base for the rebels," the New York-based group said.
Rebel and Sudanese officials were not immediately available for comment. But the Sudanese government has repeatedly denied its forces are intentionally attacking civilians.
The report, titled "Darfur in Flames: Atrocities in Western Sudan," also noted the rebels have at times attacked civilians and are reportedly using children for fighters.
But "the government of Sudan and allied Arab militia ... are implementing a strategy of ethnic-based murder, rape and forcible displacement of civilians," said the report, based on interviews with Sudanese refugees who have fled to neighboring Chad.
"The Sudanese government is complicit in these abuses and holds the highest degree of responsibility for pursuing a military policy that has resulted in the commission of crimes against humanity," the report said.
As fighting in Darfur has intensified in recent months, so have accusations that the government is targeting civilians.
On March 19, the U.N. resident coordinator for Sudan, Mukesh Kapila, said that attacks against civilians in Darfur by the Arab militia were "close to the definition of ethnic cleansing."
The United States, United Nations (news - web sites) and international aid groups have said the fighting has created a humanitarian catastrophe, and aid agencies, which have had only limited access to the region, estimate that more than 800,000 civilians have been displaced.
"The militias are not only killing individuals, they are decimating the livelihoods of tens of thousands of families," Georgette Gagnon, deputy director of the Africa division of Human Rights Watch, said Friday. "The people being targeted are the farmers of the region, and unless these abuses are stopped and people receive humanitarian relief, we could see famine in a few months' time."
Peace talks between the government and rebels faltered last year, and the latest round of indirect negotiations got off to a rocky start this week with the rebels and government disagreeing over the agenda.
The conflict began in February 2003, when two rebel groups -- the Sudan Liberation Movement and the Justice and Equality Movement -- took up arms, saying they were fighting for a share of the power and wealth in Africa's largest country.
The insurgency in Darfur has intensified as peace talks between the government and southern rebels fighting a 21-year-long civil war have inched toward their conclusion. Those talks are being held in Kenya.


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Trafficking on rise in prescription drugs
By Christopher Rowland, Globe Staff, 4/2/2004
FORT LEE, N.J. -- Police staked out a Dunkin' Donuts parking lot, secretly watched an illicit rendezvous, then trailed suspects to a nearby condominium. But when they swooped in, parallels to a routine drug raid vanished.
In the back of a green Jeep Cherokee, investigators found not heroin or cocaine but Zocor, 30 cases of the popular prescription anticholesterol drug manufactured by Merck & Co. Inside the condominium they discovered a cardboard box containing $500,000, the alleged payment for the stolen medicine.
Last month's seizures and arrests capped a six-month investigation, a counterattack on what authorities said is a growing underground market for pilfered pharmaceuticals that threatens to undermine consumer confidence in the safety of prescription medicine. By the time they were done, Bergen County and federal investigators working over two days had arrested 11 members of an alleged ring that they said stole millions of dollars worth of cholesterol medicine, blood-pressure pills, and Viagra from large US manufacturers.
Authorities also seized $1.2 million in cash, 29 guns, luxury cars, and a plasma TV. Without offering specifics, the local authorities said they have identified both traditional Mafia and Russian organized crime connections involved in the flourishing trade.
The reasons for a growing illicit prescription-drug trade are simple, say local law enforcement officials: the lure of easy money, a lack of serious criminal penalties for trafficking, and reluctance among manufacturers to report missing drugs to the police.
"These are very desirable commodities to steal," said Michael P. Peskoe, a former pharmaceutical industry executive and lawyer for the Food and Drug Administration who now practices in Boston. "They are light; they are quite expensive; and there's an opportunity to make large sums of money."
Last year the FDA identified "diversion" and "illegal redirection" of prescription drugs as a major problem because there is no easy way to distinguish legitimate drugs from ones that have been illegally sold into a so-called gray market in which unauthorized dealers peddle pills. Once drugs enter the gray market, they are difficult to track.
As a result, gray market drugs can end up on pharmacy shelves. That means consumers could be buying medicines that have been improperly stored, adulterated, or distributed after their expiration dates.
Sometimes, stolen drugs are peddled to consumers over the Internet.
Drug companies that were allegedly victimized by the thieves would not discuss details of the case. But collectively, New Jersey's drug manufacturers are worried about the problem, said Hollie Gilroy, spokeswoman for the Healthcare Institute of New Jersey, the state's trade group for pharmaceutical companies. "Our concern is the safety of patients," she said. "When you've got these other actors in the marketplace, it makes it a lot more difficult to ensure patient safety, and that's the overwhelming concern."
The 11 defendants, including five truck drivers, have made initial court appearances and been released on bail, but they have not yet entered pleas in court. Each has been charged with racketeering, theft, and conspiracy. A key figure in the case, David Pinski, 65, whose Fort Lee condominium was the scene of the March 18 police raid, has been charged with an additional count of money laundering.
Pinski's lawyer, Samuel R. DeLuca Jr., of Jersey City, said his client plans to plead not guilty. He said Pinski is a legitimate businessman, the owner of a retail T-shirt shop in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan.
Authorities say the ring's leaders had been honing their methods for several years, enlisting freight truck drivers who traversed New Jersey's industrial parks and interstate highways while stealing select boxes of drugs from their trailers.
Besides Zocor, Bergen County officials said, the ring stole Diovan and Lotrel, two drugs made by Novartis AG to treat high blood pressure. Novartis lost at least $2 million through the thefts, authorities said. The ring also allegedly stole the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra, manufactured by Pfizer Inc. Stolen Viagra was shipped to Florida to be sold at nightclubs in tandem with doses of the illegal narcotic Ecstasy, police said.
Truck drivers involved in the racket rolled into deserted sections of industrial parks and opened up the backs of their trailers for middlemen, who would help them select particular drugs to steal, said Chief Michael Mordaga, the lead investigator for the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office.
As they trace the ring's activities, he said, detectives are following a trail through self-storage units throughout New Jersey. Authorities expect to eventually disrupt one or more of New Jersey's 900 licensed wholesalers, he said.
"We have been able to track down $3 million in thefts to these individuals, and we know there are millions more," he said. "A case of Viagra is the size of a telephone book, and the price on that is about $14,000."
Bergen County investigators last year disrupted illegal traffic in Serostim, a hormone manufactured by Rockland-based Serono Inc. that is used to prevent wasting syndrome in AIDS patients. It is a drug that also happens to be popular with bodybuilders.
Black marketeers were buying the drug from AIDS patients in New York and New Jersey and shipping it via overnight express to gyms in California. Express packages full of cash were sent back in return. Florida state investigators arrested 19 people last year after targeting a counterfeiting ring that shipped phony and diluted cancer drugs.
Pfizer disagreed with the characterization that it does not take action. "If appropriate, we report it to law enforcement," said Pfizer spokesman Bryant Haskins. "We don't ignore it. We try to find out how the theft occurred and by whom."
Christopher Rowland can be reached at

? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
GOP Rails at Kerry's 'Unprecedented Criminal Enterprise'
Republicans are usually too wimpy to speak up when Democrats commit massive vote fraud and other crimes, but not this time. The charges filed against Sen. John Kerry's campaign condemn his "unprecedented criminal enterprise."
The New York Post reported today that the papers filed by top Republicans with the Federal Election Commission also charge the Kerry camp and allied organizations with an "illegal conspiracy."
"Simply put, the Kerry campaign and the Democratic Party have been unable to fund-raise to a level of hard dollars that they think is necessary for their campaign efforts," the GOP complaint says.
"Instead, they have chosen to rely on an illegal conspiracy of donors and shadowy groups to defeat President Bush."
The complaint says the supposedly "independent" groups, which include and Media Fund, headed by former Kerry campaign manager Jim Jordan, amount to an illegal "slush fund for John Kerry's campaign."
"Taken together, they constitute an unprecedented criminal enterprise designed to impermissibly affect a presidential election," the complaint says.
So much for campaign finance "reform."


Kerry, Candidate and Catholic, Creates Uneasiness for Church
Published April 02. 2004 8:30AM
New York Times
Senator John Kerry's support for abortion rights and stem cell research has prompted discussions among Roman Catholic bishops and Vatican officials over how to respond to a presidential candidate who professes Catholicism while taking stands contrary to church teaching.
The issue has been a topic in the Vatican this week as bishops from Florida, Georgia and North and South Carolina hold long-scheduled meetings with the pope and Vatican officials on a variety of issues.
"They are basically struggling with this, as we are," said one visiting American, Bishop John H. Ricard of Pensacola-Tallahassee, the chairman of a task force expected to produce guidelines for American bishops on relations with Catholic politicians.
Most recently, Bishop Ricard said, the bishops were troubled by Mr. Kerry's vote against a bill that makes it a crime to harm a fetus during an assault on a pregnant woman. President Bush signed the legislation on Thursday, and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops immediately issued a news release applauding him.
Bishop Ricard said in Rome: "Of course we were disappointed with Kerry's voting against it. We were disappointed with others who voted against it, but as Catholic lawmakers we hold them to a higher standard."
The task force Bishop Ricard heads was formed last year after the Vatican released a forceful "doctrinal note" on Catholics in public life, which said, "A well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals."
The bishops are unlikely to make overt endorsements, and consistently say that they favor neither Democrats nor Republicans. But if some influential prelates choose to publicly embrace Mr. Kerry or to snub him by refusing to offer him communion, withholding an honorary degree or canceling an event at a Catholic institution it could have an impact on some Catholic voters.
In February, Archbishop Raymond Burke of St. Louis admonished Mr. Kerry not to take communion if he attended Mass there. Archbishop Burke, until recently the bishop of the diocese of LaCrosse, Wis., caused a furor when he issued the same threat to politicians there last year. Few of his fellow bishops followed suit.
Catholics make up 27 percent of the electorate and belong to the largest church in the country, with about 65 million members. Many live in states with large blocs of electoral votes. Exit polls in states that have already held their Democratic primaries showed that Mr. Kerry did very well among Catholics.
The Democrats began losing their lock on the Catholic vote about 30 years ago, and now it is very much up for grabs. No presidential candidate since at least 1980 has won the Catholic vote and lost the White House, with the exception of Al Gore in 2000.
Mr. Kerry is the first Roman Catholic to run for president on a major party ticket in 44 years, but the obstacles for Catholic politicians have turned inside out since 1960, when John F. Kennedy became the first Catholic to win the White House.
President Kennedy had to overcome accusations from non-Catholics that he would follow the bidding of the pope. Now, Mr. Kerry faces accusations from some within his own church that he is not following the pope's bidding closely enough.
"Kennedy settled the problem that a Catholic couldn't become president," said the Rev. Robert F. Drinan, a Catholic priest and former Democratic congressman from Massachusetts.
"That's not an issue now," said Father Drinan, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center in Washington, who described Mr. Kerry as a friend and a strong Catholic. "The issue with Kerry will be, is he good enough as a Catholic."
Like many American Catholics, Mr. Kerry does not adhere to some church positions yet describes himself as, in his words, "a believing and practicing Catholic." He is a former altar boy who says he learned only last year that his paternal grandfather was a Czech Jew named Fritz Kohn, who changed his name and converted to Catholicism before emigrating to Boston.
Mr. Kerry sought an annulment from the church when he was divorced from his first wife. He later married Teresa Heinz, who is Catholic, and together they regularly attend Sunday Mass and take communion, a sacrament reserved for those in the church's good graces.
The senator is aligned with his church on many social justice issues, including immigration, poverty, health care and the death penalty. But he diverges on the litmus issues, like abortion and stem cell research, that animate church conservatives and many in the hierarchy.
Mr. Kerry has responded to questions about his adherence to church teachings by proclaiming his belief in the separation of church and state, just as President Kennedy did in a speech that largely laid to rest suspicions about his allegiances, said David Wade, a Kerry spokesman.
"Senator Kerry is a person of faith, he's a practicing Catholic, and his religion is an important part of his life and of Teresa Heinz Kerry's life," Mr. Wade said. "And they've always recognized that separation between the public and the private."
Mr. Wade said the senator had no concerns about being confronted or snubbed by Catholic leaders.
"It's not once been an issue the campaign has run into in almost two years on the campaign trail," he said. "He's given speeches at Georgetown, he's given speeches at Boston College, he's a graduate of Boston College Law School, and he has a long history speaking in Catholic institutions."
Some conservative Catholic groups have been urging bishops to penalize Catholic politicians who do not vote with the church.
The Rev. John McCloskey, the director of the Catholic Information Center in Washington and a member of the conservative organization Opus Dei, said, "Senator Kerry considers himself a Catholic, but on issues that are fundamental in terms of Catholic morality, he appears to be off the reservation."
However, Father McCloskey said, American bishops are "in a quandary" over just what to do about Catholic politicians who fail to uphold church doctrine on issues like abortion. Punitive measures like denying Mr. Kerry communion could backfire, he said.
Few bishops followed the example of Archbishop Burke in St. Louis, and two who did were far less direct. A Catholic official familiar with the bishops' thinking, who did not want to be identified, said after Archbishop Burke's sanction: "Notice the resounding silence. I think many people would not consider that a pastoral way to approach somebody."
Bishop Joseph A. Galante of the diocese of Camden, N.J. who served briefly on the task force on Catholics in politics, said that bishops must, in their roles as teachers, assert church doctrine and continue to call Catholic politicians to account to prevent them from leading other Catholics astray.
"When someone who is public and identifies as a Catholic takes public positions opposed to church teaching," Bishop Galante said, "if it's just ignored, then the question arises among other Catholic people, who say, `Well, I guess it's all right to hold these positions.' "


Kerry blasts Treasury analysis of tax plans
By Paul Farhi, Washington Post, 4/2/2004
WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Department seemed to weigh in on the ongoing fight between President Bush and Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kerry over taxes when it issued a news release detailing how much the Massachusetts senator's proposals might cost.
The release did not name Kerry, but it described in detail how much his programs would cost "hard-working individuals and married couples." Its estimates ranged from $201 billion to $476 billion, depending on what would be changed.
The Kerry campaign blasted the release, calling it a violation of the Hatch Act, which bars most government employees from participating in partisan politics while on the job.
"Whether it's using Treasury officials to analyze John Kerry's plan to create 10 million jobs or CIA officials to help smear Richard Clarke, this White House is the most political White House the nation has ever seen," spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said in a statement.
"They will say and do anything to get reelected."
Rob Nichols, a spokesman for the agency, defended the analysis, saying that it was requested by House majority leader Tom DeLay, Republican of Texas, and that the department often scores legislative proposals. "This is so that policy makers, as they engage in a debate on changes in the tax code, will have facts at their disposal," he said.
Nevertheless, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey, asked the Treasury's inspector general yesterday to look into the matter.
House minority leader Nancy Pelosi, Democrat of California, said she had another idea. She wants the Treasury Department to do an analysis of the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts, which that Democrats have been requesting for months.
? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.
Choose to Lose
By Shawn Macomber
Published 4/2/2004 12:08:54 AM
Even after watching John Kerry stumble through the Democratic debates last fall, I still expected him to be able to hold his own with Generation X. Alas, the would be leader of the free world proved in his recent sit-down with MTV's Gideon Yago that, as Ma the sheep once told a young pig in the film Babe, "we shouldn't hope for too much."
Even the simplest questions provoked agonized hedging by Kerry. Consider the following answer to one student's query as to whether Kerry was "cool."
"Well, if I were cool and told you I was cool, I wouldn't be cool," he replied, adjusting his horrendous pink and blue polka-dotted tie. "It's up to you and other people to judge if anything I do today is cool. My daughter would probably tell you I'm a freak at times."
Luckily, the crack team at MTV News tracked down Vanessa Kerry to clarify her father's actual level of coolness. Kerry, his daughter said, is "the guy who comes out in a full-piece wetsuit and Hawaiian shorts in the summer and thinks he's cool," which she initially blanched at. However, the odd ensemble eventually grew on her and overwhelmed any residual fashion sense.
The 26-year-old told Yago she went to work for her father's campaign because she was "pissed off" at George W. Bush and wanted to "go kick some ass." Perhaps she was the adviser who suggested he drop the F-bomb in the now infamous Rolling Stone interview a few months back.
IT ONLY GOT WORSE. Kerry confided to Yago that he was "never into heavy metal" but was "fascinated" by the "poetry," "anger," and "social energy" of rap and hip hop. As with everything else, Kerry then took the other side of the issue, leaving people with the impression that you should and should not listen to violent gangster rap.
"I think when you start talking about killing cops or something like that, it bothers me," Kerry said. "But understand, I'm still listening, because I know it's a reflection of the street and it's a reflection of life."
Occasionally a real issue came up. Kerry defended his vote on the Iraq resolution, saying the Bush Administration had tricked him with intelligence that was "not real." After considering for a moment whether he had admitted he could be tricked by a Texas cowboy, Kerry added, "You are not duped when somebody misleads you and in effect lies to you or doesn't tell you the truth."
MTV'S "CHOOSE OR LOSE" threatens to "mobilize more than 20 million young adults aged 18 to 30 to vote in the 2004 election." Ostensibly, this is a non-partisan effort, but a glance at the groups partnering with MTV to "educate" the youth vote suggests otherwise. The Hip-Hop Team Vote, the National Council of La Raza, the Black Youth Vote, the NAACP, and Harvard University's Institute of Politics are among the chief partners listed.
"Everyday our government makes all kinds of decisions that affect me," one young man says in a recent "Choose or Lose" commercial. "They decide if my older brother goes to war. They decide how much my grandmother gets in her Social Security check. They even decide who I'm allowed to marry."
Watching the "Choose or Lose" special, I wanted to feel like the network was giving kids the short shrift. The program, with sporadic exceptions, was devoid of any sort of substance. But then none of the potential voters interviewed for the program seemed to mind.
Over and over interviewees praised Kerry's charisma (???) and damned the national press for "distorting" the truth about him. And if the film crews were able to find a single college student with a positive view of Republicans, he was left on the cutting room floor. Yago thrice praised the junior senator from Massachusetts as a "war hero."
That Kerry came off as a meandering dud in this love fest shows just how much work he's going to have to do if he wants to win over the votes of the adult voters who make up the electorate. Kerry should ask his new pal Howie Dean how reliable the MTV generation is.
Shawn Macomber is a reporter for The American Spectator. He runs the website Return of the Primitive.

Kerry Island
Jay Gatsby runs for president.

Naushon Island, off the Massachusetts coast, has been known as the home of pirates, who confiscated the hard-earned wealth of merchants and businessmen; sheep, obedient creatures who demonstrate no independence; ticks and flies, droning annoying pests; and is rumored to be haunted by frightening, ghostly pale, gaunt figures. It is also a family home of John Kerry; readers can decide for themselves whether he constitutes a redundant addition to that list.
Seven miles long and about 5,000 acres, Naushon is the largest and most unspoiled in the Elizabeth Islands chain, just northwest of Martha's Vineyard and Chappaquiddick. The only year-round settlement in the chain is the town of Gosnold, on the outermost and lone public island, Cuttyhunk.
In its history, Naushon has been owned by only three families; the family of the first governor of Massachusetts colony, the Winthrops, the Bowdoins, and the Forbeses for the most recent 148 years.
The Forbes family maintains about 30 homes on Naushon, and hundreds of Forbeses and their guests vacation there in the summer. The public can boat near it, but not land. Today, a mounted groundskeeper patrols the shores, and politely asks trespassers to leave -- though some trespassers are allowed to finish their walk and urged to get permission before landing again.
"In order to preserve the owners' privacy and maintain the islands in the face of campers, litterers, thieves, arsonists, hunters, and others, they are all strictly no trespassing," wrote Naushon Shareholder David Gregg in a letter to a kayaker in the mid-1990s. (Arsonists?)
Only caretakers and sheepherders live on the island year-round. Employment with the Forbes does not appear to be a road to wealth: According to 2001 state Division of Employment and Training figures, the entire 2001 total payroll for Gosnard was $782,801 at eight establishments with a total of 51 employees, for an average income of $15,349.
In a policy that would make Al Gore proud, no vehicles are allowed on Naushon, and residents and guests travel by foot or by horseback or via antique horse-drawn carriages.
Periodically, Kerry talks about his ties to the island, his memories of family gatherings during his childhood, more recent experiences windsurfing off its coasts, or asserting his brotherhood with sportsmen by recalling adventures with his cousins shooting deer there. Kerry took Joe Klein for a speedboat ride off the island during the summer of 2002, perhaps the perfect interview backdrop for the senator's glowing profile in The New Yorker.
One can picture the lanky teen Kerry, wandering the steep, grassy hills that observers compare to Scottish highlands, contemplating deep thoughts while standing atop a high cliff overlooking rocky beaches and crashing surf. Between the mansions of wealth and class behind him, and the stark landscape before him, the atmosphere must have felt like a Charlotte Bronte novel.
In Kerry's 1990 Senate campaign, his opponent Jim Rappaport charged that the senator's "family trust" was receiving a tax abatement because the island is used for agricultural purposes, allowing the trust to pay $300 in annual taxes instead of $12,000. Kerry's spokesman responded that the island was owned by a trust set up by distant relatives on the Forbes side of his family, and that the senator is not a beneficiary of that trust. Kerry insisted that the island was just a family vacation home, not a formally owned property.
The Forbes of Naushon made their fortune in transoceanic trade in the 19th-century, including exchanging opium from Turkey for Chinese tea and silk. (The late financier Malcolm Forbes and his son, former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, are not related to this Forbes family.)
Although Kerry and Teresa Heinz enjoy the island privileges, neither he nor many other of the Forbes of his generation inherited vast wealth from their forebears.
Kerry's mother, Rosemary, was one of those Forbes of moderate means; his father Richard was a foreign-service officer stationed in Paris, Oslo, and Berlin. The wealthier relatives helped pay for Kerry's boarding school in Switzerland and later helped the family pay for Kerry's tuition at St. Paul's in New Hampshire, a prestigious classic jacket-and-tie New England private school.
Kerry's ties to the Forbes side of his family make for fascinating speculation. His upbringing was far from impoverished, but he was constantly surrounded by old money and pureblood Brahmin aristocracy. His family had a 52-foot-sailboat; the other kids had yachts. He was a Democratic Catholic; the campus of St. Paul's was almost entirely Republican Episcopalians. Kerry's peers reportedly perceived him as being "too ambitious" for a Forbes.
One wonders how Kerry was affected by being identified as a mere half-Forbes in the part of the country that put the most emphasis on inane aristocratic concepts of 'good breeding.'
"It used to be said that, socially speaking, Philadelphia asked who a person is, New York how much is he worth, and Boston what does he know," wrote Cleveland Amory wrote in his 1947 book , The Proper Bostonians. "Nationally it has now become generally recognized that Boston Society has long cared even more than Philadelphia about the first point and has refined the asking of who a person is to the point of demanding to know who he was. Philadelphia asks about a man's parents; Boston wants to know about his grandparents."
At school, Kerry faced a reception more complicated than racism or snobbery, according to Douglas Brinkley in his gushing review of Kerry's time in Vietnam, Tour of Duty.
"His fate would have been simpler in fact, if he were born an African-American from Atlanta or an Okie from Tulsa," Brinkley wrote. "Such clear anomalies at St. Paul's would have been accepted as legitimate outsiders, intelligent flukes of nature trying against ungodly odds to join the Eastern Establishment."
Rather than living the simple life of a black Atlantan in 1958, Kerry soldiered on as the poor outsider among the Brahmins, eventually dating Jacqueline Kennedy's half-sister, Janet Auchincloss. Through her, he was invited to go boating with President and the First Lady in 1962.
"If you look at those pictures of him with JFK on the boat, he looks kind of uncomfortable," says Howie Carr, Boston radio-show host and the Godfather of Bay State Kerry-watchers. "It's not like Clinton shaking hands with Kennedy at the White House, looking like, 'Hey, baby, this is where I belong.'"
Perhaps the weekends spent at Hammersmith Farm in Rhode Island, which was serving as the summer White House, seemed too much like the family gatherings at Naushon -- Jay Gatsby, masquerading among the privileged classes.
Regardless, Kerry eventually made peace with the world of wealth and lineage. He hosted two visits by the Clintons to Naushon in 1993 and 1994, with the president contributing a White House baseball cap to the informal "Presidential Hat Museum" that the Forbes family maintains in the main mansion on the island. Local lore claims the mansion is haunted by "ghosts of former Massachusetts governors."
There is no word on whether any of the ghosts have been glimpsed driving a phantom tank in pre-production Kerry for President campaign commercials.


Putin says Russia does not fear NATO
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder shake hands during a meeting in the Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow, Friday, April 2, 2004. Schroeder and Putin are expected to focus on economic and security issues in talks during Schroeder's one-day visit on Friday. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)
MOSCOW -- President Vladimir Putin said Friday that Russia does not fear the expansion of NATO or the European Union, but acknowledged that Moscow has disputes with the EU and warned that NATO's eastward march won't improve international security.
Speaking after a meeting with German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, Putin said that because more than half of Russia's trade will be with the expanded EU, "We have spoken about how relations between the Russian Federation and the expanding European Union should be built."
"None of us wants modern Europe to be divided by new, and this case virtual, Berlin walls," Putin said. "The question of how to find the path to this cooperation is not simple. We really did have - and still have - certain concerns. But dialogue is developing quite constructively at the moment."
He said he had discussed the problems with Schroeder.
"We have never expressed concern about the expansion of the European Union. Never," he said.
Putin stressed that Russia's relations with NATO "are developing positively." While he said that Russia has "no concerns about the expansion of NATO in terms of the security of the Russian Federation," he warned that "today's threats are such that the expansion of NATO will not remove them."
Moscow is bracing for possible trade and travel obstacles as the EU expands to welcome 10 new members, including eight former Soviet republics or satellites, on May 1.
Schroeder's visit came on a day when soldiers from seven Eastern European countries raised their national flags outside NATO headquarters in Brussels, marking the Western alliance's expansion into the former Soviet Union.

Kharrazi to visit Moscow Monday
Friday, April 02, 2004 - ?2004
Tehran, April 2 (IranMania) -- According to Iran's State News Agency (IRNA) Iran's Foreign Minister Dr Kamal Kharrazi is to arrive in Moscow on Monday to take part in a meeting of foreign ministers of the Caspian Sea littoral states.
The meeting, to open Tuesday, will be attended by Foreign Ministers of the sea`s five littoral states--Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.
According to the Russian president`s special envoy for Caspian Sea affairs, Viktor Kalyuzni, the foreign ministers will tackle issues such as the military activities of states in the sea, an equitable manner of dividing the sea and determination of fishing areas.
The meeting will also make preliminary arrangements for a meeting of heads of the sea`s littoral countries to be held in Tehran this year.

Ch?vez tapping nation's rainy-day funds
Venezuelan President Ch?vez, scrounging for cash to pay for social welfare programs, is looking to tap the country's central bank.
CARACAS - Trying to pay for a social spending spree in the face of a possible recall vote, President Hugo Ch?vez has been seeking and using billions of dollars from government accounts previously off-limits to the executive branch.
Most recently, Ch?vez has renewed his effort to withdraw at least $1 billion from the autonomous central bank, which holds $23 billion in foreign reserves, most collected from oil export revenue. Ch?vez says the bank has $8 billion more than it really needs.
``That money doesnt belong to the central bank, or even to the government, the leftist populist Ch?vez said in a national television address Sunday. ``It belongs to all the people of Venezuela.''
The president says he is trying to help Venezuelas impoverished majority benefit from the countrys vast oil wealth. But critics who allege he is trying to impose an authoritarian regime say he is using money from rainy-day funds and the state-run oil monopoly, known as PDVSA, for political gain.
In the past year, Ch?vezs government has been on a spending spree -- building low-cost housing, digging water wells, launching healthcare and educational initiatives, including the creation of two universities -- that has swelled the national budget.
The boom in social spending comes as the opposition presses to oust Ch?vez with a recall referendum. Elected in 1998 with about 80 percent of the vote, Ch?vezs support has dwindled to the mid-30s, according to some polls.
Venezuela is the third- or fourth-largest oil supplier to the United States and sits on the largest crude reserves outside the Middle East. But decades of public corruption and mismanagement have left most of its people poor, a problem aggravated by recent political upheavals.
To pay for many of the new programs, analysts say, Ch?vez has looked outside the government's $26 billion budget for extra money. Hes found some of it at PDVSA, which, in a break from its past, is directly financing some of his large-scale social projects instead of channeling its profits through the official government budget.
Economists say the oil companys direct contribution to the social programs has topped $1 billion since early 2003, when Ch?vez fired nearly half of PDVSA's workers who had led a crippling national strike designed to force him from power.
PDVSA would not confirm the $1 billion figure, but a spokesman said the company ''supports'' social programs, among them, medical and infrastructure projects, which the company calls ``missions.''
Since the strike, PDVSA has shared its downtown Caracas headquarters with the countrys Ministry of Energy and Mines, underscoring the blurring of the line between the government and the once relatively independent oil company.
Ch?vezs move on the central bank, which he launched late last year with a demand for $1 billion and had apparently put aside until last week, has also been derided by critics who say it is another example of his undermining of the countrys independent institutions.
``This is not just a money grab, this is a power grab, said Orlando Ochoa, a professor of economics at the Catholic University in Caracas. ``It gives you power if you can use money to help people who can vote for you. His main goal is to stay in power . . . This is short-term happiness to get votes and medium-term economic disaster.''
Ironically, the central banks autonomous status is protected by a 1999 constitution that Ch?vez backed strongly. In his speech Sunday, he used soccer language to describe that protection as a mistake, a ``self-goal.
One of the banks directors, Armando Le?n, reaffirmed the banks autonomy on Monday, and instead suggested that Ch?vez replenish a national rainy-day fund that his government has already depleted, from $7 billion to $700 million since 2001.
The government is supposed to deposit money into the fund when oil prices are high and withdraw when they are low, so swings in oil prices dont drastically affect Venezuelas national budget.
But although oil prices are now high, Ch?vezs government has suspended deposits into that fund, partly to make up for revenue lost because of last years strike at PDVSA.
Meanwhile, some of the presidents supporters in Congress, who hold a slim majority, this week said they will draft laws allowing Ch?vez access to the central banks reserves.
``The economy has suffered because of the way the opposition took immense amounts of dollars out of the country and destroyed capitalism during the strikes, said Juan Barreto, a Ch?vez ally in Congress. ``To recuperate, the economy needs investment, particularly in the agricultural sector. It will allow us to compete in other markets and compete in the world.''
Several economists say the presidents proposal regarding the central bank would be devastating for the economy, arguing that it will undermine foreign investor confidence and cause inflation to soar.
''Im convinced that several members of his Cabinet know this is very dangerous, that this is playing with fire,'' said Pedro Palma, a professor of economics at Venezuelas IESA business school.


Gov't Warns of Summer Bomb Plots in U.S.
Apr 2, 1:41 PM (ET)
WASHINGTON (AP) - Terrorists might try to bomb buses and rail lines in major U.S. cities this summer, according to a government bulletin issued to law enforcement officials nationwide.
The FBI and Homeland Security Department sent a bulletin Thursday night saying terrorists could attempt to conceal explosives in luggage and carry-on bags, such as duffel bags and backpacks.
The bulletin cites uncorroborated intelligence as indicating that such bombs could be made of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and diesel fuel, similar to what was used to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building in April 1995.
A senior federal law enforcement official, speaking Friday on condition of anonymity, said recent intelligence, coupled with the deadly March 11 commuter train bombings in Madrid, has increased the level of concern about a potential attack in the United States.
The bulletin did not specify a particular city that might be targeted.
Al-Qaida and other terrorist groups have "demonstrated the intent and capability" to attack public transportation with a variety of bombs, including suicide bombers, the bulletin says. Such attacks have occurred in Israel, Greece, Turkey, Spain and elsewhere.
In Spain on Friday, police found a bomb connected to a detonator with a 450-foot cable under the tracks of a high-speed train railway between Madrid and Seville. Bomb disposal exports disarmed the device and no train was in the vicinity when it was discovered, Spanish officials said.
The U.S. bulletin says that a "viable" explosive constructed of ammonium nitrate and diesel "could be concealed in standard luggage."
British authorities earlier this week arrested eight people on suspicion of being involved in a possible terrorist plot that included the discovery of 1,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate.
The warning follows by one day an FBI bulletin to state and local law enforcement agencies raising concern that terrorists might try to use cultural, artistic or athletic visas to slip into the United States undetected.
The new bulletin lists a number of suggestions for city transportation systems to enhance security. These include close monitoring of parking lots, removal of trash receptacles, limiting access points, improving lighting and beefing up overall law enforcement presence.
Barriers should be deployed at key points to prevent terrorists from parking a bomb-laden vehicle, possibly disguised as a delivery truck, close to entrances and exits.
"Question drivers and direct them to move immediately," the bulletin says.
In addition, the bulletin recommends passenger screening steps such as random security sweeps, positive matches of bags and cargo to passengers, and reminding passengers to immediately report any unattended bags or suspicious behavior.

Malaysian Terrorists: Osama Inspired Us
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) - Admitting they were part of an Islamic terrorist group, four jailed Malaysians said Friday that a string of attacks against churches and other targets in Southeast Asia - including bombings in Bali that killed 202 people - was inspired by Osama bin Laden.
The claims, made in televised interviews, supported assertions that the Jemaah Islamiyah group is tied into al-Qaida. But comments by the suspects were denied by the accused leader of Jemaah Islamiyah and drew fire from human rights groups that warned the confessions may have been coerced.
Jemaah Islamiyah is thought to have been behind Christmas Eve church bombings in nine Indonesian cities in 2000 that killed 19 people, the nightclub blasts on the resort island of Bali and an August 2003 car bomb at a Jakarta hotel that killed 12 people.
Mohamed Nasir Abbas, one of the four men interviewed by Malaysia's TV3, said the bombings were inspired by religious edicts, known as fatwas, attributed to bin Laden.
"People who believed in the fatwa carried out bombings," Nasir said. "Therefore they bombed churches. The bombing in Bali was based on a policy to take revenge against America."
According to the edict, Muslims were told to kill "Americans wherever they are, irrespective of whether they are armed or not, whether they are soldiers or civilians or women, elderly people or children," Nasir said.
Another detainee, Amran Mansor, identified himself as a Jemaah Islamiyah fund-raiser and said he had transported explosives to Pekan Baru, the site of one of the church bombings.
Nasir and the other three men interviewed said they received military training in Afghanistan. They now renounce Jemaah Islamiyah, they said, because it killed Muslims and other innocent people.
They are being held in Indonesia on terror-related suspicions but it remains unclear whether authorities will press charges and how long they will be held.
"The likelihood that they may have been tortured and coerced into making false statements or confessions under interrogation is high," said Syed Ibrahim, head of a Malaysian human rights group devoted to improving prisoner conditions.
In the interview, Nasir identified Abu Bakar Bashir, an Indonesian Muslim cleric, as Jemaah Islamiyah's spiritual leader and said that Bashir and a man known as Hambali passed along bin Laden's wishes.
Bashir, who is being held in a Jakarta jail but is set to be released at the end of the month, despite U.S. pressure to keep him in custody, denies being the group's leader.
In a telephone interview from jail, Bashir told The Associated Press he suspected the latest claims against him were coerced by Indonesian and Malaysian officials eager to please the United States.
"Both the Indonesian and Malaysian police are working for American interests," Bashir said. "Now the United States is trying to arrange for my arrest to be extended."
Indonesian police chief Gen. Da'i Bachtiar said authorities were gathering evidence to determine whether charges could be filed against Bashir.
Nasir said he took orders from Bashir as head of Jemaah Islamiyah's cell covering the islands of Borneo, Mindanao and parts of Sulawesi.
He said he smuggled explosives to Indonesia for the 2000 church bombings and ran several Jemaah Islamiyah training camps in the southern Philippines.
The Jemaah Islamiyah leader known as Hambali, who is now in U.S. custody, was thought "to be in communication with Osama bin Laden," Nasir said. "Whether this meant there was an official link between Jemaah islamiyah and al-Qaida, or it was just a personal relationship, I did not understand."
Mansor said during the interview that Hambali had picked some of Jemaah Islamiyah's targets.


Posted by maximpost at 2:56 PM EST
Thursday, 1 April 2004


Oppression reaches a milestone in Iran.
By Michael Rubin
Twenty-five years ago today, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini stood triumphant in the holy city of Qom. For two days, millions of Iranians had flocked to the polls to vote in a referendum. The question was simple: "Do you want an Islamic Republic?" According to revolutionary authorities, 98.2 percent said yes.
Khomeini claimed victory. "By casting a decisive vote in favor of the Islamic Republic," he told enthusiastic crowds, "you have established a government of divine justice, a government in which all segments of the population shall enjoy equal consideration, [and] the light of divine justice shall shine uniformly on all...."
So began a quarter century of tyranny. In the weeks that followed, Iranians would awake to see pictures splashed across the front page of the official daily Ettelaat of government officials, intellectuals, and liberals before and after execution. Khomeini gave vigilantes tacit approval to sack the U.S. embassy, even while distancing himself from their actions. Looking back on her experience as a revolutionary, one elementary-school teacher told me during my first trip to Iran, "Khomeini promised us Islamic democracy, so we voted yes. By the time we realized we got another dictator, it was too late."
In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the key issue is not degree of reform, but rather fundamental ideology. Iran's leadership uses the rhetoric of democracy to bestow respectability to one of the region's most brutal regimes. President Muhammad Khatami may call for democratic reforms, but he has never believed in universal suffrage. Writing in the official daily Keyhan while still a deputy in the Majlis [parliament], Khatami argued that ordinary people cannot comprehend God's will, and so the full privileges of democracy should only extend to those with clerical education. He has never repudiated his view.
Far from being on the path of reform and moderation, as is claimed by many European governments, access-seeking pundits, oil-company lobbyists, and Senator Arlen Specter (R., Penn.), the Islamic Republic continues to erode the basic human rights of its citizenry. Khatami, now more than halfway through his second term, has failed to implement a single substantive reform. On March 17, 2004, he quietly announced that he would no longer seek to push fundamental reform through the Majlis. No amount of negotiation with Khatami, even if he were sincere, would change the fact that he has neither the will nor the power to implement meaningful change.
Over the last five years, Iranian authorities have closed more than 50 newspapers. According to Reporters Sans Frontiers, the Islamic Republic has the second-greatest number of imprisoned journalists in the world. On July 11, 2003, Iranian authorities murdered Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi while she was in detention. Nevertheless, with Iranian state television tightly controlled and satellite access limited, it was possible on March 30, 2004, for Judiciary Chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi to claim with a straight face, "No country enjoys freedom, democracy, and the press freedom that currently exists in our country."
The fight against capital punishment is among the European Left's most popular causes. When it comes to Iran, however, there is only the silence of hypocrisy. Executions in Iran have risen proportionally to European trade. During the Khatami administration, application of the death penalty has ballooned. Iranian newspapers regularly document executions. For example, on February 14, 2004, Jomhuri Islami announced the public hangings of several youths, some less than 18 years old, in an orchard in the southwestern town of Mahshahr. Four days later, Sharq reported public hangings in Bandar-e Gaz's main square. On February 25, Jomhuri Islami announced the public hanging of Mohammad Ali Firouzi, only after he received 173 lashes.
Iranian women today mark a quarter century of oppression. While the American media applauds the struggle of women to win new rights throughout much of the Middle East, correspondents often fail to mention that in Iran, women fight for the restoration of basic rights taken away by the Islamic Republic. Human-rights groups may march against the French government's decision to ban the veil in French public schools, but they remain conspicuously silent about the Islamic Republic's enforcement of mandatory veiling.
The Islamic Republic's constitution does guarantee limited rights, but Iranian authorities use vigilante gangs to sidestep even these. Police fail to respond to calls as vigilantes break up crowded lectures in Tehran, Isfahan, and Shiraz. In the late 1990s, Fedayin-e Islam, a shadowy group linked to Iran's intelligence ministry, assassinated a series of writers and intellectuals, a crime as yet unsolved, which has cast a pale over the reform movement. In 1999, armed vigilantes from Ansar-e Hezbollah attacked a student dormitory, setting off widespread protests. Authorities used the unrest as reason to crackdown on freedom of expression. Scores of students and dissidents arrested in the aftermath of the crisis still languish in Tehran's Evin Prison.
Iranians have lost faith in the Islamic Republic. Recent telephone polls indicate that 85 percent of Tehran's residents seek fundamental change. According to the Iran-based Organization of Combatant Youth, voter turnout in recent polls was just 14 percent. Iranians visiting Iraq last month reported that in rural districts (to which Western journalists are forbidden access), turnout hovered near seven percent. According to Majlis deputy Fatimah Haqiqatju, as quoted in the [New Jersey] Star-Ledger, "It has gotten to the point where it is impossible to accomplish political reform within the system. The fate of the country will be either dictatorship or collapse, although they [the clerics] should remember that the outcome of a dictatorship is also collapse."
Twenty-five years after Khomeini declared the Islamic Republic, nearly 70 million Iranians struggle to be free. It's imperative that we do not abandon them.

-- Michael Rubin is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Washington Rebuffs Offer by Chief U.N. Nuclear Inspector to Act as Go-Between With Iran
By George Jahn Associated Press Writer
Published: Apr 1, 2004
VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Indications of continued nuclear cover-ups by Iran are nudging previously reluctant U.S. allies closer to Washington's view that Tehran should be penalized, European diplomats said Thursday.
The diplomats spoke to The Associated Press just days before chief U.N. nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei flies to Tehran. His mission could be jeopardized by a U.S. refusal to have him act as an intermediary with Iran.
The U.S. refusal appeared to be part of a strategy to wait and hope that new revelations in the coming weeks about Iran's nuclear program by ElBaradei's International Atomic Energy Agency would swing international sentiment behind Washington.
IAEA spokeswoman Melissa Fleming disputed a U.S. assertion that ElBaradei's offer was spurned, saying senior State Department officials "made note" of his efforts.
ElBaradei's one-day Tehran visit begins Tuesday. His offer to mediate "wasn't taken seriously" during last month's talks in Washington with President Bush, an American official said.
The U.S. official and others said Washington felt there was nothing to discuss as long as suspicions remain about Iran's nuclear program, which America insists is geared toward making weapons.
Iran's nuclear ambitions first came under international scrutiny last year, when the IAEA discovered that Tehran had not disclosed large-scale efforts to enrich uranium, which can be used to generate power or in nuclear warheads. Finds of traces of weapons-grade uranium and evidence of suspicious experiments heightened concerns.
Critics say that Iran has since reneged on commitments to win international trust - such as a promise to suspend enrichment - as IAEA inspectors have discovered new evidence of past experiments that could be used to develop weapons.
Iran argues that it is honoring its suspension and all other pledges. In an allusion to the United States, Pirooz Hosseini, the chief Iranian delegate to the IAEA, told AP that criticism of his country's nuclear record was "propaganda ... coming from certain circles."
But Vienna-based diplomats said evidence continues to accumulate against Iran.
One cited intelligence from the United States and an unnamed country suggesting that within the past year, Iran had moved nuclear enrichment programs to smaller, easily hidden sites.
Another said IAEA inspectors had complained that they were forced to use Iranian equipment instead of their own cameras and devices to test for traces of enriched uranium at one site in February.
The Iranians "don't want the photos leaving the country, so the Iranians will in certain cases ... keep the photos and the cameras," one of the diplomats said.
Adding to the skepticism was Iran's weekend announcement that it inaugurated a uranium conversion facility in Isfahan, 155 miles south of Tehran, to process uranium ore into gas - a crucial step before uranium enrichment.
Iran insists the move does not contravene its pledge to suspend enrichment. But Britain, France and Germany - who have blunted past U.S. attempts to come down hard on Iran - on Wednesday were critical. They said the Isfahan plant sent the wrong signal.
The Germans, French and British now think that "things are not going well," said a diplomat.
Last year, the three secured Iran's agreement to suspend enrichment and cooperate with the IAEA in exchange for promised access to western technology. They have stymied U.S. attempts to have Tehran brought before the U.N. Security Council for allegedly violating the Nuclear Nonproliferation treaty.
The diplomats said willingness to believe Iran was fading. One said Iran's "cat and mouse tactics" boosted sympathy for the U.S. position.
Even if no "smoking gun" is found, Iran's past record could be reviewed and declared in violation of the Nonproliferation treaty, said another diplomat. That would open the way for Security Council involvement.
AP-ES-04-01-04 1412EST

Iran signs $20bn gas deal with China
Iran has agreed in principle to sell $20 billion of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to China over the next 25 years.
Ignoring US energy sanctions on Tehran, the two countries have signed a memorandum of understanding to begin shipping LNG supplies in 2008, reported Middle East Newsline.
The Beijing-based Zhuhai Zhenrong Corp., a spin-off of China's defense and missile contractor, China North Industries Corp. - the target of US sanctions amid missile sales to Iran - would get an annual 2.5 million metric tons of Iranian LNG.
China is already a major oil customer of Iran.


Saudi royal replaced as investment chief
Saudi Arabia changed the head of its investment authority on Monday, replacing Prince Abdullah Bin Faisal Bin Turki with prominent businessman Amr Dabbagh.
Although Bin Faisal, a member of the Saudi royal family, had openly criticized the slow pace of privatization and the failure to open up major sectors in the oil-rich kingdom to foreign investors, he said that he was bowing out for purely personal reasons.
Dabbagh chairs the Jeddah Marketing Board, and is president and chief executive officer of the Jeddah-based Dabbagh Group of Companies, which comprises 28 firms operating in various businesses in 30 countries.
The outgoing investment chief insisted that although he had been "transparent about our problems and issues" during his tenure, this is not why he was stepping down.
"I have spent 29 years in public service and I wanted to take time off to look after my family," said Bin Faisal, a former chairman of the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu.
In interviews with
AFP in the past few months, Bin Faisal complained about the failure to open up major sectors to foreign investors and said government departments had to eliminate red tape and make way for privatization and reform.
With Bin Faisal in the helm, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority (SAGIA) has, since its establishment in April 2000, licensed some 2,000 projects worth more than 52 billion Saudi riyals ($14 billion), in which the share of foreign investors totals 85 percent. But Bin Faisal argued this was by no means satisfactory in a market the size of Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi government endorsed a plan to open up 20 vital sectors to local and foreign private investors 18 months ago, in a bid to generate tens of billions of dollars to pay for a staggering public debt, improve services, and create more jobs for nationals.
The plan opened up telecommunications, water desalination, air transport, airport services, construction and management of highways, seaport services, and local oil refineries to the private sector.
But sectors such as oil exploration, security, retail and wholesale, education, and land and sea transport are among activities still barred to foreign investors.
Chalabi `will be cleared'
The Iraqi National Congress (INC) has issued a statement claiming that its leader, Governing Council member Ahmed Chalabi, will soon be cleared of alleged wrongdoing in the bankruptcy of a Jordanian bank.
"New information, never released before, about the bankruptcy of Jordan's Petra Bank will soon emerge and demonstrate that the bank's hardships were tailor-made by... senior Jordanian officials," INC spokesman Entifad Qanbar told reporters.
He charged that these officials, whom he did not identify, were in the pay of ousted Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, and allegedly worked hand in hand with members of the ousted regime to bring about the bank's collapse.
Chalabi, a secular member of Iraq's majority Shia community and a key US ally in post-Saddam Iraq, has been convicted in absentia by a Jordanian court of fraud and embezzling $288 million from Petra Bank into Swiss bank accounts. But Chalabi has always maintained that his conviction was the result of a plot by the Saddam regime to frame him.
Qanbar dismissed the case against Chalabi as a "farce" and said the new information that would be made public soon "will convince the world that the whole issue was planned," adding that "internationally known legal experts will reveal this scandal."
Secret bunkers held chemical weapons, says Iraqi exile
April 1, 2004
A scientist describes Saddam's weapons and stealth technology programs, reports Russell Skelton.
For seven years, before he was tortured and sentenced to death, Rashid (not his real name) worked at the top of Iraq's scientific establishment. He says he regularly met Saddam Hussein and his cousin and strongman deputy prime minister Abdul Tawab Huweish. After the Gulf War he was put in charge of a taskforce code named "Al Babel" to develop stealth technology to make aircraft and missiles undetectable on radar.
Rashid, who now lives in Melbourne, also claims to have had access as a trusted insider to secret underground bunkers where chemical weapons were stored. "Saddam gave me access to everything, he was so desperate to perfect the stealth technology," he says.
Now Rashid's great fear is that Saddam loyalists still active in postwar Iraq may get to the chemicals and weapons he saw hidden away before fleeing for his life.
"If those weapons still exist, the worry is that they will be used against the Iraqi people, the US forces or even sold off to al-Qaeda. Maybe those weapons no longer exist, but I find it hard to believe they could disappear so easily," he says.
Rashid's days of working at the top came to an abrupt end in 1998 when he was arrested with a group of other scientists and army officers on charges of plotting to remove Saddam. He was taken to a high-security jail in the centre of Baghdad, run by the Mukhabarat (secret police), where he was tortured for three weeks, suffering severe spinal injuries.
Rashid was then transferred to the Abu Ghraib jail outside Baghdad for execution. "Each morning prisoners were executed. Some were shot and some were hung. I could see the executions from my cell window. You lived in a constant state of terror because you never knew who was next."
Rashid says he escaped when a high-ranking military officer and close friend bribed the guards to swap his file with that of an executed prisoner. "On visiting day I just walked out. Everything had been arranged; I had false travel documents that got me and my family across the border to Syria," he says.
Rashid's problems did not end there. The Iraqi secret police came looking for him at Damascus University where he taught physics part time, and he fled to Melbourne on an Emirates flight. He says he left his wife and family behind because the family had money to buy only a single ticket and at that stage he was the one whose life was in immediate danger.
Rashid has told The Age he knows of five secret storage bunkers around Baghdad, Basra and Tikrit, three of which he visited regularly as a top scientist and senior employee of Iraq's now defunct Atomic Energy Commission.
One, he says, was under an island in the Tigris River near Saddam University. Another was beneath the house of one of Saddam's cousins, and reached by a tunnel with a hidden entrance 800 metres away.
He described the bunkers as being built 15 metres underground, of reinforced concrete, and multi-storeyed. "Between these layers, pipes would rise up, through the building above to provide access for ventilation.
"The lethal chemicals were stored in drums and the bunkers were air-conditioned. But there were also artillery shells and 122-millimetre rockets armed with chemicals."
He says the sites had been built using foreign construction companies, including a company from China, and that nobody was allowed to approach without authorisation and extensive ID checks by the Special Republican Guard.
Rashid says meeting Saddam was always a bizarre experience. "Suddenly his people would appear unannounced. They would take you to a location and examine you carefully: mouth, hands, eyes and ears. Then you would be taken to another place and checked again. This could happen up to three times. Finally he would come into the room."
Rashid says Saddam was moody but was always on top of what was discussed, and read all scientific reports sent to him. "Nothing ever happened unless he approved it. That included the purchase of special equipment, sending people overseas to be trained. If you told him a project would take six months to complete, he would want it in four months."
After arriving in Australia, Rashid was issued with a temporary protection visa.
Even though Rashid's wife and four children have been processed and found to be refugees by the UNHCR in Syria, they remain stranded there. Australia's immigration laws prevent TPV holders access to family reunion and they have not been issued with a visa.
Although Rashid is known to authorities in Australia, he asked that his real name not be published, to protect him and his family from Saddam loyalists still active in Iraqi communities in and outside Australia.
"It's still too dangerous for us to speak out; I don't know who to trust. There are former army officers living in Australia who were close to Saddam," he says.

Kerry can't recall being at '71 parley
By Michael Kranish, Globe Staff, 4/1/2004
Senator John F. Kerry said through a spokesman this week that he has no recollection of attending a November 1971 meeting of Vietnam Veterans Against the War at which some activists discussed a plot to kill some US senators who backed the war.
"Senator Kerry does not remember attending the Kansas City meeting," Kerry spokesman Michael Meehan said in a statement to the Globe in response to written questions about the matter. "Kerry does not remember any discussions that you referred to," the statement added, referring to the assassination plot.
In the past couple of weeks, some media and Internet reports have raised questions about whether Kerry was at the meeting and, if he heard about the assassination plot, whether he alerted authorities.
Kerry has long been portrayed as not being at the Kansas City, Mo., meeting because Kerry recalled quitting the organization at an acrimonious July 1971 session, four months before the November meeting at which the assassination plot was discussed.
But last week, the Kerry campaign seemed to leave open the possibility that he had attended the November session, after historian Gerald Nicosia said he had found an FBI document that he said indicated that Kerry was there. As a result of Nicosia's assertion, Kerry's campaign said in a statement that while Kerry did not remember being at the meeting, "If there are valid FBI surveillance reports from credible sources that place some of those disagreements in Kansas City, we accept that historical footnote in the account of his work to end the difficult and divisive war."
The assassination plot was suggested by antiwar activist Scott Camil. Camil and Kerry knew each other well; the two were together during the April 1971 protests on the Mall in Washington. In a telephone interview from his Florida home, Camil confirmed historical reports that he had suggested a vague plot aimed at prowar senators, but he said he has no recollection of seeing Kerry at the meeting.
"He had nothing to do with this," Camil said. "I don't remember seeing him there."
Another person at the Kansas City session, Larry Rottmann, also said he does not remember seeing Kerry there. A third key player, Randy Barnes, who headed the Kansas City chapter that hosted the meeting, has been quoted in the media as saying Kerry was there. But in a telephone interview, Barnes said he may have confused that session with an earlier one in St. Louis and now is unsure whether Kerry attended the Kansas City function.
"Quite honestly, I am not absolutely certain that John Kerry was at that meeting," Barnes said about the Kansas City session. "A meeting occurred in St. Louis and one occurred in Kansas City. I thought the Kansas City meeting was first."
But Barnes said he now realizes that "the St. Louis meeting was first. What I had thought was a certain thing, I am absolutely not sure now."
In any case, Barnes said, the plot suggested by Camil was never taken seriously and was quickly shouted down. As for Kerry, Barnes said, "John constantly gave an impassioned plea to be nonviolent, work within the system."
Many members of the organization agreed with Barnes that Kerry sought to moderate the group and that he quit the organization in 1971 when he could not come to terms with some of the more radical members the group.
Nicosia's history of the antiwar movement, "Home to War," says that Kerry resigned from Vietnam Veterans Against the War at a St. Louis meeting in July 1971 after a shouting match with another member. That reinforced the belief that Kerry was not in Kansas City in November 1971.
But two weeks ago, Nicosia said he examined some FBI reports that he had obtained during research for his book but had not reviewed. One report said Kerry was at the November meeting in Kansas City. The report, from an unnamed confidential source, said "John Kerry, a national VVAW leader, appeared at the meeting and announced to those present he was resigning from the executive committee for personal reasons; however, he would be available to speak for VVAW." The report does not mention discussion of a plot to kill senators; instead, it mentions that the group planned activities such as "a fast, a vigil, and guerrilla theater."
But another FBI report from the same period adds that an informant at the Kansas City meeting heard a "vastly more militant posture," prompting an FBI official to add this cautionary note: "Some information reports by various informants is at variance and considering extreme importance of developments in this matter and intense interest of other government agencies, it is essential that full details of meeting be ascertained accurately and immediately." The reports indicate that the FBI information about Kerry came not from FBI agents but from informants who fed information to the government. Thus, the reliability of the reports is difficult to verify.
Moreover, Nicosia has made public only about 50 of the 20,000 pages of FBI files as a result of an 11-year effort under the Freedom of Information Act. The FBI has not authorized a separate release of the files, although it is studying pending requests. Separately, Nicosia said Sunday that someone had broken into his home and stolen some of the files, and the case is under investigation.
Michael Kranish can be reached at

? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

Kerry Author: Stolen FBI Files Were 'Very Explosive'
FBI files documenting Sen. John Kerry's anti-war activities that were reported stolen over the weekend could have damaged the likely Democratic nominee's presidential bid, the San Francisco author who obtained the records said Monday.
Asked about the missing files, Vietnam War historian Gerald Nicosia told CNN: "This stuff is very explosive. It's an enormous amount of information."
"The police say it was a neat and professional burglary," he explained, noting that 3,000 to 4,000 pages were missing out of a total of 20,000 pages. Burglars ignored other valuables in the house, raising questions about whether the break-in had anything to do with political damage control on behalf of the Kerry campaign.
A Kerry spokesman had no comment on the apparent theft when asked by the New York Sun over the weekend. But Nicosia said he suspects political foul play, telling the Los Angeles Times for Tuesday's edition that he is a product of the Watergate era who understands the allure of political sabotage.
While researching his book "Home to War," Nicosia obtained Kerry's FBI files in 1999. The records have already proven problematic for the Kerry campaign, forcing the candidate to reverse earlier denials that he attended a November 1971 meeting of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War where a plot to assassinate pro-war U.S. senators was discussed.
Nicosia told the Sun that the intruders likely wanted more than the three file boxes that were removed, since other boxes appear to have been rifled. He speculated that the file thieves were interrupted, perhaps scared off by a neighbor's barking dog.
Since the break-in he has trouble sleeping, he told the Times, adding, "My kids were really spooked by the burglary."

Treasury Analyzes Kerry's Tax Proposals
NewsMax Wires
Thursday, Apr. 01, 2004
WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Department directed career employees to analyze tax ideas proposed by presidential candidate John Kerry and other Democrats after a request from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, officials said Wednesday.
The Republican National Committee posted an interactive feature on its Web site that attaches the largest of those cost estimates to Kerry's plan to raise taxes paid by the wealthiest taxpayers.
Bush spokesman Scott McClellan said he was unaware of anyone at the White House approving the Treasury's decision to analyze Kerry's tax plan.
Although federal law prohibits civil servants from working on political campaigns while on duty, Treasury Department attorneys concluded the work was appropriate, Treasury spokesman Rob Nichols said.
"That's a core functionality of the department," Nichols said. "Doing the analysis is proper, it's prudent, it's appropriate. It's our obligation to do it."
The Treasury Department posted the analysis on its Web site March 22, as first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
DeLay requested the cost analysis to better counter Democratic attempts to amend budget and tax legislation with tax increases on higher-income taxpayers, DeLay spokesman Stuart Roy said. A group of Republicans had also considered using the results to assemble a "Kerry budget" for debate during last week's budget deliberations, he said.
"If you get a specific number on what those proposals actually bring in, then you can hold the Democrats accountable for their spending," Roy said.
Dems Say Foul
Democrats said the Treasury Department used their civil servants inappropriately.
"The Bush administration has an ugly habit of using the federal government for its political agenda," said Kerry spokesman Chad Clanton.
Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., said, "It was coercion. If they had refused to do it and they were made to do it, it's illegal."
Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., asked the agency's inspector general to determine whether laws were violated.
The Office of Special Counsel advises that federal employees cannot "use official authority or influence to interfere with an election" or "engage in political activity while on duty." The office is an independent agency charged with investigating and prosecuting violations of federal personnel laws.
The Treasury Department analyzed the effect of three tax increases on individuals and couples who earn $200,000 or more. Kerry has pledged to roll back President Bush's tax cuts for those earning $200,000 or more.
The first would repeal a tax cut that reduced the top marginal income tax rate from 39.6 percent to 36 percent. The second would repeal dividend and capital gains tax cuts for taxpayers earning $200,000 or more. The third would prevent taxpayers earning $200,000 or more from claiming full personal exemptions and itemized deductions.
The analysis concluded that "hardworking individuals and married couples could have their taxes raised" by amounts that ranged from $201 billion to $477 billion.
The RNC's "John Kerry Spendometer" states on its Web site: "Tax Plan: $658 billion over 10 years! Raising taxes on the top income bracket: $477 billion over 10 years."

? 2003 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Strange Tales
Herein lie stories of coincidence and chance: What do the Final Four, the Rule of 14, and middle names have to do with the 2004 presidential elections?
by Bill Whalen
03/30/2004 12:00:00 AM
SPRING HAS SPRUNG, which politically means it isn't pollen season but instead the pallid period between the primaries and the conventions. For scribes and pundits, that means open season for all sorts of crackpot thinking.
A warning: a few of these conspiracy theories, even Oliver Stone might dismiss. But hopefully it's enough to keep you entertained until there's real campaign news to report . . . or John Kerry's next round of extreme sports . . . or another "tell-all" book by a disgruntled bureaucrat.
To wit:
"Height makes might" ain't always right. From 1904 to 1984, the taller presidential candidate won 80 percent of the time. But not so in the 2000 election: George W. Bush bested the taller Al Gore, who earlier had dismissed the less vertically challenged Bill Bradley. Note to the Bush campaign: the moment the lanky Kerry starts calling himself a "New Age Rail Splitter," remind voters that Teddy Roosevelt was only 5'8".
The presidential "Rule of 14." For the party out of power, the dream candidate makes a 14-year climb to the White House. It's true of Ronald Reagan (elected governor of California in 1966; president in 1980); Bill Clinton (elected governor of Arkansas in 1978; president in 1992); Jimmy Carter (first ran for office in 1962; won the presidency in 1976); and John F. Kennedy (first elected to the U.S. House in 1946; elected president in 1960). Under this rule, Kerry should scratch his first Senate term from his r?sum? and reset his political clock to 1990 (which would also eliminate some now-regrettable votes).
What's in a name? In the 19th Century, gentlemen-candidates who publicly sported a middle name tended not to be two-term presidents: John Quincy Adams, William Henry Harrison, James Knox Polk, James Abram Garfield. It may partially explain why Grover Cleveland dropped his first name, Stephen, from his political persona (that, and his family's habit of addressing each other by their middle names). If the election remains tight after Labor Day, will the New York Times suddenly change its style rule to "George Walker Bush"?
"4" Factor. Since the advent of the two-party system, only once has the party that won in a "0" year election lost it in the subsequent "4" year contest. That was 1884, when one-and-out Republican Chester Alan Arthur (there's that pesky middle name again) chose not to run. Two differences between then and now: Arthur inherited the presidency after Garfield's assassination; and the GOP had controlled the White House for the previous 24 years (whereas the White House changed party hands four times in the 24 years from 1976 to 2000).
Hoop dreams? . . . From 1940 to 1972, the home state of the NCAA men's basketball champ also voted for the winning presidential candidate (the lone exception: 1960, when Ohio State won it all and Nixon didn't). Since 1988, the tournament has alternated from winner to loser, this year being the winning candidate's turn to carry the champ's state. The advantage here: Bush. Three of the teams in next weekend's "Final Four"--Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech and Duke--come from Republican "red" states. If you're a Democrat, the Connecticut Huskies are your team.
. . . Or field of dreams? Here's an oddity that might interest our baseball-loving president. Five times over the past century--the elections of 1912, 1932, 1960, 1976, and 1992--a Democrat has replaced a Republican in the White House. In each of those years, the winning Democrat also carried the home states of the two teams that played in the previous month's World Series. For Kerry, it's one more reason to pull for a Cubs-Red Sox series, with Massachusetts and Illinois safe Democratic bets. Then again, all bets are off if that occurs, as Hell will have frozen over.
Fair warning. Yale economist Ray Fair has a model for predicting the outcome of two-party votes, based on economic variables such as inflation and GDP growth. In early February, he predicted 58.7 percent of the two-party vote for Bush (up from 58.3 percent in October). It's bad news for Kerry. Since he started this voting forecast back in 1978, Fair has never misgauged the incumbent party's vote by more than 1.9 percent.
State(s) uncertain. Call it the "something's-got-to-give" election. If Bush wins, odds are he becomes the first president to be elected and reelected without once carrying California. Kerry, meanwhile, could be the first Democrat to win despite going 0-for-the-Confederacy (13 southern and border states, including Missouri). The last president to win with no help whatsoever from the South: William Howard Taft, in 1908. Like Kerry (and Bush), Taft was a Yalie--albeit more interested in snow cones than snowboarding.
UNFORTUNATELY, there are two "x" factors still to be determined. They're the ones that matter most--and we won't know them until sometime in November: how many votes will Bush receive, and how many states will he carry?
No president has ever been reelected without receiving a net-gain in votes over his first election. That's true for both two-time landslide winners (Reagan's vote total went up 25 percent in 1984; Eisenhower's 21.6 percent in 1956) as well as two-time plurality winners (Clinton received a 5.5 percent boost in 1996). Bush is the first president since Benjamin Harrison, in 1888, to win the presidency despite losing the popular vote. Harrison received 4.6 percent fewer votes in his reelection campaign, resulting in a net loss of four states and no second term.
As for states, Bush carried 30 of them in 2000, the lowest winning total in a 50-state election since Carter racked up a mere 23 states in 1976 (in a reversal of today's red-blue divide, Carter carried all of the Confederate states, save Virginia, plus Republican mainstay Ohio). Can Bush suffer a net loss and still win a second term? With a cushion of eight electoral votes among the red states, he can drop New Hampshire, or West Virginia, or Nevada--but not any combination of two or more of those states he won in 2000.
But there's another reason why Bush can't afford to regress, and it has to do with the president's predecessor. Bill Clinton won 31 states in 1996, one fewer than in 1992. While Clinton cruised to reelection with 379 electoral votes (9 more than in 1992), he left anything but fertile ground for Al Gore. Clinton carried Arizona and Colorado in 1992, then surrendered them back to the GOP in 1996--and they stayed "red" for Bush. In 2000, Tennessee and Arkansas--Clinton and Gore's home states, which voted Democratic in 1992 and 1996--also went Republican. So much for an Electoral-College bridge to the 21st Century.
For Republicans already thinking beyond this November, it's not enough for Bush to win. He has to build a cushion for the next GOP nominee who comes along in 2008, lest that candidate suffer the same indignity as Gore.
Which means adding one more adage to the list: in presidential elections, winning is everything--but size also matters.
Bill Whalen is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, where he follows California and national politics.

? Copyright 2004, News Corporation, Weekly Standard, All Rights Reserved.

Posted by maximpost at 5:52 PM EST
Wednesday, 31 March 2004


North Korea chooses guns over butter
By Aidan Foster-Carter

(Published with permission of
March's big event in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) was the budget. As usual, the Supreme People's Assembly (SPA), the rubber-stamp parliament, met for just a single day last Thursday, March 25. It heard - and unanimously approved - reports by the finance minister, Mun Il-bong, on the budget, and by the prime minister, Pak Pong-ju, on the wider economy. Each of these looked both forward and back, summing up last year and setting tasks for 2004. (The calendar year is also the financial year in North Korea, which otherwise uses its own unique calendar, starting from the birth in 1912 of the late great leader Kim Il-sung, who died in 1994; thus 2004 is Juche 93, 2003 is Juche 92, and so forth.)
Nor is this the only idiosyncrasy. Despite the rare treat (eagerly anticipated by DPRK-watchers) of an official number or two, as so often in Pyongyang, the Star Trek mantra applies. This was a budget speech - but not as we know it. As reported by the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), Mun Il-bong did not actually reveal a single solid number. With due prudence, he reported underspending: expenditure was only 98.2 percent of the planned figure (who lost out is not revealed), while revenue exceeded the plan at 100.9 percent.
Until last year, such percentages could be plotted against known past figures to derive the real numbers. On that basis, North Korea's recent budget history is startling. After years, indeed decades, of reported steady annual increases on both sides of the ledger, by 1994 income and spending alike had reached 41.5 billion won (just under US$20 billion at the rate of exchange then). Then Kim Il-sung died, and for four years the SPA did not meet: supposedly as a sign of mourning, but this was also the worst period of famine.
When in 1999 the SPA finally reconvened, the then-finance minister, Yun Ki-jong (a rare woman among Pyongyang's top elite), revealed, but did not try to explain, figures of barely 20 billion won for 1998 - meaning both income and spending had plunged by half in just four years. After this shock, the pattern of slow annual rises resumed, reaching 22.2 billion won in 2002. But that year's economic reforms, involving manifold increases in most prices and wages, created a new problem from 2003: namely what exchange rate to use, as between what can in effect be called old and new won. No doubt Pyongyang bureaucrats have their own multiplier for this, but they are not letting on what it is.
So we are stuck with percentages and bitty ones at that. Besides aggregate income and spending, Mun Il-bong gave a partial breakdown. Last year 15.7 percent of the budget went for defense, 23.3 percent on the national economy, and 40.5 percent to "various popular policies for the promotion of the people's welfare" (social services in normal parlance). Where the remaining 20.5 percent went was not revealed, nor any further breakdown. Of last year's main innovation - North Korea's first government bonds in half a century, intended to flush out foreign currency and other savings kept under the proverbial mattress - Mun just said that "a large revenue" was added and "not a small amount of funds" donated.
Taxing free markets
He was hardly more forthcoming on targets for this year. Total revenue is set to rise by 5.7 percent, with a planned 16.5 percent increase in state enterprise profits - while "those of cooperative organizations and others are envisaged to markedly swell". The "others" refers to North Korea's new and burgeoning private sector, whose relationship to the old planned economy - which the budget report presupposes as the norm - is far from clear. Defeated in trying to crush free markets, the state is doubtless keen to tax them.
Otherwise it was targetry as usual. Total spending is slated to rise by 8.6 percent, suggesting either a deficit or more bond issues. Defense gets 15.5 percent; in so militarized a society the true figure must be much higher. Interestingly, defense tasks include "stepping up ... informationalization" (sic): a rare admission that North Korea's obsession with information technology (IT) has a military dimension. (South Korean defense planners, skeptical of sunshine, have added cyberwar to the long list of threats they might confront from across the Demilitarized Zone.) Overall spending on science and technology is set to rise by a massive 60 percent, whereas education - surely not unconnected - and health get just 9.5 percent and 5.9 percent respectively.
Apart from an opaque mention of an extra 8.1 percent for unspecified "additional measures" these were the only numbers given by the finance minister. Otherwise, his old-style priorities could have been declaimed at any time in the past half-century: "In order to re-energize the nation's economy as a whole this year the government will allocate huge funds for the fields of the national economy so as to keep the production in the mining, machine-building, chemical and building materials industries and forestry going at a steady rate and effect a new productive upswing in the light industry and the rural economy while channeling main efforts into the power, coal and metal industries and the railway transport." But if everything is a priority, then nothing is.
Fortunately the prime minister's speech, at the same SPA session, was a little more forthcoming. This was Pak Pong-ju's first annual report since his appointment last September. A year before that, as chemicals minister, he took part in an economic study tour of South Korea; where his practical grasp and eagerness to learn - touring the plants of Samsung et al, he yearned for several extra pairs of eyes to take it all in - impressed his hosts. Hence high hopes are riding on him, as the latest incarnation of a longstanding adventism - waiting for Godot, so far - which pines for the day when Pyongyang's technocrats will finally take over, and economic rationality will reign.
No technocrats yet at the helm
Not yet, alas. Wishful thinking abounds, especially in Seoul these days. The Financial Times, in an upbeat account of Pak's speech to the SPA, quoted Park Suhk-sam (chief North Korea researcher at the Bank of Korea, the South's central bank), as concluding that reform-minded technocrats appear to have firm control over economic policy in Pyongyang: "Market concepts such as profitability are becoming entrenched."
Yet a close reading of Pak's full speech (summary at - hardly supports such optimism. The premier patently has drive, and a grasp of detail. But it is quite clear that he is constrained by political, meaning military, priorities. He added a few figures to those given by Mun Il-bong. Last year gross industrial output value rose 10 percent, electricity 21 percent, lead and zinc 76 percent, iron ore 46 percent, and cement 27 percent.
That sounds impressive, if true. But repeated references to the need to "normalize" production suggest North Korea is still struggling merely to recover ground lost in the 1990s, when a series of shocks - the abrupt end of Soviet aid, floods, and famine - all but wiped out the already-creaking old industrial base. The northeast, where much of this was located, remains a rust belt, with few plants emitting smoke or other signs of life. Many have been cannibalized for scrap metal, sold across the border in China. A leading Seoul daily, the Chosun Ilbo, claimed on March 10 that workers at the crucial Musan mine, praised by the prime minister for its efforts last year, are selling iron ore to China to buy food instead of sending it as per plan to the Kim Chaek steel mill.
While of course Pak Pong-ju mentioned none of this, one can and must read between the lines. Thus he demanded "an efficient use of electricity by minimizing the loss of electricity in transmission, establishing a strict centralized discipline over the power supply and widely introducing meters". There is no point producing 21 percent more power, only for it to be dissipated either in dilapidated transmission lines or wasteful usage.
Similarly, Pak's calls to "put production on a normal track", in areas ranging from chemicals to foodstuffs, imply an economy still in recovery mode. As such, the few specific targets he mentioned appear unrealistically high - unless the prior baseline is alarmingly low. He wants fabric output to rise by 73 percent, and footwear by 53 percent. Even more striking, he called for production of 2.3 times more iron ore, 2.5 times more pig iron, and five times more rolled steel than last year. Unless this means restarting or repairing plants that had closed, such rates of increase sound absurd and unattainable.
The army gets the lion's share
And what is all this steel for? "To supply ... national defense industry on a preferential basis." Similarly, more coal - "tunneling should be kept ahead of coal mining", which sounds obvious but suggests problems opening up fresh seams - is essential to "meet the need for coal in munitions industry and key domains of the national economy".
This gives the game away. Kim Jong-il's Songun (military-first) policy, to which Pak duly genuflected, is both a direct and indirect barrier to economic recovery, let alone reform. Steel going to tanks and missiles is lost to more productive uses: for civilian factories or tractors, say. True, arms sales can earn foreign exchange; but this is risky business now, thanks to the United States-backed Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), which has already intercepted several military cargoes heading to and from North Korea.
Not only is Songun unproductive, its priorities are reactionary, putting as they do back at center stage the old Stalinist heavy industry behemoths: coal, iron, steel. This is not where a 21st-century North Korea should be focussing. Its comparative advantage lies in manufacturing for export: as in the planned Kaesong special zone for South Korean firms, Pyongyang's best business hope, which the premier did not see fit to mention. At home, the heavy-industry fetish reduces light industry and agriculture, lip service aside, to being forever the bridesmaids, never the bride. (Then again, as US expert Marcus Noland of the Institute for International Economics has noted, in a rational world mountainous North Korea - the South too - would not grow food but import it.)
The military aspect aside, tensions between old and new thinking in Pak Pong-ju's speech are palpable. Thus officials - still in control - are now charged with not only "economic guidance" but also "business management", which they must carry out "on the socialist principle and the principle of ensuring profitability". As if being capitalist and socialist at once is not hard enough, they must be militarist too: "actively learning from the fighting trait and working method created by the People's Army".
Squaring so many circles inevitably undermines Pak's call for "a leaping advance on the front of economy and science", itself intended to "bring about a decisive turn in improving the standard of the people's living". Notable too, and sadly typical, was the silence on production relations as opposed to productive forces (as Karl Marx would put it). Ironically, to outside observers North Korea today is a classic Marxian case. The main obstacles to development are not technical but social: to wit the dead weight of a regime and system that still willfully misdirect resources on a monstrous scale.
No mention of market reforms
Ominously, not once did Pak Pong-ju explicitly mention the cautious yet far-reaching market reforms that North Korea has implemented since July 2002. A reform that dares not speak its name must by definition be limited. Yet the day before, the visiting Chinese foreign minister was proudly shown Pyongyang's new Tongil private market, and KCNA reported this. With similar ambivalence, The Economist's correspondent was taken to Tongil - but forbidden to photograph it. Similarly, that stony statistical silence speaks volumes about the limits of reform so far. Foreign investors, not least, will not come unless given numbers to crunch - nor while the nuclear crisis remains unsettled, yet another way in which Songun impedes North Korea's economic growth.
On a brighter note, Pak Pong-ju evidently wants to open the economy. Yet his call to build modern export production bases for the extractive industries has an oddly old-fashioned ring. True, North Korea has a range of minerals that it can, indeed does, process and sell. Moreover commodity prices are high, unlike in the 1970s when an earlier outward foray landed Pyongyang with debts that it could not, or would not, repay to this day. Yet after half a century of socialism, is this classic Third World raw-materials syndrome really the best that a self-styled "people's paradise" can do? And how can it do even this without vast investment, which can only come from outside? North Korea has been trying to flog its mines for years, but has had almost no takers.
At one point, for once almost speaking the same language as the rest of the world, Pak says that "the quality of major commodities in great demand which mainly depend on locally available rich raw materials should be raised to the world's level for their high competitive edge on the international market". Yet to make exports world-class will, again, require finance and technology that North Korea simply does not possess.
In the most striking section of his report, Pak in effect calls on North Korea to become one big export zone: "All domains and units of the national economy should wage a mass movement to build their own strong export bases, expand and develop foreign trade in a multifaceted manner and encourage equity and contractual joint ventures on an extensive scale in the direction of introducing advanced science and technology. They should conduct substantial cooperation for economic development with various international organizations in keeping with the changed environment and conditions."
Amen to that. Yet again, this is not wholly new - and it all depends who does what, why, and how. In fact for many years enterprises have been told to maximize foreign-exchange earnings - but to show loyalty to the Dear Leader (who often pockets the proceeds, as cash or "gifts"), rather than to boost the economy as such. The premium here is on one-off deals that turn a quick buck, rather than building stable long-term relationships. Nor is Pyongyang picky about partners or products: witness the Pong Su, a ship caught last year dropping heroin in Australia for Malaysian gangsters (see Hand in the cookie jar, April 29, 2003). This year the State Department accused North Korea of drug trafficking at state level. The obverse of expanding legitimate trade has to be a complete halt to criminal enterprise.
Or again trade may be an act of desperation. The Chosun Ilbo story quoted above also claims that even public security officials - hitherto privileged, for obvious reasons - were recently told to start trading, simply to obtain food; and that corruption among hungry officials is spreading. The shopworn slogan of juche (self-reliance), when not simply a lie - North Korea has never been in any sense a self-contained economy, but has always depended on outside subventions - is now given a new twist. Ever since the famine of the mid-1990s, entire regions, sectors, or households have in effect been told to expect nothing from the state: you are on your own now, so fend for yourself.
Yet this same regime, despite defaulting on its side of the social contract in failing to guarantee even the most rudimentary of human needs - food to eat, for sheer physical survival - still has the gall to claim monopoly rights over its long-suffering citizens' bodies and minds. The contradiction is acute; one wonders how long it can last before people start demanding, as the song has it: "What have you done for me, lately?"
At the macroeconomic level, Kim Jong-il cannot put off forever a choice between, literally, guns or butter: a military-first policy, or a viable economy. He cannot have both; and Pak Pong-ju cannot deliver economic progress while shackled by Songun.
Aidan Foster-Carter is honorary senior research fellow in sociology and modern Korea, Leeds University, UK. This article was first written for and published by, and is reproduced by kind permission.

Pakistan to play a pivotal role
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - As the Pakistan military establishment's pro-United States policies continue to receive harsh criticism domestically, Washington is now pressuring Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf to undertake yet another operation against foreign militants and their proteges in Pakistan's tribal regions of South and North Waziristan near the Afghanistan border.
The most recent operation in South Waziristan kicked off two weeks ago and failed miserably, with the official figure listing about 50 of the Pakistan Army's officers and soldiers killed and no "prize targets" captured. Asia Times Online sources maintain the casualty figure is actually much higher. Now, Musharraf has been pushed back under the microscope. Through many reshuffles in the Pakistan army, Musharraf has managed to maintain his writ as chief of army staff, while holding onto his position as president of Pakistan - however this issue is reemerging as a source of contention in Pakistan. There is also intense debate in the armed forces hierarchy following the failed operation in Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan agency, that the two offices should be separated to keep the army out of politics.
Such calls for the division of military and state come in the wake of several "high value target" myths established over the duration of the operation. At the start of the fighting, it was implied that al-Qaeda number two, Dr Ayman al-Zawahiri, was hiding out in the region, an allegation later dismissed by the army. More recently, it was suggested that two high-level al-Qaeda members, Tahir Yuldevish and "Abdullah", were seriously wounded and killed - in that order. Yuldevish is the leading commander of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, meanwhile Abdullah's story would have ridiculed the army had the world known his background, given that Pakistan's Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) department initially branded him to be a key al-Qaeda member.
Yuldashev and "Abdullah" are two of the most famous characters among the Pakistani jihadis - each featured in movies that are in circulation all over the country. Yuldashev can be seen addressing the Islamic cause in which he justifies their fight against the US by providing various glimpses of brutalities in Israel and in Chechnya. "Abdullah" is a Chechan guerilla who is known among the jihadis for his classic guerilla fights. He is shown in the movies killing Russian soldiers.
US bombings in Afghanistan forced Yuldevish to leave northern Afghanistan some time ago, his whereabouts are currently unknown, however, he was last believed to have been hiding out in Khost. Pakistani authorities took the lead from there and established their own guess that Yuldevish was hiding out in the Shawal mountains - a no-man's land on the Pakistan-Afghan border - and even claimed that he was wounded. Given the popularity of Abdullah in Pakistan, it was presumed that he should also be in Afghanistan, and his status was elevated by the ISPR to that of chief spy master of al-Qaeda. Soon after, however, it was recognized that there was no evidence of his presence in Afghanistan. He was eventually presumed dead, but it was later stated by the ISPR that he is not the chief spy master, but rather an ordinary spy: "an Egyptian" whose body had not yet been recovered.
These attempts to "glorify" the Wana operation were unable to cover up its failure and repercussions. The Pakistan army is split on an ethnic basis. Before the operation started in South Waziristan, Musharraf prematurely retired Corps Commander Peshawar Ali Jan Orakzai, a Pashtun, and installed Lieutenant-General Safdar Hussain - a Punjabi. The development was seen as anti-Pashtun among the Pashtun officers who are the second largest majority after Punjabi officers. These feelings of tension were clearly reflected during the operation, from both sides. Several soldiers and a few officers of Pashtun origin refused to participate in actions taken against the Pashtun tribals.
The way in which Pashtun tribals dealt with hostages is also a reflection of this split. The tribals that held Pashtun paramilitary force members hostage are said to have treated them with respect, later releasing them after a deal with Pakistani authorities. However, the soldiers that were of Punjab descent were killed and their bodies mutilated.
High-level sources tell Asia Times Online that in the face of these failures, Musharraf now faces two immediate challenges.
Firstly, the US military high command has been regularly been visiting Pakistan and is stressing the need for a complete crackdown on foreign fighters along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area, starting from Khyber Agency to South Waziristan. They emphasized that the mission can only be successful if both US and Pakistani forces conduct joint operations in the area. The aim of this operation is once again to destroy the base of jihadi fighters believed to be in the Shawal mountains. Thus another operation in South and North Waziristan is inevitable, despite the public outcry sure to ensue.
The second challenge Musharraf is up against comes from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). IAEA inspectors are now in Iran and aim to come Pakistan to verify the Iranian centrifuge facility with Pakistan - which means they will be paying a visit to Pakistan's nuclear installations, another issue sensitive to the Pakistani public.
Non-compliance with these two challenges is difficult for Pakistan, as the country is under heavy US pressure. But, on the other hand, compliance means giving Islamic radicals the chance to wreak further havoc. They are already seeking out this opportunity - under broader designs chalked out by the International Islamic Front - in which the success of the Afghan resistance can only be ensured once it takes control of Pakistan's backyard. This is only possible if the country falls into the hands of Islamic radicals or deep into anarchy and chaos.
(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact for information on our sales and syndication policies.)


Afghanistan: Return of the jihadis
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - With the onset of summer and the ice now melting in the mountains of Afghanistan, the most organized global struggle yet of the International Islamic Front partners has begun to defeat the United States and coalition forces at their hub in Afghanistan.
The early manifestations of this can already be seen in Uzbekistan, where a series of terror attacks over the past few days have left more than 40 people dead, and in the foiled terror attacks in Britain and the Philippines. But the real battlefield is Afghanistan, where Pakistan, already the world's backyard of radical Islam, will play an important role.
The Uzbek struggle
Events in Uzbekistan, including suicide attacks and culminating in a shootout on Tuesday, are the bloodiest wave of violence to hit the former Soviet republic since it enlisted as a key US ally in the "war on terrorism" soon after the 2001 September 11 attacks. A US air base there proved an important strategic asset in the US aerial attacks on Afghanistan.
Some reports have blamed the Hizb ut-Tahrir, but this is unlikely to be the case, as this group, although committed to the overthrow of existing political regimes and their replacement with a caliphate, has traditionally been non-violent.
Rather, the violence in Uzbekistan is much more likely to be linked to Afghanistan and the struggle that is to be played out there in the coming months.
Pakistan's Central Asia connection
In the development of Islamic radicalism in Uzbekistan, the "Naqshband" circle of Sufis emerged as an underground network during Soviet rule in opposition to the Soviet system. These Sufis believed in militancy against "tyrant" rulers. The network's first contact with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) came when the Sufis began resistance operations against the Soviets after the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979.
In collaboration with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the ISI actively assisted the militants, and also devised a strategy to take the struggle back to USSR soil, apart from Afghanistan.
The go-between for this was the Hizb-i-Islami Afghanistan (HIA), led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is now once again spearheading operations in Afghanistan. The HIA helped spread the revolutionary literature of the Muslim Brotherhood in the Central Asian republics. The aim was not to convert ordinary Muslims, but to recruit revolutionaries who would attack the Soviet system from within their own regions, including Uzbekistan. These operations were launched in the mid and late 1980s, and over the years a whole new generation has evolved committed to underground operations. They are not an isolated community, like the Pakistani tribals, who are easily identified with their links to militants. This new generation of militants is part and parcel of Central Asian urban culture, and like any secret agents, they are not easily identifiable.
Meanwhile, the Pakistan army established a special intelligence cell within the HIA for which Pakistanis and Afghans were trained. All of the Pakistanis were ISI operators. However, after 1989, at the end of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the HIA began to work independently and it absorbed many Arabs into the intelligence cell, as well as Central Asian youths. These were sent to training camps in Afghanistan, where they were drilled by Arab instructors. The Central Asian recruits, therefore, forged good ties with many Arabs.
In the early 1980s Afghanistan also served as a testing ground for Pakistani dictator Zia ul-Haq's vision, along with his chief spy master, then Lieutenant-General Akhtar Abdul Rehman (later a full general), for an international Islamic brigade. This matured into Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front, a loose umbrella front for organizations that include al-Qaeda and independent cells in Central Asia comprising militants nurtured by the CIA-ISI nexus and trained in the HIA's Afghanistan camps.
In this context, the terror in Uzbekistan, which borders Afghanistan, cannot be seen in isolation, rather as the beginning of a new jihad in Afghanistan that will tap into resources, especially those in Central Asia, developed over many years.
(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

Posted by maximpost at 10:22 PM EST

DER SPIEGEL 36/2003 - 01. September 2003
Cover Story

"End the Occupation"

Interview with Shiite leader Muktada al-Sadr, on the conflict with the Americans.
SPIEGEL: You have demanded the speedy withdrawal of the "American occupiers." Won't this only worsen the already chaotic situation in Iraq?
Sadr: Any occupation is abominable. The longer occupiers remain in a country, the more severe are the consequences. The Americans must leave. Otherwise, the wave of violence will become overwhelming. Out with the Americans, and better today than tomorrow!
SPIEGEL: Isn't precisely the reverse the case? If the Americans were not in the country, a war would break out among rival gangs that would overshadow everything that has happened to date.
Sadr: The Americans are the ones who are driving things to a head. They appear to be neither capable nor willing to reestablish general security, as the attack on the UN headquarters building in Baghdad has shown. The assassinations of Shiite clerics here in Najaf also demonstrate what we can expect from George Bush' soldiers.
SPIEGEL: You cannot hold the Americans responsible for the attack on UN headquarters or the terrorist assassinations.
Sadr: If the occupiers had pursued a credible security policy, something like this would not have been possible. Both friends and enemies say this.
SPIEGEL: There are no Americans patrolling Najaf. The city is responsible for security. The assassination of the Ayatollah was obviously planned by rivals or by supporters of Saddam.
Sadr: I condemn this crime in the strongest possible terms!
SPIEGEL: There are many indications that Bin Laden's Al Qaeda has gained a foothold in Iraq.
Sadr: That would serve as additional evidence of the incapacity of the Americans and of the need to act quickly and not to waste any more time. However, we must not allow anything to deter us from our main objective, which is to end the occupation.
SPIEGEL: With force? After all, you have a highly well-armed militia at your disposal ...
Sadr: ... No, no. I don't issue any orders to shoot. The Americans should be driven from the country with peaceful means.
SPIEGEL: How will that work?
Sadr: Peaceful appeals, mass protests, political pressure - oh, there are many methods and means.
SPIEGEL: Many of your religious brethren believe it is more advisable to allow the Americans to remain in the country until a democratic political platform materializes.
Sadr: A "democratic platform" as a gift from the Americans? That's ridiculous. The soldiers of Mr. Bush have not set up camp here in order to honor us with their American democracy.
SPIEGEL: Why are they here?
Sadr: Washington planned the invasion of Iraq long ago. The Americans are interested in highly self-serving objectives, which is why they will not leave our country until the day they have achieved their goals.
SPIEGEL: Do you accuse the Americans of pursuing a colonial policy in Iraq?
Sadr: I do. And I am not the only one who believes this.
SPIEGEL: You fear a lengthy occupation period, and yet you are not in favor of violent resistance. Based on this reasoning, do you also condemn the attacks on the US army, which are increasing from one day to the next?
Sadr: The supporters of the deposed regime of terror are criminals, and every Iraqi should stand up to them. Anyone who takes up arms to allow the Saddam era to return is an enemy of the people.
SPIEGEL: The newly convened "Governing Council" is attempting to lay the groundwork for a democratic future ...
Sadr: ... What a sorry bunch! Those 25 people, who were arbitrarily appointed by US governor Paul Bremer, are by no means representative of Iraq.
SPIEGEL: Several well-known Muslims, including some of your fellow Shiites, are members of this new council.
Sadr: Which does not change the fact that they do not have the mandate of the people. In addition, they do not answer to the people. Instead, they report to Bremer and must obey him.
SPIEGEL: What would be the political alternative?
Sadr: The occupation force must hold elections within the immediate future. Allowing the people to decide on the political structure desired by the Iraqis could represent a start. But this must happen now and not at some point in the future. I think it is telling that the Americans express themselves vaguely in this regard and do not mention a specific date, so as not to allow themselves to be pinned down.
SPIEGEL: The governing council you so despise is preparing for elections.
Sadr: Yes, yes, yes. All empty talk. Don't you realize that the composition of the "Council" is already unacceptable to any reasonable Iraqi?
SPIEGEL: The Shiites are well-represented with 13 of the council's 25 members.
Sadr: That's not the point. I object to the appointment of the council's members by the chief of the occupying power and the lack of qualification of many members. Not a single cleric from Najaf is represented, which makes a mockery of human reason. No, the council is worthless. We will boycott it. In our minds, it does not exist.
SPIEGEL: In that case, who should hold the elections you demand?
Sadr: Politicians elected by the people.
SPIEGEL: What if the Americans were to have the council members ratified by the people?
Sadr: The people should not bestow its blessing on US dictates. It should nominate its own candidates and then vote. It would all be a farce and an abuse of the concept of democracy.
SPIEGEL: Even if things were to progress the way you would like, the new Iraq would run the risk of a conflict with the Kurds. This could destroy all the political negotiations in Baghdad.
Sadr: Blood has already been shed, unfortunately. I am aware of that. But if we have a true democracy, rather than a falsely democratic occupation regime, we and our Kurdish fellow citizens will arrive at a solution acceptable to both sides. After all, the Kurds are also Muslims.

Translated by Christopher Sultan

? DER SPIEGEL 36/2003
Alle Rechte vorbehalten


The Clinton administration's conduct during the Rwandan genocide was one of the more shameful episodes in recent American history, and Dick Clarke was in the middle of it--playing politics, at least according to this passage from Samantha Power's excellent book A Problem from Hell:
"At the NSC the person who managed Rwanda policy was not [Tony] Lake but Richard Clarke, who oversaw peacekeeping policy and for whom the news from Rwanda only confirmed a deep skepticism about the viability of UN deployments. Clarke believed that another UN failure could doom relations between Congress and the United Nations. He also sought to shield the president from congressional and public criticism. Donald Steinberg managed the Africa portfolio at the NSC and tried to look out for the dying Rwandans, but he was not an experienced in-fighter, and, colleagues say, he `never won a single argument' with Clarke."
Posted at 04:51 PM

CLINTON KNEW... [Rich Lowry]
... about the Rwandan genocide, at least according to this story in the Guardian:

Papers prove US knew of genocide in Rwanda
By Rory Carroll
April 1, 2004
US president Bill Clinton's administration knew Rwanda was being engulfed by genocide in April 1994 but buried the information to justify its inaction, classified documents made available for the first time reveal.
Senior officials privately used the word genocide within 16 days of the start of the killings, but chose not to do so publicly because the president had already decided not to intervene.
Intelligence reports obtained using the US Freedom of Information Act show the cabinet and almost certainly the president knew of a planned "final solution to eliminate all Tutsis" before the slaughter reached its peak.
It took Hutu death squads three months from April 6 to murder about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus and at each stage accurate, detailed reports were reaching Washington policymakers.
The documents undermine claims by Mr Clinton and his officials that they did not fully appreciate the scale and speed of the killings.
"It's powerful proof that they knew," said Alison des Forges, a Human Rights Watch researcher and authority on the genocide.
Posted at 04:22 PM

Papers prove US knew of genocide in Rwanda
By Rory Carroll
April 1, 2004
US president Bill Clinton's administration knew Rwanda was being engulfed by genocide in April 1994 but buried the information to justify its inaction, classified documents made available for the first time reveal.
Senior officials privately used the word genocide within 16 days of the start of the killings, but chose not to do so publicly because the president had already decided not to intervene.
Intelligence reports obtained using the US Freedom of Information Act show the cabinet and almost certainly the president knew of a planned "final solution to eliminate all Tutsis" before the slaughter reached its peak.
It took Hutu death squads three months from April 6 to murder about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus and at each stage accurate, detailed reports were reaching Washington policymakers.
The documents undermine claims by Mr Clinton and his officials that they did not fully appreciate the scale and speed of the killings.
"It's powerful proof that they knew," said Alison des Forges, a Human Rights Watch researcher and authority on the genocide.
The National Security Archive, an independent non-governmental research institute based in Washington, went to court to obtain the material.
It discovered that a secret CIA briefing circulated to Mr Clinton, his vice-president, Al Gore, and hundreds of officials included almost daily reports on Rwanda. One, dated April 23, 1994, said rebels would continue fighting to "stop the genocide, which . . . is spreading south".
Three days later the secretary of state, Warren Christopher, and other officials were told of "genocide and partition" and of declarations of a "final solution to eliminate all Tutsis".
However, the administration did not publicly use the word genocide until May 25 and even then diluted its impact by saying "acts of genocide".
Ms des Forges said: "They feared this word would generate public opinion which would demand some sort of action and they didn't want to act."
The administration did not want to repeat the fiasco of intervention in Somalia, where US troops became sucked into fighting. It also felt the US had no interests in Rwanda, a small central African country with no minerals or strategic value.
Many analysts and historians fault Washington and other Western countries not just for failing to support the token force of overwhelmed United Nations peacekeepers but also for failing to speak out more forcefully during the slaughter.
Mr Clinton has apologised for those failures but the declassified documents undermine his defence of ignorance.
On a visit to the Rwandan capital, Kigali, in 1998 Mr Clinton apologised for not acting quickly enough or immediately calling the crimes genocide.
The Guardian
Texas scandal throws doubt on anti-drug task forces
Wed Mar 31, 6:53 AM ET
By Laura Parker, USA TODAY
A 16-year-old federal program that has poured about $500 million a year into more than 750 regional anti-drug task forces is under fire from critics who say that a lack of oversight has led to wrongful convictions of citizens and theft, perjury and misuse of public funds by law enforcement officers.
The focus of many of the complaints from groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (news - web sites) has been the scandal in Tulia, Texas, where more than 40 residents - most of them black - were sent to jail after an officer allegedly lied in court about selling them drugs during a sting operation in 1999.
No drugs were ever recovered during raids in the Tulia case, and the investigator, Tom Coleman, produced no physical evidence to back up his testimony. Doubts surrounding the convictions eventually led Texas Gov. Rick Perry to pardon nearly all of the defendants last year. This month, the defendants reached a $5 million settlement with officials in nearby Amarillo, the hub for the task force operations.
Under the agreement, the Panhandle Regional Narcotics Trafficking Task Force, a multiagency unit that covered 26 counties, was disbanded. The task force's downfall - along with local officials' acknowledgement that it lacked leadership - cast a spotlight on problems in other federally funded task forces.
Investigations into possible misconduct by members of such task forces are underway in nine states. In some cases, criminal charges against people arrested in drug stings have been dismissed; in other cases, convictions have been overturned.
The situation has led the ACLU and other groups to call on Congress to either overhaul the federal grant program that provides most of the funding for the anti-drug task forces, or to eliminate the program. The critics say multicounty task forces are too easily corrupted and have become ineffective.
The chief complaint against the anti-drug units - which often involve more than two dozen law enforcement agencies - is that no one is in charge of supervising them.
"These are nameless, faceless, roaming operations that are not subject to the ballot box or city council scrutiny," says Will Harrell, executive director of the ACLU of Texas, which has urged the Texas Legislature to disband all 45 of the task forces that state. "The states assume no responsibility over their actions. All they are required to do is report their numbers of arrests. It's all about quantity, not quality."
In a statement about the settlement, officials in Amarillo acknowledged that "there was a void of leadership in the task force."
Anti-drug task forces operate throughout the country. They get 75% of their funding from the federal Byrne grant program and 25% from local counties. The federal program, named for Edward Byrne, a New York City police officer who was killed on duty in 1988, was created under the Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988 to provide money to help states reduce violent crime and fight drugs.
Federal funding for the grant program has averaged $500 million a year, the Justice Department (news - web sites) says. The grants are distributed to every congressional district in the country.
Supporters credit the grants with helping local law enforcement target illegal drug distribution, which has become increasingly more sophisticated and mobile. A recent study by the National Institute of Justice found that anti-drug task forces play a key role in law enforcement efforts.
The 2002 annual report of the grant program cited success in Utah, which received $4.5 million that year to support 16 task forces that have battled trafficking of methamphetamine. The task forces arrested more than 3,000 people that year and seized $2.1 million in drugs, the report said.
In Washington, the Justice Department has proposed streamlining its grant procedure by folding the Byrne program into two other grant programs. Richard Nedelkoff, director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance, said in a report that the change would help correct a lack of coordination between states and local communities.
But critics say the changes would not fix what they see as the fundamental flaw in the program: a lack of oversight of law enforcement officers.
Vanita Gupta, a lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, which exposed the abuses in Tulia, says the changes address accounting oversights, not supervision of personnel.
"You can tweak a program, but it takes some serious reform to address the problems of Tulia," she says.
She says the way grants are awarded contributes to the potential for corruption. "A system that encourages higher numbers of arrests in order to obtain greater funds the next time around creates perverse incentives for abuse."
Rep. John Conyers (news, bio, voting record) of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee (news - web sites), says the panel will hold oversight hearings into the Tulia scandal in May.
The Tulia case drew national attention because almost all of the 46 people arrested in the drug sting are black. In a town of 5,000 people, those arrested made up nearly 10% of the black population.
The sting in Tulia was run by Coleman, who worked alone and unsupervised. He did not wear a recording device during any of his alleged drug purchases and conducted no video surveillance.
Coleman faces trial on perjury charges in May. He has pleaded not guilty and has declined to comment on his case.
The scandal led the Texas Legislature to pass a law that testimony from confidential informants must be corroborated with other evidence.
Jeff Blackburn, one of the lawyers who represented the defendants, calls the settlement of the lawsuit "historic" because it is one of the first times an anti-drug task force has been sued successfully.
Previous claims against task forces ran into legal roadblocks because of questions over whether the task forces, which technically are not government entities, could be sued.
"We're putting out the message that doing business as an essentially ungovernable rogue task force is a very expensive proposition for all cities and counties involved," Blackburn says.

World Court to Decide for 52 Mexicans
Wed Mar 31, 4:18 AM ET
By TOBY STERLING, Associated Press Writer
THE HAGUE, Netherlands - Fifty-two Mexican citizens sit on death row in American prisons awaiting a court's ruling. It's not the U.S. Supreme Court (news - web sites), but the highest court of the United Nations (news - web sites) that is considering whether the convicted murderers received a fair trial.
The International Court of Justice hands down its decision Wednesday on a petition by Mexico that the executions are unjust since the prisoners were never informed when they were arrested of their right to consular assistance from Mexico.
At the heart of the Mexico-U.S. case is the 1963 Vienna Convention, which guarantees people accused of a serious crime while in a foreign country the right to contact their own government for help.
At the opening of the hearing, presiding Chinese judge Shi Jiuyong said the court had dismissed four U.S. objections of its jurisdiction. The reading of the entire judgment could take several hours.
The International Court of Justice, also known as the world court, is charged with resolving disputes between nations and has jurisdiction over the treaty.
The United States is portraying the case as a sovereignty issue, and says the 15-judge tribunal should be wary of allowing itself to be used as a criminal appeals court, which is not its mandate.
In hearings in December, lawyers for Mexico argued that any U.S. citizen accused of a serious crime abroad would want the same right, and the only fair solution for the 52 men allegedly denied diplomatic help was to start their legal processes all over again.
Juan Manuel Gomez said that Mexico "doesn't contest the United States' right as a sovereign country to impose the death penalty for the most grave crimes," but wants to make sure its citizens aren't abused by a foreign legal system they don't always understand.
U.S. lawyer William Taft argued that the prisoners had received fair trials. He said even if the prisoners didn't get consular help, the way to remedy the wrong "must be left to the United States."
In its written arguments, the United States said that Mexico's request would be a "radical intrusion" into the U.S. justice system, contradicting laws and customs in every city and state in the nation.
"The court has never ordered any form of restitution nearly as far reaching as that sought by Mexico," the arguments said.
In 2001, a similar case came before the court filed by Germany to stop the execution of two German brothers who also had not been informed of their right to consular assistance. One brother was executed before the court could act. The judges ordered a stay of execution for the second brother, Walter LaGrand, until it could deliberate, but he was executed anyway by the state authorities of Arizona.
Under the court's statute, its judgments are "binding, final and without appeal." Its rulings have only rarely been ignored, and if one side claims the other has failed to carry out the court's decision, it may take the issue to the U.N. Security Council.
When the court finally handed down the belated ruling in 2001, it chastised the U.S. government for not halting the LaGrand execution, and rejected arguments that Washington was powerless to intervene in criminal cases under the authority of the individual states.
The U.S. written argument urged the court to follow the remedy it suggested in the LaGrand case, and quoted from the court's decision in that case:
"The United States, by means of its own choosing, shall allow the review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence."
In the current case, the court ordered the United States to halt the execution process of three Mexicans, two in Texas and one in Oklahoma, until the ruling.
The prisoners are still alive. The first of the men, Osbaldo Torres, is scheduled to be executed in Oklahoma in May.
The death penalty is opposed by most developed countries, but the issue has been a special source of irritation to Mexico. The Death Penalty Information Center says 55 of the 121 foreigners on U.S. death row are Mexican.
Mexican President Vicente Fox (news - web sites) canceled a visit to President Bush (news - web sites)'s ranch in 2002 to protest the execution of a Mexican citizen not mentioned in the world court suit. The visit finally took place earlier this month.

>> KCNA - radioactive dust?

Researches into Sandy Dust Brisk in Korea
Pyongyang, March 30 (KCNA) -- Researches into sandy dust are proceeding in high gear with it hitting Korea quite often these days. A study group has been formed with scientists and technicians of the Central Hydrology Institute of the Hydro-Meteorological Service and the Environment Preservation and Study Centre of the Ministry of Land and Environment Preservation. They have registered successes in quickly forecasting sandy dust by correctly judging the climatic change in the areas where it develops. In close contact with all the provincial hydro-meteorological stations, they observe the sandy dust phenomenon in time and grasp the regional distribution of sandy dust and its course of movement on a scientific basis and immediately report them to all parts of the country.
Scientists of the Geography Institute of the Academy of Sciences are doing their share in finding out the areas where sandy dust develops to hit Korea and the size of dust particles and their influence on the climate and weather of the country in time.
Scientists of the Hygienic Institute and the Radioactive Medical Institute of the Academy of Medical Science are engaged in researches into the possible radioactive content in sandy dust and its effect on the human body.
Scientists and technicians of the Crop Cultivation Institute and the Central Vegetable Institute of the Academy of Agricultural Science are making more concrete and comprehensive researches into the effect of sandy dust on crops.
The energetic researches of the scientists in various fields are effectively preventing damages done to the health of man and natural environment by sandy dust.


U.S. Termed World's Biggest Human Rights Abuser
Pyongyang, March 30 (KCNA) -- Rodong Sinmun Tuesday in a signed article brands the U.S. as the world's biggest human rights abuser. The United States is pulling up the DPRK over the human rights issue whenever an opportunity presents itself, the article says, and goes on:
It has become customary for the U.S. to work out and release a report on human rights performance in other countries every year. It is behaving as if it were an inspector and judge of the world human rights situation. This is aimed to raise its position by wielding "the human rights club" and use it as leverage for launching aggression against other countries in a bid to put the world under its domination.
The U.S. is the most ferocious violator of sovereignty and abuser of human rights. It does not hesitate to threaten and blackmail those countries which incur its displeasure and destroy them by mobilizing armed forces under absurd pretexts. In recent years it waged several wars of aggression against those countries.
The U.S. bellicose forces are stepping up preparations for a nuclear war against humankind. The U.S. nuclear blackmail and its moves to provoke a nuclear war are vicious criminal acts as they create a terror-ridden atmosphere in the international community and hinder the creative activities of people and the progress of history. Its moves to provoke a nuclear war are the most hideous human rights abuse. Such being a stark fact, the U.S. is admonishing other countries for what it called human rights issues, while keeping mum about its wanton violation of sovereignty and abuses of human rights. This reminds one of a thief crying "Stop the thief!" as this can be committed only by those who are bereft of elementary socio-political and legal awareness.
The world progressive people are resolutely rebuffing the U.S. doctrine of "human rights" as a doctrine of aggression and a means for domination.
The U.S. hue and cry over human rights issues will only precipitate its isolation and self-destruction.

U.S. Warhawks' Projected Deployment of Aegis in East Sea of Korea Flayed
Pyongyang, March 30 (KCNA) -- The Secretariat of the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland in its information bulletin No. 864 on Tuesday bitterly denounced the U.S. warhawks's adventurous moves to deploy uptodate Aegis as a vicious challenge to the unanimous aspiration and desire of all the Koreans for peace of the country and its peaceful reunification and an open military provocation to the DPRK. The information bulletin said:
Recently the U.S. announced that it would keep latest type destroyer Aegis equipped with uptodate missile interceptor system in the East Sea of Korea on a permanent basis from September under the pretext of coping with the "ballistic missile attack" from someone.
This clearly indicates that the U.S. war scenario against the DPRK is being put into practice in real earnest at a final phase as it is a dangerous military provocation leading the situation on the Korean peninsula and in the region to the worst phase.
As this move has brought the U.S. hostile policy toward the DPRK aimed to stifle it by force of arms into bolder relief, the DPRK is left with no other option but to take a self-defensive step to cope with it.
Strength is not a monopoly of the United States. It should act with discretion, clearly seeing who its opponent is, withdraw its aggression forces from the Korean peninsula at an early date and stop at once its moves to unleash a war against the DPRK.

Truth behind False Report about "Experiment of Chem. Weapons on Human Bodies" in DPRK Disclosed
Pyongyang, March 30 (KCNA) -- Kang Pyong Sop and his family who are makers of false documents about the "experiment of chemical weapons on human bodies" in the DPRK called a press conference at the People's Palace of Culture here Tuesday to clarify the truth behind the false report about this experiment in the DPRK released by media of south Korea and the West. He said:
There are five members in my family including myself, my wife, two sons and a daughter who is married.
The documents on "experiment of chemical weapons on human bodies" widely misused by enemies were false documents fabricated by my first son Kang Song Guk, who defected to the south seven years ago, and my family, he said, disclosing the truth of the case before Korean and foreign journalists as the maker, observer and witness of those false documents.
He continued:
We received messages from our first son on several occasions, saying that he had caused many troubles to his parents and requesting us to meet him in China so that he could give us some money. So I crossed the border illegally with my wife on the 29th of August last year and met him in Yanji. And in early November I met my second son Song Hak there, too.
Song Guk said to his parents that if they would say that they had brought important information about "the experiment of chemical weapons on human bodies" at a workshop in the February 8 Vinalon Complex where his father works, they would be given a huge sum of money by human rights organizations in the south.
When I said the production of chemical weapons was unthinkable at my complex, my son told me that he would prepare documents, insisting that those human rights organizations in the south would simply believe that the complex is a chemical factory and may produce such things.
Then Song Guk took several papers out of a cardboard box on which such letters as "Certificate of Transfer", "name, sex, date of birth", "place of birth" and "place of residence" are printed.
Then he asked me to recall the names of those who died in one or two years back.
We wrote the name of Rim Chun Hwa, elder maternal cousin, on one paper. He worked as a farmer in Sinhung County, South Hamgyong Province and died of an illness. Names of four more people were written on separate papers though we knew nothing of them.
I told my son Song Guk that "songmyong" and "saengnyonwolil" (which means 'name' and 'date of birth' in the Korean translation of old Chinese characters) are not used in documents in the DPRK but 'irum' and 'nannal' (which means the same, but is a pure Korean language) are used. When I told him what was the use of making such false documents, he reproached me instead, saying that he would take care of everything.
He said that his handwriting would not do because they would easily recognize it. Then he asked me to write a few letters. As my handwriting looked bad, he asked his brother Song Hak, a university graduate, to copy it from a draft paper. He then took out a seal and an ink-pad from a box and stamped the false documents with a seal.
When seeing that seal, I knew that the seal was a fake because the national emblem on the seal was not real. The mountain above the hydro-power station was not Mt. Paektu, but an ordinary mountain and there was only a dam without any generating house beside it.
This is the real story about how false documents about the "experiment of chemical weapons on human bodies" which we have never witnessed or heard of and which has never taken place came into being and were delivered to the south by Song Guk.
The fabrication of false documents was, in the long run, a criminal act that tarnished the image of the dignified DPRK.
Kang Song Hak, who had been enticed into writing out the false documents, said:
My brother said that we were doing it to make a large sum of money. But I think that it was a political farce orchestrated before we went to China.
My brother was idle from his early years and did not like to study at all. It is hard to believe that such false documents were invented by my brother's head.
I think that my brother was allured by some agents who sought to isolate and stifle the DPRK and tempted us to fabricate the false documents about the non-existent "experiment of chemical weapons on human bodies".
Speaking of how the false documents were written, Song Hak said in the "certificate of transfer" in the name of Rim Chun Hwa, he put Rim's place of birth as "Huinsil-dong, Sapho District, Hungnam City, South Hamgyong Province." But Sapho District is in Hamhung City, not Hungnam City. As I filled in what my elder brother dictated, I wrote down a wrong name which hardly be found among the administrative districts of the DPRK.
My elder brother waited for the sealed space of the papers to get completely dry before crumpling them and putting them in water.
Then he took out and spread all the papers before drying them again. When I asked him why he was doing like that, he answered it was necessary to make any examiner to take them for real, not for false ones.
This was how I wrote the horrifying false documents on the DPRK's alleged "experiment of chemical weapons on human bodies" the kind of which the Nazi Germany committed against POWs during World War II and which I had only seen in movies.
Kang Song Hak then showed his handwriting to the journalists.
Daughter Kang Hye Yong said:
My motherland showed leniency to my family for our frank confession of crimes, and allowed us to live together as before after we returned home. I've been hearing about and experiencing the benevolent and all-embracing politics of the Workers' Party of Korea and the Government of the DPRK time and again but I've never felt it so keenly and deeply as now.
I curse my eldest brother Kang Song Guk who betrayed not only his own family but his own motherland. I also hate those who instigated him to drive our family into such an abyss of sin.
Kang Pyong Sop's family asked journalists to disclose the truth of the mean trick of those trying to slander our dignified DPRK to the whole world.



N. Korean News Agency Says Witness Lied
Tue Mar 30,10:46 PM ET
By SANG-HUN CHOE, Associated Press Writer
SEOUL, South Korea - A North Korean engineer credited with smuggling out documents on alleged gas chamber experiments in the isolated communist state said Tuesday that the papers were fake.
Kang Pyong Sop, 59, said he was tricked into handing fabricated documents over to South Korean human rights activists, according to the North's state-run KCNA news agency.
Rights activists in February released papers they said were from Kang that verified North Korea (news - web sites) was conducting gas chamber experiments on political prisoners.
However, there was no way to confirm the documents' authenticity.
It was unclear under what circumstances Kang held the news conference.
"The documents on 'experiment of chemical weapons on human bodies' widely misused by enemies were false documents fabricated by my first son Kang Song Guk -- who defected to the South 7 years ago -- and my family," Kang said on Tuesday, according to KCNA.
Rights activists had said that Kang, an engineer at the North Korean chemicals complex, was arrested with his wife and a son by Chinese authorities while trying to cross from China to Laos on Jan. 3 in an attempt to defect to South Korea (news - web sites), where Kang's son Song Guk had already gone.
Kang said he met Song Guk in China in November, and the son gave him fake, blank official documents and asked him to write in the accounts of gas chamber experiments. The son claimed such documents could fetch "a huge sum of money" from South Korean human rights activists, Kang said.


Diplomats: New Data Suggests Secret Iran Atomic Plan
Wed Mar 31,11:05 AM ET Reuters
By Louis Charbonneau
VIENNA (Reuters) - New intelligence on Iran has fueled suspicions the Islamic Republic has a secret uranium- enrichment program, possibly aimed at producing fuel for an atom bomb program, Western diplomats say.
The U.N.'s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has been investigating Iran's atomic program ever since an exiled opposition group reported in August 2002 that Tehran was hiding a massive enrichment plant at Natanz.
Under fire over U.S. suspicions that its nuclear power program is a front for building atomic weapons -- a charge Iran denies -- Tehran agreed last year to submit to tougher IAEA inspections and suspend all enrichment-related activities.
But a group of Western diplomats who follow the IAEA said recent intelligence has provoked suspicion that Tehran moved enrichment activities away from Natanz to smaller sites that are part of a parallel program U.N. inspectors have not uncovered.
"We've got lot of intelligence about small enrichment plants (in Iran) for some months, going back to the November (IAEA) board meeting," one Western diplomat told Reuters on condition of anonymity. The diplomat gave no details about the form of this intelligence.
Iran's ambassador to the United Nations (news - web sites) in Vienna, Pirooz Hosseini, told Reuters in a telephone interview that the latest charges were "baseless" and "an attempt to destroy the fruitful cooperation between the IAEA and Iran."
An IAEA spokeswoman declined to comment.
Allegations that Tehran, which says its nuclear program is peaceful, may be hiding facilities from the IAEA are nothing new. However, the specific allegation that Tehran had shifted enrichment activities away from Natanz to smaller sites was first made publicly by an Iranian exile last month.
Alireza Jafarzadeh, formerly a spokesman for the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and now president of the Washington-based Strategic Policy Consulting, Inc., told Reuters on March 9 about a "recent meeting" of top Iranian officials who decided to shift enrichment activities to small, secret plants.
He said the group, which included Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, had also decided to "speed up the nuclear weapons program" to get a bomb by the end of 2005 and that Tehran "would pursue a deliberate game of hide and seek with the IAEA."
Washington lists the NCRI as a terrorist organization and shut down its offices last year.
However, the NCRI has a good track record on Iran's atomic program. Jafarzadeh said his latest information came from the same "well-informed sources inside Iran" that told him about Natanz and a heavy-water production facility at Arak in 2002.
Jafarzadeh's allegations appeared to receive support from a recent intelligence report, an analysis of which was obtained last week by the Los Angeles Times. This analysis, seen by Reuters, said Iran had set up a committee last year whose task was to hide activities from the IAEA's nuclear sleuths.
Among the allegedly hidden sites are some 300 plants making parts for centrifuges, which spin at supersonic speeds to purify uranium for use as fuel for power plants or in bombs.
Iran had suspended IAEA inspections on March 12, ostensibly in retaliation against an IAEA resolution that "deplores" Iran's failure to inform the U.N. of sensitive research on items like "P2" centrifuges capable of producing bomb-grade material.
Two weeks later Tehran let the inspectors return, though several Western diplomats said the retaliation may have been an excuse to buy more time to hide activities from the IAEA.
One Western diplomat said that the intelligence could not be considered the "silver bullet" that proved these allegations about a parallel enrichment program beyond any doubt.
"Intelligence gives you well-founded suspicions," said the diplomat, who is convinced the suspicions about Iran's secret enrichment sites "are well-founded."
All the diplomats said that if Tehran had decided to hide enrichment facilities from the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the IAEA would have great difficulty finding them without specific leads.
"An enrichment facility can be the least visible part of the fuel cycle. It looks like any other industrial site," one said.


Iranian Youth Organization to Supreme Leader Khamenei: 'What A Huge Lie You Are Telling!'

On the occasion of the Iranian holiday of Nourouz, or New Year, the Iranian Organization of Combatant Youth criticized a declaration by Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in which he thanked "enthusiastic" Iranian citizens for turning out in such large numbers for February's elections for the Majlis (parliament). Khamenei praised the citizens for thus "nullifying the plots of the enemies against Iran." The following is the organization's reaction: [1]
"We must say to him [i.e. Khamenei], 'What a huge lie you are telling!' The majority of the people of Iran know that, despite all the games and actions taken by the agents of the Velayat Faqih ['rule of the jurisprudent,' that is, Khamenei's] regime, and despite all their intervention in the 'forced elections,' it was declared that 51.5% of qualified [voters] participated in the elections. In dictatorial regimes, this cannot be called 'enthusiastic participation,' because in such regimes 98% of the people vote.
"As far as is known, in the recent forced election, only 14% of the eligible voters came to the polls. The highest estimate of [voter] numbers, which was in greater Tehran, was 400,000, [and] many of them were regime employees or their relatives, and many came to the polling places out of coercion or fear. And even so, some of them voted a blank ballot.
"Given the above facts, how can someone calling himself the 'Leader of Muslims' and 'the legitimate representative of the Hidden Imam' invent such a huge lie in the beginning of the New Year, about the voting by enthusiastic people - instead of just being quiet. Aren't you ashamed before God?
"My dear countrymen: The actions, deeds, and words of those who call themselves religious have made people question religious principles, and [also caused] many to turn away from Islam.
"The akhounds [clerics [2] ] who rule Iran have no respect for the national rights of the Iranian people; rather, they use Islam to further their own satanic goals - even if this results in the ruin of the nation and the uprooting of religious principles. [But] the most important thing is that their own demonic games are protected at any price.
"My dear countrymen, we must wake up. Our homeland is going to wreck and ruin. In our current circumstances, we must unite. Our disunity is what the enemy of this godly land desires. We must unite in order to save our beloved Iran from the rule of these thieves and criminals. We must rebuild our land. We cannot remain silent, and we must have a united front with good plans.
"We must advance towards our sacred goal - liberty, justice, and equality."

[2] In Persian, this word has a negative connotation.


Human Rights Organizations: The Saudi Model
By: Aluma Dankowitz*
On March 9, 2004, Saudi Arabia's King Fahd Bin Abd Al-Aziz officially approved the establishment of the country's first non-governmental human rights organization. The new National Organization for Human Rights (NOHR) has 41 members, nine of them women, and is chaired by Dr. Abdallah Bin Saleh Al-'Ubeid, a member of the Saudi Shoura Council and former secretary-general of the Muslim World League. The new organization's members and executive committee, who are also members of the Saudi Shoura Council , participate in NOHR activities "in an individual and not an official capacity." NOHR has four committees: tracking and oversight, research and recommendations, family matters and culture, and publication.
NOHR Chairman Dr. Abdallah Bin Saleh Al-'Ubeid explained that the organization would strive to protect human rights in accordance with the principles of the Saudi regime, based on the Qur'an and the Sunna, [1] as well as international human rights conventions, in a manner that does not conflict with Shari'a, [2] and in cooperation with international organizations. Saudi Crown Prince Abdallah supported the organization's mission and promised to provide it with all necessary government assistance. [3]
NOHR Chairman: Amputations and Floggings are not Violations of Human Rights
In an interview with the London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat, Dr. Al-'Ubeid explained that NOHR is not aimed at pressuring the Saudi regime and that it has no power to impose its will on the state. He added, "The organization will cooperate with all internationally acknowledged human rights organizations and institutions, but will not ally itself with them for the purpose of pressuring elements inside Saudi Arabia that do not cooperate with it. The only means of pressure that the organization has is to [expose] non-cooperative elements in its annual report, which will be given to the head of state. The organization cannot force its positions on the state. However, it will cooperate with the state to make public human rights mistakes committed by individuals and government entities."
Commenting on human rights violations by the Saudi government, Al-'Ubeid said: "Theoretically, the kingdom sets the laws, and the regime makes sure that these laws do not contradict Islamic Shari'a. It is safe to assume that those who are appointed by the state to uphold the laws are committed to doing so. But there are some infringements due to unfamiliarity [with the laws] or due to excessive zeal in upholding them. The state does not endorse those infringements and has the means, both financially and administratively, to handle them..."
Discussing the manner in which complaints will be handled, Al-'Ubeid said: "When someone turns to the organization and claims he was imprisoned for political reasons, we look into his claim and the evidence that he presents. In principle, the organization has no problem examining any issue. But that does not mean that every problem will be accepted just because someone brought it up. Someone may say that he is a political prisoner, but in fact he had harmed others, and there are criminals who were sentenced to jail or other punishments. Not everyone who was punished was indeed mistreated. Perhaps it was he who violated the freedoms of others. We hope that the organization, along with other institutions, will help anyone who complains - and was [indeed] deprived of his rights - to restore his rights... [However] what one person considers a violation of his rights may not [actually] be so. There are rules and religious laws that govern man and society. One of the drawbacks of the international proclamations of human rights, and some [human rights] organizations, is that [they focus on the] rights of the individual as the one and only thing [to be considered]. It is surprising that international [human rights] protocols do not speak of [human] obligations, just [of human] rights..."
"There are those who consider certain issues a violation of human rights, while we consider them a safeguard to human rights - for example, executions, amputating the hand of a thief, or flogging an adulterer. There are those who think that all Qur'anic punishments violate human rights. Therefore, the position of the Saudi foreign ministry, and the position of many Islamic countries and even some of the Western countries, is that international proclamations of human rights and their related protocols are [considered only] general principles, and that their implementation is subject to the laws [of each country]... We, in the kingdom, are part of the world insofar as [general principles of] human rights [are concerned]. But domestically we are governed according to Allah's Shari'a, so that what [to someone else] seems like a violation of human rights is [in fact] our duty and our right concerning someone who committed a crime or a sin."
Referring to the organization's independent status, Al-'Ubeid explained: "The organization is a national popular non-governmental entity that has no affiliation with government institutions. None of its members holds a government position. Members of the organization are consultants ... members of faculty in universities ... or retirees. None has ties to the state's executive branch, and that is why the state can establish [human rights] organizations of its own..."
Al-'Ubeid also talked about the Saudis detained by the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay: "We will add our efforts in this area to those of international organizations seeking to ensure that they are treated in accordance with human rights conventions. We shall do our utmost, in cooperation with government and civilian institutions, to achieve this demand at the outset of our activities." [4]
Criticism of the NHRO
A heated discussion regarding the independence of the NHRO immediately followed the announcement of its establishment. Former judge Sheikh Abd Al-Aziz Al-Qassem maintained that the organization was in fact governmental, not civilian. As evidence, he stated, "None of its members could have announced its establishment prior to obtaining official approval." However, he praised the organization as "the first step towards creating a culture of human rights and their implementation in the Saudi society." [5]
Other critics referred to the priorities of the organization. In his column in the London-based Arabic language daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, Tariq Al-Hameed commented on Al-'Ubeid's statement that the issue of the Guantanamo Bay detainees is the NHRO's top priority. Al-Hameed maintained that this issue was being handled by the government, and should not be handled by a civilian organization. "We hope that the civilian organization will deal with domestic problems of interest to the citizen who is not immersed in political details, the citizen who is seeking solutions to problems in his day-to-day life... The greatest fear is that tomorrow we will see the Palestinian, Iraqi and Afghani problems on the agenda of the NHRO... This will contradict the core of the organization's mission and what is expected of it..." [6]
A Saudi Governmental Human Rights Organization
Subsequent to the announcement of the establishment of the NOHR, Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Prince Turki Bin Muhammad announced the imminent establishment of a governmental human rights organization. In an interview with the London Arabic-language daily Al-Hayat, he explained that what seemed to be the deliberate founding of the government organization after the founding of the civilian organization, was indeed planned so as to "ensure the accomplishment of its goals as expected." The organization, he said, would be a high-level entity headed by a qualified individual with a direct connection to the king.
On ties between the civilian and governmental human rights organizations, Prince Turki Bin Muhammad said: "We expect the two organizations to cooperate in securing and enhancing human rights in Saudi Arabia. There are no ties between the two: One is national and was established on the basis of the wishes of the Saudi society. The national human rights organization has its own mission and it is fully independent. The other is governmental, and coordinates the activities of government institutions for the purpose of serving human rights in the kingdom. The governmental organization has no guardianship over the national organization. Each one of them is independent."
When asked about the scope of human rights violations in Saudi Arabia, Turki Bin Muhammad answered: "Based on my work, and my involvement in this issue for over eight years, I can say that there are no significant human rights violations, as alleged falsely by suspicious parties. There may be some transgressions by individuals [or institutions], but they do not rise to the level that could be described as human rights violations. I think these cases can be managed when they arise."
Explaining why Saudi Arabia refused to allow an Amnesty International delegation to investigate human rights violations in the kingdom, Turki Bin Muhammad said that Amnesty International had taken "a hostile position towards the kingdom, which tainted its objectivity." He added that "Saudi Arabia invited non-governmental organizations to visit the country, including one of the most important non-governmental international organizations - Human Rights Research [sic]. They visited Saudi Arabia and met with officials, intellectuals and civilians. They visited prisons and gathered information with which they were not familiar. Finally, they prepared a positive report about what they heard and observed. As for Amnesty International, it has unfortunately taken hostile positions in the past, especially in regard to our faith and values... We do not oppose cooperation with any organization dealing with human rights, as long as its points of departure are impartial and credible." [7]
At the March 17, 2004 U.N. human rights conference in Geneva, Turki Bin Muhammad rejected demands by the U.S. and other Western countries to speed up the reform process in Saudi Arabia. He said Riyadh would pursue reform based on the needs of Saudi society, not on ideas and theories from without. Prince Turki also dismissed allegations of discrimination against women in Saudi society, pointing out that some 49% of the country's 4.3 million students are women and that women also held about a third of all public positions. [8]

* Aluma Dankowitz is the Director of MEMRI's Reform Project.

[1] The sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad, set out as a mandatory example for Muslims.
[2] Islamic law.
[3] Al-Hayat (London), March 10, 2004.
[4] Al-Hayat (London), March 12, 2004.
[5] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 11, 2004.
[6] Al-Sharq Al-Awsat (London), March 13, 2004.
[7] Al-Hayat (London), March 12, 2004.
[8] Arab News (Saudi Arabia), March 18, 2004.

Police search emails for trail to Pakistan
Canadian accused of aiding UK suspects
Rosie Cowan, Richard Norton-Taylor and Audrey Gillan
Thursday April 1, 2004
The Guardian
Police computer experts were last night trawling through email records from a West Sussex internet cafe as the intelligence agencies tried to establish links between eight UK terror suspects and senior militants in Pakistan.
As detectives continued to question the young men suspected of plotting a major bomb attack in Britain, MI5 and MI6 continued their investigations into influential foreign figures who might have been advising them.
The eight suspects were arrested in anti-terrorist raids on Tuesday. Police were last night granted another three days to question the men under the Terrorism Act and can now hold them until Saturday afternoon. Under the act, police can apply for extensions to detain suspects up to a maximum of 14 days once arrested.
The extension came as a man was charged in Canada with helping terrorist activity in London after being arrested on Monday. Mohammed Momin Khawaja, 29, a software developer, appeared in an Ottawa court in shackles and a bullet-proof vest.
Mr Khawaja, a Canadian of Pakistani descent, is alleged to have knowingly participated in or contributed to the activities of a terrorist group, and knowingly facilitated a terrorist activity.
The offences allegedly took place "on or between November 10 2003 and March 29 2004 at or near the city of Ottawa and at or near the city of London".
Mr Khawaja said he had recently travelled to London to meet a prospective bride. His brother, Qasim, insisted he was innocent, adding: "They are looking for something that does not exist. They want to fabricate or create it somehow."
The British detainees being questioned in London were born and brought up in England, but seven are of Pak istani descent, and counter-terrorist sources are confident that they will unearth international connections.
"More will surface on the external aspects [of the alleged bomb plot]," a source familiar with the operation said. Officials made it clear that Pakistan was in their sights.
Half a tonne of ammonium nitrate fertiliser, frequently used in explosive compounds, was also recovered, and police impounded five desktop computers and eight laptops from the PC UK internet cafe in Langley Green, Crawley, where three of the suspects live.
Anti-terrorist officers think that some of the suspects may have sent and received emails from associates and mentors, who advised them on waging "holy war" on Britain. There is no suggestion that the proprietor of the internet cafe was aware of this.
Several of the suspects had visited Pakistan and at least one is thought to have undergone paramilitary training in a terrorist camp there.
One is 32 years old, but the others are all under 22 - three of them teenagers. This could indicate a worrying trend of extreme militancy among young British Muslims attracted to ideology-driven violence. They are not particularly religious, intelligence sources say, and are not directly linked to known al-Qaida figures.
They are, however, inspired by al-Qaida anti-western ideology, and perhaps motivated by the invasion of Iraq and the American-backed campaign against al-Qaida's leaders and their sympathisers in north-western Pakistan.
One source familiar with the operation summed up the fears, albeit in crude terms.
"It is one thing having foreigners doing things against us", he said "but to have people born and bred and raised in the UK allegedly engaged in preparing a terrorist act is pretty shocking."
Police and MI5 agents had been secretly monitoring the suspects for weeks, and intercepted communications form a crucial part of the inquiry. There are fears that other, older suspects might have evaded arrest.
"This is an intelligence-led investigation, not a fishing expedition," a senior police source said. "There is a degree of concern over the ages of those arrested. But there has been a long covert operation and officers are confident that now is the time to 'go live'."
Relatives of the Crawley three, brothers Omar, 22, and Shujah Khyam, 17, and their cousin, Ahmad Khan, 18, maintained that the youths were innocent.
Ansar Khan, Ahmad's father, a taxi driver based at Gatwick airport, admitted that his nephew Omar had visited the Pakistan border, but denied that he had any involvement with al-Qaida. He said the family had flown out and brought him home after about six weeks. "My cousins are intelligence officers in the Pakistan army and they helped us find him," he said.
He also claimed that MI5 agents had approached Omar and Shujah on two occasions and told them they should go to Pakistan. But police and security sources denied this.
Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of al-Muhajiroun, a radical Muslim organisation, said he recognised "three or four" of the names of those arrested as former members, including Omar Khyam. In 2000 the 40-strong Crawley group dissociated itself from al-Muhajiroun, saying it was not radical enough, he claimed.
Mr Bakri Mohammed said he did not believe the young men had been involved in terrorist activity, but admitted that they had disagreed with his view that Muslims were under a "covenant of security" in the UK, and that any act of terror carried out on British soil would be against the Koran.
Massoud Shadjareh, page 21 Leader comment, page 23


Chirac swaps top ministers after debacle
Jon Henley in Paris
Thursday April 1, 2004
The Guardian
France's hugely popular interior minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, was handed the job yesterday of spearheading an immensely unpopular programme of reforms as President Jacques Chirac made sweeping changes to his cabinet after the centre-right's humiliating defeat in regional elections.
Mr Sarkozy was appointed finance minister in a major reshuffle which also saw Mr Chirac's close ally, the smooth and aristocratic foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, take over at the interior ministry, and a European commissioner, Michel Barnier, step into Mr de Villepin's shoes at the Quai d'Orsay.
Mr Chirac has come under mounting pressure to show that he had heard the electorate's message of widespread discontent with government spending cuts in Sunday's second-round vote, which saw the Socialist opposition win a landslide victory with 21 of mainland France's 22 regional councils and a 50% share of the national vote, compared with 37% for the ruling conservatives.

The president's decision on Tuesday to give his embattled prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, a 10-week stay of execution until at least the European elections in June was met with incredulity in the Socialist camp yesterday.
Mr Chirac was accused of ignoring the wishes of the people, even of insulting them.
The affable Mr Raffarin is seen as unpopular, burned out and so severely weakened by the regional election pounding that he will be unable to push through the government's moderate but on the whole necessary cost-cutting reforms, particularly to France's prized but heavily indebted health service, without provoking a potentially crippling series of strikes and demonstrations.
"On the one hand we have a society which has shown its anger in dramatic fashion. On the other, we have political leaders who are displaying a certain deafness," said Jerome Sainte-Marie of the polling organisation BVA. "It is quite an explosive cocktail."
Mr Sarkozy, on the other hand, who constantly tops opinion polls as France's most popular politician, may have the charisma, stature and gift of the gab for the job. The appointment has the added benefit for Mr Chirac that if he fails to convince France's fickle voters of the need for reform, Mr Sarkozy will see his bid to become president in 2007 badly undermined. He faces a huge task overcoming anger over high unemployment, pension reform and budget cuts.
The new job will make or break Mr Sarkozy's ambitions. The minister, who has so far made a name for himself by cracking down successfully on street crime, illegal immigrants and prostitution, is by no means certain to make such a success of his new and considerably less high-profile role as head of government finances.
The same could, however, be said of Mr Villepin, the part-time poet and arch Chirac loyalist who won over the French public by eloquently voicing France's opposition to the US-led war on Iraq.
"To be honest, I just can't see De Villepin visiting some rundown housing estate to talk about rising levels of street crime with youth gang leaders," said one government official who asked not to be named.
But other observers discerned a longer-term strategy in Mr Chirac's choice.
"This is an interim appointment," said one commentator, Marie Eve Malouine. "It's setting up De Villepin to take over from Raffarin as prime minister, probably after the June elections, and establishing his credentials as Chirac's preferred successor. This is all about keeping out Sarkozy."

SPIEGEL ONLINE - 31. M?rz 2004, 20:08
Kabinettsumbildung in Frankreich
Sarkozy Superstar
Nach anderthalb Tagen Klausur steht die Liste f?r das neue franz?sische Kabinett. Pr?sident Chirac und Premier Raffarin haben damit auf das j?ngste Wahldebakel reagiert. Vor allem der bisher schon m?chtige und beliebte Innenminister Sarkozy wurde aufgewertet.
Chirac und Raffarin: Beratungen im Elys?e-Palast
Paris - Sarkozy wird Finanzminister und damit verantwortlich f?r die geplanten Wirtschaftsreformen. Als k?nftiger Herr des Geldes im Kabinett hat er nun eine Schl?sselposition inne, was die Reformpolitik von Premier Jean-Pierre Raffarin angeht. Protokollarisch wird Nicolas Sarkozy zu einer Art Vizepremier aufgewertet und steht damit ?ber den anderen Ministern. Der 49-J?hrige ist Umfragen zufolge der popul?rste Politiker in Frankreich. Er gilt als ehrgeizig und energisch. Allerdings hat sein offenkundiger Wunsch, Jacques Chirac 2007 vom Pr?sidentenposten zu verdr?ngen, das Verh?ltnis der beiden belastet.
Mit der Regierungsumbildung zogen der franz?sische Staatspr?sident Chirac und Raffarin die Konsequenzen aus dem Debakel des Regierungslagers bei der Regionalwahl.
Der Generalsekret?r des Elys?e-Palasts, Philippe Bas, gab die neue Kabinettsliste nach anderthalbt?gigen Konsultationen am fr?hen Mittwochabend bekannt. Die politischen Schwergewichte bleiben im Kabinett Raffarin, die meisten wechseln jedoch das Ressort.
Sarkozy (hier mit Ex-Premier Jupp?): Der neue starke Mann
So ?bernimmt etwa der bisherige Chefdiplomat Dominique de Villepin das Innenministerium von Sarkozy. Den frei gewordenen Posten im Au?enministerium ?bernimmt EU-Kommissar Michel Barnier, der zugleich prominentester Neuzugang ist.
Der 53-j?hrige Barnier galt in Br?ssel stets als Mann Chiracs. Trotz des Auftrags an die EU-Kommissare, nur Gemeinschaftsinteressen zu vertreten, folgte er meist der Order aus Paris. Der Gaullist war in den neunziger Jahren bereits franz?sischer Umwelt- und Europaminister. Sein Nachfolger als EU-Regionalkommissar d?rfte der Fraktionschef von Chiracs Regierungspartei UMP werden: Jacques Barrot.
Sozialminister Francois Fillon wechselt ins Erziehungsministerium, der bisherige Ressortchef Luc Ferry tritt ab. Michele Alliot-Marie bleibt Verteidigungsministerin, der Generalsekret?r der Regierungspartei UMP, Philippe Douste-Blazy, wird neuer Gesundheitsminister. Das Ressort Justiz bleibt in den H?nden von Dominique Perben, die Landwirtschaft bei Herve Gaymard.
Der von Chirac gef?rderte St?dteminister Jean-Louis Borloo r?ckt an die Spitze eines gro?en "Ministeriums f?r den sozialen Zusammenhalt", das auch f?r die Arbeitsmarktpolitik zust?ndig ist und f?r den neuen sozialen Schwerpunkt der Regierungspolitik steht.
Trotz der Schlappe des konservativ-b?rgerlichen Lagers bei der Regionalwahl hatte Chirac am Dienstag erneut Raffarin mit der Regierungsbildung beauftragt.

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SPIEGEL ONLINE - 31. M?rz 2004, 17:29
Powells Uno-Auftritt
BND und CIA streiten ?ber Irak-Informanten "Curveball"
Ein umstrittener Zeuge sorgt f?r ?rger zwischen dem Bundesnachrichtendienst und der CIA. Der US-Geheimdienst wirft den Deutschen vor, erst nach dem Uno-Auftritt von Au?enminister Powell ?ber Beweise f?r Massenvernichtungswaffen im Irak Zweifel an der Glaubw?rdigkeit des Informanten mitgeteilt zu haben. Der BND wehrt sich.
Powell vor der Uno (5. Februar 2003): "Curveball" sorgt f?r ?rger
Hamburg - CIA-Mitarbeiter h?tten den BND mehrfach gebeten, den Informanten mit dem Decknamen "Curveball" selbst vernehmen zu d?rfen, zitiert die "Zeit" den ehemaligen CIA-Vizechef Richard Kerr. Dies habe der Bundesnachrichtendienst aber aus Quellenschutzgr?nden abgelehnt.
Deutsche Sicherheitskreise argumentierten dagegen, die Berichte von "Curveball" seien der CIA schon lange vor dem 5. Februar 2003 ?bermittelt worden, und zwar inklusive einer "deutlichen Glaubw?rdigkeitseinsch?tzung". "Man fragt sich schon, was das soll. Von unserer Seite hat es vor der Powell-Pr?sentation jedenfalls kein Getrickse gegeben", zitiert die "Zeit" aus den Kreisen.
Powell hatte bei seinem Uno-Auftritt in gro?em Stil angebliche Beweise ?ber rollende Biowaffenlabore von Saddam Hussein pr?sentiert. Die von Powell als "solide" titulierten Informationen stammten haupts?chlich aus einer Quelle des BND, die bei den Deutschen aber keineswegs als glaubhaft galt.
Beim Informanten "Curveball" soll es sich um einen Iraker handeln, der als Ingenieur im Chemiewesen bei der Armee von Saddam Hussein t?tig gewesen sein wollte. Dann sei er wegen Unterschlagung ins Gef?ngnis gekommen, habe aber Ende der neunziger Jahre aus dem Irak fliehen k?nnen.
Die Version des Bundesnachrichtendienstes in dem Streit ?ber den zweifelhaften Zeugen scheint zuzutreffen. Denn die "Zeit" hatte schon im vergangenen August berichtet, der BND habe Washington ohne Erfolg vor Powells Uno-Auftritt vor der dubiosen Quelle im Irak gewarnt, die er "nicht rundherum positiv" bewerte.
Bei "Curveball" soll es sich nach Informationen der "Los Angeles Times" um den Bruder eines Vertrauten des irakischen Exilpolitikers Ahmed Tschalabi handeln. Tschalabi, Chef des "Iraqi National Congress" (INC) und Feind Saddams, br?stet sich damit, wie die irref?hrenden Informationen seiner Organisation zum Sturz des Diktators f?hrten.
David Kay, der fr?here Chef-Waffeninspektor der USA im Irak, nannte Powells Auftritt vor der Uno "unehrlich". "Wenn Powell der Uno gesagt h?tte: 'Es gibt nur eine Quelle, niemand von uns hat aber mit ihm gesprochen und wir kennen seinen Namen nicht', h?tten uns die Leute ausgelacht." Kay hatte schon im vergangenen Jahr das Vorhandensein von Massenvernichtungswaffen im Irak bezweifelt.
Falsche Einsch?tzungen auch in Israel
Am Wochenende war in Jerusalem bereits eine Untersuchungskommission des israelischen Parlaments hart mit der Geheimdienstarbeit ?ber das irakische Massenvernichtungswaffenprogramm ins Gericht gegangen. Die zentrale Frage sei, warum es keine harten Fakten, sondern nur Vermutungen und Spekulationen ?ber die Bedrohung durch den Irak gegeben habe, sagte der Kommissionsvorsitzende Juval Steinitz. Fehleinsch?tzungen h?tten schlie?lich zu unn?tigen Schritten zum Schutz der Bev?lkerung gef?hrt, die neben Panik einen wirtschaftlichen Millionenschaden verursacht h?tten.
Die Kommission hatte in nicht ?ffentlichen Sitzungen 70 Zeugen befragt. Der Abgeordnete Haim Ramon von der oppositionellen Arbeitspartei sagte, er habe immer wieder auf die Beantwortung der Frage gedrungen, auf was die Geheimdienste ihre Einsch?tzung gegr?ndet h?tten, es habe eine gro?e Bedrohung durch irakische Massenvernichtungswaffen gegeben. "Ich habe keine Antwort bekommen", sagte er.
Andere Ausschussmitglieder, die nicht ihren Namen genannt wissen wollten, berichteten, von israelischen Agenten aufgegriffenes H?rensagen sei an die USA zur ?berpr?fung weitergeleitet worden. Einiges habe man auch in die Medien durchsickern lassen. Danach seien die Informationen offenbar wieder in Umlauf gekommen und von der israelischen Regierung als Tatsachen akzeptiert worden.

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Posted by maximpost at 10:08 PM EST
Tuesday, 30 March 2004


Russian Pipelines: Back to the Future?
Edward C Chow. Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. Washington: Winter 2004. Vol. 5, Iss. 1; pg. 27, 7 pgs
Abstract (Article Summary)
Chow argues that the path Russia takes in developing its pipelines will reflect its broader economic and political choices for the future. He describes that the country's long term economic significance lies in the integration of its population of 145 million into the world market and its potential as a progressive force in the in the economic integration of its neighbors from the former Soviet Union into the global system.

Full Text (3355 words)
Copyright Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service Winter 2004

In Soviet mythology, the health of the country's economy, national power, and influence in the world are directly linked to the performance of its oil and gas industry. It is ironic, then, that peak oil and gas production in the U.S.S.R. was reached in the late 1980s just as economic collapse brought political disintegration. At the time, the Soviet Union was the biggest oil producer in the world, generating 12 million barrels per day, 11 million in Russia alone. Peak consumption at this time was over 8 million barrels per day in the Soviet Union and 5 million barrels per day in Russia. Considerable volumes of crude oil and petroleum products were exported by the Soviet Union, first to other countries in the Eastern Bloc, and then approximately 3 million barrels per day to those outside of the Comecon.1 Oil and gas were part of the important barter trade in the Communist block and provided economic leverage for Russia in maintaining cohesion of the sphere. Moreover, they served as principal sources of hard currency and geopolitical assets in the Soviet Union's relationship with the outside world.

Given the remote location of many Russian production fields, pipelines have always played a critical role in transporting oil and gas. The construction of a vast system of pipelines was often cited as a crowning achievement of the Soviet oil and gas industry. They were designed to move production primarily within the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and secondarily for export to the West.

Today's Russia inherited from the U.S.S.R. 46,000 km of these crude oil pipelines, 15,000 km of petroleum product pipelines, and 152,000 km of natural gas pipelines, almost all of which are still owned and controlled by the state. By contrast, the United States, with only 55 percent of Russia's land mass, has over four times more oil pipelines and two times more natural gas pipelines, almost none of which are owned or controlled by the government.2

The Russian oil industry privatized and modernized throughout the mid-1990s. A more competitive cost structure after the ruble collapse of 1998, improved property rights protection leading to greater reinvestment, and the introduction of Western technology and business practice allowed Russian oil production to recover from a low of 6 million barrels per day to nearly 8 million barrels per day. This is still far below the level achieved in the peak production year of 1988. Nevertheless, domestic oil consumption has dropped to only about 21A million barrels per day with lower economic activity and better energy efficiency. As a result, much more oil is being exported today, and Russia has become the second largest oil exporter in the world after Saudi Arabia.3

Russian oil production is forecast to maintain this rapid growth while domestic consumption is expected to be relatively flat in spite of better economic performance. The existing pipeline system was, however, designed to move oil to now diminished domestic markets and less desirable markets in Eastern Europe. Thus, Russia is desperately in need of new export facilities-large-diameter pipelines and deep-water marine terminals-to transport increasing volumes of oil to higher-value world markets in the large ocean-going tankers favored in international trade. Otherwise, both the performance of its petroleum industry, which has been the growth engine for the Russian economy in recent years, and its ambitions of playing a larger role in world oil trade will suffer.

In order to harness the potential of its energy sector and capture new markets, three key projects on the drawing board are being discussed widely. These include new pipelines to Murmansk, to Daqing in northeast China, and to Nakhodka on Russia's Pacific Coast. The way in which Russia handles these pipelines and its petroleum resources will signal the likely direction in which its uncertain economic future will unfold.

Multiple Pipelines: The Answer?

November 2002 saw an unprecedented display of unity by usually-competitive oligarchs. The four heads of Russia's major private oil companies announced an agreement to build a pipeline from their booming oilfields in West Siberia (and high-potential fields elsewhere) to the arctic port of Murmansk on the Barents Sea. From Murmansk, crude oil (and perhaps one day oil products and liquefied natural gas) would go to markets primarily in the United States and Europe. Only a year old and still unproven by rigorous commercial evaluation, the Murmansk pipeline proposal has already come to represent a number of trends in Russia, including its economic and political transition, and integration with the world.

Fundamentally, Murmansk is a milestone that challenges Russia to make critical decisions that will permanently shape the relationship between the state and the economy. For example, it raises questions of whether it is better to maintain strong elements of central planning and control by expending public effort and scarce financial resources to manage the allocation of economic resources (such as pipeline capacity or upstream petroleum investment), when the private sector is perfectly capable of doing so efficiently. Or should Russia leapfrog these vestiges of the Soviet era and adopt the proven international market economic model? Indeed, the public can entrust the private sector to conduct business while "controlling" the private sector through taxes, fair regulation, and publicly enacted legislation rather than through state owner-ship and intrusive state planning. Another issue is whether expanding production to seize greater oil market share is sustainable in the face of weak world demand growth and a disciplined OPEC-a possible recipe for confrontation. And finally, it is not clear that Russia's own public institutions are capable of transforming fast enough to live by the international model. Can they capture only the economic rent necessary to provide for the public welfare and defense while celebrating "useful greed" rather than ostracizing businessmen that make a lot of money?

Yet, that unique moment of cooperation in November 2OO2, followed by the merger of TNK and BP in Russia and the news of a potential merger between YukosSibneft and a major U.S. oil company, marked the threshold of something new: the possible end of the post-Soviet scrap for assets, and a new era marked by business cooperation in which the whole is greater than sum of the parts, with a true and concrete partnership with the United States and Europe at the heart of Russia's key industry. From Murmansk to Nakhodka on the Pacific Coast, and Samara to Novorossiysk on the Black Sea, to the refineries of America, Europe, and Asia, and the hallways of decision-making in the Persian Gulf and OPEG headquarters in Vienna, people are waiting for President Putin's decisions on how to cross this threshold.

Central Planning: Last Throes or Retrenchment? In October, Minister of Energy Yusufov made some economically-bizarre statements about the Far Eastern pipelines and Murmansk in calling for a Nakhodka pipeline before any consideration of either a Daqing pipeline or even a Murmansk pipeline, which, he claimed, could at best be considered simultaneously with one in Nakhodka. In the same interview, he claimed that "Murmansk will definitely develop... [but] we should do it in stages." he noted that the uncertainty over which pipeline would obtain political approval was the result of a "need to assess the balance of our supplies to the international and the domestic markets." Moreover, he claimed that a Japanese offer to commit to one million barrels per day of oil imports from Nakhodka to help finance the line is actually unnecessary, given the wide array of potential customers in the Pacific Basin.4 Yet, the state-run oil pipeline monopoly Transneft excuses the delay of the Murmansk line by citing the need for the United States to commit to volume purchases from the pipeline even though any port serving the Atlantic basin would have an equally broad market at its disposal.

The Nakhodka proposal and the Murmansk initiative are two entirely different creatures-any state effort evaluating the merits of Nakhodka versus Daqing cannot provide a guide in comparing Nakhodka and Murmansk. For example, the private Russian companies have pledged publicly up to 3 million barrels per day of crude oil to the Murmansk line from their future growing production in West Siberia and the Timan Pechora region. No one has pledged any oil from anywhere to the Nakhodka line. Additionally, the private companies are now prepared to finance Murmansk, but everyone, even the government, agrees there are not enough resources in the eastern half of Russia to commercially guarantee throughput for the line to Nakhodka. And while five private sector companies are clamoring for Murmansk (with several more Russian and international ones in the wings), absolutely no private companies are yet backing Nakhodka.

This is all a rather sad reminder that Russia remains committed significantly to some degree of central planning. Indeed, these pronouncements come just as the Murmansk and Daqing pipelines were about to emerge as the first major post-Soviet examples of the state allowing the private energy companies to allocate their economic resources as the market dictates, while paying their dues through taxes and obedience to regulatory and legislative authority.

Japan Inc., the Manchurian Candidate, Eastern Supporters. Japan has offered to finance the Nakhodka line up to $5 billion, with another $2 billion for exploration of East Siberian resources to fill the line. As justification for a willingness to commit such huge sums from a beleaguered Japanese economy in such an undeveloped idea, Japanese officials claim that diversification of supplies is paramount for the future of the Japanese economy.

But this argument is highly suspect, for a number of reasons. First, since Japan has a huge economy concentrated on relatively small islands it has already ideal diversity of supply-they can buy from anyone in the world by tanker. If Japan thinks Russian supplies from Nakhodka will somehow be lower priced than competing supplies arriving by ship, it should rethink the numbers: A simple net present value calculation coupled with reasonable assumptions about demand growth in Japan indicates that $5 billion of Japanese money spent today on a pipeline would add about $2/barrel to every imported barrel the country consumes for the next 40 years. Put another way, if it does not invest $5 billion in Nakhodka, Japan could afford to pay a $2/barrel premium for every barrel to give it a competitive edge against every other oil consumer on the market, and still come out even.

In fact, their prices would arguably be lower because Middle Eastern crude oil, otherwise destined for China, would be seeking other Asian markets if some Chinese demand were absorbed by Russian supplies. Moreover, Japanese taxpayers and oil consumers may also question the legitimacy of basing the energy security of the future Japanese economy on untested results of preliminary estimates of unknown and unproven resources in an unfamiliar and remote part of the world.

Finally, this Japanese initiative is completely out of synch with the history of the oil industry. It is oil supplies, not demand, that push pipelines into existence. The opposite is usually true for gas, but there is nothing fundamental about the Nakhodka pipeline, even geographic distance, that makes it any different from the hundreds of other pipelines that have preceded it in the history of oil.

With the economic rationale for Japanese support absent, suspicion naturally turns to geopolitical motivations, which suggests that Japan is pursuing a strategy of denial. First, undermining the pipeline to Daqing denies supply diversification to China, which has the fastest growing energy markets in the world. This makes the Chinese arguably more concerned with diversity of supply than Japan, which has both longstanding supply relationships and stagnant energy demand. secondly, it would deny China a stronger economic and political relationship with Russia; a relationship the Japanese have watched warily as it has strengthened in recent years. Indeed, the Putin administration has marked considerably more state visits between Moscow and Beijing than between Moscow and Tokyo. Thirdly, it would deny Russian companies a nearterm outlet for proven crude oil reserves and force them to work instead with Japanese companies to develop resources in the Russian east until enough volume exists for the Nakhodka line. This arrangement would compel Japanese entry into the Russian upstream where so many other international investors have failed.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that a pipeline from Angarsk to Nakhodka would be roughly twice the distance of a pipeline from Angarsk to Daqing, cost twice as much to build as a consequence, and require double the throughput guarantee and proven oil reserves to be supported. If Japan chooses to subsidize a more expensive project and Russia accepts this offer, the Chinese strategic objective of diversifying its oil import sources can still be achieved if a pipeline is completed within a reasonable period of time since China can always buy Russian oil from Nakhodka. However, if Japan's objective were strategic denial, then prolonged delay from exploration in East Siberia and the arrangement of financing would suit its purposes just as well.

Ultimately, Russia's action should be driven by its own economic needs-not the motivations or machinations of foreign countries.

Reform in the Russian Oil and Gas Industry: Is it Over? AS of this writing at the end of November 2003, it is difficult to assess the arrest on 25 October of the former head of Yukos, Mikhail Khodorkovsky. It is unclear whether his arrest, along with the campaign against his business associates and company since early summer, is a temporary phenomenon connected to the December Duma elections and the March 2004 presidential election or if they represent a fundamental shift in Russia's decade-long economic transition. It should be noted, however, that Yukos was the Russian company sponsoring an early pipeline to China and a major proponent of a privately-financed pipeline to Murmansk.

What is definitely transitory is the high global price of oil, which is presently above $30 a barrel. High oil prices tend to cover up a multitude of economic sins in oil exporting countries, and Russia is no exception. The positive lessons of productivity gains through the privatization of the oil industry itself are easily forgotten, but the memory of the admittedly flawed process of privatization that enriched a politically-favored few is well-recalled and examined selectively.

Reform of the chief remaining barriers to growth and economic efficiency in the Russian oil and gas industry-the state owned monopolies in major oil pipelines, Transneft, and in the production, transportation, and export of natural gas, Gazprom-has either stalled for the foreseeable future or been abandoned permanently. Both oil and gas pipeline sectors suffer from enormous investment deficits and operating inefficiencies. Meanwhile, the state is missing an opportunity to pursue restructuring and liberalization at a time of high world energy prices. When oil prices inevitably return to a more sustainable level of around $20 per barrel, reform will be more difficult to execute and with lower asset value, be less beneficial to the state. As it stands, chronic under-investment in both sectors will persist to the detriment of oil and gas production and exports.

To compound matters, President Putin's statement to Chancellor Schroeder of Germany on the gas sector in their meeting on 9 October seems particularly ominous. Putin told Schroeder "We are not going to breakup Gazprom. The European Commission should have no illusion: they are going to be dealing with the state in the natural gas industry." And, "The gas pipeline system is a child of the Soviet Union, and only we are in a position to maintain it in working condition, even if you're talking about the sections that lie outside Russia."5

It is easy to understand the appeal to those who favor a centrally-planned command economy of government-controlled oil and gas pipelines. For one, it permits the government to control supply and direct investment flows not only in the pipeline sector, but also in the economy as a whole. It also maintains a system of differential pricing and preferential access to resources, allowing the government to hand out rewards and punishments for both economic and political reasons. Additionally, it is a more convenient tool of foreign policy than a pipeline system owned and operated by private owners governed by market competition and transparent regulations. Even the fact that non-transparent business operations often lead to rent seeking can be seen by some as beneficial to political institutions or well-positioned individuals.

It is. however, one thing to want to extract economic value for Russia from natural gas production in Central Asia and to better manage transit through countries like Ukraine; it is quite another to abandon the much larger economic benefits of capturing associated gas production from Russian oilfields and oil industry investment in the gas sector by not reforming the vertically integrated monopoly of Gazprom. At a minimum, natural gas transportation by pipeline could be separated from production and regulated as a monopoly with fair tariffs and access rules.

There are equally gradual reforms that could also be enacted in the oil pipeline sector in order to mobilize private capital in much needed infrastructure investment. Partnership between government and domestic and international oil companies to build new trunk oil pipelines, along the lines of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium, can be encouraged. Instead this new model for Russian pipeline investment is perceived currently as an obstacle to government control and its success and future expansion are being threatened by the Russian government.

Thus, a Russia that is profiting from rapidly growing oil exports as a result of oil industry privatization in the 1990s and enjoying temporarily-high world oil prices may not see the benefits of continual economic reform and reduced state control-policies that could enable the transition to a full market economy integrated with the international system. However, as proud successor to the Soviet Union, all Mr. Putin has to do is draw lessons from the Soviet economy of 1988, when Russian oil production was a third higher than it is now, when price distortions and false market signals led to wasteful consumption and nonproductive investment, and when the Soviet system soon fell under the weight of economic inefficiency and corruption.

Conclusion. Russia's long term economic significance lies in the integration of its population of 145 million into the world market and its potential as a progressive force in the economic integration of its neighbors from the former Soviet Union into the global system. With 5 to 6 percent of the world's proven oil reserves and a production/reserve ratio of about 20 years, Russia is not a substitute for the Persian Gulf when it comes to oil production, but enjoys better economic options than those countries thanks to its agricultural and industrial potential. Development of Russia's larger natural gas resources will require greater openness to foreign direct investment due to the high investment costs and assured market access necessary for the remote gas projects around the world with which it will be competing.

Other countries, especially the United States, Germany, Britain, China, and Japan, will have to decide for themselves the meaning and value of building an energy relationship with Russia. In doing so, there is no better touchstone than Russia's pipeline policy at home and abroad. The path it takes, be it a statist or market-oriented, will tell us much about the economic future Russia has chosen.

Author's Note: The author would like to acknowledge Geolfrey Lyon, of the United States Department of Energy in Moscow, who was a font of iniormation in the preparation of this article.

Russia has become the second largest oil exporter in the world after Saudi Arabia.

Russia is not a substitute for the Persian Gulf in oil production.

1 All production and consumption statistics for this piece can be accessed online through the online B.P. Energy Reserves and Energy Consumption Review at energy/index, asp.
2 Central Intelligence Agency, The World Fadbook 2003 (New York: Brassey, 2003), accessed online at
3 B.P. Energy Reserves and Energy Consumption Review, 3003, online.
4. Transcript of Minister Yusufov, ITAR-TASS online; see also Bayan Rahman and Andrew Jack, "Japan Offers Russia $7 Billion to Build Oil Pipe," on Rusnet News (13 October 2003), available online at http.//
5 ITAR-TASS online (9 October 2003), available at

[Author Affiliation]
Edward C. Chow is Visiting Scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.


Pipelines in the Caspian: Catalyst or Cure-all?
Fiona Hill. Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. Washington: Winter 2004. Vol. 5, Iss. 1; pg. 17, 9 pgs
Abstract (Article Summary)
Hill looks to the Caspian region and the new oil and gas pipelines from Baku, Azerbaijan to Ceyhan, Turkey to assess whether new infrastructure built by Western companies will be a springboard for the development of these nations or a magnet for internal rivalry over the allocation of hydrocarbon revenues. She warns against overly optimistic assessments of what happens pipelines can be deliver in the Caspian region.

Full Text (3853 words)
Copyright Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service Winter 2004

With questions over future prospects for Iraqi oil-the world's second largest reserves after Saudi Arabia-at the forefront of attention, along with widespread instability in the Middle East, the Caspian Basin and its oil and natural gas resources are back on the agenda. The Caspian, along with Russia, West Africa, and Canada, where new discoveries in the tar sands have been made, are the great new potential sources of world energy. These regions are increasingly vital to addressing the need for new energy suppliers and bypassing OPEC members and Persian Gulf states. Although these regions pose significant difficulties in terms of production and export possibilities and would not necessarily be competitive with the Persian Gulf under a low oil price regime, current high crude oil prices combined with the fact that Iraq's production potential will not be restored any time soon make them major commercial contenders.

In the Caspian Basin, the difficulty has never been one of supply-the region contains 17 to 33 billion barrels of proven oil reserves and around 232 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.1 It has always been one of overcoming the fact that the Caspian is a landlocked sea and of transporting energy resources to world markets. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the region's limited energy pipeline infrastructure extended only across Russia. The new independent states of the Caucasus and Central Asia were locked into a single set of transportation options to the Black Sea and Europe. Oil and gas exports from Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Turkmenistan required building new pipelines. The Caspian region therefore became a focal point in the 1990s, when the first international oil contracts were signed. Because of the sheer size of Caspian energy reserves, and the evident importance of export revenues for the future development of faltering regional economies, Caspian governments transformed pipelines from merely transportation projects into means to achieve political and social objectives. In public debates about Caspian pipelines at both regional and international levels, the commercial interests of companies investing in the actual energy production were sidelined and often seemed strangely secondary or marginal to other considerations.

The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline project (BTC) provides the best example of this transformation. The goal of this project is to transport crude oil from Azerbaijan's Caspian fields through Georgian territory to Turkey's port on the Mediterranean. The Azeri and Georgian governments have seen BTC as their lifeline to Turkey and Europe rather than simply a pipeline. Politicians from both countries have tried to enhance their positions through their involvement in energy and pipeline negotiations. Regional elites have enriched themselves through related business deals. Local populations have viewed BTC as a potential panacea for all the ills that ail the region. And international NGOs have pushed governments and international investors to address a host of issues including government responsibility and accountability for energy revenues, democratization, human rights, and environmental protection as part of the pipeline project.2 Since the conclusion of the final host government agreements for the pipeline's construction in 1999, many hopes and aspirations have been invested in BTC along with many millions of dollars from companies like British Petroleum (BP).

BTC is not the only regional pipeline project to have such high stakes beyond its commercial viability. Pipelines from Kazakhstan overland to China, from Turkmenistan across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan, and from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and onward to Pakistan and India, have been seen as means for reorienting regional export routes toward new markets, or-even more loftily-for reconstructing Afghanistan and fostering peace between Pakistan and India. In its early stages of development, the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan project itself was portrayed as a prospective "pipeline for peace," with initial plans to cut through Armenian territory and thereby improve relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan and Turkey, its two regional enemies.3 Although the Armenian option was quickly rejected for a longer route through Georgia, the idea that the pipeline can eventually promote peace and prosperity across the whole region has not quite been abandoned. And while other pipelines remain lines on the map, BTC is rapidly becoming a reality on the ground in the Caucasus.

The Geopolitics of Caspian Pipelines. That BTC has been endowed with so many purposes is not surprising. It began, in many respects, more as a geopolitical project than a commercial one. Due to their isolation during the Soviet period and their fear of forced reintegration with Russia, Caspian states like Azerbaijan and Georgia sought to reorient themselves strategically by creating new security and economic ties to the United States and Europe. Turkey was seen by both countries (although not by neighboring Armenia) as a window to the West by virtue of its geographic location, NATO membership, and strategic partnership with the United States. Contracts with international oil companies and the process of negotiating agreements for energy pipelines with the Turkish and U.S. governments immediately became ways to build new political and physical linkages with the West. Likewise, for the United States, the BTC project became a three-pronged tool in its regional policy. It was a means of creating an East-West-rather than a North-South-transportation corridor from the Caspian to the Black Sea that would avoid Iran to the south, cement the position of Turkey as the new bridge between the Caspian and Europe, and break dependence on Russia to the north.

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BTC addressed several policy imperatives for Washington in the 1990s. First, it would help to isolate Iran in the Caspian as well as in the Persian Gulf as punishment for its continued sponsorship of international terrorist groups perpetrating attacks against American and allied interests. This was especially important after the August 1996 adoption of the Iran Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) by the U.S. Congress. ILSA imposed penalties on major international investors in Iran's oil and gas industry. Second, it would reward Turkey for its support of the United States during the first Gulf War and its willingness to forego transit revenues from Iraqi oil. Turkey's Mediterranean port of Ceyhan was the terminal for Iraqi oil and its economy was hard-hit by the loss of Iraqi crude. Ceyhan's infrastructure, relative proximity to the Caspian, and access to world seaways made it an ideal destination for a new pipeline from Azerbaijan. Third, BTC would increase export options beyond Russia and promote the development of multiple pipelines for oil and gas in the region. Although there was no specific policy to isolate or even avoid Russia as there was for Iran, relations between the United States and Russia soured in the late 1990s. Russia was increasingly viewed in Washington as a spoiler in international affairs and as something other than an honest broker in regional conflicts. And Russian state-run companies made life difficult for exporters forced to deal with Soviet-era pipelines, volatile tariff agreements, and precarious access during disputes. International oil companies became increasingly anxious about Russia's potential stranglehold over oil and gas exports.

As a corollary to these geopolitical considerations, BTC and other pipelines became the central part of a framework for economic development and conflict resolution in the Caucasus-the scene of violent ethnic conflicts and civil wars in the late 1980s and 1990s. BTC and peace were two important elements of a virtuous circle. Energy revenues and transit fees were essential in boosting the coffers and legitimacy of cash-starved and weak central governments in states like Azerbaijan and Georgia to help them entice back secessionist regions like Nagorno-Karabakh and Abkhazia. Trickle-down economic benefits for local communities from energy and related service sector jobs and overall foreign investment were presented as eventually outweighing factors for conflict. In turn, conflict resolution and political and economic stability in the Caucasus region were crucial for the long-term success of international investment in Caspian oil production.

Zero-Sum Games and Commercial Concerns. This range of geopolitical considerations and the U.S. policy of isolating Iran fed popular perceptions of a zero-sum game in Caspian energy development. In the late 1990s, the United States was depicted in discussions of energy politics as pitted against both Russia and Iran in the Caspian. Russian and Iranian analysts frequently criticized U.S. efforts to push the countries out of Caspian projects and both governments adopted tit-for-tat strategies in response to any U.S. policy innovation. When, for example, the Clinton Administration created a new position in the State Department to coordinate U.S. executive branch programs for Caspian oil and gas, Russia responded by appointing not one but two high-level officials with special responsibility for the Caspian. Russia and Iran also concluded agreements on strategic energy cooperation in the region, and together tried to block the exploitation of Caspian resources by demanding a new division of the Caspian Sea's resources. Russia later softened its stance on this issue after discovering substantial oil deposits in its own sector of the Caspian.

The geopolitical noise around Caspian energy development and talk of a new "Great Game" among the United States, Russia, Iran, and the other Caspian states were good media fodder in the 1990s, but they detracted attention from the overarching commercial issues. For international oil companies investing in Caspian energy projects, there was a great deal at stake in the machinations over pipelines. The costs of operating without them were high. Under a low oil price regime, overheads made Caspian energy less competitive on global markets when oil and gas had to be transported over thousands of kilometers across land and sea. When oil production began in the mid-1990s, it was transported by ship and rail across Russia or the Caucasus, first to the Black Sea, and then from there through Turkey's Bosphorous straits out to the Mediterranean. The cost of the rail transportation alone was around $34 per ton, or about $4.60 per barrel, which became a serious issue when oil prices dropped to around $10 per barrel in 1998.4 Companies were often forced to suspend oil production when overland transportation options were not available. Pipelines were essential to cutting costs and avoiding the inherent problems of having to constantly offload oil from tanker to rail and back again.

The Push for BTC. Commercial concerns drove feasibility studies and Caspian pipeline projects forward, but the BTC project was not always the preferred option in companies' calculations. For example, Chevron, which operated the onshore Tengiz oilfield in Kazakhstan, pushed for a pipeline from Kazakhstan overland around the northern tip of the Caspian and then across southern Russia to the port of Novorossiysk that could be constructed relatively quickly. This was a shorter route than other options proposed-including a project to build a pipeline from Kazakhstan across the Caspian to Azerbaijan. This pipeline started to function in October 2001. Trans-Caspian pipelines, on the other hand, were technically difficult to build and potentially expensive in the absence of high oil production volumes. Some international oil companies also considered Iranian transportation options in defiance of U.S. sanctions. With its highly developed energy sector and existing domestic network of pipelines, Iran was considered by many investors the cheapest and most secure export route. In 1998, for example, Total, a French company, conducted a feasibility study for a pipeline from the Caspian to Iran's ports on the Persian Gulf. Two American companies, Mobil (now subsumed under ExxonMobil) and Conoco, lobbied the U.S. government to ease ILSA restrictions and allow oil swaps with Iran. This would have allowed them to ship Caspian oil to northern Iranian refineries in exchange for an equivalent amount of Iranian crude that could be shipped from Persian Gulf ports to world markets. The U.S. government resisted these pipeline and oil swap projects.

Two other oil pipelines in the Caucasus were also used before BTC to transport the first batches of new oil production from Azerbaijan to the Black Sea-a Soviet-era pipeline from Azerbaijan to Russia's Black Sea port Novorossiysk, and a new pipeline from Azerbaijan to Supsa, a Georgian port on the Black Sea. These pipeline routes were fully operational by 1999, and both the Azeri government and the Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC), an international consortium of ten major oil companies exploiting Azerbaijan's Caspian fields, considered expanding them to export main oil production. The U.S. government played the decisive role in modifying this plan, fearing that its sanctions regime would soon be breached and that Iran would become a viable option for Caspian oil exports.

While intense U.S. diplomacy succeeded in convincing the governments of Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey to conclude the host government framework agreements necessary for the construction of BTC, the oil companies proved more difficult to persuade. The AIOC and its lead company, BP resisted 'geopoliticking' and remained focused on business considerations-whether BTC was commercially viable or not. Early cost estimates for the construction of the pipeline varied from $2.4 to $3.8 billion and, after oil prices hit a major low of around $10 per barrel in 1998, the AIOC was understandably cautious. Reports suggested that the consortium could lose as much as $3 billion in profits over thirty years by using BTC as its main export pipeline if oil prices were low.5 In March 1999, AIOC Chairman David Woodward also announced that the consortium did not anticipate sufficient volumes of oil production to warrant BTC's construction before 2005.6

The position of BP and the AIOC changed quite dramatically after BP's merger with Amoco, an American energy company. BP's chairman, Lord John Browne, took the strategic decision to make the Caspian one of the centerpieces of the company's global portfolio and endorsed BTC. Some analysts saw this decision as directly related to BP's merger and its desire to cooperate with the U.S. government now that it had new interests in the United States. But BP also had to factor other considerations into its decision-making. The Turkish government, international environmental groups, and even oil companies had pointed to the dangers of straining the already limited capacity of Turkey's narrow Bosphorous straits with increased tanker traffic from the Caspian. U.S.-Iranian relations showed little sign of improvement and it was clear that the United States would continue to block Iranian transportation options for the foreseeable future. The considerable financial considerations related to the construction of BTC were also somewhat eased by a dramatic rise in world oil prices (up to almost $40 a barrel and a ten-year high by 2000), and by Turkey's decision, under U.S. guidance, to offer a maximum cost or completion guarantee to the AIOC for pipeline construction. The U.S. government also offered financial assistance through its trade agencies.7 BP's decision to endorse BTC was crucial in pushing the project forward.

In November 1999, a new framework agreement was signed during the OSCE summit in Istanbul between BP, on behalf of the AIOC, and the Turkish, Azeri, and Georgian presidents. In this agreement, BP/AIOC pledged to secure the financing for the construction of the pipeline, and the Turkish government agreed to pay for cost overruns in excess of $1.4 billion on its portion of the pipeline.8 In addition, the three governments reached an agreement to build a gas pipeline from Shah Deniz, the newly discovered Azeri natural ras field, that would run parallel to BTC up to the Turkish border. It would then continue to the Turkish city of Ezerum, where it would connect with an existing gas pipeline network and supply Turkish consumers. On its way through the Caucasus, this new pipeline would also provide natural gas to Georgia to address the country's chronic energy shortage. The new parallel oil and gas pipelines added to the overall geopolitical and economic importance of the BTC project.

A Pipeline for Regional Prosperity?

The BTC pipeline project broke ground in September 2002 in Baku and was billed as the largest private sector construction and investment project in the Caucasus. When completed, it will extend 1,760 kilometers across three countries. At its maximum capacity in about 2010, it will carry a through-flow of one million barrels of oil a day, and will be the central element of a projected $20 billion investment package that includes up and down-stream projects.9 Most analysts inside and outside the region recognize that the scale and extent of BTC and its related projects will be unique. No other private sector projects of this magnitude are likely to materialize. The success of BTC and the overall profitability of Caspian oil production will also certainly determine the extent to which other foreign investment investments are made in other regional sectors in the future.

In many respects, the very prosperity of Azerbaijan and other Caucasus states is at stake in the construction of BTC. The collapse of the region's centrally planned economies after the dissolution of the USSR was compounded by the effects of the regional conflicts of the 1990s. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced in the region and many more left for Russia. The loss of human resources through emigration, the contraction of domestic markets, and the few opportunities for international trade limit the Caspian states' potential for development outside the energy and related service sectors. Furthermore, even though there is an abundance of energy available for export, the Caspian region suffers from a domestic energy deficit. Regional consumers lack the ability to pay utility bills and the energy distribution infrastructure for households and industry is in extremely poor condition. All the states, including Azerbaijan, still depend on Russia for power and gas supplies.

These concerns preoccupy governments, local populations, and NGOs. Since 2000, international NGOs like Human Rights Watch, Friends of the Earth, Transparency International, and many others have launched a major public advocacy and outreach campaign to press BP, the AIOC, the BTC management company, the Azeri and Georgian governments, and international financial institutions involved in building the pipeline, to address myriad issues related to the pipeline's construction and other regional issues. Indeed, the allocation by governments of export revenues and transit fees is still to be determined. Other issues have been raised, including the environmental impact of the pipeline, the preservation of important cultural sites along the route, land purchases for the construction of the pipeline, employment for communities along the pipeline, community oversight of the construction process, and the central and local governments' response to public protest and the concerns of communities at different phases of the project. As of the end of September 2003, one year after the groundbreaking ceremony, 200 kilometers of pipeline had been laid along the BTC route and a 400-kilometer construction corridor had been prepared through Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey. Of the 10,000-strong workforce on the project, 7,000 local nationals had been employed. The BTC operating company had also deployed teams of archaeologists to excavate and record data at ancient sites uncovered during construction in Georgia.10

Conclusion-Catalyst or Cure-all? Regardless of the geopolitical and other considerations behind the decision to build BTC, the pipeline is primarily a commercial venture to transport to oil from the Caspian to world markets. The companies involved in the project will move ahead regardless of the complexities if their negative impacts do not outweigh the commercial benefits. The pipeline's ultimate success also depends on issues detached from the Caspian region such as the long-term fluctuation of world oil prices. While BTC can link Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey, the construction of one pipeline to the Mediterranean cannot overcome the otherwise disadvantageous location of the Caspian. The series of legal and political agreements that made BTC's construction possible have created a complex set of relations among the three countries, the United States, and international energy companies, but the pipeline cannot be substituted for other economic, political, and security relations with the West. Nor can it tie fractured countries like Azerbaijan and Georgia back together again or replace regional cooperation in the Caucasus-especially given the fact that it bypasses Armenia.

And there are few examples of pipelines promoting peace. Instead, there are plenty of examples of pipelines traversing areas of considerable instability in Latin America, West Africa, and elsewhere. The higher costs of operating in conflict zones, and of protecting and repairing pipelines, are factored into companies' calculations. Most existing and proposed energy pipelines in the Caspian region run through conflict zones. In 1999, oil exports were suspended when the pipeline from Baku to Novorossiysk was ruptured due to the war in Chechnya. Restoring service required building a route bypassing Chechnya through the neighboring republic of Dagestan. In the future, the Baku-Novorossiysk pipeline is unlikely to play any significant role in a peace settlement in Chechnya, just as BTC is not likely to be the deciding element in resolving the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Although they cannot ensure peace, pipeline projects-especially on the scale of BTC-can provide an important economic boost through infusions of investment and creation of jobs at the national and local level. But pipeline projects cannot solve the overall under-development of regional economies. Large-scale economic development projects are the purview of international institutions like the World Bank, not of oil companies like BP. Pipelines are a catalyst for development but not a cure-all for the political, economic, and social problems of regions like the Caucasus and the broader Caspian Basin.

Caspian governments transformed pipelines from mere transportation projects into means to achieve political and social objectives.

BTC and other pipelines became the central part of a framework for economic development and conflict resolution.

In many respects, the very prosperity of Azerbaijan and other Caucasus states is at stake in the construction on BTC.

1 See figures provided by the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Information Agency (EIA), August 2003, available online at: emeu/cabs/caspstats.html. These figures would put the Caspian's oil reserves on par, at the lower end, with Qatar and with the United States on the upper end; and its natural gas resources at the same level as Saudi Arabia.
2 See, for example, Svetlana Tsalik, Caspian Oil Windfalls: Who Will Benefit? (New York: Open Society Institute, Caspian Revenue Watch, 2003).
3 See Jack Maresca, "A 'Peace Pipeline' to End the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict," Caspian Crossroads I (Winter 1995).
4 Cited from Russian pipeline company Transneft's figures in Nefl i Kapital (January 1999), 51.
5 Reported in "Pipelines: Azerbaijan," Caspian Investor (January 1999), 28. As outlined in the article, with estimated construction costs of $3-8 billion and low crude oil prices, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan would generate $14.5 billion in profit, in contrast to an expanded version of the pipeline from Baku to Supsa, which would offer $17.5 billion in profit.
6 See "Turkey, AIOC Begin New Round of Discussions on Baku-Ceyhan," Newsbase, FSU Oil and Gas Monitor (30 March 1999), 5; and "AIOC Head Says MEP Will Only Be Profitable under Certain Conditions," Newsbase, FSU Oil and Gas Monitor (27 April 1999), 17.
7 Haitham Haddadin, "United States, Turkey Try to Speed Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline," Journal of Commerce (23 April 1999).
8 Jane Perlez, "Strategic Issues Aside, Focus on Oil Pipeline Turns to Money," New York Times (21 November 1999).
9 For this and other information see BTC, Co. "Regional Review: Economic, Social and Environmental Overview of the Southern Caspian oil and Gas Projects" (February 2003).
10 BTC, Co., "Construction gathers momentum, passes milestone," BTC Bulletin (25 September 2003), available online at:

[Author Affiliation]
Fiona Hill is Senior Fellow in the Foreign Policy Studies program at the Brookings Institution.

Chad-Cameroon: A Model Pipeline?
Aude Delescluse. Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. Washington: Winter 2004. Vol. 5, Iss. 1; pg. 43, 10 pgs
Abstract (Article Summary)
Delescluse contends that, if the World Bank and others step up to the job, the widely-watched Chad-Cameroon pipeline could be a model for the future. He describes that since the onset of the Chad-Cameroon Petroleum and Pipeline Project, the environmental, social, and political safeguards that the World Bank and Chad established have gradually improved.

Full Text (4880 words)
Copyright Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service Winter 2004

In early October, Chad joined the club of oil -exporting countries as a result of a unique agreement between its government, a consortium of oil companies, and the World Bank. This partnership, known as the Chad-Cameroon Petroleum Development and Pipeline Project, could change the destiny of Chad and its 7-5 million inhabitants. The project has generated debate regarding whether it could serve as a model for future projects: if successful, not only would it significantly reduce poverty in Chad, it could also encourage other mineral-rich developing countries, multinationals, and aid agencies to emulate it. Moreover, this unique pipeline could overcome the so-called "oil curse" that oil -exporting countries have traditionally suffered by ensuring that petroleum revenues are channeled towards national development. Perhaps due to the importance this project plays in an economy with few natural resource alternatives to oil, Chad has embarked on a path with the World Bank to minimize the risk to private investors. The country also committed to an ambitious program of reforms, including a broad-based consultative process to feed into project design, an oil revenue management plan, capacity building and structural reforms, and the creation of external controls. Nevertheless, the initiative is not without its challenges. Indeed, guaranteeing that oversight mechanisms and good governance standards are realized and enforced, as well as ensuring that political stability is maintained in a country with a history of political volatility are essential to the project's success. The future holds promise for the people of Chad and their government if, in partnership with the foreign entities, they prove able to reap the benefits of this lucrative opportunity. The lessons learned as a result may inform, and herald the onset of, a new generation of development projects.

Background. Given Chad's geography and economy, and the involvement of the World Bank as a broker, the ChadCameroon pipeline represents what is, for now, a unique confluence of circumstances. Chad is a landlocked country, generating high transportation costs and constraining trade. According to the UNDP, Chad remains the fifth poorest country in the world with an infant mortality rate of 54 per 1,000, a life expectancy of 46 years (1990), limited access to basic social services, a GNP per capita of $160, and 80 percent of the population living on less than one dollar a day. Nearly half its territory is unsuitable for human habitation, with 67 percent of the country's land being arid. Agricultural products, mostly cotton, have represented 90 percent of all exports and decades of ethnic and regional conflict until the early 1990s ruined the country's economy. Although petroleum was discovered in the 1960s, civil wars prevented the development of oil fields until the 1990s.1 Other than oil, Chad's natural resources are limited. Thus, exploiting petroleum is an indispensable opportunity for the Chad.

The program is itself the result of lengthy negotiations begun in 1988, when Chad and a consortium of oil companies signed an agreement that provides a 30-year concession to exploit oil resources in the Doba region of southern Chad. The original companies in the consortium were Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell and Elf Aquitaine (which was since replaced by Petronas and Chevron). The project involves an investment of $3-7 billion to develop three oilfields and export the oil through a 1,070 km pipeline across Cameroon. In addition, the potential hazards of Chad's isolation and history of conflict motivated the companies to seek the participation of the World Bank to help mitigate the risk. The World Bank agreed to support the project on the condition that environmental standards be enforced, transparency ensured, and guarantees given that would Chad adopt structural reforms (including an oil revenue management program) to manage oil receipts that could more than double state income. Chad's oil resources were undeveloped at the time the agreement was signed, due to its lack of expertise in the oil industry and limited financial capacity. As a result, Chad submitted to stringent conditions to receive technical assistance and international funds.

Although the World Bank's share of the total financing is small, its participation has been critical in attracting investment from other financiers, as well as ensuring environmental and social safeguards in project implementation; imposing strong conditionalities intended to minimize the risk of oil revenues misuse, which have resulted in the development of an oil Revenue Management Program; raising project visibility both locally and internationally. Moreover, this visibility has meant that NGOs and academics have actively informed the debate around the project's perceived weaknesses, in particular those related to its revenue management plan-and the pressure from these groups may have convinced involved parties to improve the plan.

These stipulations do much to further the aims of the international community, but the economic leverage applied on a nation with limited alternatives raises interesting questions regarding sovereignty and the use of financial power. Indeed, Chad has few alternatives to the pipeline for generating revenue and financing economic development and, as a result, it accepted numerous constraints in order to bring the project to fruition-not, however, without negotiating. As Ahmedou Ould-Abdallah, Executive Director of the Global Coalition for Africa, and others suggest, "the government has accepted something very difficult to endorse a few years ago by any African government. "2 Indeed, this is the first time a government has committed in advance to allocate its oil revenues expressly to priority sectors (the oil production region and to a fund for future generations) and to undertake reforms to prepare the oil economy. It is also the first time a government subjected itself to such an intense level of auditing and monitoring at the hands of domestic and foreign entities. Moreover, during the construction period, Chad submitted to several express World Bank demands to rectify malpractice such as its 1999 agreement to release a former congressman who had been arrested partly because of opposition to the pipeline and its 2OOI agreement to release six opposition candidates arrested following the presidential election. In addition, the country took corrective measures after it bought weapons with $4-5 million of a $25 million "signing bonus" that it obtained at the project's onset. The rest of the signing bonus was strictly allocated to priority sectors for poverty reduction. This potential "infringement on sovereignty" has required the weight of an international institution like the Bank-the principal source of international funds for Chad and the constant pressure brought about by inquiries by the media and NGOs. This degree of flexibility reflects the high priority that Chad attaches to this project, and highlights several of the complexities associated with this model of leveraging transparency, which has many potential benefits-and potential costs.

Innovations and Potential Benefits. The strengths of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline are two-fold: It has unique potential to improve the political and economic conditions of Chad; and its design, although unique, could be the foundation of project model that could be grafted onto other contexts-several of the pipeline project's elements can be replicated in natural resource extraction in other developing countries. One such feature is the consultation scheme undertaken during the project's planning and design phase, in which an extensive and broad-based consultation process took place that included approximately QOO village meetings, 145 meetings with international NGOs (project supporters and opponents), and discussions with scientists and environmental engineers. The scope of the consultation was unprecedented, particularly at the village level, and contributed to improvements in implementation plans. For example, results from the consultations led to the reevaluation of a Compensation and Resettlement Plan for Indigenous People and the rerouting of the pipeline in Cameroon.3

The project's major innovation, however, is a joint effort by the World Bank and Chad to build a new legal framework to create the conditions for sound oil revenue management. The keystone is the oil Revenue Management Program, a political compromise between Chad, the World Bank, and civil society (international and Chadian NGOs). Negotiated over five years, the program was adopted in 1991 and has two aims: to channel oil revenues towards priority sectors for poverty alleviation (health, social services, education, infrastructure, rural development, environment and water); and to strengthen oversight, and to ensure that oil revenues benefit national development and are not siphoned off. This initiative has resulted in the adoption of a legal framework that has as its foundation new national oil revenue management legislation. The Law; on oil Revenue Management allocates direct oil revenues (i.e. from royalties and dividends) to the priority sectors and the oil producing region and provides for the creation of a trust fund for future generations.1 This legislation, refined further, by a series of implementing decrees that created, in addition to the usual supervision institutions (the Supreme Court and the Auditor General's office), an ad hoc oversight committee in the College de Contole et de Surveillance des Revenus Petroliers (CCSRP), composed of civil society representatives, parliamentarians, officials from Treasury and the Central Bank of Central African States (BEAC), and a Supreme Court judge.5 The implementing decrees have also designed mechanisms for oil revenues sterilization and stabilization that give the BEAC a critical role in controlling the repatriation of oil revenues deposited in off-shore accounts as well as in the effort to avoid excess liquidity.6

Nevertheless, critics note that building a new institutional framework does not guarantee good management of oil resources: additional strategic capacity building initiatives and structural reforms must be undertaken. Therefore, in 2OOO, the World Bank approved $37-8 million in loans for the Petroleum sector Management Capacity Building Project and a Management of the Petroleum Economy Project that aim to provide the government with environmental, social and technical capabilities to develop and manage Chad's petroleum sector and to increase efficiency, transparency, and accountability of public financial management. These activities are part of a larger economic development strategy signed in 2OOO, which prescribes restructuring the national legal framework to improve efficiency in policy decisions, increase accountability, and reduce corruption.7 Thus, the prospect of new resources from the Petroleum Project has accelerated the implementation of structural reforms by making these reforms urgent and providing incentives to carry them out.

Beyond these domestic reforms, the promise here is that other innovations (for example, the creation of external control entities to oversee the development of the pipeline) could be replicated in other developing countries seeking to increase transparency and compliance with pre-set rules. In the case of Chad, the World Bank appointed an international supervisory organization, the International Advisory Group (IAG), in 2OOI to report its observations on the implementation of the project, such as revenue allocation, the participation of civil society, governance and human rights, environmental management, social impacts, and potential future issues in need of redress. In addition, an engineering consulting company, which formed the External Compliance Monitoring Group (EGMG), monitors compliance of the oil companies to the environmental management plan and performance of the capacity-building projects. Finally, virtually anyone can exercise control over compliance with the World Bank's policy by filing complaints before the World Bank's independent Inspection Panel. Thus, the World Bank's involvement in the Chad-Cameroon pipeline marks it as a unique endeavor; it remains to be seen whether this model will prove successful in a potentially turbulent climate and, if so, whether it can be exported.

New Dangers and Remaining Challenges. Although the world Bank-brokered scheme has the potential to barter economic development for good governance while mitigating investment risks attached to the project, it is still faced with appreciable challengesboth technical and geopolitical-to its overall success. Despite the controls established and progress achieved since 19981 limitations to good governance persist and signal the difficulty of sequencing political reforms, capacity-building, and infrastructure construction, which have differing time frames. Thus, soon after the start of the pipeline and oil field construction and the implementation of political and economic reforms, IAG reported major discrepancies in the speed of completion of commercial and institutional projects. In short, the construction is moving forward faster than planned and the capacity-building is lagging behind." Since then, the "two-speed problem" denounced by IAG has not been resolved, and Chad's ministries, Parliament, and the College still lack the capacity to fully carry out their missions.10 Dinanko Ngomibe, the budget director in Chad's Ministry of Finance, declared to journalists last june that "in terms of human capacity, we're not ready yet." he notes that "less than 25 percent of [his] colleagues in the civil service know how to use computers, even when the electricity works."11 This lack of human resources poses serious challenges to the efficiency of the allocation of oil revenues and weakens the capability of those acting as checks and balances.

In addition to a looming lack of capacity, the government's behavior, especially that of President Derby, presents another threat to the sound allocation of oil revenues. A slew of issues, including human rights abuses, political repression, government distrust of freedom of information, the use of a portion of the signing bonus to buy arms, and the interdiction of the local association EPOZOP, contradict the government's stated commitment to political reform and the revenue management plan.12 In the short run, the World Bank has been able to use its political leverage (by threatening to withdraw support from the petroleum project or to not provide debt relief to Chad) to correct the President's misbehavior; to a certain extent, international scrutiny has also maintained pressure on the Chadian authorities. But it is unclear what will happen when the World Bank's leverage and public scrutiny wind up as years pass and oil revenues increase. Also in questions is whether the College, the new Auditor General's Office, and the Supreme Court will be strong enough to counterbalance the political power of the executive and prevent oil revenue mismanagement. These questions are critical, as much rests on how the College's authority will be exercised in practice. Indeed, in the absence of a strong civil society that holds the government accountable and compels it to honor its commitments, oversight of gOvernment spending of oil revenue and ensuring compliance with the legal framework falls heavily on the College. Its ability to do so effectively will depend not only on financial and human resources to carry out its mission, but also on the effective cooperation of the ministries and the enforcement of the Supreme Court's decisions in the event of violations.

These challenges of good governance crystallize many of the criticisms of the Chad-Cameroon pipeline model. Thus, some development experts and NGOs have rejected the validity of the model a priori, accusing the World Bank of "corporate welfare" and suggesting that "the private sector risk [would be] comfortably cushioned by public funds intended to help the poor in a politically unstable area of Sub-Saharan Africa.'13 Nevertheless, many observers recognized the efforts pursued by the World Bank and Chad, but stressed that political and institutional capacity reforms cannot be developed alongside infrastructure construction and many argue that the former must precede the latter. In other words, the World Bank has emphasized the building of a legal framework and institutions, but has overlooked the importance of governance, human rights, and political capacity, as well as the time necessary to make improvements in these areas. A lack of human capacity and the persistent fragility of Chad's democracy corroborate this thesis. Indeed, the primary contributor to this lack of preparation is that the World Bank has not traditionally tackled corruption and governance malpractices, has little experience in strengthening civil society, and is arguably not equipped to do so. Consequently, the World Bank could have benefited from the involvement of other organizations more competent in dealing with those issues. Thus, any future application of this model would need to rely heavily on an array of agencies whose technical assistance in fighting bad governance and strengthening civil society could be brought into play.

In addition to the problems of implementation and logistics associated with the project, the case of the ChadCameroon pipeline demonstrates limitations to the model that could be dramatic in terms of both economic impact and political stability. Indeed, in the worst case scenario, if the weaknesses of the project prove to completely undermine the oil revenue management scheme, then the "oil curse" would strike Chad (as it surely would without the project's unique mechanisms), creating major economic distortions (atrophy of other productive sectors, expansion of the non-tradable sector, appreciation of the real exchange rate, waste, unsustainable public expenditure, rent-seeking behavior), and increasing corruption and theft. In a less pessimistic scenario, these weaknesses would only limit the potential benefits of the pipeline project for poverty alleviation. At best, with improvements in the oil revenue management scheme and in the areas of structural reforms, human resources, and governance would continue as they have throughout the preparation stage and improve the lives of the poor.

At stake in the pipeline project is not only Chad's economic development, but also the goal of achieving political stability through poverty reduction-a situation that could, in fact, be worsened as a result of the project's failure. As the neighboring countries of Sudan and Nigeria exemplify, the lure of gain from oil encourages the battle for power and civil unrest opposing oil producing regions and governments. Therefore, badly-managed and unfairly-distributed oil revenues are a major threat to stability and national development, a particularly pressing concern given Chad's long history of violent ethnic and regional rivalries. To mitigate this risk, 5 percent of the royalties are earmarked for use in the oil producing region, and an accompanying Regional Development Plan is being implemented. Nevertheless, many observers protest that both are inadequate. The 5 percent is supplementary to other expenditure, and the true question is of how much will be allocated to this region in the rest of the budget lines. The risk here is that funds allotted to different regions put the Doba region at disadvantage, thereby reigniting ancestral antagonisms between North and South, and even sparking claims for autonomy in the South.

This risk is all the more significant as, besides a provision calling for alternating membership of representatives of the Muslim and Christian communities in CCSRP, ethnic and religious considerations were arguably not properly taken into account in the project's design. The fact that most of those who received training from the World Bank before the project was approved belonged to the same northern ethnic group as President Derby also fuels fear that this group may attempt to hoard oil revenues to the detriment of the rest of the population.14 Therefore, if the project fails to guarantee concrete improvements in the lives of the whole population, domestic political stability will be threatened.

Should Chad confront domestic conflicts, not only could civil wars within Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) propagate, but tensions between Chad and its neighbors could also reemerge, further threatening Chad's stability. Indeed, Chad must currently cope with an influx of refugees in the South and increasing tensions along its border with the CAR, which is violently shaken by an internal conflict.15 Similarly, Chad is fighting an invading militia from Western Sudan and is facing the penetration of nearly 70000 Sudanese refugees fleeing attacks in Sudan's western region, where government forces and rebels are fighting.17 This situation threatens Chad's security and could encourage President Derby to use oil revenues to strengthen his army at the cost of economic development. The disastrous experiences of other African oil-producing countries should raise Ghadian officials' vigilance and persuade them to appropriately manage the country's oil resources in order to avoid sinking into civil unrest, a situation that its neighbors could exploit. Indeed, in a weakened Chad, Libya and Nigeria, which have territorial ambitions in Chad and supported Chadian armed groups during the three decades following its independence, could represent an additional threat.17 As far as Cameroon is concerned, the common interests around oil exports should maintain stability between the two countries. Therefore, while current border clashes are troublesome, it is not clear at this time how oil revenues will play in Chad's relations with its neighbors other than Cameroon.

Conclusion: A Viable Model? Since the onset of the Chad-Cameroon Petroleum and Pipeline Project, the environmental, social, and political safeguards that the World Bank and Chad established have gradually improved. Today, as Chad sends its first barrels of oil to market, the oil Revenue Management Program and accompanying structural reforms will soon be tested. Success will depend in large part on the performance of Chad's new legal framework and its enforcement, as well as on the continuing efforts at macroeconomic reform and strengthening state capacity and oversight. Positive signs are evident, as the World Bank's involvement, pressure from NGOs and the expectations surrounding the birth of the oil era in Chad have already led to the implementation of numerous reforms.

Although Chad's preparation for the oil economy is uncertain, the efforts to create the conditions for sound oil resources management could provide a model for other mineral-rich developing countries to "bring to fruition the potential positive impacts" of petroleum projects.' In particular, some countries could replicate Chad's legal commitments to distribute oil revenues according to a specific development strategy. Other countries-especially those in which different national authorities conflict-might mirror the oversight mechanisms and establish an independent ad hoc committee similar to the College, and even empower this authority to settle disagreement within the power structure.

To what extent other mineral-rich countries will follow the model proposed by this project will not only depend on the success of the project in terms of economic development and political stability, but also on the will of governments, companies, and international or bilateral aid agencies to make similar commitments to those made in this project. Even if the project fulfills the expectations it raised, it is not certain whether other gfovernments would agree to implement identical reforms to Chad's, though it may be in the long-term interest of their populations and leaders. Nonetheless, the model that the Chad-Cameroon pipeline project provides could encourage reluctant international institutions to pressure and accompany governments in adopting structural and political reforms in return for their support in bringing other investors to the table. Only time will reveal whether the Chad-Cameroon pipeline can achieve its economic and political goals, and if the innovations born of this unique arrangement can provide the blueprint for future geopolitical and developmental change.

Chad has few alternatives to the pipeline for financing economic development.

Unfairly-distributed oil revenues are a major threat to stability and national development.

1 Mario Azevedo and Emmanuel Nnadozie, Chad: A Notion in Search of its Future (Boulder: Westview Press, 1998). Also, The World Bank, World Development Indicators (Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 2000), CD-ROM.
2 Statement of Excellency Ould-Abdallah, Ahmedou (Ret.). The Chad-Cameroon Pipeline :ANew Model for Natural Resource Development, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Africa of the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, 107-75 (18 April 2OO2), 22. By May 2OOO, Peter Rosenblum, Associate Director for Harvard Law School's Human Rights Program, commented that "at the core is a challenge to the sovereignty of undemocratic rulers... Previously, no one would have interfered in the relations between an oil company and an African state." see Peter Rosenblum "Pipelines Politics in Chad," Current History (May 1999), 195-199- Quoted in Benjamin C. Esty, "The Chad-Cameroon Petroleum Development and Pipeline Project (A)," Harvard Business School cases (17 January 2OO2), IO. The Wall Street Journal reports: "The bankers agreed to join the project but with two key provisos: Exxon would submit its plans to bank scrutiny, and Chad would agree to the unprecedented step of relinquishing its oil sovereignty." Roger Thurow and Susan Warren, "A Global Journal Report-Pump Priming: In War on Poverty, Chad's Pipeline Plays Unusual Role-To Unlock Buried Wealth, Nation Gives Up Control Over Spending Its Cash-A Sears Catalog' From Exxon," The Wall Street Journal (24 june 2003).
3 "EssoChad Documents," available online at:, and "Chad-Cameroon Petroleum Development and Pipeline Project," available at: view.htm.
4 More precisely, the Law prescribes that IO percent of direct resources are to be held in trust for future generations in savings accounts in an international financial institution, 72 percent of royalties and 76.5 percent of dividends are earmarked for additional spending in priority sectors of development, 13-5 percent are set aside for operating and investment costs of the State until 31 December 2007, after which they will go to the priority sectors, and the remaining 4-5 percent oi royalties are tagged for the regional development plan in Doba in addition to other usual state spending. The legal prescriptions on oil revenues management are better known under the following form: IO percent of the direct revenues are allocated to a fund for future generations, the remaining 90 percent are divided with 8o percent of royalties and 85 percent of dividends to the priority sectors, 15 percent to operating expenses for 5 years from the production start, and 5 percent of royalties for the producing region. If we take the direct revenues as reference for the allocation of eveiy portion of those revenues and not the 90 percent, which is usually done, then we obtain the first numbers (15 percent of 90 percent of the direct revenues gives 13.5 percent of the total direct revenues). The first description of the law is more precise and the second one, which is the general way, is a little misleading.
5 In English, "Committee for the Control and Supervision of oil Resources."
6 Republic of Chad, Law Governing the Management of oil Revenues, Law OOI/PR/99 modified by the Law OI6/PR/2OOO N'Djamena, 1999; Decree Appointing the Members of the College de Controle et de Surveillance des Ressources Petrolieres (CCSRP), 579/PR/PM/2OOO, N'Djamena, 2OOO (ad hoc oversight committee); Decree Pursuant to the Organization, Functioning, and Conditions of the CCSRP's Control and Oversight, 24-O/PR/MEF/O3, N'Djamena, 2OO3 (abrogating the precedent decree of 2001); Decree Establishing the Sterilization Mechanism of the oil Revenues from the Three Fields Kome, Miandoum and Bolobo (in the Doba basin), 238/PR/MEF/O3, N'Djamena, 2OO3; Decree Establishing the Stabilisation Mechanism of the Expenses Financed by oil Revenues, 239/PR/MEF/O3, N'Djamena, 2003.
7 Defined in Chad's interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). The PRSP is a document prepared by poor countries that define their strategy to alleviate poverty and is endorsed by the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund.
8 A Member of Parliament and active opposition leader, Ngarlejy Yorongar, filed complaint to the Inspection Panel in March 2OO1, where it alleged violations of the World Bank's policies in several ways, including environment, resettlement, poverty reduction, economic evaluation, and monitoring. In September 2OO2, the Panel judged that non-compliance effectively occurred in 2O instances. Inspection Panel, Report on Chad-Cameroon Pipeline Project, September 2OO2. Quoted in Ian Gaiy and Terry Lynn Karl, Bottom of the Barrels: Africa's oil Boom and the Poor (Baltimore: Catholic Relief Services, 2003), 66.
9 International Advisory Group, Chad-Cameroon Petroleum Development and Pipeline Project: Report of Mission to Cameroon and Chad july IQ-August 3, 2OO1, 28 September 2OOI.
10 To make up for this lack of capacity, the College and the newly created ministries' administrative and financial offices hired technical staff (economists, experts in communication, public linance, procurement and management). Nearly thirty economists, public finance experts, and procurement specialists were thus hired, especially in the priority sectors. One of the goals of this technical assistance is to reduce delays in the spending cycle to prevent absorptive capacity problems while contributing to the training of local staff. However, World Bank's staff acknowledged that more work is needed, particularly in the areas of budget management and project identification. From an interview with Christine Richaud, World Bank Economist for Chad, on 2 September 2003.
11 Thurow and Warren, 2003.
12 see Amnesty International's 2003 Report on prisoners of conscience. Amnesty International, Chad Report 2OO3 (December 2OO2), available at: As explained above, President Derby had some political opponents arrested in several occasions. The authority shut down Radio Liberty (Ghadian independent radio) for weeks before being reopened under popular pressure. Reported in the international media at the time and in The Chad-Cameroon Pipeline: A New Model for Natural Resource Development, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Africa of the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, 107-75, 18 April 2OO2. EPOZOP (Entente des Populations de la Zone Petroliere) has close ties with local communities in the Doba region.
13 Korinna Horta, Questions Concerning the World Bank and Chad/Cameroon oil and Pipeline Project, Environmental Defense Eund (March 1997).
14. Statement by P. Roscnblum, Hearing before the Subcommittee on Africa of the Committee on International Relations, House of Representatives, 107-75, 18 (April 2OO2), 21.
15 United Nations Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), "Continued Militia Incursions Across Border With Chad," distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (30 September 2003), available at: see also "Clash on Chad-CAR Border," BBC (7 August 2OO2).
16 United Nations Agency, "Sudanese Refugees Hoeing Into Chad to Escape Air Attacks," distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (15 September 2003), available at
17 Libya occupied Northern Chad in the Aouzou for about ten years until forced out in 1987 and continued to claim the area until the International Court of justice ruled that Chad had sovereignty over the strip in 1994. In spite of trade relations between Nigeria and Chad, both countries entertain conflicting relations mainly due to border dispute around Lake Chad.
18 "Esso Chad Executive Summary," available at:

[Author Affiliation]
Aude Delescluse works for the Agence Francaise de Developpement in Lebanon. Previously, she was an energy consultant for the World Bank.

Serious Thinking About Democratization
Thomas O Melia. Georgetown Journal of International Affairs. Washington: Winter 2004. Vol. 5, Iss. 1; pg. 131, 7 pgs
Abstract (Article Summary)
Melia reviews Democratic Institution Performance; Research and Policy Perspectives edited by Edward R. McMahon and Thomas A. P. Sinclair.

Full Text (2815 words)
Copyright Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service Winter 2004

Serious Thinking About Democratization Edward R. McMahon and Thomas A.P. Sinclair, editors. Democratic Institution Performance; Research and Policy Perspectives. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger Publishers, 2002, 267 pp. $64.95

The promotion of democracy abroad has emerged as the conceptual lynchpin of U.S. foreign policy in the current Bush administration. Whenever the president and his senior officials cast "terror" as the principal threat to U.S. security todaywhether that terror is sponsored by states or by non-state actors, using weapons of mass destruction, suicide bombers, or small arms-democracy is generally presented as the solution. The remarkable address by President Bush on the occasion of the 2Oth anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy, in which he declared a long-term national commitment to foster democracy throughout the Arab Middle East, and chided American allies in Egypt and Saudi Arabia to get with the program, may constitute the boldest expression of this ambitious strategy."The military prowess, economic and financial strength, and political capital of the American superpower are now to be harnessed to the promotion of democracy, not only because it is seen to be the right thing to do, but also as the way to guarantee the long-term safety and prosperity of the United States. Despite the considerable resources at the government's disposal, the results thus far have been decidedly mixed. The question remains whether adequate know-how exists in the United States to make democracy promotion a success.

Of course, democracy promotion is nothing new to U.S. foreign policy. It has been a slowly growing theme in U.S. foreign policy since Woodrow Wilson first spoke about the "rights of small nations" at Versailles. Sometimes, this interest has extended beyond the rhetorical. In the late ig7Os, for instance, Jimmy Garter made human rights a priority for U.S. foreign relations-even to the point of alienating traditional allies and client states. Garter was reluctant, however, to go beyond individual casework and address the larger, structural problems stemming from authoritarian rule. He did not contemplate the ouster or overthrow of the repressive governments that practiced the human rights abuses he condemned.

During Ronald Reagan's presidency, the launch of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and other initiatives substantially ratcheted up the U.S. rhetorical and operational devotion to democratization. The George H.W. Bush and Clinton administrations then institutionalized and routinized the U.S. program for promoting democracy. In post-conflict situations, or in lands where regimes had collapsed (as in much of the formerly Communist world), pressuring and/or helping governments to improve their electoral and judiciary systems became a regular part of the foreign policy "tool kit." During the nineties, it even became commonplace for aid agencies-in the United States and elsewhere in the Western world-to provide substantial financial and technical support to civil society organizations existing mainly to monitor the quality of democratic governance.

With the election of George W. Bush, however, it seemed that the growing U.S. enthusiasm for nation-building and democracy promotion would recede. Bush had campaigned in 2000 against what he saw as the over-extension of American military and political resources to faraway lands of no strategic consequence to the United States-places like Haiti, Kosovo, and Bosnia. His campaign's chief foreign policy advisor, Condoleezza Rice, cautioned against "attachment to largely symbolic agreements and...pursuit of, at best, illusory 'norms' of international behavior." Describing in Foreign Affairs how a Republican foreign policy would be different from its predecessor's, Rice insisted "American policy must...separate the important from the trivial." She made it clear that the Clinton administration's efforts at nation-building belonged to the latter category.2

9/11 changed all of that. President George W. Bush has stated clearly that there is no limit to the distance he will go or the measures he will use to change the nature of foreign governments to suit U.S. interests. he has demonstrated the United States's willingness to establish democratic governments in even the most formidable of places by forcefully effecting regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq. The dramatic new approach to foreign aid contained in the president's Millennium Challenge Account bolsters the case that democracy promotion is actually the motive behind these military operations. This promises to allocate a substantial portion of foreign aid to developing countries on the basis of demonstrated achievement of long-term institutional reform of economies and polities alike. The Middle East Partnership Initiative, a particular favorite of secretary of State Colin Powell, focuses the global democratization and reform strategy in this most challenging and important region-and seems to indicate that, while there are differences within the Cabinet on other aspects of policy, there is unanimity on the goal of promoting democracy.

Despite the varied language that George W. Bush and his advisers employ-the president himself seems to use "freedom" and "liberty" interchangeably with "democracy"-they mince no words when they commit the United States to this audacious mission.3 National security Advisor Condoleezza Rice has underscored the depth of the commitment by declaring that the United States and its allies "must make a generational commitment to helping the people of the Middle East transform their region."4

Yet, the hesitations and missteps to date in the political reconstruction of both Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate that the United States has not developed fully or finely tuned its approach to fostering democracy abroad. One reason, perhaps, is that public investment in developing the country's international democracy-building capacity pales in comparison to the investment in its warfighting capacity. Nonetheless, a growing cadre of professionals exists at the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with practical experience in managing nation-building efforts, both in cooperative multinational contexts and in those cases in which the United States flies solo. An even larger pool of talented political development professionals has emerged in the employ of forprofit firms and non-profit enterprises. U.S. taxpayers provide most of the funds for these endeavors, but they are sometimes funded by the United Nations or other governments. Though these are mainly U.S. organizations, the personnel actually hail from dozens of countries and bring a wide range of experience to the table.

There is also a growing community of scholars and analysts-drawn from political science, law, anthropology, sociology, and elsewhere in the academy-pondering the nature of democracy and the process of democratization. Some former government officials have written very informative documents based on their particular experiences. These include Rick Barton, formerly at USAID and the UN, who now directs the Program on Conflict and Reconstruction at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), and James Dobbins, a retired diplomat and veteran of Haiti, Kosovo and Somalia, who is now at the Rand Corporation.5 The Office of Democracy and Governance of the USAID has produced the most comprehensive collection of publications examining programs USAID itself has sponsored, as well as some that propose ways to think about new programs.

Nevertheless, there are simply not enough centers of research and policy analysis that enlist practitioners, investors, and analysts to sort through the nuts and bolts of democratization strategies. A few such venues exist, but they are still relatively few in number. Tom Carothers has been the most active convener of these sorts of discussions at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace (CEIP). Mike McFaul and Larry Diamond weigh in from the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. The Journal of Democracy published by the NED has become the leading forum for thoughtful writing on these themes. Still, there is not nearly enough serious, original thinking and writing available to inform those who want to go abroad to promote democracy-whatever their motivations. Certainly, the first few months of political reconstruction in Iraq and Afghanistan confirm that there are questions to be answered, or at least examined, more thoughtfully.

The Center for Democratic Performance at the State University of New York at Binghamton, established in 1999, represents an important addition to the field. Directed by Edward R. McMahon, a former U.S. diplomat and senior official at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, the Center brings together practitioners and scholars in a focused and practical way in order to advance the collective understanding of these issues. Democratic Institution Performance: Research and Policy Perspectives is one of the valuable fruits of this endeavor. The volume begins with an excellent scene-setter on the "paradox of democracy," written by lead editor McMahon and researcher Brian Nussbaum. They aptly describe how, though "democracy has never been more widely practiced than in our present time...our understanding of how it is practiced and perpetuated remains quite limited."'' Moreover, they observe, an "inability to predict what choices are most appropriate for a particular nation at a given time continues to challenge democratic practitioners and scholars alike."8

Collecting chapters from fifteen different writers and assembling them into a coherent book poses a daunting task. McMahon has nevertheless managed to do just that in this work on a potentially unwieldy topic. The resulting collection of thoughtful essays takes the reader on an intellectual tour of key factors in democratic polities-particularly the challenges inherent in efforts to foster democracy elsewhere.

Written principally by scholars of democracy at home and abroad, the work is leavened with contributions from practitioners who have been on the front lines providing advice and information around the world. Democracy promoters-agencies and organizations trying to shape elections and political parties, direct civic education projects, and professionalize governing institutions-have too often shied away from rigorous intellectual scrutiny of their premises and their programs. Academic writers, for their part, frequently appear unconcerned with the very real problems of funding cycles, recruitment and deployment challenges, and the immense difficulty of trying to help real-life political leaders improve their performance without undermining their viability in unforgiving local political environments. Bringing the two perspectives together under one roof, or between book covers, brings out the best of each.

McMahon divides the book into two major sections. One addresses the domestic aspects of democratization-the internal dynamics and tensions that give rise to (or thwart) the democratic impulse of nations. The other section looks at the external facets of the democratization process. Specifically, these chapters analyze what various actors in the international community, from gov-ernments to privately managed non-governmental organizations, can do to facilitate democratization. Chapters discuss the interplay between political parties and civic associations; reconsider the centrality of civil society-and the individual citizen-to the functioning of democracies; review the limits to popular support for democracy in certain African countries; and assess "transitional justice" in post-conflict situations.

Perhaps the most provocative contribution in this section comes from the most famous of the distinguished authors, AIiA. Mazrui. Dr. Mazrui looks at the rise of "Shariacracy" in presentday, democratizing Nigeria. He views the enactment of strict Islamic laws in the northern states of Nigeria as a consequence of globalization-a kind of nationalist reply to this region's marginalization in the world's economy and culture. Like the other chapters in this section, Mazrui's essay offers a novel way to look at what might at first glance seem a familiar topic.

The external discussion begins with two solid chapters on the emergence of international actors-official and nongovernmental agencies-both as agents of change and as arbiters of the quality of political processes in other countries. Eric Bjornlund, the most widely experienced practitioner of democracy-promotion programs among these authors, offers sober reflections on the bureaucratic machinations that can impair donor efforts to help local actors. Bjornlund has advised election-monitoring organizations in places as diverse as Zambia, Palestine, and Indonesia, and what he has seen troubles him. The Indonesia experience, in particular, suggests that foreign donors and advisers can sometimes fail to appreciate the larger purpose of their activities: "using elections as a catalyst for the process of building democratic practices and institutions." The result, he writes, was that the international community "inadvertently hampered the new civic organizations and the momentum for reform"-a devastating indictment.9

Retired U.S. diplomat Elizabeth Spiro Clark discusses the evolution of international standards in determining the political processes necessary for countries to be considered democratic. She notes several trends that have emerged in recent years. One is the enhancement, or "hardening," of standards by such intergovernmental bodies such as the Organization for security and Cooperation in Europe (OSGE) and the Organization of American States (OAS), where concern about the quality of member states' elections has become part of the institutions' mission. Another important trend has been the broadening of the focus in democracy assistance to include not only elections, but also a range of institutions and behaviors that can indicate whether a country is democratizing or not. Further, she notes that each new transition offers the prospect of new innovations in sequencing, methods, and political architecture.

The final three chapters address the gap between theory and practice-the cultural divide between policy-makers and scholarly researchers-that drives the collection. Harry Blair, whom USAID has frequently engaged to assess the impact of its programs, offers a candid review of the USAID's efforts to demonstrate the actual impact its hundreds of millions of dollars in programs have had. Shaheen Mozaffar looks closely at the intellectual paradigms that compete for dominance among the functionaries who frame USAID's programs, and laments the limited pool of talent available to bridge the estranged communities of academia and policy-makers: "only a limited number of scholars who have developed skills combining substantive professional and area expertise, intellectual entrepreneurialism, and mastery of the bureaucratic maze are able to impact USAID democracy programs."

The powerful final chapter, by Edward Friedman of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, brings together the various intellectual and political factors in an essay entitled "The Art of Democratic Grafting and Its Limits." His sharpedged review of the experts' analytical errors over the years, combined with a practical-minded appreciation for the political world, leaves the reader nodding in agreement at the statement: "analysts of democratic Grafting should approach their topic with great humility and selfrestraint, cognizant of the limited value of general theory."11

While the book might seem limited in scope because it revolves largely around the work of Americans promoting democracy abroad-and also around the particular experience of USAID-it must be said that until very recently democratic development action in many parts of the world has been implemented mainly by Americans and funded by USAID. While the democracy movement is truly worldwide, and has increasingly been institutionalized as a feature of other nations' foreign policies-usually as a component of development assistancethe United States remains by far the most significant actor in this field. Other countries' aid programs have tended to follow where the Americans PO first, and private philanthropists, other than the remarkable George Soros, have simply not involved themselves in the process of democracy promotion to any significant extent.

Ned McMahon has recently moved to the University of Vermont at Burlington and launched another new center of inquiry into democratization strategies. One hopes this means another institutional contribution will be forthcoming before long, and that the policymakers will pay ever greater attention. Meanwhile, now that the Pentagon has suddenly emerged as a better-endowed, better-armed rival to USAID and the Department of State in the democracy promotion arena, one hopes those planning the political reconstruction of Iraq at the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad brought along a few copies of Democratic Institution Performance to light the way forward.

There are Simply not enough centers of research to sort through the nuts and bolts of democratization strategies.

Indonesia, the international community "inadvertently hampered the new civic organizations and the momentum for reform."

1 George W. Rush, "Remarks at the 29th Anniversary of the National Endowment for Democracy, November 6, 2003," Internet, 0031106-2.html (Date Accessed: 12 November 2003).
2 Gondoleezza Rice, "Campaign 2000: Promoting the National Interest," Foreign Affairs 79, no. 1 (2000).
3 See, for instance, the President's televised address to the nation of 7 September 2003, Internet, es/2003/09/20030907-1.html (Date Accessed: 27 October 2003).
4 Gondoleezza Rice, "Remarks to the 28th Annual Convention of the National Association of Black Journalists, Internet, (Date Accessed: 27 October 2003).
5 See, for instance, Frederick D. Barton & Bathsheba N. Grocker, "A Wiser Peace: An Action Strategy for a Post-Conflict Iraq," available online at and James Dobbins, et al., "America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq," available online at
6 Available online at: democracy/techpubs.
7 Edward R. McMahon and Brian Nussbaum, "The Paradox of Democracy" in Democratic Institution Performance; Research and Policy Perspectives (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2003), 3-4.
8 Ibid, 4.
9 Eric Bjornlund, "Lessons from Domestic Election Monitoring," in Democratic Institution Performance: Research and Policy Perspectives (Westport, GT: Praeger Publishers, 2003), 105.
10 Shaheen Mozaffar, "The Research-Policy Nexus and U.S. Democracy Assistance," in Democratic Institution Performance; Research and Policy Perspectives (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2003), 200.
11 Edward Friedman, "The Art of Democratic Grafting and its Limits," in Democratic Institution Performance; Research and Policy Perspectives (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 2003), 227.

[Author Affiliation]
Thomas O. Melia is Director of Research at the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, at Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service.

Posted by maximpost at 9:39 PM EST


Iraq Contracts Give Halliburton Headaches
28 minutes ago
By MATT KELLEY, Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - Halliburton Co. has reaped as much as $6 billion in contracts from the U.S. invasion of Iraq (news - web sites), but improprieties in those military contracts have also given Vice President Dick Cheney (news - web sites)'s former company high-profile headaches.
Pentagon (news - web sites) auditors have criticized Halliburton's estimating, spending and subcontracting, and they plan to begin withholding up to $300 million in payments next month. The Justice Department (news - web sites) is investigating allegations of overcharges, bribes and kickbacks. Democrats have accused the company of war profiteering.
Even some Wall Street analysts are asking whether Halliburton would be better off jettisoning its Iraq contracts.
"From the shareholders' point of view, don't you have to consider whether it's worth it?" Jim Wicklund of Banc of America Securities asked Halliburton executives during a March 11 conference call with investment analysts.
Halliburton is fighting back, strongly denying wrongdoing and claiming to be the victim of a political smear campaign. The company set aside nearly $200 million to repay the Pentagon for any overcharges. Executives reassured analysts that Halliburton has enough cash on hand -- about $2 billion -- to weather any more repayments or penalties.
Having a clean contracting system in Iraq is essential because it's the first experience Iraqis will have with the American model of business-government partnerships, said Peter Singer, a former Defense Department official who wrote a book on military contracting.
"The success in the war in Iraq and the follow-up to it depends on not just how good a job our soldiers do but also on how good a job our contractors do," said Singer, a fellow at the Brookings Institution. "If we award contracts to firms that aren't performing to the utmost, it's not only a waste of taxpayer money but it also harms national security."
Halliburton also is spending millions on a nationwide television advertising campaign featuring images of Halliburton workers helping American troops.
The company's defenders say Halliburton had to perform a lot of costly and dangerous work very quickly, with minimal government oversight at the beginning.
"The root cause of a lot of these problems is that it's a huge, rapidly evolving enterprise," said Steven Schooner, a contracting expert and assistant law professor at George Washington University. "When the money was spent the government was not applying the same type of resources in terms of planning, thought and caution that we normally expect and demand in public contracting."
Halliburton's detractors are undeterred.
"The entire Halliburton affair represents the worst in government contracts with private companies: influence peddling, kickbacks, overcharging and no-bid deals," Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., said this week.
Bush administration officials say Vice President Cheney -- a former defense secretary -- has nothing to do with awarding contracts to the company he led from 1995 to 2000.
Through subsidiary KBR, Halliburton's experience with military contracts dates back to World War II. The company did similar logistics work for troops in Vietnam, the first Gulf War (news - web sites), Bosnia and Kosovo.
Halliburton says 15 percent of its revenue last year came from work in Iraq. That money came mainly from two contracts with KBR, formerly known as Kellogg, Brown & Root.
The biggest contract is with the Army to provide logistical support for troops -- meal service, laundry, communications and housing. The second is a contract with the Army Corps of Engineers to fight oil well fires and rebuild Iraq's devastated oil industry.
Under criticism for awarding the oil contract outside of the usual competitive bidding process, the Army split the oil reconstruction work into two parts and held a bidding competition late last year. Halliburton got one of those contracts to reconstruct oil facilities in southern Iraq. The contract was worth more than $1 billion.
Problems already identified with Halliburton's business include:
_ Allegations it overcharged by $61 million for gasoline it delivered from Kuwait to civilians in Iraq. Pentagon auditors say Halliburton did not fully justify spending more than $1 extra per gallon for gasoline delivered from Kuwait than gas it bought from Turkish companies. Halliburton says the higher price reflected charges by the Kuwaiti subcontractor that was the lowest bidder. Halliburton also says it came up with the idea of tapping the Turkish market and saved the government more than $100 million.
_ A Pentagon audit that concluded Halliburton charged millions for meals never served to troops. Halliburton has repaid $36 million and set aside an additional $141 million to reimburse the military for possible overcharges. On April 1, the Defense Department plans to begin withholding 15 percent of payments to Halliburton -- up to $300 million -- because of the alleged overcharging. Halliburton officials say problems might have occurred because the number of troops in and near Iraq often changed quickly and drastically.
_ A Defense Department probe into allegations a Kuwaiti subcontractor paid kickbacks to two former Halliburton employees. The company says it repaid $6 million to the government after it discovered the scheme.
_ Widespread problems with estimating costs, justifying spending and following federal regulations. The Defense Contract Audit Agency found so many faults with KBR's practices that it warned the Defense Contract Management Agency the company's estimates were unreliable. Halliburton says any glitches were the result of working quickly to establish services in a war zone.
_Pentagon and Justice Department investigations into possible overcharging on KBR contracts to support troops in Bosnia and Kosovo.
Federal authorities also are investigating whether Halliburton violated U.S. laws prohibiting deals with Iran, and U.S. and French authorities are probing whether KBR was involved in paying $180 million in bribes to Nigerian officials to get favorable treatment for a natural gas project.
Halliburton reported making $3.6 billion in revenue from Iraq contracts last year. Executives say the company is taking in about $1 billion a month from its work in Iraq, bringing its total revenue to about $6 billion.

CIA finds new data but no weapons in Iraq
U.S. trained Iraqi border police officers drive at the Muntheria Border Crossing in the Iraqi - Iranian border, northeastern Iraq, Monday, March 29, 2004. Top U.S. civil administrator in Iraq L. Paul Bremer visited the border Monday and met with civil and military officials at the border operation center. Muntheria is one of the three border entry points that remains open along the Iraqi-Iranian border. The other border entry points have been closed to control illegal entries. (AP Photo/Murad Sezer)
WASHINGTON -- U.S. weapons hunters in Iraq have found more evidence Saddam Hussein's regime had civilian factories able to quickly produce biological and chemical weapons, the CIA's top weapons inspector told senators Tuesday. But they still have not found any weapons.
The CIA's special adviser on the weapons hunt, Charles Duelfer, said he did not know how much longer the weapons hunt might take.
"The picture is much more complicated than I anticipated going in," Duelfer said at a Capitol Hill press conference, nine weeks after he took over the weapons search.
In a closed session with the Senate Armed Services Committee, Duelfer said the Iraq Survey Group has found new evidence that Iraqi scientists flight tested long-range ballistic missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles that "easily exceeded" U.N. limits of 93 miles.
And the survey group has new information indicating the regime engaged in ongoing research to produce chemical or biological weapons on short notice, using civilian - or "dual use" - facilities.
However, in declassified testimony shared with the media, Duelfer didn't break significant ground on the weapons hunt, saying he lacked sufficient information to draw conclusions about what Saddam had.
"Imagine yourself being asked to determine the secret, behind the scenes intentions of our own government with respect to its most secret weapons programs after talking to a few hundred folks who may or may not have been intimately involved, with only a small fraction of documents available, and with a leadership that is not broken and willing to discuss its inner secrets," Duelfer said in the declassified remarks.
"How much would you really understand?"
Duelfer took over the job of top civilian weapons inspector after his predecessor, David Kay, resigned in January and told Congress "we were almost all wrong" about Saddam's weapons programs. In a flurry of public statements questioning whether weapons would ever be found, Kay renewed the debate about the very weapons of mass destruction programs that the Bush administration used to justify last year's Iraq invasion.
On Tuesday, Senate Armed Services Chairman John Warner, R-Va., and Intelligence Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, both called for patience as the search continues. "It ain't over til it's over," Roberts said.
However, with the November elections looming, Democrats are questioning - some loudly - whether the administration overstated the threat Saddam posed and the evidence about his weapons of mass destruction.
Duelfer said he has tried to determine the Saddam regime's intentions for the activities investigators have uncovered: Were weapons hidden that were not readily available? Was there a plan for a stepped-up production capacity? Were WMD technologies being developed for the missile and UAV programs? When did the leadership want to see results?
Duelfer said the survey group continues to look for weapons of mass destruction and regularly receives reports - "some quite intriguing and credible" - about possible concealed stashes buried or hidden across Iraq.
He said the survey group also questions former regime officials. However, many are still reluctant to talk because they fear prosecution, as well as retribution from former regime supporters. For these and other reasons, he said, the survey group is struggling to get clear, truthful information.
"We do not know whether Saddam was concealing WMD in the final years or planning to resume production once sanctions were lifted," Duelfer said. "We do not know what he ordered his senior ministers to undertake. We do not know how the disparate activities we have identified link together."

Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek contributed to this report.

U.N. Envoy Sent to Shape Plan for Iraq
Key Players Still at Odds Over Transition Process
By Robin Wright and Anthony Shadid
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, March 30, 2004; Page A13
A U.N. special envoy heads to Baghdad this week to chart a course for forming a new Iraqi government in just six to eight weeks, amid growing signs that the pivotal players in Iraq's political drama are deeply divided over how to proceed.
With a new sense of urgency, the United Nations is dispatching envoy Lakhdar Brahimi to begin deliberations, while the Bush administration yesterday dispatched the National Security Council's Iraq troubleshooter, Robert Blackwill, to help set the stage for Brahimi's mission and pressure the Iraqi Governing Council to cooperate, U.S. officials said.
The key problem is that Iraqis are deeply split, with many on the council jockeying to hold on to power despite recent polls showing that its 25 members have limited popular backing, according to Iraqi and U.S. officials. But the United Nations and the U.S.-led coalition also differ on what can realistically be achieved by the end of May, the deadline to get an interim government in place so the occupation can end on June 30, according to U.S. and U.N. officials.
With two plans abandoned over the past eight months because of public opposition, the Bush administration publicly insists it is open to new ideas and has turned over the deliberations to Brahimi, State Department and White House officials said. But coalition officials are increasingly -- and reluctantly -- convinced that there is no viable alternative except to turn political authority over to an expanded version of the U.S.-appointed governing council, according to officials of coalition countries.
"We have no particular option, and time is running short. An expanded governing council is looking more likely than not, but it's not settled. The most important thing is for Iraqis to be comfortable with it," said a White House official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
"It boils down to believing there is no other alternative left. We're not philosophically against any other ideas and we're willing to let Brahimi take a shot . . . and we'll support him in any way we can. But we've tried everything -- and what else is there?" added a State Department official.
Brahimi, set to arrive in Iraq at week's end, believes that "everything is open to discussion," said a U.N. official involved in the trip, "as long as we can reach a political consensus and the new provisional administration is acceptable as much as possible to all Iraqis."
Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister, particularly wants to explore two ideas -- holding either a "roundtable" of Iraqi leaders or a wider national convention -- both of which are similar to the loya jirga assembly that selected Afghanistan's postwar government after the U.S. invasion ousted the Taliban, officials from coalition countries said.
Coalition officials are concerned that time has already run out for both ideas. The central problem for any option that requires appointing a new group of Iraqis to help create a government is in figuring out who should choose that group and how many members it should have, coalition and U.N. officials said. Squabbling among Iraqis has been a complicating problem since the occupation began last year.
Coalition and U.N. officials said that, at this late date, they want to limit the number of Iraqis involved in picking a government -- or in the interim government itself -- to keep the process from becoming unwieldy. Given public posturing, they fear any attempt to name an additional 25 or 50 people to some newly formed group will lead to calls for 50 or 100 appointments.
Looming in the background of all discussions, however, is Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq's popular cleric whose opposition torpedoed two earlier U.S. plans. Officials from both the U.S.-led coalition and the United Nations say they recognize that Sistani's objections to any new proposal would almost certainly doom it, too -- and further complicate the handover of sovereignty from U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer.
The majority of governing council members are pressing for either transforming the council, as is, into an interim government, or enlarging it modestly, said Iraqi officials. "We can't start July 1 with a brand-new government," said Adel Abdel-Mehdi, a leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. "It will be more practical and much easier to expand the governing council, and they will assure this question of continuity."
But some council members recognize the danger of rejection if a new government is not viewed as properly representative. "We have to give other people the chance to participate, to have a say, to be part of the process so that they will support it," said Mahmoud Othman, a Kurdish member of the council.
U.N. officials are also signaling alarm over the limited time to organize elections by year's end. In Baghdad yesterday, chief U.N. elections director Carina Perelli said election plans must be made by the end of May if that timetable is to work.
"We need to make sure that between now and the 31st of January there is a modicum of security that will make the Iraqi people feel that they can go to the polls, that they can run as candidates without extreme fear and that they don't pull out of the process," she said.
Shadid reported from Baghdad. Staff writers Sewell Chan in Baghdad and Colum Lynch at the United Nations contributed to this report.


National security
The blame game
Mar 25th 2004 | WASHINGTON, DC
From The Economist print edition
Was Iraq a distraction from the war against America's real enemies? And could those enemies have been countered earlier?
GEORGE BUSH is running as a war president, a man willing to take the hard decisions needed to defend America from existential threat. As evidence, he claims he took the danger of global terrorism very seriously even before the attacks of September 11th 2001, and that since then he has prosecuted the war on terror with the utmost possible vigour, including the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein.
Given the significance of his war leadership, a credible challenge to either of his claims would be a matter of the utmost consequence. This week, both came under fire from a variety of reputable sources in Washington. Their criticism could resonate far beyond the Beltway because Americans have consistently said that, on terrorism, they trust Mr Bush more than they do John Kerry, his Democratic rival.
On Tuesday March 23rd, the commission set up by Congress to investigate the al-Qaeda attacks released preliminary reports criticising both the Bush and Clinton administrations for their responses to repeated assaults by al-Qaeda on American targets in the 1990s. It argues that both governments focused too much on diplomatic efforts (for example, to try to get Afghanistan to expel Osama bin Laden) rather than military options. It claims intelligence reports to Mr Bush had given warning of a potentially catastrophic terrorist attack against American targets (warnings that were later acknowledged in testimony by Colin Powell, the secretary of state, and Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defence). And it added new details of four opportunities to capture Mr bin Laden himself between December 1998 and July 1999, which it claimed the Clinton administration failed to grasp for fear of killing innocent bystanders.
This was bad enough but, the day before, a new book by Richard Clarke ("Against All Enemies", Free Press) levelled accusations that could prove even more damaging. Mr Clarke, the counter-terrorism co-ordinator in both the Bush and Clinton administrations, argues that Mr Clinton took the threat of al-Qaeda somewhat more seriously than the Bush administration (and even had successes against it, such as foiling a plot to bomb Los Angeles airport and a hotel in Jordan during the millennium celebrations and disrupting its attempt to take over Bosnia during the Yugoslav wars). The Bush administration was weaker, Mr Clarke claims, because members of the president's inner circle were distracted by their obsession with Saddam Hussein. Before 9/11, they thought the danger from al-Qaeda important; they did not think it urgent.
Mr Clarke says he asked the new administration within a week of its inauguration to discuss the threat from al-Qaeda at the highest (cabinet) level. But such a meeting did not take place until nine months later--only a week before the attacks, and too late to make a difference. Instead, the issue was discussed at a lower level, that of the deputy secretaries. At the first meeting, in Mr Clarke's telling, Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy defence secretary, said "I just don't understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man bin Laden. There are others that do [pose an immediate and serious threat] as well, at least as much. Iraqi terrorism, for example."
The charge that the administration was slow to appreciate the full extent of al-Qaeda's threat may well be politically harmful. In testimony before the commission on March 24th, Mr Clarke dramatically apologised to the relatives of 9/11 victims sitting in the room: "Your government failed you...I failed you." And the charge that the Bush team was wrongly focused on Iraq instead corroborates the growing view that the president and his team are stubborn over matters of national security (a view that stems partly from the administration's insistence that weapons of mass destruction would be found in Iraq). John Kerry has been repeating the charge of stubbornness at every chance he gets.
The administration has responded to Mr Clarke's charges with a torrent of personal censure, impugning his motives by accusing him of everything from frustrated ambition to political disloyalty and to being "out of the loop" (Dick Cheney's term). Given Mr Clarke's background--he arguably knows as much about al-Qaeda as anyone in America--this attack may not work.
But Mr Clarke's central charge is probably unproven. Given what was known or believed about Saddam in early 2001, the administration had every cause to worry about Iraq when it came into office. The real question is whether it could have done more than it did against al-Qaeda, regardless of the reason.
Mr Clarke says it could. He argues that the administration could have strengthened the Northern Alliance, the armed opposition group fighting the Taliban for control of Afghanistan. It could also have pushed harder to deploy Predator drone aircraft over Afghanistan to kill Mr bin Laden before 9/11. It could have spent more money reducing its vulnerabilities at home (in fact, the Justice Department did not list fighting terrorism as one of its main goals before 9/11). It could have done more to encourage, say, educational alternatives to radical Islamism in Muslim countries threatened by al-Qaeda.
The report by the 9/11 commission provided some corroboration for these claims of negligence to act. So, this week, did internal administration documents which showed that, after 9/11, the Office of Management and Budget cut by two-thirds a request for $1.5 billion of additional counter-terrorism funding from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
In reply, Condoleezza Rice, the national security adviser, argued (in an article published in the Washington Post, not coincidentally, on the day Mr Clarke's book appeared) that the administration did in fact increase funding for counter-terrorism before 9/11. It did consider deploying armed Predators, but military experts said the craft were not ready. It rejected sending help to the Northern Alliance on the ground that the group was then too weak to make significant advances anyway. As several of the officials giving testimony to the commission argued, it would have been politically impossible to have sent substantial commando forces into Afghanistan before 9/11: neither surrounding countries nor the American Congress would have countenanced such a move.
Most important, Miss Rice argued, even if the administration had done everything Mr Clarke wanted, that would probably not have been enough to deal with al-Qaeda or stop the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre. Mr Bush, she said, was tired of "swatting flies". Something more was needed, which the administration was working on throughout 2001. But it was too late.
And there, for the moment, the debate rests. The Bush administration was urged to do more before 9/11, and chose not to, for reasons that seemed right and reasonable at the time. It was working on a strategy to deal with al-Qaeda, but too slowly to do any good. Some of its members were more concerned about Saddam Hussein than Osama bin Laden. Nothing here can be called indefensible. Whether this is the record of someone who treated al-Qaeda with the utmost seriousness is another matter.
Copyright ? 2004 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.

Emergency Plans Found Lacking
GAO: Essential Services at Risk
By Christopher Lee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 30, 2004; Page A17
Federal agencies have not developed adequate plans to ensure the continuation of essential government services during emergencies such as terrorist attacks, bad weather or unexpected building closures, a new study has found.
The report released yesterday by the General Accounting Office found that none of 23 major departments and agencies studied had fully complied with a six-year-old presidential directive to develop emergency plans in accordance with guidelines from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
Agencies often omitted vital programs in compiling their lists of essential functions for their "continuity of operations" plans (COOP), according to the 26-page report. For instance, agencies did not list 20 of the 38 federal programs that were identified as "high impact" during efforts to shore up computer systems before the year 2000, the report's authors found.
While the authors of the GAO report did not name the omitted programs, the high-impact list includes such efforts as food stamps, unemployment insurance, Social Security benefits and the National Weather Service.
Moreover, no agency fully met all FEMA guidelines for the emergency plans, such as requirements for tests and training exercises, preservation of vital records, provisions for alternate facilities, and coordination with partner agencies in providing some services, the report found.
It apparantly was not all the agencies' fault. The study found that FEMA, which is now a part of the Department of Homeland Security, fell short on oversight of the plans and that its guidance for agencies lacked detail.
"If FEMA does not address these shortcomings, agency . . . plans may not be effective in ensuring that the most vital government services can be maintained in an emergency," the report said.
Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, said in a statement yesterday that he was concerned by the report and would hold a hearing after the April congressional recess.
"In the last few years in Washington, we have seen enough events, both big and small, interrupt government operations to know the importance of continuity-of-operations plans," said Davis, who requested the GAO study.
In written comments to the GAO, Michael D. Brown, the undersecretary for emergency preparedness and response at Homeland Security, argued that the government was poised to deliver services in an emergency. Nevertheless, he agreed that FEMA needed to do more.
He wrote that the agency has already taken a number of steps, including plans for a government-wide exercise to test emergency plans in May, more outreach to smaller agencies and a fiscal 2005 budget proposal that would increase by $27 million funding for continuity-of-government programs.
"All of these FEMA efforts and activities are specifically designed to improve planning and to further ensure the delivery of essential government services during an emergency," Brown wrote in a two-page memo dated Feb. 18.


Probe Finds $10 Million In Payments To Lobbyist
Indian Tribes Unaware of Fees
By Susan Schmidt
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 30, 2004; Page A01
Washington lobbyist Jack Abramoff received $10 million in previously undisclosed payments from a public relations executive whom he recommended for work with wealthy Indian tribes that operate casinos, congressional investigators have determined.
Abramoff, one of Washington's best-connected Republican lobbyists, this month was forced out of his firm, Greenberg Traurig, after revelations that he and the executive -- Michael S. Scanlon, a former spokesman for House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) -- had persuaded four newly wealthy tribes to pay them fees of more than $45 million over the past three years. That amount rivals spending on public policy by some of the nation's biggest corporate interests.
In a letter sent to Abramoff late yesterday, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said investigators on his staff "have recently learned that Michael Scanlon or organizations with which he was in some way associated . . . recently paid you approximately $10 million."
The financial arrangements between the two men were not previously known to the tribes or to Abramoff's firm, according to tribe members and a source close to the investigation. In an interview last month, Abramoff denied having any financial stake in Scanlon's businesses.
But days later, Abramoff was questioned by members of Greenberg Traurig's executive committee. On March 3, a member of that committee, Richard A. Rosenbaum, announced that Abramoff had resigned after he "disclosed to the firm for the first time personal transactions and related conduct which are unacceptable to the firm." Rosenbaum did not elaborate.
Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Abramoff, declined yesterday to comment on whether Scanlon paid Abramoff. "It's inappropriate for me or anyone else to discuss financial affairs," he said, adding that Abramoff resigned from Greenberg Traurig because of the "swirling controversy that was impacting his ability to serve his clients." Abramoff has since joined Cassidy & Associates, another lobbying firm, as a consultant.
McCain, a senior member of the Indian Affairs Committee who has called the lobbying and public relations fees "disgraceful," launched an investigation earlier this month after a story about the fees was published in The Washington Post.
He also is looking into millions of dollars in campaign contributions that Abramoff advised the tribes to make, as well as payments from the tribes to other organizations with no clear connection to Indian concerns, among them a Scanlon think tank in Rehoboth Beach, Del., run by a former lifeguard and a yoga instructor. That organization, American International Center, also paid Greenberg Traurig $1.5 million.
In his letter, obtained by The Post, McCain asked Abramoff for "a list of all Scanlon Companies from which you received anything of value from 1998 through the present." A letter seeking the same information was sent to Scanlon.
The Saginaw Chippewa tribe in Michigan, which paid Abramoff and Scanlon $13.9 million over two years for public affairs work and lobbying, questioned them separately on Dec. 22 about their financial arrangements, tribal officials said yesterday.
A tribal staff member who attended the session and insisted on anonymity said yesterday that "they answered they were not in business together." A new majority of the tribal council elected late last year has canceled contracts with both Scanlon and Abramoff.
While lobbying fees must be disclosed publicly in reports filed with Congress, there is no such disclosure requirement on fees charged by public relations firms. Scanlon, 33, a former communications aide to DeLay, was paid at least $30 million in the past three years by the Saginaw Chippewas, the Louisiana Coushattas and the Agua Caliente tribe of Palm Springs, Calif., according to interviews and documents provided to The Post by tribal members.
In their request to Abramoff yesterday, Senate investigators also asked for a list "organized by tribe, of all persons or organizations that Greenberg Traurig or you asked any tribal client (or any of its members) of the firm to make a payment of money to, from 1998 through the present."
Senate investigators learned of the payments from Scanlon to Abramoff in recent days, sources familiar with the investigation said. Greenberg Traurig has agreed to cooperate in the Senate investigation. It has hired the Williams & Connolly law firm to represent its interests and respond to Senate investigators.
Lawyers at both firms yesterday declined to comment. Scanlon did not respond to requests for comment made by telephone and e-mail.
In an interview last month with The Post, Abramoff distanced himself from knowledge about "outside vendors" hired by the tribes. Abramoff asserted that "we are not active with the third-party vendors of the tribes." He acknowledged that "we have recommended that different tribes hire different vendors for different needs that they might have," but he added that client confidentiality required him to "defer in terms of any discussion of Scanlon or his companies or any specific third-party vendor."
An undisclosed financial relationship between Abramoff and Scanlon could create further problems for Greenberg Traurig. On March 5, the firm wrote to the Saginaw Chippewa tribe offering to refund moneys if an internal financial review the firm is conducting finds that the tribe was shortchanged.
"Should we determine that the services provided or charges made on your account were inappropriate, you should know that we are prepared to make adjustments in those charges and take all appropriate action," the letter said.
McCain yesterday requested the internal investigation report from Greenberg Traurig. He asked three tribes for documents relating to their contracts with Abramoff and Scanlon, as well as the results of any internal investigations they have undertaken.
Newly elected members of the Saginaw Chippewa tribal council, including the tribal chairman, Audrey Falcon, have welcomed McCain's investigation. They have agreed to provide documents and to waive their attorney-client privilege, as has the Coushatta tribe of Louisiana.
But some tribe members who hired Scanlon and Abramoff are now trying to block the document release. Former Saginaw Chippewa tribal chief Maynard Kahgegab Jr. and two other tribal council members sent a letter to Greenberg Traurig on March 25 warning that the full council has not voted to waive the attorney-client privilege and stating they would view document production to the Senate as a serious ethical breach.
Some of those tribal members are seeking to recall the new council majority over the cancellation of the Scanlon and Abramoff contracts.


John Kerry's 'Alter Ego'
By Laura Blumenfeld
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 30, 2004; Page A17
When a Massachusetts official attacked Sen. John F. Kerry in the media, Kerry's chief of staff called to rein him in. The conversation grew heated, and the official growled, "So I criticized your guy. What are you gonna do, spank me?"
Perhaps. As chief of staff for the Massachusetts senator and presumed Democratic presidential nominee, David McKean handles all stripes of assignments. Observers describe McKean as Kerry's "alter ego," and his "confidence man." McKean is so in tune with Kerry's instincts, aides say, he will play a "significant role" in choosing a vice presidential running mate. His own name has been floated as a potential White House chief of staff.
What's more, he's Kerry's distant cousin.
"He's the most intensely loyal person John Kerry has working with him who can deal with the nitty-gritty ugly realities of fierce partisan politics," said historian Douglas Brinkley, author of the Kerry biography "Tour of Duty." "If there's a problem that needs to be solved, John turns to David."
While Kerry runs for president, McKean is running his Senate office. He supervises 27 staffers in Washington, and 14 in Massachusetts. He is a behind-the-scenes guy, built slim as if to fit in the shadows.
Lately, though, he is stepping out, meeting with visitors who, in quieter times, would have seen the senator.
"I'm a substitute," McKean said, taking a seat in Kerry's cavernous office. He recently met here with Halliburton's vice president, who complained that Kerry had failed to portray the good work Halliburton was doing in Iraq, McKean said. Kerry has criticized the administration for awarding no-bid contracts to Halliburton in Iraq.
But basically, McKean said, his job is "being a traffic cop. You're at a big, busy intersection. So many things are coming at you at the same time."
Some of those things coming at him now involve the presidential campaign. For instance, dealing with Republican charges that Kerry is weak on national security. McKean said his office is compiling a "real record" of Kerry's Senate votes on defense. The 18-year record will prove that "John has a mainstream, thoughtful approach to defense," McKean said.
And when Kerry's campaign was in disarray last summer, he called McKean at midnight for advice .
Colleagues say McKean is a modern-day version of the influential advisers he has written books about. McKean recently published "Tommy the Cork: Washington's Ultimate Insider From Roosevelt to Reagan." (As advised by the Senate Ethics Committee, McKean did not include his boss's name on the book jacket, to avoid any appearance of using his government position for commercial purposes.) He also co-authored "Friends in High Places: The Rise and Fall of Clark Clifford."
"David is as good and as loyal as they come," said Kerry, who added jokingly: "As a friend, I'm thrilled for David that his books have done so well. As his employer, I keep worrying about where he finds all this time to write."
From 10 p.m. until midnight, McKean would retreat to his home office dubbed "the bunker," after putting his three children to bed.
"I think about how much time we've shared with 'Tommy the Cork,' " said McKean's wife, Kathleen Kaye. "He's been travel companion and dinner guest -- they do occupy your space."
These days the Kerry campaign occupies their space. "The kids have darkened every window of the house with 'John Kerry for President' posters," Kaye said.
Although they are fifth cousins -- their mothers are Winthrops -- McKean and Kerry did not meet until 1976. McKean's brother, who was running for commissioner in Essex County, Mass., held a fundraiser. Four people showed up. One was Kerry.
McKean has held a number of positions with Kerry, including legislative assistant on foreign policy and banking. He assisted Kerry with the investigation of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI). McKean recalled Kerry's questioning of Clifford during the BCCI hearings:
"During a break I told John, 'Press him harder.' John said, 'I'm not going to humiliate him. He's an old man.' "
In 1999, while Kerry's staff was widely regarded as foundering, McKean took over as chief of staff . One of the first things McKean did was cut his own salary by about $30,000. He gathered the dispirited staff in the conference room.
"He said, 'This is not the David McKean ego show. I'm here to make sure things run smoothly,' " recalled former staffer David Kass.
McKean ended a long-running feud with the staff of senior Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D). He made sure the right people were in the room when Kerry had a difficult decision to make. He scheduled an hour a day for Kerry's exercise, so his boss wouldn't get cranky.
Most important, he leveled with Kerry. "Every politician needs someone who can say, 'That's a bad idea,' " said Jack Blum, a former Senate Foreign Relations Committee counsel. "David can do that without upsetting Kerry."
He also gave Kerry perhaps the most valuable advice of his political career. After watching Kerry turn in a dour performance on "Meet the Press," McKean took him aside and said: "Smile."


Man Blows Himself Up in Bolivia Congress
3 minutes ago
By ALVARO ZUAZO, Associated Press Writer
LA PAZ, Bolivia - A suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest in a hallway of the Bolivian congress Tuesday, killing himself and wounding two police, authorities said. State-run television said the two officers had died.
The disgruntled miner demanding early retirement benefits made his way to a first-floor section of the building, away from the congressional chambers, Police Chief Guido Arandia said.
The man set off the explosives after security agents cleared the area as police were negotiating with him, Arandia said. State-run television reported the two officers were fatally wounded by the blast.
Much earlier Tuesday, police evacuated Congress amid reports miners planned to force their way into the building. Only a handful of congressional employees, and security agents, were reported by police to be inside at the time of the blast.
Television footage from state-run Canal 7 showed shattered glass carpeting a side street leading to the ornate colonial legislative palace. Heavily armed police quickly cordoned off the complex in downtown La Paz and were seen dragging one body into a taxi that sped off.
Arandia said the two officers had tried to talk to the man before he set off the device. Local television reported the man's vest was laden with dynamite but authorities had no immediate confirmation on the type of device used.
Authorities had no report on whether the man was acting alone or with others.
In February, the government reported it had discovered an alleged plot by opponents to seize the Congress. That report came after deadly street protests in October 2003 forced the ouster of a former president, Gonzalo Sanchez de Losada.
Miners and indigenous leaders led those protests, which killed at least 58 people and underscored the fragile stability in South America's poorest country.


Venezuela Workers who backed recall fired
CARACAS, Venezuela -- Computer engineer Ingrid Sanchez, 32, signed a December petition demanding a recall vote for Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In February, she was fired from the government water company.
Anayr Yepez, 44, and six other workers were recently fired from their jobs with the government-run Caracas subway system. They, too, had signed the petition. A worker for the state oil company withdrew her signature from the petition after co-workers publicly posted lists of signers.
All told, hundreds of civil servants have been fired over the past six weeks for signing the recall petition, violating their constitutional rights to vote, unionists charge. The number could be in the thousands if doctors at public hospitals and teachers are counted, they say.
Two of Venezuela's largest labor groups are preparing formal protests for the Organization of American States and the Geneva-based International Labor Organization.
Chavez, who presides over the world's fifth-biggest oil exporter, denies his leftist government is harassing civil servants. He says the complaints are another scare tactic by opponents who failed to collect the required 2.4 million signatures needed to call a referendum.
Critics charge they gathered that amount and more - but that the Chavez-controlled elections council indiscriminately disqualified hundreds of thousands of signatures.
Chavez was elected to a six-year term in 2000. Venezuela's opposition says the recession-mired, politically divided country cannot wait until 2006 presidential elections. The referendum petition, meanwhile, is tied up in the courts.
Sanchez worked eight years at the Hidrocapital water company until her boss called her in on Feb. 27 and told her she was fired for "reasons from the presidency that are confidential," she says.
"Since when is not belonging to your political party a reason for firing me?" she responded angrily.
Yepez had worked 14 years for the Caracas Metro before her March 16 firing.
"How strange that everyone (at Caracas Metro) who was fired had signed," she said. Her mother, she added, had begged her not to sign.
"I wasn't afraid, because it's my constitutional right. I know that the price I paid was losing my job, but if we don't do this, what awaits us? A military dictatorship," Yepez said.
The Venezuelan Workers Confederation, the country's largest labor group, and the National Public Workers Federation say the dismissals violate international labor rights.
Federation president Antonio Suarez said firings increased after a pro-Chavez lawmaker, Luis Tascon, placed a list of petition signers on his Web site in February (
A link to Tascon's site appears on the Web site of the government's news agency, Venpres. It asks citizens who didn't sign to visit the site to withdraw their names and I.D. numbers from the petition.
Antonio Suarez said his union federation is compiling layoff lists from the state oil company, the ministries of education, interior, finance and agriculture, the Caracas Metro, the National Housing and Sports institutes and Hidrocapital.
Unionists also are verifying reported firings by public hospitals and municipal governments controlled by Chavez's Fifth Republic Movement party, he said.
Citing the layoffs, the Caracas newspaper Tal Cual editorialized that "if you are not in favor of the government, you will lose your most basic rights as a citizen. You begin living a sort of in-country exile."
Labor Minister Maria Cristina Iglesias has denied the charges - but notes her ministry is investigating complaints that private companies forced workers to sign the petition against their will.
Communications Minister Jesse Chacon says any proven case of a petition-related job action will be punished.

But Health Minister Roger Capella recently justified layoffs of government doctors, arguing that petitioners were engaged in "terrorism" against the state.

Mexican President Submits Plan to Overhaul Justice System
By Kevin Sullivan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 30, 2004; Page A20
MEXICO CITY, March 29 -- President Vicente Fox sent Congress legislation on Monday calling for a comprehensive overhaul of Mexico's criminal justice system, which has been widely criticized as corrupt and inefficient.
The plan would eliminate fundamental obstacles to justice in Mexico, where roughly 80 percent of all crime goes unreported largely because people have so little faith in the system. It would give police new authority to investigate crime, rein in the excessive power of federal prosecutors and reduce the system's notorious reliance on confessions obtained by torture or coercion.
"It is the moment to prove that together we can do away with corruption, with impunity, with inequality and with injustice," Fox said, announcing the proposal at a ceremony at which he was flanked by the president of the Supreme Court, the attorney general and other top officials.
Congressional approval of the plan would mark perhaps the most important reform of government by Fox, who took office in 2000 promising to eliminate the official corruption and inefficiency that thrived during the previous 71 years of one-party rule by the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI.
The PRI-dominated Congress has repeatedly rejected Fox's proposed reforms in such key areas as energy and labor law. But officials in Fox's government said they were optimistic about passage of judicial reform because they believe there is consensus in Congress and the public that it is necessary.
"I think everybody knows that we need to modernize the judicial system," said Agustin Gutierrez Canet, a spokesman for Fox. "There might be some disagreements on the technicalities, but there is a consensus on the objectives."
Despite many reform efforts over the years, most Mexican police officers receive little training and investigate only the simplest crimes. Prosecutors investigate crime as well as prosecute, giving them what critics call excessive power; more than 90 percent of criminal cases end in convictions.
The Fox plan calls for creation of a single national police force, which would investigate crime and pass cases to a new federal prosecutor's office that would be strictly a prosecutorial agency. The plan would also establish trials in which a judge hears oral arguments in a public courtroom. In the current system, judges accept written arguments in their offices and issue written judgments; in nearly 90 percent of cases, the judge never meets the defendant, Fox officials said.
The new plan would also create the presumption of innocence, which technically exists in Mexico but is routinely ignored by judges who almost always accept the prosecutor's version of the facts, according to lawyers groups and human rights officials who have studied the system.
Under the plan, only confessions made before a judge would be admissible, which officials in Fox's government said would remove the incentive for police to extract confessions by torture. The proposal would also create a new system of juvenile justice and give judges more flexibility to order restitution or community service for minor offenders, who currently make up the vast majority of Mexico's prison population.
Terrorism's eastward expansion: Uzbekistan
By Sergei Blagov
MOSCOW - Terrorist attacks in Uzbekistan contradict claims that the American-led offensive in Afghanistan has effectively destroyed the hotbed of Muslim radicalism in Central Asia.
Uzbek officials say that a series of attacks over the past few days - including suicide bombings and shootings - killed 19 people and injured at least 26 others. On Tuesday, a car bomb exploded at a police checkpoint on the outskirts of the capital Tashkent, injuring a number of people.
President Islam Karimov addressed the nation and said that the bombings had been plotted by "outside forces and foreign extremists". Uzbek prosecutor-general Rashid Kadyrov argued that
With internal repression [in Uzbekistan] still at its peak, sooner or later the peaceful jihadis [of the Hizb ut-Tahrir] may exchange the pamphlet for the bomb.
Peaceful jihad
(Nov 25, '04)
Asia Times Online
the attacks were carried out by Islamic extremists, notably the Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami (Party of Islamic Liberation). He said that suicide bombings were previously unknown to Uzbekistan, and indicated foreign involvement in the attacks.
Two suicide bombings in Tashkent and an explosion in the ancient town of Bukhara have rocked the nation. One of the Tashkent market blasts was reportedly set off by a female suicide bomber and targeted a group of policemen. So far, there have been no reports of high-profile suicide bombings in Uzbekistan - or elsewhere in Central Asia for that matter.
Authorities claim that the materials used in the explosives were similar to those used in a series of simultaneous bombings in Tashkent in February 1999, an alleged assassination attempt against Karimov, which was blamed on the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU).
The IMU was once led by Juma (aka Jumaboi) Namangani, a former Soviet paratrooper and Afghan war veteran. IMU fighters crossed into Kyrgyzstan in 1999 and 2000, seeking to enter Uzbekistan from the north through that country. Subsequently, Namangani was reported to have been killed in the course of the Taliban demise in 2001, yet these reports are yet to be confirmed. Moreover, Tajikistan officials have claimed that Namangani is alive, regrouping and hoping to launch a strike into the Ferghana Valley.
IMU activity re-surfaced recently away from Central Asia, in Pakistan. The Pakistani military's offensive in the tribal areas in South Waziristan, near the Afghan border, indicated that government troops might have wounded Tahir Yuldashev, the IMU's leading commander.
Uzbekistan has taken notice of the developments in Pakistan. On March 23, Karimov called on Islamabad to hand over any Uzbek citizens taken prisoner in South Waziristan. The Uzbek leader also claimed that the IMU and Yuldashev were "almost dead, if not physically, then morally". It took just a week for Karimov's rhetoric to prove over-optimistic.
However, on March 29, Foreign Minister Sadyk Safayev reportedly declined to indicate whether the attacks could have been linked to Pakistan's crackdown.
In the past, many IMU militants, mostly Uzbeks, joined the Taliban and fought for years alongside Uighurs and Chechens against the Northern Alliance, which consists mostly of ethnic Tajiks. For them, Tashkent has become an obvious target because Uzbekistan has been a strong supporter of the United States-led campaign in Afghanistan, and American troops are using a former Soviet air base at the southern city of Khanabad to support operations against the resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.
There have been media allegations of the IMU's complicity outside Central Asia. On March 1, a report in the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta alleged that IMU operatives were active in Kabul, as well as in Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. The daily quoted IMU defectors as alleging that in its recent inroads into Afghanistan and Kashmir, the IMU had been backed by anti-Western elements in Pakistan's security services.
Moreover, it has been claimed that an effort is under way to unify radical Islamic groups in Central Asia, including those among the Hizb ut-Tahrir al-Islami, Uighur separatists, the IMU, and possibly Chechen separatists.
On the other hand, if Uzbek allegations of the Hizb ut-Tahrir's involvement in the bombings are confirmed, it would mark the first time that the group has been implicated directly in a terrorist attack. The group claims to be nonviolent, but its ultimate goal is still jihad against kafr (non-believers), the overthrow of existing political regimes and their replacement with a caliphate (khilafah in Arabic), a theocratic dictatorship based on the Sharia (religious Islamic law).
Hizb ut-Tahrir now has an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 members, and many supporters in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. At least 500 are already behind bars in Uzbekistan alone. Most of its members are believed to be ethnic Uzbeks. Moreover, Hizb ut-Tahrir has reportedly extended its influence into China's traditionally Muslim Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
The Hizb used to reject terrorism, believing the murder of innocent bystanders to be a violation of Islamic law. However, the use of "heavy-handed repression" by Central Asian governments, notably by Uzbek authorities, seems to have encouraged the Hizb ut-Tahrir to adopt more confrontational tactics.
However, according to a RFE/RL report, Imran Waheed, a spokesperson for the Hizb ut-Tahrir in London, denied his group's involvement. He said that Hizb ut-Tahrir was nonviolent and condemned the killing of innocent civilians: "Our understanding of the whole issue is that attacking innocent civilians is condemned by Islam. So it is unacceptable this attack in Tashkent and we know historically that in the past the government has orchestrated several such attacks itself in order to crack down on peaceful and nonviolent Islamic movements, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, as we saw previously with the bombings in Tashkent a few years ago."
Uzbekistan is a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which groups together Russia, China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The group has drafted "the Shanghai anti-terror convention" and decided that the organization would have a regional anti-terrorist force in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek. The force is to tackle jointly such threats as terrorism, separatism and extremism.
There have been no reports that Uzbekistan sought assistance from the anti-terrorist force. However, in the wake of bombings in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan has increased border security and Kyrgyz border guards followed suit along the Uzbek frontier.
Two years ago, Kyrgyz security officials claimed that Muslim militants belonging to various groups had banded together to form the Islamic Movement of Central Asia (IMCA) to plot terrorist attacks and move towards the ultimate goal of creating an Islamic caliphate in the Ferghana Valley, a hub of Islamic radicalism. According to Kyrgyz officials, the IMCA has been headed by Yuldashev - the man believed to be active in Pakistan - and includes Kyrgyz, Tajik, Uzbek, Chechen and Xinjiang separatists with bases in Afghanistan's Badakhshan province.
Since late 2002, there have been warnings that al-Qaeda would support terrorist attacks in Central Asia. However, strikes were expected in Kyrgyzstan or Tajikistan, both of which lack the capabilities that Uzbek authorities possess to crack down on anti-government activity.
Now, as the US and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization are still preoccupied with democracy-building in Afghanistan, governments in Central Asia and beyond have reason to worry about potential threats from militants that fought alongside Afghanistan's Taliban militia.
For instance, Russia has been struggling to suppress Chechen rebels and other Muslim extremists. Moscow has banned the Hizb ut-Tahrir and extradited some suspects to their home countries in Central Asia. No big wonder that on Monday the Russian Foreign Ministry promptly denounced the Uzbek bombings. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also urged to destroy "the nest of terrorism" in Afghanistan. Russian officials have previously complained that the international operation in Afghanistan merely dispersed - and failed to destroy - the Taliban and other Muslim radicals.
Beijing could have reasons for concern as well. There have been reports of cooperation between militant groups like IMU and IMCA and Uighur separatists, who, like Hizb ut-Tahrir, have never formally advocated violence.
(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact for information on our sales and syndication policies.)


Dead al-Qaida man not intelligence chief

A Pakistani soldier mans a position along a road near Wana in South Warziristan Monday March 29, 2004 after days of fighting between the Pakistani army and suspected al Qaida and Taliban fighters in the area. An al-Qaida intelligence chief was killed in Pakistani's massive sweep through western tribal areas to root out members of Osama bin Laden's terror network and the Taliban, a military official said Monday. (AP Photo/M. Sajjad)
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistani officials on Tuesday again backed off claims that they killed or captured a major al-Qaida fugitive, saying a man they believed had been an intelligence chief for Osama bin Laden's organization was in fact a much less senior local figure.
On Monday, army spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan told a news conference that intelligence sources indicated that the al-Qaida intelligence chief, whom he named only as Abdullah, had been killed.
Another member of the Pakistani intelligence community said the military was showing photos of Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah - who is on the FBI's Most Wanted List - to captured militants, but none had identified the photo.
On Tuesday, Sultan said the man apparently killed in South Waziristan was far less senior.
"Now I can confirm that he was only the head of al-Qaida's intelligence in Wana," the main town in South Waziristan, said Sultan. He blamed the mistake on faulty initial intelligence.
Shortly after the siege began March 16, President Gen. Perez Musharraf claimed in a television interview that his men had cornered a "high-value" al-Qaida target, and several senior Pakistani officials said they believed it to be bin Laden's No. 2 man, Ayman al-Zawahri.
Authorities later backed off those claims, saying instead that they had wounded an Uzbek militant with al-Qaida links named Tahir Yuldash. They say they believe Yuldash escaped, possibly through a mile-long tunnel leading out of the battle zone.
There were conflicting accounts among Pakistani intelligence and government officials about whether Abdullah's body had been recovered. Sultan would give no details.
Meanwhile, authorities found the bodies of two Pakistani government officials dumped in a well after they were abducted two weeks ago at the start of the operation - the largest ever Pakistani sweep for al-Qaida fugitives - that wound up Sunday.
Tribesmen in the Kaloosha area of South Waziristan found the bodies of Mati Ullah and Ameer Nawaz late Monday, bringing the government and military death toll in the operation to at least 48.
The officials were captured by militants in a botched initial assault on March 16 when paramilitary forces raided homes in Kaloosha and met with stiff resistance.
A government official in Wana, the main town in South Waziristan, said the officials' bodies were found in a well. He spoke on condition of anonymity.
"Probably they were murdered several days ago," said Brig. Mahmood Shah, chief of security for Pakistan's tribal regions bordering Afghanistan.
The top government official in South Waziristan, Mohammed Azam Khan, warned Zalikhel tribesmen to surrender those involved in killing the two security officials.
He said the tribesmen have 10 days to hand in the suspects or face demolition of their homes or confiscation of their property. In an interview with Pakistan's Geo television, Khan said Zalikhel tribesmen had allegedly acknowledged kidnapping the officials.
Twelve abducted paramilitary soldiers were freed Sunday when the military pulled out thousands of forces after negotiations conducted by tribal elders.
The military declared the operation a success, claiming it had killed 63 foreign and local militants. Hundreds of militants remain at large.
Sultan and Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayyat briefed parliamentarians on the operation Tuesday, reiterating a government offer to grant amnesty to any terrorists who surrender. None have taken up the offer.
Pakistani forces arrested 167 people in the operation, including 73 foreigners. Security officials have said Uzbeks, Chechens and Arabs were among them.
The two-week operation was the largest since Musharraf, a key U.S. ally, sent 70,000 troops to the border with Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks to prevent cross-border assaults.

Musharraf left counting the cost
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
KARACHI - The 12-day Pakistani army operation in the South Waziristan tribal area near the Afghan frontier is winding down following the release on Sunday of 12 government officials and soldiers seized by alleged al-Qaeda fighters and tribal allies. Similarly, a number of tribal suspects held by the army have been set free or will be released soon.
Those released by the tribals were among 14 people captured at the start of a clash in which more than 100 people have been killed. After cordoning off the area around Wana in South Waziristan with over 5,000 troops and losing about 50 soldiers in the offensive, the military says that "we have almost achieved our set targets" in driving al-Qaeda fugitives and Afghan resistance fighters from the region.
Tension has been high after the execution of eight Pakistan soldiers, who had been taken hostage by the fighters during an ambush on an army convoy last Tuesday.
The end of open hostilities, however, is only the beginning, and far from achieving its targets, the army, and Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf, are left with far bigger problems than when they first embarked on the mission into the tribal region nearly two weeks ago.
Call for help
Although the Pakistan army has put a brave face on its South Waziristan escapade, claiming that its job has been done, in reality it had to rely on outside help to extricate itself with a semblance of its "face" intact.
After all efforts to pacify the hostile tribals failed - the semi-autonomous regions are notoriously anti-central authority - the government persuaded leading clerics to bring pressure to bear on the tribals to negotiate a truce. The clerics, who belong to the six-party Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) religious political party that is well represented in the National Assembly as well as the provincial governments of North West Frontier Province and Balochistan, are usually perceived as anti-US, but in fact, when the chips are down, they dance to Musharraf's tune.
The army sought help from the clerics on two fronts:
To use their influence among the tribes to get them to compromise;
To prevent the spread of a campaign started by some extreme religious leaders in Islamabad in which soldiers serving in the tribal regions were to be denied funeral rites.
Winners and losers
Despite heavy United States pressure for a sustained campaign in Pakistan to once and for all drive all insurgents (both foreign fighters and Afghan resistance) from their sanctuaries in the tribal areas, the operation has now ended.
In terms of the broader picture, the plan was for the Pakistan army on the one side and US troops across the border in Afghanistan to sandwich all resistance between a "hammer and an anvil" and drive them from the Shawal area - an inhospitable no man's land that straddles the border. This is nowhere near to being achieved.
And there has been a strong backlash against the Pakistan establishment, both in the tribal areas and in the country in general, the extent of which has severely rattled the country's leaders. Indeed, according to insiders who spoke to Asia Times Online, there is a perception that, given the failings of the South Waziristan operation, there is an "an intelligence within an intelligence" and "an army within an army" in Pakistan and that factions in these organizations backed the tribals "in the name of Islam". According to sources, more than 150 soldiers of the army and para-military forces refused to take part in the action, including at least one colonel and a major.
The release of a tape last week purported to have been made by Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's No 2 in al-Qaeda, also shook the establishment. Al-Zawahiri was reported to be the "high profile target" of the South Wazaristan operation. In the tape, al-Zawahiri called Musharraf a "traitor" and urged people to overthrow his government. "Musharraf seeks to stab the Islamic resistance in Afghanistan in the back. Every Muslim in Pakistan should work hard to get rid of this client government, which will continue to submit to America until it destroys Pakistan," the speaker on the tape said.
As a result, for the first time ever, the Inter-Services Intelligence, Military Intelligence and the Intelligence Bureau on Friday conducted a survey in which they canvassed the opinions of professionals, including writers and lawyers, on the possible repercussions of the taped speech.
The political backlash of the South Waziristan operation has been so powerful that Musharraf has inducted former dictator General Zia ul-Haq's son, Ejazul Haq, into the federal cabinet as minister for religious affairs in order to use his good offices - as the son of the staunchly pro-Islam leader - with the religious segments of society.
Tribals take stock
Soon after the truce was announced on Sunday and the Pakistan army began returning to its camp, pamphlets in the Pashto language were widely distributed in Bannu, North Waziristan and South Waziristan. They claimed: "Do not ever make the mistake of chasing the mujahideen of the Taliban and al-Qaeda." The pamphlets clearly warned those tribals who had cooperated with Pakistan and spied on the fugitives.
In a public gathering on Monday in Wana in South Wazaristan, religious and tribal leaders gathered to take stock. "It was just like Jasn-e-Fatah [D-Day-like celebrations]," a contact who was present told Asia Times Online. "Wazir tribals presented turbans to more than 100 jirga [council] people as a gesture of thanks and confidence."
Members of the National Assembly in Islamabad and others gave speeches, the gist of which can be summarized as follows:
Congratulations to all the tribes for fighting as a united nation.
The tribes had once again proved their "glorious traditions" of fighting evil.
The Federally-Administered Tribal Areas will remain independent.
The Central administration is always hostile to the tribal people and has established new traditions of "cruelty and barbarism".
Musharraf was misguided about the alleged presence of bin Laden and al-Zawahiri and other al-Qaeda people.
The meeting concluded that the army had destroyed 84 houses in its search for fugitives, and that claims that the fugitives had used long tunnels to escape were nonsense. In fact, these are trenches that have been used for many years to carry water. Now the army has destroyed them - and with it the region's water system.
The meeting concluded by saying that those who died in the trouble were shaheed (martyrs), and apologized for the army personal who died, saying it was the fault of the "high ups".
(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact for information on our sales and syndication policies.)


Drug trade booms on China-Myanmar border
By Naw Seng
RUILI, China - To make money by selling potentially lethal heroin is forbidden by their religion, yet desperately poor and persecuted Muslims from Myanmar have often turned to the drug trade. And with increased profits have come increased risks.
Kyaw Hein, a Myanmar national, is a former trafficker who now helps Chinese authorities crack down on the importation of heroin from his country into China via this border town. He says heroin comes from Muse, a Myanmar town opposite Ruili, and then goes on to Kunming, or goes from Ruili to Kunming via Dali. Further still, it can go from Panghsang, located in territory controlled by the United Wa State Army, to Kunming via Simao, also in Yunnan. But the Ruili route lately has shrunk due to a heavy crackdown by Chinese police.
Bushi, now a fruit vendor, is one former trafficker who has broken away from the trade despite its lucrative nature. At one time, Bushi had dozens of aides and spent more than 5,000 yuan (US$600) per day in drug earnings. "I understand heroin kills people," he says. But in those days he had no choice. Now he does. "I don't want that hell."
As China's western border with Myanmar is now the main transit point for heroin, several Myanmar Muslim traders have taken to the trade. Many Myanmar Muslims in Ruili - there are some 1,000 here in this busy border town - are economic migrants because of political and economic discrimination by Myanmar authorities.
That discrimination has roots in history, and at certain points resulted in riots between the Buddhist majority and the Muslim minority, instigated by military authorities (see Myanmar's Muslim sideshow, October 21, 2003). Eighty-nine percent of Myanmar's more than 50 million people are Buddhist, Muslims and Christians comprise 4 percent, and various others make up the rest.
The majority of Myanmar's Muslims live in the western part of Arakan state, on the border with Bangladesh, and come under restrictions in marriage and fertility. Many feel they do not have the same opportunities as other communities.
Bushi started out in Ruili as a small jade trader, then found selling drugs a better way to get rich quick. "I would be left behind if I rode a cart to follow cars," he explains. He reckons that almost half of the Myanmar Muslims in China are in the drug trading business.
Trafficking in heroin and using ill-gotten money of this sort are forbidden under Islam. "This is haram [forbidden] money," Bushi says. "We shouldn't" live on it.
But this has not stopped many jade traders from turning to the poppy in the past decade. Despite the fact that, "only a few people benefit from the drug business," Bushi says. "Many are in jail."
Bushi has never been arrested, but some of his men were jailed last year for heroin possession. The seizure made Bushi a poor man, but in general he had no problem smuggling heroin to Kunming, the capital of China's southwestern province of Yunnan. "I have many ways of getting [heroin] around," he says.
These include putting heroin inside dairy tins, human rectums and female reproductive organs. But Bushi knew his luck would eventually run out. "Even the big chief will get arrested some day," he adds.
A few traffickers can get and stay rich, but many serve long sentences in Chinese prisons or suffer the death penalty. Even so, the temptation is often irresistible. In any case, traders say, Chinese and Myanmar authorities are not above taking bribes to close their eyes.
Ruili residents call heroin traffickers kya kya kala - kya kya is slang for "heroin" in Ruili, and kala is a term Myanmar nationals use to refer to Westerners or Indians.
Some former kya kya kala or those in the heroin business collaborate with Chinese police to crack down on the trade. Kyaw Hein is one. His work is to investigate the Myanmar heroin mafia.
Kyaw Hein stopped trafficking after Chinese police caught his brother-in-law in possession of a large amount of heroin. But his experience as a trafficker immediately landed him a job. He continues to earn drug money, but this time in the form of payments made by his former friends to the police, who give him 20 percent of seized cash in return for his information.
Kyaw Hein gives detailed reports of trafficking activities to Chinese police, who have been trying to clamp down on a social ill that has resulted in worrisome drug-use rates along the border since it opened to the region in the 1980s.
On an average day, Kyaw Hein will hang around town, play cards and chat with friends. Only a few of them know that he is an informer, but everyone who works in Ruili's heroin trade is known to him.
Although he prefers this job over trafficking because it is "safer", he is aware of the threat from the traffickers themselves. "I know the death knell will sound for me one day," he says, "but I'm not afraid."
Interviews here showed that even active kya kya kala are stumped as to where the heroin goes from Kunming, but they believe that it enters the international market via several routes.
Last April, more than half a tonne of heroin en route to Kunming was seized by Chinese authorities outside Ruili.
According to Jane's Intelligence Review, heroin from Myanmar reaches eastern China and Hong Kong, to be eventually exported to Southeast Asia, Australia and North America.
Nearly 200 Myanmar Muslims are in Chinese jails, an estimate given by both Bushi and Kyaw Hein. According to Chinese law, the penalty for drug trafficking is execution. But the penalty is not imposed on Myanmar nationals, who serve a maximum of 15 years. Some traffickers who can afford to bribe police can reduce their jail terms to a few months, or avoid jail altogether, according to talk that goes around here.
Kyaw Hein says a group of Myanmar Muslims are moving to the area close to Panghsang for the coveted white powder. "All 'tigers' here move there [Panghsang]," he says.
Bushi has no interest in becoming a tiger again, preferring to live tranquilly with his family in Ruili. But he does want to spread the word about the damage heroin has done to his community and to the name of Allah. "I dare to die for the truth," Bushi says. "People may exit the trade, but it will continue to affect the world."

(Inter Press Service)
Myanmar Seeks Constitutional Convention
Tue Mar 30, 1:26 PM ET
By AYE AYE WIN, Associated Press Writer
YANGON, Myanmar - Myanmar's military government said Tuesday it will take the first step on a self-proclaimed "road to democracy" by reconvening a constitutional convention that was suspended eight years ago.
Western nations have long shunned the ruling junta for failing to hand over power to a democratically elected government. Following intense international pressure, Prime Minister Khin Nyunt in August revealed Myanmar's seven-step democracy plan but did not provide a timetable for its implementation.
The plan is supposed to lead to a general election and a new government.
The junta first organized a National Convention in 1993, with the goal of drafting a constitution to be adopted by national referendum.
But it was suspended in March 1996 after members of the National League for Democracy party, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, walked out, saying they were being forced to rubber-stamp decisions made by the junta.
On Tuesday, state radio and television broadcast a statement signed by Lt. Gen. Thein Sein of the National Convention Convening Commission calling the meeting May 17.
The announcement gave no details about how many delegates will be invited or whether Suu Kyi, who has been detained since May, will participate. The convention will be held in the capital Yangon.
Many Western critics consider NLD participation in the convention to be crucial for its success. Party officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
Suu Kyi's party won a 1990 general election, but the military -- which took power in 1988 after violently suppressing mass pro-democracy demonstrations -- refused to step down, instead jailing and harassing members of the pro-democracy movement.
Suu Kyi, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991, remains detained after a May clash between her followers and government supporters, prompting even those Southeast Asian nations sympathetic to the junta to call for speedy democratic reform.
The state-run press said 16 of 17 ethnic rebel groups who have signed cease-fire pacts with the government will participate in the convention.
But the Karen National Union, which currently is negotiating a cease-fire, has said it will not.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, does not currently have a constitution. A 1974 constitution was dropped when the current military rulers took power.


'Al-Qaeda has got it wrong'
By Ritt Goldstein
A recently released Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) provided document affords some remarkably critical and militant Islamic perspectives on the "war on terror". Highlighting the unique nature of the document's perspective, it addresses an analysis of al-Qaeda's efforts by al-Jama'ah al-Islamiyah, a faction which is designated by the US State Department as a terrorist organization. The fact of the document's release by the CIA speaks volumes about its interest.
Providing an equally surprising parallel, in December the US Defense Department's Strategic Studies Institute released a report describing the objectives of the Bush administration's war efforts as "politically, fiscally and militarily unsustainable". Al-Jama'ah observed essentially the same of al-Qaeda. And according to the CIA translation, al-Jama'ah argues that al-Qaeda "entangled the Muslim nation in a conflict that was beyond its power to wage".
Al-Jama'ah is Egypt's largest Salafist group on the US terror list, allegedly complicit in the 1993 bombing of New York's World Trade Center, as well as numerous acts of violence within Egypt. Their goal has been stated as the removal of secular government and restoration of an Islamist state. The group's spiritual leader, Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, was convicted for his alleged Trade Center bombing role by a US court.
The militant Egyptian Salafist groups are reportedly Islam's oldest, tracing their roots to the formation of the Muslim Brotherhood in 1928, five years after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. The encroachment of Western secularism spawned the Brotherhood, but al-Jama'ah's activity dates from the 1970s.
Islamic Jihad, Egypt's other major Salafist group on the terror list, was reportedly responsible for the assassination of the late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. Ayman al-Zawahiri, now allegedly Osama bin Laden's second in command, was reportedly one of Islamic Jihad's two leaders. Al-Qaeda itself is sometimes referred to as a militant Salafist group.
The CIA's original document appeared as an Arabic-language review of a book by al-Jama'ah's leadership, their work entitled: "The Strategy and Bombings of al-Qaeda". It was published by the influential and Saudi-owned London daily, al-Sharq al-Awsat.
Footnoting this, al-Sharq al-Awsat is known for publishing material that coincides with Saudi perspectives. And Salafist is a term which many of the Wahhabi denomination of Sunni Islam use to describe themselves, Wahhabism being the strict branch of Islam most often associated with Saudi Arabia.
But in 1997, al-Jama'ah's leadership reportedly began an initiative to end violence. Their present writings intimate that a policy of confrontation fed anti-Islamic currents within the US, shifting America away from a policy of Islamic accommodation when it suited US objectives.
"The official religion of the United States is its interests," note the authors. They also see the US pursuing an opportunity for "hegemony on the world, global sovereignty, and decisive victory over all rivals".
Their text is noteworthy for its illustration of perceptions within the militant segment of the Islamic community. Al-Jama'ah doesn't take exception to al-Qaeda's motivations, but does to their methods and strategy, al Qaeda's giving "preference to the logic of defiance over the principle of calculations".
The authors blame anti-US violence (including the Trade Center bombing) for casting Islam as "the green peril". They portray a shift in US perception as transpiring during the period when America was attempting to define its "new enemy" following the Cold War.
Particularly singled out as evidence of this American development are the works of Francis Fukuyama The End of History and Samuel Huntington (The Clash of Civilizations). However, the authors pointed out that even during this period, the US sought an accommodation with the Taliban, demonstrating "the supremacy of the US self-serving logic on US strategy". But concurrently the authors saw an al-Qaeda policy of confrontation lead to the foregoing of unique opportunities that may never recur.
According to the text, because of US geostrategic (oil and gas) interests, the Taliban were offered "US$3 billion as a free grant and $300 million annually in return for leasing the pipeline transporting natural gas from the Caspian" to Pakistan. This was in reference to the trans-Afghan pipeline the US had long desired.
Al-Jama'ah cites Islamic history to make the point that mutually advantageous accommodation is not sacrilegious.
The authors note that instead of the assets and stability the proposed pipeline revenue held for both Afghanistan and Pakistan, there have instead been substantive setbacks for the global Islamic community. The siege al-Qaeda is under, as well as the increased pressures on those who are fighting traditional struggles of liberation, were seen as but one part of a much broader fallout. Particular note is given to the extreme nature of September 11, and the West's reaction to it.
The texts describe al-Qaeda's perspective as a uniquely Afghan one. Notably, it was the US which had cultivated the philosophy of uncompromising jihad as a tool against the Soviets in Afghanistan during the Cold War. In those days the people who are today's al-Qaeda were then integral parts of America's anti-Soviet engine in Afghanistan.
Through US urging, even mosques throughout global Islam were encouraged to call for volunteers in the anti-Soviet, Afghan jihad. Egypt is reported to have provided facilities for their training. But while these jihadis may have switched enemies, their unbending methodology remained the same.
Al-Jama'ah intimated that while al-Qaeda's late 1990s creation of the Islamic World Front to Combat Christians, Jews and Americans may have been pure in ideology and motive, it represented an unrealistic overreach which succeeded only in "enraging and antagonizing the enemy". The authors see a key result of this in US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice's later promise to "liberate the Muslim world". The perceived threat this represents to the "values and traditions of the Muslim culture" is highlighted as very significant.
Alternately, strong concerns are raised that Islam must avoid the "trap of clash of civilizations", instead pursuing a policy of "interaction". Simultaneously advocated is "maintaining the Muslim identity and defending and struggling against any attack on the principles of Sharia [Islamic law] and the supreme interests of our faith, homelands, and nation".
The interpretation of Rice's remarks provides a reflection on the position voiced by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on September 26, 2001. At the time Berlusconi voiced that he foresaw the West as "bound to occidentalize and conquer new people". While al-Jama'ah argues that a Western religious crusade exists "only in the imagination of those who make such a claim", they condemn al-Qaeda's strategy for inciting "Christian currents that are hostile to Islam".
The authors see al-Qaeda's strategy as influencing concerns of the US fundamentalist Christian right, precipitating an alliance with elements of the Jewish right, culminating in Israel's advantage and what they perceive as a campaign couched as "backing persecuted minorities in the world". The reality they perceive though is a US strategy of intervention "under the pretext of defending democracy and the human rights ... and combating terrorism". They pointedly add that the thrust of this is to "impose US hegemony on the whole world".
As the idea of the Bush administration potentially seeking to enfranchise Sunni-dominated Saudi Arabia's minority Shi'ites has been recently floated, it's noteworthy to recall that Saudi Shi'ites are concentrated in the segment of the country where the oil fields are.
Evaluating the benefits al-Qaeda received via its widely spread front of hostilities, al-Jama'ah notes that while the Soviets were militarily and socially exhausted in Afghanistan, the breadth of America's global presence already provided sufficient, less provocative opportunities for this. They also argue that America's overriding interest is oil, and that unlike in Vietnam or Somalia, the US is prepared to accept substantive casualties to assure its "oil hegemony".
Translating out the thrust of the text's criticism, flexibility is much of its essence. Al-Jama'ah accuses al-Qaeda and others within the Islamic militant community of failing to go beyond a path "of force only", adding that "rigid reliance on one single strategy does not bring the flexibility that is needed to attain the aspired goals".
A failure in determining the requisite priorities for successful confrontation is subsequently emphasized. According to al-Jama'ah, "Al-Qaeda built its strategy without a sound arrangement of the priorities and without taking into consideration the limitations of its capabilities."
Providing more than a slight sense of paradox, the US Defense Department's Strategic Studies Institute report observed the same problem with the Bush administration.
Striking a tone similar to al-Jama'ah's criticism of al-Qaeda's World Front, a report entitled "Bounding The Global War On Terrorism" faulted the Bush administration for subordinating "strategic clarity to the moral clarity". In so doing, the administration is said to have placed the United States on a "course of open-ended and gratuitous conflict with states and nonstate entities that pose no serious threat".
Paralleling the faulting of al-Qaeda's goals, the Strategic Studies report found that the majority of the "war on terror's" "declared objectives", objectives repeatedly articulated by the administration as the basis for the war's prosecution, "are unrealistic and condemn the United States to a hopeless quest".
Notably, a 1999 Pentagon report prepared for the highest levels of the US defense community had warned: "The danger ahead lies not only in the adverse international trends that are unfolding, but also in the risk that the US government may not understand them."
Ritt Goldstein is an American investigative political journalist based in Stockholm. His work has appeared in broadsheets such as Australia's Sydney Morning Herald, Spain's El Mundo and Denmark's Politiken, as well as with the Inter Press Service (IPS), a global news agency.
(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

Posted by maximpost at 5:18 PM EST

Iran Approaches Danger Point on Uranium Enrichment for Bomb
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
29 March:
Brushing aside all the international obstacles placed in its path, Tehran is clearly advancing full steam ahead in the race for a nuclear device. Sunday, March 28, the International Atomic Energy Agency learned that Iran's freeze on its uranium enrichment was at an end when the head of Iran's nuclear commission, Golmazeh Aghazadeh, announced production had started at the Isfahan facility and the process would be completed at the Natanz centrifuge plant.
On the state of the Isfahan plant, the Iranian official reported vaguely that the contractors had announced it was up and the facility functioning. He added: "In three weeks' time the Iranian people will hold a grand celebration to mark full operation at the Natanz plant."
DEBKAfile's sources interpret this as indicating that Iran's centrifuge industry is working at full capacity and in three weeks it will have attained for the first time the volume of enriched uranium output requisite for building a nuclear bomb.
Yet the next day, Monday, the same Aghazadeh announced piously that Iran had stopped building centrifuges "to win the world's trust over its nuclear program." DEBKAfile cites another Iranian official as flatly denying on March 13 Iran was engaged in uranium enrichment.
All these conflicting statements are transparent attempts by Iran to bewilder and throw off pressure as the Islamic republic advances on its objective.
Aghazadeh's first announcement, aired by state television as in interview Sunday, was timed for the one-day visit UN nuclear watchdog inspectors paid at Natanz. The second statement was delivered on Monday, March 29, when the inspectors moved on to Isfahan. UN inspectors were thus confronted with the accomplished fact that Iranian was producing enriched uranium in defiance of international censure.
US officials working on the Iranian nuclear issue fear that the UN inspectors will hold back on condemning Iran's nuclear breaches until chief inspector Dr. Mohammed ElBaradei visits Tehran next week. It will be left to him to find the words for a statement affirming that Iran has reached the point of no return in its production of the key ingredient for a nuclear bomb.
DEBKAfile sources add Iran is impervious to the anger of the European Union which has broken off all contacts with its officials on the issue. Contacts have also been interrupted with Moscow. President Vladimir Putin has honored his pledge to President George W. Bush to halt Russian assistance in the construction of Iran's Bushehr atomic center and to withhold the fuel rods for powering its reactor.
In Tehran, the hard-line rulers of the Islamic republic evidently trust that the storm clouds gathering over the White House in the wake of the 9/11 inquiry will tie Washington's hands for long enough to allow them to extort de facto acceptance of their continuing uranium enrichment without risk of harsh reprisals.


Israeli Parliamentary Intelligence Probe Misses Focus
DEBKAfile Special Intelligence Report
March 28, 2004, 11:17 PM (GMT+02:00)
Under Israel`s intelligence eye until he packed in his WMD
The usual reason for setting up independent inquiry commissions on the functioning or malfunctioning of national intelligence services in times of crisis is to close the books on troublesome dossiers that won't fade out of the public limelight.
This rule applied to the Israeli Knesset Foreign Affairs Intelligence sub-committee probe that faulted Israel's security services performance on Iraq and Libya in the open part of its report published Sunday, March 28. After hearing closed-door testimony from 70 witnesses in eight months, the panel headed by Likud MK Yuval Steinitz found that Israeli intelligence warnings about Iraq's non-conventional weapons threat to the country were based on assessments and speculation, not fact.
The report stressed that the secret agencies did not deliberately mislead Israeli officials or attempt to distort the intelligence picture in order to emphasize the necessity of going to war. No one is therefore held to account personally. The government was judged to have acted reasonably in ordering the population to cover windows with plastic sheeting and open sealed gas mask kits - even at a replacement cost of millions of dollars.
But there is a second rule to keep in mind: such panels are of very limited usefulness, for two reasons:

1. Their conclusions and recommendations, directed primarily at calming the public, have little bearing on real intelligence work and are therefore rarely carried forward into practical steps.

2. No one seriously imagines that a counterintelligence agent or intelligence officer, whether retired or active, will ever level with any outside panel on all the secret information in his possession or even deliver a clear, unambiguous presentation.

Operating in a world portrayed aptly in genre literature as a "wilderness of mirrors" requires its analysts and department heads to assemble plausible mosaics for drawing the truth out of infinite sets of double and blurred images. That far from infallible skill is not required of politicians serving on inquiry panels.
It is not surprising that Israel's Mossad and military intelligence service - Aman - are furious. They have never faced open criticism before. But they also rebut some of the points as being made more for the sake of settling personal accounts than to seriously scrutinize where Israel's secret services got it wrong in the Iraq War.
A conflict of orientation and objectives stands out in some of the assertions appearing in the published section of the sub committee's report, such as: "The military and political echelons are responsible for an intelligence foul-up regarding Iraq and Libya." On Libya, the panel found Israeli intelligence wanting in failing to pick up on Muammar Qaddafi's race for a nuclear weapon.
That criticism, at least, is simply refuted. DEBKAfile's intelligence sources assert:

A. Israeli intelligence knew about Libya's nuclear program in fine detail. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon twice - in 2002 and 2003 - warned of the danger of Libya beating Iran to a nuclear bomb. He would hardly have plucked this information out of thin air.

B. Israeli intelligence, according to information received in the past from DEBKAfile's sources, knew quite a bit about the flow of Pakistani centrifuges for enriching uranium to Libya and Iran, and the transfer of Chinese and North Korean nuclear technology and scientific, engineering and technical manpower to Libya, including Iraqi nuclear scientists who were attached to the secret Libyan program.

C. So precise was the information reaching Israeli intelligence that when a newly- arrived nuclear scientist went shopping in Tripoli, Tel Aviv knew about it.

Where Israel's secret services fell down was in not tumbling to the secret negotiations between Tripoli, Washington and London for dismantling Qaddafi's WMD. It was a double slip-up because a number of Palestinians were involved in the transaction and their movements at least should have attracted notice.
This failure had a disastrous effect on Israeli policy-making. DEBKAfile's sources reveal that Sharon learned too late that the Bush administration, which had used Israeli assistance for the Iraqi war, pushed Jerusalem aside when it came to Libya. Instead, Washington used British good offices to take certain Palestinian individuals aboard the secret Libyan project. Sharon's moves might have been different had he known about this in time.
The Knesset subcommittee states: Israeli intelligence reacted too slowly to the 1998 exit of UN inspectors from Iraq and did not come up with fitting answers to this development.
This statement conceals more than it reveals. Israel, like most other countries, excepting Russia and China - each of which maintained a strong independent intelligence presence in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, relied on four intermediate sources to find out what was happening in the country:

1. UN inspectors who were willing to sell anything they picked up if the price was right. The fickleness of this source was exhibited by the former deputy UN chief inspector Scott Ritter when, just before the war, he suddenly went back on his previous determinations and declared Iraq innocent of ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

2. Arab and other Middle East businessmen who regularly visited Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.

3. Kurdish undercover bodies inside Iraq.

4. Clandestine Arab agencies operating in Iraq.

Israel may be presumed to have had access to all these four sources.
The Israel inquiry panel did not grasp that what they were dealing with was not a straight yes or no on whether or not Iraq possessed chemical and biological weapons or the up to 150 long-range missiles postulated by Israeli intelligence when the United States went to war. Nor was it the certitude of Israel's secret services conclusions. There was and remains a cloud of obfuscation yet to be pierced. It started with the trafficking in WMD intelligence for high stakes practiced by leading lights in Baghdad including Saddam himself and his two sons. There is no knowing up until the present day whose hand controlled Saddam's prohibited arsenal or whether it was deployable.
At least three enigmas viewed with hindsight could have misled the most competent secret service.
In the early days of the war, Iraqi forces fired 60 missiles at Kuwait from the Faw Peninsula. When that strip of land was captured, every last missile launcher had vanished. Before the war, UN chief inspector Hans Blix reported to the Security Council that Iraq possessed 14 mobile Scud missile launchers - 30 percent more than Saddam commanded in Gulf War One, when he fired them at Tel Aviv and Saudi Arabia. Those launchers have never been seen to this day.
In December 2002, US, Turkish and Israeli intelligence picked up signs that Saddam had brought his Tupolev-16 bombers and Sukhoi-24 bomber-fighters out of hiding. Instructions to the pilots were recorded to exercise bombing sorties at ranges of 1,000 km, meaning either Israel or Saudi Arabia.
That air fleet of which there are credible records has disappeared as though by magic.
All the various branches of Israeli intelligence were fully informed of the long convoys of trucks carrying tanker loads of Iraqi WMD into Syria from January 10 - or thereabouts, to March 10. Their information came from Israeli spy planes and its surveillance satellite. It did not specify who organized the transfer, who took delivery on the Syrian side of the border or whether Saddam or either of his sons were in control of the outflow that ultimately robbed his regime of its second-strike cross-border option and emasculated Iraq's military defensive capabilities.
What the Knesset panel did not ask is why the Israeli government, after coming into possession of this intelligence, did not secretly approach Washington and propose a joint clandestine operation to attack and destroy the convoys - even by means of an Israeli air strike.

There are two answers::

A. Sharon promised President George W. Bush that Israel would stay out of the military side of the Iraq War, unless specifically invited to take part by the US president.

B. Bush preferred to see all unconventional weapons removed from Iraq in order to keep US and British invasion troops out of harm's way.

In actual fact, Israel, whose policy makers and generals were not sure that the Bush administration's calculations were well-advised, pointed out to officials in Washington that even after its removal to Syria, there was no guarantee that the non-conventional arsenal would not be shipped back at a crucial point in the war. They recalled Israel's bad experience in the first Gulf War. Iraq rained Scud missiles on Saudi Arabia, Israel and Saudi-based US forces near the Jordanian frontier and overnight pulled the launchers into Jordan out of reach of air strikes, with the full assent of Jordan's late King Hussein.
Bush decided not to act on this advice. In the end, nothing relating to Saddam's arsenal turned out as expected. Things might have been different if Bush or the Israeli prime minister had heeded the veiled warning that came from the Russian minister in a telephone call to George Bush on March 6, two weeks before US drove into Iraq. What Putin said, as DEBKA-Net-Weekly revealed on March 14, was: "The same people who ambushed you (US) in Mogadishu and Srbrenica are now lying in wait for you again both in the Security Council and later in Iraq."
Maybe if Bush had watched his step as Putin advised him to do - or let Israel strike the convoys heading into Syria, he might have been saved his mock-search for WMD under tables at the last annual dinner for American newspaper editors.
Maybe if Sharon had not waited for a green light from Washington but in the higher interests of national security bombed the trucks heading into Syria, he might not have been faced in March 2004 with the need to send helicopters over Gaza City to eliminate the Hamas leader. In other circumstances, even Sharon's disengagement proposals, which no one wants to hear, might never have been born.
And at least two parliamentary inquiry commissions - in Washington and Jerusalem - might not have come into being and shown how counter-constructively politics and intelligence mix in the public domain.


Hamas Plots Knockout Blow with 800 Suicide Bombers
DEBKAfile Special Report
March 27, 2004, 11:31 PM (GMT+02:00)
British Muslims Hanif and Sharif acted for al Qaeda from Hamas Gaza HQ.
No sooner had the tens of thousands of mourners dispersed after the ceremonies and demonstrations of strength marking the death of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin last Tuesday, March 22, in an Israeli missile attack, when a thousand Hamas top and middle-ranking activists dived underground. This is reported by DEBKAfile's counter-terror sources. Since then, known Hamas operatives have maintained perfect telephone silence, their relatives are in the dark about their whereabouts and contacts are maintained only through trusted couriers.
This situation presented the Hamas command center in Damascus with the problem of communicating urgent instructions to the men on the ground in the Gaza Strip - urgent for two reasons:

1. Although Adel Aziz Rantisi made a show of bending the knee to Khaled Mashaal, head of the Hamas Damascus command center, Mashaal knows he must assert his authority without delay and set the pace of coming in events in the Gaza Strip before the local leadership grabs the initiative.

2. Hamas, Hizballah and al Qaeda agents maintain day-to-day exchanges based on a delicately balanced intelligence and logistical give and take. Mashaal and company will not allow anyone in the Hamas Gaza command to upset the balance of this relationship.

A way therefore had to be found for Hamas, Damascus, to impose its will on Hamas, Gaza.
The method finally hit on was to take to the airwaves.
Friday, March 26, therefore, the Hamas liaison man in Lebanon, Osama Hamdan, who managed the Mishaal-Rantisi compromise, was interviewed on Hizballah Radio Nur. On the assumption that the Gaza contingent in hiding were listening in case of coded messages, Hamdan addressed the Hamas "military" wing, the Izz el-Deen al-Qasseem Brigades, directly - not in code but in plain language.
DEBKAfile monitored his statement, as follows:
"The lone suicide martyr method has scored great achievements, but now, as we stand at the threshold of a decisive stage, we must resort to a tactic that brings us the desired results. Ideally, we would round up 70,000 to 80,000 martyrs and have them blow themselves up simultaneously in the enemy's urban centers and so finally vanquish him. But that is not realistic. One tenth or even one hundredth part of that number should suffice to inflict a shock on a strategic scale. I therefore tell you not to hurry to exact revenge. We have to be sure our assault is concerted and perfectly orchestrated. Don't waste resources and manpower on small operations. No one is pushing you. Take all the time you need and then pick a date and hour that are most advantageous to our project."
Hamdan's words freely translated are a directive from Damascus HQ to Muhammed Deif, commander of the Izz el-Deen al-Qassam, to muster an army of several hundred suicide killers to reach the hubs of Israeli cities and blow themselves up at the same moment. The Damascus Hamas command reckons that, even if not all the massacres come off, Israel will not be able to withstand a shock and casualties of the magnitude projected
This escalation fits in well with the intelligence gathered by Americans and Israelis on the spreading base of anti-Israeli terror from the double suicide attack carried out in Ashdod shortly before the assassination of Sheikh Yassin which caused the deaths of 10 Israeli port workers. Their experts conclude the attack was the work of Hizballah aided and abetted by al Qaeda.
A senior US intelligence official is quoted as saying: "The soldiers were members of Hamas. But the overall planning, the way the ship's container was prepared, the weapons used and the level of advance intelligence invested in the attack all bear the marks of the two Islamic terrorist groups. We can expect many more combined terrorist assaults of this kind in the future."
The Ashdod attack posed a grave challenge to the Sharon government's security and counter-terror policies. Last December, before handing over a large number of prisoners in an uneven swap deal with Hizballah, Israel issued a sharp public warning to the Lebanese Shiite terrorist group against further aggression.
Less than three months later, the Hizballah, not satisfied with the Ashdod operation, battered IDF for nearly three hours last Sunday, March 21, its missiles and mortars hitting road junctions on the Golan and coming close to the town of Kiryat Shmoneh inside the Green Line. Israel's response, confined to an air-artillery raid on Hizballah firing positions, bespoke diluted deterrence, a signal certainly picked up by Hizballah and al Qaeda as well as the Hamas and its fellow Palestinian terrorist organizations.
Many Israelis, including some at decision-making levels, prefer not to see the international terrorist coalition functioning in Palestinian-controlled territory - and even among Israeli Arabs in the form of Al Qaeda sleeper cells. The phenomenon is not even new. Al Qaeda shoe bomber Richard Reid who failed to blow up an American airliner on December 22, 2001, learned how to pack explosives in his shoes while visiting Hamas activist Nabil Aqal at his home in the Jebaliya refugee camp of the Gaza Strip. This fact was not brought out in the US court that sentenced him to life imprisonment. Israel too kept quiet about this connection, mainly so as not to embarrass Mohammed Dahlan, then head of the Palestinian Gaza Strip preventive security apparatus, who could not have avoided knowing about the al Qaeda visitor.
He was not the last, the two British Muslim bombers, Assif Muhammad Hanif and Omar Khan Sharif, who bombed Mike's Place on the Tel Aviv promenade on April 30, 2003, also spent time with Hamas hosts in the Gaza Strip prior to their hit. Their real assignment was to bomb the US embassy a few doors away from the bar but they found it too well protected. American, British and Israeli security forces have conspired to keep this quiet. But, unlike the Israelis, who bury their heads in the sand, the British heeded the Tel Aviv attack as a danger signal warning them that al Qaeda had planted cells in Briton's large Muslim population. Since the Madrid train attacks, London's top security and police officials have reiterated that an al Qaeda strike in the British capital is inevitable.

Clearing the Decks for Jimmy
FROM DEBKA-Net-Weekly 150 Updated by DEBKAfile
March 26, 2004, 3:55 PM (GMT+02:00)
The process of selecting Gemal Jimmy Mubarak to succeed his 76-year old father as Egyptian president is nearly over, notwithstanding Mubarak Sr.'s denials. A book just out in Cairo, "Gemal Mubarak - Revival of National Liberalism," performs an excellent PR job on the incoming president. The book, clearly written to order by Gahad Awda, a member of the ruling party's central committee, introduces young Mubarak's political agenda and his vision for the future of his country.
Much less glossy reading matter was handed to President Hosni Mubarak earlier this month. It was put in his hands, gift-wrapped as a special package, ahead of his trip to Washington next month.
To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click HERE .
On May 19, DEBKA-Net-Weekly revealed its contents: a large stack of Iraqi intelligence documents that US forces seized in Baghdad and which expose the deep penetration of the Mubarak regime achieved by the deposed Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein.
After opening his gift, Mubarak called an emergency session in the presidential palace of his key advisers, intelligence chiefs led by General Omar Suleiman and top military and police commanders.
The documents spelled out in detail how Farhan Hassan, Iraq's deputy ambassador to the Arab League in Cairo, turned his office into a center of espionage and recruiting post for Iraqi agents in Egypt, the United States and the Gulf.
At the end of the meeting, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly 's intelligence sources, Mubarak ordered his security forces to start rounding up all the Egyptians listed in the documents as agents of Hassan's Iraqi network. Some 120 people were picked in the first wave.
The package also contained Hassan's reports to Baghdad. Under the codename "Number 3" attested to his ranking in the Iraqi hierarchy, he filed directly to Saddam Hussein.
Number 3 described in detail how he bought the loyalty of "several prominent Egyptian journalists", among them popular columnist Sayid Nasser, who were willing to publish articles shooting Saddam's propaganda line. One report outlined Hassan's steps for the recruitment of Shuwaike Abu Zayad, the wife of one of Egypt's top diplomats. She passed to Number 3 all the Egyptian foreign ministry's top-secret cables and documents.
As expectations of a US invasion of Iraq mounted in 2002, Mrs. Abu Zayad handed the Iraqis the ministry's secret computer codes. Iraqi intelligence then tapped in from Baghdad and downloaded document after document, including the secrets of US-Egyptian military cooperation and transcripts of conversations between Mubarak and the past and present US defense secretaries, William Cohen and Donald Rumsfeld. The Iraqis also read all the secret reports and documents pertaining to the annual US-Egyptian "Bright Star" military maneuvers.
Number 3 was particular fond of boasting to Saddam that he had recruited about 20 Egyptian generals who had been transferred to the reserves and farmed out to administrative jobs in Egypt's military industries. They positively gushed with information on their former units and new jobs.
Hassan also enlisted engineers, industrialists and doctors, some of them personal physicians to Egypt's senior military officers and political leaders. Saddam placed extremely high value on information on the health of top Egyptians.
Number 3 performed many more services for his master in Baghdad. They included:

1. Thwarting special operations mounted by the Iraqi opposition in Washington and London. In the US capital, according to one of the documents, Hassan recruited Najib Salhi, an Iraqi general and former commander of Iraq's 4th Division who defected to the United States. The general's people collected information in Washington on the activities of Iraqi opposition figures, including Mohammed Chalabi, now a senior member of the Iraqi Governing Council.

2. Using Iraq's Arab League office in Cairo to recruit agents from Eastern Europe. The documents are chock full of the names of Russian and Czech diplomats who served Iraqi intelligence. Number 3 was able to pass along to Baghdad volumes of secret cables and military reports that Moscow sent to or received from its embassies in the Middle East and Gulf.

3. Running a large number of import-export companies registered in Cairo. They were used as fronts for information, goods and money sought by Iraq.

4. Overseeing operations at the Qatar-based al-Jazeera, the biggest and most influential Arab satellite television in the world. Hassan got first look at intelligence gathered by the station and paid its staffers to tout the Iraqi line. This operation was a great success. Hassan's people managed to enlist the services of Faisal al-Qassam, one of the station's best-known broadcasters. Qassam, a Syrian, edits and moderates al Jazeera's popular daily phone-in show, "Counterpoint". Only a few of the dozens of callers who telephone from across the Arab world to discuss current events get on the air. But before every show, Number 3 or one of his minions decided with Qassam on the issue to be discussed and handed him a list of viewers who would call in with the questions they would ask. Those viewers were, of course, Iraqi intelligence agents from across the Arab world who read out the questions dictated from Baghdad.

The Egyptian regime therefore has its hands full rolling up Hassan's pro-Saddam network. It is waiting for a second stack of secret Iraqi files to come in from Washington. The president will then be able to finish a thorough clearing-out in time to hand a sparkling clean administration over to his successor

Riyadh Spurns Powell on Detained Reformists
DEBKAfile Special Report
March 22, 2004, 8:47 AM (GMT+02:00)
US-Saudi relations, uneven since 9/11, have hit a new low over a fresh bone of contention: a sharply-worded protest from Washington against the continued detention of 16 Saudi reform campaigners, half of them university professors and including a number of Shiite spokesmen. Their immediate release was demanded.
DEBKAfile's Washington and Middle East sources describe this action as the first direct protest to an Arab nation in the framework of President George W. Bush's initiative for spreading democratic reforms throughout the Greater Middle East. The protest was in effect an American jog to the Saudi elbow to speed up change.
Riyadh's response was furious enough to have Secretary of State Colin Powell make an unscheduled detour after Islamabad and Baghdad and turn up in Riyadh Friday, March 19. Crown Prince Abdullah greeted him with the angry statement that the arrests were an internal affair. The interview ended in acrimony - in diplomatic parlance "a candid and open debate."
According to our sources, the Saudis are willing to release the campaigners, who demand that Saudi Arabia's absolute monarchy move towards a more constitutional model, only if they sign a pledge to stay out of politics. This they refuse to do.
In the background, DEBKAfile's Cairo sources report, the 22-nation Arab League is tensely engaged in trying to agree on a plan for adoption by the March 29 Arab summit as a riposte to the US Greater Middle East Initiative. The American protest to Saudi Arabia landed in the middle of these preparations with a disturbing thump. Until then, Arab rulers had regarded the Bush democracy initiative as a long-term project to be filtered through in easy stages with enough time for argument and debate along the way. Suddenly it was hanging over their heads.
The Bush administration is also speeding up its action to punish Damascus.
Empowered by recent legislation, President Bush looks as though he is only days away from slapping sanctions down on Syria for sponsoring terrorism, occupying Lebanon, failing to stop anti-American fighters entering Iraq and maintaining chemical and biological weapons programs. Congressional sources list the sanctions expected to unfold in stages as a ban on Syrian aircraft from the United States, prohibition of American energy companies from making future investments in Syria and a block on transactions in Syrian government-owned property - to name a few.
Furthermore, Free Syria Radio takes to the air on March 31 from a US-financed station in Cyprus, two days after the Arab summit opens in Tunis.
These moves are aimed, according to our Washington sources, at breaking up the united Arab front attempting to formulate an agreed plan to combat the Greater Middle East Initiative before it takes off. This front, spearheaded by Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak and Crown Prince Abdullah, now faces a direct challenge ahead of the Arab summit: come to terms with democratic reform as a living process already in motion or else risk a direct showdown with the Bush administration. They do not need to be reminded of the changes in Iraq exactly one year after the US invasion


Tories can kill off the European Constitution
(Filed: 30/03/2004)
The Prime Minister yesterday reported back to Parliament on last week's EU summit in Brussels. In doing so he signalled the return of the European Constitution to the heart of British political debate.
Not that Tony Blair is seriously interested in consulting public opinion. His view is that this is an arcane document of no fundamental importance, which consolidates older EU treaties but otherwise adds little to the long-established ascendancy of European over British law. In the Commons, Mr Blair ridiculed the Conservative critique as alarmist exaggeration, implying that not much would change.
In reality, the draft constitution would have incalculable consequences. Superimposed on our own unwritten set of conventions, it would inaugurate an organic and inexorable process of centralisation, leading to the atrophy of the nation state and the hypertrophy of the superstate.
The constitution would not merely circumscribe, but abdicate parliamentary sovereignty - and in perpetuity. It is the Trojan horse whereby the last citadel of independence could be subverted from within. Because the new constitution is established by a treaty, it still requires ratification. Once the constitution creates Europe as a legal entity, treaties and ratification - the badges of sovereignty - would be consigned to the dustbin of history.
The best form of ratification would be a referendum. There is a strong and popular case for it, but so far Mr Blair has remained unmoved. Yesterday Downing Street dismissed the notion with a "No!" emphatic enough for a Thatcher or a de Gaulle. Given such authoritarian intransigence, it is imperative for the democratic Opposition (Liberal as well as Tory) to have a plan B, a way of testing public opinion, just in case Labour refuses to hold a referendum that it would probably lose.
The next best opportunity is the European elections in June, which might, with an energetic campaign, be turned into a de facto referendum. But an election in which most people normally abstain and in which other issues are bound to figure will not be easy to focus on so abstract a proposition as the constitution.
Even so, there is an opportunity here for Michael Howard. By exposing the hollowness of the pretence that Britain's first ever written constitution is merely a tidying-up exercise, the Tories ought to be able to denounce both the constitution itself and Mr Blair's duplicity, too. The House of Lords could do its part to prevent the ratification of the constitution without a prior referendum.
The constitution still has many hurdles to surmount, but even the best efforts of the Opposition may fail to halt the juggernaut before the next election. The country deserves a clear choice. Labour stands for a system in which European policies on asylum and immigration, taxation and justice, defence and foreign affairs would slowly but surely replace distinctively British ones. What would the Tories do if the constitution were a fait accompli?
A promise to "renegotiate" the constitution is not enough. Mr Howard needs to spell out precisely how he would reverse this inglorious revolution.

Posted by maximpost at 2:09 PM EST
Monday, 29 March 2004


Skeleton in Clarke's closet
By Boston Herald editorial staff
Thursday, March 25, 2004
Former counterterrorism official and now tell-all author Richard Clarke was at it again yesterday, scorching Bush administration officials in testimony before the national Sept. 11 commission.
We'd like to know how Clarke squares his contention that he was the only one in the Bush administration truly committed to thwarting terrorism before the Sept. 11 attacks with this: It was Clarke who personally authorized the evacuation by private plane of dozens of Saudi citizens, including many members of Osama bin Laden's own family, in the days immediately following Sept. 11.
Clarke's role was revealed in an October 2003 Vanity Fair article. ``Somebody brought to us for approval the decision to let an airplane filled with Saudis, including members of the bin Laden family, leave the country,'' Clarke told Vanity Fair. ``My role was to say that it can't happen unless the FBI approves it. . . And they came back and said yes, it was fine with them. So we said `Fine, let it happen.' ''
Vanity Fair uncovered that the FBI never fully investigated the passengers on those privately chartered flights (one of which flew out of Logan International Airport after scooping up a dozen or so bin Laden relatives.) But Clarke protested to Vanity Fair that policing the FBI was not in his job description.
Isn't that convenient?
The same sanctimonious Clarke who now claims National Security adviser Condoleezza Rice didn't even know what al-Qaeda was, could have stopped the bin Laden airlift singlehandedly.
Why didn't he appeal to Rice, or even President Bush [related, bio] himself in one of those one-on-ones in the Situation Room, to block the flights? Surely it would have been helpful to determine - without a shred of doubt - that those passengers knew nothing about the Sept. 11 plot or the modus operandi of their notorious relative.
By all accounts, Clarke made hundreds of decisions in the days after Sept. 11, many clear-headed and right.
Approving those special flights seems like a wrong one, but it was a judgment call made in the aftermath of the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil in history.
Perhaps it was the best decision he could make under the circumstances. It's too bad Clarke cuts no one in the Bush administration the same slack he so easily cuts himself.


Conspiracy (A theory)
By Doron Rosenblum
How did the State of Israel, once one of the most promising, riveting and admired countries in the world, plunge from the heights of promise and hope into the depths of despair, bereavement and failure? What caused a country where, everyone agrees, there are intelligent people - and in any event, human material of equal caliber to that of any other country - to deteriorate, willingly and with full awareness, down the slope of the sewage of history? What made it become, gradually but systematically, one of the most hated, most isolated and most miserable places to be on the planet? Why did a country that was established as a "refuge" and a "haven" turn into a trap in which the routine of life has become a routine of death and which is defined, according to the findings of a comprehensive public opinion survey, as "the country most dangerous to peace in the world"?
These questions have been contemplated for the past three years from every possible angle in an effort to understand and explain why, in this period especially, hardly any step taken by the government of Israel improves the country's lot or turns out to be useful. Why is the country striding along on a march of folly which has seen few precedents in human history? Why is it being swept from one idiotic decision to another? Why does it repeatedly act in explicit contradiction to the interests of its inhabitants?
In these past three years in particular, there is no mine that Israel has failed to step on, no opportunity it hasn't missed, no path it hasn't embarked on in the certain knowledge that it will be harmful.
Following the liquidation of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin this week, for example, one commentator informed us that "the security bodies are deploying for what is known as damage assessment" (!) in the wake of the act they decided on. The defense minister explained that the "wave of hits" was intended to meet the "wave of escalation in terrorist attacks that will follow in its wake." He thus made it clear what underlies this series of decisions, which can be called "cost-damage" (as opposed to "cost-benefit"). They seem not to be driven by clear and rational considerations of benefit but by vague and uncontrollable "planning" impulses, accompanied by a silent prayer that it will be possible to contain their damage. It's like someone who is mentally ill and takes into account his own attacks of madness, and deploys to absorb them.
The attempt to explain rationally and conventionally the dynamics at work here has long since failed. So much so, in fact, that the only explanation the political and military analysts on television could come up with this week was: "They're doing XXX and hoping something good will come of it."
Is there any other way to explain the deliberate escalations that have only intensified the waves of terrorism, the crushing of the Palestinian Authority (followed by the crocodile tears over the "anarchy that has been created" without the PA), the foolish "deals" that only strengthened Hezbollah, the hasty, hot-headed military operations, executed with the total abandonment of the security of the country's citizens? Or the fact that "at the end of the day" (as they like to say in the army), every day is worse than the one before, every year is harder than the last?
What's going on here? What's behind it?
Some will say that there is method to the madness: It's all a brilliant Machiavellian ploy by Messrs. Sharon & Mofaz to preserve the true apple of their eye - the settlements - even if the world turns topsy-turvy. Others will say that it's all inertia, the work of lowbrow generals who don't know any other way. There's nothing of genius here, just stupidity. Still others will put it down to shehur, witchcraft, the evil eye. It's just that our luck has turned around, you see, because from a certain stage the slice of bread always falls with the buttered side down. Some will say: we have found ourselves dastardly enemies - irrational, murderous, lacking the ability to compromise, without creativity or flexibility, and that their madness has somehow clung to us.
There is no explanation that hasn't been heard in the past three years, apart from one: conspiracy.
Maybe there's a mole.
Yes, a mole. A kind of planted spy - a destructive worm virus, a Trojan horse.
Let's put it this way: We have here a march of folly that is so systematic, so consecutive and so determined that there's no way it's happening by itself. Because if it were accidental, wouldn't there have to be the occasional random success as well? So maybe it's really not accidental. Maybe there's someone who's running the show - craftily, brilliantly.
Who is it? That's not clear. But that's the whole point. We don't know and we don't suspect. But maybe he's sitting there, way up at the top of the decision-making process, deeply dug in: an impeccable fellow, supposedly, above all suspicion; known even as a fervid patriot, ostensibly - preferably of the type who has gone through all the stages of Israeli involvement since his youth, including an impressive military career.
"Decent," seemingly, and even "simple-minded" outwardly, driven purportedly by passion and wrath, he succeeds in tapping brilliantly into all the psychoses and paranoias of the Israelis and in making them follow blindly his proposals, recommendations and decisions - however loony and harmful they may be. The motive is one: to cause, within the shortest possible time, the greatest and longest-lasting damage.
Let's say violence springs up on the Palestinian side - stone-throwing, roadblocks, firebombs. Our friend coils himself for action: here's a great chance to drag Israel into a "policy of escalation." Why shouldn't it cut off its nose to spite its face?
The tanks are already rolling, shells are flying, casualties are falling, the blood stirs up the passions. And when buses start to explode there is no longer anyone to stop the targeted liquidations. In fact, they're so targeted that they will cause Israel its most severe image damage: there's always a kid who gets killed, or a pregnant woman, and always, somehow, just as the cameras are rolling.
If it's proved beyond any doubt that these "targeted" assassinations also summon up horrific revenge attacks, worse than anything we have known, our friend will see to it that the idea is adopted and turned into permanent policy; and not only that, he will also see to its implementation - like pouring oil on the flames - whenever some sort of calm looms, some kind of respite, even if only because of mutual exhaustion. When it appears, for a moment, that the sides have already fought themselves silly, like two punch-drunk boxers, our malicious friend starts to get worried. Why should the stock market be bullish? Why should shoppers go back to the malls? Why should nature lovers take up hiking again? Why give some political process a chance? Right off he will douse them with a pail of water and get them back into action, for another round. Good morning, targeted assassination! Good morning, Israel! Good morning, Zaka! Good morning, red alerts!
Endlessly creative, our molish buddy will propose trapping Israel so that it will not emerge well from any situation. It will always fall over some tripwire that it has prepared itself in advance: "no" to the building of a fence until the number of dead soars into the hundreds; "yes" to a fence only along a route that generates international protest; "no" to Abu Mazen and to negotiations with the most moderate elements; "yes" to Nasrallah and to gestures and deals with the most extreme element. In the wake of appalling terrorist attacks against women and children, he will suggest a "moderate response," of all things, and that we build ourselves up from the feeling of victimization; following semi-legitimate guerrilla attacks on the army and on strategic targets he will propose that we "go ape"; give the option of negotiations in return for concessions and withdrawals in return for eternal war, he will opt for the latter. And so on and so forth. The sky's the limit.
At every stage, our friend will ask himself: How else can I be harmful? What haven't I done yet? What extra dimension can I inject into the conflict? What new layer can be added to it? We succeeded in elevating the conflict from a territorial dispute into a war of chaos involving decentralized communities and organizations. Well done, yes, but now it's time to elevate it to the religious plane, the apocalyptic level, so that the damage will extend not only into the next generation, but for untold generations down the line.
Our friend looks around and asks himself: What single action can I take in order to place Israel at the cutting edge in the war of civilizations against the whole of Islam? How can I upgrade the existential threats: from mere bombs and shooting by local ragamuffin groups to the gunsights of Al-Qaida? And how can I, by the same twist of the blade, cause the most effective publicity damage? His eye catches sight of the most adored religious leader, who is also old, sick and crippled. And the rest is the un-end of history: today the war of Gog and Magog; tomorrow the Apocalypse.
The holidays are approaching. Pleasant azure skies above, a dry desert wind, flowers blooming across the land. A moment of quiet. The economy is showing a bit of improvement. The fingers of our friend are beginning to itch. Then a brain wave: he goes over to the beehive and kicks it as hard as he can. A vast swarm of bees hides the light of the sun. And, as a morale boosting bonus, he also makes sure to inform the public that in his view, the war will go on for 20 years at least (without deducting the past three years).
And again he looks around: what else, what else ... A mischievous glint in his eye: the Temple Mount?
Hey, that's an idea, too ...
Who's the mole? And furthermore: why is he doing it? In whose service is he operating? A messianic organization? Spectra? Smersh? The cult of the devil? The angels of hell? One might think he's working in the service of the Palestinians, were it not for the suspicion that an equally malicious mole is operating at their highest levels, too, and is constantly undermining their best interests.
So, who is he? And, above all, what's his motive? What's he after? It's not clear. It might all really be just an unfounded theory, a ridiculous thesis with no foundation of any kind. But tell me, in the light of what's going on, does anyone have a better explanation?
Where a foreign passport and an American accent don't help
By Daphna Berman
Students from the U.S. often think police here are too involved with terror to deal with drugs - until they get caught and thrown in jail.
When Yaakov came to study in a Jerusalem yeshiva for a year, he never thought he would spend 10 months in an Israeli prison. Neither did Michael, a yeshiva student from California, or Sarah, a seminary student from New York. But that didn't prevent the three American teens from being arrested and thrown in the Israeli prison system - a place, they soon discovered, where a foreign passport and an American accent didn't come to their rescue. "I never thought I would get caught," Sarah, a petite blond who doesn't look a day over 15 told Anglo File this week. "It always seemed like the police and the IDF were using their intelligence to bust Hamas, not a bunch of American kids."
Israel, she says, seemed to be a giant playground without rule, law, or consequence - a place where it was acceptable to smuggle drugs over international borders. According to Caryn Green, a social worker who deals with English-speaking teens in Jerusalem, many of the North American yeshiva students who get caught in the world of Israeli drug smuggling think that crime here is somehow safer than back home. "The streets look different, the police look different, and kids don't really think of it all as real," she explains. "Drinking rules are more lenient, which gives the impression that everything is more lenient, and so the environment makes them feel less vulnerable."
Many of the kids have abandoned an Orthodox lifestyle, and as one former drug dealer from Jerusalem added, "you've already defied God, which is the ultimate rule of any Orthodox kid - after that, drugs don't seem to bad."
As director of Crossroads, an organization for troubled Anglo youth located off Jerusalem's Zion Square, Green deals with kids who "get picked up all the time" for drug-related interrogations. In the three years since she founded the organization, nine teenagers from abroad have been sentenced to prison terms, four of whom were arrested at Ben-Gurion International Airport for drug smuggling. And although most of these yeshiva students have used or abused drugs before they arrived in Israel, the run-in with the police here, she says, is usually their first.
Spoiled princess
Sarah first smoked marijuana on her 13th birthday, and began dealing drugs two years later. But as the daughter of a wealthy New York businessman who describes herself as a "spoiled little princess," she says she was never motivated by a desire for added income. She helped friends deal as well, but she never asked for commission or her fair share of the profit. "I didn't want money, and I didn't need money," the 20-year-old said this week. "It was always about fun."
Still, it wasn't until Sarah arrived in Israel that she began to smuggle drugs internationally. In December of 2003, the young seminary student traveled to Amsterdam with some friends, who were also yeshiva students; her parents knew where she was going, but decided they didn't want to know why. Three months later, the apartment she was living in was raided: Sarah was arrested, along with Yaakov, and four other American teenagers. "I called my parents and expected to be out in 24 hours," she recalls. "That's the way it was for most of my life - if I got caught smoking in school, they couldn't do anything to me because my parents funded the school. I just figured my parents could sort this out."
After hours of interrogation, hunger, cocaine withdrawal, and a night spent in a holding cell in Jerusalem's Russian Compound, Sarah realized that neither her American citizenship nor her parents' money could come to her rescue. She remained in the holding cell for a month, and was then transferred to Neveh Tirza prison for women in Ramle, where she remained for another two weeks with an American friend, also there on drug-related charges. But Sarah was, by her own estimations, relatively lucky.
The guards at the prison, she says, felt bad for her and gave her preferential treatment-partially because she didn't speak Hebrew, but also because she has the pretty innocence of a young girl. In the Russian Compound, she was allowed to bring in a television, and in Neveh Tirza, her father would bring food from the outside for Shabbat, despite prison regulations. "My time in jail was pretty cushy," she admits. "I think they were also afraid of putting us with Israelis."
In many ways, though, Sarah's experience was atypical of North American yeshiva students who have run-ins with the Israeli penal system. She had the luxury of hiring a private attorney that her friend Yaakov, who was arrested the same day, did not, and says that as an innocent looking female, she was given leniencies her male friends were denied. Most nights in Neveh Tirza, she watched MTV with one of prison guards. After a month-and-a-half of incarceration, Sarah was released to nine months of drug rehabilitation, which she has since completed. She's now finishing her obligatory community service at a Jerusalem soup kitchen.
A god on the streets
Yaakov, like Sarah, was no newcomer to the drug scene when he left his home in Brooklyn to study in a Jerusalem yeshiva three years ago. Over the course of two years, he traveled to Amsterdam three times, personally smuggling between 12 to 14 kilograms of high quality marijuana, estimated at NIS 2 million. He had several people selling and smuggling drugs for him during that period as well, and was by his own estimates, a king in the English-speaking downtown Jerusalem crowd. "It starts as an easy way to make money, but it turns into a life style where people are always looking for you, needing you, and looking to get drugs from you," Green explains.
Being "a god on the streets," she adds, becomes addictive. The police arrested Yaakov in January 2003 - five days after his last and final trip to Amsterdam, and a week before his 18th birthday. "I thought I was invincible," he recalled this week on the telephone from his apartment in Brooklyn. "I kept thinking, `you can't touch me, I'm an American.' But after a few days, I realized they could touch me."
He says he was beaten, interrogated and deprived of a lawyer. At the age of 18, Yaakov was sentenced to 15 months in the Israeli prison system, 10 of which he served. "Prison was like a Third world country," he says. "People were piled into rooms, there were mice running around, bed bugs, mosquitoes, and during the summer, it was hot as hell." He says he got used to prison life quickly, learned to speak Hebrew "the hard way," and gained a reputation as "the crazy American."
Michael, meanwhile, joined him in prison soon after, and though the two yeshiva students knew each other only in passing before their incarceration, they became quick friends. They took cold showers in the winter, slept through the stifling Be'er Sheva heat in the summer, and though they were allowed visitors twice a month, Michael refused. "The visiting room was gruesome - it was like a cage - and I didn't want anyone to come down to see me," he said this week, also from his apartment in New York.
Michael is hesitant to provide details of his drug-dealing past over the phone, but admits, like Sarah and Yaakov, to have traveled to Amsterdam with friends to bring back mass quantities of drugs. "I would never have done this in the U.S., but Israel just seemed like it was Mardi Gras every day," he says. Michael was also 18 at the time of his imprisonment, and he served nine months in prison. He spent his days reading, "getting a little more knowledge, and learning not to make the same stupid mistakes again."
Michael is now a college student with hopes of becoming a lawyer. "Prison showed me a different world," he says. "It showed me a world with consequences."

Revived to die another day?
Mar 26th 2004
From The Economist Global Agenda
European Union leaders have relaunched their plan to give the EU a written constitution, which had looked doomed after the collapse of talks last December. The leaders now seem ready to compromise but what about their voters and parliaments?
"TWELVE weeks to stop Euro superstate", screamed Britain's Europhobic tabloid Sun this week, reporting that European Union leaders--led by the nefarious, cheese-eating President Jacques Chirac of France--had revived their proposals for a written EU constitution and were aiming to get it agreed by June. To the horror of those opposed to "Ever closer union", the constitution would among other things extend the Union's powers and remove national governments' vetoes in many areas. It would also give the EU a full-time president and foreign minister and introduce a charter of fundamental rights.
Talks on the proposed constitution collapsed last December, when the then holder of the EU's rotating presidency--Italy's prime minister, Silvio Berlusconi--failed to resolve big differences over such issues as member countries' voting strengths. After this, it looked like the constitution would not be revived for years. However, now that the capable and diplomatic Irish prime minister, Bertie Ahern, has taken over the EU presidency from the inept and abrasive Mr Berlusconi, the draft constitution has been fished out of the bin and compromise is in the air. In a summit in Brussels on Thursday March 25th, dominated by discussion of anti-terrorism measures (see article), the leaders of the 15 current EU member states and the 10 countries that will join in May committed themselves to agreeing on a final text for the constitution by their next summit on June 17th and 18th.
One of the main objectives of the constitution is to rationalise the EU's voting arrangements so that, as it expands to 25 members and eventually more, it does not suffer near-permanent stalemate. The draft discussed in December included a new, "double majority" voting system in which most measures would be approved if a numerical majority of EU countries voted for them; and if those countries' combined populations were at least 60% of the EU's total. But Poland and Spain insisted on keeping the voting scheme agreed at the Nice summit in 2000, in which each gets almost as many votes as Germany despite having only around half its population. The smaller countries feared that the new voting system would allow the three largest EU members, Germany, France and Britain, to dominate the rest. Now, a compromise is being floated, which among other things would force the big three to win the backing of at least two other countries to block any proposed law. To pass, a law would need the votes of countries representing perhaps 64% of the EU population. And the new voting system would be delayed for a number of years.
There are several reasons, besides Mr Ahern's quiet diplomacy, why the constitution has been revived so soon after it had seemed lost. In the wake of the Madrid bombings, EU leaders have been keen to display their unity. The unexpected victory of the Socialists in Spain's general election, a few days after the bombings, brought to power a new government that is more willing to compromise on voting arrangements--and keen to align itself diplomatically with France and Germany, rather than Britain and America, as the previous, conservative government did.
Some people in France and Germany had seen the collapse of the constitutional talks as an opportunity to push ahead with forming an "inner core" of EU countries that would pursue faster, deeper integration. But, the more they have thought about this, the clearer it has become that there is little of substance that such a core group could achieve. Some proposals, such as unifying their criminal-justice systems, present huge challenges. And anyway, the existing EU treaties limit the ability of any group of countries to push ahead without the others. So they have turned their attention back to reaching agreement on the constitution.
Faced with being the only one still resisting an agreement, Poland's prime minister, Leszek Miller, had begun in recent days to signal his readiness to compromise. But while Mr Miller sat at the summit table on Thursday night, a group of parliamentarians from his Democratic Left Alliance (SLD) met in Warsaw and agreed to break away and form a new party. On returning home, Mr Miller, who has become deeply unpopular as a result of corruption scandals, bungled health reforms and Poland's 20% unemployment rate, announced his resignation (see article). Even if his replacement is equally willing to compromise over the EU's voting arrangements, the Polish parliament and people may not be. The parliament has already passed a motion rejecting anything other than the Nice voting rules. If Poland holds a referendum on the EU constitution, as Mr Miller has suggested it might, the answer might well be Nie.
Mr Chirac has raised the possibility of France holding a referendum to ratify the EU constitution but is now backing off, realising his compatriots might also say Non. And Britain's prime minister, Tony Blair, is under strong pressure from the opposition Conservatives and the Eurosceptic British press to call a referendum. If he continues to resist this, he will only boost the fortunes of the Eurosceptic opposition leader, Michael Howard, ahead of an election expected next year. At last December's summit, shortly before the talks collapsed, Mr Blair won acceptance of his demand that member countries keep their vetoes on such issues as tax, social security and judicial co-operation. However, in the revived talks he will have to fight for them all over again--and if he does not win back all these concessions, the press, parliament and public will give him hell.
Since the constitution only takes effect if it is ratified by all 25 countries, there is a strong chance that, despite the EU leaders' willingness to compromise, it will fail to get through. In one respect, this would be a shame: the new voting arrangements make sense, as does the idea of giving the Union a fundamental charter outlining its powers, in place of the current hotch-potch of treaties. However, the draft constitution that EU leaders have been discussing, drawn up by a 105-member European Convention, is a terrible mess. It is so hard to understand that even the convention's members struggle to explain it. Whereas it ought to have strengthened the principle of "subsidiarity" (devolving decision-making so it is as close to the people as possible), it does the opposite--making everything subordinate to the Union's objectives, which include various types of "cohesion" (read: Brussels-led harmonisation).
If the citizens of one or other part of Europe send the constitution back to the bin, the EU might be forced to come back with a simpler, more sensible version a few years from now, when its new members have had time to settle in and any problems of an enlarged Union will have had time to emerge. This would be no bad thing.
Copyright ? 2004 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.

Saudi Arabia
The limits of reform
Mar 25th 2004 | CAIRO
From The Economist print edition
Why six Saudi liberals are in jail, despite talk of change
The chief mufti squeezes the crown prince
Get article background
IF YOU thought that change was coming soon to Saudi Arabia, think again. Consider the six prominent Saudi liberals who have spent the past week in jail. Their crime is that, unlike seven colleagues arrested at the same time but freed soon afterwards, these recalcitrants refused to pledge that they will stop pestering the country's rulers to reform.
There are other countries where simply asking politely for more rights--in this case, by signing several petitions--can land you in prison. But Saudi Arabia had lately shed some of its aura of arch-autocracy. A mix of pressures--home-grown terrorism, criticism from abroad, and the general restlessness of their mostly youthful subjects--appeared to have awakened Saudi princes to the incongruity of running a large, modern state like a family ranch. The past few years have seen the start of a wide-ranging dialogue, in the press and in government-sponsored forums, to find ways to devolve at least a measure of power to commoners.
Tensions were bound to emerge, particularly in the absence of any elected assembly to air differences or frame a legislative agenda. Reform-minded citizens took to probing, to see just how far the establishment, which in Saudi Arabia means the 10,000-odd princes of the al-Saud family and their pampered traditional allies, the Wahhabi clerical hierarchy, would let them go. They soon encountered red lines. In the past year, for example, half a dozen newspaper columnists have lost their jobs for suggesting such things as abolishing the religious police, allowing women to drive cars, and opening the national budget to public scrutiny.
But a strong popular backlash against religious extremism following recent terror attacks, and the tacit backing of some senior princes, had lately encouraged the kingdom's normally quiescent liberals to further boldness. Despite warnings from the authorities, one group of them had the temerity to prepare yet another petition, demanding the right to set up a human-rights commission. (The government recently licensed an ostensibly independent body to monitor human rights, but most of its members are state employees.)
These are the men, most of them academics, now in jail. But their fate is not the only signal that hard-line princes are losing patience. The minister of defence and second-in-line to the throne, Prince Sultan, this week dismissed any idea that the Shura Council, an appointed body that vets laws, might become an elected legislature, on the ground that illiterate people might be voted in. For his part, the chief mufti of the kingdom, Sheikh Abdel Aziz al-Sheikh, declared that liberals were as much of a danger as militant religious extremists. "Those who doubt the nation and its leadership and its faith are the true enemies, whether or not they claim to call for reform," he said. "The nation's reform will come about only through the faith of Islam and a leadership that imposes this faith and God's will."
Liberal reformists have not despaired yet. While one group launched yet another petition, to demand the release of their colleagues, others met Prince Nayef, the owlish interior minister, to make the request personally. Participants at the dawn meeting said that the prince assured them that royal doors would always be open to citizens' complaints but that "foreign agencies" were exploiting the reformers' platform in order to damage Saudi national unity. In other words, to call openly for domestic change is tantamount to treason.
Copyright ? 2004 The Economist Newspaper and The Economist Group. All rights reserved.

Posted by maximpost at 11:16 PM EST

Les "tigres" de Guantanamo
LE MONDE | 27.03.04 | 13h08
Le 17 mars, le Pentagone a fait visiter ? un groupe de journalistes le camp de Guantanamo, transform? en v?ritable usine ? interrogatoires par une unit? sp?cialis?e : les Tiger Teams.
Au nom de la guerre contre le terrorisme, les Etats-Unis d?tiennent plus de 600 personnes sans jugement ? Guantanamo. A intervalles r?guliers, le Pentagone y organise des "media tours". Avant l'embarquement, les journalistes s'engagent par ?crit ? ne pas tenter d'entrer en communication avec les prisonniers. Chaque soir, un militaire revoit le contenu des appareils photo. Les visages de d?tenus sont effac?s, conform?ment aux conventions de Gen?ve, ainsi que tout ce qui pourrait nuire ? l'image de l'arm?e.
La visite guid?e ordinaire du 16 au 19 mars a pris un relief particulier. Accus?e de maltraiter les prisonniers, l'arm?e am?ricaine a montr? quelques sc?nes du camp Delta. Pour la premi?re fois, la presse a pu voir les pi?ces o? se d?roulent les interrogatoires. Les militaires ont aussi ouvert la salle du tribunal o? se tiendront les proc?s des "ennemis combattants". Les audiences ne commenceront pas avant plusieurs mois, mais, dans ce no man's land juridique qu'est Guantanamo, les responsables am?ricains sont press?s de montrer qu'une ?bauche de juridiction, f?t-elle militaire, est en chantier.
Le commandant du camp, le major- g?n?ral Geoffrey Miller, a tenu ? pr?senter lui-m?me le travail accompli. Guantanamo est "un laboratoire dans la guerre contre le terrorisme, a-t-il expliqu?. La d?tention est humaine, ici, et nous en sommes fiers". C'?tait sa derni?re conf?rence de presse. Apr?s dix-huit mois ? Cuba, il a ?t? nomm? le 22 mars en Irak. L?-bas aussi, il s'occupera de d?tention. "Les Etats-Unis ne torturent jamais personne, a-t-il assur?. Nous autorisons certaines techniques d'interrogatoire, mais pas les techniques coercitives."
Dans la foul?e, le lieutenant-colonel Pamela Hart a projet? le diaporama de pr?sentation du camp. Guantanamo : 610"ennemis combattants", 2 162 soldats. De 250 ? 300 interrogatoires par jour. Il est interdit d'enregistrer, a-t-elle dit, mais on a le droit de citer.
Guantanamo n'est pas vraiment une baie. Tout juste un morceau. Pour aller de l'a?roport ? la base, il faut prendre un ferry. Les Etats-Unis louent l'endroit ? Cuba depuis 1903, au terme d'un bail perp?tuel. Si Fidel Castro dispara?t, le commandant de la base navale, Les McCoy, ne pr?voit pas de changement. "La base sera conserv?e aussi longtemps que durera la guerre contre le terrorisme", anticipe-t-il.
La base est envahie d'engins de chantier. Delta I, Delta II, Delta III, camp 4, camp 5, camp Echo... Depuis l'ouverture, en janvier 2002, Guantanamo a connu une sorte de boom immobilier. Le camp 5 n'est pas encore tout ? fait termin?. Ce sera le joyau du syst?me. "L'installation d'interrogatoires et d'isolement du XXIe si?cle", explique le diaporama. Tout sera informatis?. " On pourra tenir quatorze interrogatoires en m?me temps, s'exclame un officier. Et sans une feuille de papier !"
Depuis janvier, le Pentagone s'impatiente. Il faut acc?l?rer les lib?rations. Sur place, les militaires voudraient ?tre s?rs que les d?tenus ont livr? tous leurs secrets. En deux ans, 119 d?tenus ont ?t? rel?ch?s et 12 autres ont ?t? transf?r?s pour incarc?ration dans leur pays (4 Saoudiens, 1 Espagnol, 7 Russes). Le camp 5 va accro?tre "l'efficacit? de la main-d'?uvre de 50 %". Cette fois, il ne s'agit pas de pr?fabriqu?. Le b?timent a une "dur?e de vie de cinquante ans". Les premiers condamn?s y seront probablement d?tenus. Le commandant Miller d?ment toute intention d'y construire une chambre d'ex?cution.
Les d?tenus sont originaires de 42 pays. Six seulement font l'objet de poursuites. Les derniers sont arriv?s en novembre 2003. Les militaires continuent d'affirmer que personne n'a d?barqu? l? par hasard et qu'ils d?tiennent des membres d'Al-Qaida qui travaillaient ? la mise au point de chaussures ? explosifs ou ? l'emploi de t?l?phones cellulaires comme d?tonateurs. "Plus d'une cinquantaine n'ont aucun scrupule ? expliquer qu'ils sont des djihadistes actifs et que, s'ils sont lib?r?s, ils retourneront imm?diatement au combat", affirme Steve Rodriguez, le chef du renseignement, d'origine cubaine.
M?me leur ?ge est tenu secret. Pour montrer qu'il n'y a pas de mineurs, l'arm?e ne l?sine pas. Elle proc?de ? une radio du poignet et ?value la densit? des os. La marge d'erreur ?tant de 1 ? 3 ans, le commandant juge impossible de se prononcer. A l'autre extr?mit?, il reconna?t qu'"un petit nombre de d?tenus approchent les 70 ans". Les d?tenus n'ont pas de visite d'avocat ni de famille. Mais ils ont ?t? mis au courant que "l'Irak avait ?t? lib?r?", comme dit un officier. Ils n'ont plus d'aum?nier musulman depuis l'arrestation du capitaine James Yee. L'officier a ?t? accus? d'espionnage au profit de la Syrie et de s?dition. Il a pass? soixante-seize jours aux arr?ts. Finalement, l'arm?e a laiss? tomber les charges. Le 22 mars, il a ?cop? d'une r?primande pour adult?re.
Pr?s des deux tiers des soldats sont issus de la r?serve ou de la Garde nationale. Ils aimeraient bien rentrer chez eux, mais ils sont convaincus de participer ? la GWOT (global war on terror), la lutte globale contre le terrorisme. "Personne ne se l?ve le ma- tin en se disant : chic, je vais aller surveiller des terroristes !, dit le sergent Jansen. Mais, en m?me temps, pendant qu'ils sont ici, ils ne sont pas l?-bas en train de faire on ne sait quoi."
Sortis du camp Delta, les soldats ach?tent le Navy Times. Ils regardent la t?l?vision des forces arm?es (AFN). Les publicit?s sont une succession de mises en garde. Contre le soleil, qui br?le. Contre le bavardage, qui peut ?tre exploit? par l'ennemi. Il leur arrive d'?tre confront?s ? des questions d?licates : "Mes enfants ont lu dans la presse le t?moignage des Britanniques qui se sont plaints d'avoir ?t? maltrait?s, confie un officier, hors micro. Ils m'ont t?l?phon? : vous faites vraiment ce genre de choses l?-bas ?"
La pi?ce ma?tresse du dispositif carc?ral est l'interrogatoire. Une unit? a ?t? sp?cialement form?e pour Guantanamo et entra?n?e dans l'Arizona. Elle a transform? le camp en une usine ? interrogatoires. Selon le commandant Miller, les Tiger Teams sont maintenant plus de 200, et elles sont pr?sentes en Afghanistan et en Irak.
Les militaires jurent qu'ils ont obtenu des renseignements int?ressants sur des cellules en activit?, y compris en Europe. Renseignements qui ont m?me permis de "lancer des op?rations militaires" ou de mettre en cause "des organisations charitables fournissant un soutien financier ? Al-Qaida". Ils sont contents aussi d'obtenir des renseignements topologiques sur les chemins et les caves des montagnes afghanes. D'un point de vue sociologique, il n'y a pas de d?tenu inint?ressant. "Chaque d?tenu a une valeur diff?rente, explique le commandant Miller. Et tous nous aident ? comprendre le terrorisme et la mani?re de le r?duire."
Les interrogatoires sont men?s principalement par des r?servistes. Le mensuel Vanity Faira interrog?, en janvier, des professionnels de l'espionnage, qui ont ironis? sur l'enthousiasme de n?ophyte des Tiger Teams. Depuis, l'?tat-major met en avant l'"expertise" de ses troupes. Le chef des Tiger Teams appartient ? la division homicides du service de police d'une grande ville du Midwest. Il pr?f?re garder l'anonymat, mais il a "400 inculpations ? son palmar?s".
Les Tiger Teams fonctionnent par ?quipes de trois : analyste, interrogateur et interpr?te. L'interrogatoire se d?roule dans une pi?ce quasiment vide, munie d'une table, d'un miroir sans tain, d'une cam?ra et d'un anneau dans le sol. Le d?tenu arrive menott? dans son "costume trois pi?ces", l'ensemble de cha?nes qui lui entravent pieds et mains et sont reli?es ? la ceinture.
Au mur, il y a des affiches de l'Afghanistan. Sur un ordinateur portable, on lui montre ? l'occasion un film de propagande, Afghan Spring, pour lui donner la nostalgie. "Ils voient que l'?cole a ?t? repeinte en jaune ; on leur raconte que la route Kandahar-Kaboul est en reconstruction", indique le chef enqu?teur. Il affirme avoir r?ussi ? faire parler l'an dernier "l'instructeur d'Al-Qaida pour les explosifs. (...) On a jou? aux ?checs et on a mang? des hamburgers, beaucoup de hamburgers. C'est un individu qui aime manger".
Les Tiger Teams ont une salle avec un d?tecteur de mensonges. Le commandant d?ment qu'elles utilisent l'arme de la privation de sommeil : "En tout cas, pas depuis que je suis l?." Les sessions durent au maximum dix heures, en deux s?ances de cinq heures. Mais l'interrogatoire peut avoir lieu ? tout moment, sept jours sur sept et vingt-quatre heures sur vingt-quatre. La devise du groupe : "Tiger never sleeps" (le tigre ne dort jamais).
Le camp Delta est install? ? l'endroit que les Cubains ne voient pas depuis leurs miradors. L'un des coins les plus arides, au bord de la falaise. Il faut boire plusieurs litres d'eau par jour. Pour inciter les d?tenus ? parler, le major-g?n?ral Miller et ses hommes ont d?velopp? un syst?me de triage. "A l'isra?lienne", dit un sp?cialiste des prisons. S'ils sont "coop?ratifs", les prisonniers gravissent les ?chelons. Partant des camps 2 et 3, de haute s?curit?, l'objectif est d'arriver au camp 4 (s?curit? moyenne).
Les d?tenus sont encourag?s ? ?tre coop?ratifs par des r?compenses, des "?l?ments de confort". Sont consid?r?s comme des ?l?ments de confort : les brosses ? dents de plus de 3 cm, le calot de pri?re, les livres, les minutes de sport additionnelles... Et l'eau. Le fait d'avoir de l'eau en bouteille est un ?l?ment de confort qui se monnaie : "Une bouteille bien fra?che, au lieu de boire au robinet", sugg?re un officier. Parfois, c'est le gobelet en carton qui se m?rite. "Un gobelet plut?t que de devoir boire dans ses mains", r?sume le colonel Cannon.
Les privil?ges sont r?vocables. En cas de "mauvaise conduite", le d?tenu peut "perdre un objet pour cinq jours, par exemple". De 20 ? 30 d?tenus n'ont jamais quitt? le camp 3, indique le g?n?ral. Des "non-coop?ratifs", dont il est difficile d'obtenir l'identit?. Une centaine, dits "dociles", sont au camp 4. Les gardiens sont ?quip?s d'ordinateurs. "Un logiciel con?u par la police militaire pour la police militaire", dit le lieutenant-colonel Michael Young.
Des incidents ont lieu plusieurs fois par semaine. "Par exemple, quand une femme de la police militaire passe juste au moment o? un d?tenu sort de sa douche, dit le colonel Cannon. Ou quand on cogne le Coran qui est accroch? au grillage." Il arrive aussi que les prisonniers "hurlent des menaces contre les troupes am?ricaines, d?noncent les Infid?les, jouent sur les questions d'ethnicit? ou insultent les femmes". Un quart des membres de la police militaire sont des femmes, et il n'est pas question de changer. La soldate Jiovani Barber, 24 ans, une joailli?re des ?les Vierges, estime avoir pris le dessus. "S'ils veulent avoir quelque chose, ils sont bien oblig?s de me le demander."
La police militaire ramasse les ustensiles en plastique pour ?viter les suicides. Il y a d?j? eu 34 tentatives par pendaison. Le CICR a protest? l'an dernier contre la d?t?rioration psychologique des d?tenus, en l'absence d'une notion de temps et de limite ? la d?tention. Le colonel Cannon estime avoir mis fin ? la s?rie. Non pas que le moral soit meilleur, mais il a augment? la fr?quence des patrouilles. Les suicidaires n'ont plus le temps de s'organiser.
Au camp 4, l'uniforme n'est plus orange, mais blanc. "C'est beaucoup plus frais et beaucoup plus prestigieux dans leur culture", croit savoir un officier. Les d?tenus ont une vie communautaire et passent huit heures par jour hors des cellules. Le camp 4, c'est "la terre promise", dit le chef de la d?tention, "la derni?re ?tape avant de rentrer ? la maison". Les d?tenus re?oivent des chaussures en toile en plus de leurs flips-flops. L'appel ? la pri?re est retransmis par les haut-parleurs du mirador. Les d?tenus n'auront jamais vu un juge en deux ans, mais on ne les aura pas bern?s sur l'heure de la pri?re. "On regarde sur l'Internet pour ?tre s?r de l-heure exacte", explique le sergent Sam Wireman.
In extremis, on tente de leur donner une autre image de l'Am?rique. Au lieu d'une rotation constante, les gardiens s'efforcent de d?velopper une relation avec les d?tenus. Des cam?ras surveillent les chambr?es, mais n'enregistrent pas les sons. Apr?s avoir v?cu derri?re des grillages, les d?tenus ont droit ? un rideau de douche.
Lorsque nous avons visit? le camp 4, des d?tenus jouaient au ping-pong ; d'autres ?taient assis autour des tables de pique-nique. Un instant, une voix nasillarde, venue d'une chambr?e, a couvert les explications du sergent. Une grammaire approximative, mais le message ?tait clair : "Il ment avec vous." Plus loin, il y a eu quelques cris : "Go ! Go !"

Corine Lesnes


Affaire Ioukos: des milliards bloqu?s en Suisse
swissinfo 29 mars 2004 20:58
Tandis qu'une partie de ses fonds sont bloqu?s, l'ancien patron de Ioukos Mikha?l Khodorkovski est en prison. (Keystone)
La Suisse a gel? une somme record de plusieurs milliards de francs dans l'affaire du g?ant p?trolier russe Ioukos.
Les avocats des personnes et soci?t?s vis?es vont faire recours contre ce blocage. Ils critiquent l'attitude de la justice suisse dans un dossier qu'ils estiment hautement politique.
M?me si aucun chiffre pr?cis n'a ?t? articul?, les sommes en jeu dans cette affaire sont consid?rables. Le Parquet russe, qui a demand? l'entraide judiciaire de la Suisse, a r?cemment ?voqu? le gel de 6,2 milliards de francs sur les comptes de 20 actionnaires de Ioukos, parmi lesquels l'ex-PDG Mikha?l Khodorkovski.
Dans un communiqu?, le Minist?re public de la Conf?d?ration (MPC) pr?cise que les sommes ont ?t? gel?es ? la fin de la semaine derni?re et qu'il ?s'agit d'avoirs de personnes physiques et morales concern?es par la proc?dure p?nale en Russie?.
?Vague et incompr?hensible?
Lors d'une conf?rence de presse convoqu?e ? Gen?ve, l'avocat Philippe Neyroud, mandat? pour d?fendre entre autres Mikha?l Khodorkovski, a qualifi? ce dossier de ?politique?.
Le gel des avoirs par Berne s'est fait sur une demande russe ?vague et incompr?hensible?. Aucun pays au monde n'aurait r?agi comme l'a fait la Suisse, ajoute l'avocat.
Il demande donc ? la justice suisse de ne pas tomber dans le pi?ge politique et de s'engager dans une analyse ind?pendante du dossier.
Quant ? la somme exacte qui a ?t? gel?e, Ma?tre Neyroud juge ?faux? le chiffre de 6,2 milliards de francs. L'avocat genevois, accompagn? de deux confr?res am?ricains, n'a cependant pas voulu donner d'estimation.
Cinq banques
Le MPC, qui avait jusqu'ici refus? de confirmer le gel des fonds, ne fournit pas non plus de chiffres pr?cis.
?Il ne s'agit pas uniquement de comptes dont les montants peuvent ?tre d?termin?s en francs et en centimes, mais aussi d'autres biens et avoirs dont la valeur est difficile ? estimer ? premi?re vue?, explique son porte- parole, Hansj?rg Mark Wiedmer.
L'affaire est complexe, avec une trentaine de soci?t?s et une vingtaine de personnes vis?es.
?Il y a s?rement eu amalgame?, affirme Ma?tre Neyroud. Selon lui, cinq banques auraient re?u des requ?tes de gel de comptes: l'UBS, BNP Paribas, SG Banque, Cr?dit Agricole Indosuez, et Dresdner Bank.
Pour l'avocat am?ricain Sanford Saunders, Mikha?l Khodorkovski et ses amis sont attaqu?s car ils repr?sentent le changement en Russie. Pour lui, ?ce qui leur arrive en Suisse est la continuation de ces attaques?.
Gel provisoire, puis formel
A la suite de la commission rogatoire russe, des perquisitions ont ?t? men?es dans quatre cantons le 4 mars dernier, dans le cadre d'une proc?dure pour ?appartenance ? une organisation criminelle, abus de confiance, escroquerie et escroquerie fiscale?.
Le MPC a saisi des documents, entendu des t?moins et proc?d? au blocage d'avoirs ?par mesure urgente et provisoire?, afin de sauvegarder des moyens de preuve.
La justice russe ayant confirm? cette demande de blocage dans un compl?ment ? sa commission rogatoire, il a ?t? proc?d? ? un gel formel.
Gel record
Les avocats annoncent un recours au Tribunal f?d?ral (cour supr?me). Le gel d'une telle somme constitue un record pour la Suisse. Pour m?moire, la justice helv?tique avait bloqu?, en janvier 2000, pr?s d'un milliard de francs, d?pos? en Suisse par l'ex-dictateur nig?rian Sani Abacha.
Le groupe Ioukos est accus? par Moscou d'?vasion fiscale et de fraude ? grande ?chelle. Mais des analystes ? Moscou pr?sentent cette affaire comme une tentative du pr?sident Vladimir Poutine de mettre au pas Mikha?l Khodorkovski en raison de ses ambitions politiques.
swissinfo et les agences

L'?conomie suisse face au d?fi de l'?largissement
swissinfo 29 mars 2004 08:19
D?s le 1er mai, les entreprises suisses vont se tourner un peu plus vers l'Europe de l'est. (Keystone)
En panne de croissance, l'?conomie suisse s'appr?te ? rivaliser contre une Europe de 25 Etats.
Les secteurs traditionnellement li?s aux exportations en profiteront. Mais le march? int?rieur devra ?tre r?form? pour b?n?ficier pleinement du retour de la croissance.
Nombre d'experts ?conomiques, l'Organisation de coop?ration et de d?veloppement ?conomiques (OCDE) en t?te, s'accordent ? le dire: la croissance ?conomique suisse traverse une passe difficile depuis une dizaine d'ann?es.
Au moment o? dix pays d'Europe centrale et de l'Est s'appr?tent ? rejoindre l'Union europ?enne (UE), l'?conomie suisse semble toujours plus isol?e au milieu d'un continent dont l'interconnexion des ?conomies avance ? pas de g?ant.
Le nouvel ?largissement de l'UE ne semble cependant pas affoler outre mesure les milieux patronaux helv?tiques. Ils y voient en effet une opportunit? de se profiler sur de nouveaux march?s.
L'?largissement comme aiguillon
?L'?largissement de l'Union europ?enne constitue en fait une meilleure incitation ? d?velopper le commerce et positionner nos entreprises sur des march?s d'avenir pour nos projets?, rel?ve Catherine Lance, charg?e de projet pour economiesuisse.
Des opportunit?s qui existent pourtant depuis la chute du mur de Berlin. Mais la nature sauvage de l'?conomie, qui caract?risait ces pays jusque dans un pass? r?cent, comportait beaucoup de risques pour qui osait s'y aventurer.
D?faut de paiement, non-respect des d?lais de livraison, disparition des marchandises, impossibilit? d'actionner les m?canismes juridiques pour faire respecter ses droits... Tout un floril?ge de m?saventures v?cues par nombre d'investisseurs ?trangers.
Mais les temps ont chang?. Et l'adh?sion de ces pays indique que toutes les pratiques commerciales se sont align?es sur celles de l'UE.
Une aubaine pour les soci?t?s suisses?
Pour les entreprises suisses, les avantages d?coulent surtout des simplifications administratives.
?Les dix syst?mes nationaux diff?rents qui existent actuellement seront dor?navant semblables ? ceux des autres membres de l'Union. Ce qui facilite grandement la t?che des entreprises qui voudront se d?velopper dans ces nouveaux pays?, poursuit Catherine Lance.
Au-del? de ces simplifications, les relations ?conomiques et commerciales entre la Suisse et les nouveaux adh?rents seront r?gl?es par l'accord de libre-?change conclu en 1972 avec l'UE et les sept accords bilat?raux (bilat?rales I). De quoi donner certains gages de s?curit? aux investisseurs.
?En faisant leur entr?e dans l'Union europ?enne, ces pays montrent aux autres qu'ils appliqueront le m?me droit de la m?me fa?on que dans les autres pays de l'Union, souligne Ren? Schwok, ce qui devrait rendre les investissements plus rentables.?
Professeur ? l'Institut d'?tudes europ?ennes ? Gen?ve, il estime en outre que les exportations suisses seront les principales b?n?ficiaires de l'?largissement. ?Depuis plusieurs ann?es, la croissance ?conomique des nouveaux adh?rents est plus importante que celles des membres de l'Union.?
Un potentiel ? d?velopper
Selon une ?tude du Credit Suisse Group de 2003 - qui mesure l'impact de l'?largissement sur la Suisse - 2,5% du commerce ext?rieur helv?tique se fait avec les nouveaux entrants.
La Pologne, la Hongrie et la R?publique tch?que, ensemble, ne recueillent que 1% des investissements directs de la Suisse ? l'?tranger. Au vu de ces chiffres, le potentiel existe mais la Suisse devra compter avec une s?v?re concurrence ?manant des autres membres de l'Union.
La banque identifie principalement trois secteurs susceptibles de conna?tre une croissance substantielle, ? savoir les produits chimiques, les machines et l'?lectronique. Des secteurs auxquels Ren? Schwok rajoute le secteur financier.
?Banque, assurance, r?assurance, n?goce sont des secteurs dans lesquels le savoir-faire suisse peut se distinguer?, explique le professeur genevois.
Pas de boom attendu
L'?largissement de l'UE ne provoquera donc pas une v?ritable explosion des exportations suisses. Certains secteurs en profiteront mais de fa?on relativement marginale.
Quant ? la croissance ?conomique nationale, son salut viendra avant tout de la r?forme de son march? int?rieur: lutte contre les cartels, am?lioration de la transparence et facilitation de la cr?ation d'entreprises.
Autant de domaines mis ? mal chez les membres de l'UE et contre lesquels le gouvernement suisse semble s'?puiser depuis trop longtemps. Mais sans r?sultats significatifs.
swissinfo, Jean-Didier Revoin

Posted by maximpost at 9:49 PM EST

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