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Saturday, 17 April 2004


The Myth of Syria's Old Guard
by Gary C. Gambill

When Bashar Assad assumed power in Damascus after the death of his late father in June 2000, many Western observers expressed hope that the youngster would introduce political reforms in Syria, modernize its stagnant economy, adopt a more moderate stance toward Israel, and improve Syrian relations with the United States. Three and a half years later, however, the process of political liberalization launched by the late Hafez Assad has ground to a halt and even suffered reversals. Economic reform has fallen by the wayside and high-level corruption has become more rampant than ever. Rather than moderating its stance toward Israel, Syria has dramatically increased the scale and breadth of its sponsorship of militant anti-Israeli terrorist organizations. Instead of upgrading ties with the United States, Assad provided material support to Saddam Hussein's military in the months leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom - a foolish initiative that did nothing forestall its defeat by US-led coalition forces, but prompted Washington to re-assess its longstanding policy of constructive engagement with Damascus.

In spite of this track record, however, the vast majority of Western journalists, academics, and government officials have yet to utter a disparaging word about Assad, who is frequently described as Western-educated (he isn't - he merely completed part of his medical residency in a London hospital) and reform-minded, with a lasting affinity for the music of Phil Collins and an unshakeable Gameboy addiction. The young dictator's reputation as a well-meaning reformer has remained untarnished in the West because of a pervasive, but highly questionable, assumption about Syrian politics - that Assad is checked at every turn by a powerful cabal of corrupt military and intelligence officials who constitute an independent sphere of authority, the so-called "old guard." The London Times, for example, considers Assad to be "in no position to confront his father's old guard."[1] According to Flynt Leverett, a former senior director for Middle East affairs at the National Security Council, Assad has "demonstrated some reformist impulses, but has been constrained by his father's still-powerful retainers."[2]

The "old guard" assumption underlies most thinking about Syria in the American foreign policy establishment. It is gospel for Syria's apologists in the State Department, who justify constructive engagement on the grounds that it can strengthen Assad's hand against hard-liners. This premise is even accepted by hawks, who typically argue that efforts to woo Assad are misguided because he is not the one running the show in Damascus. This fundamentally benevolent view of Syria's young leader remained unshaken even at the height of Syrian-US tensions last April, when Bush administration officials publicly accused Damascus of funneling arms to Saddam Hussein's military. The Syrian president was never publicly accused of personally approving, or even knowing about, the weapons transfers.

Etymology of a Catch Phrase

References to Syria's "old guard" predate Bashar's ascension. The term first gained currency among Western observers in the mid-1990s, when the elder Assad was said to be on the brink of signing a peace treaty with Israel. In 1994, Janes Defence Weekly reported that Assad was replacing much of the "old-guard, combat-tested officers who have kept him in power since he took over in November 1970, with a new breed of security controllers" who were less opposed to peace.[3] Although Assad did, if fact, fire many senior security officials, he remained as unwilling as ever to make peace with the Jewish state. Nevertheless, the notion that it was the regime's "old guard," not Assad, that obstructed peace persisted. "Assad must still cater to the old guard," reported Business Week in 1999. "The Syrian President maintains his power through a network of military and intelligence commanders, and he must be careful not to look soft in the talks. That's one reason Assad can't afford to settle for anything less than a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights."[4]

Use of the term "old guard" as a means of deflecting responsibility for negative aspects of Syrian policy away from Assad was not confined to the West. Arabic variations of the term have long been used by Syrian intellectuals when criticizing the Assad regime. As in the West, the term was favored not because of its analytical precision, but because of its political correctness. Fearful of disparaging Assad personally, or the regime as a whole, Syrian intellectuals attributed dismal conditions in the country to a nameless clique of power barons standing in the way of needed reforms. Assad was typically portrayed as being unable to assert his authority over the "old guard," not unwilling, for the latter would imply that he was indirectly responsible for its excesses (even oblique criticism of the Syrian dictator was dangerous).

This dynamic is not uncommon in the Arab world. In Jordan, where freedom of expression is much less restrained, the prime minister and his cabinet are regularly pilloried in the media, but no one criticizes the king. In fact, criticisms of the government are frequently couched as appeals to the king, urging him to sack this or that minister or informing him of those who ostensibly scheme behind his back. But no one in Jordan imagines that the king does not personally approve all major government decisions, or that cabinet ministers do not serve in office at his whim.

Following the ascension of Bashar Assad in 2000, references to an "old guard" constraining the young dictator's authority became virtually ubiquitous among Western observers writing about Syria. Although the term's meaning became somewhat more nuanced because of the generational gap between Assad and senior officials in the regime and the former's lack of military credentials, its fundamental connotation remained the same - that Assad's lack of authority, not his mindset or intentions, account for the unsavory behavior of his regime.

Is There an "Old Guard"?

The most obvious flaw in the "old guard" assumption is that it presupposes the existence of cohesive hard-liner and reformist factions of the regime with discernibly different interests. There are, of course, divergences of interests within the regime, but they do not fall neatly into the hard-liner/reformist dichotomy. Due to the dismal performance of Syria's economy in recent years the amount of "surplus" lining the pockets of the regime's top beneficiaries has diminished and competition among them for pieces of an ever-shrinking pie has been quite fierce. Limited economic reforms introduced by Bashar have served to concentrate these diminishing spoils in fewer hands. For example, portions of the traditional Sunni bourgeoisie of Aleppo and Damascus who were coopted by the regime in the 1990s have been brushed aside as private sector businessmen close to Assad have seized control over lucrative markets. Economic opportunities have also become increasingly concentrated within Assad's own clan, at the expense of competing Alawite tribal groups that shared power under his father.[5] In short, the beneficiaries of Assad's presidency are not bona fide economic "reformers" in any meaningful sense of the word, nor are those who have seen their privileges shrink necessarily opponents of economic liberalization.

With respect to political reform, the divergence of interests within the regime is much less discernible. Syria's political and economic elite is strongly united by an overriding stake in the stability of the Baathist regime - were it to collapse, no one who was highly privileged during its reign in power would have much of a future in Syria. Within the regime's Alawite core, a successor government even minimally representative of the country's majority Sunni population is seen as an existential threat. The few Sunnis who occupy high-level positions in government, such as Vice-president Abdul Halim Khaddam and Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass, would not fare much better - in the Middle East, betrayal of one's own ethno-sectarian group is usually viewed as an unforgivable offense.

It is true that Assad inaugurated an expansion of public freedoms during the first six months of his presidency as a means of bolstering the regime's legitimacy. It is also true that the so-called "Damascus Spring" was suddenly brought to a halt in 2001, with the country's ten leading dissidents all finding themselves behind bars by the end of the year. However, the notion that an "old guard" within the regime was responsible for this reversal is a canard. The Damascus Spring was a temporary, carefully managed political opening engineered by Assad to outmaneuver his rivals and consolidate his grip on power by drawing support from outside the regime. Once he had fully asserted his authority, the activities of the reformers became a liability for the Syrian president and were quickly curtailed. While many in the regime had misgivings about the increasingly bold activities of Syrian dissidents, many of those who were arrested ran into trouble after they criticized people close to Bashar or challenged the legacy of his father. For example, the country's leading dissident, MP Riyad Sayf, was arrested after he released a study showing that a lucrative mobile phone contract awarded to Syriatel, a company controlled by Assad's cousin, Rami Makhlouf, would cost the government billions of dollars in lost revenue. Riyad al-Turk was arrested after he condemned the country's "hereditary republic" - a direct swipe at Bashar.

Significantly, this crackdown happened to coincide with major administrative changes in the government and security forces that consolidated Assad's authority. The dramatic expansion of civil liberties that took place early in Assad's tenure was not brought to a halt because the young dictator lacked authority, but because he had acquired enough of it to dispense with reformist pretenses. One striking indication of this is that three quarters of the sixty or so officials in the regime's upper political and military echelon had been replaced by the end of his second year in office.[6]

The old guard concept continues to inform Western thinking in part because of Assad's habitual claims of ignorance regarding his regime's involvement in illicit activities ranging from terrorism to arms trafficking - the idea that he is unaware of or powerless to prevent wrongdoing that draws American criticism is a self-serving lie. But it is an illusion that the Syrian leader is having more and more difficulty maintaining.

Mounting evidence compiled by US authorities in Iraq indicates that Assad almost certainly approved Syrian military assistance to Saddam Hussein prior to the US-led invasion. Documents gleaned from computer hard drives at the Baghdad office of Al-Bashair Trading Company - the largest of the former Iraqi regime's military procurement companies - show that a Syrian company, SES International Corp., signed more than 50 contracts to supply arms and equipment worth tens of millions of dollars to Iraq's military prior to the war. The general manager of SES, Asef Isa Shaleesh, is a first cousin of Assad, and one of its major shareholders, Maj. Gen. Dhu Himma Shaleesh, is a relative of Assad who heads an elite presidential security corps. According to the report, the director-general of Al-Bashair, Munir A. Awad, fled to Syria during the war and is now living there "under government protection."[7] Other captured documents and interviews with captured members of Saddam's inner circle indicate that Iraqi officials met with representatives of North Korea on Syrian soil to negotiate the purchase of missile technology - meetings that would have been impossible without the knowledge of intelligence chiefs close to Assad, such as Maj. Gen. Assef Shawkat.[8]

Of course, a number of senior figures who rose to power during the late Assad's 30-year reign continue to hold positions of influence in Syria (and some who don't continue to be influential behind the scenes), but the commonly-held view that they are in serious conflict with the president and have the power to act independently is unsubstantiated. Indeed, plenty of informed Syrian analysts say it is a myth. "If we speak of two currents (in the regime), that implies that there is conflict between them, but we have not seen evidence of that yet," said Riyad al-Turk after his release from prison last year under pressure from the European Union (which accords him more freedom than his peers to speak candidly).[9] Ibrahim Hamidi, the Damascus correspondent for the London-based daily Al-Hayat, dismisses the idea that there is even a difference in mindsets:

We should be very careful when we talk about the "old guard" and the "reformists." I know some of the "new guard" and they are not very different from the old . . . The maximum they want is to change some names, to get rid of some people. Their goal is continuity, not to make substantial changes beneficial for the people.[10]
"This story of an old guard that prevents some reforms is nonsense," concurs one Syrian businessman interviewed by a Western NGO. "Bashar manipulates everybody and this serves him as a cover, especially for intoxicating European officials who believe in him."[11]


[1] "Sitting targets," The Times (London), 7 October 2003.
[2] "America must do more to engage with Syria," The Financial Times, 9 October 2003.
[3] Quoted in "Assad shuffles intelligence," The Jerusalem Post, 30 November 1994.
[4] "Will Peace Push Syria into the Modern World?," Business Week, 27 December 1999.
[5] See "As Reform Falters, Syrian Elite tighten Grip," The Christian Science Monitor, 30 September 2003.
[6] See Volker Perthes, Syria Under Bashar al-Assad: Modernization and the Limits of Change (forthcoming).
[7] "Banned Arms Flowed Into Iraq Through Syrian Firm," The Los Angeles Times, 30 December 2003.
[8] "For the Iraqis, a Missile Deal That Went Sour; Files Tell of Talks With North Korea," The New York Times, 1 December 2003.
[9] Interview with Al-Hayat, quoted in "Reform at a Snail's Pace in Damascus," Mideast Mirror, 6 January 2003.
[10] Alan George, Syria: Neither Bread nor Freedom (London: Zed Books, 2003), p. 162.
[11] International Crisis Group, Syria Under Bashar (II): Domestic Policy Challenges, 11 February 2004.

? 2004 Middle East Intelligence Bulletin. All rights reserved.


11 February 2004
ICG Middle East Report N?24

ICG Middle East Report N?24 11 February 2004
Bashar al-Assad's presidency has failed to live up to the hopes for far-reaching domestic reform that greeted it in 2000. After a brief opening, Syria clamped down on dissent, and economic change remains painfully slow. Many who once viewed Bashar as a potential partner, open-minded, and Western-oriented, now perceive him as, if anything, more ideological than and just as tied to the Baathist regime as his father. Both assessments are overly simplistic and poor guides to dealing with a Syria that is at a crossroads. Syrian officials hint at significant steps in mid-2004, including possible changes in the Baath Party hierarchy and doctrine and moves toward a more open and inclusive political system. Scepticism is in order, as such pledges have repeatedly been made in the past only to be ignored. But with reform now a strategic imperative, Syria should turn hints into reality and the international community should find ways to encourage and to assist it. There is good evidence that Bashar came to office aware that bold economic measures were needed to rationalise public administration, curb corruption and otherwise modernise the country. But his legitimacy and power base are closely tied to the Baathist system. However much he may understand that his plans cannot succeed with the current regime, he fears that he may not long survive without it. It is not a question of merely ridding the system of remnants of his father's rule. The system has been shaped by powerful constituents - a political/economic elite entrenched in the public sector, the army, security services and a vast, lethargic bureaucracy accustomed to benefit from the status quo. Far more than his father, Bashar has to share authority with multiple power centres, as Syria's "pluralistic authoritarianism" becomes less authoritarian, more pluralistic. An aspiring reformist, the President realised that his longevity was tied to the stability of the regime he sought to reform. In the past, foreign policy dividends - income generated by aid from Iran in the 1980s, from the Gulf in the early 1990s, and from illicit trade with Iraq since then - made up for domestic shortfalls. Those days are gone. Syria urgently needs domestic change. Its economy is plagued by corruption, ageing state industries, a volatile and under-performing agricultural sector, rapidly depleting oil resources, an anachronistic educational system, capital flight and lack of foreign investment. The image of a regime that owes its durability solely to repression and a narrow, sectarian base is wide of the mark; the Baathists built support from a cross-section of Syria's socio-economic and religious groups. Still, the regime is by no means immune to internal challenge should the economycontinue to deteriorate. At the least, a flagging economy will gradually undercut its legitimacy and undermine its support, and shrinking economic resources will reduce the availability of rents and economic privileges that have been used to ensure backing from key groups. Syria's foreign reserves should not be used as a pretext to defer reform but rather to put in place the safety net necessary to protect the population from hardships that will inevitably accompany restructuring. To be effective, however, economic reform must be accompanied by political liberalisation. Without greater accountability, transparency and a freer media, it will be extremely difficult to break the cycle of corruption and inefficiency. And with fewer economic resources to distribute, it is all the more important to build a stronger domestic consensus through greater public participation.
Syria Under Bashar (II): Domestic Policy Challenges
ICG Middle East Report N?24, 11 February 2004 Page ii
Any reforms will, no doubt, be gradual and carefully managed; even so, some argue that they will spark unrest and open the door to radical Islamism. While the history of the Muslim Brotherhood's violent activities in Syria certainly is cause for concern, the available evidence suggests that the rise of militant Islam has been nurtured by a repressive, closed system that prevents free expression and association and has badly damaged the bond of trust between citizens and state. The stifling of political participation and the discrediting of official ideology leads to a vacuum that radical Islamic discourse is best equipped to fill. This report is published simultaneously with another on Syria's foreign policy challenges.1 The twosubjects are interconnected. A strengthened domestic Syrian consensus, including national reconciliation and renewed political legitimacy for its leadership, will make it possible for Syria to play a more effective and confident role on the regional scene. Conversely, what happens internationally affects Bashar's domestic standing and ability to push through reform.

To the Government of Syria:

1. Promote national dialogue and reconciliation

(a) issuing a general amnesty for political activists, including members of the Muslim Brotherhood, in Syria and in exile, who have not engaged in violence and allowing the return of exiled opposition figures who have not engaged in violence;

(b) convening a national conference of political parties, opposition figures and political activists to discuss the process of national reconciliation and commit to non-violence and the forsaking of extrajudicial retribution for prior abuses; and

(c) removing the ban on the Kurdish language, allowing Kurds to organise their own cultural activities and revoking census results so as to extend 1 ICG Middle East Report N?23, Syria Under Bashar (I): Foreign Policy Challenges, 11 February 2004. full and equal citizenship rights to all Kurdish "non-nationals" (maktumin) and their offspring.

2. Begin political liberalisation by:

(a) lifting the state of emergency;

(b) giving civil society and political organisations the space to organise and establishing a more transparent legal framework that enables NGOs to be recognised and operate more freely; and (c) encouraging freer media coverage of public policy issues.

3. Accelerate economic reform by:

(a) drawing up and implementing an administrative reform plan and making economic management more transparent, including by initiating a strong anticorruption campaign and taking steps to reduce collusion between state and businesses;

(b) establishing a transparent tender mechanism for public procurement and one-stop licensing procedures; and

(c) drawing on foreign exchange reserves to help finance job-creation and poverty alleviation programs.
To Members of the Syrian Opposition:

4. Promote political change only through nonviolent
means, and in particular:

(a) repudiate any past resort to violence and pledge not to engage in extra-judicial retribution for past regime abuses; and

(b) pursue an open dialogue with the Baath Party, avoiding inflammatory rhetoric. To the European Union (EU), its Member States, and Japan:

5. Bolster reformers within the Syrian leadership by promoting administrative and institutional reform, focusing on the presidency and on ministries or ministerial secretariats led by reformists.

6. Offer assistance to help cushion hardship caused by economic liberalisation, for example by providing funds and expertise to assist the Syrian Agency for Combating Unemployment.

7. Provide assistance for civil society development
and capacity-building and press Syria on human rights issues - including individual cases and measures such as lifting the state of emergency - and, in the case of the EU, identify mechanisms to follow up on the clause on democratic principles and human rights in the Association Treaty.
To the U.S. Government:

8. Lift opposition to Syria entering negotiations aimed at joining the World Trade Organisation.

9. Increase people-to-people contacts, particularly in the area of education.
Amman/Brussels, 11 February 2004
ICG Middle East Report N?24 11 February 2004
The history of modern day Syria is closely identified with that of both the Baath Party, an organisation that aspired to Arab unity on the basis of socialism and nationalism,2 and the army, which came to play a key role in political affairs. The Baath, which was active in Syria, Iraq and other parts of the Fertile Crescent, originally appealed to lower middle class intellectuals and ethnic religious minorities that felt marginalised. In Syria, this meant Druze, Christians, and principally Alawis.3 During the mandate period, the French promoted communal identity, encouraging "separatism and . . . the widening of the gap between the Sunni-Moslem majority and the various minorities".4 After independence in 1946, Alawis and Druze faced an effort by the Sunnidominated regime to curtail their autonomy and influence. Minority and marginalised groups were attracted to the Baath's pan-Arab, socialist, secular
message and to the military as a means of social
2 See ICG Middle East Report N?6, Iraq Backgrounder: What Lies Beneath, 1 October, 2002, pp. 4-5.
3 Alawis, who are roughly 12 per cent of the Syrian population, live principally in the mountain chains in the northwest, along the Mediterranean coast. There are various accounts of their religious origins, though the most likely is that they are an offshoot of the Twelver Shiites. See H. Laoust, Les Schismes dans L'Islam (Paris, 1977), p. 147. For a long time, Alawis were a poor, rural community ostracised and discriminated against by the rest of Syrian society. When he became president, Assad sought the help of Imam Musa al-Sadr, a leading Shiite Cleric in Lebanon, to certify that Alawis were Moslem Shiites. Al-Sadr issued a fatwa to that
effect. Patrick Seale, Assad: The Struggle for the Middle East (1988), p. 173.
4 Ma'oz, Ginat and Winckler, "Introduction: The Emergence of Modern Syria", in Modern Syria (1988).
mobility and protection against Sunni dominance. "The Ba'th recruited all those who were outside the system of connections, patronage and kin on which the old regime was built".5 While it would be wrong to reduce either the Baath or the military to one sectarian group, a mutually reinforcing system of recruitment meant that Alawi Baath Party members were disproportionately represented in the army's senior officer corps.
The Baath Party came to power on 8 March 1963 following a tumultuous period of internal strife, competition between rival political organisations and military conspiracies. Though the officers who spearheaded the coup belonged to several Arab nationalist parties, Baathists took the lead. The twenty-man National Council for the Revolutionary Command had twelve Baathists and eight Nasserists and Independents.6 Over time, and by virtue of Baathist control of key military and security positions, party members consolidated their power and eliminated their rivals, acquiring influence that far exceeded their political weight in the country at large. The Baath Party remained an important political actor throughout the 1960s, both a key decision-maker and a means of promoting a new leadership from the rural population. The multi-party system that had existed since 1946 came to an end, and the Baath gained a virtual political monopoly as the "leading party" (al-hizb al-qa'id).7 Still, from very early on the Baath suffered from a deficit of political legitimacy and deep internal divisions based on personal ambition as well as 5 Raymond Hinnebusch, "Party and Peasant in Syria," quoted in ibid, p. 3; see also Eyal Zisser, "Appearance and Reality", Middle East Review of International Affairs, May 1998. 6 Seale, Assad, op. cit., p. 78. 7 Between 1945 and 1963, Syria experienced intense political competition and organized multiparty elections - with the exception of 1958-1961 when it was merged in union with Nasser's Egypt.
Syria Under Bashar (II): Domestic Policy Challenges ICG Middle East Report N?24, 11 February 2004 Page 2
regional, clan, religious and ideological splits. In 1966, a faction led by two officers, Hafez al-Assad and Salah Jedid, pushed aside the party's historic leaders, Michel Aflaq and Salah al-Din Bitar. This further exacerbated intra-party tensions, and factions became surrogates for rival officers. Alliances within the army increasingly formed along confessional and regional lines. The centre of power had moved from the political arena, to the army, to the Baathists within the military and, from 1966 on, to those Alawi officers who held dominant positions in both party and army. As one observer noted, those who held power "were a fraction of what was itself a minority, a military splinter group of a semi-defunct party without popular base".8
By 1970, the faction led by Defence Minister Hafez al-Assad had gained control over all vital military and security branches. In November, he staged a successful coup that was dubbed the "Corrective Movement" in an attempt to claim the mantle of Baathist legitimacy. The coup, which marked the supremacy of the military over the party, also began a new phase in Syria's modern history. Emerging from the traumatic experience of the 1967 Six Days War, Assad chartered a more pragmatic path, in which the foreign policy priority was to recover the Golan Heights from Israeli occupation. Domestically, it ushered in an era of unprecedented stability that was based on a systematic effort at state and institution-building and revolved around Assad's own authoritarian, highly personalised power, in contrast to past collective leadership. After year of battles between political parties, within the Baath and within the military, Assad represented a "firm,
centralised and stable rule".9
Though in some respects founded on a narrow communal base, the regime represents far broader constituencies and is governed by an elaborate system of institutions. Assad meticulously built a hybrid: personalised rule coexisted with highly structured state and party institutions; a narrow Alawi, family and personal power base coexisted with a broader inter-religious coalition and social contract; and a sophisticated, omnipresent militarysecurity apparatus coexisted with a strong political
8 Seale, Assad, op. cit., p. 85.
9 Zisser, "Appearance and Reality", op. cit.
party and powerful social relays.10 When it deemed it necessary for survival, the regime did not hesitate to resort to brutal violence to crush dissent; Assad's "was a government which grew out of seven years of bloody struggle, and its foundations were and would remain the army, the security services and the party and government machines".11 But importantly, the regime also coalesced around itself an array of constituents by offering economic opportunities, coopting segments of the population via patronage and channelling social forces through a corporatist system involving the creation of popular organisations, professional associations and unions; in short "the regime [was] more representative of the population as a whole, its constituent parts, and their balance of strength than is commonly assumed".12 Core elements - particularly sensitive military and security positions - remained in Alawi hands, more specifically members of Assad's Qalbiyya tribe. Assad's rule marked the first time that Alawis were openly the pre-eminent power-holders; earlier Alawi leaders had preferred to remain behind the scenes. Assad relied heavily on a "`jama'a' of personal followers, often his kin, appointed to crucial security and military commands."13 But Alawi dominance was far from uniform; he carefully placed Sunnis in top positions, including the defence ministry, the vice presidency and the foreign affairs ministry.14
10 Syria's security services and intelligence agencies include the Amn as-Siyyasi (Political Security), the Mukhabarat al- `Askariyya (Military Intelligence) - subdivided into the "Palestine Branch", "Investigative Branch", "Regional Branch" and "Airforce Branch" - and the Mukhabarat al- `Ama (General Security) -subdivided into the "Investigative Branch", the "Domestic Branch" and the "Foreign Branch". Each of these agencies operates its own prisons and interrogation centres in near-complete independence from the judicial and penal system. ICG interviews with Syrian human rights activists and lawyers in Damascus, July 2003. One estimate puts the number of people working for these agencies at one of every 153 adult Syrians. See Alan George, Syria, Neither Bread nor Freedom (London, 2003), p. 2.
11 Seale, Assad, op. cit., p. 178.
12 Zisser, "Appearance and Reality", op. cit.
13 Raymond Hinnebusch, Syria: Revolution From Above (New York, 2001), p. 67.
14 According to Zisser, "approximately 60 per cent of the cabinet ministers, the members of the People's Assembly and the deputies to the Party Congress are Sunnis. . . . The informal ruling cadres, by contrast, attest to the real power and predominance of the `Alawis: Close to 90 per cent of the officers commanding the major military formations are `Alawis, and so are most of the top echelons in the various security services". Zisser, "Appearance and Reality", op. cit.
Syria Under Bashar (II): Domestic Policy Challenges
ICG Middle East Report N?24, 11 February 2004 Page 3
Efforts to reach out to non-Alawis went beyond bringing them into the regime. Non-Alawi constituencies and social forces were promoted and co-opted, including other minorities (Druze, Christians, Isma'ilis) for whom Alawi control meant protection from Sunni dominance, and rural Sunnis who had traditionally been excluded from economic and political power. Breaking from Baath socialist traditions, Assad gave greater latitude to the private sector, dominated by the Sunni urban economic and commercial elite, particularly in Damascus. Liberalisation intensified with the passage of Investment Law no. 10 in May 1991, which provided generous fiscal incentives to domestic and foreign private investors.15 As a result of this limited economic opening (infitah) and with the growth of collusive statebusiness relations, some large entrepreneurs allied themselves with the regime. In turn, high state officials gained a foothold in the private sector, largely via their children (the awlad al-mas'ulin, children of the powerful).16 The regime felt confident enough about the new bourgeoisie's support to allow them to contest elections and fill "independent seats" designated for non-Baathists.17 The regime, therefore, was constructed at the political level around an Alawi/Sunni contract and at the socioeconomic level around a compact that benefited "Sunni Moslem peasants, the new middle class, `blue collar' workers, and residents of the remote provinces. To those one should add the over one million Baath members and their families who also owe allegiance to the regime and its policies".18 Financial assistance from Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia in particular, helped the Baathist regime
15 See Volker Perthes, The Political Economy of Syria under Assad (London, 1995), p. 58.
16 See Bassam Haddad, "The Formation and Development of Economic Networks and Their Institutional and Economic Reverberations in Syria", in Steven Heydeman (ed.), Networks of Privilege: The Politics of Economic Reform in the Middle East, (Palgrave-St Martin's Press, forthcoming).
17 In 1990 the number of seats was raised from 165 to 250 to allow non-partisan delegates to enter parliament. Most were newly successful businessmen. Two-third of the seats remained reserved for the Baath and officially recognised parties.
18 See Aslan Abd al-Karim, "An-Nizam as-Shamuli", in Arab Commission for Human Rights, Al-Huquq al-Insan wa ad-Dimuqratiyya fi Suriyya (Paris, 2002). further broaden its basis of support.19 Such revenues poured in especially after Syria sided with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia against Iraq in the Gulf war of 1991 and contributed troops to the U.S.-led coalition.20 Rising oil revenues since the early 1990s also provided much-needed foreign currency.21 Syria developed a quasi-corporatist system, built around patron-client relations and a widespread network of economic allegiance and corruption. The regime promoted the creation of a myriad of professional associations and trade unions - for peasants, workers, teachers, students, artists, engineers, and so forth - that rapidly became instruments of both personal enrichment and political surveillance. Politically, the regime mixed harsh repression and tight control by multiple security services with an almost obsessive adherence to institutional procedures and symbolic political gestures. Having consolidated his rule, and alongside the shadow power structure, Assad insisted on an appearance of legitimacy by following formal rules enshrined in a constitution, with clear lines of authority between presidency, parliament and government. He promoted the National Progressive Front, an umbrella group that included the Baath and other parties allowed to contest elections22 but the Baath enjoyed a highly privileged status. For instance, it alone could recruit in the army and universities. From the outset, the regime's most potent foe was the powerful Islamist opposition led by the Muslim Brotherhood. Islamists were particularly influential
19 Hinnebusch, Syria, op. cit., p. 7 describes Syria as a "partial or indirect rentier state".
20 Estimates put the aid Syria received from Gulf countries directly following the war at U.S.$2-3 billion. See Eyal Zisser, Assad's Legacy: Syria In Transition (London, 2001), pp. 190-191.
21 With international prices for crude at high levels, Syrian oil exports peaked in 1996 at 353,000 barrels a day. See OAPEC,
22 Established in 1972, the National Progressive Front (NPF) was comprised of five parties that, with the exception of the Syrian Communist Party, all belonged to the nationalist Arab current in its Baathist and Nasserite incarnations. Although the 1973 Constitution provides these parties with a formal leadership role in the country, they remained wholly subject to Assad's rule. Subservience to the Baath led to disagreement and division. Jamal Atassi's faction of the Nasserist Arab Socialist Union promptly joined the ranks of the opposition; a wing of the communist party (called Communist Party - Political Bureau or CP-PB) led by Riad al-Turk rejected the NPF and also joined the opposition. In 1980, most of its leadership, including al-Turk, was arrested. Syria Under Bashar (II): Domestic Policy Challenges ICG Middle East Report N?24, 11 February 2004 Page 4 in Sunni urban centres such as Homs, Hama and Aleppo, where resistance to the notion of an Alawi military leader was strong. By the end of the 1970s, the struggle had turned violent; the Brotherhood and splinter factions including Islamic Vanguard (at- Tali'a al-Islamiyya) assassinated members of the Baath and Alawi officers and launched several attacks in Damascus and elsewhere. This culminated in 1982 with the tragic events of Hama.23 A violent uprising by Islamist militants was met with brute force. The price of the regime's victory was high; estimates of the dead range from 10,000 to 30,000. Bloodied, divided and with its leadership either killed or exiled (in Europe, Iraq and Saudi Arabia), the Islamistmovement no longer presented a threat.24 One key to its defeat was that the movement was circumscribed to Sunni towns in the north. "The rural Sunni population, the minorities, and even the urban Sunnis of Damascus remained supportive of the regime, or at least firmly refrained from acting against it".25 In the wake of the Hama atrocities, Hafez al-Assad faced another serious challenge, this time from his brother Rifaat al-Assad, who began plotting when the president fell ill. After an armed clash between Rifaat's 55,000-strong Defence Brigades and Special Forces and regular army units in February/March 1984, Rifaat was temporarily promoted to the largely ceremonial position of vice president and soon thereafter effectively expelled from Syria.26 In the early 1980s, the non-religious oppositionorganised around the trade unions and left-wing parties called for democratic reform as a third way between Baathist authoritarianism and Islamism.27 The decade
23 For a detailed analysis of events in and leading to Hama see Hans G. Lobmeyer, Opposition und Widerstand in Syrien, (Hamburg 1995).
24 On the role of Islamists today, see below III.B.1.
25 Zisser, Assad's Legacy, op. cit.
26 In 1992 Rifaat al-Assad returned to Syria to engage in business activities. However, in 1999, violent clashes occurred between men loyal to him and regime security forces in the port of Lattakiya, after which he returned to London. See Alan George, Syria, op. cit., p. 115.
27 In 1980, professional unions led by the Bar Association entered the political arena by publicly calling for the end of martial law imposed since 1963 and establishment of the rule of law and a multiparty system. In response, the regime disbanded the unions' elected executive councils, undertook large-scale arrests of union heads and replaced them with Baathists. Simultaneously, left-wing opposition parties, led by Jamal Atassi's party and Riad Al-Turk's Communist Party-Political Bureau, joined forces in the National Democratic Alliance (al-tajammu al-watani al-dimuqrati) was marked not only by the regime's success vis-?vis the opposition (religious and secular) but also by its effective use of repression to deter potential adversaries. In a political and ideological arena that had become "empty . . torn apart [and] demoralised", Assad could present himself as society's sole "arbiter and saviour."28 By the mid-1990s, the regime was able to lift some of the more repressive aspects of its rule and released groups of detainees, including some members of the Muslim Brotherhood. At his death on 10 June 2000, Hafez al-Assad had ruled Syria for nearly 30 years, longer than any predecessor. The regime had survived a powerful Islamist revolt, an internal insurgency, the collapse of its Soviet ally, separate major Israeli agreements with Egypt, the Palestinians and Jordan and an economic crisis, not to mention the many regional challenges presented by Israel, Iraq, Iran and Lebanon.
That his son Bashar succeeded him was not a surprise, though it was a novelty in the region, the first Arab republican hereditary regime.29 The strength of the father's rule also was the regime's principal weakness: extreme dependence on the president and the balance of power he had carefully crafted. The influence and political-economic weight of the different circles within the regime were measured by proximity to the president. Were the system to be modified, it could unravel into sectarian and socio-economic rivalries. All major components of the political system agreed that the son's accession was indispensable to sustain it. Bashar was the only candidate around whom they could rally without jeopardising political equilibrium and provoking a new round of internal strife. As a Western diplomat who witnessed the transition put it: "Bashar was picked as president because he did not and issued demands mirroring those of the unions. The regime once again responded with arrests, most of which affected the leadership and cadres of the Community Party- Political Bureau.
28 B. Ghalioun, "La fin de la `revolution' baasiste", Confluences M?diterran?e, N?44, Winter 2002-2003, p. 13.
29 Hafez al-Assad originally had groomed his elder son Basil to be his successor, but he was killed in a car accident in January 1994.
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pose a challenge to any of the factions in power".30 A system that traditionally operated at an unhurried pace amended the constitution in record time to enable Bashar - younger than the minimum legal age - to become president and inherit all his father's key titles, including Secretary General of the Baath and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.31 Bashar was left with more than titles; he also inherited the regime his father had built. The tailormade power structure outlived the dead leader. Yet, more than before, the regime rested on multiple pillars, "a system of pluralist authoritarianism".32 Bashar depends on the same constituencies as his father but is less able to control them. Any effort to modify radically the political architecture of which he is both product and captive would imperil the power relationships upon which he depends to endure. In the three years since he came to office, views regarding Bashar have changed dramatically. Initially hailed as a Western-oriented, sophisticated reformer - including by U.S. officials who met him early on33 - he currently is perceived by many in Washington as both less pragmatic and more ideological than his father.34
The most common view at the outset was that he was a reformist prisoner of the "old guard," the Baathists who had surrounded his father and who, desperate to hold on to their privileges and power, were seeking to prevent any genuine change.35 Early in the Bush administration, many U.S. officials believed Bashar was relatively open-minded and
30 ICG interview with Western diplomat, Damascus, 27 September 2003.
31 A week after Hafez al-Assad's death, the Baath Party held its first congress since 1985 to elect Bashar secretary general. Simultaneously, the constitution was amended to lower the minimum age and allow Bashar (then 34) to become president. On 17 July 2000, Bashar delivered his presidential inaugural address. See S. Boukhaima, "Bashar al-Assad: Chronique d'une succession en Syrie", Maghreb-Machreck, N?169, July 2000.
32 ICG interview with Robert Springborg, head of Middle East Institute in London, 9 October 2003.
33 ICG interviews with former U.S. officials, September 2003.
34 ICG interviews with U.S. officials, September-November 2003.
35 Among Middle East analysts, the notion of a rivalry between an "old guard" and a "new guard" has become fashionable, invoked to explain power struggles among Palestinians, Syrians and others. See ICG Middle East Briefing, The Meanings of Palestinian Reform, 12 November 2002, p. 7.
aware of Western realities and that the views he expressed were depended significantly on whether he was the sole Syrian official at a given meeting.36 As he engaged in what Washington considered repeated missteps, the perception took hold that he was perhaps too inexperienced and lacking his father's sophistication and policy flair.37 Over time, views significantly hardened, prompted chiefly by Syria's posture toward the Iraq war and its defiance of U.S. demands regarding support for radical Palestinian groups,38 though failure to carry out meaningful domestic reforms also played a part. Increasingly, U.S. officials appear inclined to see in Bashar "more of Nasrallah [the head of Hizbollah] and Khameini [the Iranian Supreme Leader] than of Assad [the father]",39 an ideologically committed pan-Arab. Bashar is believed to see the U.S. occupation of Iraq and broader presence in the region as a strategic threat to Arab interests.40 In their black-and-white characterisations, both the former and current assessments appear off the mark. The categorisation of new-versus old guards is misleading on several counts. The assumption upon which it is based - a generational gap between reformers and those who seek to maintain the status quo - is flawed. As a Western diplomat put it, "it has nothing to do with generations. It has to do with mindsets".41 While some more recent members of the regime (the "new old guard") are no less repressive or corrupt than their predecessors, many older
36 ICG interviews with current and former U.S. officials, Washington, May-June 2003.
37 Hinting at this view, the White House characterized Bashar al-Assad's leadership as "relatively new" and "relatively untested". Press Briefing, Ari Fleischer, 30 April 2003. Most Israeli commentaries went further, "Assad's father had an acute sense of smell for danger. The son has none whatsoever. He has not yet undergone a formative experience", Yediot Ahronot, 13 April 2003. For a similar but more detailed argument see Eyal Zisser, "Does Bashar al-Assad Rule Syria?", Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2003.
38 See ICG Report, Bashar's Syria (I), op. cit.
39 ICG interview with U.S. official, Washington, September 2003.
40 Rejecting the notion that Bashar is held back by his father's entourage, a Syrian businessman said, "This story of an old guard that prevents some reforms is nonsense. Bashar manipulates everybody and this serves him as a cover, especially for intoxicating European officials who believe in him. He is the son of his father by belief and methods." ICG interview, Damascus, April 2003.
41 ICG interview with Western diplomat, Damascus July 2003.
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generation officials and civil servants are frustrated with the slow pace of reform.42 Personal and ideological rivalries exist within generations, and alliances cut across them; much of the domestic paralysis results from a vast, lethargic bureaucracy accustomed to the status quo.43 Furthermore, the distinction between old and new guards wrongly assumes that positions on reform are fixed, regardless of the stakes or issues. Yet, an official can be a proponent of a free market economy when a family member stands to benefit from a state concession to a private company and turn "socialist" when privatisation plans threaten jobs of those under his patronage. Nor is economic reform talk all that new: it was first announced after the 1973 Arab-Israeli war and has repeatedly surfaced, though it has rarely amounted to much. Ultimately, "the old and new guard paradigm, whether in Palestine or Syria, has the sole virtue of re-labelling as political analysis what is mere demographic tautology: that young generations will succeed older ones".44 But to see in Bashar an unreconstructed pan-Arab nationalist, resistant to economic and political reform is equally questionable. There is little doubt that he remains dependent on the regime he inherited and of which he is a quintessential product. He may have received part of his medical instruction in the UK, but his entire political education is Baathist as are the foundations of his rule. He has yet to devise or implement a coherent project or strategy of his own, domestic or foreign. At the same time, there is good reason to believe that Bashar, more than many others within the regime, is aware that its longer-term stability requires change, modernisation and foreign help to salvage the country from an economic crisis generated by widespread corruption, a vast and unproductive public work force, outdated socialist laws and considerable red tape.
42 Vice-President Khaddam, for example, a reputed hawk on foreign policy matters, reportedly has advocated a more open economy. ICG interview with Syrian economist, Damascus July 2003.
43 Osama Ansari, a London-based Syrian banker, explained: "It is not just hard-core socialists, but civil servants" who are resisting change. Quoted in The Washington Post, 23 November, 2001. According to an EU estimate, the public sector employs 73 per cent of the labour force but contributes only 33 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product. Euro-Med Partnership, "Country Strategy Paper 2002-2006", no date.
44 ICG interview with Middle East analyst, London, December 2003.
Ultimately, Bashar seems a reluctant, albeit willing captive - an aspiring reformist who realises that his longevity is tied to the stability of the Baathist regime, which, in turn, is tied to the perpetuation of certain domestic and regional policies.45 His approach is ideological in the sense that ideological fidelity is an important ingredient in a pragmatic strategy of regime survival. In foreign policy, this has meant avoiding any radical departure from his father's approach, which would have exposed him to strong domestic criticism; resisting what are perceived as hostile U.S. regional moves; and banking on the U.S. bogging down in Iraq and failing on the Israeli-Palestinian front. Domestically, this has meant initial, modest steps to modernise and rationalise public administration, streamlining the public sector without challenging the economic, let alone political system as a whole.
45 ICG interviews, Beirut, Damascus, June-September 2003.
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Syrians were optimistic that Bashar would preside over the regime's liberalisation. This was largely based on his youth, that he had studied three years in London, his stated intention to modernise the country and tolerate "constructive criticism" and his insistence on transparency and fighting corruption.46 His government took steps to end nearly four decades of state monopoly over banking and foreign exchange, introduced legislation to encourage foreign investment and relax rent control, spearheaded efforts to enhance the autonomy of state-owned enterprises and undertook some educational reforms, including private schools and universities. For the first time in at least three decades, the government presented its annual budget before the start of the year. There were also hints of political change such as the decision, publicised in July 2003, that "party institutions and comrades should stay away completely from the daily implementation [of state policies] and refrain from intervening in the work of institutions ... of the state".47 From June 2000 to August 2001, Syria's longsilenced civil society took advantage of this changed atmosphere to call, from within the country or via the relatively free Lebanese press, for a democratic opening. Poets, writers, academics and artists entered the political arena, speaking up on such once taboo topics as public freedoms, human rights, corruption, the right of citizens to participate in decision-making and the fate of detainees and exiles. Meetings, communiqu?s, forums for public discussion (muntadayat) and informal groupings flourished. In September 2000, leading intellectuals signed the "Manifesto of the 99" demanding the
46 In his inaugural address, Bashar pointed at the lack of a clear economic strategy during his father's rule and the need for reforms based on "accountability", "transparency", "active participation", "administrative reform", "the rule of law" and "democratic thinking". The latter, he explained, is "based on the principle of accepting the opinion of the other". Yet Bashar added that "Western democracy" culminated from historical events different from Syria's own evolution: "We [therefore] have to have our democratic experience which is special to us, which stems from our history, culture, civilisation and which is a response to the needs of our society and the requirements of our reality". At-Thawra , 17 July 2000.
47 Decision 408, cited in Al-Iqtisadiyya, 8 July 2003.
lifting of the state of emergency and martial law imposed in 1963, a general amnesty for all political prisoners and the return of political exiles. The petition also called for freedom of expression, freedom of the press and "the freeing of public life from the restrictive chains imposed on it".48 Signatories included the poet Adonis and writers Sadiq al-Azm and Abd al-Rahman Munif, who count among modern Arabic literature's foremost. Soon, 1,000 intellectuals went further, demanding free elections and the end of the Baath political monopoly.49 Nizzar Nayouf, a human rights activist, told a Lebanese newspaper that it was his "dream to get rid of the remnants of dictatorship and totalitarianism in Syria".50
Opposition parties also became more active. In May 2001, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood published a National Charter in London that called for a modern and democratic state and rejected political violence.51 Left-wing parties, nationalist and Marxist, held debates on such topics as the rule of law, democratisation and independence of the judiciary. Non-Baathist members of parliament such as Riyad Seif and Ma'mun al-Homsi spoke in favour of sweeping reforms, measures to stamp out corruption and the need for greater civil liberties. Calls for change also emanated from official and quasi-official institutions; 70 lawyers of the Baathdominated Bar Association urged the state to clear the way for more political parties. The regime's initial response was encouraging. It pardoned hundreds of political prisoners, including communists and members of the Muslim Brotherhood, shut down the notorious al-Mazza and Palmyra prisons, allowed other parties in the National Progressive Front to publish and sell their own newspapers and approved a license for publication of two private magazines, Ad-Dumari and Al-Iqtisadiyya.
But the liberalisation drive came to a rapid and sharp halt. Beginning in February 2001, senior officials began accusing activists of facilitating a "neocolonialist movement".52 In a memorandum, the
48 The full text of the letter was printed in the Lebanese daily
As-Safir on 27 September 2000.
49 See As-Safir, 11 January 2001.
50 Cited in Mulhaq an-Nahar, 21 July 2001.
51 See Al-Hayat, 4 May 2001.
52 As then Minister of Information Adnan Umran put it: This "neocolonialism no longer needs armadas and armies. It relies on other and cheaper means, such as the civil society
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Baath Party attacked them for weakening or discrediting state institutions and perpetuating the economic crisis.53 The government tightened censorship, placed strict restraints on political activities (in particular contacts with the outside world) and arrested key figures. It also issued new guidelines on publications, banning the printing of any information that might "harm national security, unity of society, security of the army, the country's international ties, the country's dignity and prestige, the national economy and monetary security", and threatened violators with three years imprisonment and fines up to U.S.$20,000.54 Baath Party members were dispatched throughout the country to accuse activists of "harming the stability and unity of Syria" and "collaborating with Syria's enemies".55 Organisers of meetings were ordered to submit in advance lists of participants and agendas. When Riad Seif held a meeting without seeking permission, he was immediately arrested.56 Others shared his fate, including the head of the dissident Communist Party, 71 year-old Riyad al-Turk;57 former University of Damascus economics professor Aref Dalila, a free-market advocate and frequent speaker at various gatherings; and Ma'mun al-Homsi, a member of parliament.
In the immediate aftermath of the Iraq war, speculation was rampant about the fate of the movements that are paid for by foreign embassies". Cited in An-Nahar, 9 February 2001.
53 See Al-Hayat, 19 March 2001.
54 The new press law was issued in September 2001. For an analysis see Human Rights Watch, "Memorandum to the Syrian Government, Decree N?50/2001: Human Rights Concerns", 31 January 2002.
55 The Baath party reportedly issued an order for its members to attend meetings and forums to express these accusations. See Al-Hayat, 9 February 2001.
56 Others believe that Seif crossed the regime's line by accusing the government of corruption in the decision to issue two mobile phone company contracts, at heavy cost to the state treasury. ICG interview with Syrian political analyst, Damascus, July 2003. For Seif's memorandum to parliament (4 August 2001) see "'Aqd al-Khaliwi yadi'u 400 milyar Lira `ala ad-Dawla as-Suriyya", Appendix 2 in Arab Commission for Human Rights, op. cit..
57 Al-Turk was sentenced in June to 30 months in prison for attempting to change the constitution. Bashar subsequently ordered his release on 16 November 2002 for "humanitarian reasons". Al-Turk suffers from diabetes and high blood pressure.
neighbouring Baathist regime, particularly in Washington.
At first blush, there are striking similarities: authoritarian and secular regimes both, with significant power in the hands of a hegemonic political party and a minority group (Alawi in one case; Sunni in the other), strong roles for the military, and numerous security and intelligence agencies. Both featured a Republican Guard, drawn heavil from the privileged minority group and akin to a praetorian guard tasked with defending the capital and protecting the regime against a coup or popular uprising.58 The military and special forces had been used in both cases to subdue rebellions: the 1982 uprising in Syrian Hama and the 1991 intifada in southern Iraq. Another similarity, particularly during Hafez al-Assad's presidency, was the personality cult, with typical symbolic manifestations (statues, monument, giant portraits, hymns). Under both regimes, the state and public sectors played central economic roles and corporatist central control was exercised through trade unions, professional associations and the like. Both faced a Kurdish problem, though far more intensely in Iraq.59 Moreover, if the first "dynastic presidency" was in Syria, Saddam Hussein was clearly grooming his sons. Yet, the similarities went only so far, and to read Syria's future through an Iraqi lens would be a serious mistake. Significant differences go well beyond the important personality distinctions between Saddam Hussein and Hafez al-Assad.60 They relate to the genesis and development of the state structures and societies. Notwithstanding the atrocities committed in the early 1980s, Syria never witnessed the degree of perpetual state repression and sheer brutality of Iraqi Baathism. Several explanations have been offered. As noted, authoritarian rule in Syria required cooptation of
58Maher Assad, the President's brother, is responsible (together with Bashar) for the Republican Guard forces deployed in the mountains around Damascus and supervises the regime's security apparatus.
59 Kurds are present in northeastern Syria and in big cities, and are roughly 9 per cent of the population.
60 "Saddam Hussein's cult, like his person, is flamboyant and audacious....He is physically youthful and vigorous. Assad is emphatically not charismatic; he is not even particularly energetic. His speeches are deliberate and slow....Assad is cautious, a politician known for his cleverness rather than his bravado". Lisa Wedeen, Ambiguities of Domination: Politics, Rhetoric, and Symbols in Contemporary Syria (Chicago, 1999), p. 28.
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many forces beyond the regime core. In part because the Alawi minority is only 12 per cent of the population, it has sought arrangements with other important groups, especially constituencies among Sunnis, who are not a politically, socially or culturally homogenous group. Damascus holds a unique place in this political architecture. The regime constantly has striven to ensure the loyalty of its commercial and religious institutions, and it was virtually the only significant urban centre not to experience the bloody events of the 1980s. Syria's relatively meagre oil resources also arguably required it to seek domestic tranquillity by complementing economic patronage and state-violence with negotiation and compromise: Unlike Iraq, where Saddam's domestic and regional ambitions were matched by his financial means, our country is poor. That is why the Syrian regime has had to display the flexibility and tactical deftness that its Iraqi alter ego so clearly lacked.61 Ironically, the Syrian regime has become far more embedded in the nation's social fabric than was its Iraqi counterpart because of its comparative limitations and weaknesses.
Still, the political impact of Saddam's ouster on the Syrian regime was palpable, not least of all because it shattered the myth of the omnipotent authoritarian Arab state.62 To a number of Syrians, "the way Baghdad fell, without much resistance, was humiliating. It shed a new light on how things were here at home, how vulnerable the regime was, how empty its slogans"63 "Iraq, which in the eyes of the Arab world once embodied the myth of military, police and technological power, crumbled at lightning speed! Today, the strength that our regimes claimed to represent is a sheer lie that no longer fools 61 ICG interview with journalist belonging to Syrian opposition, Damascus, April 2003.
62 As the war unfolded and its outcome became clear, Syrian officials went out of their way to distinguish their regime from the Iraqi. Buthayna Shaaban, then spokeswoman of the Syrian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and close advisor to President Bashar, wrote: "The Iraqi crisis provides from the outset proof that the Iraqi people is the victim of a bloody dictatorship . . . The regime had . . . mobilized the country's resources as well as its human and cultural capital at the service of a handful of people unworthy of representing their country and their people". As- Sharq al-Awsat, 18 April 2003. 63 ICG interview with Syrian analyst, Damascus, July 2003. anybody".64 Fear of the Syrian state - already markedly diminished with Hafez al-Assad's death - eroded further. In the immediate aftermath of the war, many Syrians displayed far greater willingness than openly to question their political system. Expectations of rapid change were widespread among the intellectual opposition: "In Syria, we do not need a war to achieve regime change! The regime can fall very quickly: at the first sign of trouble, the oligarchy will almost certainly flee with the money it has stolen and already safely placed abroad".65 A prominent Syrian opposition figure explained: After Iraq, the ordinary Syrian citizen expects a change, expects that things will move. The authoritarian regime in Syria died with the U.S.'s victory in Iraq. Since that time, one can sense a growing politicisation of Syrian society and a genuine desire to have a role in public life. People are much more eager to speak out.66 Also notable, including among some early Baath Party founders, was a certain satisfaction at the collapse of what they considered a betrayal of Baathism - Baathism as an instrument of social coercion. Another regime critic and leading Baathist from the 1940s-1950s, said:
Nothing would give me more satisfaction than the definitive elimination of the Baath and its obliteration from the Arab world. In Syria, since the February 1966 coup, it has become a loose assortment of incompetent individuals without a genuine sense of identity, nothing more than clienteles ready to be bought ... What matters today is that my children can eat....If you give people the freedom to think, to write and to decide, maybe new and competent elites will emerge who will be able to govern this country.67
64 ICG interview with Syrian movie director, Damascus, April 2003.
65 ICG interview with university student, Damascus, April 2003. Some went so far as to predict that, sensing the regime's demise, a challenger would come from the inside. "Should a Chalabi or a Karzai emerge in Syria, he probably would come from within the regime itself, and not from the current opposition". ICG interview with Islamist militant, Damascus, April 2003.
66 ICG interview with Riyyad at-Turk, Damascus 22 April 2003.
67 ICG interview, Damscus, April 2003.
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Calls for greater freedom, heard during the Damascus Spring but then quickly silenced, once again were voiced by Syrians at home and via the Lebanese press. Seeking to invoke the Iraqi events in a way that might be more acceptable to the regime, and fearing association with the U.S., whose Middle East policies were hugely unpopular, 68 opposition figures called for a national awakening and democratic opening precisely in order to stave off foreign intervention. Opposition members made clear they would not challenge the Syrian regime "on the back of an American tank".69 In one petition, 120 members of the exiled and internal opposition wrote: The United States has never dared occupy a country where there exists minimal harmony between those who govern and those who are governed. All U.S. wars have been wars against weak, illegitimate regimes that are cut off from their people and incapable of embodying national unity against foreign threats ... The war against Iraq demonstrated the inability of the single party and of the security apparatus to defend national independence, sovereignty and dignity . . . People living under oppression cannot protect and defend their country.70 In another, 287 intellectuals and political activists denounced the U.S. intervention in Iraq and Israeli aggression, which "place Syria between two enemies with forces it has never seen before".71 The only way to face this challenge is to mobilise "a free society", hold a national conference with the participation of all Syria's political figures and respect human rights: Today, we are facing a dilemma: either the dictatorship continues indefinitely, or we go down the Iraqi road with the risk of chaos and long-term foreign occupation. I am afraid for my country and it is important for me that it not collapse into a cycle of violence, vengeance and pillage. The only wise course is for
everyone to take his responsibility and work
68 ICG interviews, Damascus July-September 2003.
69 Haithem al-Manna', a veteran critic of the Syrian regime, as quoted in, 25 August 2003. Manna' was allowed back into Syria in August 2003 after having lived in Paris in exile since 1978. ICG interview with Haithem al- Manna', Damascus, August 2003.
70Akhbar as-Sharq, 23 April 2003.
71 For the full text of the petition, see Akhbar as-Sharq, 1 June 2003.
for a change that is not accompanied by a national catastrophe.72
Signalling a degree of tolerance for this approach, Syrian television aired a call by Tayyib Tizini, a philosophy professor, for "national reconciliation".73 General Bahjat Suleiman, head of the security services and a central regime figure, implicitly praised Syria's opposition on the grounds that, unlike its Iraqi counterpart, it was not seeking to overthrow the regime or willing to cooperate with the U.S.74 The regime proclaimed several positive steps over the six months following the war. In April 2003, the ministry of education dropped the 30-year old mandatory military uniform for students from kindergarten to high school and the "military training" module from the national curriculum75 and dismantled several Baath Party youth organisations.76 Schools were allowed to accept assistance in English-language training from the U.S. embassy77 and, breaking a tradition of tightly state-controlled higher education, two private universities were licensed to operate in the provinces.78 NGOs working on "soft" issues such as the environment and women's rights were allowed to operate.79 The
72 ICG interview with a signatory of the "Manifesto of the 99", Damascus, April 2003.
73 This occurred on 3 May 2003, and was aired on Syria's satellite television station.
74 "In Syria, the regime does not have enemies but `opponents' whose demands do not go beyond certain political and economic reforms such as the end of the state of emergency and of martial law, the adoption of a law on political parties and the equitable redistribution of national wealth". As-Safir, 15 May 2003.
75 See Middle East International, 16 May 2003.
76 See The Washington Post, 12 May 2003.
77 ICG interview with U.S. diplomat, Damascus August 2003.
78 The Syrian Minister for Higher Education, Hassan Risheh, openly considered inviting the American University in Beirut to open a branch in Syria. He also called on the U.S. to increase student exchanges. See As-Sharq al-Awsat, 25 August 2003. One of the newly licensed universities is owned by a cousin of Bashar al-Assad. ICG interview with Syrian economist, Damascus August 2003. 79 ICG interview with Syrian NGO activist, Damascus July 2003. Syria counts approximately 500 to 600 officially recognised and functioning NGOs, a strikingly small per capita number as compared to most countries in the region. ICG interview with Haithem al-Maleh, Syrian human rights activist, July 2003. See also Karim Abu Halawa, "At- Tahuwwulat al-Mujtama'iyya wa Dawr al-Munazamat al- Ahliyya", in Arab Commission for Human Rights, op. cit. Other more politically oriented NGOs, such as human rights
organisations, operate in a legal limbo.
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government also abolished the notoriously corrupt and harsh "economic security courts" and lifted strict penalties on illegal trading in foreign currencies.80 Even the security forces were widely seen by civil society activists to have relaxed their stringent surveillance and interrogation techniques.81 In early 2004, the regime released 123 political prisoners, primarily members of Islamist parties and the Iraqi Baath but also Fares Murad, a communist activist detained since 1975.82
Despite early expectations, however, there was no fundamental change. The March 2003 parliamentary elections were held under basically unaltered rules and the Baath Party won 167 of 250 seats, leaving the previous allocation basically unmodified. Draconian emergency laws stayed in effect while roughly 1,000 political prisoners and the ten activists of the Damascus Spring remained behind bars.83 Fourteen other civil society activists, arrested in August 2003 on their way to a lecture on the "state of emergency", currently are on trial before a military court in Aleppo.84
The more recent setback, like the period that followed the Damascus Spring, led to a host of interpretations regarding President Bashar and the nature of the political system. The most commonly advanced explanation by Syrian opposition activists is that, having built centralised, authoritarian rule, Syrian officials - reform-minded or not - feared that changing one aspect of the system could pull it all apart. A signatory of the "Manifesto of the 99" said: The islahi (reformist) current grew out of Bashar's inaugural address. At the end of the day, however, it chose to close ranks with those in the
80 ICG interview with Syrian economist, Damascus, August 2003.
81 ICG interview with Syrian political and human rights activists, Damascus July-September 2003.
82 Bayan, 1 February 2004.
83 ICG interview with Haithem al-Maleh, Damascus August 2003. Syria's longest held political prisoner is Imad Chiha who has been in prison for 28 years, allegedly for membership in the unauthorized Arab Communist Organisation.
84 The group includes two prominent political activists, Fateh Jamus and Safwan `Akkar, who earlier spent fifteen years in prison for membership in the illegal Communist Action Party. The fourteen claim to have been tortured during their interrogations. See Jama'iyyat Huquq al-Insan fi Suriyya, Bayan, 26 January 2004.
regime who favour the status quo rather than with elements of Syrian society who aspire to change. No doubt, this had to do with power relations and political calculations. But it chiefly had to do with the fear they all shared of losing the power and privileges inherited from Assad-the-father.85 In this, the economic and the political are interlinked: deep public sector reforms would undermine patronage and clientelism.86 Likewise, widespread corruption is a central feature of the system, affecting all administrative levels and regulating entire facets of the economy. In the public sector, extremely low wages have made it a virtual necessity. What is relatively new is that private sector businessmen who took advantage of economic liberalisation have become major beneficiaries of corruption. As a result, they have monopolised most of the new lucrative markets and compete directly with the traditional bourgeoisie of Aleppo and Damascus that Hafez al-Assad had studiously tried to co-opt.87 Ironically, because they have been so limited, the economic reforms may have done as much harm as good. A businessman explained: "Everyone benefits from corruption, the old guard as much as the so-called new. The sons of regime officials have thrown themselves into the business world and have carved out privileged zones. Corruption has become all-encompassing, whereas under Assad-the-father, it was at least somewhat constrained".88
That said, and as stated above, a strong case can be made that Bashar came into office intent on modernising Syria and if not halting then seriously reducing corruption, and aware that this would require bold economic and perhaps even political steps. During the first two years of his presidency, three quarters of the roughly sixty top political, military and administrative office holders reportedly have been replaced.89 Among those Bashar promoted are persons educated in the West who share a more reformist outlook and, in several instances, are not members of 85 ICG interview with Syrian movie director, Damascus, 30 April 2003.
86 ICG interview with Syrian opposition member, Damascus, April 2003.
87 See Joseph Bahout, "Les Entrepreneurs Syriens. Economie, Affaires et Politique", Cahiers du CERMOC, N?7, Beirut 1994.
88 ICG interview with leading Damascus businessman, Damascus, April 2003. Nabil Sukkar remarked: "Hesitant reforms will get us nowhere. Either you have an old-style socialist economy or a modern capitalist one". Quoted in National Review, 2 December 2002.
89 See Volker Perthes, Syria Under Bashar al-Assad: Modernization and the Limits of Change, (London, Adelphi Paper, Forthcoming).
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the Baath. By the same token, it almost certainly is the case that, particularly in the early days of his rule, and unlike his father, Bashar has had to share authority with other power centres, including the political/economic elite that is entrenched in the public sector, the army and security services.90 He lacks any permanent cadre to help him.
The result is two-fold. At one level, people resisted Bashar and his attempted economic and public sector reforms. Although unconfirmed, Damascus is replete with rumours of presidential decisions thwarted by the system - party, security services or elite.91 Describing how the system ignores the president, a member of parliament said: "Bashar is akin to the traffic signs in this country. It is in principle forbidden to use your horn and yet the noise is overwhelming".92 At another level, Bashar was resisting his own earlier impulses, recognising both that changes could imperil regime stability and that perpetuation of patronage and clientelism could buttress it. Hence, he put the brakes on the former and turned a relative blind eye to the latter. The crackdown engineered in the wake of the Damascus Spring and the decision to slow reform in the aftermath of the Iraq war appeared to reflect a 90 Volker Perthes in "Emerging Syria 2002", part of the Emerging Markets Series, prepared by the Oxford Business Group, pp. 28-29.
91 As illustration of the Syrian regime's ability to block political reforms, observers point to Bashar's apparent backtracking on his June 2003 promise to grant individual amnesty to returning exiled opposition members. According to various reports, the move was blocked by Syria's intelligence and security services. ICG interviews with Syrian journalist, political analyst close to the regime and Syrian opposition figures in Damascus and London, September 2003. Another instance of alleged behind-the-scenes infighting involved decision 408 spearheaded by Bashar and adopted by the Baath Party Regional Command in June 2003, which called for a strict separation between party institutions and state daily policies. The decision was widely perceived as an attempt by Bashar to pave the way for the appointment of more non-Baathists to government positions; yet in the new cabinet, formed almost two months after Bashar had first announced his intention to appoint a reformist government, the share of Baathist ministers increased, and some of those closest to Bashar were not appointed, including Ratib Shalah, the Syrian Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Industry and economist Nabil Sukkar - both of whom were rumoured as possible choices for prime minister. ICG interviews with European diplomat and Syrian observers, Damascus September 2003. See also Muhammad Jamal Barut's analysis in Akhbar as-Sharq, 13 October 2003.
92 ICG interview, Damascus August 2003. compromise: political change was blocked while some limited economic reforms were allowed to proceed. As justification, the latter were portrayed as prerequisites to subsequent political liberalisation.93 Even nonpolitical reforms have run into trouble. According to a recent study by the University of Damascus, some 1900 decrees, laws and administrative orders carrying Bashar's signature have been issued since 2000.94 Yet very few have been implemented, a result of bureaucratic inertia or outright opposition by high-ranking officials, but also because the measures were not underpinned by an overall, coherent reform vision.
All told, many reforms advocated by the president were relatively modest. But they would have created their own momentum and might well have had unplanned consequences had their implementation been facilitated.
93 As stated by Vice President Abd al-Halim Khaddam: "The Europeans experienced real democracy only after citizens' economic needs had been addressed....As there is yet no economic maturity in Syria, there can be no democracy". Cited in Al-Hayat, 10 July 2001.
94 ICG interview with Syrian academic, Damascus July 2003. One example of an ill-fated law involves the decision to hand back to their original owners land exploited by state farmers. According to several accounts, the ministry of agriculture resisted, arguing that the land had been owned by the state for nearly 40 years and that the state farmers were all "good party members". The decision reportedly was cancelled because of excessive controversy. ICG interviews, Damascus, July 2003. See also Volker Perthes, Syria Under Bashar al-Assad , op. cit.
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Plagued by widespread corruption, ageing state industries, a volatile and under-performing agricultural sector, rapidly depleting oil resources, an anachronistic educational system, capital flight and a lack of foreign investment, Syria's economy has become unproductive. The country once was able to make up for this through what may be called "foreign policy dividends," income generated by aid from Iran in the 1980s and the Gulf in the early 1990s (in both cases largely in appreciation for Syria's role in countering Iraq), and more recently through trade with Iraq in violation of UN sanctions. "The regime's foreign policies were Syria's main export product".95 No such safety valve now exists. Moreover, if extraction continues at the current rate, oil resources risk running out within the next ten years. 96 While regime elements have been the staunchest opponents of reform, they also are likely to be the first victims of its absence because the economy is gradually undermining the regime's support base. Insufficient job creation is one clear indicator of problems ahead. With slackening growth and annually over 300,000 new jobseekers, unemployment is high and increasing.97 Government job-creation programs are unable to keep pace. There also is anecdotal but compelling evidence of growing income disparities98 and of significant and rising poverty.99 Together, these developments cannot but
95 ICG interview with Syrian academic, Damascus July 2003. 96 For estimates of Syria's oil reserves, see U.S. Department of Energy, EIA, "Country Analysis Brief: Syria", March 2003. For recent discussions of Syria's economic crisis see Nabil Sukkar in As-Safir, 14 and 16 June 2003; Hanadi Salman in As-Safir, 31 July 2003; Hussayn al-Qadi , Al-Islah al-Iqtisadi fi Suriya, Ila `Ayna? (Damascus, 2002).
97 Official estimates vary but some suggest that unemployment reached 15 per cent in 2003. See Tishrin, 7 May 2003. For a discussion of official statistics see Muhammad al-Rifa'i in Tishrin, 18 August 2003. According to independent estimates, the figure is closer to 20 per cent. ICG interviews with Nabil Sukkar, Damascus, July 2003 and Lebanese economist Kamal Hamdan in Beirut, September 2003.
98 An estimated 5 per cent of the population is believed to control some 50 per cent of national income. See Volker Perthes, Syria Under Bashar al-Assad, op. cit.
99 Unofficial estimates of poverty vary widely between 25 and 60 per cent of the population. See Hanadi Salman in As-Safir, 31 July 2003; Violette Dagher, "Muqadamma", in Arab erode regime support among the poorer and lower middle classes that have been among its most important constituencies. In their eyes, Syria has become a country of "neither bread nor freedom".100 In other ways, too, the political repercussions of a cash-strapped economy are already at work. A shrinking real economy reduces the availability of bribes, rents and economic privileges, thereby undermining regime ability to rely on patronage and economic control. Tribal challenges to Baathist supremacy used to be contained by distributing "business" opportunities and oligopoly positions in customs collection, cattle export to Saudi Arabia and local transport companies. In mid-2003, reduced revenues from all these sources triggered intensified rivalry, culminating in gang warfare and scoresettling between tribes in Aleppo, each of which appeared to be backed by local branches of the secret service (mukhabarat).101 Inability to preserve law and order further turned locals against the regime.102 Finally, according to reports, the effects of corruption can be felt in foreign policy: the provision of military hardware to Iraq prior to the war, and the turning of a blind eye to the infiltration of militants across the border in its aftermath both have been attributed in part to personal initiatives by officials or wellconnected elites motivated by financial gain. This apparent privatisation of foreign policy in a system formerly known for highly centralised control must be another concern, particularly in a volatile international environment.
Judging from the regime's own discourse, the need for change is gradually becoming more widely acknowledged in official circles.103 Reformist Commission for Human Rights, op. cit.; `Amr Mahmud, "Al-Iqtisad bayna al-Waqi' wa al-Aafaq", in Arab Commission
for Human Rights, op. cit.
100 Alan George, Syria, op. cit..
101 The tribes involved were the Basri and Hamidi. Several persons are said to have been killed in daylight assassinations. ICG interviews in Aleppo, August 2003.
102 "As tribal conflicts were played out on the streets people realised that the government's influence was waning, and they got angry. So they embraced Islamist slogans denouncing the local authorities' corruption and incompetence." Ibid.
103 The Lebanese Daily Star published a Syrian statesponsored dossier entitled "Syrian Arab republic: A New, Proactive Direction" that stressed the virtues of economic liberalisation and Syria's vast potential for foreign investors. See The Daily Star, 22 April 2003. For the government's official reform drive, see Syrian Arab Republic, "The Ninth
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elements within the regime also seem to recognize the strategic benefit from enhancing Syria's international stature. Yet, there still is insufficient awareness of the gravity of the problem and its potential political impact. Some seem to harbour a belief that foreign currency reserves are sufficient to stave off an economic crisis;104 a diplomat explained the complacency by observing: "Syria's economy basically thrives on two factors: rain and oil. For now, both are ok".105 In fact, the availability of financial resources means that the time is ripe to initiate serious reforms while a safety net can be put up to limit attendant economic hardships.106 For other officials, genuine change is impossible to contemplate as it would threaten their privileged positions. An important implication is that absent genuine political reform - greater accountability, transparency, public participation and a freer media, all of which would create new instruments of legitimate rule - it will be extremely difficult to introduce the necessary economic changes and break the cycle of corruption and inefficiency. What this means, as well, is that to succeed the reform movement (whether within the regime or the opposition) will need to reach out to a broader segment of Syrians than thus far. While most criticism for the failure of reform to date must fall on the regime, the opposition is not exempt. In explaining the failure of the Damascus Spring, some Syrians note that the educated, urban middle class that spearheaded it had few if any ties to the broader public, particularly in rural areas. This also holds for efforts after the Iraq war. Both appeared to be instances of elite movements that neither spoke nor listened to the concerns of the vast majority of Syrians. One Spring activist lamented: Five-Year Plan for Economic and Social development for the Years 2001-2005", Damascus, March 2002. 104 Syria's foreign currency reserves are estimated at a comfortable U.S.$14 billion but they are dwindling (in 2002, they were U.S.$ 23.5 billion). ICG interview with Syrian and foreign economists, Damascus and Beirut August-September 2003. The 2002 figure is from Syrian Arab Republic, Central Bureau of Statistics, "Syrian Statistical Abstract 2002", Damascus, 2003. "With reserves like these and its tight fiscal policy, Syria has effectively implemented an IMF program without the IMF". ICG interview with foreign economist, Beirut October 2003.
105 ICG interview, Damascus, December 2003.
106 As a diplomat posted in Damascus put it, "in another five or six years, the situation may be very different". ICG interview, Damascus, December 2003. The forums were a good beginning but we were largely talking to ourselves. A clear or real alternative to the regime's policies failed to emerge and so very few actually listened to what we were saying. But what can you expect? For 35 years they have effectively been killing political society. The great leader was thinking for us all.107
Some participants in the Damascus Spring also acknowledge that they may have pushed too far, too fast, issuing maximalist demands that provoked a sharp response. The key, they say, is to persuade regime officials that reforms will not necessarily threaten their survival.108 Some opposition figures suggested that human rights abuses committed at the height of the armed clashes between the regime and the Islamists in the early 1980s should be the subject of a mutual amnesty. Others have proposed that the Baath retain its dominant role during a transitional period to a multi-party system,109 thus giving the opposition the chance to show it could "behave responsibly."110 Some reform-minded Baathists have called for splitting the party into two factions as a first step toward controlled pluralism.111
Pressed about the need to accelerate economic and especially political change, Syrian officials cite a number of fears.112 They need to be taken seriously; though sometimes feigned and often exaggerated, they reflect concerns genuinely felt even by many who support the reform movement.
107 ICG interview with Syrian opposition figure in Damascus, 22 July 2003.
108 ICG interviews with Syrian opposition figures in Damascus and London, July-December 2003. See also Burhan Ghalyun, Al-Ikhtiyar ad-Dimuqrati fi Suriyya, ( Damascus, 2003), p. 154.
109 Youssef al-Faysal, the secretary general of the legalised faction of the Communist Party, said: "Some of the leaders of the muntadayat (discussion forums) were too extremist and proposed changing the system or the constitution, like Article 8 [stipulating the Baath's leading role in state and society] ... This extremism invited a similar reaction from the Bath party". Cited in Hanadi Salman, An-Nahar, 31 July 2003.
110 ICG interview with Syrian opposition figure in Damascus, December 2003.
111 ICG interview with Baath party member, Damascus, December 2003.
112For an interesting discussion of the regime's fears, see Ghalyun, op. cit. Although officially banned, the book is available in Damascus bookstores.
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1. The Islamist Threat
The argument against opening up the political system most often repeated is the risk of an Islamic fundamentalist takeover.113 It is often made to Western audiences; as a close advisor to Bashar put it, "Islamism is a real danger threatening Syrian society. Veils are present everywhere. The West should help us confronting that danger. Democracy will only allow these forces to mobilise".114 The argument carries weight with some U.S. and European diplomats, who see the secular Syrian regime as a bulwark against a far more dangerous, radical, Islamist takeover.115 For many Syrians, unquestionably, the memory of the earlier confrontation with the Islamists remains vivid. Equally undeniably, Syrian society has lately become more Islamic, evidenced by the increased number of veiled women (muhajabat), skyrocketing mosque-construction, a thriving religious literature market, significant growth in Islamic charity organisations and rising attendance at informal home Koran classes.116 Political Islamism as such lacks any active organisational structures. The Muslim Brotherhood, plagued by prolonged leadership struggles, forced into exile and with the death penalty hanging over membership, never recovered from the crackdown of the early 1980s.117 Operating between Jordan and European capitals, it claims "thousands of members" but all outside Syria.118
113 Vice President Abd al-Halim Khaddam told civil society activists in 2001, "We will not allow you to turn Syria into another Algeria". Cited in Al-Hayat, 19 February 2001. "If elections were to take place in Syria, there is a good chance we would find ourselves in the same position as Algeria. Americans have such short-term perspective!" ICG interview with high-ranking Syrian official, Damascus, May 2003.
114 ICG interview, Damascus 23 April 2003.
115 ICG interviews, Damascus, July 2003.
116 ICG interviews with Syrian journalists, political activists and imams, Damascus July-September 2003. See also Hanadi Salman in As-Safir, 29 July 2003, Thanna' al-Imam in An- Nahar, 23 January 2002. Shaaban `Abbud in An-Nahar, 30 December 2003. "Before, people who fasted in observance of Ramadan were subject to ridicule. Now, it is the other way around". ICG interview, Damascus, November 2003.
117 For an analysis of post-1982 divisions within the Muslim Brotherhood, see Anwar Abd al-Hadi Abu Taha et al., al- Ahzab wa al-harakat wa al-jama'at al-Islamiyya, (Damascus, 2000), pp. 296 ff.
118 ICG interview with Syrian Muslim Brotherhood's murshid al-`am (Supreme Leader), Ali Bayanuni, London 28 June 2003.
That said, it appears to retain a large reservoir of dormant sympathy, especially among lower middle class Sunnis. A leader of the secular opposition described it as still "the most credible" of Syria's opposition forces, a view echoed by some religious leaders.119 This can at least partly be explained by the regime's almost obsessive denunciation of the party since the 1980s. A schoolteacher recalled, "When I grew up we were forced to shout slogans at school against the Muslim Brotherhood. Not having any idea who they were or what they stood for, we began to like them because it was the regime that was making all our lives miserable".120 Over time, the Brotherhood's social base appears to have changed, from the business classes to the urban underclass, urbanised villagers, merchants, in effect mimicking the Baath's own populist origins. An advisor to President Bashar remarked that, through changes in its social base and its ideological transition from freemarket adherents to populist advocates of state control, the Brotherhood had become "very much a replica of the Baath."121
But the belief that opening up the system might pave the way for a violent, extremist form of Islamism raises several questions. While immediate free elections might indeed prove destabilising and therefore inadvisable, there is a strong case that the rise of Islamism in Syria has been fuelled precisely by the lack of economic opportunity, the closed nature of the political system and the deficit of democratic representation, all of which have led Syrians to search for alternative channels of expression and forms of social assistance. Many developments have been important in enhancing the appeal of Islam, including particularly anger at U.S. policies. But the domestic situation should not be overlooked and, indeed, the combination of the two is potentially explosive: "There is no doubt that islamicisation has been given a boost by U.S. policies in Iraq and by its bias in the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. Because people are unable to express themselves freely, they give rise to their anger by turning to religion".122 In this respect, "although they lack a legal political organisation, the Islamists make use of the entire religious
119 ICG interview with Riyyad at-Turk, Damascus 22 April
2003; ICG interview with imam, Damascus, September 2003.
120 ICG interview, Aleppo, August 2003.
121 ICG interview, Damascus, August 2003.
122 ICG interview with Syrian journalist, Damascus,
November 2003.
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ICG Middle East Report N?24, 11 February 2004 Page 16 infrastructure, including mosques and charitable institutions, which allows them to spread their influence and lay the groundwork for future political activism".123 Stifling of political participation and discredited official ideology lead to a vacuum that Islamic discourse is best equipped to fill. Informal religious schooling, which tens of thousands of Syrians - mainly women - are believed to attend, is an example. Impossible for the mukhabarat, to control fully, it offers a rare space for Syrians to discuss politically sensitive issues openly. At the same time, it helps cushion the effects of poverty, as participants may set up joint funds from which all can borrow in turn. As an indication the phenomenon may be spreading, the mukhabarat reportedly arrested individuals who attended home classes to discourage others.124 With the most popular Islamic tutors, such as Munira al-Qubaysi, who has virtual star status among segments of the population, the regime's margin of manoeuvre appears to be constrained.125 Moreover, despite its secular ideology, the regime itself has from the early 1980s sought to co-opt religious discourse as a means of compensating for the fragility of its popular support. The strategy has antecedents in Egypt and Algeria but to an extent backfired in both by encouraging a demand for religion that government was not qualified to satisfy and so promoting militant Islam without buttressing the regime's credentials. The Grand Mufti of Damascus, Sheikh Ahmad Kaftaru, has received large subsidies that have allowed him to spread an increasingly conservative variation of Sunni Islam via a host of Koranic schools, religious centres and mosques.126 Some Baath officials themselves have sought to highlight their religious beliefs, "forming a new movement in the regime, Islamist but who favour the status quo".127
123 ICG interview with member of Syrian opposition, July 2003.
124 ICG interview with a prominent imam in Damascus, September 2003.
125 Ibid.
126 For a study of Kaftaru's Islamic teachings and institutions, see Annabelle Boettcher, Syrische Religionspolitik unter Assad (Karlsruhe 1998). Muhammad Sahrur, a controversial liberal Moslem thinker, stressed the danger represented by the state-sponsored conservative religious establishment. ICG interview, Damascus, July 2003.
127 ICG interview with Syrian activist, Damascus, July 2003. Moreover, on the eve of the Iraq war, a "Jihadist" group led by Sheikh Abu Ka'ka was given permission to hold rallies The regime appears particularly concerned about moderate forms of political Islam, suggesting that it fears the growth of a potentially powerful rival.128 Several imams who sought to initiate local community projects or criticised the regime in Friday sermons were either fired or transferred to remote areas.129 In April 2003, 24 persons were arrested who, citing Moslem values, had taken an initiative to sweep the streets and remove rubbish in their neighbourhood in Darya, near Damascus, and videotaped this as an example for others.130 Likewise, the regime rejected requests by moderate Islamists, including Sa'id Ramadan al-Buti, to establish political parties. By suppressing vehicles for peaceful expression of political Islam, a source close to the government warned, the regime is playing with fire: Anti-Americanism is rising in virtually all segments of society. When mixed with Syria's gradual islamicisation, it becomes only a matter of time before such sentiments get translated into violent forms of jihadism. Faced with this threat, the regime is making various concessions, for example by tolerating fierce anti-U.S. verbal attacks in mosques, thereby only making the situation worse. It would be better advised to allow mainstream and moderate Islamist groups into parliament and the government, so as to channel this energy peacefully.131
and military-style marches in black uniforms in Aleppo. After reports surfaced that the movement had been infiltrated by Syria's secret service, it quickly fizzled. ICG interviews, Damascus-Aleppo, July-August 2003. In this instance, according to several sources, the regime had allowed or perhaps even encouraged the movement in order to identify radical militants who might otherwise have formed their own clandestine organisations.
128 The regime also has taken repressive measures against socalled Jihadist groups such as Hizb al-Tahrir. ICG interviews with NGO activists and political analysts, Damascus, August 2003. They form the bulk of Syria's political prisoners. See Syria chapter , in "Amnesty International Report 2003".
129 ICG interview with Syrian Imam, Damascus, September 2003.
130 ICG interviews with Syrian human rights activist and observer, Damascus July 2003. The Human Rights Association of Syria reported that eleven members of the group were tried in military court without proper defence and sentenced to three to four years in prison on charges of taking part in an illegal demonstration. See "Human Rights in Syria", HRAS Newsletter, January 2004.
131 ICG interview, Damascus, December 2003.
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Much debate in Syria regarding the Islamist threat has to do with the nature of the Muslim Brotherhood. Clearly responsible for terrible acts in the early 1980s, and suppressed by the regime, the Brotherhood is still viewed by the Baath as a violent foe intent on imposing an extremist, theocratic system. Contacts between the regime and the Brotherhood were initiated in the mid-1990s after the organisation's former leader, Abd al-Fattah Abu Ghudda, was granted permission to retire in Syria. But negotiations aimed at allowing members to return failed.132
Through its statements and political program, the Muslim Brotherhood clearly has sought to dispel its former image. It has stopped insisting on the right to use violence, no longer calls for the introduction of Islamic law (shari'a) and claims to espouse democratic principles. In the same vein, it has ceased to play openly the communitarian card and appeal for Sunni mobilisation against the Alawi - an attitude that backfired in the 1980s. Riyyad at-Turk, along with a number in the secular opposition, believes that the Brotherhood:
has reached a certain political maturity and is prepared to accept the democratic game. Of course, more extreme trends exist among them, but they can be contained through political competition and pluralism. Islamists always prevail during transitional phases because they are the best organised: they have the mosque and do not need to go underground like all other political forces. But I am convinced that their status will decline once democracy is introduced.133
132 According to the Muslim Brotherhood's Supreme Leader, Ali Bayanuni, the principal stumbling block was the regime's position that there would be no general amnesty but rather a case-by-case process pursuant to which each returning Muslim Brotherhood member would have to repent for past crimes. ICG interview with Ali Bayanuni, London, 28 June 2003. The regime disputed the movement's sincerity in asserting it wants to become a moderate, peaceful organisation, claiming it was driven by tactics or lack of funds. See, for example, Sha'ban Abbud in An-Nahar, 7 September 2002.
133 ICG interview with Riyyad at-Turk, Damascus, 22 April 2003. An assistant to the Grand Mufti, Sheikh Kaftaru, commented that "at some point, the Muslim Brotherhood would be a potential candidate for a party, perhaps under another name". ICG interview, Damascus, August 2003. Others take the view that Syria is, in effect, already in a post-Algeria phase, in that the traumatic experience of the 1980s has hurt the regime but also discredited an Islamist state. "Even in Hama, which witnessed the worst of the regime's brutality, the people blame both sides for the tragic events".134
While the regime should do its part to co-opt more moderate Islamic forces, for example by extending an amnesty to political activists, including Brotherhood members, who have not participated in acts of violence,135 the Brotherhood also needs to take steps. It has not yet publicly accepted responsibility for its share of violence in the 1970s and early 1980s.136 It also remains ambiguous as to whether it will still seek retribution for past human rights abuses against its members, thereby fuelling concerns within the regime.137 It should make absolutely clear its commitment to non-violence, democracy and respect for the rule of law, and that it excludes any score-settling.
2. Sectarian and Ethnic Strife
Sectarianism is seldom discussed openly.138 The opposition treads carefully: "the confessional question is absent from the opposition's discourse. To a large extent it has to do with fear of the regime's reaction, but it also reflects a desire not to undermine national unity".139 Yet, beneath the surface, anxieties and tensions are palpable. Alawis close to the regime fear a sectarian backlash in the event of political change and question their future in a Sunni-dominated country.
134 ICG interview with Syrian opposition member, Beirut, July 2003.
135 An advisor to Bashar claimed he had been pressing this point, so far to no avail. ICG interview, January 2004.
136 In an interview with ICG, Ali Bayanuni took a step in that direction: "We didn't start the violence. It was a reaction to the terrorism of the regime. We couldn't isolate ourselves from the public sentiments at the time. But, yes, it was a mistake to get involved in violence". ICG interview, London 28 June 2003. Secular opposition groups are united in their demand that the Brotherhood recognise its responsibility as well. ICG interviews, Damascus, August 2003.
137 Bayanuni acknowledged that some in the regime fear what might happen to them in the event the Muslim Brotherhood were to return amidst a process of reform. "But the Syrian people should decide what we will do with the past. If the regime's victims will call for prosecuting them in courts we will not stop them." Ibid.
138 See Burhan Ghalyun, Al-Ikhtiyar, op. cit., pp. 142 ff.
139 ICG interview with Riyyad al-Turk, op. cit.
Syria Under Bashar (II): Domestic Policy Challenges ICG Middle East Report N?24, 11 February 2004 Page 18 Memories of the Muslim Brotherhood's violent campaign against Alawis in the 1970s - during which they were denounced as apostates (kuffar) - understandably remain fresh.140 How well founded these worries still are is uncertain. As previously noted, the lines between Alawis and Sunnis are not as clearly drawn, and the regime has been relatively successful in co-opting Sunnis in the military, state bureaucracy and the business class. When asked, opposition members are quick to dismiss the prospect of inter-sectarian strife, arguing that the Alawis are not, as a community, in power: Power is not being used by the Alawis; rather, the Alawis are being used by those in power. The regime is built around a core group whose members tend to come from a single confessional group, particularly in the security and intelligence services, but they do not represent the Alawis in their entirety. Indeed, all religious groups are more or less represented in the regime.141
Haysam al-Maleh, an Islamist human rights activist, echoes this view: "it is not the case of a confessional community that governs; instead it is the case of a group that uses a confessional group to govern".142 Syrians also note that just as the regime has strong allies within the Sunni community, so too are many of its opponents Alawis. One such explained: "The Alawis don't rule Syria. We all live under the same regime. Indeed, Alawis are highly over-represented among Syrian political prisoners".143 On this issue, too, however, the Muslim Brotherhood has yet to distance itself clearly from past behaviour.144 In the view of some officials, another unwantedconsequence of political liberalisation could be the demand by Kurds - roughly 10 per cent of the population - for autonomy or even independence. During the Iraq war, some in the regime appear to have feared the example set by Iraqi Kurds. Officials reportedly urged Syrian Kurdish leaders to state
140 See Hans G. Lobmeyer, Opposition und Widerstand, op.
cit., pp. 199-200, 269, 278.
141 ICG interview, Damascus, April 2003.
142 ICG interview, Damascus, April 2003.
143 ICG interview, Damascus, April 2003.
144 Asked about the issue of sectarianism, Moslem Brother leader Bayanuni blamed the regime for "ruling as a minority", while adding, "We are a majority". He then claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood has excellent relations with non-Sunni opposition members. ICG interview with Ali Bayanuni, London, 28 June 2003. opposition to the U.S. invasion. Several Kurds were arrested and peaceful Kurdish demonstrations suppressed prior to, during and directly following the war.145 Even some members of the opposition accused Syrian Kurds of espousing a "Kurdish chauvinist reading of history".146 Like their Sunni counterparts, however, a number of Kurdish leaders with genuine popular followings have become part of prominent state institutions, with Sheikh Kaftaru, the Grand Mufti, perhaps the most prominent example. Kurds have grievances - including the denial in 1962 of Syrian nationality to up to 200,000 born in Syria and their offspring,147 the government ban on Kurdish language and cultural expressions, and the harassment and arrest of Kurds for organising cultural activities, such as the Nawruz (new year) celebrations. But for the most part, and aside from minority views predominantly held in the exile community, Syria's Kurds have not echoed their Iraqi counterparts' demands and have framed their claims in terms of equal citizenship rights.148 Keeping Kurdish activism away from nationalist demands should be possible, but will require something other than the regime's at times heavy-handed approach.149
145 ICG interview with Syrian human rights activist, Damascus July 2003. See also The Human Rights Association in Syria, "The Effect of Denial of Nationality on the Syrian Kurds", Damascus, November 2003, p. 10.
146 See Akram al-Bunni in Al-Hayat, 24 September 2003. Similar accusations were levelled by Sham'un Danhu in theopposition newspaper Akhbar as-Sharq, 13 October 2003. Danhu argued that as a result of events in Iraq, Syrian Kurds increasingly use the terms "West Kurdistan" and "Syrian Kurdistan" and are "distorting and `kurdinising' Syrian history".
147 In 1962, a census taken in al-Jazira province deliberately failed to register up to 200,000 Kurds in an attempt to "arabise" the region. Among other things, these Kurds (almaktumin - the "unregistered") have been denied the right to hold a passport, vote, own property and officially register their marriages. See Human Rights Watch, "Syria: The Silenced Kurds", October 1996, The Human Rights Association in Syria, "The Effect of Denial of Nationality", op. cit.
148 One Kurdish group in exile, the Western Kurdistan Association, insists on full independence within a larger Kurdistan. It dismissed the view that Kurds would be satisfied with equal treatment, saying, "Kurds in Syria can't speak their minds freely". ICG interview, London, October 2003. The civil rights agenda was most clearly articulated by Faysal Youssef, the leader of the Syrian branch of the Kurdish Progressive Party (KDP). See An-Nahar, 8 August 2003.
149 In June 2003, eight Kurdish civil rights activists were arrested after demonstrating in front of the UNICEF building in Damascus. Their trial is scheduled for February 2004. Two Syria Under Bashar (II): Domestic Policy Challenges ICG Middle East Report N?24, 11 February 2004 Page 19 President Bashar promised improvements and, in August 2002, paid an unprecedented visit to the predominantly Kurdish province of Hasaqa, during which he reportedly agreed that the 1962 census was "a big mistake".150 Practical follow-up is needed.
3. The Fear of Economic Dislocation
One of the strongest arguments against economic reform is that it is virtually certain to involve painful, immediate socio-economic repercussions, including more unemployment and poverty. Reforms will mean labour cuts in state-owned enterprises151 while food prices are likely to increase as subsidies and price controls are lifted. Avoiding necessary reforms now, however, will only postpone them to what probably will be a more precarious moment, when fewer resources will be available with which to fund a safety net. The economic blow should be cushioned with intensified job-creation programs, which the international community should help with by cofunding. At the same time, measures to fight corruption and collusion between the state and private businesses, combined with steps to increase commercial opportunities for medium and smallsized businesses could help improve competitiveness and redistribute income. Should reform occur in a climate of improved relations with the U.S., moreover, as advocated in the companion ICG report, the economy could be strengthened by increased tourism and, especially, the opening of Iraq's market to products from Syria's labourintensive industrial and service sectors.152 other Kurdish activists were arrested in a similar demonstration in December 2002 and have been held incommunicado. See Amnesty International, "Syria: Kurdish Prisoners of conscience must be released immediately", 9 January 2004.
150 Cited by Faysal Youssef in An-Nahar, 8 August 2003. On the census, see fn. 145 above.
151 A European businessman based in Syria explained that reforms would be "very painful. State companies that currently employ 5,000 people may well end up with only 400 on their rolls. You can't implement a reform program without taking this element into account. This is the big issue". ICG interview, Damascus, July 2003.
152 ICG interviews with Syrian economist and academic in Damascus, July 2003.
As with many Middle East issues, differences between U.S. and European policies toward Syria have grown starker after President Bush's election and the events of 11 September 2001. European countries have maintained a strategy of engagement, seeking to nudge Syria to reform by offering technical and economic assistance. In particular, the EU negotiated an Association Treaty with Syria that includes political, economic, commercial, social and cultural provisions. Trade Commissioner Pascal Lamy commented, "the agreement will help Syria better integrate into the world economy, and paves the way for other initiatives, including possible future membership in the World Trade Organisation."153 The EU also expressed the hope that clauses "regarding respect for human rights, nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction and fight against terrorism will enhance our ability to engage with Syria on these important issues".154 In contrast, and at roughly the same time, President Bush - frustrated with Syria's non-responsiveness to repeated demands to change its regional policies - signed into law the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act (SALSA) pursuant to which U.S. assistance can only resume if Syria ceases its support for Palestinian and other groups regarded as terrorist, stops sending or allowing volunteers into Iraq, ends its occupation of Lebanon and halts development of WMD and allows UN and other observers to verify the dismantling of any such weapons.155
Whether and to what extent third party involvement - pressure or engagement - can encourage political and economic change is a matter of debate among Syrian reformers and opposition. There is a growing - if grudging - recognition that it may be needed for real change, particularly on the political front. "Syrian society does not seem capable of initiating indigenous changes that will modify our system of governance. Reform will materialise as a 153 "EU-Syria: Conclusion of the Negotiations for an Association Agreement",
154 Chris Patten, Commissioner for External Relations, in ibid .
155 See &docid= f:publ175.108.pdf. Syria Under Bashar (II): Domestic Policy Challenges ICG Middle East Report N?24, 11 February 2004 Page 20 result of outside involvement".156 But even Syria's staunchest reform advocates and most opposition members alike argue that in the present climate U.S. pressure is more likely to backfire than to help.157 In light of terrorism-related sanctions and SALSA, moreover, there is little in terms of immediate, positive incentives that Washington isin a position to provide.
While on the foreign policy side the U.S. role is critical, on the domestic side the EU and Japan are in the lead158. In particular, the Association Treaty (subject to signing) gives the EU an important tool. There is little doubt that Syria, and especially Bashar, are "very keen" to conclude the agreement.159 The EU should use it to seek commitments on issues such as respect for human rights and reforms generally. European and Japanese efforts should be based on the following principles:
Bolstering reformers within the Syrian leadership. Starting from the premise that President Bashar is a genuine reformer thwarted by a recalcitrant and incompetent bureaucracy, France sent senior experts on administrative reform to audit the state administration and recommend actions. Still in its initial stages, the project aims at encouraging him to establish a strong presidential office staffed by a small but capable team of reform-minded
156 ICG interview with Syrian opposition member, Damascus, July 2003.
157 Riyyad at-Turk's view is fairly representative in this respect. Describing U.S. assistance to the Syrian opposition to bring about reform as undesirable, he said, "We want the citizens of the country to be the force behind any change because we're not ready to forfeit our independence and sovereignty". Cited in An-Nahar, 29 September 2003. The leader of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood noted, however, that he would welcome "U.S. pressures on Syria to reform", though he added that he was sceptical that it would be genuinely forthcoming: "We have witnessed so far that U.S. pressures have little to do with domestic reform. The U.S. talks about what happened in Halabja [where the Iraqi regime reportedly killed some 5,000 people] but it does not mention Hama [where the Syrian regime killed perhaps 10,000 to 30,000]". ICG interview with Ali Bayanuni, London, June2003.
158 Japan's International Cooperation Agency is by far the largest donor in Syria. It primarily finances technical development projects in healthcare, industry and agriculture. In terms of institutional and economic reforms, the European Union sees itself as "only donor capable of making the necessary interventions". Euro-Med Partnership, op. cit., pp 19-20.
159 ICG interview with European diplomat, Damascus, December 2003.
advisors. It has recommended an inter-ministerial "General Secretariat" "to coordinate and rationalize the activities of the different administrations".160 This initiative should be followed in particular by an increase in the EU budget for administrative reform in Syria (currently ?21 million) and for improving structures of ministries or ministerial secretariats led by reformers.161 Similarly, the EU could assist on judicial reform. More generally, it should initiate a dialogue on political and administrative prerequisites of economic reform.
Syria's partners should examine how to cushion immediate reform hardships. Under the Association Treaty, both parties gradually would lift trade barriers to allow freer trade. As a result of years of neglect and low productivity, Syria's industrial and agricultural sectors risk being destabilised by European competition.162 To mitigate these short-term effects, the EU should provide funds and expertise to assist the Syrian Agency for Combating Unemployment, which has yet to meet expectations but has proven it can make a difference.163 Egypt's Social Fund for Development, which provides micro-credits and water sanitation programs and seeks to create employment, has shown that such efforts can have genuine, if modest, results.164
160 ICG interview with French diplomat in Damascus, January 2004. The secretariat was launched in October 2003.
161 These could include the ministry of economy and trade, led by Ghassan Rifa'i, the ministry of labour and social affairs, led by Siham Dallulu, the ministry of tourism, led by Sa'adallah Agha al-Qal'a, and the ministry of education, led by Hani Murtada.
162 The olive, vegetable and textiles industries - all major contributors to Syria's GDP - will be particularly endangered. ICG interview with Ratib Shalah, Damascus July 2003. One reason for the delays in negotiations was that Syria wanted a longer grace period for its industries. See interview with former Minister for Industry Issam Za'im in Al-Hayat, 16 December 2001.
163 This office was established at the end of 2001 and provides micro-credits and educational programs for the unemployed. With a budget of U.S.$1.5 billion and considerable administrative independence, it claims that its financing of hundreds of projects through 2002 created around 16,000 new jobs. See Tishrin, 7 May 2003. In parallel, the European Investment Bank announced it will provide ?40 million for financing projects of Syrian small and mediumsized companies. See European Commission's Delegation in Syria, "EIB Sets up an Innovative ?40 Million Scheme", 10 September 2003.
164 See World Bank, "Poverty in MENA", August 2003. MNSED/
Syria Under Bashar (II): Domestic Policy Challenges
ICG Middle East Report N?24, 11 February 2004 Page 21
Europe should press Syria on political reform. This could be done via the Association Treaty, which contains a clause requiring respect for democratic principles and human rights165 but does not specify serious follow-up or monitoring mechanisms as in other fields of cooperation.166 The EU should consider steps to broaden debate on political reform and strengthen Syria's civil society and human rights activists, for example through people-to-people exchanges or the organisation of conferences.167 Technical aid could be provided to train NGOs and encourage Syria to modify restrictive laws regulating their operation.168 The European Commission's human rights assessment - being prepared in anticipation of Syria's possible application for assistance under the European Initiative forDemocracy and Human Rights - could serve as an appropriate starting point for a dialogue.169
165 In most such agreements, the clause reads: "Relations between the two parties, as well as the provisions of this Agreement itself, shall be based on democratic principles and fundamental human rights as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which guides their internal policy and constitutes an essential element of this agreement". Taken from the Association Treaty with Lebanon, Article 2.
166 See for example Amnesty International, "Algeria: When Token gestures Are Not Enough: Human Rights and the Algeria-EU Accord", 19 April 2002. In April 2003 the European Commission signaled the need for strengthened EU actions on human rights and democratisation in the region but, thus far, there have been no concrete proposals. See Communication from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament, "Reinvigorating EU actions on human rights and democratisation with Mediterranean Partners", 8 April 2003.
167 The German Friedrich Naumann Foundation initiated an awareness raising program on "citizenship" in the region which includes Syrian civil society activists. It also organised practical training workshops for NGO staff in Damascus and invited Syrian civil society activists to Europe. In December 2003 the Konrad Adenauer Foundation organized a debate in Damascus on the Arab UNDP report and the Canadian embassy co-sponsored a conference on Arab women's rights. ICG interviews with European diplomats and Syrian civil society activists, Damascus, November 2003-February2004 and telephone interview with Uli Vogt, representative of the Naumann Foundation, on 15 January 2004.
168 During an NGO training workshop held on 11 October 2003, Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Siham Dello said she was preparing to change the NGO law in 2004. "Yet her ministry is weak and she is crying for help". ICG interview with European diplomat in Damascus, 1 December 2003. 169 Like others, Syria may voluntarily apply for funding for human rights-related projects under the European Initiative for Recognising the limited potential for U.S.
intervention, there remain areas where it could be effective, especially in concert with the EU. In particular, the U.S. should drop opposition to the opening of Syrian membership negotiations with the World Trade Organisation. As European officials have recognised, such membership would require a major revision of Syria's economic and political structures and so encourage the kinds of economic reforms - including transparency and rule of law - that would strengthen reformers. The failure even to start WTO talks was a setback for reformers - including the president - who, after a long internal debate, had overcome the resistance of many conservatives within the leadership.170 The U.S. also should consider making an exception to allow private funding for Syrian NGOs and for exchanges and assistance in education, along the lines of its Lebanon policy. As a former official in the Bush administration remarked, "right now, our policy does not even allow U.S. government funds to go to civil society activists or micro-entrepreneurs in Syria because of the prohibition on any U.S. government money going to a state sponsor of terrorism. This prevents us from engaging and empowering reformists in Syria".171 Under current legislation, aid has effectively ceased to be available as a U.S. foreign policy tool with Syria. To remedy this, the president should at least be enabled to resume assistance when he certifies this to be in the U.S. national interest.
Democracy and Human Rights by presenting a "National Action Plan". See Commission of the European Communities, 21 May 2003.
170 ICG interview with Ratib Shalah, Damascus July 2003.
171 Testimony by Flynt Leverett, U.S. Senate, 30 October 2003.
Syria Under Bashar (II): Domestic Policy Challenges
ICG Middle East Report N?24, 11 February 2004 Page 22
Syria faces difficult regional and domestic challenges and is at a turning point. Over three years, President Bashar appears to have consolidated his position and enhanced his powers but whether for lack of will or capacity, the reform agenda has stalled. What change there has been will not suffice either to revive the economy or broaden regime support. Economic development, popular participation and government responsiveness are all necessary to ensure longerterm stability and allow Syria to play a more effective regional role.
Much depends on the international community's ability to offer Syria concrete alternatives if this is to happen.172 ICG's two reports outline the steps the international community, and particularly the U.S., ought to take in this respect.
But much, too, depends on Syria. The institutions and political actors that have formed the backbone of the regime - the army, security services, Baath Party and political-economic elites - have navigated repeated domestic and foreign crises for three decades, providing the country unprecedented stability. Wary of change and attached to a formula that so far has served them well, they will be hard to persuade of the merits of a course change. Nor should their fears of an Islamist take-over, sectarian or ethnic conflict, and renewed and prolonged instability be taken lightly. Even assuming Bashar wishes to take bold steps, it would be unrealistic to expect a rapid transformation.
Nevertheless, with a failing economy, endemic corruption, growing income disparities, shrinking popular support base, and regional changes that increase external pressures while reducing outside sources of income, there is no guarantee that the old recipe will work much longer.
Syria's challenge is to revitalize, even if only gradually, its political and social contracts. That begins with but must go beyond the modernisation efforts currently spearheaded by the president. 172 Some observers have noted that progress on the Arab-Israeli peace process has tended to strengthen the more reform-minded elements in the regime while the reverse has bolstered hard-liners. Volker Perthes, "Syrie: Le Plus Gros Pari d'Assad", Politique Internationale, Vol. 87 (2000), pp. 177-192.
Officials hint to ICG that 2004 will see major political and economic transformations, possibly including modification of Baath Party doctrine, a renewal of leadership, an opening of the political arena and the convening of a national conference to which some opposition groups would be invited. Such utterances have been made in the past to little effect but it is important that this time they become reality. For President Bashar, reform should be viewed not as a luxury but as a strategic imperative that can broaden his popular support and enhance his country's stature and stability.
Amman/Brussels, 11 February 2004
Syria Under Bashar (II): Domestic Policy Challenges ICG Middle East Report N?24, 11 February 2004 Page 23

Posted by maximpost at 1:10 PM EDT
Thursday, 15 April 2004


Radioactive materials disappearing in Iraq
Associated Press

United Nations -- Iraq's nuclear facilities remain unguarded, and radioactive materials are being taken out of the country, the UN's nuclear watchdog agency reported after reviewing satellite images and equipment that has turned up in European scrap yards.
The International Atomic Energy Agency sent a letter to U.S. officials three weeks ago informing them of the findings. The information was also sent to the UN Security Council in a letter from its director, Mohamed ElBaradei, that was circulated Thursday.
The IAEA is waiting for a reply from the United States, which is leading the coalition administering Iraq, officials said.
The United States has virtually cut off information-sharing with the IAEA since invading Iraq in March, 2002, on the premise that the country was hiding weapons of mass destruction.
No such weapons have been found, and arms-control officials now worry that the war and its chaotic aftermath may have increased chances that terrorists could get their hands on materials used for unconventional weapons or that civilians may be unknowingly exposed to radioactive materials.
According to Dr. ElBaradei's letter, satellite imagery shows "extensive removal of equipment and, in some instances, removal of entire buildings" in Iraq.
In addition, "large quanitities of scrap, some of it contaminated, have been transferred out of Iraq from sites" previously monitored by the IAEA.
In January, the IAEA confirmed that Iraq was the likely source of radioactive material known as yellowcake that was found in a shipment of scrap metal at Rotterdam harbour.
Yellowcake (uranium oxide) could be used to build a nuclear weapon, although it would take tonnes of the substance refined with sophisticated technology to harvest enough uranium for a single bomb.
The yellowcake in the shipment was natural uranium ore that probably came from a known mine in Iraq that was active before the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
The yellowcake was uncovered Dec. 16 by Rotterdam-based scrap-metal company Jewometaal, which had received it in a shipment of scrap metal from a dealer in Jordan.
A small number of Iraqi missile engines have also turned up in European ports, IAEA officials said.
"It is not clear whether the removal of these items has been the result of looting activities in the aftermath of the recent war in Iraq or as part of systematic efforts to rehabilitate some of their locations," Dr. ElBaradei wrote to the council.
The IAEA has been unable to investigate, monitor or protect Iraqi nuclear materials since the U.S. invaded the country in March, 2003. The United States has refused to allow the IAEA or other UN weapons inspectors into the country, saying that the coalition has taken over responsibility for illicit weapons searches.
So far those searches have come up empty-handed, and the CIA's first chief weapons hunter has said he no longer believes Iraq had weapons just before the invasion.

Russia's ominous Iraq exodus
By Sergei Blagov
MOSCOW - As Russia begins to evacuate its citizens from rebellion-torn Iraq, Moscow's move comes as a grim reminder of increasing volatility in the US-occupied country, as well as an ominous sign for Russia's pursuit of Iraqi oil riches.
Russia's Emergency Situations Ministry, which has already dispatched planes to Baghdad, plans to evacuate 553 Russian citizens, as well as 263 citizens of other former Soviet states, who are working for Russian companies in Iraq.
Russia advised all of its citizens to leave the country in light of the ongoing hostage crisis there. Eight employees of energy company Interenergoservice - three Russian citizens and five Ukrainians - were in Baghdad to repair power stations. They were seized by gunmen late Monday. Hostages told Russian television channels that they were released on Tuesday as soon as the abductors realized they were working for a Russian company.
It took Moscow little time to blame Iraqi administrators for the hostage crisis. The Russian Foreign Ministry said the kidnappings were the result of the deteriorating situation in Iraq and that it is the coalition forces that are responsible for the country's inadequate security.
Russian media speculated that the hostages were released promptly because of Moscow's opposition to the United States-led invasion of Iraq. Russia, which opposed the operation to depose former president Saddam Hussein right from the start, does not have any troops in the country.
But Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it is up to the companies themselves to decide whether to evacuate or not. Evacuation of Russian experts does not mean Russia has completely pulled out of Iraq, Lavrov stated this week.
Some Russian companies are already pulling their workers out of the country. State-owned Tekhnopromexport has announced it is evacuating its 370 staffers, who are building the Yusifiya power station near Baghdad.
Interenergoservis, which is restoring five Iraqi power stations under a US$30 million contract, has 365 workers in Iraq. However, some experts reportedly volunteered to stay in Iraq. Many of them come from depressed Russian regions or less affluent former Soviet states such as Ukraine, hence their modest income in Iraq is a strong stimulus to stay. According to Russian media reports, employees of Interenergoservice are being paid wages of $600-700 per month for their hard and dangerous work in Iraq.
Already this month, some 100 Russians have been evacuated, including representatives of oil company Tatneft, truck maker Kamaz and foreign trade association Mashinoimport. Representatives of oil companies Zarubezhneft and LUKoil reportedly remain in Baghdad.
Russia's Iraqi interests
For Russian businesses, the stakes are high in Iraq. Current contracts of Russian companies in Iraq reportedly total $1 billion. Meanwhile, evacuated firms could face penalties for breach of contracts.
Moscow has been keen to secure its remaining economic interests in Iraq. Last December, Russia offered to write off more than half of Iraq's $8 billion debt to Moscow, and pledged $4 billion in investments to rebuild the country. The debt writeoff and investments have yet to materialize.
However, Russia's top oil firm, LUKoil, reopened a small office in Baghdad aiming to revitalize a suspended project to develop the West Qurna oilfields, which contain some of the largest oil deposits in the world. A 23-year multibillion-dollar deal to develop the West Qurna field was signed in 1997 between Iraq and a LUKoil-led consortium.
Under the agreement, the Russian group would have developed reserves set at 7 billion to 8 billion barrels. Saddam's government canceled the contract in February 2003, but LUKoil, which owns 68.5 percent of the West Qurna project, insists that the contract is still valid and has threatened to sue in international courts if the contract is canceled.
Aiming at returning to Iraq, LUKoil moved to cooperate with the US and supply oil products. Last month, LUKoil's fully owned subsidiary LUKoil International Trading and Supply Co (LITASCO) signed a contract with Refinery Associates of Texas Inc to deliver gasoline and diesel fuel to Iraq. According to the contract, Geneva-registered LITASCO would supply 1.3 million barrels (180,000 tons) of gasoline and 950,000 barrels (130,000 tons) of diesel fuel per quarter from April 1 onward.
Also last month, LUKoil president Vagit Alekperov traveled to Iraq to meet with Oil Minister Ibrahim Bahr al-Ulloum to discuss the West Qurna contract. Alekperov and Bahr al-Ulloum signed a memorandum of understanding for LUKoil to help rebuild the Iraqi oil industry and to train 100-150 Iraqi oil workers a year. They also reached "an understanding" on the West Qurna-2 contract, according to Alekperov. Yet with a backdrop of deteriorating security and the withdrawal of experts, it remains to be seen how LUKoil could help rebuild the Iraqi oil industry.
When Saddam was still in power, Iraqi oil traded in the United Nations Oil for Food Program brought Russian companies more than $4 billion. The Kremlin had also been in discussions with Saddam's regime for a five-year economic cooperation program worth $40 billion.
But in the wake of Saddam's demise, Moscow's expectations in Iraq have become less ambitious indeed. Nonetheless, many Russian companies, including Interenergoservis and Tekhnopromexport, still work on contracts in Iraq related to the rebuilding of the country's infrastructure under the Oil for Food Program.
However, allegations of graft in the program have dealt a blow to Russian plans in Iraq. Early this year there were media reports that some 40 Russian companies and individuals, including entities linked to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Communist Party and the Liberal Democratic Party, allegedly took part in an illegal kickback scheme for trading Iraqi oil under the Oil for Food Program.
After UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's moves to approve a probe of corruption in the program, Russian officials and oil companies have denied allegations of graft, yet Moscow has been lukewarm over a possible UN investigation.
Russia was Iraq's largest supplier in the program. Of the $18.3 billion in Oil for Food contracts approved by the UN Security Council since the program began, some $4.2 billion went to Russia. Eleven Russian oil companies - Zarubezhneft, LUKoil, Onako, Sidanko, Sibneft, Alfa Eko, Zarubezhneftegazstroi, Mashinoimport, Rosneft, Nafta-Moskva and MES - were buying tens of millions of barrels of oil from Iraq in Oil for Food deals.
Russia has also insisted that US accusations of illegal arms sales to Iraq, such as claims of Oil for Food graft, were intended to elbow the Russians away from Iraqi riches. The war of words first began in March 2003, when Washington accused Russia of failing to stop sales of night-vision goggles, Global Positioning System navigation jammers and anti-tank missiles to Iraq. The Kremlin has repeatedly criticized the administration of US President George W Bush for floating allegations that Russian companies had supplied Saddam with defense equipment in violation of a UN arms embargo.
Whatever the veracity of claims and counter-claims, Russia and Iraq have maintained military ties for decades. Between 1958 and 1990, Iraq was one of the world's largest importers of weapons systems from the Soviet Union. During those three decades, the Soviet government in Moscow supplied Iraq with 4,630 tanks, 5,524 armored vehicles, 725 anti-tank missile systems, 325 air-defense missile systems, 1,593 portable "Igla" air-defense missiles, 1,145 military aircraft and 41 naval vessels, according to Russian media reports. The total bill reportedly amounted to more than $30 billion. Upgrading these arsenals could provide Russia with a number of lucrative deals.
Before the war, the Kremlin had publicly spoken against the use of force on Saddam's regime without authorization from the UN Security Council, where as a permanent member Russia has a veto. While Moscow remains critical, President Vladimir Putin has stated that Russia does not wish to see the US defeated. Russia has also called for a political settlement to end the conflict and restore Iraqi sovereignty.
In the meantime, Russia's evacuation of its nationals from Iraq also highlight Moscow's differences with other former Soviet states. Foreign Minister Lavrov told reporters in Ukraine on Tuesday that Russia is ready to help Ukrainian citizens leave Iraq, although Ukraine has not yet requested this kind of aid. Ukraine and Kazakhstan earlier indicated no plans to withdraw their peacekeepers from Iraq. On Tuesday, Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania and Deputy Speaker Ziyafet Askerov of the Azerbaijani parliament both announced that their countries were not going to withdraw from Iraq. Georgia and Azerbaijan each have some 150 peacekeepers in the country.
In the meantime, Russia still has no plans to dispatch any of its own troops to Iraq.
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The general and his labyrinth

Explosive allegations by a sacked officer of collusion between the Colombian army and death squads could damage cosy relations between Washington and Bogot?, writes Ana Carrigan

Thursday April 15, 2004
Colombia's president, Alvaro Uribe, visited Washington last month seeking more military aid. Since spring 2000, Colombia has received more than three billion "Plan Colombia" dollars, most of it for the army and police. But Plan Colombia - a US aid package aimed officially at bolstering counter-narcotics operations by the Colombian armed forces - expires next year, and Uribe wants a new multi-year deal.
The Bush administration, meanwhile, wants to double the number of US soldiers and civilians supporting Colombia's anti-drug - and anti-insurgency - activities, and the Pentagon has been lobbying Congress for an immediate rise in the current troop cap.
Uribe's star shines brightly in the US, where he is warmly received as Washington's leading hemispheric ally in the war on terror. Even so, this may not be the best moment for Congress to agree more aid for the Colombian armed forces. Not when a story has just broken in Bogot? which threatens to confirm allegations that they conspire with the United Self-defence Forces of Colombia (AUC) - an illegal paramilitary army headed by the country's most feared warlord, Carlos Casta?o - to carry out massacres and terrorise farmers and villagers.
The man at the eye of the storm is former army general Jaime Alberto Usc?tegui, who is awaiting trial for his participation in a gruesome paramilitary atrocity. In the tragic annals of Colombian atrocities there have been too many massacres, but events in the southern jungle town of Mapirip?n in July 1997 haunt the Colombian collective memory with a particularly painful intensity. Usc?tegui is accused of supporting the paramilitaries as they spent five days and nights terrorising the town, torturing more than thirty people to death and dismembering their victims alive in the municipal slaughterhouse.
Now, according to Bogot?'s weekly news magazine Cambio, Usc?tegui has put his military superiors on notice. From his quiet prison cell at an army base in the capital, the general has said that unless his superiors help him avoid jail, he will go public with documentary evidence of a policy of official military collusion with paramilitary terror.
As reported by Cambio, the documents in Usc?tegui's possession were retrieved from an army computer belonging to a military intelligence agent and equipped with a special password used in all communications between the army and the paramilitaries.
According to the general, the material includes pamphlets produced at battalion headquarters and handed out by the paramilitaries at Mapirip?n and other massacre sites, the rules of paramilitary engagement as drafted and drawn up by the army, and a complete list - including names and aliases - of all 93 members of the AUC front that committed the Mapirip?n massacre. The latter item also contains the payroll and individual monthly salaries for all the members of the front, together with their rank and responsibilities. There are also texts of assorted death threats, and thank-you notes to the bosses of the Cali cocaine cartel, acknowledging their financial contributions.
Usc?tegui has already been tried once in a military court, where he received a three-year sentence for failing to prevent a massacre. The Colombian supreme court promptly threw out the conviction and ordered a civilian trial that is scheduled to begin next week and could result in a possible 40-year jail sentence.
So, questions abound. Will the trial go forward? And if so, will Usc?tegui blow the whistle and will his claims stand up to scrutiny? Or will the trial be postponed? Will the country's attorney general, Luis Camilo Osorio, who has previously thrown out cases against senior military officers and paramilitary leaders, find a way to dismiss or derail it?
Only last month, Osorio - citing insufficient evidence - dismissed a similar case against Rito Alejo Del Rio, another general sacked for his paramilitary links. That decision brought a shocked response from 67 organisations, churches and individuals in the region where troops under Del Rio's direct command have been widely and repeatedly accused of collaborating with Casta?o's paramilitaries in atrocities that led to a mass population displacement. It also brought a request from Human Rights Watch for the appointment of a special investigator to examine the attorney general's actions.
"The trial will be my moment of glory," Usc?tegui tells an un-identified colleague in the transcript of a conversation published by Cambio. "If I go to trial, it will be far more serious than anything that has happened in Colombia to date, because this proves something that we have spent our entire lives denying - that is, the link between the military and the paramilitary."
He also makes it clear that he is in no doubt about the strength of his information.
"It seems that the attorney general's office, the inspector general's office and the president's office all know that terrible things happened [in Mapirip?n] for the army and the country ... and that this could topple Plan Colombia," he says.
There is then one final question. How will Washington handle Usc?tegui's information if it falls into the public domain?

? Ana Carrigan is a freelance journalist and author of The Palace of Justice, A Colombian Tragedy


L'Europe ? reculons sur la lev?e de l'embargo d'armes vers la Chine

Bruxelles : de notre correspondante Alexandrine Bouilhet
[15 avril 2004]
Washington a obtenu gain de cause. L'Europe n'est plus pr?te ? lever l'embargo sur les ventes d'armes ? la Chine. La pression exerc?e par les Etats-Unis, conjugu?e ? celle des opinions publiques europ?ennes, a fini par changer la donne sur le Vieux Continent. Favorable, fin janvier, ? un r?examen rapide des sanctions impos?es ? P?kin depuis 1989, les Quinze avancent d?sormais ? reculons sur cet ?pineux dossier.
En visite officielle depuis deux jours ? P?kin, Romano Prodi, a tenu ? pr?venir les autorit?s chinoises. ?C'est un d?bat compliqu? en Europe. Il y a encore des diff?rences entre les Etats membres et des r?ticences de la part de l'opinion europ?enne?, a insist? le pr?sident de la Commission, apr?s sa rencontre avec le premier ministre Wen Jiabao. ?Nous reconnaissons qu'il y a eu des efforts en Chine sur les droits de l'homme, mais ils ne sont pas encore suffisants?, a-t-il ajout?. Dans la bouche de Romano Prodi, le message ne pouvait ?tre plus clair. L'embargo europ?en sur les armes ne sera pas lev? sans contreparties.
Principale alli?e de la Chine dans cette affaire, la France tablait sur une d?cision rapide des Quinze, si possible avant le 1er mai. Le retrait d'une sanction europ?enne exige en effet l'accord unanime des Etats membres, une position plus facile ? obtenir ? Quinze qu'? Vingt-cinq. Les espoirs de P?kin et de Paris, qui qualifie l'embargo d'?anachronique?, risquent d'?tre d??us. Si l'embargo sur les armes reste inscrit ? l'ordre du jour de la r?union des ministres des Affaires ?trang?res, le 26 avril ? Bruxelles, plus aucun diplomate ne parie sur une d?cision prise ce jour-l?. Un report en juin semble encore plus improbable, ce mois co?ncidant avec l'anniversaire de la r?pression de la place Tiananmen. ?Des ?tudiants sont toujours en prison?, rappelait, hier, Amnesty International. Aussi conciliante soit-elle, la pr?sidence irlandaise de l'Union souhaiterait ?viter d'?tre associ?e ? un verdict cl?ment pour les marchands d'armes, qui la mettrait en porte ? faux tant vis-?-vis de Washington que de son opinion publique.
La pression diplomatique des Etats-Unis, des associations de droits de l'homme, m?l?e aux probl?mes de politique int?rieure des Quinze, le tout ? deux mois des ?lections europ?ennes, ne plaide pas en faveur des amis de la Chine. M?me l'Allemagne se montre divis?e sur le sujet. Gerhard Schr?der s'est prononc? en faveur de la lev?e de l'embargo lors d'une visite en Chine en d?cembre, mais les Verts ont de s?rieuses r?ticences, ce qui contraint Yoschka Fischer ? la plus grande prudence. Etrangement silencieux cet hiver, au point d'inqui?ter Washington, le gouvernement de Tony Blair met aujourd'hui l'accent sur les droits de l'homme, afin de retarder la d?cision europ?enne. Le Foreign Office sugg?re m?me de repousser le d?bat au mois d'octobre, lors du sommet Chine-Union europ?enne.
Pour avoir sugg?r? qu'il n'?tait pas insensible aux arguments fran?ais, le premier ministre danois, Anders Rasmussen, a ?t? convoqu? devant le Parlement, o? il s'est empress? de poser une s?rie de conditions. Sans ?tre isol?e, la France compte aujourd'hui ses alli?s sur les doigts d'une main : l'Allemagne, l'Autriche, l'Italie et la Gr?ce. Des supporters de plus en plus discrets ? mesure qu'approchent les ?lections europ?ennes. Le Parlement europ?en s'est prononc? contre la lev?e de l'embargo contre la Chine, estimant que P?kin n'avait toujours pas ratifi? la convention de l'ONU sur les droits civils et politiques.
Les plus cyniques, eux, rappellent que cet embargo, vieux de quinze ans, n'a emp?ch? aucun marchand d'armes europ?en de commercer avec P?kin.

New way for NATO to do business
Katrin Bennhold/IHT IHT
Friday, April 16, 2004

PARIS With NATO member states just days away from awarding a E4 billion military contract to a transatlantic consortium of aerospace companies, a new era of joint procurement may be dawning for the alliance, defense experts said Thursday.
A group of six companies, led by European Aeronautic Defense Space, known as EADS, and Northrop Grumman of the United States, looked set to win the contract, worth $4.8 billion, to build a mixed fleet of manned and unmanned surveillance aircraft for the alliance by 2010, said a NATO official familiar with the selection process.
After procurement experts at NATO's Brussels headquarters threw their support behind the EADS-Northrop consortium, officials in national capitals were expected to sign off on that decision "within days" the official said.
"It seems to be a genuine multinational procurement decision, and that is quite a significant step for cooperation in this area," said Steven Everts, a defense expert at the Centre for European Reform, a think tank in London. "There is an acceleration of the desire to cooperate more closely within the EU and across the Atlantic."
Against a backdrop of violence in Iraq and heightened concerns that terrorists may be targeting Europe following the Madrid train bombings, pragmatism may be gaining the upper hand over the political procurement decisions of the past, analysts said. While some major European governments continue to disagree with America on a wide range of issues, including the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the willingness to deepen their cooperation within NATO may herald a renewed commitment to the alliance.
James Appathurai, a spokesman for NATO called the decision "historic," confirming a report on Thursday in The Financial Times.
"This is only the second time in NATO's history that members join forces in procurement on this scale," he said. The first time, he said, was the AWACs surveillance system developed in the 1960s. "The decision was reached pragmatically on the basis of price, capability and scheduling considerations - not necessarily three factors that have determined procurement decisions in the past," Appathurai said.
Governments have preferred to keep national control of procurement, both to determine the exact nature of a project and to award contracts to the titans of a country's defense industry.
As a result, defense capabilities within the European Union, where most countries also belong to NATO, have often been duplicated.
The idea for a joint fleet of air-to-ground surveillance aircraft has been considered for about a decade at NATO, Appathurai said. Recent progress on the matter "reflects a realization on the part of NATO nations that our troops are out there in the field, and they need this type of cooperation," he said.
This evolving pragmatism is rooted at least in part in financial reality. With technology becoming more sophisticated and expensive every year, collective procurement makes financial sense, analysts said. In addition, recent sluggishness in the global economy has depleted state coffers, leaving less room for governments to bolster defense budgets.
"Pooling is the way to go," Everts said. "It's good news for taxpayers and also good news for political cooperation that common sense has won."
The EADS-Northrop consortium includes Galileo Avionica of Italy, General Dynamics Canada, Indra of Spain, and Thales of France. In addition, more than 80 other companies from NATO countries support the joint proposal, which would provide a mixed fleet of manned A320 Airbus planes and unmanned Global Hawk planes.
According to Alexander Reinhardt, an EADS spokesman, the price for an A320 is about E50 million, though a modified version for intelligence purposes may vary in price. The Global Hawk aircraft that Northrop has been building for the U.S. Air Force costs about $30 million, James Stratford, a spokesman for the company said.
A competing consortium, led by Raytheon of the United States and including Siemens of Germany and Marconi of Britain, has complained that NATO's procurement officials took too little time to examine the two proposals, which were submitted only four months ago. Appathurai, of NATO, rejected the complaint.

International Herald Tribune

Copyright ? 2003 The International Herald Tribune

-Inflation looks to be next export from China
Keith Bradsher and Chris Buckley/NYT NYT Friday, April 16, 2004
Economy's growth lifts prices for goods from rice to steel

GUANGZHOU, China After nearly a decade of mostly flat to falling prices in China that have helped hold down costs around the world, the country has suddenly turned into an exporter of inflation, with growing signs of a spiral of wages and prices similar to what the United States suffered in the 1970s. As managers from Chinese businesses of all sizes staffed exhibition booths here Thursday for the opening day of China's biggest trade fair, the common refrain was that prices of everything from rice to steel were rising sharply, and that prices for exports to the United States, Europe and other markets would have to follow. A socket wrench manufacturer had raised prices by 10 percent for high-quality models and by up to 50 percent for poor-quality models, for which the main cost is increasingly expensive steel. An exporter of exhaust manifolds, brake drums and suspension parts to American repair garages had raised prices by 10 percent in several increments since December. A few manufacturers had not raised prices yet, but said they were considering doing so, like one of the many makers of sinks and toilets who said he had just given his workers a raise to help them with rising expenses.
``The cost of living -- transport, food, everything -- is going up,'' said Su Han Xiang, the director general of Jinshan Ceramic Industries. Beijing announced Thursday that the economy had grown 9.7 percent in the first quarter, faster than expected, and said that raw material prices and other costs for businesses were rising and were increasingly likely to spill into inflation in consumer prices. ``There is a time lag, but it can't be too long, and there is pressure for price rises,'' said Zheng Jingping, the spokesman of China's National Bureau of Statistics, at a news conference in Beijing on Thursday. ``If this goes on for a long time it will cause problems.'' Using two terms that the Chinese government has conspicuously avoided until now, the state-run Xinhua news agency on Thursday quoted Morgan Stanley's China economist, Andy Xie, describing the Chinese economy as ``a bubble'' and an International Monetary Fund economist, Raghuram Rajan, warning that the Chinese economy showed ``some signs of overheating.'' Xie said by telephone that while the National Bureau of Statistics reported Thursday that consumer prices were exactly 3 percent higher in March than a year earlier, the true increase could be 7 percent or 8 percent. ``The State Council has said they want to keep inflation below 3 percent, so they have to report an increase of 3 percent,'' he said, referring to China's cabinet.
To be sure, ferocious competition has kept prices from rising in China for some big-ticket items that a growing proportion of China's population is buying, like cars, household appliances and mobile phones. By next year, many new steel mills now under construction could start alleviating the acute shortages that are driving up steel prices. But growing evidence suggests that while China has publicly embraced the market, it has been using extensive but informal price controls on state-owned enterprises to control inflation until now.
Two representatives of one of China's largest state-owned chemical companies said that while the company had just raised by 50 percent the export price of a popular insecticide for rice and cotton, the government had prevented the company from charging more to Chinese farmers.
Yet the increase in the export price is an accurate reflection, they said, of rising costs. Yellow phosphor, the key ingredient in the insecticide, is in short supply like many raw materials. And while chemical factories commonly ran seven days a week until a few months ago, many are now idle for two or three days a week because of blackouts, so that the steep investment cost for each production line can only be spread over a smaller output of chemicals. The United States and Western European nations found in the 1970s that price controls can limit inflation for a while, but cause markets to become less efficient and slow economic growth, while prices jump even faster when the controls are lifted. China has a different eco nomic model, in which companies with disappearing profit margins or even losses are allowed to continue borrowing large sums from the state-owned banks. Credit-rating agencies estimate that the banks are not receiving payments on nearly half their loans. This proportion has fallen somewhat in recent months, however, as the banks have sharply increased their loans and the borrowers have not yet had time to de fault on the new loans. As market-based approaches to the problem prove ineffective, Beijing is beginning to turn to older, more direct measures. The Xinhua news agency reported Thursday that local governments had stopped approving new economic development zones, which offer low taxes and other preferences, and had even canceled many previously approved zones. ``Since last year, rectifying the land market by using the `iron hand' has become an important measure in our country's macro-economic controls,'' the agency said. While it may seem in Wal-Mart stores as though a big part of the American family's purchases are made in China, exports from China to the United States last year were only equal in value to 1.2 percent of the goods and services produced within the United States.
Huge companies like Wal-Mart also have a considerable ability to force sellers to hold down price increases; the main buyers at the Guangzhou Trade Fair are wholesalers who supply small and medium-sized retailers. Yet China has had an outsized effect in stabilizing global prices until very recently because its very low labor cost has allowed it be the country to beat on prices in many industries.
As Chinese prices rise, many other low-income and middle-income countries exporting to the United States -- including Mexico and countries in Eastern Europe and Central and South America -- are likely to find it easier to raise prices as well. The New York Times Chris Buckley reported from Beijing.

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Irak : M. Chirac propose une conf?rence pour sortir de l'impasse
LEMONDE.FR | 15.04.04 | 20h14
"La France estime qu'une conf?rence r?unissant l'ensemble des composantes de la soci?t? irakienne permettrait peut-?tre de donner ? la transition politique - en attendant des ?lections - toute la l?gitimit? n?cessaire" a d?clar? M. Chirac, jeudi, ? Alger.
Jacques Chirac a exclu cat?goriquement, jeudi 15 avril, toute implication militaire de la France en Irak et a propos? l'organisation d'une conf?rence interirakienne sous l'?gide de l'ONU pour sortir de l'impasse actuelle. Le pr?sident fran?ais, qui s'exprimait ? l'issue d'une visite de travail en Alg?rie, a par ailleurs condamn? les prises d'otages en Irak et exig? la lib?ration imm?diate de tous les ressortissants ?trangers d?tenus.
Il a exprim? sa "sympathie" et sa "solidarit?" ? l'Italie ? la suite de l'ex?cution d'un otage italien.
"Ce qui se d?roule actuellement en Irak d?montre qu'au-del? de la s?curit?, la solution ne peut ?tre en r?alit? qu'une solution politique. Elle passe par un transfert rapide, complet, visible de la souverainet? aux Irakiens eux-m?mes et par la mise en place d'institutions irakiennes qui soient r?ellement repr?sentatives, l?gitimes et pleinement responsables", a dit le chef de l'Etat lors d'une conf?rence de presse.
Estimant qu'on est "loin de cette situation", Jacques Chirac juge, par cons?quent, qu'un engagement militaire de la France aux c?t?s des forces de la coalition pour stabiliser la situation est pour l'heure "hors de question". "Dans ce contexte, il est tout ? fait hors de question que la France puisse r?pondre de fa?on positive ? une demande de pr?sence militaire en Irak", a-t-il dit.
"Toute option qui ne tiendrait pas compte de la volont? exprim?e par le peuple irakien de recouvrer au plus vite sa totale ind?pendance serait lourde de cons?quences pour la stabilit? du pays, et plus largement pour la stabilit? de la r?gion", a-t-il soulign?.
La date du 30 juin, ?ch?ance fix?e par les Etats-Unis pour le transfert de la souverainet?, doit ? ce titre "marquer une v?ritable rupture", a estim? le pr?sident fran?ais. Dans cette perspective, "la France estime qu'une conf?rence r?unissant l'ensemble des composantes de la soci?t? irakienne permettrait peut-?tre de donner ? la transition politique - en attendant des ?lections - toute la l?gitimit? n?cessaire".
Cette conf?rence, plac?e sous l'?gide de l'ONU, s'inspirerait du mod?le de la conf?rence sur l'Afghanistan organis?e ? Bonn (Allemagne), en novembre 2001, par Lakhdar Brahimi, alors envoy? sp?cial de l'ONU dans ce pays, et qui avait
permis de donner naissance au gouvernement de transition afghan.
Jacques Chirac a indiqu? que la France attendait le rapport de l'envoy? sp?cial de l'ONU en Irak, Lakhdar Brahimi, pour se prononcer sur le r?le que pourrait jouer l'ONU dans ce cadre. "La France examinera en liaison avec ses partenaires au Conseil de s?curit? (...) le r?le que les Nations unies pourraient jouer dans ce processus politique." Lakhdar Brahimi est attendu ce week-end ? New York.
Critiquant implicitement la strat?gie militaire am?ricaine, Jacques Chirac a lanc? un appel aux forces d'occupation pour qu'elles ?pargnent les populations civiles et facilitent l'acheminement de l'aide humanitaire.
"Les affrontements dans plusieurs villes d'Irak affectent tr?s durement la population civile. (...) Cette population doit ?tre prot?g?e et l'aide humanitaire doit pouvoir lui parvenir. C'est une responsabilit? qui incombe aux puissances occupantes", a-t-il soulign?.

Avec AFP et Reuters


Floyd Norris: Greenspan races the rate clock
Floyd Norris International Herald Tribune
Friday, April 16, 2004

Alan Greenspan has bested the critics. Now the only test left is to see if he can bring interest rates back to something like normal levels without causing too much pain. Unhappily for the Federal Reserve chairman, however, the markets may not be willing to give him as much time as he would like to pull that off.
In the late 1990s, Greenspan decided to ignore the growing bubble in technology stock prices. In 1996, he did mutter something about "irrational exuberance," but he soon changed his tune and embraced the new economy. By the peak of the craziness, in the spring of 2000, he was happily quoting absurd forecasts from Wall Street analysts.
There was no way to know if it was really a bubble, he said then. But if the bubble burst, he would know what to do.
Now the evidence seems clear: He did know. For a time after the bubble burst, it looked like the problems might be long-lasting, but now fears of deflation and of a prolonged economic slump have been quashed. This is a self-sustaining recovery.
So why are investors not celebrating? The decline of bond prices in response to the strong economic news this week may not have been surprising, but the weakness of the stock market was. And why would evidence of a booming economy hurt commodity prices? An answer is that the Fed has kept short-term interest rates so low for so long that a lot of leveraged speculation has built up in what Wall Street calls the "carry trade," so named because the expected profits from the investment are more than enough to carry the cost of borrowing money to finance it. That was particularly true for bonds, but it was also true for stocks, currencies and commodities. The more someone borrowed, the higher the profit.
Banks and hedge funds seem to have a lot of carry trades.
The strong retail sales numbers on Tuesday reminded traders that short-term rates had to rise someday, and caused some of those trades to be unwound. Whether it was copper, or stocks, or the euro, the market showed signed of leveraged investors cutting back on their positions. Then came the inflation report. Until now, rapidly rising commodity prices had not been passed through to consumer prices. Rising prices have largely been confined to things that either don't show up in inflation figures - like home prices - or in areas where international competition could not hold down price rises, like college tuition, which is up 10.2 percent over the past 12 months, the biggest rise in more than a decade. But now prices are rising even in areas where they had been falling.
It has been convenient for the Fed to assume that any inflation threat - and therefore any pressure to raise short-term interest rates - is far, far away. Speeches by Fed officials have played down inflation, and it will be interesting to see if that begins to change. "They will find themselves with a big credibility problem if they do not acknowledge that there is more inflation than they expected," said Roger Kubarych, an economist with HVB Group.
By engineering negative real interest rates - that is, rates lower than the inflation rate - Greenspan has bolstered the economy at the risk of encouraging speculation. Some of the rise in copper - from 60 cents a pound, or E1.11 per kilogram, at the economic nadir in the fall of 2001 to a peak last month of almost $1.40 - is due to rising demand from real users. But some of it reflects speculation on borrowed money. Similarly, the search for yield has allowed companies - and countries - with dicey credit to borrow money cheaply. History says some of those loans will go bad in a few years, creating pain for investors.
Markets are starting to realize that the economy is too strong to justify keeping short-term rates so low. A federal funds rate of 2.5 percent, far above the current 1 percent, might be reasonable. That won't happen quickly, but expectations are growing that the Fed will have to begin raising rates well before this fall's U.S. presidential election. Now the Fed needs to gradually change expectations so that speculative trades can be unwound without doing unnecessary damage to markets.
"The last trick Alan Greenspan has to pull off," said Robert Barbera, chief economist of ITG/Hoenig, "is to get the federal funds rate up from crazy easy and still have everyone live happily ever after."


Copyright ? 2003 The International Herald Tribune
Omri Sharon: If PM loses Likud vote on Gaza plan, he might resign

By Mazal Mualem, Aluf Benn and Nadav Shragai, Haaretz Correspondents

While his father exchanged diplomatic assurances this week with United States President George W. Bush in Washington, MK Omri Sharon canvassed Likud members.
He warned them that if the disengagement plan is not approved in the upcoming party referendum, slated for May 2, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon might quit his post.
The resignation, Omri Sharon added, would lead to the party's loss of its hefty share of 40 Knesset seats, since the public would seek a political alternative in the next national elections.
Hours before his father held a joint press conference with Bush on Wednesday, Omri Sharon met with one local Likud branch head after another at a popular Tel Aviv coffee shop.
Sharon asked them to re-mobilize the same party workers who campaigned for his father in the Likud primaries held a year and a half ago. Sharon added that there is no money in the coffers, so rank-and-file Likud members who work on ensuring that the disengagement plan is approved in the May 2 referendum will have to campaign voluntarily.
The results of the referendum, well-placed sources said, will depend on organizational ability.
Opponents of the plan appear to have an advantage - Likud observers assume that hard-line opponents to territorial concessions and settlement evacuation will not miss the opportunity to vote against the plan, while the prime minister's likely backers are less ideologically committed and more apt not to vote.
Given this, the sources said, Sharon's aides know that a tremendous organizational effort will be needed to ensure that backers of the plan indeed vote.
Clear understanding
Omri Sharon has a clear understanding of these facts. He knows that the 160 Likud branch heads constitute the most promising organizational foundation. These political veterans are personally acquainted with party members who will be voting in the referendum, and therefore, Sharon has concentrated his lobbying efforts on the local party heads.
However, if the prime minister's aides succeed in winning approval for the separation plan in the referendum, the coalition is likely to unravel.
The National Union party announced on Thursday that if the disengagement plan is approved by the government and Knesset, it will quit the coalition.
In contrast, the National Religious Party has yet to decide how to respond in the event that the plan wins cabinet approval.
Lawmaker Shaul Yahalom said Thursday that the party should make non-committal statements on the issue: as long as there is hope of stopping rhetoric from turning into the actual uprooting of settlements on the ground, the NRP should consider staying in the coalition, Yahalom said.
Diplomatic loose ends
As Sharon deploys his parliamentarian son and associates for the tense contest in next month's referendum, his bureau chief will wrap up some diplomatic loose ends with Washington in the upcoming days. Dov Weisglass soon will send a letter to U.S. National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice detailing Israeli obligations that have yet to be carried out.
The letter will spell out agreements between Israel and the United States regarding the borders and status of areas where settlements have been built and a future freeze on settlement construction.
Washington's ambassador to Israel, Dan Kurtzer, soon will meet with Israeli security officials to discuss definitions of built-up areas in the settlements.
Last year, Israel announced that new construction on settlements will be conducted only in "built-up areas," but refrained from defining the borders of these areas.
Weisglass' letter will also state that Israel will deliver to Kurtzer within 30 days a list of outposts to be dismantled and a timetable for their evacuation.
The letter will also convey a commitment to take down, as security circumstances allow, roadblocks on the West Bank that encumber the Palestinian population.

Marines trade `culturally sensitive' training for bullets

By Lourdes Navarro
Associated Press
Pfc. Phillip Marquez, 21, of Coachella, Calif., passes a heavy sand bag as he and Marines of Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, fortify their position at a home in the northwest section of Fallujah, Iraq, on Wednesday. -- Hayne Palmour IV, North County Times / AP photo
FALLUJAH, Iraq -- On a rooftop overlooking Fallujah's industrial wasteland, Lance Cpl. Tom Browne pokes his machine gun muzzle out of a hole in a barrier wall, singing to himself to pass the time.
In the street below, the corpse of an insurgent suspect lies baking in the sun. Browne, from Boston, says he has killed several rebels, probably Iraqis, so far.
"I don't even think about those people as people," he says.
It wasn't supposed to be this way.
The band of Marines in this insurgent stronghold received two big orders this year. They were told to return to Iraq to stabilize the Sunni areas west of Baghdad, Iraq's toughest patch of territory. The normally clean-shaven Marines also were told to grow mustaches in an attempt to win over Iraqis who see facial hair as a sign of maturity.
"We did it basically to show the Iraqi people that we respect their culture," said Lance Cpl. Cristopher Boulwave, 22, from Desoto, Texas.
But after the brutal killing of four American contractors in Fallujah on March 31, they tossed aside such pretenses. First to go were the mustaches.
"When you go to fight, it's time to shoot -- not to make friends with people," said Sgt. Cameron Lefter, 34, from Seattle.
In the fight for Fallujah -- which has killed more than 600 Iraqis, according to city doctors and about a dozen Marines -- the Marines now seem to be following the second half of their famous motto: "No better friend, no worse enemy."
The Marines say it's easier to cope with the daily work of killing inside Fallujah -- where a seemingly unending supply of rebels continues to fight -- if they don't think about the suspected rebels they are targeting as people who, under different circumstances, they might have been trying to help.
"If someone came and did this to our neighborhood, I'd be pissed, too," said Capt. Don Maraska of Moscow, Idaho, a 37-year-old who guides airstrikes on enemy targets in the town. "I've never had people look at me the way these people look at me. I don't know what came before, but at this point, what else can we possibly do but fight?"
The Marines were hoping to lull Fallujah and Anbar province into a state of well-being by passing out $540 million in rebuilding funds, and showing off a more educated attitude about Arab sensitivities than they believed their U.S. Army predecessors displayed.
Before returning to Iraq, the Marines took a crash course in cultural training that included a video teleconference with an Arabic studies professor and the distribution of a culture handbook with tips warning against showing the soles of their feet or eating with their left hands.
About three dozen Marines from one unit took a three-week intensive language course in Arabic. And, of course, they grew mustaches.
"We grew them for the Iraqi people. We shaved them off for us," said Lt. Col. Brennan Byrne, who originally ordered his men to sport the facial hair.
These days, the Marines are speaking a more familiar language.
"We didn't initiate this," said 1st Marine Regiment Commander Col. John Toolen. "I came in here with more money than bullets. Now I'm running out of bullets, but the money is still in my pocket."
The Marines are frustrated with the negotiations to halt the firing in Fallujah. Many say they want to finish the battle, take control of the rebel city by brute force -- whatever it takes -- rather than wait for Iraqi negotiators to thrash out a deal to stop the fighting.
"We're the guys that go in and put our foot in the door," said Maraska, a veteran of the first Gulf War and Somalia. "We'll do any mission. But we're better at pushing and fighting."
Behind the front line, Marines are trying to supply the holed-up locals that they encounter with food and water, one of the few areas where their cultural training is put to use.
But Cpl. David Silvers, based in a front-line building nicknamed "the tower," says his experience with Iraqis has been limited to dodging bullets from a persistent and shadowy gunman he dubbed "Bob the sniper."
"He's the guy who wakes us up every morning and fires at us all day. He hasn't got anyone yet, but he's come close a few times," Silvers said.
Even though the Marines have given Bob his name, they say they still want to kill him.
"This is the closest relationship I have with an Iraqi right now," Silvers said.
S.Korea Nuke Assessment of North Unchanged
Associated Press Writer
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- South Korea said Wednesday that it was not changing its assessment of North Korea's nuclear capabilities despite a report that a Pakistani scientist had visited a secret underground plant in the communist country and seen nuclear devices.
The United States, Japan and South Korea discussed the information that Pakistan gleaned from investigations of its disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, and agreed that it was too early to draw a conclusion about what Khan saw in North Korea, Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said.
"South Korea, the United States and Japan share the understanding that it is desirable for them to take a more cautious position on this matter," Ban said during a regular briefing.
He said there was no change in South Korea's basic assessment that the rival North has only enough plutonium for one or two atomic bombs. South Korea has stuck to that evaluation for years, citing a lack of new concrete evidence on the North's secretive nuclear weapons programs.
The CIA takes that assessment a step further saying it assumes North Korea has one or two bombs already built.
South Korea has sent questions to the Pakistani government asking for more information about what Khan saw in North Korea, Ban said. But the government in Seoul has not yet heard back.
Pakistan said Tuesday it was sharing with other countries information divulged by Khan, but refused comment on a report that he had seen North Korean nuclear devices.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, told interrogators he inspected the weapons briefly during a trip to North Korea five years ago. If true, it would be the first time that any foreigner has reported inspecting an actual North Korean nuclear weapon, the newspaper said.
Ban said Pakistan shared Khan's information with South Korea "recently."
"It contained many unclear things, and there is ambiguity about the circumstances. Thus we are trying to make additional confirmation," Ban said.
North Korea is currently locked in a regional dispute over its nuclear programs. Since last August, the United States, China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas have held two rounds of talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions, but those meetings ended without major breakthroughs.
Ban said North Korea should allow nuclear inspections and freeze all its nuclear facilities as a first step toward what the United States and its allies call a "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling" of its nuclear programs. Only then, he said, will the allies provide economic aid to the impoverished country.
North Korea says it needs a nuclear "deterrent" against the United States. It demands economic aid and security guarantees in return for giving up its nuclear weapons.
The six nations plan to hold a third round of talks before July aiming to defuse tensions.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Cheney Pushes Asian Nations on N. Korea
Associated Press Writer
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- Vice President Dick Cheney challenged Asian powers Thursday to do more to contain North Korea's nuclear program, saying that letting it grow unchecked could spark a new arms race in the region and create a weapons bazaar for terrorists.
"We must see this undertaking through to its conclusion," Cheney told a university audience in Shanghai, China. "Time is not necessarily on our side." He expressed clear frustration with the current diplomatic stalemate before flying to South Korea, his last stop of a weeklong Asia trip.
The speech was carried by China's state television without deletions or blackouts, which U.S. officials took as an encouraging sign of change.
Cheney praised China for setting up six-way talks to persuade North Korea to dismantle its nuclear program, but he prodded Chinese leaders to be more aggressive in bringing pressure to bear on Pyongyang.
The six-way talks include the United States, China, Russia, Japan and the two Koreas.
"We'll do our level best to achieve this objective through diplomatic means, and through negotiations. But it is important that we make progress in this area," Cheney said.
He suggested that North Korea represented a double threat - it could stock its own nuclear arsenal and sell weapons to the highest bidder, including al-Qaida and other terror organizations.
"The people of Asia are particularly vulnerable to the threats of (weapons) proliferation," Cheney said. "Many countries that have the means to develop the deadliest weapons have refrained from doing so."
But he said a continued North Korean nuclear threat could persuade other powers in the region to develop their own nuclear weapons, triggering a new arms race across the region "and the likelihood that one day those weapons would be used."
Cheney said recent information gleaned from a top former Pakistani nuclear scientist provided compelling evidence that Pyongyang has an active atomic weapons program.
The reclusive communist government "must understand that no one in the region wants them to develop those weapons," Cheney said.
During Cheney's Asia trip, citizens from all three countries he visited - Japan, China and South Korea - were seized by militants in Iraq. Three Japanese hostages were released Thursday. The South Korean and Chinese hostages were freed earlier.
Cheney has engaged in unusually blunt talk in his travels, urging allies with troops in Iraq not to bow to pressure from militants and telling Chinese leaders that U.S. defensive military sales to Taiwan are largely a response to their own military buildup on the Taiwan Strait.
In remarks at Shanghai's Fudan University, almost exactly 20 years after President Reagan spoke on the campus, Cheney praised China's economic advances but pointedly suggested they be coupled with "full freedom of religion, speech, assembly and conscience."
"Prosperous societies ... come to understand that clothing, cars and cell phones do not enrich the soul," he said.
The vice president arrived in South Korea on Thursday shortly before polls closed in parliamentary elections. A liberal party loyal to South Korea's impeached president won the most seats.
The win by the Uri party could result in the crafting of a foreign policy more independent of the United States, South Korea's traditional ally, and the forging of closer ties with the North.
Cheney came seeking South Korea's support on the North Korea nuclear issue and its commitment to a promise to send more than 3,000 troops to Iraq
He was meeting with South Korea's acting president, Prime Minister Goh Kun, and visiting U.S. troops stationed in Seoul before returning Friday to Washington.
In a question-and-answer period, one student asked Cheney to describe his relationship with President Bush, given that he was often described as "the most powerful vice president in history."
"That's not a question I had anticipated," Cheney said to laughter.
He said the role of the U.S. vice president had evolved over recent years into one of more responsibility. But he said that the vice president's actual authority, other than his constitutional duty to cast tie-breaking votes in the Senate, was "based strictly upon your relationship with the president."
"I've been fortunate," he said.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Cuba, N. Korea Criticized on Human Rights

Associated Press Writer
GENEVA (AP) -- The top United Nations human rights watchdog passed resolutions Thursday criticizing conditions in Cuba and North Korea, but Russia and China avoided censure.
The 53-nation U.N. Human Rights Commission voted 22-21 to 21 for a Honduras-proposed resolution that "deplored" Cuba's jailing 75 dissidents arrested on March 18, 2003.
Moments later, a member of the Cuban delegation attacked an anti-Castro activist outside the meeting, knocking him to the ground after he approached a group of Cubans.
"All of a sudden I passed out," Frank Calzon said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press. He said he was unconscious for a minute or two.
Calzon said he didn't see who struck him. But he said a witness reported to him later that the attacker hit him from behind with clasped hands.
Cuban Ambassador Jorge Mora Godoy, who didn't see the incident, blamed Calzon.
"There was a provocation from Frank Calzon against one woman in the Cuban delegation, and he received the due response from our Cuban delegation," Mora Godoy told the AP.
Cuba said the resolution against it was the work of the United States. Shortly after the vote, the Cuban delegation said it had filed a resolution claiming widespread human rights abuses by the United States against detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
The Honduran resolution criticizing Cuba called for the commission's experts on torture, judicial independence and arbitrary detention to investigate the situation. Richard Williamson, head of the U.S. delegation, said his only disappointment was that the vote was so close.
"The fact is no one can argue repression doesn't happen in Cuba," Williamson said. "It's an island prison. It's good to have a resolution putting some pressure on that regime."
In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the resolution "sends a strong message to courageous Cubans who struggle daily to defend their human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as to the repressive Castro regime."
Despite longtime ties with Cuba, Mexico also voted for the resolution.
Mexican President Vicente Fox said later that it was a "vote in favor of a cause; not against a nation." He added that Mexico had acted "in keeping with our principles" to defend human rights.
Also Thursday the commission voted 29-8 to condemn North Korea for its precarious humanitarian situation and for systematic and widespread rights violations.
The motion, brought by the European Union and the United States, cited violations including torture, forced abortions and infanticide, as well as harsh restrictions on freedom of expression and foreign travel and severe punishments meted out to those who try to flee the country.
Resolutions also were passed criticizing the rights records of Belarus and Turkmenistan.
However the commission threw out an EU resolution condemning Russia for its record in war-plagued Chechnya. Russia mustered support from Cuba, Brazil, India, China and African countries to defeat the motion 23-12.
China also ducked censure when it used a procedural "no-action" motion to block discussion of a U.S.-sponsored resolution criticizing its rights record.
Chinese Ambassador Sha Zukang said there was no good reason to single out his country. It was the 11th time that China had prevented discussion of such a resolution at the commission's annual meeting.
"China is neither heaven nor hell. It is just in the process of building a society with decent living standards," he said.
China's foreign ministry spokesman, Kong Quan, said Friday in Beijing that Washington should "abandon confrontation" over human rights.
He was quoted by the official Xinhua News Agency as saying "the United States isolated itself" by submitting the resolution.
A similar no-action motion also blocked discussion of an EU resolution criticizing the human rights situation in Zimbabwe. President Robert Mugabe has stepped up measures against dissent, arresting opposition and labor leaders and cracking down on the independent press.
The commission's six-week session continues until April 23. Voting on the Guantanamo Bay resolution as well as on a Mexican resolution on human rights and counterterrorism are due to take place next Thursday.
AP writer George Gedda in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Bush claims credit for busting N-network
By Our Correspondent
WASHINGTON, April 14: President George W. Bush has credited his administration with unravelling a dangerous network of nuclear proliferators headed by Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan.
In his Tuesday night news conference, Mr Bush presented the busting of nuclear scientists' network as one of his administration's major victories in the war against terror.
"The A.Q. Khan bust, the network that we uncovered" was another victory in the war against terror, he said. Mr Bush described the group as a shadowy network of folks that were willing to sell state secrets to the highest bidder.
Dr Khan's network, he said, had made the world more unstable and more dangerous. "You've often heard me talk about my worry about weapons of mass destruction ending up in the hands of the wrong people. Well, you can understand why I feel that way, having seen the works of A.Q. Khan. It was a dangerous network that we unravelled. And the world is better for it, he added.



Benazir says she sanctioned Korean missile purchase
By Our Correspondent
WASHINGTON, April 14: Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has said that in 1994 she had sanctioned the purchase of ballistic missile technology from North Korea. But she said during her second term - 1994 to 1996 - she also declined to approve another budget proposal to locally develop a long-range missile technology.
She said her government believed in the policy of "keeping parity with India" and did not want to "develop longer ranged missiles than theirs." In a letter to United Press International, Ms Bhutto said that after Pakistan detonated nuclear devices in May 1998, it came under great financial pressure.
"If any swap (of nuclear technology for money) took place, it would be some time after May 1998 when Pakistan no longer had money to make payments." "After Pakistan's financial crisis in May 1998, there were hawks who argued that Pakistan could earn money selling nuclear technology," she said.
She dismissed media reports as speculative that Libyan leader Col Qadhafi had visited the Canadian-built reactor in Karachi. She said the project in Karachi started in the 1960s.
"Munir Ahmed Khan was indeed the long-term chairman of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission and considered by many as the real 'father' of Pakistan's bomb," said Ms Bhutto.
She was also asked to comment on a report that Mohammed Beg, who claimed to be a senior official in her father's government, had revealed that Col Qadhafi "supervised transfers of suitcases filled with US dollars to Pakistan on PIA flights."
"Mohammed Beg was never a confidant of my father. I do not even recall him, and I can recall the small group of people that could call on my father," said Ms Bhutto. "Power is a lonely mountain top and my father was not the type of man to share secrets freely." She rejected the suggestion that Z.A. Bhutto had renamed the Lahore stadium after Col Qadhafi because he had financed Pakistan's nuclear programme.
'External interference won't be tolerated': Adjournment motion on Dr Khan's pardon

By Our Staff Reporter
ISLAMABAD, April 14: Foreign Minister Mian Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri on Wednesday informed the Senate that Pakistan being a sovereign state always guarded its independence and would never tolerate foreign interference in its internal affairs.
The minister said this while opposing an adjournment motion jointly moved by parliamentary leaders of the PPP and PML-N, Senators Raza Rabbani and Ishaq Dar, respectively, concerning the conditional pardon granted to nuclear scientist Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan.
Chairman Mohammedmian Soomro ruled the adjournment motion out of order. "We greatly regard our independence and sovereignty and do not tolerate any external interference in the issues of national security," Mr Kasuri said, adding "we always take strategic decisions independently in the best interest of the country."
He explained that Dr Khan was accorded pardon with the condition that he would cooperate with the government agencies and added that he was cooperating in the proliferation case. He said the pardon also pertained to what had been mentioned in the FIR registered against Dr Khan.
The minister emphasized that Dr Khan had made immense contribution in achieving strategic parity with India which helped maintain a balance of power between the two countries. At the same time, he maintained, Pakistan was also mindful of its international obligations regarding nuclear non-proliferation.
Mr Kasuri brushed aside the impression that Pakistan had surrendered to the US diktat on the matters of national security. He said there were issues on which Pakistan was cooperating with the US while there were many other issues on which it was not supporting the US policies.
He referred to the issue of Afghanistan in which the government had acted keeping in view the public interest. He further said that Pakistan had never sent its troops to Iraq and had not even supported the US resolution on Iraq in the Security Council.
"Pakistan always extend support to US when its own interest demands so," he explained. He, however, argued that it was not wise to confront the US because it was a superpower and only a 'foolish' country would go in confrontation with it.
Earlier, Mr Raza Rabbani said the motion pertained to a 'blatant' and 'open interference' by America in the internal matters of Pakistan to which the latter was succumbing.
He recalled that on Feb 5 President Pervez Musharraf addressed a press conference in which he granted pardon to Dr Khan without ifs and buts. But on Feb 6, US Secretary of State Colin Powell talked to the president and on Feb 7, the Foreign Office spokesman announced that the pardon was conditional while on Feb 9 the spokesman again stated that it was not a 'blanket' pardon.
"These two statements of the FO spokesman originating after the phone calls of Colin Powell were in contradiction to what the president had said earlier at his press conference," he maintained. Senator Rabbani also asked as to why the pardon was granted if the inquiry against Dr Khan was not completed yet.
AFP ADDS: Meanwhile, Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan said that Pakistan was sharing information from a probe into proliferation by Dr Khan but refused to confirm reports that he (Dr Khan) had seen three nuclear bombs in North Korea.
According to a report in The New York Times on Tuesday, Dr Khan told interrogators he was shown the devices at a secret underground plant when he visited North Korea five years ago.
"I have seen the report," the spokesman said at his weekly news briefing, but he declined to elaborate, adding only: "I would not like to go into specifics." He said: "We have been sharing information with the international community and other countries who have a direct interest in this matter."

US regrets Hashmi's conviction
By Our Correspondent
WASHINGTON, April 14: The United States has issued a rare warning to its key ally in Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf, for the sentencing of opposition politician. Javed Hashmi who was convicted on a sedition charge.
The US State Department on Tuesday regretted "the closed nature" of proceedings against Mr Hashmi and urged Pakistani authorities to handle his case in a fair and transparent manner. The reaction, displayed on the US government's website on Wednesday with a headline: "US calls for judicial fairness for Pakistan opposition figure."
It quotes spokesman Richard Boucher as saying that US officials had repeatedly expressed concerns to the Pakistani government that Mr Hashmi's case "be handled in a fair and transparent manner and with due regard for his rights."

Powell calls Musharraf
By Our Correspondent
WASHINGTON, April 14: US Secretary of State Colin Powell called President Pervez Musharraf and discussed the regional situation with him, the State Department said on Wednesday.
Spokesman Richard Boucher told a briefing in Washington that Mr Powell telephoned Gen Musharraf on Tuesday and it was "about the situation in that region". He gave no further details.

Probe Casts Doubt on Iraq Nuclear Security
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- Some Iraqi nuclear facilities appear to be unguarded, and radioactive materials are being taken out of the country, the U.N.'s nuclear watchdog agency reported after reviewing satellite images and equipment that has turned up in European scrapyards.
The International Atomic Energy Agency sent a letter to U.S. officials three weeks ago informing them of the findings. The information was also sent to the U.N. Security Council in a letter from its director, Mohamed ElBaradei, that was circulated Thursday.
The IAEA is waiting for a reply from the United States, which is leading the coalition administering Iraq, officials said.
The United Sattes has virtually cut off information-sharing with the IAEA since invading Iraq in March 2003 on the premise that the country was hiding weapons of mass destruction.
No such weapons have been found, and arms control officials now worry the war and its chaotic aftermath may have increased chances that terrorists could get their hands on materials used for unconventional weapons or that civilians may be unknowingly exposed to radioactive materials.
According to ElBaradei's letter, satellite imagery shows "extensive removal of equipment and in some instances, removal of entire buildings," in Iraq.
In addition, "large quanitities of scrap, some of it contaminated, have been transfered out of Iraq from sites" previously monitored by the IAEA.
In January, the IAEA confirmed that Iraq was the likely source of radioactive material known as yellowcake that was found in a shipment of scrap metal at Rotterdam harbor.
Yellowcake, or uranium oxide, could be used to build a nuclear weapon, although it would take tons of the substance refined with sophisticated technology to harvest enough uranium for a single bomb.
The yellowcake in the shipment was natural uranium ore which probably came from a known mine in Iraq that was active before the 1991 Gulf War.
The yellowcake was uncovered Dec. 16 by Rotterdam-based scrap metal company Jewometaal, which had received it in a shipment of scrap metal from a dealer in Jordan.
A small number of Iraqi missile engines have also turned up in European ports, IAEA officials said.
"It is not clear whether the removal of these items has been the result of looting activities in the aftermath of the recent war in Iraq or as part of systematic efforts to rehabilitate some of their locations," ElBaradei wrote to the council.
The IAEA has been unable to investigate, monitor or protect Iraqi nuclear materials since the U.S. invaded the country in March 2003. The United States has refused to allow the IAEA or other U.N. weapons inspectors into the country, claiming that the coalition has taken over responsibility for illict weapons searches.
So far those searches have come up empty-handed and the CIA's first chief weapons hunter has said he no longer believes Iraq had weapons just prior to the invasion.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

>> 9/11 ...

Republicans see conflict, urge Gorelick to quit panel
By James Lakely
Pressure is growing for Jamie S. Gorelick to resign from the September 11 commission for what the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee has called "an inherent conflict of interest."
Ms. Gorelick, who served in the No. 2 position in the Clinton Justice Department under Attorney General Janet Reno, was the author of a 1995 directive to the FBI, which repeatedly has been cited in testimony as a major hindrance to antiterrorism efforts prior to the 2001 attacks.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican, said yesterday he thinks "the commission's work and independence will be fatally damaged by the continued participation of Ms. Gorelick as a commissioner."
"Commissioner Gorelick is in the unfair position of trying to address the key issue before the commission when her own actions are central to the events at issue," Mr. Sensenbrenner said. "The public cannot help but ask legitimate questions about her motives.
"Testifying before the commission is Ms. Gorelick's proper role, not sitting as a member of this independent commission," he said.
The Gorelick directive is credited with thickening the "wall" that prevented federal prosecutors and counterterrorism agents from communicating even though their separate investigations could help catch terrorists.
"These procedures, which go beyond what is legally required, will prevent any risk of creating an unwarranted appearance that [federal law] is being used to avoid procedural safeguards which would apply in a criminal investigation," Ms. Gorelick wrote in the previously secret memo.
Appearing on CNN's "Larry King Live" last night, Ms. Gorelick said, "All of the commission members have some government experience. Everyone is subject to the same recusal policies. You could have had a commission with nobody who knew anything about government. And I don't think it would have been a very helpful commission."
Attorney General John Ashcroft declassified the four-page document just before his testimony to the commission on Tuesday to help make his point that Ms. Gorelick's directive created "draconian barriers" to uncovering the September 11 plot.
"If the commission doesn't take this issue seriously, undoubtedly a large segment of the American people will see its findings as incomplete and partisan," said Mark Levin, president of the Landmark Legal Foundation, which also has demanded that Ms. Gorelick step down.
Commission Chairman Thomas H. Kean and Vice Chairman Lee H. Hamilton both dismissed the calls for resignation.
"Of course not. That's a silly thing," said Mr. Kean, who said Ms. Gorelick has followed the same rules as every other commission member and has, in fact, been one of the most "nonpartisan" members.
Ms. Gorelick was appointed to the commission by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, South Dakota Democrat, and former House Democratic leader and presidential candidate Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri.
She has been criticized by Republicans for what they see as the partisan tone of her questioning of witnesses from the Bush administration.
During the testimony of National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice last week, Ms. Gorelick characterized the White House's attempts to coordinate intelligence gathering as "feckless" and argued with Miss Rice's contention that President Bush put the federal government at their "battle stations" when terrorist chatter increased in summer 2001.
Ms. Gorelick took as much time making comments and asking questions as Miss Rice did answering them and finished her session with Miss Rice by saying that "the debate will continue" over whether the Clinton or Bush administrations better thwarted terrorist attacks.
In an interview on Sean Hannity's national radio show yesterday, Mr. Ashcroft also suggested that Ms. Gorelick should resign from the commission
"I think that individuals who are the actors whose policies are under inspection and judgment probably should not sit as judges in those cases," Mr. Ashcroft said.
Failure to remove her from the commission, he said, will leave people questioning its standards when the final report is released in July.
The commission "has to decide what kind of standards it's going to have," Mr. Ashcroft said. "Whether it's going to have standards that would reflect a disaffection for those kinds of conflicts or whether it is going to ignore" the conflict.
Mr. Ashcroft said yesterday he declassified the Gorelick memo because he felt the other commission members "ought to know."
"It was a fact that had simply not been made known," he said.
Indeed, the first commissioner to question Mr. Ashcroft, former Republican Illinois Gov. James R. Thompson, asked to see a copy of the memo on Tuesday.
Ms. Gorelick recused herself this week from questioning her former boss, Miss Reno, and former FBI director Louis J. Freeh, who had to abide by her directive in 1995. But she gave no hint that the memo's revelation would cause a conflict of interest.
"As my colleagues know, the vast preponderance of our work, including with regard to the Department of Justice, focuses on the period of 1998 forward, and I have been and will continue to be a full participant in that work," she said during Tuesday's hearing.
Mr. Levin said her continued participation "taints the whole process."
"The commission wasn't even aware of her memo until John Ashcroft revealed it," Mr. Levin said. "She is hopelessly conflicted.
"The fact that she's a commissioner insulates her from scrutiny, and that's the problem," he said. "She should not be a commission member, she should be a star witness."
Ms. Gorelick suggested that if Mr. Ashcroft was so concerned about the restrictions placed by her policy, he had an opportunity to change it before the attacks, but did not.
"My successor [as deputy attorney general] wrote a memo before 9/11 in August of 2001 leaving those policies in place," Ms. Gorelick said on CNN Tuesday night. "[Commission member] Slade Gorton pointed out in his exchange with John Ashcroft, a fairly tough exchange, I might say, that in the four areas that Attorney General Ashcroft says were problematic and that he inherited, he left three of them in place."
* Stephen Dinan contributed to this report.


CIA Warned of Attacks As Early As'95
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The CIA warned as early as 1995 that Islamic extremists were likely to attack U.S. aviation, Washington landmarks or Wall Street and by 1997 had identified Osama bin Laden as an emerging threat on U.S. soil, a senior intelligence official said Thursday.
The official took the rare step of disclosing information in the closely held National Intelligence Estimate for those two years to counter criticisms in a staff report released Wednesday by the independent commission examining pre-Sept. 11 intelligence failures.
That staff report accused the CIA of failing to recognize al-Qaida as a formal terrorist organization until 1999 and mostly regarding bin Laden as a financier instead of a terrorist leader during much of the 1990s.
But the U.S. intelligence official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity, said the 1997 National Intelligence Estimate produced by the CIA mentioned bin Laden by name as an emerging terrorist threat on its first page. The National Intelligence Estimate is distributed to the president and senior executive branch and congressional intelligence officials.
The 1997 assessment, which remains classified, "identified bin Laden and his followers and threats they were making and said it might portend attacks inside the United States," the official said.
Philip Zelikow, executive director of the Sept. 11 commission, confirmed the 1997 warning about bin Laden but said it was only two sentences long and lacked any strategic analysis on how to address the threat. "We were well aware of the information and the staff stands by exactly what it says," he said.
The intelligence official also said that while the 1995 intelligence assessment did not mention bin Laden or al-Qaida by name, it clearly warned that Islamic terrorists were intent on striking specific targets inside the United States like those hit on Sept. 11, 2001.
The report specifically warned that civil aviation, Washington landmarks such as the White House and Capitol and buildings on Wall Street were at the greatest risk of a domestic terror attack by Muslim extremists, the official said.
Deputy CIA Director John McLaughlin testified Wednesday that by early 1996 his agency had developed enough concern about bin Laden to create a special unit to focus on his threat. "We were very focused on this issue," McLaughlin told the commission.
The commission's report did credit the CIA after 1997 with collecting vast amounts of intelligence on bin Laden and al-Qaida, which resulted in thousands of individual reports circulated at the highest levels of government. These carried titles such as "Bin Laden Threatening to Attack U.S. Aircraft" in June 1998 and "Bin Laden's Interest in Biological and Radiological Weapons" in February 2001.
Despite this intelligence, the CIA never produced an authoritative summary of al-Qaida's involvement in past terrorist attacks, didn't formally recognize al-Qaida as a group until 1999 and did not fully appreciate bin Laden's role as the leader of a growing extremist movement, the commission said.
"There was no comprehensive estimate of the enemy," the commission report alleged.
But the senior intelligence official said the commission report failed to mention that CIA had produced large numbers of analytical reports on the growth, capabilities, structure and threats posed by al-Qaida throughout the late 1990s and those detailed reports were distributed to the front lines of terror-fighting agencies.
The CIA most frequently provided these individual and highly detailed analyses to the White House Counterterrorism Security Group charged with formulating anti-terrorism policies and responses, the official said.
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Posted by maximpost at 11:11 PM EDT

Military considered hijacked plane exercise, and rejected it

By Nicole Gaudiano
Times staff writer
Five months before Sept. 11, 2001, an air defense planner proposed an exercise scenario in which military officials would have to deal with foreign terrorists who were threatening to crash a hijacked foreign commercial plane into the Pentagon, according to a North American Aerospace Defense Command-U.S. Northern Command spokesman.
But the scenario was rejected -- as were many others, said Canadian Army Maj. Douglas Martin, spokesman for Norad-U.S. NorthCom.
Martin, responding to a report by a government watchdog group that highlighted the proposed exercise, said the reason for scrapping the idea was tied to the training objective, which was supposed to involve the movement of forces into the Korean peninsula.
"If you're looking at a training exercise where your main objective is overseas and you have a scenario that causes something traumatic on the homeland, the homeland is going to be your focus -- not your training objectives in a foreign country," he said.
Asked why the idea wasn't used at a later exercise, Martin said Norad's focus was not domestic airspace back then.
"Our mission was threats that could come toward the U.S. [and Canada]," he said. "Because of Sept. 11, our mission has evolved. ..."
The proposal surfaced during planning for a combined exercise in April 2001: Positive Force, an exercise run by the Joint Chiefs of Staff for evaluating decision making; and Reception, Staging, Onward Movement and Integration, an exercise involving the Republic of Korea and Pacific Command that focused on deploying forces.
Norad, now Norad-U.S. Northern Command, was invited to participate. The planner was asked for a scenario in which the Pentagon was rendered inoperable and part of its functions in the exercise had to be moved to another location. Martin would not identify the planner, but said he still works at Norad.
On Tuesday, the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight, known as POGO, released an e-mail, written by a former Norad employee and sent to seven people on Sept. 18, 2001, citing the proposal and its rejection.
The employee, a retired Army lieutenant colonel, wrote that Joint Staff action officers rejected the idea as "too unrealistic."
The lieutenant colonel, who could not be reached for comment, also wrote that U.S. Pacific Command "didn't want [the exercise] because it would take attention away from their exercise objectives."
The author of the e-mail began by stating that he was writing "in defense of my last unit, NORAD," whose mission is to defend U.S. and Canadian airspace. He had already retired upon its writing.
Though he was not at the planning session, Martin said the e-mail's depiction of the Joint Staff's and U.S. Pacific Command's response could be judged as the writer's opinion.
A spokeswoman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff did not return a call for comment. Marine Corps Maj. Guillermo Canedo, media officer for PaCom, said on Wednesday, "We have seen the alleged document and we're looking into the matter."
While the idea may seem prophetic now, a Pentagon spokesman said things were different before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
"In April of 2001, was that a likely scenario?" asked Navy Lt. Commander Dan Hetlage. "Up until that time, hostages had been safely landed. Sadly 9/11 taught us a whole different paradigm."
Martin could not say who rejected the proposal, but added, "I think a lot of people are putting a lot of weight on the rejection of the scenario as if this could have cured Sept. 11. What his suggestion was and what happened on Sept. 11 have literally no connection."
In a statement released with the e-mail, POGO pointed to April 8 testimony from National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice before the 9/11 Commission in which she said, "I do not remember any reports to us, a kind of strategic warning, that planes might be used as weapons."
Peter Stockton, senior investigator for POGO, said on Tuesday he plans to turn the e-mail over to the 9/11 Commission.
"We believe the 9/11 Commission should ask the Joint Chiefs why they prevented NORAD from training to respond to the possibility that terrorists might hijack commercial airliners and use them as missiles," he said in a statement.
Stockton said POGO received the e-mail from a source in the military who has been "highly reliable over time." He was not sure why it was given to POGO or why it was written, and would not say whether the source knows the author of the e-mail.
Asked about the significance of the e-mail, Stockton said, "I'm not arguing we could have averted 9/11 because of this. The argument is that if these exercises had gone ahead, we might have been better prepared to respond to this kind of a threat."


Commander vows to restore order in flashpoint city of Fallujah

By Gidget Fuentes
Times staff writer
Lance Cpl. Ryan Deady, 20, of Chicago, with Weapons Platoon, Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, keeps watch on an alleyway in Fallujah, Iraq, on Thursday. -- M. Scott Mahaskey / Marine Corps Times
FALLUJAH, Iraq -- The commander of a Marine Corps division poised to resume fighting in this city where a wavering, six-day cease fire has been in place vowed Wednesday to wipe out anti-coalition forces and reopen the city.
More than three battalions of his Marines, reinforced with tanks and armored vehicles and supported by aerial gunships, have been holding their lines since the top military command in Iraq ordered a temporary cessation in offensive operations on April 9.
Although the Marines have allowed some food and supplies into the beleaguered city, the worry here is in the longer term. "Our concern right now is what's happening to the innocent people the longer we stay here," said Maj. Gen. James N. Mattis, who commands the 1st Marine Division, a 22,000-member force based at Camp Pendleton, Calif. He spoke with reporters at the 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment's outposts on one edge of Fallujah..
"Eventually we have got to open this town up," he said. More than 60,000 residents fled after the Marines entered the city last week.
Like other Marines here, the situation has frustrated Mattis, who said the enemy isn't abiding by the spirit of the cease-fire.
"This is bulls--t right now, and you can quote me," said Mattis, a soft-spoken but tough commander who is popular with his troops and officers for his plain-spoken, pointed style.
Mattis said he doesn't think the wait will be long before the Marines move on the city.
"I have no doubt that we will respond appropriately if they don't knock it off," he said. "And when they tell us it's time to go, the Marines will be fired up and ready to go."
Although Fallujah has garnered much attention in the past week, Mattis' fighting force, along with an Army brigade, is spread throughout Anbar province, from east of Fallujah to the Syrian border. At every camp and on many combat patrols and civil reconstruction projects, Marines and soldiers have been attacked, ambushed, sniped at or mortared.
In Fallujah, despite the so-called cease-fire, the barrage is a constant.
"I tell you right now that if they move against my men, if they fire against my men, we will respond with decisive force," Mattis said. "We are not going to permit them to get in some cheap shots and then have us play by certain rules that they want to be violated."
Hours before dawn Wednesday, an AC-130 Spectre gunship fired dozens of 105mm artillery rounds and 40mm gunfire at two locations targeted by a Marine air controller with 1st Battalion, 5th Marines. A battalion operations officer said the targets included a "safe house" and weapons cache believed used by enemy fighters that had regularly attacked one of the infantry companies' locations and a second building that contained weapons.
For an hour, sounds of the cannons fired by the aircraft flying above and unseen in the darkened sky echoed across the battalion's outpost, followed by the whizzing of rounds slicing through the air and the subsequent booms in the near distance.
Throughout the morning, like previous days, Marines with 1/5 encountered sporadic sniper and rocket fire. At one point, a mortar landed about 75 meters from an infantry position in a warehouse area of the city. No one was injured.
Mattis said the attacks show the "lack of good faith" among enemy fighters in Fallujah who are attacking his Marines. He didn't hide his disdain for their tactics.


Familiar Scene
Feeding continues, so terror continues.
By Rachel Ehrenfeld
"I am the beating arm for Hezbollah and Hamas here in Iraq," declared Muqtada al-Sadr last week. Yet, despite President's Bush's statement Tuesday night that "The violence we are seeing in Iraq is familiar, " the U.S. fails to directly acknowledge that there is no difference between the Shiite and Sunni militias in Iraq and Palestinian terrorism. As a matter of fact, it was the Palestinian-Jordanian Musab al-Zarkawi (whose real name is Fedel Nazzel Khalayleh), one of al Qaeda's major operatives in Iraq, helped to coordinate the infiltration of Palestinian, Yemenite, Afghani, North African, and other insurgents, into Iraq.
The horrid pictures of a raging, incited mob, lynching uniformed soldiers in broad daylight, have certainly been seen before -- not only in Mogadishu, but also in the Palestinian territories. In October 2002, the Palestinians murdered, dismembered, and dragged the bodies of two Israeli soldiers throughout the streets of Ramallah in the West Bank.
Even the use of mosques as military forts, and ambulances to transport terrorists with their armaments, has been practiced for many years by the Palestinian terrorists. What we see in Iraq is really not much different than what we have been witnessing in the West Bank and Gaza for the last decade, only here, American and Coalition forces are the targets.
The historical and persisting failure of the U.S. and the West to denounce the Palestinian terrorists' atrocities, and to put an end to their activities, was clearly perceived as a weakness by the Islamists. This weakness is now being exploited by al Qaeda and other Muslim fundamentalists, who have taken up arms against the U.S. and Coalition forces.
Al-Zarkawi, and his group, Anzar al Islam, like Hamas, al Qaeda, and other Muslim fundamentalist terrorists, adhere to the teachings of the Muslim brotherhood, and call upon their followers in Iraq, as in the Palestinian territories, "to burn the earth under the occupiers' feet." Similar statements are made by Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi, who, in a televised address two weeks ago, pointed out the similarities between the U.S. and Israel: "We knew that Bush is the enemy of God, the enemy of Islam and Muslims. America declared war against God. Sharon declared war against God and God declared war against America, Bush and Sharon." He went on to say that, "The war of God continues against them and I can see the victory coming up from the land of Palestine by the hand of Hamas." Now that al-Sadr sees himself as a representative of Hamas, he added Iraq to the equation.
The increasing violence in Iraq, supported by foreign insurgencies from Iran, Syria, and Saudi Arabia, will be as difficult to control as the ongoing terror activities by the Palestinians. As long as tens of millions of dollars in funding from Iran continue to fuel the thousands of unemployed and disenfranchised that have joined al-Sadr's Shiite militia, and as long as tens of millions will continue to flow from Saudi Arabia to Palestinian terror organizations, terrorism will continue.
Despite the Saudi crackdown on dissidents in the Kingdom and their claims that they are taking steps to stop both terrorism and terrorist funding, and even despite Condoleezza Rice's recent praise of the Saudi Kingdom's cooperation in the war on terrorism, Saudi money continue to fuel terrorist activities against the U.S. and Israel.
Recent revelations about the transfer of millions of dollars in suspicious transactions by the Saudis through Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C., including to some Muslim charities that have been identified as fronts for al Qaeda, cast doubt on the sincerity of Saudi cooperation in stopping the funds for terrorism.
Similarly, of all the Arab League countries, Saudi Arabia is the only one that continues to fund the Palestinian Authority, led by Yasser Arafat, who, as a U.S. investigation just concluded, approved the attack on a U.S. embassy convoy in which three Americans were killed in 2003. The Saudi contribution, even before latest "reforms" in the PA were announced, amounts to $15.4 million every two months, and at least $50 million continues to flow to Hamas "charities" in the West Bank and Gaza.
The jihadist ideology, both on the Sunni and Shiite fronts, will not be easy to change. And despite the president's assertion that we have deprived the terrorists of their shelter and many of their leaders, we could do much more to prevent them from carrying out their "holy war" against us -- we should do more to cut off their funds.

-- Rachel Ehrenfeld, author of Funding Evil; How Terrorism is Financed -- and How to Stop It, is director of the New York-based American Center for Democracy.

Tax Twister
Sen. Dorgan is crafty, but deceiving, this time of the year.

It's once again the time of year when competing interests play battle of the press release on taxes. The goal is to capture the taxpayer's allegiance during that brief period when his attention is focused on his tax burden, as he fills out tax forms and, often, writes large checks to state and federal governments. Both sides play this game.
One long time player is the Tax Foundation, which annually calculates "Tax Freedom Day." Its assumption is that we pay our taxes from the first dollar we earn each year. When we have worked enough to pay all our taxes for the year, we are then free to work for ourselves. According to the latest study, Americans could start to keep all their earnings on April 11 this year, the earliest date since passage of the Kennedy tax cut in the 1960s. This represents a sharp reduction from the last year of the Clinton administration, when Tax Freedom Day fell on May 2.
Other countries also calculate their tax freedom days. According to the Adam Smith Institute in London, Tax Freedom Day in Britain falls on May 30. The Fraser Institute in Vancouver calculated Canada's Tax Freedom Day to be June 28 last year.
After many years when advocates of lower taxes were the primary players in the tax game, the tax increasers are now also vigorous participants. However, since no one likes paying taxes and few want to hear about why they should pay more, the tax increasers have to play the finesse game. Their approach is to dramatize the insufficient taxes paid by fat cats. Those of modest means are thereby led to believe that they would pay less if only the rich paid their "fair share."
Sen. Byron Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, has become the point man for liberals looking to make hay on tax day. Back in 1993, he had the U.S. General Accounting Office look at taxes paid by U.S.-based and foreign-based corporations. The report found that a significant percentage of foreign-controlled corporations paid no federal income taxes in the U.S. But it also showed that many domestic corporations paid no income taxes, either.
This initial report got little attention because it was not released until June 11, too late to catch the attention of taxpayers. In 1999, Sen. Dorgan wised up and got another report on the same subject out on March 23. This report received a lot more attention by once again showing that many corporations pay no income taxes. However, its main focus was still on foreign companies, even though the percentage of domestic corporations with no tax liability was almost exactly the same.
This year, Sen. Dorgan was even smarter. He got the GAO to do yet another report on corporate taxes, but this time was clever enough to make them get it done by February 27. And rather than release it then, when few would be paying attention, Sen. Dorgan got the GAO (which his staff misnames the "Government Accounting Office") to hold the report until his office could release it on April 2, in the middle of tax season.
Sen. Dorgan was also smarter this year in playing up the percentage of U.S. corporations, as well as foreign companies, with no tax liability. For shifting the emphasis in this manner, he was rewarded with a front-page article in the Wall Street Journal, as well as heavy play in the Los Angeles Times and other papers. With the data showing that almost three-fourths of foreign corporations and two-thirds of U.S. corporations had no tax liability in 2000, many individual taxpayers with large tax liabilities no doubt felt some anger and resentment.
This is exactly what Sen. Dorgan was hoping for. It will help pave the way for tax increases on corporations in order to expand the welfare state and perhaps put Democrats back in control of the White House and Congress.
Unfortunately, the GAO report provided little context for its findings. It would have been helpful to know that 45 percent of all corporations had no net income and nearly 60 percent had assets of less than $100,000 in 2000, according to the Internal Revenue Service. It is hardly surprising that a company pays no taxes when it has no income and virtually no assets. After all, about 40 percent of individual income-tax returns report no tax liability, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
Another point worth mentioning is that all of this alleged tax avoidance came during the Clinton administration. Yet because the data have been released now, many casual readers are probably left thinking that the Bush administration is responsible.
In the battle of the press releases, Sen. Dorgan probably won this year. By the time analysts are able to explain why his data are misleading, tax season will be over.

-- Bruce Bartlett is senior fellow for the National Center for Policy Analysis. Write to him here.

U.S. to pull out most forces from Korean DMZ this year
Special to World
Tuesday, April 13, 2004
The U.S. military will withdraw most if its forces from the Demilitarized Zone separating North and South Korea this year, an official announced today.
The withdrawal means the United States will no longer have combat troops anywhere on the DMZ except at Panmunjom, where a U.S.-Korean battalion, commanded by a U.S. army lieutenant colonel, remains on guard in what is known as the Joint Security Area.
Therefore South Korea, which has a 600,000-member military, will face North Korea's armed forces, the world's fifth largest with 1.1 million soldiers, most of whom are concentrated near the DMZ.
The United States will turn over Observation Post Ouellette, which provides a view into North Korea, as part of a force reshuffle, the official said. U.S. forces will no longer guard the border, except except for the troops at the JSA in Panmunjom.
South Korean forces will take over Ouelette, just as they have replaced U.S. forces everywhere else along the DMZ since the Korean War ended in 1953. South Korea officials, however, want the U.S. to keep its troops in the Joint Security Area as symbols of America's commitment to defend the South.
The 2 1/2-mile wide, 151-mile long DMZ, is considered one of the last remaining symbols of the Cold War. However it is still an active war zone with mines, barbed wire and tank traps.
U.S. troops guarding the inter-Korean border have served as a strategic "tripwire" because they are presumed to come under fire during a North Korean attack, thereby prompting U.S. intervention in South Korea's defense.
The United States has about 37,000 troops stationed in South Korea, but has long kept fewer than 200 soldiers along the DMZ, at Observation Post Ouellette and Panmunjom, said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Deborah Bertrand, a spokeswoman for U.S. Forces Korea.
Details on the timing of Ouellette's turnover and the eventual troop level at Panmunjom are still being decided in consultation with South Korea, Bertrand said, adding: "It will be this year."
U.S. Gen. Leon J. LaPorte, joint commander of the U.S. Forces Korea and the United Nations. Command overseeing the cease fire that ended the 1950-53 Korean War, has briefed Congress on U.S. plans to give South Korea more autonomy in its defense.
He said the "Republic of Korea will replace all United States personnel directly involved in security patrols, manning observation posts, and base operations support" along the DMZ, except for Panmunjom, where the United States will maintain command over a battalion of joint U.S.-South Korean forces.
The United States is currently reviewing its military posture in South Korea as part of a global realignment overseen by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld who wants greater flexibility and more emphasis on technology and Special Forces.
Earlier this year, the United States agreed to transfer about 7,000 U.S. forces and their families from its sprawling Yongsan Base in downtown Seoul.
It has also decided to close half of its bases in South Korea -- 28 combat and support facilities and three training ranges -- and return more than half the land occupied by U.S. forces to South Korea by 2011.
South Koreans have long complained that the U.S. military occupies prime real estate and that its bases near densely populated cities contribute to crime. But the majority support the presence as a deterrent against the North.
Copyright ? 2004 East West Services, Inc.


Sadr aided by largest Shi'ite militia
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
BAGHDAD - The Mahdi Army has received support from the largest Shi'ite militia in Iraq.
U.S. officials said the Mahdi Army loyal to Iranian-aligned cleric Moqtada Sadr has obtained the assistance of the much larger Badr militia.
Badr has been described as a 30,000-member force formed by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.
Iraqi sources said leading Shi'ite clerics have been trying to mediate an end to the revolt against the United States, Middle East Newsline reported. They said one proposal called for the expulsion of Sadr to Iran, where he would be granted safe haven. Sadr has been wanted by the United States for the killing of a leading Shi'ite cleric in April 2003.
Badr and the Mahdi Army fought together in several engagements in the Shi'ite city of Karbala. But officials said the cooperation was limited.
"We are getting preliminary reports at this time that there may be some engagements between those two organizations," Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for the coalition, said.
At the same time, officials said the U.S. military has revised its figures on the strength of the Mahdi Army. They said the latest estimate was that Sadr has 10,000 men under arms, a significant increase from its previous assessment of between 1,000 and 6,000 fighters.
Sadr has also received offers of help from Sunni insurgency groups. The Ansar Islam Army, regarded as an Al Qaida-inspired group, released an announcement that offered to help Sadr in the Shi'ite revolt against the United States. The communique said an Ansar delegation was sent to Sadr earlier in April to discuss cooperation.
Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of the U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq, said on Monday that U.S. troops have regained control of Kut and Nasseriya. Sanchez said Sadr, whose deputy was arrested in Baghdad on Tuesday, has remained in control of Najaf as well as parts of Karbala.
"We have maneuvered forces down into the vicinity of Najaf to ensure that we are prepared to conduct offensive operations to eliminate the final elements of Muqtada Al Sadr influence down there," Sanchez said. "The mission of the U.S. forces is to kill or capture Muqtada Al Sadr."
Copyright ? 2004 East West Services, Inc.

Arafat gave blessing to attack on U.S. convoy

Wednesday, April 14, 2004
RAMALLAH - The United States has determined that Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat approved an attack on a U.S. embassy convoy in which three Americans were killed in 2003.
In October, a bomb exploded as a U.S. embassy convoy passed through the northern Gaza Strip on the way to a meeting in Gaza City. Three U.S. embassy security guards - protecting American visitors who were to discuss the Fulbright Program - were killed in the attack next to the Jabalya refugee camp.
A Fatah-aligned group later claimed responsibility, Middle East Newsline reported. The U.S. sources said the attack was planned and directed by elements within the Palestinian security services.
U.S. diplomatic sources said a U.S. investigation into the bombing of the embassy convoy in the Gaza Strip in October 2003 pointed to a clear role by Arafat. The sources said Arafat granted approval to a plan to strike U.S. interests in PA areas.
Arafat, the sources said, did not draft or approve any details for a Palestinian attack. But they said Arafat agreed to a proposal relayed by a high-level aide for the Palestinians to "pass a message" to the United States.
According to the sources, a senior Arafat aide and member of the Fatah Central Committee left Gaza City for Arafat's headquarters in Ramallah in September 2003 to seek approval for a Palestinian attack on U.S. interests in the area. The Fatah official, described as a liasion between Arafat and Palestinian insurgents in the Gaza Strip, complained of U.S. policy toward the PA and Arabs.
During their meeting, the sources said, the official asked Arafat whether it was time to relay a message to the United States. Arafat was said to have replied, "May God bless this," which translated into "Go ahead," the sources said.
"Arafat did not require or want details of this plan," a U.S. diplomatic source said. "That's not his style. He has always wanted to maintain an element of deniability."
Weeks after the attack, PA security forces arrested and charged four Palestinians with the bombing. But U.S. officials said the defendants were not the actual suspects and in March 2004 they were ordered released by the Palestinian High Court.
[On Monday, Israeli troops foiled a Palestinian insurgency attack on the Israeli community of Netsarim outside Gaza City. The insurgents - said to come from Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad - fired mortars, hurled grenades and employed small arms fire in an attempted raid of the community.]
U.S. officials said the failure of the PA to capture the killers of the American security guards has marked a major impediment to U.S.-Palestinian relations. They said the PA was warned that the United States would not approve any funding for the Gaza Strip in the aftermath of a planned Israeli withdrawal.
Palestinian National Security Adviser Jibril Rajoub has been sent to Washington to meet senior U.S. officials to discuss the Israeli withdrawal plan. Rajoub, scheduled to be joined by PA International Cooperation Minister Nabil Shaath, was expected to discuss the PA's role in ensuring security in the Gaza Strip after any Israeli pullout.

Copyright ? 2004 East West Services, Inc.


U.S. offers Iraqi oil projects to Gulf contractors
Wednesday, April 14, 2004
ABU DHABI - The United States seeks Gulf Arab contractors for a range of energy and development projects in Iraq.
The U.S. State Department has been encouraging firms from Gulf Cooperation Council states to become subcontractors to U.S. companies that have won $6.7 billion of projects. Over the next two weeks, the United States has arranged for GCC executives to meet these U.S. companies to discuss partnerships in Iraq.
On April 20, the U.S. consulate has scheduled an Iraqi reconstruction conference in Dubai with 12 U.S. contractors for the Coalition Provisional Authority, Middle East Newsline reported. They were expected to include Kellogg, Brown and Root, Parsons Corp, Lucent Technologies, Washington Group International, Contrack, Flour-AMEC and Perini and Shaw International.
The U.S. contractors, all of whom won awards for projects in Iraq, will later visit such Middle East cities as Amman and Istanbul.
Copyright ? 2004 East West Services, Inc.

Posted by maximpost at 1:56 AM EDT
Wednesday, 14 April 2004


Martin Eichenbaum
Jonas Fisher
Working Paper 10430
1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
April 2004
We thank seminar participants at the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago for helpful comments. The views
expressed in this paper do not necessarily represent the views of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago or the
Federal Reserve System. The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of
the National Bureau of Economic Research.
?2004 by Martin Eichenbaum and Jonas Fisher. All rights reserved. Short sections of text, not to exceed two
paragraphs, may be quoted without explicit permission provided that full credit, including ? notice, is given
to the source.
Fiscal Policy in the Aftermath of 9/11
Martin Eichenbaum and Jonas Fisher
NBER Working Paper No. 10430
April 2004
JEL No. E1, E6
This paper investigates the nature of U.S. fiscal policy in the aftermath of 9/11. We argue that the
recent dramatic fall in the government surplus and the large fall in tax rates cannot be accounted for
by either the state of the U.S. economy as of 9/11 or as the typical response of fiscal policy to a large
exogenous rise in military expenditures. Our evidence suggests that, had tax rates responded in the
way they `normally' do to large exogenous changes in government spending, aggregate output would
have been lower and the surplus would not have changed by much. The unusually large fall in tax
rates had an expansionary impact on output and was the primary force underlying the large decline
in the surplus. Our results do not bear directly on the question of whether the decline in tax rates and
the decline in the surplus after 9/11 were desirable or not.
Martin Eichenbaum
Department of Economics
Northwestern University
2003 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
and NBER
Jonas Fisher
Research Department
Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago
230 South LaSalle Street
Chicago, IL 60604
1. Introduction
This paper investigates the nature of U.S. fiscal policy in the aftermath of 9/11.
We focus on the question: Is fiscal policy in the aftermath of 9/11 well explained as
the normal response of the U.S. economy to a large exogenous increase in military
expenditures? In our view, the answer is no. The recent dramatic fall in the
government surplus (i.e. the rise in the deficit) and the large fall in labor and
capital tax rates cannot be accounted for by either the state of the U.S. economy
as of 9/11 or as the typical response of fiscal policy to a large exogenous rise
in military expenditures. The explanation must be sought elsewhere. The most
obvious candidates are recent changes in the U.S. tax code and the slowdown in
economic activity around the onset of the Iraq war. Our results indicate that
changes in the tax code played the primary role. Specifically, we argue that had
tax rates responded in the way they `normally' do to large exogenous changes in
government spending, the government surplus would not have changed by much
and might have actually risen.
To establish the `normal' response of fiscal policy to large shocks, we build
on the approach used by Ramey and Shapiro (1998). These authors identify
three political events, arguably unrelated to developments in the domestic U.S.
economy, that led to large, exogenous increases in military expenditures. These
events, which we refer to as Ramey - Shapiro episodes, coincide roughly with the
onset of the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Carter - Reagan defense
buildup. We identify the normal response of fiscal policy to a large military shock
with our estimate of the dynamic response paths of government purchases, the
government surplus and capital and labor tax rates to a Ramey - Shapiro episode.
To assess whether fiscal policy was unusual after 9/11, we use our estimated
statistical model to generate forecasts of tax rates, output, government consump-
tion, the real interest rate and the surplus conditional on (i) the occurrence of
a fiscal shock in 2001:3, (ii) the state of the economy as of 2001:2 and (iii) the
assumption that fiscal policy responds to 9/11 in the same way that it did in
the three Ramey - Shapiro episodes. We find that the general rise in government
consumption is well explained by the 9/11 shock. So too is the rise in output, although
there is clear evidence of another shock which drove output down in 2002.
However, the responses of the surplus to GDP ratio and tax rates are substantially
less well explained by the 9/11 shock. For example, the declines in average
capital and labor tax rates are much larger than our conditional forecast. Perhaps
even more striking is the difference between the actual and predicted values of the
surplus to GDP ratio. Our statistical model predicts that, had the government
responded to 9/11 as it typically did in the Ramey-Shapiro episodes, then absent
other shocks, the surplus would initially have risen and then slowly declined to the
point where the consolidated budget was balanced. In reality, the surplus suffered
a sharp, ongoing decline. Taken together, these results suggest that fiscal policy
in the aftermath of 9/11 is not well explained as the normal response of policy to
a large exogenous increase in military spending.
This leaves open the question: How would aggregate output and the surplus
to GDP ratio have responded to the post-9/11 rise in government consumption
had the government pursued alternative tax policies? We cannot use our statistical
model to address the impact of systematic changes in policy. A structural
model is required. The particular model that we use is the one developed in Burnside,
Eichenbaum and Fisher (2004). We use this model because it does well at
accounting quantitatively for the consequences of the Ramey - Shapiro episodes.
We consider three possible tax responses to 9/11. In the first, we assume
that tax rates responded the way they normally do after a Ramey - Shapiro
episode. In the second, we assume that tax rates do not change from their pre-
9/11 levels. In the third, we assume that average labor and capital taxes fall by
four percentage points in a very persistent way. This fall roughly corresponds
to the actual decline in average taxes between 2001:2 and 2003:3. In all cases,
we assume that government consumption rises in a way commensurate with what
actually occurred after 9/11.
Our findings can be summarized as follows. With the first and second specifications,
9/11 would have been associated with a small initial rise, followed by
a persistent but small decline, in the surplus to GDP ratio. In contrast and
consistent with the actual post-9/11 data, the third specification implies that the
surplus to GDP ratio would have declined immediately and then stayed well below
its pre-shock level for an extended period of time. To the extent that the Bush tax
cuts are viewed as highly persistent, this result provides a formal interpretation
of the view that the large drop in the surplus to GDP ratio following 9/11 is due
to an atypical reduction in tax rates after a large increase in military spending.
Our structural model also implies that a cut in tax rates leads to a subtantial
rise in output, with the precise magnitude depending on the elasticity of labor
supply. Evaluating the welfare tradeoff between the rise in output and the fall in
the surplus to GDP ratio associated with the cut in tax rates is beyond the scope
of this paper.
The remainder of this paper is organized as follows. Section 2 discusses our
strategy for estimating the effects of a Ramey - Shapiro episode and presents our
results. In that section we also use our statistical model to assess how unusual
fiscal policy was in the aftermath of 9/11. In section three we discuss our economic
model and use it to assess how the surplus and aggregate output would
have behaved under alternative tax responses to 9/11. Finally, section 4 contains
concluding remarks.
2. Evidence on the Effects of a Shock to Fiscal Policy
In this section we describe our strategy for estimating the effects of an exogenous
shock to fiscal policy and present our results. This strategy is very close to the
one used in Burnside, Eichenbaum and Fisher (2004).
2.1. Identifying the Effects of a Fiscal Policy Shock
Ramey and Shapiro (1998) pursue a `narrative approach' to isolate three arguably
exogenous events that led to large military buildups and increases in government
purchases: the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Carter-Reagan defense
buildup following the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. Based on
their reading of history, they date these events at 1950:3, 1965:1 and 1980:1. The
weakness of this approach is that we only have three episodes of exogenous fiscal
policy shocks to work with. In our view, this weakness is more than offset by the
compelling nature of Ramey and Shapiro's assumption that the war episodes are
exogenous. Certainly their assumption seems plausible relative to the assumptions
typically imposed to isolate the exogenous component of statistical innovations in
government purchases and tax rates. See Blanchard and Perotti (1998), Ramey
and Shapiro (1998) and Edelberg, Eichenbaum and Fisher (2004) for discussions
of alternative approaches.
To estimate the impact of exogenous movements in government purchases,
Gt, capital and labor income tax rates, τ kt and τ nt, on the economy, we use the
following procedure. Suppose that Gt, τ kt and τ nt are elements of the vector
stochastic process Zt. Define the three dummy variables Dit, i = 1, 2, 3, where
Dit = ? 1, if t = di
0, otherwise
and di denotes the ith element of
d = ? 1950:3 1965:1 1980:1 ?0 .
We assume that Zt evolves according to:
Zt = A0 + A1t + A2(t ≥ 1973 : 2) + A3(L)Zt−1 +
3 Xi=1
A4(L)ψiDit + ut, (2.1)
where Eut = 0,
Eutu0t−s = ? 0, for all s 6= 0
Σ, for s = 0,
Σ is a positive definite matrix of dimension equal to the number of elements in
Zt, t denotes time, and Aj(L), j = 3, 4 are finite ordered vector polynomials
in nonnegative powers of the lag operator L. As in Ramey and Shapiro (1998)
we allow for a trend break in 1973:2.1 A consistent estimate of the response
of Zit+k, the ith element of Z at time t + k, to the onset of the ith Ramey-
Shapiro episode is given by an estimate of the coefficient on Lk in the expansion
of ψi [I − A3(L)L]−1 A4(L).
The ψi in (2.1) are scalars with ψ1 normalized to unity. The parameters ψ2 and
ψ3 measure the intensity of the second and third Ramey-Shapiro episodes relative
to the first. Based on the observed changes in government purchases, we set ψ2
and ψ3 to 0.30 and 0.10, respectively. These weights were obtained by comparing
the percentage peak rise after the onset of the Vietnam and the Carter-Reagan
defense buildup episodes to the analog rise after the Korea episode. Relation (2.1)
implies that while the fiscal episodes may differ in intensity, their dynamic effects
are the same, up to a scale factor, ψi. While arguable, this assumption is consistent
with the maintained assumptions in Ramey and Shapiro (1998), Burnside,
Eichenbaum and Fisher (2004) and Edelberg, Eichenbaum and Fisher (1999).
It is also consistent with the assumptions in Rotemberg and Woodford (1992)
who identify an exogenous shock to government purchases with the innovation
1In practice we found that our results were robust to not allowing for a break in trend, i.e.
to setting A2 = 0.
to defense purchases estimated from a linear time invariant vector autoregressive
representation of the data.
Our specification of Zt includes the log of time t per-capita real GDP, the log
of per-capita real government consumption, average capital and labor income tax
rates, the real interest rate and the nominal government surplus to GDP ratio.
Our measure of the government surplus is the consolidated federal, state and
local budget surplus' of revenues over expenditure, inclusive of interest payments.
Below, we also consider the primary surplus to GDP ratio.2 The real interest is
the interest rate associated with Moody's Baa corporate bonds that have average
maturity of roughly 20 years minus the consumer price index inflation rate over
the previous year. We assume that Zt depends on six lagged values of itself, i.e.
A3(L) is a sixth order polynomial in L. This lag length was chosen using the
modified likelihood ratio test described in Sims (1980). All estimates are based on
quarterly data from 1947:1 to 2001:2. Note that we purposefully do not include
the data containing 9/11 and its aftermath in this stage of our empirical work.
The Appendix describes the data used in our analysis.
2.2. Empirical Results
In this subsection we present the results of implementing the procedure discussed
2.2.1. The Data
Figure 1 displays the data used in our analysis. Column 1 displays the log of
real military spending, real government consumption and our measure of the real
interest rate. In all cases we include vertical lines at the dates of Ramey-Shapiro
episodes and 2001:3 which encompasses 9/11. Notice that the time series on real
2The response of both surplus to GDP ratio measures to a Ramey - Shapiro epsiode is very
defense expenditures is dominated by three events: the large increases in real
defense expenditures associated with the Korean war, the Vietnam war, and the
Carter-Reagan defense buildup. The Ramey-Shapiro dates essentially mark the
beginning of these episodes. There also appears to be a significant buildup in
real defense expenditures around the period of 9/11. In our economic model, it
is total government consumption, rather than military purchases that is relevant.
As Figure 1 reveals, the Ramey-Shapiro and 9/11 episodes also coincide with rises
in real government consumption. For completeness, Figure 2 displays the data on
the ratio of government consumption to GDP. Notice that ratio rises significantly
in the four episodes of concern.
Turning to the real interest rate, two interesting features are worth noting.
First the real interest rate is consistently higher in the post-1980 period than in
the pre-1980 period. Second, there is not a consistent pattern of a rise in the
real interest rate in the immediate aftermath of the four episodes of exogenous
increases in military spending.
Column 2 displays our measures of labor and capital tax rates as well as the
ratio of nominal primary (dashed line) and total (solid line) government fiscal
surpluses to nominal GDP. Tax rates were constructed using quarterly data from
the national income and products accounts and the method employed by Jones
(2002).3 Note that labor tax rates rise substantially after all three Ramey-Shapiro
dates while capital tax rates rise after the first two episodes. In contrast to the
Ramey - Shapiro episodes, tax rates fall sharply around the 9/11 episode.
Turning to the surplus to GDP ratio, two features are worth noting. Unlike
the Ramey-Shapiro episodes, there is a sharp decline in this ratio in the immediate
aftermath of 9/11. In addition, the real interest rate and the surplus-GDP ratio
3See Burnside, Eichenbaum and Fisher (2004) for a discussion of how these tax rates were
computed and how they relate to other measures used in the literature.
are negatively correlated, with a correlation coefficient of −0.53. While certainly of
interest, this last correlation does not bear directly on the Ricardian Equivalence
hypothesis which, among other things, pertains to the response of real interest
interest to a rise in the surplus, holding government consumption constant.
2.2.2. The Dynamic Response of the Economy to A Fiscal Shock
Recall that we normalize the first episode (Korea) to be of unit intensity and we
set the intensities of the second and third episodes to 0.30 and 0.10, respectively.
Below we report the dynamic response function of various aggregates to an episode
of unit intensity. This simply scales the size of the impulse response functions. In
interpreting these results it is important to recall that we do not include the 9/11
episode in estimating the response of the economy to a fiscal shock.
Elsewhere we have documented the response of private sector aggregates to
the onset of a Ramey - Shapiro episode.4 Here we focus on aggregate output as
a simple summary measure of overall economic activity. In addition we examine
the behavior of the real interest rate since this plays a potentially important role
in determining the size of the overall government surplus.
The first row of Figure 3 reports the dynamic responses of real government
consumption and output to a fiscal shock.5 The solid lines display point estimates
while the dashed lines correspond to 95% confidence interval bands.6 As can be
4See Ramey and Shapiro (1998), Edelberg Eichenbaum and Fisher (1999) and Burnside,
Eichenbaum and Fisher (2003).
5The impulse response functions for output and government consumption are reported as
percentage deviations from a variable's unshocked path. The response functions of labor and
capital tax rates, the real interest rate and the Surplus-GDP ratio are reported as deviations
from their unshocked levels, measured in percentage points.
6These were computed using the bootstrap Monte Carlo procedure described in Edelberg,
Eichenbaum and Fisher (1999). The Monte Carlo methods that we used to quantify the importance
of sampling uncertainty do not convey any information about `date' uncertainty. This
is because they take as given the Ramey and Shapiro dates. One simple way to assess the
importance of date uncertainty is to redo the analysis perturbing the Ramey and Shapiro dates.
seen, the onset of a Ramey-Shapiro episode leads to large, persistent, hump-shaped
rises in government consumption and output. Table 1 summarizes the `multiplier'
effect on output of a fiscal shock. Specifically, we calculate the cumulative change
in output divided by the cumulative change in government consumption at various
horizons. This multiplier is highest at the end of year one and declines thereafter.
In sharp contrast to simple textbook Keynesian models, the multiplier is much
less than one.
Table 1. The Fiscal Multiplier
First Year Second Year Third Year Fourth Year
0.61 0.28 0.21 0.19
Rows 2 and 3 in the first column of Figure 3 display the dynamic response of
capital and labor tax rates to a fiscal policy shock. Four results are worth noting.
First, the labor tax rate rises in a hump-shaped pattern, mirroring the dynamic
response of government purchases, with the peak occurring about two years after
the onset of a Ramey-Shapiro episode. Second, the maximal rise in the labor tax
rate is 2.71 percentage points after nine quarters. This represents a 25 percent
increase in the tax rate relative to its value in 1949. Third, the capital tax rate
also rises in a hump-shaped manner, but the maximal rise occurs before the peak
rises in government purchases and labor tax rates. Fourth, the rise in the capital
tax rates is large, with the maximal rise of 6.83 percentage points occurring after
three quarters.
The second and third rows of the second column of Figure 3 report the responses
of the real interest rate and the surplus to GDP ratio. Notice that the
real interest rate falls while the surplus to GDP rises in the immediate aftermath
Edelberg, Eichenbaum and Fisher (1999) document the robustness of inferences under the assumption
that the different episodes are of equal intensity.
of Ramey Shapiro episode. After 3 quarters, the real interest rate begins to rise
and the surplus to GDP ratio begins to fall. The behavior of the surplus to
GDP ratio reflects that (i) capital tax rates peak prior to the peak in government
consumption and then begin to decline, and (ii) labor tax rates rise along with
government consumption. This pattern of tax rates leads to the result that the
surplus first rises and then, only with a lag, begins to decline.
We now present an alternative way to assess the historical impact of the Ramey
Shapiro fiscal episodes on the economy. Specifically, we used the estimated version
of (2.1) to generate forecasts of Zt conditional on the occurrence of a fiscal shock,
given the state of the economy at the time that the shock occurs. The forecasts for
the impact of the Korean, Vietnam and Carter-Reagan episodes correspond to the
long dashed lines in Figures 4, 5 and 6. These correspond to what the estimated
model says Zt would have been given the fiscal shocks in question, absent any
additional shocks. The short dashed lines in these figures are the forecasts values
of Zt assuming that no shock, fiscal or otherwise, occurred, given the state of the
economy at the time of relevant Ramey- Shapiro episode or afterwards. The solid
lines correspond to the actual values of Zt.
According to Figure 4, given the state of the economy, the fiscal shock associated
with the Korean episode accounts for much of the actual movement in tax
rates, the real interest rate and the surplus to GDP ratio for the first few years
after 1950:3. From the perspective of our statistical model, this is equivalent to
saying that other shocks played only a minor role during this time period. This
is less so for the period after the Vietnam War (Figure 5) and much less so for
the period after the invasion of Afghanistan (Figure 6). For example, the fiscal
shock does little to explain the sharp rise and subsequent fall in the labor tax
during the period 1980 to 1983. It also does not explain the initial rise and subsequent
steep declines in capital tax rates during the Carter - Reagan episode.
This is not a statement that the model is incorrectly specified. It simply says that
other important shocks occurred in the aftermath of the last two Ramey - Shapiro
2.2.3. How Unusual is Post-9/11 Fiscal Policy?
In this subsection we address the question: Is fiscal policy in the aftermath of
9/11 well explained as the normal response of the economy to large exogenous
shocks to government military expenditures? To be clear, by `normal' we mean
our estimates of the response of fiscal policy to the onset of a Ramey - Shapiro
episode. To address this question we proceed as follows. First, we assume that, in
terms of the rise in government consumption, the 9/11 episode is 10% as intense
(in the sense defined above), as the Korean episode. Second, we use the estimated
version of (2.1) to generate forecasts of Zt conditional on the occurrence of a fiscal
shock in 2001:3, given the state of the economy as of 2001:2. This forecast assumes
that fiscal policy responds to 9/11 in the same way that it did in the other three
Ramey - Shapiro episodes. Figure 7 reports the forecasts generated under this
assumption (the long dashed line). As before the solid line displays the realized
values of Zt. The short dashed line denotes the forecasts of Zt given the state of
the economy as of 2001:2, but assuming there was not a fiscal shock in 2001:3.
As can be seen, the general rise in government consumption is well explained
by the 9/11 shock. So is the rise in output although there is clear evidence of
another shock which drove output down in 2002. Other things equal, the decline
in output would reduce tax revenues and the government surplus. The behavior of
the other variables in Zt is substantially less well explained by the 9/11 shock. For
example, the declines in average capital and labor tax rates are much larger than
our conditional forecast. Perhaps even more striking is the difference between
the actual and predicted values of the surplus to GDP ratio. The statistical
model predicts that, had the government responded to 9/11 as it did to the other
Ramey Shapiro shocks, then absent other shocks, the surplus would initially have
risen and then slowly declined to the point where the consolidated budget was
essentially balanced. In fact, the surplus suffered a sharp, ongoing decline. This
reflects that (i) tax rates fell much more sharply than anticipated and (ii) output
grew less quickly
3. The Impact of Alternative Tax Policies
In this section we consider the question: How would have aggregate output and
the surplus responded to the post-9/11 rise in government consumption had the
government pursued alternative tax policies? We cannot answer this question using
purely statistical models of the sort discussed above because the experiments
we wish to contemplate amount to a change in policy. Standard Lucas critique
reasoning says we can only conduct this type of experiment in an economic model.
Burnside, Eichenbaum and Fisher (2004) argue that a particular neoclassical business
cycle model does a good job of accounting for the quantitative impact of a
Ramey-Shapiro episode on aggregate hours worked, after tax real wages, consumption
and investment. So that model provides a useful `laboratory' within which to
examine the impact of alternative fiscal policies. In this section we describe this
model and use it to address our question.
3.1. A Simple Neoclassical Model
In this subsection we discussion the neoclassical model in Burnside, Eichenbaum
and Fisher (2004) that allows for habit formation and adjustment costs in investment.
The latter two perturbations do not affect the qualitative properties of the
model but they improve the model's ability to account for the quantitative affects
of a fiscal shock.
A representative household ranks alternative streams of consumption and
hours worked according to
∞ Xt=0
βt [log(C∗t ) + ηV (1 − nt)] , (3.1)
C∗t = Ct − bCt−1, b≥ 0 (3.2)
V (1 − nt) = ? 1
1−?(1 − nt)1−?, ?≥ 0
ln(1 − nt), ?= 1
. (3.3)
Here E0 is the time 0 conditional expectations operator, β is a subjective discount
factor between 0 and 1, while Ct and nt denote time t consumption and the fraction
of the household's time endowment devoted to work, respectively. When b > 0,
(3.1) allows for habit formation in consumption. Given (3.3), the representative
household's Frisch elasticity of labor supply, evaluated at the steady state level of
hours, n, is equal to (1 − n)/(n?).
The household owns the stock of capital, whose value at the beginning of time t
we denote by Kt. As in Christiano, Eichenbaum and Evans (2001) and Christiano
and Fisher (2003) capital evolves according to according to
Kt+1 = (1 − δ)Kt + F(It, It−1) (3.4)
F(It, It−1) = (1 − S ? It
It−1?)It. (3.5)
The functional form for F in (3.5) penalizes changes in It. Many authors in the
literature adopt specifications which penalize the level of investment. Christiano,
Eichenbaum and Evans (2001) argue that it is difficult to generate hump shaped
responses of investment to shocks with the latter specification. In contrast, hump
shaped responses of investment emerge naturally with specification (3.5). Christiano
and Fisher (2003) argue that these adjustment costs are useful for understanding
the dynamics of stock market and investment good prices.
We restrict the function, S, to satisfy the following properties: S(1) = S0(1) =
0, and s ≡ S00(1) > 0. Under our assumptions, in a nonstochastic steady state
F1 = 1, F2 = 0. The steady state values of the variables are not a function of the
adjustment cost parameter, s. Of course, the dynamics of the model are influenced
by s. When s = 0 the model is equivalent to one without adjustment costs. Given
our solution procedure no other features of the S function need to be specified.
The household rents out capital and supplies labor in perfectly competitive
spot factor markets. We denote the real wage rate per unit of labor by wt and
the real rental rate on capital by rt. The government taxes rental income net of
depreciation, and wage income at the rates τ kt and τ nt, respectively. Consequently,
after-tax real wage and rental rate on capital are given by (1 − τ nt)Wt and (1 −
τ kt)rt + δτ kt, respectively. Therefore, the household's time t budget constraint is
given by
Ct + It ≤ (1 − τ nt)Wtnt + (1 − τ kt)rtKt + δτ ktKt − Φt (3.6)
where Φt denotes lump sum taxes paid by the household.
A perfectly competitive firm produces output, Yt, according to
Yt ≤ Kα
t nt
1−α, 0 < α < 1. (3.7)
The firm sells its output in a perfectly competitive goods market and rents labor
and capital in perfectly competitive spot markets.
The government purchases Gt units of output at time t. For simplicity we
assume the government balances its budget every period. Government purchases
are financed by capital taxes, labor taxes and lump sum taxes, Φt. Consequently
the government's budget constraint is given by
Gt = τ ntWtnt + τ kt(rt − δ)Kt + Φt.
Given our assumptions, Ricardian equivalence holds with respect to the timing of
lump sum taxes.7 So we could allow the government to borrow part or all of the
difference between its expenditures and revenues raised from distortionary taxes,
subject to its intertemporal budget constraint, and it would not affect our results.
The vector ft = [log(Gt), τ kt, τ nt]0 evolves according to
ft = f + hf (L)εt. (3.8)
Here εt is a zero mean, iid scalar random variable that is orthogonal to all model
variables dated time t − 1 and earlier. In addition hf (L) = [h1(L), h2(L), h3(L)]0
where hi(L), i = 1, 2, 3 is a qth ordered polynomial in nonnegative powers of the lag
operator L, and f denotes the steady state value of ft. Note that εt is common to
both government spending and taxes. This formalizes the notion that government
spending and taxes respond simultaneously to a common fiscal shock.
The problem of the representative household is to maximize (3.1) subject to
(3.6), (3.3), (3.4), (3.5), (3.2), (3.8) and a given stochastic process for wage and
rental rates. The maximization is by choice of contingency plans for {Ct,Kt+1,nt}
over the elements of the household's time t information set that includes all model
variables dated time t and earlier.
The firm's problem is to maximize time t profits. Its first order conditions
Wt = (1 − α) (Kt/nt)α and rt = α (nt/Kt)1−α .
We use the log-linearization procedure described by Christiano (1998) to solve
for the competitive equilibrium of this economy. To conserve on notation we ab-
7This assumes the absence of distortionary taxes on government debt.
stracted from growth when presenting our model. However we do allow for growth
when calibrating the model. Specifically we assume that total factor productivity
grows at the constant growth rate γ, so that production is given by Yt = γtKα
t n1−α
t .
This model of growth is inconsistent with the way we treated growth in section
2 where we assume a trend break in 1973:2. To understand the nature of the
approximation involved, note that Christiano's solution procedure involves taking
a log linear approximation about the model's steady state. Suppose that the break
in trend is unanticipated and the model has converged to its stochastic steady
state by the time of the third Ramey Shapiro episode. One way to implement
Christiano's procedure is to compute two log linear equilibrium laws of motion
for the model corresponding to the pre- and post-1973:2 periods. The difference
between the two is that the log linear approximation is computed about two
different steady states of the model corresponding to the pre- and post-1973:2
growth rate of technology. We approximate this procedure by computing one law
of motion around the steady state of the model assuming a growth rate of output,
γ = 1.005. This is equal to the average growth rate of output over the whole
sample period.
3.2. Calibration
In this subsection we briefly describe how we calibrated the model's parameter
values. We assume that a time period in the model corresponds to one quarter
and set β = 1.03−1/4. The parameter η was set to imply that in nonstochastic
steady state the representative consumer spends 24% of his time endowment
working (see, for example, Christiano and Eichenbaum (1992). To evaluate the
dependence of the model's implications on the Frisch labor supply elasticity we
consider three values for ?. The first, ? = 0, corresponds to the Hansen-Rogerson
infinite elasticity case. The second, ? = 1, implies the utility function for leisure is
logarithmic. Combined with our assumption that the representative agent spends
24 percent of his time endowment working, this value corresponds to a Frisch
labor supply elasticity of 3.16. Finally, we consider ? = 10, which corresponds
to a Frisch labor supply elasticity of 0.33, which is similar to the low elasticities
often obtained using microeconomic data. The rate of depreciation on capital δ
was set to 0.021 while α was set to 0.34 (see Christiano and Eichenbaum 1992).
We also set b = 0.8 and s = 2.0. This value of b is close to values used in the
literature (see for example Boldrin, Christiano and Fisher (2001). The value of
s is close to the value estimated by Christiano, Eichenbaum and Evans (2001).
They show that 1/s is the elasticity of investment with respect to a one percent
temporary increase in the price of installed capital. So a value of s equal to two
implies this this elasticity is equal to 0.5. We chose this value because it leads to
a better performance of the model (see Burnside, Eichenbaum and Fisher 2004).
3.3. Accounting for a Ramey-Shapiro Episode
As mentioned above, Burnside, Eichenbaum and Fisher (2004) analyze the ability
of the model to account for the response of hours worked, the after tax real
wage rate, consumption and investment to a Ramey-Shapiro episode. They argue
that the model does well from both a qualitative and a quantitative perspective in
accounting for the dynamics of these variables. Here we briefly discuss the model's
performance with respect to output, the real interest rate and the primary surplus
to GDP ratio to the onset of a Ramey-Shapiro episode. For this exercise we specify
hi(L), i = 1, 2, 3 to correspond to the estimated response of total government
consumption, the capital income tax rate and the labor income tax rate at t + j
to the onset of a Ramey-Shapiro episode at time t.8
Figure 8 displays the dynamic response of output, the real interest rate and the
8In practice we use 50 coefficients in h1(L) and 16 coefficients in h2(L) and h3(L).
surplus to GDP ratio, to a fiscal shock of unit intensity, i.e. a shock correpsonding
to the intensity of the Korean epsiode. Columns 1, 2 and 3 three report results
for ? = {0, 1, 10}, i.e. high, medium and low Frisch labor supply elasticities. In
all cases, the long dashed lines correspond to the model based impulse response
functions. The solid lines are our empirical estimates of the impulse response
functions of output, the real interest rate and the primary surplus. The lines
with the small dashes are 95% confidence intervals around the empirical point
Notice that for all values of ?, the model generates a prolonged rise in output in
response to a positive fiscal policy shock that is within the 95% confidence intervals
of our point estimates. The rise in output reflects the fact that an increase in Gt
raises the present value of the household's taxes and lowers its permanent income.
Since leisure is a normal good, equilibrium hours worked rises. Notice that the
rise in output is largest when labor supply is the most elastic. The basic intuition
for this result is as follows. The larger is ? the more the household wishes to
smooth hours worked. Since hours worked do not change in steady state, as ?
becomes larger, the household finds it optimal to respond to a rise in the present
value of its taxes by reducing private consumption by relatively more and varying
hours worked less.
Not surprisingly, the model does much less well with respect to the real interest
rate. In the model agents' have a strong desire to smooth consumption service
flows. This in turn implies that the real rate moves very little. So this model, like
most neoclassical models, does poorly at matching movements in asset prices.
Now we consider the response of the surplus to GDP ratio. Our model based
measure is the difference between government revenues from distortionary taxes
minus government purchases. It is important to emphasize that our model allows
for lump sum taxation, something clearly at variance with institutional reality. So
we have much more confidence in the model's qualitative predictions rather than
its quantitative predictions for the surplus. That being said, Figure 7 indicates
that all versions of the model succeed in reproducing the qualitative response of
the surplus to GDP ratio, generating an initial rise followed by a fall. Since the
initial rise in output is most pronounced when ? = 0, this version of the model
does the best job of accounting for the initial rise in the surplus. All versions of
the model do a reasonable job of accounting for the quantitative fall in the surplus
to GDP ratio.
3.4. Alternative Tax Policies
Here we consider the model's implications for three alternative tax responses to
9/11 which correspond to three specifications for the jth coefficient in the expansion
of hi(L), i = 1, 2, 3. In the first, which we refer to as the normal specification,
these coefficients are given by 0.10 times the estimated response of real government
purchases, the capital income tax rate and the labor income tax rate at
t + j to the onset of a Ramey-Shapiro episode at time t. This corresponds to our
assumption that the 9/11 shock is 0.10 as `intense' (from an economic point of
view) as the Korean episode.9 In the second case, which we refer to as the no tax
change specification, we retain the specification of h1(L) from the normal specifi-
cation, but set the coefficients in h2(L) and h3(L) equal to zero. This means that
tax rates do not respond to the fiscal shock and remain fixed at their pre-9/11
level. Finally, in the third case, which we refer to as the lower tax specification, we
retain the specification of h1(L) from the normal specification, but reduce average
labor and capital taxes taxes by four percentage points in a very persistent way.10
This roughly corresponds to the actual decline in average taxes between 2001:2
9In practice we use 50 coefficients in h1(L), h2(L) and h3(L).
10Specifically, we assume that tax rates rise after the initial shock by 0.001 percent each year.
and 2003:3 shown in Figures 1 and 6.
Columns 1, 2 and 3 of Figure 9 report our results for the three specifications.11
Throughout the solid line, the dashed line and the dotted line correspond to the
response of the model in the high, medium and low elasticity labor supply case,
respectively. Not surprisingly, the response of output to the increase in government
consumption is inversely related to the response of taxes. For example, the peak
rise in output in the normal specification when ? = 1, is roughly 0.29, whereas
it is 0.42 in the no tax change specification. Indeed a close to permanent drop
in taxes generates an enormous rise in output. Even in the low labor supply
specification, ? = 10, the fiscal shock generates a highly persistent rise in output
that approaches of 1.6% after 4 years.
The normal specification implies that a fiscal shock is associated with a small
rise in the surplus to GDP ratio followed by a persistent but small decline. The
surplus to GDP ratio responds in a similar way under the no tax change specifi-
cation. Finally, consistent with the actual post-9/11 data, the lower tax change
specification implies that the surplus to GDP ratio declines immediately and stays
well below its pre-shock level for an extended period of time. To the extent that
the tax cuts are viewed as highly persistent, this result provides a formal interpretation
of the view that the large drop in the surplus to GDP ratio following
9/11 is due to an atypical reduction in tax rates after a large increase in military
Of course, it is difficult to know whether the tax cuts will turn out to be
permanent or whether agents perceived them as such. To assess the robustness of
our results, we considered the model's implications for a temporary tax cut. This
specification is identical to the lower tax specification except we assume that tax
11Because the intensity of the shock is 0.10, the impulse response functions correspoding to
the normal specification in Figure 9 are one-tenth the size of the corresponding impulse response
functions in Figure 8
rates return to their pre-shock levels after three years. Interestingly, in results
not displayed, we find that the responses of output and the surplus to GDP ratio
in the two tax cut cases are very similar over the first three years. Thereafter,
the responses differ substantially. In the temporary tax cut case, after year three,
output starts declining to its pre-shock level. In contrast, in the permanent tax
cut case, output remains persistently high (see Figure 9). In the temporary tax
cut case, after year three, the surplus to GDP very quickly reverts to its preshock
value. But, in the permanent tax cut case, that ratio remains very low for
an extended period of time (again, see Figure 9). We infer that, at least in our
model, the basic effects of a cut in tax rates do not depend sensitively on how
permanent the cuts are. A cut in tax rates lead to a rise in output and a fall in
the surplus to GDP ratio, for as long as the tax cuts are in effect.
We conclude by considering the relative contributions of the rise in government
purchases and the cut in tax rates to the fall in the surplus to GDP ratio that
occurs in the lower tax specification. Taking as given the rise in government
purchases and output that occurs in that specification, we calculated the dynamic
response of the surplus to GDP ratio assuming that tax rates stayed at their preshock
steady state levels. Figure 10 displays our results in the high, medium and
low elasticity labor supply cases, corresponding to the solid, dashed and dotted
lines, respectively. Note that in the first two cases, the surplus to GDP ratio
actually rises after the increase in government purchases. This reflects the large
rise in output, and tax revenues, when labor supply is relatively elastic. In the
low labor supply elasticity case, the rise in government consumption leads, after
a brief delay, to a decline in the surplus to GDP ratio. But this decline is very
small (roughly 0.5 percentage points) compared to the decline of 3.5% percentage
points that occurs under the lower tax specification. This adds further support
to our claim that the primary factor driving the post-9/11 decline in the surplus
to GDP ratio was the cut in tax rates.
4. Conclusion
In this paper we argued that fiscal policy in the aftermath of 9/11 is not well
explained as the normal response of the U.S. economy to a large exogenous increase
in government consumption. It is difficult to explain the dramatic fall in the
government surplus and the large fall in labor and capital tax rates as reflecting
either the state of the U.S. economy as of 9/11 or as the typical response of fiscal
policy to a large exogenous rise in military expenditures.
We also addressed the question of how aggregate output and the surplus to
GDP ratio would have responded to the post-9/11 rise in government consumption
had the government pursued alternative tax policies. Using the model developed
in Burnside, Eichenbaum and Fisher (2004), we argued that, had government tax
policy responded to 9/11 in the same the way that it responded to other large
exogenous increases in military spending, 9/11 would have been associated with
a small change in aggregate output and the surplus to GDP ratio. Our model
also implies that, given the same path of government spending, a cut in tax rates
similar to those actually observed in the aftermath of 9/11, would have resulted in
a sharp, persistent decline in the government surplus to GDP ratio and a relatively
large rise in aggregate output. This provides additional evidence in favor of the
view that the recent sharp drop in the surplus to GDP ratio reflects ongoing tax
policy developments that are atypical relative to post-WWII U.S. experience after
a large increase in military spending.
We conclude by emphasizing that our results do not bear on the question of
whether the decline in tax rates and the decline in the surplus after 9/11 were
desirable or not.
Data Appendix
All data series are seasonally adjusted except for the population and the real interest
rate. Output is GDP (Haver mnemonic GDPH). Defense spending includes
both consumption and investment spending (GFDH). Government consumption is
defense spending plus Federal, State and Local consumption expenditures (chain
weighted sum of GFDH, GFNEH and GSEH). All real series are in units of 1996
chain-weighted dollars. The surplus is the ratio of the consolidated Federal, State
and Local surplus as measured in the National Income and Product Accounts
(GBAL). The real interest rate is the difference between the Moody's BAA composite
bond rate (FBAA) and consumer price index inflation over the prior four
quarters (CPIU). Our measure of the poplulation is the civilian working age population
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[14] Rogerson, R., Indivisible Labor, Lotteries and Equilibrium, Journal of Monetary
Economics 21 (1998), 3--16.
[15] Rotemberg, J. and M. Woodford, Oligopolistic Pricing and the Effects of
Aggregate Demand on Economic Activity, Journal of Political Economy 100
(1992), 1153--297.
[16] Sims, C. Macroeconomics and Reality, Econometrica 48 (1980), 1--48.
Real Defense Spending
1947 1952 1957 1962 1967 1972 1977 1982 1987 1992 1997 2002
4.8 5.0 5.2 5.4 5.6 5.8 6.0 6.2
Per Capita Government Consumption (Incl. Defense)
1947 1952 1957 1962 1967 1972 1977 1982 1987 1992 1997 2002
-5.92 -5.76 -5.60 -5.44 -5.28 -5.12 -4.96
Real Interest Rate
1947 1952 1957 1962 1967 1972 1977 1982 1987 1992 1997 2002
-0.15 -0.10 -0.05 0.00 0.05 0.10 0.15
Average Capital Tax
1947 1952 1957 1962 1967 1972 1977 1982 1987 1992 1997 2002
0.30 0.35 0.40 0.45 0.50 0.55
Average Labor Tax
1947 1952 1957 1962 1967 1972 1977 1982 1987 1992 1997 2002
0.075 0.100 0.125 0.150 0.175 0.200 0.225 0.250 0.275
Surplus and Primary Surplus / GDP
1947 1952 1957 1962 1967 1972 1977 1982 1987 1992 1997 2002
-0.075 -0.050 -0.025 0.000 0.025 0.050 0.075
Figure 1: Data Used in the Analysis
Vertical Lines - Ramey-Shapiro Dates and 9/11
1947 1953 1959 1965 1971 1977 1983 1989 1995 2001
0.125 0.150 0.175 0.200 0.225
Figure 2: Government Consumption as a Fraction of GDP
Vertical Lines - Ramey-Shapiro Dates and 9/11
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-4 -2 0 2 4 6 8 10 12 14
Average Capital Tax
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-6 -4 -2 0 2 4 6 8 10 12
Average Labor Tax
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-1.2 -0.6 0.0 0.6 1.2 1.8 2.4 3.0 3.6 4.2
Government Consumption
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-10 0 10 20 30 4050
Real Interest Rate
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-7.5 -5.0 -2.5 0.0 2.5 5.0 7.5
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-6 -4 -2 0 2 4 6
Figure 3: Estimated Responses to Pre-9/11 Episode
Solid Line - Point Estimates, Dashed Lines - 95% Confidence Interval
Government Consumption
1950 1951 1952 1953 1954
-5.84 -5.76 -5.68 -5.60 -5.52 -5.44 -5.36 -5.28 -5.20 -5.12
Average Capital Tax
1950 1951 1952 1953 1954
0.400 0.425 0.450 0.475 0.500 0.525 0.550
Average Labor Tax
1950 1951 1952 1953 1954
0.100 0.105 0.110 0.115 0.120 0.125 0.130 0.135 0.140
1950 1951 1952 1953 1954
-4.150 -4.125 -4.100 -4.075 -4.050 -4.025 -4.000 -3.975
Real Interest Rate
1950 1951 1952 1953 1954
-0.064 -0.048 -0.032 -0.016 0.000 0.016 0.032 0.048
1950 1951 1952 1953 1954
0.000 0.008 0.016 0.024 0.032 0.040 0.048 0.056 0.064
Figure 4: Historical Decomposition of the Korean War Episode
Solid Line - Actual Data, Long Dashed Line - Forecast With Ramey-Shapiro Episode,

Short Dashed Line - Forecast Without Ramey-Shapiro Episode
Government Consumption
1965 1966 1967 1968
-5.275 -5.250 -5.225 -5.200 -5.175 -5.150 -5.125 -5.100 -5.075 -5.050
Average Capital Tax
1965 1966 1967 1968
0.38 0.39 0.40 0.41 0.42 0.43 0.44 0.45
Average Labor Tax
1965 1966 1967 1968
0.14 0.15 0.16 0.17 0.18 0.19 0.20
1965 1966 1967 1968
-3.78 -3.76 -3.74 -3.72 -3.70 -3.68 -3.66 -3.64 -3.62
Real Interest Rate
1965 1966 1967 1968
0.012 0.018 0.024 0.030 0.036 0.042
1965 1966 1967 1968
-0.005 0.000 0.005 0.010 0.015 0.020 0.025
Figure 5: Historical Decomposition of Vietnam War Episode
Solid Line - Actual Data, Long Dashed Line - Forecast With Ramey-Shapiro Episode,

Short Dashed Line - Forecast Without Ramey-Shapiro Episode
Government Consumption
1980 1981 1982 1983
-5.232 -5.224 -5.216 -5.208 -5.200 -5.192 -5.184 -5.176 -5.168 -5.160
Average Capital Tax
1980 1981 1982 1983
0.342 0.351 0.360 0.369 0.378 0.387 0.396 0.405
Average Labor Tax
1980 1981 1982 1983
0.216 0.218 0.220 0.222 0.224 0.226 0.228 0.230 0.232 0.234
1980 1981 1982 1983
-3.575 -3.550 -3.525 -3.500 -3.475
Real Interest Rate
1980 1981 1982 1983
-0.02 0.00 0.02 0.04 0.06 0.08 0.10 0.12
1980 1981 1982 1983
-0.0600000 -0.0500000 -0.0400000 -0.0300000 -0.0200000 -0.0100000 0.0000000
Figure 6: Historical Decomposition of Carter-Reagan Buildup Episode
Solid Line - Actual Data, Long Dashed Line - Forecast With Ramey-Shapiro Episode,

Short Dashed Line - Forecast Without Ramey-Shapiro Episode
Government Consumption
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
-5.06 -5.05 -5.04 -5.03-5.02 -5.01 -5.00 -4.99 -4.98 -4.97
Average Capital Tax
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
0.32 0.33 0.34 0.35 0.36 0.37 0.38
Average Labor Tax
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
0.21 0.22 0.23 0.24 0.25 0.260.27
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
-3.16 -3.15 -3.14 -3.13 -3.12 -3.11 -3.10 -3.09 -3.08
Real Interest Rate
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
0.036 0.042 0.048 0.054 0.0600.066 0.072 0.078 0.084
2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
-0.042 -0.036 -0.030 -0.024 -0.018 -0.012 -0.006 -0.000 0.006 0.012
Figure 7: Predicted and Actual Dynamics in the Aftermath of 9/11
Solid Line - Actual Data, Long Dashed Line - Forecast Assuming Ramey-Shapiro Episode,

Short Dashed Line - Forecast Without Ramey-Shapiro Episode
High Elasticity Medium Elasticity Low Elasticity
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-5.0 -2.5 0.0 2.5 5.0 7.5 10.0 12.5 15.0
Real Interest Rate
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-7.5 -5.0 -2.5 0.0 2.5 5.0 7.5 10.0
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-8 -6 -4 -2 0 2 4 6
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-5.0 -2.5 0.0 2.5 5.0 7.5 10.0 12.5 15.0
Real Interest Rate
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-7.5 -5.0 -2.5 0.0 2.5 5.0 7.5 10.0
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-8 -6 -4 -2 0 2 4 6
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-5.0 -2.5 0.0 2.5 5.0 7.5 10.0 12.5 15.0
Real Interest Rate
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-7.5 -5.0 -2.5 0.0 2.5 5.0 7.5 10.0
2 4 6 8 10 12 14 16
-8 -6 -4 -2 0 2 4 6
Figure 8: Theoretical Response to Pre-9/11 Ramey-Shapiro Episode
Solid Line - Empirical Response, Short Dashed Line - 95% Confidence Interval,

Long Dashed Line - Theoretical Response
Figure 9: Fiscal Policy Experiments in the Neoclassical Model
Solid Line - High Elasticity, Dashed Line - Medium Elasticity, Dotted Line - Low Elasticity
Figure 10: Response of the Surplus to GDP ratio in the Lower Tax Specification

Assuming Taxes Remain at their Steady State Levels
Solid Line - High Elasticity, Dashed Line - Medium Elasticity, Dotted Line - Low Elasticity

Posted by maximpost at 11:13 PM EDT

Keep the ban on arms for China
Roger Cliff and Evan S. Medeiros IHT
Monday, March 22, 2004

Europe's embargo

WASHINGTON When the European Council meets at the end of March, European leaders may decide to lift the European Union's 15-year-old embargo on weapons transfers to China, which U.S. and European policy makers imposed in 1989 after the Chinese military's violent crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing.
Lifting the embargo now, however, would send mixed signals to China on human rights and on the Taiwan issue, assist China's rapidly accelerating military modernization program, undermine stability across the Taiwan Strait, and further exacerbate tensions in trans-Atlantic relations.
Momentum for this policy change has been growing over the last year. Beijing has pressed European policy makers to make this change, arguing it is needed for China and the EU to develop fully their newly minted "strategic partnership."
As a result, prominent European leaders have publicly stated a desire to eliminate the ban. During the visit to France by President Hu Jintao of China in late January, the French foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, said "the embargo is out of date."
But there are many important reasons for continuing the arms embargo.
European policy makers argue that China's poor human rights situation - the original motivation for the ban - has improved significantly since 1989, and thus the embargo is no longer justified. Yet while living standards have undoubtedly improved in the last decade, China's human rights situation still has a long way to go.
China remains a dictatorship that harshly suppresses any perceived political opposition. Examples abound. The government still hasn't lived up to President Jiang Zemin's 1997 pledge to allow the International Committee of the Red Cross access to Chinese prisons. President Hu's crackdown late last year on high-profile investigative newspapers and magazines is equally worrisome. These and other actions were listed in the European Commission's 2003 report on EU-Chinese relations.
The focus on China's human rights situation, however, misses the real issue at stake - the rapid modernization of China's military and the implications for stability, including the possibility of an outbreak of armed conflict in the Taiwan Strait. Lifting the EU embargo would provide significant and long-lasting assistance to Chinese military modernization at a time when cross-strait stability is fading fast.
Since the early 1990s, the Chinese military has been engaged in a sustained drive to improve its capabilities. For much of the last decade, this has involved buying advanced off-the-shelf weapons systems from Russia. This approach has significantly raised the level of China's warfighting abilities in a relatively short time.
As a result, the People's Liberation Army has rapidly crossed critical modernization thresholds to the extent that it can now leverage new weapons technology imports in ways more militarily significant than in past years.
Access to European weapon technologies, which are nearly as advanced as U.S. capabilities in some areas, would also enable China's defense industries to accelerate their modernization by filling critical technology gaps. European technology transfers before 1989, for example, played a key role in enabling China to develop modern surface-to-air and air-to-air missile systems in the 1980s and 1990s.
These developments would have a direct impact on stability across the Taiwan Strait and on trans-Atlantic relations. China's military modernization is largely aimed at preparing for a potential conflict over Taiwan. One of the central elements of China's effort is to acquire weapons capabilities to prevent and, ultimately, to counter U.S. military intervention in a Taiwan conflict. If the EU ban was lifted and conflict erupted, U.S. forces could conceivably find themselves under attack by Chinese weapons produced with the help of America's NATO allies.
Some observers maintain that lifting the embargo is not so consequential because a EU code of conduct governing military exports would limit arms trade with China. This argument is far from reassuring.
After abandonment of the embargo, the norm against EU arms sales to China would be significantly diminished, sending a strong signal to defense enterprises throughout Europe. The same arguments used to scrap the embargo could be leveraged to overcome the political restraints of the code of conduct.
Furthermore, the code - unlike the embargo - is not legally binding, and some defense companies might be willing to pay the costs of violating its "politically binding" provisions.
Indeed, it is not clear that violations would even matter. Major EU members have already violated, with relative impunity, key provisions of the Maastricht Treaty relating to fiscal responsibility. Even when the European Union expands to the east in May, there are few assurances that the new members would uniformly support continuing the arms embargo. A company in the Czech Republic recently sold an advanced military radar to China.
Regardless of the understandable political motives of EU leaders who want to improve relations with China, abandoning the arms embargo would jeopardize stability in one of the most volatile parts of Asia. Selling arms to China could not only put a NATO ally at risk, it could undermine the integrity of a fraying alliance itself.

Roger Cliff and Evan S. Medeiros are political scientists at the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization.

Copyright ? 2002 The International Herald Tribune
Cheney to promote nuke reactors to China

Vice President Dick Cheney, center, shakes hands with Anchorage, Alaska mayor Mark Begich at Elmendorf Air Force Base in

Alaska, Friday, April 9, 2004. Cheney is en route to Asia. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)
WASHINGTON -- On a trip to China next week to talk about high-stakes issues like terrorism and North Korea, Vice President

Dick Cheney will have another task - making a pitch for Westinghouse's U.S. nuclear power technology.
At stake could be billions of dollars in business in coming years and thousands of American jobs. The initial installment of

four reactors, costing $1.5 billion apiece, would also help narrow the huge U.S. trade deficit with China.
China's latest economic plan anticipates more than doubling its electricity output by 2020 and the Chinese government, facing

enormous air pollution problems, is looking to shift some of that away from coal-burning plants. Its plan calls for building

as many as 32 large 1,000-megawatt reactors over the next 16 years.
No one has ordered a new nuclear power reactor in the United States in three decades and the next one, if it comes, is still

years away. So, China is being viewed by the U.S. industry as a potential bonanza.
Cheney's three-day visit to Beijing and Shanghai next week is part of a weeklong trip to Asia that will also include a stop

in Tokyo. He departed Washington on Friday.
A senior administration official, briefing reporters about the trip, said Cheney will not "pitch individual commercial

transactions." But he intends to make clear "we support the efforts of our American companies" and general access to China's

markets, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Some critics are concerned about such technology transfers.
"This pitch could not be more poorly timed," Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education

Center, told a hearing of the House International Relations Committee recently.
Citing recent Chinese plans to help Pakistan build two large reactors that are capable of producing plutonium, he said it is

not the time for China to be rewarded with new reactor technology. U.S. officials said the Chinese have given adequate

assurances that such sales will not pose a proliferation risk.
Bid solicitations for four new reactors are expected to be issued by the Chinese within months.
The leading competitors are U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co. and a French rival, Areva, which is peddling its next-

generation reactor built by its Framatome subsidiary.
Westinghouse is putting its hopes on its 1,100 megawatt AP1000 reactor, an advanced design that is still waiting approval

from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before it can be built in the United States. Westinghouse, owned by the British

nuclear firm BNFL, is the only U.S.-based manufacturer of a pressurized water reactor, the type of design China has said it

wants to pursue.
"Clearly the China market is very important to the industry and a supplier like Westinghouse," said Vaughn Gilbert, a

spokesman for the Pittsburgh-based reactor vendor. "The Chinese market is one that we're pursuing."
Each of the AP1000 reactors are expected to cost about $1.5 billion. "We would assume there would be more than one order,"

Gilbert said, since China has indicated it wants a standardized design across its reactor program. A successful bid could

mean 5,000 American jobs, Gilbert said in an interview.
For the nuclear industry, the potential windfall goes beyond building the power plants.
"The opportunity is not just in selling the Chinese a number of reactors, but engaging them for a longer term in a strategic

partnership," says Ron Simard, who deals with future plant development at the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade

group. That could mean future construction contracts as well as plant service business.
The reactor business has been nonexistent in the United States since the 1970s. No American utility has ordered a new reactor

since the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
So, vendors like Westinghouse are relying on business elsewhere, especially Asia.
China currently has nine operating reactors, including French, Canadian, Russian, and Japanese designs as well as their own

model, producing 6,450 megawatts of power, or about 1.4 percent total capacity. Chinese officials have estimated that by 2020

the country will need an additional 32,000 megawatts from its nuclear industry, or about 32 additional reactors.
Even with the surge in reactor construction, nuclear power will only account for 8 percent of China's future electricity

needs. Chinese officials said at an energy conference in Washington last year their country must more than double its coal-

fired generation and build more dams, erect windmills and tap natural gas to meet future electricity demands.
Cheney Confers With Chinese Leaders on Iraq, Other Issues

By Tom Raum Associated Press Writer
Published: Apr 14, 2004
BEIJING (AP) - Vice President Dick Cheney conferred Wednesday with China's top leaders and pronounced the U.S.-Chinese relationship to be "in good shape." He brought praises for China's efforts to prod North Korea to give up its nuclear ambitions.
But U.S. officials cautioned against expecting breakthroughs on the stalled North Korea nuclear talks. Tensions also remained over Taiwan and Hong Kong.
Cheney met in separate sessions with Chinese President Hu Jintao, his predecessor, Jiang Zemin, and Premier Wen Jiabao.
Cheney conveyed President Bush's greetings to Hu and said that Bush "looks forward to seeing you again in the near future."
Jiang, who still wields power as military committee chairman, told Cheney he had fond recollections of visiting Bush on his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Of U.S.-Chinese ties, Cheney said, "We believe the relationship is in good shape." He had "many issues to discuss" on his trip, the vice president said at a picture-taking session with Jiang.
Earlier, in an unusually blunt appeal, China's vice president asked Cheney during a one-on-one meeting for Washington to stop selling defensive weapons to Taiwan, Chinese state media reported.
Zeng Qinghong's appeal reflected the intensity of China's frustration with U.S. support for self-ruled Taiwan, which the communist mainland claims as part of its territory.
"There is only one China and Taiwan is part of China," an announcer, citing Zeng, said on the state television evening news. "We hope the United States can carry out its commitment and not sell weapons to Taiwan and not send wrong signals to Taiwan independence forces."
The official Xinhua News Agency said Cheney affirmed U.S. policy, which doesn't support formal independence for Taiwan.
Beijing's anxiety over U.S. ties with Taiwan is expected to be a key issue during Cheney's three-day visit.
It is almost unheard of for a senior Chinese leader to deliver such a direct, potentially confrontational message to a visiting foreign leader. The fact that Zeng, a member of the Communist Party's nine member Standing Committee, the center of Chinese power, did so in Cheney's first meeting in Beijing showed China's emphasis on the issue.
Iraq was also high on the agenda in China, as it was in Japan - Cheney's first stop on his weeklong trip to Asia. Before arriving here from Tokyo, Cheney promised Japanese leaders unspecified U.S. help in trying to return to safety three Japanese citizens taken hostage in Iraq.
He praised Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for not bowing to demands from Iraqi militants that he withdraw Japanese forces from Iraq.
"It's important that our governments not be intimidated by threat of violence, that we not allow terrorists to change or influence the policies of our governments," Cheney told a foreign-policy forum in Tokyo before flying to Beijing.
At a dinner in Cheney's honor at Beijing's Great Hall of the People, Zeng noted that the vice president had last visited China in 1995, when he headed the oil services Halliburton Co.
"Many changes have taken place in this country" since then, Zeng told Cheney. "We place great importance to your visit."
Cheney told Zeng: "We believe we can do good work together."
All three nations on Cheney's itinerary have had civilians taken as hostages in Iraq, although those from South Korea and China have been released. Relations between the United States and China have improved as the two nations worked together to resolve the North Korean nuclear impasse.
However, differences remain over Taiwan, Hong Kong and human rights.
The Bush administration has been increasingly critical of China for trying to restrict moves toward democracy by Hong Kong, a former British colony now considered a special administrative region of China.
Ahead of Cheney's arrival, China urged the United States to stop adhering to a law that encourages Washington to sell defensive weapons to Taiwan. By doing so, the United States is sending the "wrong message to Taiwan independence forces" and meddling in China's internal affairs, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told the official Xinhua News Agency.
Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States is pledged to defend the island off southeastern China if it is attacked from the mainland.
U.S. officials have expressed misgivings, however, about apparent moves on an independence-minded agenda by Taiwan's freshly re-elected president, Chen Shui-bian.
Cheney ended his Japan stay with a visit to Emperor Akihito and other members of the imperial family and with a speech on the 150th anniversary of a U.S.-Japanese peace agreement, a document honored except for the large exception of World War II.
"The unity of America, Japan and like-minded nations saw us through the dark days of the Cold War, and with the same unity we will overcome the trials of today," he told the forum.
Japan has refused to bow to demands that it withdraw its roughly 530 ground troops doing humanitarian missions in Iraq as part of an eventual deployment of 1,100 noncombatant troops.
Cheney said that some headway had been made on the contentious issue of Japan's five-month-old ban on U.S. beef imports that followed the discovery of a holstein in Washington State with mad cow disease.
"I'm pleased to announce the Japanese government has invited U.S. experts for consultations next week," Cheney said. "We hope these consultations will lead to reopening the (Japanese) market to U.S. beef in the near future."
Thus far, Japan has insisted on 100 percent inspections of carcasses, a level the United States has said is excessive.
AP-ES-04-14-04 0131EDT


Pakistan says it's sharing info on nukes

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan said it was sharing with other countries information divulged by disgraced top scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, but refused comment on a report he had visited a secret underground plant in communist North Korea and seen nuclear devices.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, told interrogators he inspected the weapons briefly during a trip to North Korea five years ago. If true, it would be the first time that any foreigner has reported inspecting an actual North Korean nuclear weapon, the newspaper said.
The report cited unnamed Asian and American officials who have been briefed by the Pakistanis.
Khan, long regarded as a national hero for helping Pakistan obtain a nuclear deterrent against rival India, confessed in February to transferring sensitive technology to North Korea, Iran and Libya.
He received a pardon from Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key U.S. ally, but remains under house arrest in Islamabad as investigators continue a probe into his illicit nuclear deals.
Jon Wolfsthal, who served as a U.S. government monitor at North Korea's main plutonium site in the 1990s, said Washington has believed for more than a decade that North Korea had enough material for one or two bombs.
Khan is not a credible source, however, Wolfsthal said.
"A.Q. Khan is a liar, and he's doing whatever he feels necessary to protect his own interests and protect the government that has pardoned him," said Wolfsthal, now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.
"One way of doing that is saying, 'It doesn't matter what we sold to North Korea because they had weapons already,'" he said.
Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said Tuesday that Pakistan had shared information arising from its investigations of Khan to other countries, but he did not elaborate.
"We have investigated scientists. We are in touch with the world," he told a press conference in Islamabad.
Pakistani officials have previously said they have offered information on the investigation to China, Japan, South Korea, as well as the United States and the U.N. nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Times said that Pakistan has begun to provide classified briefings to nations within reach of North Korea's missiles.
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said Wednesday that South Korea's basic assessment that the rival North has only enough plutonium for one or two atomic bombs.
The CIA believes that North Korea already has one or two nuclear bombs, although some U.S. intelligence analysts believe it may have more.
A high-level South Korean official confirmed Tuesday its government had received information linked to the Times report from Pakistan and "related countries."
"But we are trying to further confirm it as there are many unclear points about its contents and circumstances," the official said on condition of anonymity in Seoul.
A Japanese Foreign Ministry official, who also did not want to be named, said the government was aware of the report and was cooperating with other countries to gather information about North Korea's nuclear activities. He declined further comment.
The Times reported that Vice President Dick Cheney was briefed on Khan's assertions before he left on a trip to Asia over the weekend.
It said Cheney was expected to cite the intelligence to China's leaders on Tuesday to press the point that six-country talks that have been held in Beijing over disarming North Korea are going too slowly and that the Bush administration may seek stronger action against Pyongyang, including sanctions.
The report said Khan told Pakistani officials that he began dealing with North Korea on the sale of equipment for a uranium-based nuclear weapons program as early as the late 1980s but did not begin major shipments to North Korea until the late 1990s agreed with the United States to a moratorium on its plutonium-based program. North Korea has since renounced that agreement.
Pakistan denies any official involvement in nuclear proliferation, although doubts remain over how top military and government officials remained in the dark for years over Khan's activities.
Pakistani officials said Saturday they've released three men questioned about the nuclear black market led by Khan. Four others - two scientists and two administrators who worked at the same laboratory - are still being held for questioning.


S.Korea nuke assessment of North unchanged

SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korea said Wednesday that it was not changing its assessment of North Korea's nuclear capabilities despite a report that a Pakistani scientist had visited a secret underground plant in the communist country and seen nuclear devices.
The United States, Japan and South Korea discussed the information that Pakistan gleaned from investigations of its disgraced nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, and agreed that it was too early to draw a conclusion about what Khan saw in North Korea, Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said.
"South Korea, the United States and Japan share the understanding that it is desirable for them to take a more cautious position on this matter," Ban said during a regular briefing.
He said there was no change in South Korea's basic assessment that the rival North has only enough plutonium for one or two atomic bombs. South Korea has stuck to that evaluation for years, citing a lack of new concrete evidence on the North's secretive nuclear weapons programs.
The CIA takes that assessment a step further saying it assumes North Korea has one or two bombs already built.
South Korea has sent questions to the Pakistani government asking for more information about what Khan saw in North Korea, Ban said. But the government in Seoul has not yet heard back.
Pakistan said Tuesday it was sharing with other countries information divulged by Khan, but refused comment on a report that he had seen North Korean nuclear devices.
The New York Times reported Tuesday that Khan, the father of Pakistan's nuclear bomb, told interrogators he inspected the weapons briefly during a trip to North Korea five years ago. If true, it would be the first time that any foreigner has reported inspecting an actual North Korean nuclear weapon, the newspaper said.
Ban said Pakistan shared Khan's information with South Korea "recently."
"It contained many unclear things, and there is ambiguity about the circumstances. Thus we are trying to make additional confirmation," Ban said.
North Korea is currently locked in a regional dispute over its nuclear programs. Since last August, the United States, China, Japan, Russia and the two Koreas have held two rounds of talks aimed at ending North Korea's nuclear ambitions, but those meetings ended without major breakthroughs.
Ban said North Korea should allow nuclear inspections and freeze all its nuclear facilities as a first step toward what the United States and its allies call a "complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling" of its nuclear programs. Only then, he said, will the allies provide economic aid to the impoverished country.
North Korea says it needs a nuclear "deterrent" against the United States. It demands economic aid and security guarantees in return for giving up its nuclear weapons.
The six nations plan to hold a third round of talks before July aiming to defuse tensions.

Impeachment politics may reshape S. Korea

SEOUL, South Korea -- Impeachment politics are fueling a tight parliamentary election race that could shift power toward a small, upstart liberal party, divide South Korea along generational lines and reshape relations with the United States over policies toward Iraq and North Korea.
The hotly contested election Thursday is crucial for President Roh Moo-hyun, who became South Korea's first impeached president in an opposition-backed March 12 National Assembly vote. His executive powers have been frozen pending a final ruling by the Constitutional Court.
Roh, who has preached reconciliation with communist North Korea and greater independence from Washington, has pledged to resign if the pro-government Uri Party fairs poorly. But if Uri wins a majority, it would strengthen Roh's hand and create the first liberal-dominated assembly in decades.
Roh is not a Uri Party member, but has said he plans to join.
Young people in particular are supporting the Uri Party. It's also been drawing broader support from across the nation than its rivals, which traditionally tap regional strongholds.
Analysts say the shift symbolizes a growing national divide between progressives and conservatives, the young and the old. It also could spur new debate about South Korea's commitment to the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, and relations with rival North Korea.
"Most UP (Uri Party) members are considerably more sympathetic and tolerant of North Korea than they appear to be toward Washington," said Ralph Cossa, president of the Pacific Forum think tank in Honolulu.
"Without the checks and balances provided by a more conservative National Assembly, it is difficult to predict in which direction Roh will choose to take either relationship."
A backlash against Roh's impeachment - which drew tens of thousands to the streets in protest - initially boosted Uri. Its leader, Chung Dong-young, even predicted Uri would take half the 299 seats up for grabs.
Surveys suggested about seven in 10 South Koreans opposed Roh's impeachment, even though they might not support Roh.
But Uri leader Chung fumbled his lead when he told older South Koreans to "stay home and rest" and let younger voters decide the future. The remarks shocked a deeply Confucian nation that reveres seniority, and prompted Chung to resign as his party's campaign manager and drop out of the race for a seat in Parliament.
After sponsoring the impeachment, the opposition Grand National and Millennium Democratic parties saw their backing plummet. In an attempt to siphon some of Uri's younger support, both reinvented their platforms.
The staunchly anti-communist Grand National Party said it would start pursuing "more flexible and future-oriented North Korean policies" in an apparent riposte the Uri Party's practice of engagement.
GNP leader Park Geun-hye - whose mother was assassinated in 1974 by a North Korean agent unsuccessfully targeting her father, then President Park Chung-hee - pledged to visit the North to foster ties.
The Millennium Democratic Party, meanwhile, has come out against the planned dispatch of 3,600 South Korean troops to Iraq and said it wants to re-examine the plans from scratch in the new assembly.
The National Assembly had approved the mission earlier this year with broad support from all major parties, including the MDP. But flaring violence in Iraq has made the plan unpopular, especially among the young.
Thursday's election had 1,175 candidates vying for 243 district seats. Voters choose both the candidate and the party. An additional 56 seats are distributed to the parties according to their ballot shares.
Uri was projected to have a solid hold on 90 to 100 of the 243 district seats, and the GNP between 80 and 90. That would mark a big improvement for Uri over the 49 seats the party had in the outgoing parliament.


U.S.-S. Korea relations become touchier

WASHINGTON -- It was South Korea's biggest fear not long ago: Faced with a cross-border attack from North Korea, the United States would lack the will to come to the South's defense.
Nowadays, growing numbers of South Koreans worry that any crisis on the peninsula will result from an American provocation rather than aggression by their nuclear-armed neighbor.
The trend in sentiment is clear, and analysts see little chance for a reversal in South Korea's National Assembly elections Thursday.
Indeed, the major party most wary about Bush administration policies toward North Korea is expected to increase its strength in the assembly.
The changing South Korean mind-set was underscored last month in a report by the Rand Corp., a Santa Monica, Calif., think tank.
South Korean uncertainty about the future, the report said, "is heightened by a growing belief that tough U.S. policies toward Pyongyang constitute a threat that rivals the one from the North."
South Koreans, it said, are deeply ambivalent about the 37,000 U.S. forces stationed in South Korea.
"On the one hand, most South Koreans have said that U.S. forces are important to their security," the report said. "But on the other, they believe that the presence of U.S. forces may impede the pace of reunification or adversely affect other goals."
The study was based on South Korean public opinion data and on Rand's participation in two September 2003 opinion polls with the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper of Seoul and the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
The study showed that older South Koreans are more pro-U.S. than the younger set, which has no memories of the American sacrifices of the Korean War.
Says Don Oberdorfer, an international studies specialist at Johns Hopkins University who wrote "The Two Koreas," about the peninsula's late 20th century history: "The younger generation has little, if any, fear of North Korea. The main fear is that a dangerous situation will develop not because of North Korea but because of the U.S."
The 1950-53 Korean War, in which more than 36,500 Americans died, began when North Korean troops poured across the 38th parallel dividing the two states. The truce stopped the fighting, but meetings at the truce line to reach a permanent peace continue.
South Koreans demonstrated their leeriness about the United States with the election of the dovish Kim Dae-jung as president in 1998. This drift was accelerated in December of 2002 when voters chose as president Roh Moo Hyun, who vowed not to kowtow to the United States.
The opposition-led National Assembly impeached and suspended Roh in March, which proved to be widely unpopular among voters. The impeachment is now in the courts, and Roh has said he will step down if his Uri Party fares poorly Thursday. Polls indicate that outcome is unlikely.
The United States and South Korea agree that North Korea should eliminate its nuclear weapons, but tactical differences exist on how to deal with the North. Vice President Dick Cheney will raise these issues during a visit Friday to Seoul.
Henry Sokolski, of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, said North Korean propaganda has been influencing South Korean public opinion.
"The North Koreans have been talking about Americans being a source of war and instability on the peninsula," Sokolski said. "A lot of young people read this and believe it."
South Korea pleased the United States by offering to send 3,600 troops to Iraq to do reconstruction work. Officials there say the commitment would be re-evaluated if the troops come under threat. The deployment has become part of the campaign debate.
The reluctant South Korean embrace of the United States these days contrasts with the situation a generation ago. Was the United States so traumatized by the Vietnam War that it would never go to war in Asia again? Seoul was worried.
Oberdorfer says the Washington-Seoul defense alliance has not been the same since a groundbreaking summit meeting in Pyongyang two years ago between the leaders of North and South Korea. Ever since, Seoul has been reaching out to the North's Stalinist leadership, causing dread among many in Washington.
"South Korea is now trying to restrain the U.S. and to find ways to make compromises with the North," Oberdorfer said.

EDITOR'S NOTE - George Gedda has covered foreign affairs for The Associated Press since 1968.
Revolt and Iran: New nukes and old issues
By Ritt Goldstein

With the Iraq revolt finding increasing allies internally, elements within the administration of United States President George W Bush have again attempted to place blame externally, particularly singling out Iran and Hezbollah (an Iranian-backed Lebanese group). Inside "information" was provided to the media, editorials were written, a blame campaign was done. But while Iran's denials were questioned, US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld described direct Iranian involvement as "not to my knowledge". And that raises a question as to what the Iranian accusations are really about, with part of the answer appearing nuclear.
On Tuesday, the conservative US media outlet NewsMax headlined that the Wall Street Journal had editorialized on alleged Iranian involvement in the Iraq revolt, urging that: "As for Tehran, we would hope the [Muqtada al-]Sadr uprising puts to rest the illusion that the mullahs [Iranian religious leaders] can be appeased ... If warnings to Tehran from Washington don't impress them, perhaps some cruise missiles aimed at the Busheir nuclear site will." And behind that sentiment, the past few weeks have seen rising concerns that Iran is pursuing a nuclear weapons program.
While on Wednesday Singapore announced the signing of a free trade agreement with Iran, and on Thursday, Chinese Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan met with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Setarifar to pursue furthering trade, the US and Europe have had Iranian nuclear issues on their agenda. And with Iran pressed between two states which are occupied by the US - Iraq and Afghanistan - the fact of the Islamic Republic's inclusion on Bush's "Axis of Evil" does provide incentive for pursuing a nuclear deterrent.
The fate of Iraq vs North Korea has not gone unnoticed by many; though Iran claims it is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program. For well over a year, the US has believed that what Iran is pursuing is a game of nuclear cat-and-mouse, surreptitious progress on the road to a nuclear device ongoing. And within the past two weeks, "Western diplomats" have been quoted in numerous media articles expressing their concern. But while there seems to be a lot of smoke, no one has yet claimed to have seen any fire - no conclusive evidence has been found.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations' mechanism for judging compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has been pursuing allegations of an Iranian weapons program since 2002. And in late March, the Los Angeles Times revealed an intelligence report detailing that an Iranian committee had been established to conceal the country's nuclear program from the IAEA. Notably, Iran has failed to make mandatory reports on the creation and use of uranium enrichment facilities, as well as the pursuit of other activities that are considered nuclear-weapons related.
The IAEA passed a resolution early last month "deploring" Iran's failure to report efforts regarding special centrifuges for obtaining weapons-grade uranium. And the IAEA had previously found traces of weapons-grade uranium during its investigations. Precipitating those investigations was a tip from an Iranian exile group, a group now listed on Washington's so-called "terror-list".
The National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) did provide accurate information on the previously unknown uranium enrichment facilities. Last month, the former spokesman for NCRI told Reuters of a secret Iranian program to develop a nuclear weapon by 2005, pursuing the necessary uranium enrichment at a large number of small locations. And according to a number of media sources, "Western intelligence" had found evidence suggesting such a possible decentralization of Iran's enrichment program as early as November.
The US and Israel are both particularly concerned as to the potential ramifications of an Iranian nuclear weapon, and the United Kingdom, France and Germany began to show their concern earlier this month. Europe's so-called "big three" reacted to an Iranian announcement that it was initiating the start-up of a uranium conversion operation, the first step before the enrichment process. Since then, Tehran announced a June start for the creation of a reactor generating plutonium, the same material North Korea uses in its nuclear weapons. And it's against this background that the charges of Iranian aid to the Iraq revolt come.
According to the April 8 New York Times, "some intelligence officials believe that the Pentagon has been eager to link Hezbollah to the violence in Iraq in order to link the Iranian regimes more closely to anti-American terrorism." A basis for US action is being sought.
Notably, the same article "contradicts repeated statements by the Bush administration", and highlights that US intelligence officials believe that the Shi'ite insurgency isn't limited to Muqtada, but is rather a "broad-based Shi'ite uprising ... hatred of the US occupation has spread". Also noted is that Sunni insurgents go "far beyond former Ba'athist regime members."
Paradoxically, the Iraqi group to which Iran does have significant and long ties is the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI). The SCIRI's leader, Abdel Azziz Hakim, is a member of the Iraqi Governing Council, and the SCIRI's substantive militia, the Badr Group, has been reported as refraining from fighting. But Iraqi Shi'ite leader Grand Ayotollah Ali al-Sistani has reportedly endorsed Muqtada's confrontation, as have others, supposedly including Sunni tribal chiefs.
As a further measure of popular sympathies, there have been numerous reports of Iraqi police and security forces failing to "confront" insurgents. On Thursday, Iraqi civil administrator L Paul Bremer requested the Shi'ite interior minister's resignation, and received it.
At Thursday's Coalition Provisional Authority briefing, the commander of coalition ground forces, Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, attempted to dismiss those resisting the occupation as "a small group of criminals and thugs". But at the same briefing, Sanchez was repeatedly questioned regarding US acts alleged to be in violation of the Geneva Convention regarding the conduct of war.
In a telling moment, Sanchez described a US attack on a Fallujah mosque as probably causing "some minor damage to the physical infrastructure". But the Associated Press reported a count of 40 civilian deaths, including "whole families".
The insurgency gives every indication of being a popular uprising, with links between Sunni and Shi'ite insurgents in the process of evolving.
By further contrast, in a March 7 Pentagon press conference, both Rumsfeld and Joint Chiefs chairman General Richard Myers again repeatedly emphasized the "limited" nature of those in revolt. Particularly notable, Rumsfeld mentioned Jordanian-Palestinian militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi four times in his opening remarks, but spoke of Muqtada only once, highlighting a continuing administration effort to blame foreign influences instead of American shortcomings.
In a particularly astonishing revelation, Myers acknowledged that the revolt was purposefully provoked by US forces, saying that it was known that coalition actions taken would provoke a response - "it was not unanticipated or unexpected", Myers said.
But every indication points to the fact that the extent of resistance ignited was far from anticipated, or expected. Unlike Operation Iraqi Freedom, the military action appears ill-planned, even hasty, as if driven by events other than military circumstance. An alternative trigger for the operation is suggested.
The day after The Journal's editorial, the Washington Times ran two articles dealing with Iran and Hezbollah. While Shi'ite Hezbollah is a legitimate and powerful Lebanese political party, it's also among the most skilled and deadly of terror groups on the planet. One Washington Times story reported that "military sources" had revealed that Muqtada was "being aided directly by Iran's Revolutionary Guard", and Hezbollah. But that very afternoon, Rumsfeld denied any knowledge of direct aid between Iran and Muqtada. However, the other story was entitled "Tehran's Proxy", reporting Iran's alleged funding of anti-Israeli terror groups through Hezbollah, representing another aspect of the equation.
While recent headlines have run with an assertion that the US "really" invaded Iraq to protect Israel, security analysts view Iran's aid to regional terror groups, coupled with its nuclear ambitions and desires for regional hegemony, as Israel's true Middle East threat. Adding to the issues, and beyond questions of protecting the present watchdog for US area interests, both Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Rumsfeld have unpleasant histories with Hezbollah.
It's alleged Hezbollah was involved in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia which killed 19 US servicepeople, and the early 1980s bombings against US personnel in Lebanon, including the blast which killed 273 US marines. Hezbollah is an organization with many facets and capabilities, and it's believed that they are in Iraq; though, according to the New York Times, Central Intelligence Agency sources claim not in a terrorist or military capacity.
Regardless of Hezbollah actions in Iraq, for reasons of perceived Israeli security, Sharon has recently warned Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah of his potential assassination by Israeli forces. Speculation exists that what is presently transpiring in the Middle East is an attempt to undertake a broad, US-initiated effort to address a number of regional concerns within a limited time-frame, domestic US political circumstance (ie, September 11 political fallout) likely to have influenced the timing of events, such as the initiation of the provocations Myers acknowledged.

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.)


The experiences of domestic intelligence agencies of the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Australia can help guide counterterrorism initiatives in the United States, according to a RAND Corporation report issued today.
The domestic intelligence agencies of the four U.S. allies are solely focused on collecting, analyzing and communicating intelligence about terrorism and other criminal activities. Unlike the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States, the domestic intelligence agencies in the four nations studied have no prosecutorial or law enforcement authority.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the FBI was criticized for failing to prevent the strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. As a result, subsequent discussions have focused on creating a separate domestic intelligence agency that could concentrate on gathering information, without the added duties of law enforcement and prosecution.
"A key difference between the United States and the four countries we studied is that these countries share a culture of prevention," said Peter Chalk, lead author of the study. "This mindset in a way helps to drive a lot of resources -- financial and otherwise -- to focused intelligence efforts."
The RAND researchers analyzed the similarities and differences between the United States and the four other countries studied to determine what lessons can be learned to develop an American domestic intelligence bureau.
The report, titled "Confronting the Enemy Within: Security Intelligence, the Police, and Counterterrorism in Four Democracies," was produced by RAND Public Safety and Justice. It identifies several strengths shared by the four countries:
Separate domestic intelligence agencies that are independent from law enforcement and solely concerned with collecting, analyzing and disseminating terrorism intelligence.
Institutional structures that coordinate among various levels of government and between law enforcement and intelligence.
Active recruitment of terrorist insiders to act as informants to provide invaluable human intelligence.
Rigorous systems of checks and balances that provide oversight and accountability.
Regular terrorist threat assessments that include both tactical and strategic dimensions.
The availability of recruitment channels that are independent of the domestic policing environment.
In the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Australia, a close coordination between local police and intelligence officials increases the depth and breadth of national surveillance efforts, making security information more open so that citizens can better understand it.
In addition, ongoing checks and balances have created an environment that allows for independent scrutiny of intelligence activities, which has heightened public trust that these activities are being carried out in as effective, efficient and legitimate a manner as possible, the RAND report finds.
The active recruitment of terrorist insiders to act as informants underscores the importance of human intelligence in infiltrating and disrupting terrorist cells, the study says. This accurate, real-time information can better steer strategy, resource allocation and security measures.
Another important aspect of the security agencies outside the United States that were studied is their emphasis on developing regular tactical and strategic terrorist threat assessments that inform government and private industry counterterrorism strategies, the RAND study says. According to the researchers, these analyses are vital to guiding national planning and using scarce financial, technical and human resources.
Finally, freedom from the parameters of the domestic policing environment allows the four countries studied to recruit personnel from a wider and more diverse pool that would normally be drawn to a law enforcement career.
While the study reveals important strengths shared by the British, French, Canadian and Australian models, it also recognizes several shortfalls that can be used to inform the American experience.
The RAND study says domestic intelligence agencies in he United Kingdom, France, Canada and Australia share these three problems:
Occasionally overstepping democratic boundaries and individual rights in pursuit of surveillance and national security efforts.
Frequently failing to disseminate -- and sometimes refusing to share -- terrorism threat information with police, customs, immigration, Coast Guard, transportation, and other law enforcement bureaus and officials that have a role in counterterrorism.
Sometimes ignoring operational jurisdictions when conducting joint counterterrorist missions with the police.
The report notes that while significant cultural, political and historical differences exist between the United States and the United Kingdom, France, Canada and Australia, all of these countries share important defining characteristics: liberal democratic traditions; a common desire to stem threats to national security and stability; and a recognition that counter-terrorism efforts should be balanced with the protection of civil rights.
RAND carried out the study with independent research and development funds provided by the Department of Defense.
A printed copy of " Confronting "the Enemy Within": Security Intelligence, the Police, and Counterterrorism in Four Democracies" (ISBN: 0-8330-3513-4) can be ordered from RAND's Distribution Services ( or call toll-free in the United States 1-877-584-8642).
About the RAND Corporation
The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit research organization providing objective analysis and effective solutions that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors around the world.

Posted by maximpost at 3:56 AM EDT
Monday, 12 April 2004


Cheney to promote nuke reactors to China

Vice President Dick Cheney, center, shakes hands with Anchorage, Alaska mayor Mark Begich at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, Friday, April 9, 2004. Cheney is en route to Asia. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)
WASHINGTON -- On a trip to China next week to talk about high-stakes issues like terrorism and North Korea, Vice President Dick Cheney will have another task - making a pitch for Westinghouse's U.S. nuclear power technology.
At stake could be billions of dollars in business in coming years and thousands of American jobs. The initial installment of four reactors, costing $1.5 billion apiece, would also help narrow the huge U.S. trade deficit with China.
China's latest economic plan anticipates more than doubling its electricity output by 2020 and the Chinese government, facing enormous air pollution problems, is looking to shift some of that away from coal-burning plants. Its plan calls for building as many as 32 large 1,000-megawatt reactors over the next 16 years.
No one has ordered a new nuclear power reactor in the United States in three decades and the next one, if it comes, is still years away. So, China is being viewed by the U.S. industry as a potential bonanza.
Cheney's three-day visit to Beijing and Shanghai next week is part of a weeklong trip to Asia that will also include a stop in Tokyo. He departed Washington on Friday.
A senior administration official, briefing reporters about the trip, said Cheney will not "pitch individual commercial transactions." But he intends to make clear "we support the efforts of our American companies" and general access to China's markets, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Some critics are concerned about such technology transfers.
"This pitch could not be more poorly timed," Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, told a hearing of the House International Relations Committee recently.
Citing recent Chinese plans to help Pakistan build two large reactors that are capable of producing plutonium, he said it is not the time for China to be rewarded with new reactor technology. U.S. officials said the Chinese have given adequate assurances that such sales will not pose a proliferation risk.
Bid solicitations for four new reactors are expected to be issued by the Chinese within months.
The leading competitors are U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co. and a French rival, Areva, which is peddling its next-generation reactor built by its Framatome subsidiary.
Westinghouse is putting its hopes on its 1,100 megawatt AP1000 reactor, an advanced design that is still waiting approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before it can be built in the United States. Westinghouse, owned by the British nuclear firm BNFL, is the only U.S.-based manufacturer of a pressurized water reactor, the type of design China has said it wants to pursue.
"Clearly the China market is very important to the industry and a supplier like Westinghouse," said Vaughn Gilbert, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh-based reactor vendor. "The Chinese market is one that we're pursuing."
Each of the AP1000 reactors are expected to cost about $1.5 billion. "We would assume there would be more than one order," Gilbert said, since China has indicated it wants a standardized design across its reactor program. A successful bid could mean 5,000 American jobs, Gilbert said in an interview.
For the nuclear industry, the potential windfall goes beyond building the power plants.
"The opportunity is not just in selling the Chinese a number of reactors, but engaging them for a longer term in a strategic partnership," says Ron Simard, who deals with future plant development at the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade group. That could mean future construction contracts as well as plant service business.
The reactor business has been nonexistent in the United States since the 1970s. No American utility has ordered a new reactor since the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
So, vendors like Westinghouse are relying on business elsewhere, especially Asia.
China currently has nine operating reactors, including French, Canadian, Russian, and Japanese designs as well as their own model, producing 6,450 megawatts of power, or about 1.4 percent total capacity. Chinese officials have estimated that by 2020 the country will need an additional 32,000 megawatts from its nuclear industry, or about 32 additional reactors.
Even with the surge in reactor construction, nuclear power will only account for 8 percent of China's future electricity needs. Chinese officials said at an energy conference in Washington last year their country must more than double its coal-fired generation and build more dams, erect windmills and tap natural gas to meet future electricity demands.

Cheney offers Japan U.S. hostage help
TOKYO -- Vice President Dick Cheney thanked Japan's prime minister Monday for not giving in to Iraqi insurgents and kidnappers who are demanding withdrawal of Japanese troops in exchange for the release of Japanese hostages.
After Tokyo, Cheney was turning his attention to China, the next stop on a tour of Asia that also will take him to South Korea.
Cheney met with Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in an atmosphere of rising international tension over increased violence and the holding of foreign captives in Iraq.
"We have consulted closely with the prime minister and his government to make certain we do everything we can to be of assistance," Cheney told reporters.
He was to close his three-day visit to Japan with a visit to Emperor Akihito and later a speech on U.S.-Japanese relations before heading to Beijing.
Ahead of Cheney's arrival, China urged the United States on Monday to stop adhering to a law that requires Washington to sell defensive weapons to Taiwan.
By remaining committed to the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States is sending the "wrong message to Taiwan independence forces," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan told the official Xinhua News Agency.
The act has "infringed on China's sovereignty and intervened in China's internal affairs," Kong said.
Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the United States is pledged to defend the island off southeastern China if it is attacked from the mainland. The U.S. officially agrees that only one China exists but wants the dispute to be resolved peacefully by China and Taiwan.
China's nationalist leaders fled to Taiwan at the end of China's civil war 55 years ago, but the Communist Party-controlled mainland still claims the island as its territory. It has threatened war should the Taiwan government begin formal moves toward independence.
On Iraq, Japan has refused to bow to demands that it withdraw its roughly 530 ground troops performing humanitarian missions, part of an eventual deployment of 1,100 noncombat troops.
Kidnappers holding three hostages have threatened to burn them alive unless the Japanese troops leave, but the deadline has passed with no indication the threat has been carried out.
Japan's post-World War II constitution, drafted by the victorious United States, forbids Japanese governments to send forces abroad. Koizumi had to have a special law enacted to send the noncombat forces, and the law specifies they can be sent only to areas that are deemed safe.
"We wholeheartedly support the position the prime minister has taken with respect to the question of the Japanese hostages," Cheney told reporters.
All three nations Cheney is visiting have seen civilians kidnapped in Iraq. Xinhua, the Chinese agency, reported gunmen had kidnapped seven Chinese in central Iraq. Eight South Korean civilians were kidnapped late last week but were released.
"We especially appreciate Japan's role in helping with the global war on terror and their work with us in Afghanistan and Iraq and the fact that they've taken on significant responsibilities in those endeavors," Cheney said.
A senior administration official, briefing reporters on the Cheney-Koizumi meeting on condition of anonymity, said Cheney and Koizumi had extensively discussed the increased violence in Iraq and the holding of foreign hostages.
Cheney told Koizumi he expected countries that make up the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq to come under maximum pressure in the run-up to a planned June 30 turnover of civilian authority to an interim Iraqi government, the official said. The expectation is that anti-U.S. forces would try to torpedo the exchange of power, the official said.
The two leaders also talked about efforts to prod stalled talks to resolve the standoff over North Korea's nuclear program, the U.S. official said.
Cheney and Koizumi did not directly take up the question of Japan's 5-month-old ban on U.S. beef imports implemented after mad-cow disease was diagnosed in a Holstein in the Western United States.
Cheney raised the problem later, however, in a meeting with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda, said Cheney spokesman Kevin Kellems.
There were no breakthroughs, but "that conversation continues," Kellems said. Japan is continuing to press for 100 percent inspection of beef carcasses, a requirement the Unites States deems excessive.
Reports of the kidnapped Chinese all but assured that Iraq would also be the top topic of discussion when Cheney meets in Beijing on Tuesday with Chinese leaders.


Survey: NASA workers afraid to speak up
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- Many NASA workers feel unappreciated by the agency and are still afraid to speak up about safety concerns, more than a year after the shuttle Columbia was doomed by those very problems, according to a survey released Monday.
The 145-page report includes an assessment of NASA's culture by a behavioral science company in California, and a three-year plan for change.
"Safety is something to which NASA personnel are strongly committed in concept, but NASA has not yet created a culture that is fully supportive of safety," the report says. "Open communication is not yet the norm, and people do not feel fully comfortable raising safety concerns to management."
The report notes that excellence is treasured when it comes to technical work, but is not considered imperative for management skills.
"There appear to be pockets where the management chain (possibly unintentionally) sent signals that the raising of issues is not welcome," the report says. "This is inconsistent with an organization that truly values integrity."
Last summer, Columbia accident investigators condemned NASA's safety culture and put as much blame on poor management as the flyaway piece of foam insulation that tore a hole in the shuttle's left wing at liftoff. The shuttle was destroyed during re-entry on Feb. 1, 2003, killing all seven astronauts aboard.
In February, NASA hired Behavioral Science Technology Inc. of Ojai, Calif., to develop and administer a plan for changing NASA's culture. The company conducted a survey at all NASA locations, including the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. Only NASA employees, not contract workers, took part.
The two lowest-scoring categories were "Perceived Organizational Support" and "Upward Communication."
On more than one occasion, workers hung back at the end of a group interview session and only then expressed their views, privately, about communication barriers, BST said.
On the Net:


Venezuela court chamber give recall order
CARACAS, Venezuela -- A chamber of Venezuela's Supreme Court on Monday ordered election authorities to accept more than 870,000 disputed signatures on a petition to recall President Hugo Chavez.
But squabbles within the Supreme Court mean the order by the three-justice electoral chamber may be tough to implement immediately.
Last month, the court's five-justice constitutional chamber ruled the three-justice electoral panel did not have the authority to decide matters concerning the recall.
The electoral chamber has asked the full 20-justice court to settle the dispute. Until then, the National Elections Council is unlikely to implement Monday's decision, electoral chamber president Alberto Martini said.
Venezuela's Supreme Court is divided into chambers that rule on different areas of law. The infighting has left the country in a legal limbo, threatening to dash hopes of bringing its political crisis to a peaceful conclusion.
Chavez supporters accuse the electoral chamber of being loyal to the opposition; the opposition says the constitutional chamber openly favors the government.
Accusing Chavez of becoming increasingly authoritarian, opposition leaders delivered more than 3 million signatures Dec. 19 to demand a referendum on whether he should quit before his six-year term ends in 2007. They needed about 2.4 million.
But the elections council ruled last month that only 1.8 million signatures were valid. The decision triggered several days of violent protests in different cities, killing 10 people in the worst bloodshed since a failed April 2002 coup.

Israel and the Question of the National State

By Ran Hal?vi
Ran Hal?vi is a professor at the Centre de Recherches Politiques Raymond-Aron in Paris. This article originally appeared in the French journal Le Debat, published by Editions Gallimard, and appears here with permission. Translated from the French by Robert Howse.

(Go to Print Friendly Version)

he idea of a binational state has repeatedly reared its head throughout the Arab-Israeli conflict. It was already circulating, in various guises, during the 1920s and 30s among the Brit Shalom ("The Alliance for Peace") group, led by Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem, before falling victim to military confrontation. It surfaced in the wake of the Six-Day War, this time under the auspices of the plo, which demanded the dissolution of the "Zionist entity" for the sake of what the official euphemism called "a secular and democratic Palestinian state" where there would be no place for Jews who arrived in Israel after 1948. It was also embraced by some figures of the American literary left. With the signing of the Oslo Accords, it seemed to have vanished for good. But the second Intifada infused it with new life: The resurrection of the binational project is one of the many consequences of the dramatic fiasco at the Camp David negotiations during the summer of 2000.

Today, however, it is not within the Palestinian camp that the idea is most audible, but in the margins of the political debate in Israel and . . . in the writing of Tony Judt (see "Israel: The Alternative," New York Review of Books, October 22, 2003), who adorns it with the attire of novelty and the noble allure of the "unthinkable." It is odd to see this epithet attached to an idea that is almost a hundred years old and which has never ceased to be "thought," despite never having been applied. Here it is back on the agenda.

Mr. Judt, in any case, is neither the first nor the most inspired of the recent travelers in the realm of the unthinkable. The originality of his article is not in the solution he proposes; it consists in the arguments he musters in defense of his proposal and, even more so, in his way of linking the Israeli question, and more generally the question of the nation-state, to the passions of our time and the air we breathe.

A lesser evil?

everal months before his article appeared, in August 2003, the readers of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz had the binational project explained to them by two respected figures of the Israeli left. One of them, Meron Benvenisti, once deputy mayor of Jerusalem responsible for relations with the local Arab population, is one of the men who has toiled most to bring about a reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. An engaging, passionate personality with deep family roots in the Zionist movement, it isn't as if Benvenisti, at the age of 70, had turned into a furious ideologue who favored the disintegration of Israel.

His reflection proceeded from three fundamental observations. The first is that the development of settlements in the West Bank has created an irreversible trend that precludes a return to the situation before 1967. Mr. Benvenisti has been predicting this since the 1980s. At that time, however, the settlements amounted to barely 20,000 persons; today the estimate is 230,000. And that which to him seemed impossible 20 years ago is all the more so today.

From this observation flows a second one: The irreversible situation produced by the extension of the settlements has already created a binational reality which any political solution should take into account. All the more so, given a third observation: that the debacle at Camp David and the bloody confrontations that almost immediately followed have tragically brought Israelis and Palestinians back to their attitudes of 50 years ago, thus consuming all avenues of compromise which they believed they were so close to achieving: "Both sides have in fact given up their mutual recognition, when we have begun again to consider the Palestinians as a terrorist entity, and they to look at us as aliens." In this respect, Mr. Benvenisti shows himself almost as hard on the Israeli left as on the right: "This whole problem of the Arabs annoys the people on the left, is too complicated for them, exposes them to a moral dilemma and a cultural embarrassment: this is why they want this horrible wall . . . which is a violation of this land, why they flee Jerusalem, why they flee the countryside and the landscape to crowd together in Tel Aviv."

In this disenchanting picture, the dominant, decisive fact that prescribes, so to speak, the future is the demographic element: The entanglement of Jewish and Arab populations on the territory that extends from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean renders literally inapplicable the creation of two distinct national states, says Mr. Benvenisti. "Since Zionism excluded the idea of eliminating the Arabs, its dream has become unrealizable. For this land cannot accommodate two sovereignties within it, and will never be able to do so."

In other words, a binational reality prescribes a binational solution. Between the 3.5 million Palestinians who live in the West Bank and Gaza, the 1.2 million Israeli Arabs, and the some 5 million Jewish Israelis, it is thus necessary to imagine a new framework of cohabitation. Mr. Benvenisti envisages a structure that is both federal and cantonal -- he speaks of "ethnic cantons" -- where each people could lead an autonomous existence. The plan, he admits, is still embryonic and nebulous, but the general direction seems clear. "What I propose doesn't make me rejoice. . . . I cling to the fragile hope that, perhaps, a common purpose may emerge . . .; that we will learn perhaps to live together; that we will understand perhaps that the other is not the devil."

It is not difficult to enumerate the reasons for which this project appears eminently unrealistic. If the cohabitation of two states is truly doomed, how can one believe that a "cantonal federation" would be more viable? If hatred and mutual distrust have indeed attained such depths, the binational solution seems still more chimerical than any other project of separation. As to the question of whether the situation in the Territories should be considered irreversible, a subject of endless debate in Israel, it is by definition an unresolvable question and will remain so until the day when a peace treaty is concluded between the two sides -- or a unilateral decision to leave the Territories is taken -- impelling the Israeli government to face the obviously formidable challenge of evacuating some of the settlements. This question cannot be answered with anything resembling certainty because a clear majority of Israelis, even today in the midst of the Intifada, remain favorable in principle to such an evacuation; because many of the Israelis living beyond the Green Line, essentially for economic reasons, will leave if the Knesset orders their departure; and finally, because the ideology of Greater Israel has collapsed in the wake of Yitzhak Rabin's assassination, except for the most obdurate among the settlers -- who will most probably refuse to leave or even resort to the use of arms. In short, the question of the settlements does not depend, not exclusively, on what happens today on the ground; it depends above all on the dynamic of the future peace or disengagement process -- one needs only to observe the trends of Israeli public opinion from Oslo to Camp David -- and on the political resolve it requires. To dissolve the state of Israel into a vague binational project on the uncertain premise that nothing can be done about the settlements is to confuse the problem with the solution -- at an unfathomable price.

But there exists an ultimate reason, in fact the very first one, that makes such an outcome illusory: No one, or almost no one, wants it, either on one side or the other. Those Palestinians who continue to advocate for dialogue with Israel remain committed to the two-state solution, and the most radical who refuse it do not need any arguments besides their radicalism in order to reject any binational idea. In Israel itself, hostility to this approach is one of the rare subjects of national consensus.

A proposition that provokes such a universal rejection is, by definition, politically unrealistic, even assuming it could be viewed as desirable. If, however, Meron Benvenisti continues to brandish it and to explore its premises, it is not because of some sort of academic doggedness, but because he considers it, wrongly in my view, to be a lesser evil -- and an inevitable lesser evil.

The situation

ut for tony judt, a binational denouement is not only inevitable; it is eminently desirable. Doubtless, in the past, the solution of two states was possible, even just -- Mr. Judt is good enough to admit that; but it seems to him today neither feasible nor above all desirable. And it is not only the situation on the ground that leads him to remit the two-state solution to the catalogue of obsolescences. It is the essence of the state of Israel, of what it has always been in reality: It is its very existence; it is the nature of the Zionist project that Tony Judt considers in hindsight problematic -- historically, morally, politically, culturally.

With regard to the situation on the ground, for the years to come Mr. Judt envisages only two plausible scenarios: either the advent of Greater Israel, rid of the Palestinians through ethnic cleansing, or a binational state. Meron Benvenisti believes the dream of Greater Israel to be definitively compromised not only because reality made it impossible, but because he considers the Israelis morally and practically incapable of expelling 3.5 million Palestinians from their homes and lands. Tony Judt, who apparently knows better, does not exclude such a possibility, "either by forcible expulsion or else by starving [the Palestinians] of land and livelihood, leaving them no option but to go into exile": The history of this last quarter of a century, he speculates, proves that ethnic cleansing of this amplitude is by no means "unthinkable."

The appropriations and expropriations perpetrated by the settlers, or even sometimes by successive Israeli governments, are reprehensible and have been severely condemned in Israel itself. The recent destruction of olive fields gives an ominous foretaste of what the most extremist of the settlers are capable of doing. But to criminalize a priori all Israelis by declaring conceivable or even likely a generalized ethnic cleansing of which they would be, if not the direct perpetrators, at least the accomplices, or the helpless bystanders, is to subordinate uncertain facts to a preconceived opinion.

Mr. Judt's use of facts is often inaccurate and nearly always biased. He describes as "heavily armed" the quarter of a million Israelis who reside beyond the Green Line, which makes improbable in his eyes their eventual consent to leave the Territories; many of them "will die -- and kill -- rather than move." The facts, however, present quite a different picture: One part of these supposed fanatics, some 40,000, live in towns adjacent to Jerusalem, which various peace plans, including the Geneva Accords, envisage remaining under Israeli sovereignty; and if one believes the polls, most of the others, as I said, will abandon the territories that are returned to the Palestinians once the Knesset decides they should. How then should one estimate the number of those who would refuse to leave over their -- and others' -- dead bodies? A few hundred, according to some estimates; a few thousand, suggest others -- which is already too many, but clearly not enough for Mr. Judt, who pins that label of irredentist zealotry on a quarter of a million people, including women, children, and the elderly.

He takes the same liberty with the facts in reproaching the Bush administration for alienating Syria and Iran in order to back the interests of the Israeli government. Here is a curious assertion that espouses the thesis of President Assad of Syria, for whom, equally, everything would be rosy between the United States and Syria were it not for the evil Zionist enemy. But it so happens that the American administration -- and the American press, even those most hostile to the war in Iraq -- do not share this view. They accuse Syria of having let hundreds of fedayeen cross the border in order to attack American troops in Iraq; of seeking for years to produce, acquire, and traffic in unconventional, chemical, and biological weapons, as well as long-range missiles; and of supporting and financing not only the Lebanese Hezbollah, but other international terrorist groups. In any case, the change in attitude of Washington towards Damascus owes much more to the effects of September 11 and to the fallout from the invasion of Iraq than to the manipulations Mr. Judt attributes to the Israelis and their supporters on Capitol Hill.

But the problem for Tony Judt is not in bringing Syria to change its ways or Iran to renounce its nuclear program. It is to explain how and why the state of Israel should make itself disappear for the sake of a binational entity.

On the "how," he proves singularly hasty and still more vague than -- if not as candid as -- Meron Benvenisti. The little he says in this regard is disproved by the picture he paints of the situation in the Territories. If the quarter of a million Israelis who live there are as "heavily armed" and radicalized as he contends, how exactly does he see them cohabiting with their Palestinian neighbors in the same state? And how does he envisage the existence of what would become a Jewish minority in a binational entity extending from the Jordan river to the Mediterranean sea? By what miracle can he imagine that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad will give up Jaffa, Haifa, and Safed and convert to the noble principles of liberal democracy? Turgot explained to Louis xvi that with a good educational system, in less than a decade the French people would all become enlightened philosophers. But Turgot, at least, had a plan. Tony Judt contents himself for his hypothetical binational state with a "brave and relentlessly engaged American leadership," the presence of an international peacekeeping force, and the emergence of a new political class uniting (I suppose) Jews and Arabs in the peaceful management of the affairs of the polity.

That is where his meager proposals end, and the least one can say is that they don't come with a guarantee of success. Mr. Judt, who proclaims himself in American circles a disciple of Raymond Aron and who has made a profession of denouncing the irresponsibility of intellectuals -- especially when they happen to be French -- here turns himself into a promoter of the "literary politics" that Aron, precisely, and Tocqueville before him dismissed with utter scorn. Who could believe that on this land, blood-stained by the alternating rhythm of suicide attacks and implacable reprisals, an international force or an American resolve could bring about or maintain the binational utopia born of his fantasy? Who can imagine that one could impose on two peoples a future that no one or almost no one wants? On the basis of what recent experience could one recommend introducing in the war-torn Middle East a project that has failed regularly in Europe and elsewhere? As Mr. Judt's critics have observed, a state where the Jews will be destined to form a minority will not be binational; it will be a national Palestinian state that Jews will leave en masse, assuming that Hamas and the Islamic Jihad will give them the chance.

"Bad for the Jews"?

ut tony judt sticks to his idea and gives his reasons, on which he proves somewhat more expansive. The first and the most extravagant in this extravagant text is contained in one sentence: "The depressing truth is that Israel today is bad for Jews." The conduct of the Jewish state, he writes, affects the way in which others see the Jews; and the increased incidence of attacks to which Jews are subject in Europe and elsewhere "is primarily attributable to misdirected efforts, often by young Muslims, to get back at Israel."

Here as well Mr. Judt is at odds with the facts. It suffices to consider France, where the largest Jewish community in Europe coexists with the largest Muslim population. The brutality of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is obviously not foreign to the wave of anti-Jewish attacks that have taken place on our territory, as well as to the assaults, denunciations, and insults that have become almost everyday occurrences and which seemed unimaginable not too long ago. But it is impossible to isolate these dramatic incidents from two factors noted by all fair-minded observers. These outrages, to begin with, are part of a long history of urban violence, not always particularly anti-Semitic, which is related to the difficulties with integration that confront the Muslim population. This violence does not date from the Intifada and is in danger, alas, of not ending with it, for it is aimed at all the French, Jewish or non-Jewish. The Middle East crises certainly made Jews privileged targets, which gave to these attacks, by the nature of things, a new and all the more troubling significance: that in many cases it is fueled by Arab anti-Semitism taught and encouraged -- hence the second factor -- by professional preachers, often of foreign origin. This new type of anti-Semitism -- for a long time misunderstood and underestimated both in Europe and in Israel -- is widespread throughout the Arab world, backed by autocratic and corrupt regimes as an outlet for popular frustration which is meant to draw attention away from their own failings. One can find its echo as well in many Palestinian textbooks which were published not since the outbreak of the second Intifiada, as one might suspect, but during the euphoric period that followed the Oslo Accords.

The anti-Semitic incidents that have multiplied in France and elsewhere over the past three years are evidently related to the current conflict, but they are equally attributable to frustrations and prejudices that have nothing to do with it and predate it as well. In any case, when one burns down a synagogue or attacks a Jew in the street for sins attributed to other Jews, these are not "misdirected" acts (to employ Mr. Judt's euphemism) but the very essence of anti-Semitism.

Still Mr. Judt doesn't let up: Israel is bad for the Jews. Bad for the Jews? One may hope this little enormity does not haunt him for long. On what basis is this assertion grounded? To which Jews exactly is Mr. Judt referring here? The Argentinean Jews who recently emigrated to Israel? The million Jews who left the former Soviet Union, where they experienced post-communist anti-Semitism totally unconnected to the fate of the Middle East? The mass of Jews expelled from Arab states during the past half-century? American Jews, whose very support of Israel fuels Mr. Judt with vapors of indignation? And, besides, if Israel is bad for the Jews, can Mr. Judt be so sure that its disappearance will be better for them?

The only valid truth that emerges from this allegation is that Israel is bad for at least one Jew. And since this country obviously poses a problem for Tony Judt, rather than work for its "conversion" -- his use of this term is revealing -- to a binational entity, it would be simpler and infinitely less costly for Mr. Judt to cultivate his own disagreement rather than project onto the totality of his fellow Jews his own moral discomfort.

An unjust anachronism?

ut his preference for a binational solution, to be fair, cannot be reduced to the frustrations he seems to suffer from the bickering about Israel in New York, or the arrogance of the neoconservatives, or the sympathy, which he deems blameworthy, of the Bush administration towards the Sharon government. Besides being "bad for the Jews," Mr. Judt explains, Israel represents an historical anachronism, founded, what is more, on an original injustice. Several nation-states rose from the ashes of the old empires on the eve of World War i, and their very first action was "to set about privileging their national, `ethnic' majority . . . at the expense of inconvenient local minorities, who were consigned to second-class status." The creation of the state of Israel not only reproduced this offense, but posed the additional difficulty of having arrived "too late" in a world where borders are open, democracies are pluralist, and there are multiple "elective identities." This late-blooming nation-state thus embodies the double sin, according to Tony Judt, of both injustice and anachronism.

The legitimacy of the Zionist enterprise was, we know, contested from the outset. But when it comes to legitimacy, it is not ideological posturing but history that is the final judge. The history of Israel's creation, which is still being written, has not yet produced its moral balance sheet -- and thus is incommensurate with the experience of nation-states whose security has been established for centuries. Tony Judt does not contest the legitimacy of the French nation on account of the Frankish invasions, or that of England by stigmatizing the armed expedition of William the Conqueror. But he haggles over Israel's legitimacy for its supposedly anachronistic character. As Mark Lilla recently noted, as if replying to Judt in anticipation, "all political foundings, without exception, are morally ambiguous enterprises, and Israel has not escaped these ambiguities. Two kinds of fools or bigots refuse to see this: those who deny or explain away the Palestinian suffering caused by Israel's founding, and those who treat that suffering as the unprecedented consequence of a uniquely sinister ideology."

The sufferings of the Palestinians, which are not all attributable to Israel, and the condition of the Israeli Arabs do not validate a wholesale denial of the Jewish state but rather impose obligations, moral and political, upon any Israeli government, whether of the right or the left, on which it should be judged -- and, if necessary, reprimanded.

The "post-national" perspective

et tony judt proposes to make Israel disappear not only for what its government does or does not do, but for what it apparently is: an anachronistic nation-state in a world where the nation-state is doomed to obsolescence. One could object that Israel is not the only or even the latest nation-state born since the end of World War ii; the United Nations directory is full of them. Why then confer on this particular state the "elective" honor of disappearing first? I suppose the reasons cited above are explanation enough.

But, in fact, what is the source of this odd certitude concerning the anachronism, the obsolescence, of the nation-state? Mr. Judt's American critics have brought to his attention that France, the cradle of the nation-state, is still around and that perhaps one should begin there the undertaking of the nation-state's obliteration. I am astonished that they had to look across the ocean for material proof that the national state still exists. It would have sufficed to invite Tony Judt to look out his own window. If some had doubts about the overwhelming vigor of the American nation-state, the aftermath of September 11 ought to have opened their eyes. Many Americans (and many French) are obsessed by the gripping weight in American culture of multiculturalism, communitarianism, feminism, rights talk, and the soft tyranny of political correctness. But they are much less aware of the intangible reality that circumscribes these phenomena and transcends them without ever bending to their influence: precisely the framework of the nation. The plurality of elective identities, which Mr. Judt takes to be exclusive of the nation-state, can flourish freely in the United States, as in Israel for that matter, precisely because these identities remain strictly subordinate to the sovereignty of the nation-state: They prevent neither America nor Israel from affirming and consolidating blatantly a national identity, from resorting to military force, and from allowing individual and collective differences to unfold. In both countries, all the invocations of rights and all the particular claims end up giving in to political sovereignty, which remains intrinsically superior to any other claim of legitimacy.

In other words more abstract, here are two living examples, America and Israel, where democracy, the nation, and the sovereign state are closely linked. And if so many Europeans today have a hard time acknowledging this "incongruity," and a harder time still putting up with it, this is because they tend increasingly to detach democracy from the nation and to persuade themselves, against all the evidence, that democracy does not need either the nation or the state in order to flourish.

The wars of the twentieth century have fatally brought the nation into disrepute, and this process has only grown further with European integration. We do not cherish the nation anymore, but we are unable to abandon it because we do not know how and with what to adequately replace it. Political philosophy does not provide us with any practical alternative: neither the tribe, nor the empire, nor the city. Even Europe disconcerts us: It has taken only one plenary session of the Council, enlarged to 25 states -- only one! -- to make us discover, belatedly, that the European machine cannot offer an adequate substitute for our disaffection with the nation. But this disaffection remains so deeply rooted that many Europeans are less and less inclined to understand those nation-states which are not afflicted by our doubts, and still less to tolerate the use these states make of their monopoly on legitimate force. The detestation of George W. Bush or of Ariel Sharon does not confine itself to what in their policies could be seen as reprehensible -- and God knows they may be, in certain respects. Rather it is combined with a sentiment of alienation and frustration in the presence of such fully assumed expressions of national sovereignty -- this still-vital constellation of the nation-state and democracy, which so many of us are inclined to disconnect and even to oppose.

Israel offers a mirror, an exemplary case in which we can contemplate and realize vicariously our schizophrenic relationship towards the national question. It is no accident that the more virulent critics, who often happen to be those of the United States as well, are to be found in the ranks of the antiglobalization movement. The type of postnational nihilism they inscribed on their banner contributed to the depoliticization of their approach to politics in general and the Middle East in particular: Israel, in other words, is that nation-state which most immediately vexes their planetary humanism.

Mr. Judt's article provides a more reasoned illustration of the same phenomenon: He wants to put an end to the anachronism of the Israeli nation-state, which offends his sensibility, without putting any practical content into his binational fantasy. He dresses a subjective opinion in the outward form of a political discussion. But I fear that reality will shun his moral ultimatum.

he only political option available to Israel today is dictated neither by divine providence nor by its military superiority, and not even by the good or bad will of the Palestinians, but by the obdurate ruling of demographics: If Israel wishes to remain a Jewish nation-state, it must retreat, unilaterally if necessary, and the sooner the better, from most of the territories occupied since 1967, including certain Jerusalem neighborhoods. In so doing -- and on this, Meron Benvenisti is quite right -- Israel will nevertheless not avoid a certain binational reality, since 20 percent (and soon 25 percent) of those living within the Israeli territory are Arabs. Although they participate formally in democratic life, in electing and being elected to the Knesset -- a privilege their Arab brothers in neighboring countries have not yet savored -- these full citizens -- notionally but not in every respect and always full -- experience all the ambiguities and difficulties of constituting an Arab minority within a Jewish state. When asked, they express at the same time their natural attachment to the Palestinian cause and their refusal to live in the future state of Palestine: too Israeli to be fully Palestinian, too Palestinian to be simply Israeli. It is with them that Israel must urgently renew a dialogue broken three years ago. While there is still time.

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THE IRANIAN PEOPLE have a long and sophisticated tradition of expressing their views and their feelings, whether through art, literature, film, news media or the political process. Today the courageous voices of the Iranian people are being stifled as they call for their rights, beliefs and needs to be respected. In response, the non-elected elements of the Iranian Government hierarchy are rebuffing these calls and attempting to extinguish the voices. Recent experience shows an upswing in repression by the regime, but also a determined resilience by the Iranian people as they struggle to define their own future and exercise all their human rights. For every voice that is silenced, more call out for freedom.DEPARTMENT OF STATE PUBLICATION NUMBER 11140Bureau of Democracy, Human Ritghts, and Laborwith the Bureau of Public AffairsApril 2004Cover: Picture of political prisoner's hand with the word "Freedom" written on it. AP Photo
45 Zahra's death was first deemed natural by Iranian officials, but international outrage, spurred in Canada by Zahra's son, Stephen, helped to bring about an official Iranian investigation into the incident.
The investigation clearly implicated the involvement of government
officials in the death of Kazemi. A junior official in the Ministry of Information has been arrested, but as of publication the trial had not begun. There remain widespread suspicions, voiced inside and outside Iran, that the arrest of this junior official could be part of a cover-up aimed at protecting higher-level government officials. Reporters Without Borders also has expressed concern about the slow pace of the impending trial and the prosecutors' lack of access to materials
concerning the case. "Unfortunately, Mrs. Zahra Kazemi's death was caused by the heedless disregard for Iranian law. When there are individuals or groups who consider themselves above the law, incidents such as this will occur. In the case that we will present, in addition to asking for the punishment of the murderer, in view of the public's knowledge of what happened, I will try to ensure that there will not be another Zahra Kazemi."- Shirin Ebadi, Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Attorney representing the Kazemi familyIran's Novel Peace Prize winner, Shirin Ebadi, holds a pair of scales during her first press conference
in Tehran after having won the Nobel Peace Prize, October 15, 2003. EPA PhotoA VOICE EXTINGUISHED- Zahra Kazemi"They have broken my nose and my thumb...and they have broken my toes, too." - Zahra Kazemi, as reported in the Washington Post On June 23, 2003, outside the notorious
Evin Prison in Tehran, police took the Canadian-Iranian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi into custody under suspicion
of espionage. Some three weeks later she died in a Tehran hospital from head injuries suffered from a violent beating, most likely at the hands of her jailers. The circumstances of her death are unclear, but the story that unfolds is one that illustrates the grave human rights situation that exists in Iran today. Although Zahra Kazemi was never charged with a crime, she would spend 77 hours in a police interrogation that included serious physical abuse. According
to a subsequent Iranian investigation, Zahra began complaining of headaches and bleeding from the nose three days after her detention; she then fell into a coma and was transferred to a hospital where she eventually died. Almost two weeks after Zahra had first been detained, her mother,
Ezzet Kazemi, was summoned to Evin Prison and notified that her daughter had suffered a "brain stroke" and was now in a coma. After Zahra died from her injuries, it was agreed by Ezzet and Iranian officials
in the presence of the Canadian ambassador that Zahra's body be repatriated to Canada. But the body did not make it to Canada. Iranian officials pressured Ezzet to change her decision, and Zahra was eventually buried in Shiraz, Iran, thereby preventing an independent
autopsy.On Monday, August 25, 2003, Iran's criminal court finally admitted
that Kasemi's death was "intentional
murder" by two interrogators
from the intelligence service during her custody in the Evin prison in Tehran. EPA Photo
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VOICES PERSECUTED- The Baha'i Faith The Constitution of Iran establishes Islam as the official religion, specifically that of the Ja'fari (Twelver) Shi'ism doctrine. While the Constitution also recognizes other Islamic denominations, as well as Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians, followers of minority religions can be subject to harassment, intimidation and discrimination. The freedom to practice a religion not recognized by the Constitution is actively restricted by the Iranian Government, both in law and in practice. Members of unrecognized minority faiths are subject to varying degrees of officially sanctioned discrimination, particularly in the areas of employment, education and housing. The Baha'is are not recognized as a legitimate religious minority in Iran and, in fact, Iran's Association for Press Freedom spokesman Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, IAPF head Mohsen Kadivar and Human Rights attorney Sayf Zadeh attend a protest gathering of Iranian journalists on August 8, 2003 at the office of IAPF in Tehran. EPA PhotoVOICES SUPPRESSED- Attacks on the Free PressThe independent media in Iran is under constant attack. According to Reporters Without Borders, at least ten journalists were in Iranian prisons at the end of 2003. There is a clear pattern of interference and harassment of the press by government officials with dozens of reporters, editors and publishers arrested and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, harsh physical punishments, excessive fines and suspensions
of journalistic privileges. A number of cases illustrate the types of abuses prevalent in Iran today:v As many as 85 newspapers, including 41 dailies, have been closed since the passage of the 1995 Press Law that established a supervisory board and court that has authority to impose various penalties, including closure and suspension of operating privileges.v In December 2002, Ali-Reza Jabari, a translator and freelance contributor to several independent newspapers, was arrested in his Tehran office by plainclothes policemen and taken to his home for an immediate search of the residence. Jabari was sentenced
to three years in prison and 253 lashes. Before his arrest, Jabari was quoted in a Persian-language newspaper in Canada expressing critical opinions of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.v Taghi Rahmani, a journalist for Omid-e-Zangan, has been imprisoned since June 14, 2003, and has been subjected to extensive periods of time in solitary confinement. According to a Human Rights Watch report released in January 2004, Rahmani has yet to be charged with a crime.v Reza Alijani, editor in chief of Iran-e-Farda, was jailed in June 2003 but has not been charged with a crime. Much of his imprisonment has been spent incommunicado.v Hoda Saber, managing editor of Iran-e-Farda, was arrested in June 2003 but has also been held without charge since his arrest, much of it incommunicado.
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the Baha'i community is periodic arrest and release with charges still pending, so that the Baha'is are subject to re-arrest at any time.v Reports suggest explicit government policies exist to harass and disenfranchise members of the Baha'i faith. One policy issued by the Iranian Ministry of Justice in 2001 directed government officials to restrict the educational opportunities of Baha'is by expelling them from public and private universities and purposely
enrolling members of the Baha'i faith in ideologically stringent schools.v In response to being denied admittance to both public and private universities, members of the Baha'i faith have organized their own educational system. However, the Iranian Government
has used harassment and intimidation to discourage its operation, including raids in 1998 of more than 500 Baha'i homes and offices affiliated with the Baha'i educational system. These raids included the arrest of numerous faculty and staff.v Through discrimination in the employment market and outright
seizure of private property, the economic well-being of the Baha'is is in serious peril.VOICES OF DEMOCRACY- The Political Struggle"Our dream country is one where human rights are respected, where people aren't sent to prison and tortured for their ideas, for their writing, for their work. That's our dream country."- Supporter of imprisoned student leader Amir Fakhravar, anonymously interviewed for a PBS Frontline report. The political situation in Iran is a story of two drastically different
worlds occupying the same reality. Throughout Iran there is now widespread alienation from the corrupt, oppressive policies of the government that have consistently failed to address the Iranian people's yearning for liberty and an accountable, democratic system of government that will pursue policies that improve their daily lives. were defined by the government as a political "sect" with suspicion of counterrevolutionary intentions. But according to a report published jointly by the UN Commission on Human Rights and the Baha'i International Community, the tenets of the Baha'i faith require its members to be obedient to their government and to avoid partisan politics, subversive activities and all forms of violence. Still this community
has been the target of systematic mistreatment by the Iranian Government since 1979 and is denied a majority of the basic human rights afforded others within the society, including other religious minorities.v According to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the U.S., more than 200 members of the Baha'i faith have been killed in Iran since 1979, with 15 additional missing and presumed
dead. As of this time, there are reportedly four Baha'is in prison for practicing their faith, with sentences ranging from four years to life in prison.v The government has continued to keep a small number of Baha'is arbitrarily imprisoned, some at risk of execution, at any given time. Another policy employed to harass and intimidate Farzad Khosein, expatriate violinist and composer and member of the Baha'i faith, left Iran with his family to avoid religious persecution. AP Photo
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8,200 submissions for candidacy, including those of more than 80 reformists currently holding Majlis seats, effectively limiting
the democratic alternatives available to Iranian voters. Despite threats of an election boycott, resignations by some reformist officials and the urgent passage of a law barring undocumented
the Guardian Council only reinstated
a fraction of the disqualified candidates. Conservative candidates did not face a reformist opponent for 132 of 290 seats. The decision of the Guardian Council to silence reformist voices in Parliament was accompanied by the culmination of a four-year campaign against the reformist press. On the eve of the elections, Chief Prosecutor Mortazavi
added the last two reformist newspapers to a list of dozens that his "Press Court" had ordered closed since 2000. In addition, the hard-line judiciary sealed an office belonging to a leading reformist party on the night before the election. In today's Iran, the political aspirations of the public for a greater role in charting the direction of their society are only tolerated when they coincide with the wishes of entrenched conservative interests."Through these massive disqualifications, they (hard-liners) want only their own thinking to control the next parliament. This will be no more an election, but an appointment of the next parliament
by hard-liners."- Mohsen Mirdamadi, Member of Parliament Ebrahim Yazdi, head of Iran's Liberal Freedom Movement, addresses a reformist meeting January 12, 2004. He was one of more than 2,000 candidates nationwide eliminated by Iranian hardliners from running in parliamentary elections February 20. EPA PhotoIn June 1997 and again in 2001, a decisive election victory ushered President Mohammed Khatami into office under the auspices of a reformist agenda. The realization of this reform movement has been actively stifled by hard-line elements within the government, most specifically by the non-elected Guardian Council, a board of clerical leaders and legal scholars. Reformist and dissident voices within the government and society have been repressed and harassed by government
and quasi-government factions under the influence of the hard-line clerics. The Guardian Council has the ability to review and block legislation passed by the Majlis, or parliament. In August 2002, the Guardian Council vetoed two bills passed by the Majlis seeking to enhance the powers of President Khatami. Various paramilitary forces, such as the so-called Basijis, gangs of men known as the Ansar-
e Hezbollah (Helpers of the Party of God), and most recently a "morality force" formed in July 2002, have been employed as tools of repression within Iranian society. These vigilante groups use intimidation,
threats and physical abuse to quell dissent and harass journalists, demonstrators and members of the public who voice opinions that are seen as threatening to the power of the religious elite. Eventually, the reformist movement's inability to realize its agenda contributed to the erosion of the Iranian people's confidence in the government institutions.On February 20, 2004, elections were held for the 290-seat Parliament
in Iran. In a move to diminish pro-reformist re-election chances,
the Guardian Council disqualified approximately one-third of the Wives of dissident reformists protesting against the closed trial of 15 prominent political dissidents outside the court building in Tehran, January 2002. AP Photo/ Hasan Sarbakhshian
12 13
Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi praised Iran's new child custody law and termed it a great victory for women after more than two decades of resistance. AP Photoof dissident opinions and democracy promotion. She has courageously
fought for equitable and just treatment for women in Iranian society, and she has also helped to organize efforts to publicize and alleviate the harsh conditions of "street children" in Iran."Any person who pursues human rights in Iran must live with fear from birth to death, but I have learned to overcome my fear." - Shirin Ebadi Ebadi has shown a noble and inspiring disregard for her own well-being by representing individuals or the families of people who have suffered from violence and repression in Iran. In 2000, she was arrested and accused of distributing a videotape that implicated prominent hard-line leaders of instigating attacks against advocates of reform. She received a suspended sentence and a professional ban. She was then detained after attending a conference in Berlin on the Iranian reform movement.Ebadi provided legal representation for highly politicized and sensitive
cases, like the case of Ezzat Ebrahim-Nejad, one of the students killed during the 1999 Tehran University
protests by vigilante groups operating under the influence of hard-line clerics. She also served as the attorney for the family of Dariush and Parvaneh Forouhar, prominent political activists who were stabbed to death in 1998 by "rogue" elements within the Intelligence Ministry. Shirin Ebadi's designation as the recipient of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize recognizes the struggle of Iranian citizens to have a voice in determining their own future."In Iran, the demand for democracy is strong and broad as we saw when thousands gathered to welcome home Shirin Ebadi, the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize. The regime in Tehran must heed the democratic demands of the Iranian people, or lose its last claim to legitimacy." - U.S. President George W. BushNovember 6, 2003A VOICE OF HOPE- Shirin Ebadi"Shirin Ebadi has been a courageous human rights advocate in Iran for many years, and we couldn't be more excited that she has received this extraordinary honor. The Nobel Committee has sent a powerful message to the Iranian Government that serious human
rights violations must end. We hope they hear that message."- Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch"As a lawyer, judge, lecturer, writer and activist, she has spoken out clearly and strongly in her country, Iran and far beyond." - The Norwegian Nobel Committee Shirin Ebadi was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in 2003 for her life-long campaign to protect vulnerable and persecuted groups within Iranian society. Since being forced from her position as the president of the city court of Tehran, she has used her legal expertise to promote and protect some of the most basic and necessary human
rights. Most specifically, she has provided legal representation to many activists who are the targets of government harassment because
The intersections of Tehran were jammed with cars honking their
horns in support of the demonstrations. Iranian Government offi cials
reported approximately 4,000 protestors arrested and demonstrations
planned for the following month were banned. No reliable sources
were available on the number of injured, but there were numerous
reports of violent clashes between students and paramilitary groups in
the streets of Tehran.
Youth represents the future of Iran. Yet the regime's vision of the
future clashes with the dreams of young Iranians, who have the most
to gain or lose. Their continued support for reform through whatever
peaceful means available sends a clear message. They will make their
voices heard.
A family on a moped hold up the Iranian fl ag as tens of thousands of people
gather during a rally outside Tehran University, July 1999. AP Photo
"The United States supports the Iranian people's
aspirations to live in freedom, enjoy their God-
given rights, and determine their own destiny."
U.S. President George W. Bush
February 24, 2004
VOICES OF THE FUTURE- The Aspirations of Youth
"We want more freedom... For 25 years we have lived without
any freedom. We want social freedom, economic freedom and
political freedom."
- Mahmoud, protestor quoted in New York Times
Throughout modern history, young people have played a promi-
nent role in the call for democracy. Iran is no different. Students have
mobilized to demand greater freedoms and to support reform ef-
forts by the Khatami Government, the Majlis and individuals willing
to speak the truth. A free media, a fair electoral system and public
debate typically serve as the outlets to express the desires and disap-
pointments of the civic minded. These outlets have been systemati-
cally shut, leaving large student demonstrations in the streets as the
only way to voice frustration and anger in Iran.
In June 2003, a large protest began in Tehran involving university
students in response to a rumor alleging the possible privatization
of the university system and the introduction of a tuition system.
The protests grew as nightly gatherings spread off campus and the
tone of the protests became more political as the students and sym-
pathetic neighbors began to use the public gathering as a forum to
decry the current political situation and demand democratic reforms. An Iranian student chants
slogans at a gathering mark-
ing the annual Student
Day at Tehran University,
December 7, 2003. About
1,500 pro-reform students
rallied, saying freedom was
the biggest demand of Irani-
ans 25 years after the Islamic
revolution that had promised
it. AP Photo

What About Iran?

By Jim Hoagland
Sunday, April 11, 2004; Page B07

Americans can be forgiven for asking of Iraqi Shiites the famous and ill-advised question Sigmund Freud asked about women: What do they want? A year ago this weekend Shiite crowds cheered as U.S. troops drove into Baghdad and toppled statues of Saddam Hussein. This springtime, Shiite gangs in southern Iraq are shooting at their liberators.

That is only part of what would intrigue Dr. Freud. The Shiites are just as justified in asking his question of the Bush administration, which has shown a psychological unwillingness to accept two major policy corollaries of its swift military victory in Baghdad.

The defeat of the Baathists changed much in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf. But Washington has not used that victory and the year that has passed to seek a change in relations with -- or regional strategy toward -- Iran. The administration has chosen not to choose when it comes to the nation that is Iraq's most important and most dangerous neighbor, a major supporter of international terrorism and the only country ruled by a Shiite majority.

Change on Iran should have been the first clear policy corollary of regime change in Iraq. But there was either no point or no way to accommodate Tehran's large stakes in post-Saddam Iraq, U.S. policymakers concluded. Neither was it possible to prevent Iran's ruling Shiite clerics from influencing events and attitudes in the large Shiite population centers in Baghdad and southern Iraq.

Instead the administration left U.S. policy on Iran in a steadily deepening limbo: Once a member of the "axis of evil," Iran became the embarrassing, unaddressed missing link in the Bush administration's bold ambitions to transform Iraq and to becalm the world's most volatile and treacherous region. Iran slipped into the "too hard" file.

That is understandable, if unforgivable. No one has a sure-fire policy for dealing with the theocratic state founded on the ruins of the Persian empire. France, Germany and Britain have proved this in trying to talk the ayatollahs out of developing nuclear weapons. Despite clear and repeated Iranian lying to them, the Europeans persevere.

"In the end, we may wind up only slowing them down -- hopefully significantly -- in what they intended to do all along," a European participant in this effort told me recently. "But given the lack of any other workable option, this is worth doing."

U.S.-Iranian discussions on cooperating (or at least on not crossing wires) in Iraq would have been difficult to arrange and carry out. It would not have been as simple as the indirect but useful dialogue American diplomats had with the Iranians on post-Taliban Afghanistan, where Iranian interests and opportunities are substantially less than in Iraq.

But any serious effort in that direction was smothered in its crib by familiar hardliner vs. softliner debates within the administration -- and the less-remarked-on but equally crucial absence of a clear U.S. diplomatic strategy for consolidating and converting American battlefield prowess into sustainable political gains abroad. It is difficult to fit Iran into a strategy if there is no strategy to begin with.

Instead, policy has consisted of occasional growls from senior Pentagon officials warning Iran (and its quasi-surrogate Syria) to halt infiltration into Iraq, followed quickly by public assurances from the State Department that the growls do not represent threats of military action. Even Freud could not explain the Rumsfeldian-Powellian Syndrome that afflicts Bush foreign policy.

The effects of indecision on Iran could have been minimized if the administration had embraced the second corollary of changing regimes and establishing a parliamentary democracy in Iraq: Representatives of the Shiite majority had to become the most important consistent political partners for the United States in the first phases of constructing a new Iraq.

But the Coalition Provisional Authority leadership in Baghdad -- which was deeply suspicious of Tehran -- failed to convince Iraq's Shiites that their bottomless insecurities (stirred greatly by the betrayal of their 1991 anti-Saddam uprising by the first Bush administration) and political aspirations were understood in Washington. This left room for the bloody rabble rousing of Moqtada Sadr and the self-protective mysticism of Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani to cast doubts on American intentions and commitment.

Washington and the CPA have been running behind the growing radicalization of Iraq's Shiites over the past three months. Iran's ayatollahs and their agents may well have played a role in that deterioration and the current upheaval. It is impossible to know at this point.

One thing is clear: Washington did not enunciate or pursue an Iran policy that would have prevented Tehran from doing its worst or would have encouraged it to do its best. That is the price of limbo.

? 2004 The Washington Post Company

April 11, 2004 -- EXCLUSIVE
Iran's Revolutionary Guards and the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah are secretly providing outlawed Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr with money, training and logistical support for his violent campaign against U.S. and coalition forces in Iraq, The Post has learned.
U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials said last night there is evidence that Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the security services loyal to Iran's hard-line religious leader Ayatollah al Khameini, have funneled as much as $80 million into Shiite charities established by al-Sadr's influential family that have been diverted to fund his fanatic al-Mahdi militia.
Intelligence sources also said operatives from the Lebanese Hezbollah, a Shiite terror group created by Iran, have trained 800 to 1,200 al-Mahdi fighters in guerrilla warfare and terrorist techniques at three camps in Iran near the Iraq border.
Al-Sadr's group is also believed to have been recently provided with 800 satellite phones and new radio broadcasting equipment by diplomats at the Iranian Embassy in Baghdad, sources told The Post.
Al-Sadr's fanatics, drawn from poor Shiite urban slums in Iraq, have been battling U.S. forces throughout the week and took control of the cities of Kufa, Kut and most of Najaf.
Bush administration officials said the strength of al-Sadr's rag-tag al-Mahdi militia took U.S. military commanders by surprise and that intelligence detailing active support from Iran and Hezbollah for his violent uprising has been a simmering issue within the administration.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said in an interview with WNIS-AM Tuesday that al-Sadr "is reputed to have connections with Iran."

Iraq: What Will Be Iran's Role In The Future?
By Golnaz Esfandiari

Since the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime, Iran has frequently stressed its desire for good ties with Iraq. Iran was one of the first countries in the region last year to recognize the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council. But not everyone fully believes Tehran's public pronouncements. The United States, for one, has accused Iran of meddling in Iraq's internal affairs. What are Iran's intentions in Iraq and what role will the country play in Iraq's future?

Prague, 8 April 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Iran did not mourn the fall of Saddam Hussein's regime in 2003 at the hands of a U.S.-led military offensive. Iran is the only country against which Iraq has used chemical weapons.

Iraq's invasion of Iran in the 1980s sparked a near decade-long war that cost millions of lives.

Since the fall of Saddam a year ago, the Iranian government has frequently expressed its readiness to participate in rebuilding Iraq. But U.S. officials repeatedly accuse Iran of interfering in Iraq's affairs.

Speaking yesterday, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said: "We know the Iranians have been meddling [in Iraq] and it is unhelpful to have neighboring countries meddling in the affairs of Iraq, and I think the Iraqi people are not going to want to be dominated by a neighboring country, any neighboring country. No country wants to be dominated by its neighbors."

Analysts have widely differing views on Iran's intentions in Iraq.

Davoud Hermidas Bavand is a professor of international law in Tehran. Bavand sees Iran's influence as largely positive.

"Iran's intention is developing a neighborly relationship with Iraq in different areas in economic and commercial term as well as in political context," Bavand said.

Bavand added that the two countries should settle several open issues relating to the war, such as compensation and border issues.

Michael Rubin, a resident fellow at the right-leaning American Enterprise Institute, a Washington policy institute, recently returned from eight months in Iraq. He sees things differently.

"I believe the Iranians have bad intentions with regard to Iraq," Rubin said. "Of course, Iran wanted to see Saddam Hussein gone, but they don't want to see a stable democratic country on their border all the more so because if the clerics in Iraq have freedom of speech then [they] can challenge the religious legitimacy not just the political legitimacy of the Iranian hierarchy."

Other observers say Iran does not have a consistent policy toward Iraq. Various groups are said to have different agendas, while the government has pursued closer ties in some specific policy areas.

Alireza Nourizadeh is a London-based journalist and the director of the Center for Arab-Iranian Studies (CAIS). Nourizadeh said, indeed, different factions in Iran have different aims.

"We have to consider the different factions with their own agendas in Iraq -- for instance the so-called conservatives. They do not want to see a secular state in Iraq. The reformers, of course, want the Iraqi experience to end with success because they believe that if there is a democratic government in Iraq at the end of the day it's going to help their status in Iran and it's going to help them to have more influence in the power struggle," Nourizadeh said.

Some observers say Iran is playing a double game in Iraq, being helpful in some areas while causing problems in others. Bavand, however, said ultimately a stable and peaceful Iraq is in Iran's interest.

"That's possible, but I do not think it's the general policy of the government as a whole. There is no doubt in Iran there are different factions which assume different positions regarding Afghanistan and possibly in Iraq, but if we take into consideration the general position or a strategy of a country, I do believe Iran has no choice but to adapt a positive view toward the socio-political situation in Iraq and work out for the better relationship with the future government of Iraq," Bavand said.

The U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority -- which heads Iraq's interim government -- appears wary of expanding religious ties between Iraq and Iran. Iran is a Shi'a Muslim state -- the same sect of Islam shared by around 60 percent of Iraq's population. The next government in Baghdad will most probably be controlled by Shi'as.

Added to that, the U.S. is now struggling to contain a deadly Shi'a insurgency in parts of the capital Baghdad, as well as in the south and east of the country.

Some reports have gone so far as to accuse Iran of actively supporting the leader of the insurgency, Shi'a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. Al-Sadr is a follower of Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri, a conservative cleric based in Iranian religious center of Qom. Al-Sadr visited Iran in June and was received by Iran's influential former president, Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The belief that al-Sadr is supported by Iran is shared by many people within and outside of Iraq -- but so far no hard evidence about such support has been made public.

Rubin from the American Enterprise Institute said that, in his personal opinion, Sadr receives more than spiritual support from Iran.

"On 5 April, when the problems broke out with regard to Muqtada al-Sadr and the coalition forces in Iraq, it was Ayatollah al-Haeri who issued threats to the American presence in Iraq. Muqtada al-Sadr doesn't have a lot of grassroots support. He's got some supporters, but I just came back from eight months in Iraq. I watched as Muqtada al-Sadr chartered buses, gave [people] hot meals and such. That takes money, as does Muqtada al-Sadr's radio station and such like this, and they're getting that money through Iran."

The Iranian government has been careful in its comments on the insurgency. While keeping its distance from al-Sadr, Iran expressed strong "regret" [5 April] over the deaths and injuries caused by clashes between al-Sadr's militants and coalition forces.

Some observers point out that Iran has closer ties with one of al-Sadr's rivals, Abdul al-Aziz al-Hakim, a member of the Iraqi Governing Council and head of the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq.

One clear area of mutual benefit is in economic and commercial relations. In recent months, Iraqi dignitaries have made several officials visits to Tehran. Both sides have talked about future plans such as the building of a cross-border oil pipeline.

Nourizadeh said better economic ties are strongly in Iran's interest.

"I think if the Iranians pursue a policy of supporting the new government, if they stop intervening in Iraq's internal affairs, then I'm sure we're going to have very good relations and then Iranians can use their influence in order to bring stability to Iraq and prosperity to Iraq's people and they can participate in rebuilding Iraq," Nourizadeh said.
AL-SADR A LONGSTANDING THREAT TO COALITION, IRAQI STABILITY. Power-hungry cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's actions over the past year have been nothing short of schizophrenic, for lack of a better term. After being linked to the assassination of Ayatollah al-Khoi, which some media characterized as a "power struggle" and alternatively, as the "settling of an old score" between the two men, al-Sadr established his Imam Al-Mahdi Army in July to "maintain peace and security in Iraq and protect the leaders and religious authorities [at the Hawzah Al-Ilmiyah Shi'ite seminary] in Al-Najaf and elsewhere."

Al-Sadr frequently referred to himself as an "enemy" of the U.S. but maintained for several months that his army would not resist the U.S. presence in Iraq, contending, "It is only to maintain security." He claimed that the army would not be armed, and would not be funded, but later statements by him and his followers contended that Iraqis would donate money to the army, and will bring their own guns. As recently as one month ago, Shaykh Hasan al-Zarkani, the chief of al-Sadr's Information Office and an aide to the cleric claimed in a statement to London's "Al-Hayat" that the Al-Mahdi Army was not an armed militia, the daily reported on 11 March. "We are an ideological army, not armed militias," he said. "All we have are no more than small guns that do not constitute an army. We have no financial resources, manpower, training camps, or any facilities to build an army."

Last October, al-Sadr declared that he had established an Islamic state in Iraq. He claimed to have established ministries of Awqaf (religious endowments), culture, finance, foreign affairs, information, interior, justice, and the "ministry for the propagation of virtue and the prevention of vice," Al-Jazeera reported on 11 October. His followers subsequently took over two buildings in Al-Najaf for al-Sadr's Interior Ministry and Foreign Ministry. Three days later, he told reporters that his government had found "credibility and support" abroad.

A self-described enemy of the United States, the cleric appeared to appeal for better relations between his group and the U.S. in November, when he called on the coalition to "allow me to attend your meetings, seminars, camps, and churches. I am looking forward to this, and I have amicable feelings toward you. The Iraqis only want good for the Americans. Iraq's only enemy is destructive Saddam and his followers," (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 7 November 2003).

More recently, al-Sadr has rejected any role for the United Nations in Iraq. He contended during a Friday-prayer sermon on 23 January that the United Nations is no more qualified than Iraqi religious authorities when it comes to running elections in Iraq, Al-Manar television reported the same day, and called on the religious establishment to oversee national elections there. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SHI'ITE LEADERS DIVIDED OVER RECENT VIOLENCE. Iraqi Shi'ite leaders have taken a variety of positions in recent days over the evolving confrontation between al-Sadr supporters and coalition forces. Sadr al-Din al-Qabbanji, an official of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), said on 5 April that the religious authorities, the Al-Hawzah Shi'ite seminary, and the Iraqi Governing Council reject a confrontation with the occupation forces. "SCIRI's official stand is that it does not approve of the escalation against the occupation troops. At the same time, SCIRI condemns the occupation troops' provocative actions," al-Qabbanji said.

Iraqi Governing Council member and Iraqi National Accord head Iyad Allawi said on 6 April that al-Sadr's actions were harming the country. "There is a radical force trying to harm the country, and this force has become known to all, it includes Muqtada al-Sadr and the group around him," KUNA quoted Allawi as saying. "We call on Muqtada to remain calm to avoid bloodshed, given that he belongs to an honorable family which offered martyrs," Allawi said, in a reference to al-Sadr's father Iraqi Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr and Muqtada's two brothers who were allegedly murdered in 1999 at the hands of the Hussein regime. Allawi told Al-Arabiyah television one day earlier that the Governing Council had discussed Iraq unrest at length and reached decisions that would "greatly mitigate" the current tension in Iraq. He did not say what those decisions were however.

Meanwhile, Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Taqi al-Mudarrisi issued a statement on his website ( on 4 April blaming the coalition for the surge in violence. "We have repeatedly warned the occupation troops against delaying the elections and against the attempts to impose ready-made laws on Iraq," he said. Muhammad al-Musawi of the Islamic Action Organization in Al-Najaf told Al-Jazeera on 4 April that his group demanded that al-Sadr not be harmed and that all coalition forces withdraw from Al-Najaf. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TERRORIST LINKED TO AL-QAEDA PURPORTEDLY THREATENS COALITION FORCES. Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian terrorist linked to Al-Qaeda who is suspected of carrying out attacks against coalition forces in Iraq, on 5 April vowed more attacks on coalition targets, AFP reported on 6 April.

An unnamed expert reportedly told AFP that the voice on the audiotape is identical to the voice on three previous recordings attributed to al-Zarqawi. The recording appeared on an Islamist website ( and al-Zarqawi claimed responsibility for the 17 March bombing of the Mount Lebanon hotel in Baghdad (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 19 March 2004).

Al-Zarqawi criticized Iraqi Shi'a Muslims in the audiotape, calling them the "Trojan horse used by the enemies of the nation" to take over the country, AFP reported. He also criticized Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani's recent call for calm in Iraq, saying al-Sistani is the "imam of atheism." "The Shi'ite are the allies of the Jews and Americans. They are helping kill Muslims," he said. The United States has not confirmed whether the voice on the audiotape is al-Zarqawi's. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

CPA HEAD NAMES DEFENSE MINISTER, INTELLIGENCE DIRECTOR. CPA head Bremer on 4 April announced the appointment of a new Iraqi defense minister and director of intelligence in a press conference broadcast live from Baghdad on Arab and international television stations. Iraqi Trade Minister Ali Abd al-Amir Allawi will now serve as defense minister, while Major General Muhammad al-Shahwani will serve as director of intelligence. Bremer also announced the establishment of the Defense Ministry, the Iraqi National Intelligence Service, and the Ministerial Committee for National Security.

Iraqi Governing Council President for the month of April Mas'ud Barzani also addressed the media, saying that the new Defense Ministry differs from the Saddam Hussein-era one in that its only task is to defend the country. Meanwhile, reported on 3 April that U.S. Major General David Petraeus who led the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq until the division returned to the United States last month, will now oversee the organization and training of all Iraqi military and security forces as head of the Office of Military Cooperation.

New Iraqi Defense Minister Allawi told the same press conference on 4 April that the civil administration of the military establishment will help build democratic institutions in Iraq. He vowed to uphold the rule of law and the constitution in Iraq. "The Iraqi Army will not be a means to threaten or blackmail neighboring countries," he added. Meanwhile, Director of Intelligence al-Shahwani said that his service, unlike the Hussein regime's security apparatus, will not have the power to arrest citizens. Al-Shahwani said he personally suffered at the hands of Hussein's intelligence service, which he said chased him for 19 years and tried to kill him 12 times. He also said that the Hussein regime was responsible for executing his three sons. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

IRAQIS CONTINUE PREPARATIONS FOR WAR CRIMES TRIBUNAL. Salem Chalabi, the coordinator of the Iraqi war crimes tribunal established in December to try former members of the Hussein regime, told about the March trip by 10 Iraqi judges and prosecutors to The Hague (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 26 March 2004), the website reported on 7 April. Chalabi said that the Iraqi delegation discussed issues including security for staff and witnesses, modern court equipment, the handling of evidence, and an effective defense for those on trial, the website reported.

Court officials interviewed by said that the Iraqi delegation was cautioned on the experiences of Hague tribunals, such as the trial of former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who is defending himself in the proceedings. The website reports that Milosevic regularly holds the floor for long periods of time during his cross-examination of witnesses, and frequently makes statements encouraging nationalist Serbs while speaking. Chalabi said that Iraqi law, however, prohibits any non-lawyer from defending themselves in court. Hussein is not a lawyer.

Chalabi said that U.S. advisers have suggested that the Iraqi tribunal follow the model of the Sierra Leone court rather than The Hague, which the U.S. does not support. In Sierra Leone, only 15 to 20 defendants were marked for trial. "The U.S. government was suggesting trying the top 20 cases, and Iraqis are talking of hundreds, even thousands, Chalabi said. "I rather think it will be closer to 200 people, a good portion of which can be dealt with through plea-bargaining," he added. He characterized the visit as useful, telling that the visit to the Yugoslav tribunal showed Iraqi judges that much work remains to be done in their preparations to try former regime members. "Seeing the software and the monitors recording testimony in the courtrooms was an extremely powerful message for our judges," he said.

Iraqi judges have already received some support from the U.S. in recent weeks however. A team from the U.S. Justice Department is already in Iraq, and Reuters reported on 6 April that the Bush administration said in a report to Congress on the same day that it would dispatch a special "war crimes" adviser to Iraqi soon. The report added that the administration has begun planning for the tribunal by establishing an evidence storage facility at a former Iraqi army base. Five deputy U.S. marshals have also been sent to Baghdad to help launch investigations into the crimes of former regime members. The administration also plans to develop a computerized system to store and track documents, and will train Iraqi judges and investigators, Reuters reported. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

DIRECTOR OF DE-BA'ATHIFICATION COMMISSION DISCUSSES ITS WORK. Mithal al-Alusi, the director of the Iraqi De-Ba'athification Commission, told the website Ilaf ( in an interview posted on 25 March that the commission is examining the requests of a number of former Ba'ath Party members to be reinstated in their former government positions. Al-Alusi said that some 60,000 Ba'athists were affected by the coalition's de-Ba'athification project.

The director said that the commission, headed by Iraqi National Congress chief and Iraqi Governing Council member Ahmad Chalabi, is made up of 10 Iraqi political parties. The commission is divided into six departments: the legal department, the information department, the educational and cultural department, the secretariat, the financial control department, and the follow-up department. The information department has control of around 1 million files related to Ba'ath Party membership. The documents are used to determine the identity of individuals that occupied the four highest echelons in the party. The Coalition Provisional Authority banned anyone in those positions from holding a job in the new Iraqi government, unless that person received a special dispensation.

Meanwhile, the financial control department is tracking Iraqi funds seized by the former regime and Ba'ath Party members, he said. The educational and cultural department is addressing the "cultural and educational heritage and the harmful deformation of the educational process" in Iraqi curricula. The department is also reportedly researching and studying the heritage of the Ba'ath Party, al-Alusi said.

The legal department's Appeals Section examines appeals submitted by former Ba'athists at or below the "Group Leadership" level who were dismissed from their jobs with pension. "This examination will take into consideration the special humanitarian case [of the appellant], as well as the needs of ministries for some qualified people," he said. Iraqis submitting appeals that held positions in the "Section Leadership" of the Ba'ath Party or higher [i.e. "Branch Leadership" and "Country Leadership"] would not be considered, he added.

Asked about the dismissed individuals, al-Alusi said: "the members on the level of Group Leadership and above...number around 60,000 individuals. Before the commission began its administrative and executive work, around 30,000 people had been dismissed. The commission is now in the process of examining the remaining number...80 percent of this number of people have the right to appeal. This means that we are eventually talking about a small number of those people who are being dismissed completely from sensitive posts in the administrative body of the state." "The new state is in dire need of new is also in dire need of patriotic professional lead the administrative body," al-Alusi said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

JORDANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER WARNS IRAQ COULD ERUPT INTO CIVIL WAR. Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher said on 7 April that Iraq could be heading toward a civil war, dpa reported. "The situation is very dangerous and the political process there appears to be sliding towards a civil war," Muasher said in Amman. "The dismantling of the [former] Iraqi army and the civil administration has given rise to a security vacuum and we are now witnessing the results," he added. Muasher said that Jordan has tried to caution the United States on the subtleties of Iraqi public opinion. "We have always told the Americans that the Shi'ites' silence does not mean that they are satisfied. It is because they are awaiting the elections to seize power," he said. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

TEHRAN DISCOURAGES TRAVEL TO IRAQ. The Iranian Interior Ministry issued a statement on 6 April urging Iranians not to visit Iraq in light of the current unrest there, IRNA reported. An Iranian pilgrim from Bushehr was shot in Al-Kufah on 4 April, and two other Iranians were wounded. On 6 April in Karbala, meanwhile, Hussein Akbari, the head of the local Iranian Hajj and Pilgrimage Office, announced that office's reopening, IRNA reported. The office was closed after bombings in early March. Explaining his office's function, Akbari said, "All Iranian pilgrimage agencies wishing to sign contracts with Iraqi hotels and transportation companies must organize their activities under the supervision of this office." He said his office will help Iranian pilgrims with any problems they might have in Iraq. "We control the fares that the pilgrims are charged, the quality of services rendered to them and their room and boarding, their food quality, and the other affairs they encounter during their pilgrimage," Akbari added. The office is located at the Baqer Hotel in Karbala. (Bill Samii)

PURPORTED FORMER IRANIAN INTELLIGENCE AGENT SAYS IRAN ENTRENCHED IN IRAQ. A purported former Iranian intelligence officer told London's "Al-Sharq al-Awsat" in an interview published on 3 April that Iran has established a strong security presence in Iraq in all areas from the north to south.

The officer, identified as "Hajj Sayidi," said that Iranian agents entered Iraq through the northern protected Kurdish areas in their hundreds. Iran later took advantage of Iraq's postwar porous borders by sending its best agents disguised as students and clerics, while others apparently traveled with Iraqi Shi'ite militiamen. He further claimed that the Quds [Jerusalem] Corps of the Iranian regime was responsible for the August assassination of Muhammad Baqir al-Hakim, the head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq. Sayidi added that Iranian agents planned on assassinating Iraqi religious leaders Ali al-Sistani and Muhammad Ishaq Fayadh.

Moreover, Sayidi claimed that Iranian intelligence agents have established 18 offices purporting to be charitable foundations in Baghdad, Al-Basrah, Karbala, Al-Kufah, Al-Najaf, and Al-Nasiriyah. The offices recruit spies as they distribute money and aid. He added that the Iranian intelligence apparatus has an extensive plan to turn Iraq into a second Iran. Part of the plan entails recruiting thousands of Shi'ite youths who would mobilize their relatives and acquaintances to vote for the candidates selected by Iranian intelligence. Sayidi claimed that the monthly allocation for Iranian public and secret security offices in Iraq totals more than $70 million. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

UN ADVISER ARRIVES IN IRAQ. United Nations special adviser Lakhdar Brahimi arrived in Iraq on 4 April at the invitation of the Iraqi Governing Council to help plan for the 30 June transfer of power and national elections, expected by the end of the year, the UN News Center ( reported on 4 April. Brahimi met with a number of Iraqi Governing Council members and NGO leaders in his first three days of meetings.

Brahimi hopes to gauge the opinions of all sectors of society on the question of the transition, the form of a transitional administration, how to proceed, and what kind of body should be formed to receive power on 1 July," his spokesman Ahmad Fawzi said according to the UN News Center on 7 April. Fawzi added that there is consensus on the 30 June date for the transfer of sovereignty to Iraqis. "What we don't know yet is what body would be acceptable to Iraqis and how it should be selected," he noted.

Shaykh Abd al-Mahdi al-Karbala'i, a representative of Shi'ite Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, said on 4 April that the religious authority in Al-Najaf would not take part in any meetings or consultations with the UN team "unless there is a UN Security Council resolution that would not give legitimacy to [the interim constitution] and would leave the matter for the Iraqi people, through their representatives in the [future] national assembly, to choose the mechanism to endorse the permanent constitution and valid laws in the country." According to "The Washington Post" on 4 April, the United States is relying on Brahimi to help design and, perhaps more importantly, legitimize a plan that would facilitate a smooth transfer of power in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

SPAIN THREATENED BY AL-QAEDA. The Spanish newspaper ABC reported on 5 April that purported Al-Qaeda terrorists in Europe sent a communique to the newspaper on that day threatening to "declare war" on Spain if it does not withdraw its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan, AFP reported on 5 April. The letter warned that Spain would face "hellish consequences if its troops were not withdrawn. "We are announcing the canceling of the truce with effect from midday Sunday 4 April," the communique said. It cautioned that Spain should stop helping "enemies of the Muslim community -- the United States and its allies," adding, "this is our last warning." The letter was reportedly signed by Abu Dujana al-Afghani, a self-described member of Al-Qaeda in Europe.

A man identifying himself as al-Afghani and speaking in Arabic with a Moroccan accent was seen on a videotape found outside a Madrid mosque two days after the 11 March Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people, international media reported on 6 April. Al-Afghani said in that videotape that the 11 March bombings were revenge for Spain's military cooperation with the United States, reported. The Spanish government reportedly gave "a certain credibility" to the authenticity of the communique, quoted Ricardo Ibanez, an Interior Ministry spokesman as saying.

The communique was faxed to ABC hours before five terror suspects blew themselves up in an apartment south of Madrid, in an effort to avoid police capture, reported on 5 April. Spanish authorities said that the suicide blast killed two of the alleged ringleaders of last month's Madrid train bombings, including one known as "the Tunisian," and three other terror suspects. Two or three suspects may have escaped before the blast, according to Spanish police are holding more than 15 suspects in connection to the train bombing, according to international media reports.

The website also reported on 5 April that an unnamed French private investigator has said that Spanish police believe that Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, a terrorist with links to Al-Qaeda, coordinated the Madrid attacks. Al-Zarqawi is wanted by the United States for the assassination of USAID employee Lawrence Foley in Amman last year, as well as for coordinating a number of terrorist attacks in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

COALITION REMAINS WILLING -- FOR THE TIME BEING. Coalition forces have remained committed to keeping troops in Iraq this week despite the surge in violence, according to international media reports.

This week's violence has left coalition allies in a number of southern Iraqi cities in a difficult position, as a number of states committed troops under the condition that they serve only in a peacekeeping or humanitarian capacity. However, many of these countries' troops were thrust into combat roles when coalition bases in central and southern Iraq were targeted in attacks this week by Iraqi insurgents. The insurgents also battled coalition and Iraqi forces while attempting to take over government buildings and police stations in various cities.

Coalition forces in south-central Iraq sustained few casualties in comparison to those sustained by U.S. forces in the Iraqi capital and surrounding areas, but it is likely that those deaths will affect public opinion in their home countries. On 4 April, one Salvadoran soldier was killed when militants attacked a coalition camp in Al-Najaf. Twelve of his compatriots were wounded in the same incident.

A Bulgarian patrol was attacked in Karbala on 6 April just minutes before militants struck the Bulgarian base Camp Kilo in Karbala. Three Bulgarian soldiers were lightly wounded in the first incident, while no casualties were reported in the second incident. In a third incident, a Bulgarian driver was shot dead near Al-Nasiriyah. Bulgarian Defense Minister Nikolay Svinarov said on 7 April that Bulgarian soldiers who wish to return home may do so. He also demanded that U.S. and U.K. forces be sent to Karbala to assist in stabilizing the situation. International media reported on 8 April that Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Al-Mahdi Army now controls the city.

One Ukrainian soldier was also killed this week and five others were wounded as the Ukrainian contingent lost control of Al-Kut to Iraqi insurgents. But Ukraine is not considering pulling its peacekeeping contingent out of Iraq, Foreign Ministry spokesman Markiyan Lubkivskyy told ITAR-TASS on 7 April. Meanwhile, Hungarian Defense Minister Ferenc Juhasz said on 7 April that Hungarian troops will not be withdrawn from Iraq because the current threats have not impeded their ability to carry out their mission there, Hungarian media reported. However, Juhasz called for a UN resolution that would pave the way for additional troops to be sent to Iraq, saying that an additional 100,000 troops are needed to restore order.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said on 6 April that Italian troops will remain in Iraq. "It is quite unthinkable that we should run away from a mission that we started and that needs to be carried through to the end," Berlusconi said. "We would be leaving the country in chaos," RAI Television quoted him as saying. Eleven Italians troops were reportedly wounded in fighting in Al-Nasiriyah on 7 April.

South Korea apparently remains committed to sending some 3,500 troops to Iraq in the coming weeks, despite the fact that militants loyal to al-Sadr held two South Korean aid workers captive on 5-6 April. "There is no change at all in the principle of our troop dispatch," Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon said on 7 April.

Meanwhile, Japanese Self-Defense Forces holed themselves up at their camp in Samawah this week in an effort to avoid being caught up in the violence. Japan committed troops to Iraq to carry out humanitarian operations and has gone to great lengths -- even placing television ads on Arab satellite channels ? to inform Iraqis that the Japanese contingency is not in Iraq to police the country.

Norway appears for the time being to be one of the few coalition partners adamant about withdrawing its contingent from Iraq. Norwegian Foreign Minister Jan Petersen said on 6 April that he expects Norway to withdraw its forces from Iraq within a few months. Petersen made his comments after meeting with UN officials in New York, Oslo's NRK reported. Petersen reportedly told UN officials that his country's forces would be better placed among NATO operations in Afghanistan and Kosova. Norway has about 150 soldiers in Iraq. Kazakhstan's Defense Minister said on 7 April that the country will not keep its peacekeepers in Iraq after their mandate expires at the end of May. Meanwhile, incoming Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero has vowed to pull Spanish troops out of Iraq unless the UN takes over there. Spain currently has some 1,300 troops stationed in Iraq. (Kathleen Ridolfo)

Compiled by Kathleen Ridolfo.
UK struggles to be heard in Iraq
By Paul Reynolds
BBC News Online world affairs correspondent
As Tony Blair prepares to fly to Washington for his meeting with President Bush shortly, questions have arisen as to whether Britain has an adequate say in the decisions being taken in Iraq.
The former foreign secretary Lord Hurd said that Britain was "involved in the consequences and I think we should be involved in the taking of those decisions".
He referred in particular to the decisions to attack Falluja and to act against the Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr.
He recommended sending a senior British envoy to Baghdad to put Britain's case and suggested the recently retired Nato Secretary General Lord Robertson.
Implicit in what Lord Hurd said was a belief that Britain would somehow act as restraining influence on the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) which is under the control of the US Administrator Paul Bremer.
British representation in the CPA was somewhat weakened with the departure of Sir Jeremy Greenstock at the end of March.
He was a former British UN ambassador and had a great deal of diplomatic clout having impressed the Americans with his handling of negotiations over UN resolutions on Iraq.
But he kept to his contract under which he stayed for six months and did not extend it until the 30 June handover.
Instead he gave way to his deputy David Richmond, who, although a respected and experienced Iraq hand and an Arabic speaker, does not quite carry the same political weight.
Decision making
The other senior British official in Iraq is Patrick Nixon, who is the representative in Basra.
He, too, is a veteran Arabist who came out of early retirement to take on the job until June.
He is an independent and sceptically-minded diplomat and it is hard to see him approving actions which would lead to serious confrontations. But how much influence he has with Mr Bremer is not known.
The New York Times quoted British officials in London recently as saying that Sir Jeremy had complained to London that Mr Bremer had controlled decision-making "with minimal input from Iraqis and other voices, including Sir Jeremy's".
The officials were quoted as saying that "while they are sympathetic with the daunting management task that Americans have undertaken, they also believe that the Coalition Provisional Authority under Mr. Bremer has become too 'politicized', meaning that events are orchestrated and information controlled with the American political agenda uppermost in mind".
The British unease might be more about tactical than strategic decisions
Publicly however, British ministers are not criticising the decisions in Iraq.
Both the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and the Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon were supportive in BBC interviews, though Mr Straw did stress the need for a political as well as military strategy.
There is a political strategy which should see formal sovereignty handed over to an interim Iraqi government on 30 June.
There are doubts however as to whether this government will have much power since the US military will stay on under a four star American general.
The British government appears fully signed up to this political process and Sir Jeremy himself has been praising it over recent weeks in briefings for the media in London.
The British unease therefore might be more about tactical than strategic decisions.
A problem arises however when a tactical decision has a major impact on the wider picture as has happened over the last few days.

Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/04/10 16:59:14 GMT

FLASHBACK: May 27, 2002
Graham: We Had Same Info as Bush
by David Freddoso
Posted Apr 9, 2004
[Editor's note: This article orginally appeared on the cover of the May 27, 2002, issue of HUMAN EVENTS.]
Sen. Bob Graham (D.-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told HUMAN EVENTS May 21 that his committee had received all the same terrorism intelligence prior to September 11 as the Bush administration.
"Yes, we had seen all the information," said Graham. "But we didn't see it on a single piece of paper, the way the President did."
Graham added that threats of hijacking in an August 6 memo to President Bush were based on very old intelligence that the committee had seen earlier. "The particular report that was in the President's Daily Briefing that day was about three years old," Graham said. "It was not a contemporary piece of information."
Graham's comments contradicted combative statements made recently by the Democratic congressional leadership, and confirmed White House assertions that the only specific threats of al Qaeda hijackings known to the President before September 11 came from a memo dating back to the Clinton Administration.
'Not Surprised'
A leak to CBS News of some pre-September-11 warnings given to the President in August occasioned fierce political attacks on Bush beginning May 15--even though the basic content of the leaks had long been known. As early as September 18, CNN had already reported that administration officials admitted to being aware of vague threats against U.S. targets before September 11. Also, a publicly available 1995 government report had even warned that terrorists could use airplanes in suicide attacks.
Still, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D.-S.D.) and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt (D.-Mo.) both made public statements attempting to stoke a scandal on the supposition that Bush withheld vital intelligence from Congress both before and after September 11. Both Democrats strongly implied that Bush sat on information that could possibly have been used to prevent the terrorist attacks of September 11.
"I'm gravely concerned that the President received a warning in August about the threat of hijackers by Osama bin Laden and his organization," said Daschle. "Why was it not provided to us, and why was it not shared with the general public for the last eight months?"
Daschle also asserted that Congress did not have the same information as the White House--implying that the White House alone was to blame for not acting on the information. "I think it is important to emphasize we did not have identical information," he said in a May 16 news conference, in clear contradiction with Graham's statements to HUMAN EVENTS.
On May 22, Daschle again accused Bush of hoarding information, even trying to blame him for the FBI's intelligence failure of September 11. "There is an increasing pattern that I find in this administration that reflects an unwillingness to share information not only with us but within their own administration," he told reporters.
Gephardt also implied that the administration was blameworthy for its handling of the intelligence reports. "The reports are disturbing that we are finding this out now," he said. Invoking language of the Watergate era, he continued, "I think what we have to do now is to find out what the President, what the White House knew about the events leading up to 9-11, when they knew it and, most importantly, what was done about it at that time." Gephardt also stated that Congress had not received the same intelligence as the White House.
Asked by HUMAN EVENTS on May 22 whether Sen. Graham's statement changed his view, Gephardt responded with a simple "No" before retreating into the House chamber. Again, the following day, Kori Bernards, a spokeswoman for Gephardt, declined to comment for the record on Graham's statement.
Other Democrats sensed a political opportunity and went on the attack. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D.-N.Y.) addressed the Senate waving a copy of the New York Post with a characteristically large and sensational headline, "Bush Knew." "The President knew what?" she asked.
Others, including Sen. Dick Durbin (D.-Ill.), Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D.-N.Y.) and Rep. Robert Wexler (D.-Fla.) strongly denounced the President's conduct in public spoken or written statements.
But as early as May 16, it had already emerged that most of the information in Bush's August 6 Presidential Daily Briefing--an official intelligence document--had in fact been given to the congressional committees in the form of the Senior Executive Intelligence Digest (SEID), a more widely published classified document.
"Mr. Gephardt said that we didn't have information," said Rep. Porter Goss (R.-Fla.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, on May 16. "In fact we do have it. And it's just apparently that Mr. Gephardt didn't know about it."
At that point, Democrats claimed that Bush's intelligence report had information warning of possible hijackings by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, and that Congress did not receive that particular information.
But the Democrats' criticism appeared to be further undercut by Graham's confirmation to HUMAN EVENTS that the committee did have the same intelligence. Administration officials had earlier said the hijack warnings in Bush's August 6 briefing were merely an analysis based on old intelligence from 1998.
The committees were indeed aware before September 11 that a major attack could come soon, so much so, that Sen. Graham told CNN's Kate Snow...quot; on the afternoon of September 11...quot; that he was not suprised.
"I was not surprised that there was an attack, was surprised at the specificity of this one," Graham said in the interview, hours after the attacks.
Expected Backlash
As Democrats appeared to back away from the attacks on Bush over the weekend, Republicans went on the offensive to capitalize on an expected backlash. The Republican Study Committee, a group of about 75 conservative Republicans, released a memo detailing House Democrats' overwhelming opposition to intelligence funding since 1996. According to the memo, 154 House Democrats voted to cut the U.S. intelligence budget in 1996, while 158 Democrats did the same in 1997. Although fewer Democrats voted to cut the intelligence budget in 1999 (only 61), almost all opposition to intelligence spending came from Democrats.
The memo also quotes several Democrats opposing intelligence spending, including Rep. Maxine Waters (D.-Calif.), who advocated the abolition of the CIA on the House floor in March 1997.
In addition, a HUMAN EVENTS survey of lawmakers found that few--even among Republicans--would have been willing to act decisively on threats of hijacking by Muslim extremists. Not one Democrat surveyed would countenance the idea that President Bush, upon learning of the al Qaeda hijacking threat, should have suspended the visas of young men visiting from nations that are al Qaeda hotbeds--even though this measure would likely have prevented the attacks of September 11.
Few support that action even now, after September 11, when new warnings of attacks by al Qaeda have been issued by FBI director Robert Mueller and Vice President Cheney.
Copyright ? 2003 HUMAN EVENTS. All Rights Reserved.

FLASHBACK: June 10, 2002
Intelligence Chairmen Confirm HUMAN EVENTS Story
Posted Apr 9, 2004
[Editor's note: This article orginally appeared on the cover of the June 10, 2002, issue of HUMAN EVENTS.]
Tim Russert, host of NBC's "Meet the Press," has committed excellent journalism, again.
The May 26 edition of "Meet the Press" featured as a guest Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D.-S.D.). Russert confronted Daschle with the cover story of the May 27 HUMAN EVENTS in which Senate Intelligence Chairman Bob Graham said that the congressional intelligence committees had the same information prior to September 11 that President Bush had--and that this information included three-year-old intelligence that al Qaeda might try to hijack U.S. airliners.
In light of Graham's statement to HUMAN EVENTS, Daschle utterly failed to justify to Russert his tendentious call for an investigation of what the President knew prior to September 11.
Last Sunday, on the June 2 edition of "Meet the Press," Russert interviewed the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate intelligence committees. He confronted them with the information in the May 27 HUMAN EVENTS cover story--and each of them, including Graham himself--confirmed the story.
Here is what they said:
Tim Russert, Host of NBC's "Meet the Press": Sen. Graham, let me clear something up for the country, if I can. There was a big uproar a few weeks ago that President Bush had received a briefing on August 6 about a potential hijacking by al-Qaeda, and a lot of charges and countercharges back and forth. HUMAN EVENTS reported that you said that we had all seen that information. Not in the same form as the President, but members of Congress had seen the same information. Is that accurate?
Senate Intelligence Chairman Bob Graham (D.-Fla.): First, I have not seen the briefing that the President received in early August. But I have read a summary of that briefing, and if that summary is correct, and I think it is, of what he received was essentially a historic presentation of the development of al Qaeda, what they'd done in the past, and then some speculations about what they might do in the future. The specific reference that related to hijackers was based on a foreign intelligence source that was two or three years old. So I don't think it is fair to expect the President of the United States to see that kind of information and immediately spring into operational mode. Had Congress seen most of that information, if not all of it? Yes, over time, not in a consolidated historic report that was presented to the President.
Russert: Does anyone here disagree with that, that they didn't see that information?
House Intelligence Chairman Porter Goss (R.-Fla.): No, I think it's very clear.
Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Richard Shelby (R.-Ala.): No, we had it.
Russert: Everyone had it.
Shelby: We had it.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D.-Calif.), Ranking Member, House Intelligence Committee: We had seen it over a period of time. We did not see it in aggregate as the President did that day. That is not to say that it was sufficient information, as the chairman has said, to warrant action on the part of the President, but I think the distinction has to be made that, for some reason, on that early day in August, someone in the intelligence community decided to put all of those events on one piece of paper. Interesting that what we saw in Congress in that same day, in that same 24-hour period, did not have the reporting that referenced hijacking. That was a distinction between what Congress saw and what the White House saw.
Copyright ? 2003 HUMAN EVENTS. All Rights Reserved.

Was Terrorism Really a Top Priority?
by Linda Chavez
Posted Apr 8, 2004
Condoleezza Rice faces not just the 9/11 commission today but the specter of Richard Clarke, the disgruntled former National Security Council terrorism expert who did his best to undermine the credibility of his former boss when he testified before the commission on March 24. The main thrust of Clarke's testimony was that Rice and the entire Bush team were insufficiently attentive to terrorism as an imminent threat because they were focused on other things, especially Iraq. And the media played right along, parroting Clarke's criticism with front-page news stories questioning Rice's pre-9/11 judgment, like this one in The Washington Post: "Top Focus Before 9/11 Wasn't on Terrorism; Rice Speech Cited Missile Defense." Or this in The New York Times: "New to the Job, Rice Focused On More Traditional Threats."
That criticism from Clarke might have been more persuasive had he been equally hard on the Clinton Administration, for which he worked for eight years. But, no, he gave Clinton and the whole national security team high marks, saying, "My impression was that fighting terrorism in general, and fighting al Qaeda in particular, were an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton Administration, certainly no higher a priority. There were priorities probably of equal importance, such as the Middle East peace process, but I certainly don't know of one that was any higher in the priority of that administration."
Funny, I don't remember the Clinton years that way -- but then maybe my mind is clouded by the disease so common to active partisans, selective memory. So I decided to do a little research to see how the media portrayed the Clinton Administration's priorities at the time.
Using Nexis, the exhaustive data bank of newspaper articles, magazine pieces, and radio and TV transcripts, I looked back over eight years of stories in which Rice's predecessors in the Clinton Administration, Anthony Lake and Samuel Berger, were mentioned in stories that also included references to terrorism or Osama bin Laden or al Qaeda, to see whether they were out sounding the alarm on these threats.
During the entire Clinton Administration's tenure, only 278 stories appeared in The Washington Post, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, or Chicago Tribune, which cited these officials in stories that also mentioned either terrorism (271), bin Laden (71), or al Qaeda (4). Most of the mentions of terrorism, however, referred to attacks against Israel or other non-U.S. targets. And few of the stories even suggest that the Clinton Administration made fighting terrorism its top priority.
President Clinton did give a major speech to the United Nations in September 1998, in which he said that fighting terrorism was "at the top of the U.S. agenda." But as The New York Times noted in its coverage, "if he looked preoccupied, which he did, it was because he was in the awkward position of addressing the United Nations at the same time that a videotape of his testimony to a grand jury investigating the Monica Lewinsky matter was playing on television screens and computer monitors around the world. Some television banks here were playing his speech and the videotape at once." Moreover, noted the Times, "Mr. Clinton did not advance American policy against terrorism in any new direction. . . ."
Although several terrorist attacks against Americans occurred during Clinton's tenure -- most notably the first World Trade Center bombing, the bombing of a U.S. military barracks in Saudi Arabia, the bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa, and the attack on the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen -- the military response was spotty at best, consisting of a few cruise missiles launched at an abandoned training camp in Afghanistan and a chemical plant in Sudan.
But it isn't just that the Clinton Administration didn't do very much to strike back at terrorists, Clinton's National Security advisers weren't all that outspoken on the issue either. In 1996, for example, Anthony Lake gave a major speech to the Chicago Foreign Relations Council, entitled "Laying the Foundation for a Post-Cold War World: National Security in the 21st Century." In it, Lake mentions terrorism, almost in passing, as a modern threat, along with drug trafficking and managing environmental disaster. The foreign policy crises he described as "the most urgent" were "repression in Haiti, the war in Bosnia and the containment of Iraq."
The truth is, no one -- not George W. Bush or Condoleezza Rice, and certainly not Bill Clinton or his advisers -- fully understood how grave a threat al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden and other Islamist terrorists posed to America until September 11, 2001. We know now, and the true test of leadership is how our leaders responded once the terrorists struck. And here both Bush and Rice look pretty good compared with their predecessors, Richard Clarke's revisionist history notwithstanding.
Copyright ? 2003 HUMAN EVENTS. All Rights Reserved.

La Maison blanche d?classifie une note du 6 ao?t 2001 sur Al-Qaida
LEMONDE.FR | 11.04.04 | 10h21 * MIS A JOUR LE 11.04.04 | 19h01
Cette note envisageait de possibles d?tournements d'avions. Dimanche le pr?sident Bush a affirm? qu'elle ne disait rien sur d'?ventuelles attaques contre les Etats-Unis.
La Maison blanche a lev?, samedi 10 avril, le secret-d?fense sur une note des services de renseignement am?ricains remise le 6 ao?t 2001 au pr?sident George Bush et exposant des projets d'Al-Qaida de frapper aux Etats-Unis m?me.
A la demande de la commission nationale qui enqu?te sur les attentats du 11 septembre 2001, l'administration Bush a d?classifi? et rendu publique cette note d'une page et demie au titre d?nu? d'ambigu?t? : "Ben Laden r?solu ? frapper en territoire am?ricain".
A trois endroits, des suppressions de mots ont ?t? faites pour prot?ger les noms des gouvernements ?trangers ayant fourni des informations ? la CIA.
Ce m?morandum avait ?t? r?dig? en ao?t 2001 ? la demande de George W. Bush, qui souhaitait conna?tre l'ampleur de la menace d'Al-Qaida sur le territoire am?ricain apr?s avoir pris connaissance de rapports faisant ?tat de menaces de la m?me n?buleuse contre les int?r?ts am?ricains ? l'?tranger, a expliqu? samedi soir un responsable de la Maison blanche. La conseill?re ? la s?curit? de la Maison blanche, Condoleezza Rice, avait ?voqu? cette note lors de sa d?position en public, jeudi, devant la commission. Les d?mocrates qui y si?gent avaient alors demand? ? ce que le secret soit lev? sur ladite note afin de favoriser le cours de l'enqu?te sur les carences ?ventuelles des services de renseignement avant les attentats du 11 septembre.
Des responsables de la Maison blanche se sont empress?s samedi, apr?s la diffusion de la note dans la soir?e, d'assurer que celle-ci, bien que mentionnant la possibilit? de d?tournements d'avions, n'?voquait pas le risque de les voir utilis?s comme missiles contre des b?timents. "Rien, dans ce texte, n'a trait au complot du 11 septembre", a affirm? devant les journalistes un haut responsable de la Maison blanche.
Dimanche le pr?sident Bush a affirm? que le m?morandum du 6 ao?t 2001 ne disait rien sur d'?ventuelles attaques contre les Etats-Unis. "Ce PDB (appel? "rapport pr?sidentiel quotidien", PDB en anglais) ne disait rien d'une attaque contre l'Am?rique. Il parlait d'intentions et du fait que quelqu'un d?testait l'Am?rique. Cela nous le savions d?j?", a dit M. Bush ? la presse lors d'une visite sur la base militaire de Fort Hood (Texas). "Si j'avais su qu'il y allait y avoir une attaque contre l'Am?rique, j'aurais tout fait pour l'emp?cher", a-t-il ajout?."S'ils (les services de renseignement) avaient trouv? quelque chose, ils m'en auraient inform?", a estim? M. Bush, en r?affirmant que la commission d'enqu?te devait enqu?ter sur la fa?on dont les renseignements disponibles avaient ?t? rassembl?s et transmis.
La note risque bien pourtant de relancer, en pleine ann?e ?lectorale, le d?bat sur l'incapacit? des services de renseignement et des autorit?s ? pr?venir les attentats. Dans sa d?position de jeudi, Rice insistait sur le fait que la note contenait essentiellement des renseignements relatifs au pass? et ne signalait pas des pr?paratifs d'attentats sur le territoire am?ricain.
Mais ses paroles pourraient ?tre contredites par la note elle-m?me. Dans cette derni?re, il est inscrit noir sur blanc que des hommes d'Al-Qaida cherchaient ? p?n?trer aux Etats-Unis ou s'y trouvaient d?j?. "Le FBI conduit approximativement 70 enqu?tes sur le terrain, ? travers les Etats-Unis, qui ont trait ? Ben Laden. La CIA et le FBI enqu?tent sur un appel re?u par notre ambassade aux Emirats arabes unis en mai, disant qu'un groupe de partisans de Ben Laden se trouvent aux Etats-Unis o? ils pr?parent des attentats ? l'explosif", lit-on dans la note.
Le document, qui ne mentionne aucune cible pr?cise et ne fait ?tat d'aucune date, se fonde sur un rapport des services secrets ?tabli en mai 2001, laissant penser que des partisans de Ben Laden avaient l'intention d'entrer aux Etats-Unis par le Canada. La note ajoutait que des membres d'Al-Qaida, au nombre desquels des personnes ayant la nationalit? am?ricaine, "s?journent ou se sont rendus aux Etats-Unis, depuis des ann?es, et le groupe semble maintenir une structure logistique qui pourrait contribuer ? des attentats". "Une source clandestine avait dit en 1998 qu'une cellule Ben Laden recrutait ? New York des jeunes Am?ricains musulmans, dans le but de commettre des attentats", lit-on par ailleurs dans la note. "Des informations ?manant de sources clandestines, de gouvernements ?trangers et de m?dias laissent entendre que Ben Laden, depuis 1997, veut commettre des attentats terroristes aux Etats-Unis", stipule aussi le document.
La note informait le pr?sident de ce que le FBI avait d?cel? des activit?s suspectes ?voquant des pr?paratifs de d?tournements et autres types d'attentats, et avait constat? que des immeubles f?d?raux de New York faisaient l'objet d'une surveillance. * La Maison blanche a expliqu? samedi soir, en parall?le ? la publication du m?morandum, que les renseignements relatifs ? une surveillance d'immeubles f?d?raux ? New York concernaient en fait de simples all?es et venues de touristes.
Avec Reuters
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Thomas L. Friedman: Three conversations needed to save Iraq
Thomas L. Friedman NYT
Monday, April 12, 2004
WASHINGTON The U.S. operation in Iraq is hanging by a thread. If it has any hope of surviving this Hobbesian moment, we need three conversations to happen fast: George W. Bush needs to talk to his father, the Arab leaders need to talk to their sons - and daughters - and Americans need to talk to the Iraqi Governing Council.
President Bush, please call home. You need some of your father's wisdom right now. Old man Bush, U.S. president no. 41, may not have had the vision thing, but he did have the prudence thing. He understood that he could not expel Saddam Hussein from Kuwait without a real coalition that included Egypt, Syria, Saudi Arabia and other key Arab states, not to mention all the NATO allies and the United Nations. America would not have had the legitimacy to operate in that theater for the length of time required without Arab and European cover.
What was true for expelling Saddam from Kuwait was triply true for expelling Saddam from Iraq and is quadruply true for expelling the die-hard Baathists from Falluja and the Shiite radicals from Najaf. The deeper we Americans try to penetrate Iraqi society, especially with tanks and troops, the more legitimacy we need.
When things were going all right in Baghdad with the political process, America could have its way by buying legitimacy with cash or imposing it with muscle. But when you are talking about killing rebellious Iraqi young men and clerics, you can't buy the legitimacy for that, and you can't compel it. Iraqi moderates are just too frightened to stand up and defend that on their own. Indeed, they will run away from the United States.
Only a real coalition of the United Nations, Arab and Muslim states and Europe - the Bush 41 coalition - might bolster them. It may be too late for that now, but the Bush 43 folks had better try.
We Americans have a staggering legitimacy deficit for the task ahead. I am glad El Salvador is with us, but when Iraqis get satellite dishes, they don't tune in TV El Salvador. They tune in TV Al Jazeera.
If it is America alone against the Iraqi street, we lose. If it is the world against the Iraqi street, we have a chance.
And we need two other conversations. I have nothing but respect for the Kurds of Iraq. They have a democratic soul. But in the debate in the Governing Council over Iraq's interim constitution they overreached, and the Bush team made a big mistake in letting them overreach, by giving the Kurds effective veto power over Iraq's final constitution. I believe the Kurds need and are entitled to some form of protection. I would support any U.S. guarantees for them. But too many moderate Shiites, led by Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, are feeling that the Iraqi interim constitution tilts so far in favor of minority rights that it unfairly limits majority (read Shiite) rights. If the interim constitution has any hope of surviving this fighting, and being accepted by the moderate Shiite majority, it needs to be recalibrated - through a dialogue among Iraq's factional leaders and with us. Otherwise, a stable transfer of power is impossible (if it isn't already).
Arab leaders also have a vital interest in working with the United States to quell the turmoil in Iraq and to re-empower the potentially moderate center. As unpleasant as it may be for them to help the Bush team - and as worrisome as free elections in Iraq might be to unelected leaders of the Arab world - having oil-rich Iraq taken over partly by Baathist radicals happy to work with Al Qaeda and partly by Shiite radicals happy to work with Iran will be even worse. It will empower radicals across the Arab region, and freeze the infant reform process there.
And that's why the Arab leaders need to talk to their sons and daughters. If the Arabs miss yet another decade of reform, because Iraq spins out of control while the world speeds ahead, they will find themselves outside the world system and dealing with plenty of their own Fallujas.
Talk to Arab youth today, and you will find so many of them utterly despondent at the complete drift in their societies. They are stuck in a sandstorm, where opportunities for young people to realize their potential are fading.
What is going on in Iraq today is not only a war between radical Islam and America, it is, more importantly, a war within Islam - between those who want an Islam with a human and progressive face that can meld with the world and those who want an Islam that is exclusivist and hostile to the world. So, yes, we need all the Arab and Muslim support we can get to see Iraq through to some decent outcome. But the Arab-Muslim world needs a decent outcome in Iraq just as much - if not more.
Copyright ? 2002 The International Herald Tribune


Suicide bomb workshop found in Falluja: US military
April 12, 2004 - 8:09AM
Bomb workshop found in Fallujah: US military Iraq Bombers
US marines this week killed one suicide bomber and discovered a suicide bomb workshop in the Sunni Muslim bastion of Fallujah apparently run by Iraqis and foreigners, marines said.
The building, found on Thursday when marines chased a sniper, provided new indication of the growing role of Iraqis in suicide bombings, marines said.
The US marines are entrenched in a near week-long campaign to rid Fallujah of insurgents after four US contractors were killed by a mob and two of them were savagely mutilated on March 31.
Iraqi police and judges have recently expressed alarm about the increasing involvement of Iraqis in suicide bombings, which US officials have previously blamed on foreign fighters thought to be slipping across the border.
Police in the holy city of Karbala charged that some Iraqis are indoctrinated and high on drugs when they are dispatched on suicide missions.
Top US military officials have warned the radical Islamist current in Iraq relies more heavily on Iraqi nationals than foreign elements.
Members of the 1st Battalion 5th (1-5) Marines stumbled on the workshop on Thursday, when they were trying to locate a sniper position.
"There was an open storage area and a living room. There were four belts packed with explosives," said Lance Corporal James Walter, one of the men who discovered the arsenal in Fallujah's southeastern industrial sector.
A box of old US military uniforms were also found, issued by the US Army's 82nd Airborne, said Lieutenant Colonel Brennan Byrne.
Marines said that they believe about 15 to 20 people had been working in the facility.
Also Thursday, marines from the 1-5 battalion shot dead a suicide bomber, captured a second individual without a vest and found a third blood-stained belt.
The vest was identical to those found in the open storage area, said Captain James Smith.
Marines had come under fire and entered a home where they shot and killed the bomber.
The marines lobbed grenades at the body to blow it up due to fears the corpse was booby trapped, said Smith.
Smith showed pictures of the corpse before the marines blew up the body, with the white belt and wiring attached to a bearded man lying on a tile floor.
The belts were fashioned in the style of the radical Palestinian group Hamas that popularised suicide bombings in Iraq, with a hand-held detonator attached to the belt, Byrne added.

Terrorist chemical threat 'worse than suspected'
By Mark Huband, Security Correspondent, in Paris
Published: April 11 2004 18:26 | Last Updated: April 11 2004 18:26
Terrorists plotting to use chemical weapons in Europe have more advanced plans than security services previously suspected, a senior French counter-terrorism official has warned.
Small groups of chemicals experts have been detected in several European countries and have developed ways of communicating with each other that allowed them to avoid being exposed.
"We have underestimated the terrorists' willingness and capacity to develop chemical weapons," the French official told the Financial Times. He said a recent wave of arrests in Britain and France has revealed how far they had developed their plans.
The groups appear to operate separately from other cells planning attacks using ordinary explosives. Several of them are believed to have links to Islamic militants in the breakaway Russian republic of Chechnya. Western intelligence services allege that extremists linked to al-Qaeda have carried out experiments in chemical warfare in Chechnya.
In January French anti-terrorist police arrested five people in the Lyons suburb of Venisseux - three of them from the same family - on suspicion of involvement in planning terrorist attacks. Nicolas Sarkozy, then interior minister, said that one of the detainees, Menad Benchallali, "was trained to produce chemical substances".
Two of the detainees admitted a plan had been devised to attack Russian targets in France using ricin poison and botulinum bacteria. French officials say Mr Benchellali received chemical weapons training in Georgia's Pankisi Gorge, a haven for Chechen fighters.
On April 6 British anti- terrorist officers uncovered a possible plot to use osmium tetroxide in an attack. The chemical can cause death or blindness if dispersed in an explosion. UK security officials have refused to comment on the alleged plan, though US officials said it was in its early stages.
The alleged plotters were reported to have been in direct contact with extremists in Pakistan, as the plot was discovered when their telephone calls were monitored by GCHQ, the UK government's electronic surveillance centre.
"The Pakistani element [in developing these weapons] was also totally underestimated, as was the experience developed in Chechnya," said the French official. He added that militants within the Pakistani Islamist group Lashkar-i-Toiba, which has close links to al-Qaeda, had helped develop chemical weapons skills now dispersed to sever al parts of the al-Qaeda network.
"The thing that is most clear is that the people with the knowledge of chemicals are very organised," the French official said. "There are links between the groups that have chemical expertise. These groups are not present everywhere, though Chechnya is where they learned this skill."
The arrests in January in Venisseux led to the discovery of vital clues about the links between alleged extremists with knowledge of chemicals and experts trained in Chechnya and Afghanistan.
"The group arrested in Venisseux has links to Chechnya, but also to Abu Musab al-Zarkawi," the official said.
Al-Zarkawi, a Jordanian thought to be in Iraq, is said by intelligence officals to have run classes in chemical warfare at an al-Qaeda training camp in the Afghan city of Herat in 2000-01. A taped statement attributed to al-Zarkawi was broadcast on an Islamist website this week, in which he said that Iraq's Sunni Muslims should "burn the earth under the [foreign] occupiers' feet" in Iraq.


Contractors put Iraq reconstruction on hold
By Nicolas Pelham in Baghdad
Published: April 11 2004 18:05 | Last Updated: April 11 2004 18:05
Many of Iraq's reconstruction projects are being put on hold after a spate of foreign kidnappings and attacks on convoys in Baghdad grounded foreign and Iraqi contractors.
"We'll give it another week. If it doesn't improve, we'll have to leave," says Trevor Holborn of the Amman-based Shaheen Group, one of hundreds of foreign workers who have suspended their operations and headed for shelter inside the walls of the Green Zone, the heavily fortified enclave where the occupation has its headquarters.
"We still have people in Iraq, but we may not able to work on a day to day basis," said a contractor with a big US energy company. "Right now Iraq is not a safe place to work, and the safety of our staff comes first."
The kidnapping of at least 10 foreigners, and according to some reports as many as 30, has shaken the already fragile confidence of contractors. The hostages included an employee of the Houston-based company, Kellogg, Brown & Root, which handles supplies and logistics for US forces and the occupation administration and is reputed to be one of the best defended companies in the country. Thomas Hamill, 43, of Macon, Mississippi, was captured on Friday during a convoy ambush.
Coalition officials say they have contingency plans for an evacuation of civilians, but remain fully staffed. One said it was a "miracle" that none of the scores of mortars and rockets which have so rocked the enclave have hit their targets.
British diplomats and some contractors are bunkered down in an underground car-park inside the Green zone, dubbed the "Batcave". But many American contractors are housed in trailer accommodation. Their sides have been bolstered with sandbags but the soft-top roofs are singularly vulnerable to mortar attack.
Amid continuing negotiations for a ceasefire, insurgents have continued torching convoys carrying food and fuel to Baghdad.
Coalition authority officials deny the attacks on their supply lines have interrupted the delivery of vital goods, but contractors say Iraqi drivers are shying away from work with the coalition leaving ports clogged with containers.
"Try to lease a truck now, no one will give you one," said Faisal Khudairy, an Iraqi contractor with a large deal to build a military base north of Baghad.
The coalition's Project Management Office (PMO), which oversees $8bn (?4.7bn) of US reconstruction funds, says it remains committed to rebuilding Iraq and is intent on finding Iraqi partners to assist the primary US contractors it named last month. "We've got our prime contractors on the ground. It will not halt reconstruction," said John Procter, an official with the project Management Office in Baghdad.
He said that the reconstruction effort was vital if the coalition was to soak up Iraq's millions of unemployed malcontents who are a breeding ground for the insurgency.
But it was not clear if the coalition would meet its target of employing 50,000 Iraqis by 30 June, when the US governor of Iraq, Paul Bremer, is scheduled to relinquish control of Iraq.
Mr Procter said that Iraq's trade fair, postponed last week because of the risk of attack, was being relocated from Baghdad to Suleimaniya, a city in the former Kurdish haven, and would open on April 30.
Another conference on oil exploration scheduled to take place next week in the British-administered Gulf port of Basra is reported to have been indefinitely postponed. Several foreign companies and aid agencies say they are also providing for the evacuation of non-essential staff.
"We gave our staff the freedom to go home to whoever would like to do so," said Mohammed Moneim, chief operating officer of the Kuwaiti-based Kharafi group, which has over 100 foreign staff in Iraq working in the oil and construction sectors. But Mr Moneim said that the company was also committed to fulfilling its responsibilities to its 1,500 Iraqi staff.
At least two of the three banks that received their licences last January have yet to begin operations inside Iraq. Officials at HSBC, the UK bank, said it was unlikely services would be available until at least the end of the year. Baghdad bank has also temporarily closed three of its 20 branches, said its chief operating officer, Mahmood Muwaffaq. Some contractors complained that their contracts prevented them from pulling out of Iraq.
"Many companies have given control over the evacuation procedure to the US Department of Defence, so we cannot leave even if we want to," said a security company director. He said insurgents are now targeting mercenaries in Iraq, aware that foreign contractors win more headlines than soldiers. But the director stressed that under their contracts, companies would still be compensated in full for any days lost as a result of insecurity.
Seven Chinese were seized in central Iraq on Sunday, China's Xinhua news agency said, Reuters reports. In a separate incident, eight foreign men described as truck drivers who had been held hostage were released, according to a videotape aired by al-Jazeera television on Sunday. The men included three from Pakistan, two Turks, an Indian, a Nepali and one from the Philippines.

Marines Find Traces Of Suicide Squads
25 minutes ago
By Pamela Constable, Washington Post Foreign Service
FALLUJAH, Iraq (news - web sites), April 11 -- When the U.S. troops entered the abandoned factory shed Sunday, they found a hastily abandoned campsite full of jumbled clothing and bedrolls, scattered sneakers and gym bags, broken eggs and dirty cooking pots.
But there were other, less innocent objects half-hidden in the gloom. Sacks full of chemical-coated rocks. Leather belts stuffed with explosive putty, and one smeared with dried blood. Boxes of batteries with wires taped to them. Instructions for making bombs.
"This was a 16-man terrorist cell," pronounced a Marine captain, rifling through the mess. "See? All the bags and sneakers are brand new, all the same make. This took money and planning. Someone sponsored them."
Among the debris were more intimate clues to the identity and motives of the suicide squad that had lived, prayed and made bombs in the shed, preparing to do battle with the 2,500 Marines who entered sections of this turbulent city one week ago.
The evidence -- Islamic books, pamphlets, tapes and farewell letters in Arabic -- suggested that some of the men were not Iraqis from the area, but foreign Sunni Muslims who had traveled to this urban Sunni stronghold to fight and die in a holy war, both against the U.S. forces and the country's Shiite Muslim majority.
"I say goodbye with tears in my eyes and heart, and I ask God for victory," read one letter, which suggested the writer's parents had tried to stop him from leaving home. "Father, don't blame yourself. I am happy to be here," it said. "Mother, don't be weak. Raise your children to be martyrs for the cause."
The urban guerrillas battling Marines since last Monday have put up a fierce and well-organized fight, and Marine officials said early last week that they believed foreign Islamic fighters had joined the local insurgents. On Thursday the Marines shot and killed a sniper who was wearing a suicide belt, and they have since discovered seven suicide bomb devices in various hiding places.
But so far they have not conclusively established that any of the insurgents were foreign infiltrators. Several detained Sudanese nationals turned out to be longtime workers here, and Marine officials said Sunday that they had used grenades and bombs to explode the corpses of two snipers shot while wearing suicide devices, which made them impossible to identify.
But the unearthing of the Islamic documents among the bomb-making materials Sunday, while two foreign journalists and an Arabic interpreter were present, suggested that at least some of the suicide squad members were not from Iraq.
Some letters referred to repaying old debts, patching up quarrels and acquiring false passports. Others read like sermons, and one contained a poem saying that "the blood of martyrs smells sweet." Most were in blank envelopes and some were signed with Islamic noms de guerre such as Abu Ahmed. They were apparently intended to be delivered home by messengers.
In one letter, dated April 4, a man urged a friend to leave behind worldly concerns and come join a "beautiful" war against Shiite "nonbelievers" and Americans. "This is like Iran, there are many Shiites and we need to fight them," he wrote. "We are in another Kandahar, and we will burn the Americans." Kandahar, a city in Afghanistan (news - web sites), was the religious stronghold of the Taliban, the extremist Sunni militia that was toppled by U.S-led forces in 2001.
There were also notebooks with instructions on how to make a bomb and where to launch attacks against American facilities in Baghdad, 35 miles east.
As they listened to the letters being translated, the young Marines looked incredulous. Then someone opened a wallet that contained drawings of U.S. military insignia, evidently meant to pick out important targets. "I see captain and lieutenant, but no warrant officer. Guess I'm safe," said one Marine with a nervous laugh.
The squad examining the shed also inspected several other weapons caches in the abandoned factory zone Sunday, including a freezer full of mortar rounds and a pile of rice sacks from Vietnam that contained machine-gun ammunition. Officers said most of the material would be detonated or destroyed.
After the troops finished their work, they left several riflemen on guard, wishing them a happy Easter, and headed back to their command post in an empty pottery and carpentry workshop. Some rested in dust-covered armchairs; others gathered around a corporal who was being treated for a shrapnel wound in the knee.
"When I saw those [suicide] vests, I thought those people obviously don't value life," said one staff sergeant, shaking his head in bewilderment. A 20-year-old corporal, Philip Dennis, said he had expected to be building schools in Iraq, not dodging mortar shells.
"I'm a humanitarian person, and I don't believe in killing for no reason, but I guess this is the job that needs to be done," he said. On his first day of combat, Dennis recounted, he climbed on a roof and was astonished to see dozens of black-robed insurgents with AK-47 rifles. "I had no idea they had so many people, and I realized this was very big." He paused and added, "We killed a lot of them."
A few minutes later, a Navy chaplain arrived at the command post in a Humvee to hold a brief Easter communion service, which he repeated at two more front-line posts.
"God, we pray that our actions here give some glory back to you," said Navy Chaplain Wayne Hall, 36, who set up his communion vessels on a factory workbench. "We live in grace even here, and we are not afraid of death. . . . None of us wants to die here, but death is the blink of an eye, and you wake up in paradise."
One young corpsman, tending to an injured man in his command post, said he had little time to think about Easter but a great deal to live for. Picking up his helmet, he displayed a snapshot of his baby son glued to the inside.
He also said he was keeping a war diary that he would eventually take home to California. One entry was addressed to his wife, in Spanish and dated April 6 -- two day after the suicide squad member had written to his friend in Arabic, urging him to become a fellow martyr in the "beautiful" war against Shiites and Americans.
"Hello my dear, how is my precious boy?" the Marine's letter began. "We are in the middle of the most dangerous operation in the world. Thousands of Marines are united in this battle to eliminate terrorists from this city. Last night we got in a fierce firefight and I could see the explosions and rockets going up in the sky. Tonight I expect an even more dangerous mission, and I hope I can write you again tomorrow and tell you how it went."

Ambushed while heading home, Blackfoot Company delivers hard counterpunch
By Christian Lowe
Times staff writer
Soldiers from Blackfoot Company, 1st/501st Parachute Infantry Regiment, responded to an ambush in Southeastern Afghanistan. It was the second enemy contact the unit has faced in a 24-hour period. No coalition forces were wounded in the action. -- Steve Elfers / Military Times
KHOST, Afghanistan -- It had been a good week patrolling the restive border region near Khost, near the border with Pakistan. This small band of soldiers had inspected houses for contraband, sipped tea with village elders and waged a firefight after they were ambushed by terrorist forces the day before.
It was time to join their fellow troops with the 1st Battalion, 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment at their forward base at Camp Salerno. Time to get some rest, refit their equipment and take a much-needed shower. They were done; it was all down hill from here.
No such luck.
the convoy of more than a dozen Humvees had reached the mouth of the canyon leading down from their mountaintop position on this Good Friday afternoon when suddenly bullets and rocket-propelled grenades sizzled through the air around them.
Terrorists dug into hilltop positions to the west were trying to kill the soldiers with 3rd Platoon, Blackfoot Company
Soldiers with .50 caliber machineguns wheeled and ripped off some return fire as other troopers scrambled from their vehicles for higher ground. Deadly puffs of smoke rose from the craggy ridges as the Blackfoot soldiers pumped grenades from M203 and Mark19 guns at their attackers.
The convoy was badly exposed, its vehicles strung out for nearly 100 yards on open ground with mountains on either side. It could have been a turkey shoot.
But the Blackfoot troops put up a fierce resistance, setting up a mortar position within minutes and lobbing shells into the enemy's position.
"Birds inbound," one of the soldiers yelled over the deadly, rapid-fire "boom" of the heavy machineguns.
Then two A-10 Thunderbolt attack jets streaked overhead, rapidly followed by a pair of Marine AH-1W Super Cobra gunships. The aircraft swung immediately into the fray, scanning the mountain ridges with wide sweeping orbits looking for the perpetrators of the ambush.
"All I can say is God bless air support," said Spc. Bryan Hanks, of Spokane, Wash., as Cobras chopped low overhead.
The helicopters reported two suspicious caves and scanned them with forward-looking infrared scopes for any sign that the attackers might be hiding inside. But without a positive I.D., the Cobras did not fire. As the sun began to drop over the horizon, the company commander, Capt. Jonathan Chung, ordered his men to mount up and head out for the base. No casualties, no damaged equipment. The enemy had either been killed or, as most suspected, had melted back into the rocky Afghan hills.
"That's cheap shooting," said
Sgt. Cole Roupe, Alpha team leader with 3rd Squad. His second battle in 24 hours, the Orifino, Idaho native was clearly spoiling for more fight.
It was unclear who might have attacked the platoon this time. Just two days before, Blackfoot Company's 1st Platoon had searched a compound nearby and detained two men who held multiple passports, a horde of ammunition and guns and a makeshift radio antenna that the soldiers believed was meant for covert communications.
Maybe today's ambush was revenge for the April 7 raid, or maybe it was a sign of a larger push by al Qaida and its allies to undermine America's occupation here. Whatever the case, that's just how commanders want it; they've been trying for weeks to draw the enemy out, and now it looks like they're finally beginning to pop their heads above the ramparts.
"This is the effect we've been trying to achieve for the past four-to-five weeks," said one battalion leader.
"We had to make ourselves look weak to get them to come down on us."

Town to build barrier to avert pollution from base
Associated Press
ROY, Utah -- Environmental officials plan to build a barrier to speed cleanup of a mile-long groundwater contamination through the southern part of this city.
The effort is intended to remove a contaminant called trichloroethylene, caused by nearby Hill Air Force Base. The Roy plume is one of 12 caused by improper disposal of degreaser and jet fuel at Hill.
The proposed reactive barrier is a key component of the second phase of a cleanup process that could take up to 30 years to complete.
It would include a 650-foot-long trench holding a sand and iron mixture. TCE found in water passing through the barrier would be broken down into harmless components, said Mark Loucks, an environmental engineer.
TCE has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory rats, but hasn't been linked to cancer in humans. It's currently classified as a probable carcinogen.
Traces of the chemical have been detected in 25 of 210 tested homes in the plume area.

Posted by maximpost at 1:20 AM EDT
Updated: Monday, 12 April 2004 1:46 AM EDT
Friday, 9 April 2004


Cheney to promote nuke reactors to China


Vice President Dick Cheney, center, shakes hands with Anchorage, Alaska mayor Mark Begich at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska, Friday, April 9, 2004. Cheney is en route to Asia. (AP Photo/Michael Dinneen)
WASHINGTON -- On a trip to China next week to talk about high-stakes issues like terrorism and North Korea, Vice President Dick Cheney will have another task - making a pitch for Westinghouse's U.S. nuclear power technology.
At stake could be billions of dollars in business in coming years and thousands of American jobs. The initial installment of four reactors, costing $1.5 billion apiece, would also help narrow the huge U.S. trade deficit with China.
China's latest economic plan anticipates more than doubling its electricity output by 2020 and the Chinese government, facing enormous air pollution problems, is looking to shift some of that away from coal-burning plants. Its plan calls for building as many as 32 large 1,000-megawatt reactors over the next 16 years.
No one has ordered a new nuclear power reactor in the United States in three decades and the next one, if it comes, is still years away. So, China is being viewed by the U.S. industry as a potential bonanza.
Cheney's three-day visit to Beijing and Shanghai next week is part of a weeklong trip to Asia that will also include a stop in Tokyo. He departed Washington on Friday.
A senior administration official, briefing reporters about the trip, said Cheney will not "pitch individual commercial transactions." But he intends to make clear "we support the efforts of our American companies" and general access to China's markets, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Some critics are concerned about such technology transfers.
"This pitch could not be more poorly timed," Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, told a hearing of the House International Relations Committee recently.
Citing recent Chinese plans to help Pakistan build two large reactors that are capable of producing plutonium, he said it is not the time for China to be rewarded with new reactor technology. U.S. officials said the Chinese have given adequate assurances that such sales will not pose a proliferation risk.
Bid solicitations for four new reactors are expected to be issued by the Chinese within months.
The leading competitors are U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co. and a French rival, Areva, which is peddling its next-generation reactor built by its Framatome subsidiary.
Westinghouse is putting its hopes on its 1,100 megawatt AP1000 reactor, an advanced design that is still waiting approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission before it can be built in the United States. Westinghouse, owned by the British nuclear firm BNFL, is the only U.S.-based manufacturer of a pressurized water reactor, the type of design China has said it wants to pursue.
"Clearly the China market is very important to the industry and a supplier like Westinghouse," said Vaughn Gilbert, a spokesman for the Pittsburgh-based reactor vendor. "The Chinese market is one that we're pursuing."
Each of the AP1000 reactors are expected to cost about $1.5 billion. "We would assume there would be more than one order," Gilbert said, since China has indicated it wants a standardized design across its reactor program. A successful bid could mean 5,000 American jobs, Gilbert said in an interview.
For the nuclear industry, the potential windfall goes beyond building the power plants.
"The opportunity is not just in selling the Chinese a number of reactors, but engaging them for a longer term in a strategic partnership," says Ron Simard, who deals with future plant development at the Nuclear Energy Institute, an industry trade group. That could mean future construction contracts as well as plant service business.
The reactor business has been nonexistent in the United States since the 1970s. No American utility has ordered a new reactor since the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident.
So, vendors like Westinghouse are relying on business elsewhere, especially Asia.
China currently has nine operating reactors, including French, Canadian, Russian, and Japanese designs as well as their own model, producing 6,450 megawatts of power, or about 1.4 percent total capacity. Chinese officials have estimated that by 2020 the country will need an additional 32,000 megawatts from its nuclear industry, or about 32 additional reactors.
Even with the surge in reactor construction, nuclear power will only account for 8 percent of China's future electricity needs. Chinese officials said at an energy conference in Washington last year their country must more than double its coal-fired generation and build more dams, erect windmills and tap natural gas to meet future electricity demands.
Cheney Reaching Out to Asia
Iraq, N. Korea's Nuclear Crisis Top Likely Agenda
By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 9, 2004; Page A12

Vice President Cheney departs today on only his third foreign trip since taking office, a week-long tour of Japan, China and South Korea designed to cement ties and press for progress in the North Korea nuclear crisis. But the sudden flare-up of violence in Iraq -- including the seizure of Japanese and South Korean nationals -- could dominate Cheney's talks with key leaders.
A senior administration official, briefing reporters in advance of the trip, said the kidnappings will be "very much on their minds" in Tokyo and Seoul and thus will be a likely topic for discussion. Japan and South Korea each have more than 500 military personnel in Iraq assisting reconstruction, and the possible deployment of 3,000 South Korean troops has become an issue in next Thursday's parliamentary elections.
Seven South Korean missionaries were briefly kidnapped yesterday and later freed unharmed. But an Iraqi group said yesterday that it will burn alive three Japanese hostages -- two aid workers and a journalist -- unless Tokyo withdraws its troops from Iraq within three days. The deadline would be during Cheney's time in Tokyo, the first stop on his tour.
Cheney, who will travel only with his own foreign policy advisers rather than State Department officials or National Security Council staffers, will tell the Asian allies that the Bush administration believes "it is very important to stay on course" and that the United States will stay in Iraq "as long as necessary to get the job done," said the senior official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"It's a classic case, I think, of those who are opposed to what we're trying to do in Iraq, trying to change the behavior of governments through terror, intimidation, the threat of violence," he said. "It's important that those of us who are working on this overall effort not allow that to happen."
North Korea's nuclear ambitions had been expected to be at the center of the discussions with all three countries, though the official sought to play down expectations of any breakthrough. "We've got to keep working the problem; it's three yards and a cloud of dust," he said. "There is no touchdown pass here, so to speak."
Another administration official said that Beijing, after a meeting between the Chinese foreign minister and North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, recently informed a U.S. envoy that the onus was on the United States to show more flexibility. But Cheney is expected to emphasize that the administration is determined to insist that North Korea resolve the impasse over its nuclear programs. The administration has insisted that North Korea irreversibly and verifiably dismantle them.
"It will be useful for the Chinese to hear him say plainly, as he does, that when we say no incentives, we mean no incentives," the official said, also speaking on the condition of anonymity.
The White House has not disclosed precise details of Cheney's trip, but Asian news services have reported that Cheney will arrive in Tokyo tomorrow. He will meet with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and the Japanese emperor. Before leaving for China, Cheney will give a speech celebrating 150 years of U.S.-Japan relations.
In China, Cheney will meet Vice Premier Zeng Peiyan, Premier Wen Jiabao, former president Jiang Zemin and President Hu Jintao in Beijing and give a speech at Fudan University in Shanghai. He will then fly to Seoul to meet with Prime Minister Goh Kun, also South Korea's acting president during the country's impeachment trial of Roh Moo Hyun, and address U.S. troops.
The timing of Cheney's trip -- originally scheduled for a year ago but later scrubbed by the White House -- was dictated by the Senate schedule, the senior official said. Cheney, who in his role as president of the Senate can cast the tie-breaking vote, does not like to leave the country when the Senate is in session.
But traveling next week leaves the vice president vulnerable to possible awkward moments. He is to arrive in Seoul on the day parliamentary elections are held. And he may be in China when the dispute over Taiwan's elections are resolved.

? 2004 The Washington Post Company

North Korea says standoff with US at "brink of nuclear war"
North Korea said Friday the standoff over its atomic ambitions was on the brink of nuclear war as US Vice President Dick Cheney headed to the region for talks with key Asian allies.
The Stalinist state's official news agency accused Washington of "driving the military situation on the Korean peninsula to the brink of a nuclear war" with plans for a pre-emptive strike on North Korea.
Cheney is expected in Tokyo on Saturday on the first leg of an Asian tour that also takes him to China and South Korea.
North Korea described six-party talks held in Beijing in February as "fruitless," their harshest assessment so far of the meeting that brought together the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.
"The US demand that the DPRK (North Korea) scrap its nuclear programme first is the main obstacle in the way of solving the nuclear issue between the DPRK and the US," the Korean Central News Agency said in a commentary.
"It is a well-known fact that the second round of the six-way talks held in Beijing last February proved fruitless due to the US demand that the DPRK dismantle its nuclear program first."
Washington is demanding the complete, verifiable, and irreversible dismantling of North Korea's nuclear prorgammes, both plutonium and enriched uranium schemes, before it will offer concessions to the impoverished state.
Pyongyang denies having a uranium programme and has said it will freeze its plutonium weapons programme in return for simultaneous rewards from Washington.
A new round of six-party talks is expected before the end of June while working parties are supposed to be set up to resolve address contentious issues.
South Korea's foreign ministry said all participating countries were ready for working level talks apart from North korea, which has yet to give the go ahead.
In the commentary the North Korean news agency said Pyongyang had no choice but to boost its nuclear weapons drive in the face of US intransigence and its "moves to put the strategy of pre-emptive nuclear attack into practice."
Cheney's trip to Asia has been overshadowed by the deteriorating security situation in Iraq where insurgents are threatening to kill three Japanese hostages unless Tokyo pulls out troops from the war-torn region.
Seven South Koreans were released earlier Friday after also falling into the hands of insurgents.


Muslim charity asks U.S. for frozen funds
WASHINGTON -- A Muslim charity is seeking permission to have some of its money, which was frozen by the government, released for legitimate aid purposes.
The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development filed a request Friday to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control to unfreeze $50,000 to be sent to the Palestine Children's Relief Fund, which seeks to provide free medical care for Palestinian children in the Middle East.
The Bush administration in 2001 accused Holy Land, a Texas-based group, of financing the militant Islamic group Hamas and ordered U.S. banks to freeze its assets. Holy Land says it has never donated money or provided services to Hamas, a group the government says is a foreign terrorist organization.
The Treasury Department had no immediate comment on Holy Land's request. Last year, a Treasury official said the general notion of taking frozen charitable assets and releasing them for legitimate aid purposes was a complex matter worth exploring.
Saudis dismiss U.S. oil diversification efforts

Friday, April 9, 2004
Saudi Arabia appears unimpressed with U.S. efforts to diversify its energy suppliers.
Saudi Oil Minister Ali Al Nueimi predicted that alternatives to Persian Gulf crude oil would diminish over the next decade, Middle East Newsline reported. Al Nueimi said there were no proven oil or natural gas reserves that could compete with those in the Gulf region -- including those in Africa, the North Sea, Caspian Sea or Russia.
"And so eventually it's going to come down, in the next 10 years or so, to the [Persian] Gulf area," Al Nuemi said in an interview with the Oil & Gas Journal. "I know people today are clamoring for diversification of sources of supply and stability in the gulf area. Believe me, in the final analysis, the world will be better off to depend on the Gulf. That's where God has put those reserves."
The Saudi minister dismissed claims by U.S. experts that Saudi oil reserves were depleting. He said the kingdom has proven reserves of 260.4 billion barrels of which half has been developed.
Copyright ? 2004 East West Services, Inc.


Pentagon: Tanker plan needs major changes


WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon should not move forward on a $23.5 billion plan to acquire 100 midair refueling tankers from Boeing Co. until significant changes are made to the deal, the Pentagon's inspector general said Friday.
In a highly critical report, Inspector General Joseph Schmitz said procedural and financial problems with the deal could cause the government to spend up to $4.5 billion more than necessary.
Once the changes are made, however, there is no compelling reason not to complete the deal, the report said.
The long-anticipated report said the Air Force's decision to acquire the tankers as a commercial item put the Pentagon at "high risk for paying excessive prices and profits and precludes good fiduciary responsibility" for Defense Department funds.
It also said senior Air Force officials failed to comply with military contracting laws; accepted insufficient or inaccurate Boeing data during negotiations; and wrongly waived any right to audit the program once it gets started.
The Air Force, in a response included in the report, said it followed procedures outlined by Congress "and reviewed and improved within the (Defense) Department using approved acquisition processes."
The Air Force and Boeing also disputed the report's claim that the Air Force "cannot ensure to the war fighter" that the tankers will meet the military's operational requirements.
In a detailed statement, Boeing said it met 26 key performance standards set out in a November 2001 Air Force document and modified the following March. The company created "a totally compliant design" that meets all Air Force requirements, as well as standards set by senior Pentagon officials, Boeing said.
The Air Force said in its response that the new KC-767s "will be the world's newest and most advanced tanker" and are "critical to the defense of our country."
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., a leading supporter of the deal, said the report "confirmed what I have been saying for nearly three years: We need these airplanes, and there is no reason to stop the tanker lease from moving forward."
The planes will be made at Boeing's Everett, Wash., plant, and modified for military use in Wichita, Kan. In the unusual deal, the Defense Department would lease 20 767 tankers and buy another 80 planes.
"The bottom line is that the IG found no reason not to proceed with the tanker deal - and that's good," said Jim Albaugh, president and CEO of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.
Lt. Col. Jennifer Cassidy, an Air Force spokeswoman, said the report demonstrates "fundamental differences in interpretation" between the audit team's experts and Air Force acquisition and legal experts.
"Although this was an admittedly complex and novel proposal to lease commercial aircraft modified to serve as tanker aircraft, the audit team found no compelling reason to not proceed with the leasing arrangement," Cassidy said.
The Air Force believes that language enacted by Congress in late 2001 supports the lease program, and that its terms provide sufficient protection for taxpayers, Cassidy said.
The inspector general has been looking into the deal since last year, after questions arose about ethical issues surrounding the way Boeing pursued the multibillion-dollar contract.
A grand jury in Virginia is investigating potentially illegal actions by Darleen Druyun, a top Air Force official involved in the contract talks who was later hired by Boeing. Druyun was fired last year, after an internal review found improprieties in her hiring.
Boeing also fired its chief financial officer over what it depicted as an attempted cover-up of the hiring procedures. The Pentagon later suspended the contract pending completion of the inspector general's report and separate studies by the Pentagon's general counsel, the Defense Science Board and the Industrial College of the Armed Forces.
The report released Friday outlines three options for the Pentagon, including delaying the entire project until an analysis of alternatives is completed - which could force officials to reopen the project to new bids.
In the best option for Boeing, the report advises the Pentagon to alter more than a dozen aspects of the deal before moving forward with the existing plan.
Another option calls for the Pentagon to make changes and acquire 100 tankers, and then initiate an analysis of alternatives for any remaining planes.
On the Net:
Boeing Co.:
>> 9/11 UH...

Osama brief 'old intel'
senator stated in 2002
Bob Graham said Aug. 6 memo to president had details his panel had known for 3 years

Posted: April 9, 2004
5:00 p.m. Eastern
? 2004
The Presidential Daily Brief at the heart of contentious exchanges in Condoleezza Rice's 9-11 Commission testimony yesterday contained old information about Osama bin Laden's threat to the United States, according to comments made two years ago by Democratic Sen. Bob Graham of Florida.
The May 21, 2002, interview with Human Events magazine backs up Rice's insistence that an Aug. 6, 2001, memo to President Bush did not warn of specific attacks inside the United States, but rather was "historical information based on old reporting."
In the 2002 interview, Graham said the Senate Intelligence Committee, which he chaired, saw all the information given to the president.
The senator said the threats of hijacking in the Aug. 6 memo were based on very old intelligence the committee had seen earlier.
"The particular report that was in the President's Daily Briefing that day was about three years old," Graham said. "It was not a contemporary piece of information."
Yesterday, however, commission member and Democratic lawyer Richard Ben-Veniste pressed Rice on the memo.
Ben-Veniste: Isn't it a fact, Dr. Rice, that the August 6th PDB [Presidential Daily Briefing] warned against possible attacks in this country? And I ask you whether you recall the title of that PDB?
Rice: I believe the title was, Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States.
Now, the . . .
Ben-Veniste: Thank you.
Rice: No, Mr. Ben-Veniste . . .
Ben-Veniste: I will get into the . . .
Rice: I would like to finish my point here.
Ben-Veniste: I didn't know there was a point.
Rice: Given that - you asked me whether or not it warned of attacks.
Ben-Veniste: I asked you what the title was.
Rice: You said, did it not warn of attacks. It did not warn of attacks inside the United States. It was historical information based on old reporting. There was no new threat information. And it did not, in fact, warn of any coming attacks inside the United States.
Presidential Daily Briefs are a compilation of information from law enforcement and intelligence agencies which normally are seen only by top presidential officials.
The commission already has had access to the Aug. 6, 2001, brief, but chairman Thomas Kean said he wants it released to the public "because we feel it's important that the American people get a chance to see it."
National Security Council spokesman, Sean McCormack said yesterday, "We have every intention to declassify it."

Vox Populi
Rice is tasked to fall on her sword.
Compiled by Kevin Arnovitz
Updated Friday, April 9, 2004, at 1:59 PM PT

Subject: "Rice is Tasked to Fall on Her Sword"
Re: "Condi Lousy: Why Rice is a bad national security adviser."
From: BeverlyMann
Date: Fri Apr 9 1229h
One clear inference can be drawn from Condoleezza Rice's testimony before the 9/11 commission this morning: She has been a bad national security adviser--passive, sluggish, and either unable or unwilling to tie the loose strands of the bureaucracy into a sensible vision or policy. In short, she has not done what national security advisers are supposed to do.
Actually, what is clear to me now--after watching Rice's testimony and then reading some of the more astonishing quotes from it last evening in various news reports--is that Rice isn't a national security adviser at all. That is, her job--unlike that of all the others, such as Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, John Poindexter, Anthony Lake and Sandy Berger--was, and is, not to give the president national security advice but instead to carry out orders given by those who actually were devising national security policy: Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Feith.
Rice was simply a glorified supervisory bureaucrat. Her job was to take and carry out orders--or, as she repeatedly put it, to be "tasked"--to carry out this or that bureaucratic aspect of the national security policy set by Cheney and Rumsfeld with the input of Wolfowitz and Feith. Rice was almost as much out of the loop as was Richard Clarke; she was present at these "principles' meetings, but only to receive her marching orders.
Rice didn't get Clarke a meeting with the principles because Rice couldn't get Clarke a meeting with the principles. Rice didn't order the FBI director to "shake the trees" of that agency--nor even to notify the field offices of the stunningly clear indications from al Qaeda intercepts about a very, very, very, very big and imminent terrorist attack possibly within this country, or even inquire whether the field offices that were tracking al Qaeda cells within this country had any information that, viewed in light of the intercepted messages, might help pinpoint any such plot within the U.S.--because Rice lacked the authority to do so on her own.
Nor, apparently, did she even have the authority to decide on her own to demand that the FBI director (and later the acting FBI director) do so. Apparently, she lacked the authority even to notify the FBI director of the threats--excuse me, of the non-threats--about some "unbelievable news in coming weeks," about a "big event" that will cause "a very, very, very, very big uproar," about the announcement that "there will be attacks in the near future".
And she didn't have the authority--or maybe the proper word here is clout--to persuade Bush meet not just with the CIA director but also with the FBI director. In that dramatic exchange between her and Ben-Veniste in which Ben-Veniste demanded a yes-or-no answer to his question whether Rice had told Bush "at any time prior to August 6th, of the existence of al-Qaida cells in the United States" although Rice herself had been told of this in early 2001, she answered, finally, that she didn't recall whether or not she had done so.
Rice wasn't tasked to tell the president of the existence of al Qaeda cells in the United States, and so she didn't. Rice was tasked with furthering Cheney's and Rumsfeld's goals of pushing the missile defense system's funding and development and of toppling Saddam Hussein.
The threat posed by Al Qaeda cells in the U.S. didn't further either of these two goals, and in fact hindered the first of them; a big argument against the obscenely expensive and scientifically unperfected missile system was precisely that with the end of the Cold War, the biggest security threat to the U.S. was the potential for terrorists to wreak havoc simply by infiltrating the country. So Rice, untasked to tell the president of the presence of al Qaeda cells within the U.S., didn't tell the president of the presence of al Qaeda cells within the U.S.
Bizarre though it was, her weirdest statement was not the one in which she that the intercepts about "a very, very, very, very big uproar" that will be caused by "unbelievable news in coming weeks" about "attacks in the near future" were "[t]roubling, yes," but because "they don't tell us when; they don't tell us where; they don't tell us who; and they don't tell us how" they were not quite troubling enough for her to task herself to notify the FBI director and the field offices about them.
No, of all the many bizarre comments Rice made yesterday, the loopiest, in my opinion-- and anyway the most starkly factually inaccurate--was her incessant claim that because of "structural" and legal prohibitions, the CIA director couldn't tell the FBI director that there were certain known al Qaeda operatives who had entered the country.
Is she claiming that at the "battle stations" shake-the-trees meetings that Clarke and others say occurred in late 1999 among the various national security "principles" including the CIA director and the FBI director didn't really occur because of structural problems? Or that those meetings occurred but that the CIA director didn't tell the FBI director any valuable information he had because it would have been illegal to do so? Or that the CIA director did pass along to the FBI director the information he had, and that his doing so violated the law?
Good heavens. What law, pray tell, is she talking about? What law would have prevented George Tenet from giving to the FBI director the pertinent information he had--about the contents of the al Qaeda intercepts and about the few al Qaeda operatives the CIA knew already had entered the country?
"Every day now in the Oval Office in the morning," Rice said in answer to a question about whether the structural problems that hampered communications between the CIA and the FBI had been resolved, "the FBI director and the CIA director sit with the president, sharing information in ways that they would have been prohibited to share that information before." Indeed. And that's precisely what Clarke said transpired during the Clinton administration in the weeks before the millennium, in order to try to thwart any planned terrorist attacks then. And it's exactly what Clarke says he tried to communicate with Bush, via Rice, that he, Bush should do.
Perhaps the most revealing answer Rice gave yesterday was in answer to a question inquiring about the steps, if any, Bush took in response to the information in the Aug. 6 security briefing that said [according to Bob Kerrey and Ben-Veniste] "that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking." Rice said Bush met every day with the CIA director.
Not with the CIA director and the FBI director. Just with the CIA director. The structural problem that kept the FBI director and the CIA director from communicating the most critical information to each other during the months preceding 9/11 was, in other words, a structural problem of the Bush administration's own making.
That structural problem was, in turn, created by a truly profound one, a thoroughly stunning one--even to me. It's a structural problem revealed most starkly by Bush's failure, upon being told on Aug 6, 2001 that "that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking" especially in light of George Tenet's warnings to him throughout that summer that al Qaeda intercepts were speaking of a very, very, very big event.
The structural problem is simply this: Bush was the president in name only, a genuine figurehead, with no intellectual decisionmaking capability whatsoever, and that Cheney was the actual president at least with respect to national security matters. The information in the Aug. 6 "PDB"--the presidential daily briefing--wasn't given to the actual president. Nor were Tenet's daily oral and written reports. They were given only to the figurehead president, and not transmitted to the real one, who already had determined the administration's national security agenda and therefore wasn't interested in them.
Thus Rice's constant references to policy rather than to responding to--acting in light of--information being received. Rice wasn't tasked to attempt to learn of the nature and locale of the impending very, very, very big event al Qaeda was planning because the policy regarding invading Afghanistan, and what they thought was the requisite of getting Pakistan on board, wasn't yet in place.
Among the more annoying euphemisms in currently in vogue among the punditry is the one they use to acknowledge that Bush is very seriously lacking in intellectual capacity: they say he is "incurious". But stupid as I recognize him to be, even I wouldn't have suspected that, handed information that the FBI indicates patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking, and handed information that al Qaeda was planning an attack it thought would cause a huge uproar, George W. Bush would be so incurious as to not phone the FBI director and ask what exactly were those patterns of suspicious activity in the United States consistent with preparations for hijacking.
But now, thanks to Rice's testimony yesterday, I and all the world know that that wasn't tasked to Bush. It was tasked to Cheney--or rather it would have been, had Cheney rather than Bush been the one to receive the Aug. 6 PDB, and had he been the one to meet daily with Tenet.
I had thought throughout the Clarke controversy, until yesterday, that the real political damage to Bush from would come from the recognition by a majority of the public, finally, that it makes us less rather than more safe--both physically and economically--to have a strong-'n-decisive leader whose strength-'n-decisive leadership amounts to determining policy based purely on ideology and patronage rather than on the actual needs of the county and on facts, and who forces through these polices irrespective of circumstances and evidence about their actual effects on the country.
But I think now that that, even more than that, the political damage Bush will suffer will come from the ultimate epiphany that the most damning caricature of this president is true: He's jaw-droppingly stupid, and so Dick Cheney is the actual president. Cheney isn't obsessively secretive for nothing.
Troubling, yes. Very.
Condi Rice was asked to fall on her sword in order to try to keep this secret from escaping. She obliged and destroyed herself, but didn't succeed in her mission.

>> SLATE 2...

Decoding Rice's self-serving testimony.
By William Saletan
Updated Thursday, April 8, 2004, at 4:16 PM PT

Condi: in her own words

Four years ago, when the Justice Department deposed Al Gore in the Clinton fund-raising scandal, I poked fun at Gore's self-serving, hypocritical redefinitions of everyday words. Today, National Security Adviser Condi Rice resorted to similar tactics in her testimony before the 9/11 commission. Here's a glossary of her terms.

Gathering threats: Unclear perils that previous administrations irresponsibly failed to confront quickly. Example: For more than 20 years, the terrorist threat gathered, and America's response across several administrations of both parties was insufficient. Historically, democratic societies have been slow to react to gathering threats, tending instead to wait to confront threats until they are too dangerous to ignore or until it is too late.

Vague threats: Unclear perils that the Bush administration understandably failed to confront quickly. Example: The threat reporting that we received in the spring and summer of 2001 was not specific as to time, nor place, nor manner of attack. ... The threat reporting was frustratingly vague.

Up-to-date intelligence: The precise, useful information the administration responsibly demanded and got. Example: President Bush revived the practice of meeting with the director of Central Intelligence almost every day. ... At these meetings, the president received up-to-date intelligence. ... From Jan. 20 through Sept. 10, the president received at these daily meetings more than 40 briefing items on al-Qaida.

Specific threat information: The precise, useful information the administration didn't get, thereby absolving it of responsibility. Example: On Aug. 6, 2001, the president's intelligence briefing ... referred to uncorroborated reporting, from 1998, that a terrorist might attempt to hijack a U.S. aircraft in an attempt to blackmail the government into releasing U.S.-held terrorists. ... This briefing item was not prompted by any specific threat information.

Specific warnings: The precise, useful alerts the administration issued based on the information it got. Example: I asked Dick [Clarke] to make sure that domestic agencies were aware of the heightened threat period and were taking appropriate steps to respond. ... The FAA issued at least five civil aviation security information circulars to all U.S. airlines and airport security personnel, including specific warnings about the possibility of hijacking.

Briefing: Addition to a warning, without which the warning is insufficient. Example: To the best of my knowledge, Mr. Chairman, this kind of analysis about the use of airplanes as weapons actually was never briefed to us.

Recommendation: Addition to a briefing, without which the briefing is insufficient. Example: In the memorandum that Dick Clarke sent me on Jan. 25, he mentions sleeper cells. There is no mention or recommendation of anything that needs to be done about them.

Historical: Communications that mentioned the past and were therefore irrelevant to the future. Example: The Aug. 6 PDB [president's daily briefing] ...was not a particular threat report. And there was historical information in there about various aspects of al-Qaida's operations. ... This was not a warning. This was a historic memo.

Analytical: Documents given to the administration that were general and therefore useless. Example: On the Aug. 6 memorandum to the president, this was not threat reporting about what was about to happen. This was an analytic piece. ... Threat reporting is, "We believe that something is going to happen here and at this time, under these circumstances." This was not threat reporting. ... The PDB does not say the United States is going to be attacked. It says Bin Laden would like to attack the United States."

Broad: Documents issued by the administration that were general and therefore effective. Example: Our counterterrorism strategy was a part of a broader package of strategies that addressed the complexities of the region.

Structural: Factors that the administration couldn't influence because they were systematic. Example: The absence of light, so to speak, on what was going on inside the country, the inability to connect the dots, was really structural.

Chance: Factors that the administration couldn't influence because they were non-systematic. Example (answering charges that the administration might have disrupted the 9/11 plot by holding regular Cabinet "principals" meetings on terrorism): You cannot depend on the chance that some principal might find out something in order to prevent an attack. That's why the structural changes that are being talked about here are so important. Synonym: Lucky. Example: I do not believe that it is a good analysis to go back and assume that somehow maybe we would have gotten lucky by "shaking the trees." ... We had a structural problem.

Bureaucratic impediments: Factors that the administration couldn't influence because they involved the administration. Example: We did have a systemic problem, a structural problem. ... It was there because there were legal impediments, as well as bureaucratic impediments.

Set of ideas: Richard Clarke's proposals for fighting al-Qaida, prior to being adopted by Bush. Antonym: Plan. Example: We were not presented with a plan. ... What we were presented on Jan. 25 was a set of ideas.

Strategy: Clarke's proposals for fighting al-Qaida, as adopted by Bush. Example: We decided to take a different track. We decided to put together a strategic approach to this that would get the regional powers. ... But by no means did [Clarke] ask me to act on a plan. He gave us a series of ideas.

Swatting flies: Bill Clinton's weak, partial counterterrorist measures. Example: [Bush] made clear to us that he did not want to respond to al-Qaida one attack at a time. He told me he was tired of swatting flies. ... He felt that what the agency was doing was going after individual terrorists here and there, and that's what he meant by swatting flies.

Disrupting: Bush's strong, partial counterterrorist measures. Example: [Bush] directed the director of Central Intelligence to prepare an aggressive program of covert activities to disrupt al-Qaida.

Law enforcement: Clinton's weak policy of targeting individual terrorists. Example: That's actually where we've had the biggest change. The president doesn't think of this as law enforcement. He thinks of this as war.

Hunting down terrorists one by one: Bush's strong policy of targeting individual terrorists. Example: Under his leadership, the United States and our allies are disrupting terrorist operations, cutting off their funding and hunting down terrorists one by one.

Diplomacy: Clinton's impotent pleas to foreign governments. Example: We were continuing the diplomatic efforts. But we did want to take the time to get in place a policy that was more strategic toward al-Qaida, more robust.

Strong messages: Bush's potent pleas to foreign governments. Example: Within a month of taking office, President Bush sent a strong private message to President Musharraf, urging him to use his influence with the Taliban to bring Bin Laden to justice and to close down al-Qaida training camps.

Deferral: Clinton's irresponsible postponement of counterterrorism ideas. Example: We also made decisions on a number of specific anti-al-Qaida initiatives that had been proposed by Dick Clarke to me in an early memorandum after we had taken office. Many of these ideas had been deferred by the last administration.

Taking time: Bush's prudent postponement of counterterrorism ideas. Example: We did want to take the time to get in place a policy that was more strategic toward al-Qaida, more robust. It takes some time to think about how to reorient your policy toward Pakistan. It takes some time to think about how to have a more effective policy toward Afghanistan.

William Saletan is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion War.


Seattle an al-Qaida target? Local security officials left out of loop

National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice told the nation yesterday -- and apparently for the first time law enforcement in Seattle -- that the CIA warned President Bush that al-Qaida terrorists might try to hijack an airplane and free would-be terrorist bomber Ahmed Ressam.
Ressam, who has become an important government witness in terrorism cases, has spent most of the time since his December 1999 arrest in the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac.
In testimony before the Sept. 11 commission, Rice added that checks had been made on whether a courthouse involving the Ressam case in 2001 was under surveillance and that "the FBI had full field investigations under way."
But the special agent in charge of the FBI's Seattle office at the time said yesterday that he never heard of any such investigations. And retired agent Charles Mandigo added that no one ever informed him of threats to the prison or the courthouse.
Mandigo is not alone:
The chief district judge who presided over Ressam's case said that his courthouse said no one told him his courthouse was under threat.
A deputy U.S. marshal charged with courthouse security said no one informed the Marshal's Service about the danger.
An assistant U.S. attorney prosecuting Ressam said he never heard a thing about it.
A federal anti-terrorism agent said if there was an investigation into threats against the courthouse and the prison, no one told the local joint terrorism task force.
But a White House spokesman defended Rice's testimony as accurate.
"These statements represent what was in the PDB (president's daily brief from the CIA) -- the information presented to the president," said spokesman Frederick Jones.
Asked why information about the threats appears not to have been passed on to federal and local law enforcement in Seattle, Jones said:
"I cannot take at prima facie value that you've contacted the correct FBI agents. I don't know what the ground truth is."
And Jones added that "whether the information (in the CIA briefing) is correct or not" is a matter for the intelligence agencies to address.
Jones urged that publication of a story wait until the White House declassifies the Aug. 6, 2001, briefing. He said it is highly likely that it will be made public today.
Rice's comments came in response to aggressive questioning from Sept. 11 Commissioner Richard Ben-Veniste about the content of the intelligence briefing.
Rice responded by saying that:
"The fact is that this August 6th PDB was in response to the president's questions about whether or not something might happen or something might be planned by al-Qaida inside the United States. He asked because all of the threat reporting or the threat reporting that was actionable was about the threats abroad, not about the United States.
"This particular PDB had a long section on what bin Laden had wanted to do -- speculative, much of it -- in '97, '98; that he had, in fact, liked the results of the 1993 bombing.
"It had a number of discussions of -- it had a discussion of whether or not they might use hijacking to try and free a prisoner who was being held in the United States -- Ressam. It reported that the FBI had full field investigations under way.
"And we checked on the issue of whether or not there was something going on with surveillance of buildings, and we were told, I believe, that the issue was the courthouse in which this might take place."
Rice's mention of the 1993 bombing apparently refers to the attack in February of that year on the World Trade Center in New York.
Customs agents arrested Ressam in December 1999 after he arrived in Port Angeles on a ferry from Victoria, B.C. He had explosives in his trunk and had plans to use them at Los Angeles International Airport.
He is awaiting sentencing after striking a deal with the government to testify in other terrorism cases.
Proceedings in the Ressam case took place in two federal courthouses, Seattle and Los Angeles. The case began in Seattle before Chief District Judge John Coughenour, who moved the trial to Los Angeles because of pretrial publicity. Coughenour presided over the case in both cities. Asked yesterday whether he was told about a terrorist surveillance on the courthouse, he said: "No sir. No, I never heard anything about it." Coughenour has a top-secret security clearance.
The U.S. Marshals Service, an agency of the Department of Justice, is responsible for courthouse security. One deputy marshal present during the Ressam proceedings said yesterday: "I never heard it. If I knew they were doing surveillance of our building, we would have done countersurveillance."
A chief deputy marshal at the Los Angeles federal courthouse yesterday refused to comment.
But former Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Gonzalez, a member of the team who prosecuted Ressam, said yesterday that he was not told of any FBI investigations or threats to the courthouse. "I knew nothing of it," said Gonzalez, now a state court judge.
And a member of Ressam's defense team, federal public defender Tom Hillier, said yesterday that no one informed him of such a threat. Hillier said yesterday that security arrangements surrounding Ressam did not hurt the defense team's ability to do its job.
Hillier said Ressam has spent most of his time since he was arrested at the federal detention center in SeaTac.
P-I reporter Paul Shukovsky can be reached at 206-448-8072 or

Side Show
Bush pursued continuity; who knows what the 9/11 Commission is pursuing.
Give Condoleezza Rice credit for candor. Testifying before the 9/11 Commission today, President Bush's national-security adviser acknowledged that the United States "simply was not on a war footing" at the time the terrorist atrocities of 9/11 were committed.
When should the U.S. government have taken the threat of radical, ideological Islamism seriously? Perhaps as far back as 1979, when our embassy in Tehran was seized by Iranian theocrats; perhaps as far back as 1983 when Hezbollah suicide terrorists slaughtered hundreds of U.S. Marines and diplomats in Beirut; certainly as far back as the attacks over Lockerbie, at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, and the bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa and the USS Cole.
But that's not what happened. Instead, one American administration after another, Democratic and Republican alike, made gestures, sent signals, and mobilized lawyers armed with subpoenas. The terrorists and their masters could only have been amused. Yes, it would have been brilliant had President Bush entered the Oval Office, looked at this pattern and quickly concluded: "From this moment on, defeating terrorism and the ideologies driving terrorism should be seen as America's top priority. I want these networks rolled up ASAP. Use whatever means necessary."
Actually, President Bush came close to saying that. He asked for a policy review and a comprehensive strategy. But even had Dr. Rice -- or counterterrorism "czar" Richard Clarke -- come up with such a plan within 24 hours, President Bush could not have implemented it during his first eight months in office. The U.S. government simply did not have the means at its disposal. Consider:
The FBI's mission and culture stressed solving crimes, not preventing them.
The intelligence community didn't have good enough intelligence -- which led, for example, to Clinton bombing a Sudanese aspirin factory a few years earlier, thinking it was a WMD factory.
The Pentagon didn't know much about terrorists -- the Defense Department's manual on fighting "small wars" was written in 1940.
The Foreign Service hadn't prepared the ground -- Pakistan was still cozy with the Taliban and would not have permitted the U.S. to mount acts of war from their territory. Key foreign-service officers were still supporting what they called "moderate" Taliban elements.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service was too hopeless a muddle to distinguish between tourists eager to see the Statue of Liberty and terrorists eager to mass murder infidels.
And Congress -- Democrats, for sure, but also such Republican mandarins as Senators Chuck Hagel and Richard Lugar -- would have been apoplectic had President Bush attempted to take any of the measures necessary to root out the long-established weeds of terrorism. Imagine the uproar had Bush begun assassinating terrorist leaders around the world or preemptively invaded Afghanistan.
Instead, of course, as Condoleezza Rice made clear today, the new Bush administration did the reasonable thing, the responsible thing, the bipartisan thing: It maintained continuity. It sailed the course set by President Clinton, and it even used key members of the Clinton crew.
George Tenet was retained as director of Central Intelligence. Dick Clarke kept his job as White House terrorism adviser. Others who might have expected to receive pink slips were instead given a pat on the back and told to keep up the good work. A Democrat -- Norman Mineta -- was named secretary of transportation, the Cabinet position most responsible for airline safety.
President Roosevelt waited until after World War II to put in place a commission to investigate what mistakes led to Pearl Harbor. That was a wise move, but then Roosevelt did not face the kind of hyper-partisanship that plagues America these days. (Washington Post columnist David Broder recently pointed out that when FDR ran for reelection during World War II, he emphasized his record as a war leader. Broder might have added that FDR's Republican opponent, Thomas Dewey, declined to criticize the president in regard to foreign policy during a time of war. It's almost hard to believe that there was a time when Americans knew the difference between their foreign enemies and their political adversaries.)
Increasingly, it seems the 9/11 Commission is losing its way. Its mission is to learn lessons -- not to lay blame. Its mission is to come up with recommendations for a more effective antiterrorism strategy.
Its mission is not to stage a reality-TV show, not to hold an inquisition, not to promote books (and, no doubt, movie deals), not to scold Rice as though she were a student who claimed her dog had eaten her homework.
But that's what the public is seeing out here in TV-land.
-- Clifford D. May, a former New York Times foreign correspondent, is president of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a policy institute focusing on terrorism.
9/11 documents show hijacking warnings


Commission member Richard Ben-Veniste questions National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice during testimoney to the independent commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks Thursday, April 8, 2004, in Washington Commission chairman Thomas Kean watches at left. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
WASHINGTON -- U.S. government agencies issued repeated warnings in the summer of 2001 about potential terrorist plots against the United States masterminded by Osama bin Laden, including a possible plan to hijack commercial aircraft, documents show.
While there were no specific targets mentioned in the United States, there was intelligence indicating al-Qaida might attempt to crash a plane into the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. And other reports said Islamic extremists might try to hijack a plane to gain release of comrades.
The escalating seriousness was reflected in a series of warnings issued by the State Department, Federal Aviation Administration, Defense Department and others detailing a heightened risk of terror attacks targeting Americans.
Whether the Bush administration had enough information to take more aggressive action is at the heart of the dispute over the contents of an Aug. 6, 2001, intelligence briefing the White House was working to declassify at the urging of the commission investigating the Sept. 11 attacks. White House officials said the document would not come out Friday and probably would not be ready for release until early next week.
Several Democrats on the commission claim the memo, called a presidential daily brief, or PDB, included current intelligence indicating a high threat of hijackings. It was titled "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States."
"Something was going to happen very soon and be potentially catastrophic," said one of the Democrats, former Indiana Rep. Timothy Roemer. "I don't understand, given the big threat, why the big principals don't get together."
National security adviser Condoleezza Rice repeatedly told the panel Thursday that the document was a history of al-Qaida threats and contained no new imminent threat information requiring different government action. The possibility of hijackings was being investigated by the FBI and the Federal Aviation Administration, she said, adding that most of the summer 2001 threats concerned U.S. interests abroad.
"The country had taken the steps that it could given that there was no threat reporting about what might happen within the United States," Rice said.
Congress already has conducted an investigation into the attacks and its final report includes a detailed timeline of the increasing threats U.S. officials picked up during the summer of 2001. It also includes some of the material from the PDB.
The memo mentioned intelligence that bin Laden wanted to hijack aircraft to gain release of prisoners in the United States. The PDB also contains FBI information about "patterns of activity consistent with preparations for hijackings or other attacks," according to congressional investigators.
A key event occurred on June 21, 2001, when a federal grand jury in Alexandria, Va., returned a 46-count indictment charging 13 Saudis and one Lebanese with the 1996 bombing of the Khobar Towers complex in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. service personnel.
Rumors of the coming indictment had been circulating for weeks before that, according to officials familiar with the intelligence, leading to increased worries that terrorists might take some action in connection with the case.
The next day, June 22, the FAA issued a nationwide circular "referring to a possible hijacking plot by Islamic terrorists to secure release of 14 persons incarcerated in the United States" in the Khobar Towers case. In fact, the 14 were still at large, although the circular did not mention that. They remain fugitives to this day.
More terrorism warnings quickly followed, including:
- A worldwide caution issued June 22 by the State Department warning Americans abroad of increased risk of terror attacks.

- Four Defense Department alerts between June 22 and July 20 alerting U.S. military personnel that "bin Laden's network was planning a near-term, anti-U.S. terrorist operation."

- A July 2 bulletin from the FBI to federal, state and local law enforcement agencies describing "increased threat reporting" about bin Laden or groups allied with al-Qaida. The bulletin suggested the greatest risk of an attack was overseas "although the possibility could not be discounted" of an attack inside the United States.

- Intelligence received by U.S. agencies in August about the plot to either bomb the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi from an airplane or crash an aircraft into the building. The report cited two unidentified people who met in October 2000 to discuss this plot on instructions from bin Laden.

A senior law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the FBI issued at least two other bulletins in 2001 about the terror threat intelligence but did not include directives for field offices to take specific actions because there was no imminent threat to the homeland.
There had been numerous earlier reports of bin Laden's interest in using aircraft for terror attacks, including a 1998 plot to fly an explosives-laden plane from a foreign country into the World Trade Center and an April 2000 plot to hijack a Boeing 747 and either fly it to Afghanistan or blow up.
But in December 2000, the FBI and FAA issued a classified threat assessment that played down the possibility of a threat to domestic aviation from terror operatives known to be in the United States.
"Terrorist activity within the U.S. has focused primarily on fund-raising, recruiting new members and disseminating propaganda," that report says. "While international terrorists have conducted attacks on U.S. soil, these acts represent anomalies in their traditional targeting which focuses on U.S. interests overseas."
The congressional intelligence inquiry's report suggests that this mind-set, less than a year before the Sept. 11 attacks, may have contributed to an overall U.S. view that there was a low probability of attacks on American soil, particularly using aircraft as weapons.

On the Net:

Joint intelligence report:

9/11 Commission:


Possible local tie to Al Qaeda probed
Alleged operative and Saudi had same apartment
By Farah Stockman, Globe Staff, 4/9/2004

Newsweek reported yesterday that US investigators tracing wire transfers from the Saudi Arabian government found a possible connection to Al Qaeda in Boston.
According to the magazine, a Pakistani graduate of Massachusetts Institute of Technology who is alleged to have been an Al Qaeda operative had the same address as a Saudi national who received $20,000 from the Saudi government in July 2001.
Citing documents it had obtained, the magazine said that a unit at Fleet Bank that traces suspicious wire transfers had tracked $20,000 in transfers from a Saudi Arabian armed forces bank account to the Saudi national, Abdullah Al Reshood, in Boston. Al Reshood listed the same apartment number at the high-rise building at 75 St. Alphonsus Street as Aafia Siddiqui, a Pakistani MIT graduate who was wanted for questioning by the FBI last year and is alleged to be an Al Qaeda operative, Newsweek reported.
The transfer aroused suspicion, the magazine said, because as soon as Al Reshood received the money, he wrote a check for $20,000 to another Saudi named Hatem Al Dhahri, with whom he lived while he was in Boston. Al Dhahri then wired $17,193 to Saudi Arabia 10 days later to Al Reshood's bank account in Saudi Arabia.
An individual who works for the Saudi government in Washington told the Globe yesterday that there was nothing sinister about the wire transfers from the Saudi government, which routinely supports Saudi citizens seeking degrees and medical treatment in the United States. The money was sent by the Saudi government to pay for liver treatment for Al Reshood's wife, who arrived at Brigham and Women's Hospital, arriving on April 24, 2001, and stayed in Boston for about 10 weeks, according to the person, who asked not to be identified. When Al Reshood returned to Saudia Arabia with his wife, he wrote the check to Al Dhahri because he wanted his friend to settle his bills, according to the person. Al Dhahri did, and sent him the balance. The building where Al Reshood and Al Dhahri stayed is near Brigham and Women's Hospital. The fact that Siddiqui, a microbiologist, had also lived in that building in the same apartment was "a coincidence," the person said, asserting "there is no connection."

Calls from the Globe to Fleet Bank and the FBI were not immediately returned.

? Copyright 2004 Globe Newspaper Company.

Tangled Ties
Law-enforcement officials follow the money trail among suspected terrorists straight to the doors of the Saudi Embassy NewsweekApril 7 - Within weeks of the September 11 terror attacks, security officers at the Fleet National Bank in Boston had identified "suspicious" wire transfers from the Saudi Embassy in Washington that eventually led to the discovery of an active Al Qaeda "sleeper cell" that may have been planning follow-up attacks inside the United States, according to documents obtained by NEWSWEEK.


U.S. law-enforcement officials familiar with the matter say there is no evidence that officials at the Saudi Embassy were knowingly financing Al Qaeda activity inside the country. But documents show that while trying to trace a tangled money trail beginning with the Saudi Embassy, investigators soon drew startling connections between a group of Saudi nationals receiving financial support from the embassy and a 34-year-old microbiologist and MIT graduate who officials have since concluded was a U.S. operative for 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.

The microbiologist, Aafia Siddiqui, a mother of three young children, has since fled the country--most likely to her native Pakistan-and is now wanted for questioning by the FBI. But "suspicious-activity reports" (SARS) filed by Fleet Bank with the U.S. Treasury Department, suggest that Siddiqui and her estranged husband, Dr. Mohammed Amjad Khan, an anesthesiologist, may have been active terror plotters inside the country until as late as the summer of 2002.

The reports show that Fleet Bank investigators discovered that one account used by the Boston-area couple showed repeated debit-card purchases from stores that "specialize in high-tech military equipment and apparel," including Black Hawk Industries in Chesapeake, Va., and Brigade Quartermasters in Georgia. (Black Hawk's Web site, advertises grips, mounts and parts for AK-47s and other military-assault rifles as well as highly specialized combat clothing, including vests designed for bomb disposal.)

Fleet accounts associated with the couple also showed "major purchases" from U.S. airlines and hotels in Pittsburgh and North Carolina as well as an $8,000 international wire transfer on Dec. 21, 2001, to Habib Bank Ltd., a big Pakistani financial institution that has long been scrutinized by U.S. intelligence officials monitoring terrorist money flows.

NEWSWEEK first reported, in a June 23, 2003, cover story, that the FBI had identified Siddiqui and Khan as suspected Al Qaeda agents. Internal FBI documents showed that, after his capture in March 2003, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed told U.S. interrogators that Siddiqui was supposed to support "other AQ operatives as they entered the United States." Agents also found evidence that she had rented a post-office box to help another Baltimore-based Al Qaeda contact who had been assigned by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to blow up underground gasoline-storage tanks. Bureau documents also stated that Khan, Siddiqui's husband, had purchased body armor, night-vision goggles and a variety of military manuals that were supposed to be sent to Pakistan.

The newly obtained SARS documents filed by Fleet shed additional light on the federal government's effort to track Siddiqui and Khan's activities--and raise questions about possible links to other Saudis in the United States. As early as October 2001, long before Khalid Shaik Mohammed's capture, FBI and Treasury Department investigators were alerted to the couple's possible terror links in a series of SARS filed by Fleet. At the time, Fleet's Financial Intelligence Unit was trying to trace $70,000 in wire transfers on the same day, July 10, 2001, to two Saudis in the United States. One, for $50,000 from the Saudi Armed Forces Account at the Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C., went to a Saudi student at Clark University in Worcester, Mass. Two others, totaling $20,000 from the same Saudi military account, went to a Saudi national named Abdullah Al Reshood in Boston.

NEWSWEEK has been unable to locate either Saudi. But a spokesman for the Saudi Embassy in Washington said both wire transfers were consistent with the Saudi government's longstanding practice of providing educational and medical assistance to fellow countrymen living in the United States. The spokesman said the embassy has no reason to believe either Saudi has any connection to terrorist activity.

But Fleet security officers were concerned about the transactions from the start. Immediately after receiving the $20,000 wire from the Saudi Embassy in Washington, Al Reshood wrote a $20,000 check to another Saudi, Hatem Al Dhahri, who five days later wired $17,193 back to an account controlled by Al Reshood at the Al Rahji Bank in Saudi Arabia. "There appears to be no commercial reason nor reasonable explanation for the series of transactions," wrote one Fleet security officer in an Oct. 24, 2001, SARS report. Both Saudis lived at the same address, a high-rise apartment building in Boston's Mission Hill neighborhood that was frequented by Arab nationals. If the purpose of the expenditures was to provide medical expenses for either Al Reshood or Al Dhahri and their families in the United States, as the Saudis claimed, the security officials wanted to know why the money was being wired back to Saudi Arabia. Al Dhahri also listed as his address the same apartment number, 2008, as another Fleet Bank customer--Aafia Siddiqui.

It is still not clear what connection, if any, Al Dhahri had with Siddiqui or whether they shared the apartment at the same time. (The Fleet Bank records suggest that Al Dhahri and Siddiqui's accounts were both active and current in the fall of 2001 and do not indicate a change of address had been filed.) A Saudi Embassy spokesman said that the payments to Al Dhahri were to pay for liver treatments for one of his children in the United States. A Saudi Embassy spokesman said that Al Dhahri has been interrogated by the FBI and has denied any knowledge of the microbiologist.

But the common address prompted Fleet auditors to zero in on Siddiqui, resulting in more "links" that "shocked" the security officers, according to a source familiar with the matter. In addition to the expenditures for high-tech military equipment--items that seemed unusual for a microbiologist--the security officers found that Siddiqui was making regular debit-card payments to one Islamic charity, Benevolence International, that was under active investigation by federal agents for raising funds for terrorist causes. (The charity has since been shut down and its founder jailed.) In addition, Siddiqui was found to be active with the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, another Islamic charity that was ostensibly raising funds for Bosnian orphans but which also was under scrutiny by federal investigators.

A spokeswoman for Fleet, which last week was purchased by Bank of America, declined to comment on the bank's role, noting that it is a violation of federal law to even refer to the existence of a SARS. But investigators noted that Fleet Bank SARS stand in stark contrast to the lack of similar reports from Riggs Bank, where the Saudi Embassy kept its accounts and the wire transfers began. Riggs Bank's failure to alert investigators to a large number of unusual cash transactions by the Saudi Embassy and other foreign bank customers has led to a wide-ranging investigation by Treasury Department regulators that is likely to result in substantial civil fines imposed on the bank in the next few weeks, according to sources familiar with the matter. "Anytime, you have suspicious money movements, and it's not reported as needed, it hurts our overall efforts," a senior U.S. counterterrorism official said about Riggs' failure to file the SARS. Riggs recently terminated the Saudi Embassy as a client and, according to a story in today's Wall Street Journal, may be planning to drop its diplomatic business entirely.)

Riggs officials say they've initiated a program to more vigorously monitor financial accounts. And the bank late last year filed more than two-dozen reports involving Saudi Embassy transactions, including large overseas wire transfers and cash deposits made by Saudi Ambassador Prince Bandar bin Sultan; his executive assistant, Ahmed A. Kattan; his chief military aide, Gen. Abdual Rahman Al-Noah, and other embassy officials.

Most of these transactions have no apparent links to terrorism and may simply reflect the Saudis' longstanding habit of mixing government and personal accounts. In one case, Kattan, who carries the rank of ambassador, deposited $6 million in embassy funds into his personal account at Riggs, wired $5.5 million to the agents of a school in Egypt and the remaining $500,000 to his own account in Saudi Arabia. Al-Noah, the military officer, made a total of $1.6 million in cash deposits--most in cash, one of them for $210,000--and then wired the money to pay for the purchase of furniture for a new palace in Saudi Arabia. Bandar himself wired $17 million last year to his construction manager for a new palace in Saudi Arabia. Just last December, one of Bandar's personal aides deposited $3 million in international drafts, converted them to dollars, and then wired substantial sums back overseas--including about $200,000 to a luxury-car dealer in Great Britain. (A Saudi spokesman said that Bandar has substantial business interests overseas, so it is not surprising that he would conduct such transactions.)

But other transactions raised eyebrows at the FBI. The Riggs accounts showed a number of checks to flight schools and flight-school students in the United States as well as 50 separate $1,000 American Express travelers checks issued by Bandar to Saudi employees between July 9, 2001 and Aug. 28, 2001--including seven that were deposited that summer at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas. Riggs also reported $19,200 in payments from the Saudi Embassy to Gulshair al-Shukrijumah, a Florida-based imam who once served as an interpreter for the "blind Sheik" Omar Abdul Rahman, who was convicted in 1996 of a plot to blow up New York City landmarks. Gulshair al-Shukrijumah's son, Adnan al-Shukrijumah, also known as "Jaffar the Pilot," is a suspected Al Qaeda operative who is the subject of a worldwide FBI manhunt. (In response to U.S. demands to impose tighter controls, the Saudis have since terminated the payments to Gulshair al-Shukrijumah, along with a number of other clerics who were being supported by the embassy.)

A Saudi Embassy spokesman stressed that the Saudis have been actively cooperating with U.S. officials on all aspects of the war on terrorism and that the embassy has recently been assured by top FBI officials that the bureau "has no concerns" about any of the embassy accounts. But senior law-enforcement officials told NEWSWEEK that Saudi Embassy accounts--including the wire transfers related to Siddiqui--remain under active investigation. Told that the Saudis have been assured the FBI "has no concerns," a law-enforcement official made additional checks and reported back to NEWSWEEK: "That is not the case."

? 2004 Newsweek, Inc.
Syria's Gulag

By Farid N. Ghadry and Nir T. Boms | April 9, 2004

Close to a hundred Kurds were killed during a series of riots that started in the soccer game in the city of Qamoshli last month. Over 1,200 Kurds were arrested for treason, espionage, incitement and the disruption of the public order. This is the story of one of them, a 14 year old boy we will call Ahmed, who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

We received this email from Syria yesterday. It was a private message but we felt compelled to have it translated and shared with the world. We are not in liberty to share the real names of the people who sent this email or who wrote the memory of that experience since they are very much afraid to be the next in line at the torture chamber. The irony in all of this is that Baschar al-Assad visited the Kurds in 2002 and promised them a better future. The ability of the Syrian government to bring about a better future to the Syrian people should be measured by the eyes of Ahmed and his friends. Democracy in Syria remains the only hope and the only answer.

"I saw with my own eyes what I used to see in horror and scary movies and I heard with my own ears what I used to hear in stories told to me about the various savaged ways of torture" Yes... Yes... Here in my own country, in my own nation Syria, the one that just entered the civilization of the 21st century.

He told me this crying. "oh uncle", --he calls me uncle since he is my nephew, and he is almost 14-years old--"when they took me from the car near a hall with stairs going down, I was met by one agent after the other, counting all five of them, beating me on my back, on my stomach, on my arm, and every inch of my body. They forced me into a basement, then into a dark room full of people with a stench smell of feet and sweat and another smell that reminded me of a butcher shop. I stretched my leg to enter the dark room but instead I hit a body lying on the floor. He emitted a crying sound, so I tried to step away from the body and then I hit another one who sounded even worse than the first and then I froze. I started crying and fear gripped my whole body. I felt like I was in hell, all I could hear were the different sounds of pain coming from the different corners of the dark room. In about half an hour, the door to the room opened and finally I could see a bit of light. Only then, I realized that the room was no bigger than our modest kitchen at home with about 30 to 40 people in it. They were of different ages but the majorities were young, like me. I even recognized two of them who lived in our quarter.

A person shouted my name and I said "Present" as if I was in school. The man said `you are a Kurd, right? Come with me you son of a whore'. Upon exiting the room, trying hard not to bump into any body lying on the ground, I was, once again, met with punches from all sides to all parts of my body and my face. They were swearing and punching at the same time. I lifted my arms to protect myself only to have them brought down followed by more punches and more insults. Two or three held me and asked if my name is so and so, and when I said yes, they started again beating me with their fists coming from all sides and angles. Along the way, I remember them saying my mother became a whore for having had me and that my father was a dog. That is all I remember because the punches were making me weaker and I felt my feet buckle from under me. Several strong arms held me up and the punching continued accompanied by a crescendo of swearing, especially against my mother. They used terms against my sister and mother that I cannot repeat"

"Then they covered my eyes with a black cloth and continued the beating. But this time, I could not see where the punches were coming from. Again, I felt myself weak. I remember screaming and crying for help.

They stopped and started an interrogation. `What is your name? Which quarter do you come from? Why did you burn and throw stones?' Why? Why? Why? A barrage of questions that I could not answer for lack of focus. Then they asked who else was there with me. `Give us names, names, names'. Why were you marching?' I told them that I was not marching. Then someone called to bring me downstairs. I started crying again, uncontrollably. While still blindfolded, one asked to strip me down. They did. Then cold water hit me and I started shivering. The beating restarted but I slipped because of the water and they continued beating me with their feet while still on the ground. Someone stepped on my stomach hard, which I did not expect. All I remember next is that someone saying, place it in his mouth. It was my own feces.

Then they took me to another room, still naked, blindfolded and shivering. I felt them kneeling and attaching something to my toes, then to my fingers. Then, without any warning, I felt being electrocuted, yes uncle, electrocuted and I started crying again, not knowing what else to do. I was electrocuted twice while there for seven days. And each time, I cried like a baby, oh uncle, like a baby.

Each time, they asked do you confess. And each time I said I will confess. To what, I do not know. But I said yes, oh uncle, because I felt these were not humans, these people were not from our planet. While still blindfolded, they lifted my arm and placed my finger on a paper and told me that this was my confession.

They returned me to the room and took away the blindfold. I realized then all the people in that room were naked like me, naked, naked, and all crying and in pain. There were those with broken ribs; I could tell because when you bump into them, their scream is the loudest and it lifts them off the ground. Then, there were those whose blood has turned black and their bruises covered more areas of their body than their normal flesh. Some had salt sprinkled on their opened wounds and we were whispering to each other the pain they felt. One cried that they electrocuted him through his penis and testicles. He felt ashamed and could not stop crying. All young like me, oh uncle, all young like me.

Some had their finger nails removed. Another said that he was beaten with cables aimed at his penis as if it were a target. There was a young man, oh uncle, who stood all the time because he could not sit down or rest against the wall. We took turns, during these seven days, holding his head in our arms and body so that he could get some sleep. What I saw from these killers, I will never forget all my life, oh uncle; and I will never forgive them, never, ever forgive them. Never, oh uncle, Never".

Farid Ghadry is the President of the Syrian Reform Party. Nir Boms is a fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the Council for Democracy and Tolerance.



Crime, Politics and Kerry's Missing FBI Files
By Marc Morano Senior Staff Writer
April 09, 2004
( - The author who alleges that three boxes of FBI files dealing with Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's anti-war group were stolen from his home last month, did not allow police officers the opportunity to process the crime scene.
The police report of the incident also neglects to mention that the Kerry campaign dispatched a messenger to the home of author Gerald Nicosia to pick up copies of the FBI files a week before the alleged theft of the documents. has obtained a copy of the police report related to the alleged theft of three of the 14 boxes containing FBI files that Nicosia was keeping in his home. Nicosia is the author of the book Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement and is a Kerry supporter. In addition to the three boxes, Nicosia alleges that "several file folders have been removed from the remaining 11 boxes," according to the police report.
The March 26, 2004 report from the Twin Cities Police Department in Larkspur, Calif., noted that "there were no signs of forced entry into the residence" and the department confirmed Thursday that there were still no leads or suspects in the case.
Absent from the police report was any mention of the fact that the Kerry campaign had sent an aide to Nicosia's house in Corte Madera, Calif., to review the documents. Kerry's campaign dispatched the aide on the same day reported that the FBI files showed Kerry was in attendance at a controversial 1971 meeting in Kansas City of Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW).
That meeting allegedly involved the discussion of possibly trying to assassinate several U.S. senators still committed to the American war effort in Vietnam. Prior to the publication of the article on March 18, Kerry had repeatedly denied being in attendance at the meeting.
Nicosia said he reached out to Kerry's campaign a week before the documents were allegedly stolen.
"Senator Kerry was obviously [at the Kansas City Meeting in 1971]. I called the Kerry office and said, 'You know, I think you folks really should look at these documents before you make any further statements,' Nicosia told Joe Scarborough, the host of MSNBC's Scarborough Country on April 2.
"And ... they immediately sent a messenger to my house, got copies of the documents and that evening Senator Kerry did issue a retraction and said based on the documents, he now believed that he was at that meeting," Nicosia added.
The police report noted that journalists, including those from the Los Angeles Times and CNN had had access to Nicosia's home. The report also indicated that a sliding glass door repairman had been granted access to the home. But there is no mention of the Kerry campaign having sent a representative there.
In a statement Nicosia submitted to the Twin Cities Police Department, which was included in the report on the alleged theft, he stated that, "the [FBI] documents have significant political value in the upcoming Presidential election, as they cast John Kerry in various lights, both good and bad."
Nicosia also did not want the alleged crime "scene processed," according to the police report.
The narrative of the police report filed by officer Theo Mainaris reads: "I checked the residence and I did not locate any signs of forced entry. After talking about that situation with Nicosia, he informed me he did not want the scene processed."
Detective Patrick Eddinger of the Twin Cities Police Department told that Nicosia's refusal to have the scene processed was not "normal."
"It's not usually normal. Normally, we come in and we actually process the scene to see if we can find any fingerprints or anything else," Eddinger explained. "There was no force to anything in the residence -- what we could find -- in order to gain entry," he added.
Nicosia declined to be interviewed for this article.
Despite the lack of any evidence or leads, Nicosia is now publicly speculating that Republican Party operatives may have stolen the FBI documents from his home.
"I would say that the Republicans had the largest motivation," Nicosia told Scarborough last week. Scarborough said the case "almost sounds like a "West Coast version of Watergate, 2004."
When pressed on the issue, Nicosia went further in his accusations. "Oh, I would think it would be the Republicans, not John Kerry. I was cooperating with John Kerry. I'm a Kerry supporter," Nicosia said.
But Eddinger said he has no suspects at the moment. "It's an ongoing investigation. I am still trying to gather information," he said.
The Twin Cities Police department may seek some of that information from the Kerry campaign itself. "There is a couple of other people I need to talk to, including possibly the Kerry campaign," Eddinger said.
According to the police report, Nicosia alleged that the crime occurred on Thursday, March 25 while the house was empty from 2:30 p.m. until 5:30 p.m.

Treasury news releases on taxes attacked
WASHINGTON -- The Treasury Department issued a batch of tax-related press releases Friday that each carried a message saying America has a choice between growing the economy and raising taxes that could hurt the recovery.
Democrats immediately denounced the action as an improper use of government resources to subsidize political propaganda.
While the sentiment is a long held position of the Bush administration, it was the first time the department included this message in dark type at the bottom of some its news releases, said Treasury Department spokesman Rob Nichols.
"America has a choice: It can continue to grow the economy and create new jobs as the president's policies are doing; or it can raise taxes on American families and small businesses, hurting economic recovery and future job creation," the message on the releases said.
The message, on four of five different releases issued by the department, doesn't mention presumptive Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, a critic of President Bush's tax policies, or anyone else by name.
Asked whether the message was referring to Kerry, Nichols said: "No, it is a reference to anyone who suggests that raising taxes is the right thing to do. There have been many who suggest that taxes should be raised. We don't share that view."
Kerry spokesman David Wade said the language appears to be an improper use of official government resources for political purposes.
"Once again, there are questions to be asked about American taxpayers subsidizing political propaganda to distort the debate in our country and to whitewash President Bush's failed economic policies," Wade said.
"Those are questions that should be answered by the government itself, but they certainly don't refer to John Kerry's plan to provide middle-class tax relief and create incentives for American businesses which create good jobs here at home," Wade added.
Nichols said there was nothing improper with including the message on the tax releases. "That is nonsense, baseless and groundless," he said.
Treasury's decision to include the message on the bottom of several "April 15th Tax Day Reminder" releases follows the department's in-house analysis of Kerry's tax proposal last month. The analysis, requested by House Republican Leader Tom DeLay, was posted on the department's Web site March 22.
That ignited criticism from Kerry and other Democrats and prompted the department's inspector general to launch a preliminary inquiry into the matter.
"First the Bush Treasury Department did campaign research on the Kerry tax plan and now they are blatantly putting out Bush campaign statements that masquerade as a news release," said Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y. "This release has nothing to do with April 15 and everything to do with Nov. 2."
Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Debra DeShong said there should be an investigation to determine whether the language represents a violation of the Hatch Act, which restricts the political activities of government employees.
"For them to say it's not political, you know, it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, it's not a goose," DeShong said.
Democrats protested in 2001 when the Bush administration printed "Tax Relief for America's Workers" on tax refund checks sent to 92 million people. The checks refunded some $38 billion to taxpayers as part of the $1.35 trillion tax cut passed that year.
At the time, Democratic National Committee Chairman Terry McAuliffe called the wording a "Republican campaign slogan." The Treasury Department said the line informed taxpayers about the purpose of the check, distinguishing it from other federal payments like Social Security and veterans' benefits.
Associated Press writer Sam Hananel in Washington contributed to this report.

Posted by maximpost at 8:49 PM EDT
Thursday, 8 April 2004


Beijing seeks multilateral Northeast Asian security
By Pang Zhongying
(Used by permission of Pacific Forum CSIS)

BEIJING - It's time to promote the establishment of a Northeast Asian regional security mechanism.

The nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula is of increasing concern to Northeast Asian countries. The two rounds of six-party North Korea nuclear talks brought together key regional governments: China, Russia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the Republic of Korea (ROK), and Japan - as well as the United States. And the discussions have kindled a gleam of hope for the establishment of a multilateral security system in the region.
Many people say that the six-party talks, a special multilateral arrangement aimed at defusing the nuclear crisis on the Korean Peninsula, could develop into a general system to ensure security in Northeast Asia, if these meetings were to become a systematic and regular event.
The progress already made in the talks demonstrates that a permanent multilateral regional security system could help solve even the most sensitive security problems.
Northeast Asia should not base its security measures on bilateral frameworks any longer, according to many analysts. A multilateral security arrangement would offer a more effective and complementary guarantee of regional peace and stability. The regional security arrangement could coexist with alliance-oriented bilateral security relations.
Constructing a multilateral security framework in Northeast Asia is not a new idea. Countries such as Russia and Japan suggested setting up a Northeast Asian security mechanism after the end of the Cold War. Countries in the region have also conducted security dialogues at various levels with their neighbors. But a systematized regional security arrangement has remained a distant prospect.
The threat of instability in Northeast Asia is very real. The Korean nuclear issue and the Taiwan question remain unresolved, and these two serious issues, if not properly handled, could cause regionwide instability. The ROK and even Japan are exhibiting strong desires to explore more self-reliant foreign policies, while the influence of the "peaceful rise" of China increasingly is being felt. On the other hand, the US has never veiled its worries about the alleged intention of China to recover its traditional centrality in the region.
With regional security issues unresolved and no long-term development plans established, peaceful development in Northeast Asia cannot be brought about through the wishes of any individual country, according to many observers. Regional peace and stability can only be achieved through the collective and objective actions of countries in the region. In other words, neither self-help (China is a good example) nor military alliances are enough to face a changing security environment in the region.
Many common security concerns, despite differences
In the beginning, a Northeast Asian security framework could serve as a multilateral mechanism based upon the common security interests of member states. Although there are huge differences, regional governments still have many common security concerns that make a regional multilateral security framework worth working for.
However, a multilateral security framework built on common interests cannot be easily achieved, since the interests of all countries involved are continuously changing.
Any regional security arrangement in Northeast Asia that did not have US involvement would be unrealistic and impossible to achieve.
Although many people have criticized the unilateralism of President George W Bush's administration, the US will try multilateralism to deal with regional security challenges, as the six-party talks demonstrated. It is not clear whether the US has any interest in establishing a Northeast Asian security mechanism, but an all-inclusive and permanent arrangement for dealing with Northeast Asian security issues is in the interests of all countries - including the United States. Some Americans support the idea of this type of security mechanism. Others worry that it would contravene Washington's regional bilateral security arrangements.

From a Chinese perspective, a Northeast Asian security mechanism would have the following characteristics:

It would include China, and even a denuclearized North Korea.
It would co-exist with US-led bilateral security relations.
It would be justified or legitimized by ongoing cooperative and constructive China-US relations.
It could help solve other regional security problems, including the Taiwan problem.
It would lay the foundation for a future-oriented regional security community.

The prospect of regularized six-party talks has provided an opportunity to revisit the idea of building a regional security mechanism. Thus the efforts of all parties are needed to ensure success. A regional security mechanism should embrace the concept of mutual security. If North Korea were to participate, its reasonable security concerns should be assured and considered. The transformation of the regional security environment in Northeast Asia needs a successful conclusion of the six-party talks.
China increasingly shows interest in a six-party-talks-based regional security arrangement, so it is not impossible that some China-related security problems, such as the Taiwan issue, could be discussed at the regional level rather than just bilaterally. Proper discussions on most such sensitive issues might not only be helpful for the solution of the issue but also could help promote the building of the regional security mechanism.

Pang Zhongying is a Beijing-based analyst of international affairs and director of the Institute of Global Issues, Nankai University, China. He can be reached at This article was made available by Pacific Forum CSIS.

US: From nation-building to religion-building
By Jim Lobe

WASHINGTON - One thing that can be said about United States neo-conservatives is that they do not lack for ambition.
"We need an Islamic reformation," Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz confided on the eve of the US invasion of Iraq last year, "and I think there is real hope for one".
Echoing those views one year later, another prominent neo-conservative, Daniel Pipes of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum (MEF), recently declared that the "ultimate goal" of the war on terrorism had to be Islam's modernization, or, as he put it, "religion-building".
Such an effort needs to be waged not only in the Islamic world, geographically speaking, added Pipes, who last year was appointed by President George W Bush to the board of directors of the US Institute for Peace, but also among Muslims in the West, where, in his view, they are too often represented by "Islamist (or militant Islamic)" organizations.
Pipes is currently seeking funding for a new organization, tentatively named the "Islamic Progress Institute" (IPI), which "can articulate a moderate, modern and pro-American viewpoint" on behalf of US Muslims and that, according to a grant proposal by Pipes and two New York-based foundations, obtained by IPS, can "go head-to-head with the established Islamist institutions".
"Through adroit media activity and political efforts", says the proposal, "advocates for a supremacist and totalitarian form of Islam in the United States - such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations [CAIR], the Islamic Society of North America [ISNA] and the Islamic Circle of North America - have effectively established themselves as the spokesmen for all Muslims in the country."
"This situation is fraught with dangers for moderate Muslims as well as for non-Muslims," the proposal continues, adding, "Islam in America must be American Islam or it will not be integrated; there can be no place for an Islam in America that functions as a seditious conspiracy aimed at wiping out American values, undermining American inter-faith civility, and, in effect, dictating the form of Islam that will be followed in America."
Leaders of the three groups named by Pipes strongly deny his characterizations of their views, and stress that they, like Catholic, Protestant and Jewish groups in the US that promote the interests of their members, are neither more nor less radical or chauvinistic in their political or theological views than their non-Muslim counterparts.
"We are non-sectarian," said Sayyid M Syeed, ISNA's secretary general, who added that his group has had leaders from both the Shi'ite and Sunni currents of Islam and whose current vice president is a woman. "If we were Saudi-oriented, we would never have a Shi'ite president or a woman in such a role," he said, adding that his group is also actively engaged in many "inter-faith partnerships".
CAIR's spokesman, Ibrahim Hooper, said his organization strives to represent the views of all US Muslims, and pointed to a new survey of the views of mosque leaders and congregants in Detroit, which has one of the largest Muslim populations in the country, as an example of the fundamental moderation of US Muslims and those of his group.
The survey, carried out by the Michigan-based Institute for Social Policy and Understanding, found that only about eight percent of the leadership and members of Detroit's 33 mosques described themselves as adherents of a fundamentalist, "Salafi" approach to Islam - the kind that is identified with the "Wahhabi", or "Islamist" views of concern to Pipes and other neo-conservatives, who have said that as many as 80 percent of US mosques preach Wahhabism.
The vast majority of both mosque leaders and participants, according to the Detroit survey, were registered to vote and supported active engagement in the political process; wanted to engage in civic and educational activities with people of non-Muslim faiths; and even took part in public school or church events designed to teach others about Islam.
"Detroit mosques are not isolationist ... and very few mosque participants hold Wahhabi views," said Ihsan Bagby, who conducted the survey and teaches Islamic studies at the University of Kentucky.
Pipes, who has written four books on Islam and taught Islamic studies at several leading universities, came to national prominence after the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon. While he has long insisted that there is nothing inherently violent about Islam, "moderate Muslims", in his view, have been intimidated by radicals both in the Islamic world and in the US.
"While Muslims in some Muslim-majority countries (like Turkey) have demonstrated a commitment to moderate Islam," he writes in his grant application, "Muslim communities in the United States, Canada and Western Europe are dominated by a leadership identified with Wahhabism and other radical trends, such as the Muslim Brethren and Deobandism ... they seek a privileging of Islam and intimidate their critics."
Within the United States, "all Muslims, unfortunately, are suspect", Pipes wrote in a recent book, which called for the authorities to be especially vigilant towards Muslims with jobs in the military, law enforcement, or diplomacy.
Last year, he cited as evidence of this insight the arrest on suspicion of espionage of Muslim chaplain James Yee at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility that houses hundreds of prisoners from Bush's "war on terrorism". The Yee case later fell apart.
Pipes is also the founder of Campus Watch, a group that monitors university professors of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies and exposes them for alleged anti-American or anti-Zionist views. That effort, which has been denounced by leading Middle East scholars, has become the basis for a far-reaching bill pending in Congress that would provide unprecedented government oversight of regional studies programs in universities.
Pipes has also criticized Bush for meeting with, and thus he argues legitimizing, the leaders of major Islamic organizations, including CAIR and ISNA, which he believes are pursuing radical, if partially hidden, agendas that he attempts tirelessly to expose on his personal website. CAIR has called him "the nation's leading Islamophobe".
Like many of his fellow-neo-conservatives, Pipes has also been an outspoken supporter of positions taken by the governing Likud Party in Israel, to the extent even of opposing the US-backed "road map" designed to lead to an independent Palestinian state.
To encourage "moderation" among Palestinians, he has written, "the Palestinians need to be defeated even more than Israel needs to defeat them".
In his grant proposal, Pipes writes that he is working on launching the Islamic Progress Institute, IPI, with "a group of anti-Islamist Muslims", whom he does not identify. Contacted about the proposal, Pipes told IPS, "I can't confirm anything. MEF doesn't talk about its proposals. We don't talk about projects that have not been announced. We don't talk about internal matters to the press."
In a trip to Cleveland in February, Stephen Schwartz, a writer and former Trotskyite activist who claims to have converted to Islam in the mid-1990s, and Hussein Haqqani, a former Pakistani government official now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, unveiled plans for a new "Institute for Islamic Progress and Peace", of which Schwartz identified himself as executive director.
Schwartz, who has praised Pipes' work and claims to be personally close to Wolfowitz, has published articles in "The Weekly Standard" and other neo-conservative publications, where Pipes' writings also appear regularly. Schwartz was quoted by the "Cleveland Jewish Press" as saying that the new group would serve as a "platform" for "people who view Islam as a private faith".
"This is a unique chance to change the position of the Muslim community in America," he said. "If we don't do it, no one else will." Schwartz and Haqqani also did not return messages left at their offices.
Muslim leaders say they are not worried their membership will desert them for either new group.
"There's a big difference between organizations that emerge organically from a community in response to the demand of their constituencies and one which is manufactured for political reasons by people who dislike what the consensus views of that community are," said Hussein Ibish of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, which has also been a target of Pipes.
"For Mr Pipes to create an organization that purports to represent the community that he makes a living systematically defaming demonstrates an amazing degree of effrontery."
"It's a free country," said Hooper of the Council on Islamic-American Relations. "If Pipes and his friends think they can gain legitimacy in the Islamic community, good luck, but I wouldn't hold my breath."

(Inter Press Service)


Malaysian media try trial by TV
By Anil Netto
PENANG, Malaysia - Malaysian groups as well as a lawyer representing several alleged Jemaah Islamiya (JI) members have slammed a private television station's screening of "confessions" by several suspected Malaysian militants detained by Indonesian police, saying they amounted to trial by media.
Last Friday, the Malaysian station TV3 screened an "interview" with four alleged JI members that was recorded in Jakarta on March 11. TV3, though private, is one of the most pro-government television stations in Malaysia, and the interview was arranged with the help of Malaysian and Indonesian police.
The four suspects, Nasir Abas, Jaafar Anwarul, Samsul Bahari Hussein and Amran Mansor, admitted in the interview that they were JI members and had links to al-Qaeda. They also said they were repentant over their involvement in the group and no longer subscribed to its fanatical ideologies.
But critics said the interview amounted to trial by media and that the "confessions" were flawed as they were not given in a free environment.
The station's decision to televise the "confessions" was sharply criticized by the Abolish ISA Movement, a coalition of 82 civil-society groups seeking to dissolve Malaysia's draconian Internal Security Act (ISA). But some of the strongest remarks came from Edmund Bon, the lawyer representing several other alleged JI members now being held under the ISA, which allows for detention without trial.
"Firstly, TV3 may have committed contempt of court," Bon said. "The issues covered are sub judice," meaning they are still under judicial consideration. He also said 10 ISA detainees in Malaysia, alleged to be JI members, had filed habeas corpus applications in the Malaysian courts. Though their appeals were dismissed recently by the Kuala Lumpur High Court, their appeals to the Federal Court are still pending.
Among the issues covered in these applications are what the alleged terrorist activities of JI are, and whether there is evidence that JI even exists, Bon said. "It is my view that TV3's program of the 'confessions' would tend to influence the Federal Court to decide against the detainees," he added.
Nasir is said to be the regional JI chief in charge of Sabah, Labuan, North and Central Sulawesi, and Mindanao. Arrested by Indonesian police last April, he is alleged to have trained several top JI leaders in military warfare. These include convicted Bali bombers Ali Imron and Imam Samudera, and Saad Fathurrahman Al Ghozi, the alleged mastermind of bombings in the Philippines in 2000 that killed 22 people.
Nasir is also alleged to have trained lecturers Dr Azahari Husin, who is on the run, and Wan Min Wan Mat, detained in Malaysia in October 2002, in guerrilla warfare.
Amran, from Johor, Malaysia, is alleged to have been directly involved in the Christmas Eve church bombings in Batam, Pekan Baru and Medan in 2000. He has expressed regret over the deaths of innocent people and asked for forgiveness from God and the victims' families.
Nasir claimed there was a fatwa (edict) that was passed on to them by Riduan Isamuddin or Hambali, now in US custody, urging Muslims to defend their religion and to attack Americans who had killed many Muslims around the world.
Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi said the televised confessions proved that terrorists were a major threat in the region. "I hope Malaysians will be able to understand the reality of such a threat after the confessions," he was reported as saying. Abdullah, who is also internal security minister, is responsible for the detentions of some 90 Malaysians under the ISA.
Most of these are alleged militants are said to belong to the Malaysian Militant Group (KMM) and JI. Many of them have already spent more than two years in jail without trial and have had their two-year detention orders extended by another two years. The ISA allows detainees to be held for an initial 60-day interrogation period, and, if they are not released by the end of that period, they can receive renewable two-year detention orders. Most detainees are held in the Kamunting Detention Center in Perak state, north of Kuala Lumpur.
In addition to Abdullah's comments, Defense Minister Najib Razak remarked that although the activities of JI had been crippled, they "can still operate in smaller groups and pose security problems".
Televised "confessions" from detainees are not new in Malaysia. During the communist insurgency, and up until the late 1970s, detainees, including political activists, alleged to be Communist Party members were made to confess on national television and say they had realized the error of their ways.
In the mid-1990s, Ashaari Mohamad, the leader of al-Arqam, a banned "deviationist" Islamic sect with a sizable following, "confessed" on television to spreading deviant religious teachings after a spell in detention.
Regarding the latest "confessions", Bon has made several pertinent observations. "The participants were under the supervision, direction and rule of the police," he said. "There was no escaping. It was a controlled environment."
He said the questions posed were leading, as if the answers were already known. "The answers forthcoming from the participants appear to have been scripted and rehearsed," he said. "They were not full, candid and frank confessions."
Observers are wondering about the timing of the "confessions" as well. "Why this was done is unclear, but one can speculate that the authorities are trying very hard now to justify their allegations of JI terrorist activities and JI's existence," said Bon. "The world knows that they could not do it at the [Abu Bakar] Ba'asyir trial, and he, being the supposed head of JI, is going to be released in April 2004, whereas his poor purported 'followers' in Indonesia, such as the participants and many others in Kamunting [in Malaysia], will linger on in detention."
Even the government-appointed and nominally independent Human Rights Commission of Malaysia has spoken out against the confessions. Its commissioner, Hamdan Adnan, questioned the ethics involved in showing the program and said it amounted to trial by media. "I hope this will not be a trend," he said. "Under what circumstance were they made to confess?" he asked, stressing that people should be regarded as innocent until proven guilty in a court of law and that TV3 should not make a mockery of media ethics.
He also warned that the confessions should not implicate others, especially those detained in Malaysia under the ISA for suspected involvement in the similar alleged activities.

(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

Indonesia vs Malaysia: The media and democracy
By Ioannis Gatsiounis
KUALA LUMPUR - Neighbors Malaysia and Indonesia are often depicted in opposing lights. Indonesia is the turbulent big brother with deep scars from a brutal dictatorship and a crisis of Islamic militancy on its hands. Malaysia is the rapidly developing "model Islamic democracy", a beacon of hope in the region - a reputation reinforced by the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional's (BN) rout of the Muslim fundamentalist-led opposition in parliamentary general elections last month.
Ironically, though, Indonesia, which just completed what was only its second general election since independence in 1945, has already embraced a more democratic tradition than Malaysia, which purports to have held "free and fair" elections since the 1950s. And the decision of Indonesian president B J Habibie, after the fall of Suharto in 1998, to free up the media is a large reason why.
In Indonesia on Monday, 24 parties contested for parliamentary seats. They may not all have gotten equal media coverage, but there are few if any allegations that a state-organized conspiracy impaired their showing. In Malaysia's elections last month, on the other hand, just two coalitions were represented, and only one received what might be called "fair" coverage.
For those in the BN, the state-controlled media's performance was nothing short of stellar. They not only gave the "moderates" an unfair advantage in the weeks leading up to the election (the leading opposition party's paper cannot publish more than twice a month and distribution is restricted), but in effect, quelled public concern over numerous allegations that the Election Commission and the BN conspired to commit election fraud.
Wong Chun Wai, deputy chief group editor of Malaysia's largest pro-government English-language daily, The Star, bristled at this analysis. He said his paper ran the opposition's advertisements. "The Malaysian media [are] as democratic as [they] can be. There's no need to change [them]." He pointed out that the opposition Chinese-led Democratic Action Party actually gained seats in the March 21 election, and as for other opposition parties that scored poorly, this was because of their stated aims, not because of media coverage.
But others say the power of the media to influence voters, especially during election time, should not be underestimated.
By many accounts the Malaysian media's campaign coverage was slicker and more ambitious than in past elections. At the least, it was unabashed and relentless. One front-page headline called Malaysia's economy "booming" - a description some economists would hardly endorse. Non-disparaging coverage of the opposition was often relegated to the lower corners of inside pages. A frequently run television spot featured Malaysians extolling how tolerant, vibrant and blissful life is in Malaysia. The ad listed no sponsor. But with the BN ruling since the 1950s, the message was implicit enough.
Five months ago there was a twinge of hope that the media situation here in Malaysia might change. That's when Abdullah Badawi was appointed prime minister by his predecessor, the long-ruling strongarm Mahathir Mohamad. Abdullah was seen as the tolerant gentleman determined to stamp out corruption. But optimism waned when Abdullah sacked an editor of an English-language daily for publishing an article that criticized government foreign policy. And it has eroded further, say experts, with the election rout.
With the media's strong showing, "What incentives do [the government] have to open the doors?" asked Eric Paulsen, coordinator of the Voice of People of Malaysia.
One can think of plenty - to develop a knowledge-based economy; to check power and stamp out corruption; to spur public debate on important issues. But getting the government to sign on is a different matter. BN's performance last month was its best since 1955. Why tamper with success?
A number of analysts say mass public mobilization is perhaps the only thing that will pressure the Malaysian government to change. In Indonesia, public protest led to the dictator Suharto's resignation and consequently the repeal of media restrictions. And although the government has since occasionally threatened to curb those freedoms, myriad activists in Indonesia have made clear that the freedoms won't be lifted without a fight.
By contrast, Malaysians historically have shown little affinity for social activism. And times are good for many. The economy is stable; the standard of living here is higher than in Indonesia; Malaysia lacks the sense of desperation that can galvanize action. As well, the government has strict laws preventing public demonstration; the Internal Security Act, which reserves the right to jail offenders without trial, has scared away many would-be activists.
"Barring no meltdown, nothing will change," said Ibrahim Suffian of the Merdeka Center for Opinion Research.
The closest thing to a "meltdown" in Malaysia in recent times came in the late 1990s, when Mahathir jailed his charismatic deputy Anwar Ibrahim on allegations of sodomy and corruption. Public distrust of the government and media, coinciding with the Internet boom, witnessed a proliferation of reformation websites, and thousands taking to the streets.
"Now one or two [reformation] sites - from over a hundred - are left," said Suffian.
During the scandal, the hardline opposition Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS) won control of a second state. And while many voters turned to the opposition because they felt betrayed by Mahathir and the BN, the media in no small way helped people and parties mobilize.
Since that election a few credible independent websites have surfaced. (Mahathir promised not to interfere with web-based content.) But generally Malaysians are content taking in the state-controlled press. From food stalls to dentist offices, Malaysians can be found soaking up the state press, even when complimentary copies of international papers are available.
A Merdeka Center poll found that most Malaysians don't believe what they read in the state-controlled press. But then one has to wonder what they're reading "serious" newspapers for if not for "useful" information - to be mindlessly entertained?
Sometimes the public's indifference has led to outright defense of the situation. One hears often enough from Malaysians that they are not mature enough yet for open media, echoing a line left over from the colonial days and milked often by the ruling coalition ever since.
But lawyer Siva Rasa Rasia, a vice president of the opposition Keadilan party, does not blame the public. "It's quite normal not to seek information," Rasia said. "The onus is on us, and we have failed to get to them."
Rasia said that for the opposition to stand any chance in future elections (Malaysia's next parliamentary election isn't until 2009), they will have to rethink how to reach the public. "It's the main obstacle we face," he said. "It's the only way we can break down the [ruling coalition's] blockade.
Opposition leaders say they will tap into the Internet but know it won't be enough. One leader said without irony, "We might have to do what they did in Eastern Europe in the communist era: quietly roam in long coats and sell on street corners."
Indeed, many observers are too pleased with the election results to reflect on its meaning - or simply find the ends justify the means. One editorial writer noted that with this election, "Malaysia demonstrated that the 'green wave' - the tide of political Islam that seems to be engulfing the Muslim world - can be stopped democratically."
M G Pillai, writing on his independent website, sees it differently: "With this general election we have descended firmly into the Third World we had spent years to get out of."
But as long as the state-controlled media are calling the shots, Malaysians will continue to get a more flattering view of themselves. The morning after Indonesia's elections, Malaysia's state-controlled Star newspaper's front-page headline read: "Shortages and confusion over voting card hamper Indonesian elections". That news was hard to find outside Malaysia.
(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact for information on our sales and syndication policies.)


The UN's sinking law of the sea
By Alan Boyd

SYDNEY - A conservative revolt that waylaid Washington's latest attempts to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea has also set back hopes of a more effective disputes mechanism for contested natural resources in Asia.
Continuing a standoff that has existed since the treaty was enacted in 1982, the United States Senate again declined to debate a Foreign Relations Committee resolution, backed by the administration of President George W Bush, that might have led to recognition of the world's most ambitious forum for conflict resolution.
Another bid is expected to be made through one of six alternate committees that have jurisdiction on the issue, but it is unlikely this will happen before the end of the year, even if the White House liberals behind the initiative can still attract Bush's support.
Ratified by 145 of the UN's 195 independent members, the treaty has never been allowed to realize its full potential because a vocal US lobby argues that it would impinge on the right of Americans to decide how to exploit their natural resources.
The chief point of contention is a provision under the treaty for an International Seabed Authority (ISA) that would regulate the offshore marine environment and rule on sovereignty battles through a multinational court. It would be empowered to levy taxes, issue permits for fishing and mining, impose quotas for the exploitation of gas and oil reserves, fix the prices of marine products, and control research and exploration activities.
Conservative groups such as the Heritage Foundation, American Policy Center and the Free Congress Foundation are worried that the ISA will operate outside Security Council jurisdiction, which could leave it open to domination by sectoral interests, especially from the Third World.
"The best thing we can do with this treaty is never to sign it - to sink it. Unfortunately, this is a very difficult task given the fact that there is an element within the Bush administration that wants it and, if they do not succeed in getting it, then there is likely to be a push by succeeding administrations," said Paul M Weyrich, chairman of the Free Congress Foundation.
Former president Ronald Reagan engineered the original US boycott of the treaty in 1982 by simply ensuring that it never went beyond the committee stages. Likewise, Reagan's successor George H W Bush, stonewalled when he was in office.
Bill Clinton's administration put the issue back on the congressional agenda in 1994, though only after winning substantial concessions from the UN that watered down the ISA's mandate while leaving the treaty's basis intact. But his tenure ended before the revamped resolution could reach the Senate.
In stepped Foreign Relations Committee chairman Richard Lugar, a Republican senator with strong White House support who is convinced the US has more to lose from staying aloof from the international community. Bush's own sentiments toward the treaty are not clear.
Whether it is in or out, Washington will decide how effective the treaty can be in policing what is potentially the most volatile area of global security. But ratification might at least remove technical ambiguities and encourage the ISA to cut across political sensitivities.
The UN secretariat complained last month that many countries were wrongly applying the treaty, presumably for their own ends, while warning that mediation efforts would not realize their potential unless there was more consistency.
China has been accused by the US of using some statutes to further its economic interests and advance security objectives. These include a requirement for information sharing on sea exploration that would amount to mandatory technology transfers.
Defense adviser Dr Peter M Leitner, a longtime critic of ratification, testified to a congressional committee in March that Beijing had been able to acquire "sensitive technology vital to our national security" through offshore mining permits. Despite Pentagon protests, the technology, which he alleged could be used to bolster China's capability in submarine warfare, had been handed over by government agencies "so as not to undermine the spirit of the treaty".
Beijing has also challenged the Proliferation Security Initiative, an anti-terrorism operation led by the US and the United Kingdom that includes interdiction measures against vessels suspected of aiding in the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
North Korea, a close ally of China, has been a prime target of the sea blockade. But during a recent committee hearing, none of the White House's senior legal aides were able to confirm whether the US would be liable for retaliatory measures if it allowed a ship to be boarded - even if this happened within the economic zone claimed by the US.
All Asian countries other than Cambodia, North Korea, Thailand and East Timor have ratified the treaty. However, it has had virtually no impact on regional tensions due to the widely differing interpretations adopted by signatories.
This is partly because of hazy legal definitions. While the treaty recognizes innocent passage, transit passage, archipelagic sea-lane passage, and high seas as the four types of navigation rights, the specifics are not spelled out.
There are also numerous let-out clauses that allow signatories and non-signatories alike to set the parameters of treaty provisions, usually successfully.
Hence South Korea has been able to assert control over much of the volatile Cheju Strait by contesting its status as a major navigation route on the grounds that ships can use an alternative route closer to the sea.
Taking this process a step further, Seoul has declared an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles that includes a "security zone" of 150 by 75 nautical miles in which most shipping operations are prohibited.
For its part, North Korea has established a 200-mile EEZ with a 50-mile "military zone" that also has limited access rights. Both zones, as well as a separate EEZ maintained by Japan, intrude into waters in the Sea of Japan that are contested by all four countries and Russia.
Japan, China and South Korea could technically be prosecuted by the ISA for blocking navigational rights. But this is not likely to happen until there have been separate rulings on the various national boundaries, and there is little political will to intervene.
One reason for the free-for-all is the impotency of the US, which is understandably loath to help police the statutes, even for the sake of regional stability, as long as it doesn't accept their legitimacy.
"A most fertile source of dispute may be the question of whether or not a non-ratifying state like the United States may avail itself of the [treaty's] provisions governing the various navigational regimes," said Mark J Valencia, a researcher at the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation.
"The United States argues that these navigational 'rights' are customary international law, and negotiated an agreement with the former Soviet Union declaring these rights and guaranteeing mutual observance thereof.
"However, some ratifiers like China may not agree, and since the United States is not a party to the treaty, it cannot avail itself of the dispute-resolution provisions. This then leaves the resolution of such disputes purely in the political arena."
(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Co, Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact for information on our sales and syndication policies.)



Part 1: 'Independent' commission
By Pepe Escobar

"The overwhelming bulk of the evidence was that this was an attack that was likely to take place overseas."
- White House National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, May 16, 2002

"Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US." - CIA's August 6, 2001 briefing memo to President George W Bush

"If you invade Iraq you will create a hundred bin Ladens." - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, January 2003

The 9-11 Commission, according to its own website, is "an independent, bipartisan commission created by congressional legislation and the signature of President George W Bush in late 2002". The commission is "chartered to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks".
A key consequence of the political theater/media circus around former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke's revelations - in his testimony to the commission and in his best-selling book Against All Enemies - was to force the White House to "deliver" National Security Advisor Condoleezza ("Condi") Rice. She is due to testify to the commission on Thursday - just as the Iraq occupation is confronted to the ultimate nightmare: Fallujah as the new Gaza in the Sunni triangle, and an uprising by the millions of angry, destitute followers of firebrand Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
But as far as the 9-11 Commission is concerned, and at least for the moment, the White House got what it wanted. President George W Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney will have a private conversation with the commission as a tandem, not under oath, and behind closed doors. This testimony won't be recorded. The commission will hardly have more than two or three hours to ask crucial questions to both, when it could have at least double the time to ask questions to each of them separately. The arrangement of course prevents them from contradicting each other - a basic premise of any criminal investigation. It makes sure that the all-powerful, all-seeing Cheney is the Praetorian Guard capable of preventing any Bush rhetorical disaster.
Andrew Rice, chair of the 9-11 Commission Committee of the September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows organization, is one among millions of terribly frustrated Americans. He believes that as far as this official 9-11 Commission is concerned, the "fix was in" from the beginning. Beverly Eckert, whose husband died on September 11, adds: "We wanted journalists, we wanted academics ... We did not want politicians."
The commission comprises nine men and a woman, five Republicans and five Democrats. They include two former governors, a former navy secretary, a former deputy attorney-general, two former Congressmen, two former senators and a former White House counsel. It's a consummate bunch of establishment arch-insiders, all inter-connected. One wonders how such a body can possibly investigate what's behind the myriad of political, military and intelligence interplay. Even the commission itself has been forced to admit that of the 16 federal agencies covered by its investigation, only the State Department is being "fully cooperative", with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) as a distant second. This is leading to a growing perception, not only in Washington but in other parts of the world, of a "hidden agenda". "They seem to be interested in putting up a good show as a coverup; and of course they're very worried about damage control," says a diplomat from the European Union.
Independents in conflict
There are devastating cases of conflict of interest in the commission. Chairman Thomas Kean may be the most obvious. The US$1 trillion lawsuit filed in August 2002 by the families of the victims of September 11 includes two of Kean's business partners among the accused: Saudi billionaires Khalid bin Mahfouz (who is Osama bin Laden's brother-in-law, no less), and Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi. They are key financial players behind al-Qaeda: Mahfouz transferred millions of dollars from a Saudi pension fund to bank accounts in London and New York linked with al-Qaeda. He is a former director of BCCI, the bank in the center of a notorious $12 billion bankruptcy scandal during the presidency of Bush senior.
Kean is director and shareholder of Amerada Hess Corporation, an oil giant involved in a joint venture with Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia - which is owned by the clans of Mahfouz and Amoudi - to explore Caspian Sea oilfields. Amerada Hess severed the joint venture only three weeks before Kean was appointed chairman of the 9-11 Commission by his friend George W Bush.
It's unlikely fellow members at the 9-11 Commission will ask Kean to reveal to what extent he was aware of Mahfouz's links to al-Qaeda; or ask Amerada Hess to open its books and reveal what kind of deals it was cooking up with Mahfouz. After all, Bush himself also had a business connection with Mahfouz, owner of various investments in Houston, Texas. As to the 28 pages of the joint congressional committee detailing Saudi support to al-Qaeda, they also seem to have vanished into thin air.
The commission, for instance, also will not investigate the foreign policy that started it all in the late 1970s and early 1980s: the Central Intelligence Agency's (CIA's) full support to the hardcore international Islamic brigades which joined the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan - and then turned against the US after the first Gulf War in 1991. This would mean that the commission would have to seriously investigate Secretary of State Colin Powell and his number two, Richard Armitage, key players in those 1980s proceedings.
Former national security adviser to Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, also one of the key members of the Council on Foreign Relations, was the mastermind behind the building of an Islamic network in Afghanistan - as part of a huge, covert CIA operation. To a large extent, the modern Islamic jihad exists thanks to Brzezinski. There are four members of the Council on Foreign Relations in the commission. There's hardly any chance of them investigating their fellow Brzezinski.
The commission's executive director, Philip D Zelikow, is a crucial player. This is the man who directs all the investigative research of the commission. On October 5, 2001 - two days before the beginning of the bombing of Afghanistan - he was appointed as one of the three members of Bush's foreign intelligence advisory board. Zelikow is the ultimate Bush insider.
Andrew Rice says that Zelikow "worked with these people and now he is defending them". Zelikow also worked for Jim Baker, former secretary of state of Bush senior. He spent three years on Bush senior's National Security Council. He is close to Bush junior, and even closer to Condi Rice: they worked together, and he even co-wrote two books with her.
Commissioner Jamie S Gorelick is very close to CIA director George Tenet. No wonder: she works on the CIA's National Security Advisory Panel, as well as on the president's Review of Intelligence. Tenet is one of the masterminds of the Bush administration "war on terror". This means no chance for the commission to investigate dubious covert operations by the CIA which may foment terrorism instead of fighting it.
Commissioner Fred Fielding is a former White House counsel during Reagan's time, at the time of the Iran-Contra scandal. He is very close to all major players in the Bush administration, in fact one of the White House men in the commission alongside Zelikow.
Commissioner John Lehman was navy secretary under Reagan. He served alongside two of the commission's key witnesses: Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and former counterterrorism head Richard Clarke. He is close to all major players in the Bush administration and also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, with very close personal ties to Henry Kissinger. Lehman is Kissinger's man in the commission.
Commissioner Timothy J Roemer is a former member of the Intelligence Committee's task force on Homeland Security and Terrorism and the joint inquiry on 9-11 of the Senate and House. He is very close to Congressman Porter Goss and Senator Bob Graham, who co-headed the joint inquiry. Graham and Goss, as we will see on part 2 of this series, have very suspicious links to former Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence director Lieutenant General Mahmoud Ahmad.
If the intellectual masterminds of the "war on terror" in the Council on Foreign Relations won't be investigated, neither will be those members of the Project for a New American Century (PNAC). PNAC was prophetic in the sense that even before the Bush administration, in a 2000 white paper, their members were betting on "some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor" so the American people would support their agenda of global politico-military dominance. All neo-conservative superstars - like Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle - are members of PNAC (see Asia Times Online, March 20, 2003, This war is brought to you by ...)
Clarke writes about their obsession on page 30 of his book: "I realized with almost a sharp physical pain that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz were going to try to take advantage of this national tragedy to promote their agenda about Iraq." On page 231, Clarke recalls in vivid detail an April 2001 meeting where Wolfowitz is obsessed with Iraq, while the CIA dismisses the Wolfowitz-peddled notion of Iraqi terrorism and the State Department agrees with Clarke's assessment of al-Qaeda as "a major threat" and "an urgent priority".
Andrew Rice could not but be a serious critic of the commision: "It is not about transparency, it is just there to appease the public. But it won't appease me or many other family members. We need a truly independent commission that is outside the realm of government. The worst case scenario is that I fear this could be a whitewash and a coverup." The final report of the commission won't be published until April 2005 - long after the November presidential election.
Clarke , Condi and the Bush doctrine
Clarke insists that he explicitly warned the Bush administration about al-Qaeda as early as January 25, 2001, five days after the inauguration: "It was very explicit. [Condoleezza] Rice was briefed ... and Zelikow sat in.". Clarke said that he gave Condi Rice a detailed memo on how to fight al-Qaeda, based on CIA briefings and lots of information collected under the Bill Clinton administration. On page 229 of his book, he writes: "... her facial expression gave me the impression she had never heard the term [al-Qaeda] before."
In 2002, the White House had to admit on the record that the August 6, 2001 president daily briefing (PDB) quoted at the start of this article said that al-Qaeda might use hijacked planes in an attack inside the US. A portion of this PDB, written by the CIA, predicted that al-Qaeda would launch an attack "in the coming weeks" and that it "will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning." So Bush knew: he's supposed to have read the PDB while on holiday in Crawford, Texas. But Bush has claimed executive privilege and the White House has refused to release the full text of the PDB.
In her famous May 16, 2002 press conference, Condi Rice said: "I don't think anybody could have predicted that these people would take an airplane and slam it into the World Trade Center, take another one and slam it into the Pentagon, that they would try to use an airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile." Apparently Rumsfeld could have predicted it. Speaking to the 9-11 Commission last month, Rumsfeld said he, personally, didn't know. But he admitted having received "a civil aviation circular that people did know ... They sent it out on June 22, 2001".
Rumsfeld may know much more than he's willing to admit. According to a report on the US army's Internet site, a simulation of a plane crashing on the Pentagon was carried 10 months before September 11. Rumsfeld told the 9-11 Commission, under oath, that "he did not know" about this simulation, which was conducted by the Emergency Management Team at the Pentagon and involved a lot of employees. The simulation could have been just one more in an endless series of coincidences. Or it could be part of the planning for an event the Pentagon - or at least his director - knew was going to happen.
After the outbursts of the Clarke-smearing campaign - brutal even by the standards of the Bush White House - it has emerged that Condi Rice is also contradicted by none other than the all-powerful Dick Cheney. The White House insists that it did know exactly what it was doing before September 11. And Rice said the White House counterterrorism czar was indeed "in the loop". But Cheney said that Clarke was "not in the loop" - the ultimate Washington put-down. So who was outlooped, Clarke or Condi?
Clarke's central accusation is relatively mild. He says that the Bush administration was lost in space as far as al-Qaeda was concerned because of its ideological fixation on Saddam Hussein. This may have generated non-stop character assassination from the Bush camp, but the fact is Clarke has produced no smoking gun. Essentially, the only major difference between Clarke and the neo-cons is that Clarke was obsessed with bin Laden, while the neo-cons were obsessed with Saddam. Both bin Laden and Saddam, as we know, are former CIA assets.
On page 243 of his book, Clarke qualifies as "somewhat off the mark" the critique of Bush as "a dumb, lazy rich kid". But then he crucially adds: "I doubt that anyone ever had the chance to make the case to him that attacking Iraq would actually make America less secure and strengthen the broader radical Islamic terrorist movement. Certainly he did not hear that from the small circle of advisors who alone are the people whose views he respects and trusts." Condi Rice has always been in favor of regime change in Iraq.
In an article she wrote to Foreign Affairs in early 2000, Rice outlined what amounted to be a semi-official Bush foreign policy platform. She lists five key foreign policy priorities. Only the last one made any mention of terrorism. Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan, madrassas in Pakistan, al-Qaeda-style financial networks, Islamist sleeper cells in America, Spain and Germany, none of this is even mentioned. Rice only talks about North Korea, Iraq and Iran - which two years later, in early 2002, would graduate to "axis of evil" status. She is in favor of regime change in Iraq. And her top policy recommendation is national missile defense - aimed at rogue states.
Sibel Edmonds, a former FBI wiretap translator, fluent in English, Turkish, Farsi and Azerbaijani and with top-secret security clearance, told Salon news publication that she is nothing but outraged: "Especially after reading Condoleezza Rice where she said, 'we had no specific information whatsoever of domestic threat or that they might use airplanes'. That's an outrageous lie. And documents can prove it's a lie." Edmonds wants the commission to ask real questions to FBI director Robert Mueller when he testifies later this month: "Like, in April 2001, did an FBI field office receive legitimate information indicating the use of airplanes for an attack on major cities? And is it true that through an FBI informant, who'd been used [by the bureau] for 10 years, did you get information about specific terrorist plans and specific cells in this country? He couldn't say no." Edmonds' recent interviews also raise the fascinating possibility that al-Qaeda penetrated internal security both at the Pentagon and at the State Department. In this case, are the moles still in place?
The Bush administration as a whole took over the media to tell everyone how they had identified the al-Qaeda danger long ago - so they could not be accused of passive responsibility on September 11. But the single evidence of these later allegations was the long build up to the post-September 11 war on Afghanistan. What this actually means is that the war on Afghanistan cannot possibly be described any more as an act of legitimate defense. As to the Bush doctrine of preventive war, which was nothing more than a rhetorical artifact in the first place, it has become a significant casualty of the Clarke-White House shouting match. The doctrine has only lasted enough time to allow the Bush administration to attack Iraq.
It is expected that the 9-11 Commission will keep rolling a huge data bank of unconnected "intelligence failures" and instances of lack of dialogue between FBI and CIA. In the end, it's fair to assume there will be a fall guy to be blamed for all these "intelligence failures". It's also fair to assume it won't be one of the big guns.

TOMORROW: Part 2: A real smoking gun in Pakistan

(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

Part 2: A real smoking gun
By Pepe Escobar

Part 1: 'Independent' commission

If the 9-11 Commission is really looking for a smoking gun, it should look no further than at Lieutenant-General Mahmoud Ahmad, the director of the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) at the time.
In early October 2001, Indian intelligence learned that Mahmoud had ordered flamboyant Saeed Sheikh - the convicted mastermind of the kidnapping and killing of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl - to wire US$100,000 from Dubai to one of hijacker Mohamed Atta's two bank accounts in Florida.
A juicy direct connection was also established between Mahmoud and Republican Congressman Porter Gross and Democratic Senator Bob Graham. They were all in Washington together discussing Osama bin Laden over breakfast when the attacks of September 11, 2001, happened.
Mahmoud's involvement in September 11 might be dismissed as only Indian propaganda. But Indian intelligence swears by it, and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has confirmed the whole story: Indian intelligence even supplied Saeed's cellular-phone numbers. Nobody has bothered to check what really happened. The 9-11 Commission should pose very specific questions about it to FBI director Robert Mueller when he testifies this month.
In December 2002, Graham said he was "surprised at the evidence that there were foreign governments involved in facilitating the activities of at least some of the [September 11] terrorists in the United States ... It will become public at some point when it's turned over to the archives, but that's 20 or 30 years from now." He could not but be referring to Pakistan and Mahmoud. If Mahmoud was really involved in September 11, this means the Pakistani ISI -"the state within the state" - knew all about it. And if the intelligence elite in Pakistan knew it, an intelligence elite in Saudi Arabia knew it, as well as an intelligence elite in the US.
Get Osama bin Laden
On August 22, 2001, Asia Times Online reported Get Osama! Now! Or else ...
On September 9, the legendary "Lion of the Panjshir", Ahmed Shah Masoud, the key Northern Alliance commander, was assassinated by two suicide bombers posing as journalists in his base in northern Afghanistan. The Northern Alliance tells Washington that the ISI may be involved. Masoud himself had told this correspondent, two weeks before he was killed, of the incestuous link between bin Laden and al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the ISI. A 2002 Asia Times Online investigation would later establish that Masoud was killed as a gift from al-Qaeda to the Taliban, with heavy involvement by Abdul Sayyaf, an Afghan mujahideen commander very close to the ISI and the Saudis. From Washington's perspective, this was also a gift. Masoud was the crucial Afghan nationalist leader, supported by Russia and Iran; after the Taliban being smashed he would never have accepted a feeble, US-sponsored, Hamid Karzai-style government.
On September 10, the Pakistani daily The News reported that the Mahmoud visit to the United States "triggered speculation about the agenda of his mysterious meetings at the Pentagon and National Security Council". If he'd been to the National Security Council, he had certainly met Rice. Mahmoud did meet with his counterpart, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director George Tenet. Tenet and Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage had been in Islamabad in May, when Tenet had "unusually long" meetings with Musharraf. Armitage for his part has countless friends in the Pakistani military and the ISI. Mahmoud also met a number of high officials at the White House and the Pentagon and had a crucial meeting with Marc Grossman, the under secretary of state for political affairs. Rice maintains she did not meet Mahmoud then.
On the morning of September 11, Mahmoud was having a breakfast meeting at the Capitol with Graham and Goss. Goss spent as many as 10 years working on numerous CIA clandestine operations. He is very close to Vice President Dick Cheney. It's interesting to note that two weeks ago Goss suggested to the Justice Department to bring perjury charges against the new Cheney nemesis, Clarke. As it is widely known, Graham and Goss were co-heads of the joint House-Senate investigation that proclaimed there was "no smoking gun" as far as President George W Bush having any advance knowledge of September 11.
According to the Washington Post, and also to sources in Islamabad, the Mahmoud-Graham-Goss meeting lasted until the second plane hit Tower 2 of the World Trade Center. Graham later said they were talking about terrorism coming from Afghanistan, which means they were talking about bin Laden.
Pakistani intelligence sources told Asia Times Online that on the afternoon of September 11 itself, as well as on September 12 and 13, Armitage met with Mahmoud with a stark choice: either Pakistan would help the US against al-Qaeda, or it would be bombed back to the Stone Age. Secretary of State Colin Powell presented an ultimatum in the form of seven US demands. Pakistan accepted all of them. One of the demands was for Musharraf to send Mahmoud to Kandahar again and force the Taliban to extradite bin Laden. Mahmoud knew in advance Mullah Omar would refuse. But when he went to Kandahar the Taliban leader said he would accept, as long as the Americans proved bin Laden was responsible for September 11. There was no proof, and Afghanistan was bombed anyway, a policy already decided well in advance.
It's important to remember than on September 13 Islamabad airport was shut down - allegedly because of threats against Pakistan's strategic assets. On September 14, Islamabad declared total support for the US: the airport was immediately reopened. Mahmoud remained in Washington until September 16 - when the war on Afghanistan was more than programmed, and Pakistan was firmly in the "with us" and not the "against us" column.
Million-dollar questions remain. Did Mahmoud know when and how the attacks of September 11 would happen? Did Musharraf know? Could the Bush administration have prevented September 11? It's hard to believe high echelons of the CIA and FBI were not aware of the direct link between the ISI and alleged chief hijacker Mohammed Atta.
On October 7, Mahmoud was demoted from the ISI. By that time, Washington obviously knew of the connection between Mahmoud, Saeed Sheikh and Mohamed Atta: the FBI knew it. The official version is that Mahmoud was sacrificed because he was too close to the Taliban - which, it is never enough to remind, are a cherished creature of the ISI. Two other ISI big shots, Lieutenant-General Mohammed Aziz Khan and Chief of General Staff Mohammed Yousouf, are also demoted along with Mahmoud. Saeed Sheikh was under orders to Khan.
The fact remains that even with this Musharraf-conducted purge of the ISI elite, the bulk of ISI officers remained, and still are, pro-Taliban. Other former ISI directors living in Pakistan, such as the colorful, outspoken Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul, did not "disappear" and always renew their support for the Taliban. But as Asia Times Online has reported, Mahmoud did disappear. He lives in near seclusion in Rawalpindi. And he is definitely not talking. Graham and Goss may not be interested in talking to him either. Because he may be the ultimate September 11 smoking gun.
The Karl Rove-designed campaign to re-elect Bush is in essence anchored on September 11. The Republican convention in New York will happen in the first week of September. Bush's speech will be on September 2 - to force the connection with the three-year commemoration of September 11.
This whole affair is not about whether Clarke committed "perjury"; whether Rice was really up to her job; or whether George W Bush knew something and then "forgot" about it. The families of September 11 victims, US public opinion, the demonized Islamic world, the whole world for that matter, all everybody wants to know is what really happened on September 11. The only party that does not seem interested in getting to the bottom of it is the Bush administration. The official fable of 19 kamikaze Arabs turning Boeings into missiles with military precision, armed only with box cutters and a few flight lessons and directed from an Afghan cave by a satellite phone-shy bin Laden simply does not hold. The commission is not asking the really hard questions. Here are just a few - and they are far from being the most embarrassing.

1) The "stand down" order: Why, despite more than an hour's warning that an attack was happening, were no F-16s protecting US airspace? Documents easily available online reveal why the Pentagon could not act: because of bureaucracy. Why did the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) claim it took 25 minutes after the transponder was shut down to learn that Flight 11 - which hit World Trade Center Tower 1 - was hijacked? Why did fighters not take off from Andrews Air Force base just outside Washington to protect the Pentagon?

2) The pre-September 11 suspicious stock option trades in American Airlines and United Airlines were never fully investigated. Who profited?

3) What happened to the FBI investigation into flight schools - when it was proved that at least five of the 19 hijackers were trained in US military schools?

4) Why did Bush keep reading a pet-goat story for more than half an hour after the first WTC hit, and 15 minutes after Chief of Staff Andrew Card told him there had been an attack?

5) What really happened to Flight 93? An Associated Press story last August quoting a congressional report said the FBI suspected the plane was crashed on purpose. The FBI has a flight-simulation video of what happened: the video - as well as the black box - remain top secret. And as far as four "indestructible" black boxes are concerned, how come none were found, unlike Mohammed Atta's intact passport lying in the WTC rubble?

6) Why have no scientific experts examined the physical and mathematical evidence that a Boeing 757 could not have possibly "disappeared" without a trace after hitting the Pentagon? For the most exhaustive and practically incontrovertible analysis available on the net, see this report.

7) What remains of the very tight 1980s bin Laden-ISI-CIA connection? How much did the CIA know about what the ISI was up to? And how much did the ISI know about what al-Qaeda was up to?

8) What does Rice really know about the very close relations between Mahmoud and the top echelons of the Bush administration?

The genie - the crucial information - is still in the bottle.

(Copyright 2004 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact for information on our sales and syndication policies.)

Posted by maximpost at 10:02 PM EDT

US Fights Sunni Militants and Shiite Insurgents listen
In Sunni and Shiite cities across Iraq, US forces are now engaged in the kind of urban warfare they've tried to avoid for the past year. House-to-house fighting, helicopter gun-ships and 500-pound bombs are producing high casualties on both sides. There's concern that angry moderates will join militants in an anti-American "jihad, raising uncertainty whether the Coalition has the forces it needs to provide security in Iraq in time for the transfer of power scheduled for June 30. Joining Warren Olney for an overview of the fighting and an eyewitness account of what Muqtada al-Sadr's "Mahdi Army" is really like are reporters in Iraq for the Christian Science Monitor, New York Times and Los Angeles Times. A Middle East expert and defense analyst assess the prospect for military success, and we get some insight into the political impact on the ongoing presidential campaign from journalists with Congressional Quarterly and National Journal.
Will air Wednesday, April 7, 2004.

Les myst?res du programme nucl?aire iranien
LE MONDE | 07.04.04 | 14h06
L'iran a-t-il d?finitivement renonc? ? se doter de la bombe atomique, en ?change d'une coop?ration accrue des Occidentaux ? Ou se r?serve-t-il malgr? tout cette possibilit?, pour acc?der co?te que co?te au statut de puissance r?gionale, au risque de provoquer une crise g?n?ralis?e du trait? de non-prolif?ration nucl?aire (TNP), d?j? mal en point au Moyen-Orient et en Asie ? Alors qu'en octobre 2003 le r?gime islamique paraissait avoir tranch? en faveur de la premi?re option, gr?ce aux efforts conjugu?s de l'Allemagne, de la Grande-Bretagne et de la France, les signes d'un raidissement iranien se sont multipli?s. C'est sur fond de m?fiance mutuelle que le directeur de l'Agence internationale de l'?nergie atomique (AIEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, est retourn? ? T?h?ran, mardi 6 avril, dans l'espoir de remettre sur les rails le processus amorc? en 2003. Une semaine auparavant, la tro?ka europ?enne avait appel? les autorit?s iraniennes ? "s'expliquer".
Furieuses de la r?solution adopt?e le 13 mars par le conseil des gouverneurs de l'Agence, qui soulignait les lacunes de leur coop?ration, les autorit?s iraniennes ont repouss? ? la mi-avril la premi?re mission d'inspection des experts onusiens au titre du protocole additionnel ? l'accord de garantie du TNP, qu'elles avaient pourtant sign? fin d?cembre. Elles ont aussi annonc? fin mars, par la voix du vice-pr?sident iranien et chef de la commission ? l'?nergie atomique, Gholam Reza Aghazadeh, la mise en route ? Ispahan d'une unit? de conversion d'uranium en gaz, premi?re ?tape vers la fabrication de mat?riaux fissiles.
Cette annonce a alarm? le si?ge de l'AIEA, ? Vienne, comme les chancelleries occidentales. Car elle s'ajoute ? d'autres indices de mauvaise volont? : le refus de T?h?ran de d?livrer aux inspecteurs des visas d'un an ? entr?es multiples (ce qui limite le caract?re "inopin?" de leurs visites sur les sites), ou encore le fait que les experts onusiens n'aient pas ?t? autoris?s ? utiliser leurs propres appareils pour photographier ou prendre des mesures ?lectroniques dans les ateliers - souvent situ?s dans des bases militaires - o? ?taient mont?es les centrifugeuses destin?es ? enrichir l'uranium. Le dialogue avec les Europ?ens pi?tine, T?h?ran leur r?clamant des ?quipements - avions ou construction de centrales nucl?aires -, alors que ses interlocuteurs pensent qu'il faut d'abord reconstruire un rapport de confiance min? par vingt ans de cachotteries.
Enfin, l'Iran n'a toujours pas donn? d'explication convaincante ? la d?couverte, au printemps 2003, dans des ateliers longtemps tenus secrets ? T?h?ran, de traces d'uranium hautement enrichi : ? 36 % (un taux caract?ristique des r?acteurs de recherche russes), mais aussi ? plus de 80 %, donc tr?s proche d'une qualit? militaire.
Les responsables iraniens ont beau assurer que les "exp?riences"de conversion ne remettent pas en cause leur engagement envers les Europ?ens de cesser toute activit? d'enrichissement, leur d?cision a ?t? critiqu?e comme un "mauvais signal" ? Paris, ? Berlin et ? Londres : "L'Iran doit expliquer ses intentions", ont exig? les trois capitales dans un communiqu? publi? le 31 mars. La veille, ? Washington, le sous-secr?taire d'Etat am?ricain charg? du contr?le des armements, John Bolton, avait ?t? plus direct : "L'Iran semble d?termin? ? poursuivre son programme nucl?aire militaire de fa?on discr?te et clandestine, afin d'obtenir plus ais?ment les technologies-cl?s dont il a besoin."
Pour lui comme pour les autres faucons de l'administration Bush, la cause est entendue : si elle veut pr?server sa cr?dibilit?, l'AIEA sera contrainte t?t ou tard de d?f?rer le dossier iranien devant le Conseil de s?curit? de l'ONU.
Jusqu'? pr?sent, les Europ?ens ont r?sist? aux pressions am?ricaines, jugeant qu'un dialogue avec T?h?ran, m?me insatisfaisant, vaut mieux que de pousser le r?gime islamique ? la rupture. L'exemple de la Cor?e du Nord, qui est sortie d?but 2003 du TNP, apr?s que son cas eut ?t? port? devant l'ex?cutif onusien ? New York, et qui se livre depuis ? un chantage ? la bombe pour arracher des concessions ? la communaut? internationale, incite les Occidentaux et leurs alli?s asiatiques ? la prudence. L'administration am?ricaine est elle-m?me h?sitante sur la conduite ? tenir ? l'?gard de T?h?ran. Si les faucons pr?nent une strat?gie offensive, visant ? terme ? faire tomber le r?gime des mollahs, les bataillons de diplomates investis dans la transition en Irak per?oivent de fa?on aigu? ? quel point ils ont besoin de l'Iran, qui peut user de son influence pour stabiliser la communaut? chiite - ou, au contraire, la dresser contre les arm?es ?trang?res. Il sera de toute fa?on difficile ? Washington d'arr?ter sa strat?gie iranienne avant l'?lection pr?sidentielle - de fait, avant le d?but de 2005. Fins joueurs d'?checs, les Iraniens veulent-ils mettre ? profit cette ann?e de r?pit non seulement pour pousser leurs pions sur la sc?ne g?opolitique, mais aussi pour passer dans la cat?gorie redout?e de puissance nucl?aire r?gionale, marchant ainsi sur les traces de l'Inde, du Pakistan et d'Isra?l - trois pays qui se sont cependant bien gard?s d'adh?rer au TNP ?
"On ne peut pas exclure, poursuit un diplomate proche de l'Agence, qu'un clan ? T?h?ran ait fait le choix du pire, avec l'argument que seule l'arme nucl?aire permettra de se faire respecter par les Occidentaux." Le fait que M. Aghazadeh, qui avait d?fendu en mai 2003, devant les gouverneurs de l'AIEA, une version tr?s peu cr?dible du programme nucl?aire iranien, soit revenu sur le devant de la sc?ne au d?triment de Hassan Rohani, un conservateur en qui les Europ?ens voyaient un interlocuteur fiable, laisse craindre que les ultranationalistes ne l'aient emport? sur les pragmatiques. Comme le soulignait ? l'automne un rap-port de l'International Crisis Group, jamais T?h?ran ne s'est senti aussi menac? : "Id?ologiquement hostile ? Isra?l mais culturellement en porte- ?-faux avec le monde arabe, convaincu qu'il n'a pas de v?ritable alli? mais beaucoup d'adversaires potentiels, entour? de gouvernements amis des Etats-Unis ou qui abritent d'importantes forces militaires am?ricaines, voire les deux ? la fois", l'Iran - qui convoitait d?j? la bombe au temps du chah - pourrait essayer de franchir ? marche forc?e les ?tapes qui le s?parent encore de la ma?trise compl?te du cycle nucl?aire.
Le difficile pari des Europ?ens consiste ? montrer aux Iraniens qu'ils ont beaucoup ? gagner s'ils coop?rent, et trop ? perdre dans la confrontation. Un Iran nucl?aris? inciterait la Turquie et l'Arabie saoudite ? suivre la m?me pente. L'axe construit depuis quelques ann?es entre Riyad et T?h?ran, notam-ment au sein de l'Organisation des pays exportateurs de p?trole, qui s'assure ainsi une meilleure ma?trise des prix, n'y survivrait pas longtemps. Pas plus que le TNP, dont la conf?rence de mise ? jour, ? Gen?ve en 2005, promet d?j? d'?tre houleuse. L'avenir du r?gime de non-prolif?ration nucl?aire, affaibli par la d?fection nord-cor?enne et les r?v?lations sur la fili?re pakistanaise, se joue sans doute, au cours des prochains mois, sur l'?chiquier iranien.

Jo?lle Stolz
L'Iran va construire un r?acteur ? eau lourde
LEMONDE.FR | 07.04.04 | 19h33
Pour les Iraniens, le r?acteur d'Arak doit servir ? la recherche et ? des fins m?dicales et industrielles, mais les instances de l'ONU craignent qu'il ne servent ? produire du plutonium ? usage militaire.
L'Iran doit commencer en juin ? construire un r?acteur ? eau lourde qui pourrait servir ? la production de plutonium ? usage militaire, ont affirm? mercredi 7 avril des diplomates ? Vienne, au lendemain de promesses iraniennes de coop?ration faites au directeur g?n?ral de l'Agence internationale de l'?nergie atomique (AIEA), Mohamed ElBaradei.
T?h?ran avait signal? en automne vouloir lancer un tel chantier, mais le passage ? l'acte ne peut que pr?occuper la communaut? internationale, qui craint que l'Iran cherche ? se doter de l'arme atomique sous couvert de nucl?aire civil, selon ces sources.
"L'Iran doit annoncer prochainement qu'il va commencer en juin ? travailler sur un r?acteur de recherche ? l'eau lourde ? Arak", ? 200 km au sud-ouest de T?h?ran, a d?clar? un diplomate proche de l'AIEA. Mardi, ? T?h?ran, l'Iran avait promis au directeur g?n?ral de l'AIEA, Mohamed ElBaradei, d'intensifier sa coop?ration et de r?pondre rapidement aux questions en suspens pour dissiper les doutes sur son programme nucl?aire.
Le r?acteur d'Arak, d'apr?s cette source, ne serait pas en violation des garanties du trait? de non-prolif?ration nucl?aire (TNP), mais sa construction adresserait ? nouveau un signal politique n?gatif ? la communaut? internationale, qui demande aux Iraniens de prouver qu'ils ne sont pas en train de fabriquer la bombe atomique.
D?j?, l'Iran avait annonc? fin mars qu'il voulait commencer ? convertir de l'uranium, une ?tape pr?alable ? l'enrichissement, dans le complexe d'Ispahan. Mardi, les Iraniens ont refus? ? M. ElBaradei de reporter ces activit?s de conversion. "Ce n'est pas par hasard" si le chantier d'Arak doit commencer en juin, le mois m?me o? le conseil des gouverneurs de l'AIEA tiendra une nouvelle session, selon ce diplomate.
D'apr?s lui en effet, T?h?ran, qui clame son bon droit, veut affirmer son ind?pendance et apaiser les durs du r?gime islamique qui vivent mal les inspections obtenues par l'AIEA.
Pour les Iraniens, le r?acteur doit servir ? la recherche et ? la production de radio-isotopes ? des fins m?dicales et industrielles. Cependant, il pourrait in fine servir ? produire du plutonium ? usage militaire, a not? le diplomate.
En novembre, l'Iran avait indiqu? dans un rapport soumis ? l'agence nucl?aire de l'ONU que pour remplacer son r?acteur de recherche vieux de trente ans et obsol?te, pr?s de la capitale, il avait tent? d'acqu?rir un r?acteur ? l'?tranger, mais en avait ?t? emp?ch? ? cause des sanctions occidentales.
Il convient d'emp?cher les Iraniens de commencer le chantier, car sinon "'il y aura un fait accompli", selon un diplomate. D'apr?s lui, "on peut toujours r?gler ?a en installant un r?acteur d'un autre type ? Arak et en donnant du combustible nucl?aire" ? usage civil aux Iraniens. Encore faut-il, selon lui, que l'AIEA re?oive des r?ponses satisfaisantes aux questions qu'elle se pose sur les programmes iraniens.
L'Iran avait remis ? l'agence onusienne, en octobre 2003, une d?claration pr?sent?e comme compl?te sur ses activit?s nucl?aires. Mais T?h?ran a ensuite ?t? condamn? par l'agence de s?ret? nucl?aire de l'ONU pour avoir cach? des activit?s sensibles notamment un projet de fabrication de centrifugeuses P2 capables d'enrichir de l'uranium. L'Iran s'est engag? mardi ? fournir des informations ? ce sujet.
T?h?ran a sign? en 2003 le protocole additionnel au TNP, qui autorise des inspections surprises de ses sites, et s'est engag? ? l'appliquer avant m?me sa ratification par le Parlement.

Avec AFP
Iran Plans Reactor That Can Make Weapons-Grade Plutonium Wires
Wednesday, April 7, 2004
VIENNA, Austria - Iran will start building a nuclear reactor in June that can produce weapons-grade plutonium, diplomats said Wednesday. Although Tehran insists the heavy-water facility is for research, the decision heightens concern about its nuclear ambitions.
One diplomat said the planned 40-megawatt reactor could produce enough plutonium for a nuclear weapon each year, an amount experts commonly say is 8.8 pounds.
The diplomats told The Associated Press that Iran informed the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency last year of its plans to build a reactor, and Iranian officials have previously suggested the reactor was already being built.
But the diplomats said construction had not yet begun and that Iranian officials announced the June start date for the first time during talks Tuesday in Tehran with Mohamed ElBaradei, director general of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency.
With Iran open about its desire to build the facility, the diplomats said the Iranian decision to go ahead with the plan was not an overt example of Tehran backtracking on pledges to dispel suspicions it is pursuing nuclear weapons.
Still, it "sends a bad signal at a time all eyes are on Iran," one of the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
International scrutiny of Iran's nuclear program has been growing since the IAEA discovered last year that Tehran had not disclosed large-scale efforts to enrich uranium, which can be used in nuclear warheads.
Traces of weapons-grade uranium found by inspectors and evidence of suspicious experiments led to a series of critical resolutions by the IAEA's board of governors.
The resolutions stopped short of forcing Iran to go before the U.N. Security Council, as demanded by the United States. But if ElBaradei gives a negative progress report on Iran when the IAEA board of governors meets in June, just as construction of the reactor is getting under way, Tehran could face action by the security council.
Iran argues that it needs the reactor to produce radioisotopes for medical research. But spent fuel rods from the planned reactor can be reprocessed to produce plutonium, also used for nuclear warheads, although the facility would be subject to IAEA inspections and other controls intended to make sure no plutonium is created.
Still, the United States and other countries might seize on Iran's plans as further evidence that the Islamic republic is not serious about quelling suspicions about its intentions.
"We feel strongly that there is no need for indigenous heavy water in Iran," said a Western diplomat, also speaking on condition of anonymity. "It's not necessary and highly suspicious."
The reactor site is at Arak, next to a heavy-water production plant. It is to replace a reactor using non-weapons-grade enriched uranium that the Iranians mothballed, saying it was outmoded and lacked fuel.
Because enrichment can be used to generate power and to make nuclear warheads, Iran has said it has suspended all enrichment to prove its peaceful intentions. It cannot buy enriched fuel on legal markets because of international suspicions about its intentions.
Seeking to counter accusations of continued deceit, Iran on Tuesday pledged to deliver a complete dossier to the IAEA detailing all its present and future nuclear activities by the end of April, ElBaradei said.
"We have agreed on an action plan with a timetable with how to move forward on the major outstanding issues," he said after meeting with Hasan Rowhani, secretary of Iran's powerful National Security Council.
Critics say Iran reneged on commitments to win international trust as IAEA inspectors discovered evidence of past experiments that could be used to develop weapons.
Adding to the skepticism was Iran's announcement last month 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 contradict its pledge to suspend enrichment. But Britain, France and Germany, which have stymied past U.S. attempts to castigate Iran, said the plant sent the wrong signal.
Last year, the three secured Iran's agreement to suspend enrichment and cooperate with the IAEA in exchange for promised access to Western technology.
? 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Chirac Shuffle May Spell Long-Term U.S. Bashing
by John Gizzi
Posted Apr 7, 2004
Reeling from the setback his government got in regional elections last week, French President Jacques Chirac dramatically reshuffled his government. The likeliest long-term impact of the Chirac shuffle, Paris watchers in Washington said last week, is more strained relations with the U.S. after Chirac's term is up in '07 and the French elect a new president.
Although Chirac retained Jean-Pierre Raffarin as prime minister, he turned his Cabinet upside down. The most dramatic changes were the naming of Foreign Minister (and long-assumed Chirac heir apparent for president) Dominique de Villepin as Interior Minister and shifting the present Interior Minister Nicholas Sarkozy (who is not close to Chirac and makes no secret of his desire to succeed him) as finance minister.
While the titles and power therein may not sound significant to most Americans, they have a profound impact on France and Europe. Translated from French, de Villepin--even more notorious than Chirac at the U.S. State Department and on the Washington diplomatic cocktail circuit for his relentless criticism of U.S. action in Iraq and support of a French-dominated European Union--now gets the domestic clout to lay the groundwork for a presidential campaign when Chirac steps down in '07--overseeing security from local to the national level, homeland security, immigration. Machiavelli admirer de Villepin also now controls the all-powerful counterintelligence service.
In contrast, the 49-year-old Sarkovzy was given what is tantamount to a demotion among Frenchmen: put in charge of launching a recovery of what is now the most stagnant and moribund among European economies. Unemployment in France is now a striking 9.6% and finances are at their lowest ebb since the oil shock of 1973.
In a country where statism seems a required religion for most office-holders, Sarkozy is an admirer of Margaret Thatcher-esque economics and, as the equivalent of Office of Management and Budget chief in the '90's, he was a vigorous advocate of reducing taxes. The man Frenchmen call "Sarko" is also no Chirac clone; his mentor was former Premier and Finance Minister Eduard Balladur, the French pol admired by American conservatives such as economist Paul Craig Roberts, and Chirac has reportedly never forgiven Sarkozy for campaigning for Balladur against him in the 1995 election.
So what the Chirac shuffle means is that, if "Le Grand Jacques" is unelectable himself in '07, he wants the next best thing in de Villepin.

Copyright ? 2003 HUMAN EVENTS. All Rights Reserved.
Secret Taiwan missile program aims at Mainland targets
Taiwan is planning to develop surface-to-surface missiles capable of hitting key targets on the Mainland as China continues its own missile buildup. has learned that Taiwan is involved in a secret program, dubbed Tiching, to develop both a short-range (SRBM) and medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM). Taiwan is attempting to develop a surface-to-surface missile (SSM) capable of hitting Shanghai and Hong Kong...
Czech selling advanced stealth-detecting radar to China over Western objections...



US lacked a clear, cohesive policy on Iraq, says Perle
By Peter Spiegel in Washington
Published: April 7 2004 20:58 | Last Updated: April 7 2004 20:58

It has suddenly become the season of the tell-all tome. First, there was Paul O'Neill, the former Treasury secretary who told of a Bush administration obsessed by Iraq from day one. Most recently came Richard Clarke, the ex-counterterrorism chief who alleges the White House ignored al-Qaeda until it was too late.
Sandwiched in between, however, and given far less notice, was another book highly critical of those around President George W. Bush, but from a much more surprising source: Richard Perle, the former Pentagon adviser often regarded as the intellectual godfather of the administration's aggressive foreign policy.
Unlike the other books, An End to Evil - co-written by yet another administration ?migr?, David Frum, a former speechwriter - is careful to steer clear of Mr Bush himself as well as Mr Perle's patron, Donald Rumsfeld, defence secretary.
But Mr Perle's book takes aim at almost everyone else in the senior reaches of the Bush foreign policy team and accuses many of them of significant failures in the run-up to, and the aftermath of, the war in Iraq.
On the armed forces: "Much of the planning for, and debate about, the Iraq campaign exposed the grip of the dead hand of military tradition." On the State department: "Seldom has the foreign policy bureaucracy inflicted such shameful damage on American interests than in its opposition to working with Saddam's Iraqi opponents." On the CIA: "George Tenet has been the director of central intelligence since 1997, time enough to have changed the agency's culture. He has failed. He should go."
Mr Perle acknowledges that part of the reason he quit the Defence Advisory Board, the Pentagon panel he used to chair, in February was to give full voice to such criticisms.
"I say a number of things in the book that are critical of a number of government departments," he says. "Often, administrations feel compelled to defend their agencies."
Indeed, in a hour-long interview, Mr Perle is even more critical of those agencies than in the book, arguing that the administration failed in its policymaking both before the war - he would have trained Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress as a government-in-exile months before the war started - and after.
"There were a lot of divisions about how we prepare for the postwar period, and some of those divisions prevented the emergence of a clear, cohesive, orderly policy," he muses. "I think you need a much more disciplined approach to the activities of separate institutions, who all have a role in a situation like that. I think the CIA was often at cross-purposes with national policy. The military often made their own more-or-less independent judgments about what was highest priority."
Asked whether such criticisms are an attack on Condoleezza Rice, whose job as national security adviser includes such policy co-ordination, Mr Perle demurs: "All I'm prepared to say is that there was not sufficient co-ordination. I don't want to assign blame."
And such criticisms do not extend to the war itself, of course. "We should have done it sooner, we should have done it differently in my view, but we did it and I'm glad we did it," he says.
Mr Perle has never been a shrinking violet, and while he complains repeatedly that his views are frequently twisted by political opponents, he clearly relishes his role as provocateur. But his views are also far more nuanced than critics on the right or left give him credit for. Patrick Buchanan, the conservative commentator, argued recently that Mr Perle's book called for "no end to war" but perhaps surprisingly, Mr Perle readily acknowledges democracy at the point of a gun is virtually impossible.
"I don't believe democracy can be imposed from outside. . . I certainly prefer change from within to military action from the outside," he says. "They make it sound as though we're proposing war with Syria, war with Iran. It's not true. I don't propose war with anyone. Libya is an example of what I and some others hope will result from a more robust American policy."
By more robust, Mr Perle means constant, almost harassing diplomatic pressure. Stopping the flow of oil from Iraq to Syria. Smuggling communications equipment to Iranian dissidents. Backing independence for Saudi Arabia's oil-producing Eastern Provinces.
It sounds like a recipe for destabilising an entire region, one that is home to one of the US's most important interests - oil - and its most dangerous enemy, Islamic fundamentalism.
Press him about whether that truly is his vision for the Middle East, and it suddenly becomes hard to pin Mr Perle down. At times, it appears the threats he advocates are just that: threats to be used to twist arms, rather than to be actually carried out.
"We're asking the governments to do certain things, and they're well aware that it is in within our power to do things that would destabilise their situation," he says elliptically. "They don't want that, so is it wrong for us to say we can make life very difficult for you if you don't want to do it?"
And what of signs that some of the region's regimes are softening, such as Iran's nascent moves towards openness on its nuclear programme? Should they not be rewarded? "I'm not against carrots," he says. "But it's stick first, and then the carrots."

Senators condemn UN's oil-for-food programme
By Salamander Davoudi in Washington and Claudio Gatti and Mark Turner in New York
Published: April 7 2004 21:56 | Last Updated: April 7 2004 21:56

Leading Democratic and Republican figures on Wednesday united in condemnation of the United Nation's oil-for-food programme in Iraq through which Saddam Hussein's regime diverted billions of dollars despite international supervision.
Speaking at a hearing of the US Senate foreign relations committee, Richard Lugar, the Republican chairman, said there was "no doubt that the billions of dollars that should have been spent on humanitarian needs in Iraq were siphoned off".
Mr Hussein depended on "members of the UN Security Council who were willing to be complicit in his activities, and he required UN officials and contractors who were dishonest, inattentive or [willing] to make damaging compromises", he said.
The criticisms come amid growing controversy about the UN's policing of the oil-for-food programme.
Fresh insights into how the system was manipulated are revealed in Thursday's Financial Times, in a joint investigation with Il Sole 24 Ore, the Italian business daily.
The US General Accounting Office, a congressional investigatory body, estimates Mr Hussein earned $10.1bn (?8.37bn) in illegal revenues. Of this, $5.7bn came from oil smuggled out of Iraq and $4.4bn in illicit surcharges on oil sales and procurement deals.
Several senators urged the publication of the names of companies and individuals that did business with Saddam's regime.
Oil sales contracts, the committee heard, were drawn up on a forward-cost basis, so the Iraqis could take the difference between the sale price and the market price. After the US and Britain advocated a retroactive pricing system, where the price was set at a later date, the scope for kickbacks was "substantially reduced", John Negroponte, US ambassador to the UN, said.

Lawmakers Seek Probe of U.N. Oil-for-Food Program
NewsMax Wires
Thursday, Apr. 08, 2004
U.S. lawmakers are calling on the United Nations to conduct a thorough investigation of alleged corruption in its oil-for-food program in Iraq. They say such a probe is crucial if the world body is to maintain credibility as it prepares to play a role in the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq in late June.
Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Wednesday criticized the United Nations for corruption and graft in Iraq's oil-for-food program.
Congress' investigative arm, the General Accounting Office, estimates the regime of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein siphoned billions of dollars in illegal revenue from the program between 1997 and 2002.
The program allowed Iraq to make some humanitarian purchases through limited oil sales at a time when Baghdad was under international sanctions for its 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
Senators on the Foreign Relations Committee suggested the United Nations' failure to adequately monitor the program calls into question its ability to help Iraq make a transition to a sovereign government June 30.
"There are serious allegations about mismanagement and corruption that must be addressed," said Delaware Senator Joe Biden, the panel's top Democrat. "Not only to hold accountable those who are guilty of corruption, but to make sure we get it right in the future, because we are going to lose credibility, the institution will lose credibility and the ability in the future to act is going to be seriously damaged.
Committee chairman, Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana, agreed. "The credibility of the United Nations in attempting to referee, supervise, or help to transform Iraq in this situation is really at stake," he said.
U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan has called for an independent probe into the corruption allegations.
The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, John Negroponte, told the Foreign Relations Committee that he is urging the secretary general to appoint experienced investigators who will handle the process in a viable and transparent way.
"I think it is important that he [Secretary General Annan] choose very high caliber people of outstanding reputation to lead this panel. I understand he intends to name the panel members in the near future," he said.
Some senators blamed Russia, France and China for blocking past U.S. efforts to investigate the corruption allegations. Those nations played a key role in the oil-for-food program.
Senator Lugar suggested those countries may have opposed the U.S.-led coalition's decision to use force to topple Saddam Hussein because ousting the regime would expose corruption in the oil-for-food program.

U.N. investigations focus on process, not substance.

By Claudia Rosett
"Cover-up" may sound farfetched, given the number of hearings and investigations now zeroing in on the United Nations Oil-for-Food scandal. The Iraq Governing Council began its own inquiry back in March. The U.S. Congress has scheduled three hearings this month, the first of them taking place today (Wednesday) before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. At the U.N. itself, where more than 100 audits over the course of the seven-year program apparently managed to miss more than $10 billion in smuggling and graft, Secretary-General Kofi Annan finally gave in last month to demands for an independent inquiry, and is now convening a team of investigators.
But when it comes to Oil-for-Food, there seem to be a lot of inquiring minds that don't want to know. Nor is the itch for ignorance confined to those most directly in the line of fire: the vast number of U.N.-approved contractors who paid kickbacks to Saddam Hussein; the U.N. staff who will now be investigated; the executive director of Oil-for-Food, Benon Sevan, alleged to have had his hand in the pot; or even the U.N. auditors -- whatever they did with their time.
No, the bigger problem is the prevailing notion -- and it seems to prevail all the way up to the White House -- that the U.N.'s image must somehow be kept pure enough so that it can soon (June 30) replace the Coalition Provisional Authority in post-Saddam Iraq as the primary outsider involved in Iraqi daily affairs. The fear, in New York and Washington, repeated by many a source speaking strictly on background, is that if we ever get to the bottom of this U.N.-funneled geyser of graft, it might discredit the U.N. too badly to allow it yet another influential role in Iraq.
Since Annan's epiphany last month, that "It is highly possible that there has been quite a lot of wrongdoing," the whitewashing has begun. The chief vehicle for this effort looks likely to be the U.N.'s own investigation, which will now be carried out under terms devised by none other than Kofi Annan himself -- the same Kofi Annan who presided over this cornucopia of corruption in the first place.
On the face of it, the impending U.N. investigation sounds satisfactory. According to the "terms of reference" -- meaning the ground rules proposed last month by Annan and welcomed by the Security Council -- the investigators are to have "unrestricted access to all relevant United Nations records and information" and to all U.N. personnel, "regardless of their seniority." They will check into such matters as whether U.N. staff or contractors took bribes "in the carrying out of their respective roles in relation to the Programme," and determine whether the accounts were kept "in accordance with the relevant Financial Regulations and Rules of the United Nations."
All that's left to do is wait for Annan to name the members of the panel. Within three months, they will then submit to Annan, in quintuplicate, a summary and underlying report. These materials he will share with the public, up to a point -- that point involving various judgments about "the rights of staff members" at the U.N., as well as anything the investigators might decide to keep confidential.
That's interesting, as far as it goes. In the event that any U.N. employees did happen to pocket the office paper clips, take bribes strictly through official U.N. channels, or leave the commas off some of the thousands of U.N.-processed contracts through which Saddam Hussein skimmed billions out of the Oil-for-Food program, Annan's ground rules may quite possibly nail a few wrongdoers.
But when the entire investigation is done, even if brilliantly performed under these guidelines, there will still be no accounting for the gross failures that allowed the U.N. to devise, implement, approve, and expand this monstrosity of a program until the transition had been made from food-for-children to palaces,-sports-stadiums,-smuggling,-and-kickbacks-for-Saddam-and-his-worldwide-network-of-cronies. When Annan sifts through the underlying report (in quintuplicate) there will still be no explanation of why top U.N. officials (including Annan himself) -- charged not with cleaning the copy machines, but with protecting the integrity of the institution and serving the public interest -- chose instead to shrug, gloss over Saddam's gross abuses, blame others, deny, stonewall, and finally come up with an investigation focused mainly on paper clips.
In a letter last week to Annan, Rep. Henry Hyde (R., Ill.), who will preside at an Oil-for-Food hearing later this month, wrote that the program "represents a scandal without precedent in U.N. history." Hyde's suggestion to Annan was: "Your response to these allegations must be equally unprecedented."
Hyde is onto something big. Oil-for-Food is important not simply as a stellar story of fraud, but for what it highlights about pervasive flaws in the structure and habits of the U.N. There is first the problem of responsibility: When something goes wrong, as we are now witnessing, the Security Council blames the Secretariat, and the Secretariat blames the Security Council. If something goes very badly wrong, then there is finally an investigation, maybe one or two people get fired, but there is no change of paradigm. Perhaps that's the only arrangement by which the U.N. can hold together. If so, we need to absorb the message that the U.N. is an institution that should never be trusted to carry out missions requiring integrity or responsibility. (Engendering a free society in Iraq, for instance.)
Then there's the U.N. custom of secrecy, usually explained by U.N. officials as a matter of deference to the "sensitivities" of member nations. How convenient. Chronic secrecy is a policy best geared to serve those who have the most to hide: the tyrants, the crooks, and the cheats (which, not coincidentally, turned out to be precisely the stew served up by Oil-for-Food). In setting up Oil-for-Food, the U.N. deferred greatly to the sensitivities of Saddam, protecting the privacy of his totalitarian regime and his business partners -- which included the commission-collecting U.N. itself. Had the details of the contracts been made public all along, had the accounts and the famous 100-and-then-some audits been released, often, there would have been at least a better chance of keeping Oil-for-Food honest.
None of this will be addressed by the independent U.N. investigation. Instead, once Annan has sorted through the findings and sifted out whatever is judged by U.N. standards to violate the "rights of staff members," we are all too likely to emerge with a U.N. just as irresponsible, unaccountable, and secretive as when it spawned Oil-for-Food, back in the mid-1990s. (Though the paperwork may, for a while, be kept in better order.)
Hope must turn, then, to the congressional hearings, and the investigation of the Iraq Governing Council. On the congressional front, staffers have been struggling to get a grip on Oil-for-Food, a program that was simply so vast, so complicated, and for so long so busily confidential, that it will be miraculous if they are able to piece it together thoroughly enough to lever any motion toward real reform at the U.N. The only serious point of leverage, actually, is U.S. funding, which provides about 22 percent of Annan's core budget. In the case of Iraq, the U.N. in return for this delivered a decade of busted sanctions, culminating in financial collaboration with a murderous tyrant, topped off by a knockdown fight in the Security Council pitting the U.S. and the U.K. against Saddam's U.N.-approved clientele, all topped off by Oil-for-Food. And, oh yes, now we have the U.N.'s offer to return to Iraq -- to confer legitimacy.
Quite likely, the best chance of a report that is both fully informed and frank lies with the investigation, in Baghdad, under the authority of the Iraq Governing Council. Early on, the Iraqis understood the need to look into Oil-for-Food -- while Annan, who for almost seven years ran the program, was still professing his doubts that anything might have been wrong. But in the current climate of complicated worries about discrediting the U.N., it should come as no surprise that the Iraqi investigation recently hit a bump. The U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad, in its own version of U.N.-style procedure, at this late date suddenly required the IGC-hired investigating team to drop their work in order to write a proposal, bidding for the right to carry out the investigation already well underway. In response, an adviser to the IGC, Claude Hankes-Drielsma, sent a letter to the CPA, noting: "I would certainly hope that the independent report commissioned and approved by the Iraq Governing Council will not become a political football either through confusion or interference." It seems the IGC investigation will now be able to go forward. That would be a very good thing, especially in the way of helping the Iraqi people decide just how much legitimacy they themselves would like to confer upon the U.N.

-- Claudia Rosett is a senior fellow with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, and an adjunct fellow with the Hudson Institute.



Bundesbank head suspended after accepting ?5,000 stay at hotel

Charlotte Denny
Thursday April 8, 2004
The Guardian
An embarrassed Bundesbank was forced to send its president, Ernst Welteke, on gardening leave yesterday following the revelation that the country's most
senior financial official had accepted four nights' accommodation for himself and his family at a luxury Berlin hotel paid for by a private bank.
In a statement following an all-day emergency meeting of its board, the Bundesbank said there were not sufficient grounds to fire Mr Welteke, who has apologised and offered to repay half the ?8,000 (?5,000) cost of his stay.
Despite the lukewarm backing of the board, his future was looking uncertain last night. On Monday Frankfurt prosecutors launched a formal investigation into the scandal.
Dresdner Bank, which paid Mr Welteke's bill for the four-day stay in January 2001 during the launch of the euro's new notes and coins, is regulated by the Bundesbank. Prosecutors will examine whether Mr Welteke broke laws governing the conduct of public officials by accepting the company's hospitality.
The affair has enraged politicians at a time when the German economy is struggling to shrug off three years of economic stagnation. The government is reported to have privately asked Mr Welteke to resign and yesterday urged the fiercely independent central bank to make a quick decision about his future.
"It would be in the interest of the Bundesbank, which is a very special institution and in Germany's history enjoys a particularly high reputation ... that one reaches a quick decision," government spokesman Thomas Steg said ahead of the meeting.
Public opinion has been inflamed by the story of Mr Welteke's lavish lifestyle at a time when Germans are being told to accept painful economic reforms. The central bank has been particularly critical of the government's fiscal laxity, an irony not lost Mr Welteke's enemies.
Mr Welteke has not ruled out resigning to limit the damage to the bank's reputation. Names of possible candidates to succeed him are already floating in government circles, with deputy finance minister Caio Koch-Weser and Bundesbank vice-president J?rgen Stark seen as front runners.
The Bundesbank declined to spell out how long Mr Welteke's leave would last but added that Mr Stark would in the meantime take over Mr Welteke's seat on the European Central Bank's policy-making council.
Mr Steg made it clear that Berlin would prefer to see Mr Welteke go.
Given public criticism it was "understandable and justified if Welteke publicly asks himself the question whether he can put family, himself, his office and the institution of the Bundesbank through this" the spokesman said.


Bundesbank chief to "temporarily" step down
By Patrick Jenkins in Frankfurt
Published: April 6 2004 18:14 | Last Updated: April 8 2004 0:34

The board of the German Bundesbank Wednesday night asked Ernst Welteke, the central bank's president, to take an indefinite leave of absence following his involvement in a row over corporate hospitality.
The decision, after a seven-hour board meeting, gives Mr Welteke the chance to resume his position if he is found innocent of wrongdoing by an ongoing investigation into the affair by the Frankfurt state prosecutor.
However, the prosecutor said the probe could take "weeks or months" to determine whether Dresdner Bank sought to gain advantage when it paid a ?7,661 ($8,965) hotel bill for Mr Welteke and his family two years ago.
In a statement last night, the Bundesbank board said: "The president of a national central bank can only be sacked if he has committed a serious misdemeanour." J?rgen Stark, the Bundesbank's vice-president, will take charge during Mr Welteke's leave of absence.
The decision ignored urging from the government for a "swift clarification". The affair has been an embarrassment for the government of Gerhard Schr?der, the chancellor, as the controversy surrounding Mr Welteke hit the Bundesbank's reputation.
The Bundesbank is one of the bodies responsible for regulating Germany's banking sector.
In an interview with ZDF television on Wednesday, Mr Welteke said: "I don't believe I've ever done anything to compromise my independence. But if the board and the Frankfurt public prosecutor see things differently, then clearly one has to consider resignation."
Bundesbank is losing last of its mystique
By Bertrand Benoit
Published: April 8 2004 0:52 | Last Updated: April 8 2004 0:52
"Not all Germans believe in God," Jacques Delors, the former French finance minister and European Commission president, once remarked. "But they all believe in the Bundesbank."
That may have been true, once. Since the German central bank surrendered the tools of monetary policy to the European Central Bank five years ago, however, the halo has all but disappeared.
Against such a backdrop, this week's hospitality scandal involving Ernst Welteke, the bank's president, looks like the latest milestone on the institution's slow road towards insignificance.
"The myth of the Bundesbank has taken another blow," said J?rgen Michels, economist at Citigroup. "At stake here is no longer its influence, but its reputation in the mind of Germans and Europeans."
Up to the late 1990s, the bank's low-rise concrete headquarters in the Frankfurt suburb of Ginnheim was arguably the beating heart of monetary Europe, where short-term interest rates for the entire continent were, de facto, set.
That changed in 1999 with the creation of the euro and transfer of monetary policy across town to the Eurotower, the Frankfurt home of the European Central Bank, which sets rates for the eurozone.
The head of the "Buba", today has no more say in the continent's monetary affairs than the 11 other central bank presidents and six ECB executive council members who sit on the ECB's governing council.
The bank's other prerogatives have also been gradually eroded. Mr Welteke, for instance, failed to persuade Hans Eichel, finance minister and fellow Social Democrat, to give it the lead in supervising Germany's banking sector.
Remaining are secondary activities as operator of a payment system for financial institutions, collector of economic statistics and custodian of Germany's gold and currency reserves.
The concrete fortress on the river Main could still have put its statistical resources and independence from government to good use, by turning itself into a prime economic think-tank. Yet even there, it has been found wanting.
Bankers say Mr Welteke, a former finance minister in the state of Hesse and a political appointee in his current position, has demonstrated none of the intellectual brilliance of Karl Blessing, Karl Otto P?hl, or Hans Tietmeyer, his predecessors.
Gerhard Schr?der, German chancellor, had already finalised "Agenda 2010" on structural reforms when "Ways out of the crisis", the Bundesbank's contribution, came out in March 2003.
Having lost authority, the bank also shrank physically.
Under Mr Welteke, its payroll of 14,589 was due to be cut by a quarter by 2007.
Seventy-three of its 118 regional branches have been earmarked for closure.
Yet the news that Mr Welteke had Dresdner Bank pay ?7,661.20 ($9,330, ?5,070) for a luxury hotel for him and his family three years ago, while he was attending an event it sponsored, still matters, bankers say, as it could rob the Bundesbank of one of its few remaining attributes: its moral authority.
In a country where financial journalists routinely accept lavish hospitality from the companies they report on, it was less the hotel that shocked than Mr Welteke's initial reaction to the revelations in the Spiegel news magazine.
"When I attend somebody else's event, I assume the costs will be covered," he told journalists last Sunday.
He then paused, frowned and rhetorically added: "Should I pay for it myself?"

German government asks federal bank chief to resign 2004-04-08 09:31:35
BERLIN, April 7 (Xinhuanet) -- The German government on Wednesday asked German central bank chief Ernst Welteke to resign immediately for his so-called "hotel scandal."
Earlier in the day, Welteke, president of the Bundes bank, decided to step aside from his duties temporarily at a recommendation of the bank's board of directors.
But a statement from the German Finance Ministry said that to step aside on a temporary basis was not enough and "we expect this matter to be clarified immediately."
Welteke and his family members spent a couple of nights at a luxury five-star hotel in Berlin at the expenditure of a private bank during celebrations marking the circulation of euro on January 1, 2001.
German prosecutors have launched an investigation on whether Welteke violated laws by accepting favors from the private bank. Enditem


SPIEGEL ONLINE - 07. April 2004, 20:03
Kritik an Vorstands-Beschluss
Bundesregierung dr?ngt Welteke zum R?cktritt
Bundesbankpr?sident Ernst Welteke wird sein Amt ruhen lassen, bis die Vorw?rfe im Zusammenhang mit einem Luxus-Aufenthalt im Berliner Adlon-Hotel gekl?rt sind. Dies gab der Vorstand der Notenbank nach einer fast achtst?ndigen Krisensitzung bekannt. Die Bundesregierung dr?ngt derweil auf einen R?cktritt des Beh?rdenchefs.
Bundesbankchef Welteke: Abwarten, bis die Luxus-Vorw?rfe gekl?rt sind
Frankfurt am Main/Berlin - "Die Bundesregierung geht davon aus, dass der Bundesbankpr?sident in seiner Verantwortung vor dem Amt und der Institution Bundesbank die notwendigen Konsequenzen ziehen wird", erkl?rte das Bundesfinanzministerium am Mittwochabend in Berlin.
Die Entscheidung des Bundesbankvorstands gegen eine Entlassung Weltekes wegen der Hotelkostenaff?re kritisierte das Ministerium als unangemessen. "Die Bundesregierung ist der Auffassung, dass sowohl das Amt des Bundesbankpr?sidenten als auch die Bundesbank als Institution vor weiterem Schaden bewahrt werden m?ssen", hie? es in der Erkl?rung. "Dies gebietet ihre Stellung gegen?ber den Finanzm?rkten als auch die Mitgliedschaft im Rat der EZB."
Der Vorstand der Notenbank hatte zuvor entschieden, dass Vizepr?sident J?rgen Stark die Gesch?fte kommissarisch f?hren soll, hie? es in einer schriftlichen Erkl?rung. Stark ?bernehme auch vorl?ufig Weltekes Amt als Mitglied im Rat der Europ?ischen Zentralbank (EZB).
Die Entscheidung im Bundesbank-Vorstand sei sehr schwierig gewesen. "Die Bewertung des Sachverhalts auf der Grundlage des Europ?ischen Systems der Zentralbanken-Status, des Bundesbankgesetzes und des Anstellungsvertrages von Herrn Welteke bietet dem Vorstand keinen hinreichenden Grund, einen Antrag auf Abberufung des Bundesbank-Pr?sidenten aus seinem Amt zu stellen", hie? es in der schriftlichen Mitteilung des Vorstands. "Der Pr?sident einer nationalen Zentralbank kann nach Art.14 Absatz 2 des ESZB-Status nur entlassen werden, wenn er eine schwere Verfehlung begangen hat."
Der Bundesbankvorstand habe Welteke im Hinblick auf die staatsanwaltschaftlichen Ermittlungen empfohlen, seine Amtsgesch?fte ruhen zu lassen. Welteke habe dem entsprochen. Mit der Entscheidung, dass er sein Amt zun?chst nur ruhen l?sst, solle ihm erm?glicht werden, sein Gesicht zu wahren.
Interimspr?sident Stark: Sitz im Rat der EZB
W?hrend der Vorstand der Zentralbank in Frankfurt die Vorw?rfe gegen den Pr?sidenten pr?fte, dr?ngte die Bundesregierung auf eine rasche Entscheidung. Die Beratungen des siebenk?pfigen Gremiums ?ber den umstrittenen Hotel-Aufenthalt hatten mittags begonnen, gegen 19.10 Uhr war die Sitzung beendet. Vorstandsmitglied Franz-Christoph Zeitler war per Telefon zugeschaltet. Welteke, der an den Beratungen nicht teilnahm, war kurz vor 18 Uhr dazu gesto?en und verlie? den Raum kurze Zeit sp?ter wieder.
Der Bundesbank-Pr?sident hatte noch am Nachmittag in einem ZDF-Interview erkl?rt, er halte an seinem Posten fest. Wenn jedoch der Vorstand Verfehlungen feststelle und ihn die Ermittlungen der Staatsanwaltschaft belasteten, "dann muss man nat?rlich ?ber R?cktritt nachdenken".
Eine z?gige Kl?rung w?re f?r ihre "weitere Funktionsf?higkeit" und angesichts ihrer Rolle als eine "ganz besondere Institution" im Interesse der Bundesbank, sagte der stellvertretende Regierungssprecher Thomas Steg, w?hrend der Bundesbank-Vorstand tagte. Falls es nach einer Entscheidung des Gremiums notwendig werde, sei die Bundesregierung ihrerseits sofort in der Lage, die notwendigen Personalentscheidungen zu treffen, betonten sowohl Steg als auch der Sprecher des Bundesfinanzministeriums, J?rg M?ller, ohne sich auf Personalspekulationen einzulassen.
Im Laufe des Tages hatte sich der Staatssekret?r im Bundesfinanzministerium, Caio Koch-Weser, 59, als Favorit der Bundesregierung f?r die Nachfolge Weltekes herauskristallisiert. Neben ihm wurden auch Bundesbank-Vize Stark, 55, und die SPD-Finanzpolitikerin Ingrid Matth?us-Maier, 58, die im Vorstand der ehemaligen Kreditanstalt f?r Wiederaufbau (heute KfW-Bankengruppe) sitzt, als Kandidaten f?r die Nachfolge gehandelt.
Welteke hatte zu Silvester 2001 an einer Feier zur Euro-Bargeldeinf?hrung in Berlin teilgenommen. Die Kosten f?r den Aufenthalt von Welteke, der vom 29. Dezember bis zum 2. Januar im Nobelhotel "Adlon" wohnte, hatte die Dresdner Bank ?bernommen. ?berdies kam die Bank auch noch f?r die Kosten von Weltekes Frau, seines Sohnes und dessen Freundin auf. Insgesamt wurden Kosten in H?he von 7661,20 Euro ?bernommen.

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Die Erkl?rung des Bundesbank-Vorstands

Die Adlon-Aff?re des Bundesbank-Pr?sidenten Ernst Welteke hat einen Konflikt zwischen Bundesbank und Bundesregierung ausgel?st. F?r eine Abberufung sah das Pr?sidium der Zentralbank keinen hinreichenden Grund. dokumentiert die Erkl?rung im Wortlaut.
Frankfurt am Main/Hamburg - Das Leitungsgremium der Deutschen Bundesbank hat am Mittwoch knapp acht Stunden lang ?ber die so genannten Adlon-Aff?re beraten. Auf einen Antrag, Welteke deswegen abzuberufen, verzichtete der Bundesbank-Vorstand jedoch. Seine Erkl?rung im Wortlaut:
"Frankfurt am Main, 7. April 2004 - Der Vorstand der Deutschen Bundesbank hat in seiner heutigen Sitzung die gegen Pr?sident Welteke im Zusammenhang mit einer Veranstaltung zur Einf?hrung des Euro-Bargeldes in Berlin zum Jahreswechsel 2001/2002 erhobenen Vorw?rfe gepr?ft. Pr?sident Welteke wurde zum Sachverhalt angeh?rt.
Der Vorstand best?tigt seine am Montag, den 5. April 2004, getroffene Entscheidung, dass die Kosten f?r die Teilnahme von Herrn Welteke an der Veranstaltung f?r zwei Tage von der Deutschen Bundesbank ?bernommen und dar?ber hinausgehende Kosten privater Natur von Herrn Welteke getragen werden.
Die Bewertung des Sachverhalts auf der Grundlage des ESZB-Statuts, des Bundesbankgesetzes und des Anstellungsvertrages von Herrn Welteke bietet dem Vorstand keinen hinreichenden Grund, einen Antrag auf Abberufung des Bundesbankpr?sidenten aus seinem Amt zu stellen. Der Pr?sident einer nationalen Zentralbank kann nach Art. 14 Absatz 2 des ESZB-Statuts nur entlassen werden, wenn er eine schwere Verfehlung begangen hat.
Der Vorstand der Deutschen Bundesbank hat Herrn Pr?sident Welteke im Hinblick auf die gestern wegen eines Anfangsverdachts auf Vorteilsannahme aufgenommenen staatsanwaltschaftlichen Ermittlungen empfohlen, seine Amtsgesch?fte mit dem heutigen Tage ruhen zu lassen. Pr?sident Welteke hat dem entsprochen. Vizepr?sident Dr. Stark wurde mit der Wahrnehmung der Aufgaben als Mitglied des EZB-Rats betraut."
Kerry bezeichnet US-Besatzung im Irak als "Chaos"
Washington (APA/ag.) - Der demokratische Pr?sidentschaftskandidat John Kerry hat die US-Besatzung im Irak als "Chaos" bezeichnet. Die US-F?hrung gehe "ungeschickt" mit der Lage um, sagte Kerry gegen?ber CNN. Es sei an der Zeit, dass Pr?sident Bush die Probleme eingestehe und eine andere Politik einschlage. Verteidigungsminister Rumsfeld betonte indes, die USA h?tten die Kontrolle im Irak nicht verloren.
Kerry erkl?rte in dem TV-Interview weiter, es sei ein Fehler gewesen, Kriegsgegner vom Wiederaufbau des Irak auszuschlie?en. "Das ist eine f?rchterliche Botschaft an die Staaten", sagte er. Bush m?sse den Wiederaufbau und die Einsetzung einer ?bergangsregierung "einer legitimierten internationalen Einheit" ?berlassen. Rumsfeld betonte angesichts der anhaltenden Gewalt, dass die USA die Kontrolle im Irak nicht verloren h?tten. Die Zahl der Angreifer sei gering, sagte der Verteidigungsminister am Mittwoch in Washington. Zugleich r?umte Rumsfeld jedoch ein, dass die Stadt Najaf nicht mehr der Kontrolle der US-gef?hrten Besatzungstruppen unterliegt. Die Koalition habe sich auf Bitten der Iraker aus der Schiiten-Hochburg zur?ckgezogen, weil zurzeit sowohl zahlreiche Pilger als auch Milizen in der Stadt seien, sagte Rumsfeld. In Najaf waren am Sonntag bei K?mpfen zwischen Schiiten und den Besatzungstruppen 20 Iraker get?tet und etwa 200 verletzt worden. Die Stadt geh?rt zu den heiligsten St?tten der Schiiten. Angesichts der schweren Unruhen wollen die USA ihre Truppen im Irak l?nger im Einsatz lassen als geplant. Rumsfeld deutete an, dass das Milit?r den derzeit laufenden Truppenwechsel so weit hinausz?gern wird, dass "die fronterfahrenen Soldaten die aktuelle Situation durchfechten" k?nnten. Nach Angaben des Pentagons sind derzeit 135.000 US-Soldaten im Irak, ihre Zahl soll nach den Rotationen wieder auf 115.000 absinken.

APA 3:17 8.04.2004
Communists Infiltrated Kerry's Anti-War Group, Historian Says

by Marc Morano
Posted Apr 6, 2004
The 1970s anti-war group that included John Kerry was "heavily infiltrate[d]" by individuals dedicated to the teachings of Chinese communist leader Mao Tse-Tung and to the use of violence, if necessary to achieve their goals, according to a historian friendly to Kerry.
"The RCP (Revolutionary Communist Party) was already beginning to heavily infiltrate the [Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1971]. They eventually took it over around '73 and basically pushed out all the real veterans and brought in all the RCP functionaries and destroyed the organization," Gerald Nicosia, author of Home to War: A History of the Vietnam Veterans' Movement and a Kerry supporter, told
"Even in 1971, there was an RCP presence ... [RCP is] a crackpot organization, very violent, extremely violent, far left Maoist organization," led by a man named Bob Avakian, Nicosia said.
"[In 1971] they were trying to take over and eventually did take over VVAW," he added.
Nicosia said Kerry was aware of communism's increasing presence in the VVAW operations and it was one of the factors that led to his resignation as one of the leaders of the group in November 1971.
But even though Kerry resigned from the group's leadership in November 1971, several published news accounts cite Kerry as a representative of VVAW into 1972.
The RCP's efforts to control VVAW came to a head in 1978, when the communist factions split off to form their own group called Vietnam Veterans Against the War - Anti-Imperialist (VVAW-AI.) This group still exists today and refers to the U.S. as "AmeriKKKa" on its website.
Other radical factions influenced VVAW, according to Nicosia.
"There were guys that were not Maoist, but guys who were like Scott Camil," Nicosia said, referring to the man who allegedly advocated the possible assassination of U.S. senators still supportive of the U.S. war effort in Vietnam. "They were veterans and still believed in the U.S and still saluted the flag, but believed this government was all wet and wanted to get rid of it," Nicosia said.
"There was Al Hubbard, who was a Black Panther who was also pushing the organization toward violent confrontation," Nicosia added. Hubbard, who had appeared at Kerry's side in April of 1971 on NBC's "Meet the Press," was later shown to have lied about his military record.
Current VVAW member David Cline dismissed the communist presence in VVAW during the time Kerry served as the group's spokesman.
"Some people had philosophies of varying types. There [were] people who were driven by religious views ... there was one guy who was involved in Veterans for [the George] McGovern campaign. So there [were] people coming from different areas," Cline told . "Anytime you are going to get a big organization, you are going to get a lot of different views."
Cline, who joined VVAW in 1970 and today serves as a national coordinator for the group, said the veterans were not concerned with the political views of their fellow members.
"We were coming from having been in war, so we were coming from, in a lot of ways, gut level knowledge and feelings, and high blown political philosophies weren't really the main thing people were concerned about," Cline explained.
VVAW reached out to radical individuals and groups in part to achieve racial harmony, he said.
"VVAW -- it was interracial, but it was more white soldiers in general. A lot of Vietnam Veterans joined the Black Panthers and the American Indian movement and groups of that nature and we were trying to build bonds with our fellow veterans of different nationalities and races," Cline said.
"In [those] days there [were] a lot of radical ideas in the air -- a lot of s*** was going down back then," he added.
Cline said he recalls avowed communists being a part of the VVAW in the early 1970s, but dismissed their importance. "Mainly I thought they were just people just trying to sell their papers," he said.
John Zutz, a current VVAW national coordinator, confirmed the Maoist communist influence in his group.
"That in fact did happen. The RCP was attempting to take over [VVAW]," Zutz told And the group's influence grew even larger in 1973, he said.
"The war was basically over, so the membership in VVAW started dropping, which gave the RCP a chance to try to take it over," Zutz said.
The RCP communists were hard workers and eventually obtained leadership roles in VVAW, he added. "They were veterans and they were active and they became leaders. Because they were active and they were willing to do the work, they started working themselves up the leadership ladder," he said.
Cline believes that much of the recent scrutiny of Kerry's anti-war activism has originated from a "far right segment" of veterans trying to influence the election.
"I think that there is a segment of the veteran's community, a far right segment. They are working to try and whip this up," Cline said.

Copyright ? 2003 HUMAN EVENTS. All Rights Reserved.
B.G. Burkett: Navy Commanders to Cast Doubt on Kerry's War Record

Several Navy officers who supervised Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry when he commanded a swift boat in Vietnam are preparing to publicly question his war record - including the circumstances under which he was awarded three Purple Hearts - a noted Vietnam War historian revealed on Sunday.
Burkett, whose book, "Stolen Valor," is considered to be the definitive history of of falsified Vietnam War claims, told WABC Radio's Steve Malzberg that Kerry's former commanders would allege that the top Democrat's Purple Hearts were awarded for "self-reported injuries that were virtually nonexistent."
"He never got a day of treatment, he never spent a day in a medical facility," Burkett said. "These were all self-reported wounds, which you're going to hear from some swift boat guys in the future as to the nature of those wounds."
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Burkett said he had personally spoken to the Navy commanders who were preparing to go public about Kerry's decorations.
"You're going to get quite a showing [of those speaking out]," Burkett told Malzberg. "I don't know [the number] yet. They're trying to get it to be unanimous of every swift boat guy who ever served."
As to the timetable for the upcoming revelations, Burkett said that Kerry's superior officers "were still discussing that."
Burkett's book was the first to expose Kerry's false claims made in the early 1970s about U.S. war atrocities, as well as Kerry's claim -- later found to be untrue -- that he trashed his war medals.
"You've got some major rallys being planned against John Kerry by Vietnam veterans on the mall, at the convention - this type of thing," he said. "And we're going to make America aware of John Kerry's military record."

Kerry: Terrorist Shiite Al-Sadr 'a Legitimate Voice'

In an interview broadcast Wednesday morning, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry defended terrorist Shiite imam Muqtada al-Sadr as a "legitimate voice" in Iraq, despite that fact that he's led an uprising that has killed nearly 20 American GIs in the last two days.
Speaking of al-Sadr's newspaper, which was shut down by coalition forces last week after it urged violence against U.S. troops, Kerry complained to National Public Radio, "They shut a newspaper that belongs to a legitimate voice in Iraq."
In the next breath, however, the White House hopeful caught himself and quickly changed direction. "Well, let me ... change the term 'legitimate.' It belongs to a voice -- because he has clearly taken on a far more radical tone in recent days and aligned himself with both Hamas and Hezbollah, which is a sort of terrorist alignment."
But Kerry again seemed to voice sympathy for the Shiite terrorist when asked whether he supported al-Sadr's arrest. "Not if it's an isolated act without the other kinds of steps necessary to change the dynamics on the ground in Iraq," Kerry told NPR, in quotes first reported by the New York Sun.
"If all we do is make war against the Iraqi people and continue an American occupation, fundamentally, without a clarity as to who and how sovereignty is being turned over, we have a very serious problem for the long run here," Kerry added. "And I think this administration is just walking dead center down into that trap."
On March 28, the U.S.-led coalition authorities closed al-Sadr's newspaper, al-Hawza, for 60 days, the Sun reported. L. Paul Bremer, the chief U.S. administrator in Iraq, charged that the newspaper had published false stories blaming the coalition forces for local acts of terrorism.



Oman's Oil Yield Long in Decline, Shell Data Show

The Royal Dutch/Shell Group's oil production in Oman has been declining for years, belying the company's optimistic reports and raising doubts about a vital question in the Middle East: whether new technology can extend the life of huge but mature oil fields.
Internal company documents and technical papers show that the Yibal field, Oman's largest, began to decline rapidly in 1997. Yet Sir Philip Watts, Shell's former chairman, said in an upbeat public report in 2000 that "major advances in drilling" were enabling the company "to extract more from such mature fields." The internal Shell documents suggest that the figure for proven oil reserves in Oman was mistakenly increased in 2000, resulting in a 40 percent overstatement.
The company's falling production and reduced reserves in Oman are part of a broader problem facing Shell, the British-Dutch oil giant that earlier this year lowered its estimate of worldwide reserves, a crucial financial indicator, by 20 percent, or 3.9 billion barrels.
Documents show that senior executives were told the calculations of reserves were too high in 2002, at least two years before the company downgraded its estimate this January.
While Oman represents a small part of Shell's reserves, oil industry experts say the company's experience there highlights broader questions about the future role of Western oil companies and their technology in the Persian Gulf, which has most of the world's oil reserves.
In the case of the Yibal field, for example, Shell and Omani oil engineers and auditors have expressed concerns that a technique Sir Philip said would recover more oil not only did not do so, but also increased the amount of water in the extracted oil to as much as 90 percent of the total volume, increasing production costs.
"In Oman, Shell seems to have fumbled on technology," said Ali Morteza Samsam Bakhtiari, a senior official with the National Iranian Oil Company.
Perhaps more ominously for the world's oil outlook, he added that the failure of Shell's horizontal drilling technology in Oman suggested that even advanced extraction techniques "won't bring back the good old days."
In the last 10 years, horizontal drilling has become one of the most important innovations in the oil production business and is widely used around the world. If properly managed, it can extract more oil from some fields, and can pump it out sooner and more efficiently than traditional vertical drilling.
Shell helped pioneer the technique, and it did accelerate production in Yibal, documents show. But a Shell document last fall did oes not project the technique to increase the amount of oil that will ultimately be recovered from the field, and it resulted in additional water being mixed in with the oil, increasing production costs. That suggests that although it may work in some places, horizontal drilling may not always be the answer to declining production rates in the mature fields of the Middle East.
Sir Philip made his optimistic assessment of the Oman field in May 2000, when he was the company's head of exploration and development. He was named chairman a year later. The board dismissed him and Walter van de Vijver, chief executive of the exploration and production business in early March, about two months after Shell reduced its reserves estimate.
Regulators in Europe and Washington, as well prosecutors at the United States Justice Department are investigating whether Shell's disclosures about its reserves complied with securities laws. The company says it is cooperating with the investigations and expects to announce the results of an internal review in the next few weeks.
"Shell has been open about the production shortfall in Oman, most recently in the presentation to analysts on Feb. 5," Simon Buerk, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail message responding to questions. Mr. Buerk said that production targets were met in 2003. Pending investigations limited the company's ability to comment on Sir Philip's statements, he said.
Shell has been involved in Oman since the 1930's, when oil was first discovered there. It owns 34 percent of Petroleum Development Oman, the dominant oil and gas exploration company. The Omani government owns 60 percent of the joint venture, which accounts for 90 percent of the sultanate's oil production and virtually all of its natural gas production. The rest is owned by other European companies.
Oman's oil problems are relatively recent. Annual production rose from 1980 to 1997, when the 35-year-old Yibal field began to decline.
Two engineering papers written last year by Petroleum Development Oman officials show that production in Yibal has fallen at an annual rate of about 12 percent for six years; that is more than twice the normal rate of 5 percent in the region. Moreover, Shell overstated its proven oil reserves in Oman, a December 2003 Shell report found, primarily because the company had failed to trim the figures back "in light of recent downturns in oil production rates."
This sober internal analysis differs from optimistic public statements by Shell that continued even after news of production difficulties began to circulate outside the company. When an analyst asked in 2002 about problems in Oman, for example, Sir Philip likened them to "a bit of hiccup."
Joseph I. Goldstein, Sir Philip's lawyer in Washington, did not return a phone call.
Nasser bin Khamis al-Jashmi, an under secretary at Oman's Ministry of Oil and Gas and a member of the board of Petroleum Development Oman, declined to speak publicly about the matter this week. "I will not be able to answer your questions as we are still discussing the whole issue with our partners," he said.
But some insight into Oman's views are contained in remarks made a few years ago by its minister of oil and gas and another director of Petroleum Development Oman. The remarks were published in the venture's newsletter and posted on Shell's Web site. "We have been too preoccupied with trying to get that extra barrel" now, said the minister, Mohammed bin Hamad al-Rumhy, "rather than formulating a plan for the long term."
Countries like Oman seek to husband their oil and gas to extend their income over the long run, but Shell, aiming to increase value for its shareholders, has a shorter time horizon: its license in Oman expires in 2012, so it has emphasized pumping more oil sooner.
A Dec. 8, 2003, report to Shell's top managers about the impending restatement of reserves criticized the operation in Oman. The cause of the problems, the report said, was "the extreme focus on short-term development opportunities (`keep the rigs busy to keep the oil rate up') to the detriment of defining long-term projects."
Oil experts say the situation in which Shell and Oman, which form one of the few government-company alliances in the region, find themselves may portend problems for the West's quest for energy security. Major energy companies that had run oil operations in the Persian Gulf before they were nationalized decades ago are looking to return to the region and obtain concessions like the one Shell has in Oman.
"There is considerable ambivalence about foreign oil companies in the Persian Gulf," said Valerie Marcel, an expert on oil and the Middle East at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. "Persian Gulf producers would like to see their reservoirs handled with velvet gloves -- and that means a longer and flatter production curve."
Mr. Buerk of Shell said that his company was supporting efforts of the joint venture to "maximize long-term oil production," and that Shell and the Omani government had "a close and strong relationship spanning more than six decades."
But the arrangement can also be "extremely sensitive," according to the internal Shell report of last December, which recommended that the lowered amount of Oman's proven reserves be kept confidential. (Shell officials have said that the revision in Oman accounts for no more than 10 percent of the worldwide restatement, or 390 million barrels.)
The sensitive matter, according to the report, involves negotiations over bonuses that the company can win for increasing reserves. The basis for the bonus is a less rigorous standard -- called expectation reserves -- than the proven-reserves yardstick that the company is required by American rules to list in periodic filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The report said "the expectation reserves may be overstated."
The declines in the Yibal field are spelled out by officials of the joint venture in two papers that were published last year by the Society of Petroleum Engineers. The papers have different numbers: both say production peaked in 1997, but one said it declined to its current rate of 88,057 barrels a day by 2000 from a peak of 251,592, while the other said it fell to 95,000 barrels from 225,000. A spokeswoman for the society said she could not explain the difference.
Both papers say that about 90 percent of the liquid coming out of the ground is water and 10 percent is oil. The high volume of water, one paper said, comes in part from the water that Shell injects into the ground as part of its horizontal drilling technique, which it introduced to Oman in the early 1990's. The relatively high volume of water being pumped up adds considerably to the costs of extracting the oil.
While the field was declining, Sir Philip described it as a marvel of "advances in well technology" that had, in four years, produced additional production and "substantial additional reserves," according to an account of remarks he made on March 9, 1999, that is posted on Shell's Web site.
The next year, Shell officials advised the joint venture "to make an upward correction to proved reserves" based on steady production rates for all of Oman over the next eight years, according to Shell's senior management report dated last December.
The reserve estimate was increased even as overall production began to decline. Nonetheless, Sir Philip, in his remarks on May 29, 2000, continued to talk positively about the effect of horizontal drilling and other technologies on Yibal, saying it was "still the country's most important producer three decades after coming on-stream."
Last December's Shell report said, "With hindsight, it might have been more appropriate to correct the expectation estimate down rather than the proved estimate upwards." The report said that it was understood at the time when the reserve estimate was increased that a more detailed assessment would follow.
But it was not until 2003, four years after the previous audit, that Shell did an audit of proven reserves of its operations in Oman. The audit found that "proved total reserves are currently overstated by some 40 percent."
Exxon Mobil, a competitor of Shell, says that it audits its proven reserves annually.
The lack of a timely assessment of Oman by Shell's auditors, the internal December report explained, was "due to the attention required by serious production decline problems."

Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company

From the Institute of Advanced Hindsight...
Winston Churchill said famously, "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." That was 1945. Today, lies are capable of circling the globe at the speed of light -- especially when a Leftmedia outlet like CBS's "60 Minutes" hosts "The Dick Clarke Show."

Richard Clarke, a leftover from the Clinton regime, seems to have confused George W. Bush for William J. Clinton. Errantly, Clarke claims President Bush ignored the al-Qa'ida threat and implies culpability for the attack on our countrymen 11 September 2001, eight months after Mr. Bush took office. That attack, you'll recall, was orchestrated by Osama bin Laden, the Islamist terrorist whom Bill Clinton ignored for eight years.

Why is Clarke stepping forward now? Politics and publicity.

George Bush's military record as Commander-in-Chief is far more impressive than anything John Kerry has been able to conjure up. Thus, Kerry and company are determined to undermine President Bush's credibility as CiC by accusing him of dereliction of duty with regard to 9/11 and the war against Jihadi terrorists. To that end, a few weeks back, Kerry's operatives rallied a small group of family members of 9/11 victims against the Bush administration in a shameless exploitation of 3,000 dead Americans. And now they have enlisted Clarke to further erode the perception of the President's CiC performance.

As for Clarke's accusation that President Bush "ignored terrorism for months, when maybe we could have done something to stop 9/11," it doesn't hold up to even the most fundamental scrutiny.

Contrary to Clarke's "recollection," long before 9/11 President Bush told his National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice that he was "tired of swatting flies," as had been the policy of the Clinton Administration. Instead, the U.S. would need to take the fight to al-Qa'ida. After all, under Clinton's watch, al-Qa'ida operatives had already bombed the World Trade Center, plotted to bomb simultaneously a dozen U.S. trans-Pacific flights, successfully bombed U.S. Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, attempted to bomb Los Angeles International Airport, and bombed the USS Cole in the port of Aden, Yemen. Did we mention the bombing of Khobar Towers?

In effect, Osama bin Laden and his al-Qa'ida terrorist network had operated with impunity since 1993.

To support President Bush's directive, spending for covert action against al-Qa'ida was increased 400%, while the administration's National Security Council deputies began to develop an operations plan to destroy al-Qa'ida. During that time, the Counterterrorism Security Group, the government's interagency counterterrorism crisis-management forum chaired by Dick Clarke, met on a near-daily basis prior to 9/11 out of concern for a potential al-Qa'ida attack. The new plan, a complete departure from the previous administration's policy of appeasement, was on the President's desk by 4 September 2001. Tragically, this wasn't soon enough to prevent the actions of al-Qa'ida one week later -- actions that were planned two years before President Bush took office.

Clarke, testifying before the commission investigating intelligence failures prior to 9/11, should have spent less time peddling books and more time preparing his story. Indeed, when asked by former Sen. Slade Gorton if there was "the remotest chance" the events of 9/11 could have been avoided if the Bush administration had adopted ALL of Clarke's recommendations for dealing with al-Qa'ida, Clarke answered, "No."

Additionally, Clarke's big adventure into the realm of Clinton-sized prevarication was not solely a politically-motivated assault on the President's integrity, but timed to give maximum exposure by the Leftmedia to his new book, which is little more than a Leftist diatribe against the Bush doctrine of preemption. To that end, it is worth noting that the parent company of CBS (Clarke's principal promoter) is Viacom -- which also happens to be the parent company of Simon & Schuster, the publisher of Clarke's dubious new book, "Against All Enemies." (Recall that in January, CBS and Viacom orchestrated the same "60 Minutes" book promotion for another Bush-bashing tome -- that of fired former treasury secretary Paul O'Neill.)

Quote of the week...

"You can't walk away from this challenge. You can't say it isn't going to affect me. You can't say let's not take any actions that a terrorist might not like, like say, participating in the Coalition in Iraq or doing other things ... because you are afraid of what the terrorist reaction might be. This is the time to fight terrorism, not to walk away or be terrified by terrorism." --Secretary of State Colin Powell

On cross-examination...

"For us, today, the hearings and frantic finger-pointing about September 11 are as silly and pointless as they are inevitable. The emergence of Islamist terrorism has been a good half century in the making -- from the theoretical writings by Egyptian intellectuals at the middle of the last century to September 11 and beyond. The clash between our civilization and that force was probably inevitable. If the events of September 11 had failed for any reason, there would have been another day and another disaster." --Tony Blankley

Open query...

"...Wednesday, Clarke ... testified before the 9/11 commission. Was his testimony helpful to those seriously attempting to craft an effective policy to defeat terrorism? Or was he selling books and giving a job interview? You ... make the call." --Clifford D. May

The BIG lie...

"In the march to war, the president exaggerated the threat. It was not nuanced. It was pure, unadulterated fear-mongering, based on a devious strategy to convince the American people that Saddam's ability to provide nuclear weapons to Al-Qa'ida justified immediate war. Why would the administration go to such lengths to go to war? Was it trying to change the subject from its failed economic policy, the corporate scandals, and its failed effort to capture Osama bin Laden? The only imminent threat was the November congressional election. The politics of the election trumped the stubborn facts. What happened was not merely a failure of intelligence, but the result of manipulation and distortion of intelligence and the selective use of unreliable intelligence to justify a decision to go to war. The administration had made up its mind and would not let stubborn facts stand in the way." --Teddy Kennedy (D-Lirious)

On the Warfront with Jihadistan...

While John Kerry and his band of malcontents continued to undermine U.S. resolve in the war against Jihadistan ("aiding and abetting the enemy," it's called), four American civilians and seven American military personnel were murdered by al-Qa'ida wannabes in the Sunni Triangle around Baghdad. "The insurgents in Fallujah are testing us," says USMC Captain Chris Logan. "They're testing our resolve. But it's not like we're going to leave."

Despite these attacks, there was additional evidence that the U.S. presence in Iraq is having the desired effect on Iran and Syria. Syria has asked U.S. ally Australia for help in repairing its relations with the U.S. Australia, you'll recall, helped "negotiate the peace" between the U.S. and Libya earlier this year. Seems that Syria's Baathists are running scared....

From the Department of military readiness...

All those Lefties suggesting the U.S. has a "hollow military" will be sad to learn this week that the five Army divisions that have units deployed in the Middle East for the past 12 months have met virtually every re-enlistment goal. Retention targets for enlisted soldiers -- the 416,000 privates, corporals and sergeants of the Army's 490,000 active force, are standing firm. The all-volunteer force remains strong despite the stress of frequent deployments and hazardous duty. "This tends to rebut armchair critics who said the sky is falling and the vultures are circling and the Army is gong to lose all its troops," said Lt. Col. Franklin Childress. "This is not true. The soldiers get it." Hooah!

Don't even think about ending your week without arming yourself with The Federalist's comprehensive, conservative digest of the week's most important news, policy and opinion.

>> WHO?

Who Lost Osama?
From the April 12 / April 19, 2004 issue: Richard Clarke is far tougher on the Clinton failures than advertised.
by Daniel C. Twining
04/12/2004, Volume 009, Issue 30

Against All Enemies
Inside America's War on Terror
by Richard Clarke
Free Press, 304 pp., $27
"THIS IS THE STORY, from my perspective, of how al Qaeda developed and attacked the United States on September 11," Richard Clarke begins Against All Enemies: Inside America's War on Terror, his new book that has been widely ballyhooed as the bomb that will destroy President Bush's reelection campaign.
In fact, only in his preface and the book's final sixty-five pages does Clarke's partisanship boil over into the invective, vitriol, and spite that have transformed this career national-security hawk into the anti-Bush Democrats' American Idol. The rest of the book, Clarke's unwitting indictment of the Clinton administration's terrorism policy, ought to make the whole of the nation vote for four more years of Bush.
After a warm-up chapter that offers a readable account of the first twenty-four hours of the White House's response to the attacks, a nonpartisan chapter on how America transformed its strategic posture in the Middle East during the 1980s, and a sensible chapter on the first Gulf War, the subsequent one hundred and fifty pages of Against All Enemies chronicle the formation and rise of al Qaeda--and the American government's failure to prevent it from metastasizing into the existential threat it had become by the time Clinton left office.
Clarke explains al Qaeda's rise, from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing through subsequent foiled and successful terrorist attacks in Mogadishu in 1993, the Philippines in 1995, Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996, Africa in 1998, and Yemen in 2000, as well as the foiled Millennium Plot--all of which is required reading for those who want to understand what the government knew about al Qaeda on President Clinton's watch (a lot) and what it did about it (considerably less than it should have).
Although critical of the failure to retaliate against Iran for the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, Clarke credits President Reagan with transforming the United States' strategic posture in the Middle East. When Reagan took office, the Central Command, now arguably our most important command, was a backwater; the United States had no bases in the Persian Gulf; and events in Iran had left the United States vulnerable to the spread of Islamic fundamentalism and another wave of devastating oil shocks.
Clarke admiringly recalls how Reagan moved the United States closer to Israel, instituting joint exercises and extensive military-to-military cooperation. Reagan also built new military relationships with Egypt, Oman, and Bahrain, and established the headquarters of the Navy's Fifth Fleet in Bahrain to patrol the Persian Gulf. According to Clarke, Reagan "checkmated the Iranians by strengthening Saddam Hussein." Reagan's support of the Afghan opposition brought about the Soviet Union's withdrawal from Afghanistan, a significant strategic defeat. Reagan's policies not only transformed America's position in the wider Middle East but enabled the military response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait in 1990.
CLARKE'S REVIEW of the diplomacy preceding the first Gulf War is also interesting. Traveling with Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney to Riyadh, Clarke was at the pivotal meeting in which the king of Saudi Arabia agreed to the stationing of American forces in his country, even as his intelligence chief, Prince Turki, was secretly asking Osama bin Laden to assemble Afghan volunteers to defend the kingdom from Saddam's army. Clarke recalls the breathless pace at which American officials flew from one capital to another around the Gulf. He dissects the famous judgment to stop General Barry McCaffrey's forces from finishing off Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard as they retreated from Kuwait, and the flawed American decision "to stand by and let the Republican Guard mass murder the Shia and Kurds."
The failure of Bush's father to end Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq segued into the first test of the Clinton administration's determination to act against terrorism. Clarke helped plan the initial use of force in the Clinton administration, to retaliate against Iraq for its plot to assassinate George H.W. Bush in Kuwait. The strike was an early indicator of the schizophrenia that characterized Clinton's national security policy: a laudable willingness to use military force strangely matched with a fierce determination that it cause the least possible pain to our enemies. In Clarke's rendition, Secretary of State Warren Christopher "argued strongly on legal grounds that the list [of targets] be limited to one facility, the Iraqi intelligence headquarters. He also wanted it hit on Saturday night, to minimize casualties. Christopher won."
In addition to ending, purportedly, Iraqi terrorism against the United States by bombing Iraq's empty intelligence headquarters, Clarke also claims credit for ending Iranian terrorism against the United States after the Khobar Towers attack. Today's proponents of rapprochement with Tehran should pay close attention. Clarke has no doubt the Iranian government sponsored the Khobar bombing, which killed nineteen Americans: "The larger attack in Saudi Arabia at Khobar was conducted by Saudi Hezbollah under the close supervision of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps and its Qods Force," he writes. At the time, the CIA judged that "further Iranian-sponsored terrorism against the United States was likely."
This should have been grounds for war, and we learn in Against All Enemies the White House considered it, examining options including a full-scale invasion, attacking Iranian-sponsored terrorist camps in Lebanon, persuading our allies to impose a multilateral economic boycott, and conducting an unspecified "intelligence operation."
Inevitably, the Clinton administration chose the lesser option of a covert operation against Iran, underscoring another theme of the Clinton years: hawkish instincts ("Clinton told us that if it came to using force against Iran, 'I don't want any piss-ant half measures'") that invariably devolved into a policy that did not accomplish the objective but gave the illusion of having acted decisively.
Clarke unwittingly highlights the Clinton administration's lack of credibility by linking Saudi Arabia's failure to cooperate on the Khobar Towers investigation to Saudi skepticism about Clinton's backbone: "Some in the Saudi royal family . . . reportedly welcomed the possibility of a U.S. war with Iran, if America could remove the Tehran regime. [Saudi Ambassador Prince] Bandar . . . suggested that all that was stopping the Saudis from implicating Iran was the fear that American retaliation would be halfhearted. If the U.S. could promise a full-scale fight to the finish, then the kingdom would probably tell all that it knew about the Iranian role in the Khobar attack."
Of course, Clinton did not take such measures, and Saudi Arabia never told us what it knew about the Khobar bombing. Clarke contradicts his own claim that the covert operation against Iran ended Iranian terrorism by acknowledging that "the Iranian security services continued to support escalating terrorism against Israel and allowed al Qaeda safe passage and other support"--including, I would add, after September 11, 2001.
BY FAR THE MOST FASCINATING PART of Against All Enemies, and the bulk of the book, chronicles the rise of al Qaeda as seen by the Clinton White House. As with Iraq and Iran, the best of intentions and initially sound instincts achieved brief tactical goals without defining a strategic course for victory. In sketching an image of an engaged president who, in his own words, believed that the United States was at war with al Qaeda, but who failed to weaken the organization, Clarke paints a portrait of Clinton in some ways more devastating than the caricature created by his political opponents.
The critique comes down to this fact: President Clinton, who commanded the world's most powerful military and presided over nearly a decade of peace between the world's great powers, knew al Qaeda was operating in fifty countries, running agents and sleeper cells inside the United States, seeking weapons of mass destruction, churning out terrorists from its Afghan training camps, attacking targets around the world, and planning major terrorist offensives against the United States.
Full awareness of al Qaeda was not some slow awakening that came only late in the Clinton presidency. Clarke explains that "because of the many known terrorism events of 1993, the Clinton team, from the president down, was seized with the issue by 1994." Presidential Decision Directive 39, the "United States Policy on Counterterrorism" issued in 1994, called for both offensive and defensive actions to "reduce terrorist capabilities" and minimize the nation's vulnerabilities. It stated that U.S. policy would have "no greater priority than preventing the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction" by terrorists.
By 1995, the Clinton administration had witnessed the World Trade Center bombing, for which it had "a lot of evidence" pointing to bin Laden's organization. It had discovered Ramzi Yousef's plots to assassinate President Clinton and Pope John Paul II. It had learned of Yousef's plot to blow up eleven American airliners over the Pacific. It had witnessed a terrorist assassination attempt against Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. And it had seen the hand of al Qaeda at work in Bosnia, which Clarke calls "a guidebook to the bin Laden network, though we didn't recognize it as such at the time." According to Clarke, "There were signs in 1995 of [bin Laden's] money and support in Bosnia, Chechnya, the Philippines, Egypt, Morocco, and in Europe. Rumors connected him to attacks in New York, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen."
SO, ACCORDING TO CLARKE, "Clinton talked incessantly about what it would be like if terrorists used a weapon of mass destruction to attack a United States city." Between late 1995 and April 1996, Clinton gave a series of speeches about the terrorist threat. Equating the threat to that we faced in World War II and the Cold War, the president said, "Terrorism is the enemy of our generation, and we must prevail." In 1996, the work of a newly created bin Laden station at the CIA revealed a "widespread and active" al Qaeda organization with bin Laden as its "mastermind." In 1996, Clarke's Counterterrorism Security Group was already developing plans for a covert operation to snatch bin Laden from Afghanistan.
This is where things stood at the end of Bill Clinton's first term as president. Clarke succeeds in demonstrating that, by 1996, the administration was deeply aware of the threat al Qaeda posed, and that Clinton himself was "seized with" the issue. The administration was putting in place a domestic program to respond rapidly in the event of a terrorist attack with weapons of mass destruction. The administration had conducted covert operations against suspected terrorists and was discussing an operation to snatch Osama bin Laden himself. In short, Clarke successfully makes the case that the administration was fully engaged and ready to take the offensive against al Qaeda--by the end of Clinton's first term.
So what happened? It is true that the bureaucracy failed Clinton in some ways, but the more complete answer is that the president was unable to impose his will on a reluctant government, including his senior cabinet officials responsible for national security affairs. Unlike their successors in the Bush administration, they were not willing to risk other American interests, and public and world opinion, for the sake of defeating al Qaeda--and unlike President Bush, President Clinton was unwilling to force the issue. In November 2001, after he left office, Clinton said, "I tried to take bin Laden out . . . the last four years I was in office." He must be judged by the fact that he failed.
CLARKE BLAMES in particular the CIA's professed doubts about their authorization to use lethal force against the terrorists. In Clarke's words, "I still to this day do not understand why it was impossible for the United States to find a competent group of Afghans, Americans, third-country nationals, or some combination who could locate bin Laden in Afghanistan and kill him. . . . The president's intent was very clear: kill bin Laden. I believe that those in the CIA who claim the authorizations were insufficient or unclear are throwing up that claim as an excuse to cover the fact that they were pathetically unable to accomplish the mission."
Yet the president and his national security cabinet made accomplishing the mission difficult. As Clarke explains, "In three meetings during 1998 and 1999, the [Counterterrorism Security Group] requested emergency meetings of the principals to recommend to the president a cruise missile strike on the facility in which bin Laden was believed to be at the time." The missiles were never fired. CIA Director George Tenet later confirmed that bin Laden was present at the suspected site on one of those occasions; yet each time fear of collateral damage or considerations of subsidiary American interests prevented the administration from pulling the trigger.
Again and again, Clarke proposed attacking bin Laden's training camps, whether or not the terrorist mastermind was confirmed to be there, telling his colleagues, "We have to stop this conveyor belt, this production line. Blow them up every once in a while and recruits won't want to go there." But the principals objected--for reasons as diverse as wasting million-dollar missiles, undermining U.S. credibility with Pakistan, burdening a stretched military, and reinforcing a perception abroad of the United States as a "Mad Bomber." The administration ruled out an assault on bin Laden's farm in Afghanistan, for fear the CIA's Afghan assets could be killed in the attempt.
CLARKE WANTS TO GIVE the Clinton administration credit for trying. It did recognize the threat, he insists; it did engage in serious strategic planning to counter it; the threat did consume the president and his senior staff. "Listen," Clarke quotes Clinton as telling his national security staff after the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa, "retaliating for these attacks is all well and good, but we gotta get rid of these guys once and for all. You understand what I'm telling you?"
And yet, somehow, little came of all this. The Clinton administration failed to coerce the weak and failing states of Sudan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan to capture bin Laden. Without elaborating, Clarke calls reports that Sudan was prepared to hand bin Laden over to the United States for the right price "a fable" invented by "Americans friendly to the Sudan regime." He also tells us that it was impracticable to seize bin Laden in Sudan, where the administration knew his whereabouts. National Security Advisor Tony Lake ruled out a proposed Special Forces operation against al Qaeda facilities in Sudan on the grounds that, in Lake's words, "This is going to war with Sudan." According to Clarke, the CIA "had no capability to stage significant operations against al Qaeda in Sudan." On Clarke's watch as counterterrorism czar, the United States apparently never acquired that capability.
Later, Clarke tells us that the State Department was "hard at work trying to put pressure on the Taliban" to close terrorist camps and hand over bin Laden. "Unfortunately, we had little leverage with the Taliban." The mullahs wouldn't cooperate, and the Clinton administration threatened them with nothing more than negotiations. On Pakistan, Clarke observes, "I believed that if Pakistan's [Inter-Service Intelligence Directorate] wanted to capture bin Laden or tell us where he was, they could have done so with little effort." Did the United States, under Clinton's leadership, have so little leverage over other nations on an issue it had identified as a top national priority? President Bush demonstrated otherwise--in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq.
Clinton was committed to defeating terrorism, Clarke insists. But his administration could not or would not deliver. "Whether it was catching war criminals in Yugoslavia or terrorists in Africa and the Middle East, it was the same story," Clarke adds. "The White House wanted action. The senior military did not and made it almost impossible for the president to overcome their objections." An attempt to catch September 11-mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Qatar in 1997 failed because the administration felt obliged to inform officials in Doha, one of whom promptly warned Mohammed to flee. An attack on an al Qaeda meeting at which bin Laden was present failed when, as Clarke himself had predicted, Navy destroyers positioning to fire their cruise missiles were detected by Pakistan, which may have warned bin Laden to clear the area before the strike.
CLARKE BLAMES most of this on the failure of the CIA, FBI, and the Pentagon to cooperate with the Clinton administration. Clinton "identified terrorism as the major post-Cold War threat," but "could not get the CIA, Pentagon, and FBI to act sufficiently to deal with this threat."
Is he right? During his long years as the nation's counterterrorism czar, working for both Clinton and Bush, Clarke never put in place a workable system to screen airline passenger manifests--yet was shocked to learn, on September 11, that known terrorists had freely boarded American airlines. After al Qaeda attacked the USS Cole in Yemen in 2000, killing seventeen American sailors, Clarke proposed the United States bomb every al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan. "There was no support for bombing [within Clinton's national security cabinet]. . . . The principals had decided to do nothing, to wait for proof of who committed the attack." Clarke quotes his colleague, Mike Sheehan, as asking, "What's it gonna take, Dick? Who the sh--t do they think attacked the Cole, f--in' Martians? The Pentagon brass won't even let the Air Force carpet-bomb the place. Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon to get their attention?"
THE ANSWER would appear to be yes. Clarke reports actually seeing Osama bin Laden in Afghan training camps on three occasions in real time as he watched live video from a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle hovering over the sites. Each time, U.S. military assets were not in a position to fire on bin Laden, and the Predator was not armed with missiles to conduct an offensive strike, as it would be during the Bush administration.
Clarke later criticizes the Bush administration for failing to push aggressively for deployment of Predator drones armed with Hellfire missiles before September 11. Yet he also quotes a report that the head of the CIA's directorate of operations opposed use of the armed Predator against bin Laden on the grounds that it would "endanger the lives of CIA operatives around the world." And in a White House meeting one week before September 11, Clarke cites a source quoting CIA director Tenet as saying, "It would be a terrible mistake for the [Deputy of Central Intelligence] to fire a weapon like this."
So who is at fault? In 1998, al Qaeda issued a statement declaring war on the United States Clarke writes, "It did not come as a shock to us. We had considered ourselves at war with al Qaeda even before we knew its name or its reach."
Yet despite the continuing string of attacks, and intelligence warning of more to come, Clarke doesn't blame Clinton. Says Clarke,
Because of the intensity of the political opposition that Clinton engendered, he had been heavily criticized for bombing al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan, for engaging in 'Wag the Dog' tactics. . . . For similar reasons, he could not fire the recalcitrant FBI director who had failed to fix the bureau or uncover terrorists in the United States. He had given the CIA unprecedented authority to go after Osama bin Laden personally and al Qaeda, but had not taken steps when they did little or nothing. Because Clinton was criticized as a Vietnam War opponent without a military record, he was limited in his ability to direct the military to engage in anti-terrorist commando operations they did not want to conduct. . . . In the absence of a bigger provocation from al Qaeda to silence his critics, Clinton thought he could do no more.
Clarke lost his access to the president when the Bush administration came to power. His principal complaint is that the Bush team's focus on Iraq after September 11 diverted America from the war against al Qaeda. Yet it was Clarke who, by his own admission, authored the founding document of Clinton counterterrorism policy in 1994 underlining the threat of terrorists' acquiring weapons of mass destruction and stating that the United States had "no greater priority" than preventing it--an argument the Bush administration employed in its decision to go to war against Iraq nearly a decade later, at a time when terrorists had demonstrated their ability to attack the United States and were actively seeking weapons of mass destruction, which Iraq had a demonstrated record of producing and using.
GIVEN WHAT EVERY SERIOUS intelligence service in the West believed it knew about Saddam's weapons of mass destruction capabilities, the Bush administration's decision to go to war was a prudent response to what, by Clarke's own standard, constituted a credible threat to the United States in an age of catastrophic terrorism.
Clarke's argument that the Bush administration did not accord the terrorist threat sufficient priority before September 11 is not wholly fair. The Clinton administration had eight years to deal with the threat; the Bush administration eight months. It is by this gap that the Bush administration's early counterterrorism policy must be judged.
The challenges facing any new administration--appointing and confirming senior staff, conducting broad-ranging policy reviews, and generally getting its sea legs--as well as the Bush administration's determination to set a course in foreign policy radically different from that of its predecessor, may have hindered a clear assessment of the threat al Qaeda posed to the United States. During their first months in office, officials who had been out of office for eight years may not have had the same sense of urgency about terrorism as Clarke, who had spent every day of those same eight years watching the terrorist threat spread. Unquestionably, the Bush administration, once it fully grasped the threat, acted decisively to end it. The Clinton administration did not.
Clarke himself points out that a memo he prepared for the incoming Bush administration listed key antiterrorist initiatives that the Clinton administration had not agreed to take. "The [Clinton] principals had asked me to update the pol-mil plan for the transition, flagging the issues where there was not a consensus, where decisions had not been agreed." By Clarke's own admission, the Clinton administration had not done these things. Had they, the Bush administration may have found themselves confronting a significantly reduced terrorist threat. As it happens, Republican officials were putting in place these very policies when the terrorists struck on September 11.
In the final chapter of Against All Enemies, Clarke suggests that Clinton, were he still in office after September 11, would have tried to "understand" the phenomenon of terrorism; tried to build a "world consensus" to address its root causes; tried "one more time" to forge an Israeli-Palestinian settlement; gone to Saudi Arabia to "address the Muslim people" in "a moving appeal for religious tolerance"; promoted peace between India and Pakistan; and worked to stabilize Pakistan. Hearing Clarke's wish list for American policy at a time when hardened terrorists are killing innocents from Madrid to Bali makes one glad that Clarke has given up his day job.
CLARKE'S DECISION to write what he means to be an indictment of the Bush administration's counterterrorism policy, at a time when the president he served is still in office--and, particularly, to record the president's conversations with him on sensitive matters of national security--is unprecedented. By his act, Clarke has made it difficult, if not impossible, for future presidents to retain senior national security staff members from previous administrations. In Against All Enemies, Clarke laments that political appointees often move aside career national security officials who possess valuable institutional knowledge on national security matters. Clarke's decision to release his memoirs in an election year, and to do so in a way that violates confidentiality and transparently benefits the political opponent of the last president he served, makes it more likely that future administrations will not retain people like Dick Clarke.
The tragedy of recent American politics is not that President Bush acted to end the threat of terrorists acquiring weapons of mass destruction from rogue states like Iraq, at the cost of angering allies and subordinating secondary American interests. The tragedy is that President Clinton, knowing al Qaeda was at war with us and understanding both its global reach and its plans to kill Americans, did not act in a similarly bold manner.
Against All Enemies is too serious to be called a farce, for it highlights the tragedy of American foreign policy in this age of terrorism. Clarke's deep anger with the current administration notwithstanding, he has performed a service by reminding America of how the Clinton administration failed to protect us from the terrorist threat.

Daniel C. Twining, a former adviser to Senator John McCain, is director of foreign policy, United States, at the German Marshall Fund. The views expressed here are his own.

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


Crunch Time in Baghdad
Bush must prove he's determined to win.

Tuesday, April 6, 2004 12:01 a.m. EDT

The next few days in Iraq may be the most critical since President Bush ordered the invasion a year ago. Millions of Iraqis, and millions of Americans, are waiting to see if the U.S. is still fighting in Iraq to win.

Marines were digging in around Fallujah yesterday, in anticipation of a military response to last week's mutilation of four U.S. civilians in that part of the Sunni Triangle. Meanwhile, the coalition announced that an Iraqi judge had issued a murder arrest warrant for the Shiite Muslim cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, who ordered the riots on Sunday that resulted in the deaths of eight Americans and a Salvadoran. If Mr. Bush fails to show that there is a price to pay for killing Americans, he might as well bring everyone home today.

Americans will support their President in war--far more than liberal elites appreciate. But they won't support a President who isn't fighting with enough force and the right strategy to prevail. Unlike Mr. Bush's determination to topple Saddam Hussein, the transition back to Iraqi rule has been marked in recent months by drift and indecision. Especially in the runup to the transfer of power on June 30, the worst Iraqis are rushing in to exploit this uncertainty.

What's needed now is a reassertion of U.S. resolve, notably on security but also on the transition to Iraqi sovereignty, and even if it means no drawdown of American forces any time soon. The coalition had hoped to turn over more of this task to Iraqis, and this remains both desirable and inevitable. But they clearly aren't yet up to that task in the face of well-armed insurgents or private militias.
Partly this is America's fault for not arming Iraqis on our side with enough firepower soon enough. The State Department (rather than the Pentagon) is responsible for disbursing the small arms that are now available, while Congress's desire to micromanage Defense procurement has delayed contracts from being let for more and better equipment. If Senate soundbite kibbitzers Richard Lugar and Joe Biden want to be constructive, this is a problem they could work on. In the meantime, U.S. forces will have to re-enter such cities and towns as Fallujah and work with Iraqis friendly to the coalition to restore order and kill or arrest those who target Americans.

This has to include Mr. Sadr. The young cleric has been stirring trouble for months, but with Sunday's riots he has crossed a line that makes him an urgent threat to the coalition and any new Iraqi government. Yesterday's judicial warrant implicates him in the mob slaying of another Shiite leader, the moderate Abdel-Majid al-Khoei, shortly after he had returned to Najaf from exile in London in April 2003.

Unlike Grand Ayatollah Sistani, Mr. Sadr never mentions the word "democracy" in his fatwas and talks openly of creating an Iranian-style Islamic Republic in Iraq. Mr. Sadr has visited Tehran since the fall of Saddam, and his Mahdi militia is almost certainly financed and trained by Iranians. Revolutionary Guards may be instigating some of the current unrest. As recently as last Friday, Mr. Sadr declared that "I am the beating arm for Hezbollah and Hamas here in Iraq." Hezbollah has been financed by Iran for years.

Having let Mr. Sadr's militia grow, the coalition now has no choice but to break it up. It should also warn the Dawa Islamic political party that its dealings with Iran won't be tolerated. As for Tehran, we would hope the Sadr uprising puts to rest the illusion that the mullahs can be appeased. As Bernard Lewis teaches, Middle Eastern leaders interpret American restraint as weakness. Iran's mullahs fear a Muslim democracy in Iraq because it is a direct threat to their own rule. If warnings to Tehran from Washington don't impress them, perhaps some cruise missiles aimed at the Bushehr nuclear site will concentrate their minds.

Proof of U.S. resolve is especially important as the transfer of sovereignty on June 30 nears. Millions of Iraqis are grateful for their liberation from Saddam and are willing to help us finish the job. But too many Iraqis already suspect that June 30 has more to do with our elections than with theirs. If they now see the U.S. failing to respond forcefully to the past week's unrest, they will conclude that the Americans are preparing to leave. Then the mayhem and jockeying for power will only get worse.

Yesterday, Mr. Bush reiterated his support for the June 30 transfer. But the timing is less important than the fact that the U.S. still has no plan for what will happen on that date. The current non-plan is for U.S. regent L. Paul Bremer to toss the ball to U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi and hope he can figure it out.
With elections put off for some months anyway, the default transfer plan will probably involve retaining the Iraqi Governing Council in some form. The coalition is better off doing this on its own and leaving the U.N. out of it. It isn't as if Kofi Annan is offering any troops, and Mr. Brahimi--a Sunni Arab nationalist close to nations that coddled Saddam--makes Shiites nervous. This latest Bush Administration dance with the U.N. is just one more signal to many Iraqis that the U.S. is eager to get out.

While we're at it, Mr. Bush can send an important signal with his choice of who should succeed Mr. Bremer as U.S. ambassador to Iraq. The worst choice would be a career diplomat. We'd recommend Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy Defense secretary, who has his own reputational stake in Iraq's success and would be seen by Iraqis as someone committed for the long haul. He also wouldn't need on-the-job training. Rudy Giuliani would also be a serious choice.

We trust that Mr. Bush knows that his reaction to Fallujah and Mr. Sadr matters far more to his re-election prospects than does Richard Clarke's book tour. Americans realize that the current 20-20 Beltway hindsight over 9/11 is mostly political. But they also know that Iraq was Mr. Bush's undertaking, and they will hold him responsible for any failure of will.


The Essential Bremer
From the April 12 / April 19, 2004 issue: What the American administrator in Iraq has accomplished.
by Fred Barnes
04/12/2004, Volume 009, Issue 30

IN THE BEGINNING, no American funds were to be used for the reconstruction of Iraq. It would be paid for, gradually, out of Iraqi oil revenues. Two months after Saddam Hussein was toppled, the American administrator for Iraq, Paul Bremer, concluded the oil plan wouldn't work. He asked for $5 billion to $7 billion to rebuild Iraq's crumbling and looted infrastructure. The White House was shocked and said this was too much. Take another look at what's needed, Bremer was told. He did and came back with a request for $22 billion. Bremer had a strong ally on his side, President Bush. So the White House swallowed hard and cut the request to $20 billion. Congress trimmed it to $18.4 billion. The reconstruction money begins flowing into Iraq this spring, with the promise of one million to two million new jobs for Iraqis and a jump-started economy.

That episode demonstrates Bremer's clout. More than anyone in Washington, including Bush or Pentagon officials, he shapes policy in Iraq. And it is an ambitious policy--the creation, in Bremer's phrase, of a "new Iraq." The president's confidence seems to have emboldened Bremer. Ask about Bush and Bremer and every White House aide gives the same answer: "The president likes Bremer." On reconstruction funding, Bremer insisted that none of it be a loan saddling a democratic Iraqi government with more debt. The White House was persuaded, fought against a loan, and won. Bremer, 62, usually gets what he wants from Washington.

But there are limits to getting what he wants from Iraqis. A year after Saddam was ousted, Bremer follows a simple game plan: strategic clarity, tactical flexibility. The prize in this game is a free and democratic Iraq at peace at home and with its neighbors. Exactly how Iraq arrives there is less important than getting there in a timely fashion without jeopardizing the goal itself. Bremer has retreated when necessary. He backed down from demanding Iraqis draft a permanent constitution before the Coalition Provisional Authority, which he heads, hands over sovereignty. But he refused pleas to keep the Iraqi army intact and use it as a police and security force. Despite terrorist attacks, Bremer has no regrets about that decision.

One measure of Bremer's extraordinary success is that his selection has numerous fathers. State Department officials claim he was their pick. In truth, Bremer's name was suggested to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz. Rumsfeld sold it to Bush, who didn't know Bremer, and to others in the administration. Bremer was a well-known terrorism expert who'd worked for Henry Kissinger both in government and as a director of Kissinger Associates. What wasn't known was Bremer's political skill. He has the ideal qualities. He's relentlessly cheerful and upbeat, but serious and tough at the same time.

The best way to judge Bremer is to look at his most significant decisions. Here are a half-dozen of them:

* DE-BAATHIFICATION. This was a no-brainer. Barred from serving in the new government was anyone in the top three layers of the Baath party or the top four layers of a ministry in Saddam's regime, roughly 1.5 million Iraqis. In Iraq, this has been Bremer's most popular decision. The Baathists were Stalinists responsible for the disappearance of well over one million of their fellow Iraqis. Now Iraq has "an Adenauer problem." In postwar Germany, Konrad Adenauer quickly emerged as a national leader. No strong leader has stepped forward in Iraq. Exiles like Ahmad Chalabi have no political base. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq had no king or Hamid Karzai to tap for leadership. Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the Shia leader, has political influence but doesn't want direct political power.

* DISBANDING SADDAM'S ARMY. This was Bremer's most controversial decision. Despite an $80 to $120 monthly stipend depending on their rank, some former soldiers joined what the press euphemistically calls the "insurgency" against the United States. But Bremer was right to dismiss them. For one thing, the army had spontaneously dispersed in the face of the American invasion. To reconstitute it, the officers, many of them Sunnis aligned with Saddam, would have had to be called back. Besides, this was the army that had brutally oppressed the majority Shia and the minority Kurds, who would have rebelled against its return. Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani told Bremer disbanding the army was as important as the capture of Saddam. Indeed it was.

* THE NOVEMBER 15 AGREEMENT. This is the best example of Bremer's tactical flexibility. He dropped his plan for provincial caucuses to elect an interim government that would write a permanent constitution, to be followed by the turnover of sovereignty and a democratic election. Bremer yielded to political reality. Both Sistani and the appointed Iraqi Governing Council wanted sovereignty sooner. Bremer traveled to Washington and met one-on-one with the president before approving a new plan with transfer of sovereignty on June 30. The election of a new government will be held sometime before next January 31. Iraqis may not be ready to rush to democracy. Certainly Falluja isn't. But Bremer and Bush believe delay could be worse.

* SAYING NO TO PRIVATIZATION. This may be Bremer's worst (though understandable) decision. The privatization of Iraq's oil industry was always off the table, if only for fear that Washington would be accused of going to war for oil. Bremer believes, however, that oil production could be doubled if the new Iraqi government seeks help from private companies. Also for political reasons, dollarizing the currency was rejected in favor of issuing a new currency without Saddam's picture on the bills. And to avoid worsening unemployment, the 200 or so nationalized enterprises with 500,000 employees haven't been cut loose. Nor have the massive subsidies for gasoline, food, and energy been eliminated. Bremer intends to trim the subsidies by June 30, when he leaves. But privatization has essentially been left to the government elected next year. So the prospects for full privatization are uncertain.

* THE INTERIM CONSTITUTION. This was a political breakthrough engineered by Bremer. He stood firm on minority rights and no Islamic law while overseeing the drafting of the constitution. When Sistani complained and five of the 25 members of the Iraqi Governing Council balked, Bremer left it to the council to reach agreement. They finally did. Sistani, by the way, doesn't meet with Bremer or other coalition officials. But Bremer has effectively communicated with him since last May through intermediaries. On the constitution, it was Sistani who backed down.

* THE UNITED NATIONS. Bush and Bremer favor a U.N. role in Iraq for the specific purposes of organizing the election and giving the new government legitimacy. But Sistani and other Shia opposed a U.N. role after U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi concluded a few months ago that a quickie election was impossible. Bremer wanted Brahimi to return and help establish an election process. Security Council approval would bestow legitimacy. Robert Blackwill, a senior National Security Council official at the White House, was dispatched to backstop Bremer, but it was Bremer who persuaded the governing council and Sistani to go along. His cleverest argument was that Iraq would need the U.N. later. Barring it now would put U.N. aid to independent Iraq at risk.

No American official of recent vintage has taken on a task on the scale of Bremer's. It amounts to the creation not just of a government and an economy but of a country. Douglas MacArthur had seven years to achieve in Japan what Bremer is trying to do in less than 15 months. Rich Galen, an American press officer in Baghdad, calls it "MacArthur on steroids." Bremer has won the support of many but not all Iraqis. When an Iraqi journalist told him he was loved by Iraqis, Bremer responded, "Except for those who want to kill me." He's regarded by security officials as more threatened by assassins than even Bush. That hasn't impeded him or the impressive staff of volunteers who've joined him in Iraq. They are rushing to put in place before they leave on June 30 as many elements of a democracy--a securities and exchange commission, a stock market, a public broadcasting system--as they can. Then the future of Iraq will be left to Iraqis. For all the obstacles, I think democracy will prevail. If it does, Bremer will rightly be deemed the father of free Iraq.

Fred Barnes is executive editor of The Weekly Standard.

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

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