US-Iran talks: No goodies for the mullahs. A subscription article from Debka gives a blunt assessment of the recent negotiations between Iranian and US diplomats: "What they saw was a tough American front." The analysis asserts that the Administration's "stance was strictly limited to an agenda dictated by US demands and direct Iranian responses to those demands". Further underscoring the uncompromising position of the American side was the presence of a large and still growing strike force off the Iranian coast. Debka's analysts, who are not always impressed with Washington's Middle East policy, saw the talks as a shrewd play to raise anxiety in the Iranian regime and exploit rifts between hardliners and pragmatists in Tehran. While Bush is taking some heat back home for the talks, Debka asserts that the consensus in Tehran was quite different: Bush was the clear winner.
ITM: Bad guys killing bad guys.Iraq the Model: 'Fighting in a western Baghdad district between two insurgent groups continued for the 2nd day, eye witnesses told ITM.
The clashes erupted yesterday around noon between two groups of insurgents that are competing for control in the Amiriya district, one of Baghdad's most violent and lawless districts. The two groups, teams actually, were later identified; on one side there's al-Qaeda and the Islamic state in Iraq and on the other there's the Islamic army and 'Jaish al-Mujahideen' (The brigades of the 1920 revolution in another account), the latter are know to be largely military and intelligence officers of the former regime as well as members of the Baath Party. "I saw seven or eight bodies of militants who were killed in the clashes lying on the ground" one eyewitness said this morning. This was before the fighting resumed after a short pause.'
Ayaan Hirsi Ali speaks out.Brisbane Times: 'AS A small girl, Ayaan Hirsi Ali's clitoris and labia were cut off with a pair of scissors. She was then sewn up with a piece of twine "to keep her chaste". In the world in which she then lived, Ali was not alone: the World Health Organisation estimated in 2000 the number of girls and women who had undergone genital mutilation between 100 million and 140 million. The practice is widespread in Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia. Islam is dominant in these countries, and Ali links the mutilation to Islam. "Islam is a totalitarian doctrine that puts women in a position that no other totalitarian doctrine, not even Communism, not even Nazism, did," says Ali. "In Islam, women come off the worst."' Family Security Matters notes that she received death threats even when she spoke in Pennsylvania.
Eleventh Israeli killed by Qassams. 'Thirteen-year-old Chai Shalom suffered from cerebral palsy, and was deaf, mute, and confined to a wheel-chair. He was hospitalized after a rocket landed next to a bus transporting him and three other disabled children.' - JPost. Via IRIS.
RNC hears a giant sucking sound.Tammy Bruce isn't surprised by this report from the Washington Times: 'Faced with an estimated 40 percent fall-off in small-donor contributions and aging phone-bank equipment that the RNC said would cost too much to update, Anne Hathaway, the committee's chief of staff, summoned the solicitations staff last week and told them they were out of work, effective immediately, the fired staffers told The Times... There has been a sharp decline in contributions from RNC phone solicitations, another fired staffer said, reporting that many former donors flatly refuse to give more money to the national party if Mr. Bush and the Senate Republicans insist on supporting what these angry contributors call "amnesty" for illegal aliens. "Everyone donor in 50 states we reached has been angry, especially in the last month and a half, and for 99 percent of them immigration is the No. 1 issue," said the former employee.' Tammy adds: 'To force the RNC to shut its phone fundraising operation is a remarkable accomplishment. Congratulations. This is what hurts them the most and is immediately felt, let; McConnell fantasize about what '08 may or may not bring. What Senate Monkeys like him must face, as Howard Beale made so clear, is we're mad as hell and we're not going to take it anymore. I want to make one thing very clear--you must not let up. ... Our job will not be over until that bill is dead.'
Watching the pundits discuss our historic meeting with Iran, you would have mostly heard despair at the notion that we have no leverage in these talks, and so therefor why would Iran give on anything? Why would they stop waging war against us in iraq if they have nothing to fear? To all the experts in the media, the whole thing seemed like some grand puzzlement. Was it just an attempt to appease the administration’s domestic critics who have been chiding it for not engaging in diplomacy ( a vaguery if there ever was one ) with the world’s top terrorist? No one you heard from could really quite grasp what was going on.
For some reason, no one told you that just 5 days before Monday’s talks, an entire floating army, with nearly 20,000 men, comprising the world’s largest naval strike force, led by the USS Nimitz and the USS Stennis, and also comprising the largest U.S. Naval armada in the Persian Gulf since 2003, came floating up unnanounced through the Straight of Hormuz, and rested right on Iran’s back doorstep, guns pointed at them. The demonstration of leverage was clear. And it also came on the exact date of the expiration of the 60 day grace period the U.N. had granted Iran.
And it came just a few weeks after Vice President Dick Cheney had swept through the region and delivered a very clear and pointed message to the Saudi King Abdullah and others: George Bush has unequivocally decided to attack Iran’s nuclear, military and economic infrastructure if they do not abandon their drive for military nuclear capability. Plain and simple. Iran heard the message as well, and although a lack of leverage may seem clear to America’s retired military tv talking heads, it is not so clear to the government in Tehran.
The message to both Iran and Syria is that if the talks in Baghdad fail, the military option is ready to go.
The administration is almost freakishly confident, in marked contrast to media reports like the one featuring Newt Gingrich’s attack on the President below. The U.S. is in the midst of another dipolomatic surge through the region to bolster allies for the final showdown with Iran. ...
If it has a picture of Queen Elizabeth on one side and a caribou on the other, it's Canadian.
Otherwise, you can do your laundry with it. This includes bisons (Kansas), palmettos (South Carolina), Minutemen (Massachusetts), ships at Jamestown (Virginia), peaches (Georgia), and the Statue of Liberty (New York).
Note to the United States Mint:
OH FOR FUCK'S SAKE PEOPLE.
Is there some sinister plot by Al-Qaeda to flood the American economy with worthless counterfeit twenty-five-cent pieces? Perhaps Osama bin Laden wants to plunge the innocent people of the United States into an abyss of abject misery with a lifetime of expired parking meters, jammed vending machines, and wet underwear.
Or maybe the good people at the Treasury Department just have way too much time (and money - duh) on their hands. I'm betting on the latter.
Is it oxymoronic to say that "the Mint is making too much money"?
Shortly after arriving in Iraq, I blogged about the worsening security situation in the International Zone (IZ, also sometimes known as the "green zone"). In criticizing the media's coverage of the increase in mortar attacks against the IZ, I noted that the press has failed to answer some basic questions: "has there been an increase in attacks, or just an increase in their lethality? When did the IZ begin to see the increase in lethal mortar strikes? Are they being carried out by Sunnis are Shias? What is motivating these attacks?" At the time I wrote that, my sources in the IZ were unable to answer all of these relevant questions -- but a recent briefing by Major Brynt Parmeter has helped to clarify these critical questions for me.
Major Parmeter and Major Guy Wetzel informed me that there has been an increase in the number of mortar attacks hitting the IZ, and not just an increase in the attacks' accuracy. I have also heard the same from reliable eyewitnesses in the IZ. One American contractor working there e-mailed me: "Believe me, rocket attacks are way more frequent than when I first got here. Last night one came screaming over my office and detonated a block away . . . . I got intimate with the floor in my office as I waited for the next one to drill in. (They're usually launched in twos and threes.) That rocket hit a villa across the street from where some of my coworkers are lodged."
So who is carrying these attacks out? Major Parmeter said, "The chance of these attacks all being coordinated by one group is basically nil." I previously reported that U.S. forces haven't gotten much of a chance to interview the people who have been carrying out the attacks -- basically because the Americans have been killing the attackers rather than capturing them. Despite that, the officers delivering the briefing were confident that the attacks are being carried out by both Sunnis and Shias. This is because we have good "fingerprints" of the neighborhoods from which the mortars are being launched, and they are consistently being launched from both Sunni and Shia areas.
I speculated in my last post that the timing of the increase in mortar attacks suggests a propaganda purpose. The majority of military sources I spoke with agreed with this assessment. However, Major Parmeter introduced another relevant factor to the analysis: the seasonal nature of attacks. He reminded me that April through June are the peak months for insurgent attacks. So the relevant base of comparison isn't just levels of violence in the IZ now versus where they were two months ago: instead, a comparison to the same period last year, in 2005, etc. would help to account for spikes and valleys that are driven by factors like climate and holidays. The majors delivering the briefing did not have the relevant data on hand to undertake such a comparison, but such an analysis would help us determinatively understand if the current increase in mortar attacks outstrips the general seasonal variation.
TMG on Russia.Kat at The Middle Ground: 'BBC reports on the strange case of apparent growing affluence barely covering the potential crash and burn of the economy. Russia, though apparently full of local products, is still a major importer of goods and not an exporter. Except for oil and natural gas. At the same time, the state, fearing the complete break up of Russia into many mini-states who can be manipulated and use their economic power (dare I say, energy power?) for their own benefit (cutting off the main land from exports/imports and any income from energy). Putin fears this most. He may indeed love Russia, but he loves it more than any principle or idea. He loves the land and being Russia. If it is a democracy, a kleptocracy, an autocracy or any other beauracracy, Putin doesn't care as long as Russia is Russian as close to the empire of old (evil or not). It is this fear that continues to see Russia placing itself in opposition to the US even if it seems counter-intuitive; even onto manufacturing reasons to do so.'
"In fact, there is a civil war in progress in Iraq, one comparable in important respects to other civil wars that have occurred in postcolonial states with weak institutions. Those cases suggest that the Bush administration's political objective in Iraq--creating a stable, peaceful, somewhat democratic regime that can survive the departure of U.S. troops--is unrealistic." Professor James D. Fearon, writing in the March/April edition of Foreign Affairs.
There is one problem with Professor Fearon's thesis--the facts on the ground that I am seeing right now and that he has not seen in person or not seen recently.
A major part of Fearon's well reasoned argument is that U.S. support for the Maliki government, "encourages Sunni nationalists to turn to al Qaeda in Iraq for support against Shiite militias and the Iraqi army."
His argument is logical and would be correct if the Sunnis of Anbar cooperated with his argument--but they are not cooperating with the good professor's thesis. In fact, they are doing just the opposite. The Sunnis of Anbar are now siding with the coalition and fighting Al Qaeda.
Go to the post to find out what happened in Shiabi when a new sheriff named General Sadoon came to town.
The Strategy: Virtually all the U.S. officials with whom I spoke feel that American strategy now boils down to a single goal: strategic disengagement. That is, the U.S. wants to strengthen the Iraqi government to the point that it is self-sustaining enough that the country will not collapse into chaos as U.S. troops are brought back home. ...
U.S. strategy is not just military in nature. Rather, it is designed to eliminate some of the underlying conditions that sap the average Iraqi's faith in the country's civil society. For example, in the districts that 2-32 patrols -- Yarmouk and Hateen -- there are four lines of operation: security, governance, economy, and essential services. According to Major Brynt Parmeter, who works at the brigade level, the overall goals are to reduce sectarian fighting, increase the Iraqi security forces' capabilities, and improve local government to empower it to provide the services that Iraqis need. ...
The Surge: Multiple military sources stated that my patrols with 2-32 provided a snapshot of the fruits of the surge. One of the surge's stated goals was to stabilize Baghdad. In Yarmouk, the surge functioned just as military leadership hoped. I spoke with a large number of soldiers in 2-32 about the state of Yarmouk when they arrived, and all of them painted the same picture: the soldiers would routinely find corpses and there were a large number of IEDs and VBIEDs (vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices). On one dangerous road that the U.S. military calls Whitesnake (other Baghdad road names form a virtual tribute to Eighties bands), there was only one checkpoint. There are now three, and the Iraqi army presence makes it harder for insurgents to plant IEDs.
Multiple sources informed me that since 2-32 moved to Yarmouk as part of the surge, a lot of residents who had previously left have moved back, and a number of stores have opened up. ...
In the first days after his battalion began operating in east Baghdad’s Sha’ab neighborhood, Capt. Will Canda said he often saw the beds of Iraqi police trucks stained red with dried blood.
“It was like they had just come from a butcher shop,” said Canda, a Westcliffe, Colo. native and commander of Company B, 2nd Battalion, 325th Airborne Infantry Regiment.
Like wagons rolling through plague-stricken villages in medieval times, the police trucks were being used to pick up the bodies of murder victims found littering the neighborhood.
That was in February, when Canda’s battalion became one of the first units to move into a battle space as part of Operation Fardh al Qanoon – which translated, means “enforcing the law” and is the name for the strategy to stabilize violence in Baghdad by pushing thousands of additional U.S. and Iraqi forces into the city’s neighborhoods.
Since then, troops have continued to pour in, dotting Baghdad with small outposts and joint security stations.
Top U.S. commanders have cautioned that any verdict on the overall success of the plan will have to wait until after all units are in place and conducting operations. But Canda and his paratroopers have been on the ground long enough to begin drawing their own conclusions.
Three months after they arrived in Sha’ab, the bodies are gone, the murders have stopped, and the neighborhood has come back to life, Canda said.
“It’s night and day from when we got here,” he said. ...
Led by Sheikh Abd al-Sattar from Ramadi, The Awakening is the national anti-al-Qaeda grassroots movement that sprang from the Anbar Salvation Council. Its significance for Iraq and Iraqis going forward is difficult to overstate.
Jewish groups welcomed President Bush's announcement of expanded sanctions against Sudan until it allows peacekeepers to police the Darfur genocide. Bush, following up on a warning he delivered to mark Holocaust commemoration day last month, said Tuesday that the United States was adding companies and individuals to the sanctions list, and is making it a crime for Americans to deal with the sanctioned.
Bush also announced a new effort to tighten sanctions on the international level through the U.N. Security Council. His special envoy, Andrew Natsios, said he was making progress to persuade China to join in the sanctions. China, Sudan's biggest oil client, has been the principal recalcitrant until now in achieving international consensus on ending the killings in Darfur led by militias allied with the government.
Ruth Messinger, who heads the American Jewish World Service, the lead Darfur advocacy group, said the sanctions were welcome and overdue.
Iraqi captives are freed from hell, an activist speaks out Down Under, and the mullahs keep blowing smoke. Meanwhile, a petty obscenity mars Memorial Day in the American Northwest.
US frees 42 captives in Iraq raid. Some of the 42 Iraqis had been "hung from ceilings and tortured for months" according to AP via Yahoo. Dear God.
American forces freed 42 kidnapped Iraqis — some of whom had been hung from ceilings and tortured for months — in a raid Sunday on an al-Qaida hideout north of Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
Military officials said the operation, launched on tips from residents, showed that Iraqis in the turbulent Diyala province were turning against Sunni insurgents and beginning to trust U.S. troops.
"The people in Diyala are speaking up against al-Qaida," said Maj. Gen. William Caldwell, the top U.S. military spokesman in Iraq.
Also in the news item,
Gunmen also killed the renowned Baghdad calligrapher Khalil Mohammed al-Zahawi in a drive-by shooting in a Shiite dominated area in eastern Baghdad, police said. Al-Zahawi, 52, who was also a lecturer at Baghdad University, was waiting for a taxi on a main road when the gunmen sped past.
Tammy Bruce comments: 'When allowed to fight the enemy our troops naturally set people free. Literally. There could be no more perfect example of this, along with the perfect timing of Memorial Day weekend, than the news that our troops in Iraq have freed 42 prisoners held hostage in an al-Qaida prison. This news, of course, also proves the Democrats correct once again--that Iraq has nothing to do with the WoT, and there is absolutely no relationship between our work in Iraq and the savages who attacked us on September 11th.'
Ayaan Hirsi Ali will arrive in Sydney today amid tight security normally reserved for foreign dignitaries or royalty.
Her writings and talks focus on what she calls the backwardness of Islamic culture and the persecution of Muslim women.
The Somali-born Muslim - who fled to The Netherlands, became a Dutch citizen and renounced her religion - has been under 24-hour guard since the murder of film-maker Theo van Gogh in November 2004 by a Muslim extremist in Amsterdam.
Van Gogh's film Submission, which examined the oppression of Muslim women, was written by Hirsi Ali. His killer, Mohammed Bouyeri, left a five-page death threat addressed to her, pinned to the filmmaker's chest. ...
In her writings, Hirsi Ali describes being circumcised [genitally mutilated - aa] as a young girl and how she escaped an arranged marriage. ...
She has two public functions at the Sydney Writers Festival: a discussion on Saturday and the festival's closing address on Sunday. Both are sell-outs.
Trilateral Iraq/Iran/US meeting.Iraq the Model: 'Iran's and America's ambassadors to Baghdad met here today. Iran's attitude didn't only make the meeting unproductive, it made it insulting. Ignore the meaningless diplomatic pleasantries of "the meeting was positive" or "we'd like to meet you again in the future" and stuff like that that we hear after almost every meeting between diplomats. Iran mocked Iraq and America today, their ambassador was here just to laugh at us and buy time for his regime by trying to fool us with his we-want-to-work-this-out-through-negotiations.'
Commentary. You know what? I'm not even going to link to the stories about Cindy Sheehan and Rosie O'Donnell - both of whom have reached the end of their shelf life, their fifteen minutes, and their rope - because they've had enough attention already. Even their self-destructiveness is boring. What a couple of tiresome, self-absorbed nitwits.
One of the greatest sea disasters of the Second World War was the sinking of the US Army Transport Dorchester in the late winter of 1943 by the U-223 off Greenland. The waters were frigid; the torpedo struck at night. The lights instantly failed and 904 men struggled in the pitch black to find their way up on deck through the unfamiliar passages, some only in their skivvies. The ship sank in 20 minutes. Six hundred and seventy five men went down with her. It is remembered as one of the greatest losses of life in a single day for the US Army. But it is also remembered as the moment of the Four Chaplains. This is their true story.
Adopt A Platoon Perfect for church groups and community organizations, Adopt A Platoon matches willing sponsors with platoon sized units deployed to foward areas. Sponsors send letters, care packages, and personal items to platoons in need. AAP is one of the most popular military charities.
Adopt A Sniper Adopt A Sniper is comprised of a confederation of military and law enforcement snipers from across the country who provide their brothers-in-arms with materials that make their lives -and their jobs- easier. Items range personal hygiene gear to tactical products such as holsters, high-speed rucksacks, new optics, and rifle accessories.
America Supports You ASY is a DoD sponsored outreach program which provides centrality to the plethora of troop support non-profits, and solicits corporate assistance towards the support the troops mission.
A Million Thanks A Million Thanks is a campaign to show support for American troops through letter writing, emails, cards, prayers, and thoughts.
Any Soldier Any Soldier started as a Maryland couple's effort to help out their son's Army unit in Northern Iraq. Today it is one of the premier support the troops organizations, sending thousands of letters and care packages to deployed Soldiers, Airman, Sailors, and Marines throughout the globe. Any Soldier is John's favorite military charity. ...
Go to the post for links, and the rest of the alphabet.