Friday, August 05, 2005

New York Times Downplays AIPAC Indictments

America's most influential newpaper downplays the recent indictments of two senior AIPAC officials in a front-page story.

Charged with leaking classified national security information to Israeli government officials and journalists, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman each face a single count of conspiracy, while Mr. Rosen is charged with "an additional count of passing classified information".

But the New York Times downplays this indictment by claiming it to be "expected, but nevertheless unusual":
The charges in the long-running inquiry were expected, but nevertheless unusual. Neither Mr. Rosen nor Mr. Weissman, who have denied any wrongdoing, held security clearances.

[...]

The offenses charged in the indictment fall under the Espionage Act, but no one has been charged with spying. Although the statutes do not explicitly apply only to government officials with security clearances, prosecutors have not often pursued cases like the one against Mr. Rosen and Mr. Weissman. They are accused of transferring classified information to journalists and foreign government officials that could be "used to the injury" of the United States or "to the advantage" another country.
The Times does not substantiate these claims or relate their relevance vis-a-vis the necessity or legality of the indictments, but it seems to me that any harm done regarding national security and classified information should be prosecuted within the law, so why must the Times deem it unusual to follow through?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Bush and Blair Still Living in a Hole

Al-Qaeda number two, Ayman al-Zawahri, has come out with a statement saying that UK foreign policy is to blame for the 7/7 terrorist attacks:
"Blair's policies brought you destruction in central London and will bring you more destruction ..."
To America, he says:
"What you have seen in New York, Washington and Afghanistan, are only the initial losses and if you (United States) continue the same hostile policies you will see what will make you forget those horrors"
"Attack our freedom"? "Change our way of life"? How come al-Qaeda knows the cause of terror, but our leaders don't? Why are our leaders lying?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

News & Comment Roundup

Suicide attacks evolving, increasing: "Suicide terrorist attacks worldwide have risen from an average of 3 per year in the 1980s to about 10 per year in the 1990s, according to Robert Pape [my link -- O], author of Dying to Win: the Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. 2004 alone saw 158 suicide attacks, according to Scott Atran, a research director at the National Center for Scientific Research in Paris, France.

[...]

'Although suicide terrorism accounts for just 3 percent of all terrorist events [between 1980 and 2003], it accounts for 48 percent of all deaths,' Pape said." (National Geographic, 7/29)

Dubai women in work-force: "With the job opportunities of a booming economy, a government drive to empower and educate women and exposure to other cultures, Dubai's women are moving in increasing numbers into a wide range of professions." (BBC, 7/29) See also the BBC's new series on Middle Eastern youth.

Are you sure there isn't a timetable? US Ambassador discusses troop pullout: "In his first press conference, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said that American forces would hand over control of specific areas to Iraqi forces and "withdraw its own units from these areas." He declined to say which Iraqis cities American soldiers would leave first, but said he had formed a committee with Iraqi leaders to draw up a detailed withdrawal plan." (New York Times, 8/1)

Iran far from obtaining nuclear bomb, according to US intelligence: "A major U.S. intelligence review has projected that Iran is about a decade away from manufacturing the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon, roughly doubling the previous estimate of five years, according to government sources with firsthand knowledge of the new analysis." (Washington Post, 8/2)

More violence; seven Marines killed, toll tops 1800: "The American death toll in Iraq has topped 1,800 with the killings of seven Marines in northwestern Iraq, including six sniper team members, U.S. commanders said Tuesday." (CNN, 8/2)

Israeli extremists demonstrate in major rally: "With a huge police contingent keeping close watch, thousands of right-wing Israelis demonstrated tonight against the planned withdrawal of Jewish settlers from the Gaza Strip, which is to begin in just two weeks." (New York Times, 8/2)

Saudi king buried, Muslim leaders attend funeral: "The body of King Fahd bin Abdel Aziz al-Saud of Saudi Arabia was lowered into a simple, unmarked grave today before a gathering of several hundred Muslim political and religious leaders from around the world." (New York Times, 8/2)

Iran changes nuclear plans: "Threats by Iran to re-start the process of enriching uranium could indicate that it has taken a strategic decision to develop a nuclear fuel production cycle." (BBC, 8/2)

A history of al-Qaeda: "Fisking the 'War on Terror'"

Political cartoon from Antiwar.com:

Monday, August 01, 2005

Bolton is Appointed to UN

During the US Senate's recess, President Bush took the initiative to appoint neoconservative hawk John Bolton to represent the US in the UN. This comes as a surprise given Bolton's unpopularity (among some Republicans as well as Democrats) in the Senate and the electorate.

John Bolton sridently backed US calls for attacking Iraq, with or without "weapons of mass destruction," and has called for war in the Middle East with more Muslim countries; according to the Christian Science Monitor:
In February 2005, Mr. Bolton was nominated US ambassador to the UN by President Bush. If confirmed, he would move to this position from the Department of State where he was Under Secretary for Arms Control, the top US non-proliferation official. Prior to this appointment, Bolton was senior vice president of the neoconservative think tank American Enterprise Institute. He also held a variety of positions in both the George H. W. Bush and Ronald Reagan administrations.

Bolton has often made claims not fully supported by the intelligence community. In a controversial May 2002 speech entitled, "Beyond the Axis of Evil," Bolton fingered Libya, Syria, and Cuba as "other rogue states intent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction."

In July 2003, the CIA and other agencies reportedly objected strongly to claims Bolton made in a draft assessment about the progress Syria has made in its weapons programs.
This UN nomination is widely regarded to isolate the US in the international community.

"Iraq Dances With Iran, While America Seethes"

"Regaining a semblance of stability here is a goal of both the Iraqi government and the Americans. But the country's elected leadership apparently believes that Iraq's long-term welfare will depend on building a strong relationship with Iran as well as on maintaining ties to the United States. As the Shiite Arab leaders who now hold sway in Baghdad see it, support from their co-religionists in Iran could be decisive in keeping Iraq from slipping further into chaos." (New York Times, 7/31)

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Senator in the Middle East

Judging from her "Blog from the Middle East," Democratic Senator Patty Murray (WA) doesn't understand the current Palestinian situation well.

Currently serving her third term in the US Senate, Ms. Murray devoted two days of her six-day regional tour to visiting Israel-Palestine. She recounts a vivid picture of the Palestinian situation, "immediately" seeing "poverty and very badly deteriorating buildings and roads"; then she met with PM "Almad [sic]" Quraya', expecting the Palesinians to control Hamas:
We pushed him on the need for stopping terrorist activities and told him that the US wanted to be helpful but was watching carefully the actions of the new government particularly where it concerned Hamas.
And then with the Interior Minister:
His job is to oversee the implementation of security. When I asked him about the connection between economics and security he told me a story of going to the Gaza area a year or so ago and meeting with 35 or 36 young boys under the age of 15, all of them had lost their hands in explosions when they threw bombs and pulled the pin too early, or threw it too late. He talked about how the reason they did this was that they were the sole support for their families and were paid money to throw the bombs. He said Hamas can recruit because these families are desperate.
She then made an acute observation as to the infrastructure of the territories: "The buildings themselves were crumbling old, had only one bathroom, the elevators were not working, paint was peeling. It is hard to imagine how they can forge ahead when it is so clear they need to spend an awful lot just on basic infrastructure needs." But then she corrected herself in the next sentence: "However, it was clear to all of us that they needed to show they could stop terrorism and would be clear in doing that before they could get more help from the US. It is a very difficult situation." Difficult indeed.

Following the Senator's Catch-22 logic, How could the Palestinian Authority stop terrorism effectively if it does not have the basic infrastructure, and if the people are living in such a dire situation? It would be impossible to expect the PA to meet US and Israeli demands under such circumstances, and also without proper peaceful exchanges between the Palestinians and Israelis. Unbeknownst to Ms. Murray, with the Israeli occupation and settlements, et cetera, Hamas' popularity and following is ever-growing.

Besides, Hamas has largely stuck to the cease-fire, so one must suspect that excuses are being made, or that Ms. Murray cannot see beyond a stereotype.

Interestingly enough, by her own account, she did not ask Israeli leaders to do anything! Neither still did her meetings with Israeli leaders follow the same line of logic as with the Palestinians. About Shimon Peres, having dutifully praised him, she wrote:
He said the Peace Process is difficult, and that security is such a huge issue here that it is hard to move forward. I think everyone hopes that with the new Palestinian leadership movement will be made. But no one is expressing huge optimism for anything immediate. The issues are too large and complex.
Then with Sharon:
We met this morning with Prime Minister Sharon - he painted a very tough but slightly optimistic picture of the future of peace talks. He said that with Arafat's death new hope is there, but that the window is short and security is absolutely the bottom line. That all will fail if terrorism is not stopped. He also emphasized that we need to make sure we support the Palestinian Authority - as they must have infrastructure improvements. It will also legitimize their new government if we support them. I found that interesting. However, he did say that we should verify where all aid went so it would not go to terrorist activity. What a challenge!
Yes, and what of the challenges of the occupation, settlements, the wall, the incursions, et cetera? It seems she had forgotten to comment.
 
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