US Supreme Court Cuts Presidential Powers Down to Size
Read here Editorial in the Washington Post "Supreme Rebuke"
Washington Post Editorial
29th June 2004
Since the outset of the war on terrorism, the Bush administration, across a wide range of issues, has had a simple message for the federal judiciary: Trust us and don't interfere.
Yesterday, in a pair of much-awaited rulings, the court delivered its response.
First, the justices declared that U.S. citizens designated as enemy fighters are entitled to a "fair opportunity" to challenge their detentions and "unquestionably [have] the right to access to counsel" in doing so.
Then the justices held that federal courts have jurisdiction to hear challenges to the detentions of noncitizens held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Trust, even during wartime, has limits.
The most important decision of the day came in the case of Yaser Esam Hamdi, the Louisiana-born Saudi man who has been held in a military brig for the past two years after being captured in Afghanistan.
The decision is more historic still for transcending the court's frequent ideological divide.
Eight justices rejected the government's contention that Mr. Hamdi could be locked up indefinitely, incommunicado, on the strength of a two-page, hearsay affidavit and without any opportunity to respond to the government's allegations.
The justices did not agree on the proper resolution of the case:
Consequently, the case not only guarantees that Mr. Hamdi will get to tell the courts his side of the story but also sends a powerful message that Americans cannot just disappear at the hands of their government.
Even during wartime, the government must be held to account -- albeit not necessarily in a full-fledged criminal trial -- before an American can be locked up.
That's important not just for Mr. Hamdi but for liberty generally. And it means that the other American held as an enemy combatant, Jose Padilla, will at last get a hearing as well.
The court dismissed Mr. Padilla's case, finding that it had been filed in the wrong court. But the decision in Hamdi means that in any renewed litigation, more than the government's say-so will be needed to keep Mr. Padilla behind bars.
The court's skepticism about the government's position extended even to that case where precedent was most strongly on the administration's side.
The government had a powerful argument that Guantanamo lies outside the court's jurisdiction, an argument with which we agreed. Yet the administration's willful failure for so long to construct at Guantanamo a review process in which the public could have confidence makes the court's decision to intervene something of a self-inflicted wound for the administration.
It isn't clear what, in practice, the decision will mean.
If the result is to spur the administration to improve review and inject a measure of outside oversight, it could prove constructive. But there are dangers as well. Holding that jurisdiction exists to consider these cases is not the same as saying they have legal merit, so the decision is far from a promise of meaningful review of Guantanamo detentions, and it could prove quite disruptive.
The decision's logic seems to imply that any detainee held anywhere by U.S. forces -- even someone such as Saddam Hussein or Khalid Sheik Mohammed -- could have access to U.S. courts. However irresponsible the executive branch has been, the judiciary is ill-positioned to manage every overseas detention.
What should be clear, however, is that the judiciary will NOT sit still for assertions of unbridled executive power.
As the war on terrorism progresses, the administration will need -- at long last -- to submit to the oversight and transparency it has so assiduously resisted.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
US Supreme Court Cuts Presidential Powers Down to Size
June 28, 2004: A Pseudo State is Born
By Adam Hochschild
(Adam Hochschild is the author of King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror and Heroism in Colonial Africa, as well as books about South Africa and the former Soviet Union. His newest book, Bury the Chains, about the British antislavery movement, will appear in January. He teaches writing at the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California at Berkeley. )
Some fifteen years ago, while writing about apartheid-era South Africa, I visited one of its nominally independent black "homelands." This crazy quilt of territories was a control mechanism the white regime had come up with in a country where whites were vastly outnumbered by South Africans of other colors.
For the most part rural slums, the homelands, also known as Bantustans, made up about 13% of the nation's land. I was driving across miles of veldt where blacks were trying to scratch a living from eroded or unyielding patches of earth that white farmers didn't want, interspersed with shantytowns of shacks constructed out of corrugated metal, discarded plasterboard, and old automobile doors. Suddenly, looming out of this desolate landscape like an ocean liner in a swamp, was a huge office building, perhaps 4 or 5 stories high and 150 yards long, with a large sign saying, in English and Afrikaans, "South African Embassy."
I remembered that building the other day when reading about the new U.S. Embassy that will open in Baghdad this week. With a staff of more than 1,700 -- and that may be only the beginning -- it will be the largest diplomatic mission in the world. Just as our embassy will be considerably more than an embassy, so the Iraqi state that will officially come into being in its shadow next Wednesday, after the speechmaking and flag-raising are over, will be considerably less than a state.
With nearly 140,000 American troops on Iraq's soil, plus tens of thousands of additional foreign soldiers and civilian security guards armed with everything from submachine guns to helicopters, most military power will not be in Iraqi hands, nor will the power of the budget, largely set and paid for in Washington.
If the new Iraq-to-be is not a state, what is it?
A half century ago one could talk about colonies, protectorates, and spheres of influence, but in our supposedly post-colonial world, the vocabulary is poorer. We lack a word for a country where most real power is in the hands of someone else, whether that be shadowy local militias, other nations' armies, or both. Pseudostate, perhaps. From Afghanistan to the Palestinian Authority, Bosnia to Congo, pseudostates have now spread around the globe. Some of them will even be exchanging ambassadors with Iraq.
Pseudostates, in fact, are nothing new.
They have a long and fascinating history, and two notable groups of them had surprising fates near the twentieth century's end.
One collection was those "homelands" of South Africa, four of which were formally granted independence. The so-called South African Embassies evolved seamlessly out of the white-controlled administrations that had run these territories when they were still called "Native Reserves," just as the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad will begin life in the very same Republican Palace from which occupation administrator L. Paul Bremer III has run Iraq for the last year.
The South African government invested large sums in equipping the homelands with everything from foreign ministries to luxurious, gated residential compounds for cabinet members and their families. Collaborating chiefs were made heads of state, and their territories were given flags, national anthems and coats of arms. But when a coup temporarily deposed the hand-picked president of Bophuthatswana -- seven separate islands of desperately poor land and poor people spread out across hundreds of miles -- it was the South African army that promptly restored him to power.
As South Africa made its miraculous transition to majority rule in the early 1990s, the homelands as separate political entities swiftly vanished. The former foreign ministries and embassies were put to other uses and the only people to whom the past trappings of homeland independence still matter today are collectors who do a lively trade in the former territories' stamps.
Another group of pseudostates, however, had a very different fate. The Soviet Union was composed of 15 "Soviet Socialist Republics" -- entities, like those in South Africa, set up on ethnic lines as mechanisms of control. These, too, were decked out with the external symbols of sovereignty, and in the case of two Soviet pseudostates, you didn't even have to go there to see their flags.
For Byelorussia and the Ukraine had something South Africa's homelands never got: seats at the United Nations, a concession Stalin wrung from the Allies at the end of World War II.
I traveled through a number of these pseudostates in the course of reporting from the old Soviet Union, and we hardheaded journalists always knew, despite Soviet propaganda, that these so-called republics were nothing of the sort and never would be. After all, they had no armies and no independence; Russians migrated to them in large numbers, knowing that ultimate power resided in Moscow. (They could even be dissolved at Moscow's will: A short-lived 16th Soviet Socialist Republic along the Finnish border disappeared with little ado in 1956.)
And yet, in that other great transformation of the early ‘90s, unexpected by hardheaded realists and dogmatic Communists alike, it was the Soviet Union itself that evaporated. Almost overnight its 15 pseudostates turned into real ones. Their coming to life left millions of surprised and unhappy ethnic Russians stranded outside Russia.
The Iraq that will come into being this Wednesday does not closely resemble either the South African homelands or the old Soviet republics. But their histories, however different, might suggest the same lesson to American planners: pseudostates often turn out quite differently than their inventors intend, for their very creation is an act of hubris. And the larger and more unstable the pseudostate, the greater the hubris and the more likely that imperial plans will go awry.
Washington's hopes for what Iraq will be in five or ten years, or even in five or ten months, may prove as unreliable as its predictions that U.S. invasion troops would be greeted with cheers and flowers and would be home in a year.
Clearly White House strategists have a set of hopes, already somewhat battered, for what the Iraqi pseudostate will evolve into: a willing home for the permanent military bases the Pentagon is building in the country; an oil reservoir safely under U.S. influence; and a strategic ally against militant Islam, all with the façade, at least, of democracy. On the other hand, with its vast oil wealth and restive population, at some point Iraq could take a very different path, and embody the religious fervor of its Shiite majority, demand that U.S. forces leave, try to cancel reconstruction contracts with U.S. firms, and reverse the privatization of state assets now under way. Of course, it's not necessarily a matter of going entirely down one path or the other.
Iraq may well take on some characteristics from each--or might fracture into Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish entities, or follow a path no "expert" can now guess.
Whatever happens -- whether Iraq dissolves in pieces, is seen largely as a compliant U.S. satellite, or becomes a cheeky avatar of Arab defiance of the West -- its territory seems likely to continue to be what it has rapidly become in recent months, a literal and figurative minefield for U. S. troops and a hotbed of Al Qaeda recruitment.
The volatile, unpredictable nature of pseudostates, and their role as incubators of troubles that can come back to haunt their creators, has certainly been no great historical secret.
Perhaps that was why one of the candidates in the 2000 Presidential election said, "I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building."
The candidate was George W. Bush.
Monday, June 28, 2004
Iraq War: Interview with John Pilger
Read here article on interview by Torcuil Crichton with John Pilger in Sunday Herald (UK) .
(John Pilger is a journalist covering the Iraq war and the Middle East conflict)
27 June 2004
Torcuil Crichton: What do you believe is the endgame for Iraq?
John Pilger: No-one can predict these things. What I can say is that the uprising in Iraq will continue and the American public may well wake up to the deaths of thousands of its sons and daughters. And just as the mutiny of soldiers and their families and supporters hastened the end in Vietnam, so the same may well happen in Iraq.
TC: Where do you think the “war on terror” will be in 10 years’ time?
JP: The long-term prediction may, just may, be the decline of the American empire, for the same internal reasons of “overstretch” that the Soviet Union collapsed.
TC: What should Britain do with regards to its “special relationship” with the US?
JP: Britain should do what the majority of Britons want. The troops should be brought home now. They have no right to be in Iraq; their presence itself is atrocious, quite apart from the abuses we read about almost every day. The “special relationship” is a sub-imperial relationship; it has no value for the rest of us.
TC: Can the European Union act as a counter to the US’s global influence?
JP: Yes, but apart from a few bursts of pique from the French president, there is no sign of that happening in the near future.
TC: What do you think of your former employer, The Mirror, being stripped of its aggressive anti-war stance?
JP: It’s a great shame. As I understand it, Piers Morgan was working to a long-term strategy, hoping to secure a place in the market and a renewed identity for the paper similar to that which The Mirror once had. Circulation may have dropped, but I think it would have levelled out once people got used to The Mirror’s difference from other tabloids, which are in serious decline. Circulation will drop even faster if The Mirror returns to trivia only.
TC: Can journalism really make a difference?
JP: Yes, journalism can make a difference. Information is power; without it, we are immobilised. Look at the invasion of Iraq. Had the American media fulfilled its constitutional role and challenged and exposed Bush’s lies, instead of channelling and amplifying them, there would have been no invasion, and thousands of Iraqis would be alive today.
TC: Is television now more important than print?
JP: Television and print journalism are different. Television is the source of most people’s information and it has an instant impact. If newspapers complement television, rather than following it slavishly, they prosper, because people look to them to make sense of what they’ve seen on the news. Sadly, more often than not, they are disappointed.
TC: What to you is “committed” journalism?
JP: There is only one form of “committed” journalism we should value, and that is journalism that reflects a commitment not to some spurious equivalence of opposites but to the truth: to stripping away façades and blowing away smokescreens and never accepting the “official truth” of important events.
TC: Given Australian prime minister John Howard’s support of Bush and Blair, how do you feel these days about Australia? Are you ashamed at all to be Australian?
JP: Because human beings do terrible and stupid things, are you ashamed of being a human being? Why should I feel ashamed of my birthright simply because John Howard is prime minister? The problem for Australian society is a colonial mentality that endures. When Australians are moved to demand that their politicians end their obsequiousness to great power, that will be a day to celebrate.
TC: You paint a very cynical view of the world. Is it a cynical world? Or is it simply you that’s cynical?
JP: I have never painted a cynical view of the world. I wrote a book called Heroes, which pays tribute to the struggles of ordinary people all over the world. You confuse the majority of people with those in power. Too often journalists believe being cynical about their readers and viewers ordains them as journalists. It doesn’t; they should redirect their scepticism to the powerful, instead of courting them; for it is they who are truly cynical.
The US Govt's "9/11" Commission Says Attack on US Linked to US Support of Israel
Read here full article by Marc Perelman in Forward
(Forward is a weekly Jewish newspaper published in New York and the paper claimed to be a "fearless and indispensable source of news and opinions on Jewish affairs" )
June 25, 2004
In an interim staff report, "Outline of the 9-11 Plot" released last week, the presidential commission investigating the September 11, 2001, attacks shed new light on the role of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the 9/11 attack.
The disclosures seem to weaken Israeli claims that the issue was only a secondary priority for Osama bin Laden, and they could rekindle the debate about whether U.S. support for Israel is hindering national security.
The report claims that Khalid Sheikh Mohamed, or KSM, the alleged mastermind of the attacks who was arrested in March 2003 in Pakistan, told his U.S. captors that bin Laden "wanted to punish the United States for supporting Israel."
This is why, according to KSM, bin Laden asked him to conduct the attacks "as early as mid-2000" in response to the outcry prompted by the visit of then-opposition leader Sharon to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the report states.
Even though the Al Qaeda hijackers had barely arrived in the United States to take flight lessons, the Saudi renegade allegedly argued that it would be enough if they smashed planes to the ground without hitting specific targets. The report claims that KSM talked him out of the plan.
Bin Laden, however, reportedly asked him again a year later to hasten the preparations of the plot when he learned that Sharon, now prime minister, would visit the White House in June or July 2001, according to the report.
Once again KSM convinced him to wait, and the group eventually settled on September 11 after further debates about targets and timing, debunking the assumption that the details of the operation were planned long in advance.
It noted that Mohammed Atta, the Egyptian ringleader of the plot, chose the second week of September to ensure that Congress, "the perceived source of U.S. policy in support of Israel" would be in session. Atta, who lived in Germany with several other hijackers, "denounced what he described as a global Jewish movement centered in New York City which, he claimed, controlled the financial world and the media."
In a chilling detail, the report also mentions that KSM indicated that Mullah Omar, the former Taliban leader in Afghanistan, "opposed [Al Qaeda's plan to attack] the United States for ideological reasons but permitted attacks against Jewish targets."
"Bin Laden, on the other hand, reportedly argued that attacks against the United States needed to be carried out immediately to support the insurgency in the Israeli-occupied territories and to protest the presence of U.S. military forces in Saudi Arabia," according to the report
Friday, June 25, 2004
Commentary on Iraq War: The Stab in the Back
Read here full article by Justin Raimondo "Israel plays the Kurdish card – and Americans are caught in the crossfire"
June 23, 2004
The victors in the Iraq war are now moving rapidly to consolidate their gains, and carry out the second phase of their operation.
No, I don't mean the June 30 American handover of pseudo-"sovereignty" to a puppet regime, but the ongoing invasion of Kurdistan by Israeli operatives trying to spark a war of secession.
While American troops are fighting and dying to maintain the independence and unity of the Iraqi state, the Israelis, operating behind our backs and in the shadows, are working to split the country up:.(Click here to read Seymour Hirsch's article)
"In a series of interviews in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States, officials told me that by the end of last year Israel had concluded that the Bush Administration would not be able to bring stability or democracy to Iraq, and that Israel needed other options.
Gee, I thought Israel had nothing to do with this war, and that anyone who said otherwise was merely spreading anti-Semitic canards.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government decided, I was told, to minimize the damage that the war was causing to Israel's strategic position by expanding its long-standing relationship with Iraq's Kurds and establishing a significant presence on the ground in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan.
Several officials depicted Sharon's decision, which involves a heavy financial commitment, as a potentially reckless move that could create even more chaos and violence as the insurgency in Iraq continues to grow."
Why, in that case, does Israel need "other options," or, indeed, any options at all?
This war was always about enhancing Israel's strategic position, and nothing else: not oil, not democracy, not WMD. The goal was to extend Israel's sphere of influence, and that is precisely what is occurring. To the victor go the spoils, and Hersh's revelations highlight the Israelis as the real winners of this war:
"Israeli intelligence and military operatives are now quietly at work in Kurdistan, providing training for Kurdish commando units and, most important in Israel's view, running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria.
I love how the issue is framed in Hersh's piece: the Israelis advised us to seal the Iraqi borders against Iranian infiltration, we are told, and warned that the violence was bound to increase. As if only they could have predicted the altogether predictable. What geniuses! A former top Administration official cites his Israeli counterparts as saying: "You're not going to get it right in Iraq, and shouldn't we be planning for the worst-case scenario and how to deal with it?"
Israel feels particularly threatened by Iran, whose position in the region has been strengthened by the war. The Israeli operatives include members of the Mossad, Israel's clandestine foreign-intelligence service, who work undercover in Kurdistan as businessmen and, in some cases, do not carry Israeli passports."
In other words: if you're not going to install Ahmed Chalabi and his gang – who promised to recognize Israel and even build an oil pipeline from Mosul to Haifa – and you won't do to the Iraqis what we're doing to the Palestinians, then we'll just have to take matters into our own hands.
By arming Kurdish commando (i.e. terrorist) units, and launching provocative incursions, the long arm of Israel is reaching out to jab Syria and Iran – and stab the U.S. in the back. They did it, so we are supposed to understand, more in sorrow than in anger – after all, they warned us, didn't they?
Desperate to maintain a semblance of stability amid increasing chaos, U.S. viceroy Paul Bremer is trying to maintain a delicate balancing act between the Shi'ite Muslim majority, which longs for an Iranian-style Islamic "republic," and the various non-Arab minority groups, notably the Kurds in the north, who demand autonomy, and, in some cases, independence.
The Kurds managed to win concessions from Bremer and the interim government, but with the June 30 transfer looming, tried to get these incorporated in the UN resolution – and failed. In response, the two main Kurdish leaders sent an open letter to the Americans and their Iraqi clients, threatening to pull out of the deal entirely and unilaterally declare Kurdistan's independence.
It is in this context that the Israelis initiated what they call "Plan B": sneaking into Kurdish territory, arming dissident Kurdish factions, and actively undermining the American strategy.
Israeli support for the Kurds is nothing new: in alliance with the Shah of Iran, Tel Aviv sought to undermine Ba'athist rule in Iraq by financing and shipping arms to Kurdish rebels, abandoning them when it was no longer convenient.
The rationale for starting up the old relationship again, as explained by a senior CIA official to Hersh, is as follows:"'They think they have to be there.'
Asked whether the Israelis had sought approval from Washington, the official laughed and said, 'Do you know anybody who can tell the Israelis what to do? They're always going to do what is in their best interest.'"
Too bad we can't say the same for the Americans.
While U.S. soldiers are fighting and dying for the lost cause of Iraqi "democracy," the real beneficiaries of this war are doing their best to make sure that chaos reigns – and we're caught in the crossfire.
Violence is already on the uptick in northern Iraq, including reports of armed conflict between U.S soldiers and Kurdish peshmergas.
Assassinations and sabotage are taking place almost daily – amid the continuing ethnic cleansing of Arabs and Turks from the area, carried out by Kurdish militants with American acquiescence.
According to this Knight-Ridder report, Paul Harvey, Bremer's man in Kirkuk, avers the anti-Arab pogrom is entirely justified because:"They have every right to do so. It's a frontier spirit here. This is their land and they're rebuilding."
Empowered by the influx of Israeli assistance, training, and arms, growing anti-American sentiment among radical Kurdish nationalists could lead to open warfare, directed not only at their ethnic rivals but also at U.S. troops, the ultimate guarantors of the post-June 30 order.
If you look at a map of what the pershmerga claim as "Kurdistan," a huge swath of territory that snakes through every country in the northern core of the Middle East, it clearly resembles a very long fuse – just waiting to be lit.
Now that our friends, the Israelis, have struck a match, it's only a matter of time before we witness the resulting explosion.
The Israeli justification for embarking on this dangerous course, as reported by Hersh, is that their "strategic position" is being undermined by U.S. bungling of the occupation, and if that doesn't expose them as the ultimate ingrates of all time then nothing will.
We were dragged into this occupation, after all, by Israel's amen corner in Washington, as General Anthony Zinni, the former commander of U.S. forces in the Middle East put it:
"'Certainly those in your ranks that foisted this strategy on us that is flawed. Certainly they ought to be gone and replaced.'Zinni is talking about a group of policymakers within the administration known as 'the neo-conservatives' who saw the invasion of Iraq as a way to stabilize American interests in the region and strengthen the position of Israel. …Zinni believes they are political ideologues who have hijacked American policy in Iraq.
Intelligence expert James Bamford also knows what the neocons were trying to do, and offers further evidence of an Israeli connection to the phony "intelligence" that lied us into war.
The "blueprint for war," he writes, had been drawn up long ago by pro-Israeli hawks in the highest foreign policy councils of the U.S. government: all they required was a "pretext for war," hence the title of Bamford's bestselling new book.
Working through the Office of Special Plans, a Pentagon unit set up by , the War Party in this country "forged close ties to a parallel, ad hoc intelligence unit within Ariel Sharon's office in Israel," that "was designed to go around the country's own intelligence organization, Mossad."
Having manipulated the hapless Americans into an unwinnable war, are the Israelis now amping up the violence by organizing such terroristic groups as the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK), in spite of their own role in turning the group's leader over to the Turks?
The PKK has recently declared an end to their "unilateral ceasefire," a course previously urged on them by the captive Abdullah Ocalan.
That this occurred just as news of Israel's infiltration and "support" to the Kurds began to leak out, is, of course, pure coincidence.
The war in Iraq, as Professor Paul W. Schroeder pointed out in a footnote (not online) to a piece in The American Conservative,
"Would represent something to my knowledge unique in history. It is common for great powers to try to fight wars by proxy, getting smaller powers to fight for their interests. This would be the first instance I know where a great power (in fact, a superpower) would do the fighting as the proxy of a small client state."As Israeli agents flood Kurdistan with arms and ill intent, Professor Schroeder's thesis acquires another surprising element: it would be the first instance that I know of where a superpower, after fighting a proxy war on behalf of a pipsqueak client, is kicked directly in the teeth by its ingrate of an "ally."
Thursday, June 24, 2004
A portrait of slain Kim Sun-il, pictured with a bible, on an altar during a funeral service at a hospital in Pusan, Wednesday. / Yonhap
Kim's parents on hearing news of the death of their son
South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon lays a flower during a funeral service for Kim Sun-Il in Busan June 23, 2004. Islamic militants beheaded Kim on Tuesday in Iraq. Photo by Pool/Reuters
---- South Korean Internet service providers blocked access to web sites suspected of carrying graphic images of the beheading of a Korean hostage in Iraq, officials said Thursday. The ban today followed reports that a video showing the beheading of Kim Sun-Il, 33, by Islamic insurgents was circulating through the Internet, according to the Ministry of Information and Communication. "We have asked local Internet service providers to block the possible spread of footage showing Kim's beheading," a ministry official told AFP. Read here for more
Belgium - 293
Bulgaria - 34
Canada - 1,576
Czech Republic - 19
Denmark - 57
Estonia - 7
France - 565Germany - 1,909
Greece - 127
Hungary - 26
Iceland - 17
Italy - 491
Latvia - 2
Lithuania - 6
Luxembourg - 9
Netherlands - 153
Norway - 147
Poland - 22
Portugal - 8
Romania - 32
Slovakia - 17
Slovenia - 18
Spain - 125
Turkey - 161
United Kingdom - 315
United States - 67
Austria - 3
Afghanistan - 81
Albania - 22
Azerbaijan - 22
Croatia - 47
Finland - 48
FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) - 11
Ireland - 6
New Zealand - 6
Sweden - 19
Switzerland - 4
- Figures supplied by the International Security Assistance Force and correct as at June 14, 2004.
Tuesday, June 22, 2004
US Govt. Says China is No.1 Threat to US & Global Security
Read here full article by Charles R. Smith "U.S. at War With Beijing "
June 17, 2004
The U.S. government has cited China as the No. 1 threat to global security for the second time in less than a month.
Both the Pentagon and the Commission on U.S-China Economic and Security Review cited Beijing as a major threat to U.S. national security.
The two reports noted the growing military capability of China combined with its predatory economic policy is aimed directly at the United States.
The latest report released by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission was approved by a "unanimous vote of all eleven Commissioners."
According to the Commission, China's co-operation on international security matters is "un-satisfactory."
The Commission examined in depth the extent of ongoing co-operation between China and the United States on traditional national security matters, most particularly China's assistance in re-solving the North Korea nuclear weapons crisis.
"Global Security:The Commission believes that China's performance in this area to date has been unsatisfactory, and we are concerned that U.S. pressure on trade disputes and other unrelated aspects of the relationship may have been toned down by the administration as a concession for China's hoped-for cooperation on this and other vital security matters.
According to the report, China is deliberately using economic warfare against America to seek a "competitive advantage over U.S. manufacturers."
Economic War:Economic fundamentals suggest that the Chinese yuan is undervalued, with a growing consensus of economists estimating the level of undervaluation to be anywhere from fifteen to forty percent. The Chinese government persistently intervenes in the foreign exchange market to keep its exchange rate pegged at 8.28 yuan per dollar, and through these actions appears to be manipulating its currency valuation.
China has deliberately frustrated the effectiveness and debased the value of the WTO's TRM (Transitional Review Mechanism) which was intended to be a robust mechanism for assessing China's WTO compliance and for placing multilateral pressure on China to address compliance shortfalls.
Without adequate information about Chinese firms trading in international capital markets, U.S. investors may be unwittingly pouring money into black box firms lacking basic corporate governance structures, as well as enterprises involved in activities harmful to U.S. security interests."
The Commission also noted that China is violating its pledges to the World Trade Organization and that U.S. investors may actually be investing in the PLA military expansion.
Weapons for Oil
The Commission report also noted that China continues to proliferate advanced weapons to many of its client states including North Korea, Pakistan, and Iran. In addition, China now appears to be willing to trade weapons for oil.The Commission noted:
"China's growing energy needs, linked to its rapidly expanding economy, are creating economic and security concerns for the United States. China's energy security policies are driving it into bilateral arrangements that undermine multilateral efforts to stabilize oil supplies and prices, and in some cases may involve dangerous weapons transfers.
China has sought energy cooperation with countries of concern to the United States, including Iran and Sudan, which are inaccessible by U.S. and other western firms. Some analysts have voiced suspicions that China may have offered WMD-related transfers as a component of some of its energy deals."
The Commission report also revealed that Russia has sold China a more advanced version of the deadly SUNBURN (3M83 Moskit) cruise missile.
Nikolay Shcherbakov, adviser to the director general of the Altair Naval Scientific Research Institute of Electronic Engineering, is reported as saying that "we are supplying China with new-generation equipment. We have been allowed to supply MOSKIT supersonic antiship cruise missiles with twice the range - 240km instead of the existing 120."
The Commission also noted a growing concern that China would use nuclear weapons to attack and defeat U.S. forces in the event of a war over Taiwan.In addition, the Commission noted that China is pursuing an advanced laser weapon for use against Taiwanese and U.S. forces.
"Recognizing the possible involvement of the U.S. military, the current scholarship on China's R & D finds that PRC strategists believe that a superior navy could be defeated through the disabling of its space-based systems, as for example, by exo-atmospheric detonation of a nuclear warhead to generate an electromagnetic pulse.
Shooting War in 2005
It has recently been reported that China has successfully developed a laser cannon with a range of more than one hundred kilometers and might have already deployed it in Fujian Province facing Taiwan."
The Commission's report painted a deadly and growing picture of the Chinese threat with a possible conflict only a year away.
"The China Affairs Department of the Democratic Progressive Party published a report on China's basic military capabilities in which it said that Beijing had developed a 'sudden strike' strategy to attack Taiwan.
In early June the Pentagon released a Congressionally mandated report on Chinese military developments. The Pentagon report outlined the double-digit increases in Chinese defense spending and major weapons purchases from Russia.
This story discussed a scenario in which an attack would consist of an initial seven-minute shock and strike missile barrage that would paralyze Taiwan's command system, followed by seventeen minutes in which Taiwan's air space will be invaded by fighter jets. Within twenty-four hours of the strike, 258,000 Chinese troops could be deployed in Taiwan. China's fast-growing military modernization and expansion is aimed at a pssible war between 2005 and 2010, according to the report.
China most likely will be able to cause significant damage to all of Taiwan's airfields and quickly degrade Taiwan's ground based air-defenses and associated command and control through a combination of SRBMs (short range ballistic missiles), land-attack cruise missiles, special operation forces and other assets."
China currently is third in total defense spending, behind the U.S. and Russia, with nearly $100 billion a year now budgeted for the PLA. The Pentagon report noted that the PLA double-digit increases are expected to continue through 2010.
According to the report, the Chinese build-up of ballistic missiles has changed the balance of power in the Pacific, threatening to start a war over Taiwan. China currently has an estimated 550 short-range missiles opposite Taiwan.
The Pentagon report noted that China is increasing its long-range missile capability and is expected to expand its inventory to 30 such missiles by the end of 2005. The Pentagon anticipates the Chinese long-range nuclear missile force will exceed 60 before the end of the decade.
The Pentagon report also warned that Chinese military strategists are considering the use of nuclear weapons against U.S. and Taiwanese forces.
According to the Pentagon, a nuclear weapon detonated at high altitude would create an "electromagnetic" shock wave that will disrupt U.S. communications and scramble sophisticated military computers. "PLA theorists who have become aware of these electromagnetic effects may have considered using a nuclear weapon as an unconventional attack option," stated the Pentagon report.
Chinese authorities have reacted explosively to the recent reports, especially over the U.S. commitment to Taiwan. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao underscored the unstable nature of China's relationship by threatening to use military force to seize control of the tiny island nation.
According to the official PRC news Xinhua, China will NEVER tolerate "Taiwan independence", neither will China allow anybody to split Taiwan from the motherland with any means.
"The Taiwan independence activities are the greatest threats to the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait," stated Liu.
The official PRC spokesman also asked the United States to stop selling advanced weapons to Taiwan under any pretenses and refrain from sending wrong signals to Taiwan.
Debunking Colin Powell's View of Iraq
Read here full article by Jude Wanniski
Secretary of State Colin Powell was interviewed by Tim Russert on Meet the Press (NBC News) on June 13. The responses by Colin Powell were short on reality on what is happening in Iraq.
Here below (excerpt of the interview) is what Colin Powell should have been told during the interview, according to Jude Wanniski.
RUSSERT: Let me turn to the situation in Iraq and discussions the president and you have had with leaders of European nations. This is how Charles Kupchan, who works for the Council on Foreign Relations, put it the other day. "No WMD, no link to al-Qaeda, no progress on the [Israeli-Palestinian] peace process – the region has been essentially stirred up, not tamed, and al-Qaeda recruitment has picked up. So [Europeans] generally feel that their assessment of the war going into the conflict was accurate."
POWELL: Well, there's also no Saddam Hussein. There is no dictatorial regime. There is a new Iraqi interim government that is about to take over. There is a new UN resolution that was approved unanimously that approves the way going forward, and so while we do have challenges ahead – and the principle challenge is one of security, stopping these attacks, stopping this insurgency in Iraq, and once we can get that security situation under control, the combination of our troops, coalition troops and Iraqi forces being built up, then you will see reconstruction take off. You will see a better life for the Iraqi people being created. You will see elections. You will see a new constitution, and you will see something far better than the regime that is no longer there.
WANNISKI: There are Iraqis who are better off without Saddam Hussein and the status quo ante, but the number only includes those who are still alive and have their families intact There have been at least 16,000 Iraqi civilians killed since the war began with an estimate of one anti-Saddam political party estimating 36,000. The U.S. military estimated between 40,000 and 60,000 Iraqi soldiers and militiamen killed in the war, according to numbers cited in Bob Woodward's new book. It also should not be forgotten that the civilian population lived under very poor conditions prior to the war only because the UN Security Council kept an economic embargo on Iraq for 12 years with the argument that for all that time Iraq was hiding weapons of mass destruction – which we now know was not true. Because of the embargo, the UN itself estimated that more than a million civilians died, half of them children and elderly, primarily because of diseases resulting from the dictatorial regime's inability to import chemicals need to purify water and sewer systems. Those who are still alive will be better off if everything goes well as Secretary Powell indicates, but they would have been much better off if the UN inspectors completed their work and the embargo was lifted without the war.
RUSSERT: The cost of the war – this was on the Associated Press wire the other day. "Cheap gas from the war only for Iraqis, not Americans. While Americans are shelling out record prices for fuel, Iraqis pay 5 cents a gallon for gasoline, a benefit of hundreds of millions of dollar subsidies bankrolled by American taxpayers. A three-month supply costs American taxpayers more than $500 million, not including the cost of military escorts to fend off attacks."
POWELL: This is the nature of the economy that we inherited from this regime, a regime that was bankrupting itself by providing these kinds of subsidies for gas, for food, and for other necessities, which they control. It was a way in which they controlled the population. As the new government takes over and as the economy settles down and it becomes more market-based, you will start to see all of these prices start to go up to market level conditions or certainly not at the current subsidized level. Even electricity was free and we have to change all of that as we bring this country along and bring it into the 21st century and into an integrated economic world.
WANNISKI: Iraq was bankrupted by the embargo, which kept the economy at a subsistence level. Iraq could not export its state-owned energy because of the embargo, but it could ease the distress of the economy by "selling energy" at its bare cost of production. Secretary Powell seems unaware of the conditions imposed on Iraq at the conclusion of the Gulf War in 1991.
RUSSERT: But psychologically the American people see their gasoline over $2 a gallon and they see the Iraqis paying a nickel and they say what is this about?
POWELL: Well, what it's about is a broken system that we are trying to fix.
WANNISKI: Tim Russert also has no understanding of why the Iraqi people pay almost nothing for gasoline. There is no one in the government to explain it to him, but he and others in the press corps should have figured this out for themselves. Saddam and his regime could have explained why this has been the case, but they are all under arrest and kept far away from journalists and lawyers.
RUSSERT: We turn over the keys, if you will, on June 30, just two weeks from now, but the American people should not think that it's the end of the violence. It could potentially still be a long, hot, bloody summer.
POWELL: Yes, it could be, and it's long and hot and bloody right now. We see that these people don't want a better life for the Iraqi people, and we're going to have to stay the course and show the kind of determination, patience that we have shown in previous conflicts.
WANNISKI: "These people" of course want a better life for the Iraqi people or they would not have the support of the Iraqi people, 91% of whom view the U.S.A. as an "unwelcome occupying power." Secretary Powell sounds more like a general – with the perspective of a military man – than a diplomat, who must put himself in the shoes of the other side.
RUSSERT: Some observers, Mr. Secretary, will say the primary rationale for the war, weapons of mass destruction, have not been found; we were supposed to be greeted as liberators, which is not the case; that a lot more than just the 130,000 troops are truly necessary; that General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, who said we needed hundreds of thousands, was probably more correct. Why shouldn't people say that this war has been mismanaged from the very beginning?
POWELL: Well, it's succeeded in its principal objective of eliminating this regime and the intention and capability that this regime had to have weapons of mass destruction. Even though we haven't found actual stockpiles, we now don't have to worry about that intention or capability anymore. It's gone….
WANNISKI: This may be the first time Mr. Powell has identified the government's "principal objective" as being "regime change" and NOT the "elimination" of its weapons of mass destruction. President Bush only had congressional authority to war with Iraq if he could assure the Congress that the UN inspections had failed. Mr. Powell surely knows President Bush gave these formal assurances to the Congress on the eve of the war even though the UN inspectors indicated Iraq was cooperating and could be cleared of all WMD questions in two months. Tim Russert seems unaware of this time sequence.
RUSSERT: When you look at the CIA information on the weapons of mass destruction, former President Clinton said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, as well as current President Bush. The UN inspectors. the Russian, French and German intelligence agencies said he had weapons of mass destruction. What happened? How could there have been such a colossal intelligence failure?
POWELL: Well, maybe because what we were all looking at was a body of evidence that gave you every reason to believe that he did have weapons of mass destruction. He had the intention. He used them. He stiffed the UN for 12 years. He had the infrastructure. He had the capability. The only thing we haven't been able to find are actual current stockpiles of such weapons. Everything else was there. Everything else was there with respect to capability and intention. And any reasonable person looking at this regime, looking at the threat inherent in that intention and capability would have come to the conclusion based on unanswered questions. Remember, the basis for the stockpiles were unanswered questions about what he had had in the past and what happened to it, and some inferential evidence we had with respect to bunkers and other information we had that gave any reasonable person basis to believe that there were stockpiles, in addition to capability and intention. We haven't found those stockpiles. But there's no doubt in my mind that he never lost the intention or the capability. If he'd ever been freed from international inspection or the pressure of the international community and just left alone and we hadn't acted, you would see Saddam Hussein still there still, now developing stockpiles with the freedom to do so.
WANNISKI: The only body of evidence that Saddam had WMD was supplied by the Iraqi exiles who were dismissed as unreliable several years ago by the intelligence agencies. Mr. Powell knows this, but apparently chooses to be a good soldier one more time. When he says "If he'd ever been freed from international inspection" he would have done terrible things, Powell is either totally ignorant of the fact that Saddam could NEVER have been freed from international inspections or he is now prepared to out-and-out prevaricate. In either case, it is clear to me that my confidence in Powell's integrity has now dissolved.
Monday, June 21, 2004
Israel Building Power Base with Kurds in Northern Iraq
Transcribed from SEYMOUR M. HERSH's article in The New Yorker "As June 30th approaches, Israel looks to the Kurds."
In July, 2003, two months after President Bush declared victory in Iraq, the war, far from winding down, reached a critical point.
Israel, which had been among the war’s most enthusiastic supporters, began warning the Administration that the American-led occupation would face a heightened insurgency—a campaign of bombings and assassinations—later that summer.
Israeli intelligence assets in Iraq were reporting that the insurgents had the support of Iranian intelligence operatives and other foreign fighters, who were crossing the unprotected border between Iran and Iraq at will. The Israelis urged the United States to seal the nine-hundred-mile-long border, at whatever cost.
The border stayed open, however. “The Administration wasn’t ignoring the Israeli intelligence about Iran,” Patrick Clawson, who is the deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and has close ties to the White House, explained. “There’s no question that we took no steps last summer to close the border, but our attitude was that it was more useful for Iraqis to have contacts with ordinary Iranians coming across the border, and thousands were coming across every day—for instance, to make pilgrimages.”
He added, “The questions we confronted were ‘Is the trade-off worth it? Do we want to isolate the Iraqis?’ Our answer was that as long as the Iranians were not picking up guns and shooting at us, it was worth the price.”
Clawson said, “The Israelis disagreed quite vigorously with us last summer. Their concern was very straightforward—that the Iranians would create social and charity organizations in Iraq and use them to recruit people who would engage in armed attacks against Americans.”
The warnings of increased violence proved accurate.
By early August, the insurgency against the occupation had exploded, with bombings in Baghdad, at the Jordanian Embassy and the United Nations headquarters, that killed forty-two people.
A former Israeli intelligence officer said that Israel’s leadership had concluded by then that the United States was unwilling to confront Iran; in terms of salvaging the situation in Iraq, he said, “it doesn’t add up. It’s over. Not militarily—the United States cannot be defeated militarily in Iraq—but politically.”
Flynt Leverett, a former C.I.A. analyst who until last year served on the National Security Council and is now a fellow at the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, told me that late last summer “the Administration had a chance to turn it around after it was clear that ‘Mission Accomplished’”—a reference to Bush’s May speech—“was premature. The Bush people could have gone to their allies and got more boots on the ground. But the neocons were dug in—‘We’re doing this on our own.’”
Leverett went on, “The President was only belatedly coming to the understanding that he had to either make a strategic change or, if he was going to insist on unilateral control, get tougher and find the actual insurgency.”
The Administration then decided, Leverett said, to “deploy the Guantánamo model in Iraq”—to put aside its rules of interrogation. That decision failed to stop the insurgency and eventually led to the scandal at the Abu Ghraib prison.
In early November, the President received a grim assessment from the C.I.A.’s station chief in Baghdad, who filed a special field appraisal, known internally as an Aardwolf, warning that the security situation in Iraq was nearing collapse.
The document, as described by Knight-Ridder, said that “none of the postwar Iraqi political institutions and leaders have shown an ability to govern the country” or to hold elections and draft a constitution.
A few days later, the Administration, rattled by the violence and the new intelligence, finally attempted to change its go-it-alone policy, and set June 30th as the date for the handover of sovereignty to an interim government, which would allow it to bring the United Nations into the process. “November was one year before the Presidential election,” a U.N. consultant who worked on Iraqi issues told me. “They panicked and decided to share the blame with the U.N. and the Iraqis.”
A former Administration official who had supported the war completed a discouraging tour of Iraq late last fall.
He visited Tel Aviv afterward and found that the Israelis he met with were equally discouraged. As they saw it, their warnings and advice had been ignored, and the American war against the insurgency was continuing to founder. “I spent hours talking to the senior members of the Israeli political and intelligence community,” the former official recalled. “Their concern was ‘You’re not going to get it right in Iraq, and shouldn’t we be planning for the worst-case scenario and how to deal with it?’”
Ehud Barak, the former Israeli Prime Minister, who supported the Bush Administration’s invasion of Iraq, took it upon himself at this point to privately warn Vice-President Dick Cheney that America had lost in Iraq; according to an American close to Barak, he said that Israel “had learned that there’s no way to win an occupation.” The only issue, Barak told Cheney, “was choosing the size of your humiliation.” Cheney did not respond to Barak’s assessment. (Cheney’s office declined to comment.)
In a series of interviews in Europe, the Middle East, and the United States, officials told me that by the end of last year Israel had concluded that the Bush Administration would not be able to bring stability or democracy to Iraq, and that Israel needed other options.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government decided, I was told, to minimize the damage that the war was causing to Israel’s strategic position by expanding its long-standing relationship with Iraq’s Kurds and establishing a significant presence on the ground in the semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan.
Several officials depicted Sharon’s decision, which involves a heavy financial commitment, as a potentially reckless move that could create even more chaos and violence as the insurgency in Iraq continues to grow.
Israeli intelligence and military operatives are now quietly at work in Kurdistan, providing training for Kurdish commando units and, most important in Israel’s view, running covert operations inside Kurdish areas of Iran and Syria.
Israel feels particularly threatened by Iran, whose position in the region has been strengthened by the war.
The Israeli operatives include members of the Mossad, Israel’s clandestine foreign-intelligence service, who work undercover in Kurdistan as businessmen and, in some cases, do not carry Israeli passports.
Asked to comment, Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said, “The story is simply untrue and the relevant governments know it’s untrue.” Kurdish officials declined to comment, as did a spokesman for the State Department.
However, a senior C.I.A. official acknowledged in an interview last week that the Israelis were indeed operating in Kurdistan. He told me that the Israelis felt that they had little choice: “They think they have to be there.”
Asked whether the Israelis had sought approval from Washington, the official laughed and said, “Do you know anybody who can tell the Israelis what to do? They’re always going to do what is in their best interest.” The C.I.A. official added that the Israeli presence was widely known in the American intelligence community.
The Israeli decision to seek a bigger foothold in Kurdistan—characterized by the former Israeli intelligence officer as “Plan B”—has also raised tensions between Israel and Turkey. It has provoked bitter statements from Turkish politicians and, in a major regional shift, a new alliance among Iran, Syria, and Turkey, all of which have significant Kurdish minorities.
In early June, Intel Brief, a privately circulated intelligence newsletter produced by Vincent Cannistraro, a retired C.I.A. counterterrorism chief, and Philip Giraldi, who served as the C.I.A.’s deputy chief of base in Istanbul in the late nineteen-eighties, said:
Turkish sources confidentially report that the Turks are increasingly concerned by the expanding Israeli presence in Kurdistan and alleged encouragement of Kurdish ambitions to create an independent state. . . . The Turks note that the large Israeli intelligence operations in Northern Iraq incorporate anti-Syrian and anti-Iranian activity, including support to Iranian and Syrian Kurds who are in opposition to their respective governments.
In the years since the first Gulf War, Iraq’s Kurds, aided by an internationally enforced no-fly zone and by a U.N. mandate providing them with a share of the country’s oil revenues, have managed to achieve a large measure of independence in three northern Iraqi provinces.
As far as most Kurds are concerned, however, historic “Kurdistan” extends well beyond Iraq’s borders, encompassing parts of Iran, Syria, and Turkey. All three countries fear that Kurdistan, despite public pledges to the contrary, will declare its independence from the interim Iraqi government if conditions don’t improve after June 30th.
Israeli involvement in Kurdistan is not new.
Throughout the nineteen-sixties and seventies, Israel actively supported a Kurdish rebellion against Iraq, as part of its strategic policy of seeking alliances with non-Arabs in the Middle East.
In 1975, the Kurds were betrayed by the United States, when Washington went along with a decision by the Shah of Iran to stop supporting Kurdish aspirations for autonomy in Iraq.
Betrayal and violence became the norm in the next two decades. Inside Iraq, the Kurds were brutally repressed by Saddam Hussein, who used airpower and chemical weapons against them.
In 1984, the Kurdistan Workers Party, or P.K.K., initiated a campaign of separatist violence in Turkey that lasted fifteen years; more than thirty thousand people, most of them Kurds, were killed. The Turkish government ruthlessly crushed the separatists, and eventually captured the P.K.K.’s leader, Abdullah Ocalan. Last month, the P.K.K., now known as the Kongra-Gel, announced that it was ending a five-year unilateral ceasefire and would begin targeting Turkish citizens once again.
The Iraqi Kurdish leadership was furious when, early this month, the United States acceded to a U.N. resolution on the restoration of Iraqi sovereignty that did not affirm the interim constitution that granted the minority Kurds veto power in any permanent constitution.
Kurdish leaders immediately warned President Bush in a letter that they would not participate in a new Shiite-controlled government unless they were assured that their rights under the interim constitution were preserved. “The people of Kurdistan will no longer accept second-class citizenship in Iraq,” the letter said.
There are fears that the Kurds will move to seize the city of Kirkuk, together with the substantial oil reserves in the surrounding region. Kirkuk is dominated by Arab Iraqis, many of whom were relocated there, beginning in the nineteen-seventies, as part of Saddam Hussein’s campaign to “Arabize” the region, but the Kurds consider Kirkuk and its oil part of their historic homeland.
“If Kirkuk is threatened by the Kurds, the Sunni insurgents will move in there, along with the Turkomen, and there will be a bloodbath,” an American military expert who is studying Iraq told me. “And, even if the Kurds do take Kirkuk, they can’t transport the oil out of the country, since all of the pipelines run through the Sunni-Arab heartland.”
A top German national-security official said in an interview that “an independent Kurdistan with sufficient oil would have enormous consequences for Syria, Iran, and Turkey” and would lead to continuing instability in the Middle East—no matter what the outcome in Iraq is.
There is also a widespread belief, another senior German official said, that some elements inside the Bush Administration—he referred specifically to the faction headed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz—would tolerate an independent Kurdistan.
This, the German argued, would be a mistake. “It would be a new Israel—a pariah state in the middle of hostile nations.”
A declaration of independence would trigger a Turkish response—and possibly a war—and also derail what has been an important alliance for Israel. Turkey and Israel have become strong diplomatic and economic partners in the past decade.
Thousands of Israelis travel to Turkey every year as tourists. Turkish opposition to the Iraq war has strained the relationship; still, Turkey remains oriented toward the West and, despite the victory of an Islamic party in national elections in 2002, relatively secular. It is now vying for acceptance in the European Union.
In contrast, Turkey and Syria have been at odds for years, at times coming close to open confrontation, and Turkey and Iran have long been regional rivals. One area of tension between them is the conflict between Turkey’s pro-Western stand and Iran’s rigid theocracy. But their mutual wariness of the Kurds has transcended these divisions.
A European foreign minister, in a conversation last month, said that the “blowing up” of Israel’s alliance with Turkey would be a major setback for the region. He went on, “To avoid chaos, you need the neighbors to work as one common entity.”
The Israelis, however, view the neighborhood, with the exception of Kurdistan, as hostile. Israel is convinced that Iran is on the verge of developing nuclear weapons, and that, with Syria’s help, it is planning to bolster Palestinian terrorism as Israel withdraws from the Gaza Strip.
Iraqi Shiite militia leaders like Moqtada al-Sadr, the former American intelligence official said, are seen by the Israeli leadership as “stalking horses” for Iran—owing much of their success in defying the American-led coalition to logistical and communications support and training provided by Iran.
The former intelligence official said, “We began to see telltale signs of organizational training last summer. But the White House didn’t want to hear it: ‘We can’t take on another problem right now. We can’t afford to push Iran to the point where we’ve got to have a showdown.’”
Last summer, according to a document I obtained, the Bush Administration directed the Marines to draft a detailed plan, called Operation Stuart, for the arrest and, if necessary, assassination of Sadr. But the operation was cancelled, the former intelligence official told me, after it became clear that Sadr had been “tipped off” about the plan.
Seven months later, after Sadr spent the winter building support for his movement, the American-led coalition shut down his newspaper, provoking a crisis that Sadr survived with his status enhanced, thus insuring that he will play a major, and unwelcome, role in the political and military machinations after June 30th.
“Israel’s immediate goal after June 30th is to build up the Kurdish commando units to balance the Shiite militias—especially those which would be hostile to the kind of order in southern Iraq that Israel would like to see,” the former senior intelligence official said. “Of course, if a fanatic Sunni Baathist militia took control—one as hostile to Israel as Saddam Hussein was—Israel would unleash the Kurds on it, too.”
The Kurdish armed forces, known as the peshmerga, number an estimated seventy-five thousand troops, a total that far exceeds the known Sunni and Shiite militias.
The former Israeli intelligence officer acknowledged that since late last year Israel has been training Kurdish commando units to operate in the same manner and with the same effectiveness as Israel’s most secretive commando units, the Mistaravim. The initial goal of the Israeli assistance to the Kurds, the former officer said, was to allow them to do what American commando units had been unable to do—penetrate, gather intelligence on, and then kill off the leadership of the Shiite and Sunni insurgencies in Iraq. (I was unable to learn whether any such mission had yet taken place.)
“The feeling was that this was a more effective way to get at the insurgency,” the former officer said. “But the growing Kurdish-Israeli relationship began upsetting the Turks no end. Their issue is that the very same Kurdish commandos trained for Iraq could infiltrate and attack in Turkey.”
The Kurdish-Israeli collaboration inevitably expanded, the Israeli said. Some Israeli operatives have crossed the border into Iran, accompanied by Kurdish commandos, to install sensors and other sensitive devices that primarily target suspected Iranian nuclear facilities.
The former officer said, “Look, Israel has always supported the Kurds in a Machiavellian way—as balance against Saddam. It’s Realpolitik.” He added, “By aligning with the Kurds, Israel gains eyes and ears in Iran, Iraq, and Syria.” He went on, “What Israel was doing with the Kurds was not so unacceptable in the Bush Administration.”
Senior German officials told me, with alarm, that their intelligence community also has evidence that Israel is using its new leverage inside Kurdistan, and within the Kurdish communities in Iran and Syria, for intelligence and operational purposes.
Syrian and Lebanese officials believe that Israeli intelligence played a role in a series of violent protests in Syria in mid-March in which Syrian Kurdish dissidents and Syrian troops clashed, leaving at least thirty people dead. (There are nearly two million Kurds living in Syria, which has a population of seventeen million.)
Much of the fighting took place in cities along Syria’s borders with Turkey and Kurdish-controlled Iraq.
Michel Samaha, the Lebanese Minister of Information, told me that while the disturbances amounted to an uprising by the Kurds against the leadership of Bashir Assad, the Syrian President, his government had evidence that Israel was “preparing the Kurds to fight all around Iraq, in Syria, Turkey, and Iran. They’re being programmed to do commando operations.”
The top German national-security official told me that he believes that the Bush Administration continually misread Iran. “The Iranians wanted to keep America tied down in Iraq, and to keep it busy there, but they didn’t want chaos,” he said.
One of the senior German officials told me, “The critical question is ‘What will the behavior of Iran be if there is an independent Kurdistan with close ties to Israel?’ Iran does not want an Israeli land-based aircraft carrier”—that is, a military stronghold—“on its border.”
Another senior European official said, “The Iranians would do something positive in the south of Iraq if they get something positive in return, but Washington won’t do it. The Bush Administration won’t ask the Iranians for help, and can’t ask the Syrians. Who is going to save the United States?” He added that, at the start of the American invasion of Iraq, several top European officials had told their counterparts in Iran, “You will be the winners in the region.”
Israel is not alone in believing that Iran, despite its protestations, is secretly hard at work on a nuclear bomb. Early this month, the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is responsible for monitoring nuclear proliferation, issued its fifth quarterly report in a row stating that Iran was continuing to misrepresent its research into materials that could be used for the production of nuclear weapons.
Much of the concern centers on an underground enrichment facility at Natanz, two hundred and fifty miles from the Iran-Iraq border, which, during previous I.A.E.A. inspections, was discovered to contain centrifuges showing traces of weapons-grade uranium. The huge complex, which is still under construction, is said to total nearly eight hundred thousand square feet, and it will be sheltered in a few months by a roof whose design allows it to be covered with sand.
Once the work is completed, the complex “will be blind to satellites, and the Iranians could add additional floors underground,” an I.A.E.A. official told me. “The question is, will the Israelis hit Iran?”
Mohamed ElBaradei, the I.A.E.A. director, has repeatedly stated that his agency has not “seen concrete proof of a military program, so it’s premature to make a judgment on that.”
David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector who is an expert on nuclear proliferation, buttressed the I.A.E.A. claim. “The United States has no concrete evidence of a nuclear-weapons program,” Albright told me. “It’s just an inference. There’s no smoking gun.” (Last Friday, at a meeting in Vienna, the I.A.E.A. passed a resolution that, while acknowledging some progress, complained that Iran had yet to be as open as it should be, and urgently called upon it to resolve a list of outstanding questions.)
The I.A.E.A. official told me that the I.A.E.A. leadership has been privately warned by Foreign Ministry officials in Iran that they are “having a hard time getting information” from the hard-line religious and military leaders who run the country. “The Iranian Foreign Ministry tells us, ‘We’re just diplomats, and we don’t know whether we’re getting the whole story from our own people,’” the official said.
He noted that the Bush Administration has repeatedly advised the I.A.E.A. that there are secret nuclear facilities in Iran that have not been declared. The Administration will not say more, apparently worried that the information could get back to Iran.
Patrick Clawson, of the Institute for Near East Policy, provided another explanation for the reluctance of the Bush Administration to hand over specific intelligence. “If we were to identify a site,” he told me, “it’s conceivable that it could be quickly disassembled and the I.A.E.A. inspectors would arrive”—international inspections often take weeks to organize—“and find nothing.”
The American intelligence community, already discredited because of its faulty reporting on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, would be criticized anew. “It’s much better,” Clawson said, “to have the I.A.E.A. figure out on its own that there’s a site and then find evidence that there had been enriched material there.”
Clawson told me that Israel’s overwhelming national-security concern must be Iran. Given that a presence in Kurdistan would give Israel a way to monitor the Iranian nuclear effort, he said, “it would be negligent for the Israelis not to be there.”
At the moment, the former American senior intelligence official said, the Israelis’ tie to Kurdistan “would be of greater value than their growing alliance with Turkey. ‘We love Turkey but got to keep the pressure on Iran.’”
The former Israeli intelligence officer said, “The Kurds were the last surviving group close to the United States with any say in Iraq. The only question was how to square it with Turkey.”
There may be no way to square it with Turkey. Over breakfast in Ankara, a senior Turkish official explained, “Before the war, Israel was active in Kurdistan, and now it is active again. This is very dangerous for us, and for them, too. We do not want to see Iraq divided, and we will not ignore it.”
Then, citing a popular Turkish proverb—“We will burn a blanket to kill a flea”—he said, “We have told the Kurds, ‘We are not afraid of you, but you should be afraid of us.’” (A Turkish diplomat I spoke to later was more direct: “We tell our Israeli and Kurdish friends that Turkey’s good will lies in keeping Iraq together. We will not support alternative solutions.”)
“If you end up with a divided Iraq, it will bring more blood, tears, and pain to the Middle East, and you will be blamed,” the senior Turkish official said. “From Mexico to Russia, everybody will claim that the United States had a secret agenda in Iraq: you came there to break up Iraq. If Iraq is divided, America cannot explain this to the world.” The official compared the situation to the breakup of Yugoslavia, but added, “In the Balkans, you did not have oil.” He said, “The lesson of Yugoslavia is that when you give one country independence everybody will want it.” If that happens, he said, “Kirkuk will be the Sarajevo of Iraq. If something happens there, it will be impossible to contain the crisis.”
In Ankara, another senior Turkish official explained that his government had “openly shared its worries” about the Israeli military activities inside Kurdistan with the Israeli Foreign Ministry. “They deny the training and the purchase of property and claim it’s not official but done by private persons. Obviously, our intelligence community is aware that it was not so. This policy is not good for America, Iraq, or Israel and the Jews.”
Turkey’s increasingly emphatic and public complaints about Israel’s missile attacks on the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip is another factor in the growing tensions between the allies.
On May 26th, Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, announced at a news conference in Ankara that the Turkish government was bringing its Ambassador in Israel home for consultations on how to revive the Middle East peace process. He also told the Turkish parliament that the government was planning to strengthen its ties to the Palestinian Authority, and, in conversations with Middle Eastern diplomats in the past month, he expressed grave concern about Israel.
In one such talk, one diplomat told me, Gul described Israeli activities, and the possibility of an independent Kurdistan, as “presenting us with a choice that is not a real choice—between survival and alliance.”
A third Turkish official told me that the Israelis were “talking to us in order to appease our concern. They say, ‘We aren’t doing anything in Kurdistan to undermine your interests. Don’t worry.’” The official added, “If it goes out publicly what they’ve been doing, it will put your government and our government in a difficult position. We can tolerate ‘Kurdistan’ if Iraq is intact, but nobody knows the future—not even the Americans.”
A former White House official depicted the Administration as eager—almost desperate—late this spring to install an acceptable new interim government in Iraq before President Bush’s declared June 30th deadline for the transfer of sovereignty.
The Administration turned to Lakhdar Brahimi, the United Nations special envoy, to “put together something by June 30th—just something that could stand up” through the Presidential election, the former official said.
Brahimi was given the task of selecting, with Washington’s public approval, the thirty-one members of Iraq’s interim government. Nevertheless, according to press reports, the choice of Iyad Allawi as interim Prime Minister was a disappointment to Brahimi.
The White House has yet to deal with Allawi’s past. His credentials as a neurologist, and his involvement during the past two decades in anti-Saddam activities, as the founder of the British-based Iraqi National Accord, have been widely reported.
But his role as a Baath Party operative while Saddam struggled for control in the nineteen-sixties and seventies—Saddam became President in 1979—is much less well known. “Allawi helped Saddam get to power,” an American intelligence officer told me. “He was a very effective operator and a true believer.” Reuel Marc Gerecht, a former C.I.A. case officer who served in the Middle East, added, “Two facts stand out about Allawi. One, he likes to think of himself as a man of ideas; and, two, his strongest virtue is that he’s a thug.”
Early this year, one of Allawi’s former medical-school classmates, Dr. Haifa al-Azawi, published an essay in an Arabic newspaper in London raising questions about his character and his medical bona fides.
She depicted Allawi as a “big husky man . . . who carried a gun on his belt and frequently brandished it, terrorizing the medical students.” Allawi’s medical degree, she wrote, “was conferred upon him by the Baath party.”
Allawi moved to London in 1971, ostensibly to continue his medical education; there he was in charge of the European operations of the Baath Party organization and the local activities of the Mukhabarat, its intelligence agency, until 1975.
“If you’re asking me if Allawi has blood on his hands from his days in London, the answer is yes, he does,” Vincent Cannistraro, the former C.I.A. officer, said. “He was a paid Mukhabarat agent for the Iraqis, and he was involved in dirty stuff.”
A cabinet-level Middle East diplomat, who was rankled by the U.S. indifference to Allawi’s personal history, told me early this month that Allawi was involved with a Mukhabarat “hit team” that sought out and killed Baath Party dissenters throughout Europe. (Allawi’s office did not respond to a request for comment.)
At some point, for reasons that are not clear, Allawi fell from favor, and the Baathists organized a series of attempts on his life. The third attempt, by an axe-wielding assassin who broke into his home near London in 1978, resulted in a year-long hospital stay.
The Saban Center’s Flynt Leverett said of the transfer of sovereignty, “If it doesn’t work, there is no fallback—nothing.” The former senior American intelligence official told me, similarly, that “the neocons still think they can pull the rabbit out of the hat” in Iraq. “What’s the plan? They say, ‘We don’t need it. Democracy is strong enough. We’ll work it out.’”
Middle East diplomats and former C.I.A. operatives who now consult in Baghdad have told me that many wealthy Iraqi businessmen and their families have deserted Baghdad in recent weeks in anticipation of continued, and perhaps heightened, suicide attacks and terror bombings after June 30th.
“We’ll see Christians, Shiites, and Sunnis getting out,” Michel Samaha, the Lebanese Minister of Information, reported. “What the resistance is doing is targeting the poor people who run the bureaucracy—those who can’t afford to pay for private guards. A month ago, friends of mine who are important landowners in Iraq came to Baghdad to do business. The cost of one day’s security was about twelve thousand dollars.”
Whitley Bruner, a retired intelligence officer who was a senior member of the C.I.A.’s task force on Iraq a decade ago, said that the new interim government in Iraq is urgently seeking ways to provide affordable security for second-tier officials—the men and women who make the government work.
In early June, two such officials—Kamal Jarrah, an Education Ministry official, and Bassam Salih Kubba, who was serving as deputy foreign minister—were assassinated by unidentified gunmen outside their homes. Neither had hired private guards.
Bruner, who returned from Baghdad earlier this month, said that he was now working to help organize Iraqi companies that could provide high-quality security that Iraqis could afford. “It’s going to be a hot summer,” Bruner said. “A lot of people have decided to get to Lebanon, Jordan, or the Gulf and wait this one out.”