Saturday, April 30, 2011

Iran's president asked to show obedience to leader

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) - A hard-line cleric warned President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Friday to end an escalating power struggle with Iran's supreme leader, calling it a religious obligation to do so and accusing the country's enemies of trying to sow rifts among its leadership.

The split threatens to destabilize Iran at a time of tension with the West over Tehran's disputed nuclear program and appears to center on a battle for influence between the two men over next year's parliamentary election and a presidential election in 2013.

"Obedience to the supreme leader is a religious obligation as well as a legal obligation, without any doubt," said Ayatollah Ahmad Khatami. He did not mention Ahmadinejad by name, but it was clear he was referring to the president.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has the final word on all matters of state in Iran, and hard-liners consider him above the law and answerable only to God. He has been a strong backer of the president in the past, particular in the aftermath of Ahmadinejad's disputed re-election in June 2009. Claims of vote fraud set off months of street protests that grew into the strongest challenge to Iran's ruling system since its birth in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Some have accused the president and his allies of trying to amass power and challenge Khamenei's ultimate authority in the run-up to the elections.

Their most recent confrontation involved Ahmadinejad's dismissal this month of the country's powerful intelligence minister, whom Khamenei then quickly reinstated in a slap to the president. In protest, the president skipped two Cabinet meetings this week.

The cleric, Khatami, told worshippers at a Muslim prayer service in the capital that Iran's enemies are seeking to create the impression that there are deep divisions among Iranian leaders.

He said Iranian officials should not react in a way that could confirm such internal tensions.

"In a friendly way, I am telling the officials, "Do not play in the enemies' ground. Do not fill the empty boxes of the enemy's crossword," Khatami said.

Khamenei has made clear he will defend his powers, including the authority to name Cabinet ministers, warning in a speech last week that he will intervene in the government's affairs whenever necessary. His words were a sharp rebuke to Ahmadinejad.



The other day Paul O’Neill said that . . .

Oh, wait. I suppose I ought to explain who Paul O’Neill is. A decade ago, he was President Bush’s first Treasury secretary. I have no very clear memory of him except that he toured Africa with Bono and they were photographed in matching tribal dress looking like Colonel Qaddafi’s Mini-Me twins at a Tripoli sleepover. Other than the dress-up fun, I’ve no idea why they were in Africa, but you paid for it, so I’m sure there was a good reason.

Anyway, Secretary O’Neill popped up the other day on Bloomberg Television to compare debt-ceiling holdouts to jihadists. “The people who are threatening not to pass the debt ceiling,” he said, “are our version of al-Qaeda terrorists. Really.”



“They’re really putting our whole society at risk by threatening to round up 50 percent of the members of the Congress, who are loony, who would put our credit at risk.”

But hang on, generally speaking, when you hit your “debt ceiling,” your credit is at risk. If you’ve got a $10,000 credit card, and you run it up to the limit, but you need a couple more grand right now, pronto, because you outspend your earnings by 50 percent every month and you have no plans to change that anytime soon, well, the bank might increase the limit to $15,000, or $20,000. Or they might not. There is a question mark over your credit because there is a question mark over your credit worthiness: It is at risk.

Paul O’Neill seems to regard that attitude as unhelpful. So does Timothy Geithner, his successor at what is still laughingly known as the United States Treasury. Secretary Geithner says that even to be discussing the debt ceiling is “a ridiculous debate to have.”



“I mean, the idea that the United States would take the risk that people would start to believe we won’t pay our bills,” continued Geithner, “is a ridiculous proposition, irresponsible, completely unacceptable.” The best way to convince people to believe we’ll pay our bills is to borrow up to our limit, and then increase the limit and borrow a whole bunch more. This would be the 75th increase in the debt ceiling in the last half-century. Let’s just get it done, and resume the party.

But if Geithner thinks that even discussing the question is “ridiculous,” then, as my colleague Jonah Goldberg put it, why have a debt limit at all? What’s the point?

Well, because it gives us more credibility with our creditors, right? Even if we set the debt ceiling way up in cloud-cuckoo land to a bazillion trillion gazillion dollars and 83 cents, even a debt limit entirely unmoored from reality still gives the impression we haven’t quite flown the coop.

Yes, but why does the U.S. government need to maintain credibility with its creditors when increasingly it’s buying its debt from itself? Every month there’s more and more U.S. Treasury debt and fewer and fewer people who want it. The Chinese are reducing their exposure. The investment behemoth Pimco, which manages the world’s largest mutual fund, recently dumped U.S. Treasuries entirely. To avoid the failure of U.S. bond auctions, or an increase in interest rates to make them more attractive to rational lenders, the U.S. government’s debt is bought by the U.S. government’s Federal Reserve.

I tried up above to come up with a real-world comparison for the debt ceiling — imagine you’ve got a credit-card limit of 10K, etc. — but it’s harder to do that with the Fed’s policy: Imagine your left hand issues an IOU to your right hand in return for an e-mail with a large number on it . . . oh, never mind, it’ll only make your head hurt. “Quantitative easing” is extremely quantitative if not terribly easing, so raising the debt ceiling would enable us to issue more debt for us to buy from ourselves. You can see why Secretary Geithner thinks that’s a no-brainer.

While Jonah Goldberg was asking why have a debt limit at all, Michael Kinsley took it to the next stage: “If the national debt doesn’t matter, why have taxes at all?” Particularly when you no longer have to “print” money, you can just quantitatively ease yourself into it. Once we raise the old debt ceiling, we’ll be pretty much at the point where the U.S. government is spending $4 trillion but only taking in $2 trillion: For every dollar we raise in taxes, we spend two. No surprise there: The “poorest” half of the population pay no federal income tax. They’re not exactly poor as the term would be understood in almost any other country, but in federal-revenue terms they’re dependents, so in order to fund government services for the wealthiest “poor” people on the planet we borrow money from a nation of subsistence peasants where pigs are such prized possessions they sleep in the house.

But, if you can spend $4 trillion of which $2 trillion is borrowed, why not borrow $3 trillion and make even more Americans dependent? Hell, why not borrow the whole lot? After all, the sums we’re borrowing right now — $188 million every hour of every day — are unprecedented. Wouldn’t it be easier if we just made them even more unprecedented? That way we could have a federal budget of $6 trillion, of which, say, $5 trillion is raised by issuing Treasury bonds for the Federal Reserve to buy. That would stimulate the economy by creating 17 jobs for any remaining Americans who still feel the need to leave the house every morning.

Now I think about it, I seem to remember Secretary O’Neill and Bono were swanking around Uganda and Ethiopia in tribal garb as part of the Irish rocker’s campaign for African debt-forgiveness. Now there’s an idea. And, if it works for Africa, why not closer to home? After all, Bono supported the IMF’s Heavily Indebted Poor Countries Initiative, and America is way more “heavily indebted” than Uganda will ever be.

Under the 2011 budget, every hour of every day the government of the United States spends a fifth of a billion dollars it doesn’t have.

Who does have it?

Er, the Federal Reserve?

A few years ago, I raised the ceiling on my own house. You can do that — up to a point. It depends on whether your foundation is solid and your framing is structurally sound. But, even if they are, you take it too high and the roof falls in. We’re structurally about as screwed up as you can get, and the foundation is badly cracked. But hey, let’s just jack the roof up a little higher one more time. What could go wrong?

At this stage, nothing does more damage to our “full faith and credit” than business as usual. If you’re going to bandy glib, witless al-Qaeda analogies, the conventional wisdom Paul O’Neill represents is the real suicide bomb here. Men like O’Neill and Geithner think they’re quantitatively easing American decline. They’re not. They’re quantitatively accelerating American collapse.

Onward and upward!


Kurdish official calls to maintain U.S. troops in areas of conflict in Diala

DIALA / Aswat al-Iraq: A leader in north Iraq’s Kurdistan Alliance has demanded that a portion of the U.S.
forces remain in the areas of dispute of eastern Iraq’s Diala Province, due to what he described as non-readiness of the Iraqi forces to take over the security dossier in the province.

“Our Alliance in Diala Province’s Council demands to keep part of the U.S.
forces in the Province, for several reasons, most important of which is the deterioration of the security conditions in the province,” Assistant Chairman of the Province’s Security Committee, Dilair Hassan told Aswat al-Iraq news agency on Thursday.

“The decision on the complete withdrawal of the U.S.
forces from Iraqi territories, including Diala Province, will be reflected passively on the security conditions, especially if all evidences point to the non-readiness of the Iraqi forces to receive the security dossier in full,” Hassan said.

Aswat al-Iraq

Report: Hamas leadership to relocate from Syria to Qatar

Hamas' Syria-based leader, Khaled Mashaal and other senior Hamas officials are planning to relocate from Syria to the Arab emirate city of Qatar, Army Radio reported on Saturday.

Quoting London-based Arab daily Al-Hayat, Army Radio reported that Qatar had agreed to host the leaders after Egypt and Jordan denied the request, but refused to host the party's military leaders.

More than 15 members of Hamas's Political Bureau have been operating in exile in Damascus since 1999.

According to the report, Hamas' military echelon will relocate to the Gaza strip. There was no mention of a reason for the relocation, which will come just days after Hamas and the leading West Bank party Fatah signed an historic reconciliation deal.

On Wednesday, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement hammered an historic reconciliation deal with the rival Hamas group, agreeing to form an interim government and fix a date for general election within the year.

The deal, which took many officials by surprise, was thrashed out in Egypt and followed a series of secret meetings.

Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar insisted that Hamas was united in its move toward a unity government, however, it is still unclear how widespread that agreement is.

Abbas has been making a heavy push for reconciliation with Hamas, with which it held a unity government that collapsed during a five-day civil war in 2007 and ended with the Islamic militant group seizing power in the Gaza Strip. Fatah had already signed the reconciliation agreement in October 2009, but Hamas had until now refused to give up on demands it had set before the rival group.

Restoring Palestinian unity is seen as crucial to reviving any prospect for a Palestinian state based on peaceful co-existence alongside Israel. Fatah, the mainstream Palestinian movement until a 2006 election victory by Hamas, backs negotiated peace but the Islamists reject it.


Gadhafi’s youngest son killed but Libyan leader survives NATO missile strike, spokesman says

TRIPOLI, Libya — Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi escaped a NATO missile strike in Tripoli on Saturday, but his youngest son and three grandchildren under the age of 12 were killed, a government spokesman said.

The strike, which came hours after Gadhafi called for a cease-fire and negotiations in what rebels called a publicity stunt, marked an escalation of international efforts to prevent the Libyan regime from regaining momentum.

Rebels honked horns and chanted “Allahu Akbar” or “God is great” while speeding through the western city of Misrata, which Gadhafi’s forces have besieged and subjected to random shelling for two months, killing hundreds. Fireworks were set off in front of the central Hikma hospital, causing a brief panic that the light would draw fire from Gadhafi’s forces.

The attack struck the house of Gadhafi’s youngest son, Seif al-Arab, when the Libyan leader and his wife were inside. White House spokesman Shin Inouye declined to comment on the developments in Libya, referring questions to NATO.

The alliance acknowledged that it had struck a “command and control building in the Bab al-Azizya neighborhood” Saturday evening, but it could not confirm the death of Gadhafi’s son and insisted all its targets are military in nature and linked to Gadhafi’s systematic attacks on the population.

The commander of the NATO operation, Canadian Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, said he was aware of unconfirmed reports that some Gadhafi family members may have been killed and he regretted “all loss of life, specially the innocent civilians being harmed as a result of the ongoing conflict.”

Seif al-Arab Gadhafi, 29, was the youngest son of Gadhafi and brother of the better known Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, who had been touted as a reformist before the uprising began in mid-February. The younger Gadhafi had spent much of his time in Germany in recent years.

Gadhafi’s children had been increasingly engaged in covering up scandals fit for a “Libyan soap opera,” including negative publicity from extravagant displays of wealth such as a million-dollar private concert by pop diva Beyonce, according to a batch of diplomatic cables released by the secret-spilling WikiLeaks website.

But Seif al-Arab remained largely in the shadows, although he had a penchant for fast cars and partying when outside Libya.

Moammar Gadhafi and his wife were in the Tripoli house of his 29-year-old son when it was hit by at least one bomb dropped from a NATO warplane, according to Libyan spokesman Moussa Ibrahim.

“The leader himself is in good health,” Ibrahim said. “He was not harmed. The wife is also in good health.”

Ibrahim would not give the names of the three children killed, except to say they were nieces and nephews of Seif al-Arab and that they were younger than 12. He said they are not releasing the names yet to protect the privacy of the family.

He said the compound that was hit was in the Garghour neighborhood.

“It seems there was intelligence that was leaked. They knew about something. They expected him for some reason. But the target was very clear, very, very clear. And the neighborhood, yes of course, because the leader family has a place there, you could expect of course it would be guarded, but it is a normal neighborhood. Normal Libyans live there,” he said.

NATO warplanes have been carrying out airstrikes in Libya for the past month as part of a U.N. mandate to protect Libyan civilians. Saturday’s strike marked the first time Gadhafi’s family was being targeted directly.

Armed rebels have been battling Gadhafi loyalists for more than two months in an attempt to oust Libya’s ruler of nearly 42 years. Standing outside an improvised triage unit in a tent in the parking lot, rebel fighter Abdel-Aziz Bilhaj, 22, welcomed the attack, saying it would make Gadhafi think twice about how he dealt with his people.

“It could make him more willing to back down on certain parts of his plan,” Bilhaj said.

Medic Abdel-Monem Ibsheir considered the strike a form of justice.

“Gadhafi was not far away, meaning he’s not safe,” he said as occasional explosions could be heard throughout the city. “It’s just like our children getting hit here. Now his children are getting hit there.”

Eleven dead had reached the hospital morgue by midnight, including two brothers, ages 11 and 16. Two more had arrived by 1:30 a.m., and four more at another hospital.

On Tuesday, British Defense Minister Liam Fox and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told reporters at the Pentagon that NATO planes were not targeting Gadhafi specifically but would continue to attack his command centers.

Ibrahim said Seif al-Arab had studied at a German university but had not yet completed his studies.

Seif al-Arab “was playing and talking with his father and mother and his nieces and nephews and other visitors when he was attacked for no crimes committed,” Ibrahim said.

Journalists taken to the walled complex of one-story buildings in a residential Tripoli neighborhood saw heavy bomb damage. The blast had torn down the ceiling of one building and left a huge pile of rubble and twisted metal on the ground.

Dust and smoke rose from the rubble, which included household items including smashed toilet bowls, bathroom sinks and furniture among the broken walls and demolished floors. The mirror of a dressing table remained intact in the middle of a bedroom although the walls around it were demolished.

Libyans called in to a late-night television talk show to proclaim Seif al-Arab a martyr. A live shot from Gadhafi’s compound Bab al-Aziziya showed dozens dancing, chanting pro-Gadhafi slogans, waving green flags and clapping in unison.

The government spokesman said the airstrike was an attempt to “assassinate the leader of this country,” which he said violated international law.

Heavy bursts of gunfire were heard in Tripoli after the attack.

Gadhafi had seven sons and one daughter. The Libyan leader also had an adopted daughter who was killed in a 1986 U.S. airstrike on his Bab al-Aziziya residential compound, which was retaliation for the bombing attack on a German disco in which two U.S. servicemen were killed. The U.S. at the time blamed Libya for the disco blast.

Seif’s mother is Safiya Farkash, Gadhafi’s second wife and a former nurse.

The fatal airstrike came just hours after Gadhafi called for a mutual cease-fire and negotiations with NATO powers to end a six-week bombing campaign.

In a rambling pre-dawn speech Saturday, Gadhafi said “the door to peace is open.”

“You are the aggressors. We will negotiate with you. Come, France, Italy, U.K., America, come to negotiate with us. Why are you attacking us?” he asked.

He also railed against foreign intervention, saying Libyans have the right to choose their own political system, but not under the threat of NATO bombings.

In Brussels, a NATO official said before Saturday’s fatal strike that the alliance needed “to see not words but actions,” and vowed the alliance would keep up the pressure until the U.N. Security Council mandate on Libya is fulfilled. NATO has promised to continue operations until all attacks and threats against civilians have ceased, all of Gadhafi’s forces have returned to bases and full humanitarian access is granted.

Rebel leaders have said they will only lay down their arms and begin talks after Gadhafi and his sons step aside. Gadhafi has repeatedly refused to resign.

“We don’t believe that there is a solution that includes him or any member of his family. So it is well past any discussions. The only solution is for him to depart,” rebel spokesman Jalal al-Galal said.


Friday, April 29, 2011

Syrian forces kill 62, U.S. toughens sanctions

(Reuters) - Security forces killed more than 60 people across Syria on Friday during demonstrations demanding the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad, and the United States imposed new sanctions on key figures.
A medical source told Reuters soldiers in Deraa killed 19 people when they fired on thousands of protesters descending from nearby villages in a show of solidarity with the southern city where Syria's uprising broke out six weeks ago.

Syrian human rights group Sawasiah said it had the names of a total of 62 people killed during protests in Deraa, Rustun, Latakia, Homs and the town of Qadam, near Damascus. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights gave a similar death toll.

Friday's bloodshed occurred as demonstrators across the country again defied heavy military deployments, mass arrests and a ruthless crackdown on the biggest popular challenge to 48 years of authoritarian Baath Party rule.

U.S. President Barack Obama imposed new sanctions against Syrian figures, including a brother of Assad in charge of troops in Deraa, the first diplomatic reprisal for Syria's violent crackdown.

Obama signed an executive order imposing sanctions on the intelligence agency, Assad's cousin Atif Najib and his brother Maher, who commands the army division which stormed into Deraa on Monday.

Shortly after Obama's move, European Union diplomats said they had reached preliminary agreement to impose an arms embargo on Syria and would consider other restrictive measures.

Obama's sanctions, which include asset freezes and bans on U.S. business dealings, build on U.S. measures against Syria in place since 2004, but they may have little impact since Assad's inner circle are thought to hold few U.S. assets.

One official said the White House was "not ready" to call on Assad to step down because Obama and his aides "do not want to get out in front of the Syrian people".

But thousands of Syrians took to the streets across the country after Friday prayers demanding his removal and pledging support for the residents of Deraa.

"The people want the overthrow of the regime!" demonstrators chanted in many protests, witnesses said.

More demonstrations flared in the central cities of Homs and Hama, Banias on the Mediterranean coast, Qamishly in eastern Syria and Harasta, a Damascus suburb.

Damascus saw the biggest protest in the capital so far, with a crowd swelling to 10,000 as it marched toward the main Ummayad Square before being dispersed by security forces firing tear gas, rights campaigners said.

Syrian rights group Sawasiah said this week at least 500 civilians had been killed since the unrest broke out six weeks ago. Authorities dispute that, saying 78 security forces and 70 civilians died in violence they blame on armed groups.


State news agency SANA blamed "armed terrorist groups" for killing eight soldiers near Deraa. It said groups had opened fire on the homes of soldiers in two towns near Deraa and were repelled by guards. SANA said security forces detained 156 members of the group and confiscated 50 motorbikes.

But a witness in Deraa said Syrian forces fired live rounds at thousands of villagers who descended on the besieged city.

"They shot at people at the western gate of Deraa in the Yadoda area, almost three km (two miles) from the center of the city," he said.

A rights campaigner in Deraa said on Friday makeshift morgues in the city contained the bodies of 85 people he said had been killed since the army stormed the city, close to Syria's southern border with Jordan, on Monday.

Assad's violent repression has brought growing condemnation from Western countries which for several years had sought to engage Damascus and loosen its close anti-Israel alliances with Iran and the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas.

The top United Nations human rights body condemned Syria for using deadly force against peaceful protesters and launched an investigation into killings and other alleged crimes.

A U.S. official said Friday's sanctions were meant to show that no member of the Syrian leadership was immune from being held accountable. "Bashar is very much on our radar and if this continues could be soon to follow," the official said.

The new sanctions also target the General Intelligence Directorate and its director, Ali Mamluk. The spy agency is accused by U.S. officials of repressing dissent and of involvement in the killing of protesters in Deraa.

The fifth target is Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps -- Qods Force. A source familiar with the new sanctions said the force is accused by the Obama administration of being the conduit for support Iran has provided to Syrian authorities in their crackdown on protesters. Syria has denied Iran has played any role in confronting the protests.

Security forces shot dead 120 protesters on Friday April 22, according to a Syrian rights group, in the biggest protests Syria has seen since the uprising ignited in Deraa on March 18.

Three days later an army division under the control of Assad brother's Maher stormed into Deraa. That echoed their father's 1982 attack on Hama to crush an armed revolt led by the Muslim Brotherhood, killing up to 30,000 people.

In a sign of rare dissent within ruling circles, 200 members of the Baath Party resigned on Wednesday in protest at the bloody crackdown.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

Victory Day

"Well here we are, a week away from Victory Day, the third annual national holiday celebrating the martial history of Afghanistan. There is Independence Day in August, which celebrates running the Brits out of the country in the 1800’s. Then, there is Liberation Day, in February, which marks the end of direct Soviet Army involvement. So next week, we pause to remember the days when Afghans beat the stuffing out of each other with Victory Day - celebrating the defeat of the Soviet backed Najibullah regime in 1992.

High noon in downtown Lashkar Gah - it will be a ghost town like this for at least another week

It’s still ‘crickets down’ in the Helmand Province. We suspect Victory Day will mark the start of the fighting season. The last of the poppy harvesters will return home, sort out their share of paste, rest a bit and then cast around for something to do. It appears that for most of the adult males in Helmand, fighting the foreigners for pay, is no longer quite the attractive option. The WaPo published a story last week about how the United States Marine Corps is wearing out the Taliban the old-fashioned way – by shooting them. This trend is noted here by the Belmont Club, and here by Herschel at The Captains Journal, and here by the Long War Journal. This latest article on the martial prowess of the Marines, comes at a propitious time (even though it was based on a Bing West embed last fall) because my Dad, of all people, sent a new Marine recruiting poster which I can now share-even with the F bomb-"

Shia Muslims must beware of hypocrisy

Shia Muslims, of which I am one, should not expect the world to take them seriously when they attempt to take the moral high ground regarding oppression. They should also be unflinching when it comes to self-criticism if their real goal is to achieve justice and equality.

The dilemma is that if the Shia show any signs of reluctance to admit human rights abuses carried out in their name, for whatever reason, they lose credibility when they attempt to shed light on the discrimination they are faced with across the Muslim world. More importantly, and regardless of how sincere their claims really are, they become a part of the very double standards they accuse others of.

People have a right to be angry when they see politicians enforcing a no-fly zone in Libya while doing nothing to alleviate the pain of Bahrainis, most of them Shia, who are being killed and maimed by weapons that are supplied by the west. What makes this even more striking is the fact that the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, Saud al-Faisal, was cosying up with David Cameron at the same time as Saudi troops were in Bahrain helping another autocratic regime to violently put down a pro-democracy protest.

There is no denying that Shia Muslims are facing intolerable injustice throughout the Islamic world – even as far east as Malaysia where the state is deliberately treating them like second-class citizens and pushing many of them underground. While not detracting from their plight, it is imperative we do not forget that the Shia have also been oppressors themselves in countries such as Iraq and Iran.

In Iraq, Shia death squads and militias openly roamed the streets of Baghdad patrolling Sunni areas and targeting innocent people for simply being born with the wrong name. In what was a vicious cycle of tit-for-tat killings, many Iraqis lost their lives to this brutal sectarian war. Indeed, many of these attacks were retaliatory in nature and a response to other terrorist attacks throughout the country, but it is about time that blame is shared for the heinous crimes committed in post-2003 Iraq by all those responsible. If for nothing else, this will help in healing old, and deep, wounds for the coming generation, and lead to at least a glimmer of hope for real reconciliation.

In Iran, the events following the contested June 2009 elections were politically motivated and nothing to do with sectarianism, but it was a Shia ruling elite that desperately tried to cling on to power by unleashing its security services on pro-democracy protesters.

The largely peaceful protest was put down violently; civilians were shot in the middle of the street, run over by armoured vehicles, beaten with clubs and imprisoned for simply demanding their rights. Ironically, as is the case in Libya and Syria today, the government justified the violent crackdown on the basis that it was targeting a mass movement under the influence of an external power; Everything from America, Britain, Israel, Zionism, Mickey Mouse, imperialism to, more generally, "the west".

The sectarian identity of perpetrator and victim should not normally be so much of an issue – a crime is a crime no matter who commits it and where – but in both Iraq and Iran, many of these crimes were committed in the name of Islam and that is why it becomes even more important to condemn them publicly. The Shia can no longer play the victim card while turning a blind eye to other crimes being committed in their name elsewhere.

Shia Muslims across the world constantly invoke the memory of the battle of Kerbala, because in our belief this epitomises standing up to oppression and injustice. It is crucial to note that they may not necessarily have a sectarian agenda in doing so – the horrific slaughter of the prophet's grandson, along with his children, is etched into our memory at a very young age and symbolises an eternal fight against tyranny – but what good is this conscience if we deliberately ignore the fundamental significance of that battle? Specifically that we must stand up to oppression wherever and whenever it takes place, and at all costs.


KSM: Back to zero

The Obama administra tion's fumbling on trials for the 9/11 ter rorists turns out to be worse than anyone realized: It didn't just waste two years trying to hold a civilian trial for Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the confessed 9/11 mastermind -- it set the clock back even further.

Plans by Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder for a trial in New York were always absurd -- even the old Democratic Congress felt obliged to render the move impossible.

But, now that the administration's thrown in the towel on civilian trials, it refuses to just pick up proceedings against KSM back where they left off in the Bush years. Team Obama insists on starting from scratch.

Cmdr. Leslie Hull-Ryde, a Defense Department spokeswoman, confirmed it for me: "The original charges against KSM and his co-defendants were withdrawn and dismissed. In the event charges are sworn and referred against these individuals, the process will start from the beginning, which will be the arraignment.

"Any charges sworn against KSM and his co-defendants and referred to a military commission will not be bound by any motions or rulings made in the previous commission."

Why does this matter? KSM spent nearly two years lodging absurd objections to derail or delay the legal process at Guantanamo.

For example, he demanded the removal of his own military defense lawyer (who was only acting as an adviser because KSM insisted on representing himself) because he'd briefly served in Iraq and was therefore tied to the deaths of Muslims. Never mind that KSM himself killed hundreds of Muslims in the East African embassy bombings, the Bali bombings and on 9/11 itself.

He also objected to American law because it gives legal rights to homosexuals and equal rights to women, and demanded the judge's removal over unspecified allegations of bias.

He pleaded guilty to the 9/11 attacks, 30 other mass murders and his personal execution of Daniel Pearl -- then reversed his guilty plea when his four co-defendants weren't allowed to plead with him.

He heckled the judge, jury and spectators and even claimed the court artist had violated his "human rights" by making his nose too big.

The five defendants had all sorts of sick "fun": One of them (possibly KSM himself) wrote down the four flight numbers of the 9/11 planes, folded the paper into an airplane -- and flew it across the courtroom.

All these shenanigans absorbed more than a year and cost taxpayers more than $1 million. Now we'll have to go through all of it again.

So this September, on the 10th anniversary of the attacks, KSM will still be mocking the American system of justice and taunting the families of 9/11 victims, who desperately want to close this painful chapter in their lives. Where is the mercy for them?

It's hard to say how long they'll have to wait. The president has put Attorney General Eric Holder in charge of the process, and he's in no rush. The administration hasn't begun the process of re-charging KSM yet -- nor even formally decided to do so.

And Holder hates this course -- as he made clear with his bizarre performance in announcing the return to military commissions. His outbursts that day prompted two key House committee chairmen to write the AG and Defense Secretary Robert Gates -- pointedly asking that "appropriate resources" be made available for the Guantanamo trials.

Reps. Buck McKeon and Lamar Smith -- who chair the Armed Services and Judiciary committees -- clearly worry that Holder will choke off funds needed for a speedy trial. More, they plainly suspect that Holder and Obama want to punt the actual trials until after the 2012 elections -- because the president doesn't want to be squeezed between the demands of his liberal base and the hopes of the American majority.

The 9/11 mastermind got one reprieve when Obama stopped the first military commissions in 2009. Will the administration ever stop playing politics and let justice take its course?

Freaky weather

Afghan pilot kills 8 US troops, contractor in Kabul attack

An Afghan pilot opened fire on NATO soldiers at an airbase in Kabul today, killing eight US troops and an American contractor. The attack is the latest setback for Afghan security forces.

The International Security Assistance Force confirmed the attack, but did not release the names or nationalities of those killed.

"At 10:25 a.m. local Kabul time this morning authorities received notification of small arms fire at North Kabul International Airport," ISAF stated in a press release. "A quick reaction force responded to the incident. Eight International Security Assistance Force troops and a contractor were killed in the incident." Pajhwok Afghan News claimed that the attack took place during a meeting at a "command centre." The eight troops and the contractor were later identified as Americans.

The US soldiers and the contractor likely were members of NATO Training Mission-Afghanistan, which is responsible for training the Afghan National Security Assistance Force. NATO Air Training Command Afghanistan is based out of North Kabul International.

The motive for the attack is unclear. Both Pajhwok Afghan News and Al Jazeera reported that an Afghan pilot opened fire on the ISAF troops after a heated dispute. Al Jazeera said the pilot was a seasoned colonel, while one source told Pajhwok Afghan News that the colonel was retired.

"For the past 20 years, he has been a military pilot," General Mohammad Zahir Azimi, an Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman told Al Jazeera. "An argument happened between him and the foreigners and we have to investigate that."

The Taliban, in a statement released on their propaganda website, Voice of Jihad, claimed credit for the attack, and said that "a Mujahid uninformed [sic] as a soldier" struck at a recruiting center as a meeting was underway. The Taliban have not provided the name of the attacker, as they have done on previous occasions when they claim suicide attacks. In the past, the Taliban have attempted to claim credit for other attacks by Afghan soldiers and policemen, although not all of these claims could be substantiated.

Afghan forces plagued by missteps, attacks

Today's attack is the latest in a series of recent setbacks for Afghan security, including Taliban infiltration attacks, attacks on ISAF forces by Afghan soldiers, and even a massive jailbreak in Kandahar that resulted in the escape of more than 450 Taliban commanders and fighters. The Taliban have shown the ability to penetrate high-security facilities; three attacks in the past two weeks have taken place at such facilities.

On April 18, a Taliban suicide bomber dressed as a soldier penetrated security at the Afghan Ministry of Defense in Kabul, killing two Afghan soldiers and wounding several aides to top Afghan officials in a gunfight before he was able to detonate his vest. The suicide bomber managed to reach the third floor of the ministry and wounded several top aides.

On April 16, a suicide bomber wearing a police uniform detonated his vest at a combined Afghan and ISAF training base in the Qarghayi district in the eastern Afghan province of Laghman. ISAF later confirmed that the suicide bomber was indeed an Afghan soldier.

On April 15, a Taliban suicide bomber from the Mullah Dadullah Mahaz, or Mullah Dadullah Front, assassinated the chief of police for Kandahar province and killed two of his bodyguards. The suicide bomber was dressed as a policeman and detonated after hugging the police chief in his office.

These attacks have been major setbacks for the nascent Afghan security forces, which have struggled to develop into a professional fighting force. The Taliban attacks and a string of recent attacks by Afghan security forces on ISAF personnel serve to sow distrust among ISAF troops assigned to work closely with their Afghan counterparts.

ISAF and NATO have placed great emphasis on the training of Afghan forces, in preparation for drawing down NATO forces in the coming years. The Afghan National Security Forces are expected to take control of security by 2014. The security forces are currently undergoing rapid expansion, which is leaving room for Taliban infiltration as well as the recruitment of unqualified personnel.


Syria's military shows signs of division amid crackdown

Beirut, Lebanon
Cracks may be emerging in Syria's military as more soldiers appear to be taking a stand against firing on protesters six weeks into the popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad.

Syrian security forces launched an offensive against several flashpoint towns at dawn today, closing the border with Jordan and using tanks and live ammunition to clear streets and arrest suspected protesters, according to opposition activists and eyewitnesses. But Syrian military units reportedly clashed with each other in Deraa when soldiers refused to open fire.

The report follows numerous other refusals as well as a spate of assassinations of military officials said to be sympathetic to the protesters, according to opposition activists.

Any split that emerges in the Army, which together with the intelligence services forms the state's principle means of enforcing its will, would present an unprecedented challenge to the Assad regime's four-decade rule and cast serious doubt on its ability to survive.

Today's intensified crackdown came after the worst protest violence yet witnessed, with more than 120 people killed since Friday. The sudden surge of casualties appears to have spurred the United States into considering sanctions against Syrian officials, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.

The report comes a day after Human Rights Watch called for sanctions against Syrian officials found responsible for using violence to suppress the anti-regime protests that have swept the country since mid-March.

Showdown in Deraa
At dawn today, as many as 3,000 Syrian troops backed by armored vehicles entered the southern town of Deraa, where the uprising first took root, and opened fire, killing anywhere between five and 20 people, according to various eyewitness accounts. The border with Jordan, which lies just 2.5 miles south west of Deraa, was closed and telephone lines and electricity in the area around the town were cut.

According to opposition activists, the troops belonged to the elite Fourth Division, which is headed by Maher al-Assad, the brother of the Syrian president.

Eight tanks were deployed in the old quarter of the town. Several bodies lay uncollected in the streets because of the presence of soldiers and bursts of gunfire.

A witness in Deraa told Reuters that snipers positioned on government buildings were shooting at people.

A video clip uploaded to YouTube shows a Syrian T-72 tank grinding down a road and over a makeshift barricade as young men look on.

“Let the world know that Bashar al-Assad is attacking Deraa with tanks,” a male voice says on the clip.

Another witness quoted by Reuters said, “People are taking cover in homes. I could see two bodies near the mosque and no one was able to go out and drag them away.”

There were reports of Syrian troops moving into towns near Deraa including Nuwaima, Jassem, and Inkhel, which also have seen protests. The Shaam News Network, an opposition Facebook page, claimed that there were “dozens of martyrs” in Nuwaima. The claim could not be verified.

The Syrian Flash News Page on Facebook said that “the raiding forces are shooting at everything that is moving and banned ambulances from moving towards the victims.”

Four military officers assassinated
The Arabic Al-Jazeera news channel reported that some soldiers were objecting to firing on civilians and that clashes had broken out between separate Army units in Deraa. The minority Alawite sect – a Shiite offshoot – forms the backbone of the regime and controls the Army and intelligence apparatus in Syria, but the Army’s ranks are mainly composed of Sunnis.

It has been widely speculated that if troops are ordered to use increasing force against civilian protesters, cracks may emerge – possibly along sectarian lines – within the military which could have far-reaching consequences for the durability of the regime.

Sign up for our daily World Editor's Picks newsletter. The best stories, in your inbox.

In the early stages of the uprising in Deraa, a soldier from the Sunni city of Homs was allegedly shot dead for refusing to open fire on protesters. Since then, there have been numerous unverified reports of soldiers and even senior officers being shot for refusing to obey orders.

Last week, Gen. Abdo Khodr Tellawi from Homs was killed with his two sons and a nephew. The Syrian state-run SANA news agency claimed that “armed criminal gangs … killed them in cold blood.” But opposition activists say that the Syrian intelligence services executed them because they were showing signs of sympathy for the protesters.

Other officers killed in the past two weeks include two Christian colonels, Samir Kashour and Whaib Issa, and Gen. Ayad Harfoush, who, like Tellawi, was an Alawite.

Alawite military and intelligence officers are generally expected to stand with the regime, fearing a bloody backlash against them should Assad fall. But the Alawite community is not a homogenous entity and there are longstanding tensions between rival clans which could witness some powerful Alawite figures siding with the opposition against the Assads.

Leaked Syria document approves the killing of army officers
Radwan Ziadeh, the director of the Damascus Center for Human Rights Studies, blamed the killings on the Air Force Intelligence directorate, which spearheaded the crackdown 30 years ago on the Muslim Brotherhood and is generally considered the most powerful intelligence agency in Syria.

Mr. Ziadeh said the regime's blaming “armed gangs” for the spate of assassinations of military officers was in line with the recommendations of a document obtained by opposition activists last week that purports to be written by the Syrian General Intelligence department. The document, dated March 23, when the protests were just beginning, lists propaganda, security, and political measures to be adopted by the security forces. The validity of the document could not be confirmed.

The document said, “It is acceptable to shoot some of the security agents or army officers in order to further deceive the enemy, which will further help the situation by provoking the animosity of the army against the protesters.”

“These shootings are the second stage of the intelligence document,” says Ziadeh. “Maybe we will soon see the third stage, which was the bombing of churches and mosques to stir up sectarian tensions. The regime’s message is either stability with us, or chaos.”


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Jordan king creates panel to review constitution

AMMAN — Jordan’s King Abdullah II on Tuesday asked a former prime minister to head a committee to review the constitution and consider amendments, in a bid to face growing demands for reforms.

The king asked Ahmad Lawzi and the 10-member committee, which includes other former premiers, to “look into constitutional amendments that would be suitable for Jordan in the present and future,” said the state-run Petra news agency.

“The panel should consider recommendations on constitutional amendments related to the electoral and parties’ laws,” he said in a letter sent to Lawzi.

King Abdullah said the committee “should do its utmost to constitutionally develop political life and help institute balance between state powers.

“Our dear people pin high hopes on the committee to come up with a comprehensive and reformist vision about the constitution,” the monarch said.

Jordan has been the scene of protests calling for political and economic reforms as well as the stamping out of corruption.

The powerful Islamist movement and other opposition groups have been demanding sweeping reforms, including a new electoral law that would lead to a parliamentary government and elected prime minister rather than appointed by the king.

Also, leftists and others have called for scrapping of amendments to the 1952 constitution, which was promulgated by King Abdullah’s grandfather, King Talal.

The document already has been amended 29 times, giving greater power to the monarch and weakening the legislature, experts say.

Khaleej Times

Mirror mirror on the wall

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Troops attack Saudi protesters

Saudi security forces have attacked anti-government protesters in the eastern city of Qatif, firing tear gas and live rounds to disperse the demonstrators.

Anti-government protesters in Qatif are calling for human rights reforms, freedom of expression and the release of political prisoners.

They are also calling for the immediate withdrawal of Saudi troops from neighboring Bahrain.

After dispersing the protesters by force, Saudi troops attacked several homes in the city and arrested many people. They also destroyed vehicles parked in the streets.

Saudi Arabia's east has been the scene of anti-government protests over the past months.

Human Rights Watch says more than 160 dissidents have been arrested since February as part of the Saudi government's crackdown on anti-government protesters.

"Saudi authorities have arrested over 160 peaceful dissidents in violation of international human rights law since February 2011," HRW said in a statement last week.

HRW also criticized the European Union and the United States, Saudi Arabia's allies, for not taking a harder line over Riyadh's arrest of dissidents.

"As the list of Saudi political prisoners grows longer, the silence of the US and the EU becomes more deafening," Christoph Wilcke, a senior Middle East researcher at HRW, said in the statement.

A Saudi-based human rights group had earlier reported that Saudi authorities have arrested 100 protesters for taking part or organizing anti-government demonstrations.

Human Rights First Society (HRFS) also revealed that some of the detainees were subject to torture both physically and mentally.

In Saudi Arabia, protest rallies and any public displays of dissent are forbidden and are considered illegal. Senior Wahhabi clerics in the kingdom have also censured opposition demonstrations as "un-Islamic."


'Al Qaeda Bomber Worked For UK Intelligence'

An al Qaeda "assassin" accused of bombing Christian churches and a luxury hotel in Pakistan was working for British intelligence at the same time, according to leaked files.
The claim about Adil Hadi al Jazairi Bin Hamlili is made in secret reports on detainees at the US military's Guantanamo Bay prison camp obtained by the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks.

The Algerian, who was captured in Pakistan in 2003, was described by interrogators as a "facilitator, courier, kidnapper, and assassin for al Qaeda".

They also believed he had withheld important information from Canadian and British intelligence and (was) a "threat to US and allied personnel in Afghanistan and Pakistan".

The files, handed to The Guardian and Daily Telegraph by WikiLeaks, also indicate at least 35 terrorists held at Guantanamo had been radicalised by extremist preachers in the UK.

Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza are identified in the documents as having recruited and sent dozens of extremists from all over the world to fight against the West in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The revelations come after WikiLeaks released more than 700 secret files documenting the inner workings of the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba.

It also appears the US government suspected the BBC of being a "possible propaganda media network" for al Qaeda after a phone number for the World Service was found in the possession of several suspected terrorists.

But a spokeswoman for the corporation said: "Independence and impartiality are at the heart of all BBC World Service output.

"The service has interviewed representatives of organisations from all sides involved in the Afghan conflict so it would not be surprising that a number believed to relate to the BBC Pashto service was in circulation."


I thought these leaks were supposed to hurt the credibility of the US?

WikiLeaks: The Iraq-Al Qaeda Connection Confirmed, Again

A former Guantanamo detainee “was identified as an Iraqi intelligence officer who relocated to Afghanistan (AF) in 1998 where he served as a senior Taliban Intelligence Directorate officer in Mazar-E-Sharif,” according to a recently leaked assessment written by American intelligence analysts. The former detainee, an Iraqi named Jawad Jabber Sadkhan, “admittedly forged official documents and reportedly provided liaison between the governments of Afghanistan and Iraq.”

Sadkhan’s al Qaeda ties reached all the way to Osama bin Laden, according to the intelligence assessment. He reportedly received money from Osama bin Laden both before and after the September 11 attacks.

Identification by senior al Qaeda member

In Afghanistan, Sadkhan served under another Iraqi al Qaeda member: Abdul Hadi al Iraqi. According to the Gitmo analysts’ assessment, al Iraqi “identified [Sadkhan] in a letter as an Iraqi intelligence officer who relocated to Afghanistan where he was associated with Taliban and al-Qaida leadership.”

Abdul Hadi al Iraqi’s identification of Sadkhan is especially important. Al Iraqi was a major in Saddam Hussein’s military before relocating to Afghanistan, where he became one of Osama bin Laden’s top lieutenants in the 1990s. Al Iraqi led al Qaeda’s elite Arab 055 Brigade, which fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan.

In addition to being a top al Qaeda and Taliban military commander, al Iraqi was also involved in al Qaeda’s international operations. For example, al Iraqi met with two of the July 7, 2005 London bombers in northern Pakistan. Although the two had volunteered to fight against coalition forces in Afghanistan or Iraq, al Iraqi recognized their potential for committing attacks in the West and repurposed them for the 7/7 operation.

Thus, Sadkhan’s relationship with al Iraqi deserves closer scrutiny.

Abdul Hadi al Iraqi’s identification of Sadkhan came in a letter that al Iraqi wrote in November 1998. The letter was addressed to another senior al Qaeda leader, Saif al Adel, who sits on al Qaeda’s military committee. In the letter, al Iraqi identified Sadkhan by one of his aliases, Mullah Abdullah, and said that Sadkhan was “a former Iraqi intelligence officer or warrant officer” who was employed as an interrogator by the Taliban’s intelligence directorate.

The letter indicates that both al Iraqi and Saif al Adel “were personally acquainted with” Sadkhan and that Sadkhan “was part of a group of Iraqis that were involved in un-Islamic activities.”

The leaked intelligence assessment does not identify what “un-Islamic activities” Sadkhan was involved in, but it may have included his ruthless efforts to recruit fighters for the Taliban’s cause.

Sadkhan “coerced immigrants into service upon threat of imprisonment and torture,” according to the U.S. government’s reporting, and also “employed a team of interrogators who beat and tortured Shiite and Uzbeki prisoners.” According to some reports, Sadkhan’s fighting group also indiscriminately killed Afghan women and children. American analysts concluded that Sadkhan was involved in the Taliban’s narcotics trade, as well.

Whatever Sadkhan’s “un-Islamic activities” were, it did not stop al Qaeda’s senior members from working with him. Abdul Hadi al Iraqi’s driver identified Sadkhan as one of his boss’s “close associates.”

In addition, an unnamed “senior Afghan military officer” identified Sadkhan as one of “several commanders of al Qaeda and Chechen forces in the Mazar-e-Sharif area prior to the November 2001 fall of Mazar-e-Sharif to US and Coalition forces.” A Gitmo analyst noted that the Afghan officer’s report indicated that Sadkhan had a “commanding role with al Qaeda and militant forces” in late 2001. Other sources confirmed that Sadkhan continued to serve in the Taliban’s and al Qaeda’s ranks.

Sadkhan’s relationship with Saddam’s regime did not end either, according to the Gitmo files. Although Sadkhan claimed to have fled Iraq in 1997, he allegedly continued to work with Saddam’s regime.

“Conduits” to Saddam’s regime

At least three Guantanamo detainees identified Sadkhan as a henchman for Saddam Hussein.

An Uzbek named Oybek Jamoldinivich Jabbarov, told authorities that Sadkhan “admitted working as a liaison between [the] Taliban Intelligence Directorate and Iraqi President, Saddam Hussein.” Jabbarov explained that Sadkhan and another Iraqi once held at Guantanamo, Hassan Abdul Said, “traveled between Iraq and Afghanistan ferrying unidentified supplies from Iraq through Iran on multiple occasions.” Sadkhan “would receive money from the Taliban in exchange for these supplies.”

Both Said, who claimed to have worked for the Iraqi opposition, and Sadkhan are described as “conduits” between the Taliban and Saddam’s regime in declassified files.

Another Iraqi Gitmo detainee named Abbas Habid Rumi al Naely told military officials that Sadkhan “was a member of the Amin Emergency Response Group while living in Iraq.” According to Naely, the Amin Group was “an elite Iraqi intelligence squad responsible for locating and either torturing or killing people opposed to Iraqi President, [sic] Saddam Hussein.” In a memo prepared for Naely’s combatant status review tribunal, military authorities alleged that he, too, was a connection between Saddam’s regime and al Qaeda. Officials accused Naely of plotting attacks on behalf of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, along with a member of the Iraqi intelligence service, in August 1998. Naely, who was allegedly recruited by the Taliban in Baghdad in 1994, and the IIS man were supposedly targeting the American and British embassies in Pakistan. That same month, of course, al Qaeda launched devastating attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. That allegation was dropped from subsequent memos prepared for Naely’s case, but it is not clear why.

Still another Iraqi once held at Guantanamo, Haydar Jabbar Hafez al Tamimi, identified Sadkhan “as a former member of the Iraqi Interior Ministry security forces” who fought in the Iraq-Iran war. Tamimi described Sadkhan as a relentless mercenary who used heavy-handed tactics to recruit fighters.

Money from Osama

Sadkhan’s fellow Iraqi, Hassan Abdul Said, told U.S. authorities that Sadkhan received two payments from Osama bin Laden. The first came around September, 2001 and totaled approximately $11,000. Bin Laden transferred another $100,000 to Sadkhan in October 2001.

Al Wafa, an NGO that was really a cover for al Qaeda’s operations, facilitated both transfers. Al Wafa has been designated a terrorist front by both the United Nations and U.S. Treasury Department.

The payments were especially suspicious. Sadkhan conceded that a meeting took place on September 1, 2001, but claimed that bin Laden gave the money as a gift for local construction projects.

U.S. intelligence analysts did not buy that story – pointing out that the total amount transferred far exceeded what was necessary for small-time construction projects like building a well. The analysts concluded that the second transfer of $100,000 may very well have been intended to buy Sadkhan’s freedom.

The Northern Alliance reportedly sent forces to capture Sadkhan in late 2001. A Gitmo analyst noted “the timing, amount of money, and the people involved in the October 2001 money transfer suggest that the money was possibly transferred to pay a bribe for [Sadkhan’s] release from Northern Alliance custody.” If that is the case, this same analyst astutely noted, then it indicates the “high value that both [Osama bin Laden] and the Northern Alliance placed on [Sadkhan].”

If Osama’s money was a bribe, it didn’t work. The Northern Alliance transferred Sadkhan to American custody.

A “High Risk” detainee

According to current and former military officials contacted by THE WEEKLY STANDARD, other detainees at Gitmo were afraid of Sadkhan. His track record as a sadistic Taliban and al Qaeda interrogator was well-known. Sadkhan’s ties to the Iraqi regime and al Qaeda, however, never gained any publicity.

Contrary to popular anti-war mythology, these officials say, there was no push inside the Bush administration to find out more about Sadkhan’s ties to both al Qaeda and Saddam’s Iraq. In fact, the Bush administration never made any public reference to the intelligence it was accumulating on Sadkhan’s activities in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The same is true for several other Iraqi detainees once held at Gitmo. Hassan Abdul Said and Abbas Habid Rumi al Naely were also once accused of being living connections between Saddam’s fallen regime and al Qaeda. Their stories never gained traction either.

Instead, Sadkhan, Said, and Naely were all transferred to their home country in 2009. Said and Naely were transferred by the Bush administration in January 2009.

Sadkhan was transferred to Iraq in June 2009 by the Obama administration despite the military’s assessment in 2008 that he was a “high risk” detainee who “is likely to pose a threat to the US, its interests and allies.”

Weekly Standard

Monday, April 25, 2011

WikiLeaks: Guantánamo Bay terrorists radicalised in London to attack Western targets

Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza, two preachers who lived off state benefits after claiming asylum, are identified by the American authorities as the key recruiters responsible for sending dozens of extremists from throughout the world to Pakistan and Afghanistan via London mosques.

The leaked documents, written by senior US military commanders at Guantánamo Bay, illustrate how, for two decades, Britain effectively became a crucible of terrorism, with dozens of extremists, home-grown and from abroad, radicalised here.

Finsbury Park mosque, in north London, is described as a “haven” for extremists. United States intelligence officials concluded the mosque served as “an attack planning and propaganda production base”.

The files will raise questions over why the Government and security services failed to take action sooner to tackle the capital’s reputation as a staging post for terrorism, which became so established that the city was termed “Londonistan”.

The documents show that at least 35 detainees at Guantánamo had passed through Britain before being sent to fight against Allied forces in Afghanistan. This is thought to be more than from any other Western nation.

Of those, 18 were originally from abroad. The other 17 were British nationals or citizens granted residency here after claiming asylum, who were indoctrinated before being sent to terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

The Government has paid millions of pounds in compensation and benefits to people regarded as highly dangerous by the US authorities.

Qatada, who was paid compensation under human rights laws for being “unfairly detained”, is described as “the most successful recruiter in Europe” and a “focal point for extremist fundraising [and] recruitment”. Hamza is accused of encouraging “his followers to murder non-Muslims”.

Four mosques in London and an Islamic centre are highlighted as places where young Muslim men were radicalised and turned into potential terrorists. Finsbury Park mosque “served to facilitate and training of recruits,” note the files, adding that it was “a haven for Islamic extremists from Morocco and Algeria.”

The Daily Telegraph, along with other international newspapers, is publishing details of more than 700 files on the Guantánamo Bay detainees obtained by the WikiLeaks website.

Earlier, this newspaper disclosed that dozens of terrorists held at the prison had admitted plotting a wide array of attacks against targets in Britain and America. However, it also emerged that more than 150 innocent people had been sent to Guantánamo.

Now, the key role that Britain and British-based preachers played in the lives of many of the Guantánamo detainees can be disclosed.

British intelligence services also provided information, including lists of suspected extremists seized from raids on Islamic centres, to the US military as it interrogated detainees. The information was passed on despite the Government publicly condemning the use of torture at Guantánamo. The leaked documents also reveal that:

• Sixteen detainees sent back to Britain are regarded as “high risk” by the US authorities and are liable to plan attacks against the West. However, they have been paid a reported £1 million each in compensation by the Government. For the first time, details of their alleged extremist activities, including travelling to Afghanistan to fight against British troops, are disclosed;

• The US government suspected the BBC of being a “possible propaganda media network” for al-Qaeda after details of a phone number at the broadcaster was found in the possession of several suspected terrorists. The number, which now appears to be disconnected, was thought to be for an employee of the BBC World Service, which was then funded by the Foreign Office;

• Terrorist recruits from across Africa and the Middle East flocked to London to claim asylum, often after travelling through other European countries;

• British taxpayers’ money was used to bankroll an Afghan politician who was sent to Guantánamo Bay after being exposed as an al-Qaeda aide. Mullan Haji Rohullah received more than £300,000 to destroy his opium crop – but he sold the drugs and kept the money from the Department for International Development.

• Four of the Guantánamo detainees were “British intelligence sources” who betrayed their paymasters.

• The last remaining British national at the prison is an al-Qaeda commander who directed terrorist forces in Tora Bora during the Afghanistan conflict. His family, who were previously allegedly paid directly by Osama Bin Laden, is thought to have received compensation from the Government.

The files help to explain American anger towards the British authorities, who have been regularly accused of failing to tackle radicalisation in this country.

The top-secret documents show how Muslim men travelled to European countries such as France, from where they obtained fake EU passports. They then crossed the channel to take advantage of Britain’s generous asylum system.

Extremist preachers radicalised the men at London mosques, showing them videos of atrocities committed against Muslims in Bosnia and Chechnya.

According to one document, Finsbury Park mosque was “a key transit facility for the movement of North African and other extremists in London to and from al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan”.

They were flown to Pakistan and Afghanistan at the terrorist group’s expense, put up in special guesthouses and sent to the training camps. They were introduced to senior al-Qaeda figures including Bin Laden and taught to fight and make bombs. Wives were arranged for some terrorists and their families received generous payments.

The US government condemned the release of the Wikileaks documents. In a statement, the Pentagon said: “It is unfortunate that news organisations have made the decision to publish numerous documents obtained illegally by WikiLeaks concerning the Guantánamo detention facility. These documents contain classified information about current and former detainees, and we strongly condemn the leaking of this sensitive information.

“The WikiLeaks releases include Detainee Assessment Briefs (DABs) written by the Department of Defence between 2002 and early 2009. These DABs were written based on a range of information available then. Any given DAB illegally obtained and released by WikiLeaks may or may not represent the current view of a given detainee.

“The previous and current administrations have made every effort to act with the utmost care and diligence in transferring detainees from Guan­tánamo.”

Barack Obama, the US President, previously made a high-profile pledge to close the Guantánamo Bay facility and prosecute in the criminal courts those alleged to have broken the law.

However, the pledge has now been largely abandoned and the US authorities recently announced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the most senior terrorist at the prison and the alleged mastermind behind the September 11 attacks, will be tried at a controversial military tribunal.

Mohammed, who was tortured more than 100 times, has admitted his involvement in dozens of plots, including plans to hijack aircraft and crash them into Heathrow airport, Big Ben and Canary Wharf, and assassination attempts against Pope John Paul II and former President Bill Clinton. He is among 15 so-called kingpins at the prison who are unlikely to ever be freed.


Taliban tunnel more than 480 out of Afghan prison

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan – During the long Afghan winter, Taliban insurgents were apparently busy underground.

The militants say they spent more than five months building a 1,050-foot tunnel to the main prison in southern Afghanistan, bypassing government checkpoints, watch towers and concrete barriers topped with razor wire.

The diggers finally poked through Sunday and spent 4 1/2 hours ferrying away more than 480 inmates without a shot being fired, according to the Taliban and Afghan officials. Most of the prisoners were Taliban militants.

Accounts of the extraordinary prison break, carried out in the dead of night, suggest collusion with prison guards, officials or both.

Following a recent wave of assassinations here, the breakout underscores the weakness of the Afghan government in the south despite an influx of international troops, funding and advisers. It also highlights the spirit and resourcefulness of the Taliban despite months of battlefield setbacks.

Officials at Sarposa prison in Kandahar city, the one-time Taliban capital, say they discovered the breach at about 4 a.m. Monday, a half-hour after the Taliban say they had gotten all the prisoners safely to a house at the other end of the tunnel.

Government officials corroborated parts of the Taliban account. They confirmed the tunnel was dug from a house within shooting distance of the prison and that the inmates had somehow gotten out of their locked cells and disappeared into the night. Kandahar remains relatively warm even during winter and the ground would not have frozen while insurgents were digging the tunnel.

Police showed reporters the roughly hewn hole that was punched through the cement floor of the prison cell. The opening was about 3 feet (1 meter) in diameter, and the tunnel dropped straight down for about 5 feet (1.5 meters) and then turned in the direction of the house where it originated.

But access was denied to the tunnel itself, and it was unclear how the Taliban were able to move so many men out of the prison so quickly. Also unclear was why guards would not have heard the diggers punch through the cement floor, and whether they supervise the inside of the perimeters at night.

A man who claimed he helped organize those inside the prison told The Associated Press in a phone call that he and his accomplices obtained copies of the keys for the cells ahead of time from "friends." He did not say who those friends were.

"There were four or five of us who knew that our friends were digging a tunnel from the outside," said Mohammad Abdullah, who said he had been in Sarposa prison for two years after being captured in nearby Zhari district with a stockpile of weapons. "Some of our friends helped us by providing copies of the keys. When the time came at night, we managed to open the doors for friends who were in other rooms."

He said the diggers broke through Sunday morning and that the inmates in the cell covered the hole with a prayer rug until the middle of the night, when they started quietly opening the doors of cells and ushering prisoners in small groups into the tunnel.

He said they woke the inmates up four or five at a time to sneak them out quietly. They also didn't want too many people crawling through the narrow and damp tunnel at one time because of worries that they would run out of oxygen, Abdullah said.

The AP reached Abdullah on a phone number supplied by a Taliban spokesman. His account could not immediately be verified.

The Taliban statement said it took 4 1/2 hours for all the prisoners to clear the tunnel, with the final inmates emerging into the house at 3:30 a.m. They then used a number of vehicles to shuttle the escaped convicts to secure locations.

Reporters were not allowed into that building, but officials pointed out the mud-walled compound with a brown gate and shops on either side.

The city's police mounted a massive search operation for the escaped convicts. They shot and killed two inmates who tried to evade capture and re-arrested another 26, said Tooryalai Wesa, the provincial governor.

But there was no ignoring that the Taliban had pulled off a daring success under the noses of Afghan and NATO officials.

"This is a blow," presidential spokesman Waheed Omar said. "A prison break of this magnitude of course points to a vulnerability."

At least 486 inmates escaped from Sarposa, most of them Taliban fighters, according to Gov. Wesa. The Taliban said they had freed more than 500 of their fellow insurgents and that about 100 of them were commanders — four of them former provincial chiefs.

Government officials declined to provide details on any of the escaped inmates or say whether any were considered high-level commanders.

The highest-profile Taliban inmates would likely not be held at Sarposa. The U.S. keeps detainees it considers a threat at a facility outside of Bagram Air Base in eastern Afghanistan. Other key Taliban prisoners are held by the Afghan government in a high-security wing of the main prison in Kabul.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Dave Lapan said the military command in Afghanistan had "not been asked by the Afghans to provide any assistance" such as intelligence help in looking for the escaped inmates.

Asked if the incident would prompt a rethinking or delay in the planned June turnover of the Parwan detention operation in the east to Afghans, Lapan said: "I think it's still too soon to tell. I have not gotten any indications of that, but it's too soon to tell."

The 1,200-inmate Sarposa prison has been part of a plan to bolster the government's presence in Kandahar. The facility underwent security upgrades and tightened procedures after a brazen 2008 Taliban attack freed 900 prisoners. In that assault, dozens of militants on motorbikes and two suicide bombers attacked the prison. One suicide bomber set off an explosives-laden tanker truck at the prison gate while a second bomber blew open an escape route through a back wall.

Afghan government officials and their NATO backers have repeatedly asserted that the prison has vastly improved security since that attack.

There are guard towers at each corner of the prison compound, which is illuminated at night and protected by a ring of concrete barriers topped with razor wire. The entrance can be reached only by passing through multiple checkpoints and gates.

An Afghan government official familiar with Sarposa prison said that while the external security has been greatly improved, the internal controls were not as strong. He said the Taliban prisoners in Sarposa were very united and would rally together to make demands from their jailers for better treatment or more privileges. He spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

The Kandahar escape is the latest in a series of high-profile Taliban operations that show the insurgency is fighting back. Over the past year, tens of thousands of U.S. and NATO reinforcements routed the Taliban from many of their southern strongholds, captured leading figures and destroyed weapons caches.

The militants have responded with major attacks across the nation as the spring fighting season has kicked off. In the past two weeks, Taliban agents have launched attacks from inside the Defense Ministry, a Kandahar city police station and a shared Afghan-U.S. military base in the east. In neighboring Helmand province on Saturday, a gunman assassinated the former top civilian chief of Marjah district. That's where U.S. Marines started the renewed push into the south early last year.


Syria Escalates Crackdown as Tanks Go to Restive City

BEIRUT, Lebanon — The Syrian Army stormed the restive city of Dara’a with tanks and soldiers and helped detain dozens in towns across the country Monday in an escalation of the crackdown on Syria’s five-week-old uprising, according to residents and human rights activists. They said at least 25 people had been killed in Dara’a, with reports of bodies strewn in the streets.

The military’s move into the town seemed to signal a new, harrowing chapter in a crackdown that has already killed nearly 400 people. Until now the government has been hewing to a mix of concessions and brute force, but its actions Monday indicated that it had chosen the latter, seeking to crush a wave of dissent in virtually every province that has shaken the once uncontested rule of President Bashar al-Assad, 45.

“The government has decided to choose the path of violence and repression,” said a Syrian analyst in Beirut, who asked to remain anonymous for his safety. “How far can they go in this repression? That is the question.”

As in 1982, when it crushed an Islamist revolt and killed at least 10,000 people in Hama, the military again showed its willingness to use force to repress its own people. Though there were rumors of discord among soldiers, the leadership is still dominated by Mr. Assad’s minority sect, and its deployment to Dara’a illustrated that a crucial bastion of government support remained loyal — in stark contrast with Egypt, where the military’s refusal to fire on protesters proved decisive in President Hosni Mubarak’s fall.

The official Syrian news agency said Monday night that the military had entered the town at the request of citizens to hunt what it called “extremist terrorist groups.”

Dara’a, a town of low-slung buildings with 75,000 inhabitants, has become almost synonymous with the popular revolt that has posed the greatest challenge to four decades of rule by the Assad family. Protests erupted there in March after security forces arrested high school students accused of scrawling anti-government graffiti on a wall, galvanizing demonstrations that have spread from the Mediterranean coast and eastern regions dominated by Kurds to the steppe of southern Syria, where Dara’a is located.

Residents said at least eight tanks drove into the town before dawn, with 4,000 to 6,000 troops, though some estimates put the numbers far lower, in the hundreds. Water, electricity and phone lines were cut, making firsthand accounts difficult and the numbers impossible to verify, and nearby border crossings with Jordan were reported sealed. Snipers took positions on the roofs of mosques, residents said, and a mix of soldiers and armed irregular forces went house to house to search for protesters.

“There are bodies in the streets we can’t reach; anyone who walks outside is getting shot at,” said a resident of Dara’a who gave his name as Abdullah, reached by satellite phone. “They want to teach Syria a lesson by teaching Dara’a a lesson.”

A handful of videos posted on the Internet, along with residents’ accounts, gave a picture of a city under broad military assault, in what appeared to mark a new phase in the government crackdown. Tanks had not previously been used against protesters, and the force of the assault suggested that the military planned some sort of occupation of the town.

“It’s an attempt to occupy Dara’a,” Abdullah said.

He said soldiers had taken three mosques, but had yet to capture the Omari Mosque, where he said thousands had sought refuge. Since the beginning of the uprising last month, it has served as a headquarters of sorts for demonstrators. He quoted people there as shouting, “We swear you will not enter but over our dead bodies.”

He said residents had also tried to block roads with cement blocks and cars. “We didn’t pay such a high price to quit now,” he said.

For weeks, organizers have managed to circumvent the government’s attempt to black out news from Dara’a and cities like Homs. But it appeared to have more success Monday.

Organizers themselves had trouble reaching contacts, and only occasional videos emerged from the tumult. One showed heavily armed soldiers taking up positions behind walls, a few feet from a tank parked on a leafy avenue. In another, a young boy threw a chunk of concrete at a passing tank. Other videos showed a cloud of black smoke rising and volleys of heavy gunfire echoing in the distance.

“These are the reforms of Bashar al-Assad,” one resident said, as he filmed tanks entering the city. “He is reforming Dara’a with the tanks of Bashar al-Assad.”

Wissam Tarif, executive director of Insan, a human rights group, said his organization had a list of 25 people killed Monday in Dara’a.

The United States called the violence “completely deplorable.” Tommy Vietor, a National Security Council spokesman, said the Obama administration was considering sanctions against Syrian officials to “make clear that this behavior is unacceptable.”

At the United Nations, European and American officials circulated a draft Security Council statement condemning the crackdown and calling on the government to respect human rights and freedom of expression. The draft endorses a call by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, released last Friday, urging an independent investigation into the mounting death toll.

Across the country of more than 22 million, the government continued a campaign of mass arrests, protesters said. Security forces searched house to house in Azra, another restive town near Dara’a. Activists said security forces had also entered two towns on the capital’s outskirts — Douma and Maadamiah — detaining dozens of people.

Clashes have been especially pronounced in the poor towns that encircle the capital, Damascus, and activists said there were reports of shooting during the raids.

In Jabla, a coastal city inhabited by Syria’s Sunni Muslim majority and members of the minority Alawite sect, from which the government draws much of its support, security forces killed at least 12 people in a crackdown that began Sunday and persisted into the night. One resident said protesters had burned an army car and taken a soldier hostage.

“The army is deployed all over the area,” said another resident, who gave his name as Abu Ahmed. “I can’t describe how bad the situation was all night. It’s a street war.”

He said the shootings had exacerbated tension between Sunnis and Alawites, a potentially dangerous manifestation in a country with a mosaic of religious and ethnic minorities, many of whom fear the government’s collapse may endanger them.

“The plate has shattered,” he said, using an Arabic expression. “There’s strife between us now, it’s been planted, and the problem is going to exist forever in Jabla.”


The Israelis should start bombing Damascus in solidarity with "the people".

Military patrols start Friday night in downtown Columbus

Starting at 10 o'clock Friday, two senior non-commissioned officers from Fort Benning will be walking the streets of Downtown Columbus, also known as, "Uptown." The soldiers will be wearing arm bands that read, "Courtesy Patrol."

Fort Benning's Commanding General Robert Brown, and Columbus Mayor Teresa Tomlinson made the announcement earlier this week.

The need to increase security in Uptown Columbus comes after two weekend incidents in early April.

In the first incident, police say five soldiers beat another man. The beating was witnessed near First Ave. and 10th street- sending the victim - a former solider - to the hospital with head injuries.

The other, a shooting that left four injured - one fatally - at Mario’s restaurant on Broadway. A man is charged in connection with the assault.

Now, Columbus Police will have the company of two uniformed Fort Benning soldiers on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights.

Mayor Tomlinson says the soldiers will not be able to make any arrests, but will be able to command order of all military personnel and if need be, alert military police.

“You can’t arrest someone for being intoxicated, but a senior officer can order you back to base or have military police come get you and bring you back to base,” says Tomlinson.

Charlotte Burton says the extra patrols might not be enough.

“I know this is just a start but I think they will have to increase security that's being offered…a lot of people come down here at night,” says Burton.

For Specialist Ryan Jesse - stationed at Fort Benning - he says soldiers will think twice after seeing another in uniform.

“It keeps things in check. It avoids thing getting out of hand which happens a lot with soldiers unfortunately,” says SPC Jesse.

The patrols will last about five hours, ending at 3am (EST) shortly after the bars close.

This is not the first time the City of Columbus has enlisted the help of military courtesy patrols, but it has been years since the practice was used.


What a bad idea.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Two US drones for Misratah vs Russian arms, Chinese intel for Qaddafi

Both of Libya’s fighting camps are taking delivery of a surging influx of weapons shipments and military personnel – each hoping to use the extra aid for breaking the military standoff in its own favor, debkafile’s military sources report. Thursday, April 21, President Barack Obama authorized a pair of armed Predator drones to help the rebels break breaking the siege of Misratah, while British, French and Italian military officers headed for rebel headquarters in Benghazi, part of a package of arms and military equipment from the US, Britain, France, Italy and Qatar.

On the other side of the Libyan divide, China, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and Serbia are keeping the pro-Qaddafi camp’s arsenals stocked with new hardware along with combat personnel from Eastern Europe and the former Yugoslavia.

Building up in Libya is a confrontation that recalls the 1999 war in Yugoslavia (Serbia today) when NATO’s four-month Operation Noble Anvil hammered Yugoslav forces to force their retreat from Kosovo. The Serbs too were backed then by clandestine Chinese-Russian support in tactical advice, intelligence, fighting men and arms.
Just like 12 years ago, our military sources report that from mid-March, hundreds of “volunteers” – professional soldiers ranking from colonel down to corporal – have joined the army loyal to Qaddafi. Calling themselves “nationalists” operating in paramilitary organizations without the knowledge of their governments, these foreigners claim they have come “to repulse the Western-Muslim onslaught on Qaddafi’s regime.”

Of course, they are handsomely paid from Muammar Qaddafi’s plentiful war chest. One group says it is in Libya for unfinished business with the West, especially the United States, for their role in the Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts.

China is helping the Libyan ruler with arms, mostly through African neighbors, and intelligence on NATO strikes in order to limit the damage they inflict (a service like that performed for Serbia in the 1990s). Beijing has a stake in helping the Libyan ruler after being informed that the Obama administration seeks to sever Chinese-Libyan oil ties before Beijing sinks tens of billions of dollars in Libya’s transformation into its primary oil and gas supplier on the African continent.

Hence the pair of armed drones which the US president decided Thursday to contribute to rebel strength in Misratah, the only town the rebels are clinging to in western Libya. The Predators are intended doubly to break Qaddafi’s siege of the town and destroy the Chinese electronic intelligence and weapons systems deployed around it. The NATO bombardment of a large ammunition dump near Tripoli on April 14 aimed at destroying the latest Chinese arms arrivals.

Echoes of the Balkan Wars were also resurrected by the rebels’ determination to hang on in Misratah and replicate the long Sarajevo siege which eventually drew the United States into the conflict.

debkafile’s military sources point to four major difficulties still confronting the next, intensified, round of Western coalition operations in Libya:

1. Pushing Qaddafi too hard could split NATO between is West and East European members;
2. The alliance is short of fighter-bombers for blasting the arms convoys destined for government forces in western Libya and lacks the precision bombs and missiles for these attacks. These shortages have forced NATO to limit its air strikes for now. A larger number of US Predators than the two authorized might have altered the balance. However, these armed pilotless aerial vehicles are in short supply owing to their essential role in US operations in the Afghan, Yemeni and Somali war arenas.
3. It is not clear that the UN Security Council resolution mandate extends to this kind of attack. The Russians criticize the Western alliance almost daily for exceeding its mandate.
4. In view of this criticism, Washington, London, Paris and Rome are careful to label their war assistance to Libyan rebels as “non-lethal military aid” and the military personnel helping them as “military advisers” – raising memories of the euphemisms used in previous wars.
The trouble is that all the additional military assistance the West is laying on is barely enough, say debkafile’s military experts, to maintain the current stalemate against the Qaddafi regime’s boosted capabilities – certainly not sufficient to tip the scales of the war.
Qaddafi holds one major advantage: His army can absorb foreign assistance without delay and almost seamlessly, whereas Western aid drops into a pit of uncertainty with regard to the rebel groups and their chiefs. The military advisers arriving in Benghazi first need to guide the opposition’s steps in fighting Qaddafi’s forces, then form the rebels into military units and teach them how to use the weapons they are receiving.

It could take months for regular units to take shape under the direction of British, French and Italian military personnel who, too, are not necessarily working in harness.


Khamenei’s warning seen as rebuke to Ahmadinejad

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader warned Saturday he will intervene in the government’s affairs whenever necessary in a rebuke to President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for challenging the clerical leader’s all-encompassing authority.

Their most recent confrontation involved Ahmadinejad’s dismissal last week of the country’s powerful intelligence minister, whom Ayatollah Ali Khamenei then quickly reinstated in a slap to the president.

Ahmadinejad, who has said in the past that Khamenei was like a father to him, has enjoyed strong support from the supreme leader, especially in the tumultuous period after his disputed re-election in 2009. At times, though, he has defied the country’s most powerful figure.

Some have accused the president and his allies of trying to amass more power and challenge Khamenei’s ultimate authority in the run-up to parliamentary elections next year and presidential elections in 2013.

“I won’t allow, as long as I’m alive, an iota of deviation of this massive movement of the nation,” Khamenei said in a speech broadcast on state TV Saturday.

“In principle, I have no intention to intervene in government affairs ... unless I feel an expediency is being ignored as it was the case recently,” he said, referring to the dispute over the intelligence minister.

Khamenei, who was addressing hundreds of Iranian citizens in his residence in Tehran, said he was right and he would stand by his words.

“With the help of God, ... I firmly stand by our right stance,” he said.

Intelligence Minister Heidar Moslehi was forced to resign last week after apparent disputes with Ahmadinejad. The president publicly accepted his resignation but Khamenei ordered him to remain in the Cabinet.

In a sign of mounting tensions, Ahmadinejad has reportedly refused to give in to the order and has not invited Moslehi to the latest Cabinet meeting.

The escalating dispute with the supreme leader will likely overshadow the remaining two years of Ahmadinejad’s presidency. Ahmadinejad’s gamble appears to be aimed at setting up a confidant to become the next president, analysts say. He needs to control the Intelligence Ministry in order to influence the next parliament as well as who becomes the next president, they say.

Khamenei is believed to be intent on helping shape a new political team, absent of Ahmadinejad loyalists, to lead the next government.

Without meaningful political parties in Iran, unpredictable political factions (groups) have emerged before elections. Khamenei, analysts say, feels threatened by a single political faction remaining in office for more than eight years.

The dispute has also pointed to a potential weakness in the heart of Ahmadinejad’s government, as its base of support shrinks among parliament members and others.

A statement signed by 216 parliament members — more than two-thirds of the 290-seat chamber — warned Ahmadinejad Wednesday that he cannot disobey Khamenei, who has the last word in all state affairs.

Hard-liners consider Khamenei to stand above the law and be answerable only to God.

A conservative news website,, said lawmakers might summon Ahmadinejad to parliament for questioning if he does not back down. If they do, Ahmadinejad would be the first president to be called to parliament to answer questions since the Islamic Revolution 32 years ago.

The dispute became public when hard-line media published the text of Khamenei’s order to Moslehi to remain in his job. In a humiliation of the president, Khamenei didn’t write to Ahmadinejad because the president ignored the supreme leader’s written order two days earlier, according to conservatives websites.

Traditionally, the supreme leader must approve the appointments for the ministers of foreign affairs, intelligence, defense and interior.

Conservatives have praised Moslehi for cracking down on the opposition after the disputed 2009 presidential election and discovering the mysterious Stuxnet computer virus, which made its way into Iran’s nuclear and industrial sites.

He may have angered Ahmadinejad by firing a deputy who is an ally of one of the president’s confidants, Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei.

Mashaei has criticized Iran’s intelligence services for what he said were failures to predict the political upheaval sweeping the Middle East.

Arab News

Fighting grips besieged Libyan city after Gaddafi regime’s ‘ultimatum’

Tripoli, Saturday

Intense fighting gripped Misrata today, overwhelming its hospital with casualties after Muammar Gaddafi’s regime gave its army an “ultimatum” to take the besieged Libyan city.
The United States, meanwhile, said it carried out the first drone strike in the more than month-old conflict.

At least 10 people were killed and 50 wounded in the Misrata street battles that came after Nato air raids struck near a compound in the capital Tripoli where Gaddafi resides.

“Since eight o’clock this morning, we have received 10 dead and 50 wounded, which is usually the number for a full day,” said Doctor Khalid Abu Salra at the main Hikma hospital in the western port city.

We’re overwhelmed

“We’re overwhelmed, overwhelmed. We lack everything: personnel, equipment and medicines,” he said.

Ambulances pulled up outside the hospital every three or four minutes, also bringing in wounded soldiers loyal to Gaddafi, as paramedics frantically wiped blood off stretchers.

Misrata has been the scene of deadly urban guerrilla fighting between pro-Gaddafi forces and outgunned rebels for more than six weeks.

Saturday’s upsurge in the fight for the port city came after Gaddafi’s government said it had given its army an “ultimatum” to stop the rebellion in the city, 200 kilometres east of the capital.

Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said: “There was an ultimatum to the Libyan army: if they cannot solve the problem in Misrata, then the people from (the neighbouring towns of) Zliten, Tarhuna, Bani Walid and Tawargha will move in and they will talk to the rebels.

“If they don’t surrender, then they will engage them in a fight,” he told journalists.

Hamed al-Hasi, a colonel coordinating rebel fighters at the western gate of the crossroads town of Ajdabiya in the east, said the decision meant the insurgents were beginning to win the war.

“This is the first nail in the coffin of Gaddafi. This means the Libyan army is no longer capable,” he told AFP.

The United States carried out its first Predator drone strike in Libya in the early afternoon on Saturday, the Pentagon said, declining to give details on the targets or location.

Earlier, Nato strikes hit a patch of bare ground opposite Gaddafi’s Bab al-Aziziya residence in central Tripoli, and what looked like a bunker.

Authorities who took foreign correspondents there said they were “a parking lot” and “sewers.” Anti-aircraft fire rang out as ambulance sirens wailed.

Allibya television said the capital was “now the target of raids by the barbaric crusader colonialist aggressor,” a term the Gaddafi regime uses for Western forces.

The official Jana news agency reported two people died in Nato raids late Friday on the Zintan region southwest of Tripoli where stepped up fighting has taken place with rebels who hold several towns.

Nato warplanes continued to overfly Tripoli on Saturday.

Kaim accused Washington of “new crimes against humanity” after US President Barack Obama authorised deployment of missile-carrying drone warplanes over Libya for what his administration called “humanitarian” reasons.

He also hit out at a senior US senator’s visit to Benghazi, the rebel capital in the east, saying the Transitional National Council did not represent Libyans and had “no authority on the ground.”

John McCain, a Republican senator who lost the presidential race to Obama in 2008, earlier held talks with TNC leaders, urging the international community to arm and recognise the rebel body.

Daily Nation