Peace Like A River

It was a wide river, mistakable for a lake or even an ocean unless you'd been wading and knew its current. Somehow I'd crossed it... Now I saw the stream regrouped below, flowing on through what might've been vineyards, pastures, orhards... It flowed between and alongside the rivers of people; from here it was no more than a silver wire winding toward the city. - Leif Enger, Peace Like A River

Tuesday, July 25, 2006


Update (6/19/2007): I've opened this blog, Peace Like A River, back up again at a new url, in order to focus on foreign affairs and international matters there. I'm still at TvM, but this blog is better suited for focusing on these topics. See you there! Here's the url:

Update (1/19/2007): I've settled into a new blog at Truth v. the Machine. See you over there!

Update (1/10/2007): The domain name for Security Watchtower seems to have expired, and so the blog is unreachable. I'm not sure if it will be revived.

I have a change to tell you about, gentle readers.

I've decided to step away from Peace Like A River, put the old blog out to pasture, and do my blogging full-time at Security Watchtower. Here's the URL:

Security Watchtower:

C.S. Scott, of SWT, is the person I do the Monday briefings with, and this is a terrific opportunity to get into a group blog, and be a part of a great blog.

My responsibilities at work are changing, some other responsibilities are changing, and I have less and less time to devote to blogging. I'd like to do more in-depth, analytical posts like I typically do, but I can't always do enough new material for you. At SWT, with other bloggers there, I'll have less pressure to constantly come up with something.

I think I'll be a good complement to SWT. I tend to look at areas of the world not widely covered in our media, and SWT does a top notch job of covering the war on terrorism and other issues. Between us, I think we'll give a good view of what's going on in the world.

So, I thank you, all of you who stop by here. I'm grateful you've granted me your time and attention. I hope you'll follow me over to SWT. I'm not really going anywhere, I'll just be at a new URL.

To my fellow MOBsters, I'll still be hanging around your blogs as I normally do.

I'll see you over at Security Watchtower.

Iran's Central Asian tour

Iran's president Mahmud Ahmadinejad is visiting some Central Asian countries this week.


Mohammad Reza Djalili, a professor of international politics at the Geneva-based Graduate Institute of International Studies, says Ashgabat and Tehran have enjoyed good relations since Turkmenistan emerged from the collapsed Soviet empire a decade and a half ago.

"There is no problem between the two countries," Djalili tells RFE/RL. "Turkmenistan and Iran have built good relations. And the policy of Turkmenbashi about the neutrality and limitations of [the] influence of the Unites States in Turkmenistan is something seen [as] very good through Tehran's eyes."

Djalili says the two countries have also enjoyed good trade and economic ties.

"In the economic field, there is a good exchange between the two countries. And there is a good collaboration about [natural] gas," Djalili says. "Iran has imported for internal consumption gas from Turkmenistan. I think it's good neighbors' relations."

Iranians are the second-largest buyers of Turkmen commodities -- primarily natural gas -- after Russians.

An opposition Turkmen website,, quoted an Iranian Embassy source in Ashgabat as saying there was $1 billion in trade between the two countries in 2005.

Mutual relations are guided by some 150 agreements on a wide range of issues.

Turkmenistan ranks among the world's top 15 gas producers. It sells Iran natural and liquefied gas, as well as polypropylene (a thermoplastic polymer) and electricity.

In 2005, Iran bought 5.8 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas. Tehran has suggested it would like to more than double that figure -- to 13 billion cubic meters a year.

The terms of Turkmen gas exports were expected to arise during the visit -- particularly since the two countries share an interest in developing new transit routes for gas and other goods.


President Ahmadinejad of Iran is due to launch his three-day Tajik visit with his arrival later today in the capital, Dushanbe.

It is Ahmadinejad's first visit to Dushanbe since taking office in August and is part of his two-country Central Asian tour that began in Turkmenistan.

Two major projects to bolster Tajikistan's infrastructure highlight Iranian-Tajik cooperation. President Ahmadinejad is expected to attend a ceremony to open a 5-kilometer tunnel through the Anzob Pass, connecting the capital with the northern Tajik city of Khojand, that was constructed with Iranian assistance.

Tehran has also pledged to invest up to $180 million in a Tajik hydroelectric power plant. Construction of the Sangtuda-2 facility was officially launched in February, although Iran is reportedly seeking additional financial guarantees from the Tajik side.

In Dushanbe, political analyst Ismoil Rahmatov told RFE/RL's Tajik Service that cooperation between the two countries is considerable -- and it is gaining momentum.

"Cooperation between Tajikistan and the Islamic Republic of Iran has been increasing lately. [Iran] has built the Anzob tunnel. The Iranian side has also committed itself to building a number of roads [and] the Sangtuda hydroelectric power plant, and to set up a number of small companies that will put out locally produced [Tajik] goods. At the present stage, Iran is playing a greater [economic] role than any other country in the region."

Tehran has shown an interest in Tajikistan since that post-Soviet republic's first days of independence. When many other countries scaled back embassy staffing as Tajikistan's civil war broke out in the early 1990s, Iran increased its diplomatic presence.

The Iranian government provided financial aid to the Tajik government during some of its darkest days of civil war (1992-97).But it also provided safe haven to some of the Islamic leaders from the United Tajik Opposition that was battling Tajik government forces.

In Search Of... XV

It's time for another installment of In Search Of... These are some of the more amusing web searches that have stumbled across my blog. (The previous installment is here.)

-backyard torture room
-different guestbook of peoples in the usa village 2007
-2006 demark citizens email guestbook with age 38 above
-her bladder beer
-free b - 17 bomber ground strike shooting games
-suspicious deaths in clackmannanshire

Monday, July 24, 2006

Monday Winds of War Briefing

Welcome! Our goal at Winds of Change.NET is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Friday. Monday's Winds of War briefings are given by Security Watchtower and Peace Like a River.

Top Topics

* Suicide bombers killed two coalition soldiers and six Afghan civilians in two near-simultaneous blasts Saturday in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, officials said. A purported Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attacks, which came as NATO prepares to take command of the volatile region. Eight more soldiers were wounded when a suicide bomber rammed an explosive-laden car into a coalition vehicle, said Maj. Scott Lundy, the spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition forces. He refused to disclose the nationality of troops killed and wounded.

* The Sunday Times is reporting on the existence of a fifth suspect in the 2005 London bombings, who was talked out of participating in the attacks on that morning. Gateway Pundit has additional commentary and analysis.

* Somalia's Islamist militia briefly fought government forces on Saturday -- the first clash between the two sides and one that many Somalis fear may signal a slide to war in the Horn of Africa country. Government militia seized and set on fire two "technicals" -- heavily armed pickup trucks that are Somalia's version of tanks -- in fighting in the remote Qoryooley district, an Islamist source told Reuters.

* A Hezbollah rocket attack on Sunday killed 2 Israeli citizens and wounded twelve others in the Haifa area. Hezbollah has reportedly fired 2,200 rockets into Israel during the latest fighting. The attacks on Haifa are reported to be originating from Hezbollah units in the southern Lebanese city of Tyre.

Other topics today include: Bahrain anti-terror legislation; Ahmadinejad warns Israel; Terror plot thwarted in Tel Aviv; Hezbollah sleeper cells; Saudi reaction to Hezbollah; More on fighting between Israel and Hezbollah; IAF strikes Gaza rocket factory; Clashes between Turkey and PKK; IAF airstrikes in Lebanon; Miami suspect pledged oath to al Qaeda; Canadian citizen named al Qaeda conspirator; Paracha gets 30 years; U.S. Congressional support for Israel; Tensions between Georgia and South Ossetia; Russia opposing resolution on Iran; Attack in Kandahar; Fighting in southern Afghanistan; Dutch commandos kill 18 Taliban; Building the Afghan police force; Violence in Kashmir; Developments in Mumbai terror attacks; The communist insurgency in Philippines; Terror suspects to appear in Australian court; Bulgaria intercepts Iranian bound shipment; Ethiopian troops move into Somalia; and more.

Iran & the Middle East

* In Bahrain, the Shura Council approve new anti-terror legislation after the law was passed last week in parliament at the prompting of the nation's leadership. Councillor Ahmed Buallay said terrorism was a plague, adding that the "government has come up with this law to protect the people and the nation from any harm."

* Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is calling for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) in order to seek a solution to end Israel's offensive against Hezbollah. In a separate speech, the Iranian leader warned Israel to pack up and go.

* On Friday, Israeli police arrested three terror suspects who were plotting a suicide terror attack in the city of Tel Aviv.

* Hizbullah "sleeper" terror cells set up outside Lebanon with Iranian assistance have been put on standby and are likely planning attacks against Jewish and Israeli targets throughout the world. Daveed Gartenstein-Ross has additional commentary on the report.

* As a result of Iran's growing influence in the region, Saudi Arabia is expanding their military inventory and capabilities. John Burgess at Crossroads Arabia has more commentary on the Saudi reaction and why they didn't leap to support Hezbollah.

* Michael Slackman reports on the resentment in Iran over support the government sends outside to Hezbollah. "Of course I am angry," says Hamid Akbari, a deliveryman, "All our income is going to Palestine and Hezbollah." According to the Israeli Intelligence Chief, Iran has invested $ 100 million in the current Hezbollah operation.

* Israel continues to insist that Hezbollah be disarmed as outlined in UN Security Council resolution 1559, and said they would be open to the possibility of an EU peacekeeping force in Lebanon.

* Bill Roggio has commentary and analysis on the IDF move into southern Lebanon. On Saturday, IDF forces seized the Lebanese border village of Maroun al-Ras from Hezbollah forces.

* According to reports, the United States is utilizing several diplomatic tools in an attempt to peal Syria away from Iran, including the use of Saudi and Egypt officials to convince Syria to turn on Hezbollah. There are reports Syria has softened its stance and may be willing to offer locations of al Qaeda cells in Lebanon, but that remains questionable.

* An explosion in Gaza on Sunday left four dead, after Israeli forces reportedly shelled the residence of a Hamas operative in the Shajaiyeh district. The IDF says the residence was a missile and rocket storage facility. On Sunday, nine more Qassam rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel.

* On Friday, Israel activated thousands of IDF reservists for emergency duty as the fight against Hezbollah wages on. Israel's standing army of about 186,500 troops can jump to 631,500 with rapid mobilization, according to figures from the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies. Daniel McKivergan highlights some of the challenges confronting the IDF.

* The United States is urging Turkey to be patient in dealing with Kurdish terrorists that operate on both sides of the Turkish-Iraqi border, and says there will be "more concrete results shortly" while vowing to "move against the PPK." Meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Bush pledged his support to help Turkey in the face of attacks by Kurdish rebels.

* Turkish troops on Friday killed five militants of the banned separatist Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) in a clash near Turkey's border with Iran. Four Turkish soldiers were wounded in the fighting.

* On Saturday, the Israeli Air Force struck 90 targets linked to Hezbollah in Lebanon, including buildings, tunnels, rocket launchers and communication systems.

* According to Israeli military sources, Hamas has developed and fired a Grad rocket, a variant of the Katyusha with a longer range. Last week one of the rockets was reported to have hit and exploded 14 miles inside of Israel.

* Hezbollah continues to insist on a prisoner exchange with Israel, and according to at least one Lebanese lawmaker, the Shi'ite terrorist organization is seeking third party support to negotiate the deal. Israel refuses to accept any prisoner swap and calls for the unconditional release of the two IDF soldiers.

America Domestic Security & the Americas

* One of seven men accused of plotting terrorist attacks against Chicago's Sears Tower and government buildings in major cities pleaded not guilty Friday despite his own admission in writing that he took an oath of loyalty to al-Qaida. Lyglenson Lemorin, 31, entered the plea during a brief hearing in federal court after he was transferred to Miami from Atlanta, where he was arrested in June. Another hearing is set for Aug. 8 to determine if he should be released on bail.

* The Bush administration on Thursday named a Canadian citizen with high-level ties to al Qaida, Abousofian Abdelrazik, as a "specially designated global terrorist" and launched action to seize his U.S. financial assets. Abdelrazik, who also holds Sudanese citizenship, "is known to have been a member of an extremist cell in Montreal" and had close associations with Ahmed Ressam, the convicted millennium bomber, the U.S. Treasury Department said in a statement.

* A Pakistani convicted of supporting an al Qaeda plot to blow up U.S. gas stations was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Thursday in a case Washington has called a victory in its war on terror. Uzair Paracha, 26, has said he falsely confessed under the pressure of three days of interrogation by the FBI, but U.S. District Court Judge Sidney Stein said Paracha "knew what he was doing" in lending support to al Qaeda.

* Russia has signed a contract on supplies of military planes and helicopters to Venezuela worth over $1 billion.

* On Thursday the US House voted 410-8 to agree to the resolution in support of Israel.

Russia, Caucasus & Central Asia

* Russian humanitarian shipments will begin arriving in Lebanon on Monday, and officials are calling on Israel to allow the aid shipments to reach their destination safely.

* Security service in the South Ossetian republic arrested a man in Tskhinvali, who reportedly acknowledged he was preparing a number of acts of terror against the officials of the Ministry of Defense. South Ossetian authorities are claiming the man was acting on behalf of the Georgian secret service.

* According to UN diplomats, Russia is opposing key parts of a U.S.-backed Security Council draft resolution on Iran’s nuclear program, threatening international unity on how to handle Tehran’s defiance.

* This weekend, Russia proposed holding a meeting of foreign ministers of the world’s leading nations and regional states in Beirut or Rome, in an attempt to stop the bloodshed in the Middle East.

Afghanistan & Southern Asia

* At least five Afghans were killed in the southern city of Kandahar on Saturday in a suicide attack, which took place shortly after a car bomber hit U.S.-led coalition troops, a police official said. Another police official said he saw five foreign casualties caused by the first attack. One local civilian was also killed in the initial attack, he said.

* Afghan and coalition forces have kept up a hunt for rebels who briefly captured two southern districts last week, killing 13 Taliban in the latest strikes. Another 15 were wounded in the operations, including air strikes, around Helmand province's Garmser and Naway-i-Barakzayi districts, provincial spokesman Moheedin Khan told AFP Saturday.

* The commander of Dutch armed forces says Dutch commandos in southern Afghanistan have killed 18 militants in the hills overlooking a Dutch military camp. General Dick Berlijn says there were no Dutch casualties in the 10-day operation around Camp Holland, which is under construction near the town of Tarin Kot in Oruzgan Province.

* A soldier from the US-led coalition was killed in eastern Afghanistan when a reconstruction team base was hit by mortars and rockets, the coalition said. The soldier, whose nationality was not released, died before he could be medically evacuated from the base in Paktika province, a coalition spokeswoman said. "A group of extremists fired several mortars and rockets at the base in Sharan," Lieutenant Tamara Lawrence said. It not immediately clear how much damage the base had suffered, she said.

* Afghan forces killed 19 suspected Taliban rebels as they traded rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire Sunday with insurgents in volatile southern Afghanistan. The fighting in the southern province of Helmand took place nine miles south of Lashkar Gah, as police hunted Taliban militants, said Mullah Amir Mohammed Akhundza, the provincial deputy governor who led the operation.

* In other violence reported Sunday, police said three policemen were killed and three others kidnapped in a Taliban attack on a police checkpoint in southeastern Ghazni province. And a bomb blast on a highway in Khost province near the border with Pakistan killed one Afghan and wounded three others, police said. Two coalition troops and an Afghan troop were meanwhile wounded when a remote-controlled bomb struck a patrol in neighbouring Paktia province.

* Two Canadian soldiers and six Afghan civilians have died in a double attack by suicide bombers in the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan. The soldiers died, and eight others were hurt, when a car laden with explosives rammed into their convoy. Soon afterwards near the scene, a second bomber killed six Afghans.

* Security forces said they found a small bomb on the main road to the international airport in the Afghan capital after a similar device exploded close to the nearby US embassy overnight. The blast late Saturday, about 100 metres (yards) from concrete security barriers leading to the embassy, caused no injuries or damage, a spokesman for the NATO-led force that patrols the city told AFP on Sunday.

* British troops in southern Afghanistan are winning the fight against the Taliban but there is still work to do until the "tide turns", their commander, Brigadier Ed Butler, said. Butler, back in Britain on a brief tour to update colleagues on the operation, said officers in Helmand province were now comfortable with the number of soldiers available to them.

* In Afghanistan, anger over the slow pace of reconstruction is palpable nearly five years since a U.S.-led invasion force toppled the Taliban. Signs of progress are everywhere — rising wages, girls attending school, spreading cell phone networks, a new cross-country highway. But then there's the reality of a raging insurgency, weak governance and the extreme poverty faced by millions.

* An article by Vance Serchuk in the July 11 issues of The Weekly Standard looked at why Afghanistan is having trouble building up an effective police force.

* Here are the daily updates from the South Asia Terrorism Portal for Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

* A suspected rebel commander accused of staging over two dozen deadly attacks on tourists and other targets in Indian Kashmir has been arrested, police said. Police called the arrest a setback for militancy in Indian Kashmir, racked by an insurgency against New Delhi's rule since 1989.

* Soldiers and police clashed Friday with Islamic militants in Kashmir, killing three insurgents, police said, as a separate gunbattle raged elsewhere in the divided Himalayan region. The three militants were found dead in the village of Sursan, 70 kilometers (44 miles) south of Srinagar, the main city in Indian Kashmir, said the area’s police chief, S. P. Pani.

* Four people have been killed in three separate incidents in revolt-hit Indian Kashmir. An Indian soldier was killed Sunday when militants opened fire on an army patrol in the Gurez sector of the divided Himalayan region, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the summer capital Srinagar, army spokesman V.K. Batra said.

* The JK police today officially announced the arrest of one of Lashkar-e-Toiba’s key functionaries — Mudasir Gujri alias Raju — who is linked to the Lashkar’s Pakistan-based operational chief Abu al Qama. Police said Raju was the mastermind of the series of grenade attacks on tourists that killed nine people and the strike at a Congress rally in Srinagar.

* India dismissed Pakistan's offer to aid in the investigation of the Bombay train bombings with an official saying Friday that Islamabad has done nothing in the past when presented with evidence of terror networks on its soil. If Pakistanis "really want to convince the people of India that they are willing to work together with India against terrorism than they have to take some action immediately — and they can," Foreign Ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna told reporters.

* Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says India should not blame Pakistan for last week's bombings in Mumbai in which more than 180 people were killed. In a televised address, Gen Musharraf warned against unsubstantiated comments and hoped peace moves would continue.

* Three men have been detained in India along with a suspected senior militant in Kenya in the first arrests in connection with the Mumbai trains blasts that killed 183 people. Kenyan police said they detained Abdul Karim Tunda, one of India's most wanted men and a suspected organiser for banned Islamic militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

* The Pakistani authorities on Thursday ordered the evacuation of a northern area of the country, near the border with China, of tourists and foreigners after receiving intelligence reports of the possible presence of Osama bin Laden in the area. According to Arab daily al-Hayat, the presence of the al-Qaeda leader was reported in the extreme north of Pakistan in an area that borders China and Afghanistan. For this reason hundreds of tourists - most of them European - were made to leave the Chalinji Pass and the Wakhan corridor and the security forces closed all access to the area.

* Two days after India asked it to deport Dawood Ibrahim, Pakistan has maintained that the international terrorist is not on its soil and said he would be arrested straightaway if any proof of his presence is given.

* Despite repeated warnings by Central Intelligence agencies regarding intrusion of ISI agents in Bihar via Nepal, their influence has only widened in the districts bordering Nepal. Some organisations based in the Himalayan Kingdom have managed to sneak into the territories of Bihar to poison the minds of educated, but unemployed, Muslims so as to lure them into subversive activities.

Far East & Southeast Asia

* Australian Federal Attorney-General Philip Ruddock said that legislation introduced in the wake of the 2005 London bombings had been weakened because the ACT had not introduced complementary legislation on preventive detention of terror suspects.

* Defense Minister Brendan Nelson said Australia is considering sending 120 additional troops to Afghanistan, to join 300 already deployed there.

* A former Filipino Armed Forces chief on Sunday praised plans to split the Zamboanga City-based Southern Command headquarters into two to make it more effective in fighting communist insurgency and terrorism in Mindanao. "That’s beneficial because the military will now be more effective in handling the threats in Mindanao. That’s good at least the Southern Command will be more focus in addressing whatever problems as far as security is concerned," retired Gen. Narciso Abaya, a former Armed Force chief, told The Manila Times.

* Michael Richardson editorializes about North Korea's growing trade in terror and R.A. Allen looks at the Pyongyang-Tehran Missile Connection.

* Thirteen men accused of being part of a terrorist organization will appear in an Australian court on Monday, where prosecutors will outline their case against the group.

* Japan is looking towards playing a more active role in the Philippines, by funding infrastructure and other projects in the conflict torn southern region. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has already welcomed the move, expected to include construction of medical facilities, health care centers and schools.

* Communist rebels attacked a Filipino police station in Sorsogon Province on Saturday, killing one Coast Guard officer. Five rebels were killed in the engagement, and Filipino officials responded by vowing to crush the insurgency.

* The Association of Southeast Asian Nations met this weekend at a regional security meeting to discuss the situations in North Korea, Lebanon and Myanmar, and are expected to release a consensus statement on Monday.


* British intelligence continues to remain concerned that Hezbollah could target Israeli locations in the United Kingdom with terror attacks. In July 1994, Hezbollah drove a car bomb into the Israeli embassy in London, wounding 14.

* The leaders of Romania’s three main intelligence agencies resigned late last week after being summoned to a meeting with President Basescu to discuss the disappearance of Romanian businessman Omar Hayssam, who was accused of organizing the kidnapping of three Romanian journalists in Iraq, shortly before he was to be re-imprisoned.

* According to Berliner Zeitung newspaper, Russian and German intelligence services are using long-standing links to both Hamas and Hezbollah in a bid to win the freedom of three Israeli soldiers being held by terrorists.

* Bulgarian officials intercepted a shipment of ten boxes bound for the Iranian Ministry of Defense, containing radioactive material.

* The Albanian Finance Ministry has frozen the financial assets of Abdul Latif Saleh, a Jordanian businessman accused of receiving al Qaeda funds to establish a network in the Balkans.


* A Somali Islamist leader has ordered a "holy war" to drive out Ethiopian troops, after they entered the country to protect the weak interim government. "I am calling on the Somali people to wage a holy war against Ethiopians in Somalia," said Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys of the Union of Islamic Courts. Ethiopia denies that its forces are in the government's base of Baidoa, but a BBC reporter has seen them patrolling.

* Ethiopian troops moved into a second Somali town on Saturday to protect the country's weak, U.N.-backed government, angering the Islamic militia that controls most of Somalia and causing peace talks to collapse. About 200 Ethiopian troops, driving in pickup trucks mounted with machine guns, moved into Wajid and took control of the airport, meeting no resistance, witnesses said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals.

* Gunmen have killed 682 civilians, including a foreign journalist, in executions over the past year in Somalia, a local rights group said Sunday. The killings took place largely in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. Some came during battles for control of the city, others were due to clan differences, a few were kidnappings and some were for unknown motives, according to the report by the Dr. Ismael Jumale Human Rights Center.

* Africa continues to be afflicted with all sorts of scourges - and terrorism is at the top of the hit parade in a number of countries - Sudan, Somalia. Olivier Guitta has a piece in the Weekly Standard which he previews at the Counterterrorism Blog on the forgotten war in Algeria - with its own brand of Islamic fascist terrorists akin to al-Qaeda called the GPSC.

* Mark Mazzetti quotes unnamed Pentagon officials saying that the effort to combat terrorism in Africa and offset Chinese influence has been hampered by the slashing of funds to nations like Kenya.

* With Indian law enforcement agents en route to Kenya to pick up an alleged terrorist, Kenyan police said the man in custody might be someone else. Syed Abdul Karim, also known as Tunda, is one of the most wanted men in India and is reported to be the founder of Laskher-e-Taiba and the man behind a series of bombings in the 1990s.

The Global War

* It is only a "question of time" before Palestinian terror groups and other Islamic organizations in the Middle East target the United States both abroad and on the home front, Abu Nasser, second-in-command of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, told WorldNetDaily in an exclusive interview.

* The Bush administration has approved the sale of more than $6 billion worth of military platforms and equipment to Saudi Arabia. The Defense Department has notified Congress that the administration plans to sell helicopters, armored vehicles, communications systems and other equipment to Saudi Arabia. Officials said this would mark the largest Saudi arms purchase from the United States in more than a decade.

* The Bush administration and Congress have slashed millions of dollars of military aid to African nations in recent years, moves that Pentagon officials and senior military commanders say have undermined U.S. efforts to combat terrorist threats in Africa and to counter expanding Chinese influence there. Since 2003, Washington has shut down Pentagon programs to train and equip militaries in a handful of African nations because they have declined to sign agreements exempting U.S. troops from the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

* UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour criticized Israel over civilian casualties in Lebanon and indicated there could be "war crimes" taking place. According to Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, the country has "been torn to shreds."

Thanks for reading! If you found something here you want to blog about yourself (and we hope you do), all we ask is that you do as we do and offer a Hat Tip hyperlink to today's "Winds of War". If you think we missed something important, use the Comments section to let us know. For ongoing tips, email "MondayWindsOfWar", over here

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Somalia: slip sliding away

On Saturday, Islamic militias and government forces clashed for the first time, a worrisome step in a situation that has the potential to get worse.

Government militia seized and set on fire two "technicals" -- heavily armed pickup trucks that are Somalia's version of tanks -- in fighting in the remote Qoryooley district, an Islamist source told Reuters.

There was no word on any casualties in the clash, the first since Islamists captured Mogadishu from warlords on June 5, challenging the slim authority of President Abdullahi Yusuf's Western-backed government.

One of the sheikhs in the Islamic Courts has declared a "holy war" to drive out Ethiopian troops, which have entered Somalia in an effort to prevent the unrest in Somalia from spilling across the porous border into Ethiopia.

"I am calling on the Somali people to wage a holy war against Ethiopians in Somalia," said Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys of the Union of Islamic Courts.

Ethiopia denies that its forces are in the government's base of Baidoa, but a BBC reporter has seen them patrolling.

The UIC took control of the capital, Mogadishu, last month.

Since then it has consolidated its power over much of southern Somalia.

But Ethiopia is strongly opposed to the Islamists and has repeatedly warned that it will send its army into Somalia if the interim government is attacked.

On Wednesday, Islamist militiamen were reported to have advanced to within 60km (37 miles) of Baidoa. They have since withdrawn and deny planning to attack the town.

Ethiopian soldiers have in fact entered a second Somalian town.

Ethiopian troops moved into a second Somali town on Saturday to protect the country's weak, U.N.-backed government, angering the Islamic militia that controls most of Somalia and causing peace talks to collapse.

About 200 Ethiopian troops, driving in pickup trucks mounted with machine guns, moved into Wajid and took control of the airport, meeting no resistance, witnesses said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they feared reprisals.

Wajid is a U.N. aid base 46 miles southeast of the Somali-Ethiopian border. It is run by a clan-based administration not allied with either the government or the Islamists.

In response to the sheikh's threat, Ethiopia responded in kind.

Ethiopia has vowed to "crush" the powerful Somali Islamic courts, a day after they threatened a holy war against Addis Ababa, which they accuse of sending troops to protect Somalia’s weak interim government.

The warning came as witnesses reported an incursion of Ethiopian troops into a second Somali town close to Baidoa, the seat of the country’s toothless government, ostensibly to protect it from any advance by the Islamists.

The BBC has a page giving some background to the history of enmity between Ethiopia and Somalia.

Somalia has always maintained that Ethiopia occupies a part of its territory - the Ogaden region - ceded by British colonialists to Ethiopia.

Ethiopia disagrees and the failure of the Organisation of African Union (now the AU) to resolve the dispute led Somalia to declare war on Ethiopia in 1964. It also sponsored an Ethiopian rebel movement against the then-government of Emperor Haile Selassie.

But it is the 1977 Ethiopia-Somalia war that lingers more prominently in the minds of the people of the Horn of Africa.

The conflict was not only bloody but also costly to both nations and it did not in any way alter the situation in Somalia's favour.

It is also worth noting that as Somalia slipped into anarchy, the neighbours were sponsoring each other's rebel movements.

You know the nearer you are to Islamofascism, the more you're slip sliding away.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The stalwart Democrats

On Thursday the House voted 410-8 to agree to the resolution in support of Israel. One Republican (Paul) voted No. Seven Democrats (Abercrombie, Conyers, Dingell, Kilpatrick (MI), McDermott, Rahall, Stark) voted No. Also, four Democrats (Kaptur, Kucinich, Lee, Waters) voted Present.

As Forbes points out, it was a remarkable display of unity on foreign policy.

The House, displaying a foreign affairs solidarity lacking on issues like Iraq, voted overwhelmingly Thursday to support Israel in its confrontation with Hezbollah guerrillas.

The resolution, which was passed on a 410-8 vote, also condemns enemies of the Jewish state.

House Republican leader John Boehner cited Israel's "unique relationship" with the United States as a reason for his colleagues to swiftly go on record supporting Israel in the latest flare-up of violence in the Mideast.

Little of the political divisiveness in Congress on other national security issues was evident as lawmakers embraced the Bush administration's position.

So strong was the momentum for the resolution that it was steamrolling efforts by a small group of House members who argued that Congress's pro-Israel stance goes too far.

On Tuesday, Nancy Pelosi released a statement that was downright shocking in its tough talk.

I will support this resolution and urge my colleagues to do so as well. At a difficult time for the state of Israel, this resolution reaffirms our unwavering support and commitment to Israel and condemns the attacks by Hezbollah. The seizure of Israeli soldiers by Hezbollah terrorists was an unprovoked attack and Israel has a right and an obligation to respond.

As the fighting rages, it is imperative that the combatants take whatever steps they can to lessen risk to innocent civilians. The world knows too well the horrors of war. But there are ways to offer some degree of protection to civilians, and it is right to insist that those ways be chosen. Using civilians as shields by concealing weapons in civilian areas, as done by Hezbollah, is inconsistent with affording them protection, and this resolution properly condemns that action. Protecting civilians also means getting our citizens out of harm's way as quickly as possible. I urge the Bush Administration to expedite its efforts to bring to safety those Americans who want to leave Lebanon.

This attack would likely not have been possible without the explicit authorization of Hezbollah's main supporters, namely Iran and Syria. Hamas and Hezbollah are committed to the destruction of Israel, and Iran and Syria aid and abet efforts to achieve that goal. We must ensure that Iran and Syria understand the depth of the commitment of the United States to the state of Israel by using every diplomatic tool at our disposal.

Syria has repeatedly demonstrated it is a rogue state, which is why we passed the Syria Accountability Act more than two years ago. However, we must now fully implement all the sanctions spelled out in the legislation. In order to address the Iranian support of terrorists, I urge the passage of the Iran Freedom Support Act.

Although, careful inspection might reveal why the Democrats were so supportive of the measure, and why Pelosi acknowledged that *gasp* Syria and Iran are behind Hezbollah's terrorism.

First of all, it is Israel currently engaged in military action, not the US. So, the Democrats can easily say "Let Israel fight the terrorists." God forbid we fight terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere, but Israel has "a right and an obligation to respond" to acts of aggression against it. Israel is a freebie, an opportunity to look tough on foreign policy without having to commit the US to anything.

Second, Pelosi refers to the Syria Accountability Act. The penalties outlined in that Act were nonmilitary options, such as sanctions, and restrictions on exports and travel.

Also, Pelosi refers to the Iran Freedom Support Act, which I agree should be passed. That Act also calls for sanctions, and calls for support of democracy in Iran. No military options are outlined in that Act.

So, Pelosi refers to two good Acts, but neither involve the threat of military action on the part of the US.

The Democrats can be commended for supporting this resolution, but oh, if only they were just as supportive of US efforts to fight terrorism.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

India to put pressure on Pakistan

This comes in the wake of the train bombings in Bombay, which India believes was tied to support, in some fashion, to Pakistan.

From the Daily Times:

After declaring a tough stance against Pakistan in the wake of the Mumbai serial blasts, the Indian establishment is now in a dilemma over what “punitive steps” to take against Pakistan.

Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh has made the job more complex after his return from the G-8 meeting. Although Dr Singh has said that there is a need to reflect on relations with Pakistan, he has made it amply clear to his officials that he does not want permanent hostility, a source told Daily Times on Wednesday. Therefore, while a repeat of Operation Parakaram in 2001, when India deployed thousands of troops along the LoC and western border, is being ruled out, Indian officials are considering a series of diplomatic and political responses to convey an anti-terrorism message “with full force and full determination”, the source added.

The source said the first step being deliberated is to review the policy of supporting President General Pervez Musharraf, who was seen as the best bet for peace by a sizable section within the government. Security advisers are now asking the government to pay attention towards the exiled political leadership of Pakistan, the source said, adding that the advisers are betting more on PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif than the vocal pro-India leader Benazir Bhutto.

The source said the most important “punitive step” India could take against Pakistan is increasing engagement in Afghanistan and Central Asian countries. India is thinking not only of increasing its military strength to neutralise Pakistan’s strategic depth in the region, but also increasing financial assistance and indulge in other social activities in countries surrounding Pakistan. A move is also being made to increase the staff strength at the Indian consulate in Jalalabad, the source added. Islamabad has accused the consulate in Jalalabad of “subversive activities” in Balochistan and “undue” interference in the political affairs of the Northern Areas. The source said that this step would force Pakistan to retain and increase its military presence along the 2,500-kilometre Afghan border. He added that Indian officials believed that Pakistan had earlier decided to withdraw troops from the border to press them into action in Balochistan.

Pop quiz

Whether or not it's true, who says such things? Our friends or enemies? See if you can guess the correct answer.

From Reuters:

Iran's Hizbollah, which claims links to the Lebanese group of the same name, said on Tuesday it stood ready to attack Israeli and U.S. interests worldwide.

"We have 2,000 volunteers who have registered since last year," said Iranian Hizbollah's spokesman Mojtaba Bigdeli, speaking by telephone from the central seminary city of Qom.

"They have been trained and they can become fully armed. We are ready to dispatch them to every corner of the world to jeopardise Israel and America's interests. We are only waiting for the Supreme Leader's green light to take action. If America wants to ignite World War Three ... we welcome it," he said.

Iranian religious organisations have made great public show of recruiting volunteers for "martyrdom-seeking operations" in recent years, usually threatening U.S. interests in case of any attack against the Islamic Republic's nuclear programme.

But there is no record of an Iranian volunteer from these recruitment campaigns taking part in an attack.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Russia, Japan and the East Siberia pipeline

MosNews reported yesterday that Russia and Japan had come to an agreement over the building of the East Siberia-Pacific oil pipeline. Japan will help fund the construction.

Russia and Japan agreed on the project to build the East Siberia-Pacific Ocean oil pipeline, the Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said at a final press-conference at the end of G8 summit in St. Petersburg.

“Russia and Japan agreed to cooperate on the pipeline from East Siberia to the Pacific,” Junichiro Koizumi said, quoted by RIA Novosti. “It will be a mutually advantageous project.”

The pipeline is slated to pump up to 80 million metric tons of crude a year (1.6 million barrels per day) from Siberia to Russia’s Far East. The oil will then be exported to the Asia-Pacific region with a branch going to energy-hungry China.
Japanese Prime Minister’s words were supported by the Russian Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko who said Japan has offered to invest in oil production in Siberia in exchange for the speeding up of the construction of the Siberia-Pacific pipeline. “The decision has been taken to build the first part of the pipeline and the terminal,” Khristenko said, quoted by AFX. The Russian minister added, however, that the decision on the second part of the pipeline will be taken “when we have more information on the (oil) resources available in East Siberia”.

There's quite a bit of history to this announcement, which I talked about in this post.

In January, Putin announced that construction on the pipeline would begin this summer. Early on, the pipeline was seen as benefiting Japan, which made China nervous. China is oil-hungry too, and seeing all that oil sail by to its rival, Japan, irked China.

After much discussion (see my aforementioned previous post) Putin announced at the G8 summit last year that a rail branch would go from Skovorodino to China, and that it would be the first priority.

(A map of the proposed route can be seen here. Skovorodino is just above the shaded red area, the name, in Russian, looks like it starts with "CKOBOp".)

Obviously, that didn't sit well with Japan, who thought they were the first priority. Japan began to worry if the pipeline would ever reach the Pacific, and if the pipeline would instead end in China, or if China would get most of the oil.

In November, Putin tried to reassure Japan when he said the pipeline would indeed go to the Pacific.

Shortly thereafter, in an apparent quid pro quo, Japan said it would support Russia's entry into the WTO.

Russia hoped to receive support for entry into the WTO at the recently concluded G8 summit, but the US blocked it. Those talks are still ongoing, but note it wasn't Japan blocking the deal.

In March, Russia and China held a summit, and it was apparent Russia was still hesitant about fully supplying China's oil needs. Russia wants the business, but is still wary about providing the engine for a dominant China. At that summit, Putin did not clearly commit to building a pipeline to China itself.

Earlier this month, Transneft, the Russian pipeline company, said that China still had a strong interest in a branch off the East Siberia pipeline.

China's Ambassador to Russia Liu Guchang confirmed his country's strong interest in seeing a branch of Eastern Siberia - Pacific Ocean (ESPO) oil pipeline built to reach China.

"Cooperation between Russia and China in building an ESPO oil pipeline branch to China is of strategic importance. We are committed to this project and intend to cooperate fully with Russia in this matter," Liu Guchang said last Friday to the Interfax-China agency.

"The companies of the two countries are undertaking in-depth research and a TEO feasibility study to build an ESPO oil pipeline branch from Skovorodino to the Russian-Chinese border. Once the findings of the research are in, we will look into every possible option to partner up with Russia on that project," Liu Guchang said.

Part of the discussion surrounding the branch was if it would remain a rail branch, or if a pipeline would be built. Rail is a more expensive way to transport oil, so China would prefer a pipeline, if possible. The Chinese ambassador quoted above certainly mentioned a pipeline, not a rail branch.

And that is what is missing in this news about the Russia-Japan deal. What about this branch into China? Will a rail branch, or branch pipeline, still be built first? If Japan is kicking in a lot of money, has Japan now "bought" first priority? You'll notice the announcement only mentioned Skovorodino, which was where the rail branch was going to start from in the first place. Something to keep an eye on.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Britain: The BLA is a terrorist organization

In Britain, the Home Secretary has added the Balochistan Liberation Army to the list of banned organizations under new anti-terrorism laws. From The Times:

Two Islamist militant groups were banned by the Government yesterday. However, ministers failed to proscribe Hizb-ut-Tahrir despite a promise by Tony Blair a year ago.

Al-Ghurabaa and the Saved Sect are the first two organisations to be banned under new laws outlawing the glorification of terrorism.

John Reid, the Home Secretary, laid an order in Parliament making it a criminal offence for a person to belong to or encourage support for either group.

It will also be illegal to arrange meetings in their support or to wear clothes or carry articles in public indicating support for either group.

Last August the Prime Minister announced a hastily prepared package of anti-terror measures, saying: “We will proscribe Hizb-ut-Tahrir and the successor organisation of Al Mujahiroun.”

The banned groups are believed to be offshoots of Al-Mujahiroun, the militant organisation founded by Omar Bakri Mohammad. They were involved in protests this year against the publication of cartoons of the prophet Muhammad in a Danish newspaper.

Mr Reid is also banning two foreign groups, the Baluchistan Liberation Army and Teyrebaz Azadiya Kurdistan.

The GoB Exile blog reacted here:

In a major setback to the Baloch freedom struggle, Britain on Monday banned the Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA), invoking for the first time a new law against glorifying terrorism.

John Reid, the Home Secretary of U.K. issued an order in Parliament to make it a criminal offense for a person to belong to or encourage support for BLA. It will be illegal to arrange meetings in their support or to wear clothes or carry articles in public indicating support for BLA.

“I am determined to act against those who, while not directly involved in committing acts of terrorism, provide support for and make statements that glorify, celebrate and exalt the atrocities of terrorist groups,” Reid said.

“I am also committed to ensuring that those organizations that change their name do not avoid the consequences of proscription,” he said.

Government of Balochistan (GOB) in Exile protested the new law invoked by Britain, and insists that BLA is not a terrorist organization, but a resistance force, which is engaged in guerilla warfare with the Islamic Republics of Iran and Pakistan to liberate Balochistan. Freedom is a basic human right, and BLA is batting the oppressors of the Baloch nation to secure the freedom of the Baloch people.

A letter, which can be read in that post, was sent to the Home Secretary urging him to see the difference between "freedom fighters" and terrorism. An excerpt:

GOB (Exile) denounces all forms of terrorism, including state terrorism. As you know that Balochistan was forcibly occupied by Iran and Pakistan, and the Baloch people were oppressed ever since. They have struggled for their basic right of self-determination by fighting the Iranian and Pakistani forces to liberate Balochistan.

The Baloch are one of the oppressed nations of the world like the Kurds. Foreign forces, the Iranians and Pakistanis, occupy the Baloch territories. Balochistan is marginalized in every sense by its colonizers who are unwilling to resolve problems through political dialogue. Hence, like many other oppressed nations, the Baloch have revolted and are now demanding total autonomy. Such rebellion usually turns into an arms conflict between the "Goliath and the Giant".

Strong-arms tactics of the occupying forces usually results into a genocide-like condition for the oppressed people. This is what is currently happening in Iran-occupied and Pakistan-occupied Balochistan. Both the Iranian and Pakistani governments are systematically conducting "ethnic cleansing" to rid the Baloch race from their ancestral land, Balochistan. The Baloch have voiced their concern through political dialogue, but to no avail.

To the outside world, it is not always easy to see black and white. The rebel fighters in Balochistan do attack infrastructure such as bridges, railroads, and pipelines. And, Pakistani soldiers have been killed.

But, the rebel fighters do not attack civilians indiscriminately. They are nothing like the suicide bombers who routinely kill dozens in Iraq.

In April, Richard A. Boucher, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, was asked directly if he thought the Baloch fighters were terrorists. Boucher declined to go that far. Here is the transcript:

MIR: Ambassador, when they talk about the war against terrorism, many people in Pakistan say that is why the U.S. is ignorant about the situation in Balochistan, where the Baloch nationalists are involved in terrorism. So what is your view about that?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I don’t think we are ignorant of the situation. We’re certainly following it closely. As you know this has been violence that has occurred periodically throughout Pakistan’s history. We do think it needs to be solved, both, you know, with whatever military means are necessary but also in terms of the politics and economics of the region. And we are watching closely and encouraging the Government to find solutions.

MIR: Do you believe that the Baloch militants, that they are terrorists?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: I think that anybody that starts exploding bombs and shooting innocent people is a terrorist, but I don’t have any more detailed analysis for you than that.

MIR: Because some people ask the question why the Baloch [inaudible] National Army is not included in the terrorist list of the State Department?

ASSISTANT SECRETARY BOUCHER: That’s sort of a formal process that requires a particular examination of evidence over time. That’s not been done at this point. Whether it might at some point in the future I don’t, really can’t say now.