Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Al Jazeera Thrown Out Of Algeria

Albawaba.com reports that jihadi TV station Al Jazeera has been forced to shut down their activities in Algeria. Normally we don't condone any infringements on freedom of the press, but Al Jazeera is no ordinary news station, inciting hatred and acting as a platform for terrorist networks like Al Qaeda, and any other group who holds a grudge against the West or holds hostages.

According to AFP, local newspapers had speculated that the station's Algerian branch would be temporarily closed down, saying that the authorities had "not appreciated" a debate aired on Aljazeera lately, questioning President Abd al-Aziz Butaflika's national reconciliation program.

Other newspapers speculated that the suspension of Aljazeera's activities was due to the coverage it gave to a blast at the Hamma power station in Algiers on 21 June. The authorities claimed the explosion was probably accidental but it was later claimed by the GSPC, the country's largest Islamist group.
Meanwhile, the Washington Times writes on operations by Algeria's security forces in three different provinces, following the kidnapping and murder of two civilians earlier. The operations resulted in five terrorists' deaths.
The sources said two civilians who were kidnapped two days earlier were found dead Sunday in the province of Blida, south of the capital. A fireman was killed when a bomb concealed under one of the bodies exploded as he tried to retrieve it.
The Times does not report on whether they pertained to the GSPC.

Also, Algeria's Liberte newspaper (French) writes on a successfull operation against one of GSPC's emirs, Difaïri Halim, alias Abou Abdellah Ilyas and his assistant. Both terrorists were killed in the operation, which unfolded in the night of 28-29 June. The article also writes on other GSPC commandos still active, among which a commando claiming the Hamma electricity plant explosion as a GSPC bombing, through their website.

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Foro Social Calls For Demonstration -A Day Too Late

You got to hand it to Bremer and Alawi, their transit of power two days ahead of schedule has all the detractors of a free Iraq in a tail spin. For a report on how the Arab press has been treating the handover of powers, see Iraqi blogger Hamorabi's, excellent reporting.

In Madrid, the extreme-left Foro Social has called for a demonstration tonight in Madrid, calling for "Independence and Self-determination for Iraq and Palestine". Obviously, they're late on Iraq, and wrong on 'Palestine'. They're calling for more 'resistance' against the Iraqi government and Israel.

If they seem so keen to allign themselves with the likes of Moqtada Al-Sadr, Al-Zarqawi and Hamas, why don't they just say so? If they truly believe that terrorism can and should be defended, why not present their case like that for all to see? Or better yet, why don't they take the first flight out to Jordan, from which they can choose their destination, Fayullah or Gaza? I think the Mehdi Army just lost some ten thousand grunts, in case Al Qaeda scares them too much, and I hear that the Al Aqsa Martyr's Brigades in Gaza are short of chiefs nowadays?

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Spain's Anti-Terror Fight In 2003

The Grupo de Estudios Estratégicos (GEES) recently published a one-page summary of terrorist activity in Spain in 2003, and the government's efforts in combatting it. It includes graphs and clearly shows that ETA can be a thing of the past soon, if the current government does not make the mistake of 'negotiating' a truce or whatever. This may seem odd, with ETA metaphorically lying on the floor bleeding and waiting for the kill, but the current socialist government's dependence on radical separatist parties, specifically from Catalonia and the Basq Province (although ironically, moreso from the Catalan ERC and even PSC, who are converting themselves as the real power brokers at the moment), does not exclude this in my mind. The summary is critical where it comes to fighting Islamist terrorism (confusingly translated as Islamic Jihad terrorism, Al-Zawahiri's merged Egyptian branch of Al Qaeda):

The conclusion to be drawn about the fight against terrorism in Spain in 2003 is very positive regarding ETA and extremely insufficient with regards to the Jihad terrorist cells. The decline of ETA clearly indicates that it is possible to defeat a deeply rooted organization by making use of the instruments of the State of Law as long as the fight is prioritized. It is also critical the concurrence of the major political forces to prevent terrorists from taking advantage of the differences among the political parties. A third instrumental token is international cooperation.

Nevertheless, the threat posed by the Jihad terrorism was not correctly appraised and as a result it was not prioritized as appropriate. International cooperation, which was pivotal --as long as the number of involved countries is concerned—did not reach the degree of relevance that Spain and France have achieved in the cooperation against ETA.

Read it all. Makes for a quick where-are-we-now on Spain's anti-terrorist effort.

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Morocco Police In Gunfight With Casablanca Bombers

Morocco's state news agency Maghreb Arabe Presse reports that they've arrested three wanted terrorists, and killed a fourth, all presumably linked to last year's May 16 terrorist attacks in Casablanca.

Confusion over Hamma Power Plant Explosion

Hours after an explosion rocked the Hamma power plant, outside Algiers last night, speculation has started about the origins. The government line is that it was an accident, several newspapers are considering a terrorist attack.

But on Tuesday morning, newspapers put forward the possibility of an attack, citing anonymous witnesses and "observations", such as the large crater visible in the pavement in front of the power station and the fact the perimeter wall of the installation had collapsed "towards the inside."

In the previous post, the Algerian government claimed to have eliminated most of the GSPC's leadership in military actions over the last weeks. We'll have to see if this has been a defiant reaction or indeed just an accident.

Algeria Kills GSPC Leader

Middle East Online reports that Algeria's armed forces succeeded in killing Nabil Sahrawi, leader of Al Qaeda linked Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.

Nabil Sahrawi was reportedly shot dead along with four other GSPC leaders including one of his deputies, Abi Abdelaziz, alias Okacha El-Para, in the mountainous Bejaia area east of the capital Algiers on Friday.

The shooting took place near the village of El Kseur, where the army has been carrying out raids after 12 troops died in an ambush there early this month, television quoted an armed forces statement as saying.

The official news agency APS is quoted as saying that the GSPC leadership now has been "completely neutralised".

Let's hope this is true, although experience tells us that to eradicate GSPC for good, it's funding along with its current leadership need to be halted, too. We recall a hefty ransom paid by the German government last year?

Moderate Wahhabist Imam in Madrid ?

The imam of the Centro Cultural Islámico de Madrid, widely known as the M30 Mosque in Madrid (after the Madrid beltway it's located at, it's Europe's biggest mosque and wholly funded by, you guessed it, Saudi Arabia, and run by the Muslim World League, the exporters of Wahhabism worldwide), Moneir Mahmoud, is an interesting fellow. Sunni, Egyptian, 44 years old, he is Islam's 'respectable' face in much of the Spanish press. Spain has approximately 500 thousand practicing muslims legally living within its borders, and the relationship with Islam has always been different from other countries. Once muslim Al-Andalus, Spain reclaimed the south during the 800 year 'Reconquista', which finished in 1492 with the throwing out of all Muslims (and Jews, by the way) out of the country. I guess Columbus got all the press that year -my favorite joke when it comes to this early example of ethnic cleansing.

But back to Mahmoud. I've come across an online interview in Spanish, which I translated to the best of my abilities (with links to the original page where found), which make for interesting reading. After the March 11 attacks, much like happened in the US, people started to wonder about Islam, and about any perceived relations with Islamist terrorism. May 4, the new Socialist interior minister, José Antonio Alonso launched a proposal to a new law which would put all religious institutions under government scrutiny, allowing for scrutiny before sermons would take place, in effect re-introducing censorship. Obviously, the public storm this has caused (99% of the country is Roman Catholic which saw its sermons censored under the Franco dictatorship) probably makes this idea dead in the water. But interestingly, Mahmoud wholehartedly supports the idea, saying that some three years ago he already asked the then PP government to start 'regulating' mosques specifically. The interview is more of an online Q&A session, sponsored by the El Mundo newspaper, held May 19, 2004. Try and see for yourself if this sounds like Wahhabi islam to you:

1. Q. I have a profound respect for Islam and it seems ignominious to me that they would take advantage of a religion so tolerant, for terrorist acts so in contrary with its spirit. However, according to what has been said after March 11, the terrorists recruted followers in the mosques. What feeling does this give you? Is there nothing you can do? Isn't there a way to know, to recognize them? Like with all things, education is the most important tool...
A. Wherever you go, you can find some terrorists, in any place, within any religion. We need to understand the causes of terrorism and also each person's position. You can't call all muslims terrorists, you can't throw them all on the same heap.

2. Q. The responsable religious leaders of the Albaicín mosque chose not to sign a petition condemning the March 11 attacks, because in their opinion the attacks were political and not religious. What do you think? Thank you.
A. I don't accept that opinion because the savage massacre of March 11 was not a political crime, it was carried out in the name of religion and a lot of people use religion as a bridge to reach their objectives.

3. Q. Looking at the political situation in Islamic countries, it would seem that Islam is incompatible with democracy. Is this true?
A. Never ever. We need to go back to Islam's history. Al Andalus was a great example of tolerance and democracy between the three monotheist religions. You need to distinguish between Islam as a religion and muslim countries. Those countries, without a doubt, need more democracy and more freedom. Returning to the prime source, the Coran, and the second, the sayings of the profet, we will find a lot of verses which speak of freedom and respect of humanity.

4. Q. What signs could you look at to find any possible terrorists in your Centre?
A. Never ever will a terrorist set foot in the Centro Cultural Islámico M30. If I'm around, he will find a very tough rival. Never ever. In the Centro Cultural I know of not one extremist, I don't feel there ever was, and if I know one I would need to correct him to bring him to moderation.

5. Q. How can Islam be reconciled with a modern state based on rights, when Islam discriminates against women, puts additional taxation on those who are not muslim, preaches persecution of unbelievers, institutes 'an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth' as the rule of law, and finally is an ideology, backward, xenofobic, racist, discriminating and against everything that has been established by advanced ethics?
A. Islam is valid in any place and time. When muslims were in Spain, there was a sort of parliament, the kings of Germany, Holland and England would send their sons to study the sciences with the muslims. Islam is not against modern civilization. The woman, specifically, enjoys a very high standing in Islam. It is true that it has a bad reputation, because people mix the customs of some muslims with the Islamic belief. It's true, there are bad customs with some men in Islamic countries, but it is not Islam's fault. They have the same rights, study, work, there is no difference between them in Islam.

6. Q. They say that the M30 mosque is under the influence of wahhabism, something supposedly because of the Saudi financing. Is this true?
A. Before judging, we must understand, learn, and afterwards any person may judge. Most people don't know what is Wahhabi. It is a movement to correct some bad ideas from Islam of threehundred years old and from a distinct location. In that time, most people idolated statues, amazed at them, and they were very ignorant. This branch sprung to correct their beliefs, outside of politics. I'm not Saudi, I'm Egyptian. What's more, I have studied in Egypt (Cairo) and Spain (Universidad Autónoma), and lastly, I would never accept that anyone would manipulate me to say what they would want. I say what I think.

7. Q. Do you know or have you known any friend of the March 11 terrorists? Did you know any?
A. No friend, no. But the M30 mosque is the biggest of Spain, and more than two thousand people come every Friday. To my conferences, chats, come a lot of people. I'm very well-known, but I cannot know everybody. Some have come, yes, like the others. And when I learn of any strange thoughts, I have to give my counsel. But the mosque is like a government building, it's open to everyone. I'm not a policeman.

8. Q. Good day. What do you think of the expulsion orders lately given out to fundamentalist imams in France? Do you think they need to do the same thing in Spain?
A. About three years ago I have asked for the formation of a Supreme Council of muslim wise men, ulemas, to stop any imam that isn't qualified, as a security valve. The minister of justice disapproved of it. It's hard to find [an imam -V-man] who is extremist.

9. Q. Recently, we saw a video in which Sarhane, the Tunisian, translates for you during a wedding you held in the mosque. Did you also not know who was Sarhane or of his radical tendencies before giving him work?
A. Sarhane was a very friendly young man five or six years ago, he didn't have any extremist thought, he was normal, studied, talked with everyone. In the end he changed, but in the beginning he was normal. To me it was a surprise, I cost me to believe what he did. At that wedding a Spanish woman got married, he was invited, translated a few lines about marriage in Islam, nothing more.

10. Q. What is in your opinion the cause of the upsurge of so many streams of fundamentalism within Islam?
A. The causes of terrorism are many. Firstly, the injustice in this world, which pushes some youngsters to combat it with other injustices. Also there is the state terrorism, the economic inequalities between societies and ignorance. A lot of people talk in name of religion, but they are not qualified. There is no dialogue.

11. Q. I would like to know how someone from Spain could get started with Islam. Not as religion, but as a theological study.
A. In the Centro Cultural I have a lot of activities, the Friday sermon at 12.30pm, a meeting for Spaniards, from 1pm to 2pm, and also, on universities there are Arab studies departments, on the Autónoma and the Complutense universities. In the Centro we have a lot of books about Islam. And I personally am available to receive any person to answer his questions.

12. Q. What do you think of Moqtada Sadr?
A. I'm not Iraqi, I don't know him, I can't judge him without knowing him. I don't really know what he believes. I only know he's a Shiite militia leader in Iraq, there are a lot of people with him, but there are some wise men who don't accept him.

13. Q. I've read parts of the Coran and feel indignified, as a woman, about the conditions and rules of conduct which are described in the Book about their rights and the way men are supposed to behave around them. What of this is really applied and what do they teach Islam's believers with respect to this chapter?
A. I don't really understand what you refer to exactly. In the second sura of the Coran it says that women have the same rights and the same obligations as men. You have to treat them well, this is the end of that Chapter. the Profet never ever in his life beat a woman.

14. Q. What is the standing of Bin Laden in the Islamic world?
A. To muslim wise men, Bin Laden is no wise man [as in Ulema -V-man]

15. Q. Does the Islamic world hold any kind of conference or council, much like the Catholic church does, to unify criteria about interpretations of the Coran's contents? More than anything to avoid, amongst others, the wrong interpretations of holy war for example.
A. There does not exist in Islam a anything which is called holy war. I dare the whole world to bring me a verse which says so. War in Islam never is Holy. Basically, man is peaceful. The Coran says you may not attack. God says that He does not love agressors. War in Islam is for defense only, not for attack. The phrase Holy War came from the time of the crusades in the Middle East. In Islam it's called Al Yihad. Reading the Arabic dictionary you'll find the meaning of the word: any effort to do good. This is Jihad in Islam. There are two types of Jihad. The greater, which deals with the soul, and the other, for defense.

16. Q. Bearing in mind that Islam in theory is a respectful religion, practically in no country its believers respect other ideologies. How do you intent to solve this matter? Is there any initiative put in place?
A. Never. I'm Egyptian and in our country live approximately 10 million Christians, and I've never felt that there's any difference between muslims and orthodox Christians. The Christians in Egypt enjoy democracy and truth more than muslims who live in the western world. For instance, a Christian who lives there can listen to the church bells toll before the call from the mosques. I don't know other countries well enough. In Morocco, the Jews live without problems, in Lebanon, Syria.

17. Q. To which current in Islam do you belong? If you don't belong to any, which do you feel closest to?
A. I'm Sunni, which is the biggest branch in Islam. According to the Coran, I believe that Islam is good for any place, the problem is not the texts, but their interpretation.

18. Q. In some magazine we saw photos of types like Yusuf Galán or Osama Darra --arrested in 2001 for their belonging to Al Qaeda-- handing out extremist propaganda at the doors of your mosque. Perhaps you did not know what they were doing?
A. Like I said before, the mosque is like a city hall, it's open, I can't control everything. They had their documentation in order, they were legally in Spain, does that mean that Spain allows terrorists on its soil? You can't judge like that. The Tunisian had a scholarship at the university. Do universities protect terrorists?

19. Q. I'm not familiar with Islam, that's why I'd like to ask you, what is your role in the mosque?
A. We have a a lot. There is an interior role and an exterior. The Centro forms a brigde between cultures and thoughts, a bridge of peace, cohabitation and tolerance. Also, we need to help a lot of muslims in not straying from the path, to give a good image of them to the Spanish. I alqays tell them they are ambassadors of their country and a standard bearer for their religion. We also have a social role, we help poor families, they come to collect food. I lead the prayers, specifically on Fridays. From dawn till night I answer questions of muslims. I perform wedding services, divorces, I give advice whenever there are family or social problems.

20. Q. Do you call the police if you notice that any of the persons attending 'your mosque' have extremist ideas? Thank you.
A. Absolutely. If I know of anyone that wants to do harm against the innocents who are anywhere, especially in this country which we share, I have as a religious obligation and ethic to defend it. That is a religious answer, you have to be clear.

21. Q. Is Islam fundamentally compatible with modernity?
A. They're not opposed. Islam has lived for 1,400 years in a lot of countries around the world without any problem. We live normal, like anybody. There are no good civilizations or bad ones, we have to share.

I'll try and limit my comments, because I have lots. To start of the Q&A, Mahmoud professes the typical apologetism for terror. There are no root causes for terrorism, nothing can soften the verdict on a terrorist that kills and maims.

As a reminder, the Muslim World League which employs Mahmoud, stated as its objectives for its 4th Islamic General Conference, titled Islamic Ummah & Globalization:

To show the role of governments and Islamic organizations in serving the Muslims worldwide and to strengthen the relation between them

To assure that The Islamic Shareah is suitable for all times and everywhere and to work in implementing it

The first point is an interesting one, since Mahmoud was about the only one in Spain which applauded interior minister José Antonio Alonso's plan to control Spain's mosques, a plan which was met with large opposition from churches and opposition parties, left and right, referring to a step back to Franco's censorship on sermons held in Catholic churches during his life.

What interests me most about this sought after 'linkeage' between Islam and government control, is that in effect it would put a foot in the door of establishing a ministry of Religious Affairs. Maybe it will start like in France with a Muslim Council, but think about who would sit on such a council? Government appointees or elected officials? Elected by all Spaniards, or just muslims? And if such a body establishes rules of what is acceptable Islam within Spain, does this not in effect imitate all the Middle East's Ministries of Religious Affairs? And by doing so, is Spain not becoming a 'muslim' country? What if the government or council says one thing about a fatwa or whatever? There's no Pope or central authority within Islam, so who's to say that the opinion won't be disputed by some imam or ulema?

My worry about instituting councils or taking it even further (though politically unthinkable -at least for now) by appointing a minister for religious affairs, is that it is one major step ahead in Wahhabism's quest for intimate linkage between governments and Islam. It is a perspective that I haven't seen investigated before. Moneir Mahmoud in my opinion is 'posing' as the soft voice of moderate islam, but his ties to Wahhabism just don't click to me. His references to his Egyptian background somehow inoculating him from Wahhabism are to laugh at, if it weren't so sad. Muslim Brotherhood ring a bell to anyone?

Maybe if asking Mr. Mahmoud about his opinions of Anwar Sadat is too confronting, perhaps they can ask him why Islam can't regulate itself but needs this government control so bad?

hat tip to Dr. Dré!

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Guinea Accuses Spain Of Coup Plot

South Africa's Mail and Guardian reported yesterday that Equatorial Guinea's Obiang feels more than a little unsure about his future. As Guinea's importance to the world's oil markets grows, so does his worry about some foreign country changing his regime (and a regime it is, by all standards) to be replaced by something more, well, democratic.

Monday, June 14, 2004

GSPC Violates 'Accord'

We're hoping that US president George Bush got a chance to talk with Algeria president Abdul Aziz Butaflika during the expanded G8 summit at Sea Island, Georgia. Algeria has suffered greatly from Islamist terrorism over the last twenty years, which intensified greatly after the elections of December 1991, which the Front for Islamist Salvation won, which led to a coup by the country's military and calling of further elections. The party's military wing (why is it that these parties always have military wings?), the Islamic Salvation Army terrorized the country until 2000, when under a national reconciliation program it disbanded. The GSPC is an offshoot of the Salvation Army and continued, along with other splinter factions, its struggle for the formation of an Islamist State in Algeria. It has connections with Al Qaeda, and operates out of bases in the east of the country, Morocco, Mauretania and, until recently, Mali.

Arabic News.com writes on the recent attacks against government forces, and note the moral equivalence the reporter seems to draw by referring to the 'cycle of violence':

However, the Algerian President Abdul Aziz Butaflika achieved a great success in a second Presidential term of office in the recent presidential elections as he had built his electoral campaign on the principle of national reconciliation and putting an end to the cycle of violence which has been disturbing the country since 12 years.

So terrorize a country long enough, and reporters -this in a country not famous for its freedom of the press- will start to put the two on the same heap, terrorism and fighting it.

It is a sad case of a wholly mismanaged country which was on its way to reforms, but too little, and too late, allowing for the 1991 election results and subsequent indefinite postponement of democracy. Similar arguments are being waved at us by Saudi Arabia and Pakistan at the moment. 'Yes, we know we're a bunch of dictators, but look at the alternative if we were to hold elections tomorrow' or something similar. And it's true, the alternative would not be pretty, and although under the guise of democracy would not bring about any hopes the Algerian people would have. The alternative would be the sort of 'enlightened dictatorship' that Morocco has, in which a Good King leads his people -with the iron fist to still back it up- to a moment in which elections would bring democracy without throwing the country into the Islamofascist column.

So memo to Arabic News.com, terrorists kill, mothers, daughters, sons, soldiers of a regime, but they still kill and won't stop when they've killed all the soldiers. Don't make the mistake of putting the two on the same level by calling it a cycle of violence. And the next time you hold elections (and there will be a next time I can guarantee you), exclude parties that have a military wing. Much like Spain forgot in 1977, and confused ETA's struggle with a struggle against Franco, and found itself with Batasuna in Parliament, ETA's political wing, defending ETA's killing -which went on after the country's move to democracy in 1977.

Tunisia Moves Towards Freedom Of Press

Overlooked, but nonetheless interesting enough to note here all the same. Arabic News.com notes on May 29 that president Ben Ali of Tunisia announced the establishment of a national center for translation, to bridge the gap between Tunisian thinking and the rest of the world. At the same time, some 120 journalists formed what the article refers to as the first independent trade union, aiming to defend press freedom and working conditions.

Just another reminder that the War on Terror is sowing the seeds of civil society in a lot of Middle Eastern countries nowadays.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Mali Army Chases GSPC Out Of Country

Agence France Presse reports that Mali has been successful in routing Al-Qaeda linked Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat or GSPC. The report makes no mention of where they were routed to. See also this nice background piece on Frontpagemag.com.

BAMAKO, June 9 (AFP)
The Malian army has chased out the last of a group of Islamic extremists who crossed into the country from northern neighbour Algeria last year, President Amadou Tomani Toure has told reporters.
Citing a report from the army, Toure said Tuesday at a press conference to mark the second anniversary of his election: "For the last three or four days, no more armed Islamic terrorists from the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) ... are in northern Mali."
The report said the army had "dismantled arms caches" built up by the radical group in Mali, Toure added.
The fight to break up Islamic extremist groups in Mali was being waged "in close collaboration with Mali's neighbours," he said, without giving details.
The Sahel desert country borders Algeria to the north, Niger to the east, Burkina Faso to the southeast, Ivory Coast to the south, Guinea to the southwest, and Senegal and Mauritania to the west.
A small group of GSPC fighters crossed into Mali from Algeria around one year ago, when they forced a group of European tourists kidnapped in southeastern Algeria to trek across the desert.
The tourists, most of whom were German, were eventually released in Mali, reportedly in exchange for a hefty ransom, allegedly paid by the German government.
The GSPC faction that kidnapped the tourists was led by GSPC number two Amari Saifi, better known as Abderrazak the Para.
In March, members of the group infiltrated Chad's northern Tibesti region from Niger, and clashed with the Chadian army.
The same month, Algeria, Chad, Mali and Niger stepped up cooperation in the fight against the GSPC, a source close to the Malian army said.
Some GSPC fighters, including Abderrazak, are said by security and diplomatic sources in the Chadian capital Ndjamena to have been captured by Chadian rebels in Tibesti. That information has been confirmed by the German federal prosecutor's office in Karlsruhe.
The Chadian rebels have said they are negotiating the possible transfer to Algeria of their captives with the Algiers government.
The GSPC is included on a US list of terror organisations said to be linked to the Al-Qaeda network of Saudi billionaire Osama bin Laden and is one of two movements waging an armed insurrection against Algeria's secular government.
Last year, the radical Islamic group kidnapped 32 Austrian, Dutch, German and Swiss tourists as they trekked in Algeria's southern Sahara desert, and held them for between three and six months. One, a German woman, died in captivity.

Again, I cannot stress enough the importance of the German government's paying of millions of dollars in ransom money to the GSPC. If this money doesn't flow back to Europe in the form of terrorist attacks, then surely it will be (and we reported on this before) used to further destabilize or perhaps even topple on of the Sahara countries' governments, paving the way for new Al Qaeda bases on our doorstep.

Spanish Troops Will Not Return To Iraq - Ever

Spanish press agency EFE is reporting that Spain's troops will not, whatever the umbrella, return to Iraq. Responding to reporters' questions on Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's and US president Bush's proposal to deploy NATO troops in support of the U.N. Security Council resolution 1546 placing's Iraq's security needs under U.S. control, foreign minister Moratinos had this to say:

Moratinos fue preguntado por la propuesta italiana para que la OTAN asuma un papel preponderante en Irak, idea que el ministro consideró que sería "un error" porque "la mejor manera" de acelerar el proceso de normalización del país es que las fuerzas extranjeras "salgan cuanto antes".

Moratinos was asked about the Italian proposal under which NATO would assume a leading role in Iraq, an idea which the minister considered to be "an error" because "the best way" to accelarate the process of normalization of the country would be that the foreign forces "would leave as soon as possible".

So, a country which suffers from daily insurgent attacks by remnants of the old regime, mixed with a presence of Iran-backed fighters, Mad Mullah Al-Sadr's militia, Al-Qaeda's terrorists, Al-Zarqawi's terrorists and then some with guns and RPGs, is best left to its own devices (which it has very little still)?

And to think that even Iraq's new interim foreign minister Hoshyar Zebari asked only six days ago for an open-ended committment from the coalition, for at least 160,000 troops to stay and keep the peace.

No, Moratinos knows what's good for the Iraqis.

Tuesday, June 08, 2004

Moratinos: Spain Brought End Of Iraqi Occupation

This new government is getting wackier by the minute. El Mundo is reporting that Spain's Foreign Minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos (Formerly the EU's Middle East envoy, Yasser Arafat's biggest buddy in Europe) today assured that "Spain's decision to pull out its troops out of Iraq was the detonator (his words, how, sick?) which has now brought us to the end of the occupation."

So that's the story now? Hm, let me see. The CPA always intended to hand over to an interim government before June 30, as repeated on numerous occasions by President Bush? As referred to by Al-Zarqawi in his quest for civil war? Not according to Moratinos:

El ministro insistió en que la posición española ha sido "un instrumento para volver al multilateralismo"

The minister insisted that the Spanish position has been "an instrument for the return to multilateralism"

The article goes on to say that Moratinos affirmed that his government is committed to the future of Iraq, who it sees as essential to the region's stability and security, with interests to the Iraqis, the Middle East and Europe.

Well, it seems they've managed to paint themselves into yet another corner here. Didn't Zapatero previously say that Spain's troops would remain in Iraq if supported by a UN Security Council resolution? To reverse himself two weeks after winning the elections into pulling out without waiting? And now to explain its pull out as the catalyst resulting in this UN resolution?

And meanwhile they stay committed to the Iraqis' safety. Must be some pretty good binoculars and scopes they have with the infantry here...

'Mad Dog Of The Mideast' Speaks On Reagan Death

Colonel Muamur Ghadafi of Libya, the formerly terror-sponsoring country without generals, regretted that Ronald Reagan died without ever having stood trial for the bombing of Tripoli, Benghazi and some tent camps in 1986, killing Ghadafi's adopted daughter, along with some 100 others.

The bombing, of course, was in response to Tripoli's support for international terrorism, and specifically the bombing of the La Belle discotheque in West-Berlin in 1986, in which two American servicemen died, along with a Turkish woman. Over 230 people where wounded, of which many seriously.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Al Qaeda Announces New Attacks

Al Qaeda have released an unconfirmed statement that threatens attacks on Western airlines, possibly on the Arabian peninsula, and calls on Arabs to avoid contact with Westerners.

Is it just me, or are they starting to move more and more openly against the House of Al-Saud? Have they seen how easy the price of oil can be influenced by killing Westerners housed in their compounds in Khobar? Are they packing up and leaving Iraq, to bring home their struggle? It would make sense if you'd take the Al-Zarqawi letter into mind, who gave a fixed window for staging a civil war in Iraq:

"It is our hope to accelerate the pace of work and that companies and battalions with expertise, experience, and endurance will be formed to await the zero hour when we will begin to appear in the open, gain control the land at night, and extend it into daylight, the One and Conquering God willing. We hope that this matter, I mean the zero hour, will [come] four months or so before the promised government is formed. As you can see, we are racing against time. If we are able, as we hope, to turn the tables on them and thwart their plan, this will be good. If the other [scenario] [happens] – and we seek refuge in God – and the government extends its control over the country, we will have to pack our bags and break camp for another land in which we can resume carrying the banner or in which God will choose us as martyrs for his sake."

Sahara New Front In War On Terror

The Washington Times reports today that The Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), made famous for its kidnapping of European tourists last year, has bought heavy arms and GPS equipment with the $7.3 million Germany allegedly paid for the release of its and other European citizens. A sum that equals a quarter of the defense budget of a country like Niger, so it should go a long way in their struggle to topple one of the waivering governments in the region.

The Washington Times goes on to say that the (see Pan-Sahel Initiative) opening of the new front, in which US Special Forces take part, has already resulted in the capture of the GSPC's leader:

The Army plans to spend $125 million over the next five years on its Trans-Sahara Counter Terrorism Initiative, aimed at preventing groups allied to al Qaeda from establishing a foothold in the region.
American Special Forces are being deployed discreetly in the region — which covers eight countries and thousands of miles of desert — to train, advise and equip pro-U.S. government troops.
In a significant breakthrough in March, the U.S. military helped orchestrate the ambush and capture in western Chad of Amari Saifi, the Salafist group's leader.
Brahim Tchouma of the Movement of Democracy and Justice, a pro-U.S. rebel group that is holding Saifi, said they were prepared to hand the former Algerian paratrooper to the United States or its allies.


Reuters reports meanwhile, that the GSPC claimed responsibility for a daytime raid on an Algerian Army convoy, so money well spent (Thank you, Schroeder).

This is our backyard, folks. Oh and no, as far as we know, Spain is not involved in hunting down the terrorist groups responsible for the March 11 attacks on Madrid.

Richard Clarke In Madrid

It must be like stealing candy from a baby, Richard Clarke's European Book Tour. In today's ABC online edition, Clarke reiterates all the silly -contradictory- stuff he said before in the States. With the notable exception that here, people generally believe him.

I mean, for most of us this is old stuff. For the Spaniards visiting, take a look here, and here. What is interesting though, is that the interview seems to forget all about Clarke's role prior to 9/11, and focuses on every turn on Iraq. Almost like desperately seeking some honor in its retreat after the Socialists caved in to Al Qaeda's demands to pull out of Iraq (and perhaps circle-reasoning it into the right thing to do with regards to the terrorist attacks of March 11). The article ends:

Clarke cree que su política en Irak y su fracaso para contener el terrorismo podría volverse en contra de Bush, sobre todo tras los informes que próximamente se presentarán en las dos Cámaras del Congreso, elaborados por legisladores demócratas y republicanos, sobre las armas de destrucción masiva en el país árabe. En todo caso, considera que el principal cambio que ha vivido el país en los últimos meses es que ya se puede criticar al presidente por su política exterior sin riesgo a ser tildado de "antipatriota".

Clarke Believes that his [Bush's -V-man] policies in Iraq and his failure to contain terrorism could backfire on Bush, specifically because of the reports that will soon be presented in both chambers of Congress, made by both democrats and republicans, about the weapons of mass destruction in the Arab country [Iraq -V-man]. In any case, Clarke thinks that the first change the country has seen in the last months, has been that now it is possible to criticize the President on his foreign policy without the risk of being called "anti patriotic".
If you ask me, this refers to the 9/11 Commission, rather than a combined House commission on the search for WMDs in Iraq. Oh and the 'anti patriotic' comment? I'm not even going to dignify that, we all know who Dick Clarke is.

In Memoriam: Ronald Wilson Reagan (1911-2004)



When I heard of the news of Ronald Reagan's death, two things immediately came to mind. First, his farewell speech in which he famously mentions that shining city upon a hill:

"...And that's about all I have to say tonight, except for one thing. The past few days when I've been at that window upstairs, I've thought a bit of the "shining city upon a hill." The phrase comes from John Winthrop, who wrote it to describe the America he imagined. What he imagined was important because he was an early Pilgrim, an early freedom man.

He journeyed here on what today we'd call a little wooden boat; and like the other Pilgrims, he was looking for a home that would be free. I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, windswept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity.

And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it, and see it still.

And how stands the city on this winter night? More prosperous, more secure, and happier than it was eight years ago. But more than that: After 200 years, two centuries, she still stands strong and true on the granite ridge, and her glow has held steady no matter what storm. And she's still a beacon, still a magnet for all who must have freedom, for all the pilgrims from all the lost places who are hurtling through the darkness, toward home.

We've done our part. And as I walk off into the city streets, a final word to the men and women of the Reagan revolution, the men and women across America who for eight years did the work that brought America back. My friends: We did it. We weren't just marking time. We made a difference. We made the city stronger, we made the city freer, and we left her in good hands. All in all, not bad, not bad at all.

And so, goodbye, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America."
The second thing I kept thinking of, it was right before the D-Day commemoration when I learned of his passing away, was that during his life, he never saw a monument erected to all the victims of Communism he set free. No commemorations of the millions of victims of Communism, like we commemorate the heroes and the victims of the war against nazism and facsism.

Think about it.

The Condolance Register can be signed electronically at the Reagan Library's website.



Wednesday, June 02, 2004

Awarding Retreat

Ok, this is an outrage. Not only is it a kick in the shins to all service men and women of the Spanish armed forces to give the country's highest military order (the Gran Cruz al Mérito Militar) to a civilian, but it's like sooo communist for a president of a government to bestow military honors on a member of his own government, for executing his own policies.

And then the kicker: He was awarded the order by Zapatero for his services (this is one month after the guy's in office!) and... the speedy retreat of the Spanish forces from Iraq!

Ouch. No wonder the public outrage that followed made defense minister José Bono decide to not accept the order, after assuring that this did not in any way mean that the retreat from Iraq wasn't honorable.

Scary amateurism.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

1st post

we're baaaack