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"No Nation Left Behind" program, Part 5, AIPAC 2


Part 4

Reading AIPAC's litany of denials that it had anything to do with the coincident parade of electoral defeats of candidates that it disliked, reminds me of the protestations of one of the masters of serial insurance fraud, Rex DeGeorge, that he was innocent of a series of sunken yachts, insurance disability claims, burglary claims, and lost luggage. No matter what you think of AIPAC, you'll delight in the story of Rex DeGeorge who was finally brought to justice by a bright lawyer using the marine law principle known as "utmost good faith," i.e., "by not disclosing his prior losses when he applied for insurance [which if the insurer had] known about DeGeorge's losses [it] would not have insured the yacht."

The memorable line that I think applies equally to AIPAC is from the presiding federal district judge, J. Spencer Letts:

Noting [the vessel] Principe's tangled ownership, Letts told DeGeorge's lawyers: "You're asking me to put together unlikely plus unlikely plus unlikely plus unlikely plus unlikely plus unlikely plus unlikely, and then say the net result of all those unlikelys is likely."

Likely to be unlikely with AIPAC as well. AIPAC, like DeGeorge, would have to be another Joe Btfsplk, Al Capp's greatest jinx, for all those losses to have spontaneously happened. (Not to leave readers hanging, the resolution of DeGeorge's case is here.)

While the focus of this note is AIPAC, it is by no means the only pro-Israel organization to escape scrutiny. There is, for example:

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, though little known to the general public, has tremendous influence in Washington, especially with the executive branch. Based in New York, the conference is supposed to give voice to the fifty-two Jewish organizations that sit on its board, but in reality it tends to reflect the views of its executive vice chairman, Malcolm Hoenlein. Hoenlein has long had close ties to Israel's Likud Party… A skilled and articulate operative, Hoenlein uses his access to the State Department, Pentagon and National Security Council to push for a strong Israel. He's so effective at it that the Jewish newspaper the Forward, in its annual list of the fifty most important American Jews, has ranked Hoenlein first.

AIPAC and related Pro-Israeli proponents literally dwarf pro-Arab lobbyists in terms of contributions and political access.

Back to the present, it does appear that "the damage caused by the Franklin affair [and the indictment of two senior AIPAC officials under the Espionage Act] to the lobby itself is apparently reparable," but I agree with the assertion that the majority of US Jews - those "who are not active in the lobby but desire Israel's welfare" - will at least be forced "to cope with charges of "dual loyalty" and with the need to prove that they are no less patriotic than any other American." Given how many times that random queries have failed my Pollard Test, there is something to prove.

For its part, AIPAC has cut its employees loose and cooperate "after it became evident that the FBI had tape-recordings showing that Franklin explicitly said that the material was secret. AIPAC's assessment was that it would be difficult for the organization to continue working on Capitol Hill, and with the administration, while two of its senior officials are facing such charges":

AIPAC leaders have taken a series of steps to cut themselves off from the two former officials suspected in the case. Sources close to the case say the prosecution posed four conditions to AIPAC, which would guarantee that it would not be involved in the indictments: a change of working methods to ensure that such incidents don't happen again; the firing of the two officials and public disassociation from them; no offers of high severance or anything else to make it appear the two quit of their own volition; and no financing of their legal defense. AIPAC has abided by the first three conditions - and the severance pay offered the two was considered very low, considering the many years they worked for the lobby. But it is said to be helping with their legal fees, indirectly, through its own law firm.

One wonders if, once in court, the spurned staffers "will try to prove that they only did what was routine and conventional work for their organization."

No less a stalwart of the Jewish community than the Forward, the "voice of the Jewish immigrant," has mooted that "the goal of the probe is to compel [AIPAC] to register as a "foreign agent" representing the government of another country." Already registered as a lobbying group under the Lobbying Disclosure Act:

registering as a foreign agent would require Aipac to provide significantly more detailed information about its aims and activities to the government — thereby robbing the group of a key weapon: the ability to operate behind the scenes. Such a change would severely weaken the organization’s influence and fuel charges of dual loyalties against Jewish groups...

the shift would undermine Aipac’s standing as the chief grass-roots organization of American Jews who advocate for a strong American-Israel relationship into an entity that represents Israel in America. It also would play into the hands of Aipac’s foes, who for years have charged that the organization’s chief loyalty was to Israel rather than to the United States.

Even if an attempt to force Aipac to register as a foreign agent is unsuccessful, Jewish activists said, a public fight over the issue would damage the pro-Israel lobby and the wider Jewish community. "This is a real threat. If Aipac eventually has to become a foreign agent, that would mean the end of Aipac as we know it. But even if not, it will be ugly…"

Jewish activists say that even if the likelihood is low that a legal attempt to compel Aipac to register as a foreign agent will be successful, public focus on the issue could be damaging. "Any open debate of this issue could be damaging… Questions of loyalty will resurface, and this time such questions will have to do with the chief pro-Israel lobby in America."

While over 20,000 lobbyists are registered with Congress, in 2005 there were 455 actively registered with DoJ as foreign agents. "Although [FARA] enforcement [has] always been spotty, it is used by the government to closely monitor what foreign governments are doing in Washington. It does get the camel’s nose under the tent." Forward notes the "two chief tests for defining an organization or a publicist as an "agent of a foreign principal," are finances and control. The financial issue is dismissed out of hand as it "clearly does not apply to Aipac, which does not receive money from Israel." The control test deals with the "nature of the relationship between the American advocacy organization and the foreign government in question":

Legally, it would be difficult for the [US] to prove that Aipac must register as a foreign agent, experts say. "Lots of ethnic organizations throughout America are representing Americans who support foreign countries or political parties in foreign countries. None of those have in the past been considered foreign agents or required to register as such," said Tom Susman, a Washington lawyer who chairs the Ethics Committee of the American League of Lobbyists. Aipac, he said, "doesn’t advocate on behalf of the government of Israel, but the nation of Israel." Also, [Susman] pointed out, the law does allow for a certain degree of coordination with a foreign government. Therefore, "a substantial independence [of the lobbying group] is all that’s needed. Not total independence."

There certainly are burdens to FARA registration that an organization would like to avoid if it could:

Another part of foreign agents’ challenge comes from perceptions that are triggered because they have to register with the Department of Justice’s criminal division. "There is almost a negative connotation, like you are pulling something and using undue influence in some way," said a lawyer who advises several foreign clients on legal and business matters.

For those not seasoned in the process, such as PR companies hired to work on advertising campaigns, registering under FARA comes with a stigma. "You feel like, 'Oh my God, we are not criminals,'" said a PR specialist who, after the Sept. 11 attacks, worked on an ad campaign for a strategic Middle Eastern ally… "You lose your reputation once and that’s it. You represent a rogue state and, even if you follow the law, it does have an impact on your reputation."… One lobbyist working for a friendly Western government described the FARA process as "a nightmare and was reluctant to go through the rigorous accounting. Because the law’s reporting requirements are very strict — every means of communications, every meeting has to be detailed — some lobbyists actively seek exemptions or loopholes allowing them to register under the Lobbying Disclosure Act, which asks for less broad disclosure.

A FARA Q&A and a FARA Index, "an unofficial guide designed by FARA Unit personnel to assist a browser in finding parts of the statute" are recommended for those who wish to dig deeper.

Senator William Fulbright (see below, part 6) and former senior CIA official Victor Marchetti were unsuccessful in their efforts to bring AIPAC under FARA and the assent remains steep, but one should not give up hope. A 2004 poll by Zogby International in the wake of an FBI investigation of AIPAC staffers for "allegedly receiving classified information from a Pentagon official [Larry Franklin] and using this information on behalf of the government of Israel," asked if AIPAC should register as the agent of a foreign government and lose its tax-exempt status. Answering in the affirmative:

  • Strongly agree 44%
  • Somewhat agree 17%
  • Somewhat disagree 6%
  • Strongly disagree 6%
  • Not sure 27%

"By a five-to-one margin, people are much more likely to agree than disagree that AIPAC should be asked to register as an agent of a foreign government and lose its tax-exempt status. Three in five (61%) agree, including 44% who strongly agree. One in eight (12%) disagrees, and more than one in four (27%) are not sure."

Part 6

United States Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA)
FARA Index
unofficial guide to assist a browser in finding parts of the statute, not part of the 22 U.S.C. § 611

Foreign-agent lobbyists amid uproars, duck for cover
By Elana Schor and Roxana Tiron
The Hill
March 29, 2006

U.S. to indict two senior AIPAC officials under Espionage Act
By Nathan Guttman, Haaretz Correspondent
Last update - 23:24 30/05/2005

Leaders Fear Probe Will Force Pro-Israel Lobby To File as ‘Foreign Agent' Could Fuel Dual Loyalty Talk
By Ori Nir
December 31, 2004

Poll: Should AIPAC Register as the Agent of a Foreign Government?
Council for the National Interest
September, 2004

The Israel Lobby
The Nation
comment | posted May 23, 2002 [from the June 10, 2002 issue]

Pro-Israel and Pro-Arab Interests: The Money
The Center for Responsive Politics
Updated 4/24/2002

Propaganda and Disinformation: How the CIA Manufactures History
Victor Marchetti
The Journal of Historical Review, vol. 9, no. 3, pp. 305-320, 2001

Gordon Housworth

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"No Nation Left Behind" program, Part 4, AIPAC 1


Part 3

Parts 4,5 and 6 comprise an AIPAC trilogy

American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) describes itself as "America's Pro-Israel Lobby," priding itself on the NYT's assertion that it is "The most important organization affecting America's relationship with Israel." AIPAC is courted by all comers; Democrats such as Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Bill Clinton, Al Gore and Joseph Lieberman; Republicans such as Bush43, Condoleezza Rice, John McCain, Andrew Card and Newt Gingrich; and Israelis such as Ariel Sharon, Benjamin Netanyahu, Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak and Yitzhak Rabin.

It is useful to put AIPAC in context of lobbyist activity. Fortune has a good series on lobbying and lobbyists that I recommend. I quote from one here but the other three are cited below:

The Power 25 is a highly eclectic--almost curious--collection. From the 33-million-member [AARP], which polled No. 1 (to no one's surprise), to the ever controversial [Teamsters] (No. 25), and from the calculatedly quiet American Israel Public Affairs Committee (a remarkable No. 2) to the newly emergent National Restaurant Association (No. 24), the Washington 25 is as diverse as the nation itself. But it is more than that. It is a crystalline reminder that Alexis de Tocqueville was right more than 150 years ago when he observed that Americans were inveterate joiners who liked to cluster themselves into quasi-political volunteer groups.

Our survey rebuts one of the oldest axioms of lobbying: that campaign contributions buy power in Washington. While donations are still crucial (and are often abused, as the recent revelations about "soft money" excesses in the last presidential election show), they aren't the only keys to the kingdom. True, three of the top ten organizations owe their high rankings to their substantial campaign contributions [AIPAC included] But these days, interest organizations are valued more for the votes they can deliver. Most of the Power 25 have large numbers of geographically dispersed and politically active members who focus their energies on a narrow range of issues. In other words, they know their convictions and vote them. In this era of low voter turnout, that kind of commitment can mean the difference between victory and defeat in close elections, which translates into real heft on the legislative front. Few things are more important to a Congressman than getting reelected.

Fully half of the top ten groups in the FORTUNE survey were propelled there on the strength of their long-established grassroots networks… The affluence of an organization's members doesn't guarantee influence. Sometimes it has the opposite effect… In contrast, the groups with huge memberships that also have an intense self-interest in government payouts are disproportionately represented in the Power 25.

Populism is not the same as liberalism. The survey shows how narrowly the political spectrum is concentrated at the moderate center and the right… Why? Maybe it's because conservative groups often are better funded or that their members are more intensely committed to their cause. Or maybe the reason is that Republicans control Congress.

In response to Fortune, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency stated that contrary to Fortune, "AIPAC does not contribute money to political candidates, but it did note, "However, in response to a lawsuit, the Federal Election Commission found in 1992 that AIPAC spent money in an effort to influence congressional elections. AIPAC maintains that the specific expenditures were permissible under campaign finance laws."

AIPAC responded with, "If we are as successful as portrayed, it's due to the profound interest Americans have in ensuring the strong bonds between the U.S. and Israel, and their willingness to roll up their sleeves to do something about it," a comment that I find disingenuous. Speaking of the Iran Missile Proliferation Sanctions Act of 1997, AIPAC's Arizona chair stated, "Every AIPAC member called people they had contact with in both the House and Senate and got an incredible amount of people to sign on."

AIPAC has continued despite political changes in both Israel and the US:

[AIPAC] adapts with chameleon-like ease to both "extremist" and "moderate" Israeli governments. AIPAC makes pro forma changes in its executive directors, while leaving in place the lobbyists who can manipulate comfortable majorities in both Democratic and Republican Congresses, and who can either formulate the Middle East policies to be followed by U.S. presidents, or inhibit them from carrying out Mideast policies of their own…

WaPo's Dana Milbank asks, "How much clout does AIPAC have?" The answer is a lot.

The annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has long produced a massive show of bipartisan pandering, as lawmakers praise the well-financed and well-connected group. But [2005] has been a rough year for AIPAC -- it has dismissed its policy director and another employee while the FBI examines whether they passed classified U.S. information to Israel -- and the organization is eager to show how big it is...

[The Franklin scandal] isn't keeping the powerful from lining up to woo AIPAC. The morning brought Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, the evening brought congressional leaders, and at a luncheon "debate" in between, Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) and informal administration foreign policy adviser Richard N. Perle tried to one-up each other in pro-Israel views.

Perle drew cheers for denouncing Palestinian anti-Semitism and the French. Harman mentioned that an aide once worked for AIPAC, called her audience "very sophisticated" and celebrated Yasser Arafat's death as "a blessing." Debating a hard-liner in front of a pro-administration crowd, Harman heaped praise on President Bush, calling the Iraqi elections "sensationally impressive" and moving to "applaud" or "commend" Perle and the administration a dozen times. "Richard is right, and so is President Bush," she said at one point.

But after half an hour of this, Harman could not keep up. Perle provoked cheers from the crowd when he favored a military raid on Iran, saying that "if Iran is on the verge of a nuclear weapon, I think we will have no choice but to take decisive action." When Harman said the "best short-term option" is the U.N. Security Council, the crowd reacted with boos.

AIPAC is a demanding crowd, and even Rice, introduced as a "very special friend," did not satisfy universally. The participants applauded heartily her reminder that Bush did not meet with Arafat, but when she said Arafat's successor, Mahmoud Abbas, "is committed to both freedom and security," and when she mentioned more U.S. funds for Palestinians, the room was quiet. Likewise, Rice's call for Arab states to "establish normal relations with Israel" earned an extended ovation; her reminder that Israel must not "jeopardize the true viability of the Palestinian state" did not.

Haaretz's Nathan Guttman drove home the adjustments AIPAC is making publicly:

[AIPAC convention tables] were set with two flags apiece - the Stars and Stripes alongside the AIPAC flag. Veteran conference-goers said they had never seen the two flags arranged this way before, but this year AIPAC has a clear message - complete support of the United States and an unequivocal display of patriotism. In his opening speech, AIPAC executive-director Howard Kohr took several minutes to sing the praises of the U.S. president and the American nation…

The patriotic spirit was alive in every corridor of the Washington congress center. AIPAC is making a special effort to communicate its complete loyalty to the U.S., something that was taken for granted in the past… AIPAC was touting its American character with symbols and declarations that left no room for doubt. And Israel? It was being presented at the conference, not as a country that is in need of U.S. assistance, but as a country that is helping its great friend. "Israel. An American Value" read the large posters adorning the conference hall, driving the point home.

Haaretz's PM Sharon to tell AIPAC: Gaza pullout will proceed on time add further detail while Guttman speaks of the "dizzying success" of the conference:

The message sent by the mammoth event was clear: The lobby is not only alive and well, but it justly holds the title of the second most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill, even after half a year of an FBI investigation that is still going on. At the end of the conference... participants made their traditional pilgrimage to Capitol Hill to meet with their representatives in Congress and pass on the key messages they received at the conference: Support the disengagement plan and end Iran's nuclear program.

AIPAC sees the conference's success as proof that the lobby is emerging from the crisis engendered by the Larry Franklin affair. After a wave of negative media reports about AIPAC, it is once again back on its feet; and having gotten rid of the senior officials who were involved in the affair, it is stressing that the lobby itself was never the target of any investigation.

But the Franklin affair has nevertheless left its mark - not only on conversations in the corridors, but also on the tone and the emphasis that AIPAC tried to broadcast over the past week. The general message that emanated from the conference was one of American patriotism and absolute loyalty to the United States. This super-patriotic message was evident in [the] the unexplained omission of "Hatikva," which in past years has always been sung right after the American anthem.

2005 was no aberration, by the way, as in 2004, Bush43 "stood before the annual conference [and] spoke effusively to its members":

"AIPAC is doing important work," Bush said. "In Washington and beyond, AIPAC is calling attention to the great security challenges of our time. "You've always understood and warned against the evil ambition of terrorism and their networks," the president continued. "In a dangerous new century, your work is more vital than ever."...

The federal investigation itself has produced the most recent demonstration of AIPAC's power and standing, in the outpouring of support for the organization from U.S. officials that began hours after news of the federal inquiry broke.

"I know AIPAC; I know the AIPAC leadership. It is an outstanding organization," said Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). Senate Minority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) declared, "America is better and stronger for" AIPAC.

Two days after the first news reports, Republican politicians -- normally wary of controversy -- turned out in force at an AIPAC-sponsored event outside the GOP convention in New York. By AIPAC's count, the attendees included more than 60 House members, eight senators, five governors, two Bush Cabinet members and Bush campaign manager Ken Mehlman.

Through more than 2,000 meetings with members of Congress, AIPAC activists help pass more than 100 pro-Israel legislative initiatives a year. On its Web site, AIPAC lists priorities including legislation to curb Iran's nuclear program; procuring nearly $3 billion in aid for Israel; and funding U.S.-Israeli efforts to build a defense against unconventional weapons.

AIPAC does not have a political action committee and does not endorse candidates. But it is widely viewed by friends and foes as wielding significant political power.

The 2003 conference on the eve of a new Administration "road map" showed equal resolve and authority as AIPAC comments made evident. Again from Haaretz' David Landau:

prominent Jewish leaders told Haaretz [that] they will not mute their criticism of the "road map" that is being drawn up in Washington. Abe Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, doesn't like the "timing" of the map or the fact that President George Bush has created a connection between the war in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice president of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, promises that if the Israeli government expresses reservations about the road map, it will have the support of the Jewish community, and "we will not hesitate to make our voice heard."

Before their annual conference concludes, the 3,000 AIPAC activists will undoubtedly be asked, upon their return home, to encourage their friends and relatives to write to their representatives in Congress and make known their concern about the road map and about the linkage the administration is creating between the war in Iraq and peace here. Senators and members of the House of Representatives will duly receive stacks of letters and telegrams, along with faxes and e-mails, from which they will conclude that the American Jewish community, like the Israeli Jewish community, has fears and anxieties about the road map that the administration officials are preparing.

That's how it works. AIPAC has plenty of influence and clout, and it tilts to the right. The majority of the other Jewish organizations are also on the right when it comes to the conflict.

So sweeping is the success of the Israeli right and its allies among the Jews (and Christians) in the United States that an unchallenged political axiom has emerged, to the effect that if the president decides to push ahead with the road map, he will generate hostility among millions of voters. This is presented as an unassailable fact in the political discourse and in newspaper commentaries. The only point that remains unclear is whether Bush will accede to the urgings of British Prime Minister Tony Blair and of his own State Department and adopt the map despite the political risk that step entails.

Part 5

Think before you sing 'Hatikva'
By Nathan Guttman
Last update - 11:40 27/05/2005

AIPAC's Big, Bigger, Biggest Moment
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post
May 24, 2005; A13

PM Sharon to tell AIPAC: Gaza pullout will proceed on time
By Aluf Benn and Nathan Guttman, Haaretz Correspondents, and Haaretz Service
Last update - 08:12 24/05/2005

Pro-Israel Lobby Has Strong Voice
AIPAC Is Embroiled in Investigation of Pentagon Leaks
By Thomas B. Edsall and Molly Moore
Washington Post
September 5, 2004

The battle for Washington
By David Landau
Last update - 02:37 28/03/2003

One Nation Under Israel
By Andrew Hurley, Truth Press, 1999
Reviewed by Richard H. Curtiss
December 1999

Fat & Happy in D.C. Republicans are busting out all over, not just in Congress and the White House but also on FORTUNE's latest list of the capital's most powerful lobbyists.
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum Reporter Associate Russell Newell
May 28, 2001

Follow the Money Hard money. Soft money. Lobbying money. Which buys the most influence in Washington? FORTUNE's Power 25 survey attempts an answer and ranks the top lobbying groups.
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum Reporter, Associate Natasha Graves
December 6, 1999

The Influence Merchants Lobbyists are a permanent establishment in Washington, and FORTUNE's Power 25 ranking is its undisputed "A" list. New to this year's survey: the best of the hired guns.
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum Reporter Associates Tyler Maroney, Dustin Smith
December 7, 1998

December 8, 1997

AIPAC listed 2nd most powerful group on Fortune list
Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Center for Public Integrity

Political Advocacy Groups
A Directory of United States Lobbyists
Jewish Political Advocacy Groups
International Affairs Political Advocacy Groups

Links for American Politics and Government

Gordon Housworth

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A note on sources to the forthcoming "No Nation Left Behind" program, Part 4


I like to say that "Truth, beauty and contact lenses are all in the eye of the beholder." Given the contentious nature of the subject, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its interaction with the Christian Right and subsequent effects on US foreign policy, much effort has been spent in source selection which, of course, will mean nothing to the fringes on either side. This note is directed at the middle where discourse remains possible. There is so much bias and venom masquerading as fact. The pro-Israeli HonestReporting is often not, but it is only modestly apologetic in comparison to the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), the velocity of whose text barely holds onto a claim of legitimacy in presenting an Israeli issue. In opposition, there is the Institute for Historical Review (IHR) and FrontPage which I place in orbit between HR and CAMERA. Moving right, Jew Watch claims it is "NOT a hate site" but while it is largely devoid of doggerel, its texts push too great a slant. Farther to the right are those who decry the Holohuggers and Holocaustomaniacs. There is much worse. That said, a bad or dubious site can post a solid item. Attention is required as one good paragraph does not guarantee that another will follow it. For this note I have tried to stay in the center of the flock.

I habitually try to run articles back to original source, or close as possible, along the way looking for what gets replicated where or in some cases distorted or oddly excerpted in some manner (which is a good indicator of the site's interests or bias). A good example was the furor made over Thomas Stauffer's estimation of the cost of conflict of US policy in the Middle East which was disputed by pro-Israeli sources. Stauffer made his initial comments under US Army War College auspices at a conference at the University of Maine but that presentation seemed to be obscure, ultimately yielding only one HTML copy on the web, with a PDF mirror at an appalling anti-Semitic site. That led to more developed items in Middle East Policy Council (MEPC) and the Middle East Economic Survey (MEES). When HonestReporting criticized Stauffer, I was on solid ground to interpret and dismiss.

A very dear Jewish friend, arguably one of the kindest people on the planet, had sent me that very 2002 HonestReporting item in rebuttal to a private list note on Stauffer, noting that, "Yes, HonestReporting is biased towards Israel but still represents very good data… I know which side of the table I support, but I have to admit I have not verified the facts." My reply at the time (2002) was:

While I cannot speak to HonestReporting, I think that the general press and government response is far more biased [in favor of Israel] than you might be comfortable in addressing -- and I certainly do not infer any infernal cabal. [AIPAC] has been, and remains, a supremely effective organization that has affected Congress and other public bodies far in relation to its size. Interestingly VOA is more balanced in its reporting as, even though it is owned by State, it has fiercely protected its independence lest it be written off by its overseas listeners as a US agitprop organ.

One's filters will obscure potentially averse data when one's chair is firmly fixed at the table. I hope that my chair, if I have one, has no fixed point save for protecting US national interests.

One must also be extremely wary of Greeks bearing gifts in the form of foreign language translations. Speaking neither Hebrew or Arabic, like many others, I am at the mercy of those who, as I like to say, translate, transliterate or transmogrify the original according to their skill or biases. A recent example is Rima Barakat's comparison of translations by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) which then get quoted as gospel by affiliated groups. This is not a new issue as the Guardian took up the issue of MEMRI's veracity in 2002, allowing MEMRI to rebut. Your mileage may vary, but over the years my original opinion of MEMRI has shifted much closer to that of the Guardian.

And then there are the 'battle of the quotes.' Take Sharon's purported exchange with Peres reported on Kol Yisrael (Israel radio) in Hebrew, reported by the Independent Palestinian Information Network A subsidiary of PalVision Ltd., in which an exasperated Sharon tells a concerned Peres in Cabinet session that "every time we do something you tell me Americans will do this and will do that. I want to tell you something very clear, don't worry about American pressure on Israel, we, the Jewish people control America, and the Americans know it." CAMERA presents an aggressive but unsatisfactory rebuttal. What is not on offer are pertinent cabinet transcripts.

I lean to the opinion that a refusal by Israel to produce transcripts for the cabinet session indicates something to hide and therefore the translation has currency. Had it not occurred, an official transcript would likely be presented to clear the matter. We have, I believe, a similar matter closer to home; Bush43 addressed the Council for National Policy (CNP) (also here), a group that Kevin Phillips calls "the most powerful group you've never heard of."

CNP is media-averse in the extreme down to its membership list, its selection of guests and its practices, but there is an extremely strong vein of religious and political conservatism. "Mr. Bush addressed the group in fall 1999 to solicit support for his campaign, stirring a dispute when news of his speech leaked and Democrats demanded he release a tape recording. He did not." And has not as of this writing. My suspicions are always elevated in such cases.

Next: AIPAC 1

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"Committed collector" blog collective delivers high context reporting on the French youth labor unrest


While many sources are covering the nationwide protest by students, youths and labor against the French government's new youth labor law, the best multimedia reporting on the topic that I've seen is - unrest in france from libcom (short for libertarian communists) a "small collective… based in and around London" UK.

Not being familiar with libcom, one could quickly determine that the unrest in france blog was created on the fly to report the contrat première embauche (CPE) or "first employment contract" proposed by Prime Minister Villepin for younger French workers:, has been set up to offer the most comprehensive English-language coverage of the wave of students’ and young people’s protests which has swept France this week.

A small group of us, half of whom have lived in France at one time or another, were talking about the situation on a few days ago. We were sharing translations from various sources with each other because there was very little English language coverage available. We then figured that we should really be sharing what we were learning with others and thought that a weblog would be the best format for to deliver such content. The blog allows all of us the chance to post new information as and when we get it, without delay.

Right now we’re covering events nearly 24 hours a day. Members of our team are based in London, Paris, Marseille and Edinburgh, with our Paris correspondents providing personal accounts of things that we otherwise couldn’t pick up on - the mood on the streets and the feeling of how momentum is moving. We are also in touch with young people and students - both for and against the strikes - in France who are sending us reports, including one of the initiators of the occupation of the historic Sorbonne.

This fits my definition of the committed collector; from Value from the fringe: "committed" collectors and investigators:

we treasure good "time sequences" of properly described events as a means of pattern detection, evidence of trend growth or attenuation, changes in underlying assumptions, and the emergence of new players or vulnerabilities. As it usually falls to us to build these time sequences, I am pleased when we find them in the wild.

As a good sequence requires significant research to make it viable, or for that matter any effort or cause not tracked by the shifting "lens of the news" of the major trade and popular press, I have learned to look to the "committed," i.e., those who have a passion to search out and document what would be obscure or tedious work for the rest of us. Oxfam, ACLU, SPLC, FAS, and various UN relief agencies are good examples of what I call "committed" investigators.

I've previously noted that "bloggers are among the most flexible and creative users of an emerging class of products that I call "meta-media" tools"" that are not burdened with the legacy drag of "high street journalists, their masthead papers." So much the better when the blogger assembles a usable time sequence. A balanced "interpretation on the events in a sequence compiled by a committed group" is a bonus but not necessary. Libcom does a useful job of both. From Blog speed, visibility, deception, and counterdeception:

Traditional journalists have rightly commented that some bloggers rush materials on-line without sufficient fact checking and that due process should reign, which means the journalists' due process speed and not the medium's speed. Rubbish says I, these people might as well be Xerxes flogging the sea. Highstreet press has acknowledged the trend by permitting/nudging their serving journalists to put their own blogs…

The scouring, refining, and gathering of competent blogs is time-consuming, but it has become an essential component of our I&W (Indicators & Warning) process. Blogs are often mixes of personal and 'core subject' material that it is maddening at times, but in terms of Asia, Africa, and the Persian littoral, they yield a form of battlefield surveillance outside the control of governments that constrict the mainstream press - and offer an early warning ability that we used on occasion.

English Libertarian communists differentiate themselves from State communists and are refreshingly realistic:

we recognise the limitations of applying [our] ideas and organisational forms to contemporary British society. We emphasise understanding and transforming the social relationships we experience in our everyday lives, whilst still learning from the mistakes and successes of previous working class movements and ideas.

In comparison to the Cold War Communists of the USSR, libcom's forms of class struggle and its embracing of "most, if not all, non-state forms of communism and socialism" made it a rather benign reporter, one capable of balanced reporting on the topic. Unrest in france offers the kind of contextual feeling of French unrest that I get from on-the-ground reporting in Iraq from, say, Riverbend's Baghdad Burning from an Iraqi viewpoint or many of Blackfive's Milblog recommendations, or The South-East Asia Earthquake and Tsunami Blog (SEA-EAT) for coverage of a transnational natural disaster.

In addition to its individual reporting of high street sources and personal views of the rising, Unrest offers a running photojournalism piece called The story so far - a look at the growing revolt against CPE. Unrest does a good job in its definitions as well. Compare its definition of the First Employment Contract to that presented by Wikipedia. Unrest also provides a welcome Glossary "to help explain certain words which cannot be translate perfectly translated or relate to background information."

Unrest in france is a recommended read and an example of good collective blogging that blurs the line between journalist and amateur.

Violent Youths Threaten to Hijack Demonstrations in Paris
New York Times
March 30, 2006

French Protests Over Youth Labor Law Spread to 150 Cities and Towns
New York Times
March 19, 2006

First Employment Contract

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  


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"No Nation Left Behind" program, Part 2


Part 1

It is one thing to confront the trajectory of Pax America but it is quite another to realize that the timeline of the trajectory is much shorter than previously thought and that the obstacles that must be remedied to reverse the decline are vastly more difficult than I'd envisioned. Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy was the instrument of foreshortening, a capstone of what Phillips describes as an "inadvertent trilogy":

Phillips states his underlying thesis in American Theocracy that there "are the three major perils of the United States in the early 21st century. First, radical religion – this encompasses everything from the Pat Robertson-Jerry Falwell types to the attacks on medicine and science and the Left Behind books with their End Times and Armageddon scenarios. Second, oil dependence – oil was essential to 20th century U.S. hegemony, and its growing scarcity and cost could play havoc. And third, debt is becoming a national weakness – indeed, the "borrowing" industry in the U.S. has grown so rapidly that finance has displaced manufacturing as the leading U.S. sector."

While I was familiar with peak oil, unsustainable debt and offshoring, I admit to having been inattentive to the magnitude of the impact of conservative religion, or as Phillips puts it: "religion’s new political prowess and its role in the projection of military power in the Middle Eastern Bible lands—that most people are just beginning to understand. The rapture, end-times, and Armageddon hucksters in the United States rank with any Shiite ayatollahs, and the last two presidential elections mark the transformation of the GOP into the first religious party in U.S."

The realization that many of Bush43's most fervent supporters and perhaps some of those close to the levers of power in the US were detached from any sense of geopolitical reality and might well be willing to employ the US arsenal in support of religious goals was very unsettling:

End-times prophecy fueled a fifth dynamic at work as the forces for the Iraqi invasion gathered, because many Christian fundamentalists dismissed worries about oil or global warming out of belief that the end times were under way. The Bible lands were what mattered. Events were in God’s hands. Even Senator James Inhofe, the Oklahoma fundamentalist chairing the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, was reported saying, "I don’t believe there is a single issue we deal with in government that hasn’t been dealt with in the Scriptures," while declining to discuss his belief in the imminence of end times.

Partly as a result, GOP political strategists had no desire for a far-reaching debate on either global warming or peak oil. The religious right had its own rapture chronometers and apocalypse monitors reporting how many months, days and hours remained...

This true-believer endgame has been accelerating for many decades, especially since the creation of Israel satisfied the biblical prophecy of the Jewish return to Palestine. [The] growth during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s in the numbers of Protestant fundamentalists, evangelicals, and Pentecostals was explosive. Many became Republicans and helped to give the GOP an increasingly religious coloration. Although the stunning sales of [Tim LaHaye's] Left Behind series grabbed most of the cultural attention, other books and videos during the late nineties [described] how Saddam Hussein was rebuilding Babylon, the citadel of evil. Still others pondered whether the antichrist was already alive and who he might be. (Saddam himself was a frequent choice.) Nearly one-quarter of Americans polled in 2002 even believed that the Bible had predicted the events of September 11, 2001! While these beliefs were surely a factor in Republican invasion planning, they are difficult for politicians to acknowledge—and they are especially tricky to discuss publicly, so they are instead quietly promoted in clandestine briefings or loosely signaled by phrases and citations that reassure the attentive faithful."

American Theocracy's complete chapter 4, Radicalized Religion, is compelling reading and fortunately available online. I recommend four reviews of American Theocracy: Michiko Kakutani's Tying Religion and Politics to an Impending U.S. Decline, Alan Brinkley's Clear and Present Dangers, Michelle Goldberg's Decline and fall and Stirling Newberry's Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy.

Unless you're a Left Behind reader or a troglodyte, you're likely aware that Phillips has come full circle, that he was the author of The Emerging Republican Majority (1969), that the underpinnings of that book contributed to Richard Nixon's 1968 victory and was the basis for waves of subsequent redistricting that cemented that victorious coalition. It is instructive to read Warren Weaver's 1969 review, The Emerging Republican Majority, in which he speaks of Nixon's pragmatism in evaluating a program, i.e., "Will it work?" as opposed to "Is it good or bad?" or "Is it liberal or conservative?" "[The] answer comes out not only "It did work" but "It will continue to work for some time to come."" "The Phillips doctrine thus amounts to institutionalizing Barry Goldwater's suggestion that the nation might be better off if its northeastern corner were sawed off and allowed to drift out to sea":

Because the Republicans are little dependent on the Liberal Establishment or urban Negroes--the two groups most intimately, though dissimilarly, concerned with present urban and welfare policies--they have the political freedom to disregard the multitude of vested interests which have throttled national urban policy. The GOP is particularly lucky not to be weighted down with commitment to the political blocs, power brokers and poverty concessionaires of the decaying central cities of the North, now that national growth is shifting to suburbia, the South and the West. The American future lies in a revitalized countryside, a demographically ascendant Sun Belt and suburbia, and new towns---perhaps Mountainside linear cities astride monorails 200 miles from Phoenix, Memphis or Atlanta. National policy will have to direct itself towards this future and its constituencies; and perhaps an administration so oriented can also deal realistically with the central cities where Great Society political largesse has so demonstrably failed.

I share Weaver's discomfort in the accuracy and implications of Phillip's research:

It is not a little depressing to read a serious 480-page book on politics based largely on the theory that deep divisive conflicts between black and white, Catholic and Protestant, Jew and Irishman, East and South are immutable, that such differences cannot be harmonized and that the politician should thus simply play upon them to his own advantage.

Almost equally disconcerting is the tacit assumption, in "The Emerging Republican Majority," that these divisions are all-controlling in a Presidential election, that the issues and the personalities and capabilities of the candidates count for nothing, that Americans vote only their blood line, church, neighborhood or caste.

Not much has changed, it appears, but then James Boyd's 1969 review, Nixon's Southern strategy 'It's All In the Charts', observed that, "By presenting a conservative image [the] Republicans can capture the votes of both the "projected" and "contingent bastions," and enough of the "battlegrounds," to stay in power for years, while ignoring the liberal Northeast." Phillips' political maps of 1969 are stunningly replicated in the 2004 election results.

Here are some snippets that caught my eye from the earlier parts of the trilogy:

Wealth and Democracy, itself rising from Phillips' The Politics of Rich and Poor (1990), dealt with the latest wave of corporatocracy (the phrase of currency for plutocracy), public and private corruption, wealth aggregation and tensions for democracy exemplified by the 1990s "technology mania and bubble, the money culture, belief that economic cycles were over, policies of market extremism, corruption and a politics ruled by campaign contributions." One could have been describing the run-up to the 1929 crash, the British South Sea Bubble and the Dutch Tulipmania, but that is Phillips' sidebar of cycles of excess and redress.

Phillips makes the point that "two greatest Republican presidents, [Abraham] Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt" held much dimmer views of the excesses of business than did the Republican Party of 2002. (Lincoln supported labor as superior to capital to the point that he evinced "strong support for labor unions and strikes." Roosevelt's attacks on corporations exceeded those of Lincoln, while he "specifically repeated and endorsed Lincoln’s oft-quoted remarks about labor being superior to and more deserving of support than capital.") As president, Nixon "supported national health insurance, income-maintenance for the poor and higher taxation of unearned than earned income." Phillips' opinion was that the current Republican Party had betrayed the Party of Lincoln even as it continued to praise Lincoln. No wonder the right began to treat Phillips as a forgotten zek.

American Dynasty looked at the family-based intertwined presidencies of Bush41 and Bush43 and the "four-generation interaction" with the US financial and political establishment that made these presidencies possible. In what Phillips calls the "perilous state of the American political system," American Dynasty examines themes that form the warp and weft of the Bush family: fundamentalism, political and religious, that gained strength over the 20th century, the morphing domestic importance "of different economic sectors and elites—from investment banking and oil to the military-industrial complex," and the 20th-21st century "emergence of the Bush family [along] a trajectory of American wealth and power."

General dynastic characteristics are identified and tracked, notably "continuities of policy and interest-group bias… [revenge seeking] against old foes as well as recalling longtime loyalists and retainers" and the "effect of biological inheritance." Specific Bush family characteristics are "repeated use of family influence in arranging or smoothing over difficulties in the military service of three generations of Bushes… involvement of four Walker and Bush generations with finance—in several cases, the investment side of the petroleum business… [family] ties to oil [that] date back [to] Standard Oil a century ago… [and] relationships between the Bushes and the CIA."

The Bush family embedment in the establishment cannot be overstated. It was the Bush family connection to the establishment that "made it possible to consider Bush for vice president in 1968, almost out of the blue." The family held its place in the financial firmament as it mirrored the "migration of the U.S. population and of political power" from "Episcopal church pews" to "fundamentalist religious alliances," even as family generated controversies never "gained critical mass." These events were placed within the 1980s aristocratic pretensions of taste, celebrity culture of 'rock star' CEOs, and "kindred winner-take-all ethos" that "helped to make dynastization of wealth and politics a turn-of-the-twenty first-century reality."

Phillips begins to examine the politics and geopolitics that rose from the post-Clinton "restoration psychology and fundamentalist theology" of Bush43, themes that he will expand in American Theocracy, the Bush family's shift of "its religious intensity," "a southern-dominated electoral coalition," the "precedent-shattering circumstance [that] the de facto head of the Religious Right and the president of the United States can be the same person," and the emergence of a US "crusader state" that satisfied religious fundamentalists as it brought profit to "important economic interests."

The "cultural harshness and fiscal regressivity" of Texanomics "obliged the family’s presidential office seekers to wear "kinder and gentler" policies and "compassionate conservatism" as velvet cloaking." In response to Clinton's moral lapses, Bush43 "began to emphasize and display unusual personal religiosity [casting] himself as the prodigal son, brought back to God after waywardness and crisis," increasingly using "such biblically inflected language about good and evil" that he "had virtually replaced evangelist Pat Robertson as the leader of the U.S. Religious Right."

Phillips makes the claim that in the wake of 11 September, "Americans slid toward another historical reversal: allowing the eighteenth-century republic to be re-conceptualized as an embattled twenty-first-century imperium." Phillips closes with a recounting of the founding fathers' fears of the US following European republics slide "toward great-family and dynastic leadership."

Part 3

Apocalyptic president
Even some Republicans are now horrified by the influence Bush has given to the evangelical right
Sidney Blumenthal
The Guardian
March 23, 2006

Excerpt: American Theocracy
By Kevin Phillips
TPMCafe Book Club
Mar 23, 2006 -- 01:03:25 PM EST

Kevin Phillips' American Theocracy
By Stirling Newberry
t r u t h o u t Book Review
Wednesday 22 March 2006

Religion and Politics
By Kevin Phillips
TPMCafe Book Club
Mar 21, 2006 -- 09:46:14 AM EST

Reaching Southern evangelicals
By Kevin Phillips
TPMCafe Book Club
Mar 21, 2006 -- 08:12:36 AM EST

Writing American Theocracy
By Kevin Phillips
TPMCafe Book Club
Mar 20, 2006 -- 01:20:23 PM EST

A Political Warning Shot: 'American Theocracy'
Interview with Kevin Phillips (AUDIO)
by Terry Gross
Fresh Air
March 21, 2006
Contains Chapter 4, Radicalized Religion, from 'American Theocracy' by Kevin Phillips

Phillips, Brinkley, and "Theocracy"
March 20, 2006

Tying Religion and Politics to an Impending U.S. Decline
New York Times
March 17, 2006

Decline and fall
Kevin Phillips, no lefty, says that America -- addicted to oil, strangled by debt and maniacally religious -- is headed for doom.
By Michelle Goldberg
March 16, 2006

American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century
My Seattle Online
Posted on March 16th, 2006 at 1:19 pm

American Dynasty: Aristocracy, Fortune, and the Politics of Deceit in the House of Bush
by Kevin Phillips
Penguin, 2004
ISBN: 0143034316

Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich
by Kevin Phillips
Broadway, 2003
ISBN: 0767905342

The South Sea Bubble
by Caroline Thomas
Student Economic Review, University of Dublin
Trinity College, 2003, Vol 17, p. 17-37

Fundamentally unsound
By Michelle Goldberg
July 29, 2002

Financial Crashes in the Globalization Era
Evan Osborne
The Independent Review, v.VI, n.2, Fall 2001, ISSN 1086-1653, pp. 165–184

The Queen of the Night
The Economist
October 31, 1998

Lone Star lawmakers are poised to shine on the Hill - Texas delegation to Congress has power and leadership - includes profile of Texas Congressional delegates
by Sean Piccoli
Insight on the News
March 6, 1995

Nixon's Southern strategy 'It's All In the Charts'
New York Times
May 17, 1970

The Emerging Republican Majority
New York Times
Sep 21, 1969

Gordon Housworth

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The US needs a "No Nation Left Behind" program - for itself


The current state of this nation leaves me exceedingly cross. The implications of COBRA II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq confirm a blighted command structure while American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century "presents a nightmarish vision of ideological extremism, catastrophic fiscal irresponsibility, rampant greed and dangerous shortsightedness" that is incapable of solving the nation's challenges.

I'll save those for later, preferring to focus first on the strategic implications of our having ignored our engineering and technical base. For a primmer, see my notes:

My attention was arrested by the gap - more a failure to address with no systemic solution in sight - between two reports by the Defense Science Board, Future Strategic Strike Forces, Feb 2004, and Future Strategic Strike Skills, March 2006. Both deal with US strategic strike force capabilities, the first being a statement of strategic strike needs out to 2030 and the second describing the systemic breach in human assets, commercial valuation that attracts those assets, and education capable of producing the skills needed in order to achieve those strike goals.

I take this gap as a metaphor of our failure to properly incent and educate an entire class of technologists be it for military or commercial applications. Considering that many of our weapons systems are aging, designed twenty or more years ago by engineers that graduated fifteen or more years earlier, we are increasingly unable to revise and extend existing systems or design future systems.

Trends in the availability of engineering personnel in the defense sector mirror the commercial sector, except that defense is worse. Strike Skills stated that:

In the early days of the Cold War, urgent national defense problems drew on the services of a significant percentage of U.S. professional engineers. Today most of the country’s engineering talent is concerned with civilian developments, and only a small fraction is devoted to DoD problems. Currently, work related to strategic strike systems is not considered to be a desirable career path by engineering personnel, particularly when exciting and potentially lucrative careers are available in new technological areas such as computer/internet systems, quantum communications and computation, nanotechnology, etc.

The result has been that in many strategic strike critical skill areas, experienced personnel are nearing retirement with few replacements. This situation could lead to the potential loss of critical strategic strike systems knowledge.

Strike Forces describes a spectrum of contingencies out to 2030 comprising "Urgent emerging threats" such as "rogues and terrorists" with and without WMD and "Future major power adversaries with WMD." A strategic response in return was defined as ""a military operation to decisively alter an adversary’s basic course of action within a relatively compact period of time" and can be either "an isolated event" or "part of a military campaign." DSB found that if the US was to provide effective strike options against these future threats "it must reorient its nuclear arsenal away from "large, high-fallout weapons delivered primarily by ballistic missiles" toward smaller, more precise nuclear weapons that can be used for a variety of special missions." Beyond nuclear weapons, DSB assertained that the US must address "non-nuclear weapons, the systems that are needed to deliver weapons of both kinds, and the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems required to identify targets."

In the intervening two years "relatively little additional action has taken place [in strategic strike systems], either with regard to next-generation (evolutionary) systems or in connection with new types of systems (revolutionary) for future objectives.

Strike Skills makes appalling reading, noting that the "personnel required for the development of such systems should be highly innovative [but that] attracting such individuals may be difficult due to the lack of financial incentives associated with civilian industry’s efforts." "[I]t appears that a serious loss of certain critical strategic strike skills may occur within the next decade." Whereas Strike Forces itemized "well known" deficiencies in command and control networks; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and battle damage assessment; delivery systems; and payloads, the five findings of Strike Skills paint the picture of a dwindling industrial base:

  1. The DoD has not provided specific direction regarding next-generation strategic strike systems. Consequently, the industry and government talent base:
    • Are already marginally thin in many of today’s current systems, and
    • May not be available for potential next-generation systems.
  2. The exploration of new concepts and technologies for strategic strike of challenging targets in the long-term is inadequate and will require access to a new talent base with different skills.
  3. The strategic strike area most at risk today is ballistic missiles:
    • Current skills may not be able to cope with unanticipated failures requiring analysis, testing, and redesign;
    • A large number of skilled military, civil service, and contractor personnel are nearing retirement;
    • Design skills are rapidly disappearing, both for major redesigns of current systems and for the design of new strategic systems; and
    • Applications programs are necessary, but not sufficient to maintain skills; moreover, they have never been funded at the required levels.
  4. DoD and industry have difficulty attracting and retaining the best and brightest students to the science and engineering disciplines relevant to maintaining current and future strategic strike capabilities. The National Defense Education Act (NDEA) program has the potential for attracting personnel to government; however, it currently does not have strategic strike element.
  5. Human capital management systems and strategies for identifying, tracking, and retaining critical skills are not being implemented effectively across all of the strategic strike constituent organizations.

The Strike Skills recommendations for these five broad systemic deficiencies demand attention, strategic vision, operational excellence and money. It is not clear that the current military posture and deployment permit any of this to occur.

While Russia can sit on its energy supplies, and China and India continue to industrialize, the US continues to overreach, and does so in a manner that squanders its assets, without the means and the economy to support its ambitions. I have already covered the trajectory of Pax America in this series:

Cobra II : The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq
by Michael R. Gordon, Bernard E. Trainor
Pantheon, March 2006
ISBN: 0375422625

American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21st Century.
By Kevin Phillips
Viking, March 2006
ISBN: 067003486X

Future Strategic Strike Skills
Defense Science Board (DSB)
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense For Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics
Washington, D.C. 20301-3140
March 2006

By Barry D. Watts
Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments
September 27, 2004

Defense Science Board report released
Defense AT&L
July-August, 2004

Future Strategic Strike Forces
Defense Science Board (DSB)
Office of the Under Secretary of Defense For Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics
Washington, D.C. 20301-3140
February 2004

Gordon Housworth

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Before Dubai Ports World there was China Ocean Shipping (Group) Co.


The purchase of Britain's declining transport line of empire, Pacific & Orient Steam Navigation company (P&O Lines) by Dubai Ports of the World (Dubai Ports World), a state firm owned by the United Arab Emirates, was a perfectly acceptable commercial transaction that met the economic and diplomatic needs of the US. The US will come to regret its hasty decision to thwart the transaction as it comes to confront more formidable opponents:

Today, Dubai’s main business is commerce, not dwindling oil. Dubai’s royal family wisely invested in scores of future-oriented businesses that are an example of smart business to the Arab World and Africa. Dubai and the United Arab Emirates, of which it is a member, are increasingly enriched by brains and entrepreneurship rather than oil.

"Dubai Ports enjoys an international reputation in its field… has been a leader in joining initiatives to secure American containers… [and had] agreed to adhere to existing security levels in US ports, retain employees, and share information on operations and employee backgrounds with the US government."

Of critical US infrastructure, the maritime infrastructure is most owned by foreign firms. US firms dwindled in the 1970s under competition from foreign firms with less rigorous regulatory constraints and cheaper crews. By the 1980s they were gone. Singapore's Neptune Orient Lines bought American President Lines (APL) while Maersk bought Sea-Land from CSX Corp.

There is an important reason why terminals are usually managed by foreigners: The shipping companies themselves are largely foreign, and they have generally sought to control terminals so that they can be certain of having the most reliable, efficient facilities possible for loading and unloading their vessels quickly to reduce costly time in port. That arrangement has suited local port authorities; they want to ensure that their ports will draw enough traffic to generate revenue and employment.

It is unlikely that the US at either national or state level can fund the forecast doubling of trade by 2020. Eighteen million containers will demand new and upgraded terminals and ports (dredging, real estate, gantry cranes, bridges, roadways, and rail heads). While other issues affecting the administration's recommendation may yet be made public, Bush43 was wise to support the Dubai Ports purchase (before Rove killed it).

Lebanon's Al-Hayat paid Bush43 a left-handed compliment in his support of the UAE purchase by described it as Ayoon Wa Azan or "Bush's First Wise Position" as it excoriated the "hateful combination of ignorance, racism and lies" that sank the deal. Yes, there is a measure of Republicans having to look out for themselves and Democrats seeing an opportunity to get the right of the administration, but it still seemed that morons abounded. Given that the majority of US ports and terminals are in foreign hands, and that "13 out of 14 cargo firms at Los Angeles Port are foreign, from countries like China, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore," Barbara Boxer (D – CA) "declared that all foreign companies should be banned from working at US ports" while Charles Schumer (D – NY) said that the US "should be very careful before we outsource such sensitive homeland security duties." (I might add that Al-Hayat also noted that Schumer "has never objected seeing Israeli companies tasked with sensitive security tasks" and I might add the US paid dearly for that in regards to sensitive official phone systems.)

"Most U.S. ports are owned by public or quasi-public authorities [which] frequently lease their terminal spaces to terminal operating companies. P&O is one such operating company, and a quick review of U.S. port facilities reveals that, like P&O, many terminal operating companies active in the United States are either foreign-owned or are subsidiaries of foreign conglomerates."

Among all the reasons to fret about vulnerabilities to terrorist attacks, the nationality of the companies managing the terminals is one of the least worrisome.

The US has done "an abysmal job in assisting ports in the developing world in improving security to even minimal acceptable standards." While the US "has arranged for customs officials to work in 42 foreign ports with rights to inspect containers before they head for U.S. shores," fully 20% of containers bound for the US enter from developing states where safeguards are nonexistent. Wide open ports lacking even the pretence of fencing, lighting and supporting security procedures need attention now. Just considering al Qaeda’s entrenched presence in West Africa (drawn there for laundering blood diamonds) should have lawmakers’ hair on fire but it is over the horizon.

Back in the US, aviation security has claimed "almost $20 billion" in federal grants while port security is below $700 million. Transferring ownership from Britain's P&O to Dubai Ports World does not affect local terminal arrangements.

It is not the port or terminal operator’s problem that Customs and Coast Guard staff are "not usually present" and that "private terminal operators are almost always responsible for guarding the area around their facilities" and sometimes X-raying incoming containers for manifest matching. Even then, the guards and longshoremen are locals.

"The security personnel employed by the terminal companies vary from port to port, but according to several companies, the guards are often supplied by local private security firms." Stephen Flynn notes, "The lowest-paying jobs on the waterfront are security people."

The shipping industry faces relatively few "Dubai Ports" events, taking for granted the global world in which it lives, and so was taken aback by the criticism from federal and state legislators. Most now forget that in a different political climate, the previous "Dubai Ports" event was the proposed leasing of the Long Beach Naval Station to an ocean carrier owned by the Chinese government, China Ocean Shipping (Group) Co. (COSCO). Left destitute by downsizing at the Long Beach Naval Station, the city of Long Beach was desperate to lease the abandoned port to COSCO on highly advantageous terms.

Unlike the COSCO deal which apparently had no federal oversight or examination, the Intelligence Community Acquisition Risk Center, which performs a threat analysis of foreign commercial entities that seek commercial relations with US intel agencies, approved the Dubai Ports World acquisition to the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). A sister firm of Dubai Ports World, Istithmar, had already purchased the British firm Inchcape Shipping Services, a transaction that CFIUS had apparently "determined that approval was not required."

The 105th Congress was as active on China-related issues as it was anti-Clinton issues into which some China-related items were lodged:

[P]pending human rights legislation [including] prison conditions and prison labor exports (H.R. 2195, H.R. 2358); coercive abortion practices (H.R. 2570); China’s policies toward religion (H.R. 967, H.R. 2431); more general human rights issues (H.R. 2095)… China’s missile proliferation activities (H.Res. 188), Radio Free Asia broadcasting to China (H.R. 2232), China’s participation in multilateral institutions (H.R. 1712, H.R. 2605),… activities of China’s military and intelligence services (H.R. 2647, H.R. 2190) [and] several multiple-issue bills, such as the Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 3616), the Foreign Relations Authorization Act (H.R. 1757), the China Policy Act (S. 1164), and the U.S.-China Relations Act (S. 1303), which combine some, or even most, of these issues.

After the Port of Long Beach was "officially stripped of their ability to lease the former Navy land to COSCO", a local harbor commissioner said, "Congress has thrown two years of effort out the window due to a ridiculous political climate." This was at a time when COSCO was being described elsewhere as "a front for the People's Liberation Army and Beijing's intelligence arm."

(It did not help that in 1996, a COSCO vessel, Empress Phoenix, attempted to smuggle 2000 Chinese-made fully automatic AK-47 assault rifles into the port of Oakland, CA. The intended recipients were Los Angeles street gangs. "Operatives nabbed after the seizure told investigators that they were ready to smuggle in everything from grenade launchers to shoulder-fired Red Parakeet surface to air missiles, which they boasted could "take out a 747."")

COSCO continues to operate at Long Beach, belying local fears that its tenant would move across the harbor to the Port of Los Angeles (who had presented COSCO with a proposal). Although it was barred from relocating to the former Naval base, other firms did move there, freeing land adjacent to COSCO’s facilities enabling it to expand.

Few remember the brouhaha when Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa took over management of the Panama Canal. If one were to be interested in any of the current foreign port operators it would be the Chinese who have done an excellent job of following the 18th century British model of gaining port and tideside rights around the globe. Some have already described the Port of Long Beach as a Chinese exclave. If it had the slightest curiosity, Congress could glace over Chinese facilities in the Caribbean and South America rather than pounding on Dubai Ports.

Burning Allies -- and Ourselves
By David Ignatius
Washington Post
March 10, 2006

Overseas Firms Entrenched in Ports
By Paul Blustein
Washington Post
March 10, 2006

Chinese shipping aims for global leadership
By Michael Mackey
Asia Times
March 1, 2006

Are good business relationships good for security?
By Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.)
The Hill
March 1, 2006

Eric Margolis
Posted by Eric Margolis on February 28, 2006 05:17 PM

Ayoon Wa Azan (Bush's First Wise Position)
Jihad el Khazen
Beirut, Lebanon

U.S. Intelligence Agencies Backed Dubai Port Deal
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post
February 25, 2006

Port Problems Said To Dwarf New Fears
By Paul Blustein and Walter Pincus
Washington Post
February 24, 2006

Growing Criticism Puzzles Many in Shipping Industry
'We haven't done a good job of explaining how we work'
by Meredith Cohn
The Baltimore Sun
February 22, 2006
Arab American Institute

By Lynn A. Stover, Major, USMC
Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
April 2000

'Dirty' war in Panama
Congressional investigators say China to wreak havoc in Central America
By Charles Smith
December 8, 1999 1:00 a.m. Eastern

The Panama Canal in Transition
Threats to U.S. Security and China's Growing Role in Latin America
Al Santoli
An American Foreign Policy Council Investigative Report
June 23, 1999

China: Pending Legislation in the 105th Congress
Kerry Dumbaugh
Specialist in Asian Affairs
CRS 97-933 F
Updated June 19, 1998


Proposal raising plenty of eyebrows
By Karen Gullo and John Solomon
Associated Press
Date likely March, 1997 (The Washington Times (3/10/97) was quoting the same texts.

Cited in: 'They Were Against Foreign-Run Ports Before They Were For Them'
The Political Mine Field
February 27, 2006

Long Beach won't give up on COSCO
Congress kills bid by Chinese to take over naval base
By Joseph Farah
September 21, 1998

Chinese Port Operator Linked to Weapons Smuggling
Feb. 28, 2006 11:45 a.m. EST

Pending lease of Navy base to Chinese firm questioned
Associated Press
March 9, 1997

Cited in 'The Democrats: Weak on Port Security and Sell-outs to Red China'
(Emphasis added by Levin)
Mark Levin
March 1, 2006

Gordon Housworth

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Symbiotic and predatory relationships between immigrant migration chains and supply chains


As migration patterns have long been a staple of ethnographic research, I have begun to extend the term 'Migration Chain' as an analog to Supply Chain in that they form symbiotic relationships and can be another predictor of future events. Reflecting over the Latin migrations into the US which I am coming to broadly class as legal, illicit (immigration), and illegal (criminal), while admitting to some fuzzy boundaries between legal and illicit, if nothing else, for getting in illicitly and then having one's child born here.

These migration patterns have both sheep and wolves. Here are the sheep:

  1. Older agricultural migrant variation -- which until further research was largely self-propelled, i.e., no criminal transportation wrapper
  2. Newer, more urban, and increasingly suburban, food processing and preparation variant -- which is now a blend of legal and illicit, the latter often wrapped in criminal transportation.
  3. Construction and heavy labor class, probably linked to (2) and anecdotally seems to have a high illicit percentage and thus I would think the criminal wrapper

And the wolves:

  1. Older drug cartel variation, highly compartmentalized around high value product sold to the general market as opposed to other Latins
  2. Human smuggling operations that brought in the illicits, again anecdotally, treating their cargo with increasing contempt
  3. Ultra-violent gangs (or maras) from Mexico and El Salvador that sit as a middle tier between the high-end drogistas and the sheep

The links between migration and supply are reentrant, e.g., the maras started as legal and illicit migration bound social clubs and morphed into the monster before us -- what I call the American Chechen (see Maras: the Chechens on our doorstep); the human smugglers served a desire for better economic opportunity from their cargo; the maras now peddle meth along the necklace of legals and illicits locked into mind-numbing 'chicken chopper' jobs; etc.

As with all distribution mechanisms, once established, they can add new products with increasing efficiency and profit while picking up new suppliers/wholesalers and clients. And taking a page from disease vectors of, say, SARS and Avian Flu that can hop species, I see cooperative ventures between the criminal groups, both within and without their ethnic background. In fact, were I criminally minded, I might do just that when the risk was acceptable such that I could break the authorities' surveillance chain.

These interlocking patterns create another barrier to entry for police and law enforcement not unlike with the Muslim community: ethnic flags such as language, dialects, appearances, traceable blood/clan relationships, and customs -- which in the case of the maras include very visible tattoos and need for demonstrable violence to gain status.

Reflecting on these patterns, I kept resorting to 'supply chain' as a shorthand description and found the confusion among listeners high. The concept of Migration Chain made it much easier to look for cause and effect, and to think about predictors, i.e., Supply Chains materialize to both serve and prey upon Migration Chains.

I think that the model is applicable to all immigrant migration chains, especially those with a high percentage of illegals and/or those with a built-in distribution mechanisms such as convenience stores and gas stations. The fact that many of those stores are both within the "ethnic region" (and so harder to surveil) and increasingly on "high street addresses (especially gas stations in suburban and interstate locations) makes them an especially inviting mechanism.

I think that it is not too hard a leap to see interaction between supply chains and, in the case of the maras, possess the violence and disenfranchisement needed to bring anything into the US.

Remains a work in progress, but the idea is still holding through further analysis.

Gordon Housworth

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Failing the Manwaring paradigm: Surprise over jihadist targeting Muslim oil transport and refinery assets


The wide surprise over the public posting of a two year old jihadist document sanctioning the targeting of Muslim oil transport and refinery assets is a failure on multiple levels:

  • Failure to read already published jihadist strategy documents
  • Failure to see the rising capacity of the "new jihad"
  • Failure to transpose the value to insurgents of attacking Iraqi electrical and oil infrastructure to other Muslim "near enemy" regions
  • Failure to grasp the value of a "twofer" attack against a neutral or "near enemy" state in which the attack damages the local apostate government while damaging US and European firms indirectly -- where an attack on US soil would be prohibitive
  • Failure to understand the impacts of the Manwaring paradigm to both attacker and defender

In June 2004, I addressed an infrastructure attack in Exceeding $100 USD a barrel in a stroke: attack Ghawar, Abqaiq, and Safaniya which drew on three items by John Robb at Global Guerrillas:

In March 2005, I noted the rising sophistication of jihadist strategists in Jihadist strategy formulation reaches maturity, uniting tactics, fulfilling doctrine to address grand strategy rather than mere tactical assault methods. The Management of Barbarism specifically "outlines future desired 'crusader and infidel' targets within and outside current Islamic lands, i.e., soft targets, economic interests, and petroleum facilities." Anyone not aware that petroleum pipelines, refineries and tideside shipping assets was ignoring a variety of jihadist websites and high street press articles, one of which is Alexander Zaitchik's It's the Pipelines, Stupid: How to bring down a giant, one blood vessel at a time., 27 January, 2005.

Robb has also done two more post-Abqaiq items of note:

The Manwaring paradigm is extraordinarily useful in understanding the threat and opportunity in Low Intensity Conflict (LIC)  - "Political-military confrontation between contending states or groups below conventional war and above the routine, peaceful competition among states... Low intensity conflicts are often localized, generally in the Third World, but contain regional and global security implications."

In asking "Why has Islamist extremism been so pervasive, so easily franchised, and so difficult to extinguish?", Sherifa Zuhur observes that a "new Islamist discourse, produced by the Islamic awakening (sahwa Islamiyya) since the 1970s, has influenced and been influenced by a "new jihad," which has coalesced and evolved since the mid-1980s and 1990s. The new jihad, in turn, qualitatively has affected the capabilities of extremist leaders and the behavior of combatants."

Zuhur describes a New Jihad that is capable of strategic grasp, tactical excellence and rapid response to asymmetrical countermeasures:

It posits a World Islamic Front, promoting and aggrandizing battle against Western nations and local "apostate" governments, without sparing civilians. Members of this Front may appear at will... No-one need carry a card, or provide the authorities with recordings of cellular telephone calls to Afghanistan or Pakistan; instead... "they need to understand, al-Qa’ida is inside [in the heart]."

It is malleable and opportunistic, utilizing new types of alliances. Groups who aim at the "far enemy" (the United States, other Western nations, and Israel) may ally with groups seeking local autonomy, or with moderates.

It is not anti-modern. [Skipping philosophical underpinning] We can see quite clearly that today's jihadists are Western trained and possess technical and analytical skills. They use the Internet, cellular messaging, chat rooms and e-linked faxes more adeptly than larger organizations with physical recruitment centers. The pathologizing of terrorism causes us to say that their minds "work differently" than ours - when the issue is really one of different values and disassociative techniques. In other words, the jihadi believes, or convinces himself, that his immoral acts of violence are moral, but this in no way impairs the modern logic patterns of his brain.

In the face of this adaptation, what have we done beyond largely conventional applications of force of arms?:

The US has not taken stock of all the knowledge previously acquired about Islamist terrorists. Why not? 1) They have been too busy facing insurgents every day and simultaneously attempting to rebuild and reconstruct Iraq. 2) Those of us on this side of the great water have been too busy squabbling about whether Islam or "Islamic culture," as opposed to Islamist miscreants. Our lack of clarity is in part due to political factors; the stakes are high, if one teleologically addresses the issue, stronger arguments may be made for particular recommendations as opposed to others; and, 3) security studies, gravitating to current conflicts, had ignored regionally-produced assessments of Islamist threats. It seems they are too laden with detail, too bound by the specificities of particular movements to reveal, or expose the strategies of smaller-scale threats and relevance of local regime responses.

Yet we've had masters such as Max Manwaring repeatedly explaining that "the ultimate outcome of any counterinsurgency effort is not primarily determined by the skillful manipulation of violence in the many military battles that take place once a war of this nature is recognized to have begun." What has become the Manwaring paradigm rose as the SWORD model in the late 1980s.

The SWORD model states "that even though every conflict is situation specific, it is not completely unique [i.e., that] there are analytical commonalities at the strategic and high operational levels." The SWORD model is symmetric, applying equally "for a besieged government and its allies, and for a violent internal challenger and its allies." A series of dependent variables "determine the success or failure of an internal war" and may be "considered "wars within the general war." Every successful strategy on either side of the conflict spectrum has "explicitly or implicitly taken into account all the following strategic dimensions - or wars within the general internal war":

(1) a legitimacy "war" to attack or defend the moral right of an incumbent regime to exist; (2) a more traditional police-military "shooting war" between belligerents: (3) "wars" to isolate belligerents from their internal and external support; (4) the closely related "war to stay the course" - that is, the effort to provide consistent and long-term support to a host government; (5) intelligence and information "wars"; and (6) "wars" to unify multidimensional, multilateral, and multiorganizational elements into a single effective effort.

Protagonists violate the Manwaring paradigm to their peril, but perhaps one can excuse lay readers in missing the likelihood of oil field attacks. Consider Phil Battaglia (also here) casting his Iraqi experience in the Manwaring paradigm, observing that "coalition efforts are hampered by a lack of host government legitimacy, inability to limit outside support to the insurgents, weak host country military actions, and lack of unity of effort at various levels."

At every level, we have to recapture preeminence in executing the Manwaring paradigm. Our adversaries are ever expanding their capacity and their willingness to push the envelope. Closing with Zuhur:

The new jihad has broken with classical doctrines of jihad and "the law of nations" (siyar) as well as Muslim modernist or reformers' reconstructions of jihad in the 19th and 20th centuries. The classical doctrines of jihad specified the most permissable form to be between Muslims and polytheists or unbelievers waged "in the path of God... " However, strict rules applied to jihad; under the siyar, the Muslim "law of nations," it might be an individual duty as opposed to a collective duty, and was differently governed if it applied to land controlled by Muslims or non-Muslims. Ethics and rules of conduct were meant to limit brutality and the cycles of vengeance it could unleash, and yet we see today's jihadis engaged in vicious kidnappings, beheadings, and wide-scale attacks on civilians that would be forbidden under classical understandings of jihad.

Saudi Qaeda idealogue sets rules for oil war-Web
Mar 2, 2006 10:50 AM GMT

Document: al-Qaida Encourages Oil Attacks
Associated Press/Guardian (UK)
March 2, 2006 4:31 PM

Al Qaeda idealogue sets rules for oil war
Daily Times (PK)
March 03, 2006

By Andnetwork .com
Sapa-AP /rm
March 2, 2006

Saudi Oil Facilities: Al-Qaeda's Next Target?
By John C.k. Daly
Terrorism Monitor
Jamestown Foundation
Volume 4, Issue 4 (February 23, 2006)

Interview with Glenn Zorpette (Re-engineering Iraq)
NPR Science Friday
February 10, 2006
The hour starts with a medical discussion and then proceeds to Zorpette

Re-engineering Iraq
By Glenn Zorpette
Executive Editor
IEEE Spectrum
Feb 2006

Sherifa Zuhur
Publication 636
ISBN 1-58487-225-0
Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College
December 2005

Warding off Violence
Oxford Business Group
Kuwait, Volume 23
June 21, 2005


Article 5
May 13, 2005

America's Irregular Enemies - XVI Annual Strategy Conference
USAWC 16th Annual Strategy Conference titled America's Irregular Enemies: Securing Interests in an Era of Persistent Conflict
Carlisle Barracks, Carlisle, PA, 12-14 April 2005.
Listed panels and available briefs for download

A Dozen Osamas: Islamist Threats and the Future of Counterinsurgency
Sherifa Zuhur
(Draft. Contact author for updated drafts,
Presented to "America's Irregular Enemies: Securing Interests in an Era of Persistent Conflict," U.S. Army War College (USAWC) Strategy Conference, 4/12-14, 2005

AL-QA'IDA BOOK ON MANAGING SAVAGERY source: Isralert subscriber/intelligence analyst Bruce Tefft
Source-Date: 03/08/2005

How to bring down a giant, one blood vessel at a time.
By Alexander Zaitchik
New York Press
Volume 18, Issue 4
1/26/2005 - 2/1/2005

The Manwaring Paradigm and the Iraqi Insurgency
Phil Battaglia
Low Intensity Conflict & Law Enforcement
Volume 12, Number 2/Summer, 2004, pp 37-51

Max G. Manwaring
ISBN 1-58487-087-7
Publication 292
Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College
April 2002
If you must, a lighter version is here

Max G. Manwaring
Studies in Asymmetry
Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College
ISBN 1-58487-068-0
September 2001

Lethal Airpower and Intervention
By Mark A Bucknam
School of Advanced Airpower Studies
Air University
Maxwell Air Force Base
June, 1966
Neither Original or FAS mirror is responding
Cache retrieved on Feb 6, 2006 00:12:26 GMT

Joseph N. McBride
April 30, 1993
NWC IRP 93-004

Low-Intensity Conflict: Old Threats in a New World
Edwin G. Corr and Stephen Sloan, eds.
Westview Press, 1992
Review by Ernest Evans

Gordon Housworth

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When Tehran goes nuclear, will Riyadh's bomb be American, Chinese, or Pakistani


Despite the vitriol emanating from Tehran towards Israel, where Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has called the Holocaust into question and suggested that Israel be struck off the planet (along with the US), and in 2001, former Iranian president Hashemi Rafsanjani "speculated that a Muslim state that developed a nuclear weapon might use it to destroy Israel," I maintain that the major target of Iranian nuclear and military might are regional Arab, and mostly Sunni, states rather than Israel.

I've previously noted that "I think that the parallels of China and Iran as two proud ancient states now seeking to restore what they perceive as the historic spheres of influence has much merit. In the case of Iran, I agree with the opinion that its nuclear weapons program is aimed not at Israel but at its Arab and Muslim neighbors." I've also signaled my deep respect that I have for Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed [sometimes translated as Rashid], general manager of Al-Arabiya television. Here al Rashed speaks to Iranian targeting:

[Al Rashed] reflected the concerns of some Arab commentators who still regard Iran as a traditional foe and perceive the reconciliatory tone adopted by the Iranian reformist wing headed by Khatami with suspicion. In "Is Iran serious about attacking Israel?" Abdel-Rahman Al-Rashid rejected the notion, expressing worries that Iran's weapons might be directed towards its Arab neighbours instead. Al-Rashid wrote in Asharq Al-Awsat on Thursday that Iran's history does not support the view that the weapons it is amassing are for fighting Israel. He listed confrontations Iran had had, with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Iraq. He concluded that Iran's presumed nuclear capability was aimed at targeting neighbouring countries, basing his assumption on the fact that there has never been a single clash between Israel and Iran. Iran does not share borders with Israel and has had no direct conflict with it. It supports forces that are against Israel although its weaponry cannot be sent to these parties. "Then who is at the receiving end of these [Iranian] sophisticated weapons? There is only one logical answer: [Arab] neighbouring countries."

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is described as a member of "ideologically conservative veterans of the Iran-Iraq war" who are attempting to create a political force apart from older "hard-liners." Ahmadinejad is "resurrecting the priorities of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, chastising the West at every turn and striving to forge a distinctly anti-Western national identity while re-establishing Iran's revolutionary influence across the Muslim world." In this world, the US is now the "world oppressor" rather than the Great Satan. He is "looking beyond Iran, seeking to fashion himself as a pan-Islamic leader [influenced by a mentor, Muhammad Taqi Mesbah Yazdi], much the way Ayatollah Khomeini did."

Ahmadinejad certainly has the capacity for incandescent oratory that has an ability to incite the disenfranchised and the pious while exciting nearly all other regional heads of state, notably Sunnis. Whereas Iranian MehrNews spoke of Ahmadinejad's presence at the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) in Mecca in glowing terms, that "the ground has been prepared for upgrading the already extensive level of cooperation between Iran and Saudi Arabia," Ahmadinejad's comments of day two of the summit that "the Holocaust might not have taken place and that Israel should be moved to Europe" infuriated the Saudis and made a hash of Riyadh's effort to place a moderate face on Islam:

Three senior Saudi officials complained in private that the comments completely contradicted and diverted attention from the message of tolerance the summit was trying to project. One Saudi official compared Ahmadinejad to ousted Iraq president Saddam Hussein and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, whose renegade statements frequently infuriated other Arab leaders and have targeted the Saudis in particular. "The Iranian president seems to have lost his direction," said Gilan al-Ghamidi, a prominent commentator in Saudi media. "Iran should be logical if it wants to receive the support of the world. The president didn't score any points. He lost points."

The Saudis have much to fear from a resurgent Iran now that the US has done what a decade of Iraqi-Iran war could not; humble Baghdad:

Iran’s population at 70 million is three times that of Iraq’s and it has one of the youngest populations in the world. Iran’s standing army is estimated by the CIA to be 520,000-strong, but each year 817,000 17-year-old Iranian boys are potentially available for military service. That is an awful lot of martyrs or suicide bombers. The Iranians are Persians, not Arabs, a consideration entirely absent from most neoconservative analyses of Iran’s supposed weakness. Persian imperial dynasties date back to Cyrus the Great, around 530BC, and Xerxes, 486-465BC, who plagued the Greeks. Unlike the chaotic Arab shambles of Saddam’s Iraq, Iran remains a hierarchical society where the vast majority live in rigid terror of the authorities above them, religious or imperial, and will utterly obey their commands.

Iran is trying to "become a regional superpower seeking to fill the void left by the collapse of Arab nationalism and by the absence of any one dominant nation [especially Iraq]." In the words of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: "The Islamic Republic of Iran is currently the axis of a tireless international identity, which relies on religious faith and challenges the global arrogances":

"If Iran acted like an Islamic power, just Islam without Shiism, then Arabs would accept it as a regional Islamic power," said Sheik Adel al-Mawada, a deputy speaker and member of the Sunni fundamentalist Salafi bloc in the parliament of Bahrain. "But if it came to us with the Shia agenda as a Shiite power, then it will not succeed and it will be powerful, but despised and hated." Bahrain has a restive Shiite population.

The concept of a unified Arab world is often called into question when leaders gather for Arab League meetings, which seem to highlight their differences. Stepping back, the suggestion that one Islamic Middle East could unite behind a set of social, political and economic goals becomes even more far-fetched especially when the net includes the Iranians... 

"As a gulf area, we don't want to see Iran as the major power in the area," said Muhammad Abdullah al-Zulfa, a member of the Shura Council of Saudi Arabia. "And we don't want to see Iran having this nuclear weapon where it will be a major threat to the stability of the gulf area and even to the Arab world altogether."

"If Iran developed a nuclear power, then it is a big disaster because it already supports Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine, Syria and Iraq, then what is left?" said Essam el-Erian, a spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood of Egypt. "We would have the Shiite crescent that [King Abdullah II of Jordan] warned against." 

I concur with those Iranians that believe that if Iran "goes too far and builds a bomb... that it could set off a regional arms race and push states like Saudi Arabia to make their own bombs."

Short of a sustained series of military strikes on Iranian facilities or, more attractive, a series of Gerald Bull-style targeted assassinations against the development and enrichment human assets (a more forceful variant that the manner that Israel used to dissuade German scientists from working in Egypt on surface to surface missiles), the Iranians will build a fissile package. My question is then, who will deliver the opposing bomb to Riyadh? (For many reasons, I do not see the Saudis building their own.) My first three candidates are the US (over Israeli objections), the Chinese or the Pakistanis.

Bizarre as it may seem, I also toy with the idea of an Israeli nuclear umbrella over Sunni states against a Shi'ite threat. Think of it; what a stroke of diplomatic gain by Tel Aviv to protect Sunnis against the Shia.

Iran the Great Unifier? The Arab World Is Wary
New York Times
February 5, 2006

A New Face in Iran Resurrects an Old Defiance
New York Times
January 30, 2006

Iran leader's comments attacked
BBC News
Last Updated: Thursday, 27 October 2005, 13:46 GMT 14:46 UK

Profile: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
BBC News
Last Updated: Thursday, 27 October 2005, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK

Text of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Speech [The World Without Zionism]
Speech to an Islamic Student Associations conference on "The World Without Zionism."
Iranian Interior Ministry, Tehran
October 26, 2006
Text in Persian at the
Iranian Student News Agency
Translation by Nazila Fathi, The New York Times Tehran bureau
Bracketed explanatory material from Nazila Fathi
October 30, 2006

Ahmadinejad draws ire of Saudis, Iranians, West over Israel remarks
Compiled by Daily Star staff
Daily Star (Lebanon)
December 10, 2005

Ahmadinejad, Saudi king hold high-profile meeting
MECCA, Dec. 9, 2005
MehrNews (MNA)

A million martyrs await the call
Kevin Toolis
The Times
November 19, 2005

Mortal man
26 August - 1 September 2004
Issue No. 705

Project Babylon Supergun / PC-2
Global Security

Dr. Gerald Bull: Scientist, Weapons Maker, Dreamer
CBC (Canada)

Iran's Security Policy in the Post-Revolutionary Era
By: Daniel Byman, Shahram Chubin, Anoushiravan Ehteshami, Jerrold D. Green
RAND, 2000
ISBN: 0-8330-2971-1
Chapter Four, Major Security Institutions and Their Composition

Gordon Housworth

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