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AIDS, poison, cirrhosis, medical malpractice, the rare and obscure; it matters how Arafat died


Medical blogs became the court of last resort in order to build a legitimate understanding of Arafat's symptoms, gain implications of as to how long he might live, and ultimately understand the cause of death as certainly the French, the Palestinian authority, and Arafat's wife, Suha, were having none of it.

For example, when it was reported that Arafat had "a blood hemorrhage in the head" and was on a respirator, doctors were able to say that it was intracerebral bleeding and that he had a "very poor prognostic factor":

83% of cirrhotic patients who needed to be placed on a mechanical ventilator died within 72 hours and only about 4% survived beyond six months... Patients with a poorly functioning liver are very prone to bleeding because of their low platelet counts and low levels of clotting proteins in their blood.

Cirrhosis is now being formerly advanced as the cause of death, but if true, the cause is not yet known. Why does it matter? In part, upon whom someone places blame and attempts to punish, or upon whom, perhaps Arafat himself, one attempts to heap shame and dishonor and thereby accumulate political capital.

The contenders:

AIDS - which was my choice based upon his external symptoms and decades of whispers of Arafat's homosexual and/or bisexual activity in Russia, Tunisia, and Palestine. Suppression of this cause reduces the stigma, at least in fundamentalist circles, and the macho image of the Father of Palestine. CSI MEDBLOGS: WILL ARAFAT DIE OF AIDS? offers medical info.

Poison - "Palestinians accused the Israelis of poisoning Arafat's food even though poisoning has traditionally been a weapon of choice for those who seek to depose the government from within. I.e. other Palestinians would be the ones in the best position to do this." A members of Arafat's Fatah faction "said a bodyguard told him that the Palestinian leader had whispered to him: "This time they got me."" "Arafat's doctor, Ashraf Kurdi, told the al Jazeera satellite TV network that, "Arafat's health condition makes poisoning a strong possibility."" Rumor upon rumor with few coherent medical symptoms, but many would like to blame Israel in order to carry on the conflict.

Cirrhosis - end-stage liver failure which could also be from the embarrassment of alcoholism but also from "many other causes, including viral infections, inherited disorders and, in Northern Africa, parasites." Physicians are pro and con on alcohol based on limited data. A non-alcohol cause gets everyone off the hook.

French malpractice - "Arafat may have been oversedated in a French hospital prior to getting a diagnostic procedure. This caused him to go into cardiac arrest for which the French were ill prepared (just like WWII) and this caused anoxic brain damage that put him in a coma and on the verge of death." Great version here:


Needless to say, the French are not fond of this cause.

Rare and obscure - "Other causes such as Thrombocytopenic Purpura (which is very rare), hemolytic uremic syndrome with thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (which affects the kidneys much more than the liver), and Idiopathic Thrombocytopenic Purpura (which mostly affects women and children and is fatal in only 2% of adults) do not fit with what we know about Arafat's condition." Who knows who get the blame, if any.

Speaking to al Jazeera "only hours before Arafat was due to be buried, Arafat's personal physician called for "an official inquiry and an autopsy ... so the Palestinian people can learn in all transparency what caused the death" of their leader." I do not see Arafat being exhumed any time soon.

I wonder how many security services were trying to secure medical waste from Percy Hospital for analysis.


Gordon Housworth

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Domestic Digital Pearl Harbor driven by offshore criminal and terrorist agents


While I had previously noted that, "Malware (malicious software), phishing, cracking, and social engineering, individually and in concert, increasingly point to the goal of criminal profit," it is increasingly apparent that while US residents remain the most attractive target (due I believe to our volume of ecommerce, the availability of broadband bot targets, and far too many dumb users unable to protect their PCs), the perps are Eastern European gangs. (US organized crime has been slow in comparison in its embrace of cybercrime.) While the US has the largest absolute number of fraudulent transactions:

countries such as the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia, the African countries of Nigeria and Ghana, and Vietnam are homes of a higher percentage of fraud. [VeriSign] labels any credit card transaction from an IP address sourced in Macedonia as "risky," and more than 85 percent of such transactions from the other three countries are not be trusted.

It is worth remembering that while Dick Clarke was too "often dismissed as a Cassandra while cybersecurity czar," and thus the six trends he identified in October 2003 were received with what I would call polite inattention by IT and government (See Revisiting Clarke's six bleak IT trends from October 2003), all that he forecast has come to pass. Clarke said all six would increase, but the one that would go through the roof was 'Rising identity theft.' Not only has it gone through the roof but it is being used in combination with at least four others: Rising vulnerabilities, Rising patches, Falling "time to exploit," Rising rate of propagation, and Rising cost of cleanup.

Phishing (enticing users are to surrender financial data and passwords to fake Web sites) is being carried out "on a massive scale [such that the] price of a credit card number is dropping into the pennies now." Offshore perps are infecting US PCs with Trojans and worms, turning them into bots and bot nets, which then launch an interstate attack masking the attacker's origin.

One supposes better late than never, but it is still stunning to see the FBI just now publicly begin to say:

Tools and methods used by these increasingly skilled hackers could be employed to cripple our economy and attack our critical infrastructure as part of a terrorist plot. People had to assume that terrorists would seek to hire hackers to "raise money, aid command and control, spread terrorist propaganda and recruit more into their ranks and, lastly and most ominously, attack at little risk.

The Internet could allow attackers to remain anonymous, to strike at multiple targets from a distance and escape detection. Critical infrastructure such as water, power and transportation systems remained vulnerable. In the future, cyberterrorism may become a viable option to traditional physical acts of violence. Terrorists have figured out that we have a technological soft underbelly.

Back in Black hat meets white hat in the Idaho desert, I noted that:

Many "many once-isolated systems used to run railroads, pipelines and utilities are now also accessible via the Internet and thus susceptible to sabotage," as "More and more of these things are being connected to the Internet, so they can be monitored at corporate headquarters. It is generally accepted that the August blackout last year could have been caused by that kind of activity."

The Control Systems Center being built at DOE's INEEL by DHS and CERT is intent on addressing five areas: awareness, incident management, standards collaboration, strategic direction and testing. INEEL's head of national security programs is already on record as saying, "I am confident that there is no system connected to the Internet, either by modem or fixed connection, that can't be hacked into."

Given the disarray at DHS, one hopes that they talk to the bureau.

In Clarke's vision of securing the net, I said that at least a small "p" digital Pearl Harbor was possible, in part, due to the 2003 Federal Computer Security Report Card scored the critical 24 federal agencies into an overall D grade [and] that those still getting an F are the departments of Homeland Security, Energy, State, Justice, Health And Human Services, Interior, Agriculture, and Housing And Urban Development.  (Defense got itself into the D category along with Transportation, GSA, Treasury, OPM, and NASA.)

Many private industry sectors are no better even as they possess the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems that are the C2 for critical infrastructure including electric, gas and oil distribution systems, water and sewer systems, and various manufacturing processes.

It is painful to think of phishing attacks merely being a money-spinning prelude to an infrastructure attack. We've passed the small 'p' and are now on the way to a medium 'p.'

FBI: Hidden threat inside cybercrime
November 10, 2004, 3:54 PM PT

Report: Crooks behind more Net attacks
By Robert Lemos
CNET November 16, 2004, 2:17 PM PT

Gordon Housworth

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Five times larger than Fallujah, Mosul falls to a Baathist controlled Iraqi insurgency


Were this election night, I might be called premature for tipping the race to one candidate over another, but here I think not. I share the opinion that the "Ba'ath Party in Mosul has reconstituted itself and is coordinating attacks in Mosul against Iraqi police, government, and the Kurdish and Christian minorities." I would go so far to presume that the Ba'athist have effectively taken Mosul and we simply weren't attentive. (I'm so reminded of the Mekong delta in the 1960s when we didn't realize that the Viet Cong had taken over the region -- the telltale signs were that that government collected no taxes and its schools had no pupils. In some latter day After Action Report, we will see the precursors in Mosul.)

Consider the following and judge for yourself if US actions in Mosul can be restricted to a "significant operation to secure police stations in the area and make sure they can be put to use again":

  • Mosul and the Governate (province) of Ninewa contributed "hundreds of thousands of officers to elite military units, and the intelligence and Mukhabarat, or security, services [numbering as high as] 10 percent of the population" or over 300,000
  • Sunni Arabs loyal to Hussein were moved into Kurdish areas along the Tigris river
  • Those privileged Ba'athists were purged from dominance in all areas of Iraqi society: military, local, and national governments "over the objections of some Iraqis who feared that the move would alienate the Sunni minority and deprive the post-Hussein regime of the expertise needed to keep the country functioning"
  • Ba'ath Party officials met in Hasakah on the Syrian-Iraqi border in late September, electing a new party leader and appointing officials to run operations in all Iraqi cities
  • These newly reconstituted Ba'athists expelled "all party members who have worked with American forces, the interim Iraqi government, or the Kurdish political parties"
  • Ba'athists have reorganized under a "new, young leadership, mostly from the Mukhabarat and the special military forces" while broadening their base among traditional Sunni Arab tribes "by recruiting the sons of major sheiks"
  • Ba'athists are the prime mover in Mosul's resistance with two armed wings, Umm al-Rimah (mother of all spears) and Hadbah, unlike the "loose-knit coalition [of] tribal militia commanders and jihadi cells" in Fallujah
  • Mosul's Police defected en masse to these wings thereby granting them the "full cooperation of the police"
  • Ba'athists seized the University of Mosul, already "under the sway of Islamic extremists" when the attack commenced on Fallujah
  • Mosul was previously on the relatively pacified list of Iraqi cities, even considered a role model by some for a new Iraqi administration

Of the three-step US process for holding orderly elections in the near term and preparing a US exit in the medium term, only the first is under nominal US control:

  • Clear out the insurgents
  • Build up the Iraqi security forces
  • Develop and install local governments in preparation for national elections

Things are especially demanding as the "Iraqifying" of security and politics is increasingly appearing to be Ba'athist rather than coalition control. I find the failure to create a climate for a viable new Iraqi police force made startlingly clear by the fact that the local "Iraqi police had been ordered off the streets" of Mosul even as new Iraqi police and military units joined US forces from elsewhere.

Unlike Fallujah, which was largely emptied of its residents, some 1.5 million remain in Mosul. A goodly number of those can be assumed to be Ba'athists and insurgents while more are sympathizers willing to pass information and act as a command and control network. Mosul would be Fallujah run riot.

"Reconstruction is as essential as the actual purging of the insurgents," but how can any Iraqi city ever be made sufficiently secure to permit US military engineers to rebuild to rebuild basic infrastructure that "was damaged, not only by fighting but also by years of neglect.

The Ba'athists will insure that we have to leave the cities we assault "with no running water, living in sewage." How can we not leave a devastating anti-American sentiment in our withdrawal while the Ba'athist move in as have Hamas and Hezbollah in Palestine to provide essential services.

Mosul sounds more like Mekong.

Note: I refer readers needing good maps of Iraq to the Map Centre of the Humanitarian Information Center (HIC) working under the UN Office of the Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq (UNOHCI).

US, Iraqi troops fight to retake control in Mosul
By Thanassis Cambanis
Boston Globe
November 17, 2004

Troops Move To Quell Insurgency In Mosul
Cleric Vows to Turn Iraq 'Into One Big Fallujah'
By Anthony Shadid
Washington Post
November 17, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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The Arab street reacts predictably to the mosque shooting: the Sunni Arab street is furious


Mere hours ago, I forecast in Another Abu Ghraib; execution in a mosque on videotape, that:

To the Arab street it will be murder in that special lopsided balance in which Arabs can kill themselves but if an outsider, a westerner, an American does it, the affront transcends the killing itself. Worse, we have not allowed the Red Crescent to enter Fallujah as the military situation is not uniformly calm, and soldiers must still search house to house to insure that no hiding insurgents have been left behind. Insurgents could also blend in with Red Crescent as refugee or wounded and gain exit from the city. The obverse of not letting the Red Crescent in is to fan the flames of rumor that we have produced great numbers of Iraqi civilian dead. This one dead will turn rumor into fact.

The upshot was equal or worse -- to the point that, coming on the back of Abu Ghraib, any chance of a hearts and minds campaign have evaporated. Deliberately taking a neutral position in the earlier note, my aim was to forecast the impact on Arabs and Muslims rather than to try to present any western legal or moral construct that would be rejected out of hand by the Arab Street.

Let me reach back to Oct 2002 private note for a parallel of misunderstanding:

As conflict nears in Iraq, the issue of linkage between sanctions against Israel and Iraq is getting some -- a little but growing -- traction among non-Arabs. Notes to this list have been predicting for it some time. The problem is that save for a few UN mavens, no one is interested in the fine print in the UN resolutions dealing with Israel and Iraq. The UN distinguishes between two kinds of Security Council resolutions, those with teeth and those without:

(1) Security Council Chapter Seven resolutions are binding on all UN members and give the council broad powers to take action, make war, and to deal with all manner of "threats to peace" and acts of aggression. Teeth, and with the resolution Bush desires, sharp pointy teeth.

(2) Security Council Chapter Six resolutions are non-binding on UN members and call upon affected parties to make peaceful resolution of disputes. No teeth.

Iraq is covered by Chapter Seven while Israel is covered by Chapter Six. Palestinian diplomats understand, having perennially failed in their attempt to get Chapter Seven sanctions against Israel. The UN is legally not using a double-standard but who cares? The perception on the street is the reality.

The fine print or Anglo-European Chapter Six and Seven resolutions are lost on the Arab street where 'inaction' is seen as Western bias towards Muslims. So it is with the mosque shooting and any subsequent US judicial review. The view that binds street opinion is that "we do not value Muslim life or that we view Muslims as an inferior species."

The fury of an al Jazeera anchor matched that of the Sunni Arab street, of our ally Jordan, as he "almost had a heart attack" in his assault on the US and inactive Arab states as he demanded, "Where are the Arabs?"

While Allawi and US commanders deny that there is a humanitarian crisis and thus no need for Red Crescent aid:

The generally pro-American Saudi daily, Asharq al-Awsat, has a long piece on the sufferings of civilians in Fallujah, based on telephone interviews and eyewitness accounts by Iraqis. The article is extremely suspicious of American motives in having taken the Fallujah hospitals and in having kept the Red Crescent and other aid agencies away from the city. Do they want to get rid of all the bodies lying in the streets before anyone sees them, the article asks.

As for the apparent murder of a wounded guerrilla by a Marine, it was horrible... Ash-Sharq al-Awsat writes of Fallujah, and I paraphrase: Whatever the number of families that stayed in Fallujah, they are suffering now from lack of food, water, and aid. Although the US and Iraqi military authorities insist they have taken the city with the exception of some pockets of resistance, they refuse to allow Red Crescent aid trucks even into the areas they say they control. It is not known if the reason for this refusal is to prevent the "pockets of resistance" from getting hold of some food, or if it is because they want to get the bodies off the streets before the Red Crescent comes in, so as to avoid shocking the aid workers.

That is the opinion that counts as it will spawn jihadis.

Sunni Arab Regions in Flames
Juan Cole
Informed Comment
November 16, 2004

U.S. Launches Inquiry into Shooting of Wounded Insurgent in Fallujah
November 16, 2004, 7:30pm EST

Gordon Housworth

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Gulfstream N379P becomes N8068V: the price of carelessness with flight logs, or notoriety, or just business practice


Don't look for tail number N379P if you are seeking a clandestine transporter of enemy combatants to undisclosed locations for Extraordinary Rendition, i.e., delivery of detainees to foreign locations for advanced interrogation. A straightforward open source analysis reveals that N379P is now N8068V, same serial number (581), same owner (Premiere Executive Transport Services Inc.), and one might surmise, the same purpose, (And when someone awakes to the public recognition of this datum, expect it to change again, or change ownership, or contract provider, and possibly the aircraft.)

As long as an airframe remains under US registration, the Federal Aviation Administration's Aircraft Registration Inquiry offers ten useful searches for N-number, Name, Engine, Document Index, Serial Number, Make/Model, Dealer, State & County, Territory & Country, and N-number Availability. For Canada it is Transport Canada's Civil Aircraft Register, for the UK it is the Civil Aviation Authority's G-INFO Database Search. Some nations are not so accurate in their record keeping.

By using the country/state search, I was able to determine that Premiere Executive Transport owned only two aircraft, the Gulfstream-V N8068V, C/N 581, and a Boeing 737, N313P, C/N 33010. Using N-number Availability, I was able to determine that N379P was not now Assigned/Reserved. Most assume that tail numbers are unique, like a license plate, which is true, but they can be changed as well. There are sites that track the changes in tail numbers. N8068V was N379P, and before that, N581GA.

This data base searches come atop the annual efforts of hobbyist plane spotters and some activists around the world who dutifully log and photograph arriving and departing aircraft, thereby creating a wonderful record of aircraft that change more than the tail numbers for repossession, change of ownership, and criminal efforts. Some sites such as PlanePictures.Net, PlaneSpotting Network, JetPhotos.Net, and are quite useful. The latter two were useful in determining that a missing American Airlines Boeing 727 modified as an air tanker that had departed from Luanda, Angola, without permission and disappeared was not going to be used as a terrorist weapon. It was later seen in Conakry, Guinea, resprayed and given a Guinean registration. (Aircraft often disappear in Africa.)

Whereas N379P was logged in Shannon Ireland to later become corroborating data for a two part Swedish documentary (1 and 2), and noted as part of a larger rendition effort (and here), it was not until the G-V's log books came into the journalist hands that the wider scope became clear:

Analysis of the plane's flight plans, covering more than two years, shows that it always departs from Washington DC. It has flown to 49 destinations outside America, including the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba and other US military bases, as well as Egypt, Jordan, Iraq, Morocco, Afghanistan, Libya and Uzbekistan.

Witnesses have claimed that the suspects are frequently bound, gagged and sedated before being put on board the planes, which do not have special facilities for prisoners but are kitted out with tables for meetings and screens for presentations and in-flight films.

The aircraft type may be the hardest to change given its suitability to the mission. Gulfstream Aerospace's Gulfstream V is an intercontinental corporate transport capable of carrying four crew (two on the flight deck) and eight passengers and fuel reserves at its design cruising speed of 459 Knots over 6500 Nautical Miles in about 14 and a half hours. The G-V is typically equipped with "a crew rest room, a business work station with Satcom, computer and fax, a dining/conference area with seating for four, a three seat couch that converts into a bed, five other reclining seats, two galleys and a restroom fitted with a toilet and shower."

Just the delivery ticket for interrogation in Jordan, torture in Syria, and disappearance in Egypt.

US accused of 'torture flights'
Stephen Grey
Times (UK)
November 14, 2004

'Abduction' jet makes Shannon stops
By Paul Colgan
Irish Echo Online
November 10-16, 2004

TV4 Sweden Script "The broken promise" Part 1
TV4 Monday 17 May 2004

TV4 Sweden Script "The broken promise" Part 2
TV4 Monday 24 May 2004

Gordon Housworth

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Forecast on Iraq from a Pakistani founder of al Qaeda


Lieutenant General Hamid Gul is an interesting fellow. Prior to being retired by Musharraf, Gul was former director general of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and a designer of the International Muslim Brigade that evolved into the International Islamic Front which bin Laden later came to head. Gul firmly believes that the US is conspiring against Islam and so it should come as no surprise that he is utterly unrepentant with regards to Pakistani proliferation, has said that 9/11 was a US/Israeli conspiracy, feels that Musharraf has sided with the US "under duress" ("I don't think his heart is in it. He has the same genes which I have. He was my student, he was my subordinate in the Pakistan army. We have served together. How can he be pro-America?"), sees the US as a threat ("Because they are targeting Islam. Islam is their new enemy ... because Islam talks of a system of egalitarianism, and they are capitalists."), and one that can be bested (("We are not afraid of the Americans, they can't fight on the ground. We are only concerned about their high-altitude bombers. India and Pakistan must find a solution to their high-altitude bombers.")

Still, one can learn from those whom we have cause to dislike. Referring to my forecast for hostilities, Forecast for Iraq and Afghanistan: taking the pulse of the war on terror and When mere pessimism is an optimistic analysis, I found some of Gul's comments interesting, even considering his inherent bias:

Unsurprisingly, Gul believes that the "sustained strengthening of the insurgency" will "grow into a widespread, organized resistance," noting that the current level of resistance is restrained due to al Sistani's keeping "Shi'ites away from the resistance as Shi'ites are interested in participating in the elections. Had Shi'ites been a part of the resistance movement at this stage, the US would have had a difficult time in keeping its presence in Iraq."

Even as US and Illawi forces believe that the preponderance of insurgents are Baathist and Iraqi, Gul looks forward to a magnet effect:

the way resistance groups have driven the US nuts in Iraq could set a new dynamic in the world and give new life to liberation movements. The death of Yasser Arafat has also left no leader who can convince Muslim youths that politicking is a solution. Now nobody will be ready to listen to Muslim intellectuals who believe in negotiations rather than military struggle.

Muslim youths will see their success in military struggles and I see an emergence of a "Muslim International" in which Iraq will be the center. I think 7,000 to 8,000 foreign fighters have already joined hands with the resistance. They are not alien to Iraqi culture. They are youths who share the same culture, speak the same language and wear the same dress. In the coming days, I believe thousands more will join. This is a trend which cannot be suppressed by the state apparatus issuing verdicts that suicide attacks are prohibited in Islam. Arab youths can flock through Iraq's largely unguarded borders to reinforce the resistance movement.

In the coming phase, in my opinion, the resistance will make Baghdad the center of the resistance, where all resources will be pooled to blow away US interests.

Remembering that members of the then extreme Irgun and the Stern Gang that survived assassination by the Haganah rose into the political elite of Israel, it is interesting to note that Gul feels that international support will accrue to the resistance:

Support comes with the passage of time when a movement proves its credibility [after] Bush's re-election, there is visible annoyance in countries like Russia and China, even in Europe, against US policies, and it will be a matter of time before they trust the guts [bravery] of the resistance movement and extend their support.

Gul foresees a "Muslim International" in which al Qaeda has a role in Iraq:

Most of the al-Qaeda figures have already left Afghanistan... Iraq is the next destination. Now the entire focus is on Iraq, where all [resistance] groups are investing their resources to make the resistance a success.

Gul feels that the resistance could rise to "about 40,000 to 50,000, including former Ba'ath Party members, Fidayeens, other military and para-military forces, and foreign fighters."

Asia Times states that "Sources in the Afghan resistance movement... decided before the US invasion of Iraq to make that country a hub of their activities. An organization called the Jaishul al-Qiba al-Jihadi al-Siri al-Alami had already been formed to send groups of jihadis to Iraq from time to time. These included Afghans and Arab-Afghans. Well before the [2004] Islamic holy month of Ramadan, the resistance held a meeting in southern Baghdad. It was attended by representatives of many different Iraqi groups, which decided to launch "Operation Ramadan" all over Iraq."

Gul's forecast is too similar to my own.

Resistance blueprint
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
Asia Times
Nov 13, 2004

A thousand Fallujahs
By Pepe Escobar
Asia Times
November 12, 2004

Fanning the flames of resistance
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
Asia Times
Nov 9, 2004

US occupation through Iraqi eyes
By Pan Hu
Asia Times
Oct 30, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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China and Russia achieve in Iran what the US and NATO had in Turkey, part II


Part 1, the money. Now the power:

In a stroke, the October 2004 agreement between Sinopec and National Iranian Oil Company reduced Iran's isolation, raised its international stature, and gave it a major political ally in the Security Council.

Given that Iran's largest foreign agreement prior to the gigantic Sino-Persian gas agreement was a $25 billion gas affair with Turkey that has been plagued with problems, Iran expects, rightfully I think, that this deal will make states that "may still consider Iran untrustworthy or too radical to enter into big projects on a long term basis" to reconsider their position. It is expected that India will now begin to move forward with its stalled 1993 "Peace Pipeline" connecting India and Iran, traversing Pakistan in the bargain. It remains to be seen how soon Russia's Gazprom is allowed to sidestep US displeasure and increase its business in the subcontinent.

I would expect Iran to move towards entry into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) comprising China, Russia, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, but I think that Tehran can still extract more favors for this diplomatic plum even though:

China, Russia and Iran share deep misgivings about the perception of the United States as a "benevolent hegemon" and tend to see a "rogue superpower" instead. Even short of joining forces formally, the main outlines of such an axis can be discerned from their convergence of threat perception due to, among other things, Russia's disquiet over the post-September 11, 2001, US incursions in its traditional Caucasus-Central Asian "turf", and China's continuing unease over the Korean Peninsula and Taiwan; this is not to mention China's fixed gaze at a "new Silk Road" allowing it unfettered access to the Middle East and Eurasia, this as part and parcel of what is often billed as "the new great game" in Eurasia. Indeed, what China's recent deals with both Kazakhstan (pertaining to Caspian energy) and Iran (pertaining to Persian Gulf resources) [supports the view that] the new great game is not limited to the Central Asia-Caspian Sea basin, but rather has a broader, more integrated, purview increasingly enveloping even the Persian Gulf. Increasingly, the image of the Islamic Republic of Iran as a sort of frontline state in a post-Cold War global lineup against US hegemony is becoming prevalent among Chinese and Russian foreign-policy thinkers.

I cannot imagine why an observer would think that China would halt at the Stans when the greater political and economic suzerain is one that extends across the Persian Gulf. (And while the SCO launched as a joint Sino-Russian condominium, I feel that China is now securing the stronger position. And while the substantial military assets in the region are Russian and American, I think China can extend its reach by its unique commercial and diplomatic means without an immediate entry of arms.

I do not agree with the comment that the "The SCO initially was established to deal with border disputes and is now well on its way to focusing on (Islamist) terrorism, drug trafficking and regional insecurity." On the contrary, as far as Beijing is concerned, it was designed to produce a quiescent political belt on China western and northern flanks. 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:

Iran's history does not support the view that the weapons it is amassing are for fighting Israel. [Al-Rashid] 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."

To that end, China, one of the five permanent members of the Security Council, became a powerful Iranian ally in forestalling a breakdown with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) over weapons grade uranium enrichment that would see the Europe support US calls to refer Iran to the Security Council for sanctions.

"There is no reason to send the issue to the Security Council," Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing said at a press conference in Tehran with his Iranian counterpart, Kamal Kharazi. "It would only make the issue more complicated and difficult to work out," Li said. The Chinese foreign minister refused to speculate on whether China would use its veto in the Security Council in the event of Iran's case being sent there.

Russia will restore, perhaps strengthen is the better word, its relationship with Iran as it continues to recover dominance over the "near abroad" states lost upon the breakup of the USSR, and eject the US from the Stans. Iran will respond by pressuring Moscow to halt its foot-dragging over completion of the Bushehr reactor. The affected states realize this and are making security diversifications that spawn reinforcing commercial alliances across the Stans and the Persian Gulf. China again becomes counterweight.

Pressure on Iran could backfire
By Saloumeh Peyman
Asia Times
Nov 9, 2004

China rocks the geopolitical boat
Kaveh L Afrasiabi
Asia Times
Nov 6, 2004

So long US, hello China, India
By David Fullbrook
Asia Times
Nov 4, 2004

Gordon Housworth

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France steals the photo-op of the Arab world, Egypt's camel gets its nose under the tent, while the US does nothing and wins both blame and scorn


At the close of When "Palestine for Dummies" is written, Chirac should be its author, I noted that French President Jacques Chirac "sees a long term benefit in being the benefactor to both Arabs and their governments, all at little or no cost to France, at great expense to the US, and ultimately great diplomatic and commercial gain to Paris. When Chirac writes Dummies, I'll read it.

Over the past 72 hours following Arafat's death, Chirac has written a few chapters and I can but have great admiration for the French as the Elysee Palace stole the photo-op of the Arab world with drumbeat precision. Egypt took the handoff, delivering the body to Ramallah. In comparison, the US was at best parsiminous in its comments and received another dollop of Arab scorn. (At least Carter called Arafat "a powerful human symbol and forceful advocate" for the Palestinians but it was too little.) Worse, I think that we did not notice or did not care.

Madison Avenue could not have done it better. Chirac visited the hospital before the body was moved:

"I came to bow before President Yasser Arafat and pay him a final homage," Chirac told journalists after his 25-minute visit. Chirac, who came and went by a hospital side entrance, said he extended his "sincerest condolences" to Suha during his 25-minute visit, and addressed "a message of friendship and solidarity to the Palestinian people". He added: "France, of course, will continue to tirelessly act for peace and security in the Middle East and will do so with respect for the rights of the Palestinian and Israeli people."

The coffin was delivered by military escort to a waiting French army helicopter to leave for a ceremony at the Villacoublay military airport nearby Paris for:

a small ceremony involving French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin, Foreign Minister Michel Barnier and Suha Arafat. The coffin, borne by eight Republican Guard pallbearers past an honor guard, was draped in a Palestinian flag.

A full military honor guard saw the coffin loaded onto a French state aircraft, where "Republique Francaise" was emblazoned above the cargo hold door, for the hop to Cairo.

Members of the French government attended the ceremony at Villacoublay airport, described by the BBC's Allan Little in Paris as a semi-state occasion. A military band played a funeral march as Mr Arafat's coffin was carried to an Airbus plane bearing the livery of the French republic.

Text does not do it justice. You must see the images and think of the impact on 3.5 million Palestinians and their extended Arab street that, for whatever else they may be or have done, feel completely ignored and dispossessed.

Alighting in Cairo, the pomp continued:

A military honor guard carried the coffin, walking in formation from the plane to a hearse. Suzanne Mubarak, the wife of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, hugged Arafat's widow. The head of Mubarak's office and Egypt's foreign minister stood alongside Mrs. Mubarak. Arafat's coffin was then taken to the nearby Galaa Club, a compound that includes a hospital, mosque and social club for military officers. "I would like to draw your attention to something that is very important: It's an official military funeral and not open to the public.''

Egypt's top Muslim cleric, the Grand Sheik of Al-Azhar Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, officiated, leading the special prayers for the dead. French foreign minister, Michel Barnier, represent France at the funeral ceremony at a mosque in Cairo, Arafat's birthplace. Leaders attending this restricted Cairo funeral greatly outrank US Assistant Secretary of State William Burns.

After the funeral, Arafat's coffin was taken to the Almaza military base behind the club by horse-drawn carriage. In an ecumenical nod to the Jordanians, the coffin was then flown to el-Arish, in Egypt's northeastern Sinai Peninsula, where a transfer was made to two Jordanian helicopters that would then ferry the coffin and it accompanying delegation to Ramallah in the West Bank.

Hu Jintao sent a letter of condolences, "The Chinese people has lost a great friend."

Even North Korea declared three days of mourning.

Arafat's body flown to Egypt for funeral
Updated: 2004-11-12 00:53

Solemn Final Voyage Home for Arafat
Marc Burleigh, Agence France Presse
Friday, 12, November, 2004 (29, Ramadhan, 1425)

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Strategic Risk Public  Terrorism Public  


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China and Russia achieve in Iran what the US and NATO had in Turkey


To geopolitically position Iran in the mid-21st century, think Turkey in the later-20th century. Just as Turkey anchored a US and NATO flank while projecting US forces and forward basing into Russia, the Caucasus, and the Middle East, so now will Iran anchor a Chinese, Russian, and SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) flank while projecting Russian and Chinese interests into the Persian Gulf, SW Asia, and the Middle East. Think of Russian angst reversed, with the US on the receiving end this time unsupported by France and Germany as they seek to gain commercial and political capital as they too attempt to restrain the US "hyperpower."

Why we can't see this coming is utterly astonishing to me. One cannot grasp the flow of near-superpower political action without adding China and Russia to France's view that "Its sacred duty is to check American power by publicly and ostentatiously objecting to it from without. The French are so concerned by the dominance of American powermilitarily, economically, culturally, and technologicallythat a former French foreign minister felt the need to coin a new word to describe it: hyperpuissance, or "hyperpower." Think of it this way: France thinks the United States has so much power that the French language didn't have a word for it.

First, the money:

Middle East energy, and Saudi energy in particular, is no longer a US preserve. Sinopec (China Petrochemical Corp) signed a major gas exploration contract in Saudi Arabia's Rub Alkhali Basin in March 2004. (Russia's Lukoil and a consortium of Italy's ENI and Spain's Repsol YPF also gained exploration rights as the Saudis sought to diversify away from US oversight.)

Refinery-heavy Sinopec has always been keen to find oil and gas resources in foreign countries, as it imports more than 60 per cent of the crude it refines. Saudi Arabia is one of the most important countries where the company is considering to add to its upstream reserves.

While Exxon Mobil and other American companies remain active in Saudi Arabia's petrochemicals and refining industries, the demise of the earlier gas deal highlighted important differences between the Saudi government and American investors. Problems emerged over financial terms and Saudi requests for companies to operate power plants and desalinization projects as well as search for gas. The deal was also scrapped amid growing security concerns [as] Saudi Arabia's traditionally close ties to the [US] have come under increased scrutiny. "It is newsworthy that no U.S. companies have been successful in the tender and perhaps more significant that none of the successful bidders have a substantial current portfolio or recent track record in the Middle East."

China significantly extended its energy and political access into the Stans with the May 2004 agreement with Kazakhstan between China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) and KazMunaiGaz to build an oil pipeline from Atasu, NW Kazakhstan, to China's NW Xinjiang province. Kazakhstan wants to both diversify away from Russia and become a major exporter, thus its continuing talks with China for a pipeline to connect Caspian Sea gas fields to the east.

That palled with the October 2004 agreement between Sinopec and Iran's National Iranian Oil Company to "buy 250 million tons of LNG over 30 years from Iran and develop the giant Yadavaran [oil] field" which may contain over three billion barrels of recoverable reserves with a total production capacity of 300,000 bpd.

Iran's effort to tie LNG purchases with oil field development is seen "as more beneficial for Sinopec than the traditional buyback contracts, which apply to most foreign development deals in Iran"… Iran's petroleum minister [has] urged Chinese oil firms to play a bigger role in developing the industry in his country… Collaboration with Beijing would bring Tehran a new source of skills and investment at a time when U.S. sanctions block U.S. oil companies from doing business with Iran. "We have invited Chinese companies ... to actively participate in our exploration and development projects [promising them] the greatest incentives," including tax exemptions.

China saw that it could step across a prior barrier, the Iran Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA), without significant US reprisal of penalties the act permits. While European and Asian firms had avidly sought Iranian energy contracts, notably Japan's INPEX's $2 billion 2004 agreement to develop the Azadegan field, China had previously limited itself to modest investments in Iran, including Sinopec's construction of an oil terminal and refinery upgrades.

It is supreme understatement to say that:

It is perhaps too early to digest fully the various economic, political and even geostrategic implications of this stunning development, widely considered a major blow to the Bush administration's economic sanctions on Iran and particularly on Iran's energy sector, notwithstanding the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act (ILSA) penalizing foreign companies daring to invest more than $20 million in Iran's oil and gas industry.

To be continued

Pressure on Iran could backfire
By Saloumeh Peyman
Asia Times
Nov 9, 2004

China rocks the geopolitical boat
Kaveh L Afrasiabi
Asia Times
Nov 6, 2004

So long US, hello China, India
By David Fullbrook
Asia Times
Nov 4, 2004

Gordon Housworth

InfoT Public  Risk Containment and Pricing Public  Strategic Risk Public  


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Malware, phishing, cracking, and social engineering all point to increasing criminal profit


Malware (malicious software), phishing, cracking, and social engineering, individually and in concert, increasingly point to the goal of criminal profit at the expense of ego and bragging rights. The target's experience of mere inconvenience and indirect loss is now direct loss -- and a lot of it -- along with indirect loss and inconvenience. The better attacks marry two or more of the approaches:

Trojan horses can be used to dupe computer users into running a bot program, which in turn can help launch denial of service attacks for financial gain.

The [Sobig] virus would load software onto users' computers in order to provide a means for bulk e-mailers to use the zombie machines to send out unsolicited messages without detection.

The target is often an avid partner in his or her own demise:

The major issue in Netsky's consistent prevalence is the fact that it rides on the seemingly irremediable human penchant for opening attachments in e-mail messages, even from unknown sources.

People, by nature, are unpredictable and susceptible to manipulation and persuasion. Studies show that humans have certain behavioral tendencies that can be exploited with careful manipulation. Many of the most damaging security penetrations are, and will continue to be, due to social engineering, not electronic hacking or cracking.

Analysts have been watching an unremitting shift "from the traditional goal of claiming fame and notoriety to the pursuit of profit and monetary rewards." Gartner believes that social engineering is a greater problem than hacking:

Criminals are using social engineering to take the identity of someone either for profit, or to gather further information on an enterprise. This is not only a violation of the business, but of someone's personal privacy.

Criminals are zeroing in on the nexus of need, hope and loneliness where the target is most vulnerable. be it targeting the unemployed with "an e-mail that purported to come from Credit Suisse bank advertising a job opportunity" or an updated mail-order bride scam in which a fictitious attractive Russian woman, Ms. Medvedeva, fleeces the lovelorn, literally leaving some waiting at the airport with roses.

One wonders if the scams are so good or the victims so obtuse.  One may wonder about the victim when they read that:

  • 70 percent of consumers will share information, such as their name, address, postal code, phone number, account number or give the answer to a security question to an unsolicited call or email.
  • 61 percent of consumers do not want to be forced to change passwords, a common procedure mandated to enhance security.
  • 57 percent of consumers do not want their accounts locked down after three failed attempts to provide identification verification information.

One can only imagine the collision of these targets with thoughtful spammers who have no intent to see anything:

All they want is to "phish" your credit card number. Messages now zip around the Internet purporting to come from trusted companies and asking you to "verify your account." The victim is taken to a Web site that looks genuine but is run by a fraud ring.

Clearly the weak links are both the users that willingly make one click too many, or surrender information that they should not, and the software vendors that produce faulty code that can be exploited for Trojan, spam and other attacks. 

Human nature will be slow to fix. One can only hope that the software takes less time.

Virus report points to profit-hungry hackers
By Dawn Kawamoto
November 3, 2004

Russian Gal Seeking Comrade? No, It's an Internet Scam
New York Times
November 3, 2004

Old scams pose the 'greatest security risk'
By Munir Kotadia
ZDNet Australia
November 1, 2004

Consumers, not technology, biggest cybersecurity problem
Dan Farber
Oct 27, 2004

The new face of cybercrime
By Phillip Hallam-Baker
Special to ZDNet
July 20, 2004

Gordon Housworth

Cybersecurity Public  InfoT Public  


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