Unconventional thinking about the Middle East.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ewww, Creeeeeepy (Updated)

Just. Just. Ahhhh. Just. I don't feel so good. I don't know what I just saw but it wasn't so good. Just, I mean, just watch it. Okay.



Flashbacks: this took me back to kindergarden. Expressing our love for "Uncle Saddam," and painting tanks rolling over, and squashing, Evil Khomeini's head.

My first reaction was that this must be a spoof. No, it isn't: Jeff Zucker, CEO of NBC, is one of the producers [Update, October 2, 2008: Turns out to be a different Jeff Zucker]. It is frightening. Just frightening.

This, the cult-worship, has spun out of control. This mind-control, this manipulation, started out in the newsrooms. This is what you get when journalism turns into propaganda.




UPDATE (Wednesday, October 1, 2008):

Well, the original YouTube video was surrepticiously removed by the very same Obama supporters who produced it, and Obama's official website has been scrubbed clean of any references to the video. None of the self-styled 'serious' news operations reported on it, not even NBC whose own boss, Jeff Zucker, was involved in the production of the video. No comment, or any form of distancing, was heard or seen from the Obama campaign. Everyone is pretending that this video never happened. Mind-control, anyone?

In other news, the media's pro-Obama bias now has a face and a poster child: Gwen Ifill of PBS. She is supposed to be moderating the Biden-Palin debate tomorrow. Ifill's pro-Obamist sentiments are not relevant to this blog, but I've been taking issue with media bias, on Iraq and how Iraq is being reported and discussed during this election, for some time now. This unmasking of a pro-Obama 'journalist' coming 48 hours ahead of the debate has something of a, umm, je ne sais quoi, let's call it divine justice, yes that's it, it has something of a divine justice to it. All we're asking for is some basic fairness, and professionalism. The media isn't giving us much of either.

Here's a new link to the 'Dear Leader Obama' video:





UPDATE (October 2, 2008):

Oh, and you thought that the above was creepy. Here's another video. Sorry, can't relate to this one; I never joined the Saddam Feddayeen, which looks pretty damn similar to this scene:



To be 'inspirational' is a good thing. Personality cults, on the other hand, are scary, and dangerous. I'm still holding out hope that Senator Obama will make a public statement denouncing such idolatry, which runs the gamut from hipster t-shirts bearing his image to the wild-eyed throngs of Obama's Witnesses canvassing from door-to-door.

But one final note to the Iraqis reading this: aren't you happy that we are done with this whole business of worshipping tyrants, and parroting their lies?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Amb. Crocker, Bucking the Bureaucratic Trend, Calls for 'Strategic Patience' in Iraq

As some of the regulars here may know, I've never been a major fan of Amb. Ryan Crocker (...or of Gen. David Petraeus, for that matter), but Crocker's statements today are very reasonable, and they represent a sharp break with the State Department's conventional wisdom on the Middle East. Crocker is asking the American public to think of what the mission in Iraq can achieve in 10-20 years. Problem is, apart from Senators McCain and Lieberman and a few others, no one seems to be thinking that far ahead.

Here are some of the highlights:

"All Americans should be and are proud of the achievements in Iraq and the American role in bringing about the change," he said. "Iraq is in a far, far better place than it was say 18 months ago."

...

"With the improvement of conditions in Iraq regional powers are taking a new look at Iraq ... but also at the U.S.," he said. "And again I think that what happens going forward is going to have a profound effect on how the U.S. is perceived in this region and beyond."

"If we are seen as the catalyst that does produce a stable, secure democratic Iraq that never again threatens its own people or its neighbors, we will be seen as a power that came in and produced a fundamentally positive shift in this region."
Absolutely true: America will be judged by its achievements in securing its interests, not by dolling out slobbery apologies to the rest of the world. McCain wants to win, Obama wants to apologize: that's the foreign policy dichotomy in this election.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Some Quick Notes on the Economy/Foreign Policy Debate

Well it was supposed a Foreign Policy/National Security debate but the financial ‘Bail-Out’ intruded and muddled everything up.

My candidate, Senator McCain, didn’t do all that well, but the other guy, Senator Obama, was atrocious. I was uncomfortable with my guy’s performance, yet I am sure that Obama’s supporters were cringing at theirs.

Remember, McCain didn’t want to be there; he was the reluctant debater who’d rather have been back in the Senate fixing the Bail-Out terms. It was Obama’s challenge: Obama insisted the debate go on. Obama was the one huddled up in a golf resort in Florida cramming for this debate. He was the one hanging out with speaking coaches and trial lawyers, finessing his ripostes, coming up with new material, and wasting three whole days of potential campaigning while prepping.

But whereas McCain was expected to stick to what he knew, Obama showed that he really hasn’t had any growth over the last few months. Obama didn’t come up with anything new; Obama was no better at his debating style. Actually, I’d say this was Obama’s worst debate performance.

So after hyping-up this event, Obama simply came off as clouded and befuddled. He didn’t have a single well-constructed verbal paragraph. He was all over the place, and he couldn’t even deliver the one-thing he had built his whole myth upon: his early judgment on the war in Iraq. In fact, Obama kept trying to ‘move-on’ and away from the topic of Iraq to talk-up Afghanistan, while McCain was the one who repeatedly, and without prompting, brought up Iraq and the victorious troop surge over there again and again.

What’s worse for Obama is that the debate was so mind-numbingly boring. McCain, being old, can get away with being boring, while Obama’s candidacy is predicated on glitz and spectacle. How many young viewers walked away feeling, “Oh, I should have done something else on a Friday night”? And how many of those are going to tell their friends that they must—really must—watch the next debate?

This was it, this was the debate! The next two debates will be watched by the die-hards of either camp, but not by those who are moderately amused by the election spectacle—they being the majority of the electorate.

They already knew that McCain was a snoozer, but the Obamists had been telling them, “Oh my God! You’ve got to see Obama in action!” Well, Obama without a teleprompter isn’t that compelling of a show; Obama unplugged—when he ain’t lip-syncing his lines, that is—simply falls flat.

What little takeaway there was from the debate were all McCain’s points. Every single point made by Obama had already been made by himself, and by his auxiliaries in the media, ad nauseum: “Bush, Bush, Bush, We Hate Bush!” McCain was the one who needed access to viewers, and he used that channel to tell them that “Obama just doesn’t get it” and that “Obama is naïve, and it’s not a benign naiveté, like that of a simpleton, but it’s the naiveté of a dangerous leftist ideologue.”

Too much has happened over the last week, and news consumers will need a little while to digest it: Pelosi and Reid and Barney Frank crowding the Democratic limelight for Obama, McCain siding with congressional Republican insurgents against Bush, and a boring debate that told us nothing.

However, some viewers will wise-up to the development that Iraq, once the main foreign policy issue leading up to the election, was conspicuously relegated to the past. Debating Iraq was debating ancient history; “We didn’t need to be there in the first place” versus “But we were, and now we’ve won.”

Mind you, the average American voter still doesn’t know that Iraq has been won, because pro-Obama newsrooms have been covering for their candidate (…just as they did in the post-debate commentary by declaring it a “tie”—a tie, my behind!) and misreporting the Iraq story.

Remember a time when Obama’s sole qualification against Hillary was supposed to be his ‘judgment’ on Iraq?

Remember a time when McCain’s major qualification against his Republican contenders was that he held firm on Iraq?

The media doesn’t want to talk about Iraq because Iraq has been transformed into a McCain strongpoint that highlights Obama’s misjudgment.

Quick note on Syria: There was a car-bomb, apparently targeting Shias, in Damascus today. Some of you may be wondering whether this is the beginning of what I’ve been warning about for the last year and a half: the jihad moving away from Iraq to Syria. I simply don’t know. All I can foretell at this point is that regular Sunni Syrians are probably happy about the bombing, and feel unthreatened by it. They are not the targets, the Shias and the Alawites are. This is potentially a winning long-term strategy for the jihadists in Syria.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Journalistic ‘Integrity’ 101: How to Drown-Out the Good News from Iraq

And there I was, wrapped-up in my jaded delusions, thinking that I had seen it all.

I was under the mistaken impression that the Washington Post and the New York Times can sink no deeper in how they’ve misreported the Iraq story.

I was so foolishly wrong.

A new lowly record in disguising propaganda as journalism was set today.

Remember how often the WaPo and the NYTimes were imploring us, for months now, to flee for the hills ‘cause the Iraqi parliament was not managing to pass the Provincial Elections law? Remember how much ink was spilt—by these two papers and their auxiliaries in the ‘expert’ class—warning us that the sky was about to cave-in on our heads any moment now unless Kirkuk’s smoldering powder-keg was not dealt with?

Well, in an anti-climactic turn of events, the Iraqi parliament passed a very reasonable and fair Provincial Elections Law yesterday. The parliament also decided to put Kirkuk on hold, referring the matter to committee.

‘REJOICE, THE PLANET IS SAVED’—that’s the kind of headline one would have expected the NYTimes to run given all their previous panicked hype.

No, they have another trick up their sleeves to fog-up the prospect of clarity as to where Iraq is going.

The NYTimes suddenly remembered a couple of Western lawyers with gripe to spew about procedural and bureaucratic errors that took place, from their perspectives, during the Saddam Hussein trial. Saddam was hanged back in December 2006, but the editors of the NYTimes, who had been sitting on these unsubstantiated allegations of minor misconduct for some months now, chose the very same day on which the elections bill was passed—a major benchmark of the media’s own creation—to give these lawyers their 15 minutes in the spotlight.

So the editors had been sitting on this story/non-story, waiting for a big positive event to come out from Iraq in order to run it, thereby fudging the impression that things are heading in the right direction. Is there any other way to explain it? “Blow some smoke into their eyes, so the public won’t see”—Yup, that seems to be the plan, and don’t tell me this ain’t related to Obama’s run for the presidency on the premise that Iraq is floundering.

Not to be outdone by their main rivals when it comes to duplicity, the WaPo pulled the exact same trick but went a step further into the realm of deceit by putting their own back-burner piece of negative distraction on the front-page!

A dated and dusty account of corruption allegations at Iraq’s charitable Red Crescent Society gets the front-page treatment while the story on the provincial elections law is buried deep within the back-pages. Sure, no editorial agenda here either.

The Red Crescent stuff is old news; the arrests warrants were issued at least six weeks ago. The politics behind all this is that some in Maliki’s office (…his chief aide, Tariq al-Abdullah) are out settling scores with former PM Ja’afari’s camp by going after Ja’afari’s acolytes. It is all about inside political jockeying within the Da’awa Party and has at its heart personality clashes and feuds among ex-exiles that go back decades.

But why didn’t the WaPo run the story six weeks ago when it first broke? Why did they pick today of all days? And does a stale story about a few tens of thousands of dollars that may or may not have ended up in someone’s pocket merit the front-page treatment over a breaking news story on breakthrough legislation that may shape Iraq’s future?

It just doesn’t make any sense, unless one factors in a deliberate effort at distorting the news being reported from Iraq. And who benefits from such distortion? Well, it certainly ain’t McCain, the guy who is partially running on the success being achieved in Iraq and his role in making that happen.

The self-styled ‘serious’ media organs, such as the NYTimes and the WaPo, have too much power in this elections cycle, and their pro-Obama slant is dangerous. It runs from newbie and starry-eyed cubs carrying water at the Metro Desk to cynical left-leaning old-timers in the editorial boards: the overwhelming majority of the staff wants Obama to win. Fine, everyone’s entitled to their biases. But when these biases are coated with the supposedly unassailable decorum of ‘journalism’ and ‘professionalism,’ then something very dodgy is going on: there is no oversight over the fact that several hundred individuals get to mold the opinions of millions.

Sure, the media should be kept as free as possible. I agree, the line should be drawn at irresponsible libel and we’d leave it at that, but while one could live with these biases in the past, it seems that this time around it is unprecedented in shilling for one candidate over another. There is something immensely undemocratic and illiberal about allowing 300 activist reporters and editors to ram their opinions down the throats of their readers who mistakenly pick up the paper hoping for a ray of authenticity from within its folds.

Something should be done about it. Nothing will be done about it.

Be sure to pick-up the NYTimes if Osama Bin Laden is killed or arrested ahead of November, the main front-page headline will probably scream: ‘POLL: PAKISTANIS AND INDIANS STILL DON’T LIKE EACH OTHER AFTER DECADES OF SEPERATION,’
Page A17: ‘Bin Laden, Inconsequential One-Time Terrorist, arrested by Pakistani Forces.’

PS: if the Sarah Palin's issues with her brother-in-law got spun into 'Trooper Gate' by the media, then what about this fine piece of reporting on Obama's "graft" (literally!) buddies back in Chicago: Behold, I give you 'Garden Gate'...Now just watch as the editors and reporters who are supposedly covering this election ignore this story, just like they did with Rezko, and leave it to "die on the vine" (literally, again!)...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Bob Baer is a Gullible Fool

It seems that former CIA agent Bob Baer has authored a really stupid book about Iran, which is not surprising since he has a tendency for being really stupid. At least that’s what some former associates of mine who had worked at close quarters with him thought of Baer: he was an object of ridicule among INC folk.

But he’s managed to make a name for himself as some sort of grand strategist for the Middle East. I didn’t mind when his books bad-mouthed the Saudis, but now that his new book ‘The Devil We Know’ is all about sweet-talking the Iranians, then I feel it is time to relate a Bob Baer anecdote that I had kept to myself and that, at least in my eyes, exposes Baer for the light-weight and unprincipled blowhard that he is.

Back in 2000 or 2001, before Baer got his first book published, and when he was still an unemployable and disgruntled ex-spook with an aversion to showers, razor blades and human contact, a through-and-through mercenary for the Saddam regime by the name of Ali Ballout, a Lebanese Shia ‘propagandist’ and one-time resident of Paris, figured out a new way to get paid: he would start a Middle East consultancy based in Washington DC, whose public façade would be a website called ‘East West Record,’ to lobby on Saddam’s behalf among America’s politicians and bureaucrats.

‘East West Record’ would be registered under the name of Ali Ballout’s wife, Samia Baalbaki, and would hire his daughter Rana as its ‘Beirut Correspondent’. A cursory Nexis-Lexis search would have churned out press reports, in English, going back to the late 1970s that pegged Ballout as an agent for Saddam’s mukhaberat, or intelligence service.

So it wouldn’t have taken a CIA-trained super-spy to discover that Ballout was on Saddam’s payroll, since anyone rummaging through the public record would have been able to figure that one out easily.

To cut a long story short, ‘East West Record’ listed a Washington phone number.

So guess who was working as Ballout’s receptionist? Why, it was none other than Mr. Bob Baer!

Baer allegedly wrote up many analysis reports for the paying patrons of East West Record’s consultancy services. I wonder if he knew whether or not Saddam’s spies could have been perusing his reports; I wonder if he was gullible enough to ever believe that Mr. Ballout had changed his spots and gone legit.

It seemed that Baer only worked for Ballout for a couple of months, and then went on to publish his first book. East West Record petered out as suspicion over its associations grew in DC.

It later transpired, when Saddam’s secret archives were searched, that Mr. Ballout received plenty of those notorious ‘oil coupons’ that Saddam had been using to compensate his minions and those doing his bidding overseas.

I’d really like Bob Baer to come out and deny all of this, but I’d just like to let him know that only idiots give out their real names over the phone when prompted to.

So why would it be that anyone would take the word of a washed-up spy who fell so low so as to accept a paycheck from one of his country’s most horrendous enemies is beyond me. Did I mention that Baer is now saying that America should negotiate with Iran and learn to live with, and grow to love, an Iranian nuclear bomb?

Isn’t that what Obama is saying too? I wonder if Obama’s been benefiting from Baer’s consultancy services as of late…

UPDATE:

Oh, I forgot to let you know why I got on this whole Bob Baer thing in the first place: read the excellent column, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's Triumpth, by the excellent WSJ columnist Bret Stephens.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

What would a McCain presidency mean for the Middle East?

A McCain presidency can’t be a very reassuring thing for the House of Saud. Senator McCain is probably one of a handful of Washington players that the influential former Saudi ambassador to the U.S., Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, couldn’t get through to over the last two decades. The Saudis never saw the need to do that; they assumed that McCain was too anti-establishment, given his integrity-bound internal compass and natural maverick-ism, to ever make it to the highest rungs of the power game.

They may be proven wrong.

The Saudis can’t rely on existing channels to McCain that he has trusted and is likely to trust, whereas even with President George W. Bush, though he may have been alerted to the idea that the Saudi regime may be a liability more than an ally, at least he could be reached and reasoned with either through his father’s network, the Republican Party ‘realist’ foreign policy camp or the oil companies.

No such long-standing channels connect the Saudis to McCain. He is too off their navigational charts, making him too dangerous for the long-term survivability of the Saudi royals for comfort; McCain is not a card-carrying member of the “This is how it’s always been, and this is how it should stay” elite—both Republican and Democrat—that’s been rubbing shoulders with the Saudis for decades.

Let’s posit a hypothetical: How would America respond to another attack of the same or greater magnitude as 911, either on U.S. or European soil, and with young Saudis again being heavily involved?

With McCain as president, the White House would be ready to contemplate a future Middle East that does not include the House of Saud remaining in power. A McCain presidency would challenge the conventional status quo, pushed by the Middle Eastern-related bureaucracies at the State Department, the Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency, that the Saudi royals are needed to maintain stability within their country and throughout the region.

McCain would likely see the Saudi royals are part of the problem, rather than as part of the solution. Alternatively, McCain may seek to invest more heavily in Iraq, a country and a cause dear to his heart, as the new regional power, and as America’s most important Muslim ally in the region.

Yet a McCain White House would not be able to pursue alternatives to the Saudis without gutting out these change-averse bureaucracies at Langley and Foggy Bottom. However, a president such as John McCain, long seasoned in the labyrinths of Washington, would probably have a fairer idea of how to go about “shaking things up”, as he’s vowed to do on the campaign trail, than most others.

It should be noted that there is a widely accepted and legal form of corruption at play: be nice to the Saudis while you’re at public office, and you shall be guaranteed a nice fat retirement bonus as a lobbyist, consultant, or ‘think-tank-er’. Public servants, whether they be diplomats or spooks, don’t make much money while they are on the government’s dole, but if they keep their heads down and go along with what the bureaucratic mandarins have mandated, then they too can benefit from Saudi or any other petrodollar largesse.

These bureaucracies, as well as their ‘retired’ auxiliaries, bitterly pushed back against President Bush’s limited post-911 reforms, and they are seemingly rooting for Obama’s camp to win, reading Senator Barack Obama as the candidate of less change, and more importantly, the candidate of less experience at changing things.

I’d imagine that the House of Saud would have studied Obama’s character and would have concluded that he’s a man they can do business with, if they haven’t got that ball rolling already. A quick glance at his former associates and bagmen—a shady character such as Tony Rezko and maybe that even shadier character, Nadhmi Auchi—would have the Saudis thinking, “Oh, sure, we’ve seen this before. Easy pickings.” Obama doesn’t seem too hung up on that whole integrity thing. There is much of the wheeler-dealer culture of the Chicago political machine—the machine that created the “community organizer” turned senator—that folks such as the Saudis can find instantly recognizable and identify with. Obama, in their eyes, would be morally flexible.

Maybe that’s why almost all of the Arab media, much of it Saudi-owned, is following the lead of most American journalists by subtly and often not-so-subtly pushing for Obama. The Saudis could be purposely doing Obama an early favor by ‘gaming’ a battleground state such as Michigan, which has America’s largest Arab-speaking minority; these Arabic speakers may be swayed by the Arab media’s coverage and carried over to the Obama camp, if they were not so inclined already.

Obama would be the sort of president that craves the glamour shots of him and Michelle sipping martinis at Camp David with King Abdullah and Queen Rania of Jordan. He’s not the kind of guy that will go out of his way to rock the boat.

McCain, in this respect, is of a very different cut. He’s a man who has invited torture upon himself just to make a point when he was held as a POW, and he’d probably invite the torture victims of the Jordanian regime over to Camp David instead of hosting the royal couple that journos seem so enthralled with.

That is why I think McCain would scare the hell out of the Saudis.

In my experience, the corrupt are usually cowardly; they act tough, yet cower when face-to-face with what they fear. Whereas, it is those incorruptible types who posses that glint in their eyes that signals to whoever is making the mistake of messing with them to back off.

The Iranians, the Syrians, and the jihadists would all probably set out to challenge Obama early on in his presidency, knowing full well that he may not have enough confidence, or the instinctual willingness, to meet a provocation eye-to-eye. Each challenge would further erode U.S. influence and leverage, much like what happened in Beirut on May 7th when Hezbollah went on a rampage on Iran and Syria’s behalf just to prove to America allies that they were, in effect, weak and friendless.

The Iranians, the Syrians and the jihadists, or even the Russians for that matter, would think twice before pulling such stunts with President McCain. His temper, made famous and exaggerated by his political enemies, would strike fear in the hearts of America’s enemies.

But then again, some fluffy and soppy Middle East ‘experts’ in the United States have pushed the notion that should America pick Obama, then America’s enemies would have less reason to hate America. The reasoning goes something like this: Obama reflects what is great about diversity and opportunity in America, and I agree. He’s half black, his father’s a Muslim, he was raised in Indonesia, and his rise to the top has been unprecedented and meteoric.

But anti-Americanism, which nobody can deny is a real and virulent ‘internationalist’ ideology that is out there, is not a rational thought process of cause and effect. After all, why should Swedes so virulently hate certain American icons? Did ‘Burger King’ carpet-bomb Stockholm recently?

These same ‘experts’ have been trying to peddle the notion that Al-Qaeda is simply misunderstood, that if the West would just meet their demands then they’d stop sending suicide bombers among grocery stalls in Baghdad or Kabul to kill randomly.

I tend to think that is nonsense. Anti-Americanism will simply respond to an Obama presidency by finding new excuses to hate America, probably by using Obama’s background against him: “How dare he convert to Christianity! Christian America picked Obama in order to proselytize Muslims to turn against their faith!” Or better yet, “Obama’s father was a Shia, and that’s why Obama had been brainwashed, at an early age, to hate Sunnis!”

It doesn’t have to be truthful; all it needs is to be believable. Truth and belief are two very different things.

And believe me, it never ends. Irrationalism will always find a pathway to hatred.

‘America’s Enemies’: They won’t love you, so the next best thing is getting them to fear you.

The worst thing that can happen to America’s image is to have it perceived as turning soft. When in the company of gangsters, that’s usually when the daggers come out.

Sure, maybe the Flower-Power crowd is on to something; maybe all that the world needs to heal is a hug—but I’d watch my back anyway.


UPDATE:

There's always time for some levity in this tense election cycle, and I just wanted to put this out there because it's been gnawing at me for days now: Aren't there plenty of positive associations between John McCain and Popeye the Sailor Man? Why hasn't the McCain campaign seized on this? They kind of look like each other, especially with that portruding jaw and that grimace. McCain is going to be accused of being old anyway, so where's the downside with being associated with a combative and honorable old sailor who's life motto is "I y'am what I y'am" and who fights the good, clean fight. They also share the distinction of being adoptive parents (...remember Sweapea...?). Apart from Bluto, who wouldn't love good ol' Popeye? And Bluto, in his many foiled attempts to steal away Olive Oyl is just like the Obama campaign trying to bring back Hillary's female voters! But I can't figure who or what the Wimpy character ("I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today") represents, any guesses? ;)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mithal Alusi to Face Charges Over Israel Visit

Before anyone begins to fret let me just say that I think that all this will play out brilliantly for Mithal.

Here’s what happened today: the Iraqi Parliament unanimously voted (…that included the Kurds, I believe) to lift parliamentary immunity from Mithal Alusi (liberal and secular Sunni MP for Baghdad, head of the Iraqi Nation Party) over his attendance at last week’s Counter-Terrorism Conference in Hezliyah, Israel.

Parliament also voted to bar him from attending any more sessions, or from traveling outside the country. He is to face charges of treason that carry the death penalty.

Iraq is still at a state of war with Israel.

I can’t help but chuckle as I write this: Alusi is a bad-ass, and these folks, especially the Islamists, don’t realize that they are falling into his trap. The Minister of State for National Security, Abdel-Karim al-‘Anizi, made the mistake of calling Alusi an Israeli agent today, only to get Alusi to retort that al-‘Anizi is an Iranian spy; Alusi then proceeded to beat-up al-‘Anizi.

This is classic political theatre as Iraqis get ready for elections. The so-called Iraq ‘analysts’ and ‘experts’ will have a hard time explaining when this is all over why such antics work to Alusi’s favor. Welcome to the rough-n-tumble politics of the New Iraq.

A little over a week ago, I saw Alusi and he gave no indication that he’s about to pull off another one of maverick stunts. In retrospect, I now realize that he had something up his sleeve.

Alusi has been going to conference in Herzliyah every year for the last four years. It was his decision to put last week’s visit into the political spotlight.

I spoke to Alusi earlier today, and this is what he had to say: “America doesn’t have the confidence to deter Iran from building a nuclear weapon. The Americans are even preventing Israel from saving itself. Iraqis and Israelis are the two nations that will suffer the most from a radical Iranian leadership that can threaten us with nuclear weapons. Thus, Iraq and Israel must find a strategy to counter this threat. Time is running out.”

“I am not honored to be in such company in the parliament. Half of them are working for the Iranians or the terrorists, and the other half is distracted by money. 90 percent of Saddam’s laws are still in effect, what has the parliament done to legislate new laws that give Iraqis their rights according to the new constitution? There are parliamentarians who are hiding in Iran because they will be arrested if they return to Iraq, but has parliament lifted their immunity and disbarred them? No. There are heads of parliamentary blocs who have arrest warrants out in their name for supporting and financing terrorism, but no one does anything.

“There are tens of ex-ministers and officials who stole hundreds of millions of dollars from the Iraqi state, and parliament passes a law to give them amnesty because they are all from the same political parties. I have to serve the voters who elected me, but really I am uncomfortable being in the company of many of these parliamentarians.”

Alusi added, “Nouri al-Maliki is a close friend; he is a patriot and good hearted man, but he is helpless. He is surrounded by rings of Iranian spies and corrupt bureaucrats. He is managed by them, rather than the other way round. Iraq needs new management.”

As regards his elections message, “I want to tell the Iraqi voter: don’t vote for me if you don’t find me convincing. But use your vote as a protest against all these parties in parliament and government. Tell them that they are fired. Fired for failing at every level in managing this country.”

“They are trying to distract the voter with issues such as Israel and Kirkuk. They are terrified by elections because they know that the Iraqi people will punish them for failure.”

UPDATE:

This is one of Alusi's more recent pronouncements on an Iraqi TV channel; this is why he's seen as controversial (English subtitles):



UPDATE:

It is interesting to look through the comments section on Al-Arabiya TV's web coverage on the Alusi story (...sorry, almost all of is in Arabic). One would think that it would be cram full of Arab nationalists (...Arabiya is Saudi-owned) denouncing Mithal as a Zionist spy; on the contrary, the response is predominately supportive. The catch line is that Alusi was punished for speaking out against Iran, not for visiting Israel.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

A Link, and a Book

Here’s a fun and exciting link (sorry, it’s in Arabic): The Iraqi Legal Database.

This website is phase one of an ambitious project to put all of Iraq’s history of law-making (1917-present) on a searchable and user-friendly online database that is open and free for all. It shall be complemented at a later date with things like court decisions and legal briefs.

This is an invaluable resource for lawyers, parliamentarians, researchers and the general public. The United Nations paid for it, and really this is about the only good thing the UN has done for Iraq. But being a UN enterprise, one finds all sorts of glitches—the Saddam-era anti-Baha’i laws are filed under laws regulating prostitution, for example—that I hope will get rectified over time.

Before people can demand their rights, they must know of their rights, and this is a great place to start.

I’m about to finish a terrific book detailing what it means to work for something as institutionally dysfunctional as the Central Intelligence Agency: The Human Factor, by Ishmael Jones (Encounter Books, 2008).

This book had to be written, and the author (who uses a pseudonym) has done his former organization and his country a great service, probably greater than all the espionage work that he’s performed over a span of two decades.

As someone who, whether I’m being paranoid or not, felt victimized, and continues to be a victim, of the CIA’s petty vindictiveness, reading this delicious book tasted like the sweetest revenge I could have imagined against my shadowy tormenters.

This should be an instant classic for the spy world, and I’ve never seen anything like it that authentically strips away the fake cosmetic glamour of that archaically bureaucratic world.

Okay, so it’s not the best writing sample you’ll come across, and the editing is a bit spotty, but my oh my, the stories! The stories that Mr. Jones tells! Truth to power, baby!

Valerie Plame is in there, as is Georgie Tenet’s manipulation of the media who served as willing dupes in passing the blame buck from the laps of the CIA’s managers onto the White House.

Jones makes some great insights into the CIA station in Baghdad, which, for me at least, illuminated a weird pattern that I never understood. Many of the CIA guys in Baghdad were young, and good. Really good. I was jealous and worried by how good they were; they were rivals serving an institution that my colleagues and I had battled with. But every few months, whenever they built institutional momentum, and seemed about to take off, something would happen and their output would turn poor and sloppy. I had hoped that these new CIA guys, forged in the furnace of Baghdad, would one day rise through the ranks and transform the agency. This hope is echoed in Jones’ book, but in reality, the system is gamed to favor the bureaucracy, which has grown even more corrupt than the olden days as Congress throws more money its way.

I fear that CIA will follow the model of British intelligence, especially in regards to the Middle East: they will turn into mercenaries working on the tab of the Gulf’s super-rich, rather than furthering US policy and interests. And who will hold them accountable? Congress? The media? Obama? Yeah, right.

No, they will get away with it, as they’ve been doing for decades. The good officers will resign, or fall into career-ruining bureaucratic traps. If 911 wasn’t enough to shake things up, then nothing will.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Something is Missing

I'm sure bloggers from all around have picked up on this, but I just wanted to voice my concern: I find it very disturbing that the New York Times chose not to run any 911-related stories on its front-page today, of all days, this being the seventh anniversary of the horrible terrorist attacks.

I wonder if this is just the case with the 'Washington Edition' of the NYT that I picked up this morning (...and why would they do this to the city that suffered the Pentagon attack?), but I have a feeling that the front-page of the paper would be the same for all its editions.

For a newspaper that is published from that wounded city to relegate the memory of this event to its backpages, especially on a light news day (...the main image is that of the flooding in Haiti), is something beyond shameless. It is almost malicious.

I'm sure there was an editorial discussion about this, and I challenge the NYT to release minutes of that meeting in which they decided to skip over 911. I want to read what rationale those editors stood behind when going forward with this crass move.

I'm not an American, and I'm very offended. I wonder how the families that were hurt on that day will react to this omission; what shudders will go through their souls as they throw a passing glance at this soulless front-page, perched as it may be on newstands or lying across subway seats, as they hurry off to memorial services.

What interest does the NYT have in gradually eroding the sharpened American resolve that was brought about by 911? Is this a suble pro-Obama elections thing?

Did those editors not see the polls that say that large pluralities in Western Europe (WESTERN BLOODY EUROPE!) don't believe that Al-Qaeda was behind the attacks, even though Al-Qaeda has repeatedly said, and demonstrated, that they did in deed pull off the attacks? Europe's disbelief has a lot to do with a low opinion of America bred out of envy and resentment, and in some ways many Europeans would like to think that America purposely did this to itself.

And then America's leading newspaper comes along today and doesn't even address the ignorance, or rather the malevolence, of how those Europeans choose to remember 911. But hey, hundreds of thousands cheering Obama in Berlin makes for great front-page spreads, and polls suggesting that Western European audiences are solidly behind Obama are interpreted as good advice from across the pond.

Can someone tell me what's wrong with this picture?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ha ha! Roll out the welcome mats...

It seems that ex-insurgents will be resettled in Minnesota afterall! Check out this story from Gulf News (English text).

Whatever happened to the "they'll fight if they don't get what they demand" talking-points as peddled by the 'experts'? It's also weird that some self-styled Iraq 'experts' who write profusely about the Awakening groups did not see fit to link to this particular story...maybe because it puts their narrative, as well as their expertise, in doubt.

Reader of Talisman Gate may remember a prediction along these lines that I made sometime in the past.

I wonder if these ex-insurgents would end-up voting for Obama in 2016?

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Al-Baghdadi's Eleventh Speech: Yawwwwwn

I guess it was to be inevitable: with the insurgency over, the “eventfulness factor” of a spanking new speech by Abu Omar al-Baghdadi turns out to be no more remarkable than yet another pathetic rant by a delusional and defeated enemy leader.

We hadn’t heard from al-Baghdadi, the self-styled caliph of the Islamic State of Iraq, since April, and his new speech today—his eleventh—runs for 25 minutes and is titled ‘Fight All the Polytheists.’ There is some indication that it was intended for release prior to the month of Ramadhan (…we’re knee-deep in it already), and it may even have been recorded ahead of the most recent security sweep in Diyala Province.

Al-Baghdadi serves up his usual repertoire: death threats, visions of victory, reprimands, and promises of bounty. But, heavens, it’s all so tedious. And nothing says dreary as a call for arms that arrives a couple of weeks too late: what use is al-Baghdadi’s pep-talk and instructions to his fighters in Diyala when the battle has already played out, with the jihadists losing all their redoubts?

The jihadists on the Ekhlaas forum were all frenzied with excitement (...compare that to their blase attitude over Zawahiri's many pronouncements), but one's gotta ask: Over what, exactly? I don't think they picked up on anything other than the more-of-the-same-BS aspect of this speech that I sensed, and while that ended-up boring me to pieces, it would have had a striking demoralizing effect on jihadists and their sympathizers. Al-Baghdadi would have been expected to use this opportunity to rev-up his base with a surprise choice of a Vice-Caliph or something, but all this speech managed to do was to cement the prevalent sentiment on the discussion boards that things are going badly for the jihadists in Iraq.

On the technical side, it’s the same voice alright, the same that we’ve heard in past speeches. But something’s off in the enunciation, as if al-Baghdadi’s got a toothache or something. And while he still says some place names in Iraq in a weird way, there’s also a line in there that is pronounced with a distinct Iraqi accent, which is further indication that he’s an Iraqi.

The only somewhat important or 'newsy' part of today’s speech is al-Baghdadi’s death threat against every single member of the Islamic Party, its leadership as well as its rank and file; he gives them a grace period of 15 days during which they can repent before his jihadists begin harvesting their heads. However, there are five IIP leaders who do not benefit from the 15 day reprieve and they are (…in this order): Usama al-Tikriti (MP), Ala’a Makki (MP), Abdel-Karim al-Samara’i (MP), Ibrahim al-Ni’meh (Sunni preacher in Mosul), and Tariq al-Hashemi (Iraq’s VP).

Al-Baghdadi’s specifically makes clear that he is not simply interested in destroying IIP headquarters but wants their heads, and he promises a “satisfactory prize” to be delivered by himself to anyone who brings him the head of a member of the top echelon of the IIP in parliament or in the provincial councils.

So there you have it, folks; that is what the top enemy leader in Iraq is up to. He’s the one that Obama wants to surrender to. And because the Iraq debate in this election cycle is so silly and disconnected from reality (…we can thank the so-called ‘experts’ and self-styled ‘Iraqologists’ for that), not a single reporter is going to ask either Obama or McCain to comment on today’s communiqué from the enemy.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

AP, not very accurate

I just wanted to cite this Associated Press story as an example of how news from Iraq gets misreported by the wire services and other western media: the AP says that six of Chalabi's bodyguards were killed in an explosion yesterday in Mansour, while Chalabi escaped unharmed.

The truth is that Chalabi wasn't even in the convoy, in fact I don't think he's in Iraq at this very moment. There were no fatalities, although six bodyguards were injured, not life threatening. And they weren't Chalabi's guys, they were the guards for one of his relatives who holds an important position in Iraq's mixed mercantile system, independent of Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress. This official suffered minor injuries to the face and neck.

The suicide attack could have been a lot worse had it not been for the bravery of one of the drivers in the security convoy who intercepted the suicide bomber (...who was driving a GMC suburban rigged with heavy explosives) with his own armored SUV and pushed him out of the way. That brave bodyguard survived the explosion.

As always, the AP quotes an official in Chalabi's office. The story thus looks very solid. I could be wrong, but I don't think so. I'd like some other reporter to take another look at this and check out the AP's info versus mine. But I'm sure that those six alleged fatalities would make into to the tallies of this month's dead anyway, even though they are very much alive.

UPDATE: Chalabi is in Iraq, but he wasn't in the targeted convoy. The confusion seems to stem that both convoys had left the same place (Ibrahim al-Jaafari's house) and while Chalabi's headed in one direction, the targeted convoy protecting the other official headed in another. One source tells me that two of the six injured guards died today in Kadhimiyeh Hospital as a result of burns sustained in the attack. They were exposed to the blast as they were in the back of a pick-up truck.

The AP needs to re-check and correct its story.