March 30, 2006

Jill Carroll - Interesting Choice of Words

Jill Carroll, a reporter for the Christian Science Monitor kidnapped in Baghdad in January of this year, was released today. A heretofore unknown group calling themselves the "Revenge Brigades*" had claimed responsibility.

After her release, Carroll made a few remarks that are telling. In addition to the fact that she said she was treated well (I guess not being beheaded or shot puts that in some perspective), I was intrigued by the fact that she referred to her captors as "the mujahidin."

Mujahidin is an Arabic word meaning "holy warriors." It has been used by many Arab and non-Arab Muslim groups to tie their particular cause to Islam.

I believe that her captors likely referred to themselves as mujahidin because they regard themselves as an Islamic movement. Several indications point to this. First, their initial demands were the release of women being held by coalition forces and Iraqi authorities. They claimed to be offended that women were being detained. Second, they released Ms Carroll to the Iraqi Islamic Party, a group with similar ideology. Third, the Arabic word used for "revenge" in their title has a religious connotation - there is another more common word for revenge that has less religious overtones. And of course, they referred to themselves as holy warriors. The fact that they released her may also reflect their willingness to listen to the unusual almost universal call among the Muslim clergy for Carroll's release.

I wonder if her words were chosen as part of an agreement for her release.

See my earlier piece on this incident.
* Kata'ib Al-tha'r, literally "the battalions of revenge, vengeance or blood revenge."

March 27, 2006

Zacarias Moussaoui and the Fifth Plane

In a federal court in Virginia today, Zacarias Moussaoui (better rendered as Zakariyah Musawi) claimed that he was not the missing "20th hijacker" from the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Virginia. Flight 93, which crashed after the passengers attempted to regain control of the hijacked aircraft, carried only four hijackers - the plan was for each of the four aircraft to have two pilots and three "security" men.

As early as April 2005, Moussaoui claimed that he was not the missing man from Flight 93, but was to be on a fifth aircraft. Although many of those in the terrorism analysis business dismissed the claim, he did reveal one thing a year ago that caught my attention. He attended a flight school for training on the Boeing 747 aircraft. He also said he was planning to attack the White House. Most analysts believe that Flight 93 was destined for the U.S. Capitol.

The four aircraft hijacked for the attacks on September 11 were Boeing 757 and 767 aircraft - these aircraft have an almost identical cockpit, but it is markedly different than that of the much larger 747 on which Moussaoui trained. If Moussaoui was to be on board Flight 93, why train to fly a 747? Further, if he was to be on Flight 93, he didn't need to know how to fly at all - it already had two pilots. They lacked a muscle man to control the passengers.

I was always under the impression that Muhammad Al-Qahtani, a Saudi in U.S. custody at Guantanamo, was to be the fifth man on the Flight 93. Al-Qahtani was muscle, not a pilot. He was refused entry into the United States just before the attacks.

Why would Moussaoui lie about this? Admitted participation in either role still puts him in jeopardy of the death penalty. If there was there a fifth crew, we are missing four participants. Who are they and where are they?

March 25, 2006

Iraqi Perspectives Project

The Department of Defense has just released an unclassified version of its Iraq Perspectives Project, a study of Operation Iraqi Freedom based on captured Iraqi documents and interviews with former regime officials and military officers. You can download the entire report (7.7MB PDF file) from the Joint Forces Command website.

The report is a good overview from the Iraqi perspective of events that led up to the war. There are a few errors, but the authors are not Middle East specialists - you can tell from the improper transliteration of the Arabic names and places - they are researchers. The most glaring error that should be corrected is on page 25:

...the link between the primary external threat (Iran) and the most significant internal one (the Iraqi Shi'ites) was never far from the considerations of Saddam and his closest advisors. In this regard, Iran was not the only culprit. Saddam also knew that the Americans had encouraged the Shi'ite uprising after Desert Storm and believed that the United States has sponsored a series of coup attempts in the 1990s.

The finding that Saddam believed that the United States had sponsored a series of coups is accurate - he did believe that, and it is partially true. The United States did sponsor at least one attempt in 1996 that failed.

As for "Saddam knew the the Americans had encouraged the Shi'ite uprising after Desert Storm" is inaccurate. Saddam may have believed it, but he couldn't "know" it, because it is not true. American encouragement to the Iraqi military occurred in mid-February, during the coalition air campaign and two weeks prior to the start of the ground campaign. It was the Iranians who encouraged the Shi'a, after the cessation of hostilities. Soon after American withdrawal from the outskirts of Al-Basrah, Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps operatives began infiltrating the Shi'a area to foment the uprising. The United States hoped that the Iraqi army would overthrow Saddam - and there was intelligence to support this hope - but they soon became so involved in putting down the threat to the country from the uprising in south and later in the Kurdish north that the chance to remove Saddam soon passed.

If you had to pick just one portion of this document to read, I recommend Chapter VI, "Doomed Execution," pages 123 to 156. It is a riveting account by the Iraqis of just how effective American military operations were in speed, accuracy and lethality. The U.S. forces moved so quickly and with such might that the Iraqis rarely had time to react, and when they did, they were annihilated.

There has been recent press reporting of Russia's support of the Iraqis, including the provision of intelligence. The report describes Saddam's views that the Russians, acting in concert with Iraq's other "friends" - China and France - would prevent a war, or failing that, stop it before he was removed from power. Much of this confirms what many analysts believed was Saddam's battle plan, "my friends will save me." Of course, he paved the way for this plan with bribes in the form of oil concessions. (Read my April 2003 piece, "Losing on his own Terms: Saddam's Battle Plan and Why It Didn't Work.")

According to a Russian military analyst, a Russian military intelligence unit operated in Iraq until the fall of Baghdad. They may have been the source of some of the purported intelligence support to the Iraqis. As you might expect, the Russians deny that any intelligence was provided to the Iraqis, but the Iraqi documents are quite clear.

Here are three references that are of note:

Page 119. The reference list includes "Russian Report on American Troop Dispositions in the Gulf," believed to be from March 2003.

Comment: Specific information from this document is not included in the unclassified version, but the very title suggests Russian intelligence support.

Pages 138-139 and 154. This is from a "Letter from Russian Official to Presidential Secretary Concerning American Intentions in the Gulf," which was shown to Saddam on March 24, 2003:

The information that the Russians have collected from their source inside the American Central Command in Doha is that the United States is convinced that occupying Iraqi cities are impossible, and that they have changed their tactic; now they are planning to spread across the Euphrates River from from Basra in the south to Al-Qa'im in the north, avoiding entering the cities. The strategy is to isolate Iraq from its western borders... Jordan has accepted the American 4th Mechanized Infantry Division; they were supposed to enter through Turkey, but after the Turkish Parliament refused, changed direction and are now in the Suez Canal heading to Al-Aqaba.
Comment: If in fact the Russians had a source inside the U.S. Central Command, this is not accurate reporting. While it is somewhat true that there was no intention to occupy Iraqi cities on the way to Baghdad, it was not a change of tactic - the ideal was to make a quick assault on the capital, the center of gravity of the regime, rather than get bogged down pacifying cities that did not matter to the the longevity of the regime.

Jordan never accepted the 4th Infantry Division - that report caused much confusion in the Iraqi leadership, causing them to have to worry about an attack from the west. Although the division did move through the Suez Canal, they were en route Kuwait to follow the 3rd Infantry Division up the Euphrates Valley.

Page 144 and 155. This is from a "Letter from Ministry of Foreign Affairs to Office of the President regarding Russian Intelligence," dated April 2, 2003, citing information provided the Russian ambassador:

1. The Americans were moving to cut off Baghdad from the south, east, and north. The heaviest concentration (12,000 troops plus 1,000 vehicles) was in the vicinity of Karbala.
2. The Americans were going to concentrate on bombing in and around Baghdad, cutting the road to Syria and Jordan and creating "chaos and confusion" to force the residents of Baghdad to flee.
3. The assault on Baghdad would not begin before the arrival of the 4th Infantry Division sometime around 15 April.
Comment: Actually, some of this was correct. The U.S. forces approached Baghdad up the Tigris Valley and the Euphrates Valley. The 3rd Infantry Division, moving up the Euphrates Valley, crossed the river at Karbala and moved on Baghdad. In taking the city, they did pretty much encircle it.

The timing of the assault on Baghdad was not delayed to await the arrival of the 4th Infantry Division - it started on April 7, keeping up the American momentum and not giving the Iraqis time to regroup and set up an effective defense.

Worth reading.

March 23, 2006

Ungrateful Peaceniks Rescued by Coalition Forces

The three remaining Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) members held hostage in Iraq were rescued by U.S. and British forces this morning. Good news, right? Absolutely. Kudos to the young troops that rescued them? Not quite.

The CPT statement begins:

"Our hearts are filled with joy today as we heard that Harmeet Singh Sooden, Jim Loney and Norman Kember have been safely released in Baghdad."

Released? They were rescued by the same military forces that they vilify in the rest of the statement.

"We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq. The occupation must end."

Not one word of thanks or even acknowledgement.

From an earlier CPT "Statement of Conviction":

"We reject the use of violent force to save our lives should we be kidnapped, held hostage, or caught in the middle of a violent conflict situation. We also reject violence to punish anyone who harms us."

Hard to feel sympathy for these people.

(Read my earlier post on this group.)

March 15, 2006

Iran - Israel's Air Strike Options

(I have updated this article - please see Iran - Israel's Air Strike Options Update

(This article appeared on MSNBC's HARDBALL Hardblogger)

Let's assume that Iran has exhausted the world’s patience over its “peaceful nuclear energy” research program - a program most analysts believe is a cover for a nuclear weapons program. Israel has indicated in clear terms that it will not permit Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. What are Israel's options to derail the program?

Most analysts agree that Israel does not have the capability to strike all of the sites associated with the program - estimates range between 12 and more than 20 locations. With limited power projection capabilities, Israeli intelligence analysts will determine the critical portions of the program - the key elements that if destroyed will slow down the effort. In 1981, the Israeli air force successfully crippled the Iraqi nuclear program with a daring daylight air raid on the key element of that program – the French-built Osirak reactor at At-Tuwaythah, just south of Baghdad. The single most critical element In the Iranian program is thought to be the centrifuge facility at
Natanz (also known as the Esfahan enrichment facility).

Natanz, Iran - Click image for larger view
Natanz, Iran
(Click on image for larger view)

The Natanz facility is a challenging target. The heart of the facility is the centrifuge area, located in an underground, hardened structure. The Iranians are fully aware of Israeli capabilities and no doubt have studied what the Israelis did to the Iraqi program a quarter century ago. They are also aware of the demonstrated capability of the American-made precision-guided penetrating munitions ("bunker busters") in the Israeli inventory. The Iranian program has been dispersed all over the country; the facilities have been built with American and Israeli capabilities in mind and are protected by modern Russian air defense systems.

Aside from the difficult nature of the target itself is its geographic location in relation to Israel. The straight-line distance between Israel and Natanz is almost 1000 miles. (At-Tuwaythah was only 600 miles). Since the countries do not share a common border, Israeli aircraft or missiles must fly through foreign - and hostile - airspace to get to the target.

The least risky method of striking Natanz is with Israel's medium range ballistic missiles, the Jericho II or III. Details on the exact capabilities of these systems are unknown, but it is believed that the Israeli missiles can reach Natanz. However, to travel that far, the missiles will have a limited warhead weight, probably less than 1000 pounds. It is doubtful that these warheads will be able to penetrate far enough underground to achieve the desired level of destruction. That points to an attack by the Israeli air force's American-made fighter-bomber aircraft as the most likely option. The Israelis have 25 F-15I Ra'am (Thunder) and about 30 F-16I Sufa (Storm) jets.

Israeli Air Force F-15I
Israeli Air Force F-15I

How will the aircraft fly from their bases in Israel to a target located 200 miles inside Iran? There are two realistic ways to get there – either through Saudi Arabia or Iraq, possibly even using Jordanian airspace as well. Either route is a one-way trip of about 1200 miles. Even though Turkey and Israel have had a defense agreement since 1996, using Turkish airspace is not likely politically and would require the attacking aircraft to fly over 1000 miles inside Iranian airspace. It is also doubtful that the Israelis would jeopardize operational security by consulting with the Turks.

Possible Flight Routes
Possible Flight Routes

The Saudi Arabia option (red). The strike aircraft depart southern Israel, enter Saudi airspace from the Gulf of ‘Aqabah or Jordan, fly 800 miles of Saudi airspace to the Persian Gulf and then 300 miles into Iran. Although the Israelis traversed Saudi airspace when they attacked the Iraqi facility in 1981, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have since significantly upgraded their air defense capabilities and share information with each other.

Since the Israeli air force does not operate stealth aircraft, there is a reasonable expectation that at some point the aircraft will be detected over Saudi Arabia, either by ground based radar or the AWACS airborne radar platforms. Whether Saudi defenses could - or would - be able to stop the Israelis is uncertain. Perhaps the Saudis would turn a blind eye and claim ignorance - after all, a nuclear-armed Iran is a potential threat to the Kingdom as well.

The Iraq option (blue). The strike aircraft depart southern Israel, cross 300 to 400 miles of Saudi airspace or a combination of Jordanian and Saudi airspace, and enter Iraqi airspace as soon as possible, continue across 500 miles of Iraq to the Persian Gulf and then on to the target. Entering Iran from Iraqi airspace would create too much of political firestorm. As it is, the use of Iraqi airspace will require the cooperation of the United States. Although Iraq is a sovereign nation, its skies are controlled by the American military. That said, allowing Israeli aircraft to ingress from Iraq is likely out of the question.

Either of these options carries the risk that once the actual attack on the facility is made, the viability of the return route is in jeopardy – all forces in the area will be on alert. The planners may opt to go to the target one way and back home via another.

The limiting factor in Israeli planning is the great distance to the target. Can Israel’s fighter-bombers conduct this mission without refueling? Combat radius - the distance an aircraft can fly and return without refueling - is difficult to calculate, and depends on weapons payload, external fuel tanks, mission profile, etc. It is even more difficult when dealing with Israeli aircraft because they will not release performance data on their assets.

The best "guestimate" of the combat radius of the F-15I and F-16I, outfitted with conformal fuel tanks, two external wing tanks and a decent weapons load, is almost 1000 miles. Either of the two possible flight routes above is about 200 miles further than that. To make up for the shortfall, the aircraft could be fitted with an additional external fuel tank, but this will require a reduction in the weapons load. Given the accuracy of the weapons in the Israeli inventory, that might not be problematic. However, if the aircraft are detected and intercepted, the pilots will have to jettison the tanks in order to engage their attackers. Dropping the tanks will prevent the aircraft from reaching their target.

Air refueling. This raises the question of air refueling? This is a limitation for the Israelis. While Israel has a large air force, its focus has been on the Arab countries that surround it. In recent years, it has sought the capability to project power against a target over 1000 miles away. To do this, Israel has acquired five B707 tanker aircraft. However, the tankers would have to refuel the fighters in hostile airspace. The B707 is a large unarmed aircraft and would be very vulnerable to air defenses.

Israeli B707 refuels F-15I fighter-bombers
Israeli Air Force B707 and F-15I fighter-bombers

Looking at the two scenarios, air refueling over Saudi Arabia (red route) would be very risky. It would have to be done at low altitude to evade detection and will probably be at night. Using Iraqi airspace (blue route) will be somewhat less difficult as altitude will not be an issue.

Of course, the tankers would have to get to Iraqi airspace and back. The use of Turkish airspace for the tanker aircraft to enter Iraq is probably not an option for the same reasons that it is not an option for the fighters – political sensitivities on the part of the Turks and operational security considerations on the part of the Israelis. Another possibility is American cooperation – allow the Israelis to stage their tankers from an American air base in Iraq. These tankers could fly to Iraq though international airspace around the Arabian Peninsula and over the Persian Gulf. It would be too far for them to return to Israel without landing to refuel, otherwise the Israelis could refuel the fighters over the Gulf.

American participation? There are other possibilities, from allowing Israeli fighters to land and refuel at U.S.-controlled bases in Iraq, to having U.S. Air Force tankers refuel the Israeli aircraft over Iraq. A diplomatic nightmare, maybe, but certainly a military possibility.

U.S. Air Force KC-135 refuels an Israeli Air Force F-16IU.S. Air Force KC-135 refuels an Israeli Air Force F-16I

Theoretically, the Israelis could do this, but at great risk of failure. If they decide to attack Natanz, they will have to inflict sufficient damage the first time - they probably will not be able to mount follow-on strikes at other facilities.

When all the analyses are done, there is only one military capable of the sustained widespread air operations required to eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons research program - the United States. Again, a diplomatic nightmare, but certainly a military possibility.

(Thanks to Colonel Rick Pyatt, USAF-Ret for his assistance on this article.)

March 14, 2006

More on Saddam and WMD

Recently, I was asked to comment on an article in the Christian Science Monitor. Although dated, it did raise my blood pressure. The article is titled "CIA'S CONCLUSION - A final take on Iraqi WMD," by Pter Grier and Faye Bowers, published October 7, 2004.

I was surprised - the CSM is usually pretty good, but this piece is awful. With the exception of this one issue, I am not going to address the rest of the problems I have with it.

"Mr. Hussein personally believes that WMDs saved his skin twice - first, when he used chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, and second, when their threat helped halt US troops short of Baghdad in the Persian Gulf War."

"First of all, the weapons were obviously very important to him, according to an official with access to survey group documents. The Iraqi leader and his top generals believe that their long-range strikes with chemical warheads was what ended the Iran-Iraq war. They similarly appear to believe that in 1991 Hussein's order to disperse WMDs, and preauthorize their use if necessary, is what saved them from a final assault by the US on Baghdad."

I'll forego comment on the use of "Mr. Hussein" - I am not what Saddam's father has to do with this. The proper reference is Saddam, Saddam Husayn, or if they insist, Mr. Saddam or Mr. Saddam Husayn.

What saved Saddam's skin in the Iran-Iraq war was an intelligence relationship with the United States. Without the US-provided intelligence to know what targets to strike, the Iranians would have won. The chemical weapons played a part, but none of us believe they were the deciding factor.

There were NEVER any long-range ballistic missile (or other, air, etc.) strikes with chemical warheads in the Iran-Iraq war. Iraq had not developed the warheads until after the end of that conflict. If Saddam had had them, he would have used them. The ballistic missiles that Iraq had were the standard SCUD, most of which were modified into the Al-Husayn variant with a warhead reduced in weight by 90 percent, trading the weight and volume for extra fuel and longer range, allowing the Iraqis to range Tehran from Iraqi territory - with conventional HE warheads. Iraq chemical agents were dispersed primarily by artillery and rockets, and some aerial bombs, and always on the battlefield.

I don't think that Saddam believes it was his chemical weapons arsenal that stopped the U.S. from going to Baghdad. I can tell you from being in the planning cell that there was never an intention to go to Baghdad. Besides the reason that it was not authorized by the UN resolutions, we were stretching our logistics pretty thin to operate in southern Iraq. I believe Saddam's assessment was that the United States would not approach Baghdad because we were too casualty-averse - actually not a bad analysis.

As for the preauthorization to use chemical weapons in 1991 - not quite accurate and not the whole story. Saddam did order the dispersal of chemical munitions weapons in August 1990 after the initial deployment of American forces to Saudi Arabia. He also reiterated Iraqi chemical warfare doctrine that release authority rested with the corps commander (a lieutenant general), in this case with III Corps (Kuwait) commander, Lt Gen Salah 'Abbud Al-Daghastani.

In December (still 1990), when it became apparent that there was likely going to be an invasion of Kuwait (he was not sure about an invasion of Iraq), he rescinded release authority from the corps commanders (specifically III, IV and VII Corps) and reserved that for himself alone. He had received thinly-veiled warnings from the United States (Secretary of State Baker) and the United Kingdom via Tariq 'Aziz that use of chemicals on our forces would be met with an "overwhelming response."

Had we approached Baghdad, Saddam may have given the order to use chemical weapons, but he alone retained that authority.

Like the caveman told the GEICO spokesman in the commercial, "Maybe next time, do a little research."

March 11, 2006

Iraq - "Getting in the way"

Getting in the WayOn Thursday (March 9), American forces recovered the body of Tom Fox, and American member of a religious peace organization who had been kidnapped by an Iraqi group calling itself the Sword of Righteousness Companies (Surayat As-Sayf Al-Haq) on November 26, 2005.

The death of any hostage is regrettable. That said, this is a death that could have been avoided - it was unnecessary and a waste.

Tom Fox was a member of an organization that calls itself
Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). Their motto is "getting in the way" - that's exactly what they are doing. It also directly lead to the death of one of their own.

Let's take a further look at this "Christian" organization. They are against the U.S. presence in Iraq and are involved in many activities that might be construed as supporting the insurgents and terrorists that kidnapped four of their members. Perhaps my memory fails me, but I don't recall them protesting the regime of Saddam Husayn.

From the
CPT in Iraq Statement of Conviction (March 2005), signed by Tom Fox:

  • As a peacemaking team we need to cross boundaries, help soldiers and other armed actors be humane, and invite them to refuse unjust orders.
  • We unequivocally reject kidnapping and hostage-taking. In such an event, CPT will attempt to communicate with the hostage-takers or their sponsors and work against journalists' inclination to vilify and demonize the offenders. We will try to understand the motives for these actions, and to articulate them, while maintaining a firm stance that such actions are wrong.
  • We reject the use of violent force to save our lives should we be kidnapped, held hostage, or caught in the middle of a violent conflict situation. We also reject violence to punish anyone who harms us.
  • We forgive those who consider us their enemies. Therefore, any penalty should be in the spirit of restorative justice, rather than in the form of violent retribution.

On March 10, CPT issued a press release about Tom Fox's death. Rather than just concentrate on condolences to the family, they couldn't resist the urge to take a shot at the United States and the United Kingdom. Some of the comments:

  • At the forefront of that support are strong and courageous actions from Muslim brothers and sisters throughout the world for which we are profoundly grateful. Their graciousness inspires us to continue working for the day when Christians speak up as boldly for the human rights of thousands Iraqis still detained illegally by the United States and United Kingdom.
  • Let us all join our voices on behalf of those who continue to suffer under occupation, whose loved ones have been killed or are missing. In so doing, we may hasten the day when both those who are wrongly detained and those who bear arms will return safely to their homes.

This all reminds me of the "can't we all just get along" naivete we see among many of these groups. Did they think they were immune from the violence? I am sure they mean well, but, in the end they lived up to their motto and are "getting in the way." U.S. forces who are trying to bring stability to a bad situation were taken away from their duties to try and find Fox and his cohorts, putting those American troops at even greater risk.

I suppose they would prefer that Saddam Husayn still be ruling Iraq. Where was the CPT when 400,000 Iraqis died in Saddam's prisons?

March 3, 2006

President Bush in Pakistan - Why?

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf with President Bush (2004)

President Bush is completing a trip to south Asia with an overnight stop in Islamabad, Pakistan. Having previously stopped in Afghanistan and India, it makes sense that he would stop to pay a courtesy visit on Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf has become one of America's best allies in the war on terror.

What does the American president hope to accomplish during this visit? Although it may show the rest of the world that Bush respects Musharraf, it certainly does nothing for Musharraf internally. Musharraf is not popular in the country, nor is his policy shift towards the United States in the aftermath of the Al-Qa'idah attacks in 2001. Those who support Musharraf will continue to support him; those who don't will continue to oppose him.

Pakistan has been a good ally since 2001. The United States would have been hard-pressed to mount offensive operations against the Taliban and Al-Qa'idah in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom without Pakistan's permission to use its airspace and access to Pakistani airfields.

That said, Bush will raise a few issues about the hunt for Al-Qa'idah (especially for Usamah Bin Ladin and Ayman Az-Zawahri) and the Taliban. Last week, Afghan president Hamid Karzai provided a list to Musharraf of known Taliban and Al-Qa'idah members believed to be in the Waziristan area of Pakistan. However, increased Pakistani offensive military activity against Al-Qa'idah and Taliban members in the Waziristan border area is problematic for Musharraf.

First, the area is legally a "tribal administered area" with some official autonomy from the government in Islamabad, and the Pakistani army does not normally operate in this area - there are tribal units that handle security. In response to U.S. pressure, the Pakistani army moved into Waziristan in 2004 and 2005 to engage Taliban and Al-Qa'idah members. As was expected, the locals rallied around the Taliban, since the Taliban were mostly recruited from the same Pushtun tribes in Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan. The locals also protected the Al-Qa'idah members as they are considered "guests" (and many have married local women).

Second, many members of the Pakistani military officer corps and the intelligence service, are sympathetic to Al-Qa'idah (and Usamah Bin Ladin) and especially the Taliban, which the intelligence service, the Interservices Intelligence Directorate, helped create. Musharraf has survived several assassination attempts, some that have the mark of trained intelligence professionals. As I have said before, we are one bullet away from a radical Islamic state with nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

Hopefully, Pakistan will be able to conduct increased operations in the Waziristan area to complement American and Afghan operations on the opposite side, trapping the remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qa'idah between them. If not, the trip is merely cosmetic. Since he visited the two other countries, it would have been undiplomatic to ignore Pakistan.

MSNBC Hardball - Port Issue

On March 2, I appeared on Hardball with Chris Matthews to discuss the possible involbement of Dubai with the management of terminals at some American ports. Here is the transcript:

MATTHEWS: Thank you, David Gregory. Now the Dubai ports deal, of course, the hot issue of the week. The Bush administration has triggered a national security investigation of another Dubai-based company with plans to buy U.S. plants that manufacture military parts for defense contractors.

Are we becoming too dependent on overseas companies to provide services that are critical to our national security. And would the Dubai ports deal make us less safe?

Frank Gaffney is a former assistant secretary of defense during the Reagan administration. He‘s now the president of the Center for Security Policy.

And Lieutenant Colonel Rick Francona served as the defense attache at the U.S. embassy in the United Arab Emirates. He was there when the emir was the defense minister. Colonel Francona is now an MSNBC military analyst.

Colonel Francona, you‘re on a lot of security matters, so let‘s ask you on this one. Is it OK by your security instincts to allow the UAE to control our ports?

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, MSNBC MILITARY ANALYST: On the surface of it, Chris, I don‘t have a problem with the UAE running our ports. Dubai has been a terrific ally of ours. We‘ve got a lot of defense cooperation, they understand our security interests, so I don‘t have a problem with a Dubai company running any of our ports.

MATTHEWS: Frank Gaffney, do you?

FRANK GAFFNEY, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR SECURITY POLICY: I do. I think that we‘ve got already too many vulnerabilities associated with these ports. I‘ve just come from a hearing with the House Armed Services Committee.

The testimony from some of my colleagues about how serious those problems are, just reinforce my belief that we don‘t want to do anything, even that might marginally make matters worse and I think this would at least make things marginally worse in three senses. One, there would be personnel hiring decisions made by this company. There will be some involvement with cargo and management of cargo.

And at the very least, there‘s going to be—some of the employees are going to be let in on security plans of the ports, each of which create, what I think is—as the lawyers would call an attractive nuisance. It‘s like having a swimming pool without a fence around it. Somebody is going to get in there and get in trouble.

MATTHEWS: Colonel Francona, Duncan Hunter, who chairs the Armed Services Committee in the House, he‘s a real tough soldiers kind of guy, he doesn‘t want to do it. He said that the problem with Dubai is not just that it‘s a state-owned operation here, which some people are against if principle. He says Dubai, the UAE, has had a bad track record.

He talks about high-speed electrical switches being sent through there, other materials that might be helpful to a nuclear program whizzing through the UAE‘s ports thanks to this company. Does that concern you?

FRANCONA: Well, yes, it concerns me, but I think you have to separate out all these incidents and look at them each. You know, is this the government doing this? Is there government complicity in this, or are the companies in the UAE being used either with or without knowledge? So I mean saying that something is happening in the UAE doesn‘t mean that the UAE government is doing it. So I think we have to be a little circumspect in how we look at these incidents.

MATTHEWS: Frank, if this was an Egyptian company or a Jordanian company, would you have the same concern?

GAFFNEY: I would. Frankly, I have the same concern about the fact that many of our ports are run by Chinese communists.

MATTHEWS: No, would you be coming on television to concern—show your concern?

GAFFNEY: I would be—I would be probably be raising the same kinds of alarms.
MATTHEWS: Even if it were Dutch or Belgian?

GAFFNEY: This is particularly worrying, Chris, because not only do you have the track record that Duncan Hunter was talking about, but we also know that this isn‘t necessarily a wrap on the government or even the company, but we also know the territory of the United Arab Emirates was where most of the operational planing and financing of the 9/11 attacks took place. So whether the government is complicit or simply missing the boat...

MATTHEWS: Well, so is Germany, if you want to get into that. Btu that‘s where a lot of these guys came from.

GAFFNEY: That‘s true. All of these raise questions, which is why I think the American public is so alive to this problem about whether we want to have control in other people hand‘s.

MATTHEWS: That‘s a cost. Risk is a cost, right? What are benefits, Colonel, and the costs of not doing this deal? Let‘s flip it around and look at the other side.


MATTHEWS: What is the advantage of doing this deal, sticking with it in terms of helping our relationship with Dubai? And what are the costs if we drop the deal, if we dump it?

FRANCONA: Yes, assuming you‘re going to allow foreigners to run our port, you can‘t cut out the UAE, because that would offend Dubai. Dubai has been a great ally for two decades. Look at the strategic position they occupy on the Arabian peninsula. They straddle the Straits of Hormuz. They have ports not only in the Persian Gulf, but on the Gulf of Oman.

I mean, this is a critical operational location for the U.S. Navy. Sixty-five port visits a month. There‘s no place else in the area that gives us that kind of access. We need those ports to project power, not only in the Persian Gulf, but into the Gulf of Oman.

MATTHEWS: React to that.

GAFFNEY: Well, I‘m willing to stipulate to all of that. I think that‘s true and it‘s why it‘s regrettable...

MATTHEWS: But you‘d pay the cost of dumping this deal?

GAFFNEY: It‘s why it‘s regrettable that this deal has been allowed to come to this. It should have been turned off. But the defective process by which it was evaluated put us in this position where we have...

MATTHEWS: What happened in this administration? You‘re politically conscious. What happened to this administration‘s nervous system? Why did didn‘t they pick up on this?

GAFFNEY: I‘m going to take that as a compliment, I think.

MATTHEWS: I think I am.

GAFFNEY: It‘s because the process, this so-called Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, is a black box. The president didn‘t know what was going on until it was a done deal. The secretary of defense didn‘t know what was going on...

MATTHEWS: He said he didn‘t know.

GAFFNEY: ... until it was a done deal.

MATTHEWS: You really think Rummy know about this at all?

GAFFNEY: Because it was done at a very low level. That‘s the way these things have been run by a Treasury Department-led effort when the Treasury Department is responsible for promoting foreign investment in the United States. It‘s designed to give rise to these kinds of outcomes.

MATTHEWS: Why didn‘t somebody say to Rummy, hey, boss, I think we got a problem here?

GAFFNEY: I think partly because he‘s missing some middle level management that can‘t get through Carl Levin in the Senate. We‘ve got serious problems with the process. We‘ve got some I think legitimate concerns about how this plays out in a post 9-11 world. And I think at this moment, it‘s very healthy to have a debate, as we did in the Armed Services Committee.

MATTHEWS: Well, we‘re having one here.


MATTHEWS: A little late, but we‘re having one here. Thank you, Colonel Francona and Frank Gaffney. Thanks for—both of you for joining us.

March 1, 2006

Saddam Husayn Trial: Getting Closer to Actual Evidence

In the latest installment (February 28 and March 1) of the seemingly never-ending trial of Saddam Husayn, the court may be getting close to actually presenting evidence that ties the deposed Iraqi leader to the crime.

Saddam and seven co-defendants are charged with the murder of 148 Iraqi Shi’a in the village of Ad-Dujayl after a July 1982 assassination attempt against the former president. Up until these two court sessions, the prosecutors have succeeded in presenting compelling evidence against the seven co-defendants, including Saddam’s half brother and former chief of the dreaded Iraqi Intelligence Service (Al-Mukhabarat), they had not presented any direct evidence implicating Saddam Husayn himself. (Read my previous piece on this subject.)

Although the prosecution has presented documentation at previous sessions that allege that Saddam Husayn countersigned orders in 1984 authorizing the execution of the perpetrators of the Ad-Dujayl assassination attempt, the evidence was unclear and Saddam’s former office chief said he was not sure if it was in fact Saddam’s signature or initials. However, the documents presented at the last two sessions clearly indicate the signature block of Saddam Husayn on orders directing the trial of the perpetrators and confiscation of their property.

Faced with this apparent solid evidence, Saddam tacitly acknowledged that he gave the order, but defended his actions by asking, “Where is the crime?" He stated that those involved had attempted to murder the head of state – ordering them to be held for trial and confiscating their lands were legal under Iraqi law.

Saddam asked, and was permitted, to address the court. In an interesting turn of events, he said that he was acting as head of state and that his seven co-defendants were merely following orders. He asked that they freed and only he held accountable for the alleged crime.

Saddam may be trying to invoke some sort of executive immunity. In his first court appearance in July 2004, he asked the judge if he was being charged as Saddam Husayn the man, or Saddam Husayn, the president of Iraq. He said that many of the charges allege crimes committed while he was acting as a head of state.

The trial will resume on Sunday, March 12.