Al-Qaeda Planned USFK Attacks

From the confession of the Ron Jeremy look-alike known as  Khalid Sheikh Mohammad:

23. I was responsible for planning and surveying to hit American targets in South Korea, such as American military bases and a few night clubs frequented by American soldiers.

The thought occurred to me almost every post-9/11 day I was assigned to Korea.  The “Hooker Hill” district  of Itaewon mixes very uneasily with the nearby Korea Islam Mosque, a congregation that includes a  high percentage of conversative Pushtuns from the Northwest Frontier Province.  It’s pure speculation of me to say so, but I’ll do it anyway:  the attackers would have used the mosque as cover for their presence, and  the King Club would have been their target. 

Any guesses on how various segments of the South Korean population would have reacted?  We may get some idea when this story hits Naver. 

Update:   Or not.  Some “officials” claim that KSM is a BS artist.

Update 2:   And then again,  on the other hand:

According to Mr. Chung, a group of Islamic fundamentalists from the Middle East was raided last year by the National Intelligence Service while planning an attack on South Korean soil. They were reportedly a mix of persons residing in South Korea and those entering on tourist visas.

In addition, news reports have revealed that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, a senior Al-Qaeda leader, has several years ago come to Seoul to gather intelligence on South Korea’s airport security. In 1999, Nizar Nawar, who is allegedly responsible for a 2002 terrorist attack in Tunisia, stayed illegally in Pocheon, Gyeonggi province, for more than six months while collecting intelligence.

Both mens’ visits went undetected.

A common mission of terrorist operatives has been to scan U.S. military bases. “The National Intelligence Service has told us a package was sent overseas last April from Korea, which contained a disc with maps of U.S. military bases in South Korea and methodologies to be used in an attack,” a government official told the JoongAng Ilbo last week.

Thanks to Mingi for sending.

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State: No quick removal of N. Korea from the terror list

I can imagine that the pressure from Japan has been intense, particularly in light of North Korea’s increasingly  brazen claims  about just what  the U.S. had agreed to lift, and when.  The North Koreans forced us to correct the record:

North Korea will not be easily removed from the U.S. list of states that sponskor terrorism. U.S. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said that taking North Korea off the terrorism blacklist is a process that will require a lot of time and careful reviews. He also made it clear that the process to normalize diplomatic ties between the U.S. and North Korea can move forward only when the North takes steps to make the Korean Peninsula nuclear-free.

Casey, seemingly wanting to dampen expectations that the North will be taken off the list quickly, said that Pyongyang should answer questions about why it had been put on the list. North Korea’s top nuclear envoy Kim Kye-kwan said recently that the U.S. promised to de-list North Korea.  [Chosun Ilbo]

I guess this is why lawyers write clauses into even the most ordinary agreements that no term not appearing in the  contract has been agreed by the parties.  How long until we can expect to see a Selig Harrison article claiming that the U.S. really did promise the North Koreas that we’d lift all sanctions, or should?

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Peace in Our Time! Financial Edition

North Korea’s top nuclear negotiator Kim Kye Gwan said Thursday that Pyongyang’s decision to halt nuclear facilities, as outlined in initial steps included in the Feb. 13 six-way agreement, will depend on the U.S. lifting of financial sanctions against North Korea.  [Kyodo News; ht Richardson]

The U.S. negotiator at the six-party talks, Chris Hill, once said that “[l]ife is too short to overreact to every statement coming out of Pyongyang.”  It’s true that the North Koreans do more than their share of alimentary vocalization, but it’s also true that there’s a difference between what the North Koreans say in propaganda mouthpieces like the Rodong Sinmun and KCNA, and what their diplomats declare to be national policy.  Hill may have perfectly sensible reasons not to react to this statement in public if he really believes that he can — and should —  smooth over this first of many controlled eruptions.  But there’s no pretending that we can accomodate this North Korean demand, or that it’s consistent with what we’ve agreed.

What Was Agreed

What did we actually agree to do?  Richardson has already cited the appropriate provisions, to  which I need add little else.  The agreement — I appended the complete text to this post  — is silent on any action by Treasury or on the  lifting of sanctions or financial measures.   The only thing that vaguely  hints at  North Korea’s new demand is this language:

5. Recalling Section 1 and 3 of the Joint Statement of 19 September 2005, the Parties agreed to cooperate in economic, energy and humanitarian assistance to the DPRK. In this regard, the Parties agreed to the provision of emergency energy assistance to the DPRK in the initial phase. The initial shipment of emergency energy assistance equivalent to 50,000 tons of heavy fuel oil (HFO) will commence within next 60 days. 

That doesn’t support North Korea’s position.  Although otherwise lacking in hard deadlines or benchmarks — really, it’s  hardly an agreement at all — the agreement does have  a few hard deadlines within the first 60 days, which the quasi-agreement calls the “initial phase.”  One is that the North Koreans must  “shut down and seal [Yongbyon and its reprocessing facility]  for the purpose of eventual abandonment;” within the same period, the United States  must deliver the first 50,000 of up to 1 million tons of heavy fuel oil.   

By the way, have a look at the facilities themselves:  an area overview, the reactor, the nearby reprocessing facility nearby, a palace I presume to be for the use of you-know-who,  the perimeter defenses, and a SAM site.  Click thumbnails  to enlarge; as always, coordinates are on the bottom of the screen.

yongbyon6.jpg   yongbyon1.jpg   yongbyon2.jpg   yongbyon3.jpg   yongbyon4.jpg   yongbyon5.jpg

Here is  a prediction:  If the North Koreans don’t shut down Yongbyon within 60 days, it will be politically difficult, perhaps impossible, for the United States to deliver the first shipment of fuel oil.   Note that the steps taken in the initial phase are to be “coordinated,” which is diplospeak for “reciprocal.”  Another prediction:  the South Koreans will want to deliver  it anyway  to preserve the appearance that the agreement survives; the U.S. side may not object for the very same reason.  This will be a very important test of the Administration’s will.

What Hill  Told Congress  About U.S. Financial Measures

On February 28, 2007, Chris Hill testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.  As is customary for senior officials, he presented a written statement with his testimony.   Hill’s statement, which  was undoubtedly very carefully vetted by the State Department,  restated U.S. policy  on financial restrictions on North Korea in considerable detail:

The Banco Delta Asia (BDA) issue is being discussed on a separate track from the Six-Party Talks, managed by experts from the Treasury Department.  In December and January, Treasury had two rounds of useful discussions with DPRK authorities, where the North Koreans provided information about BDA account holders.  This week Treasury officials were in Macau and Hong Kong to discuss details of the BDA case.  We are hopeful that this will help in bringing about a rapid resolution of the BDA case.  Treasury advised the DPRK about steps it could take to avoid future problems, be less isolated in the international financial system, and eventually join international financial institutions.

The measures the U.S. Treasury Department has taken with respect to North Korean finances, specifically the designation of Banco Delta Asia in Macau as an “institution of primary money laundering concern,” clearly had a significant impact on the regime.  These actions affected Pyongyang’s ability to access the international financial system and conduct international transactions as banks everywhere began to ask themselves whether doing business with North Korean entities was worth the risk.

Treasury is now prepared to resolve the Banco Delta Asia matter.  But this will not solve all of North Korea’s problems with the international financial system.  It must stop its illicit conduct and improve its international financial reputation in order to do that.

Once Treasury has concluded its regulatory action with respect to BDA, the disposition of the bank and of the funds that were frozen by the Macau Monetary Authority will be the responsibility of Macau, in accordance with its domestic laws and international obligations.

Note also Treasury’s assessments of North Korea’s, and BDA’s, involvement in counterfeiting of U.S. currency and laundering of the proceeds.  It’s not as if we can just let those things slide.

I was also present for the members’ questioning of Hill.  In response to questions from Rep. Ed Royce, R., Cal., Hill said that “law enforcement will not be compromised.”  A few days later, the New York Times published a story (now walled off as premium content), citing unnamed U.S. government sources, on the outlines of just what the Treasury would be prepared to do regarding Banco Delta.  Although Hill had stated in his testimony that it was difficult to distinguish the proceeds of North Korea’s legal and illegal activities, according to the story, Treasury would release up to $12 million, less than half of the $25 million in frozen North Korean assets. 

Even the larger sum isn’t that much.  The real problem for North Korea  is the upstream effect on its finances at Banco Delta and other banks.  Banks  saw what happened to BDA, meaning that their directors, officers, and shareholders  don’t  want to touch North Korean business, which means that North Korea’s shadowy “trading companies” can’t send money to the accounts where the regime can access them.  That problem is much greater than simply  unfreezing $12 million.  It will persist as long as Treasury considers North Korea’s income sources to be suspect.  The definition of “suspect” gained new breadth and clarity with the passage of two U.N. resolutions in 2006, and now includes weapons, missiles, and luxury items for Kim Jong Il and his loyalists.

The fact that this agreement probably represents only a slight short-term  relaxation of financial pressure on North Korea is the single most comforting thing about it.  In the longer term, however, it threatens to set back U.S. efforts to secure the compliance of other nations like China, Russia, and South Korea.

U.N. Security Council Resolutions 1695 and 1718

Finally, the United States lobbied other Security Council members very hard to get two unanimous resolutions after North Korea’s missile test in July 2006 and its nuclear test in October 2006.  Since Resolution 1695 was a functional subset of 1718, I will focus on the terms of 1718 as they apply to restrictions on North Korean finances.  First, another excerpt from Hill’s February 28, 2007 statement to Congress:

North Korea is well aware that it remains under Chapter VII UN sanctions.  Today, UNSCR 1718 remains in effect, and North Korea understands that the international community will continue to fully and effectively implement the resolution.  North Korea continues to face a basic strategic choice.  There are political and material incentives on offer to North Korea, but it must fully denuclearize to realize the full benefits of those incentives.  North Korea understands that it must abide by its commitments to receive these benefits.

Second, the relevant excerpt from UNSCR 1718, specifically, Paragraph 8(d):

(d)     all Member States shall, in accordance with their respective legal processes, freeze immediately the funds, other financial assets and economic resources which are on their territories at the date of the adoption of this resolution or at any time thereafter, that are owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by the persons or entities designated by the Committee or by the Security Council as being engaged in or providing support for, including through other illicit means, DPRK’s nuclear-related, other weapons of mass destruction-related and ballistic missile-related programmes, or by persons or entities acting on their behalf or at their direction, and ensure that any funds, financial assets or economic resources are prevented from being made available by their nationals or by any persons or entities within their territories, to or for the benefit of such persons or entities;

Notwithstanding China’s own spotty compliance with 1718, or South Korea’s  blatant  violation of it, it’s difficult to imagine that we could simply unlimber all financial restrictions on North Korea while its nuclear programs just keep humming along. 

Yes, almost everyone ignores U.N. resolutions, but someone made the United States an exception to that rule.  Even U.N. Resolutions have shelf lives, and this one isn’t even a year old.  Finally, the proponent of a resolution will have much more trouble ignoring it than those who were pressured into voting for it.

Related post:   Peace in Our Time!   Abductions Edition

Update:   One well-informed reader e-mailed to question whether Kyodo misunderstood the North Korean delegate, but now, the Yomiuri Shimbun is reporting the same thing:

A top North Korean official said the U.S. must lift sanctions against his country before it will shut down its nuclear reactor as part of an international disarmament deal, news reports said Friday.

North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan, making a brief, surprise stopover at Tokyo’s main international airport late Thursday en route to Beijing from New York, said Pyongyang would be watching Washington’s moves closely, the mass-circulation Yomiuri newspaper reported.

“The United States promised to resolve the problem of sanctions against our country within 30 days. If this promise is kept, then we will shut down our nuclear facilities in 60 days,” said Kim, the chief negotiator to the disarmament talks.

That would suggest that it’s the North Koreans themselves who are either misunderstanding or reinterpreting.  Meanwhile, the news site AsiaNews.it is reporting that the U.S. has already agreed to remove it from the terror-sponsor list by this coming April.  I think that’s something that requires a public response from the United States.  If it’s true, I certainly wonder just what the North Koreans have promised to do in exchange.

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Take the OFK Statesmanship Quiz

You are a  major political leader of one of the world’s major industrialized democracies.  An actor-turned-author publishes a book in which he photoshops the name of the country’s top newspaper into a picture of the World Trade Center on 9-11.  Just to make sure there’s no room for ambiguity, he says,

“I want to become a terrorist ….  The newspaper is the sole monolithic monster remaining in [this] society.”

As a statesman, your response is to:

a.  Jail the man for inciting violence and exile his family to Tongduchon.

b.  Quietly intercede with the book’s publisher, but avoid giving the man any free publicity.

c.  Explain that the author, one of your long-standing supporters, will enter a rehab program.

d.  Be sure all of your biggest supporters, including at least one  senior presidential secretary and three lawmakers,  show up for the launch of his book tour.

(click for answer)

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Bomb Kills U.S. Soldier, S. Korean Soldier in Afghanistan

Still not  many confirmed details yet, but it was a suicide bomber at Bagram, and he was trying to get Dick Cheney:

There were conflicting reports on the death toll. Provincial Gov. Abdul Jabar Taqwa said 20 people were killed, but NATO said initial reports indicated only three were killed, including a U.S. soldier, a South Korean coalition soldier and a U.S. government contractor whose nationality wasn’t immediately known. NATO said 27 people were also wounded….

Associated Press reporters at the scene said they had seen at least eight dead bodies carried in black body bags and wooden coffins from the base area and into the market area, where hundreds of Afghans had gathered to mourn.  [AP]

And me, not even knowing there were South Koreans in Afghanistan:

The JCS identified  [the soldier]  as 27-year-old Army Sgt. Yoon Jang-ho, who was on duty around a gate of a military base in Bagram, about 60 kilometers north of Kabul, when a suicide bomber attacked. The bomber was believed to have been targeting U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who had spent the night at the base, the JCS said.  [Yonhap]

May God comfort their families.

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Definitely Not Gitmo

Chinese authorities in the far-west city of Urumqi today executed an ethnic Uyghur man for allegedly attempting to “split the [Chinese] motherland.

“The execution was carried out at 9 a.m.,” Ismail Semed’s widow, Buhejer, told RFA’s Uyghur service. “They gave his body to us at the cemetery. Some of his relatives and friends joined us. When the body was transferred to us at the cemetery I saw only one bullet hole in his heart.

Semed, a Uyghur political activist deported to China from Pakistan in 2003, was sentenced to death Oct. 31, 2005, by the Urumqi City Intermediate People’s Court for “attempting to split the motherland” and “possessing firearms and explosives,” according to Uyghur sources.  [Radio Free Asia]

I’m not about to launch into a condemnation of China, because I lack sufficient information to judge the most relevant fact — whether this man was in fact a terrorist.  I believe that any government has a right to carry out any sentence, including the death sentence, against a person a competent tribunal convicts of targeting noncombatants.  I also believe that people denied any democratic, nonviolent means of dissent have a right to resist the state, provided they do not target noncombatants and take all reasonable precautions to avoid harming them.  Those principles may be in some tension here.  Maybe some occasional tension of that kind is a fact of modern life.

In this particular case, color me dubious.  I don’t accept the veracity of ChiCom government accusations as fact.  It sounds like the ChiCom police  beat the confessions out of the witnesses against Semed, and then shot them, too.  I’m especially doubtful that the  East Turkestan Information Center, among the groups listed as “terrorist” by China, is a really a terrorist organization.  The organization  operates openly in Washington, D.C. and  eschews violence.   The East Turkestan Islamic Movement is a different matter.  Some of its members  were captured in Afghanistan  shortly after 9/11, where they were training in AQ camps.  I presume that the gentle  jaws of the  Taliban weren’t cradling many aspiring pro-democracy activists.

Instead, I just wanted to note that this execution attracted little or no  attention from the Human Rights Industry, the Soft Reich (a/k/a the European Union), the media, or the U.N.  What attention it does  receive will be solely over China’s use of the death penalty, meaning that these parties have abandoned all moral distinctions between political dissidents, rest stop serial killers, and school bus bombers.

Parting irony:   The U.S. Army captured a number of those Chinese Uygurs who were either  fighting on the side of al-Qaeda, or who just “happened” to be in AQ camps when the Northern Alliance rolled them up.  Eventually, the Army sorted out the terrorists from the strap-hangers.  It wanted to release the latter.  We realized, however, that if we sent them back to China, they would meet the same fate as Ismail Semed.   After many months of  head-scratching,  they were all sent to Albania.  As a direct result of our compliance with the Convention Against Torture, we were stuck feeding these people and fending off legal challenges to their detention.  Some of those challenges  were based on intentionally spurious accusations  of torture, including a few that sound a lot like things I actually paid money for in my misspent youth (but not the blood thing — that would be icky).  They also delayed the very day in court that so many have (rightly) said these detainees ought to have.  Yet The Cause will be those who are still held in Gitmo, not those who  died in front of  ChiCom firing squads.

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Negotiating With Terror

I normally don’t really give a rat’s ass what al-Qaeda says in its videotapes, but this does seem more than mildly newsworthy:

And in yet another gambit that smacks of desperation, [al-Qaeda in Iraq leader  Abu Omar] al-Baghdadi tries to rile up the French and the Chinese against American global hegemony, and addresses those nations as “the freemen of the world.” Not only that, but he adopts a scolding tone with North Korea, essentially invoking the “sharing is caring” line, when he says, “And let North Korea know that it owes its nuclear tests to the mujaheddin in Iraq.” Translation: ” Al Qaeda’s actions distracted America from dealing with your evil, and the least you can do is share a nuclear device with us.”

I don’t know what’s sadder:  that the news media don’t report this, or that we no longer need wonder why.  Incidentally, the  interest in proliferation  is mutual:

The United States should consider the danger that we could transfer nuclear weapons to terrorists, that we have the ability to do so.

““ North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye-Gwan, April 2005

Last month, Mr. Kim’s boss,  Foreign Minister  Paek Nam Sun,  went off to present his credentials to Saddam, so Kim Gye-Gwan is now  the de facto Foreign Minister of North Korea.  Richardson informs us that Kim, with whom we’re negotiating in  Beijing this very day,  is known as “the smiling assassin.”  I’m sure to the South Koreans who gave him that name, and to the media who won’t report his crude threat, that’s a term of endearment.   I submit, however, that when  those who have the duty to inform us shield us  from such mortal threats to our safety, they do not make our world safer.

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MUST READ: Deterring the Arsenal of Terror

Writing in the Washington Post, David Ignatius squarely confronts what may be the greatest challenge to the security of the United States:  finding a way to deter a mass attack.  Ignatius concludes, correctly, that one must deter the sponsors and suppliers:

Allison believes that the world must focus on what he calls “the principle of nuclear accountability.” The biggest danger posed by North Korea isn’t that it would launch a nuclear missile but that this desperately poor country would sell a bomb to al-Qaeda or another terrorist group. Accountability, in Allison’s terms, means that if a bomb explodes in Manhattan that contains North Korean fissile material, the United States will act as if the strike came from North Korea itself — and retaliate accordingly, with devastating force. To make this accountability principle work, the United States needs a crash program to create the “nuclear forensics” that can identify the signature of fissile material of every potential nuclear state. Arms control expert Robert Gallucci describes this approach as “expanded deterrence” in his article in the September Annals.

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One Man’s Freedom Fighter…

“Congratulations! You are in a cage, Saddam,” witness Ghafour Hassan Abdullah said as he stared at the ousted president.

Saddam listened silently but lost his temper when a lawyer described Iraqi Kurdish rebels as freedom fighters. “You are agents of Iran and Zionism! We will crush your heads!” he shouted.

We will crush your heads! Remind you of anyone? Incidentally, none of my trials featured exchanges like that.

Meanwhile, Havana, Cuba is hosting a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement, the world’s second-most inaptly named entity, just below the “Democratic Peoples’ Republic” of Korea. Both entities are asking to redefine a term on which they speak with some authority, but not the moral kind:

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A 9/11 Demurrer

Every year, I have the same debate with myself: whether the ferocity of my thoughts about this day renders them unfit for public consumption. This year, absent the time or desire to write, save, and then delete my true thoughts, there is just one original thought I will add to so many others today — that for me, 9/11 is at least half the reason I began blogging about this topic. Since then, my greatest fear has been that Kim Jong Il is building the arsenal of terror while the world looks away. I have come to believe that directly or indirectly, North Korea is the single most likely source for the means terrorists will use to execute an unimaginably ghastly attack on the country and people I unreservedly love.

The other half is my knowledge that all of history’s mass murderers began their work on a smaller scale and graduated to ever lower depths of depravity. What moral restraint stands between the murder of “impure” infants, the gassing of families, or the starvation of expendable millions and the next hellish crime? This, I perceive with absolute clarity: Kim Jong Il’s survival as a tyrant is incompatible with the safety of the world. Nothing I have observed since has offered faintly persuasive evidence to the contrary. Kim Jong Il must go. It is simply a question of how to accomplish it at the lowest possible cost in human suffering.

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I refer you to Christopher Hitchens, who has done so far better than I could, and very probably with much more restraint than I can muster even now.

Anyone who lost their “innocence” on September 11 was too naïve by far, or too stupid to begin with. On that day, we learned what we ought to have known already, which is that clerical fanaticism means to fight a war which can only have one victor. Afghans, Kurds, Kashmiris, Timorese and many others could have told us this from experience, and for nothing (and did warn us, especially in the person of Ahmad Shah Massoud, leader of Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance). Does anyone suppose that an ideology that slaughters and enslaves them will ever be amenable to “us”? The first duty, therefore, is one of solidarity with bin-Ladenism’s other victims and targets, from India to Kurdistan.

Don’t miss Hitchens’s next point, either. It’s one learned with only great difficulty by free societies that must come to terms with preserving their own existence.

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Legal wonks may be interested in this discussion of the legal rights of detainees. Reading it, it’s important to keep in mind that an ordinary court-martial offers the accused much higher protections than a federal or state criminal proceeding. The ordinary court-martial procedure, with its prohibitions on hearsay, coerced confessions, and rules against unlawful command influence, won’t work here. We need something specifically adapted to the war we face, and that adaptation must not reward those who intentionally target noncombatants.

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Maybe They Should Get Out of Iraq…

A LEBANESE student suspected of trying to paralyse the German railway network with a bomb concealed in a suitcase appeared in court yesterday, as a huge police hunt for a second suspect continued.

The root cause of this is clearly that unequivocal German support for Israel, and for Bu$h’s war, which of course started this whole terrorism thing:

[T]he case has rattled Germans, many of whom have clung to the belief that their government’s opposition to the war in Iraq would insulate them from attacks like those in London or Madrid.

Why (sniff) do they hate us? I suspect that most Americans, at least, are well beyond asking, or caring.

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Worst Reporting Ever

[Update: Even more Hezbollah media exploitation. And Matt has a photo where the North Koreans are caught in the act, too. Check out M.C. Escher up on the blue thing, welding away with his Inspector Gadget arms. On a completely unrelated note, but on the same blog, here’s a rather interesting theory, for all six of you who haven’t seen it yet. I must say the silence is probably the most compelling part of the case.]

I’ve had plenty of bad things to say about how the media tend to view North Korea as an exclusively diplomatic issue, ignoring the inhuman pathos and obsessive secrecy that cast doubt on the North Korean regime’s very suitability to the diplomatic process. Still, I challenge anyone to name a story that’s been covered as badly as the latest war between Israel and Hezbollah.

Reuters has taken the worst beating, probably because it has about the worst Middle East coverage of any major news source, in contrast to its relatively good Korea coverage, and because it was the first to be caught. This photo of a burning Koran by the same stringer also looks staged. Reuters is hardly alone in its sloppiness, however. This New York Times photo (more) was just as obviously staged as the Reuters photos were obviously altered. U.S. News let a photo of a burning trash pile to slip past the editors and land on its cover caption as a burning Israeli fighter, though none were reported lost that day. AFP can’t read a contrail, thus blaming the Israelis for the rockets aimed at its own soil. Then there’s this woman, whom one blogger called “the unluckiest multiple homeowner in Beirut.” And don’t forget the shifting death toll at Qana, tragic as any number of dead innocents always is.

Above all, we are denied the essential context of why there is a war at all: because Hezbollah is rocketing Israel, often from areas where they know civilians will be when the counter-battery fire comes in. If we’re not seeing gory photos of dead Israeli kids, that’s not just a function of the Israelis doing a better job of protecting them. It’s also a function of the apparent view of some that Israel (and to many, America) should be exempted from the universal right of self-defense under Article 51.

To simplify: there is no such thing as unilateral peace. Surrender to terrorists will never end a war. It will always intensify and expand it.

What really comes to mind in all this? How little I know about the backgrounds of the Iraqi stringers whose reports about Iraq are there every time you open your Yahoo account or a newspaper, although the byline may only say “AP,” “Reuters,” or “AFP.” Is it reasonable to want to know more about their backgrounds, where they are from, and who else they’ve worked for?

Viewing all of this in light of some substantial evidence of a crude but planned Hezb campaign to manipulate the media, you can only struggle to sort the gullible reporters from the downright malicious ones. I’ve been critical of some of the targets Israel has chosen, but not once have I seen Israel as the beneficiary of such credulous rebroadcasting of patently suspicious propaganda. I have never been less likely to believe news reports out-of-hand than here.

It would be too easy to make this about particular news services, because it can be tedious to keep track of who the individual reporters and photographers are. The fact is, however, when you read the news, you’re consuming an edited product of an individual biased reporter (we’re all biased). Sooner rather than later, some person with more time on his hands than me is going to create an online registry of reporters who have distinguished themselves for professionalism, fairness, and doggedness on one hand, and for malice, inaccuracy, recklessness, political or partisan associations, and gratuitous editorializing on the other. Smart news sources will link their bylines to the best of these.

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Axis, Schmaxis, Part 3

There is a theory in this city that a fundamentalist Sunni Muslim terrorist group would not dream of establishing an operational relationship with a secular Sunni Muslim terror-supporting tyrant or a fundamentalist Shiite Muslim terror-supporting tyrant. Believers in that theory are going to have real trouble wrapping their heads around the idea that the latter fundamentalist Shiite Muslim terror-supporting tryant’s minions joined a group of pork-eating, soju-swilling aetheist idolator infidels for a night of fireworks on the Fourth of July. Let’s welcome the “reality-based community” to the reality of the world in which we live:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — One or more Iranians witnessed North Korea’s recent missile tests, deepening U.S. concerns about growing ties between two countries with troubling nuclear capabilities, a top U.S. official said Thursday.

Asked at a U.S. Senate hearing about reports that Iranians witnessed the July 4 tests, Assistant Secretary of State Chris Hill, the chief U.S. negotiator with Pyongyang, replied: “Yes, that is my understanding” and it is “absolutely correct” that the relationship is worrisome.

Hill’s comments are believed to be the first public U.S. confirmation that Iranian representatives observed the seven tests, which involved one launch of a long-range ballistic missile, which failed soon after being fired, and six tests of short and medium-range missiles.

Hill said the six succeeded in hitting their target range.

There’s only one thing I can’t figure out: what did they eat?

Well, I can at last say they go together as well as white supremacists with Japanese, or anti-Communists with Communists. [Previous: Axis, Shmaxis, Part 1 (N. Korea+Iran); Axis, Shmaxis, Part 2 (N. Korea+Venezuela); See No Axis (Iran); DPRK-Iran, “˜Axis of Evil’ cooperation; Iran makes sure it keeps “˜Axis of Evil’ status current (Iran+Venezuela); Nope, No Axis Here (Iran); China, Arsenal of Terror (China+Iran+North Korea); Not an Axis? (North Korea+Iran, Yemen, Pakistan, Syria, Libya, and Saddam Hussein’s Iraq)].

These comments by Hill were very disappointing:

“We are not seeking regime change. We are seeking a change in this regime’s behavior,” he told the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee.

“We have the regime that we have, and we have to deal with them … We don’t have the option of walking away from this problem.”

I don’t necessarily believe the United States ought to openly declare its every fiendish plan, but isn’t it just dumb to tell every other nation involved, especially North Korea, that you’re not going to inflict the consequence they fear most if they continue to be unreasonable? I happen to think that we should be building international support for encouraging resistance in North Korea, but let’s say you disagree that we should do it, or do it openly. Should we publicly foreclose the option? This isn’t just bad policy, it’s also bad negotiation.

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Iran, Hezbollah, and 9/11

While I continue to believe that Israel ought to play it smarter by trying to coopt and empower anti-Hezb Lebanese, this seems to be an appropriate time to explain why the eradication of Hezbollah is absolutely in the U.S. national interest, if this were not reason enough. I’m reprinting an unedited excerpt from the 9/11 Commission Report on how Hezbollah and Iran knowingly assisted al-Qaeda prior to the 9/11 attacks. There’s no evidence that they specifically knew about 9/11, but they offered their support after the Cole bombing, so the overall purpose was beyond question. The only question they asked was, “What can we do to help you kill Americans?”

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Terror By Remote Control?

I have long feared that this would be the future of terrorism. This time, it’s a terrorist organization hitting a military target. Hezbollah’s MO suggests that darker things are ahead.

Update: Not a UAV, but a missile, supplied by our “strategic partners” in China to Iran, and then to Hezb. Hopefully, this will put a lid on Israeli proliferation of US technology to China. More on Chinese proliferation to Iran, and what can be done about it, here.

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Killing the Cedar Revolution

When Israel responds to attacks on its soldiers by bombing Hezbollah and Hamas, I say bomb away. God has more than sufficient capacity to sort them out. I understand that in the Middle East, one must acquire a certain retaliatory credibility.

But at the risk of provoking the mother of all flame wars in the comments section, I cannot understand why Israel is also bombing bridges and runways that belong to the newly elected government of Lebanon, which had neither a role in the attacks nor the capacity to prevent them. Remember the Cedar Revolution that gave us such hope, so recently? The Lebanese government is just beginning to consolidate its fragile nation state after decades of civil war and Syrian occupation. It’s in no condition to take on Hebollah, which still controls half of Lebanon’s territory with its Iranian and Syrian backing (have you seen Michael Totten’s blogging about his travels in Hezbanon?).

A long-term solution to the terror that plagues both Israelis and Lebanese isn’t amenable to a hot-tempered response, although doing serious damage to Hezbollah’s infrastructure will briefly advance that cause (the effect will be fleeting if it’s not sustained). A more prudent Israeli response would be to gradually build its alliances with Lebanon’s more moderate Sunnis, its smattering of moderate Shiites, and with its Druze and Christian populations. The intelligent move is to build non-Hezbollah Lebanon into a viable nation-state capable of regaining control over its own South and the Bekaa Valley, by that particularly Levantine combination of force and diplomacy. Attacking the Lebanese government for failing to do what it lacks the capacity to do — reign in Hezbollah — seems counterproductive in the extreme, and harms the U.S. interest in spreading democracy in the region.

Worse, this could offer Syria the justification to gradually reinsert itself into Lebanon, which had proven to be a lucrative colony. It could even complicate our own fragile alliance with the Iraqi Shiites.

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