No News is Bad News: Pakistan

Just a heads-up on Pakistan, Musharraf has declared a state of emergency and surrounded the Supreme Court.  The eight judges ordered the prime minister and the military to defy his orders.  Bhutto has been safely back in Dubai for a couple of days.  This is bad news.  My RSS feeds from Pakistan are dead at the moment, Musharraf has cut off all communication from Pakistani news outlets to the outside world.

From AP:

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- President Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared a state of emergency in Pakistan on Saturday ahead of a crucial Supreme Court decision on whether to overturn his recent election win and amid rising Islamic militant violence.

Eight Supreme Court judges immediately rejected the emergency, which suspended the current constitution. The government blocked transmissions of private news channels in several cities and telephone services in the capital, Islamabad, were cut.

"The chief of army staff has proclaimed a state of emergency and issued a provisional constitutional order," a newscaster on state Pakistan TV said, adding that Musharraf, who took power in 1999 coup, would address the nation later Saturday.

Matthew Pennington - AP 3 Nov 07

Also the BBC report.  This is not a terrific omen for the 'war on terror' in Waziristan and neighbouring Afghanistan.  We have been urging Musharraf not to do this but he must have compelling reasons of his own.  Looks like the Bhutto power-sharing deal is off for the time being too.  Musharraf is desperate to get the court to validate his presidency and apparently anticipated they would rule against him.  Islamic militants in Swat have been handing the Pakistani Army some embarrassing reverses lately and such fighting against Islamic militants has traditionally also brought up tensions within the military establishment.  Hope this all blows over in few days of dictatorial martial law, there are many unpleasant scenarios which could lead from this kind of national unrest in Pakistan.

Remember Bin Laden's recent tape which called for jihad in Pakistan?  He may have been on to something.

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The Candour Issue

Notwithstanding the dust-devil of spin still surrounding the debate it's pretty clear that, in the media at least, a narrative is emerging about Hillary's performance the other night and it has little to do with driver's licenses.  I personally thought Roger Simon's early analysis said it clearly, though harshly:

It was not just that her answer about whether illegal immigrants should be issued driver's licenses was at best incomprehensible and at worst misleading.

It was that for two hours she dodged and weaved, parsed and stonewalled.

And when it was over, both the Barack Obama and John Edwards campaigns signaled that in the weeks ahead they intend to hammer home a simple message: Hillary Clinton does not say what she means or mean what she says.

And she gave them plenty of ammunition Tuesday night.

Roger Simon - Politico 31 Oct 07

Basically the narrative seems to be that a 'chink' in her armour may have been revealed and it isn't on any of the issues on which she has positioned herself so carefully rather an aspect of her personality, or the tactics, which she has used to successfully weather the modest but relentless attacks from, largely, Obama and Edwards on the war, lobbyists and her quasi-incumbent run for most of the course of the campaign.  The issue is candour and it has been the unspoken theme running through the campaign against her, such as it is, from other Democratic candidates.  It is basically an issue of trust.  And let's not overlook one aspect of the big, bad Republican campaign which we perhaps had better take into account.

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Thanks, Hillary

Well, no surprises the passage of the Kyl/Lieberman amendment has strengthened the hand of the activist, anti-Iran faction within the Bush administration, as intended.  And the outcome is exactly as predicted:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 25 -- The Bush administration announced a long-debated policy of new sanctions against Iran today, accusing the elite Quds division of the Revolutionary Guard Corps of supporting terrorism.

The administration also accused the entire Revolutionary Guard Corps, a part of Iran's military, of proliferating weapons of mass destruction. While the United States has long labelled Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism, the decision to single out the Guard reflects increased frustration in the administration with the slow pace of diplomatic negotiations over Tehran's nuclear program.

The designations put into play unilateral sanctions intended to impede the Revolutionary Guard and those who do business with it. This is the first time that the United States has taken such steps against the armed forces of any sovereign government.

Helene Cooper and John H. Cushman Jr - NYT 25 Oct 07

It is worth noting that even the Bush administration baulked, for compelling reasons, at implementing the letter of the Kyl/Liebermann amendment, surely a candidate as sophisticated as Hillary would have been aware of this potential sticking point within our own State Department and European allies:

In August, White House officials said they intended to declare the entire Revolutionary Guard a foreign terrorist organization, but reports of such a move so raised the hackles of America's European allies and some officials in the State and Treasury Departments that the administration put those plans on hold while the internal debate continued. The announcement today reflects a compromise.

Helene Cooper and John H. Cushman Jr - NYT 25 Oct 07

We have also taken the opportunity of putting government managed financial institutions on our watch-list.  Does this make their transactions with other foreign sovereign powers a legal issue too?  I wonder if we have not created additional points of legal contention with Iran and its allies:

The United States also designated three Iranian state-owned banks for sanctions, two of them "for their involvement in proliferation activities" and the other "as a terrorist financier," Rice said.


We call on responsible banks and companies around the world to terminate any business with Bank Melli, Bank Mellat, Bank Saderat, and all companies and entities" of the corps, Paulson said.

The move marks the first time the United States has attempted to punish another country's military through sanctions.

CNN - 25 Oct 07

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Hillary's War

Disclaimer: Those of you who choose to discount every word written by Don Van Natta Jr will probably have seizures reading this diary

On the eve of Hillary's coronation by the media, the pollsters and sycophants everywhere it may be worth a little retrospective of the analytical reporting surrounding her AUMF vote in 2002 and the subsequent revisionist history we all will be obliged to adopt to see her through the 2008 general election to a comfortable 'victory' for Democrats.  You had better get used to this as it will soon be the 'party line:'

Since the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, Hillary Clinton had labored to establish her national-security credentials. The day after the attacks, she vowed that any country that chose to harbor terrorists and "those who in any way aid or comfort them whatsoever will now face the wrath of our country." Such tough comments reflected the mood of the country -- and also dovetailed with her efforts to win over moderate voters. Clinton knew she could never advance her career -- or win the presidency, especially -- if she didn't prove that she was tough enough to be commander in chief.

Jeff Gerth and Don van Natta Jr - NYT Magazine 29 May 07

Surprising?  Hardly.  33% of Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was connected with the terrorist attack on 9/11.  But she knew stuff, didn't she, which we mere mortals had no access to:

So far, she has not discussed publicly whether she ever read the complete classified version of the National Intelligence Estimate, the most comprehensive judgment of the intelligence community about Iraq's W.M.D., which was made available to all 100 senators. The 90-page report was delivered to Congress on Oct. 1, 2002, just 10 days before the Senate vote. An abridged summary was made public by the Bush administration, but it painted a less subtle picture of Iraq's weapons program than the full classified report. To get a complete picture would require reading the entire document, which, according to a version of the report made public in 2004, contained numerous caveats and dissents on Iraq's weapons and capacities.

According to Senate aides, because Clinton was not yet on the Armed Services Committee, she did not have anyone working for her with the security clearances needed to read the entire N.I.E. and the other highly classified reports that pertained to Iraq.

She could have done the reading herself. Senators were able to access the N.I.E. at two secure locations in the Capitol complex. Nonetheless, only six senators personally read the report, according to a 2005 television interview with Senator Jay Rockefeller, Democrat of West Virginia and then the vice chairman of the intelligence panel. Earlier this year, on the presidential campaign trail in New Hampshire, Clinton was confronted by a woman who had traveled from New York to ask her if she had read the intelligence report. According to Eloise Harper of ABC News, Clinton responded that she had been briefed on it.

"Did you read it?" the woman screamed.

Clinton replied that she had been briefed, though she did not say by whom.

Jeff Gerth and Don van Natta Jr - NYT Magazine 29 May 07

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Iran and the IAEA

It seems that many people are unaware that the Iranians currently have a negotiated agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency which governs the status of the controversial Iranian uranium enrichment program.  This agreement was formalised in August:

TEHRAN (Reuters) - Iran and the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency said on Tuesday they had agreed a plan on how to help defuse Western suspicions about Tehran's atom work, a move hailed as a "milestone" by a senior IAEA official.

After two days of talks in Tehran, the two sides said they had drawn up a timeline for answering outstanding questions about Iran's nuclear program, which the West believes is aimed at building atomic bombs. Iran insists its plans are peaceful.

But the United States, leading efforts to isolate Iran, has said Tehran must both cooperate with the U.N. inspectors and halt sensitive nuclear work, a step Iranian officials have rejected, if it wants to avoid a third round of U.N. sanctions.

"We have in front of us an agreed work plan. We agreed on modalities on how to implement it. We have a timeline for the implementation," IAEA deputy director Olli Heinonen said after the negotiations, which he described as "good and constructive."

"I think this was an important milestone," he told a press conference. "But this process will take its time."

Iran agreed in June to draw up an action plan within 60 days to grant more access to its nuclear sites for inspectors of the Vienna-based IAEA and clear up longstanding agency questions about the nature and scope of the program.

By Fredrik Dahl and Edmund Blair - Reuters Aug 21 07

OK, so what does this mean?  Depends where you are, in the United States it apparently means very little and was not widely reported.  To the rest of the world, including Iran, it indicates that a reluctant and intransigent Iran is not only agreeing to permit IAEA inspections, which were halted in response to sanctions applied by the UN Security Council late last year, but to resolve outstanding issues related to previous inspections.  China and Russia, both permanent Security Council members, have prevented the US from imposing economic sanctions with any real significance, largely on the basis of Iran's conformance to existing agreements.  Maybe they have a point.

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What DID Just Happen In Tehran?

The recent visit by Vladamir Putin to Tehran has produced tangible results, both diplomatic and economic, which forestall US intervention in Iran and potentially change the balance of access to energy in the Gulf.  The US has had access to staging areas for it's military activities in this region in the past, this will no longer be possible with the signing of the Declaration:

The declaration signed at the end of the summit covers a wide range of subjects in its 25 articles. The document virtually binds the littoral states into a non-aggression commitment, warns the outsiders to refrain from using the Caspian region soil for military operations or interfering in any other way, supports the right of Iran to pursue nuclear technology for peaceful purposes...

News Central Asia - 17 Oct 07

We have been outmanoeuvred big-time.  And they may have been doing us a favour, although the notion of a war with Iran is more lively among politicians than military planners.  To be specific:

Article 14 and 15 of the declaration declare in plain language that the littoral states would neither use their armed forces against each other nor allow any other state to use their territory for military operations against any of the littoral states.

This throws a decisive wrench into any designs the USA may have against Iran. The entire Caspian region, including the convenient territory of Azerbaijan, is suddenly out of bounds for American military.

It would leave Afghanistan and Iraq as the possible staging areas for American military operations against Iran - that is, if the things come to direct confrontation.

The Journal of Turkish Weekly - 18 Oct 07

But the real strategic shift is the agreement on a North-South corridor for economic and resource access to Gulf markets which potentially alters the economic balance in which we have invested so heavily in recent years:

It is difficult to wrap one's mind around the enormous potential of the North-South corridor.

If the discovery of the sea routes was the death of the Silk Road, the establishment of North-South corridor could reverse the course of history.

If the transportation time between South Asia and Europe is cut down by eight days and the freight charges are slashed by USD$500 per container, would there be any businessman in South and Central Asia or China who would refuse to use the North-South corridor?

And, it cuts both ways: Would there be any businessman in Europe who would decline to send his cargo through North-South corridor merely on ideological grounds?

The Journal of Turkish Weekly - 18 Oct 07

There is more, much more, which suggests that our policy in Iraq has created opportunities for our competitors in world influence and trade to now put the squeeze on our post-Cold War position in the world.  I would be happy to post and discuss further these developments if it seems appropriate for this forum. Acknowledgement to Srdja Trifkovic for the links and unquoted commentary.

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Seven Days in Maybe

As a FYI cinema history tribute consider the early 60's coup d'etat thriller Seven Days in May (chilling emphasis added):

Seven Days in May is a political thriller novel [...] made into a motion picture in 1964, with screenplay by Rod Serling and directed by John Frankenheimer.

In the novel, the story is set in May 1974, not long after the conclusion of a stalemated war in Iran fought along conventional warfare lines similar to Korea. The film is set a year later, in May 1975, as shown both by the day/date indicator in the Pentagon, and the reference by Jordan Lyman to "a year and nine months" before Election Day 1976.

The novel has White House aide Paul Girard meeting with Vice Admiral Farley C. Barnswell, USN, on board the U.S. Sixth Fleet flagship, a 100,000-ton nuclear-powered aircraft carrier named after the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower, at anchor in the Bay of Gibraltar. The U.S. Navy's third nuclear-powered supercarrier was the Nimitz class USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69), which was actually commissioned in 1977.

The scenario of the film may have been inspired by the clash between General Curtis LeMay and President John F. Kennedy. It is suspected that LeMay, furious after the Cuban missile crisis for not being allowed to use his atomic bombs, talked to some of his staff about removing the President from power. Other observers cite as the inspiration for the story a historically-ambiguous conspiracy among major industrial leaders to enlist retired Marine Gen. Smedley Butler in a plot to infiltrate Franklin Delano Roosevelt's inner circle.

The plot is inspired by true events, chronicled by Major General Smedley Butler's testimony to the McCormack-Dickstein Congressional Committee on un-American affairs in 1934 about the Business Plot of 1933.

Wikipedia - Seven Days in May

Terrific, eh?  Rent it and have a DVD-see.  It's one of those cigar-smoky Cold War thrillers, with Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster, notoriously controversial in its time.  But just to give cinematic credit where credit is due, what do we have here, so many decades hence?  A NYT report of moral/political debate at the General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth?

Much of the debate at Leavenworth has centered on a scathing article, "A Failure in Generalship," written last May for Armed Forces Journal by Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, an Iraq veteran and deputy commander of the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment who holds a master's degree in political science from the University of Chicago. "If the general remains silent while the statesman commits a nation to war with insufficient means, he shares culpability for the results," Colonel Yingling wrote.

The article has been required class reading at Leavenworth, where young officers debate whether Colonel Yingling was right to question senior commanders who sent junior officers into battle with so few troops.

Elisabeth Bumiller - NYT 14 Oct 07

Yingling?  More over the fold.

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A Poll You Won't See Here

The British Opinion Research Business ran a poll of war dead in Iraqi households last August which attempted to quantify the extent of fatalities among households throughout Iraq.  Assuming the responses were accurate the extrapolated impact on the Iraqi population far exceeds previous estimates (emphasis added):

Previous estimates, most noticeably the one published in the Lancet in October 2006, suggested almost half this number (654,965 deaths).
These findings come from a poll released today by ORB, the British polling agency that has been tracking public opinion in Iraq since 2005. In conjunction with their Iraqi fieldwork agency a representative sample of 1,499 adults aged 18+ answered the following question:-

Q How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003 (ie as a result of violence rather than a natural death such as old age)? Please note that I mean those who were actually living under your roof.

None 78%
One 16%
Two 5%
Three 1%
Four or more 0.002%

Given that from the 2005 census there are a total of 4,050,597 households this data suggests a total of 1,220,580 deaths since the invasion in 2003. Calculating the affect from the margin of error we believe that the range is a minimum of 733,158 to a maximum of 1,446,063.


Detailed analysis (which is available on our website) indicates that almost one in two households in Baghdad have lost a family member, significantly higher than in any other area of the country. The governorates of Diyala (42%) and Ninewa (35%) were next.

The poll also questioned the surviving relatives on the method in which their loved ones were killed. It reveals that 48% died from a gunshot wound, 20% from the impact of a car bomb, 9% from aerial bombardment, 6% as a result of an accident and 6% from another blast/ordnance. This is significant because more often that not it is car bombs and aerial bombardments that make the news - with gunshots rarely in the headlines.

As well as a murder rate that now exceeds the Rwanda genocide from 1994 (800,000 murdered), not only have more than one million been injured but our poll calculates that of the millions of Iraqis that have fled their neighbourhoods, 52% have moved within Iraq but 48% have crossed its borders, with Syria taking the bulk of refugees.

Opinion Research Business - Sep 07

Links: PDF and Excel spreadsheet

Wow, I wonder if the US electorate has any notion of this statistic.  The Bush administration has never attempted to assess or publish it's estimates of Iraqi war dead, or even admit to compiling these, in spite of the many elaborate Powerpoint presentations we have had on violence in Iraq in general and Baghdad in particular, most recently at the time of the Petraeus hearings.  One wonders if these kinds of estimates are accurate, to be sure, but also why this relevant statistic has virtually no currency among the protagonists in the current debate over the war.

These Lancet and OBR figures are the benchmark by which the rest of the world judges our actions in Iraq and we pretend they don't even exist.  Wake up, America.

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Hillary's Kyl/Lieberman Vote Controversy Lingers

In spite of strenuous denials by Hillary's campaign and her  supporters elsewhere the perception that her Kyl/Lieberman vote was a 'hawkish' move has taken pretty good hold in the public perception.  And her recent positive comments about negotiating 'unconditionally' with Iran seem carefully structured to counter this collateral damage to her message in the primary while reserving a 'tough' commander-in-chief persona for the general electorate.  This recent NYT foreign affairs piece is pretty clear about it (emphasis added):

And Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton? She voted in favor of the measure in question, which asked the Bush administration to declare Iran's 125,000-member Revolutionary Guard Corps a foreign terrorist organization. Such a move -- more hawkish than even most of the Bush administration has been willing to venture so far -- would intensify America's continuing confrontation with Iran, many foreign policy experts say.

Part of the reason for Mrs. Clinton's vote, some of her backers say privately, is that she has already shifted from primary mode, when she needs to guard against critics from the left, to general election mode, when she must guard against critics from the right. That means she is trying to shore up her national security credentials versus Republican candidates like Rudolph Giuliani and Mitt Romney, and is trying to reassure voters that she would be a tough-minded commander in chief.

By supporting the bill -- sponsored by Senators Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut and Jon Kyl of Arizona -- Mrs. Clinton is also solidifying crucial support from the pro-Israel lobby.


But Mrs. Clinton has come under withering criticism for her vote from many Democrats, who say she is implicitly supporting what they see as an attempt by the administration to build a case for war with Iran. And her vote has also set off a debate among foreign policy experts about how best to put pressure on Iran, with some of them saying that Mrs. Clinton, along with a big majority of the Senate, has gone too far.

Think of it as Iran declaring that the United States military is a terrorist organization because it carries out President Bush's orders. Such a move, say some Iran experts -- including some advisers to the Clinton campaign who declined to publicly criticize their possible boss -- runs the risk of further alienating the Iranian population, because many Iranians are tied to the Revolutionary Guard or its many offshoots and enterprises in some way.

"What Senator Clinton and the other legislators who voted for this bill don't seem to realize is that the Revolutionary Guards are not Al Qaeda," said Karim Sadjapour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "They're not a group of voluntary jihadists signing up to fight the United States. Many are conscripts taken from the regular army."

Mr. Sadjapour, an Iranian-American, and some other experts argue that the rank and file of the Revolutionary Guard are far more representative of Iranian society than most Americans realize. So labeling Iran's elite fighters as terrorists is a move that is more likely to drive the Iranian population closer to the hard-liners in Tehran.

Even within the Bush administration, there is debate about whether designating the entire Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization is a good idea. While some White House officials and some members of Vice President Dick Cheney's staff have been pushing to blacklist the whole Revolutionary Guard, administration officials said, officials at the State and Treasury Departments have been pushing a narrower approach that would list only the Revolutionary Guard's elite Quds Force and, perhaps, companies and organizations with financial ties to that group.

Helene Cooper - NYT 14 Oct 07

It is interesting to note that this article clearly articulates numerous objections to this vote which have been strongly denied or discounted by her supporters here.  Presidential elections are about the 'message' which candidates succeed in presenting to the voting public.  Given her contradictory Webb amendment vote and her recent statements about negotiating with Iran, what 'message' is Hillary sending and is it the 'message' she intended?

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Hillary Reverses Herself on Iran Negotiations

Well, is spite of all the blogging in defence of her position Hillary has reversed herself on one of the very issues which she labelled Senator Obama 'naive and inexperienced' over earlier in the campaign cycle.

 CANTERBURY, N.H. (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton called Barack Obama naive when he said he'd meet with the leaders of Iran without precondition. Now she says she'd do the same thing, too.

During a Democratic presidential debate in July, Obama said he would be willing to meet without precondition in the first year of his presidency with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.

Standing with him on stage, Clinton said she would first send envoys to test the waters and called Obama's position irresponsible and naive.

But asked about it Thursday by a voter, the New York senator said twice that she, too, would negotiate with Iran "with no conditions."

Holly Ramer - AP Oct 11 07, 9:55 PM EDT

Well, fancy that.  And why would she be doing this?  Well probably because:

Clinton, a member of the Armed Services Committee, was the only Senate Democrat running for president to vote in favor of the measure. Joe Biden and Chris Dodd opposed it. Obama skipped the vote to campaign in New Hampshire but issued a statement that day saying he would have voted no.


Clinton has taken heat for her vote since last month's Democratic debate in New Hampshire. Long-shot rival Mike Gravel said he was ashamed of her, and John Edwards questioned why she hadn't learned from her 2002 Iraq vote, as he had from his.

No one has hit harder than Obama, whose long-standing opposition to the Iraq war has been a central theme of his candidacy. He broke from his practice of not criticizing the New York senator directly, granting interviews and writing a biting op-ed article in New Hampshire's largest newspaper Thursday condemning the vote as dangerous and reckless.

"Sen. Clinton says she was merely voting for more diplomacy, not war with Iran. If this has a familiar ring, it should. Five years after the original vote for war in Iraq, Sen. Clinton has argued that her vote was not for war - it was for diplomacy, or inspections," Obama wrote in the Union Leader newspaper. "America needs a leader who will make the right judgments about matters as grave as war and peace, and America needs a leader who will be straight with them," he said.


There could be other problems ahead. Eli Pariser, who heads the anti-war online group, said the organization had problems with the Iran measure.

"Our members are concerned about any legislation that even appears to give President Bush authority to expand the mess in Iraq into Iran," Pariser said. "MoveOn members are looking for presidential candidates who won't make the tragic mistake we made in Iraq again."

Even so, Peverill Squire, a political scientist at the University of Iowa, said he didn't think Clinton's vote would hurt her chances in the long term.

"In terms of how people evaluate her, one of Clinton's strengths is that she's tough. This reinforces that impression of her," Squire said. "If there were any political calculations on her part, they were for the general election, rather than the primary season."

Beth Fouhy - AP Oct 11, 07 9:57 PM EDT

So she managed to take the initial position of sending an envoy to test the waters just long enough for the 'naive and inexperienced' meme to percolate through the electorate, made a calculated vote for Kyl/Leiberman which was more about keeping AIPAC happy and positioning herself for the general than anything and now when it is impacting on her primary campaign, it is a narrow tightrope after all, she is reassuring us that she would do exactly what Obama proposed.  But, we must consider, she is the inevitable nominee and it is a tricky situation she is in, winning the hearts and minds of pesky 'progressive' Democrats and the national security mesmerised general public.

Well, that should set all our minds at ease, I was glad to hear it.  How about you?

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