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Friday, August 13, 2004

US Winning Najaf Battle, Losing Iraq War by Jim Lobe


Once again, U.S. armed forces appear on the verge of winning a decisive military victory in Iraq – this time in the holy city of Najaf. And once again, they appear closer to losing the larger wars for a stable and friendly Iraq and for an Islamic world that will cease producing anti-U.S. terrorism.
That is the rapidly growing concern of Middle East and Islamic specialists as U.S. Marines, after a week of fighting, captured virtually all of central Najaf on Thursday, including the home of Mehdi Army leader Moqtada al-Sadr, and launched a final siege of the Imam Ali mosque, which is considered the world's holiest shrine by some 120 million Shi'ite Muslims.
Even as the military commanders and Iraq's interim president, Iyad Allawi, debate whether to wait out Sadr and his armed followers, who are believed to be inside the shrine, or to invade its precincts – preferably with Iraqi troops – the end result is not likely to work in Washington's favor, according to most experts here.
Shi'ites "worldwide are shocked and outraged over what is going on in Najaf," Imam Moustafa Al-Qazwini, a prominent Shi'ite leader based in California, told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. "They consider it an assault on the sanctity of Islam and in particular Shia Islam."
"Any attack on that city will destroy America's future in Iraq completely," said al-Qazwini, who supported the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 but became disillusioned with the occupation after several months of traveling to the occupied nation earlier this year.
To Juan Cole, an Iraq expert at the University of Michigan, the fighting of the past week marks a major setback for Washington's larger political goals.
"The credibility of the Allawi government as an independent Iraqi government has been decisively undermined by this," Cole said adding that while much of the Iraqi public was willing to give the interim leader a chance, "he will now be seen as nothing more than an American puppet or, worse, an American agent."
That impression is strengthened by the reemergence of U.S. troops and aircraft in the fighting over the past week, after a conscious effort since Allawi took over in late June to sharply reduce the visibility of U.S. forces in Iraq.
Cole and others noted that Marines' actions have created serious and potentially fatal strains even within the government. Its Shia vice president, Ibrahim Jaafari, who is also leader of the Dawa Party and generally regarded as Iraq's most popular political figure, on Wednesday denounced the presence of U.S. forces in Najaf, while the deputy governor of Najaf province resigned to protest "all the U.S. terrorist operations that they are doing against this holy city."
In addition, the hard-line Sunni Board of Muslim Clergy issued a fatwa that no Muslims should cooperate with U.S. forces in killing other Muslims, in a move that recalled events in April when Shi'ites rallied to support Sunni fighters besieged by U.S. Marines in Fallujah.
"What's going on right now looks a lot like April 1991, when it was [Iraqi President] Saddam [Hussein] who was crushing a Shi'ite uprising. But now it's the Marines who are playing the role of the Republican Guard," Cole told IPS, adding that U.S. policy in Iraq was looking increasingly like "Ba'ath-lite," particularly under Allawi.
Although a Shi'ite himself, Allawi was a rising star in the Ba'ath Party when he broke with Hussein in the 1970s. Long favored by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) during his exile in London, he has moved to rehabilitate thousands of former party members who were purged during the initial stages of the U.S.-led occupation.
U.S. support for Allawi has clearly stoked fears, particularly among the Shi'ite and Kurdish communities, of a Ba'athist revival, and the past week's offensive against the Mehdi Army has done nothing to lessen them.
Reuel Marc Gerecht, an Iraq expert at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), has warned repeatedly over the last several months that the administration should do everything it can to avoid attacking Sadr's militia in Najaf, as opposed to its presence in other strongholds in Baghdad and southern Iraq. Shi'ites make up roughly 60 percent of Iraq's population.
"If we go into Najaf in force, we will lose Grand Ayatollah [Ali] Sistani," by far the most influential Shi'ite cleric in Iraq, Gerecht, a former CIA operative, warned in May, adding that Sistani was much better able to neutralize al-Sadr on his own. Sistani, who has publicly criticized both Washington and Sadr, left the country for medical treatment in Britain just as the U.S. offensive got underway; his office called for a ceasefire late Thursday night.
"The greatest vulnerability we have is to turn the mass of the [Shi'ite] population against the coalition," retired Army Gen. Daniel Christman told USA Today. "We can win every tactical battle but lose the war if we don't put the individual engagements inside a larger political context."
But that appears to be precisely what is taking place, according to Cole, who predicted the most likely result of the current fighting will be a "long-term, low-intensity Shi'ite insurgency in the south, similar to what we have seen in the so-called Sunni Triangle."
In the last two days, for example, the Mehdi Army has engaged against local police and coalition forces in five southern cities, while large-scale demonstrations were mounted in Sadr City, the sprawling Baghdad slum named for Sadr's father, which remains largely in the militia's control.
"People say the south has been quieter [than the Sunni area], but I think that's over now," said Cole. "You can defeat the Mehdi Army militarily; they're just youth gangs with RPGs [rocket-propelled grenades], but you can't decisively defeat them. They're from neighborhoods that have been settled by clans from the countryside, and for every one of [their members] who are killed, two or three others will join up."
But the fighting in Najaf has much broader implications, which spell big trouble for the United States beyond Iraq, according to the experts.
"It is vital that Washington understand that it cannot consider the Shi'ites of Iraq to be an independent, national body," warned Youssef Ibrahim, a former New York Times correspondent, in a widely noted column published in June. "Any efforts by the Americans or the new Iraqi government to marginalize or imprison [Sadr] would cause reverberations from Iran to Lebanon to Pakistan."
The attack on Najaf, particularly if it ends in Sadr's death or serious damage to the mosque, will make those reverberations particularly severe, according to Cole, who noted that Iran's government is already under pressure from hardliners and the Revolutionary Guard to take stronger action in defense of Sadr.
"Lebanese Hezbollah will organize, the U.S. naval base in Bahrain [where there is a large Shi'ite community] is likely to be a target," he said. "I think there will be anti-U.S. terror coming out of this, and the American public will again ask, 'Why do they hate us?'"
"It will completely discredit America and make it the new tyrant in the eyes of Shias worldwide," said Al-Qazwini.
(Inter Press Service)

The Goss Nomination

The New York Sun

The Goss Nomination

August 12, 2004

President Bush's choice to be director of central intelligence, Rep. PorterGoss, a Republican of Florida who was chairman of the House Permanent SelectCommittee on Intelligence, has shown precious little evidence so far ofbeing the right man for the job.Some say that Mr. Goss, a former CIA officer, is too close to the CIA toperform the shake-up that the agency badly needs. "He's part of a failedculture," the American Enterprise Institute's Michael Ledeen told our LuizaSavage. AEI's Reuel Marc Gerecht,who has been sounding the alarm about theCIA's failures since the publication of his 1997 book "Know ThineEnemy,"derides Mr.Goss as "a water-carrier for the CIA." This isn'tcriticism coming from the anti-CIA hard left, but from men who understandthat America is in a war in which a capable CIA with strongintelligence-gathering and analytic capabilities could be a formidableasset.Mr. Goss's worst policy error was to deride the Iraqi National Congress andits leader, Ahmad Chalabi. Had America listened to Mr. Chalabi's adviceabout the importance of Iraqi participation in the liberation of Iraq andthe need for postwar planning, the current difficulties for American troopsin Iraq could have been avoided. But Mr. Goss disparaged Iraqis who riskedtheir lives to fight Saddam. "It's unspeakable to me that we would beputting any money in the pockets of expatriates who are talking aboutrevolution in the comfortable capitals of Western Europe. Every time you dothat, all the bootmakers and suit-makers in London just cheer," Mr. Gosstold USA Today in 1999. Amid the anonymous and so far unproven smears thisspring of Mr. Chalabi as a leaker of American secrets to the Iranians, Mr.Goss declined to defend the Iraqi patriot, telling USA Today, "I have beenaccurate in my assessment of Chalabi over the years. The thing I admire mostabout him is his tailor."This isn't merely about Mr. Chalabi but a whole CIA culture that deridedShiite Muslims and democrats and took information provided bynon-democratic, Sunni American "friends" in Jordan or Saudi Arabia asgospel.As chairman of the House intelligence committee, Mr. Goss was in charge ofcongressional oversight of the intelligence community. The report of theNational Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States concludedthat the oversight was largely a failure.Mr. Goss's signal achievement on the personnel management front was hiring achief of staff for the House intelligence committee who wound up a sordidsuicide.Recently, and conveniently, Mr. Goss has refashioned himself as one of theCIA's harshest critics. His committee's most recent intelligenceauthorization report includes a scathing critique of the agency's humanintelligence collection efforts. "For too long the CIA has been ignoring itscore mission activities.There is a dysfunctional denial of any need forcorrective action," reads the report. "After years of trying to convince,suggest, urge, entice, cajole, and pressure CIA to make wide-reachingchanges to the way it conducts its HUMINT mission, however, CIA, in theCommittee's view, continues down a road leading over a proverbial cliff."If he's to have any chance of success in the director's job, he will have tokeep in mind the need for corrective action -- both at the agency and in thecourse he himself has chosen.

Colin Powell Confirms Uyghurs Will Not Be Returned to China

From: "Nury A. Turkel" <nuryturkel@hotmail.com>
For Immediate ReleaseContact: Kevin MilesAugust 12,2004 (202) 349-1494

Colin Powell Confirms Uyghurs Will Not Be Returned to China;UHRP/UAA Hails Decision(Washington, D.C.)

Uyghur Human Rights Project (UHRP) and the Uyghur American Association has learned that US Secretary of State Colin Powell has confirmed that the US government has decided not to return 22 Uyghur detainees, currently held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, back to China. "Uyghurs are a difficult problem, and we are trying to resolve all issues with respect to all detainees at Guantanamo. The Uyghurs are not going back to China," Powell said today in a meeting with journalists in Washington, D.C. Powell added that "Finding places for them is not a simple matter. we are trying to find places for them, and, of course, all candidate countries are being looked at." Powell's remarks come on the heels of unconfirmed reports in June that the US had decided not to return the Uyghurs to China."We are very pleased to receive confirmation of this decision," Nury Turkel, President of the Uyghur American Association, and UHRP Executive Director said. "If these Uyghurs were returned to China, they would have been tortured and most likely executed." Since the 1990s, several Uyghur refugees have been tortured and executed upon being returned to China by foreign governments.According to Turkel, the decision is also critical to maintaining US credibility in the eyes of the Uyghurs, who have been generally sympathetic of the US-led war on terror. "China would have had a propaganda field day, which they would have used to demonize the US to Uyghurs, but instead Uyghurs in East Turkistan have a renewed sense of hope and optimism," Turkel said.Several human rights groups, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and UHRP, and its parent organization, the Uyghur American Association, had campaigned on behalf of the 22 Uyghur detainees, citing a strong possibility that they would face torture and/or execution if returned to China. According to UHRP, such a return of the detainees would violate US and international law.About UHRP: Founded in 2004 by the Uyghur American Association, UHRP promotes human rights and democracy for the Uyghur people.About UAA: Founded in 1998, UAA is a community membership organization that represents Uyghurs living in the United States and promotes human rights and democracy for the Uyghur people, principally through UHRP.