Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Dean Jorge Bocobo at Philippine Commentary has put together an impressive chronology of what it is like to be an American at the tender mercies of the Abu Sayaf, an Islamist group affiliated with the Al Qaeda. It also illustrates why the Belmont Club believes that 'punishment' attacks by Al Qaeda are wasted on countries like the Philippines. Whatever happens to Americans goes double for the locals, and any attempts by Robert Fisk, the BBC or any other agency to convince the islanders of the benignity of the Jihadis will be met, not with outrage, but by rolling-on-the-ground, knee-slapping, uncontrollable laughter. Current polls show that 90% of the Filipinos support the US War on Terror. In the end, American Guillermo Sobero was executed in a bizarre ritual called a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony, described below.

May 27, 2001 - Twenty people, the majority of them holidaymakers, are seized from the tourist resort of Dos Palmas on the island of Palawan, the Philippines. Among those seized are three Americans and 17 Filipinos.

May 28, 2001 - The Muslim separatist Abu Sayyaf group claims responsibility for the abduction. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declares an "all out war" against Abu Sayyaf and rules out any negotiations with the extremist group.

May 29, 2001 - The Philippine government imposes an indefinite news blackout on the crisis.

May 30, 2001 - The United States refuses to pay a ransom to free the three American hostages.

June 1, 2001- Abu Sayyaf claims two hostages have been killed in an exchange of gunfire with government military troops. Philippine officials are unable to confirm the report. The group also threatens a "mass execution" if gunfire continues to be exchanged.

June 2, 2001 - More hostages are kidnapped from a hospital building in Lamitan.

June 3, 2001 - Four hostages, including an 8-year-old boy, manage to escape from their captors. Reports emerge of five other hostages who had also escaped.

June 4, 2001 - Philippine police find the bodies of two Filipino hostages. One of the bodies had been beheaded and the other in a state of decomposition.

June 5, 2001 - Villagers report sightings of the hostages lashed together with a rope being dragged by their captors through the jungle near Tuburan town in Basilan. Two Filipino soldiers die in clashes.

June 6, 2001 - Abu Sayyaf claims one of the American hostages, Martin Burnham, was shot in the back three days ago by the Filipino military during ongoing clashes. The militants threaten to behead the U.S. hostages unless two Malaysian negotiators are appointed.

June 7, 2001 - Abu Sayyaf says it will talk to the Philippine government but only if Manila halts its military pursuit of the group.

June 11, 2001 - Abu Sayyaf threaten to kill at least one of the American hostages at midday unless the government calls off its military offensive against the group.

The militant group takes another 15 captives in an attack on the town of Lantawan, near the capital of Basilan, including two 12-year-old children. Minutes before noon, the Philippine government announces it will accept the group's demands to negotiate with Sairin Karno, former Malaysian senator.

June 12, 2001 - Abu Sayyaf claims to have beheaded an American hostage, Guillermo Sobero.

June 13, 2001 - Filipino troops find two headless corpses but say neither of them is the body of American hostage, Guillermo Sobero. The bodies are believed to be that of two Filipino men who had been negotiating with the Abu Sayyaf. President Arroyo says she will negotiate with Abu Sayyaf kidnappers provided they release all their hostages.

June 15, 2001 - The Philippines military continues to cast doubt over the Abu Sayyaf's claim that it has beheaded Sobero.

June 16, 2001 - Three Filipino hostages are released.

June 17, 2001 -President Arroyo says she will visit the Abu Sayyaf stronghold in the southern island province of Basilan in an effort to bolster civilian support among residents.

June 18, 2001 - President Arroyo visits Basilan and says she will not offer any ransom. Military officials say they believe that U.S. hostage Guillermo Sobero has been killed.

June 22, 2001 - Three severed heads are found. They are reported to belong to Philippine soldiers.

June 23, 2001 - Two headless bodies have been identified as belonging to Filipino plantation workers kidnapped earlier in June.

June 25, 2001 - The military clashes with Abu Sayyaf troops with a spokesman of the group airing their demand for a Malaysian businessman to mediate the hostage crisis. Malaysia refuses to get involved.

June 28, 2001 - Philippine security officials say they have captured one senior member of the Abu Sayyaf guerilla group and a second who was allegedly on a mission to set up terrorist operations in Manila.

July 3, 2001 - Two Filipino hostages freed by Abu Sayyaf gunmen in the southern Philippines say they have seen two of the three American hostages but not Sobero, the believed to be beheaded hostage.

July 6, 2001 - Villagers report seeing several hostages and their Muslim guerilla captors on Basilan Island.

July 9, 2001 - Police arrest Abu Sayyaf top leader, "Commander Global", along with three other members of the group.

According to Dubai News:

American hostage Guillermo Sobero was beheaded by the Abu Sayyaf in a macabre ceremony called 'ribbon-cutting', according to a source close to the hostage takers. The incident allegedly took place in the town of Tuburan, in Basilan, southern Philippines on June 11. "The beheading ceremony was mentioned by Abu Sayyaf leader Khadafi Janjalani in a letter sent recently through a freed hostage to the presidential palace," said Hector Janjalani, Khadafi's younger brother, who has been imprisoned in Quezon City since last year. "The ribbon cutting ceremony is a term often used by the group for the beheading of hostages," explained the younger Janjalani. Armed Forces Spokesman Brig. Gen. Edilberto Adan said the government has tasked volunteers and local government officials with locating Sobero's headless corpse.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Interesting Times

Sky News has reported that a cell of Islamic terrorists has been rolled up in Britain. They were planning on detonating an ammonium nitrate bomb.

Islamic terror suspects have been arrested and explosives recovered in dawn raids across England. The arrests were made in Crawley, Luton, Redbridge, Ealing in London and in the Thames Valley. Martin Brunt, Sky's crime correspondent, said fertiliser or ammonium nitrate had been found at an address. The same type of material was used in the Bali bombings in October 2002, killing more than 200 people.

Meanwhile, Philippine authorities say they have just broken up a "Madrid-level" attack. An Abu Sayaf cell, including a person suspected of beheading American hostage Guillermo Sobero, is now in custody.

The Philippines has foiled a "Madrid-level" attack on Manila with the arrest of four members of an al-Qaeda-linked extremist group and the seizure of explosives, President Gloria Arroyo said today. "We have pre-empted a Madrid-level attack on the metropolis by capturing an explosive cache of 80 pounds [36 kilograms]," she told reporters, comparing the plot to the March 11 Madrid bombings that claimed almost 200 lives. The explosive cache "was intended to be used for bombing [shopping] malls and trains in Metropolitan Manila," she said, adding that the four members of the Abu Sayyaf militant group were in government custody.

In Central Asia, Muslim militants killed 19 persons and were engaged in running battles with authorities. According to CNN:

A new blast, followed by a shootout between police and suspected extremists, has hit Uzbekistan -- a third straight day of violence in the Central Asian nation. Citing police sources, Russian news agency Itar-Tass reported there were injuries in the incident near the capital Tashkent, which, according to the report, involved police and "terrorists." The reported attack Tuesday follows a spasm of violence in Uzbekistan including two suicide bombings in as many days, as well as attacks on police and a blast at a bomb-making hideout. At least 19 people have been killed and 26 wounded in the violence in the capital and also the city of Bukhara. Uzbek President Islam Karimov has blamed the attacks on Islamic extremists and said arrests have been made.

Two factors unite all these incidents. The first is that all the attackers were radical Muslims. The second is that the targets were all nations allied with the United States. The obvious inference is that the Al Qaeda is mobilizing its affiliate groups to 'teach' these nations the same lesson they administered to Spain. This kind of instruction is unlikely to have much affect in Uzbekistan or the Philippines, chronically plagued by Islamic militants whose brutal behavior has been familiar for several centuries. What a successful attack may achieve in Britain no one can yet say.

The latest offensive shows the relative balance between offense and defense in the Global War on Terror. Like the kamikaze attacks of an earlier era, these Islamic bombers were probably tracked by intelligence until they could be engaged by the defenses, in much the same way the CAP and anti-aircraft shot down bogeys over Okinawa. In the case of Britain and the Philippines, the inbounds were splashed before they could deliver their ordnance. But in Uzbekistan the bogeys leaked through and killed 19 people.

It also suggests that Al Qaeda has lost its organic capability to strike and must now rely on affiliates. The quality of the new affiliated Holy Warriors is markedly lower than the cadre led by Mohammed Atta. Here too, the analogy with the kamikazes may be apt. By 1945, the superlative aces of the Kido Butai had all been killed or crippled. Forced by logistical strangulation to cut back on training, the bogeys over Okinawa were largely piloted by novices who could only fly straight and level.

The Islamist losses in both Britain and the Philippines are likely to be felt keenly by the Jihadis. The British appear to have rolled up a widely deployed network of sleepers; prized assets. The Philippines for its part took down a cell which contained core members of the Abu Sayaf, including the sadistic man who killed Guillermo Sobero, a simple tourist visiting the Islands, as he pleaded for his life. The plan to terrify America's allies into leaving Iraq appears to have failed for now despite the best efforts of the Jihadis. And for this paltry result they have paid in their dwindling seed corn. They must be now asking themselves how the British and Filipinos knew enough to foil their plans. Sleep well Osama.

5 plus 7?

Reuters has reported that Uzbek authorities have raided an Islamic hideout in Tashkent which may have been related to recent attacks, killing 5 and perhaps 7 more. Although they may have killed 19 people, in the sad arithmetic of war the loss of possibly12 trained terrorists is an unsustainable exchange rate for the Jihadis.

TASHKENT (Reuters) - Uzbek special forces attacked a suspected Islamic militant hide-out in a Tashkent suburb on Tuesday killing at least five people, a day after bomb blasts killed 19 in the former Soviet Central Asian country. Monday's blasts, two caused by female suicide bombers, raised concern in Washington which uses an airbase here for operations in neighboring Afghanistan. Uzbek forces on Tuesday struck what they called a "terrorist group" in a city suburb. "We have counted five bodies of the terrorists and police say there are seven more lying in the entrance hall," a local reporter allowed on the scene after fighting ended told Reuters.

So far, the post-Madrid attacks have been a tactical disaster for the Islamists. Unless they have been extremely unlucky, something is going horribly wrong for their networks.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

The Smell of Fear

The Arab League summit, scheduled to be held in Tunisia has been cancelled ostensibly because the Arab Ministers could not agree on an agenda to discuss regional political reform, but in truth because no government wants to take a public position on the assassination of Hamas leader Yassin. The public reasons were given thus:

Near midnight yesterday, a spokesman for Tunisia's Foreign Ministry appeared on television. "It became clear that there was a variance of positions on ... proposals related to fundamental issues on modernization, democratic reform, human rights and the rights of women," the statement said. "Tunisia strongly regrets the postponement of this summit ... considering the delicate situation through which the Arab nation is going and the deadlock of the Palestinian issue after the recent tragic events."

Yet even before the cancellation, the attendees could not have been less enthusiastic than if they had received an engraved invitation in black from the Grim Reaper himself.

Signs of disintegration were evident in the days leading up to the summit: Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Abdullah and the top members of Bahrain's ruling family decided to skip the trip to Tunis. Soon the heads of Oman and the United Arab Emirates followed suit. Syria remained staunchly opposed to any peace talks with Israel and to bowing to U.S. pressures on reform.

The problem was simple. The US expected the Arab leaders to discuss wide ranging political reforms at the summit, a code phrase for ridding themselves of the worst aspects of Islamism and tyranny at the same time when the Palestinian delegation and their Islamist allies expected the Arab leaders on the occasion to roundly condemn the Israeli assassination of Yassin. The Middle Eastern heads of state had a choice between enduring the baleful stare of the 800 pound American gorilla or angering the militant factions back home, who had a penchant for writing out their disapproval in lead letters, as Anwar Sadat discovered. Al Jazeera laid it on thick:

Palestinian Minister for Negotiation Affairs Saib Uraiqat on Sunday said the postponement would encourage Israel to increase its attacks against Palestinians. "I am afraid that this will bring dangerous consequences since it comes after the assassination of Shaikh (Ahmad) Yasin and the US using the veto in the (UN) Security Council (against a draft resolution) condemning the assassination," he said. "We are afraid that this will allow Israel to carry out even bigger or large-scale actions against the Palestinians."

So they engaged in the diplomatic equivalent of collectively taking the 5th. And by staying home and doing nothing yielded the initiative to both America and the Islamists. The mass stampede stampede of Arab leaders into their bolt-holes illustrates how Middle Eastern potentates, even more than European leaders, have come to fear the turn of events. Clearly the old formula of rechanneling domestic unrest by tacitly supporting anti-Americanism has reached the end of its usefulness to the Middle Easter tyrants. Or rather, it has reached the logical conclusion whose consequences they must now endure.

Neither Europe's old game of triangulation -- a grand name for unscrupulous scavenging -- nor the Middle Eastern ploy of making America both guarantor and enemy can be continued for much longer. Even if Sharon is ousted from the Israeli leadership, developments since September 11 have doomed the ancien regime. The old elite is out of moves. Even more suicide bombings will represent a continuation of the same old failed policies, a deepening of the pit rather than a way out. They may hope that a John Kerry victory in November will reset the clock to balmy years of Bill Clinton, but perhaps even that will prove too late to stem the tide.

Addendum at 1400 Z

Egypt has said it will host the Arab summit. And despite spin from Reuters it may be the United States which is forcing the pace and urging the reluctant return to the discussion table. CNN says.

Mubarak notified Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of the offer. Foreign ministers from Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen have requested the summit take place before June so the Arab leaders can reach an agreement before the upcoming Group of Eight (G8) summit.

Reuters had insinuated in its coverage that the cancellation of the summit was a result of American heavy-handedness at a time of Arab mourning. It suggested that the Tunisians called off the meeting when their leader was strong-armed by President Bush into foisting an insensitive agenda upon the Arab leaders.

"Ben Ali was asked to deliver a certain scenario at the summit and, when it was clear that he couldn't deliver, the Tunisians announced they were calling it off," said the Gulf delegate, citing a report from his foreign minister. ... Diplomats said some Arab leaders were worried that the summit could not meet Arab popular demand for strong decisions on key issues such as the occupation of Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The Reuters scenario of a junior player like Tunisia whipping Egypt and Syria into line is less likely than the Arabs being motivated by the need to show progress before the G8 meeting, when the US is expected to formally inaugurate the Middle East reform process and probably offer a financial reward in exchange. It would also explain Mubarak's role. According to White House archives President Bush had held nearly sequential meetings with G8 leaders in 2003 (June 1 and 2) before flying to the Middle East to meet with Middle Eastern leaders (June 3). His Arab host on that occasion was -- Hosni Mubarak -- the very man who is now salvaging the Arab summit. It is possible that the Middle Eastern leaders, then quaking in the immediate aftermath of Baghdad's fall, should have then proposed a deal to be sealed a year hence.

But what must have seemed a commutation from certain execution may now look like a bad deal. Efforts by the Left to hamstring Bush and the possibility of his defeat at Kerry's hands has opened an escape hatch. If the Arab leaders could give Bush some half-answer, they might hold out until a more congenial and less demanding administration took control in Washington. In just 8 more months another half century of convenient tyranny in the Middle East might yet be assured. The death of Yassin, however, may have dumped sand in the gears in more ways than one by making it difficult for Arab leaders to present even the appearance of accommodation with Washington. The challenge before the Arab summiteers is now to find enough ways to run out the time with small talk, leaving President Bush to go on to G8 with less than a full deck of cards.

With such an unstable situation, anything can happen. Hamas has vowed to retaliate for the Yassin killing and the Israeli offensive against terrorist leaders is still on. Another exchange of fire between Hamas and Sharon would scatter the summit like a pile driver on a rack of balls in an opening break. It has ever been thus, and every negotiation has had to live in the shadow of violence in a region where politics is war by other means.

Friday, March 26, 2004


The possible electoral defeat of President Bush by John Kerry raises the question of whether the Global War on Terror ultimately requires a war on the Left.  That is to say whether a political defeat of the Left is a prerequisite for stamping out worldwide terrorism. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many in the Left, at least, believes that the GWOT is a war on them. America, not Osama Bin Laden is the putative enemy, and their fire is directed accordingly. Conversely, many conservatives are conditioned by the sight of a de facto alliance between the Left and Islamism to think that both parties are on the same side of the fence. But must it necessarily be so?

Answers in the affirmative normally rest on the presumption that the Left is engaged in a protracted Gramscian program of Western civilizational suicide in which Islam serves as a convenient means of attaining quietus. For those who truly subscribe to this theory, it is the Left not Islam which is Western civilization's strategic enemy. The inevitable implication of this concept is that the principal battlefield in the Global War on Terror is not Iraq or Afghanistan, but the newsrooms of the major Western cities. Supporters of this idea will point to the fact that the stunning military successes of the War on Terror were easily overturned in Spain by the cynical actuations of the Socialist Party. If President Bush is defeated by John Kerry the case will be made. The Left will have fixed him as the man responsible for 9/11 in the same way that Vietnam is now described as "Nixon's War", proving once again that the lie is mightier than the sword.

Dan Darling at Regnum Crucis suggests that the Islamists themselves on a certain level understand that their main force does not consist of armed Jihadis, nor even of the system of prosletyzing madrassas, but of the battalions of the secular Left. He quotes an Al Qaeda document as seeing the world in this way: "We can describe the international a spider web. And whereas it is also all interlinked like a spider web, even a light wind is sufficient to tear apart this web." And they aim to achieve this by harnessing the power of toppling dominoes, using the potential energy of Western political hatred to achieve their goals in much the same way that the weight of the Twin Towers was used to pulverize it. Force, in Al Qaeda's most recent view, must be used as a precise scalpel for manipulating political events in the West -- for casting the dominoes. In their calculation, once the Left has hamstrung the conservatives, the carcass of what was known as Christendom will be easy meat for the Jihadis.

Answers in the negative are predicated ironically on the malignity of the Left itself. According to this view, the Left desires, not a Gramscian extinction but power above anything else. The power to regulate all aspects of human existence, all human relations, all cultural attitudes, all state authority. And while the Left might make temporary alliance with the Jihadis, the attainment of ultimate power requires an eventual liquidation of the Jihad. There is only room for one scorpion in a bottle. In this context, the assertions by Eurosocialists and John Kerry that they will be more effective in fighting terrorism are meant to be taken literally, however ludicrous that may appear at first glance.

Yet in either case, the liquidation of conservatism, with its backward notions of natural law, national sovereignty and the like, is the first order of business. For both Osama and the Western Left,  the defeat of President George Bush is the priority event after which all things are subsidiary. The question of which survivor will prevail as they struggle over the grave of their common foe is only of academic interest. One answer is that it will not matter: that a existence under a Western jackboot is little to be preferred to life under smelly cloths.

There remains a third answer. That the existence of these two great religious totalitarianisms -- one secular only in name and the other religious only in dissimulation -- is required for their mutual defeat. It relies on the observation that both the Left and Islamism react together to produce an extremely toxic combination which neither could have achieved alone. It takes some reflection to remember just how far both the notions of Islamism and Leftism have moved since September 11. The former was an unknown towards which the man in the street would have been indifferent while the latter was a kind of eccentricity, rough yet without danger. Neither will be again. Both have mutated in interaction or perhaps have become that which they really were.

Both are struggling for the space in which conservatism can never go and for the prize which no sane man ever covets: the dominion of souls. Without their mutual presence either could have occupied a kind of cultural sanctuary in which they would brood, proof against interference from people with simple day jobs. Together they guarantee that their places of safety, every media outlet, every school and every place of worship will be transformed into arenas of unparalleled ferocity -- to the possible benefit of the world. Is the Global War on Terror necessarily against the Left? We shall see. We shall see.

"There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach."

Rebranding Product

A reader writes to say that anti-Coalition forces in Iraq may attack Americans in the name of Sheik Yassin's death regardless of statements by Hamas that they are not at war with the United States. The attacks were probably planned regardless and by tying it to a recent hot issue, the anti-Coalition forces will get additional propaganda mileage on the cheap. As Belmont Club has observed before, Hamas itself has a fairly restricted operational radius and will probably rely on other Jihadi or terrorist groups to carry out any threats abroad on their behalf.

This underscores importance of the message element in a terrorist act. The objects of terrorism are only secondarily of military importance. It is its symbolic content that matters. Hence certain dates, particular landmarks, the nationality and innocence of the victims are part and parcel of the message. The death of 200 commuters in Spain would be less than the loss from a widebody airline crash. Yet the one conveys no political content at all while the other is a slogan scrawled in blood and body parts.

But the targeting of Americans in Iraq in reprisal for Yassin also highlights the Jihadi movement's difficulty the in controlling the exact content of the message. While it is obviously not to the tactical interest of Hamas to link Gaza to the Global War on Terror, it  is to the immediate benefit of the anti-coalition forces, recently in slow decline, to prove they still exist. Thus one terrorist band improves their prospects at the expense of another; and only a handful of Americans need pay the price.

These twin characteristics highlight why it is so difficult to negotiate or pacify terrorism. There is a structural incentive inherent in terrorism to keep up a steady stream of outrage. Outrage equals publicity. Publicity equals political stature. Political stature equals money. Outrage is the product of the terrorist industry and its astute marketing managers in Western capitals can rebrand violence in any way necessary to suit their book, in the same way that fast food restaurants can create Value Meals or Blue Plate specials out of standard menu items. The "sale" of terrorist product would be impossible without a sympathetic press; if it did not exist, the terrorists would have to invent it. Witness Al Jazeera.

But the lack of a centralized Jihadi command and control system, despite the pretensions of Osama Bin Laden, means that there is ultimately no one the appeasers can surrender to. The inability of the Palestinians to unite under Hamas or Fatah, indeed the inability of Hamas to unite itself, as evidenced by its recent power struggles, illustrates how civilization will be dealing with a succession of banditti who keep boiling out of the stews of dysfunctional Islamic societies. The recent threats by the "Servants of Allah, the Powerful and Wise" against the French Railway system probably comes from a group that has no direct operational connection to either Hamas, Hezbollah or Al Qaeda proper. But they don't need to. All they need know is that violence brings the press, the press brings the French government, and the French government brings money. It also illustrates why the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists would be insusceptible to solution by negotiation or even surrender. There will always be someone with a bomb who will not get the word, some punk who will let it off to gratify his ego and some reporter willing to convey the boast to his burned and blackened victims.

Incoming Spanish Prime Minister Luis Rodriguez Zapatero is representative of a generation of politicians eager to consume the terrorist product, to hearken to its message -- even to listen, like a connoisseur, to its nuance. In the echoes of bomb and the screams of the victims they hear other voices; sweet pleas for justice, historical warnings, deep symbolisms, policy proposals and aesthetic messages that only a sophisticated European can discern. What American soldiers will see in the moments when they confront the enemy who will attack in the name of Sheik Yassin is something rather simpler: a hopped-up thug who would kill a civilian just as soon as anyone else did they not stand immovably  in the way.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

The Hand of Hamas 2

Sometimes a news article provides confirmation of a guess that is almost too good to be true. Radio Netherlands lends evidence for two crucial Belmont Club assertions. First, that the assassination of Hamas chieftain Yassin would destabilize Hamas because it is the nature of a gangland organization to wobble when it loses its boss. Second, that Hamas will seek to maintain the firewall between the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Global War on Terror.

Radio Netherlands

Belmont Club's Transition

Who is the leader in Gaza? It's not clear how much unanimity there is regarding Abdel Aziz Rantisi's taking the position left vacant by Sheikh Yassin, who was killed on Monday in an Israeli helicopter attack. It was Mr Rantisi himself who came forward with the news that, in accordance with the organisation's internal regulations, he had taken over the leadership of Hamas in Gaza.

But another leader, Mahmud az-Zahar – generally regarded as a more moderate figure than Mr Rantisi – said that Hamas will organise an internal selection procedure to choose a new leader once the period of mourning for Sheikh Yassin is at an end. The conflicting statements may be an indication that the unanimous fury within Hamas following the killing of Sheikh Yassin has made way for a distinct lack of unanimity as to how to proceed now he has gone.

The frenzy in the Gaza strip tonight probably has less to do with the preparations to strike back at Israel then a frantic attempt to locate the secret bank account numbers that Sheik Yassin may have had in his possession.

The Israeli strike against the terrorist top tier exploits the weakness inherent in terrorist organizations which are unstable alliances based on a delicate balance of internal intimidation. None of them, the Palestinian Authority included, are either transparent or accountable. They are exceptionally vulnerable to changes in their leadership. They can stand the loss of any number of teenage fighters or youthful suicide bombers without much damage but are rocked -- as Yassin's death illustrates -- by death at the top. Twenty million Soviet casualties in World War 2 were a statistic, but the death of Stalin marked the end of an epoch. Had the Israeli missile simply incinerated a 19-year old Hamas illiterate foot soldier it would have been another day in Gaza, hardly worth the notice of the press, but since its target was the terrorist leadership the moral calculus elevated it to a sacrilege. Yet it does not alter the fact that the foreign offices of Europe will be scratching their heads tonight to see who the letters of condolence to Hamas should be addressed to. Perhaps they should wait until a new leader climbs to the pinnacle of the bloody pole before bowing at his feet.

Radio Netherlands

Belmont Club's Hand of Hamas

In an interview with Australian television, the same Mahmud az-Zahar said there is "no connection between al-Qaeda and Hamas," and that the Palestinian organisation "concentrated their activities on the occupied territories in Palestine". But he added that it was the duty of every Islamic movement in the world to avenge the murder of Sheikh Yassin.

However, this does not appear to mean that Hamas is about to start actively looking to link up with al-Qaeda as some earlier statements, made immediately after the death of Sheikh Yassin, seemed to suggest.

Another prominent Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, Sayyed Siyyan, told Reuters news agency on Wednesday that it was not Hamas' policy to target the United States or its interests.

Since Hamas does not have much of an international reach and there is an urgent necessity to 'teach America a lesson', the actual act of vengeance has probably been farmed out to a better positioned affiliate group, under some reciprocal arrangement, to strike in Hamas' name. That explains why the direct warnings have emanated from an Al Qaeda affiliate called Abu Hafs al-Masri, the same outfit that claimed the Madrid bombings and which Dan Darling at Regnum Crucis thinks is actually an Islamic PR group based in London. ...

One possibility would be for another group like Hezbollah, which is known to have connections in the US underworld, to mount an attack on its behalf. Something. Anything. That would ironically suit Sharon's book better than Yassin's. It would directly couple Hamas and Fatah to Al Qaeda and by transitivity connect them with the band that gave us September 11. By goading Hamas beyond tolerance, Israel will have succeeded in coupling the Arab-Israeli conflict directly to the Global War on Terror. The repercussions of a Hamas-sponsored attack on America will be felt by its fund-raising charities in Europe, such as the Holy Land Foundation in Germany, the Al Aqsa Foundation in Belgium and Holland and the Comite de Bienfaisance et Solidarite avec la Palestine in France.

Some pressure point has been touched which suggests that terrorism does not recoil from the loss of retarded teenage fighters who, for thirty dollars are told to hurl themselves against the IDF so much as blows upon persons who are specifically guilty, who deal in murder wholesale rather than retail, and who as a consequence, are considered important men of the world.

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of good-byes.
The pallor of girls' brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.
-- from Wilfred Owen

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

The Hand of Hamas

Now that Hamas has sworn to punish Americans for the IDF operation against their spiritual leader, Shiek Yassin, how might they do it? Structurally, Hamas is pretty much a local devil whose principal strength is concentrated in Gaza and the West Bank. The United States has warned its citizens away from Gaza and the West Bank, so targets there are strictly limited. Since Hamas does not have much of an international reach and there is an urgent necessity to 'teach America a lesson', the actual act of vengeance has probably been farmed out to a better positioned affiliate group, under some reciprocal arrangement, to strike in Hamas' name. That explains why the direct warnings have emanated from an Al Qaeda affiliate called Abu Hafs al-Masri, the same outfit that claimed the Madrid bombings and which Dan Darling at Regnum Crucis thinks is actually an Islamic PR group based in London. Their dire warning reads:

"We tell Palestinians that Sheikh Yassin's blood was not spilt in vain and call on all legions of Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades to avenge him by attacking the tyrant of the age, America, and its allies."

Notice how they didn't say, 'we Palestinians'. But unless there is an existing operation ready to be diverted, the practical difficulties of whipping one up at short notice may prove difficult. One possibility would be for another group like Hezbollah, which is known to have connections in the US underworld, to mount an attack on its behalf. Something. Anything. That would ironically suit Sharon's book better than Yassin's. It would directly couple Hamas and Fatah to Al Qaeda and by transitivity connect them with the band that gave us September 11. By goading Hamas beyond tolerance, Israel will have succeeded in coupling the Arab-Israeli conflict directly to the Global War on Terror. The repercussions of a Hamas-sponsored attack on America will be felt by its fund-raising charities in Europe, such as the Holy Land Foundation in Germany, the Al Aqsa Foundation in Belgium and Holland and the Comite de Bienfaisance et Solidarite avec la Palestine in France.

Sharon may be aiming for a three pointer plus a foul throw. The Times of India, quoting a  Washington Post article suggests that Israeli Prime Minister Sharon is attempting to disengage, not only from Gaza but from the decade old "Peace Process".

Sharon has been engaged in intensive secret bargaining with the Bush administration in this regard and he intends to scrap the decade-long peace process in favour of a solution according to which Israel would retreat behind a fortified border of its own choosing, the Washington Post said. The proposed "long-term interim" solution would involve an evacuation of Israelis from most or all of the Gaza Strip. ... The assassination, the Post said, was part of Sharon 's attempt to radically reshape the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - "an initiative that is looking as reckless as it is bold."  "If (George W) Bush agrees to reshape the Israeli-Palestinian landscape with such a partner," the paper warned, "he can expect that other surprises will follow."

According to this analysis, the Hellfire missiles were unleashed only incidentally at Yassin. Its real target was Oslo. The Belmont Club has suggested that Sharon has deliberately escalated the conflict in order to cut the Gordian knot and escape from the cycle of hudna/attack that has hamstrung Israeli response these last ten years.

Flash! 12:00 Zulu

For possibly for the reasons described above Hamas leader Rantisi has backed off from earlier calls to strike at America. Fox News is reporting that "Hamas  has no plans to attack American targets, the group's new leader in Gaza said Wednesday." It is a valiant and sagacious attempt by the new Hamas leader to maintain the firewall between the war on Israel and the war on America. But he is burdened with two nearly insurmountable difficulties. The first is the split command structure of Hamas. In an arrangement oddly reminescent of the dual kings of Sparta, the Hamas leadership is divided between the resident in Gaza, who is Rantisi, and a worldwide Hamas leader, who is Mashaal headquartered in Syria. Rantisi's first challenge will be to make his prohibition on attacking America stick. The second and harder problem for Hamas is that Sharon has embarked on a program of headhunting their leadership. Not only will it be increasingly difficult to forbear in the face of such attacks, it may be even harder to survive them. For the first time in nearly a decade, Hamas seems truly afraid of Israel, and is backpedaling in an astonishing manner in a pathetic effort to retain the last threadbare remnants of their triumphant Oslo strategy.

For America the new developments create both opportunities and set of new problems. Does America want to link the Arab-Israeli conflict to the Global War on Terror with all that implies? If America is truly committed to a two-state solution in the Holy Land, how can it best exploit the developing political rout of terrorist forces? Perhaps that is what the delegation President Bush is sending to Israel will try to find out.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Transition 2

As the Belmont Club predicted, the hudna is dead. The next "strongman" who fights his way to the top of the Hamas will oppose any truce at all.

Gaza City, March 23. (AP): Abdel Aziz Rantisi, a hardliner who opposes even a temporary truce with Israel, is emerging as a Hamas strongman in the Palestinian areas after the assassination of the group's founder, Sheik Ahmed Yassin. However, Rantisi, a 54-year-old pediatrician, is not expected to replace Yassin or take over the group. Since its creation in 1987, Hamas has been run largely as a collective of senior activists in Gaza and the Arab world, with Yassin in a key role as ideologue, spiritual leader and strategist. Hamas leaders said that while the killing of Yassin is a blow to morale, it would not hamper the group's operations, including its ability to carry out attacks. Hamas is pledged to Israel's destruction. Hamas is secretive about its organisation, though the broad outlines are known. General policy is set by the political bureau, headed by Khaled Mashaal, who is based in Damascus, Syria. Other members of the bureau include several Hamas leaders in the Arab world, as well as Rantisi, Hanieh and Mahmoud Zahar in Gaza.

The left wing journalist Paul McGeogh agrees that this means war and believes it will be a bad thing for Israel, almost as bad as President Bush angering Al Qaeda.

Like Israel's deliberate campaign to weaken Yasser Arafat, Yassin's execution will do to the Palestinians what the "war on terror" has done to al-Qaeda - fracture the leadership, leaving angered and autonomous cells to exact revenge, competing with each other for greater body counts as their leaders compete to fill the leadership vacuum.

Reader JL has a much more sophisticated analysis than Paul McGeogh, one that is probably nearer the truth.

Decapitation strikes (during the Cold War) were thought of as counterproductive, because in killing or incapacitating Soviet leadership, you would have no one to negotiate with to end the war. The Israelis face the converse, but more complex problem. Negotiation with the PA is useless if HAMAS or any other third party can come in and queer the pitch. In helping to decapitate HAMAS, the Israelis have strengthened the PA position as the sole representative of the Palestinians. The PA is the clear winner in the Yassin killing, as one of Arafat's strongest rivals is gone. Also, in putting the Palestinians more firmly under Arafat's control, it strengthens the Israeli position, as it simplifies the hydra-like nature of Palestinian leadership.

But Arafat himself is uncertain about Israeli intentions, fearing that Sharon has grown too unpredictable. The Associated Press reports that he is hunkered down in the belief that he might be the next missile target. He might also be the target of Hamas if they suspect that he cut a deal with Israel to leave the field clear.

Arafat aides say he was unnerved by Yassin's death and that he's staying holed up in his West Bank headquarters. One aide says, "He is like a man who was hit on the head because they killed Yassin and now they could kill him."

The world is now watching a very carefully engineered train wreck. Hamas is headed full speed for Israel, or will as soon as it can solve its leadership problems, and Sharon is commencing further operations against leadership targets in Gaza. Sharon has initiated a high stakes Game of Chicken, locked the steering wheel in place and thrown away the key. The only way out now is to accept the consequences of collision or to shift the roadbed.


James Mann described how the United States National Command Authority practiced dispersal during the height of the Cold War to ensure continued civilian leadership in the event of an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union.

Under the Truman and Eisenhower Administrations the U.S. government had built large underground installations at Mount Weather, in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains, and near Camp David, along the Pennsylvania-Maryland border, each of which could serve as a military command post for the President in time of war. Yet a crucial problem remained: what might happen if the President couldn't make it to one of those bunkers in time. ...

One of the questions studied in these exercises was what concrete steps a team might take to establish its credibility. What might be done to demonstrate to the American public, to U.S. allies, and to the Soviet leadership that "President" John Block or "President" Malcolm Baldrige was now running the country, and that he should be treated as the legitimate leader of the United States? One option was to have the new "President" order an American submarine up from the depths to the surface of the ocean—since the power to surface a submarine would be a clear sign that he was now in full control of U.S. military forces. This standard—control of the military—is one of the tests the U.S. government uses in deciding whether to deal with a foreign leader after a coup d'état.

America has traditionally been fortunate in that executive power is been vested in an office rather than a man. The man may change, but the office endures. America has been changing or reelecting its leader every four years for over two centuries now. However, terrorist organizations like Hamas not being constitutional democracies, do not have the benefit of an orderly transition and one of the most mischievous effects of Ariel Sharon's killing of Sheik Yassin has been to put the gore-encrused top rung of the ladder up for grabs.

Two weeks before an IDF Hellfire missile pulped Sheik Yassin, low-level fighting had already broken out in Gaza in anticipation of an Israeli withdrawal. The problem, which will be instantly familiar to anyone acquainted with clandestine organizations or gangs, was who would control the turf when the Big Boys left it open.

Gunmen killed an adviser to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in a street ambush overnight, feeding fears of growing lawlessness and chaos ahead of a possible Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip. Arafat denounced the killing of Khalil al-Zaben, 59, as a "dirty assassination" and convened his Cabinet and national security council today to discuss what was seen as one of the most serious challenges yet to the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority has been weakened by more than three years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting, and armed gangs, included gunmen with ties to Arafat's Fatah movement, are increasingly controlling the streets.

With Yassin's death the problem can only get worse. Organizations like Al Qaeda and Hamas are in many respects indistinguishable from protection rackets and derive a large part of their income from the control of certain territories. Analogous organizations like the Communist New People's Army in the Philippines, (officially a terrorist organization but headquartered in the Netherlands), for example, charge all  public officials in the Philippines a 'permit to campaign' -- a few hundred thousand dollars for the privilege of standing for office under a constitution they don't recognize. Internal factions within that Communist organization regularly assassinate each other over the partition of their stipend from the Euroleft. The same kind of competition for turf is bound to plague Hamas. The frenzy in the Gaza strip tonight probably has less to do with the preparations to strike back at Israel then a frantic attempt to locate the secret bank account numbers that Sheik Yassin may have had in his possession.

The Israeli strike against the terrorist top tier exploits the weakness inherent in terrorist organizations which are unstable alliances based on a delicate balance of internal intimidation. None of them, the Palestinian Authority included, are either transparent or accountable. They are exceptionally vulnerable to changes in their leadership. They can stand the loss of any number of teenage fighters or youthful suicide bombers without much damage but are rocked -- as Yassin's death illustrates -- by death at the top. Twenty million Soviet casualties in World War 2 were a statistic, but the death of Stalin marked the end of an epoch. Had the Israeli missile simply incinerated a 19-year old Hamas illiterate foot soldier it would have been another day in Gaza, hardly worth the notice of the press, but since its target was the terrorist leadership the moral calculus elevated it to a sacrilege. Yet it does not alter the fact that the foreign offices of Europe will be scratching their heads tonight to see who the letters of condolence to Hamas should be addressed to. Perhaps they should wait until a new leader climbs to the pinnacle of the bloody pole before bowing at his feet.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Survival Strategies in a Barroom Brawl

The death of Hamas big Sheik Yassin at the hands of the Israeli Defense Forces highlights the strategic problem of Europe. The war is spreading and is becoming increasingly difficult to sit out. The Al Qaeda attack on the Madrid train, the renewed unrest in Kosovo, the unrest in Iran and Syria and developments in Iraq -- added to the probability of escalating conflict in Israel -- make it increasingly difficult to benefit from hanging back. Historically, France's "independent" strategy  was based on being able to tilt the balance in an inconclusive struggle in a bipolar world, in the process extracting the maximum benefit for itself. This worked during the Cold War where it could play both ends against the middle, selling its support to the highest bidder, behavior that could be justified as "realpolitik" and hard-nosed maneuvering in the the national interest.

However, the struggle against terrorism now threatens to become a fight to the finish instead of a Cold War ballet of competition circumscribed by deterrence. Since Jihadistan has shown no inclination to settle for less than total victory, it invariably led to symmetrical American goals. September 11 proved that terrorism could not be contained. It had to be finished. A prescient European foreign policy would have realized on September 12 that this conflict structure would inevitably lead to a widening war, one that would engulf Europe's own borders. But it did not grasp the implications of the struggle in time. It is now terribly vulnerable to the tides of conflict that lap against its frontiers.

Fully knowing that it cannot strike with much effect at the IDF, Hamas may now be tempted to hit at Europe and through them to pressure Israel. Why not? It worked in Madrid and from now one anyone may be tempted to ring Europe's bell for whatever reason. But worse yet for Europe, the descent of the war on terror into a death match, as exemplified by the struggle between Israel and the Palestinian terrorist groups means that there will be but one victor and one loser at the end of the day. With each passing moment the odds lengthen that the EU or the UN can broker a negotiated settlement between Israel, India, Russia and USA on the one hand, and the Jihadis on the other. There will be no Congress of Vienna at which French palaver can work its wonders, only unconditional surrender by one side or the other. A zero-sum conflict guarantees that Europe will not be on the winning side. Whoever the victor, Europe will be despised and whether America or Jihadistan triumphs, Europe will have played the wrong hand.

Before this is over the world will have had a bellyful of war. Each morning's unbearable news will cast the net wider. Neither the man commuting to work in Central Madrid nor the peace marchers in costume on Market Street can escape being combatants. Leftist sympathies, whether in Israel, America or Europe will prove no armor against car bomb fragments. War was Osama Bin Laden's goal in attacking the United States on September 11. He hoped to force America into fruitless and ineffectual reprisals against the Islamic world, then offer a hudna at intervals while he prepared his next blow. George Bush's counterstroke, which history will either judge as an act of supreme folly or genius, was to go beyond Afghanistan into Iraq. In a worthy riposte to Osama's, he escalated the struggle to the point where it was mutually mortal. If the fall of the Twin Towers was a gauntlet in America's face, the fall of Baghdad was a glove shoved down the Islamist's throat. Both Bin Laden and Bush have made compromise impossible. If the jihadis believed they could control the tempo of the conflict they were misinformed; American forces in the Arab heartland have forced a zugzwang to compel the game to the bitter end.

Yassin's assasination serves the same purpose. Israel's main problem was to escape the cycle of murder and negotiation that was slowly bleeding it to death. No matter how horribly Israel was attacked it was always expected to return, in an attitude of abjection, to the negotiating table. The Jihadis learned that any Israeli counteroffensive could be aborted by throwing the prospect of further talks into its path. Israel's superiority on the battlefield would be nullified because it would always be restrained by the "Peace Process", a misnomer if ever there was one. But the operation against Yassin reverses the dynamic. By striking at so senior a terrorist target, the Jihadis will be in no mood for negotiations. They themselves will cast away the Peace Process and sheer fury will make them forswear their favorite tactic, the faux hudna -- thereby granting Israel a meeting on the battlefield. For this is Israel's mortal challenge to Hamas which has often said it would kill the last Jew. The message, now ringing in their ears, is that the Jew will kill the last terrorist, beginning at the top.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

The Hunt for Ayman al-Zawahri

Recent news coverage of operations on the Pakistani-Afghan border has been principally focused on the multi-battalion Pakistani Army assault on the "mud forts" in Waziristan, with CNN supplying a photograph of a not terribly impressive set of huts set on a flat field with no discernable defensive advantages. In those huts, or near enough, is said to be Ayman al-Zawahiri, if CNN's photograph is reliable. Dan Darling has been following the progress of the engagement at Regnum Crucis. He points out that there are large numbers of civilians admixed with the combatants and that some of them are being held hostage by the Jihadis.

This operation is actually the southeastern half of Operation Mountain Storm with American troops officially on the Afghan side acting as the anvil to Pakistan's hammer along the border. However, that bland fact conceals that Mountain Storm is a tactically unconventional but ambitious operation probably aimed at rooting out the infrastructure of the Jihadis along both sides of the frontier.

Coalition ground forces are not massed together by the thousands, according to the methods of conventional warfare. Instead, Operation Mountain Storm is a series of simultaneous "search and destroy" missions spread across the Afghan interior and along 3,300 kilometers of border with Pakistan.

These rapid-tempo operations are conducted by small groups of specialized commando teams. Some raiding parties coordinate the efforts of U.S. Special Forces, light mountain infantry, and soldiers from the fledgling Afghan National Army. Others include U.S. Marines, Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, or Land) commandos, or CIA paramilitary officers. What Hilferty calls a "small-scale air assault" is also referred to by military planners as a "heliborne insertion." Twin-rotor Chinook transport helicopters land commando teams deep in the rugged mountains where Taliban and Al-Qaeda fighters are thought to be hiding. Close air support aircraft -- fighter jets, AC-130 Spectre gunships, and A-10 Warthog attack planes -- are on standby to attack any opposition the commandos encounter. Sometimes the commando teams use ground vehicles to deploy from the U.S. bases that have been established across the south, southeast, and east of Afghanistan.

These nonlinear tactics probably rely on an unprecedented amount of  mobility and near-real time intelligence. These coordinate even the more cumbersome operations on the Pakistani side.

Pakistani forces were joined Friday by "a dozen or so" American intelligence agents in the ongoing operation, Sultan said. The sky was filled with U.S. satellites, Predator drones and other surveillance equipment.

If descriptions of the current engagements are broadly true, the following can be reasonably surmised:

  1. The extensive nature of the Jihadi foritifications and the large amounts of ammunition available to them represent an major military investment. They must have operated on the assumption that Americans would never come for them on the Pakistani side of the border and that the Pakistanis would neither make a serious attempt or move swiftly enough to make escape impossible.
  2. From press accounts, a high value target was almost surprised by the Pakistani vanguard, making only a narrow escape in an armored SUV. The Pakistanis themselves where wholly unprepared for the ferocity of the resistance they encountered. This suggests that the Pakistani forces were pretty much trucked straight into the battle, denying the Al Qaeda any significant advance warning of the onslaught. Against all expectations, the Pakistanis appear to have achieved tactical surprise.
  3. Although media attention has focused on the holdouts in the "mud forts" which apparently contain as many hostages as Jihadis, little has been reported about the Western component of Mountain Storm. The Australian Broadcast Corporation reported the deployment of 100 SAS soldiers into battle. This represents a major part of British SAS strength and can only mean that the Western side of the operation is in a state of extraordinary activity requiring out-of-theater reinforcements. It is entirely probable that the main action is "offstage".
  4. Offstage in this instance, is out of sight. The border between Afghanistan and Pakistan is mostly unmarked and follows the high ridge line of the mountain range which demarcates the two countries. For all practical purposes Allied forces could be miles inside the Pakistani border without anyone the wiser.

Even if Zawahri is not captured, the historical military invulnerability of tribal regions on Pakistan's Northwest frontier may have ended forever. Operation Mountain Storm's lethal marriage of mobility, persistent overhead surveillance and networked weapons means that small teams of men can operate effectively over wide areas -- essentially turning the tables on tribal fighters. Never again can terrorist chieftains like Osama Bin Laden invest large sums of money in caves and mountain fortresses on the assumption of their inviolability. The mud forts and honeycomb of caves, their ammunition magazines and hundreds of fighters -- representing an expenditure of terrorist millions -- is going up in smoke.

The real significance of ongoing operations in South Waziristan may be as a template for similar operations in the near future. The same principles used in Mountain Storm can be applied in the open spaces of the Sahara, the Syrian desert or the Zagros mountains deep in Iran. It isn't just the Al Qaeda that evolve. So do their foes.


Go to Winds of Change for more information. Check out this satellite map of the Pakistani operation against the "mud forts". When looking at the satellite imagery, note that:

The red dashed line running along the ridge to the west (left) of Oba Sar is the Afghan border, I think, a distance of about 3,000 meters linear. The map appears to be oriented north to south. That means allied forces are practically looking down on the Oba Sar. No way out north, however, there might be a breakout or escape route south along the valley at the foot of the hills. Twenty clicks will take them to a road network and eventually to Khan Khot in the direction of Baluchistan. -- Wretchard

The Sunday Times UK (registration required) says al-Zawahiri may already be dead.

A senior American official involved in the hunt for Bin Laden said that al-Zawahiri may already be dead. According to his version of events, the Egyptian was in the escaping car and was shot by Taskforce 121, the shadowy rapid reaction force comprising special forces and CIA agents that had helped to capture Saddam Hussein last December.

The body, he said, had been retrieved from the wreckage and was undergoing DNA tests to confirm whether it was that of al-Zawahiri. In deference to the US forces’ hosts, any announcement was being delayed to make it look as if it were a Pakistani-run operation, as well as to have time to use any information garnered to capture other fighters.

Members of Taskforce 121 — whose existence is so secret that their area Camp Vance in the main US base of Bagram is a no-go area to all other US military — were moved to the firebase of Shkin last week, on the Afghan border with Pakistan just a few miles from Wana. Their numbers were boosted by bringing some members back from Iraq.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

The Toothpaste Effect

Dan Darling at Winds of Change lays out the best backgrounder to the Madrid train bombings anywhere. He points out the curious fact that many of the Madrid bombers had fled to Spain when they were hunted out of Morocco.

The more immediate origins of the Madrid attacks, however, date back to the May 16, 2003 Casablanca bombings in Morocco. As this primer explains, Salafi Jihad, the Moroccan al-Qaeda affiliate, is decentralized under the command of local emirs, each operating out of a major Moroccan city. In Casablanca, it was Abdelhaq Moulsabbat served as the emir of Assirat al-Moustaquim, the subgroup within Salafi Jihad that perpetrated the Casablanca bombings.

The Moroccan reaction to what happened in Casablanca actually serves as a fairly good example to other Arab countries of how to deal with al-Qaeda in a non-Western society. Moulsabbat was captured and likely tortured to death and 699 Salafi Jihad members arrested, including Moulsabbat's associate Pierre Richard Robert, the emir of Tangiers. In addition, King Mohammed denounced the attackers on national television, banned political parties set up along religious, ethnic, linguistic, or regional lines, having women deliver religious lectures during Ramadan, and pushing ahead with social reforms. All of these actions have been extremely beneficial for Morocco, but their unfortunate side effect is that the Salafi Jihad members who once planned revolution at home have been forced to flee abroard to avoid being detained by the authorities. They can't go to Algeria for fear of being detained by the military government there, so it appears that at least some of them have chosen to head north - to Spain. At least one of Pierre Richard Robert's minions, Abdulaziz Benayich, took that route and was planning an attack when he was arrested by Spanish authorities in likely preparation for an attack.

They are not the only terrorists who have fled to Europe looking for easier pickings. The group which has been threatening France with mayhem if it does not rescind the law banning Muslim headscarves in schools is thought to be either Chechen in origin or a false-flag operation by the Russian FSB, the descendant of the dread KGB. Either way, it represents a migration of an ongoing struggle onto more congenial grounds. An attack on the defenseless. Europe has long been the preferred base for the political arms of terror organizations. The Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigade which initially claimed responsibility for the Madrid attacks is thought by Dan Darling to be a public relations front for a variety of Jihadist groups based in London.

Militant Islamists, perhaps embolded by a perception of European weakness, are challenging it to its face. In Mitrovica, 400 miles from the Austrian border, Albanian Muslims were purging themselves of the last infidel Serbs, reasonably certain that Europe cannot nerve itself to stop ethnic cleansing, at least not when the cleansees are Orthodox Christians. As Serbia's nominal overlords, the United Nations Interim Administration in Kosovo (UNMIK) appealed for calm,  churches burned. Reuters reports from UN-controlled Serbia:

Albanians set fire to Serb Orthodox churches in Kosovo on Thursday as NATO scrambled to deploy up to 1,000 more troops to stifle an explosion of ethnic violence. A church was torched in the flashpoint town of Mitrovica despite the efforts of French NATO peacekeepers, who fired teargas and rubber bullets to drive off the mob. Gunshots were heard, but it was not clear where from.

A Serb church and Serb homes were also set ablaze in the central town of Obilic, near the provincial capital Pristina. Reports from Obilic said NATO peacekeepers had evacuated about 100 Serbs because it could not guarantee their safety -- as happened on Wednesday night in the capital, Pristina. NATO summoned reinforcements after 22 people were killed in the worst ethnic clashes in Kosovo since the allies and the United Nations took control of the province from Serbia in 1999. Some 500 have been injured, of whom 20 were in intensive care. The new troops will reinforce 17,500 peacekeepers and 9,000 local and international police trying to keep a lid on the province of two million Muslim Albanians demanding independence and 100,000 Serbs, many in enclaves relying on NATO protection.

The Serbs will flee and the UN with them. The US offensive in Pakistan and Afghanistan,  unrest among Syrian Kurds and continued resistance to the Mullahs in Iran against which the Islamists can mount no military riposte has naturally reduced them to attacking civilian targets wherever they can -- attacks which the press represents as great victories -- and there are no softer targets than those in Europe. The dreadful strokes which will now descend upon the Old Continent will not, as some imagine, bring down the New. They will simply smite the Old, passing easily through their Maginot Line of treaties and accords with the same ease as an icepick through a sheet of paper.


CNN is reporting that "Pakistani forces have surrounded a 'high-value' target believed to be Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's chief lieutenant in al Qaeda, near the Afghan border. The troops reported fierce resistance from al Qaeda fighters." The Jihadis are facing military defeat everywhere, in Iraq, the Horn of Africa, Iran, Afghanistan and now in Pakistan. The terrorist toothpaste is being squeezed out of the tube and is even now squirming, like a thing possessed, towards the cavity-ridden European border.

Meanwhile fighting has continued for the second straight day in UNMIK controlled Kosovo. Churches and mosques are going up in flames as both sides battle for possession.

The clashes, which began Wednesday when ethnic Albanians blamed Serbs for the drownings of two children, have killed at least 31 people and wounded hundreds more, including several dozen U.N. police and NATO peacekeepers, according to U.N. spokeswoman Izabella Karlowicz.

The bloodshed underscored the bitter divisions that have polarized Kosovo's mostly Muslim ethnic Albanians, who want independence from Serbia, and Orthodox Christian Serbs, a minority in Kosovo who consider the province their ancient homeland.

Of course, the violence is all America's fault. If only the US had provided more support for the UN, after toppling Milosevic in the first place, this fiasco would never have happened in Europe, 400 miles from Austria and 4,000 miles from the United States.

The violence, which spilled beyond Kosovo's borders into the Serbian heartland, also dealt the Bush administration a potential setback in efforts to reduce the number of peacekeepers in the Balkans and redeploy them to Iraq, Afghanistan and other hotspots. About 2,000 Americans now serve with the force, down from 5,000 after the war, and the entire force has shrunk from 50,000 to 18,500.

Strange how Europe wants the very thing which they are determined the Iraqis should not have. American soldiers who are at once so valued and whose blood is so valueless are being asked again to halt the conflagration before Europe's shining socialist gates.

Your Credit is Good, but We Need Cash

Al Qaeda has promised to spare Europe as long as it maintains it's good behavior. Spanish Socialist Zapatero, who fancies himself Prime Minister of Spain, is being watched closely to see that he actually withdraws all Spanish forces from Iraq. His instructions are as follows:

In a letter published in a pan-Arab newspaper by a group that says it is linked to al Qaeda, brigades were told to stop all operations in Europe. The letter came from the Abu Hafs al-Masri Brigades which took responsibility for the Madrid bombings. The letter adds: "Because of this decision, the leadership has decided to stop all operations within the Spanish territories... until we know the intentions of the new government that has promised to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq."

Compliance is mandatory. Resistance is futile. Don't even think of disobeying. Because then you will incur what you wanted to avoid in the first place. Being Prime Minister isn't what it used to be.

The Spanish Prime Minister suggests that America should also follow suit. According to the Washington Post:

"I said during the campaign I hoped Spain and the Spaniards would be ahead of the Americans for once," Zapatero said in an interview on Onda Cero radio. "First we win here, we change this government, and then the Americans will do it, if things continue as they are in Kerry's favor."

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Europe 2004

Dateline Europe fom Reuters -- March 16, 2004, after the Spanish capitulation.

France has received threats of a possible attack against French interests from an Islamist group apparently named after a Chechen guerrilla killed in a Moscow hostage-taking in 2002, the Interior Ministry said Tuesday. The letter, sent to several newspapers, threatened "to plunge France into terror and remorse and spill blood outside its frontiers," Jacques Esperandieu, deputy editor of the daily Le Parisien which received a copy, quoted it as saying. The ministry confirmed earlier Justice Ministry reports that the threat, which it said was sent "on behalf of the servants of Allah, the powerful and wise," mentioned possible attacks in France and against French interests abroad.

Security experts say France is also a target because of its cooperation with authorities fighting Islamic militants in its former North African colonies Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.

Flash! The Guardian reports that Spain's hesitance to concede the disputed of island of Perejil may have prevented Morocco from sharing information with Spanish authorities that could have thwarted terrorist attacks. Meanwhile the Spanish Foreign Minister journeyed to Morocco to attend a funeral service for North Africans killed in the Madrid train attack.

In the Moroccan capital of Rabat on Tuesday, Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio expressed solidarity between the two countries - separated by 9 miles of water - at a memorial service for the bombing victims. "Spain is the European mirror of Morocco, and Morocco is the African mirror of Spain," Palacio said.

Dateline 1938. Backbencher Winston Churchill, reacting to Neville Chamberlain's triumphant return with an agreement from Hitler promising he would spare Britain any further demands rises to warn the House of Commons.

"And do not suppose this is the end. This is only the beginning of the reckoning. This is only the first sip, the first foretaste of a bitter cup which will be proffered to us year by year unless by a supreme recovery of moral health and martial vigour, we arise again and take our stand for freedom as in olden time. ... We are in the presence of a disaster of the first magnitude which has befallen Great Britain and France. Do not let us blind ourselves to that. It must now be accepted that all the countries of Central and Eastern Europe will make the best terms they can with the triumphant Nazi Power. The system of alliances in Central Europe upon which France has relied for her safety has been swept away, and I can see no means by which it can be reconstituted."


CNN is reporting that France has been threatened by a Muslim group that would make "blood run to (its) borders." for banning the use of headscarves at state schools.

The letter, from a previously unknown group calling itself the "Servants of Allah the Mighty and the Wise," said it planned to take action after Muslim girls were banned from wearing headscarves in schools.

... Describing France as a country of "wine, pigs, loose morals and nudity," the group said it planned to use attack techniques imported from Gaza and Chechnya that "have never been used in the West until now." The letter, postmarked from Paris and sent to the chief editor of "Le Parisien," urged Muslims to stay out of crowded areas.

Meanwhile, a car bomb leveled an ordinary residential hotel and its surroundings in Baghdad. Casualties, mostly Iraqi, are heavy.

Several ambulances rushed to the scene with the drivers shouting over their loudspeakers: "Don't bring us the dead people. We can't help them. Bring us the injured." Two ambulances that tried to leave the scene were quickly surrounded by an angry crowd that blocked the streets as men shouted: "You can't leave now. There are children buried inside." Crowds of Iraqis gathered at the site. Some of them expressed anger at insurgents who have launched attacks in Iraq, calling on the Americans to crack down on the insurgency.

...  One of the Iraqis, Zaki Mohammad, 31, said of the people behind the attack: "They have to hang these people as criminals in front of the people in the city of Baghdad." "Long live U.S.A.," said Ali Mohammad, a 36-year-old Iraqi graduate student and friend of Mr. Mohammad. "We support the U.S.A."

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

The Shield Without the Sword

Spain's new Socialist prime minister, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, has vowed to fight terrorism in all its forms. "My immediate priority will be to fight all forms of terrorism", he said yesterday.  But he should be careful not to fight it so effectively as to invite Al Qaeda's retaliation. If Zapatero seriously carries out his program to discommode Osama Bin Laden, the Shiek of Jihad might strike back, creating that which was to be avoided in the first place. Hence the phrase "fight all forms of terrorism" really means to 'fight the lion short of waking him', a task best accomplished with rubber-tipped children's bows and arrows and water pistols.

The operational question now facing the Spanish Armed Forces is not 'what do we do to exterminate terrorism' but what can we do without provoking them. Before anyone derides the Spaniards for adopting this absurdity one should remember that America tried this folly before them. The dilemma Lyndon Johnson faced in Vietnam was that he wished to prevent the invasion of South Vietnam without provoking China into intervening by defeating Ho Chi Minh. He wanted to avoid facing the Chinese volunteer human waves which McArthur encountered in Korea when he had driven the Nokors to the Yalu. The answering strategy provided by Robert McNamara was "calibrated response". The US Armed Forces would be allowed to do thus, and no more; pluck at Ho's beard yet caress his face. LBJ famously said, "they can’t hit an outhouse without my permission." The result of course, was endless war, war in which victory itself had been ruled out. There was never any "light at the end of the tunnel" because the war itself had been designed that way. History has not been kind to either Lyndon or Robert. They managed to suffer as many casualties as Truman did in Korea without attaining their goals. It was left to Ronald Reagan to remember that those who would embark on war must first of all be willing to win it.

Those who believe that the Global War on Terror is founded on a lie should recall the greatest deception in modern history was perpetrated upon the 2.6 million Americans who were sent to Vietnam. The government which exhorted them to endure any sacrifice and bear any burden buried 58,000 men with Lyndon Johnson's outhouse as their tombstone. As Spaniards prepare to shift from the GWOT to Zapatero's war on "all forms of terrorism" they should ask whether it includes not merely the prospect, but the intention of victory.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Dark Night of Spirit 2

There's an old saying that one should be careful of wishes because they might come true. The capitulation of Spain to Al Qaeda's terrorist offensive may momentarily gladden the Eurosocialists -- but only momentarily. Eurosocialism is ironically premised on a wall of free security, traditionally provided by the United States, behind which they can pursue utopianism. But the practical effect of the Socialist victory will be to open Europe's southern borders to more terrorist infiltration. First, the Socialist leader Zapatero is unlikely to pursue an agressive anti-terrorist policy. He will begin by withdrawing Spanish forces from Iraq. Second, the events of March 11 and the subsequent election have divided Spain as no other event in recent history and has created all manner of  political cracks through which an ill-wind may whistle. Third, Spanish access to US intelligence will inevitably be degraded. It will not be cut off, but it will not be what it was.

These circumstances create an objective weakening in the Continental defensive structure. France, already at a heightened state of alert, now faces the prospect that its southern neighbor will make a separate peace with the jihadis. For while Aznar's party might have withstood another bombing, Zapatero's, after all their promises, cannot. If the Socialists cannot take their program of appeasement to its logical conclusion then they must face the very Islamic bombings which they told the electorate their election would prevent.

The appeasement which so amuses the French may not be so funny when played by the Spaniards. For Spain, in concert with America and France, shared the watch of North Africa. And since that is where many Al Qaeda have moved, as the Madrid train bombing carried out by North Africans proves, Europe will find their relative danger increased far more greatly than the Americans, who can comfortably lose the Spanish contingent in Iraq. The loss of a solid Spain, while an annoyance to America is a catastrophe for Europe. Iraq is far from America but Spain is close to France.

In the end, the very nature of the War on Terror ultimately means that Europe needs America more than America needs Europe. The global jihad means that attacks on Europe can be planned and launched from geographical locations far beyond the reach of their defense forces. That could be ignored while Europe remained convinced that it would not be targeted. But now the doubt grows. And if the contingency eventuates, neither France nor Spain have the mobility or the means to pursue their foes into the uttermost reaches of Central Asia, the deserts of Africa or the teeming stews of the Southwest Asia. That deficiency can only be addressed by a sustained program of European defense spending --- and it will not. Zapatero has cast away the very thing that he may need and which he can neither afford nor beg.

Eurosocialism, by hitching its wagon to the fortunes of militant Islam has put itself at it's mercy. That is the definition of surrender, whose fine print the Continent will soon be familiar with. A disarmed, politically correct and supine Eurosocialist society can only exist where other free men guard their borders. By dismissing the guardians and capitulating to the jihadis the Eurosocialists have struck at the very root of their own existence. Lenin once remarked that capitalists would sell him the noose he would use to hang them. But that was before Stalin poisoned him.

The Dark Night of Spirit

The victory of the Socialist Party in  Spain and its probable withdrawal from an active alliance with the United States in the Global War on Terror is a decisive victory for the forces of freedom everywhere -- although this is not immediately apparent. It establishes the iron linkage between Eurosocialism and militant Islam, indeed demonstrates for all the world to see the subordination of the Euroleft to the Global Jihad. The last claim of Marxism-Leninism to the leadership of history is gone. They are the liveried flunkeys of Sheik Osama. Long may they enjoy it.

The events in Spain show it is no longer possible to embrace both Eurosocialism and national independence; Eurosocialism and national defense; Eurosocialism and survival. The two have become incompatible states. You can have one but not the other. And since men must live and live to breathe free, Eurosocialism must in the end pass into the night chained to its boon companions.

The task before the United States and its allies is to redouble its efforts in the War on Terror. It will soon become apparent who the Islamists prefer to blackmail, who the Islamists prefer to intimidate; which countries Islamism will attempt to dominate. And which live free. The more pointed the contrast the better. In this fight, America's greatest ally will be the global Jihad itself. As the terror network is squeezed so will it infest the countries which have given it succor. Every nation and territory which has surrendered to the Jihad has chosen for itself unending misery and abjection. Those who drink from the cup of Osama must endure it to its last bitter dregs.

Although many commentators have excoriated the Spanish electorate for its capitulation to terror, we must never forget that the slightly smaller half decisively rejected it. These we honor and the rest we pity.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

The Ichneumon Wasp

The European left has reacted to news that the suspects in the March 3 Madrid train massacre were Moroccans by blaming the United States, representing it as the vengeance of Al Qaeda which Spain brought on itself for helping America in Iraq. It was natural that Osama, who remembers the fall of the Abassid caliphate well, should recall how the Mongols erected a tower of skulls before every city sacked before sending word ahead that any resistance would suffer the same fate. And so the Spanish victims caused their own deaths by being tardy in submission. The Left is now the messenger boy of Islamofacism. They know their place.

In the early 1990s, cadres of the Philippine Communist New People's Army went to Mindanao to establish a "tactical alliance" with Muslim separatists. They brought their Maoist Red Books and some light machineguns, thinking to overawe the Islamic yokels with worldly wisdom obtained at the University of the Philippines and a few hoary tips from Soviet training manuals. Instead they found a hard core of thousands who had trained in Afghanistan and the Balkans, who scoffed at the rusty Communist machineguns and whose petrodollars made the paltry Euroleft donations seem like chump change. It was a moment of revelation. Dan Darling at Regnum Crucis describes a similar moment during the early meetings between ETA and Hamas. The home team had brought their pathetic assets to the table.

The members of ETA said that although they had left in their sufficient arsenal a few hundred packages of dynamite, stolen a little earlier in two gunpowder magazines from France, they feared that it had begun to spoil. In spite of that, Hamas accepted the offer.

In return they were dazzled by a cave of wonders. The Islamists took ETA members to Afghanistan on forged Belgian passports, where they were trained in the use of MANPADS and given a few weapons via Greek freighters and a pleasure boat. That earnest was obviously convincing because somewhat later, the ETA sent 80 militants to Iraq for further training. The pecking order had been established and the coordination structured accordingly. In practice the relation between militants, even in the European and American Left, is governed by threat and intimidation. It is unnoticeable to the outer fringes of the Movement but grows increasingly more severe as one approaches the "committed" core. Among sympathizers in the media, entertainment and academic industries, obedience is largely enforced by social pressure or economic sanction. Closer in the pretenses are dropped and operational rules prevail. At the Central Committee level, as David Horowitz knows, decisions are enforced under penalty of death. Mercy is shown, within the Marxist IRA, by whether your kneecap is blown out from the front or the back. The arrival of the Islamists in the West, like a new gang arriving in town, has changed the dynamic considerably. They are given a wide berth by the Left, not merely out of a shared hatred for America, but out of fear -- pure operational fear. When the adnan or call to prayer is sounded from the bell tower at the state-funded University of Miami (hat tip: Little Green Footballs) to the approval of Leftist claques, there is a more than mutual admiration involved. People remember Salman Rushdie and the BBC Islamic prayer rooms have a certain preventive quality about them. The moribund Left knows who is boss and is selling the only thing they have remaining: access to media and cultural institutions, which suits the Islamofascists just fine. A division of labor has been established in which the Left provides the paralyzing injection on Western society leaving the jihadis a clear field within which to operate.

Steven Jay Gould, in arguing for the existence of natural evil, could find no better analogy than the ichneumon wasp, after which the monster in Alien was modeled, and which not coincidentally describes Islamofascism and its Leftist helpers.

The ichneumon, like most wasps, generally live freely as adults but pass their larva life as parasites feeding on the bodies of other animals, almost invariably members of their own phylum, the Arthropoda. The most common victims are caterpillars (butterfly and moth larvae), but some ichneumons prefer aphids and other attack spiders. Most host are parasitized as larvae, but some adults are attacked, and many tiny ichneumons inject their brood directly into the eggs of their host.

The free-flying females locate an appropriate host and then convert it into a food factory for their own young. Parasitologists speak of ectoparasitism when the uninvited guest lives on the surface of its host, and endoparasitism when the parasite dwells within. Among endoparasitic ichneumons, adult females pierce the host with their ovipositor and deposit eggs within. (The ovipositor, a thin tube extending backward from the wasp's rear end, may be many times as long as the body itself.) Usually, the host is not otherwise inconvenienced for the moment, at least until the eggs hatch and the ichneumon larvae begin their grim work of interior excavation.

Among ectoparasites, however, many females lay their eggs directly upon the host's body. Since an active host would easily dislodge the egg, the ichneumon mother often simultaneously injects a toxin that paralyzes the caterpillar or other victim. The paralyzes may be permanent, and the caterpillar lies, alive but immobile, with the agent of its future destruction secure on its belly. The egg hatches, the helpless caterpillar twitches, the wasp larvae pierces and begins its grisly feast.

Since a dead and decaying caterpillar will do the wasp larvae no good, it eats in a pattern that cannot help but recall, in our inappropriate anthropocentric interpretation, the ancient English penalty for treason — drawing and quartering, with its explicit object of extracting as much torment as possible by keeping the victim alive and sentient. As the king's executioner drew out and burned his client's entrails, so does the ichneumon larvae eat fat bodies and digestive organs first, keeping the caterpillar alive by preserving intact the essential heart and central nervous system. Finally, the larvae completes its work and kills its victim, leaving behind the caterpillar's empty shell. Is it any wonder that ichneumons, not snakes or lions, stood as the paramount challenge to God's benevolence during the heyday of natural theology?

This thing must never reach the stars.