Monday, December 31, 2007



27-year old Chelsea Clinton snubbed a 9-year old "reporter" who wanted to do a kid interview with her with a cold "I do not talk to the press!!

Sydney Rieckoff, a Cedar Rapids fourth grader and "kid reporter" for Scholastic News, has posed questions to seven Republican and Democratic presidential hopefuls as they've campaigned across Iowa this year.

But when she approached the 27-year-old Chelsea after a campaign event Sunday, she got a different response.

"Do you think your dad would be a good 'first man' in the White House?" Rieckoff asked, but Chelsea brushed her question aside and snubbed the little girl.

Here's the answer to the question:

Looks better than her "multi-faced" mother

Sunday, December 30, 2007


Pakistan thought Russia would give China permission to export the RD93 equipped aircraft But apparently India played hardball, and demanded that the Russians forbid the export of the RD93s from China to Pakistan.

India and China are both playing rough with their largest arms supplier; Russia. China and India both have price disputes with Russia, and India is also upset that Russia is supplying China with RD93 jet engines for Chinese-made fighters that are being sold to Pakistan.

Both China and India are threatening to halt purchases if Russia does not back off on attempts to raise prices on contracts that have already been agreed to.

China is playing a weak position here, because of a Western embargo on arms sales to China (because of China being a sometimes brutal police state and behaving badly by selling weapons to all manner of nasty people).

India is in a stronger position, and is buying more and more weapons from Western suppliers.

Currently, India is in the market for 126 top-line fighters. India has told Russia that if those RD93 equipped Chinese fighters keep going to Pakistan, Russia can forget about its chances of winning the competition (worth over $6 billion) for the 126 fighters.

How did it get to this?

In November, 2007, after changing its mind several times over the last few years, Russia finally agreed to allow the use of Russian made-engines in Chinese made JF-17 (also known as FC-1) jet fighters that are exported (to Pakistan, Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia.) Lebanon, Burma, Iran and Sri Lanka have also shown interest in this low-cost fighter that is similar to early model F-16s.)

Earlier in 2007, Russia announced that none of the 500 Russian RD-93 jet engines China is buying could be exported to a foreign country. This was a problem, as China needs those engines for the 150 JF17 fighters it is building for Pakistan. What makes this particularly nasty is that Pakistan has invested $150 million in the development of the JF17.

Pakistan thought Russia would give China permission to export the RD93 equipped aircraft. After all, China was such a large customer for RD93 engines (originally designed for the MiG-29), and those 500 RD93 engines are worth $1.25 billion.
But apparently India played hardball, and demanded that the Russians forbid the export of the RD93s from China to Pakistan.

India is a major customer for Russian weapons, including cooperative development deals. China is a big customer for Russian weapons as well, but India buys more stuff, and is seen as less of a future threat to Russia than China. Pressure from many other nations interested in the JF-17 apparently caused the Russians to finally relent.

But it gets more interesting. China has been developing a similar (apparently identical) engine to the RD93, the WS-13. Actually, this effort is being aided by Russia, which is selling China technology needed for the manufacture of key engine components. Russia isn't happy about this, because they don't want competition in the low-cost jet engine market. Then again, China has a history of stealing technology it cannot buy, so the Russians are making the best of a bad situation.

China says the WS-13 is nearly ready for service. Maybe, maybe not. Building high performance military jet engines is difficult, and China has had problems mastering this kind of stuff. Not that they will not eventually acquire the skills, but until they do, they need the Russian-made RD93s.

China shipped two RD93-equipped JF-17s to Pakistan in March 2007, and informed the Russians that, according to the their interpretation of the 1992 RD-93 contract, China could re-export the RD-93 engines.

The situation sat, unresolved, until the Summer of 2007, when the Russians said that they believed that the 1992 contract was quite clear about China needing Russian permission, and China didn't have it. The Russians were playing hardball, at the behest of the Indians.

Apparently, India is expected to use this RD-93 veto to get Pakistan to offer up some appropriate in the current peace talks between the two countries.

Russians problems are largely of its own making. In several warship and fighter sales deals, they screwed up and quoted too low a price. Russia admits that, and wants to change to a higher price. Both China and Russia are not cooperating.

To further complicate matters, China has been shamelessly stealing Russian military technology, and producing copies, without compensating the Russians for the stolen technology. China denies this, but it's all pretty blatant.

No one knows how this will all turn out. All three nations believe they have strong negotiating positions, but eventually, someone will have to blink, and back off.

Monday, December 24, 2007


This site sent us a visitor and when we checked it - out of curiosity - it became instantly apparent that while sarcasm may be the lowest form of wit, in ths case it is an incisive poke at the truth.

CLICK ON THE TITLE/SUBJECT to visit the site and enjoy it.

Thursday, December 20, 2007


Hamza Yusuf is the prominent American moderate Muslim who once said, “There are times when you have to live like a sheep in order to live in the future like a lion.”

In "The Real Teddy Bear Tragedy" at the Newsweek/WaPo "On Faith" site, the sheeplike Hamza avows that the charge against the Muhammad Teddy Bear teacher, Gillian Gibbons, was "without merit," and that the Sudanese authorities' arrest of Gibbons left him "appalled."

That said, the leonine Hamza avers that the whole incident is the fault of the non-Muslim West:

Unfortunately, millions of Muslims all over the globe are humiliated and betrayed by the ignorance and lack of basic humanity that a small minority of Muslims too often exhibits.

Should I, however, bring this up with many of my Muslim brothers and sisters a common response is: "It's true, but look at what the West is doing to Muslims; 800,000 thousand dead in Iraq. And what about Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya and the rest? Why don't Western people denounce these atrocities against us and only harp about how backward we are?"

I.e., change your foreign policies, and we will stop committing terrorist acts. The burden is all on you.

A famous Iraqi poet once wrote, "If one person is harmed it is an unpardonable sin, but a whole people's destruction is something to debate."

Indeed. Let's talk about the numerous affirmations by Islamic clerics of how they want to destroy Israel and kill all Jews. "Have no mercy on the Jews, murder them everywhere...” That was broadcast on Palestinian TV on October 13, 2000.

Care to denounce it, Hamza?

And Hizballah's Hassan Nasrallah has said that "if they [the Jews] all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.”

Similarly, a 1992 Hizballah statement vowed “open war until the elimination of Israel and until the death of the last Jew on earth.” Let's talk about that, Hamza.

Unfortunately, these Western horrors against the Muslims demand responses, but Muslims must also recognize and denounce these wrongs too often associated with our Prophet and our faith without always pointing fingers elsewhere.
Fair enough. I am giving you an opportunity to do so.

But to speak about alleged Western offenses as if they somehow justify the madness of imprisoning someone over a teddy bear -- well, I can't say that I find that quite rational.
Our current world can go one of two ways at this crossroad.

We can go down the path of more violence, more hatred and more alienation, or we can attempt to understand each other, recognize our real differences, and display mutual respect. True religion -- as well as the highest secular values -- demands we take the latter road.

Indeed, the situation in Sudan is a medieval misunderstanding and overreaction. So are the myriad cases of torture, rape and pillaging that are now part of our daily patch of foreign, and increasingly, domestic news. Indeed, our dark medieval past seems to be having an ironic renaissance in the West and the Muslim world.

So when we see an irrational or misguided reaction of some Muslims, as we now see in Sudan, it behooves us to reflect on the deeper reality causing it.

Very well. Let's do that. Let's reflect on blasphemy laws that are so sweeping and vague, and so irrationally applied, that they victimize harmless middle-aged British schoolteachers and rouse people to call for her blood.

Let's reflect on freedom of speech and freedom of inquiry, and why they are essential prerequisites for peace between people whose views differ. Would the sheeplike and/or leonine Hamza care to reflect on any of that?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Iranian Students Protest Over Arrests -BILINGUAL Farsi

link to original article

Iranian students staged a new demonstration at Tehran University on Sunday, damaging the main gate to allow outsiders into the campus and denouncing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, news agencies reported.

The protesters chanted slogans against the president and carried banners calling for the release of three fellow students who have been held since May in a high-profile case, the Fars news agency and state-run IRNA reported.

The reports did not disclose the number of students involved. Both news agencies said that the demonstration had been called by the radical wing of the Office to Foster Unity, a reformist student group. "The students marched on the gate and damaged it, and this allowed several non-students to enter the campus," IRNA reported.

There has been a string of demonstrations at Tehran universities in past months as students protest against the replacement of liberal professors, pressure on activists by the authorities and the detention of three students.

The demonstration Sunday was at least the second within a week at Tehran University after dozens of students held a similar protest on Tuesday.

Mehdi Arabshahi, a member of the central board of the Office to Foster Unity, said that 1,500 people joined the latest protest, although there was no confirmation of this figure from Iranian media. He told AFP that university security officials had initially shut the main gate in a bid to prevent large numbers gathering for the protest.

"But the students forced their way in and broke the gate so that others could enter. "They protested against the detention of the students, the oppressive policies of the government and advocated rights for all Iranians," he added, saying that the participants included liberals and ethnic Kurds.

Arabshahi said the protest lasted for more than two hours after starting at 12:00 pm (0830 GMT) and that it was peaceful. "We are gathered here to say students are alive and are critical of wrong polices," IRNA quoted another unnamed student as saying.

The demonstration came a day after the intelligence ministry said it had arrested an unspecified number of people using "fake student cards to hold an illegal demonstration" at Tehran University. The timing of those arrests was not given, but it is likely that they took place ahead of Friday which was annual students' day in Iran.

The case of the three detained students from Tehran's Amir Kabir University has become a major issue for the protesting students. Detained since May, the trio were given jail sentences of up to three years in October on charges of printing anti-Islamic images in four student newspapers -- accusations they vehemently deny.

Reformist leaders such as former president Mohammad Khatami have openly called for the three to be released, but hardliners have said the gravity of their crimes means they must stay behind bars.

دانشجویان درب دانشگاه را شکسته و وارد دانشگاه شدند

سایت حکومتی جهان: از ساعاتي پيش از محل دانشكده فني دانشگاه تهران برخي دانشجويان دست به تجمع در دانشگاه تهران زدند.
اين تجمع به مناسبت 16 آذر روز دانشجو برگزار شده است. تجمع كنندگان با سر دادن شعارهايي چون «حكومت زور نمي‌خوايم پليس مزدور نمي‌خوايم» و «شاهد قرباني شدن انسانيت در تحجريم» و... به تجمع خود ادامه مي دهند.
هم اكنون تجمع كنندگان با داشتن پلاكاردهايي در دست مبني بر آزادي دانشجويان بازداشت شده سرد «يار دبستاني من» را مي‌خوانند و در حال حركت به سمت درب اصلي دانشگاه تهران هستند.
همچنين برخي از آنان شعارهايي با زبان كردي سرداده كه مضامين‌ آن‌ها آزادي دانشجويان كرد از بازداشت و زندان است.
اين تجمع با حضور ماموران نيروهاي انتظامي در صحنه ادامه دارد و درگيري هاي پراكنده بين آنان و تجمع كنندگان بوجود آمده است.

تجمع هزاران دانشجو با شعار مرگ بر دیکتاتور
به رغم تدابیر شدید امنیتی و اقدامات سرکوبگرانه از سوی ماموران اطلاعات و حراست رژیم، ظهر امروز هزاران دانشجو با شعار 'مرگ بر دیکتاتور' در دانشگاه تهران تجمع کرده و خواهان آزاای دانشجویان دربند شدند. این گردهمايی در شرایطی صورت می گیرد که وزارت اطلاعات جمهوری اسلامی روز گذشته با انتشار بیانیه ای از دستگیری گسترده دانشجویان طی روزهای اخیر خبر داد.
گزارش خبرنامه امیرکبیر: تجمع بزرگ دانشجویان، دانشگاه آخرین سنگر آزادی، به دعوت دفتر تحکیم وحدت در دانشگاه تهران آغاز شد. گزارش ها رسیده حکایت از آن دارد جمعیتی بالغ بر ۱۵۰۰ نفر در لحظات ابتدایی این تجمع و تریبون آزاد در آن حضور یافته اند و رفته رفته به تعداد دانشجویان تجمع کننده نیز افزوده می شود.
از ساعات ابتدایی صبح امروز جمعی از نیروهای انتظامات و حراست دانشگاه های امیرکبیر، علامه و… جهت ممانعت از ورود دانشجویانی که از دیگر دانشگاه ها قصد ورود به دانشگاه تهران را داشتند، به این دانشگاه اعزام شده بودند و مقابل کلیه درب ها حضور داشتند.
گزارش های رسیده همچنین حکایت از آن دارد نیروهای حراست دانشگاه ها لیستی از دانشجویان فعال دانشگاه خود در دست داشتند تا دانشجویانی که امروز در این تجمع شرکت کرده اند را شناسایی کنند. نیروهای امنیتی و انتظامی به همراه گارد ویژه از ساعت ۸ صبح امروز در اطراف دانشگاه تهران حضوری چشمگیر داشتند و هر لحظه بر تعدادشان افزوده می شد.
به گزارش خبرنامه امیرکبیر هم اکنون نیروهای امنیتی و انتظامی در خیابان های اطراف دانشگاه تهران، از یک سو تا میدان انقلاب و از سوی دیگر تا تقاطع وصال حضور دارند. از ساعت ۱۱ نیز مقابل سردر اصلی دانشگاه تهران به وسیله چندین اتوبوس پوشانده شده است. حضور گسترده نیروهای انتظامی و ایجاد جو امنیتی در اطراف دانشگاه موجب ترافیک شدید در خیابان های حول دانشگاه تهران شده است.
دانشجویان ابتدا با تجمع در صحن دانشکده حقوق و خواندن سرود «یار دبستانی» به سمت سر در دانشکده فنی، محل برگزاری تجمع، حرکت کردند. تجمع کنندگان در حالی که تصاویر دانشجویان در بند را در دست داشتند شعار «دانشجوی زندانی آزاد باید گردد» و… سر می دادند.
با حضور دانشجویان مقابل دانشکده فنی، دانشجویان کرد دانشگاه های تهران در حالی که تصاویر دانشجویان زندانی کرد را در دست داشتند به جمعیت حاضر مقابل دانشکده فنی پیوسته که مورد استقبال تجمع کنندگان قرار گرفتند.
دانشجویان پلاکاردهایی با مضمون «تا که زندان هست، ما همه در بندیم»، «خواهان آزادی فعالان دانشجویی چپ هستیم»، «سلام بر سه آذر اهورایی، قصابان، توکلی، منصوری»، «می شونید؟! این صدای آزادی است»، «حقوق زن=حقوق بشر»، «دانشگاه زیر چکمه بنیادگرایان»، «سهم ما از مهرورزی، زندان، شکنجه و محرومیت از تحصیل»، «بشیریه را باز گردانید»، «تحصیل سهم من نیست، حق من است»، «حق تعیین سرنوشت اساس کرامت ملت ها»، «نابود باد دشمنی علیه مبارزات حق طلبانه ملت کرد» و… در دست داشتند.
تجمع کنندگان همچنین تصاویر دانشجویان در بند، یاسر گلی، هانا عبدی، روناک صفارزاده، هدایت غزالی، صباح نصیری، علی عزیزی، علی نیکونسبتی، احمد قصابان، مجید توکلی و احسان منصوری را در دست داشتند. تصاویر مهندس مهدی بازرگان، محمد مصدق، عمادالدین باقی و… را در دست برخی از دانشجویان بود.
دانشجویان سپس در حالی که شعار می دادند «دانشجو دانشجو اتحاد اتحاد» به راهپیمایی در صحن دانشگاه تهران اقدام کردند و به سمت درب ۱۶ آذر حرکت کردند. جمع کثیری از دانشجویان که قصد داشتند در این تجمع شرکت کنند پشت درب ۱۶ آذر مانده بودند.
دانشجویان با سر دادن شعارهای «مرگ بر دیکتاتور» و «دانشجو می میرد ذلت نمی پذیرد» اقدام به شکستن درب ۱۶ آذر کردند و دانشجویانی که پشت در بودند توانستند وارد دانشگاه تهران شوند. دانشجویان سپس به سمت درب خیابان قدس حرکت کردند و فشار جمعیت در دو سوی در باعث شکستن درب خیابان قدس نیز شد.
جمعیت حاضر در این تجمع بار دیگر به مقابل سردر دانشکده فنی حرکت کردند و تریبون آزاد «دانشگاه، آخرین سنگر آزادی» با حضور جمع کثیری از دانشجویان آغاز شد.
گزارشی از همبستگی بی نظیر دانشجویان در دانشگاه تهران
به رغم تدابیر شدید امنیتی و اقدامات سرکوبگرانه از سوی ماموران اطلاعات و حراست رژیم، ظهر امروز هزاران دانشجو با شعار 'مرگ بر دیکتاتور' در دانشگاه تهران تجمع کرده و خواهان آزادی دانشجویان دربند شدند. این گردهمايی در شرایطی صورت گرفت که وزارت اطلاعات جمهوری اسلامی روز گذشته با انتشار بیانیه ای از دستگیری گسترده دانشجویان طی روزهای اخیر خبر داده بود.
گزارش فعالان حقوق بشر در ايران: پس از شکسته شدن درب 16 آذر دانشگاه تهران ، دانشجويان دانشگاه هاي چون علامه و پلي تکنيک و دانشگاه هاي آزاد اسلامي با دانشجويان دانشگاه تهران به صورت متحدالشکل با سرود يار دبستاني به سمت دانشگاه فني حرکت کردند و مراسم را در آنجا برگزار نمودند. تريبون آزاد دانشگاه تهران به نمايندگي از 7 تن از طيف هاي مختلف آغاز شد و از تمامي گروه و قوميت ها سخنراني انجام شد و اتحاد وصف ناپذيري را به نمايش گذاشتند .
ابتدا نماينده دانشجويان کرد سخنان خود را آغاز کرد و به بيان مشکلات کرد هاي ايران پرداخت و با اشاره به اينکه کرد هاي ايران تجزيه طلب و جدايي طلب نيستند شهرهاي کرمانشاه و ايلام را اصلي ترين قربانيان مقابله با قوميت ها برشمرد.
در ادامه برنامه آقاي رشيد اسمائيلي در تائيد صحبت هاي نفر قبلي عنوان کرد " هر جا کرد هست آنجا ايران است " و در ادامه برنامه خانم مهديه گلکو به نمايندگي از دانشجويان علامه طباطبايي سخناني را ايراد کردند و همچنين نمايندگان دانشجويان امير کبير با اعلام انزجار از برخورد هاي اخير با دانشجويان به بازداشت دانشجويان اعتراض کردند .
نماينده دانشجويان چپ سوسياليت ضمن اعلام اتحاد نسبت به بازداشت دانشجويان در روز هاي 12 و 13 آذر ماه اعلام نگراني کرد و آقاي رشيد اسمائيلي به نمايندگ ياز دانشجويان ليبرال سخنراني نمود و با ديگر طيف ها اعلام همبستگي کرد و ابراز خرسندي کرد از اتحاد بين دانشجويان که از هر قوم و نژاد و اعتقادي در آن حضور دارند .
آقاي سلمان سيما به نمايندگي از دانشجويان دانشگاه آزاد اعتراض خود را نسبت به شرايط موجود در دانشگاه آزاد اعلام کرد و به حالت طئنه آميز اعلام کرد که آقاي جاسبي قصد دارد دانشگاه جديدي به نام دانشگاه آزاد اسلامي واحد اوين را افتطاح نمايد که اشاره به زنداني بودن 5 دانشجوي دانشگاه آزاد را داشتند .
در ادامه مراسم دانشجويان با خواندن سرود و سر دادن شعار هايي " رفراندوم رفراندوم اين است شعار مردم " ، " دانشجوي زنداني آزاد بايد گردد " ، " مرگ بر ديکتاتور " و ... به سمت درب اصلي دانشگاه حرکت کردند که با ممانعت انتظامات و حراست روبرو شدند ولي با هجوم دانشجويان سد انتظامت شکسته شد و دانشجويان به سمت درب اصلي دانشگاه حرکت کردند .
مامورين وزارت اطلاعات براي جلوگيری از اتحاد مردم با دانشجويان در خيابان انقلاب حدود 12 اتوبوس را پارک کرده بود تا مردم در حال عبور از خيابان تجمع اعتراضي دانشجويان را مشاهده نکنند .
در انتها دانشجويان با جمع شدن در ميدان اصلي دانشگاه تهران حلقه هاي را تشکيل دادند و همه گروه ها دست به دست هم دادند و در پايان به نشانه اعتراض به روزنامه کيهان به نمايندگي از رسانه اي که اقدام به شايعه پراکني و تهمت زدن ها در اقدامي سنبليک روزنامه کيهان را به آتش کشيدند .
همچنين بنا بر گزارش واحد زندانيان سياسي آقاي علي نيکو نسبتي نيز لحظاتي پيش از زندان اوين آزاد شد ، وي از اعضاي کادر مرکزي تحکيم وحدت بود که در 17 آبان ماه توسط مامورين وزارت اطلاعات بازداشت شده بود .
لازم به توضيح است که عده اي از دانشجويان دانشگاه هاي مختلف در مقابل درب 16 آذر ماه بازداشت شدند ، تا کنون از وضعيت ايشان اطلاعي در دست نيست اما به گزارش ايرنا و با تائيد وزارت اطلاعات دستگيري ايشان مسجل شده است .

Wednesday, December 5, 2007






Sunday, November 18, 2007


Information about Iraq obtained at the Miramar Marine Corp air station in San Diego.

Writer is a retired Navy fighter pilot who flew out of Miramar.

I can't remember if I told you, but for about a year now and at the request of the Planning Board in Rancho Bernardo, I have been a member of the Miramar Community Leaders Forum. What a difference it is from 10 years ago.

The base is very open and provides us detailed statistics on air operations as well as informative briefings on what is going on in IRAQ and AFGANISTAN.

Last month, the guest speaker was a female 1st Lt who worked in public affairs. The military public affairs offices are the ones that handle the imbedded reporters from the national media.

According to her, 98% of the imbedded reporters are fair and do not have a liberal bias. They call it like they see it, but it can get edited back home (and does). She said that 2% of the imbedded reporters are jerks and really twist the reporting, but it is worth it to put up with these clowns in order to also have the other 98% who are fair.

So why am I telling you all of this? Well, to me, there was some shocking information included in her briefing. It seems that the good news that we complain is never reported on is, in fact, censored by our very own military.

If a new school is opened and it is reported on in the press, the insurgents blow it up.

If a power plant comes back on line and it is reported, the insurgents blow it up.

If a local Sunni Sheik sits down with the Shiite leaders and precipitates an agreement between the parties
to try to get along (and it is reported), he is assassinated.

Every single news worthy event is pored over by the military public affairs people and fully 90% of the good news about IRAQ is never reported at the request of our military press or the local population.

They just don't want things blown up and people killed. We would much rather quietly bring a power plant back on line and tell no one. Even the locals realize it is in their best interest to just not mention it.

To me, this is an element of the war that few people (if any) are aware of. Just thought you might be interested.

Friday, November 16, 2007



D.C. Imam declares Muslim takeover-plan

Washington-based cleric working toward 'Islamic State of North America' by2050

By Art Moore

A Washington, D.C., imam states explicitly on the website for hisorganization that he is part of a movement working toward replacement of theU.S. Government with "the Islamic State of North America" by 2050.

With branches in Oakland, Los Angeles, San Diego, Sacramento andPhiladelphia, the group As-Sabiqun – or the Vanguard – is under theleadership of Abdul Alim Musa in the nation's capital. Musa's declaration of his intention to help lead a takeover of America washighlighted by noted Islam observer Robert Spencer on his website JihadWatch.

Spencer told WND that figures such as Musa should not be ignored, "Notbecause they have the power to succeed, but because they may commit acts ofviolence to achieve their purpose."

Musa's website declares: "Those who engage in this great effort require ahigh level of commitment and determination. We are sending out a call to thebelievers: Join with us in this great struggle to change the world!"

Musa launched the group in the early 1990s at the Al-Islam mosque inPhiladelphia. His group says it is influenced by the writings and life workof Muslim thinkers and leaders such as Muslim Brotherhood founder Hasanal-Banna, Sayyid Qutb and Iranian revolutionary Ayatollah Khomenei.

The writings of Al-Banna and Qutb figured prominently in al-Qaida'sformation. Musa's organization says its leadership "has delivered numerous speeches inthe United States and abroad, contributing their analyses and efforts tosolve contemporary problems in the Muslim world and in urban America."

Abdul Alim Musa "The paramount goal of the movement is the establishment of Islam as acomplete way of life in America," the group declares. "This ultimate goal ispredicated on the belief – shared by many Muslims worldwide – that Islam isfully capable of producing a working and just social, political, economicorder."

The groups says it does not "advocate participation in the Americanpolitical process as an ideal method for advancing Islamic issues in the U.S; instead, it believes in a strong and active outreach to the people of theU.S." Spencer told WND he does not know of any direct influence Musa has onprominent Muslim leaders or on U.S.

Policymakers, but he says it's "unclearhow much 'mainstream' Muslim leaders harbor similar hopes – because no onedares question them about it." As WND reported, the founder of the leading Islamic lobby group CAIR, on Islamic-American Relations, reportedly told a group of Muslims in California they are in America not to assimilate but to help assert Islam'srule over the country. CAIR spokesman Ibrahim Hooper also has said, in a newspaper interview, he hopes to see an Islamic government over the U.S.Some day, brought about not by violence but through "education."

In London last summer, as WND reported, Muslims gathered in front of theLondon Central Mosque to applaud fiery preachers prophesying the overthrowof the British government – a future vision that encompasses an Islamictakeover of the White House and the rule of the Quran over America.

Musa says he wants to avoid what he calls an "absolutist" outlook on "theadvancement of Muslims." His group's philosophy is to stress unity between the various streams ofIslam "in the attainment of common goals." Although As-Sabiqun is a Sunni movement, it has publicly voiced support forShia movements and organizations such as the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iranand the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah, which waged war on Israel in the summer of 2006.

Musa, the group says, repeatedly has "stressed that the tendency by someMuslims to focus on the differences between Sunni and Shia Islam at thisjuncture in history is counterproductive to the goals of the Islamicmovement as a whole." The group says it encourages social-political advancement concurrent with aprogram of spiritual and moral development according to the Quran and Sunnah compilations of stories from the life of Islam's prophet Muhammad.

The group says it has a six-point plan of action which is implemented ateach location where a branch of the movement is established. Establishing a mosque "as a place to worship Allah in congregation and as acenter of spiritual and moral training."

"Calling the general society" to embrace Islam.

Establishing a full-time school "that raises children with a strong Islamicidentity so they can, as future Islamic leaders, effectively meet and dealwith the challenges of growing up in the West."

Establishing businesses to "make the movement financially stable andindependent."

Establishing "geographical integrity by encouraging Muslims of the communityto live in close proximity" to the mosque.

Establishing "social welfare institutions to respond to the need forspiritual and material assistance within the community as well as thegeneral society." In addition to daily classes, each mosque in the movement "also providesyouth mentorship, marriage counseling, a prison outreach program, and employment assistance for ex-convicts."

As-Sabiqun says its branch in Los Angeles "was instrumental in creating afree health clinic in cooperation with other Islamic groups. The headquarters branch in D.C. has developed scout programs for young membersof the community."

The group says the inspiration for its name comes from Quran, 9:100:"The vanguard (as-Sabiqun) of Islam – the first of those who forsook their homes, and of those who gave them aid, and also those who follow them in all good deeds – well-pleased is Allah with them, as are they with Him:

For them hath He prepared Gardens under which rivers flow, to dwell therein forever: that is the supreme Felicity."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


On Sept. 1, 2004, Chechens affiliated with al Qaeda seized a middle school in Beslan, Russia. In the three day siege, 334 people --most of them children -- were killed. Could something like that happen here?

U.S. forces seized in 2002 an al Qaeda training tape of a practice assault on an abandoned school in Mir Bach Kot in Afghanistan. The terrorists were barking commands in English.

U.S. forces in Iraq found on a captured al Qaeda computer building plans for schools in six states.

In May of 2006, two Saudi students at the University of South Florida boarded a school bus. They were "cagey and evasive" in explaining why they boarded the bus, said a spokesman for the Hillsborough County sheriff.

In March of 2007, the FBI issued a bulletin to law enforcement warning that Moslems "with ties to extremist groups" were signing up to be school bus drivers.

A Houston television station reported in August of this year that 17 large yellow school buses have been stolen.Al Qaeda prefers middle schools because the girls are old enough to rape, but the boys aren't big enough to fight back, says retired Army LtCol. Dave Grossman, who runs a private security firm.

Why would al Qaeda contemplate something so monstrous?Al Qaeda may lack the strength to attack a heavily defended target such as a military base or a nuclear power plant. But attacking a school would be child's play. Lt Col. Grossman thinks schools in rural areas are the most likely targets, because response time from law enforcement would be slower.

"The terrorists' primary objective is to instill fear in every one of us," former FBI agent Don Clark said on the Glenn Beck program last month. "What better way to attack our schools and murder our children?"Don't they realize that such an attack would make Americans very, very mad?

They're counting on that, says Brad Thor, a former Homeland Security official who's written a book about al Qaeda's threat to children. "They want to create something so horrible that we will lose control in our reaction, we will be lynching Moslem people in the streets and burning mosques," Mr. Thor told Glenn Beck.

"They want to reduce us to animals like them to get the Islamic world behind them and finally get the holy war that they want kicked off and ignited."The vast majority of Moslems in the U.S. would be as horrified as you or I by an attack on schoolchildren. But it only takes a few.

Simultaneous attacks on three or four schools could be conducted by as few as 100 Islamists who are willing to die in order to kill. Such attacks would garner enormous publicity and cause widespread panic. Attacking schools here would be a desperate move. But depending on how things go in Pakistan over the next few weeks, al Qaeda may be in need of the Islamist version of the "Hail Mary" pass.

It's gotten its clock cleaned in Iraq. The ambushes the Taliban has sprung recently in Afghanistan have resulted in casualties chiefly among the ambushers. Al Qaeda's street credo in the Moslem world is at an all time low.

I doubt Americans would respond as al Qaeda hopes to an attack on our schools. But if such an outrage were to occur, Democrats need to think more about how voters will react to a political party that's been trying to cripple the ability of U.S. intelligence agencies to identify suspected terrorists, and to obtain useful information from them if they are captured.

Democrats attempted to block the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey to be attorney general because he would not declare the interrogation technique of waterboarding as "torture," something Congress itself was unwilling to do last year.

Waterboarding simulates drowning. It's very unpleasant, but causes no permanent damage. Only a handful of al Qaeda suspects have been subjected to the procedure, which is routinely applied to American pilots and special forces soldiers in SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape) training.

It is ludicrous to say we may not do to terrorists what we routinely put our own people through, but Democrats tend to define as "torture" anything terrorists find unpleasant.

This attitude plays well with moonbats such as Carol Rosenberg of the Miami Herald, who has written that trimming the beards of detainees at Guantanamo constitutes "torture." But how well will it play after an American Beslan?

Saturday, November 10, 2007


1. The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LEJ), the militant wing of the anti-Shia Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (SSP), is emerging as the new Trojan Horse of Al Qaeda to carry out operations on behalf of Al Qaeda in areas where Al Qaeda faces difficulty in operating directly or in those cases where it does not want to operate directly.

2. In the past, this role was being performed by the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LET). Both the LET and the LEJ are members of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front (IIF) for Jihad Against the Crusaders and the Jewish People. Both are strongly Wahabi organisations, but whereas the LEJ is strongly anti-US, anti-Israel, anti-India, anti-Iran and anti-Shia, the LET is only anti-US, anti-Israel and anti-India, but not anti-Iran or anti-Shia.

3. There is no confirmed instance of the LET indulging in planned anti-Shia violence in Pakistan or Afghanistan, but the LEJ has been responsible for most of the targeted attacks on Shias and their places of worship in Pakistan and on the Hazaras---who are Shias---in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

4.The Harkat-ul-Mujahideen (HUM), the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HUJI) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JEM), which are also members of the IIF, strongly share the anti-Shia feelings of the LEJ, but they do not indulge in targeted attacks on Shias and their places of worship.

Many of the leaders of these organisations, including Maulana Masood Azhar, the Amir of the JEM, started their jihadi career in the SSP, but later drifted away from it since they felt uncomfortable with its targeted attacks on Shias and their places of worship.

Despite being separate now, they do co-operate with the LEJ in its operations directed against US interests and the Pakistani armed forces. The LET prefers to operate independently without getting involved with the SSP or the LEJ. The LET avoids attacks on Pakistani security forces.

5. The strong action taken by the international community against known and suspected Arab members of Al Qaeda created difficulties for them in travelling freely and in carrying out operations in non-Muslim countries. Consequently, it startred depending increasingly on the Pakistani members of the LET for its operations.

Post-9/11, the LET emerged as the clone of Al Qaeda. It opened its sleeper cells in countries such as Australia, Singapore, the UK, France and the US to help Al Qaeda in its operations by collecting information, motivating the members of the Pakistani diaspora and other means.

6. In 2002-03, Western intelligence agencies did not pay much attention to LET activities in the Pakistani diaspora. They tended to disregard Indian evidence about the new role of the LET as the operational facilitator of Al Qaeda since they suspected that Indian officials and non-governmental analysts tended to over-project the LET's role in the West because of its activities in Indian territory.

However, the discovery of LET sleeper cells in the Western countries post-2002 changed this attitude and Indian evidence on the LET was treated with greater seriousness. Next to the Arab members of Al Qaeda, suspected Pakistani members of the LET were placed under close surveillance in many countries. This created difficulties in the movement and activities of the LET. The LET is no longer able to operate outside the Indian sub-continnt as freely as it used to do in the past.

7. Moreover, the LET is feeling uncomfortable over the anti-Shia violence unleashed by Al Qaeda and its surrogates in Iraq. While continuing to be a member of the IIF, it is trying to avoid being associated with Al Qaeda's anti-Shia and anti-Saudi policies.

Saudi charity organisations have been one of the main funders of the LET, which has an active branch in Saudi Arabia to recruit members from the Indian Muslim diaspora in the Gulf countries.

8.In view of these developments, Al Qaeda has started increasingly using the the SSP and the LEJ for its operations in Pakistan itself as well as in the non-Muslim countries. The LEJ was actively involved in supporting the students of the two madrasas of the Lal Masjid of Islamabad before they were raided by Pakistani military commandoes in July,2007.

Many of the women, who were targeted by the girl students for allegedly running a call girl racket, were reportedly Shias. It has been actively backing the tribals, who have taken to arms against the Pakistani security forces in North and South Waziristan and in the Swat Valley in the Provincially-Administered Tribal Areas (PATA) of the North-West Frontier Province.

Under the influence of the LEJ, the tribals have been beheading or otherwise killing only the Shias among the security forces personnel captured by them. Well-informed Police sources say that all the para-military personnel beheaded so far by the tribals were Shias.

According to them, there has not been a single instance of the beheading of a Sunni member of the security forces though many Sunnis have been killed in explosions.

9. The JEM is also actively involved in supporting the Tehrik-e-Nifaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM) in its fight against the security forces in the Swat Valley.There have been targeted attacks on members of the local Shia community.

The anti-Shia dimension of the current violence in the tribal areas has also been corroborated by the well-informed "Daily Times" of Lahore in an editorial titled "Two Oppressions" carried by it on November 10, 2007.

The editorial says: ' The latest news from Waziristan is that a well-known Shia personality has been gunned down. This is a part of the sectarian violence that Al Qaeda commits in the territories it captures.

Earlier, Shias among the captured Pakistani troops were casually beheaded while the Sunnis were returned. In the Shia-majority Parachinar in the Kurram Agency, suicide-bombers have been killing indiscriminately."

10. Thus, a new anti-Shia front has emerged inside the IIF consisting of Al Qaeda, the LEJ, the TNSM and the JEM. Al Qaeda's use of the LEJ is not confined to Pakistani territory.

The Police sources mentioned above say that in view of the difficulties now faced by suspected LET members in Western countries and in South-east Asia, Al Qaeda is encouraging the SSP and the LEJ to gradually take over the role of the LET as the motivators and mobilisers of members of the overseas Pakistani diaspora for assisting Al Qaeda in its operations.

They claim that some sleeper cells of the SSP and the LEJ have already come up in the US, the UK, Spain, Portugal, France, Singapore and Australia. Since the foreign intelligence agencies do not have much information about the SSP and the LEJ, they are able to operate without creating suspicions about them.

11. The SSP and the LEJ have not come to notice till now for any activities in the Indian territory---either in Jammu & Kashmir or outside. In view of the recurring explosions targeting Muslims and Muslim places of worship in Delhi, Malegaon, Hyderabad and Ajmer since last year, one has to look into the possibility of the involvement of the SSP and the LEJ in terrorism in Indian territory.

None of the Muslim places of worship targeted in India so far belonged to the Shias, but one must note that in Pakistan, the LEJ targets not only Shias and their places of worship, but also the Barelvi Sunnis and their places of worship.

The Barelvis are a more tolerant Sunni sect and have rejected Wahabism so far.

Despite the progress made by Wahabism and Deobandi sects, the Barelvis are still in a majority in the Indian sub-continent. Hence, the LEJ's attacks on the Barelvis, many of whom are descendents of converts from Hinduism.

The Wahabis/Deobandis are mainly descendents of Muslim migrants into the sub-continent from West and Central Asia.Indian investigators should not keep their focus exclusively on the LET and the HUJI. They should keep their mind open and look into the possibility of the involvement of other jihadi terrorist organisations too.

(This may please be read in continuation of my earlier article of July 1,2002, titled SIPAH-E-SAHABA PAKISTAN, LASHKAR-E-JHANGVI, BIN LADEN & RAMZI YOUSEF at

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. E-mail:

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


BAGHDAD - Twilight brings traffic jams to the main shopping district of this once-affluent corner of Baghdad and hundreds of people stroll past well-stocked vegetable stands, bakeries and butcher shops.

To many in Amariyah, it seems little short of a miracle.

Just six months ago, this mostly Sunni neighborhood was one of the centers of al-Qaida in Iraq operations. The district in western Baghdad was hit by more than a dozen bombings and shootings some days. Few people dared to venture onto the streets.

On Tuesday, women shopped and men drank tea in sidewalk cafes. Occasionally, U.S. soldiers walking the streets were greeted with salaams and smiles.

What is happening here reflects similar trends across Baghdad and parts of Iraq, where civilian and U.S. military casualties have dropped sharply in the past two months. But the speed of the turnaround in places such as Amariyah has taken almost everyone — including U.S. military forces in the area — by surprise.

"The progress that we made is almost unbelievable," said Capt. Brendan Gallagher, 29, of Columbia, Md., who serves with the Army's 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

The neighborhood is still nowhere near its former gloss at the Beverly Hills of Baghdad, as it was called before the 2003 U.S. invasion. A six-foot-high concrete wall rings the two-square-mile neighborhood, many villas stand empty with broken windows and the streets are littered with trash. There is 70 percent unemployment, U.S. military officials say.

But residents are making the first small steps toward trying to rebuild.

Ismail Hussein mixed cement across the street from a line of shops blown up by the U.S. military after a huge cache of arms, ammunition and explosives were discovered there in late summer.
Hussein greeted a passing U.S. military patrol as he rebuilt a curb in front of a relative's home, shaping the fresh concrete with a trowel. A few months ago, he might have been shot by insurgents for this modest effort, as they tried to discourage anything that smacked of reconstruction.

Now the violence has ebbed to the point that U.S. forces — in the absence of much help from Iraq's Shiite-dominated central government — have begun planning to rebuild.

Water mains have been ruptured or cracked by bombs and the passing U.S. tanks and 25-ton Bradley armored vehicles. Sewers are clogged with refuse and, Capt. Gallagher said, some human remains.

Sunni residents are afraid still to go to the area hospital, run by Shiites, complaining of poor treatment and the fear of Shiite death squads. So the U.S. military authorities plan to build a health center using a building designated for dental offices by the regime of Saddam Hussein.

U.S. officials say it's impossible to understand how far the situation improved in Amariyah without explaining how far it deteriorated.

"Amariyah was one of the first places where things got real bad," said 1st Lt. Schulyer Williamson, 24, of Pensacola, Fla., part of Gallagher's unit. "My platoon sergeant and I would pick up six dead bodies a day."

Once, Williamson said, he was ambushed by snipers stationed in 12 positions along a stretch of road, trying to force the column to a choke point where insurgents armed with rocket-propelled grenades lurked.

"It rained," he said, describing the intensity of the shooting. "I grabbed my gunner out of the gunner's hole because he was taking too much fire." They managed to escape.

The violence peaked in May, U.S. officials said, as al-Qaida in Iraq fighters killed 14 U.S. military troops in a series of bombings. Six soldiers and their interpreter died May 19 when a massive bomb detonated in the road under their Bradley, flipping it over.

Several U.S. military officials here said the most important factor in reducing the violence in Amariyah was the U.S. troop increase, which quadrupled the number of U.S. military forces patrolling the neighborhood in mid-June.

Another key to progress, they say, was the formation in late May of a local anti-insurgent alliance, the Farsan al-Rafidayn, which in Arabic means "Knights of the Land of the Two Rivers."

The organization, called the FAR by the U.S. military, has recruited hundreds of Amariyah residents to fight against al-Qaida in Iraq — which takes inspiration from Osama bin Laden, though its direct links to his terror network are unclear. Similar groups have been formed across former insurgent strongholds in other parts of Iraq.

The FAR "Knights" are led by Abu Abed, the nom de guerre of a 40-year-old Amariyah resident who says he served as an officer in the Iraqi Army for 17 years before 2003, but otherwise is reluctant to talk about his background.

He has told friends in the U.S. military that he is the sole survivor of seven brothers, four of them victims of the sectarian violence in Baghdad in recent years.

Abu Abed started the revolt in Amariyah, he and U.S. military officials say, by confronting an al-Qaida in Iraq leader in one of Amariyah's main shopping districts. Abed told The Associated Press that the leader — known by the nickname "the white lion" — pointed a pistol at Abed and pulled the trigger, twice. Twice, the gun misfired.

The cigar-smoking commander said he wrestled the gun away from his adversary and shot him dead.

FAR has been so successful in disrupting operations of the terror group that al-Qaida in Iraq has put a $500,000 bounty on Abed's head, U.S. military officials say.

U.S. military leaders are currently paying FAR the equivalent of a $300 monthly salary for about 260 of its members to provide security. FAR has received permission to distribute the total grant among more than double that number of its members, the military says.

American officials and Abed, a Sunni, are also pushing to get FAR integrated into the Iraqi security services. But Abed said he was discouraged by recent conversations with a representative of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

"She asked me how many Sunnis you have, how many Shiites," he said. "That's close to sectarianism."

Lt. Col. Dale Kuehl, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division's 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment, has said that at least two members of FAR were former allies of al-Qaida. Others, he has said, were part of the Islamic Army in Iraq, the 1920s Revolution Brigades and Tawhid and Jihad — all Sunni insurgent groups responsible for past attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq.

Asked about this, Abed said that "not all" members of his group were former insurgents.

But Kuehl, 41, from Huntsville, Ala., and other military officials here argued that any successful counterinsurgency requires recruiting supporters from the ranks of former adversaries. Several U.S. military officers here said there had been no suspected insurgent attacks on U.S. troops in Amariyah since early August.

"I can live with that, I think," Williamson said.

At least in part, the FAR rebellion came in reaction to the brutal punishment the al-Qaida fighters meted out for violations of their strict interpretation of Islamic law.

Militants cut off the thumb and forefingers of people who smoked, Abed and U.S. military officials said, allegedly raped and killed two women for wearing short skirts and slaughtered hairdressers who gave their clients Western-style haircuts.

Maj. Gen. Joseph Fil told reporters Tuesday that violence in many parts of Iraq began to decline in June and has "continued to come down steadily since then."

He offered several factors for the reduction in bloodshed. "Perhaps even most significantly, the Iraqi people have just decided they've had it up to here with violence," he said.

He said all but 12 to 13 percent of Baghdad is under control by the U.S. military and other security forces, and that there is no part of the city where the U.S. can't operate.

"But I also will say, Baghdad's a dangerous place," he said. "And al-Qaida, while on the ropes, is not finished by any means. And they could come back swinging if they're allowed to."

Sunday, November 4, 2007


Who's Afraid of an Iranian Bomb?

Victor Davis Hanson (Addendum from Chas. Krauthammer) Israel Commentary

At first glance, it would seem a straightforward thing to stop a relatively weak but volatile Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb. It would also seem to be something a concerned world community would be actively working to do.After all, the Sunni Arab states surrounding Iran don't want a Shiite nuclear power on their borders.

Europe, which isn't all that far from Tehran and lacks a missile-defense shield, certainly doesn't want to be in range of Iran's missiles.Israel can't tolerate an Iranian theocracy both promising to wipe it off the map and then brazenly obtaining the means to do so.

The Russians and the Chinese, both already concerned about India, Pakistan and North Korea, don't need another rival Asian nuclear power on their borders.And the United States, already worried about Iranian threats to Israel and involved in daily military battles in Iraq with pro-Iranian agents and terrorists armed with Iranian-imported weapons, doesn't want a nuclear Iran expanding its Persian Gulf influence.

But in truth, most players don't care enough to stop Iran from getting the bomb, or apparently don't think it's worth the effort and cost. Some may even see some advantages to a nuclear Iran.The Arab Gulf monarchies, for example, know that their enormous dollar reserves would likely buy them some reprieve from a nuclear Iran, or at least bring in the U.S. Navy to offer them deterrence from attack.

Meanwhile, the current tension and ongoing fear of disruption in the Persian Gulf sends billions in windfall oil profits the Gulf States' way.

Leaders of Arab states also have to fear their own populations' reactions to any action taken against Islamic Iran. Despite his religious Shiite background, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is far more popular among Sunni populations in the Gulf than George Bush -- and even perhaps more popular than the autocratic Arab thugs and dictators who run most of the Middle East.

The European Union, like the Arab states, believes as a last resort that its economic clout and deft diplomats can always work out some sort of arrangement with Tehran's clerics, who, after all, need customers to buy their high-priced oil.

So, most in Europe bristle at French President Nicolas Sarkozy's warnings about an impending war to stop an Iranian bomb. Instead, they feel it's an American problem to organize global containment of Iran.Israel also has reason to fear a war with Iran.

If Israel were to attack Tehran, it could find itself in three instantaneous wars -- and be hit with thousands of missiles from the West Bank, Gaza, Lebanon, Syria and Iran. That shower would make last year's Hezbollah barrage seem like child's play.In Russia, Vladimir Putin's foreign policy is nursed on grievances about a lost empire, America as the sole superpower and the independence of cocky former Soviet republics.

In the thinking of oil-exporting Russia, anything that causes America to squirm and world oil prices to soar is a win/win situation. That's why Russia supplies Iran with its reactor technology and stirs the nuclear pot.

China, like Russia, is a large nuclear power and doesn't fear all that much Iranian missiles that it thinks are more likely to be pointed westward anyway.

True, it would like calm in the Gulf to ensure safe oil supplies, but thinks it still could do business with a nuclear Iran.In addition, as in the case of Russia, anything that bothers the United States can't be all that bad for Beijing. While Ahmadinejad ties the U.S. down in the Middle East, China thinks it will have more of a free hand to expand its influence in the Pacific.

Then there's the complacent situation here at home. After Afghanistan and Iraq, most Americans don't feel we're up to a third war. Some point to nuclear Pakistan and believe we could likewise live with Iran having the bomb.

A few on the left even feel that a nuclear Iran would remind us of our own limitations in imposing our will and influence abroad. They belittle the current warnings of George Bush and Dick Cheney about Iran's nuclear program, shrugging that the two used to say similar things about Saddam and his nonexistent arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

Meanwhile, much of the rest of the world, represented in the U.N.'s General Assembly, feels that a nuclear Iran offers comeuppance to a haughty United States, Israel and Europe without threatening anyone else. Ahmadinejad may be viewed across the globe as a dangerous religious nut.

However, to many, he, like Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, also represents an anti-capitalist, anti-globalization popular front against America and therefore shouldn't be ostracized.So, who wants a nuclear Iran?

No one and everyone. (And, how very sad and terrifying)

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and author, most recently, of "A War Like No Other:

How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War."

You can reach him by e-mailing .

Chas. Krauthammer October 25, 2007 on Fox News All-Star Panel said "I don't think that this administration will choose to leave office with the Iranian nuclear threat in place."

Monday, October 29, 2007


The Baluchi minority in southwestern Pakistan and southeastern Iran is increasingly marginalized, discriminated against by the state, and suffers from limited access to the benefits of citizenship, according to political observers and human rights groups.

Although the 6 million-8 million ethnic Baluchis in both countries live in a strategic location atop untapped hydrocarbon and mineral deposits and possible trade routes, it looks unlikely that their grim conditions will improve soon.

A report released on October 22 by the International Crisis Group argues that only free and fair elections are likely to encourage Baluchi participation in Pakistani politics. The Brussels-based think tank predicts that in the absence of political reconciliation, violence will continue unabated between Pakistan's military and Baluchi nationalist militants demanding political and economic autonomy.

"The Baluch people think their resources are being monopolized by the government, that their land and their resources are not their own, and that there is no freedom to express their opinions."

-- I.A. Rehman, Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
Baluchi leaders claim to be fighting for autonomy and control over their people's abundant natural resources, but Islamabad regards them as revolutionaries bankrolled by regional archrival India. Years of armed insurrection have killed hundreds of Baluchi militants, Pakistani troops, and civilians.

I.A. Rehman, the director of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, an independent group that monitors human rights abuses, says the fighting has displaced thousands of Baluchis in the insurgency-plagued districts of Dera Bugti and Kohlu. Rehman told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that the government's strong-arm tactics to suppress the insurgency have created a troubling human rights situation.

"There is the question of the suppression of all dissent. The cases of the disappeared people are only the tip of the problem," Rehman said. "The real issue in Baluchistan is that the Baluch people think their resources are being monopolized by the government, that their land and their resources are not their own, and that there is no freedom to express their opinions."

Displaced Or Missing

The International Crisis Group calls the Baluchi plight a "forgotten conflict." It maintains that the fighting has so far displaced 84,000 people, while thousands of Baluchi nationalist activists languish in jails and hundreds remain missing.

The Pakistani government meanwhile claims to be pouring billions of dollars into major infrastructure-development projects, including a new port on the Arabian sea coast at Gwadar, along with the construction of major roads, rail networks, dams, and new cantonments. Other ambitious projects are aimed at extracting gold, copper, oil, gas, and minerals in Baluchistan Province, which accounts for nearly half of Pakistan's territory and is home to some 8 million people, about half of them ethnic Pashtuns.

But many Baluchis oppose such projects and regard them as unfair efforts to exploit their land. Mariana Baabar, an Islamabad-based journalist and political commentator, says the Baluchis are among the most impoverished groups in the country, and require assistance to meet basic needs as well as longer-term development efforts.

"They do not have clean drinking water. They are not being provided with [basic] health care or education. And they are even regarded as not being part of Pakistan," Baabar said. The Pakistani government "is trying to build a port in Gawadar, but, again, non-Baluchis from Punjab and other regions are being taken there [to settle]. So that is why the people of Baluchistan are unhappy."

Poverty, Discrimination

Across the border in neighboring Iran, Baluchis are enduring similar woes. There some 2 million Baluchis concentrated in Iran's southeastern Sistan-Baluchistan Province, representing about 2 percent of the country's total population.

Baluchi insurgents at a camp south of Quetta, in Pakistan's Baluchistan Province (AFP)Drewery Dyke, a Middle East researcher for human rights watchdog Amnesty International in London, told Radio Free Afghanistan that Iran's Baluchi population is subject to economic and cultural discrimination.

Sistan-Baluchistan is "certainly one of the poorest and most deprived provinces in the country. And it has suffered droughts and extreme weather conditions. And certainly -- with respect to the situation of women and schooling for girls -- there are shortcomings that the state really needs to address," Dyke said.
In a September report that Dyke helped research, Amnesty International documented rights abuses by Iranian authorities and the armed Baluchi and hard-line Sunni group Jondallah (which has reportedly been renamed the Iranian Peoples' Resistance Movement).

Since 2005, Jondallah appears to have carried out lethal attacks on Iranian security forces, and taken and executed hostages. Iranian authorities have blamed Jondollah for other attacks that resulted in civilian casualties, but the group has denied responsibility.

Amnesty International has criticized the arrest of suspected Baluchi militants who might have been subjected to torture to produce forced confessions. The group has expressed concern over special judicial procedures put in place by Iranian authorities, and a steep rise in the number of Baluchis who have been targeted.

Dyke said the Iranian authorities "have established a special court...almost like a security court to deal with what is obviously a very severe situation -- in some respects, an insurgency in the country. It appears to [have led] to a decline, an erosion of the safeguards, [of] the fair-trial standards and a massive rise in the implementation of the death penalty against the Baluchis."

The plights of their respective Baluchi minorities are unlikely to improve in the short term. In the best-case scenario, human rights advocates in Pakistan maintain that the coming national elections in Pakistan -- if they are sufficiently transparent -- might boost Baluchi participation in mainstream politics. That, they say, could provide incentives that help defuse militancy.

In Iran, Amnesty International warns that heightened global attention to the Iranian nuclear program might push attention to rights abuses off the international agenda.

Sunday, October 28, 2007


By Joshua Muravchik

It has been four years since that country's secret nuclear program was brought to light, and the path of diplomacy and sanctions has led nowhere.First, we agreed to our allies' requests that we offer Tehran a string of concessions, which it spurned.

Then, Britain, France and Germany wanted to impose a batch of extremely weak sanctions.

For instance, Iranians known to be involved in nuclear activities would have been barred from foreign travel — except for humanitarian or religious reasons — and outside countries would have been required to refrain from aiding some, but not all, Iranian nuclear projects.

But even this was too much for the U.N. Security Council. Russia promptly announced that these sanctions were much too strong. "We cannot support measures … aimed at isolating Iran," declared Foreign Minister Sergei V. Lavrov.

It is now clear that neither Moscow nor Beijing will ever agree to tough sanctions. What's more, even if they were to do so, it would not stop Iran, which is a country on a mission.

As President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad put it: "Thanks to the blood of the martyrs, a new Islamic revolution has arisen…. The era of oppression, hegemonic regimes and tyranny and injustice has reached its end…. The wave of the Islamic revolution will soon reach the entire world."

There is simply no possibility that Iran's clerical rulers will trade this ecstatic vision for a mess of Western pottage in the form of economic bribes or penalties.

So if sanctions won't work, what's left?

The overthrow of the current Iranian regime might offer a silver bullet, but with hard-liners firmly in the saddle in Tehran, any such prospect seems even more remote today than it did a decade ago, when students were demonstrating and reformers were ascendant.

Meanwhile, the completion of Iran's bomb grows nearer every day. Our options therefore are narrowed to two: We can prepare to live with a nuclear-armed Iran, or we can use force to prevent it.

Former ABC newsman Ted Koppel argues for the former, saying that "if Iran is bound and determined to have nuclear weapons, let it." We should rely, he says, on the threat of retaliation to keep Iran from using its bomb.

Similarly, Newsweek International Editor Fareed Zakaria points out that we have succeeded in deterring other hostile nuclear states, such as the Soviet Union and China.

And in these pages, William Langewiesche summed up the what-me-worry attitude when he wrote that "the spread of nuclear weapons is, and always has been, inevitable," and that the important thing is "learning how to live with it after it occurs."

But that's whistling past the graveyard. The reality is that we cannot live safely with a nuclear-armed Iran.

One reason is terrorism, of which Iran has long been the world's premier state sponsor, through groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

Now, according to a report last week in London's Daily Telegraph, Iran is trying to take over Al Qaeda by positioning its own man, Saif Adel, to become the successor to the ailing Osama bin Laden.

How could we possibly trust Iran not to slip nuclear material to terrorists?

Koppel says that we could prevent this by issuing a blanket warning that if a nuclear device is detonated anywhere in the United States, we will assume Iran is responsible.

But would any U.S. president really order a retaliatory nuclear strike based on an assumption?

Another reason is that an Iranian bomb would constitute a dire threat to Israel's 6 million-plus citizens. Sure, Israel could strike back, but Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former president who was Ahmadinejad's "moderate" electoral opponent, once pointed out smugly that "the use of an atomic bomb against Israel would totally destroy Israel, while [the same] against the Islamic world would only cause damage.

Such a scenario is not inconceivable." If that is the voice of pragmatism in Iran, would you trust deterrence against the messianic Ahmadinejad?

Even if Iran did not drop a bomb on Israel or hand one to terrorists, its mere possession of such a device would have devastating consequences.

Coming on top of North Korea's nuclear test, it would spell finis to the entire nonproliferation system. And then there is a consequence that seems to have been thought about much less but could be the most harmful of all:

Tehran could achieve its goal of regional supremacy.

Jordan's King Abdullah II, for instance, has warned of an emerging Shiite "crescent." But Abdullah's comment understates the danger. If Iran's reach were limited to Shiites, it would be constrained by their minority status in the Muslim world as well as by the divisions between Persians and Arabs.

But such ethnic-based analysis fails to take into account Iran's charisma as the archenemy of the United States and Israel and the leverage it achieves as the patron of radicals and rejectionists.

Given that, the old assumptions about Shiites and Sunnis may not hold any longer. Iran's closest ally today is Syria, which is mostly Sunni. The link between Tehran and Damascus is ideological, not theological.

Similarly, Iran supports the Palestinian groups Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which are overwhelmingly Sunni (and as a result, Iran has grown popular in the eyes of Palestinians).

During the Lebanon war this summer, we saw how readily Muslims closed ranks across the Sunni-Shiite divide against a common foe (even as the two groups continued killing each other in Iraq).

In Sunni Egypt, newborns were named "Hezbollah" after the Lebanese Shiite organization and "Nasrallah" after its leader.

As Muslim scholar Vali Nasr put it: "A flurry of anti-Hezbollah [i.e., anti-Shiite] fatwas by radical Sunni clerics have not diverted the admiring gaze of Arabs everywhere toward Hezbollah."

In short, Tehran can build influence on a mix of ethnicity and ideology, underwritten by the region's largest economy. Nuclear weapons would bring regional hegemony within its reach by intimidating neighbors and rivals and stirring the admiration of many other Muslims.

This would thrust us into a new global struggle akin to the one we waged so painfully with the Soviet Union for 40-odd years. It would be the "clash of civilizations" that has been so much talked about but so little defined. Iran might seem little match for the United States, but that is not how Ahmadinejad sees it.

He and his fellow jihadists believe that the Muslim world has already defeated one infidel superpower (the Soviet Union) and will in time defeat the other.

Russia was poor and weak in 1917 when Lenin took power, as was Germany in 1933 when Hitler came in. Neither, in the end, was able to defeat the United States, but each of them unleashed unimaginable suffering before they succumbed.

And despite its weakness, Iran commands an asset that neither of them had: a natural advantage in appealing to the world's billion-plus Muslims.

If Tehran establishes dominance in the region, then the battlefield might move to Southeast Asia or Africa or even parts of Europe, as the mullahs would try to extend their sway over other Muslim peoples. In the end, we would no doubt win, but how long this contest might last and what toll it might take are anyone's guess.

The only way to forestall these frightening developments is by the use of force. Not by invading Iran as we did Iraq, but by an air campaign against Tehran's nuclear *and military* facilities.

We have considerable information about these facilities; by some estimates they comprise about 1,500 targets. If we hit a large fraction of them in a bombing campaign that might last from a few days to a couple of weeks, we would inflict severe damage. This would not end Iran's weapons program, but it would certainly delay it.

What should be the timing of such an attack? If we did it next year, that would give time for U.N. diplomacy to further reveal its bankruptcy yet would come before Iran will have a bomb in hand (and also before our own presidential campaign).

In time, if Tehran persisted, we might have to do it again.

Can President Bush take such action after being humiliated in the congressional elections and with the Iraq war having grown so unpopular?

Bush has said that history's judgment on his conduct of the war against terror is more important than the polls. If Ahmadinejad gets his finger on a nuclear trigger, everything Bush has done will be rendered hollow.

We will be a lot less safe than we were when Bush took office. Finally, wouldn't such a U.S. air attack on Iran inflame global anti-Americanism? Wouldn't Iran retaliate in Iraq or by terrorism?

Yes, probably. That is the price we would pay. But the alternative is worse.

After the Bolshevik takeover of Russia in 1917, a single member of Britain's Cabinet, Winston Churchill, appealed for robust military intervention to crush the new regime. His colleagues weighed the costs — the loss of soldiers, international derision, revenge by Lenin — and rejected the idea.

The costs were avoided, and instead the world was subjected to the greatest man-made calamities ever. Communism itself was to claim perhaps 100 million lives, and it also gave rise to fascism and Nazism, leading to World War II.

Ahmadinejad wants to be the new Lenin. Force is the only thing that can stop him.

(Alan Note: we are already on the fringes of World War III and Ahmadi-Nejad's Islamic Iran is a suicide bobmer NATION, which will not be stopped by words, any more than a homicide bomber who has decided to die , will relinquish his explosive belt and can only be stopped by a bullet to his or her head.

I have often wondered if Ted Koppel has been corrupted by the Iranian lobbysists like Vali Nasr, Trita Parsi and others of their ilk who disinform on a regular basis to benefit the Mullahs).


Barbara Bush briefly tries on a headscarf she receives as a present - and runs into a furor of criticism for "bowing" to Islam. She took it right off again - but this gets no mention.

To prove she was being kind to the woman giving her the gift, the photo of her meeting with the King of Saudi Arabia shows she did NOT bow to Islam and did NOT cover her head. This would have been the moment of test, not the female meeting.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Al Qaeda in Iraq threatened street vendors with death if they did not separate tomatoes and cucumbers away from each other on their stands as morals required.

Wonder what they would think of this apple?

Creation being repeated! Adam's apple returns.

And what about these vegetables?



One hundred years ago. What a difference a century makes! Here are some statistics for the Year 1907 :
The average life expectancy was 47 years.

Only 14 percent of the homes had a bathtub.

Only 8 percent of the homes had a telephone.

There were only 8,000 cars and only 144 miles
Of paved roads.

The maximum speed limit in most cities was 10 mph.

The tallest structure in the world was the Eiffel Tower!

The average wage in 1907 was 22 cents per hour.

The average worker made between $200 and $400 per year .

A competent accountant could expect to earn $2000 per year, A dentist $2,500 per year, a veterinarian between $1,500 and $4,000 per year, and a mechanical engineer about $5,000 per year.

More than 95 percent of all births took place at HOME .

Ninety percent of all doctors had NO COLLEGE EDUCATION!

Instead, they attended so-called medical schools, many of which were condemned in the press AND the government as "substandard."

Sugar cost four cents a pound.

Eggs were fourteen cents a dozen.

Coffee was fifteen cents a pound.

Most women only washed their hair once a month, and used Borax or egg yolks for shampoo.

Canada passed a law that prohibited poor people from
entering into their country for any reason.

Five leading causes of death were:

1. Pneumonia and influenza

2. Tuberculosis

3. Diarrhea

4. Heart disease

5. Stroke

The American flag had 45 stars.

The population of Las Vegas , Nevada, was only 30!!!!

Crossword puzzles, canned beer, and ice tea
hadn't been invented yet.

There was no Mother's Day or Father's Day.

Two out of every 10 adults couldn't read or write.

Only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.

Marijuana, heroin, and morphine were all available over the counter at the local corner drugstores.

Back then pharmacists said, "Heroin clears the complexion, gives buoyancy to the mind, regulates the stomach and bowels, and is, in fact, a perfect guardian of health."

Eighteen percent of households had at least
one full-time servant or domestic help.

There were about 230 reported murders in the ENTIRE ! U.S.A. !

Now I forwarded this from someone else without typing
it myself, and posted it to you and others all over the United States,& Canada.

Possibly the world, in a matter of seconds!

Try to imagine what it may be like in another 100 years.

It staggers the mind?


Wednesday, October 17, 2007


Inside the corporation: Russia’s power elite

Vladimir Putin may be a strongman, but he doesn’t rule alone. He’s the public face of a collective Russian leadership dominated by KGB veterans. They control the crown jewels of the economy. They have a lock on political power. And they have a plan. From RFE/RL.

By Brian Whitmore for RFE/RL (17/10/07)

In his mission to restore Russia’s pride and prestige, President Vladimir Putin has repackaged the Soviet national anthem, reinvented patriotic pro-Kremlin youth groups, and revived the cult of the suave KGB officer.

But despite bringing back these old archetypes, Putin isn’t interested in a Soviet restoration. This time around, Russia’s path to greatness lies in a modern authoritarian corporate state. Some Kremlin-watchers have even dubbed the country’s Putin-era ruling elite “Korporatsiya,” or “The Corporation.”

“I like using the term ‘Kremlin, Inc.,’” says Russia analyst Nikolas Gvosdev, a senior fellow at the Nixon Center. “I think there are a number of boardroom strategies that apply to how policy in Russia is developed.”

Since coming to power eight years ago, Putin has carefully crafted an image of himself as the undisputed master of Russia’s political universe: a strong, stern, and solitary leader calling all the shots. His most recent moves - unexpectedly naming the heretofore unknown Viktor Zubkov as prime minister and announcing that he will lead the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia candidate list in December’s parliamentary elections - have only served to solidify this impression.

But in reality, Russia is run by a collective leadership - the Kremlin Corporation’s board of directors, so to speak. Putin is the front man and public face for an elite group of seasoned bureaucrats, most of whom are veterans of the KGB and hail from the president’s native St Petersburg. Together, they run Russia and control the crown jewels of the country’s economy.

All key political decisions in Russia, including Putin’s most recent bombshells, are the result of deliberation and consensus among members of a tight-knit inner sanctum many analysts have dubbed “the collective Putin.”

“These are people who have been with Putin from the very beginning,” says Olga Kryshtanovskaya, director of the Center for Elite Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences Institute of Sociology. “Together they thought up this model of the state and government that is in place now.”

The inner sanctum
Most Kremlin-watchers place four people with Putin at the epicenter of power: two deputy Kremlin chiefs of staff, Igor Sechin and Viktor Ivanov; First Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov; and FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev.

All are KGB veterans, all are in their mid-50s, and all are St Petersburg natives. Moreover, Kryshtanovskaya says, this group is ideologically “completely homogenous” and its members view strategy for Russia’s development “in exactly the same way.”

At the heart of that strategy is the establishment of an enduring political system - a centralized, authoritarian, vertically integrated and unitary executive that can manage a thorough and comprehensive modernization of Russia.

“They want an authoritarian modernization. They want a strong authoritarian state of the Soviet type without the Soviet idiocy,” says Kryshtanovskaya. “The idiotic Soviet economy and the idiotic Soviet ideology were minuses. All the rest they want to bring back and preserve: a state system without a separation of powers.”

If they succeed, the West and the world will be dealing with an even more undemocratic, assertive and aggressive Russia for a long time to come.

Such a Russia would probably cease to even pretend to adhere to democratic norms at home, and would most likely abandon any facade of being a reliable partner of the West in international affairs. It would become more brazen about bullying neighbors, using their dependence on Russia’s energy resources as leverage.

The Kremlin would continue to try to undermine democratic reform in places where it has taken hold on Russia’s borders, like Georgia and Ukraine, and strenuously oppose such liberalization elsewhere in the former Soviet space.

But to establish their vision of modern superpower greatness, the “collective Putin” first must make sure they remain in power after the March 2008 presidential elections. And this means keeping the group cohesive, managing personal, political, and commercial conflicts among its members, and preventing any one faction in the ruling elite from becoming too powerful.

For Putin, this means a delicate balancing act - and one that he seems singularly equipped to perform.

The indispensable Putin

As his presidency winds down, Putin isn’t acting like somebody who is preparing to go quietly into retirement.

Speaking to a group of Western academics in September, Putin said he planned to remain influential in Russian politics after his presidency ends next year. And in a speech to the pro-Kremlin Unified Russia party on 1 October, he gave the clearest indication yet about how he plans to do so.

Putin told cheering delegates that he would head the party’s list of candidates for December’s elections to the State Duma and that he would consider becoming prime minister in the future. The move sparked a wave of speculation that a new, powerful, super-prime minister’s office would soon displace the presidency as Russia’s key power center.

Whether or not this is indeed the plan, analysts agree that Putin is the indispensable man in Russia’s political system.

If Putin wants the system he created to remain in place and develop according to his wishes, he has little choice but to stay in the game - if for no other reason than to prevent open clan warfare from breaking out in the ruling elite.

“It is clear that some of the prerogatives Putin enjoys are because of who he is as a person, not because of the presidential chair,” says Gvosdev. “The worry is that there will be someone else sitting in that presidential chair who doesn’t have the same level of trust, isn’t able to mediate,” he adds.

And there is quite a bit to mediate.

Corporate power, political clashes
In addition to wielding near-absolute political power, Putin’s inner circle, or board of directors, also controls the commanding heights of the Russian economy.

Sechin, for example, is chairman of Rosneft, Russia’s massive state-run oil company. Sergei Ivanov heads the newly formed aircraft-industry monopoly United Aircraft Company.

Viktor Ivanov chairs the board of directors of both Almaz-Antei, a state missile-production monopoly, and Aeroflot, the national airline. Patrushev’s son Andrei is an adviser to Rosneft’s board of directors, and his other son, Dmitry, is vice president of the state-run bank Vneshtorgbank.

Just below the top tier of the Putin elite is a group of leading officials who, while not enjoying the same influence and access as the president’s inner sanctum, are nevertheless considered key players in the system whose interests must be taken into account.

Among them are Vladimir Yakunin, the chairman of Russian Railways; Viktor Cherkesov, the head of the Federal Antinarcotics Agency; Sergei Chemezov, general director of the arms export monopoly Rosoboroneksport; and First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who is also chairman of Gazprom’s board of directors.

Other key figures include Yury Kovalchyuk, chairman of the board of directors of Bank Rossiya; Aleksandr Grigoryev, director of Gosrezerv, the state reserve agency; Dmitry Kozak, the regional development minister (and former presidential envoy to the Southern Federal District, which includes Chechnya and the remaining North Caucasus republics); and Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Naryshkin, who is chairman of the board of the Channel One television station and deputy chairman of Rosneft.

Such a concentration of commercial and political might has led to conflicts, despite the group’s ideological homogeneity. This has been most visible recently in Cherkesov’s long-standing and bitter feud with Patrushev and Sechin, which went public in early October.

Cherkesov has long coveted Patrushev’s post as FSB chief. Patrushev and Sechin are wary of Cherkesov’s rising clout and Sechin and Sergei Ivanov are also fierce rivals for Putin’s ear and influence in the Kremlin.

Sechin’s interests as Rosneft chairman have also clashed with those of Medvedev’s at Gazprom. A proposed merger between the two state-controlled behemoths was abandoned in 2005 due to rivalries between the two men’s power bases in the Kremlin.

The two sides also clashed over the division of the bankrupted Yukos oil company’s production assets - the majority of which were eventually acquired by Rosneft.

Sechin’s interests also clash with Yakunin’s at Russian Railways - mainly over whether oil will be transported by pipeline or rail.

“They have problems among themselves,” says Vladimir Pribylovsky, head of the Moscow-based Panorama think tank. “They are afraid of each other. They are seeking somebody they can trust with the throne. Everybody trusts Putin. They don’t know what will happen with his successor,” Pribylovsky adds.

Top-down governance

Putin’s Moscow-based team sits atop what Russians call the power vertical, a sprawling pyramid of political and economic might that stretches deep into the country’s far-flung regions and republics.

Provincial governors are appointed by the president, and confirmed by elected local legislatures - which in turn are dominated by Unified Russia. Presidential representatives with sweeping authority keep governors and local officials loyal to the Kremlin line.

Those who cross “the Corporation” can expect to feel the full weight of Russia’s heavily politicized law-enforcement bodies. For those who are ready to play ball with the Kremlin, however, there are spoils.

Through the governors and presidential prefects, the Kremlin controls a vast network of patronage that Kryshtanovskaya calls “a hierarchy that resembles the Soviet state nomenclature,” in which the Communist Party would dole out coveted posts, privileges, and favors to loyal members.

Putin’s emerging nomenclature has a distinctive KGB flavor. According to Kryshtanovskaya’s research, 26 percent of Russia’s senior bureaucrats and business leaders are siloviki - veterans of the security services or military structures.

If the 1990s were dominated by robber-baron oligarchs, then the reigning figure of this decade, according to political scientist Daniel Treisman, a Russia expert at UCLA, is the “silovarch.”

Putin’s authority, his inner circle’s preeminence, and their common plan to remake Russia all rests on the savvy management of the corporate, political, and personal conflicts inherent in this vast power pyramid, and on Kremlin Inc.’s board of directors remaining cohesive.

If any of the current schisms escalates into open conflict, the system could descend into crisis.

Putin “has created a situation that functions poorly without him. And he needs to continue with this system because are no alternatives,” says Moscow-based political analyst Dmitry Oreshkin.

“In the framework of this Putin consensus, he now needs to make sure nobody becomes too strong, so that nobody gathers sufficient resources to seize control of the vertical.”

Andropov’s children

Shortly after becoming president in 2000, Putin saw to it that a plaque honoring Yury Andropov was restored to the Moscow house where the late Soviet leader and KGB chief once lived.

And in June 2004, to mark the 90th anniversary of Andropov’s birth, Putin arranged to have a 10-foot statue of him erected in Petrozavodsk, north of St Petersburg.

That Putin should take such care to honor the last KGB man to become Kremlin leader is not surprising. In many ways, Putin and his inner circle are Andropov’s children.

Putin, Patrushev, Cherkesov, Sergei Ivanov and Viktor Ivanov all entered the KGB in the mid-1970s when Andropov was at the spy agency’s helm. They were strongly influenced by his ideas.

“They thought he was simply a genius, that he was a very strong person who, if he had lived, would have made the correct reforms,” Kryshtanovskaya says.

Andropov, who led the KGB from 1967 until 1982 when he became Soviet leader, sought to modernize the Soviet economy to make it more competitive with the West, while at the same time preserving an authoritarian political system in which the KGB would have a leading role. The authoritarian modernization he envisioned, Kryshtanovskaya says, resemble the one that carried out by China’s Communist leaders.

“Andropov thought that the Communist Party had to keep power in its hands and to conduct an economic liberalization. This was the path China followed,” Kryshtanovskaya says.

“For people in the security services, China is the ideal model. They see this as the correct course. They think that Yeltsin went along the wrong path, as did Gorbachev.”

Andropov died in 1984, less than 15 months after becoming Soviet leader, and was never able to implement his modernization plan. But two decades after his death, the group of fresh-faced KGB rookies he once inspired are poised to implement it for him.

Operation successor and beyond

Speculation is rampant over how Putin’s power will manifest itself next. Will he step straight from the presidency into a new, more powerful prime ministerial post? Or will he temporarily hand over power to a weak and loyal president before reclaiming the post at a later date?

No matter the formula, analysts agree that the current elite will remain in power beyond 2008 - and the current elite along with him.

Putin, says Andrei Ryabov of the Moscow Carnegie Center, “is the undisputed leader of this team, and since there are no serious independent candidates to compete for that role, this means that he will be the main director and architect of the new composition” of political power.

Beyond 2008, analysts say Putin and his team are considering major changes in Russia’s political system to minimize the risk of succession crises in the future.

“The dilemma of the succession of power is one of the main problems facing the authorities since it always causes a crisis,” says Kryshtanovskaya. “They find troublesome direct elections in which all the people vote.

They need either indirect elections through some kind of electors or assembly, or a change in the character of the power structures.”

This, of course, would require a major constitutional overhaul. But Dmitry Oreshkin notes that, given the dominant position Putin’s board of directors enjoys, that would not be much of an obstacle.

“Right now this group of people can do anything,” he says. “In this situation, who has the resources to oppose them or to disrupt their plans?”