Thursday, February 09, 2006

Where are the Jihadists Coming From?

I just received a note from an Oklahoman working in Iraq who doesn't buy my argument about the Syrians putting the breaks on the Jihadist flow over the Syrian border. I copy the note here and post my reply.


I’m an OU alum (’90) working in Iraq, and have recently begun reading your mailing list. Nice work.

Curious… if Jihadists are not coming through Syria, where are the major transit points?


Dear Steven, Nice to hear from you. I don’t doubt that there is leakage at Abu Kamal and other points along the Syrian border. I have published rather long articles trying to give a time line for how I think Syrian policy has changed on the border and Jihadist issues from full support to Jihadists during the first weeks of the war to a hands off attitude months later and eventually to taking active measures to limit the flow beginning in 2004 and pretty good coverage by mid 2005. The mukhabarat in Syria are notoriously corrupt and there are doubtlessly many independent actors who work for money and some who work with the opposition in Iraq out of ideological commitment.

But bassed on several accounts, the S.Gov has loaded up the region with extra security to oversee those normally assigned to the region. The people of the region are living under a very tight regime of security and secret police observation. That does not mean there doesn’t continue to be smuggling. I have spoken with quite a few Syrians from the region who explained to me that their families have lived off of smuggling for generations. This is a problem at all of the borders. We know that the Turks cannot keep PPK terrorists from infiltrating back and forth across their border with Iraq, where Kurds on both sides of the border sympathize with the PKK. I don’t know how successful the Jordanians and Saudis have been. We have heard nothing about these borders, but both countries are allies of the US. The United States would make any of their complaints about infiltration to the respective governments in private and not in the press.

Sunni Arab tribesmen on both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi border work together to smuggle. The only way to really stop this traffic will be if the US is successful in its present negotiations with the Sunni tribal leaders of Anbar. If they break from the Jihadist crowd, as they seem to be doing, and begin to work with the national government to suppress the Jihadists, they will be able to stop them because the smugglers will turn against them under pressure from their tribal leaders. This will not stop smuggling of sheep, cigarettes, etc., but it will stop the smuggling of Jihadists and foreigners.

I must confess, I do not know where Jihadists come from. I do not know how many Jihadists are working in Iraq, what their nationalities are or when they infiltrated into the country. Do you know if they have been adding to their numbers significantly over the last year or since Syria has made a concerted effort to stem the flow over the border? Are you sure most suicide bombers are foreign? These are all questions I cannot answer. Perhaps as someone serving in Iraq you can get some hard statistics on numbers of Syrians, Jihadists, and when they came to Iraq?

US forces must have statistics like this from the Jihadists they arrest, I would think. I have not read or seen any good statistics on any of these questions from Iraqi sources or US sources even though there must be considerable effort and money being spent to amass them. The operations this fall and winter along the Euphrates valley and up and down the Syrian border must have generated some good intelligence statistics on all these things. I would suspect that if there were hard evidence to condemn the Syrian government of complicity or to prove that significant numbers of Jihadists are making it across the border, US authorities would published them. They haven’t. In fact the anecdotal evidence from the recent campaigns seems to suggest that the foreign component in the region, killed or captured, was not great. I would be happy to change my tune on this. But all the anecdotal and statistical evidence I could gather in Syria last year, suggested that the government was working hard to arrest Jihadists, condemn al-Qaida types, Salafists, those who returned from fighting in Iraq and other Islamist-types, who are the vast majority of those being condemned by the State Security Courts.

My hunch is that the Jihadist force in Iraq has put down roots, many having married Iraqi women. Perhaps the numbers have stabilized over time. Perhaps they do get some reinforcements and fresh recruits. But I suspect they are not growing significantly. The fact seems to remain, that we don’t know much about the Jihadists, their numbers over time, or where they are coming from, if indeed, they are still coming into Iraq in large numbers.

In such a situation, it is very easy to repeat that Syria is running a Ho Chi Min trail for any number of political reasons. It just isn’t easy to prove or disprove it. Having tried to keep track of US claims about the Syrian border over the past few years, it has become clear that the US frequently comes up with accusations that are conjecture and then repeats them frequently, even when they have been disproved or brought into doubt. A few of these are – hiding Iraq’s WMD, hiding Saddam, providing night vision goggles to the Iraqis. Running training camps. Being part of the Pakistan nuclear network, revving up their nuclear program, etc.

Given this record, Washington’s claims about the Syrian border with Iraq need to be taken with a grain of salt and need to be measured against the available evidence. I will be happy to be disproved and will publish any good counter to this argument I have been harping on.

Very best, Joshua


At 2/09/2006 08:19:00 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2/09/2006 08:19:00 PM, Blogger Vox Populi - Agent Provocateur said...

"I’m an OU alum (’90) working in Iraq, and have recently begun reading your mailing list. Nice work."

These OU dudes are behaving like a maffia :).

At 2/09/2006 09:34:00 PM, Blogger wtofd said...

Joshua, Stratfor backs you up.

I have seen articles from Stratfor or CSIS with statistical tables downplaying the role of foreign jihadists. Will research and report back if I find anything.

My read is that most neo-cons are still having a difficult time differentiating between insurgency groups in Iraq. People are still clinging to the notion that all resistance/insurgency/terrorism in Iraq must come from foreign Jihadists (as the locals can only be thrilled and grateful that we've come to save the day) and those foreign Jihadists must come from Syria.

Your point about the DoD trying Syria in the press and KSA and Jor. behind closed doors is well taken. Any thoughts on Iran as a porous border?

Regards and thanks to both you and Steven.

At 2/09/2006 09:59:00 PM, Blogger zobahhan said...

Soooners hahahahahahah.
Maybe thats why hes in iraq?
An OU alum...what a joke. They even graduate people over there?

(im talking from a strictly football point of view)

At 2/09/2006 11:44:00 PM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

those who resist the occupation are not terorists. occupation is terorism, and it is God and people given right. occupation is the opposite of freedom I abhore it.

At 2/10/2006 01:14:00 AM, Blogger Ausamaa said...

Where are the Jihadies coming from???

Does it really make a difference, I mean in the light of thier "quantative" role in the Iraqi insurgency? Once I read an estimate by a US officer in Iraq that Jihadies represented 5% of those detained on account of resisting the US Army. Five percent!!! And you are trying to tell me that this 5% has got Gen Abi Zaid worried!!? With all the 'commercial" smuggling of Iraqi oil thru Shatt-al-Arab, smuggling from Turkey, sumggling through Iran and Syria, I do not believe that smuggling a hundred or two hundred or 300 hundred fighters in a country where some master stratigician disbanded an army of over 500,000 soldiers and turned them into instant guns-for-hire fuled not only by unemployment but also by a hattered of the US enemy they face every day.
If anyone wants to know where they come form few questions should be examined:
1- Whose true interest do they serve and who benifits most from the exagerated or true stories about thier number and origin in the latest war-on-international-terror-musical. And notably as a lot of thier action has been against Shiiet civillians.
2- Do you think that Syrian Intelligence does not consider the possible backward influx into Syria of those Jihadists at some future point and the effect of thier return on Syrian life. Hence, would Syria trully risk allowing them to have a real-operational structure? Syria has not been known to allow anyone such a long leach. I would not shy from asserting that Syria might have enjoyed watching the US invading Army getting its fingures burned in Iraq, but I really doubt that Syrian Intelligence would actively enerprise to create such a monster well known to the Syrian from days past.
3-What role do the Kurds who would love nothing more than seeing an escallation between Sunnies and Shiiets caused by the Jihadists actions have in the matter. Could they not be facilitating part of this (through a Kurdish/Mossad/Jordan/whomevere arrangement.
4-Would it not be more convinient to the US to claim resistance on the "Foriegn" Jihadis than to acknowledge that the Iraqies are just like other people who hated US Army presence on thier land. Hence, blow up the story, and the evening news watchers in the US can be more confused and better counted on to believe that Bush/Rummy went to Iraq to fight terror. Is the current US Admin beyound such a practice?
6- How well gaurded is the Iraqi-Saudi, Iraqi-Jordanian, Iraqi-Iranian boarders are compared to the overscrutenised Iraqi-Syrian border?
7- and finally, if anyone think that those few orphaned Jihadies constitute a "real" problem to the US, then just wait for the day Iran decides to stick it royally to the US Army and then maybe some will learn few things about how deep the hole really is..

Then, after the Iraqies bury thier dead, the US its own, and others thier own, we shall all sit togather and sing to Dubbya: But the fool on the hill, see the sun going down........tralla, and viva War on Terror. Then, it would not matter a bit where a few hundred Jihadists strewn across Iraq came from.

At 2/10/2006 08:45:00 AM, Blogger josh narins said...

1. Over 90%, likely over 95% of insurgents are Iraqis.

2. The US can't control its border.

3. Earlier data at Brooking's Iraq Index showed that Saudis were the most common foreigners killed/captured in Iraq.

4. Not every Syrian or Saudi in Iraq entered after March 2003.

By the way, the new rhetoric from the racist (but now only speaking in nice words) Chris Simcox of the Minutemen is to call the immigrants crossing the Mexican border "insurgents." No kidding.

At 2/10/2006 08:47:00 AM, Blogger Atassi said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 2/10/2006 08:49:00 AM, Blogger Atassi said...

He doesn't know where to go - Syria
1873 words
11 February 2006
The Economist

Syria's awkward place in the region

Bashar Assad is unsure which way to jump, while the West, especially the United States, is unsure how or where to push him

THE decaying yet doggedly durable regime of President Bashar Assad has been wobbling between two contrary methods of survival. One is to proffer the hand of friendship—to Turkey, to the West, to the European Union, even to the Americans and even to the government's foes at home. Recent examples of this more emollient tactic were last month's release of five leading dissidents, the continued tightening of Syria's border to staunch the flow of jihadists into Iraq and a harsher scrutiny of young Arab men arriving at Damascus airport for the same suspected purpose.

The other, quite opposite, approach is to wave a furiously defiant Baathist fist at most of the rest of the world; flaunt Syria's friendship with Iran and its belligerent new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (see next page), who was gleefully hugged by Mr Assad last month in Damascus; sing the praises of Palestinian rejectionists, including its most violent group, Islamic Jihad, which is still hosted in the Syrian capital; promote the cause of Hizbullah, the fiercely anti-Israeli Shia movement-cum-militia in southern Lebanon; heap scorn on the United Nations commission of inquiry that has pointed a finger of suspicion at the Syrian government for last year's assassination of Rafik Hariri, a long-time Lebanese prime minister; and parade Syria as the last bastion of pan-Arab pride in the face of the plotting and bullying of the evil, Zionist-led West.

In the last few weeks, this second, more bloody-minded, approach has prevailed. It is unlikely that the Danish and Norwegian embassies would have been torched by a mob protesting at the publication of cartoons ridiculing the Prophet Muhammad, as happened last week, without the connivance of Syria's authorities. Mr Assad has ostentatiously embraced Mr Ahmadinejad just when Iran is facing its sternest pressure from the West to cease its nuclear dabbling. At an Arab Bar Association meeting in Damascus, just after the Iranian visit, Mr Assad castigated the West for a range of sins, while the audience chanted “Death to America!” and other such slogans, one in praise of Saddam Hussein.

In recent resentful remarks about Lebanon, which Syria controlled until last summer, Mr Assad still sounds loth to come to terms with his humiliating retreat from his much smaller neighbour. In particular, he shows no willingness to consider sacking, let alone hand over for trial, some of his closest family members, including his brother-in-law, Asef Shawkat, head of Syrian intelligence, or his brother, Maher Assad, a leader of his presidential guard, both of whom the UN commission has clearly if indirectly marked down as leading suspects in Mr Hariri's murder case.

Plainly, Mr Assad is in a bind—and cannot see how to wriggle out of it. Some hopeful reform-minded Syrians have argued that he would help himself if he loosened up the system, winning popularity and room for manoeuvre. Hopes that he might follow this course burgeoned during a brief “Damascus spring” after his father's death, in the summer of 2000, until the autumn of 2001, when he clamped down again. Then, in the run-up to a Baath Party congress last summer, hopeful talk resumed: he might open Syria up to a multi-party system, though no party would be based on ethnicity or religion; the emergency laws in force for decades might, it was rumoured, be dropped; special and military courts could be phased out; even the constitution's contentious Article 8, declaring that “the Arab Socialist Baath Party must lead society and the state”, might, it was surmised, be adjusted.

In the event, nothing fundamental happened. A few members of his father's old guard were sidelined; the economy is very slowly being loosened; dissidents are definitely less frightened than they were. But in set-piece presidential speeches in November and again last month, Mr Assad has dashed the optimists' hopes that he will take bolder strides towards a general liberalisation. Lately, the tone has become surlier and more confrontational.

This is partly because of Lebanon. The killing of Mr Hariri exactly a year ago was a massive blunder, leading to a revolution on the streets of Beirut, the Lebanese capital, that ended up with the complete withdrawal, last summer, of regular Syrian forces. The two UN reports, in October and December, by a German investigator, Detlev Mehlis, were a damning indictment of Syrian rule and vicious chicanery.

Other events have weakened Mr Assad. In October, just before the first UN report came out, Ghazi Kanaan, his interior minister who had run Lebanon for 20 years until 2002 as Syria's proconsul there, committed suicide in unexplained circumstances. This rattled Syria's Alawite minority (some 10% of the population), which has hogged power since Assad senior took over in a coup 36 years ago. Then, in January, Abdel Halim Khaddam, a Sunni who was a vice-president for 21 years until his ousting last summer, vented his fury against Mr Assad from exile in Paris, accusing him of involvement in the Hariri murder and promising to set up a rival government. Foes of the regime in Syria have refused to welcome Mr Khaddam into their camp but have cheered his public airing of the regime's very dirty laundry.

In the face of such embarrassments, the government's rhetoric has become more outlandish. Syria is a victim of a western and Zionist plot. Ministers ritually blame Israel for the Hariri murder—and presumably for the string of assassinations of other prominent anti-Syrian Lebanese people since Syria's withdrawal of forces last year. “Who else does it benefit?” asks a senior minister, Bouthaina Shabaan, conspiratorially. This week, reflecting on the German chancellor's recent visit to Israel, she writes that Germany is “willing to do what it takes to redeem itself, even if it finances a second Holocaust against the Palestinian people.” The state-run Syrian press habitually accuses the West of waging war on Arabs and Islam, with Syria as a chief victim.

Everyone is beastly to us

To a degree, this may work. Syrians do feel unfairly isolated. They are bitter about losing Lebanon, and tend to think the Lebanese ungrateful. Many are convinced that even the UN, through Mr Mehlis's report, is “out to get them”. They think America will punish them, whatever they do. And Mr Assad may still personally be quite popular, though that is plainly hard to gauge in the absence of open politics.

Yet the drab economy, high unemployment, soaring housing costs, lack of individual and press freedoms, and the knowledge that the present oil windfall will end in eight to ten years when Syria's reserves are expected to run out, all feed a well of resentment—particularly against Syria's corrupt elite, widely referred to as a mafia, that leeches off the Assad regime.

The opposition is weak and divided but has been gaining courage, especially since the release, last month, of five prominent figures imprisoned when the Damascus spring reverted to winter in 2001. The quintet's leading light is Riad Seif, a popular, secular-minded Sunni businessman and former MP who, while still in prison, co-signed the “Damascus declaration”, a blueprint for reform and freedom issued last October. If Mr Seif were allowed a platform, which may not be likely soon, he could fast gain a big following.

The other key figure is Sadreddin Bayanouni, head of the Syrian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, who has lived in exile since 1981 and has let it be known that he approved of the declaration. The Brotherhood is still almost certainly the strongest underground opposition, though it was savagely suppressed by Assad senior in the early 1980s; membership of it is still punishable by death. The most potent change among opponents of the regime is that the Islamists and the secularists now seem more willing to build a joint front. Mr Bayanouni, for instance, insists that the Brotherhood would not seek to set up a theocratic state or enforce sharia law. Mr Seif goes out of his way to sound polite about the Islamists.

Toxic Washington

A gathering of the Syrian opposition at the end of last month in Washington notably excluded Farid Ghadry, who founded the liberal Reform Party of Syria in 2001, on the ground that he was too close to the Washington neo-conservatives. Indeed, he has been dubbed “the Syrian Chalabi”, after the neo-cons' Iraq favourite who got less than 1% of the vote in December's Iraqi election. Like Mr Chalabi, Mr Ghadry, aged 51, has spent most of his life in exile. Syrian human-rights campaigners and opponents of Mr Assad virtually all emphasise their hostility to America and Israel.

Relatively reform-minded members of Syria's government, such as Mrs Shabaan and Abdullah Dardari, a go-ahead deputy prime minister who is trying to liberalise the economy with scant help from most of his colleagues, insist that Mr Assad is bent on gradually opening up both economics and politics, with a multi-party law expected later this year. But many independent-minded Syrians doubt whether a system so corrupt and centralised is capable of reform—without collapsing.

The American administration, which has imposed partial sanctions on Syria, is unsure how to proceed. The excited expectation among neo-conservatives in Washington three years ago that Mr Assad's regime was “low-hanging fruit” has given way to a nervy and frustrating sense of stalemate. The mantra of regime change has been replaced by calls for the regime to “change its behaviour” and for “change within the regime”: ie, Mr Assad must get out of Lebanon completely, force Hizbullah to disarm (he won't yet), eject Palestinian rejectionists from Damascus (he may tell them to lie low), tighten the border with Iraq (he has tried to, but it is 600km long), and sack the nastiest in the ruling establishment. Mr Assad may, after Mr Kanaan's demise, offer up Rostom Ghazale, his successor as Syria's proconsul in Lebanon, for sacrifice too. But it is hard to see him ditching his brother or brother-in-law, the two key men in a security state, without cutting his own throat, metaphorically if not literally.

Mr Assad's recent oscillations, most recently back towards rhetorical confrontation, suggest despair, even panic. Some question the degree to which a dictatorship that has been isolated for so long has a grip on reality. “He may have begun to believe his own rhetoric,” says a seasoned diplomat. A leading Damascene journalist hints that there may be a fin de régime recklessness in the air, a sense that “if we're cornered we can still destabilise the whole of the Middle East.” In any event, there is scant sign of Mr Assad pondering either a dignified exit or the risk of allowing the Baath party to share power. In fact, there is no sign that he has any plan at all.

At 2/10/2006 09:01:00 AM, Blogger ugarit said...

What's that famous saying?

"Just cause you're paranoid it does'nt mean they're not coming after you"

At 2/10/2006 09:09:00 AM, Blogger O.D.M said...

I don't know where I read it, it was a long time ago, but it was some U.S official document that got some media coverahge but soon died, it said that of all foreign fighters coming into Iraq:

-60-70% are either Saudis or coming from Saudis.

-10-15% Jordan, Iran, Kuwait and Turkey

-Rest come from Syria

At 2/10/2006 09:10:00 AM, Blogger ugarit said...

It's just funny how the US is angry at alleged foreign fighters, while it is the primary foreign fighting force in Iraq. What a world we live in.

At 2/10/2006 11:23:00 AM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

your analysis is very good,I admire what you wrote, however I still dont see a way out yet, I do not see progress without a revolution,from inside.
Bashar is very slow as far as reform

At 2/10/2006 11:25:00 AM, Blogger majedkhaldoon said...

good article

At 2/10/2006 03:08:00 PM, Blogger t_desco said...

Seymour Hersh thinks that the recent remarks by President Bush about regime change in Syria and Iran could be more than just rhetoric:

“I don’t think Bush gives a wit about ’06,” Hersh said. “He does care about ‘08. So whatever business he’s going to do — whether he wants to go into Iran; he wants to go into Syria; he wants to take care of Lebanon or Hezbollah — whatever he’s going to do, he will do by the end of ’07. That’s because I do think he’d like to see somebody who’ll carry on his policy elected in ‘08. But in ’06? I don’t think he cares at all.” ...

“If you want to get worried, that’s a very good reason to get worried. The future isn’t bright. It’s just not. We do have a president who thinks he has a mission. And it’s not clear how intelligence or other issues are going to matter.”
A Very Good Reason To Get Worried

In a press conference yesterday, Saad Hariri linked the recent riots and the assassination of his father:

Hariri Accuses His Father's Murderers of Instigating Sunday's Riots

He is almost certainly right. The article continues:

"Security sources were quoted in the Lebanese media as saying that many of the detainees belonged to radical Sunni Islamist groups."

It is indeed very likely that some members of those groups were involved in the killing of his father.

In his latest editorial, Let's admit to a growing Islamist problem (but let's blame it on Syria anyway), Michael Young claims that those groups are linked to Syria:

"Syria is using Islamists to destabilize an independent Lebanon, and it has reportedly tried of late to infiltrate Al-Qaeda type groups through the northern border."

Regarding the demonstration in Ashrafieh, he says that "Syria manipulated hoodlums to destroy Christian property".
The Daily Star;IHT

He mentions the Ahbash movement in particular, but did it take part in the demonstration? Naharnet reports:

"The majority of the detainees belong to radical Islamist groups, including Osbat al-Ansar, which is based in the Ain al-Helweh refugee camp".

The relationship between Osbat al-Ansar and al-Ahbash is very precisely defined: in 1995, al-Ansar operatives assassinated Nizar al-Halabi, the leader of Al-Ahbash. How likely is it that both groups participate in the same demonstration?

Michael Young also ignores the latest ICG report which clearly shows the links between the Hariri camp and the Sunni extremists in Tripoli (where the majority of the demonstrators came from).

As he made the allegation that Syria "reportedly" infiltrated "Al-Qaeda type groups" into Lebanon, I started looking for those "reports", but all I could find was a claim by Walid Jumblatt:

"The targeting of an army barracks is a new stop in the terrorist series by the Syrian regime in Lebanon," the party said in a statement. "It is seeking to transfer al Qaeda's sabotage tools to Lebanon after backing it for months in Iraq."
WP, February 2, 2006

I also found an earlier editorial by Michael Young, Syria and Iran, an axis of upheaval:

"The Saudis are apparently afraid that Syria might sick Al-Qaeda on them - and the disclosure last week that Syria had infiltrated radical Islamists into Lebanon ... did little to reassure them that President Bashar Assad would avoid provoking regional instability to save himself."
The Daily Star;IHT

Again, he doesn't disclose his source, and I don't really understand why, because this could be the "missing link" to solve the Hariri case, after all. Without knowing the source we are unable to determine how reliable the information is.

Abdallah Iskandar of Dar Al-Hayat also thinks that he can ignore the latest ICG report and blame it all on the Syrians:

"The violent demonstration, which followed another similar one a day before in Damascus, was meant to voice that the extremists in Lebanon are strong to a point the theory of "Abou Adas" on PM Hariri's assassination should be accepted as true. It is not a coincidence that one of the anti-Hariri TV stations, broadcasts on the eve of Ashrafieh's demonstration, a tape about an armed demonstration in a Palestinian camp, wherein the orators proclaim their allegiance to Zirqawi and Ben Laden, with calls to kill in all directions."
Strife in the Security Pits

So the filming of a demonstration that actually took place in Ain al-Hilweh is part of a Syrian "conspiracy" to highlight the links between Abu Adas and the extremists in that camp? Very funny.

Let's see who took part in that demonstration:

Anti-Cartoon Rally in Refugee Camp Calls for Bin Laden to Step in

"Punish those who have wronged Islam!" shouted Abu Sharif, head of the Sunni Muslim fundamentalist group Osbat al-Ansar to a group of more than 6,000 people assembled after Friday prayers in the Ain el-Helweh refugee camp, many of them brandishing portraits of the two Qaida leaders.

Reuters and AP took photos and The Daily Star reported:

"The protest started from Al-Nour mosque in the camp and protesters slowly joined in from other mosques within the camp.

A ceremony was held during which the Imam of Al-Nour mosque, Sheikh Jamal said: "The insult made against Prophet Mohammad requires all Muslims to take revenge."

He added: "Islam is under attack. This demonstration is an expression of the Muslim nation that will score a victory and liberate the lands of Muslims."

They called on Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden "to take revenge immediately!"
Thousands protest prophet outrage

We remember, of course, that "the Imam of Al-Nour mosque" is none other than Sheikh Jamal Khattab, the leader of Al-Haraka al-Islamiya al-Mujahida which was founded by a relative of Khaled Midhat Taha.

At 2/10/2006 08:59:00 PM, Blogger norman said...

Iran has been more dependent than all the Arab countries combined we all remember how Egypt left Syria alone to try to get it,s land back and how Arafat and Jordon slept with the Israelies while they were still occupying Lebanon and the Golan only Iran helped Syria and Hizballa push the Israelies out ,Syria is making it clear to the saudies and everybody else that an attack on Syria will burn the middleast starting with Saudi Arabia and Jordon.If the Arabs and muslems do not deffend their rights they do not deserve the respect of the world.

At 2/11/2006 01:02:00 AM, Blogger Nur-al-Cubicle said...

If the DoD would just stop blowing smoke and lying to save the Prez's ass and refrain from inventing all sorts of cockamamie plots to keep this terror war going, we'd all be better off.

At 2/11/2006 02:18:00 AM, Blogger Sheikh.Hands said...

SPIEGEL Interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali

'Everyone Is Afraid to Criticize Islam'

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Dutch politician forced to go into hiding after the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh, responds to the Danish cartoon scandal, arguing that if Europe doesn't stand up to extremists, a culture of self-censorship of criticism of Islam that pervades in Holland will spread in Europe. Auf Wiedersehen, free speech.
SPIEGEL: Hirsi Ali, you have called the Prophet Muhammad a tyrant and a pervert. Theo van Gogh, the director of your film "Submission," which is critical of Islam, was murdered by Islamists. You yourself are under police protection. Can you understand how the Danish cartoonists feel at this point?
Hirsi Ali: They probably feel numb. On the one hand, a voice in their heads is encouraging them not to sell out their freedom of speech. At the same time, they're experiencing the shocking sensation of what it's like to lose your own personal freedom. One mustn't forget that they're part of the postwar generation, and that all they've experienced is peace and prosperity. And now they suddenly have to fight for their own human rights once again.

SPIEGEL: Why have the protests escalated to such an extent?

Hirsi Ali: There is no freedom of speech in those Arab countries where the demonstrations and public outrage are being staged. The reason many people flee to Europe from these places is precisely because they have criticized religion, the political establishment and society. Totalitarian Islamic regimes are in a deep crisis. Globalization means that they're exposed to considerable change, and they also fear the reformist forces developing among émigrés in the West. They'll use threatening gestures against the West, and the success they achieve with their threats, to intimidate these people.

SPIEGEL: Was apologizing for the cartoons the wrong thing to do?

Hirsi Ali: Once again, the West pursued the principle of turning first one cheek, then the other. In fact, it's already a tradition. In 1980, privately owned British broadcaster ITV aired a documentary about the stoning of a Saudi Arabian princess who had allegedly committed adultery. The government in Riyadh intervened and the British government issued an apology. We saw the same kowtowing response in 1987 when (Dutch comedian) Rudi Carrell derided (Iranian revolutionary leader) Ayatollah Khomeini in a comedy skit (that was aired on German television). In 2000, a play about the youngest wife of the Prophet Mohammed, titled "Aisha," was cancelled before it ever opened in Rotterdam. Then there was the van Gogh murder and now the cartoons. We are constantly apologizing, and we don't notice how much abuse we're taking. Meanwhile, the other side doesn't give an inch.

SPIEGEL: What should the appropriate European response look like?

Hirsi Ali: There should be solidarity. The cartoons should be displayed everywhere. After all, the Arabs can't boycott goods from every country. They're far too dependent on imports. And Scandinavian companies should be compensated for their losses. Freedom of speech should at least be worth that much to us.

SPIEGEL: But Muslims, like any religious community, should also be able to protect themselves against slander and insult.

Hirsi Ali: That's exactly the reflex I was just talking about: offering the other cheek. Not a day passes, in Europe and elsewhere, when radical imams aren't preaching hatred in their mosques. They call Jews and Christians inferior, and we say they're just exercising their freedom of speech. When will the Europeans realize that the Islamists don't allow their critics the same right? After the West prostrates itself, they'll be more than happy to say that Allah has made the infidels spineless.

SPIEGEL: What will be the upshot of the storm of protests against the cartoons?

Hirsi Ali: We could see the same thing happening that has happened in the Netherlands, where writers, journalists and artists have felt intimidated ever since the van Gogh murder. Everyone is afraid to criticize Islam. Significantly, "Submission" still isn't being shown in theaters.

SPIEGEL: Many have criticized the film as being too radical and too offensive.
Hirsi Ali: The criticism of van Gogh was legitimate. But when someone has to die for his world view, what he may have done wrong is no longer the issue. That's when we have to stand up for our basic rights. Otherwise we are just reinforcing the killer and conceding that there was a good reason to kill this person.

SPIEGEL: You too have been accused for your dogged criticism of Islam.

Hirsi Ali: Oddly enough, my critics never specify how far I can go. How can you address problems if you're not even allowed to clearly define them? Like the fact that Muslim women at home are kept locked up, are raped and are married off against their will -- and that in a country in which our far too passive intellectuals are so proud of their freedom!

SPIEGEL: The debate over speaking Dutch on the streets and the integration programs for potentially violent Moroccan youth -- do these things also represent the fruits of your provocations?

Hirsi Ali: The sharp criticism has finally triggered an open debate over our relationship with Muslim immigrants. We have become more conscious of things. For example, we are now classifying honor killings by the victims' countries of origin. And we're finally turning our attention to young girls who are sent against their wills from Morocco to Holland as brides, and adopting legislation to make this practice more difficult.

SPIEGEL: You're working on a sequel to "Submission." Will you stick to your uncompromising approach?

Hirsi Ali: Yes, of course. We want to continue the debate over the Koran's claim to absoluteness, the infallibility of the Prophet and sexual morality. In the first part, we portrayed a woman who speaks to her god, complaining that despite the fact that she has abided by his rules and subjugated herself, she is still being abused by her uncle. The second part deals with the dilemma into which the Muslim faith plunges four different men. One hates Jews, the second one is gay, the third is a bon vivant who wants to be a good Muslim but repeatedly succumbs to life's temptations, and the fourth is a martyr. They all feel abandoned by their god and decide to stop worshipping him.

SPIEGEL: Will recent events make it more difficult to screen the film?

Hirsi Ali: The conditions couldn't be more difficult. We're forced to produce the film under complete anonymity. Everyone involved in the film, from actors to technicians, will be unrecognizable. But we are determined to complete the project. The director didn't really like van Gogh, but he believes that, for the sake of free speech, shooting the sequel is critical. I'm optimistic that we'll be able to premier the film this year.

SPIEGEL: Is the Koran's claim to absoluteness, which you criticize in "Submission," the central obstacle to reforming Islam?

Hirsi Ali: The doctrine stating that the faith is inalterable because the Koran was dictated by God must be replaced. Muslims must realize that it was human beings who wrote the holy scriptures. After all, most Christians don't believe in hell, in the angels or in the earth having been created in six days. They now see these things as symbolic stories, but they still remain true to their faith.

At 2/11/2006 04:44:00 AM, Blogger t_desco said...

A surprising answer to the question about the major transit points of Jihadists into Iraq:

Tighter Borders Take a Toll In Iraq

Syrian border police are also aggressively patrolling their side, (Lt. Col. Gregory) Reilly said, in contrast with official statements in Washington accusing Damascus of lax control. "The Syrians are actually doing their job. They are more violent than we are. If they see someone, they will open up shooting," Reilly said as he walked along a dirt berm in view of Syrian guards several weeks ago. Iraqi officers said Syrian guards had recently shot at Iraqi border police, leading to skirmishes. ...

"The myth is that foreign fighters are crossing a porous border," said Maj. Chris Kennedy, executive officer with the 3rd Armored Cavalry. Instead, many of the incoming fighters can simply fly into Baghdad, using valid Iraqi passports made from "boxes and boxes" of blank passports shipped out of Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rule, Kennedy and other U.S. officers said. Iraqis are now posted at the border to listen for foreign accents, although many insurgents entering are Iraqis themselves, he said.
Washington Post

At 2/11/2006 08:07:00 AM, Blogger t_desco said...

Arrestation de membres proches d’el-Qaëda venus de Syrie ?

Les services de sécurité libanais ont arrêté 18 salafistes qui seraient liés au réseau el-Qaëda, dont certains membres pourraient être liés à l’assassinat de Rafic Hariri. Dans un reportage diffusé jeudi par la LBC, et dont les informations ont été reprises par le quotidien koweïtien al-Raï al-Aam, les membres de deux groupes salafistes qui se sont infiltrés au Liban via la Syrie ont été arrêtés au cours des derniers jours par les Forces de sécurité intérieure.
Les membres du premier groupe, formé de 4 Libanais et d’un Syrien, connu sous le nom d’Abou Katada, ont été arrêtés à Berkayel, au Liban-Nord. Les cinq salafistes se trouvaient auparavant en Irak où ils avaient été emprisonnés par les forces américaines durant 6 mois. L’un d’entre eux avait été amputé des deux jambes suite à l’explosion d’une mine.
Quant au second groupe, il comprend 13 membres de différentes nationalités qui ont été arrêtés à Beyrouth. Ces derniers, munis de faux papiers, étaient en possession d’armes et de documents falsifiés.
Il s’agit de Hassan Mohammad Nabaa, « l’Émir » du groupe (le chef dans le jargon salafiste). Ce dernier avait pris part aux événements de Denniyé en 2000, avant de fuir en direction de la Syrie. Son frère a été arrêté lors des manifestations de dimanche dernier à Achrafieh.
Les autres membres sont : Amer Abdallah Hallak, palestinien, ingénieur mécanique ; Hani Hachem al-Chanti, palestinien naturalisé, ingénieur informatique ; Hamad Turki al-Radaa, syrien ; Mohammad Abdel Razzak Wafa’i, syrien ; Mohammad Ahmad Khoja, syrien ; Mouaaz Abdel Ghani Choucah, syrien ; Barra’ Mohammad Fouad, syrien ; Tarek al-Nasser, un neurochirurgien de nationalité syrienne qui a accompagné des résistants en Irak ; Khodr Mohammad Nabaa, libanais ; Ali Jihad Charaffeddine, libanais, chargé de transporter les explosifs ; Malek Mohammad Nabaa, chargé de regrouper du matériel logistique et des valises contenant les explosifs ; et Fayçal Assad Akbar, saoudien. Ce dernier est entré au Liban avec un passeport falsifié sous le nom de Fahd Mohammad al-Khadem al-Yamani. Il avait auparavant combattu dans les rangs d’el-Qaëda en Afghanistan avant de se diriger vers la Syrie.
Citant des sources informées, la LBC a révélé que les membres de ce groupe étaient en relation avec un Syrien connu sous le nom de Jamil, un ingénieur électronicien, expert en explosifs et en voitures piégées. Il était chargé de l’armement et du financement des combattants qui se dirigeaient vers l’Irak.
Les mêmes sources ont en outre révélé que les deux personnes les plus dangereuses de ce groupe, Bilal Zaaroura et Khaled Taha, seraient toujours en fuite. Ces derniers sont entrés au Liban en décembre dernier.
Ces arrestations, qui ont immédiatement attiré l’attention des enquêteurs internationaux, pourraient être liées d’une certaine manière à l’assassinat de Rafic Hariri.
Une source diplomatique a confirmé hier ce lien à L’Orient-Le Jour, en précisant que le dénommé Khaled Taha « a été sollicité par la commission de l’ONU pour une audience dans le cadre de l’investigation. Il est l’une des personnes que les enquêteurs ont demandé à voir à Vienne, il y a quelques semaines », a indiqué cette source.
L'Orient-Le Jour

Al-Qa'ida killed Rafik Hariri.

At 2/11/2006 08:30:00 AM, Blogger Innocent_Criminal said...

They just announced some changes in the government. Al Shara'a has been promoted to VP plus being responsible for foreign and media policy. that goes to show you that the president has aligned his thinking with Farooq's, even though many Syrians were blaming the Lebanon political disaster on Al-Shara’a.

The rest of government shuffle has not be announced fully yet


At 2/11/2006 09:14:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

Two words to describe the change in governemnt:

"Hopeless case."

This President cannot miss an opportunity to dissapoint. A man and a country with no plan, no compass and no future.

At 2/11/2006 09:18:00 AM, Blogger KarimHalab said...

Here is the new government. i got from the Electronic Jareedeh Rasmeyah, or as others call it: champress.

It doesn't look like there are any major changes. So again those betting on some reforms/changes from within are in for a dissappointment.

Our best chance of change now seems to be that we pray that Hafez Jnr spends more than 2 years with his grandparents in London, and then once he takes over he might think of some changes, bcs as it looks, till then the game is the same. I hate when I sound pessimstic like this, but this is not my day.

On another matter, Al-Hayat is puslishing a series of interviews with Rafik Harriri, starting today. It would be worth having a look at these.

At 2/11/2006 09:29:00 AM, Blogger KarimHalab said...


1-Ma hada beemoot meljooua
2-Internationallu we are backed by a "coalition of the willing" (Iran, Yemen, Sudan)
3-Internally the 18 million sheep are quiet, and more importantly don't dare even to thinking of changing this attitude.

Why change a winning team? :-)

At 2/11/2006 09:42:00 AM, Blogger EHSANI2 said...

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