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Dan's Winds of War: 2004-25-03

| 27 Comments | 3 TrackBacks

Welcome! Our goal is to give you one power-packed briefing of insights, news and trends from the global War on Terror that leaves you stimulated, informed, and occasionally amused every Monday & Thursday. Today's "Winds of War" is brought to you by Dan Darling. of Regnum Crucis.

TOPIC TOPICS

  • In an earlier special analysis, I noted that one of the strongest reasons for suspecting that al-Qaeda attacked Madrid in order to influence the Spanish elections was a al-Qaeda document found online stating as much as a preferable option. The complete document, entitled "Jihad of Iraq" (Jihad al-Iraq), can be accessed in Arabic here and appears to allude to further terrorist attacks in Italy, Poland, and the United Kingdom.
  • As I noted on Tuesday, one of the chief problems with former counterterrorism official Richard Clarke's claim that the war in Iraq detracted from the campaign against al-Qaeda is that Clarke himself had been instrumental in convincing President Clinton to attack the al-Shifa plant in Sudan on the grounds that it was producing a precursor to the deadly nerve agent VX and that numerous Clinton administration officials, notably Sandy Berger, continue to stand by these claims. Now Ranck and File has an excerpt from former US defense secretary William Cohen saying pretty much the same thing. If these claims are accurate, it would tend to throw the whole notion that Saddam Hussein would never work with al-Qaeda out the window, yes?
  • Speaking of al-Shifa, former Indian intelligence official B. Raman is now claiming that noted Pakistani mad scientist and nuclear black marketeer Abdul Qadeer Khan may also have had ties to the plant in question. Now ain't that interesting ...
  • Speaking of Mr. Khan, ex-ISI chief Hamid Gul and the Pakistani Jamaat-e-Ulema-e-Islam party have decided he'd make a swell replacement to General Musharraf, especially in light of the current military operations in Waziristan.

Other Topics Today Include: Iraq Briefing; U.S.S. Cole mastermind arrested; Waziristan round-up; recent bin Laden hideout discovered; al-Qaeda vows dire revenge; al-Qaeda's use of the internet; latest fighting in Afghanistan; GSPC's Sahara base; Imad Yarkas admits knowing Zougam; Tangiers cell link to Madrid bombings; Brigitte tied to 9/11, 3/11; Belgium arrests 3/11 co-conspirator; Russian thwarts apartment bombing; Syria's Kurds demand greater rights; targeted assassinations; Egypt arrests the children of al-Qaeda leaders; mass arson in southern Thailand; US and allies stepping up action against the GSPC; winning the war on the battlefield and losing it in the courtroom; and Germany can't pay for Lederhosen anymore.

IRAQ BRIEFING

  • In the wake of Saddam Hussein's capture, Iraqi Baathists are a dying breed and the insurgency is rapidly being taken over by al-Qaeda and affiliated operatives under the leadership of Abu Musab Zarqawi.
  • South Korea is cancelling plans to send troops to Iraq for "offensive operations" but nevertheless desires to assist in the reconstruction efforts.
  • So what all has been accomplished in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein? Centcom has a nice round-up.
  • Daniel Drezner takes a look at the imminent deal to disarm the two largest remaining Iraqi militias, the Kurdish peshmerga and the Shi'ite Badr Brigades.
  • The troops are still there. So is the Winds of Change.NET consolidated directory of ways you can support the troops. American, British and Australian. Anyone out there with more information, incl. the Poles and Czechs? [updated April 1, 2003]

THE WIDER WAR

  • Yemen has recaptured Jamal al-Badawi, the mastermind of the U.S.S. Cole bombing.
  • The Spanish media is reporting that al-Qaeda has a Sahara base from which attacks can be coordinated against Europe.
  • Jailed Spanish al-Qaeda leader Imad Yarkas admits to knowing Jamal Zougam but is insisting that he had nothing to do with the events of 3/11. Yeah, right.
  • Glenn Reynolds takes note of some recent calls for reform among Syria's Kurds suggesting that the US invasion of Iraq is finally having its long-deserved domino effect.
  • Do targeted assassinations work? The Transplanted Texan seems to think so and explains why.
  • Egypt has arrested the children of al-Qaeda leaders Sayyed Imam al-Sharif and Midhat Mursi. The latter of the two is an Egyptian mad scientist who serves as the head of the network's WMD program.
  • The Islamic insurgency in southern Thailand appears to be heating up with the latest round of arson attacks against government targets.

3 TrackBacks

Tracked: March 25, 2004 6:05 PM
Winds of War 3/25 from Stryker Brigade News
Excerpt: Winds of Change has published its latest Winds of War briefing highlighting recent developments in the war on terror, including Iraq....
Tracked: March 25, 2004 6:13 PM
Excerpt: Statebuilding proceeds in Iraq Drezner notes a WaPo story about a deal that would disarm two major militias in Iraq, the Shiite Badr Brigade and the Kurdish Pesh Merga. Many members of each would be rolled into national police and...
Tracked: March 28, 2004 1:13 AM
War on Terror et al. from Le blog de Polyscopique
Excerpt: Debbye and Winds of Change round up the latest news on the struggle against terrorism. Victor Davis Hanson puts in perspective the unfolding of this war. Donald Sensing analyzes the root causes that produce terrorism. Alexis Coudeyras points out that...

27 Comments

This is fantastic. I recently returned from Iraq and love your web space and the information. Thanks for being out there. I am hoping that my page, www.gireports.com, will help people as well. Keep on keeping on.

Could someone explain to me more slowly why Osama's [alleged] cooperation on CW with Sudan implies Osama's potential cooperation on CW with Iraq, CW that we haven't even been able to find in Iraq. Tying al-Shifa to Saddam seems to me to be a complete non sequitur. Did he own stock in the company?

Dan mentioned to me that one of the rationales for al-Shifa was their belief in a connection with the head of Iraq's VX program. If so, the tie comes from the Clinton administration. Dan?

The rationale for striking al-Shifa was essentially that the plant in question was tied to the Sudanese government (who had according to Cohen set up SAMs to protect it during the construction), numerous Iraqi scientists including the father of the Iraqi VX program, and al-Qaeda. And yes, in case someone asks, these scientists were on Saddam's payroll at the time in question.

The discovery or absence of WMDs in Iraq to date is entirely irrelevant to the question of al-Shifa as the US rationale was that the Iraqi scientists were providing expertise to al-Qaeda and the NIF at the al-Shifa plant. Whether or not Iraq had WMDs, as any number of conservatives have noted, they would still have had the expertise to produce such things, particularly in a foreign country that was not under the kind of sanctions Iraq was or for somebody like bin Laden who had a lot of money with which to finance such things.

If US claims about al-Shifa are true, moreover, then the Indian claim of Abdul Qadeer Khan having been there is nothing short of frightening given his other extra-curricular activities.

One further point to bring up is that the Sudanese chemical warfare program that the reigning NIF government has had no qualms about using against its own population as the mood strikes them is exceedingly primitive, as might be expected in a society that still practices slave labor. The issue of al-Shifa aside, there is absolutely no way in hell that they could have ever come up with VX on their own without some serious outside assistance.

Dan-

I found the Guardian piece on Courtroom problems particularly interesting: wouldn't that be the end result of Kerry's "terrorism as a police procedural problem"??

If Dr. Kahn was visiting factories owned by Bin Laden in Sudan, should we be working under the assumption that al-Qaeda does indeed possess a nuclear suitcase bomb or dirty bomb?

Is Dr. Kahn in any way linked to the Muslim Brotherhood?

"If Dr. Kahn was visiting factories owned by Bin Laden in Sudan, should we be working under the assumption that al-Qaeda does indeed possess a nuclear suitcase bomb or dirty bomb?"

Not necessarily on the first and certainly yes on the second. MI6 infiltrated al-Qaeda's nuclear lab in Herat back in the late 1990s and Midhat Mursi.

"Is Dr. Kahn in any way linked to the Muslim Brotherhood?"

Not to my knowledge. However, he is a raving nut as well as a professional black marketeer.

Interesting throwaway line at the end of the article about the French finding a bin Laden "spider hole". Quote: "The United States ***says*** al-Qaeda was behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States." (my emphasis)

Don't you just love Reuters?

Dan, by the way, Clarke defended the Al Shifa connection point-blank in his testimony ... I think he said in response to critics: "they're wrong."

I'm not sure what this means, but it seems that he has reconciled that this does not imply an operational connection between Saddam and Al Qaeda.

One thing he said that I thought was interesting was that harboring and sponsoring were different things. Now, the Bush doctrine specifically said that if you harbor terrorists, you are a terrorist regime. So it would seem that Clarke did not agree with this policy when he said there wasn't a link.

praktike, you are assuming a desire on Clarke's part to "reconcile" his many statements. An interesting assumption given that Clarke has certainly not demonstrated any desire to so reconcile.

Praktike:

Respectfully, I think he owes the rest of us a little bit more insight into his thought process on this one. He may have come to a conclusion or some kind of legalistic view that Iraq helping al-Qaeda to make VX at al-Shifa doesn't constitute "operational" assistance but it looks like a contradiction of the claims made in his book from my own perspective.

I'm still quite open about Clarke, but until he explains as to what exactly his position is about the one in al-Shifa, there appears to be a kind of cognitive dissonance on this one.

But then again, I have far too long of an attention span ...

Dan, I agree with you about this one needing explication; in fact, I'm trying to help you out.

From pp. 146-7:
EMPTA is a compound that had been used as a prime ingredient in Iraqi nerve gas. It had no other known use, nor had any other nation employed EMPTA to our knowledge for any purpose. What was an Iraqi chemical weapons agent doing in Sudan? UNSCOM and other U.S. government sources had claimed that the Iraqis were working on something at a facility near Shifa. Could Sudan, using bin Laden's money, have hired some Iraqis to make chemical weapons? It seemed chillingly possible.
And that's it on the link.

So, it's still a mystery, I guess.

So here's a question moving forward: what is the standard for "sponsorship?"

Because it seems that we had strong evidence that Iraqis were involved, yet zero evidence and only supposition that Saddam was approving their involvement. Obviously, Clark felt this wasn't good enough.

But in the future, won't we need to set some clear criteria as to what constitutes sponsorship? By this standard, we should have nuked Islamabad by now. So what's the threshold? Is there a sliding scale of responses?

One other point.

Is there's a distinction to be made between weapons proliferation -- like the Israelis selling technology to the South Africans -- and sponsorship?

Praktike:

Thanks for bringing that to my attention, though it does open up another round of questioning. Is Clarke backing off claims that al-Shifa was tied to the head of the Iraqi VX program, who was on Saddam's payroll at the time? Does this mean that original 1998 indictment of bin Laden, which almost certainly does allude to the goings-on at al-Shifa, is in error? More to the point, the Sudanese WMD program was exceedingly primitive so the NIF would have needed more than a little bit of help with regard to producing EMPTA.

With regard to sponsorship, I agree that we need a clear standard but there is almost certainly a difference in behavior with regard to Pakistan and Iraq with respect to how the government deals with al-Qaeda. Pakistan arrests high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders - Iraq covers for their hospital bills.

Pakistan arrests high-ranking al-Qaeda leaders - Iraq covers for their hospital bills.

Oh come on, Dan. You know it's a lot more complicated than that.

The remark was intended to demonstrate the profound difference between the two nations' policies with regard to al-Qaeda in regards to the charge that we're being hypocritical in how we're dealing with each nation. Abu Zubaydah, Omar Saeed Sheikh, Ramzi Binalshibh, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Yasser al-Jaziri, Tawfiq Attash Khallad, Ammar al-Baluchi, and Ahmed Said Khadr have all been arrested or killed by the Pakistani authorities, which is quite an impressive round-up in of itself.

Iraq was more than happy to take in Abdul Rahman Yassin from 1993-2004 as well as Shakir, Zarqawi, and several additional unidentified al-Qaeda leaders as well, to say nothing of arming large numbers of al-Qaeda prior to the onset of the war. If that doesn't strike you as a difference in policy from that of Pakistan I'm not entirely certain what does - even when being threatened with imminent nuclear war from India on at least two separate occasions (winter 2001 and summer 2002) Musharraf never sought to enlist the aide of al-Qaeda.

Dan-

Speaking for myself, I'm much more concerned with nuclear proliferation than with post hoc harboring of terrorists. Both are bad, but one is orders of profound magnitude worse.

I don't think there's definitive proof that the terrorists you cite were there with the explicit approval of the regime. Maybe they were; we don't know. At a minimum, they were tolerated, and Iraq didn't exactly bend over backwards to help us out (although the Yasim case is murky, isn't it? Clarke says: "Abdul Yasim, interrogated on March 4, was released because he convinced the FBI he was not involved and would cooperate. He flew immediately to Iraq, where, we believe, he was incarcerated by Saddam Hussein's regime.")

As for Pakistan, everybody knows that Khan could not have done his deals without the active involvement of the Pakistani government. Moreover, there are certainly elements in the ISI that are not cooperating, and are feeding intelligence to Al Qaeda and helping them in other ways. And there is the whole radical madrassa thing.

Your strongest case, I think, would be making the argument that it's clear that Saddam wished us ill, while Musharraf does not, and is in fact actively working to help us.

That's quite true. But when you look at the dangers associated with Iraq-related dalliances with terror and proliferation, and those related to Pakistan, I think your case breaks down.

praktike -

I think you're making a basic mistake. You're assuming that the only way a strategy - let's call it a military strategy - can work is by directly attacking and conquering objectives. If that's the case, it's logical to attack the objectives in the order of their 'badness'.

But the ultimate goal of military strategy is to - in summary - convince a nation to do what you want. The USMC Warfighting manual says:
The object in war is to impose our will on our enemy. The means to this end is the organized application or threat of violence by military force. The target of that violence may be limited to hostile combatant forces, or it may extend to the enemy population at large. War may range from intense clashes between large military forces—sometimes backed by an official declaration of war—to subtler, unconventional hostilities that barely reach the threshold of violence.
In this case, we are faces with a loose collective of national and stateless groups that (I think it has been demonstrated) cooperate ta some levels with the intent to do us harm.

We could 'impose our will' by attacking and conquering all of them - starting with North Korea, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia - but the costs would be immeasurably high.

So we pick on the weaker ones with the intent of - through example - changing the behavior of the stronger.

I've quoted myself to you on this a bunch, but way back before the war, I wrote:
The reality is that Clinton's team was highly focussed on terrorism...but on terrorism as crime, as opposed to as an instrument of war. We focussed on identifying the actual perpetrators, and attempting to arrest them or cause their arrest.

This is pretty much the typical liberal response to 9/11. Send in SWAT, pull 'em out in cuffs, and let's sit back and watch the fun on Court TV.

I've been ambivalent about whether this is a good strategy conceptually, and looking at the history...in which we're batting about .600 in arresting and trying Islamist terrorists...I have come to the realization that the fact is that it hasn't worked. The level and intensity of terrorist actions increased, all the way through 9/11 and the subsequent invasion of Afghanistan.
and
I think that Iraq simply has drawn the lucky straw. They are weak, not liked, bluntly in violation of international law, and as our friends the French say, about to get hung pour l'ecourager les autres...to encourage the others.
I haven't seen anything that has changed my mind since then, and some facts are beginning to appear which suggest that I was right. We'll have to watch and see.

A.L.

A.L.

Good point, as always (sorry to any commenters who feel that, by having rational and civil discussions A.L. and Dan, I am tainting them with my dirty views).

Let me try to rephrase what you said, in order to make sure I have it right:
The most effective way to stop elements of the Pakistani government from proliferating nuclear weapons and aiding Islamist terrorists was to invade Iraq.
Feel free to cry foul if this is a misrepresentation.

If it isn't, do you really think this is true?

Let me anticipate a possible response.
But praktike, Pakistan isn't the only threat we have to deal with. By attacking Iraq, we not only sent a message to Pakistan, but we also sent messages to other problematic players at the same time. And that's bang for the buck.
Fair?

I think that's good stuff, but it must be weighed against the demerits.

A final thought: to what extent was the message not already sent by deposing the Taliban?

“Speaking for myself, I'm much more concerned with nuclear proliferation than with post hoc harboring of terrorists. Both are bad, but one is orders of profound magnitude worse.”

I fully understand where you’re coming from, but a crucial point to be noted with regard to Abdul Qadeer Khan is that he was the problem, not the Pakistani government, as he was black marketing through 4 successive governments, 2 civilian, 2 military. That isn’t the case with Iraq, which had at best a clear policy of at the very least tacitly tolerating al-Qaeda on their soil.

“I don't think there's definitive proof that the terrorists you cite were there with the explicit approval of the regime.”

There isn’t “explicit proof” that Abdul Qadeer Khan was working with senior members of the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment to proliferate nuclear technology either. But I think we’re both smart enough to read between the lines …

“Maybe they were; we don't know. At a minimum, they were tolerated, and Iraq didn't exactly bend over backwards to help us out (although the Yasim case is murky, isn't it? Clarke says: ‘Abdul Yasim, interrogated on March 4, was released because he convinced the FBI he was not involved and would cooperate. He flew immediately to Iraq, where, we believe, he was incarcerated by Saddam Hussein's regime.’)”

Documents uncovered since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government demonstrate that Yassin was provided money, women, and basically a pension plan by the Iraqi government. If that’s incarceration by Iraqi standards, I doubt that too many people in the country would have been all that terribly frightened by the prospect of it. This also doesn’t even begin to get into all of the contradictory Iraqi claims as to whether or not he fled the country in 1999 for Afghanistan or whether he was still in Iraq. Since the invasion, Yassin has apparently come out of retirement and is in all likelihood the man who designed the bomb that blew up the UN building in Baghdad back in August 2003.

“As for Pakistan, everybody knows that Khan could not have done his deals without the active involvement of the Pakistani government. Moreover, there are certainly elements in the ISI that are not cooperating, and are feeding intelligence to Al Qaeda and helping them in other ways. And there is the whole radical madrassa thing.”

Yesss … however, Khan was doing what he did under 4 successive Pakistani governments, suggesting that his operation depended more on his contacts within the Pakistani military-intelligence establishment rather than any actual matter of government policy, as can be seen from the fact that he sold such technology to both Iran and India. The whole problem with the Pakistani military-intel establishment is that there are entirely too many people in it who spend their days playing the Urdu version of “Risk” without any kind of a coordinated game plan and it’s been that way ever since General Zia’s mysterious death in a plane crash. That basically explains the schizophrenia of the ISI, amongst other things, in my view.

As for the madrassas, Musharraf is taking extremely tentative and extremely dangerous (for him) moves to try and secularize the public school system, but many of the madrassas are private institutions that are Saudi-funded. If Musharraf closes them all down, there’ll be a rebellion. We don’t want a rebellion because Musharraf, his rather byzantine nature aside, is certainly better than someone like Hamid Gul or Khan in power in Islamabad, as I’m sure you’ll agree. These issues, simply speaking, did not exist in Iraq where Saddam Hussein was already well-established as maximum leader and allowed nothing even resembling the multiple Pakistani groups that currently oppose Musharraf.

“Your strongest case, I think, would be making the argument that it's clear that Saddam wished us ill, while Musharraf does not, and is in fact actively working to help us.”

This is kind of an important distinction, yes? Norway currently has a known al-Qaeda leader on its soil in the form of Mullah Krekar, but the government there has made numerous attempts to prosecute him for his various crimes. The fact of the matter is that al-Qaeda has tried to kill Musharraf on numerous occasions and as such he has figured out, however imperfectly, that what’s best for Pakistan and of course for him is hunting these people down. Presumably from these conclusions, he would also likely oppose efforts to proliferate nuclear technology to them. Neither of these distinctions exist with regard to Saddam Hussein.

“That's quite true. But when you look at the dangers associated with Iraq-related dalliances with terror and proliferation, and those related to Pakistan, I think your case breaks down.”

I disagree because there is a difference of the types of problems here. In Iraq, there was (in my view, at least and I understand that you may differ) a problem of the government choosing to aid al-Qaeda as a matter of state policy with respect to proliferation. In Pakistan, there was a problem of individual generals and scientists, the latter of which have by all accounts been prevented in engaging in further activities of this nature. You can arrest or kill private individuals to prevent them from proliferating, but ultimately I don’t think that you can arrest a state any more than Iraq already was with the sanctions et al. And that leaves the option of regime change.

praktike -

Well if I wash my hands, I assume it's ok...&ltg&gt

I think you've pretty well restated my arguments.

Afghanistan wouldn't work because I think it's fundamentally impossible to occupy (as the Russians found out). Our 'small footprint' invasion really just destabilized the old government; if we would pull out tomorrow, things would revert quite quickly. They would just have to wait us out.

But by invading, occupying, and beginning to transform Iraq, real costs become apparent to state actors in the region.

The major demerit is the instability we introduce; but the reality is that the cliff was crumbing before we set off the blast - the situation wasn't stable anyway.

A.L.

Wow. I'm so close to changing my mind about this whole thing now.

Seriously.

Praktike -

And the fact that you would say 'I'm so close to changing my mind about this whole thing now.' (as have others who discuss stuff on this site, and as have I) is why I'll always happily engage in discussion with you here.

Because I feel like it's a real discussion, not (always) a points-scoring debate.

Thanks for that.

A.L.

Thanks, A.L. I've found that a discussion on WoC, by trying to stay above the fray, engaging in a high quality of debate, and sticking to facts (Dan Darling gets special props here), is more likely to change my mind than all the 800-word Op-Eds in the world.

I think the key point that both of you made, to rephrase a bit, was that we ought to change the things we can. We could do something straightforward about Saddam Hussein, who clearly wished us ill, and so we did.

Little is going to change my perception than the Bush administration oversimplified and oversold its case, blurring real disagreements among intelligence professionals along the way. In fact, I think it's so well-documented as to be inarguable at this point.

As I said earlier, there could and must be a real debate on setting criteria for what constitutes "state sponsorship." Dan says that the difference between the involvement of the Iraqi and Pakistani governments in terrorism and proliferation is that Saddam's rhetoric and behavior are a powerful signal that, at minimum, he wasn't going to be helpful, while Musharraf is actively cooperating.

But now that I'm flirting with accepting that the strategic rationale for Iraq was sound, the next question for me-which I think can only be answered with historical perspective--is whether that strategic case merited that we prosecute the war and its aftermath in the way we did. Another question which I don't think has been answered yet is why the Iraq war was needed in order to ensure Pakistan's continued cooperation. Has their level of cooperation increased since the second Gulf War, if so, can that be attributed to fear? Have we somehow given Musharraf the domestic political cover to say to his military "hey, if I don't do X, Y, and Z, the United States will destroy us?"

And finally, how do we strengthen dictators like Musharraf, Mubarak, Qaddfi, and the House of Saud on the one hand, and promote democracy on the other? Because we have provided carrots and sticks in order to get them to crack down on terror, but we all know that the suppression of Islamic fundamentalists (and other government critics) is one of the reasons they choose violence against the U.S. as an outlet ... it seems like a Catch-22 situation in which we are depending in large part upon either the willingness of non-representative governments to liberalize their practices, or upon pressure from their own citizenry to give them "democracy, whiskey, sex!" So it's really a trick of convincing these leaders to help us (and themselves) out in the short term by cracking down on Islamism while allowing themselves to be undermined in the long run by liberalism. I can see how one would be therefore tempted to conclude that a free and prosperous Iraq was the way to achieve both of these competing needs at the same time. Whether you get to a free and prosperous Iraq from our actions, I don't know yet. Some signs are good (economy up); some bad (rise of Shia radicalism, prospect of civil war).

"Another question which I don't think has been answered yet is why the Iraq war was needed in order to ensure Pakistan's continued cooperation. Has their level of cooperation increased since the second Gulf War, if so, can that be attributed to fear? Have we somehow given Musharraf the domestic political cover to say to his military 'hey, if I don't do X, Y, and Z, the United States will destroy us?'"

The US employs what is very much a carrot and stick method towards Pakistan - cooperation gets them goodies, with the implicit threat of force hanging over them if they don't comply. In addition, since the Gulf War 2 Pakistan has actually sent troops into the tribal areas for the first time since the aftermath of Operation Enduring Freedom and made some tentative peace moves towards India.

With regards to the rest of the nations you mentioned, Libya appears to be heading in a more democratic direction if Saif al-Islam Qadaffi's recent comments on the subject are anything to judge by, while in the case of Egypt it would seem that the US is attempting to maximize its short-term gains in order to implement long-term goals with regard to the Middle East. Or to put it another way, our grand plans for the region won't be worth much if al-Qaeda succeeds in overthrowing the Egyptian government, whose current occupant is actually the successor to an old Soviet client state. Things in Saudi Arabia are likewise different due to the byzantine politics involved as well as the fact that we cannot act against the Saudis until everything, including the necessary political will is in place and needless to say that time ain't right now.

Musharraf is something of a "special case" here because though a dictator, he isn't a maximum leader in the same sense that any of these other despots are. If he were, it would be much, much simpler to deal with Pakistan. Instead we're left with a byzantine political structure that could easily be taken straight from Renaissance Italy with literally dozens of independent players that we're trying to navigate as best we can. It's tough work, but the alternative is bin Laden becoming the first non-state nuclear power.

"Some signs are good (economy up); some bad (rise of Shia radicalism, prospect of civil war)."

The Shi'ite radicalism is by and large being driven from an external source (Iran), as are the prospects of civil war (Zarqawi). With the decapitation of the Baathists, most of the native insurgents appear to have either splintered or been crushed and that in of itself is a great deal of progress in my view.

A good site which covers Iraqi political scene

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