Topic: War on Terror
As we're all digesting the news of yet another series of bomb attacks in Egypt, the third attack on the tourist industry in 18 months, I think back to the recent elections where the police beat opposition voters to prevent them from casting ballots for the Muslim Brotherhood. One would have thought Mubarak & Co. would have preferred a moderate secular party to deal with in parliament to counter the Brotherhood, but even Kafia's candidate, Ayman Nour, is now behind bars on a trumped up forgery charge. And local elections have been postponed for two years, in order to prevent the Brotherhood from gaining any more power, so we're pretty much back to square-one in Egypt; democracy is decidedly not on the march there.
The security forces seem to be real good at beating up voters but not so much with stopping terrorism. The government will undoubtedly call for the renewal of emergency powers, but the bombings will continue. You'd think with all the resources at the deposal of the Egyptian government they could at least protect their cash cow, the tourist industry. I think this is what happens when you have such a calcified regime that is solely focused on just holding on to power. The problem with this scenario is that, regardless of all of the American money flowing in and Egypt's strategic importance, it could all go kablooee without a whole lot of effort a la the Shah's Iran.
In this case, I guess Condi has opted for stability over democracy, unlike in Iraq, but Egypt probably would have been the better candidate for a little democratic instability. As things stand now, it's just a matter of time and the fallout could be even more catastrophic for the Middle East powder-keg than it currently is in Iraq.
Terror up in 2005:
According to a Knight/Ridder article last Friday, a new intelligence report says that terrorist attacks rose sharply in 2005, up to 10,000. Counterterrorism officials say, though, the stunning increase ---up from 3,192 in 2004 --- is due partly to "a change last year in how terror attacks are counted, coupled with a more aggressive effort to tally such violence worldwide." That's reassuring, isn't it?
The Article goes on to say that, "officials confirm, that some of the rise is traceable to the war in Iraq, where foreign terrorists, a homegrown insurgency and sectarian strife all have contributed to political bloodshed." I guess it’s lucky that we're fighting them over there instead of here, because the report also says that 85% of American citizens killed last year in terror attacks died in Iraq.
And what about OBL, by the way, is his still running or is he hiding, I can't keep track? State Department counterterrorism coordinator Henry Crumper told a congressional committee this month that al-Qaeda "may be isolated under pressure, unable to communicate effectively." But still able to carry out attacks all over the world and make audiotapes. Other than that, the struggle against violent extremism is going just grand!
Especially, in Iraq, where the battling Bickersons are well on the way to forming a new government of national unity which will usher in a new dawn of democracy and peace! Not quite yet, though: Yesterday insurgents, or al-Qaeda, or someone, launched seven car bomb attacks that killed at least 10 and injured 80 in Baghdad and Mosul; at least 15 others were killed in bombings and shootings, and 15 more bodies of police recruits were found in a pick up truck in Ramadi. The body count since the new PM, Jawad al-Maliki, was sworn in is at 70 so far, according to AP. So overall, I'd say 'staying the course' is showing some great results.
On the Iran front:
Mamoud Amadinejad had another press conference yesterday and it was a whopper! I don't know about you, but I could stand for a lot more press conferences from W. and a lot less from crazy Mamoud. This time around he said that the Iranians wouldn't be answering questions about his reference to their supposed second nuclear program involving a faster enrichment method they may have gotten from Pakistani A, Q. Khan; he wouldn't be talking to the Americans about Iraq, now that they have a new government; and that sanctions or attacks on Iran would lead to them pulling out of the NPT.
The IAEA decided last week not to go back for more inspections and Mohammed ElBaradei is expected to tell the UN that Iran isn't complying with last month's stern non-binding presidential order to stop enriching uranium; which sets the stage next week for more wrangling over what to do about Iran between us, the EU, Russia and China.
There was a very interesting column by Karim Sadjadpour, an analyst with the International Crisis Group, in the Inquirer on Monday that pretty much lays out what can and can't be done about Iran. Certainly, we need much more of this type of reasonable discourse and a lot less of Paul Kane's Totale Krieg fire breathing.
Sadjadpour points out that Iran isn't a monolith, that there are elements within the leadership that could opt for a civilian program down the road, under the right conditions. Right now, the hardliners in the Ahmadinejad camp are successfully arguing "with some plausibility," that:
"Nothing short of regime change will satisfy the United States and that retreating form the nuclear guest ion would only display weakness and invite further pressure. Believing a clash with the United States inevitable, Tehran's hardliners want it to occur on their terms, when oil prices are high and the Americans are bogged down in Iraq." The only way out of this mess, Sadjadpour writes, is to appeal to the moderates and pragmatists by the U.S. offering direct talks.
"Timing is key: Offering incentives prematurely, without modified Iranian behavior, may well validate the confrontationists' approach; refusing to offer genuine incentives will undermine the pragmatists appeal. With oil prices souring and Iraq in chaos, continuing to insist on zero enrichment for zero incentives...holds little promise. The United Stats must come to terms with a reality that European, Russian, and Iranian officials privately admit: If a nuclear Iran is to be avoided, the answer lies not in European economic overtures or a Russian led technical solution, but American-led diplomacy, starting from the premise that Iran's leadership is neither monolithic nor impossible intransigent."
The only problem with this thinking is that the crazy people on both sides are in the ascendant. Mamoud Ahmadinejad is waiting for Mehdi to return and W, is waiting for the Rapture. (And in a funny way both are banking on the destruction of Israel.)