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Monday, 14 February 2005
Kidnappings and Kurds....

The administration sees an in and goes for it. former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri was killed today in a car bombing in Beruit. He advocated Syria's withdrawl from the Levant.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House said on Monday it would consult with U.N. Security Council members about taking punitive measures against those responsible for the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, and to push for an end to Syrian occupation

...in a thinly veiled warning to Damascus, McClellan said: "The United States will consult with other governments in the region and on the Security Council today about measures that can be taken to punish those responsible for this terrorist attack, to end the use of violence and intimidation against the Lebanese people and to restore Lebanon's independence, sovereignty and democracy by freeing it from foreign occupation."

How about doing the same in Iraq? One shouldn't throw stomes in a glass house, they say. No doubt, Syria has no business in Lebanon, but who are we to judge? Seems to me this is more about pressuring Bashir Assad and doing what Israel wants rather than any concern for the Lebanese.

Besides, the Syrians have been very helpful to us. They take our suspected terror suspects and disappear them for us.

Like Mahar Arar for instance. This is a story that has been around for a while but the media is just getting into it now.

The Center For Constitutional Rights

NEW YORK, NY -- December 20, 2004 -- Maher Arar, the Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was secretly sent by U.S. officials to the country he fled many years ago, was honored as Time Magazine Canada's Newsmaker of the year.

On September 26, 2002, Arar was on his way home from a family vacation in Tunisia to his home in Canada when he was pulled aside at JFK airport in New York, detained for 13 days and later deported to Jordan, and then to Syria, where he was tortured repeatedly and held in an underground cell not much larger than a grave for 10 months. He was eventually released, and, working with the Center for Constitutional Rights, launched a media campaign and a lawsuit charging U.S. officials with wrongfully sending him to Syria for interrogation under torture.

Mr. Arar's case was the first publicly-known example of the practice of "rendition" whereby the U.S. sends foreign nationals to be interrogated to third-party countries that engage in torture. News reports have confirmed other instances of rendition but Arar is the only person known to have survived and told his story.

Said CCR President Michael Ratner, "It is a bitter irony that Time Magazine Canada named Maher Arar as its Newsmaker of the Year, while Time Magazine here in the U.S. named the man whose Administration was responsible for Arar's torture."

Extraordinary Rendition:

One would hope the Senate would ask DHS director nominee Michael Chertoff what he knows about the U.S. exporting terror suspects to other countries for torture, but they probably won't.

The Washington Post and the NY Times both have reported on the "torture plane" the CIA uses:


"The Gulfstream V turbojet has been seen at US military bases around the world, often loading up hooded and shackled suspects and delivering them to countries known to use torture, a process the CIA calls "rendition," the Washington daily said.

The Post investigated the ownership of the jet, which has been spotted in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan and which carries the tail number N379P, according to the newspaper

The Post article confirmed much of a November 14 article published in the Sunday Times, of London, which obtained flight plans for the plane, which, the Times said, always departs from Washington, DC and has visited the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where about 550 terror suspects are held."

al-Jazzera goes on...

"The "rendering" of suspects to countries that employ interrogation techniques banned in the US is worrying and could violate the UN Convention on Torture, World Organization for Human Rights USA executive director Morton Sklar said.

Swedish television programme Cold Facts reported that in December 2001, the jet took hooded prisoners to Egypt, according to The Washington Post, which confirmed the Swedish report independently.

The paper said the plane, with hooded crew members speaking with US accents, loaded two Egyptian nationals and took off at 4.30am for Cairo."

And if kidnapping a Canadian citizen wasn't bad enough, the NY Times reports today the U.S. did it to a German too.

"The case is extremely sensitive. A German citizen may have been kidnapped by American agents and illegally taken to Afghanistan. Now, German authorities are quietly investigating the case. But no one here wants it to interfere with US-German rapprochement.

Khaled el-Masri, 41...[t]he father of four claims he was kidnapped by United States agents one year ago in Macedonia, carted off to a prison in Afghanistan, and accused of being an al-Qaida terrorist.

The tress from his do [sic] may be able to confirm his story. Scientists at the Bavarian archive for geology in Munich are currently using a method called isotope analysis, which can search for trace elements such as sulphur, to roughly determine where in the world el-Masri has been in recent months.

Munich's Ludwig-Maximilians University is world famous for the procedure -- in fact, isotope analysis has helped solve many difficult crimes in the past.

According to initial results, el-Masri's story is, in fact, true. Fearing far-reaching global diplomatic consequences, the German government, however, wants to see the case treated rather discretely.

Another key aspect in the big picture is, of course, President George Bush's visit to Mainz next week. Officials feel that nothing should be allowed to cast a shadow over that event, either.

After all, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government just recently sighed in relief when the German federal prosecutor's office dismissed war crimes charges against US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for the torture scandal in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison....

...In Germany, the information on el-Masri [as a terror suspect] isn't even enough for authorities to launch an investigation. The situation in the United States is completely different, though: Following Sept. 11, US President George W. Bush has authorized American agents to act outside of all internationally accepted legal norms in the fight against terror."

So much for the rule of law. We can seize anyone anywhere. Imagine what would happen if an American citizen was whisked away from the U.S. by a foreign power. The Japanese are ready to cut off aid over the North Koreans kidnapping Japanese citizens, but we're different. We're spreading freedom.

Kirkuk redux:

As I noted previously, the Kurds in Kirkuk are a major problem that might lead to something much worse than civil war in Iarq.

The Turkish Daily News reports Ankara isn't happy with the Kirds receiving 25 % of the vote.

ANKARA, Feb 13 (AFP) - Turkey said Sunday that the results of the Iraqi elections failed to ensure the fair representation of all ethnic groups in the conflict-ridden country and called for measures to compensate for what it called flaws and irregularities in the electoral process.

Turkey is particularly irked by the strong gains of the two main Kurdish parties in the north of Iraq, which came in second in the elections after the main Shiite alliance with 25.7 percent of the vote and an estimated 71 seats in the 275-member parliament.

The Kurds also won an absolute majority in local polls in the oil-rich city Kirkuk, which many want to see as the capital of a future independent Kurdish state.

Ankara protested when large numbers of Kurds said to have been expelled from Kirkuk under Saddam Hussein were allowed to settle and vote in the city, despite protests by rival ethnic groups that many of them have no bonds with Kirkuk.

"It has become clear that certain elements in Iraq tried to manipulate votes in this historic process and have obtained unjustified gains from this," the Turkish statement said, without giving any names.

Turkey fears that independence-minded Kurdish moves in northern Iraq will embolden separatism across the border in southeastern Turkey, where a Kurdish rebellion has already claimed some 37,000 lives."

The Financial Times reported this weekend most of what there is of an Iraqi National Guard is made up of former Peshmerga, or Kurdish resistance fighters. They are pretty much the only ones with extensive fighting skills:

"Hoshyar Zebari, Iraq's foreign minister and senior official in the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) told the FT that after the violence flared in Mosul in November, Kuridsh forces "did move into securing at least the eastern part of the city" (Which is maily Kurdish) and the main roads.

"Now, there are all controlled by the ING but the units are all of Kurdish origin."

The Kurds are mostly Sunni and they don't trust SCIRI, the party that will get most of the seats on the constitutional committee.

"Bruska Shaways, secretary general of Iraqs defense ministry and a senior KDP member says "around 80% of the new officer s above colonel are former Iraqi army.

...Many (Kurds) are wary of rebuilding an army that oppressed Kurds for decades..."It is not in our interest to have a strong Iraqi army, whether it has Kurds in it or not", said a PUK official."

That doesn't bode well. The U.S. is going to have a huge problem on its hands if it doesn't figure out what to do with the Kurds and Kirkuk, forget about the influence of Iran, which likely goes in both directions anyway.

Posted by bushmeister0 at 8:45 PM EST
Updated: Monday, 28 March 2005 9:02 AM EST
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