Bad and weird in the Middle East.
Topic: General News.
In an odd and worrying development, the Syrian interior minister Brig. Gen. Ghazi Kenaan apparently killed himself today.[AP
] Specualtion is that he felt the international UN investigation into the assassination of Rafik Hariri was going to name him as being behind the killing. Kenaan was the de facto ruler of Lebanon until the Syrians were forced to leave, so I guess there's something to that theory. Naturally, this is the Middle East, so there are also many rumors flying around, too. One is that he was killed because he knew too much and might name people higher up the line, which implys Bashar Assad has something to do with the Hariri killing. I haven't heard it yet, but you can be sure someone is out there right now blaming Israel. In any event, this suicide could be a very destabilizing to the whole region.
I'm not saying the Syrian regime is any great shakes, but at least its stable cxompared to what's next door, this should be viewed as a good thing for the short term, at least. The US is leveling tremendous diplomatic pressure on the Syrians and this investigation is going to come down like a ton of bricks on the regime. That fact coupled with the very unexpected suicide of Gen. Kenaan could blow the whole stability thing out the window. We've already got a very big problem with the Iranians meddling in the affairs of Iraq we don't need a basket case on the western front too. The Syrians are not supporting or arming the foreign fighters pouring into Iraq. They may be either, simply looking the other way, or they might be honestly attempting to stop them and just failing miserably, but they are in no way as dangerous to the entire project in Iraq or as involved as the Iranians and the Saudis are. What is left behind in the ashes of the Aliwite regime might be dangerous, though. A case in point is the Kurds in Syria.
I'm going out on a limb here, this is all wild speculation, but what would happen if the Kurds in Syria, after many years of being held down and discriminated against, decided to link up with Iraqi Kurdistan? What do you think the Turks would do about that? What would happen if Isreal decided to go ahead and take some more Lebensraum beyond the Golan when everything falls apart? What would Iran do in this situation? Hezbollah is right there, maybe they move into Syria and set up some facts on the ground of their own inside Syria? Or maybe, we move in to "restore order" and we are welcomed with open arms and roses. It could happen, right? News
just in: The Iraqi parliment has supposedly come to an agreement to amend the constitution in the early part of next year---this before it has been even voted on in the referendum on Saturday---to further hammer out the contentious issues preventing the Sunnis from hopping on board. Jeez...these guys can't even agree on what day it is, what difference is more rangling next year going to accomplish? A bridge Tal Afar? Redux
The AP is reporting yet another suicide bombing in Tal Afar today that killed 30. Yesterday another suicide bomber killed a similar amount also in Tal Afar. Last week the first female suicide bomber killed dozens in Tal Afar. I thought that after the great success of the joint American-Iraqi military sweeps of the area in and around Tal Afar had secured that part of the country. I seem to remember reading US military spokesmen saying this time Iraqi forces would hold territory taken in the various Euphrates offensives. It must be the run up to the elections that causing all this violence, doubtless it will all come to an end after the Iraqis vote on their new constitution on Saturday, that is, if the polititians ever agree on what the document will actually say.
Reports are that the Iraqi parliament, if they can get a quorum, will vote today on a new set of last minute changes negotiated yesterday by the three parties; Shiites, Kurds and Sunnis. The hope, as always, is that enough Sunnis can be coxed into coming out to vote in order to make the whole process look legitimate. Good luck with that. How are the Iraqis going to know what the hell they're voting for if they keep moving the goal posts around? Oh, right, they'll be told how to vote by their tribal leaders.
It's not to say that everybody wouldn't like to have a stable government in Iraq and that the brutality and killing would end and we could get the hell out of there, but we stuck a big stick into a hive of angry wasps and now we're stuck. W. says he has a plan, but he hasn't told anybody what it is. Rummy said he had a plan and it was called victory, but he also said he knew exactly where the WMD was, too, so he's not much of a help. Progress in Afghanistan:
In any case, the theory that after a successful election the insurgents will see the errors of their ways and go away is being put to the test in Afghanistan and is looking a little shaky. From what I can tell the new Wolesi Jirga will have a lot of women, which is a good thing, and a lot of former warlords, which is a bad thing: chief among the worst of them is Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum who will be a large part of the opposition that is estimated to control a bloc of 100 members in the 249 seat body. Things are still up in the air about what this new parliament will actually do and how it will operate, so the jury is still out, but there is no question that the Taliban didn't get the memo.
On the 8th of October a US soldier was killed after stepping on a landmine in Helmond province, in the south, bringing the number of total US troops killed in Afghanistan to 200. On the 10th, a suicide bomber killed 3 people in Kandahar and a US soldier was killed in a fire fight in the east of the country. Yesterday, a police convoy in Helmand was attacked by a large number of Taliban and 19 police officers were killed. The beat goes on and the poppies have never been more plentiful. The Guard and Reserve take it on the jaw:
On Sunday I was at a sports bar in Bucks County PA, watching my beloved Dolphins lose to the hated Bills, when a National Guardsman came into the place asking for donations for a fellow Guardsman who was, in his words, being sent to Iraqi "involuntarily." The donations were for the man's family who were in deep financial straits because of his deployment. What have we come to when our National Guard have to go around to bars asking for hand outs? The Guard and the Reserve in Pennsylvania are taking it particularly hard having lost over 100 since the war began. In the past three months alone they've lost 10, including Gennaro Pellegrini Jr.
a local Fishtown policeman who is dearly missed.
All the Guard and Reserve accounted for 56% of US deaths in August and September according to the AP
. "Forty-five percent of all Guard and Reserve deaths since the start of the war----220 of the nearly 500 total---occurred in the first nine months of 2005." Lt. Gen. James Lovelace, the Army's deputy chief of staff for operations, says the heavy reliance on the Guard and Reserve has been necessary to allow regular Army units like the Third Armored Division and the 101st Airborne Division to retool for another deployment. He says the Guard and Reserves, "bought us the time we needed." I'm sure the families of those who won't be coming back will appreciate the fact that they sacrificed their loved ones and bread winners to help the Army get its act together after two years into this thing. The good news is that the number of Guard brigades in Iraq is scheduled to go from 7 to 2 next year. Now, if we can only get the regulars out of there, too.
John Negroponte released the 6000 word letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab al Zarqawi yesterday that I had expounded on a few days ago. See it at the Inquirer
. Random notes:
This has nothing to do with anything in particular but I just have to add this in: Our good friend Rick Santorum has a bill he's trying to push, HB813, with little success so far, luckily, which would force the National Weather Service to stop providing its forecasts to the public for free. Apparently, senator Santorum feels the Weather Service is unfairly keeping for-profit weather services like AccuWeather
from making a bundle of cash. Hey, if you want to know whether it's going to snow next week, you have to pay for it. If you want to know what that hurricane bearing down on you is up to, better pony up the cash to Rick's well connected friends. What a completely irresponsible, moronic idea! Unless you happen to be stock holder at Accuweather, this is a total betrayal of the American taxpayer. Why not just cut all funding to the NOAA? Let the markets run the weather.
In another related Rick Santorum matter: He almost ran over one of my friends in DC a couple of years ago. The victim of Santorum's bad driving was Elizabeth Croydon who happened to be in the process of staring in a movie called Washington Interns Gone Bad
at the time. Of the film Santorum said, "I gotta tell you, it really shakes my faith in human nature. Seeing this film will not be on my list of top 10 things to do." What a great endorsement! Thanks Rick! P.S., I was the "Finacial Times Guy
" in the movie.A more few notes:
There are few things I didn't get to write about that happened a few days back when I couldn't get to a computer, one of which is the news that Julie Myers' nomination to be the new immigration enforcement chief was almost in the bag after being endorsed by a party line vote of 7-2 in the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. [NYT
]Myers is the daughter of outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Myers, and she just happens to be newly married to Michael Chetoff's chief of staff John Wood, but that doesn't mean there's any nepotism or cronyism involved here. The fact that she's never dealt with immigration issues or run such a large organization didn't seem to faze Republicans on the Committee. Tom Coburn---fighter of rampant teenage lesbianism---said, "We need people thinking out of the box, and she's going to do that. She doesn't know what can't be done." Of course, with her limited experience she doesn't know what can be done either.
This is yet another example of the Republicans just rubber stamping any politically connected hack the White House cares to send down the pike. This isn't to say that the Democrats are up in arms about the Myers nomination: Joe Lieberman and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii were both said to be impressed by her intelligence and dedication to public service. Well, that's all you need I guess in this administration, I mean she can learn on the job, immigration enforcement isn't such an important issue these days, just because 440 or so Mexicans have been found dead in the desert and two border states have declared states of emergency doesn't mean she doesn't have plenty of time to ease into the job and get up to speed. The Lord's Resistance Army:
The International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the arrest of Joseph Kony, the leader of the Lord's Resistance Army, who has been hiding out in Sudan for 20 years. [NYT
] The Ugandan government asked the Sudanese to seize Kony but it doesn't seem like this is very likely to happen any time soon. Kony has been very useful to the butchers in Khartoum who have looked the other way while Kony conducted a brutal war against Uganda and abducted up to 20,000 Ugandan children and turned them into fighters, porters and sex slaves. The Sudanese say they don't support the LRD but they say they have nothing to do with the Janjaweed in Darfur, too. It would be nice if the US pressured them to arrest Kony, although that might be construed as tacit enforcement of the ICC and that's something W. and Co. are very much against.
Helping the ICC try a vicious killer like Kony might encourage the court to go after American soldiers, right? It's not the fear that Rummy and W. might find themselves on a court docket for the Iraq invasion if the US signed on to the ICC treaty, oh no, no: they're worry is strictly about protecting US soldiers from an out of control international court that possibly hates America. In Iraq:
As we get closer the constitutional referendum in Iraq this Saturday, W. says he expects more violence; these insurgents are clearly desperate and will doing anything to prevent large numbers of Iraqis from coming out to vote. In the run up to the elections the US has added another three brigades into the mix bringing the number of US troops in Iraq to some 152,000. The country is going into virtual lock down just like it did before the January elections. I would expect the violence to ebb because the insurgents won't be able to operate under the strict measures being imposed, like the banning of traffic in Baghdad etc. Once the election is declared a raving success and the Shiites and Kurds are given a mandate for their rule via the constitution, I'm sure the insurgency will die on the vine.
Iraqi interior minister and possible lunatic Bayan Jabr told the Arab paper Sharq al-Aswat that the number of foreign fighters---the Arab ones not the Americans---had gone down from 3,000 three months ago to just 900. Apparently the major offensives over the past few months in the western part of the country had decimated their numbers---read the body count---and also because al-Qaeda has decided to send their forces to other countries to build networks there. Where he got this information he didn't say.
Posted by bushmeister0
at 1:30 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 12 October 2005 1:58 PM EDT