US Marines deny losing Iraq’s biggest province

BAGHDAD, Sept 12 (Reuters) – The commander of U.S. Marines in Iraq denied on Tuesday his troops had lost the vast province they patrol, after newspapers said his intelligence chief had written the grimest report from the field since the war began.

Washington appears to have been jolted by the classified assessment by Colonel Peter Devlin, which describes the failure of the Marines to pacify Anbar province. The vast western desert makes up a third of the country and is considered the Sunni insurgency’s heartland.

The Washington Post reported that officials who have seen the assessment said it described the province as lost. According to the paper, Devlin concluded that Iraq’s Shi’ite-led government holds no sway in the province and the strongest political movement there is now the Iraq branch of al Qaeda.

The Marines’ commander, Major General Richard Zilmer, told reporters in a conference call he agreed with the assessment, but he disputed the dire characterisations of it in the press.

“We are winning this war,” he said. “I have never heard any discussion about the war being lost before this weekend.”

Still, he repeatedly defined his mission in narrow terms — as one primarily concerned with training Iraqi troops and police, not actually pacifying Iraq’s most restive province.

“My mission is to train Iraqi security forces,” he said, adding he believed those efforts would eventually provide an Iraqi force big enough to control the province.

Zilmer’s narrow definition of the mission for U.S. troops in Anbar province comes as the Bush administration describes Iraq as the central front on the U.S. global war on terrorism.

A senior U.S. defense official said Zilmer’s comments should not be interpreted as meaning U.S. troops in Anbar are merely treading water against insurgents while building an Iraqi security force that eventually will have to defeat the rebels.

But the official, speaking anonymously because of the sensitivity of the issue, described the “main mission” for U.S. forces as “to have the ability to be able to turn over the security responsibilities to a capable police and military force that can operate within the central government and local governments.”


Zilmer’s U.S. Marine-led division and its predecessors in Anbar have faced some of the highest casualty rates in Iraq.

Devlin’s complete report has not been made public. But accounts of it first appeared on Monday in the Washington Post, which quoted one official describing it as the most pessimistic assessment ever filed by a senior officer from Iraq.

According to the New York Times on Tuesday, Devlin wrote that an additional division — some 16,000 more U.S. troops — was needed urgently to back up the 30,000 now in Anbar. The United States has 147,000 troops in Iraq.

Otherwise “there is nothing (the Marine command) can do to influence the motivation of the Sunni to wage an insurgency,” it quoted the assessment as saying.

Zilmer said he had enough troops to carry out his training mission. But he said “the metrics change” were he to be asked to achieve a wider objective.

And sending more Americans to Anbar would “only bring short-term gains to the environment,” he said. The insurgency would end only if locals came to accept the central government.

“Once people have confidence in the government and once people see they have bridges to Baghdad, that is going to be a helpful event that will erode the causes for the insurgency.”

Despite its vast size and long borders with Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, Washington stationed only about 20,000 troops in Anbar for much of the three years since Baghdad fell. The numbers were increased this year by an extra few thousand.

The area includes such battlegrounds as Falluja, Ramadi, Haditha and Qaim in the Euphrates valley.

Norway: Imam Blatantly Lies To People About Islam

September 11, 2006

Madni.jpgToday’s edition of Aftenposten reports that an imam in Norway, Zulqamain Sakandar Madni (pictured) has given answers to a string of questions posed by its readers.

The unfortunate truth is that the imam does not answer the questions honestly, and lies unashamedly. The biggest lie that he tells is that he thinks Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda are fictional. He said: “I think this is something that’s been made up.” He suggested that Muslims had not caused the destruction of 9/11, 2001.

He said: “If everyone respected one another as people, we wouldn’t have any problems. But it seems everyone wants to show what great power they have. We want peace for everyone. That’s what Islam stands for!”

He says he tells his congregation that “human respect is an absolute demand in Islam, and a good Muslim must be a good citizien. And that injuring or killing anyone is forbidden.”

He said that Islam “doesn’t allow anyone to kill or injure civilians,” and that Islam “is a religion that teaches people about peace and love.”

If this is so, then I wonder why a website for Canadian Muslim children, Young Muslims writes enthusiastically about Abu Dujana Sammak ibn Kharsha, who wore a red turban known as his “turban of death”. During the battle of Uhud, one of the many “peaceful” battles waged by Muslims, Mohammed, the so-called prophet took out his sword and said: “Who will take this sword, together with its right?” Many fighters wanted it, and Abu Dujana asked: “O Messenger of Allah, what is its price?” The Prophet (pbuh) said, “It is to strike the enemy’s faces with it until it is bent.”

So much love, so much peace. But Mo was fighting the infidels, so they were not innocent, I suppose.

So what did Mohammed do in peacetime, apart from copulate like a dog and have sex with a child aged nine?

Well, he authorised killing people. The following is an extract of an article from the now-banned UK group al Ghurabaa, where Mohammed’s bloodlust is adequately illustrated, using examples from the Hadiths:

“At the time of the Messenger Muhammad (saw) there were individuals like these who dishonoured and insulted him upon whom the Islamic judgement was executed. Such people were not tolerated in the past and throughout the history of Islam were dealt with according to the Shariah. Ka’ab ibn Ashraf was assassinated by Muhammad ibn Maslamah for harming the Messenger Muhammad saw) by his words, Abu Raafi’ was killed by Abu Ateeq as the Messenger ordered in the most evil of ways for swearing at the( prophet, Khalid bin Sufyaan was killed by Abdullah bin Anees who cut off his head and brought it to the prophet for harming the Messenger Muhammad (saw) by his insults, Al-Asmaa bintu Marwaan was killed by Umayr bin Adi’ al-Khatmi, a blind man, for writing poetry against the prophet and insulting him in it, Al-Aswad al-Ansi was killed by Fairuz al-Daylami and his family for insulting the Messenger Muhammad (saw) and claiming to be a prophet himself. This is the judgement of Islam upon those who violate, dishonor and insult the Messenger Muhammad (saw).”

Islam has never been about peace, nor has it ever been about “everyone respecting one another as people”.If Islam is about peace, it is peace after all other lands have have been subjugated under its authority. Islam means, literally “Submission”, and nothing else. Why else would Islam divide the world into Dar al-Harb and Dar al-Islam. Dar al-Islam is where Muslims live under Muslim law. Dar al-Harb is the “House of War”.

We, the infidels, or kufr/kaffir, are living in the House of War, because Islam intends to make us fight or submit to it. The sooner Westerners appreciate this, the sooner we can defend ourselves.

Imam Zulqamain Sakandar Madni is a liar and a heretic, and people who believe his weasel words do so at their societies’ peril.

Saudi schoolbooks still in dispute five years after 9/11

September 09, 2006

Denial and dissimulation from the Saudis, broadcast with dismal credulity from AFP:

RIYADH (AFP) – The September 11 attacks in which 15 of the 19 suicide hijackers came from Saudi Arabia triggered a torrent of US accusations that the Muslim kingdom’s education system was fostering Islamic extremism.

Five years on the debate continues. Saudi educators argue that the problem lies in misinterpretation of religious texts or their “exploitation” to justify intolerance.

One dares not blame the Qur’an itself, or the ahadith and Sunna, of course:

“The problem is not with the texts of religious curricula, which are largely based on the Koran and the Sunna (Prophet Mohammed’s doings and sayings),” said Hamad al-Majed, an education professor at Imam Mohammed bin Saud University.

But some religious texts are interpreted by extremists to back up their thinking, while other texts fuel extremism when taken out of context, said Majed, who has taken part in dialogues with Americans on religious freedom.

Speaking of taking things out of context, and relying unquestioningly on someone else’s interpretation:

One example is a verse urging Muslim faithful to “fight the infidels around you, and be tough with them.”

Chapter and verse would be nice, but did it occur to the author to ask? Has the author ever picked up a Qur’an?

The quote comes from this Qur’anic passage:

O ye who believe! Fight those of the disbelievers who are near to you, and let them find harshness in you, and know that Allah is with those who keep their duty (unto Him). (Qur’an 9:123)

Here’s the nice professor to explain it away:

The verse referred to a situation in which the prophet was under attack by enemies and amounted to a call for self-defense, not to go on the offensive, the professor told AFP.

Feel better? No? Good.

Saudi officials, who started reviewing schoolbooks even before the 2001 attacks in the United States, should “look at this matter without sensitivity and remove whatever could be misinterpreted” from curricula, he said.

A red herring, unless they’re prepared to call literal interpretation a “misinterpretation.”

Changes have been introduced and continue to be made. Even “the dose of religious studies” fed to students is a subject of debate, he added.

Khaled al-Awwad, a member of the appointed Shura (consultative) Council and former education ministry undersecretary, said that since September 11, curricula have been reviewed by specialized committees which dropped some of the material that could be misunderstood or “exploited” to promote extremism.

Saudi curricula in general do not encourage intolerance of other faiths or extremism, he insisted.

But as always, the real catalyst for violence is never from within the Muslim camp:

Other factors are more liable to fuel extremism, such as “the injustice inflicted on some Muslim peoples” and US support for Israel, which creates hatred toward the United States, Awwad argued.

According to Aziza al-Mana, a US-educated professor of education at King Saud University, “the flaw can be traced to the insertion of personal views of the authors in religious schoolbooks.”

“After a verse (from the Koran holy book) or a text from the Hadeeth (words of the prophet), the author adds his personal, fanatical views,” she said.

Mana, who sits on a committee preparing the sixth round of a “national dialogue” on developing the Saudi education system, said it needed to be revamped to introduce more relevant sciences, change teaching methods and foster independent thinking.

Good luck with that.

“If we can create a student who thinks freely, he will not be unduly influenced by personal opinions featuring in some books … Our students now don’t have a critical mind,” Mana said.

Posted by Marisol at September 9, 2006 09:48 PM

Enough of the U.N.

September 12, 2006
URL: Today marks the opening of the 61st annual session of the United Nations General Assembly. But just yesterday we were marking a turning point in a war that threatens the lives of decent people all over the world — a war that we cannot afford to lose.The U.N. above all other institutions claims the right to lead this war, to play the part of the general in its prosecution. This organization calls this role a birthright, for its founding Charter took root in the calamity of a genocide that brought civilization to the brink of annihilation.But is the United Nations a help or a hindrance to our success on the battlefield of ideas and the very real trenches that lie beyond? Parentage is not a sufficient qualification for leadership two generations later. Let us consider, therefore, the U.N.’s contribution to the war effort.Just last Friday the U.N. gave the world its answer to 9/11. The General Assembly adopted its first-ever “Global Counter-Terrorism Strategy.” The title is grand. The substance was not: it called for the implemention of a General Assembly resolution from 1991, which draws a distinction between terrorism and the “legitimacy of the struggle of national liberation movements.” The document was also telling for what it omitted: a definition of terrorism, a reference to state sponsorship of terrorism and a call to sanction states that harbor and assist terrorists. Worst of all it began, not with defeat of terrorists, but with “measures to address conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism, which it describes as “prevent[ing] the defamation of religions, religious values, beliefs and cultures,” “eradicate[ing] poverty” and reducing youth unemployment.What does such a strategy do for winning the war? It throws sand in the eyes of the troops on the front lines and renders the goalposts a mirage.The previous post-9/11 record was just as bad. Shortly after 9/11 the U.N. created a new body to take the lead on responding to terrorist threats — the Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee. To this day, the CTC has never named a single terrorist, terrorist organization, or state sponsor of terrorism. What does such a record do for the war effort? It leaves the stewardship of the war against terrorism in the hands of an agent that cannot define it.The U.N.’s top human rights body for six decades, the Commission on Human Rights, was charged with identifying and responding to human rights abuse. During that time, 30% of all its resolutions condemning a specific state for human rights violations were directed at Israel, while not one resolution was adopted condemning states like China, Syria, or Zimbabwe. In recent years, Libya served as Chair. In the name of enhanced credibility, the Commission was replaced this past spring by a Human Rights Council. Its members include Cuba, China, and Saudi Arabia. Since June, the Council has adopted three resolutions and held two special sessions critical of human rights violations in specific states. Now 100% of them are on Israel. In the meantime, thousands die in killing fields and deserts and torture chambers around the world. What does this U.N. game plan do for winning the war? It defines the enemy as the Jew.Last weekend U.N. Secretary General, Kofi Annan, decided to go to Iran and shake hands with President Ahmadinejad. The message Annan delivered, in his own words, was that “The international community should not isolate Iran.” Mr. Ahmadinejad has embraced genocide, called for the eradication of a U.N. member state, denied the truth of the Holocaust even though its ashes form the cornerstone of U.N. itself, and broken his treaty obligations to end the pursuit of nuclear weapons.Yet the Secretary-General still believes the President of Iran does not deserve isolation. What does such a message do for winning the war? It tells us to appease, apologize, and run away.The U.N. system produces hundreds of reports, resolutions, letters, journals, and circulars critical of human rights abuse by particular states. It multiplies their impact through the world’s largest multilingual human rights internet database, a constant stream of press releases, and the sponsorship of meetings year round across the globe. Of the top ten countries of human rights concern to the U.N. in 2005, Israel was first and America was 10th. Iran was 18th. The human rights actions statistics for 2006 are even starker. So far Israel is first and America is 3rd — of all 192 countries on earth. Human rights are the watchword of our time. They have become the rallying cry both for the forces of good and of evil. What does the U.N. campaign to demonize America and its democratic allies do for winning the war? It provides sustenance for our foes and sows confusion among our friends.Time and again the United Nations has stood opposed to America’s attempts to ensure a decent world order, for itself, and for others.America has tried to galvanize legal and political forces by calling the millions dead, displaced, and dying in Sudan “genocide.” But the U.N. reported last year that events in Darfur didn’t meet their criteria for genocide.America has called for immediate sanctions to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. But the U.N. Security Council called only for another report. Published a week ago, the International Atomic Energy Agency said that it “remains unable to … verify the correctness and completeness of Iran’s declarations with a view to confirming the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear programme.” And we’re meant to wait.America has named Hezbollah a terrorist organization. But the U.N. refuses to do so — notwithstanding the 3,900 missiles directed at Israeli civilians this summer. On the contrary, said Deputy Secretary-General Mark Malloch-Brown, “It is not helpful to couch this [Lebanon] war in the language of international terrorism” — this because Hezbollah is “completely separate and different from Al Qaeda.”America has worked arduously to support the nascent democracy in Iraq. But the U.N. has dragged its feet responding to appeals to train Iraqi judges and prosecutors.America has sought repeatedly to put Chinese violations of the civil rights of a billion people on the U.N. agenda. But all such attempts have been defeated by maneuvers that take draft resolutions off the table before they can even be put to a vote.America has called for the Security Council to take action on the dire situation in Burma or Myanmar. But the subject has not even made it to the Council’s agenda.America attempted to introduce minimal qualifications for membership on the Human Rights Council relating to actual human rights performance. The General Assembly rejected the idea out-of-hand.Why have our best efforts to enlist the U.N. in the battle against intolerance and extremism failed? Who are these opponents, wrapped in the U.N. flag, who inculcate the view that American unilateralism and non-cooperation is the root cause of the world’s ills?Opponents of such reform include U.N. staffers like the secretary-general and his deputy, who claim they are hapless functionaries operating at the mercy of member states — notwithstanding self-motivated trips to Iran, handshakes with Hezbollah, “doing business” with Saddam Hussein, and blaming middle American ignorance for the credibility gap. They are the 45 “Not Free” nations — to use Freedom House labels — who pass judgment on others in the General Assembly. These are the state sponsors of terrorism. The ones who don’t let women vote or drive, or who kill them in the name of “honor.” The ones who raise their children to die while murdering as many others of a different faith as possible. The ones who shoot mothers and babies from behind. The ones who claim that authoring a cartoon, a movie, or a book can justify a death sentence.They are also the 58 “Partly-Free” countries. Some of these are cronies, others are just cowards. Some are like-minded with their more notorious neighbors, others are very dependent.Together, these nations represent the majority of the 132 developing states and the majority of 192 U.N. members. They are unified not by a desire to democratize, or even to develop, since many are quite content with kingdoms and with servitude in their own backyards. They are a team because they are adroit at U.N. politics, and they have learned that the cartel is good for business. This holds true particularly for the largest single bloc amongst them — the 56-member Organization of the Islamic Conference.The one loose-knit collective that has miserably failed at coordination within U.N. is the Community of Democracies — the pretense of a democratic caucus that counts Nepal, Qatar, and Russia among its members.The remaining 89 “Free” countries are not only outnumbered at the UN, they are pitted against each other. The plethora of non-democratic regimes in the U.N. framework creates an incentive for a second-string player like France to take on the role of the power-broker and middleman. The possibility of using their influence with dictatorships to offset American power is too tempting for many EU nations. The halfway point between America and the state sponsors of terrorism, however, is not where any democracy ought to be. The U.N. system, though, does not merely divide and conquers democracies — it makes the loser pay for the experience. Just eight developed democracies contribute three-quarters of the entire U.N. regular budget.There is an alternative, an antidote to the self-doubt and moral relativism planted in our midst by Turtle Bay. Senator Frist calls it a “council of democracies outside of the U.N. system … [that would] truly monitor, examine and expose human rights abuses around the globe.” Such a gathering is an idea whose time has come: the United Democratic Nations — an international organization of democracies, by democracies, and for democracies. It is time to say enough.This material is drawn from Ms. Bayefsky’s remarks yesterday at a Hudson Institute conference. Ms. Bayefsky is founder of 

Hamas to allow peace talks as its militants kill Israeli soldier

Analysis: Stephen Farrell

Hamas will not stand in the way of peace talks with Israel as a partner in the new Palestinian Government of national unity, a spokesman for the Islamist group said today.

But the apparent softening of Hamas’s stance was undermined by the killing of an Israeli soldier by the group’s armed wing during an ambush in the Gaza Strip.

The Israeli army confirmed that a non-commissioned officer had been shot dead during an operation against gunmen in central Gaza early this morning. He was the first Israeli soldier to die in Gaza in nearly three months of raids against Palestinian militants since the kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit, an Israeli tank soldier, in June. More than 200 Palestinians have been killed in the fighting.

Earlier, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas, and another group, the Popular Resistance Committees, claimed to have shot an Israeli officer after their fighters were ambushed 500m from the Israeli border.

Reports of the violence sat uneasily with the cautious tone of optimism that has surrounded Hamas’s agreement to form a government of national unity with Fatah, the former ruling party and the movement led by the Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas.

Today, Ghazi Hamad, a spokesman of the outgoing Hamas-led Government, said that the group would not object to Mr Abbas re-opening peace talks with Israel. Although Hamas refuses to recognise Israel, the new government implicitly acknowledges its existence by accepting the idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.

“We have no problem that this government have peace talks with Israel,” Mr Hamad told Israeli Army Radio, speaking in Hebrew. “We have nothing against negotiations, we have nothing against a diplomatic process but we have rights.”

Mr Abbas is expected to dissolve the Hamas-led government within days. Although both Israel and the US have expressed little optimism about the coalition that will take its place, European ministers today made hopeful noises, suggesting that the formation of the new government might allow some EU aid, frozen for six months, to flow back into the territory.

Tony Blair, speaking at the TUC conference in Brighton the day after returning from a three-day trip to the Middle East, said: “Yesterday’s announcement of a government of national unity in Palestine is precisely what I hoped for.

“On the basis it is faithful to the conditions spelled out by the Quartet, that is the UN, EU, US and Russia, we should lift the economic sanctions on the Palestinian Authority.”

The drying up of international aid has crippled the Palestinian Government. Hundreds of civil servants, some unpaid for months, protested again in Gaza today, demanding their salaries, while a United Nations report said that the territory’s economy was on the verge of collapse after missing out on hundreds of millions of pounds of international assistance.

The UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) said that the vast majority of international donors had ceased their payments to the Palestinian Authority when Hamas assumed power in March. In 2005, the government received $800 million in aid, equivalent to two thirds of its revenue.

“Dwindling donor support has left the Palestinian Authority in a perilous financial position,” Unctad reported in its annual study of the Palestinian economy. “Poverty continues to widen and deepen.”

Unctad forecast that Palestinian per capita income for 2006 would be half that of pre-2000 levels, and that two out of three Palestinian households would live below the poverty line by the end of the year. It observed that the barrier built by Israel to contain Palestinian militants had cut off around 20 per cent of the territory’s farm land.

The first stage towards a possible rapprochement with the EU may take place on Friday, when foreign ministers will meet in Brussels to discuss the new government.

Today Ursula Plassnik, the Austrian Foreign Minister, invited Mr Abbas to Friday’s meeting: “This is a long-awaited, encouraging sign of hope for the Palestinian population and for the entire region,” she said. “After the standstill of the past weeks, there is again movement in the region’s core issue.”

  • An Israeli military judge today ordered the release of 21 Hamas officials, including three Cabinet ministers, who were detained during the raids that followed the kidnapping of Corporal Shalit. A spokesman for Ismail Haniya, the Palestinian Prime Minister, said the ruling could lead to “significant progress” in attempts to free the soldier

Ship with N. Korean weapons seized enroute to Syria

SPECIAL TO WORLD TRIBUNE.COMTuesday, September 12, 2006

NICOSIA — The Republic of Cyprus has stopped a ship full of North Korean weapons systems bound for Syria. Officials said Greek Cypriot authorities responded to an alert by Interpol to capture a ship bound for Syria from North Korea. They said security agents found a mobile air defense system and components of a missile launcher. “We will implement the law, nothing more and nothing less,” Cypriot Justice Minister Sophocles Sophocleous said on Monday. “And the political position will be expressed by the foreign minister.” At this point, the Foreign Ministry has been examining the issue and maintaining contact with Damascus. This is the first time that the Republic of Cyprus was believed to have seized a suspected weapons ship to Syria. The ship, named the Panamanian-flagged Grigorio-1, reported a consignment of weather-observation equipment, officials said. But Interpol asserted that the freighter contained North Korean weapons systems and asked Nicosia to detain the ship for inspection. Officials did not identify the North Korean air defense system. But they reported 18 truck-mounted mobile radar systems and three command vehicles. The ship did not contain any missiles, officials said. They said the vessel carried irrigation pipes as well as components that could be part of a missile launcher. Officials said Damascus had asked Nicosia to release the seized shipment. They said the ship’s manifest does not identify Syria as the consignee. NATO, which administers a program to halt suspected weapons of mass destruction shipments, has denied participation in the Cypriot operation. NATO has sought partners in Operation Active Endeavor, designed to monitor the Mediterranean for Al Qaida as well as WMD suppliers. On Monday, NATO hosted the seven-member Mediterranean Dialogue in London in an effort to increase military and security relations. NATO officials, in a conference co-sponsored by the Royal United Services Institute, urged Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco and Tunisia to cooperate with each other and the Western alliance in combating Al Qaida-aligned groups and their sponsors. The Grigorio-1 was tracked by Interpol for several months, officials said. They said the ship was seized on Sept. 5 when it sailed near Larnaca for refueling. Officials said Grigorio-1 left North Korea for the Middle East and stopped at several ports. They said the last leg of the journey began from Egypt’s Port Said toward the Syrian port of Latakia.

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