An Awful SOFA

One of the most significant foreign policy questions to be decided in the next several months is that of continuing U.S. involvement in Iraq. In large part, that question will be answered by the way the current Status of Forces Agreement ("SOFA") negotiations unfold in Baghdad between the U.S. government and the Iraqi government. Currently, U.S. and Multi-National Forces in Iraq operate under a United Nations mandate, but that mandate is scheduled to expire at the end of this year.

For many months, diplomats, lawyers, military officers and political leaders have been wrestling over what legal framework will succeed the UN mandate -- and according to recent reports, those negotiations haven't been going very well.

Over at Abu Muquwama, "Dr. iRack" has followed this issue closely. In a series of blog posts, he's got some of the best analysis anywhere on the SOFA issue and the larger questions these talks raise about the future of the U.S. effort in Iraq. Check it out.

By Phillip Carter |  June 17, 2008; 9:04 AM ET  | Category:  Iraq
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Does it not create a protectorate in the Gulf? Will it not aways spawn citizens who will act on our behalf as they do in Saudi Arabia - families who appreciate the rights of individuals and generously share the wealth which our blood and treasury created? Men who will rule from the SOFA are gifts from an ever loving...who feeds on fear and oil.

Posted by: Bill Keller | June 17, 2008 1:05 PM

Dr. iRack makes an excellent point -- the Bush administration sees Maliki as indispensable to the war effort. This gives Maliki tremendous leverage in negotiations.

Bush and Negroponte made exactly the same mistake in Pakistan: rather than seeing the Pakistani *people* as vital to the war on terror, they saw *Musharaff" as vital. In doing so, they alienated the Pakistani's oppressed by Musharaff, and when the government changed, we had a lot of 'splaining to do.

So.. when, and it seems likely soon, Maliki is out, what will be the US influence and position with the new Government of Iraq?

The SOFA as drafted seems offensive to any sovereign state: immunity for private security contactors? Unlimited powers to arrest and detain Iraqis? Who but a total puppet could agree to such things?

Once again, the Bush administration goes it alone, by not attempting to negotiate a bilateral treaty with Iraq, confirmed by the Senate.

Is this just hubris? Is it because they despise Congress? Is it because they don't think they have the necessary votes? If senators believed that such a treaty was in the best interests of the United States, they'd vote for it, wouldn't they?

Posted by: DanPatrick | June 17, 2008 3:21 PM

I realize that it may be difficult to come up with a short, non-emotive word that conveys the reality of the proposals the Bush administration is pushing on the Iraqi government, but that's no excuse for accepting the administration's misleading characterization of a SOFA, or status of forces agreement.

Not one of the many, many existing SOFAs with governments where the U.S. has bases resembles even slightly the Bush proposals: fifty-plus bases, unilateral military action, detention of host country nationals, military action against other countries, total immunity of U.S. troops and private contractors from laws of the host country, the fiction that bases are "Iraqi bases" if there is a single Iraqi guard on the perimeter...

This is a proposal for indefinite military occupation. It is not a status of forces agreement.

Another important reason not to cooperate with the administration's misleading description is that SOFAs can be and usually are negotiated by the executive branch with the host government, without the need for Senate ratification. But this proposal has the character of a treaty, and would require Senate ratification to become binding. The administration is trying to get the deal done without Congressional approval by calling it a SOFA.

There is no reason to go along.

Posted by: Nell2 | June 17, 2008 3:23 PM

There has never been a SOFA in a country where the U.S. was at war--even though allied--or was occupying.

Inasmuch as Vietnam seems to be the nearest historical reference, revisiting the terms there might be helpful. We operated under a so-called "Pentalateral Agreement," which essentially guaranteed full diplomatic immunity to senior officers, limited diplomatic, but full immunity from Vietnamese court jurisdiction for all other officers, and treatment similar to that enjoyed by U.S. diplomatic clerical personnel to enlisted personnel. Functionally, the Vietnamese exercised no legal authority over U.S. forces. All offenses--military and civilian--were handled through courts-martial.

U.S. civilian employees were treated in a similar fashion to the military. Contractors--and there were actually a lot of them in Vietnam--were officially subject to Vietnamese law, but it seems the Vietnamese never chose to exercise this authority, if it was ever needed at all.

Going back to WW2, even though as many as one million U.S. military personnel were stationed in England, English courts had no jurisdiction over those forces. All offenses were handled by courts martial.

SOFA is designed for Cold War situations, e.g., West Germany, Korea, etc., where the once occupied nation or allied nation where the hot war took place becomes a consenting partner to the continuing presence of troops once hostilities have ceased. ISTM that one enormously pertinent factor is whether or not U.S. personnel are subject to hostile fire. IMO, if they are, and are therefore carrying weapons on a daily basis, a SOFA is inappropriate.

Personally, I think a SOFA granting any type of jurisdiction to Iraqi courts over U.S. personnel would be the death knell to the fantasies regarding the wonderful things a continued troop presence will bring. Speaking as a retired military officer, and knowing what I know about the so-called judicial system in Iraq, if someone told me I had to go to Iraq and then be subject to its so-called justice system, I would refuse to go. Just as I would have refused to go to Vietnam if the Vietnamese legal system had any jurisdiction over me.

You want a revolt among our forces? Grant the Iraqis jurisdiction over them. You want to eliminate contractors from the mix? Grant the Iraqis jurisdiction. Then watch the whole thing fall apart.

What we have here is yet another brain fart from the brilliant Bush Administration. What they're trying to do is tie the hands of the next administration, but if they're not careful, they will kill the golden goose. This whole SOFA issue should have never been broached at this time, unless, of course, it's really all just a clever ploy on the part of George Bush to end our involvement in Iraq sooner rather than later.

Posted by: Publius | June 17, 2008 7:21 PM


Stop peeing in the punch bowl with logic and reasoning. A SOFA, good or bad, is one of those benchmarks we need so we can move onto the next phase. I actually do believe your last statement, I do think it is a move by the POTUS to break contact under his terms. He must be concerned with his legacy. I fully believe that before the Nov elections, he will announce a large withdrawal plan. And the SOFA is a critical piece of the puzzle to reach the point that you brought up, a "post-war" period.

Have you heard that OIF has officially been divided into campaigns? Add these streamers to your guidon.

Liberation of Iraq - March 19, 2003 to May 1, 2003.
Transition of Iraq - May 2, 2003 to June 28, 2004.
Iraqi Governance - June 29, 2004 to Dec. 15, 2005.
National Resolution - Dec. 16, 2005 to a date to be determined

I have no doubt in my mind that the POTUS intends to move into the next (and hopefully final) phase NLT 1 Jan 09. I am sure, as politics dictates, the announcement will be made at such a time that it will best support the Republican candidate.

Posted by: bg | June 17, 2008 10:30 PM

Just to amplify to my last statement:

I believe the POTUS will announce the withdrawal plan during a critical point of the election, and he will credit McCain's "Surge" for allowing it to happen.

Just my predictive analysis.

Posted by: bg | June 17, 2008 10:39 PM

Have you heard that OIF has officially been divided into campaigns? Add these streamers to your guidon.

Liberation of Iraq - March 19, 2003 to May 1, 2003.
Transition of Iraq - May 2, 2003 to June 28, 2004.
Iraqi Governance - June 29, 2004 to Dec. 15, 2005.
National Resolution - Dec. 16, 2005 to a date to be determined

Not on my guidon, buddy. You do recall that I've sat this one out, right?

Bg, I like your thinking, but then, all of us conspiracy theorists--our line of business is full of 'em--think alike.

Posted by: Publius | June 17, 2008 11:33 PM

Does Congress, and particularly the Senate, intend to stand up for its institutional prerogatives in this matter or not?

It is just remarkable that we have seen and heard so little about the role of the American legislature with respect to an international agreement that is substantively not only different, but vastly different, than any existing agreement under the Status of Forces rubric. Bush administration officials from the President on down have described in plain English what they intend the Iraq SOFA to do, and the response in the Senate appears to be to wait for the Iraqis to object. To a veteran of an earlier period, and not that much earlier, either, when the Senate took its prerogatives with respect to international agreements very seriously indeed, this is just short of amazing even after all we have seen in the last few years.

Posted by: Zathras | June 18, 2008 12:30 AM

Not to toot my own horn, but, hell, it's mine so why not:

Read it and weep, me hearties...

Posted by: FDChief | June 18, 2008 12:48 AM

DanPatrick: "Bush and Negroponte made exactly the same mistake in Pakistan: rather than seeing the Pakistani *people* as vital to the war on terror, they saw *Musharaff" as vital. In doing so, they alienated the Pakistani's oppressed by Musharaff, and when the government changed, we had a lot of 'splaining to do."

Same old same old - 'Our SOB'. That's been the policy of the US for quite a number of decades, the odd assassination/coup being minor exceptions.

Posted by: Barry | June 18, 2008 8:13 AM

>>>when the government changed

Did I miss something? Is Musharraf not still in charge in Pakistan?

BG...great posts last night.

Posted by: Panhandle Willy | June 18, 2008 9:48 PM

World A'Hoy;All.

Just Out on the W.w.w.;The Leading Story of the new Weekly Ahram from Cairo Egypt.

Sovereignty vs power
The proposed Iraqi-US agreement allowing American forces to remain in the country after their UN mandate expires is already exacerbating Iraq's problems, writes Salah Hemeid

Iraqi leaders, who must decide soon on a controversial strategic pact to extend the American military presence in Iraq, have few doubts about what their beleaguered country needs. At a meeting on Sunday to review the latest version of the agreement senior Iraqi leaders made it clear that what the Americans are offering is more than they can swallow.

"The council unanimously agrees that this agreement must take into consideration Iraq's sovereignty, in all aspects, and that it should not include any provisions that infringe on the interests of the Iraqi people," said the Iraqi leaders in a statement following a meeting of the Political Council, an assembly of senior representatives of Iraq's various factions.

Two days before the meeting Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri Al-Maliki said talks with the United States on a long-term security pact had reached a dead-end over objections relating to Iraq's sovereignty. His statement in Amman, Jordan, was the strongest yet in a debate which echoed the concerns of many Iraqis that the US proposals give Washington too much political and military leverage.

For months Iraqi negotiators have been meeting with their American counterparts under a shroud of secrecy to hammer out the terms of an agreement that will provide a legal basis for the presence of US forces in Iraq after their UN mandate expires at the end of this year. No official documents have been made public but numerous versions of the pact, leaked to the media, suggest that the Americans are insisting on conditions that many Iraqis see as unacceptable.

Early versions have sought to guarantee immunity from prosecution under Iraqi law not only for US soldiers but for mercenaries working for security firms in Iraq while granting US forces the authority to arrest anyone in Iraq without having to turn the detainees over to Iraqi courts. They also demanded open-ended Iraqi approval for up to 58 American military bases on Iraqi soil. The US negotiators had also originally insisted on control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000 feet and carte blanche for American forces to launch military operations from Iraq against any target without consulting the Iraqi authorities.

The agreement, in its original terms, was seen by many Iraqis as a blank cheque for the US forces to operate in Iraq as long as they wanted while doing anything they liked, regardless of any concept of Iraqi sovereignty, independence and national interests. The agreement would not only have cemented American military, political and economic domination of Iraq, it would have turned it into a colony in all but name.

Mid-par.:The outrage has fuelled already high tensions amid clashes between US-Iraqi forces and Shia militia fighters. Al-Sadr, who is believed to be in Iran, issued a statement last Friday saying his Mahdi militia would continue to resist US-led forces in Iraq but fighting will be limited to a select group.

In the face of growing opposition American and Iraqi negotiators have been revising the terms to narrow their differences. Iraqi leaders say they are forming two working groups to renegotiate the agreement under direct supervision of Al-Maliki. President Bush himself has said the security pact with Iraq will include no plans for permanent US bases there.

Such pledges could be no more than ruses aimed at concealing the terms of the negotiations from Iraqis who would object to them if they were made public. On Monday Zebari told CNN he still expects Iraq to reach an agreement with Washington by the end of July, raising fears that the government is camouflaging its intentions with noisy promises.

Then,Ending:Both the ruling alliance in Baghdad and the Bush administration are desperate to finalise the agreement. While the Iraqi government realises that it cannot maintain its recent security gains, or even stay in power, without the American help, Bush wants to gain a legal basis for the US occupation and cite that as a victory for his war policy. Al-Maliki could claim that he regained sovereignty for Iraq and Bush could use this agreement as evidence that he has reshaped a strategically vital area of the world, endowing Iraqis with freedom, democracy, and stability.

Even if the two sides reach a compromise Iraqis will still view the pact as making humiliating concessions. At this juncture in Iraq's turbulent history it is hard not to recall the events of 1948, when Iraqis revolted against attempts to renew the Anglo- Iraqi Treaty of 1930. The British- backed government of Nuri Al-Said was forced to disavow the treaty after it was rejected out of hand by crowds in the streets of Baghdad. Many Iraqis now wonder if history is about to repeat itself while another Nuri is in power in Baghdad.

Good Night All;Here it's Midnight +30 minutes.

To Life!=לחיים.Pronounced Le Chaim.

Michael of the upper West side.


Posted by: Michael up West.Orinally Manhattan.Now Jerusalem. | June 19, 2008 5:39 PM


Somehow you come across as a former Bush apologist who is just now starting to see the light, hoping that your spin will eventually vindicate the chimp in the White House.

That would allow you to cling to the canard that the chimp knows what he is doing.

Do anybody really believe that the chimp has actually realized that he made the biggest f*ckup in recorded history???!!!

Posted by: osmor | June 19, 2008 11:47 PM

clarification to BG:

"..a former Bush apologist who is just now starting to see the light, YET SOMEHOW hoping that your spin will eventually vindicate the chimp.."

Posted by: Anonymous | June 19, 2008 11:51 PM

Hi All,freely E@World Central West Jerusalem Friday morning @9:18 AM now.

By the way;If you don't get to see from me again today;

I here wish All;Sabbath Peace=שבת שלום,from Jerusalem.

לחיים=To Life! Michael PRIORITY 1 LIFE

Military victory, political defeat
Despite the Iraqi government's crackdown on militiamen in Al-Amarah, Al-Sadr might turn out to be the winner, writes Saif Nasrawi

The movement of Moqtada Al-Sadr has fine-tuned its multifaceted military and political strategy to survive the most recent US-backed Iraqi military assault on its last stronghold in the southern city of Al-Amarah.

Avoiding direct confrontation, neutralising the rogue elements within the ranks of his Mahdi Army militia, adopting a rather pacifist discourse and forging a wider political alliance with different Iraqi opposition groups are some of Al-Sadr's smart tactical manoeuvres to repel the new "law imposing operation" in Al-Amarah, the oil-rich capital of Maysan province.

Followers of Al-Sadr vowed Monday that they won't resist a military crackdown in Amarah, 320km southeast of Baghdad, as long as government troops keep away from arbitrary arrest or committing other violations.

A close aide to Al-Sadr in Baghdad also anticipated a "quiet" control by the government forces on Al-Amarah, but he had rather different explanations to account for it. "The Al-Sadr Current is very aware of Al-Maliki's plan to undermine its chances in competing in the next local council elections and drive the public attention away from rejecting the security agreement that he wants to sign with the United States," he told the Weekly on condition of anonymity. He added that the Sadrists will work hard to ensure that their political and military structure remains intact. US and Iraqi commanders said senior militia leaders already have fled the area to neighbouring Iran, leaving only rank-and-file fighters behind. Al-Sadr's main office in Al-Amarah was evacuated and turned over peacefully to the local government on Sunday.

This avoidance of direct military confrontation with Iraqi and US forces attests to the new "hide and seek" tactics adopted by the Sadrists in order to rebuild their political and military bases. On Friday, Al-Sadr ordered that only a select group of his Mahdi Army confront US troops -- not Iraqi forces --- while the rest should focus on political and cultural work. That effectively disarms most of his unruly militia, which consists of tens of thousands of fighters.

Late par.:

A Sadrist political leader, who declined to be identified, said that the movement will triumph eventually. "The government is trying to flex its muscles by targeting the Mahdi Army fighters and our response is that we are sending a clear message to the Iraqi people that we want peace," he told the Weekly. He added that the Iraqi premier will lose the support of millions of Iraqis "who were misguided by security gains especially when he signs the shameful security agreement with the Americans."


Al-Sadr, along other Shia religious and political leaders, have condemned the drafts of the status of forces agreement presented by Washington, arguing that it seriously compromises Iraqi sovereignty.

Posted by: Michael of up West.Orig.Manhattan.Now Jerusalem. | June 20, 2008 2:21 AM

Making no waves
The Irish referendum, the new Club Med and Bush's Euro fest to solicit trans-Atlantic solidarity are to ensure that his vintage war on terror is not dead in the water, but none of them hold any water, writes Gamal Nkrumah

United States President George W Bush refuses to reconcile himself with defeat in his self-styled war against terror. His European tour this week corroborated his mulishness. President Bush is incapable of accepting that he is a failing bungler. He crossed the Atlantic Ocean oblivious of the utter state of contempt in which the world, including Americans themselves, hold his bloodstained record. In his characteristic clumsy waffle President Bush declared that he "fully understands that while some want to say that the terrorist threat has gone, or that it's nothing to worry about, it is something to worry about."

Trans-Atlantic politics is obviously beginning to stutter towards something approaching lunacy. President Bush self- assuredly concluded, "the people of Afghanistan and Iraq appreciate it." Presumably the "it" refers to the American occupation of the two respectively occupied countries. How much of a milestone are Afghanistan and Iraq to the Bush legacy is not hard to gauge. A recent CBS poll came to the conclusion that a walloping 61 per cent of Americans believe that Iraq would "never" become a stable democracy. And, the same poll concluded that no less than 62 per cent believe that the war in Iraq is disastrous. Bush obviously has few trumps to play at this stage of his presidency. The entire Arab and Muslim world's future is full of pitfalls in spite of the Bush administration's drive for democratisation in the region.

These are times when every political move of the world's most powerful nation's lameduck president is measured against prior expectations. In sum, the worst of the horrors unleashed by the war on terror proved remarkably prescient as foretold by anti-war activists. These truisms, however, were lost on Bush and his European hosts.


Few would dispute France's dishonorable treatment of its former colonies in North Africa, and in particular Algeria. Parallels will be drawn between this slick new affair and the more sinister French colonial past, but this is not an issue that was touched upon at the Franco-American summit in Paris. As far as Sarkozy and Bush were concerned, assimilating the underdogs at home and abroad into the ruling Western-dominated world system with its democratic pretensions is the issue at stake. Their trial run in Afghanistan and Iraq has gone awry. Now they're trying a more subtle but equally nefarious variant. The naked truth, however, is that they are performing in the buff.

Posted by: Michael of up West.Orig.Manhattan.Now Jerusalem | June 20, 2008 2:40 AM

Just out on the W.w.w. Top Story @UK Independent Friday June 20,2008;

Oil giants return to Iraq

Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil and Total set to sign deal with Baghdad

By Patrick Co.kburn
Friday, 20 June 2008

Nearly four decades after the four biggest Western oil companies were expelled from Iraq by Saddam Hussein, they are negotiating their return. By the end of the month, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, Exxon Mobil and Total will sign agreements with the Baghdad government, Iraq's first with big Western oil firms since the US-led invasion in 2003.

The deals are for repair and technical support in some of the country's largest oilfields, the Oil Ministry in Baghdad said yesterday. The return of "Big Oil" will add to the suspicions of those in the Middle East who claimed that the overthrow of Saddam was secretly driven by the West's desire to gain control of Iraq's oil. It will also be greeted with dismay by many Iraqis who fear losing control of their vast oil reserves.

For Iraq, the agreements are a way of accessing foreign expertise immediately, before the Iraqi parliament passes a controversial new hydrocarbons law.

But they mean that the four oil companies, which originally formed the Iraq Petroleum Company to exploit Iraqi oil from the 1920s until the industry's nationalisation in 1972, will be well-placed to bid for contracts for the long-term development of these fields. The oilfields affected are some of the largest in Iraq, from Kirkuk in the north to Rumaila, on the border with Kuwait. Although there is oil in northern Iraq, most of the reserves are close to Basra, in the far south.

Since the US invasion, Iraqis have been wary of foreign involvement in their oil industry. Many are convinced that the hidden purpose of the US invasion was to take over Iraqi oil,


Big four have history of control

For the four oil giants, the new agreements will bring them back to a country where they have a long history. BP, Exxon Mobil, Total and Shell were co-owners of a British, American and French consortium that kept Iraq's oil reserves in foreign control for more than 40 years.

The Iraq Petroleum Company (once the Turkish Petroleum Company) was formed in 1912 by oil companies eager to grab the resources in parts of the Ottoman Empire.

The company was formalised in 1928 and each of the four shareholders had a 23.75 per cent share of all the oil produced. The final 5 per cent went to Calouste Gulbenkian, an Armenian businessman.

In 1931, an agreement was signed with Iraq, giving the company complete control over the oi fields of Mosul in return for annual royalties. After Saddam's coup in 1958, nationalisation came in 1972.

Posted by: Michael of up West.Orig.Manhattan.Now Jerusalem | June 20, 2008 3:14 AM

World A'Hoy All; And Sunday's time for relaxing read.So now @3:32 PM Far West Jerusalem here @ET+7,as your' starting off on your East Coast U.S. Sunday June 22,08;

Allow me to clue you onto a UK Independent Sunday,of today,series,sure to catch your fancy.

Now,tail end of this Editor's Choice article,shows it premiered in New Republic magazine;So you may have already seen it.

But it's related,that I have not yet looked at,show promise.

So that's all I'll say,before pasting along a significant segment from my U.S. newspaper forums Far & Thin 'jour gems',daily posting;

Still now under speed-reading eyes to acumen,E-tapped compose @my primitive single finger,rate;about 1/100th my third of a Century,journalism concentrated,Speed-reading,in English rate.

Editor's Choice (#9 most popular @indy.,now.)

Special report: Is Al Qa'ida in pieces?

It continues to mount brutally effective operations around the world, but from Saudi Arabia to the streets of east London, hardline Islamists are turning against Al-Qa'ida in unprecedented numbers. Is the global terror network self-destructing? A special report by Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank

Sunday, 22 June 2008

More pictures

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Within a few minutes of Noman Benotman's arrival at the Kandahar guest house, Osama bin Laden came to welcome him. The journey from Kabul had been hard - 17 hours in a Toyota pick-up truck, bumping along what passed as the main highway to southern Afghanistan. It was the summer of 2000, and Benotman, then a leader of a group trying to overthrow the Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi, had been invited by Bin Laden to a conference of jihadists from around the Arab world, the first of its kind since al-Qa'ida had moved to Afghanistan in 1996. Benotman, the scion of an aristocratic family marginalised by Qaddafi, had known Bin Laden from their days fighting the communist Afghan government in the early 1990s, a period when Benotman established himself as a leader of the militant Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.

The night of Benotman's arrival, Bin Laden threw a lavish banquet in the main hall of his compound, an unusual extravagance for the frugal al-Qa'ida leader. As Bin Laden circulated, making small talk, large dishes of rice and platters of whole roasted lamb were served to some 200 jihadists, many of whom had come from around the Middle East. "It was one big reunification," Benotman recalls. "The leaders of most of the jihadist groups in the Arab world were there and almost everybody within al-Qa'ida."

Bin Laden was trying to win over other militant groups to the global jihad he had announced against the West in 1998. Over the next five days, Bin Laden and his top aides, including Ayman al-Zawahiri, met with a dozen or so jihadist leaders. They sat on the floor in a circle with large cushions arrayed around them to discuss the future of their movement. "This was a big strategy meeting," Benotman told one of us late last year, in his first account of the meeting to a reporter. "We talked about everything, where are we going, what are the lessons of the past 20 years."

Despite the warm welcome, Benotman surprised his hosts with a bleak assessment of their prospects. "I told them that the jihadist movement had failed. That we had gone from one disaster to another, like in Algeria, because we had not mobilised the people," recalls Benotman, referring to the Algerian civil war launched by jihadists in the 1990s that left more than 100,000 dead and destroyed whatever local support the militants had once enjoyed. Benotman also told Bin Laden that the al-Qa'ida leader's decision to target the West would only sabotage attempts by groups such as Benotman's to overthrow the secular dictatorships in the Arab world. "We made a clear-cut request for him to stop his campaign against the United States because it was going to lead to nowhere," Benotman recalls, "but they laughed when I told them that America would attack the whole region if they launched another attack against it."

Early sement:

This past November, Benotman went public with his own criticism of al-Qa'ida in an open letter to al-Zawahiri, absorbed and well received, he says, by the jihadist leaders in Tripoli. In the letter, Benotman recalled his Kandahar warnings and called on al-Qa'ida to end all operations in Arab countries and in the West. The citizens of Western countries were blameless and should not be the target of terrorist attacks, argued Benotman, his refined English accent, smart suit, trimmed beard, and easygoing demeanour making it hard to imagine that he was once on the front lines in Afghanistan.

Although Benotman's public rebuke of al-Qa'ida went unnoticed in the United States, it received wide attention in the Arabic press. In repudiating al-Qa'ida, Benotman was adding his voice to a rising tide of anger in the Islamic world toward al-Qa'ida and its affiliates, whose victims since 11 September have mostly been fellow Muslims. Significantly, he was also joining a larger group of religious scholars, former fighters, and militants who had once had great influence over al-Qa'ida's leaders, and who - alarmed by the targeting of civilians in the West, senseless killings in Muslim countries, and barbaric tactics in Iraq - have turned against the organisation, many just in the past year.


Why have clerics and militants once considered allies by al-Qa'ida's leaders turned against them? To a large extent, it is because al-Qa'ida and its affiliates have increasingly adopted the doctrine of takfir, by which they claim the right to decide who is a "true" Muslim. Al-Qa'ida's Muslim critics know what results from this takfiri view: first, the radicals deem some Muslims apostates; after that, the radicals start killing them. This fatal progression happened in both Algeria and Egypt in the 1990s. It is now taking place even more dramatically in Iraq, where al-Qa'ida's suicide bombers have killed more than 10,000 Iraqis, most of them targeted simply for being Shia. Recently, al-Qa'ida in Iraq has turned its fire on Sunnis who oppose its diktats, a fact not lost on the Islamic world's Sunni majority.

Additionally, al-Qa'ida and its affiliates have killed thousands of Muslim civilians elsewhere since 11 September: hundreds of Afghans killed every year by the Taliban, dozens of Saudis killed by terrorists since 2003, scores of Jordanians massacred at a wedding at a US hotel in Amman in November 2005. Even those sympathetic to al-Qa'ida have started to notice. "Excuse me Mr Zawahiri but who is it who is killing, with Your Excellency's blessing, the innocents in Baghdad, Morocco and Algeria?" one supporter asked in an online Q&A with al-Qa'ida's deputy leader in April that was posted widely on jihadist websites. All this has created a dawning recognition among Muslims that the ideological virus that unleashed 11 September and the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid is the same virus now wreaking havoc in the Muslim world.

Later segment:

So it was an unwelcome surprise for al-Qa'ida's leaders when Dr Fadl's new book, Rationalization of Jihad, was serialised in an independent Egyptian newspaper in November. The incentive for writing the book, he explained, was that "jihad... was blemished with grave sharia violations during recent years... Now there are those who kill hundreds, including women and children, Muslims and non Muslims in the name of jihad!" Dr Fadl ruled that al-Qa'ida's bombings in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere were illegitimate and that terrorism against civilians in Western countries was wrong. He also took on al-Qa'ida's leaders directly in an interview with the newspaper Al-Hayat. "Zawahiri and his Emir Bin Laden [are] extremely immoral," he said. "I have spoken about this in order to warn the youth against them, youth who are seduced by them, and don't know them."

Dr Fadl's harsh words attracted attention throughout the Arabic-speaking world; even a majority of al-Zawahiri's own Jihad group jailed in Egyptian prisons promised to end their armed struggle. In December, al-Zawahiri released an audiotape lambasting his former mentor, accusing him of being in league with the "bloodthirsty betrayer", Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak; and, in a 200-page book titled The Exoneration, published in March, he portrayed Dr Fadl as a prisoner trying to curry favour with Egypt's security services and the author of "a desperate attempt (under American sponsorship) to confront the high tide of the jihadist awakening".

Mid border to Late segment:

Three days after the London bombings, the Leyton mosque held an emergency meeting; about 300 people attended. "We explained that these acts were evil, that they were haram [unlawful]," recalls Hassan. It was not the easiest of crowds; one youngster stormed out, shouting, 'As far as I'm concerned, 50 dead kuffar is not a problem.'"

In Friday sermons since then, Hassan has hammered home the difference between legitimate jihad and terrorism, despite a death threat from pro-al-Qa'ida militants: "I think I'm listened to by the young because I have street cred from having spent time in a [jihadist] training camp." This spring, Hassan helped launch the Quilliam Foundation, an organisation set up by former Islamist extremists to counter radicalism by making speeches to young British Muslims about how they had been duped into embracing hatred of the West.

Such counter-radicalisation efforts will help lower the pool of potential recruits for al-Qa'ida - the only way the organisation can be defeated in the long term. But the reality facing British counterterrorism officials, such as Detective Inspector Robert Lambert, the recently departed head of the Metropolitan Police's Muslim Contact Unit, is that "al-Qa'ida values dozens of recruits more than hundreds ' of supporters". In order to target the most radical extremists, the Metropolitan Police have backed the efforts of a Muslim community group, the Active Change Foundation, based around a gym in Walthamstow run by Hanif and Imtiaz Qadir, two brothers of Kashmiri descent.

Hanif Qadir, now 42, revealed to us that he himself was recruited by al-Qa'ida after the US overthrow of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Jihadist recruiters in east London, no doubt noting wealth, sought out Qadir, who had earned enough money running a car repair shop to buy a Rolls-Royce and live in some style, and recounted lurid tales of American brutality in Afghanistan. "The guy who handled me was a Syrian called Abu Sufiyan... I'm sure he was from al-Qa'ida," recalls Qadir. "He was good at telling you what you wanted to hear... he touched all my emotional buttons, like the fact I've always wanted to help others."

Qadir agreed to join. He drew up a will and, in December 2002, bought a first-class ticket to Pakistan. But, as the truck he was in crossed the dirt roads into Afghanistan, a chance occurrence changed his life: a truck carrying wounded fighters approached them from the other direction, among them a young Punjabi boy whose white robes were stained with blood. "These are evil people," another of the wounded shouted. "We came here to fight jihad, but they are just using us as cannon fodder." Qadir's truckload of wannabe jihadists made a U-turn. "That kid, he was like an angel. He kicked me back into reality," he recalls. When Qadir landed back in the UK he was so angry at having been manipulated that he wanted to find his recruiters and confront them. He never found them, but became determined to stop others like him from being recruited. In 2004, he and his brother opened the gym and community centre in Walthamstow. Soon, hundreds of young Muslims were attending.

Late segment:

Is al-Qa'ida going to dissipate as a result of the criticism from its former mentors and allies? Despite the recent internal criticism, probably not in the short term. Al-Qa'ida, on the verge of defeat in 2002, has regrouped and is now able to launch significant terrorist operations in Europe. And, last summer, US intelligence agencies judged that it had "regenerated its [US] Homeland attack capability" in Pakistan's tribal areas. Since then, al-Qa'ida and the Taliban have only entrenched their position further, launching a record number of suicide attacks in Pakistan in the past year. Afghanistan, Algeria and Iraq also saw record numbers of suicide attacks in 2007 (though the group's capabilities have deteriorated in Iraq of late). Meanwhile, al-Qa'ida is still able to find recruits in the West. In November, Jonathan Evans, the head of MI5, said that record numbers of UK residents are now supportive of the group, with around 2,000 posing a "direct threat to national security and public safety".

However, encoded in the DNA of apocalyptic jihadist groups such as al-Qa'ida are the seeds of their own long-term destruction: their victims are often Muslim civilians; they don't offer a positive vision of the future (but rather the prospect of Taliban-style regimes from Morocco to Indonesia); they keep expanding their list of enemies, including any Muslim who doesn't share their precise world view; and they seem incapable of becoming politically successful because their ideology prevents them from making the real-world compromises that would allow them to engage in genuine politics.

Which means that the repudiation of al-Qa'ida's leaders by its former religious, military and political guides will help hasten the implosion of the jihadist terrorist movement. As Churchill remarked after the battle of El Alamein in 1942, which he saw as turning the tide in the Second World War, "This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning."

About the authors

Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank are research fellows at New York University's Center on Law and Security. Peter Bergen is also a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and the author of The Osama Bin Laden I Know. This article first appeared in The New Republic magazine in the US.

Posted by: Michael of up West.Orig.Manhattan.Now Jerusalem. | June 22, 2008 8:44 AM

Nearing my 'jour gems' Day Wrap;Now @6:34PM

Here's another selection for your Sunday reading relaxation;

So what's new?

Whether war on Iran happens or not, tensions in the region are rising to breaking point, writes Galal Nassar

Suddenly it would seem the region is edging towards a combination of stability and security that has been conspicuously absent since this US administration came to power eight years ago. In Lebanon, Michel Suleiman has been elected as president and Fouad Al-Siniora is forming a new government. In Yemen, the government says it is on target to subdue the Huthis rebellion in Saada. In Gaza, a truce in the making, between the Zionist entity and the Palestinian resistance, may bring an end to the economic suffering caused by the Israeli blockade. In Iraq, the government of Nuri Al-Maliki is about to offer a general amnesty for Iraqi insurgents who lay down their arms. The US, for a change, has stopped threatening to bomb Iran so long as the latter cooperates with Mohamed El-Baradei, the man the UN asked to check on Tehran's nuclear programme. In Sudan, the government has signed an agreement with the opposition that may end the Abyei dispute. And Syria is about to hold indirect talks with Israel in Ankara.

A new political dispensation appears over the horizon in which tensions and foes will talk instead of shooting at each other. That, at least, is what we are led to believe. But is any of it true? And if it is true, how does it relate to the US project for the 21st century and the way it fits into this region? What will happen to the new regional order that the current US administration, and Israel, has been promising? Is the creation of a greater Middle East still the aim? Are the US and Israeli governments still seeking to replace the Arab regional order with a Middle East one, but through negotiations? Are the Americans and Israelis turning away from confrontation and opting for containment?

What happened to the much-vaunted "birth pangs"? Is constructive chaos a thing of the past? Or are we heading towards a new type of constructive chaos, one that will lull us into a sense of false security? What has become of Ehud Olmert's plan to announce the final map of the Zionist entity? Are the July 2006 war in Lebanon, the apartheid wall, the building of more settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem -- perhaps even the eruption of conflict between Fatah and Hamas -- no more than the prelude to an Olmert-conducted symphony?

To answer these questions one must decipher rather than explain, for much of what is going on looks like a jigsaw puzzle. Take, for example, political conflicts. Most of the time conflicts arise not from a misunderstanding among adversaries or because of psychological barriers that need to be removed; rather, they reflect an old-fashioned clash of interests. Negotiations may take place, shuttle diplomacy be used, and sometimes the adversaries will have no option but to order their armies to take action. Then negotiations may restart, perhaps after one side has given up all hope. At some point adversaries might just conclude that fighting is futile and negotiations are the only way to go.

It doesn't seem to me that the Zionist entity has come to the conclusion that it is time to grant the Palestinians their rights and return their land. Israel is continuing to Judaise Palestinian areas and build settlements everywhere. It has torn down thousands of Palestinian homes in what the Oslo Accords call Zone C. It approved military order 378, turning Nablus and 15 nearby towns and villages into a security zone, a step meant to cut off the entire province from other Palestinian areas. The Israeli Housing Ministry marked the 41st anniversary of the occupation of East Jerusalem by building new homes there for settlers.

Late segment:

An objective assessment of the events of the past few weeks suggests that neither the US nor Israel plan to change their policy in the region. Any changes they may have introduced are tactical rather than strategic in nature -- what one might call a warrior's rest. As for inter-Palestinian strife, efforts to defuse the tensions have produced little worth noting, and Mahmoud Abbas is coming under pressure to stay away from Hamas.

In Iraq, the proposed security agreement between the US administration and the Al-Maliki government sparked off angry reactions among various Iraqi patriotic groups. The agreement, designed to keep Iraq hostage to its occupiers for decades to come, shows how false Washington's claims are. What is happening now is just an attempt by the Americans to change the rules of the game instead of admitting defeat.

Sudden developments in the region may seem promising to some but underneath the façade little has changed. The goal is still one of domination, the strategy to replace the Arab regional order with a greater Middle East though the tactics vary from time to time. The recent proposal by French President Nicolas Sarkozy is a case in point. His proposal to form a Mediterranean Union is an attempt to weaken existing regional systems and link Arab countries with the Zionist entity and the EU.


What we see today is not a change in US and Israeli goals. Such a change, hinged as it is on major international changes, is unlikely in the foreseeable future. As for the change in tactics, it is designed to give the US and Israeli governments time to rally. The Republicans are off balance and Kadima is in free fall.

Posted by: Michael of up West.Orig.Manhattan.Now Jerusalem. | June 22, 2008 11:36 AM

What the Heck; Another selection;Now @6:57 PM;

Killing fields

The Taliban's Tet has begun. Interpret Laura Bush's clarion call "to stand by Afghanistan" as you will, says Eric Walberg

Two landmarks in Afghanistan last week -- British troop deaths surpassed 100, and monthly official coalition deaths now outnumber official coalition deaths in Iraq. Pentagon officials said that in May, 16 coalition troops were killed in Iraq, 14 of them American, while 18 coalition troops were killed in Afghanistan, 13 of them American.

Two more events made the news last week, noteworthy only in their predictability. Afghan President Hamid Karzai attended a donors conference in Paris, where he sought $50 billion. The US and friends offered $17 billion, though more than half of the pledge total came from a previous US commitment of $10.2 billion, i.e., Karzai's net is $6.8 billion, which given past practice, he shouldn't hold his breath waiting for. US First Lady Laura Bush showed slides from her trip to Kabul to visit Karzai and support Afghan women. Leaders echoed her call "to stand by Afghanistan". Sarkozy, as usual, confused everyone by saying, "We cannot give in to torturers." Laura announced that Washington will spend $80 million to support the American University in Kabul and the National Literacy Centre, to capture the hearts and minds of the people.

A note of realism was heard when officials complained that Karzai seemed to be unable to crack down on corruption and drug trafficking, even in Kabul, where he is virtually imprisoned in his heavily barricaded presidential palace. Karzai assured them that his government would take strides to root out corruption. Perhaps he could start by replacing his brother Wali Karzai, the president of Kandahar's provincial council, who along with Hamid is widely believed to be involved in the very drug trafficking he so passionately denounced to his donors. Afghan officials recreated an air of surrealism by complaining that donors have been too skittish about letting Afghanistan take control of its own destiny and controlling how the money is spent. Yes, give tens of billions to corrupt cronies of Karzai. That would be sure to turn things around.

The other meeting, even more tedious and fruitless, lacking Laura's slides, was a two-day session of NATO defence ministers following a now-familiar script in the debate over Afghanistan: US Defense Secretary Robert Gates unsuccessfully harangued unwilling allies to pledge more troops for the slaughter. Britain volunteered 230, with Des Browne, the British defence secretary, hailing the Afghan campaign as "the noble cause of the 21st century".

The big complaint these days is the dastardly Pakistanis, providing "safe haven" for the even more dastardly Taliban. The answer from NATO came this week with a deadly air strike on a Pakistani Frontier Corps border checkpoint, which, according to Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Youssef Raza Gilani, killed 11 Pakistani soldiers -- Pakistan Muslim League MP Amir Muqam said as many as 70. This act of "self defence" is yet another in NATO's long history of "friendly fire" deaths, surely the oxymoron of all times. NATO forces have launched several air strikes inside Pakistan over the past year but this is the first time it has killed Pakistani soldiers. Without so much as batting an eye, Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, proceeded to demand of the helpless Pakistani government not only the expulsion of all Al-Qaeda but also an immediate halt to the flow of insurgents across the border. Lapdog Karzai even threatened to send Afghan troops in: "They come and kill Afghanis and coalition troops; it precisely gives us the right to do the same."

But I've left out the really spectacular news, the attack by Taliban militants on the main prison in southern Afghanistan late Friday, exploding a car bomb at the main gate in a multi-pronged assault that freed over 1,000 prisoners, including 400 suspected Taliban. The complex attack included a car bomb, suicide bombers who entered the prison, and rockets fired from outside it. "All the prisoners escaped. There is no one left," said Kandahar President Wali Karzai. Many of the prisoners were on a hunger strike only a few weeks ago during which 47 stitched their mouths shut. Some had been held without trial for more than two years and others were given lengthy prison sentences after short trials. The Taliban went on to liberate a dozen nearby villages in an area that Canadian troops supposedly hold and plan to showcase with development aid over the next four years. Good luck, Canucks.

This blow to the occupation can only be compared to the Vietcong's Tet offensive against the US occupation of South Vietnam in 1968. When will the occupation wake up and realise these brave and fearless men are dying defending their homeland? "I ask the Canadian people to ask their government to stop their destructive and inhumane mission and withdraw your troops. Our war will continue as long as your occupation forces are in our land," Taliban spokesman Youssef Ahmedi appealed.

Perhaps the freed jail space in Kandahar will obviate the need for a $60 million upgrade of the jail at the infamous Bagram base, dubbed Afghanistan's very own Guantanamo. "There will be a great deal of improvement in the quality of life", US Army spokeswoman Lieutenant Colonel Rumi Nielson- Green said. "There will be a lot more floor space and much more room for communal activities, which is part of their culture." Plans for the new prison apparently came as a complete surprise to Afghan officials in the Afghan Ministry of Justice.


But enough of this. The pre- and post-9/11 smoke and mirrors about Afghanistan are finally dispersing and shattering. NATO is in Afghanistan, as US President George Bush said in Bucharest in April, as "an expeditionary alliance that is sending its forces across the world to help secure a future of freedom and peace for millions." In other words to invade countries the US disapproves of and murder anyone who resists. A total withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, a negotiated settlement between Afghan forces, and massive reparations by NATO countries is what the world must urgently demand.

Putting the blame on Pakistan is the same story we hear about Iran in Iraq and heard during the US war against Vietnam, when Nixon began bombing Cambodia. It did not help the US defeat the Vietnamese but did result in the Khmer Rouge taking over Cambodia. Only by killing virtually the entire population will the US plan for Afghanistan succeed. Is this the objective?

Posted by: Michael of up West.Orig.Manhattan.Now Jerusalem. | June 22, 2008 11:59 AM

Get A Load of This! Just Out on the W.w.w.

Editor's Choice in the Monday June 23,2008 UK Indpendent.

Iraq: The comic book war

Iraq: How a daring new generation of graphic novelists view the art of war

They're a far cry from Spiderman and the Incredible Hulk. A daring new generation of graphic novelists is using the conflict in Iraq to explore America's relationship with the rest of the world - and itself.

By Tim Walker
Monday, 23 June 2008

Matty Roth, a young photojournalism trainee, is taking his first trip into a war zone with the famous (and famously objectionable) Viktor Ferguson of the Liberty News Network. But soon after their helicopter lands, the team comes under attack. Matty is forced to watch, helplessly, as the chopper - and Ferguson - take off without him, only to be blown out of the sky seconds later, leaving Matty, lost and alone, in an urban no man's land. Baghdad? No - Manhattan Island, otherwise known as the DMZ.

This is the explosive opening of a comic book series, also named DMZ, by New Yorker Brian Wood, and it's the pre-eminent example of a growing fashion for comics and graphic novels about, or inspired by, the Iraq war. DMZ began life in 2005, but next month it comes of age with the publication of a new collected edition. In it, Wood tells the story of a war-ravaged city through Matty Roth's eyes, as the stranded journalist comes to know and love the DMZ and its inhabitants. The setting is New York, following a hazily explained second American civil war; but, of course, it's also a sideways representation of another horribly real urban battleground.

"I started to develop DMZ shortly after the Iraq war began in 2003," Wood explains. "I remember thinking 'I'd better get this book off the ground and running fast, because the war's gonna end soon.' My editor was scared that the subject matter would be old news. Of course, we were completely wrong. When the book came out I was worried that I might get hate mail, or people telling me I was un-American. But by the time the book actually hit the stands, most people were on the same page; the public was against the war. Soon, a lot of other graphic novels critiquing the war started to come out; now it's like we're preaching to the choir."

Today's broad countercultural coalition in the US is often motivated by frustration at the news coverage of the Iraq conflict and its aftermath from traditional media outlets. In such a climate, comic books thrive by reflecting the public bad mood, and they remain streets ahead of many of their rivals in the creative industries. While authors and filmmakers have taken their time preparing fictional responses to the war, comics are a relatively immediate form. In theory, says Wood, "you can write and draw a comic and see it on the stands three months later. A movie can take years."

That's from E@World;Now 10:58 AM,High East academia Jerusalem.

Count on my checking in,over these next E@World,free,hours,as 'jour gems' of Inteldump relivance,meet my fancy.

To Life!=לחיים.Pronounced Le Chaim.

Michael of the upper West side.


Posted by: Michael of up West.Orig. Manhattan.Now Jerusalem. | June 23, 2008 4:03 AM

The words used were very convincing and I feel a lot more educated today.Men who will rule from the SOFA or status of forces agreement are wanted to know more about it.
Richard Arthur

white leather sofa

Posted by: Rarthur | June 28, 2008 2:04 AM

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