Search This Blog

Friday, February 29, 2008

The UN Contributed to the Establishment of a Mafia-State in Kosovo

The United Nations Contributed to the Establishment of a Mafia-State in Kosovo
- by Michel Chossudovsky - 2008-03-01

Dissent: Voices of Conscience: Govt. Insiders Speak Out Against the War in Iraq


by Kim Petersen / February 29th, 2008

Dissent: Voices of Conscience
Government Insiders Speak out Against the War in Iraq
By Colonel (Ret.) Ann Wright and Susan Dixon
(Koa Books, 2008)
ISBN: 978-0-9773338-4-4 (Full article …)

When Fools Rush In: The Fake State of Kosovo by William S. Lind

When Fools Rush In
The Fake State of Kosovo


If the Balkans had an anthem, it would be that 1950's doo-wop hit, "Fools rush in, where angels fear to tread." The latest Balkan fools are the United States and the European Union, which have rushed in to recognize what Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica rightly calls the "fake state of Kosovo." Why is it a fake state? Because there are no Kosovars, only Serbs and Albanians. Each group seeks to unite Kosovo with its homeland, historic Serbia or Greater Albania. An independent Kosovo has the half-life of a sub-atomic particle.

The action of the U.S. and the E.U. in stripping Serbia of Serbs' historic homeland is both a crime and a blunder. It is a crime, first, because no one, not even the U.N., has a legal right to dismember a sovereign state, and second, because the narrative used to justify the illegal action is a lie. The stated justification is that the Serbs, under Slobodan Milosevic, were ethnically cleansing Kosovo of Albanians. As German courts have established, there was no ethnic cleansing of Albanians in Kosovo until NATO started bombing Serbia. After NATO launched its unprovoked attack on Serbia (Mrs. Albright's splendid little war), the Serbs dumped the Albanians on NATO's doorstep as a vast logistics spunge. That wasn't terribly nice, but when you are a very small country fighting all of NATO, you do what you can. Ironically, after Serbia was forced to capitulate when Russia withdrew her support, NATO blithely presided over the ethnic cleansing of two-thirds of Kosovo's Serbs by the Albanians.

In international affairs, blunders are worse than crimes, and two of the blunders contained in the recognition of Kosovo are likely to have consequences. The first is the creation of an irredenta, which guarantees another Balkan war. Serbia will never accept the wholesale alienation of one of her provinces. Like France after 1871, her whole policy will focus on recovering her lost territory as soon as the moment is ripe.

The second blunder is further alienating Russia, this time in a way she cannot ignore. If the U.S. and the E.U. are blind to the ghost of 1914, Russia and Serbia are not. The fact that Russia went to war to protect Serbia then puts pressure on Moscow to do so again, lest the Putin government look weak domestically as well as abroad.

Washington and Brussels scoff at the thought, but Russia and Serbia certainly have military options. A guerrilla war against European and American troops and police in Serb-inhabited portions of Kosovo is likely to occur spontaneously, at least at a low level. IEDs and sniper ambushes are easy enough to arrange. Belgrade can ramp it up by smuggling in shaped-charge anti-armor mines, dual-warhead RPGs and sniper rifles, along with Serbian special forces to make sure they are used effectively. If Europe responds with economic measures against Serbia, Russia now has enough petro-dollars to support Belgrade economically. If NATO threatens a new bombing campaign, Russia can up the ante too by sending Russian air defense troops and equipment to Serbia. The last time NATO bombed Serbia, Russia was too weak to respond. That is not true now, nor is President Putin for sale the way Mr. Yeltsin was.

The last thing the world needs now is a new Balkan war, with NATO and Russia caught in a contest of mutual escalation. Is there a way to walk this dog back? I think there is, if Washington and Brussels regain some sense of reality. They can do what Bismarck did in 1878 and call a conference. There, a solution could be negotiated that all parties might live with, even if none really liked it. One such solution would be to partition Kosovo between Serbia and Albania, with Serbia compensated for her loss of some of Kosovo by being allowed to annex the Serbian portion of Bosnia. The fact that both Kosovo and Bosnia are fake states would make such a deal all the easier. As the E.U. has already discovered, maintaining fake states is an expensive and never-ending business.

Fools rush in, but sometimes even fools are wise enough to back out again. Berlin, are you listening? The Congress of Berlin of 2008 may be as successful as the Congress of Berlin of 1878 in averting war in Europe.
William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation.

Terrorized by 'War on Terror' How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America by Zbigniew Brzezinski

Terrorized by 'War on Terror'

How a Three-Word Mantra Has Undermined America

By Zbigniew Brzezinski

28/02/08 "Washington Post" -- -- The "war on terror" has created a culture of fear in America. The Bush administration's elevation of these three words into a national mantra since the horrific events of 9/11 has had a pernicious impact on American democracy, on America's psyche and on U.S. standing in the world. Using this phrase has actually undermined our ability to effectively confront the real challenges we face from fanatics who may use terrorism against us.

The damage these three words have done -- a classic self-inflicted wound -- is infinitely greater than any wild dreams entertained by the fanatical perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks when they were plotting against us in distant Afghan caves. The phrase itself is meaningless. It defines neither a geographic context nor our presumed enemies. Terrorism is not an enemy but a technique of warfare -- political intimidation through the killing of unarmed non-combatants.

But the little secret here may be that the vagueness of the phrase was deliberately (or instinctively) calculated by its sponsors. Constant reference to a "war on terror" did accomplish one major objective: It stimulated the emergence of a culture of fear. Fear obscures reason, intensifies emotions and makes it easier for demagogic politicians to mobilize the public on behalf of the policies they want to pursue. The war of choice in Iraq could never have gained the congressional support it got without the psychological linkage between the shock of 9/11 and the postulated existence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. Support for President Bush in the 2004 elections was also mobilized in part by the notion that "a nation at war" does not change its commander in chief in midstream. The sense of a pervasive but otherwise imprecise danger was thus channeled in a politically expedient direction by the mobilizing appeal of being "at war."

To justify the "war on terror," the administration has lately crafted a false historical narrative that could even become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By claiming that its war is similar to earlier U.S. struggles against Nazism and then Stalinism (while ignoring the fact that both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia were first-rate military powers, a status al-Qaeda neither has nor can achieve), the administration could be preparing the case for war with Iran. Such war would then plunge America into a protracted conflict spanning Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and perhaps also Pakistan.

The culture of fear is like a genie that has been let out of its bottle. It acquires a life of its own -- and can become demoralizing. America today is not the self-confident and determined nation that responded to Pearl Harbor; nor is it the America that heard from its leader, at another moment of crisis, the powerful words "the only thing we have to fear is fear itself"; nor is it the calm America that waged the Cold War with quiet persistence despite the knowledge that a real war could be initiated abruptly within minutes and prompt the death of 100 million Americans within just a few hours. We are now divided, uncertain and potentially very susceptible to panic in the event of another terrorist act in the United States itself.

That is the result of five years of almost continuous national brainwashing on the subject of terror, quite unlike the more muted reactions of several other nations (Britain, Spain, Italy, Germany, Japan, to mention just a few) that also have suffered painful terrorist acts. In his latest justification for his war in Iraq, President Bush even claims absurdly that he has to continue waging it lest al-Qaeda cross the Atlantic to launch a war of terror here in the United States.

Such fear-mongering, reinforced by security entrepreneurs, the mass media and the entertainment industry, generates its own momentum. The terror entrepreneurs, usually described as experts on terrorism, are necessarily engaged in competition to justify their existence. Hence their task is to convince the public that it faces new threats. That puts a premium on the presentation of credible scenarios of ever-more-horrifying acts of violence, sometimes even with blueprints for their implementation.

That America has become insecure and more paranoid is hardly debatable. A recent study reported that in 2003, Congress identified 160 sites as potentially important national targets for would-be terrorists. With lobbyists weighing in, by the end of that year the list had grown to 1,849; by the end of 2004, to 28,360; by 2005, to 77,769. The national database of possible targets now has some 300,000 items in it, including the Sears Tower in Chicago and an Illinois Apple and Pork Festival.

Just last week, here in Washington, on my way to visit a journalistic office, I had to pass through one of the absurd "security checks" that have proliferated in almost all the privately owned office buildings in this capital -- and in New York City. A uniformed guard required me to fill out a form, show an I.D. and in this case explain in writing the purpose of my visit. Would a visiting terrorist indicate in writing that the purpose is "to blow up the building"? Would the guard be able to arrest such a self-confessing, would-be suicide bomber? To make matters more absurd, large department stores, with their crowds of shoppers, do not have any comparable procedures. Nor do concert halls or movie theaters. Yet such "security" procedures have become routine, wasting hundreds of millions of dollars and further contributing to a siege mentality.

Government at every level has stimulated the paranoia. Consider, for example, the electronic billboards over interstate highways urging motorists to "Report Suspicious Activity" (drivers in turbans?). Some mass media have made their own contribution. The cable channels and some print media have found that horror scenarios attract audiences, while terror "experts" as "consultants" provide authenticity for the apocalyptic visions fed to the American public. Hence the proliferation of programs with bearded "terrorists" as the central villains. Their general effect is to reinforce the sense of the unknown but lurking danger that is said to increasingly threaten the lives of all Americans.

The entertainment industry has also jumped into the act. Hence the TV serials and films in which the evil characters have recognizable Arab features, sometimes highlighted by religious gestures, that exploit public anxiety and stimulate Islamophobia. Arab facial stereotypes, particularly in newspaper cartoons, have at times been rendered in a manner sadly reminiscent of the Nazi anti-Semitic campaigns. Lately, even some college student organizations have become involved in such propagation, apparently oblivious to the menacing connection between the stimulation of racial and religious hatreds and the unleashing of the unprecedented crimes of the Holocaust.

The atmosphere generated by the "war on terror" has encouraged legal and political harassment of Arab Americans (generally loyal Americans) for conduct that has not been unique to them. A case in point is the reported harassment of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) for its attempts to emulate, not very successfully, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). Some House Republicans recently described CAIR members as "terrorist apologists" who should not be allowed to use a Capitol meeting room for a panel discussion.

Social discrimination, for example toward Muslim air travelers, has also been its unintended byproduct. Not surprisingly, animus toward the United States even among Muslims otherwise not particularly concerned with the Middle East has intensified, while America's reputation as a leader in fostering constructive interracial and interreligious relations has suffered egregiously.

The record is even more troubling in the general area of civil rights. The culture of fear has bred intolerance, suspicion of foreigners and the adoption of legal procedures that undermine fundamental notions of justice. Innocent until proven guilty has been diluted if not undone, with some -- even U.S. citizens -- incarcerated for lengthy periods of time without effective and prompt access to due process. There is no known, hard evidence that such excess has prevented significant acts of terrorism, and convictions for would-be terrorists of any kind have been few and far between. Someday Americans will be as ashamed of this record as they now have become of the earlier instances in U.S. history of panic by the many prompting intolerance against the few.

In the meantime, the "war on terror" has gravely damaged the United States internationally. For Muslims, the similarity between the rough treatment of Iraqi civilians by the U.S. military and of the Palestinians by the Israelis has prompted a widespread sense of hostility toward the United States in general. It's not the "war on terror" that angers Muslims watching the news on television, it's the victimization of Arab civilians. And the resentment is not limited to Muslims. A recent BBC poll of 28,000 people in 27 countries that sought respondents' assessments of the role of states in international affairs resulted in Israel, Iran and the United States being rated (in that order) as the states with "the most negative influence on the world." Alas, for some that is the new axis of evil!

The events of 9/11 could have resulted in a truly global solidarity against extremism and terrorism. A global alliance of moderates, including Muslim ones, engaged in a deliberate campaign both to extirpate the specific terrorist networks and to terminate the political conflicts that spawn terrorism would have been more productive than a demagogically proclaimed and largely solitary U.S. "war on terror" against "Islamo-fascism." Only a confidently determined and reasonable America can promote genuine international security which then leaves no political space for terrorism.

Where is the U.S. leader ready to say, "Enough of this hysteria, stop this paranoia"? Even in the face of future terrorist attacks, the likelihood of which cannot be denied, let us show some sense. Let us be true to our traditions.

Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, is the author most recently of "Second Chance: Three Presidents and the Crisis of American Superpower" (Basic Books).

Who Blinks First? The Crisis in Kosovo is Just Begininng

Who Blinks First?
The Crisis in Kosovo is Just Beginning


As renewed Serb protests this week in Bosnia and elsewhere demonstrate, the storm unleashed by Kosovo's Feb. 17 declaration of independence is long from abating. Rather, what recent events have showed is the start of a long and protracted struggle that, in the end, the West probably cannot win. Why not? Because we're not talking about a few hundred flag- and embassy-burning rioters as the media, the U.S. government and a chagrined Belgrade leadership speaking last week would have us believe.

Let's remember that in Serbia's presidential elections at the start of this month, 48 per cent of Serbs went to the polls with their faith in Europe already shattered. They voted en masse for the so-called ultranationalist Timoslav Nikolic not for any love of him or his Radical Party but because he vowed, unlike his pro-Western adversary Boris Tadic, to keep a grip on Kosovo even if it cost Serbia entry to the EU. His narrow loss signaled the depth of Serbia's outrage -- the fact that today's violence is about more than Kosovo, reflecting instead the accumulated frustration and failure of Serbia, nearly two decades after Slobodan Milosevic came to power, to move on politically and psychologically from its past.

In this sense, the crisis now gripping the Balkans is more than a reaction to the injustice over Kosovo than it is a symptom of deeper conflicts boiling to the surface in Serb society. "Milosevic's lies got deeply embedded," Dusan Prorokovic, State Secretary for Kosovo in the ruling Democratic Party of Serbia, told me several weeks ago in Belgrade, "and Serbs are still confused about their past." They are also -- as they've shown in recent tests, from the three-month-long protest aimed at ousting Milosevic in '96-'97, to NATO's 78-day bombing campaign in '99 -- masters of patience and endurance. Which is why America and its European allies backing Kosovo independence must realize: Serbia is in this battle for the long haul. As a Serbian Orthodox monk I was traveling with in Kosovo, put it:

"[Independence] is just a pause. The war will continue and Kosovo will be ours again in 10, 20, 50 years when American power declines. Kosovo is our Jerusalem. It is our identity. Without Kosovo, Serbia does not exist."

In the meantime, life is increasingly hard for the 100,000 or so Serbs who have chosen-and been at all times encouraged by the Belgrade government-to stay put in their impoverished Kosovo enclaves. I had the opportunity to drive with an Orthodox priest named Bogomir and his 21-year-old son Lazar to the soup kitchen that they run in Prekovce, a 200-person town about 20 miles southeast of the capital Pristina. More than half the residents left this enclave and the countryside around it after NATO bombs fell, factories closed and possibilities for survival dwindled. Among those who remain are a handful of Serbs with government jobs as teachers, doctors and administrators -- to whom Belgrade pays double salaries to ensure that they stay -- and a stooped, elderly mass of poor who show up daily at the town's broken-walled community center carrying empty pots and containers that they fill with soup and bread. "I have no home, no work, no money," said an old woman waiting in line for bean and noodle stew who, despite the hardship here, said her will to stay in Kosovo is strong.

As it is for Ana Gospova, whose remote house -- ebuilt by the Serb government on a small hill in a valley dotted with crumbling, abandoned Serb homes -- I visited with Lazar to deliver a bag of groceries. A mother of nine, Ana came out with her oldest son to greet us. Thirty-eight years old, swarthy, with a pot belly and missing half her teeth, she was still somewhat attractive. Bed sheets were drying on a line and chickens scratched around the yard as Ana pointed to the half dozen bee boxes that used to provide some income, that is, before the bees died. Her husband Radovan's salary of 130 euros a month from working in the nearby gold mine, plus 75 euros from the Serb government, feeds 11 mouths. "Since the war it's been terrible," she said, "but we never thought of leaving."

And that's the point, because neither has Belgrade.

Serbia may face further international isolation for its decision, but it is by no means close to pulling up shop in Kosovo. Just look at the volatile, heavily Serb-populated northern area around Kosovo-Mitrovica in the north, where the most ardent protests have been in recent days and where Serbia, in the coming weeks or months, may simply bite off a chunk of the province and call a temporary truce through partition.

Nearly two weeks after Kosovo's declared statehood, Serbia has been playing most of its cards right. It has engaged in a cat-and-mouse game following the U.S. embassy burning, saying it will pursue and prosecute those responsible while likely making no real effort to do so. It continues to employ Russia on its behalf, welcoming the country's all-but-certain future president Dmitry Medvedev to Belgrade on Monday, where he signed a mega-pipeline deal that snubs the West's Nabucco project and renewed Russia's full support of Serbian sovereignty over Kosovo. It is developing, in short, into another classic stare-down between Serbia and the West and Kosovo's ultimate fate may come down to who blinks first.

"The West made a fundamental miscalculation," the Serbian professor and political analyst Leon Kojen told me on the eve of independence, sitting in a cozy upstairs balcony of one of Belgrade's many kavanas in the Dorcol district. "They wanted to avoid the sort of frozen conflict in Kosovo [that exists] in South Ossetia, in Nagorno-Karabakh, in Transnistria, in Cyprus. What they didn't realize was that creating an independent Kosovo in opposition to the UN Security Council will create a much more difficult, frozen conflict than we have now. It will poison the whole politics of the region for the foreseeable future and put in doubt the so-called European future, which will more or less go up in smoke."

None of this erases the fact that Serbs themselves have a ways to go before they've purged the decades-old experience of governmental violence, corruption and deceit from their system. What early February's 48 per cent vote for Nikolic tells us is that a sweeping portion of the Serb population still chooses not to accept responsibility for the crimes the country committed in the 1990s, and to apologize for that past; it also points to the failure of successive governments since Milosevic (with the exception perhaps of Zoran Djindjic, who was gunned down for his efforts) to root out wide-spread corruption, reform the judicial system and stimulate a sunken economy.

Surely no one in the worn-out Balkans wants to return to war-at least not yet. But at what cost, I asked the Orthodox monk in Kosovo, would Serbia's retaking possession of Kosovo be worth it? Would it be worth it at the loss of 10,000 more lives and decades more of bitter hatred between Serbs and Kosovars? "Yes, it's worth it," he answered. "However many have to die for Kosovo. We will follow in the path of St. Lazarus who defended his people [in the 1389 defeat to the Ottomans]. That is the perspective of God."
Michael Levitin is a freelance journalist living in Berlin. He has written for Newsweek, The Financial Times, Los Angeles Times and other publications and can be reached at

Pakistan, US raise militant tempo

Pakistan, US raise militant tempo
Thursday's missile attack by a US Predator drone in the Pakistan tribal areas has a significance far beyond the dozen or so militants killed. The pilotless craft was launched from a Pakistani airbase - a first - and the targets were hit in an Islamic seminary. In the border regions, these madrassas are widely used by militants to transfer weapons and for meetings - and until now they have fallen under the intelligence radar. - Syed Saleem Shahzad (Feb 29, '08)

China, India, play it again for Uncle Sam

China, India, play it again for Uncle Sam

With US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in Beijing and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in New Delhi, the US's evolving Asian strategy is on display. Washington is out to convince China and India that each is a privileged partner of the US's global strategies, a part of which is containing a resurgent Russia. Beijing has welcomed the US "invitation", but Delhi is convinced the US is building up Indian capabilities just to make it a counterweight to China. - M K Bhadrakumar (Feb 29, '08)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Palestinians mull a majority by Jushau Mitnick, Washington Times

Palestinians mull a majority

The Washington Times
February 27, 2008

By Joshua Mitnick - TEL AVIV — New population data have some Palestinians contemplating an unorthodox formula for Middle East peace — a single democratic nation of Arabs and Jews, in which Palestinians would be the majority.

"If Israel wants to call it Israel from Jordan to the Mediterranean, I accept it. So we'll be equal to them," said Saeb Erekat, a negotiator who has been at the center of negotiations to set up a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

"And with the majority, I will change the name of the Knesset to Parliament and the name of Israel to Palestine. It's a democracy," Mr. Erekat, a chief negotiator with Israel for more than a decade, told The Washington Times.

New population data show the demographic balance in Israel and the Palestinian territories has continued to shift in favor of Palestinians over the past decade, giving fresh urgency to warnings that the Bush administration's pursuit of a peace treaty by the end of this year may be the last gasp for a two-state solution.

According to the preliminary findings of a census conducted by the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip surged by 30 percent over the past decade to 3.76 million. When 1.4 million Israeli Arabs are added, the total Palestinian population in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip is nearly 5.2 million, compared with a Jewish population of 5.8 million.

If trends continue, most demographers expect Arabs to outnumber Jews within five years.

The census, the second Palestinian count since getting autonomy in the 1990s, was conducted in November and December.

An Israeli demographic researcher said the numbers appeared reliable, and even lower than the initial population projections of the statistics bureau.

Hanna Siniora, co-chief executive officer of the Israel-Palestine Center for Research and Information, said that support for a single state is currently limited to Palestinian intellectuals. But that could grow depending on the outcome of the talks.

"The census indicates that there is a demographic issue, but the Israeli politicians are blind to it. They're doing nothing to resolve it, and time is running out," he said. "This is a year that either we make a breakthrough or the alternative is binational state."

Israelis who see their country as a homeland, where Jews exercise self-determination, consider that scenario untenable.

What's known in Hebrew as the "demographic problem" has created a consensus among the Israeli public of the need to create a separate Palestinian state.

"Basically, what we have here is a society which multiplies itself, every twenty years. And that's the problem," said Ephraim Sneh, a deputy minister from the Labor Party.

"The fact that we are not proceeding quick enough to a two-state solution, will bring us, God forbid, to a one-state solution, and that will bring us to the end of the Zionism."

One group of Israeli researchers, who have spent years trying to debunk the concept of a Palestinian demographic threat, charge that the Palestinian census is riddled with mistakes that distorts the true demographic picture.

Arguing that the 2007 census inflated Palestinian numbers by 53 percent, Yoram Ettinger, arrived at the opposite conclusion.

"There is no demographic machete at Israel's throat, and the demographic tailwind is Jewish, not Arab," he wrote in article published by the Israeli Web site

A prominent Israeli demographer says that Mr. Ettinger and his research team are flat wrong.

Hebrew University's Sergio Della Pergola said the census findings were within his expectations, and even lower than the Palestinian forecasts.

"The pace of population growth there is significantly bigger than the population in Israel," he said.

Saudi Arabia's Anti Terror Campaign by E. Glass and Y. Yehoshua

Comment: by Chas Freeman: What makes this analysis particularly intriguing is that its source is widely believed to be a Washington-based front for Israeli intelligence that specializes in selective quotation of Arabic-language media for negative effect. (Check the Wikpedia entry for MEMRI, for example.) This is a break from the otherwise unrelenting stream of anti-Saudi propaganda that emanates from sources connected with Israel, and interesting and informative in its own right. The material MEMRI cites is all relatively recent, but many examples of similar actions and statements can be found in earlier periods.



Saudi Arabia's Anti-Terror Campaign

E. Glass AND Y. Yehoshua


In recent years, Saudi Arabia has been making intense efforts to fight both terrorism and its religious and ideological underpinnings. These efforts have included activity by Saudi security apparatuses, senior government officials, and senior clerics, as well as by educators and journalists. Among the results of this comprehensive anti-terror campaign are the uncovering of several terrorist cells in the country; a government warning to Saudi youth to refrain from engaging in jihad outside the country; and fatwas and declarations by senior religious establishment clerics stating that engaging in jihad outside Saudi Arabia is a grave offense that does serious damage to Saudi Arabia and to the entire Muslim world.

In addition, Saudi authorities have called on preachers to refrain from using their pulpits to incite young people to jihad and to curse the Jews and Christians, and the Education Ministry has developed a program to fight terrorist ideology in the schools.

Since Islamist websites play a significant role in spreading extremism, under a new law, anyone convicted of setting up a website supporting terrorism will be sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined five million riyals (about $1.3 million). Also, the Saudi intelligence apparatus has taken steps to close down such websites and to increase public awareness of the danger they pose.

This report reviews some of the measures that Saudi authorities have taken in the country's struggle against terrorism.
Efforts to Prevent Terrorist Activities

Capture of Terrorist Cells in Saudi Arabia

In November 2007, the Saudi Interior Ministry announced that six terrorist cells, with a total of 208 members, had been captured in a large-scale operation. The investigation revealed that these cells had been planning terrorist operations inside Saudi Arabia, including attacks on oil installations and assassinations of security personnel. They had also planned to target senior clerics who had come out against the terrorist organizations, including Saudi Mufti Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz bin 'Abdallah Aal Al-Sheikh and Senior 'Ulama Council members such as Sheikh Saleh bin Fawzan Al-Fawzan. About one month later, Saudi security forces captured another terrorist cell, which had been planning to attack Muslim pilgrims during the Hajj.

Saudi Government Calls on Youth to Refrain from Engaging in Jihad Abroad

In an unprecedented move, the Saudi government issued an announcement prohibiting Saudi youth from waging jihad abroad. The announcement, issued December 1, 2007, called on young Saudis inside the country and abroad who were planning to engage in jihad in areas of conflict to turn themselves in as soon as possible - either to Saudi security apparatuses, if they were still in the country, or to the nearest Saudi Embassy, if they were already abroad. According to the announcement, anyone doing so would have their voluntary surrender taken into account "in future consideration of their cases." This unprecedented appeal was seen by Saudis as indicative of a policy shift, because Saudi King 'Abdallah - like King Fahd before him - had always tended to grant amnesty to Saudis who had had a change of heart after making plans to engage in jihad abroad.

Saudi Mufti Issues Fatwa Prohibiting Youth from Engaging in Jihad Abroad

Senior Saudi clerics also took part in the effort to prevent Saudi youth from engaging in jihad abroad - and by doing so prompted the terrorist cells arrested in November 2007 to mark them as targets.

On October 1, 2007, Saudi Mufti Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz bin 'Abdallah Aal Al-Sheikh issued a fatwa prohibiting Saudi youth from engaging in jihad in Iraq. The fatwa, which was published in the Saudi press in both Saudi Arabia and London, stated that setting forth to wage jihad abroad without authorization from the ruler was a serious offense, and that Saudi youth who did so were being exploited by dubious elements in the East and in the West. These youth, the fatwa added, were causing grave damage to Saudi Arabia, to Islam, and to the Muslims.

In the fatwa, the mufti wrote: "Out of concern for our youth, and in order to advise the Muslim imams and the Muslim public, I have resolved to issue [the following fatwa]. For several years now, we have been faced [with a phenomenon] of our youth setting forth from Saudi Arabia with the intention of waging jihad for the sake of Allah. These young people are full of enthusiasm and religious zeal, but lack sufficient religious knowledge to discern truth from falsehood. This is why they succumb to temptation and fall into [the traps] set for them by dubious elements. They have become pawns in the hands of foreign apparatuses, which manipulate them in the name of jihad, and which are using them to accomplish their own shameful aims... by [carrying out] foul operations that could not be further from the [true nature of our] faith.

"Our youth have become a commodity bought and sold by elements in the East and the West that are pursuing their own objectives and goals - and only Allah knows how harmful [these goals] are to Islam and its adherents... [These young people] have been used by external elements to embarrass this pure country, to cause it harm and suffering, and to impose the rule of its enemies upon it... This is very dangerous, because the actions [of these young people] harm the Muslim nation, and cause damage to a quiet and peaceful country [namely Saudi Arabia]. Their actions weaken this country and its people...

"...Setting forth [to wage jihad] without authorization from the ruler contravenes the principles of shari'a and constitutes a grave offense. Whoever incites these [young people to engage in jihad] is either ignorant... or is fully aware of the situation but seeks to inflict damage upon this country and its people."

In his fatwa, the mufti also called upon "people of means" to "spend their money with discretion, so that it does not harm the Muslims." He urged the 'ulama "to guide the youth and open their eyes to reality, and to warn them of the consequences of being drawn to arbitrary opinions and extremism that is not based on religious knowledge."

Clerics: "Perpetrators of Suicide Operations Are Condemned to Eternal Suffering in Hell"

Shura Council Head Dr. Saleh bin Humaid said in his August 10, 2007 Friday sermon in a Mecca mosque: "Those who incite the young people [to wage jihad] are either ignorant and out of touch with reality, or else they are fully aware of the situation but seek to harm this country and the believers and to bring defeat upon the [Muslim] nation. These young people have thus become easy prey for anyone who aims to harm the country. [The inciters] have exploited their zeal, turning them into walking bombs - [into terrorists] who kill themselves so that others may reap political gain..."

Sheikh Dr. Saleh bin Fawzan Al-Fawzan, member of the Senior Ulama Council and of the Saudi Fatwa Committee, said, "Whoever carries out a suicide operation, calling it 'jihad in the way of Allah' and hoping to die as a martyr, is considered a [mere] suicide and is condemned to eternal suffering in Hell - for jihad has nothing to do with such actions."

Program for Fighting "Deviant" Ideas in the Schools

The anti-terror efforts have also spread to the education system, as is evident from the Saudi Education Ministry's new Islamic Awareness Program for fighting "deviant" ideas in schools. The program aims to create an "ideologically secure" learning environment, and encourages moderateness among both pupils and teachers, in order to protect them against "the destructive influences of deviant groups."

It should be noted that for the past two years, Saudi Arabia has been operating two other large-scale programs: a counseling program for security prisoners in Saudi prisons that is supported by the Saudi Interior Ministry, and the Al-Sakinah Campaign for dialogue with extremists on the Internet, which is supported by the Ministry of Islamic Affairs.

Condemnation of Religious Discourse Inciting to Jihad

In addition to condemnation of those responsible for sending young people to wage jihad, there has also been criticism of preachers who use their pulpits in the mosques to spread jihadist ideology and to incite against non-Muslims.

Saudi Interior Minister: Preachers Inciting to Jihad Are More Dangerous than the Terrorists Themselves

In a December 2, 2007 press conference at King Saud University, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Naif bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz criticized mosque preachers who call for jihad, saying: "The efforts on the ideological front still leave much to be desired. Security measures in themselves are not sufficient [to stop terrorism] - it is mainly action on the ideological [front] that prevents extremist ideas from infiltrating the minds of the youth." He added: "The pulpits of the mosques should be used to guide people. When they are used for other purposes, it is nothing but negligence and error, which are bound to lead to the gravest danger - namely to violation of [the precepts] of the faith and to rebellion against the ruler... These preachers are more dangerous than the terrorists themselves."

In a December 1, 2007 interview with the Saudi daily 'Okaz, published shortly after the terror cells were uncovered and arrested, Prince Naif stressed the important role of the 'ulama and journalists in the ideological struggle against terrorism. He said: "Mufti ['Abd Al-'Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh] did what Allah enjoined, [and issued a fatwa] fully elucidating [Islam's position on terrorist operations]. We hope that this will serve as an example for all our 'ulama... Some 'ulama, philosophers, journalists, and mosque preachers have [already] fulfilled their obligation, but others have still failed to do so. There must be decisive and effective action on the ideological front in order to refute the [terrorist ideology's] false claims and to reveal the truth to the people..."

Referring to preachers who incite youth to wage jihad in Iraq, Prince Naif said: "We believe that such preachers corrupt and harm [youth], and we shall soon put an end to [their activity]... There is ongoing coordination between the Interior Ministry and the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in this respect, and we hope to step up [this coordination], in order to ensure that the mosque pulpits... are used [only] for the most important matters, such as warning [the public] against the dangers [of terrorism]."

Saudi Sheikh: Do Not Follow Those Who Spread Evil

During public prayers on Eid Al-Adha, Saudi Sheikh 'Abd Al-Muhsin Aal Al-Sheikh warned worshipers against following disseminators of evil and extremism and those who seek to sow strife and division. He also warned against the plots of those who engage in takfir [i.e. accusing other Muslims of heresy] and who call for rebellion against the authorities. These elements, he said, instigate civil strife among the Muslims and distort the Koran and the Prophet's Sunna.

Calls to Stop Cursing Jews and Christians in Friday Sermons

In further efforts to stop the spread of extremist ideas, there have been calls in Saudi Arabia to stop preachers from cursing Jews and Christians in their Friday sermons. In an interview with the Saudi daily Al-Watan, senior Saudi scholars urged preachers not to curse the peaceful Christians and Jews and their allies, but only those Christians and Jews who deprive the Muslims of their rights.

President of the Al-Jubayl court Sheikh Riyadh Al-Muhaidib said during the interview: "Cursing peaceful non-Muslims is not accepted in Islam... Preachers must follow the guidelines of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs in this respect. These preachers play an important role in clarifying the precepts of Islam and in explaining them to everyone, including to the People of the Book [i.e. Christians and Jews] in our country. Perhaps this will help in guiding them to the right path [of Islam]... We must not allow isolated incidents [of invective against Christians and Jews] to distort the image of our faith around the world, especially in those [Saudi] regions where many [residents are of the] People of the Book, such as Al-Jubayl and Yanbu'."

The imam and preacher of the Al-Salam mosque in Al-Dammam, Sheikh Hussein Al-Ghamidi, said in the interview: "The state [has a responsibility] to eliminate the sources of hatred towards the other... It must eradicate this [mistaken] ideology, and convince its adherents of the danger it poses."

Saudi Columnist: Cursing Jews and Christians Contravenes the Principles of Islam

Al-Riyadh columnist Dr. Sa'd Al-Quway'i wrote: "Some of the mosque preachers still make sweeping generalizations and insulting remarks against the People of the Book, [namely] the Christians and the Jews, and pray for their destruction and demise... [Some preachers still] make generalizations, saying: 'Oh Allah, destroy the Jews and those who compromise with them, the Christians and those who defend them, and the Communists and their supporters.' This [behavior] is obviously unacceptable, since it contravenes the principles of the Islamic shari'a. Even if only a handful of preachers [do so], and they do not represent a trend... such incidents should not be allowed to distort the image of Islam, which calls for rapprochement with the People of the Book in order to keep them from turning away from our religion.

"The call to destroy all Christians and all Jews contravenes divine law... [which stipulates] that the People of the Book will endure [until the end of days]. The Prophet said that at the end of days, the Byzantines - that is, the Christians - will be the majority, and there will be great wars with the infidels [including with the People of the Book]. That is why the religious scholars stated that 'in principle, [a Muslim] should entreat Allah to guide the polytheists to the right path. As for curses, they should not be directed at the infidels as a collective, but only at those who hurt the Muslims and fight them...'

"I hope that the mosque preachers heed the advice of Islamic Affairs Minister Sheikh Saleh bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh, who said that there are honest people among the Christians and Jews, and that [we] should therefore entreat Allah to guide them in the right path... and [to lead them] to Islam. Asking Allah to destroy them is a forbidden [act of] aggression, [since] one must not make sweeping generalizations about all Christians and all Jews..."
Measures against Incitement and Dissemination of Terrorist Ideology on the Internet

Saudi Intelligence Chief: Saudi Arabia Is Fighting Extremist Websites

Recently, senior Saudi officials have been emphasizing the need to fight extremist websites as part of the struggle against terrorism. Saudi intelligence chief Muqrin bin 'Abd Al-'Aziz told a press conference: "Fourteen Western ISPs are hosting over 5,400 websites used by Al-Qaeda... Had we eliminated [this problem], incidents like the infamous July 7, 2005 London bombings would not have occurred... Saudi intelligence is making every effort to prevent the activities and the proliferation of these extremist websites and forums... The main goal of the intelligence apparatuses is to increase public awareness of the danger they pose and of the ways to fight them."

The role of extremist websites in spreading terrorism was also mentioned by Muhammad Al-Nujaimi, member of the Saudi Interior Ministry Advisory and Guidance Committee, which is in charge of rehabilitating and guiding terrorists who renounce their extremist views. Al-Nujaimi stated that the adherents of mistaken ideologies were increasingly influenced by the Internet. He estimated that websites spreading extremist ideas now numbered in the millions, and included some 4,500 sites in Arabic aimed at Arab youth and seeking to spread extremism using misguided and misguiding fatwas.

Imprisonment, Heavy Fine for Establishing Websites Supporting Terrorism

The Saudi Interior Ministry issued the Statute for Fighting Information Crime, which defines such crimes and sets punishments for violators. Under the statute, anyone who sets up terrorist websites and/or uses them to communicate with leaders of terrorist organizations, spread terrorist ideology, raise funds for terrorist organizations, or disseminate information on manufacturing explosives will be sentenced to 10 years in prison and fined five million Saudi riyals (about $1.3 million).

Saudi Columnist: Extremist Websites Spread Hatred in the Guise of Religion

Saudi columnist Khaled Al-Ghanami wrote in Al-Watan: "The free media [on the Internet] has some negative and dangerous consequences. We all know that there is always someone who is willing to use this innovative technology to fish in troubled waters and to disseminate extremist and terrorist [ideas]... People go to great lengths to protect young Internet users against immoral and pornographic content. However, they [tend to] disregard the influence of websites that incite to terrorism under the guise of religion and through the use of the term 'jihad'... [These websites] brainwash the youth by spreading extremist ideas and accusations of heresy... These are real crimes, and punishments must be set for the perpetrators, as a deterrent to others."

Saudi Columnists Join the Fight against Terrorism

Recent articles in the Saudi press have called to step up the efforts against incitement and terrorism. Al-Watan editor-in-chief Jamal Khashoggi wrote: "Our struggle against terrorism is primarily an ideological one. The position of a religious scholar takes precedence over that of a soldier, a journalist, a teacher, or an economist. We must re-erect the religious barriers that the extremists have torn down... By [creating] loopholes in religious law, they have undermined the basic tenets [of Islam] and have permitted the forbidden.

"Courageous religious scholars have come out against extremist ideology, foremost among them Saudi Grand Mufti Sheikh 'Abd Al-'Aziz Aal Al-Sheikh, who categorically prohibited suicide terrorist attacks, regardless of the intended target. The sanctioning of such attacks had been the greatest loophole allowing the Al-Qaeda ideology... to infiltrate [our society]... As long as terrorism and terrorists exist, we have not sufficiently fulfilled our obligations. I hope that our religious scholars will lead us in a resolute campaign against terrorist ideology..."

Saudi Columnist: Terrorist Attacks Must Be Categorically Prohibited

Reformist journalist Turki Al-Dakhil wrote in Al-Watan: "It is the failure to issue fatwas prohibiting suicide operations that prompts 'paradise seekers' to blow themselves up, killing civilians and others in order to attain the virgins and reach the highest levels of Paradise. It is the hesitation over whether or not to forbid these operations that has caused them to proliferate daily and to expand in scope - from murdering non-Muslims to murdering Muslims belonging to other schools of thought, and eventually [to murdering] even those who belong to the same school of thought, profess the same faith, and are of the same nation...

"Not one of the suicide bombers and murderers asked [himself]: Who allowed you take the lives that God created without His permission, based only upon your own invalid justifications, as if you were Allah's representative [and had a right to] speak in His name and to defend His religion and faith?

"The new Hashshashin... - the ignorant murderers ready to blow up their bodies [in order to kill] those who have ideological disagreements with them - proliferate only due to the failure to issue a sweeping prohibition against suicide operations. Worse still, [they proliferate] because these attacks are regarded as martyrdom, whereby the perpetrator sacrifices his life for a [noble] cause.

"Those who blow themselves up among others are weaklings, even if they do have the courage to take their own lives in such a shameless manner. [They do] this [only] because they are incapable of defending their cause in humane and civilized ways - for this would require much work and serious effort, while they are looking for quick solutions, even at the cost of their lives... It is the hesitancy [of the 'ulama] - who prohibit suicide attacks in their own countries but permit them in other countries - that has transformed our religion into one of murder, explosions, martyrdom, and seeking Paradise by murdering others..."

Bitter Lemons Middle East Roundtable February 28, 2008: Libya, Europe and regional security
Middle East Roundtable

Edition 9 Volume 6 - February 28, 2008

Libya, Europe and regional security

• Libya and regional security - Ahmed A. al-Atrash
Libya can be a model not only for being the most secure state in the region but also in taking the initiative.

• Libyan policy is deliberately unpredictable - Oliver Miles
Libya and the Barcelona process have been going nowhere. Why?

• Radical change will not occur - Dana Moss
The EU should remain aware of its limitations and the effects of Libyan unwillingness.

• European policy is cynical - Michael Rubin
Turning a blind eye to the falsity of reform is dangerous.

Libya and regional security
Ahmed A. al-Atrash

Security on an international level is somehow interlocked and heavily dependent on the extent that sub-security or micro-security (regional, sub-regional, national, local and personal) exists.

In this context, Libya, under the current circumstances and for various demonstrable reasons, may take a lead on the path toward a more secure region/world. Since this promising country has the required ingredients and capabilities, it can play a key role in any security arrangement, at least within its regional setting. If this is entirely recognized by actors in the regional and international systems, with full regard to common concerns and interests, Libya should be perceived and dealt with as such.

Libya--a relatively powerful, safe and beautiful country with a small population, a non-sectarian (though tribal) social fabric, on plentiful land and long of coast--is more qualified than any other country in the region to be a model not only for the most secure state in the region but also to take the initiative, if not the lead.

Though Libya has the capacity for playing such a leading regional security role, it needs to rethink its regional security policies with regard to its past experiments and present developments. In other words, Libya urgently needs to emphasize the underlying factors that determine its preferences and priorities regarding which regional security arrangement to adhere to.

In parallel with recent developments and shifts in domestic and foreign policies, Libya has a number of options. These include Africa, the Arab world, the "Middle East", North Africa, the Arab Maghreb, the Coastal and Sahara States and the Mediterranean Region, particularly the 5+5 and its relevance to the new but still vague initiative (the Mediterranean Union) that was recently introduced by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy, during a two-day visit to Algeria and Tunisia in July 2007, announced that, "such a union would improve cooperation in areas like security, economic development, energy policy and immigration." In order to discuss his idea in details, he also invited leaders of the countries concerned to meet in 2008 in France to "give form" to the proposal.

The question that might be raised in this regard is: what are the potential gains and losses in following a certain path when options are many, especially in the contemporary world that is characterized by a rapidly changing socio-economic and geopolitical milieu?

In my view, which is purely academic and does not necessarily represent or reflect any official position, the northwest Mediterranean region in the form of the 5+5 grouping constitutes the ideal track. The rationale behind this is based on the fact that such a sub-regional gathering represents a perfect mechanism for all parties involved, including Libya. Excluding the intentionally prolonged contention over Western Sahara, the Arab Maghreb states, namely Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Mauritania, are poised to constitute a perfect example of cooperation, not only within their borders but also on a larger geographic scale.

The southern European states of the western Mediterranean can perform a complementary role, bearing in mind that the extent of collaboration should not be restricted to the security issue (in its conventional definition) but include various development spheres.

Issues like terrorism and illegal immigrants as well as energy are the main concerns for our would-be European partners at the negotiation table and their policy priorities toward the Arab Maghreb area. Despite our developmental status, however, it is unfair to eschew, disregard or ignore our interests and pursuit of prosperity.

In order to reach a maximum level of understanding and cooperation, the two sub-regional parties should observe and deal with each other in accordance with their mutual interests and in a complementary manner, but not as the case is now.- Published 28/2/2008 ©

Dr. Ahmed A. al-Atrash is an academic and researcher in peace & security studies at al-Fateh University in Tripoli.

Libyan policy is deliberately unpredictable
Oliver Miles

Libya has been part of Mediterranean civilization since history began. There were Libyans in Jerusalem at the time of Christ, and a Roman emperor born in Tripoli died in York. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the first American naval entry into the Mediterranean ended with the loss of the USS Philadelphia, whose crew had to be ransomed from Libyan dungeons; the Libyan navy was commanded by a Scotsman. A hundred years later, Greek speaking Muslims ethnically cleansed from Crete found refuge in Cyrenaica. In the first half of the twentieth century Libya was engaged in a bitter struggle with Italian colonialism, and then used as a battleground by the Italians, the Germans and the British.

Muammar Qadhafi's revolution in 1969 coincided with a high in Arab anti-westernism, but oil development continued in the hands of European and American companies. America drew back from all relations with Libya, but in 1984 when I was responsible as ambassador for breaking off diplomatic relations, we asked the Italian Embassy as the best established in Tripoli to look after interests during the breach, and it proved a good choice. Libyan students continued to come to Britain and archaeologists to work in Libya. France had acute problems with Libya but never broke relations.

United Nations sanctions did not directly affect trade, which continued with the whole world (except America). Libyan statistics were particularly imaginative during the sanctions period, but the general picture was clear: Libya's main trading partners were the Mediterranean neighbors, above all the Europeans among them, plus Germany and the UK. That is still the picture. The Italian ENI is the biggest oil producer.

Meanwhile, the European Union built up brick by brick its links with the other Mediterranean states. Libya was a gaping hole in the structure. When sanctions were suspended in 1999, Brussels set about plugging it. Romano Prodi, then president of the European Commission, rang Qadhafi, who immediately went public saying that he had been invited to visit the EU in Brussels. The commission said it was seeking pledges from Tripoli on human rights, democracy, regional stability and free trade embodied in the Barcelona process.

This was a false start, and it was not until 2004 that Qadhafi made it to Brussels and met Prodi and the Belgian government. Again there was talk in Brussels about Libya joining the Barcelona process. Meanwhile many European leaders had been visiting Libya, and soon scarcely anyone wanted to be left out. Bilateral agreements galore were signed. The latest and "best" were with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, so that even his own human rights minister said that France should not be a "door mat'' for leaders to "wipe off the blood of their misdeeds''.

Meanwhile, Libya and the Barcelona process have been going nowhere. Why?

Qadhafi is a fan of multinational groupings, whether Arab, Maghreb or African. Since the sanctions period, when he found support notably from Nelson Mandela, he has turned increasingly to Africa, enthusiastically sponsoring the new African Union and the dream of a United States of Africa. For him Europe is Europe, and its proper partner is not Libya but Africa.

To join the Barcelona process, Libya would have to accept a massive volume of matters already agreed that have little attraction for Qadhafi. He would have to sit down with Israel (curious that Europe makes that a precondition for progress while the United States does not), which he might be willing to do at a price. More difficult is the commitment to forms of democracy incompatible with his own ideas of democracy in the Jamahiriya; it is one thing for the president of Egypt, Tunisia or Syria to swear blind that he is committed to parliamentary democracy, quite another for Qadhafi, who professes to believe that his system is different and better.

As Qadhafi put it in Lisbon in December, "I believe in a partnership between Europe and Africa that deals with immigration and other issues....We, on the two shores of the Mediterranean, need to spare no effort to make this sea a link and a bridge for fraternity, cooperation, trade and peace. .. we must speak about a Euro-African cooperation and a Euro-African neighborliness. The so-called 'new neighborliness' means selecting a number of African states and the 'Barcelona' process means annexing a part of Africa to Europe. This is the map of the Roman Empire, which we need to disregard."

European policy is predictable. Once again it is reported from Brussels that the EU is to seek a substantial agreement covering politics and trade. Libyan policy is deliberately unpredictable. There are frequent spats with individual European countries, currently with Germany and Norway. Sometimes these spats affect trade, sometimes they don't. Currently there is also a spat with Africa: in Addis Ababa on January 29 Qadhafi, apparently resentful of Ethiopian influence, threatened that "if African unity is not achieved, then Libya will turn its back on Africa and reorient its foreign policy in other directions--Euro-Mediterranean or Arab-Mediterranean."

Is Barcelona still in with a chance? I doubt it. - Published 28/2/2008 ©

Oliver Miles was ambassador to Libya in 1984, and is now deputy chairman of the Libyan Business Council and chairman of MEC International, a London-based consultancy supporting business in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Radical change will not occur
Dana Moss

The release of the six foreign medics accused of infecting Libyan children with HIV was met with jubilation in European capitals. In Brussels, bureaucrats picked up steam in their push for formal relations with Libya. Tripoli is an observer in the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership/Barcelona Process--the central instrument governing relations with the Middle East--and the European Union is clearly keen that it become a full member. Libya, for a variety of reasons, is more hesitant.

As a result, observers believe that Libya will be offered a tailored agreement under the post-enlargement European Neighborhood Policy rather than under the Barcelona Process. Yet even under this umbrella, a revolutionary change in EU-Libyan relations is unlikely, at least in the short term. Rather, a formalized relationship will merely intensify relations in some sectors as opposed to radically transforming them. This is because EU states have already established relations and because the current configuration of power in Libya lacks the political will to ensure full cooperation on some of the most important matters to the EU.

The first of these issues is immigration from West Africa, vital in the EU's considerations for formalizing relations with Libya. Although the EU-Libya Joint Action Plan on Migration drafted in 2005 was never formalized, the EU has approved piecemeal and ad hoc contacts on technical cooperation. FRONTEX, the EU's border control agency, is currently engaged in diplomatic talks with Libya regarding technical cooperation that will eventually lead to joint operations. Countries bearing the brunt of the immigration wave, namely Italy and Malta, have gone ahead in organizing bilateral agreements with Libya. Italy, for instance, has sold maritime patrol aircraft and helicopters to Libya and the two countries have also recently signed a deal on joint patrols in Libyan waters, making cooperation with FRONTEX easier. Meanwhile, Malta and Libya have hammered out a search and rescue cooperation agreement.

Even if these agreements were further formalized they would not stem immigration through Libyan lands. Rather, African immigrants would take ever more hazardous routes to reach their destination. Few changes with respect to human rights can also be expected on Tripoli's part. Libya has neither ratified the 1951 convention nor established national asylum procedures, and human rights organizations have highlighted grave ill treatment during detention. The current climate of hostility and resentment toward migrants, whom officials blame for spreading crime and taking jobs, bodes badly, as do recent Libyan announcements of plans to expel African migrants and destroy their makeshift homes. Unfortunately, sufficient EU pressure for improvement does not exist--EU rhetoric on human rights has not precluded the EU from holding contacts, nor has it restrained its member states from engaging with Libya over immigration.

The second issue is that of energy. Reeling from the Russia-Ukraine gas crisis of 2006, the EU has stepped up efforts to formulate an energy policy. The actual content hasn't been fully outlined and energy issues are nation-state driven, but underlying them is the need for reliable energy providers. EU strategies here do not guarantee European companies preferential treatment, but aim at securing supply. In any case, Europe has a long history of commercial interests with Libya, with the UK, Italy and Germany also recently securing profitable deals. For gas, Europe is Libya's natural market and Libya has several oil refineries there. Simultaneously though, Libya is in a clear position of strength; in the words of National Oil Corporation Chairman Shukri Ghanem, "the market needs more oil so our partners are going to work harder to invest for more oil". Far more importantly, this sentiment can apply to gas. There is little reason why, for additional gas demands arising from Europe, Libya should swerve away from its current policy focusing on production allocation and maximum profit and focus solely on Europe.

The third issue is that of political reform, which the EU champions through engagement, a model it will attempt to apply to Libya. The EU has had little success in auguring democratic behavior through the Barcelona Process and European Neighborhood Policy and highly authoritarian Libya won't be an exception. Libyan interest groups such as the revolutionary committees, the "men of the tent" and important tribal groupings have little motivation to modify the power structures. Qaddafi himself, nearly 40 years at the helm with no sign of faltering, recently vowed to maintain the "state of the masses" and referred to multiparty democracy as a sham. Even Saif al-Islam, a potential successor, is more an economic modernizer than a political reformer, having opined that Libya's ideal political model is Morocco.

With the political reform package come demands for opening up and modernizing the economy, ultimately providing new markets for the EU. Optimistically, Libya has recently declared that it wants to reactivate the process of accession to the World Trade Organization, yet research documents that previous attempts at economic reform in Libya, spearheaded by figures such as Shukri Ghanem, met with obstruction from hardliners like Ahmed Ibrahim and with Qaddafi's own need to maintain control. These vested interests are unlikely to back reforms this time around. European carrots will be ineffectual in prompting change as in Morocco and Tunisia because the Libyan economy is so different, being far less integrated into Europe and oil and gas rich.

None of this is to say that the EU has no interest in engaging Libya. For the sake of consistency across the region it should reach out to the former pariah. At the same time, radical change will not occur in Libyan-European relations and the EU should remain aware of its limitations and the effects of Libyan unwillingness.-Published 28/2/2008 ©

Dana Moss is a senior fellow at the Transatlantic Institute in Brussels.

European policy is cynical
Michael Rubin

In December 2007, Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi toured Europe, triumphant. No longer an international outcast, he received a statesman's welcome. Feted by President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysee Palace, he could ignore slights by Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. After all, Kouchner may have refused to dine with him, but Qadhafi still walked away with nearly $15 billion in new contracts. Across Europe, Qadhafi's pariah status is a fading memory.

European leaders highlight their rehabilitation of Libya as evidence that their policy of slow, deliberative engagement works. On October 11, 2004, for example, the European Union's Council of Ministers, citing Tripoli's willingness to surrender its WMD program and compensate victims for Libya's past terrorism, agreed to lift the trade and arms embargo against Libya. Explaining the move, European Commission Ambassador Marc Pierini credited "the constant and confident dialogue entertained by Colonel Muammar Qadhafi and President Romano Prodi during these decisive years."

The European engagement was a decade long. In 1995, European foreign ministers meeting in Barcelona launched the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership that sought to establish political and security dialogue, gradually establish a free trade zone and encourage civil society. The European Union initially excluded Libya but, four years later, the EU Presidency invited Libyan observers to attend a follow-up conference in Stuttgart. There, they extended Libya an offer of membership upon the lifting of UN sanctions and the Libyan government's acquiescence to existing Barcelona protocols.

European policy is cynical, however, based more on a desire to promote trade and constrain African migration to the Schengen zone, and less on any human rights or political reform concerns. Qadhafi may be the guest of honor in European capitals, but any change in the Libyan leader or his regime is more illusionary than real. While European officials and their US counterparts recast Libya as an integrated member of the international community, Qadhafi's attitudes toward terrorism and human rights remain unchanged.

Take terrorism: In 2004, as European officials welcomed Qadhafi on his first trip to Europe in 15 years and discussed his rehabilitation, the colonel reminded them of what he would do if they did not meet his demands. Standing beside Prodi, the Libyan leader warned: "We do hope that we shall not be obliged or forced one day to go back to those days where we bomb our cars or put explosive belts around our beds and around our women." Diplomats can claim the Libyan leader has had a change of heart but, for Qadhafi, terrorism remains on the menu of acceptable options should European bribery or diplomacy prove less than fruitful.

The Libyan regime's renunciation of terrorism was never substantive. As the Libyan government negotiated payments to victims of the Pan Am flight 103 and UTA 772 bombings, Tripoli funneled money to Abu Sayyaf terrorists in the Philippines, swelling the group's ranks and increasing the frequency and lethality of its attacks. More recently Iraqi officials reported that Seif al-Islam, the Libyan leader's son and the face of reform at European cocktail parties, financed a group responsible for bombings and dozens of deaths in Mosul.

Qadhafi's conversion on human rights has been no more sincere. He released five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor held on fabricated charges not because European engagement had encouraged a change of heart, but rather because European officials arranged a ransom payment of $400 million and Paris agreed to ship advanced weaponry and even nuclear technology to the North African state. That the arrangement allowed Qadhafi to draw moral equivalency between airline bombings and Bulgarian nurses seeking to help Libyan children should embarrass European diplomats for decades.

Europe's willingness to prioritize commercial ties above any other consideration also undercuts international efforts to prosecute war crimes. As former Liberian President Charles Taylor awaits judgment in The Hague, the Special Court for Sierra Leone has uncovered evidence that Qadhafi trained and underwrote the forces that most victimized civilians. European willingness to exculpate such criminality for a cash payment makes a mockery of its human rights rhetoric. Even as European statesmen and company chairmen visit Tripoli to sign lucrative contracts, Fathi Eljhami, Libya's leading advocate of political reform, remains in solitary confinement, unacknowledged in Brussels.

Libya has not changed, US and European testaments to the contrary notwithstanding. Today, Brussels and Washington both hold Libya up as a success, either for engagement or the Bush doctrine. Reality matters. Turning a blind eye, however, to the falsity of reform is dangerous. Not only does Qadhafi continue to sponsor terror and violate human rights, the mercurial leader may at any time use the European injection of cash and technology to resurrect his weapons programs. Failure will not be limited to Libya, however. Rogues like Syria, Iran, and North Korea now understand that western demands are ephemeral and delay will pay.-Published 28/2/2008 ©

Michael Rubin, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, is editor of the Middle East Quarterly. is an internet forum for an array of world perspectives on the Middle East and its specific concerns. It aspires to engender greater understanding about the Middle East region and open a new common space for world thinkers and political leaders to present their viewpoints and initiatives on the region. Editors Ghassan Khatib and Yossi Alpher can be reached at and, respectively.

The Myth of the Surge by Nir Rosen

Original Content at

February 28, 2008

The Myth of the Surge


URL: Rollingstone.comThe Myth of the SurgeNIR ROSEN

Posted Mar 06, 2008 8:53 AM

It's a cold, gray day in December, and I'm walking down Sixtieth Street in the Dora district of Baghdad, one of the most violent and fearsome of the city's no-go zones. Devastated by five years of clashes between American forces, Shiite militias, Sunni resistance groups and Al Qaeda, much of Dora is now a ghost town. This is what "victory" looks like in a once upscale neighborhood of Iraq: Lakes of mud and sewage fill the streets. Mountains of trash stagnate in the pungent liquid. Most of the windows in the sand-colored homes are broken, and the wind blows through them, whistling eerily. House after house is deserted, bullet holes pockmarking their walls, their doors open and unguarded, many emptied of furniture. What few furnishings remain are covered by a thick layer of the fine dust that invades every space in Iraq. Looming over the homes are twelve-foot-high security walls built by the Americans to separate warring factions and confine people to their own neighborhood. Emptied and destroyed by civil war, walled off by President Bush's much-heralded "surge," Dora feels more like a desolate, post-apocalyptic maze of concrete tunnels than a living, inhabited neighborhood. Apart from our footsteps, there is complete silence.

My guide, a thirty-one-year-old named Osama who grew up in Dora, points to shops he used to go to, now abandoned or destroyed: a barbershop, a hardware store. Since the U.S. occupation began, Osama has watched civil war turn the streets where he grew up into an ethnic killing field. After the fall of Saddam, the Americans allowed looters and gangs to take over the streets, and Iraqi security forces were stripped of their jobs. The Mahdi Army, the powerful Shiite paramilitary force led by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, took advantage of the power shift to retaliate in areas such as Dora, where Shiites had been driven from their homes. Shiite forces tried to cleanse the district of Sunni families like Osama's, burning or confiscating their homes and torturing or killing those who refused to leave.

"The Mahdi Army was killing people here," Osama says, pointing to a now-destroyed Shiite mosque that in earlier times had been a cafe and before that an office for Saddam's Baath Party. Later, driving in the nearby district of Baya, Osama shows me a gas station. "They killed my uncle here. He didn't accept to leave. Twenty guys came to his house, the women were screaming. He ran to the back, but they caught him, tortured him and killed him." Under siege by Shiite militias and the U.S. military, who viewed Sunnis as Saddam supporters, and largely cut out of the Shiite-dominated government, many Sunnis joined the resistance. Others turned to Al Qaeda and other jihadists for protection.

Now, in the midst of the surge, the Bush administration has done an about-face. Having lost the civil war, many Sunnis were suddenly desperate to switch sides — and Gen. David Petraeus was eager to oblige. The U.S. has not only added 30,000 more troops in Iraq — it has essentially bribed the opposition, arming the very Sunni militants who only months ago were waging deadly assaults on American forces. To engineer a fragile peace, the U.S. military has created and backed dozens of new Sunni militias, which now operate beyond the control of Iraq's central government. The Americans call the units by a variety of euphemisms: Iraqi Security Volunteers (ISVs), neighborhood watch groups, Concerned Local Citizens, Critical Infrastructure Security. The militias prefer a simpler and more dramatic name: They call themselves Sahwa, or "the Awakening."

At least 80,000 men across Iraq are now employed by the Americans as ISVs. Nearly all are Sunnis, with the exception of a few thousand Shiites. Operating as a contractor, Osama runs 300 of these new militiamen, former resistance fighters whom the U.S. now counts as allies because they are cashing our checks. The Americans pay Osama once a month; he in turn provides his men with uniforms and pays them ten dollars a day to man checkpoints in the Dora district — a paltry sum even by Iraqi standards. A former contractor for KBR, Osama is now running an armed network on behalf of the United States government. "We use our own guns," he tells me, expressing regret that his units have not been able to obtain the heavy-caliber machine guns brandished by other Sunni militias.
The American forces responsible for overseeing "volunteer" militias like Osama's have no illusions about their loyalty. "The only reason anything works or anybody deals with us is because we give them money," says a young Army intelligence officer. The 2nd Squadron, 2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment, which patrols Osama's territory, is handing out $32 million to Iraqis in the district, including $6 million to build the towering walls that, in the words of one U.S. officer, serve only to "make Iraqis more divided than they already are." In districts like Dora, the strategy of the surge seems simple: to buy off every Iraqi in sight. All told, the U.S. is now backing more than 600,000 Iraqi men in the security sector — more than half the number Saddam had at the height of his power. With the ISVs in place, the Americans are now arming both sides in the civil war. "Iraqi solutions for Iraqi problems," as U.S. strategists like to say. David Kilcullen, the counterinsurgency adviser to Gen. Petraeus, calls it "balancing competing armed interest groups."
But loyalty that can be purchased is by its very nature fickle. Only months ago, members of the Awakening were planting IEDs and ambushing U.S. soldiers. They were snipers and assassins, singing songs in honor of Fallujah and fighting what they viewed as a war of national liberation against the foreign occupiers. These are men the Americans described as terrorists, Saddam loyalists, dead-enders, evildoers, Baathists, insurgents. There is little doubt what will happen when the massive influx of American money stops: Unless the new Iraqi state continues to operate as a vast bribing machine, the insurgent Sunnis who have joined the new militias will likely revert to fighting the ruling Shiites, who still refuse to share power.

"We are essentially supporting a quasi-feudal devolution of authority to armed enclaves, which exist at the expense of central government authority," says Chas Freeman, who served as ambassador to Saudi Arabia under the first President Bush. "Those we are arming and training are arming and training themselves not to facilitate our objectives but to pursue their own objectives vis-a-vis other Iraqis. It means that the sectarian and ethnic conflicts that are now suppressed are likely to burst out with even greater ferocity in the future."

Maj. Pat Garrett, who works with the 2-2 Stryker Cavalry Regiment, is already having trouble figuring out what to do with all the new militiamen in his district. There are too few openings in the Iraqi security forces to absorb them all, even if the Shiite-dominated government agreed to integrate them. Garrett is placing his hopes on vocational-training centers that offer instruction in auto repair, carpentry, blacksmithing and English. "At the end of the day, they want a legitimate living," Garrett says. "That's why they're joining the ISVs."

But men who have taken up arms to defend themselves against both the Shiites and the Americans won't be easily persuaded to abandon their weapons in return for a socket wrench. After meeting recently in Baghdad, U.S. officials concluded in an internal report, "Most young Concerned Local Citizens would probably not agree to transition from armed defenders of their communities to the local garbage men or rubble cleanup crew working under the gaze of U.S. soldiers and their own families." The new militias have given members of the Awakening their first official foothold in occupied Iraq. They are not likely to surrender that position without a fight. The Shiite government is doing little to find jobs for them, because it doesn't want them back, and violence in Iraq is already starting to escalate. By funding the ISVs and rearming the Sunnis who were stripped of their weapons at the start of the occupation, America has created a vast, uncoordinated security establishment. If the Shiite government of Iraq does not allow Sunnis in the new militias to join the country's security forces, warns one leader of the Awakening, "It will be worse than before."

Osama, for his part, seems like everything that American forces would want in a Sunni militiaman. He speaks fluent English, wears jeans and baseball caps, and is well-connected from his days with KBR. Before the ISVs were set up, Osama and a dozen of his original men were known to U.S. troops as "the Heroes" for their work in pointing out Al Qaeda suspects and uncovering improvised explosive devices in Dora. Osama's men helped find at least sixty of these deadly bombs. In today's Baghdad, the trust of the American overlords is a valuable commodity. Osama's power stems almost entirely from his access to U.S. contracts.

As a result, members of the Awakening who had previously attacked Americans and Shiites are now collaborating with Osama. "To a large extent they are former insurgents," says Capt. Travis Cox of the 2-2 Stryker Cavalry Regiment. Most of Osama's men had belonged to Sunni resistance groups such as the Army of the Mujahedeen, the Islamic Army and the 1920 Revolution Brigades, named for the uprising against the British occupation that year. Even Osama admits that some of his men's loyalty is questionable. "Yesterday we arrested three guys as Al Qaeda infiltrators," he tells me. "They thought that they were powerful because they are ISV, so no one will touch them. You got to watch them every day."

Osama himself makes no secret of his hatred for the Shiite government and its security forces. As we walk by a checkpoint manned by the Iraqi National Police, which is comprised almost entirely of Shiites, Osama looks at the uniformed officers in disgust. "I want to kill them," he tells me, "but the Americans make us work together."

Although Osama insists that he has no connections to Al Qaeda or other jihadists, his fellow leaders of the ISVs in Dora are directly tied to the Sunni resistance. Since the Americans often require that each mahala, or neighborhood, have two ISV bosses, Osama has given half of his 300 men to Abu Salih, a man with dark reddish skin, a sharp nose and small piercing eyes. "We know Abu Salih is former Al Qaeda of Iraq," a U.S. Army officer from the area tells me. In fact, when I meet with him, Abu Salih freely admits that some of his men belonged to Al Qaeda. They joined the American-sponsored militias, he says, so they could have an identity card as protection should they get arrested.
The other leader working with Osama is Abu Yasser, a handsome and jovial man who wears a matching green sweatshirt and sweatpants, with a pistol in a shoulder holster. "Abu Yasser is the real boss," says an American intelligence officer. "That guy's an animal — he's crazy." A former member of Saddam's General Security Service, Abu Yasser had joined the Army of the Mujahedeen, a resistance organization that fought the U.S. occupation in Mosul and south Baghdad. He still has scars on his arms from the battles, and he put my hand on his forearm to feel the shrapnel embedded within. Like Osama and Abu Salih, he views the Shiite-led government as the real enemy. "There is no difference between the Mahdi Army and Iran," he tells me. Now that he is working for the Americans, he has no intention of laying down his arms. "If the government doesn't let us join the police," he says, "we'll stay here protecting our area."
To watch the ISVs in action, I accompany U.S. soldiers from the 2-2 Stryker Cavalry Regiment on a mission in the neighborhood. After meeting up with Osama, Abu Salih and Abu Yasser at a police checkpoint, we walk down Sixtieth Street to the Tawhid Mosque, followed by Stryker armored vehicles from the 2-2 SCR. First Lt. Shawn Spainhour, a contracting officer with the unit, asks the sheik at the mosque what help he needs. The mosque's generator has been shot up by armed Shiites, and the sheik requests $3,000 to fix it. Spainhour takes notes. "I probably can do that," he says.

The sheik also asks for a Neighborhood Advisory Council to be set up in his area "so it will see our problems." The NACs, as they're known, are being created and funded by the Americans to give power to Sunnis cut out of the political process. As with the ISVs, however, the councils effectively operate as independent institutions that do not answer to the central Iraqi government. Many Shiites in the Iraqi National Police consider the NACs as little more than a front for insurgents: One top-ranking officer accused the leader of a council in Dora of being an Al Qaeda terrorist. "I have an order from the Ministry of Interior to arrest him," the officer told me.

As Spainhour talks to the sheik at the mosque, two bearded, middle-aged men in sweaters suddenly walk up to the Americans with a tip. Two men down the street, they insist, are members of the Mahdi Army. The soldiers quickly get back into the Strykers, as do Osama and his men, and they all race to Mahala 830. There they find a group of young men stringing electrical cables across the street. Some of the men manage to run off, but the eleven who remain are forced into a courtyard and made to squat facing the walls. They all wear flip-flops. Soldiers from the unit take their pictures one by one. The grunts are frustrated: For most of them, this is as close to combat as they have gotten, and they're eager for action.

"Somebody move!" shouts one soldier. "I'm in the mood to hit somebody!"

Another soldier pushes a suspect against the wall. "You know Abu Ghraib?" he taunts.

The Iraqis do not resist — they are accustomed to such treatment. Raids by U.S. forces have become part of the daily routine in Iraq, a systematic form of violence imposed on an entire nation. A foreign military occupation is, by its very nature, a terrifying and brutal thing, and even the most innocuous American patrols inevitably involve terrorizing innocent Iraqi civilians. Every man in a market is rounded up and searched at gunpoint. Soldiers, their faces barely visible behind helmets and goggles, burst into a home late at night, rip the place apart looking for weapons, blindfold and handcuff the men as the children look on, whimpering and traumatized. U.S. soldiers are the only law in Iraq, and you are at their whim. Raids like this one are scenes in a long-running drama, and by now everyone knows their part by heart. "I bet there's an Iraqi rap song about being arrested by us," an American soldier jokes to me at one point.

As the soldiers storm into nearby homes, the two men who had tipped off the Americans come up to me, thinking I am a military translator. They look bemused. The Americans, they tell me in Arabic, have got the wrong men. The eleven squatting in the courtyard are all Sunnis, not Shiites; some are even members of the Awakening and had helped identify the Mahdi Army suspects.

I try to tell the soldiers they've made a mistake — it looks like the Iraqis had been trying to connect a house to a generator — but the Americans don't listen. All they see are the wires on the ground: To them, that means the Iraqis must have been trying to lay an improvised explosive device. "If an IED is on the ground," one tells me, "we arrest everybody in a 100-meter radius." As the soldiers blindfold and handcuff the eleven Iraqis, the two tipsters look on, puzzled to see U.S. troops arresting their own allies.

In a nearby house, the soldiers find Mahdi Army "propaganda" and arrest several men, including one called Sabrin al-Haqir, or Sabrin "the mean," an alleged leader of the Mahdi Army. The Strykers transport the prisoners, including the men from the courtyard, to Combat Outpost Blackfoot. Inside, Osama and Abu Salih drink sodas and eat muffins and thank the Americans for arresting Sabrin. Everyone agrees that the mission was a great success — the kind of street-to-street collaboration that the ISVs were designed to encourage.

The Sunnis from the first house the Americans raided are released, the plastic cuffs that have been digging into their wrists cut off, and three of them are taken to sign sworn statements implicating Sabrin. An American captain instructs them to list who did what, where, when and how. Abu Salih, the militia leader, walks by and tells the men in Arabic to implicate Sabrin in an attack. They dutifully obey, telling the Americans what they want to hear so they will be released.

Osama, meanwhile, uses the opportunity to lobby the Americans for more weapons. Meeting with a sergeant from the unit, he asks if he can have a PKC, or heavy-caliber machine gun, to put on top of his pickup truck.

"No," the sergeant says.

"But we can hide it," Osama pleads.

After processing, Sabrin is moved to a "detainee holding facility" at Forward Operating Base Prosperity. At least 25,000 Iraqis are now in such U.S. facilities — up from 16,000 only a year ago. "We were able to confirm through independent reporting that he was a bad guy" from the Mahdi Army, a U.S. intelligence officer tells me. "He was involved in EJKs" — extrajudicial killings, a military euphemism for murders.
To the Americans, the Awakening represents a grand process of reconciliation, a way to draw more Sunnis into the fold. But whatever reconciliation the ISVs offer lies between the Americans and the Iraqis, not among Iraqis themselves. Most Shiites I speak with believe that the same Sunnis who have been slaughtering Shiites throughout Iraq are now being empowered and legitimized by the Americans as members of the ISVs. On one raid with U.S. troops, I see children chasing after the soldiers, asking them for candy. But when they learn I speak Arabic, they tell me how much they like the Mahdi Army and Muqtada al-Sadr. "The Americans are donkeys," one boy says. "When they are here we say, 'I love you,' but when they leave we say, 'Fuck you.'"
In an ominous sign for the future, some of the Iraqis who are angriest about the new militias are those who are supposed to bring peace and security to the country: the Iraqi National Police. More paramilitary force than street cops, the INP resembles the National Guard in the U.S. Along with the local Iraqi police and the Iraqi army, the INP is populated mainly by members and supporters of the Mahdi Army and other Shiite militias. The police had fought in the civil war, often targeting Sunni civilians and cleansing Sunni areas. One morning I accompany Lt. Col. Myron Reineke of the 2-2 SCR to a meeting at the headquarters of the 7th Brigade of the Iraqi National Police. The brigade is housed in a former home of Ali Hassan al-Majid, the notorious "Chemical Ali." Now called a JSS, or joint security station, it is particularly feared by Sunnis, who were frequently kidnapped by the National Police and released for ransom, if they were lucky. The station is also rumored to have been used as a base by Shiite militias for torturing Sunnis.

Reineke finds the brigade's commander, Brig. Gen. Abdul Karim Abud, sitting behind a large wooden desk surrounded by plastic flowers. Behind him is a photograph of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. To his side is a shotgun. Five or six of his officers, all Shiites, surround him. Karim and his men greet the delegation of Americans warmly — but then, the Americans are greeted warmly wherever they go. They assume that this means they are liked, but Iraqis have nothing to lose — and everything to gain — by pretending to be their friends.

Karim begins the meeting by accusing the Awakening of being a front for terrorists. "We have information that the Baath Party and Al Qaeda have infiltrated Sahwa," he tells Reineke. "It's very dangerous. Sahwa is killing people in Seidiya."

A few days later, I return to meet with Karim without the Americans present. I find him talking to several high-ranking Shiite officers in the Iraqi army about members of the Awakening, who have been taking over homes in Dora that once belonged to Shiites. "We need to bring back the Shiites, but the Sunnis are in the houses," one colonel tells Karim. "This battle is bigger than the other battles — this is the battle of the displaced." To these men, the Awakening is reviled: Eavesdropping on their Arabic conversation, I hear him angrily condemn "killers, terrorists, ugly pigs!"

Karim's phone rings, and he begins talking with a superior officer about a clash the previous day between the Awakening and armed Shiite militias. The ISVs had battled the Mahdi Army, but Karim blames U.S. troops for establishing an ISV unit in the area. "American officers took Sahwa men to a sector where they shouldn't be," he says. "Residents saw armed men not in uniforms and shot at them from buildings. Four Sahwa were injured. My battalion was called in to help." After listening for a moment, he agrees with his superior officer on a solution: Members of the Awakening must be forced out. "Yes, sir," he says. "Sahwa will withdraw from that area. They started the problem."

Away from the Americans, Karim and his men make no secret of their hatred for the Awakening. One of the most frequent visitors to Karim's headquarters is a stern and thuggish man named Abu Jaafar. A Shiite known to the Americans as Sheik Ali, Abu Jaafar has his own ISV unit of 100 men in the Saha neighborhood of Dora. "He may not be JAM," an American major tells me, using the common shorthand for the Mahdi Army, "but he has a lot of JAM friends."

The Awakening, Abu Jaafar tells me, is full of men who once belonged not just to the 1920 Revolution Brigades and the Army of the Mujahedeen but also to Al Qaeda. He pulls out a list of forty-six people from the neighborhood. "Criminals in Sahwa," he says. He points to two names. "The Americans told me, 'If you see these two men, you can kill them or bring them to us.' Now they are wearing the Sahwa uniform. They say they have reconciled."

Abu Jaafar looks at me and smiles. Shiites, he says, do not need the Awakening. "We are already awake," he says. "Our eyes are open. We know everything. We're just waiting."

U.S. troops who work with the Iraqi National Police realize that beyond their gaze, the country's security forces do not act anything like police. "The INPs here are almost all Shiites," says Maj. Jeffrey Gottlieb, a lanky tank officer who oversees a unit charged with training Iraqi police. "Orders from their chain of command are usually to arrest Sunnis, not Shiites." The police have also been conducting what Gottlieb calls "United Van Lines missions" — resettling displaced Shiite families in homes abandoned by Sunnis. "The National Police ask, 'Can you help us move a family's furniture?' We don't know if the people coming back were even from here originally." Gottlieb shrugs. "We don't know as much as we could, because we don't know Arabic," he says.

Gottlieb had recently conducted an inventory of the weapons assigned to the 172 INP — short for 1st Battalion, 7th Brigade, 2nd Division. There were 550 weapons missing, including pistols, rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. "Guys take weapons when they go AWOL," he says. The police were also reporting fake engagements and then transferring to Shiite militias the ammunition they had supposedly fired. "It was funny how they always expended 400 rounds of ammunition," Gottlieb says.
Then there is the problem of "ghost police." Although 542 men officially belong to the 172 INP on paper, only 200 or so show up at any given time. Some are on leave, but many simply do not exist, their salaries pocketed by officers. "Officers get a certain number of ghosts," Gottlieb tells me. He looks at a passing American soldier. "I need some ghosts," he jokes. "How much are you making?"

When I go to visit the 172 INP, American officers from the 2-2 SCR admonish me to wear my body armor — to protect myself from accidental discharges by the Iraqi police. "I did convoy security in the Sunni Triangle and was hit by numerous IEDs, complex attacks, small arms," Capt. Cox tells me. "But I never felt closer to death than when I was working with Iraqi security forces."

The night I arrive, thirty-five members of the Iraqi National Police are going out on a joint raid with Americans from the National Police Training Team. The raid is being led by Capt. Arkan Hashim Ali, a trim thirty-year-old Iraqi with a shaved head and a sharp gaze. Because seventy-five percent of all officer positions in the INP are vacant, officers like Arkan often end up assuming many roles at once. Arkan gathers his men in an empty room for a mission briefing. Cardboard and Styrofoam models have been arranged to replicate the Humvees and pickup trucks they will be using. The men all wear the same blue uniforms, but they sport a hodgepodge of helmets, flak jackets and boots.

"Today we have an operation in Mahala 830," Arkan announces. "Do you know it? Our target is an Al Qaeda guy." Salah and Muhamad, two brothers suspected of working with Al Qaeda, would be visiting their brother Falah's home that night. Falah was known as Falah al-Awar, or "the one-eyed," because he had lost one of his eyes. Arrested two weeks earlier by the Americans, he had revealed under interrogation that his brothers were involved in attacking and kidnapping Americans. "He dimed his brothers out," an American officer tells me.

The briefing over, Arkan asks his men to repeat his instructions, ordering them to shout the answers. Then they head out on the raid.

At Falah's house, the INPs move quickly, climbing over the wall and breaking the main gate. Bursting into the house, they herd the women and children into the living room while they bind Muhamad's hands with strips of cloth. Muhamad begins to cry. "My father is dead," he sobs. Arkan reassures him but also controls him, holding the top of Muhamad's head with his hand, as if he were palming a basketball. The women in the house ask how long the two brothers will be taken for. Arkan tells them they are being held for questioning and describes where his base is. Then the INPs speed off in their pickup trucks, causing the Americans to smile at their rush to get away.

"We just picked up some Sunnis," jokes an American sergeant. "We're getting the fuck outta here."

The next day, Sunni leaders from the area meet with the American soldiers. The two brothers, they claim, are innocent. Before the 2-2 SCR arrived, the 172 INP had a history of going on forays into Sunni neighborhoods just to punish civilians. Fearing for their safety, the Sunni leaders ask if the two brothers can be transferred to American custody.

The Americans know that the entire raid may have been simply another witch hunt, a way for the Shiite police to intimidate Sunni civilians. The INP, U.S. officers concede, use Al Qaeda as a "scare word" to describe all Sunni suspects.

"Yeah, the moral ambiguity of what we do is not lost on me," Maj. Gottlieb tells me. "We have no way of knowing if those guys did what they say they did."

With American forces now arming both sides in the civil war, the violence in Iraq has once again started to escalate. In January, some 100 members of the new Sunni militias — whom the Americans have now taken to calling "the Sons of Iraq" — were assassinated in Baghdad and other urban areas. In one attack, a teenage bomber blew himself up at a meeting of Awakening leaders in Anbar Province, killing several members of the group. Most of the attacks came from Al Qaeda and other Sunni factions, some of whom are fighting for positions of power in the new militias.

One day in early February, I accompany several of the ISV leaders from Dora to the Sahwa Council, the Awakening's headquarters in Ramadi. They are hoping to translate their local military gains into a political advantage by gaining the council's stamp of approval. On the way, Abu Salih admires a pickup truck outfitted with a Dushka, a large Russian anti-aircraft gun. "Now that's Sahwa," Abu Salih says, gazing wistfully at the weapon. Then he spots more Sahwa men driving Humvees armed with belt-fed machine guns. "Ooh," he murmurs, "look at that PKC."

At Sahwa headquarters, in an opulent guest hall, Abu Salih meets Sheik Ahmed Abu Risha, brother of the slain founder of the movement, who sits on an ornate, thronelike chair. "How is Dora?" he asks Abu Salih, sounding like a king inquiring about his subject's estate. Then he leads us into a smaller office, where three of Abu Salih's rivals from Dora are gathered. All of the men refer to Abu Risha with deference, calling him "our older brother" and "our father." It is a strange reversal of past roles: urban Sunnis from Baghdad pledging their allegiance to a desert tribal leader, looking to the periphery for protection and political representation. But the Americans have empowered Abu Risha, and Baghdad's Sunni militiamen hope to unite with him to fight their Shiite rivals.

It doesn't take long, however, for the meeting to devolve into open hostility. One of the rivals dismisses Abu Salih and his men as mere guards, not true Sahwa. "You are military, and we are political," he jeers, accusing Abu Salih of having been a member of Al Qaeda. Abu Salih turns red and waves his arms over his head. "Nobody lies about Abu Salih!" he shouts.
Abu Risha's political adviser attempts to calm the men. "Are we in the time of Saddam Hussein?" he asks. The rivals should hold elections in Dora, he suggests, to decide who will represent the Awakening there. In the end, though, Abu Salih emerges from the meeting with official recognition from the council. All of the men speak with respect for the resistance and jihad. To them, the Awakening is merely a hudna, or cease-fire, with the American occupation. The real goal is their common enemy: Iraq's Shiites.

Some of the escalating violence in recent weeks is the work of the Mahdi Army and other Shiite paramilitary forces to intimidate Sunnis like Abu Salih and prevent members of the Awakening from cooperating with the Americans. Even members of the Iraqi National Police who refuse to take sides in the bloody rivalry are being targeted. Capt. Arkan, the Iraqi who led the raid for the 172 INP, has tried to remain nonsectarian in the midst of the bitter new divisiveness that is tearing Iraq apart. Like others who served in the Iraqi army before the U.S. occupation, he sees himself as a soldier first and foremost. "Most of the officers that came back to the police are former army officers," he says. "Their loyalty is to their country." His father is Shiite, but Arkan was forced to leave his home in the majority-Shiite district of Shaab after he was threatened by the Mahdi Army, who demanded that he obtain weapons for them. He had paid a standard $600 bribe to join the police, but he was denied the job until a friend intervened.

"Before the war, it was just one party," Arkan tells me. "Now we have 100,000 parties. I have Sunni officer friends, but nobody lets them get back into service. First they take money, then they ask if you are Sunni or Shiite. If you are Shiite, good." He dreams of returning to the days when the Iraqi army served the entire country. "In Saddam's time, nobody knew what is Sunni and what is Shiite," he says. The Bush administration based its strategy in Iraq on the mistaken notion that, under Saddam, the Sunni minority ruled the Shiite majority. In fact, Iraq had no history of serious sectarian violence or civil war between the two groups until the Americans invaded. Most Iraqis viewed themselves as Iraqis first, with their religious sects having only personal importance. Intermarriage was widespread, and many Iraqi tribes included both Sunnis and Shiites. Under Saddam, both the ruling Baath Party and the Iraqi army were majority Shiite.

Arkan, in a sense, is a man in the middle. He believes that members of the Awakening have the right to join the Iraqi security forces, but he also knows that their ranks are filled with Al Qaeda and other insurgents. "Sahwa is the same people who used to be attacking us," he says. Yet he does not trust his own men in the INP. "Three-fourths of them are Mahdi Army," he tells me, locking his door before speaking. His own men pass information on him to the Shiite forces, which have threatened him for cooperating with the new Sunni militias. One day, Arkan was summoned to meet with the commander of his brigade's intelligence sector. When he arrived, he found a leader of the Mahdi Army named Wujud waiting for him.

"Arkan, be careful — we will kill you," Wujud told him. "I know where you live. My guys will put you in the trunk of a car."

I ask Arkan why he had not arrested Wujud. "They know us," he says. "I'm not scared for myself. I've had thirty-eight IEDs go off next to me. But I'm scared for my family."

Later I accompany Arkan to his home. As we approach an INP checkpoint, he grows nervous. Even though he is an INP officer, he does not want the police to know who he is, lest his own men inform the Mahdi Army about his attitude and the local INPs, who are loyal to the Mahdi Army, target him and his family. At his home, his two boys are watching television in the small living room. "I've decided to leave my job," Arkan tells me. "No one supports us." The Americans are threatening him if he doesn't pursue the Mahdi Army more aggressively, while his own superiors are seeking to fire him for the feeble attempts he has made to target the Mahdi Army.

On my final visit with Arkan, he picks me up in his van. For lack of anywhere safe to talk, we sit in the front seat as he nervously scans every man who walks by. He is not optimistic for the future. Arkan knows that the U.S. "surge" has succeeded only in exacerbating the tension among Iraq's warring parties and bickering politicians. The Iraqi government is still nonexistent outside the Green Zone. While U.S.-built walls have sealed off neighborhoods in Baghdad, Shiite militias are battling one another in the south over oil and control of the lucrative pilgrimage industry. Anbar Province is in the hands of Sunni militias who battle each other, and the north is the scene of a nascent civil war between Kurds, Arabs and Turkmen. The jobs promised to members of the Awakening have not materialized: An internal U.S. report concludes that "there is no coherent plan at this time" to employ them, and the U.S. Agency for International Development "is reluctant to accept any responsibility" for the jobs program because it has a "high likelihood of failure." Sunnis and even some Shiites have quit the government, which is unable to provide any services, and the prime minister has circumvented parliament to issue decrees and sign agreements with the Americans that parliament would have opposed.

But such political maneuvers don't really matter in Iraq. Here, street politics trump any illusory laws passed in the safety of the Green Zone. As the Awakening gains power, Al Qaeda lies dormant throughout Baghdad, the Mahdi Army and other Shiite forces prepare for the next battle, and political assassinations and suicide bombings are an almost daily occurrence. The violence, Arkan says, is getting worse again.

"The situation won't get better," he says softly. An officer of the Iraqi National Police, a man charged with bringing peace to his country, he has been reduced to hiding in his van, unable to speak openly in the very neighborhood he patrols. Thanks to the surge, both the Shiites and the Sunnis now have weapons and legitimacy. And what can come of that, Arkan asks, except more fighting?

"Many people in Sahwa work for Al Qaeda," he says. "The national police are all loyal to the Mahdi Army." He shakes his head. "You work hard to build a house, and somebody blows up your house. Will they accept Sunnis back to Shiite areas and Shiites back to Sunni areas? If someone kills your brother, can you forget his killer?"