Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Threats on Kurdish Front Should have been expected

This is from the Huffington Post. This article explains some of the reasons why it should have been expected that their would be trouble with Kurdistan. The Kurds will not even fly the Iraqi flag!

James Zogby|
Threats on Kurdish Front Should Have Been Expected
Posted October 26, 2007 | 05:03 PM (EST)


When Saddam Hussein's brutal invasion and occupation of Kuwait was greeted by a joint U.S.-Soviet statement of opposition, and later by an international coalition determined to use force, if necessary, to free Kuwait, I was reminded of the cautionary maxim: "Never pick a fight you can't win."

Saddam apparently hadn't heard that piece of wisdom, or chose to ignore it, and in the end his country paid dearly for his foolishness.

When the U.S. was gearing up to invade Iraq in the Spring of 2003, I offered a slight variation of that same maxim, suggesting that it would be wise to "Never pick a fight you don't know how to win." But the Bush Administration threw caution to the wind, convinced that victory would be easy, defining it in terms that appeared delusional to anyone who knew Iraq.

Bull-headedly marching into a country whose history, culture and social composition were not understood, promised disastrous consequences unanticipated by the invaders. That has come to pass. With almost 4,000 American dead, tens or hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, two million refugees and as many internally displaced persons, 600 billion U.S. dollars spent, and countless billions lost by Iraq itself, this war has been a disaster. But this war is far from over, and may soon get worse.

After successive and overlapping waves of internal violence, emanating from insurgents, criminal gangs, sectarian militias and terrorists, the conflict now threatens to spill out beyond Iraq's borders, into Turkey and possibly Iran.

What is so damned infuriating is that these consequences all should have been expected, and were, by those who warned against this foolish war. Those who knew of Iraq's fragility, and who worried about score-settling in the wake of Saddam's fall, warned of instability and political violence. And those who understood the deeply felt historical grievances of the Kurdish people, warned of the consequences of opening that file. It is now open, and won't close any time soon.

Over the past decade, Iraq's Kurds have prospered under a U.S.-protected umbrella. With the collapse of the regime in Baghdad, Kurdish hopes of expanding their autonomy grew, and with it, their ambition as well. The Kurdish Provisional Authority (KPA) has become, for all intents and purposes, a state within a failing state. With its own flag and military, and its own Washington representation, the KPA is moving inexorably toward independence.

To consolidate and to create greater economic viability for their putative state, the KPA covets and seeks to annex the oil-rich region of Kirkuk. To achieve this, they have scheduled a referendum of Kirkuk's residents - but not before completing a population transfer scheme, moving Kurds into Kirkuk while displacing Arabs who had been transferred into the area during Ba'ath rule. This has inflamed not only Arabs, Sunni and Shi'a alike, who fear Kurdish separatism; it has also caused concern in Turkey, whose Turkomen brethren in Kirkuk fear dispossession.

As controversial as this Kirkuk scheme has been, the KPA's recently signed oil concession with the U.S. based Hunt Oil company has been criticized even by the U.S. as a peremptory act that threatens Iraqi Constitutional reform on oil distribution, and deepens fissures within Iraq's governing coalition.

Nevertheless, despite growing regional concern, the KPA has moved forward, even advertising itself in the U.S. as "the other Iraq," boasting of their region's stability and security, inviting investment and even tourism.

One might have assumed that all was going well for the KPA as it moved quietly and steadily toward greater prosperity and autonomy. But, because the consequences of the "Kurdish question" are bigger than Iraq, external realities and internal pressures may soon catch up with the illusory "other Iraq."

Deep ties, including a shared sense of grievance, connect Kurds in Turkey, Syria, Iran and Iraq. Historically, developments, either positive or negative, in one country have affected Kurdish citizens in the others. These governments all watch developments in the others' Kurdish areas, knowing of the possible spillover effects.

And so it should have been expected that increased autonomy for Kurds in Iraq would inspire Kurds in Iran and Turkey to press for greater rights or, as has been the case, for Kurdish insurgents based in the rugged mountain areas of the KPA to launch raids into Turkey and Iran.

While attacks of this sort are not new, growing threats by both Iran and Turkey to invade rebel strongholds in the KPA has created a set of serious problems. The KPA is now being challenged to use their militia/"national army" to attack and control the Turkish and Iranian Kurdish insurgents operating within their borders. This is something they have done before, but are hesitant to do at this point. With Turkey and Iran both bombing Kurdish positions within the KPA and threatening an even greater response if the insurgent groups are not controlled, the U.S. sees the possibility that its one Iraqi success story may give way to the opening of a new front in what will become an even more complicated war.

This all should have been understood before the war began, but was not. And that is why one of the principle recommendations of the Iraq Study Group is as valid today as when it was written. And that is the necessity of creating a regional security pact which brings together all the component groups inside Iraq, along with Iraq's neighbors, under the auspices of the United Nations, so that problems of this sort are not tackled piecemeal. Iraq's neighbors have a direct stake in the stability and unity of Iraq, and are better made partners toward that goal than a collection of allies and rivals.

There was no excuse to ignore the wisdom of "not picking a fight you don't know how to win," before this war began. There is even less excuse for ignoring it now when we see what the consequences have been, and what consequences may yet occur.

52% Of Americans support military strike against Iran

I am quite surprised at those high figures. Americans must be among the most gullible citizens in the world. Many seem completely oblivious to the psy-ops embedded in much mainstream media reporting about Iran. An attack on Iran is likely to be an unmitigated disaster but the exact consequences are unpredictable. Certainly the situation in Iraq will become much worse as the Shia will probably react against the US occupation on a much heightened level. This is from this site.

52% of Americans support military strike against Iran
Takeo Miyazaki / Yomiuri Shimbun Correspondent

More than half of likely voters in the United States would support a U.S. military strike against Iran to prevent it from building a nuclear weapon, according to a poll released Monday.

The poll found 53 percent of Americans believe it is likely the United States will be involved in a military strike against Iran before the November 2008 presidential election.

The nationwide telephone survey, conducted by polling firm Zogby International, found 52 percent of U.S. adults interviewed would support such a strike.

In the months leading up to the United States' imposition of fresh sanctions against Iran on Oct. 25, top officials of the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush such as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney, have issued a series of harsh remarks. Cheney said last week Iran will face "serious consequences," if "it stays on its present course."

(Oct. 31, 2007)

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Immunity Jeopardizes Iraq Probe

So the Blackwater Guards are not only immune from prosecution in Iraq, it seems that they will be immune in the US because their testimony can not be used! The case of a guard who shot and killed an Iraqi vice-president's bodyguard last Xmas eve has still not be acted upon by the Justice Dept. Justice is not only blind, it seems to have top speed of a turtle.

Immunity Jeopardizes Iraq Probe
Guards' Statements Cannot Be Used in Blackwater Case

By Karen DeYoung
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 30, 2007; A01

Potential prosecution of Blackwater guards allegedly involved in the shooting deaths of 17 Iraqi civilians last month may have been compromised because the guards received immunity for statements they made to State Department officials investigating the incident, federal law enforcement officials said yesterday.

FBI agents called in to take over the State Department's investigation two weeks after the Sept. 16 shootings cannot use any information gleaned during questioning of the guards by the department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, which is charged with supervising security contractors.

Some of the Blackwater guards have subsequently refused to be interviewed by the FBI, citing promises of immunity from State, one law enforcement official said. The restrictions on the FBI's use of their initial statements do not preclude prosecution by the Justice Department using other evidence, the official said, but "they make things a lot more complicated and difficult."

Under State Department contractor rules, Diplomatic Security agents are charged with investigating and reporting on all "use of force" incidents. Although there have been previous Blackwater shootings over the past three years -- none of which resulted in prosecutions -- the Sept. 16 incident was by far the most serious. The Bureau of Diplomatic Security was under pressure to quickly determine what had happened in what soon became a major controversy in Baghdad and Washington.

It is unclear when or by whom the grant of immunity was explained to the guards. Under federal case law applying to government workers, only voluntary answers to questions posed by the employing agency can be used against them in a criminal prosecution. If an employee is ordered to answer under threat of disciplinary action, the resulting statements cannot be used.

"You can't use the fruits of that statement," another law enforcement official said. "It doesn't prevent them from talking [to the FBI], but . . . why run the risk? I think any lawyer would advise against it. "

Diplomatic Security spokesman Brian Leventhal declined to comment on the situation, first reported yesterday by the Associated Press. Anne Tyrrell, a spokeswoman for North Carolina-based Blackwater Worldwide, also declined to comment.

State Department spokesman Sean McCormack referred all questions to the Justice Department. "But if anyone has broken the rules or applicable laws, they should be held to account," McCormack said.

Blackwater chief executive Erik Prince has said the personal security guards, contracted by the State Department from his company to protect U.S. diplomats in Iraq, came under fire in a Baghdad traffic circle and shot only in self-defense. But the Iraqi government, which has conducted its own investigation, concluded that the Blackwater guards fired the only shots in the incident and were completely at fault. A U.S. military investigation also concluded that the shootings were unprovoked.

Amid growing diplomatic tension and congressional criticism, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice asked the FBI to take over the case to avoid an appearance of a conflict of interest between the department's Diplomatic Security agents in Baghdad and the Blackwater personnel they supervise.

Although the FBI maintains an office at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, a team of Washington-based agents was dispatched as additional insurance against what one administration official called a possible "taint" on the investigation's objectivity. To ensure a firewall, FBI investigators were barred from reading interviews and reports on the incident gathered by Diplomatic Security agents.

Several of the Blackwater personnel, however, asserted that they had already told their stories, under immunity grants from the State Department, and declined FBI interviews that could be used against them, law enforcement officials said.

The immunity claim rests on what are called "Garrity warnings" and "Kalkines warnings," both named after federal court cases from the 1960s and '70s that recognized the special circumstances of government employees in criminal cases involving their jobs. "The government wears two hats" when it launches internal criminal investigations, one law enforcement official said. The rulings were intended to protect the rights of government employees.

The FBI investigators sent to Baghdad are due to return to Washington early this week and will then turn the information they gathered over to the Justice Department, which will decide whether prosecution is warranted. An earlier case, involving the shooting of a bodyguard of an Iraqi vice president by a Blackwater contractor last Christmas Eve, was referred to Justice months ago, but there has been no prosecution.

Law enforcement officials have said it is unclear whether the contractors, who are immune from Iraqi law under an order promulgated by the U.S. occupation government in 2004, are liable under any U.S. law. The administration has said it opposes a bill passed by the House last month that would place State Department contractors under laws that currently apply only to Pentagon contractors.

Administration officials have said that the Christmas Eve case has languished because of the legal uncertainties.

But in congressional testimony last week, Rice said that the holdup was "not the absence of law . . . it's a question of evidence."

Staff writer Dan Eggen contributed to this report.

US: Iran seeks nuclear weapons

Evidence shmevidence. The US has its hegemonic policy aims so evidence of Iran actually pursuing nuclear weapons' development is irrelevant. If evidence doesn't exist then manufacture it or suggest it. All that is needed is a supine media that listens more to psy-op puffery from US and other sources rather than a "technical" chap who knows about this stuff. Iraq did not teach the public anything it seems.

US: Iran seeks nuclear weapons Mon Oct 29, 1:38 PM ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States on Monday brushed aside the UN nuclear watchdog agency chief's warning that there was no proof Iran seeks atomic weapons, and invited him to stay out of diplomacy with Tehran.
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), told CNN Sunday that he had no evidence Iran was building nuclear weapons and accused US leaders of adding "fuel to the fire" with their warlike rhetoric.

"He will say what he will. He is the head of a technical agency," US State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters. "I think we can handle diplomacy on this one."

"We appreciate the work that the IAEA is performing but it is the member states of the international community that are going to be responsible of the diplomacy with respect to Iran and its nuclear program," said McCormack.

At the White House, spokeswoman Dana Perino said there was no doubt about Iran's plans because "this is a country that is enriching and reprocessing uranium and the reason that one does that is to lead towards a nuclear weapon."

Uranium enrichment and reprocessing produces fuel for nuclear reactors, but can also be a key step to creating the core of an atomic bomb. Iran says it wants a civilian energy program, not an atomic arsenal.

Asked whether any country enriching uranium seeks nuclear weapons, US National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe clarified Perino's remarks.

"I would say that we're concerned about Iran doing this because they could have the capability to have a nuclear weapon. Each country is different, but obviously Dana was asked and was talking about Iran," he said.

Iran's leaders have repeatedly said they will never suspend enrichment, in flagrant defiance of repeated UN Security Council resolutions calling on Tehran to suspend the process.

"We have put on the table for Iran a path for them to get a civil nuclear program. And all they have to do to get there is to suspend its enrichment of reprocessing of uranium and they can come to the table and we can have a further discussion," said Perino.

"It's the Iranians who have decided not to be at that table," she said.

The United States has sharply escalated its rhetoric against the Islamic Republic, while slapping a new set of sanctions on its Revolutionary Guards, accused of spreading weapons of mass destruction, and its elite Quds Force, which was designated as a supporter of terrorism.

"Iran is the largest national security challenge we have in regards to nuclear weapons today," said Perino, who contrasted Tehran's approach to North Korea's agreement to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

"We are in discussions with North Korea, through the six-party talks, and that is because North Korea agreed to give up its weapons and make a full declaration of activities that they've been pursuing," she said.

She was referring to negotiations grouping China, Japan, Russia, North and South Korea and the United States, and a deal offering Pyongyang economic and diplomatic rewards if it gives up it nuclear weapons program.

"Iran could have the same option, but they've chosen not to," the spokeswoman said.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Bipartisan Consensus: Iraq, Many More Years of War

This analysis sounds reasonably accurate to me. Unless the public gets much more active and demanding things will probably transpire much as predicted by Smith. HOwever, an attack on Iran may alter the situation considerably much for the worse I expect.

Bipartisan Consensus: Iraq, Many More Years of War

by Jack A. Smith

Global Research, October 24, 2007

After a few skirmishes, congressional Democrats have fled the field of battle with the Republicans over the matter of withdrawing some U.S. troops from Iraq. Ending the war itself was never a serious part of the several-month debate, although many Americans thought it was.

A consensus seems to be building in Washington that views a long term U.S. military presence in Iraq as a valuable geostrategic asset in the quest for regional and global hegemony. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is now talking about an occupation of an unlimited number of years with a minimum of 40,000 U.S. troops. The Democratic Party and the majority of its politicians in Congress are expected to go along with this.

The Democratic leadership has declared it now seeks compromise with the Bush Administration and Republicans in Congress, and isn¹t willing to force the issue of troop withdrawal. Hillary Clinton, Barak Obama and John Edwards ‹ leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination ‹ have all been quoted as suggesting that the war will not end for at least five-and-a-half more years (the end of the new presidential term). According to a Sept. 29 article in the Washington Post, the important question for these candidates "is no longer whether U.S. forces will remain in Iraq but what size, mission and length a post-buildup [post-surge], post-Bush force would take on."

It also appears that the centrist majority of the Democratic delegation in the House and Senate is committed to keeping a large contingent of American troops in Iraq at least as long as Clinton, Obama and Edwards predict. Public opinion polls in September showed that only 5% of the American people want the troops to remain that long, but they will be ignored unless a great deal more pressure is exerted by the American people and the U.S. peace movement.

Democratic leaders will make efforts to convince the voters throughout the year leading to the 2008 elections that they are doing their best to bring U.S. troops home. But it will be for show, in order to propel a Democrat into the White House on the basis of antiwar opinion.

Democratic House and Senate leaders, Rep. Nancy Pelosi and Sen. Harry Reid, claim that the threat of a Republican filibuster and a veto from President George W. Bush constitute a double whammy preventing the Democratic majority in both houses of Congress from passing legislation to withdraw the U.S. Army of Occupation from Iraq.

At best, this argument is disingenuous. All the Democrats in Congress need do is exercise their constitutional right to withhold funds to continue the war, allocating monies only for the swift withdrawal of all American troops. A majority can do it. In the Senate, if the Democrats can¹t accumulate 51 votes, all they¹d need is 41 to mount a filibuster which would prevent the funding bill from being called for a vote. The refusal to attempt such action is an indication that the Democrats have other plans in mind. The Democratic congressional leadership insists de-funding would be unpopular with the voters and may cost them the election. But that is misleading.

Once the March 2003 invasion began, the Democratic Party has been as committed as the Republicans to winning the Iraq war, despite the antiwar views of a small minority of legislators within its ranks. Democratic leaders think they can conduct the war better than the blundering Bush Administration. Winning in Iraq was their position in the 2004 election with John Kerry and it is their position now. The difference is that Democratic leaders said it openly then and conceal it now because public opinion has changed.

The "peace party," as the Dems have positioned themselves in the election, talks about withdrawal but the fact is that its most extreme proposal has been for a gradual and partial withdrawal that would keep up to 50,000 American troops in Iraq for many years. With them would be a huge number of mercenaries and tens of thousands of civilians now providing services that the military used to handle just a decade ago.

The U.S. will wind up spending some $2 trillion dollars on the Iraq project if it ends in a couple of years, and much more if it lasts a decade or so, as seems likely. Washington will not simply walk away from an investment of this size. There is too much at stake, including control over one of the largest reserves of petroleum under the Earth, and America¹s domination of the entire Middle East.

Here, in our view, is the Democratic leadership¹s simultaneous two-stage prescription for "victory" in Iraq:

1. After a Democrat becomes the next president, they will begin the process of partial withdrawal over several years. This will reduce popular opposition, even as hostilities continue. After a year or two, as Iraqi troops play more of a front-line role, the number of US. casualities will drop considerably, further eroding the demand for an end to the war.

2. During this time, the U.S. will fund, train, field and control the huge Iraqi army so that it does most of the fighting. The Pentagon will back it up with tens of thousands of U.S. Special Forces and other troops stationed in impregnable bases and supported by a vast expansion of American air power. Buy off as much of the opposition as possible. Promise to invest in rebuilding part of the infrastructure. Create an informal but effective separation of Iraq into three parts ‹ Kurd, Shia, Sunni ‹ to reduce communal strife. Maintain control over whatever Iraq government it is convenient to put in power and direct affairs, as now, from Washington. Bring in the UN as cover.

There are other aspects to Washington¹s triumph in an unjust war, but these are key. If it works, the U.S. military will remain in Iraq for many years. How many? How about 10 to 50 years?

The U.S. has stationed almost 40,000 troops, missiles, bombers and nuclear weapons in South Korea for over a half century, and they are not about to leave despite the so-called "shortage" of American troops in Iraq. "Protecting" South Korea is not the reason. The existence of substantial U.S. military power an hour or two away from China, Russia and Japan is a major forward thrust in the geostrategic drive for world hegemony.

Maintaining a powerful military force in the client state of Iraq for decades will be an even more important geostrategic maneuver, if it works out. One reason, as former Federal Reserve boss Alan Greenspan let slip in his new book, is that ³the Iraq war is largely about oil.² Of course it is, but there¹s more.

The U.S. seeks to become so powerfully entrenched in Iraq that it is given first grabs at the oil for a reasonable price, plus influence over who else gets the oil. This is why the Congress and the White House are demanding that Baghdad agree to the ³benchmark² about de-nationalizing the oil fields and allowing U.S. companies to earn super profits for extracting and delivering this strategic commodity. When the corporations get in and the oil starts flowing, naturally they will have to be protected by reliable American forces.

The geostrategic reason for Washington to remain a politically and militarily dominant force in Iraq is to facilitate the extension of U.S. hegemony throughout the Middle East, with Russia and China very much in mind.

The U.S. is engaged in am undeclared new cold war with both China and the revived, Putin-era Russia. The principal area of contention between Beijing and Moscow on the one hand, and Washington on the other, is that both China and Russia are aligned in opposing the concept of a unipolar world order wherein the United States operates as the dominating superpower and world cop, as it has done since the Soviet downfall.

The alternative is a multipolar system where several countries or regions operate as essentially equal powers, with the UN playing a larger role. Washington rejects, and suggests it will fight against, any erosion in its dominant unipolar position. This contradiction will be resolved in the next decades, one way or the other. In an important speech Oct. 15, Chinese President Hu Jintao declared that the ³trend toward a multipolar world is irreversible.²

The U.S. will be empowered significantly in this geostrategic struggle if it can sufficiently control the oil-rich states of the Middle East to the point of influencing which outside states can and cannot purchase or drill for the region¹s oil. With influence such as this, first in Iraq and then the region, the U.S. will guarantee itself abundant supplies of this vital but diminishing energy resource for many decades to come. In the process this will reduce its own dependence on certain politically problematic sources such as Venezuela.

Washington believes that its European allies are becoming too dependant on oil and natural gas from Russia. Should America¹s plans for the Middle East succeed, enough oil could be made available to the European Union/NATO countries at attractive prices to draw them away from Moscow. Naturally such a circumstance would make the Europeans more dependent on America in exchange.

China comes into the picture because of a desperate need for energy resources to continue its role as the world¹s manufacturing resource, as well as a requirement to satisfy the domestic needs of a population four times larger than the United States. With decisive influence over the disposition of the world¹s largest oil fields, Washington could threaten to prevent China¹s access to Middle East oil should push come to shove over Beijing¹s economic power and the unipolar issue. China seeks Russian oil, but would be reluctant to become principally dependent on Moscow¹s energy supplies. Each is a proud and important nation seeking an independent place in the sun, and wary of falling under the other¹s shadow.

A large, permanent garrison in Iraq will transport Washington closer to its geopolitical goals. A presence of this magnitude will allow the U.S. to militarily threaten Iran, Syria, and Lebanon whenever "necessary" It will further bolster Israel, and enhance U.S. control of the region while extending its reach closer to southern Russia.

These are the main reasons we believe Washington¹s intention is a long occupation in Iraq and why there will be little real opposition from the Democratic or Republican parties. The war has been bipartisan from the day it began and, aside from salvos of unpleasant rhetoric, probably will remain so under a somewhat different configuration with a Democratic president in the White House.

Washington may never attain its long range objectives, of course. The Pentagon¹s Army of Occupation and it¹s creation, the ³Iraqi² army, may never be able to ³stabilize² Iraq, and the situation will continue to worsen. The American people, already sick of the war, may see through the phased, partial withdrawal scheme, and recognize it for what it is: a mechanism for continuing the war for years to come.

The U.S. antiwar movement, in combination with pubic opinion, may be able to frustrate the plans for a long occupation. But its many components will have to be far more politically savvy, united in action, independent of the two ruling parties, and willing to escalate its confrontation with whoever the powers may be. At this stage it appears that a large sector of the peace forces, While still calling for withdrawal, will mainly spend next year seeking to elect Democrats in the 2008 elections.

The author is the editor of the Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter. He is the former editor of the U.S. left weekly, the Guardian. He may be reached at

The Evangelical Crackup

I don't really know how significant this is or what the situation is in the US in general but it is interesting to see what seems to be evangelistic Christians becoming perhaps less politically involved.

The Evangelical Crackup
NYT/October 28, 2007

The hundred-foot white cross atop the Immanuel Baptist Church in
downtown Wichita, Kan., casts a shadow over a neighborhood of payday
lenders, pawnbrokers and pornographic video stores. To its
parishioners, this has long been the front line of the culture war.
Immanuel has stood for Southern Baptist traditionalism for more than
half a century. Until recently, its pastor, Terry Fox, was the Jerry
Falwell of the Sunflower State — the public face of the conservative
Christian political movement in a place where that made him a very big

With flushed red cheeks and a pudgy, dimpled chin, Fox roared down
from Immanuel's pulpit about the wickedness of abortion, evolution and
homosexuality. He mobilized hundreds of Kansas pastors to push through
a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, helping to unseat a
handful of legislators in the process. His Sunday-morning services
reached tens of thousands of listeners on regional cable television,
and on Sunday nights he was a host of a talk-radio program, "Answering
the Call." Major national conservative Christian groups like Focus on
the Family lauded his work, and the Southern Baptist Convention named
him chairman of its North American Mission Board.

For years, Fox flaunted his allegiance to the Republican Party, urging
fellow pastors to make the same "confession" and calling them
"sissies" if they didn't. "We are the religious right," he liked to
say. "One, we are religious. Two, we are right."

His congregation, for the most part, applauded. Immanuel and Wichita's
other big churches were seedbeds of the conservative Christian
activism that burst forth three decades ago. In the 1980s, when
theological conservatives pushed the moderates out of the Southern
Baptist Convention, Immanuel and Fox were both at the forefront. In
1991, when Operation Rescue brought its "Summer of Mercy" abortion
protests to Wichita, Immanuel's parishioners leapt to the barricades,
helping to establish the city as the informal capital of the
anti-abortion movement. And Fox's confrontational style packed ever
more like-minded believers into the pews. He more than doubled
Immanuel's official membership to more than 6,000 and planted the
giant cross on its roof.

So when Fox announced to his flock one Sunday in August last year that
it was his final appearance in the pulpit, the news startled
evangelical activists from Atlanta to Grand Rapids. Fox told the
congregation that he was quitting so he could work full time on
"cultural issues." Within days, The Wichita Eagle reported that Fox
left under pressure. The board of deacons had told him that his
activism was getting in the way of the Gospel. "It just wasn't
pertinent," Associate Pastor Gayle Tenbrook later told me.

Fox, who is 47, said he saw some impatient shuffling in the pews, but
he was stunned that the church's lay leaders had turned on him. "They
said they were tired of hearing about abortion 52 weeks a year,
hearing about all this political stuff!" he told me on a recent Sunday
afternoon. "And these were deacons of the church!"

These days, Fox has taken his fire and brimstone in search of a new
pulpit. He rented space at the Johnny Western Theater at the Wild West
World amusement park until it folded. Now he preaches at a Best
Western hotel. "I don't mind telling you that I paid a price for the
political stands I took," Fox said. "The pendulum in the Christian
world has swung back to the moderate point of view. The real battle
now is among evangelicals."

Fox is not the only conservative Christian to feel the heat of those
battles, even in — of all places — Wichita. Within three months of
departure, the two other most influential conservative Christian
pastors in the city had left their pulpits as well. And in the silence
left by their voices, a new generation of pastors distinctly
suspicious of the Republican Party — some as likely to lean left as
right — is beginning to speak up.

Just three years ago, the leaders of the conservative Christian
political movement could almost see the Promised Land. White
evangelical Protestants looked like perhaps the most potent voting
bloc in America. They turned out for President George W. Bush in
record numbers, supporting him for re-election by a ratio of four to
one. Republican strategists predicted that religious traditionalists
would help bring about an era of dominance for their party. Spokesmen
for the Christian conservative movement warned of the wrath of "values
voters." James C. Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, was
poised to play kingmaker in 2008, at least in the Republican primary.
And thanks to President Bush, the Supreme Court appeared just one vote
away from answering the prayers of evangelical activists by
overturning Roe v. Wade.

Today the movement shows signs of coming apart beneath its leaders. It
is not merely that none of the 2008 Republican front-runners come
close to measuring up to President Bush in the eyes of the evangelical
faithful, although it would be hard to find a cast of characters more
ill fit for those shoes: a lapsed-Catholic big-city mayor; a
Massachusetts Mormon; a church-skipping Hollywood character actor; and
a political renegade known for crossing swords with the Rev. Pat
Robertson and the Rev. Jerry Falwell. Nor is the problem simply that
the Democratic presidential front-runners — Senator Hillary Rodham
Clinton, Senator Barack Obama and former Senator John Edwards — sound
like a bunch of tent-revival Bible thumpers compared with the

The 2008 election is just the latest stress on a system of fault lines
that go much deeper. The phenomenon of theologically conservative
Christians plunging into political activism on the right is,
historically speaking, something of an anomaly. Most evangelicals
shrugged off abortion as a Catholic issue until after the 1973 Roe v.
Wade decision. But in the wake of the ban on public-school prayer, the
sexual revolution and the exodus to the suburbs that filled the new
megachurches, protecting the unborn became the rallying cry of a new
movement to uphold the traditional family. Now another confluence of
factors is threatening to tear the movement apart. The extraordinary
evangelical love affair with Bush has ended, for many, in heartbreak
over the Iraq war and what they see as his meager domestic
accomplishments. That disappointment, in turn, has sharpened latent
divisions within the evangelical world — over the evangelical
with the Republican Party, among approaches to ministry and theology,
and between the generations.

Kurdish leader defies Turkish invasion threat.

THis is from the Independent.
The Kurds are certainly showing they will not be puppets in fact will not even co-operate with the US or central government when it doesn't suit them. This can only lead to a Turkish incursion as I doubt the US or Iraqi govt. will do anything but wring their hands even though the US calls the PKK terrorists!

Iraqi Kurdish leader defies Turkish invasion threat
By Patrick Cockburn in Iraqi Kurdistan
Published: 29 October 2007
Masoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurds of northern Iraq, expressed defiance yesterday in the face of a threatened invasion by 100,00 Turkish troops, and was scornful of Turkey's claim that it wants only to pursue Turkish-Kurd rebels.

"We are not a threat to Turkey and I do not accept the language of threatening and blackmailing from the government of Turkey," he said from his mountain fortress of Salahudin 10 miles north of Arbil. "If they invade there will be war."

Mr Barzani is President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the autonomous Kurdish area in northern Iraq which enjoys quasi-independence from Baghdad and has stronger military forces than half of the members of the UN.

He was in no mood to buckle under Turkish pressure to take military action against the guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) who have their hideouts in the mountain ranges along Iraqi Kurdistan's borders with Iran and Turkey. "My main mission would be not to allow a Kurdish-Kurdish fight to happen within the Kurdish liberation movement," he declared.

Mr Barzani said Turkey's attempt to solve its Kurdish problem by military means alone had not worked in the past 23 years and would not work now. It was in 1984 that the PKK took up arms, seeking independence or autonomy from theTurkish state that refused to admit that it had a Kurdish minority of 15 million.

Mr Barzani also said that he was increasingly convinced that the Turkish objective was not the PKK but Iraqi Kurdistan, which has achieved near-independence since 2003. He said he was convinced Turkey's claim that its target was the PKK "is only an excuse and the target is the Kurdistan region itself". When the KRG put its peshmerga (soldiers) on the border with Turkey to control the areas where the PKK has sought refuge, Turkish artillery had shelled them, he said.

Mr Barzani appears to believe there is no concession he could offer to Turkey which would defuse the crisis because he himself and the KRG are the true target of Ankara.

Turkish military action might be largely symbolic with ground troops not advancing very far, but even this would have a serious impact on the economy of the KRG. The Iraqi Kurds would also be badly hurt if Turkey closed the Habur Bridge, the crossing point near Zakho through which passes much of Kurdistan's trade. Some 825,000 trucks crossed the bridge in both directions last year. Asked what the impact of the closure of Habur Bridge would be on Iraqi Kurdistan, Mr Barzani said determinedly: "We would not starve."

Turkish artillery is already firing shells across the border in the high mountains around Kani Masi, a well-watered border village in western Kurdistan, famous for its apple orchards. The shelling is persistent and is evidently designed as warning to the Iraqi Kurds. "We are afraid but we have nowhere else to go," said Mohammed Mustafa, an elderly farmer.

For the moment, the villagers are staying put. Many of them in this area are Syriac Christians whose parents or grandparents emigrated to Baghdad but had returned recently because of fear of sectarian killing in the capital. Omar Mai, the local head of Mr Barzani's Kurdistan Democratic Party in Kani Masi, said that seven villages in the area had recently been shelled.

He said that there were no PKK in the villages and that they stayed permanently in the high mountains. Another reason for the PKK guerrillas making themselves scarce in this area is that there are Turkish outposts and garrisons already inside Iraq, set up during previous incursions. At one point near the village of Begova the snouts of Turkish tanks point menacingly down the road.

Driving to the top of a mountain where peshmerga were dug in, Mr Mai explained with some pride the intricate geography of the frontier. On one hilltop below us was the Turkish army, identifiable by the red Turkish flag, while a few hundred yards below the hill, separated by a flimsy fence, were Iraqi Kurdish frontier guards living in a long white barracks. In a grove of trees behind this building was a villa that was also occupied by Turkish troops.

Further north, hidden by folds in the mountains, are the Turkish guns that intermittently bombard this area. If the Turkish army does want to advance here there is not much to stop them, but it is unlikely that they would find any PKK, scanty in number and well-hidden in caves, in this vast range of mountains and valleys.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Guantamo military lawyer breaks ranks.

This is from the Independent. It is always heartening to see people who have the integrity, courage, and belief in the principles of their profession to stand up to the sort of bullying and violation of basic legal principles that is characteristic of the Bush administration. No doubt these people often face punishment and ruin of their careers.

Guantanamo military lawyer breaks ranks to condemn 'unconscionable' detention
By Leonard Doyle in Washington
Published: 27 October 2007
An American military lawyer and veteran of dozens of secret Guantanamo tribunals has made a devastating attack on the legal process for determining whether Guantanamo prisoners are "enemy combatants".

The whistleblower, an army major inside the military court system which the United States has established at Guantanamo Bay, has described the detention of one prisoner, a hospital administrator from Sudan, as "unconscionable".

His critique will be the centrepiece of a hearing on 5 December before the US Supreme Court when another attempt is made to shut the prison down. So nervous is the Bush administration of the latest attack – and another Supreme Court ruling against it – that it is preparing a whole new system of military courts to deal with those still imprisoned.

The whistleblower's testimony is the most serious attack to date on the military panels, which were meant to give a fig- leaf of legitimacy to the interrogation and detention policies at Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay. The major has taken part in 49 status review panels.

"It's a kangaroo court system and completely corrupt," said Michael Ratner, the president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which is co-ordinating investigations and appeals lawsuits against the government by some 1,000 lawyers. "Stalin had show trials, but at Guantanamo they are not even show trials because it all takes place in secret."

Combatant Status Review Tribunals were held for 558 detainees at the Guantanamo in 2004 and 2005. All but 38 detainees were determined to be "enemy combatants" who could be held indefinitely without charges. Detainees were not represented by a lawyer and had no access to evidence. The only witnesses they could call were other so-called "enemy combatants".

The army major has said that in the rare circumstances in which it was decided that the detainees were no longer enemy combatants, senior commanders ordered another panel to reverse the decision. The major also described "acrimony" during a "heated conference" call from Admiral McGarragh, who reports to the Secretary of the US Navy, when a the panel refused to describe several Uighur detainees as enemy combatants. Senior military commanders wanted to know why some panels considering the same evidence would come to different findings on the Uighurs, members of a Muslim minority in China.

When the whistleblower suggested over the phone that inconsistent results were "good for the system ... and would show that the system was working correctly", Admiral McGarragh, he said, had no response. The latest criticism emerged when lawyers investigating the case of a Sudanese hospital administrator, Adel Hamad, who has been held for five years, came across a "stunning" sworn statement from a member of the military panel. The officer they interviewed was so frightened of retaliation from the military that they would not allow their name to be used in the statement, nor to reveal whether the person was a man or woman.

Two other military lawyers have also gone public. In June, Army Lt-Col Stephen Abraham, a 26-year veteran in US military intelligence, became the first insider to publicly fault the proceedings. In May last year, Lt-Com Matthew Diaz was sentenced to six months in prison and dismissed from the military after he sent the names of all 551 men at the prison to a human rights group.

William Teesdale, a British-born lawyer investigating Mr Hadad's case, said he was certain of his client's innocence, having tracked down doctors who worked with him at an Afghan hospital. "Mr Hamad is an innocent man, and he is not the only one in Guantanamo."

British Commander: Basra fight pointless

The politicians need to assign handlers to top commanders so that utterances can be cleared before they get uttered. It seems that many military people seem blissfully unaware that their role is not to say what they believe but what they ought to believe according to their political masters.

Basra fight pointless, says British commander
Gethin Chamberlain in southern Iraq
Last Updated: 2:02am GMT 28/10/2007

One of the most senior British commanders in Iraq has claimed that there is no point in fighting on in Basra, likening British troops in the city to "Robocop" and admitting that innocent people were hurt as a result of their actions.

On the ground with British troops in southern Iraq

The officer, who spoke to The Sunday Telegraph on condition of anonymity, said commanders had concluded that a military solution was no longer viable.

"We are tired of firing at people," he said. "We would prefer to find a political accommodation."

The officer, who is responsible for thousands of troops, said the decision to pull soldiers out of the centre of Basra last month came after commanders concluded that using Iraqi forces would be more effective. "We would go down there [Basra], dressed as Robocop, shooting at people if they shot at us, and innocent people were getting hurt," he said. "We don't speak Arabic to explain and our translators were too scared to work for us any more. What benefit were we bringing to these people?"

British forces have struck a deal with Shia militias to withdraw to a single base at the international airport in return for assurances that they will no longer be attacked.

Yesterday, former military commanders and politicians expressed outrage at the officer's comments.

Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, said: "A lot of those who have served in Iraq will be disappointed and angry at being portrayed in this manner."

The former SAS deputy commander Clive Fairweather said he was appalled by the message coming out of Basra. "One wonders whether the Union Jack or the white flag should be flying over Basra airfield," he said.

Have your say

Plans for Iraq's Future: Federalism, Separatism, and Partition

From this site.
This is an interestig analysis of the Senate bill to "divide" Iraq. The article does actually mention briefly that the suggestions are seen to conform to the traditional imperial divide and rule tactics.

Plans for Iraq’s Future: Federalism, Separatism, and Partition
Author: Greg Bruno, Staff Writer

October 22, 2007

Don’t Call It “Partition”
Specific Concerns
Faithful to Federalism
Not the Only Option
Washington as Global Watchdog


A non-binding resolution that sailed through the U.S. Senate in September 2007 reignited debate over Iraq’s political future. Introduced by Senators Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-DE) and Sam Brownback, (R-KS), the measure calls for a decentralized Iraqi government “based upon the principles of federalism” and advocates for a relatively weak central government with strong Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish regional administrations. The bill, based on a proposal first introduced by Biden and CFR President Emeritus Leslie H. Gelb, passed the Senate by a 75 to 23 margin. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and Chris Dodd (D-CT), rivals in a crowded presidential field that includes Sen. Biden, both supported the amendment. Despite the bipartisan support in Washington, Iraqi politicians in Baghdad reacted furiously. Iraq’s divided central government has condemned the measure, calling it “an incorrect reading” of Iraq’s history. Even the U.S. embassy in Baghdad came out against the federalism measure. Some experts, meanwhile, favor other forms of governmental realignment, including outright “partition” of Iraq into three separate states.

Don’t Call It “Partition”
The Biden-Brownback plan was borne of a broader five-point strategy Biden and Gelb introduced in May 2006. Similar to views expressed (PDF) by the U.S. military, the two argue that ethnic tensions threaten Iraq’s long-term stability and are calling for the establishment of three (or more) semi-autonomous ethnic regions linked by a power-sharing agreement in Baghdad. “The idea is to maintain a unified Iraq by federalizing it and giving Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis control over their daily lives in their own regions,” Biden writes. The central government would maintain control over “truly common interests” such as border defense, foreign policy, and oil production and revenue sharing. Regional governors would then administer their own regional affairs. Biden argues that the plan—similar to the Dayton formula which calmed the Bosnian-Serb-Croat war in 1995—is in accordance with Iraq’s constitution (PDF), which defines the Republic of Iraq as consisting of “a decentralized capital, regions and governorates, and local administrations.”

Specific Concerns
The proposal draws sweeping criticisms. Many Iraqi political parties, including Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s United Iraqi Alliance, denounce the measure as a U.S. attempt to meddle in Iraqi sovereignty. The U.S. government, through its embassy in Baghdad, says the resolution “would produce extraordinary suffering and bloodshed.” Even Iraqi citizens appear unified in their opposition. A September 2007 opinion poll (BBC) found that only 9 percent of more than two thousand respondents favored “a country divided into separate states," while 62 percent said they favored a central government in Baghdad.

Anthony H. Cordesman, a Middle East expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, sees others reasons to question the type of federalism favored by the Biden-Brownback proposal. For one, Cordesman writes in a new report, that it’s unclear how Iraqi security forces would operate under a federal strategy. Creation of separate zones or enclaves could also expose some regions to external threats, including from Iran, and would likely fail to reduce sectarian tensions. Further, Cordesman writes, any “overt action to divide Iraq by the U.S. would almost certainly raise the already high level of Iraqi anger and hostility to the U.S. presence in Iraq.”

Other experts say support for the federal strategy by the Kurds in northern Iraq has escalated tensions between Turkey and the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), where fears of Kurdish separatism simmer. Hashim Taie of the Iraqi Accordance Front, the parliament’s principal Sunni bloc, told the Los Angeles Times the proposal amounts to “a dangerous partitioning.” Middle East expert Joost Hiltermann, of the International Crisis Group, says regardless of what the resolution aims to do, “It has been interpreted to say (in the region) that the Senate wants to carve up Iraq (in the worst imperial tradition).” Hiltermann adds that the U.S. should stop pushing top-down governmental restructuring. “They would be enormously difficult in logistical terms, as most people remain intermingled; it would take a major military effort with additional troops; and it would be enormously bloody,” he says.

Faithful to Federalism
Nonetheless, supporters remain committed to the language. Iraq’s President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd and a proponent of federalism, has praised the resolution. Falah Mustafa Bakir, director of the Foreign Relations Department for the KRG, explains the Kurdish position in this interview with ADD LINK TO INTERVIEW Biden and Gelb, too, have stood by their turn of phrase. In an October 2007 Washington Post op-ed, they argued federalism would benefit all Iraqis without partitioning the country. In an interview with CFR’s Bernard Gwertzman,Gelb goes further, suggesting a federal form of government may be the only way to correct the Bush administration’s failed top-down experiment in Iraq. The White House “thought that they could build a strong central government first by elections and then by them putting pressure on the different parties,” Gelb says. “It has not worked for four years and it still doesn’t work.”

Not the Only Option
“Federalism” is receiving the bulk of attention in Washington and Baghdad, but it is by no means the only restructuring buzzword swirling in foreign policy circles. Edward P. Joseph, a visiting scholar at the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, and Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, write in USA Today that they prefer less subtle terminology: “soft partition.” “Some critics argue that soft partition would make the United States vulnerable to the charge of having deliberately ‘weakened a strong Arab state,’” they write. “They overlook the fact that by toppling Saddam, the United States did weaken a militarily strong Arab state.”

Cordesman, on the other hand, notes that no “partition”—interpreted by many to mean the creation of separate states with complete autonomy—can be termed “soft.” “The term ‘Soft Partitioning’ has also been shown to be a cruel oxymoron,” he writes. “Virtually every aspect of sectarian and ethnic struggle to date has been brutal, and come at a high economic cost to those affected. The reality is that partitioning must be described as ‘hard’ by any practical political, economic, and humanitarian standard.”

Experts see other problems with the partition approach, including questions about where borders might be drawn, how oil revenues would be divided, and who would control the flood of newly created refugees. Reidar Visser, a research fellow at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs and editor of the Iraq website, argues that no matter what it’s called—“federalism,” “partition,” or even “separatism”—divisions based on ethnicity are unlikely to gain popular support in Iraq. “Iraqis tend to believe that when federalism is implemented along sectarian lines it will be more divisive than other variants of federalism and will soon lead to partition,” he says. Iraq has never been neatly divided into sectarian units, Visser adds, and to advocate a plan that does so now would be “particularly risky.”

Washington as Global Watchdog
The biggest unanswered question may be one raised in the blogosphere: What makes U.S. lawmakers think they have the answers to Iraqi foreign policy spats? R.J. Eskow, writing at the Huffington Post, accuses Washington of revisionist history. “Is the government listening? The partitioning of nations has been a human tragedy in the past. Best estimates suggest that half a million people died during the partition of India.” Marc Lynch, a professor of political science at George Washington University, writes on his blog that the Biden-Brownback resolution succeeded in infuriating Iraqis while endorsing a plan that “would massively increase suffering” without solving Iraq’s problems. Ilan Goldenberg, executive director of the National Security Network, says the federalist strategy offers some promise but lacks specifics. “Clearly the Iraqis and their Sunni neighbors don’t like the Gelb-Biden plan, but there are many other types of decentralized approaches that might be more acceptable.”

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Turkey threatens incursion after Iraq talks fail

Unless the US comes up with some action rather than words it seems Turkey will be virtually forced to attack the PKK. The US is obviously very soft on certain groups it labels terrorists.

Turkey threatens incursion after Iraq talks fail
Sat Oct 27, 2007 1:07 PM EDT

By Thomas Grove

SIRNAK, Turkey (Reuters) - Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan threatened on Saturday to order an incursion into northern Iraq against Kurdish guerrillas after the failure of talks with Iraq aimed at averting a cross-border raid.

"The moment an operation is needed, we will take that step," Erdogan told a large flag-waving crowd in Izmit. "We don't need to ask anyone's permission."

The talks collapsed late on Friday after Ankara rejected proposals by Iraqi Defense Minister General Abdel Qader Jassim for tackling guerrillas based in northern Iraq as insufficient and because they would not yield results quickly enough.

Turkey has massed up to 100,000 troops, backed by fighter jets, helicopter gunships, tanks, and mortars, on the border for a possible offensive against about 3,000 rebels using Iraq as a base from which to carry out attacks in Turkey.

The United States, which was also represented at the talks, opposes a major incursion, fearing it could destabilize the relatively peaceful north of Iraq and the wider region.

The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) launched its separatist campaign in 1984, since when more than 30,000 people have died.

Erdogan took a swipe at western countries for not cracking down on the PKK and said calling it a terrorist group, as the United States and European Union do, was not enough.

"We want action, and if you can't show action, you fail the sincerity test," he said. "Those who overlook terrorism are in cooperation with terrorism," he told a conference earlier.

Army sources told Reuters on Saturday that military planes were making reconnaissance flights along the mountainous border to photograph PKK camps in northern Iraq. Helicopters were patrolling villages and soldiers sweeping roads for mines.


Erdogan played down comments by Turkey's armed forces chief General Yasar Buyukanit that the Turkish army, NATO's second largest, was waiting for him to meet U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington on November 5 before a major incursion.

U.S.-Turkish ties have deteriorated sharply in recent weeks.

Senior Turkish diplomats say Erdogan has given Washington and Baghdad a limited time to show concrete results or steps to be taken against the PKK. The meeting in Washington will be the last chance, they told Reuters.

Any major offensive, expected to involve ground and air forces, would first have to be approved by the government.

"I don't know what will happen before the American trip," Erdogan said late on Friday.

On Saturday Buyukanit, in a speech to mark Monday's Republic Day, said the army would fight until it had destroyed the PKK.

"We feel the pain of our martyred heroes deeply. But that pain increases our determination to fight," the text of his speech read. "Those who make us suffer cannot even imagine the suffering we will inflict on them; on this we are determined."

Ankara has threatened sanctions against Iraq and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan raised the possibility again on Saturday. He said the government would use political, diplomatic, economic, cultural and military "instruments" to fight the PKK.

"Which of these instruments will be used, to what extent and when is being determined in a general strategy," he told reporters as he left for an official visit to Iran.

In the southeastern city of Sirnak, about 1,000 people demonstrated against the PKK, which has killed some 40 people in the last month and, after its latest major attack, said it took eight soldiers prisoner.

"For every 12 martyrs, 12,000 more Turkish martyrs are born," chanted protesters, who came from all over the province that has Iraq as its neighbor.

The military has carried out as many as 24 limited operations into northern Iraq against the PKK, Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said on Friday. Helicopter gunships and F-16 jets have attacked rebel positions inside Iraq in recent days.

Turkey had asked Iraq to hand over PKK leaders but the central government has little control over semi-autonomous northern Iraq, run by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

The KRG, led by Masoud Barzani, says it has no control over the PKK and Barzani has vowed to fight any Turkish incursion.

(Additional reporting by Evren Mesci in Ankara and Emma Ross-Thomas in Istanbul)


© Reuters 2007.

America's Self-defeating hegemony: Francis Fukuyama

Maybe history is not ending after all! I haven't heard anything about Fukuyama for some time. I find this article more impressive than his book! It is a clearly written well organised presentation of four important reasons why US hegemony is having difficulties maintaining itself. However, it is yet far from the point at which it has defeated itself!
I wonder if the real defeat of US hegemony will not come when the economy enters depression and the military Keynesianism bubble that props up the economy begins to collapse.

America’s self-defeating hegemony —Francis Fukuyama

When I wrote about the “end of history” almost twenty years ago, one thing that I did not anticipate was the degree to which American behaviour and misjudgements would make anti-Americanism one of the chief fault-lines of global politics. And yet, particularly since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, that is precisely what has happened, owing to four key mistakes made by the Bush administration.

First, the doctrine of “pre-emption,” which was devised in response to the 2001 attacks, was inappropriately broadened to include Iraq and other so-called “rogue states” that threatened to develop weapons of mass destruction. To be sure, pre-emption is fully justified vis-√†-vis stateless terrorists wielding such weapons. But it cannot be the core of a general non-proliferation policy, whereby the United States intervenes militarily everywhere to prevent the development of nuclear weapons.

The cost of executing such a policy simply would be too high (several hundred billion dollars and tens of thousands of casualties in Iraq and still counting). This is why the Bush administration has shied away from military confrontations with North Korea and Iran, despite its veneration of Israel’s air strike on Iraq’s Osirak reactor in 1981, which set back Saddam Hussein’s nuclear program by several years. After all, the very success of that attack meant that such limited intervention could never be repeated, because would-be proliferators learned to bury, hide, or duplicate their nascent weapons programs.

The second important miscalculation concerned the likely global reaction to America’s exercise of its hegemonic power. Many people within the Bush administration believed that even without approval by the UN Security Council or NATO, American power would be legitimised by its successful use. This had been the pattern for many US initiatives during the Cold War, and in the Balkans during the 1990’s; back then, it was known as “leadership” rather than “unilateralism.”

But, by the time of the Iraq war, conditions had changed: the US had grown so powerful relative to the rest of the world that the lack of reciprocity became an intense source of irritation even to America’s closest allies. The structural anti-Americanism arising from the global distribution of power was evident well before the Iraq war, in the opposition to American-led globalisation during the Clinton years. But it was exacerbated by the Bush administration’s “in-your-face” disregard for a variety of international institutions as soon it came into office — a pattern that continued through the onset of the Iraq war.

America’s third mistake was to overestimate how effective conventional military power would be in dealing with the weak states and networked transnational organisations that characterise international politics, at least in the broader Middle East. It is worth pondering why a country with more military power than any other in human history, and that spends as much on its military as virtually the rest of the world combined, cannot bring security to a small country of 24 million people after more than three years of occupation. At least part of the problem is that it is dealing with complex social forces that are not organised into centralised hierarchies that can enforce rules, and thus be deterred, coerced, or otherwise manipulated through conventional power.

Israel made a similar mistake in thinking that it could use its enormous margin of conventional military power to destroy Hezbollah in last summer’s Lebanon War. Both Israel and the US are nostalgic for a twentieth-century world of nation-states, which is understandable, since that is the world to which the kind of conventional power they possess is best suited.

But nostalgia has led both states to misinterpret the challenges they now face, whether by linking al-Qaeda to Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, or Hezbollah to Iran and Syria. This linkage does exist in the case of Hezbollah, but the networked actors have their own social roots and are not simply pawns used by regional powers. This is why the exercise of conventional power has become frustrating.

Finally, the Bush administration’s use of power has lacked not only a compelling strategy or doctrine, but also simple competence. In Iraq alone, the administration misestimated the threat of WMD, failed to plan adequately for the occupation, and then proved unable to adjust quickly when things went wrong. To this day, it has dropped the ball on very straightforward operational issues in Iraq, such as funding democracy promotion efforts.

Incompetence in implementation has strategic consequences. Many of the voices that called for, and then bungled, military intervention in Iraq are now calling for war with Iran. Why should the rest of the world think that conflict with a larger and more resolute enemy would be handled any more capably?

But the fundamental problem remains the lopsided distribution of power in the international system. Any country in the same position as the US, even a democracy, would be tempted to exercise its hegemonic power with less and less restraint. America’s founding fathers were motivated by a similar belief that unchecked power, even when democratically legitimated, could be dangerous, which is why they created a constitutional system of internally separated powers to limit the executive.

Such a system does not exist on a global scale today, which may explain how America got into such trouble. A smoother international distribution of power, even in a global system that is less than fully democratic, would pose fewer temptations to abandon the prudent exercise of power.

Francis Fukuyama is Dean of the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University, and Chairman of The American Interest,

Syrian "Nukes"? Not so fast.

This is from this site. I really don't think that one can be sure of any of these stories. There was an attack but what it was on we really haven't much of a clue.
We have all sorts of stories. Many of the stories are designed to advance an agenda on the part of the US and Israel. None of the stories will point out that the attack was a clear violation of international law. Can you imagine if Syria carried out such an attack on Israeli nuclear facilities!

Syrian "Nukes"? Not So Fast...
By Noah Shachtman October 26, 2007 | 10:29:19
So what did the Israelis really blow up in the Syrian desert last month? The conventional wisdom says it was a partially-built nuclear reactor, maybe constructed with North Korean help. Arms Control Wonk Jeffrey Lewis isn't so sure.

The New York Times' Mark Mazzetti and Bill Broad have two very good stories on the suspect site in Syria — one placing the leaks about the site in context of Administration internal debates over North Korea; the other reporting on new satellite imagery showing that North Korea has wiped clean the site.

I am sitting in an airport, but I thought a few points bear mentioning:

Syria has long expressed a desire to have a nuclear reactor; North Korea would probably sell a reactor if the price was right. On face, the story is not implausible.
The pictures showed a large building near a river. That’s about it. If the building was a reactor, it was very far from completion. Absent reliable human intelligence, I see nothing that conclusively demonstrates the building was a reactor although IAEA inspections would have been decisive on this point.

Assuming it was a reactor, it is much too early to make design determinations based on imagery. Overhead identifications of reactors can, and are, often wrong as they were in the cases of Baotou — a fuel fabrication facility in China mistaken for a plutonium production reactor — and the gigantic North Korean whole in the ground that is Kumchang-ri. Intelligence Community estimates of the size and type of the Yongbyon reactor, at a comparable stage, were incorrect.
The people leaking are those dissatisfied with US policy. “A sharp debate is under way in the Bush administration,” Mazetti and Helene Cooper reported, about “whether intelligence that Israel presented months ago to the White House … was conclusive enough to justify military action by Israel and a possible rethinking of American policy toward the two nations.” Obviously, that rethinking hasn’t happened yet. The people who lost that debate are leaking national security information, appealing to the press. That is precisely why Hoekstra (R-MI) and Ros-Lehtinen called for more information — this is about North Korea, not Syria.
We haven’t heard from the people who, as Mazetti and Cooper reported, were “cautious about fully endorsing Israeli warnings” or “remain unconvinced that a nascent Syrian nuclear program could pose an immediate threat.” They might have important information to add, were they willing to leak it.
Syria has wiped the site clean — a move that The Institute for Science and International Security's David Albright and Paul Brannan note “dramatically complicates any inspection of the facilities.” What ever Damascus may have been doing, we’re much less likely to know, now. One of the best reasons for pressing for inspections at the site, rather than bombing it, is to get answers to the questions about what the site was and how it got there. After Israeli bombed Osirak in 1981, Iraq simply continued its nuclear weapons program in secret. It was not the bombing of Osirak, but rather UN inspections, which eventually disarmed Saddam Hussein.
In short, we don’t know what the site was, what (or who) survived the strike, and where it is now.

-- Jeffrey Lewis, cross-posted at

Cause of Glorietta Mall explosion still uncertain

This is from the Manila Times. It seems likely that the blast was accidental. It always did to me but it certainly is taking a long time to be certain. At least this article explains why the police found traces of a military type explosive. However, there is also a sceptical account of the accident explanation. One wonders about the skills of investigators.

Police: Glorietta 2 mall
explosion ‘likely accidental’

MALACA√ĎANG officials said there is a “high” probability that last Friday’s blast at the Glorietta 2 mall in Makati City was an accident.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) on Tuesday presented to the National Security Council the results of its investigations at a meeting convened by President Gloria Arroyo, four days after the explosion.

Despite the Glorietta incident, the country’s economic growth is expected to remain strong, driven mainly by consumption growth this year. The peso also strengthened further while the stock market index climbed, apparently shaking off the initial woes caused by the bombing.

Mrs. Arroyo also ordered the strengthening of antiterror and security measures to ensure the public’s safety.

The Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno, concurrently presidential political adviser, said police report showed a “high certainty” that the blast was not planned. Investigators, however, have not dismissed the bombing angle, although their findings showed otherwise.

The investigators said they are waiting for the result of a separate probe by forensic experts before they can conclude that a bomb did not cause the explosion.

Police bomb experts over the weekend detected from the blast site the presence of RDX, a component used to produce C-4, or military plastic explosives.

Puno, however, said it is too early to conclude that the RDX came from a bomb, since that chemical is also an ingredient in items such as aerosol and cosmetics. Police are yet to recover other bomb components from the site.

Puno said a hole found in the mall’s diesel storage tank reinforces the theory that the explosion was not a deliberate act. Also, an explosion caused by a bomb should have left a large crater at the site.

Earlier, a police official said they had received information, which they are still verifying, that the air vent at the basement could have been accidentally closed, which caused the trapping of a volatile gas, such as methane, emanating from the septic tank or pipes.

Accident angle doubted

A chemical engineering professor from the University of the Philippines-Diliman said it is impossible that the explosion that rocked Glorietta 2 was caused by methane and diesel.

During an interview with the TV network ABS-CBN, Dr. Wilfredo Jose of the Chemical Engineering Department said diesel doesn’t explode easily, and will ignite only if it is subjected to heat measuring 200 degrees Celsius.

Jose also doubted that methane that leaked from the septic tank and pipes caused the “blast wave.”

Friday, October 26, 2007

Turkey Demands PKK extradition

Imagine the US is in a war on terrorism and in territory occupied by it, it refuses to do attack a group it categorises as terrorists or even demand they leave! Does the US think that Turkey is going to sit on its hands forever! As Chomsky has shown there are different kinds of terrorists. These are the kind who are not applauded but are tolerated.

Turkey demands PKK extradition
By Pauline Jelinek, Associated Press Writer
Published: 27 October 2007
The US military commander in northern Iraq said yesterday he plans to do "absolutely nothing" to counter Kurdish rebels who are staging deadly cross-border attacks into neighboring Turkey.

It was the most blunt assertion yet by an American official in the last few weeks that US forces should not be involved in the fight. The Bush administration has said repeatedly that the border crisis should be resolved through diplomacy.

Turkey's top military commander said Friday that Turkish leaders will wait until its prime minister visits Washington before deciding whether to mount a cross-border offensive into northern Iraq.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan meets President George W. Bush in Washington on Nov. 5.

"The armed forces will carry out a cross-border offensive when assigned," private NTV quoted Gen. Yasar Buyukanit as saying. "Prime Minister Erdogan's visit to the United States is very important. We will wait for his return."

Turkey's deputy prime minister, Cemil Cicek, said the government had demanded the extradition of Kurdish rebel leaders based in Iraq's north. During talks with a visiting Iraqi delegation, Turkish war planes and helicopters reportedly bombed separatist hideouts within the country's borders.

Turkey's state-run Anatolia news agency reported Turkish airstrikes on suspected rebel positions Friday and Ankara has threatened a large-scale offensive into Iraq if US and Iraqi authorities don't stop the rebels. On Friday, Iraq and Turkish officials held the latest in a series of diplomatic meetings aimed at ending the standoff.

Asked what the US military was planning to do, Maj. Gen. Benjamin Mixon said: "Absolutely nothing."

Mixon said it is not his responsibility, that he has sent no additional US troops to the border area and he is not tracking hiding places or logistics activities of rebels from the Kurdistan Workers' Party, known by its Kurdish acronym PKK.

Pipeline Attack in Northern Iraq

This is from the NYtimes.
This shows that conflict in Iraq may be shifting to different locations including Kirkuk. If the Kurds don't act soon against the PKK they will face a Turkish incursion against PKK bases in northern Iraq.

Pipeline Attack in Northern Iraq

Published: October 20, 2007
BAGHDAD, Oct. 19 — In the latest bout of violence around the northern oil city of Kirkuk, insurgents blew up an oil pipeline, battled a convoy carrying bodyguards of a deputy prime minister and ambushed a police chief, Iraqi officials said on Friday.

Meanwhile, a top Kurdish leader issued a statement vowing to “defend” Iraqi Kurdistan from potential attacks by the Turkish Army.

The violence on Friday underscored the continued instability of the area surrounding Kirkuk, where some Sunni insurgents fled earlier this year from strongholds in Baghdad and Baquba after increased American troop deployments in central Iraq.

The deputy prime minister, Barham Salih, a Kurd, was not in the convoy, according to an Iraqi security official in Kirkuk. But the ambush and fighting, which took place 60 miles south of Kirkuk, left one member of the convoy dead and another wounded, according to an official from Mr. Salih’s office.

Farther north, one of Kurdistan’s two most powerful leaders warned Turkey that Kurds would defend themselves against an invasion. The statement, by Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, reiterated in stronger terms previous admonitions by Kurdish leaders that Turkish forces should not cross into Iraqi Kurdistan to drive out Kurdish guerrillas who use mountain bases as safe havens after attacks inside Turkey.

A spokesman for the Kurdish Regional Government quoted a statement by Mr. Barzani as saying, “If the Turkish Army attacks Kurdistan, we are ready to defend the Kurdistan Regional Government and protect the democracy that Kurdish people live under.”

While American officials continue to highlight recent gains against Sunni extremists in western and central Iraq, there are concerns that Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia and other homegrown jihadist groups may be in a position to gain power around Kirkuk by exploiting the city’s tense social and political situation. In one example of that influence, the police near Kirkuk recently discovered a couple carrying a marriage license issued by the Islamic State of Iraq, a militant group linked with Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia.

The Kurds are intent on consolidating their control of Kirkuk, and many Sunni Arabs resettled there by Saddam Hussein now feel threatened, spawning fears that they will collaborate with extremists.

That is what happened in Baquba last year after government leaders in Baghdad appointed highly sectarian Shiites to command security forces in Diyala Province, a move that emboldened Sunni guerrillas to take control of the city.

In another attack 30 miles west of Kirkuk, gunmen ambushed the convoy carrying the Iraqi police commander of the town of Riyadh, Capt. Abdullah Jabouri, according to the police in nearby Hawija. Captain Jabouri escaped, the police said, but two guards were seriously wounded.

The pipeline was attacked near the village of Safra, about 40 miles west of Kirkuk. Initial reports suggested that insurgents used an improvised explosive device, said Col. Sadr Adeen Abdullah of the Iraqi Army. The explosion sent plumes of thick black smoke drifting all the way to Kirkuk, he said.

The United States military command in Baghdad reported the deaths of two American soldiers. One soldier died from a “noncombat-related illness” Wednesday after being flown to a military hospital in Germany. Another soldier was killed Thursday by an insurgent attack in southern Baghdad.

Also Friday, one of Iraq’s most influential Sunni politicians, Adnan al-Dulaimi, became the latest Iraqi leader to demand that the former defense minister, Sultan Hashem Ahmed, be given a stay of execution. Mr. Ahmed was convicted of war crimes and genocide for his role in Mr. Hussein’s 1988 attacks on the Kurds. But many Iraqi officials believe that he was an honorable military officer.

Mr. Ahmed and Ali Hassan al-Majid, better known as Chemical Ali, are to be hanged once the American military turns them over to Iraqi officials. American officials say they are waiting for Iraq to resolve an internal legal dispute about the two men. Late Friday, an American spokesman said both men were in American custody “with no scheduled date for transfer.”

Wal-mart good at state tax avoidance

This shows how Wal-mart can hire high priced tax avoidance helpers to lower its tax burden. Of course small business will not be able to avail itself of such help. It means of course that states must find their funds elsewhere. Sometimes fortunately it seems the high risk strategies get them caught and they have to pay.

This Wall Street Journal article describes how Wal-Mart is able to pay
about half as
much state tax as a typical corporation.

Drucker, Jesse. 2007. "Inside Wal-Mart's Bid To Slash State Taxes."
Wall Street
Journal (23 October): p. A 1.

"In May 2001, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. issued an appeal to big accounting
firms: Find us
creative new ways to cut our state tax bills. Ernst & Young LLP swung
into action.
Senior tax experts at the big accounting firm swapped ideas via email
and in a series
of meetings. At least one gathering, according to an internal Ernst &
Young calendar,
took place in Wal-Mart's headquarters in the "Tax Shelter Room"."

"Big companies hardly ever discuss how outside accountants, lawyers and
bankers help them cut their tax bills. But Ernst & Young's
contributions to
Wal-Mart's state-tax minimization project are outlined in a raft of
documents filed
in recent months in North Carolina state court, where the state's
attorney general is
challenging a Wal-Mart tax-cutting structure involving real-estate
investment trusts.
The material, which includes company emails and memos, provides a rare
window into
accountants' role in generating tax-reduction ideas at one major

"Companies often assert that tax savings are simply happy byproducts of
pursued for other business reasons. But documents from the North
Carolina case
indicate that Wal-Mart, from the outset, had one primary purpose:
cutting its state
income taxes. Ernst & Young worked to fulfill that goal. In 2002, for
example, the
accounting firm delivered a 37-page proposal laying out a smorgasbord
of 27 potential
tax strategies, most tailored to a particular state's tax code. It
described one of
them as "a very aggressive strategy with considerable risk."

"Publicly traded companies reduced their federal income taxes by about
$12 billion in
2004 through potentially abusive tax transactions, according to
Internal Revenue
Service data. Some experts say companies save far more than that each
year through
elaborate tax-cutting maneuvers."

"Wal-Mart's 2001 letter to accounting firms got right to the point. It
"Wal-Mart is requesting your proposal(s) for professional tax advice
and related
implementation services in connection with minimization of state income
taxes in the
following states: Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana,
Minnesota, and Pennsylvania"."

"State income-tax rates for corporations average about 6.9%, and come
on top of a
federal statutory rate of 35%. Tax rates vary from state to state, and
some states
have no corporate tax at all on certain income. That provides ample
opportunity for
so-called tax arbitrage, in which companies allocate expenses and
revenues between
states in order to minimize taxes owed."

"On average, Wal-Mart has paid taxes at a rate equal to about half of
the average
statutory state rate over the past decade, according to an analysis of
the company's
regulatory filings by Standard & Poor's Compustat."

"In the early 1990s, it employed an "intangibles holding company," a
unit operating
in tax-friendly Delaware into which it transferred ownership of its
brand names such
as Sam's Club. It then made payments to that unit for use of those
brands, deducting
them as expenses from its taxable income in other states, according to
court records.
That strategy fell out of favor after several states successfully
challenged Wal-Mart
and other companies in court over the maneuver."

"Wal-Mart set aside about $526 million for state and local income taxes
last year,
not including its substantial property-tax bills, according to the
financial reports. But its various state tax-cutting strategies seem
to have had an
impact. On average, Wal-Mart has paid taxes at a rate equal to about
half of the
average statutory state rate over the past decade, according to an
analysis of the
company's regulatory filings by Standard & Poor's Compustat."

"After Wal-Mart hired the firm in 1996 ..., an Ernst & Young tax
executive urged his
team to be discreet, according to a staff memo included in North
Carolina court
records. "We don't think there is much the state taxing authorities can
do to
mitigate these savings to Wal-Mart, however some states might attempt
something if
they had advance notification," he wrote. "We think the best course of
action is to
keep the project relatively quiet .... there just seems to be too many
for it to get out to the press or financial community and we all know
they are
difficult to control, particularly when we are dealing with a client as
well-known as

"David Bullington, Wal-Mart's vice president for tax policy, said in a
that he began feeling pressure to lower the company's effective tax
rate after the
current chief financial officer, Thomas Schoewe, was hired in 2000. Mr.
Schoewe was
familiar with "some very sophisticated and aggressive tax planning,"
Mr. Bullington
said, according to a transcript of the deposition, taken by the North
attorney general's office in July. "And he ride herds [sic] on us all
the time that
we have the world's highest tax rate of any major company"."

"As Ernst & Young worked on its proposals, one high-ranking tax partner
sent an email
to a colleague addressing a concern often faced by companies: how to
describe a
tax-driven transaction in a way that won't create problems later on
with tax
authorities. "You asked if we have a document that details how the tax
savings will
work, how much they will save .... We really don't have anything like
that except
for the sales document, partly because we have avoided calling this a
'tax' project,
to show that we did not have a tax savings motivation, rather it is a
restructuring' project," he wrote."

"As for Wal-Mart's "Tax Shelter Room," North Carolina officials asked
Mr. Bullington
about the odd name. In his deposition, the Wal-Mart vice president said
the moniker
was "a bit of a pun," stemming from the conference room's use by
employees to conduct safety drills for natural disasters such as


Iran condemns 'doomed' sanctions

The US seems determined to create a new cold war. Iran is being forced into the arms of Russia and China. Blocking financial dealings with the US and allies will force the development of stronger financial dealings with China and Russia and certainly Iran will no longer deal with the dollar in its oil sales. Other countries will balk at the control that the US is attempting to exert through its global influence on financial institutions..
This is from the Guardian.
Iran condemns 'doomed' sanctions

Ewen MacAskill in Washington, Fred Attewill and agencies
Friday October 26, 2007
Guardian Unlimited

Iran has issued a defiant response to the harshest sanctions imposed on it by the United States since the 1979 Islamist revolution, saying the measures are "doomed to failure".
The head of the revolutionary guard, branded a "proliferator of weapons of mass destruction", said the sanctions would only drive the corps to defend the "ideals of the revolution more than ever before".

The US under-secretary of state, Nicholas Burns, conceded that past sanctions, in place since 1984, had done little to constrict the growth of Iran's trade with other countries, in particular China and Russia.

"They [China] are now the number one trade partner with Iran. It's very difficult for countries to say we're striking out on our own when they've got their own policies on the military side, aiding and abetting the Iranian government in strengthening its own military," he told the BBC.
Mr Burns said the US still hoped Russia and China would approve a third UN security council resolution imposing new sanctions next month.

Israel, a strong supporter of the US action, said today its foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, would travel to Beijing this weekend to lobby for harsher UN sanctions on Iran.

However, China warned today that "sanctions should not be lightly imposed in international relations".

"Dialogue and negotiations are the best approach to resolving the Iranian nuclear issue," the foreign ministry said.

"To impose new sanctions on Iran at a time when international society and the Iranian authorities are working hard to find a solution to the Iranian nuclear issue can only complicate the issue."

The response of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was more scathing. He said sanctions made a negotiated settlement harder.

"Why worsen the situation by threatening sanctions and bring it to a dead end?" he said. "It's not the best way to resolve the situation, by running around like a madman with a razor blade in his hand."

The US measures target the 125,000-strong Iranian revolutionary guard (IRG), one of the best-resourced parts of the country's military, with its own tanks and planes. It also owns hotels, oil companies and other businesses.

Many analysts believe it is highly unlikely China or Russia will allow further UN sanctions to be imposed on Iran.

The Bush administration went a step further with the IRG's elite Quds division, responsible for covert actions abroad, labelling it a terrorist organisation, the first time a country's military has been put on America's terrorist list. The US says the Quds division, numbering about 15,000, is involved with Lebanon's Hizbullah and groups elsewhere in the Middle East.

Making the announcement at a press conference, the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, said the punitive moves were intended "to confront the threatening behaviour of the Iranians". The sanctions and other steps would "increase the costs to Iran of its irresponsible behaviour".

The administration also imposed sanctions on three Iranian state-owned banks: the banks Melli and Mellat, for alleged arms proliferation, and Bank Saderat, which was labelled "a terrorist financier".

In addition to the IRG and the banks, eight individuals and several other companies are covered by the sanctions. The measures have long been threatened and Tehran responded by saying they would have no more success than in the past.

Mohammad Ali Hosseini, a spokesman for the foreign ministry, said: "The hostile American policies towards the respectable people of Iran and the country's legal institutions are contrary to international law, without value and, as in the past, doomed to failure."

He called the Bush administration's accusation that Iran was arming Shia militants in Iraq "ridiculous".

The revolutionary guard, which has huge business interests in businesses including cars, oil and newspapers, is thought to control up to a third of the Iranian economy.

But some analysts believe the unilateral measures will have little effect in isolating Iran - and still less in changing its policy. Selig Harrison, of the Centre for International Policy, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I don't think these will be very effective. Arab traders in Dubai thumb their noses up when people say you shouldn't trade with Iran. A lot of Iran's foreign trade hasn't been affected."

There have also been claims that the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will be strengthened by the sanctions.

"Hardliners in Tehran were looking forward to the sanctions. It helps them hide their incompetence behind the embargo," said the political commentator Saeed Laylaz. However, other observers say the measures could weaken Mr Ahmadinejad, leaving him open to charges that his stance is pushing the US into punishing the country and damaging its already fragile economy.

The sanctions package, combined with the sending of a second US carrier group to the Gulf earlier this year, is aimed primarily at containing Iran, which has been expanding its influence in the region since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It is also intended to force Tehran to stop its alleged attempts to develop a nuclear bomb and end its alleged supply of weapons to Iraqi militia groups.

Ms Rice, who has had to withstand pressure from within the Bush administration for military action, insisted she remained committed to the diplomatic route. But she said: "Unfortunately the Iranian government continues to spurn our offer of open negotiations, instead threatening peace and security by pursuing nuclear technologies that can lead to a nuclear weapon, building dangerous ballistic missiles, supporting Shia militants in Iraq and terrorists in Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories, and denying the existence of a fellow member of the United Nations, threatening to wipe Israel off the map."

The US president, George Bush, has said repeatedly that a military strike is an option.

As part of a multibillion-dollar request for more military spending earlier this week, the Pentagon asked for $88m (£43m) to develop the Massive Ordnance Penetrator, a huge bunker-busting bomb, for its Stealth bombers. The Bush administration said the bomb was needed "in response to an urgent operational need for theatre commanders".

Democratic members of Congress questioned whether the weapon was intended for use against Iran, where nuclear facilities are largely hidden underground.

Jim Moran, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives defence spending committee, said: "My assumption is that it is Iran, because you wouldn't use them in Iraq, and I don't know where you would use them in Afghanistan. It doesn't have any weapons facilities underground that we know of."

The immediate impact of the sanctions announcement will be felt in the boardrooms of banks and companies in Britain and elsewhere in Europe. Any business continuing to trade with Iran risks US reprisals.

The sanctions make it illegal for any US citizen to knowingly provide material support or resources to the Quds division. As the US has had few links with Iran since 1979, this is mainly academic. The impact will be felt by non-American companies that have business interests in the US and Iran.

The US treasury secretary, Henry Paulson, who accompanied Ms Rice at the press conference, said: "It is increasingly likely that if you are doing business with Iran, you are doing business [with the Iranian revolutionary guard corps]. It's simply not worth the risk."

European governments, including Britain, are discussing whether to also designate the Quds division a terrorist organisation, though the legal definition and the process of designating groups as terrorist is different to that in the US.

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