Thursday, June 29, 2006

Israel's Napoleonic Conundrum

The Israeli incursions into the Palestinian areas reminds me, to some extent, of Napoleon's campaign against Russia. After repeatedly defeating the Russian army, occupying territory and entering Moscow, the emperor believed that finally, Tsar Alexander I would have to come to the negotiating table and accommodate Napoleon's plans for the reorganization of Europe.

It didn't happen. Instead, Moscow was burned and a guerilla insurgency harried the Grand Army.

What more can Israel do? It has shut down the infrastructure, arrested members of the Palestinian government; short of a full scale reoccupation and then wholescale deportation of the population.

The Israeli strategy is to try and demonstrate to ordinary Palestinians that the Hamas approach is untenable. I think that strategy is bound to fail. The middle class that helped to curtail violence in Northern Ireland has been utterly decimated in the Palestinian areas. Israel might have been able to do business with Palestinian nationalists, but the irony is that the religious movements it tacitly supported in the 1980s to undermine both the "mayors" of the West Bank towns and Arafat are prepared to accept suffering as a religious duty--much as many of the Russian peasants did (and Tsar Alexander proclaimed the fight against Napoleon to be a holy war).

Hamas also has the long view. The Crusader kingdoms lasted under two centuries before being completely engulfed. I'm sure that most of their leadership is betting that Israel will suffer the same fate as Outremer.

How to demonstrate to ordinary Palestinians the staying power of Israel--and to make it economically worth their while to accept--I don't know how this can be down, at least right now.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

U.S.-India Nuclear Deal, Update

The U.S.-India nuclear deal received the endorsement of the House International Relations Committee, but even though the various amendments proposed failed, they do reflect real concerns and anxieties in Congress about the deal.

But, the devil is in the details, as Arati Jerath noted.

It does seem that enough members of Congress have taken Bob Blackwill's advice that he laid out last year in TNI:

"In my view, the United States should now integrate India into the evolving global non-proliferation regime as a friendly nuclear weapons state. We should end constraints on assistance to and cooperation with India's civil nuclear industry and high-tech trade, changing laws and policy when necessary. We should sell civil nuclear reactors to India, both to reduce its demand for Persian Gulf energy and to ease the environmental impact of India's vibrant economic growth."

As well as his caveats about what to expect from the emerging rapprochement:

"Let me hasten to add that this does not mean that Washington and New Delhi will always agree on specific policies or tactics. That will not happen. The Indian bureaucracy can be as maddeningly slow and recalcitrant as that in the United States. India's colonial history makes it particularly sensitive to what it perceives as overbearing policies from abroad. Some remnants of the Cold War-era "non-alignment" movement still exist within the Indian government. India has its own strategic perspective based importantly on its geographic location. And Indian domestic politics will sometimes constrain the actions of governments in New Delhi. But in spite of this, the United States and India will always eventually be pulled back together again by these common fundamentals."

The next step--how to secure and stabilize the U.S. relationship with Pakistan.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Funding for Hamas

In February, in the aftermath of the Hamas victory, speaking at the Nixon Center, Shibley Telhami was asked about the efficacy of financial sanctions. He noted:

What about using sanctions to change Hamas ideology and behavior? In the short term, sanctions are likely to harm the poltiical forces most likely to be amenable to the U.S. position--since the police and administration are still largely staffed by Fatah members. Sanctions are more likely to boost Hamas' popularity and Hamas might be able to capitalize on them by increasing its fund-raising among wealthy individuals and non-governmental entities in the rest of the Arab and Muslim world, particularly in the Gulf.

In yesterday's National Review, Michael Krauss and J. Peter Pham showed how this is taking place. Some excerpts:

How does this terrorist group continue operating despite the international boycott? An incident on June 13 involving PA Foreign Minister Mahmoud al-Zahar is telling. The Hamas leader was briefly stopped, but otherwise unhindered, as he transited through the international airport in Cairo with seven suitcases stuffed with an estimated $20 million. At the Rafah crossing-point from Sinai to Gaza, European monitors asked al-Zahar to explain the small fortune in his luggage, but did not detain him when he proved unresponsive. Then Palestinian Force 17 militiamen aligned with Fatah and President Abbas asked him to sign a guarantee that the money would be deposited in the Palestinian exchequer. Al-Zahar told them that he would think about it, then drove off. The foreign minister is the third Hamas official to enter at the Rafah crossing into Gaza carrying large amounts of cash. Last month, a Hamas lawmaker passed through with $4.5 million in banknotes. Before that, a Hamas spokesman brought in $800,000. Not a single dollar of these cash deliveries ever reached official Palestinian national coffers. Rather, Palestinian sources report that the cash covered the wages of Hamas’s militiamen and “security forces” — that is, the hired killers of “one of the deadliest terrorist organizations in the world today.”

And the provenance of this money? Ironically, given President Bush’s pledge that “those who do business with terror will do no business with the United States,” much of it comes from a country whose princes are regular guests at the Crawford Ranch.

... [L]ast September Israel arrested an Israeli Arab, Yakub Muhamad Yakub Abu Etzev, who played central militant, political, and financing roles for Hamas in coordination with what Israeli authorities described as a “Hamas command in Saudi Arabia.” Until he was arrested, Abu Etzev was in contact via e-mail with senior Hamas officials in Saudi Arabia. According to Israeli authorities, Abu Etzev confessed to receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from Hamas headquarters in Saudi Arabia as well as instructions, which he passed on to Hamas field operatives. The funds entered the West Bank through human couriers and money changers, often under the cover of dawa (Islamic charity and proselytism work).

Saudi officials insist that then-Crown Prince Abdullah officially withdrew the kingdom’s support for Hamas in early 2002. However, late last year, Saudi television was still running a program on the “jihad” in Palestine that implored viewers to donate funds to the intifada. A caption on the screen informed prospective donors that they could send funds through the “Saudi Committee for Support of the al-Quds Intifada’s Account Ninety-Eight … a joint account at all Saudi banks.” The government-created account continues to fund Palestinian organizations, preeminent among them Hamas.

I bring this issue up because it raises the question about red lines in relationships. Is the continuing support something that should seriously impact the Riyadh-Washington relationship, or will it be one of those areas of "agreeing to disagree" and turning a blind eye? And what message does it send to the Iranians?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Monday morning round-up: Russia

Some forthcoming essays dealing with Russia and U.S. policy. It reflects that there is a much broader debate going on than the one taking place inside the Beltway.

Andrei Tsygankov (San Francisco State) will have a piece in the forthcoming issue of Orbis where he argues:

"Putin’s overall policy of pragmatic Westernization and its recent more assertive turn bear no comparison with the Cold War. A more appropriate historical comparison is to Russian policy in the 1890s led by Finance Minister Sergei Witte: strong internal economic development through state-driven liberalization, building extensive transportation networks, and commercial expansion in Asia and the West, while avoiding foreign policy adventures. Witte and his supporters defended Russia’s even-handed relationships with both Germany and liberal Europe, and they worked hard to prevent any involvement in confrontation with major powers. Such pragmatism is not unlike from that of the contemporary Kremlin. Russia remains a conservative power that seeks to reform itself. Conservative powers do not initiate changes, but support them when they can no longer be avoided. Although Moscow is unlikely to follow Washington’s lead and promote revolutions abroad, the Kremlin will defend itself against revolutions at home if that needs to be a condition for continuing with state-driven domestic modernization. In all likelihood, the Kremlin will continue its foreign policy assertiveness by seeking to provide the nation with greater economic opportunities, security, and political stability."

Stephen F. Cohen argues in the July 10, 2006 issue of The Nation:

"Why have Democratic and Republican administrations believed they could act in such relentlessly anti-Russian ways without endangering U.S. national security? The answer is another fallacy -- the belief that Russia, diminished and weakened by its loss of the Soviet Union, had no choice but to bend to America's will. Even apart from the continued presence of Soviet-era weapons in Russia, it was a grave misconception. Because of its extraordinary material and human attributes, Russia, as its intellectuals say, has always been "destined to be a great power." This was still true after 1991.

"Even before world energy prices refilled its coffers, the Kremlin had ready alternatives to the humiliating role scripted by Washington. Above all, Russia could forge strategic alliances with eager anti-U.S. and non-NATO governments in the East and elsewhere, becoming an arsenal of conventional weapons and nuclear knowledge for states from China and India to Iran and Venezuela. Moscow has already begun that turning away from the West, and it could move much further in that direction.

"Still more, even today's diminished Russia can fight, perhaps win, a cold war on its new front lines across the vast former Soviet territories. It has the advantages of geographic proximity, essential markets, energy pipelines and corporate ownership, along with kinship and language and common experiences. They give Moscow an array of soft and harder power to use, if it chooses, against neighboring governments considering a new patron in far-away Washington.


"American crusaders insist it is worth the risk in order to democratize Russia and other former Soviet republics. In reality, their campaigns since 1992 have only discredited that cause in Russia. Praising the despised Yeltsin and endorsing other unpopular figures as Russia's "democrats," while denouncing the popular Putin, has associated democracy with the social pain, chaos and humiliation of the 1990s. Ostracizing Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko while embracing tyrants in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan has related it to the thirst for oil. Linking "democratic revolutions" in Ukraine and Georgia to NATO membership has equated them with U.S. expansionism. Focusing on the victimization of billionaire Mikhail Khodorkhovsky and not on Russian poverty or ongoing mass protests against social injustices has suggested democracy is only for oligarchs. And by insisting on their indispensable role, U.S. crusaders have all but said (wrongly) that Russians are incapable of democracy or resisting abuses of power on their own."

Friday, June 23, 2006

A Crazy Suggestion

Full disclosure: I am California-born and still have family on the West Coast.

Keeping that in mind, here's an out-of-the-box suggestion: let the North Koreans test their missile.

Of course, with the caveat that it not land on U.S. soil.

For too long, we've allowed Pyongyang the "benefit of the doubt." We talk about the DPRK having an unspecified number of nuclear warheads, for example. In essence, we have been treating North Korea as a de facto nuclear power. We've allowed them to bank on the "fear" that they might actually have working WMDs that can pose a real threat. But we've never verified that.

As we know from the India case, there are many steps to go from having the ability to create a nuclear explosion (which they did in the 1970s) and being able to produce a deliverable nuclear device.

The USSR "proved" its ICBM capabilities by sputting Sputnik into orbit in 1957. But it was also proof that their equipment would actually work. The first attempts by the United States to put up a satellite into orbit, of course, failed when the rockets exploded on the launch pad.

North Korea has gained a great deal of mileage from its ability to manipulate the rest of the world (do they have it, maybe they don't).

And perhaps a successful test will get some of the other six power states to wake up to the real threat--my sense is that Beijing and Moscow are more inclined to be doubtful of Pyongyang's actual progress.

Just a thought.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Warming to Climate Change

Paul Saunders and Vaughan Turekian, who both served as special assistants to the Undersecretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs (Vaughan is now chief international officer at the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Paul is executive editor of The Nixon Center), spoke today at the magazine about their article in the Summer 2006 issue of The National Interest, Warming to Climate Change.

Paul argued that while the Kyoto Agreement is flawed, the way the Bush Administration handled the U.S. withdrawal alienated key allies in Europe and Japan and had prevented ways in which those flaws could be corrected. However, there is an opportunity now presented by the high price of energy which has increased interest in promoting energy efficiency and the development and use of alternatives.

Have we reached a domestic "tipping point" on climate change and energy security? Not only has the president said that we are addicted to oil, key constituencies within the Republican party are coming together to recognize the need for change--farmers, business, sportsmen and the religious communities. On the Hill, Republican leaders like Senator Dick Lugar are promoting new approaches to energy security that rely on clean and renewable sources. [Senator Lugar authored a piece on energy realism for the Summer issue as well.] The business community, especially the insurance industry, is cocerned about changes in climate that would affect property and other sectors of the economy (this is a point Hank Greenberg raised in his essay, On Leadership, in the Winter 2005/06 issue)
But the White House needs to decide whether it is going to provide leadership and to rally support for a comprehensive policy both within the United States as well as internationally.

Vaughan echoed this point about leadership, noting that there is a good deal of investment in specific technologies (hydrogen, methane capture, carbon sequestering)--but there is no overarching framework to tie these separate and discrete programs with an end goal in mind. In the article, they had proposed moving toward a zero-emissions economy within a century.

Internationally, the UN framework convention on climate change is not the way to move forward, since right now it functions as a bazaar for special interests seeking trade-offs. He recommended starting with a small group of key countries that could work out the details and technologies required.

He noted that it is difficult to build a popular consensus on the issue. When there is a drought or hurricane, is it weather or is it due to climate change? Demographic change can also cloud the issue--if a hurricane equivalent to the one that struck Miami in 1920 were to hit again, the damage would be catastrophic--but this is due to the major shift of population, not to global warming.

He recommends having a summit on energy that would bring the key players in the scientific, environmental, energy producer and energy consumption areas--all the key stakeholders--who are also the key stakeholders in the climate change debate--to sit down, under presidential leadership--to chart out a course of action.

He is a proponent of the 90:10 formula. In dealing with something like climate changes, where there are a great number of variables, including pinning down precisely how much a rise in temperature can be attributed to human activity, the policy should be able to address whether humans are responsible for 90 or 10 percent of the warming rise. The Kyoto protocol failed this test; it could not successfully deal with the problem if humans were responsible for the bulk of the warming, and if humans were responsible only for a fraction, it would be too burdensome and onerous. The move forward should be based on policies that are pragmatic and practical, and through this to build an effective international coalition for action.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

More on India ...

Umesh Patil, over at 21stcenturypolitics, raises questions about whether the U.S.-India nuclear deal can make it through Congress:

Senator McCain reveals it all – the deal is unlikely to go through Congress this year and he expects Senators (and by implication House members) to play their roles, roles of due diligence. ( He says he does not oppose this deal, but…. This has become a familiar refrain by now in American Congress. Sen. Kerry started it first and now looks like other Senators have picked this tune.

Many Senators and House Representatives have gone on record to say that not passing this deal will be damaging to Indo-USA relations. This means all these elected representatives are perfectly aware of expectations on India’s side. However, it seems that a substantial number of these elected representatives (majority?) has apprehensions of this or that sort to this deal. Then what do you do when you are an American Congress member? Try making ‘noise’ but no action. It is obvious that all these Congress members are smart enough to play such ‘expectation management’ games. It has gotten to a point where it is no more a subtle hint.

This follows on to a question I had directed to Ambassador Pickering at Friday's event on the U.S.-India relationship--the question of whether Congress would be prepared to accept the nuclear deal within the parameters of a relationship where India might diverge from U.S. expectations from time to time. My sense is that the Congress is not prepared, at this point, for this type of relationship (raising questions as to whether Washington is prepared to deal with India as an ally, not as a client state where rewards are offered or withheld).

Monday, June 19, 2006

New Details on Al Masri

New Details on Al Masri

Guest post by Alexis Debat, terrorism consultant for ABC News, a senior fellow at The Nixon Center and a contributing editor to The National Interest

The mystery man named again today by US authorities as a successor to Abu Musab al Zarqawi is an Egyptian with close ties to Osama Bin Laden's number two, Ayman al Zawahiri. Jordanian intelligence officials say that Abu Ayyub al Masri (aka Abu Hamza al Muhajir) is in his late thirties, and was born and raised in Egypt, were he joined the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (aka "al Jihad") in the 1980s. There, according to the same sources, he operated alongside Ayman al Zawahiri, who was also a member of "al Jihad", and eventually became one of his protégés. Beginning in 1989, Zawahiri co-opted dozens of former EIJ militants into Al Qaeda, where they often held significant positions. Two such lieutenants, Muhammad Atef (aka Abu Hafs al Masri, killed by US forces in late 2001) and Saif al Adl (aka Muhammad Makkawi, now believed to be in Iran) held critical operational positions in Al Qaeda in 2001.

The same Jordanian sources add that when Abu Musab al Zarqawi joined Al Qaeda in Afghanistan after his release from prison in Jordan in 1999, he was "taken under the protection of Zawahiri, Atef and Al Adl, who despite Osama Bin Laden's strong animosity toward the Jordanian, trained and financed his nascent terrorist organization, then named "Jund as Sham". One of the militants in charge of this training was Abu Ayyub al Masri, then a senior aide to Muhammad Atef and an explosives expert at Al Qaeda's al Farooq training camp near Kandahar (where al Masri also trained Mukhtar al-Bakri, one of the indicted members of the "Buffalo cell" here in the US).

After the US intervention in Afghanistan in November 2001, al Masri and Zarqawi both crossed into Iran via South Waziristan and Baluchistan in Pakistan), along with Saif al Adl and several other fellow Egyptians close to Zawahiri, including Abdallah Muhammad al Masri, Abu Muhammad al Masri and Abdel Aziz al Masri.

According to Jordanian intelligence sources, these individuals were highly instrumental in setting up Zarqawi's network in Iraq in 2002. Abu Ayyub al Masri, for example, was reported by the US military to have set up Zarqawi's first cell in Baghdad in mid-2002. This Egyptian group, led by al Masri, is reported to have played a critical role in Al Qaeda in Iraq, which cell structure and modus operandi are almost identical to those of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad in the 1980s.

While he only publicly surfaced in February 2005 on the margins of an Iraqi government list of "most wanted" criminals (he only has a $50,000 bounty on his head), al Masri is reported to have played a very important role in Al Qaeda in Iraq.

European intelligence sources indicate they believe that sometime in 2004 al Masri was put in charge of some of Zarqawi's international networks. He sent "envoys" all over the Middle East, North Africa and even Europe, where he struck an informal relationship with the Algerian GSPC, to raise money and recruit international volunteers for the jihad in Iraq. In one such case, Algerian security services arrested in July 2005 a man named Yasser al-Misri, who they believe was on such a recruitment mission for Abu Ayyub al Masri and Abu Musab al Zarqawi.

Al Masri is also strongly suspected of having played a key role in the bombings in Egypt's Sinai peninsula in 2004, 2005 and 2006, all of which were reported to have been instigated by Egyptian elements close to Zarqawi.

The emergence of Abu Ayyub al Masri as a successor to Abu Musab al Zarqawi could be extremely significant. The new leader's nationality, ideology, skills, and past responsibilities within Al Qaeda in Iraq will greatly impact the organization's operational focus. It is likely, for example, that the terrorist organization will be more closely managed by "Al Qaeda global" and Ayman al Zawahiri, who publicly vented his frustration with some of Zarqawi's tactical choices (such as his focus on anti-Shi'a operations). And considering both Zawahiri's broad strategic goals and al Masri's past responsibilities in Al Qaeda, the latter will most likely put a greater emphasis on operations abroad. But whoever takes charge will have to significantly reorganize Al Qaeda in Iraq's the command structure and modus operandi, as well as find new sources of funding for an increasingly cash-strapped organization (in the past 12 months volunteers from abroad were asked to join the organization with their own cash, usually by selling all of their belongings prior to cross into Iraq). This crisis, as well as the succession, presents the US and Iraqi governments with a significant window of opportunity to score decisive - and potentially definitive- points against the jihadi phenomenon in Iraq.

Korea, India and Interests

I wished that some of the loud cheerleaders for the democracy peace theory of international affairs (as well as those who maintain that democracies AUTOMATICALLY track to a pro-American direction) had been able to attend one or both of these events held at the magazine and center last week.

On Wednesday, the ambassador of the Republic of Korean, Lee Tae-sik, gave a very interesting address. While most attention was focused on North Korea and missile test issues, his opening statements were quite interesting. He stressed the importance of common democratic values in helping to forge and maintain the relationship and alliance between Washington and Seoul, but his paens to shared values quickly gave way to a discussion of practical interests: security, economics, trade. South Korea is a democracy, and this is a good thing, and it helps to strengthen ties, but South Korea is important to the United States first and foremost because of its geographic position, its location in a dangerous neighborhood, and an increasingly interconnected economic relationship.

On Friday, former ambassador to India Thomas Pickering delivered quite an interesting presentation. But one of the points he reminded his audience was that because India is a democracy and because there continues to be different schools of thought about the direction of India's foreign policy--including a number of political parties that do not want to give up India's role in the non-aligned movement (and I might add those who want to balance a tilt toward the United States by hedging bets with Russia and China). U.S. and Indian interests are tracking in close symmetry right now, but that does not mean New Delhi is going to walk in lockstep with Washington. In fact, precisely because India is a democracy, it is not going to be in a position to always echo U.S. preferences.

Pickering (and for that matter, Henry Kissinger, Geoff Kemp, and Bob Blackwill, all in their respective TNI contributions) recognizes the need for a nuanced U.S.-India relationship, working to advance shared interests and working to ensure that disagreements can be minimized. All recognize that India is not going to carry U.S. water in the Persian Gulf or vis-a-vis China. I am concerned, though, that this kind of nuance is lost on the Congress, which may see the U.S.-India nuclear deal as equivalent to a quid pro quo, of automatic support for the U.S. on a whole host of issues. This tension is also rising in the U.S.-ROK relationship, and again, it will be interesting to see how it may play out as a proposed free trade agreement is negotiated.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

NSA Surveillance: Rivkin versus Fein

An interesting debate today between Bruce Fein (principal, Litchfield Group) and David Rivkin (a partner at Baker, Hostetler and a contributing editor to TNI) over the question of the NSA "warrantless" surveillance program, its impact on the war on terror and the threat to civil liberties.

Is America turning into a police state? No, said Rivkin. He said the debate over the NSA program was part of a larger debate about presidential power and over the discretionary authority of the executive, and he rejected the notion that any action taken at the discretion of the executive branch, particularly to safeguard national security, without judicial approval somehow constitutes a danger to liberty. The U.S. judiciary is not a privy council, meant to evaluate policy, but this seems to be the direction some want to go down. He also criticized Congress for giving the executive broad latitude to act but then, for purposes of political cover, wanting to distance itself from having granting that authority.

Rivkin also drew a distinction between a maximalist view of privacy (with almost no intrusions permitted by the government being viewed as the linchpin of democracy) with what he saw as the more logical view, especially given how much private entities can collect a good deal of private, personal information, of recognizing that in modern society the focus should be one reasonable expectations of privacy.

Fein focused his concern on the rule of law, that presidential claims of authority to bypass existing laws and regulations--noting Congress does have the power to regulate all agencies of the government, not just the legislative branch--combined with excessive claims of the need for secrecy--so that actions and policies need not be disclosed or justified--erode the rule of law and create a situation the founders wanted to avoid--where the president essentially asks the country to "trust him" without effective oversight or checks. If laws like FISA needed to be amended, then the president could and should have made the case to Congress for alterations, not argued that he had the right to bypass them altogether.


I walked away from the discussion with a further degree of anger at Congress. Rivkin and Fein, each in their own ways, pointed to a Congress that abdicated its responsibilities when it mattered and now plays political blame games. The checks and balances system can't work if one branch doesn't want to act as a check.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Iraq and Al-Qaeda After Zarqawi

We had an event today at the Nixon Center on the topic, "Iraq and Al-Qaeda After Zarqawi", with Alexis Debat, Flynt Leverett and Geoff Kemp.

Some of the points that Flynt raised:

Zarqawi's death does little to alter the basic trend of elevated violence in Iraq, increasingly along ethnic and sectarian lines, and if Iraq is not yet in a civil war (is it a Sunni insurgency combined with a failed state, or a low-intensity intercommunal conflict), it could very well end up being in one. (On a related note, I'd recommend Ian Bremmer's piece in the Summer 2006 issue on whether a civil war in Iraq really poses a major security threat (as opposed to a humanitarian crisis) to U.S. interests.)

The Bush Administration is pursuing a strategy of Iraqization on the security front and capacity building for governance; both of which are likely to make things worse rather than better. We are training single-sect security units, not a national army; capacity building cannot substitute for the lack of a firm political agreement on how to govern the country. Leverett cited the recent visit of a delegation from the Iraqi Oil Ministry; competent individuals, to be sure, but unable to address or give definitive answers on questions ranging from investment guarantees to the status of exploration licenses issued by the Kurdish regional government.

Iraq needs power-sharing arrangements grounded in a regional process, as happened in Afghanistan (and something Senator Hagel notes in his remarks in the Summer 2006 TNI). The U.S. overestimates its ability to influence the Shi'a and the Kurds, relating an anecdote that when Iraqi president Talabani visited Washington and was asked whether he was proud to see the Iraqi flag flying over Blair House, allegedly responded that the next time he visited, it would be a Kurdish flag.

Yes, there is symbolic value to Zarqawi's death; there may be symbolic drawdowns and redeployment of U.S. forces, but otherwise there is no effctive strategy for Iraq, and Zarqawi's death doesn't change this.

Some of Alexis' points:

It is too early to draw conclusions but Zarqawi's death is significant. The question of succession is important. He emphasized a lack of intelligence on the new head of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Hamza al-Muhajir. Will the "Egyptian element" in Al-Qaeda in Iraq be in the ascendancy? Zarqawi tried to hold together the different factions that comprise Al-Qaeda in Iraq as well as lead the Sunni insurgency. However, his tactics--particularly targeting other Muslims rather than coalition forces and Iraqis in the security infrasructure--were drawing criticism.

Zarqawi benefited from the U.S. overpersonalizing the conflict in giving him stature; this is a mistake not likely to be repeated with his successor.

The U.S. needs to recognize that "violence is the political process"--Zarqawi and others successfully convinced the Sunni community that violence was their trump card (Shia and Kurds had oil and U.S. support) in vying for influence in Iraq. We are entering a warlord situation in Iraq, with groups being able to use violence as a way to exert political pressure, pointing out that upsurges in violence in Iraq were now coinciding with major political developments (such as elections).

Peace and democracy, he noted, are born out of a military stalemate, as happened in Bosnia--something he noted he had witnessed first-hand. This means that the U.S. needs to pick the factions in each community it can work with and enable them to prevail; this means Washington has to be ready to get its hands dirty.

Some of Geoff's comments:

The Bush Administration and the new Iraqi government do receive a short-term boost from the death of a psychopathic killer--but the long term problems remain unsolved.

We should not be lulled into complacency by reports that 14 of Iraq's provinces are "quiet." Within the four troubled provinces live the bulk of Iraq's population; 25 percent of the country's population is in the Baghdad area.

We have failed in Iraq if our intent was to establish a secular, pro-Western democracy that would have good relations with Israel. At best we may end up with a loose confederation of semi-autonomous regions with the south dominated by a theocracy.

The concern in the region now is what are the U.S. long-term intentions. Iran, certainly, would want the U.S. to leave (but after stabilizing a strong Shia dominated government in Iraq). The Gulf states are concerned that failure in Iraq may cause the U.S. to leave the region altogether. In Israel, the combination of America's Iraq and democratization policies are not going down well.


My overall conclusion: the death of Zarqawi is a positive development but my opinion of all three presentations is that it does not single-handedly change the trend lines in Iraq or the region and does not make up for deficiencies in U.S. policies.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Unrespectable Realism?

Jonathan Rauch's column in National Journal regrets that, in his opinion, realism in foreign policy is confined to the crackpot extremes of the right and left and he laments that no public figure is articulating a foreign policy strategy based on realism.

Of course, my first reaction is to take issue with that--after all, what is TNI itself trying to do? Senator Hagel is a leading proponent of principled realism and in our summer issue discusses what that means; he used his realism to guide his thinking on Iran. Kissinger certainly is continuing to make the case (see our conversation with him in the summer issue). Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman, two leading contributors, are about to release "Ethical Realism: A Vision for America's Role in the World". And so on ...

But Rauch raises a much more fundamental point--that right now neither major political party really wants to embrace the label "realism" or formulate their foreign policy positions on a realist basis, even though its propositions resonate with the majority of Americans.

It speaks to the fact that realism has an "idealism gap"--a point I myself made several years ago when I wrote that "Lofty aims--however unrealistic--rather than practical objectives are what stir the blood of the citizenry, right?"

It also points to the extent the maximalist rhetoric has replaced analytical thinking. In theory and in the abstract, as I said at the Saltzman Forum last fall, no one disagrees with the proposition that, in the long run, people are better off living under democracies. From John Mearsheimer to David Rieff, one would find little dissent with the proposition. But, as Dov Zakheim wrote for us (and will speak this Friday at the magazine), strategy is moving from the aspiration to realization. And in the current climate of debate, it is far easier to be labeled an enemy of freedom than to be appreciated for providing cautionary advice.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Businessmen Without Borders

Some excerpts from a very interesting "Reporter at Large" from the Summer 2006 issue of The National Interest, by Tatiana Serafin, a senior reporter at Forbes:


Billionaire Calvin Ayre has a $3.5 million, 10,000-square-foot compound in Costa Rica, does business with 16 million customers—mostly in the United States—and is a native Canadian holding the country’s passport. He has no allegiance but to his own cause—online gambling. He pays no taxes to the United States or to Canada. He is persona non grata in the United States, is on shaky ground in Canada (which has similar restrictions against online gambling) and was recently raided by Costa Rican authorities, though not charged.

This is the new face of today’s international businessman who may hold a passport or two from one country, reside in another and do business in yet another. That leaves loyalties up for grabs, if they exist at all. The name of the game is self-interest, not national interest, and a stateless ego may do more to shake-up the dusty premise of the nation-state than any supranational movement to date.

Businesses have long taken advantage of loopholes in tax laws, favorable registration locales and amenable politicians. The rise of offshore entities in the 1970s was one big step towards separating businesses from national ties. A 2004 report by the Center for Public Integrity uncovered at least 882 oil and gas subsidiaries based in tax havens like the Cayman Islands and Bermuda ...

The ease of multiple citizenships has added fuel to the fire—allowing individuals to reshuffle a considerable volume of assets. As the number of nation-states grew with the demise of colonial empires and the Soviet bloc, the crossover options for entrepreneurs and investors multiplied. High-net worth individuals pick not only the best passport, but also the optimal offshore tax haven to get around pesky national ties. A 2003 report by the Boston Consulting Group estimated that these high net-worth individuals hold $9 trillion, or a quarter of their total assets (cash deposits and listed securities) offshore—resulting in at least $250 billion in tax losses for nation-states.

How to retain control over assets often drives decisions about moving offshore or acquiring “extra” passports. For example, before the 1997 handover of Hong Kong to China, several billionaire businessmen reached for offshore company registrations and dual citizenships to protect their assets. The sons of Asia’s richest and most influential investor Li Ka-shing (net worth: $18.8 billion) have dual citizenship in Hong Kong and Canada. Billionaire Ronnie Chan, whose family made their fortune in real estate, has dual U.S. and Hong Kong citizenship. That maneuvering proved propitious for the billionaires. After Forbes first published its list of the richest Chinese, several arrests followed and businessmen like Yang Rong wised up—he fled to Los Angeles to avoid detention.

It gets even more complicated when looking at entrepreneurs from the former Soviet Union. Take the three businessmen—the multi-billionaires Alexander Machkevich, Alijan Ibragimov and Patokh Chodiev—now collectively known as the “Kazakh trio.” Once stalwart Soviets (Chodiev was even with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs), their Soviet passports and identity became meaningless overnight. But how “Kazakh” are they? Only one of them actually has a Kazakh passport and none were born in Kazakhstan. Their jointly owned holding company, the $2.9 billion (2005 revenue) Eurasian Natural Resources, is not even registered in Kazakhstan.

So why are they the “Kazakh trio” and does that mean their collective allegiance is to Kazakhstan? Ninety percent of Eurasian Natural Resources production comes from Kazakhstan’s iron ore, ferroalloy and alumina assets, which the partners allegedly obtained access to via favorable ties to Kazakhstan’s long-serving president, Nursultan Nazarbayev. (Kazakhstan’s government recently started to re-examine the joint ventures with the trio.) The partners say that they are among the highest taxpayers in Kazakhstan and their corporate entities tout a variety of social spending initiatives on health and education in the towns where mines are located. Noteworthy to be sure, but Alexander Machkevich carries an Israeli passport, Patokh Chodiev holds a Belgian passport and all three reside abroad in the UK or Switzerland. ...

Perhaps the goal of multiple passports and residences is to avoid having to make such a choice and to maintain the broadest array of options? Certainly Saudi multimillionaire Khalid Masri who received an Irish passport in 1992 after investing over a billion dollars in an Irish pet-food company may have been interested in a more Western-friendly ID. This phenomenon may gain more momentum as countries create stricter travel rules, as the United States did post 9/11.

Clearly, Czech national Viktor Kozeny was shopping around, allegedly obtaining Irish and Venezuelan papers, in addition to his Czech credentials. Nicknamed “the Pirate of Prague”, officials from both the Czech Republic and from the FBI investigated him for alleged fraud arising out of privatization deals. At last notice, he was in a Bahamanian prison awaiting extradition to the United States. ...

How countries cope with the loss of tax revenue, jobs and even rent—recent research estimates that 54 million square feet of corporate office space, roughly the equivalent of one-third of Chicago’s downtown office area, will be vacated per year in the United States—is an issue continuously being debated.

The more global the world becomes, the more nation-states try to play up national identity, in spite of the multiple passports, residences and offshore registrations of local businessmen. For example, post 9/11, the U.S. government has become increasingly prickly about awarding contracts to non-U.S. companies, managing to block a corporate deal, the sale of six U.S. ports to Dubai Ports World as part of its takeover of Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Co. The congressional uproar has led many foreign companies to publicly assert they are prepared to work with U.S. representatives to make mergers more palatable. A similar wave of foreign takeover-anxiety has swept Europe with politicians in Italy and Poland recently calling for a stop to mergers in strategic sectors, like utilities and banking. These Western governments seem to want to reassert their authority as citizens become nervous over slowing economies, rising fuel prices and lack of jobs. But the nationalist resurgence may backfire and lead to even more offshore activity, if governments impose more regulations and taxes on businesses.

Love our Priorities

Visiting to follow what is happening with the Iran-Six Power Talks and the continuing standoff between Turkey and the EU over Cyprus, and it is always wonderful to see that Britney Spears who gave an interview about how the papparazi's intrusions into her private life have turned her into an emotional wreck has more stories currently posted than the reports that Prime Minister Erdogan's threat that Turkey may boycott the EU negotiations session.

Friday, June 09, 2006

More on Zarqawi's Passing

The Death of Zarqawi: What Does it Mean?

By Steven Brooke

The death of Abu Musab al Zarqawi, al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq, raises a number of questions. The U.S. and Iraqi governments have been careful to downplay the importance of Zarqawi’s death to the overall effort in Iraq. Rightly so, they are wary of raising hopes by proclaiming yet another “turning point” in the direction of Iraq. Iraq will remain the central battlefield of jihad because it is so important to al Qaeda’s overall prestige. By accepting Zarqawi’s pledge of allegiance, Bin Laden tied himself to Iraq, and he will do anything he can to avoid a defeat there. And despite the short-term damage to the terror network, in the long term Zarqawi’s death may even prove to be a positive for al Qaeda.

Notwithstanding the probable flurry of violence that will occur as Zarqawi’s followers try to prove they remain a viable entity, an immediate effect of Zarqawi’s death will be to significantly weaken the logistical structure of al Qaeda in Iraq. Despite the escalation in violence, the U.S. military has been waging a very effective campaign over the last few months to disable the jihadist infrastructure in Iraq. Cells have been taken down all across Iraq, but most prominently in Western Iraq and around Baghdad. The growing successes against the jihadists have been coupled with a greater attempt to draw the secular- nationalists into the political process. The removal of Zarqawi will further increase the pressure on a battered jihadist infrastructure and possibly allow the much larger secular- nationalist side of the insurgency to become its leading face. Without having to constantly compete with the jihadists for support, the passage into politics for a portion of the insurgents could be eased. Almost simultaneous with the announcement of Zarqawi’s death, the appointment of a Sunni, Abdul Qadir Muhammed Jasim, to the powerful position of Defense Minister, offers another encouraging sign of national unity.

Most ominous in the long term, however, is the possibility that Zarqawi’s death may actually help al Qaeda. Zarqawi’s propensity for gore and mayhem, especially against Shiites, had slowly isolated him from even the most staunchly anti- American forces. In addition it caused conflicts within the wider salafi-jihadist community (see my essay on the theological disputes between Zarqawi and his former mentor, the Jordanian Abu Muhammed al Maqdisi) and even with the al Qaeda leadership. Zarqawi’s death may turn out to be the best of both worlds for al Qaeda: they gain a powerful martyr and potent symbol of resistance while getting rid of a difficult and divisive figure. With Zarqawi out of the way, the possibility arises for al Qaeda to appoint a new leader in Iraq who will be able to marshal wider support among the various insurgent groups.

Steven Brooke is a research associate at The Nixon Center.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Zarqawi's death

What will Zarqawi's death mean for the future of Al-Qaeda in Iraq?

For some background, I refer you to Alexis Debat's very insightful essay that appeared in the Summer 2005 issue of The National Interest:


The larger question facing experts and intelligence analysts alike is whether Zarqawi’s new profile is a result of the U.S. government’s obsessive “personalization” of the War on Terror (and the resulting media coverage), or indicative of a more fundamental shift in the command structure of a “terrorist Internet” that still calls itself Al-Qaeda but whose increasingly disconnected structure has earned the label of “Jihad, Inc.”
There is little doubt that the most recent developments in the War on Terror, specifically the arrest of Abu Faraj al-Libbi in Pakistan on May 2—which, according to the Pakistani government, is expected to lead to “major breakthroughs” in the hunt for Bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri—have only furthered the structural revamping of Al-Qaeda’s leadership, communication techniques and overall character.

There is now an increased consensus among experts and intelligence officials that Bin Laden is still in overall control of his organization through a complex communication system involving couriers and audiotapes, email and verbal codes. Despite this, as well as the fact that the personal differences in ideological and strategic outlook between the Saudi and his Jordanian commander differ widely, there already are some serious indications that Zarqawi’s role in Al-Qaeda has increased considerably in the past twelve months. This shift reflects not only Zarqawi’s efforts in the Iraqi insurgency, his wider global overreach and his global profile in jihadi circles, but more importantly his control of a new base in Iraq around which the technical, financial and human resources of Jihad, Inc., can again coalesce. Just as they once flocked to Afghanistan and Chechnya, international jihadis can now come to Iraq, not only to be “camp trained” but “battle trained.” They can weave the personal and institutional relationships, the feelings of kinship and shared experience, that hold together Al-Qaeda’s virtual umma, or “community.”

This strategic shift, as well as Zarqawi’s larger—some might say “heir apparent”—role in Al-Qaeda, is reflected concretely in the contents of last year’s communications between Zarqawi and Bin Laden, whose relationship had previously been considered fairly antagonistic. From Zarqawi’s written (though unsigned) ”appeal” to Bin Laden, intercepted by U.S. intelligence in early February 2004, to Al-Tawhid wal Jihad’s formal pledge of allegiance to Al-Qaeda posted on the Internet in October, to Bin Laden’s acknowledgement of Zarqawi as “Al-Qaeda’s Prince in Iraq” several weeks after that, emerges the picture of a considerable gravity shift from the “old base” (Afghanistan) to the new base (Iraq), and from the old guard to the new. One can only guess the terms of this partnership, which, in the words of Al-Tawhid wal Jihad’s statement, took “eight months of contacts” and at least one “catastrophic dispute.” There is little doubt that this informal agreement involves a greater access to Al-Qaeda’s financial, logistical and human resources for Zarqawi, against the broadening of his terrorist activities not only to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, but also to Europe and the United States, which the Saudi urged Zarqawi to strike in his speech broadcast in December 2004. As demonstrated once again in the arrest of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Europe, with its open borders and large Muslim population, is still considered by Al-Qaeda to be a springboard for attacks on the United States.

Already, several of Al-Qaeda’s regional commanders have publicly followed in Bin Laden’s footsteps in acknowledging the Jordanian’s new status. In a taped speech broadcast on March 17, Saleh al-Aufi, named by Saudi authorities as “Al-Qaeda’s new commander in Saudi Arabia”, specifically pledged allegiance to Zarqawi, in terms that left very little room for interpretation about the Jordanian’s new status.

This increased synergy between two of the few remaining organs of Jihad, Inc., has already been reflected in Al-Qaeda in Iraq’s statements and publications, as well as the diversity of Zarqawi’s volunteers in Iraq, according to media reports and foreign security sources. Once mostly composed of recruits from Jordan, Europe, Syria, and Egypt, the ranks of “Al-Qaeda in Iraq” have, for the past 12 months, increasingly included recruits from the Gulf (principally Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Yemen) and even Southeast Asia (mostly Indonesia and Malaysia), where Al-Tawhid wal Jihad’s recruiting efforts were either poor (Kuwait, Saudi Arabia) or inexistent (Asia), but where Al-Qaeda’s presence is well established.

Even if it is early to crown Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as Osama Bin Laden’s replacement, considering the latest pace of his terrorist attacks and the pressure that U.S. and Iraqi forces have put on him and his organization the thread of evidence indicating that he is fast moving in that direction is growing steadily, as are indications that Al-Qaeda has found a new—albeit rather uncomfortable—base in Iraq. But while this increased pressure on Al-Qaeda’s leadership both in Pakistan and Iraq could signal a very encouraging tipping point in the ongoing campaign against the organization, it may also emphasize a set of harsh realities for the not-so-distant future of America’s War on Terror. By opening a new front in the global jihad, which serves as the lifeline of Al-Qaeda’s ideological staying power, the Iraq War, despite its many accomplishments, has provided the organization with a much-needed replacement for its Afghan base. There is ample evidence that the same magnetic force that drew so many jihadis to Afghanistan in the 1990s has re-emerged in Iraq, with greater stealth and amplitude, as well as potentially deadlier consequences. At any given moment, these young recruits will return to their home countries in Europe and the Middle East with not just the crude and generic guerrilla training the was dispensed in Afghanistan, but a deep, battle-tested knowledge of urban terrorist operations and a far greater understanding than their predecessors of clandestine network management, the opportunities presented by the privatization of mass destruction capabilities, and the techniques of a deadlier, stealthier and more global societal warfare.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Repeating Lessons of Afghanistan in Somalia

The previous posting generated a great deal of discussion about the question of warlords, a timely discussion given what is transpiring in Somalia. had the following to say about the battle between the Islamists and the "warlords":

Some Somalia experts in the United States say that the Islamist militias linked to the sharia courts have a solid and growing base among Mogadishu residents. The courts are seen as offering the promise of order and stability in a country beset by anarchy for the past 15 years, these Somalia watchers say.

They further contend that Washington has not done enough to assist the interim Somalia government that was formed in Nairobi last year following tortuous negotiations among clan leaders.

The government's head, Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, charged last month that US backing for the warlord alliance is undermining efforts to re-establish the rule of law in Somalia. "These groups, they really do not want Somalia to become a stabilised country," Mr Yusuf said in reference to the warlords. "They do not want the government to function."

It sounds to me like a repeat of the rise of the Taliban, which many forget came to power with a good deal of public support, precisely because they offered the hope of order. It also calls to mind how Hamas has built up its support among Palestinians, by offering welfare and other public goods that the official authorities could not. Why shouldn't we be surprised that the Islamists might have a similar upsurge of support in Somalia?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

In Praise of Warlords

A provocative piece by John Hulsman and Alexis Debat, appearing in the Summer 2006 issue.

A few excerpts:


Legitimacy comes in many faces. Westerners like to see it in the glow of freedom fighters ascending to high office in a sweeping democratic process, preferably after mass rallies in the squares of capital cities with the attendant flags and banners and rock concerts. But we are loath to grace with “legitimacy” the evil, greedy chieftain of Western imagination—the warlord—conjured in no small part by the portrayals of Indiana Jones movies. Of course, the West might work with such unsavory characters in alliances of convenience, but they are to be despised (not least in their immoral challenge to Western democratic superiority) and then quickly done away with at the first possible opportunity—to be replaced by “proper” political figures.

Our cinematic reaction to warlords has carried over into the policies of American state-builders to an uncomfortable degree. When looked at in the glare of reality, America’s state-building record in the post-Cold War era is dreadful because of our reflexive antipathy for warlords and our unwillingness to co-opt them. America’s failure to identify and engage warlords has contributed again and again to the most conspicuous of U.S. nation-building failures. ...

This dismal record is matched by an unwillingness to seriously assess the flaws in the standard Western model of state-building from afar. Debates continue to focus the potential roles of the United States, United Nations, World Bank, European Union or International Monetary Fund in state-building, with indigenous leadership—chiefs, elders and yes, even warlords—playing either a secondary or adversarial role in the process.

As long as international admiration trumps local legitimacy in selecting who we are willing to work with in state-building, our efforts will fail. This means, in many parts of the world, we have to come to terms with so-called warlords.

But just what do we mean by “warlord?” A “warlord” is a leader whose power has been attained by non-democratic means but who exercises authority usually on the basis of an appeal to ethnic or religious identity, and who usually controls a definable territory where he has a near monopoly on the use of force. A warlord, as opposed to a gang leader or petty crook, operates within a clear and defined political framework. ...

T. E. Lawrence, in the flower of his youth, was one of the most famous men in the world. The conqueror of Aqaba at 29 and Damascus at thirty, he was a major leader of the wildly romantic and improbably successful Arab Revolt of Emir Feisal—a warlord—against his Turkish overlords during World War I. ... Lawrence’s approach was based on a few simple principles, encapsulated in an August 1917 memo he wrote for British serving officers with Feisal’s legions, and in a September 1920 article he wrote anonymously for the British journal Round Table. What Lawrence advocated in these primary sources represents a dramatic break not only with state-building as it was then practiced, but also as it continues to be implemented today.

Local elites, Lawrence held, must be stakeholders in any successful state-building process. At root, almost all state-building problems are political and not military in nature; with political legitimacy, military problems can be solved. To work against the grain of local history is to fail. It is critical to accurately assess the unit of politics in a developing state—and in the case of the Arab Revolt, it was the tribe, and hence tribal leaders, or warlords.

To Lawrence, the seminal operational fact in dealing with the Arab Revolt was that the framework was tribal. By working within Bedouin cultural norms, rather than imposing Western institutions, the Arabs accepted the legitimacy of British objectives. As he wrote in his 1917 memo, “Wave a Sharif [local warlord] in front of you like a banner, and hide your own mind and person.” Lawrence understood that the sharif, not he, had local legitimacy. The common British custom was to issue orders to the Arabs only through their chiefs, and only when agreed upon. Lawrence did not take this approach out of some romantic belief in the unspoiled ways of the Arabs. Rather, he saw it as the only practical way to achieve results. Lawrence worked with local culture, history, political practice, sociology, ethnology, economic statutes and psychology to get the job done.

Early on, Lawrence realized that in Emir Feisal he had happened upon the ideal warlord of the Arab Revolt. As son of the sharif of Mecca, Feisal was imbued with religious and political legitimacy. He led in the name of his father, who as keeper of the Holy Places had an unrivalled political position in the Hejaz (western Saudi Arabia). Lawrence worked within the tribal structure and collaborated with warlords, an approach he employed later on his way to Damascus, when he successfully constructed another alliance of Syrian tribes, including the Howeitat, Beni Sakhr, Sherrat, Rualla and Serahin.

The contrast with modern Western efforts at state-building could hardly be greater. Too often, modern-day Wilsonians assume that because a nation-state exists on paper, they can dispense with the need to forge alliances and compacts among sectarian, tribal, ethnic and religious factions and simply deal with “Iraqis” or “Somalis” or “Afghans”—disregarding or ignoring the traditional sub-national centers of authority in favor of anointing “modern” leaders.

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