Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Iran to the Security Council

Russia and China have agreed to send Iran to the security council. I am excited to see the international community come to a consensus that will hopefully help keep the world safer. Yet, this whole drama isn't over. The international community needs the will to impose the kind of strict economic sanctions that will really hurt the Iranians. Unfortunately, those are also the kinds of sanctions that will hurt the rest of the world - an Iranian oil embargo will drive prices way up.

The world needs to choose between sky high energy prices, perhaps causing an international economic recession, or letting a religious fanatic acquire nukes. Kinda makes one wish we weren't so dependent on oil? Maybe thats something we should keep working on.

It probably didn't help the Iranian cause that the rest of the world just found damning evidence that Iran is pursuing nukes. Some people, amazingly, have expressed doubts as to whether Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons; I hope this clears things up for them.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Hamas bites off more than it can chew.

An interesting perspective that I saw on TV over the last weekend was the suggestion that perhaps Hamas didn't really want to win a majority in this election. Rather, it is more likely that they sought to win a significant number of seats, but not enough that they would be leading the government. With Fatah still leading the government, Hamas could run its big mouth, criticizing Fatah and Israel while not having to back up anything it said politically.

Fortunately, Hamas did win a majority. And my word usage here is quite deliberate - I believe this election outcome will ultimately be a good thing. Most Palestinians want the peace process to move forward, but it seems that Israel (rightfully) is not going to have any exchange with a government that seeks its destruction. Additionally, the international community is going to slow or cease aid altogether, without which the Palestinians will not survive. Hamas has even started begging for that money.

The bottom line, is that by winning a majority, Hamas will be confronted with a major dilemma. In either case, the West and Israel will be better off, although the Palestinians will be better off only in one scenario. Ideally, Hamas would choose to renounce terrorism and decide to recognize Israel's right do exist. By doing these things, international aid would continue and the peace process would move forward. If there was any question as to whether giving up on violence would be the best for the Palestinians, this move would make it obvious.

On the other hand, Hamas could choose to continue to utilize terrorism and cling to their platform of seeking the destruction of Israel. If Hamas chooses this route, the flow of money to the Palestinians dries up quickly, and the peace process ceases. The Palestinians will suffer, and everyone will know who is responsible. The credibility of their methods diminished, Hamas would predictably be beaten by Fatah in the next election.

Don't get too hopeful that Hamas will choose the route that benefits everyone, though. What more concerns the Hamas leadership: the well-being of the Palestinians, or the destruction of Israel? My money is unfortunately on the latter. I pity the Palestinian people, as they will be the ones who suffer as a result.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

"The power to walk away"

A great article on the current political situation in Iraq can be found here. The first and last paragraphs say it all:

America's agile envoy in Baghdad, Zalmay Khalilzad, is working these days to cajole Iraqi political leaders to put aside narrow interests in favor of a government of national unity. But behind the political dickering lies a stark message: If the Iraqis can't agree on a broad-based government of reconciliation, the United States may have to reduce its military and economic support. America won't bankroll one side in a civil war...

...Khalilzad's message is that America's money and patience aren't unlimited. If the Iraqis can come together to build a framework for cooperation, America stands with them. If they can't pull together, they will eventually have to face the nightmare of a shattered Iraq on their own. Ironically, that's America's hidden leverage in Iraq -- the power to walk away.

Juan Cole has said that the Shia believe that they can handle the security situation without us. I hope he is wrong. It will be an ugly civil war if the Iraqis do not compromise politically.

Even though I am glad that Grand Ayatolla Sistani mostly stays out of politics, I think it would be a great time for him to step in and urge the UIA to grant the Sunnis some political concessions.

Sunday, January 22, 2006


"...Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, on a two-day visit to Syria, was holding a "terrorism summit" with President Bashar al-Assad.

During his visit to Damascus, Ahmadinejad pledged support for militant Palestinian factions at a meeting with their leaders on Friday, a Palestinian group said. Leaders from Islamic Jihad and Hamas were present.

Hamas, which is also sworn to Israel's destruction, is expected to make a strong showing against Abbas's Fatah movement in the election."

This from reuters.

There was a suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, Israel last week. Islamic Jihad, which (like Hamas) is sworn to Israel's destruction, claimed responsibility. The President of Iran just met with members of both terrorist groups, pledging his support. So not only has Ahmedinejad outright called for the eradication of Israel, but he has publicly claimed support for terrorist groups with that very goal.

Could you imagine our response if Ahmedinejad called for the destruction of the USA and met with Osama bin Laden a month later? Israel clearly would be morally justified in a military strike against Iran, which it seems that they are preparing. I'm convinced that we should help them, if not do it by ourselves. It is a dilemma; I don't want to see the US get involved in hostilities with another Islamic country; our reputation is bad enough. However, just because we've recently made mistakes in foreign policy does not mean that we should ignore the next real threat that comes along.

In a related story, Moqtada al Sadr pledged his support for Iran in the event of a US attack. Al Sadr is a Shia religious leader who led an uprising against the US a couple years ago; he commands a large militia. It would appear that our hands are tied with regards to Iran, because if we attack Iran, al Sadr will launch attacks on US forces.

I still say we attack Iran if it comes to that, though. Al Sadr is not very senior and could be contained by other Shia political and/or religious leaders (Sistani). We can simply tell the Shia: if al Sadr launches an uprising then the US will withdraw all of its troops from Iraq. The Shia know that if that happened, their new government would be eaten alive by the Sunni rebels, so it would be in their best interest to contain al Sadr.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

bin Laden wants a truce?

"In response to the substance of the polls in the U.S., which indicate that Americans do not want to fight Muslims on Muslim land, nor do they want Muslims to fight them on their land, we do not mind offering a long-term truce based on just conditions that we will stick to."

I know this sounds familiar! Once upon a time, a fanatic bent on world domination wanted a truce. What happened after he got it?

Oh, now I remember.

Some people are suggesting (Scott McCellan) that this is a last act of desperation on bin Laden's part. I disagree; I think hes doing this because he knows he has the capability to attack us very soon. Hes going to offer us a truce, which he knows we won't accept, and then hes going to attack us somewhere. Its going to appear to many as if bin Laden somehow possesses the ability to attack us anywhere at will. Creating that perception is probably his intention. Obviously, he doesn't have that ability. This newest threat, if it materializes, has probably been 3-4 years in the making.

Perhaps he is convinced that Americans will respond in the same way that the Spanish did after the train bombings. If that is his assumption, he is wrong - I think we all know how Americans respond to threats and/or violence.

"Our mujahedeen were able to overcome all the security measures in European countries, and you saw their operation in major European capitals" -- apparent references to July's transit bombings in London and the 2004 train attacks in Madrid, Spain.

What security measures in European countries?

"Your President Bush has been misleading you. He has lied when he said that the people are behind him. Opinion polls have indicated that the overwhelming majority of you want him to pull the troops out of our land."

"We have the answer to [this] misleading information. The situation in Iraq is getting worse for you, and the dead and the injured among you is on the rise," the voice on the tape said."

Our troubles in Iraq have relatively little to do with bin Laden. In fact, Al Qaeda has helped our cause in Iraq probably more than it has hurt it. The subject of Al Qaeda has been one that all Iraqis - Sunni, Shia, and Kurd have agreed upon; they all hate it. Al Qaeda can hardly claim Iraq as a victory; even after an American departure there is no way Al Qaeda will gain control of that country.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Iran wants to start talking, again. I'm not sure we want to listen.

After Iran broke the IAEA seals on its nuclear research plants a week ago, the EU3 declared that the diplomatic exchanges with Iran were "dead". Just recently, an Iranian official sent those EU nations a letter asking for the talks to be re-started. Evidently, the prospect of UN sanctions didn't sound as fun to some clear headed Iranians as it did to Ahmedinejad. It appears that the international community has tired of playing Iran's games:

"Major powers have dismissed Iran's call for the European Union to resume talks on Tehran's nuclear stand-off with the West."

It really isn't just the west that doesn't want to see Iran with nukes. Its literally everyone else in the world, perhaps except Syria. The Saudis, Qatar, and other gulf states have even urged Iran to stop seeking nuclear technology. Russia appears to be ready to act against Iran in the Security Council should the need arise. The only questionable at this point seems to be China, but I don't see them acting alone on such an obviously important issue.

Russia has the right idea. If Iran wants to start talking again, it needs to first cease all nuclear research.

Iran has also threatened to stop selling oil to the rest of the world if sanctions are imposed on it. Sounds like a nice economic weapon paper, but reality isn't so simple. Tehran needs oil revenue just as much as we need the oil. The Iranian government wouldn't last a year without oil revenue under UN sanctions.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The Economist on Abortion

Recently, there was a great editorial in the Economist regarding abortion. The Economist suggests that the Democratic party is making a mistake by clinging to abortion as a central platform. Instead, they should drop the issue, and let it be solved by a public referendums or the like. Since the public is by majority supportive of abortion rights, such a popular vote would not result in abortion bans, except maybe partial-birth abortions. A choice quote from the article:

Relying on judges to advance the liberal agenda allowed conservatives to seize the mantle of populism. Roe has given Republicans a free ride: they can claim to oppose abortion in the comfortable knowledge that it will never be banned. But imagine if Roe were overturned. How many Republicans would vote for a ban on abortion that only one in five Americans support?

...History is full of great generals who won their wars by staging strategic retreats. Field-Marshal Kutusov allowed Napoleon to occupy Moscow, tempting him to over-extend himself. The Democrats might emulate that aged Russian's wiliness—and stage a strategic retreat to the high ground of popular opinion.

It makes sense to me. I'm really not so worried about the success of the Democratic party here. I'm just sick and tired of the endless debate; it is devisive and going nowhere fast. Lets get a new cause, people.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Belafonte, Iran

"No matter what the greatest tyrant in the world, the greatest terrorist in the world, George W. Bush says..."

Wow. How do people like Belafonte not realize that they are undermining their own movement? Via the Patriot Act, Bush has removed a few civil liberties; apparently that makes him a tyrant. FDR imprisoned American Japanese citizens in internment camps during WW2, but I don't hear any democrats calling FDR a tyrant. It really annoys me that some arrogant, rich artist that has enjoyed every possible fruit and benefit of capitalism is off in a hostile communist country telling the people there that Americans support the revolution. I do not support the communist revolution, thank you very much.

In better news, we can thank Iran's President Ahmadinejad for this. All five of the permanent UN security council members are backing warnings to impose sanctions on Iran if it doesn't cooperate. When is the last time that France, China, and Russia all supported the US on a single issue? This development is a relief. I was especially concerned that we wouldn't be able to draw in China's support due to oil bribes from Iran; I'm glad that the Chinese see the importance of this action.


I'm not convinced that he is as innocent as he is making himself out to be, but here is an interesting piece.

You know, the need for more troops should have been obvious to anyone; it shouldn't have required some consultancy firm to figure it out. In the first Gulf War, we had 600,000 troops (about 500k US and 100K from other countries), roughly four times the amount of troops we have today. We went and occupied an Arab Muslim country in the heart of the middle east, and we didn't think some of the population might not be cool with that? We didn't think the Sunnis would be opposed to democratic elections?

I think one of the most frustrating things about this entire war is the fact that it would have turned out well if we'd done it right. Look at the progress we've made despite only having 150,000 troops, no plan for an insurgency, and an inept Secretary of Defense. I wonder where we would be if we'd came prepared?