Thursday, May 31, 2007
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Baath Party, formally the Baath Arab Socialist Party, is the party in power in Syria and Iraq. Its main ideological objectives are secularism, socialism, and pan-Arab unionism. Baath Party was from the beginning a secular Arab nationalist party. Socialism (not Marxism) was quickly adopted as the party's economic dogma. From its earliest development, the motivation behind Baathist political thought and its leading supporters was the need to produce a means of reasserting the Arab spirit in the face of foreign domination. Moral and cultural deterioration, it was felt, had so weakened the Arabs that Western supremacy spread throughout the Middle East. Arabs needed a regeneration of the common heritage of people in the region to drive off debilitating external influences.
Monday, May 28, 2007
Sunday, May 27, 2007
From the Washinton Post:
White House Considers Next Steps in Iraq Troop Drawdowns and Shift in Mission Are Premised on Successful 'Surge'
By Michael Abramowitz and Peter BakerWashington Post Staff WritersSunday, May 27, 2007; A05
President Bush and his top aides have signaled in recent days that they are beginning to look more closely at a "post-surge" strategy that would involve a smaller U.S. troop presence in Iraq and a mission focused on fighting al-Qaeda and training the Iraqi army.
Even as the final installment of the nearly 30,000 additional U.S. troops has yet to arrive in Iraq, the officials are talking publicly and privately about how U.S. strategy might change if the additional forces are able to stem sectarian violence in Baghdad.
"I would like to see us in a different configuration at some point in time in Iraq," Bush said at a news conference Thursday. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace offered similar comments that day, telling reporters that military leaders would be reviewing a new approach as they await a September report by Gen. David H. Petraeus on the progress made by the additional troops.
Gates described a "transition" toward a role that would "train, equip, continue to go after al-Qaeda and provide support. . . . That kind of a role clearly would involve fewer forces than we have now, and forces with a different mission."
The president met last week with his senior advisers to discuss Iraq and was not focused on withdrawing troops, according to administration officials. But the recent statements may reflect a recognition in the administration that time is running short, both in the ability of the Iraqi government to achieve political reconciliation and in Congress's patience for a major U.S. combat presence. Privately, administration officials acknowledge that they are beginning to consider scenarios for what happens after the additional troops are in place.
Although Bush last week forced Congress to agree to fund the next three months of the war with no timelines for withdrawal, leading Republicans are saying that they expect a new strategy this fall, after the Petraeus report. The Washington Post reported last week that Petraeus and the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Ryan C. Crocker, are drawing up a plan that would focus on political deals to defuse the sectarian violence.
In one of his strongest statements to date, Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.), a key administration ally, told reporters Friday that "the handwriting is on the wall that we are going in a different direction in the fall, and I expect the president to lead it."
"I think he himself has certainly indicated he's not happy with where we are," he added.
Administration officials said they are beginning to discuss future troop levels, but they said no decisions have been made. They are developing some scenarios to sustain the additional troops through 2008 and others to begin drawing down in early 2008, among other variations. Strategic planning will depend on events on the ground, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were describing internal administration deliberations.
The New York Times reported yesterday that officials are discussing "concepts" of reducing U.S. troops, now close to 150,000, to 100,000 by sometime in 2008. Administration officials shot that down, saying that various estimates may be coming from the Pentagon but that no top scenario has emerged.
"The reinforcements are not even all in Iraq yet," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said yesterday. "We of course would like to be in a position to bring down troop levels, but certain conditions, as assessed by senior military advisers and commanders on the ground, need to be met."
The administration is trying to make judgments about where it will be in the months ahead, and officials are discussing possibilities accordingly. The scenarios for troop withdrawal are based on the premise of a successful "surge." There is also discussion about what to do if the buildup plan fails, but officials are unwilling to discuss it with outsiders even privately.
Some Democrats said they see hints that the administration may be set to change course. "Sounds to me like the president has a Plan B after all, and that it includes timelines for the withdrawal of U.S. troops," said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.). "Democrats will continue to insist that this administration accept responsibility for its failed conduct of this war and that the Iraqi government accept responsibility for its own future."
Senior U.S. commanders in Iraq, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said troop levels are likely to come down next year, whatever scenario plays out on the ground. The purpose of the current troop increase is to give the Iraqi government time to make political accommodations that could reduce sectarian violence. If that happens, they say, the United States could begin cutting forces by March 2008, when the stress on U.S. troops would reach a critical point.
And if the troop increase does not lead to political progress, as many U.S. officials fear, then by early next year there will be little reason to maintain the current level of forces. So, although the White House remains far from a final decision, military planners anticipate that the U.S. troop presence in Iraq could be reduced in 2008.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
The alphabet was first used to write texts in Arabic -- most importantly, the Qur'an, the holy book of Islam. With the spread of Islam, it came to be used to write many other languages, even outside of the Semitic family to which Arabic belongs. Examples of non-Semitic languages written with the Arabic alphabet include Persian, Urdu, Malay, Azerbaijani (in Iran) and Kurdish in Iraq and Iran. In order to accommodate the needs of these other languages, new letters and other symbols were added to the original alphabet.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
NEW: President draws comparison between Iraq and Vietnam wars
•Bush uses bin Laden intelligence to defend U.S. military presence in Iraq
• Bin Laden wanted to set up Iraq base for international attacks, White House says
• Bush discusses foiled aviation plots against the U.S.
NEW LONDON, Connecticut (CNN) -- President Bush used declassified intelligence about Osama bin Laden Wednesday to defend his Iraq war policy.
During a commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy, the president mentioned declassified intelligence that said bin Laden discussed sending a top lieutenant in 2005 to Iraq to set up a base from which to launch attacks in the United States.
"There's a reason bin Laden sent one of his most experienced paramilitary leaders to Iraq," Bush said. "He believes that if al Qaeda can drive us out, they can establish Iraq as a new terrorist sanctuary."
The president acknowledged that critics "question whether the fight in Iraq is part of the war on terror."
He said "the best way to protect our people is to take the fight to the enemy ... so we do not have to face them at home."
The president also made a comparison between Iraq and the Vietnam War, saying, "There are many differences between the two conflicts, but one stands out above all. The enemy in Vietnam had neither the intent nor the capability to strike our homeland. ... The enemy in Iraq does."
Bush said bin Laden warned the American people in January 2006 that "operations are under preparation and you will see them on your own ground once they are finished."
Among the planned terrorist plots Bush said have been thwarted was one last summer, a plot broken up by British authorities to blow up passenger airplanes as they were flying toward the United States, Bush said. It was disrupted "just two or three weeks away from execution," he said, citing "our intelligence community" as the source of his information.
"If it had been carried out, it could have rivaled 9/11 in death and destruction," he said.
Bush listed other alleged al Qaeda plots foiled since 9/11:
In December 2001, an operative was captured who had been trained in the use of poisons at an al Qaeda camp in Afghanistan and sent to the United States prior to 9/11 "to serve as a sleeper agent ready for follow-on attacks," Bush said.
The agent had been ordered to the United States by 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is now in U.S. custody, Bush added.
"Our intelligence community believes that (Mohammed) brought (the operative) to meet Osama bin Laden, where he pledged his loyalty to the al Qaeda leader and offered himself up as a martyr," Bush said.
Among the potential targets the intelligence community believes the man discussed with Mohammed were water reservoirs, the U.S. Stock Exchange and military academies, Bush said.
The president cited two other post-9/11 alleged aviation plots -- the first devised by Mohammed in 2002 "to repeat the destruction of 9/11 by sending operatives to hijack an airplane and fly into the tallest building on the West Coast."
Mohammed allegedly told "a hearing in Guantanamo Bay" that the intended target was Library Tower in Los Angeles, Bush said.
And in 2003, another plot was uncovered and halted, this one intended to be another East Coast aviation attack in which multiple airplanes were to have been hijacked and then crashed into targets, he said.
Bush also said that, in 2005, bin Laden was working to set up a unit inside Iraq from which to launch attacks in other countries.
Bush credited "bold action at home and abroad" with foiling the plans.
Although the White House rejected suggestions that the revelations were timed for political purposes, Bush's address coincided with a push by Democrats in Congress to force an end to the U.S. military presence in the region. During May, 81 U.S. military personnel have died in the Iraq war, bringing the total to 3,432.Bush vetoed a war-spending bill last month that included a timetable for withdrawing troops. But timetables have been dropped from revised war-spending legislation, substituting benchmarks with consequences for Iraqi leaders. Both Republicans and Democrats claimed victory Wednesday as revised war spending legislation moved forward. (Read more about the war funding bill)
White House details bin Laden plot
On Tuesday, White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said bin Laden and a top lieutenant -- Abu Faraj al-Libbi -- planned to form a terror cell in Iraq in order to launch attacks against the United States.
Al-Libbi was a "senior al Qaeda manager" who in 2005 suggested to bin Laden that bin Laden send Egyptian-born Hamza Rabia to Iraq to help plan attacks on American soil, Johndroe said.
Johndroe noted that bin Laden later suggested to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, then leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, that America should be his top priority. That was followed in the spring of 2005 with bin Laden's ordering Rabia to brief al-Zarqawi on plans to attack the United States, Johndroe said.
Johndroe added the intelligence indicates al-Libbi later suggested Rabia should be sent to Iraq to carry out those operations.
But al-Libbi was captured in Pakistan and taken into CIA custody in May 2005. After al-Libbi's capture, the CIA's former acting director, John McLaughlin, described him as bin Laden's chief operating officer, the No. 3 man in al Qaeda.
"Catching terrorists is sometimes like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle without seeing the picture on the box," McLaughlin said at the time. "This is a guy who knows the picture on the box. He knows what the big picture is."
Al-Libbi is a Libyan who joined al Qaeda in the 1990s and fled to Pakistan after the United States invaded Afghanistan in late 2001. U.S. officials say al-Libbi was in contact with and directing alleged al Qaeda members in the United Kingdom who were planning attacks there and in the United States. He was also believed to be behind two 2005 attempts to assassinate Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf.
Rabia took over al-Libbi's position in the organization but was killed in in the North Waziristan tribal area of Pakistan near the Afghan border in December 2005.
Jordanian-born al-Zarqawi was killed by a U.S. airstrike north of Baghdad in June 2006.
CNN's Ed Henry and Elaine Quijano contributed to this report.
DOHA, May 23 (KUNA) -- Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the European Union (EU) member states wrapped up here on Wednesday their fourth forum on combating terrorism funding.Experts who participated in the seminar agreed that the informal financial sectors should be accorded more attention and that more thought should be put into finding new ways of accessing the formal sectors, especially banks. They also agreed on the importance of KYC (Know Your Customer) and customer due diligence measures, considering a risk-oriented allocation of monitoring resources promote the efficiency of combating money laundering and terrorist financing while ensuring the necessary flexibility to keep step with changing market conditions. The experts agreed on the necessity of continuing and enhancing the concerted international efforts, including a regular and an interdisciplinary exchange of information between the investigative authorities, the financial intelligence units and the financial regulators at an informal level. The experts also stressed the important role of the UN and the need to implement all relevant UN instruments. They welcomed the UN s recent efforts to improve the transparency of the international sanctions regime through the establishment of the UN focal point. Finally, the participants agreed on the need to go on with the joint seminars on combating money laundering and terrorist financing and welcomed the announcement of Slovenia to arrange the 5th joint seminar in Brussels during their presidency of the EU in spring 2008.
att.tg KUNA 231900 May 07, 2007
So will this international cooperation result in fewer deaths of innocent people? Can reasonable people control crazy people?
Doha (Arabic: الدوحة, transliteration: Ad-Dawḥah or Ad-Dōḥah), population 400,051 (2005 census), is the capital of Qatar and is at 25.3° N 51.5333° E, on the Persian Gulf. Doha is located in the Ad Dawhah municipality, sometimes also known as the capital municipality. The city is Qatar's largest city, with over 80% of the nation's population residing in Doha or its suburbs, and is the economic center of the country. Doha is home to the Education City, an area devoted to research and education.
Saturday, May 19, 2007
Astronomers have found a Neptune-size planet outside the solar system that's composed mainly of water—albeit in solid form. With a torrid surface temperature of 600 kelvins, the planet can't support life. But its existence bodes well for finding watery planets that could provide a haven for life, say Frédéric Pont of the Geneva Observatory in Sauverny, Switzerland, and his colleagues, who report the discovery in an upcoming Astronomy & Astrophysics Letters.
So I have to hope that we find a Earth-like planet and we can communicate with them and we find out that their is hope for intelligent life. I hope that their is a planet where war is not raging and where cooperation is one of the highest ideals.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Data, Information, Knowledge, Wisdom
There is probably no segment of activity in the world attracting as much attention at present as that of knowledge management. Yet as I entered this arena of activity I quickly found there didn't seem to be a wealth of sources that seemed to make sense in terms of defining what knowledge actually was, and how was it differentiated from data, information, and wisdom. What follows is the current level of understanding I have been able to piece together regarding data, information, knowledge, and wisdom. I figured to understand one of them I had to understand all of them.
According to Russell Ackoff, a systems theorist and professor of organizational change, the content of the human mind can be classified into five categories:
Ackoff indicates that the first four categories relate to the past; they deal with what has been or what is known. Only the fifth category, wisdom, deals with the future because it incorporates vision and design. With wisdom, people can create the future rather than just grasp the present and past. But achieving wisdom isn't easy; people must move successively through the other categories.
A further elaboration of Ackoff's definitions follows:
Data... data is raw. It simply exists and has no significance beyond its existence (in and of itself). It can exist in any form, usable or not. It does not have meaning of itself. In computer parlance, a spreadsheet generally starts out by holding data.
Information... information is data that has been given meaning by way of relational connection. This "meaning" can be useful, but does not have to be. In computer parlance, a relational database makes information from the data stored within it.
Knowledge... knowledge is the appropriate collection of information, such that it's intent is to be useful. Knowledge is a deterministic process. When someone "memorizes" information (as less-aspiring test-bound students often do), then they have amassed knowledge. This knowledge has useful meaning to them, but it does not provide for, in and of itself, an integration such as would infer further knowledge. For example, elementary school children memorize, or amass knowledge of, the "times table". They can tell you that "2 x 2 = 4" because they have amassed that knowledge (it being included in the times table). But when asked what is "1267 x 300", they can not respond correctly because that entry is not in their times table. To correctly answer such a question requires a true cognitive and analytical ability that is only encompassed in the next level... understanding. In computer parlance, most of the applications we use (modeling, simulation, etc.) exercise some type of stored knowledge.
Understanding... understanding is an interpolative and probabilistic process. It is cognitive and analytical. It is the process by which I can take knowledge and synthesize new knowledge from the previously held knowledge. The difference between understanding and knowledge is the difference between "learning" and "memorizing". People who have understanding can undertake useful actions because they can synthesize new knowledge, or in some cases, at least new information, from what is previously known (and understood). That is, understanding can build upon currently held information, knowledge and understanding itself. In computer parlance, AI systems possess understanding in the sense that they are able to synthesize new knowledge from previously stored information and knowledge.
Wisdom... wisdom is an extrapolative and non-deterministic, non-probabilistic process. It calls upon all the previous levels of consciousness, and specifically upon special types of human programming (moral, ethical codes, etc.). It beckons to give us understanding about which there has previously been no understanding, and in doing so, goes far beyond understanding itself. It is the essence of philosophical probing. Unlike the previous four levels, it asks questions to which there is no (easily-achievable) answer, and in some cases, to which there can be no humanly-known answer period. Wisdom is therefore, the process by which we also discern, or judge, between right and wrong, good and bad. I personally believe that computers do not have, and will never have the ability to posses wisdom. Wisdom is a uniquely human state, or as I see it, wisdom requires one to have a soul, for it resides as much in the heart as in the mind. And a soul is something machines will never possess (or perhaps I should reword that to say, a soul is something that, in general, will never possess a machine).
Personally I contend that the sequence is a bit less involved than described by Ackoff. The following diagram represents the transitions from data, to information, to knowledge, and finally to wisdom, and it is understanding that support the transition from each stage to the next. Understanding is not a separate level of its own.
Data represents a fact or statement of event without relation to other things.
Information embodies the understanding of a relationship of some sort, possibly cause and effect.
Knowledge represents a pattern that connects and generally provides a high level of predictability as to what is described or what will happen next.
Wisdom embodies more of an understanding of fundamental principles embodied within the knowledge that are essentially the basis for the knowledge being what it is. Wisdom is essentially systemic.
Yet, there is still a question regarding when is a pattern knowledge and when is it noise. Consider the following:
It is quite likely this sequence represents 100% novelty, which means it's equivalent to noise. There is no foundation for you to connect with the pattern, yet to me the statements are quite meaningful as I understand the translation with reveals they are in fact Newton's 3 laws of motion. Is something knowledge if you can't understand it?
Now consider the following:
What is it?
A refrigerator. You knew that, right? At some point in the sequence you connected with the pattern and understood it was a description of a refrigerator. From that point on each statement only added confirmation to your understanding.
If you lived in a society that had never seen a refrigerator you might still be scratching your head as to what the sequence of statements referred to.
Also, realize that I could have provided you with the above statements in any order and still at some point the pattern would have connected. When the pattern connected the sequence of statements represented knowledge to you. To me all the statements convey nothing as they are simply 100% confirmation of what I already knew as I knew what I was describing even before I started.
Copyright © 2004 Gene Bellinger
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Lionel Beehner, Staff Writer
May 15, 2007
From the Council on Foreign Relations website
Thus far Iraqi leaders have rejected calls from Washington for a timetable to achieve certain benchmarks as a precondition for U.S. military and financial support. President Bush, too, had shied away from attaching strings—or political benchmarks in Baghdad—to the U.S. funding of his surge plan to secure central Iraq. But earlier this month, the president admitted “it makes sense to have benchmarks as a part of our discussion on how to go forward.” These benchmarks include national reconciliation in Iraq, a reversal of a de-Baathification plan, and the passage of an oil law that equitably distributes revenues among the country’s warring factions. A progress report is expected by September from General David Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, at which point lawmakers in Washington will reassess whether to curb additional emergency war funding or push for phased troop withdrawals.
What exactly is meant by ‘benchmarks’?
Sometimes referred to as “milestones,” benchmarks refer to specific objectives—or rather quantifiable measures of progress toward a future goal—for the Iraqi government to meet with regards to national reconciliation, security, economic performance, and governance. The goal of these benchmarks is to pressure Iraq’s leaders to make political progress and start taking over responsibility for security from American troops. “The purpose is to infuse a sense of urgency into the political process in Baghdad,” says Andrew Exum of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. This has been found lacking, he adds, as evidenced by Iraqi lawmakers’ recent push for a two-month summer vacation.
How does one define progress?
“I want to see life starting to come back,” Sen. Robert Bennett (R-UT) tells the New York Times. “I want to see people in markets.” But others lawmakers are pressing for more specific metrics to gauge whether or not the surge is working. “The key question is: What have we won?” asks Exum. “Have we set the Iraqi government on a path toward stabilization or reconciliation? Or have we just won the right to stay in the country for another six months?” Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dismisses specific metrics and points instead to one specific question: “[D]o the people in Baghdad feel more secure today?” he asked reporters last month. “If not, then all the other metrics may be of interest but aren’t as compelling as that one is to me.” One problem, argues W. Patrick Lang, former head of the Middle East section of the Defense Intelligence Agency, is that Iraqi and American lawmakers hold different interpretations of what progress means. “[Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki] thinks he is doing the right thing by consolidating Shiite Arab power in Iraq,” he says.
What are the specific benchmarks laid out?
Experts say benchmarks range in specificity and achievability. They include reaching an agreement on the status of Kirkuk, meeting certain economic criteria like a targeted annual growth of 10 percent (last year growth was just 4 percent), and reducing subsidies on energy and food, which cost Iraq’s economy roughly $11 billion per year, according to the Iraq Study Group. But the most-discussed benchmarks, as outlined in President Bush’s January 2007 speech, include:
Holding provincial elections. Because Sunnis mostly boycotted December 2005 provincial elections, local governments are primarily dominated by Shiites in the south and center and Kurds in the north. The Bush administration is pushing the Shiite-led government to hold fresh elections at the local level to reverse this imbalance, allow a Sunni buy-in, and pave the way toward greater reconciliation. But CFR Adjunct Senior Fellow Vali R. Nasr warns that provincial elections alone will not solve Iraq’s political woes. “The idea that elections will produce leaders you want to work with applies if you are working in a peaceful environment,” he says. “Unless the insurgents are running for office and come to the polls, it doesn’t matter.”
Passage of oil revenue-sharing law. An oil law drafted in February, as this Backgrounder outlines, has left Iraq’s leaders bitterly divided. It has drawn criticisms from Iraq’s Sunnis, who prefer a stronger role for the central government, and from Kurds, who prefer a stronger role for the regional authorities. The majority Shiites have sought to mollify the Sunnis by keeping control of Iraq’s oil sector in Baghdad, not the provinces. Most of Iraq’s oil rests in the Kurdish north or Shiite south, not in the Sunni heartland. The role of outside investors, as well as the classification of old versus new oil fields, also remains unsettled.The oil issue has sparked some disagreement in the U.S. Congress. Democratic presidential hopeful Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) says the benchmark as stated in the bill before Congress calls primarily for the privatization of Iraq’s oil, not the equal redistribution of revenues. But others say the oil law, despite its flaws, is necessary for Iraqis to develop their untapped oil reserves and reap the profits.
Reversal of de-Baathification laws. White House officials have pressed the Maliki government to reverse laws that bar tens of thousands of low-to-mid-ranking ex-Baath Party officers from government posts. This move is part of a larger effort to make constitutional concessions to minority groups like Sunni Arabs. But it faces intense opposition from more conservative and religious Shiite members of Iraq’s parliament.
Amending Iraq’s constitution. The Sunnis favor an amendment to stanch the formal breakup of Iraq into regional states divided along sectarian lines. They fear the Shiites will seek a federal state in the south modeled along the lines of Iraqi Kurdistan, which would cut into the Sunnis’ share of political power and revenue. But the amendment process is purposefully difficult, says Nathan Brown, an Islamic legal scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. To change the document, the Iraqi parliament must first form a committee, which then proposes a package of amendments. Next, the parliament votes on the amendments as a package, not individually, and this requires a simple majority. If passed, the bloc of amendments must then win approval from the public in a nationwide referendum, requiring two-thirds approval from at least three of Iraq’s eighteen provinces. “[The system’s] structured so that the constitution will not develop significant changes,” Brown says.
Spending of reconstruction funds. One benchmark is the fair distribution across the country’s provinces and various ethnic groups of $10 billion in Iraqi reconstruction funds, as allocated in the Iraqi government’s budget. The monies are aimed at building infrastructure, improving services, and creating jobs for all Iraqis, but parliament cannot agree on how to equitably disperse the funds.
What happens if Baghdad fails to meet these benchmarks?
The consequences of failure remain unclear. Some Democratic lawmakers have pushed for a freezing of aid funds to Iraq, while others have sought a more rapid withdrawal, or redeployment, of troops. White House officials say performance benchmarks should not be linked to troop deployments and reconstruction aid disbursements—that is, the consequences of Iraqi inaction should not include imposing limits on the ability of U.S. military leaders or the president to carry out the war. But as Exum points out, “Having benchmarks is worthless unless you have consequences.” The trouble, says Lang, is that Iraqis do not believe there will be serious consequences if they fail to achieve these benchmarks. “Iraqis are every bit as smart as we are,” he says. “Realistically they can figure out that the chances we would pull the plug and leave is just about zero.” Similar U.S.-imposed benchmarks set for the South Vietnamese government during the Vietnam War achieved little, he adds.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Crime & Safety
Middle East / N. Africa - Kuwait 11 May 2007
Overall Crime and Safety Situation: The Department of State rates Kuwait as low threat for crime. The incidence of crime in Kuwait City remains low. The Government of Kuwait (GOK) maintains a high police profile, with large numbers of uniformed and plain-clothes officers on the streets. Each district and governate have police stations operating under the direction of the Ministry of Interior (MOI) Directorate of Public Safety. Incidents of street crime do occur, and instances have been reported to the embassy’s Regional Security Office (RSO) recently that required monitoring and disseminating security notices. Of particular concern is an alarming number of incidents involving persons impersonating police officers and then assaulting victims, who are primarily third-country nationals (TCNs) and who are more susceptible to intimidation. The evolving modus operandi (MO) involves a male in plain clothes and an unmarked vehicle stopping a TCN, whether on foot or in a vehicle, asking for his ID, then demanding the person get into the impostor’s vehicle without any explanation of their offense or their destination. The TCN is then driven to a deserted area and assaulted. The British Embassy released a Warden Notice about an assault that took place in February 2007 that did not involve a British National, but occurred in the Manghaf neighborhood where a large number of British citizens reside. In this case, a TCN was taken in broad daylight from a public area by a police impostor and assaulted, employing the aforementioned MO. A second Warden Notice from the British Embassy in March detailed an incident behind U.S. Embassy Kuwait, at a shopping center in Mishref, where two young men believed to be local nationals forced a British male teenager into their vehicle late one evening and made sexual advances toward him. The victim escaped by throwing himself from the moving vehicle, where a passing Kuwaiti military vehicle offered assistance and returned him home safely. Based on a long-standing relationship of mutual cooperation and information-sharing, the Regional Security Office (RSO) at U.S. Embassy Kuwait distributed Security Notices based on the British reports advising staff of these specific instances and included personal security guidance for all employees and their family members. Violent crime is primarily confined within the TCN community, which comprises the majority of the manual labor force in Kuwait: approximately two-thirds of Kuwait’s residents. It is probable that a high percentage of crimes in the TCN community go unreported because of lack of police responsiveness. The threat of immediate deportation looms large for many of these guest workers, who generally prefer to remain below the radar of the GOK. Although several districts within Kuwait City are known to have higher incidences of crime, only one area - Jahra - remains generally off-limits to official embassy personnel. One factor contributing to the high rate of crime in Jahra is the inability of the police to enforce laws in areas where tribal customs take precedence. Known offenders regularly intimidate foreign guest workers, including ones employed by U.S. companies and U.S. military bases, by damaging vehicles, starting fires in trash cans and harassing them coming into and out from their residences. This is not due to any affiliation to the United States or U.S. military efforts; instead, it is simply because these criminals feel they can act with impunity. These gangs made up of young Bidoon men are supposed to be subject to their tribal mores first, but the tribal structure has not been effective in reigning them in, which hinders the efforts of police to crack down on their activity. Residential crime remains low. There have been no reported break-ins at any official embassy residences within the past year, nor have any vehicles been stolen. A domestic employee of an embassy employee fell victim to a purse-snatcher on a motorbike outside of the employee’s residence one afternoon last summer, but the perpetrator was captured in the same neighborhood days after the attack by police, and successfully prosecuted with assistance from the housemaid. It is not uncommon for embassy staff and dependents to report suspicious persons in their neighborhoods to the RSO, but the majority of these instances have been resolved without any criminal or other hostile intent discovered. There are no reports of petty thefts against the official American community in any of the popular outdoor markets or shopping malls frequented by tourists and westerners living in Kuwait. However, the opportunity for such crime does exist. It is understood that individuals should not assume that they can maintain a carefree attitude in these venues. Additionally, vehicle break-ins, although rare, do occur if valuables are left in plain view. Visiting Americans are urged to take the same security precautions in Kuwait that one would practice in the United States. Hotel room doors should be locked when in residence and valuables should be stored in hotel safes when available. Visitors would be wise to instruct the hotel management not to divulge their room numbers over the telephone to any callers; only to connect them to their room or to take a message. Incidents of harassment and road rage, although infrequent, do occur and appear to be on the rise. Females have reported being occasionally accosted or harassed by Arab or South Asian males, particularly while driving alone in the early morning or late night hours. Several instances have recently been brought to the attention of the RSO. These involved male drivers attempting forcefully to stop a female driver using their vehicle in the most serious scenario, or, in a less serious scenario, attempting to attract the female’s attention, most likely in an attempt to socialize (obtain a phone number or arrange a date). The new twist to this vehicular flirtation is when the male identifies himself as a police or military officer and utilizes this authority to command compliance. Of particular concern in these instances is how one determines if the person is legitimate or is indeed an impostor. In all of the reports received by the RSO, the person who initiated the action was not in any uniform and was not in a clearly marked official GOK police or military vehicle. Police do have the authority to make traffic stops while in civilian clothes and in their personal vehicles, and must identify themselves with their police ID, which has both Arabic and English written on it. The guidance we have suggested advises individuals to remain in their own vehicles with the doors locked, lowering the window only enough to receive the person’s police identification. While checking the bona fides as best as possible, use your mobile phone to alert someone of your situation and if at all possible to meet you. Tell the person you will agree only to follow him to a police station, and specify which one, keeping your mobile phone open so the person you called can hear the destination. Lastly, relay the license plate number of the person’s vehicle to your colleague on the phone if at all possible. While Kuwait is considered in many ways a progressive and tolerant country, allowing women to drive, vote and hold public office, it still remains an Islamic country where conservative customs and dress are the norm. Harassment can be reduced if visitors behave and dress conservatively and maintain a respectful demeanor and a low profile. Personnel are advised to avoid confrontations, and to move away from angry, threatening or aggressive persons, either on foot or in vehicles. Incidents of pursuit, extremely aggressive and reckless driving, and vehicle gamesmanship, in which vehicles play a form of high-speed pursuit cat and mouse on the freeways, often ends in disaster when a vehicle is forced off the road, or has a collision with another vehicle on the crowded highways. Speed is the most common factor involved in accidents in Kuwait, and it is a very common sight to pass the remnants of another horrific accident, usually in the form of a mangled car chassis, alongside the highway. Road conditions and weather are favorable most of the year in Kuwait, but drivers must remain defensive and alert to the hazards posed by others that neglect to yield in merges, cut across lanes to exit, drive aggressively and at excessive rates of speed, pass on shoulders and often operate without headlights at night. Unexploded bombs, mines, and other ordnance from the 1991 Gulf War remain present in some areas in Kuwait. U.S. Embassy Kuwait urges caution if traveling off paved surfaces outside of Kuwait City. Very recently, another incident of unexploded ordnance recently took the life of a TCN worker in the northern desert near the border checkpoint with Iraq. The man had apparently attempted to rest on a pile of rocks that was intended to mark the ordnance. Unexploded ordnance has also been discovered in piles of sand used at construction sites, including at Camp Arifjan, the largest U.S. military base in the country. Like many other embassies in the gulf region, Kuwait receives threat information indicating official and private Americans may be targeted for terrorist attacks. Soft targets such as western hotels and restaurants can be considered vulnerable to terrorist attack, although many are making improvements to their perimeter and internal security. American citizens are also advised to avoid apartment complexes where Americans or other Westerners are generally known to congregate in large numbers. We recommend that Americans maintain a low profile and vary routes and times for required travel, thus avoiding predictable schedules. Political Violence For several years after the September 2001 attacks against the World Trade Center and Pentagon, Kuwait City had experienced no major demonstrations or other related violence. During this time, Kuwait remained a strong ally to the United States, even after the U.S. military invasion into Iraq and the subsequent onset of insurgent violence began to reverberate throughout the region. In early 2006, the controversy over Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed sparked several demonstrations in the country, but these remained peaceful and uneventful. However, when Israel attacked Lebanon last summer in response to two Israeli soldiers being taken hostage, several large protests occurred, including two at the U.S. Embassy, and the level of outrage and anti-American rhetoric was both surprising and unprecedented. While there were no injuries or damage during the protests, the police were not prepared for how quickly the second demonstration materialized and grew in numbers, as both manifestations numbered in the hundreds, and demonstrators burned American and Israeli flags, while brazenly waving the yellow flag of Hezbollah and chanting "Death to Israel" and "Death to America." Since events calmed in Lebanon and Israel, there have been no other major demonstrations in Kuwait City. While these events were isolated, it clearly illustrates how quickly certain events can evoke an emotional response even in a country not known for political demonstrations or violence. The primary threat to U.S. personnel in Kuwait comes from individuals with links to al-Qa'ida and regional jihadist networks. In January 2005, Kuwait police and special forces attempted to arrest members of an indigenous terrorist organization known as the Peninsula Lions. Two major gun battles occurred and both sides suffered casualties; however the majority of the group’s members have since been captured or killed. In July 2004, Kuwaiti security forces arrested up to 20 individuals who were engaged in recruitment, training and financing of local youth for terrorist operations in Iraq and Kuwait. These arrests are an indication of the development of extremist elements in Kuwait. In 2002 and 2003, individuals were able to conduct lethal attacks against U.S. military and civilian contractors in Kuwait. While there have been no lethal attacks in the last 12 months, the presence in Kuwait of large numbers of U.S. military and contractor personnel in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom continues to make Kuwait a target-rich environment. Post-specific Concerns American citizens traveling to Kuwait should be aware that possession of drugs and alcohol is illegal. Additionally, pornographic materials, weapons, and pork products are confiscated if discovered during customs checks at the airport. Luggage is X-rayed or searched by customs authorities upon entry into the country. Both women and men should dress conservatively at all times. Shorts and sleeveless shirts are discouraged from being worn in public. Throughout Kuwait the chances of getting involved with a motor vehicle accident are far greater then being a victim of a criminal or terrorist act. Simply said, driving in Kuwait is hazardous. Kuwait has excellent well-lit highways, but many Kuwaitis drive their vehicles in excess of 100 miles per hour, and weave through traffic at high rates of speed. Night driving is particularly dangerous because many drivers do not turn on their headlights. Police Response Dial 777 from any telephone to contact the emergency services. Police response to requests for assistance to American expatriates is generally good. However, switchboard operators may not speak English or do so very poorly. If possible, visitors who do not speak Arabic should request assistance from an Arabic speaker. Medical Emergencies There are many government and private medical facilities available in Kuwait. the following are hospitals that have been successfully used by official U.S. government personnel for routine and/or emergency care. Al Amiri Hospital Poison center - 241-8165/246-8537 International Clinic - 574-5111 Al-Salam Hospital - 253-3177/8/9 Mubarak Al Kabir Hospital - 531-2700 Al-Sabah Hospital - 481-5000/2000 Hadi Clinic - 531-2555 Dental Emergencies Kuwait Dental Clinic - 575-9044/45/46 Abhal Dental Specialty Center - 261-0534/8/9 Al-Fozan Dental Center - 261-9557/262-4152 Payment for Services: Americans are urged to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Most hospitals and doctors accept major credit cards; otherwise, cash is accepted up front for services rendered. Patients will need to go through their insurance company to get reimbursed. Ambulance Service: Local ambulance service is available by dialing 777. Unfortunately, ambulance personnel are not trained like U.S. Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) and they carry no life-saving equipment on board. Should you have an emergency, it is advisable to always have an understanding of where you are located. Without addresses and street names, out of the way places are difficult to find. Tips On How To Avoid Becoming a Victim Americans should maintain a low profile, vary routes and times for all travel to the extent possible, and treat mail and packages from unfamiliar sources with suspicion. All Americans are urged to be wary of unexpected visitors and to pay particular attention to suspicious vehicles. Any suspicious activities or vehicles should be reported to the RSO. The neighborhoods of Khaitan and Farwaniya, located on the outskirts of Kuwait City International Airport, are recognized and identified as high-crime areas due to criminal elements operating drug, prostitution, gambling, and black market enterprises. This area is populated by TCNs who are poorly paid. Consequently, they turn to crime to support themselves. Kuwaiti police prefer to contain these elements within this area rather then confront them directly. While violent crimes of rape, theft and murder occur in this location, they typically occur between TCNs, not Kuwaitis or Westerners. Americans are urged to avoid this area altogether, but particularly at night.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Mullah Dadullah is confirmed slain in a U.S.-led operation in southern Afghanistan. The insurgency has adopted many of the brutal tactics he introduced.
By M. Karim Faiez and Laura King, Special to The Times6:50 PM PDT, May 13, 2007
The Taliban movement suffered a significant setback with the death of its top operational commander, Mullah Dadullah, but the brutal tactics he pioneered probably have left a lasting imprint on the insurgency, military officials and analysts said Sunday.Dadullah, one of the senior-most Taliban figures to be killed by Western forces in more than five years of fighting, died Saturday in a U.S.-led military operation in the southern province of Helmand, U.S. and Afghan officials disclosed Sunday.Although subordinate to the movement's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, Dadullah was considered the commander in chief of Taliban forces, in charge of day-to-day military operations.A flamboyant, one-legged figure with a penchant for casting himself in graphic Taliban recruiting videos, Dadullah had escaped death so many times that, to dispel any doubts, Afghan authorities displayed his blood-splattered corpse to reporters in the southern city of Kandahar. The body was wrapped in purple sheets and bore bullet wounds to the head and torso.Those shown the body confirmed that, like Dadullah, it was missing a left leg. They also said the face was recognizable from televised interviews Dadullah had provided, a departure from the secrecy practiced by most other senior Taliban figures.Dadullah, one of the most feared and ruthless Taliban commanders, was believed to have been the driving force behind the adoption of tactics such as suicide bombings, abductions and assassination-style killings, including beheadings — all of which increased sharply in the last year.Analysts said that even with Dadullah's death, Taliban fighters would probably press ahead with such attacks, in part because they had proved the most successful way to harry North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces and intimidate the Afghan populace."All this is part of the repertoire now, and they will not change their minds as a result of Dadullah's elimination," said Hassan Abbas, a research fellow at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.Nonetheless, he and others characterized Dadullah's slaying as a milestone in the U.S.-led coalition's battle against the Taliban, whose fighters have managed to reorganize and regroup after their government was toppled in 2001.The killing of Dadullah, who was thought to be in his 40s, was announced by Said Ansari, a spokesman for Afghanistan's intelligence service, and later confirmed by NATO's International Security Assistance Force.Dadullah "will most certainly be replaced in time, but the insurgency has received a serious blow," ISAF said in a statement.Afghan security forces also took part in the operation, which was launched when Dadullah "left his sanctuary," the coalition said without providing details. Dadullah and other senior Taliban leaders were thought to have crossed freely into Pakistan, using the border-straddling tribal areas as a staging ground for attacks in Afghanistan.The presence of Taliban fighters in Pakistan is a politically explosive issue, both in the West and between the neighboring countries. Adding to tensions, Pakistani and Afghan troops Sunday engaged in a rare firefight along the border. The two sides blamed each other for starting the shooting, in which at least two Afghans were killed.Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf denies that his country has given safe haven to Afghan insurgents. But there have been strong indications that Pakistani intelligence is aware of senior Taliban commanders' comings and goings out of Pakistan's restive Waziristan region.In late February, Pakistani authorities arrested Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, the former Taliban defense minister, in the southern city of Quetta. The action coincided with a visit by Vice President Dick Cheney and came after senior Bush administration officials said Pakistan was not doing enough to rein in militant activity in the tribal areas.Dadullah's replacement, almost certain to be an ethnic Pashtun like himself, will have to win the respect of the various factions within the movement, a process that could take some months and may disrupt insurgent operations in the short term, several diplomats and military officials said.Helmand, the opium-producing heartland where Dadullah was killed, has been the scene of heavy fighting in recent weeks. NATO forces have launched a major offensive against the insurgents, but the Taliban have staged mainly hit-and-run attacks, avoiding direct battlefield confrontations when they can.Although NATO forces have been frustrated at times by their inability to flush the Taliban into the open, they have managed to track and kill some important commanders, such as Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Osmani, who was killed in an American airstrike in December.Dadullah was a veteran of mujahedin battles against invading Russians in the 1980s, a conflict that cost him his leg. He came to prominence in the 1990s and gained a reputation for military prowess, but also for almost baroque acts of cruelty.During the Taliban reign, he was said to have presided over the stoning of women accused of licentious behavior, public hangings and revenge killings encompassing entire villages. He was notorious for personally ordering the massacre of civilians from the Hazara ethnic group in the late firstname.lastname@example.orgSpecial correspondent Faiez reported from Kabul and staff writer King from Istanbul, Turkey.
Friday, May 04, 2007
"Qutb's writings would later become the theoretical basis for many radical Islamic groups of today -- including al Qaeda. Qutb increasingly saw the redemption of Egypt in the application of Islamic law."
Thursday, May 03, 2007
Secularism, in one sense, asserts the freedom of religion, and freedom from the government imposition of religion upon the people, within a state that is neutral on matters of belief, and gives no state privileges or subsidies to religions. (See also Separation of church and state)
Secularism, in another sense, refers to a belief that human activities and decisions, especially political ones, should be based on what it considers to be evidence and fact rather than religious influence. Where religious based doctrines directly refer to absolute truth or divine law, secular law is based upon reasonableness which was developed during the age of enlightenment. Secularists believe that all activities falling outside of the private sphere should be secular, i.e. not religious.
I am really liking my iGoogle site. So nice to be net-centric and not tied to a particular computer to have access to all my bookmarks, files, photo's, etc. The Google Notebook is great and I am starting to use the calendar and word processor more. Some day all my computing services will be accesisble via the network.