You know those grave allegations made by U.S. authorities that Iran and Syria have been providing Hezbollah rockets, even in the midst of the recent conflict? Well, part of the evidence for these claims came from some good, old-fashioned..."crateology":
In the closed world of spy satellite photo analysis, it's called "crate-ology": the science of identifying a weapon or some other key component by the size and shape of its box.
The technique came into play last month when a U.S. spy satellite, looking down on an Iranian air base, captured images of military crews loading what U.S. intelligence analysts concluded were eight C-802 Noor anti-ship cruise missiles on board a transport plane, according to intelligence officials.
Hat tip: Arms Control Wonk
China has built a mock Taiwanese air base to practice bombing runs. The faux base located in China's northwestern Gansu Province is a mockup of Taiwan's Ching Chuan Kang air base. East-Asia-Intel.com (sorry, subscription only) reports that satellite photos of the base reveal bomb craters from aerial raids. It was about this time last year that Russia and China jointly staged a mock amphibious assault that many in Taiwan believed was designed with their island in mind. It could be harmless target practice, but then doesn't practice make perfect?
Forget the Darfur peace agreement signed in May. It isn't worth the paper it's printed on. Violence in the first half of this year has been worse than the same period in 2005, according to a senior UN official yesterday. There have been more raids, more rapes, and more people displaced from their homes - and violence has only gotten worse since the deal was signed a few months ago. What's more, there's no record of the violence taking place. Since mid-June, there hasn't been a single investigation of cease-fire violations. So much for a peace deal.
This news makes today's announcement from the African Union all the more tragicomic: They have no money past October to pay the 7000 AU troops "monitoring" the non-existent cease-fire. So, what happens after October is anyone's guess. The AU may pull the troops, but Sudan refuses to allow UN peacekeepers in. Plus, the Sudanese government has a powerful friend in China. The absence of AU troops will leave a more obvious void, but it's screamingly apparent that civilians in Darfur are hardly benefiting from their presence as it is. Michael Gerson, Bush's former speechwriter who increasingly led the charge on progress on Darfur during his last year in the West Wing, spoke recently with FP about the lack of international political will to put together a capable peacekeeping force. That is, of course, a huge hurdle. But is that force the only thing that will prevent us from looking back in a year lamenting that the violence in Darfur has only worsened still?
U.S. authorities have just announced that they have now apprehended six of the 11 Egyptian students who arrived at New York's JFK Airport on July 29 (supposedly to study at a Montana State University academic program) and then vanished. So far, arrests have been made in Minnesota, New Jersey, Maryland, and just this morning at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. Five of the 11 Egyptian men remain at large and wanted by the FBI. They are:
Ahmed Refaat Saad El Moghazi El Laket, age 19
Mohamed Ibrahim Elsayed El Moghazy, age 20
Moustafa Wagdy Moustafa El Gafary, age 18
Mohamed Saleh Ahmed Maray, age 20
Mohamed Ibrahim Fouaad El Shenawy, age 17
If the security firm Flexilis has things right, you might want to think twice about trading in your old passport for one of the high-tech models set to come out in October. In a news release and video, the company has revealed that not only can the new Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)-enabled passports be read by third parties from a distance, but they could also eventually be used to target passport holders for bomb attacks.
It seems that the shield surrounding the information chip only protects it from being read when the passport is fully closed; a passport even slightly open in a purse or a pocket could easily be spied on. But more than privacy is at stake: one of the readily available, pint-sized devices that read RFID passports can be hitched to explosives rigged to set off automatically when the passport passes within a certain range.
Eventually, Flexilis says, terrorists could enable a reader to distinguish between the chips of different countries and target specific nationalities for attack.
The Flexilis video is slightly comical for its amateurish appearance--it features a mannequin strung from a clothesline and then blasted with model rocket engines--but it's an unsettling reminder that terrorists' methods can be almost as crude.
In a related story, the UK-based tech monitor The Register offers a report on how to clone the new passport in a few easy steps.
Shortly after 9/11, the newly-established Department of Homeland Security developed Ready.gov, a Web site devoted to educating Americans on disaster and attack preparedness. The result, even after a recent update and overhaul, leaves a lot to be desired. So the Federation of American Scientists put together a new site, ReallyReady, highlighting not just DHS faults in advice and design (including generic advice, repetitive details, and incorrect information), but also synthesizing the information that is useful and accurate in a new easy-to-navigate, reader-friendly format.
What's even better about the whole project is that, whereas the DHS spent millions of taxpayer dollars and took five months to put the Web site into operation, the new ReallyReady site was completed in nine weeks by a 20-year-old FAS intern for the price of the site domain name.
I know it isn't good to laugh about such a serious topic, but when I saw the graphic on Ready.gov suggesting that when a nuclear bomb goes off a hundred feet away you might want to protect yourself by walking around the corner, I just couldn't help myself," said Ivan Oelrich, Vice President of Strategic Security at FAS. "After three years and millions of dollars, taxpayers should expect a better website from the Department of Homeland Security."
As calls increase for a multinational force that could police the Israel-Lebanon border, there appears to be less hand-raising and more finger-pointing. The US and UK won't send troops because they're overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Israelis won't accept the usual UN rent-a-force full of untrained soldiers just out for a paycheck. And no matter who goes, the timing and size of the deployment is sure to be a political minefield in most countries. So just who will step up and monitor a possible cease-fire between Hezbollah and Israeli soldiers? In this week's List, FP takes a look at the countries that might supply the boots on the ground.
President Bush likes to say that decisions on Iraq are based on information from military leaders on the ground, not political pressures on Capitol Hill. Back in April, he said,
There's a debate going on in Washington, D.C., ...about our troop levels. Here's my answer to you: I'm not going to make decisions based upon polls and focus groups. I'm going to make my decisions based upon the recommendations of our generals on the ground. They're the ones who decide how to achieve the victory I just described. They're the ones who give me the information.
Well, Chuck Hagel begs to differ. In an interview with the Omaha World-Herald on Friday, Hagel, who opposes any sharp reduction in troop numbers, lashed out at the recently announced plan to lengthen tours of duty for soldiers in Iraq and to focus troop strength in Baghdad, away from other insurgent strongholds around the country. According to the paper:
[Hagel] said that in the previous 48 hours, he had received three telephone calls from four-star generals who were "beside themselves" over the Pentagon's reversal of plans to bring tens of thousands of soldiers home this fall....
"That isn't going to do any good. It's going to have a worse effect," Hagel said. "They're destroying the United States Army."
Are you concerned that some crazy nation might fire a nuclear weapon at the United States? Maybe Iran or North Korea? The Pentagon isn't.
In fact, the Pentagon is so sure that the United States is safe from nuclear attack, it's closing down its fortified airspace and missile defense bunker, commonly known as Cheyenne Mountain, over the next two years. Located deep inside a mountain outside Colorado Springs, Colo., Cheyenne Mountain was built in the 1960s. It is capable of withstanding a nuclear blast and is equipped for medium-term subterranean living, with such features as a 6 million gallon water reservoir and air filters that cleanse incoming air of nuclear particles.
But the Pentagon believes the Mountain is no longer necessary. NORAD commander Adm. Tim Keeting says U.S. intelligence "leads us to believe a missile attack from China or Russia is very unlikely." Of course, this the same intelligence that told us Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. So just in case, the Pentagon intends to keep the mountain on "warm standby."
This is a move only the Pentagon could make. Since 9/11, it has spent some $700 million renovating and updating Cheyenne Mountain, and moving the 1,100 people who work inside the Mountain out will cost tens of millions more.
Blackwater USA is one of the most well-known (some might say "notorious") private security firms around. The North Carolina-based outfit has earned millions from the U.S. government and others for providing security in Iraq and Afghanistan, and it was their personnel you may have seen in the news toting AKs around New Orleans's well-heeled Garden District in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Now, Blackwater is moving into a whole different business. Fashion.
A shop in Paris is selling Blackwater-branded clothing and accessories for wannabe mercenaries. But in case you don't have time to hit up Paris boutiques, you can just order gear straight from Blackwater's ProShop. There, you'll find not just your gun holsters and slings or your armor plate vests, but also your stylish mock turtlenecks and a magazine for your Glock 17. Not to mention an etched shot glass and, uh, logo-emblazoned teddy bears. And not to worry if your bank account is running a little low this month. Just check out the clearance section. There are some hot fighting gloves I've got my eye on.
On Sunday, the Democratic Republic of the Congo will hold its first free elections in more than 40 years. International donors have chipped in nearly half a billion dollars to finance the vote - this in a country with only a few hundred miles of paved roads, crippling poverty, little access to health care, and the world's largest U.N. peacekeeping force. But I'm all in favor of freedom, and there's good news out of the country's war-torn east today: three of the main warring militias there have agreed to lay down their arms. Still, the election is a huge logistical challenge: thousands of candidates, rampant intimidation, and the very real possibility of fraud (5 million extra ballots have been printed).
That's just the election. There's the other small matter of rebuilding the country's infrastructure after a devastating civil war that ended in 2002, after killing 4 million people. That war sucked in not just neighboring countries, but tens of thousands of child soldiers, who are now slowly being demobilized. But how do you integrate kids who extorted, murdered, and raped, most because they were forced by elder soldiers, but some because they wanted to?
In a new ForeignPolicy.com exclusive, Paule Bouvier and Pierre Englebert examine the incredible challenges the DRC faces, not just in pulling off this weekend's election, but in making the democratic experiment stick by securing the country and pulling its devastated population out of poverty. Despite all the international investment and the domestic enthusiasm, it's unlikely this weekend's election will deliver a miracle.
A while back, we mentioned that the Islamic militia that has taken control of Mogadishu was starting to worry about its media image. Now, it looks like that they are hoping to go beyond mere PR management and take on some much broader political duties: namely, they want to take full control of Somalia.
This story has been overlooked somewhat by the crisis in Lebanon, but if you've been following recent events in Somalia, you'll know that the Supreme Islamic Courts Coucil has defeated most of the country's rival warlords and is now advancing on the powerless, UN-backed government there. There are reports that troops from Ethiopia, Somalia's hated neighbor, have crossed the border to defend the fragile transitional government. The Islamic militia is preparing for war; they've been rallying their troops and have just recieved a planeload of munitions from mysterious sources. Twenty cabinet ministers in the UN-backed government have resigned as Somalia teeters on the brink of a major conflict that could draw in Ethiopia and Eritrea.
In this week's Seven Questions, FP spoke with Craig Timberg, who reports from Africa for the Washington Post, about why the Islamic militia has suddenly taken power, how everyday life has changed in Mogadishu, and what it all could mean for the war on terror.
I spent yesterday in Haifa. By one estimate, over half its population has gone to stay with relatives further south, and the city is so quiet that it feels as if it is stuck in a perpetual early Saturday morning, a sort of Groundhog Hour.
When the sirens go off, you have about one minute until the rockets hit. The first couple of times you hear them, it is truly scary. In most conflict zones there are some fairly well-understood lines dividing where's safe from where's dangerous—they just never show you the safe bits on television. (Even in Beirut, for instance, a lot of people outside the Hezbollah neighborhoods are more or less carrying on with life as normal.) In some of them, being visibly identifiable as a foreign journalist is better than having a bullet-proof car. But there are no safe areas in Haifa, and Fajr missiles can't read the sign on your windshield that says "PRESS".
But not every alarm is followed by rockets: the warning system covers a wide region, and sometimes there are false alarms. Yesterday there were nine warnings but only one wave of rockets. And a missile has to pretty much score a direct hit on the room you're in if it's to kill you.
And so, as in any extreme situation, people get used to it. One time, the siren went off when we were at the site where, a couple of hours earlier, a missile had struck next to a building. The shrapnel had done this to it:
And you would think that after seeing this any sensible person, on hearing the siren, would at least run indoors to avoid ending up like a Swiss cheese. Well, the bystanders—including, I note, several policemen—decided that the appropriate shelter from an incoming missile is the same as for a passing rain shower:
Later that day, the alarm sounded as I sat with some people who were enjoying the unusual peace and quiet on the outdoor terrace of a restaurant. Everyone gathered up their belongings, a few took their drinks, and we trooped into the restaurant's cellar bar for a couple of minutes. While we waited, a Palestinian diner found some black humor in Hassan Nasrallah's apology for killing Arab-Israelis as well as Jewish ones. "If I get back outside and my lunch is not there any more," he warned, "I will demand an apology from Nasrallah in person."
Passport is honored to introduce a new guest blogger: Gideon Lichfield, The Economist's correspondent in Jerusalem.--CO
"Why do so many Israelis support the attack on Lebanon?" a journalist who had just flown in asked me.
I've spent the past few days trying to make sense of it. My friends abroad are horrified. In response to the kidnap of two soldiers, Israel is hammering half a country, sowing with its bombs a wrath that it will surely harvest some day. But most Israelis don't seem to care. My leftist friends who speak out feel ostracized.
There are the obvious reasons. The country is under the biggest attack in over thirty years. Israeli television concentrates on the death and destruction at home from Hezbollah's rockets. And every nation backs its boys in war, at least when the war is just beginning. Deeper, though, is a sense of vindication. When Israel was young and fought for its life, it was feted. When its soldiers began to fire on boys throwing stones, it became reviled. For two decades now, its main theatre of war has been the occupied Palestinian territories, a twilight zone where you cannot always see clearly the line between aggressor and defender, militant and civilian, right and wrong.
And now here comes Hezbollah—unashamedly hostile, unmistakably dangerous, and unambiguously on someone else's turf. Someone who didn't do the job of taming them as promised. For six years after its last troops left Lebanon, Israel kept mostly quiet when Hezbullah taunted, fired, kidnapped. Long enough. Those guys had their chance. They blew it. Time to go in and finish the job. And this time, nobody can say it was unprovoked.
Fine, fine; but why so hard? Why bomb the airport, the highways, the homes; why blow up relief convoys, block the ports, kill hundreds of civilians (but hardly any Hezbullah fighters, so far) and turn hundreds of thousands into refugees? Never mind right or wrong: now even Lebanese who hated Hezbollah are uniting against Israel. How does this help?
Brian Winter writes in today's LAT about his recent travels to Beirut, a city he describes as on the cusp of a kind of cultural revolution. He just didn't realize at the time that it was in store for a revolution of a different kind:
The head of Hezbollah sends his regards," the note read, "but he will not be able to attend your book signing." Bummer, I thought. What else could he possibly be up to? I figured he might be at a rave, or maybe watching the World Cup on one of the big-screen TVs at the sidewalk cafes in Solidere, the heart of the city's stubbornly-won rebirth, where teenage girls in tank tops and women in black burkas mingled well past midnight, casing the jewelry stores and lining up at Dunkin' Donuts.
This was Beirut only two weeks ago, when it still seemed like a post-apocalyptic amusement park. Enough time had passed since the civil war that the handful of battle-scarred buildings that we saw seemed almost quaint. "That's where the Green Line used to be," my guide gushed. "Those are real bullet holes!"
The city pulsed with that giddy, heartbreakingly innocent feel of the early stages of youthful revolution. "SEX!" blared the cover of the June issue of Time Out Beirut, bearing a racy photo of crossed legs with black panties around the ankles. A bullet-ridden water tower downtown had been converted into a discotheque; at the plaza where in 2005 thousands of Lebanese protesters demanded Syria's withdrawal, there was an outdoor jazz festival. Just two weeks before my visit, the rapper 50 Cent had played to a packed house; surely he found it infinitely less threatening than Queens.
Anyone remember those bright yellow packages of food dropped by the planeload over Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in 2001? Well, don't be surprised if pictures of puzzled Afghans eyeing pop tarts appear in the newspaper again. Drought and insecurity in the troubled country seem to be conspiring to bring back emergency food measures. And just as last time, concern for hungry villagers is matched by a broader concern for stability.
Afghan and U.N. officials fear that a persistent drought could soon add 2.4 million more people to the 6.5 million Afghans already suffering from hunger. And that development, in turn, could add to the ranks of the Taliban, magnifying the problems faced by the shaky government and the Western troops helping to hold it together.
There are many villages where, because development agencies can't operate normally in conditions of insurgency, people don't have enough to eat," a diplomat said. "If the Taliban arrive with a little cash, that can be enough to induce people to join."
The Afghan government and the U.N.'s World Food Programme will launch an appeal for food aid this week.
Although Bush and Putin couldn't agree this weekend on Russia's accession to the WTO, they did reach an accord to curtail free trade's dangerous cousin, the illicit international trade in nuclear materials. Happy to find common ground on something, the two unveiled an informal global program that will track weapons and people suspected of carrying them, as well as improve cooperation and encourage joint action to intercept transports and respond to actual threats. The new Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism is a major expansion of the Proliferation Security Initiative, the 70-country effort to track nuclear materials. Rather than focus only on international transfers, the new program will work inside the borders of member countries, setting standards on protection and detection and developing common strategies against terror groups - welcome news indeed from a summit overshadowed by violence in the Middle East.
The big question, though, is whether an informal network can be effective. With no central organization or headquarters, and little except fear to bind its members together, the organization will have to rely on quick communication and coordinated response - and on trust.
Today's photo isn't so much a photo as it is a snapshot from a fascinating interactive map that tracks coalition fatalities in Iraq. Make sure to watch with the sound on. It's not meant to depress you heading into the weekend, but it's a stark and somber reminder. I know this map has been bouncing around the Web for awhile, but even if you've seen it, watch it again. Hats off to designer Tim Klimowicz.
You'd think the last thing citizens of a country that suffered decades of civil war would want is an all-out attack by one of the most advanced militaries in the world. But some Lebanese and other Arabs around the region (including the Saudis), while obviously not in favor of the Israeli assault, are seeing this crisis as a death knell for Hezbollah and quietly cheering it on. The WaPo ran an analysis piece on the subject today, and ynetnews.com - the English version of the most widely read Hebrew daily in Israel - also has some analysis. A year after the Lebanese successfully booted most of the Syrian influence out of the government, some are realizing that allowing minority parties, like Hezbollah, to make decisions that affect the entire nation does not make for a functioning state.
To declare war and to make military action must be a decision made by the state and not by a party," said Nabil de Freige, a [Lebanese] parliament member. "It's a very simple equation: You have to be a state."
The bombings in Mumbai, which some suspect have links to militants operating out of Pakistan, have put renewed pressure on the Pakistani government to demonstrate that it's taking a hardline on terrorists based in the country. FP recently sat down with Pakistani Foreign Minister Khursheed Mehmood Kasuri during his visit to Washington to talk about the Mumbai attacks, patrolling the Pakistani badlands, and whether Hamid Karzai is in trouble. Check it out.
Don't miss the hilarious-though-it's-so-troubling piece in the NYT today on the wildly-flawed DHS National Asset Database. The DHS turns to the list to figure out how to allocate antiterrorism grants to the states. And which state has the most potential targets? Indiana, of course.
Some of the high-profile targets around the country? A flea market, a small-town apple and pork festival, and a popcorn farm, whose confused owner, when informed by a reporter that his business appears on the list, struggled to come up with a reason why the state included him, responding with "Maybe because popcorn explodes?"
And more glaring anomalies: Indiana declared more than 5,400 public health assets, about 65 percent of the total such assets declared nationwide. Washington state lists more national monuments than Washington DC. The number of New York's financial targets ranks it just below North Dakota.
Perhaps we shouldn't be so hard on DHS and the states. After all, as DHS is quick to point out, compiling these assets is hard work. From the DHS Inspector General's report on the database's progress (emphasis mine):
Processing State Submissions Has Been Difficult
States took more than a year to compile information for 17 fields of
identification and location data on each asset to complete their submissions. IP then needed time to resolve numerous formatting issues with the data. IP set a deadline of October 1, 2004, to submit responses but underestimated how much time states would require and the level of difficulty involved. Only 2 of 56 states and territories met that deadline....
It was not unusual for states to send multiple submissions to IP....Puerto Rico’s data had to be translated because it was prepared in Spanish.
Reuters is reporting that at least 135 people have been killed and hundreds more injured in the train attacks in Mumbai today. The BBC has some pictures, and PM Singh urges calm. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, though suspicion already seems to be focused on Kashmiri militants. These same Muslim separatists are suspected for grenade attacks earlier today on tourists in the capital of Indian-administered Kashmir. More to come.
Here at Passport, we've been following with interest the question posed by David Ignatius over on the WaPo's new blog PostGlobal: How would you mediate the current Israeli-Palestinian crisis?
There have been some fascinating responses: what apartheid South Africa can teach us about the current crisis; why allowing Hamas to govern - and therefore taking more responsibility for the plight of Palestinians - would have been the wisest (initial) course; why diplomacy there is ultimately a lesson in futility, with no political solution in sight.
Because we're convinced this is an important question, Passport asked Middle East expert Dennis Ross, who was chief US diplomat in charge of Middle East peace under Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, for his take on a way out of the labyrinth. Here's what he had to say:
Last year I gave a speech in Gaza and told my audience that the upcoming Israeli withdrawal from Gaza was both a challenge and an opportunity for the Palestinian people. A challenge because they would have to be able to govern themselves and bring order to Gaza once Israel had departed; an opportunity because if they showed the world and the Israeli public that they could govern themselves and fulfill security responsibilities, there would be a compelling argument that what was done and working in Gaza should also now be done in the West Bank. But, as I added, if you fail, even the strongest defenders of the Palestinian cause would have a hard time arguing that a failed model of violence and chaos in Gaza should also be applied to the West Bank. More after the jump.
Spain began formal peace talks with the politcal wing of Basque separatist group ETA today. A recent poll suggests that a majority of Spaniards support the talks, though many are furious that a group that has killed more than 800 people during its 30-year campaign for independence is welcome at any government table.
So what convinced ETA to lay down the guns, which it has done since declaring a ceasefire on March 22? Some will surely tell you it's the war on terror. More likely, though, it's that the current Spanish government is in an autonomy-granting mood, and ETA is simply trying to take advantage. The day before ETA announced its ceasefire back in March, the Spanish parliament approved language for a statute granting autonomy to Catalonia, another Spanish region seeking greater self-governance. Catalans then backed the new charter in a referendum a few weeks ago, giving the region "nation" status within Spain. Whether the Basques can achieve the same is certainly debatable; ETA in the past has claimed a chunk of southwestern France. But today's talks are one step forward for a group that seems to have decided to simply do as the Catalans do.
In an effort to fight the war on terror, the Air Force is putting up $450,000 for a three year study of...blogs. One scientist involved in the project is already proving, with this revelation, that he is worth the money:
Blog entries have a different structure," Ulicny said. "They are typically short and are about something external to the blog posting itself, such as a news event. It's not uncommon for a blogger to simply state, 'I can't believe this happened,' and then link to a news story."
I can't believe this is happening. Check it out here.
Will he or won't he? Reports are out today that the North Korean missile causing heartburn in Tokyo and Washington may not actually be fueled for launch, and even Cheney thinks Kim Jong Il is bluffing. To get a handle on this little chess game, FP spoke recently with Don Oberdorfer, veteran journalist and author of The Two Koreas, about the timing of the missile threat, the prospects for diplomacy, and whether Kim Jong Il is crazy like a fox - or just plain crazy.
It's not often that U.S. policymakers get inside the brains of top terrorists, but the translation of an online book available on jihadist Web sites is providing just such an opportunity. The Management of Savagery, authored by an Al Qaeda insider, is a detailed look into the operational and strategic aspects of Al Qaeda's global jihad against the United States.
The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point released the first English translation of the text from Arabic this week. Comparing the strategies outlined in the book to current world events will yield few surprises. The book calls on jihadis to portray America as the invader by confronting the United States abroad (especially in Iraq) and infers that the invasion of Iraq was exactly what Al Qaeda wanted. The strategy does not include major attacks on U.S. soil in the near future because such attacks have the potential to alienate Al Qaeda's sympathizers and boost the moral position of the United States.
The last few days have been tough for Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The Washington Post splashed a story Monday suggesting that US and European officials doubt Karzai has the moxie to stabilize the country. The article spurred Condoleezza Rice into a public affirmation of support and an aggressive denunciation of the anonymous officials casting stones.
Who are they? For whom do they speak? And what level do they speak?" Rice asked. "I have not heard this from my counterparts. Steve Hadley doesn't hear this from his counterparts. The president doesn't hear this from his counterparts."
The recent reporting about Karzai's shortcomings has suggested that his failures to combat drugs and warlords, on the one hand, and his government's fight against Taliban insurgents, on the other, are of a piece. But several informed observers have told me that, in some areas of the country at least, the struggles pull in opposite directions. So, a corrupt local governor with a hand in the opium jar may be quite effective at mobilizing local militias to combat the Taliban. Fire the governor for his sins and security quickly deteriorates. Afghanistan is still very much a pick-your-poison world. Unfortunately, outsiders impatient for results have little time for that game.
European legislation meant to combat international terrorism appears to be aiding the fight against international corporate fraud as well. Today, judges confirmed that three British bankers accused of conspiring from overseas with Enron executives will be sent to the US for trial under the UK's 2003 Extradition Act.
The bilateral legislation, introduced after 9/11 along with a spate of other security measures, was originally aimed at speeding up the extradition of British terror suspects to the US. The extradition proves, however, that the European and American governments' expanded post-9/11 authority can be used to crack down not just on global terrorism - but murky corporate networks too.
And just like that, it seems the house of cards could come tumbling down. After a cautious and reluctant meeting last week in Jordan, Israeli PM Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Abbas decided to get together again in a few weeks to discuss a border plan. Abbas seemed on the verge of an historic power-sharing agreement with Hamas over the weekend, hoping to veer from the path of imminent civil war. But Sunday's attack on an Israeli army post and the kidnapping of an Israeli soldier unquestionably change the equation. The military wing of Hamas and two other militant groups have demanded the release of female and under-18 Palestinian prisoners in Israel in exchange for information on the soldier's whereabouts.
The operation has exposed a few things worth noting. First, if Abbas had built up any cred with the Israelis, it is swiftly disappearing. The Israelis won't deal with Hamas, but they also don't want to deal with a PA president who clearly doesn't have any pull with the most militant armed groups. And second, this operation reveals just how divided the Palestinians are. Hamas is trying to save face by calling for the release of the kidnapped soldier, but there's clearly tension and disagreement in tactics between Hamas's military and political wings. With explosive relations between Fatah and Hamas already brewing, and the economic situation in Gaza getting worse by the day, this tinderbox hardly needed yesterday's spark.
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