By AMIR TAHERI
HE is almost in from the cold." This is how British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw described the latest position of the Libyan dictator Col. Moammar Khadafy. Straw called Khadafy "a statesman" and "a man we could do business with."
An hour earlier, Prime Minister Tony Blair had phoned the colonel in Tripoli to relay similar sentiments. Unusual words of praise also came from President Bush.
Why this sudden warmth for a man described only a week ago as a terrorist mastermind? British and U.S. officials say that, thanks to months of patient diplomacy, Khadafy has been persuaded to abandon his quest for weapons of mass destruction, and would also terminate support for terrorist organizations.
In exchange, Britain and the United States will persuade the United Nations to lift the sanctions enacted against Libya after the Lockerbie tragedy 15 years ago. America will also end the sanctions imposed under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act. Within months, Libya would be open for massive Western investment in its ailing oil industry, decrepit infrastructure and moribund agriculture.
Yet many questions remain, not the least being: Can anyone trust Khadafy? This is not the first time he has promised to "come in from the cold."
* In 1982, Khadafy met with then French President Francois Mitterrand in Cyprus and promised that Libya would stop funding the Irish Republican Army and cut links with terror groups attacking U.S. military targets in West Germany.
Yet by 1984, the British had established that Libya had, in fact, doubled its support for the IRA. And Libyan-backed groups stepped up their attacks on Americans, killing and wounding a number of U.S. troops in West Germany.
* Khadafy next promised to mend his ways in 1986 after President Ronald Reagan had ordered the bombing of Tripoli. The go-between was Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, who told the Americans that Khadafy had pledged his "Arab honor" that he would stop all anti-American terrorist activities.
Two years later came the destruction of Pan Am 103, the single biggest anti-American terror attack before 9/11.
Will this will be "third time lucky" with Khadafy? It is too early to tell.
Some British and Arab sources claim that this time will be different for at least two reasons.
First, the Libyan leader has seen Saddam Hussein's dental examination on TV. The liberation of Iraq has put the fear of god in many Middle Eastern despots.
Second, this time Khadafy's return has been negotiated over more than three years and with great care. The first phase was handled by Nelson Mandela, the former South African president and a personal friend of Khadafy, assisted by Prince Bandar Bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to Washington who has close political ties to the Bush family. The second phase was handled by the British, under Blair's personal supervision.
The argument, therefore, is that we should take Khadafy's latest policy reversal as a strategic change and not a tactical move by a frightened man.
Nevertheless, a strong dose of skepticism is in order. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of Khadafy's career would be familiar with his sudden, capricious policy changes.
Soon after he seized power in a military coup in 1969, he flew to Cairo and almost forced the Egypt's Gamal Abdul-Nasser to absorb Libya into Egypt as the first step toward Arab unification. Three years later, however, Khadafy branded Egypt "an enemy of the Arab nation" and called for the murder of its new leader, Anwar Sadat.
Between 1973 and 1993, Khadafy tried to make a union with a variety of other Arab states, including Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia - and ended up supporting terrorist groups against all three.
By 2000, Khadafy had quarreled with almost all Arab leaders and was looking to black Africa for partners. In 2002 he announced that Libya was no longer an Arab nation and should emphasize its "African identity." He played a key role (mostly by signing checks) in creating something called the African Union, and, having bribed enough African leaders, managed to promote himself as its leader. He also announced that any Libyan who married a black African would get a cash gift of $5,000. (Our sources report that fewer than a dozen people have taken advantage of the offer so far.)
The least that one can say is that Khadafy is an unstable maverick who could change policy any time and as he pleases. With an ego the size of Everest, he believes himself to be the world's greatest philosopher. In recent years, he has also taken to writing short stories, and has so far published two collections. He has also directed TV documentaries, written scripts for feature films and designed what he calls " the modern Arab tent." In 1998 he also exhibited a handmade sports car that he said he had designed to drive Ferraris and Porsches out of the market.
To describe Khadafy as a "statesman" is as accurate as calling Mae West a nun.
One thing must be said for the Libyan leader. He regards the Western leaders with the utmost contempt and believes that he can fool them whenever he so desires. Earlier this year, he explained his decision to write a check for $2 billion in compensation for the Lockerbie attack, by referring to "the unquenchable thirst of the West for money."
"They want money?" he asked on television. "We give them money. What is money? Nothing. We will make 10 times more money later by selling them our oil at a higher price."
Nor did he express any remorse for the death of so many innocent people aboard Pan Am 103; he had the temerity to deny that Libya had been involved at all. He claimed that he had agreed to hand over two of his intelligence officers for trial on charges of involvement in the Lockerbie attack not because they were involved but in order to "deprive our enemies of an excuse to continue sanctions against us."
Khadafy is also explaining his latest decision in his typical way.
First he has presented the decision to abandon weapons of mass destruction as one taken by his minions, not himself. "I found your decision courageous," he told his foreign minister, as if in a dictatorship like Libya a minion would have any authority on such matters.
Surely, British and American politicians cannot be so naive as to believe that a man like Khadafy and a system like the one he has created can ever pursue a rational policy.
In his speech in London last month, President Bush went to the heart of the matter when he declared that the problem with the Middle East is the absence of democracy. A totalitarian state such as the one Khadafy has built can never become a true friend of the Western democracies. The potentate who has ordered a halt to a policy of terror and weapons of mass destruction could easily order a resumption anytime he likes.
America and Britain should not allow the prospect of juicy contracts in Libya to divert attention from what President Bush has identified as the vital imperative of democratization. Real change in Libya will come only if political prisoners are released, the censorship of the media ended and the ban on political parties lifted. Libya needs a constitution (it is the only country in the world with none) providing for free elections.
Until then, Khadafy will always be able to revert to his shenanigans and laugh at Bush and Blair as he laughed at Mitterrand and Mubarak in the past.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org http://www.nypost.com/postopinion/opedcolumnists/14170.htm
posted on 12/23/2003 2:16:36 PM PST
(Until they are free, we shall all be Iranians!)
Special Analysis: Holiday Terror Threat
by Dan Darling (angelus errare)
The United States has recently moved to "High" or "Orange" Alert as a result of what the intelligence community has deemed to be credible threats against US interests both here and abroad on par with or even surpassing the scale of 9/11. This analysis will endeavor to explain why the alert level was raised as well as answer whether or not al-Qaeda still has the operational capacity to conduct such an attack, plus a few clues about who to be on the look-out for as we all prepare to enjoy the holiday season.
Just the facts, ma'am ...
Al-Qaeda desiring to "top" the September 11 attacks is nothing new, as this article from September 5, 2003 regarding al-Qaeda plans to possibly hijack cargo aircraft for use in multiple attacks inside the US should hopefully indicate (the article also mentions a number of names that I'll come back to a later on). According to CNN, one of the sources for the intelligence for hijacking cargo airlines with Ali Abd al-Rahman al-Farqasi al-Ghamdi, whose tribe seems to keep turning up in conjunction with a number of al-Qaeda plots, including 9/11.
According to US intelligence, al-Qaeda is planning a simultaneous series of attacks against both major cities and remote targets, possibly using domestic or foreign airliners whose hijackers are already licensed pilots as well as chemical or biological weapons and perhaps a radiological dispersal device, better known as "dirty bomb." We know from MI6 that al-Qaeda set up a crude nuclear facility in Herat for the purposes of creating such a weapon and that the anonymous weapons expert from Herat referenced in the BBC story as being still at large is very likely none other than Abu Musab Zarqawi.
The American Terror Machine
Joe and I disagree somewhat on the nature of al-Qaeda infrastructure inside the US based on his own inferences from the case of Abdullah al-Muhajir case and to be quite frank, I really hope I'm wrong on this one because of the logical implications that follow from such conclusions.
In any case, I think that one of the reasons as to why the US has yet to experience a second wave of terrorist attacks since September 11 is due in large part to three unique factors: al-Qaeda's grandiose visions of death and destruction, the arrest and later detention of Ali Saleh al-Marri, and the fact that US law enforcement has finally gotten their act together. Let me go through these one-by-one to show you what I mean.
1. The Downsides of Meglomania ...
For better or worse, by carrying out attacks like 9/11, the Bali bombings, the Poshipnikov Zavod Dubrovka theater seige in Moscow, and more recently the Istanbul suicide bombings sets a very high bar for the terrorist network as far as its operational planning goes, which is one of the reasons as to why there is such a lengthy gap between major al-Qaeda attacks. While smaller organizations like Hamas or the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam are generally content with killing only a handful of civilians in reasonably simple attacks such as suicide bombing a bus, al-Qaeda favors sophisticated simultaneously mass casualty suicide attacks designed to inflict a massive amount of damage as well as to spread a maximum amount of fear to the civilian population. More to the point, al-Qaeda leaders such as Abu Salma al-Hijazi have previously promised the network's supporters that the next major attack on the US will kill as many as 100,000. Chopping that figure down by a factor of ten by filtering out the hyperbole, we arrive at ~10,000 casualties, which would be well within the network's capabilities of achieving - Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the first World Trade Center bombing originally hoped to kill over 100,000 in his plan to cause one tower to crash onto the other, creating a kind of giant "domino effect." However, by committing itself to such astronomical figures, the network cannot easily resort to Hamas-style suicide bombings inside the US because to do so would be to grant America a tacit admission that its capabilities have become extremely degraded since 9/11.
This train of thought is echoed in this article from USA Today from November 27 which states that al-Qaeda scrapped plans to launch a series of low-level attacks inside the US this year in favor of a "more spectacular" attack on par with 9/11.
2. Ali Saleh al-Marri
According to the June 23 issue of Newsweek, al-Marri was identified by none other than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as al-Qaeda's "point man" in the United States after 9/11 and was charged by the network to organize further attacks against American interests inside the continental US. Unfortunately for al-Qaeda, al-Marri, an alumni of al-Farooq camp was arrested December 2001 and is now listed as an enemy combatant, meaning that he is almost certainly removed from any contacts he had inside the United States, likely severing the main point of contact between US sleeper cells and the central leadership.
3. The FBI Gets A Clue ...
Couple this with the arrest and subsequent turning of al-Qaeda sleeper Iyman Faris that we know led to the arrest of at least two additional operatives: Uzair Paracha, who was involved in the NYC shipping industry and Majid Khan, who was planning to blow up the underground storage tanks of several US gas stations, and we can see that a sizeable dent was already made against the US al-Qaeda infrastructure by law enforcement in the spring of last year.
And in addition to leading us to Faris, who turned in Paracha and Khan, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed has reportedly given the FBI the names of 12 US al-Qaeda operatives who were reportedly planning attacks inside the US to be in conjunction with the war in Iraq. According to other reporting that followed the arrest of Faris as well as Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's press conference on Sunday, the combination of turning Faris and cracking Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was one of the steps that enabled the US to avert potential al-Qaeda plots during the course of the war with Iraq, the last time the US was placed on "Orange" alert.
To date, the FBI has identified 6 al-Qaeda support groups spread out across 40 states inside the continental United States and if I had to venture a guess I would say that they likely include al-Muhajiroun, Hizb-ut-Tahrir, and Jamaat ul-Fuqra, three extremist organizations known to act as al-Qaeda front organizations. A parallel might be drawn between these groups and the German-American Bund or the Silver Shirts prior to the US entry into World War 2.
Decentralized? Think Again.
A number of media reports that I've seen since we entered "Orange" alert seem rather skeptical at the prospect that al-Qaeda could plot an attack on par with 9/11, citing the increasingly decentralized nature of the network since the events of Operation Enduring Freedom. What these reports frequently miss, however, is the fact that within the course of the last year or so al-Qaeda has been successfully relocated itself to a new HQ - the Islamic Republic of Iran.
The first whispers of this started on August 28, 2002 when the Washington Post reported that "dozens" of key al-Qaeda figures including military commander Saif al-Adel and top ideologue Mahfouz Ould Walid (variously known as Abu Hafs the Mauritanian or Mr. Mauritania) had taken shelter in hotels and guesthouses in the Iranian border cities of Mashhad and Zabol. This seems to have been noted by US intelligence but little was done about it publicly as far as pressuring Iran on the subject until shortly after the first Riyadh bombings when US intelligence identified Saad bin Laden, Saif al-Adel, and Abu Mohammed al-Masri (the latter two being the network's equivalent to ministers of war and finance) as being sheltered by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) at one of their military bases somewhere in Kerman province.
More tidbits have trickled out over the course of the last several months, including the rationale as to why Iran is carrying out this seemingly suicidal foreign policy. While the general Iranian response to these allegations are that these individuals are "in custody," such a state of implies generally implies that the individuals being held are unable to run a global terrorist network out of the Islamic Republic. Take for example, the case of Suleiman Abu Ghaith, whom Iran has admitted is among the "detainees" yet is still able to make audiotaped threats to Dubai's Panorama FM radio station. Last time I checked, the ayatollahs don't extend these kinds of courtesies to all of the students and pro-democracy activists that are routinely arrested in Iran.
At any rate, the latest information is that over two dozen al-Qaeda leaders and roughly 500 operatives are currently based inside of Iran and are being protected by Qods Force formerly run by Ahmed Vahidi, who is now Iran's Deputy Minister of Defense. These developments, among others, led the conservative Weekly Standard to publish an article on November 3, 2003 entitled "Al-Qaeda's New Base" detailing the extent and implications of al-Qaeda having a safe harbor in Iran. If one is to believe Mansoor Ijaz, those al-Qaeda leaders who have been granted safe haven in Iran include both bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri. Ironically, this squares somewhat with account of Haji Mohammed Akram, a Saudi national who claims to have served as bin Laden's chef in Afghanistan.
Whether or not bin Laden is in Iran, the point is that enough of the organization's operational infrastructure is both inside the country and likely has been for over a year - more than enough to time plan a major attack on US soil. On the other hand, any successful mass casualty attack launched by al-Qaeda against the continental United States (and I concur with the Belmont Club that they can probably execute at least one) will have almost-certain suicidal consequences for the current Iranian government, a fact that al-Qaeda's backers inside Iran may well be keenly aware of.
Thinking Vigilance Is Good, Too ...
Despite all of the warnings of vague caution from elected officials, one of the things that I have found the most deplorable is that a US media that finds it "newsworthy" to show us Jacko's freakish visage 24/7 could at the very least put up the face of the man reputed to be the next Mohammed Atta in addition to being the guy looking for dirty bomb material during the hourly news bulletins - Adnan El Shukrijumah.
Even more ominous is who El Shukrijumah was reputed to be traveling with during the last sighting of him on September 14 in Naples, Maine - Abderraouf Jdey, for whom an FBI advisory on August 1, along with his associate Faker Boussora. As the article notes, Jdey first came to US attention after he and Boussora appeared on videotape with three other individuals who were apparently intended to serve as the next generation of al-Qaeda leaders. Of the three others, Binalshibh became a member of the military committee while Khalid Jehani replaced Abd Rahim al-Nashiri upon his capture as the head of al-Qaeda's operations in the Persian Gulf. To be quite frank, if Jdey is here than it means that he's likely got a sizeable number of followers to order around, either in the US or north of the border in Canada.
A Saudi Connection?
Recently, MEMRI carried excerpts from The Voice of Jihad, which appears to be the main propaganda organ of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. In it, we learn that Lewis Atiyyat Allah, a noted al-Qaeda ideologue who has taken over from the late Yousef al-Ayyeri as al-Qaeda's principle ideologue and is a member of the 225 Wahhabi leaders who make up the supreme council of the global jihad led by bin Laden's spiritual advisor Safar Hawali that maintains extensive infrastructure within the United States as a result of the good relationship between the US and the Saudis that could easily be converted by al-Qaeda to serve as a support base for attacks launched from in North America. It is for that reason that Lewis Attiyah's most recent comments in The Voice of Jihad should be remembered:
"Regarding the Al-Muhaya operation [the November 8, 2003 bombing in Riyadh],, it can be claimed that the house of Salul [a derogatory term used by al-Qaeda against the Saudi monarchy] had some media success in portraying the battle as the killing of Muslims, and in inciting some against the Mujahideen. But this effect is temporary and will disappear if, for example, the Mujahideen strike another blow in America. Then sympathy will return to what it was in the past, and may even increase."
In Conclusion ...
While attacks may or may not materialize over the course of the holiday season, we should nevertheless keep in mind that as long as men like Lewis Attiyat continue to roam freely and have access to Saudi finances, we may as well get used to this whole system of multi-colored terror alerts and vague warnings from the authorities. http://windsofchange.net/archives/004419.html
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