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    28 February 2007

    Regional Roundtable: Iraq Update

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    Following up on this post from a few days ago:
    ...David Ignatius revealed that "[t]he Bush administration has agreed to sit around a negotiating table with official representatives of Iran and Syria ... to discuss ways to stabilize Iraq." The setting will be at a yet to be announced "Baghdad Conference" involving regional state actors and representatives from then UN Security Council states.

    Iran and Syria have at least indicated that they will attend this meeting next month.
    Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, have agreed to join U.S. and British representatives at a regional conference here on the Iraqi security crisis, government officials said Wednesday.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Labid Abawi told The Associated Press that Russia and France were studying the invitation, but "I don't see any sign they will refuse."

    "Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, even the U.S and Britain have informed us they will participate," he said, although Tehran has said publicly it has made no decision. Abawi also said China had agreed to attend.
    Ali Larijani, the head of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, said earlier that Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari contacted Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki to discuss the conference. "We are reviewing the proposal," Larijani said, quoted by the state TV Web site.

    "We support solving problems of Iraq by all means and we will attend the conference if it is expedient," Larijani said. "We believe Iraq's security is related to all its neighboring countries, and they have to help settle the situation."

    Larijani suggested the U.S. presence was not a problem for Iran. Asked by reporters if Iran was running a risk by attending the conference alongside the Americans, he replied, "One should not commit suicide because one is afraid of death" — meaning Iran should not hurt itself just to avoid possible negative results.
    Larijani did not say what level delegate Iran would send if it chose to attend the conference. Rice said Tuesday the gathering would be at a sub-ministerial level, which would be followed by a full ministerial meeting, possibly in early April.

    Syria will be represented by Ahmed Arnous, an aide to the foreign minister, a Syrian Foreign Ministry official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the plans had not yet been formally announced.

    Syria believes the U.S. participation in the conference was "a partial step ... in the right direction for comprehensive dialogue with Syria on all issues of the Middle East," the state SANA news agency quoted the Foreign Ministry official as saying.

    Iraq's Ahmad Chalabi, an influential Shiite, said the conference was "long overdue" and expressed hope it would help "in building international support" for the Iraqi government.

    Posted by Geoff

    27 February 2007

    Accused Republican Terrorist Donor Update

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    This is a follow up of alleged terrorist fund raiser, Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali Alishtari (aka Abdul Tawala Ibn Ali ALLSHTARI and Michael Mixon), and republican bigwig (background here, here, and here). The muck chucker's at TPM Muckraker have uncovered an additional $20k to add to the original $15k making $35k given to various Republican organizations over the years. For the record, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) has announced that they will "donate the sum total of the former donor’s contributions to a charitable organization. ...that benefits our military men and women and their families". For one reason or another the statement doesn't mention Alishtari by name; we'll give them the benefit of the doubt here (for now).

    The NRSC's counterpart for Congress is still being "careful not to rush to judgment as the judicial process moves forward." Noting that "[i]f the individual in question is actually found guilty of a crime, it is our intent to donate the money to charity." As Paul Kiel put it last week, this basically says:
    Just because you're the subject of a federal indictment, in other words, doesn't mean your money's not good enough for the NRCC. That's no surprise from the group that has refused to return the money contributed by ex-Reps. Mark Foley (R-FL) and Bob Ney (R-OH).

    Of course this pales in comparison with the $100k+ he allegedly sent/tried to send over to Pakistan.

    On a tangentially related case, a second terrorist financier, Yasith Chhun, is due in court in a few weeks time so the NRCC will soon find out whether or not this gentleman's money is tainted enough to get rid of.

    Posted by Geoff

    The "Last Throes" in Afghanistan

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    At least that's what this means in Cheney's fantasy land:
    A SUICIDE bomber killed as many as 20 people outside the main US base in Afghanistan today, coinciding with a visit to the base by US Vice President Dick Cheney. Mr Cheney was not hurt, according to his spokeswoman.

    More and more. It's been a scary few days for Middle East VPs (or VPs in the Middle East), no?

    Posted by Geoff

    Laura Bush: There's "one bombing a day" in Iraq

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    I've always sort of liked First Lady Laura Bush, but this ranks as one of the stupidest comments, well, this week from this administration:
    I hope [the Iraqis] can build their government and reconcile with each other and build a country. This is their opportunity to seize the moment, to build a really good and stable country. And many parts of Iraq are stable now. But, of course, what we see on television is the one bombing a day that discourages everybody.

    Dude lady, get a F'n clue!... ThinkProgress.org puts some context on that "one bombing a day" with the video and the facts: 185 insurgent and militia attacks per day (Nov. 2006, Brookings)

    Posted by Geoff

    26 February 2007

    Bush Bows to Pressure - May Meet with Syria and Iran over Iraq

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    Just a little bit ago
    , David Ignatius revealed that "[t]he Bush administration has agreed to sit around a negotiating table with official representatives of Iran and Syria ... to discuss ways to stabilize Iraq." The setting will be at a yet to be announced "Baghdad Conference" involving regional state actors and representatives from then UN Security Council states. US officials are quick to point out that this is not signal engagement with Iran or Syria. Additionally, Iran and Syria have yet to announce their involvement (nor have they declined).

    (h/t SyriaComment)

    Posted by Geoff

    25 February 2007

    Iraq-Contra Part II ?

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    An interview with Seymour Hersh on CNN (you can watch it at ThinkProgress).

    Rush excerpt:

    HERSH: ...My government, which arrests al Qaeda every place it can find them and send — some of them are in Guantanamo and other places, is sitting back while the Lebanese government we support, the government of Prime Minister Siniora, is providing arms and sustenance to three jihadist groups whose sole function, seems to me and to the people that talk to me in our government, to be there in case there is a real shoot-’em-up with Hezbollah and we really get into some sort of serious major conflict between the Sunni government and Hezbollah, which is largely Shia...
    ...So America, my country, without telling Congress, using funds not appropriated, I don’t know where, but my sources believe much of the money obviously came from Iraq where there is all kinds of piles of loose money, pools of cash that could be used for covert operations.
    We are simply in a situation where this president is really taking his notion of executive privilege to the absolute limit here, running covert operations, using money that was not authorized by Congress, supporting groups indirectly that are involved with the same people that did 9/11, and we should be arresting these people rather than looking the other way...
    BLITZER: Your bottom line is that Negroponte was aware of this, obviously, and he wanted to distance himself from it? That is why he decided to give up that position and take the number two job at the State Department?

    HERSH: He — that is one of the reasons, I was told. Negroponte also was not in tune with Cheney. There was a lot of complaints about him because he was seen as much of a stickler, too ethical for some of the operations the Pentagon wants to run.

    This is, of course, in reference to the last couple of paragraphs of Seymour Hersh's latest article from The New Yorker:
    I was subsequently told by the two government consultants and the former senior intelligence official that the echoes of Iran-Contra were a factor in Negroponte’s decision to resign from the National Intelligence directorship and accept a sub-Cabinet position of Deputy Secretary of State. (Negroponte declined to comment.)

    The former senior intelligence official also told me that Negroponte did not want a repeat of his experience in the Reagan Administration, when he served as Ambassador to Honduras. “Negroponte said, ‘No way. I’m not going down that road again, with the N.S.C. running operations off the books, with no finding.’ ” (In the case of covert C.I.A. operations, the President must issue a written finding and inform Congress.) Negroponte stayed on as Deputy Secretary of State, he added, because “he believes he can influence the government in a positive way.”
    The Pentagon consultant added that one difficulty, in terms of oversight, was accounting for covert funds. “There are many, many pots of black money, scattered in many places and used all over the world on a variety of missions,” he said. The budgetary chaos in Iraq, where billions of dollars are unaccounted for, has made it a vehicle for such transactions, according to the former senior intelligence official and the retired four-star general.

    “This goes back to Iran-Contra,” a former National Security Council aide told me. “And much of what they’re doing is to keep the agency out of it.” He said that Congress was not being briefed on the full extent of the U.S.-Saudi operations. And, he said, “The C.I.A. is asking, ‘What’s going on?’ They’re concerned, because they think it’s amateur hour.”

    Washington press corps, Congress... This is you cue!

    Posted by Geoff


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