Thursday, June 12, 2008

Securing the City - Due out February 2009

After a year and a half of work, I am pleased to report that I have finished the manuscript for "Securing the City," due to be published by Simon & Schuster in February.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

The Great (Hoffman-Sageman) Debate

The Myth of Grass-Roots Terrorism

Why Osama bin Laden Still Matters

From Foreign Affairs, May/June 2008

Leaderless Jihad: Terror Networks in the Twenty-first Century. Marc Sageman. University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008, 208 pp. $24.95.

Summary: Marc Sageman claims that al Qaeda's leadership is finished and today's terrorist threat comes primarily from below. But the terrorist elites are alive and well, and ignoring the threat they pose will have disastrous consequences.

... (full text)

Friday, June 06, 2008

Iraq: The Endless Occupation

An important article by Patrick Cockburn in the Independent:

Revealed: Secret plan to keep Iraq under US control

Bush wants 50 military bases, control of Iraqi airspace and legal immunity for all American soldiers and contractors

By Patrick Cockburn
Thursday, 5 June 2008

A secret deal being negotiated in Baghdad would perpetuate the American military occupation of Iraq indefinitely, regardless of the outcome of the US presidential election in November.

The terms of the impending deal, details of which have been leaked to The Independent, are likely to have an explosive political effect in Iraq. Iraqi officials fear that the accord, under which US troops would occupy permanent bases, conduct military operations, arrest Iraqis and enjoy immunity from Iraqi law, will destabilise Iraq's position in the Middle East and lay the basis for unending conflict in their country.

But the accord also threatens to provoke a political crisis in the US. President Bush wants to push it through by the end of next month so he can declare a military victory and claim his 2003 invasion has been vindicated. But by perpetuating the US presence in Iraq, the long-term settlement would undercut pledges by the Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, to withdraw US troops if he is elected president in November.

The timing of the agreement would also boost the Republican candidate, John McCain, who has claimed the United States is on the verge of victory in Iraq – a victory that he says Mr Obama would throw away by a premature military withdrawal.

America currently has 151,000 troops in Iraq and, even after projected withdrawals next month, troop levels will stand at more than 142,000 – 10 000 more than when the military "surge" began in January 2007. Under the terms of the new treaty, the Americans would retain the long-term use of more than 50 bases in Iraq. American negotiators are also demanding immunity from Iraqi law for US troops and contractors, and a free hand to carry out arrests and conduct military activities in Iraq without consulting the Baghdad government.

The precise nature of the American demands has been kept secret until now. The leaks are certain to generate an angry backlash in Iraq. "It is a terrible breach of our sovereignty," said one Iraqi politician, adding that if the security deal was signed it would delegitimise the government in Baghdad which will be seen as an American pawn.

The US has repeatedly denied it wants permanent bases in Iraq but one Iraqi source said: "This is just a tactical subterfuge." Washington also wants control of Iraqi airspace below 29,000ft and the right to pursue its "war on terror" in Iraq, giving it the authority to arrest anybody it wants and to launch military campaigns without consultation.

Mr Bush is determined to force the Iraqi government to sign the so-called "strategic alliance" without modifications, by the end of next month. But it is already being condemned by the Iranians and many Arabs as a continuing American attempt to dominate the region. Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the powerful and usually moderate Iranian leader, said yesterday that such a deal would create "a permanent occupation". He added: "The essence of this agreement is to turn the Iraqis into slaves of the Americans."

Iraq's Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is believed to be personally opposed to the terms of the new pact but feels his coalition government cannot stay in power without US backing.

The deal also risks exacerbating the proxy war being fought between Iran and the United States over who should be more influential in Iraq.... (more)

Some background from Shadowland two years ago:

An American agreement puts a motley array of foreigners above the law in Iraq. It’s time to take away their license to kill—and to stop treating Maliki’s new government as a servant.

Christopher Dickey
Newsweek Web Exclusive
29 June 2006

It’s just two years ago this week—two very long years—that President George W. Bush’s handpicked proconsul cut and ran out of Iraq. Instead of a grand ceremony handing over something called “sovereignty” to the U.S.-appointed government of Ayad Allawi, there was a low-key, almost secretive handshake and a very quick set of brief remarks before Paul Bremer jumped on a plane and got the hell out. He didn’t want to attract too much attention, or mortar shells from the growing insurgency.

It was an extraordinary moment, fraught with the arrogant hyperbole and arrant hypocrisy that has characterized this adventure all along. According to Bremer, the idea for the stealth ceremony before the announced date came from President George W. Bush, via Condoleezza Rice, who was then his national-security adviser. She’s quoted in Bremer’s book, “My Year in Iraq,” saying, “The president is trying to ‘wrong foot’ the opposition by doing the transfer of sovereignty a couple of days early.” Bremer agreed to this bright idea but worried that it would “look as if we are scuttling out of here, Condi.” There would have to be “several days of relative calm” beforehand. In the event, he settled for several hours. When Bremer landed in Jordan, he called his wife. “I’m safe and free,” he told her. Which was more than he could say for Iraq.

What Bremer did not mention in his book is a document—Coalition Provisional Authority Order Number 17—that he signed on June 27, 2004, just one day before he scuttled out of there, that continues to set the ground rules for the American occupation of Iraq. It is not a “Status of Forces Agreement” (SOFA) like the ones we have with our NATO allies or Japan or other countries where U.S. forces might be based. Those have to be negotiated, and the talks are tough, because truly sovereign countries think sovereignty truly is important. They never like the idea that American soldiers who commit crimes on their territory are not subject to their laws.

But Order 17 was not negotiated with the Iraqis, it was promulgated by the Americans, and it’s purely of the people, by the people and for the people that the United States brought into Iraq. Under its provisions, they are exempt from Iraqi laws, cannot be arrested, prosecuted, tried or taxed. Nor do they have to pay rent for the buildings and land they turn into bases. Ambassador Barbara Bodine, who served in Baghdad immediately after the invasion and subsequently negotiated military agreements with other countries before leaving the State Department in 2004, describes what Bremer pulled off as “a SOFA on steroids.” It’s all about what the Americans get to do, and what the Iraqis get to do for them...(more)

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Talking Terror

The Brian Lehrer Show with the NYPD's Richard Falkenrath last year. Useful background on the report "Radicalization in the West" and the question of "homegrown terror."

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Don't Give Me That Ol' Time Religion

The New Face of Islam
A critique of radicalism is building within the heart of the Muslim world.

And there is so much more to say. Please do comment and suggest other links. Here are a few that may be of interest:

Using Comics to Turn Off Terror

Muslims Turning a Page on Rage?

The Unraveling

The Rebellion Within

Al Qaeda is losing the war of minds

Moderating Immoderation at the WEF in Sharm

Recent Work

Shadowland: Bush’s 10 Commandments 20 May 2008
The U.S. president's latest pronouncements on Iran and the Arab world generated doom and gloom on his Mideast tour.

Shadowland: Slaughterhouse Beirut 13 May 2008
Lebanon's chances for meaningful reconstruction are diminishing by the day. And despite Bush's bravado, it's going to be the same in Iraq.

Newsweek Online: Bombs in the Basement 7 May 2008
Remembering a Civil War relic hunter who survived.

Shadowland: Terrorist Triage 6 May 2008
Why are the presidential candidates—and so many counterterrorism experts—afraid to say that the Al Qaeda threat is overrated?

Shadowland: Bluff and Bloodshed 1 May 2008
The Persian Gulf is more dangerous than ever. Will the U.S. and Iran go to war at sea?

Newsweek: The French Revolution 5 May 2008
Sarkozy attempts to transform the West's military alliances.

Newsweek: Snapshots of Horror 28 April 2008
The curiously human side of the inhumanity that was Abu Ghraib.

Newsweek: Welcome to Paradise 21 April 2008
Oil revenue has made the desert—and plenty of other places—bloom with unexpected treasures for the tourist. Enter if you dare.

Shadowland: 'Jihadi Cool' 15 April 2008
Comic book action heroes may be better weapons against terror than bullets or bombs. (For more graphics and trailers, visit

Web Exclusive: Italian Politics as Unusual 15 April 2008
Berlusconi wins by a landslide. Why Italy may never be quite the same again. (Written with Jacopo Barigazzi)