Wednesday, October 19, 2005

CMAR II's Blog Club

Just a potpourri of what I'm reading...Let's see if I can do for erudite Iraq blogging what Ophra (as my mom calls her) did for sappy girly literary novels.

The Saddam Trial Blog - a new website devoted to legal experts discussing Saddam's trial. They debate lawyerly questions like "Is the Iraqi Special Tribunal...a legitimate judicial institution?" or "Does Saddam Hussein have head of state immunity?" (hat tip: Iraq Blog Count)

In his article With Freedom Comes Politics in the Wall Street Journal, Michael Rubin takes on the notion that if the Constitution passes, Iraqi Sunni Arabs will be flung into the arms of Zarqawi or Saddam's Orphans. He also agrees with something I've been telling people lately: that voting down this constitution and getting Sunni Arabs more involved will not necessarily lead to a more secular or more Western-style draft:

Many U.S. policy makers worry that disgruntled Sunnis may turn to violence if their demands aren't met. But there is no evidence to support the conventional wisdom that insurgent violence is tied to the political process. Insurgents have not put forward any platform. By denying the legitimacy of the state, pan-Islamic rhetoric is a greater affront to Iraqi nationalism than the presence of foreign troops on Iraqi soil. It is no accident that Iraqi Sunnis have started killing foreign jihadists.

Nevertheless, implying violence to be the result of demands not met is an old Middle East game. And in this game, Iraqi factions have played the Western media and policy makers like a fiddle. White House pressure, for example, led U.S. officials to amend the political process in order to augment the Sunni presence in the Constitutional Drafting Commission. Acceding to such demands is not without cost. Because Iraq's Sunni leaders are more Islamist than their Shiite counterparts, the increased Sunni presence eroded the rights of Iraqi women in the constitution's final draft. [emphasis mine]

Jeffrey put me on to IraqiPundit who is, if anything, more revolted by Cole's take on the Zawahiri letter, on the offered Constitution, and on the election than me. I really thought I was way out front exploring the frontiers of The Land of Visceral Revulsion Over Cole, but when I got to the end of my hike Monday, there was IraqiPundit, sitting by a campfire, smoking a pipe.

Like me, his disgust with Cole is not whether or not the Zawahiri letter is authentic, but out of Cole's silly puffed-up reasoning that leads him to believe it is not (which grows like mold on a wet surface from his anxiousness to take al-Qaeda's side of any debate).

IraqiPundit has done a whole series of posts on Cole in the last week or two. Check them all out .

A post by Walid Phares at The CounterTerrorism Blog - This post is on the Zawahiri letter (or Thawahiri as Walid spells it; "th" as in that). He discusses the way the letter was treated in jihadi chat rooms and introduces some doubt about when they got it (hat tip Not PC):

When US media showed significant interest in the Thawahiri letter addressed to Abu Mus'aab al Zarqawi, I attempted to monitor the "Jihadi Chat" regarding the so-called letter. To my surprise, the next day, a letter was being read in a couple chat rooms. It was a lengthy text of about 30 minutes. All of the points summarized in the daily media were included, but the oral paragraphs were much longer. The "moderator" said he was reading the letter from the "doctor"; hence it is assumed to be the same letter. The moderator also mentioned that this document was also read back in August, but I had no way to confirm it. My first conclusion though was that the so-called letter -or a copy- was indeed released internally within the Tanzeem (organization) for dissemination and "discussion."

That day, I had no evidence about the first date of the internal release, nor who released it to the network all the way to the "rooms." Was it released back in July, since July or after segments of the letter transpired in the Western press? It seemed to me that, although Thawahiri's letter was on the face of it "personal" and directed to Abu Mas'aab, it was nevertheless circulated (or pieces of it) among the Jihadists before it was publicized gradually in the US and West. Was there a reason?

Until the Government posted the entire translation of the text on the web site today, the situation was somewhat peculiar: Was it meant to be sent only for the eyes of Abu Mus'aab? I am not sure anymore. For a Thawahiri letter to be read by the room(s) moderators and "descended" on to the cadres, shows the initial intent of the writer(s) and the sender(s). Ironically, while some paragraphs of the letter were surfacing through the media, the (alleged) entire text of the letter (or at least a much longer version) was circulated within the Jihadist community on line. While pieces were appearing in the US press, the entire letter was read in the chat rooms...enigma?

In any event, the moderator a week ago didn't seem [to be] reading some extremely secret letter, but a "strategic document" from al doktor. Couple days later, another reading was performed in a newly formed ghurfa (room). The reading was followed by an interesting discussion, rather Q and A about the "rules of engagement."

This one isn't exactly erudite, but is interesting analysis from an attested expert.

Michael Ledeen posts his conversation with James Jesus Angleton, "once upon a time the head of counterintelligence for the CIA" on the Zawahiri letter. Angleton is not an expert on Iraq: he seems to have been surprised to learn that all Sunnis are not indoctrinated to hate Shi'a. Perhaps that is true in Egypt (I don't know), but it can't be true in Iraq where there is plenty of Sunni-Shi'a mixed families.

But Angleton does say something interesting about Iran's possible cross-involvement with al Qaeda:

JJA: Zawahiri tosses in another peculiar line: "even if we attack the Shia out of necessity, then why do you announce this matter and make it public, which compels the Iranians to take counter measures?"

ML: What's the deal with that? The papers have been full of stories about all the help the Iranians are giving to the Sunni insurgents, even in the south, where Iran has lots of leverage.

JJA: Indeed. And Zawahiri also "reminds" Zarqawi that "we have more than one hundred prisoners many of whom are from the leadership who are wanted in their countries in the custody of the Iranians."

ML: Odd, isn't it?

JJA: I'll say it's odd. It reads like Iranian disinformation. Zawahiri takes great pains to blame Zarqawi for Iranian meddling in Iraq (reacting to attacks on Shiites), and reinforces the old story about Iran holding al Qaeda "prisoners." I've never believed that.

ML: In fact, the 9/11 Commission, for all its faults, showed a long-standing alliance between the mullahs and al Qaeda, years before 9/11.

JJA: Yes, and including obvious assistance from Iran to several of the terrorists when they traveled to America to do the evil deed.

ML: So why should anyone think that Iran is being mean to them now?

JJA: Because the Iranians want us to believe it. Most of the stuff I've seen suggests that Zawahiri himself is in Iran, and has been there ever since Afghanistan, as has bin Laden's son and who knows about bin Laden himself?

ML: So you think the letter is just Iranian disinformation?

JJA: No, I don't think it's that simple. I think it's like a CIA assessment. I think it's groupthink. Letter-by-committee. Lots of it sounds right to me, especially that stuff about using the media, although even there, I have my doubts.

Check out the whole thing for what it's worth.

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