Cramer Forms Anti-Terrorism Caucus by Office of Congressman Bud Cramer (5th District of Alabama)

U.S. Representatives Bud Cramer (Ala.-05), Sue Myrick (N.C.-09), Ben Chandler (Ky.-06), and Kay Granger (Texas-12) held a news conference today to announce the formation of the bipartisan House Anti-Terrorism Congressional Caucus.

The House Anti-Terrorism Caucus was formed to provide Members of Congress detailed information about the threat to our country from terrorism. This caucus will provide background information, historical perspectives, and analysis to Members of Congress about radical philosophies around the world that threaten national security.

“We formed this Caucus to help increase awareness about the different facets of the war on terrorism,” said Cramer. “It’s clear that many Members who do not serve on military, homeland security, or intelligence committees want to be more engaged on this important issue, and we’re giving them that opportunity. With a better understanding of the factors surrounding Islamic terrorism, Congress will be able to provide better oversight on the broader War on Terror, and make more informed decisions on how our nation should proceed.”

Representative Cramer is a co-chairman of the Anti-Terrorism Caucus with Reps. Myrick, Chandler, and Granger. The Caucus currently has 67 members. Earlier this month, the Caucus held its first event with John Hopkins’ School of Advance International Studies professor Mary Habeck. Dr. Habeck is also the author of “Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror.”

Representative Cramer is a member of the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Defense, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Select Intelligence Oversight Panel. He is the only member of Congress to serve on all three panels.

‘Global War Curriculum’ seen in Iran’s schools by Gareth Harding

The Iranian education system is preparing its students for a global war against the West in the name of Islam, according to an independent study of 115 textbooks and teachers guides released today.

With Tehran accused of seeking to develop a nuclear weapons arsenal and the United States dispatching a second aircraft carrier to the Gulf, the report by the Center for Monitoring the Impact of Peace highlights the uphill task Washington faces trying to persuade Iranian youth to distance themselves from the hard-line Islamist regime.

The study, which claims to be the first of its kind, catalogs how pupils as young as 9 are conditioned to take part in a global jihad against such “infidel oppressors” as Israel and the United States.

“Hate indoctrination is a professed goal of Iranian textbooks,” said the report’s author, Arnon Groiss, a Princeton and Harvard educated journalist who also has written critical studies of the Israeli, Palestinian, Syrian, Saudi, and Egyptian education systems.

According to Mr. Groiss, Iranian pupils learn from an early age that the Islamic republic is in mortal combat with Western powers bent on its destruction.

One 11th-grade textbook, quoting former spiritual leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, refers to the United States and its allies as “the World Devourers” and says that if they “wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against their whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all of them.”

Students are drilled for battle from age 12, when they are obliged to take defense-readiness classes, according to the study by the Israel-based nongovernmental organization. Some also are drafted into the Revolutionary Guard and other elite combat units, where they are taught how to handle shoulder-propelled rocket launchers, the study says.

Through stories, poems, wills and exercises, martyrdom is glorified as a means of defending the Islamic republic and attaining eternal happiness, the report says. A Grade 10 textbook on “defense readiness” boasts that during the eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s, half a million students were sent to the front and “36,000 martyrs … were offered to the Islamic Revolution.”

Describing Iran’s school system as a “global war curriculum,” Mr. Groiss said the emphasis on military training from such a young age instilled a “siege mentality” among many students.

“It is a form of child abuse to install such notions in children’s minds,” he told journalists at a briefing in the European Parliament in Brussels.

Israel, which Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad repeatedly has said should be “wiped off the map,” is not recognized in atlases and is portrayed as a danger to Islamic states.

“Another problem [faced by Muslim countries] is the regime that occupies Jerusalem, which has been created in this area … for America and other aggressive powers, with the aim of taking over the Muslim lands,” says a geography textbook for Grade 11 students that is quoted in the study.

Anti-Semitism is also rife, according to the report, which analyzed textbooks published before Mr. Ahmadinejad came to power in 2005. In one cartoon for third-graders, the inhabitants of a clean and tidy town discover a trail of garbage left by a ghoulish creature with the Star of David on his right arm. The contaminator is chased out of town and the mess cleaned up after him.

The United States, which is commonly referred to as the “Great Satan” and the “Arch-Oppressor Worldwide,” fares little better.

“America is known as an imperialist country, which embarks on military intervention wherever it sees that its interests are in danger,” says a sociology textbook for Grade 11 students, according to the study.

“It does not refrain from massacring people, from burying alive the soldiers of the opposite side and from using mass destruction weapons.”

Speaking at the release of the report today, the vice chairman of the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, Geoffrey Van Orden, said: “Young people are being indoctrinated in hatred and intolerance to other religions and cultures. This is not only very disturbing in terms of the education and upbringing of those young people, but in terms of international stability.”

The Iranian Embassy in Brussels was asked to respond to the claims in the report but failed to comment.

PAKISTAN: Controversial Clerics Receive Death Threats from Authorities by Syed Saleem Shahzad

Following last week’s deadly bomb blasts in the Pakistani cities of Islamabad and Peshawar, well-placed sources in the capital told Adnkronos International (AKI) that president General Pervez Musharraf asked the Pakistani Air Force to carry out an air strike on the largest Islamic seminary or madrassa in Islamabad where two of leading ideologues of the Pakistani Taliban, Ghazi Abdul Rasheed and Maulana Abdul Aziz, are holed up after attempts to flush them out turned into a fiasco.

Pakistan conducted an air strike on a suspected militant training camp in South Waziristan on 16 January – after intense US pressure – putting an end to a peace deal between the two Waziristans and the Pakistani government. The revenge promised by local pro-Taliban militants came quickly, with an apparent sucide attack on 22 January in North Waziristan, killing at least three members of Pakistan’s security forces.

The clerics who appear to have riled president Musharraf, are brothers Ghazi Abdul Rasheed and Maulana Abdul Aziz, the sons of the slain Maulana Abdullah, one of the oligarchs of the resistance against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Both are controversial religious figures and there have been direct requests from Washington and London for their arrests. They are both wanted by Pakistan’s interior ministry and cannot leave the premises of the Lal Masjid, the central mosque in Islamabad, as there are warrants for their arrest.

However Pakistani security agencies’ efforts to arrest them on a number of occasion have failed – in part because of resistance within the political establishment and of fear of the popular reaction in Islamabad and beyond.

This time though, sources told AKI that Musharraf reportedly told a gathering of senior officials at a meeting in Rawalpindi: “I don’t want them in federal capital. If you are unable to arrest them…shoot them.”

Those attending reportedly disagreed categorically with the idea of an air strike in the capital city, and pointed out that the students of the influential clerics have already staged a powerful protest in the past few days against the demolition of two mosques in Islamabad and they are a force to be reckoned with.

“Yes, I confirm that we have received direct threats from high-level authorities within the military establishment that General Pervez Musharraf is personally very disgruntled with our seminaries in the federal capital and since the authorities failed to take any action against us…he wants to kill us both,” said Ghazi Abdul Rasheed, in a telephone interview with Adnkronos International (AKI) from Islamabad.

Soon after 7 July 2005 bomb blasts on the London transport system which killed 56 people, Pakistani security forces carried out a massive crackdown on madrassas including those in Islamabad run by Maulana Abdul Aziz and Maulana Ghazi Abdul Rasheed.

However the female students at the seminary for girls not only resisted the crackdown but the entire operation also turned out to be very embarrassing for the Pakistani government. Many female students were seriously injured by policemen and several police officers were wounded by the girls.

The authorities opted to avoid a direct clash with those running the seminaries. However, Pakistan’s interior ministry issued a warrant for the arrest of both brothers who were then forced to take refuge inside the seminary and the mosque.

Ghazi Abdul Rasheed and Maulana Abdul Aziz first made headlines when they issued a religious decree in 2004 against Pakistani armed forces personnel fighting against al-Qaeda militants in South Waziristan. The decree stated that Pakistani soldiers fighting South Waziristan did not deserve a Muslim funeral or burial at Muslim cemeteries in the event that they were killed while fighting in the tribal region which lies on the Pakistan-Afghan border.

The religious decree was well-received in extremist circles and 500 other religious scholars signed the edict. The decree turned out to be a major reason why many officers and soldiers in the Pakistani army refused to fight militants in Waziristan.

“We trust in Allah. We always abide by the law,” Abdul Rasheed told AKI. “We will not retaliate even though we know the designs of General Pervez Musharraf.

You Could Call iPhone Perfect by Andy Ihnatko

I have used the Apple iPhone. I had a private briefing the day after Steve Jobs’ keynote and spent about 45 minutes noodling around with the device.

You may touch the hem of my robe if you wish.

In response to a Beatlemania-scale pile of e-mails, here’s what I can tell you so far, based on my hands-on impressions, my talks with Apple and general first-hand sniffing around:

1. The touch-interface works flawlessly, in terms of both technical function and user interface design. Whatever you want to do — select an album to play, make or take a call, compose and send an e-mail — your first impulse is almost always the correct one.

This is the simplest phone ever.

And there are no lags, no pauses, no waiting for the slickly animated UI to catch up with you, even when you’re scrolling through a stack of album art that’s flopping past your finger in 3D: It’s liquid.

The bad news: It works only with direct, skin contact. You can’t wear gloves, and I don’t know if you can even put a screen protector on it. On the plus side, the screen is supposed to be more scratch-resistant than an iPod.

“So long as you don’t have a pocket full of broken glass, it’ll be OK in there,” I was told.

2. I think the iPhone’s virtual keyboard is a huge improvement over the mechanical thumbpads found on the Treo and any other smart phones of its size.

The buttons are significantly larger, you don’t have to hit them dead-center, you lightly tap them instead of punching them down, and the software is smart enough to know that you meant to type “Tuesday” instead of “Tudsday.”

After 30 seconds, I was already typing faster with the iPhone than I ever have with any other phone. I suspect that true e-mail demons will need to adapt to the lack of tactile feedback, though.

3. It’s the most beautiful freakin’ display I’ve ever seen on a phone or PDA, both in range of color and level of detail. Even microscopic browser text is credibly readable.

4. The apps that were functional at the time of the demo give the satisfying, protein-rich experience of “real” software. The mail client and browser make you feel like you’re using a powerful desktop app, not a cell phone that can kind of send e-mail and browse the Web (depending on how you define “e-mail” and “the Web”).

5. Apple will keep a very tight rein on software development.

I asked point-blank if third parties would be able to write and distribute iPhone apps and was told, point-blank, no.

However, it appears that there’ll be some third-party opportunities. I’m going to take a guess that iPhone software will be distributed the same way as iPod games: no “unsigned” apps will install, but apps will start appearing on the iTunes Store after successfully passing through a mysterious process of Apple certification — one that ensures that they meet a certain standard of quality and won’t, you know, secretly send your credit-card info to Nigeria.

The lockdown on software is an area of ongoing suspicious interest. I noticed that the iPhone’s pre-release browser was missing some plug-ins. I asked if Real and Macromedia et al. would be writing media plug-ins for the iPhone’s Web browser, and was told that no, the browser would ship with plug-ins, but Apple would be writing them all in-house. Odd, that.

6. The iPhone runs the same OS as the Macintosh. And not in the way that Windows Mobile is, I suppose, technically, if you want to split hairs about it, classified somewhere in the Microsoft Windows phylum.

Nope, everything I’ve learned (both in official briefings and “you and I never spoke, all right?” sort of discussions) says that it truly does run Leopard, the upcoming 10.5 OS that will be released for the Macintosh late in the spring.

Those spiffy UI animations, for instance, come courtesy of Leopard’s Core Animation suite.

So will it run Mac software? Nope. The iPhone runs OS X, but it’s an iPhone, not a Macintosh. And it stands to reason that the OS on the iPhone doesn’t include any bits that it doesn’t need.

And no, the iPhone’s Widgets aren’t the same as the Mac’s Dashboard widgets. But they do use DashCode and other desktop widget tech, so who knows? I’m really hoping that widgets will be more open to third-party developers than apps.

7. The iPhone is still under development and isn’t feature-complete. I opened the “Notes” application and found myself tapping impotently at a JPEG of what the app is supposed to look like. And the camera app only had one button.

Any complaints about what the iPhone can’t do are premature. Remember, it won’t ship for six months.

I really, really like what I’ve seen so far. But true judgment won’t come until June.

A Missile Punch at Bullet Prices by Michael Zitz

Normally, new weaponry tends to make defense more expensive. But the Navy likes to say its new railgun delivers the punch of a missile at bullet prices.

A demonstration of the futuristic and comparatively inexpensive weapon yesterday at the Naval Surface Warfare Center at Dahlgren had Navy brass smiling.

The weapon, which was successfully tested in October at the King George County Base, fires nonexplosive projectiles at incredible speeds, using electricity rather than gun powder.

The technology could increase the striking range of U.S. Navy ships more than tenfold by the year 2020.

“It’s pretty amazing capability, and it went off without a hitch,” said Capt. Joseph McGettigan, commander of NSWC Dahlgren Division.

“The biggest thing is it’s real, not just something on the drawing board,” he said.

The railgun works by sending electric current along parallel rails, creating an electromagnetic force so powerful it can fire a projectile at tremendous speed. Because the gun uses electricity and not gunpowder to fire projectiles, it’s safer, eliminating the possibility of explosions on ships and vehicles equipped with it. Instead, a powerful pulse generator is used.

The prototype fired at Dahlgren is only an 8-megajoule electromagnetic device, but the one to be used on Navy ships will generate a massive 64 megajoules. Current Navy guns generate about 9 megajoules of muzzle energy.

The railgun’s 200 to 250 nautical mile range will allow Navy ships to strike deep in enemy territory while staying out of reach of hostile forces.

Rear Adm. William E. “Bill” Landay, chief of Naval Research, said Navy railgun progress from the drawing board to reality has been rapid.

“A year ago, this was [just] a good idea we all wanted to pursue,” he said.

Elizabeth D’Andrea of the Office of Naval Research said a 32-megajoule lab gun will be delivered to Dahlgren in June.

Charles Garnett, project director, called the projectile fired by the railgun “a supersonic bullet,” and the weapon itself is “a very simple device.”

He compared the process to charging up a battery on the flash of a digital camera, then pushing the button and “dumping that charge,” producing a magnetic field that drives the metal cased ordnance instead of gun powder.

The projectile fired yesterday weighed only 3.2 kilograms and had no warhead. Future railgun ordnance won’t be large and heavy, either, but will deliver the punch of a Tomahawk cruise missile because of the immense speed of the projectile at impact.

Garnett compared that force to hitting a target with a Ford Taurus at 380 mph. “It will take out a building,” he said. Warheads aren’t needed because of the massive force of impact.

The range for 5-inch guns now on Navy ships is less than 15 nautical miles, Garnett said.

He said the railgun will extend that range to more than 200 nautical miles and strike a target that far away in six minutes. A Tomahawk missile covers that same distance in eight minutes.

The Navy isn’t estimating a price tag at this point, with actual use still about 13 years away. But it does know it will be a comparatively cheap weapon to use.

“A Tomahawk is about a million dollars a shot,” McGettigan said. “One of these things is pretty inexpensive compared to that.”

He said estimates today are that railgun projectiles will cost less than $1,000 each, “but it’s going to depend on the electronics.”

Projectiles will probably eventually have fins for GPS control and navigation. To achieve that kind of control and minimize collateral damage, railgun ordnance will require electronic innards that can survive tremendous stress coming out of the muzzle.

“When this thing leaves, it’s [under] hundreds of thousands of g ‘s, and the electronics of today won’t survive that,” he said. “We need to develop something that will survive that many g ‘s.”

At the peak of its ballistic trajectory, the projectile will reach an altitude of 500,000 feet, or about 95 miles, actually exiting the Earth’s atmosphere.

The railgun will save precious minutes in providing support for U.S. Army and Marine Corps forces on the ground under fire from the enemy.

“The big difference is that with a Tomahawk, planning a mission takes a certain period of time,” McGettigan said. “With this, you get GPS coordinates, put that into the system and the response to target is much quicker from call to fire to actual impact.”

General Atomics, a San Diego defense contractor, was awarded a $10 million contract for the project last spring.

The concept was born in the 1970s then promoted when President Ronald Reagan proposed the anti-missile “Star Wars” Strategic Defense Initiative. The SDI railgun was originally intended to use super high-velocity projectiles to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles.

How Apple kept its iPhone Secrets by Peter H. Lewis

One of the most astonishing things about the new Apple iPhone, introduced yesterday by Steve Jobs at the annual Macworld trade show, is how Apple managed to keep it a secret for nearly two-and-a-half years of development while working with partners like Cingular, Yahoo and Google.

The iPhone, which won’t be available in the United States until June, represents a close development partnership with America’s largest wireless phone company (Cingular, now a part of AT&T, has 58 million subscribers), the world’s largest e-mail service (Yahoo has a quarter-billion subscribers worldwide), and the world’s dominant search company. Although speculation was rampant before the introduction that Apple would introduce a phone with iPod capabilities, actual details of the device were scarce. Even some senior Apple managers whispered during the keynote that they were seeing the iPhone for the first time, along with the 4,000 other Apple followers who crammed the Moscone meeting center here. Indeed, Apple’s emphasis on secrecy may have influenced Apple’s choice of Cingular to be the exclusive provider for iPhone service in the United States.

Apple, legendary for the ferocity with which it safeguards new product announcements, had extraordinary challenges in keeping the iPhone under wraps for 30 months. Besides involving Cingular, Google and Yahoo, not to mention the unnamed Asian manufacturer, the project touched nearly every department within Apple itself, Jobs said, more so than in any previous Apple creation.

No one thinks Apple went to the draconian lengths of some rivals, like Hewlett-Packard, which bugged phones, read e-mail, riffled through trash and otherwise spied on board members, employees and journalists in order to track down leaks of confidential company information. However, Apple does make it clear to employees and business partners that they will be dismissed and possibly prosecuted for leaking company secrets. Apple has also played the bully role, suing bloggers and other independent journalists for posting purported advance information about unannounced Apple products.

Secrets – along with patents – protect Apple against competitive threats from foreign companies that have become expert at instant cloning of Apple’s products and designs. But secrets also create a major buzz factor. As the giant Consumer Electronics Show opened this week in Las Vegas, where hundreds of the world’s biggest gadget and gizmo companies show off their newest and greatest gear, everyone was talking about the company that was not there – Apple – and speculating on what Steve Jobs had up the sleeves of his trademark black mock turtleneck shirt.

Many of the country’s top technology analysts and journalists flocked to the Las Vegas airport Monday night, on the first day of CES, to be able to see Jobs reveal his secrets here Tuesday morning. Although their applications will be crucial parts of the iPhone experience, neither Yahoo nor Google saw the actual phone until shortly before the keynote, Jobs said. The software development was done without needing to provide a hardware prototype. In some cases, Apple deliberately disguised software builds, known as “stacks”, to keep programmers from seeing the actual interface.

The Cingular partnership was especially complicated. Cingular had been a partner when Apple made its first foray into the phone business, providing iTunes software for the ill-fated Motorola ROKR, unleashed in 2005. The norm in the telecom business is for carriers to dictate to phone manufacturers which features and technologies they want to offer to their subscribers, which is anathema to Apple culture. But in the case of the ROKR – which I reviewed as the STNKER – it was Motorola’s meddling that drove Apple nuts. When the ROKR finally emerged, clumsy and underpowered, Jobs held it up on stage with all the enthusiasm of a man holding a dead rat by the tail. Jobs came out of the ROKR experience even more determined to maintain total control over what he called the reinvention of the telephone.

However, he said, he enjoyed working with Cingular. And apparently the sentiment was mutual. Two years ago, Jobs and Cingular’s chief executive, Stan Sigman, got together to forge a multiyear pact to work together on the iPhone. The Apple phone didn’t even exist as a sketch at that point, but apparently Sigman trusted that Jobs and Apple would deliver on their promise to revolutionize the mobile handset. And Apple trusted Cingular not to meddle in the hardware or feature design. “They let Apple be Apple,” one Apple executive said.

Cingular worked with Apple software developer on breakthrough features like visual voicemail – the ability to see a list of voicemail messages in a list and choose to listen to them in any order, instead of sequentially, as most carriers require today – while Apple focused on what it does best, the close integration of elegant hardware design with powerful but simple-to-use software. Even so, Apple didn’t show Cingular the final iPhone prototype until just weeks before this week’s debut. In some cases, Apple crafted bogus handset prototypes to show not just to Cingular executives, but also to Apple’s own workers.

Meanwhile, Jony Ive, Apple’s design guru, was refining the sleek, final design. At the Macworld keynote, with Cingular’s Sigman on stage with him, Jobs hinted again that the exclusive, multiyear partnership with Cingular would yield more phones that just the two iPhone models unveiled today. (The two are basically identical: A $499 device with four gigabytes of internal memory, and a $599 version with eight gigabytes.)

In the end, Apple decided to reveal the iPhone several months ahead of its official June launch because it could not keep the secret any more. Apple has to file with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the permits needed to operate the iPhone, and once those public filings are made, Apple has no control over the release of that information. So, Jobs said, he made the decision to have Apple tell the world about its new phone, rather than the FCC.

Pillow talk was a challenge at the other end of the spectrum. Keeping secrets from loved ones is especially hard. Those stresses were amplified by the frantic race over the past half year to get the iPhone ready for launch. As Macworld approached, dinners were missed, kids were not tucked in properly, and family plans were disrupted, especially over the holidays. And for what? “Sorry, that’s classified” is not considered a satisfactory answer in many households when Mom or Dad misses the school play or the big wedding anniversary dinner.

Phil Schiller, Apple’s head of marketing and one of the few Apple executives involved with the project from the start, said he had to keep the iPhone development secret even from his wife and children. When he left home for the official unveiling yesterday, Schiller said, his son asked, “Dad, can you finally tell us now what you’ve been working on?” Jobs paused during the keynote to acknowledge the strain and sacrifices that the past months have brought not just for the employees who kept the secrets so well, but also for their families. “We couldn’t have done it without you,” he said, with obvious sincerity.

Analysis: The Elephant in the Room – EDGE on the iPhone? by Mat Lu

There’s no question that today’s iPhone annoucement is huge news both for Apple fans and the wireless industry in general. Apple has beat my (and I suspect almost everyone else’s) expectations in almost all areas, save one – the cellular technology they’ve chosen to integrate with the iPhone. For those of you who may not know EDGE is a so-called 2.75G technology and not one of the new 3G technologies now being rolled out by most of the big cell carriers. The upshot of this is much lower bandwidth than 3G standards like EVDO (on Verizon and Sprint and other CDMA providers) and UMTS/HSDPA (on Cingular and other GSM providers). The analogy many people use is that EDGE is more like dial-up and HSDPA is more like broadband. EDGE tends to get real world speeds in the range of 70Kbps to 135Kbps (on a good day), while wifi is of course much faster (real world is generally about half of the rated speed, so about 27Mbps for 802.11g).

The Keynote seemed to demonstrate pretty quick downloads on the iPhone, but the real question is how fast things will be on the EDGE network rather than via wifi. Obviously the inclusion of wifi mitigates the problem when you’re in range of a base station, but I’m really curious to see how data intensive services like Google maps and web browsing really work when you’re on Cingular’s network.

A final question will be Cingular’s data pricing: will there be an affordable all you can eat data plan for the iPhone? We’re so used to seeing Apple push the technology envelope in other areas, it really seems like a strange choice to integrate last generation wideband technology in its new flagship product.

Fostering Chaos: Iran, the Sunnis, and Iraq by Aaron Mannes

Eli Lake, of the The New York Sun, reports that documents captured from Iranian operatives in Iraq indicate that Iran has been supporting Sunni jihadists in Iraq. There have been other hints of this support. Reports on the IEDs have noted obliquely that the highest quality explosives come from Iran, and Hezbollah has been deploying IEDs against Israel since the 1990s.

Considering the well-known Iranian support for the Shiite militias (including Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, Abd al-Aziz Hakim’s SCIRI, and al-Dawa) and the bloody sectarian fighting between Shia and Sunnis, Iranian support for Sunni jihadis seems counter-intuitive. While the veracity of the report is not yet certain, seen in the context for Iranian support for terrorism elsewhere, a Iranian link to the Sunni insurgency has precedent. Not only, has Iran been willing to support Sunnis, Iran has frequently taken complex, multi-pronged approaches in their support for terrorism. This is approach particularly evident in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, where it has been highly effective in expanding Iranian influence.

First, since the 1979 revolution the Iranian regime reached out to Sunni radicals worldwide with open hands. In places with only small Shia populations, Sunni antipathy tends to be muted and often these Sunni radicals were open to Iranian aid. Hezbollah, Iran’s leading terror proxy, provided training for radicals of all stripes at Sudanese training camps in the early 1990s. Egyptian and Algerian radicals received Iranian support. Also, Hezbollah’s top killer, Imad Mughniyah met with Bin Laden in Khartoum and forged an alliance. Later al-Qaeda operations, particularly the 1998 Embassy Bombings bore all the hallmarks of a Hezbollah operation (particularly the meticulous planning and the multiple simultaneous truck bombs).

Second, the Iranians have employed sophisticated strategies in supporting terrorist organizations in areas of priority. In Lebanon in 1982, Iran’s Ambassador to Syria, Ali Akbar Mohatashemi, brought several radical Lebanese Shia factions together to form Hezbollah. Now the “Father of Hezbollah” is coordinating Iranian support for the Palestinian terrorist groups. But here he is taking an opposite strategy, fostering competition between different groups to keep the pot boiling.

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is Iran’s closest ally and was almost completely dependent on Iranian funding. The funding came via Hezbollah, but in June 2002 – as a reward for their many successful operations – PIJ was given an independent funding stream. The Iranians can be sure that even if Hamas and Fatah sign on to a hudna, PIJ will break it. But Iran has been generous to all factions (even minor secular ones like the PFLP) with money and arms. Iran is carefully infiltrating both Hamas and Fatah. Top leaders of both organizations, particularly Hamas’ Damascus leadership, are tightly linked to Iran. At the same time, lower level operatives from Hamas and Fatah are given training and medical treatment in Iran and some start Hezbollah cells in the West Bank and Gaza on their return. The first Hezbollah cells in the West Bank and Gaza were started by members of Force 17, the Palestinian Presidential Guard (which the U.S. is now arming to counter Hamas.)*

On the micro-level, having cells beholden to Tehran gives the Iranians direct levers to continue the violence. On the macro-Palestinian political level, the essential dynamic is that attacking Israel builds a group’s credibility. If Hamas or Fatah leaders decide to reach an understanding with Israel, then other groups have an increased incentive to launch attacks and build their own credibility.

This dynamic is essential to the third point about understanding Iranian support for terrorism. Iranian politics is a complex “black box” with numerous players. There are the formal ministries and intelligence agencies. But there is also the parallel government of the Pasdaran, or Revolutionary Guards, who are charged with protecting the Islamic revolution and have played a key role in sponsoring international terrorist groups. There are also non-governmental radical institutions in Iran such as the bonyads (cleric controlled cartels that funnel some of their profits to radical causes world-wide) and internal vigilante groups that crack down on dissidents and reformers. Finally, Syria and Hezbollah, while closely allied with Iran, also pursue their own priorities via their own channels. These multiple semi-independent factions can create complicated situations in which different factions will compete to support extremist activity, build alliances with proxies, and generally not be left out of developments.

In short, Iran and its allies represent an alloyed network in which many of the network elements have formidable capabilities and can operate with tremendous cunning. At the same time the dynamics between the elements of the network can further foster chaotic situations that broadly serve Iranian interests and where Iran can fill the vacuum.

During the Cold War, the Soviets were often considered master chess players. But chess was invented in ancient Iran.

*Force 17 and Hezbollah have a long history of interaction. Hezbollah’s top killer, Imad Mughniyah – mastermind of Hezbollah’s deadliest attacks, including the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing – was a Force 17 alumnus. Also worth noting, Force 17 (which was supposed named due to its address at 17 Faqahani St. in Beirut) started as a protection unit for PLO officials. Naturally these skills were dual use and Force 17 became an integral part of PLO terror operations. When the PA was established, Force 17 became the Presidential Security Unit. Interestingly, under the PA, the unit’s uniforms had the number 17 on the arm.

Will Islamists now turn to terror attacks in Kenya and Ethiopia? by Kevin J. Kelly

Some American government officials as well as independent experts on the Horn are expressing fears that the war inside Somalia could spill into Kenya, probably in the form of terrorist attacks.

Other US-based analysts say, however, that Somalia’s Islamic Courts Union (ICU) lacks both the capacity and the motivation to open a front inside Kenya.

Somalia experts offered these varied interpretations in interviews last week with The EastAfrican.

The courts are unlikely to become involved in Kenya because they appear to be battling for their survival in Somalia, says David Shinn, a former US ambassador to Ethiopia. The Islamists were kicked out of the capital, Mogadishu, on Thursday.

Ted Dagne, a Horn specialist with the Washington-based Congressional Research Service, agrees with that assessment, saying, “I don’t see how it’s in the Courts’ interest to get involved in Kenya.”

Mr. Dagne also takes a sceptical view of reports suggesting that ICU leaders have laid claim to parts of Kenyan territory with large ethnic-Somali populations. “That talk of irredentist claims seems overblown to me,” he says.

Prof. Ken Menkhaus, a Somalia expert based at Davidson College in the state of North Carolina, accepts those assessments in part, but he also offers a scenario whereby Somali Islamists might decide to carry out or encourage terrorist operations in Kenya.

“Rational decision makers in the Courts would probably decide to leave Kenya alone,” Prof. Menkhaus says. “The Somalis have everything they want now in Kenya, where they run a virtual state-within-a-state. The Courts draw a lot of benefit from the status quo.”

The danger lies with more extreme elements in the Islamist militias that are fighting on behalf of the ICU, Prof. Menkhaus adds. They could well resort to guerrilla tactics, including terror bombings, now that Ethiopia has achieved full battlefield supremacy, he says.

“If groups within the militias decide that asymmetrical warfare should be the next step, Kenya does provide a lot of targets that they would see as inviting,” Menkhaus observes.

Other non-governmental analysts in the United States say the possibility of attacks inside Kenya, as well as Ethiopia, is of growing concern to Bush administration officials.

The US government would do well to consider the ramifications of the Somalia war not only for the Horn as a whole but for the entire Muslim world, Mr Dagne adds.

Many analysts dispute claims that the ICU is controlled by Al Qaeda. Jendayi Frazer, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, said recently that “East Africa Al Qaeda cell individuals” are directing the Courts’ council.

Mr. Dagne, who travels to the Horn regularly, says he has seen no evidence to support Ms Frazer’s claims.

Mr. Shinn and Prof. Menkhaus also say Al Qaeda does not wield as much influence over the courts as Ms. Frazer suggests, although they add that factions inside the ICU do have links to terrorist groups.

Mr. Shinn says that some radical measures taken by the courts, such as banning miraa, had been proving unpopular among many Somalis. At the same time, Prof. Menkhaus adds, the ICU’s generally favourable standing ensures that “the Islamist movement is going to be part of the Somali scene for a long time to come.”

The Bush administration itself is divided on the degree to which international terrorists influence the ICU, Prof. Menkhaus says.

“Among even those who agree with Ms. Frazer’s view, there is a fear that Ethiopia’s policy will make things worse,” he notes.

Prof. Menkhaus points to the possibility that Ethiopian forces will become bogged down by guerrilla-style resistance inside Somalia. Ethiopia’s intervention could also “allow hardliners in the ICU to rally broad Somali support and attract foreign jihadists,” he adds. “There’s also the real risk that the war will eventually be taken to Kenyan and Ethiopian soil.”

All three independent analysts suggest that the United States is not unreservedly supporting Ethiopia’s actions inside Somalia. A State Department spokesman’s recent comments on Ethiopia’s role are being wrongly interpreted, they say.

“Ethiopia has genuine security concerns with regard to developments in Somalia and has provided support at the request of the legitimate governing authority, the Transitional Federal institutions,” State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said on December 26.

But Gallegos added, “We, the US, have urged, and continue to urge, the Ethiopian government to exercise maximum restraint in intervening or responding to developments in Somalia and to assure the protection of civilians.”

Each of the analysts says the best interim outcome in Somalia would involve an agreement whereby all foreign forces leave the country. United Nations monitors say that roughly 2,000 Eritrean troops are operating in Somalia in support of the ICU.

Prof. Menkhaus argues, however, that withdrawal of foreign forces can be achieved only in tandem with other concessions, including a decision by the ICU to renounce irredentist claims to Ethiopian territory.

The Courts have been supporting anti-government forces in eastern Ethiopia while also forging close ties with Eritrea, Ethiopia’s arch-enemy, Menkhaus notes. He cites these factors in arguing that, “The Courts have baited Ethiopia into war.”

But Mr. Dagne says internal problems in Ethiopia are longstanding and “were not created by the Somalis.” Rebellions in the Ogaden region broke out during the time of Emperor Haile Selassie and during the Mengistu dictatorship in the 1970s, Mr. Dagne notes.

Ultimately, the analysts agree, security can be achieved in Somalia only with the assistance of international peacekeeping troops.

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) cannot provide the needed resources, they say. President George W. Bush did telephone Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni last week, however, to thank him for offering to dispatch troops for an Igad peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

The African Union could play an effective peacekeeping role, observers say — ideally in conjunction with a settlement between Ethiopia and the ICU as well as with Eritrea.

Why do people want the Applephone so much? by Ryan Block

It’s true, rumors of the long-awaited Applephone (that took me a couple tries — I kept typing “iPhone”) are at a fever pitch. Not that it’s necessarily a barometer, but Mac fanboy haven Digg has seen no less than 39 “iPhone” related articles hit the front page of its tech section this month. The questions people ask me more than any other: When is the iPhone Applephone coming out? and What do you know about it? But why all the fuss? Well, there are a few reasons why there’s such a pent-up demand for an Apple cellphone:

1. Cellphones today suck. Especially smartphones. It’s 2006 and a good phone — and I mean an honestly really good phone — still hasn’t been made. A new competitor — any new competitor, be it ALP or Linux or the Applephone — is highly anticipated.

2. People are already sick of Windows Mobile dominating the landscape. I’ve been a long time Windows Mobile user, but let’s face it, it’s pretty much the only smartphone game in town in the US. You can go Symbian, but the devices just aren’t there through carrier purchases. Palm is obviously a joke, and Linux / JUIX is nowhere to be found.

3. Cellphones haven’t gotten music integration right. Sure, there are enough phones with media buttons and microSD slots to go around, but that doesn’t mean they work well.

4. Using your phone and your Mac is often a painful and tedious experience. In fact, the same goes for using your phone and most any computer.

5. People are curious to see how radically the cellphone can be re-envisioned, and they expect Apple to lead that charge.

Now let’s square that off against the realities about the Applephone that people probably don’t want to face.

1. The battery life will probably be pretty awful. And if it’s going to be a small phone, battery life will be even worse. Even phones with massive 1000mAh+ batteries drain off fast when playing media. A two battery design isn’t going to change anything software battery partitioning couldn’t solve. Unless Apple is waiting to announce a major advancement in battery tech, that is just the way things are.

2. The phone will be buggy. Anyone ever use the first few releases of OS X? It took Apple years — specifically until about 10.3 — to get it right, and it’s taken Microsoft a good five years to get Windows Mobile to a state decent enough to be mass-market. Remember, this would be the first cellphone from a company that’s never made a phone before. Do you really think it would be perfect?

3. It won’t be what people want. People want a QWERTY slider flip phone with a numeric keypad, 3G, GPS, Bluetooth 2.0 and A2DP, a mini USB slot, 3.5mm stereo jack, and 3 megapixel digital camera (with flash). In other words, when a new product is merely rumored about, it takes a polymorphous shape. It won’t be everything — we should all know this by now that Apple’s design philosophy isn’t found in what they include, it’s in what they omit. The iPhone will undoubtedly be, comparatively speaking, under-featured.

4. It probably won’t have 3G. At least not at first. I don’t think the US carriers are ready for what Apple wants to do with this phone. If it does have 3G, it’ll probably be sold through Apple — not through a carrier — meaning you’ll have to pay the full $500 for your a first gen Applephone.

5. It’s safe to assume it won’t work with Windows out of the box. At least not fully. It’ll probably sync with iTunes, but getting your Outlook contacts on board probably won’t come until later (or will only happen via third party apps).

6. It won’t be revolutionary. If anything, it’ll be a well designed, well thought-out phone — which is, I suppose, revolutionary considering the market. But only because no one else is really pushing the envelope. From a device standpoint it will be fairly conventional in form-factor, shape, size, etc.

I’m not trying to be a buzzkill, believe me. But I’ve seen enough product launches — especially Apple ones — to know hype very rarely intersects with reality. Then again, it’s only a rumored product, right? Who knows, maybe Apple will really surprise us, and never actually even release a cellphone. THAT would be interesting.

Qaeda-LJ link in terror attacks by Abbas Naqvi

After investigating the three bomb blasts that took place in Karachi in 2006, the police have come to the conclusion that terrorist groups with different priorities have ganged up. They are specifically worried about the Laskhar-e-Jhangvi, Al Qaeda and the Abdullah Mehsud-led group of Afghanistan.

The first suicide bombing took place on March 3 behind the US Consulate, killing diplomat David Foy and three others. Two men, Anwarul Haq and Usman Ghani, are being tried in an anti-terrorism court for the attack. The alleged suicide bomber was identified as Raja Mohammad Tahir, a resident of Karachi, who had spent time in Afghanistan and Wana and had alleged links with Al Qaeda. The car that was used in the attack had been fitted with the explosives in Wana, the police claim.

The second suicide bombing took place about a month later, on April 11, at Nishtar Park at an Eid Miladun Nabi prayer congregation. More than 60 people died, including the entire top hierarchy of the Sunni Tehreek (of the Barelvi school of thought). During investigations, the police, who termed it the biggest terrorist attack of the year, began to suspect that it was sectarian.

“Up till now this case could not be solved completely,” said a senior CID investigator, who did not wish to be named. “But what has surfaced is that the Nishtar Park bombing was about a sectarian clash.”

The third suicide attack was on July 14 in which Allama Hasan Turabi was killed along with his nephew outside his house in Gulshan-e-Iqbal. During investigations, the police caught a group from Karachi and identified the suicide attacker as a 16-year-old of Bengali origin named Abdul Karim from Karachi. The police followed clues that took them to Wana in this case, leading them to conclude that the LJ, Al Qaeda and the Abdullah Mehsud-led group of Afghanistan were behind the job.

Investigators told Daily Times that some LJ men with links to Karachi went to Wana where they got in touch with the Abdullah Mehsud-led group. They then befriended Abdullah Mehsud’s cousin, Abid Mehsud. Through Abid they developed more links with Al Qaeda in Karachi and upon Abid’s advice roped in some young men from Orangi Town.

The jacket that was used in the Turabi suicide attack had been prepared in Darra Adam Khel by a man the investigators called Hazrat Ali, who was found dead after an explosion in a house in the area.

CID investigators said that for the first time it has been proved that LJ and Al Qaeda worked together in the sectarian case. Karim, who allegedly killed Turabi, was, however, neither linked to the LJ nor Al Qaeda, investigators pointed out, saying that they believed he was brainwashed into doing the job.

Islamic Courts Abandon Kismayo, Establish "Shadow Governments" by Daveed Gartenstein-Ross

I spoke with a military intelligence officer this morning about the situation in Somalia. He reported that the radical Islamic Courts Union (ICU) has abandoned Kismayo and dispersed. Kismayo is one of Somalia’s strategic port cities: after abandoning Kismayo, the ICU seemingly no longer controls any strategic cities. However, the group does control a sizeable geographic area, both in the north and south of the country. The ICU primarily controls smaller towns and villages.

My source reports that even in areas that the ICU controls, it is giving up active control and forming “shadow governments.” The term “shadow government” refers to Mafia-style governance, similar to what Al Capone had in Chicago in the 1920s: in these areas the ICU doesn’t have formal control, but is the real power. This mirrors the Taliban’s position in much of northern Pakistan. The main advantage the ICU derives from moving to shadow government is that it doesn’t have to actually govern: ICU representatives don’t have to appear publicly and don’t have to make any of the public works run. Instead, they can focus all their effort on insurgent campaigns — which, all told, is easier than managing a fully-functioning government. Also, a functioning government has to exist in a place that can be targeted. A shadow government, in contrast, can just disperse and regroup.

There are also disadvantages to a shadow government. It’s difficult for a shadow government to mass to control territory because once it does, it can be targeted. A second disadvantage is that the tools the shadow government uses to control the population are negative rather than positive. (For positive tools that the ICU used, remember how it managed to gain the support of Somalia’s business community.) Instead of having anything positive to offer, the shadow government’s position is that Somalis need to cooperate with it or they’ll be killed. These negative tools of control run the risk of alienating the population. However, if the country slips back into chaos, these negative controls may actually be seen by the population as positive means to stability.

My source notes that in those areas where the ICU hasn’t moved to shadow government, it’s probably because of communication difficulties: ICU leaders in those areas probably aren’t aware that they should do so.

Moreover, my source says that “the real battle” in Somalia will likely begin when Ethiopia begins to pull its troops back. Thus far, ICU forces have been melting away as the Ethiopians advance. This is reminiscent of the Taliban’s dispersal after Kandahar fell in Afghanistan. There is confirmation that the three suspects in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings who were in Somalia escaped during the ICU’s retreat. Some ICU members are trying to escape to Kenya, and have a good chance of succeeding because the Kenyan police are notoriously corrupt. ICU leader Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys is nowhere to be seen. Ethiopians and U.S. intelligence reportedly put the number of ICU fighters killed in the thousands.

My source reports that as the ICU left Mogadishu, they opened the jails and gave the criminal population all the weapons that the ICU wasn’t able to take with it. This action was designed to give the Ethiopians and transitional government more problems to take care of as they assume control of the city.

This would be a good time, my source says, for the African Union peacekeeping force that has often been discussed to be introduced to Somalia.