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The Oil Cringe of the West: The Collected Essays and Reviews of J.B. Kelly Vol. 2
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edited by S.B. Kelly
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Emmet Scott
Why the West is Best: A Muslim Apostate's Defense of Liberal Democracy
Ibn Warraq
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Allah is Dead: Why Islam is Not a Religion
by Rebecca Bynum
Virgins? What Virgins?: And Other Essays
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by Norman Berdichevsky
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Spanish Vignettes: An Offbeat Look Into Spain's Culture, Society & History
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These are all the Blogs posted on Wednesday, 16, 2013.
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Lowenthal: Hitler Honored in Upscale Istanbul Mall

Picture of Hitker in upscale Turkish Mall

Source:  The Jewish Press

Lori Lowenthal Marcus writes in The Jewish Press about veneration of Hitler by the Islamist regime of Turkey's AKP led by PM Erdogan. It is a reflection of classic Islamic anti-Semitism threatening Turkey's remaining Jews. See our Iconoclast blog " "Turkey's Jews Under Surveillance,  Erdogan Alleges Dual Loyalty". We noted in the post:

Turkey’s Jews are threatened with accusations of “dual loyalty”, a classic antisemitic canard.  The Erdogan regime is trying in absentia  Israeli military involved with the Mavi Mamara incident off Gaza.   You may recall the tearful visit of Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu to a hospital in Gaza City during the rocket attacks against Israel in Operation Pillar of Defense, a demonstration of solidarity with Hamas.  The AKP government of PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan is allied with Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Egypt, Qatar and Hamas in Gaza. Turkey’s support of opposition to Syria’s embattled Bashar al Assad is a reflection of Sunni Supremacist objectives for the region. The rise of Islamic antisemitism by the Erdogan regime could end the centuries old comity with Turkey’s remaining 20,000 Jews.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________

Hitler Honored in Upscale Instanbul Mall


Turkey is now not only openly hostile to the Jewish State, but also to the Jewish people

.
By: Lori Lowenthal Marcus

People who have been paying attention know that relations between Israel and Turkey have been eroding, but not many realize that Turkey is now not only openly hostile to the Jewish State, but also to the Jewish people.

On Friday, January 11, a Turkish citizen took a picture to show exactly how belligerent Turkey has become.  The picture is of a huge poster with the words, “Who Would You Like to Meet if You Could?” and the last name, and only photograph, is of Adolf Hitler.  The other choices include Suleiman I, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Napolean Bonaparte, the Beatles, Elvis Presley, Vladimir Lenin, Boris Yeltsin, Leonardo Da Vinci, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Michael Jackson.  But only Hitler warranted a picture, a huge one at that.

According to Ege Berk Korkut, an active Turkish writer and blogger, the sign was placed in the Sapphire Mall by the owners, a group of Turkish businessmen who are devoted to Erdogan. Korkut explained to The Jewish Press that the Sapphire is an ultra-upscale mall in Levent, the wealthiest neighborhood in Istanbul. The Sapphire building is one of the tallest buildings in Europe.


Korkut said that while a few people have complained about the banner – and the management has refused to remove it – most shoppers just glance at it and continue shopping.  Ho-hum, nothing startling or even mildly interesting.

[. . .]

With a huge flattering photograph of Hitler hanging in the fanciest mall in Istanbul, and Erdogan inching towards BFF status with Ahmadinejad, perhaps it is time for this administration to rethink putting daylight between the U.S. and Israel, and instead start putting it between the U.S. and Turkey.

(READ MORE)

Posted on 01/16/2013 12:12 AM by Jerry Gordon
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
"Movement For Oneness And Jihad"

Here is a brief excerpt from a report about the French intervention in Mali that just appeared in The Huffington Post:

"I would advise France not to sing their victory song too quickly. They managed to leave Afghanistan. They will never leave Mali," said Oumar Ould Hamaha, a commander of the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, an extremist groups whose fighters are believed to be in Diabaly.

It is not the "Movement for Oneness and Jihad" but the "Movement For Monotheism And Jihad." The correct version conveys, rather than camouflages, the rootedness in standard Islam, of the beliefs of the  Muslim group in question. "Oneness" is merely strange, and what's more,  puts the unwary reader in mind of something vaguely Wisdom-of-the-Eastish, something Buddhist or Hindu or with an Om repeated in the background, something a Beatle on a magical mystery tour, or a Hollywood star seeking to find himself midst all that Western materialism, might greet with relief.

One more example of the  unembarrassed and unembarrassable carelessness and general idiocy of the Western press.

Posted on 01/16/2013 2:04 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Obama Administration Feigns Surprise, Consternation At Morsi's Standard Fare

From the BBC:

Morsi's anti-Semitic slurs 'deeply offensive', US says

Mohammed Morsi in Cairo (10 January 2013)
Mr Morsi called on Egyptians to nurse "our children and grandchildren on hatred" in a 2010 TV interview

The US has strongly criticised Egypt's Mohammed Morsi for anti-Semitic remarks he apparently made before being elected president.

TV footage shows Mr Morsi in 2010 referring to Zionists as "bloodsuckers" and "descendants of apes and pigs".[now where does that last phrase come from? Some in the government surely know -- why don't they enlighten us?]

US officials want the leader to clarify his "deeply offensive" comments, which they say run counter to Middle East peace efforts.

Egypt receives around $1.5bn (£900m) in annual US military and economic aid. [no, this understates considerably the amount Egypt has been receiving for decades, and the American government should make clear the total amount]

The financial support is linked to Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, which the US considers a cornerstone of regional stability.

The controversy erupted after the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute (Memri) translated and released Arabic footage of interviews Mr Morsi gave in 2010, as a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. [what does the CIA do all day, with its hundreds of billions? Sit around and wait for a tiny private group, MEMRI, find and translate key texts?]

In the clip from Palestinian broadcaster Al-Quds TV, Mr Morsi referred to Jewish settlers as "occupiers of Palestine" and "warmongers".

He called for a "military resistance in Palestine against these Zionist criminals assaulting the land of Palestine and Palestinian".

Mr Morsi also denounced the Palestinian Authority, saying it was "created by the Zionists and American enemies for the sole purpose of opposing the will of the Palestinian people."

In another interview, Mr Morsi urged Egyptians to "nurse our children and grandchildren on hatred".

The US State Department said the comments should be repudiated. [or what? Will the Obama Administration at long last cut aid to Egypt, both military and economic, aid that has merely permitted the country to quadruple its population without any attempt to reign it in, and to remain a military threat to its only enemy, the "Zionist entity" of Israel against which Egypt's arms, for the past 65 years, have always ended up being used]

"We completely reject these statements, as we do with any language that espouses religious hatred," the department's spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said.

"This kind of rhetoric has been used in this region for far too long. It's counter to the goals of peace." [how long? 5 years? 50 years? 1350 years? Where does Victoria Nuland, where does the State Department, where do John Brenner and Barack Obama, think the phrase comes from? If they know, they are careful to attempt to hide it, for it would never do for members of Congress and the public to start to fathom the nature of Islam, and the gross insufficiency, therefore, of American policy toward the members of the Camp of Islam]

The White House called the rhetoric "unacceptable in a democratic Egypt".

"President Morsi should make clear that he respects people of all faiths," spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.

However, both US officials also highlighted that Mr Morsi had shown his commitment to regional peace efforts since taking office in June last year.

The Egyptian leader helped broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas after violence flared up in Gaza in November.

And although he has been openly critical of Israel, Mr Morsi also pledged to abide by the peace treaty when he was voted into power.

"What he has been doing is supporting that peace treaty, continuing to work with us and with Israel on common goals, including in Gaza," Ms Nuland said. "But we'll also judge him by what he says."[and what he thinks, what he believes so very deeply not just about Jews but about all Infidels and their proper place in a rightly-ordreed world -- will he be judged by that, too?]

Egypt has been a key US ally since it signed the 1979 peace deal as part of the Camp David Accords.[no, it hasn't been a "key U.S. ally," and has scarcely been an "ally" at all, but merely a taker of American aid. However, this idiotic phrase is by now boilerplate and no journalist apparently wishes to bother to think about whether it is accurate]

But observers say fears remain that the new leadership might try to renegotiate the treaty.

"As long as peace and justice are not fulfilled for the Palestinians, then the treaty remains unfulfilled," Mr Morsi told the New York Times shortly after winning the election last year.

Posted on 01/16/2013 2:25 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Why Can't We Stop Giving Muslim States Our Most Advanced Weaponry?

America is continually confusing enemies with allies because of our government's stubborn refusal to deal with the ideology of Islam and realize that it commands the highest loyalty of every believing Muslim. This complex technology will be immediately studied, transferred and possibly copied in key Muslim states throughout the world with a certain side trip to North Korea. From the Atlantic Wire:

In his first media appearance since visiting President Obama in Washington, Hamid Karzai announced that the United States had agreed to give his country a fleet of drones. The Afghan President didn't specify how many or which kind of drones Afghanistan would get, but he was careful to explain that the unmanned vehicles would be unarmed. American troops will even stick around and show Afghan forces how to use them. "They will train Afghans to fly them, use them and maintain them," said Karzai at a news conference. "Besides drones, Afghanistan will be provided with other intelligence gathering equipment which will be used to defend and protect our air and ground sovereignty." That includes 20 helicopters and at least four C-130 transport planes.

Posted on 01/16/2013 4:44 AM by Rebecca Bynum
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Disdain of the Past

This speech was given to the 'Another Country - is there a future for Tradition?' Conference - organised by the Traditional Britain Group and the Quarterly Review.

Posted on 01/16/2013 6:20 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
The Weapons Let Loose In Libya, Weapons That NATO Failed To Secure Or Destroy

From TIME:

War in Mali: France Can Bomb Militants, but Not Arms Routes

image: The Islamist police patrol in the streets of Gao, northern Mali, July 16, 2012.
ISSOUF SANOGO / AFP / Getty Images

Islamist police patrol the streets of Gao, Mali, on July 16, 2012

To fight a war, you need three essentials: weapons, fighters and cash. And the al-Qaeda-linked groups in northern Mali now being bombed by France have enjoyed a rich supply of all three ingredients, thanks to the downfall of Libya’s dictator Muammar Gaddafi, as well as, ironically, Western governments themselves, which have paid Islamic groups millions of dollars over the past few years to free European hostages in the vast Sahara Desert. “The jihadi groups were flush with cash, and were in a position to buy whatever was within reach,” says François Heisbourg, a security expert and chairman of the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London. “How many arms depots did Gaddafi have? Well over a thousand. So there is still a lot of stuff sloshing its way in all directions.”

The pipeline of weapons to Mali’s insurgents from Libya’s old regime has been an anxiety for African and Western governments ever since Gaddafi was killed in October 2011. The Libyan leader was a prolific arms buyer, spending billions in oil revenue during his last years on state-of-the-art weaponry and leaving behind miles of unsecured warehouses filled with rockets, machine guns, ammunition and antiaircraft systems, much of which had never been unpacked. Within hours of Gaddafi’s death, many ethnic Tuareg fighters from northern Mali, who’d fought alongside Libyan forces as mercenaries, retreated across the Sahara, carrying as much weaponry as they could stuff into their pickup trucks. The patchwork of ethnic separatist groups and Islamist militias that seized Mali’s north this year cemented their control from the muzzles of these guns.

But nearly 16 months on, that arms pipeline has yet to be halted. A report last November by the Civil-Military Fusion Centre, a research organization run by NATO’s Allied Command Operations in Norfolk, Va., said Tuaregs had continued selling quantities of weapons from Libya’s stockpiles to the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad, the major rebel group that seized control of northern Mali last March.

Despite the mounting threat, Western and African governments delayed action for months, and decisions that might have been taken last year were not. Daunted by the task of securing thousands of miles of remote desert borders, which sand tracks have been used by camel herders and tribesmen for centuries, officials expressed concern, but did little concrete. While Mali is separated from Libya by two huge desert territories, Algeria and Niger, both countries’ borders are extremely porous, and neither government has had much motivation to halt the weapons flow. The attitude of Algeria, which has the region’s biggest military, is “benign neglect,” Heisbourg says. “As long as the jihadis kept to themselves and operated outside of Algeria, the Algerians didn’t want to get involved.”

(MORE: The Crisis in Mali: Will French Air Strikes Stop the Islamist Advance?)

Although U.S. drones have operated in the region for months, American officials publicly insisted that Africa needed to take the lead against Mali’s rebels. The head of the U.S. military’s Africa Command, General Carter Ham, told the French newspaper Le Monde last November, “Our most important activity, not only for us, is to help countries in the region to enhance security at their borders. Mauritania, Libya, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Niger, are threatened by these networks across their borders,” he said. That same week, Ham told students in Paris, at an event attended by TIME, that confronting Mali’s jihadists was immensely complicated, and would likely take months to plan given the intricate web of regional organizations involved and the fact that the central government in Bamako, made dysfunctional following a military coup in March, had a loose grip on power and little capacity to regain control of the north on its own.

Two months later, Western and African nations are now scrambling to act, jolted into action by the southbound advance last week by the jihadist fighters, which threatened to turn all of Mali — a longtime U.S. ally that’s geographically double the size of Texas — into a failed state overrun by Islamist militant factions. Having appealed for international intervention for months, French President François Hollande deployed his special forces last Friday and ordered bombing raids on rebel camps in northern Mali, disrupting the Islamists’ advance and sending many fighters fleeing into the desert, according to French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian. He told reporters on Monday that the rebels based in the east of the country had been halted, while Malian and French forces were still battling “extremely well-armed groups” in the west. Monday evening, French special forces led an all-night bombing campaign in Diabaly in an effort to dislodge Islamist militants who seized the area, including its strategic military camp. The bombings took place as a convoy of 50 armed trucks carrying French troops crossed into Mali from Ivory Coast, as France prepares for a possible land assault.

Even when the insurgent offensive is pushed back, choking off Libya’s weapons supply once and for all could be difficult. And that’s hardly the only arms-smuggling route into Mali: in Mauritania, to Mali’s west, weapons vanished from two government stores last month. NATO is even working to try to destroy some of the country’s weapons stocks, which officials believe supply insurgent groups in the region.

The problem is that the Sahel region of North Africa includes some of the world’s poorest countries, with criminal activities, including arms and drug trafficking, comprising some of the most profitable enterprises, especially as there are customers who can afford those wares. Heisbourg and others believe jihadist groups are well financed, having made fortunes through ransom payments for hostages from Switzerland, Spain, Austria, France and elsewhere. Although European governments have denied paying ransoms, most experts in the region believe it has been common practice. For jihadists, says Heisbourg, “it has been a very, very lucrative business.”

After months of dithering on what to do about Mali, the Prime Ministers of Algeria, Libya and Tunisia finally agreed on Saturday to begin joint border patrols and to begin sharing intelligence, including about the region’s drug traffickers, whom officials believe finance the operations of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Tunisia’s President Moncef Marzouki told France 24 he believed his country “is becoming a corridor for Libyan weapons,” which then through remote desert routes in Algeria where al-Qaeda militants are closely tied to those in northern Mali. He described the insurgency as “a hornet’s nest that can threaten the security of all the countries, including Tunisia.” That nest has finally been cracked open.


Posted on 01/16/2013 8:02 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Jonathan Tobin On Morsi And His American Apologists, And His American Aid

From Contentions:

Egypt’s U.S.-Subsidized Politics of Hate

Better late than never is the only way one can describe the New York Times’s decision to run an article about Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s history of anti-Semitic slanders. As we wrote here on Contentions two weeks ago, a video of an Egyptian TV interview with the Muslim Brotherhood leader from 2010 has surfaced in which he describes Israelis as “the descendants of apes and pigs” and called for a boycott of the United States. As I noted at the time, revelations about the nature of what passes for rhetoric about Israel and the Jews might come as a shock to readers of the Times–since much of their news coverage, as well as the work of op-ed columnists like Nicholas Kristof, had sought to portray the Brotherhood as moderate and friendly people who just happen to be Muslims–but not to those who have been following these developments without the rose-colored glasses that liberals seem to require to discuss the Arab world. The conceit of the piece about Morsi’s comment is, however, to call attention to the difficult position the Egyptian president has been placed in by reports about his despicable language.

Egyptian figures quoted by the Times get the last word here, as they seem to argue that it isn’t reasonable to expect Morsi to apologize since to do so leaves him vulnerable to criticism from his Islamist supporters and their allies who like that kind of talk. The conclusion seems to be that Americans should judge Morsi only by his recent behavior that has been aimed at least partly at ensuring that the flow of billions of dollars of U.S. aid should continue.

The problem is that Morsi’s use of a phrase that is commonly employed throughout the Muslim world to describe Jews as well as other comments that are straight out of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is so common in Egypt as to make it almost unexceptionable. That is no small measure the result of Brotherhood propaganda and mainstream Islamist thought in which demonization of Israelis, Jews and Americans is commonplace. Try as writers like Kristof might to paint the Brotherhood as a responsible political movement, Jew-hatred is one of its core beliefs. The question here is not so much whether Morsi will publicly disavow these slurs but whether the Obama administration will continue to buy into the myth that Morsi is some kind of a moderate whose government deserves to continue to be treated as an ally.

The administration has tread carefully with Morsi over the last several months, even as he moved quickly to consolidate power in Egypt. With the apparent approval of Washington, Morsi has sought to eliminate any possible check on his ability to govern more or less in the same fashion as deposed dictator Hosni Mubarak. Though the Times more or less admits that Morsi’s rhetoric provides us a window as to how he would govern were he not restrained by his need for U.S. cash and Egypt’s relative military weakness, the underlying assumption seems to be that it is America’s interest to prefer him to any possible alternative. It also assumes that Morsi’s influence on events in the region, such as Hamas’s missile offensive against Israel last November, has been entirely benevolent.

In fact, Hamas’s aggressive attitude and risk taking as well as its attempt to increase its influence in the Fatah-controlled West Bank is directly related to the rise of the Brotherhood in Cairo. It is true that President Obama cannot be entirely blamed for the creation of this mess since Mubarak would have fallen no matter what the U.S. did. But his subsequent coddling of Morsi and the Brotherhood as well as the rebukes issued to the Egyptian military set the stage for a situation in which the most populous country in the Arab world is run by a raging anti-Semite who is working to undermine U.S. influence in the region and to strengthen radical forces while being subsidized by American taxpayers.

Morsi’s talk about “apes and pigs” is not a side issue to be ignored in the name of stability or preserving an American ally. It goes straight to the heart of whether Egypt should be treated as a nation ruled by a radical and hostile government that is confident that nothing it does will cause it to lose its American subsidy. [NB: Tobin does not appear to know that the "apes and pigs" is straight from the canonical works of Islam -- or does he, and he can't quite bring himself to acknowledge that, and all that would reasonably flow from such recognition?}

Posted on 01/16/2013 8:45 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
As Egypt Sinks, Let Qatar And Other Rich Arabs Spend Their Money On Subsidies.

From Forbes:

The Brotherhood's Agenda, Cairo's Catastrophe


It has been heralded as a humanitarian gesture and a sign of Arab leadership, but Qatar’s decision last week to double its $2.5 billion aid package to Egypt is also a telling indicator of the true economic state of affairs in post-revolutionary Egypt.

The prognosis is exceedingly grim. Two years after the ouster of long-serving strongman Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is in the throes of a full-blown economic crisis. Government reserves have dropped by more than half, plummeting from $36 billion in 2011 to just $15 billion today. That’s enough to cover just three months of imports of vital commodities such as food and petroleum. GDP growth has slowed to under 2 percent, and the country’s national currency, the Egyptian Pound, is in freefall. At the same time, unemployment has surged, now estimated at nearly 13 percent and rising. It’s no wonder that Maher Hamoud of the English-language Daily News Egypt recently likened the country’s economy to “a mud house in the rainy season.”

These statistics are all the more tragic because they could have been avoided. The February 2011 ouster of Mubarak was followed by a pronounced fiscal downturn, leading many to conclude that the country’s new, Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government—for all of its bluster to the contrary—wouldn’t impose radical changes on the country’s political direction. Instead, conventional wisdom held that the new powers-that-be in Cairo would, for both economic and political reasons, opt for a process of “creeping Islamization”—a slow, gradual changeover of the country’s civilian bureaucracy and legislature which wouldn’t rile international markets or spook jittery investors.

The conventional wisdom turned out to be wrong. In recent months, the Brotherhood has thrown caution to the wind and set about remaking the Egyptian state in its own image with a speed and ferocity that has surprised most onlookers.

In late November, in the wake of his public turn as peacemaker between Israel and Hamas, Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi made a significant power grab, issuing a presidential decree dramatically broadening his executive powers. Simultaneously, his government put forward a new draft constitution imbuing the country’s Islamist-dominated parliament with greater powers, trimming the size of Egypt’s Constitutional Court, and enshrining sharia as the law of the land. (The constitution was approved in a referendum the following month, and promptly signed into law by President Morsi). Since then Egypt has trended more authoritarian still, most recently via a draft law proposed by the Human Rights Committee of Egypt’s Shura Council which, if adopted, will significantly limit the rights of ordinary Egyptians to engage in political protest.

This anti-democratic drift might not have spurred Egypt’s economic ills, but it undoubtedly has made them worse. Tourism, the country’s economic lifeblood, which withered following Mubarak’s ouster in 2011, remains minimal as a result of widespread political and security concerns. The hotels in Egypt’s famed tourist town of Luxor, for example, are now reportedly mostly empty. Foreign direct investment into the country has dwindled to “near zero,” reports the Egypt Independent, as skittish investors seek greener pastures. And planned bailouts—chief among them a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund widely believed to be critical to Cairo’s fiscal health—have stalled amid the political turmoil.

The cumulative effect is that Egypt is fast becoming a Middle Eastern version of Haiti: a country without meaningful tourism, minimal foreign investment, massive capital flight, and eventually an exodus of its best and brightest. That, of course, will inevitably become a crisis for Egypt’s neighbors, who will be forced to shoulder the political and security burdens of its implosion. But most of all, it is a tragedy for Egyptians themselves, who, having once dreamed of greater political liberalism after Mubarak, have woken up to an economic nightmare presided over by the Muslim Brotherhood.

Posted on 01/16/2013 9:01 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Afghanistan Should Have its Wish Granted

From The Washington Post:

Afghans want withdrawal of village police trainers

By ,

January 14

KABUL — Days after Afghan President Hamid Karzai and President Obama seemed to agree on the future role of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, a division has emerged over one of the American military’s most prized defense programs.

Top Afghan officials said Obama’s pledge last week to remove U.S. troops from Afghan villages should apply to Special Operations forces charged with training the Afghan Local Police. But U.S. officials said they assumed that the policy would apply only to traditional military operations and would include an exemption for the police trainers, whose mission they see as critical to security throughout Afghanistan.

The dispute underscored just how difficult negotiations over a long-term security partnership could be during the next year. The disagreement, like others before it, centers on the fundamental question of what will keep Afghans safe: U.S. officials say the local police program thwarts insurgents, but Karzai insists that it invites attacks.

The broader Afghan interpretation of the troop withdrawal, which Afghan officials said they believed would happen within weeks, would derail much of the Special Operations forces’ mission in Afghanistan and halt the expansion of the fastest-
growing Afghan security force, one that has cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

About 4,500 Special Operations personnel are charged with training the Afghan Local Police, or ALP, a force of 18,500 villagers who are armed, paid and taught to defend their communities against encroaching insurgents. The force, which operates in 94 districts, was slated to expand to 26,000 members by the end of 2014, with units dedicated to securing remote locations where traditional Afghan forces are weak or nonexistent.

Although Karzai approved the creation of the local police forces, he has long expressed a general opposition to the presence of Western troops in Afghan villages, saying they are often a source of instability and tension and could be easily replaced with an all-Afghan force.

“Our position is that such trainings should not take place in the Afghan villages,” Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi said in an interview Monday. “The presence of foreign troops puts the lives of villagers in danger by attracting [insurgent] attacks. If Afghan forces are unable at this stage to take control of villages, how will they do so after international troops leave?”

A prized U.S. program

Ending the village-level training would mean the termination of one of the U.S. military’s most valued missions in Afghanistan. Gen. John R. Allen, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, told Congress last year that the ALP is “an important mechanism for holding the ground in Afghanistan.”

Col. Thomas Collins, a spokesman for the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, said the training is “important to ensure that the ALP continue to grow in capability and effectiveness, and that the overall security situation across Afghanistan continues to improve.”

U.S. officials said they are pushing for an interpretation of the Obama-Karzai pledge that would allow for the ALP training program to continue.

“We envision that small numbers of coalition soldiers will continue to provide hands-on training to ALP forces at the village level,” Collins said.

Both sides seemed open Monday to negotiating an understanding about the program, though it was unclear whether or how quickly that would happen. Despite apparently steadfast Afghan opposition to the program, Karzai’s message was contradicted by his ambassador to the United States, Eklil Hakimi, who said Special Operations personnel could remain in villages as long as they played a supporting role.

“Afghans will be in the lead,” Hakimi told reporters in Washington.

“These are details which we will work out in the coming days with our Afghan friends and allies,” a senior U.S. official said. “The ALP plays a vital role in protecting the villages of Afghanistan, and its role will be worked out in the near future.”

Karzai has made clear that he would link his demand for a withdrawal of Western forces from Afghan villages to any discussions about the larger issue of a long-term U.S. military presence in Afghanistan — and to his government’s willingness to grant American troops diplomatic immunity beyond 2014.

 “We understand that the issue of immunity is of very specific importance for the United States, as was for us the issue of sovereignty and detentions and the continued presence of international forces in Afghan villages,” Karzai said at a news conference with Obama at the White House last week.

At the event, Karzai mentioned the U.S. troop withdrawal from Afghan villages three times. After returning to Afghanistan, he told Kabul-based reporters, “When foreigners leave, Afghanistan will never become unsafe; it will become safer.”

Frustration over local police

Karzai initially opposed the formation of the local police program, fearing that it would give rise to lawless militias. He came to accept the force, largely at the urging of U.S. military commanders, but remained skeptical of the ALP’s recruits and their ability to protect Afghan civilians.

Some Afghan officials said Karzai’s current objection to village-­level trainers is based largely on his perception of the ALP, a force with which he has grown increasingly frustrated. In recent months, Karzai has met with a number of civilians who accused the local police of rape, murder and theft in their villages, Faizi said.

“People from every corner of Afghanistan have complained to him about the ALP’s abuse of power,” Faizi said. “Looking at the number of complaints . . . it’s definitely the viewpoint at the palace that the ALP is not a long-term solution.”

Many Western human rights organizations share that assessment.

“The creation of the ALP is a high-risk strategy to achieve short-term goals in which local groups are again being armed without adequate oversight or accountability,” a 2011 Human Rights Watch report said.

Since the program began in 2010, there have been at least three instances of ALP recruits turning their guns on their U.S. counterparts.

But American officials stand by the program, calling it a sustainable solution to one of Afghanistan’s most complicated problems: securing far-flung villages where the Taliban has traditionally found haven. Rather than protecting the population, U.S. officials said of the program, American troops were teaching the population to protect itself.

Posted on 01/16/2013 10:20 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
El Pantografo
Houston Chronicle - 30 minutes ago
Posted on 01/16/2013 9:07 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Shakespeare On Muslim Lands And Peoples

"Perjur'd, Murderous, Bloody, Full Of Blame, Savage, Extreme, Rude, Cruel, Not To Trust"

Need he have said more?

Need we?

Posted on 01/16/2013 10:25 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
A Musical Interlude: It's All Forgotten Now (Al Bowlly)
Listen here.
Posted on 01/16/2013 10:36 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Mahmoud Abbas, Leader Of The Slow Jihad Against Israel

Mahmoud Abbas, for decades henchman to Yassir Arafat, and like Arafat, but wearing a suit and with the outward aspect of a chartered accountant, Mahmoud Abbas remains every bit as  "Perjur'd, Murderous, Bloody, Full Of Blame, Savage, Extreme, Rude, Cruel, Not To Trust" as Arafat himself, or Saddam Hussein, or Muammar Ahmedinajad, or Muammar Qaddafy, or Ayman Al-Zawahiri, or the late Osama Bin Laden, or dozens of other Muslims, some of them juset as adept as Mahmoud Abbas, the corrupt and grasping Slow Jihadist, at the tried-and-true no-one-here-but-us-accountants look.

Abbas Is Part of the Problem, Not the Solution

by Prof. Efraim Inbar

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 195, January 15, 2013

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Though much of the international community sees Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas as a serious partner for peace, Abbas’ words and actions prove that he is interested in nothing less than the ruin of the State of Israel. Instead of preparing his people for painful concessions and peaceful coexistence with Israel, Abbas glorifies armed struggle, insists on Palestinian refugees’ “right of return” to Israel, and acts to criminalize and demonize Israel.

A version of this Perspectives Paper appears in today's Jerusalem Post (January 16, 2013).

A little-noticed Reuters story on January 10, 2013, reports that Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Authority (PA), rejected a conditional Israeli offer to let Palestinian refugees in war-torn Syria resettle in the West Bank and Gaza. Abbas rejected Israel’s offer because he thought it would compromise the claims of these refugees to return to their homes in Israel lost during the 1948 war. According to this report, Israel agreed to the resettlement on the condition the refugees sign a statement relinquishing claims of return to Israel. Yet Abbas rejected this condition and said “it is better they die in Syria than give up their right of return.”

Instead of helping his people in distress, Abbas prefers to cling to “the right of return” – a demand that no Israeli government will ever accept. Palestinian leaders have for years rejected attempts to alleviate the condition of their refugees by resettling them in proper housing in Gaza and the West Bank, instead preferring to keep the refugees and millions of their descendants in shanty towns and camps, as political pawns in the struggle against Israel. These refugees constitute an important element in the Palestinian self-image of victimhood and martyrdom.

Most of the international community rejects this Palestinian demand, understanding that a mass influx of Palestinians could destroy Israel’s Jewish character, and that this is a deal-breaker issue. No Israeli-Palestinian peace can develop if the PA insists on the “right” of return. Yet nobody in the international community spoke out against Abbas’ obstinate and radical refusal to take up Israel’s offer to resettle Syrian refugees in the West Bank and Gaza.

The Palestinian leadership missed another opportunity to demonstrate that it can behave in a constructive fashion and be of help to its people. Instead of pragmatic politics, we once again see Palestinian adherence to radical goals that prolongs Palestinian suffering and produces obstacles to peace.

Another recent display of this typical Palestinian preference for intransigence was provided by the so-called “moderate” Abbas when he addressed his countrymen on a Fatah movement anniversary on January 4, 2013. Abbas avoided mentioning the land-for-peace formula or the establishment of a Palestinian state beside Israel that could bring an end to the conflict and the suffering of his people. He did not prepare his people for the need to make concessions for the sake of peace. Instead, Abbas stressed the perennial need to adhere to the path of armed struggle in order to realize “the dream of return” of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

The only explanation for this behavior is that the Palestinian national movement is very serious about the “right of return.” Despite attempts of pundits who suggest that goodwill and Israeli territorial concessions can bring about a Palestinian flexibility on this issue, there is no evidence that the PA is ready to put aside its long-term goal of “return.”

Dismissing Palestinian behavior and rhetoric, or belittling its importance with regard to the refugees, amounts to ostrich-type behavior of sticking one’s head in the sand. The international community, either due to naïveté or wishful thinking, has never recognized that so long as Palestinians insist that refugees have a right to settle in Israel, they are not prepared for meaningful negotiations nor will Israelis believe that they are. People do not easily give up their dreams, and over the past twenty years since the Oslo accords were signed, the PA has not moderated its demands one bit.

The insistence on a “right of return” complements Abbas’ refusal to acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state and his denial of any links of the Jews to their ancestral homeland. Moreover, Abbas is conducting a campaign at home and abroad to demonize Israel and to portray Israelis as colonialists and war criminals. These acts do not indicate moderation or a quest for coexistence with Israel.

Abbas is also taking measures to encourage armed struggle against Israel, even if these measures undermine the state-building efforts of the PA. He supported several December 2012 parades of armed members of the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, the militia of Fatah, in honor of the anniversary of the founding of the Fatah movement. Tolerant attitudes toward Palestinian militias run counter to the main litmus test of a state, which is the monopoly over the use of force. Turning a blind eye to the reemergence of armed groups in Palestinian society erodes the main achievement of the PA in recent years – the restoration of law and order, following the formal dismantlement of militias.

The Palestinian armed groups may be tempted to engage in violent clashes with Israel, which will turn out to be disastrous for Palestinian self-determination and peaceful coexistence. While declaring his preference for non-violence, Israeli leaders suspect that Abbas is hoping that a third Intifada will bring better results than the second.

Abbas promised negotiations and moderation after the winning by “Palestine” of an upgraded status at the UN as an “observer state.” However, since that November 2012 vote, Abbas has only ramped up his inflammatory rhetoric and irresponsible policies. The Palestinians continue to be in urgent need of better political leadership to extricate themselves from pathological patterns of self-destructive behavior.
Posted on 01/16/2013 10:39 AM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
400 Seized -- Including 41 Westerners -- At Algerian Natural Gas Plant
From lefigar.fr:

Algérie : 400 personnes prises en otages sur un site BP

Algérie : 400 personnes prises en otages sur un site BP

INFOGRAPHIE - Selon un porte-parole du groupe terroriste qui les a enlevés, 41 Occidentaux dont 7 Américains et «plusieurs» Français font partie des otages. L'attaque interviendrait en réaction à l'intervention française au Mali.

Posted on 01/16/2013 12:06 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Not Know Thyself, But Outsource Yourself

Developer allegedly outsources his whole job to China, fired

A developer in the U.S. thought he was being clever by ensuring his whole job was done overseas, so that he could allegedly take on more jobs which he secretly outsourced overseas.

Work is an overrated concept, created by those in power in order to subjugate those who are trusting or have several children.

This might, at least, have been the thinking of a developer who believed he had found a magical ruse to prevent him from being subjugated.

As The Next Web tells it, relying on a case study presented by the security team at Verizon,, the gentleman in question was very interested in Reddit, eBay shopping, and watching cat videos during working hours.

So he allegedly outsourced his work to China. Yes, all of his work. He did nothing at all -- workwise, that is, according to Verizon.

Nicknamed "Bob" by Verizon, the developer worked at a critical infrastructure company in the U.S.

However, the Verizon folks say he also attempted to perform this liberating ploy simultaneously on other companies -- presumably he was accepting freelance projects on the side.

What some might find amusing -- or even dispiriting -- is that his employers valued him highly, as the work was of an excellent standard.

Meanwhile, Bob's trousers were being handsomely filled, as he was paying the Chinese a mere 20 percent of what the work would cost in the U.S., Verizon said.

You might wonder how, given that everyone was happy, he was ever discovered. Well, apparently his company noticed in its VPN logs that there was odd and consistent activity occurring on a connection between it and Shenyang, China.

The developer had allegedly discovered a way to make log-ins appear that he was over there, rather than over here. Part of his ruse was to FedEx his RSA token to China. Yes, the actual thing.

Bob, you might think, was a bit of a lad, the sort of man who was loud at work and an excellent drinking buddy (before the third pitcher of beer, that is).

Not quite.

Verizon's report describes him as

Mid-40s software developer versed in C, C++, Perl, Java, Ruby, PHP, Python, etc. Relatively long tenure with the company, family man, inoffensive and quiet. Someone you wouldn't look at twice in an elevator.

As my mother always warned me, it's the quiet ones you have to beware of.

Once the security people delved into Bob's computer, according to Verizon, they discovered invoices and all sorts of entertainments.

Though Bob was fired, it's unclear whether any steps were taken to retrieve the money he earned.

An enterprising manager might have decided that he had, in fact, performed an enormously positive service for his company.

Surely the wise thing to do here would be to offer the Chinese developers a permanent contract and hire no more Bobs.

Posted on 01/16/2013 12:17 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Ivan Rioufol: Can't Hollande Bring Himself To Speak Of Muslim Terrorism And Muslim Terrorists??

From lefigaro.fr:

Jean-Yves Le Drian, ministre de la défense, ce mercredi matin sur RTL : il rappelle que la France est entrée en guerre contre "des groupes terroristes" qui veulent constituer "un Etat terroriste" au Nord du Mali. Sur Europe 1, le Chef d’état-major des armées, l’amiral Edouard Guillaud, explique que les forces françaises, dépêchées au sol depuis quelques heures, ont pour mission de "stopper l’offensive des groupes terroristes". Le chef de l’Etat lui-même dit faire la guerre à "des terroristes". Mais pourquoi n’être pas plus précis dans la désignation de l’adversaire? Lundi, le Conseil français du culte musulman (CFCM) a "salué", dans un communiqué, la "précaution utile et nécessaire" de François Hollande qui n’a pas qualifié "d’islamistes les éléments terroristes visés". Pour l’organisation, cette précaution "écarte tout amalgame et toute confusion entre islam et terrorisme". Elle déplore que "ce principe de précaution ne soit pas toujours respecté par certains hommes politiques et médias de notre pays". Elle rappelle que l’islam est une religion "qui sacralise la vie" et que "90% des victimes du terrorisme international sont de confession musulmane". La République n’ose donc pas dire clairement qu’elle fait la guerre à des terroristes islamistes, de crainte de froisser la susceptibilité de musulmans français et notamment d’un Conseil qui s’aveugle volontairement sur le profil des jihadistes du Mali. Cette réticence de l’Etat à appeler par son nom un ennemi identifié laisse voir un pouvoir intellectuellement prisonnier du politiquement correct et de ses accusations en islamophobie. L’islam radical en est le scandaleux bénéficiaire.

Le rôle du CFCM devrait être de s’élever contre les dérives islamistes qui insultent l’islam. Or sa position de censeur revient à cautionner l’indéfendable. Car voilà ce que dit, par exemple, Oumar Ould Hamaba, au nom du mouvement islamiste du Nord-Mali, Ansar el-Dine : "Notre but est de propager le message d’Allah à n’importe quel prix et continuer le combat. Nous avons la charia au bout de chacun de nos canons, chacun de nos sabres" Abou Dardar, un des responsables du Mujao (Mouvement pour l’unicité et le jihad en Afrique de l’Ouest), annonce pour sa part : "La France a attaqué l’islam. Nous allons frapper le cœur de la France. Au nom d’Allah, nous allons frapper le cœur de la France." Dans les faits, Hollande a bel et bien déclaré la guerre à l’islam politique, à l’islam fanatique, à cette idéologie régressive qui tue, viole, coupe des mains, fouette des couples non mariés, lapide des femmes adultères, détruit des mausolées, interdit de fumer, de danser, de dessiner, etc. Or cet acte de courage du président de la République n’est pas même assumé. Il est vrai que la France persiste à sous-évaluer (c’était aussi le cas avec Nicolas Sarkozy) la menace islamiste, qui déteste l’Occident et sa démocratie. Les connivences du pouvoir avec les "islamistes modérés", les Frères musulmans, le Qatar sont autant d'erreurs de jugement. Les démocrates et les laïcs du monde musulman (dont les touaregs) sont, eux, le plus souvent ignorés. La "guerre contre le terrorisme" menée par Hollande l’invite à une cohérence politique. Elle est à portée de main. Osera-t-il ?
Posted on 01/16/2013 12:20 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Foreigners held hostage by Islamist militants in Algeria

As expected. From the BBC

Two foreigners, one of them British, have been killed and more taken hostage in an attack by Islamist militants on a gas facility in Algeria, reports say.

An al-Qaeda-linked group claims it is holding 41 foreigners, including US, French, British and Japanese citizens at the facility near In Amenas.

It says the attack is to avenge Algeria's support of France's operation against al-Qaida-linked rebels in Mali. The group says hostages will be freed if France ends its operations in Mali.

Algeria's state-run APS news agency said Algerian workers at the facility had been released. Two foreigners were reportedly killed in the attack, one of them a British national. A local source earlier told the Reuters news agency a Frenchman had died.

The UK government confirmed that "several British nationals" had been involved in a "terrorist incident". Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg told a news conference that 13 Norwegian employees of Statoil were believed held hostage at the gas facility.

A man claiming to be a spokesman for the militants told BBC Arabic that al-Qaeda had carried out the attack. He claimed that they had allowed Algerian workers to leave the gas facility and were only holding foreign nationals.

A list of demands had been sent to the Algerian authorities, and the hostages would be killed if troops attempted to rescue them, the spokesman added. ''Storming the gas complex would be easy for the Algerian military, but the outcome of such an operation would be disastrous," he warned.

Earlier, a group known as the Khaled Abu al-Abbas Brigade claimed responsibility.

The Khaled Abu al-Abbas Brigade is believed to be led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar - also known as Abu al-Abbas - who was a senior commander of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) before late last year, when he set up his own armed group after apparently falling out with other leaders.

His new group is also known as the Signed-in Blood Battalion, (what! Not the Black Hand Gang?) whose spokesman told ANI that it had taken more than 40 hostages, including seven Americans, two French citizens and two British citizens.

Posted on 01/16/2013 1:48 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
In Northern Mali, Hand-To-Hand Combat Between French And The Muslim Fanatics

From lemonde.fr:

Combats "au corps à corps" entre Français et islamistes au Mali

Le Monde.fr avec AFP |
Un blindé français quitte Bamako pour le Nord, le 15 janvier.

Les forces spéciales françaises engagées au Mali se battent désormais "au corps à corps" avec les islamistes à Diabali, à environ 400 km au nord de Bamako, ont affirmé des sources de sécurité mercredi 16 janvier. Elles sont accompagnées par l'armée malienne.

L'information a été confirmée par une source de sécurité régionale, qui a précisé que la colonne de soldats français partie de l'aéroport de Bamako ne participait pas à ces combats mais se tenait "en alerte" à Niono (50 km au sud de Diabali) et à Markala, encore plus au sud.

Dans cette zone, "nous avons les groupes les plus durs, les plus fanatiques, les mieux organisés, les plus déterminés et les mieux armés", selon le ministre français de la défense, Jean-Yves Le Drian. "On a affaire à plusieurs centaines, plus d'un millier – 1 200, 1 300 –, de terroristes dans la zone, avec peut-être des renforts demain", a-t-il ajouté.

Voir la carte des opérations militaires depuis le début de l'intervention française

Jusqu'à présent, les soldats français étaient essentiellement déployés dans la capitale, Bamako. Selon plusieurs témoins, des centaines de soldats maliens et français avaient pris la route route de Diabali dès mardi en fin d'après-midi, prise la veille par des islamistes armés et bombardée dans la nuit par l'aviation française.

Par ailleurs, un détachement d'une centaine de soldats français est arrivé mercredi matin pour relever des membres des forces spéciales et"sécuriser" un pont stratégique sur le fleuve Niger à Markala, près de Ségou. Ce point de passage relie les territoires insurgés au sud et à la capitale Bamako.

"Nous allons relever les forces spéciales, qui ont réorganisé les forces maliennes qui étaient un peu en déroute, pour leur permettre de pousser peut-être un peu plus dans la profondeur", explique le lieutenant Marc (il ne divulgue que son prénom), du 21e régiment d'infanterie de marine, venu du Tchad.

"UN CONFLIT DE TYPE GUÉRILLA"

Sur Europe 1, l'amiral Edouard Guillaud a souligné que les forces françaises étaient confrontées à "un conflit de type guérilla", situation à laquelle elles sont habituées. Il précise que l'aviation française a détruit, ces six derniers jours, "des cibles fixes, c'est-à-dire des camps d'entraînement, des dépôts logistiques, des centres de commandement, par exemple, comme à Douentza ou à Gao".

Mais, depuis des mois qu'ils tiennent le nord du pays et attendent une intervention militaire étrangère, les combattants de la coalition réunie autour d'Al-Qaida au Maghreb islamique (AQMI) ont eu le temps de préparer une guerre de mouvement et d'esquive, d'enterrer des dépôts de carburant dans l'immense zone désertique où ils se dispersent actuellement, de constituer des stocks d'armes hors des grandes agglomérations.

Lire en édition abonnés :  La guerre d'évitement des djihadistes au Mali

L'amiral Guillaud a par ailleurs confirmé, mercredi, que les djihadistes "avaient récupéré des blindés auprès des forces maliennes, nous en avons détruit une partie la nuit dernière". La France a déployé 800 soldats depuis le début de son intervention militaire, vendredi 11 janvier, et ce dispositif doit être porté progressivement à 2 500 hommes.

LE PRÉSIDENT IVOIRIEN SOUHAITE UN SOUTIEN DE "TOUS LES EUROPÉENS"

Le chef d'Etat ivoirien, Alassane Ouattara, a appelé mercredi à Berlin "tous les Européens" à soutenir l'opération de la France au Mali, lors d'une conférence de presse avec la chancelière Angela Merkel. "Je souhaite que cette action soit soutenue par tous les Européens. Il était urgent d'agir et je félicite le président Hollande mais tout le monde doit se mobiliser", a déclaré M. Ouattara, qui est aussi le président en exercice de la Communauté économique des Etats de l'Afrique de l'Ouest. De son côté, Angela Merkel a estimé que "le terrorisme au Mali" était "une menace pour l'Europe". L'Allemagne va mettre à disposition de la Cédéao deux avions de transport Transall ainsi qu'une aide humanitaire d'un million d'euros à destination des réfugiés dans les pays voisins du Mali.

DÉBAT PARLEMENTAIRE SUR L'ENGAGEMENT AU MALI

L'Assemblée nationale a débattu mercredi de l'engagement français au Mali. En ouverture, Jean-Marc Ayrault a salué "l'esprit de responsabilité dont toutes les forces politiques ont témoigné" depuis le début de l'opération "Serval", le 11 janvier.

Quelques heures auparavant, le président de l'UMP, Jean-François Copé, avait toutefois exprimé une "inquiétude forte" en raison de "la solitude de la France" au Mali, tout en réaffirmant son soutien au gouvernement pour cette intervention.

Posted on 01/16/2013 2:11 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Muslim Patrol: this is a Muslim area - you can't dress like that.

I know nothing about this group as yet. It was filmed in part in Fieldgate Street behind the East London Mosque in Whitechapel.  The account holder "Muslim Patrol" is using a picture of Sharia 4UK as his ID but again I can't confirm that he/they are of that group. The style is similar.

Whatever it's a diabolical liberty and interference with public liberty.

Posted on 01/16/2013 2:38 PM by Esmerelda Weatherwax
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Introducing Mokhtar Bel Mokhtar

From latimes.com:

latimes.com

Algeria attackers reportedly led by one-eyed militant

By Ken Dilanian

January 16, 2013

Advertisement

WASHINGTON -- The attackers who seized an Algerian gas field and took foreigners hostage early Wednesday were commanded by the notorious one-eyed Algerian militant Mokhtar Belmokhtar, the Mauritanian news agency ANI reported as the crisis continued.

Belmokhtar recently left Al Qaeda’s North African affiliate to form a splinter group that he said included foreign militants. French intelligence officials nicknamed him “The Uncatchable” in 2002.

Mauritanian news reports said earlier that an Islamist group had claimed responsibility for the attack and occupation of the Ain Amenas natural gas field in southeastern Algeria, saying they were targeting Algeria because it had cooperated with French operations against Islamists in Mali. 

The United States, Britain, Japan, Norway, and Ireland said they believed they had citizens among those held hostage; France was also among the countries whose nationals were seized, according to Algerian state media, which reported that more than 20 foreigners were being held.

U.S. officials have sought Belmokhtar for several years. He helped smuggle insurgents to fight U.S. forces in Iraq, an American official said, and he led the group responsible for the December 2008 kidnapping of Robert Fowler, a former Canadian diplomat and U.N. envoy who was held for 130 days.

Belmokhtar has smuggled contraband and committed kidnappings for ransom for most of his adult life, American officials said.

“Our contacts all characterize Belmokhtar as more of a smuggler than an ideological warrior,  more of an opportunist and bandit rather than a jihadi,” said an internal State Department cable in 2007 that later was released by the website WikiLeaks.

U.S. officials say Belmokhtar has been involved in Islamist militancy for nearly two decades. He joined the guerrillas that fought Soviet occupation forces in Afghanistan in the 1980s, and an insurgency against the Algerian government in the 1990s. He later was sentenced in absentia to life in prison in Algeria.

In a 2005 interview, Belmohktar claimed responsibility for establishing links between his Algerian organization and Al Qaeda.

Last month, Belmokhtar reportedly broke away from Al Qaeda to form his own militia and criminal group in Gao, in northern Mali, where militants have seized considerable territory. In a video statement released Dec. 6, he said his new group included foreigners. Witnesses in Mali have reported seeing Arab fighters.

The hostage-taking Wednesday could affect deliberations in Washington on  whether to provide additional support for the French military intervention against insurgents in Mali. The Obama administration has not yet decided whether to increase support, in part because it could spark terrorist attacks on Americans living and working in North Africa.

Posted on 01/16/2013 3:19 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald
Wednesday, 16 January 2013
Ansar Al Sharia Tunisia Gets Its Man, The American Government Doesn't

From The Long War Journal:

Ansar al Sharia Tunisia releases video of freed Benghazi suspect


Byy Thomas Joscelyn on January 15, 2013

harzi1.jpg

Ali Ani al Harzi. Courtesy of the SITE Intelligence Group.

Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, an extremist group headed by a UN-designated terrorist with longstanding ties to al Qaeda, has published a video of one of the key suspects in the Sept. 11, 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya. The video, which was posted on the group's Facebook page earlier this month, shows Ali Ani al Harzi being released from prison and greeted by his comrades.

The FBI questioned Harzi in December, after being denied access to him for months. But the FBI's questioning lasted just three hours, according to press reports. Harzi's lawyer told journalists that the FBI asked Harzi about not only the attack in Benghazi, but also the assault on the US Embassy in Tunis on Sept. 14, 2012.

Members of a Libyan militia named Ansar al Sharia reportedly took part in the attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, while Ansar al Sharia Tunisia orchestrated the assault on the US Embassy in Tunis three days later.

Despite the US government's keen interest in Harzi, a Tunisian court freed him from custody on Jan. 7.

harzi3.jpg

Ali Ani al Harzi being congratulated on his freedom by his comrades. Courtesy of the SITE Intelligence Group.

Harzi thanks God for his freedom in the Ansar al Sharia Tunisia video. "Your brothers in prison send their greetings to you all, one by one," Harzi says, according to a translation obtained by The Long War Journal. Harzi adds: "Praise be to God, Who bestowed on us this gift of release from prison. The brothers in prison ask you: Do not forget us. They are waiting for your help and your prayers."

This is at least the third occasion on which Ansar al Sharia Tunisia has used social media to publish an update on Harzi's legal status.

Shortly after Harzi was questioned by the Americans in December, the group released photos of the three investigating FBI agents online. In the same posting, Ansar al Sharia Tunisia criticized the Tunisian government for allowing the US to question Harzi.

According to the SITE Intelligence Group, the title of the posting reads, "Exclusive Pictures of the FBI Agents who Investigated Brother Ali al-Harzi (The Case of Killing the American Foreigner in Libya)." The group claimed that "despite being forcefully prevented from taking pictures, we were able to take some exclusive pictures" of the FBI Agents.

Ansar al Sharia Tunisia also released a video on YouTube in December showing a lawyer discussing Harzi's case. The lawyer confirmed that the FBI was present for questioning. In the video, Ansar al Sharia Tunisia prayed for Harzi's release. An introductory sentence in the video reads: "Lawyer Hafiz Ghadoun talks about the case of Brother Ali al Harzi - Allah free him - and confirms the presence of investigators from the FBI [sent there] to interrogate him."

According to The Daily Beast, Harzi's ties to the Benghazi attack were first discovered after US officials learned that he had "posted an update on social media about the fighting shortly after it had begun." This was "[o]ne of the first clues the intelligence community had about the perpetrators" in Benghazi.

Harzi was apprehended in October in Turkey at the behest of US officials. He was making his way to Syria, a hotbed for jihadist recruitment and al Qaeda, at the time. During a televised interview, Tunisian Interior Minister Ali Larayedh explained that Harzi was "strongly suspected to have been involved in the attack of Benghazi."

It was not the first time Harzi had been arrested.

In 2006, according to Magharebia, the Tunisian government arrested Harzi for "a desire to join jihad in Iraq" under a counterterrorism law. After the fall of the Tunisian government, however, Harzi was released under a "general legislative pardon," which also freed some of Ansar al Sharia Tunisia's top leaders.

Harzi reportedly sought help from one of his brothers in his ill-fated attempt to wage jihad in Iraq. That brother is believed to be Tariq Abu Ammar, an al Qaeda facilitator.

Citing US intelligence officials, The Daily Beast reported last week that Ammar is "a midlevel planner for al Qaeda's franchise in Iraq," whose "main job" today "is arranging the travel of fighters from North Africa to Syria's al Qaeda-linked opposition, known as the al-Nusra Front."

Ansar al Sharia Tunisia

Ansar al Sharia Tunisia, which orchestrated the Sept. 14 assault on the US Embassy in Tunis, is headed by Seifullah ben Hassine (a.k.a. Abu Iyad al Tunisi), who has longstanding ties to al Qaeda. In 2000, Hassine co-founded the Tunisian Combatant Group (TCG), an al Qaeda-affiliated group that participated in the Sept. 9, 2001 assassination of Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud.

Hassine was arrested in Turkey in 2003 and deported to Tunisia, where he was sentenced to more than 40 years in prison. Hassine was released from prison in 2011, in the wake of the Tunisian revolution.

According to the Middle East Research Institute (MEMRI), Hassine eulogized Osama bin Laden after the al Qaeda master was killed in May 2011. "Let the entire world celebrate the death of one of our Ummah's leaders," Hassine said, "since the death and martyrdom of our leaders for the sake of this straight path ... is an indication of the truthfulness of our way."

MEMRI noted that in the eulogy, Hassine added that the death of bin Laden and other "brothers and leaders," such as al Qaeda in Iraq leaders Abu Musab al Zarqawi and Abu Omar al Baghdadi, should compel Muslims to fight on. "This is the allegiance, and that is the promise to Allah - do not regress after the death of your sheikh [i.e., bin Laden], or the deaths of your leaders," Hassine said. "Remain steadfast - and die for [the same cause] for which the best among you died."

Two other Ansar al Sharia Tunisia leaders are Sami Ben Khemais Essid and Mehdi Kammoun, both of whom were convicted by Italian courts for their participation in al Qaeda's operations in Italy. Essid was the head of al Qaeda in Italy before his arrest. According to the US State Department and other sources, Essid plotted to attack the US Embassy in Rome in early 2001. Both Essid and Kammoun were convicted in Italy of terrorism charges, deported to Tunisia for further imprisonment, but released in 2011 after the Tunisian revolution.

After the Sept. 14, 2012 assault on the US Embassy in Tunis, the Tunisian government imprisoned numerous Ansar al Sharia members. One of them is Bilel Chaouachi, a young imam who has openly praised Osama bin Laden and Ayman al Zawahiri.

On Dec. 21, 2012, the Tunisian government announced that it had arrested members of an al Qaeda terrorist cell who had been trained by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and "were active within" Ansar al Sharia Tunisia.

Posted on 01/16/2013 3:22 PM by Hugh Fitzgerald

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