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Post-9-11 events and analyses

Ken Novak's Weblog

daily link  Monday, July 31, 2006

The Enemy of My Enemy Is Still My Enemy: An NYU professor in the 7/26 NYT: Hezbollah has taken the lead on the most incendiary issue for jihadis of all stripes: the fight against Israel. Many Sunnis are therefore rallying to Hezbollah’s side, including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan [and] the Saudi cleric Salman al-Awda .. For Al Qaeda, it is a time of panic. The group’s Web sites are abuzz with messages and questions about how to respond to Hezbollah’s success. One sympathizer asks whether, even knowing that the Shiites are traitors and the accomplices of the infidel Americans in Iraq, it is permissible to say a prayer for Hezbollah. He is told to curse Hezbollah along with Islam’s other enemies. ..

The truth is that Al Qaeda has met a formidable challenge in Hezbollah and its charismatic leader .. Al Qaeda’s improbable conspiracy theory does little to counter these advantages. .. Hezbollah will score a major propaganda victory in the Muslim world if it simply remains standing in Lebanon .. Perhaps Hezbollah’s ascendancy among Sunnis will make it possible for Shiites and Sunnis to stop the bloodletting in Iraq — and to focus instead on their “real” enemies, namely the United States and Israel. ..

[This would] mark a dangerous turn for the West. And there are darker implications still. Al Qaeda, after all, is unlikely to take a loss of status lying down. Indeed, the rise of Hezbollah makes it all the more likely that Al Qaeda will soon seek to reassert itself through increased attacks on Shiites in Iraq and on Westerners all over the world — whatever it needs to do in order to regain the title of true defender of Islam.

Two days later: Al-Zawahri Calls for Muslims to Rise Up:  Al-Qaida's No. 2 leader called Thursday for Muslims to unite in a holy war against Israel and to join the fighting in Lebanon and Gaza until Islam reigns from ''Spain to Iraq.'' [in a] recruiting effort that even called on non-Muslims to join the Islamic cause. ..

Kamal Habib, a former member of Egypt's Islamic Jihad militant group who was jailed from 1981-1991 along with al-Zawahri, said the appeal to non-Muslims was unprecedented and reflected a change in tactics.  ''This is a transformation in the vision of al-Qaida and its struggle with the United States. It is now trying to unite Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims and calling for non-Muslims to join the fight,'' he said. ..

''The war with Israel does not depend on cease-fires ... . It is a jihad (holy war) for the sake of God and will last until (our) religion prevails ... from Spain to Iraq,'' said al-Zawahri. ''We will attack everywhere. .. All the world is a battlefield open in front of us,'' ..

Hezbollah spokesman Hussein Rahhal refused to comment on the al-Zawahri tape."  From other sources: "Another new audio or video message from bin Laden was also expected in the coming days and was planned to deal with Gaza and Lebanon, according to said IntelCentre, a US-based independent group that provides counter-terrorism information to the US government and media."  How large a terrorist attack would be needed to return al-Qaida to prominence?
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Million-dollar murray:  Malcolm Gladwell in Feb 06 about how some social problems have power-law distributions -- a small number of hard cases cause almost all the social harm -- so that "solving the problem may be less expensive than managing it."  Examples:  police brutality traced to a very small number of repeat offenders; medical emergencies for the homeless caused by a relatively small number of chronically homeless; air pollution caused by the small proportion of vehicles that are out of compliance.  These can be solved by targeted programs that are politically difficult, viewed as unfair or punative, so the problems persist, costing more than their solutions would.
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The vulnerable line of supply to US troops in Iraq:  From Pat Lang, former head of mideast intel at DIA.  "American troops all over central and northern Iraq are supplied with fuel, food, and ammunition by truck convoy from a supply base hundreds of miles away in Kuwait. All but a small amount of our soldiers' supplies come into the country over roads that pass through the Shiite-dominated south of Iraq. Until now the Shiite Arabs of Iraq have been told by their leaders to leave American forces alone. But an escalation of tensions between Iran and the US could change that overnight. Moreover, the ever-increasing violence of the civil war in Iraq can change the alignment of forces there unexpectedly.  Southern Iraq is thoroughly infiltrated by Iranian special operations forces working with Shiite militias, such as Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army and the Badr Brigades. Hostilities between Iran and the United States or a change in attitude toward US forces on the part of the Baghdad government could quickly turn the supply roads into a "shooting gallery" 400 to 800 miles long. ..

Compounding the looming menace of the Kuwait-based line of supply is the route followed by the cargo ships en route to Kuwait. Geography dictates that the ships all pass through the Strait of Hormuz and then proceed to the ports at the other end of the Gulf. Those who are familiar with the record of Iran's efforts against Kuwaiti shipping in the Iran-Iraq War will be concerned about this maritime vulnerability.  ..

A reduction in supplies would inevitably affect operational capability. This might lead to a downward spiral of potential against the insurgents and the militias. This would be very dangerous for our forces. .. Potential adversaries along the line of supply include many combat-experienced and well-schooled officers and former officers. We can be sure that they are acutely aware of this weakness in our situation. ..

Are there alternatives to the present line of supply leading to Kuwait? .. A new line of supply leading from Turkey or Jordan would require [new port and warehouse] facilities. Turkey has not been very cooperative in this war, and a supply line leading from Jordan would have to pass through Anbar Province, the very heart of the Sunni Arab insurgencies. Creating new facilities [would be] politically difficult, and it would take time.

Few of the permanent requirements for uninterrupted resupply can be satisfied out of the local economy. .. It seems unlikely that air resupply could exceed 25 percent of daily requirements. This would not be enough to sustain the force...

The precarious nature of our supply line is well-known to our military leadership. Unfortunately, this is one of the many problems in Iraq that has not been adequately addressed because of a shortage of troops. We should start building ourselves another line of supply as a backup, and we should do it soon."  12:19:05 AM  permalink  

Copyright 2006 © Ken Novak.
Last update: 7/31/2006; 9:35:51 AM.
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