“Human beings are born with different capacities. If they are free, they are not equal. And if they are equal, they are not free.”
― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Good news


Four stories I'm glad to hear.

1- Abu Sayyaf rebel leader killed in Philippines



A top al-Qaida-linked militant, accused of the kidnapping of three Americans in 2001 and of masterminding one of Southeast Asia's worst terror attacks three years later, has been killed, the Philippine military said Wednesday.

Jainal Antel Sali Jr., popularly known as Abu Sulaiman -- a top leader of the Abu Sayyaf rebel group --died in a fierce gunbattle Tuesday with army special forces, military chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon said.
2- SAS seizes Taliban leader in secret war


A team of SAS soldiers captured a key Taliban commander yesterday in a lightning raid on a heavily-fortified compound in southern Afghanistan.

Without a shot being fired, the force of fewer than 30 elite soldiers, backed by Afghan troops, achieved "total surprise" and seized Mohammad Nabi in the early hours of the morning near Gereshk, in Helmand province.
3- Shiite Fighters Are Arrested, Iraq Says


Facing intense pressure from the Bush administration to show progress in securing Iraq, senior Iraqi officials announced Wednesday that they had moved against the country’s most powerful Shiite militia, arresting several dozen senior members in the past few weeks.

It was the first time the Shiite government of Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki had claimed significant action against the militia, the Mahdi Army, one of the most intractable problems facing his administration. The militia’s leader, the cleric Moktada al-Sadr, helped put Mr. Maliki in power, but pressure to crack down on the group has mounted as its killings in the capital have driven a wedge into efforts to keep the country together.

Although the announcement seemed timed to deflect growing scrutiny by an American administration that has grown increasingly frustrated with Mr. Maliki, American officers here offered some support for the government’s claims, saying that at least half a dozen senior militia leaders had been taken into custody in recent weeks.

In perhaps the most surprising development, the Americans said, none of the members had been prematurely released, a chronic problem as this government has frequently shielded Shiite fighters.

“There was definitely a change in attitudes,” in the past three to four weeks, a senior American military officer said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Mr. Maliki, in a meeting with foreign journalists on Wednesday, said 400 Mahdi militiamen had been arrested “within the last few days,” according to a tape of the interview made available to The New York Times. A senior government official said later by telephone that the total number arrested was 420 and that they had been detained in 56 operations beginning in October. Several dozen senior leaders have been detained in the past several weeks, the senior official said on condition of anonymity. He said the total number of senior commanders did not exceed 100.

Still, some American military officials remained skeptical that the effort was more than just a short-term attempt to appease them at a time when American government support for Mr. Maliki appeared to have sunk to an all-time low.

“The question is whether it will be sustained,” another American military official said. “This shouldn’t be done to weather some short-term political storm. This has to stick in the long run.”

Whatever the case, changes have been felt on the street. In Shiite neighborhoods across the capital, militia members seem to have dropped from view in recent weeks, residents and militia members say. Shiite foot soldiers have tucked away their machine guns and have melted back into bustling city blocks, preparing for what they say they believe will be an American military onslaught against them.
The Other Club noted on Friday that a sign of whether "the surge" would succeed would be:


...the fate of the Mahdi Army and Muqtada al-Sadr in the next several months. Al-Sadr is a client-state-in-waiting of the Iranians, a virulent anti-American, the leader of the largest group of "insurgent" sectarian murderers in Baghdad and a key supporter of State Prime Minister Nouri Kamel al-Maliki. He's a litmus test.

If al-Sadr is destroyed, we are almost certain to win. If he is marginalized, victory is very likely. Failing either of those occurrences, we need to withdraw into our laagers and tell al-Maliki that he has two years of intelligence, logistics and air support left in which to solve his problem.
Maybe that's just what Bush told al-Maliki.
Al-Maliki has been a bit petulant lately.


In the Times [UK] interview, Mr Maliki criticised US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who recently suggested his government was living on "borrowed time". Such comments could only give "moral boosts" to the insurgents, he said.
That these arrests of Shiite thugs apparently started some time ago is heartening, and I wouldn't have expected it to be reported, or even leaked by the New York Times. I admit to some skepticism regarding al-Maliki's government, though less than the NYT article pushes, but if the Iraqis continue this crackdown it is a very positive sign. If they are getting ready to directly press al-Sadr it will be excellent.

And here's a bonus I wasn't aware of before doing a little searching for content. Don't know how I missed it earlier.

4- The more things change, the more they...


...Perhaps it [surge] will work this time around, some say, due to one major difference:

Maliki's advisers publicly threatened Sadr in front of the media. According to Time magazine, "top Maliki adviser Sadiq al-Rikabi criticize Sadr: 'You cannot be in the government and working against the government at the same time. You cannot be a part of the government while breaking the law. If you're going to be a part of the government, you should respect the institutions of the government'". An AP article on Yahoo news goes even further: "Iraq's prime minister has told Shiite militiamen to surrender their arms or face an all-out assault by U.S.-backed Iraqi forces, senior Iraqi officials said Wednesday", it reads.

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