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FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, July 28, 2008


By Michael Ramirez




By Ed Morrissey

Yesterday, the Associated Press recognized the undeniable in Iraq and reported that the US was “winning”.  Today, the New York Times takes its turn in admitting that the Mahdi Army has lost its grip on power.  Sabrina Tavernise doesn’t go as far as crediting the surge, but it’s the obvious underlying factor in developing the Iraqi Army to its current status:

The militia that was once the biggest defender of poor Shiites in Iraq, the Mahdi Army, has been profoundly weakened in a number of neighborhoods across Baghdad, in an important, if tentative, milestone for stability in Iraq.

It is a remarkable change from years past, when the militia, led by the anti-American cleric Moktada al-Sadr, controlled a broad swath of Baghdad, including local governments and police forces. But its use of extortion and violence began alienating much of the Shiite population to the point that many quietly supported American military sweeps against the group.

Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki struck another blow this spring, when he led a military operation against it in Baghdad and in several southern cities.

The shift, if it holds, would solidify a transfer of power from Mr. Sadr, who had lorded his once broad political support over the government, to Mr. Maliki, who is increasingly seen as a true national leader.

Tavernise does a good job in emphasizing what the Mahdi Army had become.  Too many media outlets treat the Mahdis simply as a sectarian militia, or worse, a political organization.  The Mahdis transformed years ago into organized crime.  They ran protection rackets and controlled the distribution of essentials such as heating oil.  Iraqis in areas under their control paid as much as five times the market price for some goods — money that went into their terrorist and gangster enterprises.

All of that revenue has dissipated, and Sadr has lost almost all of his political standing along with it.  Nouri al-Maliki dumped him in the beginning of the surge, and some people figured Sadr would just extort his way back into power.  So far, though, Maliki has outplayed Sadr, reducing him to a fringe character.  And as he frees more people from the grip of the Mahdis, Maliki marginalizes Sadr even further as they relate how the Mahdis operated as gangsters instead of protectors.

Tavernise reports that these improvements could still be reversed.  If the government in Baghdad gets undermined by a lack of support from the US, the Iraqi Army could lose its edge and the Mahdis could stage a comeback.  Most of the Mahdis have melted away, and could come back at any time.  We need to ensure that the Iraqi government can secure freedom for its citizens and defend against any return of these mujiheddin Mafiosi.  Sunday, July 27, 2008




By John Hinderaker

Over the last couple of weeks the price of oil has dropped around $20 per barrel. Some observers have been quick to credit President Bush, who rescinded the executive ban on exploration and drilling in the Outer Continental Shelf, and Congressional Republicans, who have kept up pressure on Democrats to allow exploitation of our domestic resources. But is this realistic? Certainly producing more oil would reduce the price, but if the market merely believes that the U.S. is likely to expand production in the future, would that expectation really reduce oil prices today?

For answers to these questions I turned to my friend Bob Cunningham, who spent twenty years in corporate finance, working for major financial institutions. Bob did transaction origination, structuring and credit and financial analysis for energy projects, including large equipment, project and nuclear fuel financings. Here are his answers to the above questions:

The left/Dems insist that there can be no immediate effect from "drilling now, drilling here" because there would noa actual oil produced for years. Is this correct? What would be the effect on oil prices if we were to announce that we would now permit exploration and drilling where it is currently prohibited --- ANWR and the Outer Continental Shelf? Would futures traders take notice? Would the effect be felt immediately?

The short answer: I believe it would…But the question is how much?...and it is not so much the futures aspect of the price…what really is in play, I believe, is the "scarcity rent" component of both spot and futures prices. That’s a fancy name for taking account of the fact that if you pump it today, you obviously will not have it tomorrow. Because oil is an exhaustible resource you have to take account of the opportunity cost of consumption today vs. leaving it in the ground for tomorrow's consumption and factor that cost into today's price. If the markets' expectation about future reserves and demand fundamentals is of some combination of influences that results in less scarce future reserves, net of today's consumption, that opportunity cost ("user cost" it is called) will be less and oil prices today should decline.

Obviously, increased supply, i.e., increased reserves, other things being equal, puts downward pressure on prices; but note that INFLATION (in dollar terms) has a huge effect as well: if the financial assets a resource owner receives for production today are being systematically debased, then expectations of future inflation can lead to the same effect on "user cost" as a lack of replacement reserves: leave the gunk in the ground unless you get a higher (real) price for it.

Net, net?....other things being equal an increase in drilling should have the effect of lowering prices today because the nearly certain expectation of increased reserves lowers (theoretically) "scarcity rent" to the extent that it is currently priced in (which most observers believe it is). In assessing the "How much" question, however, there are big unknowns:...inflation…is the government going to "monetize" the overhang of debt it is about to guarantee?....how much ARE the reserves anyway (partly a geological/technological question and partly dependent on price)?....and what is the timing of any actual production?…and, crucially, what will be the offsetting actions of MUCH bigger resource owners, like OPEC, in response….In other words, will they reduce production to maintain a price point? (They can easily afford to do so and have a potentially huge impact on pricing. For OPEC to cut 1 mmbpd is trivial and could offset the effect of new domestic E&P.)…and whatever war risk premium might be priced in.

But…whatever the magnitude of offsetting forces, increasing reserves through more drilling by itself would lower prices below what they otherwise would be. The market would sort all this out --- the expected addition of reserves from drilling here and drilling now would be added to the mix and almost certainly would lower today's price by reducing "scarcity rent". Exploration certainly should be a no brainer --- let's find out exactly what we've got at least. The market pricing will then tell us the extent to which we ought to drill here and now --- or leave it in the ground as a rational hedge against future scarcity while we consume others' oil.

From which I conclude that it probably overstates the case to credit anything Republicans have done so far with a significant impact on current oil prices, but if the federal government really does adopt a pro-production policy, there will be some immediate impact on pricing, the magnitude of which is impossible to predict.

I would also note that it is not true that it will take years for any new oil production to reach the market. While that is true of major development projects like ANWR and Rocky Mountain shale oil, there are areas now foreclosed to drilling where, if the ban were lifted, oil could be flowing in months, not years. But that is a subject for another day.  Sunday, July 27, 2008




By Gary Varvel




By Charles Johnson

Loony academic leftist Francis Boyle (last seen at LGF trying to impeach President Bush) has offered to represent the mullahs of Iran if they sue the US in the International Court of Justice.

TEHRAN, July 22 (UPI) — A University of Illinois law professor says he has offered to represent Iran if it decides to sue the United States over threatened nuclear program sanctions.

Iran’s Press TV reported Tuesday that Francis Boyle, an international law expert, is urging Iranian leaders to sue Israel and the United States through the International Court of Justice in The Hague over their ultimatum that Iran freeze its nuclear enrichment program in a matter of weeks or face further sanctions.

If Iran decides to sue, he told the broadcaster, he would represent the country.

“My proposal was that Iran should sue these states immediately, convene an emergency hearing by the World Court, and ask the court to indicate provisional measures of protection on behalf of Iran against the United States, Israel and the EU-3 — basically a temporary restraining order,” Boyle said.

Boyle is a hardcore pacifist who likes to hang around with murderers and dictators; he’s a former legal representative for the PLO, and is good friends with Muammar Gaddafi. And unsurprisingly, he’s also known for comparing Israel to Nazi Germany.  Sunday, July 27, 2008


By Charles Johnson

According to the Associated Press, “The United States is now winning the war that two years ago seemed lost.”


By Charles Johnson

This Religion of Peace Moment is brought to you by Muslims attending British universities: Third of Muslim students back killings.

ALMOST a third of British Muslim students believe killing in the name of Islam can be justified, according to a poll. The study also found that two in five Muslims at university support the incorporation of Islamic sharia codes into British law.

The YouGov poll for the Centre for Social Cohesion (CSC) will raise concerns about the extent of campus radicalism. “Significant numbers appear to hold beliefs which contravene democratic values,” said Han-nah Stuart, one of the report’s authors. “These results are deeply embarrassing for those who have said there is no extremism in British universities.”

The report was criticised by the country’s largest Muslim student body, Fosis, but Anthony Glees, professor of security and intelligence studies at Buckingham University, said: “The finding that a large number of students think it is okay to kill in the name of religion is alarming. ...

In addition to its poll of 1,400 Muslim and nonMuslim students, the centre visited more than 20 universities to interview students and listen to guest speakers. It found that extremist preachers regularly gave speeches that were inflammatory, homophobic or bordering on antisemitic.

The researchers highlighted Queen Mary college, part of London University, as a campus where radical views were widely held. Last December, a speaker named Abu Mujahid encouraged Muslim students to condemn gays because “Allah hates” homosexuality. In November, Azzam Tamimi, a British-based supporter of Hamas, described Israel as the most “inhumane project in the modern history of humanity”.  Saturday, July 26, 2008



Pakistan, Afghanistan, and the tribal areas. Map from PBS' Frontline. Click to view.

Three foreign terrorist are among six killed in a targeted strike in Pakistan's lawless tribal agency of South Waziristan. The strike in Pakistan marks the sixth targeted attack against al Qaeda and Taliban operatives inside Pakistan this year.

"Six people are dead and three others injured after three missile hit a house in Azam Warsak," an unnamed Pakistani intelligence official told AFP. "The dead included three suspected foreign militants and three young boys." The identity of the foreign fighters has not been released.

The strike occurred in the village of Zeralita in the Azam Warsak region of South Waziristan, according to Geo TV. Initial reports indicate that either a madrassa, or religious school, or a home adjacent to a mosque was targeted.

The Taliban and al Qaeda run terror camps and safehouses from madrassa and mosques throughout northwestern Pakistan. The Taliban has also trained children to serve as fighters and suicide bombers. Several children have conducted suicide attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Geo TV reported a madrassa run by Maulana Jalil Wazir was the target of the attack, while AFP stated the home of Malik Salat was hit. Salat is known to shelter "pro-Taliban militants."

Locals reported that unmanned aircraft were flying over the region prior to the attack, making it likely that US Predator drones fired Hellfire missiles, or spotted for long range, guide artillery based in Afghanistan.

US strikes inside Pakistan

The Azam Warsak strike would be the sixth such targeted attack inside Pakistan this year. Two senior al Qaeda leaders were among those killed in the cross-border strikes.

It is believed the US military targeted Baitullah Mehsud in his home town of Makeen on June 14. Baitullah is the leader of the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and has close links to al Qaeda and other Pakistani-based terror groups.

On May 14, Abu Sulayman Jazairi, a senior Algerian operative for al Qaeda’s central organization, along with 13 associates, was killed in an airstrike against a Taliban and al Qaeda safe house in the town of Damadola in Pakistan’s Bajaur tribal agency. Jazairi is described as a senior trainer, an explosives expert, and an operational commander tasked with planning attacks on the West.

Jazairi is thought to have succeeded Abu Ubaidah al Masri, a senior al Qaeda operative who served as the former operations chief in Kunar, Afghanistan, before becoming al Qaeda operations chief for global strikes. Ubaidah took over for Abd al Hadi al Iraqi, a senior deputy for Osama bin Laden who was personally chosen by bin Laden to monitor al Qaeda operations inside Iraq. Hadi was captured by US forces as he attempted to enter Iraq in late 2006. Ubaidah is believed to have died from complications from an illness.

On March 16, US forces struck at the fortified compound owned by Noorullah Wazir, a Pakistani tribal elder who lived in the village of Dhook Pir Bagh some five kilometers from Wana, the headquarters of South Waziristan. Another nearby house, where Uzbek and Arab fighters recently stayed, was also destroyed in a separate round of missile fire.

On March 12, the US military fired guided missiles from Afghanistan into a compound run by Siraj Haqqani, the wanted Taliban leader behind numerous attacks in Afghanistan. The attack is believed to have killed three senior Haqqani network commanders and "many" Chechen fighters.

Abu Laith al Libi was killed in a US strike inside the North Waziristan tribal agency in Pakistan in late January. Al Libi was the leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group and served as a chief spokesman for al Qaeda. Laith also commanded al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan.

Prior to the January strike that killed al Libi, the last US attack inside Pakistan occurred in Mir Ali in North Waziristan on December 28, the day after Benazir Bhutto's assassination. The US military targeted the home of Sheikh Essa, an Egyptian cleric responsible for pushing the Taliban to overthrow the Pakistani government. Essa was said to have been wounded in the attack.

In August 2007, when Pakistani forces hit two Taliban and al Qaeda bases in the village of Daygan, North Waziristan. Camps and bases in Damadola, Danda Saidgai, Chingai, Zamazola, again in Danda Saidgai, and Mami Rogha were hit over the course of 2006 and 2007.

These strikes have done little to disrupt the growth of al Qaeda and the Taliban in northwestern Pakistan. The Taliban and al Qaeda maintain more than 100 terror camps in North and South Waziristan alone, and are consolidating their control over the tribal areas and several settled districts in the Northwest Frontier Province.  Monday, July 28, 2008




By Charles Johnson

At least 46 people have been murdered in India, and a group of non-Buddhists has claimed responsibility: India on alert after two days of bombings kill 46.

NEW DELHI, India (Reuters) - India’s major cities were put on high alert on Sunday, with fears of more attacks after at least 40 people were killed in two days of bombings that hit a communally-sensitive western city and a southern IT hub

At least 16 small bombs exploded in the Indian city of Ahmedabad on Saturday, killing at least 39 people and wounding 110, a day after another set of blasts in Bangalore killed a woman.

A little known group called the “Indian Mujahideen” claimed responsibility for the Ahmedabad attack on Saturday. The same group said it carried out bombs attacks that killed 63 people in the western city of Jaipur in May.  Sunday, July 27, 2008




By Scott Johnson

An Israeli operation in Hebron has resulted in the death of the terrorist mastermind of the suicide attack on Dimona earlier this year. Carl in Israel has posted a good round-up. The Jerusalem Post reports:

The IDF said that in a joint Border Police and Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) operation the forces surrounded a house where 25-year-old Shihab Na'atsha, a Hamas explosives engineer, was hiding. The IDF said Na'atsha had assembled the bomb belt used in the Dimona attack on February 4 that killed 73-year-old Lubov Razdolskaya and wounded 40 other people....

Troops surrounded the house in Hebron early Sunday morning and exchanged fire with Na'atsha, calling on him to exit the building. Once he refused to surrender and after hours of gunfire, the IDF bulldozed the house. His body was later removed from the rubble.

The IDF added that during the heavy exchanges of fire, troops heard explosions from inside the house, presumably from bombs stored inside. Two additional terror suspects were apprehended during the operation.

Na'atsha and his ammo dump somehow went undetected by the "security forces" of the Palestinian Authority, only to be discovered by Israelis in an operation of the kind that Secretary Rice finds to visit indignity on Palestinian Arabs.  Sunday, July 27, 2008




By Ed Morrissey

International pressure seems to have finally had an effect on South Africa’s Thabo Mbeki.  The man who almost singlehandedly shielded Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe from regional and global efforts to oust him has finally told his crony that he has two choices — resign or face prosecution for a myriad of crimes.  Mugabe must hand real power to his political enemy, Morgan Tsvangirai, or else face complete isolation:

THE president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, has been warned by Thabo Mbeki, the South African president, that he faces prosecution for the crimes he has committed during his 28 years in office unless he signs a deal to give up all effective power.

Mbeki, who has done all he can to shield and support Mugabe for the past eight years, has come under overwhelming western pressure and has had to tell Mugabe that he could no longer protect him and his key cronies from being charged by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

The power-sharing talks between Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) are shrouded in secrecy. But The Sunday Times has learnt that Mugabe, who has vowed that Tsvangirai will never be in government and that “only God can remove me from power”, faces humiliation over the terms of the deal that he will be forced to sign next month.

He will remain as president in name only and all real power will be held by a 20-member cabinet under Tsvangirai as prime minister. The opposition MDC will have 11 cabinet posts to nine for Mugabe’s Zanu-PF.

Mugabe won’t have his henchment around to protect him, either.  Under the terms of the deal, all senior officials in the police, military, and intelligence services will have to resign as well.  The entire power structure of the Mugabe reign will have to be dismantled in order for Mugabe to avoid a call from South Africa for prosecution of Mugabe by the ICC.

Mugabe and his regime didn’t expect this from the man who had been a reliable toady for years and who had run interference for the past few months while Mugabe stole another election.  In fact, the Zanu-PF leadership had congratulated itself for outlasting international condemnation and avoiding UN sanctions, thanks in large part to Mbeki himself.  Instead of celebrating, the South African envoy bluntly told Mugabe that a failure to hand over power would result in his prosecution — and certain conviction — for decades of murders, terrorism, and abuses of power.

Not only did Mugabe sign the agreement, he acquiesced to Tsvangirai’s demand that they sign it on neutral grounds.  Free and fair elections will follow in eighteen months.  In the meantime, the committee will run Zimbabwe with Tsvangirai as its chair, and the food aid so desperately needed will finally get distributed, hopefully without being used as a political tool, as the Zanu-PF had exploited it.

The US, UK, and most of Europe can congratulate themselves on keeping pressure on Mugabe and Mbeki.  Russia and China should be ashamed of their intercession at the UN on Mugabe’s behalf.  And South Africans should take a long, hard look in the mirror to see the dissipation of their moral high ground in their country’s active protection of Mugabe for most of the last decade.  Sunday, July 27, 2008


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