Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Kang Nam 1 at dead slow

I've got to hand it to David E. Sanger at the New York Times: anyone who starts an article with...
Inside the White House, they are beginning to call it “The Cruise to Nowhere.”
...has got the right idea.

The Kang Nam 1, the ship at the focus of the first possible implementation of inspections under UNSC Resolution 1874, has been putting on a demonstration of sloth as it heads across the South China Sea... dead slow all the way. **see below**

The U.S. Navy (and other interested parties) are just sitting back and watching.

Well done, oh mighty thinkers advising the various governments responsible for enforcing those sanctions; You've learned to ask the "who benefits...?" question.


OK, someone's talking, so here's the link: The Kang Nam 1 turned back north on Sunday.
The ship left a North Korean port of Nampo on June 17 and is the first vessel monitored under U.N. sanctions that ban the regime from selling arms and nuclear-related material.

The Navy has been watching it—at times following it from a distance. It traveled south and southwest for more than a week; then, on Sunday, it turned around and headed back north, two U.S. officials said on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.

Nearly two weeks after the ship left North Korea, officials said Tuesday they still don't know where it is going. But it was some 250 miles south of Hong Kong on Tuesday, one official said.
Now you know too.

National Sovereignty Day

Congratulations to the Republic of Iraq on this, the first celebration of National Sovereignty Day.

Here's hoping for a glorious future for your country. It has been bought with blood and treasure, failures and successes. Now it is yours to make.

Bout Extradition Challenge

The Defense for Viktor Bout, "suspected arms trafficker"... eh hem... has filed an accusation that U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents overstepped their jurisdiction in leading the arrest last year. The filing asserts violations of Thai law in the process. The lawyer,
Mr. Chamroen said Monday that American agents had violated Thai law by apprehending Mr. Bout on their own before calling the Thai police to arrest him. They were also carrying firearms in violation of Thai law, he said.

“They invaded a public place without a search warrant,” Mr. Chamroen said in an interview. “They have no power to do this.”

The accusations may resonate among Thai officials who sometimes complain of a heavy-handed approach among the large contingent of American intelligence and law enforcement officials stationed here.
Maybe. Maybe not. There is very little actually in doubt about who V. Bout is or what he has done.

This is at least a stall-tactic, and it could undermine the entire case against V. Bout, so how it is received by the judge is going to be of great importance. These new charges will be heard separately by a judge on July 13th. V. Bout has a procedural hearing, today, as well.

Monday, June 29, 2009

The Weekly N&C for June 29th, 2009

Why is this case different?

Short and to the point for today:

Why is the case of Honduras forcibly removing its sitting President...

as reported by The AP and by Reuters (quoting the Cuban government!) and by The BBC

...different from cases like Madagascar (2009) and Haiti (2004)? (note the language in the UNSC resolution about Haiti completely accepting the forcible removal of a sitting President)

It is different because, as Mary Anastasia O'Grady observes in today's WSJ, this time the levers of power in organizations like the OAS and in the hands of some advisers to the current American administration are no friends of rule-of-law democracy. She writes:
The OAS response is no surprise. Former Argentine Ambassador to the U.N. Emilio Cárdenas told me on Saturday that he was concerned that "the OAS under Insulza has not taken seriously the so-called 'democratic charter.' It seems to believe that only military 'coups' can challenge democracy. The truth is that democracy can be challenged from within, as the experiences of Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua, and now Honduras, prove." A less-kind interpretation of Mr. Insulza's judgment is that he doesn't mind the Chávez-style coup.
Remember, elections and plebiscites must be part of a constitutional process or they are nothing more than tools to be used to place the patina of legitimacy on autocracy...

"The Man of December", Napoleon III of France, knew very well about all that.

He managed both an autogolpe and a national referendum to legitimize his seizing absolute power and establishing the Second French Empire.

More democracies die by suicide than by murder.

Maybe, just maybe, Honduras has avoided a death of the Republic for now.

That is, if the murderers out there can be kept at bay.


End Notes:

All noted citations are embedded in the text as links.

For your amusement and edification as to what an autogolpe (self-coup) is, here is an incomplete list of historical examples of leaders in power "legitimately" that have chosen to seize power "absolutely". Note that the Elias autogolpe of 1993 Guatemala failed precisely because of an intervention by the institutions of the nation against him.

Russian military exercises on Georgian soil.

The Russian Army is up to its Summer Exercises in the North Caucasus again, with all the logistical and maneuver activities one would expect of such readiness exercises, but this time things are a bit different.

They are happening on occupied Georgian territory as well. This isn't exactly a way to make friends, given what came after last year's exercises wound down...

This year's round is scheduled to end on July 6th, which coincidentally is the date of a visit by the American President B. Obama to Moscow.

With all the logistics in place, and troop formations at best levels about then, it sure would be too bad if something happened to Georgia around that time, wouldn't it?

Sunday come Monday Push

Better late than never time...

Here's your place to start something of your own interest. This thread is left open to comments for folks to make their own fun or leave messages for me about breaking news events. The usual rules still apply: play nice.

It has been a very fine week again here at CompHyp, with roughly twice the rate of visitors from mid-winter lows. I remain impressed that folks find this to be of use and interest, and you have my thanks for visiting.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Freedom for Iran -- not dead yet

The day after most internet-linked citizen sources on the Insurrection in Iran went quiet as the Oppos went to ground...

Reports are leaking out of a protest of about 3,000 people happening, and the authorities clamping down.

Raye Man Kojast? (Where is my vote?) also has this video, and cites June 28th at the date, of protesters in Tehran peacefully assembling... with loud calls of "Yo Hussein Mir Hussein", the call on Ḥusayn ibn ‘Alī ibn Abī Ṭālib (the 7th Century Hussein called Imam by Shi'ites) and the name of Mir-Hussein Mousavi, used by Oppo protesters to claim moral legitimacy.

So there is at least something of the movement still alive.


Previous entries on Freedom for Iran, here at CompHyp

Spoke Too Soon Award winner

Irony time in Honduras:

Just hours after President Manuel Zelaya told Spain's El Pais newspaper that a coup d'etat against him was thwarted (supposedly by *American* intervention)...
"Everything was in place for the coup and if the U.S. embassy had approved it, it would have happened. But they did not ... I'm only still here in office thanks to the United States," he said in the newspaper interview published on Sunday.
...things haven't quite worked out that way.

Local television in Honduras reports he was arrested on Sunday by troops. Here is a more detailed report from the BBC.

Looks less like a coup d'etat and more like perhaps the Supreme Court of Honduras is not feeling very forgiving after Zelaya led a bunch of protesters to the nearby base and demanded possession of the ballots for this weekend's referendum, which has been declared illegal.

It remains to be seen what charges are filed, if any. That will decide whether this arrest is legal or not.



Now there is something just a little inexplicable about this... President Zelaya is in Costa Rica, claiming "a coup" and a "brutal kidnapping".

There is an Army presence in the capital of Honduras, Tegucigalpa, with armored vehicles seen and trucks loaded with riot-equipped soldiers surrounding the Presidential Palace, but...

...no one is claiming to be in control...

...and how the heck did Zelaya get out of the country, free to make counter-claims?


More on this Fauta's Blog , with some details the English-language media is still behind on. She's running updates as new information becomes available.

The key point made there (Fausta's) based on Spanish-language sources is that the Supreme Court of Justice did issue an arrest order.

Based on some very clever other people's observations there, it may well have been in response to a clear violation of Article 239 of the Honduran Constitution, but I'll leave that for better scholars on current Honduran Law than me to make clear.

The question of "why isn't Zelaya still under arrest?" remains open for now.


Chasing sources, getting some much appreciated help (thank you, M!)

This *may* be getting much bigger. "radio bemba" (Venezuelan; rumors) sources have the Venezuelan Armed Forces being put on alert... and that
El comandante del Comando Sur le dice a VENEZUELAN ARMY que no se atrevan a despegar sus aviones o helicopteros, serán derribados en el Caribe, este consejo se extiende a los Cubanos y Nicaraguenses.
That would be "Commander of (U.S.) Southern Command has told Venezuelan Army not to dare to take off, otherwise its planes or helicopters will be shot down. The same goes for Cubans and Nicaraguans." in English. Please, take this all as rumor, but it illustrates how bad this could get if it spirals.

H. Chavez (President of Venezuela; chief Zelaya ally) has stated in public that the Armed Forces of Venezuela are on alert... his quote according to the AP was "is at battle"...

I could call the USSOUTHCOM PAO... on a Sunday... to get a heartfelt *no comment*... and probably some other choice words about my ancestry... and I wouldn't blame him a bit. Let's leave that be until a press release is issued.


There has been some matter of a Zelaya resignation letter, dated last Thursday, being waved around in the Honduran Congress, however it is confirmed that The Honduran Congress has named Speaker Roberto Micheletti as the new President, which follows constitutional rules of succession.


Source in the U.S. government are now stating that the Zelaya government is still recognized.
"We recognize Zelaya as the duly elected and constitutional president of Honduras. We see no other," the Obama administration official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
It is clearly becoming a case now where the failure to detain and charge M. Zelaya with specific crimes is calling the entire process into question.

Given that virtually the entire legal and political structure of Honduran state institutions had already weighed in with claims against Zelaya, what happened that prevented the military from moving *after* they had a cooperative prosecutor with an indictment? What is it about the situation that didn't allow for that?

...and, again, how did Zelaya end up a free man in Costa Rica able to plead his case from a position of a defensible claim of being wrongly removed?


Sudan CPA conference wrap-up

Many words.

Many, many words.

Kenyan Lt. Gen. Lazarus Sumbeiywo, the primary negotiator of the CPA also spoke (sadly a transcript of his remarks in full is not currently available), but he was cited by South African SABC media as saying:
Sudan chief mediator General Lazarus Sumbeiywo says it is evident that parties involved in the CPA were motivated by different objectives in reaching an agreement.
The one concrete result was the-almost-foregone recognition by all parties of the binding resolution by the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague regarding the Abyei borderlands issue (due in July).

Otherwise, not much was agreed to.

The harsh truth of it had to be spoken by Southerners:
A senior official from the south's dominant Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) accused the northern delegation of stalling on a number of key issues, including the position of their shared border, preparations for coming elections and a referendum on southern secession.

"The issues remain the same. There is no progress in resolving the issues yet," SPLM delegation spokesman Yasir Arman told Reuters.

"We discovered again that the (north's dominant) National Congress Party has no political will to resolve those issues ... We are running out of time."

Arman's comments clashed with more upbeat commentary on the Washington conference from the northern delegation, and the event's organiser, the U.S. envoy to Sudan Scott Gration.
Rather makes Lt. Gen. L. Sumbeiywo's remark ring clearer, doesn't it?

Iran goes after U.K. Embassy staffers

This is still a breaking-news item, but first reports are that 8 local staffers of the British Embassy in Iran have been detained by Iranian authorities. The claim comes from the semi-official Fars news agency of Iran.

Here's the BBC version of the story. They note that the British Embassy has not yet confirmed the report, and that Fars did not cite a source in their story.



U.K. now claims nine staffers were detained, and some have been released.

Guinea-Bissau votes today

Eleven candidates (still alive).

Less drug-trafficking influence (because some people are no longer alive).

A chance to get the country back on the tracks.

Guinea-Bissau votes in a Presidential Election.

May this be the start of a counter-tide against the rise of autocracy in the region.


Here is the Election Tracker for Guinea-Bissau from Angus Reid Global Monitor.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

North Korean Threats

This is getting old, fast.

Yonhap news, citing KCNA (North Korea's propaganda news front):
North Korea threatened Saturday to shoot down any Japanese aircraft entering its air space, accusing Tokyo of spying on the country earlier this week.
Not that anyone, even the North Korean (DPRK) regime, is actually claiming that Japanese reconnaissance aircraft have entered DPRK airspace.
"The air force of the Korean People's Army will not tolerate even a bit the aerial espionage by the warmongers of the Japanese aggression forces but mercilessly shoot down any plane intruding into the territorial air of the DPRK even 0.001 mm..."
Yeah, yeah.

We're flattered they think so highly of us.


The only problem might come when the DPRK definition of "territorial air" doesn't exactly match up with what the rest of the world thinks is their territory.

Thing is, if they come out to international airspace to take a try at one of the patrols, they might well learn an interesting lesson about the results of provocation...

Preah Vihear talks... silence...

The Governments of the Kingdom of Thailand and the Kingdom of Cambodia met today for talks on the Preah Vihear Temple crisis.
Reporters were kept away from Saturday's two-hour meeting on the outskirts of Phnom Penh and officials from both governments would not comment on the subject of the talks.
That means most likely that the two sides talked *past* each other, not *with* each other.

The standing claims are: (Thai) the site should be a joint development area and UNESCO is not being helpful by recognizing sole rights of Cambodia; (Cambodian) the Thai are welcome "to raise the issue of withdrawing Thai troops from the border".

There had better be a third position taken by someone, soon, or this matter will go nowhere.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Push and Pushback in Honduras

This *should* be a cut and dried case:

President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras has been scheming for a way to stay in power, and decided to use the old "plebiscite in support of my righteousness" play to get a major constitutional re-write underway... one which would by the way let him keep his job.

The Supreme Court of Honduras took one look at the preparations for the referendum and said no. The top electoral body, and human-rights ombudsman have also declared it illegal.

Upon receiving orders to distribute voting materials, the Armed Forces Chief cited the Supreme Court ruling and said he would not... and got fired on Wednesday. The Defense Minister, the heads of the Air Force and the Navy all followed him and resigned.

On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that Gen. Vásquez be reinstated, ramping up its conflict with the president. Mr. Zelaya refused and called the ruling "an embarrassment for Hondurans." Meanwhile, Attorney General Luis Alberto Rubí asked Congress to oust Mr. Zelaya.
Here's the Wall Street Journal article on this, today. Reuters Alertnet has had it piece by piece the last few days. Needless to say, it is all over the America's Spanish-language media.

To make one point clear: M. Zalaya has so little support in the political system that his own party has already picked out a new candidate to run in the Presidential Election planned for this fall. But he's a Chavista, in style if not in actual affiliation. That means he commands a large number of supporters amongst the poor (who are only slightly less poor after his payoff schemes), and he intends to get his way by the means of demagogy.

This is very bad anywhere. In Honduras it would be a national disaster.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Correa bites off more than he can chew.

It seems Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa is a bit upset...

Published on June 22nd, Mary Anastasia O'Grady's magnificent indictment of Correa based on "Raul Reyes" documents of connections to the FARC is a very hard hitting piece.

Correa is denying everything and claiming he will file suit.

He's been so good at playing tricks on investors, apparently he thinks he can pull off a coup in the courts...

Let us know how that works out, Big Guy... that is, if you don't get your whole country listed as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in the process.

Kang Nam 1 headed... where?

The suspected North Korean arms-carrying ship Kang Nam 1, now underway south of Taiwan, is not headed for Myanmar (Burma)... at least so says the Myanmar junta.

This obviously doesn't mean much at face value, but to think that the junta felt it necessary to say that does beg some new questions:

If not there, then where?

If not there, then why anywhere?

After all, faking a loading of the ship in plain sight of satellite cameras and putting it to sea as an intentional attempt to draw out an incident is a possibility.

So, let's take this from the beginning again, just to be careful.

Who gains by that ship being at sea, being suspected, and being hailed for an inspection?


Today' The Irrawaddy has this report, where they aren't buying into the junta's denial. They suppose that an arrival at the Myanmar International Terminals Thilawa (MITT) could somehow be made secure enough to keep away prying eyes. We'll see about that.


Another sad anniversary comes today: June 25th, 1996, the housing complex assigned to U.S. Air Force personnel in az-Zharan (Dhahran), Saudi Arabia, was hit with a truck bomb rigged as a semi-shaped charge. The result was horrific, even with the attack failing to collapse the entire structure of Building #131. 19 U.S. service personnel and one Saudi national were killed, 372 people were wounded. Through the pages of history, the announcements of their deaths can still be read.

So can the indictment against the perpetrators and the Rewards for Justice announcement that still seeks information about them.

If not for an alert sentry and some well-placed jersey barriers, it would have been worse. Far worse.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Kimberley Process under review

The famed Kimberley Process of 2003, credited with clamping down on "blood diamond" trade from the various African conflicts of recent memory, has never been perfect (nor could be). But it has done a lot of good where signatory-states have worked together to reveal the source of shall-we-say-unusual appearances of diamonds attributed to sources that likely lacked the ability to bring that number of their own diamonds to market.

But the Process has suffered recently from efforts to undermine it, and the signatory-states are meeting in Windhoek, Namibia, this week to review the process. There is a lot to review, but the worst case seems to be Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), which produces diamonds at Marange. The World Federation of Diamond Bourses in April banned the sale of diamonds from Marange, based on the discovery that senior leadership in the Mugabe regime are profiting after a military operation to assert control the field last October. Prior to that, illegal diggers were taking what could be found there.

It is time for the Kimberley Process to follow the lead of the World Federation and proscribe trade in Marange-origin stones until the Mugabe clique is fully removed from power.

General Information on the Kimberley Process (KPCS)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Vladivostok Corruption Conviction

The former head of the Far East branch of Russia's Customs Service, one Ernest Bakhshetsian, has been convicted of abuse of office.

Quick reminder: the port of Vladivostok is *the* window for sea trade with Russia in the Far East. Being that the charges included his involvement in "massive smuggling", this should sound alarm bells with law-enforcement agencies in Japan as well.

Monday, June 22, 2009

3rd BUMP - Freedom for Iran thread

This is to keep a current thread open for reports and commentary on the Freedom Uprising in Iran in the wake of the "Presidential Election" of June 12th.

3rd BUMP: Here is the 2nd BUMP -- Freedom for Iran thread on the Insurrection covering (linking to) matters since last Monday's The Weekly Item here at CompHyp. I linked to several more recent items of interest *in the Comments* of The Weekly Item (June 15th).


Major media sources have picked up the tragic story of "Neda".


General Strike calls are being heard. Here's one calling for a Strike on 23.June.


More Calls for a General Strike; Bus Driver's Union on 26.June; repeats Activist calls for 23.June.


Unconfirmed reports are that protesters in Tehran will be massing at the bazaar to see that the Strike there happens. Confrontation is supposed to be avoided...

While waiting for confirmation / other reports to come in, here's an article from RFL/RE: Women at the forefront of Iranian Protests.


Iran's international "blame-game" is in full swing. Iran expelled two British diplomats late yesterday. The U.K. responded in-kind today, with some very harsh words to go with the "get out" announcement.

as reported by Reuters.
as reported by the BBC.


UPDATE 24.June

Protests are back on in Tehran, but... The Times of London and other sources report that the Baharestan Ave. protest is being met with overwhelming force.

The protests simply have to spread back to other cities, and soon. Here's AEI Iran Tracker's running count (up to yesterday). If the numbers stay small, and concentrated in Tehran, the protesters are easy pickings for the regime.


UPDATE 25.June

Reports are of a bazaari (shopkeepers) strike in Iranian Kurdistan that has held up since Tuesday.

It is *much* harder to get information right now, so many major media outlets are marking time with what they have in-hand from previous days.

With the G8 Foreign Ministers' Meeting kicking off today in Trieste, Italy, this may be the time for the Europeans to take center stage challenging Iran (they've already begun to do so).

Of course, S. Lavrov isn't helping... unless helping Ahmadinejad counts as helping.


Alright, this is creative. A little fun with electric systems.


This space reserved for further updates.


The Weekly N&C for June 22nd, 2009

Rescuing Equatoria

When the world news media turns its attention to the Republic of the Sudan these days, it almost always casts its gaze on the troubles in the Darfur region. Given that those troubles have bordered on (and been labeled as) Genocide, it is in many ways a good thing that the media looks first there. The Darfur conflict is both a tragic example of the treatment a centralized authoritarian state gives to a (relatively) recently-incorporated territory and a flash-point for border battles between the Sudanese state and its enemies in the Republic of Chad. The central authority bases itself upon the Arab Supremacy doctrine as well as the concept of concentration of power in the hands of the leadership in Khartoum. But there is more to be seen about the Sudan; for one, there are defensible historical reasons why the very idea of “Sudan” is not, and should not be, what is drawn on the map.

Speaking of maps, here is a modern political map of the Sudan. Here is a map showing the political regions of the Sudan (as of 2006). Please refer to these as needed as we proceed.

The Upper Nile and its surrounding territories were little known to outsiders other than in glimpses and tales of the interior lands until the Arabianization of the northeastern tribes and kingdoms had gone on long enough that a small Sultanate had come to be in the region of the Third Cataract of the Nile and Arab colonization along the Red Sea coast had penetrated a small distance inland… a process that took nearly a thousand years. Islam did spread, but the idea of Islamic States as per se did not go much beyond the replacement of indigenous Nubian sub-states in the north with Arabianized Nubian sub-states. The Blue Sultanate of the Sinnar (Sennar) region along the fertile part of the Blue Nile was the first to gain even tributary control over the many tribes of the Upper Nile, and had knowledge of tribes in the far south. This loose empire-in-miniature rose in the 16th Century and existed until 1820… when the Ottoman-dominated Egyptians came south.

Muhammad Ali Pasha, the Ottoman-installed Wali (Governor) of Egypt, had grown a bit “too big for his britches” taking the self-styled title of Khedive (overlord; viceroy) and setting out to increase his domain by exploration and conquest. Conveniently, this was also the beginning of the era of the great European interest in the exploration of the “Heart of Africa” and as a part of that, the search for “The Source of the Nile”. Through the 1840’s and on to 1879, this both encouraged Egyptian cooperation with European nations *outside the official relationship with the Ottoman Empire” and made a steady supply of European Adventurers available for employ by the Khedive. These men (and one very famous husband-wife team) worked mostly alone at the head of expeditions that established a chain of very modest garrisons along the Upper Nile. Unfortunately, the interest and availability of these Adventurers came at a price: The sudden, and instantly critical, awareness by European nations of the extent of the Slave Trade. It was everywhere. It was the major trade activity of the Arab interests in East Africa and along the Upper Nile. By any reasonable measure of economic “resource production”, it was the *only* major trade activity in those regions. Ivory-trade was a poor second in comparison, and there was basically no other trade of value except on the coast. The Khedive now told (one of his many) well-told lies to the Europeans: that by encouraging and supporting Egyptian control of the Upper Nile, his administration would see an end to Slave-taking and –trading.

Some believed him; others thought they could use this as an opportunity; most of the Egyptian administrators put in place by the expeditions simply ignored it. Worse, while the Slave Trade had been tied before to Red Sea ports and the East African Arab kingdom of Zanzibar and severely limited by the dangers that befell outsiders who ventured very far inland into East Africa, the explorers (both European Adventurers and Arab Slavers) were gaining the ability to penetrate farther into the countryside. By the 1870’s, heretofore unvisited tribes and territories were being brought into contact. This contact might bring negotiation and the tribe told of its place under administration, or it might just as easily bring death, disease, and enslavement; it simply depended on who got there first.

One of the earliest such places was Darfur, and it at least had the veneer of Islamization to protect *some* of its people from the Slave Trade. The confluence of the Niles was another early place of Egyptian administration, and Khartoum grew to become a moderately large center of trade linked overland along the Blue Nile and the desert to the Red Sea ports. Later, expeditions from the north established a tenuous presence far up the White Nile called “Equatoria” (part of which is the modern South Sudanese province of the same name) and explorers working from Zanzibar had mostly mapped the region of the northern Great Lakes of Africa, unveiling the strong tribal kingdom of Buganda in the process. By reaching Equatoria, the extent of the holding was well past the Arabianized tribes. This was tribal Sub-Saharan Africa. Where ever the European presence asserted control the Slave Trade was in peril, but where the Slave Trade came first, their depredations either ruined the countryside or turned the native tribals implacably hostile to outsiders.

The European influence eventually began to turn the tide against Slavery as an industry, but it also instantly destroyed the source of wealth of many powerful people in the newly-Egyptian Sudan (and in Egypt). The repression of Slavery was along with epic mismanagement by the Khedive the cause, but not the *declared* cause, of the end of Ottoman-Egyptian rule. First the Arab population of Egypt rose “against Foreign influence” and their own overlords in the Urabi Revolt (1879~1882) which was put down by British intervention in the end, resulting in the not-entirely-wanted by anyone British control of Egypt for the next ~70 years. Then came the unexpected: the Arabianized tribes of the Sudan rose in revolt… under a unifying leader.

The Mahdi (“guided one”; by implication the 12th Imam revealed) led the first “modern” jihad, raised a massive army of followers, and set to very efficiently destroying Egyptian control of the Upper Nile. Militarily, he was an astounding success. Darfur was captured, extending his rule west from the Sudd; Egyptian garrisons were cut off and destroyed above and below the confluences of the Nile, and fortified Khartoum was besieged and taken (only days before a relief column approached, by the way). The British and Egyptian forces that could do so simply withdrew; the rest mostly died. We’ll never know if the Mahdi would have been a great leader of a partly-unified Sudan, though. He died but six months after the fall of Khartoum. His replacement at the head of the Mahdiyah (Mahdist government) was a more conventional Arabianized tribal leader and his campaigns to extend the control of his rule was thwarted against Ethiopia, bested by Anglo-Egyptian troops when he attempted to invade Egypt proper, and eventually turned back from eastern ambitions by Italian colonial troops from Eritrea. With all that going on, he never made much of a significant effort to take Equatoria and the piecemeal efforts that did happen were countered by the garrison of men cut off there under the enigmatic Emin Pasha (another European Adventurer supposedly in Egyptian employ). But contact with Equatoria was cut, and as of 1889 it was believed that the garrison’s withdrawal *up* the White Nile meant the loss of the territory. But “lost” how? It had, after all, barely been “found”.

The claim was restored by a series of great adventures, including an appallingly difficult passage of a relief expedition traveling from the Congo through unexplored terrain (modern Ituri of the D. R. Congo) and then down to Zanzibar, taking from 1886~90. The British military expedition (counter-invasion) from 1896~98 came from the north and decisively defeated the Mahdiyah and brought “modern” logistical transport to the Upper Nile. A railroad reached as far as Khartoum; steam vessels vastly superior in number and quality to the small steamers used by the Egyptian garrisons now reached the far navigable extreme of the White Nile. Communication was now no longer an issue. Meanwhile, in East Africa, Zanzibar had become a British Protectorate (by force) and the Anglo-German agreement (1890) on a division of territorial influence on the mainland had brought a British East Africa Company into being. This holding expanded through what is now Kenya and in 1892 included a British Protectorate over the Kingdom of Buganda. The White Nile, from Khartoum to the Great Lakes, was under British colonial control. But a line drawn on a map placed most all of Equatoria within Anglo-Egyptian Sudan, and the rest assigned to the new Uganda Protectorate in 1894.

Clearly that line was drawn in the wrong place.

The current administration of the Republic of the Sudan inherited that line, and others drawn to make borders with what are now Ethiopia, Eritrea, Chad, the Central African Republic and the D. R. Congo. But from the very moment of post-colonial Independence in 1956, those lines proved to be a catalyst for an explosion. In the case of Equatoria, the South of Sudan (South Sudan) went to war against the Khartoum regime from day one. Only the Addis Ababa Agreement of 1972 put a hold on the conflict, and that proved to be a weak protection. In 1983 the South Sudanese went back to war. After horrible hardship, South Sudan won a kind of autonomy in the Naivasha Comprehensive Peace Agreement of 2005. Meanwhile, the Khartoum regime had gone through 50 years of military juntas and strongmen, first Arab Nationalists, then Marxist-inspired Nationalists, and most recently waves of Islamic Fundamentalist Nationalists… the last being the regime of Omar al-Bashir (since 1989), the ICC-indicted criminal leader of the Genocide against Darfur.

Under the al-Bashir government, Khartoum has almost totally reneged upon the terms of peaceful co-existence. Development in the South has been near-nil except for the precious oil fields along the Abyei part of the line-of-division which feed foreign hard currency to the regime (and oil to the People’s Republic of China, by the way). The South Sudan autonomous administration has withdrawn from cooperation with Khartoum since 2005 over these slights… and more. Since the 1980’s, Slave-taking has returned in the Sudan, with reliable reports of over ten (perhaps tens of) thousand people taken from the southern region into Slavery.

There is only one real benefit of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, though…

…the South Sudanese don’t have to *stay* Sudanese.

The terms of the agreement specifically call for a referendum for independence for South Sudan after six years. That would be in 2011.

There is a conference on the 2005 Naivasha Comprehensive Peace Agreement being held in Washington D.C. on Tuesday of this week, hosted by American Special Envoy to the Sudan J. Scott Gration. The so-called “North” (the Khartoum regime) will be there. The South Sudanese will as well. So will interested parties from P. R. China, the United Nations, the Arab League, Britain, Italy and Egypt.

The host, by the way, gave a statement to the Washington Post last week that the Genocide in Darfur “is over”. Right then; that pretty much puts to rest any claims of perceived impartiality.

Let’s put this plainly: the al-Bashir regime is a threat to its neighbors and a threat to the people under its sovereignty. It arms proxy forces and actively destabilizes any rivals. It is a listed Terror-Supporting Regime. It is one of the last places on earth where the abomination of Slavery can still thrive.

The only thing the South Sudanese have to say to the regime is “Good-bye”.

The only things, the *only* things that should be being discussed in Washington tomorrow are those matters that will allow for a referendum in the South, a parallel referendum in Abyei, and what needs to be prepared for the possible permanent secession of the South.

Oh, if there is time on the agenda, I’d tolerate Ambassador Gration taking the time to ask the regime representative when al-Bashir will surrender to his International Arrest Warrant and face the charges against him.

Other than that all, there is nothing to talk about.

End Notes:

Maps for reference are linked in the text, above.

Recent Sudan news articles related to the matter of Sudan include:

Sudan requires Aid NGO’s to restructure before being allowed back into Darfur.

Human Rights Watch calls upon the U.N. to keep its Special Rapporteur for Human Rights in Sudan.

Sudan barge convoy attacked, regime forces implicated.

U.N. Human Rights Special Rapporteur reports on Sudan.

South Sudan leader places forces on war footing.

U.N. keeps Human Rights Investigator for Sudan.

Referenced matter in the text regarding J. Scott Gration; also the Washington conference:

J. Scott Gration claims Sudan Genocide “over”.

Q & A from Reuters about the Washington D.C. conference on the implementation of the Naivasha Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

General Information on Places and People referenced in the text are all available online at Wikipedia. As with any politically sensitive topic, please carefully check all sources cited there.

Japan-Russia Territorial Talks on the agenda

At meeting today, the Government of Japan and a Russian senior official confirmed that the Northern Territories issue will be discussed at talks in July.
Sergei Naryshkin, chief of staff of the Russian Presidential Executive Office, told Aso that Russia is preparing to hold talks on the territorial issue when Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Aso meet on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Italy.

Aso told Naryshkin that he hopes to hear Medvedev explain Russia's efforts to resolve the long-standing dispute, while Naryshkin said it is important that discussion on the matter be held in a quiet atmosphere, according to the ministry officials.
Very good, sirs. You shall have your quiet atmosphere.

Now go get this matter resolved.

Indian Maoist Campaign Spreads

The conflict against the Naxal People's War Groups (Maoist insurgents) has spread in the wake of the Lalgarh counter-offensive. Five States now at WARNING.

Extend that West Bengal Travel Advisory appropriately.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Sunday All-In Push

Here you have it, with topics of your own, or those that got passed over during the week because other things were less well known (or much, *much* more important; Freedom for Iran threads being of the later type).

How about these stories?:

MEND guerrillas hit Shell Oil production facilities in Nigeria, again.

Iraq may be facing another al-Qaeda campaign as Coalition forces realign and rebase in the first stages of the draw-down.

There is a huge amount of news out there on Pakistan's campaign in the FATA against the Taliban and company. Rather than point at any one story, I'll gladly direct your attention to Bill Roggio's Long War Journal which has been running analysis and commentary daily on this (and other GWOT news).

Fan favorite Hugo A-go-go Chavez is up to his tricks again, with more attacks on opposition leaders and media, *and* Overturning the Intellectual Property Laws. No more patent protection in socialist paradise, you running dog lackeys... Wonder how *that's* going to go over in the World Trade Organization (yes, Venezuela is a member).

Or start something of your own interest. This thread is left open to comments for folks to make their own fun or leave messages for me about breaking news events. The usual rules still apply: play nice.

My special thanks to visitors here this week from the U.S. Senate offices, several military organizations around the world, and from inside Iran. I remain astounded by the attention.

Thank you for your comments and your interest in CompHyp.

Be well and safe, All. Happy Father's Day.

High Representative for Bosnia intervenes

The Republika Srpska (Serb Republic; RS; Serbian mini-state in the Bosnian Federation) has refused to follow its obligations to continue to cede certain authorities to the central government of the Bosnia and Herzegovina as part of the continued integration of the country, and this week things have come to a head.

The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina (the Dayton Peace Accord -chartered arbiter for issues within the country as a whole) has by need intervened and annulled a set of RS parliamentary decisions that they refused to revoke themselves. The deadline for them to act was June 11th.

Maybe this time he got their attention, which would be good as without progress on unification, we may find ourselves right back where we were before December 14, 1995.

West Bengal operation against Maoist PWG

The Government of India has finally taken action against the Maoist Naxal (People's War Group; PWG) that has been beseiging the town of Lalgarh in West Bengal.
The situation remained tense in West Bengal state's town of Lalgarh where security forces were acting against a Maoist siege and citizens, especially politicians, were advised by the Indian government Sunday not to travel to the area. More than 1,500 paramilitary and police personnel began an operation Thursday to flush out Maoists from Lalgarh and its surrounding villages, about 200 kilometres west of state capital Kolkata.


"Security forces must carry on their work without distraction. Hence I appeal to all citizens, especially political leaders, NGOs, and others, not to go to the conflict area," the minister said.
Yes, that is an attempt to put a curtain on media reports. None the less, given the use of roadside bombings by the Maoists, this should be considered a *travel advisory* for rural West Bengal.


There are some excellent sources on the web for information on the various Maoist insurgencies against India. Here is one that reprints media reports from inside India on the topic: Naxal Terror Watch.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Two Dead Men

No nice way to say this. The release of a live terrorist leader bought in return two sets of remains. That's always a bad trade.
LONDON, June 20 (Reuters) - Britain is checking whether two bodies passed by Iraqi authorities to British officials in Iraq may be those of two men taken hostage in May 2007, Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Saturday.
My condolences and hope that the remains *aren't* two of the five kidnapped. It's the only hope to have, frankly.

See the related articles Hopes dashed and One al-Khazali let go here at CompHyp earlier this month.

Updated, Sunday.

The British government has announced that the two bodies have been provisionally identified as two of the five kidnapped: Jason Creswell, originally from Glasgow in Scotland, and Jason Swindlehurst, from northwest England.

Friday, June 19, 2009

2nd BUMP - Freedom for Iran thread

This is to keep a current thread open for reports and commentary on the Freedom Uprising in Iran in the wake of the "Presidential Election" of June 12th.

2nd BUMP: Here is the 1st BUMP -- Freedom for Iran thread on the Insurrection covering (linking to) matters since Monday's The Weekly Item here at CompHyp. I linked to several more recent items of interest *in the Comments* of The Weekly Item.


Here is the RFL/RL report on Khamenei speaking at Friday Prayers. That report notes sources saying the next big Opposition rallies will come on Saturday the 20th.


Update, June 20th (early)

Oh, this is looking like someone(s) is (are) playing with the various international media outlets...

State TV in Iran says the Militant Clerics Assembly has cancelled the rally the Oppos planned for this afternoon.

The Party of Mehdi Karoubi has announced that their rally is cancelled "Because permission was not obtained...". That's a good laugh because *none* of the recent Oppos rallies have received permission, even when they bothered to ask.

A Situation Summary, as of now from RFE/RL Radio Farda.


Yup, someone *is* playing the major media for fools.

From Twitter at Raye Man Kojast?, as of now Today's Rally IS NOT CANCELLED.


The fight is well and truly on, now. See referenced sources like RFE/RL Radio Farda, NIAC's niacINsight and Raye Man Kojast? for information from inside Iran.

For a summary based on insider reports, here is the BBC overview item on today's protests.


UPDATE: June 21st, early morning ('blog time)

It has been a long night after the fighting yesterday. Even State TV in Iran is owning up to 13 protesters killed. Anecdotal sources put the number much higher.

Reports from sources (cited above):

The night itself has been filled will the shouts of protesters against the regime, and the sounds of Basij militiamen smashing into homes and hospitals to fall upon those identified as protesters.

The Majles-e-Khobregan (Assembly of Experts) has announced their full support of A. Khamenei as Supreme Leader. That strengthens the regime, but only to a point; it also introduces a real sense that for the Opposition to win, they will need to bring down the entire machinery of the regime.

*note: other sources are commenting that the letter of support was only signed by the Deputy Leader of the Assembly, who is an Ahmadinejad partisan. If anyone has a complete translation to hand, please link to it in comments. Thank you.

There are calls happening for a Strike to close the bazaars. If this is a precursor to a General Strike, insurrection is spreading.

Let us see what Sunday brings in the way of a continued uprising and the fight for Freedom in Iran.


For those readers finding it a bit hard to keep track of all the players without a scorecard, Mr. Bill sends over *this link* which includes a substantial backgrounder on the organs of governance in the Islamic Republic of Iran, and it includes some summaries of statements and declarations by the regime and the Oppos during these days of crisis.

Thank you, Bill.


Again, from Mr. Bill:
One other thing you may have come across in your Iran coverage is mention of a video about "Neda", a 20-something Iranian woman who'd been shot in the chest just before the phone-cam video starts, and her rather bloody death.

I know you've seen death close up, but most of the rest of us haven't, and this short and very disturbing clip is quickly gaining a LOT of notoriety and significance.

If you haven't seen it, here's a link: Neda
I have seen it. I'm posting it here as sent because I agree it should be seen in as many places as possible.

Besides being a name, I am told neda means "voice" in Farsi (Parsi). May she never be silenced. Thank you again, Bill.


This space reserved for further updates.


North Korea Matters

Consider this a notice of thread-topics-to-come

Many, many things are happening all at once regarding North Korea.

Missile launch threats and American countermeasures.

A North Korean merchant ship may be stopped for inspection or at least asked to stop...

Seismic Monitors are on alert for another possible atomic weapon test.

Looking to be a heck of a week or three coming.

Disastrous two days for Somalia TFG

It has been bad, the last two days, for the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in Somalia; arguably disastrous:

They lost their national Security Minister to a car-bomb attack that killed 20 people in Beletwein, Hiran region...
Col. Omar Hashi, the Security Minister, and former Somali Ambassador to Ethiopia and the African Union, Mr. Abdikarim Lakanyo, were both killed in the explosion at Hotel Medina, independent sources confirmed.
The day before, they lost the Police Chief of Mogadishu in a day of fighting that swept through the city as the government tried to go on the offensive...
Government police spokesman Colonel Abdulahi Hassan Barise said: "The regional police chief, Colonel Ali Said, was among the dead, God bless him."

BBC East Africa correspondent Will Ross says the police chief's death will be a significant setback for the pro-government forces as he had often been on the front line encouraging his colleagues to defend their positions.
It has gotten bad enough that neighboring countries (other than Ethiopia) are actually willing to say something has to be done.
Kenya and other countries in the region, as well as Western nations, fear that if the chaos continues, groups with links to al Qaeda will become entrenched and threaten the stability of neighbouring countries.

"We will not sit by and watch the situation in Somalia deteriorate beyond where it is. We have a duty ... as a government to protect our strategic interests including our security," said Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula.

"Kenya will do exactly that to ensure the unfolding developments in Somalia do not in any way undermine or affect our peace and security as a country," he told a news conference.
Hint for the Kenyans: Your strategic interests start at home, where your border regions are in danger of falling to rebel control. Your course of action begins with securing those "refugee" camps, then the national border, then *if there is no other course* securing Jubaland by intervention.

But if that last step does prove necessary, understand that you will be walking into the maelstrom by doing so. Ask for all the outside support you can get, send only your best troops, and bring lots of bullets.

UVF begins decommissioning arsenal

It has been a long time coming... that the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) would join the Ulster Defense Force and the Red Hand Commando in being willing to match the Provisional Irish Republican Army (Provos; commonly mis-identified in the media as the "IRA") in decommissioning their weapons. "Decommissioning" being a nice way of saying disabling or destroying them. Well, that day has finally come.

Bravo to Northern Ireland Secretary Shaun Woodward for extending the decommissioning deadline until the end of this month. The gamble paid off.


Archival information on the Provos decommissioning can be read in detail *here* (.pdf file) in the report of the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning, last year.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

About those Bonds...

The ones from *this* thread here at CompHyp last Friday. US$134 billion in face value, carried by two "Japanese" who were trying to smuggle them into Switzerland.

Yep. They were fake. No great surprise there.

I can't wait to see how this gets explained.

...especially as there are rumors that the two bag-men got sprung from custody in Italy. The Italians had *better* turn up with these fellows for the magistrate's hearing or there is going to be diplomatic hell to pay.

Armaments? What armaments?

The Nigerian government has some pretty serious questions for the crew of a Ukrainian cargo aircraft that had to make an emergency landing in the northern Nigerian city of Kano while on a flight to Equatorial Guinea...
18 crates with mines and ammunition were on board, but there are no details of exactly who the cargo was destined for.
This could prove problematic for the flight crew, to say the least. Maybe they were just lucky to get stopped by the Nigerians. If they were going to Equatorial Guinea and they weren't doing so at the invitation of that nation's government... well, that would be a Bad Thing.

Foreigners involved in plots against Equatorial Guinea President Teodoro Obiang Nguema have a bad habit of getting tossed in a dark hole and left to rot.

Call for a new Int'l Force for Guinea-Bissau

Portugal and Nigeria have publicly called for a new International Force for Guinea-Bissau in the run-up to the June 28th Presidential Election there.
An international force "would be positive for Guinea-Bissau, because it would generate more confidence and more involvement of the international community," (Portugal's state news agency) Lusa reported (Portuguese Foreign Minister L.) Amado as saying on Wednesday.
As a reminder, the situation in Guinea-Bissau has been discussed *here* at CompHyp and in previous items linked through that thread.

For some independent insight into the coming Presidential Election in Guinea-Bissau, *here* is the Angus Reid Global Monitor item on the election.

If there is to be a renewed commitment to stabilizing Guinea-Bissau by the International Community, let us hope they bring more than just polling-place guards... like maybe throw open the gate for European and American Drug Enforcement agencies to help clean out the narcos...

Mutinies in Nord-Kivu

Multiple incidents of mutiny have been reported in Nord-Kivu this week as the FARDC (Army of the D. R. Congo) have 'supposedly' been on the offensive against the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR; Interahamwe-tied Hutu Rebels). Mutineers have even fired upon a MONUC (UN Peacekeeping Force in Congo) base.

The FARDC troops have not been paid for six months.

Their pay has been delivered to their commanders.

Citing the BBC story (linked above):
Our reporter says there have been another nine such cases in the last week in North Kivu.

Villagers in the region are worried about their safety and soldiers have been stealing their crops to eat, he says.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

BUMP -- Freedom for Iran thread

This is to keep a current thread open for reports and commentary on the Freedom Uprising in Iran in the wake of the "Presidential Election" of June 12th.

BUMP: Here is The Weekly Item on the Insurrection from Monday here at CompHyp. I linked to several more recent items of interest *in the Comments* there.


Here is the latest from RFE/RL's Radio Farda on Day Five of the protests, and here is their ongoing Iran Election Diary with all manner of short subjects and eyewitness reports from the Insurrection.


Iran's Hidden Revolution, or more correctly: How the IRGC took over Iran's government
"Mr. Ahmadinejad is so unworried he jets off to Russia..."


An astoundingly good weblog on the events, by Iranians inside and outside the country. Raye Man Kojast? (Where is my vote?). Hat tip to Michael J. Totten for recommending this.


Robert Fisk, via ABC (Australia), who is on the streets inside Iran.


Malian Army counter-punches

Remember this report here at CompHyp?

Well, it seems that the Army of Mali is not taking too kindly to having one of its best officers killed in his home by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)insurgents...
It was the first killing of a high-ranking Malian officer by the group, and another Malian officer at the time called it an "act of war" and vowed to avenge the death.
Mali army attacks Al-Qaeda base.
The operation was believed to be the first such attack by Malian troops against Islamist militants in the country's north, observers said.

"We have attacked a group of armed Islamists, members of Al-Qaeda, in the desert," one of the sources told AFP. "There were several dead on their side and we seized ammunition, destroyed vehicles."
Vengeance in part, done. Bravo. Now to get on with hunting down the rest of them. That is, after all, the job at hand.

Colombia and Panama together vs. FARC

This is the kind of cooperation that gets results.

Colombian and Panamanian authorities are working together to target the FARC 57th Front, specifically going after Gilberto 'El Becerro' Torres Muñeton, the commander of that Front responsible for holding open corridors across the border to get drugs out and arms in.

Here's hoping for a successful operation.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Japan blocks all exports to North Korea

The Asou Naikaku (National Cabinet of the T. Aso administration) of Japan has ordered a formal global export ban on trade to North Korea (DPRK). But what that BBC report (linked) doesn't mention is that a traffic regulation has been placed on North Korean nationals *including those with Special Permanent Residency in Japan*, which will enforce the ban on exports even at the individual level. --source (in Japanese): Yomiuri Newspaper.

No mention has been made so far of blocking (the relatively small remaining) remittance allowed by individuals carrying currency, but a complete financial isolation of the DPRK is apparently somewhere in the works between the United Nations Security Council-imposed sanctions and various national initiatives to add to sanctions.

Japan also is expected to pass legislation later this month allowing participation in the Maritime Inspection regime being imposed as part of UNSC Resolution 1874, passed June 12th of this year in response to North Korea's repeated violations of UNSC 1718.

Of course, when we say stop, it isn't as if they are actually going to stop.

ICC charges Bemba

Once-fugitive ex-Vice President of the Democratic Republic of Congo and former leader of the Movement for the Liberation of Congo (MLC; a rebel group in the Second Congo War) Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo has been charged with three counts of war crimes and two of crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Court.
But his lawyers are appealing, saying the militia was not under his command once they had crossed the border.
Where this gets confusing is that the crimes committed by his troops were during the MLC's intervention in a conflict *inside* the Central African Republic, not inside D.R. Congo. That's "the border" the lawyers are talking about. Here's more about the obfuscation-in-progress:
The ICC prosecutors will try to establish a direct line of responsibility between those crimes in the Central African Republic and Mr Bemba himself.

But defence lawyer Aime Kilolo argues that Mr Bemba cannot be held responsible as they were not under his command.

"The most important thing now to do is that for us we submit the case to the appeal and the judge is going now to decide between Mr Jean-Pierre Bemba and the former President Ange-Felix Patasse of the Central African Republic, who was really the commander of the troops," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.
If we're taking opinions on this, I'd offer that indicting both of them would be entirely reasonable. But 'reasonable' and 'African politics' are uncommon bed-fellows.


Russia Vetos UN Observer Mission in Georgia

Ten United Nations Security Council members voted for the continuation of the UN Observer Mission overseeing the Abkhazia region (since the 1993 Cease Fire between the government and the rebels).

Four members, including permanent member China, abstained.

Russia vetoed it on Monday.
The move brings to an end two weeks of heated negotiations, and means the withdrawal of the last international monitoring mission on Georgia's breakaway territories. Russia's veto, which effectively shuts down the UN mission in Georgia, has drawn a barrage of criticism from officials in Tbilisi.
It is time to count logistical movements and equipment transfers (like the reassignment of the limited number available of Mi-28 Anti-Tank Helicopters this Spring) to the Caucasus region, because moves like this veto are just the sort of preliminary moves Russia would make before renewing an invasion of the Republic of Georgia. Calling them out *before* an offensive may be the only way to prevent renewed fighting.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Weekly N&C for June 15th, 2009

Rather than distract readers further from the most important breaking international news story of the day, I am holding back the scheduled Weekly Item to make space for this:

News on the Iranian Popular Uprising

There are a number of good sources for English-language readers on this event. They are most all running far ahead of the major media outlets. Here are three that are covering what is happening in almost real-time:

Alerts from Tehran at tehranbureau.com

Michael J. Totten on the insurrection. Check his main page for new items as they come in as well.

NIAC Insights, an Iranian-American weblog with superb information.


It is becoming clear that the Ahmedinejad regime is likely turning against the Theocracy for its own Autocratic purposes. One public sign of that is that the Pasdaran (Guardians of the Islamic Revolution; IRGC) have felt it necessary to have imported revolutionary stalwarts from Hezbollah (and other client groups) to re-enforce the state security apparatus at home in Iran. They are likely afraid that Iranian troops / police won't fire upon demonstrating Iranian civilians.

I'll assert that all revolutions either institutionalize (and stop being revolutionary regimes) or fall prey to an autocrat. What makes each revolution different is not *when* it ends... but *how*. What we are watching in Iran now may well be the *how*.

M. H. Mousavi appeared in public at the protests today in Tehran, surrounded by an enormous crowd. The Ahmadinejad government also held "victory" rallies. The time may be coming for Tehran's famous protest mobs to be seen again in full force... likely in support of both factions.

For all our sakes, let this end with freedom for Iran. Somehow.

Tragic Turn to Yemen Kidnapping

The kidnapping of nine foreign aid workers in northern Yemen last Friday seems to have come to a tragic turn. Seven of their bodies have been found including one of the children, according to an official.
The Yemeni government blamed a local Shia rebel group, led by Abdulmalik al-Houthi, for the kidnapping.

The group has fought a sporadic insurgency in the Zaidi Shia heartland between the capital, Sanaa, and the border with Saudi Arabia.

But it denied any involvement in a statement.

A local tribal leader in the area, speaking to the Associated Press news agency anonymously, blamed al-Qaeda.

Al-Qaeda is known to have operated in the area, and analysts say it may be regrouping in Yemen after coming under pressure in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

ADDENDA: Jane Novak (*the* blog source for all things Yemeni) has a report that the two unaccounted for children were found alive.

UPDATE: Sources on this are very confused right now. The AP still has it as all nine are dead; Reuters and the Yemen Post have it as three dead (two German women and the South Korean woman).


hat tip to Mr. Bill for passing me the BBC report.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday Evening Push

Things are back on a regular schedule here after a couple of weeks of scatter-shot. This thread is left open to comments for folks to make their own fun or leave messages for me about breaking news events. The usual rules still apply: play nice.

There are no site admin matters of note.

Thank you for your comments and your interest in CompHyp.

Be well and safe, All.

Hopes dashed

This is a follow-up to One al-Khazali let go, from earlier this week.

It isn't good news either.

The Times of London is now reporting that none of the British hostages will be freed "until all of the Shia militiamen held by the Americans, are released".

There is also no Proof-of-Life available for all five abductees.

There may be a way to get them (those of the five Brits who are still alive) back, but it is increasingly looking as if this is not going to be the way.

Undermining Democracy

An absolutely "must-read" item for anyone studying the way that authoritarian governments around the world today are using the label of "democracy" to perpetuate their own power.

Undermining Democracy.

A joint research effort by Freedom House, Radio Free Asia, and RFE/RL.

TWA Flight 847 rememberance

June 14th, 1985

Remember Robert Stethem.

Remember that some of the perpetrators are still out there.

General Information on TWA Flt 847 Hijacking from Wikipedia. As always, check the sources on citations there.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mousavi arrested?

Open question, being that the sources on this are unofficial, and when compared to other reports contradictory, but...

If it is true, it will either result in the next Iranian Civil War or one heck of a crackdown on the "Party of 'green'" supporters. Neither gives much hope.

Friday, June 12, 2009

US$134 billion in bonds

Make of this what you will, folks:

Two Japanese were detained by Italian financial police last week after trying to enter Switzerland with $134 billion worth of undeclared U.S. bonds, mostly Treasury bonds, an Italian newspaper reported Wednesday.

Real? Forgeries? and found in a suitcase with a false bottom?

Oh, brother. These guys make the "Venezuelan Briefcase" affair look like pocket change.

No enforcement mechanism

The proposed new United Nations sanctions against North Korea (DPRK) look pretty strong on paper, according to the Associated Press. The financial sanctions alone appear to be stronger and likely even more effective than the Banco Delta Asia sanctions of 2005 (the funds there unfrozen as part of the Six Party Talks in 2007), but...

...especially in regard to the provisions for ship inspections on the high seas or in seaports if the ships are reasonably suspected of carrying prohibited arms, including nuclear- and missile-related items...
The draft U.N. resolution does not authorize the use of military action to enforce any of its provisions
Nothing to worry about there, nope.

Iran votes

Presidential election day in Iran.

The Times of London reports a high turn-out and confidence by the "opposition" supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi.

Demonstrators claim that if the party of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad rigs the election (again), they'll be out in the streets in protest.

The other two candidates, Mehdi Karoubi and Mohsen Rezaie, have appealed to the Leadership that there be no vote-rigging.

Yadollah Javani, a leader of the Pasdaran (IRGC, Guardians of the Islamic Revolution), has vowed to crush any post-election violence.

...and in the big picture, this is really just all about who gets to be the public face of the un-elected Rahbare Enqelab (Leader of the Revolution) Ali Khamenei and take on the issue of liberalization in Iranian domestic politics.

M. Ahmadinejad personally took on more in the foreign policy department because the Supreme Leader allowed him to. No chance of that happening if anyone vaguely moderate gets the job this time.

Madagascar Military Solution?

On Monday, the COMESA (Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa) bloc refused to discount the possibility of a military intervention to restore the Ravalomanana government (-in-exile) to control of Madagascar. Within the next day, both France and the United Nations warned against doing such.

Today, in the process of shutting down yet another round of pro-Ravalomanana protests, Armed Forces Minister Noel Rakotonandrasana (of the Rajoelina junta) has declared that such threats as that from COMESA must be taken seriously:
"In the end, that (military intervention) could become a reality. We are on maximum alert to guarantee the security of Madagascar's territory," said Rakotonandrasana.

All measures had been taken including the surveillance of the world's fourth largest island's coastline, he said.
That pretty much lights the confrontation lamp, but several questions remain:

. With France refusing to deny the junta, who else has the military means and motivation to attempt an intervention? Egypt?

.. Will the various COMESA governments now tolerate an effort to arm an insurgency against the junta?

... Doesn't this just give the junta a lot more reasons to crack down?

.... And as long as we are asking questions, where the heck was the outrage from COMESA when matters of Sudan, or D.R. Congo, or Eritrea, or Zimbabwe (Rhodesia) came to be?

I'll bet that the answer somehow involves "this time is different", and maybe "we blame France".


Thursday, June 11, 2009

Being played for the fool

Morgan Tsvangirai, Prime Minister in the "Unity" government of Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), is in Washington D.C. this week. He has gone out on what is embarrassingly close to a pan-handling mission to try and secure foreign aid for the deeply mismanaged country. His first stop was meeting U.S. SecState H. Clinton, and he is to meet President B. Obama on Friday, but it seems the truth of the situation is already getting in the way...
"I am anxious to hear about the plans and the work that your government is undertaking and to look for ways that we appropriately can be supportive," Clinton told reporters at the State Department as she posed for pictures with Tsvangirai.

Johnnie Carson, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, on Monday said more political, social and economic reforms were needed before substantial U.S. aid could kick in or targeted sanctions against Mugabe were lifted.
J. Carson is being almost kind in that statement, folks. So long as Robert Mugabe and his kleptocrats hold all the significant levers of power in Zimbabwe (Rhodesia), and refuse to give them up, any aid given that isn't strictly under the control of aid-delivering foreign organizations is just more money for the thieves to make off with.

It is also obvious at this point that the Obama administration is going to do exactly *nothing* to actually get R. Mugabe and party out of power.

Mr. Tsvangirai, sir, you are better than this. Please, for the future of your country, stop allowing yourself to be publicly played for the fool.

Why 'they' wear masks

I've had to answer this very question from people who live in "safe" countries:

Why do Special Forces / Special Police troops (and native guide-interpreters as well) wear masks?

You've probably seen hundreds of pictures (or video) of the Balaclava-clad officer in the tactical gear seen as part of a news report or press release in any one of innumerable countries.

The implication is clear in the question: masked men are bad men, aren't they?

Well, that's certainly not a given any more.

Besides the technical reason of many troops wearing fire-protective face covers, the Number One reason why 'they' wear masks is...

If the real bad guys know who they are, they *will* kill them.

Same-same applies as to why there used to be all manner of rules about "no name tapes on the uniforms" and "no-photograph" situations for people in certain lines of national service.

Sadly, this is just another case of nation's security service learning the hard way to protect the identity of their operators. A most costly lesson to learn.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

This should be good

President Alvaro Uribe of Colombia is in Canada to promote Free Trade, and while he's there he is dropping off a little dossier with some details from the "Raul Reyes" computer files...
RCN reported that the FARC 'foreign offices' are co-ordinated by Mariela Devia Silva, the sister of slain FARC commander 'Raul Reyes' and three of his nephews and a niece. They are believed to have contact with NGOs, trade unions and the Canadian Communist Party.

The information about the guerrilla group's movements is said to have been found in 'Raul Reyes' computers. RCN reported that videos and photos of leaders of the Canadian Communist Party and Colombian FARC operatives were among the evidence found.
original Spanish-langage report from Canal RCN.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

By the company that they keep

Throughout the tribal uprising in Peru's Department of Amazonas this last week, rumors of ALBA House (the Bolivarian Socialist International) being money behind the movement have circulated.

Well... with the Peruvian Army having moved in on Saturday after the local police were overwhelmed, taken hostage (and in the case of nine of the officers, reportedly killed), and with charges being filed against indigenous leader Alberto Pizango of sedition, conspiracy and rebellion...

A. Pizango has fled to the protection of the Nicaraguan Embassy.

If "You shall know them by the company that they keep" applies here, that pretty much answers the rumors.

Omar Bongo's replacement

After two days of public denials, the Government of the Gabonese Republic has admitted that President El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba is actually dead.

So, anyone care to venture a guess as to... no, not as to who *will* take over in Gabon now that one of the original Big Men has passed away... that is likely a lock already.

The open question is: Will anyone try to run against Ali-Ben Bongo if and when there is an "election"? If so, who?

Extra credit if you can name anyone in Gabon *not* a member of the Bongo family that has made even half as much money from the kleptocracy over the decades.


One al-Khazali let go

Aw, hell.

Baghdad; last Sunday:

Laith al-Khazali got sprung... and promptly upon arrival in the Sadr City district did the fade-into-the-woodwork move.

The official reason for his release is
“As part of a reconciliation effort between the government of Iraq and Asa’ib al-Haq, the decision has been made to release Layth Khazali,” said Lt. Col. Brian Maka, a spokesman for the American military commander here, in an e-mailed response to questions from The New York Times.
Unofficially, this is step one of an exchange to get back five British nationals who were kidnapped, likely by other members of the same Iranian-backed group run by the al-Khazalis... or their bosses.

The al-Maliki government (Iraq) is claiming to not know about this release.

This better work.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Real IRA leaders liable for Omagh bombing

It is a civil action, but likely the best that can be gained at this point: Four Real IRA leaders found liable for Omagh bombing.

29 people were killed in the attack.

No convictions ever stood up against the accused terrorists, in either the North or the Republic.

The civil damages awarded in this suit come to Pounds 1.6 million, but it really isn't about the money.
The Northern Ireland lord chief justice, Declan Morgan, said in his ruling that there was "overwhelming evidence" the four were connected to the explosion.
Five men were named in the suit, and fairness demands that it be noted that the fifth man, Seamus McKenna, was cleared of any involvement.

Karen refugees flee to Thailand

Lieutenant General Thanongsak Aphirakyothin, a Royal Thai Army commander on the western frontier, has reported that at least 1,700 ethnic Karen refugees have flooded across the border from Myanmar (Burma) following a Myanmar Army offensive against the Karen National Union (KNU) on June 3 and fighting continued on Monday according to KNU sources. Karen exile groups put the number of refugees much higher... they cite a figure in excess of 3,200. Again, citing Lt. Gen. Thanongsak:
"They fled because of danger and fear of capture and forced labour by the Myanmar army," Thanongsak told reporters. "Most of the refugees are women and children."

Background on this issue was discussed *here* at CompHyp back in February.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

The tip was dead-on right

Mexican authorities received a tip about "about the presence of armed men at a house in the hotel zone" in Acapulco.

The tip was right. dead right. 15 gunmen and one Mexican soldier were killed in a two-hour gun battle in which the gunmen used assault rifles and ~50 grenades.

After the fight four Guerrero State Police officers said to be being held captive by the gunmen were found alive. If that story holds up to investigation, it would be a most fortunate rescue indeed.


It ran in the al-Hayat newspaper (Saudi Arabia) today...
"We want from you a serious participation to solve the Palestinian issue and impose the solution if necessary," the Saudi monarch told Obama, according to the paper, which is owned by a nephew of the monarch. It did not elaborate.
--source: Reuters

Which begs any number of questions, but first and foremost comes to mind "Exactly by what legal means of doing so do you imagine such an imposition would exempt Saudi Arabia's theocratic monarchy from a similar 'imposition' of a 'solution' as defined by outsiders?"

Somalia battles escalate

The Islamic Courts Union (ICU) is no longer a union at all; al-Shabaab has for months now gone its own way and what was the ICU is now fragmented into regionally-defined pro- and anti- Transitional Federal Government (TFG) elements...

...and they are doing a bang-up job of killing each other in the streets.

The one part of that report (cited in the link) is the possible demise of Sheikh Hassan Dahir Aweys. That would be a very good thing, but I'll believe it when they find the body. For reference, he is a listed supporter of terrorist organizations under U.S. Executive Order 13224. General Information on Aweys can be found in this Personal Profile from Wikipedia. As always, please check the sources there.

Lebanon goes to the polls

In a tremendously important moment for the future of Lebanon, polls opened this morning for Parliamentary elections. The issue at hand, really the only issue that matters, is the possibility that a Hezbollah-led coalition will win control of the legislature. In recognition of its own limitations, Hezbollah itself is running candidates in only about a dozen ridings. But the presence of several allied parties and the traitorous opportunist party of Michel Aoun is giving the pro-Iran / pro-Syria bloc a real chance of taking control.

Here is the work-up on the election from Angus Reid Global Monitor, including a superb historical overview of the background on Lebanon.



The "March 14th" Bloc looks to have won a majority! Hezbollah et al have privately conceded defeat.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Adm. Olson on USSOCOM growth; needs

In testimony before the U.S. House Armed Services terrorism subcommittee, Adm. Eric T. Olson, head of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), addressed both the challenges of growing the force and the emerging need for operations focused on North and East Africa. The first point is perhaps the most nearly self-evident:
Special operations forces can only grow by 3 percent to 5 percent a year, Olson said. But the need for those units to deploy in hot spots around the globe is outpacing that growth, he said.
Think of this in civilian terms for a moment. Pick your favorite professional sport... say Major League Baseball... in that example any time the league tries to expand by a couple of teams, pitching quality drops and general standards of play and management take a knock as well. That's because there are really only about 1200 Major League quality players out there (30 teams, maximum 40 man rosters) by the most generous measure these days. Only about 750 of them are up on the Major League clubs most of the season. The remainder are either on the DL (injured players) or down with Minor League teams. *That* pool, by the way, is less than 6000 players either on the Big Club rosters or trying to climb up to the Majors. Not a whole lot of players there in the whole system, and only ~1 in 5 is actually in The Show.

Keep those numbers in mind and now let's go back to Adm. Olson's problem.

The current manpower allocation for USSOCOM is (in round numbers) 48,000.

Based on what it takes to be a Special Operator, that's an astoundingly high figure already. If it even can be grown at a 3~5% annual rate, there is a serious risk of diluting the force quality. I'll presume the training capability is in place, but there is more to it than just having "more players in the Leagues". Getting, and retaining, good Operators just has to be harder with every expansion.

Now to his second point, made in reply to a question:
He turned to intelligence concerns in North Africa in response to a question from Rep. Adam Smith, D-Wash., chairman of the subcommittee.

Smith asked Olson if the special operations forces could use more intelligence and surveillance coverage in North Africa, where al-Qaida (al-Qaeda) has set up a franchise in the vast ungoverned areas.

"We've got to find ways of having a better understanding of what is happening there," Olson said, adding that increased surveillance would be one answer.
In fact, the area of concern is both North and East Africa. North Africa is just a bigger concern. The U.S. military and intelligence services have never had more than a very small number of "Africa hands". It was a problem when Western Sahara turned into a war (Kingdom of Morocco vs. the Polisario Front); it was a bigger problem when Mu'ammar al-Qadafi got greedy and tried to annex the Aouzou Strip (northern Chad). The picture isn't very different today. Without Operators who specialize in the region, and this is true for any region, Special Operations is limited in what it can be called upon to do.

So good luck, Admiral. Here's hoping that you've got some "young arms in the farm system" that are ready to step up... and that some of them speak Hausa, Bambara, and North African Arabic.


Side note: The force commitment from USSOCOM to Afghanistan is ~5,000 and is about to increase by 1,000 this month. With the requirements for troop rotation these days, that is a big chunk of Special Operations locked in deployment-wise.

Four more attacks in south Thailand

There has been another wave of attacks on teachers, public servants, and military patrols in the Patanni (Pattani) region of southern Thailand; five dead. Two Royal Thai Army Rangers, two school guards, and the head of the local administration in Pattani town.
Schools and teachers are frequent targets of attacks in the south because militants see the education system as an effort by Bangkok to impose Buddhist Thai culture on the mainly ethnic Malay region.
The national government is considering new security measures in the region.

Background on this insurgency can be found *here* at CompHyp.

Guinea-Bissau political killings

The political violence continues in Guinea-Bissau (discussed previously *here* and *here* at CompHyp) with the killing on Friday of Territorial Administration Minister Baciro Dabo, former defence minister Helder Proenca and ex-prime minister Faustino Embali by Military Police in what is termed a "counter-coup operation".
"This was about nipping a coup attempt in the bud. Among the authors of this coup some came quietly while others tried to resist, that is why they were killed," the state intelligence services said in a communique.

"We have material proof that this coup attempt was aimed at physically eliminating the head of the armed forces, overthrowing the interim head of state and dissolving the national assembly," the statement said.
But outside observers aren't taking that at face value:
Analysts and diplomats were sceptical that the security forces were merely foiling a coup, saying the killings appeared to have been politically motivated and may have been connected to dealings with the powerful drug cartels.

RADDHO, a West African rights network, warned that Guinea Bissau was caught up in a dark series of political assassinations, intrigue and impunity.
The United Nations has issued a statement to the media expressing concern and "dismay"... but the U.N. and ECOWAS (the West African Economic Community) have stated that the campaigning for the next election (due to start today) should go on.

Going to be tough to have much of a campaign, with the most-likely-to-win candidate being dead and all. Folks might think the condition could be catching.

The election is scheduled for June 28th.