Mar 25, 2008

Securing the Silk Road - The Path of the Torch

We've been meaning to post the following Balkananalysis excerpts for a tardy week now, if only really to highlight the brotherly antics of Greece's butt-jabbing neighbour (Every year Turkey honors Greece's Day of Independence by violating Greek airspace.) The lighting ceremony now passed, this post is already somewhat dated. Perhaps though, somewhat dated can be considered somewhat tested.

With security for the Olympics, which start in Beijing on August 8 at an all-time-high, China’s concerns have reverberated as far as southeastern Europe, where on March 24 the Greek government will conduct the traditional lighting of the Olympic flame. Greece’s security precautions for the event involve new techniques and technology in practice since Athens hosted the last Olympics, in 2004, and are being executed with an eye to possible threats from political opponents of the Chinese regime, including left-wing terrorist groups, the Uyghur Diaspora, Tibet activists and other potential troublemakers.

The most visible dissidents to China’s political program, which are seeking to use the world spotlight cast on the world’s most populous country that the Games provide, are now the Tibetans. Following recent riots and continuing protests against Chinese rule in Tibet, and an outcry from Tibet activist groups outside the country, China is taking a great interest in identifying those involved. This interest has spread as far as the Peloponnesian home of the original Olympics, where on March 10 Chinese Embassy officials in Olympia filmed a group of Tibet activists concluding their own “Olympic flame” relay, a counter-action meant as a symbolic protest. This data will most certainly be shared with the Greek police, busy executing their final preparations for the March 24th event.

Greek-Chinese Relations: Smooth Sailing

Bilateral relations between the two countries have greatly expanded over the past few years, facilitated by the expanding role of China in world markets and by the role of the Greek merchant marine, which now transfers the bulk of China’s energy needs, especially its oil.

Diplomatic relations were formally established in 1972, during the time when Western policy formally opened up to Beijing as a counterweight to the then-Soviet Empire. According to information relayed by the Greek Foreign Ministry, “Greek-Chinese relations are excellent… China has a positive stance on the Cyprus issue and Greece supports the principle of One China.”

In the economic sphere, there is strong bilateral collaboration as well, especially in the shipping sector. The COSCO Group is willing to invest in Greek ports by buying controlling stakes, while the shipyards of China are filled with hundreds of orders from Greek ship owners rushing to take advantage of low-cost Chinese labor. In the tourism sector, Greece expects to accommodate some 300,000 Chinese visitors, a market recently making its entrance in Greece but with high potential due to explosive annual growth and high spending per capita.

Chinese Security Concerns

The Olympic Games 2008 will provide a unique opportunity for China to present its heightened role on the world stage. The security concerns of Beijing are mainly concentrated in the existence of minority groups, as now seen in Tibet, with communities scattered across the world that along with political demonstrations may attempt sabotage and even terrorist attacks on the Games themselves. Bloomberg reports that China is spending approximately $300 million on Olympic security (whereas the Greek government spent $1.5 billion to safeguard the 2004 Olympics). According to security expert and an official advisor to the Olympic Games, Dr. Darko Trifunovic, “China is paying considerable attention to terrorism assessment for the Olympic Games. It does not want the event to be associated with anything that can damage its reputation as a safe destination.”

Among the Chinese counter-terrorist efforts is the participation of America nuclear experts in removing radioactive materials from the vicinity of Olympic sites, “part of a security sweep focusing on highly radioactive devices in hospitals and research labs” reported The Canadian Press. “The fear is they could be detonated using conventional explosives - effectively becoming a ‘dirty bomb’ that would spew radiation and sow panic at the global sporting spectacle set for August.” Charles Ferguson of the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations described for the Canadian media the security operation as being “precautionary,” adding that “if terrorists were able to take explosives, let’s say, and target a radioactive source that’s located at or near an Olympic site venue and blow up that facility… then that could be a huge international event.”

Chinese Minister of Public Security Zhou Yongkang has stated that “we face the challenges of terrorism, separatism and extremism.” Attesting to this concern, Beijing recently announced that it had foiled a plot devised by terrorists seeking to take over a passenger plane and crash it in a major city. According to Wang Lequan, the top Communist Party official in the western region of Xinjiang, there were plans “to sabotage the staging of the Beijing Olympics.” CNN reported that “two people were killed and 15 captured in the raid, along with weapons and extremist religious literature.”

Xinjiang province is home to the Uyghurs (also spelled Uighurs), a Turkic minority that has often clashed with the Chinese minority, motivated by dreams of independence, for a region it calls East Turkistan. During the 1990’s it collaborated with Islamic networks and Al Qaeda, and even with the Turkish state, which at the time was trying to expand its influence among the Turkic countries of Central Asia. Should the allegations prove to be correct, an initial serious security threat may have now been found. However, Western observers have also expressed skepticism over the veracity of the allegations, suspecting that China would like to voice security concerns to intimidate its restive minorities.

However, there are demonstrated links between a small number of Chinese Turks and international terrorist outfits. Dr. Trifunovic points out that “Uyghur trainers of Al Qaeda ended up in Guantanamo Bay [prison] in 2001. Six of them were released and they are presently in Albania.” The small Balkan country was the only one that would do the US a favor by accepting the men. A significant Uyghur community also resides in Munich, Germany, which would mean relatively easy access for any troublemakers looking to disrupt the Olympic flame lighting ceremony in Greece.

Another Chinese security concern which has implications for events in Greece next week is the Falun Gong religious sect, which has been in conflict with the Chinese government for years. Via its European representation, the group has made numerous connections in Greece, and developed a network of local supporters and collaborators, materializing in the past in the form of demonstrations in Athens. This activity has occasionally created slight strains in Athens-Beijing bilateral relations.

It is possible that the cult groups may try to hold demonstrations just before the lighting ceremony, in order to voice their public disapproval for the Chinese Olympic Games. It is notable to mention that in 2004 three members of that sect sued the Chinese government in a Greek court, claiming that it practices “genocide and torture” against minority members. Even though it cannot be estimated how many members of the sect reside in Greece, unofficial tallies suggest a community of approximately 1,000 members.

Lastly the ever-pressing issue of Tibet, one which has received much more popular support from Westerners, means another headache for Greek security tasked with safeguarding the lighting ceremony. On the 10th of March, a group of 10 Tibetans tried to enter the archaeological site of Olympia in order to symbolically light up their own fire, using benzine, but were prohibited by the police, though no arrests were made. The arrival of a wave of tourists from China and various European countries for the ceremony has kept local authorities on alert, as they fear similar incidents might be attempted.

Greek Security Preparations for the Olympic Lighting Ceremony

The lighting ceremony will begin at noon on Monday, the 24th of March, at the home of the original Games, Olympia in the Peloponnese. As before every modern Olympics, the torch will then travel throughout Greece – some 1,528 km in all – passing through 43 cities and finally arriving at Panatheneum Stadium in central Athens on the 30th of March at 3PM. On the following day it will be flown to China. During the week-long ceremony, 605 people in all will be involved in handling the torch.

Other concerns for the Greek government which do not involve China-related troublemakers regarding the high-visibility torch ceremony include the existence of certain radical leftist groups, such as the Revolutionary Struggle. The latter was reportedly involved with staging an attack against the American Embassy in January 2007, and is considered to have a considerable arsenal of illegal weaponry, as well as relations with the contraband arms trade in the Balkans, and possibly even with organized crime networks operating in Kosovo; in 2007, Kathimerini reported that the missile launched against the American Embassy had been imported from Albania via the largely Albanian-populated secessionist province of Serbia.

Finally, the generally fragile situation in the Balkans may now be affected as the Greek police are forced to temporarily expend their efforts on the lighting ceremony, rather than on other regional security issues.

Controlling the Path of the Torch, and the Holiday

The path upon which the Olympic flame will pass is considered generally safe. It will follow national roads, which are easily monitored and secured. Nevertheless, the country will be on a heightened state of alert for other reasons as well. The 25th of March is also the national Day of Independence in Greece, traditionally marked by a military parade in Athens. This simultaneous event also means the activation of Greek military units, as Turkey by tradition honors the holiday by violating Greek airspace, as a form of minor psychological warfare. Thus the Greek air force, and the army and navy as well, will have to be on standby.

Route and Itinerary of the Olympic Torch, March 24-30, 2008

  1. March 24: Ancient Olympia-Patra-Messologi (Stay overnight)
  2. March 25: Agrinio-Arta-Ioannina (Stay overnight)
  3. March 26: Metsovo-Grevena-Kozani-Veroia (Stay overnight)
  4. March 27: Naoussa-Edessa-Ginniatsa-Ancient Pella-Thessaloniki (Stay overnight)
  5. March 28: Larissa-Volos-Lamia (Stay overnight)
  6. March 29: Kalamos-Marathonas-Rafina- Panellinios Stadium (2 km from the final destination) in central Athens (Stay overnight)
  7. March 30: Delivery of the torch to Chinese Olympic officials at 3PM in Panatheneum stadium (close to the presidential palace, and the most secure area of Athens). The torch will be flown the same night or early the next morning for China.

Mar 20, 2008

Whoops, We Did It Again

We managed to vaporize a whole module of pleasing blurbs (Yahoo cache) from the right-hand column while tweaking our template. Though probably a major relief for all those quoted, their un-shaming is only temporary - the smorgasboard of jacked loose-tongued flattery will be back in place asap.
-Update Friday, March 21: Alas blurbers, blurbage restored.

Mar 19, 2008

Friend to Foe: Switch-Hit Pak

Last week, as Lt Gen Mushtaq Baig, chief of army medical services, was blown to bits by a teenaged suicide bomber in the heart of the Rawalpindi cantonment, Pakistan’s worst fears were confirmed once again: the militants were determined to attack the core of the Pakistani army.

And the Army is not ready for this deadly game with the people it has patronised, nurtured and guided in the past. Though it has been involved in a high-voltage battle of nerves with militants in the NWFP, it has gained little ground against them.

The militants are elusive and deeply motivated, and there have even been incidents of some army units willingly surrendering to the heavily armed militia rather than fight them.

The reason for this debacle is quite simple. Trained to fight conventional war with the Indian army in the mountains of Kashmir, the plains of Punjab and the desert of Rajasthan, the Pakistani army struggles and fumbles as it takes on battle-hardened guerrillas in the treacherous terrain of the Pashtun belt.

There’s another reason: Since 1947, generations of Pakistani army have been trained, motivated and indoctrinated to fight India. Just like in jingoistic Bollywood flicks, the word enemy always had only one meaning in the barracks of the Pakistani army. Explaining the Pakistani establishment’s perception of India in a recent interview, Ayesha Siddiqa, author of Military Inc: Inside Pakistan’s Military Economy , said: "India is an enemy, it is about to eat us up. We have to challenge it."

It’s probably this mindset that explains the ‘misuse’ of more than $5 billion given by the US to the Pakistani military to fight the Al-Qaida and Taliban in its restive border areas with Afghanistan. In a report published last year, US military officials said they believed that much of the American money had been diverted to help finance weapons systems designed to counter India.

The American accusation led to a war of words between Islamabad and Washington, with the Pakistanis accusing the Americans of ingratitude and the Americans in turn charging them with not doing enough to counter the Al-Qaida "which was expanding its influence from the remote border regions into the more populated parts of Pakistan".

"The Pakistanis are damn good fighters," says a retired Indian Army officer who saw action on the western front in 1971. "But unlike us, counter-insurgency is not their strength. It’s a different ballgame altogether. They have to shift their focus from India if they want to defeat the militants in the mountains."

This is precisely what the Americans have been telling Islamabad. In recent weeks as the country voted in the general elections and President Pervez Musharraf stood defeated and isolated, some top US officials - CIA director Michael Hayden, deputy secretary of state John Negroponte and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff Admiral Mike Mullen - flew down to Islamabad, offering to train Pakistan’s Frontier Corps in anti-guerrilla operations and trying to persuade army chief Gen Ashfaq Kayani to switch from training in conventional warfare to counter-insurgency operations. The general reportedly agreed with the Americans’ viewpoint.

But even if Gen Kayani manages to shift the focus of his army’s training, it’s not going to be easy to win this battle, for an entirely different reason. Because of the heavy dose of religion during training and the army’s symbiotic relationship with religious extremists in the past, the soldier on the front is not convinced he is fighting the right battle. Trained to fight the ‘big enemy’, the soldiers are getting a bit confused as they take on the people who once fought alongside them.

"Even before the Taliban, we engaged with non-state actors and militants," says Siddiqa. "Who fought the war in 1947-48? We got those tribal warriors from Waziristan primarily to fight. In 1965 again, we used jihadis." In addition, the army also used religious extremists to defeat its political opponents. Now they are in a Catch-22 situation. Though Pakistan joined the US war on terror after the threat of being "bombed back to the Stone Age", its army is not ready - militarily and mentally - to fight the enemy’s enemy which has turned its guns on its former patron.
-Excerpts from The Times Of India

Mar 17, 2008

SOS - Subprime Olympics Securitization

It's not as if there aren't exploitable vectors a plenty to keep negotiating positions vis-รก-vis a PR-prickly PRC in bettered balance, particularly during the peri-Olympic interval.

Heck, with competent opportunity managers at our helm it would perhaps not be considered holding hopes too high if one entertained notions of a reasonably coerced Chi-subsidy quietly directed at lessening the blow of the $200 Billion Bernanke-bail-outs scooped from the treasury and handed over to a Wall Street suddenly in love with Keynes. Chi-games and their stash of our treasury securities in some kind of sufficiently stabilized order in exchange for the lessening of indignation and wrath surely felt by the many friends of Friedman now gnashing their principled teeth at the actions of a hyper-interventionist Fed.

Enough of conspiratorial silliness. While considerable Chinese focus in securing the Beijing Olympics will be on terrorism-related scenarios likely to arise from foreign terrorists, likely scenarios from domestic disgruntled elements might deserve attention. Among these one could mention the Uighur jihadi terrorists who have close links with Al Qaeda and the International Islamic Front (IIF), the Tibetan activists, the members of the Falun Gong and irrational Chinese individuals. On the basis of the evidence presently available, it is assessed that the Uighur terrorists have a capability for diversionary attacks in Xinjiang and against Chinese nationals, interests, diplomatic missions and offices in Pakistan and the Central Asian Republics. The Tibetans have motivated activists, who might indulge in political acts such as shouting slogans, demonstrations, self-immolation etc. The Falun Gong could also indulge in such political acts. In the case of irrational elements, one cannot rule out acts of copy-cat terrorism similar to what happened at Atlanta.

a paper by Director B. Raman, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai:

After a long interval of inactivity in the Xinjiang region of China, Uighur extremist elements have again been involved in two incidents reported by the Chinese authorities from that region.

The first incident took place at Urumqi, the capital of the province, on January 27,2008. There was reportedly an exchange of fire between the police and some Uighur extremists when the police raided a hide-out of a suspected sleeper cell of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), an associate of Al Qaeda with close links to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and the Islamic Jihad Union (IJU) or Group, another Uzbek group. While the objectives of the IMU are regional and confined to Uzbekistan and other Central Asian Republics and Xinjiang, those of the IJU are global. The IJU projects itself as a global jihadi organisation with no specific ethnic identity.

According to the official version of the raid, two Uighur extremists were killed and 15 others arrested by the Police. Five police officers were injured. Chinese officials refrained from giving publicity to this incident for nearly a month. They officially gave out the details only after the regional media in China started reporting about it, presumably on the basis of briefings from officials at the lower levels.

The Chinese authorities have assessed this incident as an indicator of a revival of the ETIM's activities as a prelude to a possible terrorist strike to be staged just before or during the Beijing Olympics of August,2008. While there is no reason to doubt the veracity of the facts as reported by Chinese officials, their linking it to the Olympics seems to be based more on precautionary speculation than on concrete evidence.

The second incident was reported to have taken place on board a Chinese commercial plane flying from Urumqi to Beijing on March 7,2008. Security guards travelling on board the plane overpowered two suspected Uighur extremists, who tried to create an incident. The Chinese media has characterised the incident as an attempted terrorist strike. The plane made an emergency landing in the northwestern city of Lanzhou. The two persons overpowered by the security guards were handed over to the local police for interrogation. The other passengers were also questioned. The police claim to have found some inflammable liquid in one of the toilets on board the aircraft. Further details are not yet available.

It is to be expected that anti-Beijing elements in the Uighur community in China as well as abroad would try to embarass the Chinese authorities and draw attention to their demands in the period before and during the Olympics. These elements fall into two groups. The first group consists of those inspired by the pan-Islamic ideology of Al Qaeda and acting in co-operation with it. In one of his messages of 2006, Ayman al-Zawahiri, the No.2 of Al Qaeda, had included Xinjiang in the list of lands historically belonging to the Muslims now under the control of non-Muslims. He wanted all these lands to be "liberated" from the control of non-Muslims. The pro-Al Qaeda Uighurs mainly operate from the camps of the IMU and the IJU in the North Waziristan area of the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan. It has been difficult to quantify their number. Different reports estimate their number differently----ranging between 30 and 100.

The second group consists of pro-Western Uighurs, who mostly operate from Albania, Kosovo and Turkey. This group includes three or four Uighurs, who were handed over by the Pakistani authorities to the US for being interrogated at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba. They were released subsequently since no evidence could be found against them that they posed a threat to US nationals and interests. They settled down in Albania and keep moving between there and Kosovo.

For the last two years, two anti-China video films purported to have been produced by unidentified Uighurs have been disseminated through the Internet. They do not appear to have been produced by As-Sahab, the Psywar and propaganda division of Al Qaeda.

While there is so far no specific evidence that these two groups are planning to stage Olympics-related incidents, the possibility of such incidents has to be factored into in any security plan for the Olympics. The possibilities are incidents not involving the use of violence by the pro-Western Uighurs and incidents amounting to acts of terrorism by pro-Al Qaeda Uighurs.

Mar 11, 2008

Hunter-Killers: Getting Native Against All Fears

A rather unique and recent Washington Post special report on PKK guerrillas in Iraq's Zap valley reminded me of an article stumbled upon last month in the San Diego Union-Tribune. Excerpts from each below.

San Diego Union-Tribune

Trying to become predators instead of prey, Marines headed to Iraq will go through training built on advice from big-game hunters, soldiers of fortune and troops who grew up around firearms in the woods or the inner city.

Combat Hunter, a program begun at Camp Pendleton and now being rolled out nationwide, is designed to help Marines stalk and kill insurgents by using their senses and instincts. It emphasizes keen observation of Marines' surroundings and meticulous knowledge of their foes' habits.

“This is the most comprehensive training of its kind in our history,” said Col. Clarke Lethin, chief of staff for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force at Camp Pendleton.

“These are primal skills that we all have but that we evolved out of,” he added. “We are going back in time. The Marines who go through this program will never be the same. They'll never look at the world the same again.”

The Marine Corps had not paid much attention to this low-tech combat approach since the Vietnam War. Like the other service branches, the Corps has generally gone high-tech by creating increasingly advanced weapons and developing virtual reality training.

Combat Hunter grew out of a concept by Gen. James Mattis, who has spearheaded the formation of various training programs for the Marine Corps. He saw the need for greater focus on hunting-related skills while overseeing combat forces at Camp Pendleton in 2006.


“One of the things that Gen. Mattis said is that he wanted a quick turnaround for this project. There was a sense of urgency,” said Maj. James Martin, the project officer for Combat Hunter.

Lethin recalled the reason for that urgency: Too many troops felt fear when they left their bases in Anbar province, the vast western region of Iraq where Marines hold the lead combat role for the U.S. military. “Fear is a terrible thing. The Marines felt they were being hunted. They felt they were bait for the insurgents,” Lethin said.

“How do we teach our Marines to be the hunters? How do we bring the confidence back?” Lethin said. “Sometimes technology is not the answer. We think we have the answer in Combat Hunter.”

The unorthodox program draws on the expertise of an eclectic mix of consultants. There are the tracking abilities of David Scott-Donelan, a former officer in the South African Special Forces and a veteran of civil wars in Africa. Then there's African guide Ivan Carter, as well as others who would rather not be identified by the Marine Corps.

Training drills also reflect the hunting skills of Marines from rural areas and, as an unclassified Marine briefing said, the life experiences of those “who have lived in disadvantaged areas of large cities.”

“What we are learning in Iraq is that the demands of warfare in the new century are so widely different from anything for which we were planning. We have to look in unexpected places for the skills that will serve us best”.

Washington Post

After President Bush met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in November to discuss the PKK problem, the guerrillas rushed to make arrangements for battle. They stashed ammunition, weapons, food and water in caves and crags throughout the mountains, for quick resupply. Inside one such cave, they installed a cylindrical, metal wood-burning stove and chimney to heat a room constructed of army green cloth and plastic tarp.

"The mountain is a school for us," said Elif, a 32-year-old commander who dropped out of interior design school in Turkey 10 years ago to join the PKK. "The mountain teaches us how to walk, it taught us how to live in cold weather, how to go without eating for a long time," she said. "The Turkish soldiers have huge bodies, but they can't stay in the snow for more than a couple hours."

The guerrillas are not a people's army or ad hoc insurgency, but a trained paramilitary force that requires every new recruit to attend a three-month camp to study military tactics and become indoctrinated in the ideology of the imprisoned leader, Abdullah Ocalan.

In the PKK enclave in northern Iraq, Ocalan's chubby, mustachioed face is emblazoned on hillsides, flags and small pins the fighters wear on their vests. The reverence they exhibit toward Ocalan, captured in 1999 in Nairobi and now in a Turkish prison, borders on cultish. After assassination attempts against Ocalan in the 1990s, guerrillas immolated themselves and some became suicide bombers. To the governments of Turkey, Iraq and the United States, those tactics solidified the PKK's reputation as a terrorist organization.

Mar 10, 2008

Woes of GWOT: Wailing and Wishes

Soon to retire Lt. Col. John A. Nagl, commander of the 1st Battalion, 34th Armor, at Fort Riley, Kansas and co-author of The U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual weighs in on the woes of GWOT at WaPo. The Lt. Col. fields a wish list of tweaks & remedies for GWOT. One, maybe two, of his suggestions might come to be enacted upon. The rest will in all likelihood remain the unheeded wisdom & wailing of weathered elder. Our skewing excerpts below:

The hard lesson of this tragedy is clear: Foreign forces cannot win a counterinsurgency campaign on their own.


[L]ast year's military successes in Iraq came at a very high price. The "surge" of five brigades and the extension of Army combat tours in Iraq from 12 to 15 months has strained the Army to the breaking point. Neither the Army nor the Marine Corps has a reserve of ground troops to handle other crises. Meanwhile, the Taliban is regaining strength in Afghanistan and the lawless border regions of Pakistan, and the opium production that funds their insurgency hit record highs last year.


For starters, we must shore up Afghanistan. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates recently committed 3,000 more desperately needed Marines to Afghanistan, beginning next month. But it would take an increase of more than 100,000 soldiers and Marines to give NATO commanders in Afghanistan the force ratios that Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has enjoyed. We don't have the troops.

The best short-term solution is rapidly expanding the Iraqi and Afghan security forces to hold towns cleared by U.S. forces. Local forces, stiffened by foreign advisers, have historically been the keys to success in counterinsurgency warfare. As such, I've been among the serving officers and veterans who've urged the U.S. Army to create a standing Adviser Corps.

But even greatly expanding and institutionalizing the role of advisers cannot win the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Insurgencies are ultimately inspired by ideas, and defeating the Iraqi insurgency will require a counter-narrative -- backed up by robust economic development, a solid and committed government in Baghdad, and providing the Iraqi people with basic services such as water, electricity and (above all) security. As such, the single most important step the United States could take toward victory is re-creating an information agency to discredit our enemies' narratives and amplify those of our allies. For starters, we should let the Muslim world know about atrocities committed by our foes[.]


The Army and Marine Corps are exhausted and desperately need time and money to rebuild. That's not likely; keeping up the security the United States purchased at such a high price in Iraq last year will require committing tens of thousands of U.S. ground forces for several more years at least -- and maintaining a significant presence in Iraq for a decade or more. Achieving a similar success in Afghanistan will mean deploying tens of thousands more troops (and not just from our NATO allies) for similarly long hauls.


[T]he United States is engaged in a war on many fronts for which it is not properly mobilized. Iraq and Afghanistan don't just need more advisers from the Army and the Marine Corps; they need more help from the State Department and the Justice Department, too.

Above all, we soldiers need the American people to understand that counterinsurgency is slow, painstaking work that requires serious patience. (...) These will be long wars.

Mar 8, 2008

Meatball Proverb: Crowded Elevator Smell Different to Midget

China will tighten its restrictions on foreign performers following an appearance last Sunday in Shanghai by the Icelandic singer Bjork, who shouted “Tibet, Tibet” after performing her song “Declare Independence.” China’s Ministry of Culture responded to Bjork’s action on Friday by posting a statement on its Web site, saying that she “broke Chinese law and hurt Chinese people’s feelings”.

Mar 7, 2008

Iffy Stiffy - Pending NIE Iraq

To fathom a guess: an NIE of this sort will be more of an analytical document than a summary of secret intel. Any real secrets - particularly substantive references to sources and methods - will always be redacted. Given the history of leaks around these products, expect to see a preempting public version. Anything else could be construed as somewhat crackbrained.

Hacked excerpts from today's WaPo:

A new National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq is scheduled to be completed this month, according to U.S. intelligence officials. But leaders of the intelligence community have not decided whether to make its key judgments public.

The classified estimate on Iraq is intended as an update of last summer's assessment, which predicted modest security improvements but an increasingly precarious political situation. It is meant to be delivered to Congress before testimony in early April by Army Gen. David H. Petraeus. In his letter to [Senator R-Va.] Warner, [Director of National Intelligence] McConnell said that separate estimates are also being prepared on the "terrorist threat to the homeland" -- focusing on al-Qaeda and Pakistan -- and on "the tactical and longer-term security and political outlook for Afghanistan." Both are scheduled for publication by early fall.

Intelligence officials said that the National Intelligence Board -- made up of the heads of the 16 intelligence agencies plus McConnell -- will decide whether to release the Iraq judgments once the estimate is completed. But they made clear that they lean toward a return to the traditional practice of keeping such documents secret.

In internal guidance he issued in October, McConnell said that his policy was that they "should not be declassified." One month later, however, the intelligence board decided to publicly release key judgments from an NIE on Iran's nuclear weapons program, saying that it had weighed "the importance of the information to open discussions about our national security against the necessity to protect classified information."

"Overall, professional life is less complicated if nothing becomes public, and one doesn't have to organize classified assessments always having in the back of one's mind, 'If this is ever leaked, how would it read' " in the news media, a former intelligence analyst said.

Mar 5, 2008

STAREX - Exploitation of the Occult

While the following story has received considerable attention in the broadsheets of her former colonies, few accounts found worthy of mention a particular tidbit of black public diplomacy involving the cigar flourishing man our cousin's counter-intelligence and security agency once had in their employ as court astrologer.

A silk gown dressing Jewish refugee from Hungary, deployed by MI5 to second guess a Hitler believed to be swayed by the stars (recent research portrays a Hitler unimpressed by the Mumbo Jumbo of astrology - in fact one of his old secretaries recently revealed that he apparently had good laughs entertaining the notion that the Allies might believe he harbored the occult inclinations of our own Reagans ), was sent to neutral America to persuade the general populace and the President of the good fortunes lying in wait should the country go kinetic and weigh in with boots and metal against Hitler's pesky Reich.

Below is an unholy amalgam of jacked & hacked excerpts from a pirate's clutch of online sources:

Desperate for a glimpse into Adolf Hitler's unpredictable mind, British spies hired an astrologer during World War II to match the forecasts of the Nazi leader's personal astrologers, documents declassified Tuesday show.

[ Not entirely correct -
actually William Stevenson's 1976 book A Man Called Intrepid somewhat describes the astrologer's work in the USA on behalf of British Security Co-ordination. Enough of that -M1 ]

They soon regretted it.

The file released to Britain's National Archives catalogs the frustrations of MI5 handlers as they try to prevent the astrologer, Louis de Wohl, from publicly embarrassing high-ranking intelligence and military officers over whom he briefly held sway.

De Wohl was born in Berlin in 1903, where he worked as a bank clerk, a novelist and a screenwriter before fleeing to Britain in 1935 to avoid Nazi persecution for being part Jewish. His wife, Alexandra, fled to Santiago, Chile, where she claimed to be a Romanian princess and was known as La Baronessa. Their relationship was closer to mother and son than man and wife, his file said.

In London, he claimed variously to be a Hungarian nobleman, the nephew of an Austrian conductor, the grandson of a British banking magnate and a relative of the Lord Mayor of London. His books told of traveling the Far East in Arab disguise and hanging out in Berlin cafes in women's clothing.

De Wohl laid out his astrological credentials in a 1937 autobiography, I Follow My Stars. A year later in Secret Service of the Sky, he argued stars were like spies that could obtain secret information.

His break came, he wrote in a later book, during a dinner at the Spanish Embassy in London, when a Spanish duchess asked de Wohl to reveal Hitler's horoscope to Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax.

Sir Charles Hambro, the head of Britain's Special Operations Executive, soon hired him as part of his network of agents across Europe.

The government rented an apartment for de Wohl in a hotel in London's exclusive Park Lane. On paper headed Psychological Research Bureau, he
reported on clients and wrote horoscopes for Allied and Nazi leaders.

But de Wohl's predictions were often so vague it is impossible to see any military use. Take his December 1942 prediction for seven months later: "The German astrologers must pray that enemy action does not force the Fuehrer into making important decisions within the first eight days of the month (of July), as this would lead to great disaster."

Agents complained de Wohl's flamboyantly gay demeanor was destroying their carefully constructed cover story that his hotel apartment was paid for by a wealthy female patron and that his special operations liaison officer was a mistress. Agents also complained of his boasting about connections to the War Office and Naval Command.

What everyone in Britain wanted most was to get the Americans to enter the war. Prime Minister Winston Churchill didn't believe in astrology, but in mid-1941 he sent de Wohl to the U.S. to persuade Americans that the Nazis would lose within months if they entered the war.

de Wohl went round radio stations and newspapers casting Hitler's horoscope and predicting things were all going to go very badly and that
the Nazis would lose within months if they entered the war.

A U.S. convention of pro-German astrologers had predicted Hitler would win the war, giving the U.S. more reason to stay out. Billing himself as The Modern Nostradamus, de Wohl proclaimed the same stars showed the opposite.

Ultimately it was Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, that brought the U.S. into the war - not de Wohl's assurances that U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt's horoscope was stunning.

His services no longer needed, he was called back to London in February 1942. He told an MI5 officer that he was astonished when he returned to find his hotel apartment stripped bare and his department disbanded.

His handlers did not contact him. He knocked on doors looking for Hambro - wearing the uniform of a British Army captain. The rank was assigned to him temporarily for his U.S. mission and withdrawn afterward. But to MI5's dismay, that wasn't explained to de Wohl.

Behind the scenes, MI5 correspondence shows his handlers at a loss. Senior officers offer a number of proposals on how to dispose of de Wohl, including interning him in a camp or moving him to a remote corner of the country. Two other options are blanked out in the file.

Deciding that de Wohl was potentially dangerous because he could damage the reputation of his clientele and the War Office, MI5 decided to keep him happy and continue to employ him.

The war ground on and the Allies won without consulting the stars.

But as it drew to an end, de Wohl wrote one last autobiographical book, The Stars of War and Peace, in which he revealed he was Britain's state seer and had fought Hitler from his luxury hotel using star warfare.