Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Field of the Blackbirds, Part 2

In Part 1 we learned a little about Kosovo's history, and why that might be having an impact on the fact that surprisingly few nations in the world recognized Kosovo's declaration of independence. Now we look a little deeper into the situation in that part of the Balkans.

We begin by examining questions brought up by Senate Republicans regarding the Clinton Administration's support for separatist guerrillas in Kosovo. From United States Senate Republican Policy Committee, Bosnia II: The Clinton Administration Sets Course for NATO Intervention in Kosovo, August 12, 1998:

Whitewashing the KLA

But in order to make the case for U.S./NATO intervention, the Clinton Administration, as in Bosnia, must rely on the ethnic justification of one side in the conflict to the exclusion of the other side's case. Contributing to the success of this strategy to date has been the negligible attention given to the KLA's ties to organized crime elements in the Albanian diaspora [See: "Speculation plentiful, facts few about Kosovo separatist group," Baltimore Sun, 3/16/98; "Germany 'can take no more refugees'," The Guardian (London), 6/17/98; "My plan to save Kosovo now," by Paddy Ashdown, The Independent (London), 8/5/98] and indications that the KLA may be receiving assistance (as did the Muslim regime in Bosnia) from Iran [See: "Radical groups 'arming Kosovo Albanians'," Financial Times (London), 5/8/98; "Italy Become's Iran's New Base for Terrorist Operations," Defense and Foreign Affairs Strategic Policy (London), February 1998].

In addition, there are media reports that the recent embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania may be connected to the deportation from Albania of several members of an Islamic terrorist cell connected to Saudi expatriate Osama Bin Laden; questions are now being raised as to the activities of radical Islamic groups in Albania, particularly in the region around the town of Tropoje, a known KLA staging area ["U.S. Blasts' Possible Mideast Ties: Alleged Terrorists Investigated in Albania," Washington Post, 8/12/98]. This possible connection raises serious implications for the Clinton Administration's regional policy: "One of the most disturbing aspects of the present [terrorism] crisis is that it may have been triggered by our own inept foreign policy in Bosnia and Kosovo. There, beyond all common sense, we find ourselves championing Muslim factions who draw support from the very Islamic fundamentalist terrorist groups who are our mortal enemies elsewhere" ["Bringing terrorists to justice," by Col. Harry G. Summers (USA-Ret.), Distinguished Fellow, U.S. Army War College, Washington Times, 8/12/98].

Already in 1998, Senate Republicans were openly, publicly questioning why the Clinton Administration was supporting Islamic fundamentalist terrorists in the Balkans, when we were supposedly fighting these same people everywhere else. (By the way: Senate Republicans were questioning this in January, 1997, too.)

Early the next year, we see in another policy statement from the United States Senate Republican Policy Committee, Clinton Kosovo Intervention Appears Imminent, February 22, 1999, a question being raised why the Clinton Administration was moving in the direction of a forced partition of Serbia:

National Sovereignty vs. International Institutions

There is one crucial difference in principle between the NATO intervention in Bosnia and that about to take place in Kosovo which has not received sufficient examination. In Bosnia, the internationally recognized government (the Muslim regime of Alija Izetbegovic in Sarajevo) not only accepted but had long strongly favored outside intervention. On the other hand, in Kosovo (which is indisputably part of the territory of the Serbian Republic) the United States and NATO are demanding that a sovereign state consent to foreign occupation of its territory or be bombed if it refuses -- even though Serbia has not attacked any neighboring state but is itself subject to attacks by forces infiltrated from a neighboring state. As Kissinger points out: "Yugoslavia, a sovereign state, is being asked to cede control and in time sovereignty of a province containing its national shrines to foreign military force." This distinction should be a key one for Americans, especially Republicans, concerned about the threat the growing power of international institutions presents to national sovereignty.

Even foreign affairs icon Henry Kissinger was questioning the wisdom of this move. Undeterred, the Clinton Administration moved boldly forward.

From a policy statement issued the next month, The Kosovo Liberation Army: Does Clinton Policy Support Group with Terror, Drug Ties? March 31, 1999:

Reports on KLA Drug and Criminal Links

Elements informally known as the "Albanian mafia," composed largely of ethnic Albanians from Kosovo, have for several years been a feature of the criminal underworld in a number of cities in Europe and North America; they have been particularly prominent in the trade in illegal narcotics. [See, for example,"The Albanian Cartel: Filling the Crime Void," Jane's Intelligence Review, November 1995.] The cities where the Albanian cartels are located are also fertile ground for fundraising for support of the Albanian cause in Kosovo. [See, for example, "Albanians in Exile Send Millions of Dollars to Support the KLA," BBC, 3/12/99.]

The reported link between drug activities and arms purchases for anti-Serb Albanian forces in Kosovo predates the formation of the KLA, and indeed, may be seen as a key resource that allowed the KLA to establish itself as a force in the first place:

"Narcotics smuggling has become a prime source of financing for civil wars already under way -- or rapidly brewing -- in southern Europe and the eastern Mediterranean, according to a report issued here this week. The report, by the Paris-based Observatoire Geopolitique des Drogues, or Geopolitical Observatory of Drugs, identifies belligerents in the former Yugoslav republics and Turkey as key players in the region's accelerating drugs-for-arms traffic. Albanian nationalists in ethnically tense Macedonia and the Serbian province of Kosovo have built a vast heroin network, leading from the opium fields of Pakistan to black-market arms dealers in Switzerland, which transports up to $2 billion worth of the drug annually into the heart of Europe, the report says. More than 500 Kosovo or Macedonian Albanians are in prison in Switzerland for drug- or arms-trafficking offenses, and more than 1,000 others are under indictment. The arms are reportedly stockpiled in Kosovo for eventual use against the Serbian government in Belgrade, which imposed a violent crackdown on Albanian autonomy advocates in the province five years ago." ["Separatists Supporting Themselves with Traffic in Narcotics," San Francisco Chronicle, 6/10/94]

Skipping down...

Reports on Islamic Terror Links

The KLA's main staging area is in the vicinity of the town of Tropoje in northern Albania [Jane's International Defense Review, 2/1/99]. Tropoje, the hometown and current base of former Albanian president Sali Berisha, a major KLA patron, is also a known center for Islamic terrorists connected with Saudi renegade Osama bin-Ladin. [For a report on the presence of bin-Ladin assets in Tropoje and connections to anti-American Islamic terrorism, see "U.S. Blasts' Possible Mideast Ties: Alleged Terrorists Investigated in Albania, Washington Post, 8/12/98.]

The following reports note the presence of foreign mujahedin (i.e., Islamic holy warriors) in the Kosovo war, some of them jihad veterans from Bosnia, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. Some of the reports specifically cite assets of Iran or bin-Ladin, or both, in support of the KLA. To some, "mujahedin" does not necessarily equal "terrorists." But since the foreign fighters have not been considerate enough to provide an organizational chart detailing the exact relationship among the various groups, the reported presence of foreign fighters together with known terrorists in the KLA's stronghold at least raises serious questions about the implications for the Clinton Administration's increasingly close ties to the KLA[.]

There were persistent concerns about the connections of our new allies, the KLA, with narcotics traffickers and with Islamic extremist terrorists who, elsewhere, had bombed the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya.

Why would the Clinton Administration have sided with terrorists who were financing their jihad in part with money from heroin trafficking? And, why would the Clinton Administration do this against the advice of a foreign affairs icon who, like so many others, was warning about going to war to force a partition on a nation that had not attacked any neighboring country?

From a policy statement entitled Administration Endorses Free Needles for Addicts, April 22, 1999:

Do Needle Exchange Programs Encourage Drug Use?

The Administration's own drug czar, General Barry McCaffrey, has strongly objected to needle exchange programs: in his words, "the problem is not dirty needles, the problem is heroin addiction. . . . The focus should be on bringing help to this suffering population -- not giving them more effective means to continue their addiction. One doesn't want to facilitate this dreadful scourge on mankind" [Orlando Sentinel, 5/13/96]. According to the Associated Press, were it not for McCaffrey's continued objections, the Administration would have gone forward with taxpayer subsidies of the needles, as AIDS activists have been pressuring this White House to do.

Dr. Janet Lapey with Drug Watch International quotes pro-needle activist Donald Grove as admitting that "most needle exchange programs . . . serve as sites of informal organizing and coming together. A user might be able to do the networking needed to find drugs in the half an hour he spends at the street-based needle exchange site -- networking that might otherwise have taken half a day."

The New York Times Magazine [10/15/97] reported that one New York City NEP gave out 60 syringes to a single person, little pans to "cook" the heroin, instructions on how to inject the drug and a card exempting the user from arrest for possession of drug paraphernalia. Such access surely expands the violent drug culture, and with refuge from the law, it isn't surprising when the selection of illegal drugs increases, prices decrease, and new users are then attracted.

So, against all common sense, logic, and good advice, Clinton was siding with terrorists who traffic heroin abroad; at home, against the advice of the drug czar he appointed, Clinton was pushing a policy that would promote the consumption of heroin.

Do you suppose there was a connection?

Monday, February 21, 2011


It's good to see our government is proactive to prevent even some "lone wolf" from trying something funny... it's good to see they are monitoring our activities to keep terrorist acts from occurring, and not just preparing to react after the fact...

I have an idea for a name for all our government agencies working together to prevent terrorist attacks, just in case someone should try to do something...

Government Employees
Stopping Terrorism
Airports, Public locations, and Other places

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Among the Sons of Togarmah, Part 3

In Part 1, we briefly considered the importance of the Caucasus, as well as why the situation in Dagestan was considered unwinnable; in Part 2 we touched on how widespread and urgent unrest in the Caucasus is, by briefly considering a series of terrorist attacks that happened over the past few days in Kabardino-Balkaria.

We now look at Chechnya. Russian forces fought in Chechnya two major wars, one in 1994-1996, the second beginning in 1999 and lasting until... well, I guess that depends on who is asked.

A 2006 article entitled Russian Chechnya Policy: "Chechenization" Turning Into "Kadyrovization"? explains Moscow's strategic move in Chechnya:

BACKGROUND: Even with Vladimir Putin having made, as it turned out retroactively, a strategic wager on the Kadyrov clan, it appears that Moscow has never abandoned its tried and true system of checks and balances. For instance, Bislan Gantamirov, perhaps the most noteworthy "opposition leader" in modern Chechen history, along with some pro-Russian political figures, was long kept in Chechnya as a trump card that could be played as needed if the former mufti, Ahmad Kadyrov, were to become unmanageable. They had been promised a brilliant future in politics, but were told that their time simply had not yet come. At election time, Ahmad Kadyrov and his backers had no real guarantees until the very last minute about whether the Kremlin might not be leaning toward some opponent, whether from among local or the so-called Moscow Chechens.

Indeed, the stirring up of internal Chechen squabbles has been an integral part of the "Chechenization" strategy. As the opposing sides have become less secure (in their disputes), they have become more dependent on Moscow and therefore more loyal to her. The "divide and rule" policy in the fragmented Chechen society created a very tense atmosphere that is especially apparent in the environment of the armed formations that are considered loyal to Russia, especially of the mentioned Gantamirov and Yamadayev brothers (in charge of the Eastern battalion), who represent the three major power centers in current pro-Moscow Chechen forces.

Recruiting and deploying (pro-Moscow) Chechen militia units in combat operations was Ahmad Kadyrov's key mission by which he attempted to demonstrate in practice his loyalty to Moscow. Importantly, this strategy also had and still has a different, no less important significance. Kadyrov's clan had many enemies in Chechnya, and their presence represented a nightmare for Kadyrov's followers; to a certain degree, it was justifiable to claim that as long as at least one of the people that had declared a blood feud against Kadyrov was alive, neither he nor his relatives could feel truly safe. The growing numbers of Chechen militias and the ever increasing intensity of their involvement in combat operations against actual or presumed separatists and their relatives meant that the young men in the militias were becoming, as Chechens say, "bound by blood" to the Kadyrov clan by the constant killings, torture and humiliation that militia operations led to. Then, in order to be able to survive in the conditions of increasing insecurity, namely the very likely attacks by newly acquired enemies in blood feuds, newly recruited Chechen militia troops had to stick together with the Kadyrov clan – thus falling into a trap from which there is no escape as the bridges back have already been burnt.

In other words, Moscow backed one group, headed by the Kadyrov clan; this clan then stabilized Chechnya under its control.

It should be noted that Chechens have developed a reputation for involvement in organized crime, throughout the Russian Federation and even on a global scale. Consequently, what Putin did was put one organized crime faction in charge of running Chechnya; other groups could either be friends or enemies of the most powerful organized crime group, which was powerful due to its ties to Moscow, and which was held in check by Moscow through the availability of other clans that could be placed in charge, should Kadyrov betray the Kremlin.

The results were predictable.

In a November 10, 2005, article (written in the immediate wake of a dangerous October, 2005, terrorist attack in Kabardino-Balkaria) entitled War on Terrorism in the Caucasus: Russia Breeds Jihadists, we catch a glimpse of the cure Moscow imposed on Chechnya, which ultimately only furthered the disease:

The real situation on the ground, however, differs markedly from the picture painted by the Putin's political technologists. Ironically, the "Chechenization" strategy pursued by the Kremlin is reproducing the vicious system of the ethnic clan structures so characteristic of the other North Caucasus republics. This system of thoroughly corrupt clan rule keeps local resources and access to power under its total control and, as a result, causes widespread popular discontent and violence throughout the entire region. As some respected analysts note, at the heart of Moscow's policy in the North Caucasus lies not the principle of the rule of law or efficient management but a primitive bargain: loyalty in exchange for federal subsidies. As Valery Tishkov, director of the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology at the Russian Academy of Sciences, noted in an interview with Nezavisimaya gazeta published on November 9, federal tranches have become the "main source of criminal money," further feeding corruption in the region.

This same formula — loyalty in exchange for significant financial and political privileges — is behind the final phase of the "Chechenization" policy: whatever its "democratic" façade, the republic will be run by the powerful Ramzan Kadyrov clan. Most independent commentators agree that Kadyrov's people will likely control the parliamentary polls, making sure that their clan and its political clients are well represented in the republican legislature.

Developments in Chechnya under the Kremlin's guidance reflect patterns prevalent in the North Caucasus, namely an admixture of two inter-connected processes that steadily undermines Russia's sovereignty over the whole region. The regional authorities and, to a certain extent, the federal center, are experiencing an acute crisis of confidence caused by the clannish and, in many cases, outright criminal nature of the local system of power. This crisis de-legitimizes both tiers of government in the eyes of the local populace. Against this backdrop, a parallel socio-political structure in the form of the Islamist jamaats starts cropping up. Although not every such community necessarily leans toward terrorism or religious fundamentalism, they create a social space in which Russian legal norms are simply ignored. This means, as some analysts persuasively argue, that Russian sovereignty in these territories has effectively ceased to exist.

In the worst-case scenario, disgruntled members of these Islamist jamaats take up arms and attack the state institutions — in particular, the law enforcement and security agencies — which they despise. And this is exactly what is increasingly happening across the North Caucasus region. The October 13 attack in Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkaria, and its suppression by Russian security forces were discussed by the Kremlin-connected pundits and the state-controlled media outlets within the context of the war against international terror. Yet Arsen Kanokov, the new president of Kabardino-Balkaria, was surprisingly candid in his assessment of the incident. "It was the expression of [popular] protest," said he in an interview published in the October 31 issue of Novaya gazeta. "There's no dialogue between the authorities and the people... People have to let off steam."

And, here we are a little over five years later. The Kadyrov clan is still in charge of Chechnya, and Kanokov is still president of Kabardino-Balkaria, and we just had another set of obviously coordinated terrorist incidents in Kabardino-Balkaria.

As legitimate authority, whether local or federal, breaks down under corruption and colonialistic policies that give obvious advantage to one organized crime faction with political power, the people look for somewhere to turn, and find a parallel Islamic system that existed all along: that of jamaats and sharia.

However, this happens at a time when the Islamic system is being radicalized by international ideas of jihadism and fundamentalism, and when this "religious" system itself is being corrupted by the proceeds of organized crime, including shaking down local businessmen for "zakat" (charity, which here means "donations" to the guys running the jihad) and trafficking in narcotics from Afghanistan.

There's a jihad to fight, and the Islamic militant community pulls together to fight it, and that means importing jihadis from all over; they bring with them more fiery ideas of a caliphate, global if possible, but local to the Caucasus in the interim, imposed upon the infidels and crusaders by the force of arms and Allah's will.

Skipping up in War on Terrorism in the Caucasus: Russia Breeds Jihadists:

Simultaneously, the Kremlin is seeking to stress the international character of Chechnya's rebel fighters in its propaganda that targets the domestic audience, a leak from the presidential administration suggests. On November 3, the Moscow-based political website gazeta.ru posted a remarkable "concise glossary" that was handed out to Russian TV bosses at the recent weekly briefing in the Kremlin. At these gatherings, usually held on Fridays, members of the presidential staff give instructions as to what they want covered and how it should be covered. This time, the administrators of the electronic media were given a list of the "wrong" terms that are used in current broadcasts and the "right" terms that should be used instead. From now on, the instruction stipulates, the term "Chechen terrorism" should be taken off the air and replaced with "international terrorism." Another noteworthy linguistic correction pertains to the word "jamaat" (local Muslim community) which has to be replaced with "terrorist organization or gang."

So, state-owned communist media outlets in Russia are using officially-approved newspeak to describe the situation along Russia's southern periphery.

Fast-forward a few years, and we see the natural outcome. From Russia's Chechnya Pullout: Compromise Over Victory by James Marson, April 20, 2009:

Russia's declaration last week that its counterterrorist operation in Chechnya is over effectively brings down the curtain on a war that began in 1999. The news is being feted in Russia and Chechnya as a victory over the terrorist threat of separatist rebels in the North Caucasus republic. "We have eradicated the threat of international terrorism and extremism, and defended the integrity of Russia," said Ramzan Kadyrov, Chechnya's Moscow-backed president.

But analysts in Moscow warn that the insurgency problem in the region is far from finished, and express concern that the decision gives even more control to the heavy-handed Kadyrov. "It's not a victory for Moscow, it's a compromise," says Alexei Malashenko, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center. "For Russia, it's necessary to save the money spent on assistance to Chechnya because of the [economic] crisis. For Kadyrov, he now has the chance to become a dictator."


The number of abuses has fallen in the past few years, but Lokshina notes that Kadyrov's security forces continue to commit "serious human rights violations." "Kadyrov plays by his own rules," says Lokshina. "Under his rule, Chechnya became an enclave outside Russia's legal framework where the Kremlin didn't interfere."

And while the insurgency in Chechnya has been subdued over the past two years by Kadyrov's aggressive tactics, violence is on the rise in neighboring republics. "The contagion has spread to surrounding areas," says Aslan Doukaev, director of the North Caucasus service for independent Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. "The rebel movement and anti-Russian sentiment has spread across the North Caucasus, even into [neighboring] Ingushetia, which used to be loyal."

Nor is Chechnya quite as peaceful as Kadyrov claims. Just hours after the announcement of the end of counterterrorist operation, Russian forces were involved in a gun battle with rebels in southern Chechnya. "I suspect there are still several hundred, perhaps up to 1,000 [rebel] fighters. There are sympathizers in practically every village," says Doukaev, who nevertheless concedes that fighting has dwindled.

The more the Kremlin tried to tighten its grip, using local organized crime as proxies, the more the situation slipped out of control - including the situation in surrounding parts of the Caucasus.

And the Chechen (and other) people are caught in the middle, with corruption and cronyism leading all the way to Moscow on one side, and Islamic extremists tied to the international jihad and organized crime on the other. Official legal and judicial systems work only as a force for those in power, and common criminals align themselves either with separatists or with the authorities. From Caucasus bandits use name of Allah as a shield - presidential envoy, May, 2010:

Criminal groups re-sharing property in the Caucasus wear the mask of terrorism and religious extremism, said presidential representative to the North Caucasian district Aleksandr Khloponin.

In an interview with Rossiyskaya Gazeta (RG) daily, Khloponin said that "We can deal well with the bandits that are hiding in the woods without imposing the counterterrorist operation regime."

He stated that they will "finish the terrorists off" adding that "our available forces are enough to hunt them down."

The problem, in fact, "is that the mask of terrorism and religious extremism is donned by bandits that have formed organized criminal groups engaged in the re-sharing of property," Khloponin said. "Fighting them is not what a counter-terrorist operation is supposed to do."

According to the official, active efforts should be devoted to solving those crimes and identifying the criminal groups.

"In some republics, criminal groups engage in racketeering and money extortion from businessmen. And all that is 'beautifully' camouflaged with the name of Allah and Islam. But they have nothing in common with real terrorism," Khloponin stressed. "So, I wouldn't speak about some large-scale expansion of terrorism in the territory of my district", he told RG.

One of Russia's worst social illnesses – corruption – hit the Caucasus more than any other region. President Dmitry Medvedev has said that it is so is so widespread in the region that "it is becoming a major threat for national security."

The presidential envoy, Khloponin says there are three ways to fight corruption.

"The first one is to form an independent judicial system, and the president is making very serious changes to the legislation to that effect," he said.

The second refers to "maintaining an ongoing dialogue with public organizations and forming a public opinion, so that people could send feedback to the powers that be and be able to believe that authorities can solve this problem."

The third, Khloponin said, is "staffing policy."

"We must form a staff reserve, information on which should be available from the authorities' informational resources, so people could form their opinions on future candidates for all federal and regional positions," he said, stressing that those positions should be assigned according not to clan affiliation, but to competence.

Much of Khloponin's analysis is right on the mark, except that what we have here is a spokesman for the mice complaining about those who guard the cheese along Russia's southern border.

Also from 2010:

So, corruption is a threat to Russian national security, especially in the Caucasus.

Prehaps President Medvedev could ask his Prime Minister who set these corrupt guys up in the Caucasus to begin with.

Here's what's really happening: The organized crime factions that Putin established to run the Caucasus got too strong, and began to challenge Moscow. So, under maskirovka of an anti-corruption campaign, the Kremlin will make them fall in line, or replace them with criminals more loyal to the rulers in Moscow.

(That's not unlike change we can believe in happening here in Amerika.)

Among the Sons of Togarmah, Part 2

It looks like I started this series just in time.

The three maps below show 1) the old Soviet political divisions in the Caucasus (Kabardino-Balkaria is a little up and to the left from the center), 2) the location of Kabardino-Balkaria in the Russian Federation (it's the tiny pinkish spot in the lower left corner; you kind of have to squint), and 3) a close-up map of Kabardino-Balkaria.

Now for the news:

From Spike in terrorism in North Caucasus, February 20, 2011:

Terrorist activities have intensified in the Russian republic of Kabardino-Balkaria, as this Saturday alone there were several reports of killings and bombings.

Three people were killed and two injured after gunmen fired at a tourist minibus heading to a popular resort area at the foot of Europe's highest mountain, Mt. Elbrus.

A few hours later, a bomb blew up a ski-lift tower at the resort. The blast tore over 30 cabins from the lift and damaged other ski equipment. No casualties have been reported.

Late Saturday night, hotels in the resort were evacuated after an explosive-packed car was discovered in the center of the town, which was full of tourists. Bomb disposal experts have managed to defuse all three explosive devices hidden in the car, RIA Novosti reported.

A law enforcement source told Interfax news agency that the explosive power of the devices was equivalent to 70 kilograms of TNT.

It was also reported that the head of the village of Khasanya near the republic's capital, Nalchik, was shot dead at a local fitness center by unknown criminals armed with automatic weapons.

On Sunday, a "counter terrorist operation" regime was introduced in several areas of Kabardino-Balkaria in order to find those responsible for the latest attacks and to prevent any future terrorist activity, RIA Novosti news agency reports.

Skiing tracks have reopened on Sunday after being shut the day before over security concerns, but tourists have already started to turn down travel packages to Kabardino-Balkaria, at the height of peak season.

It is assumed in the West that economic development will end terrorism, but such naive thinking fails to address the core of the problem: Islam, the holy texts of which call for brutal violence, and the founder of which was a criminal of genocidal proportions.

Skipping down:

The republic is considered the most stable in the volatile North Caucasus. There is speculation that Doku Umarov, Russia's most-wanted terrorist, who claimed responsibility for the January bombing at Moscow Domodedovo Airport, could be the mastermind behind these recent attacks.

Indeed, Umarov promised last year in an interview spectacular attacks to come:

Q. "What plans do the mujahidin have for the new year? Will there be an expansion for the zone of action?"

A. "The fighting zone will extend into the Russian territory. Praise Allah last year He showed us, and showed all doubters -- Putin, Nurgaliyev, that the 'Riyadus Salihiin' brigade has certainly been reestablished and is active."

"We are witnesses to how many special operations the group led in the last one year. The Shahid Brigade is growing with the best of the best mujahidin and if the Russians don't understand that war is coming to their streets, war is coming to their homes, then it's worse for them."

"Blood will no longer flow only in our cities and villages. War is coming to their cities."

"If the Russians think that war is waged only on television, somewhere far away in the Caucasus and it doesn't touch them, Insha'Allah, we plan to show them that this war will return to their homes."

"For this reason, the war zone will be expanded on all Russian territories, Insha'Allah, and I hope that in this year, Insha'Allah, with the help of Allah, successful operations await us."

"Allah Akbar!"

Returning to Spike in terrorism in North Caucasus, February 20, 2011

It is common practice for terrorists to target tourist resorts, says Fred Weir from the Christian Science monitor.

"It fits a pattern all over the world where terrorists who want to damage a country's economy attack tourists. Because when word of that spreads, people stop coming, hotels close down – all that money that comes with tourism stops. There is an amazing amount of damage that they can do."

"President Medvedev recently did announce a multi-billion dollar project to build ski resorts and hotels throughout that region, along those magnificent mounts and peaks, in order to encourage tourism. This is exactly the sort of thing that will deeply discourage it."

Further information on this series of terrorist strikes can be found in these articles, Russia imposes anti-terror regime in Kabardino-Balkaria after tourist attack, and Russia's Kabardino-Balkaria bombs were 'equivalent to 70 kg of TNT', both dated February 20, 2011.

It is interesting that the terrorists attack the very industry that the Kremlin hopes will stabilize the region.

Of course, the Kremlin has been behind the power curve regarding this situation for a long time.

Kabardino-Balkaria has been relatively stable, but only compared to other nearby places, such as Chechnya and Dagestan. A few months ago, the fifth anniversary of a severe terrorist attack on Kabardino-Balkaria's capital was observed.

That attack, on October 13, 2005, was carried out by Islamic extremists, but they did find recruits easier to come by, allegedly due government actions. From Fifth anniversary of Nalchik raid marked as instability in Kabardino-Balkaria grows, October 19, 2010:

Five years after the attack on Nalchik, Kabardino-Balkarian society is still deeply divided over the causes of those events. On October 12, the Kabardino-Balkarian Human Rights Center published an address signed by its chairman Valery Khatazhukov that blamed the destabilization in the republic on the government's inappropriate actions. "One to one-and-a-half years before those events [the October 13, 2005 attack] the adherents of an armed jihad comprised only small groups and did not have any significant influence among the Muslims," the rights activists said. "However, unlawful and unjustifiable oppression against the Muslims, their physical persecution, torture, unlawful detention, searches and shutting down their mosques rapidly radicalized them and strengthened the positions of the forces that preached armed jihad".

Economic development may get potential recruits for the jihad off the streets, but justice and honest, lawful government will remove some of the motivation.

(Which is a scary thing to consider, when one thinks about what is happening in America right now.)

While we must be careful not to throw out the baby with the bathwater - there are many good people who are Muslims - we are still left with criminals like Umarov, who find a home for their barbarity amid the holy texts left by centuries of Islamic scholarship.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Among the Sons of Togarmah, Part 1

In my previous post, which introduces the situation in Moldova and Transnistria, and connects that situation via Moscow to the Caucasus, we began to see how Moscow supports breakaway regions in border states that were either Soviet republics or at least communist in nature.

We also noted how there seems to be "ethnic" unrest in a broad part of Russia's periphery, in an arc through which flow both oil and heroin to the West.

I made the comment:

The Soviet Union's borders were designed to prevent the break-up of the Union itself. Republic borders crossed through ethnic regions. As long as the republics were constituents of the Soviet Union, people would be able to visit their relatives, and, in the event of regional disputes, minorities had recourse in Moscow. But, should the Soviet Union dissolve - as it did two decades ago - these would now be international boundaries, and the minorities within the newly-independent republics would be in danger of oppression, making any dissolution of the Soviet Union a tinderbox for ethnic violence.

Nowhere is this communist scheme more apparent than in the Caucasus.

The boundaries of constituent republics of the USSR, shown in red above, ran right through regions such as Ossetia. Also, Azerbaijan was broken up by a strip of Armenia, and the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which was a part of Azerbaijan, was comprised of mostly ethnic Armenians.

Since the Soviet collapse, these two parts of the Caucasus have been among the region's many hotspots.

A short excerpt from Moscow's Troubles in the Caucasus, by Uwe Klussmann and Matthias Schepp, August 3, 2009, helps explain:

Nowhere in the world are so many conflicts raging in such a small region than in the Caucasus, where roughly 40 ethnic groups speaking 50 different languages come together in an area about the size of Sweden. The region is home to only 26 million people, and yet they are separated by a total of 3,500 kilometers (2,180 miles) of borders, some of them contested.

Six wars have raged in the Caucasus since the collapse of the Soviet Union, making it the most dangerous region in proximity to the European Union.

It is precisely through the Caucasus that gas coming from Central Asia and Azerbaijan is expected to flow to Europe one day, bypassing Russia. The pipeline is less than 100 kilometers from the border of South Ossetia, the bone of contention in the most recent war, in a region where Moscow's tanks are now stationed.

A close-up from a map of oil pipelines in Europe shows the growing importance of the Caucasus:

There are numerous pipelines going through Russia, leading to markets in Europe. But, in the close-up, you can see a pipeline skirting Russia, going from Baku in Azerbaijan through Georgia.

One existing pipeline leads to the Georgian coast on the Black Sea, but this region is within easy range of Russian naval power, and, in any case, tankers have to traverse the Turkish Straits, which are increasingly busy with shipping traffic.

Another pipeline is the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which runs to Georgia, then turns south into Turkey, going to a port on the coast of the eastern Mediterranean. This route is far more difficult to interdict from Russia, and it avoids the Turkish Straits.

As mentioned in the excerpt above, the pipeline also just skirts all of the hotspots in the Caucasus, named in red in the map below:

In the map above, the Nabucco pipeline is shown - it is planned to run the length of Turkey, cross the Turkish Straits, and lead into Austria.

The obvious goal in all of this is to cut Russia out of the loop.

This adds importance to the situation in the Caucasus. Instability in Caucasian Russia ties Russia down, mired in counterterrorism - a war Russia is widely perceived to be losing and frustrated with, despite certain perceived successes.

However, problems in Azerbaijan or Georgia could leave Europe more dependent on Russia.

Consequently, this series should be considered a companion to another, entitled "Treasures in the Land of Az" (Part 1, Part 2), which has a focus on Azerbaijan.

One hotspot in the region is Dagestan, up the Caspian coast from Azerbaijan. The problem is summarized by a Russian general in an excerpt from Islamists Gain Upper Hand in Russian Republic: Part 2: Moscow Tries to Win Hearts and Minds, written by Matthias Schepp in Dagestan, July 30, 2010:

An Unwinnable Struggle

"Everyone here has his own truth," says a high-ranking Russian general who was in command of the effort to fight the Islamists in the Caucasus for years. The general, who doesn't want to be named, says that he no longer believes that the fight against the extremists can be won quickly, despite the tens of thousands of elite troops, police officers and agents that are now deployed in the troubled region. For every dead terrorist, the general says with a sigh, two new ones rise up to take his place. "It will take years to change the situation here."

According to the general, the Islamists cannot be controlled with the normal means that a state based on the rule of law has at its disposal. He thinks that it is naïve for Western Europeans to hope that radical Islam can be forced into retreat by improving social conditions. "If these people seize power, we will have fascism cloaked in religion," the general predicts.

This "fascism cloaked in religion" is a nice summary of what Islamic extremists seek to bring everywhere they are active; the potential for it to crop up in Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula, and elsewhere is very real. Even if democratic governments should arise in the wake of revolutions, that is no guarantee that Islamic extremists won't take over somehow. The only good news is that many extremists will not accept a mandate that has been voted on; there is a strong current of thought in extremist Islam that to be true Islam, it must be forced on people (though apologists point out that there is no compulsion in religion in Islam).

Continuing with the excerpt:

Another problem is that the fronts in the multiethnic Republic of Dagestan are particularly unclear. In addition to Islamists, the underground consists of a mix of common criminals, hustlers and con artists. But it's also a haven for drug addicts unable to pay their debts and vicious murderers fearing acts of retaliation by the survivors of their victims.

But criminals work on both sides of the law. From Islamists Gain Upper Hand in Russian Republic: Part 3: Islamists Obtain Funds Through Protection Rackets (I fixed some spelling errors that obscured the meaning):

The Russian propaganda machine never tires of claiming that the Islamists are being funded from abroad. In reality, however, they generally raise their own funds by robbing banks and businesses. SPIEGEL has obtained a video that shows a group of rebels dividing up their loot after robbing a mobile phone store.

The protection racket is the most important source of income for the Islamists. In many cases, all it takes to intimidate a victim is a text message with a reminder about zakat, the principle of giving alms to the poor described in the Koran. The Islamists' targets range from the owners of bakeries, kiosks and sporting goods stores to local oligarchs. The victims fear for their lives, but at the same time they feel that by submitting to the protection racket, they are also protecting themselves for the event that the Islamists ever seize power in their village or region.

Conversely, Moscow's agents try to bribe Islamists with money and thus convince them to switch back to the Russian side. But the successes are few and far between. The secular state is losing its appeal, now that Dagestan is no longer capable of guaranteeing its citizens prosperity and security.

'Unparalleled Corruption'

"Is 15 minutes enough for you?" Russian Interior Minister Rashid Nurgaliyev recently asked one of his officers who was about to report on the situation in Dagestan. But it took the colonel three times as long to describe a litany of problems, including the ubiquitous practice of buying one's way into office, contract killings, hostage-taking, protection rackets, drug and arms dealing. The colonel wasn't describing the activities of criminal gangs, however: He was talking about conditions in Dagestan's Interior Ministry.

Russian Prosecutor General Yury Chaika has said in Moscow, behind closed doors, that the blame for unsolved crimes is simply pinned on the Islamists, that statistics are manipulated, and that the "level of corruption is unparalleled."

In Dagestan, subordinates reported that Lieutenant Colonel Shamil Omarov, the head of a police unit in Makhachkala, embezzled the compensation money for the survivors of police officers under his command who had been killed in action. He also sold the gasoline for police vehicles and paid salaries to relatives who were not even required to report for duty.

Corruption is also a major problem in nearby Chechnya. Beyond that, Russians seem to have little understanding of what is going on there. From Chechnya is worth defending, by Elena Milashina, February 14, 2011:

The Chechens are worth fighting for. What they want is at once little and much. They need Russia's support. We were waging war there because some Chechens wanted independence. We killed many people there because they, too, killed our soldiers. We have not apologised, but we demand their loyalty. We know nothing about the Chechens who have always been on Russia's side. We are not even aware that there are such Chechens. We are not aware that they form the majority.

Unfortunately, the Chechens have a fierce reputation, including as bandits and mafiosos. Consequently, many Russians are frustrated with Chechnya especially; some are ready to grant Chechnya its independence just to be done with the problem, while Russian officialdom seems to use a heavy hand in dealing with the rebels there.

Corrupt government officials at the highest levels (Medvedev and Putin, and Obama, Biden and Clinton), inept and incompetent politicians dealing with power politics, petty corruption, fundamentalist Islam, organized crime and heroin trafficking, and big business and the profit incentives of big oil... this is the brew that is simmering fiercely in the Caucasus.

More to follow.

Where the Dog Drowned, Part 1

The situation in Moldova is another example of how the Cold War is being reanimated, brought back from what should have been a permanent grave in the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Or, perhaps not?

Even with the demise of the former Soviet Union, Russia itself is a great power. In an honest world where honest leaders sought what was best for their people, the United States and Russia are natural allies and should be close friends.

Of course, such a world does not exist, and perhaps power politics would have inevitably rekindled some kind of east-west tensions.

But what else could be the key element in a possibly potent brew?

First, some background.

Moldova became independent as the Soviet Union broke up, but even as the Soviet break-up was beginning, the part of Moldova across the Dniester River from Moldova - called "Transnistria" in English, on the same side of the river as the Ukraine and, ultimately, as Russia - was breaking away from Moldova.

Moldovans have much in common with Romanians, but when the Soviet Union took Moldova from Romania, Moscow went to great lengths to cultivate and promote a Moldovan culture separate from that in Romania. In a kind of affirmative-action, Moscow also promoted Moldovan education and the appointment of Moldovans into leadership positions, at the expense of ethnic Slavs, who were increasingly settling into Moldova.

The Soviet Union's borders were designed to prevent the break-up of the Union itself. Republic borders crossed through ethnic regions. As long as the republics were constituents of the Soviet Union, people would be able to visit their relatives, and, in the event of regional disputes, minorities had recourse in Moscow. But, should the Soviet Union dissolve - as it did two decades ago - these would now be international boundaries, and the minorities within the newly-independent republics would be in danger of oppression, making any dissolution of the Soviet Union a tinderbox for ethnic violence.

In the wake of independence, Moldova was an especially poor region of the former Soviet Union, and poverty invites a broad range of abuses and can be exploited to cause instability. So, the stage was certainly set for all manner of political and ethnic disputes.

For further background, and a look at how the region fits in to the renewed Cold War that many in Washington (and perhaps many in Moscow, as well) seem to be promoting, Moldova: A Neo-Cold-War Battlefield by Eugene Girin, from February 9, 2011, gives some valuable insights.

But looking into this a little more, I found an article entitled The Eastern Challenge: Is Transnistria the Key to the Caucasus?, dated January 24, 2007, with this introduction:

If the secessionist republic – which is in the hands of the Russian mafia – obtains independence, it could build on the past similar aspirations of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh. However, in Tiraspol, the competition for power burns hot. Under the attentive eye of Moscow.

I am not surprised that a Romanian website suspects Moscow as what I might describe as a puppet master for regional issues. Most of the peoples and countries in the region see the hand of the Kremlin in everything that occurs there. And, Russian organized crime is a global problem, not merely a regional one, so again, no surprise that the Russian mob would be involved in activities in an area so potentially vulnerable, and with so many lucrative criminal enterprises to be involved in (human trafficking, forced prostitution, narcotics from Afghanistan, arms).

But, other connections are interesting, too.

...Beyond that, there appears to be a meaningful search underway to find consensus and to form alliances by those régimes that – because of their shared nature as "not being recognized as a state entity," examples being Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

4. It is this last aspect that arouses worry in several countries like Moldova and Georgia, who are very interested in the development of these events. There is also fear in Azerbaijan that the Nagorno-Karabakh can also lean in that direction. Already, during the conflict in Abkhazia from 1992 to 1993, the régime in Tiraspol has sent – to support of the secessionists – the assault groups Tdes and Delfin, which are both a part of the Dniester battalion of the Ministry of the Interior. In 1994, Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh have been associated in a finalized agreement to coordinate their own political initiatives, with provisions of mutual assistance in several sectors, in particularly with military assistance during situations of armed conflict. In 2000, there was a conference between the "Ministers of Foreign Relations" of Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh to give more vigour to the agreements of 1994, which had remained substantially lacking in application. Afterwards, Nagorno-Karabakh was protected silently, since there was more and more pressing influence from Russia on the politics of the separatist Caucasus enclaves, which were not in tune with the position of Armenia, who was the supporter of the local, autonomously proclaimed régime.

In June 2005, about two thousand "volunteers" came from Transnistria and Abkhazia through the Russian territory of South Ossetia, in order to give assistance to the separatist régime that was conflicting with Georgia. From then, there were various agreements of cooperation at the bilateral or the trilateral level between these autonomously proclaimed republics. The last agreement was signed at the end of July by the Minister of the Economy of Transnistria, Yelena Chernenko, and by the Vice Prime Minister of Abkhazia, Aleksandr Stranichkin. The agreement previews initiatives of cooperation of a social-economic nature, involving mainly industries, tourism, pharmaceuticals and not excluding the education and commerce sectors, which established one especially privileged bilateral régime.

Going further, it [the agreement] started an exchange of information regarding projects that were implemented jointly with the Russian Federation. Yet the most meaningful part of the agreement from a political perspective is – without a doubt – the creation of the "Parliamentary Assembly of the Non-Recognized States." The agreement was signed September 29th in Sukhumi, which is the capital of Abkhazia, by three speakers of the assemblies from Transnistria (Evgheny Shevchuk), Abkhazia (Nugzar Ashuba) and South Ossetia (Tarzan Koikota). The agreement established that the seat of the new organism would be situated in Moscow. The Assembly will be presided, which will rotate each year, by the presidents of the assemblies of the three separatist republics, which will be reviewed at least twice a year in Moscow. The first, recently, adopted concrete measure was to create a communal peacekeeping force.

So, in republics that are distancing themselves from Moscow after decades (and perhaps centuries) of Russian domination, there are, in turn, regions that are distancing themselves from those new republics; the representatives of these breakaway regions meet in Moscow and coordinate their activities.


It seems that there are always "ethnic" problems, breakaway republics, fighting... and that this is on the periphery of the lines of communication leading from Caspian Basin oil and from Afghan heroin, and leading to markets in the West. (True, much of the heroin is destined for Russia, not the West.)

I'm starting to think the communist plan to draw republic boundaries through ethnic areas to prevent a break-up of the Soviet Union was not as brilliantly effective as it seems.

And, I'm starting to think the efforts of Neocons and their Russian counterparts to revive east-west tensions are more of a smoke screen.

True, flow of Caspian Basin oil is a national security matter, but it is one that could easily be addressed without all the problems we seem to be seeing.

Legend has it that Moldova was named for a favorite hunting dog of Prince Dragos, called Molda. Molda, exhausted after a chase, drowned in a local river.

And, I'm figuring that if I start digging - really digging, the way I do - I will indeed find that there is a dog buried here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

In the Eyes of a Stranger, Part 1

From 17 Veterans Sue Pentagon for Indifference to Military Rapes, in Courthouse News, dated February 17, 2011:

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (CN) - Seventeen veterans, male and female, claim they were raped, sexually assaulted or harassed on active duty while officials turned a blind eye to the crimes and even promoted the assailants. "After plaintiffs and other victims reported the crimes against them, they were retaliated against, drummed out of the services, or, in some tragic cases, killed," the veterans say.

The veteran-plaintiffs say Defense Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates "failed to investigate rapes and sexual assaults, prosecute perpetrators, provide an adequate judicial system as required by the Uniform Military Justice Act, and abide by congressional deadlines to implement congressionally ordered institutional reforms to stop rapes and other sexual assaults."

Read the rest of the article; it's not too long, and the information in it is important. Congress is too compromised to do an effective job of oversight of our executive branch, which, in turn, is part of the problem, and has been for many years. If we are going to protect the people who protect us, we must take an interest and hold our elected and appointed civilian officials accountable for their failure to take care of our people in uniform.

Information on the class action lawsuit mentioned in the above article can be found at this link: Burke PLLC Military Rape Litigation.

This problem is much wider-spread than we may realize.

From Military's 'Restricted Reporting' Draws Fire, February 10, 2011:

[U.S. Army veteran Susan] Avila-Smith says of VETWOW's 3,000 veterans who were raped during their enlistment by a fellow soldier, nearly all told their commanding officers about the crime, in compliance with military law. Many, she says, described the backlash from the chain of command as worse than rape.

All too often, Avila-Smith says, commanding officers try to intimidate rape victims into silence. Commanding officers, who are judge and jury when it comes to indicting soldiers for alleged crimes while on duty, have also under-prosecuted military rape by ignoring a victim's accusation, for instance.

The result, she says, is that many who suffer military sexual assault say nothing and try to cope with the psychological aftermath on their own. A 2008 survey of 103 military sexual assault victims by the Government Accountability Office showed half never bothered to report the crime because they believed nothing would come of it and they also feared being ostracized.

Specifically, the GAO Report found

based on responses to its nongeneralizeable survey administered to 3,750 servicemembers and a 2006 DOD survey, the most recent available, that occurrences of sexual assault may be exceeding the rates being reported, suggesting that DOD and the Coast Guard have only limited visibility over the incidence of these occurrences. At the 14 installations where GAO administered its survey, 103 servicemembers indicated that they had been sexually assaulted within the preceding 12 months. Of these, 52 servicemembers indicated that they did not report the sexual assault. GAO also found that factors that discourage servicemembers from reporting a sexual assault include the belief that nothing would be done; fear of ostracism, harassment, or ridicule; and concern that peers would gossip.

Not surprising; according to the Fall/Winter 2005 edition of Connections: Military Culture and Sexual Assault Victims:

Lack of Privacy Protections

In addition to the general lack of privacy afforded victims due to the nonexistence of any rape shield protections, the military has a practice of mandatory reporting which serves to further eliminate any privacy protections that may otherwise be afforded to a victim of sexual assault. Under this practice, if a victim reports the assault to medical personnel, the military police or even a military Chaplin, that person must report the assault to the victim's command. The facts of the assault are then filtered past several more persons, within the chain of command, before finally coming to the attention of the actual commander. The offender's command also receives a report. Although discretion may be encouraged in such matters, there are few if any specific provisions in the code that prohibit any of these individuals from talking about such reports and/or disclosing the allegations amongst military personnel. Thus in a rather socially isolated environment such as the military, which already tends to subscribe to rape myths, reporting the assault can be particularly damaging and further traumatize a victim.

Understandably, for many victims mandatory reporting serves to discourage them from reporting sexual assault to military authorities. This lack of reporting gives military authorities skewed data on how prevalent sexual assault is in the United States military. It also means that many military victims report to civilian based programs and rely upon these programs for more accurate information regarding their legal rights in both the civilian and military legal systems.

A major reason why this problem is going to get worse is that our elected officials in Washington have used our wartime military for a big and controversial social experiment, that of allowing the gay/lesbian community to serve openly in the military. For years, the problems dealing with sexual assault have been buried; the likely reaction on the part of many to open service of gays and lesbians will be further assaults, now related to sexual orientation. If our "leadership" has been unable to address the problems they already had, the problems they are now creating will be a real mess.

From Culture of Rape, February 15, 2011:

...According to a 2003 study by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, at least one-third of all women veterans have experienced rape or sexual assault during their service. Thirty percent of military women experience domestic violence. In way too many cases, the victim is punished for reporting while the perpetrator goes unpunished.

A nine-month investigative series by The Denver Post in 2004 documented how numerous soldiers had escaped imprisonment for sexual crimes over the previous 15 years, some of whom even reentered the civilian world with no lasting criminal record. In fact, in Franklin’s experience, the military punishes soldiers for DUIs more regularly and more harshly than for sexualized violence.

Rape your fellow soldier, sailor, airman, Marine or Coastguardsman (or -woman), but don't drink and drive while you do it, or you'll be in real trouble.

Watch this topic.

Be Free

Found in my messages on Facebook:

Like captive animals who have learned to obey, appeased by scraps of food and a warm place to stay.

When the cage is finally opened the captors find to their delight, the will to be free has been broken.

It only takes a little taste, of the freedom they once knew, to put the fight back in the cat, with the God given strength to see it through.

Suddenly aware that no-one is holding him there, he shakes off the chains of bondage, and as he hastens to retake his rightful place, in all of his glory and his might, it brings tears to those who behold this most magnificent sight.

Be free.

Thanks, Lisa!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Puppets of Puppets

On the left we saw a man
And heard what he said
The words from his mouth
Filled us with dread

He didn't just talk
He also pulled our strings
Manipulated us and did
Such terrible things

Along came another
This one on the right
The words that he spoke
Were a glimmer of light

We followed him
But we didn't know
He led us around
With nowhere to go

So again under the power
Of the man on the left
But he had moved to the center
How clever and deft!

On the right yet another
Did he have a chance?
Would we like his tune?
For we all had to dance

Better, we thought
Gone, that other clown
Then one sunny day
Our world came crashing down

Attacked from afar
No longer left and right
But united we stood
They would feel our might

But it didn't add up
Something was wrong
A few stopped dancing
And questioned the song

Into darkness we danced
Where would anger lead?
Questions about the song
But too few would heed

Promising us change
And a return to our law
Many followed a new one
But this time I saw

His movements not his own
But from above they came
Then I recognized it
The dance was the same

They both pulled our strings
But someone pulled theirs
Someone above them
Someone higher upstairs

Change was not good
Bad became worse
We were puppets of puppets
And that was our curse

Then I discovered
Their strings no longer worked!
Puppets above and around me
But I was unhooked!

The strings were in my mind
Realizing it, I was free!
Thinking for myself
A puppet I would not be!

The others were still cursed
As I looked around
Then a quiet voice
Spoke with a booming sound

The strings are an illusion
Our freedom already bought
The battle continues
In a war already fought

The message sounded clear
The voice cool as ice
"The captives are free
I paid the price!"

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Seat of the Shah, Part 4

We continue from Part 3.

For a very interesting read of the mechanics of a pirate attack, I suggest Inside story of Somali pirate attack, dated June 4, 2009.

In recent weeks, piracy off the coast of Somalia has been in the news. In an article from February 13, 2011, Nato seizes 'pirate mother ship' off Somalia, we catch a glimpse of a recent event.

A Nato warship has captured a suspected pirate mother ship off Somalia, Nato's counter-piracy mission has said.

It said Denmark's warship fired warning shots on Saturday, forcing the vessel to stop and its crew to surrender.

Sixteen suspected pirates on board were then held and a weapons cache seized. Two Yemeni hostages were also freed.

"These ships provide the pirates with a floating base. They pose a great threat to the merchant shipping," the chief officer of the Danish warship said.

"We have now eliminated one of these threats," Commander Haumann of HDMS Esbern Snare warship said.


Earlier this week, the International Association of Independent Tanker Owners (Intertanko) said Somali pirates were now using at least 20 seized vessels as mother ships to launch attacks in the region.

In Inside story of Somali pirate attack we learn the logistical infracture of a pirate operation:

Mr Ali, the pirates' negotiator and translator, is now back in his home town of Hargeisa.

Over hot, sweet Somali tea in his favourite cafe, he told me more about how the pirates are organized.

'Wannabes need not apply'

It is "investors" who play a crucial role, he said.

In the case of the CEC Future, two men put up the initial seed money.

"It costs up to $6,000 (£3,600) to send a team," he said.

"It goes on buying food, ammunition, fuel. Then RPGs and speedboats can be rented. Mother boats are also very important."

Investors have to be prepared to fund several failed attempts and to wait weeks until the team succeeds. But Mr Ali says they can expect to take about 30% of the ransom money.

"That's a return which does not happen anywhere."

The use of mother ships has allowed the pirates a real blue-water capability. Otherwise, piracy would be confined to areas close to the Somali coast - areas more easily avoided.

From The losing battle against Somali piracy, February 10, 2011:

Mother ships

So is any real progress being made in the fight against piracy off Somalia? The statistics are not encouraging.

Currently at least 30 ships are being held, along with more than 700 hostages.

And something has changed in the last few months.

The pirates are using around eight so-called mother ships, far out to sea - large captive vessels with hostages onboard that allow them to stay in business during the violent monsoon winds.

Wing Cdr O'Kennedy says the rewards are just too tempting for Somali pirates to be deterred by a handful of international warships patrolling over 4m sq km.

"What we are dealing with here is a business model that is so good, that for a matter of tens of thousands of dollars you can put together a pirate action group, you can send it to sea and if you are lucky and hit the jackpot, you can come back with a vessel that within six months will bring you a return of nine-and-a-half million dollars.

Mother ships for use as bases also allow the pirates to hide out at sea; the ship appears to be just another freighter or trawler in the Indian Ocean.

From Pirates To The Left Of Me... Terrorists To The Right, February, 2011:

Hargeysa, Somaliland, February 5, 2011 – POLICE chief Elmi Furreh removes his sunglasses to mop his brow as he describes crime fighting on one of the world's toughest beats.

First he motions towards the 1,000-mile Somali coastline where 28 hijacked ships - the multi-million-pound bounty of ruthless pirates - are anchored.

The boats have been seized by the modern-day Blackbeards' "motherships" which, armed with grappling hooks, AK47s and rocket-propelled grenades, now strike far into the Indian Ocean.

The captured vessels and their crew members - totaling 654 - are being held to ransom by the pirates.


According to the UN, Somalian piracy is becoming an "organized industry", which is estimated to cost the world economy more than £4billion a year.

Centred in another breakaway Somali region called Puntland, piracy rose ten per cent last year, with some 445 attacks, 49 ship hijackings and 1,000 sailors taken hostage.

The latter-day buccaneers now use freighters and factory fishing vessels as motherships loaded with smaller skiffs to strike near Pakistani and Indian waters.

It was in the Indian Ocean in October 2009 that Somali pirates captured Kent couple Paul and Rachel Chandler, only releasing them a year later following a payment of more than £450,000.

Either this problem gets dealt with now, proactively, in the international arena (we know that won't happen) or, under extreme political pressure due to a highly publicized event, some powerful idiot (Obama comes to mind here) will develop a cure that is worse than the disease.

And, we haven't even addressed the terrorism yet!

The most recent snip above regarding pirates was from the breakaway republic of Somaliland. But, Somaliland itself is embroiled in violent conflict.

From Somalia: Clan wars, British tax money and Somaliland's aggressions [Editorial], dated February 13, 2011:

GAROWE ONLINE EDITORIAL | Violent clan aggressions, blatant lies of separatism, support for terror groups, and other crimes will not get Somaliland any closer to international recognition.

On Monday, Feb. 7, 2011, soldiers loyal to the separatist administration of 'Somaliland' fought fierce clashes against local clans over control of territory. Of course, explaining the tragic events of that Monday to a reader brainwashed by the 'Somaliland' separatist ideology is difficult, but one simply has to analyze the changing political rhetoric in Hargeisa, capital of the self-declared yet unrecognized 'Republic of Somaliland.'

Sool and Sanaag regions [Map]
Over the past few days, Somaliland's internal politics has been rocked by the events of Feb. 7th. Reliable reports put casualties suffered on the Somaliland army side between between 52 and 65 soldiers killed, while local clan fighters lost an estimated 22 men during the day-long battles, when heavy weapons inlcuding tanks were used.

Hmm... the editorial, from Garowe Online based in Garowe, Puntland, Somalia, accuses Somaliland of supporting terrorism for domestic political purposes (furthering interclan rivalry in the Somaliland government).

Skipping down:

[President of Somaliland] Mr. Silanyo's predecessor, Mr. Dahir Riyale and his former administration, have been repeatedly accused of arming and funding Al Shabaab terrorist elements in Sanaag region. This strategy was fuelled by Somaliland's jealousy of Puntland, which is a stable region, with a functioning government, yet supports Somali national unity under a federal structure. In short, Puntland's historic stability became a threat to Somaliland's lies that the rest of Somalia is war-torn and lawless. But supporting terrorists, as similarly to raising snakes, is never a successful plan. Today, Puntland has militarily defeated Al Shabaab terrorists and flushed them out of the Sanaag mountains, while Al Shabaab remnants have fled to safety in Somaliland's major towns, posing serious security risks for Somaliland inherited by the Silanyo administration.

Peace, security and stability is for the interest of all communities in Somalia. Violent clan aggressions, blatant lies of separatism, support for terror groups, and other crimes will not get Somaliland any closer to international recognition. What readers should understand is that Somaliland has always played a villian role in Somali politics. It is Puntland's continued stability, and some success, that has brought Somaliland's crimes out for public scrutiny.

Well, the excerpts are from an editorial. I wonder how much there is to the allegations.

On the other side of pirate-base Puntland, the terrorist organization al-Shabaab has launched a TV station, and some of its first programming features the execution of an alleged CIA agent. From Somalia's al-Shabaab launch TV channel, February 5, 2011:

Somalia's al-Qaeda-inspired al-Shabaab group has launched a terrestrial news channel in its latest effort to expand its propaganda activities, the Site monitoring group said on Friday.

Al-Kataib News Channel's pilot showed the confessions of an alleged CIA spy who was executed on Sunday, said Site Intelligence Group, which carried a translation of a al-Shabaab statement circulated on jihadi internet forums.

"This broadcast success represents an advanced media leap in the mujahedeen's [holy warriors] media in general and in Somalia in particular," the statement said.

al-Shabaab, who have pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden and control most of southern and central Somalia, also boasted acquiring a terrestrial TV channel before Somalia's Western-backed transitional federal government.

Of course, I cannot help but wonder about the terrorists' achievement in being the first to have a local TV station in a place where only terrorists and pirates can afford a TV. :)

Seat of the Shah, Part 3

First, to refresh our memory, here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2.

There are two major impacts on the world that the situation in Somalia has. One is piracy on the high seas, and the other is terrorism. Regarding both issues, Somalia is increasingly becoming a haven and a base for international lawlessness and violence. Think about the way that is phrased, because Somalia has been a failed state with a reputation for both for many years now.

First, we will address the piracy. The BBC provides excellent coverage on a variety of issues, and has a well-developed network for worldwide coverage of news and issues; furthermore, the BBC has solid background information on a variety of issues, and is rather blogger-friendly, making the codes for BBC vids (which are great) available to bloggers. For all these reasons, I start with a BBC vid from 2009's Postcard from Somali pirate capital:

Towards the end of Part 1, I pointed out how foreigners essentially rape Somalian waters. An excerpt from Postcard from Somali pirate capital makes the connection:

"We are not pirates," declared Jamal Akhmed, 32, who has just started a life sentence.

"We are gentlemen, defending our shores against foreign fisherman. It did become a business, but it was forced upon us because we were attacked. We have bills to pay and families to care for."

Assuming the man's facts are correct, his logic has a certain kind of justice to it: Why not make money through piracy attacking the foreign vessels that are depleting your fish stocks, and that are thus hurting your ability to make money legally?

The article continues:

[The commercial capital of Puntland, where pirates are held in prisons] Bossasso's police chief, Osman Hassan Uke, took us to see two alleged pirates who had just been dropped off at the port by a French warship.

The men insisted they had been sailing to Yemen to find work when they were attacked by helicopters.

"These pirates are thieves and cowards," said Mr Uke. "We will defeat them. They are not organised in the way we are organised."

He bitterly condemned the payments of ransom by foreign companies and governments.

"It is completely wrong," he said. "Whenever 10 guys get paid ransom money, 20 more pirates are created."

Paying ransom, in the long run, only encourages hostage-taking. But, without viable short-term options, it may seem the only option for a government or corporation whose people are held hostage.

Skipping down:

President [of the Somali state of Puntland] Abdirahman [Mohamud Farole] confirmed that the entire annual government budget for Puntland was "about $20m (£12m)".

But although piracy is clearly a major headache for the local authorities and for coastal communities in Puntland, Mr Abdirahman sought to put it in context.

At a cabinet meeting, the focus was on the wider conflict gripping Somalia and the widespread fear that Islamic militants in the south could seize control in the capital Mogadishu and then threaten Puntland.

"From the international point of view, piracy may be considered the number one issue," said Mr Abdirahman.

"But from our point of view, it is a tiny part of the whole Somali problem - a phenomenon prompted by the collapse of the Somali state."

President Abdirahman won the January, 2009, and in his victory speech, vowed to take on piracy and the corruption that facilitates it.

From Chasing the Somali piracy money trail, May 24, 2009:

Piracy off the coast of Somalia has made many people very rich.

A new economy has developed both within Somalia and further afield, as security companies, lawyers and negotiators reap huge profits from their involvement.

But finding out what happens to the money delivered as ransom payments is doubly difficult, first because piracy is a transnational crime, and second because Somalia is a country without rules, regulations or a functioning government.

There have been various reports that piracy in Somalia is attracting big-time criminals from all over the world; that it is being orchestrated from London; that the ship owners themselves are involved.


It has been possible to find out something about how the ransom money is distributed.

One thing is clear: the small groups of pirates who take to sea in speedboats to hijack huge ships do not get all the money.

"They are the foot soldiers," says Andrew Mwangura, who heads the East African Seafarers' Assistance Programme and negotiates frequently with pirates.

"They are young men, often teenagers, and they certainly don't end up with all the money."

'Compensation' scheme

Pirates interviewed by the BBC have been reluctant to say exactly how much money they make from a successful hijacking, but reports indicate they make tens of thousands of dollars rather than millions.

This is because piracy has developed into a mini-economy, employing hundreds of people in north-eastern and central Somalia, all of whom need their share of the ransom.

Although there is no universal set of rules, a UN report based on information gathered from pirates based in the north-eastern village of Eyl, reveals some interesting information about how the ransom spoils are divided:

• Maritime militia, pirates involved in actual hijacking - 30%

• Ground militia (armed groups who control the territory where the pirates are based) - 10%

• Local community (elders and local officials) - 10%

• Financier - 20%

• Sponsor - 30%

The UN report found the payments are shared virtually equally between the maritime militia, although the first pirate to board the ship gets a double share or a vehicle.

And compensation is paid to the family of any pirate killed during the operation.

If it were only the pirates themselves getting rich, there would be no reason for local forces to not end it, despite the relative lack of resources.

Ah, but this is true of any illegal enterprise; implicit in the scheme is payment to interested parties so the activities can continue.

Due to the peculiarities of Somalia, and due to the relatively small amounts of money involved, it is not assessed that the problem is globalized or attracting attention from international organized crime, at least not yet. Ransoms paid in cash have no need to be laundered, as they are spent as cash in the local economy, and with truly big prizes available by dealing in human trafficking, controlled substances, arms and controlled technology, international organized crime has bigger fish to fry.

Stay tuned for Part 4!