Monthly Archives: October 2007

Cuba Spies Sell to U.S. Foes


[from The Washington Times. Hat tip to CubaPoliData.]

A defense intelligence official said yesterday that Cuba’s spies have sold American intelligence secrets to other U.S. enemies, and that the communist island’s spies even now could be involved in long-term operations in the FBI, CIA, Congress and the White House.

Christopher Simmons, a Cuban counterintelligence officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency, cited in a Heritage Foundation speech the case of Ana Montes, a former DIA analyst who pleaded guilty to 16 years of spying for Fidel Castro’s dictatorship.

“Based on my estimates, there could be at least six others like her involved in long-term penetrations of U.S. government at the highest level,” Mr. Simmons said. Agents for the Cuban regime “have had over 50 years to get this right. They understand America better than some Americans do.”

Mr. Simmons said Havana has sold any U.S. intelligence secrets it can get to such foreign countries as Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, and also makes money through terrorist-training programs. All told, these activities earn the communist regime hundreds of millions of dollars per year.

“Castro has spent years strengthening ties and supporting other terrorist groups and organizations around the world. He still continues to do so right now,” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, Florida Republican and a Cuban-American, said during the same Heritage forum. “This guy has been extremely successful in infiltrating our intelligence community here in the United States.”

American military intelligence has been compromised by Cuban agents in every U.S. military mission since 1983, including Grenada and the 1990-91 Persian Gulf War.

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Zionism Considered Too Controversial for San Francisco Art Scene


“We can say anything we want about ourselves, but we cannot say we’re Zionists. I’m sick of this.”—Alan Kaufman, Israeli-American Artist

I intended on commenting on this story from The New York Sun a couple of weeks ago. In a nutshell, Israeli-American painter and author Alan Kaufman contends that a San Francisco gallery displaying his work “dropped plans to publish a catalog…after he proposed that the cover title of the collection refer to Zionism.” Call it a hunch but I suspect if the title had been negative, “Victims of Zionism” or something along those lines, they would have had no problem publishing the catalog. But heaven forbid an artist express ideological affinity for the dreaded Z-word:

Painter Presses His Cause on Canvas


Mr. Kaufman said the disagreement erupted on October 8 at a meeting with Mr. Himmelberger to discuss the layout and contents of the 24-page catalog. “He had a printout of the catalog with ‘Visionary Expressionism: A Zionist Art’ in front of him. He pointed to the word, ‘Zionism,’ and said, ‘I can’t do that,” Mr. Kaufman told The New York Sun. “I said, ‘What exactly is the problem? You know what my paintings are about.'”

“He said, ‘I don’t stand for that. … We don’t want to advocate any kind of platform here,'” Mr. Kaufman said. The artist said it was not the content of his art, but the labeling of it as Zionist that seemed to be the sticking point. “None of the paintings at the gallery have the actual word ‘Zionism’ in it. I think it was the appearance of the actual word Zionism in the title and all the essays that shocked him. He gave me the impression that, ‘Oh my God, we have a Zionist in the house.'”

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Read more at Solomonia and Seraphic Secret.

Democracy Promotion: Process or Outcome?


Martin in Margins has an excellent post regarding the tension between emphasizing process or, emphasizing outcome, in democracy promotion efforts. Some analysts and academics place an emphasis on process. Essentially, the result of the election is less important than the election itself being fair and transparent. If people are given a political choice and they choose radical religious candidates over moderate secular ones, who are we to determine their political decisions? For others, often policymakers, the emphasis is on outcome. Simply stated, the goal of democracy promotion is fostering states that acknowledge private property rights and the rule of law, majority rule and minority rights, provide the political space for the development of an independent civil society (media, unions, professional organizations, etc.), and so on and so forth.

There is a tension between these two competing perspectives than many refuse exists. Martin notes:

I’ve written before about the difficulties that arise when a newly-democratic country makes a democratic choice, the consequence of which is to exclude or oppress significant sections of the population. The example I discussed in these earlier posts is southern Iraq, where the democratic election of conservative religious parties threatens the rights and freedoms of religious and political minorities, women and homosexuals. Some blame may be attached to the Coalition Provisional Authority, for the way it encouraged a communalist politics in the south and lent credibility to sectarian forces such as the Sadrists. However, the popular vote for the religious parties in the 2005 election appears to have been overwhelming.

So is this democracy? And where does it leave the strategy of encouraging the development of democratic reform in the Middle East, if the result is to install Islamist regimes which then proceed to limit democratic freedoms? I remember seeing a quote from a liberal Saudi woman who was emphatically against democratic change in her country, since she feared it would mean the election of an even more oppressively Islamist government. But does this mean that the west should revert to its discredited strategy of shoring up corrupt Middle Eastern dictators, for fear that their removal would lead to something much worse?

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XIX (Ben Neill) at Joe’s Pub


Ben Neill and XIX performed this evening at Joe’s Pub and were a delight for the ears. I mentioned them in a previous post. To recap, Neill plays the mutant trumpet, a musical instrument he designed with some assistance. His previous works have tended towards electro-jazz with elements from hard drum and bass to more moody ambient samples. XIX is his latest project and includes Mimi Goese on vocals, John Conte on bass and Jim Mussen on drums. All of their songs include samples of nineteenth century music which adds an eerie, haunting quality. It also allows them to avoid paying copyrights for the samples.

The show was excellent, if brief (only an hour). Joe’s Pub is a great place to hear live music but they book so many shows per night (2-3) that the sets are usually quite short. But for $12 I certainly cannot complain.

Urgent Labor Alert from Iran


[Hat tip to Bob from Brockley]

Last Thursday, five masked men fired seven bullets into 48-year-old Majid Hamidi, a labour activist. Iranian labour activists believe that an armed attack of this type could only have been carried out with the involvement and knowledge of the regime. In a country where trade unionists are routinely arrested, jailed, and beaten, this represents a considerable escalation. There are fears that Iran may become one of those countries, like Colombia, where trade unionists are routinely gunned down.

We have been asked to mobilize as many of you as possible to send off urgent messages to the International Labour Organization (ILO) asking it to take action now. I am asking you to help us in two ways —

  • First, please visit the campaign page and send off your message now.
  • Second, please forward this message on to other members of your union today.

Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) Kills 17 Turkish Soldiers, Turkey Retaliates


For the past few weeks, Turkish authorities have expressed their concern at the increasing frequency of cross-border raids by Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) forces operating out of northern Iraq. Why was the U.S. allowing this to happen? When would the U.S. and Kurdish troops take action against the PKK, an organization designated as terrorist by the U.S. State Department and responsible for attacks against the parties in the Kurdish governing coalition, the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iraq (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK)?

While they were waiting for a response, the PKK launched one of its deadliest raids in years on Sunday, killing 17 Turkish soldiers. The PKK announced that it took several hostages, something the Turkish government denies. The U.S. and Iraq are encouraging Turkey to refrain from military engagements inside Iraq but Ankara is under increasing popular pressure to respond with force. Demonstrations in Ankara and Istanbul denounced the PKK and Turkey’s parliament authorized cross-border operations today and The New York Times reports that Turkish warplanes have hit Kurdish targets near the Iraqi border and The Telegraph claims that Turkish troops have crossed the border.

I used to follow PKK activities back in the 1990s. After their leader, Abdullah Ocalan, was captured in 1999, it was assumed by many that it was only a short time until the PKK was ultimately defeated. However, with the United States occupation of Iraq and the development of an autonomous Kurdish region, or safe-haven, in the north, the PKK was able to regroup and establish a base of operations. They also apparently made a truce with their political rivals, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).

Press reports have noted the anger of Turkish officials upon discovering that the PKK is using U.S. small arms and other weapons. Whether they received these directly from the U.S., from allied Kurdish groups, or by purchase on the black market is unknown. Less attention has been paid to the fact that the PKK has had numerous bases in Iran since the 1990s.

Michael Rubin asks,

Why would the Iranian government and security forces bother supporting the PKK?…[T]he PKK serves not only as a tool for leverage against Jalal Talebani, but also more importantly against Turkey. If the Islamic Republic can keep the PKK alive and provide them with a safe haven in the mountains of northern Iraq, then they can always threaten Turkey with renewal of a separatist campaign that has already cost more than 37,000 lives and several billion dollars.

Various Reports:


International Herald Tribune



The Times

Here is the political program of the PKK in three parts:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Pakistan: Terrorist Attack on Bhutto Leaves 140 Dead


The cavalcade of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto was attacked by terrorists in Karachi. Two explosions left 140 dead and over 500 wounded. Ms. Bhutto was shaken but uninjured in the blast. A variety of Islamist terrorist organizations threatened Ms. Bhutto not to return to Pakistan. The New York Sun reports Pakistani intelligence sources acknowledging “three specific plots to kill Ms. Bhutto.” The Economic Times quotes Bhutto’s husband, Asif Zardari, accusing the terrorists had assistance from elements within the military or intelligence agencies:

Zardari accused the ISI of being behind the blasts, while some party supporters blamed the ruling PML(Q) for the blasts. Ms Bhutto herself accused supporters of Pakistan’s late military ruler Mohammed Zia ul-Haq for masterminding the bomb blasts in which more than 130 people were killed. According to reports, in an interview published in French on the internet site of Paris-Match magazine, Ms Bhutto said she had no doubt that members of the former Zia regime were responsible for the attack.

Here is an assortment of reports:

The Economist
To the adoring clamour of hundreds of thousands of her supporters gathered in Karachi—and as many groans across the country—Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister, returned to Pakistan on September 18th after an eight-year self-imposed exile. “This is not just a journey for me,” she declared before landing, “but the beginning of a journey for the people of Pakistan for a better future.” She sobbed on the runway. A huge bullet-proof lorry, known as the “BB-mobile”, was waiting to ferry her to the tomb of the country’s founding father, Muhammad Ali Jinnah.

The Hindu
Ms. Bhutto, who looked remarkably composed despite her close brush with death, said the government had also received intelligence reports from a “brother country” of the deployment of four Al-Qaeda suicide squads to kill her.

The Daily Times
Before her arrival, Ms Bhutto was perceived to have lost significant support stemming from her staunchly pro-US statements, her lack of opposition to President Gen Pervez Musharraf, and the amnesty ordinance which allowed her return. Indeed, tribal militant Baitullah Mehsud had promised to dispatch suicide bombers to “welcome” her. He has since distanced himself from the Karachi carnage.

Express of India
Investigators’ main focus will be on who sent Friday’s suicide bomber. Government officials have already asserted that the culprits were Islamist militants, but they are uncertain which group. Pakistani Taliban fighters working with al Qaeda earlier this month made assassination threats against Bhutto, who has talked of working with Musharraf to fight militancy and extremism. But Bhutto, at a news conference on Friday, said she had more to fear from un-named members of the Pakistani power structure who she described as allies of the ‘forces of militancy’. She said she had given their names to Musharraf, and wasn’t blaming the government at this stage.

Times of India
Police were questioning three men over the attack on former Pakistani premier Benazir Bhutto’s motorcade with investigations revealing evidence suggesting that the suicide bomber was not alone and was accompanied by four or five accomplices.

Three men from Punjab province were taken in for questioning on Saturday night after being linked to a car from which an attacker allegedly threw a grenade at Bhutto’s motorcade.

Newsweek: “Pakistan: Where the Jihad Lives Now”

Israel: North Korea Helped Syria Build Nuclear Plant


[from The Daily Telegraph]

WASHINGTON — Israel‘s airstrike on Syria last month was directed at a nuclear reactor, a report said yesterday [October 14, 2007–TNC].

Officials said the reactor, which was in the early stages of development, was being modeled on one in North Korea.

Israeli intelligence officials have said they believed North Korea, which detonated its first nuclear device last year, was supplying nuclear expertise and materials to Syria.

It has been claimed North Korean advisors were killed in the attack, which obliterated its target.

The strike on the location in northeastern Syria on September 6 has been subject to an official news blackout by both Tel Aviv and Washington, for fear of raising tensions in the Middle East. But speculation on the nature of the target has been rife, with some defense experts and insiders saying the Syrians, who already have chemical weapons, were on the verge of producing plutonium for a nuclear weapon. The report in yesterday’s New York Times gives the clearest picture yet of the daring raid, which was disclosed only after the Syrians complained about a violation of its airspace by Israel.

American officials said the Syrian reactor was identified earlier this year in satellite photographs. It appeared far further from completion than an Iraqi reactor the Israelis destroyed in 1981, and it would have been years away from producing weapons-grade plutonium.

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Afghan government officials participate in a strategic workshop at the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (Peru)


This is a bit dated (from August):

A high-level delegation from the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan visited the Institute for Liberty and Democracy (ILD) headquarters in Lima to participate in a three-day strategic workshop with ILD staff. The delegation was headed by the Minister of Urban Development, Mohammad Yousaf Pashtun, and included the Director of General Budget from the Ministry of Finance, Mohammad Mustafa Mastoor; the Director of Government Properties from the Ministry of Agriculture, Iqbal Yousafi; and the Advisor of the ANDS (Afghanistan National Development Strategy), Mahmoud Saikal. The visitors were personally greeted by ILD President Hernando de Soto.

The purpose of the workshop was to share and discuss ideas about the challenges and opportunities of introducing institutional reforms in a country like Afghanistan, especially when such changes are rooted in widespread social practices that can become a powerful tool for improving governance. The sessions included the review of the ILD experience in helping governments design and implement institutional reforms that legally empower the poor majorities of developing countries, helping them to undertake a peaceful and effective transition to an inclusive market economy under a single rule of law.