Friday, March 31, 2006

In Memory of Pte. Robert Costall - Mar 31

Have I got some amazing stuff for you today. Before we start however, I want to give tribute to the PPCLI, the unit that lost a soldier yesterday. There is a little known piece of Canadian military history called the Medak Pocket, a 15 hour firefight between Canadian troops and the Croatian Army. Fought in 1993, it is a story of tremendous courage under fire. This link is therefore dedicated to the memory of Pte. Robert Costall.

As well, here is the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry's official website.

Here is a chilling video from LGF. A Muslim mob has gathered outside the Danish embassy in London, protesting 'cartoongate'. Listen to what these hooligans are saying, with active participation from the crowd. Don't miss the placards either (Windows Media Player req'd).

The Americans have at last found their spine and will not be funding Hamas.

I have three links, all from the CBC, on various world news.

1) Here is some good news as American Jill Carroll is released.

2) There is more instability in markets as the price of precious metals rise as does the Canadian dollar. A high Canadian dollar is bad for the local economy as it makes Americans doing business here more expensive.

3) Trouble in Judea and Samaria as a suicide bomber meets his 72 virgins - NOT!

Lastly, I want to encourage those who wish to do so to sign up for some quality intelligience from stratfor.com. Amaze your friends and confuse your enemies as you become the life of the party. After all, it's FREE dammit!

As always,

The Man in Black

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Harper, Bush and Fox in Cancun - Mar. 30

As you can see, I have decided to renew at stratfor, at least for another year. Hope you enjoy the article.

The Man in Black

Stratfor -- Predictive, Insightful, Global Intelligence


Canada, Mexico, U.S.: The Spring Break Summit
Mar 30, 2006
Summary

U.S. President George W. Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are meeting in Cancun, Mexico, on March 30-31 to evaluate progress on the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America. Despite important issues regarding the three countries' relations, like migration and border security, the conference will not produce any significant announcements. Bilateral conversations between the leaders, however, will prove interesting, especially Bush and Harper's first formal meeting. Ultimately, the summit looks like little more than a vacation for one leader who is embattled, another on his way out and a third learning his away around.

Analysis

U.S. President George W. Bush, Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper are meeting in Cancun, Mexico, on March 30-31 to evaluate progress on the Security and Prosperity Partnership of North America, established a year ago at a summit in Waco, Texas.

The partnership was established to create a framework for the next step in relations among the three countries after the North American Free Trade Act. Despite the importance of the issues confronting the three leaders -- migration, border security and trade disputes -- there will not be any major announcements. Ultimately, the most significant thing to emerge from the summit will be images of camaraderie rather than weighty decisions.

Progress on the issue of migration and border security depends upon the U.S. Congress at present. Thus, neither Bush nor Fox can do much in their conversations to help untangle the immigration debate in the United States. For five years, Fox has advocated the necessity of a comprehensive U.S.-Mexican labor mobility agreement, enjoying Bush's support before Sept. 11. After the attacks on New York and Washington, it became clear that such an agreement would not be forthcoming for the next few years, and that border security had become the new priority. Without a clear proposal from the White House, Congress took over the issue, propelled by advocates of stringent anti-immigration measures that would result in a shutdown of the border and the jailing and deportation of millions. In contrast to the House of Representatives bill, which focused on the law-enforcement aspects of the immigration debate, the Senate has discussed a more comprehensive series of bills. The benefits or defects of the different bills being discussed by Congress aside, as of summit time, Bush has nothing to offer. Neither does Fox, whose government lacks any significant lobbying presence in Washington, unlike the previous two Mexican administrations.

In any case, both Bush and Fox would like to give the impression that a bill like the one approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 27 is acceptable to both. Fox would prefer to achieve some sort of immigration agreement, meaning he would not have to leave office empty-handed, while Bush would like to have something to offer Hispanic voters in the United States. Only a full immigration agreement would give Fox something that he could use to aid his party's candidate in the Mexican presidential election. Such a deal is clearly not forthcoming, so Fox is not even trying.

Understandably, border security has been a main U.S. concern, one that many fail to recognize is multilayered. Three main aspects of the issue fuel U.S. concerns. The first is the violence generated by gangs and organizations that smuggle people from Mexico to the United States. The second is the war between drug cartels at Mexican border towns like Nuevo Laredo and Tijuana, which has begun spreading to the U.S. side of the border. The third is the issue of the control and monitoring of cargo between the countries to prevent the possible smuggling of material destined for a terrorist attack.

While no progress has been made on people-smuggling, the leaders will be able to announce that cooperation between the two countries against the drug cartels has increased, and will continue to do so. Despite this positive statement, the U.S. government has advised Mexico that it is not satisfied with the progress of efforts to capture some of the most violent traffickers, like Los Zetas, members of the Mexican military who defected to work for the cartels. Both Fox and Bush would like to be able to point to something during this summit to signal Congress that they are taking care of the border security issue, but they are not likely to get what they want. The two countries can also point to significant progress in the coordination of monitoring systems for cargo shipments across the border, as well as expediting the passage of those who live and work on different sides of the border.

In trilateral terms, there also has been steady progress in the regulatory agenda and in other areas like environmental cooperation, natural-disaster assistance and health services. For example, all three countries are likely to announce a joint strategy to prevent or contain a bird-flu epidemic.

This will be the first meeting between Bush and Harper, and there are some outstanding issues between Canada and Mexico, too. Prominent among these are a continuing trade dispute over softwood lumber and the U.S. decision to require Canadians to produce passports when entering the United States. No decision on the softwood lumber issue is expected.

The relationship among the three countries seems to have reached a point beyond which no significant progress will be made until the political environment changes. In Mexico, presidential elections are set for July; Fox will be a lame duck from then until the new president assumes office Dec. 1. Bush has been significantly weakened by the Iraq war and several other factors, and cannot push for anything too bold, especially in light of the bitter divisions in his Republican base over the immigration issue. Finally, this is Harper's first summit after his recent election. Given these factors, the three leaders might as well have announced they planned on taking spring break in Cancun. By the look of it, that seems to be what is happening.
Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Israel in Peril - Mar 29

I have naturally been following the recent Israeli elections with great interest. The election of Ehud Olmert to the post of Israel's PM really changes nothing, prophetically speaking. Israelis voted with their feet by largely staying away in droves from casting a ballot. They are tired of all land concessions, tired of the rampant corruption, and tired of fighting a relentless enemy. They are ready to receive a Messiah, of any kind, that will give them peace and safety. This world is ready to receive a Messiah, one that will lead a one-world government to global peace. I believe this person is, right now, alive here on earth waiting in the wings to do his dark master's bidding. This Beast (or AntiChrist) will set off a seven year long world war when he signs a covenant with Israel with a promise to protect her. Make no doubt about it, Jacob's trouble is on the doorstep of human history, knocking at the door waiting to be let in.

Here is the breakdown of Knesset seats won by each respective party:

Not to be outdone, Hamas got into the act of starting a government too.

If you know your Bible well and have some idea about Jewish history, you know there are no such things as 'coincidences'. As the election was wrapping up, Israel was subject to a spectacular eclipse of the sun. Argue if you like that these things are simply just 'happening' at a most difficult time for Israel and it's people, but you'll never convince me.

Mr. Harper and Mr. MacKay get tough with Hamas - sort of.

It appears that Abdul Rahman's story ends here with him receiving asylum in Italy. I guess he's one of the lucky ones. Many Christians are being put to death all over the world (especially where Islam and Sharia law predominate) and yet very few will end up getting the kind of media attention that Mr. Rahman received. There will be many more Abdul Rahmans to hit the spotlight. I can bloody well guarantee it.

Remember Our Glorious Dead: Private Robert Costall PPCLI

The Man in Black

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Shania Twain and Other Stuff - Mar 28

OK, OK. So I'm well aware of the fact that Shania Twain has nothing to do with the coming of our Lord. I just put the link in there because I can. If you like, go get your own blog and then you can post whatever you want. Ain't free speech grand?

Here is an article about a drunk driver that says Shania was helping him drive while intoxicated. Hey, whatever it takes to get you home buddy. Except for the alcohol and the funny voices inside the head bit, I see no problem here.

From the CBC comes a story from Laval, PQ about politics and prayer in public places.

Here is a really cool video about Hamas that is A MUST SEE!!

From the Gospel for Asia website is a flash presentation of church growth in India. Take a good look at these people, because these are the new faces of Christianity, my friend. If you're white as I am you now represent the minority in Christendom. An incredible shift from 20 - 30 years ago, don't you think?

See hypocrisy of the breathtaking variety in action here.

Read Daniel Pipes on Israeli politics and the need to win a war, as opposed to trying to manage one.

That's it for today. Probably more stuff tomorrow.

The Man in Black

Monday, March 27, 2006

The Rise of the Roman Empire - Mar 27

I have decided to focus this particular post on what is happening in Europe these days. As told in the prophetic book of Daniel (chap. 2 and 7), there is to be a fourth kingdom, unlike all the previous empires (Babylonian, Medo-Persia and Greek). I believe we are in the final stages of that empire building as it waits to usurp the previous empire, namely American power. Since WW II, America has been the dominant power, taking over the reigns over a battered and bruised continental Europe. The 'old' Europe is finally getting it's act together while America reels under terrorist threats, amoral decadence, and a Bush-led Congress whose spending is out of control. There are talks, whispers really, that the world will start buying it's oil in euros rather than U.S. dollars. Well, you all know what follows next. A whisper turns into a shout and a trickle becomes a flood. I believe it's called the 'Exponential Theory' of history. Don't have time to discuss that now, maybe later. Now let's get down to business.

I have often extolled the virtues of stratfor, hence the reason of this link. Get some real-time intelligience for FREE! No joke, just fill out the form and become the life of the party with your geopolitical ramblings.

Also, from time to time, I will promote a blog that I feel is worthy of your rapturous attention. Here's an Egyptian blog called Free Copts.

Here is a story from CNN about the unprecedented (irreversible?) level of climate change that is unfolding before our very eyes.

From JINSA, an article on why Israel is so incredibly vital to American interests in the ME region.

I have a video for you about three very brave ex-Muslims who have come out and made public their displeasure with radical Islam. It runs 16:25 and requires Windows Media Player.

I have four links of interest as it pertains directly to European affairs. To wit:

1) Why is the Vatican all of a sudden cosying up to the Chinese? China has an atrocious human rights record as it pertains to it's native Christians.

2) There appears to be a 'core Europe' that is forming. Right now the group consists of six nations, but it is only a matter of time before we see our 'ten kings' ready to assume power.

3) How does a common EU energy policy strike you? Absolutely unthinkable five years ago but is a definite reality today.

4) Not to be outdone, the EU is flexing it's foreign policy muscles as it pertains to the problems in Belarus. Muscles from Brussels? What the ....? Anyway, expect much more of this as Europe begins to assert it's power.

Once again, I have outdone myself. More to follow ......

The Man in Black

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Israel, Rahman and Nature's Power - Mar 26

I have just a few rambling thoughts this Sunday evening. Please be especially in prayer over the land of Israel as it chooses it's new leader this Tuesday. I'm rooting for Bibi but you never can tell with Israeli politics.

Here are two wonderful videos as it pertains to Israel:
The Wailing Wall
Psalm 83

From worldnetdaily comes this gem concerning the city of Jerusalem.

There seems to be some good news with regards to Abdul Rahman in Afghanistan.

Here is some straight talk about the H5N1 virus. The author Marc Siegel is really taking to task those who are broadly speculating on the non-'bird flu' pandemic.

Here is some really crazy news about signs in the heavens. How does a total solar eclipse sound? Unfortunately, those of us in North America will not be able to see it.

See you tomorrow,

The Man in Black

Saturday, March 25, 2006

And Justice For All - Mar 25

I have a minor announcement to make. My subscription to stratfor is up and I'm not renewing. I will have something else in place though, sometime next week. Not to worry, here is the news from the past couple of days that is worth checking out.

There seems to be a lot going on wrt the Abdul Rahman case in Afghanistan. The clash of civilizations has well and truly begun. Here is an op-ed from Allan Wall of newsmax.

From Jihad Watch, a story of a growing victorious faith budding in Afghanistan

Here is the inestimable Ali Sina reporting on the growth of Christianity in Africa as well. Please note the incredible numbers of ex-Muslims coming to faith in Christ.

If you want to do something, anything (!) to save Abdul Rahman from execution, then sign this petition (I already have btw).

Our Adversary, looking around for someone to devour is also very busy. There is a new 'spiritism' that is sweeping the land. This is very, very dangerous, as it allows demons a passage into our material world.

Here is one very cool blog, one worthy of putting in your 'Favorites' folder:
The Pedestrian Infidel

In Canadian news, our boys are leaving the Golan Heights after 32 years of glorious service. Unfortunately, they are heading to Afghanistan where PM Harper has already paid a visit to the troops stationed there.

The Russians are shocked, shocked (!) about a Pentagon report that says they were feeding Saddam Hussein intelligience about U.S. forces prior to Operation Iraqi Freedom in '03.

Physicists are talking openly about the possibility of a geo-magnetic flip of the Earth's poles.

And keeping in the zeitgeist of this post, Bill O'Reilly gets the last word about the state of justice in America.

The Man in Black

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Bird Flu: The Gaza Petri Dish - Mar 23

Here is a really interesting angle on the H5N1 virus that has not been discussed before. I mean the Gaza Strip in Israel of all places! The conspiracy buffs will have a field day, no doubt about that. "Blame the Jews!" will be the cry, and the ignorance and foolishness of this world, especially in Muslim countries, will be fully out in the open.

The Man in Black

Stratfor -- Predictive, Insightful, Global Intelligence


Bird Flu: The Gaza Petri Dish
Mar 23, 2006

Summary

Bird flu has arrived in the Gaza Strip. While it is impossible to know whether or how the virus is going to mutate, it has a much better chance of becoming dangerous in Gaza.

Analysis

Acting Palestinian National Authority Health Minister Gassan Khatib announced March 22 that the H5N1 strain of bird flu had been discovered in the Netzarim region of the Gaza Strip. In days prior the virus had already been discovered in both the West Bank and Israel proper.

The threat from bird flu is multifaceted. At present the disease is only a broad threat to animals; among birds it is roughly as communicable as the human flu. It thankfully does not pass readily from birds to humans, but more importantly it so far has lacked the ability to jump at all from one human to another.

H5N1 affects different regions in different ways. In Europe, the threat is almost exclusively agricultural. It has been a long time since the average European has lived with a chicken. Because human-animal contact is so thin it should be no surprise that there has yet to be a single human bird-flu case anywhere in Europe. In contrast, human-animal contact in Vietnam is so omnipresent that roughly half of all human H5N1 cases have been in that Southeast Asian state.

In its current form, therefore, H5N1 is at worst a negligible human threat, and even then only among populations who find themselves regularly, intimately and unavoidably in the company of birds: farmers on small chicken farms. That hardly means that H5N1 is insignificant. In order to contain any outbreaks, a single case typically results in the culling of every chicken on the farm. In Vietnam's subsistence and family farming, that means killing just a few birds, but in the factory farms of Europe and the former Soviet Union, it means slaughtering tens of thousands.

The question on health experts' minds, of course, is: What if the virus mutates beyond its current relatively innocuous form? Comparisons to the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic are often made, and various authorities on the issue have postulated doomsday scenarios that range up to the infection of half of the U.S. population.

The summation of all these opinions, however, is that no one really knows what the virus will do. If the virus is going to mutate, the virus is going to mutate in a way that serves the virus' interests. For most pathogens, the route to maximum propagation more often than not involves becoming less lethal as they become more communicable, since becoming more lethal wipes out the host population.

But there is, of course, no way to reliably guarantee or predict such a scenario. Thus, most efforts have focused upon limiting the opportunities for the virus to mutate. That means limiting human-animal contact, and vigorously treating with antivirals and quarantining anyone who does become infected.

Which brings us back to the Gaza Strip, the most significant locale to date to catch the spreading bird flu. It is not significant because of population, economic vulnerability or whatnot, but because of what the territory means for the virus' chances of mutation.

In Asia, humans come into regular close contact with their birds, so they are susceptible to catching H5N1. But since Asians have the option of not living in close quarters or of moving a modicum of distance away from the fowl they can take simple measures to minimize their risk. Before such steps became common knowledge in Vietnam, new cases were springing up constantly. Since July 2005 there have only been six new cases, and none since New Years Day.

Gaza, however, is for all practical purposes a cramped refugee camp with a population density of about 10,000 per square mile -- nearly four times denser than packed-to-the-gills Bangladesh. In Gaza people live in close quarters with each other and their animals out of both circumstance and necessity -- and unlike everywhere else that H5N1 has been found there are neither options nor funding for changing things very much. In short, it is the perfect place for H5N1 to practice mutating into forms that are greater threats to human health.

Now as before, there is no way to know precisely what the virus is going to do next, but if H5N1 is going to mutate into a form that is going to cause problems for the human race, it is more likely to do so in a place like Gaza.

Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Putting Cards on the Table in Iraq - Mar 21

Went to see 'V for Vendetta' yesterday. If you've read Orwell and have seen (and liked) the Matrix trilogy than this movie is for you. Four out of five stars.
Now let's get to business, shall we?

The Liberals are making all sorts of hay about giving Harper the business. As I have reported previously, there WILL NOT be another general election in '06. The Liberals are $4m in the hole and have no leader. Once that problem is solved, then talk of toppling the minority Harper gov't will move beyond rhetoric into a more serious discussion. Harper, being no dummy himself, is of course fully aware of such shenanigans.

Also from the CBC, virologists are finding out why the H5N1 virus is not producing the human casualty count as 'experts' anticipated.

Why is the Jewish Left failing to stand up for Israel?

From the Associated Press comes an article about Al-Qaida setting up shop in Israel.

Two articles from the Russian media:

1) Russians unveil new fighter-bomber.

2) Is Iran trying to sell it's oil in euros? I believe THIS was the real reason why Bush ordered the Iraqi invasion, because Saddam wanted to sell his oil in euros rather than American dollars.

See Abdul Rahman and his testimony:
Afghan Times
Note: this link is now likely out of date. However, I'm leaving it in to show you I'm not cheating.

Y'know, one of the reasons why I like Americans is their optimism about the future. However, optimism that is divorced from hard reality is dangerous. Here is Daniel Pipes on U.S. foreign policy towards the ME and the hazards of seeing things through rose-tinted glasses.

Are al-Qaida's hackers beating the U.S. military to the punch when it comes to internet security?

Finally, here is a cool website to check out as it concerns the American Left.
Zombie Time

Whew!

The Man in Black

Putting Cards on the Table in Iraq - Mar 21, 2006

By George Friedman

The clouds couldn't have been darker last week. Everyone was talking about civil war in Iraq. Smart and informed people were talking about the real possibility of an American airstrike against Iran's nuclear capabilities. The Iranians were hurling defiance in every direction on the compass. U.S. President George W. Bush seemed to be politically on the ropes, unable to control his own party. And then seemingly out of nowhere, the Iranians offered to hold talks with the Americans on Iraq, and only Iraq. With the kind of lightning speed not seen from the White House for a while, the United States accepted. Suddenly, the two countries with the greatest stake in Iraq -- and the deepest hostility toward each other -- had agreed publicly to negotiate on Iraq.

To understand this development, we must understand that Iran and the United States have been holding quiet, secret, back-channel and off-the-record discussions for years -- but the discussions were no less important for all of that. The Iran-Contra affair, for example, could not have taken place had the Reagan administration not been talking to the Ayatollah Ruholla Khomeini's representatives. There is nothing new about Americans and Iranians talking; they have been doing it for years. Each side, for their own domestic reasons, has tried to hide the talks from public view, even when they were quite public, such as the Geneva discussions over Afghanistan prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.

What is dramatically new is the public nature of these talks now, and the subject matter: Iraq.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but the real players in Iraq are now going to sit down and see if they can reach some decisions about the country's future. They are going to do this over the heads of their various clients. Obviously, the needs of those clients will have to be satisfied, but in the end, the Iraq war is at least partly about U.S.-Iranian relations, and it is clear that both sides have now decided that it is time to explore a deal -- not in a quiet Georgetown restaurant, but in full view of the world. In other words, it is time to get serious.

The offer of public talks actually was not made by Iran. The first public proposal for talks came from U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad, who several months ago reported that he had been authorized by Bush to open two lines of discussion: One was with the non-jihadist Sunni leadership in Iraq; the other was with Iran. Interestingly, Khalilzad had emphasized that he was authorized to speak with the Iranians only about Iraq and not about other subjects. In other words, discussion of Iran's nuclear program was not going to take place. What happened last week was that the Iranians finally gave Khalilzad an answer: yes.

Iran's Slow Play

As we have discussed many times, Iraq has been Iran's obsession. It is an obsession rooted in ancient history; the Bible speaks of the struggle between Babylon and Persia for regional hegemony. It has some of its roots in more recent history as well: Iran lost about 300,000 people, with about 1 million more wounded and captured, in its 1980-88 war with Iraq. That would be the equivalent of more than 1 million dead Americans and an additional 4 million wounded and captured. It is a staggering number. Nothing can be understood about Iran until the impact of this war is understood. The Iranians, then, came out of the war with two things: an utter hatred of Saddam Hussein and his regime, and determination that this sort of devastation should never happen again.

After the United States decided, in Desert Storm, not to move on to Baghdad and overthrow the Hussein regime -- and after the catastrophic failure of the Shiite rising in southern Iraq -- the Iranians established a program of covert operations that was designed to increase their control of the Shiite population in the south. The Iranians were unable to wage war against Hussein but were content, after Desert Storm, that he could not attack Iran. So they focused on increasing their influence in the south and bided their time. They could not take out Hussein, but they still wanted someone to do so. That someone was the Americans.

Iran responded to the 9/11 attacks in a predictable manner. First, Iran was as concerned by al Qaeda as the United States was. The Iranians saw themselves as the vanguard of revolutionary Islam, and they did not want to see their place usurped by Wahhabis, whom they viewed as the tool of another regional rival, Saudi Arabia. Thus, Tehran immediately offered U.S. forces the right to land, at Iranian airbases, aircraft that were damaged during operations in Afghanistan. Far more important, the Iranians used their substantial influence in western and northern Afghanistan to secure allies for the United States. They wanted the Taliban gone. This is not to say that some al Qaeda operatives, having paid or otherwise induced regional Iranian commanders, didn't receive some sanctuary in Iran; the Iranians would have given sanctuary to Osama bin Laden if that would have neutralized him. But Tehran's policy was to oppose al Qaeda and the Taliban, and to quietly support the United States in its war against them. This was no stranger, really, than the Americans giving anti-tank missiles to Khomeini in the 1980s.

But the main chance that Iran saw was getting the Americans to invade Iraq and depose their true enemy, Saddam Hussein. The United States was not led to invade Iraq by the Iranians -- that would be too simple a model. However, the Iranians, with their excellent intelligence network in Iraq, helped to smooth the way for the American decision. Apart from providing useful tactical information, the Iranians led the Americans to believe three things:

1. That Iraq did have weapons of mass destruction programs.

2. That the Iraqis would not resist U.S. operations and would greet the Americans as liberators.

3. By omission, that there would be no postwar resistance in Iraq.

Again, this was not decisive, but it formed an important part of the analytical framework through which the Americans viewed Iraq.

The Iranians wanted the United States to defeat Hussein. They wanted the United States to bear the burden of pacifying the Sunni regions of Iraq. They wanted U.S. forces to bog down in Iraq so that, in due course, the Americans would withdraw -- but only after the Sunnis were broken -- leaving behind a Shiite government that would be heavily influenced by Iran. The Iranians did everything they could to encourage the initial engagement and then stood by as the United States fought the Sunnis. They were getting what they wanted.

Counterplays and Timing

What they did not count on was American flexibility. From the first battle of Al Fallujah onward, the United States engaged in negotiations with the Sunni leadership. The United States had two goals: one, to use the Sunni presence in a new Iraqi government to block Iranian ambitions; and two, to split the Sunnis from the jihadists. It was the very success of this strategy, evident in the December 2005 elections, that caused Iraqi Shia to move away from the Iranians a bit, and, more important, caused the jihadists to launch an anti-Shiite rampage. The jihadists' goal was to force a civil war in Iraq and drive the Sunnis back into an unbreakable alliance with them.

In other words, the war was not going in favor of either the United States or Iran. The Americans were bogged down in a war that could not be won with available manpower, if by "victory" we mean breaking the Sunni-jihadist will to resist. The Iranians envisioned the re-emergence of their former Baathist enemies. Not altogether certain of the political commitments or even the political savvy of their Shiite allies in Iraq, they could now picture their worst nightmare: a coalition government in which the Sunnis, maneuvering with the Kurds and Americans, would dominate an Iraqi government. They saw Tehran's own years of maneuvering as being in jeopardy. Neither side could any longer be certain of the outcome.

In response, each side attempted, first, to rattle the other. Iran's nuclear maneuver was designed to render the Americans more forthcoming; the assumption was that a nuclear Iran would be more frightening, from the American point of view, than a Shiite Iraq. The Americans held off responding and then, a few weeks ago, began letting it be known that not only were airstrikes against Iran possible, but that in fact they were being seriously considered and that deadlines were being drawn up.

This wasn't about nuclear weapons but about Iraq, as both sides made clear when the talks were announced. Both players now have all their cards on the table. Iran bluffed nukes, the United States called the bluff and seemed about to raise. Khalilzad's request for talks was still on the table. The Iranians took it. This was not really done in order to forestall airstrikes -- the Iranians were worried about that only on the margins. What Iran had was a deep concern and an interesting opportunity.

The concern was that the situation in Iraq was spinning out of its control. The United States was no longer predictable, the Sunnis were no longer predictable, and even the Iranians' Shiite allies were not playing their proper role. The Iranians were playing for huge stakes in Iraq and there were suddenly too many moving pieces, too many things that could go wrong.

The Iranians also saw an opportunity. Bush's political position in the United States had deteriorated dramatically. As it deteriorated, his room for maneuver declined. The British had made it clear that they were planning to leave Iraq. Bush had really not been isolated before, as his critics always charged, but now he was becoming isolated -- domestically as well as internationally. Bush needed badly to break out of the political bind he was in. The administration had resisted pressure to withdraw troops under a timetable, but it no longer was clear whether Congress would permit Bush to continue to resist. The president did not want his hands tied by Congress, but it seemed to the Iranians that was exactly what was happening.

From the Iranian point of view, if ever a man has needed a deal, it is Bush. If there are going to be any negotiations, they are to happen now. From Bush's point of view, he does need a deal, but so do the Iranians -- things are ratcheting out of control from Tehran's point of view as well. For domestic Iraqi players, the room to maneuver is increasing, while the room to maneuver for foreign players is decreasing. In other words, the United States and Iran have, for the moment, the unified interest of managing Iraq, rather than seeing a civil war or a purely domestic solution.

The Next Phase of the Game

The Iranians want at least to Finlandize Iraq. During the Cold War, the Soviets did not turn Finland into a satellite, but they did have the right to veto members of its government, to influence the size and composition of its military and to require a neutral foreign policy. The Iranians wanted more, but they will settle for keeping the worst of the Baathists out of the government and for controls over Iraq's international behavior. The Americans want a coalition government within the limits of a Finlandic solution. They do not want a purely Shiite government; they want the Sunnis to deal with the jihadists, in return for guaranteed Sunni rights in Iraq. Finally, the United States wants the right to place a force in Iraq -- aircraft and perhaps 40,000 troops -- outside the urban areas, in the west. The Iranians do not really want U.S. troops so close, so they will probably argue about the number and the type. They do not want to see heavy armored units but can live with lighter units stationed to the west.

Now obviously, in this negotiation, each side will express distrust and indifference. The White House won the raise by expressing doubts as to Tehran's seriousness; the implication was that the Iranians were buying time to work on their nukes. Perhaps. But the fact is that Tehran will work on nukes as and when it wants, and Washington will destroy the nukes as and when it wants. The nukes are non-issues in the real negotiations.

There are three problems now with negotiations. One is Bush's ability to keep his coalition intact while he negotiates with a member of the "axis of evil." Another is Iran's ability to keep its coalition together while it negotiates with the "Great Satan." And third is the ability of either to impose their collective will on an increasingly self-reliant Iraqi polity. The two major powers are now ready to talk. What is not clear is whether, even together, they will be in a position to impose their will on the Iraqis. The coalitions will probably hold, and the Iraqis will probably submit. But those are three "probablies." Not good.

All wars end in negotiations. Clearly, the United States and Iran have been talking quietly for a long time. They now have decided it is time to make their talks public. That decision by itself indicates how seriously they both take these conversations now.

Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Belarus, EU, Australia, and Katrina - Mar 20

It appears that any hope of a 'people power' revolution in Belarus is going to fizzle out. Lukashenko is too powerful, too well connected and the opposition too fragmented for any hope of immediate change. This thing might still take off but I doubt it. Here are some other article that have crossed my desk that I hope you'll find interesting.

In Australia, some photos of the damage of Cyclone Larry.

In New Orleans, the dead are still being counted seven months after Katrina.

When a standing U.S. president declares that it will defend Israel, that usually bodes ill for the region.

The Chief Rabbi of Israel, Yona Metzger, call for a 'U.N. of religions' Yikes!

In the EU, a move continues towards a common driver's license an EU-wide arrest warrant.

And just because it's my blog and not yours, here is a cool picture of Cindy Klassen.

Geopolitical Diary: The Elections in Belarus - Mar 20, 2006

The presidential election in Belarus came and went on Sunday very much as expected. Turnout was high, incumbent President Aleksandr Lukashenko won an overwhelming majority of the vote, and no other candidates made it to double digits. There had been only two questions of consequence prior to the vote: One, would there be violence; and two, would the opposition be able to remain intact after the election? There seemed for a time to be cause for concern about the first issue. In the run-up to Sunday's ballot, it appeared that authorities were preparing for a serious crackdown if protesters gave them opportunity. Several opposition members and even a candidate were arrested on dubious charges: The Belarusian KGB claimed to have discovered incriminating documents and proof -- involving international organizations -- that a coup was being planned. Poland, Georgia, Ukraine and Lithuania were accused of planning to instigate violence and disorder.As of this writing, however, no violence had occurred. Nearly 30,000 people took part in a peaceful march in the main square of Minsk on Sunday, with a similar demonstration planned for Monday. Freezing temperatures played the biggest role in disbanding Sunday's protest, though there have been some allegations that authorities contributed to the weather using snow-making machines.International observers were present at voting stations and generally found the proceedings satisfactory. In Belarus, however, that counts for little. Approximately 30 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots during the early voting period, during which there was little or no monitoring and plenty of opportunity for falsification. And while Lukashenko refrained from using his allotted broadcast time to boost his campaign, his face and slogans inundated the media. According to the Russian think tank Yuri Levada Center, which conducted exit polls, Lukashenko gathered only 45 percent of the vote (a mere 30 percent in the capital, Minsk), while Aleksandr Milinkevich, the main opposition candidate, took 30 percent -- enough to qualify for a run-off vote. The exit polls officially publicized by the Central Elections Committee, however, projected that Lukashenko took from 80 percent to more than 90 percent of the vote -- with more than 70 percent of the ballots counted -- and cited voter turnout of approximately 90 percent. The committee, which is beholden to the president, has done its duty in announcing numbers that give Lukashenko the desired showing of support, and a second round of voting will not be held.Dubious though appearances may be, the truth is that Lukashenko does enjoy significant support in Belarus. It may not be the overwhelming majority the central election committee's numbers reflect, but a large number of citizens are indeed grateful to him for the economic growth, political stability and peace Belarus has experienced during his 12 years in power. Most of that stability, of course, stems from Russia's ongoing and almost total subsidization of Belarus. Russian President Vladimir Putin is not a great fan of Lukashenko's, but Moscow still needs Minsk as a buffer against the West. Belarus borders both European Union and NATO countries -- and with Ukraine constantly on the brink of falling into the embrace of the West, Putin is not about to give up his comrade.Belarus' neighbors to the West certainly have their own hopes for regime change. Poland and Lithuania actively direct political broadcasts into Belarus and support the opposition. The banned European Humanities University has taken up residence in Vilnius, only a couple hours' drive from its former location in Minsk. In western Belarus, there is a sizeable Polish minority, which has sided with the opposition and has been persecuted alongside it. Countries that have become "experts" at electoral revolutions -- Serbia, Ukraine and Georgia -- have sent representatives to train and support the Belarusians. Their goal now is to keep the opposition coalition intact until another opportunity -- whether to take power or even just to take a public stand -- presents itself.Not surprisingly, Milinkevich -- the leader of the united opposition -- has claimed that Sunday's vote was fraudulent. However, the truth is that neither Milinkevich, a former physicist, nor another opposition candidate, Aleksandr Kozulin, ever had a realistic chance of winning. Kozulin ran an outspoken and provocative campaign, but Milinkevich -- who has called for peaceful demonstrations -- did everything possible to stay within the law, including refraining from lobbing insults at Lukashenko (a new law carries a five-year prison sentence for "insulting the credibility of the government"). Had the administration wished to silence him, officials easily could have pinned charges on him (as they have with many of his staff and supporters). The fact that Milinkevich is supported abroad matters little to Lukashenko -- he has never cared what others say about him so long as he retains Russia's backing.However, Western interests do have a part to play if Milinkevich is to hold his coalition together. With the election results a foregone conclusion, attention to Belarus naturally will subside. For the opposition to maintain support will require continuous appeals to the EU, the United States and to international organizations for sanctions against Belarus or any action intended to affect Lukashenko's regime.Milinkevich, then, may retain the ability to rally his supporters, but it is Russia -- which has a geopolitical need for Belarus and the status quo -- that will dictate political realities in Minsk for the foreseeable future. The opposition's only course of action now is to hold on for better times. Its success will depend on its patience.

Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The ME, LPC, A Cyclone and Pirates - Mar 19

Hope you all are enjoying a lazy Sunday today. However, the world is definitely not standing still as we hurtle towards our appointed time with our Creator. Here are some articles I've managed to come across today.

In Lebanon, Hizbollah is making some overtly hostile moves against Israel.

In Iran, a dissident is released. Akbar Ganji has spent six years of his life in prison for criticizing the Iranian mullahcracy. Please note this is not the original link from Reuters as it expired. I have substituted a link from wikipedia in it's place.

In Afghanistan, Abdul Rahman will probably be murdered by the state for committing apostasy against Islam.

Wars and Rumors of Wars Dep't. Iraqi Shia discuss openly the real possibility of civil war. This of course begs the question, "What's so civil about war anyways?".

UN says humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Good on 'em I say. Let them trade in their AK-47's and RPG's for bread and butter. And then convert them all to Judaism or Christianity before we lift a finger or pay a penny to help them.

Will there be an another general election in Canada in 2007? My bet is yes. The Liberal Party of Canada are short on funds and have no leader after Mr. Martin stepped down but that problem might be solved by December '06. All it will take is to muster enough votes in the House of Commons to bring the Harper gov't down. An election might be called in February with the vote going down sometime in March. Just a guess, mind you. Politics is an unpredictable game at the best of times.

Cyclone Larry is battering the hell out of NE Australia (Queensland). Larry is a Category 4, which of course is a major storm.

Read about the U.S. Navy kicking ass and taking names off the coast of Somalia.

That's all for today. Probably more to follow tomorrow.

The Man in Black

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Just The Facts, Ma'am - Mar 18

I have lots of stuff to cover, hence no real title to go off.

Three hospitalized in Israel over the bird flu, and the same deal in Egypt, too.

Strange outbreak (non-fatal) on Reunion Islands (French held territory).

Also from breitbart, materials to make bombs get past screeners at 21 U.S. airports! There, there, don't you feel safer now?

Did you know that Russian gold reserves have jumped 47.8 percent this year?

Click on this hyperlink to see evidence of Genesis 1:1.

In a surprising Gallup poll, Christianity is rising in Japan of all places. What is particularly encouraging is the fact that young people are the ones leading the charge. Praise the Lord!

Here are two funny links that have to be read to be believed:

Why bother joining the Canadian Navy when for $4.00 (plus tax of course) you can BUY yourself a navy!

If you love cats, hate cats, or have ever known a cat, here is video that is ROTF funny:

See? All is not doom and gloom! Look up! Your redemption draws nigh!

The Man in Black

The U.S. and Iran discuss Iraq - Mar 18

Here is some interesting stuff. Iran and the 'Great Satan' are getting down to brass tacks wrt the future of Iraq. As stratfor has noted, this just indicates that back-channel negotiations were always on the go, even if no-one wanted to admit it.

The Man in Black

Stratfor -- Predictive, Insightful, Global Intelligence


Geopolitical Diary: The Beginning of the End Game
Mar 17, 2006

It appears that the United States and Iran are now going to begin public talks on Iraq. The Iranian News Agency reported Thursday that Ali Larijani, secretary of Iran's Supreme National Security Council, told a closed session of the Majlis that Iran had agreed to a request by the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq to negotiate with Washington on Iraq. Also on Thursday, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the United States is open to holding talks with Iran about Iraq. He emphasized that such talks must be confined to Iraq and not involve nuclear issues.

Barring one tremendous coincidence, the near-simultaneous announcements from Washington and Tehran clearly mean that there have been prior consultations. We long have felt that such back-channel conversations were under way. Indeed, it would be incredible if they weren't. The United States and Iran both have deep interests in Iraq, some of which coincide and some of which collide. The two countries have a history of secret diplomacy dating back to the birth of the Islamic Republic. Clearly, they have been talking and now have decided to make the talks public.

The White House emphasized that nuclear weapons would not be discussed, making it appear that it was Washington that was taking this off the table. The nuclear issue, however, is off the table because it is not the point. Iraq is and always was the key issue between the United States and Iran; nuclear weapons have been an Iranian lever to get Washington to take it more seriously. That has clearly happened.

If there is ever going to be an end game in Iraq, we are now in it. Operation Swarmer, launched Thursday, seemed designed to attack jihadists in the Sunni regions. The key to the U.S.-Sunni conversation has been getting the Sunnis into the political process and, as a result, getting the Sunnis to help liquidate the jihadists. If Swarmer was launched on the basis of Sunni intelligence, and if that intelligence turns out to be accurate, it will be a key event in recent Iraqi history. Those are big "ifs," of course. At the same time, if the Sunnis are joining the political process, then it is time for Iran to negotiate its final price on Iraq, and that appears now to be happening. Taken together, this is not the end, but the beginning of the end game, and success is not guaranteed.

The Iranians want a pro-Tehran government in Iraq. If the Sunnis are in the mix, that is not going to happen. The fallback, and essential position of Iran, is that Iraq should be completely neutral. This will hinge not only on the shape of the Baghdad government, but on certain guarantees concerning the size and armament of the Iraqi military. The last thing Tehran wants is the resurrection of a massive Iraqi military force that could threaten Iran, under a government in which Shiite domination is not permanently guaranteed.

The United States wants to build an Iraqi army to fight the jihadists. That's fine with the Iranians, but in their view that military force must be calibrated so that it is sufficient for internal missions and insufficient to threaten Iran. Whatever the structure of Iraq's new government, no one can guarantee its future. But there can be controls over the types of equipment the Iraqis can acquire. So the United States will want enough for counterinsurgency operations and will happily accept limitations on the military's size so that it cannot threaten Iran.

On the other hand, the United States -- prodded by Saudi Arabia -- does want the force to be large enough to limit Iran's ability to invade and dominate Iraq. Washington wants the balance of power in the region to re-establish itself. At the same time, the United States wants to make certain that the Iraqi government is not simply and unilaterally in the hands of the Shia, and that Sunni and Kurdish interests are protected.

If those things are achieved, then the nuclear issue will be mooted on both sides. But what is easy to write is more difficult to negotiate. Can and will the Sunnis turn on the jihadists? Can there be agreement on the size of the Iraqi military that will satisfy both Iranian concerns and American needs? How can these agreements be enforced over the long haul? Will the Iranians see President George W. Bush's political weakness as too great for credibility? Will the Americans trust that the Iranian negotiators are not setting them up? Endless questions arise.

Whether agreement can be reached is not clear. Only the basic issue is now clear. Nuclear weapons, democracy in Iraq and all the other peripheral issues will now take a backseat to the core issue: The future of Iraq being negotiated by Washington and Tehran, with the Iraqi parties arraying themselves around these discussions.

Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Paddy's Day pt. 2 - Mar 17

Apparently, many of us in the blogosphere were having major problems posting to their respective blogs. In lieu of yesterday's non-post, I have decided to get rid of my bookmarks and clear up some backlog.

Read here about the Great Canadian Conspiracy!

By now you have heard of the tragedy in Afghanistan concerning Canadian troops and an Afghani taxi driver. The second link is about the reaction from the family who are obviously upset and angry.

Here are three articles of interest wrt the incredible and unpredictable forces of nature:

1) Mexico has found a whole oilfield offshore!

2) Red snow falls in Russia!

3) The Horn of Africa is slowly being torn away from rest of the continent.

Had some other stuff but decided not to bother.

The Man in Black

Happy St. Patrick's Day! - Mar 17

OK, so when I say St. Patrick's Day, what do you think of? Green beer and leprechauns right? Well, we here at the X-Def like to buck the trend so I've decided to give you a stratfor article about the problems Musharraf is having in Pakistan. Look at it as 'outside the box' thinking.

Mr. Johnny Cash

Geopolitical Diary: The Growing Opposition to Musharraf
Mar 16, 2006

Pakistani forces blew up a seminary -- the Khalifa Madrassa in North Waziristan agency, part of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas -- on Wednesday. It was the third religious seminary to be demolished in the area in the past two weeks, since Islamabad launched another wave of anti-jihadist operations. The previous day, Afghan President Hamid Karzai had demanded Pakistan's full cooperation against al Qaeda and Taliban elements, saying that without it, the world would not be safe.

Islamabad and Kabul have been waging a war of words since U.S. President George W. Bush's recent visit to the region. Islamabad has bitterly criticized statements from Afghan leaders that Pakistan is not doing enough, but the pressure it is feeling is coming not only from Karzai but the Bush administration as well. Thus, the Pakistani military launched operations against jihadists in the tribal belt shortly before Bush's March 3 visit. The fact that there was a bombing in Karachi hours before Air Force One was to touch down in Islamabad practically forced Islamabad's hand.

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's attempts to respond to external pressures, however, are only deepening his domestic problems, which seem to be worsening by the day. The pressure Bush applied about democratization, the deaf ear he turned to Islamabad's demands on Kashmir and the nuclear deal he sealed with India just before his arrival have caused Pakistan's opposition parties to conclude that the love affair between Washington and Islamabad is over. Put differently, the opposition groups are sensing an opportunity to bring down the Musharrafian system.

Public anger at Musharraf's handling of the jihadist war certainly runs deep. U.S. strikes against al Qaeda militants, carried out on Pakistani soil, are viewed as violations of the country's sovereignty that Musharraf has permitted. And furthermore, counterterrorist offensives have been the cause of many civilian deaths: The severity of the fighting in the most recent operation by Pakistani troops forced many North Waziristan residents to flee the area.

Islamist, conservative, liberal and ethnic political groups now are trying to leverage public resentment against the regime in order to forge a broad political movement. The Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA), Pakistan People's Party Parliamentarians (PPP-P) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have all said that they intend to boycott any elections held in 2007 under the Musharraf regime. Instead, they have called for an interim caretaker government to conduct the elections, with an impartial election commission. PPP-P and the PML-N members also are thinking of resigning their seats in the current parliament and are trying to get their exiled leadership to return to the country.

The Pakistanis' disgust with Musharraf has been benefiting Islamist political groups since the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. What is fairly new about the situation, however, is that now conservatives and (to a lesser degree) liberals are seeking to exploit the fallout from anti-jihadists efforts to their advantage as well. The conservative-liberal opposition coalition called the Alliance for the Restoration of Democracy (ARD) is, however, wary of joining hands with the Islamist MMA coalition, fearing that the Islamists would overpower them in such a union. Among other things, the ARD's leadership is in exile, and the MMA is firmly entrenched in the existing political system. It is little wonder, then, that ARD members have proposed resigning their seats in parliament, while the MMA is lukewarm at best on such a move.

These schisms among the opposition are a source of comfort for Musharraf, but he still is under considerable pressure to turn things around, and soon: A mere guarantee of weakness among his opponents will not secure the survival of his regime.

Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Too Much! - Mar 14

I decided not to post yesterday as nothing in particular caught my eye. Well today I have completely outdone myself. Here are twelve links (!), a record for a post.

From India and Africa I bring you three articles.

1) See the new face of an emerging church in India.

2) More famine and tales of woe from Somalia.

3) Read about the hell that Robert Mugabe has created in Zimbabwe.

Here are four links specifically to do with the Jewish people and the land of Israel:

1) Read what Hal Lindsey has to say about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

2) Israel is seriously considering a pre-emptive attack on Iran.

3)Why, oh why, are 387 rabbis colluding with Hamas?

4) JINSA weighs in on the (failed) state of 'Palestine'.

In business news, it appears our 'fearless leaders' are neatly leading the sheep to slaughter:

1) U.S trade deficit to hit $804.9bn.

2) Russia and the EU are forming a single market energy plan.

3) Arab central banks are moving towards the euro and away from the U.S. dollar.

And two more links in the miscellany file which are not to be missed:

1) 666 Alert: "Sir, your chip implant is ready!"

2) Britain to rid itself of that whole messy 'freedom of speech' thing.

WOW! Be sober and vigilant my friend, and keep praying for Israel's redemption.

The Man in Black

Questions Surround The Bush Presidency - Mar 14

There is an old saying:"When the cat is away the mice will play". However, when those mice are North Korea and Iran, then you have some serious problems.

The Man in Black

The Presidency: Deepening Questions - Mar 14, 2006

By George Friedman


Readers know that we have been tracking one issue almost above all others since last fall: the strength of the Bush presidency. The question that emerged following Hurricane Katrina was whether the administration would become a classic failed presidency or whether, having flirted with disaster, it would recover. Last week, the first indicator (apart from routine approval polls) came in: Congress, in essence, blocked a deal that would have put a state-run company from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in charge of several U.S. ports.

Far more important than the ports issue or congressional assertiveness over the deal was the fact that the revolt was led by Republicans. Democratic opposition was predictable and uninteresting, but the open rebellion among Republicans was far less predictable and highly significant. In fact, it was of extraordinary importance.

In our view, the business deal in question -- the acquisition by Dubai Ports World of a British company that has managed the ports up to now -- does not increase the threat to U.S. national security, which is substantial regardless of who manages the ports. In the broadest sense, whether the UAE gets a contract to run the ports is neither here nor there. If they got it, it would mean little; if they were denied it, U.S. relations with the Islamic world would not get much worse. It is not an important issue.

What is a vitally important issue is whether President George W. Bush has the ability to govern. Presidents, unlike prime ministers, do not leave office when they lose the confidence of voters; the Framers did not want a parliamentary system. What happens, rather, is that a president can lose the ability to govern -- either because he cannot get needed legislation passed, or because Congress blocks his initiatives. Congress controls the purse strings and can, by withholding funds, shut down presidential initiatives. That is how the Vietnam War ended: Congress cut off all military aid to South Vietnam, and it collapsed. The idea that a president can continue to govern without congressional support, because of the inherent powers of the presidency, simply isn't true. You wind up with a paralyzed government.

Consider that Bush recently returned from India with a series of agreements on U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation. It is far from certain that Bush will be able to muster the two-thirds vote needed in the Senate in order to get a treaty passed; there is substantial unease in Congress about U.S. acquiescence to any nuclear proliferation, and there is not a powerful pro-Indian lobby on the Hill. Now, it also is possible that Bush will be able to get the votes. But the problem that is emerging is that the president no longer has the ability to negotiate with full confidence. Any foreign leader in negotiations will be aware that the president's word is not final and there will have to be dealings with Congress as well. Since reaching an agreement with the U.S. president, and then having it repudiated by Congress, is more than a little embarrassing for foreign leaders, they will be much more careful in making agreements with Bush -- and much less susceptible to any threats he might issue, since it would not be clear that he has the backing to carry them out.

Context of the Controversy

As we have previously discussed, Bush is not the first president to face political paralysis; most who did encountered it over foreign policy issues. Wilson collapsed over the League of Nations, Truman over Korea. Johnson collapsed over Vietnam, and Nixon had Watergate with a touch of Vietnam. Carter was done in by the Iranian hostage situation. But there is one difference between these and the current president: Bush is only one year into his second term. He has just reached a critical low in approval ratings and Republicans have begun distancing themselves. If he doesn't recover, it will be one of the longest failed presidencies in history. There would be three years in which foreign powers would operate with diminished concern for U.S. wishes and responses. Three years is a very long time.

It is important to understand why this has happened. The ports deal does not stand alone. It was preceded by what, in retrospect, is appearing to have had a substantial effect: the Danish cartoon controversy. That affair had a startling effect in the West and the United States that is still reverberating.

Western views of the Muslim world appear to have been divided into two camps. One camp holds that radical Islamists and jihadists are a marginal force in the Muslim world, which is dominated by a moderate mainstream. The other holds that Islam is an inherently intolerant and violent religion, and that the idea of a moderate tendency within Islam amounts to self-delusion. Those who took the first view argued that the extreme response the United States has taken to al Qaeda has weakened moderates in the Muslim world, played into the hands of the radicals and increased the danger of terrorism. Those who took the second view argued that a state of war exists, not between the United States and al Qaeda, but between the West and Islam.

The cartoon affair weakened the first school of thought and strengthened the second. The publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed generated a massive outpouring of anger from the Muslim world. Some very publicly called for the death of the cartoonists, Danes, Scandinavians and so on, and even moderate Muslims argued that the West was insensitive to their religious feelings. This Muslim response ran directly counter to the Western view, which holds freedom of expression above all values. Moreover, the idea that Muslims have a right not to be offended struck many as outrageous. Since Muslims do not believe that everyone has a right to publicly express negative opinions when it comes to God and his prophet, the collision was absolute.

In the context of the United States, the cartoon controversy should have strengthened Bush politically, by strengthening his support base among national-security conservatives. But Bush did not reach out with an effort to draw those who were offended by the Muslim response into his coalition. Instead of defending the right to free speech regardless of who is offended, Bush tried to reach out to Muslims, expressing regret over the pain the cartoons had caused. In other words, rather than capitalizing on the event to broaden his political base, he left his own supporters wondering what he was talking about. Some of these supporters saw the Islamic response to the cartoons as vindication of their view that all Muslims are potentially dangerous and enemies. Thus, while Bush was reaching out to the Islamic world, a key part of his coalition was becoming even more radical.

The GOP Mutiny

In the wake of the cartoon affair, this faction saw the transfer of U.S. ports to Arab hands as completely unacceptable under any circumstances. They didn't care if the UAE had cooperated with the United States against jihadists or not. They recalled that at least one of the Sept. 11 operatives was a UAE citizen, and they viewed UAE citizens the same way they tended to view all Muslim moderates -- as appearing to be moderate but ultimately falling on the side of the radicals. Whatever the truth might be, this faction was not prepared to collaborate when it came to the ports.

Democrats, like Sen. Charles Schumer, saw an opening and went for it. That's to be expected, it's what the opposition does. But the response among Republican national-security conservatives was visceral and explosive. Even if Republican senators and congressman did not agree with the views held by their constituents, the pressure they were under still would have been enormous. Thus, they broke with Bush in the face of his early threat to veto any legislation blocking the ports deal. By the end, the president was in retreat, very publicly unable to get his way.

This has not happened before. The president's Social Security initiative died a sort of death, but an outright repudiation of Bush led by Republicans is unprecedented. This likely would not have happened if Bush had not slipped in the polls as he did -- but on the other hand, a lot of his slippage has come from within his coalition. Of late, it was the Republicans who were bolting. Within the party, Bush has held the support of the social conservatives, and he continues to hold the economic conservatives and business interests. But the national security conservatives splintered, and it is not clear that they will come back aboard.

Iraq, Investigations and Fatigue

It is significant that the White House overlooked the political opportunity presented by the cartoon affair and then blundered with the handling of the ports issue. The White House under Bush has had its defects, but these kinds of mistakes have not been common. When one also considers the way Vice President Dick Cheney's hunting accident was handled, the crisp cadences that marked the old Bush White House seem to be gone. We are not talking here about policy matters, but simply the mechanics of running the White House -- of knowing that the UAE deal was about to break.

The core problem for the administration is, of course, Iraq. No matter how much progress one thinks is being made, the fact is that the progress is far from solid, and from the standpoint of American voters, it doesn't seem particularly persuasive. Bush has burned through a huge amount of political capital because of the war. In the end, it is not the cartoons or the ports that did this to Bush, but above all else, his inability to devise an end game in Iraq.

But there are other important, if lesser, considerations. One factor, which we have mentioned before, is that Bush's staff is exhausted. There is no one very important around him who hasn't been there from the beginning. Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, Chief of Staff Andrew Card -- all have been on the job for five years. Not only is there burnout, but they have made their share of mistakes. The president's unusual resistance to bringing in fresh blood is clearly damaging his ability to operate the political system.

We suspect that this situation is compounded by two ongoing investigations. One, concerning the Plame affair, has already resulted in an indictment for Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis Libby, who is obviously under heavy pressure from the prosecutor to name other names. Rumors (not worthy of the name intelligence) say that Rove is well in the prosecutor's sights now, and that he is trying to gather evidence against Cheney as well. Lobbyist Jack Abramoff is another concern; in a recent article in Vanity Fair, Abramoff asserted that plenty of senior Republicans knew what he was doing and had no problem with it. While Libby might remain loyal to the administration, Abramoff, it seems, is going to look out for Abramoff. He is clearly talking, and we wonder how much the White House is preoccupied with those investigations. Something is on their minds aside from governing.

The Geopolitical Implications

Whatever is going on, there could be profound geopolitical consequences. The United States is the center of gravity of the international system. When a failed presidency is on the table, the world begins to operate in a different way. The North Koreans and the Chinese, for example, wouldn't negotiate seriously with the United States while Truman was president; they waited for Eisenhower. The North Vietnamese waited for Nixon. Not only did they not want to negotiate with a president who couldn't guarantee agreements, but in fact, the feeling was that time was on their side after Watergate crippled Nixon. The fact that Nixon no longer had any military options that wouldn't be blocked by Congress certainly contributed to the final collapse of Saigon. And the Iranians wouldn't negotiate with Carter over the hostages; they waited for Reagan.

The United States has some crucial negotiations under way. In Iraq, it is trying to broker a deal between the Shia and Sunnis. Its ability to do so, however, depends to a great degree on the perception by both parties that Bush can deliver on both threats and promises. Further complicating matters, the British have announced plans for a drawdown in Iraq, even mentioning a timetable. There are broad implications here. First, if Bush no longer is able to provide guarantees for what is said at the bargaining table, Iraq will suddenly take a dramatically different course. Second, if the Iranians know that Bush doesn't have military options in Iraq and cannot engage in covert negotiations authoritatively, that entire dynamic is changed. Similarly, if the Pakistanis conclude they have nothing to fear from Bush, then that changes everything for Islamabad. Go through the list, from Russia to China, and we see easily what it could mean.

Now, can Bush recover from this weakened position? It is possible, but the historical record for such recoveries is not good. Most presidents who have sunk to such low approval ratings and have a rebellion within their party never recover. The reason is that a psychological barrier has been broken -- and a political one as well. In the GOP, everyone is looking at the 2006 elections. Congress members have to run for re-election; the president doesn't. Bush and Cheney have terrible ratings. It is unlikely, then, that campaign swings into contested areas by either of them will aid the party's chances. At the moment, staying far away from both officials is the most rational strategy for congressional candidates. And to do that, senators and congressmen have to publicly show their independence.

Bush needs a win as badly as Truman, Johnson, Nixon and Carter did. The Koreans, Vietnamese and Iranians made certain those presidents didn't get one. The difference here, the chief wild card, is that those presidents measured their remaining time in terms of a year or so (though Nixon didn't know how short his time actually would be). Bush has three years left in office.

If the Koreans had to face three years of Truman after negotiations started, they might have acted differently. In Iraq, it could be that American weakness compels the Sunnis and the Shia to sort things out themselves.

Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Iran, Afghanistan, and Russia - Mar 12

Here is the second post of the day. This is very unusual for me, I decided to do it now as opposed to tomorrow as Mondays tend to be very busy prophetically. As a believer in the exponential theory of history, it is becoming more and more apparent the nearness of Christ's return. Things are speeding by so fast, that the evidence of His return to take His Bride (the church) and establish His millenial kingdom is unmistakable. Therefore be watchful and sober, for ye know not when the Son of Man cometh!

Stephen Harper has just made a secret surprise visit to the troops in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Your average trip to a foreign country this definitely was NOT! Here is the picture gallery to prove it (flash req'd).

Iran has just rejected the Russian proposal that nuclear enrichment happen on Russian soil, not in Iran. I suspected that this was a sham all along anyways, all this does is to prove it.

Jack Kinsella offers a chilling assessment on Russian foreign policy moves concerning it's abandonment of the INF treaty made between Reagan and Gorbachev.

Like I said, only a fool can ignore all the prophetic signs that are occuring today.

Shalom Yerushaliym,

The Man in Black

A Slice of Canadiana - Mar 12

It's a gorgeous day outside, so as to not spoil the mood, I've got three links from the CBC on topics that are quintessentially Canadian. As well, a video from MEMRI worth seeing and a curious business merger worth noting.

This one ought to be put into the Dudley Do-Right File.

Did you know Canada's motto, "From sea to sea" is inspired by Psalm 72:8?

By now you have heard of Bernie 'Boom-Boom' Geoffrion's death from stomach cancer. They had a touching tribute to him last night at the Bell Centre in Montreal.

Here's a interesting story about a proposed merger concerning the NASDAQ and the London Stock Exchange that didn't quite go through.

Saving the best for last is a video about an ex-Muslimah speaking some hard truths about the nature of Islam. I don't know what language is being spoken here (Arabic?) but it does have english subtitles. The willingness of those who speak about Islam's violent nature will substantially increase once the physical threat of attack is diminished or sidelined.

Have a nice Sunday,

The Man in Black

Friday, March 10, 2006

U.S. Humiliation of the UAE in Port Deal Spells Trouble - Mar 10

For some reason I was not able to post yesterday so I'll attempt to make up for it today. Lots to say, so much so in fact that I find I have to edit myself so as not to overwhelm you, the good reader. Six links follow, with a really good article from stratfor on the law of unintended consequences.

666 Alert: Vancouver couple have micro-chip implants in hands to use for access.

Two links here on Ehud Olmert's plan to permanently fix Israeli borders by 2010 and Khaled Mashaal's predictable and lame response.

Iran, it appears, already has enough fissionable material to make 10 to 20 nuclear bombs.

From newsmax comes a chilling story of how the Iranians intend to wage war should the United States Navy involve itself with military action against Iran.

From worldnetdaily comes an incredible story out of California (go figure) on the militant homosexual agenda abolishing references to 'mom' and 'dad' in school textbooks.

Pray for Israel, America and Canada,

The Man in Black

UAE: The Effects of the Port Deal Reversal in the Middle East
Mar 10, 2006

Summary


U.S. President George W. Bush expressed concern March 10 that the reversal of the Dubai Ports World deal will generate adverse perceptions among U.S. allies and partners in the Arab/Muslim world. Bush's concerns are valid; the deal's death will indeed have a negative effect in countries like the United Arab Emirates, where neither the state nor society for the most part has been at odds with the United States. Al Qaeda will exploit this to its advantage in an effort to expand its sphere of operations, which could result in insecurity in these otherwise stable countries.

Analysis

United Arab Emirates (UAE) state-owned firm Dubai Ports World (DPW) reacted to opposition from the U.S. Congress by announcing March 9 it would transfer control of six U.S. ports to a U.S-based entity. The next day, U.S. President George W. Bush said he was concerned about regional fallout from the way in which DPW was forced to back down. Bush said the deal's failure could send a broader message to U.S. allies in the world, particularly in the Middle East, and added that to win the "war on terror" Washington must strengthen its ties with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East.

Bush is right about the repercussions this development could have on U.S. interests at a time when Washington is trying to prosecute its war against jihadism and when relations between the West and the Islamic world continue to deteriorate. Though governments in the Persian Gulf region and beyond -- including the UAE -- will remain U.S. allies, the port deal's death will enhance anti-U.S. and anti-Western sentiments among the people. Radical and militant Islamists can manipulate those sentiments, raising the probability of violence in countries prosperous and stable enough to have resisted radical Islamist and jihadist impulses thus far.

It should be noted that the UAE is among the few places in the Middle East that comes close to resembling a Western country. It is one of the few countries in the region that might qualify as a U.S. ally on a standard other than energy and security.

Radical Islamist activists and jihadist operators, in an effort to gain a foothold in such countries, will try to take advantage of the situation by arguing that no amount of wealth or cooperation will make them respected in the eyes of the United States or the West. These Islamists likely will convince many that moderation and alignment with the West has not paid off because the West will always look down on Arabs and Muslims. They will also try to promote the view that in the end, the West will always view Arabs and Muslims -- whether radical or moderate -- as the proverbial "other."

This propaganda will feed on existing frustrations and anger against the West because of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the Quran desecration scandal, the Abu Ghraib torture scandal and the recent controversy over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Resentment against the West for being anti-Islam and having anti-Muslim prejudices runs deep and wide in the Muslim world, beyond the Islamist and jihadist spheres of influence. Even mainstream and secular Muslims will view the UAE port deal reversal as an example of an "Islamophobic" attitude gaining ground in the United States and Europe.

Most Muslims will not resort to violence, but the growing anger and frustration increases the potential recruiting pool for al Qaeda and other jihadist groups. Consequently, countries like the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar, where political stability and economic prosperity have kept radical ideologies from taking hold, could become insecure. Thanks to the law of unintended consequences, the port deal's failure will result in an increased security threat -- which was the raison d'etre for opposition to the deal.

Copyright 2006 Strategic Forecasting Inc. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Father of Lies - Mar 8

One of the signs Jesus Christ said to His apostles while on the Mount of Olives would be mass deception. Scripture clearly and plainly teaches that lies will sweep the globe and that we are to be watchful of such semantic trickery. Only the Holy Spirit is capable in leading us to truth, never under our own strength. In keeping with the zeitgeist of this post, I must also remind all of you that the one who is directing all this carnage is none other that Satan himself. Jesus said of God's Chief Enemy that he is "a murderer and a liar" and has been cast down in judgement. In these links, I hope you will notice the strands of deception that tie them all together.

An excellent piece from FrontPageMag on the Council of American Islamic Relations and why it might be one of the most insiduous 'fifth columns' in the West today. It's a wee bit long but glancing through should suffice.

Apparently, the MSM is being less than honest when reporting the Jenin 'massacre' by the IDF and a civil war in Iraq that never took off.

The 'Right To Choose' lobby is also in Satan's back pocket as it tries (and fails) to intimidate pro-life demonstrators with RICO legislation.

A Dr. Janice Shaw Crouse is showing the U.N. the real cost of abortion on women's health.

From Arutz 7 comes a disturbing story of how Hamas is urging Palestinian children to become a shahid (martyr) for the great anti-semitic cause.

Add this link to your 'Favorites' and discover the true nature of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran Focus

It seems Palestinian arithmetic is somewhat lacking as it inflates it's population numbers so as to get more (undeserved) aid. Remember the word 'Jizya'?

Americans, God Bless their little hearts, are NOT simpletons. Seems 'evolution', aka The 'Tornado in a Junkyard' theory, is found to be somewhat lacking in their eyes and so they favor a more balanced approach to teaching creation.

The EU is now moving toward a common energy policy, one that will surely draw them into the morass that is Russian, Iranian and ME politics.

Wow. That's NINE freaking links today. I had two more bookmarked but refrained from using them as this post is already long enough.

Signing Off,

The Man in Black

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Nothing Spectacular - Mar 7

Aside from 9/11, it appears that Tuesday is not one of those days where much happens. The shock of Monday morning has worn off and the weekend is still three days away. Nevertheless, here are an assortment of stories that reminds us of the fact that God's plan of redemption is still very much on track.

The World's Most Dangerous Place? Try Pakistan.

Signs in the heavens: Jupiter has a new 'Red Spot' that has astronomers wagging their tongues.

Biodiversity is coming apart at the seams. Mass extinctions appear to be on the horizon.

New World Order Alert: EU to start a continental 'defence research fund'.

Saul Mofaz to Hamas PM, "No funny business or the assassinations begin!"

From the lovely city of Montreal comes a story that 'rights' (particularly religious ones) have this horrible habit of trumping basic common sense.

Forever I'll Be,

The Man in Black