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  Wasted US Tax Dollars in IraqJanuary 31, 2007 15:44 A quarterly audit by the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction reveals the U.S. government has wasted tens of millions of dollars in a reconstruction effort that has cost American taxpayers more than 300 billion U.S. dollars and left the region near civil war.

The audit by Stuart Bowen Jr. said included in the waste and fraud are scores of unaccounted-for weapons and a never-used camp for housing police trainers with an Olympic-size swimming pool, investigators said.

"The security situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate, hindering progress in all reconstruction sectors and threatening the overall reconstruction effort,” according to the 579-page report, which was released Wednesday.

Bowen said in a telephone interview that billions in U.S. aid spent on strengthening security has had limited effect. Reconstruction now will fall largely on Iraqis to manage -- and they're not up to the task.

The audit comes as President Bush is urging Congress to approve 1.2 billion dollars in new reconstruction aid as part of his broader plan to stabilize Iraq by sending 21,500 more U.S. troops to Baghdad and Anbar province.

 
  Little To Show For U.S. Billions Spent On Iraq ReconstructionJanuary 31, 2007 15:41 As American military commanders struggle with deteriorating security in Iraq, there are growing indications that the $21 billion U.S. reconstruction effort is at risk, including a new report that casts doubt on Iraq's ability to maintain the reconstruction projects that have been completed.

The government of Iraq has been unable to boost the production of oil or electricity despite U.S. aid and many critical U.S.-funded projects remain unfinished, according to the latest quarterly report by Stuart W. Bowen, the U.S. special inspector general for Iraqi reconstruction. Some of the work done under U.S. supervision has been so shoddy that it will saddle the Iraqi government with additional maintenance headaches, he said.

The dismal outlook for Iraq, including high unemployment, continuing corruption and the inability of the Iraqi government to work effectively, requires "a new phase of investment" to secure the reconstruction done so far, said Bowen's report, which is being released today.

Since 2003, Congress has appropriated $21 billion for the Iraqi Relief and Reconstruction Fund, which has been spent or obligated in contracts. An additional $11 billion has been appropriated for reconstruction and other post-invasion initiatives, such as training Iraq's security forces.
  Senators Warn Of Drift Toward War With IranJanuary 31, 2007 11:45 Republican and Democratic senators warned Tuesday against a drift toward war with an emboldened Iran and suggested the Bush administration was missing a chance to engage its longtime adversary in potentially helpful talks over next-door Iraq.

"What I think many of us are concerned about is that we stumble into active hostilities with Iran without having aggressively pursued diplomatic approaches, without the American people understanding exactly what's taking place," Sen. Barack Obama told John Negroponte, who is in line to become the nation's No. 2 diplomat as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's deputy.

Obama, an Illinois Democrat and a candidate for president in 2008, warned during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that senators of both parties will demand "clarity and transparency in terms of U.S. policy so that we don't repeat some of the mistakes that have been made in the past," a reference to the faulty intelligence underlying the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Sen. Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican and another possible presidential candidate, asked Negroponte if he thinks the United States is edging toward a military confrontation with Tehran. In response, Negroponte repeated President Bush's oft-stated preference for diplomacy, although he later added, "We don't rule out other possibilities."
  Obama introduces Iraq billJanuary 30, 2007 18:56 Sen. Barack Obama had promised recently that he would introduce legislation embodying his idea of a phased redeployment of U.S. troops out of Iraq.

Today he unveiled his bill, the Iraq War De-Escalation Act of 2007. His legislation would cap the number of troops at the level that existed as of Jan. 10. Furthermore, it would require a redeployment of U.S. combat forces to start by May of this year and be completed by March 2008.

If the Iraqis meet the benchmarks set by the Bush Administration, the redeployment could be temporarily suspended, although it seems that if the Iraqis make enough progress to meet the benchmarks, that would make an even stronger argument for continuing the redeployment, not suspending it.
  Germany May Go After Cia-Sponsored OperativesJanuary 30, 2007 18:53 German investigators have recommended that prosecutors issue arrest warrants against 13 U.S. intelligence operatives in connection with the kidnapping, beating and secret detention of a German citizen suspected of having links to terrorist networks.

The operatives were part of a CIA-sponsored team that transported alleged terrorists to interrogation camps around the world. Investigators say the group forced a handcuffed and blindfolded Khaled Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, onto a Boeing 737 and flew him from Macedonia to Afghanistan in January 2004. Masri was not charged with a crime and was released after five months.

German law enforcement officials said indictments could be filed as early as this week against the suspects, including four pilots, a medic and members of an operations unit. The most serious charge is expected to be kidnapping, according to an official who asked not to be named.

The Masri case has periodically strained U.S.-German relations and led to a parliamentary investigation into allegations that German intelligence agents were involved in the abduction. Investigators also have examined discrepancies about when high-ranking government officials were informed about Masri's fate.

The prospect of criminal charges in the Masri ordeal comes as an Italian court is deliberating whether to order the trial of 26 Americans and nine Italians in connection with the February 2003 abduction of a radical Egyptian cleric known as Abu Omar. The Italian government may demand the extradition of the accused Americans, including the former CIA station chief in Milan, where Omar was snatched off a sidewalk.
  U.S. Says Israel May Have Violated Cluster Bomb UseJanuary 29, 2007 11:10 The United States said on Monday Israel may have violated an agreement with Washington in its use of U.S.-made cluster bombs during last July's war with Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon.

"There were likely violations," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters.

He said a preliminary classified report was being sent to the U.S. Congress later on Monday by the State Department indicating possible violations of a "use agreement" between the United States and Israel over the cluster bombs.

He declined to say how Israel had violated U.S. rules in its use of U.S. made rockets armed with cluster bombs in Lebanon. A probe was opened last year after reports that three types of American cluster bombs were found in southern Lebanon and were responsible for civilian deaths.

Cluster bombs burst into bomblets and spread out near the ground. The United Nations has called for a freeze on the use of those bombs in or near populated areas.

Israel has defended its right to use cluster bombs and says it only deploys them in accordance with international law.

 
  Dutch Man Pleads Not Guilty In US On Iraq AttacksJanuary 29, 2007 11:10 An Iraqi-born Dutch citizen pleaded not guilty on Monday to charges of plotting attacks on Americans in Iraq, the first U.S. criminal prosecution arising from such suspected activity in Iraq, U.S. officials said.

They said the defendant, Wesam al Delaema, made his initial appearance in a U.S. court following his extradition over the weekend from the Netherlands.

Al Delaema, 33, was charged in a six-count indictment in 2005 with participating in a conspiracy to attack Americans in Iraq. Born in Fallujah, Iraq, he was arrested in the Netherlands in 2005.

According to the indictment, he traveled from the Netherlands to Iraq in October 2003 with a group calling themselves the "Fighters of Fallujah" planning to attack Americans with explosives.

The indictment accused al Delaema and his co-conspirators of hiding explosives in a road in the Fallujah area.
  Clinton Wants All U.S. Troops Out Of Iraq When Bush Leaves OfficeJanuary 28, 2007 14:51 U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton said Sunday that U.S. President George W. Bush should withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq before he leaves office, saying it would be "the height of irresponsibility" to pass the war along to the next commander in chief.

"This was his decision to go to war with an ill-conceived plan and an incompetently executed strategy," the Democratic senator said her in first presidential campaign tour through the early-voting state of Iowa.

"We expect him to extricate our country from this before he leaves office" in January 2009, the former first lady said.

The White House condemned Clinton's comments as a partisan attack that undermines U.S. soldiers.

About 130,000 American troops are in Iraq, and Bush has announced this month he was sending 21,500 more as part of his new war strategy.
  Thousands Rally On National MallJanuary 28, 2007 01:00 Tens of thousands of demonstrators -- Iraq veterans, movie stars, and citizens from all walks of life -- converged on the National Mall yesterday to demand that Congress act to end the Iraq war, in an event organizers hailed as the largest antiwar protest since the US invasion in 2003.
Chanting "peace, salaam, shalom," and carrying placards declaring "Congress Inaction is Immoral" and "The Surge is a Lie," the crowds gathered in the shadow of the US Capitol to hear a broad range of activists from actress Jane Fonda to a 12-year-old Massachusetts girl plead for an end to US military involvement in Iraq.
"Our presence here today is intended to stop the funding for the war," said Norm Mazer , an associate professor at Boston University Medical School, who was among several busloads of Massachusetts residents who traveled to Washington overnight Friday. "I felt it was time to exercise my right as a citizen to say no more to this war."
The rally occurred at a critical time in the four-year-old conflict: President Bush faces a political battle with newly empowered Democrats -- and some Republicans -- over his plan to send 21,500 more troops to quell rising sectarian violence. Meanwhile, public opposition to the war is growing and Bush's popularity is languishing, two factors that helped Democrats gain control of Congress.
  Military Confirms 4 U.S. Soldiers Were Abducted During Attack In KarbalaJanuary 27, 2007 10:41 Four American soldiers were abducted during a sophisticated sneak attack last week in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, the U.S. military confirmed Friday. It said three were shot to death and a fourth was mortally wounded with a gunshot to the head when they were found in a neighboring province, far from the compound where they were captured.

Two of the four were handcuffed together in the back seat of an SUV near the southern Iraqi town of Mahawil. A third dead soldier was on the ground nearby. The fourth soldier died on the way to the hospital, the military said in a statement issued late Friday that confirmed details reported by The Associated Press earlier.

On Jan. 20, the day of the raid on a security meeting in Karbala, the military said five soldiers were killed repelling the attack.

The brazen assault, 50 miles south of Baghdad, was conducted by nine to 12 militants posing as an American security team, according to two senior U.S. military officials as well as Iraqi officials. They traveled in black GMC Suburban vehicles — the type used by U.S. government convoys — had American weapons, wore new U.S. military combat fatigues, and spoke English, according to Iraqi and U.S. military officials.
  Bush: 'I'm The Decision-Maker' In Iraq TroopsJanuary 27, 2007 10:32 President Bush, on a collision course with Congress over Iraq, said Friday “I’m the decision-maker” about sending more troops to the war. He challenged skeptical lawmakers not to prematurely condemn his buildup.

“I’ve picked the plan that I think is most likely to succeed,” Bush said in an Oval Office meeting with senior military advisers.

The president had strong words for lawmakers on both sides of the aisle who are lining up to support resolutions opposing his decision to send 21,500 troops to Iraq. He challenged them to put up their own ideas.
  Britain’S Senior Prosecutor: No Such Thing As A “War On Terror”January 26, 2007 13:22 Britain’s director of public prosecutions has publicly called into question claims by Prime Minister Tony Blair and his government that the country is engaged in a “war on terror.”

In a speech to the Criminal Bar Association this week, Sir Ken Macdonald QC (Queen’s Counsel) said, “London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on July 7, 2005 were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, ‘soldiers’. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequate. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a ‘war on terror’, just as there can be no such thing as a ‘war on drugs.’

“The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war,” he said, criticizing “post-9/11 rhetoric” which had “encouraged knee-jerk legislation hostile to traditional rights.” It followed that the criminal justice response to terrorism must be “proportionate and grounded in due process and the rule of law.” “We must protect ourselves from these atrocious crimes without abandoning our traditions of freedom.”

Macdonald’s remarks were directed in particular at the government’s opt-out from the European Convention on Human Rights on the grounds of a national emergency in order to pass its anti-terror laws.

Government measures enabling the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists without trial were ruled incompatible with human rights by the courts. In response, it introduced control orders, effectively a form of house arrest, which impose severe restrictions on freedom of movement and communication, despite no criminal charges being brought against the individual concerned.

The government is now set to add to anti-terror legislation. According to reports, some of the measures being considered are plans for secret courts, involving specially vetted judges and solicitors, to hear terror cases.
  U.S. Oks Killing Iranians In IraqJanuary 26, 2007 13:19 The White House has reportedly given its approval for the U.S. military to kill or capture Iranian operatives in Iraq. The Washington Post reports it's part of an aggressive new effort to reduce Tehran's influence in the region and get it to give up its nuclear program.


The White House announced Friday that President Bush has authorized U.S. forces in Iraq to take whatever actions are necessary to counter Iranian agents deemed a threat to American troops or the public at large, the White House said Friday.


The new policy came in response to intelligence that Iran is supporting terrorists inside Iraq and is providing bombs — known as improvised explosive devices — and other equipment to anti-U.S. insurgents.


"The president and his national security team over the last several months have continued to receive information that Iranians were supplying IED equipment and or training that was being used to harm American soldiers," National Security Council spokesman Gordon Johndroe said.

 
  Bush Denies Preparing Attack Against IranJanuary 26, 2007 13:17 George W. Bush on Friday sought to deny widespread rumours his administration was preparing some kind of military action against Iran. Mr Bush confirmed a report in Friday’s Washington Post that he had authorised US troops to shoot and kill Iranian operatives in Iraq, but denied this was a prelude to stronger action.

“We believe we can solve our problems with Iran diplomatically,” said the US president. “It makes sense that if somebody is trying to harm our troops, or stop us from achieving our goal, or killing innocent citizens in Iraq, that we will stop them.”

But the US president’s relatively emollient comments are unlikely to quell speculation about the reasons behind the recent escalation of White House rhetoric towards Iran. In his prime time address on the “new way forward in Iraq” two weeks ago, Mr Bush pledged to “interrupt the flow of support [for extremists in Iraq] from Iran and Syria...We will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”

In his State of the Union address to the joint houses of Congress on Tuesday, he lumped Iran with al-Qaeda. “It has also become clear that we face an escalating danger from Shia extremists who...take direction from the regime in Iran. The Shia and Sunni extremists are different faces of the same totalitarian threat.”
  Ireland Airport Refuses US Military FlightsJanuary 25, 2007 18:07 Ireland West Airport Knock has moved this week to further distance itself from suggestions that the facility might be used for US military flights.

The board, which includes re-appointed aviation tycoon Ulick McEvaddy who made the controversial remarks, met last Saturday and issued an unambiguous statement as a result.

The board has said it would only ever facilitate military flights if they were for humanitarian purposes. In a statement, it said that any flights involving US military personnel "would have to have the support of both the Government and the United Nations". The board said it believed firmly that any military operation, not supported by both the Government and the UN, was "not compatible with the mission and aims of the airport".
  War On Terror Must Be Tough In Defending RightsJanuary 25, 2007 17:55 Britain must strike a careful balance in the battle against terror and guard against the erosion of civil liberties or risk unwittingly boosting terror groups’ recruitment through excessive zeal, David Cameron gave warning yesterday.
The Conservative leader called for a steadfast approach to tackling the terror threat that balanced firm action with an equally robust recognition of the need to preserve fundamental freedoms.

“We have got to act on it in a way that is both strong and tough on terrorism, but also strong and tough in defence of liberty and our way of life,” Mr Cameron told a keynote Davos session on the global dangers from terror groups.

He argued that there were important improvements that needed to be made to the Government’s anti-terror strategy and tactics but these needed to be made carried out with a clear view of both sets of priorities.

“There are some big changes that we have to make . . . but when we make those changes, it’s vital we get this balance right and don’t lurch into an ineffective authoritarianism,” he said. “We’ve got to be very strong in combating terrorism but equally strong in defending liberty, democracy and the things we are actually fighting for.”
  US Senate Panel Approves Measure Opposing Troop Increase In IraqJanuary 24, 2007 20:08 A U.S. Senate panel has approved a measure expressing opposition to President Bush's decision to send more troops to Iraq. The measure passed by a 12-9 vote, despite President Bush's appeal to Congress Tuesday in his State of the Union address to allow his plan to succeed. VOA's Deborah Tate reports from Capitol Hill.

Only one Republican, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, joined the 11 Democrats on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in approving the resolution, which expresses opposition to President Bush's plan to send 21,500 additional troops to Iraq to help stabilize the country.

Hagel, a decorated Vietnam veteran and likely candidate for the Republican nomination for president next year, sharply criticized Mr. Bush's decision to send more troops into what he calls a civil war.

He said, "We better be damned sure we know what we are doing, all of us, before we put 22,000 more Americans into that grinder."
  Increase Of U.S. Troops In Iraq Is Essential, General SaysJanuary 23, 2007 23:17 The incoming military commander in Iraq told senators on Tuesday that he'll have only the minimum number of U.S. and Iraqi soldiers needed to bring security to Baghdad and that he's concerned about the reliability of some of the Iraqi forces.

Lt. Gen. David Petraeus told the Senate Armed Services Committee at his confirmation hearing that while he wanted to get the additional 17,500 troops President Bush promised into Baghdad as soon as possible, he would consider ordering what chairman Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., called a "timeout" if the Iraqis fail to cooperate.

Petraeus said it would be late summer before it's clear whether the new security plan was working.

"The way ahead will be neither quick nor easy, and there undoubtedly will be tough days," he said.

The full Senate is likely to confirm Petraeus soon. Senators on the committee, including those who oppose the troop increase, wished him success and assured him of their support. But they also drilled him about whether the Iraqi government would live up to promises to help quell the violence and reach a political settlement.

Petraeus said he'd give Congress regular progress reports and promised "to tell my boss if I believe that the strategy cannot succeed at some point."
  25 U.S. Troops Killed In Iraq SaturdayJanuary 21, 2007 13:08 The U.S. military on Sunday reported six more American troops killed in fighting the day before, raising the toll to 25 in the deadliest day for U.S. forces in Iraq in two years.

Four U.S. soldiers and a Marine were killed Saturday during combat in Anbar, the Sunni insurgent stronghold west of Baghdad, the military said. A roadside bomb also struck a security patrol northeast of Baghdad, killing one soldier.

Saturday's carnage also included 12 soldiers killed in a Blackhawk helicopter crash northeast of Baghdad, five killed in a militant attack in the holy Shiite city of Karbala and two others slain elsewhere in roadside bombings.

The parliamentary bloc loyal to the radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, meanwhile, ended its nearly two-month political boycott after reaching a compromise in which a parliamentary committee would take up the group's demands for a timetable for Iraqi forces to take over security and the withdrawal of U.S. forces.

"We announce our return to parliament, we will attend today's session, and the ministers will resume their work to serve the people," Bahaa al-Araji, one of 30 lawmakers loyal to al-Sadr, said during a news conference attended by Sunni parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani. Al-Sadr also has six loyalist ministers in the 38-member Cabinet.
  Look Up! Is It A Threat? Or A Plea For A Ban?January 21, 2007 13:03 THE nation’s star warriors, frustrated that their plans to arm the heavens went nowhere for two decades despite more than $100 billion in blue-sky research, felt a shiver of hope last week with news that China had conducted its first successful test of an antisatellite weapon.

Moving Targets Having long warned of the Chinese threat, they now said their fears were vindicated and expressed optimism for their own projects, which range from new kinds of defensive satellites to flotillas of space weapons and orbital battle stations able to shatter all kinds of enemy arms.

China, a group of 26 “Star Wars” supporters warned in a recent report, has “begun to erode American space dominance” and will accelerate that slide with “both lasers and missiles capable of destroying satellites.”

H. Baker Spring of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research group in Washington, said in an interview that the cost to the United States of new arms and defensive measures would most likely run to “billions or tens of billions of dollars a year, pretty much year in and year out,” and added, “I don’t think that’s excessive.”
  Bush plan's $1B won't go far in IraqJanuary 14, 2007 22:07 Politics Home / 24-Hour News / Politics






Published: Jan 14, 2007
Modified: Jan 14, 2007 11:13 PM
The extra billion dollars of reconstruction aid in President Bush's Iraq plan won't go far in a country where electricity output still barely meets half the demand and oil production is falling short by almost a million barrels a day.
And a companion part of the plan, to expand U.S. aid teams scattered across Iraq, may falter because of a shortage of volunteers. Some say the Bush administration may have to start ordering civilian U.S. government employees into the war zone, as was done for Vietnam.

"The fact of the matter is that the State Department has had a hard time filling current manning levels on these teams," said retired Maj. Gen. William Nash, a specialist in postwar reconstruction at the Council on Foreign Relations.

The bulk of U.S. reconstruction aid came in 2003-2005, when almost $22 billion poured into Iraq. As violence spread, some aid was diverted to Iraqi army and police forces, and much of the rest was spent on private security for rebuilding projects. Experts had estimated Iraq needed $55 billion to recover from war, mass looting and years of economic deterioration.

By this 2007 fiscal year, new reconstruction aid had dwindled to $750 million. On Wednesday night, Bush proposed adding $1.2 billion to that. By comparison, Washington is spending roughly $100 billion a year on the war itself.

 
  Fight Brewing Over Endangered FishJanuary 14, 2007 22:00 The federal government is spending millions of dollars in Colorado to save endangered fish that, according to one organization, it’s allowing to dwindle in the Grand Canyon.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is embarking on a two-year process of putting together an environmental impact statement for a long-term experimental plan for operation of Glen Canyon Dam.

That study, said a Moab, Utah-based organization, Living Rivers, is a “cover-up” launched to mislead the public into supporting failed efforts to recover endangered species.

It is, actually, said Reclamation official Dennis Kubly, the beginning of an effort to balance management of Glen Canyon Dam with the needs of people and other species.

The idea, Kubly said, is to balance the operations of the dam with a multitude of needs, including the requirements of Colorado and other Upper Colorado River Basin states to deliver set amounts of water to the lower-basin states, the need for electrical generation, and the scenic needs of the Grand Canyon, as well as those of its fish.

“There are big stakes here,” Kubly said. “Let’s take the time to do it right and hopefully we won’t have to do it over.”
  U.S. Denies Military Plans Against Iran, SyriaJanuary 12, 2007 21:36 The United States denied on Friday it was preparing for military action against Iran and Syria, after President George W. Bush issued a stern warning to them, raising concerns of a spillover from the Iraq war.

Bush, in his speech on Wednesday unveiling his revised Iraq strategy, accused Tehran and Damascus of allowing use of their territory for launching attacks inside Iraq, and vowed "we will interrupt the flow of support."

U.S. lawmakers voiced concern on Thursday the Iraq war could spread to neighboring Iran and Syria if U.S. troops were to chase militants across the border. But U.S. officials insisted the plan was to disrupt supply lines from inside Iraq.

White House spokesman Tony Snow said he wanted to knock down an "urban legend" that Bush was "trying to prepare the way for war with either country and that there were war preparations under way."

 
  Iraq And The War On TerrorJanuary 12, 2007 09:16 Unlike his earlier optimistic assessments of the situation in Iraq, President George W. Bush's Jan. 10 address to the nation painted a much grimmer picture of the complex problems that have emerged there. He also announced a change in American strategy, involving the deployment of some 22,000 additional American troops that he hopes will salvage the situation.

But even the president seemed skeptical about how positive an outcome can be achieved. Despite the high human and financial sacrifices America will pay by staying in Iraq, the president believes the United States must do so because the consequences of withdrawing will be even more costly. Bush himself stated pointedly: "Failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States."

It is clear that the president sees Iraq as playing a key role in the war on terror. At the very beginning of his address, he said, "Tonight in Iraq, the armed forces of the United States are engaged in a struggle that will determine the direction of the global war on terror." He sees the two as intertwined: victory in Iraq will allow victory in the war on terror, while withdrawal from Iraq will lead to dire consequences in the larger struggle.

But as the 2006 midterm congressional election results and public opinion polls have shown, the American public is increasingly weary of the war in Iraq and skeptical about the possibility of "victory" there. Congressional leaders are talking about denying funds for the president's surge strategy. There is a real possibility that Congress, under pressure from the public, will force the United States to withdraw from Iraq after or even before the 2008 U.S. elections, just like it forced an American withdrawal from Vietnam in the early 1970s.
  Rocket Strikes American Embassy In AthensJanuary 12, 2007 09:06 Suspected Greek leftwing militants fired a small anti-tank missile at the U.S. embassy in Athens on Friday, police said.

No one was killed in the blast that exploded inside the modern, glass front building around 6 a.m. local time. It did, however, damage a bathroom in the third room -- which houses the ambassador's office.

"We're treating it as a very serious attack," U.S. Ambassador Charles Ries said of the anti-tank shell attack.

The Pentagon has been briefed on the attack but has not requested any action, an anonymous military official in Washington told The Associated Press. He said there is no reason to conclude that the attack was carried out by al Qaeda.
  The New American Holy War in Iran???January 11, 2007 15:28 Is the surge an orchestrated distraction from the real war plan?

A good case can be made that it is. The US Congress and media are focused on President Bush's proposal for an increase of 20,000 US troops in Iraq, while Israel and its American neoconservative allies prepare an assault on Iran.

Commentators have expressed puzzlement over President Bush's appointment of a US Navy admiral as commander in charge of the ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The appointment makes sense only if the administration's attention has shifted from the insurgencies to an attack on Iran.

The Bush administration has recently doubled its aircraft carrier forces and air power in the Persian Gulf. According to credible news reports, the Israeli air force has been making practice runs in preparation for an attack on Iran.

Recently, Israeli military and political leaders have described Israeli machinations to manipulate the American public and their representatives into supporting or joining an Israeli assault on Iran.
  US Raids Iranian Sovereign TerritoryJanuary 11, 2007 09:07 As I expected/predicted last night, the US has begun raids on Iranian sovereign territory in pursuit of 'networks' of people who provide 'material support' to terrorists. This madness has to end.

Iranian officials are reporting that American troops raided the Iranian consulate in Arbil, northern Iraq early Thursday morning. US soldiers seized computers and official documents and arrested five Iranian officials present at the building.

A diplomat working at the consulate confirmed the operation took place. "Americans arrested five people and took away all the computers and documents," the diplomat reported.

US soldiers are reported to have entered the building after forcing open the outer gate. Security officers are also reported be among those arrested.

While the US Army has not yet made a statement regarding the incident, the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced that the event was under investigation.
  Some In Gop Join Democrats In Bashing PlanJanuary 10, 2007 21:09 President Bush’s plan to increase the U.S. troop commitment in Iraq met with strong opposition Wednesday night from Democrats who hold a majority in Congress and a decidedly mixed response from Republicans who could make or break the policy.

In a nationally televised speech, the president said he would send 21,500 U.S. troops to Iraq to stem sectarian violence.

From the moment details of Bush’s plans began emerging last week, Democratic congressional leaders have thrown their support behind efforts to find a legislative roadblock to sending more troops.
  Top Democrats Say Meeting With Bush Had Little ImpactJanuary 10, 2007 15:30 Top Democrats said they should have been granted an audience earlier with President Bush to discuss his new strategy for the war in Iraq.

Emerging from their meeting with Bush about 3:15 p.m. ET, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said they felt they were not able to give "input" to what Bush will announce tonight.

The meeting Wednesday "was notification, not consultation," said Pelosi.

"[Bush] has been practicing the speech," said Reid, as he stood next to Pelosi and addressed reporters' questions. "[Bush] was attentive but the speech is written."

Reid said his talk with the president did not have "impact."

"What affect could it have?" he said.

The only issue Republicans and Democrats agree on is that U.S. security operations in Baghdad are fundamentally flawed.
  Hearing Begins For Cia Agents In Egyptian Muslim Cleric Kidnapping In ItalyJanuary 09, 2007 22:50 A court in Milan is deciding whether to indict 25 alleged CIA agents and several Italians accused of kidnapping a Muslim cleric in 2003. During the hearing, the lawyer for a former CIA station chief withdrew from proceedings, saying the case should be resolved politically. Sabina Castelfranco reports for VOA from Rome.

U.S. and Italian spies urged their governments to prevent them from going on trial for the kidnapping of a terrorism suspect from Milan in 2003. Imam Osama Mustafa Hassan, also known as Abu Omar, was abducted from the streets of the city and says he was then taken to Egypt, where he was tortured.

An Italian judge on Tuesday began hearing arguments on whether six Italians and 26 Americans, mostly CIA agents, should be indicted. The judge must decide whether there is sufficient evidence for a trial. None of the suspects attended the closed-door hearing.

Prosecutors say after being abducted in Milan the imam was driven to the Aviano military airbase in northern Italy, and flown via Germany to Egypt, where he was secretly interrogated and tortured. They say the Italian secret services cooperated with the CIA in promoting and organizing the kidnapping.

 
  Iraq Hearings Offer First Debate Of 2008 Presidential CampaignJanuary 09, 2007 22:49 Some politicians kick off their presidential campaigns in their hometowns. Some do it in locales that they choose to highlight their campaign themes. And some do it in Congress.

Sen. Joseph Biden, D-Del., is scheduled to do a bit of all three on Wednesday, when he starts the first of four weeks of hearings on the Iraq war in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He chairs the panel.

Biden hopes that the sessions will bolster anti-war sentiment in the country and in the Congress and raise him up among the 2008 Democratic presidential hopefuls on the issue that matters most to the party faithful - opposition to the war.

But he won't have the stage to himself. His committee includes several other potential 2008 candidates eager to make their marks, notably Illinois Democrat Barack Obama.

Obama could use the sessions to remind Democrats that he opposed the war from the outset - though he was a state legislator at the time - and to beef up his foreign policy credentials, a resume booster for a man who's served only two years in the Senate.
  Congress Mulls Opposing Troop Rise In IraqJanuary 09, 2007 22:07 Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate were preparing legislation on Tuesday opposing what they called an "escalation" in the Iraq war as the new Democratic-led Congress flexed its muscles against the unpopular conflict and President George W. Bush.

Bush is expected to announce an increase of about 20,000 U.S. troops in Iraq in a speech on Wednesday, but Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate's top Democrat, said Americans, as well as some military commanders, opposed any increase in forces.

Reid said he was examining proposals by several senators -- including one Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy made on Tuesday to block a boost in troops -- before deciding what to bring to the Senate floor, possibly as early as next week.

The important thing was to produce something that could pass the narrowly divided Senate with support from both parties, Reid told reporters outside the Senate.
  Most Say No To Iraq BuildupJanuary 08, 2007 19:18 President Bush will outline his "new way forward" in Iraq on Wednesday to a nation that overwhelmingly opposes sending more U.S. troops and is increasingly skeptical that the war can be won.

A USA TODAY/Gallup Poll taken Friday through Sunday shows a daunting sales job ahead for the White House, which is considering a plan to deploy up to 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq.

Those surveyed oppose the idea of increased troop levels by 61%-36%. Approval of the job Bush is doing in Iraq has sunk to 26%, a record low.

"He certainly has the wind in his face," says Michael Franc, a former congressional aide now at the conservative Heritage Foundation. "But that's not to say if he were to pursue a change in policy that proved to be successful, that those numbers wouldn't flip."

Views of the war will be difficult to change with rhetoric alone, says Steven Kull, director of the Program on International Policy Attitudes at the University of Maryland. And if the public expresses strong opposition to Bush's plan, he says, Congress "may feel emboldened to exert what control they have to stop or at least make it more difficult for the president to move forward."

The survey of 1,004 adults, which has a margin of error of +/—3 percentage points, shows Americans pessimistic about the war and inclined to hold Bush responsible.
  Pelosi to Oppose Bush's Iraq 'Surge'January 05, 2007 12:25 House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she won't support any proposal by President George W. Bush to increase U.S. forces in Iraq, an option he is considering as he works on a new plan to quell sectarian violence.

``I don't support it,'' Pelosi, a California Democrat, said in an interview. ``It's an escalation of the war, and the American people spoke very clearly in the election that if there is any place that they want a new direction, it was in Iraq.''

Bush is to meet later today with congressional leaders, including House Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, and is likely to discuss Iraq options with them.

The president late last year ordered a strategy review as sectarian violence continued to escalate in Iraq and local forces still were unable to take more responsibility for the country's security.

Among the options Bush is considering is boosting the number of U.S. forces in Iraq, now at about 140,000. Proposals for an increase range from 8,000 more troops to as many as 30,000. The president hasn't indicated which direction he favors.

``I will want to make sure that the mission is clear and specific and can be accomplished,'' Bush said this week.

Any step that would send more U.S. troops to Iraq is likely to face opposition from congressional Democrats and some Republicans. Pelosi, a critic of the war since its inception in March 2003, was elected Speaker of the House yesterday as Democrats took control of the House and Senate.
  Endless War on Terror Affects EuropeansJanuary 05, 2007 10:41 For many readers it would appear that not a month went by in 2006 without new evidence surfacing over secret CIA rendition planes having landed in Portugal. October was no different, but there was also news that in what no seems to have become the eternal war on terror, national and European authorities have shown little resistance to handing over confidential data to American government departments.
  Airlines Give Aussies Details To USJanuary 04, 2007 13:04 EVERY Australian flying to the US has their personal details provided to the US Government under a secretive deal with private airlines.

The details passed on may include names, addresses and telephone numbers, as well as email addresses and even dietary requirements that can be used as evidence of a person's religion.
A spokeswoman for the Customs Service said the provision of the information was a mandatory requirement imposed by the US Department of Homeland Security.

A spokeswoman for Qantas said the company had provided the US with such information since June 2004. Qantas's conditions of carriage state the airline does compile personal information, including health details, and may disclose this to foreign governments for security purposes.

In contrast, airlines travelling to Australia have only to provide government agencies with access to their computerised reservations system, which includes some personal information, on request.

 
  FBI Releases Document Narrating Guantanamo Torture TacticsJanuary 03, 2007 09:17 Imagine... After the Military Commissions Act, this could happen to any of us...

The FBI has released documents Tuesday containing details of mistreatment and the harsh interrogation methods of prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by officials of government agencies or outside contractors.

The documents are part of FBI's filing in the lawsuit initiated by the American Civil Liberties Union against the inhuman treatment meted out to the prisoners at the camp. The FBI had asked nearly 500 of its cadre, who had served at the camp to report mistreatment they had witnessed at the hands of law enforcement or military personnel and there were 26 responses, some of which had been reported earlier too. The accounts were made public Tuesday.

One account describes how the captives were chained hand and foot in a fetal position and made to lie on the floor for 18 hours at a stretch, most of them urinating and defecating on themselves.

In another instance, one witness reported how he saw a detainee shaking with cold, while another saw a sweltering detainee in an unventilated room "almost unconscious on a floor with a pile of hair next to him (he had apparently been pulling it out through the night)."