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Sunday, November 30

More on "A disquieting response to India's 9/11 from Bush and Obama"

This updates the November 27 post of the same title.

Strike up the band. On Friday, two days after the massacres began, President Bush and President-elect Obama crept out from behind their spokespersons and delivered statements condemning the carnage in Mumbai and expressing sympathy for the victims.

Bush did a little better than Obama in his choice of adjective to describe the attacks. For Bush it was "horrific;" Obama contented himself with "outrageous." But at least both spoke up instead of leaving it to others to speak on their behalf, as they did initially.

And on Saturday, as he returned to the White House from Camp David, President Bush even managed to squeeze out a few words about Mumbai to the press gathered on the South Lawn. The speech has been called "brief" -- it was two minutes in length -- but I would describe it as terse:
On behalf of all Americans, Laura and I extend our condolences to those suffering from the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. We mourn those who lost their lives, including American citizens. We pray that the injured will recover. We pledge the full support of the United States as India investigates these attacks, brings the guilty to justice, and sustained its democratic way of life. [...]

The killers who struck this week are brutal and violent, but terror will not have the final word. People of India are resilient. People of India are strong. They have built a vibrant, multiethnic democracy that can withstand this trial. Their financial capital of Mumbai will continue to be the center of commerce and prosperity.

The leaders of India can know that nations around the world support them in the face of this assault on human dignity. And as the people of the world's largest democracy recover from these attacks, they can count on the world's oldest democracy to stand by their side.

Thank you very much. May God bless the people of India.
Better than nothing. On November 27 Wretchard proffered an explanation for the -- er, outrageous -- reticence on the part of Bush and Obama to speak for themselves and to speak with force:
[...] This I think, is because the LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba], the ISI or whoever else turns out to be behind the attack on Mumbai has an unreported hostage in play. That hostage is US operations in Afghanistan and cooperation in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. As most people now realize, the logistics for the Afghanistan flow through Pakistan. And since the US can’t cross the border openly, they must rely on Pakistani proxies to do a lot of the heavy lifting. [...]
I learned from a Long War Journal report yesterday that LeT, as with al Qaeda:
[...] seeks to establish a Muslim caliphate in southern and central Asia. Lashkar-e-Taiba "consistently advocated the use of force and vowed that it would plant the 'flag of Islam' in Washington, Tel Aviv and New Delhi," the Southeast Asia Terrorism Portal reported.

Also, like al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba practices Wahabism, the radical Islamist school of thought born in Saudi Arabia.
So. I grudgingly concede Wretchard's point. Although while falling back I will say that if Pakistanis and Indian Kashmiris are now intent on murdering Jews in India and planting the flag of the caliphate in Israel, these are not indigenous sentiments and for their locus we must still turn our eyes to the Middle East.

Saturday, November 29

Nov 30 John Batchelor Show on The Battle of Mumbai

India's government may already be doing the CYA thing. Today's Washington Post reports Indian officials announcing that preliminary investigation indicates their forces killed or captured the "10 gunmen" responsible for the three-day assault.

Ten is a fairy tale number. A defense analyst told MSNBC last night that intelligence reports indicate about 40 terrorists came off the rafts that were dropped from a mother ship(s). And even Indian officials estimated earlier that there were at least two dozen attackers.(1)

But now the number of gunmen threatens to conveniently drop to the number neutralized by government forces. In other words, Singh's government would prefer to downplay the number of gunmen who got away.

And according to the same Post report, officials have come up with excuses for why it took the commandos "six hours" to start fighting the terrorists. Counting on my fingers and toes and referencing India's IBN TV report, it seems the length of delay was closer to nine hours.

No fairy tales in John Batchelor Land: From his latest post, Mumbai TV WMD:
Best signals source reports that the attackers numbered up to 100 with accomplices -- control agents, support personnel, scouts, transportation, that there had been several dry runs over the last months, that the scouting was scrupulous, that the attackers had acquired safe houses, safe room supplies, communications.
Of course the number of actual shooters is smaller than the one for support, but if you want to begin seeing through the fog of war in India, I recommend that you tune in this Sunday to John's radio show.

The show schedule lists defense/terrorism analysts Bill Roggio, Chandrakant Pancholi, Shlok Vaidya, B. Raman; also, Malcolm Hoenlein and Aaron Klein on the massacre of Jews at Mumbai's Nariman House.

And Victor Davis Hanson will lead off the first portion of the show with his take on the broad implications of The Battle of Mumbai.

See the schedule at John's website for the time of each interview.

The air schedule for John's Sunday show is confusing for newcomers. For those who have come to trust John's reporting and that of his sources the hassle is worth it, but here's a map through the radio maze:

The entire show is six hours back-to-back. The first three hours originate from WABC radio in New York from 7-10 PM, Eastern Time.

The second three-hour part of the show originates from KFI in Los Angeles at 7-10 Pacific Time (i.e., starting at 10 PM Eastern Time after the WABC show ends).

WMAL in Washington only picks up the first two hours of the WABC show. KSFO in San Francisco picks up the entire three hours from WABC, but this airs in a time slot that competes with the KFI broadcast -- from 7-10 PM, Pacific Time.

(WMAL and KSFO are WABC sister stations; KFI is a different company.)

So, if you want to take in the entire six hours on Sunday, your best bet is to listen online to the WABC show, then switch to the KFI show online. You can quickly access all the online sites for the radio stations by clicking on the station icons at John's website.

The catch is that I don't think KFI broadcasts are available online outside the USA. The only workaround is the podcast on the KFI website, which is posted on Monday, the day after the broadcast.

1) NDTV: "Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said that around 20-25 terrorists entered Mumbai their nationalities are yet to be ascertained. Five terrorists have been killed so far, many escaped and one has been arrested."

(H/T) Long War Journal

The date of the announcement/interview is unclear because while the NDTV report is dated Wednesday, November 26, from the text it's obviously been updated for Thursday.)

On Thursday CNN and/or Fox also reported that the terrorists were approximately two dozen in number.

Of course, the fog of war is still in effect. As Batchelor has said many times, "In war, the first three reports are always wrong." But 10 for the number of terrorists is hard to swallow.

Friday, November 28

Mumbai Massacres: At the intersection of piracy and terrorism

On November 18 and again on November 23 I wrote urgently that unless governments and the shipping industry treated pirate attacks as acts of war and acted accordingly, they were opening the door for terrorists to use piracy as a cover for capturing ships to use in terrorist attacks. The scenario I feared has already played out. This morning Bill Roggio, writing for Long War Journal, relays news that the Mumbai terrorists used at least one hijacked sailing vessel:
[...] Reports indicate at least two of the assault teams arrived from outside the city by sea around 9 p.m. local time. Indian officials believe most if not all of the attackers entered Mumbai via sea.

Indian Coast Guard, Navy, Mumbai maritime police, and customs units have scoured the waters off Mumbai in search of a "mother ship" that transported one or more smaller Gemini inflatable boats used by the attackers. A witness saw one of the craft land in Colaba in southern Mumbai and disgorge eight to 10 fighters.

Two ships that have been boarded are strongly suspected of being involved in the attacks: the Kuber, an Indian fishing boat, and the MV Alpha, a Vietnamese cargo ship.

Both ships appear to have been directly involved. The Kuber was hijacked on Nov. 13, and its captain was found murdered. Four crewmen are reported to still be missing. [...]
This use of hijacked ships is not the scenario I fear most, which is turning ships into WMD in the way the 9/11 hijackers did with jet planes. But it doesn't require transforming a hijacked ship into a WMD for terrorists to use piracy to wreak devastation, as the assault on Mumbai amply illustrates.

Someone had better pull Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Paul Van Riper out of mothballs again and ask him to brainstorm an overarching plan for dealing with piracy.

Years ago ZenPundit told me about Van Riper and brought up his name more recently in our discussions about piracy. For those with a short memory or those who never knew, not since the Carthaginians beat the Romans in Ridley Scott's Gladiator has there been such a military upset as the one staged by Van Riper in a 2002 war game:
At the height of the summer, as talk of invading Iraq built in Washington like a dark, billowing storm, the US armed forces staged a rehearsal using over 13,000 troops, countless computers and $250m. Officially, America won and a rogue state was liberated from an evil dictator.

What really happened is quite another story ... In fact, this war game was won by Saddam Hussein, or at least by the retired Marine playing the Iraqi dictator's part, Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper.

In the first few days of the exercise, using surprise and unorthodox tactics, the wily 64-year-old Vietnam veteran sank most of the US expeditionary fleet in the Persian Gulf, bringing the US assault to a halt.

What happened next will be familiar to anyone who ever played soldiers in the playground. Faced with an abrupt and embarrassing end to the most expensive and sophisticated military exercise in US history, the Pentagon top brass simply pretended the whole thing had not happened. They ordered their dead troops back to life and "refloated" the sunken fleet. Then they instructed the enemy forces to look the other way as their marines performed amphibious landings.

Eventually, Van Riper got so fed up with all this cheating that he refused to play any more. Instead, he sat on the sidelines making abrasive remarks until the three-week war game - grandiosely entitled Millennium Challenge - staggered to a star-spangled conclusion on August 15, with a US "victory."
So it's not as if the U.S. doesn't have the brainpower. But just as India's crack team of NSG commandos sat sidelined during the first critical hours of the assault on Mumbai, the unorthodox thinking needed to halt today's piracy is being ignored in favor of lumbering, traditional military approaches.

Yet the stakes couldn't be higher for civilization if terrorists continue to use piracy to serve their plans.

Thursday, November 27

Nine hour delay before Indian commandos could fight Mumbai terrorists

IBN, CNN's sister TV station in India, has the shocking report:
Late comers? What took commandos so long to react

By Seemi Pasha / CNN-IBN; Published on Fri, Nov 28, 2008 at 02:38, Updated on Fri, Nov 28, 2008 at 02:46 IST

Date: November 27, 2008

Time: 7 am

Location: Outside the imposing Taj Mahal hotel in Colaba.

New Delhi: Crack commandos of the elite National Security Guards waited to storm the hotel in their bid to rescue dozens of hostages from terrorists holed up inside.

The Mumbai police had only just finished the first pre-operation briefing of the commandos on the layout of the hotel and its occupants.

It was more than nine hours after the hostage drama first began in India's financial Capital, a time lag which has now left security and counter-terrorism experts aghast.

Former director general, National Security Guards, Ved Marwah says, “Normally, the NSG is ready to scramble in minutes. There seems to have been a delay in granting the go ahead”.

The handling of the Mumbai hostage crisis now suggests two disturbing outcomes. While experts agree there was an inordinate delay by the government in ordering commandos to the crisis spot, a near amateurish method seemed to have been used in scrambling them.

It was a mistake committed once earlier in 1999 while trying to block the path of Indian Airlines IC-814, when it took off for Kandahar.

Sources told CNN/IBN:

- The go-ahead for airlifting commandos came well past midnight

- It took over three hours for them to scramble and take off for Mumbai

- Commandos were brought to the encounter spots in BEST buses

- The commandos had no precise maps detailing hotel layout and access points

- All this, while the Mumbai police struggled to figure out the unprecedented situation

“This decision – of whether the NSG should be called in – is of state government’s. They should go by what they feel is the ground situation,” says former supercop KPS Gill.

The NSG, marine commandos and the army special forces units are the only ones equipped to deal with hostage rescue.

Sources tell CNN-IBN that it took the killing of its chief Hemant Karkare for the Maharashtra ATS to realise it had underestimated the terror threat.

It therefore decided to bring in the NSG. An early morning coordination meeting decided that the navy commandos also be brought in.

Anti-terror and commando units are now grappling with a new scenario: unprecedented hostage situations in high profile enclosed buildings never encountered in metropolitan India.

A disquieting response to India's 9/11 from Bush and Obama (UPDATED 2X)

(Reader alert: Cover your ears before reading! Pundita uses foul language!)

The Bloomberg headline from this morning reads "Obama Leads Global Condemnation of Mumbai Attacks."

Huh? Obama's transition team issued a canned statement in his name. That's not condemnation; that's pro forma.

The same can be said for the response from President Bush. There was no direct statement from the leader of the free world; the response came through the White House press secretary.

Here's condemnation:
"This kind of terrorism is unforgivable, extremely despicable and vicious. I feel strong resentment and deeply condemn it. ..." -- Taro Aso, the Prime Minister of Japan

"We are concerned about the loss of life and consider that acts of terrorism of this type are harmful to the whole international order and are a challenge to humanity." - Dmitry Medvedev, the President of Russia

"Whichever group has perpetrated this attack, they are cowards, absolute cowards, and murderers. This cowardly attack on India's stability, peace and democracy reminds us all that international terrorism is far from defeated, and that we must all maintain our vigilance. ... " - Kevin Rudd, the Prime Minister of Australia

“These outrageous attacks in Mumbai will be met with a vigorous response. ..." Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of Britain [See footnotes 1,2 for the complete statements]
Medvedev made his statement through a translator; he was in Venezuela at the time, but he spoke personally. Of course, that's the only thing that should be done because the attacks in Mumbai were far more than terrorism:

Scores of men armed with machine guns, RDX and grenades laid siege to one of the world's largest and most important cities. They launched coordinated attacks on rail stations, hotels, hospitals, cafes, movie theaters, at least one police station, a Jewish center, and heaven knows what else because we're still dealing with the fog of war. And they took hostages.

India has suffered many terrorist attacks but there is no precedent for such an act of war against civilians in a modern democracy. For several hours, the attackers virtually took command of a major world city. While the death rate from the attacks seems to be holding at this point to around 100 with estimates of wounded at around 1,000 not even the 9/11 attacks, not even Beslan, reflect such an onslaught against modern civilization.

So, the Thanksgiving holiday in the USA is no excuse. President George Bush should have made a direct statement from Camp David, and President-elect Barack Obama should have done the same from Chicago. Instead, they followed the approach of United Nations Secretary Ban Ki-moon, who issued his criticism through a spokesperson.

The three statements condemning the terrorism are generic and while Bush and Obama offer help to India on behalf of the United States, the full statements from other national leaders also offer help. Such offers need to be accompanied by a recognition of the magnitude of the situation; statements from leaders such as Taro Aso reflect this need, whereas those from Bush and Obama do not.

The question is why there was such an outrageously muted response from Bush and Obama. Reticence about offending the Muslim vote is not an explanation. Even Gordon Brown, who has a horror of saying anything to offend Muslims, managed to sharply condemn the attacks without mentioning the M word.

I don't like being forced to the conclusion that the Bush administration, Obama's advisors, and the U.S. Department of State are so determined to prod Israel into compromises before Olmert leaves office that they don't want to say anything that could possibly suspend negotiations. But I will be driving straight toward that conclusion unless I see a stronger response from Messrs. Bush and Obama -- and from Secretary of State Rice.

With regard to the affiliation of the attackers -- since when has Pakistan's ISI been interested in attacking a Jewish organization and taking Israeli hostages in India or elsewhere?

As to an al Qaeda connection: I am trying to recall a successful large scale commando-style raid, in which the attackers were clearly not suicide bombers, launched by al Qaeda.

Maybe my memory is faulty on that point but in any event I still think it's a mistake to jump to the conclusion that the attackers are funded and trained by al Qaeda; while it may turn out to be the case the attacks don't quite fit Qaeda's modus operandi. I think the attacks would fit the profile of Hezbollah's MO. Just throwing that out there for consideration.

Of course, if Hezbollah is behind the attacks and in consideration that Hezbollah is supported by Iran, we'd be looking at a whole 'nuther order of global threat.

I will close by first offering my condolences to residents of Mumbai, and to the families of these foreigners murdered by the attackers, and with a special thanks for the bravery of the Indian police and soldiers who have died fighting the attackers.

My prayers go out to the remaining hostages, with hopes that the Indian forces are able to free all of them.

Now I have a few words for the organizers of the Mumbai attacks and those who cheer them on: Oil at $20 a barrel, motherfuckers.

And finally a few choice words for Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives: You want to save the planet? You should be more concerned at this moment about averting a commando raid on your favorite restaurant in Washington, D.C. and being taken hostage.

There is only one message to read into the Mumbai attacks, Madame Speaker, and the message is "Drive oil down to $20 a barrel." Drill, drill, drill, you sniveling piece of shit.

What else? Oh yes; Happy Thanksgiving!

1) (UK) Telegraph

2) Live Mint
*************************************
12:30 UPDATE

"No reaction"

B. Raman, a top Indian intel expert on terrorism in South Asia, sounded many warnings. Indian officials didn't listen. Raju Narisetti, writing today for the Wall Street Journal's Live Mint blog, backs up Raman's comments about the refusal of the Indian government to confront reality by observing that top Indian officials have met the Mumbai attacks with A Shameful Silence.

In his report for Rediff (H/T John Batchelor) Raman analyzes the implications of the Mumbai attacks and asks:
How safe are our nuclear establishments?

"The war of civilisation between the Muslims and the infidels has begun in Indian
territory
."

So said the first statement issued in the name of the so-called Indian Mujahideen in November 2007, after the three orchestrated explosions in three towns of Uttar Pradesh outside local courts.

We saw the latest round of this war in Mumbai on the night of November 26, 2008, as an unestimated number of terrorists -- divided into small groups and wielding hand-held weapons and improvised explosive devices -- literally took control of Mumbai and targeted with frightening precision famous hotels preferred by the rich of the country and foreign tourists, railway stations, a hospital and many other places scattered across this business capital of India.

It is not just 9/11. It is not just Madrid, March 2004. It is not just London 2006.

It is -- I am using the present tense because the situation is still not under control at 5-30 am despite the Army's assistance being sought -- an act of terrorism the like of which the world has not seen before. Mind boggles as one tries to think and figure out how the terrorists could have planned and carried out terrorist strikes of such magnitude, territorial spread and ferocity without our intelligence and police having been able to get any scent of it. Like what the Vietcong did during the Tet offensive

The iceberg of jihadi terrorism to which I have been drawing attention since November 2007, in article after article, in interview after interview, in discussion after discussion has struck not only Mumbai, but the Indian State.

The iceberg moved from UP to Jaipur. From Jaipur to Bangalore. From Bangalore to Ahmedabad and Surat. From there to Delhi. From Delhi to Assam. From Assam to Mumbai now -- despite the claims made by the Mumbai police some weeks ago of having discovered and crushed a plot of the IM to carry out strikes in Mumbai.

The government of Manmohan Singh reacted to the repeated warning signals of the moving iceberg since November 2007, in the same way as the Bush Administration reacted to reports about the plans of the Al Qaeda for aviation terrorism in the US; in the same way Megawati Sukarnoputri reacted to reports of the activities of the Jemmah Islamiyah; and in the same way Khalida Zia reacted to reports of the plans of the Jamiat-ul-Mujahideen .

Bovine. It just did not react. It was in a total denial mode. I wrote and said again and again -- hand over all the investigation about the IM to a central investigating agency for a co-ordinated investigation instead of their being investigated by the police in a piecemeal manner in different states ruled by different political parties. No reaction.

From a localised threat, jihadi terrorism has become a pan-Indian threat with a pan-Islamic ideology. Deal with it with a pan-Indian strategy, I said. No reaction.

The terrorists arrested some weeks ago in Mumbai, three of whom were IT experts well-placed in transnational companies, pose a new dimension of the threat. Seek the help of the US, I said. No reaction.

I drew attention to an article by Hamid Mir, journalist from Pakistan, which spoke of Indian Muslims going to Afghanistan to fight with the Taliban against the US and which also said that India is one of the routes being used by foreign jihadis going to Afghanistan. No reaction, just as Rajiv Gandhi did not react to repeated wake-up calls from the then Afghan President Najibullah that Muslims from Kashmir were being trained by the Afghan Mujahideen.

In October, when I had come to Delhi for a seminar, two diplomats from EU countries sought an appointment with me for a discussion on the IM. They expressed their surprise and concern over the fact that the Indian intelligence and police seemed to know so little about the IM despite their having arrested many perpetrators of the previous blasts and interrogated them.

Is the IM the name of an organisation or of a movement? Is it one or many organisations in different states acting, like the International Islamic Front of Osama bin Laden, as a united front -- autonomously where they can and unitedly where they should? Who constitute its command and control? Where are they? In India or outside? Nobody knows for certain.

I could not sleep the whole of last night. One question which kept bothering me again and again was: how safe are our nuclear establishments and material?

Till now, we were greeting with glee Pakistan's incompetence in dealing with terrorism. We can no longer do so. We have become as clueless as Pakistan.

I wanted to write much more, but my mind doesn't work. As I watch on the TV what is happening in Mumbai, I shiver and sweat at the thought of what is waiting to happen tomorrow and where.

(The writer is Additional Secretary (retired), Cabinet Secretariat, Government of India, New Delhi and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.
****************************************
November 30 UPDATE
Strike up the band. On Friday, two days after the massacres began, President Bush and President-elect Obama crept out from behind their spokespersons and delivered statements condemning the carnage in Mumbai and expressing sympathy for the victims.

Bush did a little better than Obama in his choice of adjective to describe the attacks. For Bush it was "horrific;" Obama contented himself with "outrageous." But at least both spoke up instead of leaving it to others to speak on their behalf, as they did initially.

And on Saturday, as he returned to the White House from Camp David, President Bush even managed to squeeze out a few words about Mumbai to the press gathered on the South Lawn. The speech has been called "brief" -- it was two minutes in length -- but I would describe it as terse:
On behalf of all Americans, Laura and I extend our condolences to those suffering from the terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. We mourn those who lost their lives, including American citizens. We pray that the injured will recover. We pledge the full support of the United States as India investigates these attacks, brings the guilty to justice, and sustained its democratic way of life. [...]

The killers who struck this week are brutal and violent, but terror will not have the final word. People of India are resilient. People of India are strong. They have built a vibrant, multiethnic democracy that can withstand this trial. Their financial capital of Mumbai will continue to be the center of commerce and prosperity.

The leaders of India can know that nations around the world support them in the face of this assault on human dignity. And as the people of the world's largest democracy recover from these attacks, they can count on the world's oldest democracy to stand by their side.

Thank you very much. May God bless the people of India.
Better than nothing. On November 27 Wretchard proffered an explanation for the -- er, outrageous -- reticence on the part of Bush and Obama to speak for themselves and to speak with force:
[...] This I think, is because the LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba], the ISI or whoever else turns out to be behind the attack on Mumbai has an unreported hostage in play. That hostage is US operations in Afghanistan and cooperation in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. As most people now realize, the logistics for the Afghanistan flow through Pakistan. And since the US can’t cross the border openly, they must rely on Pakistani proxies to do a lot of the heavy lifting. [...]
I learned from a Long War Journal report yesterday that LeT, as with al Qaeda:
[...] seeks to establish a Muslim caliphate in southern and central Asia. Lashkar-e-Taiba "consistently advocated the use of force and vowed that it would plant the 'flag of Islam' in Washington, Tel Aviv and New Delhi," the Southeast Asia Terrorism Portal reported.

Also, like al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba practices Wahabism, the radical Islamist school of thought born in Saudi Arabia.
So. I grudgingly concede Wretchard's point. Although while falling back I will say that if Pakistanis and Indian Kashmiris are now intent on murdering Jews in India and planting the flag of the caliphate in Israel, these are not indigenous sentiments and for their locus we must still turn our eyes to the Middle East.

Sunday, November 23

War at Sea, Part 4: With Somali pirates in the Land of Punt

Note: John Batchelor will be interviewing Robert Wright of the Financial Times tonight re the Somalia pirate coast and the hijacking of Saudi-owned Suezmac tanker Sirius Star (now held for ransom), re the 95 attacks on ships in the Gulf of Aden, re the shipping costs rise, re the emergency in Suez.

Interview time: 9:05 PM Pacific Time, KFI-60 AM radio: online link. Complete show schedule
*************************************
They say travel is broadening; war is even more so. All right, we're going to have to become acquainted with the Land of Punt, as the ancient Egyptians called it, or as it's known today, Puntland. According to the Christian Science Monitor:
Much of the piracy seems to be based out of the Puntland, a semiautonomous region on the northern shore of Somalia that broke away from Somalia soon after 1991. [...]

United Nations monitoring reports on arms smuggling in the Horn of Africa have pointed to evidence that pirate gangs have established relations with corrupt officials of the Puntland government. They bribe port officials to allow the pirates to use Eyl and other ports as their bases of operation, and to bring some of their captured ships in for safekeeping while the pirates negotiate ransoms with the ships' owners.
To give you some idea of why it's been child's play for the Somali pirates to take over Puntland, "The pirates actually have an income of $30m per year, $10m greater than that of Puntland as a whole," according to Wikipedia's article on Puntland.

I'd say that $30m is a conservative estimate of the profits made by the thousands of pirates operating in the region; in any event they have a government at their command. It seems the only competition for their influence-buying comes from transnational oil companies, whose explorations in Puntland are highly controversial.

So what else is new? A dirt-poor region wracked by clan and tribal rivalries, bathed in the blood of conflicts between chieftains, with foreign business looking the other way as the chiefs skims profit from organized crime.

You'd think that after maybe fifty or sixty thousand years the people in that region would say, 'You know, this chieftain model of government has outlived its day,' but no, they're the Wise Man; they know it all. We're older than you. We're in the Bible. Don't tell us what to do.

Where was I? The 21st century. Pirates. The Christian Science Monitor Q&A report on Somali piracy cited above is chock full of helpful information that set to rest some of my questions:

As I suspected, the majority of pirates are not simple fishermen:
Today's pirates are mainly fighters for Somalia's many warlord factions, who have fought each other for control of the country since the collapse of the Siad Barre government in 1991. [...]

There is also evidence that expatriate Somalis living in Kenya, Saudi Arabia, and throughout the Persian Gulf may be feeding information to the pirates about ships that have docked in those regions and may be heading toward the Gulf of Aden and other pirate-infested areas.
CSM sources find little evidence to support claims that local Islamists have begun to use piracy as a source of funds of weapons"
Certainly, Islamist groups such as Al Shabab – an insurgent group formed after the Islamic Courts Union lost control of the country last year in the wake of a US-backed invasion by Somalia's neighbor, Ethiopia – have used pirate gangs to smuggle weapons into Somalia, which is currently under international weapons sanctions. But the evidence is thin, as yet, that Islamist groups are using piracy on the high seas as a funding mechanism.
Okay; but I'm having a hard time buying this argument:
"The last thing the Islamists want to do is give an unnecessary provocation to the major powers, who might come after them in a big way," says Richard Cornwell, a senior analyst at the Institute for Security Studies in Tshwane. "What experience tells us is that if the Islamists did take control of Somalia, piracy would stop overnight. They don't want warlords gaining arms and money outside of their control."
That may have been true a few years ago but the profits are now too big to assume that al Qaeda or other terror groups would forego that line of income; they'd simply take control of the gangs.

And I have read nothing to allay my concern that shipping industry reluctance to treat piracy as warfare opens the door to using pirate attacks as a cover for terrorism.

A Washington Post report on pirate insurance ends with the ridiculously upbeat observation:
Once the pirates are under control, insurance premiums will slide back to previous levels, and third-party security details won't be necessary. Unlike in the movies, the navy is still more powerful than a pirate militia.
Here is the reality, from the CSM report:
"What staggered the mind [about the Sirius Star hijacking] is that this capture was 400 nautical miles out to sea," says Mr. Cornwell. "That's far deeper water than anything we've seen before. But with a GPS they can hijack to order." Using a mother ship – often an old Russian trawler – to prowl deeper waters for their target, they can offload smaller boats to move in close and overtake the ship, and climb up with hooks and ladders, and submachine guns. [...] given the size of the territory, and the amount of shipping traffic that flows past Somalia from the Suez Canal, naval patrolling cannot guarantee the safety of commercial vessels.

"Unless you have a warship in the immediate area, and, crucially, with a helicopter, you've got no chance of stopping them," says Cornwell.
And ramifications of the piracy continue to widen, like the rings from a stone cast in a pond:
Egypt hosted a Nov. 20 emergency meeting with Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and Jordan to try to forge a joint strategy against piracy, which threatens a crucial international trade route through the Suez Canal in the Red Sea – Egypt's key source of revenue.
Ominously, Iraq's defense minister warns that a premature U.S. pullout would expose Iraq to the danger of piracy in the Persian Gulf. From International Herald Tribune:
Abdul-Qader al-Obeidi says U.S. forces currently protect Iraqi ports and their hasty withdrawal would have "grave consequences" and endanger Iraq's security and sovereignty.

He told reporters Saturday that an early pullout would allow the kind of rampant piracy taking place in the Gulf of Aden to happen in the Persian Gulf. [...]

Iraq exports oil from its southern port of Basra. Iraq depends on oil for more than 90 percent of its national budget.
The CSM report explains that oil tankers are attractive targets:
"With a fully laden tanker ship, you have a fairly low free board, so it is easy to get up on board from smaller boats," says Cornwell. "Tankers are an obvious target of opportunity."
And crew are understandably reluctant to start a firefight on a ship loaded with highly flammable cargo.

The ramifications of the piracy for Somalia only add to the tragedy of that sorry collection of overlapping tribal regions:
Somalia is under international weapons sanctions, and warlord groups continue to fight both against the Ethiopian peacekeeping mission and against each other. But an influx of money is likely to mean a further influx of weapons to an already wartorn land.

"Regionally, I think the major problem is that piracy has given some groups the chance to lay their hands on money," says [Iqbal Jhazbhay, a Somali expert at the University of South Africa in Tshwane]. "There may be $30 million in ransom money received in recent years. Once they [the various armed groups] get that kind of money, they can buy a ground-to-air missile. Getting [a hold of] arms can affect the struggle for freedom in Somalia, and that affects the whole region."
And of course what affects the whole region affects us all. Life in the 21st Century.

War at Sea
Part 1, October 24
Part 2, November 18
Part 3, November 21

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Friday, November 21

War at Sea, Part 3: John Batchelor weighs in on the Somali pirates

Reference the October 24 and November 18 Pundita posts for background on my view of the situation. Here, John Batchelor weighs in on his blog about the Somali pirates and the al Qaeda angle. Clearly, he does not find enough to assume at this point that al Qaeda has gotten directly involved with the piracy. But he also finds cause for concern in that regard, and his view agrees with mine that the piracy reflects war at sea:
Blackhawk Down, the Remake
By John Batchelor on November 21, 2008

Somali Pirates Are Organized

Speaking Sunday 23 to Robert Wright, Financial Times, at London re the havoc in Suez Canal shipping caused by the pirates out of Somalia and other Indian Ocean ports.

Ninety-five ships have been attacked, thirty-nine taken, and fourteen are still held, the most famous right now being the Saudi owned Sirius Star ... a Suezmax tanker with $100 million of crude and a crew that assumes it will be ransomed.

None of this is cheap. The merchant fleets are plotting to bypass the Gulf of Aden, where the attacks are commonplace, and route the long route around the Cape of Good Hope. This adds 20 days from the Indian Ocean to Europe or North America and, if you are a Suezmax tanker, adds $1 million to the insurance costs and a lot of yelling in London and Brussels.

The question is why this is happening. The pirates are striking far at sea in small boats launched from mother ships. This is organized warfare. Who?

Al Qaeda Is Focused

Is it coincidence that Ayman al-Zawahiri's trash-talking video message, which was recorded sometime between November 5 and 11, mentioned the "lions of Islam in Somalia?"

"And I tell my brothers, the lions of Islam in Somalia: rejoice in victory and conquest. America is gathering its wounds in Iraq, and Ethiopia is looking for a way out, and for this reason, the stage of conspiracies and machinations has begun. So hold tightly to the truth for which you have given your lives, and don't put down your weapons before the Mujahid state of Islam and Tawheed has been set up in Somalia."

My best source on Ummah signals reminds me that Al Qaeda continues to plot to take over Somalia, and that it has struggled these years because of the chaos, anarchy, just general degradation of the population. Al Qaeda needs a government on hand in order to make a revolution and impose Shariah law.

Connect the dots? Not yet. The whole of the Horn of Africa has been collapsing for many years. Men ... driven from their tribes and herding by famine, drought, war in Ethiopia and Eritrea, the four horseman of the Apocalypse and a complete abandonment of the region by the EU and the Gulf States, all this has created a darkness visible that is growing.

Now with the recessions in the Western economies, the beggaring of the petro-dictatorships, the collapse of commodity prices in Africa and Asia, there is no hope to wait for. A Marxist would conclude that the pirates are revolting against the ruling classes. A Capitalist would conclude that the pirates are acting on favorable market conditions. But still, this is Somalia.

Blackhawk Down, the Original

My memory is that the connection between the "Blackhawk Down" incident of October 3-4 1993, also called the First Battle of Mogadishu, and the jihadists who became Al Qaeda was not firmly fixed. My best signal source for all sources was clear to me over many years that the attack on the American Task Force Ranger was a premeditated strike by Osama Bin Laden's agents. My best source often asserted that Al Qaeda was born at Khartoum in '93, and the first two efforts were the attack on the American embassy in Khartoum and the attack on the Mogadishu expedition.

The official American explanation in '93 and still today is that the attack was a spontaneous riot, that the hundreds of armed attackers just appeared spontaneously to go up against American automatic weapons and American and Pakistani counter-attacks, and that the fact that the Somali militia wielded RPGs was not significant.

Yes, Osama Bin Laden was deported from Khartoum in 1996, when he settled in Afghanistan. Yes, Al Qaeda has long recruited on the Indian Ocean coast of Africa. But sill, no confirm from the DoD or the historians of Mogadishu. ...

The Other Detail in Minnesota and Maine

Sunday 23 speaking also to Diana West, whose Townhall column puzzles about the strangely porous State Department program that has permitted thousands of Africans, especially Somalis, into the US as relatives of legal immigrants. The facts are that most of these relatives are likely frauds. In a test case of 3500, only twenty percent were legitimately relatives.

I wrote Diana that I have watched Lewiston, Maine for many years, where thousands of Somalis have settled through the State Department program, and in turn have brought in their relatives legally.

The Somalis are called economic refugees, a legacy of the original Somalia expedition launched by George H.W. Bush and Jim Baker in 1992. The Clinton administration inherited the Mogadishu catastrophe in 1993. Then two of the coldest states in the country inherited the refugee remnant who now, fifteen years later, have become active, voting American citizens ...

But what about these fraud reports? And what about the Somali pirates? And what about al-Zawahiri's "lions of Islam at Somalia?" Coincidences?

Tuesday, November 18

War at sea, continued: Is anyone still buying that "Somali pirates" are simple fishermen? Time to crack out the microwave guns

"Maritime security experts said they have tracked a southward spread in piracy over the last several weeks into a vast area of the Indian Ocean, noting with alarm that the area would be almost impossible to patrol.

"We remain deeply concerned because this attack represents a fundamental change in pirates' ability to hijack bigger vessels farther out at sea." (1)

October 27, 2008,
[Re October 24 Pundita post War at sea: piracy and the rise of private navies]

"Pundita,
My guess, after taking a glance at Ukraine's navy, was that they didn't have one. A ship, that is. Practically all they've got are only suitable for near shore use."
Dave Schuler
The Glittering Eye

Dear Dave,
I apologize for my delay in replying; things have been tumultuous on my end for many weeks; I've posted to my blog very intermittently since then.

I do not know, and I am positive I do not want to ruin my day by knowing, the fate of that hijacked Ukrainian ship but when last I heard the hijackers were still on board.

Re your comment: good point; thanks for that. But even if that's the case then it was still madness to send that ship into pirate waters. 33 battle tanks unguarded except by a small crew with light arms. What was Kiev thinking?

I know there are 'outside forces,' shall we say, which been involved for years in covert attempts to help in southern Sudan and overthrow the government in Khartoum. That knowledge is open source, if one digs hard enough on the internet.

The point is that if Kiev knew those weapons and the tanks were really bound for southern Sudan, you'd think they would have rung up those outside forces and asked for help in guarding the ship if they didn't have an escort of their own to send.

And if they were so naive (unlikely) to assume the battle tanks were bound only for Kenya, why didn't they tell the Kenyan military to scare up an armed escort or no deal?

I'm not sure it would have taken a battleship to have guarded the Ukraine ship. Why couldn't they do the same thing the Somali pirates did, and send several speedboats armed to the teeth to escort the ship? At least a firefight between the speedboats would have given the Ukraine ship's crew time to crack open those crates and pull out heavy firepower.

So no matter how much I play around with the pieces of this story, it doesn't stack for me.

I have a really bad feeling about all this, Dave. The feeling got worse this morning, when the news hit the international wires that a brand new (read "state-of-the-art") Saudi oil supertanker carrying $100 million in oil was hijacked this weekend by Somali pirates.

The tanker is named MV Sirius Star; it is the length of an aircraft carrier and it can carry about 2 million barrels of oil. It's the largest ship that the Somali pirates have hijacked to date.

The scariest part is that the pirates completely circumvented the international coalition of warships patrolling the so-called "critical" zone in the Gulf of Aden leading to and from the Suez Canal. NATO and other nations put together that patrol, if I recall after the Ukraine ship was attacked.

The gulf is where most of the 80+ pirate attacks have taken place this year. The Saudi tanker, however, was seized far to the south of the patrolled zone, about 450 nautical miles southeast of Mombasa, Kenya, according to the U.S. Navy.(1)

NATO warships bobbing around in the ocean while speedboats zip outside shooting range. There's a metaphor for the times, if I ever saw one.

Think of it; a few pirates in speedboats hijacked a ship the length of an aircraft carrier. I am beginning to wonder about these pirates. It looks as if it started out as a bunch of rag-tag fishermen just trying to earn enough to feed their families, but I am seeing greater and greater sophistication coming into these hijackings. Military-type sophistication.

I don't want to fling unsupported accusations, but if I see a bank robber gang hanging around a bank and the bank gets hit, I think I'm entitled to be suspicious. The Pasdaran speedboats have been getting bolder in harassing US and UK naval ships. These harassing activities are showing off the expertise of the IRGC with speedboats. And of course there's al Qaeda and kindred terror organizations to worry about.

My biggest worry is that I'm seeing the same kind of attitude from many shipping companies that made it child's play for al Qaeda to turn airplanes into bombs on 9/11. When passengers learned what was really going on they fought the hijackers. But the passengers on the other hijacked planes clearly followed the airline company protocols for responding to hijackers: don't resist, stay calm.

That attitude, when translated to ships at sea, invites turning the pirate speedboats into bombs. There are even more ominous things that can be done with bombs when you think in terms of having a big ship held by pirates that is docked. That's what happened to the Sirius Star. The pirates hauled it into harbor and docked it, can you believe.

I'm not the only person worried about these kind of scenarios. This morning I read a report by Lewis Page about a US admiral who is strongly recommending the use of microwave guns against pirate attacks. Evidentially the pirates are taking precautions against the LRAD (sound-blasters), but it doesn't seem there's any protection against the microwave guns:
Specifically, he'd like some variant on the (in)famous Raytheon Active Denial System microwave gun, which inflicts intense pain on its targets by heating up the outer layer of their skin. Raytheon say they've already tested the ADS against men in boats, off Florida in 2006, and it worked well.

However, just because Admiral Gortney would like some microwave rayguns doesn't mean he'll get them. Ground troop commanders in Iraq have been nagging the Pentagon for such weapons for years without any result, primarily because of the negative media perception of them.
Page ends with the sardonic observation:
The fact is, in general media coverage appears to be less damaging when western forces shoot or blow up local people, killing or crippling them in significant numbers, than when they propose deploying non- or less-lethal weapons.
They better set aside their fear of offending the public and come up with something, and fast, unless we want to close the barn door too late on these ship hijackings, as happened with airline security after 9/11.

Another point: I don't recall reading about gated communities and palatial villas springing up in Somalia, Lear jets parked in driveways and fisherman's wives going shopping in Paris. So where is all this ransom money going that the Somali pirates have collected? Two million USD here, five million Euros there; pretty soon you're talking real money. Where's it all going?

Okay, outlays for souped up speedboats and light weapons, but I think that would leave several hundred million USD still unaccounted for in recent years. Maybe a chunk of that is going to bribing officials and paying a network of spies to watch docks for interesting cargo and bribe ship captains. But it just seems to me that when this much money is sloshing around, governments can be greatly involved in the piracy, not to mention the involvement of terrorist groups and international crime syndicates.

Again, there's a relatively simple way to thwart the pirates but to date everyone has been too squeamish to deploy it. Let's hope that's changing. Of course no one likes the idea of a cruise ship armed with a microwave weapon. But I like even less a cruise ship boarded by terrorists that are assumed by the crew to be pirates.

It's time to start disabling any unfriendly bigger than a seagull that approaches a ship.

And every shipping company and government needs to ditch the policing mindset. This is not cops and robbers. This is war at sea.

This morning a reader sent me notice of an upcoming conference in London on piracy. My feeling is that events are moving faster than the conference's approach, but for what it's worth here's the information. Caveat: I know nothing about Quaynote and I haven't even visited their website:

Tackling Piracy at Sea Conference

18th and 19th March 2009, London, UK

Register now at Quaynote "dot" com

Somalia is now the backdrop against which increasing levels of piracy are seen. With both the frequency and violence of attacks thought to be growing, there is mounting pressure on governments, international agencies, and the shipping industry to tackle the problem.

Tackling Piracy is an international conference that will bring together all those concerned with or affected by piracy at sea to discuss what solutions can be found. As insurance companies offer kidnap negotiators under owners` policies, is it right for ship operators to pay ransoms to pirates in order to minimalise risk to crews and cargo? Or is their willingness to pay up encouraging piracy, with attackers motivated by their enhanced chances of commercial or political gain?

By examining a whole range of solutions, from improved international co-operation, the provision of greater naval protection or deployment of private security organisations, to looking at the effectiveness of preventative measures and the argument for industry to fund policing, Tackling Piracy will offer an ideal forum to both assess the problem and pinpoint some possible answers.

Conference Chaired by:

David Jamieson, former UK Shipping Minister

Speakers already confirmed:

Paul Agate, Swinglehurst
Stephen Askins, Ince & Co
Guillaume Bonnissent, Hiscox
Toben Janholt, Danish Shipowners` Assocation
Chris Moore, Drum Cussac
Pottengal Mukundan, International Maritime Bureau
Neil Young, Armor Group

For further details go to Quaynote

Telephone: 44 (0) 20 8348 3704

Email: alison@quaynote.com

Alison Singhal
Quaynote Communications

1) Hijacked Ship Holds $100 Million in Oil
By BARBARA SURK, AP, November 18, 2008

Thursday, November 6

"But Comrade Stalin, they made me do it!"

When he's in the mood no one writes better about Soviet history than John Batchelor. In his post for today he dredges up a tale about politics, Stalin-style, to illuminate the current vicious mood in the Grand Old Party.

(The ellipses I've added refer to photographs Batchelor added to his post, including the lovely pastoral scene of Stalin at play.)

John Batchelor on November 6, 2008

Reviewing A Model for the GOP Purge Coming Like Winter

When Josef Stalin ... heard that his chief Bolshevik Party rival Sergey Kirov ... had been assassinated in the middle of the night at the Smolny Institute Party headquarters in Peter (Leningrad), the dictator took the night train to the scene and set up a drumhead court.

This was 1934, weeks after the Nazi Party's night of the long knives in Germany had jettisoned the untidy Brown Shirts. Stalin, quick to learn from the ambitious Hitler, aimed to outperform the Teutons when dealing with Kirov and the potent Leningrad Party.

The numbskull Kirov shooter, an NKVD hireling and stooge Nikolaev, was dragged in and quickly condemned to death by firing squad that night.

"But Comrade Stalin, they made me do it!" Nikolaev complained of his NKVD bosses, who had of course directed Nikolaev's gun hand under orders from Moscow and Stalin.

By 1937, everyone who had anything to do with Kirov's assasination -- families, allies, NKVD sadists, jailers, witnesses, drivers, friends of the families, children, too -- had been destroyed or sent to the Gulag. Stalin purged, and then he purged the purgers.

"When making an omelette, you must break eggs," is the proverb.

First The Bankers

The first targets for the Republican purge must be the modern Kirovs, the bankers, especially Hank Paulson, his toadies at Treasury, Ben Bernanke, his toadies like Timothy Geithner at the Fed and the SEC's genius Christopher Cox, ... and the big nine bank bosses who took money from the bailout on October 13, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley (... Morgan's John Mack), Wells Fargo, Citigroup (... Citi's Vikram Pandit), Bank of America, J.P.Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, Bank of New York Mellon, State Street.

What wreaked havoc on the GOP in 2008 were a flimsy candidate, an absent president and petulant vice-president, an aimless war and of course the collapse of the credit markets worldwide and Lehman Brothers in specific on Black Swan weekend, September 12-14.

However, even with all that, John McCain was competitive in the polls right up until the Lehman Brothers failure and the panicky, half-cocked and self-dealing Paulson plan was pushed onto the Congress September 28 to October 3. At that point, the Republican party collapsed into hysteria, doubt, whining, denial, incoherence, knuckleheadedness and selfishness.

John McCain showed himself not a winner, not a leader, not a visionary, when he broke from the trail on October 1 and claimed he wouldn't debate the innocuous Mr. Obama until it looked like he was leading the Republican Party and Congress in rescuing the collapsing markets. Complete foolishness and a final judgement on John McCain as a fiscal steward.

However, the Republican president and vice-president as well as the Republican Senate and the Republican leadership in the House all went along with the fairy tale that the Paulson bailout was a solution. Not only were they all wrong, the plan didn't work. Enough reviewed. Guilty.

In the first phase of the purge coming, first we get rid of all of the bankers in the party who had anything to do with the bailout, and then we get rid of everyone who took money from the bailout.

What is a Republican Party without bankers, financiers, hedgies, bond traders, fund managers, investment polymaths, Goldman alum, and Treasury groupies and the attendant billionaires, high-net-worthies and masters of disasters? The answer is, Liberated.

The Party is in mortal danger of meaninglessness, so let's try freedom from the meaningless bankers when were so smart they beggared the planet.

"But Comrade Stalin, they made us do it!" they will scream as they are led to the firing squads. Shoot them now. We will turn to the Republican Party pols, collaborators and deserters by name next: who is to be shot, who goes to the Gulag, who just disappears.

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