Syria Coughed Up Saddam’s Brother

As I earlier predicted, the Iraqis got their hands on Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hasan al-Tikriti through the intervention of the Syrian government:

Iraqi officials said Sunday that Syrian authorities captured Saddam Hussein’s half-brother in Syria and handed him over to Iraq in an apparent goodwill gesture.
Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, who was also a former adviser suspected of financing insurgents after U.S. troops ousted the former dictator, was captured in Hasakah in northeastern Syria near the Iraqi border, two senior Iraqi officials told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.
The officials did not specify when al-Hassan was captured, only saying he was detained following the Feb. 14 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut, Lebanon, in a blast that killed 16 others.

What did I tell you? With the wave of popular sentiment sweeping across Southwest Asia for democratic self-determination and pressure from both America and France to get out of Lebanon or else, Syria has decided to start playing nice with the new Iraqi government rather than protect Assad’s political Ba’athist cousins. Ibrahim hardly made himself an asset to Assad anyway, and with all of the diplomatic heat coming down on Damascus, Assad has belatedly found the Iraqi Ba’athist leadership very disposable.
Jack Kelly wrote earlier that the Iraq War has already been essentially won, with nothing much left than the cleanup. This constitutes a major part of that effort, and as long as the pressure remains on the Syrians, more cleanup will follow after this. It also confirms that Syria indeed had a hand in fomenting the terrorist attacks in Iraq; now, with this revelation and the apparent reversal of course by an extremely nervous Assad, we may see the entire Zarqawi/Ba’athist effort collapse in on itself within weeks.
UPDATE: The AP story has been updated with even better news (emphases mine):

Iraqi officials said Sunday that Syrian authorities had captured Saddam Hussein’s half-brother and 29 other officials of the deposed dictator’s Baath Party in Syria and handed them over to Iraq in an apparent goodwill gesture. …
They added that al-Hassan was captured and handed over to Iraqi authorities along with 29 other members of Saddam’s collapsed Baath Party, whose Syrian branch has been in power in Damascus since 1963.

So they turned over 30 operatives of Sabawi’s network along with Sabawi himself. It’s starting to look like an early bout of spring cleaning at Chateau Assad. The Iraqi Ba’athists have become very, very expendable.
And welcome, Instapundit readers!

Step Two Of The Palestinian Triangle Offense

Israel has reacted to the Tel Aviv bombing this weekend by suspending planned prisoner releases, one of the key demands of the militant groups, Reuters reports:

Israel will reconsider whether to free 400 Palestinian prisoners as it had promised before a suicide bombing that killed four Israelis in Tel Aviv, Israel Radio said Sunday.
The radio quoted Justice Minister Tsipi Livni as saying Israel may not release these prisoners that were to have been freed in addition to 500 released last week, following a promise to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at a Feb. 8 summit.
Israeli leader Ariel Sharon demanded Sunday the Palestinians smash militant groups after the bombing Friday, saying he would freeze peace efforts and take military action if they did not heed his call.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad had already criticized the planned releases as too modest for their tastes, demanding the immediate release of all 8,000 Palestinians held in Israeli jails before considering a formal cease-fire. Now that Sharon has frozen even the preliminary releases, the militants have all the excuse they need to declare open season on Israeli citizens again, and Abbas can blame the intransigence of the Israelis for the collapse of the cease fire. Abbas may make some preliminary noise about taking action against the militants, but in a short period of time he will lay the blame against Sharon for undermining Fatah’s credibility among the militants.
Some of you think I’m being far too skeptical. I hope to be proven wrong. So far, however, events have played out exactly as expected, and exactly as they have in the past. Only when the Palestinians start electing peacemakers rather than bombthrowers will peace truly come to the West Bank and Gaza.

Jack Kelly: Iraq War Won

Jack Kelly tells us in his column today what really should have been obvious since January 30th — that the Iraq War has been won, and the media has missed the story entirely:

It will be some months before the news media recognize it, and a few months more before they acknowledge it, but the war in Iraq is all but won. The situation is roughly analogous to the battle of Iwo Jima, which took place 60 years ago this month. It took 35 days before the island was declared secure, but the outcome was clear after day five, with the capture of Mt. Suribachi.
Proof of this was provided by Sen. Hillary Clinton. Iraq is functioning quite well, she said in a press conference in Baghdad Feb. 19. The recent rash of suicide attacks is a sign the insurgency is failing, she said.
“When politicians like [Clinton] start flocking to Iraq to bask in the light of its success, then you know that the corner has been turned,” a reader of his blog wrote to Bay.

Kelly wants to know when journalists and media outlets will finally be held accountable for malpractice for getting almost every development in the war on terror wrong. Since I know Jack reads the blogs, I know that question is meant rhetorically — Jack already has provided the evidence, and the media will get its trial among its activist readership in the blogosphere. Read his whole column, and while you’re at it, ask your local paper why Jack’s column doesn’t appear there. They may not like the microscope Jack aims at their credibility. (via Hugh Hewitt)

The Pilgrim Spirit

After missing the Sunday Angelus blessing for the first time in his papacy, the seriously ill John Paul II surprised the crowd outside the Gemelli Hospital by appearing at the window and waving to them:

Pope John Paul II has made a surprise appearance at the window of his Rome hospital to wave to people expecting his traditional Sunday blessing.
Sitting on a wheelchair, the Pope made the sign of the cross to bless the faithful even though he did not speak.

I haven’t blogged about John Paul II’s latest illness, mostly because it has received such widespread coverage that anything I say would be redundant. This episode will likely provide no exception. However, I think that it shows why this Pope has attracted so much love and respect from the Catholic faithful. His tenacity helped bring down the Iron Curtain and free millions from tyranny when he had all of his physical stamina, and even an assassin’s bullet could not stop him from stubbornly pursuing God’s will on Earth. For a man who has every excuse to take a day off, his gesture of comfort for the multitudes who have gathered in respect and concern demonstrates those same qualities on a more personal basis.
John Paul II may well be called home soon, but his mission among us will remain as one of the most remarkable of any Pope since the height of the Catholic Church’s political power prior to the Reformation. We Catholics of this age have truly been blessed with his leadership.

Saddam’s Brother Scooped Up By Iraqis

For the first time in a year, the Ba’athists have lost a card from the American deck of fugitives. This time, the Iraqis themselves have captured the six of diamonds, Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hasan al-Tikriti — otherwise known as Saddam Hussein’s half brother:

Security forces in Iraq have captured Saddam Hussein’s half-brother, one of the country’s most wanted men and the first top-level Baathist to be caught in a year, the government announced Sunday.
Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hasan al-Tikriti, an intelligence chief and one-time adviser to the former president, was number 36 on the U.S. military’s list of the 55 most-wanted people in Iraq — the six of diamonds.
A statement from Iraq’s government did not say when or where he was seized or whether U.S. or Iraqi forces had captured him. Details were expected at a news conference later Sunday.
Last year, Iraqi officials said Ibrahim, who was born to the same mother as Saddam, was one of two former Baath Party officials directing the insurgency from Syria.

As I noted yesterday, after the 1982 assassination attempt by Dawa on Saddam, he increasingly turned to blood relations for his lieutenants. Ibrahim was one of the beneficiaries, a leader in the IIS and presumably behind some of its brutal methods of terrorizing Iraqis who dared challenge or even criticize Saddam. His actions would certainly provide an interesting case for the Iraqi Special Tribunal, and they’ve surely already gathered evidence and testimony to start.
As a member of the fugitive deck, his capture carried a reward of one million dollars. The Iraqis gave no indication of how Ibrahim fell into their hands — but the Syrian connection should raise eyebrows. Bashar Assad has come under tremendous pressure to evacuate all of its forces from Lebanon and probably faces UN Security Council action in April if its withdrawal isn’t complete by then. It’s no secret that the US and France considers Syria to be complicit in the assassination of Rafik Hariri and have allied together to push Syria out of Lebanon, and with 150,000 troops on Assad’s eastern border, that alliance looks deadly.
With Assad looking for an edge to blunt the latest diplomatic firestorm and protect himself from a people-power uprising of his own, he may have decided that hosting the so-called insurgency and its brother Ba’athists have become far too much trouble than it’s worth. While the terrorists looked like they could destabilize Iraq, supporting them looked like a good bet for Assad. Now that the Iraqi elections have been so successful and the momentum on both sides of Syria has swung so far towards democratization and freedom, Assad may have opted for cutting all ties with the terrorists in Iraq as a way of mollifying the US.
The Iraqis will have more data on Ibrahim’s arrest later today. I suspect that we’ll hear he got picked up somewhere close to the Syrian border based on tips and intelligence reports. If so, that will be code for “He and his cohorts got too hot for Assad to handle.”

Palestinians Shocked, Shocked! To Find Terrorists Among Them

The AP reports tonight that ordinary Palestinians are outraged by the Tel Aviv bombing that killed four Israelis yesterday. Instead of the usual ululations and street celebrations, Mohammed Ballas reports that Palestinians voiced complaints instead:

Palestinians expressed anger Saturday at an overnight suicide bombing in Tel Aviv that killed four Israelis and threatened a fragile truce, a departure from former times when they welcomed attacks on their Israeli foes.
Official condemnations and denials were followed by public anger toward the perpetrators as Israeli blamed Syria and the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the attack. The Palestinians pointed fingers at the Lebanese guerrilla group Hezbollah. Syria denied the allegations. …
In contrast to the dozens of previous suicide bombings, no celebrations were held in the West Bank on Saturday and militant groups didn’t hang the customary posters of congratulations at the bomber’s home.

What a blow that must have been. No $25,000 check from Saddam and now the family doesn’t even get its posters. What a crackdown!
And let’s take this report with a huge, Lot’s-Wife-sized grain of salt. This is the same Palestinian population that elected Hamas to two-thirds of the Gaza council seats in the last election, double the number that Abbas’ Fatah faction got on their peace platform. Now we’re supposed to believe that they elected Hamas to push the peace process along? Perhaps the AP wants to win the coveted Captain Louis award for feigning shock at the ridiculously obvious, or more accurately, trying to get us to buy into it.
UPDATE: My RNC colleague (and all-around good guy) Roger L. Simon notes my skepticism and counters with the argument that there isn’t much difference between Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad except a franchise label:

Ed Morrissey seems to believe that Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad can actually be differentiated in an ultimate sense. I respectfully disagree. I believe they share personnel, goals, information, everything, and take credit in the most elusive way possible. What is Al Qaeda, after all, but the fungible name of the old Muslim Brotherhood?

Actually, what I argue is that Palestinian IJ cannot be differentiated in an ultimate sense from Hamas and al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, if not Fatah itself, for the same reasons Roger gives. That’s what makes this Palestinian triangle offense so powerful. Hamas and the PLO may oppose each other for political purposes, but their goals are exactly the same: the annihilation of the Jewish state. Hamas speaks more openly about it. PIJ serves as a handy subset of the two in order to provide yet another voice in the mix. And if no one considered that before, the reports of the arrest certainly bear it out; the men arrested had ties to AAMB while PIJ took credit for the operation.
That’s why I am so skeptical of both the Abbas “election”, a product of widespread electoral fraud, and the Palestinian desire for a negotiated peace that leaves Israel in place. When Palestinians quit electing terrorists over moderates (if Fatah can even be called that), then I’ll re-evaluate my skepticism.

Father And Son Day At The Iraqi Genocide Tribunal

The Iraqi Special Tribunal for genocide during Saddam Hussein’s bloody reign of terror has two new defendants to consider. US forces turned over a father-son partnership reportedly responsible for the murders of over 140 murders in a retaliation for a Dawa assassination attempt on Saddam in 1982:

U.S. forces have arrested an Iraqi father and son accused of participating in a 1982 massacre in the predominantly Shiite Muslim village of Dujail in retaliation for an assassination attempt on then-President Saddam Hussein.
Senior U.S. officials said in interviews that Abdulla Rwayid and Muzhir Abdulla Rwayid were arrested Monday and charged with crimes against humanity for their alleged role in the killing of hundreds of people associated with the Dawa party, a Shiite group that carried out the attempt on Hussein’s life on July 8, 1982.
Charges against the two detained men were referred to the Iraqi Special Tribunal, the entity responsible for trying those accused of crimes against humanity, war crimes and genocide in Iraq between 1968 and 2003, when Hussein’s Baath Party ruled the country.

The attempt came after the Iran-Iraq war provoked by Saddam began to slog into a stalemate in its second year and Saddam’s popularity plummeted. Dawa, the banned political opposition group whose leader is likely to be Iraq’s next Prime Minister, schemed an ambush to murder Saddam. Saddam outsmarted the ambushers by changing cars in the convoy, a move that saved his life. However, it still took the Iraqi Army two hours to extricate him from the ambush, and the experience affected Saddam deeply. He curtailed his travel in Iraq and started relying on blood relations, concentrating power into his family and the Tikrit syndicate whose loyalty could be counted on.
That wasn’t all that Saddam did. In an age-old response of tyrants, Saddam punished the town for the acts of a handful of its residents. Like the Czech village of Lidice after the assassination of Reinhard “Hangman” Heydrich in WWII, the Ba’athists rounded up hundreds, deported the rest and destroyed the town of Dujail. Some of the detained endured months of torture before being released, but at least 147 were killed, on the orders of the Rwayids.
Now they will face the music, along with the rest of the Ba’athist enablers that the Iraqis and the Americans can grab. Like the Nazis that came before Saddam, the Ba’athist regime resembled a crime family more than a government. Humiliation before a tribunal of free Iraqis will be a fitting end for the monsters of Iraq.
As this shows, the Ba’athist remnants and foreign terrorists targeting Iraqis for even more murder and mayhem didn’t get pushed into their latest atrocities by the American invasion. With their pool of helpless victims now severely restricted, they have to resort to suicide bombings and remotely-detonated car bombs to satiate their thirst for blood. That change has not gone unnoticed by ordinary Iraqis, as the Washington Post reports at the end:

The Marines have captured 155 suspected insurgents and seized several weapons caches during a six-day security operation in Ramadi and neighboring towns, according to the U.S. military. Of those detained, 51 were arrested Friday, the military said in a statement.
Hamoudi Hadib, 45, a grocer in Ramadi, said he hopes the U.S. forces kill all of the insurgents.
“They prevent us from working,” he said. “If Islam and religion become like this, we don’t need it. They hurt us so much. We don’t blame the Americans because they insisted on continuing their mission, but we blame those Arabs who do not want to leave our country. They should leave.”

It appears that they have little patience left for their former oppressors and their lunatic supporters. After hearing about the Rwayids, one can’t blame them a bit.

Michelle Bachman And The NARN

One of the pleasures of participating in local radio is meeting the people who shape our community in many different ways. Today on the Northern Alliance, we had the pleasure of spending an hour with Michelle Bachmann, our state Senator from District 52 who just announced her candidacy for Mark Kennedy’s Congressional seat. Kennedy plans on running for the Senate seat that Brave Sir Mark Dayton will vacate in 2006.
Michelle took to live radio like a seasoned professional, making the rest of us juuuuuuust a little envious of her performance. She promises to come back for one of our upcoming live remotes at White Bear Lake Superstore, where I think Paul Rubin will be delighted to have her presence to light up the showroom. We’ll let you know when that happens.
In the meantime, we captured the moment for posterity (courtesy of Fraters Libertas and Michelle’s friend Barbara, who came from Ukiah, CA for a visit).

CQ In The News

I received a few e-mails from CQ readers informing me that NBC Nightly News showed a couple of screen shots of my blog tonight. In a story called “Blog Power,” Jonathan Alter notes that blogs have developed substantial power to change and shape the political and media environment. He pointed to three people who have lost their jobs due to blogs — Trent Lott (showing Eschaton), Dan Rather (showing Power Line), and Eason Jordan, with Captain’s Quarters in the background.
If you’re watching the news on the West Coast, you’ll see this at 6 pm PT. If you’ve missed it like I did, you can watch the segment at The Political Teen, who captured it and now hosts the clip. (In fact, check out his entire blog.) It’s not a bad segment, even if it contains the ubiquitous hands-typing-on-keyboard shot. Since they show my URL as the entry, I won’t gripe about that too much this time. (hat tip: CQ readers Gregory and Beege)

Islamic Jihad Claims Credit For Tel Aviv Bombing

Islamic Jihad has claimed credit for the suicide bombing in Tel Aviv, blowing holes in the theory promoted by both Palestinian and Israeli officials that Hezbollah did it to undermine the peace process. Now Mahmoud Abbas has to either crack down on IJ leadership or surrender his credibility as a peace partner:

Islamic Jihad carried out a suicide bomb attack in the Israeli city of Tel Aviv that killed four people on Friday, a Beirut-based official from the organization said on Saturday.
“We confirm that we carried out the operation,” the official, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
Friday’s bombing at a Tel Aviv nightclub dealt a heavy blow to peace hopes that had brightened since Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon agreed to a ceasefire at a Feb. 8 summit.

Now we know how successful Abbas has been in convincing the militants to observe the cease-fire. This announcement appears to confirm a de facto triangle offense, whether or not Abbas wants it. If Islamic Jihad insists on carrying out terrorist activities in Israel and Abbas cannot stop them from doing so, Israel will have to respond. That will effectively destroy the delicate negotiations, and the Palestinians — who support the terrorists when given the chance — will blame Israel for their own bloodthirsty nature.
Color me surprised only in the rapid and rather overt development of the strategy. When the Palestinians tire of war, they’ll cast votes for peacemakers instead of terrorists. Only when that happens will a Palestinian government arise that can effectively stop the terrorists. Until that happens, Israel should consider themselves under attack and take appropriate measures to defend themselves, and ignore further calls for cease-fires that only seem to apply to the Jews.
UPDATE: The news report has been changed to include a confirmation from a Gaza-based IJ source:

Its Gaza-based leadership, who had earlier denied knowledge of the bombing and said it remained committed to a de facto truce called by Abbas, confirmed the claim. …
A video left by the bomber, Abdullah Badran, 21, showed him flanked by Islamic Jihad flags calling Israelis “enemies of God” and vowing to avenge the killings of Palestinians.

Abbas sure does look effective now, doesn’t he? He still wants people to believe that Hezbollah conducted the operation even while his IJ cohorts publicly claim responsibility. Yeah, that makes for effective diplomatic partnership.