Euro Islamofascists Linked To Iraq: Spain

According to a Spanish investigative judge, Islamic radicals operating in Europe and North Africa have direct connections to Ansar al-Islam, the terrorist network in Iraq headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Baltasar Garzon’s allegations put new light on Europe’s stance regarding Iraq and the fight on terror:

Armed Islamist militants that operate in Europe are also helping support the armed insurgency in Iraq, one of Europe’s foremost experts on such groups told Reuters.
Spanish High Court Judge Baltasar Garzon, who has been investigating Islamist militants in Spain since 1991, warned that groups such as the Algerian Salafist movement and the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group were particularly dangerous for Europe.
“They are groups that have membership inside and outside Europe and in any case we have to keep close watch on the relationship these groups have with others like Ansar al-Islam,” Garzon told Reuters in an interview late on Friday.
“It’s obvious that this type of terror groups are perfectly operative … The threat from this type of terrorism is real, it’s constant, it’s current and it will continue to be.”

I doubt that this will see much exposure in Europe’s media, and for good reason; the notion that all of these groups connect back to al-Qaeda, through Iraq, demonstrates that the US had it right all along. Ansar al-Islam established itself in Iraq well before the invasion, with its leader Zarqawi traveling through Baghdad on a number of occasions to conduct business with the IIS. In his book The Connection: How Al-Qaeda’s Collaboration With Saddam Hussein Endangered America, Stephen Hayes dissects the connections between Iraq’s intelligence services, Ansar al-Islam, and al-Qaeda (pages 162-3):

The first detailed reports about Ansar al-Islam came not from US intelligence but from a groundbreaking report in The New Yorker magazine, the same story that established Zarqawi’s 1992 trip to Baghdad. Jeffrey Goldberg, in northern Iraq to report a story about the Iraqi regime’s repression of the Kurds, was given access to several prisoners at a Kurdish jail in Sulaimaniyah. The Kurds had been trying for months to convince the CIA to visit the facility and interrogate the detainees, who were being held for their role in attacks against the Kurdish interests. According to the Kurds, the CIA had been unresponsive.

Goldberg’s article contained the explosive testimony that connected the dots, in the phrase used by the 9/11 Commission over and over again, more than two years ago:

The allegations include charges that Ansar al-Islam has received funds directly from Al Qaeda; that the intelligence service of Saddam Hussein has joint control, with Al Qaeda operatives, over Ansar al-Islam; that Saddam Hussein hosted a senior leader of Al Qaeda in Baghdad in 1992; that a number of Al Qaeda members fleeing Afghanistan have been secretly brought into territory controlled by Ansar al-Islam; and that Iraqi intelligence agents smuggled conventional weapons, and possibly even chemical and biological weapons, into Afghanistan. If these charges are true, it would mean that the relationship between Saddam’s regime and Al Qaeda is far closer than previously thought.
When I asked the director of the twenty-four-hundred-man Patriotic Union intelligence service why he was allowing me to interview his prisoners, he told me that he hoped I would carry this information to American intelligence officials. “The F.B.I. and the C.I.A. haven’t come out yet,” he told me. His deputy added, “Americans are going to Somalia, the Philippines, I don’t know where else, to look for terrorists. But this is the field, here.”

That article demonstrated an odd absence of curiosity about a connection between Saddam and AQ, almost as if the CIA wanted to avoid finding one. Now, however, even the Europeans have noticed a connection between their terrorist threat and Iraq, one that existed prior to 2003 or even 9/11, nullifying the notion that the American invasion is what created the new security problems for Europe. If Garzon has the evidence he claims, then Saddam Hussein himself at least abetted the terror threat against the Continent as well as the United States.
Will Europe act in its own defense? Western Europe, save the British and the pre-Zapatero Spaniards, certainly showed no inclination to do so. They sat on their hands and decried American militarism. Garzon’s findings give them a second opportunity to defend themselves by going on the offensive against Zarqawi and Ansar al-Islam. At the very least, they could acknowledge the connection and stop ankle-biting George Bush and Tony Blair while the two of them save Western Europe’s collective bacon. If they fail to recognize Garzon’s work and continue to wring their hands about supposedly false intelligence linking Saddam’s Iraq to al-Qaeda and Ansar al-Islam, then we will confirm (again!) that the leaders of Western Europe have descended from the lesser lights of Neville Chamberlain and Eduoard Daladier instead of Winston Churchill.

Israel And Palestinians Quick To Blame Hezbollah

Both Israeli and Palestinian security forces have made arrests this morning from the Tel Aviv suicide bombing yesterday that killed four and injured dozens. The BBC reports that both sides blame Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terror group with a vested interest in disrupting the peace process, but the details buried in the report appear to dispute that notion:

Israeli troops and Palestinian police have arrested seven people in connection with Friday’s suicide bombing outside a Tel Aviv nightclub.
Israeli soldiers detained five people near the West Bank town of Tulkarem, including two brothers of the man identified as the suicide bomber.
Palestinian police separately arrested two people over the blast, which killed four people and injured about 30. …
Mr Abbas blamed a “third party” but went no further.
Other Palestinian officials have blamed Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant organisation. All the Palestinian militant groups have denied responsibility.

As the BBC notes, blaming Hezbollah would solve a lot of problems for both sides. It has become obvious that Ariel Sharon wants to get out of the occupation and the endless war it has provided, and he has grasped at the first person outside of Yasser Arafat to rise to the top of the Palestinian food chain in order to do that. Abbas wants to retain international credibility for as long as possible, either because he sincerely wants peace or to run the usual Palestinian triangle offense a bit longer and ensure that condemnation falls on the Israelis for the failure of diplomacy. Hezbollah makes a very convenient patsy for all concerned.
However, that may not square up with the facts on the ground. The Palestinians identified the bomber as Abdullah Badran — who happened to belong to the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, which reports Abbas’ own Fatah faction. The Palestinians claim that he and his brothers, two of the five whom the Israelis arrested, had been co-opted by Hezbollah, which Hezbollah denies. The two men the Palestinians caught have been described by one source to the BBC as members of Islamic Jihad.
It could be possible that Hezbollah conducted this suicide bombing to undermine Abbas, but with its position increasingly under threat in Beirut by a sweeping wave of nationalism, one has to question whether Hezbollah really has Abbas high up on its list of priorities at the moment. Hezbollah had always been more interested in keeping Israel out of Lebanon and fighting border skirmishes rather than conducting suicide operations in Tel Aviv. Picking this fight could have the strategy of attempting to draw Israeli retaliation in Lebanon in order to strengthen the Syrian claim that they need to remain in Lebanon for the latter’s protection, but again, suicide bombings haven’t usually been Hezbollah’s style. If they conducted this attack, it would have to be to undermine Abbas and maybe also Sharon, and that’s a far stretch for anyone.
It appears much more likely to me that Abbas does not have the loyalty of his own security forces, let alone much juice with the terrorist groups that the Palestinians so enthusiastically supported in local elections last month. Whether Abbas truly wants peace or not, apparently his fellow Palestinians do not.

Palestinian Triangle Offense Begins

A Palestinian suicide bomber killed four people in Tel Aviv today, shattering the cease-fire that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas claimed had support from the terror groups in the occupied territories. Abbas decried the attack as sabotage on the Palestinians by isolated radicals as several groups claimed credit for the attack, while their leadership issued denials to the press:

Police said the bomber detonated his device in a crowd of young people waiting to enter the Stage nightclub on the city’s popular Mediterranean beachfront promenade, about 600 yards south of the U.S. Embassy. More than 50 people were injured in the explosion, many seriously, police said. …
There were several conflicting claims of responsibility by Palestinian groups, but none was definitive and all were subsequently denied by senior members of the organizations. An Islamic Jihad cell initially asserted responsibility for the attack, but a top official of the group in the Gaza Strip denied the claim and said his organization was continuing to honor an agreement with the Palestinian Authority to observe an informal truce with Israel. …
Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians’ chief negotiator with Israel, condemned the attack “in the strongest possible terms.”
“Whoever was behind this attack,” Erekat said, “has one aim in mind: sabotage the peace process, undermine Palestinian national interests and undermine the democratic Palestinian process which the world has witnessed” since the death of Yasser Arafat three months ago and the subsequent election of Abbas as his successor.

Well, maybe. However, this looks remarkably similar to past Palestinian pledges to stop attacks on Israeli citizens that always collapsed as one of the three main power players in the occupied territories have always found justification to kick-start the war while Israel relaxed. The method of the bombing looks familiar as well, as the Post notes. It almost mirrors an earlier Palestinian suicide mission that took 21 lives in 2001 at the Dolphinarium. The similarity cannot have been accidental, nor do I believe it was meant to go unnoticed.
Abbas can scream “sabotage!” all he wants, but this three-step has been seen before. Unless Abbas offers up the perpetrators on a stick to the Israelis, and quickly, the Israelis will know that the power in the territories is not Fatah and Abbas but Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Neither group would sign onto the cease-fire, although both announced that they would informally follow it. Neither wants to allow Israel to survive in any form, and the local elections held last month show that Hamas and its agenda of murder and destruction has twice as much support as Fatah does.
Watch carefully for the tired responses decrying this brutal attack, blah blah blah. If the Israelis make an arrest, expect to see another attack, or perhaps a cluster of them, until they press Israel into retaliation. That will give Abbas the excuse he needs to go back to war, and back to his decades-long quest to exterminate the Israelis, getting Fatah at the head of the intifada once more – if it ever left it at all.
I give it until the end of March before this completely collapses, and I think I’m being far too generous.

Colin Powell, Unbound

Colin Powell has given one of his most extensive interviews after his resignation last month as Secretary of State, and the London Telegraph publishes it in tomorrow’s edition. While Powell talks about several of the controversial moments of his term at State, he pointedly refused to discuss his thoughts about President George Bush, out of loyalty and a sense that his proximity still is too close to comment.
The most controversial part of the interview comes in Powell’s response to the WMD question. Powell leaves no doubt that he feels personally stained by the failure to find WMD, but he insists the administration’s belief was genuine:

And now Colin Powell becomes more direct: “I’m very sore. I’m the one who made the television moment. I was mightily disappointed when the sourcing of it all became very suspect and everything started to fall apart.
“The problem was stockpiles. None have been found. I don’t think any will be found. There may not have been any at the time. It was the best judgment of the intelligence community, not something I made up. Clinton had been told the same thing.”
Matter-of-factly, he adds: “I will forever be known as the one who made the case.”
With five days’ notice from the President, Powell worked it up: “Every single word in that presentation was screened and approved by the intelligence community.” He cites the case of the aluminium tubes, which he presented to the world as being, probably, for centrifuges intended for nuclear weapons: “We sat down with a roomful, of analysts. The Director of Central Intelligence [George Tenet] – he’s essentially the referee on these occasions – sits down and says: ‘We have concluded that they’re not rocket bodies: it’s our judgment that these are for centrifuges’.
“So that’s what I said, though I mentioned signs of differences of opinion. To this day, the CIA has not said that they aren’t for centrifuges.”

Perhaps because everyone believes that Powell opposed the war in the first place, people think he will reverse course on the war now that he has no connection to the Bush administration except personal loyalty. However, Powell instead insists that he supported the war itself and still does, even if he disagreed with post-war planning:

Which brings us to Iraq. Here, Powell agrees, that “the tensions between America and Europe have been fantastic – it’s a source of dismay to me.”
But he doesn’t apologise for most of what happened. “In less than two years, we have got rid of a dictator, introduced a basic law, leading to an election that people really came out for – except for the Sunnis, who did not come out as we’d hoped.”
He delicately indicates that he’s pleased with the choice of Ibrahim Jaafari as prospective prime minister rather than his chief rival Ahmed Chalabi, and confidently predicts that the constitution will be ratified and a new election held by the end of the year. The Iraqi people are finally making their own choices.
What went wrong for Iraq was not the military campaign, which was “brilliantly fought”, but the transition to “nation-building” that followed. In Powell’s view, there were “enough troops for war but not for peace, for establishing order. My own preference would have been for more forces after the conflict.”

Another meme in the marketplace has Colin Powell serving as the reluctant diplomat, unhappily working the UN while he supposedly knew George Bush was undermining his efforts to reach an international consensus. He acknowledges that happened regarding some Middle Est issues, but emphatically declares himself to be one of the architects of the Iraq war. He also told the Telegraph that he never stewed silently about his reservations regarding the postwar challenges:

It is time to take Colin Powell back a little. Everyone knows, I say, that you had your doubts about the war in Iraq, but it seems you never fully expressed them. Don’t you regret not being more upfront?
Powell comes back hard: “I was upfront with the President, who is the person I’m paid to be upfront with.” In early August 2002, the two men had dinner together, and Powell sounded his warning: “My caution was that you need to understand that the difficult bit will come afterwards – the military piece will be easy. This place [Iraq] will crack like a crystal goblet, and it’ll be a problem to pick up the bits. It was on this basis that he decided to let me see if we can find a UN solution to this.”
They were all in it together, Powell emphasises. “Everyone agreed – Don [Rumsfeld], Dick [Vice-President Cheney] and Condi [Rice, at that time National Security Adviser, now Powell’s successor at State]. I had to take the brunt of the criticism. I had no love for that regime: I’d been hearing for more than 10 years how we should have gone on to Baghdad in the first Gulf War – even though we’d never discussed going on to Baghdad.”
He knew, he says, that if the UN route failed, this would produce war. “When you get to the branch in the road which is either diplomacy or war, I’m not going to walk away from either one of those. I fully dispatched my obligations to the President.”

Powell also had his issues with the Europeans, especially the French. Powell responds diplomatically when asked about this, but the frustration is evident in his wistful responses. He mentions nothing about the widely reported stab in the back the French gave him when they refused to support the 17th resolution, but he does note his disappointment with de Villepin in how the alliance fell apart:

The diplomatic deal-maker still ruminates on the might-have-beens at the Security Council: “I could maybe have got that last vote. I was doing better than de Villepin [the then French foreign minister], believe it or not. I’d got the three Africans… But, at that point, it became moot because of the French veto. Therefore, I talked to the President and said: “This is tough and it’s going to fail anyway, so we shouldn’t force our friends to vote on it. They all breathed a huge sigh of relief.”
What did he feel about the French? “Disappointed. Not a good time in our relationship. But since then, I’ve been able to work with them to get troops late on a February evening to go to Haiti. I don’t have the luxury of saying, `I’m not going to work with you.'”

I expect this interview to get cherry-picked in the blogosphere, but all in all, it matches up with everything we’ve heard about Powell’s tenure at State. In fact, it comes up to significantly less than we’d imagined, especially when it comes to purported rifts with Donald Rumsfeld. He admits that he thought Rumsfeld’s “Old Europe” terminology bothered him, but other than that, Powell doesn’t discuss any policy differences between the two. He also discourages speculation about a return to public service, especially in the near term — and as expected, flat-out declines any interest in electoral politics. Whatever the office, Powell won’t run for it.
The interview provides an interesting, if guarded, look at one of the more intriguing and impressive personalities in American politics. It’s worth reading the entire lengthy article. This interview practically asks aloud why Powell gave his first post-office interview to a British conservative broadsheet instead of any American media outlet. Perhaps Powell, ever the diplomat, intended on sending yet another subtle message.

Chait Picks Wrong Example For Argument

Jonathan Chait takes on the Bush Administration by claiming that it turns its former associates-cum-critics into Stepford Wives, zombie-like creatures who follow set patterns of behavior after renouncing their heresies and slowly lurching into the sunset. Unfortunately for Chait’s rather silly analysis, he relies on Doug Wead as a fulcrum for his point, which causes it to collapse rather quickly:

Earlier this week, Wead was proclaiming that he made his tapes of Bush public for the sake of “history.” Perhaps the large pile of money he stood to gain from his forthcoming book also factored into his decision. But within a couple days he was desperately backpedaling. On Wednesday, he announced that “I have come to realize that personal relationships are more important than history.” He pledged to direct all book profits to charity and to hand the tapes over to Bush.
Most presidents have to face betrayal sooner or later. (See John Dean revealing Nixon’s cover-up, or David Stockman revealing the underside of Reagan’s fiscal policies.) What’s uncanny about the Bush administration is that its dissidents invariably recant, usually in zombie-like fashion.

What’s uncanny about Chait is that he doesn’t bother to do his research before writing the article. Wead has never been a “dissident” in the Bush administration — he’s never even held a job with Bush, either in a campaign or in the administration. Wead supposedly befriended Bush in 1998, although as the New York Times reported after listening to the tapes, he certainly tried his best to get a position with him. (Wead served in Bush 41’s administration.) Wead also didn’t criticize President Bush; he wrote a book about his upbringing, one that almost entirely escaped notice.
All of this makes Chait’s argument rather pointless, as does his inclusion of John Weaver, John McCain’s chief strategist. Weaver may have dissented from the Bush administration — Lord knows McCain does at the first faint whirr of a camera — but he’s hardly been an outspoken critic of Bush. He’s a behind-the-scenes guy who had a beef with Karl Rove more than George Bush, and that hardly makes him the kind of person that requires a Stepford treatment. Ignoring him is much simpler, except during election cycles when Bush needs his help … and I suspect that the dynamics involved in getting that assistance are directly opposite of what Chait implies in this strange piece.
Besides, unless Chait wants to argue for the moral virtue of wiretapping friends for personal financial gain, the reaction of Wead to the criticism he faced makes perfect sense. Wead received widespread revulsion over his betrayal from the entire political spectrum; in fact, it was one of the few times the Daily Kos and CQ have ever agreed on anything. Chait provides no evidence that the White House ever even approached Wead after the release of the tapes, which also tends to undermine his assertion that the Bush White House has transformed into Zombieland. All Chait does is morph Wead’s understandably humiliated apology into a Halloween fantasy entirely sprung from Chait’s strange imagination.
I’ll grant Chait one passing resemblance between Doug Wead and a Stepford wife. Wead spent the better part of two years screwing someone who trusted him, transforming himself into what he thought Bush wanted in order to please him — and keep him talking. For that, more than a bit of backpedaling and renunciation seems completely appropriate.

Another Zarqawi Aide Plucked

The Iraqi government announced today that it has captured another key figure in the Ansar al-Islam terror network headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Abu Qutaybah had been considered one of the high-value targets in the network due to his extensive contacts throughout western Iraq, and sure enough, Iraqi forces arrested him within miles of the Syrian border:

Iraq’s government said on Friday it had captured a key lieutenant of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant who is al Qaeda’s leader in Iraq and has been behind some of the country’s worst attacks.
It said Talib Mikhlif Arsan Walman al-Dulaymi, also known as Abu Qutaybah, was captured on Feb. 20 in Anah, a town northwest of Baghdad, about 35 miles from the Syrian border.
“Abu Qutaybah was responsible for determining who, when and how terrorist network leaders would meet with Zarqawi,” the government said in a statement.
“Abu Qutaybah filled the role of key lieutenant for the Zarqawi network arranging safe houses and transportation as well as passing packages and funds to Zarqawi.”

This will put a huge dent in cross-border operations for Zarqawi and the terrorist network. It may not mean too much in terms of further captures; the immediate announcement gives the impression that the Iraqis don’t have much hope in getting information out of Qutaybah. The continuing damage to the network underscores the intelligence edge that the Iraqis have, however, and Qutaybah represents a major loss, both operationally and strategically as well as politically for Zarqawi. If the Iraqis see a continuous progression of captures like these, the recruitment of foot soldiers for their ranks will inevitably dry up.

A Watershed Moment For The UN?

In a report that likely will garner little attention after the Islamist attacks today in Iraq, the BBC has a flash report that several UN peacekeepers died in an ambush in the Ituri region of Congo. The report just came through and is light on details:

Several UN peacekeepers have been killed during an armed ambush in the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the country’s UN mission. The attack happened on Friday morning in the north-eastern Ituri region, where 4,800 peacekeepers are deployed.
A UN spokesman said there were no further details yet on the exact number or nationality of the men killed.
He said they were ambushed by “unidentified armed elements” while they were on patrol.

Ituri sits at the northeast tip of Congo, just south of Sudan and the Darfur region where Islamists have conducted a massive genocide campaign, one which the UN still refuses to officially acknowledge. While the Congolese mission started six years ago to halt a civil war — and doesn’t that sound a bit familiar? — the attack on UN peacekeepers in that area sounds more like an attempt to inflame the Congo to keep the heat off Sudan.
In either case, whether the ambushers came from Congo rebels or Janjaweed Islamists, the UN has an opportunity to respond to this provocation. In the past, notably in Srebrenica and Iraq, the UN has set land-speed records in retreating after getting a bloody nose. In doing so, they demonstrated a complete lack of will and intestinal fortitude and signaled to the terrorists of the world that the UN has zero credibility in any war on terror, or even in peacekeeping. Kofi Annan has an opportunity to reverse that impression by increasing troop strength and going after the terrorists rather than turning tail.
Nothing in Annan’s track record indicates he will take the opportunity, but nonetheless it remains for him to choose. Will the UN just act like crossing guards with pretty helmets for easy targeting, or will they start to take their role as peacekeepers seriously? It won’t take long to find out.
UPDATE: Reuters reports that the nine peacekeepers killed were Bangladeshi. The UN announced that the nine were missing and “possibly killed”. Attack helicopters have been dispatched to the region, but no word yet on what action they will take once there.

Slovakia PM: Media Bias Causes Bush Hatred In Europe

President Bush got a public vote of confidence and the European media a slap from Slovakian PM Mikulas Dzurinda during Bush’s so-called “charm offensive” barnstorming trip to Europe this week. The Washington Times reports that Dzurinda scolded the European media for their biased reporting on Bush that succeeded in poisoning Continental opinion against the American president:

“President Bush told me in Brussels: ‘I am so unhappy that media creates the picture that Bush wants war in Iran. This is crazy,’ ” Mr. Dzurinda told a small group of reporters over lunch.
The prime minister was reminded that while the governments of Central and Eastern Europe supported Operation Iraqi Freedom, the populace was much more skeptical, according to polls.
Mr. Dzurinda responded by telling the journalists, including one from CNN, that he was “shocked” to see media outlets like CNN and the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC) showing “only American soldiers killing people. But nobody was able to show Saddam Hussein, who killed many, many thousands of Iraqi people.”
“It was impossible to see a real picture of this regime,” he lamented. “And the result is the public is one day strongly against Bush. ‘Bush loves war,’ he’s ‘new terrorist,’ and so on and so on.”
The prime minister predicted that it is “only a question of time when people in Slovakia, in Germany, in European countries, will understand more that this activity were necessary. And the world, without Saddam Hussein, is much more democratic than before.”

Slovakia remains one of the members of the multinational coalition providing security and assistance in Iraq. Despite the skepticism that the media reports, Bush got an overwhelming reception from Slovakians after extolling the benefits of democracy. He greeted the crowds directly for the first time during his trip, clearly delighted with the popular reception he received from the former Soviet province. Dzurinda reminded the media of this history of oppression in remarks intended on tweaking other European leaders who preferred continuing appeasement and black-market trade with Saddam instead of liberation and democracy:

“I spent many years under tyranny,” he said. “So I completely understand what it means to fight for democracy — don’t take this for granted.
“Maybe this is why I understand better than Chirac or Schroeder,” he added, referring to French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, both of whom opposed the Iraq war.
Mr. Dzurinda also faulted Mr. Chirac and Mr. Schroeder for not understanding Mr. Bush’s decision to abandon diplomacy and invade Iraq.
“I understand, [with] the president of the United States, that this is impossible to wait forever,” he said. “I hope that the German chancellor and French president understand more today than yesterday.”

I rather doubt they would acknowledge it even if they do understand it. CNN and the BBC apparently won’t acknowledge it, either. As if to affirm Dzurinda’s words, neither service carries a single mention of his press conference and his criticism of the media. According to this Google on Dzurinda and Bush, not too many American media outlets have reported it either. The Boston Globe reports on Bush’s reception but ignores Dzurinda’s blunt words supporting Bush’s policies and deriding the media. Most papers ran with an AP wire story that mentions neither Dzurinda’s scolding or Bush’s Slovakian reception — but finds room to report on a handful of protestors instead of the thousands cheering Bush in Slovakia yesterday.
Mr. Dzurinda was more correct than he knows.

Dean Visits Kansas, Gets Snubbed By Dem Governor

Howard Dean fulfilled a pledge made during his campaign for the DNC chair by visiting and rallying Democrats in a Midwestern red state. Dean went to Kansas yesterday, a state that has supported GOP presidential candidates since Goldwater in 1964, and railed against Social Security reforms and budget deficits. He also urged Democrats to “show up”, inadvertently highlighting an embarassing snub:

The former presidential candidate and Vermont governor criticized President Bush’s budget record and plans for Social Security while urging people to get involved in politics no matter what their philosophy. …
Before his selection as DNC chairman this month, Dean said he would bolster local and state party organizations even in the nation’s most conservative areas.
“How do we expect those places to vote Democratic when we don’t even show up?” Dean said during Thursday’s speech.
Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who was elected in a 2002 race marked by tensions between moderate and conservative Republicans, hadn’t planned to attend any of Dean’s events.

So the highest-ranking Democrat in Kansas has no plans to be seen in public with the leader of her party? That certainly sends a message, and not the one Dean intended when he embarked on his red-state tour. Sebelius knows that any indication of support for Dean and his MoveOn-sponsored agenda would be the kiss of death for her political career in Kansas and wants to stay far away from Mad How.
If the Democrats seriously want to engage the moderates, they picked the wrong man to lead them. No one doubts that leftists and radicals live in places like Kansas, but no one except Howard Dean thinks they can win elections for the Democrats. Sebelius obviously has better political instincts for the heartland than the DNC, and she’s using them to avoid Dean. Democrats hanging onto office in other red states will follow the lead of Sebelius and wind up making a mockery of Dean’s tour throughout red-state America.
Dean has it wrong: it isn’t enough to simply show up. You have to have a platform that appeals to moderates, and Dean and MoveOn don’t have it. Sebelius knows this and knows that sometimes, showing up is too much to ask.

Annan To Assad: Get Out (Updated!)

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a remarkably stern and uncompromising message to Syrian dictator Bashar Assad tonight, joining the White House in calling for a complete withdrawal of Syrian troops and intelligence agents from Lebanon. Dismissing Syrian murmurings of returning to the long-dead, phased-withdrawal Taif Accord, Annan demanded that Syria completely retreat by April:

Kofi Annan, the United Nations secretary-general, added his voice yesterday to American calls for Syria to pull out of Lebanon.
He warned the Syrians in an Arabic television interview that they would face “measures” – presumably some form of sanctions – if they did not pull their army out of Lebanon completely by April.
With pressure growing every day, Waleed al-Mualem, the Syrian deputy foreign minister, committed his country to further withdrawals, but failed to make a clear commitment to complete evacuation.

The new demand by Annan, who almost never operates independent of a consensus, comes as a shock to me and I suspect also to Bashar Assad. The UN hardly stands as a bastion of radical change, but the undeniable momentum of popular revolt in Beirut has grown too large to be ignored any longer. The American alliance with France on the Lebanese question must have emboldened the oft-shy Annan into attempting to get in front of history for the first time in his career.
And that is Assad’s problem in a nutshell. While the entire world has decried the American occupation of Iraq, we have shown our clear intention on getting the Iraqi people back on their own feet, and quickly. The Syrians have occupied Lebanon under similar rationales but have obviously meant none of it. They blew off the Taif agreement in favor of a long occupation in order to support their proxy terror network, Hezbollah, in continuing operations against their primary enemy Israel.
When you’re a dictator, especially one with a seat on the Secuity Council, having Annan square off against you is almost exactly analogous to Barry Goldwater telling Richard Nixon that no one’s buying the burglar story. Assad would do well to listen and retire quietly, and quickly, before the next shoe drops.
UPDATE: Don’t credit Annan with a spine just yet. According to the AFP, Annan is denying the Telegraph report (hat tip: CQ reader apb):

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s spokesman denied an Al-Arabiya television report that Annan had demanded a Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon by April or sanctions if they do not comply.
“The secretary general never set an April deadline for a withdrawal nor did he support sanctions if the pullout didn’t happen by then,” spokesman Fred Eckhard said, providing a partial transcript of the network’s Annan interview.
In the unofficial transcript of the interview, to be broadcast on Friday, Annan said he would next report to the Security Council by April on Syria’s compliance with a council resolution demanding the Syrian withdrawal.
“If it’s partial withdrawal, I will have to report. If it’s total withdrawal, I will have to report,” Annan said, adding that it would be up to the council to impose any sanctions.
“I would urge them to do everything possible to comply so that I can report to the council that they have satisfactorily performed and therefore we wouldn’t need to go for additional measures,” Annan said.
“But of course, if they do not perform, the council may wish to take additional measures,” the UN chief said.

This makes a little more sense, but it may just be a difference without a distinction. After all, Annan has no power to impose sanctions on his own; that would have to come from the UNSC. It isn’t certain that the UNSC would act anyway, as Russia wants to sell arms to Syria and would likely veto global sanctions against Assad.
However, Annan definitely wanted to deliver a warning to Assad either way one reads the transcript. Perhaps the warning sharpened a bit too much in the translation, but either way Annan gave the Syrians a deadline (that already existed) and warned them to fully comply in order to avoid diplomatic and economic sanctions. That goes farther than Annan usually dares in public, and while it may not be the blunt Amityville Horror-type message of “Geeeeet ooooouuuut”, Annan’s thinly-veiled ultimatum via al-Arabiya should still unnerve the Assad regime.