Saudis Bolster Security, Move To Protect Foreign Workers

The London Telegraph notes that the Saudis have changed their tune on security concerns, especially as Western civilians have begun to leave due to a lack of confidence in Saudi security:

Saudi Arabia has agreed to improve security and to accept help from foreign troops in checkpoint controls after an unprecedented meeting between alarmed expatriates, western ambassadors and the Saudi foreign minister.
The four-hour meeting, originally suggested by British Ambassador Sherard Cowper-Cole, assembled 40 expatriate employees and the ambassadors of the G8 countries plus 11 other nations in an ornate conference hall overlooking the Red Sea in the hope of stemming the flow of foreign workers fleeing attacks by extreme Islamists.
James Oberwetter, the American ambassador, said Saudi Arabia had agreed to accept foreign assistance in improving the training of security forces at checkpoints, whose often lax appearance has seriously undermined the confidence of expatriates in the police.
Checkpoints set up outside the diplomatic quarter in Riyadh, currently the most sensitive area of the city, are often manned by seven or eight paramilitary troops, two of whom may be checking the contents of car boots while four others sit in the shade of a large khaki beach umbrella sipping tea [emph mine — CE].

While having the civilian workers who keep Saudi oil flowing run for the hills gives the terrorists a real sense of victory, one cannot blame the workers themselves for making that decision, especially if Saudi security openly gives the impression the Telegraph details. After having a Westerner beheaded by terrorist freaks, I’d hardly feel safe putting my safety in the hands of those who consider their iced tea a higher priority than looking for al-Qaeda operatives at checkpoints. And if, by chance, I happened to be an AQ operative, the sight of security staff focusing on their drinks rather than on the checkpoint would encourage me to think that they may not be on my side, but they’re certainly not against me, either.
Saudi Arabia has been fiercely protective of its territory, unwilling to assimilate foreign armies even to protect itself. When the American armies stationed themselves in the kingdom to launch Desert Shield and then Desert Storm, a number of rules had to be promulgated to separate American soldiers, especially females, from the general Saudi populace. Such separation could occur in that case as the main thrust of the deployment was to dislodge Iraq from Kuwait and prevent Saddam from attacking the Saudi oil fields.
However, this new security issue will require foreign troops in much closer proximity to civilian areas, and that may wind up fueling the fire that produced al-Qaeda in the first place. The Saudis obviously understand this, and so their decision to allow the deployment to shore up confidence in their security apparatus speaks volumes about how far the royal family has come in understanding the stakes in the war on al-Qaeda. Prince Saud’s statement addressed several aspects of this, as the Telegraph notes:

Prince Saud said the kingdom would agree to foreign help in the training of its urban security forces. “We have a duty to reassure its foreign guests on matters of safety, and a duty as part of its national covenant to protect them.”
He also appeared to concede a change in the law under which only Saudi civilians are allowed to carry weapons, as long as they are over 18 and have a permit. Foreigners, like Saudis, “have a right to carry a weapon if they are authorised to do so”, Prince Saud said.

Allowing foreigners, especially infidels, to carry firearms in the cradle of Islam shows how serious they are. It also puts AQ on notice that the next Westerner they attempt to hijack may come equipped to handle the situation, requiring them to have a larger — and more detectable — presence during their operations in the future.

Caption Contest Winners!

The entries have been judged … the names have been selected … and John Kerry has begun his happy dance …
Busta Move?
It must mean that MDatek, this week’s guest judge, has readied the winner’s list for this week’s Captain’s Caption Contest! And apparently MDatek is a big Minnesota Vikings fan, which means he’s unstable and unpredictable — so let’s see how that plays out, shall we?
Captain’s Award (Randy Moss Lateral to Moe Williams – Touchdown!) — Scotty:
The presumptive democratic nominee, who suspects himself of having a hernia, distracts the audience with his right hand while self-admisitering himself a quick turn-and-cough exam with his left.
You Have The Conn #1 (Brad Johnson touchdown pass to…. Brad Johnson?) — Jon Henke:
So, what you’re telling me is…you put your right hand in…and then you put your right hand out? And that’s what it’s all about? My god, now there’s a song with some nuance!”

You Have The Conn #2 (Michael Bennett rushes for a touchdown of 60 yds or greater in 3 consecutive games) — the pseudonymous Ben Zeen:

Wait, is that… is that John McCain? (bats eyelashes) Hi John! Over here! Over here! (to man next to him) He looked at me! Did you see?! Did you see! He looked right at me! … damn pants.
You Have The Conn #3 (The 2003 Vikings spoil the home opener in the newly renovated Lambeau Field) — Filthy McNasty:
“Yes, I DID just get a manicure this morning. Why do you ask?”
Report To Sick Bay (Pearson pushed off!) — JPearson:
“Hey, imagine running into Dr. Elders here at the VFW hall. I wonder if she can tell me why it hurts so bad right here when I pee?”
Thanks to everyone who entered, and congratulations to the winners! Remember, here at CQ, everyone’s a winner — just some of us have higher winning percentages than others. Comments on this post will remain open, as usual, in order for the winners to gloat, the others to disparage MDatek’s intellect and/or my parentage, and for any other entries submitted just for the sheer enjoyment of amazing your friends and confounding your enemies.
Send me a photograph or an e-mail with a link to a great picture you think should be the subject of our next Caption Contest, and let me know if you’d like to be the guest judge! I’ll have another picture for Friday — so be sure to come back then for the next contest.

Oh, Those Tunnels, And That Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade

The London Telegraph reports that Israeli security forces found several Palestinian terrorist leaders in a tunnel last night and killed them when they refused to surrender, during an operation launched after an attack on a military post earlier:

Israel’s most wanted man and six other Palestinian militants have been killed in a raid by paratroopers who found the men huddled in a secret tunnel beneath a house in the old city of Nablus. Among the dead was Nayef Abu Sharkh, 40, the commander of the militant group the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades in the West Bank. Local leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and four other gunmen were also killed.
They found the militants’ hideout on Saturday after seeing a fugitive from an earlier encounter in Nablus slip into the house, military officials said.
After the men in the tunnel ignored orders to surrender, the paratroopers lobbed hand grenades and fired automatic weapons through openings at both ends and detonated charges.

Sharkh, as the Telegraph reports, has been at the top of Israel’s most-wanted list for a long time, and his involvement with Arafat’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades demonstrates the official links that the Palestinian Authority has to terrorists that target Israeli citizens. Their choice of hiding place also underscores what Israel has said all along about tunnels being built by terrorists in order to evade capture and hide and transit weaponry.
The Palestinians, predictably, swarmed the streets promising revenge, but since none of their leadership have shown the slightest inclination to allow the Jewish state to exist, that threat holds no special fear for Israelis; it simply means that the Palestinians will continue to do business as usual. It’s just that they have seven less terrorists with which to do so. Until the Palestinians demonstrate concrete examples of commitment to a two-state solution that guarantees the right of Israel to exist, without playing demographic games like the ludicrous “right of return” into Israel proper, then negotiations are pointless.

Kerry: The Failed Diplomat

John Kerry has made George Bush’s supposedly failed diplomacy his major campaign theme this election cycle. Kerry’s has trumpeted his long involvement in foreign relations as his main qualification for the Presidency. Now comes word that Kerry’s personal diplomacy couldn’t resolve a simple contract dispute between two of his own supporters, forcing him to cancel a campaign appearance:

Caught in a labor dispute between his hometown mayor and the city’s police and firefighters’ unions, Senator John Kerry sided Sunday with the unions. Mr. Kerry had planned to give a speech here on Monday morning to the United States Conference of Mayors.
But members of the city’s largest police union, who have been working without a contract for two years, along with the firefighters, who are also in contract talks, have been picketing Mayor Thomas M. Menino, the host of the conference, wherever he goes, and were set to do so Monday at the hotel where Mr. Kerry was scheduled to speak.
With each side hoping to press Mr. Kerry to embarrass the other, his schedule remained up in the air for more than 24 hours as he debated whether to antagonize a crucial Democratic supporter or a union local and its – not to mention his – allies in organized labor, a core Democratic constituency.
By 8 p.m. Sunday, despite what one participant described as “tedious” efforts to broker a solution, Mr. Kerry’s aides gave up hope that a deal could be reached to get the unions to suspend their picketing long enough for Mr. Kerry to attend the conference without having to cross the line.

This is but a preview, of course, of what will happen at the convention if the union action isn’t stopped by then, but that’s not really the story here. For one thing, the union has indicated that it will probably refrain from picketing the convention, as the union’s legislative agent, James Barry, said in response to the question: “If John Kerry respects our picket line tomorrow, I think we respect John Kerry.” The temptation may be too much to resist, though, as the police have been working for two years without a contract and will never have such leverage over the mayor again.
Speaking of the mayor, Thomas Menino serves as John Kerry’s co-chair for his Massachussetts re-election campaign, and he did not sound very happy about his leader’s decision yesterday. Earlier, he told reporters that leadership was about making decisions, and it looks like Menino may have hinted that Republican descriptions of Kerry as weak and vacillating may not be far off the mark:

For an ally, though, Mr. Menino also had some pointed words for Mr. Kerry, whose Republican opponents portray him as vacillating and indecisive, when he seemed to dare Mr. Kerry to rebuff a labor union.
“As a candidate, it’s about making decisions,” Mr. Menino said of Mr. Kerry, repeating a line he used often this weekend. “He has to make that decision. I’m not going to make that decision for him. There’s 250 mayors who walked through the lines. Mayors make those decisions every day of the year.”

Kerry’s inability to negotiate a temporary truce between two of his own supporters, as I said earlier, belies his self-promoted reputation for diplomacy. If Kerry can’t find common ground between a Democratic mayor serving on his campaign and a police union which endorsed him for President, how can anyone expect him to negotiate agreements between, say, France and the US on security matters? Pakistan and India? Hell, what about Nancy Pelosi and Denny Hastert?
It appears that Kerry’s talent for negotiation has been greatly exaggerated, which makes sense when you look at his legislative record. As has been noted before, Kerry has initiated a relatively paltry number of bills during his nineteen-year tenure in the Senate. This poor track record either shows a lack of interest in the actual work of legislation, or it demonstrates an inability to contruct the necessary coalitions across party lines to push legislation through.
Kerry may continue to vaunt his diplomacy, but for the moment, he’s not even fooling Thomas Menino. Why should he be able to fool anyone else?
UPDATE: Welcome to BOTW readers — hope you take a look around and come back often!
UPDATE II: The association of mayors didn’t go without trenchant political commentary — Governor Mitt Romney subbed for John Kerry, in a last-minute upgrade replacement:

An ally of President Bush, Romney has campaigned in recent weeks for the president’s re-election but has stayed out of the dispute between the police union and Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, a Democrat. The governor said he would speak to the group as a show of support for Menino.
“A mayor, a governor and a president have a responsibility for making tough decisions and balancing budgets. Senators don’t,” Romney said. “You always want to support labor and the efforts of labor … but our first responsibility is to the people.” …
Menino said the unions are undermining Kerry and that he was disappointed with Kerry’s decision. “I would think that he would come and talk to the mayors who are making a difference in America every day, who are on the front lines of the issues that face working people,” Menino said.

John Kerry — he even disappoints his campaign co-chairs.

Zarqawi Captured?

The US military is investigating reports that the chief terrorist in Iraq, the al-Qaeda connected Abu al-Zarqawi, may already be in custody, according to Reuters:

The U.S. military said on Monday it was checking unconfirmed reports that al Qaeda ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had been captured in Iraq. The Jordanian-born Zarqawi, who Washington says is its number one enemy in Iraq, is accused of masterminding a string of suicide bombings and of the execution of an American and a South Korean hostage.
The reports suggested that Zarqawi had been captured near the town of Hilla, south of Baghdad and in the Polish military area of responsibility.
“We are working on that issue,” a U.S. military official said.
A Polish spokesman added: “I cannot confirm that information… When the operation is ongoing at the moment I cannot make any comment.”

Wouldn’t that be a red-letter day? Capturing Zarqawi and a successful transfer of sovereignty at the same time. If true, Zarqawi’s capture will make it easier for the Iraqi government to get a grip on security; even those terrorists not directly affiliated with Zarqawi may rethink the insurrection, such as it is. It would also knock out a key link between Osama bin Laden and the Iraqi terrorist groups operating in the country now.
We’ll keep our fingers crossed. (via Memeorandum)
UPDATE: Reuters giveth, and Reuters denieth:

The U.S. military denied reports Monday that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Jordanian militant who Washington says is allied to Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda, had been captured in Iraq.
“It’s not true, the reports are not true,” Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, deputy director of operations for the U.S. military in Iraq, told Reuters. “We’ve heard the reports about it, but they are not true.”

Too bad. Maybe next time.

Iraq Now Sovereign After Early Handover

The Coalition Provisional Authority turned over sovereignty to Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and the interim Iraqi government two days earlier than expected, in what the Washington Post describes as a “hastily arranged ceremony” at 10:26 Baghdad time this morning:

The United States transferred political authority to an interim Iraqi government in a high-security but low-key surprise ceremony on Monday morning that was held inside the U.S.-controlled Green Zone two days before the planned June 30 handover date because of fears of insurgent attacks.
At the hastily arranged ceremony, U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer handed over a signed document in a blue portfolio conveying political authority to the chief judge of Iraq’s highest court.
The transfer of power occurred in the office of Iraq’s interim prime minister, Ayad Allawi, at 10:26 a.m. local time (2:26 a.m. EDT) before a handful of Iraqi and U.S. officials and journalists. “You are ready now for sovereignty and we think it’s an important part of our obligation as temporary custodians to hand it over,” Bremer said.
“I have confidence that the Iraqi government is ready to meet the challenges.” Bremer also gave Allawi a letter from President Bush asking for formal diplomatic ties with the interim government.

This was Bush’s answer to Abu al-Zarqawi and the rest of the terrorists and Ba’athist remnants who set off a series of bombings across Iraq last week, murdering scores of Iraqi civilians and police and attempted to derail the transfer to Iraqi civilian control. Actually, I would not be surprised in the least if this turned out to be not a “hastily arranged” occurrence but a well-planned effort to elude terrorists. I rather suspect that June 28 has been the target date all along.
Of course, the Post’s coverage leaves something to be desired. The story includes a silly reference to CPA administrator Paul Bremer as “viceroy” without the scare quotes, as though that were his official title. The Post attempts to evoke the memories of colonialism even as sovereignty is transferred to Iraqis less than 15 months after the fall of Saddam and ahead of an already-ambitious schedule. One wonders if the news media might resent the quick transfer as they also appeared to have been shut out of the event.

Brownshirts?

The echoes of Al Gore’s comments have barely faded when he seems to have been proved right by the wrong side, according to Las Vegas’ KLAS-TV. Chris Saldana reports that a moviegoer attending Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 was assaulted when he expressed a differing opinion (via Drudge):

The highly anticipated film, Fahrenheit 9/11, came with more than just controversy at one Las Vegas movie theatre. Moviegoer, Richard Streeter, was one of the many who made his way to a theatre to see what the hype was about. After viewing the film, he was greeted outside the theatre by members of the Las Vegas MoveOn.org.
The group was handing out leaflets on the importance of the film. Streeter voiced his view on the movie, “I made the comment, apples and oranges — Kerry, Bush — one’s no better than the other. You really ain’t got much of a choice. This guy comes up to me and says, ‘Oh yeah?’ ” Streeter was then spat on by the same man.
He attempted to call police to report the incident when he was told not to, “A guy standing next to him said why don’t you drop it. I said, ‘No, I’m calling the police. I’m exercising my right as a citizen, I’ve been assaulted.’ ”
But the horror kept on growing for Streeter as he walked to his car on the phone with police, “This guy turns, and totally by surprise takes his hand and bam! It was a big guy. Shoved me onto the ground, I hit my head.” A police report has been filed.

The only side trying to stifle dissent and shut down debate, as always, is the Left, either through political correctness or through flat-out assault. Yes, I understand it involved two jerks and that one cannot paint the entire Left with a broad brush on that basis alone, but when you have people like Al Gore — party leaders — standing up and calling their opposition “brownshirts” and “Nazis”, this is what results. The failure of the Democrats to repudiate Gore’s remarks, and the embrace of Moore’s fantasies by people like Tom Daschle and Terry McAuliffe, are emblematic of an entire party going over the edge into insanity. And when challenged, the insane often respond violently.

Taking The Afternoon Off

I’ll be taking some time off this afternoon and early evening; the family has all returned to California and the First Mate and I will take a drive in the country. She’s doing pretty well right now, although she has had some complications with her bladder and a hematoma at her dialysis shunt site since its removal. I want to get her out of the house and give her some relaxation time. I’ll return to blogging later tonight.
In the meantime, I’ll direct you to two very different but excellent blogs. Check out Highly Moody, a terrific, fun, and well-designed blog by my friend Mel, who is currently trying to unknot some of the Comments problems I’m having with the new MT 3.0 installation. After that, check out INDC Journal, another great blog whose proprietor, Bill, is currently raising funds for the family of a soldier killed in action in Iraq.
More later. Enjoy your day.

Captain’s Caption Contest #16!

It’s Friday, so it must be time for the Captain’s Caption Contest! Out here in Minnesoooooota, the weather is terrific, the weekend’s coming up, and the Northern Alliance Radio Network will be on the air tomorrow — it’s enough to make you dance in the aisles …
Busta Move?
Well, maybe that’s the Safety Dance.
Anyway, put your best caption entries in the comments section — NO e-mail, please! (E-mailed entries will be sealed in an empty French wine bottle and placed under the rear tires of Barbra Streisand’s hybrid limousine.) The contest will remain open until 8 pm Sunday, June 27th*, at which point the comments will be closed and longtime reader MDatek will pick the winners.
Remember, enter as often as you want, no purchase necessary, winners need not be present to win, and bribes are freely accepted. Let the games begin!
* – Note that the contests will finish on the weekend from now on.
BUMP 6/26: Wow, what a bunch of great responses! Our guest judge will have to make some tough choices…
BUMP 6/27: Just a few hours left! Make sure you read the post below before submitting your comments. The screen will not necessarily update with your comment immediately, but it will display once I’ve approved it. …
COMMENTS CLOSED: Going to the judges!

The New Upgrade: Why I Did It & How It Affects You

As I mentioned in my previous post, I upgraded Captain’s Quarters underlying program, Movable Type, from its original version (2.661) to the new 3.0 version. Most of the changes will be transparent to you, thanks to the outstanding programming of CQ’s designer, Mel from Moxie Design Studios.
Unlike 2.661, 3.0 actually costs money, although I got a discount thanks to a donation I had made earlier to MT. So why do it? The main reason is that the author interface is more elegant, and especially that the folks at MT improved the Java scripts to work within Mozilla. Until now, I’ve used IE to do most of my authoring, and while I have no particular problem with Microsoft — I love their Office applications — the security holes in IE and their mail clients drive me batty.
The other reason, and the one that affects you the most, is that CQ has been bombarded by comment spam lately, and the new MT program does a much better job of blocking it. I had been using MT-Blacklist, a terrific program that sets up a defense against comment spam, but I’d rather use something a bit more robust. MT 3.0 requires comment approval or prior registration before posting. You can preregister for all MT blogs at Typekey, a free service from MT. Once you register and log in, any comments you make on CQ or other MT 3.0 blogs will automatically post. It’s painless and MT promises not to spam you in return, and it will allow me to focus on blogging rather than continually updating my Blacklist files to combat the bastards who keep clogging up my comments. Seriously — it has been a huge problem in both my time and bandwidth.
Let me know if you experience any problems, and I will try to get comments approved as quickly as I can for those who have not yet registered with Typekey. I hope you continue to enjoy Captain’s Quarters!
UPDATE: Right now, it appears that the Typekey interface isn’t working as planned. Any comments entered are being held, but you’re not seeing the notification of that, and so far I can’t preapprove anyone. As soon as that’s fixed, I will be going through all of my regular commenters to approve you ahead of time. (Yes, Miles, Adaplant, and Arne, you’ll be approved — I swear it’s not a vast right-wing conspiracy!)