Thursday, October 07, 2004


Iraq WMD Team Head Leaves Many Questions Open
Head of Iraq Survey Team Charles Duelfer asserted Wednesday in testimony and report to the US Senate Armed Forces Committee that no WMD stockpiles were found to exist in Iraq in 2003. However, Iraq was producing missiles beyond UN-imposed limits and could have fitted them with warheads very quickly. The ICG team found no active nuclear program and no conclusive findings on biological programs. However, by 2003, Iraq had capabilities for producing chemical or biological weapons in months and retained the intellectual capacity to reconstitute WMD programs.

The ISG team found no evidence of mobile biological weapons facilities but cannot be sure they will not turn up to negate its report on this question. Duelfer warned of the danger that Iraqi WMD expertise could be transferred to other hands. Iraqi insurgents have indeed tried to develop WMD, but their efforts have been stopped.

In answer to a question, Duelfer said Saddam chose not to have banned weapons at the particular point of time before the war, given the frame of reference after 9/11 including sanctions, isolation, reduced revenues. All in all, it was the ICG chief's view that those conditions were not sustainable. Had he stayed in power, his advisers and most Iraqis were sure he would have pursued WMD. In fact he said he would.

Speaking analytically, Duelfer maintained the world is better off with Saddam gone.

Duelfer could not say definitively that Iraqi weapons were not transferred out of Iraq before the 2003 war. But many questions ared still unanswered.

ICG has just obtained mass of new documents as large as the collection already in hand.

Senator McCain: Every intelligence agency in the world, US, British, French, Israeli, came to the same conclusion that Iraqi had WMD. How do you account for that?

Only Saddam knows the full truth of his WMD.

Duelfer referred to many conversations he had with Iraqis, top Saddam regime officials and Saddam himself. He pointed out that the deposed Iraqi ruler was deliberately ambiguous and misleading in a speech he made on June 200. When questioned by the ICG head in his prison cell, Saddam explained that he had tried to impress Iran that he had more than he did.

Most Iraqis believed he had banned weapons. "Why wouldn't he? Twice they saved him?"

But the types of logic that apply in the West don't apply in Iraq, Duelfer pointed out.
Author: by Yuumei. October 2004

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Venezuela's Paper Army
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has announced the purchase of Russian attack helicopters at a cost of $40 million to reinforce army units deployed along his country's border with Colombia. However, the helicopters - if they arrive - will be too little, too late to make a difference. Venezuela's armed forces are a hollow shell, so weakened by years of defense spending cuts that soldiers patrolling the border region frequently lack uniforms, boots, helmets, body armor and ammunition for their assault rifles.

Venezuelan Vice President Jose Vicente Rangel is in Moscow negotiating the purchase of Russian attack helicopters to reinforce Venezuelan army units deployed along the border with Colombia. President Hugo Chavez announced the $40 million deal after five Venezuelan army soldiers and a woman engineer with state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) were killed in a Sept. 17 ambush by rebels with the 10th Front of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The ambush occurred in the Venezuelan border state of Apure in a sector called Mata de Cana between the towns of La Charca and La Victoria, less than 15 miles from the border with Colombia. Colombian rebel groups, cross-border drug traffickers and other smuggling organizations have long overrun the area.

Although the Chavez government immediately imposed an information blackout on the incident, Venezuelan military sources say it appears the FARC killed the soldiers by mistake. The soldiers were traveling in a curiara, or indigenous canoe, and were so poorly dressed that from a distance of 50 to 100 yards they likely appeared to be civilians, possibly criminal smugglers. From the FARC's perspective, this would make them competitors for control of criminal enterprises along the border, and therefore legitimate targets.

If the FARC unit had identified the soldiers as members of Venezuela's military, it is likely the rebels never would have fired at the canoe. The FARC has a tacit non-aggression pact with the Chavez government, and the rebels would not have violated that pact consciously.

Chavez has maintained for several years that Venezuela's side of the border is heavily defended by some 20,000 to 30,000 soldiers reinforced with armor, air and ground transport and electronic surveillance systems designed to locate and identify potential enemies, including Colombian rebels. This claim is inaccurate. The truth is, operational readiness levels within the Venezuelan army, air force and navy are so critically low that if war with Colombia were to break out today the Colombian army could easily capture and hold large swathes of Venezuelan territory, such as the state of Zulia, which accounts for close to 40 percent of Venezuela's total crude oil production.

Venezuela's armed forces (FAN) are among the poorest, least prepared military institutions in Latin America, despite the country's substantial oil revenues. The FAN is tactically and operationally incapable of keeping Colombian rebel groups outside Venezuelan territory. On paper, the army has close to 70,000 soldiers, but actual troop strength is closer to 40,000.

The army's troubles did not begin when Chavez assumed the presidency in early 1999. For example, in 1990 a 150-man company was commanded by one captain, two lieutenants, three sub-lieutenants and 10 sergeants. However, by the time Chavez became president the same 150-man company was commanded by one captain, one sub-lieutenant and two sergeants. Moreover, in 1999 the average frontier battalion had 740 soldiers on paper, but actual troop strength was only 320 men commanded by one lieutenant colonel, 10 officers and 10 sergeants. These ratios have grown much worse since Chavez assumed the presidency and slashed defense spending by more than 40 percent in order to weaken the FAN and dilute its capacity to launch a successful coup.

According to a classified study done in mid-2001 by the army's military intelligence division and obtained recently by Stratfor, the army was a hollow shell three years ago. International defense standards for developing countries state that operational readiness levels for 11 key measures of military offense and defense capabilities should never drop below 70 percent. In Venezuela's case, however, the army's capabilities in nine of 11 key measures of operational readiness levels were far below that 70 percent floor in 2001. The situation today is far more critical, sources say.

For example, in terms of troop strength the Venezuelan army's operational readiness levels in 2001 were only 56.69 percent. In terms of food supplies, its readiness levels were only 40.25 percent, and weapons capabilities were only 23.22 percent. Several lower-ranking officers who have commanded army forces on the border during the past three years say their soldiers lacked uniforms, boots, helmets and body armor. They also say their troops were sent on combat patrols without sufficient ammunition to engage hostile forces such as the FARC, drug traffickers, paramilitary groups and other border bandits. The officers add that border unit commanders frequently had to rent privately owned commercial vehicles from local residents to transport patrol troops into high-risk border areas.

The classified study done in 2001 also rated the army's communications capabilities at only 20.90 percent, combat medevac capabilities at 44.48 percent, ground transport capabilities at 39.36 percent and armored vehicle capabilities (including tanks) at only 48.92 percent.

On paper, Venezuela's armored offensive capabilities are significantly more substantial than Colombia's. For example, Venezuela's army as of May 2003 had an armored component that included 81 AMX-30 main battle tanks, 36 AMX-13 light tanks, 80 British-made Scorpion-90 light tanks, 75 M18 Hellcat tank destroyers and nearly 300 U.S.-, French- and Brazilian-made personnel carriers. The Venezuelan army also was equipped with more than 100 105-mm and 155-mm self-propelled and towed artillery howitzers, 175 106-mm recoilless rifles and more than 220 Brandt 120 mm and 81 mm mortars.

The classified army readiness study obtained by Stratfor states that as of mid-2001, the army's armored operational readiness levels were only 48.92 percent overall. Of 528 armored vehicles, including main battle tanks such as the AMX-30 and light tanks such as the Dragoon 300 and the Scorpion, 336 were operational and 189 were inoperative. Individual weapons systems readiness levels on paper looked good for systems such as the AMX-30 battle tank (71.76 percent) and the Dragoon 300 and Scorpion tanks (97.03 percent and 97.62 percent, respectively). However, these averages do not tell the full story.

Army sources say retrofitting work done in recent years on the AMX-30 battle tanks by Metalurgica Van Dam, a Venezuelan metallurgical firm with no prior experience in modifying tanks, effectively destroyed the combat capabilities of these systems. A battle tank's turret must rotate 360 degrees, but Van Dam's "retrofitting" work made it impossible for the tank turrets to rotate more than 80 degrees in either direction.

This means in combat the tanks can be flanked and destroyed easily from the sides and rear by infantry units armed with light anti-tank rockets. Van Dam also cut through the armor of the AMX-30 tanks in such a way that the tanks were split completely in two. As a result, the armor of these tanks can now be penetrated by ammunition as light as a .30-caliber machine gun bullet, according to military sources. This means an infantry soldier armed with a rocket-propelled grenade
(RPG) can penetrate the turrets of these tanks and kill the crews inside with as much ease as a hot knife slicing through butter if the rocket impacts directly on the welding seam.

In addition, the Dragoon 300 and Scorpion light tanks might show adequate operational readiness levels on paper, but they lack munitions. These tanks can be deployed, as some were deployed in April 2002 to protect Chavez in Miraflores from the 900,000 unarmed protesters who marched to the presidential palace demanding his resignation. However, in an armed engagement these tanks would quickly run out of ammunition, which in effect would make them useless.

The only two measures where the army exceeded the 70 percent floor were air transport (73.91 percent) and electronic warfare (80.05 percent). However, more than half of the army's helicopters are not equipped with weapons systems capable of providing close air-ground support. In effect, the army's air transport command is used mainly to ferry generals around the country on official and personal missions.

Moreover, the army's electronic warfare systems have been withdrawn from border regions and redeployed mainly to Caracas and central Venezuela, where they are used to conduct electronic surveillance of all communications inside Fort Tiuna, Palo Negro and other bases. Instead of intercepting Colombian communications, the Chavez government is using its electronic surveillance systems to spy on Venezuelan army units in a permanent effort to locate and identify officers that could be conspiring against him.
Author: by LuisB. October 2004

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Taxing questions . . . and misfires
Have you noticed the press tends to ask the candidates the same old tired questions, whether at a press conference, interview or debate? Yet there are many basic questions on tax policy (and other topics) Americans should have answers to before they vote.

Here are some of those questions, which I am urging reporters with access to Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry, including the debate moderators, to ask.

To Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry:
1 - What is the maximum federal income tax rate you think any American should pay?
2 - On what basis did you select that number?
(Note: The average federal tax rate for all Americans is now about 15 percent, and surveys over the years indicate most Americans do not believe it is fair for anyone to pay more than 20 percent.)

To Mr. Kerry: Even though you have failed to produce income tax returns for yourself and Mrs. Kerry, the information you did produce indicates your wife's effective federal income tax rate was less than 12 percent (less than that for the average American). If your tax rate proposals were current law, what would be your and Mrs. Kerry's effective tax rate? (Note: It appears from the limited tax information the Kerry campaign has provided, most of the Kerry’s' wealth is in tax sheltered investments - such as tax-free municipal bonds - which would not be affected by Mr. Kerry's tax increase proposals.)

To Mr. Kerry: You have proposed increasing the maximum federal income tax rate to almost 40 percent for many small business owners and other working Americans. This tax rate is far higher than what you and Mrs. Kerry appear to pay or would pay under your proposals. Is this fair, and if so why? (Note: The Kerry’s are reported to be among the 400 richest Americans.)

To Mr. Kerry: You have said you want the wealthiest Americans to pay more taxes. However, under your proposals, many people who clearly are not wealthy and some with even negative net worth’s would have their taxes increased, while many wealthy people would not pay more in taxes. Is this fair? (Note: The Kerry rhetoric confuses wealth and taxable income, and these are not the same. For instance, people who borrow to start or grow businesses, or have serious and very expensive medical problems often have negative net worth’s, even though they may earn $200,000 a year. These people are not wealthy. However, many very wealthy people may receive little in taxable income, because they bought tax free municipal bonds or did other - totally legal - things to tax shelter their income. One can be a billionaire and not pay an additional penny of tax under the Kerry tax proposals.)

To Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry: Some economists believe the decline in U.S. manufacturing employment is partly due to our allowing imports to come into the country tax free (because foreign producers rebate their consumption taxes at the border) and compete against taxable U.S. goods, and yet require our exports to compete globally against foreign goods with U.S. taxes included in the price. Do you agree there is a problem? If so, what would you do to address it?

To Mr. Bush and Mr. Kerry: Many fine economists, such as Nobel Prize winner Robert Lucas, have argued the single best thing we can do to improve economic performance and job creation is eliminate taxes on capital, such as taxes on capital gains, interest and dividends. Do you agree? Why or why not?

To Mr. Kerry: Your economic adviser, former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, endorsed a proposal whereby the United Nations would be able to directly tax American citizens and businesses. Do you agree with your adviser that the U.N. should be able to directly tax Americans, rather than only receive a grant from the U.S. government?

To Mr. Kerry: In the summer of 2000 - before President Bush was elected president - he proposed cutting taxes immediately to reverse the decline in the economy that resulted in the recession at the end of the Clinton administration. As economists know, the recession caused the job losses about which you have been so critical. We understand you and the Clinton administration do not believe, as Mr. Bush and his advisers did, that the recession could have been avoided if the proper tax cut had been enacted in 2000. However, the question remains, what would you have done to avoid the recession, and why did you not propose your alternative at the time?

Democracy functions best when the voters are informed, and that, in turn, requires the press to demand specific answers from the candidates rather than slogans.
Author: Richard W. Rahn is a senior fellow of the Discovery Institute and an adjunct scholar of the Cato Institute. October 2004

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Illegal Immigration into Europe; Analyses
German Intelligence services estimate that at least 500,000 illegal immigrants arrive each year in Europe and receive about 5 billion euros in annual social welfare benefits, a sum that ranks just behind drug trafficking and arms smuggling receipts.

As of August 2004, there have been 9904 illegal immigrants turned back at Europe's borders.

In the above diagram, yellow arrows represent routes taken by illegal immigrants via sea, blue represents land routes, and red represents air routes.
Immigration Routes from the Middle East
The first destination for illegal immigrants from Iran, Iraq, Turkey, or Kurdistan is Istanbul, Turkey. From there, they depart for either Brindisi or Bari, Italy or Frankfurt, Germany, and then on to France, Spain, or the United Kingdom.

Sea Routes
From Istanbul, the route is by "zodiac" boats with the immigrants leaving from the coasts of the Aegean Sea. The cost of passage averages 1500 euros.

Air Routes
Forged passports and tourist visas can be bought in a travel agency for approximately 4,000 US dollars with about eight days wait time. Air travel is usually from Istanbul to Frankfurt, where an immigrant seeks political asylum.

Land Routes
Illegal immigrants travelling from Istanbul to Germany
-Usually by truck - normally pass through Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania. The Bulgarian border is considered to be the most permeable

Immigration Routes from East Africa
Illegal immigrants from East Africa travel via Istanbul, or Brindisi. Such immigrants usually come from Sudan, Chad, Ethiopia, Egypt, Somalia, Kenya, or Niger.

Via Italy
Libya has become a major hub for illegal African immigrants whose destinations are EU countries, especially Italy, as Tripoli no longer requires a transit visa for travellers from the "brother countries" of continental Africa.

Via Turkey
Departing from Sudan, frequently in cargo ship containers originating in Eastern Europe, illegal immigrants arrive in Turkey; they proceed on their way to the Ukrainian port of Odessa, then via land route through Moldavia, and on to Galati in southeast Romania.

Immigration Routes from West Africa
The typical route for illegal immigrants is via Algeria, with Tamanrasset as the first point of entry. Immigrants then travel through Algeria by car or truck and cross the Moroccan border at either Oujda or Nador. The goal is to reach the enclave of Melilla, also known as "little Spain" or Ceuta, on the Moroccan coast. Immigrants taking this route are from Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Cameroun, Togo, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Guinea, and Liberia.

The passage north to Gibraltar is usually made at night in overcrowded boats called "pateras." Passage is organized by traffickers who charge 600 to 2,000 euros per person. Once in Spain, immigrants can travel to other destinations within the EU.

Immigration Routes from Asia
Illegal immigrants from Asia, travelling by air or by land, come primarily from China, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. Immigrants from Russia and the Federated Republic of Chechnya travel primarily by land routes.

Air Routes
Some Chinese immigrants fly directly to Paris, using false Japanese or South Korean passports that cost approximately 15,000 euros.

Land Routes
Illegal immigrants from China cross the Ukraine, Poland, and the Czech Republic by truck, proceeding on foot across the Czech-German border into Germany. Chinese immigrant networks are using Belgrade as a hub.

From East to West Europe
Illegal immigrants taking the East-West route come mainly from Russia, Ukraine, Moldavia, Belarus, Georgia, and the Caucasus.

Land Route
Traveling by truck, car, and by foot, illegal immigrants travel through Slovenia seeking to reach Italy as their port of entry to the European Union. Leaving from Chisinau, Moldova, they travel to Italy by train, car, or by foot at night, crossing the Romanian and Albanian borders.

Sea Route
Illegal immigrants from Albania who arrive on the Italian coast sail in small, flat, light-weight boats called "scafi" that can travel below radar. Most often, they arrive either in Lecce, in southern Italy, in San Foca, a resort opposite the Albanian coast, or in Bari, Brindisi, or Otranto.

European Legislation Countering Illegal Immigration
Current legislation being studied by the European Commission includes the negotiation of a common asylum rights policy; harmonization of penalties for those who aid in human trafficking, those who aid or organize coordinated transits through the EU, and penalizing employers who overlook irregularities on work visas. Sri Lanka, Macao, and Hong Kong have already signed cooperation accords with the EU to combat illegal immigration. The EU is negotiating with an additional six countries - Morocco, Ukraine, Russia, China, Pakistan, and Algeria - to sign agreements on immigration policies.

The European Commission is also discussing the implementation of a Europe wide database of all temporary visas issued for the countries of the Schengen zone and the creation of a European agency to control borders.

The G5
Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and the UK meet annually to discuss the undertaking of immigration projects and legislation by the group such as:
- Establishing a list of countries from which immigrants to Europe are ineligible to claim asylum
- Intensifying international cooperation to discover and dismantle illegal immigrant and human trafficking networks
- Requiring airlines to provide passenger data before arrival UK Legislation. In the United Kingdom, an illegal immigrant can stay for an unlimited period while being processed for political asylum. During this time, the asylum seeker is provided with publicly-funded legal services and housing.

Recent legislation includes a November 2002 law providing for the reinforcement of border inspections with France and Belgium, fines and penalties for transportation companies caught carrying illegal immigrants, wittingly or not, and the creation of reception centers for asylum seekers.

The law also provides for the naturalization of some 50,000 immigrants who requested political asylum three years or more prior to November 2002. The law also enacted stricter penalties for asylum seekers who have lost or misplaced their paperwork and made visas obligatory for nationals of the 18 countries with the highest number of immigrants to the UK.

According to the Home Office, the majority of asylum seekers and illegal immigrants come from Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Zimbabwe followed by China, Iran, and Pakistan. It reported 61,050 requests for asylum from undocumented and illegal immigrants in 2003. While this is the highest number within the EU, it is 43 percent less than the previous year, when the new asylum law was enacted.

German Legislation
At this time, an illegal immigrant can remain in Germany for only 18 months while processing for political asylum.

A law adopted on 9 July 2004 restricted even legal immigration to Germany - requiring an immigrant's dossier to be re-examined after three years, providing for the automatic expulsion of immigrants sentenced to prison, the construction of deportation centers, and the automatic expulsion of any immigrant deemed a threat to national security.

According to the Interior Ministry, the majority of illegal immigrants come from Turkey, Serbia and Montenegro, Iraq, the Russian Federation and China. The ministry reported that 50,600 immigrants in Germany requested asylum in 2003.

Italian Legislation
Italy allows an illegal immigrant to remain in the country for only two months while processing asylum documentation. The "Bossi-Fini" law of 2002 required the intensification of border patrols, digital fingerprinting of all illegal immigrants, and immediate expulsion of, or one year imprisonment for repeat offenders. Although Italian employers classified 634,728 immigrants as documented workers in 2003, residence permits will no longer be given to immigrants not possessing valid work contracts. Italy is currently negotiating an immigration treaty with the Balkan countries (including Albania) and Libya, under which Italy will have a fixed quota system for immigrants. The countries, with which Italy is negotiating, are being asked to institute mechanisms to reintegrate returning illegal immigrants.

Italy saw a 40 percent decrease in reported cases of illegal immigration in 2003 compared to the year prior (14,331 vice 23,719).

According to the Interior Ministry, the majority of illegal immigrants to Italy come from Sri Lanka, Iraq, the former Yugoslavia, and Turkey. The Ministry reported that 7,280 immigrants requested asylum in 2002.

Spanish Legislation
Spain allows 40 days for an illegal immigrant to begin processing the documentation needed to remain in country. However, the law of 29 October 2003 provided a statute of limitations on clandestine immigration. The law provides local and federal police the power, for up to 10 years, to bring charges against a person who has entered the country illegally and continues to reside within the country, even though he or she may be a citizen at the time of prosecution. Procedures are being negotiated to make it more difficult for family members to rejoin each other once asylum status has been granted to one member. There will be severe penalties for immigrants caught trying to enter the country illegally and for businesses that knowingly employ illegal immigrants. In addition, transportation companies, such as airlines, buses, and trains, will be required to supply information on passengers who do not use their return trip ticket on a round trip purchase.

The Spanish and Moroccan police reportedly will increase cooperative efforts to patrol the Straits of Gibraltar and implement the Integrated Border Patrol System (SIVE), a string of radar stations capable of picking up the movement of small marine craft.

The Spanish Ministry of the Interior stated that of the more than 70,000 immigrants deported in 2003, 16,000 entered Spain via clandestine coastal landings. In 2002, there were 6,179 requests for political asylum in Spain from immigrants coming primarily from Morocco, Algeria, Nigeria, Cuba, and Colombia.

Austrian Legislation
Considered to be one of the most extreme in the EU, a law adopted on 23 October 2003, which allows only two months to begin processing for residency status, does not permit demands for asylum to be made at Austria's borders and bars additional evidence to the court of appeal once the appellate court has rendered its decision. An immigrant can also be deported during the appellate process for any reason.

The Austrian Ministry of the Interior reported 32,400 demands for asylum in 2003, with the majority of the requestors originating from Russia, Turkey, India, Serbia and Montenegro, and Afghanistan.
Author: LuisB. October 2004

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Turkey – come on in
The European Commission's green light to accession talks with Turkey, if endorsed by European leaders in December, heralds a potential transformation in Europe as momentous as this year's great eastward expansion.

Turkey would not join for at least a decade. But if and when it is admitted to the EU, this comparatively poor and fast-growing Muslim country of 70 million people is likely to become the largest single member.

There is alarm at this prospect, especially in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Austria. Having turned back the Turks at the gates of Vienna in 1683, they ask, why should we be inviting them back into Europe? Will Europe not become awash with poor farmers, or open itself to more terrorism?

Such fears are understandable, but should be rejected. Turkey is a member of the Council of Europe and Nato, and is now fast adopting European models of government. Civilian authority over the coup-prone military has been reasserted; the death penalty has been abolished; the notorious state security courts have been scrapped; torture is less widespread; there are greater safeguards for freedom of the press; Kurdish language and cultural rights are being recognised; and Turkey has exerted pressure on Turkish Cypriots to approve a UN peace plan for the divided island.

What is more remarkable is that the changes are being brought in by the Islamist-inspired Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, who was educated in an Islamic seminary and whose wife wears the veil. The Turks clearly have a long way to go before they are ready to join the EU.

Their civil rights record, for instance, still leaves much to be desired. But they have done more than enough to deserve to begin membership talks. The best way to encourage further reform is for the EU to keep its word, and make clear that it is not an exclusive Christian club.

And if the EU can make Islamists adopt democratic values, then it will have shown that its "soft power" is as important as America's military "hard power" in undermining the political base of Islamist terrorists.
Author: LuisB. October 2004