Contact Me By Email

Atlanta, GA Weather from Weather Underground

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

WP: Blacks shift to Obama, poll finds

WP: Blacks shift to Obama, poll finds

African American voters moving away from Sen. Clinton

By Dan Balz and Jon Cohen
The Washington Post
Updated: 6:49 a.m. ET Feb 28, 2007

The opening stages of the campaign for the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination have produced a noticeable shift in sentiment among African American voters, who little more than a month ago heavily supported Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton but now favor the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama.

Clinton, of New York, continues to lead Obama and other rivals in the Democratic contest, according to the latest Washington Post-ABC News poll. But her once-sizable margin over the freshman senator from Illinois was sliced in half during the past month largely because of Obama's growing support among black voters.

In the Republican race, former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who recently made clear his intentions to seek the presidency, has expanded his lead over Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Giuliani holds a 2 to 1 advantage over McCain among Republicans, according to the poll, more than tripling his margin of a month ago.

The principal reason was a shift among white evangelical Protestants, who now clearly favor Giuliani over McCain. Giuliani among this group of Americans despite his support of abortion rights and gay rights, two issues of great importance to religious conservatives. McCain opposes abortion rights.

Among Democrats, Clinton still enjoys many of the advantages of a traditional front-runner. Pitted against Obama and former senator John Edwards of North Carolina, she was seen by Democrats as the candidate with the best experience to be president, as the strongest leader, as having the best chance to get elected, as the closest to voters on the issues and as the candidate who best understands the problems "of people like you." Obama was seen as the most inspirational.

The Post-ABC News poll was completed days after aides to the two leading Democrats engaged in a testy exchange over comments critical of Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, by Hollywood mogul David Geffen, a former friend and financial backer of the Clintons who hosted a fundraiser for Obama last week in Los Angeles.

Early national polls are not always good predictors for presidential campaigns, but the Post-ABC poll offers clues to the competition ahead.

On the January weekend when she announced her candidacy, Clinton led the Democratic field with 41 percent. Obama was second at 17 percent, Edwards was third at 11 percent and former vice president Al Gore, who has said he has no plans to run, was fourth at 10 percent.

The latest poll put Clinton at 36 percent, Obama at 24 percent, Gore at 14 percent and Edwards at 12 percent. None of the other Democrats running received more than 3 percent. With Gore removed from the field, Clinton would gain ground on Obama, leading the Illinois senator 43 percent to 27 percent. Edwards ran third at 14 percent. The poll was completed the night Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth" won an Oscar.

Clinton's and Obama's support among white voters changed little since December, but the changes among black Democrats were dramatic. In December and January Post-ABC News polls, Clinton led Obama among African Americans by 60 percent to 20 percent. In the new poll, Obama held a narrow advantage among blacks, 44 percent to 33 percent. The shift came despite four in five blacks having a favorable impression of the New York senator.

Rising favorability rating
African Americans view Clinton even more positively than they see Obama, but in the time since he launched his campaign, his favorability rating rose significantly among blacks. In the latest poll, 70 percent of African Americans said they had a favorable impression of Obama, compared with 54 percent in December and January.

Overall, Clinton's favorable ratings dipped slightly from January, with 49 percent of Americans having a favorable impression and 48 percent an unfavorable impression. Obama's ratings among all Americans improved over the past month, with 53 percent saying they have a favorable impression and 30 percent saying they have an unfavorable impression.

Her position on the war in Iraq does not appear to be hurting Clinton among Democrats, even though she has faced hostile questioning from some voters about her 2002 vote authorizing President Bush to go to war. Some Democrats have demanded that she apologize for the vote, which she has declined to do.

The Post-ABC News poll found that 52 percent of Democrats said her vote was the right thing to do at the time, while 47 percent said it was a mistake. Of those who called it a mistake, however, just 31 percent said she should apologize. Among Democrats who called the war the most important issue in deciding their 2008 candidate preference, Clinton led Obama 40 to 26 percent.

In the Republican contest, McCain once was seen as the early, if fragile front-runner, for his party's nomination, but Giuliani's surge adds a new dimension to the race. In the latest poll, the former New York mayor led among Republicans with 44 percent to McCain's 21 percent. Last month, Giuliani led with 34 percent to McCain's 27 percent.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich ran third in the latest poll with 15 percent, while former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney was fourth with 4 percent. Gingrich has not said he definitely plans to run, and without him, Giuliani's lead would increase even more, to 53 percent compared with McCain's 23 percent.

When Republicans were asked to rate Giuliani, McCain and Romney on a series of attributes, Giuliani was seen as the strongest leader, the most inspiring, the candidate with the best chance of winning the general election, the most honest and trustworthy and the one closest to them on the issues. McCain was seen as having the best experience to be president, but only by a narrow margin.

Potential problems for Giuliani
Giuliani faces potential problems because of his views on abortion and gay rights. More than four in 10 Republicans said they were less likely to support him because of those views. More than two in 10 Republicans said there was "no chance" they could vote for him.

With Clinton and Obama as possible barrier-breakers in this presidential campaign, Americans were asked how a candidate's race or gender would affect their vote. What the poll showed is that Americans indicated they were less likely to support a candidate over age 72 or a candidate who is a Mormon than a female or African American candidate.

Those findings could affect McCain, who is 70, and Romney, who is a Mormon. Nearly six in 10 said they would be less likely to vote for someone over age 72, while three in 10 said they would be less likely to support a Mormon.

The Post-ABC News poll was conducted by telephone Feb. 22-25 among a random sample of 1,082 adults, including an oversample of 86 black respondents. The margin of sampling error for the poll was plus or minus 3 percentage points; it is higher for the sub-samples.

Polling analyst Jennifer Agiesta contributed to this report

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

'I Heard a Loud Boom' -- Cheney Discusses Assassination Attempt

'I Heard a Loud Boom' -- Cheney Discusses Assassination Attempt

Suicide Bomber Strikes U.S. Base Where Cheney Was Staying; Unhurt, Cheney Heads to Kabul

By JONATHAN KARL

BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan, Feb. 27, 2007 — A suicide bomber struck at the main entrance to the U.S. air base in Bagram, Afghanistan, today, as Vice President Dick Cheney was visiting.

"I heard a loud boom, and shortly after that the Secret Service came in and told me there had been an attack on the main gate, apparently a suicide bomber," Cheney said to a small group of reporters traveling with him.

At least 10 people were killed including a U.S. soldier. Afghan President Hamid Karzai's office told The Associated Press as many as 23 had been killed.

Immediately after the attack, a red alert sounded throughout the base — a red alert that said the base was under direct attack.

The Secret Service rushed Cheney to a bomb shelter on the air base.

"They moved me for a relatively brief period of time to one of the bomb shelters near the quarters I was staying in," Cheney said.

Cheney said he never considered altering his schedule because of the bombing. About an hour after the explosion, he was aboard an Air Force C-17, flying to Kabul as planned for a meeting with Karzai.

Cheney said he was aware that the Taliban had claimed responsibility for the attack.

"I think they clearly try to find ways to question the authority of the central government, and striking at Bagram with a suicide bomber is one way to do that," he said, adding that such attacks should "never affect our behavior at all."

Bad weather in Afghanistan had forced the vice president to spend the night in Bagram on Monday. He had only planned to be there for a few hours. The overnight stay in Afghanistan makes Cheney the most senior Bush administration official to spend the night in a war zone, a fact that complicated the already intense security surrounding this trip.

Maj. William Mitchell said Cheney was never in danger.

"He wasn't near the site of the explosion," Mitchell said. "He was safely within the base at the time of the explosion."

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Old Foes Join in Anger as Train Bombing’s Toll Rises to 66

February 20, 2007

Old Foes Join in Anger as Train Bombing’s Toll Rises to 66


By SOMINI SENGUPTA

DIWANA, India, Feb. 19 — A day after two homemade bombs killed at least 66 people on a train traveling to Pakistan from India, the governments of both countries on Monday condemned the attack and pledged that it would not deter their aim of reducing longstanding hostilities on the subcontinent.

The office of Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, on Monday morning called the bombing “an act of terror” and promised to apprehend those responsible. Pakistan also denounced the attack, which occurred on the eve of a visit by Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, the Pakistani foreign minister, to the Indian capital, New Delhi, and two weeks before officials from both countries were to meet for the first time to share information on terrorism-related activities.

The train had ferried more than 600 passengers from Delhi to the India-Pakistan border. The bombs exploded just after midnight Sunday, trapping slumbering passengers aboard the Attari Express in flames. By early Monday, when the bodies were pulled from train, they were so severely burned it was difficult to tell who they were, let alone whether they were Indian or Pakistani.

All told, 66 bodies were taken out of two burned-out compartments; 13 survivors somehow escaped, including an infant and Kamruddin, 60, a small thin man from Multan, Pakistan, who thanked God as an ambulance carried him to an Indian government hospital in New Delhi on Monday. Kamruddin recalled making his way to the door of his coach and having someone pull him out.

Twelve hours later, the two coaches were still smoldering.

Peace talks between India and Pakistan have crawled along for three years, yielding little more than an accord on transportation links like the Attari Express. The two last stepped close to the brink of war in early 2002. They have fought each other in three wars since independence from British rule in 1947.

“This is an act of sabotage,” Laloo Prasad Yadav, the Indian railroad minister, told reporters in the eastern city of Patna, according to wire service reports. “This is an attempt to derail the improving relationship between India and Pakistan.”

In a statement reported by Reuters, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, said, “We will not allow elements which want to sabotage the ongoing peace process to succeed in their nefarious designs.”

The overnight train, en route from Delhi to the border post at Attari, began service 30 years ago, and after a two-year suspension at a time of acute enmity between India and Pakistan, resumed service in January 2004. From Attari, passengers board a second train, which takes them to Lahore, Pakistan.

The explosions occurred when the train had advanced about a mile from Diwana, a tiny station here surrounded by fields of wheat.

Three other bombs were found in the train’s other coaches, according to police and railroad officials; a police officer at the scene said he saw a suitcase packed with eight to nine bottles filled with an unknown liquid, along with a plastic detonator.

V. K. Duggal, the home secretary, told reporters that sulfur and kerosene had probably been used.

Mr. Yadav, the railroad minister, said Monday evening that one person had been detained in connection with the blasts, according to Reuters, but offered no further details.

Navtej Sarna, a spokesman for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters that visas would be issued to Pakistani relatives of those who were feared dead. On Monday afternoon, police officers worked in the sun to identify victims at the main government hospital in Panipat, the nearest city to the site of the explosions, recording the remnants they had found: singed passports, a wallet, a key.

The attack occurred almost exactly five years after a fire on a train killed 59 Hindu pilgrims in Gujarat State, in western India, setting off some of the worst communal carnage in India’s history, in which at least 1,100 people were killed, mostly Muslims. Last July, a series of synchronized bombs went off on commuter trains in Mumbai, India’s largest city, killing about 180 people.

In the attack on Sunday, bombs went off inside two coaches, toward the back of the train, shortly after it left Diwana at 11:53 p.m., two officials at the station said. By the time the first fire trucks arrived, the two coaches were ablaze, and the air smelled of burning plastic and flesh, according to B. D. Ahuja, the fire station officer at Panipat.

Satya Narain Sharma, a firefighter who was among the first to reach the scene at 12:10 a.m. said that when fire crews tried to pry open the first door, it did not budge. Later, they found behind it a pile of bodies, all apparently passengers trying to escape. They found a second door open and began pulling out the dead. Muhammad Wasim Khan said his uncle, Shaffiq Ahmed Khan, from Karachi, was among the dead. Shaffiq Ahmed Khan and his sons, Aarish, 15, and Sammy, 9, had come to visit relatives in Delhi. They stayed for a month and began to make their way home on Sunday night, their bags stuffed with gifts: clothes, fancy soap and packets of Rajanigandha-brand paan masala, a North Indian mouth-freshener. They stuffed their money into their shoes, relatives said, so it would not be taken by the police along the way.

On Sunday night, Muhammad Wasim Khan settled them into the fourth coach from the back, and waved goodbye from the platform. The next afternoon, he found his uncle’s body at the hospital in Panipat. He recognized him by the brown coat he wore, and the money stuffed inside his shoes. His face was burned beyond recognition. The two boys had been admitted to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi.

At the Old Delhi railroad station, distraught friends and relatives began gathering before dawn to learn who had been killed and who had escaped alive, but at the emergency assistance booth on Platform 15, officials had little information.

Mohammad Aslam, a bangle manufacturer, who accompanied five of his cousins to the train on Sunday night, said his repeated requests for information were brushed off by station staff members. “They keep saying ‘How can we give you information when we know nothing ourselves?’ ” he said.

He said there had been no security searches before passengers boarded the train. Nodding toward the row of police officers searching people at the entrance to the station, opening suitcases and checking handbags, he said, “None of that was there yesterday.”

Hari Kumar contributed reporting from Panipat and Amelia Gentleman from New Delhi.

Old Foes Join in Anger as Train Bombing’s Toll Rises to 66

February 20, 2007

Old Foes Join in Anger as Train Bombing’s Toll Rises to 66


By SOMINI SENGUPTA

DIWANA, India, Feb. 19 — A day after two homemade bombs killed at least 66 people on a train traveling to Pakistan from India, the governments of both countries on Monday condemned the attack and pledged that it would not deter their aim of reducing longstanding hostilities on the subcontinent.

The office of Manmohan Singh, the Indian prime minister, on Monday morning called the bombing “an act of terror” and promised to apprehend those responsible. Pakistan also denounced the attack, which occurred on the eve of a visit by Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, the Pakistani foreign minister, to the Indian capital, New Delhi, and two weeks before officials from both countries were to meet for the first time to share information on terrorism-related activities.

The train had ferried more than 600 passengers from Delhi to the India-Pakistan border. The bombs exploded just after midnight Sunday, trapping slumbering passengers aboard the Attari Express in flames. By early Monday, when the bodies were pulled from train, they were so severely burned it was difficult to tell who they were, let alone whether they were Indian or Pakistani.

All told, 66 bodies were taken out of two burned-out compartments; 13 survivors somehow escaped, including an infant and Kamruddin, 60, a small thin man from Multan, Pakistan, who thanked God as an ambulance carried him to an Indian government hospital in New Delhi on Monday. Kamruddin recalled making his way to the door of his coach and having someone pull him out.

Twelve hours later, the two coaches were still smoldering.

Peace talks between India and Pakistan have crawled along for three years, yielding little more than an accord on transportation links like the Attari Express. The two last stepped close to the brink of war in early 2002. They have fought each other in three wars since independence from British rule in 1947.

“This is an act of sabotage,” Laloo Prasad Yadav, the Indian railroad minister, told reporters in the eastern city of Patna, according to wire service reports. “This is an attempt to derail the improving relationship between India and Pakistan.”

In a statement reported by Reuters, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, said, “We will not allow elements which want to sabotage the ongoing peace process to succeed in their nefarious designs.”

The overnight train, en route from Delhi to the border post at Attari, began service 30 years ago, and after a two-year suspension at a time of acute enmity between India and Pakistan, resumed service in January 2004. From Attari, passengers board a second train, which takes them to Lahore, Pakistan.

The explosions occurred when the train had advanced about a mile from Diwana, a tiny station here surrounded by fields of wheat.

Three other bombs were found in the train’s other coaches, according to police and railroad officials; a police officer at the scene said he saw a suitcase packed with eight to nine bottles filled with an unknown liquid, along with a plastic detonator.

V. K. Duggal, the home secretary, told reporters that sulfur and kerosene had probably been used.

Mr. Yadav, the railroad minister, said Monday evening that one person had been detained in connection with the blasts, according to Reuters, but offered no further details.

Navtej Sarna, a spokesman for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, told reporters that visas would be issued to Pakistani relatives of those who were feared dead. On Monday afternoon, police officers worked in the sun to identify victims at the main government hospital in Panipat, the nearest city to the site of the explosions, recording the remnants they had found: singed passports, a wallet, a key.

The attack occurred almost exactly five years after a fire on a train killed 59 Hindu pilgrims in Gujarat State, in western India, setting off some of the worst communal carnage in India’s history, in which at least 1,100 people were killed, mostly Muslims. Last July, a series of synchronized bombs went off on commuter trains in Mumbai, India’s largest city, killing about 180 people.

In the attack on Sunday, bombs went off inside two coaches, toward the back of the train, shortly after it left Diwana at 11:53 p.m., two officials at the station said. By the time the first fire trucks arrived, the two coaches were ablaze, and the air smelled of burning plastic and flesh, according to B. D. Ahuja, the fire station officer at Panipat.

Satya Narain Sharma, a firefighter who was among the first to reach the scene at 12:10 a.m. said that when fire crews tried to pry open the first door, it did not budge. Later, they found behind it a pile of bodies, all apparently passengers trying to escape. They found a second door open and began pulling out the dead. Muhammad Wasim Khan said his uncle, Shaffiq Ahmed Khan, from Karachi, was among the dead. Shaffiq Ahmed Khan and his sons, Aarish, 15, and Sammy, 9, had come to visit relatives in Delhi. They stayed for a month and began to make their way home on Sunday night, their bags stuffed with gifts: clothes, fancy soap and packets of Rajanigandha-brand paan masala, a North Indian mouth-freshener. They stuffed their money into their shoes, relatives said, so it would not be taken by the police along the way.

On Sunday night, Muhammad Wasim Khan settled them into the fourth coach from the back, and waved goodbye from the platform. The next afternoon, he found his uncle’s body at the hospital in Panipat. He recognized him by the brown coat he wore, and the money stuffed inside his shoes. His face was burned beyond recognition. The two boys had been admitted to Safdarjung Hospital in New Delhi.

At the Old Delhi railroad station, distraught friends and relatives began gathering before dawn to learn who had been killed and who had escaped alive, but at the emergency assistance booth on Platform 15, officials had little information.

Mohammad Aslam, a bangle manufacturer, who accompanied five of his cousins to the train on Sunday night, said his repeated requests for information were brushed off by station staff members. “They keep saying ‘How can we give you information when we know nothing ourselves?’ ” he said.

He said there had been no security searches before passengers boarded the train. Nodding toward the row of police officers searching people at the entrance to the station, opening suitcases and checking handbags, he said, “None of that was there yesterday.”

Hari Kumar contributed reporting from Panipat and Amelia Gentleman from New Delhi.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Outside Pressures Broke Korean Deadlock

February 14, 2007

News Analysis
Outside Pressures Broke Korean Deadlock

By DAVID E. SANGER

WASHINGTON, Feb. 13 — It is hard to imagine that either George W. Bush or Kim Jong-il would have agreed even a year ago to the kind of deal they have now approved. The pact, announced Tuesday, would stop, seal and ultimately disable North Korea’s nuclear facilities, as part of a grand bargain that the administration has previously shunned as overly generous to a repressive country — especially one that has not yet said when or if it will give up its nuclear arsenal.

But in the past few months, the world has changed for both Mr. Bush and Mr. Kim, two men who have made clear how deeply they detest each other. Both are beset by huge problems, and both needed some kind of breakthrough.

For Mr. Bush, bogged down in Iraq, his authority undercut by the November elections, any chance to show progress in peacefully disarming a country that detonated a nuclear test just four months ago could no longer be passed up. As one senior administration official said over the weekend, the prospect that Mr. Bush might leave Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea more dangerous places than he found them “can’t be very appealing.”

Still, the accord came under fast criticism from right and left that it was both too little and too late.

For years, Mr. Bush’s administration has been paralyzed by an ideological war, between those who wanted to bring down North Korea and those who thought it was worth one more try to lure the country out of isolation. In embracing this deal, Mr. Bush sided with those who have counseled engagement, notably his secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, and her chief negotiator, Christopher R. Hill. Mr. Bush took the leap in the hope that in a few months, he will be able to declare that North Korea can no longer produce fuel for new nuclear weapons, even if it has not yet turned over its old ones.

For Mr. Kim, the nuclear explosion — more of a fizzle — that he set off in the mountains not far from the Chinese border in October turned out to be a strategic mistake. The Chinese, who spent six decades protecting the Kim family dynasty, responded by cutting off his military aid, and helping Washington crack down on the banks that financed the Cognac-and-Mercedes lifestyle of the North Korean leadership.

“As a political statement, their test was a red flare for everyone,” said Robert Gallucci, who under President Clinton was the chief negotiator of the 1994 agreement with North Korea, which collapsed four years ago. “It gave President Bush and the Chinese some leverage.”

Mr. Gallucci and other nuclear experts agree that the hardest bargaining with world’s most reclusive, often paranoid, government remains ahead.

Over the next year, under the pact, the North must not only disable its nuclear reactors and reprocessing facilities, it must lead inspectors to its weapons and a suspected second nuclear weapons program. And to get to the next phase of the agreement, the one that gives “disarmament” meaning, North Korea will have to be persuaded to give away the country’s crown jewels: the weapons that make the world pay attention to it.

But before the administration faces off against Mr. Kim in Pyongyang, it will have to confront the many critics of the deal here at home. As the White House took credit on Tuesday for what it called a “first step,” it found itself pilloried by conservatives who attacked the administration for folding in negotiations with a charter member of what Mr. Bush called the “axis of evil,” and for replicating key elements of Mr. Clinton’s agreement with North Korea.

At the same time, Mr. Bush’s advisers were being confronted by barbs from veterans of the Clinton administration, who argued that the same deal struck Tuesday had been within reach several years and a half-dozen weapons ago, had only Mr. Bush chosen to negotiate with the North rather than fixate on upending its government.

In fact, elements of the new decision closely resemble the Clinton deal, called the Agreed Framework. As it did in that accord, the North agrees to “freeze” its operations at Yongbyon, its main nuclear facility, and to allow inspections there. And like that agreement, the new one envisions the North’s ultimately giving up all of its nuclear material.

In two respects, however, the new accord is different: North Korea does not receive the incentives the West has offered — in this case, about a year’s supply of heavy fuel oil and other aid — until it “disables” its equipment at Yongbyon and declares where it has hidden its bombs, nuclear fuel and other nuclear facilities. And the deal is not only with Washington, but with Beijing, Moscow, Seoul and Tokyo.

“We’re building a set of relationships,” Ms. Rice argued Tuesday, saying that the deal would not have been possible if she and President Bush had not been able to swing the Chinese over to their side. Mr. Bush has told colleagues that he believes the turning point came in his own blunt conversations with President Hu Jintao of China, in which, the American president has said, he explained in stark terms that a nuclear North Korea was more China’s problem than America’s.

But the administration was clearly taken aback on Tuesday by the harshness of the critique from the right, led by its recently departed United Nations ambassador, John R. Bolton, who charged that the deal “undercuts the sanctions resolution” against the North that he pushed through the Security Council four months ago.

Democrats, in contrast, were caught between enjoying watching Mr. Bush change course and declaring that the agreement amounted to disarmament-lite. “It gives the illusion of moving more rapidly to disarmament, but it doesn’t really require anything to happen in the second phase,” said Joel Wit, who was the coordinator of the 1994 agreement.

The Bush administration is counting on the lure of future benefits to the North — fuel oil, the peace treaty ending the Korean War it has long craved, an end to other sanctions — to force Mr. Kim to disclose where his nuclear weapons and fuel are stored.

Mr. Bush’s big worry now is that Mr. Kim is playing the administration for time. Many experts think he is betting that by the time the first big deliveries of oil and aid are depleted, America will be distracted by a presidential election.

But Mr. Bush could also end up with a diplomatic triumph, one he needs desperately. To get there, he appears to have changed course. Asked in 2004 about North Korea, he said, “I don’t think you give timelines to dictators and tyrants.”

Now he appears to have concluded that sometimes the United States has to negotiate with dictators and odious rulers, because the other options — military force, sanctions or watching an unpredictable nation gain a nuclear arsenal — seem even worse.

Monday, February 12, 2007

U.S. Says Arms Link Iranians to Iraqi Shiites

February 12, 2007

U.S. Says Arms Link Iranians to Iraqi Shiites

By JAMES GLANZ

BAGHDAD, Feb. 11 — After weeks of internal debate, senior United States military officials on Sunday literally put on the table their first public evidence of the contentious assertion that Iran supplies Shiite extremist groups in Iraq with some of the most lethal weapons in the war. They said those weapons had been used to kill more than 170 Americans in the past three years.

Never before displayed in public, the weapons included squat canisters designed to explode and spit out molten balls of copper that cut through armor. The canisters, called explosively formed penetrators or E.F.P.s, are perhaps the most feared weapon faced by American and Iraqi troops here.

In a news briefing held under strict security, the officials spread out on two small tables an E.F.P. and an array of mortar shells and rocket-propelled grenades with visible serial numbers that the officials said link the weapons directly to Iranian arms factories. The officials also asserted, without providing direct evidence, that Iranian leaders had authorized smuggling those weapons into Iraq for use against the Americans. The officials said such an assertion was an inference based on general intelligence assessments.

That inference, and the anonymity of the officials who made it, seemed likely to generate skepticism among those suspicious that the Bush administration is trying to find a scapegoat for its problems in Iraq, and perhaps even trying to lay the groundwork for war with Iran.

Iran on Monday rejected the American allegations. "Such accusations cannot be relied upon or be presented as evidence. The United States has a long history in fabricating evidence. Such charges are unacceptable," Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Ali Hosseini told reporters.

Mr. Hosseini said Iran’s top leaders were not intervening in Iraq and considered "any intervention in Iraq’s internal affairs as a weakening of the popular Iraqi government, and we are opposed to that."

While the Americans displayed what they said was the physical evidence of their claims about Iran’s role in Iraq, they also left many questions unanswered, including proof that the Iranian government was directing the delivery of weapons.

The officials were repeatedly pressed on why they insisted on anonymity in such an important matter affecting the security of American and Iraqi troops. A senior United States military official gave a partial answer, saying that without anonymity, a senior Defense Department analyst who participated in the briefing could not have contributed.

The officials also were defensive about the timing of disclosing such incriminating evidence, since they had known about it as early as 2004. They said E.F.P. attacks had nearly doubled in 2006 compared with the previous year and a half.

“The reason we’re talking about this right now is the vast increase in the number of E.F.P.s being found,” one official said. American-led forces in Iraq, the official said, “are not trying to hype this up to be more than it is.”

Whatever doubts were created about the timing and circumstances of the weapons disclosures, the direct physical evidence presented on Sunday was extraordinary.

The officials said the E.F.P. weapons arrived in Iraq in the form of what they described as a “kit” containing high-grade metals and highly machined parts — like a shaped, concave lid that folds into a molten ball while hurtling toward its target.

For the first time, American officials provided a specific casualty total from these weapons, saying they had killed more than 170 Americans and wounded 620 since June 2004, when one of the devices first killed a service member.

But then the officials went much further, asserting without specific evidence that the Iranian security apparatus, called the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps - Quds Force controlled delivery of the materials to Iraq. And in a further inference, the officials asserted that the Quds Force, sometimes called the I.R.G.C. - Quds, could be involved only with Iranian government complicity.

“We have been able to determine that this material, especially on the E.F.P. level, is coming from the I.R.G.C. - Quds Force,” said the senior defense analyst. That, the analyst said, meant direction for the operation was “coming from the highest levels of the Iranian government.”

At least one shipment of E.F.P.s was captured as it was smuggled from Iran into southern Iraq in 2005, the officials said. Caches and arrays of E.F.P.s, as well as mortars and other weapons traceable to Iran, have been repeatedly found inside Iraq in areas dominated by militias known to have ties to Iran, the officials said. One cache of antitank rocket-propelled grenades and other items was seized as recently as Jan. 23, the officials said.

The precise machining of E.F.P. components, the officials said, also links the weapons to Iran. “We have no evidence that this has ever been done in Iraq,” the senior military official said.

The officials also gave fresh details on recent American raids in Baghdad and the northern city of Erbil in which Quds Force members were picked up and accused of working with extremist groups to plan attacks on American and Iraqi forces.

Some of the five Iranians still being detained after they were picked up in Erbil on Jan. 11 had been flushing documents down a toilet when they were found, the defense analyst said, and they had recently been engaged in “changing their appearance” — apparently shaving their heads, though for what reason the analyst did not know.

An earlier raid in Baghdad was carried out, the officials said, after American forces received word that the No. 2 Quds Force official, whom they identified as Mohsin Chizari, was unexpectedly in Iraq. When Mr. Chizari was picked up in a raid in December, he was carrying false identification, the officials said.

He was later released to the Iraqi government with another Iranian official who was picked up at the same time. The Iraqis asked both Iranians to leave the country.

The senior defense analyst said there was no direct link between the detained Iranians and the physical evidence presented on Sunday. But the analyst said, “the overall tenor” of the evidence was that Mr. Chizari was implicated in bringing E.F.P.s into Iraq.

The briefing also presented new information on what the Americans call the smuggling routes. There are three main routes, officials said: the Mandelli border crossing, east of Baghdad; the Mehran crossing, in the marshes to the south; and in the southern city of Basra.

Paid Iraqis, rather than Iranians themselves, carry the materials across the border, the officials said.

The senior military official blamed recent press reports for, he said, overstating the importance of the weapons presentation, which had been delayed. Part of the delay reflected a view among officials in Washington that the original presentation was insufficiently strong. Officials here did not address that element of the internal debate.

The senior American military official did make it clear that declassifying the material took place only after weeks of analysis on what information could be useful to hostile forces — information that has mostly been kept out of the public eye since the E.F.P.s began turning up in Iraq. “We publicly have not acknowledged E.F.P.s for the past two years,” the senior military official said.

Laid out on the tables themselves were the tailfins of dozens of apparently used mortar shells, as well as intact mortar shells, rocket-propelled grenades, cases for some of the weaponry, the E.F.P., and two identification cards the officials said were taken in the Erbil raid.

The shells had serial numbers in English in order to comply with international standards for arms, the officials said. One grenade, for instance, was marked with the serial number P.G.7-AT-1 followed by LOT:5-31-2006. The officials said that the serial numbers clearly identified the grenade as being of Iranian manufacture and the date showed that it had been made in 2006.

Commanders in Baghdad are acutely aware of the deadly E.F.P.s. Col. Steve Townsend, commander of the Third Stryker Brigade Combat Team in Baghdad, said his unit has encountered about a dozen E.F.P.s in the past two months.

Iran’s role in Iraq has been discussed in recent months in public and private testimony by senior intelligence officials. In testimony last month, Gen. Michael V. Hayden, director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said “there’s a clear line of evidence that points out the Iranians want to punish the United States, hurt the United States in Iraq, tie down the United States in Iraq, so that our other options in the region, against other activities the Iranians might have, would be limited.”

Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, the West Virginia Democrat who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, said last month that he believed that Iranian operatives inside Iraq were supporting Shiite militias and working against American troops.

But he also asserted that the White House had a poor understanding of Iranian calculations and added that he was concerned that the Bush administration was building a case for a more confrontational policy toward Tehran.

Richard A. Oppel Jr. contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Michael R. Gordon and Felicity Barringer from Washington.

Richard A. Oppel Jr. contributed reporting from Baghdad, and Michael R. Gordon and Felicity Barringer from Washington.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Putin Says U.S. Is Undermining Global Stability

February 11, 2007

Putin Says U.S. Is Undermining Global Stability

By THOM SHANKER and MARK LANDLER
MUNICH, Feb. 10 — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia accused the United States on Saturday of provoking a new nuclear arms race by developing ballistic missile defenses, undermining international institutions and making the Middle East more unstable through its clumsy handling of the Iraq war.

In an address to an international security conference, Mr. Putin dropped all diplomatic gloss to recite a long list of complaints about American domination of global affairs, including many of the themes that have strained relations between the Kremlin and the United States during his seven-year administration.

Among them were the expansion of NATO into the Baltics and the perception in Russia that the West has supported groups that have toppled other governments in Moscow’s former sphere of influence.

“The process of NATO expansion has nothing to do with modernization of the alliance,” Mr. Putin said. “We have the right to ask, ‘Against whom is this expansion directed?’ ”

He said the United States had turned the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which sends monitors to elections in the former Soviet sphere, “into a vulgar instrument of ensuring the foreign policy interests of one country.”

The comments were the sternest yet from Mr. Putin, who has long bristled over criticism from the United States and its European allies as he and his cadre of former Soviet intelligence officials have consolidated their hold on Russia’s government, energy reserves and arms-manufacturing and trading complexes.

Rubble from the Berlin Wall was “hauled away as souvenirs” to countries that praise openness and personal freedom, he said, but “now there are attempts to impose new dividing lines and rules, maybe virtual, but still dividing our mutual continent.”

The world, he said, is now unipolar: “One single center of power. One single center of force. One single center of decision making. This is the world of one master, one sovereign.”

With the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, the American defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, and a Congressional delegation sitting stone-faced, Mr. Putin warned that the power amassed by any nation that assumes this ultimate global role “destroys it from within.

“It has nothing in common with democracy, of course,” he added. “Today we are witnessing an almost uncontained hyper use of force in international relations — military force.”

“Primarily the United States has overstepped its national borders, and in every area,” said Mr. Putin, who increasingly has tried to re-establish Russia’s once broad Soviet-era influence, using Russia’s natural resources as leverage and defending nations at odds with the United States, including Iran.

American military actions, which he termed “unilateral” and “illegitimate,” also “have not been able to resolve any matters at all,” and, he said, have created only more instability and danger.

“They bring us to the abyss of one conflict after another,” he said. “Political solutions are becoming impossible.”

The comments irritated some European leaders and prompted sharp criticism from the Americans in attendance. Senator John McCain, the Arizona Republican widely expected to make a bid for the White House, made a rebuttal that began, “In today’s multipolar world, there is no place for needless confrontation.” He said that the United States won the cold war in partnership with powerful nations of Western Europe, and that “there are power centers on every continent today.”

Mr. McCain then hit back at Mr. Putin more directly. “Will Russia’s autocratic turn become more pronounced, its foreign policy more opposed to the principles of the Western democracies and its energy policy used as a tool of intimidation?” he asked. “Moscow must understand that it cannot enjoy a genuine partnership with the West so long as its actions, at home and abroad, conflict fundamentally with the core values of the Euro-Atlantic democracies.”

In Washington, Gordon D. Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said in a statement: “We are surprised and disappointed with President Putin’s comments. His accusations are wrong. We expect to continue cooperation with Russia in areas important to the international community such as counterterrorism and reducing the spread and threat of weapons of mass destruction.”

Russia has also faced criticism from the United States and other Western countries that believe it has used energy reserves and transport pipelines to reward friendly countries and to punish those seeking to distance themselves from Kremlin control. Some analysts saw the tone of the speech as evidence of how much oil and mineral revenues have strengthened Mr. Putin.

The occasion of the speech was the 43rd Munich Conference on Security Policy — an event begun deep in the cold war, when Germany was divided and hundreds of thousands of American troops were stationed in Western Europe as a bulwark against Warsaw Pact forces.

Mr. Putin began with an apology for the tough talk to come. But during a lively question and answer period full of challenges and rebukes, the Russian president indicated that he relished provoking the international audience of legislators, government leaders, political analysts and human rights advocates.

“I love it,” Mr. Putin said as he reviewed a long list of questions. He has long enjoyed high and durable public approval ratings at home, in part for standing up to the West and for pursuing an assertive foreign policy with former Soviet states.

He did offer at least two significant and conciliatory statements to the United States.

President Bush “is a decent man, and one can do business with him,” he said. From their meetings and discussions, Mr. Putin said, he has heard the American president say, “I assume Russia and the United States will never be enemies, and I agree.”

And while Mr. Putin denied that Russia had assisted the Iranian military with significant arms transfers, he also criticized the government in Tehran for not cooperating more with the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency or responding to questions about its nuclear program.

Other American lawmakers offered measured criticism afterward. “He’s done more to bring Europe and the U.S. together than any single event in the last several years,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina.

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, described the speech as “confrontational,” saying, “some of the rhetoric takes us back to the cold war.”

Iran’s top nuclear official, Ali Larijani, listened impassively from the back of the room. His attendance had become a sideshow in itself. After accepting an invitation to speak Sunday, he canceled, citing health reasons, after a tense meeting with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna that concluded with a decision to freeze technical cooperation projects.

Mr. Putin joked that he worried the United States was “hiding extra warheads under the pillow” despite its treaties with Moscow to reduce strategic nuclear stockpiles. And he indicated obliquely that the new Russian ballistic missile, known as the Topol-M, was being developed at least in part in response to American efforts to field missile defenses.

He expressed alarm that an effective antimissile shield over the United States would upset a system of mutual fear that kept the nuclear peace throughout the cold war. “That means the balance will be upset, completely upset,” he said.

Addressing tensions between Europe and Russia over energy exports, Mr. Putin said 26 percent of Russian oil was extracted by foreign companies. While Russia is open to outside investment, he said, it has found its businessmen blocked from deals abroad.

The Kremlin has been criticized for attempting to impose registration and taxation laws that could restrict the work of foreign nongovernmental organizations with offices in Russia to aid democratization.

But Mr. Putin said his concerns about the work grew from the fact that they “are used as channels for funding, and those funds are provided by governments of other countries.” That flow of foreign money to assist opposition Russian political organizations, he said, is “hidden from our society.

“What is democratic about this?” he asked. “This is not about democracy. This is about one country influencing another.”

Mrs. Merkel, in her opening speech, struck a far more diplomatic tone than Mr. Putin, though she alluded to the tensions between Europe and Russia over energy shipments and the independence of Kosovo.

Addressing herself to Mr. Putin, who was sitting in the front row, Mrs. Merkel said, “In my talks with you, I have sensed that Russia is going to be a reliable and predictable partner.” But she added, “We need to speak frankly with each other.”

Mrs. Merkel had previously criticized in sharp terms Russia’s recent shutdown of oil shipments to Belarus, which followed a dispute over natural gas prices. She is pressing Russia to sign a charter with the European Union on energy, which Moscow has resisted.

Mrs. Merkel alluded to another potential confrontation between Europe and Russia. The United Nations is weighing a proposal that would put Kosovo on the path to independence from Serbia, which Russia opposes because it fears that such a move could upset its own turbulent relations with ethnic groups in the Caucasus. Russia has crushed one separatist-minded people within its own borders, in Chechnya, but supports two breakaway regions in Georgia: Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

“We’re going to come to the stage where we have to decide: does Serbia, does Kosovo want to move in the European direction?” Mrs. Merkel asked. “If that’s the route they choose, both will have to make compromises.”

C. J. Chivers contributed reporting from Moscow.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says

February 10, 2007


Deadliest Bomb in Iraq Is Made by Iran, U.S. Says

By MICHAEL R. GORDON

WASHINGTON, Feb. 9 — The most lethal weapon directed against American troops in Iraq is an explosive-packed cylinder that United States intelligence asserts is being supplied by Iran.

The assertion of an Iranian role in supplying the device to Shiite militias reflects broad agreement among American intelligence agencies, although officials acknowledge that the picture is not entirely complete.

In interviews, civilian and military officials from a broad range of government agencies provided specific details to support what until now has been a more generally worded claim, in a new National Intelligence Estimate, that Iran is providing “lethal support” to Shiite militants in Iraq.

The focus of American concern is known as an “explosively formed penetrator,” a particularly deadly type of roadside bomb being used by Shiite groups in attacks on American troops in Iraq. Attacks using the device have doubled in the past year, and have prompted increasing concern among military officers. In the last three months of 2006, attacks using the weapons accounted for a significant portion of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq, though less than a quarter of the total, military officials say.

Because the weapon can be fired from roadsides and is favored by Shiite militias, it has become a serious threat in Baghdad. Only a small fraction of the roadside bombs used in Iraq are explosively formed penetrators. But the device produces more casualties per attack than other types of roadside bombs.

Any assertion of an Iranian contribution to attacks on Americans in Iraq is both politically and diplomatically volatile. The officials said they were willing to discuss the issue to respond to what they described as an increasingly worrisome threat to American forces in Iraq, and were not trying to lay the basis for an American attack on Iran.

The assessment was described in interviews over the past several weeks with American officials, including some whose agencies have previously been skeptical about the significance of Iran’s role in Iraq. Administration officials said they recognized that intelligence failures related to prewar American claims about Iraq’s weapons arsenal could make critics skeptical about the American claims.

The link that American intelligence has drawn to Iran is based on a number of factors, including an analysis of captured devices, examination of debris after attacks, and intelligence on training of Shiite militants in Iran and in Iraq by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and by Hezbollah militants believed to be working at the behest of Tehran.

The Bush administration is expected to make public this weekend some of what intelligence agencies regard as an increasing body of evidence pointing to an Iranian link, including information gleaned from Iranians and Iraqis captured in recent American raids on an Iranian office in Erbil and another site in Baghdad.

The information includes interrogation reports from the raids indicating that money and weapons components are being brought into Iraq from across the Iranian border in vehicles that travel at night. One of the detainees has identified an Iranian operative as having supplied two of the bombs. The border crossing at Mehran is identified as a major crossing point for the smuggling of money and weapons for Shiite militants, according to the intelligence.

According to American intelligence, Iran has excelled in developing this type of bomb, and has provided similar technology to Hezbollah militants in southern Lebanon. The manufacture of the key metal components required sophisticated machinery, raw material and expertise that American intelligence agencies do not believe can be found in Iraq. In addition, some components of the bombs have been found with Iranian factory markings from 2006.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates appeared to allude to this intelligence on Friday when he told reporters in Seville, Spain, that serial numbers and other markings on weapon fragments found in Iraq point to Iran as a source.

Some American intelligence experts believe that Hezbollah has provided some of the logistical support and training to Shiite militias in Iraq, but they assert that such steps would not be taken without Iran’s blessing.

“All source reporting since 2004 indicates that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Corps-Quds Force is providing professionally-built EFPs and components to Iraqi Shia militants,” notes a still-classified American intelligence report that was prepared in 2006.

“Based on forensic analysis of materials recovered in Iraq,” the report continues, “Iran is assessed as the producer of these items.”

The United States, using the Swiss Embassy in Tehran as an intermediary, has privately warned the Iranian government to stop providing the military technology to Iraqi militants, a senior administration official said. The British government has issued similar warnings to Iran, according to Western officials. Officials said that the Iranians had not responded.

An American intelligence assessment described to The New York Times said that “as part of its strategy in Iraq, Iran is implementing a deliberate, calibrated policy — approved by Supreme Leader Khamenei and carried out by the Quds Force — to provide explosives support and training to select Iraqi Shia militant groups to conduct attacks against coalition targets.” The reference was to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian leader, and to an elite branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Command that is assigned the task of carrying out paramilitary operations abroad.

“The likely aim is to make a military presence in Iraq more costly for the U.S.,” the assessment said.

Other officials believe Iran is using the attacks to send a warning to the United States that it can inflict casualties on American troops if the United States takes a more forceful posture toward it.

Iran has publicly denied the allegations that it is providing military support to Shiite militants in Iraq. Javad Zarif, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, wrote in an Op-Ed article published on Thursday in The Times that the Bush administration was “trying to make Iran its scapegoat and fabricating evidence of Iranian activities in Iraq.”

The explosively formed penetrator, detonated on the roadside as American vehicles pass by, is capable of blasting a metal projectile through the side of an armored Humvee with devastating consequences.

American military officers say that attacks using the weapon reached a high point in December, when it accounted for a significant portion of Americans killed and wounded in Iraq. For reasons that remain unclear, attacks using the device declined substantially in January, but the weapons remain one of the principal threats to American troops in and around Baghdad, where five additional brigades of American combat troops are to be deployed under the Bush administration’s new plan.

“It is the most effective I.E.D out there,” said Lt. Col. James Danna, who led the Second Battalion, Sixth Infantry Regiment in Baghdad last year, referring to improvised explosive devices, as the roadside bombs are known by the American military. “To me it is a political weapon. There are not a lot of them out there, but every time we crack down on the Shia militias that weapon comes out. They want to keep us on our bases, keep us out of their neighborhoods and prevent us from doing our main mission, which is protecting vulnerable portions of the population.”

Adm. William Fallon, President Bush’s choice to head the Central Command, alluded to the weapon’s ability to punch through the side of armored Humvees in his testimony to Congress last month.

“Equipment that was, we thought, pretty effective in protecting our troops just a matter of months ago is now being challenged by some of the techniques and devices over there,” Admiral Fallon said. “So I’m learning as we go in that this is a fast-moving ballgame.”

Mr. Gates told reporters last week that he had heard there had been cases in which the weapon “can take out an Abrams tank.”

The increasing use of the weapon is the latest twist in a lethal game of measure and countermeasure that has been carried out throughout the nearly four-year-old Iraq war. Using munitions from Iraq’s vast and poorly guarded arsenal, insurgents developed an array of bombs to strike the more heavily armed and technologically superior American military.

In response, the United States military deployed armored Humvees, which in turn spawned the development of even more potent roadside bombs. American officials say that the first suspected use of the penetrator occurred in late 2003 and that attacks have risen steadily since then.

To make the weapon, a metal cylinder is filled with powerful explosives. A metal concave disk manufactured on a special press is fixed to the firing end.

Several of the cylinders are often grouped together in an array. The weapon is generally triggered when American vehicles drive by an infrared sensor, which operates on the same principle as a garage door opener. The sensor is impervious to the electronic jamming the American military uses to try to block other remote-control attacks.

When an American vehicle crosses the beam, the explosives in the cylinders are detonated, hurling their metal lids at targets at a tremendous speed. The metal changes shape in flight, forming into a slug that penetrate many types of armor.

In planning their attacks, Shiite militias have taken advantage of the tactics employed by American forces in Baghdad. To reduce the threat from suicide car bombs and minimize the risk of inadvertently killing Iraqi civilians, American patrols and convoys have been instructed to keep their distance from civilian traffic. But that has made it easier for the Shiite militias to attack American vehicles. When they see American vehicles approaching, they activate the infrared sensors.

According to American intelligence agencies, the Iranians are also believed to have provided Shiite militants with rocket-propelled grenades, shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles, mortars, 122-millimeter rockets and TNT.

Among the intelligence that the United States is expected to make public this weekend is information indicating that some of these weapons said to have been made in Iran were carried into Iraq in recent years. Examples include a shoulder-fired antiaircraft missile that was fired at a plane flying near the Baghdad airport in 2004 but which failed to launch properly; an Iranian rocket-propelled grenade made in 2006; and an Iranian 81-millimeter mortar made in 2006.

Assessments by American intelligence agencies say there is no indication that there is any kind of black-market trade in the Iranian-linked roadside bombs, and that shipments of the components are being directed to Shiite militants who have close links to Iran. The American military has developed classified techniques to try to counter the sophisticated weapon.

Marine officials say that weapons have not been found in the Sunni-dominated Anbar Province, adding to the view that the device is an Iranian-supplied and Shiite-employed weapon.

To try to cut off the supply, the American military has sought to focus on the cells of Iranian Revolutionary Guard operatives it asserts are in Iraq. American intelligence agencies are concerned that the Iranians may respond by increasing the supply of the weapons.

“We are working day and night to disassemble these networks that do everything from bring the explosives to the point of construction, to how they’re put together, to who delivers them, to the mechanisms that are used to have them go off,” Gen. Peter Pace, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last week. “It is instructive that at least twice in the last month, that in going after the networks, we have picked up Iranians.”

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Special flights brought in tonnes of banknotes which disappeared into the war zone

How the US sent $12bn in cash to Iraq. And watched it vanish
Special flights brought in tonnes of banknotes which disappeared into the war zone

David Pallister
Thursday February 8, 2007

Guardian

The US flew nearly $12bn in shrink-wrapped $100 bills into Iraq, then distributed the cash with no proper control over who was receiving it and how it was being spent.
The staggering scale of the biggest transfer of cash in the history of the Federal Reserve has been graphically laid bare by a US congressional committee.

In the year after the invasion of Iraq in 2003 nearly 281 million notes, weighing 363 tonnes, were sent from New York to Baghdad for disbursement to Iraqi ministries and US contractors. Using C-130 planes, the deliveries took place once or twice a month with the biggest of $2,401,600,000 on June 22 2004, six days before the handover.

Details of the shipments have emerged in a memorandum prepared for the meeting of the House committee on oversight and government reform which is examining Iraqi reconstruction. Its chairman, Henry Waxman, a fierce critic of the war, said the way the cash had been handled was mind-boggling. "The numbers are so large that it doesn't seem possible that they're true. Who in their right mind would send 363 tonnes of cash into a war zone?"

The memorandum details the casual manner in which the US-led Coalition Provisional Authority disbursed the money, which came from Iraqi oil sales, surplus funds from the UN oil-for-food programme and seized Iraqi assets.

"One CPA official described an environment awash in $100 bills," the memorandum says. "One contractor received a $2m payment in a duffel bag stuffed with shrink-wrapped bundles of currency. Auditors discovered that the key to a vault was kept in an unsecured backpack.

"They also found that $774,300 in cash had been stolen from one division's vault. Cash payments were made from the back of a pickup truck, and cash was stored in unguarded sacks in Iraqi ministry offices. One official was given $6.75m in cash, and was ordered to spend it in one week before the interim Iraqi government took control of Iraqi funds."

The minutes from a May 2004 CPA meeting reveal "a single disbursement of $500m in security funding labelled merely 'TBD', meaning 'to be determined'."

The memorandum concludes: "Many of the funds appear to have been lost to corruption and waste ... thousands of 'ghost employees' were receiving pay cheques from Iraqi ministries under the CPA's control. Some of the funds could have enriched both criminals and insurgents fighting the United States."

According to Stuart Bowen, the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, the $8.8bn funds to Iraqi ministries were disbursed "without assurance the monies were properly used or accounted for". But, according to the memorandum, "he now believes that the lack of accountability and transparency extended to the entire $20bn expended by the CPA".

To oversee the expenditure the CPA was supposed to appoint an independent certified public accounting firm. "Instead the CPA hired an obscure consulting firm called North Star Consultants Inc. The firm was so small that it reportedly operates out of a private home in San Diego." Mr Bowen found that the company "did not perform a review of internal controls as required by the contract".

However, evidence before the committee suggests that senior American officials were unconcerned about the situation because the billions were not US taxpayers' money. Paul Bremer, the head of the CPA, reminded the committee that "the subject of today's hearing is the CPA's use and accounting for funds belonging to the Iraqi people held in the so-called Development Fund for Iraq. These are not appropriated American funds. They are Iraqi funds. I believe the CPA discharged its responsibilities to manage these Iraqi funds on behalf of the Iraqi people."

Bremer's financial adviser, retired Admiral David Oliver, is even more direct. The memorandum quotes an interview with the BBC World Service. Asked what had happened to the $8.8bn he replied: "I have no idea. I can't tell you whether or not the money went to the right things or didn't - nor do I actually think it's important."

Q: "But the fact is billions of dollars have disappeared without trace."

Oliver: "Of their money. Billions of dollars of their money, yeah I understand. I'm saying what difference does it make?"

Mr Bremer, whose disbanding of the Iraqi armed forces and de-Ba'athification programme have been blamed as contributing to the present chaos, told the committee: "I acknowledge that I made mistakes and that with the benefit of hindsight, I would have made some decisions differently. Our top priority was to get the economy moving again. The first step was to get money into the hands of the Iraqi people as quickly as possible."

Millions of civil service families had not received salaries or pensions for months and there was no effective banking system. "It was not a perfect solution," he said. "Delay might well have exacerbated the nascent insurgency and thereby increased the danger to Americans."

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

As Inflation Soars, Zimbabwe Economy Plunges

February 7, 2007
As Inflation Soars, Zimbabwe Economy Plunges
By MICHAEL WINES

JOHANNESBURG, Feb. 6 — For close to seven years, Zimbabwe’s economy and quality of life have been in slow, uninterrupted decline. They are still declining this year, people there say, with one notable difference: the pace is no longer so slow.

Indeed, Zimbabwe’s economic descent has picked up so much speed that President Robert G. Mugabe, the nation’s leader for 27 years, is starting to lose support from parts of his own party.

In recent weeks, the national power authority has warned of a collapse of electrical service. A breakdown in water treatment has set off a new outbreak of cholera in the capital, Harare. All public services were cut off in Marondera, a regional capital of 50,000 in eastern Zimbabwe, after the city ran out of money to fix broken equipment. In Chitungwiza, just south of Harare, electricity is supplied only four days a week.

The government awarded all civil servants a 300 percent raise two weeks ago. But the increase is only a fraction of the inflation rate, so the nation’s 110,000 teachers are staging a work slowdown for more money. Measured by the black-market value of Zimbabwe’s ragtag currency, even their new salaries total less than 60 American dollars a month.

Doctors and nurses have been on strike for five weeks, seeking a pay increase of nearly 9,000 percent, and health care is all but nonexistent. Harare’s police chief warned in a recently leaked memo that if rank-and-file officers did not get a substantial raise, they might riot.

In the past eight months, “there’s been a huge collapse in living standards,” Iden Wetherell, the editor of the weekly newspaper Zimbabwe Independent said in a telephone interview, “and also a deterioration in the infrastructure — in standards of health care, in education. There’s a sort of sense that things are plunging.”

Mr. Mugabe’s fortunes appear to have dimmed as well. In December, the ruling party that has traditionally bowed to his will, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, balked at supporting a constitutional amendment that would have extended his term of office by two years, to 2010. The rebuff exposed a fissure in the party, known as ZANU-PF, between Mr. Mugabe’s hard-line backers and others who fear he has brought their nation to the brink of collapse.

The trigger of this crisis — hyperinflation — reached an annual rate of 1,281 percent this month, and has been near or over 1,000 percent since last April. Hyperinflation has bankrupted the government, left 8 in 10 citizens destitute and decimated the country’s factories and farms.

Pay increases have so utterly failed to keep pace with price increases that some Harare workers now complain that bus fare to and from work consumes their entire salaries.

Citing a leaked central bank document, Reuters reported Tuesday that prices of basic items like meat, cooking oil and clothes had risen 223 percent in the past week alone.

Soaring costs have made it impossible for both national and local governments to meet budgets and for businesses to afford raw materials, while subsidies for basic commodities have drained the government treasury and promoted corruption.

Seeking to revive farm production, for example, the government sells gasoline to farmers at a bargain rate of 330 Zimbabwe dollars per liter — and farmers promptly resell it on the black market for 10 times that, leaving their fields idle.

Mr. Mugabe, who blames a Western plot against him for Zimbabwe’s problems, has rejected all calls for economic reform. The government refuses to devalue Zimbabwe’s dollar, which fetches only 5 to 10 percent of its official value on the thriving black market. As a result, foreign exchange to buy crucial imported goods like spare parts and fertilizer has effectively dried up.

Despite acceptable rains, one international aid official said, Zimbabwe’s corn crop is currently lagging behind last year’s — and that harvest was among the worst in history. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the assessment had not been made public.

The central bank’s latest response to these problems, announced this week, was to declare inflation illegal. From March 1 to June 30, anyone who raises prices or wages will be arrested and punished. Only a “firm social contract” to end corruption and restructure the economy will bring an end to the crisis, said the reserve bank governor, Gideon Gono.

The speech by Mr. Gono, a favorite of Mr. Mugabe, was broadcast nationally. In downtown Harare, the last half was blacked out by a power failure.

Eighty-two years old, wily and physically robust, Mr. Mugabe has survived both international condemnation and domestic upheaval before.

Efforts to suppress dissent are rising: in recent weeks, trade union officials were seriously injured in police beatings, arsonists burned the home of a leading pro-democracy activist and church leaders were arrested while meeting to discuss the economic crisis. Foreign journalists remain barred from the country under threat of imprisonment, and harassment of Zimbabwean journalists has sharply increased.

But hyperinflation is eroding the government’s control over every aspect of public life and, by extension, over its own future.

“It’s out of control now, and they have to bring it back in control,” said John Robertson, a Harare-based economist and a frequent critic of government policies. “We’re reaching the steepest slopes of the process. They say they can fix prices, but the things that cause price increases come from so many different directions that the government can’t control them all.”

That growing loss of control is apparent. The black market, which already flourishes beyond the reach of tax collectors and regulators, is likely to grab an even larger share of the economy when the government freezes prices in March, because stores will be unable to make a profit selling products at government-fixed prices.

Problems with water and power supplies have become acute because of a lack of foreign exchange and salaries for workers; a wave of blackouts hit the nation early last month when 100 electrical workers walked out to protest low pay.

Zimbabwe’s political opposition has failed for years to mount an effective work stoppage to protest living conditions. But public workers, the bedrock of government support, this year have begun to walk off the job because there is no longer enough money to pay them a living wage.

The average teacher, for example, earns barely one-fourth of the salary needed to keep a family of six out of poverty. The military, unhappy with January’s 300 percent pay hike, is seeking 1,000 percent.

The growing number of strikes also has emboldened the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, a center of opposition to Mr. Mugabe, to make its own plans for a general work stoppage.

“People in Zimbabwe tend to be resilient,” said Jamal Jafari, an analyst for the Washington-based International Crisis Group, which monitors political risks worldwide. “But that having been said, what has to be the scariest statistic for the government is the fact that large sectors of the civil service and the military are far below the poverty line. They simply can’t raise salaries fast enough.”

Mr. Jafari and some political and economic analysts in southern Africa say they now believe that Zimbabwe faces a political showdown within months, as the governing bodies of ZANU-PF wrangle over whether to grant Mr. Mugabe an extended term or to put less radical members of the ruling party in power.

Few expect a democratic revolution; the one rival party, the Movement for Democratic Change, is riven by splits, systematically suppressed by the government and without an effective leader. Regardless, these experts say, by failing to arrest this accelerating decline, Zimbabwe is edging toward a day of political reckoning that years of diplomatic jawboning and political jockeying have failed to produce.

For the government, “the big problem about Zimbabwe is that the one thing you can’t rig is the economy,” said one Harare political analyst, who refused to be identified for fear of being persecuted. “When it fails, it fails. And that can have unpredictable effects.”

Monday, February 05, 2007

Iraqis Fault Pace of U.S. Plan in Attack

February 5, 2007

Iraqis Fault Pace of U.S. Plan in Attack

BAGHDAD, Feb. 4 — A growing number of Iraqis blamed the United States on Sunday for creating conditions that led to the worst single suicide bombing in the war, which devastated a Shiite market in Baghdad the day before. They argued that the Americans had been slow in completing the vaunted new American security plan, making Shiite neighborhoods much more vulnerable to such horrific attacks.

The critics said the new plan, which the Americans have started to execute, had emasculated the Mahdi Army, the Shiite militia that is considered responsible for many attacks on Sunnis, but that many Shiites say had been the only effective deterrent against sectarian reprisal attacks in Baghdad’s Shiite neighborhoods. Even some Iraqi supporters of the plan, like Hoshyar Zebari, the foreign minister who is a Kurd, said delays in carrying it out had caused great disappointment.

In advance of the plan, which would flood Baghdad with thousands of new American and Iraqi troops, many Mahdi Army checkpoints were dismantled and its leaders were either in hiding or under arrest, which was one of the plan’s intended goals to reduce sectarian fighting. But with no immediate influx of new security forces to fill the void, Shiites say, Sunni militants and other anti-Shiite forces have been emboldened to plot the type of attack that obliterated the bustling Sadriya market on Saturday, killing at least 135 people and wounding more than 300 from a suicide driver’s truck bomb.

“A long time has passed since the plan was announced,” Basim Shareef, a Shiite member of Parliament, said Sunday. “But so far security has only deteriorated.”

American officials have said the new plan will take time, but new concerns emerged Sunday about the readiness of Iraqi military units that are supposed to work with the roughly 17,000 additional American soldiers who will be stationed in Baghdad under the plan, which President Bush announced last month.

Iraqi and American military officials said the command structure of the Iraqi side had still not been resolved, although the plan is supposed to move forward this coming week.

Naeem al-Kabbi, the deputy mayor of Baghdad and a senior official loyal to Moktada al-Sadr, the powerful cleric who heads the Mahdi Army, said he believed the plan had been delayed “because the Iraqi Army is not ready.”

American military officials have not laid out a precise timeline for the security plan, and would not say if undermanned Iraqi units had delayed its start. But American officials have said Iraqi units arriving in Baghdad to fulfill their part of the new plan are only at 55 to 60 percent of their full strength.

With much of Baghdad devolving further into chaos, many Iraqis have begun to question whether the security plan has ambled along too slowly, setting up a situation in which American and Iraqi troops will be greeted with hostility rather than welcomed as protectors.

Concerns about the unintended consequences of the American security plan rippled through many levels of the Iraqi government.

“People’s expectations went up,” Mr. Zebari said. “They were hopeful, optimistic that this new surge, this new plan would provide a better life for them. And this daily killing — this bomb — they lose hope. Still the troops haven’t arrived.”

An American military official, responding to accusations that American efforts opened Shiite areas to attacks, said American checkpoints around eastern and central Baghdad last October seemed to reduce the number of car bombs until the checkpoints were removed because of objections from Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki and Shiite officials loyal to Mr. Sadr. The official was not authorized to comment about the subject and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Maj. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the American military spokesman in Iraq, called for patience as the new security plan rolls out. “Give the government and coalition forces a chance to fully implement it,” he said in remarks carried by several news agencies.

His comments, however, came as more than a dozen mortar shells crashed on Adhamiya, a Sunni area of eastern Baghdad, in what appeared to be an act of retaliation by Shiites. At least 15 people were killed and more than 56 wounded, an Interior Ministry official said.

Clashes in western Baghdad between Sunni and Shiite militias left 7 dead and 11 wounded, and the authorities found 35 bodies throughout the city, many showing signs of torture.

Meanwhile in the streets of Sadriya, the poor, mostly Shiite area of central Baghdad where the bomb exploded on Saturday, merchants and residents struggled to contain their anger.

“I saw with my own eyes young children flying from the windows of the apartments on top of the shops when the explosion arrived,” said Haydar Abdul Jabbar, 28, a car mechanic who was standing near a barber shop when the bomb exploded. “One woman threw herself out of the window when the fire came close to her.”

Mr. Abdul Jabbar said he rushed to collapsed buildings trying to help the wounded, but found mainly hands, skulls and other body parts.

“The government is supposed to protect us, but they are not doing their job,” he said. “I watch the TV and see the announcements on the imminent implementation of the security plan. Where is it, for God’s sake?”

“I wish they would attack us with a nuclear bomb and kill us all,” he added, “so we will rest and anybody who wants the oil — which is the core of the problem — can come and get it. We can not live this way anymore. We are dying slowly every day.”

The truck exploded around dusk on Saturday at a market flush with crowded food stands. The crater from the blast was large enough to hold a sedan; the blast threw the truck’s gnarled engine block more than 100 yards away.

As the sun rose on Sunday, the rescue effort continued with workers and relatives tugging at concrete pieces in a mad search for victims amid the piles of debris where apartments and offices once stood. Processions heavy with death moved through the area. Men lashed simple wood coffins to the top of minibuses for the long journey to cemeteries, while families in the backs of trucks wailed after collecting the bodies of relatives.

While the American military put out a statement saying that the Iraqi Army assisted at the scene, the area closest to the crater was controlled by the Mahdi Army. Between 8 and 15 men dressed in black and carrying AK-47s, waved reporters away on Sunday morning.

The scene was thick with anger directed at the Iraqi government and American military for letting the people down and allowing such a devastating attack. When asked about the “tragedy” of the blast, one Mahdi guard responded, “The only tragedy was when we voted for weak officials.”

He then pointed toward the bombed-out buildings and added, “This is the result.”

Later, when two American Humvees and an Iraqi patrol passed just after 1 p.m., one of the men in black called the soldiers “apes and cowards.”

“They’re the ones who brought us the catastrophe,” one of them said. “If they were not here such a thing wouldn’t happen to us.”

Mr. Abdul Jabbar, the car mechanic, was one of many Iraqis who said that the American military would have been better off leaving the Mahdi Army in charge of Shiite neighborhoods.

Uday Ahmed, 31, a Sunni whose three restaurants at the market were obliterated by the blast, killing 20 of his workers, said that until a few weeks ago, Mahdi militiamen were more visible on the streets, checking vehicles, watching and offering to arbitrate disputes. After American and Iraqi officials arrested several top Mahdi commanders last month, he said, many of the Mahdi militants drifted into the shadows or fled.

He said their departure contributed to the recent spasm of violence in Shiite neighborhoods.

Some Shiites in the area said that the truck could have been stopped at a checkpoint, decreasing damage from its payload. Hussein Ali, 57, said Shiite militiamen might have recognized that the driver was not from the neighborhood.

“They don’t have any system or apparatus to check the cars,” he said. “But they know from looking at the faces who is supposed to come to Sadriya to bring vegetables or fruits. They have a relationship with the merchants.”

Iraqi officials, after meeting with American military commanders, are expected to announce as early as Monday that they have agreed on some of the details of the command structure for the new security plan.

American military officials say that the Iraqi officer who will lead his forces participating in the new Baghdad security effort, Lt. Gen. Aboud Qanbar, will take command on Monday and that the Baghdad plan will be carried out soon.

McCain Criticizes War Resolution

WASHINGTON, Feb. 4 — On the eve of a Senate showdown over a bipartisan resolution opposing President Bush’s war strategy in Iraq, Senator John McCain of Arizona, a leading Republican critic of the measure, accused its sponsors Sunday of intellectual dishonesty. He described the nonbinding resolution as a “vote of no confidence in both the mission and the troops who are going over there.”

He said on the ABC News program “This Week” that if the sponsors wanted to block Mr. Bush’s plans to expand the American troop presence in Iraq, they should be brave enough to vote to cut off financing.

A principal Republican backer of the resolution, Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, said on the same program that it was important for the Senate to make a clear stand against the troop building, which he said would produce only more turmoil.

Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, a Democratic supporter of the resolution, said she was frustrated that Republican leaders would try to filibuster to block a vote. “Look, debate is going on in every schoolyard, in every state, in every city of this nation,” she said on CNN’s “Late Edition,” describing the proposed filibuster as “obstructionism.”

Reporting was contributed by Wisam A. Habeeb, Qais Mizher, Khalid W. Hassan, Marc Santora, James Glanz and Iraqi employees of The New York Times from Baghdad, and Philip Shenon from Washington.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

McCain’s Advisers Once Made Ads That Drew His Ire

February 4, 2007

McCain’s Advisers Once Made Ads That Drew His Ire

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2 — Senator John McCain, intent on succeeding where his freewheeling presidential campaign of 2000 failed, is assembling a team of political bruisers for 2008. And it includes advisers who once sought to skewer him and whose work he has criticized as stepping over the line in the past.

In 2000, Mr. McCain, Republican of Arizona, said the advertisements run against him by George W. Bush, then the governor of Texas, distorted his record. But he has hired three members of the team that made those commercials — Mark McKinnon, Russell Schriefer and Stuart Stevens — to work on his presidential campaign.

In 2004, Mr. McCain said the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth advertisement asserting that Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts had not properly earned his medals from the Vietnam War was “dishonest and dishonorable.” Nonetheless, he has hired the firm that made the spots, Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm, which worked on his 2000 campaign, to work for him again this year.

In October, Mr. McCain’s top adviser expressed public displeasure with an advertisement against former Representative Harold E. Ford Jr., Democrat of Tennessee, that some saw as having racist overtones for suggesting a flirtation between Mr. Ford, who is black, and a young, bare-shouldered white woman, played by a blond actress.

The Republican committee that sponsored the spot had as its leader Terry Nelson, a former Bush campaign strategist whom Mr. McCain hired as an adviser last spring. In December, just weeks after the Ford controversy broke, Mr. McCain elevated Mr. Nelson to the position of national campaign manager.

Taken together, the moves provide the strongest indication yet that Mr. McCain intends to run a far tougher campaign than the one he ran in the 2000 primary. And they come as he transitions from being a onetime maverick to a candidate seeking to gather his party around him and create an air of inevitability about his prospects for winning nomination.

As Mr. McCain assembles his team, he is also making it that much harder for his Republican challengers by scooping up a significant circle of the party’s top talent.

In recent years, Mr. McCain has made a concerted effort to mend fences with Mr. Bush and reassure the Republican base that he is a reliable conservative. But his moves have focused new attention on the extent to which he may risk sacrificing the image he has long cultivated of being his own man, driven by principle rather than partisan politics.

Mr. McCain’s advisers said he was not changing. But they were unapologetic about putting together a group dedicated to doing what it takes to reach the White House and employing lessons from his defeat at the hands of Mr. Bush in 2000.

“This is about winning at the end of the day,” said John Weaver, Mr. McCain’s longtime senior strategist. “I don’t want to be in a knife fight ever again, but if I am, we’re going to win it.”

Mr. McCain’s representatives said he would not provide an interview.

Seven years ago, Mr. McCain charmed the news media and the public with his Straight Talk Express bus tour. He had a lean operation befitting an upstart candidacy, and he regularly spoke out against attack advertising, a quaint notion in retrospect.

In the end, he ran his share of confrontational advertisements, once even leveling the ultimate Republican-to-Republican insult: that Mr. Bush was as dishonest as Bill Clinton. But he was perceived as having been knocked back on his heels by the rougher, tougher Bush campaign.

Now Mr. McCain is building a larger organization, bringing together the heart of the bare-knuckled Bush crew once overseen by Karl Rove while keeping most of the advisers who ran his shoestring effort of 2000.

“It’s like an all-star World Wrestling Federation cage match, except that instead of fighting one another, all of the brawlers are on the same team,” said Steve McMahon, a strategist for the Democratic National Committee. “There are very few people who play this game at the highest level, and on the Republican side these guys are among the best.”

Mr. McCain has also hired Brian Jones, an adviser to Mr. Bush’s 2004 campaign; Fred Davis, a media consultant for Mr. Bush in 2004; and Steve Schmidt, who oversaw Mr. Bush’s 2004 war room, exploiting any tidbit that could help paint Mr. Kerry as a “flip-flopper.”

The hires are another signal that the 2008 primary campaign could be a combative one all around.

On the Democratic side, John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina, has wasted no time attacking Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s position on Iraq. And Mrs. Clinton’s team includes strategists who invented the concept of the modern campaign war room for her husband 15 years ago. But Senator Barack Obama of Illinois drew cheers at a party gathering on Friday when he warned his fellow candidates against attacking one another.

Mitt Romney, a Republican and the former governor of Massachusetts, has hired Alex Castellanos, a onetime Bush strategist who also famously produced the 1990 commercial for Jesse Helms, the former North Carolina senator, in which a pair of white hands crumpled a rejection letter as a narrator said, “You needed that job and you were the best qualified, but it had to go to a minority because of a racial quota.”

Given Mr. McCain’s history with some of the people on his team, the evolution of his staff may present an early challenge: How does he stay true to the “Straight Talk” spirit of his 2000 campaign, which helped him win the stature he has now, while also engaging in the political brinkmanship it can take to win?

The Democratic National Committee is already criticizing Mr. McCain for his hires, issuing a statement this week calling them “a testament to how far he’s gone down the do-anything-to-win path.”

Tony Fabrizio, a Republican pollster who is not yet allied with a candidate, said Mr. McCain was running the risk of looking “politically expedient” and of blunting his brand as “Senator Straight Talk.” He said the risk was highlighted by Mr. McCain’s recent suggestions that he may not use the campaign finance system he has long championed.

In 2000, Mr. McCain received money from the system, which gives public financing to candidates who agree to strict spending limits. Mr. Weaver, the senior strategist, said Mr. McCain was keeping his options open because others, including Mrs. Clinton, were planning to work around the system.

As Mr. McCain’s aides often point out, for all its appeal, the McCain 2000 campaign was a losing one. And they said it would be unfair to suggest that because Mr. McCain was augmenting his team he was somehow preparing to change who he was.

“There are no negotiations regarding his principles,” Mr. Weaver said.

In an interview on Friday, Mr. Jones, the campaign communications director, said Mr. McCain was not allowing his distaste over the Swift Boat commercials to interfere with his relationship with Stevens Reed Curcio & Potholm, with whom Mr. McCain has his own decade-long association. In addition, he said, Mr. McCain hired Mr. Nelson because of his breadth of experience in national campaigns. “The campaign,” Mr. Jones said, “is not going to let past contests on the battlefield limit how it’s going to go after talent.”

Presidential politics are rich in fungible allegiances. James A. Baker III ran the primary campaigns of Gerald Ford and the elder George Bush against Ronald Reagan, only to become Mr. Reagan’s chief of staff. This year, David Axelrod is serving as a senior strategist for Mr. Obama; he was a senior strategist to Mr. Edwards in his 2004 campaign.

“You could dissect any campaign this way: this guy did this ad this one time,” said Mr. Schriefer, the former Bush media strategist, who will run Mr. McCain’s advertising team. “There’s a tremendous history of foes becoming allies.”

Mr. McKinnon, who led Mr. Bush’s advertising group in 2004, said he saw no inconsistency in working for Mr. McCain. Mr. Bush was right for 2000, he said, and Mr. McCain is right for 2008. “At the end of the day, the campaign will be won or lost on the character of the candidate and his or her core message,” Mr. McKinnon said. “Of course, I believe that will be John McCain.”

Asked if the senator would avoid the attacks he criticized in 2000, Mr. Jones said that while Mr. McCain had yet to declare his candidacy, any campaign he ran would be “consistent with his beliefs and values.”