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An introductory paper on the Middle East put out by the British government states that the Middle East is “a vital prize for any power interested in world influence or domination.” (Curtis 1995, pp. 21; Muttitt 2005)
The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announces a planned meeting set for September 22, 1971 to call for a larger share of assets, profits, and management of oil companies operating in its countries. The relevant oil companies refuse its demands. OPEC specifically states in its announcement that it wants to “take immediate steps toward the implementation of the principle participation in the existing oil concessions.” (UPI 8/14/1971)
Senator J. William Fulbright (D-AR) of the Foreign Relations Committee warns of further turmoil in the Middle East due to dependence of foreign oil and the US stance on Israel. He states his assertion that forcible acquisition of Middle East oil rights and supplies is imminent given the current course he sees. He proceeds to outline a vision for a political solution amenable to all sides recognizing Israel’s security interests, the need for stability in the region to guarantee oil exports, as well as recognizing Arab state economies. Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson (D-WA) immediately replies to Fulbright’s statements, calling them “irresponsible” and goes to support Israel in the debate. Fulbright responds with his plan for keeping a calm Middle East, but also warns of the possibility of terrorist actions perpetrated by Middle Eastern powers and individuals stemming from current policy stances taken by the US and Israel. He also cautions on the possibility of an oil embargo should the current policy proceed unabated. (Gwertzman 5/22/1973, pp. 5)
Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) announces five percent cutbacks for all members on oil exported to the United States and the Netherlands in a meeting held in Kuwait. This event ushers in the era of “oil as a weapon” in foreign policy utilized by Arab powers. Protesting the US and the Netherlands’ support of Israel in the on-going Yom Kippur War, OPEC sets the tone for other Arab and Muslim nations. (Farnsworth 10/18/1973, pp. 1)
In the wake of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (see December 8, 1979), President Carter declares in his annual State of the Union address, “An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.” This will become known as the Carter Doctrine. (Scott 2007, pp. 69, 303) The US immediately follows up with a massive build up of military forces in the region. New military arrangements are made with Kenya, Oman, Somalia, Egypt, and Pakistan. In March 1980, a Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force is created, which will be renamed US Central Command (or Centcom) several years later. (Scott 2007, pp. 78-79, 308-309)
In the days preceding the Iraq invasion of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990), the two nations’ Arab neighbors urge the US to use caution and moderation in trying to head off the invasion. They fear that overtly harsh tactics will provoke Iraq into the invasion they all wish to avoid. Saddam Hussein is bluffing (see July 25, 1990), several Arab leaders assert, and the problem can be handled with Arab-led diplomacy (see August 1, 1990). The United Arab Emirates (UAE) participates in a quick US-led joint military exercise, which they had requested, but criticize the US for making the exercise public, worried that it might provoke a reaction from Iraq. (Wilson 2004, pp. 105)
Princeton University professor Bernard Lewis publishes an article in the influential journal Foreign Affairs called “Rethinking the Middle East.” In it, he advocates a policy he calls “Lebanonization.” He says, “[A] possibility, which could even be precipitated by [Islamic] fundamentalism, is what has late been fashionable to call ‘Lebanonization.’ Most of the states of the Middle East—Egypt is an obvious exception—are of recent and artificial construction and are vulnerable to such a process. If the central power is sufficiently weakened, there is no real civil society to hold the polity together, no real sense of common identity.… Then state then disintegrates—as happened in Lebanon—into a chaos of squabbling, feuding, fighting sects, tribes, regions, and parties.” Lewis, a British Jew, is well known as a longtime supporter of the Israeli right wing. Since the 1950s, he has argued that the West and Islam have been engaged in a titanic “clash of civilizations” and that the US should take a hard line against all Arab countries. Lewis is considered a highly influential figure to the neoconservative movement, and some neoconservatives such as Richard Perle and Harold Rhode consider him a mentor. In 1996, Perle and others influenced by Lewis will write a paper for right wing Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu entitled “A Clean Break” that advocates the “Lebanonization” of countries like Iraq and Syria (see July 8, 1996). Lewis will remain influential after 9/11. For instance, he will have dinner with Vice President Cheney shortly before the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. Some will later suspect that Cheney and others were actually implementing Lewis’s idea by invading Iraq. Chas Freeman, former US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, will say in May 2003, just after the invasion, “The neoconservatives’ intention in Iraq was never to truly build democracy there. Their intention was to flatten it, to remove Iraq as a regional threat to Israel.” (Dreyfuss 2005, pp. 330-337)
Al-Qaeda begins using an important communications hub and operations center in Yemen. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 2-3, 16, 188) The hub is set up because al-Qaeda is headquartered in Afghanistan, but requires another location that has access to regular telephone services and major air links. It is located in the Yemeni capital of Sana’a, in the neighbourhood of Madbah. Ahmed al-Hada, an associate of Osama bin Laden’s who fought in Afghanistan, runs the hub and lives there with his family. (Bamford 2008, pp. 7-8) Terrorism analyst Rohan Gunaratna will say that the hub is used as a switchboard to “divert and receive calls and messages from the [Middle East] region and beyond.” (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 2-3, 16, 188) FBI agent Mark Rossini will say, “That house was a focal point for operatives in the field to call in, that number would then contact bin Laden to pass along information and receive instruction back.” (PBS 2/3/2009) Author James Bamford will add: “[T]he house in Yemen became the epicenter of bin Laden’s war against America, a logistics base to coordinate attacks, a switchboard to pass on orders, and a safe house where his field commanders could meet to discuss and carry out operations.” Bin Laden himself places many calls to the house, and it is used to coordinate the attacks on US embassies in East Africa in 1998 and the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000. Future 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar also lives at the house at some point in the late 1990s with his wife Hoda, al-Hada’s daughter. (Bamford 2008, pp. 8)
After fleeing Qatar, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) travels the world and plans many al-Qaeda operations. He previously was involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, and the Operation Bojinka plot. (McGirk 1/20/2003) He is apparently involved in the 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), the 2000 USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), and other attacks. One US official later says, “There is a clear operational link between him and the execution of most, if not all, of the al-Qaeda plots over the past five years.” (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002) He lives in Prague, Czech Republic, through much of 1997. (McDermott 9/1/2002) By 1999, he is living in Germany and visiting with the hijackers there. (Risen 6/8/2002; Risen 9/22/2002) Using 60 aliases and as many passports, he travels through Europe, Africa, the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia and South America, personally setting up al-Qaeda cells. (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002; McGirk 1/20/2003)
In 1998, the CIA becomes interested in the links between arms dealer Victor Bout, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, and some US counternarcotics officials are particularly intrigued by a pattern they see between the flight patterns of Bout’s airplanes to and from Afghanistan and the hunting vacations of some Persian Gulf royals. Many of the Persian Gulf elite are known to regularly go bird hunting in Afghanistan, sometimes meeting Taliban ruler Mullah Omar and/or Osama bin Laden during their hunting trips (see 1995-2001). US analysts notice that there is a surge of Bout-controlled flights to Afghanistan in February and March of each year, the same time many royal elite fly to Afghanistan on their private jets in time for the migration of thousands of houbara bustards through Afghanistan. Then, in early autumn, there is another surge of flights by both Bout’s planes and the royal jets when the bustards migrate through the country again. Officials at the CIA’s counternarcotics center suspect some of the royals are using the hunting flights as cover to export heroin. The Bout flights increase the suspicion, since he is a known drug trafficker as well as an arms dealer. Scheuer will later comment, “They were very interested on the counternarcotics side about the patterns between Bout’s flights and the bustard-hunting season.” British intelligence is interested in the same thing, and at one point they approach United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials for permission to sneak a team of agents aboard one of Bout’s flights to search for Afghan heroin. However, they are unable to get permission, and the CIA also does not act on these suspicions. (Farah and Braun 2007, pp. 141)
On August 11, 1998, 9/11 hijacker Satam Al Suqami is issued a Saudi Arabian passport. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 29 ) This passport will allegedly be discovered in the wreckage of the 9/11 attacks in New York (see After 8:46 a.m. September 11, 2001), allowing investigators an unusually detailed glimpse into the movements of one of the hijackers. While a majority of the hijackers seem to have traveled little prior to coming to the US, Al Suqami travels widely:
November 5, 1998: He enters and departs Jordan, enters Syria.
November 11, 1998: departs Syria; enters and departs Jordan.
November 12, 1998: enters Saudi Arabia.
February 19, 1999: enters Saudi Arabia.
February 24, 1999: enters and departs Jordan; enters Syria.
February 25, 1999: departs Saudi Arabia.
March 7, 1999: departs Syria.
March 8, 1999: enters Jordan.
May 13, 1999: departs Bahrain.
May 15, 1999: enters Saudi Arabia.
January 18, 2000: enters United Arab Emirates (UAE).
April 4, 2000: enters UAE.
April 6, 2000: departs UAE.
April 7, 2000: enters Egypt.
April 18, 2000: departs Oman, enters UAE.
July 11, 2000: departs Egypt.
July 12, 2000: enters Malaysia. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 33, 37-39, 42, 59-62, 75 )
On September 24, 2000, Al Suqami enters Turkey and stays there for most of the next six months (see September 24, 2000-April 1, 2001). Then he will travel to Malaysia again before finally flying to the US. The above records are obviously incomplete as there are sometimes records of him leaving a country without entering it or vice versa. His travels to Afghanistan and Pakistan are also not mentioned, as there was probably an effort to keep them out of his passport. In 2007, al-Qaeda leader Luai Sakra will claim that Al Suqami was not just another hijacker but led a group of the hijackers. The release of Al Suqami’s passport records in 2008 will help corroborate that claim. (Gourlay and Calvert 11/25/2007)
According to reports, the failed US missile attack against bin Laden on August 20, 1998 greatly elevates bin Laden’s stature in the Muslim world. A US defense analyst later states, “I think that raid really helped elevate bin Laden’s reputation in a big way, building him up in the Muslim world.… My sense is that because the attack was so limited and incompetent, we turned this guy into a folk hero.” (Gellman 10/3/2001) An Asia Times article published just prior to 9/11 suggests that because of the failed attack, “a very strong Muslim lobby emerge[s] to protect [bin Laden’s] interests. This includes Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, as well as senior Pakistani generals. Crown Prince Abdullah has good relations with bin Laden as both are disciples of slain Sheikh Abdullah Azzam (see 1985-1989).” (Shahzad 8/22/2001) In early 1999, Pakistani President Musharraf complains that by demonizing bin Laden, the US has turned him into a cult hero. The US decides to play down the importance of bin Laden. (Waterman 4/9/2004)
In the summer of 1999, the CIA asks border-control agencies in the Middle East to question anyone who may be returning from a training camp in Afghanistan, according to a 2004 Vanity Fair article. This is said to occur about six months before future 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah is stopped and questioned at the airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, either because he is on a US watch list or because he shows signs of having come from Afghanistan, or both (see January 30, 2000 and December 14, 2001-September 28, 2005). (Zeman et al. 11/2004) Also in 1999, the CIA specifically works out an arrangement with immigration officials at the Dubai airport to monitor or question suspected militants passing through (see 1999).
In a speech at the London Institute of Petroleum, Halliburton CEO Dick Cheney says, “By 2010 we will need on the order of an additional fifty million barrels a day. So where is the oil going to come from?… While many regions of the world offer great oil opportunities, the Middle East with two thirds of the world’s oil and the lowest cost, is still where the prize ultimately lies.” (Cheney 1999)
The NSA issues a top-secret intelligence report warning that terrorists are planning an attack in the Middle East, but the warning is not distributed until several hours after the USS Cole is bombed in Yemen (see October 12, 2000). The warning says that terrorists are involved in the “operational planning” for an attack on US or Israeli targets in the Middle East. It says that members of a group have been tracked to planning activities in Dubai and Beirut, but the names of the operatives and the group remain classified. According to one official, the warning specifies an attack in Yemen, but other officials say it covers the Middle East in general. Typically, the NSA requires one to two days to gather and distribute such highly classified reports. The warning is not reported on the US intelligence community’s worldwide computer network called Intellink. NSA reports often are sent out to a smaller network due to their high classification. (Gertz 10/25/2000)
In a memo to President Clinton that is also widely distributed in the US intelligence community, CIA Director George Tenet warns: “The next several weeks will bring an increased risk of attacks on our country’s interests from one or more Middle Eastern terrorist groups… The volume of credible threat reporting has grown significantly in the past few months, particularly concerning plans by Osama bin Laden’s organization for new attacks in Europe and the Middle East.… Our most credible information on bin Laden activity suggests his organization is looking at US facilities in the Middle East, especially the Arabian peninsula, in Turkey and Western Europe. Bin Laden’s network is global however and capable of attacks in other regions, including the United States.” (Tenet 2007, pp. 128-129) Just one day later, Clinton will brief incoming President Bush on the al-Qaeda threat (see December 19, 2000).
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report on global warming, concluding that the planet’s atmosphere is warming faster than expected, and that evidence supports the theory that it is being caused by human activity. The study predicts that the world’s average surface temperature will rise 2.5 to 10.4 degrees Fahrenheit between 1990 and 2100. The IPCC’s 1995 estimate had only projected an increase of 1.8 to 6.3 degrees. The higher temperatures will cause glaciers to recede, pushing sea levels between 3.54 and 34.64 inches higher, the study says. Tens of millions of people living in low-lying areas will be displaced by the rising sea levels. The report also supports the conclusions of a 1998 study arguing that the last few decades of the twentieth century were warmer than any other comparable period in the last 1,000 years (see April 23, 1998). The IIPC’s 1,000 pages-plus report, written by 123 lead authors from all over the world, drew on the work of 516 contributing experts. At a news conference coinciding with the report’s release, IPCC chairman Robert Watson says, “We must move ahead boldly with clean energy technologies and we should start preparing ourselves for the rising sea levels, changing rain patterns and other impacts of global warming.” (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001; Wu 1/22/2001)
Zalmay Khalilzad is appointed Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Gulf, Southwest Asia and Other Regional Issues on the National Security Council. Khalilzad was an official in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations. During the Clinton years, he worked for Unocal. (US Department of State 2001; Sengupta and Gumbel 1/10/2002) He previously worked under Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and helped him write a controversial 1992 plan for US world domination.(see March 8, 1992) (Weisman 3/23/2003) He was a member of the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century. The Asia Times notes, “It was Khalilzad—when he was a huge Taliban fan—who conducted the risk analysis for Unocal (Union Oil Company of California) for the infamous proposed $2 billion, 1,500 kilometer-long Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan [TAP] gas pipeline.” (Escobar 12/25/2003) After 9/11, he will be appointed as special envoy to Afghanistan (see January 1, 2002) and then US ambassador to Afghanistan (see November 2003).
Felix Sater, a Russian-born businessman, works as a spy for American intelligence and provides it with valuable information about al-Qaeda. (Cormier and Leopold 3/12/2018) Sater started working for US intelligence around 1997 and since then has been assisting the CIA, the FBI, and other agencies. He has obtained information on al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, including five of bin Laden’s personal satellite telephone numbers (see (1997-September 11, 2001)). (US Department of Justice 8/27/2009 ; Bertrand 5/16/2019; Ferran 8/23/2019) But he doubles his efforts after the 9/11 attacks, he will later state. (US Congress. House 12/2017) His handlers urge him to find any relevant information and, at the direction of the FBI, he heads to the Middle East to collect intelligence on key leaders in al-Qaeda. He then gathers much information during his travels there. (Cormier and Leopold 3/12/2018) His activities include:
Turning the personal secretary of Mullah Omar, the head of Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban, into a source. This man then provides copies of al-Qaeda passports and information on jihadi escape routes, as well the locations of al-Qaeda training camps, fighters, and weapons caches.
Providing the names of al-Qaeda operatives.
Providing details of American companies that are fronts for al-Qaeda.
Providing details of the financial networks behind the 9/11 attackers and other al-Qaeda members around the world.
Identifying a New Mexico company believed to be laundering terrorism funds in the US. (US Congress. House 12/2017; Cormier and Leopold 3/12/2018)
Providing information regarding the whereabouts of bin Laden. (US Department of Justice 8/27/2009 )
Providing details of a potential assassination plot against President Bush.
Providing details of a potential assassination attempt on Secretary of State Colin Powell, including information regarding specific plans by al-Qaeda fighters to bring his plane down when he is visiting Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. (US Congress. House 12/2017)
Reporting on the results of US bombings in Afghanistan. (US Department of Justice 8/27/2009 ; US Congress. House 12/2017; Cormier and Leopold 3/12/2018)
Providing information regarding which tribal structures might be coerced into abandoning the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and switching their allegiance to the Northern Alliance or other US-supported groups in Afghanistan. (US Congress. House 12/2017)
Sater is “an exemplary cooperator who worked diligently to further the aims of the missions to which he was assigned,” according to the agents who supervise his activities. He provides a “massive amount of assistance” in defense of the US, and his intelligence work “significantly enhanced and potentially saved the lives of hundreds if not thousands of military personnel, before and during military operations carried out in hostile countries,” he will state. He also assists US intelligence in areas besides the war on terror, such as North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, Russian organized crime, La Cosa Nostra organized crime families, international cyber criminals, and financial fraud. (US Department of Justice 8/27/2009 ; US Congress. House 12/2017; Cormier and Leopold 3/12/2018) He becomes known after the 2016 US presidential election for his business ties to then President Donald Trump. (Segers 11/29/2018; Frazin 5/16/2019; Ferran 8/23/2019)
Conservative columnist Ann Coulter writes an enraged op-ed for the National Review. Reflecting on the 9/11 attacks and the loss of her friend Barbara Olson in the attacks (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), Coulter says America’s retribution should be immediate and generalized: “This is no time to be precious about locating the exact individuals directly involved in this particular terrorist attack. Those responsible include anyone anywhere in the world who smiled in response to the annihilation of patriots like Barbara Olson. We don’t need long investigations of the forensic evidence to determine with scientific accuracy the person or persons who ordered this specific attack. We don’t need an ‘international coalition.’ We don’t need a study on ‘terrorism.’ We certainly didn’t need a congressional resolution condemning the attack this week.” Coulter says a “fanatical, murderous cult”—Islam—has “invaded” the nation, welcomed by Americans and protected by misguided laws that prohibit discrimination and “‘religious’ profiling.” She blasts airport security measures that insist on checking every passenger—“[a]irports scrupulously apply the same laughably ineffective airport harassment to Suzy Chapstick as to Muslim hijackers. It is preposterous to assume every passenger is a potential crazed homicidal maniac. We know who the homicidal maniacs are. They are the ones cheering and dancing right now.” She concludes by calling for all-out vengeance: “We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren’t punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That’s war. And this is war.” (Coulter 9/13/2001) In October 2002, Reason magazine’s Sara Rimensnyder will call Coulter’s screed “the single most infamous foreign policy suggestion inspired by 9/11.” (Rimensnyder 10/2002)
Neoconservative commentator and publisher William Kristol writes that the US must implement “regime change where possible” throughout the Middle East, and especially in Iraq. He excoriates Secretary of State Colin Powell for being against such an aggressive policy. The next day, the Washington Times, a right-wing newspaper, prints an editorial agreeing with Kristol about the need for regime change, and adds its voice to Kristol’s in criticizing Powell. (Unger 2007, pp. 217)
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases its third assessment report concluding that evidence indicates that human activity is the major force behind global warming. “The report analyzes the enormous body of observations of all parts of the climate system, concluding that this body of observations now gives a collective picture of a warming world…. A detailed study is made of human influence on climate and whether it can be identified with any more confidence than in 1996, concluding that there is new and stronger evidence that most of the observed warming observed over the last 50 years is attributable to human activities.” The panel also notes in its report that “the globally averaged surface temperature is projected to increase by 1.4 to 5.8 degrees Celsius over the period 1990 to 2100.” Roughly 1,000 experts from around the world participated in the drafting, revising and finalizing of the report and approximately 2,500 helped review it. (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2001; CBS News 6/19/2003; Jackson 6/20/2003)
Former advertising executive Charlotte Beers officially assumes her duties as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs. Beers, the former head of ad agencies Ogilvy & Mather and J. Walter Thompson, and who is best known for “branding” products like American Express credit cards and Head and Shoulders shampoo, was named to the position days after the 9/11 attacks, in part to help refurbish America’s image overseas. Secretary of State Colin Powell, who met Beers in 1995 when they both worked on the board of Gulf Airstream and who proposed her for the position, defended her selection in the Senate by explaining: “Well, guess what? She got me to buy Uncle Ben’s rice and so there is nothing wrong with getting somebody who knows how to sell something.” Powell says Beers’s job is to focus on what he calls “the branding of US foreign policy.” Time reporter Margaret Carlson will write that Beers’s new job is much different from selling rice or shampoo to American consumers: “Now Beers has to rebrand Osama bin Laden as a mass murderer to millions of Muslims who have never seen a 767 or a skyscraper, much less one flying into the other. She has to do it in languages, like Pashto and Dari, that don’t even have a word for terrorist. And all this without having control over Voice of America or Radio Free Europe.” Congress grants Beers over $500 million for her Brand America campaign. She says: “Public diplomacy is a vital new arm in what will combat terrorism over time. All of a sudden we are in this position of redefining who America is, not only for ourselves, but for the outside world.” Beers has no diplomatic experience. Her first efforts as undersecretary will be to provide a 24-page booklet in 14 languages accusing bin Laden of masterminding the 9/11 attacks, and, with the help of the Ad Council, to create and disseminate a poster throughout Arab countries offering up to $25 million for information leading to the arrest of highly placed terror suspects. Beers says that “sell might not be the operative word” to describe her job, she uses marketing vocabulary to describe her efforts: the US is an “elegant brand,” Powell and President Bush are “symbols of the brand,” and she wants to use athletes such as the NBA’s Hakeem Olajuwon to help market the American “brand.” (Carlson 11/14/2001; Stout 3/3/2003; Clair 8/13/2003; Rich 2006, pp. 31-32) Columnist Jeffrey St. Clair will observe: “Note the rapt attention Beers pays to the manipulation of perception, as opposed, say, to alterations of US policy. Old-fashioned diplomacy involves direct communication between representatives of nations, a conversational give and take, often fraught with deception… but an exchange nonetheless. Public diplomacy, as defined by Beers, is something else entirely. It’s a one-way street, a unilateral broadcast of American propaganda directly to the public, domestic and international—a kind of informational carpet bombing.” (Clair 8/13/2003)
Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz arranges for Christopher DeMuth, president of the neoconservative think tank The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), to create a group to strategize about the war on terrorism. The group DeMuth creates is called Bletchley II, named after a team of strategists in World War II. The dozen members of this secret group include:
Bernard Lewis, a professor arguing that the US is facing a clash of civilizations with the Islamic world.
Fareed Zakaria, a Newsweek editor and columnist.
Mark Palmer, a former US ambassador to Hungary.
Fouad Ajami, director of the Middle Eastern Studies Program at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.
James Wilson, a professor and specialist in human morality and crime.
Ruel Marc Gerecht, a former CIA Middle East expert.
Steve Herbits, a close consultant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
According to journalist Bob Woodward, the group comes to quick agreement after just two days of discussions and a report is made from their conclusions. They agree it will take two generations for the US to defeat radical Islam. Egypt and Saudi Arabia are the keys to the problems of the Middle East, but the problems there are too intractable. Iran is similarly difficult. But Iraq is weak and vulnerable. DeMuth will later comment: “We concluded that a confrontation with Saddam [Hussein] was inevitable. He was a gathering threat - the most menacing, active, and unavoidable threat. We agreed that Saddam would have to leave the scene before the problem would be addressed.” That is the key to transform the region. Vice President Dick Cheney is reportedly pleased with their report. So is National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, who finds it “very, very persuasive.” It is said to have a strong impact on President Bush as well. Woodward later notes the group’s conclusions are “straight from the neoconservative playbook.” (Woodward 2006, pp. 83-85)
On August 4, 2002, retired Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft said that if the US invades Iraq: “I think we could have an explosion in the Middle East. It could turn the whole region into a cauldron and destroy the War on Terror” (see October 16, 2001, March 2002, and August 4, 2002). On August 6, prominent neoconservative author and sometime intelligence agent Michael Ledeen, who is an informal White House adviser and a sometimes-vituperative advocate for the US invasion of Iraq, mocks Scowcroft. Writing in his weekly column for the National Review, Ledeen says: “It’s always reassuring to hear Brent Scowcroft attack one’s cherished convictions; it makes one cherish them all the more.… One can only hope that we turn the region into a cauldron, and faster, please. If ever there were a region that richly deserved being cauldronized, it is the Middle East today. If we wage the war effectively, we will bring down the terror regimes in Iraq, Iran, and Syria, and either bring down the Saudi monarchy or force it to abandon its global assembly line to indoctrinate young terrorists. That’s our mission in the war against terror.” (Ledeen 8/6/2002; Unger 2007, pp. 231) Author Craig Unger will later comment: “‘Faster, please,’ became [Ledeen’s] mantra, repeated incessantly in his National Review columns. Rhapsodizing about war week after week, in the aftermath of 9/11, seemingly intoxicated by the grandiosity of his fury, Ledeen became the chief rhetorician for neoconservative visionaries who wanted to remake the Middle East.” (Unger 2007, pp. 231)
The Journal of Geophysical Research publishes a study by research meteorologists Richard Wetherald and Syukuro Manabe on how global warming might impact the hydrology of different regions. According to their computer model, high latitudes would experience higher run-off rates as a result of global warming. Winters would see higher soil moisture levels than winters currently do, while summers would see lower than normal soil moisture levels. Soil moisture in lower latitudes would be lower year-round, potentially leading to the expansion of deserts. (Wetherald and Manabe 2002)
The US Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that in 2025, 51 percent of world oil production will come from OPEC. And two-thirds of OPEC’s production will be coming from the Persian Gulf. According to EIA, OPEC production now accounts for 38 percent of global oil production. (Gerth 12/26/2002)
John Brodman, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Energy for International Energy Policy, tells the New York Times: “Our dependency on the Persian Gulf could take a slight dip before it goes up. But the basic geological fact of life is that 70 percent of the proven oil reserves are in the Middle East.” (Gerth 12/26/2002)
Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior member of Hamas, warns, “If Iraq is attacked… all American targets will be open targets for every Muslim, Arab or Palestinian. Any attack against Iraq will be answered by resistance everywhere and American interests everywhere will be targeted. We say that all American targets will be open targets to every Muslim, Arab, or Palestinian.” (Ha'aretz 1/17/2003)
In the March 3 issue of the Nation, former ambassador and Washington insider Joseph Wilson writes, “The underlying objective of this war is the imposition of a Pax Americana on the region and the installation of vassal regimes that will control restive populations.” (Wilson 3/3/2003) Explaining his remarks to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, Wilson says, “The underlying objective, as I see it,… is less and less disarmament, and it really has little to do with terrorism, because everybody knows that a war to invade and conquer and occupy Iraq is going to spawn a new generation of terrorists. So you look at what’s underpinning this, and you go back and you take a look at who’s been influencing the process. And it’s been those who really believe that our objective must be far grander, and that is to redraw the political map of the Middle East…” When Blitzer asks if “there [is] something fundamentally wrong with that notion,” Wilson questions whether force can really bring democracy to the region. (CNN 3/2/2003)
Arab League ministers meeting in Cairo pass a resolution declaring the war on Iraq to be a “violation of the United Nations Charter (see 1942)” and a “threat to world peace.” They demand an unconditional withdrawal of US and British forces from Iraq. The resolution is adopted unanimously by the 22-member League except for key US ally Kuwait. (BBC 3/25/2003) The Bush administration has repeatedly claimed that one of the reasons for invading Iraq was because Saddam Hussein’s alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction posed a threat to its neighbors (see January 10, 2001, February 24, 2001, August 15, 2002, and September 8, 2002).
President Bush, in a commencement address at the University of South Carolina, says: “Soon, Iraqis from every ethnic group will choose members of an interim authority. The people of Iraq are building a free society from the ground up, and they are able to do so because the dictator and his regime are no more…. Across the globe, free markets and trade have helped defeat poverty, and taught men and women the habits of liberty. So I propose the establishment of a US-Middle East free trade area within a decade, to bring the Middle East into an expanding circle of opportunity, to provide hope for the people who live in that region. We will work with our partners to ensure that small and mid-sized businesses have access to capital, and support efforts in the region to develop central laws on property rights and good business practices. By replacing corruption and self-dealing, with free markets and fair laws, the people of the Middle East will grow in prosperity and freedom.” (US President 5/12/2003)
The US Department of Commerce prepares a memo for the president concerning the US-UK Energy Dialog, a bilateral initiative that was established during the April 2002 meeting of Prime Minister Blair and President Bush to “enhance coordination and cooperation on energy issues” (see April 6-7, 2002). The memo states: “Current forecasts for the oil sector put global demand by 2030 at about 120 million barrels per day (mbd), which is roughly 45 mbd higher than today. While recognizing that the increasing role of Russia and other non-OPEC producers, a large proportion of the world’s additional demand will likely be met by the Middle East (mainly Middle East Gulf) producers. They hold over half of current proven reserves, exploration and production costs are the lowest in the world, and production in many mature fields in the OECD area is likely to fall. To meet future world energy demand, the current installed capacity in the Gulf (currently 23 mbd) may need to rise to as much as 52 mbd by 2030.” (Muttitt 2005)
National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice says in a speech, “The transformation of the Middle East is the only guarantee that it will no longer produce ideologies of hatred that lead men to fly airplanes into buildings in New York or Washington.” She adds, “Transformation in the Middle East will require a commitment of many years.” (Rice 8/25/2003)
The Defense Science Board, a Defense Department task force commissioned to examine the war on terrorism, reports: “If there is one overarching goal [Islamist militant groups] share, it is the overthrow of what Islamists call the ‘apostate’ regimes: the tyrannies of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Jordan and the gulf states… . The United States finds itself in the strategically awkward - and potentially dangerous - situation of being the longstanding prop and alliance partner of these authoritarian regimes. Without the US, these regimes could not survive. Thus the US has strongly taken sides in a desperate struggle that is both broadly cast for all Muslims and country-specific.” (Danner 9/11/2005)
Rabinder Singh, a senior officer in India’s Research and Intelligence Wing (RAW) defects to the US while under investigation for illegally passing classified documents to the CIA. It is suspected that high level colleagues in the RAW and CIA helped him to escape. (Times of India 6/9/2004) The Indian government believes that the defection is only the tip of the iceberg of infiltration of its intelligence agencies by the CIA and the Mossad. (Jane's International Security News 7/1/2004)
The Bush administration appoints veteran Bush adviser Karen Hughes as the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy. Her main job will be to craft an administration marketing and public relations policy that will reach out to the Islamic and Arab worlds, and to convince Muslims and Arabs that the US is indeed their friend (see August 2002). But Hughes is immediately granted six months of personal leave before facing Senate confirmation in the fall. And Hughes’s staff will include no Muslims. As a result, a high-level US official warns that “the gap between rhetoric and reality” will undermine the US’s credibility in its outreach program. Hughes’s deputy, Dina Powell, is not expected to take her position until at least May. The new initiative is at least partially sparked due to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report criticizing the administration for failing to develop a policy to improve the US image in the rest of the world. “[R]ecent polling data show that anti-Americanism is spreading and deepening around the world,” the report finds. “Such anti-American sentiments can increase foreign public support for terrorism directed at Americans, impact the cost and effectiveness of military operations, weaken the United States’ ability to align with other nations in pursuit of common policy objectives, and dampen foreign publics’ enthusiasm for US business services and products.” Another US official says the dearth of Muslims in the administration is worrisome. (Powell is Egyptian-American, but is a Christian, not a Muslim. The few officials of Arab descent in the Bush administration are, by and large, Christians.) “It’s very important for American Muslims to be involved, as they’re an important conduit to the wider Islamic world and they should be speaking out,” that official says. “But American Muslims generally feel they’re not included like other communities. We should be talking to them, as they have a lot of knowledge of the region.” Thomas Carothers of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says, “You can do Muslim outreach without Muslims and it doesn’t mean Dina Powell can’t be effective, but the administration has not made much effort to integrate Muslim Americans in this effort.” Carothers says many in the administration confuse public diplomacy with marketing. “There’s deep confusion within the administration about what public diplomacy means,” he says. “For some, it’s simply selling America’s image in the world. For others, it’s something deeper that has to do with creating a partnership between America and Muslim countries to replace the current antagonism.… The administration is convinced that if only the Muslim world understood us better they’d like us more, whereas many Muslims feel it’s precisely because they understand us that they’re unhappy.” (Wright and Kamen 4/18/2005; Rich 2006, pp. 165)
The Chicago Tribune publishes a multi-part series titled, “Pipeline to Peril,” summarizing its investigation of the human trafficking network that is supplying US military bases and private contractors in Iraq with cheap labor. The articles detail how Halliburton subsidiaries such as KBR are making use of over 200 illicit international human trafficking brokers for supplying cheap labor for the Iraq war effort, mainly from impoverished Asians. The brokers are often deceitful in their recruiting practices. For instance, they are reported to have promised jobs in luxury hotels in Jordan for the potential workers. The workers are required to pay hefty broker fees up front, and once trapped at halfway points in Jordan by those initial fees, they are informed that that they will be working in Iraq and their passports are confiscated. The article gives an example of twelve Nepalese workers who were kidnapped by Iraqi insurgents at gunpoint and later killed while traveling in an unprotected caravan across Iraq. (Simpson 10/9/2005)
Iraq’s new oil minister, Hussein al-Shahristani, says that Iraq will need international assistance and billions of dollars in investment to develop its oil sector. “There is need to pass an oil and gas law to guarantee the right conditions for international companies to help develop the Iraqi oil sector,” he says. (Dow Jones Newswires 5/23/2006)
The Aerospace Industries Association, along with representatives from the Boeing Company and the Northrop Grumman Corporation, meet with researchers at the Heritage Foundation to discuss plans to relax arms exporting rules so the industry can increase its sales of weapons to foreign countries. They are drafting a new export control law that they hope Congress will take up next year. (Aerospace Industries Association 10/2006 ; Wayne 11/1/2006)
Oxfam publishes a report concluding that poor people in developing nations are dying needlessly because drug companies and the governments of certain wealthy nations are putting a higher priority on defending intellectual property rights than protecting human life. According to the report, the United States has used free-trade agreements and threats of sanctions to prevent countries from producing and distributing low-cost generic drugs in order to preserve the monopolies of large drug companies. Likewise, the drugs makers themselves are pushing countries to prevent the sale of cheaper drugs. “Pfizer is challenging the Philippines government in a bid to extend its monopoly on Norvasc, a [blood] pressure drug. Novartis is engaged in litigation in India to enforce a patent for Glivec, a cancer drug, which could save many lives if it were available at generic prices,” the Guardian reports. The Oxfam report says that efforts to block the poor’s access to affordable medicine undermines the five-year old Doha declaration, which sought to improve poor countries’ access to cheap drugs. “[R]ich countries have failed to honor their promises. Their record ranges from apathy and inaction to dogged determination to undermine the declaration’s spirit and intent. The US, at the behest of the pharmaceutical industry, is uniquely guilty of seeking ever higher levels of intellectual property protection in developing countries,” the report says. (Boseley 11/14/2006; Oxfam 11/14/2006 )
General George Casey, the outgoing commander of US forces in Iraq, faces criticism from both Republican and Democratic Senators during his testimony before the Armed Services Committee. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) tells Casey that “things have gotten markedly and progressively worse” during Casey’s 2 1/2-year tenure, “and the situation in Iraq can now best be described as dire and deteriorating. I regret that our window of opportunity to reverse momentum may be closing.” Casey is slated to become the Army Chief of Staff. McCain, a strong supporter of the “surge” of US forces into Iraq, has proposed a Senate resolution including stringent benchmarks to gauge the progress of the Iraqi government and military. McCain’s resolution and other nonbinding, bipartisan proposals that would express varying degrees of disapproval of Bush’s plan will soon be debated on the Senate floor. (Washington Post 2/2/2007)
Senate Democrats are wary of the newly released National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), recalling the highly inaccurate intelligence reports in the October 2002 NIE that concluded Iraq was rife with WMDs and Saddam Hussein was allied with al-Qaeda. That NIE became one of the foundations of the Bush administration’s case for war with Iraq, and one of the prime reasons many Congress members voted to authorize the use of military force in that country. During Senate confirmation hearings for Admiral John McConnell, the nominee to replace John Negroponte as Director of National Intelligence, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) says, “One of the sort of deeply held rumors around here is that the intelligence community gives an administration or a president what he wants by way of intelligence.” Sen. Christopher Bond (D-MO), adds, “[W]e are not going to accept national security issue judgment[s] without examining the intelligence underlying the judgments, and I believe this committee has an obligation to perform due diligence on such important documents.” He adds that previous attempts to obtain intelligence material to back up a 2005 NIE on Iran had “run into resistance.” (Washington Post 2/2/2007)
The UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issues a summary of its fourth report concluding for the first time that global warming is “unequivocal.” The authors of the report also conclude that there is a 90 percent likelihood that greenhouse gases produced as a result of human activities have been the main cause of global warming since 1950. In its last report (see January 22, 2001), the panel made the same assessment, but with a confidence level of only 66 to 90 percent. The 20-page summary, meant for policymakers, will be followed by four technical reports that will be completed and published later in the year. The panel’s conclusions are based on “a three-year review of hundreds of studies of past climate shifts; observations of retreating ice, warming and rising seas, and other changes around the planet; and a greatly expanded suite of supercomputer simulations used to test how the earth will respond to a growing blanket of gases that hold heat in the atmosphere,” the New York Times reports.
Partial list of conclusions -
Global temperatures will increase 3.5 to 8 degrees Fahrenheit if carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere attain levels twice that of 1750, before the Industrial Revolution.
Concentrations of carbon dioxide have reached a level not seen during the last 650,000 years, and the rate of increase is beginning to accelerate.
Even a moderate warming of the global climate would likely result in significant stress to ecosystems and change longstanding climate patterns that influence water supplies and agricultural production.
Sea levels will likely rise between 7 and 23 inches by 2100 and continue rising for at least the next 1,000 years.
“It is very likely that hot extremes, heat waves, and heavy precipitation events will continue to become more frequent.”
The panel expects that precipitation will increase at higher latitudes, while rainfall will likely decrease at lower latitudes. Semi-arid subtropical regions could see 20 percent less rain.
Oceans will absorb billions of tons of carbon dioxide which will form carbonic acid, thus lowering the pH of seawater and harming certain kinds of marine life such as corals and plankton.
If the level of greenhouse gases continues to grow, average temperatures by the end of the century could reach temperature not seen since 125,000 years ago when ocean levels were 12 to 20 feet higher than they are now. Much of that extra water is currently locked in the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, which are beginning to melt. While there is evidence that the glaciers and ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic could flow seaward far more quickly than current estimates predict, the climate change panel did not include this in its assessment because it is forbidden by its charter to engage in speculation. According to Michel Jarraud, the secretary general of the United Nations World Meteorological Organization, “the speed with which melting ice sheets are raising sea levels is uncertain, but the report makes clear that sea levels will rise inexorably over the coming centuries. It is a question of when and how much, and not if.”
The harmful consequences of global warming can be lessened if governments take prompt action.
Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, which administers the panel along with the World Meteorological Organization, says: “In our daily lives we all respond urgently to dangers that are much less likely than climate change to affect the future of our children. Feb. 2 will be remembered as the date when uncertainty was removed as to whether humans had anything to do with climate change on this planet. The evidence is on the table.”
John P. Holdren, an energy and climate expert at Harvard, who is the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, says the report “powerfully underscores the need for a massive effort to slow the pace of global climatic disruption before intolerable consequences become inevitable.… Since 2001, there has been a torrent of new scientific evidence on the magnitude, human origins and growing impacts of the climatic changes that are under way. In overwhelming proportions, this evidence has been in the direction of showing faster change, more danger and greater confidence about the dominant role of fossil-fuel burning and tropical deforestation in causing the changes that are being observed.”
Richard B. Alley, one of the lead authors and a professor at Pennsylvania State University, says: “Policy makers paid us to do good science, and now we have very high scientific confidence in this work—this is real, this is real, this is real. The ball’s back in your court.” (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2/2/2007 ; Revkin 2/3/2007; Conner 2/3/2007)
The US has unwittingly strengthened the Mahdi Army of radical Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr by working hard to train and equip Iraqi security forces. The Mahdi Army is fighting to take over much of Baghdad as US forces try to secure it. US Army commanders and enlisted men who are patrolling east Baghdad - home to more than half the city’s population and the front line of al-Sadr’s campaign to drive rival Sunni Muslims from their homes and neighborhoods - say al-Sadr’s militias had heavily infiltrated the Iraqi police and army units that the US has trained and armed. Platoon leader Lieutenant Dan Quinn says, “Half of them are JAM. They’ll wave at us during the day and shoot at us during the night.” JAM is the acronym for the Arabic name of the Mahdi Army, Jaish al Mahdi. He adds, “People [in America] think it’s bad, but that we control the city. That’s not the way it is. They control it, and they let us drive around. It’s hostile territory.” The soldiers worry that Bush’s “surge” of approximately 17,000 combat troops allocated for Baghdad will, like previous escalations, merely strengthen the Mahdi Army. The new US soldiers will work to improve Iraqi security units so that American forces can hand over control of the area and withdraw to the outskirts of the city. Instead, Mahdi fighters are themselves withdrawing from the city, in effect ducking the American push until it is over. Lieutenant Alain Etienne says, “All the Shi’ites have to do is tell everyone to lay low, wait for the Americans to leave, then when they leave you have a target list and within a day they’ll kill every Sunni leader in the country. It’ll be called the &slquo;Day of Death’ or something like that. They say, &slquo;Wait, and we will be victorious.’ That’s what they preach. And it will be their victory.” Quinn agrees, saying, “Honestly, within six months of us leaving, the way Iranian clerics run the country behind the scenes, it’ll be the same way here with Sadr. He already runs our side of the river.” Many US officers say that, in hindsight, it is obvious that too much pressure was brought to bear on giving Iraqi army units their own areas of operation, a process that left Iraqi soldiers outmanned, outgunned, and easy targets for infiltration and coercion. “There was a decision…that was probably made prematurely,” says Lieutenant Colonel Eric Schacht. “I think we jumped the gun a little bit.” An Iraqi Sunni says, “[I]f the Mahdi Army comes in here, they will come with the support of the Iraqi army.” (McClatchy News 2/2/2007)
An Israeli spy satelite is launched by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), signaling a continuing realignment of India with Israel and the US as well as straining relations with Iran and the Arab states. On the same day, Iran’s ambassador in New Delhi condemns India’s collaboration with Israel on the covert project, and accuses the United States and Israel of trying to create tensions in the region. Achin Vanaik, professor of international relations and global politics at Delhi University, later says, “India has recently allowed its new strategic relationship with the US and Israel to prevail over its traditional friendship with Iran.” The satellite incident is only the latest in a series of major arms, technology, and intelligence deals between India and Israel, including, according to sources, training of India’s external intelligence agencies by the Mossad. (Bidwai 2/8/2008) India has agreed to launch two more spy satellites for Israel in exchange for receiving some of the image intelligence gathered. (Kahn 2/25/2008)
In his first speech to the General Assembly at United Nations headquarters, President Obama says all nations bear responsibility for addressing the global problems of nuclear proliferation, war, climate change, and economic crises. “We must build new coalitions that bridge old divides,” Obama says. “All nations have rights and responsibilities—that’s the bargain that makes [the UN] work.” Obama acknowledges that high expectations accompanying his presidency are “not about me,” adding that when he took office at the beginning of the year: “Many around the world had come to view America with skepticism and mistrust. No world order which elevates one nation above others can succeed in tackling the world’s problems. Those who used to chastise America for acting alone in the world cannot now stand by and wait for America to solve the world’s problems alone.” Obama devotes a considerable portion of his speech to discussing the challenges inherent in finding a peaceful solution to settlements in the Middle East. He calls for the resumption of Israel-Palestine negotiations “without preconditions,” and also uses his speech to indicate that the US has returned to the global arena as a team player.
Warm but Restrained Reception - Although warmly received, applause appears slightly restrained, perhaps an indication that expectations for the Obama presidency are becoming more realistic, given the global problems with which most nations now struggle. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opens the 64th Session’s proceedings by saying, “Now is the time to put ‘united’ back into the United Nations.”
Followed by Libyan Leader - Libya’s President Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi follows Obama and speaks for over an hour, vehemently criticizing the UN’s power structure as uneven, archaic, and unjust. From a copy of the preamble to the UN Charter, al-Qadhafi reads: “It says nations are equal whether they are small or big—are we equal in the permanent seats? No, we are not equal. Do we have the rights of the veto? All nations should have an equal footing. For those who have a permanent seat, this is political feudalism. It shouldn’t be called the Security Council; it should be called the Terror Council.” Despite reigning in Libya for over 40 years, this is al-Qadhafi’s first UN General Assembly speech. (BBC 9/23/2009)
The Qatari Mohamed Bin Hammam is re-elected president of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) at the organization’s congress in Doha, Qatar. Bin Hammam has already held the position for two terms. Another result of the AFC elections is that the South Korean Chung Mong-Joon loses his position as vice president of FIFA, being replaced by Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein of Jordan. Chung was known as a critic of FIFA president Sepp Blatter, although it is unclear whether Hussein will offer Blatter any support. (Guardian 1/6/2011)
Adel Abdel Bary is sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to several terror-related counts, including making bomb threats and conspiring to kill American citizens overseas. Bary is the father of Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, a suspected Islamic State of Iraq (ISIS) militant, originally one of three people thought to be the infamous “Jihadi John” who beheaded journalist James Foley in August 2014. (Authorities will later determine “Jihadi John” to be Briton Mohammed Emwazi.) Adel Abdel Bary admits to being an al-Qaeda spokesman following the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Anas al-Liby and Khalid al-Fawwaz, also accused of being al-Qaeda operatives, were set to appear alongside Adel Abdel Bary in New York in two months’ time. Al-Liby and Fawwaz have pleaded not guilty to their terror charges. (Dearden 9/20/2014; Affairs 2/6/2015; Mekhennet and Goldman 2/26/2015)
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