Sunday, April 27, 2003

Buried in the BBC Africa news yesterday was this story about President Bush signing a new law to crack down on conflict diamonds. This interested me because Global Witness recently issued a report on how al-Qaeda had been cutting into the conflict diamond trade at least from 1998-2001, yet from the article Bush didn't seem to be mentioning anything about terrorism or funds that may have helped pay for September 11. I will say, however, that the very cursory BBC article is all I could find - if anyone has read anything else about this move, let me know.

As long as the issue of conflict diamonds has come up, the situation with Liberia and al-Qaeda is both interesting and disturbing. The Global Witness report chronincled strong ties between al-Qaeda, the RUF of Sierra Leone, and the regime of Liberian President Charles Taylor in which the RUF and Taylor arranged for diamonds to be smuggled to fund al-Qaeda operations in exchange for al-Qaeda procuring weapons for RUF/Liberia. These ties involved meetings between Taylor himself and high-level al-Qaeda operatives in which they plotted to do evil, nasty things like shoot down helicopters to destabilize neighboring countries to allow Taylor to sink his claws into them. In December 2001, the U.S. apparently based a special forces team in Guinea to conduct operations in Liberia, but they never did anything. So if we know where particular illegal diamond mines are that are funding al-Qaeda, if we know certain rebel groups have ties to al-Qaeda, what, if anything are we doing about this? Perhaps the administration just follows a standard American prejudice that Africa is somehow "off the planet" in terms of foreign policy, but unfortunately others do not.

Juan Cole has reported an important development in Iraq: The Sadriyun have a spiritual leader. He is the Ayatollah Kazim al-Haeri. I actually don't have anything to say beyond what Dr. Cole posts, so I'll just let you read that if it interests you.


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