Archive for September, 2006

It’s time to shake up the embers of Operation Firedump, our effort to monitor compliance with the UNSC asset freeze list on the Viktor Bout companies.

Since December, 2005, the original list of aircraft shows a few changes.

UN-76497, Ilyushin 76-D. Serial number 43402039. This is probably the aircraft referred to in the UN list with MoldTransavia, and is now with GST Aero, repeatedly referred to in UNSC Expert Panel reports. It was also involved in the events detailed here. The most recent photo is here.

SANTA CRUZ IMPERIAL

EL-AHO, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 183006205.

EL-ASC, Antonov 12BP. Serial number 3340909.
EL-ASJ, Antonov 12BP. Serial number 402112 (doubtful)
EL-AHT, Antonov 26A. Serial number 6004 (doubtful) Now believed destroyed in accident, 12/08/2000, Tshwana, Botswana
EL-ALC, Antonov 26A. Serial number 87307104.
EL-ALT, Antonov 26A. Serial number 17311805.

No recent photos available.

IRBIS AIR COMPANY

UN-42428, Yakovlev 42D. Serial number 45204223046.
(Leased to Sudan Airways, believed operating to Iraq)
Returned to Irbis, then leased to SCAT of Shymkent, KZ in March, 2006. Most recent photo here.
UN-75002, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 185008603. Recent photo here.
UN-75003, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 184006903. Recent photo here.
UN-75004, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 186009202. Transferred to new company, Mega Air Lines, Atyrau, Kazakhstan 29/07/06. Last photo here.
UN-75005, Ilyushin 18D. Serial number 187010204. Transferred to Mega AL. Last photo here.
UN-26582, Antonov 26B. Serial number 47313504. No photo since 2002.
(Leased to Ariana Afghan Airlines) Has been on lease to Royal Air Cargo, reseller of British Gulf International Airlines’ service. Still with Ariana.

AIR BAS

3C-KKO, Antonov 12BP. Serial number 1901706 (No photos available)

GAMBIA NEW MILLENIUM

C5-GNM, Ilyushin 62M. Serial number 3036142. Last photo here.

SAN AIR GENERAL TRADING

3C-QRF, BAC-111. Serial number 61. (Operated for SAGT, owned Jetline International) Scrapped at Bucharest-Baneasa!

TRANS AVIATION GLOBAL

UN-B2701, Boeing 727. Serial number 22045. Photographed at Budapest, 12/06/2006. Transferred to Mega AL
UN-B2707, Boeing 727F. Serial number 21861. Believed transferred to private owner in UAE, registration A6-RSA. Last photo here.
UN-B2703, Boeing 727. Serial number 22046. Unknown. This aircraft location uncertain. B727 s/n 21584, same registration, is stored at Jakarta.

So, a new company in Kazakhstan has appeared. Mega Airlines, ICAO code MGK, is thought to be based at Atyrau in Kazakhstan, with two ex-Irbis Ilyushin 18s, UN-75004 and UN-75005, and the Boeing 727, UN-B2701. They seem to appear in Hungary strangely often. 3C-QRF, though, is on the firedump for good.

Repeal!

Now here’s a party proposal I can get behind. Lib Dems want to introduce a Great Repeal Act, which would consist of a single sweeping revocation of a whole catalogue of liberticidal, stupid and expensive Blairite nonsense. Details are here.

1. Restrictions on protests in Parliament Square
Sections 132 to 138; Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005

The police can now impose any restrictions they think fit on demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament Square. Citizens of this country should not have to ask for the right to protest outside the Parliament that they elect.

2. Identity Cards
Identity Cards Act 2006

Identity cards are unworkable, expensive and illiberal. Labour is already spending £95,000 a day on developing the project but it will not stop terrorism, crime, illegal immigration or benefit fraud.

3. Extradition to the US
Part 2, Extradition Act 2003

This act makes it much easier for the US to extradite people from the UK than it is for the UK to extradite people from the US. Not only is the treaty unbalanced, but it means that British citizens can extradited without any evidence being provided.

4. Conditions on public assemblies
Section 57, Clause 123, Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003

Labour has given the police the power to impose conditions on any protest or gathering even if just two people attend. Until 2003, these restrictions could only be imposed on larger gatherings, of 20 people or more. There is no reason to curtail the right to protest in this way.

5. Criminalising trespass
Sections 128 to 131, Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005

Thanks to this part of the act, a Home Secretary can make trespass a criminal offence on any land where they say it is in the interests of national security. This is defined very broadly however – and there is no need for them to justify their decision. If there is a need for restrictions like this they should be agreed democratically.

6. Control orders
Section 1, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005

These allow restrictions, potentially going as far as house arrest, to be imposed on the mere basis of ‘reasonable suspicion’. They can be made for up to 12 months and renewed indefinitely. The Home Secretary can also decide to opt-out from the European Convention on Human Rights and issue control orders that amount to detention without trial. Liberal Democrats would repeal the law and start again: the Home Secretary should not be allowed to opt out of our human rights agreements, or impose control orders outside the judicial system.

7. DNA retention
Sections 78-84, Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001
Sections 9-10, Criminal Justice Act 2003

The UK has the largest DNA database in the world, but many of those stored on the system have never been charged with, let alone convcited of, a crime. Thousands of innocent children are on the database – because the police have the power to take DNA when they arrest someone and then keep it permanently, even if the person turns out to have done nothing wrong. Ethnic minorities make up 8% of the UK population but 24% od the database. We understand the case for keeping DNA of the convicted, but innocent people’s DNA should not be kept indefinitely.

8. Public interest defence for whistleblowing
Official Secrets Act 1989

It is important that national security is protected, but sometimes it will be the case that it is in the public interest that malpractice or illegal activity is exposed. The Official Secrets Act includes no public interest defence, however – so whistleblowers remain unprotected, even if their action is very much in the public interest. Part of the reason for this was a series of high-profile embarrassments for the Conservative government of the time; ministers’ embarrassment should not be allowed to overrule the public good.

9. Right to silence
Sections 34-39, Public Order Act 1994 – England and Wales

It was a long-established principle of a fair trial that defendants had the right not to be forced to incriminate themselves. In 1994, however, the Conservatives allowed juries to draw adverse inferences from a defendant’s silence. This represented a major attack on the idea of “innocent until proven guilty.”

10. Hearsay evidence
Sections 114-136, Criminal Justice Act 2003

Protections against the use of hearsay evidence were in place to ensure that a trial was decided on the facts of the case. Hearsay evidence cannot in practice be cross-examined in court, which removes a vital safeguard for the accused. Labour, in 2003, widened the circumstances in which it could be used. We would repeal these changes and return to focussing on securing fair trials and reliable convictions.

That’s the top 10. But there is so much more..

Over at Slugger, they are discussing an alleged proposal from the UDA that the government give it £1 billion to end its campaign of violence and convert itself into a legal organisation. At one level, you’d be forgiven for spitting coffee on your keyboard at such shameless blackmail. But there is a valid point here. What do you do with a private army when its time has passed?

There are a couple of historical courses. One of them is to integrate it into the regular armed forces of the state. This has been pursued by among others Finland, France, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and the Republic of Ireland itself. The degrees of success vary widely. De Gaulle took the decision to disband the Resistance and recruit its members into the regular French army in August, 1944, thus avoiding the possibility of a private army continuing to exist after the war and also putting an anchor out to windward against any other generals wanting to be king. He was probably also concerned that a Resistance persisting into the postwar would be essentially communist, just like it had been during the war. However, having lost power, he found that his future political career couldn’t do without the Service d’Action Civique private intelligence service/goon squad.

Finland chose between two rival rebel armies, one nationalist and one communist, had a brief civil war, and then had some trouble integrating the remaining communists into the new army, not to mention more trouble between the German-trained Jäger and the rest, but eventually managed it. South Africa decided to integrate the ANC’s bush fighters into the old SADF as a new National Defence Force, which worked out at least in the sense that there was no trouble. (It worked out far less well in terms of force readiness, and released a troublesome population of mercenaries onto the market, though.)

Zimbabwe had one of the worst experiences of this kind. The ex-Rhodesian army, ZANU-PF and ZANLA were all meant to be merged into one British-trained army. General Rupert Smith describes what happened after that in The Utility of Force, which I promise I’ll get round to reviewing. The British advisers suggested that the new force should standardise on the Rhodesians’ equipment, as this would mean ammunition would have to come from the central arsenal, and therefore any violence between factions could be shut off by denying it bullets. The Rhodesians refused to hand their arms to their ex-enemies, and so the force was built up with the Soviet-type weapons the guerrillas handed in – for which the ammunition was widely available on the black market, and which the parties held illegal stocks of. This meant that the ZANU was able to form another brigade (the 5th) outside the terms of the agreement, with which it proceeded to crush the supporters of ZANLA.

Eire, having had its civil war, suffered problems with the heirs of the contending parties (the Army and the Citizen Force) for years, although it didn’t amount to a serious threat to the peace. So, it can work, but a) it’s difficult and b) the requirements are complicated. In Northern Ireland, the reaction of the Republicans to a proposal to put more UDA men into the army is something we can all do without. (Not to mention that the Royal Irish Regiment is being reduced in strength.)

Another option is to demobilise it. This requires the consent of the demobilised just as much as integration, and they may have security and/or identity concerns that call for some sort of successor organisation. It also places a challenge on society to reintegrate them, not least to create jobs. A notable example where this was done, proved difficult, and eventually succeeded is Israel.

There’s also the option of permitting the organisation to live on in different form. The UDA seems to be aiming for a mixture of 2 and 3, turning itself into some sort of non-armed political entity and paying off its soldiers. This one doesn’t have a very good record – disarmed freikorps and einwohnerwehren were the first organisational underpinning of the Nazi party, and rearmed pretty damn quick whenever it was asked of them. And the Kärntner Heimatdienst in Austria has been a nuisance ever since its creation.

Sometimes, though, there are only the options people let you have.

Axe in Basra

Defenstech’s David Axe is going back to Iraq, this time to the British sector. Should be interesting.

The Guardian carried a large excerpt from George Monbiot’s coming book this week in which he launched a formidable attack on aeroplanes, on the grounds that they are indefensible in terms of climate change. I find it hard to work out his logic. For a start, if you get the data, you’ll find that, when you interpolate the emissions from aviation fuel uplifted from the UK, it makes up 5.5 per cent of the UK’s CO2 emissions. (Comparison – electricity generation is 30 or so, road transport a quarter)

Now, if you accept his premise that it’s even worse than the climatologists say, you would think that we need immediate and massive cuts in CO2 emissions. But even if aviation were abolished tomorrow, we’d still have 94.5 per cent of the way to go. You can’t get around the big systems – only changing them can deliver, and only changing them can deliver quickly. But it’s worse than that: as he points out, nothing is more difficult in this sense than replacing aviation fuel. Plug-in hybrid deployment, wind, solar, marine, biomass and perhaps nuclear power, insulation and heat-pumps can fix all the other sectors, could even get to zero (the chemical industry might in the long run go negative). A lot of this is mature technology. A lot of it would probably be economically beneficial, rather than a sacrifice.

So why would you go for the hardest problem first, especially when it only represents 5 per cent of the problem?

He doesn’t help his case by talking nonsense, either. Quote: “As far as aircraft engines are concerned, major new efficiencies in the next 20 years are a pipedream.” Well, not really. Propfans exist, and reduce the fuel burn by some 30 per cent, independently of changes to aerodynamic design (10 per cent in the near term) and efficiencies in air traffic control (up to 12 per cent). This is pretty cool, too, as is this.

Chinese wind power!

I commented a while ago on a post at Worldchanging that we hadn’t seen anything yet, and wait until the Chinese started making 5MW wind turbines. Well, look what’s happened. Vestas starts up a joint venture factory, Repower managing another, capacity growth running at 66 per cent annually. Crystal ball team – whoops – analyst house predicts that the government target of 30GW installed capacity by 2020 will be bust by over 90 per cent – 54 being more like it.

Maybe they’ll soon be building these. In other news, Ireland gets a big electricity storage system using flow batteries to stockpile wind-generated power. It’s not Chinese, but it’s cool.

Repeal!

Now here’s a party proposal I can get behind. Lib Dems want to introduce a Great Repeal Act, which would consist of a single sweeping revocation of a whole catalogue of liberticidal, stupid and expensive Blairite nonsense. Details are here.

1. Restrictions on protests in Parliament Square
Sections 132 to 138; Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005

The police can now impose any restrictions they think fit on demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament Square. Citizens of this country should not have to ask for the right to protest outside the Parliament that they elect.

2. Identity Cards
Identity Cards Act 2006

Identity cards are unworkable, expensive and illiberal. Labour is already spending £95,000 a day on developing the project but it will not stop terrorism, crime, illegal immigration or benefit fraud.

3. Extradition to the US
Part 2, Extradition Act 2003

This act makes it much easier for the US to extradite people from the UK than it is for the UK to extradite people from the US. Not only is the treaty unbalanced, but it means that British citizens can extradited without any evidence being provided.

4. Conditions on public assemblies
Section 57, Clause 123, Anti-Social Behaviour Act 2003

Labour has given the police the power to impose conditions on any protest or gathering even if just two people attend. Until 2003, these restrictions could only be imposed on larger gatherings, of 20 people or more. There is no reason to curtail the right to protest in this way.

5. Criminalising trespass
Sections 128 to 131, Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005

Thanks to this part of the act, a Home Secretary can make trespass a criminal offence on any land where they say it is in the interests of national security. This is defined very broadly however – and there is no need for them to justify their decision. If there is a need for restrictions like this they should be agreed democratically.

6. Control orders
Section 1, Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005

These allow restrictions, potentially going as far as house arrest, to be imposed on the mere basis of ‘reasonable suspicion’. They can be made for up to 12 months and renewed indefinitely. The Home Secretary can also decide to opt-out from the European Convention on Human Rights and issue control orders that amount to detention without trial. Liberal Democrats would repeal the law and start again: the Home Secretary should not be allowed to opt out of our human rights agreements, or impose control orders outside the judicial system.

7. DNA retention
Sections 78-84, Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001
Sections 9-10, Criminal Justice Act 2003

The UK has the largest DNA database in the world, but many of those stored on the system have never been charged with, let alone convcited of, a crime. Thousands of innocent children are on the database – because the police have the power to take DNA when they arrest someone and then keep it permanently, even if the person turns out to have done nothing wrong. Ethnic minorities make up 8% of the UK population but 24% od the database. We understand the case for keeping DNA of the convicted, but innocent people’s DNA should not be kept indefinitely.

8. Public interest defence for whistleblowing
Official Secrets Act 1989

It is important that national security is protected, but sometimes it will be the case that it is in the public interest that malpractice or illegal activity is exposed. The Official Secrets Act includes no public interest defence, however – so whistleblowers remain unprotected, even if their action is very much in the public interest. Part of the reason for this was a series of high-profile embarrassments for the Conservative government of the time; ministers’ embarrassment should not be allowed to overrule the public good.

9. Right to silence
Sections 34-39, Public Order Act 1994 – England and Wales

It was a long-established principle of a fair trial that defendants had the right not to be forced to incriminate themselves. In 1994, however, the Conservatives allowed juries to draw adverse inferences from a defendant’s silence. This represented a major attack on the idea of “innocent until proven guilty.”

10. Hearsay evidence
Sections 114-136, Criminal Justice Act 2003

Protections against the use of hearsay evidence were in place to ensure that a trial was decided on the facts of the case. Hearsay evidence cannot in practice be cross-examined in court, which removes a vital safeguard for the accused. Labour, in 2003, widened the circumstances in which it could be used. We would repeal these changes and return to focussing on securing fair trials and reliable convictions.

That’s the top 10. But there is so much more..

Geographies of mercenarism

That MR post also raises an interesting point of language. Out of 50,000 acknowledged private security personnel in Iraq, their trade group, the PSCAI (for Private Security Companies’ Association in Iraq, a nice echo of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq or SCIRI) describes them as follows: 3,000+ Americans, 15,000+ third-country nationals (Colombians, etc), 25,000+ Iraqis, and 7,000+ “ex-pats”. These latter are defined as being British and South African.

So as well as the old saw about “I am a freedom fighter, you are a guerrilla, he is a terrorist”, we now have “I am an expatriate, you are an American, he is a third-country national, and they are Iraqis.” TCN is a US defence/diplomatic/spook term from the Vietnam era meaning a citizen of an allied nation, but it’s curious that the British are explicitly excluded – and even odder that South Africans, who are neutral, are lumped in with the British.

Mind you, expat probably is a nationality in a sense – the phrase seems to be used only by the Commonwealth, not by Americans, there being a great difference between a British ex-pat and an American expatriate. Attributes: declassé, taste for cold beer, profession usually something related to large construction projects, aviation or shipping, or the military, blokish, British, Australian, New Zealand or South African.

Every blog and its cat has been discussing the tale that Richard Armitage supposedly threatened to bomb Pakistan back into the stone age, but no-one seems to have mentioned a very obvious fact about this: Pakistan has an estimated 20-60 nuclear warheads deliverable by various means.

Now, you don’t go round threatening to bomb nuclear powers. Ask North Korea. Not that Pakistan has a credible minimum deterrent capability against the continental US, but there are plenty of things they could have bombed. There’s the madman option, of course: threaten to attack India or China and start a nuclear war. Call it the Perfect Anarchist’s defence, as in the character in Joseph Conrad’s Secret Agent who avoids arrest by perpetually going about wired as a suicide-bomber. But there are less crazy and more direct targets – Gulf oil infrastructure being exhibit A, Diego Garcia exhibit B, the US 5th Fleet exhibit C. And the dogs in the street know that a US air campaign against Pakistan would almost certainly have brought about that country’s talibanisation – Musharraf was struggling then to keep the ISI under control, not to mention fellow generals from scheming with his old enemies and Baluch rebels.

So, either the story is nonsense, or there are some truly crazy bastards in charge. This possibility can no longer be ruled out, of course, but Armitage never struck me as a reckless goon. His handling of the India-Pakistan nuclear crisis a year later was solidly realist and realistic, and eventually crowned by success. Had he actually issued such a deranged threat, would he have got a fair hearing in Islamabad?

On the other hand, we now have the agreement between the Pakistani government and the Waziri tribes, under which the old, old arrangement by which central authority keeps out of the hills in exchange for help defending the border is restored, not to mention Major-General Shaukat Sultan’s telling gaffe when he suggested that OBL himself might be left alone if he agreed to behave. Meanwhile, Musharraf countermarched and complained that the Afghans weren’t doing enought to keep jihadis out of Pakistan. I wonder if there is a word for chutzpah in Urdu?

The reason for this is that he’s faced with two irreconcilable positions – the combination of considerable popular support for the Taliban on the frontier and the persistent institutional links between the ISI and al-Qa’ida, coupled with the army’s historical concern for state unity under upper-class Punjabi leadership, and the pressure from the US and India, not to mention the coup dread, and the economic need for outside capital to employ the growing population. He’s trying to cover them by constant manoeuvring, which can be done for short periods of time. John Major’s premiership was a long exercise in the same practice. But violence wasn’t on the cards.

One has to wonder what might blow the gaff, and it would probably be something that forced Musharraf to play to both sides at once. On that note, we turn to the Mountain Runner‘s fascinating post about mercenary activity inside Pakistan. As he notes, Bush has said he would send troops into Pakistan if necessary (actually, they wouldn’t be the first ones – a battalion of the 101st Airborne spent the winter of 2001-2002 guarding the airfield at Jacobabad, and the RAF moved into Karachi Airport during the same period). But there are reports of hired guns turning up there, and not just guarding truck convoys.

Rather, at least some of them are taking part in offensive operations, as the muscle for CIA case officers. Now, the possible consequences should be clear enough. Depending on what happens, this could hit any combination of jihad, Pakistani nationalism, Baluch/Wazir regionalism, local self-interest, tribal honour and respect and quite easily put the Pakistani government in a position where it is obliged to kick out the Americans for the Islamist side and also attack Wazir independence.

Just to add spice to it, the main supply route for the NATO forces in southwest Afghanistan is on the line Kandahar-Quetta-Karachi. We could end up in a situation where we are doing our damndest to persuade the Baluchs to shoot at jihadis and the Pakistani army whilst the jihadis and the Pakistani army are trying to make them shoot at us!

Update, 13/09/07: The quote from Maj-Gen Shaukat Sultan has been discredited, as one of the stories faked by Alexis Debat.

Ah, those fine Blairite institutions. South Maidstone is apparently to be blessed with a school where some rich person gets 51 per cent of the votes for 20 per cent of the money, but something has gone terribly wrong. Specifically, the Tory-run Kent county council is trying to do something unfashionable.

According to our sources, Kent is selling something called “Senacre”. It is meant to get £18 million from this. Out of this, the council is meant to pay the traditional 80 per cent share that the public put into the new academy. Kent is concerned, though, that they may not get more than £16 million – but surely, property values only ever go up? Heavens forfend! – but there’s worse.

Kent, we hear, intends to use £2m of the “capital receipt” from “Senacre” to provide facilities for children with special needs and a workshop for vocational trainees. But central government considers this to be “backtracking”. According to DFES, “SEN (special educational needs – tyr) and Vocational is not a priority in the Academies context.” Academies will have better exam results, because chavs and mongs will be eliminated. It’s nice to see it put so clearly.

It gets worse. One might recall that the whole point of this policy was that the god-like private sector would bring expertise and cash in. But in this case, the Sponsor doesn’t seem to be quite the man he said he was. A certain DFES minister is trying to set up “an acceptable mix of sponsorship” with £1 million – so half the figure these folk are meant to find according to the law of the land – and another mill, to come out of Kent’s capital receipts. To put it another way – south-eastern suburban churchgoers’ status needs will be subsidised by force from the disabled and the working class.

Kentish readers, or readers of Kent, are requested to identify what Senacre is. (Update: it’s a well-respected special school.)