Terrorism: Zarqawi's Links to Iran

Terrorism: Zarqawi's Links to Iran

The Bush administration has repeatedly fingered Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi as a critical link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda. But other U.S. officials say the Jordanian terrorist's contacts in neighboring Iran are probably more extensive than any dealings he had with Saddam.

Sources close to Jordanian intelligence say al-Zarqawi has gone back and forth across the Iran-Iraq border since Saddam's regime fell. According to a Jordanian intelligence briefing made available to NEWSWEEK, al-Zarqawi crossed the Iranian border after being wounded in Afghanistan in late 2001, was treated, then stayed in an Iranian safe house in the same town as fugitive Qaeda leaders. Al-Zarqawi then left, but supposedly returned to Iran around March 2002, at which point he was "arrested" by Iranian authorities. Some Jordanian investigators believe that a high-ranking Iranian intel official then established a relationship with al-Zarqawi to provide aid.

U.S. officials say that al-Zarqawi was escorted by Iranian authorities to the border with Iraq and expelled in the spring of 2002. But according to the Jordanian briefing, after the invasion of Iraq al-Zarqawi recrossed the border into Iran and was again "captured" by Iranian authorities. Some Jordanian officials believe that during this sojourn in "custody," al-Zarqawi's high-level Iranian contact encouraged him to organize violent resistance to the American occupation of Iraq. U.S. analysts, for their part, are skeptical of Jordanian allegations about a significant relationship between al-Zarqawi and Iranian intelligence. A U.S. official says the CIA believes that while in Iran al-Zarqawi spent a lot of time trying to evade arrest by Iranian authorities, and that because of his apparent antagonism toward Shiite Muslims, al-Zarqawi and Iranian officials wouldn't befriend each other. A U.S. Defense official says, however, that they can't rule out the possibility al-Zarqawi might have "friends here and there."

China: Playing Catch-Up

A new study comparing Chinese and American managers shows both how differently and how similarly they think. In the survey, conducted by IndustryWeek magazine and the Ohio-based Manufacturing Performance Institute, 406 Chinese plant managers and 680 of their U.S. counterparts were asked to rank their objectives. Innovation came in a strong second in China, but ranked only seventh on the list of Americans' priorities, mostly because the Chinese recognize the greater need to catch up. On the other hand, both sides placed high quality at the top of their lists, whereas keeping costs low was only a midlevel objective. Analysts say the study results reflect a maturing of the Chinese private sector. While China remains cheap--with average annual manufacturing wages equaling less than three weeks' pay for the average U.S. worker--the country's manufacturing leaders clearly see that quality matters in the long term. Combine that with serious innovation, and China could well become an even more serious competitor than it already is.

Germany: New Attitude?

German defense Minister Peter Struck seemed to be freelancing last week when he apparently implied that a Kerry administration might make it easier for Berlin to commit troops to Iraq. Full of praise for Kerry's "very sensible" proposals of an international conference on Iraq, Struck noted tantalizingly that "no one can predict developments in that country in such a way as to make binding statements." His comments were quickly disavowed--Chancellor Gerhard Schroder and Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer both insisted there would be no change in Germany's position.

Yet there are signs that Berlin is mulling over ways to mend ties with Washington, no matter who wins on Nov. 2. Two weeks ago, Fischer himself told a group of visiting professors there was a good chance of "progress [on Iraq] after the election." He didn't go into specifics, lest he "interfere" with the U.S. vote. Germany has also recently made moves to help extend debt relief to Iraq, and has begun training Iraqi police; last month it announced it would provide them with equipment, including 20 armored personnel carriers. According to a Foreign Ministry spokesman, Germany's state development agencies are ready to help rebuild ministries, media and infrastructure once the security situation improves. None of these overtures are conditional on a Kerry victory. Still, a high-ranking government official tells NEWSWEEK, they would be much easier to make with Kerry in office.

Investment: EU Blues

Even as global foreign direct investment plunged over the past three years, Central European countries benefited from increasing FDI. But a new survey of executives from the world's largest companies, conducted by A.T. Kearney, suggests the good times may be over. FDI flows for the newest EU member states are down to $27 billion, a $4 billion drop from a year ago. The big surprise is Poland, which has been downgraded from the fourth most attractive investment destination in 2003 to 12th this year.

Why the turnaround? The fundamental problem, says A.T. Kearney's Paul Laudicina, is that the novelty of EU membership is wearing off. Corporate investors now see these New European countries as Old Europeans--rather than as freewheeling, low-cost emerging markets--which analysts say reduces their appeal to Asian and U.S. firms. While the newcomers have the same cumbersome regulations, high taxes and expensive currency as the rest of the EU, their roads and rails are more decrepit, the courts and other institutions more dysfunctional.

The shift downward could have serious consequences, say analysts. As cost and regulatory advantages recede in Central Europe, investors may well find greener pastures in the likes of Bulgaria and the Balkans. Meanwhile, the new EU members will have to learn to compete with Brussels and Barcelona rather than Bangalore and Beijing.

Taiwan: Sending Messages, But Not to Beijing

How genuine was Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian's speech last week, calling for a resumption of cross-Strait talks and discussion of direct flights between Taiwan and China? For all the conciliatory language, Chen stopped well short of giving Beijing want it wants--acknowledgement of the "one China" principle--and his overture, such as it was, was quickly rejected.

Analysts say Chen's speech wasn't really directed at China at all, but rather to Washington and his domestic audience. The United States has been pressuring Chen for months to defuse tensions with Beijing over the independence issue. Andrew Yang of the Chinese Council of Advanced Policy Studies in Taipei says that Taiwanese intelligence agents have been increasingly aggressive in Washington; he and others wonder if the FBI's recent investigation and arrest of veteran U.S. diplomat Donald Keyser was meant to send a signal to Taiwan to stop trying to influence U.S. policy. (A State Department official dismissed the theory as "nonsense.") Yang thinks Chen wanted to show Washington that he could play nice with Beijing--while also "emphasizing that Taiwan is a sovereign state."

Chen was looking to break the political gridlock that has polarized his country, too. He's hoping his coalition can win a legislative majority in December elections--and to do that, says Chao Chien-min, a professor at National Chengchi University in Taipei, "he needs to show voters that he's capable of building stable relations across the Strait." Judging by Beijing's reaction last week, that will take more than some nice words.

The Kid Killers

Christopher Simmons's appeal of his murder conviction, currently before the U.S. Supreme Court, could lead to a ban on executing those under 18. If America follows the lead of Yemen--which dropped the practice last year--only six countries will still sanction the execution of juveniles.

U.S. Affairs: Arab Anger

When George W. Bush addressed issues like profiling at a Dearborn, Michigan, rally in 2000, he became the first presidential candidate to openly woo the Arab-American and Muslim vote. Exit polls showed it paid off: he won 45 percent of the Arab vote nationwide and swept 70 percent of the Muslim vote. So why isn't he aggressively courting the estimated 3 million Arab-Americans or the 5 million to 7 million U.S. Muslims now? "The dissatisfaction among these communities on key issues is too great," says James Zogby of the Arab American Institute. "Those concerned about Iraq, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or their civil liberties are not going to vote for him." The detainment of thousands of Arabs and Muslims under the Patriot Act, the bloodshed in Baghdad and Bush's support of Ariel Sharon have eroded his credibility among a group that could be a real factor in this tight race. A Zogby poll of Arab voters in four swing states shows John Kerry leading Bush 49 to 32 percent, while a Council on American-Islamic Relations poll finds that only 3 percent of U.S. Muslims plan on voting for Bush. Like many, Hassan Essayli, an Arab-American and Republican who voted for Bush in 2000, feels "betrayed."

Business: A New Kind of Think Tank?

Most people think of corporate bonding in terms of all-day rope courses. Not David Estes. The Sherman, Texas, native and former CEO wanted a way to teach leadership--with a 55-ton British Army tank. So the military buff used $1.5 million of his own money to start Tactical Tanks, an "extreme adventure" site on 265 acres just north of Dallas. For about $15,000, a business (or group of friends) can bring a 12-person team to run the tanks on a seven-hour series of missions. (Estes, 50, bought the tanks in British Ministry of Defense auctions.) The day begins at 8:45 a.m. with a briefing to peg team strengths and flaws. "The mission focuses on the issues they have within their company," says Estes. Later, three-person tank teams, each of which has a safety officer onboard, "rescue" a downed mannequin pilot (at speeds no faster than 20 kph) and "minesweep" a field--on foot. For some of the 150 people who've visited since April--including a division of defense contractor Raytheon--results are tangible. "You understand how important it is to maintain communication," says Steve Meek, CEO of a tech consulting firm in Keller, Texas. For others--like Texan Gary Hammond, who went with friends in July--just driving a tank is "a hoot; I talked about it for a month."

Books: Botero's Big Vision

Over the past five decades Fernando Botero has drawn a large global following with his paintings and sculptures of, well, large women. Now the 72-year-old Colombian artist from Medellin is putting his works on the coffee table via two new books. The first, titled "Women," beautifully reproduces Botero's famous portly women in various states of undress. These full-bodied images are particularly resonant in today's low-carb society, but Botero says his love of corpulent lasses was never meant as social critique. "I think part of the sensuality in art comes from volume," he says. "[It is] an element in art that has almost disappeared."

The other Botero book out this fall is social commentary at its most blunt. Simply titled "Botero in the Museo Nacional de Colombia," it features a collection of Botero's paintings that depict the decades-long Colombian civil war. In works like "Kidnapping Victim" and "Slaughter of the Innocents," Botero doesn't stray from his rotund subjects. But he shows them riddled with bullets, starkly displaying the brutality and futility of war. Every last one of the book's 50 paintings is in the process of being donated to the Bogota museum after which the book is named, because "they belong there," says Botero, who has lived mainly in Europe since the 1970s. "I can't make a profit out of the drama of my own country." Botero knows the paintings will not stop the violence. But he hopes that the book might inspire reflection on how "absurd" the violence in Colombia has become. So do we.

MUSEUMS: Finding Artistic Peace

As one climbs the central spiral staircase that connects the galleries of Manhattan's new Rubin Museum of Art, the view just gets better and better. And what more apt metaphor for spiritual journey--the rise of the coiled kundalini (mystic energy) from chakra to chakra, for instance--than that staircase? Spirituality is a central theme of the Himalayan art gloriously showcased by the RMA, which opened Oct. 2. Museum founders Donald and Shelley Rubin paid $60 million to convert Barneys, a six-story department store, into the 6,500-square-meter space that now houses the world's largest collection of tangkas (Tibetan icons painted on fabric), as well as paintings, sculptures and decorative objects from Asian countries ranging all the way from Pakistan to China.

All of the brilliantly hued, action-filled Tibetan and Tantric paintings on display were intended as aids to meditation. But that doesn't mean the RMA is a sea of tranquility. "You may be horrified by many of the paintings [which] seem to come directly from Dante's Inferno," says Rubin, a managed-care mogul, who notes the works include "scenes of death and destruction, decapitation, monstrous beings with garlands of several heads gorging on human hearts." Of course, it was one such Tibetan painting in a Manhattan gallery that the Rubins fell in love with 30 years ago, prompting them to start their collection. These shocking works are "visualizations of our own inner battle," Rubin says, and can help to rid viewers of "mental toxins." Sounds like the perfect panacea for New Yorkers.

Q & A: Nancy Sinatra

She'll always be her father's daughter, but Nancy Sinatra, 64, has never been shy about making a name for herself, most famously with the '60s hit "These Boots Are Made for Walking." She's back with a new CD that shows her hippest side yet. She spoke to NEWSWEEK's Jac Chebatoris.

Have you ever done an entire interview without talking about your father?

[Laughs] No.

Have you ever done an entire interview without talking about the "Boots"?

I just bought a new pair this morning, actually. They're quite beautiful. They're two shades of pink--a pale pink and a hot pink, but the thing is, the toes are really pointed, and that's passe. But they were too me not to take.

Your new CD is great. You've got amazing collaborators--Morrissey, Bono, Jarvis Cocker. Where have you been hanging out, lady?

What's funny is that the interest and respect that that age group is showing me is something I never saw from my own peers. I would love to have done an album along the way with Paul Simon and Neil Diamond--you know, my contemporaries.

What was a bigger thrill: acting opposite Elvis or posing for Playboy when you were 55?

Elvis. I miss him terribly, still.

You must have been the envy of all the girls.

For a while. Being in his movie made me the No. 1 box-office female. Me, who couldn't act her way out of a closet!

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