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by Gary Showalter

8:00 a.m. January 15, 2001 PDT

How do terror groups survive, who finances them, who facilitates their movements—who profits from their existence?

DURING THE 60's several papers were written on the impracticality of another major conflict, given the strong likelihood that such a conflict would spin out of control into a world war that would entail the use of nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) weapons. No sane government really wanted that to occur, but the mere existence of such a threat served as a powerful tool for negotiations. Often within the same papers, references were made to the likely rise of smaller, "containable" wars. In fact, United States military doctrine was soon adapted to fit this new profile for future conflicts. The Rangers, Special Forces, Navy Seals and Delta Force were all formed with this type of conflict in mind.

The proliferation of terror groups began in the 60's, with the PLO in 1964, the Italian Red Brigades in 1969 and the Japanese Red Army in 1971. Of these three, the PLO quickly became the most prominent, under the leadership of Yasser Arafat. Numerous groups separated from the PLO, because of conflicts over goals, ideology and command. Among them was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine—General Command, and al-Fatah.

The 60's and 70's were rife with terror attacks, mostly aircraft hijackings, attacks on embassies and airports, train hijackings in Europe, assignations of political figures, and so on. While this was going on, many calls were heard for a "War on Terror." At least one international conference was organized, but very little (actually nothing) was done to stop the terror groups from perpetrating more attacks. Yasser Arafat, who was known to be at the very heart of many of the more brutal hijackings and assassinations (including the attacks on two US diplomats in Khartoum in 1973) and bombings (including the first attack on the World Trade Center in 1993), very quickly acquired the nickname of the "Teflon Terrorist," since nothing ever stuck to him.

How did these terror groups survive; who paid their wages and arranged for their transportation; how did they communicate, move weapons around and pay compensation to the families of their dead? How did they accumulate the billions (yes, billions) of dollars in their Swiss bank accounts?


To whom the good? Who profits from the existence of these groups?

Many terror groups came into existence as movements for national liberation with the goal of replacing the existing order with a Marxist/Leninist government (with, of course, the leaders of the movements at the top of the heap). However, those terror groups that were not wiped out immediately soon learned that there was a great deal of money to be made in the terror business, through extortion, providing assassins for hire, the sale of drugs, guns and identifications. Ideology took a back seat to all that money.

Many nations, such as Libya, Egypt, Syria, Sudan and Yemen, quickly found themselves with a new source for ready cash in providing safe havens for training camps. Groups such as the IRA and the Japanese Red Brigades found themselves working and learning shoulder-to-shoulder with the PLO, PFLP and Badher-Meinhoff.

From there it was a very short and very convenient step for many states to begin to sponsor one or more terror groups. Those groups then found themselves with a permanent safe haven, access to diplomatic pouches for moving weapons, drugs and documents, and access to specialized weapons and communications gear they could only have dreamed about otherwise. And their sponsors had their very own "deniable" terror groups at their beck and call.

The era of the "small, containable war" was born.

Fidel Castro improved the GNP of Cuba by renting out his army for the war of national liberation in Angola (which was really a war for the control of the diamond mines in that sad country). A fundamentalist Islamic government, at the cost of nearly a million dead, now controls Algeria, once a sophisticated and modern nation. Sudan is essentially a wasteland today, picked over by looters and slavers determined to eliminate the last remains of Christians and animists.

Israel, in an attempt to forestall its own demise, has ceded territory to Yasser Arafat's PLO. The Taliban, another fundamental Islamic group, now rules Afghanistan. The province of Chechnya (one of many along the soft underbelly of Russia) is still fighting for its independence and will eventually become a fundamentalist Islamic state.

The war in Bosnia-Herzegovina will wind down soon (Iraq and Iran sponsored opposing sides in this conflict, supplying men from Afghanistan, weapons and intelligence) and will eventually see two or more fundamentalist Islamic states arise in Central Europe. Macedonia will go the same way in another year or so.

These are all "containable wars;" all made use of the terror groups' skills and manpower to destabilize the existing regimes and pull the target areas into manageable conflicts.

Why was nothing done to stop this, if everyone saw it coming? Surely, someone read all those papers in the 60's that warned of this new type of conflict, and surely someone has been reading the reports produced by all the intelligence agencies in the Western nations? If Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran and others were known to sponsor these terror groups, why was nothing done to stop them?

Good question.


Intelligence agencies anywhere in the world have one prime function: the collection of intelligence by any means available. These agencies have analysts who filter raw intelligence and try to fit it together with "known data" to develop a status report that will tell their political masters what is happening in the world. These status reports are then sent out to the politicians who determine what (if anything) is to be done with the knowledge. And this is where things start to get really interesting.

The phrase, "governments don't have friends, they have interests," has been attributed to everyone from Benjamin Disraeli to Machievelli, though I have yet to find any validation for any of the attributions. But it really doesn't matter who said it—it is all too true.

France will not refuse to build a new oil pipeline from Iraq across Syrian territory because Syria harbors terrorists. Syria wants the Golan back, and France wants the pipeline to run across the Golan. It is not in the interest of France that there be peace in the Middle East. Quite the contrary. France sells a great deal of weaponry and other goods to the Arab States.

Russia does not care that Iran is developing missile technology that will allow it to drop a nuclear device on Tel Aviv—or Baghdad, for that matter—as long as they buy the nuclear technology from them. China does not care that the Nodong missiles it sells to Syria will eventually be targeted on Israel, as long as the missiles are bought from China. Will France, or Russia, or China insist that their clients make peace with Israel before they buy the weapons to destroy Tel Aviv?

States that were targets of low-intensity warfare were found to be very willing to pay handsomely for any promise of aid (political, economic or military) in their fight for survival, even if that aid came from the State that sponsored the terror groups they were fighting. Lebanon is a prime example, as is Israel. Third-party countries, such as the US, Britain and France, found that they too could profit from such conflicts, since any aid they promised the target country could command nearly any price they chose to levy.

There are many international corporations in the United States that do a very large volume of business with the Arab States. While the Executive branch of the government constantly calls for one peace conference after another, the State department is doing everything it can to help close one deal after another with Israel's most bitter and committed enemies. That very often puts the decisions of the State department at odds with the stated policies of the Executive Branch. Guess who wins that argument.

Every State Department or Foreign Office of every country on Earth is busy doing the very same thing. State departments exist today to implement the foreign policies of their governments and to facilitate the growth of international commerce (preferably in their favor).

Many of the larger corporations in America—the oil companies are a prime example—will pass top employees into the State department and then the CIA, then back into the corporate offices to ensure good connections and the continuance of the "Old Boy" network to guarantee their future profitability. There is nothing new in this. In Switzerland, the government is actually run by major corporations. In France, the military/industrial complex is owned outright by the State. In the US, neither of these solutions is possible, so the large corporations have established the "revolving door policy" to ensure a healthy level of competition for their foreign adversaries.

But what's good for GM is not necessarily good for Americans. What's good for the military industries and other international corporations in France, Switzerland, Germany and Britain is not necessarily good for their people, either.

France, for example, does a great deal of business with Syria. However, Syria does not have a lot of money to spend, which puts Syria very deeply into debt with France (and Russia, but that's another story). Syria is also a volume exporter of drugs, which come out of the Bekaa Valley, through Syria and Lebanon, into France and then on to the United States. Tons and tons of heroin and cocaine. France does almost nothing to stop this traffic, since doing so would mean cutting off the flow of money back to the ruling elite of Syria. That would upset the El-Assad family tremendously, and perhaps lead them to look elsewhere for the goods they now purchase from French companies.

Russia has recently agreed to modernize the Syrian army to the tune of several billions of dollars over the next ten years—even though it is well known that Syria has solid interests in Chechnya and Afghanistan, among other places of interest to Russia. But Russia needs the contracts with Syria so they can borrow against them in the World Bank for the cash they need now.

The United States is in the same boat. Many major American corporations filled contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Iraq before the Gulf War, right along with Britain, France and Germany. Some investigation was done in the US following the war to see if any American corporations were in any way liable for Saddam's chemical warfare development schemes, but this was quickly brushed under the rug. Be sure, however, that today many of the same corporations are once again selling to Iraq (and Iran, the Gulf Emirates, Egypt and so on), and perhaps with even more profitability than before. Certainly the European corporations are, quite profitably.

US corporations, primarily oil companies, have been working with the Arab states since the end of World War II, and will not allow anything to interfere with their profitability. Due to the money these corporations bring into the US, the State Department and the CIA do everything they can to support them.

No one is going to allow a little terrorism to get in the way of that much money, especially when there is so much competition around. France, Germany and Britain have been fighting the US interests in the region since the end of World War II. They resent the hegemony of the US into the region and will do anything they can to break it. National pride be damned; this is big money.

So, yes, everyone profits. Everyone, that is, except the victims of terror attacks. Those attacks take place all over the world—in France, Germany, Britain, the United States and Israel. Once a state falls to one of these terror groups, its citizens become the victims, as the new regime purges "unreliable elements," which often number in the tens and hundreds of thousands. As these undesirable elements are killed off, the economy of the state collapses, bringing in its wake more death, disease and poverty. In most cases, this is seen as an excellent opportunity to forge alliances with the new ruling elite, and to open new markets for international corporations to help rebuild the economy. Once again, the only victims are the citizens, and most of them are usually dead, or dying.

Many major American corporations do business with Arab states such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Syria and the Gulf Emirates. All of these States are virulently anti-Israel, and support each and every terror attack against Jews and the State of Israel. The American State Department has a website that offers rewards for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of terrorists who have murdered American citizens. Over 60 Americans have been murdered in attacks perpetrated by terror gangs working out of the Palestine Authority since the signing of the Oslo Agreement. None of their names are on the State Department list of victims of terror attacks. To do so would be to upset the Arab States, with whom the American corporations do business.

Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad and many others are active within the United States, raising money, supporting Lobbyists, preaching and gaining in numbers each and every week, and have been for many years. During the Clinton era, Hamas and Islamic Jihad were both invited to the White House on several occasions for "prayer breakfasts." These groups are untouchable, though they are known to support (literally) terrorism (including the murder of Americans), because to interfere with their activities would create a backlash of anger that would endanger the American business and political interests in the Arab States.


George Bush, Condeleeza Rice and others have recently been soft-pedaling Islam, even going so far as to say that Islam is a religion of peace and good will toward men. Apparently, no one in the American government has read the Koran, or even read a translation of any editorial from any Arabic-language newspaper even once over the last twenty years.

Islam is a religion of conquest. It is a religion that has dominance at its very core. Any place a Moslem puts his foot is termed "wakf," holy land. It is his, if he can take it. Islam is a religion that encourages "honor killings" of women for the slightest whiff of indiscretion. These killings take place every day, by husbands, fathers and brothers. It must be understood that "Honor" and Islam go hand in hand, and it is for that reason there are so many who are willing to die to pursue the goal of conquest. It was not a fluke that so many men knowingly killed themselves flying those aircraft into the WTC towers and the Pentagon. There are many more just like them.

Regarding the opinions of the majority of the Moslem world for America, here are a very few examples of quotes from recent articles in the Arabic press. These quotes are not unique—they are very common, and their content should be taken literally, and very seriously:
Immediately after the WTC/Pentagon bombings:

Ahmad Murad, a columnist for the Nasserist weekly Al-Arabi, wrote, "In all honesty, and without beating around the bush: I am happy about [what happened to] America; I am happy about the great number of American dead. Let them accuse me of whatever they want. It doesn't matter and it does not lessen the happiness and excitement that overwhelm me."

Acting Al-Arabi editor, Abd Al-Halim Qandil also insisted on his "rights," saying: "Yes, we have the right to rejoice. This was the first step in a thousand-mile journey towards defeating America by a knockout."

Open expressions of joy were also evident in the Egyptian Liberal Party daily Al-Ahrar. Columnist Salim 'Azzouz wrote: "Oh, yeah, guys, Her Royal Highness America has taken this defeat; she has turned out to be a paper tiger, and the Americans [have turned out to be] no more than a gang of delinquent children. It transpires that Bush...—who treated us like servants in his court—is no head of state, but a mouse leading a gang of mice. At the moment [this] occurred in New York and Washington, he left for parts unknown..."

"The suicide bombers of today are the noble successors of their noble predecessors...the Lebanese suicide bombers, who taught the US Marines a tough lesson in [Lebanon]... These suicide bombers are the salt of the earth, the engines of history...They are the most honorable [people] among us..." [Al Hayat Al Jadida, official Palestinian Authority daily, Sept. 11, 2001]

"[The Palestinians must]...harm American interests in the Arab world, with all possible means, in all places, at all levels, because the United States does not understand the language of logic and wisdom, but only the language of interests and force." [Omar Helm Ghul, Al-Ayyam, Aug. 30, 2001]

"[George] Bush Jr. [who] suffers from a psychological complex in regard to Arabs in general, whose details we don't know, even though we don't serve alcohol to his two daughters, and there is no Arab who is involved with their alcohol addiction or with their pursuit by the US police. "What is astounding and surprising is to find a series of articles in American newspapers by columnists, infected with moral AIDS and. who call on Israel to deal fast blows to the Palestinians..."These writers, who are Charles Krauthammer, William Safire and Michael Malley [sic] try to portray us as if we are threatening New York and as if fighting us is an American need and that a good Palestinian is like a good Indian — dead. This is the culture of the Zionist Lobby that rules even over the bedrooms of the senior Members of Congress and the White House. It whips them in the morning and evening for fear lest they awaken from their servitude. It castrates them and supplies them with 'Viagra Monica'. "And the last to judge us in this area is the pathetic scoundrel Thomas Friedman who called upon NATO to conquer the [West] Bank and Gaza in order to protect his beloved Israel. "These examples of beastly writings which surpass Nazism, require that their authors be tried in an international court, for they are considered inciters who have committed crimes against humanity..." [Official daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, August 29, 2001]
The following are from 1997 (during the Persian Gulf War), to give you some assurance that the above sentiments are nothing new:
Arafat appointed Mufti of Palestine has called on Allah (God) to destroy America, which is controlled by Zionist Jews "Oh, Allah, destroy America as it is controlled by Zionist Jews...Allah will avenge, in the name of his Prophet, the colonialist settlers who are the descendents of monkeys and pigs..." Ikrima Sabri, the Mufti of the Palestinian Authority, (from a weekly sermon in the Al-Aksa Mosque in Jerusalem). Voice of Palestine, July 11, 1997.

Arafat: "The two people, Iraqi and Palestinian, are together in the same trench." Arafat sends his blessings to the brother Iraqi people. "[A PA leader]...expressed President Arafat's blessings to the brother Iraqi people and its leadership, since the two people, Iraqi and Palestinian, are together in the same trench." Al-Quds, [Nov. 30, 1997]

In a public statement, Fatah, headed by Arafat, has called upon all Arab forces to unite to aid Iraq. They denounced the American escalation and asked the U.N. to find a peaceful solution to the fabricated crisis. "The Fatah movement called upon all the official and popular Arab forces to unite in order to face the challenge confronting the entire Arab nation and in order to end the suffering of the brother Iraqi people, who has never been stingy in sacrificing for Palestine and in defending the Arab nation as a whole. In a public statement published yesterday by the movement the Fatah expressed its denunciation of the latest American escalation and called on the UN to accept responsibility, put an end to this escalation, and find a peaceful solution to the fabricated crisis against Iraq..." Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, November 12, 1997
Following the attacks on the WTC and the Pentagon, President George Bush called for a Coalition to help him wage his "War on Terror." Colin Powell wants Yasser Arafat, as the President of the Palestinian Legislative Authority, to join, and Yasser Arafat really wants to be a part of that coalition.

What is wrong with this picture? How is it that the United States government could possibly invite the master terrorist of the age and the States who are among the most rabid sponsors of terror, to join in a coalition in a war against terror? To anyone who knows any of the details of even a few of the many crimes that have been perpetrated by Arafat, Syria, and Iran over the last thirty-plus years, this is not only a very sick joke—it is a very serious cause for concern. It begins to look as if George Bush's War on Terror is meant to be nothing more than the biggest, noisiest, most expensive "photo op" since World War II.

There is no doubt that President George Bush made his call for a war on terror with the best will in the world, and the American people responded in kind, as they have at every time in their history. However, as much as it pains this author, it must be said that the underlying causes for terror, and the interests that support it, have not changed. Big business—the international corporations, and the Arab States they do business with—will not, and cannot support this war. Very simply put, it is not in their interest to do so.

Every State that joins President Bush's Coalition will have access to the same level of intelligence, and they will have their own interests to protect and pursue through the coalition. Every corporation that does business with any State in the Coalition and any State that is termed a "Sponsor of Terrorism" will also have its say in how this war is pursued.

This may be a war, but it is going to be a disaster, along the lines of Vietnam and the Persian Gulf War. It will be a disaster because the same interests that support and encourage terrorism will be the ones running the show.

In my article, The Misunderstood Object of War, I used the definition of war according to Von Clauswitz: "The object of war is to destroy the enemy's will and ability to wage war." Put very simply, the side that lacks the will and the ability to win the war will loose.

The United States has the ability to win this war, but despite the expressed willingness of the American people to wage this war, it lacks the national will to do so. There are just too many conflicts of interest.

Gary Showalter is a novelist and independent journalist, specializing in political issues surrounding the Middle East. Recent articles by the author include:
Strategic Terror Attacks within the United States
Tactical Terror Attacks within the United States
The Misunderstood Object of War
The Long View
A Rumor of Democracy

Article copyright © Gary Showalter; all rights reserved
related resources

| r e a d i n g |

On War; Karl Von Clausewitz, Carl Von Clausewitz, Anatol Rapoport; ISBN: 0140444270

The Art of War; Sun Tzu, Samuel B. Griffith; ISBN: 0195014766

A Book of Five Rings; Miyamoto Musashi, Victor Harris; ISBN: 0517415283

The Prince; Niccolo Machiavelli, Daniel Donno; ISBN: 0553212788

Strategy; Basil Henry Liddell Hart, B. H. Liddell Hart, Basil H. Liddell-Hart; ISBN: 0452010713

Combating Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear Terrorism: A Comprehensive Strategy (A Report of the Csis Homeland Defense Project); Frank J. Cilluffo, Sharon L. Cardash, Gordon Nathaniel Lederman; ISBN: 0892063890

Terrorism, Asymmetric Warfare, and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Defending the U.S. Homeland; Anthony H. Cordesman; ISBN: 0275974278

How Did This Happen? Terrorism and the New War; Gideon Rose, James F. Hoge Jr.; ISBN: 1586481304

The Age of Terror: America and the World After September 11; Strobe Talbot, Nayan Chanda ; ISBN: 0465083560

Terrorism, Asymmetric Warfare, and Weapons of Mass Destruction: Defending the U.S. Homeland; Anthony H. Cordesman; ISBN: 0275974278

Insurgency & Terrorism: Inside Modern Revolutionary Warfare; Bard E. O'Neill, Edward C. Meyer; ISBN: 1574883356

What Went Wrong: Western Impact and Middle Eastern Response; Bernard Lewis; ISBN: 0195144201

Scourge: The Once and Future Threat of Smallpox; Jonathan B. Tucker; ISBN: 0871138301

The New Face of Terrorism: Threats from Weapons of Mass Destruction; Nadine Gurr, Benjamin Cole; ISBN: 1860644600

Holy War, Inc.: Inside The Secret World of Osama Bin Laden; Peter L. Bergen; ISBN: 0743205022

From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine; Joan Peters; ISBN: 0963624202

Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence (Comparative Studies in Religion and Society); Mark Juergensmeyer; ISBN: 0520223012

Economic Sanctions and American Diplomacy; Richard Haass, Council on Foreign Relations; ISBN: 0876092121

Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy; Paul R. Pillar, Michael H. Armacost; ISBN: 0815700040

Insurgency & Terrorism: Inside Modern Revolutionary Warfare;Bard E. O'Neill, Edward C. Meyer; ISBN: 1574883356

The Ultimate Terrorists; Jessica Stern; ISBN: 0674617908

The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the Future of Terrorism; Simon Reeve; ISBN: 1555534074

The Quest for Cosmic Justice; Thomas Sowell; ISBN: 0684864622

Barbarians Inside the Gates: And Other Controversial Essays (Hoover Institution Press Publication, No. 450); Thomas Sowell; ISBN: 081799582X

A Conflict of Visions; Thomas Sowell; ISBN: 0688079512

Knowledge and Decisions; Thomas Sowell; ISBN: 0465037380

Conquests and Cultures: An International History; Thomas Sowell; ISBN: 0465014003

Between Vengeance and Forgiveness: Facing History After Genocide and Mass Violence; Martha Minow; ISBN: 0807045071

An Ethic for Enemies: Forgiveness in Politics; Donald W., Jr. Shriver; ISBN: 0195119169

Truth v. Justice; Robert I. Rotberg, Dennis Thompson; ISBN: 0691050724

Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals; Gary Jonathan Bass; ISBN: 069104922X

Triumph of Disorder: Islamic Fundamentalism, the New Face of War; Morgan Norval; ISBN: 0965121313

Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists; Benjamin Netanyahu; ISBN: 0374524971

Origins of Terrorism: Psychologies, Ideologies, Theologies, States of Mind; Walter Reich, Walter Laqueur; ISBN: 0943875897

From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine; Joan Peters; ISBN: 0963624202

Terror in the Mind of God: The Global Rise of Religious Violence (Comparative Studies in Religion and Society); Mark Juergensmeyer; ISBN: 0520223012

Economic Sanctions and American Diplomacy; Richard Haass, Council on Foreign Relations; ISBN: 0876092121

Altering U.S. Sanctions Policy: Final Report of the CSIS Project on Unilateral Economic Sanctions (CSIS Report); Douglas Johnston, Sidney Weintraub, Csis Project on Unilateral Economic Sanctions; ISBN: 0892063521Social Exclusion (Issues in Society); D. S. Byrne; ISBN: 0335199747

The Culture of Inequality; Michael Lewis; ISBN: 0870238574

Culture and Equality: An Egalitarian Critique of Multiculturalism; Brian Barry; ISBN: 0674004469

| u s e n e tg r o u p s |








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| w e b s i t e s |

Lessons of War (thinkQuest)

Lessons of War: Discussion Forum (thinkQuest)

The Thirty-Six Strategies of Ancient China

An Introduction to Sun-tzu and the Art of War (Univ of Florida)

The Sun-tzu in English and Chinese (the China Page)

Strategic Information Warfare: A New Face of War; Roger C. Molander, Andrew S. Riddile, Peter A. Wilson; Rand Publications

The Korean War (Air University Library Publications)

The Cold War Science & Technology Studies Program (Carnegie Mellon University)

. . . . . . . . . .

US Commission on National Security

Securing the National Homeland Discussion Forum (US Commission on Nat'l Security)

National Security Agency

Office of Homeland Security (White House)

Subcommittee on Terrorism and Homeland Security (US Gov)

Defense Technical Information Center (US Dept of Defense)

DefenseLINK (Official Website of the US Dept of Defense)

Response to Terrorism (US Dept. of State)

Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism (US Dept of State)

GAO Reports: Homeland Security (US General Accounting Office)

US Immigration & Naturalization Service (USINS INS)

. . . . . . . . . .

National Security Institute: Counter Terrorism

Terrorism Research Center

The International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism

Jane's Information Group

Jane's Regional Security Digest

Homeland Security and Defense (Business Week publication)

Center for Security Policy

ANSER Institute for Homeland Security

Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

Center For Strategic & International Studies

Regional Centre for Strategic Studies

The Henry L. Stimson Center

Adm. Blair on Regional Security, Fight Against Terrorism (US Dept of State)

The Army and Homeland Security: A Strategic Perspective... (US Army War College)

(*see our resource directory for add'l resources)

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