Four dead in Madrid

One police officer and three suspected terrorists are dead after an explosion in Madrid. Reports are that the suspects set off an explosion as police closed on the building, as part of an operation in connection with the ongoing investigations into the March 11th bombs in Madrid.

22 thoughts on “Four dead in Madrid

  1. My reading is that this is the police closing in on the tail of the ring, rather than the begining of a campaign: but I could be wrong.

    ie this is the end of the begining, not the begining of the end.

  2. I guess Spain’s Socialists better start making their plans for the ceremony honoring the turn-over of Andalucia to the Moors . . . .

  3. So far, Spain’s security services seem to have done a pretty effective job of rounding up those implicated in the Madrid atrocity and placing explosives to blow up the high-speed rail line between Madrid and Seville.

    By reports, those implicated originally came from Morocco and Tunisia. But I somehow doubt any constructive purpose would be achieved by bombing or invading those countries. If anything, the reverse is much more likely.

    Remember this?

    “The US is making plans to fight a war against Iraq without Britain if domestic pressure forces Prime Minister Tony Blair to back out of a US-led conflict, US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said today [12 March 2003]” – from: http://www.theage.com.au/cgi-bin/common/popupPrintArticle.pl?path=/articles/2003/03/12/1047145005155.html

    If Britain’s support for the Iraq war was so readily dispensable, how come Spain’s support has become so essential? Could it just be that developments in Iraq aren’t going quite as well as Rumsfeld expected?

    “The Bush administration has received a warning from two senior senators that Iraq faces the possibility of civil war. . . ” – from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/3599909.stm

  4. I’m not sure that pre-war analysis and post war analysis is the same. Spain was never important to Iraq from a military point of view. They were important from a ‘Europe is participating’ point of view. The fact that the terrorists credibly claim to have scared Spain off is the problem. (And please, before yelling at me for being unfair to the Spanish people, please notice how I formulated the previous sentence.) The withdrawn Spanish troops, in and of themselves, were not militarily crucial.

  5. Sebastion – But Rumsfeld was seriously suggesting the US could and would make the Iraq war alone without British troops.

    As for Spain’s support, all the news I’ve read of opinion polls in Spain reported large majorities among the Spanish people against the Iraq war, as did similar polls in most mainland European countries regardless of whether their governments supported the war or not.

    Even in Britain, public opinion has been fairly evenly divided. FWIW most Europeans were not convinced by the case made for the war and certainly didn’t believe the war would stop terrorism, as it has not. And those of us who follow the US news know about the Bush administration starting to plan for the Iraq war on coming into office in January 2001, months before 9-11.

    We have also read about how Rumsfeld wanted to bomb Iraq on 9-12 because it had better targets than Afghanistan and that despite all the intelligence linking 9-11 to al-Qaeda with its safehaven in Afghanistan. Frankly, I believe most Europeans regard the Bush administration as stark staring loony, to put it politely.

  6. All the more reason why people should fear America.

    And that’s good.

    Frankly, the “discovery” that the Bush Administration was planning a war in Iraq prior to 9/11 is no news to me. I distinctly remember reading about it in many different – public – sources. It all seems strange to me that people are now shocked by it, but I’ll write that off as a case of willful ignorance. So I’m also pretty sure that they’re not interested in understanding the arguments behind those plans, either.

    I’m glad the world dislikes the US now. Hopefully, – if there will be a more benign administration in the White House – others in the world would think twice about fanning anti-Americanism again, remembering these Bush years…

    Nah! It’ll never happen. They’ll exercise their bigotry anyway.

    So it really doesn’t matter what the US does, as we alone will always lose in the “court” of world opinion. And that essentially translates into freedom to act unilaterally.

  7. So it really doesn’t matter what the US does, as we alone will always lose in the “court” of world opinion. And that essentially translates into freedom to act unilaterally.

    How is this different from, say, “it really doesn’t matter what the Soviet Union does, as we alone will always lose in the ‘court’ of world opinion. And that essentially translates into freedom to act unilaterally”?

  8. The only reason the Soviet Union could not act unilaterally was not because of world opinion, but because the US was a counterbalance, so they never had the freedom to act unilaterally.

    The analogy doesn’t hold.

    There is really no counterbalance to the US now, other than world opinion. But if anti-American bigotry is a constant, then world opinion becomes irrelevant.

    This, by the way, is one of the underlying motifs that runs through all the neocon thinking throughout the nineties (developed during the Clinton years, when conservatives were out of power). It was a response to a growing sense that America was being treated unfairly, even as the American capitalist/consumerist model was the one that won the Cold War.

    That, of course, irritates the neo-socialists of Europe. Oddly enough, the model doesn’t threaten them, but it does invalidate their claim to moral superiority, as the social welfare states continue to freeride on top of the more successful model across the Atlantic.

  9. RSN: “The only reason the Soviet Union could not act unilaterally was not because of world opinion, but because the US was a counterbalance, so they never had the freedom to act unilaterally.”

    That interpretation of history is Orwellian. Fact is that the US was manifestly unwilling to accept the risks of countering the Soviet suppression of popular uprisings in East Germany in 1953 and in Hungary in 1956 or the unilateral bid for national freedom in Czecho-Slovakia during the Prague Spring of 1968. Nor did the US prevent the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in 1979.

    However, the US can claim credit for having unilaterally helped Saddam to become the despotic ruler of Iraq in the late 1970s and there is also that engaging press photo in circulation of Rumsfeld warmly shaking Saddam’s hand in 1984.

    The Helsinki accords of the mid 1970s and their downstream did far more to encourage dissident movements in the Soviet Bloc in Europe than US military might and unilateralism. By making dissident movements the focus of international attention the Soviets were inhibited in the scale of repression it was possible to apply without attracting international disgust which detracted from Soviet propaganda efforts to win hearts and minds. As progress of a kind, the Soviets took to consigning persistent dissidents to mental health hospitals instead of the gulags.

    “irritates the neo-socialists of Europe”

    IMO Americans will never undertand the European psyche until they come to recognise that state welfare systems in Western Europe and traditions of dirigisme in managing national economies have little to do with the traditional Left/Right split in politics.

    Mainstream centre-right parties have generally been as committed to preserving welfare systems and state invention in markets as parties of the centre-left. The live political issues have been about scale of provision or intervention, not about the principle.

    The poor laws of the reign of Elizabeth I in England were intended to provide social safety nets after Henry VIII had dispossessed the monasteries, while Bismarck in Germany has the credit for introducing a state pension scheme. None of that was inspired by notions of “socialism” and had far more to do with maintaining well ordered communities. Traditions of dirigisme in economic affairs long predate industrialisation in England and France.

    The significance of this is not some gratuitous lesson in European history but an insight into why it has proved so difficult to change course in Europe towards market liberalisation. The reason Mrs Thatcher became such a controversial figure in British politics is because her governments broke the conventions which had bound previous Conservative governments. Harold Macmillan, an earlier Conservative prime minister, who had good personal relations with both Eisenhower and Kennedy, described the privatization of state-owned industries in Britain by Thatcher’s governments as like “selling the family silver.”

    As for wars, Europe has had centuries of experience. An American researcher has made an instructive comparison between the American trauma from the scale of casualties in the Vietnam war of c. 58,000 killed and the battle of Waterloo of 1815, in the Napoleon Wars (1793-1815), where the total casualty rate was more than 6,000 an hour: http://napoleonic-literature.com/WE/Casualties.htmlhttp://napoleonic-literature.com/WE/Casualties.html

  10. Bob:

    “IMO Americans will never undertand the European psyche until they come to recognise that state welfare systems in Western Europe and traditions of dirigisme in managing national economies have little to do with the traditional Left/Right split in politics.

    Mainstream centre-right parties have generally been as committed to preserving welfare systems and state invention in markets as parties of the centre-left. The live political issues have been about scale of provision or intervention, not about the principle.”

    Bob,

    As a European citizen (Belgian), I thank you for writing these clear words!
    I hope every (right) American blogger reads these words one, twice, and over again, and thinks twice before immediately dismissing Europe as “communist”.

    I totally agree, the welfare state is absolutely not an exclusive left issue in Western-Europe. The social welfare state is not controversial, it is a structural part of most Western European countries and simply a matter of fact as to how the state should be organised, not a topic of discussion, even for the extreme right. It’s real funny, because the only time I read the words “commmunist” and “Europeans” in one sentence, is when American bloggers comment Europe. In Europe, no one would call anyone a commie when talking about welfare support, because it’s simply accepted. The idea of a social welfare system has been totally disconnected from any communist inspiration: the general idea of a welfare system is more than just about distributing wealth: it’s about making sure that noone falls out, when they end up in (financial) problems or lose their jobs. Just as in America, this system does not prevent the rich from getting even richer (partly ironic).

    The only point of discussion with regard to it, is how broad it should cover people’s needs and how much money should be put into it. But even then, the right still favors an efficient and inclusive welfare support over the “tough luck when you drop out” system in America.

  11. Hello, greetings from Madrid.

    I would like to share my point of view of what is happening in Madrid since 11-M. I am sure news from here are reaching you wherever you are, but anyway here it is my comment:

    11-M was a shock for many of us. There has been terrorism in Spain for decades, mainly from ETA, GRAPO and other groups, but not in such indiscriminate and massive way.

    It also had political consecuences, not just because it reminded many of us how millions of spaniards took the streets a year ago against Irak war and Spanish direct implication and it wasn’t taken into account; but maybe also because of how the government managed the crisis until the elections day on Mars 14th.

    The elected party and future president, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, promised (something that can be read in its electoral program) to bring back Spanish troops from Irak before June 30 if UN doesn’t take control of the Irak situation.

    We still are to see if this happens, since it seems to me an “opposition party promise” rather than a “gobernment party promise”. But he must be coherent with this promise since the population, and his voters, is mainly against Irak occupation.

    The deactivation of a bomb in the High Speed Railway from Madrid to Seville, and also the explosion that killed at least five terrorists last day has increased our insecurity feelings.
    Also, Al-Qaeda has sent a fax to a spanish diary where it is said that there will be more blood if Spanish troops are retired from Irak and Afghanistan before April, 4th.

    But besides the insecurity feeling, we also can confirm the good job of the Spanish security services: 26 persons arrested in relation with 11-M terrorist act, an outrage frustrated and many other potential damage prevented since the terrorists dead last April 3rd, were ready to strike again. Police is now to find the International connections of the arrested and dead terrorists and to capture three other who ran away from the police operation.

    Security has been increased in the public transport services, where police is now visible for the first time in history (before, there was private security). And in this point we are. Many of us afraid to take trains, buses, or subways, and watching with fear backpacks and luggages. But we must confide in the police and the good work they are doing. We surely must expect some freedom restrictions in order to improve the security, but that is the price to pay to recover some quietness. Anyway I’ll keep taking the train I always use to go back home, from Atocha. And I’ll keep planning my Easter holidays trip by train to Vitoria, in the Basque Country, since living with fear is no living.

    What would the future bring to Madrid? Personally, I think the Irak occupation was a mistake but the damage is done and we can not just leave the problem there. Spanish troops must be brought back if the UN doesn’t takes the control of Irak, although who knows if Irak people will make difference between UN troops or Coalition troops.
    But I believe terrorism can not be faced this way. I have no answers, but what I’ve seen since Irak occupation is that Violence generates more Violence. What it was told to us, that Irak occupation was to prevent us from international terrorism, from that evil forces with massive destruction weapons has proven to produce quite the opposite: More terror.

    Regards from Madrid.

  12. Bill – We must keep plugging away in the hope that enlightenment will eventually come.

    Tx: “I have no answers”

    Thanks for those insights from Madrid.

    The starting point for solving the Iraq problem is for the Bush administration and the Neocons in America to acknowledge that they badly screwed up and that hopefully before too many more lives are lost.

  13. Will somebody please, finally, have the intellectual honesty to acknowledge that the Spanish socialist party’s policy was not to send troops to Iraq in the first place – months ago – and to withdraw them in the event they were sent. They did not come up with it between the bombing and the election. Facts, facts..

  14. Bob, you’re revisionist views on what led to the collapse of the Soviet Union are astounding. But I take it that your only interest is in fanning anti-American hatred, so you will stoop to gross distortion of history in order to achieve that goal.

    As to the notion that European social welfare state are communist, no, I don’t think many Americans believe that. However, there is one good reason why successive American administrations have looked the other way when social democratic parties vied for power in western Europe during the Cold War: they were always seen as a bulkward against the various national communist parties, the lesser of two evils, essentially. In other words, they split the vote of the left. That was why American global strategists did not mind opening up US markets to European products, even though they were initially mostly subsidized by western European welfare states.

    Anything to get Europe hooked to the good life. And it worked: even eastern Europe wound up longing for the lifestyle of the west.

    But now that communism has collapsed, it behooves all of us to examine the economic underpinnings of social welfare states, and all the evidence seems to point out that, if cut off from America, they actually are quite unviable economic entities that are mired in constant stagnation and no-and-low growth, if not for the fact that their economies reap the benefits of trade with that free-market, capitalist powerhouse across the ocean.

    Try as you might want to rationalize it, you still don’t have the demographics to achieve the necessary growth without addressing the issue of dismantling a significant portion of present-day welfare protections.

    Ah well, it really doesn’t matter. Market forces have a way of righting what is wrong anyway. It will be a long and slow slide, and it will cause a lot of social pain. But we can all be sure of one thing: America will be made the scapegoat for all of Europe’s ills.

    All the more reason for Americans not to take European opinion seriously, simply because Europe cannot be trusted to be unbiased.

    This blogsite, of course, provides ample evidence of that.

  15. RSN:

    The only reason the Soviet Union could not act unilaterally was not because of world opinion, but because the US was a counterbalance, so they never had the freedom to act unilaterally.

    Ah, but the USSR acted unilaterally within its sphere, and sometimes quite dramatically outside of its sphere despite the opposition of anti-Soviet powers–Cuba, Vietnam, and Ethiopia all come to mind.

    That said, if the Soviet Union tried anything too destabilizing–invading Yugoslavia or Iran, say, or deploying missiles in Cuba–it was slapped down by a fairly broad global coalition.

    There is really no counterbalance to the US now, other than world opinion. But if anti-American bigotry is a constant, then world opinion becomes irrelevant.

    First point: “now” isn’t eternal, you know. As it is, the failure to establish a particularly secure coalition occupying Iraq has both undercut the operation’s legitimacy and jeopardized its long-term survival.

    Second point: If criticism, fair or unfair, of the United States becomes a constant, then the transaction costs for US public and private actors will rise considerably, putting it at the disadvantage of countries and individuals lacking its problems.

  16. RSN: “Bob, you’re revisionist views on what led to the collapse of the Soviet Union are astounding. But I take it that your only interest is in fanning anti-American hatred, so you will stoop to gross distortion of history in order to achieve that goal.”

    For the record:

    – I’ve not expressed any views as to what led to the eventual (welcome IMO) collapse of the Soviet Union and the Communist regimes in its satellites in Europe.

    – There is no inconsistency between being pro-America, supportive of the NATO alliance and critical of the present Bush administration, as many Americans are. I’m indebted to Brad Delong for this following observation:

    “George H.W. Bush had three main accomplishments as president to his credit: the first big steps to eliminate the Reagan budget deficits (through the 1990 Budget Enforcement Act, tax increases, and discretionary spending caps), strong support for open-society reformers rather than authoritarians in Russia, and the construction of a broad U.S.-led coalition to enforce international law.

    “George W. Bush has revived Reagan’s deficits, strongly supported Putin’s shift back toward a much more authoritarian politics in Russia, and broken George H.W. Bush’s coalition into shards.

    “It’s hard for me at least not to see George W. Bush’s actions as, at some level, a message to his father: ‘See Dad? See? I’ve broken everything you built!'” – from: http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/2004_archives/000573.html

  17. The reason why American unilateralism played no role in the fall of the USSR was that it was trivial back then–nearly every major endeavor of the US government during the Cold War was carried in conjuction with a host of allies in the affected region. And by allies, I mean the largest regional powers–NATO [en masse], CENTO, NATO+SEATO–big permanent things with deliberative bodies, not ad hoc groupings.

    RSN’s dismissal of world opinion overlooks a few crucial points: one is, the importance of magnitude, and two, diffusion of interests among elites. A common problem is that a lot of people here (in the USA) tend to brush off the matter by saying “they hate us anyway” in reference to the Middle East, Latin America, and so on. Folks, most of the time this ain’t so. Most people don’t spend that much time fulminating with wrath towards anybody–no foolin’.

    Second, in a developed nation, bigotry towards a foreign country normally takes a back seat to consumer preference. Speaking as yet another Yank, I get furious when companies use their monopoly power to screw me over, and to my inexpressible surprise, it turns out Europeans are the same way. Neither the EU nor the US are really market economies at all–most sectors are dominated by oligopolies, and until that is remedied, the consumers of any country will be at odds with their domestic producers. Similarly, heads of state and ruling parties lose opportunies if their people conceive a passionate animosity for another country.

    But in a predicament where elites in business or government are the affronted ones–that is new, and that is different. So Mario Monti nixed the GE-Honeywell merger and it annoyed Jack Welch–we at United Airlines practically built a shrine to St Mario. We were thrilled that our supply of parts wasn’t going to come from a monopoly. Similarly, while some US legislators might have been annoyed by an EU suit in the WTO, in some cases it might actually be welcomed if the region is disproportionately affected by Washington trade policies. That’s how things normally operate in the civilized world, and as a long-time avid reader of business magazines, I can assure you it’s vital to the sort of orderly international relations in which America thrives.

    It is this sort of diffusion of interests–European airlines who root for Boeing and American insurance carriers who root for Munich Re.–that gets shot to hell by “unilateralism.” In my gloomy opinion, the reason why this has failed to deter the Bush Administration and its boosters in business is that my country is becoming Sovietized. The GOP uses the NED/IRI to bypass campaign funding restrictions, large businesses own the media and own the GOP, and the GOP can control the legislative agenda no matter what the voters say–state, party and enterprise purr like three gears meshing along nicely.

    Lubricated by this cool new xenophobia, of course.

  18. James: “Most people don’t spend that much time fulminating with wrath towards anybody–no foolin’.”

    I’m sure that is true and don’t detect any wave of xenophobia in Europe directed towards Americans. The instinctive reaction to 9-11 was one of horror followed by sympathy, certainly among Londoners who had experience of the bombing in WW2, as news reports bear out: http://msnbc.msn.com/id/3080846/

    The reflective among Europeans recognise that supporters of the Bush administration in America have a powerful vested interest in an election year in painting any criticism of the administration by non-Americans as xenophobic to discredit it – the familiar “label and smear” technique so often applied by the Soviets.

    Europeans really aren’t that dumb. Many of us here follow the international news and we read reports on the web. We know that many Americans are hugely critical of the Bush administration, including members of Congress, and it’s not difficult to find links to substantiate that.

    Calling European critics of the Bush administration “Commies” or welfare junkies just verges on the sad. We had a thread a while back on welfare systems and could doubtless start another – a good starting point would be “Taxing the poor to pay the poor” in last Saturday’s The Economist (subscription only) – but that is not the main issue here.

    Btw I lived through WW2 in inner London dodging bombs. A vivid personal memory is being awaken early by my father on the morning of 6 June 1944 at about 6 o/c to watch the war planes – bombers, fighters, transports and gliders – flying low over south London on their way to the Normandy beaches. Of course, we didn’t know their destination for sure at the time but it was certain the long expected invasion had started. Perhaps readers will therefore understand if I don’t take it too kindly to be told that I lack the whatever to withstand terrorist threats – especially when in the weeks following D-Day, a V1 flying bomb, the precusor of cruise missiles, landed down one end of the road where I lived then, and later a V2 ballistic rocket landed at the other.

  19. Randy:

    “If criticism, fair or unfair, of the United States becomes a constant, then the transaction costs for US public and private actors will rise considerably, putting it at the disadvantage of countries and individuals lacking its problems.”

    Again, the transaction costs are also reduced for the US by the fact that unilateralism, in effect, is cheaper, while multilateralism (Kyoto, the UN, NATO) has only been a disproportionately unfair financial and political burden on the US.

    James:

    It’s tiresome to hear of the GOP branded as an agent for monolithic “Sovietization” – and I’m a Democrat myself. It’s also inaccurate to describe mass media in the US being in control of such agents, as the media in the US is largely composed of talent and authors usually veering left-of-center.

    As to the collapse of the Soviet Union, that was finally brought on by Reagan’s quite unilateral deficit spending, which essentially bankrupted Russia. Andropov, in his brief tenure as party chairman, saw the writing on the wall, and pushed for a younger generation of leaders, such as Gorbachev, when it became clear that the US was simply going to outspend the Soviets in missiles and arms. In the end, communism was done in by capitalism simply because capitalism could always borrow money from capital markets – an impossibility for a command economy.

    But you are right that consumer interests come first, and will determine choice. Develop that line a little further, however, and you’ll see that the tendency in itself is a reason “oligarchies”, as you put it, are vulnerable. Public anger at overreaching corporations is a viable force which tempers a lot of corporate conduct. Yet we are all shareholders, one way or another, in the fortunes of these corporations, so it is quite counterproductive to create environments that are detrimental to their functioning.

    Debating corporate governance is as important as debating state governance.

    What you’ve skirted, though, is the issue of why there is a concerted anti-American campaign in European academia and mass media, which actually pre-dates 9/11, and the Bush administration. And the answer lies in the dependent-status of welfare states on the American economic juggernaut, which continues to irritate Europe, and fuels anti-American bigotry to such an extent that even people like Bob cannot step outside of the stream, and see its existence.

  20. [T]he transaction costs are also reduced for the US by the fact that unilateralism, in effect, is cheaper, while multilateralism (Kyoto, the UN, NATO) has only been a disproportionately unfair financial and political burden on the US.

    Right. So, would you say that the current chaos in Iraq wouldn’t look a bit better, or would less frequently be used (whether fairly or unfairly) against the US alone, if it was achieved under UN or NATO supervision?

    If the United States, as a power, decides to consistently act unilaterally, it will firstly find that transaction costs will be increased. Imagine if the WTO and GATT is gone, and international trade is conducted mainly through bilateral ties, mainly between blocs. Would American trade be helped that way?

    Regardless, if the United States is seen as a destabilizing force sooner or later it will provoke coalitions aimed at restraining its ability to act outside normal bounds. If its leadership wants a hostile world, fine; the same leadership just shouldn’t expect the rest of the world to go along with the United States.

    That would be a pity. Unlike many Americans currently in power, it seems, I don’t hate the US, and I certainly don’t want the world to hate it.

    As to the collapse of the Soviet Union, that was finally brought on by Reagan’s quite unilateral deficit spending, which essentially bankrupted Russia.

    I’m going to ask for cites, here. Web or dead-tree will work equally well.

    In the end, communism was done in by capitalism simply because capitalism could always borrow money from capital markets – an impossibility for a command economy.

    Ah, so Poland, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia never borrowed money from Western banks after all.

    a concerted anti-American campaign in European academia and mass media

    Throughout your posting history, you’ve systematically conflated fair criticism with unfair criticism, natural resentment of what the consequences of what the US does with a resentment based on unchanging hatred. It would be too much to expect you to try to look at realities, I suppose.

  21. RSN: “What you’ve skirted, though, is the issue of why there is a concerted anti-American campaign in European academia and mass media, which actually pre-dates 9/11, and the Bush administration. And the answer lies in the dependent-status of welfare states on the American economic juggernaut, which continues to irritate Europe, and fuels anti-American bigotry to such an extent that even people like Bob cannot step outside of the stream, and see its existence.”

    That is pure paranoidal fantasy.

    The most potent and convincing critique of American policy comes from Americans – as you can easily confirm from reading around American blogs and journalism.

    For example, on the cost of the Iraq war, just in the news:

    ‘According to economics professor William Nordhaus of Yale University, these costs are: “a significant burden on the federal budget, another straw on the camel’s back.

    “The major problem is the Bush administration’s unwillingness to face up to the need to finance any of the additional costs, whether the war in Iraq, homeland security, or most important of all the new Medicare provisions,” he says.

    “Like a teenager who gets further in debt on a credit card, the Bush administration is racking up costs that will have to be paid in the future in higher taxes or lower government programs.

    “The fiscal irresponsibility is really awesome.”

    – from: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3603923.stm

    The currently most extensive exposition and defence of the welfare state in European countries comes from an American academic, Peter Lindert of the University of California, Davis, author of: Growing Public Social Spending Growth Since the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge UP, 2004), the subject of the economic focus article in last Saturday’s The Economist, which I mentioned earlier.

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