We carried out Lahore attack: Mehsud
Lahore, March 31: The prime suspect in a terrorist assault on a police academy near Lahore has revealed that all his accomplices were Afghans and information provided by him has led to the arrest of some ‘local facilitators’, investigators said on Tuesday.
Gul Khan alias Ishrat Khan, a bearded man in his twenties, who was captured by Pakistan security forces while trying to target helicopters near the training centre yesterday, is an operative of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and came to Lahore a few months ago to carry out the attack, the officials probing the incident said.
“Khan belongs to Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud’s group and came to Lahore from Afghanistan a few months ago. He carried out the attack with his fellow countrymen in connivance with local facilitators,” Deputy Inspector General of Police Mushtaq Ahmed Sukhera, who is part of the investigation team, said.
“Acting on information gleaned from Khan, we have taken some facilitators into custody during raids in different areas early this morning,” Sukhera said.
He said that there appeared to be only five attackers -– three blew themselves up to avoid capture, one managed to escape and the fifth one was Khan.
Khan and his accomplices had rented a house in Manawan, where the training centre is located, a couple of weeks ago to prepare for the attack.
Sukhera, who is part of the team investigating the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore on March 3 that left eight persons dead and injured over 20 others, said Taliban commander Mehsud was also involved in that incident.
“Our investigations so far reveal that a well-trained group of 10 to 12 terrorists came from Waziristan and completed their mission with the help of local facilitators.
“They managed to flee after the successful completion of their mission.” Mehsud’s involvement in “anti-Pakistan activities” had increased in recent times, he said.
At least eight police recruits and a civilian were killed and over 90 others injured in yesterday’s attack on the police training centre at Manawan on the outskirts of Lahore. The siege of the centre ended when the terrorists involved were killed or captured after an eight-hour operation.
Meanwhile, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief, Behtullah Mehsud on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the audacious attack on the Manawar police training centre in Lahore which killed 27 people.
The responsibility was claimed by Farukh Mehsud, a close aide of Baitullah Mehsud, and leader of an obscure outfit Fidayeen-e-Islami. In a statement, he warned of more such attacks if the military operation in Pakistan’s tribal areas is not halted.
On Monday, Pak Interior Minister Rehman Malik had claimed that fighters loyal to Pakistani Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud were behind the attack. He added that the plan was made in South Waziristan area which is in the grip of Taliban violence.
Albania, Croatia Formally Join Nato Alliance
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on Wednesday formally welcomed Albania and Croatia as fully fledged allies, raising the total number of member states to 28, dpa reported.
“Today, Albania and Croatia have completed the accession process, and have joined the Alliance as members,” NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in a statement.
“I warmly congratulate them on this historic achievement. In becoming NATO members, Albania and Croatia share the benefits and responsibilities of collective security,” the alliance’s chief said.
The statement came shortly after the ambassadors of the two Central European countries handed over the “instruments of accession” during a ceremony in Washington. The bureaucratic act completed a year-long process involving the ratification of their accession by existing NATO allies.
The move allows Albanian Prime Minister Sali Berisha and Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader to join US President Barack Obama and other NATO leaders at the alliance’s 60th anniversary summit in Strasbourg, Baden Baden and Kehl on Friday and Saturday.
A flag-raising ceremony marking their accession is to be held at NATO headquarters in Brussels on April 7th.
“Albania and Croatia have worked very hard to meet alliance standards with regards to democracy and the state of their military,” NATO spokesman James Appathurai said earlier in Brussels.
The two countries, which are also aspiring to become European Union member, received a formal invitation to join NATO at last year’s summit in Bucharest.
“We’ve reached a goal we have been striving for 20 years,” Croatian Prime Minister Ivo Sanader said.
Albanian Defence Minister Gazmend Oketa said his country’s membership would be “a positive card which will help Albania to more rapidly approach the European Union.”
“We don’t consider membership in NATO as a final station but as a constant work process with duties and responsibilities,” Oketa told the Albanian news agency ATA.
Croatia’s accession had been threatened until only last week by a prolonged border dispute with NATO member Slovenia. The issue was finally resolved on Friday, when Slovenian President Danilo Turk signed a law paving the way for its accession.
Both Croatia and Slovenia emerged as independent countries from former Yugoslavia in 1991.
Speaking in Brussels, Appathurai said Croatia and Albania had both “overcome what was a difficult period in Balkan history.”
Albania and Croatia are already contributing to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission in Afghanistan, with 140 and 530 soldiers respectively.
Another member of the former Yugoslavia, Macedonia, has been prevented from joining the transatlantic alliance because of a name dispute with neighbouring Greece.
Wednesday, 1 April 2009
Croatia is becoming a full member of NATO at around 3pm when our ratification documents are stored in Washington, Croatia’s PM Sanader said.
ZAGREB, CROATIA – - Croatia will become a full member of NATO sometime after nine o’clock American Eastern Daylight Time, which is sometime after 5pm Croatian time, when our ratification instruments will be stored in Washington and at around 6pm I will speak with NATO Secretary-General by telephone – Croatia’s Prime Minister Ivo Sanader told a news conference in the government building on Wednesday.
He thanked all those who helped to achieve this Croatia’s foreign policy goal, primarily Croatian Homeland Defence War soldiers. As regards Croatia’s other goal, accession into the European Union, the prime minister said that EU’s enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn had cancelled his meeting with Croatian and Slovenian foreign ministers.
- I don’t know the reason. The meeting will be held after Easter, but today, Olli Rehn should be meeting the ‘Troika’, representatives of France, the Czech Republic and Sweden. We will see what will happen after that meeting. Perhaps it puts forward some new elements. We still insist on the separation of the two issues: the accession negotiations and the border dispute. I urge Slovenia to unblock negotiations on this day, when Croatia is entering NATO. I am not sure they will do so, but it would be really nice of them – Sanader concluded.
Noora, the brother of gangster Dawood Ibrahim, has died in Karachi, police sources said on Tuesday.
As per information received, Noora was reportedly suffering from a kidney ailment and died in Karachi where he has been buried, they said.
The brother of Dawood had fled from India prior to the 1993 serial blasts and was allegedly involved in handling the gangster’s links with the film industry.
However, his lawyer Rajeev Srivastav said Noora, whose official name is Noor-ul-Haq, had left the country around 1990 and died in Dubai.
“He was running a mall in Dubai and for the past fortnight had expressed interest in coming back to India to spend his last days here,” he said.
Srivastav claimed that Noora had sought to return to India in 2006 and had submitted his passport for renewal at the Indian Consulate in Dubai but was not given.
There were three cases of extortion pending against Noora in Mumbai courts and is also alleged to have been involved in the murder of a customs officer in 1998 in south Mumbai, Srivastav said.
He had also been named by an accused in a 2002 currency counterfeiting case in Delhi following which a notice had been issued by Interpol against him, he said.
London Windows of the Royal Bank of Scotland were smashed amid clashes between the police and thousands of protesters who converged in London on Wednesday to vent public anger over economic meltdown, recession and climate change before world leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, gathered for the G-20 Summit.
The RBS is one of the beleaguered banks that has been rescued by millions of pounds of state funds. Protesters also converged on the Bank of England in thousands with slogans such as ‘Swindlers List’, ‘Financial Fools day and ‘Storm the Banks’.
A security officer was injured when a protester hit him with a large pole, while several people were arrested in various parts of London as world leaders prepared for the one-day G-20 summit that starts on Thursday.
The protests were mainly prompted by anger at bankers’ role in the global economic meltdown, resulting in job cuts and major losses in the value of savings and pensions. Protests were also held outside the US embassy against the war in Iraq.
The largest demonstration was held outside
Will Iran and Russia Agree to Help Fill “Half-Full” Pipeline?
01. April 2009. | 10:56
By June 2009, the parties to the Nabucco project will sign an agreement on the building of the natural gas pipeline, Reinhard Mitschek, Managing Director of the consortium Nabucco Gas Pipeline International, told journalists on Friday.
The participants in the consortium, with an equal number of shares, are the Turkish company Botas, Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz, Romania’s Transgaz, Hungary’s MOL, Austria’s OMV and Germany’s RWE.
According to Mitschek, the gas crisis in January helped to approximate the positions of the individual countries on the project. Against the backdrop of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the significance of Nabucco is increasing. Expectations are by May to prepare the final version of the intergovernmental agreement, and to sign it in June, Mitschek said.
In the second half of the year, the first 8,000 million cubic metres of natural gas will be agreed for the pipeline to begin operation in 2014. Mitschek said that natural gas for Nabucco will be first provided mainly from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. Gas is also expected from Iraq, Iran, Egypt and Russia. The pipeline will be 3,300 km long, he said.
Nabucco will help diversify natural gas supplies and will ensure competitiveness of the gas market in Europe, Mitschek said.
Notice that the Brits have been pushing this “reconciliation” idea for 200 years.
“[Pakistan is a] Muslim state that could help to establish a defense community of Muslim states, and “show the way for reconciliation between the Western and Islamic model.”
By Ramtanu Maitra
31 March, 2009
This is the second and final installment of a two-part article; the first part appeared in the March 25 issue. Read Part I
Pakistan’s western provinces, Balochistan, the North West Frontier Province (NWFP), and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), are in the midst of a violent upheaval caused immediately by the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in the Winter of 2001. The U.S. invasion, which was joined later by a number of NATO countries, and some assistance from a few non-NATO nations, was designed to capture, or eliminate, the alleged masterminds behind the 9/11 attack in the United States, and also to remove the Afghan Taliban regime that had provided shelter to the al-Qaeda militants.
The invasion failed in the sense that the al-Qaeda militants moved eastward across the undefined Durand Line that separates Afghanistan from Pakistan, and the Afghan Taliban dispersed from Kabul and other cities, to rural areas where they have fully re-built themselves, posing a serious threat to the foreign troops inside Afghanistan.
The al-Qaeda militants, now inside Pakistan, began to carry out operations along the border areas inside Afghanistan to harass the foreign troops. They were soon joined by the tribal groups from FATA. Islamabad, under President Pervez Musharraf, which had joined the Bush Administration’s War on Terror, could not prevent its citizens along the border areas from opposing the War on Terror. As a result, a very difficult situation developed when Islamabad, under pressure from the Bush Administration’s hardliners, represented by Vice President Cheney, was forced to deploy troops and paramilitary forces to counter the FATA militants helpingthe Afghan Taliban.
Within a very short time, the situation worsened. Aided by Saudi funding, to spread Wahhabi-led jihadinside the tribal areas, and huge sums of cash generated
by the opium explosion inside Afghanistan, militants almost paralyzed the Pakistani troops inside the FATA, and Islamabad was unable to maintain law and order in the area. As it stands today, Islamabad’s writ is virtually lost in the FATA, and weakened vastly in Balochistan and the NWFP.
The Swat Valley, located at the northeastern part of the NWFP (Figure 1), has already become autonomous, and has imposed Wahhabi-style Islamic Sharia law, in violation of Pakistan’s constitution. For all practical purposes, Islamabad has handed the Swat Valley over to the Saudi-funded Wahhabis. Since all these developments have occurred within the short span of eight years, one wonders what caused such rapid deterioration.
Where are its roots?
The answers to that question can be found in the almost 60-plus years of British rule in that part of the Subcontinent, prior to the formation of Pakistan in 1947, and in the continuance of British colonial policy towards that area, by Pakistani leaders.
By pursuing the old colonial policy towards the Baloch people and the tribal areas, Pakistani leaders have opened a floodgate to various forces in Britain, who would like the area separated from Pakistan, to form a buffer between oil- and gas-rich Central Asia; to the Saudi-funded Wahhabis, who are on a rampage recruiting terrorists and setting up Islamic schools (madrassahs) to convert moderate Muslims to hard-core Salafism in Pakistan and Central Asia, with the plan to set up an Islamic Ummah (nation) under a caliphate; and the Americans, who with their short-term geopolitical objectives in mind, have formed self-destructive alliances with both the British and the Saudis.
British Raj in Balochistan
Much of Balochistan was under the control of the King of Iran and the autonomous principality of Kalat, a part of Balochistan, when the British wrested control away from the Khan of Kalat in the early 1840s. The British objective at the time, was to set it up as a staging ground for various Afghan-British wars that took place in the latter half of the 19th Century. The 1876 treaty between the Khan of Kalat and Robert Groves Sandeman, an administrative officer of the British Raj, accepted the independence of the Kalat as an allied state with British military outposts in the region, according to Pakistani historian Sudhir Ahmad Afridi.
After the 1878 Afghan War, the British established Balochistan as a provincial entity, centered on the municipality of Quetta, while Kalat, Makran, and Lasbella continued to exist as princely realms. It was evident that the British had the intention to keep various tribes with their feudal chiefs separated from one another, and except for a train track, and the development and settlement of British holdings, the tribal population was excluded from all economic activities.
Around the 1930s, Baloch nationalist parties emerged to fight for freedom from British rule. They took the princely state of Kalat as the focal point of a free and united Balochistan. Baglar Begi Khan declared the independence of
Kalat on Aug. 15, 1947. It was evident from the outset, that Baglar Begi Khan, a powerful chieftain, was not acting on his own. He had the support of Olaf Caroe, who was very knowledgeable about the area and was posted by the then-
Viceroy of the British Raj, Lord Wavell, as governor of the NWFP. Caroe, a quintessential colonialist, whose policy was to keep all groups divided and fighting each other, in order to assert control over them, had been foreign secretary in Delhi from 1939-46, serving two Viceroys, Linlithgow and Wavell. His objective was to forestall alleged Soviet expansionism in Afghanistan, Xinjiang, and the region of the Persian Gulf. Caroe defined his task as to insure that the “lengthening shadows from the north” (i.e., the Soviet Union), did not reach the “wells of power” (i.e., the oil wells of the Persian Gulf), nor cast a shadow over Afghanistan. Caroe agreed with Churchill’s concept at the time, that an independent entity in the northwest of India should remain linked to Britain, and serve as an area from which London could exercise its influence over
Afghanistan. In 1945, Churchill’s Cabinet debated the possibility of detaching Balochistan to maintain military bases there, in Quetta, the area of the Bolan Pass, and along the Makran coast near the entry of the Persian Gulf.
In March 1948, the Pakistani Army entered Balochistan, and forced Baglar Begi Khan to accede to Pakistan, ending the British game. Nonetheless, neither the
British, nor Olaf Caroe, could get over that “loss.” After his retirement from the British Foreign Office, Caroe toured the United States, speaking on behalf of the somewhat depleted British Empire. These lectures were later put together in the form of a book, The Wells of Power. He pointed out in his lectures that the Port of Karachi and the coastline of Balochistan (the Makran coast, through which the bulk of Afghan opium and heroin travels to Europe today), standing at the mouth the Persian Gulf, were “vital to British reckoning.”
Caroe’s Shadow and Policy in Force
Caroe went on to claim that the British base in India—now in Pakistan—had maintained stability in the Middle East since 1801, defying Tsar Paul’s ambitions. He said “the Indian anchor is lost,” but Pakistan, “a new India,” has emerged, a Muslim state that could help to establish a defense community of Muslim states, and “show the way for reconciliation between the Western and Islamic model.”
From the very outset, it was evident that that Pakistani leadership (at the beginning, it comprised of Urdu-speaking Muslim leaders who migrated from the
then-Indian state of United Province) had no understanding of the Baloch situation. They could neither speak the Baloch language, nor did they have any familiarity with the Baloch customs and traditions.
The annexation by force of Balochistan by Caroe’s “new India,” immediately provided the British, and the Baloch, a stick to beat up the Pakistani leaders from time to time. One of the descendants of Baglar Begi Khan, Khan Suleman Daud, the 35th Khan of Kalat, is still in Cardiff, Wales, and is seeking asylum in Britain.
In Britain, the 60th anniversary of the Pakistani invasion, annexation, and occupation of the independent state of Balochistan, was commemorated on April 1, 2008. The British intelligence-linked Amnesty International, and Soros-linked International Crisis Group, among others, were shouting themselves hoarse over the years on behalf of the British Crown about Pakistan’s human rights violations in Balochistan. The British news daily, The Guardian, claimed on that occasion, that Pakistan illegally occupies Balochistan, and Islamabad has looted Balochistan’s natural resource. It also said: “Thousands of Baloch people have been massacred, hundreds of thousands made refugees, and thousands more have disappeared or been tortured and jailed, often without trial. Pakistan is guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity.”
In June 2006, during President Musharraf’s regime, Pakistan’s Senate Committee on Defence accused British intelligence of “abetting the insurgency in the province bordering Iran” (Balochistan). Reports indicate that ten British MPs were in a closed-door session of the Committee, regarding the alleged support of Britain’s Secret Service to Baloch separatists.
The history of the British Empire indicates that Britain has not changed, and therefore, its present role in Balochistan is no surprise at all. But two other things happened to worsen the situation.
First, the American role: Having been manipulated into an anti-Iran policy, beginning in 1979, and then seizing upon the opportunity to whip the reckless
Soviet Army invading Afghanistan in 1979, Washington joined hands with the British, carrying all the dirty laundry. Washington brought in a lot of money to maintain the British assets, and to develop their own assets, whom they promptly dumped, after the Soviets turned tail in 1989. The outcome of this insane policy is now bearing fruit in Afghanistan and in the western part of Pakistan.
The Bush Administration, until its final days, backed the anti-Iran Jundullah terrorists who operate from Balochistan, while carrying drugs for the British and destabilizing Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S.-led War on Terror.
Pakistan’s Adoption of Colonial Policies
The other factor contributing to Pakistan’s deterioration, one which is perhaps even more important than the historic British role, was Islamabad’s adoption of the British policy in dealing with its citizens living along the Afghan borders. To begin with, instead of integratingBalochistan with the Republic in order to uproot a deep-rooted feudal system, which is sheltered by the British, Pakistan’s powers-that-be have treated their own citizens in Balochistan as unwanted foreigners.
In 1954, Islamabad merged the four provinces of West Pakistan—Balochistan, NWFP, Punjab, and Sindh—into “One Unit.” This was done to counter the population strength of East Pakistan (which later became Bangladesh). One Unit was formed without adequate dialogue and, as a result, an anti-One Unit movement emerged in Balochistan. To overcome this opposition, the Pakistani Army was deployed, and the Khan of Kalat was arrested, but not before the Baloch oppositionists to the One Unit had engaged the Pakistani Army in pitched battles.
In 1973, following his visit to Iran, then-Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, dismissed the elected provincial government of Balochistan. The pretext for dismissal was that a cache of 350 Soviet submachine guns and 100,000 rounds of ammunition had supposedly been discovered in the Iraqi attaché’s house, and were destined for Balochistan, according to Ray Fulcher in his Nov. 30, 2006 article, “Balochistan’s History of Insurgency.” Other reports indicate that Bhutto acted that way because the Shah of Iran, Reza Pahlavi, had warned him against allowing nationalist movements on Iran’s border.
The ensuing protest against the dismissal of the duly-elected government brought in another wave of the Pakistani Army—78,000 men, to be precise—supported by Iranian Cobra helicopters. The troops were resisted by some 50,000 Baloch. The conflict took the lives of 3,300 Pakistani troops, 5,300 Baloch, and thousands of civilians, Fulcher pointed out. That 1973 invasion created deep divisions between the Baloch people and Islamabad, and made the Baloch vulnerable to London’s machinations.
However, Islamabad’s British colonial-like policy towards Balochistan did not end in 1973. As the Baloch internal security situation deteriorated, following the
2001 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, Islamabad, under President Musharraf, began to become uneasy. Between December 2005, when the Pakistan military launched its most recent assault on Balochistan, and June 2006, more than 900 Baloch were killed, about 140,000 were displaced, 450 political activists (mainly from the Baloch National Party) disappeared, and 4,000 activists were arrested, some reports indicate. There were also reports that the Frontier Corps (FC)—a creation of the
British Raj that remained intact in Balochistan, the NWFP, and the FATA—has been responsible for indiscriminate rocket, artillery, and helicopter gunship attacks causing significant destruction of civilian areas.
FATA: The Legacy of Colonial Britain
The FATA, which borders Afghanistan, is now a hotbed of Wahhabi-influenced jihadi movements. It is divided into seven districts called agencies: Bajaur,
Mohmand, Khyber, Orakzai, Kurram, North Waziristan, and South Waziristan. The population of about 3 million is predominantly Pushtun and tribal. Contrast this with Pakistan’s total population of about 170 million, and it becomes clear that the FATA is very thinly populated; it also has a very rough terrain. The total Pushtun population in Pakistan and Afghanistan is about 36 million (31 million in Pakistan and 5 million in Afghanistan). Cross-border ties are strong, and movement is hardly restricted by the non-demarcated Durand Line, a line in the sand, drawn arbitrarily by the British Raj, more than a hundred years ago.
The NWFP, along with Balochistan, was brought under British control in 1880, after the second Afghan War (1878-80), when some of the Afghan areas were wrested from Afghanistan, which brought the British-controlled territories within 50 miles of Kabul. In 1893, the British Raj drew the Durand Line, which was never accepted by Kabul. Following that, the British divided up the Pushtun tribes within the Raj territory. Britain maintained at least 10,000 troops in the area, afraid that the tribes would break away.
The administrative system that prevails today, more than 60 years following the formation of Pakistan, is almost identical to that which originated under the British Raj. The FATA is officially under the President’s directive, who has empowered the governor of neighboring NWFP as his representative. The governor, in turn, appoints an “agent” for each agency of the FATA.
These agents are senior administrators in their region, and are governed by rules established by a British Act of Parliament in 1901. This set of rules is called the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR). The FCR comprises a set of laws enforced by the British Raj in the Pushtun-inhabited tribal areas in Northwest British India, as it was called then. The laws were devised especially to counter the fierce opposition of the Pushtuns to British rule; their main objective was to protect the interests of the British Empire. The FCR dates back to the occupation of the Pushtun-inhabited frontier districts by the British in 1848. The regulation was re-enacted in 1873, and again in 1876, with minor modifications. Over time, the Regulation was found to be inadequate, and new acts and offences were added to it to extend its scope.
According to the FCR that prevails in FATA, despite the presence of popularly elected tribal representatives, parliament can play no role in the affairs of the area. Article 247 of the Pakistani Constitution provides that no Act of Parliament applies to the FATA, unless the President so desires. Only the President of Pakistan is authorized to amend laws and promulgate ordinances for the tribal areas.
The FCR used to apply to the greater part of Pakistani territory, the NWFP until 1963, and Balochistan until 1977. The Indian Independence Act of 1947 technically made the FCR null and void, yet it was maintained by Pakistan’s government in exchange for greater autonomy for the affected region, and the removal of national troops from the FATA. Under this set of regulations, FATA tribesmen have no recourse to the constitutional and political rights granted to others in the country.
Although they were part of Pakistan, the tribal areas did not have an adult franchise until 1996, when the late Premier Benazir Bhutto gave them that right. The Pakistani Police do not have the authority to enter and operate inside the FATA.
Traditionally, the role of maintaining security in the FATA has been assigned to the paramilitary Frontier Corps (FC), a legacy of British rule. The FC is recruited
from the FATA tribal people, while officers are recruited from the regular Pakistan Army.
Under the Raj, the British opted to employ the locals as soldiers, and placed British officers in command of these formations. The British rulers deliberately designed the Frontier Corps as an internal security force, whose prime objective was maintaining law and order in the volatile tribal belt, and ensuring the safety of all strategic communication routes.
What is astonishing is that the Frontier Corps has remained virtually fossilized since the British era. Most of the outposts and garrisons of the Frontier Corps are located in areas through which strategic communication routes pass, or in areas where tribes are known to be unruly and are controlled by force.
Although Pakistan has gone through immense changes, materially and politically, since its formation in 1947, the FATA has remained untouched. One government after another left it alone, putting no effort into integrating this crucial area within Pakistan. It was particularly important to do so, because the Pakistani leaders were well aware that Pushtuns inside Pakistan have long aspired to form a Greater Pushtunistan (or, Pakhtoonistan) in collaboration with their Afghan cousins.
More important, perhaps, is the issue of economic development. Pakistani historians point out that the British accomplished more infrastructure development in the FATA areas, than the Pakistani government had done since independence. The British Raj developed some infrastructure within the FATA in order to ensure security and collect taxes. On the other hand, Pakistani governments utilized the same infrastructure and did very little to improve the lot of these tribal people.
Criminalization of the FATA
While the rules and regulations that control the FATA have remained virtually the same as those imposed f economic development has brought about very many negative aspects. To begin with, the FATA has become a major center of smuggling. The Lahore-based Daily Times pointed out recently that remittances by FATA workers in the Gulf, funneled through the notorious hundi (money-laundering) system, have financed smuggling of a vast array of goods, such as automobiles, consumer durables, electronics, and cloth, all of which can now be purchased in, or ordered, via the tribal belt. This has badly undermined the country’s industrial and tariff policies. Industry is deprived of legitimate protection, and the treasury has lost huge revenues in recent years.
Even more dangerous, is the flow of opium and heroin through FATA. In the 1990s, FATA itself became a major producer of opium, producing about 800 tons annually. An American intervention through monetary enticement, and Islamabad’s law enforcement intervention, has led to the end of opium cultivation in most areas. However, the explosion of opium on the other side of the Durand Line has criminalized the FATA tribal people, and has accompanied the rise of the Pakistani Taliban.
No less diabolical to the body politic of the country as whole, is gun-running in the FATA. Long gone are the days of World War II replicas, hammered and chiseled in little Darra hamlets reminiscent of the Wild West. The standard fare now is Kalashnikovs, rocket launchers, and sophisticated explosives, the Daily Times reported.
Islamabad must remember that the FATA was a handmaiden of the British colonial rulers, and until they left, they had aspired to make it, along with the Pushtun areas of Afghanistan, a part of Greater Pushtunistan. History shows that Gen. Robert Lockhart, who replaced Olaf Caroe as the governor of the NWFP, in his last reply to Louis Mountbatten, the then-Viceroy to British India, on July 12, 1947 (just about a month before India was partitioned and British rule ended) wrote: “Pakhtoonistan located and the idea, I think, proving attractive to many Pathans [the British choose to use the word “Pathan” to describe a Pushtun].
Rumours and reports of the Fakir of Ipi flow in details [Ipi wanted to proclaim himself Amir of Waziristan]…” .
The British objective, as expressed at length by Churchill and Caroe, prior to the partition of India, to set up an independent state, comprised of Balochs and Pushtuns, was an attempt back then, to set up a buffer nation, between the Subcontinent’s large nations and the “wells of power.” But when that became impossible, as nationalist Indian leaders, such as Nehru, Gandhi, and Azad, among others, opposed further “balkanization” of India, the British adopted Pakistan as the “new India,” which would protect the British interests in the Middle East.
It seems Britain cannot depend on Pakistan any longer on that score, and now, it once more wants to set up a buffer state between the Indian Subcontinent and the “wells of power.”
By TAIMOOR SHAH and CARLOTTA GALL
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — Five heavily armed suicide bombers stormed a government office here Wednesday morning during a seminar hosted by an American democracy promotion organization, killing 13 people, including two provincial government officials, and wounding 14 others.
One militant detonated a car bomb at the entrance gate of the provincial council office, as others stormed the compound in the center of Kandahar city with assault rifles and hand grenades,
shooting at officials and guards inside. Seven civilians and six police were killed in the 20-minute gun battle, which ended when two of the militants blew themselves up inside the main hall, the provincial police chief, Matiullah Qati, said.
The dead included two provincial health and education officials, as well as police and council workers, said Ahmed Wali Karzai, the leader of the provincial council. Among the wounded were two provincial council members, police officers and other council workers, he said.
Mr. Karzai, who is the brother of President Hamid Karzai, was not at the provincial council office during the attack, but a number of officials were present in the main hall for the final day of a seminar being conducted by the National Democratic Institute, officials said.
Kathy Gest, the director of public affairs for the National Democratic Institute in Washington, said initial information indicated the attack was not related to the seminar, but two of those killed — the provincial health and education officials — had been attending the training. No one from the organization was injured.
The seminar was part of a series of programs that the organization has been conducting for provincial councils in the southern and eastern regions of the country, and this one dealt with monitoring and evaluation of local development projects, Ms. Gest said.
The assault by multiple gunmen shooting randomly and setting off explosions to cause maximum casualties follows a pattern of militant attacks staged across the region from the Afghan capital, Kabul, to the Pakistani city of Lahore and the Indian city of Mumbai.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack in a telephone call. It comes after the Afghan intelligence chief warned in a briefing to the national parliament that militants were planning attacks on government officials, elders and parliamentarians in coming months.
Haji Agha Lalai, a provincial council member who was present at the seminar, said the attackers were dressed in uniforms of the Afghan National Army.
“We heard a loud explosion and four men with Afghan National Army uniforms entered the building and started shooting everywhere,” he said. “It was a huge explosion it shook the whole city.”
Security officials evacuated the delegates as a battle raged for 20 minutes, he said. Two of the attackers were shot dead in the yard, but two managed to get inside the main building where they later blew themselves up, collapsing the roof of the building, Mr. Lalai said.
Outside the building, a driver for the provincial council, Naseer Ahmad, said he saw the attackers in army uniforms waiting by a nearby building shortly before the explosion. When the car bomb detonated at the gate, the four men rushed into the building and started shooting indiscriminately at people, he said. Later other police arrived to help and were killed, he said.
Mr. Karzai commended the quick actions of the police to thwart the attack and said it was due to their intervention that death toll remained relatively low. Two of the bombers were shot dead before they could detonate their explosives, he said. But he complained that the government had only provided 10 guards as security for the event.
Canadian troops arrived after the police and cordoned off the area. The attack in broad daylight in the center of the city, was the second time Taliban fighters have infiltrated Kandahar city, the capital of this southern Afghan province, in such a brazen manner in the past year. Armed insurgents assaulted the main prison in Kandahar last June, detonating a truck bomb and overrunning the prison, killing 15 guards and freeing hundreds of prisoners.
Mr. Karzai said the insurgents were targeting the provincial council because it was working to help the people and provide a bridge between the government and the disenchanted population.
“The enemy is trying to kill the provincial council members, for them the members are an obstacle and that’s why they are targeting them with such a big plan,” he said.
Carlotta Gall contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Sharon Otterman contributed from New York.
Israeli forces ended their offensive against Hamas in Gaza on Saturday, 17 January, following the declaration of ceasefires by Hamas and Israel.
Highlighted below are some of the main buildings identified as destroyed or damaged in Gaza City and the surrounding area based on analysis by Unosat of satellite imagery taken on 19 January.
The image, taken for Unosat at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, has helped researchers identify at least 1,008 destroyed or damaged buildings.
The map below shows the main areas attacked in the three weeks of violence.
Palestinian medical sources say more than 1,010 Palestinians were killed in the violence, which began on 27 December 2008. Israel says 13 Israelis died, including 10 soldiers in the campaign and three civilians killed as a result of rocket fire from Gaza.
WHAT ABOUT TACTICAL ARMS REDUCTIONS? THESE ARE THE LAST RESORT WEAPONS WHOSE USE WILL HERALD ARMAGEDDON; SHOULDN’T THEIR ELIMINATION BE OF EQUAL IMPORTANCE?
(CNN) — U.S. President Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced Wednesday that their countries will soon begin negotiations on reducing their nuclear arsenals, according to a joint statement from the two leaders.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and President Obama talk Wednesday in London ahead of the G-20.
The announcement came after Obama and Medvedev met in London ahead of Thursday’s G-20 summit.
The statement said the two leaders agreed that the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty on the Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms — which expires in December — “has completely fulfilled its intended purpose and that the maximum levels for strategic offensive arms recorded in the treaty were reached long ago.”
“They have therefore decided to move further along the path of reducing and limiting strategic offensive arms in accordance with U.S. and Russian obligations under Article VI of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” the joint statement said.
Negotiators from both countries will soon begin talks “to work out a new, comprehensive, legally binding agreement on reducing and limiting strategic offensive arms to replace the START Treaty,” the statement said.
Earlier, two senior Obama administration officials said another goal of the president’s meeting with Medvedev was to set a date for a U.S.-Russian summit in Moscow, Russia, this summer.
The joint statement said negotiators from both countries would report their progress on working out the new nuclear arsenal reduction agreement by July.
“The new agreement will mutually enhance the security of the parties and predictability and stability in strategic offensive forces, and will include effective verification measures drawn from the experience of the parties in implementing the START Treaty,” the statement said.
In a joint news conference Wednesday with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown — ahead of his talks with Medvedev — Obama emphasized that Russia and the United States also have a common interest in “reducing nuclear stockpiles and promoting nuclear non-proliferation” across the world. Watch Obama, Brown statement ahead of world stage »
“One of the things I have always believed strongly is that both the United States and Russia and other nuclear powers will be in a much stronger position to strengthen what has become a somewhat fragile thread-bare nonproliferation treaty if we are leading by example and if we can take serious steps to reduce the nuclear arsenal,” Obama said.
“I think people on both sides of the Atlantic understand that as much as the constant cloud, the threat of nuclear warfare has receded since the Cold War, that the presence of these deadly weapons, their proliferation, the possibility of them finding their way into the hands of terrorists, continues to be the gravest threat to humanity. What better project to start off than seeing if we can make progress on that front. I think we can.”
The U.S. president said there’s been a rift in the past several years in the U.S.-Russian relationship.
“There are very real differences between the United States and Russia, and I have no interest in papering those over. But there are also a broad set of common interests that we can pursue” and “great potential for concerted action,” Obama said.
Along with the nuclear issue, Obama said, the countries “have an interest in stabilizing the world economy. Both countries have an interest in finding a sustainable path for energy and dealing with some of the threats climate change that we discussed.”
Also on Wednesday, the White House released a statement saying that Obama will visit China this year. Obama met Chinese President Hu Jintao as world leaders gathered in London for Thursday’s G-20 summit. Watch an assessment of Obama’s first G-20 summit »
The two agreed to set up a high-level strategic and economic dialogue chaired by Cabinet-level representatives — Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner for the United States, and State Councilor Dai Bingguo and Vice Premier Wang Qishan for China.
Obama and Hu appear to have deferred the question of human rights, one of the greatest points of friction between the two sides. “The two sides agreed to resume the human rights dialogue as soon as possible,” the White House statement said. China did not immediately confirm the details of the U.S. announcement.
I CAN’T WAIT UNTIL AVIG BUMPS HEADS WITH ZBIG!
Hardline nationalist Lieberman was a controversial foreign ministry choice
Israel’s new ultra-nationalist foreign minister has said it is not bound by a US-sponsored 2007 agreement to reach a peace deal with the Palestinians.
“The Annapolis conference, it has no validity,” Avigdor Lieberman said.
He was speaking at a handover ceremony at the foreign ministry, prompting his predecessor Tzipi Livni to interrupt and diplomats to shift uncomfortably.
At Annapolis, each side agreed to further discussions aimed at creating an independent Palestinian state.
Palestinian officials described Mr Lieberman as an “obstacle to peace” whose policies would rebound negatively on Israel.
“Nothing obliges us to deal with a racist person hostile to peace such as Israeli Foreign Affairs Minister Lieberman,” Yasser Abed Rabbo said in comments to AFP news agency.
Correspondents say officials at the foreign ministry seemed taken aback at such a sudden and public repudiation of one of the main planks of Israeli diplomatic activity.
“There is one document that obligates us – and that’s not the Annapolis conference, it has no validity,” Mr Lieberman said.
The document he was referring to was the international peace plan known as the Road Map, signed in 2003, while “the Israeli government never ratified Annapolis, nor did parliament”.
The Annapolis accords were seen as a last-ditch attempt by the previous US administration to realise what President George W Bush called his “vision” of peace involving a two-state solution.
I voted against the Road Map in the government, but that is the only document that was ratified by the government and the Security Council, and it binds this government as well
The Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to launch “vigorous, ongoing and continuous” negotiations to reach a comprehensive peace deal, and make every effort to conclude it before the end of 2008.
Although the incoming Netanyahu government has avoided committing itself to the establishment of a Palestinian state, the Road Map endorsed by Mr Lieberman was also meant to achieve that aim.
Middle East envoy Tony Blair earlier warned Israel that the Palestinians must have their own state to avoid a major conflagration in the region.
“The alternative to a two-state solution is a one-state solution. If there is a one-state solution there is going to be a big fight,” the former UK prime minister said on a visit to Brussels.
After Mr Lieberman’s comments were published, a senior US official in London for the G20 summit said the Obama administration remained committed to a two-state solution.
Mr Lieberman, known for his outspoken criticism of Arab citizens of Israel and some Arab leaders, was a controversial choice for foreign minister in the government of right-winger Benjamin Netanyahu which was sworn in on Tuesday.
In his speech, he admitted voting against Israel’s ratification of the Road Map “but that is the only document that obligates us, it is the only document that was ratified by the government and the Security Council, and it binds this government as well”.
Asked about the new foreign minister’s comments, political sources close to Mr Netanyahu were quoted saying they largely reflected the new leader’s position.
The Road Map made progress towards a Palestinian state contingent on the Palestinian Authority’s progress on suppressing activity by militant groups – the strongest of which, Hamas, actually ousted the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority from Gaza in 2007.
It also obliges Israel to freeze settlement activity on territory it occupied in the 1967 war.
Mr Netanyahu’s cabinet is the largest in Israel’s political history combining centre-right, centre-left and far-right parties.
Ms Livni’s Kadima party, which backs a two-state solution, won the most seats in February elections, but was considered less likely to be able to form a coalition than a Likud-led right-leaning coalition.
Talks aimed at bringing Kadima into a unity government failed, with Ms Livni saying the parties’ platforms were too different.
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
A nation that has violated “every norm of civilized behavior and international law” since its founding in 1948 is held virtually blameless by the U.S. corporate media – Israel sycophants of the lowest order. “Now members of the Israeli Defense Force themselves are coming forward to admit that they committed war crimes” – but the U.S. press is censoring their confessions! Even when Israeli soldiers openly testify to committing “murder” in Gaza, as reported by the Israeli press, the U.S. corporate media “keeps the people of this country ignorant” of the crimes against humanity bankrolled by American taxpayers.
Freedom Rider: Barbaric Israel
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
Despite the best efforts of the American corporate media, the Israeli lobby, and compromised politicians, the true nature of Israel’s barbarity towards the Palestinian people is not easily hidden. The massacres of Gaza’s civilian population that were recently carried out by the Israeli Defense Force created a turning point in worldwide public opinion. Only the Israeli and American governments try to deny that war crimes were committed.
The IDF barred the world’s media from witnessing the killings of more than 1,400 people. Every norm of civilized behavior and international law was violated, including the Geneva Conventions prohibition of acts of revenge against civilian populations. Israel kept the borders of Gaza sealed, and would not even allow the population to flee and save their lives. The IDF takes the term “shooting fish in a barrel” very seriously.
Now members of the IDF themselves are coming forward to admit that they committed war crimes. Soldiers have told the Israeli newspaper Haaretz that they were ordered to murder civilians without provocation. Haaretz has also revealed that the IDF prepares soldiers to kill civilians by openly condoning the killing of pregnant women and little children.
“The IDF prepares soldiers to kill civilians by openly condoning the killing of pregnant women and little children.”
The shirts are bilingual, written in Hebrew and in English too. It makes sense that the inscriptions are also in English, because were it not for American financial support, the IDF would not exist or be able to bomb Syria or the Sudan or invade Lebanon or carry out massacres in Gaza.
The United States is the Israeli government’s only friend in the world. While boycotts and protests against Israel are carried out all over the globe, concerned Americans are silenced because the corporate media and the political system have turned their country into Israel’s colony.
The Los Angeles Times carried the story of IDF war crimes revelations, but only after censoring the words of the soldiers themselves.
“When we entered a house, we were supposed to bust down the door and start shooting inside and just go up story by story… I call that murder. Each story, if we identify a person, we shoot them. I asked myself – how is this reasonable?”
The Los Angeles Times felt that the word “murder” was too much for sensitive American eyes and left the sentence out. “‘When we entered a house, we were supposed to bust down the door and start shooting inside and just go up story by story,’ he was quoted as saying. ‘Each story, if we identify a person, we shoot them. I asked myself: ‘How is this reasonable?’”
Apparently, “I call that murder,” is just not acceptable, even if the words come straight from the horse’s mouth. The Los Angeles Times knows or thinks it knows that it can go only so far when Israel is the subject of what passes for reporting in the American corporate media.
Not only do Israelis kill women and children and use civilians as human shields, but they also occupy Palestinian homes. They routinely desecrate them in ways that are so cruel and malicious, that they must be considered pathological. According to Amnesty International, not only did Israelis in Gaza illegally occupy Palestinian homes, but they left them in a devastated and desecrated condition.
Israelis are not inherently worse than other human beings. They behave as they do because they never pay a price for their actions. The American people have paid and will continue to pay the price as targets of hatred and even of terror because their government has made them complicit in Israel’s crimes. But any suffering experienced by Americans is hardly unjust. Americans do not have a greater right to live in peace than do the people of Gaza.
If Gazans wore t-shirts encouraging the killing of women and little babies they would be no worse than the IDF soldiers whose actions are paid for by the American tax payer. Sadly, the Los Angeles Times and their counterparts in the rest of the media are unlikely to explain that very simple fact. This conspiracy of silence is just one of many that keeps the people of this country ignorant and incapable of making the demands and taking the necessary actions that would enable them to help themselves.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com.
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir had no choice but to expel the western “aid” organizations that had merged with the American propaganda machine aimed at regime change in Khartoum. Obama operatives like UN Ambassador Susan Rice have for years been “eager to blockade Sudan’s ports” and to launch “selective” bombing raids against Sudan. When imperial doctrine claims the right to intervene whenever disasters overtake sovereign countries – and proceeds to create and exacerbate those disasters – then no government is safe against regime change. President Obama “appears to be fine-tuning a ‘humanitarian’ interventionist doctrine that is applicable to any point on the planet.”
Sudan/Darfur is Test Case for Obama’s “Humanitarian” Aggression
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“Obama has not broken the American mold, but rather, appears to be fine-tuning a ‘humanitarian’ interventionist doctrine.”
Any government in the world that believes it has been targeted for regime change by the United States and its allies would be foolish to allow western-based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to operate freely in its territory. When Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir evicted 13 western NGOs from his country last month, he was responding quite rationally to the clear threat of so-called “humanitarian” military intervention by the U.S. under the pretext of “rescuing” Sudanese in the war-torn Darfur region.
Under the Obama administration, a military interventionist doctrine is rapidly crystallizing around the concept of “Responsibility to Protect,” or R2P, which holds that nations have a responsibility to forcibly intervene when a state is judged to be unwilling or unable to protect or otherwise fulfill its responsibilities to its people – responsibilities that can be broadly or narrowly defined. United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice and Samantha Power, a member of Obama’s National Security Council, are leading advocates of a broad and unilateralist interpretation of R2P. Both are very close to President Obama, and can be assumed to reflect his thinking on foreign policy. And both are implacably hostile to Omar Al-Bashir’s government in Sudan. Rice is eager to blockade Sudan’s ports and to launch “selective” bombing raids.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is also a hawk on Sudan, who talks of enforcing no-fly zones over Darfur. That’s the same policy the U.S. pursued against Iraq in the interim between the 1991 and 2003 wars. The logic leads inexorably to incremental invasion and regime change in Sudan.
The crisis exploded when Bashir was indicted for “crimes against humanity” – a step below formal charges of genocide – by the International Criminal Court (ICC), a body whose prosecutorial urges seem limited to Africa. As reported by IRIN, a news service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs: “Almost the entire Arab and African world supports Sudan against the ICC, arguing it is a biased and political tool that only targets Africans and infringes sovereignty.” The African Union and the Arab League have long opposed ICC action against Sudan, on national sovereignty grounds and because an indictment could have been predicted to lead to disruptions in international aid to Darfuran refugees.
President Obama has dispatched a U.S. Air Force general as his special envoy to Sudan to deal with, in Obama’s words, the “immediate crisis prompted by the Khartoum government’s expulsion of non-governmental organizations that are providing aid to displaced persons inside of Sudan.” Obama is reaching for the heights of hypocrisy. First, the United States is not a signatory to the International Criminal Court, fearing that its own numerous and constant violations of international law might land an American president in the dock, one day. Second, the entire purpose of U.S. policy toward Sudan is to create a crisis in hopes of toppling the regime and transforming the largest country in Africa – or big, dismembered chunks of it – into a client of the United States. Susan Rice can’t wait for her “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Sudan” moment to arrive. Obama’s envoy/general would like to get an audience with his Sudanese military counterparts, and talk coup.
The American search for a pretext for “humanitarian” military intervention is perfectly understood by the Darfur rebel groups seeking to topple Bashir, who control the refugee camps in Darfur. No sooner had President Bashir kicked the western NGOs out, than “activists” in the 88,000-person Kalma refugee camp organized a “strike” against accepting aid from United Nations relief organizations. As the Los Angeles Times reported on March 21:
“’If we allow them to distribute the food, then the government will be able to say to the world that everything is OK in Kalma,’ said Mubarak Shafi, a camp activist. ‘We want all the other problems solved first.’”
The “problems” the “activist” refers to are political, ultimately devolving to autonomy or independence for the region. The rebel groups are intimately involved with U.S. allies in the region and western individuals and NGOs attached to the aid effort. In accordance with Washington’s wishes, the rebel-led refugees demanded that their pipelines to western media, the NGOs, be allowed back in. Food and medicine were not the issue. Nor is refugee relief a priority of the Obama administration. It’s all about regime change.
The Justice and Equality Movement (JEM), a major rebel faction, has offices in Tel Aviv. ABC News reports that “Israel has conducted three military strikes against targets in Sudan since January in an effort to prevent what were believed to be Iranian weapons shipments from reaching Hamas in the Gaza Strip.” The alleged Gaza/Iran connection is for western consumption. In fact, Israel is in the vanguard of U.S. clients, including Uganda, Rwanda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Chad, that connive to dissolve the Sudanese state.
When “humanitarian” intervention and “Responsibility to Protect” are the watchwords of superpower imperial destabilization policies, no targeted nation can afford to host western “aid” groups that feed the propaganda machines of aggressors. Ethnic and other conflicts in Sudan are quite complex (see Mahmood Mamdani, “What’s Really Happening In Darfur?” BAR), and the numbers and nature of mortality in Darfur are in serious dispute everywhere except in the U.S. corporate media. The Washington narrative is constructed for the sole purpose of overthrowing the Sudanese government.
States will do whatever is necessary to preserve themselves, and in Sudan’s case, that meant the western echo-operatives in the “aid” industry in Darfur had to go. The U.S. knew full well that its destabilization campaign against Sudan would ultimately achieve just such a result.
The United Nations has also adopted a form of R2P, which authorizes the UN Security Council to intervene in the affairs of individual states when “national authorities [are] manifestly failing to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” But the United States cannot count on manipulating the UN Security Council, which includes China and Russia, to achieve its narrow imperialist goals – in this case, regime change in Sudan. The Americans are unilateralists. They can’t even bring themselves to join the International Criminal Court – although they revel in its indictments of Africans. Obama has not broken the American mold, but rather, appears to be fine-tuning a “humanitarian” interventionist doctrine that is applicable to any point on the planet where crises can be exploited to create chaos worthy of the Lone Ranger’s armed attentions.
Call it Disaster Imperialism.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Moon of Alabama
March 31, 2009
Maliki sent out his army to capture Awakening leaders no longer payed by the U.S.:
The arrest of Raad Ali, who helped the Americans stabilize the west Baghdad neighborhood of Ghazaliya, came to light Sunday, five days after the Iraqi army picked him up in a midnight raid, his aides said.
The U.S. is actively helping in this:
A combined force of American and Iraqi Army troops and National Police descended on Fadhil, a Sunni neighborhood and former insurgent stronghold in central Baghdad, and arrested the head of Fadhil’s Awakening Council, Adil al-Mashhadani, on terrorism charges, according to Maj. Gen. Qassim Atta, spokesman for the Iraqi security forces in Baghdad. He said firefights broke out afterward.
This might well reignite a civil war, but with the Iraqi army now more capable, the chances are against the insurgents.
Parviz thinks that this is part of a U.S.-Iran rapprochement.That is certainly possible. The U.S. may have decided to defer to Iran in Iraq for cooperation in Afghanistan and to generally lower level the hostility level.
On the other side it seems that the U.S. wants to leave Iraq and that alone is motivation enough. To leave Iraq in even greater chaos is not in U.S. interests. It is better to have a strong government there than a weak government and permanent civil war that could escalate into neighbor countries. ‘Cleaning up’ the opposition while the U.S. is still there in full force is thereby a necessity on its own.
In Afghanistan the U.S. now tries to repeat some aspects of the ‘Awakening’ movement by arming and paying local forces at the town level. Those forces should note how the U.S. is now betraying such ‘allies’ in Iraq. It is likely to happen to them too.
Miguel D’Escoto, current president of the U.N. General Assembly, gave an unusually frank speech to the Human Rights Council in Geneva on March 4 in which he addressed many issues, like U.S. war crimes in Iraq, that no one in such a high position had dared raise before. Here are excerpts from that speech.
I see a profound relationship between access to safe-drinking water and sanitation and the enjoyment of the right to life or health. Indeed, access to water is indispensable for a life in dignity and a prerequisite for the enjoyment of other human rights. …
Similarly, we must bolster the concept of the right to food, fundamental to the established rights to an adequate standard of living and to health. …
Gender is another area where I believe the Council and the Assembly can join forces. … Thanks to the General Assembly’s excellent progress on this score during its last two sessions, the world’s women are now within reach of a dedicated entity, and the beginning of the end of such criminal conditions as feminized poverty, rampant sexual violence and preventable maternal death. …
Finally, I urge the Council to focus on the profound problems that have been created by the massive violations of human rights in Iraq. Even as the world absorbs the inhumanity of the recent invasion of Gaza, we see Iraq as a contemporary and ongoing example of how the illegal use of force leads inexorably to human suffering and disregard for human rights. It has set a number of precedents that we cannot allow to stand. The illegality of the use of force against Iraq cannot be doubted as its runs contrary to the prohibition of the use of force in article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter. All pretended justifications not withstanding, the aggressions against Iraq and Afghanistan and their occupations constitute atrocities that must be condemned and repudiated by all who believe in the rule of law in international relations.
Reliable and independent experts estimate that over one million Iraqis have lost their lives as a direct result of the illegal invasion of their country. The various U.N. human rights monitors have prepared report after report documenting the unending litany of violations from crimes of war, rights of children and women, social rights, collective punishment and treatment of prisoners of war and illegal detention of civilians. These must be addressed to bring an end to the scandalous present impunity. …
I want to call your attention to the plight of the five Cuban heroes who are still being held in preposterous conditions and serving unheard of jail sentences for having denounced and provided pertinent information concerning terrorist activities being planned in the U.S. by Cuban expatriates against their former Motherland with the support of U.S. authorities. We are very hopeful about meaningful and credible change being brought by the new U.S. administration. The immediate ex-incarceration of the five Cuban heroes would help strengthen our confidence that the promised change is for real.
Tue Mar 31, 2009 – By P.V. Maro – ROME (Reuters) – John C. Yoo, a former Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the United States, was arrested on Tuesday in Milan, Italy, and is being held for possible extradition to Spain, where he and five other retired officials who served under former President George W. Bush are expected to be indicted by a Spanish court for violations of the Geneva Conventions, the Convention Against Torture, and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Yoo, 41, is a visiting professor of Law at the Chapman University School of Law in Orange County, California, on leave from the University of California Berkeley School of Law. He served in the Office of Legal Counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice from 2001 to 2003. Yoo authored memos permitting the use of torture. Torture is banned by both U.S. law and international conventions.
Milan prosecutor Andrea Spolini released a statement indicating that Yoo can be held for up to 90 days awaiting an indictment in Spain under the international standard of “Rompi Testiculo.” (Edited by Antonio Gramsci) © Chompson Reuters 2009 All rights reserved
Forget ‘Af-Pak’. Let’s talk about the ‘Am-Brit’ mess in Afghanistan. The Anglo-American media won’t cover this. But we will. If America occupies Afghanistan and uses that country as a base for covert operations against neighbors, that’s not meddling. But if Pakistan, a next door neighbor, tries to protect its legitimate interests, Washington calls it meddling. We have no problem with Afghan Taliban. And we don’t want to see Hoolbrooke or any other ‘Special Af-Pak envoy’ stepping on Pakistani soil again. Pakistani government and military should shut down CIA stations in the country. Pakistanis don’t want an alliance with a country that is stabbing us in the back and supporting terrorists against us.
By Ahmed Quraishi
Tuesday, 31 March 2009.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—You have to give it to the American propaganda machine. U.S. officials and America’s long list of self-styled ‘Pakistan experts’ are advising Islamabad to stop meddling in Afghanistan. But it is kosher for the U.S. military to travel half the world to occupy Afghanistan and that’s not meddling. Well guess what, Pakistan has more pressing interests as a next door neighbor of Afghanistan and it will protect its interests. Who says CIA’s interests in Afghanistan are more sacred than ISI’s?
Regardless of what many of his Pakistani cheerleaders say, President Obama’s new ‘Af-Pak’ policy is a lot of mumbo jumbo that conceals two basic threads: expanding the war inside Pakistan and using the pretext of a ‘regional approach’ to bring India into Afghanistan as Washington and London’s new slave-soldier, especially when Nato members won’t deliver. Surely Washington is not thinking about empowering the Chinese or the Iranians in Afghanistan as part of its newfound regionalism.
The best part is the expanded aid package for Pakistan. It comes with so many ifs that we might as well voluntarily dismantle the ISI, declare defeat, forget about Kashmir and dedicate the rest of the 21st century to carrying America’s burden in Central Asia. To make the package believable, U.S. officials have leaked information through the usual suspects – NYT and WSJ – about a possible ‘exit strategy’, as in America running away from Afghanistan. But America is still in Iraq despite all the hype to the contrary by the Anglo-American media. And it is definitely staying in Afghanistan for as long as possible. We appreciate the American concerns about all the anti-America conspiracies being hatched in the caves of Tora Bora, but surely America also has an eye or two on the vast strategic benefits of controlling Afghanistan.
Some Pakistani officials see Mr. Obama’s new policy as a win for Pakistan because, they claim, Washington is now planning to do what Islamabad has been advocating since 2001, namely negotiating with the Afghan Taliban and giving Pakistan all the weapons it needs to fight Al Qaeda. If this is the case, there certainly isn’t anything in the public statements of U.S. officials that leads to this optimism, unless there is a secret side to this new policy that only a few in Islamabad know about. So far it looks more like Pakistani officials misleading their people about the extent of the Zardari-Gilani government’s capitulation before the Americans. Otherwise, how to explain that the government welcomed Obama’s policy within minutes of the speech, only to be followed by the most intensive verbal attacks by senior U.S. military officials against Pakistan’s military intelligence community, as if the Afghan blunders are entirely of our making?
The danger of complete Pakistani surrender to an imposed war is heightened because of signs that Washington is using Pakistan’s flawed democracy as a tool to meddle and to keep Pakistan politically unstable. In the past week, our politics sunk to a new low when our President was reported to have secretly met a senior American bureaucrat in Dubai without the knowledge of any Pakistani except his American mediator, our ambassador in Washington. Have we turned into a banana republic? I am posing this question because not all of us accept it and we never signed up for this.
If our government is honest with Pakistanis and has not just sold us for a few billion dollars, someone in this government should have the courage to declare that Washington does not have the right to equate Pakistan with a failed state like the U.S.-occupied and administered Afghanistan. Someone should also have the courage to say that we will henceforth not entertain any ‘Af-Pak special coordinators’. Additionally, we in Pakistan must keep an equal distance from all players inside Afghanistan. But at the same time we should say it without embarrassment that we have no strategic conflict of interest with one of the key Afghan parties – the Afghan Taliban – just because America and its puppet regime in Kabul have problems with them. Why should we pick up a fight that is not ours? Sure, Al Qaeda are our enemies and we have killed so many important ones among them that our intentions here cannot be questioned. But it is not Pakistan’s responsibility to eliminate the Afghan Taliban. The Americans must bring them on board in Kabul
Washington and its list of ‘Af-Pak’ experts should stop treating our region as a laboratory for their strategic experiments. Instead of toying with silly ideas like backing ‘secular Pashtuns’ against the Taliban, the Americans can diffuse the entire tension in our region by sharing power with the Pashtuns in Kabul instead of the motley crew of Karzai, the drug lords and the assortment of former communist officials who sit in key offices today.
This American-British mess – the ‘Am-Brit’ – is the reason why Pakistan’s entire western regions are disturbed today. And Pakistan has conclusive evidence that confirms that someone is busy ‘convincing’ us that the ‘Am-Brit’ scheme of things is the best option for us. The wave of terrorism in Pakistan, including yesterday’s attack in Lahore, should be viewed as part of the subtle attempts to ‘convince’ Pakistan. The question is: Whose side our government is on?
The research wing of Honda Motor has co-developed a brain machine interface (BMI) system that allows a person to control a robot through thought alone.
The system, which was developed with the Japanese government-affiliated Advanced Telecommunications Research Institute International and precision equipment maker Shimadzu, builds on previous work announced three years ago towards a possible future where devices can be controlled by thought.
In 2006 Honda and ATR researchers managed to get a robotic hand to move by analyzing brain activity using a large MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scanner like that found in hospitals.
The latest work is a step more advanced and measures the electrical activity in a person’s brain using electroencephalography (EEG) and blood flow within the brain using near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) to produce data that is then interpreted into control information. It requires no physical movement.
The system was not demonstrated on Tuesday but Honda did release a video of experiments. It shows a controller sitting in a chair with a large hemispheric scanner over his head, like the sit-down hair dryers you find in hair salons.
Both the EEG and NIRS techniques are established but the analyzing process for the data is new. Honda said the system uses statistical processing of the complex information to distinguish brain activities with high precision without any physical motion.
In the video, the controller is shown one of four cards — right hand, left hand, foot and tongue — and asked to visualize making a corresponding movement. After being shown the card for the right hand he visualizes moving that hand but physically remains completely still. After an indeterminable period Honda’s Asimo robot, to which the system is hooked-up, raises its right hand.
Honda claims a 90 percent success rate using this method to correctly analyze thoughts.
The video starts off by proposing a world in which air conditioners will automatically come on when people in the room think its too hot, where car doors open when owners approach with arms loaded with shopping and where homeowners can think about tasks that need to be done and robots interpret the thoughts and get on with the jobs.
That day is clearly a long way off but with the latest development the system makes a big jump from being fixed to portable. It’s impossible to move an MRI machine around but the computer attached to the scanner, while large, is in theory portable. The entire machine, scanner and chair appears to take up about the same amount of space as a small car.
ATR and Honda began research into BMI technology in 2005.
IDG News Service
ACCORDING TO ORIGINAL EGYPTIAN REPORT ( U.S. air strike on the Sudan-bound weapons aimed at a convoy to Gaza),
NAVAL COALITION TASK FORCE CTF-150 (anti-piracy) EITHER PARTICIPATED IN THE ATTACK OR PROVIDED AUTHORITY UNDER THE US/ISRAELI ANTI-HAMAS MOU (memorandum of understanding).
By CHARLES LEVINSON and JAY SOLOMON
JERUSALEM — Airstrikes on a convoy of arms in Sudan, alleged to have been carried out by Israel, have come amid a growing campaign by Israel, the U.S. and Egypt to stem the flow of weapons to Hamas in Gaza.
Sudanese officials have suggested there were two attacks in mid-January to early February, though there are conflicting reports. A Western official briefed on the strikes said Israel hit Sudan at least twice between late January and early February to cut off smuggling networks into Gaza. The official said the operations were part of Israel’s efforts to promote “active deterrence” after the Gaza war.
On Jan. 16, the U.S. and Israel signed an agreement to work together against arms smuggling into Gaza that included sharing intelligence, as the U.S. pressed Israel to end its siege of the territory.
Both the U.S. and Egyptian governments have in recent weeks raised with Sudan’s government their concerns that the African country has become a major facilitator for Gaza-bound weapons being smuggled into Egypt, according to officials briefed on the diplomatic exchanges. Washington sent a formal complaint to Khartoum demanding Sudan’s government “cease smuggling arms into Egypt,” according to a U.S. official. The official wouldn’t provide an exact date.
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak raised a similar complaint with Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during the African strongman’s visit to Cairo this week, according to a diplomat briefed on the meeting. The Egyptians are particularly concerned that Sudan is becoming an arms partner of Iran and aiding Tehran in moving weapons to the militant group Hamas, which is based in the Gaza Strip.
Since the Gaza war ended Jan. 18, Israeli security officials say Egypt has bolstered its troop numbers along the Sudanese border, and Cypriot authorities last month seized the cargo of a ship alleged to be carrying Iranian arms to Palestinian militants in Gaza.
A Sudanese official suggested the U.S. was involved in the airstrikes in Sudan. A U.S. official declined to confirm or comment on the attack, or Washington’s possible role in providing intelligence on Sudanese arms smuggling. Retired Israeli military officers say the attacks would likely have been impossible without American intelligence.
“If the attack happened as reported, it means leaders in the U.S. have taken seriously what they promised to do at the end of the operation in Gaza, and that is to block the smuggling of weapons into Gaza,” Isaac Ben-Israel, a former Israeli Air Force general, said in an interview.
The attacks also could serve as a reminder to Iran, believed to be behind most of the weapons shipments, that Israel is willing and able to strike its foes throughout the region.
With Iran believed to be pushing ahead with its program to develop nuclear weapons, Israel has been flexing its muscles in recent months with a series of bold covert attacks in countries around the region that it hasn’t admitted responsibility for, but hasn’t outright denied either.
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s comments on Thursday about the Sudan attacks followed that pattern. “Those who need to know, know there is no place where the state of Israel cannot act,” he said. “We operate near and far, and carry out strikes in a manner that strengthens our deterrence.”
From Israel, fighter jets would have had to travel about 850 miles to hit northwest Sudan, a similar distance they would have to fly to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, according to military analysts.
Details remain murky about the strikes in Sudan, which were reported by a Sudanese minister in comments published in an Egyptian newspaper on Tuesday. Sudanese officials have alleged that at least 39 people died in the attack on 17 pickup trucks carrying weapons and African immigrants in Sudan’s remote northwest desert. Officials have since alleged two attacks occurred.
The Sudan issue comes after last year’s airstrike by Israel — confirmed by U.S. officials — on an alleged Syrian nuclear site, and the assassinations of a senior Hezbollah operative and a Syrian general believed to have been helping arm Hezbollah. Israel has declined to say if it is responsible.
Malaysia explains why the international community needs to take Israeli leaders to court as a first step toward peace and prosperity.
At a Tuesday forum in London with the theme The Gaza Genocide: The World Community Must Act, Malaysian Foreign Minister Rais Yatim suggested Israeli military aggression against Palestinians to be worthy of prosecution.
“We drag a person to court to be prosecuted for his act of having killed someone. We use the maxim mens rea in determining his murderous intent,” noted the Malaysian diplomat.
“But we simply allow a neighboring state to marauder thousands with guns, air strikes, chemicals and tanks,” continued Rais, questioning the impunity Israel has enjoyed for sixty years.
Israel in December began pounding the Gaza Strip in air operations that later escalated into a full-fledged ground attack on the densely-populated territory.
Tel Aviv went against its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention and attacked schools, mosques, houses, UN compounds and government buildings during the conflict.
The three weeks of military aggression inflicted more than $1.6 billion in damages on the Gazan economy. The carnage also killed around 1,350 Palestinians and injured nearly 5,450 people — mostly civilians.
Israel also committed war crimes, including the use of the deadly white phosphorus shells in densely populated civilian areas, as revealed by various investigations.
Rais responded that the Palestinians had suffered more than their fair share of human calamity ever since Britain and world powers allowed the establishment of Israel in 1948 and the dispossession of the Palestinian homeland.
Israel has been emboldened by sixty years of world inaction and supposes that there is very little the international community can do in terms of punitive measures, he explained.
“It knows for sure that the American government shall always shield them, at least from the operatives of the Security Council (SC). Israel also knows that for so long as the SC is controlled under the veto system, nothing much could be done by way of sanction and execution,” he said.
The US has so far vetoed at least 45 anti-Israel resolutions at the UN and has blocked official condemnation of crimes committed against the native Palestinian population.
“Israel continues to receive armaments from the United States which, in turn, were used as weapons of mass destruction against the Palestinians,” Rais said.
The aggression against Gaza was the latest in a series that began when world powers created Israel in 1948 under the Zionist slogan of a ‘land without a people and a people without a land’.
The establishment of Israel in the Middle East was carried out in compensation for the hardships and suffering imposed on the Jews of Europe due to anti-Semitism in the continent.
Zionists benefited by gaining power over the native land of the Palestinians, but the establishment and the subsequent terror attacks against the Palestinian population gave rise to the philosophy of resistance and in recent years armed retaliation.
The United States and European powers have since failed to condemn Israeli crimes against Palestinians for their fear of the powerful Zionist lobby and being labeled ‘anti-Semitic’.
Celebrated Malaysian politician and former prime minister Mahathir Mohamad touched on the issue on the sidelines of the forum in an interview with Press TV.
“I feel that his (US President Barack Obama’s) hands are tied. Most American presidents and I will say including Obama may not take any stand against Israel for fear of losing comfortable support in the US itself,” he said.
“The Israeli lobby in the US is truly powerful and they can determine who wins and who loses in the elections.”
Mahathir explained that while Israel should “exist in some form or another”, the current trend that it “occupies Palestinian land” and terrorizes Palestinians must not continue.
Malaysian officials believe the only way the world can see peace is for war to be criminalized.
Rais said the Israeli conduct in Gaza amounted to “genocide” and suggested that “If there be nothing else, Malaysia and like-minded states move that an Israeli War Crimes Tribunal be formed under the UN Charter, that an International Criminal Tribunal for Israel (ICTI) be organized along the lines of the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia (ICTY) established by the SC.”
“The establishment of ICTI should provide some small degree of justice to the victims of Israel War Crimes against humanity and genocide against the people of Palestine, just as the ICTY had done in the Balkans,” he added.
US defense officials have announced that North Korea’s upcoming missile launch would probably carry a satellite rather than a warhead.
The officials who spoke on condition of anonymity noted on Tuesday that a commercial satellite image of the Musudan-ri missile test site showed a Taepodong-2 missile with a bulb-shaped payload cover, consistent with a satellite payload, rather than a warhead.
The image was posted on Sunday on the website of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) a Washington-based group devoted to informing the public on security issues including nuclear weapons.
The bulb shape is similar to the nose cone standard for military and commercial satellite launches, concluded the officials – which included analysts at the US Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center in Dayton, Ohio.
“They probably are launching a satellite. But the issue is that the steps they’re going through to do that run parallel to them being able to have other capabilities,” senior ISIS analyst Paul Brannan said.
The United States, South Korea, and Japan have accused the North of testing a long-range missile, the Taepodong-2 — capable of reaching Alaska.
This is while Pyongyang announced that it would launch satellite Kwangmyongsong-2 into orbit as part of its space program between April 4 and 8.
|By Franklin Lamb – Beirut
‘We anticipate that the shape of the US assistance programs in Lebanon will be evaluated in the context of Lebanon’s parliamentary election results and the policies formed by the new Cabinet.’ — Jeffrey Feltman, Acting Assistant Secretary for Near East Affairs and former Ambassador to Lebanon, briefing the House Congressional Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, 03/24/09.
Part I: US Sinking: Serious Performance and Credibility Issues
Henry Kissinger, among others in the US foreign policy establishment, is reportedly aghast at how quickly and thoroughly the Bush administration botched US Middle East policy and handed much of the Near East and South Asia to Iran. Not just Iraq, Afghanistan, (plus the Af-Pak region) some of the countries bordering the Arab Gulf (increasingly referred to as the Persian Gulf) but the low hanging fruit of Palestine, ripe for picking.
As Iran rapidly expands its influence to South America, Asia and Africa, many observers in Lebanon think that their country may be next. Frankly, it is beginning to look that way.
US Lebanon Policy Pronouncements
Even before 1958, when US Embassy officials delivered suitcases filled with election buying cash to its favorite Lebanese politician, the incumbent, unpopular, corrupt, and anti-Muslim President Camile Chamoun, the Lebanese have looked favorably on America. Today, known Americans in Lebanon rarely skip a day without receiving thumbs up, a ‘welcome to Lebanon’, or a puckering of the lips and a “mwwas” which translates locally more or less as “kisses to you.”
Yet it may be a case of unrequited love. Regardless of what President Obama personally wants, and though there are reportedly overdue new US Middle East initiatives being worked on at the National Security Council and the State Department, there is strong Israel lobby enforced reticence in Washington to do anything for Lebanon that Israel may object to. And the Lebanese know it.
American policy statements towards Lebanon are frequently incomprehensible or contradictory to many Lebanese, among the most politically sophisticated around. With the approaching June 7 elections, now barely two months away, the intensifying barrage of Press Releases and pontifications from US government employees including the US State Department and Congressional Hearings witnesses, have was left many in Lebanon with raised eyebrows and shaking their heads. It is said that the average Lebanese is so astute that they can read Politicians thoughts as if they were printed with size 24 fonts on the politico’s forehead. Many of the current musings of American spokespersons are being put into the same category.
Feltman on the Hill
Over the years, Congressional Hearings have strayed markedly from their original purpose of informing the country’s Congressional delegates about weighty policy matters in order to keep the American Ship of State on an even keel. The past three decades has seen vast quantities of information organized across the US Capitol Grounds at the Madison, Jefferson and Adams Congressional Libraries by the venerated Congressional Research Service. CRS research is available instantly to any member of Congress or their staffs and some of it, generally high quality Issue Briefs, may soon be available worldwide on the Internet. Added to the CRS resource, the arrival of the Internet, plus burgeoning Congressional staffs, the original purpose and even need for Congressional “Hearings” has drastically changed. Yet there are more and more of them and they have become increasingly politicized and are now mainly useful as tools to promote Member images in their Districts, and less and less for learning. As a former “Hearing Specialist II” on the Hill for the House Judiciary Committee, this observer can report that little is normally learned from Congressional hearings anymore. In most cases, staffers prepare carefully the Members speeches, questions to witnesses, and answers the witness will very likely give, to each and every question from their bosses or even their bosses’ political adversaries and rivals on the panel.
Concerning many important but deemed ‘sensitive’ issues that Congress knows little about but certainly should investigate, Members often cannot get hearings-even classified hearings- because Congress continues to outsource many of its Constitutional prerogatives to an increasingly dominating Executive Branch.
This arrangement can be ideal for Single Issue lobbies that make excellent use of Congressional Hearings to publicly advance their projects. None more so than AIPAC, coordinating as it does the 120 plus pro Israel organizations that it quickly cobbles when the need arises to put together a fast hearing, forum, briefing, or Congressional Staff gathering, designed to keep the public in awe of important Israel related “key information or insights” revealed at a weighty “United States Congressional Hearing”. So much the better for Israel if the Committee Chairman is committed to its policies, as is the case with Congressman Gary Ackerman and the Chairs of the other 10 key House and Senate Committees, Foreign Affairs, Armed Services, Appropriations, Intelligence, and Terrorism that deal with Lebanon and the Middle East.
It is against this backdrop that Jeffrey Feltman was summoned last week to join Ackerman in signaling Lebanon to return pro Israel election results on June 7 or pay the price.
This commentary is not in any way meant to be some sort of ad hominum broadside aimed at Jeffrey Feltman or his rather more attractive and charming successor at the US Embassy in Beirut, Michele Sisson, or even the really heavyweight arch Zionist, Islamophobe and Arab baser, Gary Ackerman, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia. Yet it must be admitted that this duos current speeches on US Lebanon Policy are often unfathomable when considered alongside President Obama’s expressed Middle East objectives and what Lebanon sorely needs.
Feltman Warns Lebanon
Neither Feldman nor Ackerman minced words.
In his opening statement, Feltman, strongly discouraged any attempts by foreign powers to influence Lebanon’s elections, noting that “decisions on the shape and composition of the next government can and should be made by the Lebanese themselves, for Lebanon, free from outside interference, political intimidation and violence.”
His very next statement nullified what he had just said and he emphasized that the polls, with US help, “would provide an opportunity to continue the process of reinforcing Lebanon’s independence.” Feltman then labeled the US backed March 14 group the “pro-independence” bloc, while highlighting March 8′s association with Hezbollah, Syria and Iran as the most serious danger to Lebanon and the Region. He added that the US would support any dialogue between Lebanon and Israel.
Feltman then launched his zinger which shocked some people internationally but not many in Lebanon: “We anticipate that the shape of the United States’ assistance programs in Lebanon will be evaluated in the context of Lebanon’s parliamentary election results and the policies formed by the new cabinet.”
The House Subcommittee chairman who introduced Feltman, Representative Gary Ackerman (D-NY), provided a similar analysis in his prefatory remarks, listing US interests in Lebanon as “sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”
“The US cannot and should not interfere in the election, but neither should we be impassive,” he added (read: ‘watch what we will do not what we say’): “There is much we can do and should do on the outside to demonstrate that Lebanon’s future is not dependant on either militias or mullahs.”
Whether or not Ackerman distinguishes Lebanon from Afghanistan or knows Lebanon does not have “Mullahs” with the cameras running and AIPAC very likely writing or at least vetting and editing his remarks, ‘Mullahs with all its pejorative connotations in Ackerman’s Brooklyn District was surely the politically correct term for him to use regardless of what the Lebanese, a country with no Mulluhs, thought about it.
Ackerman also voiced support for the some military aid to Lebanon, noting the “pressing mission is battling terrorists activated and armed by foreign powers.” (read: it might be necessary to use them against Hezbollah).
Rarely missing a chance to expound on issues of interest to Israel, U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) submitted her questions and comments in writing and rather hysterically opined: “what happens in Lebanon in June can affect the US in July. Iran is stepping up efforts to assist extremist groups, like Hezbollah, operating in the Western Hemisphere. It is no surprise that our military and defense officials are now confirming that direct connections exist between Hezbollah and narcotraffickers”.
Interestingly, Ros-Lehtinen holds the record in Congress for authoring or co-sponsoring the most resolutions adopted by the House which claim a direct threat by Iran’s presence in the region poses to U.S. security. She and Ackerman are essentially tied for the record of post-9/11 anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim House resolutions.
On hearing reports of Feltman’s comments, some Lebanese strongly objected. Maysam, a pro March 14 student at the American University of Beirut explained:
As noted by Maysam, the US refusal to force Israel to provide cluster bomb and landmine maps returns almost weekly to the Lebanese and global public’s mind.
“I Am Not Able to Play Anymore”
On Sunday March 28, 2009 at the Marjayoun Public Hospital, 10-year-old Mohammad Jamal Abdel-Aal’s left leg and right hand got amputated after a US cluster bomb, left over from the summer 2006 war with Israel, exploded while he was playing in one of the fields near his home in the southern town of Hilta. Describing the few minutes that preceded the explosion, Abdel-Aal explained that he had gone out to a field near his house, “to take advantage of the spring time weather. I was walking between the yellow daisies when I heard an explosion and felt my body was being ripped apart,” he said, adding that he started feeling pain in his leg and was bleeding everywhere.”Then everything turned black.”
According to the Director of the Marjayoun Hospital, physician Mouenes Kalakesh, the lad is deeply depressed because his wounds “are going to affect his life forever.”
In a room next to Abdel-Aaal’s, 16-year-old Riad al-Ahmad is also recovering from a US landmine explosion that cost him a leg while herding his sheep in one of the fields of the southern village of Wazzani.
Given US opposition to the recent Cluster Bomb Convention, many politically active Lebanese believe the US bears responsibility for the continuing slaughter of unsuspecting civilians, and should at the very least organize a global political and media campaign and organize and international conference to support demining efforts. The recent 1.5 million dollars the US gave the Mine Action Group (MAG), one of the few demining teams still working in South Lebanon is seen as a drop in the bucket given the close to 15 million dollar combined US aid given to Israel each and every day of the year.
Feltman to Hezbollah
Regarding Hezbollah, Feltman said the US would not follow the United Kingdom’s example by opening contacts with the group’s political wing. He called the group a domestic and regional “threat,” adding “our position on Hezbollah remains as it was when the group was first designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 1997.”
Yet, he offered Hezbollah an opportunity for much better relations with the US declaring that if Hezbollah would “Renounce terrorism—both in Lebanon and abroad—and submit to the rule of law and the authority of the Lebanese state, we would reconsider this status,” he said in reference to Britain’s decision to start contacts with the Hezbollah.
Presumably Feltman is aware that Hezbollah’s position has long been known regarding its theatre of operations against Israel. They were repeated this week when Hezbollah vowed that it would deter any possible Israeli aggression but would not carry out any military operation outside the country. MP Mohammad Raad told a funeral gathering in Sujod that: “We will not carry out any operation outside our Lebanese territories, but we will not accept after today that the Israeli enemy stages any assault against our land,” adding that “they will pay the price for any possible attack on Lebanon, and will receive the proper response.”
As for the Western attempts to open dialogue with Hezbollah, Raad said “Hezbollah welcomes this gesture,” but “it is a mistake if we assume the United States will abandon Israel for the sake of the Arabs…The United States’ project is with Israel, and the US foreign policy will not change.”
Earlier Feltman had stated that there was no difference between Hezbollah military and political wing and wondered how the UK could possibly speak only with Hezbollah’s Political wing since its leadership must be one for the whole Party. When asked about this point one Hezbollah member, who teachers at a high school in Haret Hreik advised:
“I think I can help American officials understand the difference. The military wing of Hezbollah, by which I mean, military resistance to Israel, is just about 5% of what makes up Hezbollah. But that is all that westerners mainly know about from their biased media. The political, social, economic, educational and medical wing of Hezbollah makes up the nearly 95%. Explained impolitely, the military wing is the wing that kicked Israel’s ass out of Lebanon and will keep it out until the political wing can help the Lebanese army do the job and, inshallah (God willing) achieve Middle East peace by returning the true owners to Palestine.”
Browbeating, threats, puffed promises, lack of respect, consistently advancing an Israeli agenda has tuned off many Lebanese from American overtures.
Increasingly people in Lebanon are wondering if Iran would make a better long term alley.
- Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com. Contact him at: email@example.com.
At least 10 people have been killed in an air raid by a suspected US drone on a village in northwest Pakistan, local officials say.
Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder, reporting from Islamabad, said that two missiles struck a compound in the Orakzai region west of Peshawar, on Wednesday.
The missiles are thought to have hit a compound that belongs to Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of the Pakistan Taliban.
Mehsud had claimed responsibility for Monday’s attack on a police academy in Lahore in which at least 12 people where shot dead.
“Everybody here will now be bracing for some sort of reprisal,” Hyder said.
“The attack hit a very strategic area because it is at the confluence of three tribal agencies: Khyber, Orakzai and Kurram.
“We are told that up to a dozen people have been wounded,” he said.
Since last year, more than 30 US strikes have killed at least 300 people, including al-Qaeda members, according to reports from officials in Pakistan.
LAHORE: The Pakistani authorities investigating the March 30, 2009 terrorist attack on the Manawan police training school in Lahore, the capital of the Punjab province, that killed 10 policemen, have described the 30/3 assault as the first ever “fidayeen” attack carried out anywhere in the country by any militant group since the 9/11 terror attacks in the United States.
Those investigating the attack say it was actually a “fidayeen operation” which was carried out by the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan under a changed strategy to inflict maximum damage, unlike the past practice of carrying out straight suicide bombings after approaching the target. The investigators say the distinction between the fidayeen and the suicide bomber is extremely fine. A fidayeen attack is not a suicide attack but a different kind of assault in which a heavily armed militant sneaks into his target and starts firing bullets besides throwing hand grenades, only to fight till death.
A fidayeen attacker does not believe in exploding himself to instant death but he fights till the end, often launching attacks in difficult situations where death is inevitable. A fidayee attacker, the investigators say, is supposed to try and escape after fulfilling the mission. As a matter of fact, the fidayeen operations had so far been carried out by the militants of the Jaish-e-Mohammad led by Maulana Masood Azhar and Lashkar-e-Toiba led by Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, two Pakistani jehadi groups which are active in Jammu and Kashmir since 1989 to put an end to the occupation of the Indian security forces.
Those investigating the March 30 attack have identified Qari Hussain Mehsud, a close associate of the FBI’s Most wanted Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud, as the mastermind of the 30/3 assault, who had personally visited the site of the assault before choosing it as the next target to launch a fidayeen attack. According to circles close to those investigating the Manawan attack, Hijratullah alias Nadeem Asghar, one of the terrorists captured alive by the security forces from outside the police training school while the military operation was still on, has disclosed that he was working under the command of Qari Hussain Mehsud, a key TTP commander loyal to Baitullah.
Qari Hussain Mehsud, who has already been named by Baitullah Mehsud as his successor in case of his death, and is notorious for training suicide bombers and sending them on fatal missions. The investigators say the three terrorists who eventually blew themselves up inside the Manawan police training centre on Monday to avoid being caught alive, had actually been trained in suicide bombing by Qari Hussain Mehsud at his training camp in the Spinkai Ragzai area of South Waziristan.
As a matter of fact, the investigators say, the Spinkai Ragzai suicide training camp that had been dismantled by the Pakistan army way back in January 2008 following a massive military operation – Operation Zalzala – seems to have been reactivated by Qari Hussain Mehsud after the withdrawal of the army troops from the area after the 2008 general elections. Spinkai Ragzai is a small town in South Waziristan, inhabited by the Pashtun tribe Mehsud. Operation Zalzala was primarily aimed at flushing out Baitullah and his local and foreign militants from the area. Before the operation was launched, Spinkai Ragzai was infested with TTP militants, with the villagers providing them support and shelter. Dozens of the Mehsud–led militants were killed during Operation Zalzala and the security forces were in full control of it within three days.
The Spinkai Ragzai suicide training camp being run by Hussain was one of the main targets of the military operation in view of intelligence information that young boys not more than 17 years of age are introduced by him as the ones restlessly waiting for their turn to strike against targets and embrace martyrdom. Someone who specialises in indoctrinating teenagers in violence in the name of Islam, Qari Hussain Mehsud is believed to have become the main ideologue of the Pakistani Taliban militants working under Baitullah Mehsud’s command. The Pakistani agencies are trying to hunt him down since long given his status as the person who may have recruited and indoctrinated the largest number of people to carry out suicide attacks in the country.
Interestingly, Qari Hussain, who is well known in the TTP ranks for his strong anti-Shia views and his close ties with the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ), was reported killed on January 27, 2008 during the Operation Zalzala, after his hideout was targeted with a missile. The army had launched the operation on January 24 after the Taliban forces commanded by Baitullah overran two military outposts and conducted attacks against other forts and military convoys in South Waziristan. While announcing Hussain’s death, the military authorities had claimed to have intercepted a telephonic communication between two of the TTP commanders about the death of the Mehsud lieutenant during the operation. His last training centre was believed to be in Kotkai, South Waziristan, before it was destroyed by the Pakistan army.
The military had reiterated its claim on May 18, 2008 after taking reporters to one of Qari Hussain Mehsud’s suicide camps in Spinkai in South Waziristan. “It was like a factory that had been recruiting nine to twelve-year-old boys, and turning them into suicide bombers”, said Maj-Gen Tariq Khan, the commander of the Pakistan Army’s 14 Division which had led the operation in South Waziristan. However, hardly four days later, on May 23, 2008, Qari Hussain Mehsud sprung a surprise to the Pakistani military authorities by addressing a press conference at a government school building in South Waziristan just after his boss Baitullah Mehsud had declared that the Taliban would continue to attack the NATO forces in Afghanistan. “I am alive, don’t you see me?” Hussain had said.
Asked about the motive behind the Manawan fidayeen attack, the investigators point out Baitullah Mehsud’s Tuesday responsibility claim saying: “The assault was in retaliation for the continued drone strikes by the US in collaboration with Pakistan on our people. Such attacks will continue as long as Pakistan continued supporting the Americans. The Manawan attack was carried out four days after the US State Department authorised [on March 25] a reward of up to $ 5 million for information leading to the location, arrest, and/or conviction of Baitullah Mehsud, describing him as a key Al-Qaeda facilitator in the lawless tribal region of South Waziristan.”
Map of two Lahore attacks
and relation to Wagah border crossing.
Which side of the border will the next attack be on?
LAHORE: Around 50 men were arrested on Tuesday based on disclosures by the Afghan gunman and other suspects arrested after Monday’s siege of the police academy in Manawan, Punjab Police chief Khawaja Khalid Farooq said on Tuesday. The suspects arrested from various parts of the provincial capital are being interrogated. Meanwhile, an FIR of the attack has been registered at the Manawan Police Station on the complaint of Muhammad Nazir, the chief instructor at the training centre. rana tanveer
* TTP chief claims responsibility for Lahore attack
- Vows attacks inside American territory
PESHAWAR: Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Baitullah Mehsud on Tuesday claimed responsibility for the attack on a police training academy in Lahore and suicide attacks in Islamabad and Bannu, and warned of further attacks in Pakistan in the coming days and later in the US.
“These (attacks) were in reaction to (US) drone strikes in the Tribal Areas,” Baitullah Mehsud told BBC Urdu over the telephone from an undisclosed location.
“Over the next few days, more such attacks will come … two or three suicide attacks will take place,” warned Mehsud, without naming any cities or targets. “As long as the drone attacks continue, we will not stop.” The Taliban leader said he would himself “teach the US a lesson”.
“Very soon we will take revenge from America, not in Afghanistan but in Washington, which will amaze the entire world,” he told the AFP news agency over the telephone. “The maximum they can do is martyr me. We will exact our revenge on them from inside America … but let us avenge [those in] Pakistan first.”
Analysts said Mehsud’s announcement on responsibility for the attacks could pressure the Pakistan People’s Party government to order a military operation against Baitullah.
“Rehman Malik described the incident as an attack on Pakistan … the government should now move against Mehsud for ordering the attack in Lahore,” said the analysts.
Rehman said on Monday that an initial investigation into the Lahore attack indicated Mehsud’s involvement.
WASHINGTON: Pakistan must prove it is willing to take on extremists within its own borders before the US delivers financial aid or weapons to the government there, a key senator said on Tuesday. Sen Carl Levin said he did not believe the US could buy stability in Pakistan. And he said he would support economic and military aid only after he saw that the Pakistani government understood that it was in its own interest to battle its internal insurgent threats. So far, he said he was not convinced. ap