New York Baitullah Mehsud, the chief of Pakistani Taliban, who claimed credit for the recent deadly attack on a police academy near Lahore, has links with the country’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), a media report said.
Based in lawless border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mehsud was tipped off by ISI, to enable him escape attempts to capture or kill him in the last two years, Newsweek reported.
Several operations were launched by Pakistani security forces in the last couple of years to kill or capture Mehsud, who is also suspected to have hand in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the news magazine noted.
But each time he vanished without incident. He heads a group known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban and has made a name for himself since late 2007 as one of the militants’ most ambitious leaders, Newsweek said.
Two counter-terrorism experts familiar with official US government’s reporting told the magazine that officials in both Washington and Islamabad suspect Mehsud has contacts inside the ISI, Pakistan’s “inscrutable and sprawling intelligence agency”.
Mehsud’s contacts, the theory goes, are tipping him off before Pakistani troops can pounce, Newsweek said.
The report quoted a Pakistani source, who follows the issue, as saying that high-level American officials have shared with their counterparts in Islamabad some intelligence, indicating that renegade ISI elements helped Mehsud’s group train for the December 2007 assassination of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
US officials, it said, either declined to discuss that point or said they couldn’t confirm it. Given Mehsud’s “odious reputation” and Pakistan’s “purported knowledge” of his whereabouts, “it’s a puzzle why they’re ignoring and avoiding any strike against him,” one tribal elder in the region told Newsweek.
“Baitullah is very much mixed up in Afghanistan and with Al Qaeda,” one Afghan Taliban commander told the news magazine, adding that Mehsud was capable of shipping foreign fighters into Afghanistan “and even [farther] west”.
Several US officials consider such threats to be mere chest-thumping, but they don’t rule out the possibility that Mehsud could be cooperating with better-equipped jihadists, such as the remnants of Qaeda’s high command, the report said.
Frances Townsend, a top counter-terrorism adviser to former president George W Bush, notes that Mehsud has already demonstrated his ability to mount attacks inside Pakistani cities, well beyond his base of operations.
“You have got to be careful about dismissing [his more expansive threats] out of hand,” Townsend warned.
11. April 2009. | 09:20
Srbijagas general director Dusan Bajatovic on April 9 stated that he expects the company for the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline to be founded by the end of April, and that the Banatski Dvor underground gas storage facility will be ready for use in the next heating season.
Bajatovic told the press that, at the moment, the Serbian delegation is negotiating in Moscow on the establishment of the RussianSerbian joint company, and that there are three issues that need to be harmonized.
They are negotiating about whom the gas pipeline route would go to in the event one of the companies leaves the joint venture, as well as about what kind of company management would enable both Serbia and Russia to be equal partners, although Serbia has 49 percent of the shares.
Bajatovic stated that a EUR5.45 million contract will be signed on April 10 with Austrian company Heat, which is to set up a production line in 233 days, thanks to which five million cubic meters of gas will be produced daily.
According to Bajatovic, eight production boreholes are also to be opened, which will require EUR12 million, and that should be completed by Nov. 1.
To fill Banatski Dvor will take EUR30 million, and filling operations will begin around July 1, when the gas price drops, he said, adding that this can be financed by state money, loans, or an agreement with Gazprom on consigning gas.
“That means that Srbijagas could guarantee that Serbia could endure a total cessation of gas deliveries for two months, which is a European standard,” he added.
11. April 2009. | 09:14
Source: Ria Novosti
Tens of thousands of protesters blocked the main roads of Georgia’s capital on Friday evening, in a civil disobedience campaign to force President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign.
The campaign officially began at 6:00 p.m. local time (14:00 GMT), with protesters crowding outside parliament and the presidential offices, and blocking the route to the state broadcaster. Opposition leaders have pledged to keep the protests peaceful, but to continue until Saakashvili steps down.
Saakashvili is currently facing the toughest challenge yet to his leadership, with 60,0000 people rallying against him in the capital on Thursday, amid public anger over last summer’s disastrous war with Russia and Saakashvili’s authoritarian leadership.
Addressing the crowd outside parliament during the afternoon, opposition leader Levan Gachechiladze, a former presidential challenger, urged Tbilisi residents “to demonstrate exemplary disobedience… This will start in Tbilisi and will then sweep across Georgia. I am, therefore, asking you to show discipline, as you did yesterday.”
President Saakashvili remained defiant however, saying he would remain in office until his presidential term expires in 2013.
Speaking to reporters in English, he said: “I’ve been facing these ultimatums every other month during the last five years… Every independent poll clearly proves that people are longing for dialogue, for long-term stability.”
However, he said he was ready to negotiate on several issues, including electoral reform.
Addressing the rally outside parliament, Nino Burdzhanadze, leader of the United Georgia Democratic Movement, challenged Saakashvili to a public debate on television.
“I’m calling on Saakashvili to engage in direct dialogue. If Saakashvili is a real man, I’m ready to join him in a live TV debate today and raise my complaints,” she said.
Hundreds of protesters stayed in front of parliament overnight, and around 25,000 joined them during the day.
Saakashvili’s opponents blame him for dragging the country into a war with Russia over South Ossetia last August, resulting in the permanent split from Georgia of the province, along with another rebel republic, Abkhazia. He also faces criticism for failure to carry out democratic reforms promised after the 2003 “Rose Revolution” that brought him to power.
11. April 2009. | 09:15
Two police bomb disposal experts are seen yesterday removing improvised explosive devices from the Church of Aghios Dimitrios in Thessaloniki. A local priest said churchgoers had been inside the building when the devices were discovered.
In an unprecedented series of attacks, unidentified arsonists yesterday planted explosive devices in four major churches in Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki, though only the Piraeus bomb detonated, causing damage but no injuries.
A homemade bomb, comprising two gas canisters attached to a timer, went off inside the Aghia Triada Church in Piraeus shortly before 3 p.m. Earlier police bomb disposal experts destroyed a similar device found inside the Athens Cathedral. Police cordoned off the area around the cathedral, next to the capital’s main tourist district, after receiving a warning from an anonymous caller who also contacted the press. An anonymous caller had also warned police about the bomb in Piraeus but officers arrived too late to avert the blast.
Two homemade explosive devices, again connected to timers, were also defused by police in Thessaloniki, inside the central churches of Aghia Sofia and Aghios Dimitrios.
A warning about a bomb at the Athens central appeals court complex yesterday turned out to be a hoax.
President Obama sent a near-declaration of war to Iran, all wrapped up in greetings for the Iranian New Year. The message may have looked like “a smiley faced video” in which the “president appeared to be very amiable and wished peace, love and harmony,” but was actually “nothing more than a well executed propaganda ploy intended to give him cover on the day he announces his true intentions.” Then he told Europeans, ”As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven.” Beneath the charm, “Barack Obama repeats the worst, most untruthful and belligerent policies of the Bush administration.”
Freedom Rider: Phony Nuclear Disarmament
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
“Obama repeated almost word for word Bush administration policy on the need for missiles in Europe.”
President Barack Obama has an amazing ability to convince people that he intends to do what they want, even when he intends to do the exact opposite. It is a skill that he honed during the presidential campaign that he is now using expertly as president. He managed to sell himself as the peace candidate when in fact he has every intention of continuing the expansion of the American empire.
Most recently he has used his expert communication skills to declare that he will eventually make war on Iran. He has never said those words, and he even sent a smiley faced video greeting for Nowruz, the Iranian new year celebration. The president appeared to be very amiable and wished peace, love and harmony to the Iranian people. Yet the much discussed greeting was nothing more than a well executed propaganda ploy intended to give him cover on the day he announces his true intentions.
Obama tells outright, bald faced lies about Iran in order to make an attack palatable to progressives, who actually never need much of a rationale to capitulate to the wishes of their idol. Iran is painted as an aggressor nation because it chooses to exercise its right as a sovereign nation and signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty to develop nuclear energy.
“Progressives never need much of a rationale to capitulate to the wishes of their idol.”
Obama is so smooth in planning his attack that he even makes it appear that the United States is willing to pursue nuclear disarmament. During his recent trip to Europe he announced that he and Russian president Medvedev would embark on a plan for mutual nuclear disarmament. Headlines raved that the president was willing to give up nukes, but as always even a cursory reading informed those wise enough to be skeptical that he means no such thing. In a speech in Prague he said, ”Make no mistake: As long as these weapons exist, we will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that defense to our allies.” Just in case anyone got carried away with the announcement he added, “This goal will not be reached quickly – perhaps not in my lifetime.” So much for a nuclear free world.
Not only did Obama make clear that he didn’t mean what soft hearted, useful dupes think he said, he repeated almost word for word Bush administration policy on the need for missiles in Europe. ”As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven.”
It was once left to Condoleezza Rice, queen of the bizarre, semi-insane statement, to insist that Poland and the Czech Republic were threatened by the prospect of a nuclear Iran. Now Barack Obama repeats the worst, most untruthful and belligerent policies of the Bush administration. The devious plan is breathtaking in its simplicity. Obama will point to his nuclear proposals, and his new year’s charm offensive in order to claim that he is a lot nicer than George W. Bush.
The Iranian government has no reason to be impressed with America’s empty gestures. Iran has fairly and reasonably requested that the United States address its grievances before relations can be normalized. The United States overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh in the early 1950s. America’s then ally, Saddam Hussein, launched a nearly decade long war against Iran in the 1980s that included the use of chemical weapons. In 1988 the United States navy shot down an Iranian passenger jet and killed 300 people. Economic sanctions continue to take their toll on the Iranian economy.
“Needless to say, the only nuclear power in the Middle East, Israel, didn’t get a mention in the president’s remarks.”
The American people will be told none of this history. They will be told that the president made nice and the mean, crazy Iranians slapped his loving, outstretched hand. They will not be told that the United States senate failed to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Needless to say, the only nuclear power in the Middle East, Israel, didn’t get a mention in the president’s remarks. Israel is estimated to have hundreds of nuclear weapons. No one is certain how many exist because that nation’s nuclear program is unacknowledged and uninspected.
Obama should get credit for gall if nothing else. Most Czechs are opposed to having American nuclear weapons on their soil, and yet Obama told them he would do precisely what they don’t want, while also claiming he wants to end the existence of nuclear arsenals.
Many people who turned up their noses at Bush’s crass bullying swoon over Obama’s slick words. America is still the enemy of the rest of the planet and is not to be trusted. In fact, the mistrust should be greater now that a smart, charismatic imperialist has replaced a stupid, despised one. Nuclear arms reduction should be pursued but the United States can’t take the lead. Its motives are not honest and its true intent is clear. Only a smart imperialist can make plans for war while claiming to make plans for peace. If the Iranians are unimpressed with Mr. Obama it is because they are paying attention. The only question is whether or not enough people in this country are smart enough to do the same thing.
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.
|Saturday, April 11, 2009
Mr Holbrooke got an earful from his Pakistani interlocutors for the drone attacks and the “slander campaign against the ISI.” Foreign Minister Qureshi implied that the barrage of attacks emanating from Washington targeting the Pakistan Army and the ISI and creating doubts about their sincerity in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban was simply unacceptable. Mr Holbrooke reportedly tried to assuage feelings by denying that either he or Admiral Mullen had levelled any such allegations. Mr Qureshi also had a barbed word or two about the “blank cheque” that Mr Obama had said he would not offer Pakistan.
Seldom has a US delegation received a more hostile official reception. Mr Gilani received them without a tie and Gen Shuja not at all. Holbrooke and Co not expecting such a frosty welcome must have felt ambushed; this surely was not the docile ally they had expected to encounter. They left for India licking their wounds and presumably chastened for having taken Pakistan for granted. Meanwhile, their proposal to mount joint operations against the Taliban and expanded drone strikes was summarily rejected.
Mr Holbrooke had better learn fast if he is to maintain his reputation as a successful negotiator. He must know that when riled Pakistanis will go to great lengths to make their displeasure known, even if it comes to cutting their nose to spite their face. He should also learn that it is the denial mode that Pakistanis prefer to adopt when confronted with unpleasant situations. Thus we were winning the war in East Pakistan until the day we surrendered. We actually won the war of 1965 even though having started it we achieved none of our objectives by the time we sued for peace. The attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team and the Police Academy were really an “understandable” reaction to the US war on Afghanistan. Surrendering Swat and Bajaur to the Taliban was a wise step that brought peace even if the locals hate Taliban rule and now live subject to barbaric laws that violate just about every relevant article of the Pakistan Constitution. Mr Holbrooke will also discover that while we generally say what we mean we seldom do what we say, and think nothing of it.
Had Mr Holbrooke been better briefed he would have had with him the testimony of Mr Malik Navid, the current IG Police of the NWFP, before the Parliamentary Committee on National Security a day before Mr Holbrooke’s meeting with his Pakistani hosts.
The IG had told his interlocutors that the Taliban and Al Qaeda “are present in every city and town (of Pakistan) in some places they are active, in others they are dormant.” The IG had added that Jihadi groups were moving through southern Punjab and eventually aimed to reach the financial hub of Karachi. He warned that the Al Qaeda-Taliban combine had developed some expertise in bio chemical weapons and that the government needed to focus urgently on containing militancy as it spread from its bases. The IG had also said that Al Qaeda specialised in turning out suicide bombers within three months and that a substantial number of Pakistan’s madressahs were involved in this activity. The IG named an AL Qaeda operative Qari Hussain as being responsible for training suicide bombers.
Having apprised his audience of the views of the IG with which they probably would not have been familiar, for such is how the State dysfunctions here, Mr Holbrooke could have paused and asked his interlocutors “Please tell me how the “Best Intelligence Service in the world” has allowed this to happen. And, pray tell me what you have done to stop it? And if not, why not? And if so, why have you failed.” He would have noticed that instead of hanging their heads in shame for lack of a plausible explanation or excuse many in his audience would have taken umbrage that he had felt it appropriate to ask such a question as it pertains to Pakistan’s internal affairs. As if the meltdown of Pakistan is not a matter of anyone’s concern but theirs. Globalisation, Mr Holbrooke would have grasped, never really took off in Pakistan.
The Pakistani establishment, Mr Holbrooke should know, simply cannot deal with the prospect that the State is collapsing and that too at a time when the patience of the people of Pakistan with its leaders, which at one time seemed infinite considering the decades of misrule that they have endured (helped along by US support of the most despicable of them), is reaching its end.
Mr Holbrooke would do well to revisit his remarks in Islamabad that the US and Pakistan face a common strategic threat and enemy. The fact is that the threat/enemy he was referring to, the Taliban, is regarded by an many Pakistanis as a former and potential strategic ally. The real threat Pakistan faces is in their view from India, followed by Israel and, only a short distance behind, is his own country.
Nevertheless, Pakistan must be saved. That is the challenge the administration to which Mr Holbrooke reports seems to have taken on itself. We wish him well.
The writer is a former ambassador. Email: email@example.com
|Saturday, April 11, 2009
By o ur correspondents
BATKHELA/MINGORA: Tanzim Nifaz Shariat-e-Muhammadi (TNSM) on Friday assured the NWFP government that it would keep the peace deal intact, but warned that the delay by President Zardari in signing the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation could hinder the return of peace to the Swat Valley.
NWFP Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain and the peace envoy to the NWFP government Afrasiyab Khattak rushed to Batkhela to soothe the TNSM chief Maulana Sufi Muhammad, who wound up the peace camp in Swat on Thursday. However, Sufi Muhammad refused to meet the visiting delegation of the NWFP government in protest against the delay in the signing of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation.
“We met him (Sufi) during the Friday prayers but he did not participate in thetalks,” Mian Iftikhar told The News. The swift move by the NWFP government was aimed at salvaging the shaky peace accord, struck to bring back calm to the militancy-hit Swat district.
Mian Iftikhar and Afrasiyab, accompanied by Home Secretary Fayaz Toru, Malakand Commissioner Syed Muhammad Javed and District Coordination Officer Malakand Agency Arshad Khan, held talks with the TNSM team, represented by its spokesman Amir Izzat Khan, Maulana Syed Wahab, Ghayasuddin, Latif Khan and Multanmir.
After negotiations, Mian Iftikhar said that they agreed to keep the deal intact. He contradicted some media reports about the scrapping of the accord and said some elements were bent upon sabotaging the agreement but their nefarious designs would be foiled. He said the provincial government was sincere in implementating the Nizam-e-Adl and setting up of the Qazi courts. He again appealed to the president to sign the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation to block the way to more bloodshed in the Swat Valley.
Afrasiyab, who is also the provincial president of the Awami National Party, hoped that President Asif Ali Zardari would soon sign the draft of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation. He said the government would remove all reservations of the TNSM in this regard.
Talking to reporters on the occasion, Amir Izzat said their agreement with the provincial government was intact. “Sufi Muhammad just wound up the peace camp in protest and it is not related to the scrapping of the pact,” he said.
The TNSM spokesman said that Sufi Muhammad did not take part in Friday’s talks in protest and would not hold negotiations with the government till the implementation of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation.
The News has learnt that Sufi Muhammad communicated to the government that the incidents of violence were hurting him but due to the non-implementation of the Nizam-e-Adl, he could not try the responsible people in the Qazi courts, something which had forced him to leave Swat. However, the aged TNSM leader has said he has not left the Malakand division and would continue efforts for peace.
Meanwhile, hundreds of people from different parts of the Swat Valley took out a rally against the delay in the implementation of the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation. Addressing the protesters at the Nishat Chowk, President Kanju Amn Jirga Inamur Rahman, former provincial minister Hussain Ahmad Kanju, ex-MNA Qari Abdul Bais and others warned that if the president did not sign the Nizam-e-Adl Regulation within 10 days, they would begin a long march to Islamabad. They also declared the flogging video as fake and demanded of the government to take action against persons responsible for it.
The termination of the peace camp by Sufi Muhammad has caused apprehension and uncertainty in the valley. People fear resumption of the military operation which, they said, could prove destructive for them, this time more than before.
|3 people involved in 2008 mosque bombing in Shiraz executed|
| Shiraz, Fars Prov., April 10, IRNA – Three people behind a bomb explosion in a mosque in Iran’s southern city of Shiraz in April 2008 were hanged at local Adelabad Prison early Friday morning. The incident had killed 14 and injured about 300.
Based on the incoming reports, 15 individuals, seven of them distinguished to be the main culprits, had been arrested in connection with last year’s blast in Seyed-ul-Shohada Hosseinieh of Shiraz but death verdicts in case of three of them were confirmed by the judicial authorities.
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran hanged three men on Friday for their involvement in a bombing inside a packed mosque that killed 14 people nearly a year ago, the official IRNA news agency reported.
The three, who were not identified, were hanged in Abdel Abad prison in the southern city of Shiraz near where the attack occurred, the agency said. The sentencing was carried out after Iran’s Supreme Court upheld the guilty verdicts against them.
Iran’s Revolutionary Court found the three men guilty in November for their involvement in the April 12 bombing that also wounded more than 200 people.
The court, which handles state security cases, also found the three guilty of having links to the United States and planning to destabilize Iran through a campaign of bombings and assassinations. It said they had confessed.
According to the court, the three said they were members of the Iran Royal Association, a little known monarchist group that wants to overthrow the country’s ruling Islamic establishment.
Iran has repeatedly accused the U.S. and Britain of backing militants and ethnic opposition groups to destabilize the Tehran government. Both countries have denied the accusations.
The mosque that was bombed is part of the Rahpouyan-e-Vesal cultural center in Shiraz, about 550 miles (885 kilometers) south of Iran’s capital, Tehran. The mosque was packed with about 1,000 worshippers at the time of the explosion.
Bombings are unusual in Shiraz, where tourists come to see the ruins of nearby Persepolis, an ancient Persian kingdom that was a center for ceremonies and worship.
Modern pirates bear little resemblance to popular romantic Hollywood characters. Increasingly violent and greedy, their actions seem an affront to the very ideals of Western civilization. Armchair admirals and politicians are quick to shake their fists, avowing, “Something must be done.” Maritime industry is quick to follow, with unsettling incident accounts and dire financial projections. Yet, more informed analysis of piracy reveals that the impact in blood and treasure is altogether minimal.
Indeed, common misperceptions abound. While maritime piracy incidents capture media attention and generate international calls for action, the piracy threat is in fact overstated. It is nothing more than high-seas criminal activity, better addressed by law enforcement agencies than warships. As a localized nuisance, it should not serve to shape maritime force structure or strategy.
The distinction between piracy and terrorism is neither semantic nor academic. If piracy, the responsibility lies with local law enforcement officials, not the military. But maritime terrorism means scrambling the Navy.
No Link, No Evidence
A critical contemporary myth to debunk is the alleged nexus between piracy and international terrorism. Serious scholars and analysts view with circumspection any assertions of this linkage. For instance, a recent International Institute of Strategic Studies (IISS) forum revealed that there is “no evidence terrorists are gaining any benefit from piracy”—the real threat being organized criminal activity, not terrorism.1 The institute cites a study emphasizing the importance of not exaggerating the extent of either threat. Piracy, it maintains, is essentially a localized problem: “It is a nasty headache where it occurs, but its real effects on world trade and the movement of people are negligible.” The study concludes there is no great risk of terrorists posing as pirates or adopting their methods either to seize a ship for hostages or to use the vessel itself as a weapon by igniting volatile cargo. To be sure, maritime terrorism is clearly a proven method of al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, but piracy cannot be plausibly conflated with it.
A 2008 RAND study reached similar conclusions. It detailed the causes for piracy in the last decade: local corruption, increased maritime traffic, small arms proliferation, lax coastal/port security, increasingly difficult maritime surveillance, lingering effects of the Asian financial crisis, and the denser traffic through congested choke points. RAND did not list terrorism, because “the presumed convergence between maritime terrorism and piracy remains highly questionable. . . . To date, there has been no credible evidence to support speculation about such a nexus emerging.”2 RAND further assessed that the objectives of the two actors remained entirely distinct. A recent piracy incident seems to support this: during the September 2008 hijacking of a Ukrainian freighter—the Faina—off Somalia, the pirate leader admitted via phone to a New York Times reporter that the group wanted “just money.”3
Piracy of course has costs, both human and economic. Crews are kidnapped, injured, and occasionally murdered. Time is money in international shipping; delayed or stolen cargoes, waylaid vessels, and idle crews all mean lost profits and possible liabilities. Second-order effects in markets affected by piracy also have uncounted costs. Similarly, the potential consequences of an environmental disaster from mishandled or abandoned vessels with hazardous cargo could be severe. While impossible to quantify, the positive reinforcement that highly visible piracy successes have on would-be criminals is also a factor. Yet, the most significant systemic costs come from increases in vessel and cargo insurance premiums—especially for marine business in high-risk regions.
Overall, however, the consequences to maritime commerce are surprisingly minimal, though precise figures on the losses in commercial shipping are not available. The Center for Strategic and International Studies estimated that in 2001, piracy cost the industry $16 billion, but some analysts dispute this figure and it pales beside larger estimates of total global maritime trade, regardless.4 A 2006 assessment of the risks of piracy indicated shipping industry losses were relatively small in relation to the total volume of ocean transports.5 The study IISS cites above asserted “truth be told, losses are so low that there is little incentive for the shipping industries even to make a serious collective effort to tackle it.”6 So why all the hand wringing over piracy?
Widely Held Misperceptions
Even as the facts fail to support allegations of terrorist linkages or dire economic consequences, governments, pundits, and the media continue to hype the “threat.” For instance, the U.S. National Strategy for Maritime Security relates that pirate groups could employ capabilities to board and commandeer large underway vessels to facilitate terrorist acts.7 This seems a poor basis for guiding decisions on how America is to address piracy. Regrettably, many apply similar logic to organized drug smugglers, with the apparent intent of exaggerating the threat. The U.S. Coast Guard’s recent adoption of a risk-based threat assessment process that includes analyzing the likelihood of specific terrorist methods, targets, and attack consequences appears to be a sounder decision-support model, easily applied to piracy.
Notwithstanding the lack of any clear evidence, government officials and respected journals continue to make spurious claims. British maritime authorities in 2006 dismissed allegations of a piracy-terrorism nexus in a House of Commons report, responding that the report’s conclusions were “not based on informed and corroborated intelligence.”8 A recent Foreign Affairs article claimed “the scourges of piracy and terrorism are increasingly intertwined: piracy on the high seas is becoming a key tactic of terrorists.”9 Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) piracy expert Charles Dragonette roundly disputed the article as “uncritically repeating myths, half truths, and unsupportable assertions of an alleged nexus of piracy and terrorism.”10 The result, however, is a persistent blurring of the line between piracy and terrorism.
Another factor contributing to the confusion and ignorance surrounding piracy is the lack of a standard and comprehensive piracy definition, especially as it applies to high seas and territorial waters. Any act of maritime crime occurring within a sovereign state’s 12-nautical-mile limit (the vast majority of reported incidents) simply is not piracy. As such, no state except the sovereign has any legal authority to address criminal acts against shipping in its waters. The resultant muddying of piracy and maritime crime reduces the accuracy of available piracy statistics.
The International Chamber of Commerce’s non-profit International Maritime Bureau (IMB) Piracy Reporting Center also has a relatively loose definition that allows incidents both within and outside 12 nautical miles to qualify as piracy.11 For instance, the IMB records reports of perceived small boat shadowing in high-threat areas as attempted pirate attacks, even though incident specifics are almost never confirmed. Similarly, an attempt by Greenpeace to board or thwart legal maritime activity also falls under the IMB piracy definition. Piracy data over different periods can also appear to support differing conclusions. Statistics for the past decade show a relatively consistent number of incidents per year, suggesting no increase, but a regional spike in one area can be hidden by a drop in another—Somalia versus the Strait of Malacca, for example.12 Prudent maritime analysts should scrutinize piracy reporting, data, and statistics; claims that piracy is “spiraling” are usually unsubstantiated.
A second concern with IMB reporting is possible bias. Its Piracy Reporting Center seeks to raise awareness of hotspots, detail specific attacks and consequences, and investigate piracy incidents and armed robbery at sea and in port. While a noble cause endorsed by the United Nations, the center’s raison d’etre is trumpeting the “piracy threat.” Just as well-intentioned humanitarian aid groups occasionally exaggerate the scope or intensity of a crisis for effect—to draw more international attention and resources—so, too, is the IMB vulnerable to bias. Further, the bureau is almost exclusively funded by maritime shipping companies and insurers, with vested interests in keeping piracy in the headlines.13 Profit-oriented businesses loathe implementing costly preventive measures, naturally preferring that international organizations, national law enforcement agencies, and armed forces take care of the problem instead.
The international shipping industry thus has a specific interest in exaggerating the global threat of piracy. Apparently capitalizing on the heightened 2008 media attention on Somali piracy, shipping organizations from all sides of the industry issued in September what they described as “a crisis call” to the International Maritime Organization and the UN to take “real and immediate action” to tackle piracy in Somalia, urging more nations to commit naval vessels to the area to deal with the threat.14
Only the Symptoms
Gray hulls bristling with weapons and sensors designed for conventional war are simply ill equipped to handle piracy—and are better assigned elsewhere. The recent situation off Somalia is a telling example. By late October 2008, the month-long saga of the pirated Belize-flagged motor vessel Faina, loaded with T-72 tanks, showed no signs of resolution, though six warships monitored the situation from the horizon. Astoundingly, this equates to roughly one destroyer or cruiser per pirate, but no appreciable ability to resolve the crisis. The presence of Russian crewmembers on the Faina prompted Moscow to send the frigate Neustrashimy with marine commandos at best speed from the distant Baltic Sea. NATO, the European Union, and India all promised to also send warships to help U.S. Navy ships patrolling the Horn of Africa region—potentially the largest anti-piracy flotilla in recent history.15 On 12 November, British and Russian naval forces halted a pirate attack in the Gulf of Aden. British sailors killed two pirates in a firefight before the pirates on boad a dhow surrendered.
Five-inch guns and Harpoon missiles, however, are simply not the right weapons to confront pirates holding dangerous cargo or hostages. Even with an exceedingly rare UN ruling to allow foreign warships to take actions within a sovereign’s territorial waters, the group of powerful warships near the Faina could do little to influence events. In the few instances when maritime force has been effectively applied, such as the 2008 commando operation rescuing French citizens or the 2007 U.S. Navy destruction of pirate skiffs, these strictly military actions rarely address the cause of piracy itself. A notable exception was the 2006 U.S. Navy operation involving American and Kenyan law enforcement officers, including a detailed forensic investigation resulting in the detention and subsequent sentencing of Somali pirates in a Kenyan court.
In recent months, the disadvantages of keeping expensive warships occupied with marginal-gain low-end missions such as piracy became apparent. The U.S. commander of Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT) stated in September that the international shipping industry must take on more responsibility to protect vessels against pirate attacks rather than rely on the U.S. Navy.16 This likely reflects the appreciation that maritime powers do not have the resources to handle both conventional naval requirements and what is essentially a law enforcement mission. NAVCENT also seemed to signal its limitations, admitting that despite the presence of Coalition warships, “criminals still successfully targeted several vessels in the region.” Notably, the Middle East Royal Navy commander commenting on the September NAVCENT statement emphasized, “we do what we can, but the solution to this problem is clearly not at sea, but ashore in Somalia.”
Source of Piracy is Ashore
Pirate cells, especially more organized groups, require a network of support on land. Logistics, communications, weapons, money exchange, and marketing of stolen goods are all requirements managed ashore. Pirate groups usually exploit local villages or communities, but sometimes—as in Somalia—these provide the support network itself, or at least benefit significantly. Yet, targeting pirate infrastructure inland is no easy task: sovereignty, laws of armed conflict, and rules of engagement typically prevent unilateral actions. This is especially frustrating off Somalia, as no national police or armed forces exist. Some argue the piracy-terrorism nexus justifies more liberal military action in Somalia, but as noted earlier, such logic is both faulty and dangerous.
Informed analyses all similarly conclude that a holistic strategy to address piracy requires both sea- and land-based measures. Studies consistently show that the combined effects of regional economic crises and inadequate legal and security systems cause regional growth trends in piracy. A natural corollary is that law enforcement and intelligence services operating on land can more effectively identify and target piracy infrastructure ashore.17 Yet, these studies conclude that because of the inherent tension between securing shipping lanes and respecting state sovereignty, most anti-piracy initiatives are ad hoc.18
The Somalia example again illustrates the inefficacy of solely sea-based anti-piracy efforts. The Officer of Naval Intelligence reported in 2006 that Somalia’s Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) seized control of Harardhere, the coastal village at the center of piracy. The courts’ spokesmen asserted they were in full control of the village, the era of banditry and piracy was over, and the actions of pirates were unlawful, unacceptable, and un-Islamic.19 After locals were threatened with swift administration of Sharia law, piracy abruptly ceased off Harardhere—until Ethiopian forces pushed UIC elements from the region. It is ironic that Ethiopian military operations designed to oust the radical Islamist threat reintroduced an era of significant Somali piracy.
A Recognized Structure
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) remains the recognized international body with the mandate to establish a global anti-piracy plan. The organization provides an accepted, common framework for action and represents the best hope for establishing and sustaining an international regime to eliminate piracy. Existing international conventions that support anti-piracy measures, such as the Law of the Seas, Safety of Maritime Navigation, International Ship and Port Facility Security Code, and the Safety of Life at Sea Convention, are initiatives born out of the organization’s forum. Regional initiatives, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum, can work through the IMO to ensure localized multinational efforts contribute to a global anti-piracy effort. Benefits include increased capacity building, law enforcement interoperability, standard reporting procedures, global maritime information center support, and improved cooperation among coast guards. Since these efforts inherently involve law enforcement and regulatory agencies, however, they are usually inappropriate for armed forces. In fact, the Coast Guard (with its law enforcement responsibilities unique to the armed forces) is the lead maritime agency in the U.S. delegation to the IMO.
While law enforcement agencies are inherently more prepared to deal with maritime crime, naval forces still have a role in supporting them. Most states simply do not have the wherewithal to provide for persistent territorial or exclusive economic zone (EEZ) patrols. Regional multination initiatives, such as Coalition Task Force 150, bolster nearby state efforts in piracy hotspots with presence and response forces. Such multinational maritime forces also reinforce international regimes, especially when participating navies enter into local agreements with law enforcement to eliminate the perceived sanctuary of territorial waters. One method periodically used is to embark law enforcement detachments (LEDETs) from both flag and host nations to support local law enforcement operations (including forensics, detainee handling, evidence chain of custody, etc.). U.S. Navy warships periodically host U.S. Coast Guard LEDETs during counterdrug and embargo enforcement operations. The importance of the onboard capability to conduct the full scale of law enforcement operations—that ultimately address the source of piracy ashore—cannot be overstated.
Commercial Sector Has a Role
Multinational shipping corporations, insurers, and vessel masters must all bear some of the burden of responsibility to deter and hinder pirates. Indeed, the commercial sector enjoys huge profits facilitated by maritime security; it also has the means to act against piracy. The IMO promulgates standard, proven anti-piracy practices. Yet vessels and shippers routinely ignore them. For example, ONI makes periodic unclassified threat assessments that the State Department and IMB incorporate into special warnings to mariners. In the Somali case, ONI urged mariners to avoid the piracy-prone areas by at least 200 nautical miles as early as 2005. Considering that numerous pirated vessels were well within the 200 miles when seized, it seems clear some masters chose to ignore the warnings at their peril (presumably to avoid excess fuel costs of indirect routes).
Evidence indicates ship owners are clearly not doing enough to protect their vessels and crew and must invest in anti-piracy systems, such as ship-wide alarm and surveillance systems, anti-boarding devices (electric fences, interior-locking armored doors, long-range acoustic devices, water cannons, etc.), and even armed guards in high risk areas. Recent press reports indicates that private security contractor Blackwater USA is offering services to protect shipping off of Somalia. Of course, these measures are expensive, thus often not implemented. Somalia again offers a patent lesson, as ONI reports that foreign-controlled (usually Asian) fishing vessels continue to operate freely in Somalia’s unregulated EEZ, taking advantage of the failed state’s lack of regulation. These vessels are easy targets; Somali pirates, as well as quasi-official regional authorities, occasionally seize them. ONI reports that in several cases, hijacked fishing vessels served as pirate mother ships to conduct additional attacks.20
Rigorous flag-state enforcement of maritime security regulations is one method to compel commercial anti-piracy measure compliance. Companies often choose flags of convenience, however, for low cost and lax enforcement. Still, the 2005 piracy attempt against U.S.-flagged Seabourn Spirit serves as a testament to anti-piracy best practices. The cruise liner, carrying several hundred vacationers, escaped hijacking by Somali pirates. The attack failed because the captain reacted to the approaching vessels immediately, heading out to open sea at full speed, and conducting evasive maneuvers to prevent a boarding. The pirates gave chase, fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at the liner, and did not break off until the Seabourn Spirit employed a long-range acoustic device, which generates focused, painful noise. In theory, if mariners heed warnings and regulations and implement prudent anti-piracy measures, this could eliminate the market for Somali pirates, making the practice unprofitable.
Piracy Threat in Context
In its current form and scope, piracy threatens no vital U.S. national security interests. It is in no way comparable to legacy threats that shape national strategy, such as terrorism or weapons of mass destruction proliferation. Hence, it is inherently disingenuous to inflate the piracy “threat” to justify either force structure or maritime strategic underpinnings.
As such, maritime policy and strategy deliberations and crisis course of action planning efforts should consider this reality. In this context, more U.S. anti-piracy options emerge—including no military response at all. America has long championed freedom of the seas, but it is perchance time that the many flag states and private companies enjoying the benefits of the global maritime commons contribute to the costs of keeping it secure. Because the U.S. Navy lacks the resources to effectively accomplish even a fraction of its assigned missions, treating piracy for what it is—criminal activity—should lessen the demands on an already overtaxed American Fleet.
1. Martin N. Murphy, “Contemporary Piracy and Maritime Terrorism: The threat to international security,” interview with Dr. Patrick Cronin, International Institute of Strategic Studies.
2. Peter Chalk, “The Maritime Dimension of International Security: Terrorism, Piracy, and Challenges for the United States,” RAND Corporation, 2008, xiv. Graham Ong makes similar conclusions in “Ships Can Be Dangerous Too” Institute of Southeast Asian Studies working paper, 2004.
3. Jeffrey Gettleman, “Somali Pirates Tell Their Side: They Want Only Money,” New York Times, 30 September 2008.
4. John J. Brandon, “Piracy on High Seas is Big Business,” Pacific Forum, CSIS, 30 March 2001. $16 billion likely represents less than .1 percent of the annual global value of maritime cargo, vessels, and insurance.
5. Munich Re Group, Piracy—Threat at Sea: A Risk Analysis, September 2006, p. 7.
6. David Osler, “Lloyd’s List – Sharp perspective on clear and present danger,” The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 17 August 2007.
7. U.S. Government, National Strategy for Maritime Security, September 2005, p. 5.
8. United Kingdom, House of Commons—Transport Committee—Piracy. 8th Report of Session 2005-2006, London, The Stationery Office Ltd., 2006 and the separate “Government Response.”
9. Gal Luft and Anne Korin, “Terrorism Goes to Sea,” Foreign Affairs, November/December 2004.
10. Charles Dragonette, “Lost at Sea,” Letter to the Editor, Foreign Affairs, March/April 2005.
11. Major Frederick Chew, Singapore-Navy, “Piracy, Maritime Terrorism and Regional Interests,” Australian Command and Staff College Geddes Papers, 2005, p. 74.
12. International Maritime Organization, “Reports on Acts of Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships,” Annex 5, 13 April 2007.
13. ICC IMB, “Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships: 2007 Annual Report,” January 2008.
14. David Osler and Sandra Tsui, “Shipping unites in crisis call’ to Mitropoulos for piracy action,” Lloyd’s List, 18 September 2008.
15. Jamey Keaten, “8 EU States Mull Anti-piracy Force,” Associated Press, 2 October 2008. Belgium, Cyprus, France, Germany, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden volunteered ships. Like the United States, UK forces were already over-assigned and unavailable.
16. “Navy Calls on Industry to Tackle Piracy,” Associated Press, 23 September 2008.
17. Dr. Rohan Gunaratna, “The Threat to the Maritime Domain: How Real
Is the Terrorist Threat?” Economics and Maritime Strategy: Implications for the 21st Century, U.S. Naval War College, National Security Economic Papers No. 2, 8 November 2006, p. 88.
18. Nathanial Gronewold, “Soaring prices spur worries about piracy, marine terror,” IISS, June 2008.
19. David Pearl and Charles Dragonette, “Worldwide Threat to Shipping Mariner Warning Information,” Office of Naval Intelligence, 16 August 2006.
20. Pearl, “Worldwide Threat to Shipping Mariner Warning Information,” Office of Naval Intelligence, 13 February 2008.