How High Does Conspiracy Go?

[If the evidence in the following case is allowed to unfold, the implications may reach into the halls of American government.  The murder which triggered the Orange Revolution is one act in a series of crimes which moved American interests that much closer into full dominance of the former Soviet Union and the Kremlin that much closer to the exit door.]

How High Does Conspiracy Go?

KIEV, Ukraine — It took ten years for the prosecutors to conclude that the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze was ordered by the then Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko. But the case should not end there.

Oleksiy Pukach, a former top official with the Interior Ministry, after his 2009 arrest on suspicion of murdering Georgiy Gongadze.
It took 10 years, but the nation’s prosecutors have finally concluded what many others suspected a long time ago: Ex-Interior Minister Yuriy Kravchenko ordered a top subordinate, former police general Oleksiy Pukach, to kill journalist Georgiy Gongadze on Sept. 16, 2000.

But the case doesn’t end there and could reignite into a major scandal – the kind that, right after Gongadze’s murder, helped turn the nation against ex-President Leonid Kuchma, whose authoritarian rule lasted from 1994 until 2005.

Along with the prosecutors’ findings, announced on Sept. 14, came fresh disclosures that the conspiracy involving Gongadze’s murder and the subsequent cover-up may have reached as high as Kuchma, who left office in scandal nearly six years ago, and his former chief of staff, Volodymyr Lytvyn, who is now the speaker of parliament.

Their involvement in Gongadze’s murder has also been long suspected. Both Kuchma and Lytvyn this week, however, repeated their longstanding denials of involvement. They also ratcheted up their own accusations, blaming the journalist’s death on an international conspiracy designed to damage Ukraine.

The fresh evidence implicating Kuchma and Lytvyn allegedly comes from Pukach, who has been jailed since his July 21, 2009, arrest in the case after several years as a fugitive. Investigators say that Pukach, who took charge of police surveillance against Gongadze, has been cooperating and has given an extensive confession.

Pukach is expected to eventually stand trial on charges that he led three police subordinates – who all have been convicted and are now serving prison sentences – in the gruesome kidnapping, strangulation and beheading of Gongadze.

Valentyna Telychenko, a lawyer representing Gongadze’s widow, Myroslava, said on Sept. 16 that Pukach’s testimony implicates both Kuchma and Lytvyn in the crime and subsequent cover-up.

Citing investigators’ transcripts, Telychenko said Pukach claims that, in a meeting with Lytvyn and Kravchenko the day after Gongadze’s murder, Kravchenko told Lytvyn: “Volodymyr Mykhailovych [Lytvyn], this is our worker who personally took care of Gongadze.” According to Pukach, Kravchenko also patted him on the shoulder and said to Lytvyn: “Tell the president that we shall fulfill any of his orders.”

While Pukach’s credibility may be questionable, the jailed police commander’s version of events is also supported by the so-called “Melnychenko tapes,” the hundreds of hours of conversations in Kuchma’s office that were secretly recorded by ex-presidential bodyguard Mykola Melnychenko.

The tapes capture numerous alleged crimes involving Kuchma from 1999 and 2000, when Socialist Party leader Oleksander Moroz publicly released excerpts of the recordings involving Gongadze.

On those Melnychenko tapes, whose authenticity is disputed by Kuchma and others implicated on them, the ex-president, Lytvyn, Kravchenko, ex-Security Services of Ukraine head Leonid Derkach and other top-ranking officials discuss ways to silence Gongadze.

The journalist had angered the administration with his critical reporting on corruption for the online news site he founded, Ukrainska Pravda, which is now among the nation’s leading news sources.

Besides repeating their longstanding denials, Kuchma and Lytvyn this week alleged that they and the nation are victims of an international conspiracy. Kuchma implied the United States was to blame.

“It’s an international scandal designed to compromise Ukraine,” Kuchma was quoted by the Kyiv-based information agency UNIAN as saying on Sept. 15. “They didn’t give me or Ukraine any peace for five years.”

The former Ukrainian president said foreign secret services were involved in Gongadze’s disappearance. He added that agents from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency were present at [anti-presidential] demonstrations following Gongadze’s disappearance.

“This was paid for. Money makes everything possible,” Kuchma said. Then he went on to say that he is satisfied that the United States, under President Barack Obama, is no longer trying to spread democracy around the globe.

In a Kyiv Post interview, Lytvyn said on Sept. 15 that the investigators’ findings exonerate him. He also blamed Gongadze’s murder on an international conspiracy.

“The investigation confirmed that I have nothing to do with this [Gongadze] case. I believe that all these events [Gongadze case, Melnychenko tapes] were directed also from outside of Ukraine and directed also by special services. I think this was organized in order to put Ukraine in its place,” Lytvyn said.

These comments appear to show that Lytvyn either knows inner details of the investigation, or he is very confident that he will not be considered a suspect despite Pukach’s testimony alleging his involvement.

Kravchenko is, of course, unable to help sort out the dispute. The nation’s former top police official, a close and longtime confidant of Kuchma, died from two gunshot wounds to the head on March 4, 2005, in his suburban Koncha Zaspa home. The mysterious death was officially ruled a suicide, a version long disputed by Kravchenko’s relatives.

As mourners lit candles on Independence Square on Sept. 16 to mark the 10th anniversary of Gongadze’s murder, the same questions remain as strong a decade later: Who ordered the murder, and are state investigators committed to solving the crime without fear or favor, regardless of where the evidence leads?

Investigation, cover-up

The wrap-up of the pre-trial investigation on Sept. 7 only means the case will be transferred to court, where judges could order further investigation. More investigation is what advocates for Gongadze’s relatives and their representatives want.

Telychenko, who represents Gongadze’s widow, Myroslava, has started looking through the voluminous files involving Pukach’s testimony that investigators released to her this week. She believes Pukach’s version of the Sept. 17, 2000 meeting with Kravchenko and Lytvyn clearly implicates the parliament speaker and Kuchma in both the crime and the cover-up.

Hanna Herman, President Viktor Yanukovych’s aid, said that the administration wants a credible investigation to be concluded but is not sure if it is possible.

“The case should be carried out objectively, so that the Ukrainian and international community believe in the results of the investigation,” Herman said. “I don’t know if it’s possible given the wasted opportunities.”

The momentum for finding the truth has been lost, Herman said, and part of the blame lies with ex-President Viktor Yushchenko, who had declared that solving the Gongadze murder was a “matter of honor” for him during his five-year presidency that ended on Feb. 25.

“The case that Yushchenko claimed to be a matter of honor turned out to be a big dishonor for him,” Herman said. “They should have carried out this case and protected the witnesses. But Kravchenko was killed in 2005. They [the wrongdoers] had enough time to cover up the tracks and now it’s really hard to find those who really gave the order to kill Gongadze.”

However, many also point the blame at close associates of Yanukovych, starting with pro-presidential lawmaker Syvatoslav Piskun, who served as prosecutor general for many years as the case dragged on. Kravchenko’s death came shortly after Piskun publicly called him in for questioning.

Myroslava Gongadze, the widow of the slain journalist and the mother of their twin teenage daughters, is now a journalist with Voice of America in Washington, D.C. She thinks that Kravchenko is a convenient scapegoat.

“Still, he is a thread that leads us to the top state officials of that time – Kuchma and Lytvyn,” Myroslava Gongadze said. “Kravchenko didn’t have any personal reasons to kill Georgiy, so it implies that he got the order from top officials.”

Even if it is difficult to prove Kuchma’s complicity in murder, the ex-president is still responsible for appointing and promoting “a criminal” who gave orders to terrorize the people, Myroslava Gongadze said.

Lesya Gongadze, the victim’s mother, also dismissed the prosecutors’ findings.
“What they are trying to do is typical: to lay the blame on a dead man,” Lesya Gongadze said on Sept. 14. “Let God be their judge. What they are doing is covering the tracks of their inactivity.”

Convictions, arrest

Despite three presidential administrations and a changing cast of prosecutors and investigators, incremental progress has been made in the Gongadze case.

In 2008, three police officers who participated in the kidnapping and murder of Gongadze were convicted of the crime and sentenced to at least 12 years in prison. They are Mykola Protasov, Oleksandr Popovych and Valeriy Kostenko.

On July 21, 2009, authorities found Pukach – who allegedly supervised the murder – living in a rural area of Zhytomyr Oblast west of Kyiv.

Valentyn Nalyvaychenko, the former chief of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) under Yushchenko, said that criminal charges against Pukach should have come a long time ago. The official rationale for the delay is that investigators were waiting on certain test results, while the unofficial possibility is that Pukach was bargaining for leniency.

Pukach’s lawyer, Mykola Laptev, refused comment. Pukach faces a possible life prison sentence if convicted of murder charges.

Kravchenko’s complicity

Kravchenko ran the powerful Interior Ministry, where the nation’s police officers work, from 1995 until early 2001. Kuchma reputedly brought him in to stop the rampant mafia-style murders and contract killing that marred life in newly independent Ukraine.

Gangsters – and those who hired them – were fighting for control of businesses that were all of a sudden up for grabs after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

However, the Kravchenko-led police force committed their own crimes and were notoriously corrupt and politically subservient. In the environment of Kuchma’s authoritarian style of rule, all government critics – especially journalists – became potential targets of the repressive regime.

The murder of Gongadze had an eerily similar parallel to what happened with independent journalist and human rights activist Oleksiy Podolsky, who lived to tell of the incident.

A few months prior to Gongadze’s murder, Kravchenko ordered Pukach to “teach” Podolsky a lesson. His kidnapping was similar to Gongadze’s: Three police officers put him in a car and drove him outside of Kyiv.

The officers threatened him and forced him to dig his own grave. Instead of killing him, the police officers took his belongings and documents and left him in the woods. His apartment door was also set on fire.

According to the Melnychenko tapes, Kravchenko reported on the case to Kuchma; later, police officers were found guilty of threats and assault and sentenced to three years in prison.

Mykola Dzhyha, Kravchenko’s deputy at the time of the murder, a Yanukovych ally and current governor of Vinnytsia Oblast, has rejected the idea that Kravchenko had anything to do with Gongadze’s killing.

“Taking into account the man himself, his character, I can’t believe he would do such a thing,” Dzhyha told the Kyiv Post. But he doesn’t rule out that someone wanted to frighten Gongadze and simply went too far. “That could have happened,” said Dzhyha, whom Pukach also implicated in his testimony.

Kravchenko’s death isn’t the only suspicious one among officials implicated in the Gongadze murder. Eduard Fere and Yuriy Dagaev, other top officials close to Kuchma and Kravchenko, also died mysteriously. Fere went into a coma in 2003 and died six years later. Dagaev died, allegedly of a heart attack, in 2003.

Cover-up to continue?

Besides Melnychenko, the ex-Kuchma bodyguard whose tapes triggered an international scandal, Socialist Party leader Moroz has been close to the Gongadze case since the beginning when, as a member of parliament, he disclosed the recordings publicly.

Today, Moroz thinks that officials are continuing to be engaged in a cover-up of the crime in order to protect Kuchma and Lytvyn.

“For 10 years, Ukraine has been demonstrating to the world the supremacy of cover-up over the law,” Moroz said in a statement on the Socialist Party’s website.

“Maintaining this tradition, the authorities are trying to uphold their honor, though everybody clearly understands that they are simply trying to divert responsibility for the involvement in the crime from high-ranking officials, in particular the ex-president and the head of his administration.”

Then Moroz listed some of the unanswered questions.

“Why did the former minister [Kravchenko] take interest in the journalist? Why did he give (if he did give) the criminal order? What was the reason for chasing the journalist and spying on him? Who sought to lead the [investigation] in the wrong way in the first weeks by giving false evidence? Who was obstructing the unbiased forensic examination?”

“Why didn’t authorities consider the large amount of irrefutable evidence – the recordings of conversations in the office of President Leonid Kuchma, although the investigators actually confirmed all the episodes, recorded by Major Mykola Melnychenko? Why wasn’t parliament controlling the investigation, as it had to, failing to comply with the requirements of PACE (the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe), as it was supposed to do?”

Moroz said the answers to the questions can be found on the Melnychenko tapes.

Melnychenko, meanwhile, has damaged his credibility over the last decade with conflicting, evasive and unreliable comments about the Gongadze case and the recordings he allegedly made. The whereabouts of the original recordings are unknown.

On Sept. 15, Melnychenko said: “I confirm that this was a special operation,” he said referring to the recordings. “I completely confirm that this was a special operation to remove not a legally elected president, but a person who in 1999 seized power. Only later did foreign intelligence services from other countries try to influence the situation.”

After pointing the blame in previous years directly on Kuchma, Melnychenko this week suggested that Lytvyn could have driven Kuchma to the crime.

“Kuchma did not have personal motives to give the order. But Lytvyn did have personal motives. I think he can, himself, tell more about these personnel motives,” Melnychenko said.

“Kuchma regularly had all sorts of news reports written – and not written by Gongadze – put on his table … to wind him up. The ideologue of this operation, I declare, was Lytvyn,” Melnychenko added.

Source: Kyiv Post

Afghan election to test government reforms

KABUL – From wire dispatches
Afghan woman eats ice cream next to parliamentary election campaign posters in the old section of Kabul on Friday, on the eve of the country's second parliamentary election. AFP photo
Afghan woman eats ice cream next to parliamentary election campaign posters in the old section of Kabul on Friday, on the eve of the country’s second parliamentary election. AFP photo

More than a year after a flawed presidential election, Afghans go to the polls Saturday for a parliamentary contest considered a test of whether President Hamid Karzai’s government can now run a fair vote and prevent insurgents from disrupting the balloting.

The results of the races for the relatively weak legislature are unlikely to affect Karzai, who has passed much legislation by decree when parliament was in recess.

But the perception of how the vote is conducted will reverberate strongly with the international coalition supporting Afghanistan with 140,000 troops and billions of dollars, the Associated Press reported Friday.

The election will also be an indicator of the strength of the insurgency as NATO and Afghan forces work to secure polling stations in volatile areas amid Taliban threats against voters and election workers.

On the eve of the ballot a parliamentary candidate was kidnapped, an official said, and the Taliban later claimed responsibility, according to Agence France-Presse.

Hardly anyone is predicting a free and fair vote by Western standards.

“This is probably one of the worst places and the worst times to have an election anywhere in the world. We have to put it into perspective,” said Staffan de Mistura, the top U.N. envoy to Afghanistan.

“We don’t expect a fair and transparent election. What we expect is an acceptable election,” said Haroun Mir, director of the Afghanistan Center for Research and Policy Studies, a Kabul-based think tank.

The hope is that Afghans and the international community will be able to proclaim it an improvement over the August 2009 presidential vote, when a U.N.-backed anti-fraud watchdog found rampant fraud in Karzai’s re-election.

“The preparations are miles better than they were last year,” said Mark Sedwill, NATO’s senior civilian representative.

Critical obstacles

But a new U.S. watchdog report warns it will take years to solve certain problems in the electoral system. It cites a lack of a reliable list of registered voters, insufficient candidate vetting and biased electoral organizations.

In some of the more volatile areas, locals claim the election is just a show so that Karzai can put a democratic label on a government that rarely answers to the people.

“The international community wants to say to the people: ‘See in Afghanistan there is an election. There are posters and campaigning.’ But the people are not so happy. They are too demoralized to go to the polling stations,” said Mohammad Qasim Zazai, a carpet seller from eastern Paktia province.

“This regime of Karzai, it is symbolic, and so the election is symbolic. Most of the campaign workers are recruiting people from their villages. Fraud is continuing. People are buying these fake voter registration cards,” Zazai said.

Heightened security concerns

Complicating efforts to ensure a free and fair election, security has worsened in some areas since the polling station lists were first published last month. Nearly 400 voting centers have been cut from the original list because Afghan forces could not guarantee security – a move that could lead to some of the same confusion about who should be voting where.

In one Taliban-heavy area of eastern Ghazni province, elders say they have been told that four of the five officially approved voting centers will not open.

“The district officials said to go to the main district center because the others won’t be open,” said Mahmoud, an elder from Shinkae village who like many Afghans goes by one name. Mahmoud is supposed to have a voting center in his village mosque, but the security forces said they couldn’t secure it.

Despite the buildup of U.S. forces ordered by President Barack Obama, Afghanistan as a whole is less secure than at the time of last year’s presidential election.

There will be about 280,000 Afghan police and soldiers protecting the more than 5,500 voting centers scheduled to open on election day, according to Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi. Police set up extra checkpoints across Afghanistan on Friday to scan for suicide bombers and insurgents.

Last year, there were about 150,000 Afghan forces protecting more than 6,000 voting centers. International forces will play a supporting role – at the ready to deal with attacks, provide medical evacuations and transport materials.

While campaign posters competed for space on building walls and electrical poles in the capital, many candidates did little campaigning in the provinces because of security concerns or the expense of hiring bodyguards for rallies or handshaking tours.

In eastern Paktia province and southern Kandahar province, candidates decided not to campaign at all because it was too dangerous, according to the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan, the main Afghan observer body.

In many areas, the Taliban have threatened death to those who go to the polls – a very real danger given that the indelible ink used to keep people from voting multiple times can last for days.

In Shinkae, Mahmoud says the Taliban spread the word at mosque gatherings that anyone who votes will be killed. Mahmoud says he’s unlikely to vote.

Other Afghans, though, see the vote as a chance to elect someone who could deliver roads, schools and other projects.

More than 2,500 candidates are vying for the 249 lower house seats. Afghan laws make it difficult to form political parties, so most candidates run as independents. The winners will serve a five-year term.

Preliminary results will be released as completed, with full preliminary results expected around Oct. 1. Final results are scheduled to be made public about Oct. 31, following resolution of complaints of fraud or misconduct.

—–

Compiled from AP and AFP stories by the Daily News staff.

Court decision on US drone use protest delayed in Vegas

Significant surprise! Court decision on US drone use protest delayed in Vegas

Las VegasNVUSA | Sep 15, 2010

Historic: Judge will study drone protest case issues for four months–

Fourteen anti-war activists perhaps made history in a Las Vegas courtroom yesterday. Their trial for misdemeanor trespassing has morphed into what could become a referendum on America’s enthusiasm for remote-controlled warfare, centering on the use of drones.

The accused, known as the “Creech 14,” last year protested drone attacks at Nevada’sCreech Air Force Base. That base is one of several operational centers for the American military’s aerial drone program in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Military crews at Creech remotely control drones or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) which have been responsible for killing civilians in assassination attacks.

The activists were charged with criminal trespassing because they entered the base with a letter describing their opposition to the drone program. In what is termed a “blow” to prosecutors, Judge William Jansen agreed to delay a verdict for four months, scheduling a written decision for January 27, 2011.

Prosecutors had hoped for a quick decision, but Judge Jansen allowed the defendants to call three expert witnesses. Three of the biggest names in the modern anti-war movement testified: former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, retired Col. and former Embassy Official Ann Wright, and Bill Quigley, Legal Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

The judge limited the defense to questions strictly pertaining to the charge of trespass. However, defendants were able to extract several key points from the witnesses:

Intentional killing is a war crime, as embodied in U.S. constitutional law.

- Drone strikes by U.S. and coalition forces kill a disproportionate number of civilians.

People have the right, even the duty, to stop war crimes.

- According to the Nuremberg principles, individuals are required to disobey domestic orders that cause crimes against humanity.

Defendant Brian Terrell, in delivering the group’s closing statement, spoke of the civilian deaths that U.S. drones cause in Afghanistan by imaging a baby trapped in a house on fire: “We fourteen are ones who see the smoke and will not allow a ‘no trespass’ sign to stop us from reaching burning children.”

“This case has a lot more consequences than a trespass case… I want to make sure my decision is the correct decision,” Jansen was reported as saying in the Las Vegas Sun.

At the end of the day’s proceedings, applause filled the courtroom. Jansen dismissed the Creech 14, who are members of the Catholic anti-war movement, with the words “Go in peace!”

The Creech 14 include Fr. John Dear, SJ; Dennis DuVall; Renee Espeland; Judy Homanich; Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence; Fr. Steve Kelly, SJ; Mariah Klusmire; Brad Lyttle; Libby Pappalardo; Sr. Megan Rice, SHCJ; Brian Terrell; Eve Tetaz; Fr. Louie Vitale, OFM; and Fr. Jerry Zawada, OFM. The group action was under the auspices of the Nevada Desert Experience.

Black Sea LNG project draws on gas from Azerbaijan

Black Sea LNG project draws on gas from Azerbaijan

32555
Vladimir Socor
by Vladimir Socor

During a meeting on September 13-14 in Baku, Presidents Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, and Traian Basescu of Romania, as well as Prime Minister Viktor Orban of Hungary, announced the launching of a liquefied natural gas (LNG) project. Designated as the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Romania Interconnector (AGRI), and linking up with Hungary, this is the first-ever LNG project in the Black Sea.

AGRI envisages five steps: 1) transporting Azerbaijani gas by an existing pipeline, eastward across Georgia to the Black Sea port of Kulevi (oil terminal owned by Azerbaijan); 2) liquefying the gas at Kulevi; 3) shipping the liquefied product by tankers to Romania’s port of Constanta;  4) re-gasifying and delivering the product into Romania’s pipeline system, partly for that country‘s consumption; and 5) delivering the remainder into Hungary‘s gas transport system, whether for use in that country, in Austria, or farther in EU territory.

Basescu took the initiative of bringing Hungary into this project, as well as Orban to the Baku meeting with the three presidents. Basescu made this move spontaneously during the September 1 gathering of Romanian diplomats from around the world in Bucharest, to honor Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister Janos Martoniy – an event fraught with symbolism in Romanian-Hungarian political relations.

The heads of Azerbaijan‘s State Oil Company, Georgia‘s Oil and Gas Corporation, and Romania‘s Romgaz adopted a draft charter for the new joint venture AGRI. This shall be headquartered in Romania, with each of the three state companies holding an equal share in the joint venture. Other companies will be able to join AGRI as shareholders in the future. Basescu is keen for Turkmenistan to be included.

AGRI necessitates rehabilitation of that pipeline across Georgia and its prolongation for a short distance to Kulevi; building a liquefaction and a regasification terminal in Kulevi and Constanta, respectively; and investing in a shuttle line of small-capacity LNG tankers in the Black Sea. Meanwhile, Romania and Hungary are about to complete the short pipeline link Arad-Szeged, connecting the two countries’ gas transport systems.  Thus, AGRI can open the way for Azerbaijani gas exports into Central Europe, in a different mode than the Nabucco pipeline project.

Kulevi features an oil export terminal, installations with a throughput capacity being doubled to 20 million tons per year, a railroad for crude oil and products, a reservoir park (oil-tank farm), and two moorings for tankers of up to 120,000 dwt. Azerbaijan‘s State Oil Company owns the port and installations. Kulevi handles some oil volumes produced by Tengizchevroil at the onshore Tengiz field in Kazakhstan.

According to Azerbaijan‘s Industry and Energy Minister, Natig Aliyev, the AGRI project should start with a liquefaction capacity for 2.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas per year, rising to 8 bcm per year in the next stage and up to 20 bcm ultimately. For his part, Basescu envisages developing the Constanta LNG terminal in three successive stages, involving 10 bcm in annual regasification capacity with each stage.

Romania and Hungary intend to ask European Union authorities to tender out a feasibility study for the project. Meanwhile, “preliminary” cost estimates range widely from 1.2 billion Euro to 4.5 billion Euro. No sources of financing have been identified as of yet. The duration of construction work is estimated to last four years.

AGRI answers to certain specific interests of each of the three stakeholders, at least theoretically. For Azerbaijan, it would provide the most direct transportation route for gas to Europe, apart from the Nabucco pipeline project. Georgia, already crisis-crossed by operating and potential transit routes, welcomes any additional project for confirming the country’s reliability and buttressing Western interest in Georgia’s stability. Romania would gain an additional import option through LNG, while Basescu (a former merchant marine captain) perceives in this an unprecedented opportunity for development of his native city, Constanta.

Basescu is a long-time proponent of LNG transportation in the Black Sea with a terminal in Constanta. For nearly a decade, Romania had hoped for an LNG deal with Qatar. Eventually Bucharest realized that Turkish authorities would not allow LNG tanker traffic, on top of the oil tanker traffic, through the over congested Bosporus Strait. Thus unable to share in the global LNG expansion, Romania is adopting an LNG solution internal to the bottled-up Black Sea. Cut off from global LNG markets, and inaccessible to ocean-going LNG tankers, the Black Sea basin may become a local market for small LNG volumes originating in Azerbaijan and, potentially, Turkmenistan.

The AGRI project, if pursued seriously, can undermine Nabucco by reducing the volumes of Azerbaijani gas available to that pipeline project. Azerbaijan‘s existing output level (reported at 23.5 bcm in 2009, anticipated at 28 bcm in 2010, its internal consumption (10 to 11 bcm per year in 2009-2010), and its export commitments (some 8 bcm to Turkey and Georgia combined), do not seem to leave sufficient gas volumes to support both Nabucco‘s first stage (at 8 to 10 bcm per year) and the LNG project at the same time.

While Nabucco (main element in the EU-backed Southern Corridor) is strategic to European consumer countries and Caspian producer countries, AGRI is not of strategic significance to either group of countries. Within the current parameters of production and supply, and pending a boost in Azerbaijan‘s gas production or a trans-Caspian flow of Turkmen gas, a choice must be made between pursuing Nabucco or AGRI.

Vladimir Socor
Political analyst of East European affairs for the Jamestown Foundation.

Article was published in Eurasia Daily Monitor.

Tanking the War on Terror

Tanking the War on Terror

Tanking the War on Terror: Prestigious International Study Group Blasts Taliban/al-Qaeda Hype and “Drawn-Out Disaster” in Afghanistan and Iraq
by C. L. Cook
Citing a recent report issued by London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), Canadian author and columnist, Eric S. Margolis revealswhat has been painfully obvious to everyone I know for almost a decade: The War on Terror and its “boots on the ground” components in Afghanistan and Iraq especially, is a botched and hyperbolic con job from the get-go.

Billions of dollars spent, and millions of lives needlessly wasted later the deep thinkers at the IISS discovered, with a little help from James Bond’s colleagues at MI-6 (British military intelligence), the threats posed by al-Qaeda and Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership were “exaggerated” and the American-led military “Missions” overseas are a “long-drawn-out disaster.”

Well, knock me over with a feather!

What Margolis does not explain, at least not explicitly, is why the IISS, whose membership is culled from the best and brightest military and diplomacy experts from around the world, took nine years to figure this out.

Eric S. Margolis has been writing on international affairs for at least a couple decades. He’s written books on the long history of internecine struggle in Central Asia, and covered its more recent manifestations. He’s as well connected a journalist as one could hope for, and admits he has been a member of the IISS for many years.

He describes the effects of the report as a “bombshell” for those insiders of the sometimes described  “international community” who read the meaning between the lines of these scholarly pronouncements that largely eludes the general population. And, according to Margolis, the meaning of this report is “shaking Washington and its Nato allies.”

At its heart, the report by the worthies at the IISS, and make no mistake its membership represents the same razor thin elite sitting atop the slavering masses whose labours make the current resurgent Age of Conquest possible, finds the war against Afghanistan is more of a threat to the West’s security interests than are the people it is fighting. That is, they believe; the monies and energies mustered to conduct the occupation and pacification of the natives over there is “distracting” those running the war from the financial sector implosions going on throughout the home economies.

In short, it appears to be the opening salvo in a fight for control of the dilapidated treasuries of the nations who aspired so recently to empire in Central Asia.

Margolis characterizes the report as a direct attack against the Obama administration and its prime war ally, the nascent conservative government of David Cameron in Britain, and all nations still supporting militarily expeditionary forces in Afghanistan. It criticizes the increase of troops and money spent to fight a war whose stated goals of disrupting al Qaeda elements in Afghanistan were long ago met, suggesting the “surge” of Western violence visited upon the people is fueling a broader resistance.

The IISS report also provides something none of the leaders of the coalition of willing nations fighting in Afghanistan have yet offered; the International Institute says it has a workable exit strategy.

They recommend Southern Afghanistan, the area of greatest Taliban influence, be abandoned and a greatly reduced Western force be confined to Kabul and the northern half of the country. The idea here is to align with the more pliable Tajik and Uzbek peoples of the north, concentrating aid and development projects there (and perhaps the long-elusive pipeline corridor for Caspian oil and gas reserves) and leave the Taliban to twist forgotten in a land condemned to a pre-industrial, bare subsistence existence.

The IISS report is even more damning, coming on the heels of revelations from the Chilcot Inquiry into the beginnings of British involvement in Iraq and the myriad lies told by former prime minister Tony Blair to secure that involvement.

Taken in the context of the near daily servings of cold truth coming from Chilcot and other sources, the English and Europeans are quickly approaching the end point of foreign adventurism, and the IISS report can be seen as the shot over the bow within elite circles signaling that ending is coming soon.

Putin Wants US, EU Money to Finance Neo-USSR

Vladimir Putin has “nothing against” US and European banks taking stakes in Russian ones

Putin wants US, EU investment in Russian banks

(AFP) – 1 hour ago

MOSCOW — Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said on on Friday that Russia is ready to welcome foreign capital investment in the country’s banking sector.

“If solid financial institutions in the United States and Europe will invest in the capital of our key banking institutions, we have nothing against that,” Russian news agencies quoted Putin as saying.

“We are considering this option and there is nothing unusual about it.”

This week Russian finance minister Alexei Kudrin said Russia would seek to raise 50 billion dollars (38.5 billion euros) from privatisations over the next five years as it wants to sell stakes in some of its top companies, including the country’s two biggest lenders Sberbank and VTB.

Russian officials have said the aim of the privatisation would be to make companies more efficient and to replenish state coffers, drained by the global economic crisis.

Russia’s banking sector was badly hit by the crisis last year. The volume of bad loans made by banks rose sharply as the country’s hydrocarbon-dependent economy suffered a 7.9-percent economic contraction last year.

Speaking to an investor forum in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, Putin stressed that Russia had provided anti-crisis loans worth more than 2.0 trillion rubles (65.5 billion dollars) to support banks, without putting Russian lenders first.

“We did not divide banks into ours and foreign. Banks fully backed by foreign capital received the same support as our Russian banks,” Putin was quoted as telling international participants at the forum.

After the chaotic asset sales of the 1990s created a class of super-rich oligarchs and a ferocious public backlash, the government had until recently preferred to increase rather than reduce its stakes in firms.

Inside Corrupt-istan, a Loss of Faith in Leaders

Inside Corrupt-istan, a Loss of Faith in Leaders

Illustration by Nola Lopez, Photographs by David Bathgate/Corbis and Shah Marai, via Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
By DEXTER FILKINS

Emilio Morenatti/Associated Press

DISILLUSIONMENT President Hamid Karzai is a focus of anger at corruption in his government.

THE government of President Hamid Karzai may be awash in corruption, venality and graft, but if you walk the tattered halls of the ministries here, it is remarkably easy to find an honest man.

One of them is Fazel Ahmad Faqiryar, who last month took the politically risky course of trying to prosecute senior members of Mr. Karzai’s government. Two weeks ago, Mr. Faqiryar was fired from his job as deputy attorney general — on the order, it appears, of Mr. Karzai himself.

“The law in this country is only for the poor,” Mr. Faqiryar said afterward.

The ouster of Mr. Faqiryar illustrated not just the lawlessness that permeates Mr. Karzai’s government and the rest of the Afghan state. It also raised a fundamental question for the American and European leaders who have bankrolled Mr. Karzai’s government since he took office in 2001:

What if government corruption is more dangerous than the Taliban?

Since 2001, one of the unquestioned premises of American and NATO policy has been that ordinary Afghans don’t view public corruption in quite the same way that Americans and others do in the West. Diplomats, military officers and senior officials flying in from Washington often say privately that while public graft is pernicious, there is no point in trying to abolish it — and that trying to do so could destroy the very government the West has helped to build.

The Central Intelligence Agency has carried that line of argument even further, putting on its payroll some of the most disputable members of Mr. Karzai’s government. The explanation, offered by agency officials, is that Mother Theresa can’t be found in Afghanistan.

“What is acceptable to the Afghans is different than what is acceptable to you or me or our people,” a Western official here said recently, discounting fears of fraud in the coming parliamentary elections. He spoke, as many prominent Western officials here do so often, on the condition of anonymity. “They have their own expectations, and they are slightly different than the ones we try to impose on them.”

Perhaps. But the official’s premise — that the Afghans are more tolerant of corruption than people in the West — has fulfilled itself. Afghanistan is now widely recognized as one of the world’s premier gangster-states. Out of 180 countries, Transparency International ranks it, in terms of corruption, 179th, better only than Somalia.

The examples are too legion to list. Take a drive down the splendorous avenues of Palm Jumeira in the United Arab Emirates, where many Afghan leaders park their money, and you can pick out the waterfront villas where they live. Or look at the travails of Kabul Bank, whose losses threaten the Afghan financial system; officials say the bank’s directors spent lavishly on Mr. Karzai’s re-election campaign and lent tens of millions to Mr. Karzai’s cronies.

Worse, the rationalization offered by the Western official — that Afghans are happy to tolerate a certain level of bribery and theft — seems to have turned out terribly wrong. It now seems clear that public corruption is roundly despised by ordinary Afghans, and that it may constitute the single largest factor driving them into the arms of the Taliban.

You don’t have to look very hard to find an Afghan, whether in the government or out, who is repelled by the illegal doings of his leaders. Ahmed Shah Hakimi, who runs a currency exchange in Kabul, had just finished explaining some of the shadowy dealings of the business and political elite when he stopped in disgust.

“There are 50 of them,” Mr. Hakimi said. “The corrupt ones. All the Afghans know who they are.”

“Why do the Americans support them?” he asked.

Mr. Hakimi, a shrewd businessman, seemed genuinely perplexed.

“What the Americans need to do is take these Afghans and put them on a plane and fly them to America — and then crash the plane into a mountain,” Mr. Hakimi said. “Kill them all.”

You hear that a lot here — that the kleptocrats are few in number; that most Afghans know who they are; and that the country would be better off if this greedy cabal met a violent end. Why not get rid of them?

Sometimes, it seems, American and Afghan leaders exhibit a kind of willful blindness. In June, President Karzai flew to Kandahar to speak to a gathering of about 400 local tribal elders about a pending military operation. He was accompanied by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the commander of American and NATO forces.

Mr. Karzai may have been in Afghanistan, but his appearance seemed to have been scripted by the same people who run political campaigns in the United States. The Afghan tribal elders assembled in a large room, most of them sitting on the floor, and Mr. Karzai, after much delay, strode in, gave a quick and rousing speech, and promptly left the room. Neither Mr. Karzai nor any of his aides — nor any of the Americans — seemed especially interested in what these tribal leaders had to say.

Musadeq Sadeq/Associated Press

DISILLUSIONMENT News of turmoil at the Kabul Bank has put even more pressure on President Hamid Karzai.

As it happened, they had plenty to say. In interviews afterward, one after the other told stories that were both disheartening and remarkably similar. None of the men (they were all men) harbored any love for the Taliban. But they had even less love for their Afghan leaders.

Typical of the Afghans was Hajji Mahmood, a tribal leader from a village west of Kandahar. Earlier this year, Mr. Mahmood explained, he bought a plot of land from the local administration and invested several thousand dollars to build some shops on it.

Then, a few months later, government agents arrived, bulldozed Mr. Mahmood’s shops and reclaimed the land. The local agent Mr. Mahmood had paid, it turned out, had pocketed the money and failed to record the sale.

Retelling the story, Mr. Mahmood shook his head.

“Not many people support the Taliban, because they don’t really have a program,” he said. “But believe me, if they did, many people would.”

It’s not as if the Americans and their NATO partners don’t know who the corrupt Afghans are. American officers and anti-corruption teams have drawn up intricate charts outlining the criminal syndicates that entwine the Afghan business and political elites. They’ve even given the charts a name: “Malign Actor Networks.” A k a MAN.

Looking at some of these charts—with their crisscrossed lines connecting politicians, drug traffickers and insurgents — it’s easy to conclude that this country is ruled neither by the government, nor NATO, nor the Taliban, but by the MAN.

It turns out, of course, that some of the same “malign actors” the diplomats and officers are railing against are on the payroll of the C.I.A. At least until recently, American officials say, one of them was Ahmed Wali Karzai, the president’s brother. Mr. Karzai has long been suspected of facilitating the country’s booming drug trade.

Ahmed Wali Karzai denies taking any money from the C.I.A. or helping any drug traffickers. But consider, for a second, the other brother: President Karzai. When he receives that stern lecture from the American diplomat about ridding his government of corruption — and he receives a lot of them — what must President Karzai be thinking?

One possibility: That the Americans aren’t really serious.

The real difficulty, American commanders say, is that taking down the biggest Afghan politicians could open a vacuum of authority. And that could create instability that the Taliban could take advantage of.

American officers have every right to worry about stability. But the trouble with this argument is that, increasingly, there is less and less stability to keep. And, if Afghans like Mr. Mahmood and Mr. Hakimi are to be believed, it’s the corruption itself that is the instability’s root cause.

As for Mr. Faqiryar, he has become, at age 72, a national icon. A recent editorial in Kabul Weekly, a local newspaper, urged Mr. Faqiryar to carry on his fight against the gangster-state that his country has become. But the editorial struck a tone that was less angry than poignant, as if time were running short.

“We are a nation,” the editors said, “in desperate need of more heroes.”

Battle of Victor Bout

Battle of Victor Bout

[info]nstarikov

Politics cruel thing? None – politics is a cruel thing. But if it does. To live with wolves – wolf-like howl.

It is not clear that mean? We understand.

History detained in Thailand of Viktor Bout has been going on for almost two years.

It involved the U.S. and Russia. Venue (battlefield), Thailand. The authorities of this country must decide not solve the problem.

How to simultaneously satisfy two contradictory demands.

U.S. demands to extradite “an arms dealer Viktor Bout and extradite him to the States.

Russia demands release of his home illegally held by a citizen.

Baselines:

1. The arms trade is ALWAYS in the history connected with the secret services. Often it is not even trade and the implementation of the special task of the country disguised as a “private initiative” by earning money.

2. U.S. manic persistently demand to extradite Bout to them, as if he was the chief villain of all time.

3. Russia consistently advocates of Victor Bout.

And here are the facts.

August 12, 2010

Yesterday, Criminal Court of Thailand denied the U.S. extradition of Russian businessman, a former airline Victor Bout. The charge of illegal arms trafficking and terrorism court considered unproved, and the case itself – political. Viktor Bout, who was imprisoned in Central Jail detention in Bangkok and a half years, may be released in later this week. Link

August 20, 2010

Court of Appeal Thailand suddenly decides to give Victor Bout in the U.S.. Link

August 23, 2010

Russia will try to initiate a review of the decision by the Thai authorities to extradite accused of arms trafficking Victor Bout in the U.S., say U.S. experts. Link

August 24, 2010

U.S. waiting for the Russians Viktor Bout in a U.S. court, where he has been indicted. Told reporters State Department spokesman Philip Crowley: “We look forward to his appearance in a U.S. court.” Link

August 25, 2010

Thailand today will not extradite Russian citizen Viktor Bout to the U.S.. Authorities of the Kingdom will take time to resolve the necessary legal issues … The American side in a hurry to carry out the extradition procedure, as if the verdict of the Court of Appeal will not be executed within 90 days, the Russians have to release. Link

27.08. 2010 (approximately 23.00)

The daughter of an American diplomat has fallen from 25 stores in New York.

The daughter of U.S. Ambassador to Thailand Eric John 17-year-old Nicole John died on Friday in New York during the party fell from the window 25-floor skyscraper, said in a statement posted on the website of the American newspaper NY Daily News. Link
28/08/2010

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vetchachiva instructed the Foreign Ministry to maintain contacts with Russia and the United States on extradition Russian citizen Viktor Bout, whose Thai court ruled to extradite American justice, while Moscow is trying to return to their homeland. In the case of Victor Bout, Thailand – a third party. It is necessary that the United States and Russia itself decided the issue between themselves“, – quoted in a speech Saturday Premier Thai newspaper Thay Rat.” Link

Pressure on Thailand comes from both sides. The first half ended. Adjourned.

The extradition of Viktor Bout postponed until October 4, 2010.

If after the Court of Appeal will take place 90 days, and issue will not happen – it must be released and let go

October 4 (counting from August 20, 2010) will be just half the time.

Let us count the days. And rooting for her.

This story will still be very interesting.

We’ll see who is who.

Russian Jet Experts Die Simultaneous “Heart Attacks” In Indonesia

Вид на Макасар. Фото с сайта tripadvisor.com
Photo from tripadvisor.com

In Indonesia, the three officers died in Sukhoi

In Indonesia, have died three Russians – staff Sukhoi Design Bureau, engaged in service acquired in Russia fighters, reported Itar-Tass on Tuesday, September 14.

The bodies of three engineers were found on the morning of Monday, Sept. 13, in the service apartments at the airbase Sultan Hasanuddin, located in the province of South Sulawesi. ITAR-TASS reported that the cause of death of two Russians, on the conclusion of doctors, was a heart attack.

Manual air base, said the news agency, conducts an investigation into the death of Russian specialists and maintains contact with the Embassy of Russia in Indonesia. The fact of the death of three Russians morning of September 14 in a telephone interview with RIA Novosti has confirmed the head of the consular department of the Embassy of Russia in Indonesia Vladimir Pronin. The causes of death of citizens of Russia – Sergei Voronin, Alexander Poltorak and Viktor Safonov – refined, said the Russian diplomat.

In turn, the Indonesian newspaper The Jakarta Globe, an English-language reports on the deaths of two specialists from Russia, worked at Air Force Base Indonesia Hasanuddin (Hasanuddin Air Base) in Makassar (Makassar).According to the newspaper, the command of the air base confirmed the death of the Russians, saying that the circumstances of their deaths has not yet been established.

Citizens of Russia, reported The Jakarta Globe, arrived at the Air Force base on Sept. 5, 2010 in a group of 12 experts whose task was to service the six bought from Russia Su-27SKM and Su-30MK2. Another Russian of this group, according to the publication, is hospitalized in a hospital in Makassar. The name of the sick Russians, according to the newspaper, Victor Sapanov (Viktor Sapanov).

Links
- Two Russian Aircraft Technicians Dead in Makassar – The Jakarta Globe, 13.09.2010
- Indonesia has received a Russian fighter jets – Lenta.ru, 10.09.2010
- “Dry” set in Indonesia Su-30MK2 – Lenta.ru, 19.01.2009

Jew-Baiting Kyrgyzstan

RFE/RL “Writer-at-large” James Kirchick has a novel theory to explain this summer’s upheaval in Kyrgyzstan.

But looking back on the turbulent events that this country – which I have visited twice in the past five months – has experienced, I realize that a foretaste of the June disturbances was already evident in early April, just days after Kyrgyzstan’s autocratic and corrupt president, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, was violently ousted from power by an angry mob. Hanging from the gate of the burned-out presidential office compound was a large, white banner with the words “Kyrgyzstan has no place for dirty Jews and the likes of Maxim,” a reference to the ousted president’s son. And the evening after Bakiyev fled Bishkek, the capital, a group of vandals attacked the city’s only synagogue, a tiny, decrepit compound serving a minuscule community of mostly Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian Jews who have been living in Kyrgyzstan since Soviet times.

In case you were wondering, that’s it. That’s his evidence for anti-semitism in Kyrgyzstan, and how it’s a harbinger of greater worries and instability. Of course, the fact that the decidedly non-Jewish Uzbeks bore the brunt of the violence, that all of the displaced people were Uzbek, and that people didn’t hate Jews but rather Maxsim Bakiyev’s thuggery and national theft (and the Russian Jew who enabled him)… well “meh” to that in James’ world.

But to prove Kirchick’s point, that anti-semitism exists in any unique way in Kyrgyzstan, he must reach out to well-known race scholar Christopher Hitchens, who notes that race-hatred against the Tamils or Tutsi didn’t involve global financial conspiracy. While that’s undoubtedly true, as long as we’re drawing baseless analogies, then surely the Tamils are just like the Palestinians because both have used suicide bombing? And the Hutus must be just like Hamas because they believe in genocide?

Of course they’re different—some Palestinians hate Jews, and because of Europe’s experience with violent anti-Semitism, that’s afforded an entirely different class of victimization. Nevermind that, unlike the Jews, the Tamils and Tutsis have experienced actual holocausts over the last 20 years. So what about anti-Semitism within Kyrgyzstan itself?

When I interviewed the community’s rabbi, Arieh Reichman, about a week after the revolution, he was quick to place the blame for the anti-Semitic incidents on a handful of thugs. “The Kyrgyz people are very hospitable and warm-hearted,” he insisted. “This is confirmed by the fact that Jews have lived here untroubled.” …

To be sure, there was no overt connection between April’s anti-Semitic incidents in Bishkek and the ethnic violence in the south two months later.

Oh right, after setting up this huge important point about hating Jews, Kirchick has to admit it doesn’t really exist in Kyrgyzstan and the actual Jews who live there don’t believe in it. So what’s the point? “The way a society treats its Jews,” Kirchick explains, “is a barometer of its health.” Uhh, show your work please?

Two weeks after April’s anti-Semitic incidents, a Kyrgyz mob burned down dozens of houses belonging to Russians and Meskhetian Turks. Something has gone deeply wrong in Kyrgyz society, which has begun to manifest an ethnic nationalism the likes of which the country has never shown before.

Well, race riots happen. Was American society deeply wrong, broken, even, during the race riots in Los Angeles in 1992? France has issues with people committing anti-Semitic violence as well… but they also commit anti-Arab and anti-African violence as well (and those groups have responded in kind). Is French society deeply broken?

Notice that no Jews were attacked during the riots, apart from the defacement of that one single synagogue weeks beforehand. Kirchick saw Uzbeks being beaten and harassed with his own eyes, but he thinks it’s really about Jews. Does that make sense?

I have a different theory: contra the always-cogent Hitchens, racism is vile and disgusting everywhere it is expressed. When I lived in Kazakhstan, I heard people say horrible things about Uzbeks; in Afghanistan, Pashtuns repeated blood-libel against Hazaras; in Rwanda, the Hutus believed the Tutsis part of a conspiracy to take over and rule the country (something Hitchens and Kirchick are smart enough to have known). Whether against Jews or anyone else, it is an ugly, terrible thing, that becomes doubly so when expressed violently.

But let’s make a new rule, yes? Even if you have to publish a certain number of op-eds a month, let’s try to avoid pandering to an Israeli newspaper’s thirst to create a global anti-Semitic movement next time? I don’t blame the editors of Haaretz for not knowing enough about Kyrgyzstan to evaluate Kirchick’s ridiculous appeals to anti-Semitism… but I do blame Kirchick for so shamelessly Jew-baiting an otherwise tragic and complicated and very non-Jewish problem like Kyrgyzstani politics. That’s just low.

Signing Deals for Imaginary Pipelines Through War Zones

Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India to sign gas pipeline deal

Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are scheduled to sign a landmark agreement for a multi-billion gas pipeline project in Ashgabat on September 20, Pakistan’s petroleum ministry said today.

The pact will be signed by the petroleum ministers of the four countries at Ashgabat, the capital of Turkmenistan.

Petroleum and natural resources minister Syed Naveed Qamar will represent Pakistan at the signing ceremony of the Gas Pipeline Framework Agreement (GPFA) for the TAPI gas pipeline, a statement issued by the ministry said.

The TAPI project is meant to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and India via Afghanistan.

The heads of state of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan signed an inter-governmental agreement (IGA) for joint oil and gas pipeline projects between the three countries in 2002.

India joined the project in 2008 and a revised GPFA was initialled for the induction of India, thus changing the name of the project from TAP to TAPI.

An ADB sponsored pre-feasibility study, conducted in 2004, indicated that the 1680-km pipeline project was economically and financially viable.

It estimated the cost at $3.3 billion though the figure was revised to $7.6 billion in 2008. The pipeline would be designed to carry 3.2 BCFD gas from Turkmenistan, delivering 0.5 BCFD to Afghanistan and 1.35 BCFD each to Pakistan and India.

The proposed signing of the GPFA would be a landmark achievement as the project has seen no progress since 2008, Pakistan’s petroleum ministry said.

President Asif Ali Zardari had reactivated the project during a recent telephone discussion with his Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.

“Zardari has directed Syed Naveed Qamar, Federal Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources, to expedite concluding various agreements with the target of finalising Gas Sales Purchase Agreement by the end of this year or early next year,” the statement said.

After the signing of the GPFA in Ashgabad next week, the countries plan to convene rigorous rounds of negotiations to finalise the Gas Sales Purchase Agreement during a proposed TAPI summit in Ashgabad.

“The renewed attention to this project from the present government would lead to significantly improving energy availability for Pakistan and help resolve the energy crisis,” the petroleum ministry said.

Baloch Report of Military Operation in Dera Bugti

Reports of Pakistani military operation in Dera Bugti

on 2010/9/15 18:00:00 (133 reads)
Occupied Balochistan,Dera Bugti:An all out military operation has been launched in Dera Bugti and adjacent areas by Pakistani occupying forces with the sophisticated weapons .

In a pitch Battle between the Pakistani occupying forces and the Baloch Republic Army Sarmachars, Commander Doda Baloch has embraced martyrdom.

Report also confirmed that more than nine Pakistani soldiers have been killed by the Baloch Sarmachars, along with score of injured ones.

All sophisticated weapons are being used in this operation to quell Baloch National resistance. Confirmed reports, received by Radio Gwank Balochistan, say that in this gory operation American weapons are being used.

The main objective of this gory operation is to flush out the Baloch Resistance Forces in the area where they have disrupted the flow of Natural gas pipelines to Pakistan which has plunged Pakistan economy into a precarious situation.

Received via e-mail by Archen Baloch

It’s Time for Everybody to Show Their Cards in AfPak Shuffle

Karzai seeks to allay fears of Indian role in Balochistan

ANITA JOSHUA

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai on Wednesday sought to dispel fears in Pakistan about Afghan territory being used by India to stir trouble in the restive province of Balochistan. In Pakistan with a high-level delegation to discuss ways to root out terrorism from the region ahead of the planned pull out of international forces from Afghanistan, Mr. Karzai and Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari maintained the two countries had a common cause in regional peace.

Asked how Afghanistan could accept Pakistani hospitality for years and yet allow India to destabilise Pakistan from Afghan soil, Mr. Karzai said: “I will speak with a clear voice and a clear conscience. Afghanistan will be committing a great wrong to itself if we allow our territory to be used by any other country against Pakistan. This is not in the interest of Afghanistan. Please trust us on that. We will not allow that.”

As for the specific charge of Afghanistan providing refuge to leading Baloch insurgency leader Bramdagh Bugti — who is said to have an Indian passport — Mr. Karzai said if Pakistan thought he was a criminal and provided evidence, Kabul would act on it.

At the same time, he made no secret of India’s contribution to the reconstruction of Afghanistan; maintaining that New Delhi was one of the leading contributors to this exercise.

Describing their talks as a “step forward”, both Presidents — at a joint press conference after delegation-level meetings — confirmed discussing Afghanistan’s attempt at reconciliation with those terrorists prepared to accept the Constitution and return to the mainstream. About the reconciliation process, Mr. Karzai said: “While continuing the campaign against Al-Qaeda and its allies, we will also seek other avenues to bring stability to Afghanistan and by extension to Pakistan and the region.”

According to Mr. Zardari, both sides explored ways of transforming the geo-political identity of the region into a positive force for the people of the two nations.

On Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser Rangin Dadfar Spanta’s charge that Pakistan’s intelligence agencies continued to provide shelter to terrorist networks, Mr. Karzai said this was discussed.

“The reality is that both are suffering from terrorism and the terrorists must have a base somewhere. They are not coming from Burkina Faso or the Ivory Coast. They must be originating from our soil. We discussed ways to go after their training grounds, financial sources….This openness in our dialogue is a step forward in our relations. It is an engagement that is substantive and issue-oriented.”

Radical Islam? There’s worse threats

People often wind up believing their own cover story.Former British prime minister Tony Blair, for example, is trapped forever in the rationalisations he used in 2003 to explain why he was going along with George Bush’s invasion of Iraq. He has been at it again, telling the BBC that “radical Islam” is the greatest threat facing the world today.

But is militant Islam really a bigger threat to the world than the possibility of a major nuclear war – happily now in abeyance, but never really gone? Bigger than the risk that infectious diseases are going to make a major comeback as antibiotics become ineffective? Bigger even than the threat of global warming?

It depends on what you mean by “radical Islam,” of course. In some Western circles, any Muslim who challenges Western policies is by definition an Islamist radical. But if it means Sunni Muslims who believe in the Salafist interpretation of Islam and are personally willing to use terrorist violence to spread it, then there aren’t very many of them: a few hundred thousand at most.

These people are unlikely to start blowing things up in New Jersey or Bavaria, though they are a serious threat to fellow Muslims living in their own countries.

It’s a big, ugly problem for countries like Iraq and Pakistan, but it is a pretty small problem for everybody else. The number of people killed by “radical Islamic” terrorists in the past decade outside the Muslim world is probably no more than 15,000.

None of these deaths is justifiable, but it is weird to insist that a phenomenon that causes an average of, say, 1500 non-Muslim deaths a year is the greatest threat. Yet the people who launched the “war on terror” do say that, as do many others who built their careers by pushing the same proposition.

They do it by the simple device of warning (to quote Blair) that “there is the most enormous threat from the combination of this radical extreme movement and the fact that, if they could, they would use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. You can’t take a risk with that happening.”

Never mind the quite limited damage that terrorists actually do.

During the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union had 10,000 nuclear weapons ready to launch at each other. If they had ever gone to war, hundreds of millions of people would have been killed – even several billion, if it had caused a nuclear winter.

And of course the two countries had huge biological and chemical warfare capabilities too.

If “radical Islamists” ever got their hands on a nuclear weapon, it would be one bomb, not 10,000 warheads. If they managed to explode it, there would be a local disaster, not a global holocaust.

The worst poison gas attack ever, on the Tokyo underground system in 1995, killed only 13 people, and although germ warfare could be hugely destructive of human life, it requires scientific capabilities that are very difficult to master.

Besides, just how does invading various Muslim countries shrink any of these dangers? It probably increases them, actually, by outraging many Muslims and providing the extremists with a steady flow of recruits.

Terrorism, by radical Islamists or anybody else, is a real threat but a modest one. It cannot be “defeated”, but it can be contained by good police work and wise policy choices.

It might make it into the top 10 global threats, but certainly wouldn’t make it into the top three.

Anybody who says it does has something to sell or something to hide.

  • Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
  • Robert Blackwill’s ‘Plan B’ is Recipe for New Civil War In Afghanistan

    [Civil war is the military/CIA's favorite tool.  Civil war in Afghanistan, just as in Iraq, was always part of the strategic plan.  Keep the locals busy killing each other, while you go about your dirty business undisturbed.]

    Robert Blackwill’s ‘Plan B’ is perpetual mimetic war in Afghanistan

    Robert Blackwill was the US Ambassador to Bharat (aka India). Now he has sold his soul and is functioning as the Bharati Ambassador to the West. He is the lone voice propagating the Bharati vision for Afghanistan–separate cantons for each ethnicity which would constantly be at war with each other and with the Pakhtuns (read Pakistan). A Noecon favorite  Robert Blackwill, is returning to the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), a leading US think tank to focus on American foreign policy toward India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. No doubt the CFR wants to push the ethnic division of Afghanistan–so that perpetual pressure can be placed on Pakistan. Mr. Balckwill is opposed to a US departure from Afghanistan and proposes perpetual mimetic warfare.

    Mr. Blackwill is disguising his master’s voice as a recipe for America. He says:

    • “The Taliban are winning, we are losing,” he said. “They have high morale and want to continue the insurgency. Plan A is going to fail. We need a Plan B
    • “Let the Taliban control the Pashtun south and east, the American and allied price for preventing that is far too high.”
    • Mr Blackwill believes the US should only seek to defend those areas dominated by Afghanistan’s Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara minorities by pulling out of bases in the south.  Blackwill in The Telegraph.

    Blackwill was Counsellor to CFR in 2005. He has also been a Council member for 25 years. Most recently, Blackwill was senior fellow at the RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, California, from 2008 to 2010, after serving from 2004 to 2008 as President of BGR International, a Washington consulting firm. Blackwill is also a member of the Trilateral Commission and The Aspen Strategy Group; and on the boards of the Nixon Center.

    Robert Blackwill is one of the new Western diplomats who seems to think that the the solution to Afghanistan is in partitioning it.

    • As things stand, it seems unlikely the Blackwill/IISS/ASG argument will have much impact when President Obama approaches his December review.
    • The word out of Washington is that the administration will stick to its counter-insurgency strategy, notwithstanding Joe Biden’s well-publicised reservations, and will listen to General Petraeus when he asks for a relatively slow drawdown of troops from next July

    The conservative papers of Britain and the USA seem to give coverage to Blackwill–who has no credibility in America. However there is plenty of opposition to Blackwill.

    • The National Review: A Very Bad Plan For Afghanistan.
    • It (Blackwill’s Plan B) is ignorant because Blackwill ignores Afghan culture: Seldom do Afghans lose wars; they just switch to the winning side. Momentum means everything. If we show a lack of commitment, let alone weakness, Afghans, whether Pashtun or not, will jump ship to make accommodation with the other side.
    • Blackwill’s plan is immoral.
    • The dangers of Blackwill’s Plan B are many. The idea that the Taliban would be satiated with just the Pashtun areas is wrong-headed.If there is a roadmap to reliving 9/11, Robert Blackwill has it. But bad ideas, no matter how prominent their voice, are still bad ideas. NPR – Michael Rubin -

    The new US strategy seems to call for a deeper involvement with Pakistan–which seems to hold the keys to Afghanistan. The Guardian is again regurgitating “old wine in new bottle”. In an article it has published the Blackwill point of view.

    Robert Blackwill, a former foreign policy advisor to both presidents Bush, came to London today to deliver his arguments for a de facto partition of Afghanistan. He made his case in Washington and in the Financial Times earlier in the summer, and appeared in London this afternoon at the invitation of the International Institute for Strategic Studies to rebut some of the criticism his ideas have received, and presumably because his ideas reinforce a similar argument made last week by the IISS itself. The same week, a group of pundits and ex-officials calling themselves the Afghanistan Study Group delivered its own challenge to the conduct of the war.

    The timing of all this seem to be determined to a large extent by the approaching US strategy review in December, which is expected to pull British strategy in its wake, and the seeming absence so far of any major challenge to the current counter-insurgency orthodoxy inside the US and UK establishments. In that context, Blackwill is an interesting voice as a Republican arguing for a partial retreat, although he doubtless represents an small minority of the party.

    This is his argument as laid down at the IISS this afternoon. The counter-insurgency is failing, and is unsustainable in terms of its cost in blood and treasure ($100 billion a year). It is entirely disproportionate in relation to the original objective of the Afghan mission – to eliminate al-Qaida. Blackwill cites the CIA as said there are 50-100 AQ fighters in Afghanistan, perhaps 300 in Pakistan. He asked: “Is it worth $100 billion to keep them on one side of the Durand line rather than the other?”

    On the other hand, he rejected the suggestion that a negotiated settlement with the Taliban, quoting the CIA chief Leon Panetta as asking why should the Taliban negotiate in good faith, if they believe they are already winning.

    Blackwill’s proposal is to cede control of the “Pashtun homeland” in the south and east to the Taliban and instead defend the north, west and Kabul with a smaller US-led foreign force of 35,000 – 50,000, which would continue to strike against AQ targets either side of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

    To the objection that the Taliban would simply invite AQ back into its zone of control, he argued that it is just as possible that they would have “learned the lesson” of 2001, and if they did not, “the skies over the south and east would be dark with Predators”.

    He admitted that it was “tragically true” that the de facto partition plan would be a defeat for women in the ceded area, but said that was not why the US went to war in the first place.

    Blackwill said the residual foreign force would be enough to prevent all-out civil war which would inevitably break out if there was a total withdrawal. To fears of the emergence of an irredentist Pashtunistan on both sides of the Durand Line, threatening Pakistan, he responded by saying that the US and its allies could not be more concerned with Pakistani territorial integrity that Islamabad itself.

    For some reason, Blackwill declined to answer a question on what happens when a Taliban south fights on under the stirring banner of a united Afghanistan, buoyed by its strategic victory, and by the outrage caused by a strategy heavily reliant on Predators and other air strikes. That would also be a recruiter for AQ worldwide.

    Joshua Foust raises the same sort of objections on Registan.net to the Afghanistan Study Group’s (ASG’s) similar proposals.

    Gerard Russell, who ran the British government’s outreach to the Muslim world from 2001 to 2003 and who is now based at Harvard, was also doubtful, raises objections as follows:

    • Economically the northern side would be dependent on trade with Iran.
    • Its roads with the Stans are very poor.
    • But it really makes no sense. You’d need to reconfigure the whole Afghan road network.
    • It would stoke conflict.
    • Iran and Russia will be drawn into supporting the north, and Pakistan into supporting the south, creating a potentially lethal proxy war that would be worse than the civil war of the 1990s, because the stakes will be higher.
    • ..I doubt any neighbour will want this – Pakistan in particular dislikes the idea of ethnic separatism, and the central Asian states show little enthusiasm to open their borders with Afghanistan.
    • In any event I don’t see how it solves the fundamental problems of leadership which beset both the north and south of Afghanistan.

    Advocates of a negotiated settlement also argue that there are ways of scaling down the foreign presence in Afghanistan without handing the Taliban a huge strategic victory and taking the ground away from war-weary moderates in the insurgent leadership who might accept a deal.

    As things stand, it seems unlikely the Blackwill/IISS/ASG argument will have much impact when President Obama approaches his December review. The word out of Washington is that the administration will stick to its counter-insurgency strategy, notwithstanding Joe Biden’s well-publicised reservations, and will listen to General Petraeus when he asks for a relatively slow drawdown of troops from next July.

    Then again, things could always get even worse, and make Plan B look no so much attractive as unavoidable. The Guardian. Pushing partition in Afghanistan

    Is retreating from the south a solution to the stalemate?

    There is intense opposition to Blackwill in NATO also.

    Brussels, Sept 16 (ANI): NATO has dismissed former American national security adviser Robert Blackwill’s suggestions that a conflict in Afghanistan could be resolved by partitioning the country on ethnic lines and handing over the Pashtun south to the Taliban, saying it was a recipe for civil war.

    “The Taliban have national ambitions they have made that clear time and time again,” Rasmussen said. “If you want civil war in Afghanistan again, this would be a good way to get it,” the Daily Times quoted NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, as telling a news conference.

    “I believe it’s important to address these proposals early and clearly,” he said, pointing towards Blackwill’s proposal.

    Rasmussen emphasised it would be a mistake to assume that the Taliban would be satisfied with the Pashtun south, and that Al Qaeda was wiped from Afghanistan, just because its fighters had taken refuge in neighbouring Pakistan.

    He also conceded it was not possible for NATO to defeat every last Taliban fighter. “That’s not the idea. But we can keep them under pressure, prevent them from achieving their political goals and train Afghan forces to do the same. And that’s exactly what we are doing,” he said.

    Blackwill, who was Condolezza Rice”s deputy National Security Adviser between 2003 and 2004, proposed that Afghanistan should be divided on ethnic lines, as it was impossible to defeat the Taliban in their southern heartland or to weaken them sufficiently to force them into negotiations.

    “The Taliban are winning, we are losing. They have high morale and want to continue the insurgency. Plan A is going to fail. We need a Plan B… Let the Taliban control the Pashtun south and east, the American and allied price for preventing that is far too high,” Blackwill said. (ANI)

    Battening down the hatches

    Battening down the hatches

    By Cyril Almeida
    If Kayani’s agenda is to return to the basics, the army’s plan must be to emerge from under the debris of present times to lead the country to a stronger future. – File Photo.
    Step into the shoes of the Indispensable for a few minutes. You’re the army chief now. Linchpin of that great institution which runs the country’s national security and foreign policies and is the self-appointed custodian of the national interest.

    Everywhere you look, there’s trouble. Internally, the economy is a mess and security is tenuous in swathes of the country. The pols have wrecked things as usual on the economic front: where once triage would have sent the economy to the emergency room, now it needs to be rushed into intensive care.

    The Bad Taliban, diabolical and crazy like a fox, strike at will in the cities and frustratingly keep popping up in the tribal areas, drawing the army into a never-ending game of Whack-a-Mole.

    CHB — Clear, Hold, Build — the foundation of COIN is stuck in the Clear and Hold phases, civilian wretchedness and military limitations thwarting the Build phase.

    The American superpower is billeted in your backyard, Afghanistan, but the political will to stay is draining away as her blood and treasure are absorbed by the parched south and the rocky east, the Afghan/Good Taliban’s stamping grounds.

    To your east, India is speaking with a forked tongue yet again, her prime minister talking peace, his ministers obsessing over the ghosts of Mumbai even as held Kashmir burns.

    Trouble, problems, challenges everywhere. What do you do on the foreign policy front?

    Remember, you’re the army chief. You lead a conservative institution. You’re a reasonably smart guy. Three years behind you, and three ahead, all spent, and likely to be spent, in a strategic crucible. What do you do?

    You go back to the basics. None of that ‘the winds of history are at your back’ stuff. In a confusing, complex region in which there are few goods options, there’s nothing like the basics.

    Batten down the hatches, hunker down, and hope the storm passes and leaves you relatively unscathed, eventually to emerge Noah-like, ready to fight another day, Cain-like.

    What are the basics? India is the enemy. Afghanistan is your playground. And the American superpower must be milked, bilked, just the right amount, taking care to do just enough of what it asks — a modern-day, statist version of Goldilocks.

    Those pretty much are the central tenets of Pakistan’s foreign policy over much of its history, and, if you think about it, there’s little reason to believe Kayani may be reaching for a new playbook at this late stage.

    There’s plenty of circumstantial evidence that back to the basics is what Kayani has opted for in his time in charge.

    Have a look at the India facet. Despite the Indian prime minister’s consistent talk of finding a way towards better relations, by now too consistent to be dismissed as crooked wordplay, Pakistan has stayed in fierce mode.

    Coming up to two years since the Mumbai attacks, not one person here has been convicted of a single crime associated with the attacks. How many high-profile suicide or fidayeen attacks on army installations in recent years do you think match that record of abject inaction? I bet you could count them on a single finger.

    Turn to Afghanistan, where the army caught a break and got a twofer in recent years: Americans present to be milked/bilked while hedging the Afghan bets, all in one place, at the same time.

    Listen to Americans talk about Musharraf, about his ‘double games’, about how he played the Bushies and neo-cons, about how he took with both hands and gave the absolute minimum in return, and, projecting a few years into the future, you could say the same about Kayani’s Pakistan and Obama’s America.

    Cut through the gobbledegook about a ‘strategic dialogue’ with the US and the quest for a ‘peaceful, friendly and stable’ Afghanistan, and you’re left with pretty much the same vision for Afghanistan the army has had for decades: one where Pakistan is the dominant player, where Pakistan has the best seat at the table of power and shapes the internal configuration of power, where Pakistan calls the shots, the rest of the world, and Afghans and Afghanistan, be damned.

    The cherry on top? While quietly pursuing its Afghan strategy of choice, the army’s Pakistan has loudly pocketed all the goodies the Americans keep throwing our way in the risible hope it will convince us to mend our ways. Little wonder it drives American pundits batty and causes US officials to froth at the mouth occasionally.

    True, the army may have accepted that revival in toto of the reign of the ’90s in Afghanistan may no longer be possible, but it hardly seems pleased about having lost the Taliban silver bullet to Afghanistan’s warlordism problems.

    Anyway you cut it, you can’t shake the feeling our strategists are still hankering for the halcyon days of Taliban rule; after all, that was about as peaceful, friendly and stable as Afghanistan has been for decades, at least from the army’s perspective.

    India is the enemy; Afghanistan is the backyard; and the American superpower is to be milked — the fail-safe choices of a conservative institution caught in a vortex partially of its own making.

    A neat-ish triangle in a messy, dangerous part of the world that ensures several things: that no concessions are made while on the defensive, concessions the army may live to regret once the country has recovered its poise; that bills are paid in difficult times; and that the army’s relevance to this country, the region and the wider world does not stand diminished.

    How can we be so sure? For this army, the only game in town is survival, and it is about as likely to reinvent the strategic wheel in times of crisis as it is to find the panacea for all that ails Pakistan internally.

    The problem? To anyone who hasn’t lived and breathed the feinbild of India as the enemy for decades, as all generals have, the problem is straightforward: the conception of India as an incorrigible, recidivist foe who can never be trusted in matters big and small has hurt us in the past, and, given the present trajectories of the two countries, will hurt us even more in the future.

    To give but a simple example: at present, as we have done before, we are looking to faraway America and its proxies, the international financial institutions, to keep the economy on life support; yet, right next door we have a country obsessed with economic growth and still we keep shut the door to trade (Indian non-tariff barriers notwithstanding) — a door that could lead to other, strategic benefits.

    For sure, such awkward inconsistencies are rife in international politics, but think about it this way. If Kayani’s agenda is to return to the basics, the army’s plan must be to emerge from under the debris of present times to lead the country to a stronger future. It wouldn’t be the first time someone has calculated that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.

    It also wouldn’t be the first time someone has miscalculated terribly.

    cyril.a@gmail.com