Freedom is born through education, not in battle in the mountains!

Freedom is born through education, not in battle in the mountains!

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In Tajikistan, once again heard the gunshots, explosions of bombs, again blood flows. Again kills Tajik Tajik, and our dreams to see lasting peace in the country once again under question. In this difficult situation, I as a citizen of this land do not understand the position of the Tajiks, who by fate remained outside the country or been forced to leave her under pressure, and right now in terms of instability is trying to add fuel to the fire.

First of all, I mean Dodojon Atovulloyev. This talented man, excellent command of the pen, competent politician, some Tajik journalists – my colleagues regard him as their ustodom. I did treat it as neutral, and tell him “hello” on the phone.

I can understand his hatred of the current government, his sharp criticism of the president and his entourage. Local media outlets themselves are often criticized the government, which has a lot of shortcomings and failures. Half of the ministers, in my opinion, generally is immediately removed from their posts for incompetence and corruption. And Atovulloyev, obviously, there’s something personal.

But I can not understand the logic or the human mind, which calls for the unrest, which pumps the situation and fueled tensions in their historical homeland. In a country that has already experienced one civil war, and which still has no clear immunity against it.

If this is such an attempt to give freedom to our closed society, if there is an ideological belief that all should be solved fundamentally, I think it’s wrong, and condemn. I think I have as the editor of the blocked site in the country is no less weighty right to resent our power, but still, I prefer the peace and stability, because our family had already been once refugees, and the family of my wife lost her father then, and we do not want our children to know the same.

I still think that the rhetoric of Mr. Atovulloyev recent years are his personal political ambitions, that simply gush over the edge. This is his minus as a politician, because in reality such a position is essentially throws it back from the current Tajik society. Reading his interview in the same Russian media, listening to new initiatives such as “Vatandor” (made up except himself and not known to this day), and now a leaflet, called “go against the regime” of “freedom, which begins from the mountains, I have the impression that people do not see people’s problems, and sees himself as president of the country, with the certainty that this moment will come today or tomorrow.

Personally, I would not for anything would not give his vote for D. Atovulloyev, because I do not want to deal with such a politician who in a fit of emotion, and for the sake of ambition, forgetting the ethics of political debate, and thus manage to insult his own people. I am part of this nation and what we “poor, weak, indecisive, cowardly” and others were not, we’re here, we work here, we drink our dirty water, we suffer stupidity of our officials, we suffer from our corruption, we fight blockade of our site and we criticize here! We’re all here, from our country!

No matter how smart and talented would not be our Tajik, sitting outside the country, it is unforgivable speak about our nation as “a herd of sheep.” I would have recognized the right of such words and calls for a change of power only person in Tajikistan and really responsible for your words!

If it is a revolutionary at heart you probably know from history that Robespierre or Mahatma Gandhi did not speak to his supporters at a distance, they were in the middle of the crowd of people who try to instill their values. Let Atovulloyev, Karomat Sharipov and other Internet policy will arrive in Dushanbe and gives it its opposition movement!

If you can not, if you fear for your life, it is their right, we can not condemn them for it. But put yourself above those who remain in the country, openly disagreed with the government while it’s not like men, and politically illiterate. In this respect, the same Rahmatullo Zoirov, Kabiri, Sulton Kuvvatov, Rahmatullo Valiev, and others – far more ambitious people. They criticize the authoritarian government Rakhmonov, but remain in Dushanbe, one-on-one with their opponents.

Perhaps Mr. Atovulloyev, believes that it is supported by large masses of people solely on those separate anonymous reviews on the forums site or on the basis of a few compliments to some friends in Moscow, and then – this is a profound error. I’m afraid that if he had a chance to check it out, it would have suffered a great disappointment. It is not necessary for this to play the lives of tens of thousands of his countrymen.

I want to remind all the “opposition” and “revolutionaries” – you fought for freedom in the early 90′s against the Communists and R. Nabiyev, but got war and spread to the world, leaving us, the youths of that time, the bullets and live in poverty. To what freedom you push again?

For many years I was an ardent critic of the late Turkmenbashi, believed that the Turkmens the most unfree people, if allowed to enter the current president of totalitarianism. But now when I see what the outcome of the revolution of freedom in Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, what “freedom” threatens us from what is happening now in the mountains, I understand – Turkmens are very wise and mature people. They suffered a tyrant, but retained thousands of lives, the economy, their own state. And now I want to tell Mr. Atovulloyev and other external patriots: “Enough!” Enough to push us into the fire of war! “.

We’re not cannon fodder, and we do not want to shoot each other, especially when we have at hand concentrated thousands of armed people, “rebel colonel, and when the Kremlin-father in the open” eats “their ex-partners in the CIS. Why should we change the flea?

To paraphrase a recent revolutionary treatment Atovulloyev the Internet, associated with “freedom, starting from the mountains, I want to appeal to our people like your son:

Salomu alaikum, those who are here in the country and those who remain in the forced migration! You hope for all those who want peace in our country and who wants the state of Tajiks have been stable and long!

You know, there is nothing worse than war, and when killing a Tajik Tajik. Yeah, we bad, we do not have winter light, and we have corrupt government officials, have poor-quality health care and education, some riding in jeeps, and someone with difficulty borrowing money to buy a ticket to Russia – to go on earnings.

But it is our common misfortune. We’re all to blame for this, because not yet recognized that national priorities should be above personal! That corruption can not succeed harsh sentence and rallies, and increase our legal literacy and improving social welfare.

If we do not like our government, we should try to change it, but do it in an evolutionary way, through elections and other legal mechanisms by changing the creation of leaders, through patience, if necessary. It has never shed blood did not allow the development and stability, grab a history textbooks. Nowhere else are people fighting for their right to freedom of belief and religion, not achieve such freedom with arms.

The leading countries of the world have come to the well-being only through peaceful means and through education, through the understanding that “this is our country and its destiny is in our hands.” Are we mankurt listen to all those who mutters something from? Have we hired hands and damaging to listen to commands from the Kremlin, Washington, Tehran and Tashkent? The time has come to realize that we really a nation – the people who are at a high level of intellectual and spiritual development, to live in their own state and act independently.

I will take the few literate words from the last message Atovulloyev, which just does not but agree. : It is a pity that they were served to them under a different context.

“This war is useless. Neither the soldiers and officers, or those who are in the mountains, or those who are now far from home … Do not shoot at each other! Together – we are a force. When we’re together – we do not fuel the war, and people. We – this is freedom! We – this is Tajikistan! “.

- We are one nation! And if Dodojon Atovulloyev part of this nation, in difficult and turbulent times, he will be with her …

P. S. Our site is blocked in Tajikistan, in our editorial offices are tax audit authorities, and some newspapers have refused to print. But still we do not call for protests, we call for peace. In Moscow, our website is open for access and Mr. Atovulloyev be able to know my personal view on his position. I specifically in its text does not refer to him directly because I do not want to give a reason for personal communications online andoffline. Behind him is the right to accept my arguments or categorically reject them, and continue to give interviews in the same format. This is my opinion it was not for him, but for those who read it … Take a look at the footage below, unless someone can dry the ocean of tears of mothers who died of Tajik boys?

Zafar Abdullaev, IA “Avesta”

Video footage of the tragedy in the gorge Komarob. How else can shed the blood of the Tajiks?

It has been over a week after the tragic death of 28 military Department of Defense of Tajikistan, shot in the convoy, follow the road through the gorge Komarob. We can say that this attack was the beginning of large-scale militia clashes government forces, terrorist groups and militants of the former armed opposition in the Rasht area.

As a result, dozens of people killed on both sides, continuing the military-political tension and grief of families of the victims. Nonprofessional video footage from the blast site, one of the representatives of power structures, demonstrates the fact that the machine of government forces was ambushed and fired upon from all sides, and that is why our military was virtually no chance for salvation.

Peace be upon all of Tajiks killed in recent fighting. Can no longer shed a single drop of blood! Need to sit down!

 

 

Extremist Deobandis (Taliban) massacre Barelvis Muslims in Karachi Shrine Attack

Extremist Deobandis (Taliban) massacre Barelvis Muslims in Karachi: Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrine attacked

A child injured in the blast arrives at a hospital in Karachi. Taliban terrorists are supported by Deobandi scholars such as Dr Zakir Naik, Maulana Sami ul Haq, Mufti Taqi Usmani and Professor Munawar Hassan

After attacking the shrine of Rehman Baba in the Khyber Pakthunkhwa, and the shrine of Data Ganj Bakhsh in Lahore, the extremist Deobandis (terrorists of the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Sipah-e-Sahaba) have now attacked the shrine of Hazrat Abdullah Shah Ghazi in Karachi. At least 10 Barelvi and Shia Muslims were killed in this attack.Why do Deobandi Taliban kill Barelvi and Shia Muslims?
According to extremist Deobandis, both Barelvi and Shia Muslims are heretics and polytheists hence wajibul qatl (worthy to be killed). It may be noted that almost all Barelvi and Shia Muslims dislike the Taliban, Al Qaeda and Sipah-e-Sahaba because of their hate based ideology.

Who are major Deobandi leaders in Pakistan?
Major proponents of pro-Taliban Deobandi ideology in Pakistan include the following:

General Hamid Gul, General Aslam Beg, Imran Khan, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Maulana Samiul Haq, Mufti Taqi Usmani, Mufti Rafi Usmani, Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi, Maulana Hanif Jalandhari, Mufti Naeem, Rana Sanaullah (PML-N), Ansar Abbasi, Irfan Siddiqui, Hamid Mir, Shireen Mazari, Dr Shahid Masood, Javed Chaudhry, Orya Maqbool Jan and others.

Who provides arms, training and protection to the Deobandi terrorists?
It may be noted that Pakistan’s spy agency (ISI) has special jihadi connections with the extremist Deobandis (often labelled as Good Taliban) unless they start attacking the GHQ.

Taliban accept responsibilty
According to international and local media, the Pakistani Taliban has claimed responsibiilty for two explosions Thursday at a shrine in Karachi in which at least eight people were killed and dozens injured.

The suicide attack was launched at the shrine of a revered Sufi Muslim saint, Abdullah Shah Ghazi, said Zulfiqar Ali Mirza, interior minister of Sindh province. Mirza has ordered the closing of Karachi shrines until further notice.

Saghir Ahmed, Sindh’s health minister, told CNN that the victims have been brought to hospitals in Karachi and 60 people are being treated for injuries. Authorities said crews were sifting through human remains at the site.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari condemned the attack. “The relentless attacks on ordinary Pakistani citizens by those who want to impose an extremist mindset and lifestyle upon our country will not deter our government and the Pakistan Peoples Party,” a statement from Zardari’s office said. “We remain committed to fighting these murderers and expelling them from our land.”

The attack occurred Thursday night, the busiest time at the shrine because it’s the eve of Muslim Friday prayers. Karachi and Sindh residents make pilgrimages to the shrine to offer prayers.

Thursday night also is when people distribute free food to the poor, an act that is one of the five pillars of Islam. (Source)

Police official Mohammad Nasim said the bombs exploded at the entrance of the shrine to Sufi saint Abdullah Shah Ghazi as devotees packed it for a weekly gathering in Karachi’s seaside Clifton district.
“We are collecting details and we fear the casualties may rise,” he said.

The shrine’s floor was spattered in blood, said witnesses. Slippers, sandals and flowers brought by devotees to lay at the tomb littered the area.

Witness Gul Mohammad said he was outside the shrine when two huge blasts were heard in quick succession.

“I rushed inside and saw blood and human flesh,” he said. “Some bodies were lying on the ground and several people wounded in the blasts were crying in pain. Then ambulances started arriving and moving the injured to hospitals.”

Ambulances with sirens blaring were seen ferrying casualties to hospitals as police and paramilitary soldiers cordoned off the shrine.
There was no claim of responsibility for the latest attack but the Pakistani Taliban has been blamed for similar bombings in the past.

More than 3,700 people have been killed in a series of suicide attacks and bomb explosions, many of them carried out by the Taliban and other Al-Qaeda-linked Islamist extremists, in Pakistan during the last three years. (Source)

Who is Abdullah Shah Ghazi?

Abdullah Shah Ghazi was Syed Abu Muhammad Abdullah Al Ishtar from the lineage of the Prophet Muhammad from the linage of Imam Hasan and Imam Ali. According to historian Suhail Zaheer Lari, he was the son of Muhammad al-Nafs al-Zakiyya. He was born in Medina in the year 720 and arrived in Sindh in the year 760 as a merchant and brought with him a large number of horses purchased from Kufa, Iraq. He was given a warm welcome as he belonged to a saadat family, the noblest in Islam.

Abdullah Shah Ghazi’s shrine in Karachi is dated back to 1400 years ago, his brother, Misry Shah Ghazi, who is also buried along the coastline in Karachi, is also remembered as a saint.

Many people claim to have been granted their wishes at the shrine and it is the centre for people who throng the shrine all year round. Every year marks the Urs (festival) at the shrine for 3 days (dates: 20-22 Dhu al-Hijjah – 12th month of the Islamic calendar), marking the anniversary of Abdullah Shah Ghazi. A famous myth about the mazar is that Karachi never had a tropical disaster in a thousand year because of the shrine’s blessing.

Warrants issued for 5 Pakistanis over 26/11

Warrants issued for 5 Pakistanis over 26/11

NEW DELHI: Interpol notified its members on Thursday that India has issued arrest warrants for five Pakistani citizens, including two army officers, for alleged involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, an official said.

India asked Interpol to issue the so-called “red corner notices” for the five Pakistanis, said RK Gaur, a spokesman for India’s Central Bureau of Investigation.

The notices follow a probe by India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA) into the role of American David Coleman Headley, who pleaded guilty in the US in March to participating in the planning of the attacks, which killed 166 people.

“The five Pakistanis wanted by India are Major Sameer Ali, Major Iqbal, Illyas Kashmiri, Abdur Rehman Hashim and Sajid Majid,” Gaur said.

Iqbal was Headley’s handler who arranged funds and training for him, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. It said Headley had also named Ali.

Arrest warrants for the five had been issued by a New Delhi court in July following a request by the NIA.

In July, Indian Home Secretary GK Pillai accused Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency of orchestrating the Mumbai attacks. “The information, which Pakistan has denied, came from Headley’s interrogation,” Pillai said.

A court in Mumbai in May convicted and sentenced to death Muhammed Ajmal Kasab, the only surviving gunman from the attacks. He had appealed his death sentence in the Mumbai High Court. Kasab was one of the 10 Pakistanis who attacked two luxury hotels, a Jewish center and a busy train station in India’s financial capital in November 2008. ap

 

Drone strikes could backfire in long-term

Drone strikes could backfire in long-term

* Experts say escalated attacks could hurt US war on militancy by alienating residents and hardline army officers

* Strikes could jeopardise US strategic interests in area

ISLAMABAD: Escalated drone attacks in the tribal areas, could hurt the US war on militancy by alienating residents and hardline army officers.

Such strikes… could jeopardise US strategic interests in what is considered to be a global hub for terrorists. “It seems Americans want short-term gains and are not interested in long-term ways through which militants can be sidelined by turning the public against them,” said Rahimullah Yousafzai, an expert on militancy.

A rare public opinion poll conducted in the tribal areas by the New America Foundation showed US drone strikes were deeply unpopular among the population, now likely to have stronger objections after wider strikes.

That’s good news for al Qaeda.

“The intensity of opposition to the American military is high. While only one in ten of FATA residents think suicide attacks are often or sometimes justified against the Pakistani military and police, almost six in ten believe these attacks are justified against the US military,” the poll showed.

More than 75 percent of FATA residents oppose drone attacks, which have risen sharply under the Obama administration.

“Indeed, only 16 percent think these strikes accurately target militants; 48 percent think they largely kill civilians and another 33 percent feel they kill both civilians and militants,” said the study.

Drones have killed senior al Qaeda and Taliban figures.

Pakistan worries they undermine efforts to deal with militancy because civilian casualties inflame public anger and bolster support for the militants. Pakistan may not be so cooperative if often stormy relations are strained – as they are now over NATO cross-border incursions.

Although Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani is believed to have good ties with the United States, other senior officers may grow tired of US doubts over Islamabad’s commitment to fighting terrorism.

Analyst Imtiaz Gul said wider drone attacks would probably create many ripples in the military.

Hardline elements in the army could argue Pakistan had lost thousands of soldiers supporting the US war on terror and is getting little in return except pressure to do more. The survey’s face-to-face interviews with 1,000 residents showed opposition to the drones was not based on general anti-US feelings. They just don’t like the US military. That does not mean people backed al Qaeda or the Taliban, the survey said. reuters

The New Paradigm of Afghan Division Requires a Clean Slate In North

[It is less likely that this was a revenge attack for the Feb. arrest of Taliban shadow governors for this region (Mullah Mir Mohammad and Mullah Abdul Salam) than it was a clearing of the board, to introduce a whole new set of players to the next act that America has planned for this Northern Alliance stronghold.]

Mosque bomb kills 20, including Afghan governor

BY GUL RAHIM
AFP OCTOBER 8, 2010
This picture shows Kunduz governor Mohammad Omar (2nd L) posing for a group photo in Kunduz province. Omar, an outspoken Afghan governor against the Taliban and 19 other people were killed on October 8 when a powerful blast through a mosque in northern Afghanistan, a police commander told AFP.

This picture shows Kunduz governor Mohammad Omar (2nd L) posing for a group photo in Kunduz province. Omar, an outspoken Afghan governor against the Taliban and 19 other people were killed on October 8 when a powerful blast through a mosque in northern Afghanistan, a police commander told AFP.

Photograph by: AFP, AFP/Getty Images

Kunduz, Afghanistan – A bomb tore through an Afghan mosque killing an outspoken governor and 19 other people on Friday in the latest attack reflecting growing violence in the north of the country.

Mohammad Omar, who was governor of Kunduz province, one of the parts of northern Afghanistan most troubled by Taliban insurgents, was killed by a bomb in the town of Taluqan.

“We have 20 people martyred and 15 others injured. The dead include the governor,” interior ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary told AFP, updating an initial death toll of 15 given by police.

Authorities were investigating whether the attack was carried out by a suicide bomber or a planted device, the spokesman said.

Although there was no immediate claim of responsibility, suspicion fell on Islamist groups fighting the Western-backed Afghan government for the last nine years.

Omar had repeatedly warned that the Taliban and al-Qaida were expanding in Kunduz and had called for security reinforcements.

“A number of our countrymen have been killed and injured,” said Sayed Mohammad Tawhidi, spokesman for the government in Takhar province — Omar’s home region and the place where the attack took place.

“The governor of Kunduz, Mr Mohammad Omar, was unfortunately among the dead,” he told AFP, unable to give an exact death toll.

Mohammad Hassan Baseej, a doctor at the local hospital, said 33 people were admitted with injuries after the attack.

Violence has increased in recent years in the north, which was once considered relatively peaceful compared to Taliban flashpoints in the east and south of the country.

More than 152,000 U.S.-led NATO troops are deployed in Afghanistan, focused primarily on the south, trying to reverse the Taliban insurrection and shore up the government of President Hamid Karzai.

 

Pakistan Supports India’s Bid For Permanent UN Seat

[The enmity has to end some day.  Surely it is in Pakistan's interests that someone represent the world's most populous region at the UN?  Why not India, if that is the only change possible?  C'mon, Pakistan, conflict in your backyard doesn't serve your interests.  Like it or not, you have a real chance to really prosper if the two of you turn your interests away from American-inspired conflict and toward rebuilding that which has been blown to bits.]

Pakistan Supports India’s Bid For Permanent UN Seat (Believe It Or Not!)

  • Ambassador Haroon has provided Pakistani support in the Asian Group for India’s bid for a permanent seat in the UN Security Council

  • When Indian foreign minister blasted Pakistan at the UN, our envoy refused to reply to avoid criticizing India. Other diplomats call him and the Indian ambassador an ‘Inseparable Twin’

  • Pakistan has an India-sympathizer as its UN Representative

  • ‘Banana-Republic’ Pakistan under US tutelage appoints the likes of Haroon and Haqqani to crucial diplomatic posts

  • Even ZAB, PPP’s founder, had better sense when he countered India’s moves inside UN.

 

Finally, Pakistan has a pro-Indian ambassador at the United Nations. He refuses to respond when Indian foreign minister blasts Pakistan at the UN and is so close to the Indian ambassador that other diplomats call them the ‘inseparable twins’. The icing on the cake is that Pakistan’s envoy has supported India’s bid for a permanent UN seat. Tell me this is not a ‘banana republic’ under American tutelage?

 

By SHIREEN M. MAZARI

The Nation.

WWW.PAKNATIONALISTS.COM

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—In these trying times, when India is hysterically accusing Pakistan of all manner of fanciful evils of terrorism to divert attention from its quagmire in Occupied Kashmir, our diplomacy has suffered an unexpected blow from an unexpected source.

On crucial matters at the UN or any other international forum one expects the most senior diplomat – the Envoy himself – to stand up and state the country’s case. Unfortunately, this is not happening in the UN in New York, especially in cases where a condemnation of India is expected.

For instance, on Wednesday 29 September, in the rights-of-reply during the high level debate in the UNGA, following Krishna’s statement on Kashmir, Pakistani Envoy Hussain Haroon did not exercise his right of reply because it he would have had to say that Indians won’t like. Instead, he let a junior foreign office official do that job while he sat in the routine UNSC debate on Afghanistan, which was not as important at that time.
Haroon and his Indian counterpart Hardeep Singh Puri are so friendly and stay so close to each other that they even travel in the same car to various functions. In the South Asian circles they are known as “inseparable twins.”

Thanks to Pakistan’s support, lined up by the India-sympathizer Pakistani Envoy with the help and support of the President himself (he was kept in culinary delight in prison in Karachi because of the home cooked meals sent to him by Haroon, a gourmet cook himself), the Asian Group at the UN has already endorsed India for the UNSC non-permanent seat in the upcoming elections for this. With Ban Ki-moon’s re-election set to take place in November 2011, for another five-year term beginning January 1, 2012, India will be one of the critical voters in the Security Council which makes the recommendation for the SG to the General Assembly. Already an extremely pro-US SG, from now on Ban Ki-moon will not do anything nor will allow the UN system to do anything that would annoy any of the present and future UNSC members. Ban will continue whipping countries like Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba and so on.

In this connection it is important to note that investigation into Indian human rights offences in Occupied Kashmir will also be directly affected by the Pakistan’s move to endorse India for the UNSC seat.
The Human Rights Council is mandated to investigate crises in all countries. Its teams produce reports which it adopts before they go to the UNGA. In New York, the HRC report on Kashmir – if produced – may not muster enough votes because of India’s expanding influence, especially on the commercial side. So the report on Kashmir will only have a temporary effect when it is adopted by the HRC in Geneva, i.e. if India allows its investigation team to go to the Occupied Kashmir in the first place. Israel never allows such teams into Palestine or Israel, and India will adopt the same stance. In 1975, India sought UNSC membership, and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto challenged Mrs. Gandhi’s move by putting Pakistan for the non-permanent seat.
As an expert on multilateral diplomacy, Bhutto knew the UN thoroughly. He played his card brilliantly and with the able support of Agha Shahi and Iqbal Akhund, he overwhelmed India, which at that time was a leader in the 128-member NAM. Now Pakistan is not only denying itself the option of even thinking about defeating India at the UN, but its Envoy is actually supporting India at a time when the latter’s human rights abuses in Occupied Kashmir are at a peak. Is this what our diplomacy has come down to at the UN?

This column was published by The Nation.

 

The War Against “Islamist” Thought Enters Bulgaria

[Notice that the primary objective was the elimination of the Imam's library.  This is a war against thought.  It is only temporarily in the form of anti-Islamist.   Elsewhere, the war is taking the shape of a war against liberal or progressive thought.  Soon, they will find a reason to bring it to a neighborhood near you.]

Bulgarian Police Raid Suspected Radical Islamists, Locals Protest

Bulgaria: Bulgarian Police Raid Suspected Radical Islamists, Locals Protest
Bulgarian Muslim believer waits for Friday prayer at the yard of the city’s mosque in the town of Kardzali, Bulgaria. Photo by EPA/BGNES

By Vesselin Zhelev

waz.euobserver.com

Police in rural southern Bulgaria have raided the houses of what they suspect is a branch of an outlawed Islamist group, provoking a peaceful protest in a Muslim village, the interior ministry and media reported.

Officers on Wednesday (6 October) searched houses and offices allegedly used by followers of al Waqf al Islami, a radical Islamist group once based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands, and banned there after the 9/11 attacks in the US in 2001, a ministry statement said.

In one of the locations of the operation, the south-western mountain village of Lazhnitsa, some 200 kilometres south of Sofia, residents surrounded the house of their local imam Mohamed Kamber for several hours and would not let national security agents confiscate his religious library.

There was no immediate announcement of arrests or clashes.

The raids covered villages in the districts of Blagoevgrad, Pazardzhik and Smolyan, which are the strongholds of Pomaks – Bulgarians forcefully converted to Islam in the XVII century by the Ottoman Empire. The vast majority of Bulgarians are Orthodox Christians. The Pomaks differ from the country’s ethnic Turkish minority through their mother tongue which is Bulgarian.

Police seized “large amounts of propaganda material with radical content, preaching religious hatred and a change of the constitutionally established order”, the ministry statement said as quoted by the daily Trud website. “Confiscated were financial documents demonstrating illegal funding of the activists and tax legislation offences on their behalf.”

Regional radio Focus reported hundreds of Lazhnitsa residents crowded around Imam Kamber’s house to prevent four national security agents and two police officials from confiscating books he brought from Saudi Arabia where he had studied.

Police reinforcements were dispatched to the village to forestall clashes, the radio said. No violence was immediately reported but tension was building up and it took local officials several hours to persuade the crowd to disperse and let the agents carry away the seized material.

In Sofia, Chief Prosecutor Boris Velchev told reporters the police action had been planned for several months. He refused to comment on whether police had discovered so-called “sleeping terrorist cells”.

CSTO Troops Practice Anti-Terrorism and Street Fighting Near Russian Hot Zone

[What is probably most significant about this is the list of participants, all involved in points of contention.]

CSTO to hold drills in Russia’s Urals

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) was due to kick off an anti-terror exercise on Oct. 25-29 in Russia’s Urals region of Chelyabinsk, an officer from Russia’s Airborne Troops said on Thursday.

Participants would include a motorized rifle company from Armenia, paratroopers from Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, five Su-25 planes from Kyrgyzstan and task forces from Belarus.

Russia would dispatch 1,700 servicemen, and 250 weaponry units including 12 planes of Il-76, Su-24 and Su-27, local media reported.

Participants would drill on combat skills and military contingent management.

They were also expected to exercise the use of non-lethal weapons for fights in urban areas.

Source: Xinhua

Kyrgyzstan Asks Ukraine to Extradite Ethnic Leader

Protesters stand next to leaflets and flags burning near the office of former Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiyev’s Ata-Zhurt Party in Bishkek on Oct. 6. (Vyacheslav Oseledko/AFP/Getty Images)

Kyrgyzstan Asks Ukraine to Extradite Ethnic Leader

Tensions lead up to Sunday’s elections

By Andrey Volkov
Epoch Times Staff

Kyrgyzstan’s government has requested this week that Ukraine extradite Uzbek leader Kadyrzhan Batyrov, thought to play a pivotal role in ethnic clashes with Kyrgyzs in June that left hundreds of people dead in a country where tensions still exist ahead of Sunday’s anticipated elections.

According to a BBC report, the request comes from Kyrgyzstan’s general prosecutor’s office, which believes Batyrov is in hiding in Ukraine based on information provided by the international police agency, Interpol.

Mass violence erupted in early June between members of two ethnic groups, Kyrgyz and Uzbek in the former Soviet Republic’s city of Osh. At least 371 people were killed, but the real death toll might be in the thousands. The violence also displaced about 400,000 people.

The impoverished, clan-based Central Asian country of 5 million people experienced a state coup in April when President Kurmanbek Bakiyev was overthrown during deadly protests, which contributed to the subsequent violent clashes in early summer.

Government officials have accused minority Uzbek leader Batyrov of involvement in organizing mass demonstrations, promoting separatism, and stirring up national hatred, as well as participating in violence uprisings in the southern cities of Kyrgyzstan.

Batyrov is known as a politician, parliamentarian, businessman, and philanthropist in Kyrgyzstan, as well as a former president of the Uzbek National Cultural Center in the Jalalabad region.

Batyrov himself has rejected the government’s accusations of his involvement, and called on authorities to conduct fair investigations into the violence.

“Unfair and baseless persecution of me by political rivals has forced me to flee the country,” he said in a video statement, posted on Youtube in September.

“I and my fellows have tried our best to keep peace in the south. I am ready to talk to those who wish fast restore [relief] from the crisis.”

The Ukrainian government’s general prosecutor office has said that they have not received any documents linking Batyrov to the demonstrations.

“The office has seen neither the request nor Batyrov’s case,” Russian state agency RIA Novosti quoted the office’s spokesman Yuriy Boychenko, adding that they had not received any documentation from Interpol.

The uprising happened in the Fergana Valley region, a strip of land sandwiched between Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, which has been a powder keg for ethnic violence due to the many different minorities living there.

Although the clashes have since died down, interim authorities claimed that the violence was planned sabotage implemented by officials loyal to disposed President Bakiyev.

The clashes posed a concern for Russia and the United States, who both have military bases there.

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New front in Afghanistan needed: on opium – Russian anti-drug boss

New front in Afghanistan needed: on opium – Russian anti-drug boss

An Afghan man collects resin from poppies in a field in Kandahar province, south of Kabul.

Even if drug production stops, Afghanistan will be able to supply the international market with heroin for another 20-30 years from existing stocks, warns head of Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service Viktor Ivanov.

RT: Afghanistan is the world’s No. 1 drug producer. How much of the drugs produced in Afghanistan goes to Russia?

Viktor Ivanov: Afghanistan produced about 7,000 tonnes of opium last year, which is equivalent to 700 tonnes of heroin. We believe that about 36 tonnes of this goes to Russia. This is a lot. It’s about 5 billion doses. And it’s about 35 per cent of all drugs exported from Afghanistan – because, in fact, Afghanistan exports less than half the drugs it produces, as drug addicts throughout the world are unable to consume everything that Afghanistan produces. So Afghanistan has a huge amount of drugs in storage. Russia and other countries estimate it at about 13,000-15,000 tonnes of opium. So even if drug production stops in Afghanistan, the country will still be able to supply the international market with heroin for another 20 or even 30 years.

RT: What are the common routes by which drugs get from Afghanistan to Russia?

VI: There is the northern route, which is sometimes called the “Northern Silk Route,” after the 17th Century trade route. The reason the Silk Route is popular is because, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, new nations emerged, and while their borders exist on paper, in reality they are not guarded properly. So essentially, there are no effective borders between Afghanistan and Russia. With such porous borders, it is very easy for traffickers to transport drugs. The bulk of the drugs flow through Tajikistan and Kazakhstan and on to Russia. Another part goes through Iran, across the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Ridge and ends up in the North Caucasus or deeper into Russia’s territory. By the way, this provides a source of financing for terrorists and extremists in the Russian Caucasus.

RT: Ironically, the United States claims it cannot destroy poppy fields because this business is the only source of livelihood for more than a half of the Afghan population. What can be done in such a situation?

VI: When the US says you can’t deprive farmers of their livelihood, it actually sends a message to the Afghan leadership as well, saying they shouldn’t do it because, first, this will destroy people’s livelihoods and, second, you push farmers into the hands of the Taliban. I think this is merely an excuse.

Furthermore, since US special representative for Central Asia Richard Holbrooke first suggested this idea that instead of eradicating drug crops the US should target drug labs and traffickers, which was almost a year ago, the number of labs producing drugs for Russia tripled. A year ago, we knew about 170 labs in Afghanistan; today, we know of more than 400 labs producing drugs for Russia.

With more than 70 per cent of coca crops eradicated in Colombia and only 3 per cent in Afghanistan, don’t you think this is a case of a double standard? In other words, it’s not that NATO can’t do it; they do it in one country but for some reason they don’t do the same thing in Afghanistan.

When I visited the NATO headquarters in Brussels to address the Russia-NATO Council, I pointed out that more than 2,300 sq. km of coca crops are destroyed in Colombia annually. Yet only 20 sq. km of drug crops were destroyed in Afghanistan last year. Of course, there should be no double standard in the matter of eradication.

Furthermore, the UN General Assembly has adopted a number of resolutions on the issue. For example, there is the Political Declaration on Drug Control that the UN General Assembly adopted in 1998. In September 2009, the UN General Assembly reaffirmed that declaration and said crop eradication was of strategic importance. By the way, all countries, including NATO countries, signed that resolution. So I can’t understand why NATO is not applying the same standard that is applied in Latin America.

RT: It is also ironic that when the Taliban controlled Afghanistan, the drug trade, drug trafficking and even poppy cultivation were limited, but when the United States and NATO forces invaded Afghanistan, both production and trafficking skyrocketed. How do you explain this? And how can we even believe NATO when it says it is fighting the drug trade?

VI: You’re right. I had a meeting with my Pakistani colleagues here in Islamabad, and they, too, were amazed at this phenomenon. There is only one way to explain this. When the Taliban sought official recognition for its Kabul regime, they took unprecedented measures to eradicate opium poppy crops. They consistently took serious steps in 1998, 1999 and 2000, when they introduced capital punishment for poppy cultivation. As a result, they succeeded in eradicating drug crops on 90 per cent of Afghanistan’s territory, i.e., in all the provinces they controlled. The only place they couldn’t do it was northern Afghanistan, which was controlled by the so-called Northern Alliance.

But then Operation Enduring Freedom started, and the situation changed drastically. Only a competent government that has the support of the people can really control the country and take serious steps to destroy drug production.

RT: So can we really say that military intervention helps resolve the problem of drug production if practically all opium poppy fields in Afghanistan are located in combat zones and places where foreign units are deployed?

VI: The nine years of the military operation in Afghanistan have demonstrated that the more fighting there is in Afghanistan, the smaller the chances of destroying drug production are. Growing alternative crops is a risky proposition. Risks are immense. You can lose your crop at any stage—at the stage of growing, storing, marketing, etc. Opium, on the other hand, doesn’t require any effort. Poppies grow all by themselevs, and buyers come straight to the field and purchase the crop. So it is obvious that you can’t destroy drug production this way.

RT: Then what would you recommend as an effective way to stop opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan?

VI: Actually, we have already made some steps. The Russian Federation has developed a plan which is called Rainbow 2, because it consists of seven points. We presented this plan to the European Commission, the European Parliament, NATO, our partners in the US, in Afghanistan and here in Pakistan. This plans calls for a comprehensive approach.

First of all, this huge problem should be officially recognized as a threat to international peace and security. In other words, this is a separate problem that kills more than 100,000 people each year. Hundreds of millions of people suffer from this problem, which everybody has been talking about for almost a decade.

Second, as I just said, we need opium poppy eradication. And the International Security Assistance Force, which is in Afghanistan today under the UN mandate and therefore has assumed responsibility for the future of Afghanistan, should play a very active role in crop eradication.

Then, of course, Afghanistan needs economic aid. We need to rebuild its infrastructure. By the way, the legal Afghan economy today operates mostly thanks to 142 industrial facilities that the Soviet Union built there earlier. As far as I know, no new facilities have been built there since that time.

Also, we need to make international co-operation more effective. I’d like to emphasize particularly the role of regional co-operation. For example, there is a four-party format that the presidents of four nations – Russia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Tajikistan – have established. Also, I think that the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation should step up its efforts, because most of the drugs produced in Afghanistan go to the SCO countries and the people of the SCO countries suffer the most from drug production in Afghanistan.

RT: Considering that Pakistan is under strong US influence, do you think this influence may undermine the efforts to stop drug production?

VI: Pakistan is a sovereign state, and a rather strong one at that. There are 170 million people living here. Pakistan is a nuclear power. So I think there is nothing wrong with the fact that Pakistan co-operates with the US. We, too, view the United States as a partner, and we work with America as partners. It’s just the question of finding the most effective approach. We don’t have time for mistakes, and we have no right to make a mistake.

NATO Doesn’t Want to “Win” In Afghanistan

[This article touches upon one of the key unanswered questions about American intentions in the Afghan war--Why did the American govt. choose to turn complete victory in  Afghanistan and in Iraq into the total defeat that we are leaving behind there?

Why did the US military make the strategic mistakes of purposely losing both of these operations?  I am no military man, but it seems idiotic for a military force to interrupt a victorious offensive in order to give the enemy a safe sanctuary where it could take years to recover from its losses?   That is exactly what Petraeus and his Pentagon pals did in both military operations.  The quagmires that are sucking this Nation down to the bottom of the pit are the result of a Pentagon that is either completely incompetent or a malignant cancer in our Constitutional Republic.  Either way, the

No other generation would accomodate such military incompetence for so long, without correcting the situation.  Why are we different?  We have waged war for nine years for no reason, yet our military geniuses tell us that it will likely continue for twenty or thirty years.  Nobody cares about winning or losing in Afghanistan, as long as we can keep fighting.  Preserving their precious war is their only real mission.

It will end when we put a stop to it.l

Ex-diplomat says NATO can’t win

News

By MIKE NORRIS, THE WHIG-STANDARD

On Thursday, the ninth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan, a former Canadian diplomat called on NATO countries to devise plans to leave the war-torn country.

“It’s been almost 10 fruitless years on the ground,” said Louis Delvoie, a senior fellow in the Centre for International Relations at Queen’s University who has written extensively on Canadian foreign and security policy and international relations.

“It’s time to discuss an exit strategy.”

Delvoie, Canada’s high commissioner to Pakistan 1991-94 with diplomatic responsibility for Afghanistan, spoke Thursday at the Robert Sutherland Building on the university’s campus.

While there are no defined plans to leave the country, Canada and the United States plan to begin withdraw troops in 2011, while NATO is looking to be out by 2013 following an increase in the size and strength of the Afghan army and police.

Delvoie said NATO countries are in a no-win situation.

“There will be no victory in Afghanistan,” he said. “In 20thcentury conflicts, few, if any, have ended in decisive battles or surrenders. That kind of outcome for the West will be difficult indeed.”

Not being able to claim victory will be an embarrassment, he said.

“It won’t be easy for North America to withdraw without a loss of face. It will be played up (by al-Qaida and the Taliban) as a victory over the crusaders.

“I’m sure it will be exploited, but I’m not sure what the alternative is.”

The Taliban, which fled Afghanistan following the 2001 invasion, will outlast the Western armies, said Delvoie.

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“It’s better to recognize it now than later at a cost of more lives and money.”

An exit strategy, said Delvoie, would involve putting a new government in place in Afghanistan, but he cautioned, “any serious study of the history of Afghan -istan over the last 200 years, and looking at Afghan society today, means the hopes of turning Afghanistan into a functioning society — with free and fair elections, human rights — is an absolute pipe dream.”

He also said that al-Qaida, whether it regains a foothold in Afghanistan, will not pose a threat to North America or North American interests.

“Al-Qaida doesn’t need North America,” he said.

He also believes Pakistan will continue to offer safe haven to the Taliban.

“If these three propositions are correct, and I believe they are, the time is long past due for Western countries to withdraw from (Afghanistan),” said Del -voie.

Delvoie, who supported the 2001 invasion, said the war gains more detractors as NATO’s objectives change.

“The initial move, it was understood, was that the U.S. would try and kill or capture the al-Qaida people responsible for 9/11 and the Taliban government that provided al-Qaida with refuge,” he said. “In subsequent years, the enterprise has taken on more and more layers. It’s become totally unmanageable.

“The goalposts keep moving. It was ‘We must prevent the Taliban from returning,’ then ‘We must ensure economic stability then political and social stability,’ then ‘We must stabilize the region so Pakistan doesn’t fall apart.’

“The Taliban was defeated, but what is extraordinary is that after nine years, the world’s most sophisticated military establishment and world’s most sophisticated intelligence has been unable to kill (al-Qaida leader) Osama bin Laden or (Ayman) alZawahiri (bin Laden’s “lieu-tenant”).”

Forming a new Afghanistan government will be complicated, said Delvoie.

“A number of regional, national, ethnic and tribal interests will have to be conciliated,” he said. “Nothing is ever simple in Afghanistan, as the history of that country has demonstrated.”

The situation in recent years has become more complicated, he said, adding that a new postwar Afghanistan would need to have the support of neighbouring Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, as well as India, Russia and Saudi Arabia, one of the few countries that recognized Afghanistan’s Taliban regime, which ruled from 1995 until the 2001 invasion.

“NATO and Afghanistan will have to negotiate with all those others,” he said. “It may be impossible to get approval from all seven.”

He said a new Afghanistan government will likely have to include the Taliban.

“It will be the hard-core leadership of the Taliban,” he said. “That’s a hard pill to swallow for Western countries and the public alike.

“No matter how distasteful, the Taliban will have to be accommodated.”

Considering Afghanistan’s political history, a deal may not last long, said Delvoie.

“Whatever government is put in place may have a short shelf life,” he said. “Afghanistan is a remarkably volatile country. Whatever country is left in place could fall to tribal warlords or ethnic conflict, or both.”

He pointed to the U.S.-North Vietnam peace deal that ended the Vietnam War in 1973.

“In less than two years it was meaningless as the North Vietnamese army took over South Vietnam,” he said. (The countries unified in 1976.)

A new Afghanistan government should not have Hamid Karzai as its leader, said Delvoie. Karzai was elected president in 2004 after serving a two-year term as interim president.

“His government is plagued by corruption, mismanagement and ineffectiveness,” said De -lvoie. “He would seem to carry too much baggage to be seen as a credible leader of Afghanistan.”

mnorris@thewhig.com

International conference on Tajik-Afghan border security opens in Dushanbe

International conference on Tajik-Afghan border security opens in Dushanbe

Author: Payrav Chorshanbiyev

DUSHANBE, October 7, 2010, Asia-Plus  — An international two-conference on border management and trade between Tajikistan and Afghanistan has opened in Dushanbe today.

The European Union (EU) Delegation to Tajikistan and the Embassy of Japan in Dushanbe, supported by the Japan International Cooperation Agency, as well as the EU financed programs BOMCA (Border Management in Central Asia) and BOMAF (Border Management in Afghanistan), hosted this conference.

The conference has brought together Representatives from relevant ministries, customs and border guard services of both countries, private sector and business communities of Tajikistan and Afghanistan, as well as international community to discuss ways to enhance trade and economic cooperation and transit shipments between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.

The overall objective of the conference was to develop local capacity, enhance coordination and cooperation, and strengthen links between Tajik and Afghan authorities in Border Management, Trade Facilitation and Customs Services through the initiation of exchange of experiences and best practices.

Inaugurating the conference, Ambassador Eduard Auer, Head of the EU Delegation to Tajikistan, noted that the conference was designed in frame of the initiatives identified at the 19th Japan-EU summit that took place in Tokyo on April 28, 2010, where Japan and the European Union reconfirmed their commitment to work together in partnership with the Afghan government, the United Nations and other international partners to promote a secure, stable and prosperous future for the people of Afghanistan.

Today, representatives of relevant ministries and trade community are discussing issues related to trade and transit corridors development in the region, impediments and irregularities that entrepreneurs of the both countries face at the border.  Officers of customs services of both countries are presenting their progress and strategies on custom modernization and implementation of internationally recognized trade facilitation measures.

According to EU Delegation, the second days of the conference is dedicated to technical subjects of trade facilitation at borders and optimization of workflow at border crossing points.  Customs experts from Japan will acquaint the audience with practices of balancing trade facilitation and security in the work of modern customs, based on such tools as risk management, pre-arrival examination, audit-based control, partnership with trade etc.  Cooperation and interaction between control agencies, implementation of one stop, single office and single window at land border crossing points and other EU practices aimed on optimization of workflow at land border crossing points will be presented as well.

According to data from the Agency for Statistics under the President of Tajikistan a two-way trade between Tajikistan and Afghanistan in January-August 2010 has valued at US$60.004 million, which is 21.6 percent more than in the same period last year.  This consisted of Tajikistan’s exports to Afghanistan estimated at little more than US$30.8 million and Tajikistan’s imports from Afghanistan worth more than US$29.1 million.

India faces housing shortage of 20-70 mn: World Bank

[Despite this, India throws billions of dollars away in creating the illusion that it is a superpower.  India, like its Zionist role model, is a "democracy" in name only, with real human rights denied to a large portion of its native population.  We hope Delhi chokes on its new multi-billion dollar Russian air force!]

India faces housing shortage of 20-70 mn: World Bank

Housing
NEW DELHI: India is facing a shortage of up to 70 million residential units, as high economic growth and rapid urbanisation spurred overall demand for housing, says World Bank.

Also, the South Asia region has about 30 million middle and lower class households willing to pay but are “unable to have access to mortgages,” said the Bank report titled ‘Expanding Housing Finance to the Underserved South Asia’.

“In India alone, estimates of the housing shortage range from 20 million to 70 million yet as much as half of this excess demand can be profitably serviced by the housing and housing finance markets,” the multilateral lender noted.

Deficiencies in financial systems should be eliminated to ensure long term funding opportunities for mortgage lenders and developers, it added.

The report pointed out that it might be “commercially viable” in India to build housing units for 23-28 million households — representing 35 to 45 per cent of country’s urban population — whose monthly household incomes are in the range of Rs 5,000-11,000.

“High economic growth coupled with rapid urbanisation and a rising middle class have created considerable demand for housing and housing finance in South Asia,” World Bank said.

Going by estimates, nearly a quarter of the world’s population lives in South Asia comprising India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Nepal and Maldives. The latest report covers the first five nations.

Over 14 per cent of South Asians are believed to have no home and that figure excludes 45 per cent of the region’s people living in overcrowded conditions.

However, the report pointed out that housing and housing finance services have the potential to expand to middle and lower income families.

“This requires improved land administration, strengthened legal framework for all aspects of housing and promotion of long-term funding for mortgage lenders and developers,” Tatiana Nenova, co-author of the report, said.

The report noted that in fast-growing economies, housing sector has the capacity ot grow at “considerable speed” and could generate 3.2 million jobs over a decade.

Kyrgyz intelligence agencies confiscate money sent by ex-president’s relatives for a party

Kyrgyz intelligence agencies confiscate money sent by ex-president’s relatives for a party

08/10-2010 06:58, Bishkek – 24.kg news agency , by Daniyar KARIMOV

The intelligence agencies of Kyrgyzstan have confiscated a great sum of foreign currency, sent by the ex-president’s relatives for financing one of the parties, the Kyrgyz state national security service’s public and mass media relations department informs.

According to him, the state national security service of Kyrgyzstan received information on repeated and illegal import of cash (in the amount varying from $50,000 to $500,000). According to this information, the money was transferred by close relatives of the former Kyrgyz president to the accounts in international banks’ branches in Kazakhstan. Then the money would be cashed and passed over to Bishkek by cars. As noted, the money was meant for one of the parties, participating in the elections.

One of the cars, used for the contraband of the currency, was caught last week. The car, driven by a Bishkek resident, was stopped after it had crossed the border through the Ak-Zhol post. While checking, the officers found a stash with 20 paper packages wound with a scotch tape under the side plate of the trunk. The packages contained $700,000.

A criminal case has been initiated on the fact. Within its framework, two persons have been arrested. One of them has been taken into custody.

Why India Hasn’t Embraced Obama

Why India Hasn’t Embraced Obama

Why India Hasn’t Embraced Obama

President Obama understood that India matters when he invited his counterpart to the White House last year. He described India as “indispensable” at the time in the building of “a future of security and prosperity for all nations.” Together, India and the United States could work to fight terrorism and nuclear proliferation while trade relations between the two countries should improve.

Since, India’s policymakers have become skeptical. The administration seemed to pick Pakistan over India in light of its effort to end the war in Afghanistan. The president’s Afghan policy itself, which appears to be one of preparing for defeat, has New Delhi deeply concerned. An instable, possibly divided Afghanistan would surely fall subject to further Pakistani interference while becoming, once again, a safe haven for terrorists who will equally threaten India and the West. As Jeff Smith wrote at The Diplomat in August:

New Delhi is already painfully familiar with Pakistan’s agenda in Afghanistan: at least one of two devastating attacks on India’s Embassy in Kabul, a July 2008 bombing killing 58, was traced to Pakistan’s Directorate of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) by US intelligence agencies. As the sole voice cautioning against Taliban reconciliation, India was sidelined when the fate of Afghanistan was being debated at the London Conference in January. And New Delhi was visibly aggrieved when then-Afghan commander General Stanley McChrystal warned in 2009 that “increasing Indian influence in Afghanistan is likely to exacerbate regional tensions and encourage Pakistani countermeasures.”

On another front, in its effort to strategically reassure China, the president may appear to have sidelined India as a key ally as well. There is some pushback on Beijing’s revisionist claims in the South China Sea but America needs its support so badly, not only on North Korea and Iran but on global financial and monetary reform as well, that it can’t seriously upset the Chinese. India interprets that as softness at a time when China feels comfortable enough to assert itself more forcefully.

That mounting Chinese assertiveness at the same time only intensifies India’s desire for an alliance with the United States. After half a century of setting aside border quarrels in the interest of broadening their relationship, China and India have clashed anew recently about their positions in Kashmir and Tibet which, in 1962, led to war.

On the other hand, the administration is reportedly considering to support India’s bid for permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council which would leave the West less dependent on Russia and China, both of which currently wield veto power.

Despite promises to lift remaining technology sanctions on India—a leftover from Cold War era paranoia about India’s socialistic governments—and a pledge to revise American export control laws, there is a disappointment in New Delhi with the absence of American leadership on international trade. Once the harbinger of globalization, America today is ambivalent about its commitment to capitalism.

In general, the Indians don’t feel that they’re being treated the way a rising superpower deserves to be.

When Prime Minister Singh visited Washington last year, Fareed Zakaria urged the president to remember “that South Asia is a tar pit filled with failed and dysfunctional states, save for one long established democracy of 1.2 billion people that is the second-fastest-growing major economy in the world, a check on China’s rising ambitions, and a natural ally of the United States. The prize is the relationship with India,” he wrote. “The booby prize is governing Afghanistan.” His advise is sound today as it was then.

Head of Israeli conglomerate faces challenges over gas fields

Head of Israeli conglomerate faces challenges over gas fields

Delek Group’s leader says that Israel mustn’t retroactively change its royalty rate, and that he has rejected a claim by Lebanon that Israel is trying to steal its gas.

By Vita Bekker, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Tel Aviv —

As head of one of Israel’s biggest conglomerates, Asaf Bartfeld is no stranger to looking out for his company’s interests.

But the chief executive of Delek Group, an energy, automotive and real estate firm, is facing one of his biggest tests. Bartfeld is a key player in a bitter fight with the Israeli government over the division of revenue from massive natural gas reserves in the Mediterranean that may be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

At the same time, he’s having to cope with allegations from neighboring Lebanon that Israel is trying to steal its gas, claiming that the fields extend to Lebanon’s territorial waters.

Natural-resource-poor Israel has been elated over the discovery last year of the Tamar gas field, about 50 miles off the coast of the northern city of Haifa. The field could provide enough gas to supply the country for 35 years. Delek, controlled by Israeli billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva, hopes to begin production in 2012 on the site, which they believe has 8.4 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas.

But the announcement this summer of another nearby field, known as Leviathan, has caused much greater excitement because it could be twice as big as Tamar. Delek owns 31% of Tamar and 45% of Leviathan; the rest is held by Houston-based explorer Noble Energy and several Israeli partners.

The discoveries have raised hope that Israel could not only solve many of its domestic energy needs and reduce reliance on foreign suppliers, but could even become a gas exporter.

Investors in publicly traded Delek wonder how the claim by Lebanon might affect profits. Others fear the gas fields could become a target for terrorists.

Bartfeld spoke with The Times about why he rejects the government’s proposal to increase its share of revenue from the gas discoveries from the current 12.5% (set in 1952) and what he thinks of the dispute between Israel and Lebanon and the prospects of Israel becoming a gas exporter.

Q: It’s being said that the Leviathan discovery could transform Israel into a natural gas exporter. Isn’t that too optimistic? How many years are we away from that?

A: First of all, we have to drill Leviathan to understand if there is gas. It’s a little premature to speak about a discovery at this stage. Still, the geological probability of success is 50%, which is very high. Assuming there will be gas at the amount that is expected, which is 16 trillion cubic feet, this will be the largest amount of gas ever to have been discovered in Israel. Along with Tamar, these amounts are too large for the Israeli market and therefore it is likely that gas will be exported. But it could take a few years.

If Israel exports gas, the target markets could be Europe and the Far East. Most of Europe’s gas is coming from Russia and they badly need alternative sources. And in the Far East, the prices for liquid gas are very high in countries like Japan and South Korea because they don’t have their own resources. So it makes economic sense to ship the gas there as well.

Q: Some analysts say that gas fields have gone undeveloped partly because big Western oil and gas companies avoided working in Israel so that they won’t offend major Arab producers. What’s your opinion?

A: Other than our partner Noble Energy, it’s a fact that major international exploration and production companies are not working in Israel.

But I don’t see politics as one of the main reasons for why the fields have been unexplored. The main reason is that the technology needed to drill in such deep water was developed only in the last 10 years. Nobody in the world could drill to reach these depths 15 or 20 years ago. For example, Tamar, which was the world’s largest single gas discovery in 2009, is at a depth of over three miles.

Q: Lebanon claims the reserves extend to its territorial waters. Are you worried that Lebanon could disrupt drilling, and that this site could become a target for the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, which could shoot missiles at it?

A: I have rejected Lebanon’s claim again and again. Under international law, all the fields and the licenses are within Israel’s territorial waters. Investors have asked me this, and I tell them that under international law, we are feeling very comfortable with our position. [The threat of a terrorist attack] is an issue that has to be taken care of by the government and not by a private company.

Q: The Israeli government is now trying to retroactively hike the royalties it gets from the fields, saying the original rates were too low and the public should benefit more from the country’s natural resources. Does it have a point?

A: We think the government has the right to change rules for future licenses, but not retroactively for licenses that it has already granted. When we started exploring for gas in [the Leviathan field] … we took all the risks upon ourselves. At times we drilled and it turned out to be a dry hole. Nobody compensated us for the costs. It’s not fair to change the rules in the middle of the game. Such actions could result in companies choosing not to invest in Israel. Noble, as an American company, has said that it may have to reconsider its activities in Israel if there will be sudden changes to the laws.

Q: You and the other Leviathan partners recently announced the possibility of finding up to 4.2 billion barrels of oil below the gas field. How optimistic are you about this?

A: The probability is low. There is a 17% chance of finding 3 billion barrels of oil and only an 8% chance of finding another 1.2 billion barrels in the lower levels of the sea.

Until now there have been no significant oil discoveries in Israel, so this would be an historic find. But while the Leviathan prospect is potentially very exciting, this is still very early days.

Bekker is a special correspondent.

Copyright © 2010, Los Angeles Times

Gas find in Israel sparks trade spat with US

Gas find in Israel sparks trade spat with US

By ARON HELLER

Click here to find out more!

JERUSALEM

The discovery of huge natural gas reserves off Israel’s Mediterranean Coast — long dreamed of and searched for, yet strangely unexpected — has delivered a windfall that could solve Israel’s energy needs for generations. But in the short term, it has instead yielded a bizarre trade battle with the United States, putting Israel at odds with its most important ally.

Israel wants to raise royalties from the fields’ U.S. developers, but they are crying foul.

In a special session of the Israeli parliament this week, lawmakers seeking a larger chunk of the profits for the state faced off with American gas executives who threatened to sue Israel in an international tribunal.

“I don’t need to tell you what a disaster it would be to have two great allies, Israel and the United States, disputing with one another in the European court,” said the representative of Texas-based Noble Energy, Abraham Sofaer.

Any retroactive change, Sofaer said, “would violate the treaty of friendship, commerce and navigation between Israel and the United States.”

The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv has intervened on Noble’s behalf, according to a letter from the mission quoted in an Israeli financial newspaper.

Embassy spokesman Kurt Hoyer would not confirm that, saying only, “It is in our interest to promote American industries overseas.”

While a lawsuit appears unlikely, the trade dispute with Israel’s strongest patron comes at a delicate time, as the U.S. is trying to keep the newly restarted Israeli-Palestinian peace talks alive and pressuring a reluctant Israel to extend its West Bank settlement slowdown.

A royalty hike from the current 12.5 percent to the proposed 20 percent could also drive away future investors, but an Israeli lawmaker leading the charge has other concerns.

“The resources of the state of Israel belong to the citizens of Israel,” legislator Shelly Yachimovitch told parliament. She noted that other countries charge much higher royalties and said Israel’s 1952 energy royalties law is woefully out of date.

According to analysts, the Israeli government’s take from gas is on the low side in global terms, part of an effort to draw investors who would otherwise prefer the vast markets of the Arab and Muslim worlds.

And while other nations have raised royalties as well, Israel has more to lose.

“Israel’s situation is different because it is an energy island, in that, with the exception of the pipeline to Egypt, it is not connected to other countries with pipelines and energy grids,” said Gina Cohen, an Israel-based natural gas expert.

“This means that it has no backup when there are shortages and for Israel the most important thing is to have security of supply,” she said. “Security of supply is more important than the price tag you have to pay to get it.”

A Finance Ministry committee is studying the matter and is set to issue its recommendations within a month. A compromise is expected.

With their country located in the midst of some of the world’s biggest oil producers, generations of Israelis have famously lamented the country’s lack of natural resources. The late Prime Minister Golda Meir once quipped that Moses could have picked a place for a Jewish homeland other than “the one spot in the Middle East that has no oil.”

A long line of exploration projects have come up empty over the decades. That began to change in 1999, when the Yam Thetis field was found off Israel’s southern coast. It is expected to run dry within a few years.

That discovery was dwarfed by the fields uncovered off Israel’s northern coast by Noble and its Israeli partner, Delek Group, announced nearly two years ago. They say those fields could turn Israel into a major gas producer.

Israel relies on imports to meet most of its energy needs, spending billions to bring natural gas from Egypt and coal from a variety of countries. The sudden prospect of a gas glut sent energy shares on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange soaring.

Two of the newly discovered fields, Tamar and Dalit, are due to start producing in 2012, and experts say their estimated combined reserves of 8.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas can cover Israel’s energy needs for the next two decades. Noble Energy says the larger Leviathan natural gas field may hold up to 16 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, which would potentially turn Israel into an exporter.

Tamar is the largest confirmed natural gas field discovered in the world in the last two years, but even so Israel is still far from being a global energy supplier.

“Israel is going to enhance its energy security by utilizing domestic natural gas and lowering its dependency on imports,” said Amit Mor, CEO of Eco Energy Ltd., an Israel-based energy and investment consulting firm. “Having a major source of gas is of huge strategic value.”

Mor said the gas will go primarily to power electrical plants, but some will be used directly by consumers.

He cautioned the government to avoid antagonizing investors who operate in a highly risky sector.

“The taxation scheme should also take into account Israel’s sensitive geopolitical condition in attracting international oil and gas companies for exploration and production in the country,” he said.

The gas finds off Israel’s northern coast haven’t created friction only with the U.S.

The militant Hezbollah group, which is part of the Lebanese government, has accused Israel of stealing gas from Lebanon and vowed to defend Lebanese resources with an arsenal of thousands of rockets like the ones it rained on Israel during a 2006 summer war. Hezbollah provided no evidence that Israel’s gas finds extend into Lebanese territory.

Noble Energy maps show the fields to be entirely within Israel’s territorial waters.

This week, Hezbollah’s patron, Iran, a major energy producer, announced that it would join Lebanon in its oil exploration efforts, according to Arab media reports.

Calm Before the Storm?

Strategic stasis

By Cyril Almeida
In all of this, the question for any Pakistani ought to be, how does the army’s strategy make Pakistan and Pakistanis more secure? The answer: it doesn’t. –Photo by Reuters
Missiles fired by drones are raining down in North Waziristan. American cage-rattling — in a bid to get Pakistan to do more against militant sanctuaries in Fata, especially North Waziristan Agency — has been stepped up several notches, cross-border raids causing severe friction between the Americans and the security establishment here.

The BBC is reporting “growing anger in Pakistan over increasingly aggressive US attacks along the border”. The New York Times has quoted Prime Minister Gilani warning, “We will not tolerate any act against our sovereignty and integrity in the name of the war against terrorism.”

The Wall Street Journal reports anger has “flared among Pakistan’s senior (army) ranks after a cross-border raid by US Special Operations Forces”. Meanwhile, this newspaper of record has carried Gen Kayani’s statement rejecting rumours of secret deals: “There is no question of any agreement or understanding with the coalition forces whereby they are allowed to conduct operations on our side of the border.”

All of this happened in September/October. Just not in 2010.

Back in 2008, with the clock winding down on the Bush presidency and attention shifting to the forgotten war in Afghanistan, pressure had begun to mount. The American goal: push the envelope with Pakistan to try and enlarge the operational and tactical space for the Americans to pursue their strategic goals in Af-Pak.

The Americans didn’t get very far. We know this by the simple fact that two years on they are resorting to the same tactics and getting the same, perhaps even more, fierce response from the Pakistani side.

Fact is, in the larger, strategic, scheme of things American pressure of this sort is unlikely to lead to any significant adjustments by Pakistan. Here’s why.

Post 9/11, the strategic relationship between the US and Pakistan changed. The Americans demanded many things of us; we had to acquiesce to some of their demands because the trigger was a cataclysmic event, the events of 9/11. That’s just how relationships between states work in such situations.

What’s crucial is that relatively quickly Pakistan settled on a band within which it was willing to extend cooperation to the US, a band somewhere along the continuum between full cooperation and total non-cooperation.

Pakistan helped the Americans on the periphery of the Afghan war theatre (rounding up Al Qaeda types in Fata and Pakistani cities, and opening supply routes to Afghanistan), while undermining the Americans in the theatre itself (supporting the Afghan Taliban, or at least turning a blind eye to their activities here — a sub-plot calibrated in response to the ebb and flow of American pressure).

Pakistan did this for two reasons. One, the army’s strategic view of the region mandated it. In simplistic terms: the army feared warlordism in a splintered Afghanistan would enhance the space for Indian ‘interference’, creating two ‘hot’ borders which would have to be managed simultaneously — something the army hasn’t been designed to handle.

Two, and this is crucial, the army could get away it.

Writing in the wake of the WikiLeaks scandal last July, Tom Friedman, a New York Times columnist and a ‘big-picture’ guy, managed to get to the heart of the problem for the US. Americans, Friedman wrote, “are paying Pakistan’s Army and intelligence service to be two-faced. Otherwise, they would be just one-faced and 100 per cent against us.”

Why do Americans put up with this duplicity? Because they have to. The US has little leverage to break the Pakistan Army’s obsession with India. 9/11 was a cataclysmic event but it was not enough to change the army’s raison d’être — fighting India — and so, by extension, was not enough to make the army abandon its Afghan policy.

The US does, though, fear instability in Pakistan because we are bigger and, potentially, badder than anything Afghanistan has to offer.

As Friedman put it: “After expelling Al Qaeda from Afghanistan, we [the Americans] stayed on to stabilise the place, largely out of fears that instability in Afghanistan could spill into Pakistan and lead to Islamist radicals taking over Islamabad and its nukes.”

Or put another way: “So we pay Pakistan to help us in Afghanistan, even though we know some of that money is killing our own soldiers, because we fear that just leaving could lead to Pakistan’s Islamists controlling its bomb.”

Add to this the reality that the American/Nato/Isaf war machine in Afghanistan cannot be sustained without Pakistani supply routes and you’re left with a messy relationship: the Americans take whatever help Pakistan extends, while trying and working around the problems Pakistan creates or exacerbates. That basic configuration, ‘The Great (Double) Game’ in Friedman’s reckoning, has held for the last decade.

So while the latest American cage-rattling has whipped up a fair amount of hysteria, even in the US, the fact is little has happened to change Pakistan’s strategic calculus, or for the US to gain the necessary leverage to force change in Pakistan’s strategic calculus — and both sides know this.

The US knows it can push only so hard at present. If Pakistan feels it is being nudged beyond the band of cooperation it has deemed acceptable, Pakistan will push back. Supply routes will be closed, attacks on convoys will mysteriously step up and cooperation in other areas will slow.

So much like in September 2008, the cross-border raids — presently beyond what is acceptable to Pakistan — will quickly be curtailed. Already the apologies for the Kurram attack have been profuse and many.

Does that mean the level cooperation extended to the Americans is fixed come what may? No. 9/11 impelled the last great leap forward (or backward, from the perspective of some here) in Pakistan’s cooperation with the West. Most likely, then, only another cataclysmic event — the next 9/11 — will impel the next big lurch forward, i.e. the next step in the strategic decoupling from the non-state actors.

Kayani & co can resist helicopter attacks and the like at present, but their objections would be brushed aside in the event of another catastrophic attack in the US or against American interests abroad. Pakistan has been warned publicly enough, from Hillary Clinton downwards and even before under Bush, that a major terrorist attack would be a game-changer.

Indeed, it may be the only realistic game-changer. Short of weaning the Pakistan Army off its India obsession, a major terrorist attack is the only likely scenario in which Pakistan could be induced to make the next major shift in policy.

In all of this, the question for any Pakistani ought to be, how does the army’s strategy make Pakistan and Pakistanis more secure?

The answer: it doesn’t. If you don’t subscribe to the India-centric view of national security, the costs of whatever we have done far outweigh the ‘benefits’ of keeping India at bay.

But like it or not, that’s the policy and it’s not likely to change any time soon. Beware the black swan, though, the next game-changer.

cyril.a@gmail.com

Obama Accused of Inflating EU Terror Threat

[Bush was a better liar.]

Obama Accused of Inflating EU Terror Threat

Senior Pakistani diplomats and European intelligence officials have told The Guardiannewspaper that President Obama’s administration has deliberately exaggerated the current terror threat to European cities from militants in Pakistan for political reasons.”I will not deny the fact that there may be internal political dynamics, including the forthcoming midterm American elections,” Pakistan’s high commissioner to Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan, told the paper. “If the Americans have definite information about terrorists and al Qaeda people, we should be provided [with] that and we could go after them ourselves.”

Hasan, whose job is equivalent to that of ambassador, has a reputation for making controversial, sometimes incendiary comments, but he is a veteran diplomat with close ties to the Pakistani political leadership.

AboveFrench police stand guard at the Gare du Nord train station in Paris, Oct. 6, 2010.

He called the widely reported threat of “commando-style” sieges being planned for London and other major cities in France and Germany, “a mixture of frustrations, ineptitude and lack of appreciation of ground realities,” on the part of U.S. officials seeking to justify a dramatic increase in drone missile strikes against militant targets on the Pakistani side of the border with Afghanistan.

Hasan (pictured at left) said the increase in missile strikes, and thus the terror alert to justify them, were born of the Obama administration’s rush to show some degree of success in the war against Taliban and al Qaeda-linked militants in the region, and were “obviously” linked to the U.S. president’s demand to begin pulling American forces out of Afghanistan in 2011.European intelligence officials also told The Guardian that the White House was behind the dire warnings against travel to tourist hotspots in Britain, France and Germany. The officials essentially accuse the Americans of weaving together loose evidence of militant intentions to formulate a threat that, if it existed at all, was far from becoming a real danger.

“To stitch together [the terror plot claims] in a seamless narrative is nonsensical,” one source, whom the paper dubbed “well-placed,” told The Guardian.

Even as European government’s joined the U.S. in issuing alerts and calling for increased vigilance, the vague nature of the warnings led many analysts (and journalists alike) to question the validity and usefulness of the public information.

At all times, the battery of anonymous intelligence and law enforcement officials quoted by news organizations on the threat made it clear there was, in fact, no “imminent” threat. The word “aspirational” was used many times to qualify the nature of the alleged plot — an effort by the unnamed people-in-the-know to qualify their own remarks even as they were made.

Nonetheless, the sense from security officials, particularly those in the U.S., was that the threat was very real and not to be ignored.

CBS News homeland security correspondent Bob Orr was told by multiple sources in intelligence and law enforcement that they were more concerned about the present threat in Europe than they had been about any other potential danger since the 2006 liquid plane bomb plot was uncovered.

Those sources told Orr the threat had been traced back to core members of the al Qaeda leadership, who have “given marching orders” for operatives in Europe to attack when and where they can. The plot was even approved by Osama bin Laden himself, according to a report on CNN.

The problem, said Orr’s sources, was that the intelligence being garnered from the field was too non-specific for law enforcement agencies to give warnings or boost security around any locations or infrastructure in particular.

One Western diplomat in Pakistan told CBS News’ Farhan Bokhari on Thursday that the terror alert had been triggered by U.S. intelligence officials seeing, “a convergence of information from different sides pointing towards the same threat.”

That diplomat, who did not wish to be identified, even by nationality, added that, “the Europeans are now seeing where the U.S. was coming from.”

European officials — who presumably have access to much of the same intelligence as EU nations and the U.S. government claim to work together to confront the threat posed by Islamic militant groups — have remained far less convinced by the evidence.

As CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reported on Sept. 29, one well-informed British source went so far as to tell CBS News that he’d been told by law enforcement officials the reports of a foiled plot were, “a load of old rubbish which have been planted to justify the increased drone attacks taking place in the tribal areas” of Pakistan.

Beware of Governments Trumpeting Terror Threats

Germany’s Interior Minister even called the reported terror threat to his country “hypothetical”.

None of the officials who spoke to CBS News or The Guardian sought to downplay the threat posed by European nationals who travel to Pakistan or other countries to be trained by al Qaeda or its affiliates. But as the British newspaper points out, doubts over how far into the planning process a militant suspect was when a U.S. missile blew him up may increase international scrutiny of the CIA’s officially-nonexistent drone strike program.

As many as eight of the militants killed in the recent strikes — directly linked by intelligence officials to the European terror threat — were German or British nationals.

‘The Americans Want to Blackmail Us’

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has warned against the scaremongering of terror threats in Europe.

AP

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has warned against the scaremongering of terror threats in Europe.

‘The Americans Want to Blackmail Us’

European Parliament Balks at US Data Deals

By Hans-Jürgen Schlamp in Brussels

AP

German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere has warned against the scaremongering of terror threats in Europe.

Representatives of US security agencies want further concessions from the EU to ensure free access to police computers, bank transfers and airline passenger data in the fight against terror. But members of the European Parliament have said they will resist the moves.

Washington’s army of diplomats in Europe has been taking on one country at a time. Germany stood at the top of the list and, initially, surrendered without even a whimper to the American demands. In 2008, the federal government in Berlin signed an agreement pushed by Washington allowing American officials wide-ranging access to the databases of German security agencies. It was only after leaders in Hamburg raised their objections to the deal that it was, temporarily, stalled in the Bundesrat, Germany’s upper legislative chamber, which represents the interests of the states. The city-state has since withdrawn its objections after securing minor concessions on data protection provisions in the document, and the treaty is now set to be approved.

Step by step, and largely unnoticed by the public, the US has been pushing through similar arrangements in a number of European capitals. Washington reported its latest success in Vienna last week: The Austrian government said it was ready to grant US security agencies with free access to its police computers, complete with DNA and finger print data and a criminal registry.The proceedings were not entirely peaceful. One Austrian government official reported “massive pressure.” American Ambassador William C. Eacho, III. was apparently “very charming and friendly,” when he appeared in the Austrian Chancellery and offered his “help.” President Barack Obama’s emissary said the administration in Washington was considering discontinuing the visa-waiver program for Austrians traveling to the United States because Austria wasn’t sufficiently cooperating in the fight against terrorism.

In order to hinder the plans of the “boys in Washington,” they would have to “work something out together.” Apparently they were also able to achieve that with the guidance of the friendly ambassador. “Participation in the United States’ ‘Visa Waiver’ program,” Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann wrote in a letter to the Viennese parliament, has been “linked to additional requirements for the exchange of information,” including “an agreement to exchange data relating to the detection of terrorists.” In other words, no data, no visa waiver. The small Alpine republic buckled.

In Washington’s Sights: Facebook, Blackberry, Money Transers and Trips

But that’s not the only front on which Washington’s anti-terror combatants are active. A few days ago the US government announced further legislation designed to facilitate monitoring of new communication tools such as Twitter and Facebook as well as modern technologies such as Blackberrys and Skype. At almost exactly the same time, the US Treasury presented draft legislation that will allow security agencies free access to the details of all money transfers conducted through banks or credit cards.

And Washington doesn’t just want to tap into and store this data on its own citizens, but on people worldwide, including Europeans.

European interior ministers have, so far at least, shown a good deal of understanding for these demands because they profit from the work of the US authorities, who sometimes share intelligence that European investigators could never hope to otherwise obtain. That’s why matters will most probably be kept on a friendly and cooperative level with European interior ministers meeting on Thursday in Luxembourg with representatives of the US Department of Homeland Security and other agencies to discuss the terrorist threat and counter-terrorism measures.Last weekend, the US issued a travel warning for Europe on the basis of possible imminent terrorist attacks. Germany Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, however, has warned against scaremongering. There is apparently no concrete evidence of imminent attacks in Germany. But perhaps, speculates one European Union security expert, it was just a little “background music” for the real questions to be discussed in the trans-Atlantic talks: How deeply can American terrorism investigators peer into European computers, how extensively can they monitor European bank accounts, tap into Blackberrys or listen in on Skype calls?

And however much understanding EU security circles may have for Washington’s requests, they are now having to take on opponents in their own camp, who are further complicating the issue: the members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

Part 2: EU Parliament Threatens Resistance

Many MEPs concerned with data privacy and domestic security issues are up in arms over the revelations in Vienna and the news from Washington. “The Americans want to blackmail us,” said an agitated Alexander Alvaro, home affairs spokesman of the Germany’s Free Democratic Party (FDP) in the European Parliament. The Americans have become “like a data octopus,” he said, as if their tentacles were reaching out to all the world’s data. He said that Europeans would not go along with it and that they would “defend themselves.” Alvaro’s Dutch colleague Sophie in ‘t Veld is also outraged: “Americans think everything is permitted.” This attitude, she said, is now beginning to rub off on European investigators. Time and again executives come to in ‘t Veld in her role as chair of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs committee to tell her confidentially that they have been illegally forced to hand over “their complete customer data.”

In a letter to the president of the European Commission, the Liberals (as the FDP and similar parties in other countries are called in the European Parliament) have called on him to “clarify urgently” the details of the US government’s intentions and to immediately inform parliament. Jan Philipp Albrecht, interior affairs expert for the German Green Party, has called for the “European Commission to put the US government in its place.”

Comments such as this would previously have only caused a few smiles — the European Parliament never had much of a say in matters or any real power. However, that changed when the Lisbon Treaty came into force on Dec. 1, 2009, and parliament now has a decisive say on numerous issues. The fact that MEPs take this new role very seriously, especially when it comes to data protection, was made clear when they blocked the so-called “SWIFT” agreement for months in the face of intense pressure from Washington.

“SWIFT”: The First Strike

Secretly and illegally at first, and later even with the consent of EU governments, the US authorities monitored the bank transfers of tens of thousands of European citizens for years as part of its anti-terrorism operation. This was done via access to the mainframe computers of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT).

The Belgian company processes money transfers between around 8,000 financial institutions in over 200 countries. Largely unchecked, the Americans were able to simply help themselves to the data. European governments and, especially their interior ministers, didn’t think it was a bad thing. They also would have been keen to simply extend their deal allowing the Americans access to the transfers data. But members of the European Parliament didn’t want to play along. At first a handful, then many and finally almost all the members of parliament joined forces to hinder the process for months.

The Americans finally yielded. And even after parliament’s intervention, things still aren’t totally clean. But it has, at least, forced Washington to agree to accept European data protection standards. For example, US officials must now state concrete grounds for suspicion when requesting to see a European citizen’s financial transfers.

And they even have to tolerate an EU watchdog in their own bank intelligence offices in Washington. That’s why, data protection experts suspect, Washington is now bringing in new laws. They want a return to the good old days of unbridled spying. And that’s exactly what Europe’s brave MEP’s are fighting to prevent — and they’ve already chosen their weapon.

An agreement between the EU and the US on the exchange of airline passenger data — the “Passenger Name Records (PNR)” in US government jargon — is currently due for renewal. The agreement allows the US Department of Homeland Security access to the databases of European airlines and the information they hold on their customers. Under the current terms, Homeland Security officials have been able to collect anything that interested them. If it was up to Europe’s interior ministers, they would continue to be able to do so in the future.

MEPs Warn of a “Data Wild West”

But now, at the end of the process, Europe’s interior ministers must obtain the approval of the European Parliament. And “I can guarantee they won’t get it for an agreement like the old one” said Dutch politician in ‘t Veld. Only in limited cases of well-founded suspicion should an airline be forced to surrender data on its customers, she said. Data storage should also be restricted and the US should be barred from transferring data to third party governments. A “Wild West” approach to data will no longer be accepted, said Axel Voss, an MEP with Germany’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) who is a member of the interior and justice committee.

Many MEPs also have the feeling that they are being tricked. If the United States first signs an agreement, like SWIFT, and then tries to overturn it in other ways, or if Washington forces through what is not achievable at EU level by blackmailing individual national governments one by one, then how and why should negotiations continue? asks Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs Committee chairwoman in ‘t Veld.”The Americans’ word doesn’t count for much anymore anyway,” she said.

Indeed, long and tricky negotiations are likely to be up next on the agenda between Washington, Europe’s interior ministers and the MEPs.

Translated from the German by Josie Le Blond