[This Brennan guy is trying to muster-up a little of the Bush "dead or alive" spirit in this speech, claiming that we "seek nothing less than the utter destruction of this evil that calls itself al-Qaeda." If this was what he really wanted, then he should just pick up the phone and talk to the "al-Qaeda" big bosses, who are the same today as they were thirty years ago, when this grand psyop began. Langley runs "the base"--always has. It is all a great big psycho-drama, intended to gain public support for the destruction of the Pakistani state, under the pretense of hunting our terrorist progeny.]
To destroy the al-Qaeda “evil”, the US needs to dismantle its core in the tribal regions of Pakistan and prevent its ability to re-establish a safe haven in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, a senior US official has said.
“We aim to render the heart of al-Qaeda incapable of launching attacks against our homeland, our citizens, or our allies, as well as preventing the group from inspiring its affiliates and adherents to do so,” John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security, said Wednesday.
“And we seek nothing less than the utter destruction of this evil that calls itself al-Qaeda,” he said expanding on the White House counter terrorism strategy at the John Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.
Acknowledging that US “relationship with Pakistan is not without tension or frustration, he said: “We are now working with our Pakistani partners to overcome differences and continue our efforts against our common enemies.”
“It is essential that we do so.As frustrating as this relationship can sometimes be, Pakistan has been critical to many of our most significant successes against al-Qaeda,” he said explaining why we must continue our cooperation with Pakistan.
Claiming that over the past two and half years more than half of al- qaeda’s top leadership has been eliminated, Brennan said with the death of Osama bin Laden, the US had struck its biggest blow against the terrorist group.
Information seized from his hideout in Pakistan reveals Laden’s concerns about al-Qaeda’s long-term viability, he said noting the al-Qaeda called for more large-scale attacks against America, but encountered resistance from his followers.
“Perhaps most importantly, bin Laden clearly sensed that al-Qaeda is losing the larger battle for hearts and minds,” Brennan said.
But “this fight is not over,” he said and cited President Barack Obama to reiterate his administration’sresolve: “We have put al-Qaeda on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.”
Commander Border Security Forces for Eastern Provinces Aminullah Amerkhail on Thursday rendered his resignation from service “for not being allowed by the central government to retaliate Pakistani attacks at Nangarhar and Konar province”.
A spokesman for the Eastern Border Forces Edres Momand told Wakht News Agency, “Main reason behind the resignation is the Central Governments inaction towards the Pakistani Military attacks in Nangarhar and Konar Provinces”.
He added that on several occasions General Amerkhail had sought the permission of the Central Government for retaliation to the attacks which were rejected.
He said that the Ministry of Interior had not accepted the resignation.
Despite several attempts by the Wakht News Agency no officials from the Interior Ministry could be reached for comments.
It is worth mentioning that Pakistan has fired some 550 rockets into Nangarhar and Konar provinces during the last two moths killing at least 80 civilians most of them women and children.
General Amerkhail commands the Border Security Forces at the Eastern Provinces and had expressed several times that if the Central Government granted permission his forces were well prepared for retaliation.
Report: Nesar Jamal
In a UK speech, Prince Turki al-Faisal outlines Saudi Arabia’s concerns relating to the Arab spring, its foreign policies and Iran
It was a very discreet meeting deep in the English countryside. The main speaker was Prince Turki al-Faisal, one of Saudi Arabia‘s best-known and best-connected royals. The audience was composed of senior American and British military officials. The location was RAF Molesworth, one of three bases used by American forces in the UK since the second world war. Now a Nato intelligence centre focused on the Mediterranean and the Middle East, the sprawling compound amid green fields was an ideal venue for the sensitive topics that Turki, former head of Saudi Arabian intelligence, wanted to raise.
After an anecdote about how Franklin D Roosevelt was told by a naked Winston Churchill that nothing between them or their countries should be hidden, Turki warmed to his theme: “A Saudi national security doctrine for the next decade.”
For the next half an hour, the veteran diplomat, a former ambassador to Washington and tipped to be the next foreign minister in Riyadh, entertained his audience to a sweeping survey of his country’s concerns in a region seized by momentous changes. Like Churchill, Turki said, the kingdom “had nothing to hide”.
Even if they wanted to, the leaders of the desert kingdom would have difficulty concealing their concern at the stunning developments across the Arab world. Few – excepting the vast revenues pouring in from oil selling at around $100 a barrel for much of the year – have brought much relief to Riyadh.
Chief among the challenges, from the perspective of the Saudi royal rulers, are the difficulties of preserving stability in the region when local autocracies that have lasted for decades are falling one after another; of preserving security when the resultant chaos provides opportunities to all kinds of groups deemed enemies; of maintaining good relations with the west; and, perhaps most importantly of all, of ensuring that Iran, the bigger but poorer historic regional and religious rival just across the Gulf from Saudi Arabia’s eastern provinces, does not emerge as the winner as the upheavals of the Arab spring continue into the summer.
“The [Saudi king], crown prince and government cannot ignore the Arab situations, we live the Arab situation and hope stability returns,” the al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper quoted Prince Nayef, the second in line to the throne and minister of the interior, as saying in Riyadh last week.
The prince, known as a conservative, went on to add that the possibility “of interference to prolong the chaos and killing between the sons of the Arab people … could not be discounted”.
Iran, a majority Shia state committed to a rigorous and highly politicised Islamist ideology, remains at the heart of such fears in Saudi Arabia, a predominantly Sunni state ruled by the al-Saud family since its foundation in 1932. Recent moves such as the Saudi-inspired invitation to Morocco and Jordan, both Sunni monarchies, to join the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a group of Sunni autocratic states, are seen by analysts as part of Riyadh’s effort to bolster defences against Tehran. So too is the deployment of Saudi troops under the umbrella of the GCC to Bahrain, where largely Shia demonstrators took to the streets to demand greater democratic rights from the Sunni rulers.
One fear in Riyadh is that the 15% or so of Saudi citizens who are Shia – and who largely live in the oil-rich eastern province – might mobilise in response to an Iranian call to arms.
“It is a kind of ideological struggle,” said a Ministry of Interior official.
Describing Iran as a “paper tiger” because of its “dysfunctional government … whose hold on power is only possible if it is able, as it barely is now, to maintain a level of economic prosperity that is just enough to pacify its people”, Turki, according to a copy of his speech at RAF Molesworth obtained by the Guardian, said the rival state nonetheless had “steel claws”, which were “effective tools … to interfere in other countries”.
This Tehran did with “destructive” consequences in countries with very large Shia communities such as Iraq, which Turki said was taking a “sectarian, Iranian-influenced direction”, as well as states with smaller ones such as Kuwait and Lebanon. Until Iraq changed course, the former intelligence chief warned, Riyadh would not write off Baghdad’s $20bn (£12.5bn) debts or send an ambassador.
More worryingly for western diplomats was Turki’s implicit threat that if Iran looked close to obtaining nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia would follow suit, threatening a nuclear war between the two powers. “Iran [developing] a nuclear weapon would compel Saudi Arabia … to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences,” Turki said.
A senior adviser told the Guardian that it was “inconceivable that there would be a day when Iran had a nuclear weapon and Saudi Arabia did not”.
“If they successfully pursue a military programme, we will have to follow suit,” he said. For the moment, however, the prince told his audience, “sanctions [against Iran] are working” and military strikes would be “counterproductive”.
One alternative, Turki told his audience, would be to “squeeze” Iran by undermining its profits from oil, explaining that this was something the Saudis, with new spare pumping capacity and deep pockets, were ideally positioned to do.
Money has long been a key foreign policy tool for Saudi Arabia. Turki’s speech reveals the extent to which the kingdom is relying on its wealth to buy goodwill and support allies. In Lebanon, to counter Syrian influence and the Shia Hezbollah movement, the kingdom has spent $2.5bn (£1.6bn) since 2006.
Several billion more will reach the Palestinians, either directly or via the Palestinian Authority, Turki said. Then there is the $4bn (£2.5bn) in unconditional “grants, loans and deposits to Egypt’s emerging government”, which “stand in stark comparison to the conditional loans that the US and Europe have promised”.
This was an indication of the “contrast in values between the kingdom and its western allies”, the prince said.
The aim of such expenditure – only a fraction of the state’s $550bn (£343bn) reserves – is to minimise any potential ill-will towards Saudi Arabia among populations who have deposed rulers backed previously by Riyadh.
“The calculation in Riyadh is very simple: you cannot stop the Arab spring so the question is how to accommodate the new reality on the ground. So far there is no hostility to the Saudis in Tunisia, Egypt or elsewhere, popular or political,” said Dr Mustafa Alani, from the Gulf Research Centre, Dubai.
One difficult issue is that of the “unwanted house guests”. Saudi Arabia has a long tradition of offering a comfortable retirement home to ex-dictators, and two of the deposed leaders – Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen – are now in the kingdom. Ben Ali is reported to have been housed in a villa on the Red Sea coast. Saleh is in a luxury hospital receiving treatment for wounds caused by the bomb that forced his flight from the country he ruled for 21 years as president, and is now under pressure from his hosts to retire permanently.
Other regional rulers are being gently pressured to ease crackdowns, in part in response to western outcry over human-rights abuses, one official said.
Yemen, however, remains a major security concern to the Saudis, who worry about the presence of Islamic militants and Shia rebels who, again, they view as proxies of Iran.
“It is very important to make sure Yemen is stable and secure and without any internal struggle,” said one Interior Ministry official.
In his speech in the UK, Turki worried that Yemen’s more remote areas had become a safe haven for terrorism comparable to Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Along with money, religion too has been used as a weapon of Saudi foreign policy. Since 1986, Saudi kings have used the title of custodian of the two holy mosques – Mecca and Medina – and “as such [the kingdom] feels itself the eminent leader of the wider Muslim world”, said Turki. Iran challenges this claim.
One key western concern has long been the export of rigorous and sometimes intolerant strands of Islam. Between the 1979 Iranian revolution and the 9/11 attacks, this was seen as a key part of Saudi foreign policy. It also served to placate clerical establishment internally. In the last decade, a major effort has been made to cut back funding for extremism abroad. The results, government spokesmen admit, are sometimes mixed.
Senior Saudi charity officials told the Guardian that their work was not only “non-political” but also avoided any attempt to spread Wahhabism, as the puritanical Saudi strands of Islamic practice are often known, too.
“We follow the wishes of local communities and never get involved in politics. We are a purely humanitarian organisation, said Dr Saleh al-Wohaibi, the secretary-general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (Wamy), a Riyadh-based NGO engaged in relief work and development assistance across the Islamic world, which has been accused of funding extremism.
However, al-Wohaibi confirmed Wamy had built thousands of religious schools in countries such as Pakistan. Since 9/11, he said, donations from within Saudi Arabia had reduced considerably.
At mosques in Riyadh last week, religious students said they hoped to travel overseas as soon as possible. “It is our duty to help other countries all over the world to improve their practice of Islam and [to improve] the image of Saudi Arabia,” said Abdalillah al’Ajmi, 18, after evening prayers at the al-Rajhi mosque in Riyadh.
In his speech at Molesworth, Turki simply referred to Islam playing “a central … role” in ensuring Saudi security in the years to come. “Saudi Arabia is … the birthplace of Islam …. Iran portrays itself as the leader of not just the Shia world but of all Muslim revolutionaries interested in standing up to the west,” he said.
A Saudi bomb?
Prince Turki al-Faisal’s remarks reflect alarm at the progress of Iran’s nuclear programme and eroding confidence in the protective umbrella of Saudi Arabia’s longstanding ally, America.
In 2003, as its forces got bogged down in Iraq and the US began to look vulnerable, the Saudi government laid out three alternatives for itself: build its own bomb, shelter under someone else’s, or agree a Middle East nuclear-free zone. Tentative talks on a zone are underway with a view to a UN-chaired conference next year, but few observers believe Israel would surrender its nuclear arsenal or that Iran would halt its programme.
As for its own weapon, Saudi Arabia has declared it will spend $300bn on 16 nuclear reactors, for which it is about to open bids. But they would be turnkey projects with safeguards making it almost impossible to use the fuel to make weapons.
Building a Saudi bomb would require starting a uranium enrichment programme from scratch. Even with unlimited resources that would take years.
In the short term, Saudi Arabia could look to other states. Since the Arab spring, the monarchy has become disillusioned with Washington’s capacity to defend it. Instead, it may see its best option for a rapid response (to an Iran nuclear test, for example) as Pakistan. Saudi Arabia is reported to have an “option” on Pakistan’s nuclear capability, in return for financing Pakistan for decades.
And the US would find it hard to stop such destabilising nuclear co-operation. Its influence with both the Pakistanis and the Saudis has frayed considerably.
[Even the Saudis do not have the refining capacity to supply gasoline for the world, or possibly even to service their own growing needs (SEE: Oil-Rich Middle-East Running Low on Gas: Analyst).]
“Saudi Arabia in particular faces a growing shortage of oil products: Without new refining capacity we forecast the Kingdom will import 248 billion liters of gasoline and diesel this decade at a cost of 170 billion dollars.”
The grim portent was served by Prince Turki al-Faisal, who warned that the Saudis could flood the international oil markets to bring down the price of crude unless Tehran halted its controversial nuclear program.
“Iran is very vulnerable in the oil sector, and it’s there that more could be done to squeeze the current government,” “The Wall Street Journal” quoted Faisal — a senior member of the Saudi royal family — as telling a private gathering of United States and British military officers in June.
Saudi Arabia, he went on, was ready to replace Iran in the international oil market — thus depriving Tehran of the vital revenues it needs to keep its fragile economy afloat and to fund its uranium-enrichment activities, which Riyadh and the West suspect is a front for building a nuclear bomb.
“To put this into perspective, Saudi Arabia has so much [spare] production capacity — nearly 4 million barrels per day — that we could almost instantly replace all of Iran’s oil production,” Faisal said.
Faisal once headed Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency but now holds no official government office. Saudi officials have said his comments were made purely in a private capacity.
Yet they articulated the hostilities between the two neighbors, which have grown during this year’s Arab Spring, a period in which Saudi troops deployed in Bahrain to help snuff out a Shi’ite revolt that Riyadh claims — despite Iranian denials — has been fomented by Tehran.
Iranian students participate in a demonstration to oppose the presence of Saudi troops in Bahrain, outside the Saudi Embassy in Tehran on May 3.
And according to Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian commentator with the Israel-based Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company, Faisal Turki was also illustrating Saudi Arabia’s assumed role of being the spearhead of an economic attack on Iran.
“The Saudis are now heading an international campaign to weaken Iran’s economy and to stop the nuclear program. Whereas the Americans are the ones that are imposing sanctions on different parts of the economy,” Javedanfar says, “the Saudi are the ones who are basically going for the jugular.
“They are going for Iran’s oil industry by going to Iran’s customers, such as India and saying, ‘Don’t buy oil from Iran; you can buy oil from us and we can basically give it to you at a better price.’ They want to flood the market to bring the price of oil down. They know that Iran is vulnerable because 80 percent of the country’s income comes from oil.”
Iran, which currently holds the presidency of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), hit back angrily.
“Iran will stop any move designed to play with oil prices through production hikes,” the country’s caretaker oil minister, Mohammad Aliabadi, said after Faisal’s comments were made public.
The Iranians already blocked a Saudi effort to increase production at the last OPEC meeting in Vienna on June 8.
Indulging In Hyperbole
Yet while there is general agreement that Iran’s overreliance on oil revenues is an Achilles heel, not everyone is convinced that Riyadh’s threat would have the effect of crippling Islamic regime economically.
Kamran Dadkhah, associate professor of economics at Northeastern University in Boston, says Saudi Arabia — despite being OPEC’s biggest oil producer — is indulging in hyperbole by believing it can bring Iran to its knees.
“Saudi Arabia is, indeed, the only OPEC member with spare capacity and excess capacity and financial resources to manipulate the oil markets,” Dadkhah says. “But to bankrupt Iran through this process is a wrong statement.
“If you flood the market with oil, OK, the price of oil will come down. [But the] Iranians will sell at a lower price. Iran has sold at $9 a barrel at times, and there is no reason that it is the Iranian oil that will be replaced. It may be some other oil producer that has to cut down on their supply because the price has come down or even [whose] customers will be replaced.”
Moreover, according to Dadkhah, Iran could afford to fund its nuclear program with oil prices much lower than the $108.19 a barrel of Brent crude was fetching on June 28.
“Iran doesn’t need all the money it is getting now just to go with the nuclear program,” he says. “Even a part of it would be enough to finance that.”
Countering Faisal’s threat is Iran’s retaliatory capability. It is, as Dadkhah points out, capable of causing “mischief” in response to any hardships imposed on it, not least by encouraging restiveness among Shi’a populations in Arab Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia itself. As a last resort, Tehran also has the option of firing at oil tankers passing through the Gulf and of sabotaging oil and gas pipelines.
Such considerations are unlikely to have been lost on the Saudis — meaning Faisal’s remarks probably carried a strong element of psychological warfare.
Gerd Nonneman, professor of Gulf studies at Exeter University in England, believes the comments were intended as a display of Saudi Arabia’s potential power which, in practice, the kingdom’s ruling dynasty would be reluctant to use.
“[Flooding the market] is not quite a nuclear option,” Nonneman says, “but [Saudi Arabia] really puts itself out there. I think they also wouldn’t simply want to be doing a free favor to the U.S. and the West without being taken seriously otherwise. So I think it’s a balancing game. They were considering upping their production very significantly. In fact, they are going to up it by at least half-a-million barrels a day. Whether they were going to go further, that would expose them further in a number of ways. That’s why Prince Turki, rather than any official, was used to put this idea out there. It’s a kind of trial balloon.”
Violent Islamist groups in Pakistan have coalesced under the Taliban umbrella to become the world’s most significant terrorist threat and are the most capable of obtaining nuclear weapons, according to a report released Wednesday.
The Pakistani “Neo-Taliban,” as the report from the Federation of American Scientists calls the coalition, has emerged as a major threat to the security of the Pakistani state, perhaps posing an even greater one than the country’s longstanding enemy, India.
“They have conducted the most sophisticated, ambitious and operationally complex terrorist attacks in this century,” said Charles P. Blair, director of the Terrorism Analysis Project for FAS. “They can essentially attack at will any time they want.”
The report says the threat posed by the Neo-Taliban is largely the result of a strategic miscalculation by Islamabad after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States — allowing violent Islamist groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda to seek refuge from U.S. troops in Afghanistan and operate in Pakistan’s tribal areas as a buffer against Afghan, U.S. and Indian influence.
The entry of those foreign fighters into the tribal areas led to a dramatic spike in terrorist attacks inside Pakistan, from 29 in 2003 to 1,916 in 2009, resulting in some 30,000 deaths.
“They (the Pakistanis) really played a very dangerous game,” Blair said, “They didn’t think that when the Taliban and Al Qaeda came into the tribal areas that they would target the Pakistani state.”
Pressure from violent Islamists is one of the reasons elements in Pakistan’s government — particularly in the Inter-Services Intelligence agency — continues to support Taliban control in Afghanistan, he said. Lacking confidence in their ability to control the militants, Pakistani officials are looking for a place to dump them, he said.
The report comes amid increasing congressional and public pressure for Washington to get tough with Pakistan, which has sparked a similar pushback from Islamabad. But senior U.S. officials and leading lawmakers insist that the relationship, while complicated and at times frustrating, is too important to abandon.
“We are now working with our Pakistani partners to overcome differences and continue our efforts against our common enemies. It is essential that we do so,” White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said in a speech outlining the Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy. “As frustrating as this relationship can sometimes be, Pakistan has been critical to many of our most significant successes against Al Qaeda.”
Numbering between 15,000 and 30,000 fighters, the Neo-Taliban pose such a serious threat because they combine decades of experience against state-sized forces with revenue obtained through the operation of shadow governments and an Islamist ideology that includes strong apocalyptic leanings.
“They are violent Islamists with a global agenda,” Blair said. “It’s a highly capable group that can seek and will seek nuclear weapons.”
Top exporter Saudi Arabia is struggling to sell more crude to Asia because rival producer Russia has taken an expanding share of the world’s fastest-growing market by pumping more oil into the region.
To get an edge in the competition with Russia and ship more barrels into Asia, the Saudis will have to take the next painful step in reducing global oil prices − slashing their own.
The kingdom has ignored opposition from fellow OPEC members and moved to boost oil supplies to cool prices that have slowed economic growth. Most of any increase in Saudi supplies would flow eastwards to feed rapid Asian economic expansion.
Russian supply to northeast Asia is almost five times more than in 2008 as crude flows through Russia’s East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline.
“Not only will the Saudis need to amend official selling prices (OSPs) to a level that would entice refiners, but you may also see competition from alternatives,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas in London. “And if ESPO keeps building up, the pressure keeps on growing.”
A glut in North American crude markets has made it unprofitable to send ESPO crude to the US West Coast, leaving more supply in Asia. The US typically absorbs the surplus.
The emergency release of oil stocks by International Energy Agency members Japan and South Korea, two of the region’s top consuming nations, is adding even more oil to the market. With so much crude on offer, refiners have been reluctant to sign up to buy more from Saudi Arabia.
ESPO is also higher quality than most Saudi crude, giving refiners that lack capacity to process heavier crude little incentive to buy more Arab grades.
Oil pumped through the ESPO pipeline has changed the game in Asia, previously almost completely captive to Middle East sellers. Russia sells 300,000 barrels per day to China, while another 600,000 barrels a day can be shipped to the Pacific and on to the Americas and even Europe.
OPEC member Saudi Arabia and independent producer Russia pump almost a quarter of the globe’s crude, each holding a similar share of about 10 million barrels a day. While the Saudis have restrained output since the financial crisis with OPEC agreements, Russia’s non-alignment has allowed it to pump freely.
Russia is pumping ESPO crude directly to China through a new pipeline section that opened this year, obviating the need for some imports from Saudi Arabia. In addition, rising exports of east Siberian oil through the Russian Pacific port of Kozmino have gained acceptance among refiners in three continents.
“Saudi Arabia and Russia will always be competing for market share in most regions,” said John Vautrain, director at Purvin & Gertz energy consultants in Singapore, adding that “from a geopolitical perspective, they both have interests to supply a diversified base of customers in Europe, Asia, and the US.”
“The waterborne nature of ESPO from Kozmino is allowing Russia to target northeast Asian markets that it could not reach economically before, and it’s also better quality than most of the Saudi crude,” Mr. Vautrain said.
Five ESPO cargoes due to load in Kozmino by early August have yet to be sold, as the arbitrage to the US West Coast remains closed.
Tightness for Brent-related grades in Europe because of Libya’s civil war and wide discounts for crude priced off the Dubai benchmark, including ESPO, have created unprecedented opportunities for east Siberian cargoes to move as far away as Spain, at least on paper.
That could mean more Russian crude produced halfway round the world and priced off Dubai is shipped to fill a gap that the Saudis could not plug in the Mediterranean.
“The ESPO quality is closer to the Libyan crude,” a trading source familiar with purchases of Saudi crude said. “It’s also attractive versus crude from West Africa, which is linked to more expensive Brent.”
The discount of Dubai crude to Brent widened to $9.20 a barrel on June 15, the biggest discount since October 2004, less than a week after the Saudis signaled they would increase supplies to Asia. That discount prompted Repsol-YPF, Spain’s largest oil company, to buy a cargo of ESPO Blend.
“There may be more opportunistic purchases of ESPO Blend by European refiners subject to freight conditions,” Mr. Tchilinguirian from BNP Paribas said.
“Brent is supported by a limited spare production capacity in light quality crude and Dubai will be kept under pressure as OPEC Gulf producers try to place additional medium to heavy barrels in the market.”
The competition for market share in Asia is the latest in a long tussle between the two giants of the oil-producing world. Moscow provoked the ire of some OPEC members after failing to deliver on pledges to trim output in line with record cuts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in late 2008.
The race between the two to conquer the Asian oil market could benefit consumers from China to the US as it puts pressure on prices just as the global economic recovery falters under the burden of high energy costs.
“There has never really been much cooperation between Russia and OPEC,” said Greg Priddy, global oil analyst at Eurasia Group in Washington. “The Saudis have never expected Russia to cooperate or share their burden as a swing producer.”
Secondly, the legitimacy of Afghan state institutions has not taken root. The current parliament, for example, is being reduced to a rubber stamp with Karzai’s machinations, one of which is to have 62 opposing MPs disqualified by a special tribunal appointed for this very purpose. Moreover, Karzai has neither shaken off his image of a quisling nor demonstrated panache for leadership. Under him massive corruption has transpired with his brothers and cousins taking the lead.
In other words, the American strategy in Afghanistan has little to do with Afghanistan ‘turning the corner’ and more with Obama’s internal compulsions. The chief of which is public disenchantment with the inconclusive Afghan War; changing opinion in Congress due to the debt crisis and growing cost considerations; reduced concern about Al-Qaeda after OBL’s killing and, of course, the presidential election campaign that will soon begin.
Hence, Obama’s claim that the worst is over in Afghanistan is beguiling to say the least. Not that it fooled anyone at home or abroad. The ‘isolationist’ lobby in Congress finds the cut-back too small and the withdrawal process too dilatory, while ‘interventionists’ are appalled that he is pulling out when so much remains to be done. Abroad it is being taken as an admission of defeat.
But what concerns Pakistan more than the withdrawal plan is the language in which it was couched. ‘We will not tolerate safe havens in Pakistan and we will hold you to your commitment to fight (our) enemies’, said Obama, in nearly those words. Hillary was more forthright, ‘Pakistan must fight or else forget the cash and weapons promised’. And Gates, as he leaves office, chimed in with ‘We don’t need Pakistan either to fight or to win in Afghanistan.’
The New York Times, that repository of American-Jewish wisdom, followed with a bunch of stories hinting at the ISI’s complicity in OBL’s extended sojourn in Abbottabad. An ‘intriguing lead’ from the cell phone belonging to OBL’s courier sufficed to give the story front page coverage. Reacting with exceptional alacrity, the ISPR succinctly claimed that ‘actions on the ground (by the ISI in apprehending numerous Al-Qaeda terrorists) spoke louder than the words of the NYT’.
Soon after announcing the troop withdrawal, Obama described the current US-Pakistan relationship as ‘more honest’ than before. What he perhaps meant was that the while the people of both countries had always been honest about their mutual suspicions, the truth had finally caught up with the situation. However, this is not the time for recriminations and especially not for Pakistan since it has too much at stake to indulge in suspicions and aspersions. What then are the prospects for peace?
On Afghan peace, the US continues to reiterate that the Afghan Taliban must be prepared to concede on three things: making a break with Al-Qaeda; abandoning violence; and accepting the existing Afghan constitution.
Making a break with Al-Qaeda should not be a big problem for the mainstream Taliban leadership. The latter lost its grip on power because of Al-Qaeda’s declared war on the US and its use of Afghan territory as its headquarters until both were ousted after 9/11. Abandoning violence will test their intentions with regard to reconciliation and giving up any ambition they may still harbour to regain the control they enjoyed before 9/11. But more challenging will be accepting the existing constitution. Of course, if they decide to convert to a political force and abandon their old ambitions, then accepting the constitution will be less difficult but they may still want changes that decentralise the country in favour of more power for the provinces.
The most challenging will be the permanent military presence the US seems determined to maintain in Afghanistan. Without some resolution of this issue, it is impossible to start serious negotiations or to bring any negotiations to a positive conclusion. A trade-off on this issue will have to occur at some stage for an eventual peace settlement.
For the moment, at any rate, serious negotiations seem premature. This is not just because some tough issues may have to be discussed confidentially first to see if either side is prepared to show reciprocal flexibility, but also because we have another year of war under Obama’s withdrawal plan.
The Pentagon is going to use this period to fight the Taliban while it still has the surge troops at its disposal and the Taliban will likely hold their ground and bounce back after the combat withdrawal starts in earnest next summer. So even if there are some tactical shifts on the ground, at the political level, a stalemate will most likely persist.
Yet, it would be myopic for the Obama administration to wait another year before it signals serious interest in a negotiated peace. Another year of intense fighting would mean little to the Taliban if only because they can sit it out until the going gets easier next year. It is the US that faces a serious problem with its aggressive military strategy. A year will not make much difference to the ground situation. Indeed, the US may have to concede some ground seized from the Taliban once the Afghan army takes over and is unable to consolidate those gains, as is widely accepted to happen.
So instead of prevaricating or delaying the inevitable, the US should abandon its war strategy altogether and replace it with a peace strategy. And that will not only require showing some flexibility towards the Afghan Taliban but also a major overhaul of its underlying policy – that is, a paradigm shift to a multilateral approach. Just as its unilateral military approach has failed, so will America’s political approach if that too remains essentially unilateral when stripped of its rhetoric.
Unless this shift occurs, the key regional players, notably Pakistan, will not find enough space to help Afghanistan make the difficult transition from war to peace. These persisting problems should not however deter Pakistan from rebuilding its frayed ties with Kabul. The two countries must recognise their legitimate interest in improved relations.
Pakistan’s supreme interest lies in helping to bring about reconciliation in Afghanistan. If bilateral ties move forward, it will be a lot less difficult to counteract American unilateralism. So even if a stalemate persists for the moment, there is a lot that a regional diplomacy initiative can do in the meantime to lay the ground work for an eventual peace process.
Unfortunately, that may not happen. Having lost his patience, Obama has designated Pakistan as the next battle ground for America’s War on Terror and seems eager to launch his complement of drones and Special Ops teams. To what end is clear, but to what avail, is not. Unshackling the United States from its failed policies in the Muslim world seems a task beyond Obama.
To sum up, if the veritable Afghan knot is to be untied, the irreducible minimum prerequisites for peace would be: the Afghan Taliban transform themselves into a political force; the US abandons a permanent military presence in Afghanistan; and Pakistan helps out in the Afghan reconciliation process. All these prerequisites presuppose that the principal protagonists (Afghanistan, the US and Pakistan) can be convinced to trade off irreconcilable ambitions for a pluralistic peace.
It’s amazing. In the wake of the 2008 derivatives and housing bubble collapse, created by the U.S. Treasury and the private Federal Reserve with engineered low interest rates and easy money designed to artificially pump up the economy after the effects of the dot-com bust, the faltering markets of 2000-2001, and the rapidly depreciating dollar, we have now seen these same entities pour Trillions, yes, TRILLIONS in fiat injections into every conceivable corner of the markets. They have spent incredible sums on toxic equities (worthless equities, and don’t let anyone tell you different) to “ease” the debt spiral, they have propped up almost every large international bank, they have propped up the Federal Government and the Dollar itself with sizable purchases of our own Treasury debt, and, they have even thrown money into the pockets of foreign institutions and corporate beggars. Keep in mind, that all the debt that these actions generate is eventually placed squarely in the lap of one group of people; the American Taxpayer!
They have manipulated unemployment figures. They have consistently released completely fraudulent CPI (inflation) figures based on calculations which neglect numerous factors that used to be counted only two decades ago. They have used coordinated naked short selling in precious metals markets to hold back the natural spikes in gold and silver values. They have blamed every negative development in the economy (that they could not hide) on extraneous circumstances and outside culprits rather than themselves. They have done all this, to conjure the illusion of recovery for an increasingly agitated general public.
So much tap dancing and snake oil selling, and all it took, was the pain of $4 a gallon gas to wipe everything away…
That’s right, when the cost of driving to work, driving to shop, or driving for vacation doubles, the naïve notion that everything is perfectly normal goes right out the window. Americans complain a lot, but they rarely accept a bad situation as inexorable and take measures to fix it themselves.There is always the “chance” that things will get better tomorrow, or so we tell ourselves. We just ride the wave, and expect the pack of sharks at our back will never quite catch up to our boogie-board of blind optimism. However, when something takes a Great White sized bite out our very wallets, we take notice, and search the horizon for a bigger boat.
I have commented in the past that after only a few months of high gas prices, the wind would easily be knocked right out of our puffed up bailout driven recovery, and so far, that is exactly what is happening. Retail sales are fumbling, vacation destinations are crippled, the housing market continues to dive, in part due to the relentlessly high price of energy. When people travel less, they spend less, they buy less, and they relocate less.
In response, the IEA (International Energy Agency), an organization of 28 countries, has made a very sudden and startling announcement; each member nation will begin dumping their strategic crude oil reserves onto the global marketplace to flood the supply side of the equation, and, in theory, drive down overall oil prices. The IEA will release over 60 million barrels over at least 30 days into the markets, half of which will come directly out of the strategic reserves of the U.S. This is only the third time in the 37 year history of the IEA that this kind of action has been taken. Surely, governments around the world have finally realized that inflation in energy is going to completely derail what’s left of our financial structure, and they are working to prevent this, right…?
Some economists and many in the public will cheer this decision as a fast and decisive solution to the growing oil crises. These people would be foolish. But, perhaps we should look at the debate points from their side of the field, or even the U.S. government and the IEA’s side of the field. Below, we will look at the arguments made in support of the IEA oil dump so far, and why they are utter nonsense…
Lie #1: Oil Prices Are High Because The War In Libya Has Diminished Supply
Better throw on some boots and grab a shovel! Digging through this crap might take all day…
I’ll tell you a little secret, something mainstream economic analysts would rather you didn’t hear: there is NO lack of supply in crude markets. Sorry, the facts are clear. I realize that there are also proponents of ‘peak oil’ out there that fervently want to believe that there is a current and substantial supply side crisis in crude. Whether they are correct or not about the eventuality of peak oil remains to be seen, however, we are certainly not seeing any semblance of an oil shortage today, despite events in Libya.
Libya’s crude production before the war accounted for only 2% of the world’s entire oil output.Oil prices were climbing back towards the high levels seen in 2008 long before the “Arab Spring” broke out in the region. In February, the IEA itself reported that the world oil supply rose to an all time high of 89 million barrels per day. After the Libyan conflict erupted, this production fell by a marginal 700,000 barrels per day:
The establishment’s assertion that Libya is somehow the direct cause of energy inflation is a distraction. Libya has little or nothing to do with anything.
Lie #2: The IEA Oil Dump Will Create A Supply Glut And Drive Down Prices
The position that a “lack of supply” is the culprit behind rising gas prices is an outright falsehood. In fact, markets are already awash in oil, and our government is fully aware of this.The U.S. Energy Department has shown a global trend of falling demand for gasoline, and, the IEA has even admitted that this trend is likely to continue through 2011:
Anyone who follows the Baltic Dry Index also knows that freight shipping has collapsed back down to levels near those that appeared right before the 2008 debt bubble burst. This means around the world there is less demand for nearly ALL goods, and many commodities necessary for manufacturing, not just oil. Lower demand means greater available supply.Therefore, supply is in no way the issue when it comes to high oil prices. Again, the supply argument is a distraction away from the truth. Yet, this has been Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s primary rationale for supporting the IEA dump:
“We saw a very substantial sustained supply disruption. These reserves exist in part to offset those kind of disruptions,” Geithner told CNBC television.
So, to reiterate, there is ALREADY a glut in oil markets, and there has been since at least 2008.If there was actually a supply side crisis, trust me, you would know it. If you want to study a true crude supply crisis, then you only need glance back at the energy crisis of 1979 when Jimmy Carter ordered a cessation of Iranian oil imports and the Iran/Iraq war began. When you have to wait in long lines at the gas station just for a few gallons of unleaded, then you might be in the middle of a supply crisis.
After we accept the fact that supply is high and demand is low, we are then faced with an important question; why in the world would the IEA report high supply and low demand, and then expect to have any significant effect on oil markets by dumping our strategic reserves?!
Lie #3: The IEA Oil Dump Was Designed To Hit “Speculators”, Who Are The “Real” Cause Of Energy Inflation
Back in 2009 after the first major gasoline spike subsided, I spoke often about the mainstream financial media’s strange obsession with “speculators”, and the consistent use of talking points obviously designed to condition the American public into associating all oil price jumps with scheming investors in the shadows out to corner the market. My theory back then was that once oil began to skyrocket again due to the crumbling value of the dollar, establishment pundits and government officials would come back once again to point a finger at the speculator boogie man, and draw attention away from our inflating currency. Sure enough…
As we have seen, supply is not an issue, and so speculation should not be either. However, if speculators have actually been hoarding stocks and supplies in order to artificially drive up the price of crude, then the IEA announcement should have sent them scrambling to phone their brokers to sell-sell-sell! The shock to oil markets should have been extraordinary. But what happened? Not much to write home about…
The Brent crude index saw a relatively moderate price drop from around $113-$115 a barrel down to $105 a barrel, and currently, the price is showing potential to climb back up!
Initiating the release of the strategic oil reserves of nations across the globe caused an overall price drop of a few bucks? I guess speculators weren’t having much of an effect on the market after all.
So, if speculators aren’t the cause, and neither is limited supply or high demand, then what IS the phantom driver of inflation in energy? There is only one other possible answer; devaluing currencies. The IEA can pour all the oil they want into the markets and it won’t change a damn thing, because higher supply does nothing to strengthen the foundation of the dollar, which is being swiftly eroded by the Federal Reserve. Have they accomplished a minor halt to rising prices and visible inflation? Yes. Will prices bounce back even higher in the near future as the Fed continue to inject fiat into the economy? Absolutely.
The Consequences Of Reserve Depletion
The IEA announcement comes directly after the last OPEC meeting ended in a bitter split between member countries over whether to raise crude production levels. The decision by every country except Saudi Arabia to keep production steady was the right one, of course.However, elements of the U.S. and the EU were downright unhappy with OPEC’s unwillingness to help hide the weakness of their respective currencies. An OPEC decision to increase production would have at least influenced market psychology, and allowed prices to soften for a short time. So, without OPEC support, the central banker controlled apparatus turned to the IEA to open the floodgates of petroleum. OPEC nations, as one might imagine, are not happy…
There are several threats associated with this development, and there is a distinct possibility that these have been deliberately provoked, if one considers that a weakened America ripe for centralization is the true goal.
First, OPEC countries could easily retaliate against the IEA by dropping their own production levels. Not only will the IEA action be meaningless (as we have shown above), it could also directly trigger a REAL supply crisis if OPEC decides to dam up the river. The U.S. is very unpopular in the Middle East, Africa, and Venezuela already. Now, the IEA has just given these regions a perfect excuse to dish out some economic vengeance.
Second, traditionally, if there is a real supply side crisis caused by OPEC, our most important stop-gap would be to tap into our strategic reserves. Unfortunately, we have just put those reserves on the market without batting an eye. So, in essence, we paid a very high price for a bullet that we will one day shoot ourselves in the foot with. That is to say, we have dumped our strategic reserves and set in motion a possible disaster which those reserves were supposed to save us from! Its mind boggling!
Third, there is very little stopping OPEC at this point from decoupling from the U.S. dollar completely, especially if crude prices continue to rise despite the IEA dump. The fact of currency inflation and dollar implosion will be so exposed that no one, not even “Tiny Tim” Geithner, will be able to deny it. Once the illusions of “limited supply” and “speculation” are cast aside, the global focus will end up squarely on the dollar, and the IEA dump will have sped up the process dramatically.
I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but this country has been thoroughly gutted over the past few decades. Our industrial base has been dismantled and shipped overseas to the benefit of foreign nations and corporate feudalists. Our grain reserves, once ample, have been depleted to an all time low. Our currency has been systematically debased. And now, our oil reserves, without rational cause, are being sold off only to feed the catastrophe our government is supposedly out to stop. Are the American people being prepped like a glazed ham for the fires of the globalist oven? Is this really all due to coincidence and stupidity as skeptics claim, or is there something else at work here? I find it hard to believe that the IEA and our government are not aware that their proposed strategies conflict with their own source data, or that they are completely oblivious to the destruction they are about to reap upon our economy. The latest IEA decision is just one more piece of evidence of an agenda of deliberate financial destabilization trending towards a disaster that serves the interests of a select few, to the detriment of all the rest.
You can contact Brandon Smith at: email@example.com
[In keeping with my policy of promoting peace through understanding, I offer the following article on the Jewish mind, with my accompanying clarifications, as a necessary step toward global understanding of the Palestinian issue. The radical thinking of the Israeli government is causing an estrangement with the remainder of world Jewry, wherever they are to be found (mostly in the US, even though the numbers returning to Russia are increasing by the minute). This separation in thinking between Israeli Jews and American Jews represents disillusionment with the Zionist ideals. This is the only real "existential threat" to Israel's existence.
This estrangement is a difference of opinions, between the basic liberal beliefs of the majority of non-Israeli Jews and the fascist militarist ideas being promoted in the name of Jewish "exceptionalism," which teaches that Jews are higher lifeforms (the only true humans) to the non-Jewish "goyim" (who are cattle).
The Jewish writer of the following article builds on this idea of a growing separation, which will lead to either a violent dissolution of the "Jewish state," or the downsizing of Israel with the permanent foundation of the Palestinian state. If the end result of this downsizing is the formation of an Israeli government dedicated to "Universalist values," then that should prove acceptable to all fair-minded observers:
"Universalism in its primary meaning refers to religious, theological, and philosophical concepts with universal ("applying to all") application or applicability....Judaism holds that God had entered into a covenant with all mankind as Noachides, and that Jews and non-Jews alike have a relationship with God."
Noachides, abide by the following Seven Laws of Noah:
- Prohibition of Idolatry: You shall not have any idols before God.
- Prohibition of Murder: You shall not murder. (Genesis 9:6)
- Prohibition of Theft: You shall not steal.
- Prohibition of Sexual immorality: You shall not commit any of a series of sexual prohibitions, which include adultery, incest, anal intercourse between men and bestiality.
- Prohibition of Blasphemy: You shall not blaspheme God’s name.
- Dietary Law: Do not eat flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive. (Genesis 9:4, as interpreted in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 59a))
- Requirement to have just Laws: Set up a governing body of law (e.g. Courts)
As a religious person, I can find nothing on the surface in those Seven Laws that I can object to (not considering what might be hidden); I don’t know about the rest of you. If the state of Israel was dedicated to the universal protection of the rights of every human being and it coexisted alongside the state of Palestine, then True Peace in the Middle East could be possible. Such a reformed state could provide a shining example to the world, if it chose to do so. The Christian in me says, Why wouldn’t we give them a second chance, along with the Palestinian people? In such a theoretical, nearly ideal set-up, there would be no room for racist beliefs that condemn entire peoples for the evil works of a sinister minority.
Let us hope and pray that Zionist radicalism divides the Jewish people, so that reason and sanity can prevail.]
Israel has never had a government that so blatantly violates the core values of liberal democracy, which dismisses identities of 85% of the world’s Jewry.
In June last year, Peter Beinart published an article in the New York Review of Books that created quite a storm by pointing out the deep estrangement between the young generation of American Jews and Israel. A year later, it is time to take stock.
Unfortunately, the situation has only grown a lot worse. In my travels to Europe I speak to predominantly Jewish audiences, but also to non-Jews who care deeply about Israel. They voice their pain and anguish openly: They want to understand what has happened to Israel. They desperately want to stand by it, but they are, increasingly, at a loss of knowing how to do so.
|Evacuating settlers in 2005.|
|Photo by: Nir Kafri|
Their questions are simple. They know that Israel is located in one of the world’s most difficult neighborhoods; they have no illusions about the Iranian regime or Hezbollah; and they know the Hamas charter. But they don’t understand how any of this is connected with Israel’s settlement policies, the dispossession of Palestinian property in Jerusalem, and the utterly racist talk about the ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem. They feel that they no longer have arguments, even words, to defend Israel.
Israel has never had a government that so blatantly violates the core values of liberal democracy. Never has a Knesset passed laws that are as manifestly racist as the current one. Israel has had foreign ministers who were unworldly and didn’t know English; but it has never had a foreign minister whose only goal is to pander to his right-wing constituency by flaunting his disdain for international law and the idea of human rights with such relish.
Moreover, there has never been a government so totally oblivious of its relation to world Jewry. It passes laws that increase the Orthodox establishment’s stranglehold on religious affairs and personal life – completely disregarding that 85 percent of world Jewry are not Orthodox – and simply dismissing their Jewish identities and their institutions. As a result, this majority of world Jewry feels Israel couldn’t care less about its values and identity.
Israel’s Orthodox establishment claims that by monopolizing conversion to Judaism and the laws of marriage, they are preventing a rift in the Jewish people. The exact opposite is true: It is Israel’s turn toward racism that extends not only toward its Arab citizens, but toward Ethiopian youth not accepted into schools in Petah Tikva, toward Sephardic girls not allowed to study in Haredi schools in Immanuel, that most Jews in the world cannot stand for. It is the unholy coalition between nationalism and Orthodoxy that is tearing the Jewish people apart.
The overwhelming majority of American and European Jews are deeply committed to Universalist values, and have been so for most of their existence. This commitment is not a fad or an attempt to be fashionable and politically correct. It is the deeply felt conclusion the majority of world Jewry draws from Jewish history: After all that has happened to us, we Jews must never, ever allow violation of universal human rights.
This is why Jews in the U.S. have been central in the Civil Rights movement; this is why Jews in Europe will never forget that only Universalist liberals stood by Alfred Dreyfus in 1890s France. For most Jews of the world, it is simply unfathomable: How can we, who have suffered from racial and religious discrimination, use language and hold views that – as Israel Prize laureate and historian of fascism Zeev Sternhell argued – were last held in the Western world by the Franco regime?
For most of world Jewry, the idea of Yiddishkeit in the second half of the 20th century meant that Jews must never compromise on the equality of human beings before the law and the inviolability of their rights. So how can they stand by a state that continues to pay rabbis who argue that Jewish life has a sanctity that doesn’t extend to gentiles, and that it is forbidden to rent property to Arabs?
In moments of despair, I try to remember that Israel’s move to the right is driven by fear and confusion, ruthlessly fanned by politicians whose hold on power depends on the panic of Israel’s citizens. I feel it can’t be true that the country that was supposed not only to be the homeland of the Jews, but a moral beacon, is descending into such darkness. I try to remember that such times of darkness do not reflect on the human quality of a whole nation; that countries like Spain, Greece and Portugal emerged from dark times into the free world; that even though the winds of right-wing nationalism are sweeping over Israel, it is still a democracy.
Sometimes, along with the majority of Jews committed to liberal and Universalist values, I feel as if I were simply in a bad dream; that when I wake up, Herzl’s vision of a Jewish state committed to the core values of liberalism will be the reality.
The US has not commented on the cause of the crash, which marks the second US unmanned plane going down in Afghanistan in the past 24 hours.
On Monday, another US drone crashed in Kapisa province. The Taliban claim they have shot down both planes.
The militants have proven resilient despite the presence of 150,000 US-led forces in Afghanistan. They have steadily stepped up their attacks on the US-led forces, inflicting heavy casualties and damage.
The developments also come as Taliban militants have been making inroads in different parts of Afghanistan.
The Taliban claim they have shot down several aircraft and NATO choppers in different parts of Afghanistan over the past few months.
[The Republican division reflects the moral split that is rending the Nation, after ten years of a seemingly futile pair of wars. It is not only the Republican Party which is torn between those who claim that America does not have the moral authority to push the world around and those who claim that Americans do not have "the balls" needed to fulfill some divine mission to bring American order to the world. McCain is taunting his fellow party members over "isolationist" tendencies in the face of a global challenge from immoral terrorists, falling-back to his military basic training, which ingrains male machismo as the highest driving force. Military brass have always tended to blame their mission failures on either cowardice, lack of true dedication to the task, or opposition from "treasonous" antiwar elements. This macho militarism has been the driving force behind fifty years or more of American intervention in country after country, where we had no business being. It is the macho interventionism that has flowed from the manly image of our manly actor/president Ronald Reagan, as he was leading a new crusade to liberate the enslaved peoples of the world, to George Bush taking up Reagan's torch and carrying it wherever oil or gas might flow. This macho, gung-ho war spirit was reflected by the most enthusiastic Iraqi veterans, who believed that "victory" was obtainable with the application of sufficient force and determination. In the early years of the Iraq war is was fashionable to claim that: "Everyone wants to go to Baghdad, but real men want to go to Teheran." This militarist mindset is still the impetus that is driving our leadership of both parties farther to the right.
After ten years of chasing ghosts and leaving a bloody trail of corpses from Asia to Africa, Americans have begun to question the wisdom of military leaders like McCain, who see war as the answer to all of our problems. Americans have begun to question the apparent lack of morality of leaders who see our Nation's responsibility only in terms of the preservation of the American security state, regardless of the number of lives taken in the process, or the greater moral question of their innocence or guilt. If the preservation of "the American way of life" (as it is defined by elitist minds) is more important than the millions of mostly innocent lives wasted in our attempt to stave-off necessary changes to that lifestyle, then our military efforts have all been in violation of the most elemental Laws of God and the Rights of Man.
Whenever the preservation of a lifestyle is elevated over the preservation of life itself, then someone is in very grave error. The grave error demonstrates a basic lack of morality in the minds of American military and political leaders. We are arguing over whether or not it is cowardice to end our immoral military interventions. The only further intervention that should be seriously contemplated is one to commence after the military mission ends, to rebuild, or to replace that which we have destroyed in our attempt to run over the world, in order to have our way, without consideration for the desires or human needs of our victims.]
WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has not been able to keep his vow of staying out of the 2012 presidential primaries, but that is only a subplot to a larger foreign policy debate that has broken out inside his Republican Party.
Actually, broken out may be the wrong phrase. Resurfaced may be more accurate.
With no GOP president in the White House and, consequently, no Republican foreign policy to defend, historic fissures have reappeared among interventionists like McCain, who see democracy as a prime export and projection of American power an essential guarantor of peace and freedom at home; fiscal conservatives, who perennially question spending on foreign affairs, particularly during a budget crisis; and isolationists, who think that America has no business in others’ affairs if it is not a direct threat to the nation’s security.
“I am not sure that these kinds of differences might not have been there in a more latent form when you had a Republican president,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. “I do think there is more of a tendency to pull together when the guy in the White House is on your side.”
The splits can be consequential. In 1992, Pat Buchanan challenged President George H. W. Bush in the Republican primaries just a year after Bush’s job-approval rating soared to astronomical levels in the wake of the first Iraq War. The economy had soured, and Buchanan accused Bush of being “a globalist” with no concern for domestic problems. Later that year, Bush lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton.
The divisions have come into starkest focus in the war in Libya, where the United States has been engaged in a support role that President Barack Obama, in a highly controversial finding, does not define as “hostilities.” Some Republicans, like McCain, have pushed for a more direct military involvement to topple Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi. Others, like GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, question why the United States got involved in another nation’s civil war in the first place.
The GOP foreign policy splits have also come to bear over the war in Afghanistan, where Obama has announced a phased pullout of 33,000 troops by September 2012. A robust debate has ensued, as generals, politicians and average Americans debate whether the war has been won, or whether it can be.
Obama himself stayed away from defining victory in America’s longest war; instead, he said in his speech announcing the troop reductions that wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were coming to a “responsible end.”
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said in a New Hampshire debate that “it’s time to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can,” and then added a more provocative line to GOP hawks: “One lesson we’ve learned in Afghanistan is that Americans cannot fight another nation’s war of independence.”
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, another GOP contender, went further, arguing that Obama was not pulling troops out fast enough.
Romney and Huntsman are “playing to this sense of frustration that is prevalent, that we ought not to be spending so much money overseas that we don’t have at home, and to a deeper sense inside the Republican Party that we don’t do nation-building, that we have kind of lost our way on that score,” said Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.
“We do see a great increase of isolationism for Republicans, a sort of come-home sentiment,” said Pew Director Andrew Kohut.
An ironic observation for those who remember 1972 Democratic nominee George McGovern’s “come-home America” anti-Vietnam War campaign theme.
Chuck Raasch writes from Washington for Gannett.
London — Former head of state and CPC presidential candidate in the last elections Gen. Muhammadu Buhari has said that Nigerian elite who steal public money are as bad as militants who have been destabilizing the country. In an interview with Daily Trust in London, Gen. Buhari grouped light-fingered elite in the same class with Boko Haram dissidents and Niger-Delta militants, saying that they are all destabilizing forces in the country.
“I am concerned about insecurity and destabilizing forces in our country. Anybody who steals public money in all the tiers of government – federal, state and local governments – is destabilizing the country and is as bad as the militants.”
Gen. Buhari blamed the authorities for providing a breeding ground for militants and dissidents by not dealing with issues within the ambit of the law, but expects the populace to be law-abiding.
“The government must do things within the framework of the law and be fair. If it does not, then people will try and look after themselves and this is what is happening now”.
Gen. Buhari said the government should dialogue with the Boko Haram dissidents as it did with the Niger-Delta militants, and rhetorically asked: “who committed more atrocities against the Nigerian state between Boko Haram and the militants?”
He, however, said government had adopted the right approach by asking the police to get to the bottom of the Boko Haram issue, stressing that it was the duty a of the police to tackle such issues within the ambit of the law.
Gen. Buhari and his running mate, Pastor Tunde Bakare spoke at Chatham House, London on the April general elections in Nigeria which the international community has upheld as generally free and fair.
Earlier in the lecture delivered on Monday, Buhari said he will continue to boycott Council of State meeting pending the determination of the petition filed by his party challenging the election of President Goodluck Jonathan. The Council of State meeting is presided over by a sitting president, and attended by all former Heads of State.
Buhari refused to attend the meeting when he challenged the results of the 2003 Presidential Election won by then President Olusegun Obasanjo.
He also expressed hope that the CPC will not have any cause to pursue its petition up to the Supreme Court as he did in the past.
“If it gets to this contamination, it’s over — not just for Los Alamos, but for Santa Fe and all of us in between,” said Mai Ting, a resident who lives in the valley below the desert mesas that are home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
Chris Valvarde, a resident of the Santa Clara Pueblo about 10 miles north of Los Alamos, questioned officials at a briefing Tuesday evening, asking whether they had evacuation plans for his community. Los Alamos, a town of 11,000, already sits empty after its residents were evacuated ahead of the blaze, which started Sunday.
“I know it’s the worse scenario to think of,” Valverde said. “But when the radiation leaks, are we prepared to get 2,000 people out?”
Lab Director Charles McMillan said the barrels contain transuranic waste — gloves, toolboxes, tools — and other items that may have been contaminated through contact with radioactive materials. Top lab officials declined to say how many barrels were on site or how they are stored. An anti-nuclear group has estimated there could be up to 30,000 gallon-drums.
Los Alamos County Fire Chief Doug Tucker, whose department is responsible for protecting the lab, said the barrels are stacked about three high inside of tents on lab property.
The wildfire, which has swelled to nearly 95 square miles, has already sparked a spot fire at the lab. The fire Monday was quickly contained, and lab officials said no contamination was released.
Top lab officials and fire managers said they’re confident the flames won’t reach key buildings or areas where radioactive waste is stored above-ground. Areas around those buildings have been cleared of vegetation and are surrounded by gravel or asphalt, they said. As a last resort, foam could be sprayed on the barrels to ensure they aren’t damaged by fire, they added.
The site’s manager for the National Nuclear Security Administration said he evaluated the precautions and felt comfortable. The agency oversees the lab for the Department of Energy.
“I have 170 people who validate their measures,” Kevin Smith said. “They’re in steel drums, on a concrete floor.”
Flames were just across the road from the southern edge of the famed lab, where scientists developed the first atomic bomb during World War II. The facility cut natural gas to some areas as a precaution. The lab will be closed through at least Thursday.
The streets of Los Alamos were empty Tuesday, with the exception of emergency vehicles and National Guard Humvees. Homeowners who had left were prepared: propane bottles were placed at the front of driveways and cars were left in the middle of parking lots, away from anything flammable.
The wildfire has destroyed 30 structures south and west of Los Alamos, for many stirring memories of a blaze in May 2000 that destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings in town.
Authorities believe it was ignited by a downed power line, reports CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers. Containment remains listed at zero percent.
Favorable winds have helped firefighters, who were busy trying to keep the fire from moving off Pajarito Mountain to the west of Los Alamos and into two narrow canyons that descend into the town and the lab.
“Everything is just so dry and ready to burn,” Tucker said. “We need some rain. Snow would be nice.” He added that even containment lines had dangerous smoldering stumps and burning roots that could easily ignite fires.
An orange glow on the mountain could be seen from Los Alamos’ deserted streets. Some residents who decided to wait out the fire weren’t concerned, including Mark Smith, a chemical engineer who works at the lab.
“The risk of exposure is so small. I wouldn’t sit here and inhale plutonium. I may be crazy, but I’m not dumb,” he said.
The lab, which employs about 15,000 people, covers more than 36 square miles and includes about 2,000 buildings at nearly four dozen sites. They include research facilities, as well as waste disposal sites.
Some facilities, including the administration building, are in Los Alamos, while others are miles from the town. Most of the buildings from the Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic bomb in the 1940s were built on what is now the town and are long gone. The spot fire Monday scorched a section known as Tech Area 49, which was used in the early 1960s for a series of underground tests with high explosives and radioactive materials.
Lab spokesman Kevin Roark said environmental specialists were monitoring air quality, but the main concern was smoke. Lab personnel and the state environment department were monitoring the air for radioactivity and particulates. The state was also working to get additional ground-based monitors and an airborne monitor.
The anti-nuclear watchdog group Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety said the fire appeared to be about 3.5 miles from a dumpsite where as many as 30,000 55-gallon drums of plutonium-contaminated waste were stored in fabric tents above ground.
Lab spokeswoman Lisa Rosendorf said a section known as Area G holds drums of cleanup from Cold War-era waste that the lab sends away for storage in weekly shipments.
A FEW days before Barack Obama`s much-anticipated announcement about reversing the troop surge in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai issued one of his sporadic declarations of relative independence from the forces that have sustained him in office for nine years.
“They are here for their own purposes, for their own goals, and they are using our soil for that,” he said in reference to the American and Nato military presence. Karzai also spoke of “chemical materials” in the western weaponry — presumably a reference to the use of uranium or other radioactive materials — which he said meant that “our people get killed, but also our environment is damaged.”
The first American response was a rebuke from retired general Karl Eikenberry, the outgoing US ambassador in Kabul (who, incidentally, advised Obama against a surge two years ago). “America has never sought to occupy any nation in the world,” he declared. “We are a good people.”
Quite a few nations that have borne the brunt of American imperialism would beg to differ. Yet his statement that “when we hear ourselves being called occupiers and worse … our pride is offended and we begin to lose our inspiration to carry on” is open to interpretation as a partial explanation for the withdrawals whereby American troop strength in Afghanistan will be reduced by 33,000 before the end of next year.
But that will still leave twice as many boots on the ground as there were at the start of Obama`s tenure. The US president`s explanation for his drawdown — in the face of opposition from the military hierarchy and administration hawks — did not pursue the Eikenberry line of thought. Nor did he make the mistake of declaring `mission accomplished`, despite the suggestion that the withdrawal was justified because its goals had been achieved.
There is plenty of evidence, however, that domestic political considerations are the primary driving force behind the slashing of resources expended on military adventures overseas. Nearly 10 years after the September 11 terrorist attacks, opinion polls suggest that a majority of Americans oppose the military presence in Afghanistan. And the urge to conclude American participation in this open-ended conflict is by no means restricted to Democrats: a substantial proportion of prospective Republican candidates for next year`s presidential contest appear to be keen on a more rapid withdrawal of forces.
None of them are willing to admit, of course, that the American response to 9/11 was essentially misdirected. At the time, a commando operation against Al Qaeda would have made considerably more sense than an all-out invasion of Afghanistan. The Taliban regime — officially recognised only by its sponsors in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — was indeed appalling in any number of ways, but it did not pose a threat to the US.
The sanctuary it afforded to Osama bin Laden and his cohorts was incidental. The 9/11 attacks were not contingent on a base in Afghanistan. The conspirators held consultations in Hamburg and trained in the US. The location of their mentors was only marginally relevant. It did not suffice as justification for all-out war. Yet hardly anyone in the US opposed that war when it was launched. The thirst for retribution is not hard to fathom; the nation described in the second half of the 20th century by one of its outstanding personalities, Martin Luther King Jr, as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world” wasn`t accustomed to being attacked on its own soil. But the effort to quench that thirst was misdirected from the outset. It exhibited a bloodlust that more than matched that of its foes — who had, let`s not forget, been its allies until a few years before.
It is now being argued that the incipient pullout from Afghanistan is somehow related to the successful targeting of bin Laden and the degradation of Al Qaeda. Bin Laden was tracked down to a not-very-safe house in Pakistan, far away from the drone zone where American forces have long operated with impunity from unassailable heights. Al Qaeda`s remaining adherents in the region — believed to number in the dozens — as well as the Taliban leadership are believed to mostly be in Pakistan.
That makes it hard to explain why combat operations are being conducted in Afghanistan — amid, mind you, contacts that could lead to negotiations with the Taliban.
American security relations with Pakistan, meanwhile, have hit a new low in the wake of the bin Laden raid. It does not require particularly deep insight to fathom why the CIA decided against sharing its plans for that raid with Pakistani authorities. Although no substantial evidence has emerged of high-level Pakistani involvement in providing a sanctuary to bin Laden, the manner in which Harkat-ul-Mujahideen — a banned militant group with suspected links to military intelligence — and Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) reacted almost simultaneously with vehement denials of American insinuations of contacts between Harkat and Al Qaeda is certainly intriguing.
ISPR has also been keen to reject American press reports about a brewing revolt within the Pakistani armed forces against the military hierarchy on account of its relations with the US. Doth it protest too much?
Perhaps. It has long been obvious, though, that the struggle against violent religious extremists in Pakistan is something of a lost cause unless it can be portrayed as a Pakistani war. The drone attacks regularly launched from the Shamsi air base in Balochistan have not been particularly helpful in this regard, especially when they entail civilian casualties. The idea that the Americans will maintain forces numbering 25,000 or so even after a `complete` withdrawal from Afghanistan a few years hence, in order to retain the capacity for military interventions in Pakistan, is not particularly reassuring.
The notion that Pakistan is host to terrorists with an international reach is hardly a fantasy. But the notion that US military adventures and expeditions abroad — be they in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen or Pakistan — are somehow going to diminish the likelihood of attacks on American soil remains a dangerous illusion.
[If these idiots in Washington can't get their acts together soon, the common folks will experience firsthand, the pain of economic collapse. On the first Wednesday in August, the danger will be real and the American masses will begin their own anti-austerity reactions, probably making the European protests, perhaps even the "Arab spring, seem tame in comparison].
- By Bradley C Bower, AP
Analysis shows the government would be unable to make payments due Aug. 3 to Social Security recipients.
By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Social Security payments to millions of retirees and people with disabilities could be threatened if President Obama and Congress can’t agree to increase the government’s debt limit by Aug. 2, a new analysis shows.
Although the Treasury Department likely could avoid delaying Social Security checks, the analysis by theBipartisan Policy Center points up the depth of the cuts that would be needed if the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling isn’t raised.
It shows that in August, the government could not afford to meet 44% of its obligations. Since the $134 billion deficit for that month couldn’t be covered with more borrowing, programs would have to be cut.
If Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, payments to defense contractors and interest payments on Treasury bonds were exempt, that would be all the government could afford for the month. No money for troops or veterans. No tax refunds. No food stamps or welfare. No federal salaries or benefits.
Want to protect the social safety net? That would be possible — but only if Treasury stopped paying defense contractors, jeopardizing national security. Plus virtually every federal agency and employee.
“We should be honest with ourselves what this would be like, and the answer is it would be chaotic,” said Jay Powell, a former top Treasury official in President George H.W. Bush‘s administration. “There is no way to avoid really serious pain.”
The Bipartisan Policy Center studied Treasury Department receipts and spending for August 2009 and 2010 and found that the government likely would not have enough revenue to make the full $23 billion payment to Social Security recipients due Aug. 3. That’s the first Wednesday of the month, when a majority of Social Security and Supplemental Security Incomechecks go out.
Things wouldn’t improve much as the days pass. The first major interest payment to creditors would be due Aug. 15 — $29 billion, more than the $22 billion due to arrive in revenue.
On that day, Treasury would have to roll over nearly $500 billion in maturing debt — necessitating an auction which, by that time, might have fewer takers than usual. If demand declines, interest rates would rise.
As the center foresees it, the picture would get worse: layoffs and lawsuits. Global market reaction and media glare. A possible downgrade in the U.S. credit rating, perhaps followed by the loss of market access.
The effect on the country, said former Republican senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, would be “irretrievable.”
Afghanistan’s central bank governor has resigned and fled to the United States, saying his life is in danger over a corruption probe targeting influential figures connected to the government.
President Hamid Karzai’s government yesterday dismissed the claims made by Abdul Qadir Fitrat, chairman of Da Afghanistan Bank, insisting his life was not under threat and calling him a “runaway governor”.
“I announce my resignation from the position of governor of the central bank of Afghanistan immediately,” Fitrat said in a statement issued as he visited the United States, where he reportedly has permanent residency.
“Unfortunately, central bank’s independence on regulatory and supervisory matters has recently been undermined by the repeated interference of high-level political authorities,” he said.
The governor has claimed his role in an investigation into the near-collapse last year of Kabul Bank, the war-torn country’s largest private lender, had put him in peril.
“My life was completely in danger and this was particularly true after I spoke to the parliament and exposed some people who are responsible for the crisis of Kabul Bank,” he was quoted as saying by the BBC.
In April, Fitrat named in parliament high-profile figures who were allegedly involved in corruption scandal amounting to nearly USD 1 billion at Kabul Bank, which handles the pay of thousands of Afghan civil servants.
The bank was founded in 2004 by Sherkhan Farnood, a leading international poker player. Its co-owners included Mahmood Karzai, a brother of President Hamid Karzai, and a brother of Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim.
The scandal has highlighted chaos and corruption in Afghanistan’s financial system at a time when US-led combat troops are due to start leaving the country, a decade after ousting the fundamentalist Taliban regime.
President Karzai’s spokesman Waheed Omer angrily dismissed Fitrat’s claims.
“We don’t think that’s very valid. He never actually told anyone in the government that his life was in danger,” Omer told AFP.
“This is basically an escape, not a resignation… the formal procedures have not been adhered to. He’s not a governor but a runaway governor.”
Omer indicated that Fitrat may have been trying to escape from “legal implications” surrounding the Kabul Bank scandal, without giving any details.
The spokesman insisted that Fitrat’s departure was “not going to have a major impact” on Afghanistan’s ability to resolve the Kabul Bank crisis.
Last year’s near-collapse of the bank led to long queues of nervous investors forming outside banks across Kabul and news of Fitrat’s resignation prompted anxiety about the state of the financial system among some Kabulis.
The lender was taken over last year by Afghanistan’s central bank after claims that executives granted themselves off-the-book loans worth a reported $900 million that were partly used to buy luxury properties in Dubai.
The International Monetary Fund wants the Karzai government to take steps to ensure a similar scandal does not happen again before it approves a new assistance programme for the desperately poor country.
With tensions high between Kabul and the IMF, the impasse has already seen hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid money to Afghanistan being withheld this year.
Fitrat is reportedly holed up in a hotel in Washington’s Virginia suburbs and refusing to return to Afghanistan.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed Fitrat was in Washington, adding: “If there were to be a change of leadership at the Afghan central bank, we would continue to encourage that government to take all the necessary steps to reform and strengthen the financial sector.”
Ex-Warlords Fought Taliban Regime, Launch Afghan Political Opposition
KABUL—A group of former warlords who helped the U.S. topple the Taliban regime in 2001 have launched a political alliance against Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s rule, in a re-emergence of old civil-war divisions as the country looks ahead to the departure of U.S. forces.
The leaders, each representing a minority ethnic group, say they are concerned that Mr. Karzai will seek to claim more power following President Barack Obama’s announcement last week of plans to begin withdrawing U.S. troops.
The announcement of the renewed alliance last week followed a decision by a special court backed by Mr. Karzai that disqualified a quarter of all parliamentarians elected in September polls. The decision weakened the contingent of lawmakers that is trying to turn the legislature into a check on Mr. Karzai’s authority.
Mr. Karzai had argued that the election wasn’t representative of the public’s wishes because it diluted the power of the Pashtuns, the country’s largest ethnic group—to which Mr. Karzai and the Taliban belong.
The court turned the seats over to the runners-up in the polls, many of them Karzai supporters, including one of his cousins. Mr. Karzai’s spokesman, Waheed Omer, said the new lawmakers were legal and had the full support of the president.
Back in the Game The trio behind the new opposition
Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum The leader of the main party of Uzbek Afghans, Gen. Dostum has been a military leader and influential player in Afghanistan for decades. He served as deputy defense minister after the fall of the Taliban regime, supported Mr. Karzai’s re-election in 2009, and was appointed by the Afghan president as chief of staff to the commander in chief for the Afghan National Army.
Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq Mr. Mohaqiq is the founder of the People’s Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan, the main party of the Hazara minority. Hazaras practice Shi’ite Islam, a branch considered heretical by the country’s hard-line Sunni Muslims. After the Taliban regime’s fall in 2001, Mr. Mohaqiq was appointed as a vice president and minister of planning in President Karzai’s interim government.
Ahmad Zia Massoud Mr. Massoud is a senior leader of the Jamiat-e-Islami party, the main grouping of the country’s Tajik population. Mr. Massoud’s brother, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was the commander of the Northern Alliance, which fiercely resisted Taliban rule, until his assassination in 2001, days before the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Massoud served as vice president during President Karzai’s first term.
“We want to inform the international community and Karzai that we don’t agree with the direction the country is moving in,” said Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, the leader of Afghanistan’s Hazara community, which had gained power in September polls but lost seats in last week’s court decision.
The new opposition group is led by former key figures in the Northern Alliance, which banded together mostly Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara militias to fight the Taliban regime during civil war in the 1990s.
Along with Mr. Mohaqiq, the group is led by Gen. Rashid Dostum of the Uzbek community and Ahmad Zia Massoud, a prominent Tajik whose brother, Ahmad Shah Massoud, led the Tajiks against the Taliban before his assassination by al Qaeda two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Efforts to form opposition groups to Mr. Karzai have crumbled in the past, and how much parliamentary support the new alliance can muster is unclear. But the three leaders successfully rallied their communities to support Mr. Karzai’s presidential race in 2009.
“These negotiations with the Taliban are also a main reason we’ve formed this alliance. What will the government give up in peace talks?” said Mr. Massoud. Mr. Massoud served as Mr. Karzai’s vice president during his first term.
Afghanistan’s political system provides few checks to presidential powers except for the parliament, though it is considered weak. There are few strong political parties in Afghanistan, where political allegiance often runs along ethnic and tribal lines. The only current major opposition group is headed by Abdullah Abdullah, who ran for president against Mr. Karzai in 2009 and was a Northern Alliance leader.
Some analysts suspect the coalition will succumb to infighting. “Whenever they build coalitions, they are vulnerable because each leader is fighting for its own community,” said Haroun Mir, a Kabul-based political analyst.
Among the opposition’s objectives is to put enough pressure on Mr. Karzai to reverse the decision to disqualify lawmakers from parliament; ensure the Taliban don’t gain power through peace talks; and to field their own candidate for the next presidential election, in 2014—the year that foreign forces plan to hand over full authority to Afghanistan.
Separately on Tuesday, the Afghan government appealed to the U.S. and Interpol to arrest Afghanistan’s central-bank governor, saying he was involved in systemic fraud at the country’s largest lender. Gov. Abdul Qadir Fitrat fled to the U.S. about 10 days ago, saying he feared for his life after exposing corruption at Kabul Bank.
—Habib Khan Totakhiland Zia Sultani contributed to this article
The world’s five recognized nuclear powers are set to talk this week about prospects for establishing the Middle East as a nuclear weapon-free zone, Interfax reported on Monday (see GSN, Feb. 17).
Envoys from China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — the five nations acknowledged as nuclear weapon states under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty — are scheduled to convene in Paris for talks on a range of potential confidence-building measures that could pave the way for future nuclear disarmament.
“One of the topics for discussion is what should be done to fully implement the resolutions of the Review Conference for the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons to create a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.
At the 2010 five-year review conference of the NPT accord, treaty signatories committed to holding a regional conference in 2012 “on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction” (see GSN, June 3).
Ryabkov said the five nuclear powers — who also hold the five permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council — have gathered together before to discuss nuclear weapon issues.
“I cannot say that this whole topic is problem-free,” the Russian diplomat said. “At this meeting we will discuss how to find ways of reconciling the positions on the existing nuances” (Interfax, June 27).
A subsequent report will also detail NATO terrorism and crimes against the civilian population that have included the 2/17 /11 to 6/27/11 bombing of 294 civilian targets, killing and wounding a total of 6,232 according to the Libyan Red Crescent Society statistics. These civilian targets include the Libyan Down’s Syndrome Society, a school that provided speech therapy, handicrafts and sports sessions for disabled children as well as Tripoli’s Nassar University, homes, schools, medical facilities and food storage warehouses, Bombing these sites are all outlawed by the Geneva Conventions and constitute NATO war crimes. An additional massive documentation project by international organizations is expected to be completed by July 30, 2011.
He contribute to Uprooted Palestinians Blog
[It is typical in a "false flag" type of attack to make the criminal act appear to be the work of your enemy. In the ongoing underworld warfare of Dawood Ibrahim and former partner Chota Rajan, it may be safe to say that whatever the circumstantial evidence seems to prove, it is just as likely that the truth is just the exact opposite. If it implicates Rajan in the killing of a reporter who was allegedly investigating Dawood, then the killer may have worked for Ibrahim. Since the police have the testimony of the shooters that they didn't know that their victim was a reporter until they heard it on TV, they may not have known the true source of their pay-off.]
“Dey was believed to be working on articles on wanted gangster Dawood Ibrahim” (SEE: Investigative journalist shot dead in Mumbai).
Under tremendous pressure to crack senior crime journalist Jyotirmoy Dey’s murder on June 11, the Mumbai police have come up with an underworld shooter from the Chhota Rajan gang as the main culprit. Satish Kaliya and six others are to be booked under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) and their gang leader Chhota Rajan made an absconding accused in the case. The arrest comes a day after another gang leader, Chhota Shakeel, called up a leading newspaper and denied he had anything to do with the killing of Dey. Rajan too had reportedly denied his involvement. The Mumbai police took their time with the case and were reluctant to hand it over to the CBI. Investigations are still under way and the 3,000 emails in Dey’s inbox have to be examined for crucial evidence. Importantly no motive, whether professional or personal, has been ascribed to the killing as yet. From police accounts, the murder was planned meticulously over 20 days. However, it is rather strange that the shooter was, according to the police, unaware of the identity of Dey as a leading crime reporter and he realised it only subsequently while watching television. The investigation covered a wide ambit since Dey was writing on the oil mafia, underworld links with policemen, and other issues. Admittedly, the police had a difficult task but pressure from the press, the court, and the government forced it into speeding up the investigation and zeroing in on the alleged killers unlike in other States where nothing has happened in similar cases.
For the beleaguered Mumbai police, the arrests have come as a respite after some red herrings were thrown in the path of the investigation. Its reputation has been under the scanner for a while and, even during its moment of triumph, the State Home Minister had to suspend a police inspector who was involved in organising a rave party outside Mumbai. Having caught the suspects, the police have an even bigger challenge — unravelling the motive behind this brazen killing. Most crime reporters have excellent contacts with the underworld and a network of informers. Dey did not speak to anyone of a threat to his life or demand protection. It is an unwritten rule that the underworld rarely killed members of the media, though there were two cases in early 1980s in and outside Mumbai in the heyday of Dawood Ibrahim. The police have indicated that the emails could lay bare the reasons for Dey’s tragic death. The investigators cannot rest easy having caught the alleged culprits, though that is a major breakthrough. The reasons for the crime are just as important.
[This is the US forces setting-up the anvil for Pakistan's hammer operation in Kurram, or perhaps N. Waziristan. Is this another sign of cooperation between the two Armies?]
By Carmen Gentile, Special for USA TODAY
JALALABAD, Afghanistan — A large-scale operation airlifting hundreds of U.S. and Afghan soldiers into the rugged, insurgent-laced mountains of eastern Afghanistan is being met with fierce resistance by the Taliban and other armed groups, according to U.S. military officials in the region.
U.S. commanders say the aim is to wipe out a persistent insurgency in the northern part of Watahpur District in Kunar province, long a stronghold for armed factions both local and from nearby Pakistan, preparing the way for a takeover by the Afghanistan National Army.
“We’re trying to kill every terrorist in the area,” said Maj. Pat Stitch, brigade operations officer for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
Stitch said the hope is that the Afghan army can “hold what we cleared” and patrol a region that has been dominated by insurgents from both Afghanistan and Pakistan.
“The idea is that the ANA should be doing this by themselves,” he said, adding that ideally the Afghan National Police would join the ANA in its effort.
U.S. forces were realigned
The offensive operation is the largest for the 3rd Brigade since its deployment to eastern Afghanistan in April. A brigade spokesman, Maj. David Eastburn, said it was at least “five to seven times larger than any previous operation conducted by the brigade.”
Taming this volatile area of Kunar is not an easy one, a lesson U.S. forces have learned in recent years in this region. American troops have sustained heavy casualties in Watahpur District and the surrounding area.
A small combat outpost in the restive Korengal Valley, just to the west of Watahpur, was overrun in 2009, leaving eight soldiers dead just weeks before it was scheduled to be closed.
Watahpur is bisected by the Pech River Valley, where in recent months several U.S. military bases and smaller combat outposts were handed over to the Afghan army.
Prior to the handover, a full battalion of American soldiers had a permanent presence in the region. Now there remains one U.S. Army company and an attached platoon.
Unlike the battle in southern Afghanistan, where U.S. and Afghan forces have cleared large areas of Taliban militants over the last 12 months, the insurgency in eastern Afghanistan remains a difficult face-to-face fight.
Insurgents have attacked military bases with mortar and rocket fire and planted narrow mountain roads where U.S. troops patrol by foot and armored vehicles with numerous improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.
“It’s obvious we’re taking the fight to the enemy,” Stitch said. “We didn’t abandon the area, we just realigned U.S. forces.”
In a demanding battle
So far, the fight has proven particularly difficult. U.S. and Afghan forces were flown into a mountainous terrain as high as 10,000 feet where they are meeting the enemy sometimes at very close range.
Stitch said coalition troops were fortifying fighting positions “with rocks or whatever they can find” and seeking out insurgents in tiny villages that dot the area.
It’s a demanding fight, he said, with soldiers getting little rest and supplies being airdropped into the battlefield. Some firefights have been at “extremely close range,” he said.
The operation in Watahpur is also a fight without a specific timeline. Soldiers are prepared to remain in the battle “until the enemy stops shooting,” Eastburn said.
Since the operation began in earnest June 25, 30 U.S. troops have been injured and three killed.
Pfc. Tyler Sankbeil, 20, was injured when a Chinook helicopter transporting troops made what U.S. military officials call a “hard landing,” or a landing done with greater speed and force than normal. Several others were injured.
Lying on a backboard, his neck in a brace, Sankbeil characterized the helicopter landing as a crash preceded by a series of loud bangs.
“I saw people’s feet flying around and people were getting ejected from their seats,” he said. The U.S. military said the crash was caused by a mechanical failure and not enemy fire.
U.S. military commanders said they have so far killed close to 80 insurgents.
Brigade Intelligence Officer Maj. Chris Rankin said the militants were part of the Taliban and Pakistani insurgent groups such as the Tehrik-i-Taliban, known as the TTP, and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Lashkar-e-Taiba, which regularly cross the ill-defined border to wage attacks on American and Afghan troops.
“It’s (Watahpur) an ideal insurgent safe haven,” Rankin said.
By Zahir Ebrahim
Thursday, June 23, 2011
The BBC report of this morning, June 23, 2011, Brigadier Ali Khan: Pakistan’s dissenting army officer, on first glance is very interesting. Finally a patriot military man in the Pakistani praetorian guard.
On second glance however, it isn’t. Heart and mind are two different things. Both are needed. One without the other is either blind, or cruel. Here is why it isn’t interesting on second glance.
The BBC report states, inter alia:
‘Brigadier Ali Khan, the Pakistani officer detained for his alleged links with the banned extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, had been highly critical of the Pakistani army’s high command over its relationship with the US, reports BBC Urdu’s Asif Farooqi. …
[H]e had been exerting strong pressure on the top echelons of Pakistan’s military to stop co-operating with American forces in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents, army officers who served with the brigadier during his 32-year career told the BBC.
“The army is a cult in itself, so it’s intolerant towards any other cult within” – Maj Gen Athar Abbas, Quoted by BBC News 23 June 2011
Pakistan’s military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said that there was compelling evidence against the brigadier owing to his contacts with the banned group. …
Successive promotion boards rejected Brig Ali while his colleagues and subordinates continued to rise up the promotion ladder, overtaking him. Indeed, to date, Brig Khan is the oldest brigadier in the Pakistani army.
His colleagues thought he would be unable to withstand a career going nowhere and would seek early retirement. But they were soon proved wrong. The brigadier told his colleagues he had more to accomplish in his job.
It soon became clear what he meant by that.
Brig Khan started writing letters to army generals, some of whom were his former colleagues, with suggestions on how to become “self reliant” and “to purge the army of the American influence”.’
The aforementioned reminded me of “Re-Imagining Pakistan’s Defenses – Open Letter to a Pakistani General” November 30, 2007 (PDF http://tinyurl.com/Reimagining-pakistan )
But the following is where it stopped reminding me any further:
‘Brig Ali even wrote to the President Asif Ali Zardari suggesting ways to make Pakistan economically self-reliant by freeing the country of American aid.’
Asking Zardari sahib? ( PDF http://tinyurl.com/happy-happy-zardari )
And the following completely tells me that the excitement of patriotism/nationalism, and finally breaking the yoke of imperialism, on the part of any Pakistani reading this BBC report may be pre-mature:
‘One officer present in the meeting said all had been going well until it was Brig Khan’s turn to speak. In his opinion, the culprits who had hidden Bin Laden and allowed the Americans to get away with breaching Pakistan’s sovereignty were to be found within the army.’
This Brig. Khan can’t tell one puppetshow from another.
While all this is admittedly only the BBC report, and like anything else appearing in any media, must be taken circumspectly, the article clearly re-asserts the existence of boogeyman Ali Baba.
Notice the play: even the most zealous and patriotic Pakistani Brigadier who even dissented with the upper echelon of the Pakistani military (at the risk of his own promotion to Major General) in its cooperation with the United States on the War on Terror, and wanted to limit its scope, also believed in the Osama Bin Laden, the Al Qaeeda, and other tales.
When a presumably patriotic Brigadier cannot see the difference between red-team/blue team operation, when a sitting Brigadier who by the account of this article should have been Maj. General by now (if not Lt. General), cannot see black-ops imperial projects to fabricate synthetic terror in order to create the hegelian dialectic of “evil doers” vs. the “good guys” in insurgency vs. counter-insurgency game of “imperial mobilization” ( http://tinyurl.com/insurgency-vs-counter ), it is not obvious to me what this fuss is all about.
Perhaps the Pakistani military command who are reading this blog (yeh!), might read ‘The Poor-Man’s Guide to Modernity’ (PDF http://tinyurl.com/guide-modernity-2011 ) and leave this poor but well-intentioned brigadier alone.
Brig. Ali Khan’s heart evidently is in the right place when he speaks of “self reliant” and “to purge the army of the American influence”, even if his analysis requires some rethinking.
And what exactly is the reality behind all this?
I won’t take the BBC’s word on it.
The only reason the BBC has published this article, in my view at least, is that the Mighty Wurlitzer is doing its job ( http://tinyurl.com/mightywurlitzer ).
That job is mass behavior control. Among other propaganda techniques to affect behavior, to spin narratives which on the surface are appealing to some, but still manage to echo empire’s core axioms. This is the bread and butter of dissent in the West. When mainstream news tasked with engineering consent by their owners, occasionally echo that technique to demonstrate their “objectivity”, there is essentially still no difference. In either case, the primary objective of the press is behavior control, especially for matters of immediate pertinence to current affairs and on-going “imperial mobilization” projects. It is not awareness creation of the diabolical techniques of “imperial mobilization” ( http://tinyurl.com/master-social-science ).
Ex post facto narratives are a different beast – many will truthfully narrate that which is already a fait accompli. It is called history!
This BBC report, whatever its veracity, prima facie still underscores the undeniable fact of the mater. And that is, that even when the intention of rebellion might be genuine, even when the thirst for independence from empire’s mayhem might set an indigenous military patriot’s throat on fire in Pakistan, our modernity is a twisted devil. It comes wrapped in multifaceted Hegelian Dialectic.
Without acutely comprehending this modernity, there simply cannot be any freedom for any nation and any people, no matter how fervently riled up they might get. That riling up is simply harvested on one or the other side of the Hegelian Dialectic. You are either a “militant” aiding and abetting “insurgency” if you don’t like hegemony or have been “tickled” into it, or, are part of empire’s Allies douching it with “counter-insurgency” if you don’t like the insurgents or just love to play house negro to the white man. Once caught in such a Hegelian Dialectic where both sides are orchestrated by the same powers, there is no escape from that matrix.
Brigadier Ali Khan appears to be caught in that matrix!
As Americans weary of the mission in Afghanistan, Democrats and Republicans alike are raising serious questions about the nation’s propensity for multiple, open-ended wars. Finally.
By the time the condition passes and a semblance of health is restored, recollection of what occurred during the interval of illness tends to be hazy. What happened? How’d we get here? Most Americans prefer not to dwell on the questions. Feeling much better now! Thanks!
Gripped by such a fever in 1898, Americans evinced an irrepressible impulse to liberate oppressed Cubans. By the time they’d returned to their senses, having acquired various parcels of real estate between Puerto Rico and the Philippines, no one could quite explain what had happened or why.
In 1917, the fever suddenly returned. Amid wild ravings about waging a war to end war, Americans lurched off to France. This time the affliction passed quickly, although the course of treatment proved painful: confinement to the charnel house of the Western Front, followed by bitter medicine administered at Versailles.
The 1960s brought another bout (and yet more disappointment). An overwhelming urge to pay any price, bear any burden landed Americans in Vietnam. The fall of Saigon in 1975 seemed, for a brief interval, to inoculate the body politic against any further recurrence. Yet the salutary effects of this “Vietnam syndrome” proved fleeting. By the time the Cold War ended, Americans were running another temperature, their self-regard reaching impressive new heights.
Then came 9/11, and the fever simply soared off the charts. The messiah nation was really pissed and was going to fix things once and for all.
Nearly 10 years have passed since Washington set out to redeem the greater Middle East. The crusades have not gone especially well. In fact, in the pursuit of its mission, the American messiah has pretty much worn itself out.
Today, the post-9/11 fever finally shows signs of abating, though the sickness has by no means passed. Oddly, it lingers most strongly in the Obama White House, where a keenness to express American ideals by dropping bombs persists.
Yet, despite the urges of some in the Obama administration, after nearly a decade of self-destructive flailing about, American recovery has become a distinct possibility. Here’s some of the evidence:
In Washington, it’s no longer considered a sin to question American omnipotence. Take the case of Robert Gates. The outgoing secretary of Defense certainly restored a modicum of competence and accountability to the Pentagon. But the most enduring Gates legacy is likely to be found in his willingness, however belated, to acknowledge the limits of American power.
No one can charge Gates with being an isolationist or a national security wimp. So when he says anyone proposing another major land war in the Middle East “should have his head examined” — citing the authority of Douglas MacArthur, no less — people take notice. Or more recently there is this. “I’ve got a military that’s exhausted,” Gates remarked. “Let’s just finish the wars we’re in and keep focused on that instead of signing up for other wars of choice.” Someone should etch that into outer walls of the Pentagon’s E-ring.
Half a dozen years ago, “wars of choice” were all the rage in Washington. No more. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.
Or consider the officer corps. There is no “military mind,” but there are plenty of minds in the military, and some numbers of them are rethinking the role of military power.
Consider, for example, “Mr. Y,” author of “A National Strategic Narrative,” published this spring to considerable acclaim by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The actual authors of this report are two military professionals, one a Navy captain, the other a Marine colonel.
What you won’t find in this document are jingoist chest-thumping and calls for a bigger military budget. If there’s an overarching theme, it’s pragmatism. Rather than the United States imposing its will on the world, the authors want more attention paid to investment at home.
The world is too big and complicated for any one nation to call the shots, they insist. The effort to do so is self-defeating. “As Americans,” Mr. Y writes, “we needn’t seek the world’s friendship or proselytize the virtues of our society. Neither do we seek to bully, intimidate, cajole or persuade others to accept our unique values or to share our national objectives. Rather, we will let others draw their own conclusions based upon our actions…. We will pursue our national interests and let others pursue theirs.”
And finally, by gum, there is the U.S. Congress. Just when that body appeared to have entered a permanent vegetative state, a flickering of intelligent life has made its reappearance, and Democratsand Republicans alike — albeit for different reasons — are raising serious questions about the nation’s propensity for multiple, open-ended wars.
Some members cite concerns for the Constitution and the abuse of executive power. Others worry about the price tag. With Osama bin Laden out of the picture, still others insist that it’s time to rethink strategic priorities. No doubt partisan calculation or personal ambition figure alongside matters of principle. After all, they are politicians.
Given what polls indicate is a growing public unhappiness over the Afghanistan war, speaking out against the war these days doesn’t exactly require political courage. Still, the possibility of our legislators reasserting a role in deciding whether or not a war actually serves the national interest, rather than simply rubber-stamping appropriations and slinking away, now presents itself. God bless the United States Congress.
Of course, at the first signs of self-restraint, you can always count on the likes of Sen. John McCain or the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal to decry (in McCain’s words) an “isolationist-withdrawal-lack-of-knowledge-of-history attitude.” In such quarters, fever is a permanent condition, and it’s always 104 and rising. Yet it is a measure of how quickly things are changing that McCain himself, once deemed a source of straight talk, now comes across as a mere crank.
In this way, nearly a decade after our most recent descent into madness, does the possibility of recovery finally beckon.
Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book is “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.” A longer version of this piece appears at tomdispatch.com.
(Reuters) – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in Germany on Tuesday that his country was willing to extend Europe a “helping hand from afar” in its debt crisis and could buy the sovereign debt of some euro zone nations if needed. “China has expressed support for Europe at various times. In other words, when Europe is in difficulty we will extend a helping hand from afar,” the Chinese premier told a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.
“We will according to need definitely purchase certain amounts of sovereign debt,” Wen said.
[The greatest possible act of self-defense for India, as well as for Pakistan, would be for them to forge a peace treaty. The stabilization of everything that the US and NATO has been driving to destabilize is the path to regional security.]
|While there is no evidence that Barack Obama consulted New Delhi about the impending shift in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, India must now begin a ‘dialogue’ with the Taliban along with a policy to instil confidence in the Pakistani mind about our intentions.|
The United States President, Barack Obama’s announcement regarding the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan was not India-specific, as compared to Washington’s initiative in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to bar the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology to New Delhi. But it is more lethal, casting a shadow on India’s regional strategies.
Why Mr. Obama took such a decision doesn’t actually need much explaining. Put simply, his sharp political instincts prevailed. He had a pledge to redeem; he sensed the public mood; he heard “bipartisan” opinion in Capitol Hill that the soldiers be brought home; he faces an adverse budgetary environment and he understood that his priority should be to mend the U.S. economy rather than wage wars in foreign lands. The “surge” may have made gains, arguably, but gains are reversible; so, what is the point? Meanwhile, Afghan opinion is turning against foreign occupation and the killing of Osama bin Laden offers a defining moment.
On the diplomatic front, regional allies proved exasperatingly difficult, while European allies got impatient to quit. The regional opinion militates against a long-term U.S. military presence, while the contradictions in intra-regional relationships do not lend easily to reconciliation. The foreign policy priorities need vastly more attention: exports and investment, upheaval in West Asia, China’s rise, etc.
There is no evidence that Mr. Obama consulted New Delhi about the impending shift in the U.S. strategy in India’s immediate neighbourhood. We need to calmly ponder over what the U.S. means when Mr. Obama calls India its “indispensable partner in the 21st century.” In the period ahead, keeping the dialogue process with Pakistan on course; pursuing normalisation of ties with China; consolidating the gains of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s path-breaking visit to Kabul — all these templates of our regional policy assume great importance. Indeed, the raison d’être of a “new thinking” in policymaking cannot but be stressed.
The implications of Mr. Obama’s drawdown decision are far-reaching. The U.S. has accepted the Taliban as being a part of the Afghan nation and concluded that it does not threaten America’s “homeland security.” No segment of the Taliban movement that is willing for reconciliation will be excluded. Mr. Obama expressed optimism about the peace process. He estimated that al-Qaeda is a spent force and any residual “war on terror” will be by way of exercising vigilance that it doesn’t rear its head again. The timeline for the drawdown — 10,000 troops by end-2011, 33,000 by mid-2012 and the bulk of the remaining 70,000 troops at a “steady pace” through 2013-14 — plus the change of command necessitated by David Petraeus’s departure in September as the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hardly leaves scope for keeping a high tempo of security operations. Obviously, the Taliban has borne the brunt of the U.S. firepower and has survived.
The stunning geopolitical reality is that the U.S. is barely staving off defeat and is making its way out of the Hindu Kush in an orderly retreat. The Taliban responded to Mr. Obama’s announcement saying, “The solution for the Afghan crisis lies in the full withdrawal of all foreign troops immediately. Until this happens, our armed struggle will increase from day to day.” Again, Mr. Obama appears to be optimistic about the Kabul government’s ability to assume the responsibility of security by 2014.
Mr. Obama completely avoided mentioning an almost-forgotten pledge that the former U.S. President George W. Bush made in the halcyon days of the war, that the U.S. would someday consider a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. He, instead, pleaded that this is “a time of rising debt and hard economic times at home” and he needs to concentrate on rebuilding America. The Afghans fear that western aid and projects would dry up. If that happens, Afghanistan will revert to the late 1990s when the Taliban regime first accepted the financial help offered by bin Laden. All hope now hinges on the international conference that Mr. Obama will be hosting in May next year in Chicago.
However, there is no need to press the panic button. A repetition of the civil war scenario of the 1990s appears a remote possibility. The Taliban’s ascendancy in the 1990s was more an outright Pakistani conquest of Afghanistan in which the Pakistani air force, artillery, armoured corps, regular officers and intelligence agencies directly participated. The Taliban was a cohesive movement. Besides, there were regional powers determined to provide assistance to the non-Pashtun groups. In all these respects, the situation is radically different today. Pakistan hadn’t yet known at that time the blowback of terrorism. The very fact that Pakistan learnt about the secret talks between the Taliban and U.S. representatives from news reports speaks volumes of its command and control of the Quetta Shura.
Pakistan cannot be so naïve as not to factor in the fact that a revitalised, triumphalist Taliban just across the Durand Line (which, by the way, has all but disappeared) could ultimately prove a headache for its own security. Pakistani commentators candidly admit that the Afghans deeply resent Pakistan’s interference. There has been an overall political awakening among the Afghan people and a replay of the old Pakistani policies will be challenged. The gravitas of Afghan domestic politics has shifted. Thus, all things taken into consideration, Pakistan will see the wisdom of allowing a kind of intra-Afghan “equilibrium” to develop rather than try to prescribe what is good for that country.
Mr. Karzai has proved to be a remarkably shrewd politician gifted with a high acumen to network and forge alliances. He has emerged as a pan-Afghan leader who maintains working relationships with influential figures cutting across ethnicity and regions — Mohammed Fahim, Karim Khalili, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Rasul Sayyaf, etc. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami, which is a Pashtun-dominated group antithetical to the Taliban, already forms a part of Mr. Karzai’s government. Mr. Karzai has his own bridges leading toward the Taliban camp to which he once belonged, after all. There will always be disgruntled elements, but then there are the traditional Afghan methods of patronage and accommodation. Mr. Karzai takes an active interest in regional affairs. His bonding with Pakistan and Iran shows that his political antennae are already probing for openings in anticipation of the U.S. withdrawal.
In this complex setting, India’s own policy orientations are realistic and near-optimal. The primacy on building warm and cordial ties with the government in Kabul; nurturing people-to-people ties; contributing significantly to reconstruction; non-interference in internal affairs; an aversion to Indian military deployment; a non-prescriptive approach to an Afghan settlement and the insistence on an “Afghan-led” reconciliation process; and, most important, the trust that Mr. Karzai knows the “red lines” — these parameters of policy are eminently sustainable.
However, a couple of points need to be made. India should establish communication lines with the Taliban — assuming, of course, it wants to talk with us. After all, we talked with Mr. Sayyaf, leader of the Ittehad, which Jalaluddin Haqqani served as commander. It is inconceivable that any Afghan could harbour ill will towards India and the Indian people. The rest is all the disposable stuff of how the Afghan has been manipulated by outsiders through the 30 years of civil war — including when he vandalised the Bamiyan statues. But in the kind of Afghanistan Mr. Karzai wants his country to return, it becomes possible for us also to rediscover the Afghan we knew before foreigners came and occupied his country. (Incidentally, this is also the basis of Mr. Karzai’s optimism when he reacted on hearing about Mr. Obama’s drawdown plan: “This soil can only be protected by the sons of Afghanistan. I congratulate the Afghan people for taking the responsibility for their country into their own hands … Today is a very happy day.”)
And, our “dialogue” with the Taliban must go hand in hand with a policy to do all we can by word and deed to instil confidence in the Pakistani mind about our intentions that for the foreseeable future, Afghanistan’s stabilisation can become a shared concern for the two countries. Much has changed already in the most recent months in the prevailing air. No one talks seriously that the drawback of Mr. Obama’s drawdown plan could be India-Pakistan “rivalry” in Afghanistan. There is actually no scope for zero-sum games, since Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan are legitimate — and are reconcilable with India’s concerns.
Second, Indian diplomacy should utilise the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) process to evolve a new strategic culture of collective security for the region, which it lacks. Mr. Obama’s words should be properly understood, when he said that the U.S. can no more “over-extend … confronting every evil that can be found abroad.” As India and Pakistan move to a new trajectory of growth, a favourable regional environment becomes the imperative need. India can learn a lot from the Chinese “technique” of creating synergy between the SCO track and Beijing’s bilateral track with the Central Asian capitals — and with Moscow — which till a generation ago were weaned on unalloyed anti-China dogmas of the Soviet era. Indian diplomacy can do one better. It can adapt this “technique” to normalisation with Pakistan — and with China.
( The writer is a former diplomat.)
By Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel
The Transitive Administrative Law of 2004 was followed by a new constitution in October 2005, on the back of months of grueling negotiations, intense jockeying and fervent pressure from the U.S., the result of the arduous tasks of satisfying Iraq’s vast socio-ethnic mosaic.
Significance of a constitution
Just why is a constitution perceived with so much significance? A constitution is a set of decrees, principles and ideals that govern a country. It is the blueprint of the governance of the country and the essential building block for all political, democratic and legislative particles that form a part of that country. As the political heartbeat or DNA of the governance of any country, the constitution is the hallmark and distinction of a country. In other words, if any aspect of a constitution is denied or overridden then the basis for the existence of the political and official governing entity in that country is also denied.
For this reason, across the Middle East, from Egypt to Libya, Syria and Turkey, real reform is synonymous with popular demands for fundamental changes to the respective constitutions. For example, the real acceptance of the Kurds in Turkey is not through electoral manifestos or mere political rhetoric, it can only be achieved by changing the legal blueprint of that country.
Clear roadmaps in place
For all its critics, the Iraqi Constitution is comprehensive and provides a roadmap for many of the major aspects that continue to fuel dispute and animosity today. There is a guideline for the extent of federal powers, regional authority, and powers afforded to executive entities, the sharing and development of Iraq’s immense hydrocarbons and, above all else, dealing with the issues of disputed territories.
Article 140 clearly outlines time lines, formulas and responsibility for resolving the status of Kirkuk and other associated disputed territories. This made the basis and the method for resolving the Kirkuk dilemma a clear building block of the new Iraq. It is contained in the constitution of the country, the essential framework of its existence, so there can be no clearer argument for the legality and prominence placed on this issue.
This makes the reasons behind the non-implementation of a legal, valid and key component of the make up of the country all the more pertinent.
Simply Arab factions, particularly the Sunnis and neighboring powers, have put more obstacles than solutions to prevent these articles from being implemented and thwart what they see as a strategic strengthening of Kurdish hands. It is now almost six years since the constitution was voted in, and clearly the appetite for resolving Kirkuk is as lacking as ever.
You may dislike or disagree with articles of the constitution, but this doesn’t make the articles any less legal, clear or enshrined in the make up of the country.
Baghdad foot-dragging over Article 140 was designed to ensure the deadline for its implementation by Dec. 31, 2007 would be missed. Yet the same entities that prevented its implementation, now, ironically, complain that the article is void as the deadline has passed.
While the Kurds have patiently persisted with the status quo, the Kurdistan Regional Government would be unwise to let constitutional articles fester indefinitely and see articles that potentially benefit them to be at a constant source of obstruction by the Arab and Turkmen sections of the population.
Limiting of Kurdish gains has been the same theme for the lack of a national hydrocarbon law in Iraq and the successive postponement of the census.
The fear of approving Kurdish oil contracts and resolving the status of disputed territories is that Baghdad would lose the little sway it has remaining over Kurdistan and Kurdistan could develop economic, foreign relations and politics unilaterally.
However, the breaking of the constitution is akin to cutting an artery to the heart. Iraq currently has a voluntary union, underpinned by constitutional principles. Without these, the legal basis for tying all parts of Iraq is effectively eroded.
Once the deadline for the implementation of Article 140 inevitably passed at the end of 2007, and without much progress, the UN was tasked with the responsibility of diffusing tensions, or in the words of former U.N. Special Envoy to Iraq, Steffan di Mistura, “stopping the ticking time bomb.”
More than three years later, the U.S. and U.N. continue to highlight the dangers that Kirkuk entail to Iraqis future but their commitment has been lacking in breaking the deadlock. The U.N., in particular, was tasked to look at solutions and alternatives to resolving disputed territories. The continued insistence of an international body to bypass a country’s constitution is remarkable. The mechanism for resolving the status of Kirkuk has long been decided. Ultimately, like any true democracy, it’s the people that should decide their fate, not Ankara, Baghdad, the U.N. or the like.
With the Kurdistan government growing increasingly tired and frustrated, top Kurdish leaders have recently warned of the dangers of any bypassing of the constitution.
Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani recently stated, “If this article is dead, it means the constitution is dead. And if the constitution is dead, it means Iraq is finished.” Such similar sentiments were echoed by Nechirvan Barzani and Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Kamal Kirkuki in recent weeks.
Successive Kurdish warnings must be matched with key time lines and actions. Waiting for Baghdad and regional powers to bolsters their aims and proactively resolve issues that favor them will only end in disappointment. If the constitution is ignored by Baghdad, then the very foundations of the state are in turn ignored.
The Kurds have been persistently pressured by Washington and the U.N., among others, to compromise. While 250,000 Kurds were kicked and beaten without remorse from their historical homes, “compromise” was not a word uttered by Baathist forces. Now those same Kurds, wishing to return home, are been told their legally enshrined demands constitute overreaching and they must compromise.
For the Kurds, this is a historical juncture. This is a chance to correct the wrongs of the past in a democratic and legal manner. If Kurds were unwilling to compromise in 1975 over Kirkuk, then any deal in the “new” Iraq of 2011 not involving its rightful return would represent a huge setback.
Dispute over oil contracts
The issue over Kirkuk has only been matched by the highly contentious disputes over oil sharing and the rights of regional administrations to develop their own oil fields. The Kurdistan Region has signed more than 35 Production Sharing Agreements and Production Sharing Contracts with foreign oil exploration companies in recent years in what they deem as a natural right under the constitution. This has been hotly contested by Baghdad and particularly former Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani who has frequently labeled such deals as illegal.
Only recently has the deadlock been broken, with Baghdad endorsing the oil contracts and authorizing limited exports through Iraqi national pipelines. However, the bottom line remains that Baghdad does not want to see the Kurds drive on unhindered with their own national program. The recent pact by Shahristani with the EU to export gas through the southern corridor to Kurdish surprise is testament to this. Kurdistan was long earmarked as a pivot to the proposed Nabucco pipeline in the north, which would have guaranteed it strategic standing and lucrative returns.
Simmering political tension in Baghdad
The 19 post-electoral demands of the Kurds were explicitly accepted as a condition for their support of the new government. Furthermore, a number of other critical points were agreed between Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis that allowed several months of bickering and jockeying to end.
However, the problem in Iraq is that often the agreements are not worth the paper they are printed on. The lack of implementation of the Erbil agreement of last autumn, has led to entrenched camps of Iyad Allawi and Nuri al-Maliki, with relations all but beyond repair. Key points in the agreement including the formation of Higher Strategic Policies Council that was to be headed by Allawi and the naming of key ministries has continued to falter.
Recent heated exchanges between Allawi and Maliki underpin the common mistrust and animosity that continues to blight the new Iraq. Allawi accused Maliki of being “a liar, hypocrite and misleading,” who came to power with “Iranian support,” in retaliation for the “State of Law of Maliki,” aiming to reprimand Allawi for abstaining from parliamentary sessions.
The labored progress in Baghdad and the ongoing sectarian battles that impinge progress is all the more reason for Kurdistan not to wait, to be held back and destabilized by the south, but to continue in the interests of Kurds and Kurdistan unabated.