Costa Rican Presidents Still Arguing Over Secret Contra Airstrip Near Murcielago

[SEE: Secret Contra Resupply Airstrip In Costa Rica–a.k.a., “Point West”Is White House Behind Google Map Censorship In Secret Contra Airstrip Controversy?]

 By John McPhaul
Rewriting history? Former Costa Rican presidents Oscar Arias and Luis Alberto Monge have their tiff play out in the media.

Tico Times

Former Costa Rican presidents Luis Alberto Monge, left, and Oscar Arias traded barbs this week in columns published by the daily La Nación over their administrations’ activities during the 1980s civil war in Nicaragua. Arias accused Monge of allowing the U.S. to support Contra rebels from a clandestine landing strip in northern Guanacaste province.

A public spat between two former Costa Rican presidents and leading elder statesmen of the ruling National Liberation Party, has reawakened ghosts of the 1980s when Costa Rica very nearly found itself dragged into the civil war of northern neighbor Nicaragua.

Two-time Costa Rican President Oscar Arias wrote for the daily La Nación that his predecessor, former Costa Rican President Luis Alberto Monge, had a secret agreement with then-U.S. President Ronald Reagan to assist Nicaraguan Contra rebels in Costa Rica seeking to overthrow the Sandinista government in violation of his own avowed neutrality policy.

In an angry response from Monge, also in La Nación, the 85-year-old former president hotly denied that any such agreement existed and accused Arias of making the story up in an exercise of self-aggrandizement.

Arias, 71, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 after leading negotiations that resulted in an agreement to disarm Nicaraguan Contra rebels as a prelude to free elections, in which the ruling Sandinista party was deposed by newspaper publisher Violeta Chamorro.

In the article published Oct. 11, which purported to provide a public explanation for the notorious political rift between himself and Monge, Arias said that after his election, but before his swearing-in, Monge invited him to a meeting in his Pozos de Santa Ana home, where Arias and his brother Rodrigo were met by Monge and then-U.S. Ambassador Lewis Tambs.

“With surprise and shock, my brother and I were informed of an agreement existing between the governments of don Luis Alberto and that of Ronald Reagan, through which the use of national territory was facilitated to permit the ‘Contra’ to operate from Costa Rica,” said Arias.

Under the agreement, said Arias, Costa Rica allowed the U.S. to operate a clandestine airstrip in Guanacaste province near the Nicaraguan border, to set up radar to peer into Nicaragua and allow the Contras to be resupplied with food, medicine and arms from Costa Rica “behind the back of Costa Ricans and the international community.”

Arias said he told Monge and Tambs that once he took office on May 8, 1986, “The use of not even one square inch of Costa Rica by the ‘Contra’ would be tolerated, and nor would the presence of U.S. military in the country be permitted.”

The political jousting by the two ex-presidents occurs in rough proximity to the celebration of the 60th anniversary of the National Liberation Party, the party that brought both Monge and Arias to power and whose list of candidates for the February 2014 elections includes Arias’ younger brother Rodrigo, 65, and Monge’s nephew, San José Mayor Johnny Araya.

In his Oct. 16 response, Monge, one of the party’s founders, accused Arias of reducing the party to “a project of family ambition” and of having taken the party away from its social-democratic, reformist roots to a “conservative, plutocratic and authoritarian thesis.”

Monge accused the Nobel Peace Prize laureate of rewriting history with the end of inflating his peacemaking record.

“Now [Arias] goes after me, writing a political novel that, before making public, he has been for many years slyly distributing to foreign journalists, universities and in private,” said Monge.

Monge, who was president from 1982 to 1986, said that Reagan never asked him to make such an agreement.

“The Reagan-Monge pact or any species of agreement between the president of the United States and the president of Costa Rica is absolutely false,” said Monge. “You have to have altered state of mind to invent a tall tale of such magnitude.”

Monge said that the U.S. military, in the person of the head of the U.S. Southern Command, did offer “every kind of military assistance” if Costa Rica were to be invaded by the Sandinista army.

Monge said he declined the offer and instead looked to then-Venezuelan President Luis Herrera Campins and then-Colombian President Belisario Betancur, who offered their assistance and warned Nicaragua against invading Costa Rica.

According to Monge, the communist bloc intended to spread warfare throughout Central America, including plans to invade Costa Rica, and for that purpose sent a top-ranking Cuban officer, Oswaldo Ochoa, to Nicaragua.

“The thesis of communism was that the only way to escalate a regional conflict was to provoke a border conflict with Costa Rica to justify the entrance of the Sandinista army into national territory,” Monge said.

He said that on two occasions the Sandinistas had amassed troops along the border with Costa Rica as a prelude to invasion.

On the danger of Costa Rica getting dragged into an armed conflict, the two former presidents seem to be in agreement. But for Arias, the presence of the Contras and other military maneuverings in Costa Rica only exacerbated the danger.

“Costa Ricans will never know how close Costa Rica was to being involved in the war,” Arias said.

Arias said before his inauguration on May 8, 1986, that he met with visiting U.S. Vice President George H.W. Bush and told him of his opposition to the Contra operations in Costa Rica. After the ceremony, Arias said he instructed his minister of public security, Hernán Garrón, to tell the Contras they were no longer welcome in Costa Rica and also to immediately close the airstrip on the Santa Elena Peninsula.

Records that came to light as a result of the investigation into the Reagan administration’s using proceeds of the sale of weapons to Iran to arm the Nicaragua Contra show that Arias personally told then-C.I.A. station chief in Costa Rica Joseph Fernández to close down the airstrip.

But the Iran-Contra record also shows that the U.S. ignored Arias’ decision to close the airstrip, forcing the Costa Rican president to order the airstrip occupied by Tico Civil Guards in late August 1986. The existence of the two-kilometer-long dirt airstrip in a secluded cove known as Potrero Grande was brought to light after a group of journalists, including Tico Times reporters, overflew the strip in September 1986 (TT, Sept. 26, 1986).

At the time, Arias administration officials insisted that the airstrip had never been used, but admitted privately that they had chosen to downplay its existence out of consideration for Monge (TT, Oct. 3, 1986).

In early 1987, Monge admitted to The Tico Times that he had approved the reconditioning of the airstrip after “officials with maps arrived from Washington,” and in a secret meeting with him, warned of the danger of a Sandinista invasion and the need for an additional airstrip in the area (TT, Jan. 16, 1987). The former president later told Iran-Contra investigators that he didn’t recall giving permission for the airstrip – part of a supposed “tourist project” located on property owned by a Panama-based company later linked to the CIA (TT, Oct. 10, 1986).

In his La Nación article, Monge said the airstrip was “strictly private,” and that it was never used while he was president. However, residents of the area at the time reported frequent takeoffs and landings of mysterious aircraft, including a camouflaged Hercules cargo plane (TT, Sept. 26, 1986).

The Iran-Contra record also shows that Monge’s minister of public security, Benjamín Piza, was, in the words of then-U.S. National Security Advisor Adm. John Poindexter, “highly instrumental in helping to organize the southern front of opposition to the Sandinistas.” In a memo to Reagan dated March 17, 1986, Poindexter recommended a brief Oval Office meeting between the U.S. president and Piza, and his wife, to thank Piza for his assistance to the Contra cause, writing, “He has intervened with President Monge on numerous occasions and has personally assisted in the development of the logistics support base for the United Nicaraguan Opposition forces deployed north of Costa Rica.”

Arias said that his refusal to allow any action by the Contras against the Nicaraguan government put an end to “painful” acts such as the death of Civil Guards near the Northern Zone hamlet of Las Crucitas, when the guards apparently got caught in crossfire in a Sandinista-Contra confrontation. Another “painful act” referred to by Arias was the May 30, 1984, bombing of a Nicaraguan rebel press conference at the rebel outpost of La Penca by a Sandinista spy posing as a Danish photojournalist, which killed three reporters and four rebels.

Monge took exception to Arias’ mention of the La Penca bombing, saying that the authorship of the bombing has been proven to be Sandinista. “That is the truth, and to involve my government is an infamy,” Monge said.

Monge also criticized Arias for seeking a second term in office after the country’s Supreme Court threw out the law prohibiting second terms for ex-presidents. “He can’t live without power,” said Monge. “Desperate, to the point that he overcame the spirit of the Constitutional Chamber to achieve a second de facto administration.”

Monge also accused Arias of trying to hog all the glory of the Nobel Peace Prize for himself by dismissing Monge’s Declaration of Perpetual Neutrality and ignoring the efforts of other Costa Ricans, including Arias’ own foreign minister, the late Rodrigo Madrigal.

“Don Oscar, with his well-known egocentrism, adjudicates to himself in an exclusive form this great honor,” Monge said.

FBI Training Tajik Govt./Financial Officers In Social Media and Ambush Interviewing Techniques

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DUSHANBE, October 29, 2011, Asia-Plus — On October 24, 2011, Ambassador Ken Gross opened the U.S. Embassy sponsored Public and Media Relations Course for Public and Media Relations Specialists from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the State Committee on National Security, the Drug Control Agency, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Supreme Court, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Agency on State Financial Control and Anti-Corruption, the Customs Service, the National Bank of Tajikistan, National Guards and the Ministry of Defense, the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe reported.

The participants had an opportunity to meet with media representatives on the first day of the interactive training course to discuss the challenges they face while working with one another.  Three highly experienced Supervisory Special Agent FBI instructors assigned to the FBI’s Office of Public Affairs, National Press Office in Washington, D.C., taught the course.

At the opening ceremony, Ambassador Gross remarked, “The U.S. Embassy is committed to assisting you in your important role as government spokespersons, in your efforts to provide fair and balanced access to your media counterparts.”

The U.S. Embassy’s Office of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs organized and funded the one-week course.  The course helped public and media affairs experts in the Government of Tajikistan develop skills to better deliver news and information to mass media and the public. The training course involved practical scenarios and role play activities including news conferences, use of social media, on camera critiques, “ambush” interviews, and other “live” scenarios. Ambassador Gross also played the role of U.S. Ambassador in a role play scenario, where he delivered news to government spokespeople.

The United States Government is committed to continuing its support for Tajik law enforcement agencies. Since 1992, the U.S. Government has provided more than $900 million in assistance programs that support the law enforcement and security systems, economic growth, democratic institutions, health care and education of Tajikistan.

Kremlin Does Great PR Work For Pentagon

Kremlin Does Great PR Work For Pentagon

The Moscow Times

At a Moscow news conference on Tuesday, NATO’s deputy assistant secretary-general, James Appathurai, pushed the U.S. proposal to share its missile defense technical specifications with Russia. This is part of a new U.S. “transparency campaign” to try to repudiate the Kremlin’s claims that U.S. missile defense installations in Europe will undermine Russia’s nuclear deterrence.

But to convince Russia that missile defense poses no threat to its security, perhaps the best “technical specifications” the United States could share with Moscow is evidence from leading U.S. nuclear physicists that missile defense simply doesn’t work.

Theodore Postol, an MIT physicist and former Pentagon science adviser, has argued that the Pentagon fudged missile defense test results to convince the U.S. Congress and taxpayers that the system has an 84 percent success rate. In reality, Postol argues, it can hit only 10 percent or 15 percent of its targets.

And this is in the best of circumstances — when the Pentagon knows exactly when an incoming missile will be fired as well as its trajectory, and when the weather conditions are ideal. In real battle circumstances, of course, the U.S. missile defense system would not have these luxuries.

There is another important factor that further skews the Pentagon’s seemingly miraculous test results: It considered a test successful when an interceptor simply hit the body of the oncoming missile. But an interceptor must hit the warhead itself to protect against an attack, a fact that even the Pentagon confirms. The problem, however, is that hitting the actual warhead is like hitting “a bullet with a bullet.”

To make matters worse, it is easy for an enemy to trick interceptors by using decoys, such as cheap inflatable balloons. Yousaf Butt, a leading U.S. nuclear physicist, argues that it is impossible for a missile defense system to distinguish real warheads from decoys. Thus, Russia could easily overwhelm the missile defense shield by inundating it with decoys.

Russia knows these facts better than anyone, but it chooses to ignore them and insist that U.S. missile defense poses a threat to its nuclear deterrence. The Kremlin’s obsession with missile defense is part of a broad political and foreign policy strategy of demonizing NATO and the United States to create a mythical enemy at its gates.

The irony is that the Kremlin’s seemingly hawkish line against Washington has helped create a nice gold mine for large U.S. missile defense contractors, such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The United States spent $8.5 billion on missile defense in 2011 alone and a total of $141 billion since 1985.

Why should these defense giants hire expensive Washington lobbyists and PR agencies to blow hot air about the United States’ amazingly successful and powerful missile defense capabilities when the Kremlin will do it for free?

The Shadow Empire and the Subjugation of the Sub-Continent

Allow Chinese Military bases in Pakistan, not just Gwadar

by Ali.mostaque

The Chinese have been good consistent friends of Pakistan since 1963, and as a counter-weight to both India and the USA.The Chinese have carried out significant strategic projects in Pakistan since 1963, unlike the USA/UK.The Chinese helped Pakistan with its nuclear weapons program, without which Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program would have struggled at huge costs for many more indeterminate years.

The Chinese have helped Pakistan with its strategic missile program, without which Pakistan with its basket weaving economy could never have realized such a strategic goal.

The Chinese have helped Pakistan with its strategic conventional defense programs, without which Pakistan with its basket weaving economy could never have realized such a strategic goal.

Such illustrious and consistent help, provided with polite understanding and a smile for 48 years, deserves to be rewarded affirmatively and FINALLY with Chinese military bases in FATA……..maybe containing 5000 Chinese military personnel, with radar and heavy equipment, AND the repetition of the offer already on the table since many years by the Pakistan government of the naval base/port in Gwadar in Baluchistan.

These offers need to be articulated more clearly and forcefully by the Pakistan military, who control security in Pakistan, more directly to China.

China protects North Korea, without which North Korea, with no peace treaty with the South would be at war, and invasion by the USA.

China wishes to protect Pakistan, and government publications in China have stated as such. However this is not enough. The Pakistani military must overtly express and show to China that it wishes to be protected by China, by doing a set of things, one of which is giving military bases to China in FATA and Gwadar specifically.

China has strong strategic interests in Pakistan, in terms of greater access to the resources of the Middle East. Finally the avoidance of Western mischief too near its borders….re: “al-CIA-duh”.

Simultaneously to avoid confusion and contradiction which recently transpired shamefully with Pakistan China relations…….maybe that was the intention…….Pakistan must also do the following things, since Pakistan cannot serve both China and the USA. Its gymnastically impossible.

Close ALL USA military bases in Pakistan.

Eject ALL USA military personnel from Pakistan.

Cut ALL military training programs with Western countries especially the USA/UK.

Cut all military aid programs with the USA.

Close ALL USA consulates in Pakistan and reduce the USA embassy staff to about 10 people.

Close ALL foreign NGO’s in Pakistan since most are intelligence fronts.

Reduce Western tourism in Pakistan.

Close ALL Western missionary organizations in Pakistan since ALL are intelligence fronts.

These policies need NOT be announced by the Pakistan military, but they definitely need to be carried out step by step and quickly.

But we also understand that the whole region including India and Bangladesh suffers from Gora sahib worship and deference borne out of colonial servitude of many years, and therefore weaning the Harijan Coolie from the ever abusing gora sahib may be a challenging question which otherwise offers very CLEAR SIMPLE ABC ANSWERS just provided above.

A male pimp into drugs trafficking will ALWAYS abuse his prostitutes, there are no alternatives.

The drug peddling abusive pimp from the USA/UK with the rolls Royce, and gaudy gold jewelry.

A evil husband, with drink problems, who also batters and traffic’s his children for emotional recreation, will ALWAYS abuse the wife, there are no alternatives.

It is the duty of the abused prostitute and the battered wife to “escape” from such suffering with determination and resolution, and not perpetuate such an appalling relationship.

Bengal was occupied by the utterly evil British Empire 254 years ago.

It was the richest part of India, and the Mughals called it the “Pearl of India”, providing the bulk of the revenue for the Mughal administration in its last years of the 17th and 18th century.

In 1768 the evil British empire in its lust for business profits decreed that in the whole of Greater Bengal (Bangladesh, Bihar, Paschim Banga) ONLY opium, Indigo and Jute could be grown, a law that was heavily enforced through the use of the British military…….Opium to China, and Indigo and Jute to Europe. 10 million people perished, or 30% of the population as a result of this policy.

The evil British empire destroyed Bengal into utter poverty from 1760—1800. To this day 254 years later Greater Bengal (Bangladesh, Bihar, Paschim Banga) are still the poorest parts of South Asia.

In 1943 the evil British empire fearing Japanese invasion and liberation of India from their evil misrule, especially in Bengal surrounded the state with paramilitary forces, and passed a law saying no food from neighboring states of Bengal could be supplied to Bengal, and government agents bought up food within Bengal in addition. It was a bumper crop year, and yet 6 million people died from the Great Bengal Famine.

Since 1947 East Pakistan/Bangladesh has experienced continued British mischief in the country and region. 254 years is an inordinate time to learn ones lessons and study of historical FACTS.

And yet the British still run and train the security forces of Bangladesh, its police, paramilitary, military and intelligence with their quaint British names….Rapid Reaction Battalion…….a Death Squad Battalion trained by the British Police which has killed over 1000 mostly innocent people, DGFI, NSI, MI,………………..this is utter shame, and yet this is how it is.

Bangladesh along with India and Pakistan still belong to the British Commonwealth, a defacto celebration of the evil British empire!!!!!!!!!!

After 254 years of abuse Bangladesh has not yet run away from its drug peddling pimp master.

And yet Bengal has such enormous and phenomenal human potential.The Bengal State fails its people; Fails to identify the real needs of its people.

The same is true of the Ukraine, filled with enormous and phenomenal human potential, and yet a dejected, rather sad Third World country run by Jews since 1918.

PAKISTAN MUST ESCAPE from its drug peddling pimp master soon.

The abused Ukrainian prostitute working in the suburbs of Tel aviv. 500,000 such women have been shipped from Ukraine and Russia by the Jewish mafia to work as prostitutes since 1991, and yet the Jewish run governments of Ukraine and Russia are unable to do anything to liberate these women.

Putin says smash faces of Russian fraudsters

Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin looks on while chairing a meeting with activists of the All-Russian People's Front in Moscow October 26, 2011. REUTERS/Denis Sinyakov

MOSCOW | Sat Oct 29, 2011 9:30am IST

(Reuters) – Russian Prime Minister Vladimir, already in campaign mode for a third term as president, said fraudsters who siphon off state money should have their faces smashed.

Putin plans to run in the March 2012 election and needs to improve his anti-corruption credentials tarnished by international ratings and statistics showing corruption has worsened under his rule.

“The practitioners of kickbacks and graft should not only get a rap on the knuckles, they should have their faces smashed,” Putin told an audience of Russian financial policemen.

Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International rates Russia as the world’s most corrupt major economy, ranking it 154th out of 178 nations in its corruption perceptions index last year, on a par with Cambodia, Kenya and Laos.

President Dmitry Medvedev made fighting corruption the main theme of his four-year presidency term which nears its end but has often been criticised for showing few tangible results.

Analysts say that, if elected, Putin is unlikely to make much progress in fighting a bureaucracy that has been deeply corrupt since Soviet times.

Putin, who grew up in a working class neighbourhood in St Petersburg, is known for harsh remarks and jokes which raise eyebrows in the West but are popular with ordinary Russians.

(Reporting by Gleb Bryanski; Editing by Louise Ireland)

Washington’s Idiotic Plot To Implicate Iran

Spat over a plot that was not


The Hindu

 Attorney General Eric Holder (second from left) speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington on October 11, 2011.
AP   Attorney General Eric Holder (second from left) speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington on October 11, 2011.

Washington is clearly unable to sell a credible story about Tehran’s intent to plot a major terror strike on U.S. soil.

As angry crowds protesting against corporate greed were piling up in New York’s Zuccotti Park and across several European capitals, U.S. Attorney-General Eric Holder Jr. decided to hold an extraordinary press conference.

In a hall packed with mediapersons, Mr. Holder on October 11 announced that the U.S. had uncovered a diabolical terror plot, which had Iran’s authorisation. He and several unnamed U.S. officials then unveiled details of the alleged plan to kill Adel Al Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s influential Ambassador to the United States. Iran’s elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), through its Al Quds subsidiary, they said, had sanctioned the assassination. Implying that Iran had the intent of indulging in state terrorism, the officials asserted that the assassins wanted to kill the Saudi envoy, blowing up a fashionable Washington restaurant, usually crowded and frequented by the city’s political and diplomatic elite.

The story about a vengeful, amoral and, in the end, incompetent Iranian officialdom did not end there. The assassination was apparently part of a much larger scheme, which had in its cross hairs the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Washington as well as the Saudi and Israeli Embassies in Argentina.

Stretching across three continents, the plot had, apart from one villainous official of the Al Quds force, two characters in its star cast. One was Mansour J. Arbabsia, an absent-minded, second-hand car dealer in Corpus Christi, Texas, and a U.S. mole in the Mexican Los Zetas drug cartel. According to the U.S. officials, Mr. Arbabsia had in August travelled to Iran, from where he wired $100,000 from an Al Quds account as down payment for the assassination. The money, to be followed with another payment of $50,000, was deposited into the account of the informant of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) who Mr. Arbabsia and his alleged backers in Tehran mistakenly thought was a Los Zetas member.

On September 29, Mr. Arbabsia was nabbed at the New York airport after he was denied entry into Mexico City, apparently following an American request, and was sent back on a commercial flight. The U.S. officials claim that Mr. Arbabsia was visiting Mexico with the intention of presenting himself to Los Zetas as “collateral” until the drug cartel received the remaining $50,000 after the assassination. On being shown, in custody, an array of photographs, he identified Gholam Shakuri, an Al Quds official, as his handler, the officials claimed.

These sensational allegations have flared tensions between Washington and Tehran. After making a bizarre case against Iran of fomenting terrorism so publicly, the U.S. has painted itself into a corner. It now needs to follow up on its assertions by taking visible action, however calibrated, or lose face doing nothing. The chances are that Washington will pursue a course that is likely to escalate tensions. Mr. Holder hinted at this when he said the U.S. “is committed to holding Iran accountable for its actions.” Separately, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton drove home the Attorney-General’s threat by advocating that a “strong message” be sent to Iran that would “further isolate it from the international community.”

President Barack Obama has further upped the ante, dragging the Iranian nuclear programme within the ambit of Washington’s risky standoff with Tehran. Mr. Obama is now pressing the United Nations nuclear inspectors to release recent classified data which could suggest that Iran is experimenting with nuclear weapon technology. If information is indeed available with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that can even remotely be interpreted as Iran’s attempt to work on atomic weapons, it would once again open up an intense debate — eclipsed by the Arab Spring — on measures, including military, which may be required to contain Iran.

To put the issue into the international spotlight, Saudi Arabia has reported the alleged conspiracy to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon so that it can be considered by the Security Council for further action.

In Washington and Riyadh, a heated debate is under way on a new set of stringent sanctions that can be imposed on Iran. The New York Times has quoted Obama administration officials as saying they are studying a ban on financial transactions with Iran’s Central Bank, notwithstanding opposition from China and other Asian countries. Washington is also considering widening the ban on the purchase of petroleum products produced by companies controlled by the powerful IRGC.

Despite the heavy exertions of its overworked spin-doctors, the U.S. may find it difficult to build fresh international pressure on Iran or foist the threat from Tehran on top of its domestic agenda. The problem with Washington’s exhortations lies in its inability to sell a credible story about Tehran’s intent to plot a major terror strike on U.S. soil. The tale spun by Mr. Holder and the U.S. Justice Department has too many loopholes to be taken seriously.

The former CIA analyst, Robert Baer, who has been following Iran for 30 years, points out that the alleged plot simply does not have the hallmark of an Iranian intelligence operation. In an interview on ABC television, Mr. Baer said he did not believe that the Iranian government was involved in the plot. “This doesn’t fit their modus operandi at all. It’s completely out of character, they’re much better than this.” He stressed that the “careful” Iranians “always use a proxy between them and the operation, and in this case they didn’t.”

The American assertion that Mr. Arbabsia, under instructions from the Al Quds, used normal banking channels to transfer $100,000 is hardly believable. Even the most uninitiated in the world of espionage are aware that the U.S. Treasury Department rigorously monitors any transaction above $10,000 as part of its policy to curb drug money laundering. Had Mr. Arbabsia indeed been an intelligence operative, he would have been told by his skilled handlers that he should deal only in cash, which is the only safe option for making clandestine payments abroad. Appearing before a federal judge on Monday in a Manhattan court, Mr. Arbabsia pleaded ‘not guilty’ to the charges.

West Asia historian Juan Cole suggests in his blog that instead of being state-sponsored as the Americans officially allege, a feud between drug operatives with affiliations in Iran and Saudi Arabia may be behind the conception of this amateurish plot. He points out that an Iranian cartel funnelling narcotics from Afghanistan “might be angered that Saudi-backed Sunni militant gangs in Iraq and Syria have grabbed smuggling routes, cutting out the Iranians.”

The Iranians, on their part, are incensed at Washington’s allegations and have joined the Americans in a dangerous war of words. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has asserted that his country would deliver “an unforgettable response” in case Washington takes “improper actions” against Tehran. He warned American officials not to “entertain delusions” because Iran would take “decisive action” in response to any impropriety on their part.

Referring to the outpouring of protests against economic hardship across the globe, the Ayatollah said the U.S. was using the accusations against Tehran to divert attention from its own financial difficulties. He added, “The people of at least 80 nations have expressed support for the Occupy Wall Street movement, and this is very bitter and difficult for American officials to accept.”

Despite the all-out U.S. effort to raise the alarm on Iran, probably as a diversionary tactic, it is unlikely that Washington’s herculean exertions will succeed. The outcry of ordinary working people making the one per cent super-rich in their countries accountable for their misdeeds is striking an emotional chord, and appears simply too powerful to be sidelined by what looks like a fabricated international crisis. Some analysts are of the view that Washington’s seeming attempts to channel its standoff with Iran towards a conflict are likely to revive the anti-war movement in the West, which could be fused with the escalating street protests in North America and Europe. “We are fully aware that the concocted terror plot is similar to the Gulf of Tonkin incident which preceded the Vietnam War,” says Arshin Adib-Moghaddam, who teaches at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies, and is an activist with Campaign Against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran (CASMII), an anti-war group.

Over the next few weeks and months, grass-roots groups agitating for peace, democracy and economic justice would be faced with the challenge of forcing the U.S. and Iran to open channels of dialogue so that the movement for fundamental change, which started from Cairo’s Tahrir Square and is resonating powerfully throughout the world, is not sidetracked by the rich and powerful before it fulfils its lofty but achievable goals.

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The Istanbul Conference: Helping the Devil Get His Way In Central and South Asia

The Istanbul conference: Washington’s vision for the region

ISLAMABAD: As key world and regional players gear up to meet in Istanbul to push forward a Washington-backed regional integration plan for an ‘economically stable Afghanistan’, Pakistan stands at a crossroads. The question Islamabad is grappling with is whether it’s time to become a partner, or whether it should maintain its historical position – keep India away from resource-rich Central Asia.

As part of a broader economic integration strategy, Washington is selling the “New Silk Roads” concept- a network of roads and rails to connect Far East Asia and South Asia with Central Asia and then the West.

Leaders from 12 nations are to meet in Istanbul on November 2 with the stated objective of persuading regional players to commit to a stable and independent Afghanistan and to discuss regional economic cooperation. Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iran, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, UAE, USA and United Kingdom are to attend.

Political pundits have termed the Istanbul Conference a prelude to the Bonn Conference, where delegations from 90 countries are expected to formulate a practical roadmap for 2014 – the year the US has said it will withdraw troops from Afghanistan.

Defence, economic and geostrategic experts say the broader objective of the strategy is to consolidate gains made in Afghanistan and strengthen the US grip on Central Asian resources to be used either by Americans or preferred partners like India. One of the objectives is to create hurdles in energy-hungry China’s bid to get unrestricted access to Central Asian resources, they add. Pakistan is now left with the choice of either aligning themselves more closely with China, or preferring to work with the New Silk Roads as the dichotomy grows stronger.

According to the United States Institute of Peace,  a Congress-funded think tank, there are hopes that the New Silk Roads concept of an integrated trade and transportation network through Afghanistan can bring regional players and interlocutors together and attract new sources of investment.

Long time coming

A senior government functionary said that the US has been working on the proposal for a longer time. He said that the reorganisation of the US State Department in 2004 when it merged its Central Asia and South Asia desks was an important step towards this direction.  Robin Raphael, former US ambassador to Pakistan on civilian assistance, has been assigned the New Silk Roads project.

Pakistan’s options

“Americans want to consolidate gains in Afghanistan whether Pakistan readily becomes partner to the new concept or not,” said Tanvir Ahmed Khan, former secretary of foreign affairs. On the other hand, Washington will be displeased if Pakistan refuses to give India access to Afghanistan, fearing the possibility of an alternative India-Iran nexus, envisaged by New Delhi as the “North silk route”.  Khan maintains that it would be in Pakistan’s interest to become partner in any regional arrangement, better sooner than later.

A senior official of the foreign office, however, took a cautious line on whether Islamabad would support the initiative. Without commenting on the New Silk Roads, the official said: “Regional connectivity is a centuries-old concept and Pakistan would appreciate any effort towards that objective”.

Another official said that Pakistan wanted a greater role in economic development of Afghanistan, and did not want caught in the uncomfortable position of being isolated while sandwiched between India and Afghanistan.

But for the US, he added, the New Silk Roads is an integral part of a three-pronged strategy designed to exit and integrate post-US Afghanistan with the rest of the region. Keeping this in mind, Pakistan will have to mend its ways and make up its mind in the next two years, he said.

Former foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi also spoke on the matter hesitantly, saying “Pakistan will have to see both the advantages and disadvantages of becoming a partner in the New Silk Roads concept,” he added.

Pros and cons

The obvious advantage is that regional economic integration would bring economic benefits – but then, there’s the issue of Indian involvement and New Delhi’s subsequent access to Central Asia, he added. Qureshi said that the Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement was signed on the condition of excluding India from the treaty.  However, Tanvir Khan said Pakistan will ultimately have to give India access. He was of the view that eventually, even China will have to be taken on board.

Published in The Express Tribune

Bombings force Pakistani children into work

Bombings force Pakistani children into work

  [Brave little lad.] 

Agence France-Presse

PESHAWAR: At seven years old, it’s a struggle for Zabita Khan to work all afternoon, dodging vehicles, rickshaws and donkey carts to carry drinks for thirsty customers in a hot, crowded Pakistani market.

But two years ago his father was killed in a bomb attack and he has to work to put food on the table for his family.

So after school, he spends sizzling afternoons catering to shopkeepers and their guests for Rs300 ($3.50) a month in Peshawar city, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

“I don’t like working in the market. I like school, where I study and play hide and seek with friends,” said a downcast Zabita, working the same street where his father was killed on Oct.28, 2009.

“I don’t have friends over here. I come here because my mother sends me and tells me I have to work for my family, for my siblings,” said Khan, who has two younger brothers -Sajjad, 5, and Arif, 3.

His father Khairullah was killed in one of Pakistan’s deadliest attacks -125 people slaughtered when a car bomb tore through the packed Meena Bazaar while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was holdings talks in Islamabad.

There was no claim of responsibility but officials blamed the Taliban.

Thousands more have been wounded or incapacitated, living with injuries slow to heal or that make an ordinary working life impossible.

But a hidden tragedy is the children -indirect victims of terror attacks -who are forced to join already swollen ranks of child labour to help keep their families alive after the loss of a parent.

“We closed the shop for two months after the death of Zabita’s father Khairullah. When we reopened, his mother sent him to the shop to work on behalf of his family,” Zabita’s uncle, Mohammed Umer told AFP.

“It is our tradition that the eldest son becomes the head and breadwinner of the family after the father’s death and Khan is playing that role because his mother wants him to work to avoid bad feeling in the family,” said Umer.

Zarina Jillani, research manager at the Pakistani branch of the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child, estimates there are 10 million children working in Pakistan, out of a child population of 80 million.

Huge swathes of Pakistan are beset by desperate poverty. According to the last government survey in 1996, 3.3 million children were working.

Government statistics estimate the literacy rate at 58 per cent and say 22 per cent of the population live in poverty, although independent economists say the figure is closer to 30 per cent.

“No organisation has calculated statistics about children getting involved in work after breadwinners die in bomb attacks but we believe these attacks have enhanced the number of child labourers in the country,” said Jillani.

In Tangi, a town some 125 kilometres from the capital Islamabad, in the heart of the northwestern region troubled by a Taliban insurgency, 11-year-old Wajiha is the only girl driving a motorcycle rickshaw.

Her father Inamuddin used to be a proud member of the paramilitary but in July 2006 he was badly injured in a Taliban attack on his paramilitary check post in the northwestern valley of Swat.

After two years in hospital, he was discharged from service with a withered leg and bought a rickshaw for Rs40,000 ($465) with his pension.

At first he worked alone, and sometimes Wajiha would sit up front with him for fun. But when she realised how painful he found his wounded leg, she took on solo shifts to earn more money.

Now she goes to school in the morning and helps her father in the afternoon, when he gets tired.

“I don’t like my daughter going out to work, but I am helpless,” said Inamuddin. Wajiha said she likes to help.

“I feel good to help my father, I also enjoy the drive, it is easy to drive motorcycle rickshaw and earn some money for the family,” she said.

“I make Rs150 ($1.70) from three trips a day,” she said as she parked the rickshaw and ran into her home.

No talks unless US changes dual-faced policy, says Taliban

No talks unless US changes dual-faced policy, says Taliban

A file photograph showing Afghan Taliban in the central province of Oruzgan as they prepare to patrol the area on 12 April 2004 in the capital Tarin Kowt. PHOTO: EPA

A day after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton officially advocated in front of a congressional committee talks with the Quetta Shura and its leader Mullah Muhammad Omar, a Taliban spokesperson said unequivocally that peace dialogue cannot be held unless the US abandons its “dual-faced policies” on Afghanistan.

“On the one hand, it talks about pursuing peace dialogue but on the other it’s seeking to establish permanent military bases in Afghanistan,” Zabiullah Mujahid told The Express Tribune in a telephone interview from somewhere in Afghanistan on Friday.

“The US is seeking Pakistan’s help to negotiate with us, but, at the same time, it’s pressuring Islamabad to fight (the Haqqani network in North Waziristan),” Mujahid said. “Unless the US shows its commitment to peace talks, dialogue is not possible,” he said.

In Washington, a State Department spokesman said, however, that the US does not seek any permanent military bases in Afghanistan or a presence that would be a threat to any of Afghanistan’s neighbours.

On Thursday, Secretary Clinton told the House Committee on Foreign Relations that any Afghan-led peace process would have to include the Quetta Shura and its leader Mullah Omar. During her recent trip to Pakistan, she had also requested Pakistan for help to negotiate with all Taliban factions, including the Haqqani network.

“There is no solution in the region without Pakistan and no stable future without a partnership,” Secretary Clinton told the panel. But the Taliban spokesperson cited contradictions in the US policy about Pakistan. “The irony is that while the United States acknowledges Pakistan’s contributions (in the fight against militancy) it also criticises it (for being hand in glove with the militants).”

Asked if the Taliban can show some flexibility for the greater good of their war-ravaged country, Mujahid said, “Ours is a just struggle. We didn’t invade America. It’s the United States which waged a war in Afghanistan. We demand freedom… We’re not calling for something illegal.”

Earlier this week, the Hizb-e-Islami, led by former warlord Gulbudin Hekmatyar, showed its willingness for peace talks with the United States. “We are willing to have a direct or indirect political dialogue with Washington,” Dr Ghairat Baheer, a Hizb-e-Islami leader, told The Express Tribune in an interview.

Asked about this, Zabiullah Mujahid said he cannot comment on this because Hizb-e-Islami is a separate organisation. The Haqqani network has already turned down an “individual” rapprochement offer from Washington, saying that it should instead engage the Taliban Shura in dialogue because the Haqqanis are a part of the Taliban movement led by Mullah Omar.

Kabul plans to convene a loya jirga (grand assembly) next month before it can approve a strategic partnership agreement between Afghanistan and the United States.

Asked about this, the Taliban referred to a statement on Wednesday. “The Kabul administration wants to abuse a much respected custom of our country … to prolong the 10-year catastrophe (that has) befallen our country, to deceive the nation and to further expose their own crimes,” said the statement emailed to The Express Tribune on Wednesday.

The statement urged its fighters “to target every security guard, person with intention, participant and every caller of this convention in all corners of the country, so as to not let the invaders perpetually occupy our beloved country.”

State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland, when asked, referred to Thursday’s testimony by Secretary Clinton and her own Sept. 8 statement where she said that the Strategic Partnership agreement is intended to provide a transparent political framework for long-term cooperation between the US and Afghanistan.  “The United States does not seek any permanent American military bases in Afghanistan,” she said. (With additional reporting by Huma Imtiaz in Washington)

Published in The Express Tribune

Kabul Car Bomb on NATO Convoy–10-29-11

A suicide car bomber detonated his explosives-laden vehicle as foreign troops passed by on Saturday morning in Kabul, killing three civilians and a policeman, local officials said.The incident took place at 11.30 am local time in the Dar-ul-Aman area in the west of the city, officials said.Afghan security forces have cordoned off the area.A witness said that he saw the body of a man with the wreckage of his motorbike. Two vehicles also caught fire, he added.The Nato-led military coalition said it was aware of the incident but refused to comment.Helicopters belonging to foreign forces also landed in the area. No group including the Taliban has as yet claimed responsibility for the attack.

Lashkar e-Jhangvi–Pakistan’s Ku Klux Klan

[Monsters in human form.]

In Pakistan, a militant deal sours

- AP Photo

ISLAM NAGAR: The deal saw one of Pakistan’s most feared militants walk from jail apparently in exchange for his commitment to nonviolence, help in reining in other fighters and possibly delivering the votes of his followers.

Supporters showered Malik Ishaq with rose petals when he left the prison in the eastern city of Lahore in July.

Days later, he was preaching murderous hatred toward minority Shias to a cheering crowd, energising a network whose members have joined al-Qaeda for terror strikes.

That was too much for Pakistani authorities, who arrested him again last month.

Pakistan has a well-documented history of trying to co-opt or strike deals with militants of various causes, and a close examination of the Ishaq case shows how that can play out.

It’s a cautionary tale, perhaps, for US officials who are urging Pakistan to bring to the negotiating table Afghan militants who allegedly enjoy safe havens in the country’s lawless border regions.

Fifteen years ago, Ishaq founded Laskhar-i-Jangvi, or LJ, which allies itself with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

The LJ is blamed for scores of attacks on Shias and on Pakistani and US interests.

Ishaq was arrested in 1997 and accused in more than 200 criminal cases including the killings of 70 Shias.

But the state could never make the charges stick — in large part because witnesses, judges and prosecutors were too scared to convict.

Frightened judges treated him honourably in court and gave him tea and cookies, according to Anis Haider Naqvi, a prosecution witness in two cases against Ishaq.

One judge attempted to hide his face with his hands, but Ishaq made clear he knew his identity in a chilling way: He read out the names of his children, and the judge abandoned the trial, he said.

Despite the lack of convictions, Ishaq remained in prison for 14 years as prosecutors slowly moved from one case to the next.

Ishaq proved his usefulness in 2009, when he was flown from jail to negotiate with militants who had stormed part of the military headquarters in Rawalpindi and were holding hostages there, said Hafiz Tahir Ashrafi, who used to advise the Punjab provincial government on religious matters.

A behind-the-scenes effort by the government to co-opt the leaders of militant outfits and bring them into mainstream political life, or at least draw them away from attacking the state, helped Ishaq secure his July 15 release, according to Ashrafi.

”I met Ishaq several times in prison,” Ashrafi said, emphasising that Ishaq assured him that he wanted to contribute to peace. ”If someone wants to get back to normal life, yes, why not, we do help him,” said Ashrafi. ”These are our own men.” He said he was disappointed to see him back in jail.

Punjab law minister Rana Sanaullah Khan denied there was any deal behind Ishaq’s release, but said extremist leaders were free to join politics if they eschewed violence.

”We are in touch with those who have become, or want to become, useful citizens,” he said.

The Punjab is the key battleground between the ruling party of President Asif Ali Zardari and the party of opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, currently in power in that province.

Maulana Ahmad Ludhianvi, the head of Sipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, or SSP, LJ’s parent sectarian group, told a rally last year that Nawaz’s brother, Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif, had promised that Ishaq’s release ”would be settled in meetings” with him.

”After that meeting, the time is not far when the prison door would break open and Malik Ishaq would be released,” he said.

LJ and other militant groups can muster significant support in Punjab and parts of Sindh province through their schools and mosques, making them an important political force.

Mainstream politicians have shown no hesitation in courting them despite their links to violence.

Local SSP leader Mohammad Tayyab said a recent SSP-backed candidate for a regional assembly seat in southern Punjab got 17,000 votes.

”That is what Zardari’s party and Sharif’s know very well,” he said.

Khaled Ahmad, an expert on Pakistani militant groups in Punjab, said there is ”no doubt” that the SSP and Sharif’s party would cut deals as they have done in the past.

”It is dangerous now because the group and its offshoots are in alliance with al-Qaeda.”

Government intelligence reports obtained by The Associated Press show Ishaq made threats in his public appearances after his release from prison.

He urged his supporters not to be afraid of Pakistani laws or prisons.

”We know how to kill and how to die,” he told a gathering near Rahim Yar Khan on September, 4 according to one report.

Ishaq’s aides denied he made such remarks.

The government suspected Ishaq of coordinating meetings in recent months of 50 or so alleged terrorists, said Khan, the law minister.

Some of the men Ishaq visited directly after his release had allegedly been involved in terrorism and were being watched by law enforcement and intelligence agencies, said the government reports.

LJ’s stronghold is south and central Punjab, a neglected, blisteringly hot part of the country that has long been the recruiting ground for militant groups.

Wealthy families, disproportionately Shia, own large swaths of land where tenant farmers grow cotton, sugarcane and wheat and work at mango orchids.

Visitors to Ishaq’s house in Islam Nagar in the southern Punjabi city of Rahim Yar Khan are greeted by an SSP member with an automatic rifle, against a backdrop of flags and banners glorifying the group.

“My father’s mission is a true one,” said his son, Malik Usman. “We will seek our reward from Allah.”