Backing down: US no longer urging full-scale Waziristan blitz

Backing down: US no longer urging full-scale Waziristan blitz

Senior diplomat says Islamabad agreed to tackle Haqqanis. PHOTO: APP/FILE

ISLAMABAD: During US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s recent visit to Islamabad, Pakistan made a commitment to Washington that it would tackle the Haqqani network, a senior American diplomat told The Express Tribune.

However, what is significant is that the US is no longer pushing Pakistan to initiate a full-scale military offensive in North Waziristan which is allegedly being used by the Haqqani network as a launching pad to target US-led international forces in Afghanistan.

“We are not asking Pakistan to invade North Waziristan. What we want is for this Haqqani threat to be eliminated, either through the use of force, or by other means,” the diplomat disclosed, requesting anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

If Pakistan were able to convince the Haqqanis to come to the negotiating table, that would be a “very positive start”, he said. He did not, however, say exactly what commitment Pakistan had made with the US regarding the Haqqanis. “We leave it to Pakistan,” he added.

Despite Islamabad’s commitment, he cautioned that a lot of work is yet to be done in order to judge whether or not Clinton’s recent trip was successful.

“I won’t say the worst is over, but what I do believe, is that the best is yet to come,” he said.

For years, Pakistan has been resisting US pressure to go after the Haqqanis in North Waziristan. Its reluctance is attributed to the military establishment’s decade-old contacts with the network and the belief that the group has a critical role in the Afghan endgame.

But in recent months, the Haqqani network has become a major thorn in the relationship between Pakistan and the US.

The US stepped up pressure on Islamabad to dismantle “terrorist sanctuaries” from North Waziristan.

But during Clinton’s visit, the two sides covered significant ground to narrow down their differences, not only on the Haqqani network, but also on the Afghan reconciliation process.

Regarding Pakistan’s role in the Afghan reconciliation process, he said Pakistan needs to be honest about its links with the Afghan Taliban.

“We want a commitment from Pakistan to play a constructive role in the Afghan reconciliation process,” said the official when asked what specific role the US wants Pakistan to play. His remarks underline concerns in US ranks that Pakistan is yet to be forthcoming on the Afghan endgame.

“We simply want Pakistan to be honest with us about whether or not they can bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiating table,” he pointed out.

Pakistan, during the discussion, did agree to facilitate the US to help it reach out to the Afghan Taliban but insisted it would not become a guarantor of the process.

When approached, Foreign Office spokesperson Tehmina Janjua refused to confirm reports about Islamabad’s commitment with Washington in terms of the Haqqani network.

“I can only say that Secretary Clinton’s visit was very constructive. Both sides put across their point of view on key issues in an open and candid fashion,” she added.

Published in The Express Tribune

Revulsion, resistance and angry words from Tripoli University

 Revulsion, resistance and angry words from Tripoli University

 

Franklin Lamb

Tripoli University

 

The people I had hoped most to be able to find upon returning to Libya were eight students from Fatah University (now renamed Tripoli University) who became my friends during three months in Libya this summer.  They had all been strongly opposed to what NATO was doing to their country (NATO bombs destroyed some classrooms at the University during final exams in late May) and I was very keen to sit with them again if possible since the August 23rd fall of Tripoli when most of them scattered given the uncertainties of what would happen and we lost contact.

 Thanks to Ahmad who was waiting for me we re-united quickly. Some excerpts and impressions from yesterday’s all night gathering with Ahmad, Amal, Hind, Suha, Mohammad and Rana:

 “I know Sanad al-Ureibi”, Ahmad said disgustedly about the 22 year old who is claiming he fired two bullets at close range into Muammar Gadhafi on October 22nd.  

 Amal, Ahmad’s fiancée interrupted him: “We are very angry but not really surprised by what Sanad did.  He’s a stupid guy and I am sure someone whispered in his ear that he would become famous and rich if he did NATO’s dirty job by killing Colonel Gadhafi.  NATO did more than 1000 bombing attacks “to protect Libyan civilians” but killed thousands of us instead.  For sure NATO and their puppets want  as many of our leader’s dead as possible in order to avoid years of a court trial that would expose NATO’s many crimes and those of certain western leaders.”

 Ahmad:  “Sanad told my cousin the day after he assassinated Colonel Gadhafi that he is promised protection and that the TNC will not arrest him despite their, for western ears only,  announcement of a planned “investigation” of how Muammar and Mutassim died. Everyone in Libya knows that the investigation of the assassination of  the rebel military commander Abdel Fattah Younes last July has gone nowhere because the Islamist faction who committed the Younes murder is close to Jalil.”

 Ahmad continued, “Like some of his friends, Sanad did fight for a while with the rebels and he sometimes changed units because it was fun and now he plans to form a gang to protect rich Libyans and foreigners as they continue to arrive here to help, as they claim, to rebuild our destroyed country and make democracy. Now we all so exhausted from all the needless killing I am not sure what kind of democracy we will have or even want.  American democracy?  It’s very great? Sometimes it seems you have more problems than we do.  At least we have free education, free medical care, and homes and are not living on the streets without jobs.

Mohammad joined in:   “One Israeli-American Company has offered Sanad and other young men who refuse to give up their guns a job recruiting former fighters for proper training as Libyan police.  There are some Blackwater (XE) people here are also trying to do business with NATO agents for private police forces around Libya. Anyone who thinks NATO is going to leave us in peace is mistaken.  More of them arrive every day.”

Hind, who has not wavered since last summer in her opposition to what she calls “NATO’s team” also voiced strong offense and condemnation of certain pro-rebel Sheiks who have declared that Gadhafi was not a Muslim.  “Everyone knows he was a devout Muslim.  His last Will stated, “I do swear that there is no other God but Allah and that Mohammad is God’s Prophet, peace be upon him. I pledge that I will die as Muslim.”  

 Hind added, “Please tell me who are these TNC Sheiks to say who is are and who is not a Muslim. In Islam it’s between each of us and Allah and nobody else’s business.  If these Sheiks were better Muslims they would have opposed what has been done to his body and that of his son and friend in Sirte and Misrata. It is haram. I am very angry and disgusted.”

Suha complained about “the views of NTC leader Mustafa Abdul-Jalil toward women and that with the already announced repeal of the marriage law, Libyan women have lost the right to keep the family home if they divorce. It is a disaster for Libyan women. Under Gadhafi leadership women in Libya had more rights than in any other country in the Middle East.”

Ahmad explained: “   I am ashamed of what some Muslims are doing.  Our religion does not allow for this mutilation and the freak show the TNC put on in that refrigerator.  I was in Misrata with friends to pay our respects and was surprised how many others were doing the same as our group and for the same reasons.  When the bodies were first exhibited curious people came and some said bad insults.  But by the next day the atmosphere has completely changed. People came to honor Colonel Gadhafi for his courage in dying for what he believed was best for Libya and that was to keep Libya free from colonialism. I don’t believe the media is accurately reporting this. Our leader died a hero like Omar Muktar in my opinion and history will prove this someday.”

Again, his fiancée Amal interrupted Ahmad,   “As Colonel Gadhafi revealed in his Will, NATO made him several offers if he would abandon his country to them. Foolish and criminal NATO established our leader forever as a great resister to colonialism and a patriot for Libya, for all of Africa and for the Middle East. I believe that Colonel Gadhafi died a far more honorable death than the leaders of NATO will. He has more dignity in death than Hilary Clinton and her absence of dignity shown by her stupid comments about his death.”

Amal then said, “I became ill when I left him.  His skin was almost black and his body was rotting quickly with fluids leaking on the floor. They must give him immediately to his family and ask Allah to forgive themselves for their haram. One of the guards told me Colonel Gadhafi was sodomized with a rifle by NTC fighters. He showed the video on his mobile but I would not look. ”

Suha spoke: “We also visited the Mahari Hotel in Sirte where we saw more than 50 bodies of Gadaffi supporters.  Some had their hands behind them bound by plastic handcuffs and were executed at close range. Others had been taken from hospital beds and murdered. This crime is just one more example of the lies of the NTC and NATO.  NATO forces commanded and controlled their rebels and knew what they have been doing.  NATO is responsible for destroying much of our country and for what will surely happen in the coming days.”

I first met Ahmad what now seems like a couple of years ago, but in actuality it was only last June. We sat at an outdoor cafe on Green Square (now renamed Martyrs’ Square) and talked about NATO’s obvious plans for Libya.  Since August 23rd and the precipitous collapse of the loyalist resistance in Tripoli, which Ahmad had been organizing some of the neighborhoods to participate in, he has been on the lam as friends got word to him that NTC death squads were on his trail even staking out the Radisson Hotel lobby where he used to meet with journalists and western friends. Ahmad blames the lack of a real defense of Tripoli, that took us all by surprise, as “our incompetence and some high ranking traitors” for the non-implementation of plans to defend Tripoli from NATO’s rebels.

His first words after we hugged were:  “Now the real resistance will begin! The Libyan people are now even surer than they were during this summer that the NTC sold our country to the NATO colonial countries.   As NATO continues to hunt down Saif al Islam, many around our country are making Saif the new leader of the resistance to colonialism in Libya and in Africa. I personally pledge my support for him and pray that Allah will protect him. Watch what the Gadhafi tribe and my Waffala tribe do together in the coming weeks—but also starting today. Maybe NATO can be said in some ways to have won round one.  But let’s see what happens in the many rounds to come.”

Franklin Lamb is reachable c/o fplamb@gmail.com

 

An apocalyptic end to world’s biggest bubble

An apocalyptic end to world’s biggest bubble

By Paul B. Farrell, MarketWatch

SAN LUIS OBISPO, Calif. (MarketWatch) — The theme: Repent. Haunting images of fanatical serial killers warning, “The End is Near, Repent!” That message seared my brain as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” rode into “Dexter’s” dark world, the Miami Metro Police cable TV series. Now duty calls Dexter, CSI blood splatter expert by day, serial avenger by night.

Yes, the Four Horsemen, again. The perfect biblical metaphor for today’s bizarre world, where irrational ideologies prey on us, driving America deep into a dark world we’ve seen before: Goethe’s Faust, Dorian Gray, Dante’s Inferno.

How else to accept today’s bizarre plot line: A decade ago Republican George W. Bush took our great nation into a $3 trillion war on lies. Today that party is mindlessly controlled by a cultish anti-tax pledge made to lobbyist Grover Norquist and his Americans for Tax Reform group, who once proclaimed: “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

Yes, drown. Kill. Folks, this insane plot line has advanced into a no-compromise, scorched-earth vow to do everything necessary to drown the presidency and reinstall another conservative who will return America to the Wild West policies that sabotaged it in the Bush/Cheney years.

They’ve become a vengeful cult that will never back the president on anything, even their own job-growth policies. Will even destroy the economy to achieve their goals. They do not care about democracy. They want absolute control. And they’re succeeding.

America’s an addict, out-of-control, doesn’t care who gets hurts

Yes folks, I am mad as hell. The America I believed in when I volunteered for the Marine Corps, went to Korea, that America has been hijacked by an irrational, dark force that’s consuming our political system. We saw this coming a few years ago reviewing Jack Bogle’s warnings in “The Battle for the Soul of Capitalism.” Buffett called that one: “There’s class warfare, all right. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

Today that toxic mind-set is a metaphor visible everywhere, in images like Dexter’s Four Horsemen, visions of America descending into a self-created Inferno.

My America is out of control, babbling nonsense, acting like a junkie, addict, very bad alcoholic. Been there. Now decades in recovery. Also worked years professionally with hundreds from Betty Ford Center. Today everywhere I see a nation consumed by addictions: self-centered, selfish, greedy, aggressive, power hungry, lost souls with no moral compass, in denial of their suicidal mission, incapable of stopping.

You know exactly what I’m saying: America is way off track. Our great nation is acting like a drunken self-destructive addict. Could use an intervention. But sadly we’ve drifted so far off our moral compass that only hitting bottom, a total collapse, near-death experience, only another meltdown bigger than 2008 and a depression will do the trick.

You know addictions turn even nice people into monsters. In the end they don’t care who they take down with them. Nothing matters, not families, not nations. Protect your assets folks.

Jeffrey Sachs warns: ‘The Price of Civilization’ will soon shock us

In the Book of Revelation, the Bible tells us the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are a warning of the coming “End of Days,” of war, conquest, famine and death. In Dexter that powerful imagery of the Four Horsemen warns of a great battle coming between the good and evil, a powerful metaphor for today’s America.

That battle also came to mind in reviewing a fascinating new book, “The Price of Civilization: Reawakening American Virtue & Prosperity,” by one of my favorite people, Jeffrey Sachs, director of Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

His CNN summary says it all: Already too many people in our world. Adding too many more every day. Not enough resources. Worse, nobody’s solving the world’s biggest problem, overpopulation: “How do we increase opportunities for all, leave a usable planet for the future?” Read Paul B. Farrell’s take on the world’s biggest problem.

The Four Horsemen kept racing through my mind. Suddenly it was obvious: Sachs is the leader of Four Horsemen, warning mankind of the “End of Days.” The collapse is coming this century, in the next generation, possibly the next decade.

But “The Price” is unbearable, filled with apocalyptic images of the biggest bubble in world history, the population bubble that can destroy civilization. Unfortunately, too few are listening to him:

“Just 12 years after the arrival of the 6 billionth individual on the planet in 1999, humanity will greet the 7 billionth arrival this month.” This “7 billionth person is cause for profound global concern. It carries a challenge: What will it take to maintain a planet in which each person has a chance for a full, productive and prosperous life, and in which the planet’s resources are sustained for future generations? How, in short, can we enjoy ‘sustainable development’ on a very crowded planet?”

“The answer has two parts,” says Sachs. “Each portends a difficult journey over several decades. The first part requires a change of technologies — in farming, energy, industry, transport and building” and “will require an unprecedented degree of global cooperation …The second key to sustainable development is the stabilization of the global population. … Rapid and wholly voluntary reductions of fertility” with population leveling at eight billion.

In contrast, the United Nations forecasts as many as 10 billion by 2050, an intolerable burden on Earth’s scarce resources. One other “Horsemen” warn cannot be met:

Bill McKibben, Horseman: ‘Damage done. Already be too late’

Last year environmental economist and eco-activist Bill McKibben wrote in Foreign Policy magazine: “Act now, we’re told, if we want to save the planet from a climate catastrophe. Trouble is, it might be too late. The science is settled, and the damage has already begun. The only question now is whether we will stop playing political games and embrace the few imperfect options we have left.”

Paul Gilding, Horseman: ‘Forget global warming. Brace for impact!’

After 30 years of “screaming” to get the public’s attention, former Greenpeace CEO Paul Gilding admitted in his new book, “The Great Disruption,” that he finally just gave up. Nothing was working: “We tried. We failed.” Today he has no illusions anything will stop the catastrophe dead ahead.

His message is simple: “It’s time to stop worrying about climate change. Instead we need to brace for impact.” This is “not a doom and gloom prediction, but an inevitable physical reality.” Brace for impact folks.

Bill Gates, Horseman: World’s biggest philanthropist has surrendered

Last year Gates said if he had “one wish to improve humanity’s lot over the next 50 years it would be an “energy miracle,” a magical “new technology that produced energy at half the price of coal with no carbon dioxide emissions.” A year earlier Gates and a large group of billionaires agreed that the world’s biggest problem was population. Yet, oddly, Gates Foundation focuses on neither, may actually be accelerating the population bubble.

Jeremy Grantham, Horseman: Population ‘threatens long-term viability of species’

Grantham manages over $100 billion. He predicted the 2008 meltdown years in advance. Now sees danger in the population explosion calling it an “inevitable mismatch between finite resources and exponential population growth.” He expects a “bubble-like explosion of prices for raw materials.” Then commodity shortages will become a huge “threat to the long-term viability of our species when we reach a population level of 10 billion,” making “it impossible to feed the 10 billion people.”

At 7 billion, the Earth already has two billion people too many. And we’re adding 75 million more each year. Meanwhile scientists warn that Earth’s natural resources can reasonably support roughly 5 billion people. Yes, we’re already 2 billion over Earth’s carrying capacity, deep in denial and headed into a disaster. Likely “population reducers?” Forget voluntary birth control. Only wars, famine and starvation.

Jared Diamond, Horseman: A nation in denial collapses very fast

“One of the disturbing facts of history is that so many civilizations collapse,” warns Jared Diamond, in “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed.” Many “share a sharp curve of decline” that often begins “only a decade or two after it reaches its peak population, wealth and power.” Why? Leaders are in denial, unprepared, like many of today’s senators and presidential candidates who say climate change is a hoax.

Diamond’s two-decades-to-collapse warning coincided with an even darker Pentagon report analyzed in Fortune eight years ago: “Climate could change radically and fast. That would be the mother of all national security issues” Unrest would create “massive droughts, turning farmland into dust bowls and forests to ashes … by 2020 there is little doubt that something drastic is happening … As the planet’s carrying capacity shrinks, an old pattern could emerge; warfare defining human life … an ancient pattern of desperate, all-out wars over food, water, and energy supplies would emerge. ” Warning, the 2020 plot line is accelerating.

‘Population Bubble,’ biggest bubble in history must inevitably pop

Scientific American warns that population is “the most overlooked and essential strategy for achieving long-term balance with the environment.” Yet, the whole world’s in denial, delaying.

Today, First World citizens consume 32 times more resources and put out 32 times more waste than Third World citizens. And now they all want our lifestyle.

Yes, by 2050 the American dream will be the Global dream, exhausting the world’s natural resources. In fact, if all nations consumed resources at the same rate as America today, we’d need six Earths just to survive today.

Fast forward to 2050 and a population of 10 billion. Warning: In our silence today, we are committing suicide tomorrow.

 

When war against tyrants makes you cozy up to tyrants

[We have been playing footsie with dictators and tyrants since the days of Jimmie Carter, or even before.  The arrangements made by us then, with the world's most abusive dictators, have created the intolerable living conditions that have mobilized the masses in revolution (SEE:  “Dictatorships and Double Standards”–the Terror War Begins)--all according to the great plan.  Planned chaos precedes the new order of things.  The United States is able to work its evil way in the world because it dares to lie BIG.  The official government/corporate media version of events is ALWAYS a lie.  Look behind these lies and you will see the careful stage management of events, intended to achieve a desired outcome.  We set-up dictators and terrorists, in order to knock-down later, because it is too unbelievable and irrational to be grasped by the conventional thinking huddled masses.  We are doing our best to further that cockeyed policy today in places like Uzbekistan, where we are once again strengthening the evil dictators who will create tomorrow's problems, just as the mad scientists at CIA and the Pentagon have ordered.]

When war against tyrants makes you cozy up to tyrants

By Russell Zanca

Russell Zanca is a professor of anthropology at Northeastern Illinois University, focusing on Central Asia. He lived in a town outside the Uzbekistan city of Namangan for 18 months during the 1993-1994.

The U.S. is in a fresh embrace with Uzbekistan, the best pathway for military supplies to Afghanistan if your fuel trucks keep getting blown up using the Pakistan route. In a visit over the weekend, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Uzbek President Islam Karimov that he ought to stop brutalizing his people, but that in any case the U.S. appreciates his help with Afghanistan (above, Mrs. Clinton visits a General Motors plant in Tashkent). And in a phone call at the end of last month, President Barack Obama congratulated Karimov on Uzbek independence 20 years after the Soviet collapse.

The object of Obama’s interest is the “Northern Distribution Network,” the Central Asian roads over which diesel and other U.S. military supplies now increasingly travel. The Administration is correct in thinking that NDN, as it is known for short,  will run more smoothly through secular Uzbekistan than supplies have moved through Pakistan. But a question for practitioners of realpolitik is why the U.S.  considers it  necessary to validate the unpopular Uzbek leadership now that it is politically expedient to do so. Where is the U.S. focus on the future of its relations with the nations of Central Asia?

During the past two weeks or so, a number of interesting pieces on the subject have appeared on blogs that focus on Central Asian affairs, including Registan.netRadio Free Europe/Radio LibertyEurasianet.org and Ferghana.ru. Mostly the thrust is that the Karimov regime appears beyond redemption because of gross and sustained violations of human rights and human freedoms, torture of its citizens, and the employment of children in its cotton fields and textile plants. The reporting, allegations, and documentation are not new, but they serve to highlight a reality of doing business with Uzbekistan: Presidents Obama and Karimov said a renewed relationship will further peace, prosperity, stability, and the advancement of democracy in Uzbekistan; but after two decades of such claims from the Clinton to the Bush and now the Obama administrations, does anybody truly believe it will be different this time around?

There is at least one: Joshua Foust of Registan, who knows Karimov is a tyrant, but feels this is a politically and strategically smart move for the U.S. Foust argues that because Karimov is committed to a secular state, he is one of the few regional leaders whose views coincide with America’s. Furthermore, he thinks it guarantees the best possible benefit in terms of regional partnerships and greater success for the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

Like-minded thinkers see Uzbek military forces as competent and trustworthy military partners. Furthermore, Foust himself asserts that there are times when cooperation between U.S. military forces and even those of authoritarian states, such as Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, lead to a softening of how military and police forces handle domestic disturbances.

I am wondering if this was manifest in how Egyptian police recently dealt with Coptic protesters in Cairo. Those who think similarly must know that U.S. and Uzbek military forces have been working together since the mid-1990s, and yet in 2005 Uzbek military units had no compunction aboutkilling hundreds of their countrymen in the city of Andijan. If these examples show that U.S. engagement improves the conduct of the armed forces of dictatorships, I suppose I simply don’t grasp how awful these armed forces might behave without our assistance and cooperation.

My point is that so far the U.S. has had virtually no influence over Karimov’s foreign or domestic policies. So what would prompt him to change tack now, especially given that the Obama call appeared to be desperate? Is the gamble worth the risk of a fresh loss of respect for the U.S. among ordinary Uzbeks?

Elsewhere, I have written that the Uzbek regime practices domestic terrorism. Citizens who dare to complain about poverty, corruption and religious persecution routinely experience psychological and physical torments at the hands of state authorities, including the planting of narcotics on people and the beating of family members. These methods have been widely reported for more than a decade.

In cozying up to Karimov once again, the U.S. fights terrorism in Afghanistan by relying on terrorists in Tashkent.

Afghan War Remains Endless, While Obama’s Iraq Plan Fails

Afghan War Remains Endless, While Obama’s Iraq Plan Fails

By Jack A. Smith

24 October, 2011
The Activist Newsletter

The 10th anniversary of Washington’s invasion, occupation and seemingly endless war in Afghanistan was observed Oct. 7, but despite President Barack Obama’s pledge to terminate the U.S. “combat mission” by the end of 2014, American military involvement will continue many years longer.

The Afghan war is expanding even further, not only with increasing drone attacks in neighboring Pakistani territory but because of U.S. threats to take far greater unilateral military action within Pakistan unless the Islamabad government roots out “extremists” and cracks down harder on cross-border fighters.

Washington’s tone was so threatening that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to assure the Pakistani press Oct. 21 that the U.S. did not plan a ground offensive against Pakistan. The next day, Afghan President Hamid Karzai shocked Washington by declaring “God forbid, If ever there is a war between Pakistan and America, Afghanistan will side with Pakistan…. If Pakistan is attacked and if the people of Pakistan needs Afghanistan’s help, Afghanistan will be there with you.”

At the same time, Washington has just suffered a spectacular setback in Iraq, where the Obama Administration has been applying extraordinary pressure on the Baghdad government for over a year to permit many thousands of U.S. troops to remain indefinitely after all American forces are supposed to withdraw at the end of this year.

President Obama received the Iraqi government’s rejection from Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki Oct. 21, and promptly issued a public statement intended to completely conceal the fact that a long-sought U.S. goal has just been obliterated, causing considerable disruption to U.S. plans. Obama made a virtue of necessity by stressing that “Today, I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year.”

This article will first discuss the situation in Afghanistan after 10 years, then take up the Iraq question and what the U.S. may do to compensate for a humiliating and disruptive rebuff.

The United States is well aware it will never win a decisive victory in Afghanistan. At this point, the Obama Administration is anxious to convert the military stalemate into a form of permanent truce, if only the Taliban were willing to accept what amounts to a power sharing deal that would allow Washington to claim the semblance of success after a decade of war.

In addition President Obama seeks to retain a large post-“withdrawal” military presence throughout the country mainly for these reasons:

• To protect its client regime in Kabul led by Karzai, as well as Washington’s other political an commercial interests in the country, and to maintain a menacing military presence on Iran’s eastern border, especially if U.S. troops cannot now remain in Iraq.

• To retain territory in Central Asia for U.S. and NATO military forces positioned close to what Washington perceives to be its two main (though never publicly identified) enemies — China and Russia — at a time when the American government is increasing its political pressure on both countries. Obama is intent upon transforming NATO from a regional into a global adjunct to Washington’s quest for retaining and extending world hegemony. NATO’s recent victory in Libya is a big advance for U.S. ambitions in Africa, even if the bulk of commercial spoils go to France and England. A permanent NATO presence in Central Asia is a logical next step. In essence, Washington’s geopolitical focus is expanding from the Middle East to Central Asia and Africa in the quest for resources, military expansion and unassailable hegemony, especially from the political and economic challenge of rising nations of the global south, led China.

There has been an element of public deception about withdrawing U.S. “combat troops” from Iraq and Afghanistan dating from the first Obama election campaign in 2007-8. Combat troops belong to combat brigades. In a variant of bait-and-switch trickery, the White House reported that all combat brigades departed Iraq in August 2010. Technically this is true, because those that did not depart were simply renamed “advise and assist brigades.” According to a 2009 Army field manual such brigades are entirely capable, “if necessary,” of shifting from “security force assistance” back to combat duties.

In Afghanistan, after the theoretical pullout date, it is probable that many “advise and assist brigades” will remain along with a large complement of elite Joint Special Operations Forces strike teams (SEALs, Green Berets, etc.) and other officially “non-combat” units — from the CIA, drone operators, fighter pilots, government security employees plus “contractor security” personnel, including mercenaries. Thousands of other “non-combat” American soldiers will remain to train the Afghan army.

According to an Oct. 8 Associated Press dispatch, “Senior U.S. officials have spoken of keeping a mix of 10,000 such [special operations-type] forces in Afghanistan, and drawing down to between 20,000 and 30,000 conventional forces to provide logistics and support. But at this point, the figures are as fuzzy as the future strategy.” Estimates of how long the Pentagon will remain in Afghanistan range from 2017 to 2024 to “indefinitely.”

Obama marked the 10th anniversary with a public statement alleging that “Thanks to the extraordinary service of these [military] Americans, our citizens are safer and our nation is more secure”— the most recent of the continuous praise of war-fighters and the conduct of these wars of choice from the White House since the 2001 bombing, invasion and occupation.

Just two days earlier a surprising Pew Social Trend poll of post-9/11 veterans was made public casting doubt about such a characterization. Half the vets said the Afghanistan war wasn’t worth fighting in terms of benefits and costs to the U.S. Only 44% thought the Iraq war was worth fighting. One-third opined that both wars were not worth waging. Opposition to the wars has been higher among the U.S. civilian population. But it’s unusual in a non-conscript army for its veterans to emerge with such views about the wars they volunteered to fight.

The U.S. and its NATO allies issued an unusually optimistic assessment of the Afghan war on Oct. 15, but it immediately drew widespread skepticism. According to the New York Times the next day, “Despite a sharp increase in assassinations and a continuing flood of civilian casualties, NATO officials said that they had reversed the momentum of the Taliban insurgency as enemy attacks were falling for the first time in years…. [This verdict] runs counter to dimmer appraisals from some Afghan officials and other international agencies, including the United Nations. With the United States preparing to withdraw 10,000 troops by the end of this year and 23,000 more by next October, it raises questions about whether NATO’s claims of success can be sustained.”

Less than two weeks earlier German Gen. Harald Kujat, who planned his country’s military support mission in Afghanistan, declared that “the mission fulfilled the political aim of showing solidarity with the United States. But if you measure progress against the goal of stabilizing a country and a region, then the mission has failed.”

According to Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, the U.S. presence in Afghanistan is a critically important “long term commitment” and “we’re going to be there longer than 2014.” He made the disclosure to the Senate Armed Services Committee Sept. 22, a week before he retired. In a statement Oct. 3, the Pentagon’s new NATO commander in Afghanistan, Marine Gen. John Allen, declared: “The plan is to win. The plan is to be successful. And so, while some folks might hear that we’re departing in 2014… we’re actually going to be here for a long time.”

Lt. Gen. John Mulholland, departing head of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, told the AP Oct. 8: “We’re moving toward an increased special operations role…,whether it’s counterterrorism-centric, or counterterrorism blended with counterinsurgency.” White House National Security Advisor Tom Donilon said in mid-September that by 2014 “the U.S. remaining force will be basically an enduring presence force focused on counterterrorism.” Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta strongly supports President Obama’s call for an “enduring presence” in Afghanistan beyond 2014.

Former U.S. Afghan commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who was fired last year for his unflattering remarks about Obama Administration officials, said in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations Oct. 6 that after a decade of fighting in Afghanistan the U.S. was only “50% of the way” toward attaining its goals. “We didn’t know enough and we still don’t know enough,” he said. “Most of us — me included — had a very superficial understanding of the situation and history, and we had a frighteningly simplistic view of recent history, the last 50 years.”

Washington evidently had no idea that one of the poorest and least developed countries in the world — a society of 30 million people where the literacy rate is 28% and life expectancy is just 44 years — would fiercely fight to retain national sovereignty. The Bush Administration, which launched the Afghan war a few weeks after 9/11, evidently ignored the fact that the people of Afghanistan ousted every occupying army from that of Alexander the Great and Genghis Kahn to the British Empire and the USSR.

The U.S. spends on average in excess of $2 billion a week in Afghanistan, not to mention the combined spending of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, but the critical needs of the Afghan people in terms of health, education, welfare and social services after a full decade of military involvement by the world’s richest countries remain essentially untended.

For example, 220,000 Afghan children under five — one in five — die every year due to pneumonia, poor nutrition, diarrhea and other preventable diseases, according to the State of the World’s Children report released by the UN Children’s Fund. UNICEF also reports the maternal mortality rate with about 1,600 deaths per every 100,000 live births. Save the Children says this amounts to over 18,000 women a year. It is also reported by the UN that 70% of school-age girls do not attend school for various reasons — conservative parents, lack of security, or fear for their lives. All told, about 92% of the Afghan population does not have access to proper sanitation.

Even after a decade of U.S. combat, the overwhelming majority of the Afghan people still have no clear idea why Washington launched the war. According to the UK’s Daily Mail Sept. 9, a new survey by the International Council on Security and Development showed that 92% of 1,000 Afghan men polled had never even heard of the attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon — the U.S. pretext for the invasion — and did not know why foreign troops were in the country. (Only men were queried in the poll because many more of them are literate, 43.1% compared to 12.6% of women.)

In another survey, conducted by Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation and released Oct. 18, 56% of Afghans view U.S./NATO troops as an occupying force, not allies as Washington prefers. The survey results show that “there appears to be an increasing amount of anxiety and fear rather than hope.”

Perhaps the most positive news about Afghanistan — and it is a thunderously mixed “blessing” — is that the agricultural economy boomed last year. But, reports the Oct. 11 Business Insider, it’s because “rising opium prices have upped the ante in Afghanistan, and farmers have responded by posting a 61% increase in opium production.” Afghani farmers produce 90% of the world’s opium, the main ingredient in heroin. Half-hearted U.S.-NATO eradication efforts failed because insufficient attention was devoted to providing economic and agricultural substitutes for the cultivation of opium.

Another outcome of foreign intervention and U.S. training is the boundless brutality and corruption of the Afghan police toward civilians and especially Taliban “suspects.” Writing in Antiwar.com John Glaser reported:

“Detainees in Afghan prisons are hung from the ceilings by their wrists, severely beaten with cables and wooden sticks, have their toenails torn off, are treated with electric shock, and even have their genitals twisted until they lose consciousness, according to a study released Oct. 10 by the United Nations. The study, which covered 47 facilities sites in 22 provinces, found ‘a compelling pattern and practice of systematic torture and ill-treatment’ during interrogation by U.S.-supported Afghan authorities. Both U.S. and NATO military trainers and counterparts have been working closely with these authorities, consistently supervising the detention facilities and funding their operations.”

In mid-September Human Rights Watch documented that U.S.-supported anti-Taliban militias are responsible for many human rights abuses that are overlooked by their American overseers. At around the same time the American Open Society Foundations revealed that the Obama Administration has tripled the number of nighttime military raids on civilian homes, which terrorize many families. The report noted that “An estimated 12 to 20 raids now occur per night, resulting in thousands of detentions per year, many of whom are non-combatants.” The U.S. military admits that half the arrests are “mistakes.”

Meanwhile, it was reported in October that in the first nine months this year U.S.-NATO drones conducted nearly 23,000 surveillance missions in the Afghanistan sky. With nearly 85 flights a day, the Obama Administration has almost doubled the daily amount in the last two years. Hundreds of civilians, including nearly 170 children, have been killed in the Afghan-Pakistan border areas from drone attacks. Miniature killer/surveillance drones — small enough to be carried in backpacks— are soon expected to be distributed to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

So far the Afghanistan war has taken the lives of some 1,730 American troops and about a thousand from NATO. There are no reliable figures on the number Afghan civilians killed since the beginning of the war. The UN’s Assistance Mission to Afghanistan did not start to count such casualties until 2007. According to the Voice of America Oct. 7, “Each year, the civilian death toll has risen, from more than 1,500 dead in 2007 to more than 2,700 in 2010. And in the first half of this year, the UN office reported there were 2,400 civilians killed in war-related incidents.”

At minimum the war has cost American taxpayers about a half-trillion dollars since 2001. The U.S. will continue to spend billions in the country for many years to come and the final cost — including interest on war debts that will be carried for scores more years — will mount to multi-trillions that future generations will have to pay. At present there are 94,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan plus about 37,000 NATO troops. Another 45,000 well paid “contractors” perform military duties, and many are outright mercenaries.

Washington is presently organizing, arming, training and financing hundreds of thousands of Afghan troops and police forces, and is expected to continue paying some $5 billion a year for this purpose at least until 2025.

The U.S. government has articulated various different objectives for its engagement in Afghanistan over the years. Crushing al-Qaeda and defeating the Taliban have been most often mentioned, but as an Oct. 7 article from the Council on Foreign Relations points out: “The main U.S. goals in Afghanistan remain uncertain. They have meandered from marginalizing the Taliban to state-building, to counterinsurgency, to counterterrorism, to — most recently — reconciliation and negotiation with the Taliban. But the peace talks remain nascent and riddled with setbacks. Karzai suspended the talks after the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, the government’s chief negotiator, which the Afghan officials blamed on the Pakistan-based Haqqani network. The group denies it.”

There is another incentive for the U.S. to continue fighting in Afghanistan — to eventually convey the impression of victory, an absolute domestic political necessity.

The most compelling reason for the Afghan war is geopolitical, as noted above — finally obtaining a secure military foothold for the U.S. and its NATO accessory in the Central Asian backyards of China and Russia . In addition, a presence in Afghanistan places the U.S. in close military proximity to two volatile nuclear powers backed by the U.S. but not completely under its control by any means (Pakistan, India). Also, this fortuitous geography is flanking the extraordinary oil and natural gas wealth of the Caspian Basin and energy-endowed former Soviet Muslim republics such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

In Iraq, the Obama Administration’s justification for retaining troops after the end of this year was ostensibly to train the Iraqi military and police forces, but there were other reasons:

• Washington seeks to remain in Iraq to keep an eye on Baghdad because it fears a mutually beneficial alliance may develop between Iraq and neighboring Iran, two Shi’ite societies in an occasionally hostile Sunni Muslim world, weakening American hegemony in the strategically important oil-rich Persian Gulf region and ultimately throughout the Middle East/North Africa.

• The U.S. also seeks to safeguard lucrative economic investments in Iraq, and the huge future profits expected by American corporations, especially in the denationalized petroleum sector. Further, Pentagon and CIA forces were stationed — until now, it seems — in close proximity to Iran’s western border, a strategic position to invade or bring about regime change.

Under other conditions, the U.S. may simply have insisted on retaining its troops regardless of Iraqi misgivings, but the Status of Forces compact governing this matter can only be changed legally by mutual agreement between Washington and Baghdad. The concord was arranged in December 2008 between Prime Minister Maliki and President George W. Bush — not Obama, who now takes credit for ending the Iraq war despite attempting to extend the mission of a large number of U.S. troops.

At first Washington wanted to retain more than 30,000 troops plus a huge diplomatic and contractor presence in Iraq after “complete” withdrawal. Maliki — pushed by many of the country’s political factions, including some influenced by Iran’s opposition to long-term U.S. occupation — held out for a much smaller number.

Early in October Baghdad decided that 3,000 to 5,000 U.S. troops in a training-only capacity was the most that could be accommodated. In addition, the Iraqis in effect declared a degree of independence from Washington by insisting that remaining American soldiers must be kept on military bases and not be granted legal immunity when in the larger society. Washington, which has troops stationed in countries throughout the world, routinely insists upon legal exemption for its foreign legions as a matter of imperial hubris, and would not compromise.

The White House has indicated that an arrangement may yet be worked out to permit some American trainers and experts to remain, perhaps as civilians or contractors. Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a staunch opponent of the U.S. occupation, has suggested Iraq should employ trainers for its armed forces from other countries, but this is impractical for a country using American arms and planes.

Regardless, the White House is increasing the number of State Department employees in Iraq from 8,000 to an almost unbelievable 16,000, mostly stationed at the elephantine new embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone quasi-military enclave, in new American consulates in other cities, and in top “advisory” positions in many of the of the regime’s ministries, particularly the oil ministry. Half the State Department personnel, 8,000 people, will handle “security” duties, joined by some 5,000 new private “security contractors.”

Thus, at minimum the U.S. will possess 13,000 of its own armed “security” forces, and there’s still a possibility Baghdad and Washington will work out an arrangement for adding a limited number of “non-combat” military trainers, openly or by other means.

In his Oct. 21 remarks, Obama sought to transform the total withdrawal he sought to avoid into a simulacrum of triumph for the troops and himself: “The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops…. That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end.”

Heads held high, proud of success — for an unjust, illegal war based on lies that is said to have cost over a million Iraqi lives and created four million refugees! It has been estimated that the final U.S.. costs of the Iraq war will be over $5 trillion when the debt and interest are finally paid off decades from now.

If President Obama is reelected— even should the Iraq war actually end — he will be coordinating U.S. involvement in wars and occupations in Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and now Uganda (where American 100 combat troops have just been inserted). Add to this various expanding drone campaigns, and such adventures as Washington’s support for Israel against the Palestinians and for the Egyptian military regime against popular aspirations for full democracy, followed by the backing of dictatorial regimes in a half-dozen countries, and continual threats against Iran.

Washington’s $1.4 trillion annual military and national security expenditures are a major factor behind America’s monumental national debt and the cutbacks in social services for the people, but aside from White House rhetoric about reducing redundant Pentagon expenditures, overall war/security budgets are expected to increase over the next several years.

The Bush and Obama Administrations have manipulated realty to convince American public opinion that the Iraq and Afghan wars are ending in U.S. successes. Washington fears the resurrection of the “Vietnam Syndrome” that resulted after the April 1975 U.S. defeat in Indochina. The “syndrome” led to a 15-year disinclination by the American people to support aggressive, large-scale U.S. wars against small, poor countries in the developing third world until the January 1991 Gulf War, part one of the two-part Iraq war that continued in March 2003.

According to an article in the Oct. 9 New York Times titled “The Other War Haunting Obama,” author, journalist and Harvard emeritus professor Marvin Kalb wrote: ” Ten years after the start of the war in Afghanistan, an odd specter haunts the Obama White House — the specter of Vietnam, a war lost decades before. Like Banquo’s ghost, it hovers over the White House still, an unwelcome memory of where America went wrong, a warning of what may yet go wrong.”

This fear of losing another war to a much smaller adversary — and perhaps suffering the one-term fate of President Lyndon Johnson who presided over the Vietnam debacle — evidently was a factor behind President Obama’s decision to vastly expand the size of the U.S. military commitment to Afghanistan and why the White House is now planning a long-term troop presence beyond the original pullout date.

Today’s combat directly touches the lives of only a small minority Americans — militarily members and families — and much of the majority remains uninformed or misinformed about many of the causes and effects of the Iraq/Afghan adventures. Obama may thus eventually be able to convey the illusion of military success, which will help pave the way for future imperial violence unless the people of the United States wise up and act en masse to prevent future aggressive wars.

The author is editor of the Activist Newsletter and is former editor of the (U.S.) Guardian Newsweekly. He may be reached at jacdon@earthlink.net or
http://activistnewsletter.blogspot.com/

Pakistani wolf to guard Afghan henhouse

Pakistani wolf to guard Afghan henhouse 

By M K Bhadrakumar

The visit by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Islamabad last week turned out to be yet another defining moment in the endgame in Afghanistan. It took place under the heavy cloud cover of propaganda. Foggy Bottom habitually resorts to strident public diplomacy when Uncle Sam’s tailcoat is on fire so that the awkwardness of dousing the flames remains a private affair.

This was literally the case last week. US diplomats strove to give spin to media persons amenable to listening, that Clinton was going to hand down a tough message to the recalcitrant General

Headquarters of the Pakistani army in Rawalpindi: “Pakistan must crack down on the Haqqani network who take shelter in North Waziristan on the Afghan border regions and incessantly bleed the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces, or else, the US would suo moto act.”

The US spin doctors made it out to be that with or without Pakistan, the US was anyway going to fight the insurgents (as well as “talk” with them and also “build” Afghanistan), but Pakistan’s relationship with the US was at risk unless its military leadership acted now.

Clearly, Clinton’s was a do-or-die mission. Seldom if ever is it that the “good cop” and the “bad cop” undertake a joint mission. Clinton was accompanied at the talks in Islamabad by Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director David Petraeus and the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Martin Dempsey. What did Clinton’s mission accomplish?

Dramatic u-turn
In the event, five things emerged. One, the US has publicly acknowledged the centrality of Pakistan’s role in the Afghan endgame. Two, the US publicly accepted the consistent Pakistani demand that the Haqqanis should be engaged in talks and that excluding them would make the entire process fragile. The Haqqani network is one of the most important components of the Taliban-led insurgency in Afghanistan.

Three, therefore, the new approach will be to “squeeze” the Haqqanis so that they come to the negotiating table – rather than try to vanquish them as an irreconcilable insurgent group. Four, the US understood the range of factors behind Pakistan’s hesitation in launching military operations in North Waziristan and would therefore switch tack and opt for “other forms of acting”, such as sharing real-time intelligence and debilitating the network’s lethal capabilities.

Five, Clinton conceded repeatedly Islamabad’s “legitimate” concerns regarding the Taliban operating out of safe havens on Afghan soil to carry out cross-border terrorist attacks on its soil, and henceforth US troops would “up the military tempo” against those sanctuaries and prevent them from attacking Pakistan.

Clinton also made several demonstrative gestures to the effect that the US was prepared to go the extra league – even suspend its disbelief on occasions – in a determined effort to repair the rift in US-Pakistan ties. She admitted that the US had had “one preliminary meeting” with the Haqqanis “to essentially just see if they would show up for even a preliminary meeting”, and, indeed, Pakistani officials “helped to facilitate” it.

She went a step ahead to reveal that the US and Pakistan were working to “try to put together a process that would sequence toward an actual negotiation” with the Haqqani network. Clinton virtually recalibrated the earlier US formula of “talk, talk, fight, fight”. She said, “We [US] want to see more talking than fighting, but in order to get to the talking, we have to keep fighting … we are now at a point where the potential for talking exists.”

Clinton categorically denied that the Barack Obama administration recently considered the option of US ground incursions into Pakistani territory. “That has never been a serious consideration.” On the contrary, the US is rebooting the strategic dialogue with Pakistan and is putting together a new work plan, “Because we got, as you say, diverted over the last months, and we want to get back to business.”

Clinton also gave a “no-objection” certificate to the Inter-Services Intelligence’s dealings with the Haqqanis. She couldn’t have put it across in a nicer way:

Now, every intelligence agency has contacts with unsavory characters. That is part of the job of being in an intelligence agency. What those contacts are, how they are operationalized, who has them – all of that is what we are now working on together. But I don’t think you would get any denial from either the ISI or the CIA that people in their respective organizations have contacts with members of groups that have different agendas than the governments.

So, I think what we are saying is let’s use those contacts to try to bring these people to the table to see whether or not they are going to be cooperative … it was the Pakistani intelligence services that brought a Haqqani member to a meeting with an American team. So you have to know where to call them. You’ve got to know where they are. So those are the kinds of things that we have to examine and understand how they can be beneficial.

Clinton revealed after the talks that in Pakistani army chief Parvez Kiani’s estimation, Pakistan and the US were “90% to 95% on the same page”. She shared the general’s optimism. “I think that our cooperative relationships between our military, between our intelligence agencies, are back on an upward trajectory.” The residual issues pertain to the “operational” parts.

Clinton said that “serious, in-depth discussions” took place with “specifics” as regards the “Afghan peace process, reconciliation, how do we do it, how do we make it work”, and the two sides will now be taking forward “that conversation and operationalizing it over the next days and weeks, not months and years, but days and weeks”. She explained, “We need a work plan to actually sequence out what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it together.” She revealed that the issue of a ceasefire in Afghanistan as a prelude to talks came up.

On the whole, the US leaves it to Pakistan to work out the particulars of “squeezing the Haqqanis”, while there is “complete agreement in trying to move forward on a peace process”. The US and Pakistan have passed the “challenging phase in the last few months”, as Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar put it.

A grand bargain 
What explains the dramatic u-turn in the US’s strategy? In a nutshell, the Obama administration sized up that Pakistan was hunkering down and an impasse was developing, which was unacceptable, given the timeline ahead for the US withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014. The heavy pressure tactic to the point of brandishing the sword failed to produce the desired result and is unlikely to work.

In sum, Washington sees the futility of visualizing Pakistan as a hostile power and of trying to impose an Afghan settlement that is unacceptable to the Pakistani military. The US has, therefore, switched to a startlingly innovative strategy. The mantra is to “incentivize” Pakistan by inviting it to play a major role in Afghanistan, but on conditions, which also ensures that the US’s strategic interests remain protected.

It essentially devolves on conceding Pakistani primacy in Afghanistan and putting the Pakistani leadership in charge of negotiating with their counterparts in Kabul a settlement accommodating the Taliban that would stop the bloodshed and stabilize the country.

This may seem to detractors of Pakistan (in Afghanistan, the region and internationally) as a mild version of putting the wolf in charge of the henhouse, and it certainly assumes that Pakistan has had a change of heart with regard to its past agenda of dominating its weaker, smaller neighbor that has shown the temerity or tenacity – depending on one’s point of view – to refuse to accept the Durand Line, which makes Pakistan’s 2,500-kilometer border and the attendant unresolved Pashtun nationality question existential themes for Pakistan’s integrity as a sovereign state.

But the US sees this as part of a grand bargain that Pakistan will be sorely tempted to accept if it is made sufficiently alluring. The US expectation is to make it a “win-win” situation by making the stabilization of Afghanistan form an integral part of its so-called New Silk Road vision.

Indeed, history might record that the main thrust of Clinton’s mission to Islamabad was to clear the (temporary) hurdle of the Afghan endgame so that all protagonists can bite the succulent fruit of the low-hanging New Silk Road project that aims at exploiting the vast mineral resources of Central Asia.

Significantly, Clinton also included Tajikistan and Uzbekistan in her regional tour – the two countries other than Pakistan that would have crucial roles to play in developing the communication links connecting Central Asia with world markets. Her focus in the regional capitals was on the “New Silk Road vision”, which she will be presenting at an Istanbul conference on November 2 in an “effort to get the region to buy into it” – to use Clinton’s words.

While in Islamabad, she was candid that without Pakistan’s active support, the New Silk Road project was not going to work. She exuded optimism that under the canopy of the “New Silk Road vision”, even the intractable India-Pakistan animosities could be sorted out as the two South Asian rivals become accustomed to the name of the game, which is that the ultimate aim of all good politics is about creating wealth and prosperity in their impoverished lands.

The Barack Obama administration has careered away from its path of spearheading the search for an Afghan settlement by directly engaging the Taliban, bypassing Pakistan and creating afait accompli for Islamabad. Put differently, Pakistan has scored a resounding political victory by correctly judging the range of the US’s vulnerabilities in the given situation and carefully factoring in Pakistan’s “strategic assets” and by adopting a unified civil-military stance.

So far so good. It is almost certain that the apple cart will not be upset before Clinton unveils the US’s “New Silk Road vision” at the conference of Afghanistan’s neighbors and major powers in Istanbul a week from now. But what happens beyond that?

Many imponderables remain. First and foremost, it might be that Pakistan is taking up much, much more than it can chew. The assumption that Pakistan has decisive influence over Taliban groups will be put to the acid test. Specifically, what about the US’s intentions regarding establishing a permanent military presence in Afghanistan? Are the Taliban willing to accept it as the price to pay for political accommodation – and if not, will Pakistan want to arm-twist them? Meanwhile, Pakistan’s own stance on the issue remains ambiguous.

Equally, non-Pashtun groups would view Pakistani intentions with great suspicion. Not only does the US’s new Afghan policy refuse to factor in Iran as a key player, Clinton even utilized the regional tour to indulge in some high-voltage characterization of the Iranians as bad boys hopelessly wedded to dangerous pastimes. Iran will be closely watching every baby step that Pakistan takes from today onward.

Equally, Pakistan’s appetite has been whetted and how it presents its own “wish-list” to Obama (which it will do some day soon) will be keenly awaited in the neighboring capital of New Delhi. The New Silk Road has a long gestation period and such fruits have a tendency to turn sour quickly in the Central Asian steppes.

At any rate, Delhi would assess that in the long run, we are all dead, and, therefore, its emphasis would be on the now and the tangible. The US may need to work on Delhi to roll back its influence in Kabul; it may at some point try to mediate on the Kashmir problem between India and Pakistan; it may resuscitate its robust military partnership with Pakistan; it may invite in China as a “stakeholder” in South Asia.

Learning to live with the Americans in the neighborhood isn’t exactly turning out to be a pleasant experience for Indian pundits. One day they were told that the Haqqanis were the murderers who attacked the Indian Embassy in Kabul – and, indeed, the US Embassy too – and now they overhear tit-bits of conversation that the US has had a change of heart.

Conceivably, they would hope to hear from US National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, who arrives in Delhi this week, how such phenomenal shifts take place in US policies and where this leaves its one and only “indispensable partner” in South Asia and the entire Indian Ocean region – India.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

If GM Workers Had Been Willing To Pick Cotton, Would They Still Have Their Jobs and Pensions?

[The criminal American industrialist policies that have resulted in Uzbek General Motors plants amounts to a labor war, waged by trillionaires, against the American middle class.   The closing of American factories and industry was a scorched earth policy, intended to skirt US govt. regulations that were written to protect American workers, and to transfer opportunities for employment to sub-standard foreign environments, like Uzbekistan.   Those protective labor regulations that are so hated by corporate fat-cats were hard-won by workers who stood together to demand fair and safe working conditions and wages, while corporate management maintained that they had no responsibility to workers or their families, or to the American consumers.  In the end, consumers suffered as well, with the inevitable loss of quality as American standards were thrown away for the sake of corporate greed.  The fact that GM's new Uzbek workers are also expected to pick cotton today, along with Uzbek school children, is an accurate picture of exactly what General Motors has always demanded from UAW workers.  They expected them to submit to a return to turn of the previous century work standards and wages, bowing and scraping, while serving "Massa's" will, hard at work on the corporate plantations.] 

Uzbekistan: Clinton Visits GM Plant; Activists Say Workers Forced to Pick Cotton

War between elephants and horses at AF-PAK: post-bin Laden opportunities

War between elephants and horses at AF-PAK: post-bin Laden opportunities

by Emrah Usta*

0
In an exclusive interview with the BBC, Ahmad Rashid drew attention to the increasingly harsh conditions in Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2010, adding that there has been a serious power struggle since the end of the Cold War and that this intervention is moving towards a Pakistan-Afghanistan war.
After this statement, the developments in the AF-PAK signal that it is the end of a power struggle and the start of a full war. If we take a look at recent developments in the AF-PAK region, we see that the crisis that erupted after the killing of Osama bin Laden in the Bilal district of Islamabad in Pakistan in May escalated through attacks against the US Embassy in Kabul and NATO units mid-September, while tension further grew in a region shaken by the assassination of Burhanuddin Rabbani, known as the last peace envoy.

Some strategic tendencies that resurfaced after the recent assassination of Rabbani provide some hints on what is going on in the region. The state of insecurity after bin Laden was killed by SEAL commandos on Pakistani soil raised tension between the two countries. Some factions in Afghanistan accused Pakistan of providing intelligence to the Americans and the recent Rabbani incident escalated tension between the two states. Even though Rabbani was not a leading and powerful figure in Afghan domestic politics, he was a leader loved by the Afghan people and respected by Afghan politicians because of his spiritual and social leadership.

From this perspective, the assassination is actually a bullet fired at peace and the local people in the region. The statements made by Afghan authorities after this incident added a new dimension to the whole case as it was argued that it was committed by Pakistan; the argument that Pakistani intelligence was also involved in the assassination shows that the cards are being redistributed in the region after bin Laden’s death. On the other hand, Rabbani, who assumed a leadership role after the end of Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, was elected president by jihadist groups. However, his decision to withdraw to the north of Afghanistan at a time when the country was moving toward civil war raised questions. From this perspective, Rabbani is a disputable figure, with both opponents and supporters among the Afghan people. Some hold that Rabbani was taking the country to the brink of civil war but turned into a dove later. In consideration of all these facts and realities, the Taliban appears to be an anti-thesis to the argument that the assassination was committed by Pakistan; the fact that the Taliban made differing statements on the assassination and that various Taliban figures assumed responsibility for the assassination raises doubts and questions.

Could Kabul become Pakistan’s new strategy?

The tension in the region escalated further after former US Chief of Staff Mike Mullen accused Pakistani intelligence — the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) — of supporting a Taliban-linked insurgent group for the September attack on the US Embassy in Kabul. Likewise, remarks by the US State Department’s Mark Toner, who in late September said that northern Pakistan had turned into a safe haven for terrorists, surprised the Pakistani authorities. These remarks also gave the green light for a possible armed intervention, in addition to diplomatic efforts.

Pakistan’s conflict of interest with Afghanistan bears cultural and political significance as well. The Pashtun population, which remained along the Afghan-Pakistan border under the Durand Line Agreement, has become a source of problems between the two countries in recent years, despite Afghanistan’s attempts at assimilating them, as they remained immune to Afghanistan’s efforts.

But these were not the only problems, as the US using the Taliban and then-Pakistani intelligence against the Soviet Union in the past was of great help to the Pakistani government back then. It enabled it to avoid the spreading Soviet danger and remain influential in regions like Kashmir. In this way, the newly emerging Pakistani state survived in this precarious region.

All this aside, this ensures the consolidation of historical, ethnic and cultural ties between Afghanistan and Pakistan. This implies that Islamabad has the opportunity to further resist Russia’s pressure after the emergence of the Taliban as a strong actor and expand its sphere of influence among the Afghan Pashtun population. One of the reasons why Pakistan focuses on Kabul is that it sees Kabul as an extension of Indian policies. Any isolation that could be applied to Kabul policies will mean that Indian policies will be restricted, which will create an artificial strategic depth between the two states.

The term “Eurasian Balkans” goes no further than being a notion that Zbigniew Brezezinski created for Central Asia within American national security policy. Brezezinski holds that the US entry into Central Asian policies is possible through the door and region that the “Eurasian Balkans” open. To this end, security in the Eurasian Balkans, susceptible to the potential ethnic internal conflicts frequently stressed in American foreign policy, has crucial importance for Central Asia.

For this reason, Russia’s close relations with India and Afghanistan in their policies pose challenges for American policies. To this end, it should be noted that right after the Rabbani assassination, the administration of Afghan President Hamid Karzai made a strategic agreement with India after accusing Pakistan of being involved in the incident. Even though it was argued that this deal was aimed at no other states, the message was crystal clear: Making a series of military and strategic agreements that envisaged the training of Afghan troops will mean India containing Pakistan in both the Kashmir and Afghan issues. US-Pakistani relations are critically important in this respect.

Will India, which now assumes the role of mediation in the escalating tension between Pakistan and the US, which has been exerting efforts to make sure that Afghanistan does not turn into another Vietnam, be successful? This question raises doubts because a possible American withdrawal from Afghanistan may lead to the growth of fundamentalist groups in the region, and such a scenario for Afghanistan shows that the status quo has changed dramatically over the years.

The cards that changed in the Eurasian Balkan and Central Asian countries raise doubts and concerns for the American administration. Probable turmoil in Afghanistan may clear the way for fundamentalist groups to acquire power, enabling Pakistan to change its strategy.

Pakistan, which may suffer from American pressure, could also enter a crisis with India over nuclear balances. Able to observe all these factors, the Barack Obama administration will rely on controlled passive diplomacy in order to remain a global power in the region with Iran, Russia, China, India and Pakistan, because one step further in this strategy is the Caucasian energy line, as well as nuclear activities. The White House, which is considering making Pakistan foot the bill for these developments, may provoke a Pakistani-Indian conflict to address Afghan grievances. The next strategy of the Obama administration, which expects the elephants to crush the horses, will be asking Pakistan to cease its nuclear activities because of the Indian threat.


*Emrah Usta is the US political analyst and free-lance observer based in Turkey. The author can be followed on Twitter: @StrategcAnalyst

Afghans find little to praise in new US-led offensive

Afghans find little to praise in new US-led offensive

By HABIB ZOHORI AND SHASHANK BENGALI -
McClatchy Newspapers

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN – As U.S.-led coalition forces intensify their battle against insurgents in rugged eastern Afghanistan, many residents there remain skeptical of the chances for military success and worry about the fallout from increased fighting.

NATO and Afghan forces announced Monday that two recent operations had captured or killed approximately 200 insurgents – including 20 directly tied to the Haqqani network, the Taliban-allied insurgent group blamed for some of the most devastating attacks this year in the Afghan capital, Kabul.

A separate six-day operation against the Haqqanis in Musa Khail, along the border of insurgent-plagued Khost and Paktiya provinces, resulted in the capture of 11 insurgents and six weapons caches and was “one of the greatest successes to date,” according to a coalition press release.

But residents of Musa Khail said they feared that the military gains would be fleeting and that the operations could result in the closure of the Pakistani border, the lifeline for the region. NATO officials believe that the Haqqanis and other insurgent groups enjoy safe havens in Pakistan and that fighters move back and forth freely across the porous border. But Pakistani leaders have been unwilling to crack down on the groups despite repeated urgings by U.S. officials.

“People started worrying when the Americans announced that they would shift the war from the south to the southeast of Afghanistan,” Haji Gulab Mangal, a tribal leader in Musa Khail, said by telephone.

If it continues, the military campaign “can cause a lot of problems for the local population,” he said. “Instead of launching military operations on this side of the border, the Americans should put pressure on Pakistan and the Taliban on the other side of the border.”

In its first official acknowledgment of the operation in Musa Khail, NATO said that Afghan forces had rarely had a presence in the area until recently. The U.S.-led coalition is shifting more energy to eastern Afghanistan even as international forces begin drawing down their troops and prepare to announce the transfer of security responsibilities in several more districts nationwide to Afghan forces.

Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force, or ISAF, said Monday that the operations had driven insurgents and their leaders into hiding and significantly disrupted their ability to manufacture and deploy roadside bombs, which have become a favorite tactic.

The offensives “significantly disrupted insurgent operations and degraded the Haqqani network’s ability to coordinate and execute future attacks against combined forces and the people of Afghanistan,” Jacobson said.

Residents in Musa Khail were less certain. They said that Afghan and NATO forces had set up outposts in the area, and they were bracing for the fallout from further clashes.

Gulab Khan, a resident of Musa Khail, said by telephone that Afghan and NATO forces had searched the homes of suspected insurgents and made several arrests but were not stopping civilian vehicles along the roads.

“They had some success in this operation, but the real question that remains is whether or not they will be able keep it when the new fighting season starts in the summer,” he said, a reference to the fact that fighting in Afghanistan typically wanes as winter approaches.

Among the locals, there was a deep-rooted fear of being caught between two armed groups. The lack of a strong government presence for years has allowed insurgents to establish themselves, and residents now acknowledge their reluctance to cooperate with coalition forces for fear of retribution by the insurgents – who they say hack off the noses and ears of anyone suspected of talking with coalition forces.

“Let’s not blame the local population for not supporting government and foreign efforts here,” Mohammed Ali Zadran, a tribal leader in Khost province, said by telephone. “They are afraid of the Taliban. If they cooperate with the government the Taliban will kill them.

“Normally the government forces launch an operation and clear the area from the Taliban for a week,” he said. “And then they leave and the Taliban come back.”

Some residents said that they expected increased nighttime raids and arrests by coalition forces, practices that have stirred resentment of government forces.

“I don’t know about the rest of the tribes, but my tribesmen will not support any side’s efforts because we don’t want to antagonize any of them,” said Mangal, the Musa Khail tribal leader.

Others said that the operations stood a limited chance of success because many Afghans believe that international forces are preparing to leave the country after the planned handover of security to Afghan forces in 2014.

“Military gains are not permanent,” Mohammed Ali Zadran, a tribal leader, said by telephone. “You will achieve some success by launching a military operation, but you won’t be able to keep those gains for a long time.”

(Bengali reported from Forward Operating Base Ghazni, Afghanistan. Zohori is a McClatchy Newspapers special correspondent.)


Time To Make Europe’s Poor Even Hungrier

EU considering massive cuts to food aid for poor

APBy RAF CASERT – Associated Press | AP

People queue for food at a local food distribution program in Brussels, Friday Oct. 14, 2011. The European Union is considering a nearly 75 percent cut in funding for a program that helps feed 18 million of its poorest citizens. The cuts, set to take effect after New Year's, would come at a time of rising unemployment and consumer food prices in many parts of Europe, as well as overall economic turmoil on the continent. The looming cuts already have raised fears among people who rely heavily on the program. (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)

People queue for food at a local food distribution program in Brussels

BRUSSELS (AP) — The European Union is considering a roughly 75 percent cut in funding for a program that helps feed 18 million of its poorest citizens.

The cuts, set to take effect after New Year’s, would come at a time of rising unemployment and consumer food prices in many parts of Europe, as well as overall economic turmoil on the continent. The looming cuts already have raised fears among people who rely heavily on the program.

“We poor, small people, we cannot face up to this,” said Rene Waltener, 41, who is unemployed and married with four children. “We sometimes have difficulties getting through the month, so a bit of milk here, a tin of cassoulet, a bit of yogurt — the kids are happy with that and it allows us to continue.”

The Food for the Deprived program dates back to 1987. At first, it relied heavily on food surpluses from farms that benefited from a bloated and inefficient subsidy regime. But over time, as the farming became more efficient, food was increasingly purchased on the market to keep the program going.

In recent years, Germany and other countries have objected to that practice, saying the program is not living up to its original mandate of doing something useful with excess products from farms. Germany won a legal case in April to outlaw the practice of purchasing the food on the market.

The EU’s 27 farm ministers will assess the program next Thursday in Luxembourg. On the table is a proposal to keep the program going at euro500 million ($690 million) through legal changes instead of moving to just euro113 million ($155 million), but at present it does not appear it will get a sufficient majority.

Harry Gschwindt of the Brussels Food Bank put the potential cut in simple terms.

“This year we received 19 different products. Next year it’s only going to be four. It’s tomato soup, it’s rice, milk rice and chicken,” he said. Gone are milk, sugar, corn and fish, and other contributions.

The problems involving the program predate the economic and currency crisis that is turning governments throughout the union towards penny-pinching measures, and EU Farm Commissioner Dacian Ciolos has said the problem is purely legal since the budget already has the funds written in.

The Czech Republic is among the countries that object to the current program’s approach. Its ambassador to the EU, Milena Vicenova, said that the EU farm policy program “is not the proper and the right instrument to be used for, let’s say, social help.”

She said it also doesn’t take national sensitivities into account. “We don’t have a common explanation of what a ‘poor person’ really is or what it really means. Every national scheme slightly differs,” Vicenova said.

Last year, a British House of Lords committee also saw no need to give to Brussels what London could do itself.

“National governments are best-placed to organize food distribution to poor people,” committee chair Lord Carter of Coles said.

With winter approaching, some EU officials are hoping for an agreement that allows for the program to continue at the same level of funding.

“The money is available and can be allocated if we can get a political accord,” Ciolos said earlier this month.

___

Brussels Videojournalist Mark D. Carlson contributed to this story.

Iraq rejects US request to maintain bases after troop withdrawal

Iraq rejects US request to maintain bases after troop withdrawal

Obama announces the full withdrawal of troops from Iraq but fails to persuade Nouri al-Maliki to allow US to keep bases there

The US suffered a major diplomatic and military rebuff on Friday whenIraq finally rejected its pleas to maintain bases in the country beyond this year.Barack Obama announced at a White House press conference that all American troops will leave Iraq by the end of December, a decision forced by the final collapse of lengthy talks between the US and the Iraqi government on the issue.

The Iraqi decision is a boost to Iran, which has close ties with many members of the Iraqi government and which had been battling against the establishment of permanent American bases.

Obama attempted to make the most of it by presenting the withdrawal as the fulfilment of one of his election promises.

“Today I can report that, as promised, the rest of our troops in Iraq will come home by the end of the year. After nearly nine years, America’s war in Iraq will be over,” he told reporters.

But he had already announced this earlier this year, and the real significance today was in the failure of Obama, in spite of the cost to the US in dollars and deaths, to persuade the Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki to allow one or more American bases to be kept in the country.

Obama was formally told of Maliki’s final decision on Friday morning in a video conference.

Speaking later to reporters, Obama glossed over the rejection, describing it as Iraq shaping its own future.

He told reporters that the “tide of war is receding”, not only in Iraq but in Afghanistan and in Libya.

“The United States is moving forward to a position of strength. The long war in Iraq will come to an end by the end of this year. The transition in Afghanistan is moving forward and our troops are finally coming home,” he said.

Obama rose to political prominence on the back of his opposition to the Iraq war.

“Over the next two months, our troops in Iraq, tens of thousands of them, will pack up their gear and board convoys for the journey home,” he said.

“The last American soldier will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high, proud of their success, and knowing that the American people stand united in our support for our troops,” he said. “That is how America’s military efforts in Iraq will end.”

But Republicans criticised the failure to secure a deal with the Iraqis, describing it as a setback for the US.

John McCain, one of the leading foreign affairs specialists in the Senate and Obama’s Republican opponent in the 2008 White House race, said: “Today marks a harmful and sad setback for the United States in the world. I respectfully disagree with the president: this decision will be viewed as a strategic victory for our enemies in the Middle East, especially the Iranian regime, which has worked relentlessly to ensure a full withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.”

Mitt Romney, front-runner in the race to take on Obama in the 2012 White House race, said: “The unavoidable question is whether this decision is the result of a naked political calculation or simply sheer ineptitude in negotiations with the Iraqi government.”

One of the sticking points in the negotiations with Iraq was a US demand that American forces remaining in the country after December would enjoy the same immunity from prosecution as they do now. The Iraqi government, conscious of public anger over many controversial incidents involving US troops and defence contractors over the last decade, refused.

The Pentagon had wanted the bases to help counter growing Iranian influence in the Middle East. Just a few years ago, the US had plans for leaving behind four large bases but, in the face of Iraqi resistance, this plan had to be scaled down this year to a force of 10,000. But even this proved too much for the Iraqis.

Denis McDonough, the White House deputy national security adviser, speaking to reporters after Obama’s press conference, denied that the withdrawal was a sign of growing Iranian influence.

“You see an Iran that is weaker and more isolated,” he said, noting various incidents such as a sense of international outrage over an alleged plot by Iran to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington.

Although the US is pulling out all troops, it will keep its embassy in Baghdad and two consulates. There will also be about 4,000-5,000 defence contractors, White House aides said.

Since the invasion in 2003, 1 million members of the US military have been deployed to Iraq, of whom 4,482 have been killed and 32,200 wounded.

Obama said there were 180,000 troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan when he took office in January 2009, and that number has been halved and will continue to fall.

A few US military personnel will be based in Iraq temporarily from time to time, just as they are in other countries with links to the US such as Egypt and Jordan, White House aides said. These would primarily be trainers helping out with new equipment bought from the US, such as F-16 fighters Iraq purchased last month.

Maliki, though he has been criticised in the past for being too close to Iran, had wanted to keep some US troops in Iraq to help train Iraqi security forces and to help in the event of a resurgence of sectarian violence. But he had to bow to pressure from pro-Iranian politicians and others in his coaliton government who wanted all US troops out.

Obama was ambivalent on the issue, seeing a total withdrawal as a good sell to a US public tired of war. But the Pentagon had wanted the bases, and the president reluctantly sided with the military staff.

It will be a major logistical exercise, moving not only the remaining 39,000 US troops but mountains of equipment from bases that are the size of small American suburbs, complete with coffee-shops, bowling alleys and cinemas.

The Pentagon is wary of a final attack as the final pullout gets under way.

• This article was corrected on 23 October 2011 because it described Nouri al-Maliki as Iraqi’s president instead of as its prime minister, and at one point said he had wanted to keep some US troops “in Iran”.

Demonstrators oppose to possible establishment of U.S. military bases in Afghanistan

Demonstrators oppose to possible establishment of U.S. military bases in Afghanistan

English.news.cn

KABUL, Oct. 24 (Xinhua) — Around four hundred Afghans staged a peaceful demonstration in Kabul on Monday and expressed their opposition to the possible establishment of U.S. military bases in the post-Taliban Afghanistan.

With many of them from seminaries, the demonstrators carrying banners inscribed with slogans “Death to America” shouted, “we do not want foreign troops’ permanent bases in Afghanistan.”

The protestors also said that the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan over the past 10 years had not changed the living condition of the ordinary people.

Prominent among those attended the demonstration, were a former presidential candidate Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai and a former parliamentarian Hajji Farid.

Afghan government and the U.S. administration have been discussing signing a strategic partnership, which if inked, according to some Afghan analysts would enable Washington to have military bases in Afghanistan.

So Far, Pakistan Is Refusing To Buckle Under, Seeking To Increase Anticipated Iranian Pipeline Gas

Pakistan asks for more gas imports from Iran

MNA cited Mr Javad Oji deputy oil minister of Iran as saying that Pakistan has asked for importing more natural gas from Iran.

In June 2009, Tehran and Islamabad signed 25 year agreement based on which Iran agreed to export 7.8 billion cubic meters of natural gas to Pakistan per annum through pipeline. According to the agreement, the pumping of gas will start from February 2014.

Mr Oji said that “The new round of negotiations between the two countries over the subject of increasing the volume of gas exports to Pakistan is underway in Tehran.”

Islamabad has requested Tehran to increase the volume of gas exports from the current agreed amount of 21.5 million cubic meters per day to 30 million cubic meters per day. Iran sees no restriction to export more gas to Pakistan. He went on to said that the next round of the two countries’ negotiations will be held in Islamabad very soon.

Mr Hossein Bidarmaghz MD of National Iranian Gas Exporting Company expressed hope that Iran would be ready to start exporting gas to Pakistan from 2012. Construction of the gas pipeline in Iran’s territory will be finished next year.

He also denied reports that India has been omitted from negotiations on the gas pipeline project, adding that China is demanding to import Iran’s gas too.

(Sourced from Mehr News Agency)

US Demands Upon Pakistan’s Energy Dealings Intended To Punish Both Pakistan and Iran

[The fascist US "diplomats" want to prevent Pakistan's emergence from energy "stone age" (SEE:  Pakistan industry remained without gas for half of FY2011).]

Threat to Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline

By Syed Fazl-e-Haider | InpaperMagzine

The recent surge in target killings of Hazara community is apparently an attempt to subvert the move for building Iran-Pakistan and Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India energy pipelines.

Currently, Islamabad and Tehran are undertaking their gas pipeline project despite the US opposition and without India’s participation.

The attacks on Hazara community have been stepped up since Islamabad and Tehran committed to expedite efforts to implement the $7.5 billion IP gas pipeline project, the  greater part of which will traverse the restive Balochistan province. In the latest sectarian attack this month, at least 14 Hazara people were dragged out from a bus, lined up and shot dead in Quetta.

This was the third attack after two major attacks on Hazaras last month in which at least 42 people were killed.

All the attacks have been claimed by militant outfit, Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which, many believe, has close association with Jundallah group, a Sunni Muslim militant group fighting for the rights of Baloch population of Iran’s Sistan-Balochistan province, bordering Balochistan.

Instead of IP pipeline, the US has supported the construction of an alternative pipeline from Central Asia through Afghanistan to Pakistan and the Indian Ocean. Iran accuses the US of supporting Jundallah, which is believed to have bases somewhere in Balochistan.

So far, Jundallah has been involved in launching terror attacks in Sistan-Balochistan. Now Lashkar-e-Jhangvi is emerging as a new destabilising factor in Balochistan, where from the IP pipeline will make its first entry into Pakistan.

They intend to scare away potential investors in the IP pipeline.

A surge in Hazars’ killings came in the backdrop of US-Pakistan energy dialogue and Pakistan-Iran Joint Economic Commission (JEC) talks held in Islamabad last month and in both talks, the IP gas pipeline project was key agenda item.

Washington hardened its opposition to IP project and warned Pakistan of the possible impact of US and UN sanctions against Iran during the two-day US­-Pakistan strategic dialogue on energy last month. The US instead offered Pakistan the assistance in TAPI gas pipeline project as alternate to IP pipeline.

Islamabad and Tehran signed a $7.5 billion agreement in Tehran on May 23, 2009, finalising the deal to transfer gas from Iran to Pakistan Exactly after five days on May 28, 2009, Iran closed its border with Pakistan following a suicide bomber attack on a mosque in Zahidan that killed 20 people. Jundallah had claimed responsibility for the blast. The diplomatic tension between the two countries mounted at a time when there was no outstanding issue impeding the project for laying a gas pipeline between the two countries.

By pressing Pakistan to shelve IP project, Washington can deprive Iran of the economic bonanza associated with its gas exports to Pakistan, India or China through pipelines, as without Pakistan’s participation, all the proposed pipeline projects from Iran via Pakistan, whether it be the IP, IPI or IPC (Iran-Pakistan-China) would not be feasible.

list of attacks on Hazara people in Pakistan

image

List of attacks on Hazara people in Pakistan

Date Tragic Events Killed Injured
Jul 6, 1985 Police Firing on Demonstration in Quetta 18 22
Oct 6, 1999 Terrorist attack on Tribal Leader Sardar Nisar Ali, killed two
persons and injured one 2 1
Sep 13, 2001 Arshad Hassan, was killed 1 0
2000 Two Hazara person were shot dead in Eastern by pass 2
2002 Abdul Khaliq Bangulzai was killed in Mastung 1 0
2003 Haji Mohammad Jan was killed in Mach Bolan 1 0
2003 Bank Cashier Ali Madad Changezi was killed in Sibi 1 0
Apr, 2003 Firing on Suzuki Van in Kirani Road Quetta 5 3
Jun 8, 2003 Firing on Police Cadets on Saryab Road Quetta 12 11
Jul 4, 2003 Suicide attack on Imam Bargah-Mosque on McCongi Road
Quetta 53 150
Mar 2, 2004 Suicide attack on Moharram Procession 57 78
2004 Police Hawaldar Mohammad Younas was killed in Wahdat
Coloney Quetta 1 3
2004 Abdul Ghafoor Sarraf was killed in Satellite town Quetta 1 0
Sep 10, 2004 Syed Attique Hassan Naqvi was gun downed 1 0
Jul 18, 2005 Syed Tahir Hussain was killed 1 0
Aug 10, 2005 Syed Anwar Zulfiqar Abedi was killed 1 0
Sep 13, 2005 Ayaz Ali Bangash was killed 1 0
Sep 14, 2005 Syed Ejaz Ali Jaffri was killed 1 0
Oct 26, 2005 Mureed Abbas was killed 1 0
Dec 9, 2005 Syed Haider Rizvi was killed 1 0
May 04, 2006 Moulana Mola Bux Jaffri, Mohammad Amin were killed 2 0
Nov 3, 2006 Ghulam Abbas was killed in bomb blast in Suzuki van near IG
Police office Quetta 1 3
Jul 07, 2008 Ghulam Mustafa Quraishi Advocate was killed in Jan
Mohammad Raod Quetta 1 0
May 30, 2008 5 young boys were killed in Jinah Town Samungli road when
they were coming home after playing cricket match 4 3
Jan 05, 2009
Two Hazaras have been gunned down and a child a woman
injured by unknown motorcyclists on Monday near Zangi Lora,
Kirani Road, Quetta
2 3
Jul 19, 2008 Mohammad Ayyub, his brother and one other person were
killed on Brewery road Quetta 3 0
Jul 20, 2008 Police opened fire on innocent citizens when they were
protesting on Western bypass road Quetta 6 17
Nov 21, 2008 Maulana Zakiri and Ghulam Ali Police constable were killed in
Saryab Raod 2 0
Jan 10,2009 Dr. Saqlain Naqvi was killed in Sibi 1 0
Jan 12, 2009 Arif Hussain, was gunned down on Kirani Road by unidentified
gunmen 1 3
Jan 14, 2009
DSP Hassan Ali, Police Constables Nasrullah and Mohammad
Mehdi, and driver Mohammad Taqi were killed. Lashkar-e-
Jhangvi accepted the responsibility
4 1
Jan 26, 2009
Hussain Ali Yousafi Chairman of Hazara Democratic Party was
killed by Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and Mohammad Taqi was killed by
Police gunshot
2 5
Feb 2, 2009 Syed Hashim Raza was killed by unknown person in Chaman
Housing Society 1 0
Feb 2, 2009 Factory owner and Business man Iqbal Haider Zaidi was killed
on Sirki Road 1 0
Jan 01, 2009 Citizen Mohammad Arif was killed 1 0
Jan 10, 2009 Syed Saqlain Naqvi was killed in Sibi 1 0
Jan 23, 2009 Syed Talib UC-Nazim, Syed Jawad, and Hassan Ali were killed
in Quetta 3 0
Mar 01, 2009 Haji Sakhi and his son Asghar Ali were killed in his shop at
Saryab Road, Quetta 2 0
Mar 03, 2009 Haji Mukhtar and his sons Liaqat Ali, Zahid Ali, Nasim Ali and
Hayat-u-allah were killed in Saryab Raod, Quetta 5 0
Mar 09, 2009 Dr. Abid Raza was killed in Quetta 1 0
Mar 18, 2009 Haji Shabbir the owner of tire shop killed in Hazar Ganji
Quetta 1 0
Aug 08, 2009 RMO of Civil Hospital Quetta, Dr. Abid Raza was killed 1 0
Aug 21, 2009 Terrorist attack on Maulana Maqsood Ali Domki 0 2
Sep 07, 2009 Engineer Ahmed Ali, Owner of Noorban Wood Factory was
killed in Sirki Road, Quetta 1 0
Oct 01, 2009 Walayat Hussain Advocat was killed in Kasi Road Quetta 1 0
Oct 10, 2009 Engineer Mohammad Ashraf, Chief Mine Engineer, was shot
dad in Saryab Road Quetta 1 0
Oct 13, 2009 Dr. Mohammad Aslam was killed 1 0
Oct 15, 2009 Altaf Hussain injured by firing, who died later in Dec 04, 2009 1 0
Oct 15, 2009 Haji Asif Jaffari was killed in front of his shop in Jinah Road
Quetta 1 0
Jan 12, 2010 Dr. Nadir Khan and his guard were injured, driver Shabbir was
killed in Quetta 1 2
Apr 16, 2010
Syed Arshad Zaidi, Manager Allied Bank of Pakistan was killed.
Upon rushing him to the hospital, second attacked was done,
which killed 9 Police Officials and others persons named as
Syed Ayub Shah, DSP Zahir Shah, DSP Ghulam Mohammad,
Hadi & Mohammad Hussain (ATF force), Haji Dawood Hazara,
Abdul Khaliq, Malik Arif (SAMMA TV Camera man) and Mujtaba
Kararvi and injured 6 persons
10 6
May 14, 2010 Abdul Samad and Babu Hussain Alizai were killed in Mastung 2 0
May 20, 2010 Abdul Haleem was killed in Quetta 1 0
May 22, 2010 Dr. Qamar Hussain Zaidi and Murtaza were killed 2 0
Jun 06, 2010 Ahsan and Hassnain were killed, one person injured in Quetta 2 1
Jul 02, 2010 Ustad Ali Mohammad, President Kashmirabad Trust Mosque
Quetta was killed 1 0
Aug 28, 2010 Mohammad Ali, Murad Ali and Ahmed Shah were killed and 3
persons were injured 3 3
Aug 31, 2010 Police Constable Zulfiqar Shah was killed 1 0
Sep 03, 2010 Terrorist attacked on protester in Mizan Chowk Quetta 75 160
Nov 11, 2010 Business man Haji Idris was kidnapped and his security guard
Mohammad Ali killed in Taughi Road, Quetta 1 0
Dec 10, 2010 Inspector Javed Hussain was killed 1 0
Dec 12, 2010 Barat Ali, Muhammad Hussain and Baby Mehdi were killed in a
Taxi going home and one person was injured 3 1
Apr 04, 2011 Dr. Mumtaz Haider, Professor Bolan Medical College Quetta
was first kidnapped and then killed 1 0
Apr 10, 2011 Secretary General Hazara Yakjehti Council, Qurban Ali was
killed in Karachi 1 0
May 06, 2011 Rocket Attack and firing in football ground Hazara Town
Quetta, killed 9 persons and injured 15 9 15
May 18,2011 Vegetable seller van, Ali Ahmad, Qurban, Ghulam Nabi, Ishaq,
mohammad hussain, haji juma,occurred in Hazargani , 6 5
May 28,2011 Police constable Essa and is-haaq, killed in spiny road Quetta,
women along with his child and taxi driver was injured 2 3
June 11.2011 Assistant sub-inspector Manzoor hussain, killed nawakili 01 0
June 23,2011 04 pilgrims were killed,11 injured at hazarganji 04 11
June 16,2011 Olympian boxer syed ibrar hussain killed at jail road , he was
deputy director of Pakistan sports board 01 0
July 02,2011 Ustad Ali Mohammad, president of mosque of kashmirabad
trust Quetta 1 0
July 10,2011 1.Abdul Qayum,Ashiq hussain,amjed hussain killed at
qambrani road Quetta 03 0
July 29,2011 At Saryab Road Bus station, 7 shia pilgrims killed and 07 12
July 30,2011 11 people killed and at spiny road quetta, including women 11 04
Aug 31,2011
Major Mohammad Ali shaheed road, near Eidgah, suicide
bomber exploded, killed 11 people, including women’s and
children and 20 people injured
11 20
Sep,20,2011 29 pilgrims were killed at Mastung District and five injured 29 05
Sep 23,2011 04 people were killed at Saryab road and 03 seriously injured 04 03
Total= killed and injured 400 548

Has Iran or Saudi Arabia Acquired Soviet-Era Tactical Nukes?

Iran’s Black Market Nuclear Warheads Are an Open Secret

THEY CONTINUE TO RESTRAIN WESTERN MILITARY ACTION

Kabul Press

by Matthew Nasuti

On March 21, 2008, this author was among a group of Foreign Service officers and diplomats who received a briefing at the State Department on Iran. The Department’s Middle East expert, under questioning by this author, told the group that it was “common knowledge” in the region that Iran had acquired tactical nuclear weapons from one or more of the former Soviet Republics. Using the vague term “common knowledge” allowed the expert to discuss the information in an unclassified presentation. This disclosure was consistent with reports that have been circulating for years. On April 9, 1988, the Jerusalem Post reported that Iran had acquired four tactical nuclear weapons from Kazakhstan. The Post cited Iranian documents obtained by the Israeli government and authenticated by U.S. Congressional investigators. In March 1992, “The Arms Control Reporter” published an article confirming that Iran had acquired four nuclear warheads from Russia. A May 1992, report in “The European” claimed that Iran had acquired two nuclear warheads from the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan. These reports were all generally confirmed in a 2002 interview given by General Yuri Baluyevsky, then Russia’s Deputy Chief of Staff. A report in the Cleveland Jewish News, dated January 27, 2006, reported that there were 20 sites in Iran in which dispersed tactical nuclear warheads were being stored. Finally there was a report that Iran had acquired four 152mm nuclear artillery shells from Kazakhstan that were shipped to Iran through Bulgaria.

The State Department’s 2008, admission that Iran was already a nuclear power was raised by this author in open e-mails and other communications with State Department legal advisor Stephen Townley. He would neither comment on the admission nor did he raise any claim that the information was classified. This author then notified the State Department’s Inspector General that the Secretary of State was making public statements and official statements to Congress regarding Iran that were not correct, but Deputy General Counsel Karen Ouzts told this author that her office would not investigate the allegations, giving no explanation for ignoring potential criminal offenses.

On July 26, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton appeared on the NBC news show “Meet the Press” and stated that the U.S. will not allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. This follows her April 22, 2009, testimony to Congress that Iran will never obtain a nuclear weapon and vowed that the U.S. would employ “crippling sanctions” to prevent that. She was to make similar statements in 2010 and 2011. It needs to be determined if Secretary Clinton intentionally misled Congress and the American public.

The question of whether any State Department officials have ever misled Congress about this matter is currently the subject of two investigations by the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC). The OSC has assigned case numbers of MA-12-0180 and DI-12-0250 to its separate inquiries.

A further element of corroboration is that the possession of tactical nuclear weapons by Iran suddenly makes sense out of some inexplicable Western efforts to-date in the region. For example:

1. Israel does not need 400 nuclear warheads to defend itself against non-nuclear neighbors.

2. Israel does not need its Arrow-2 and the U.S. Patriot (PAC-3) anti-missile systems simply to deal with some Iranian missiles such as the Shahab-4. Even if they were loaded with chemical agents, the risk to Israel is minimal. This author served as a Captain with the U.S. Air Force’s 487th Tactical (Nuclear) Missile Wing and he was trained in chemical warfare. Chemical dispersion by ballistic missile is difficult and clumsy and more of a nuisance than a weapon of mass destruction. These very expensive anti-missile systems make sense only if the threat is from existing nuclear warheads.

3. The United States does not need to maintain between 60 and 90 B-61 nuclear gravity bombs at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey unless there is a localized nuclear threat.

4. The United States and some of its European allies have been promoting a very costly ballistic missile shield for Europe, even at the risk of antagonizing Russia. The vehemence of this expensive effort only makes sense if the threat is current and real, and if it is a nuclear threat.

5. Finally, the United States and Israel have all but ruled out air strikes on Iranian nuclear targets, which only makes sense if Iran has the ability to respond with tactical warheads. For Iran, giving such warheads to terrorists or having its own special operations forces covertly use the warheads would leave no Iranian fingerprints because the radiation signature from any detonation on a Western target would merely reveal that they were Soviet warheads, which would not implicate Iran. Without credible and hard evidence of Iranian involvement, a nuclear counterstrike on Iran would not be possible. The question is whether Iran has been blackmailing the West for decades with these warheads.

The actual number of tactical nuclear weapons manufactured by the former Soviet Union is stunning. Rough estimates have it producing 4300 nuclear missile and air dropped warheads, 2000 nuclear artillery and mortar rounds. 1500 nuclear torpedoes and other Naval ordinance, and 14,000 nuclear land mines. That does not include specially designed Spetznaz warheads. Many of the tactical weapons were dispersed in Soviet republics which underwent revolutions when the Soviet Union broke up. In January 2006, the prestigious Washington, D.C.-based Council on Foreign Relations, in a background paper entitled: “Loose Nukes,” rejected the above estimates and stated that the Soviet Union had even more nuclear warheads. Its estimate was 27,000. The reality is that no one in the West knows for sure how many tactical and strategic warheads were produced or where they are today.

President Obama’s National Security Advisor reportedly has a list of lost or missing nuclear warheads from both U.S. and Soviet stockpiles (the U.S. reportedly has lost at least 11 warheads). Thomas E. Donilon should be pressed to reveal the total number of warheads that are not unaccounted for. The number is likely to be shocking.

On May 13, 2009, Assistant Secretary of State Rose Gottemoeller sent a cable to the U.S. State Department in which she recounted a briefing that Egypt’s Ambassador to the United Nations Maged Abdelaziz, gave to her and other officials during meetings on May 5th and 7th. Abdelaziz stated that Egypt had been offered nuclear weapons after the breakup of the Soviet Union but had declined them. Under questioning Ambassador Abdelaziz stated that he had personal knowledge of this as a result of his being in Moscow. The cable was reported by the Guardian newspaper on December 19, 2010, in its story: “Egypt Turned Down Nuclear Weapons After Collapse of the Soviet Union.”

On March 22, 2004, Fox News reported on Pakistani journalist Hamid Mir’s interview with al-Qaeda’s No. 2, Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri. Dr. Zawahiri told Mir that so-called suitcase nuclear weapons (each weighing 50-80 kilograms) were available on the black market in central Asia for anyone with $30 million. He stated that al-Qaeda had sent representatives to Tashkent, Uzbekistan and to one other regional country (allegedly Kazakhstan) and had purchased several.

Western news reporters need to pose carefully phrased questions to Secretary Clinton and to State Department, Pentagon and White House spokespersons in order to eliminate any wiggle room. They also need to insist on yes or no answers. One suggestion question is:

“Does the United States have any intelligence that suggests that Iran ever acquired any type of nuclear warhead?”

The answer has to be “Yes” and then the inquiry can continue forward regarding the specificity and reliability of the intelligence information.

There has been much criticism from Republicans in the United States regarding President Obama’s policy of reconciliation with Iran. If all the facts be known, that policy may be a reasonable one. If Iran does possess nuclear weapons, then those proponents who recklessly advocate preemptive air strikes on Iran and the commencement of a new war are acting irresponsibly. A nuclear conflict should not be risked solely so that politicians can score points with fringe elements of their political base.

Part of the problem is that there is deliberate short-term memory within the U.S. Government regarding Iran. Some of the facts regarding Iran’s nuclear program are never discussed in the West as they are uncomfortable reminders of Western mischief. One such basic question is:

“How did Iran’s nuclear programs begin?”

The answer is that in 1975, Shah Reza Pahlavi signed a multi-billion dollar deal with a German joint venture company to construct two nuclear reactors outside of Bushehr, Iran. Then in 1977, in meetings between representatives of the Shah and President Jimmy Carter, the U.S. Government endorsed Iran’s pursuit of nuclear technology. It did so even though the Shah had no civilian need for nuclear power at the time. The American motivation was money. The Shah proposed to purchase four nuclear reactors from the United States, specifically from Westinghouse. There were no reported Israeli objections to the Westinghouse sale. While that specific deal was never finalized the Shah continued his construction at Bushehr, Iran. Its two reactors were later completed by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

In conclusion, the Iranians know they have tactical nuclear warheads, as do Western governments. Everyone else is being kept in the dark. Secrecy in this instance is counterproductive. The world’s policy regarding Iran needs to be formulated, but only after a full discussion of all the facts, options and risks. That is what democracy is supposed to be all about. The world community also needs to engage in an open debate about the true scope and perils of black market nuclear warheads. Finally, the citizens of those nations that are potential targets for these weapons need to be better prepared for the consequences of their possible use.

Another Northern Alliance Minister Targeted for Elimination

[A Tajik general.]

Afghan Minister Survives Attempted Assassination

by THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Afghan government says a key Cabinet minister has survived an assassination attempt just north of Kabul.

The government says bodyguards for Afghan Interior Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi shot and killed a would-be suicide bomber who was waiting for the minister’s convoy Sunday in Sayyed Khel district of Parwan province, north of the capital.

The Interior Ministry says the bodyguards checking security ahead of the minister became suspicious of the assailant.

When the man continued walking toward them, they shot him dead.

The ministry says the minister was not yet on the scene.

Parwan provincial police chief Sher Mohammad Maladani says the attacker was wearing a suicide bomb vest, and he was killed before he could detonate his explosives. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

U.S.-Afghan strategic pact a serious threat to region: diplomat

alt

U.S.-Afghan strategic pact a serious threat to region: diplomat

TEHRAN – An Iranian Foreign Ministry says the strategic pact between the United States and Afghanistan is a serious threat to security in the region.
“This pact is a serious threat to security in Afghanistan and the region. The U.S. has not readily pulled out of any region it has entered after the Second World War,” Mohsen Pak-Aeen, the director of Foreign Ministry department for Afghan affairs, told the Mehr News Agency.
The establishment of U.S. permanent military bases in Afghanistan, which is one of the key points included in the document, will pave the way for the permanent presence of the U.S. in Afghanistan, enabling the U.S. government to pursue its objectives outside this country, Pak-Aeen commented.
“If this agreement would be concluded, on the one hand, Afghanistan will become the scene of rivalry between other countries like Russia and China, and on the other hand, the deployment of Americans in the region will set the stage for the U.S. to pursue its hegemonistic goals in the region,” he stated.
The main motive behind Washington’s decision to establish strategic relations with Afghanistan is to control Russia and China, threaten Iran, and have access to Afghanistan’s natural resources, the diplomat opined.
On the planned international conferences on Afghanistan in Istanbul and Bonn in November and December, Pak-Aeen said that the Islamic Republic of Iran supports any action to help establish peace and security in Afghanistan and regards such conferences as positive moves.
But, he said, Iran’s decision to take part in these conferences depends on future developments regarding the issue of Afghanistan.
“We believe that Afghanistan’s neighbors (should) have an important and key role in adopting security measures and helping the establishment of peace and stability in Afghanistan,” Pak-Aeen underlined.
He said the presences of foreign forces in the region and ignoring the role of Afghanistan’s neighbors have increased insecurity and violence in Afghanistan over past 10 years.
Any international conference, which takes these issues into consideration and recognizes the key role of Afghanistan’s neighbors, could yield positive results, the diplomat noted.

US Military Escalates Violence To “Prove Their Manhood” To Taliban

[As usual, nothing but bullshit is spewing from Hillary's "Silk Road" lips, as she explains that our contradictory policies will "convince some to come to negotiations and will remove others who are totally opposed to peace."  She is trying to cover-up a military "pissing contest" with illusory verbiage.   This latest anti-Haqqani offensive is just the US Army falling-back on its principle fallacy, wrong institutional ideas concerning basic human nature--"Real men are warriors, everyone else is a pussy,"  anything less is cowardice and lack of moral fiber and sense of patriotic duty.  Macho bullshit!   It is NOT natural for men to be murderers, or to serve an Empire intent on subjugating all mankind.  "Jarhead" Warrior culture teaches that the Taliban warrior culture will respect American soldiers, even though they hide behind body armor and air support.  If they wanted to make the Taliban think that they were Real Men and not cowards, then they would fight on the Taliban level.  If you want to convince the Taliban that you are real men, then fight them hand-to-hand. 

You empty-headed  military assholes, who believe that we deserve to rule the world, you couldn't be more wrong.  We deserve to lose the world, as repayment for our aggression against Muslim nations.]

Is U.S. policy in Afghanistan a contradiction?

Can the battle against the Taliban push the insurgents to the negotiating table? (Photo by AFP)

Can the battle against the Taliban push the insurgents to the negotiating table? (Photo by AFP)

By AFP
KABUL

The latest U.S. catchphrase in the decade-long Afghan war may be “fight, talk, build,” but analysts ask if it is a fundamental contradiction, or can battle offensives push the Taliban to the negotiating table?

With NATO combat troops due to leave in 2014, the need to find a settlement in Afghanistan is becoming ever more urgent, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton last week admitted the United States had met the Haqqani network.

The Taliban faction is singled out as America’s most potent enemy in eastern Afghanistan, and since the talks in the summer the U.S. has blamed it for attacks including a 19-hour siege in Kabul that targeted Washington’s embassy.

Clinton herself acknowledged an apparent discrepancy in the U.S. approach during her visit to Pakistan, saying Washington plans to continue the ground fight while simultaneously trying to talk to insurgents.

“I will certainly admit that much of what we see that needs to be done in the region may, at first, appear inherently contradictory,” she said in a meeting with business and civil society leaders in Islamabad.

“But it has been our experience over many years that unfortunately, it is both, simultaneously, that will convince some to come to negotiations and will remove others who are totally opposed to peace.” she said.

The question is, will it work? And on that, most analysts are at best divided and at worst dismissive, believing that after 10 years the Americans still have no answers for ending the war.

“The thing I found important in what Hillary Clinton said is that she doesn’t rule out a political solution with the insurgents and I think that’s the right thing to do,” said Thomas Ruttig of the Afghanistan Analysts Network.

He believes there should be exploratory talks but disagrees that hardliners can be bombed into talking.

“I’m not convinced the Taliban can be beaten and weakened to the negotiating table. I think it will make them more defiant,” he said.

Early hopes of progress towards peace were derailed on September 20 when a purported Taliban emissary wearing a bomb in his turban assassinated the Afghan government’s pointman for talks, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani.

Afghan and U.S. forces are now waging a “major operation” designed to squeeze the Haqqanis and other Taliban insurgents in eastern Afghanistan, and Clinton called on Pakistan to step up pressure on its side of the frontier.

But with NATO-led forces and the U.N. offering different estimates about the level of violence in Afghanistan, it is difficult to assess whether increased military operations are having the desired effect.

Pakistan − which arranged the U.S.-Haqqani meeting − has refused to take on the Haqqanis, who operate on both sides of the border, militarily.

Few in the region believe the Americans know how to end a war that has killed thousands of people and dragged on far longer than anyone imagined when the Taliban were ousted from power in 2001.

“They’re scrapping around, I would say,” said Imtiaz Gul, executive director of the Islamabad-based Centre for Research and Security Studies.

With federal elections held in the United States every two years, he told AFP: “This problem makes a coherent, long-term strategy very difficult for Obama, for any president for that matter.”

Wadir Safi, a political science lecturer at Kabul University, warned that Rabbani’s murder underscored the need for an “impartial commission more acceptable to the armed opposition.”

Another complication, said Ruttig, was lack of consensus on a power-sharing deal in Afghanistan, given opposition in the Tajik and Uzbek-dominated north to negotiations with the Taliban who are blamed for Rabbani’s murder.

“The Taliban might not be ready to accept a pluralist Afghanistan − that’s what we need to find out,” he said, suggesting that an undeclared ceasefire may be a better way to test Taliban reaction.

“The U.S. should try not to humiliate them,” Ruttig added.

Taliban threatens to attack Shell Pakistan, Pakistan State Oil

Taliban threatens to attack Shell Pakistan, Pakistan State Oil


ISLAMABAD: The Pakistani Taliban have threatened to attack installations of Shell Pakistan and the state-run Pakistan State Oil if the two firms do not pay a total of Rs 400 million within 20 days as extortion money, a media report said on Sunday.

“I had personally spoken to the managing directors of the Pakistan State Oil and Shell Pakistan and demanded that they arrange to pay us Rs 200 million each. Otherwise, I had warned them that we would start attacking their installations anywhere in the country,” a senior Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan commander told The News on phone.

The unnamed commander claimed officials of the two oil companies had sought time to consider the Taliban’s demand. The commander further claimed the Taliban had never warned the companies to halt supplying fuel to NATO forces in Afghanistan.

He said officials of the companies “wrongly linked” the Taliban’s threat to ending oil supplies to the foreign forces.

The commander claimed the PSO had issued a statement to the media that said the the Taliban wanted the company to halt oil supplies to foreign forces in Afghanistan.

“It isn’t true. We never asked them to stop fuel supply to the US or NATO forces in Afghanistan. We had nothing to do with whatever they are doing. I just asked them to pay us Rs 200 million within 20 days, otherwise we would target their installations,” the commander was quoted as saying.

The Degenerate Parasites of Washington

[How many times have Washington and NATO leaders insisted that they were not in Libya to kill Qaddafi, yet victory was declared within 24 hrs. of his murder?  He was never to be collateral damage, always the primary objective from the start of the aggression.  It seems that Washington believes that it cannot survive unless all Muslim civilization is destroyed.]

The End of History

by Paul Craig Roberts

From the Foreign Policy Journal

Now that the CIA’s proxy army has murdered Gadhafi, what next for Libya?

If Washington’s plans succeed, Libya will become another American puppet state. Most of the cities, towns, and infrastructure have been destroyed by air strikes by the air forces of the US and Washington’s NATO puppets. US and European firms will now get juicy contracts, financed by US taxpayers, to rebuild Libya. The new real estate will be carefully allocated to lubricate a new ruling class picked by Washington. This will put Libya firmly under Washington’s thumb.

With Libya conquered, AFRICOM will start on the other African countries where China has energy and mineral investments. Obama has already sent US troops to Central Africa under the guise of defeating the Lord’s Resistance Army, a small insurgency against the ruling dictator-for-life. The Republican Speaker of the House, John Boehner, welcomed the prospect of yet another war by declaring that sending US troops into Central Africa “furthers US national security interests and foreign policy.” Republican Senator James Inhofe added a gallon of moral verbiage about saving “Ugandan children,” a concern the senator did not have for Libya’s children or Palestine’s, Iraq’s, Afghanistan’s and Pakistan’s.

Washington has revived the Great Power Game and is vying with China. Whereas China brings Africa investment and gifts of infrastructure, Washington sends troops, bombs and military bases. Sooner or later Washington’s aggressiveness toward China and Russia is going to explode in our faces.

Where is the money going to come from to finance Washington’s African Empire? Not from Libya’s oil. Big chunks of that have been promised to the French and British for providing cover for Washington’s latest war of naked aggression. Not from tax revenues from a collapsing US economy where unemployment, if measured correctly, is 23 percent.

With Washington’s annual budget deficit as huge as it is, the money can only come from the printing press.

Washington has already run the printing press enough to raise the consumer price index for all urban consumers (CPI-U) to 3.9% for the year (as of the end of September), the consumer price index for urban wage earners and clerical workers (CPI-W) to 4.4% for the year, and the producer price index (PPI) to 6.9% for the year.

As statistician John Williams (shadowstats.com) has shown, the official inflation measures are rigged in order to hold down cost of living adjustments to Social Security recipients, thus saving money for Washington’s wars. When measured correctly, the current rate of inflation in the US is 11.5%.

What interest rate can savers get without taking massive risks on Greek bonds? US banks pay less than one-half of one percent on FDIC insured savings deposits. Short-term US government bond funds pay essentially zero.

Thus, according to official US government statistics, American savers are losing between 3.9% and 4.4% of their capital yearly. According to John Williams’ estimate of the real rate of inflation, US savers are losing 11.5% of their accumulated savings.

As retired Americans receive no interest on their savings, they are having to spend down their capital. The ability of even the most prudent retirees to survive the negative rate of interest they are receiving and the erosion by inflation of any pensions that they receive will come to an end once their accumulated assets are exhausted.

Except for Washington’s favored mega-rich, the one percent that has captured all of the income gains of recent years, the rest of America has been assigned to the trash can. Nothing whatsoever has been done for them since the financial crisis hit in December 2007. Bush and Obama, Republican and Democrat, have focused on saving the 1 percent while giving the finger to the 99 percent.

Finally, some Americans, though not enough, have caught on to the flag-waving rah-rah “patriotism” that has consigned them to the trash bin of history. They are not going down without a fight and are in the streets. Occupy Wall Street has spread. What will be the fate of this movement?

Will the snow and ice of cold weather end the protests, or send them into public buildings? How long will the local authorities, subservient to Washington as they are, tolerate the obvious signal that the population lacks any confidence whatsoever in the government?

If the protests last, especially if they grow and don’t decline, the authorities will infiltrate the protestors with police provocateurs who will fire on the police. This will be the excuse to shoot down the protestors and to arrest the survivors as “terrorists” or “domestic extremists” and to send them to the $385 million dollar camps built under US government contract by Cheney’s Halliburton.

The Amerikan Police State will have taken its next step into the Amerikan Concentration Camp State.

Meanwhile, lost in their oblivion, conservatives will continue to bemoan the ruination of the country by homosexual marriage, abortion, and “the liberal media.” Liberal organizations committed to civil liberty, such as the ACLU, will continue to rank a woman’s right to an abortion with defense of the US Constitution. Amnesty International will assist Washington in demonizing its next target for military attack while turning a blind eye to the war crimes of President Obama.

When we consider what Israel has got away with, being as it is under Washington’s bought protection—the war crimes, the murders of children, the eviction in total disregard of international law of Palestinians from their ancestral homes, the bulldozing of their houses and uprooting of their olive groves in order to move in fanatical “settlers,” the murderous invasions of Lebanon and Gaza, the wholesale slaughter of civilians—we can only conclude that Washington, Israel’s enabler, can get away with far more.

In the few opening years of the 21st century, Washington has destroyed the US Constitution, the separation of powers, international law, the accountability of government, and has sacrificed every moral principle to achieving hegemony over the world. This ambitious agenda is being attempted while simultaneously Washington removed all regulation over Wall Street, the home of massive greed, permitting Wall Street’s short-term horizon to wreck the US economy, thus destroying the economic basis for Washington’s assault on the world.

(Dr. Paul Craig Roberts served as President Reagan’s Asst. Secretary of the U.S. Treasury)

Clinton Warns Against Resisting America’s Islamist Shock-Troops

[SEE:  America’s “Islamists” Go Where Oilmen Fear to Tread]

Clinton warns Central Asian leaders on radical Islam

TASHKENT

(Reuters) – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on Saturday that efforts to crack down on religious freedom might backfire.

She said this could lead to increased sympathy for radical views in Central Asia, a region the United States sees as key to the future stability of Afghanistan.

Clinton met Tajik President Imomali Rakhmon and Uzbek President Islam Karimov to thank the two Central Asian states for their cooperation in the U.S.-led war in neighboring Afghanistan.

She stressed to both that freedom of religious expression was tied to the region’s future security, U.S. officials said.

“I disagree with restrictions on religious freedom and shared those concerns,” Clinton told a news conference after meeting Rakhmon in Dushanbe on the last full day of her latest overseas trip.

She said efforts to regulate religion “could push legitimate religious expression underground, and that could build up a lot of unrest and discontent.”

Clinton’s visit to the two former Soviet republics came after a trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan that was focused on U.S. efforts to find a political solution to the decade-long Afghan conflict.

She also promoted greater regional economic integration under a plan U.S. officials have dubbed “the New Silk Road.”

Karimov and Rakhmon have moved to limit religious freedom in their countries which remain under authoritarian rule two decades after the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Tajikistan, a mainly Muslim country of 7.5 million people, introduced laws in August to ban youths from praying in mosques, churches and other religious sites, a move that was criticized by religious leaders.

Rakhmon, in power since 1992, has said tough measures are needed to stop the spread of religious fundamentalism in an impoverished country that shares a porous 1,340-km (840-mile) border with Afghanistan.

“You have to look at the consequences,” Clinton said in Tajikistan.

“We would hope there would be a rethinking of any restrictions going forward, because we think it will increase sympathy for extremist views which would in turn threaten the stability and security of the country.”

Rakhmon’s Moscow-backed secular government clashed with the Islamist opposition during a 1992-97 civil war, in which tens of thousands were killed.

The president has ignored previous requests from the West to respect freedom of conscience. He has ordered students home from religious schools abroad and clamped down on a growing trend for Islamic dress.

U.S. officials said Clinton also raised the issue with Uzbekistan’s Karimov — widely seen as one of the most repressive leaders in the region — as one of a number of human rights concerns that also include press freedom, human trafficking and political reforms.

Karimov, who has said he intends to make reforms, repeated these pledges to Clinton, one U.S. official said.

“He said that he wants to leave a legacy for both his kids and his grandchildren,” the official said. “The secretary welcomed that, and said that would help to build a long-term foundation for Uzbekistan but also for our cooperation.”

AFGHAN SUPPLIES

U.S. officials said Clinton’s Central Asian trip, her second to the region in less than 12 months, was aimed in a large part at thanking Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for their assistance with the Afghan conflict.

They said she also wanted to broaden a relationship giving the United States a important “back door” into Afghanistan and an alternative supply route that could prove vital if U.S. ties with its main ally in the region, Pakistan, unravel.

Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are part of what Washington calls the Northern Distribution Network (NDN), a supply line for U.S.-led forces fighting the Taliban that also stretches through Russia, Latvia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

The NDN is increasingly important as U.S. ties with Pakistan come under strain over Washington’s charges that elements of the Pakistani government have links to Islamist militants blamed for attacks on U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The United States is aiming to reduce the proportion of its surface cargo that it brings through Pakistan to only a quarter by increasing its supplies through the northern route; in July it was still well over half.

(Writing by Andrew Quinn and Robin Paxton; Editing by Michael Roddy)

Zbig’s Take On Obama’s World

  • Zbigniew Brzezinski
    OCT 14, 2011

    Below is a speech by Dr. Zbigniew Brzezinski delivered Friday, October 14, 2011 in Normandy, France upon receipt of the de Tocqueville Prize prize bestowed upon him by M. Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, President of du Jury du Prix Tocqueville. Previous prize winners include Raymond Aron (1979); David Riesman (1980); Sir Karl Popper (1984); Octavo Paz (1989); Francois Furet (1991); and Daniel Bell (1999).


    I feel truly honored to be here in Normandy to receive the prize named after the pioneering thinker from this beautiful region of France.  Alexis de Tocqueville understood earlier and interpreted better than anyone the uniqueness of the American experiment – in its social, political and cultural dimensions.  In 1831,  his voyage to America was to a captivating but remote world – an undertaking more risky and less predictable than today’s explorations of outer-space – and his judgments are to this day remarkably prescient and incisive.  To understand America, one still has to read and absorb de Tocqueville.

    I am also deeply gratified by the presence here of President Giscard d’Estaing, who nominated me for the de Tocqueville Prize.  President Giscard is a remarkable leader with a long-range vision for Europe no less ambitious in its scope than de Tocqueville’s evocative predictions for America.  Europe today badly needs a compelling concept for tomorrow if it is to avoid a dangerous repetition of its recent past.  Mr. President, I admire you especially for daring to provide it.

    Finally, as an American of Polish origin, I have a special fondness for France – and especially for its enduring romance with historical grandeur, for its transcending political ideas, and for its alluring appreciation of the manifold dimensions of the truly good life.

    I was struck on rereading recently de Tocqueville’s work how well he understood – 175 years ago – the essence and the distinctiveness of America’s emerging power, both as a novel social experiment and as a sovereign state.  And also, alas, how well he anticipated the potential vulnerabilities of that historically unique country, which was taking shape as de Tocqueville journeyed throughout America’s vast and open spaces and pondered about its future.

    Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize winning economist, recently drew attention to the fact that Alexis de Tocqueville correctly perceived the major source of the peculiar genius of American society: its respect for what the French observer called “self-interest properly understood.” Stiglitz noted that everyone is motivated by self-interest in its narrow sense, but that  de Tocqueville’s emphasis on self-interest “properly understood” was his recognition that early Americans uniquely also cared for everyone else’s self-interest. In other words,  they instinctively understood that respect for the common welfare is in fact the precondition for one’s own ultimate well-being.

    The foregoing observation is especially relevant to our understanding of the challenge facing contemporary America.  Though a democracy, it is becoming a country of socially ominous extremes between the few super rich and the increasingly many who are deprived.  In America today the top 1% of the richest families own around 35% of the entire nation’s wealth, while the bottom 90% own around 25%.   It should be a source of perhaps even greater concern that the majority of all currently serving Congressmen and Senators, and similarly most of the top officials in the executive branch, fall in the category of the very rich, the so-called top 1%.

    At the same time, though still a unique super-power, America finds it difficult to cope with the consequences of the increasingly accelerating global changes that are spinning out of control, both on the socio-economic and on the geopolitical levels. Socio-economically, the world is becoming a single playing-field in which 3 dynamic realities increasingly prevail:  globalization, “internetization”, and deregulation.

    Today instant financial transactions involving billions of dollars occur literally in seconds; often essentially speculative in character and unrelated to either technological innovation or new forms of employment,  they create instant wealth on an unprecedented scale for only a few.  Investments and employment opportunities abroad, guided largely by opportunistic self-interest,  now transcend national interests.

    Politically, that very same world – despite the seeming concentration of global power in the hands of the very few states with enormous economic and military capacity — is witnessing the dispersal of power.  The West is declining because it lacks the will to unite, while the East is rising but also facing the danger of selfish rivalry and potential conflicts among its principal states. Neither existing national governments nor rudimentary regional arrangements are capable of providing effective discipline, not to mention asserting control, over the autonomous financial-economic universe so recently shaped by globalization, “internetization”, and deregulation.

    The foregoing crisis of global power is further complicated by the appearance of the sudden phenomenon of mass political awakening.  Most recently in the Arab world, the now universal reality of political awakening is the cumulative product of an interactive and interdependent world connected by instant visual communications and of a demographic youth bulge composed of the easy to mobilize and politically restless university students and the socially deprived unemployed present in the less advanced societies.  Both groups resent the richer portions of humanity and the privileged corruption of their rulers.  That resentment of authority and privilege is unleashing populist passions with explosive potential for unleashing large-scale international turmoil.

    America’s ability to respond to this volatile world is complicated by another socio-political feature of the America that de Tocqueville presciently noted and of which he warned: public ignorance.  When discussing the influence of the majority in America he wrote, “I know of no country where there is generally less independence of thought and real freedom of debate than in America.” That despotism of ignorance, which de Tocqueville said “leaves the body alone and goes straight to the spirit”, has the unfortunate effect of quite often diminishing the quality of political leadership in America.  Again he wrote, “Some vexing effects are evident in the American national character.  I think that the presence of the small number of remarkable men upon the political scene has to be due to the ever-increasing despotism of the American majority.” 

    Today, such “despotism” is manifested in the public’s ignorance of the world around it and in that public’s reluctance to demand and accept short-term and fairly distributed social sacrifice in exchange for long-term renewal.  That same ignorance – or, more accurately, indifference – handicaps America’s capacity to deal with the external world, and specifically with the dilemmas to which I have referred.

    The political remedies that are necessary for America to overcome its current domestic troubles are obstructed by yet another shortcoming that in 1835 de Tocqueville could describe only in general terms: namely, political gridlock and hyper-partisanship. Our political parties of today seem deserving of the criticism leveled by de Tocqueville against what he then called “small parties.”  He wrote, “their character is imbued with a selfishness which obviously colors each of their actions…their language is violent, but their progress is timid and over-cautious.  The means they employ are despicable …..” This current political stalemate must be overcome in order for America again to look outward with its customary historical confidence.

    But such national confidence requires a broader strategic vision and a sense of historical purpose pointed towards an eventually global acceptance of the principle of “self-interest properly understood”. I do feel strongly that unchecked financial speculation has both economic and social consequences that urgently require wider and stricter national and international  political supervision. Effective global political cooperation can only emerge out of a broader consensus – one that must be promoted both on a regional, and eventually, on a global basis.

    For America, which is both an Atlantic and a Pacific power, that means – in my view – nothing less than a renewed and ambitious effort to give meaning to the notion of an Atlantic community – involving in the short-run both America and the EU – and in the long-run gradually also both Russia and Turkey.  That America and Europe need each other is obvious – and that they share the same political values is especially important at a time when the world is suddenly politically awakened and seeking its own self-definition.  Alas, only too often that search is focused on self-interest selfishly understood.

    Hence  a more ambitious strategic vision should not be limited only to America and Europe.  In my soon forthcoming book, I argue that in the longer-run – in the course of the next 2 or 3 decades – it should be possible to engage Russia as well.  Note what de Tocqueville wrote in 1835, when concluding Part I of his “Democracy in America”: “Today, two great nations of the earth seem to be advancing toward the same destination from different starting points: the Russians and the Anglo-Americans…All other nations appear to have reached almost the upper limits of their natural development and have nothing left to do except preserve what they have, whereas these two nations are growing.

    To be sure, he did note correctly the dramatic contrasts between America and Russia: Americans, with “freedom as their main mode of action”, would use their belief in the principle of self-interest and their common sense to occupy and civilize their vast continent, overcoming natural obstacles to build a strong American democracy.  The Russians, with “slavish obedience” as their main mode of action, would employ the “soldier’s sword” at the command of “a single man” to conquer civilization.   And he warned that while “the point of departure is different, their paths are diverse but each of them seems destined by some secret providential design to hold in their hands the fate of half the world at some date in the future.”         

    It is now clear that Russia’s destiny is no longer the exercise of control over “half of the world.” Rather it is how its can survive its internal stagnation and depopulation within the context of a rising East and a richer (even if perplexed) West.   And that is why a western policy that encourages Ukraine’s closer ties with the EU is the essential precursor to as well as stimulus for Russia’s eventual closer engagement with the West.  That may not happen under a President Putin, but the internal preconditions for democratic evolution in Russia are growing and, in my view, will eventually preponderate.  Russians are more open to the world now than ever before.

    The same strategic goal of a revitalized and larger West should also apply to Turkey.  It is most desirable for three key reasons that Turkey should see its future as part of the West.  First, Turkey’s internal democratization and spreading modernization is evidence that neither democratization nor modernization are incompatible with Islam.  Second, Turkey’s commitment to peaceful cooperation with its Middle Eastern neighbors is consistent with the security interests of the West in that region.  Third, a Turkey that is increasingly western, secular, and yet also Islamic could undermine the appeal of Islamic extremism and enhance regional stability in Central Asia not only to its own benefit but also to that of Europe and Russia.  Additionally, a democratic, secular yet Islamic Turkey can be most influential in encouraging the Arab states towards stable democracy.

    While of less immediate consequence for Europe, America’s longer-term role in the rising new East can be equally important – both in avoiding conflict and in engaging China and Japan in more active global roles.  US policy in the new East must not be confined solely to a China-centric concentration on the otherwise mutually beneficial special partnership with Beijing; it must also encourage a genuine reconciliation between Japan – a democracy and America’s principal Pacific Ocean ally – and China, as well as seek to mitigate the growing rivalry between China and India.  Only through a balanced approach and abstinence from mainland Asian conflicts can the US promote lasting stability in Asia and assist Asia’s own quest for social and political modernity.

    Let me conclude by noting that the global role that I feel America should play ultimately depends on the capacity of its society to live up to the expectations that de Tocqueville so brilliantly and insightfully expressed 175 years ago. Like him, I too believe in the powerfully redeeming potential of America’s democracy.  And I have especially in mind  the universal relevance to the now politically awakened world of America’s early embrace of the revolutionary concept of “self-interest properly understood”.

Arab Marshall Plan Or Buying-Off the Underclass?

Mideast power brokers call for “Marshall Plan” after unrest

Leaders attend the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the Middle East at the King Hussein Convention Centre at the Dead Sea October 22, 2011. Pictured are Iraq's Kurdistan region Prime Minister Barham Salih (2nd L); Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (3rd L); Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari (4th L); Hilde Schwab (5th R), the wife of WEF founder Klaus Schwab; Jordan's Queen Rania (4th R), Spanish King Juan Carlos (3rd R), Qatar's Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani (2nd R) and Jordan's Prince Faisal bin al-Hussein (R).  REUTERS/Majed Jaber

Leaders attend the opening ceremony of the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the Middle East at the King Hussein Convention Centre at the Dead Sea October 22, 2011. Pictured are Iraq’s Kurdistan region Prime Minister Barham Salih (2nd L); Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (3rd L); Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari (4th L); Hilde Schwab (5th R), the wife of WEF founder Klaus Schwab; Jordan’s Queen Rania (4th R), Spanish King Juan Carlos (3rd R), Qatar’s Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani (2nd R) and Jordan’s Prince Faisal bin al-Hussein (R).

Credit: Reuters/Majed Jaber

By Khaled Yacoub Oweis

DEAD SEA, Jordan

(Reuters) – Arab politicians and financiers at the World Economic Forum in Jordan called on Saturday for a huge injection of cash to narrow the inequalities that led to the Arab Spring revolts against authoritarian regimes across the region.

Days after the killing of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, senior figures said a home-grown version of the Marshall Plan was needed in the wake of the revolts, which have raised people’s hopes for swift economic improvements after decades of corruption and mismanagement.

The proposal was the most specific put forward by senior figures meeting at a luxurious Dead Sea convention center to try and chart a new economic course for the region after its most sweeping upheaval since colonial powers divided most of the Middle East following the downfall of the Ottoman Empire.

Under the Marshall Plan, large sums flowed into Western Europe to rebuild the continent, restore productivity and prevent U.S. allies from falling under the Soviet sphere of influence.

“I am afraid that Arab Spring could turn into an autumn if the issue of social justice is not achieved. A Marshall Plan is needed,” said Hassan al-Boraei, Egypt’s labor minister.

“The old model of relying on state employment and big projects is no longer viable,” Boraei said, adding that Egypt needed to find jobs for 950,000 people entering the workforce annually, with unemployment running at 12-17 percent.

Outrage against autocratic rule and associated nepotism and corruption sparked a democratic revolution in Tunisia in December that cascaded into what has become known as the Arab Spring.

So far, the revolts have toppled the leaders of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya, with mass protests continuing in Syria and Yemen, threatening their autocratic presidents.

ANTIQUATED POLICES

“If the Arab Spring hopes to achieve anything it is to attain good governance. This does not necessitate only democracy and freedom but social justice, meaning economic policies that meet popular aspirations,” said Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby.

Prominent banker Ibrahim Dabdoub said the proposed “Arab Marshall Plan” could be funded by Gulf petrodollars and regional development banks, as there is little hope for major funding from Western nations dealing with their own economic trouble.

“This region needs 85 million jobs … and a Marshall Plan with the help of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund has become a pre-requisite of development,” said Dabdoub, a Palestinian who heads the National Bank of Kuwait, the country’s biggest lender.

Libya’s Prime Minister Mahmoud Jibril was more skeptical about whether money alone would improve the region’s lot, saying “the problem of the Arab world is not a question of money but the management of money.”

Jibril also said on Saturday that Libyans should be allowed to vote within eight months to elect a national council to draft a new constitution and form an interim government.

Making a keynote speech at the conference, Qatar’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad al-Thani said economic models had only benefited ruling classes and their cohorts, sparking the Arab Spring.

Qatar, an absolute monarchy with one of the world’s highest per capita incomes, has played an international role beyond its tiny size by virtue of its natural gas wealth and ownership of the satellite al-Jazeera channel.

Al-Thani did not address the issue of funding but said Arab economic policies that rely on attracting investment in tourism and real estate while ignoring corruption and the need to raise productivity and education standards have largely failed.

In recent years Arab states have tried to emulate the ‘Dubai model’, encouraging the setting up of big holding companies tied with the ruling hierarchy that were awarded privatization deals and embarked on large property ventures while public corruption deepened and unemployment remained stubbornly high.

Asked about his advice for Arab rulers, al-Thani said: “Don’t fight to stay in your position. What sort of power (will) you have after killing your own people?”

(Additional reporting by Tom Pfeiffer and Suleiman al-Khalidi; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

Chávez’s party reports October destabilizing plan

[SEE:  Otto Reich: Mastermind of the April 2002 coup d'etat against President Hugo Chavez ]

Chávez’s party reports destabilizing plan

Leader of ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) Aristóbulo Istúriz said that unions have prepared street protests

  EL UNIVERSAL

Ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) reported that the Venezuelan opposition sectors, supported by the foreign oligarchy, have prepared a destabilizing plan to be implemented in October, including street blockades and protests.

Leader of ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) Aristóbulo Istúriz said mainly trade unions and workers in the country will stage this type of action.

“Foreign actors are trying to ignite destabilization in the country. In October, they have prepared a wave of actions such as street blockades that will be staged by workers and trade unions. This shows that there is a foreign plan aimed at isolating and destabilizing Venezuela,” he said at a press conference held at the headquarters of the PSUV.

Istúriz called on the opposition not to continue talking about the health of President Hugo Chavez: “I believe that Chávez is driving them (the opposition) crazy and that they have no life electorally speaking. The president has demonstrated his strength amidst the situation he has faced.”

England Experiences “Mother-Frackin” Earthquakes from Halliburton’s Multi-Trillion Dollar Brainchild

[SEE:  The Halliburton Loophole ]

GASLAND Trailer 2010, posted with vodpod

Expert Says Quakes in England May Be Tied to Gas Extraction

By

A British seismologist said Friday that two minor earthquakes in northwestern England “appeared to correlate closely” with the use of hydraulic fracturing, a method of extracting natural gas from wells that has raised concerns about environmental and seismological risks in the United States.

The scientist, Brian Baptie, seismic project team leader with the British Geological Survey, said data from the two quakes near Blackpool — one of magnitude 2.3 on April 1, the other of magnitude 1.5 on May 27 — suggested the temblors arose from the same source. Cuadrilla Resources, a British energy company, was conducting hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, operations at a well nearby when the quakes occurred.

In fracking, water, sand and chemicals are injected into a well at high pressure to split shale rock and release trapped gas.

The company suspended its fracking operations shortly after the second earthquake, which, like the first, was barely felt and caused no damage. Paul Kelly, a Cuadrilla spokesman, said a report by several academic scientists on the quakes, commissioned by the company, should be released in a few weeks.

“We’re waiting for the independent report,” he said.

One possibility is that the British government, through the Department of Energy and Climate Change, might require modification to the fracking process.

Mr. Kelly said Cuadrilla Resources had drilled three wells — the only shale-gas wells so far in Britain — and had conducted fracking operations at only one.

Fracking is now widespread in the United States, and has been blamed by some landowners, environmentalists and public officials for contaminating waterways and drinking water supplies. Some critics have also said that the technology could cause significant earthquakes.

But Stephen Horton, a seismologist at the University of Memphis, said, “Generally speaking, fracking doesn’t create earthquakes that are large enough to be felt.” Even so, Mr. Horton said that after looking at the British Geological Survey’s analysis of the Blackpool earthquakes, “the conclusions are reasonable.”

Mr. Horton and others investigated a swarm of earthquakes in 2010 and 2011, including one of magnitude 4.7, in an area of central Arkansas where fracking was being conducted. The scientists found that the earthquakes were probably caused not by fracking but by the disposal of waste liquids from the process into other wells. Those wells have since been shut down.

Mr. Baptie said that in the Blackpool quakes, the high-pressure injection of water during fracking may have reduced the stresses on a nearby fault, causing it to slip.

He said one question was whether even larger earthquakes could occur if the fracking continued. While he said that it might be possible to go from a magnitude 2.3 to about a 3.0, “the chances of getting a very large earthquake are negligible.”

US To Pull-Out of Decimated Iraq, Leaving State Dept. Army of Private Killers Behind

U.S. Troop Pullout May Leave Iraq Struggling as Iran Benefits

By Nicole Gaouette

(Bloomberg) — The end of the long American war in Iraq will begin the test of what that effort has produced.

After almost nine years, $800 billion and almost 5,000 U.S. dead, President Barack Obama announced yesterday that the 39,000 remaining troops will be home for the holidays, “heads held high, proud of their success.”

They will leave behind a U.S. presence in the form of the world’s largest embassy, without a large military force’s protection, intelligence, supply chain and transportation. Diplomats will encourage peace and development in a largely Shiite Muslim Iraq that is divided by ethnic and religious tensions and sits on the fault line between Persian Shiite Iran and the Sunni Arab world.

“This has profound implications,” said Mohsen Milani, chairman of the government and international relations department at the University of South Florida in Tampa, in a telephone interview. “It will intensify the competition for power inside Iraq, leave the Iraqi Shiites more dependent on Iran and the Sunnis on Saudi Arabia and leave the Kurds as orphans who probably will continue to align themselves with the Shiites.”

The U.S. pullout is “an unprecedented strategic gift to the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said Milani.

Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at Washington’s Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Iraqi forces may not be ready to provide security and violence will likely rise. U.S. diplomats in Iraq face unprecedented demands. Iran, as a result, stands to gain.

‘Not Success’

“The reality is that this is not success,” Cordesman said in a telephone interview. “It certainly isn’t a drastic failure, but we are now facing a major power vacuum in Iraq and dealing with a power vacuum of this magnitude is a very serious matter.”

Republican critics such as California Representative Buck McKeon said that leaving now will make it harder for the Iraqis to stabilize their country.

U.S. troop levels in Iraq hit 90,000 in March 2003 with the invasion and increased to 148,000 that year, according to U.S. Central Command figures. The U.S. deployment peaked at 166,300 in October 2007, during the surge to curb the outbreak of violence in largely Sunni Muslim Anbar Province. The level is about 39,000 today, according to the Pentagon.

The administration proposed leaving a residual force of 3,000 troops in Iraq, if the Iraqi government were willing to extend them immunity from prosecution.

‘Ferocious’ Opposition

Kenneth Pollack, a director of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy, said that number would have been too small to accomplish anything.

Iraqi hostility to the U.S. presence and “ferocious Iranian opposition” to it were all factors in the decision to pull all troops out, Pollack wrote in an analysis of the president’s announcement.

Obama said that talks on training and equipping Iraqi forces will continue, and his announcement doesn’t preclude the possibility that some American troops in Iraq might still be kept or return, especially if ethnic violence increases or Iran makes aggressive moves.

The U.S. withdrawal offers Iran an opportunity to form “a link to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon,” Cordesman said, increasing the possibility of a regional clash “at a time when we lack the budget to deal with a serious regional crisis.”

Iranian Weapons

The U.S. blames Iran’s elite Quds Force for training and equipping Shiite militia groups in Iraq, said David Newton, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq from 1984 to 1988. It also has introduced anti-tank weapons into the country, Newton said in a telephone interview.

Administration officials said that reviews over the last seven to eight months have found that Iraqi security forces are ready to take on that challenge.

“One assessment after another about the Iraqi security forces came back saying these guys are ready, these guys are capable, these guys are proven,” Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough said yesterday.

Newton said that, when the U.S. troops leave, they will take with them tools and resources that had been helpful to the Iraqi forces, including intelligence collection capabilities and equipment such as helicopter gunships.

“The Iraqis do have some special forces, but they’ve got a way to go,” Newton said, “Without the U.S. backup, in terms of intel collection, coordination, I think this will be pretty challenging for them.”

Those special forces will be overseen by a divided government without a functioning legislature or officials manning high-level posts, including that of defense minister.

History of War

Robin Wright, at the U.S. Institute of Peace, cautioned against the idea that withdrawal from Iraq will allow Iran to extend its influence. While both are both predominantly Shiite Muslim nations, they fought the Middle East’s deadliest war from 1980 to 1988, leaving 123,000 dead. They are rivals over religious leadership, identity, politics and territory, said.

“Yes, the Shiites have a natural link,” Wright said in a telephone interview. “But the nationalism and history also will be important in defining what happens to Iraq after the United States leaves.”

Newton concurred. “The Shias of Iraq, having waited so long to come to power, don’t want to hand it over to Iran,” he said.

Still, the withdrawal may intensify the rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia, said Milani. The Saudis blame Iran for fomenting unrest in majority-Shiite Bahrain and in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province.

Diplomatic Danger

The U.S. withdrawal will leave American diplomats in Iraq with new responsibilities and dangers. “The State Department is being asked to do things it’s never done before,” Newton said, including managing a huge contracted workforce.

With the troops gone, security for diplomats and facilities will be the responsibility of some 5,000 contract employees who probably will face increased violence and incidents of terrorism, Cordesman said.

U.S. intelligence officers who remain in Iraq and those contractors will no longer have the stream of information on potential threats that now comes from American military outposts around the country, said a U.S. intelligence official who wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.

Cities such as Kirkuk, with four linguistic groups, and Mosul, where there is long-standing friction between Sunni Kurds and Sunni Arabs, are most likely to erupt, Newton said.

Expanded Embassy

In all, about 16,000 personnel will be assigned to the embassy in Iraq, about 1,700 of them diplomats, experts in fields such as business and agriculture and law enforcement officers, while around 5,000 will be security contractors to guard personnel and facilities including consulates, according to State Department figures.

The newly established Office of Security Cooperation in the Embassy will have a core staff of 160 civilians and uniformed military alongside 750 civilian contractors overseeing Pentagon assistance programs, including military training. They will be guarded, fed and housed by 3,500 additional contract personnel.

The security cooperation office will also operate out of 10 offices around the country, half of them shared with other embassy personnel. The embassy will have consulates in Basra, Irbil and Kirkuk. The State Department will provide Iraqi police training with its own personnel.

“What’s unusual is the scale and the militarization of the foreign service” as it oversees the thousands of security personnel, Newton said. The agency will even run its own airline to shuttle staff around the country. “This is not the kind of thing that diplomats do,” he said.

–With assistance from Tony Capaccio, Viola Gienger and David Lerman in Washington. Editors: John Walcott, Steven Komarow.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Gaouette in Washington at ngaouette@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

Central Asia: Clinton Should Set Record Straight on Rights

Central Asia: Clinton Should Set Record Straight on Rights

Source:  Human Rights Watch

United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton should make clear to the leaders of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan during her upcoming visits that improving their poor human rights records is a key component of their engagement with the US.

(Washington, DC) – United States Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton should make clear to the leaders of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan during her upcoming visits that improving their poor human rights records is a key component of their engagement with the US, Human Rights Watch said today.

Clinton is to visit Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, on October 23, 2011, and is expected to meet with President Islam Karimov and separately with Uzbek civil society activists. Her trip to the region will also include a stop in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, for similar high-level meetings.

“Washington should not allow Uzbekistan’s standing as a strategic partner to distort reality about the government’s deplorable record,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director for Human Rights Watch. “Secretary Clinton’s trip is a crucial opportunity to set the record straight and underscore Tashkent’s urgent need to end abuses.”

The visit to Tashkent is the first since the administration’s controversial movein September to lift longstanding restrictions on financial assistance, including military assistance, to Uzbekistan. The restrictions were imposed in 2004 because of Tashkent’s appalling rights record. News media reports following the move quoted Clinton as saying that Uzbekistan was “showing signs of improving its human rights record and expanding political freedoms.”

Clinton should press Uzbekistan to release wrongfully imprisoned rights activists, allow civil society to operate freely, end torture in its detention facilities, and stop the use of forced child labor, Human Rights Watch said.

Uzbek authorities freed a critically ill human rights defender, Norboi Kholjigitov, on October 14, in what was widely considered an advance gesture ahead of Clinton’s visit. The veteran activist was imprisoned in June 2005 following a conviction on politically motivated charges and was subjected to abuse in prison.

“Kholjigitov’s release is an encouraging development that could not have come a moment too soon for someone so critically ill,” Williamson said. “It shows that it’s possible for the US to get results if it presses for change and underscores the urgent need for Secretary Clinton to call for further improvements.”

The Uzbek government continues to hold at least 12 human rights defenderson wrongful charges. They are: Solijon Abdurakhmanov, Azam Formonov, Nosim Isakov, Gaibullo Jalilov, Alisher Karamatov, Jamshid Karimov, Abdurasul Khudainasarov, Ganihon Mamatkhanov, Habibulla Okpulatov, Yuldash Rasulov, Dilmurod Saidov, and Akzam Turgunov. Many other journalists and political activists remain behind bars for no other reason than their legitimate civil society activism.

Human Rights Watch called on Clinton to make clear, both in private meetings with Uzbek officials and civil society activists and in public statements, that aid concessions will be made only if there is measurable progress in human rights.

“Secretary Clinton should leave no doubt that the US government is seriously concerned about Tashkent’s lack of meaningful progress on human rights,” Williamson said.

Tajikistan’s record, too, is marred by serious abuses, which Clinton should raise with top officials during her visit, Human Rights Watch said.

The recent convictions of two independent journalists on what appear to be politically motivated charges related to their legitimate journalism work tops the list of concerns, Human Rights Watch said. On October 14, Urunboy Usmonov, a longtime BBC journalist, was found guilty of complicity in the activities of a banned religious extremist organization, Hizb ut Tahrir, apparently for failing to report on their activities. He was sentenced to three years in prison, but subsequently amnestied so will not be serving prison time. During his trial Usmonov alleged he was subjected to ill-treatment in custody, including being beaten and burned on his arms with cigarettes.

Makhmadyusuf Ismoilov is a reporter with the independent weekly Zuri Zindagi, who has been in prison since November 2010 facing multiple charges including insult and defamation, and was similarly convicted on October 14 and released under an amnesty. He has to pay a large fine and is banned from journalism for three years.

The government also has cracked down more broadly on media freedoms and restricted religious freedoms. A new “Parental Responsibility Law” requires parents to prevent their children from participating in religious activity until they reach age 18, except if they are enrolled in official, state-sanctioned religious education.

Torture is an enduring problem in the country’s detention facilities and is believed to have resulted in at least two deaths so far in 2011.

Will Seif al Islam Gadhafi Avoid NATO Assassins, To Have His Day In Court?

Targeted for assassination by NATO?  Will Seif al Islam Gadhafi survive to have his day in court?

 

Franklin Lamb

 

During the late evening of 10/20/11 the White House, the Office of the Secretary of State, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Libyan Embassy in Washington, DC received a faxed communication from an American organized international legal team currently preparing their departure to Libya.

 

The international lawyers, whose assistance has been arranged through Gadhafi family members and friends, has accepted the obligation to represent Seif al Islam against charges filed by the International Criminal Court on June 26, 2011 and to represent him in any and all legal proceedings that the NTC government may bring against him in Libya. They have been advised by Gadhafi supporters in Libya and neighboring countries that the NTC at the direction of NATO, fully intends to see Seif al Islam killed before he can address the international media and his supporters, following the transfer of his father’s leadership authority to Seif on August 29, 2011. Seif has been planning to announce his candidacy in the planned coming election. Informal polls throughout Libya have shown him garnering close to 70% of the vote if he is allowed to stand for office under the now NATO controlled country.

 

This observer is a member of the group of international lawyers who seek justice for their client, Seif al Islam.

An excerpt of the communication served in Washington reads:

 

“We demand that our client, Seif al Islam al Gadhafi be immediately protected should he be arrested and that if injured that he be kept under the continual watch and care by the International Committee of the Red Cross until we are granted personal contact with him and have the opportunity to complete current efforts at arranging interim measures of protection to guarantee his safety.

 

We insist that our client not be questioned or interrogated by anyone including representatives of the current government of Libyan or by investigators from the ICC until he has had the opportunity for legal consultation and until he recovers from any wounds.

The rights of Seif al Islam must be protected in full compliance with international norms and we call on the United Nations Security Council and International Human Rights Organizations to act immediately to protect our client.

We respectfully request that the International Criminal Court take custody of the remains of Moammar and Mutassim Gadhafi, and conduct forensic examinations preparatory to filing criminal charges against those responsible for these extra-judicial killings.

 

Information arriving from family members and friends of our client Seif al Islam leaves no doubt that NATO has ordered his killing. His planned, and we believe  White House approved assassination is meant to spare NATO the international accountably that awaits them as the World learns from eyewitness accounts and reliable, competent and probative physical and demonstrative evidence compiled over the past six months, exactly what NATO has wrought on Libya and its civilian population.

 

Shortly we will file with the ICC our formal demand for our clients protection and his transfer, if captured, to a sanctuary outside of Libya lest he be assassinated as was the fate today of his father, Colonel Moammar al Gadhafi.

 

We intend to hold the current governments of Libya and the United States as well as NATO fully responsible for the brutal assassination of our client’s father and brother Mutassim and for any abuse or harm that is directed at our client, Seif al Islam.

 

We intend to prove in Court that since the passage of UN Security Resolution by the United Nations Security Council on March 17, 2011, NATO has repeatedly targeted civilian targets with more than 9,000 bombing sorties in Libya as part of its campaign to assassinate the Libyan leader Colonel Gadhafi and his close aides and advisers.

 

We intend to prove in Court that NATO did repeatedly sanction others to carry out Moammar Gadhafi’s assassination and that his killers on October 20, 2011 knew that a large cash award awaited them if they killed Colonel Gadhafi thus silencing him from testifying against NATO officials and current Western leaders who led the eight month destruction of Libya.”

The next few days will be a major test for the international community and whether the application of international law will be applied to Libya.  The outcome will also likely signal whether Libya descends more deeply into civil war involving as many as six African countries who are reportedly organizing troop units to be sent into Libya to help protect civilians from NATO forces who are arriving to help re-build the country that NATO  needlessly and criminally substantially destroyed.

 

Franklin Lamb is a member of the American led legal team that intends to defend Seif al Islam against current charges filed against him at the International Criminal Court. He is reachable c/ofplamb@gmail.com