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New York Baitullah Mehsud, the chief of Pakistani Taliban, who claimed credit for the recent deadly attack on a police academy near Lahore, has links with the country’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI), a media report said.
Based in lawless border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, Mehsud was tipped off by ISI, to enable him escape attempts to capture or kill him in the last two years, Newsweek reported.
Several operations were launched by Pakistani security forces in the last couple of years to kill or capture Mehsud, who is also suspected to have hand in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the news magazine noted.
But each time he vanished without incident. He heads a group known as the Tehrik-e-Taliban and has made a name for himself since late 2007 as one of the militants’ most ambitious leaders, Newsweek said.
Two counter-terrorism experts familiar with official US government’s reporting told the magazine that officials in both Washington and Islamabad suspect Mehsud has contacts inside the ISI, Pakistan’s “inscrutable and sprawling intelligence agency”.
Mehsud’s contacts, the theory goes, are tipping him off before Pakistani troops can pounce, Newsweek said.
The report quoted a Pakistani source, who follows the issue, as saying that high-level American officials have shared with their counterparts in Islamabad some intelligence, indicating that renegade ISI elements helped Mehsud’s group train for the December 2007 assassination of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
US officials, it said, either declined to discuss that point or said they couldn’t confirm it. Given Mehsud’s “odious reputation” and Pakistan’s “purported knowledge” of his whereabouts, “it’s a puzzle why they’re ignoring and avoiding any strike against him,” one tribal elder in the region told Newsweek.
“Baitullah is very much mixed up in Afghanistan and with Al Qaeda,” one Afghan Taliban commander told the news magazine, adding that Mehsud was capable of shipping foreign fighters into Afghanistan “and even [farther] west”.
Several US officials consider such threats to be mere chest-thumping, but they don’t rule out the possibility that Mehsud could be cooperating with better-equipped jihadists, such as the remnants of Qaeda’s high command, the report said.
Frances Townsend, a top counter-terrorism adviser to former president George W Bush, notes that Mehsud has already demonstrated his ability to mount attacks inside Pakistani cities, well beyond his base of operations.
“You have got to be careful about dismissing [his more expansive threats] out of hand,” Townsend warned.
11. April 2009. | 09:20
Srbijagas general director Dusan Bajatovic on April 9 stated that he expects the company for the construction of the South Stream gas pipeline to be founded by the end of April, and that the Banatski Dvor underground gas storage facility will be ready for use in the next heating season.
Bajatovic told the press that, at the moment, the Serbian delegation is negotiating in Moscow on the establishment of the RussianSerbian joint company, and that there are three issues that need to be harmonized.
They are negotiating about whom the gas pipeline route would go to in the event one of the companies leaves the joint venture, as well as about what kind of company management would enable both Serbia and Russia to be equal partners, although Serbia has 49 percent of the shares.
Bajatovic stated that a EUR5.45 million contract will be signed on April 10 with Austrian company Heat, which is to set up a production line in 233 days, thanks to which five million cubic meters of gas will be produced daily.
According to Bajatovic, eight production boreholes are also to be opened, which will require EUR12 million, and that should be completed by Nov. 1.
To fill Banatski Dvor will take EUR30 million, and filling operations will begin around July 1, when the gas price drops, he said, adding that this can be financed by state money, loans, or an agreement with Gazprom on consigning gas.
“That means that Srbijagas could guarantee that Serbia could endure a total cessation of gas deliveries for two months, which is a European standard,” he added.
11. April 2009. | 09:14
Source: Ria Novosti
Tens of thousands of protesters blocked the main roads of Georgia’s capital on Friday evening, in a civil disobedience campaign to force President Mikheil Saakashvili to resign.
The campaign officially began at 6:00 p.m. local time (14:00 GMT), with protesters crowding outside parliament and the presidential offices, and blocking the route to the state broadcaster. Opposition leaders have pledged to keep the protests peaceful, but to continue until Saakashvili steps down.
Saakashvili is currently facing the toughest challenge yet to his leadership, with 60,0000 people rallying against him in the capital on Thursday, amid public anger over last summer’s disastrous war with Russia and Saakashvili’s authoritarian leadership.
Addressing the crowd outside parliament during the afternoon, opposition leader Levan Gachechiladze, a former presidential challenger, urged Tbilisi residents “to demonstrate exemplary disobedience… This will start in Tbilisi and will then sweep across Georgia. I am, therefore, asking you to show discipline, as you did yesterday.”
President Saakashvili remained defiant however, saying he would remain in office until his presidential term expires in 2013.
Speaking to reporters in English, he said: “I’ve been facing these ultimatums every other month during the last five years… Every independent poll clearly proves that people are longing for dialogue, for long-term stability.”
However, he said he was ready to negotiate on several issues, including electoral reform.
Addressing the rally outside parliament, Nino Burdzhanadze, leader of the United Georgia Democratic Movement, challenged Saakashvili to a public debate on television.
“I’m calling on Saakashvili to engage in direct dialogue. If Saakashvili is a real man, I’m ready to join him in a live TV debate today and raise my complaints,” she said.
Hundreds of protesters stayed in front of parliament overnight, and around 25,000 joined them during the day.
Saakashvili’s opponents blame him for dragging the country into a war with Russia over South Ossetia last August, resulting in the permanent split from Georgia of the province, along with another rebel republic, Abkhazia. He also faces criticism for failure to carry out democratic reforms promised after the 2003 “Rose Revolution” that brought him to power.
11. April 2009. | 09:15
Two police bomb disposal experts are seen yesterday removing improvised explosive devices from the Church of Aghios Dimitrios in Thessaloniki. A local priest said churchgoers had been inside the building when the devices were discovered.
In an unprecedented series of attacks, unidentified arsonists yesterday planted explosive devices in four major churches in Athens, Piraeus and Thessaloniki, though only the Piraeus bomb detonated, causing damage but no injuries.
A homemade bomb, comprising two gas canisters attached to a timer, went off inside the Aghia Triada Church in Piraeus shortly before 3 p.m. Earlier police bomb disposal experts destroyed a similar device found inside the Athens Cathedral. Police cordoned off the area around the cathedral, next to the capital’s main tourist district, after receiving a warning from an anonymous caller who also contacted the press. An anonymous caller had also warned police about the bomb in Piraeus but officers arrived too late to avert the blast.
Two homemade explosive devices, again connected to timers, were also defused by police in Thessaloniki, inside the central churches of Aghia Sofia and Aghios Dimitrios.
A warning about a bomb at the Athens central appeals court complex yesterday turned out to be a hoax.
President Obama sent a near-declaration of war to Iran, all wrapped up in greetings for the Iranian New Year. The message may have looked like “a smiley faced video” in which the “president appeared to be very amiable and wished peace, love and harmony,” but was actually “nothing more than a well executed propaganda ploy intended to give him cover on the day he announces his true intentions.” Then he told Europeans, ”As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven.” Beneath the charm, “Barack Obama repeats the worst, most untruthful and belligerent policies of the Bush administration.”
Freedom Rider: Phony Nuclear Disarmament
by BAR editor and senior columnist Margaret Kimberley
“Obama repeated almost word for word Bush administration policy on the need for missiles in Europe.”
President Barack Obama has an amazing ability to convince people that he intends to do what they want, even when he intends to do the exact opposite. It is a skill that he honed during the presidential campaign that he is now using expertly as president. He managed to sell himself as the peace candidate when in fact he has every intention of continuing the expansion of the American empire.
Most recently he has used his expert communication skills to declare that he will eventually make war on Iran. He has never said those words, and he even sent a smiley faced video greeting for Nowruz, the Iranian new year celebration. The president appeared to be very amiable and wished peace, love and harmony to the Iranian people. Yet the much discussed greeting was nothing more than a well executed propaganda ploy intended to give him cover on the day he announces his true intentions.
Obama tells outright, bald faced lies about Iran in order to make an attack palatable to progressives, who actually never need much of a rationale to capitulate to the wishes of their idol. Iran is painted as an aggressor nation because it chooses to exercise its right as a sovereign nation and signatory to the Non Proliferation Treaty to develop nuclear energy.
“Progressives never need much of a rationale to capitulate to the wishes of their idol.”
Obama is so smooth in planning his attack that he even makes it appear that the United States is willing to pursue nuclear disarmament. During his recent trip to Europe he announced that he and Russian president Medvedev would embark on a plan for mutual nuclear disarmament. Headlines raved that the president was willing to give up nukes, but as always even a cursory reading informed those wise enough to be skeptical that he means no such thing. In a speech in Prague he said, ”Make no mistake: As long as these weapons exist, we will maintain a safe, secure and effective arsenal to deter any adversary, and guarantee that defense to our allies.” Just in case anyone got carried away with the announcement he added, “This goal will not be reached quickly – perhaps not in my lifetime.” So much for a nuclear free world.
Not only did Obama make clear that he didn’t mean what soft hearted, useful dupes think he said, he repeated almost word for word Bush administration policy on the need for missiles in Europe. ”As long as the threat from Iran persists, we will go forward with a missile defense system that is cost-effective and proven.”
It was once left to Condoleezza Rice, queen of the bizarre, semi-insane statement, to insist that Poland and the Czech Republic were threatened by the prospect of a nuclear Iran. Now Barack Obama repeats the worst, most untruthful and belligerent policies of the Bush administration. The devious plan is breathtaking in its simplicity. Obama will point to his nuclear proposals, and his new year’s charm offensive in order to claim that he is a lot nicer than George W. Bush.
The Iranian government has no reason to be impressed with America’s empty gestures. Iran has fairly and reasonably requested that the United States address its grievances before relations can be normalized. The United States overthrew the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh in the early 1950s. America’s then ally, Saddam Hussein, launched a nearly decade long war against Iran in the 1980s that included the use of chemical weapons. In 1988 the United States navy shot down an Iranian passenger jet and killed 300 people. Economic sanctions continue to take their toll on the Iranian economy.
“Needless to say, the only nuclear power in the Middle East, Israel, didn’t get a mention in the president’s remarks.”
The American people will be told none of this history. They will be told that the president made nice and the mean, crazy Iranians slapped his loving, outstretched hand. They will not be told that the United States senate failed to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. Needless to say, the only nuclear power in the Middle East, Israel, didn’t get a mention in the president’s remarks. Israel is estimated to have hundreds of nuclear weapons. No one is certain how many exist because that nation’s nuclear program is unacknowledged and uninspected.
Obama should get credit for gall if nothing else. Most Czechs are opposed to having American nuclear weapons on their soil, and yet Obama told them he would do precisely what they don’t want, while also claiming he wants to end the existence of nuclear arsenals.
Many people who turned up their noses at Bush’s crass bullying swoon over Obama’s slick words. America is still the enemy of the rest of the planet and is not to be trusted. In fact, the mistrust should be greater now that a smart, charismatic imperialist has replaced a stupid, despised one. Nuclear arms reduction should be pursued but the United States can’t take the lead. Its motives are not honest and its true intent is clear. Only a smart imperialist can make plans for war while claiming to make plans for peace. If the Iranians are unimpressed with Mr. Obama it is because they are paying attention. The only question is whether or not enough people in this country are smart enough to do the same thing.
Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com.
|Saturday, April 11, 2009
Mr Holbrooke got an earful from his Pakistani interlocutors for the drone attacks and the “slander campaign against the ISI.” Foreign Minister Qureshi implied that the barrage of attacks emanating from Washington targeting the Pakistan Army and the ISI and creating doubts about their sincerity in the war against Al Qaeda and the Taliban was simply unacceptable. Mr Holbrooke reportedly tried to assuage feelings by denying that either he or Admiral Mullen had levelled any such allegations. Mr Qureshi also had a barbed word or two about the “blank cheque” that Mr Obama had said he would not offer Pakistan.
Seldom has a US delegation received a more hostile official reception. Mr Gilani received them without a tie and Gen Shuja not at all. Holbrooke and Co not expecting such a frosty welcome must have felt ambushed; this surely was not the docile ally they had expected to encounter. They left for India licking their wounds and presumably chastened for having taken Pakistan for granted. Meanwhile, their proposal to mount joint operations against the Taliban and expanded drone strikes was summarily rejected.
Mr Holbrooke had better learn fast if he is to maintain his reputation as a successful negotiator. He must know that when riled Pakistanis will go to great lengths to make their displeasure known, even if it comes to cutting their nose to spite their face. He should also learn that it is the denial mode that Pakistanis prefer to adopt when confronted with unpleasant situations. Thus we were winning the war in East Pakistan until the day we surrendered. We actually won the war of 1965 even though having started it we achieved none of our objectives by the time we sued for peace. The attacks on the Sri Lankan cricket team and the Police Academy were really an “understandable” reaction to the US war on Afghanistan. Surrendering Swat and Bajaur to the Taliban was a wise step that brought peace even if the locals hate Taliban rule and now live subject to barbaric laws that violate just about every relevant article of the Pakistan Constitution. Mr Holbrooke will also discover that while we generally say what we mean we seldom do what we say, and think nothing of it.
Had Mr Holbrooke been better briefed he would have had with him the testimony of Mr Malik Navid, the current IG Police of the NWFP, before the Parliamentary Committee on National Security a day before Mr Holbrooke’s meeting with his Pakistani hosts.
The IG had told his interlocutors that the Taliban and Al Qaeda “are present in every city and town (of Pakistan) in some places they are active, in others they are dormant.” The IG had added that Jihadi groups were moving through southern Punjab and eventually aimed to reach the financial hub of Karachi. He warned that the Al Qaeda-Taliban combine had developed some expertise in bio chemical weapons and that the government needed to focus urgently on containing militancy as it spread from its bases. The IG had also said that Al Qaeda specialised in turning out suicide bombers within three months and that a substantial number of Pakistan’s madressahs were involved in this activity. The IG named an AL Qaeda operative Qari Hussain as being responsible for training suicide bombers.
Having apprised his audience of the views of the IG with which they probably would not have been familiar, for such is how the State dysfunctions here, Mr Holbrooke could have paused and asked his interlocutors “Please tell me how the “Best Intelligence Service in the world” has allowed this to happen. And, pray tell me what you have done to stop it? And if not, why not? And if so, why have you failed.” He would have noticed that instead of hanging their heads in shame for lack of a plausible explanation or excuse many in his audience would have taken umbrage that he had felt it appropriate to ask such a question as it pertains to Pakistan’s internal affairs. As if the meltdown of Pakistan is not a matter of anyone’s concern but theirs. Globalisation, Mr Holbrooke would have grasped, never really took off in Pakistan.
The Pakistani establishment, Mr Holbrooke should know, simply cannot deal with the prospect that the State is collapsing and that too at a time when the patience of the people of Pakistan with its leaders, which at one time seemed infinite considering the decades of misrule that they have endured (helped along by US support of the most despicable of them), is reaching its end.
Mr Holbrooke would do well to revisit his remarks in Islamabad that the US and Pakistan face a common strategic threat and enemy. The fact is that the threat/enemy he was referring to, the Taliban, is regarded by an many Pakistanis as a former and potential strategic ally. The real threat Pakistan faces is in their view from India, followed by Israel and, only a short distance behind, is his own country.
Nevertheless, Pakistan must be saved. That is the challenge the administration to which Mr Holbrooke reports seems to have taken on itself. We wish him well.
The writer is a former ambassador. Email: email@example.com