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Thousands of trucks en route to Beijing from Huai’an in the southeast have been backed up since Aug. 14, making the National Expressway 100 impassable, Xinhua News reported.
A spokesman for the Beijing Traffic Management Bureau reportedly told China’s Global Times newspaper that the backup was due to “insufficient traffic capacity … caused by maintenance construction.”
The construction is scheduled to last until Sept. 13.
Stranded drivers appear to have few options when it comes to dealing with the jam.
At least some drivers have complained that roadside vendors have increased their prices to take advantage of the traffic jam. One truck driver said he bought instant noodles from one vendor for four times the original price.
Another driver, Wang, told Xinhua he’d been stuck in the traffic jam for three days and two nights.
“We are advised to take detours, but I would rather stay here since I will travel more distance and increase my costs,” Wang said.
This is not the first time the highway has faced such congestion.
A similar backup in July kept traffic to a crawl for nearly a month, Xinhua reported.
By M K Bhadrakumar
The humanitarian situation resulting from the unprecedented floods in Pakistan has been turned into a playground of regional geopolitics. The responsibility for this primarily lies with the United States, which fashioned its response to the crisis in a needlessly competitive spirit.
The needs of Pakistan are of stupendous proportions. Even cold statistics bring this out. One fifth of the landmass of Pakistan is inundated and the lives of 20 million people have been affected. Nothing further needs to be said about the enormity of the human sorrow.
The fact that the United Nations launched an initial appeal for US$460 million for the immediate relief underscores the magnitude of the crisis – although, according to the Pakistani foreign minister, that amount “will only cater to about 6 to 8 million people for 90 days only”.
Yet, Pakistan’s crisis presents itself as a theater of public diplomacy for the United States to burnish its image among Pakistani people, of whom 59% regarded America as an enemy country, according to a July 29 Pew Global Attitudes Project poll.
A flood of opportunities
The window of opportunity opens in other directions, too. The areas of Pakistan where the extremists and terrorists have been most active also happen to be the most affected. The expectation in Washington seems to be that US marines will be working in the field closely with the Pakistani military, and that a sort of rank-and-file camaraderie is expected to develop that could have useful fallouts for the war in Afghanistan.
Indeed, the marines will likely come across the relief workers of the Islamist charity organizations affiliated to rabidly “anti-American” groups, especially the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba (which figures in the US’ list of terrorist groups) and the political party Jamaat-e-Islami, which takes pride – publicly at least – in berating the US regional policies. The US operatives could make useful contacts with the Islamist elements involved in relief work and these could be followed up.
Again, the US is a global power and, unsurprisingly, it has begun linking the floods in Pakistan with the problem of climate change, one of the lead items on the foreign policy agenda of the BarackObama administration.
Richard Holbrooke, the US special representative for AfPak, openly wondered: ”I know we don’t have a definitive answer, but to what extent is there some connection between the [Pakistani] floods, the Russia fires, global warming, the Himalayan [glacier] runoff, what is the preliminary best sense of that?”
Another senior US official, Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the US Agency for International Development added: ”I think we all can recognize … that we should expect to have more large-scale, erratic weather events … that trend is leading to a greater number of large-scale hurricanes, a greater number of floods, hotter and dryer growing conditions … and it’s making it very hard for the least resilient, the most lower income communities in the world to survive.”
How the US links these ”ink-spots” in climate change – Pakistan’s floods, Russia’s fires and the glacier melt up north of Kashmir in the contested region of Siachen – on the geopolitical plane and transfers the impulses to its regional and global diplomacy in the coming period will bear watching.
Then, there are the profound implications of the Pakistani floods from the strategic and political angles, which are uniquely important to the US’s war effort in Afghanistan at the present time. First, there is the lurking possibility that the Taliban might take advantage of the crisis in Pakistan.
The noted Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid wrote recently in the British Daily Telegraph: ”Large parts of the country that are now cut off will be taken over by the Pakistani Taliban and affiliated groups, and governance will collapse.” The scary scenario may seem far-fetched – and somewhat propagandistic – but the possibility remains that tepid response by the Pakistani government to the massive reconstruction task would alienatepublic opinion.
War spirit dampened
However, the bigger danger lies elsewhere: to what extent would the crisis be seized by the Pakistani military to fob off any continuing US pressure to crack down on the so-called Haqqani network affiliated with al-Qaeda which is ensconced in the North Waziristan?
The Pakistani military can claim that its hands are full with the priority tasks of relief and reconstruction work and that leaves hardly any surplus capacity for attending to unfinished business on the Afghan-Pakistan border region.
Clearly, the floods may have helped washed away to some extent from the public perceptions the stigma of the recent WikiLeaks disclosures. But the well-established ground reality, which Washington quietly acknowledges, cannot be wished away – the Pakistani security establishment and the military continue to keep an unholy alliance with the Haqqani network.
All in all, therefore, the Obama administration, which is gearing up for the latest troop ”surge” aimed at an intensification of counter-insurgency operations inside Afghanistan, need not expect a simultaneous thrust by the Pakistani military from its side of the border. This disconnect imparts urgency to the search for a political settlement with the Taliban, which will also be precisely what the Pakistani military is seeking.
Significantly, John Kerry, the chairman of the US senate foreign relations committee and who visited Kabul and Islamabad last week, has been quoted as saying on his return to Washingtonthat there is a ”very active” effort under way to reach a negotiated political settlement with the Taliban. Kerry told National Public Radio: ”I can report without being specific that there are efforts under way. They are serious and I completely agree with that fundamental premise – and so does General [David] Petraeus and so does President Obama – there is no military solution. And there are very active efforts now to seek an appropriate kind of political settlement.”
The Obama administration’s best hope is that Pakistan will reciprocate the robust US support – financially, materially and politically – by helping out on the Afghan front. Quite obviously, US officials are bending over backward to create goodwill with Pakistan.
All this is linked to a much bigger question as well: to what extent will the 2010 floods turn out to be a game changer for Pakistan’spolitical economy? Will the civilian leadership grab the opportunity to seize the political high ground in its shadow-boxing with the military?
The signs available so far are that, on the contrary, the Pakistani civilian leadership stands tarnished by its handling of the crisis. This means the military retains the upper hand vis-a-vis the embattled civilian government in the calculus of power for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, aid politics is likely to become a divisive issue among the civilian politicians as the blame game begins, and the smaller provinces are bound to harbor grievances of discrimination in aid allocation by the Punjabi-dominated establishment. Political corruption will most certainly take its toll too.
Finally, geopolitics has already descended on the Pakistani flood situation. In an extraordinary outburst to the media, Holbrooke mocked China for being allegedly tight-fisted in helping Pakistan. ”I think the Chinese should step up to the plate. They always say that Pakistan is their closest ally, and vice versa.” He was rubbing in that China’s assistance to Pakistan so far amounts to only 5% of the $150 million the US has pledged.
Holbrooke remarked that the US suffers from ”famously low popularity” in Pakistan. ”And although other countries’ popularity is greater, including China’s, the US is first and foremost” in aid to Pakistan. The Faustian tone patently laid claim to the Pakistani soul. Beijing refrained from joining issue.
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.
by Uri Avnery
Before the victory of feminism, there was a popular Israeli song in which the boy asks the girl: “When you say No, what do you mean?” This question has already been answered. Now I am more and more tempted to ask: “When you say Zionism, what do you mean?”
Lately, associations for the defense of Zionism have been springing up like mushrooms after rain. Poisonous mushrooms. All kinds of American Jewish multimillionaires are financing “patriotic” Israeli groups in Israel, to fight the holy war for “Zionism”. The assault takes place along all the fronts. Jewish organizations aim at cleansing the universities of post-Zionists. They threaten to induce other donors to withhold their donations, they terrorize presidents and rectors and frighten professors and students.
Americans may be reminded of the sinister era of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, who blighted the life of thousands of intellectuals and artists, pushing many of them into exile or suicide.
One group has proudly announced that it is teaching hundreds of professional Zionists how to cleanse Wikipedia, the on-line encyclopedia, of post-Zionist items and plant Zionist ones in their stead.
The term “post-Zionism” is starring in the propaganda of all the dozens — and perhaps hundreds — of the associations financed by the Las Vegas multimillionaires and their likes in the United States in order to restore the Zionist glory of old.
Why this term, of all others? They mean the leftists, but those who attack the “leftists” are liable to be called “rightists”. However, the members of the extreme right want to be seen as belonging to the patriotic center. Nor is it nice or enlightened to speak out against “liberal” or “progressive” professors. “Post-Zionists” is the Israeli equivalent of the “Reds” of Sen. McCarthy or the “Jews” of his predecessors in Germany. But what is “post-Zionism”? Why not simply “anti-Zionism”?
As far as I know, I was the first to use this term in 1976 while testifying in a libel case that my friends and I had lodged against a publication that had accused the “Israeli Council for Israeli-Palestinian Peace”, that we had just founded, of being “anti-Zionist”. In trying to explain my view to the judge, I said that Zionism was a historic movement, with both light and shadow, which had fulfilled its role with the establishment of the State of Israel. From then on, Israeli patriotism has taken its place. “Post-Zionism” means that with the founding of the state, a new historic era began. A “post-Zionist” can admire the achievements of Zionism or criticize them. He is not by definition an anti-Zionist. The judge accepted my arguments and found in our favor. She awarded us handsome compensation. Now I am the only living Israeli who has a judicial confirmation that he is not an anti-Zionist.
Since then, the term “post-Zionist” has acquired wide currency in academic circles. But in the mouths of our new mini-McCarthys, it has become a simple denunciation. A post-Zionist is a traitor, an Arab-lover, a lackey of the enemy, an agent of the sinister worldwide conspiracy to destroy the Jewish state.
Shlomo Avineri, a respected professor of philosophy, recently published an article in which he fervently argued that Israel is a Jewish state and must remain so.
In his article, Avineri argued passionately that Israel is a Jewish state “as Poland is a Polish state and Greece is a Greek state”. He was responding to a Palestinian citizen of Israel, Salman Masalha, who had asserted that there cannot be a “Jewish state”, much as — he says — there cannot be a “Muslim state” or a “Catholic state”.
How can one compare, Avineri cried out. After all, the Jews are a people! Israel belongs to the Jewish people, whose religion is Judaism.
Logical, isn’t it?
By no means. The analogy does not fit.
If Avineri had demanded the recognition that Israel belongs to the Israelis as Poland belongs to the Poles, I would have applauded. But he argues that Israel belongs to the Jews. This immediately raises some basic questions. For example: Which Jews? Those who are Israeli citizens? Clearly, this is not what he means. He means the “Jewish people” dispersed all over the world.
How does a person become an American? By acquiring American citizenship. How does a person become French? By becoming a citizen of the French republic. How does a person become a Jew? Ah, there’s the rub. According to the law of the State of Israel, a Jew is somebody whose mother is Jewish, or who has converted to the Jewish religion and not adopted any other religion. Ergo: The definition is purely religious, like that of a Muslim or a Catholic. Not at all like that of a Pole or a Greek.
There are in Israel hundreds of thousands of people who have immigrated from the former Soviet Union with their Jewish relatives, but are not Jewish according to the religious definition. They consider themselves Israelis in every respect, speak Hebrew, pay taxes, serve in the army. But they are not recognized as belonging to the Jewish people, to which, according to Avineri, the state belongs. Like the million and a half Israeli citizens who are Palestinian Arabs. The state does not belong to them, even though they enjoy — at least formally — full civil rights.
Simply put: The state belongs, according to Avineri, to millions of people who do not live here and who belong to other nations, but does not belong to millions of people who live here and vote for the Knesset.
Who has decided that this is a Jewish state? Avineri and many others assert that the character of the state was decided upon by the resolution of the General Assembly of the United Nations of November 29th, 1947, which partitioned the country between a “Jewish state” and an “Arab state”.
Not true. The UN did not decide upon a state which belongs to all the Jews in the world, any more than upon a state that belongs to all the Arabs in the world. The UN commission which investigated the conflict between the Jews and the Arabs in the country then called Palestine decided (very sensibly) that the only possible solution was to allot to each of the two national communities a state of its own. Nothing more. In short: the words “Jewish” and “Arab” in the UN resolution have nothing to do with the character of the two states, but only define the two communities in the country that were to establish their states. They have no other meaning.
But a professor who comes to this conclusion would be hounded as a “post-Zionist” who must be expelled from his university. According to our little McCarthys, even the debate is absolutely verboten. Verboten to think. Verboten to write. Strictly verboten to speak. In every university there would be Zionist overseers to receive reports about the lectures of professors, check their publications, report what they hear from students who inform on other students, and safeguard ideological purity.
But the results of their labors may be very different from what they expect. They may make the term “Zionism” a synonym for fascism. When you say Zionism, do you mean the humanist vision of Theodor Herzl or Avigdor Lieberman’s Jewish fascism?
[The Iranian Defense Ministry claims that this “drone” cruise missile can itself carry up to 4 “cruise missiles.” How unique! A cruise missile carrying around baby cruise missiles, sort of a cruise missile “mother ship.” Has anyone ever seen the cruise missiles that this jet-propelled thing carries? Somehow, I can’t believe that it can actually carry even one Nasr-1, the only known cruise missile produced by Iran (SEE BELOW).]
By NASSER KARIMI | AP
TEHRAN: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Sunday inaugurated the country’s first domestically built unmanned bomber aircraft, calling it an “ambassador of death” to Iran’s enemies.
The 4-meter-long drone aircraft can carry up to four cruise missiles and will have a range of 1,000 km, according to a state TV report — not far enough to reach archenemy Israel.
“The jet, as well as being an ambassador of death for the enemies of humanity, has a main message of peace and friendship,” said Ahmadinejad at the inauguration ceremony, which fell on the country’s national day for its defense industries.
The goal of the aircraft, named Karrar or striker, is to “keep the enemy paralyzed in its bases,” he said, adding that the aircraft is for deterrence and defensive purposes.
The president championed the country’s military self-sufficiency program, and said it will continue “until the enemies of humanity lose hope of ever attacking the Iranian nation.”
Iran launched an arms development program during its 1980-88 war with Iraq to compensate for a US weapons embargo and now produces its own tanks, armored personnel carries, missiles and even a fighter plane.
Iran frequently makes announcements about new advances in military technology that cannot be independently verified.
State TV later showed video footage of the plane taking off from a launching pad and reported that the craft traveled at speeds of 900 km per hour and could alternatively be armed with two 250-pound bombs or a 450-pound guided bomb.
Iran has been producing its own light, unmanned surveillance aircraft since the late 1980s.
The ceremony came a day after Iran began to fuel its first nuclear power reactor with the help of Russia amid international concerns over the possibility of a military dimension to its nuclear program.
Iran insists it is only interested in generating electricity.
Referring to Israel’s occasional threats against Iran’s nuclear facilities, Ahmadinejad called any attack unlikely, but said if Israel did, the reaction would be overwhelming.
“The scope of Iran’s reaction will include the entire earth,” said Ahmadinejad. “We also tell you — the West — that all options are on the table.” Ahmadinejad appeared to be consciously echoing the terminology used by the US and Israel in their statements not ruling out a military option against Iran’s nuclear facilities.
On Friday, Iran also test-fired a new liquid fuel surface-to-surface missile, the Qiam-1, with advanced guidance systems.