Tajik president, Belgian minister discuss security cooperation issues

Tajik president, Belgian minister discuss security cooperation issues


Payrav Chorshanbiyev

DUSHANBE, October 16, 2010, Asia-Plus  — On Saturday October 16, President Emomali Rahmon met here with visiting Belgian Defense Minister Pieter De Crem.

According to presidential press service, the sides expressed interest in expansion of bilateral economic and investment cooperation between Tajikistan and Belgium and discussed support for Tajikistan in ridding its border of landmines and unexploded ordnances (UXOs).

They noted that expansion of cooperation between defense and security bodies of the two countries would promote strengthening of peace and tranquility in Central Asia and Afghanistan.

The Tajik head of state, in particular, underlined the significance of international community’s support for finding solution to the Afghan problem and noted that it was impossible to reduce danger emanating from that country without efforts of the whole international community.

Mr. Pieter De Crem, for his part, appreciated Tajikistan’s support for the NATO-led antiterrorist coalition in Afghanistan, presidential press service said.

President Rahmon expressed hope that Belgium would use its presidency of the European Union Council to promote removal of artificial obstacles created in the way of regional cooperation in Central Asia.

The sides expressed their readiness to cooperate in fighting terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking.

Operation Quell, by Dr. A. Nazar

Security forces have launched a massive search operation in Balochistan’s Awaran District weeks after a formal warning issued by Interior Minister Rehman Malik about the use of force to deal with the ongoing Baloch insurgency. Apparently, the purpose of the operation is to hunt down Baloch guerrilla leader Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch, who is believed to be heading the rebellious movement in parts of Balochistan where the tribal elite has no influence against middle class educated Baloch youth.

Historically, the government had lied about military operations in the troubled province by saying that no such activity was actually taking place. However, this time the news about the current operation was confirmed by some cabinet ministers in a meeting of the Balochistan Assembly.

Agriculture Minister Mir Asadullah Baloch, who is also the central secretary general of Balochistan National Party (BNP-Awami), drew the attention of the Balochistan Assembly during a recent session insisting that the operation was illegal and devoid of the provincial government’s approval. Asad’s views were endorsed by provincial minister for social welfare,Mir Asghar Rind, who added that the center of the military operation was not only confined to Mashkay but it had been expanded to some parts of Mekran.When both the ministers were disallowed to speak against the operation on the floor of the Assembly by  the Speaker, Mohammad Aslam Bhoothani, they consequently walked out of the legislative body in protest. The two ministers were, ironically, joined by Dr. Fauzia Nazir Marri, who is the adviser of chief minister Raisani.

During the operation, security forces searched hundreds of homes in Mashky area of Awaran District and harrased the relatives of Dr. Allah Nazar. In Gorchak, a township, twenty-five kilometers away from Mashkay, forces raided the house of Baloch National Movement (BNM) leader Akhtar Nadeem and his father-in-law Ghulam Mustafa. Mustafa, who is the BNM secretary of Union Council Gujar chapter, charged that government forces had burnt his home and a tractor parked at the residence.The house of Atta Mohammad, a brother of Mustafa, was also set ablaze, allegedly by the forces, which caused huge loss to property.

According to reports, the search operation is taking place in Gorjak, Raojoh, Mehbi and Mandhel towns of Awaran district where several homes have been torched during the search operation.

As rightly pointed out by Asad Baloch, the search operation will drastically undermine the credibility of PPP government in Balochistan. A relatively wrong timing has been chosen for the operation as violence in Balochistan had comparatively subsided in the recent weeks. The fresh operation is destined to initiate a new wave of reactionary violence.

Dr. Allah Nazar Baloch is the only Baloch leader after Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti about whom a book, Dr. Allah Nazar: Mard-e-Ahen (Allah Nazar: The Iron Man), has been written in his life time. He has become kind of a heroic figure in rural Balochistan. Hailing from a middle class background, Nazar, a former chairman of the Baloch Students Organization, came under limelight after he was whisked away along with eight other comrades from a Karachi flat in March 2005. Nazar went missing for at least seven months. On their release, he revealed that he ad been “kidnapped” by the intelligence agencies and subjected to brutal torture at several underground torture centers.

Soon after his release, Dr. Allah Nazar decided to take a different style of revenge: Joining the Baloch armed insurgency.

Five years after participating in, and now leading, a significant segment of the Baloch armed resistance, the siege around Dr. Allah Nazar has narrowed down due to two major reasons.

Firstly, Nazar committed the same blunder which took Jundullah chief Abdul Malek Regi to gallows: Love for the media. The government remained totally clueless about the whereabouts of the Baloch leader until the latter started speaking to the media and flaunted about his operations.  A fresh video refreshed his image in the minds of the government functionaries who had seemingly assumed that Nazar had changed his getup during the insurgency.

Secondly, the young Baloch commander has been criticized by the National Party, which accuses him of murdering a top NP leader, Maula Baksh Dashti. Although, Nazar denied the charges in a recent interview, the NP continues to insist that Allah Nazar endorsed the killing of Dashti, a former city chief of Turbat.

In such a situation of internal rifts between Dr. Nazar and NP, the possibility of information sharing between NP leaders, activists and the government fucntionaries against Dr. Nazar cannot be ruled out. Guerrilla warfare cannot succeed without the support of the local people.

The PPP government should stick to a policy of political negotiation and discourage the use of force in Balochistan.

Pakistan says willing to assist Afghan talks

* Minister says process must be Afghan-led
* Says stable Afghanistan in Pakistan’s interests
* NATO helps Taliban commander pass to Kabul (Adds comments from U.S. State Department spokesman)
By David BrunnstromBRUSSELS, Oct 15 (Reuters) – Pakistan said on Friday it was willing to assist talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, and NATO confirmed its forces had helped ensure a senior Taliban commander reached Kabul.NATO and U.S. officials have said they are ready to do more to help Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s reconciliation efforts with the Taliban, but Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the talks must be led by Afghanistan itself.”We are there to facilitate. Because we want to see a stable, peaceful Afghanistan. It’s in Pakistan’s interest to have stability and peace in Afghanistan,” Qureshi said in Brussels before talks on Pakistan’s economic development.A senior Pakistani official familiar with the contacts between the Afghan government and the Taliban said they had been made possible by the lifting of U.S. opposition. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said this week Washington would do whatever it takes to put peace talks on track.”I don’t know whether these contacts will succeed or not but the process has been set into motion,” the Pakistani official said. “It’s just the beginning and this in itself is a success because earlier there has been (U.S.) opposition.”Pakistan’s backing for talks is important. Although it is officially an ally in NATO’s campaign against Islamist militancy in Afghanistan, it has been accused of playing a double game by covertly supporting militants fighting there.Islamabad was the main backer of the Taliban when it was in power in Afghanistan, and has been concerned by the influence its nuclear-armed rival India has on the Kabul government.NATO FACILITATES PASSAGEU.S. General David Petraeus, who commands U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, said in London that NATO-led forces had helped ensure a senior Taliban commander was able to reach Kabul to hold talks with the Afghan government.Petraeus, commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), said several senior Taliban leaders had been in touch with the Afghan government and other countries involved in Afghanistan. He described the talks as preliminary.”In certain respects we do facilitate that,” he said.He added that “it would not be the easiest of tasks for a senior Taliban commander to enter Afghanistan and make his way to Kabul if ISAF were not … aware of it and therefore allows it to take place.”U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. involvement had to do with “movement of people to meeting locations.”Asked if the U.S. was transporting Taliban to the meetings, he said: “My understanding is that facilitation involves logistics. I cannot tell you whether security forces are actually assisting in the transportation or just coordinating the transportation so that people can move to these meeting locations.”Such comments point to a bigger Western role than previously acknowledged as Kabul seeks a political resolution to the war.British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he was sure Pakistan would want to play a positive role in ending the conflict and all nations in the region should add their support.”It’s very much in their interests to do so of course because it will help to bring peace to their border areas,” he told reporters in Brussels.Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in Brussels he was gratified Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani had offered Islamabad’s help, and Pakistan and other countries had a security interest in events in Afghanistan.BLOODIEST PHASE OF CONFLICTAlmost 50 senior officials in the international contact group on Afghanistan are due to meet in Rome on Monday to discuss progress towards transferring responsibility for security and development to the Afghan government.Holbrooke and Petraeus are expected at the talks which will be attended for the first time by a representative from Iran.U.S. and NATO leaders caution, however, that reconciliation is a complex process that may not happen quickly.The conflict is in its bloodiest phase since U.S.-led forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001, and more than 2,000 foreign troops have been killed since the fighting started, more than half of them in the last two years.This has fed disillusionment with the war among Western nations contributing to the 150,000-strong NATO-led force.Afghan and U.S. officials say a peace deal is still only a distant possibility, although the prospect is drawing increased attention before the United States starts withdrawing its nearly 100,000 troops from Afghanistan next July.U.S. and NATO officials say any reconciliation with the Taliban would require individuals to lay down their arms, cut links with terrorist groups and respect the Afghan constitution.The Taliban have rejected such conditions and say they will not negotiate unless NATO troops leave Afghanistan.The Taliban deny any contacts with Kabul. But official sources say the preliminary discussions involved the three main insurgent groups — the Afghan Taliban led by Mullah Omar, the Haqqani network and the Hizb-ul-Islami Gulbuddin led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. (Additional reporting by Justyna Pawlak in Brussels, Mohammed Abbas in London, James Mackenzie in Rome and Deborah Charles in Washington; Editing by Philippa Fletcher and Jerry Norton)

Obama’s robot wars endanger us all

Obama’s robot wars endanger us all

Johann Hari

The drones have killed some jihadis. But the evidence suggests they create far more jihadis than they kill – and make an attack on me or you more likely with each bomb

 

Imagine if, an hour from now, a robot-plane swooped over your house and blasted it to pieces. The plane has no pilot. It is controlled with a joystick from 7,000 miles away, sent by the Pakistani military to kill you. It blows up all the houses in your street, and so barbecues your family and your neighbours until there is nothing left to bury but a few charred slops. Why? They refuse to comment. They don’t even admit the robot-planes belong to them. But they tell the Pakistani newspapers back home it is because one of you was planning to attack Pakistan. How do they know? Somebody told them. Who? You don’t know, and there are no appeals against the robot.

Now imagine it doesn’t end there: these attacks are happening every week somewhere in your country. They blow up funerals and family dinners and children. The number of robot-planes in the sky is increasing every week. You discover they are named “Predators”, or “Reapers” – after the Grim Reaper. No matter how much you plead, no matter how much you make it clear you are a peaceful civilian getting on with your life, it won’t stop. What do you do? If there was a group arguing that Pakistan was an evil nation that deserved to be violently attacked, would you now start to listen?

This sounds like a sketch for the next James Cameron movie – but it is in fact an accurate description of life in much of Pakistan today, with the sides flipped. The Predators and Reapers are being sent by Barack Obama’s CIA, with the support of other Western governments, and they killed more than 700 civilians in 2009 alone – 14 times the number killed in the 7/7 attacks in London. The floods were seen as an opportunity to increase the attacks, and last month saw the largest number of robot-plane bombings ever: 22. Over the next decade, spending on drones is set to increase by 700 per cent.

The US government doesn’t even officially admit the programme exists: Obama’s most detailed public comment on it was when he jokingly told the boy band the Jonas Brothers that he would unleash the drones on them if they tried to chat up his daughter. But his administration says, behind closed doors, that these robot-plane attacks are “the only show in town” for killing suspected jihadis. They do not risk the lives of US soldiers, who remain in Virginia and control the robot-planes as if they were in a video game. They “undermine the threat to the West” by “breaking up training camps, killing many people conspiring against us, and putting the rest on the run”.

But is this true? The press releases uncritically repeated by the press after a bombing always brag about “senior al-Qa’ida commanders” killed – but some people within the CIA admit how arbitrary their choice of targets is. One of their senior figures told The New Yorker: “Sometimes you’re dealing with tribal chiefs. Often they say an enemy of theirs is al-Qa’ida because they want to get rid of somebody, or they made crap up because they wanted to prove they were valuable so they could make money.”

True, the programme has certainly killed some real jihadis. But the evidence suggests it is creating far more jihadis than it kills – and is making an attack on you or me more likely with each bomb.

Drone technology was developed by the Israelis, who routinely use it to bomb the Gaza Strip. I’ve been in Gaza during some of these attacks. The people there were terrified – and radicalised. A young woman I know who had been averse to political violence and an advocate of peaceful protest saw a drone blow up a car full of people – and she started supporting Islamic Jihad and crying for the worst possible revenge against Israel. Robot-drones have successfully bombed much of Gaza, from secular Fatah to Islamist Hamas, to the brink of jihad.

Is the same thing happening in Pakistan? David Kilcullen is a counter-insurgency expert who worked for General Petraeus in Iraq and now advises the State Department. He has shown that two per cent of the people killed by the robot-planes in Pakistan are jihadis. The remaining 98 per cent are as innocent as the victims of 9/11. He says: “It’s not moral.” And it gets worse: “Every one of these dead non-combatants represents an alienated family, and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially as drone strikes have increased.”

Professor of Middle Eastern history Juan Cole puts it more bluntly: “When you bomb people and kill their family, it pisses them off. They form lifelong grudges… This is not rocket science. If they were not sympathetic to the Taliban and al-Qa’ida before, after you bomb the shit out of them, they will be.” This is why all the people who have been captured or defected from Osama Bin Laden’s circle, from his bodyguard to his son, say the same: he is delighted when Western governments fight back by recklessly killing Muslims.

Of course jihadism is not motivated solely by attacks against Muslim countries by the West. Some of it is motivated by a theocratic desire to control and tyrannise other humans in the most depraved ways: to punish women who wish to feel the sun on their hair, for one. Yet it is a provable fact that violence against Muslims tips many more people into retaliatory jihadi violence against us. Even the 2004 report commissioned by Donald Rumsfeld said that “American direct intervention in the Muslim world” was the primary reason for jihadism.

A good example of this is Faisal Shahzad, the 31-year-old Pakistani-American who tried to plant a bomb in Times Square in May. A police survey of his emails over the past 10 years found he obsessively asked: “Can you tell me a way to… fight back when the rockets are fired at us and Muslim blood flows?” The Pakistan drone attacks – on the part of the world he came from – were the final spur for him. When he was arrested, he asked the police: “How would you feel if people attacked the United States? You are attacking a sovereign Pakistan.” At his trial, he said: “When the drones hit, they don’t see children, they don’t see anybody. They kill everybody… I am part of the answer… I’m avenging the attack.”

Yet many people defend the drones by saying: “We have to do something.” If your friend suffered terrible third-degree burns, would you urge her to set fire to her hair because “you have to do something”? Would you give a poisoning victim another, worse poison, on the grounds that any action is better than none?

I detest jihadism. Their ideology is everything I oppose: their ideal society is my Hell. It is precisely because I want to really undermine them – rather than pose as macho – that I am against this robot-slaughter. It enlarges the threat. It drags us into a terrible feedback loop, where the US launches more drone attacks to deal with jihadism, which makes jihadism worse, which prompts more drone attacks, which makes jihadism worse – and on and on, in a state with nuclear weapons, and with many people in Europe who are from the terrorised region. It could be poised to get even worse: Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars says the US has an immediate plan to bomb 150 targets in Pakistan if there is a jihadi attack inside America.

The real and necessary fight against jihadists has to have, at its core, a policy of systematically stripping them of their best recruiting tools. Yet Obama and the CIA are doing the opposite – to an accompanying soundtrack of the screams of innocent civilians, and the low, delighted chuckle of Osama Bin Laden.

j.hari@independent.co.uk

Israeli Policies are Manifestly Evil: Fmr. CIA Officer Philip Giraldi

Israeli Policies are Manifestly Evil: Fmr. CIA Officer Philip Giraldi

Interview by Kourosh Ziabari for Intifada PalestinePhilip Giraldi is a former counter-terrorism specialist and military intelligence officer of the United States Central Intelligence Agency. Now, he chairs the Council for the National Interest as the Executive Director. CNI is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the transformation of United States’ Middle East policy.

As a CIA officer, Giraldi served in different countries including Turkey, Italy, Germany and Spain. He is now a Francis Walsingham Fellow at The American Conservative Defense Alliance. He has appeared on several radio and TV programs including Good Morning America, MSNBC, NPR, Fox News, BBC, Al-Jazeera and 60 Minutes.

Giraldi works with the American Conservative magazine as a contributing editor and writes a regular column for the Antiwar website. He is an outspoken critic of the hawkish policies of the United States and has publicly decried Washington’s unconditional support for the state of Israel.

Philip Giraldi joined me in an exclusive interview to discuss the latest developments of the Middle East, the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the possibility of a peaceful compromise between Iran and the United States and the impact of Israeli lobby on the long-term policies of the White House.

Kourosh Ziabari: Why is the Israeli lobby so powerful, influential and authoritative? Almost all of the major media conglomerates in the United States own to well-off Jews who are committed to maintaining the interests of the state of Israel in the U.S. Some experts say that Israel is the representative of the United States in the Middle East region, but some others suggest that it’s Israel which determines the future of political developments in the United States. What’s your take on that?

Philip Giraldi: The Israel Lobby is so powerful because it deliberately set out to establish control over key elements in the United States.  It has demonstrated a number of times that politicians who are perceived as being unfriendly to Israel will face serious problems in being reelected because the Lobby mobilizes to provide money and media support to opponents. This means that congress is afraid to oppose anything that Israel and its Lobby wants. The same holds true for the presidency. Every presidential candidate must be seen as friendly to Israel or he will be attacked in the media and denied millions of dollars in political contributions, making it a safer option to support Israel. Finally, pro-Israeli interests control much of the media and, more important, dominate the opinion and editorial pages, making the only narrative that most Americans hear about the Middle East highly favorable to Israel and highly critical of all Israel’s enemies. As a result, Israel is able to control U.S. foreign policy as it relates to the Middle East and also much of the Muslim world.

KZ: The recent call by the Iranian President on framing a fact-finding group to probe into the 9/11 attacks sparked intense controversy around the United States. Is it because the United States considers 9/11 a red line which should not be crossed?

PG: Many Americans believe that 9/11 was never properly investigated. Some believe that the U.S. and, or Israeli governments were actually involved. The Federal government does not want the case to be reopened because a truly open investigation might reveal things that it would like to keep hidden. I do not know what exactly those things might be, but, at a minimum, there was a high level of incompetence within the government in the lead up to the attacks, both by Democrats and Republicans.

KZ: The former Italian President had once said that Mossad had played a role in the 9/11 attacks. Is there any convincing evidence that Israel was behind the 9/11 attacks? Can we rely on some implications including the five dancing Israelis who were seen cheering while the Twin Towers collapsed, or the closure of Zim Shipping Company’s headquarters at the World Trade Center two week before the 9/11 attacks?

PG: Most intelligence officers believe that Israel, which was conducting a massive and illegal spy operation inside the U.S. aimed at Arabs living here, knew at least parts of the 9/11 conspiracy.  It did not share that information and it is also clear that leading Israeli politicians welcomed the attacks because they made Washington a totally committed ally in full agreement with the Israeli view of Islamic terrorism. The Israel view, i.e. that anyone hostile to Israel is a terrorist, has done great damage to the United States because it has created enemies where no enemies previously existed.

KZ: What’s your take on the exercise of double standards by the U.S. over Israel’s nuclear issue?

PG: There is no justification for Washington’s hypocrisy over Israel’s nuclear weapons program.  Israel should be held to the same standard as everyone else, but the action of the Israeli Lobby means that it will never be accountable for anything as long as Washington is in a position to protect it.

KZ: As someone who has closely worked with one of the most sensitive parts of the U.S. government, do you like the continuation of belligerence and hostility between Iran and the United States? Are these two nations fated to be at odds forever? Can you foresee promising horizons of reconciliation and friendship?

PG: I do not believe that Washington and Tehran are natural enemies. I believe that they have been turned into enemies by the media and the activity of the Israel Lobby. Unfortunately, that situation will not change until Washington completely overturns its policies in the Middle East, something that might not happen in our lifetimes. Many young Iranians, the bulk of the population, do not harbor any real hostility towards the United States and if the policies were to change I believe the two countries could again become friendly.

KZ: Is it plausible to be a former CIA officer at the same time as being an outspoken critic of the U.S. administration? You’ve been quite forthright in your criticism of the U.S. foreign policy, especially with regards to the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Haven’t been any pressure on you to soften your tone or retreat from your stance?

PG: I have never been pressured to soften my criticism of the US government’s foreign and security policies.  There are many former intelligence officers who have also been highly critical of developments since 9/11.  It is because intelligence officers quickly recognize lies when they hear them and are not very tolerant of a government that lies its way to war.

KZ: Iran marked the 20th anniversary of the conclusion of 8-year war with Iraq last month. Iranians well remember that it was the United States and its European allies, who persuaded, equipped, funded and aided Saddam Hussein in invading Iran. 20 years later, they came together to topple the very Saddam they had supported in war with Iran. Saddam killed more than 400,000 Iranians. My uncle was one of them. Can you put yourself in the place of an Iranian citizen who witnessed the war? What would be your feeling then?

PG: For the United States, the support of Saddam Hussein against Iran was a quid pro quo that goes back to the holding of the U.S. Embassy hostages in Tehran after the Islamic revolution.  It was revenge pure and simple in hopes that Iraq would prove victorious and bring down the Iranian government. As an Iranian, you have a right to be outraged by what happened but the Embassy seizure was also outrageous. The U.S. response was, as it often is, disproportional and I am ashamed of my government’s support of wars to fix political disputes.

KZ: and for the final question, how do you estimate the prospect of Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

PG: There is no hope for resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict as long as the United States continues to permit the Israelis to expand and commit crimes against humanity directed towards the Palestinian people.  Evil is evil no matter how you try to dress it up and the Israeli policies are manifestly evil.  The Palestinians cannot ever accept a peace settlement that requires being held in a large outdoor prison camp by the Israelis supported by the United States.

Kourosh Ziabari is an Iranian freelance journalist and media correspondent. His articles and interviews have appeared on a number of media outlets and news websites including Tehran Times, Press TV, Global Research and Foreign Policy Journal.

US intelligence failures

US intelligence failures

An overview of some of the most infamous and fatal intelligence lapses involving the CIA and FBI in recent years.
The FBI tends to focus on tangible law enforcement, while the CIA deals with international espionage [GALLO/GETTY]

When intelligence agencies fail to correctly interpret the information in their disposal, the consequences can be both dramatic and devastating.

Oversights or distortions are often caused when important intelligence is dismissed, or simply never passed on. In the case of the world of US intelligence, the FBI and CIA are renowned for the turf wars that prevent them from sharing what they know.

Turf wars and a vast cultural chasm are commonly seen as contributing to the lack of communication – traditionally, the FBI tends to focus on tangible law enforcement, while the CIA’s mission is grounded in the less black-and-white world of international espionage.

Here are some of the most infamous, and at times fatal intelligence lapses involving the CIA and FBI in recent years:

  • Both the FBI and CIA were criticised for not acting on warnings from Egyptian authorities that could have prevented the bombing of the World Trade Centre in 1993. Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian president, told French newspaper Le Figaro in 2001 that Egyptian intelligence warning of the bomb plot had been shared with the CIA, but that the agency had failed to pass the information on to its domestic counterpart. The US state department denies ever having received such information.
  • A year before the 1998 bombings of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya by al-Qaeda, the FBI found a “very disturbing letter” in a joint raid in Nairobi on the home of Osama bin Laden’s former secretary. The letter described the plan to kill Americans and the presence of a local al-Qaeda cell, Frontline reported in 2001, but the FBI had never gotten around to verifying the information. The CIA dismissed a separate tip about the planned bomb attack made to the US embassy in Nairobi.
  • Better communication and more imagination could have opened the intelligence community’s eyes about the imminent attacks that were to strike the US on September 11, 2001, the 9/11 Commission report found. The CIA had been tracking individuals attending an al-Qaeda conference in Malaysia but failed to alert other agencies or add them to a watch list when they returned to the US, according to the commission. FBI agents were condemned for having let 9/11 plotter Zacarias Moussaoui, who is now serving a life sentence for his role in the plot, slip through their fingers right before the attacks.
  • So-called intelligence information that pointed to the possession of Saddam Hussein’s regime of a stock of “weapons of mass destruction” and purported links to al-Qaeda, cited by the Bush administration to justify the invasion of Iraq, was subsequently found to be baseless. A wide range of critics have since condemned this example of the “politicisation” of intelligence. The resignation of George Tenet, then director of the CIA, in 2004, followed condemnations of the role he played in bolstering the case for the war.
  • US authorities never warned India that they had received separate tips from two of David Headley’s wives about their husband’s involvement in the planning of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. One wife spoke with FBI officials about her fears as early as 2005, while the second said she was brushed off by US embassy officials in 2007. Reports by ProPublica and The New York Times highlight Headley’s role as a longtime informer for the US Drug Enforcement Administration in Pakistan, and the likelihood that US officials were unwilling to upset Pakistan, a key ally in the “war on terror,” by investigating allegations of links to terrorism.
Source:
Al Jazeera

The Common Economic Space of Vladimir Putin

[Putin is charting new ground in his Russian "Third Way," somewhere between Communism and capitalism.  It will be interesting to see how many of the CIS states voluntarily rejoin the neo-Soviet Union.  American "loss of face" with the locals over the many failed psy-ops, is making a liberalized arrangement with the Russians look like a good choice.  The collapse of the American economy, along with the collapsing terror war, demonstrate to all potential client states in any imaginable "pipelineistan" scenario that the United States has destabilized itself, and cannot be counted on in the long run.

As the American choices for correcting the unraveling plans begin to narrow, military minds will probably prevail, compounding their near-perfect records of unrelenting mistakes with the biggest, ugliest mistakes that they could possibly make, such as using selective nuke strikes or opening-up new fronts, possibly in S. America or Africa.]

The Common Economic Space of Vladimir Putin

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with the heads of government of the member states of the Customs Union Prime Minister Vladimir Putin meets with the heads of government of the member states of the Customs Union

“The main thing is that we all understand the enormous opportunities the Common Economic Space will create and that we all have a stake in the successful implementation of this project.”

Vladimir Putin

Remarks by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin:

Mr Massimov, Mr Sidorsky, colleagues, friends,

I am happy to welcome you to Moscow. Today we will discuss several issues regarding a large-scale project of great importance to all of us, the Common Economic Space, which is intended to intensify the integration of our states, make our economies more stable and attractive for investment, and to promote their modernisation and forward-looking development.

The launch of the Customs Union has already tangibly benefitted particular businesses and entire industries and accelerated the processes of economic recovery. I’m pleased that today we are able to meet at the hall where we made the important decisions regarding the formation of the Customs Union.

The logical next step in the integration process is the creation of the Common Economic Space with the free flow of goods, services, capital and labour, and coordinated currency and macroeconomic policies.

We have agreed to finish drafting the agreements that will create the legal framework of the Common Economic Space by January 1, 2011. Our deputy prime ministers, ministers and experts have been working diligently on this. Incidentally, yesterday I discussed the details of these documents with them late into the night.

I’d like to remind you that we need to coordinate 17 major agreements, and we’re almost done with eight of them – only a few minor issues need to be finalised. Let me name several of these agreements just to illustrate the level of integration we have reached: the agreement on common principles and rules for technical regulation, on cooperation to counter illegal labour immigration from outside countries, on the legal status of working migrants and their families…

Five agreements are almost done. These are the agreement on coordinated macroeconomic policies, on common principles and regulations of business competition, on government purchases, on common regulations for state agricultural support, and on common rules of providing subsidies for industrial companies. Clearly, these are the cornerstones of every economy.

The rest of the draft agreements are also being coordinated and finalised. Today we will review several major documents, which will establish the main principles of our interaction in several critical industries, including railways, power generation, oil and gas. I am not going to list all issues we need to discuss today – I’d only like to say that each of them is really vital for our economies. Clearly, each party has their own views on these issues, and our goal is to find the common denominator. I believe that we will find mutually acceptable solutions if we work together in the spirit of partnership and constructive dialogue, building on the experience we have gained and the trust and cooperation we have developed. The main thing is that we all understand the enormous opportunities the Common Economic Space will create and that we all have a stake in the successful implementation of this project. The principles we will be guided by in this work are set forth in the agreements I named.

The Common Economic Space will create common rules for economic activity, giving businesses freedom of choice and more space to work in. Businesses should feel at home no matter which of our countries they are operating in.

I believe that our next step to intensify integration should be the unification of the national legislation of our countries. While creating the common legal framework, we should be guided by the best international practices.

In addition, we should continue to expand the powers of the Commission of the Customs Union, taking advantage of the experience we have been gaining through our work on customs and tariff regulation.

There’s one more issue we need to discuss today, the involvement of our partners at the CIS and EurAsEC in these integration processes. As you know, some of them have shown a great deal of interest in cooperation through the Customs Union and the Common Economic Space since we began discussing them. We have discussed these issues with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. Now that the mess in our relations with Kiev has been left behind, our Ukrainian partners are showing interest in joining our integration alliances to derive certain benefits for their economy. We are eager to discuss these processes and the involvement of each of our partners in the post-Soviet space.

This will intensify integration processes in the post-Soviet space. We have acknowledged openly that the coordination of our agreements is a difficult and sensitive process. Those who will join later will need to adhere to the agreements we forge through this difficult work.

Telling the Americans

Telling the Americans

Rupee News

Map of Asia, the Middle East was cropped right... 

Image via Wikipedia

The upcoming Pakistan-US strategic dialogue must honestly address the divergent strategic perceptions, imperatives and compulsions of the two countries. After the last meeting, officials in Washington claim that a trust deficit exists. What are the determinants of this trust deficit? Who is saying one thing and doing another? Who is hiding what and why? One or both partners must now come clean if the partnership is to respond to the genuine needs of their people.

The overriding compulsion of a superpower is to deny freedom of action to a challenger. This is an understandable and expected American strategic aim. It is currently manifested in containing a rampant China, the only possible challenger on the horizon. Pakistan facilitated America’s stated mission to remove the Taliban government and hunt down al Qaeda. But the American mission has broadened and morphed into a very different strategic direction, while the Pakistanis have been grappling with the harsh reality of violence at home.

Pakistanis are now worried about their position in America’s containment strategy vis-à-vis China, and the co-opting of India into it. Many think that their country is being destablised so that India can stand up to China and eventually, America and India can work together to cut off China’s trade corridor through Pakistan. The trust deficit starts from this perceived American strategic shift. This fundamental divergence is the elephant in the dialogue that the Pakistani foreign minister and the army chief can no longer gloss over.

The trust deficit is reinforced by the fact that America is more than willing to spend over $100 billion a year on the war in Afghanistan but not even a fraction of that on weaning potential Taliban and al Qaeda recruits away from a life of militancy, by approving legislation to put in place the much-hyped — initially at least — reconstruction opportunity zones in Fata. There is no talk either of access for Pakistani products to American markets and no disbursement yet of the Kerry-Lugar funds. Furthermore, facilitation of US strategy is destroying Pakistan’s economy and its polity without any offsetting gains.

The US president has set a July 2011 deadline for exiting Afghanistan but the ground reality is that fortress-like missions are being built in Islamabad, Karachi and Peshawar. Is Pakistan supposed to believe that the contain-China strategy will also end in July 2011?

Now coming to India — the Pakistanis know that India will never stand up to China on America’s behalf. This means, in all honesty, that the Pakistanis impress upon the Americans the fact that the Indians are already achieving their strategic ends (especially with regard to Pakistan) through Washington and not via China. Proof of this is America’s silence on human rights abuses in Indian Kashmir, while continuing to put pressure on Pakistan on nuclear and other related issues.

The US strategy to control hydrocarbon resources of the Gulf and the Caspian Sea is understandable as is the strategy of containing Iran’s ability to upset Washington’s Arab and Israeli allies. However, silence on India’s destabilisation of Balochistan has no relevance or impact on the Iran containment strategy. Pressure against the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline is being read in Islamabad as insensitivity to its economic needs and imperatives.

Pakistan must not be apologetic about its relations with China and Iran. China is a time- tested friend and the people of Iran and Pakistan share an intimate history. Pakistan’s and America’s perspective on China and Iran are poles apart.

That leaves Afghanistan. The current aim of both Pakistan and Afghanistan is to see the end of US occupation of that country. The Pakistani imperative that a post-war Afghan government, weighted in favour of the Northern Alliance or India, will not lead to peace in the region must be clearly understood. The strategic aims of the US and Pakistan do not lend credence to any perception of a “strategic partnership”. America must come clean that it is here to contain China and Iran, and strengthen India. Those are not the strategic aims of Pakistan. As a superpower, the US claims licence to “control” the outcomes in Asia, but it has demonstrated a weakening economic and military capacity to do so. This ‘burn-out’ will run its course. The countries of the region have problems amongst themselves that cannot be resolved if there is no external interference. All of them would prefer peace because it allows for economic advancement. But that has perhaps not been the demonstrated strategic aim of the US for this region.

The time to end the war has arrived. America is losing friends, its moral standing, and its image as a reliable partner, and may become marginalised from the emerging Asia if it continues its current strategy which few in the continent find acceptable. Europe has distanced itself from America’s strategy because it wants a future of economic cooperation with Asia. This distancing may signal the decline of Nato and this is something that experts are grappling with in formulating the strategic concept to be deliberated at the upcoming Nato summit on November 20 in Lisbon.

The US-Pakistan strategic dialogue, coming before the Lisbon summit, should end on a note of caution for America and Nato. A strategy of economic cooperation and political non-interference in Asia, including China and Iran, would pay the people of America and Europe far greater dividends in the future than the current self-defeating strategy of “control”. In the new world, events are moving fast. The ‘American Century’ based on the anti-human strategies of imperialism has ended within a decade. Military superiority allows the killing of many people but cannot bomb their ideologies, cultures, and civilisation. Washington must understand this.

The Pakistan side must go into the dialogue understanding that it can no longer facilitate imperial strategy in Asia. Pakistan may also become marginalised from the emerging Asia if it continues its current suicidal strategy which few in Asia find palatable.

A strategic partnership for improving people’s lives should focus on ending the war and re-engineering political and economic relations with China and Iran, reconstructing Pakistan and Afghan economies which have been ravaged by imperial war games, and redesigning Pakistan and America’s relationships with the countries of this region.

The writer served as chief of naval staff from 1997-99 fasih.bokhari@tribune.com.pk

Peace initiative in Afghanistan may be unfruitful

ISLAMABAD – The US-backed ‘reconciliation’ strategy with Taliban without including Pakistan is likely to meet the same fate which the previous peace initiatives had met in Afghanistan.
The paradoxical notions that have long influenced Pak-US relationship and have always been part of the US Afghan policy are again evident in the so-called reconciliation plan with Taliban. On one hand, the US sponsors dialogue with Taliban, and that too, without involving Pakistan. While on the other hand, it wants Pakistan Army to jump into North Waziristan without ‘wasting a second.’
Again, Chairman of US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, and Defence Secretary, Robert Gates, are hallucinated with the images of ever-increasing militant sanctuaries in North Waziristan and, therefore, deem it inevitable to ‘bless’ the region with countless drones. The US strategy is crystal clear, a stick for Pakistan and a carrot for India. The massive increase in drone attacks in NWA, the reports about US militarily eyeing Balochistan, and stereotypically boisterous statements from the key US officials suggest that US through NATO would keep pricking Pakistan by means of inflicting collateral damage in Pakistan’s territory unless NWA operation is kicked off.
In Afghanistan, the secretive meetings of Taliban leaders with the NATO command and Indian military and diplomatic officials are underway while the UN stays completely out of the loop. Luckily or unluckily, United Nations Afghanistan is not the only ‘victim’ of Indo-US nexus as Pakistan’s Embassy in Kabul is completely marginalized in the present scenario too. Pakistani diplomats there reportedly carry only a titular presence and stay ignorant of most of the latest and crucial developments.

Talking to TheNation about the prevailing scenario in Afghanistan, former senior UN diplomat Atle Hetland said, “US does not have any idea what kind of trouble it would face if the US tries to keep Pakistan out and India in.” Atle wondered why it took US and NATO more than nine years to do what they were supposed to do soon after getting control of Afghanistan. “Bringing Taliban on the table was something to be done in 2001. This is a failed war and it would lead to nowhere if all the stakeholders are not involved,” he added.
Atle believed that the involvement of Afghanistan’s immediate neighbours in its strategic affairs was the only way forward towards solving Afghan crisis and Pakistan, not the India, had a big role to play in this regard. “Yes the neighbours can do that. The truth is that US is badly trapped in Afghanistan in its self-created mess and it doesn’t know how to get out of it. This is a very unpopular and costly war and it should end the sooner the better,” he suggested.

The Hidden Health Penalty for Children Growing-Up Poor

I n 2008, one out of 10 children in B.C. — roughly 87,000 — lived in a low-income household.

While B.C.’s child-poverty rate is on the decline, it remains the highest in Canada.

At first glance, the effects of poverty on children are obvious. Secondhand clothes. No cool toys. An extra reliance on school lunches. Missing out on the after-school Slurpee.

Look below the surface and the loss of potential wreaked by poverty becomes evident.

Less money means fewer books, fewer field trips, fewer science experiments, less access to sports, less or no college tuition.

Extracurricular activities and enrichment programs are more likely to be out of reach, leaving burgeoning interests and talents uncultivated.

But dig even deeper and an alarming trend emerges: Experts say poverty can lead to serious, long-lasting health problems that can follow a child into adulthood, even when socio-economic conditions change later in life, and cost the government millions in health costs.

Here is how poverty can shape the physical body of a child.

TEETH

Early childhood caries, a severe form of tooth decay affecting kids below age six, is more common among children from low-income families and First Nations, immigrant and refugee children. Left untreated, the decay can lead to pain, abscesses, infection, eating difficulties, malnutrition, slower growth rates, low self-esteem and other problems.

IN THE CELLS

It starts in the genes. The emerging field of epigenetics, or the study of the impact of the environment on genes, shows that poverty and outside stresses can cause damage to cells, especially to a fetus or during the early years. This can damage the immune system and negatively affect stress response and emotion and impulse control.

BRAIN

Poverty can change the brain. The early years of a child’s life are the greatest window of opportunity for learning new skills and abilities. Young children who grow up impoverished, without security and lacking stimulation can end up with faulty “wiring” in the brain, which can influence health, well-being and coping abilities.

-According to a national study, low-income kids aged four to 11 are more likely to exhibit indirect aggression than children from wealthy families (40 per cent vs. 25 per cent) and are more likely to be hyperactive (20 per cent vs. 12 per cent).

-A U.K. survey found that one in six children from disadvantaged families will have developmental disorders such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder compared to only one in 20 in richer families.

-A UBC study found that children from low-income backgrounds have brains similar to those of stroke victims, with their prefrontal cortex -the area of the brain responsible for cognitive decision-making, problem-solving and moderating social behaviour -showing inhibited growth.

LUNGS

Children from lower socio-economic groups are more susceptible to pneumonia and tuberculosis and are twice as likely to develop asthma, the most common chronic respiratory condition among Canadian children. The risk increases the longer the child lives in poverty: Kids in chronic poverty have rates approximately 30 per cent higher than the average.

STOMACH

Children from poor families are more likely to suffer from poor nutrition and malnourishment. Stress causes the body to deplete nutrients, leaving none to go around for thinking and learning new things.

OVERALL BODY

-Babies born to poor families are almost twice as likely to be born smaller, thinner and weaker than average, with increased risk of hospitalization, below-normal growth and childhood illnesses.

-A study published in the International Journal of

Obesity found children from poor families are twice as likely to be overweight or obese compared to affluent kids (12.8 per cent vs. 6.4 per cent).

-Reasons include less access to a healthy food supply, limited access to recreational facilities such as playgrounds and parks, and increased safety concerns.

-Obesity is linked to asthma, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and heart disease.

-UBC researchers found disadvantaged kids are more likely to be plagued with chronic diseases such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and some cancers, regardless of current income or lifestyle. This is because stress hormones -the defensive fight-or-flight mode -that kick in to help poor kids deal with hardships also make them more susceptible to inflammation and damage to the immune system.

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ISTOCKPHOTO.COM

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And Now Balochistan

AS if the destruction caused by the Americans in FATA was not enough, the US now plans to extend the war formally into Balochistan. The Americans have long been clamouring about the Quetta Shura creating a false hype about the province as yet another alleged militants safe haven, despite knowing very well that the problem existing there concerns the centre-province dispute over the sharing of resources. We know that at least on the face of it, the American demands of launching an aerial warfare in Balochistan alongside the tribal areas have been rebuffed by the government so far.
Given the prevailing political situation with the sense of marginalisation increasing by the hour, drone attacks would literally prove to be the last nail in the coffin of the federation. However, we have also been witness to the degrading manner in which our rulers have invariably bowed before the US dictation and, seen in that perspective, the meeting of the NATO and ISAF officials with Corp Commander Lt General Javed Zia and Chief Minister Balochistan Nawab Aslam Raisani appears to be unnerving. There is no doubt that the Obama Administration’s desire to take the war formally into Balochistan is part of the sinister US designs of destabilising Pakistan and finally taking control of its nuclear arsenal on the ground that they were no longer in safe hands. Statements to the effect that the cancer is in Pakistan and that the country is the epicentre of terrorism are now frequently heard coming out from the White House and the Pentagon. Precisely for the same reason, the Americans are demanding the army launch an offensive in North Waziristan, which so far General Kayani has been bravely brushing aside. Having said that, at the end of the day, it is anyone’s guess how long the ruling dispensation can actually resist the American demands. It goes without saying that the Americans literally want to turn us into puppets. Hillary Clinton’s latest statement about how we should reform our tax system shows how the US wants to control every sphere of life in Pakistan.

However, the pity is that now the Canadians have also begun to treat Pakistan as an errand boy. After the Canadians were kicked out of UAE, Pakistan is now being asked to provide it with military bases meant as a conduit for military supplies to Canadian forces stationed in Afghanistan. Under no circumstances should such permission be given. Not only their presence would pose a threat to our national security, but also the rank arrogance of the Canadians, manifested for instance by their insulting and highly discriminating visa policy towards Pakistanis, would generate a backlash in the country.