Colombian Government Cleans House–issue arrest warrant for ex-police chief in 1989 candidate assassination

[SEE:  Columbia Attempts to Demobilize 18,000 Paramilitaries Without Igniting Civil War ]

Colombian prosecutors issue arrest warrant for ex-police chief in 1989 candidate assassination

LIBARDO CARDONA Associated Press

November 25, 2010

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — Colombian prosecutors issued an arrest warrant Thursday for a 73-year-old former domestic security chief who they say participated in the 1989 assassination of presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan.

Retired Gen. Miguel Maza Marquez has been charged with aggravated homicide for allegedly allying himself with the drug traffickers whose hired guns killed Galan, said German Gomez, spokesman for Colombia’s chief prosecutor.

The DAS domestic security agency that Maza Marquez led provides bodyguards for politicians, human rights activists and others. Prosecutors say the general intentionally lightened Galan’s bodyguard contingent to enable the Aug. 18, 1989 assassination.


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Galan’s 1989 presidential campaign was a crusade against Pablo Escobar and other cocaine lords who terrorized Colombia, killing hundreds of judges, journalists and police in a bid to avoid extradition.

A lawyer for Maza Marquez told The Associated Press on Thursday his client is innocent but would turn himself in shortly. The general had been jailed in the case in August 2009 but was freed in April due to procedural errors.

Attorney Juan Carlos Cardenas called the prosecution’s case flawed because it is based on witnesses — jailed paramilitary warlord Ivan Roberto Duque and convicted mass murderer Alonso de Jesus Baquero — who were not present when the assassination was planned.

The chief prosecutor, Guillermo Mendoza, told reporters that authorities had incriminating evidence against Maza Marquez but he would not elaborate.

Maza Marquez led the DAS from 1985-1991 and was at the time considered a hero in Colombia for his efforts fighting Escobar’s Medellin Cartel. He himself survived the Dec. 6, 1989 bombing of DAS headquarters by the cartel in which more than 50 people were killed.

Police killed Escobar in 1993 after a massive manhunt.

Columbia Attempts to Demobilize 18,000 Paramilitaries Without Igniting Civil War

18,000 former paramilitaries on alert

In August 2005, 2,000 men from the front Héroes de Granada, AUC, demobilized. Today, most of them could be arrested by the ruling of the Court. The government is taking emergency measures.

In August 2005, 2,000 men from the front Héroes de Granada, AUC, demobilized.Today, most of them could be arrested by the ruling of the Court. The government is taking emergency measures.

JUDGING The country has not realized the seriousness of the Constitutional Court ruling leaves in limbo the demobilized. Not only poses a risk to national security, but could close the doors of any peace process. The government commitment to close the gap before year’s end.

Saturday 27 November 2010

Colombia is a country unique in news. This week, the Constitutional Court issued a ruling that virtually destroys the peace process of the paramilitaries, but with the exception of government, which has caught the alarm about the effect of it, nobody else seems to have shaken.

The verdict is simple: lay down a law last year allowing the opportunity to apply the principle of demobilized enlisted men. That is, the endorsement gave the Prosecutor not to investigate. And in practice the decision has a devastating effect on national security, left in limbo about 18,000 former paramilitaries and a paradox not seen in other negotiating processes in the world: the illegal basis, many of which met logistical patrol or may receive sentences longer than their heads.
As a commander of the AUC, as the ‘Iguana’, who confessed to more than 1,000 murders in Norte de Santander, should pay eight years in prison, a young man who joined last time that armed group could receive a sentence of 8 to 18 years for the crime of conspiracy. Such differential treatment, to get to become a reality, would not only absurd, but a coup de grace to a negotiation like this, which in turn led to the demobilization of 32,000 paramilitaries.
The difference in sentences is because the leaders, having most heinous crimes, were to run for Justice and Peace Law to be submitted to a special criminal procedure and pay their respective sentences. And they did 3,000 of them. As the paramilitaries ceilings, about 8,000 have already been pardoned by the judge or the prosecutor ceased its investigation when the Court had not yet been pronounced. A few thousand more died or relapsed into crime. And the rest, about 18,000, expected, as promised, that they apply the principle of opportunity.
But now, the Constitutional Court ruling puts them on edge. Indeed, Jorge Iván Laverde, ‘Iguana’, told Caracol Radio, from Cucuta, former paramilitary leaders to suspend their participation in the process until the problem is resolved. "This process as it is, is very wrong. We are concerned about these 18,000 demobilized who are on the verge of being caught, they do not know what to do and will end on the mountain because the national government did not make a true rehabilitation," he said.
Last week the government was juggling to trying to cover this loophole that was opened. There was urgent Council meeting of Criminal Policy. It were mulling several options, and finally, on Friday afternoon decided to submit a bill to fix the problem.
The immediate risk is that the demobilized, fearing arrest, join criminal gangs. But the president Juan Manuel Santos, in person, asked the former paramilitaries who trust the government. "Do not listen to people tell them to leave the program, let alone those evil voices that invite a return to lawlessness. You did the right thing and that is stop the violence, and now for us to comply with covenant ", announced on Thursday from Cartagena.
What did happen? What’s behind this decision of the Constitutional Court?
The ruling is so wide as long. The final vote was 5-4, indicating that the decision was not easy. Even the paper, it was the magistrate Humberto Sierra, in favor of maintaining the principle of opportunity for demobilized was defeated. With Sierra, also saved the vote Juan Carlos Henao, one of the most famous judges in the legal world and Pretelt Jorge and Mauricio Gonzalez.
The other five judges background brandished a plot to overthrow the law, they say the former paramilitaries can be applied the principle of opportunity, because that would imply that the State waives investigate those who, despite being paramilitary satins, were part of an organization engaged in crimes against humanity.
The principle is that the Court says, is an instrument of the ordinary courts can not be applied in the context of a transitional justice process like this. Draws a parallel between the Justice and Peace Law, which is 2005, and the law last year that dropped to show that while the first meet certain minimum requirements, this one-the 1312 of 2009 – would lead to total impunity . While the Justice and Peace, said the Court, although "submit" justice, preserved certain requirements of truth and reparation "and provided alternative sentencing with the possibility of applying the ordinary if it failed to meet commitments "last year," by contrast, without establishing elements of justice, truth and reparations to victims, allows the prosecution to give up its obligation to investigate and prosecute demobilized crimes where impunity is unacceptable " .
The ruling has led to a heated debate not only in court, but also in the government, although it has been very respectful of the decision and has been emphatic in saying that complied with, the fact is that not all of their officials share. For those who believe that the paramilitaries have not received enough sentence for his crimes, the failure must be in part a response to their complaints. However, the judges who saved the vote not only expressed his "total disagreement" with the ruling, but seven points question the decision of the majority.
The most paradoxical, as indicated by the judges who saved the vote, is that the Supreme Court had said that he could not pardon the demobilized because it was a political crime, but a criminal offense and the ruling of the Constitutional Court says does not allow the principle of opportunity because it is for ordinary crimes and not for peace processes of adjustment.
But perhaps the most controversial of the ruling is that the Constitutional Court considers that the paramilitaries ceilings, the fact of belonging to the group, committed a crime against humanity. Which may have future implications for other peace processes, then, eventually, the guerrillas would also be given such treatment. And any employer or military who has supported the stop he would be tried under that criterion.
Juan Manuel Santos President immediately understood the gravity of what happened to more than 18,000 demobilized and summoned urgently to the Council on Criminal Policy. On Friday afternoon, the Minister Germain Vargas announced that on Monday it filed a bill with a message of urgency and debate on joint committees, to close the loophole before the end of the session of Congress on 16 December.
The central idea of the bill is that each of the demobilized will be processed and you receive the sentence appropriate, but at no time shall not be deprived of liberty. For certain benefits that will be designed and incorporated in law elements of transitional justice to allow compliance with truth, justice and reparation claimed by the Court.
Contrary to what many people believe, the fight marked in recent years the history of Colombia, President Alvaro Uribe and the Supreme Court, did not begin with "para-politics scandal. One of the first scuffle occurred by the treatment given to demobilized privates in 2007. At that time, the Supreme Court said they could not be assimilated to political offenders, and thus closed the doors of mercy for them. Today, four years later, the ghost of that confrontation seems that still haunts.

Man in Police Uniform Kills 6 NATO Troops in Afghanistan

Man in Police Uniform Kills 6 NATO Troops in Afghanistan

A man in police uniform killed six NATO troops during a training session in Afghanistan on Monday, the US-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.

    "An individual in an Afghan border police uniform turned his weapon against International Security Assistance Forces during a training mission today, killing six servicemembers in eastern Afghanistan," the statement said.

    "The individual who fired on the ISAF forces was also killed in the incident. A joint Afghan and ISAF team is investigating this incident."

    ISAF did not reveal the casualties’ nationalities, in line with its policy.(AFP)

VETERANS AND MILITARY FAMILIES SAY TAKE A STAND FOR PEACE

VETERANS AND MILITARY FAMILIES SAY TAKE A STAND FOR PEACE

During the Vietnam War, Martin Luther King called our government “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” True then—and even more so today.

A few years before that, in 1964 Mario Savio made his great speech at Berkeley; at the end he says, “There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can’t take part; you can’t even passively take part, and you’ve got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you’ve got to make it stop. And you’ve got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you’re free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!”

There are children being orphaned, maimed or killed every day, in our name, with our tax dollars;there are soldiers and civilians dying or being maimed for life, in order to generate profits for the most odious corporate war machine ever, again in our name. How long are we going to let this go on?Until it is too late, until this destructive machine destroys all of us and the planet to boot?

Wikileaks has revealed the documented horror of U.S. war-making, beyond what any of us imagined. It’s time Veterans and others express our resistance directly and powerfully by putting ourselves on the line, once again—honestly, courageously and without one drop of apology for doing so. It is not we who are the murderers, torturers or pillagers of the earth.

Profit and power-hungry warmongers are destroying everything we hold dear and sacred.

In the early thirties, WW1 vets descended on Washington, D.C., to demand their promised bonuses, it being the depths of the Depression. General Douglas MacArthur and his sidekick Dwight Eisenhower disregarded President Herbert Hoover’s order and burned their encampment down and drove the vets out of town at bayonet point.

We are today’s bonus marchers, and we’re coming to claim our bonus–PEACE.

Join activist Veterans marching in solidarity to the White House, refusing to move, demanding the end of U.S. wars, which includes U.S. support—financial and tactical—for the Israeli war machine as well.

If we can gather enough courageous souls, nonviolently refusing to leave the White House, willing to be dragged away and arrested if necessary, we will send a message that will be seen worldwide. “End these wars – now!” We will carry forward a flame of resistance to the war machine that will not diminish as we effectively begin to place ourselves, as Mario Savio said, “upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus.” and we will make it stop.

We believe that the power of courageous, committed people is greater than that of corporate warmongers. But we will only see our power when we use it collectively, when we stand together.

With courage, persistence, boldness and numbers, we can eventually make this monstrous war machine grind to a halt, so that our children and all children everywhere can grow up in a peaceful world.

Join us at the White House on December 16th!

For a world in peace,

Nic Abramson, Veterans For Peace; Elliott Adams,Past President, Veterans For Peace; Laurie Arbeiter,Activist Response Team; Ken Ashe, Veterans For Peace; Ellen Barfield, Veterans For Peace; Brian Becker,National Coordinator, ANSWER Coalition; Medea Benjamin, Co-Founder, CODEPINK for Peace; Frida Berrigan,War Resisters League; Bruce Berry, Veterans For Peace; Leah Bolger, Veterans For Peace; Elaine Brower, Anti-war Military Mom and World Can’t Wait; Scott Camil, Veterans For Peace; Ross Caputi, Justice For Fallujah Project; Kim Carlyle, Veterans For Peace; Armen Chakerian, Coalition to Stop the $30 Billion to Israel; Matthis Chiroux, Iraq War Resister Veteran; Gerry Condon, Veterans For Peace; Will Covert, Veterans For Peace; Dave Culver, Veterans For Peace; Matt Daloisio, Witness Against Torture; Ellen Davidson, War Resisters League; Mike Ferner, President, Veterans For Peace; Nate Goldshlag, Veterans For Peace; Clare Hanrahan, War Crimes Times; Mike Hearington, Veterans For Peace; Mark Johnson, Executive Director. Fellowship of Reconciliation; Tarak Kauff, Veterans For Peace; Kathy Kelly, Voices For Creative Nonviolence; Sandy Kelson, Veterans For Peace; Ron Kovic, Vietnam War veteran and author of Born on the Fourth of July; Joel Kovel, Veterans For Peace; Erik Lobo, Veterans For Peace; Joe Lombardo, United National Antiwar Committee; Ken Mayers,Veterans For Peace; Nancy Munger, Co-President, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; Fred Nagel, Veterans For Peace; Pat O’Brien, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; Bill Perry,Vietnam Veterans Against the War; Vito Piccininno, Veterans For Peace; Mike Prysner, Co-Founder, March Forward; Ward Reilly, Veterans For Peace; Laura Roskos, Co-President, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; Cindy Sheehan, Founder, Peace of the Action; David Swanson, author; Debra Sweet,National Director, World Can’t Wait; Debbie Tolson, Veterans For Peace; Mike Tork, Veterans For Peace; Hart Viges, Iraq Veterans Against the War; Father Louie Vitale, SOA Watch; Jay Wenk, Veterans For Peace; Linda Wiener, Veterans For Peace; Diane Wilson, Veterans For Peace; Col. Ann Wright, Veterans For Peace; Doug Zachary, Veterans For Peace

Endorsers of the December 16 Veteran-Led Civil Resistance against War

Sadr-Maliki alliance gives US the shiver

Sadr-Maliki alliance gives US the shiver

Yusuf Fernandez

A main feature of the March 7 parliamentary elections in Iraq was the rise of Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement.

Sadr, a Shia cleric and son of Mohammad Baqir al Sadr, one of the most prominent Iraqi Shia scholars, has been a fierce opponent of US occupation of Iraq.
The Sadrist forces and Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) make up the bulk of the Iraqi National Alliance, which supported Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to remain in office for another term. Maliki hailed the deal with the party, casting it as a decisive breakthrough to put an end to the political stalemate that the country has been experiencing since the elections.
In these seven months, the administration of US President Barack Obama claimed that it would "not interfere" in Iraq’s internal political process. However, it tried to promote the creation of a pro-Western government coalition between Maliki and former Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, a former CIA asset.
The Obama administration demanded that a quick agreement be worked out. "We have been under tremendous pressure by the Americans … in clearly asking President [Jalal] Talibani to step down," a Kurdish official told Jane Araf of the Christian Science Monitor.
Both Obama and Vice President Joe Biden personally called Talabani to demand the resignation in order to let Allawi become the new President, he said. However, the Kurdish parties showed no desire to accept that US demand.
Meanwhile, the Iraqiya bloc, led by Allawi, reached a coalition agreement with Maliki’s State of the Law bloc under pressure.
Under the agreement, the post of the Parliament speaker went to Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni member of al-Iraqiya, who, along with his brother, controls the northern city of Mosul. The surprise came when Iraqi lawmakers massively abandoned a parliamentary meeting where Maliki was going to be re-elected prime minister.
Therefore, Maliki will remain in power — thanks to the Sadrist bloc’s support. The Los Angeles Timescalled the agreement with the Sadrists "a stunning victory" for Maliki and "a strategic defeat for Washington, which had pressed for a prominent role for Maliki’s rival, and appeared to be caught flatfooted by the rapid developments."
A History of Resistance
Sadr’s Mahdi Army launched two rebellions in April and August 2004 against the US occupation in Iraq. There were more clashes in 2007-2008. Muqatada was then described as "the most dangerous man in Iraq" by the US media. However, for Iraqis and more particularly for Shia Iraqis he was a hero, a man who dared to oppose to the hateful occupiers. The new political agreement between Sadr and Maliki proved that US General David Petraeus’s war against the Mahdi Army in 2007-2008 was a futile exercise.
Sadr had, up until recently, opposed a second term as prime minister for Maliki. Backed by the US forces, Maliki in 2008 launched an offensive against Sadr’s Mahdi Army in Baghdad’s Sadr City. Both sides then reached a deal and Sadr called his supporters to put down their arms, but he continued to denounce the US occupation and to call for the total withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq.
In 2007, Sadr settled in the Iranian holy city of Qom where he started religious studies in order to strengthen his religious status among Iraqi Shias. In Iran, he established a network of important relations with political and religious leaders.
Sadr’s political comeback was the result of careful planning. A year before the March elections, he and his top aides set up an election strategy committee and dubbed it the "machine." The goal was to use the electoral system as best as they could. A team of experts built an extensive database of voters in every province and designed a bright electoral campaign.
Actually, it was not difficult. Sadr’s anti-occupation posture, his trend of religious nationalism and his image as the defender of the Shia community made his party, the Free Movement party, become the only one that gained new seats in the elections. The Free Movement won 39 of the 325 positions. In the elections, the Iraqiya bloc got the most seats, 91, while Maliki’s State of Law bloc won 89. However, both Allawi and Maliki fell far short of the overall 163 majority and the Shia religious parties, including Maliki’s own party, Ad Dawa, had a clear majority.
Washington Fears an "Iraqi Hezbollah"
Some US officials now fear the Sadrist movement can duplicate the success of Hezbollah, a Shia movement which has developed a strong armed organization as well as a network of advanced social programs. The language Sadr uses when discussing the US presence in Iraq — resistance and occupation — is similar to Hezbollah’s language against Israeli occupation.
Patrick Cockburn, author of the book "Muqtada," wrote that Sadr represented "the only grassroots movement in Iraq." He explains in his work that while US media and government "demonizes and belittles" Sadr, he has developed a solid strength stemming from the Shia faith. "Muqtada and his followers are intensely religious and see themselves as following in the tradition of martyrdom in opposition to the tyranny established when Hussein and Abbas were killed by the Umayyads on the plains of Karbala fourteen hundred years ago,” said Cockburn.
According to The Los Angeles Times, there is no doubt that the agreement with Maliki will give Sadrists increasing influence over Iraqi security forces, governors’ offices and even its prisons. In recent months, Maliki’s government has freed hundreds of members of the Mahdi Army, and handed security positions to veteran commanders of the forces who fought against the US military. Senior Sadr supporters are being brought into the Interior Ministry at high-level positions, Mahdi Army members and Iraqi officers told the Times. The group has secured political gains also. The Sadr camp won the deputy speaker position in Parliament and is said to be vying for the post of deputy prime minister too.
US’ Declining Influence
The paper added that Sadr movement’s prominence will surely make it harder for the United States to keep its waning influence in Iraq. Washington is very worried about the increasing Sadr’s role in Iraqi politics and demanded Maliki to oust him from the ruling coalition.
US officials initially encouraged the Iraqis to form a government quickly, but then started pushing for a slowdown after it became apparent that Sadr’s Free Movement was poised to play a major role. The US clearly hoped to stall the formation of a new government long enough to undermine the deal between Maliki and Sadr. US Ambassador James Jeffries repeatedly said that Sadr’s inclusion in an Iraqi government was unacceptable to Washington. London’s pan-Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat reported that the US administration had called on Maliki to abandon the Sadrists and expressed reluctance over dealing with a Baghdad government in which Sadrists were holding key Cabinet positions.
However, Jawad al-Hassanawi, a leading figure in the Sadrist movement, told the Times that Maliki was "strongly committed" to the Sadrists. Iraqi lawmakers and political leaders are openly saying that they no longer follow Washington’s advice on political issues. Instead, Iraqis are turning to neighboring nations, and especially Iran, for guidance, casting doubt on the future of the US role in this strategic country after a bloody war that killed more than 1 million people according to California-based Project Censored. Leaders from rival political coalitions in the last several months have been to Iran, Turkey, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia on official visits.
"The Iraqi politicians are not responding to the US like before. We don’t pay great attention to them," Shia lawmaker Sami al-Askari, a close ally of Prime Minister Maliki told Associated Press. "The Americans have their view on how to form an Iraqi government. But it does not apply to the political powers on the ground and it is not effective. The weak American role has given the region’s countries a greater sense of influence on Iraqi affairs."
In an effort to push back, the Obama administration has dropped hints that it wants to prolong the US military occupation. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently said that he would welcome a request from the new government in Baghdad for an extension of the December 2011 withdrawal deadline negotiated between Maliki and George W. Bush two years ago.
Nevertheless, as a recent article in The New York Times hinted, a major concern of the US is that the strong presence of the Sadrists in the Iraqi Parliament and government would complicate its plans to maintain a substantial US troop presence in Iraq after the end of 2011, when all the American troops are supposed to be removed under the terms of the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) signed between the two countries.
While some Iraqi political and military leaders have expressed support for the plan, the Sadrists remain opposed to the foreign occupation. Tens of thousands of Sadr’s supporters have been taking to the streets in the Iraqi cities to protest against the SOFA. "Sadrists in government will not meet with any US officials. We will not make any deals with them. We will abandon the Americans," Khadem al Sayadi, a Sadrist lawmaker, told the newspaper The National from the UAE. "We have been consistent in our opposition to the US occupation of Iraq and we will refuse any attempt to get the occupation to continue (beyond the 2011 pull-out date)."
To pour cold water on the US proposal, Maliki also said that "I do not feel the need for the presence of any other international forces to help Iraqis control the security situation."
"The security agreement with what it included of dates and commitments will remain valid," he said.
YF/PKH/MMN

All Spy Agencies Think That They Are Above the Law

Spy agencies and the law

EDITORIAL  (November 29, 2010) : Replying on Wednesday to the Supreme Court notices issued to the heads of the three spy agencies – ISI, MI and IB – regarding the whereabouts of 11 persons who disappeared from the Adiala jail, Attorney General Anwarul Haq said that the legal petitions filed by the heirs of the prisoners or other missing persons are not maintainable.
According to him, the agencies denied that those missing persons were in their custody, and also maintained they could not be made respondents in constitutional petitions as the party in such matters was always the federation represented by the secretary of the ministry concerned. The concerned secretary had earlier claimed he had no knowledge about the prisoners. These men, it may be recalled, were acquitted by an anti-terrorism court last April in four different cases of rocket fire on the Kamra Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, an assassination attempt against former President Pervez Musharraf, a suicide attack on a bus carrying an intelligence agency personnel, and a suicide strike on the GHQ.
Despite the acquittal the Punjab Home Department had kept them under detention. But the Lahore High Court intervened, setting aside their detention orders and directing immediate release. That is when they disappeared, and the LHC took a serious notice of the incident ordering criminal proceedings against the jail superintendent and deputy superintendent.
The case has brought the question centre stage whether the intelligence agencies are above the law. The AG’s reply implied they are. In fact he made the shocking statement that there were no rules or laws applicable to these agencies. The CJ was not pleased when the proceeding resumed on Thursday. The court observed that the AG was claiming immunity by saying that notices could not be issued to the agencies, whereby the notices were issued under Article 185(3) of the Constitution, and its supplementary law of Supreme Court Rules, 1980. Notably, Article 185 deals with protection of fundamental rights, and in the event of any infringement allows citizens to file writs, including habeas corpus writ, in the apex court, against illegal detention. The court deserves all praise for remaining firm in protecting the people’s constitutional rights in the face of determined resistance by the intelligence agencies.
The missing persons’ issue is a serious breach of fundamental rights. It is a source of much anger and dismay across Balochistan, where hundreds of dissidents have disappeared. Justice demands that their families be informed of their whereabouts, and the suspects themselves duly charged and presented before courts. Those who went missing in the present case, though, belong to a different category. They were accused of grave crimes and tried in anti-terrorism courts. Evidence in such cases is often insufficient. Witnesses are too scared to come forward to testify. And hence the accused usually manage to go free, which understandably, is frustrating for the investigators. But then it is not uncommon either for our investigating agencies to knowingly arrest wrong people to prove efficiency. That underscores the importance of due process of justice. The courts, of course, cannot hand out punishment on suspicion alone; they need to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt. The intelligence agencies need to work harder to prove culpability of suspects than simply to make them disappear. Like everyone else, they must respect the fundamental rights of the people as guaranteed by the Constitution. The rule of law must prevail.

The Barbarity of Musharraf

The “500%” Justified Operation

 

Former military dictator General Pervez Musharraf has once again defended his decision to carry out a military operation in Balochistan and kill the province’s former governor as well as the chief minister, Nawab Mohammad Akbar Khan Bugti, 79. He said in an interview with senior journalist  Munizae Jahangir that the military operation in the province was “500%” justified. He termed all those people who oppose parliamentary politics in the province as “anti-Pakistan” who, according to him, “will be” , “should be” and “must be” punished before they convert Pakistan into a banana republic.

The sixty-seven year old retired army chief blamed India for the unrest in Balochistan. He alleged the head of Baloch Republican Party (BRP), Nawabzada Bramdagh Bugti, who is a grandson of late Nawab Akbar Bugti, regularly visited India via Afghanistan to destabilize Pakistan.

The interview clearly indicated that General Musharraf was not apologetic at all about his belligerent policies in Balochistan which totally changed the dynamics of politics in the gas-rich province. The interviewer showed the former president the video tape of a young Baloch political activist who previously belonged to the moderate pro-Islamabad National Party but had now decided to join the Azad faction of Baloch Students Organization (BSO). The young activist said he never supported violence in the past but felt that the government was continuously hitting him with the wall. In response, General Musharraf instantly issued a fatwa declaring the lad as “anti-Pakistan” who “must be” stopped at all costs.

Musharraf’s latest remarks were the most hostile and offending since he had publicly scorned the Balochs. “It is not the ’70s,” he had thundered even before the killing of Nawab Bugti in a television interview, ” We will hit you in a way that you won’t know what hit you and from where.”

Musharraf had spoken with the same level of smugness in a U.S private university some time back when a Baloch activist had shouted at him. In return, Musharraf told him before the august audience, “if you were in Balochitan, I’d fix you too.”

That was in fact the official pronouncement of a military operation in Balochistan which led to the killing of top Baloch nationalists, arrest of senior political leaders like Sardar Akhtar Mengal, freezing the bank accounts and enlisting the names of Baloch leaders on the Exit Control List (ECL).

While there has been a steady demand by the people of Balochistan that General Musharraf should be punished for the crimes he committed against humanity and ordering the murder of an aged ex-governor and chief minister of the country’s largest province, adoption of such rhetoric by a man who is planning to start a political stint is very disappointing.

On the one hand, Musharraf should be brought to justice by the ruling Pakistan People’s Party to mitigate the Baloch anguish, Musharraf, on the other hand, should voluntarily extend an unconditional apology to the people of Balochistan for the policy blunders he committed in the enraged province. This may not fully help in normalizing the situation in the province but it will at least give him some kind of moral legitimacy to start a political journey.

Meanwhile, former prime minister and the head of country’s main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) Mian Nawaz Sharif also called for a political solution to Balochistan’s problems during a recent visit to the province. Sharif, who was ousted from power by Musharraf following a bloodless coup on October 12, 1999, rightly argued that no solution could be hammered out on gun point. He criticized Musharraf for continuing to threaten the people of Balochistan in spite of living outside Pakistan which means that the former military chief  intends to carry out a similar genocide of the Baloch people if he is once again given a chance to rule the country.

General Musharraf should realize that this is not a civilized way of dealing with the people of a country he ruled and intends to rule again by entering into politics. Balochistan was in fact a far different place before 1999 when General Musharraf took over power. There were hardly serious issues of law and order, target killings or abduction of political workers. Likewise, not many young people supported the idea of an independent Balochistan or said that they no longer trusted the parliament. As a matter of fact, the nine years of Musharraf’s misrule left irremovable marks on the Baloch society and politics. He only planted the seeds of hatred, alienation and disillusionment.

President Asif Ali Zardari and PML chief Mian Mohammad Nawaz Sharif as well as the national media and civil society should come forward to discourage and condemn Musharraf’s bellicose statements on Balochistan. It is true that tens of thousands of Balochs today have lost faith in the parliament. If General Musharraf think he was “500%” justified to kill one Bugti then is he going to kill all those tens of thousands of Balochs who have lost hope from the parliament?  That is not that art of statesmanship, is it?

the escalation of the inter-Korean conflict may cause a serious Asian stock market collapse

War is a force majeure for investments. What the inter-Korean conflict is leading to?

“During the last inter-Korean face-off in spring 2010 the stock quotes in Seoul lost almost 4%, which led to massive sales while the Tokyo Stock Exchange Composite Index declined by 3%, making other global markets show weakness as well. Now the situation is repeating. Investors are afraid of big-scale war in the Far East and begin to buy up the US treasuries while getting rid of the shares of those Asian companies who work at risky markets…Thereby, the escalation of the inter-Korean conflict may cause a serious Asian stock market collapse, followed by the outflow of the capital from Asia to America and Europe, making USD strengthen and crude oil decline in value.”

 

 

investment

A war is a nightmare for business and investments. That is why the conflict between North and South Korea has already provoked downtrends at the world markets.

The futures contracts of the US and European companies are currently declining in value. Asian markets are seeing downfall. MSCI Asia Pacific index indicating the quote dynamics of Asian-Pacific enterprises (except Japan) has lost 1.9%. On the contrary, USD is strengthening versus major currencies as the US currency rate initially takes into account the risks connected with the region. Thereby, before the armed conflict USDJPY was around 83.28. Instantly after the exchange of fire at the border between North and South Korea USDJPY reached 83.72. USD has also recovered against the Australian Dollar. Previously AUDUSD was traded at 0.986. Now it has reached 0.97. The South Korean Won has suffered most of all. Over the time of the conflict USD has gone from 1125 up to 1180 won per 1USD. Experts warn that any aggravation of the conflict may have a catastrophic impact on the rating of South Korea.

Once again the world is on the verge of a serious disaster, which may directly affect exchange rates. Some journalists even start expressing concerns over a possibility of World War III. Of course, it is the worst possible and undesired for everyone and consequently the least probable scenario. However, if the situation goes down to some serious armed conflict the entire world will wish it had never happened.

The JPY index:

индекс йены

So, what really happened? Angry at South Korea’s refusal to halt military drills near their sea border, on Nov 23rd North Korea shelled the island of Yeonpyeong, and Seoul responded by unleashing its own barrage from K-9 155mm self-propelled howitzers and scrambling fighter jets. Two South Korean marines were killed in the shelling that also injured 15 troops and three civilians.

So what was the instant reaction of both sides? The president of South Korea Lee Myung-bak ordered to respond by striking multiple blows in case of any further provocations.

In their turn the North Korean authorities put the blame on South Korea, saying that its combat ships violated the sea borders. So the shelling was just an answer to South Korean aggression. North Korea warns that it will resume shelling in case the borders are violated again. The world powers instantly urged the countries to stop the strikes. The USA was the first one to put the blame on North Korea. The EU, Great Britain and Russia joined. China called for peace without specifying the aggressor. The Japanese government instantly created an anti-crisis staff, Naoto Kan ordered to take all the steps necessary to ensure the security in the country.

The brief history of the conflict

Корея

During the 1st part of the 20th century all the Korean territory was a colony of the Japanese Empire. In August 1945 the Soviet Army defeated the Japanese Kwantoon Army an entered the peninsula from the North. In September 1945 the US army entered the South. The allies agreed to divide the territory in 2 zones. The 38th parallel became the border between them.

Both sides remained at the peninsula, preventing Korea from becoming a single state. In 1947 the UN held elections in Korea, in the South they were held in May, in the North – in September. It happened so that different political powers won the elections in various parts of Korea, which led to the creation of two states: North and South Korea. On June 25th 1950 they launched a war between each other.

The US and 15 other states (GB, Canada, Australia and others) became the allies of South Korea, while the DPRK was supported by the USSR and China. The armed conflict might have turned into World War III, but thanks God, it didn’t happened.

One year later (in June 1951) the front stabilized at the 38th parallel, making the sides return to the initial border. The clash lasted for 2 more years. On July 27th 1953 the sides signed a cease-fire agreement. Formally the war between North and South Korea is not over as the sides have only promised to create a 4-mile demilitarized zone at each side of the 38th parallel.

Ever since the South and the North have been disputing over the sea borders. The so-called Northern Limit Line (NLL) introduced by South Korea was not recognized by the North. Pyongyang constantly demands to reconsider it. It should be noted that the region is rich in fish and blue crab. That is why the disputes over it will be over only when the 2 Koreas are united into a single country.

The first military clash since 1953 took place on June 15th 1999 when the South destroyed a North Korean combat ship killing some 30 sailors. North Korean ships were frequently seen violating the NLL, so the South decided to apply force.

After the last bloodshed the DPRK hasn’t still recognized the NLL, urging to reconsider it. However since then the violations have become less frequent.

On June 29th 2002 there was another clash near the island of Yeonpyeong: 2 Northern combat ships fought 2 Southern ones. As a result, a Southern ship was destroyed while a Northern one was set on fire.

In October 2007 the problem seemed to be solved by the leaders of the two countries at the Korean summit. They agreed to create a zone of joint fishing with further perspective of creating a zone of peace. However, after there was a change of power in Seoul the situation worsened again. In 2008 Lee Myung-bak became the President of South Korea. He aggravated the relations with the North, especially in connection with its nuclear program. Of course the US completely supported the South. Since then the multiple achievements concerning the Korean problem have been up in the air.

On Nov 10th 2009 there was another conflict bringing casualties to both sides.

The confrontation reached the peak on March 26th 2010 when in the Yellow sea a South Korean corvette mysteriously sank at the NLL bringing 46 deaths. The international committee (without any representatives of North Korea) put the blame on the DPRK saying the corvette had been hit by its submarine. After that the international sanctions against North Korea were toughened while the South Korean and American military forces held big-scale war games close to the NLL. In its turn the North warned it could make a preventive strike. The US again added some fuel to the fire by announcing that the DPRK was getting ready for another nuclear test, which made South Korea and Japan worry about it. Seoul put its military along the NLL on stand-by, which was treated by the North as a threat.

Thereby, all the armed conflicts between North and South Korea has recently been taking place at sea, around the same territory, so they are determined by economic interests rather than any other ones. It is a typical frontier dispute. However it is intensified by the Northern nuclear-weapons program and the US army located in the South.

So what could be the reason for the latest aggravation?

Корея

Now the world community is discussing several possible reasons for the last clash. Masterforex-V Academy experts have sorted out the most interesting ones:

1. South Korea really did its best to provoke the DPRK into showing signs of aggression. It may be beneficial for Seoul I terms of making the world be concerned about North Korea and its nuclear program. The South is spoiling for a fight. It is currently leading a big-scale info campaign against its communist neighbors. It would be sufficient to mention the warning about possible terror attacks in advance of the G20 summit. In other worlds, one shouldn’t believe everything that comes from Seoul.

2. On Nov 20th 2010 the New York Times published an article reporting that the DPRK had opened a modern uranium-enrichment plant. Washington instantly expressed deep concerns over that. It coincided with the joint military games in the Yellow sea (South Korean and American forces – over 70.000 servicemen). North Korea probably thought that it was an assault and made a preventive strike, shelling Yeonpyeong, the location of one of the biggest South Korean military bases.

Who will suffer from the conflict first of all? According to Masterforex-V Academy, it is:

*First of all, the inter-Korean dialog. The Sunshine Policy was the foreign policy of South Korea towards North Korea until Lee Myung-bak’s election to presidency in 2008. However the policy eventually failed to lead to the expected results. The nuclear program of North Korea finished it.

* The inter-Korean economic cooperation, which has been developing fast over the last couple of years until now. For example in 2009 the volume of the bilateral trade reached $1,666B. Over 200 South Korean enterprises trade with the DPRK on a regular basis. Until now the creation of the Kaesong industrial zone has remained the biggest joint project together with merging the railways and highways of the North and South. However, currently everything is under threat.

*Asian stock market. During the last inter-Korean face-off in spring 2010 the stock quotes in Seoul lost almost 4%, which led to massive sales while the Tokyo Stock Exchange Composite Index declined by 3%, making other global markets show weakness as well. Now the situation is repeating. Investors are afraid of big-scale war in the Far East and begin to buy up the US treasuries while getting rid of the shares of those Asian companies who work at risky markets (now they are in the red zone). The most considerable stock downfall was seen in Hong Kong and Shanghai (2,4% and 1,9%). The shares of the Central Bank of Australia lost 1,8% in value. According to experts, if the inter-Korean conflict has a tendency to escalate, global markets may lose 3 to 5% in value.

*All the national currencies of the Pacific region, apart from USD (expect the world’s major currency). USD gained in value while EUR declined. In a single day the US currency considerably recovered against the Japanese Yen, Australian dollar and especially South Korean Won.

Thereby, the escalation of the inter-Korean conflict may cause a serious Asian stock market collapse, followed by the outflow of the capital from Asia to America and Europe, making USD strengthen and crude oil decline in value. At this point nobody dares to predict the further succession of events. That is why investors from around the world are actively watching news while being cautious and waiting for the suitable moment to invest.

Masterofrex-V experts together with “Market Leader” offer you to answer the following question in order to estimate the situation in a more objective way:

What may be the result of the inter-Korean conflict?

*nothing serious…

*the mid-term downtrend of Asian currencies and indexes

*another wave of the global economic crisis

It can’t go on like this much longer

It can’t go on like this much longer

First it was Greece. Now it is Ireland. Soon, Portugal and Spain could follow.

Those Americans who still doubt the gravity of this nation’s debt problems need only to consider the crisis now unfolding in Europe. Several nations, including France and Great Britain, have been forced because of heavy debt loads to make deep cuts in social services, pensions and other benefits. Others such as Greece and Ireland have had to beg allies for bailouts to avoid economic collapse.

It would be foolhardy for Americans to believe that this nation is somehow immune to the fiscal realities that have overtaken Europe. Yet, many American politicians, both Democrats and Republicans, seem to be in denial of just how close the United States is to its own debt-driven crisis.

The national debt already stands at $13.8 trillion. And projected deficits over the next decade, about $1 trillion a year, are well above sustainable levels. The nation’s underfunded liabilities, including Social Security and Medicare, also will add to the financial pressures in the years ahead if not addressed soon.

Add it altogether and the sum points to what should be an obvious conclusion: Adjustments must be made now to avoid much more painful decisions amid a fiscal emergency.

This week, a bipartisan panel commissioned to study the nation’s debt is scheduled to make a recommendation on what those adjustments should include. Whether the panel can reach a consensus by Wednesday’s deadline is uncertain. Whether Congress and the president have enough political will to take on such steps as cuts to defense spending, elimination of earmarks, reductions in farm subsidies, a gradual increase in the retirement age and further limits on tax deductions is very much in doubt.

But economic principles can be violated only for so long before the inevitable consequences fall hard on the United States, as they now are falling hard on parts of Europe. Or, as Larry Summers, President Obama’s former chief economic adviser, put it: "How long can the world’s biggest borrower remain the world’s biggest power?"

The answer to that question may be not only a loss of American prestige around the globe but also a long-lasting decline in the American people’s standard of living.

Pakistan’s implausible deniability

Pakistan’s implausible deniability

Source:ANI   

It has been two years since the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai, and India’s policy-makers and its wider public are by no means reassured about the Pakistani leadership’s renunciation of terrorism as a means of advancing its perceived interests. Indian officials have few doubts about the implicit involvement of senior Pakistani leaders in supporting terrorism, even if just as accessories after the fact. However, many intelligent and well-informed Americans continue to harbour reservations about the degree of involvement of various actors within the Pakistani establishment, and consequently the extent to which terrorism represents an instrument of Pakistani state policy.

The differences in outlook and approach between India and the United States towards Pakistani terrorism are compounded to a considerable degree by the failure to clearly establish linkages and ascribe responsibility of action to individuals and entities within Pakistan. India, for its part, has often failed to adequately communicate its concerns to influential sections of the American policy-making structure. This has resulted in American observers frequently finding symmetry between Indian and Pakistani actions and depicting Indian concern as reflective of instinctive animosity towards Pakistan.

The Pakistani leadership has benefited to a considerable degree from at least four layers of plausible deniability that cloak terrorism-related activities with links to the country. The first concerns identifying terrorist activity as Pakistani, that is, having association with either Pakistani territory or citizens. As the tragic attacks were unfolding in Mumbai two years ago, Pakistani officials suggested that the assailants were everything from local or homegrown Indian terrorists to Bangladeshis or Sri Lankan Tamil Tigers, and this refrain was unfortunately adopted by several analysts in the West despite an absence of information to support such conclusions. Further, Pakistani officials claimed that captured assailant Ajmal Kasab’s reported hometown, Faridkot, did not even exist, and once it was found, initially denied that there was anyone by that name from the village. It took a journalist for a British publication, Saeed Shah, to identify Kasab’s family in Faridkot in Okara district, less than two weeks after the attacks.

A second layer of plausible deniability arises when linking the Pakistani assailants to an established terror group within Pakistan. The Indian investigation of 26/11, wisely conducted in cooperation with other international agencies such as the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation, demonstrated links to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), a group known to be among the closest to Pakistani intelligence agencies. Indian and U.S. intelligence had honed in on LeT as the attacks were unfolding, based on Kasab’s testimony. Pakistani officials corroborated this in their own investigation completed in mid-2009. Subsequent investigations, including the interrogation of David Coleman Headley provided further details concerning LeT’s role.

Once traced to groups such as LeT, their links to the ISI also need to be established. Although Pakistani officials originally maintained that the 26/11 attacks had nothing to do with the Pakistani establishment, ISI Director-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha soon conceded to then-CIA director Michael Hayden that "rogue" elements of the ISI were involved in the planning and execution of the Mumbai attacks. The CIA later received independent confirmation that ISI was actively involved in the training for the Mumbai attacks. ISI has also been intimately involved in other terror plots against Indian targets, including those by the Haqqani network in Afghanistan.

Finally, the fourth layer of plausible deniability concerns the link between ISI and the Pakistan army. Many Western observers have reached the hasty and convenient conclusion that the ISI is a "state within a state" or a "rogue agency". However, the ISI is staffed and managed by the Pakistan army. General Ashfaq Kayani, currently the Pakistani army chief, was previously the ISI’s Director-General.

Kayani’s successor, General Nadeem Taj, was transferred – but not dismissed – after the United States confronted the Pakistan army with evidence of his involvement in the 2008 bombing on the Indian embassy in Kabul. He was replaced by General Pasha, the incumbent, who was hand-picked by Kayani. Further, the Pakistan army, much like the Indian armed forces, is an institution steeped in tradition and hierarchy. This makes it harder to imagine junior officers taking decisions of strategic importance completely independently of their superiors without serious consequences.

That each layer of plausible deniability was employed in the aftermath of the Mumbai attacks has, with subsequent revelations, supported the state’s complicity. Both a cause and a result of Pakistan’s multiple layers of plausible deniability is the deflection of responsibility for failures in security and governance by the Pakistani leadership, to the detriment not just of regional security but also the Pakistani people. Neither the military nor – with few exceptions – the civilian Pakistani leadership has made any effort in altering the dominant Pakistani narrative of victimhood, according to which all of Pakistan’s social and political ills can be blamed on either the United States or India. And if, in the Pakistan army’s own reading, it is unable to discipline rogue elements within its own hierarchy, this calls into question the army’s claim that it is the most competent institution in Pakistan.

It is therefore in the shared interest of the United States and India and, for that matter, Pakistan itself, to ascribe responsibility to the senior leadership of Pakistan for acts of terror emanating from Pakistani soil and hold it accountable for its actions post facto. This necessitates countering Pakistan’s narrative of victimhood with alternate narratives that stress the accountability and responsibility of the Pakistani leadership to act in the best interests of the country. For a state that remains so politically and economically vulnerable, the use of terrorism to further narrow objectives makes little sense. (ANI)

“Holy War,” When the Barely Living Fight Back

Lure of a ‘holy war’

A woman walks through trash in Mogadishu. When Somalia collapsed with the fall of President Siad Barre’s government in the early 1990s, people described U.S. troops that led a United Nations peacekeeping mission as nonbelievers.

By Sudarsan Raghavan

The Washington Post

 

A woman walks through trash in Mogadishu. When Somalia collapsed with the fall of President Siad Barre’s government in the early 1990s, people described U.S. troops that led a United Nations peacekeeping mission as nonbelievers.

MOGADISHU, Somalia —

Abdul Qadir Mohammed remembers the imam’s powerful voice bouncing off the mosque’s white walls. It was 2001, a few weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks, a decade into Somalia’s anarchy. "Our religion must dominate until we die," the preacher declared.

On that day in the mosque, his heart pounded as he joined the worshippers in thunderous chants of "Allahu Akbar" (God is Great).

"It was the day I was born," Mohammed recalled.

Mohammed was 13. He had never picked up a gun. But boys like him would soon be asked to sacrifice their lives for Islam. Mohammed felt no fear, only a sense of divine calling.

"Everything in my life was about jihad," said Mohammed, now 22, who has a boyish face, faint mustache and walks with a slight limp. "Everything still is."

Mohammed is part of a generation of young Somalis who, seeking solutions to their chaos, have embraced a messianic brand of Islam that today drives a brutal struggle for power and identity in the Horn of Africa.

His path opens a window on the forces that have altered Somalia, a failed state and one of the world’s most lethal post-Sept. 11 battlegrounds outside the theaters of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq.

His journey would take him from the mosques to an Islamist revolt against Somalia’s secular warlords to al-Shabab, a militia linked to al-Qaida. He would fight in battle after battle, driven less by clan loyalties or politics than a conviction that his religion, and his nation’s soul, was under siege.

Ultimately, he would question al-Qaida’s role in his country, a progression experienced by many militant Muslims since Sept. 11.

When Mohammed was 3, the socialist government of President Mohamed Siad Barre collapsed. Clans and warlords began fighting for control of territory.

As their country fractured, many Somalis sought comfort in a fundamentalist Islam that called for society to repent and rededicate itself to Allah’s divine principles. Money from Saudi Arabia flowed in to build ultraconservative Wahhabist mosques, weakening the influence of the nation’s moderate brand of Sufi Islam.

Al-Itihaad al-Islamiya, a militant group loosely linked to Osama bin Laden, emerged in the early 1990s.

Against this backdrop, Mohammed’s perceptions were colored by religion from an early age. He remembers his neighbors describing the U.S. troops that led a 1993 United Nations peacekeeping mission as "nonbelievers." He did, too.

Mohammed’s mother died when he was 6. He and his siblings moved to Mogadishu, Somalia’s whitewashed, war-scarred capital, to live with their uncle.

Most of the city’s public schools had been destroyed or shuttered, so Mohammed attended a free Quranic school run by religious leaders and al-Itihaad members.

He grew distant from his family and spent more time at the mosque. He listened to conversations about the plight of the Palestinians and shared the anger over the support of Israel by the U.S. and its allies.

On Sept. 11, 2001, Mohammed said he felt empowered as he stared at the television screen. He was proud Muslims had learned to pilot planes to target America and defend Islam.

"I was like any other young Somali who was happy with striking the nonbelievers," he said. "Osama bin Laden was my hero. He had my heart."

In the aftermath, the Bush administration declared al-Itihaad a terrorist organization linked to al-Qaida. U.S. officials had implicated the group in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Money-transfer networks that Somalis depended on were shut down as concerns grew that they were being used to move money for al-Qaida. At Mohammed’s mosque, anger punctuated the sermons and people grew more resentful of the United States.

For the first time, Mohammed said he believed the United States and its allies were directly targeting him and his countrymen.

"America’s response after September 11 was too aggressive," he said. "That created anger and only added fuel to the fire."

As U.S. forces invaded Afghanistan then Iraq, Mohammed was tormented by the deaths of fellow Muslims in airstrikes and bombings. "I was convinced they were victims of an oppressive invasion," he said. "I felt America wanted to occupy the whole Middle East."

Mohammed began to view Somalia’s own history through the prism of Sept. 11. He was happy American soldiers had been killed here in 1993, some brutally, their bodies dragged through the streets of Mogadishu.

One day in summer 2005, when Mohammed was 16, a group of men approached him at the mosque. They wanted him to join a new militia called the Islamic Courts Union. "They were interested in children like me," Mohammed said. "I didn’t have much knowledge. I had no idea where to find a job."

By then, the Islamic Courts was fighting a coalition of warlords that many Somalis believed was being covertly financed by the United States. The warlords presented themselves as a counterterrorism alliance determined to root out radical Islam and al-Qaida in Somalia. But to the Islamists, the warlords were U.S. puppets.

"They told me I was joining a jihad to liberate my country and my religion," he said. "Eventually, I decided this was the right path."

Mohammed’s mentor, Aden Hashi Ayro, was a veteran of al-Itihaad who had trained in Afghanistan and had ties to al-Qaida. He allegedly orchestrated the assassinations of 16 people, including four Western aid workers, according to the International Crisis Group, a respected think tank.

Into battle

Six weeks after learning how to fire an AK-47 assault rifle and rocket-propelled grenades, Mohammed was dispatched to the front line. In mid-2006 he helped to wrest his hometown of Jowhar from the control of a powerful warlord widely thought to be on the U.S. payroll.

In December 2006, Ethiopian troops, with covert backing from the Bush administration, invaded Somalia to oust the Islamists. Somalis viewed Ethiopia as "the Israel of Africa" because it received support from the U.S., said Sheik Mohammed Asad Abdullahi, an al-Shabab commander who defected.

Many Islamists believed they were engaged not only in a nationalist struggle but also in a larger clash between Islam and the West.

"It was very clear that we were not only fighting the Ethiopians but also the Western world," Mohammed said.

The Ethiopian forces pushed the Islamic Courts out of Mogadishu. A few months later, a rift broke apart the Islamists; two militias, al-Shabab and Hezb-i-Islam, emerged as independent forces, more radical than ever.

Some of Somalia’s powerful clans backed al-Shabab to counter the Ethiopians and an African Union peacekeeping force that replaced the Ethiopians last year.

Ayro became a top leader, and Mohammed was among the first to be recruited as a commander in charge of 60 fighters. Most were younger than he was. Within months, al-Shabab had taken over much of south and central Somalia, nearly a third of the country. The militia imposed a harsh interpretation of Islam, carrying out public amputations and banning movies, soccer, even bras.

Then May 1, 2008, an American airstrike killed Ayro inside his home. "They killed our hero," Mohammed said. "I knew the Americans were interfering in Somalia all the time after that."

Another date also haunts Mohammed: Dec. 3, 2009.

On that day, an al-Shabab suicide bomber dressed as a woman detonated explosives during a medical-school graduation ceremony at the Shamo Hotel. The attack killed 22 civilians and three government ministers.

"Many students and their parents died. Many young doctors died," Mohammed said. "That was the turning point."

In the weeks before the bombing, he had begun to notice that more foreign al-Shabab fighters were attending meetings for the militia’s senior leaders. "Decisions are being taken by foreigners, not Somalis," he said.

Mohammed said he was startled by the militia’s severe tactics. He was fighting to get rid of American and Western influence in Somalia, to enshrine a pure brand of Islam, not to indiscriminately kill innocent Somali civilians.

In February, al-Shabab publicly declared allegiance to al-Qaida. While he still considered bin Laden a hero, Mohammed was conflicted by the development.

Bin Laden doubters

Nearly a decade after Sept. 11, many in the Muslim world were questioning bin Laden’s philosophies and tactics. In Somalia, al-Shabab’s harsh measures and al-Qaida-like attacks were increasingly alienating the population.

"I thought we would lose the support of the normal people of Somalia," Mohammed said.

Some of his former comrades, who now worked for the government, encouraged him to leave the militia. Four months ago, he hopped into a taxi, crossed into government-controlled territory and defected.

Since his defection, his former comrades have delivered death threats.

His ideology, though, has not changed.

Mohammed said, "You can’t be Muslim without accepting sharia." He said he no longer considers America "a legitimate target."

But when asked by this journalist, an American, what he would have done if he had met him a few months ago, Mohammed replied without hesitation: "I would have slaughtered you. And they would have promoted me."

Putin/Medvedev Learning the Balancing Act Called “Democracy”

‘Long Shot’ Bid to Bring Political Zombies to Life

29 November 2010

By Vladimir Frolov

The best that could be said about President Dmitry Medvedev’s latest call for more competition in Russian politics to combat “stagnation” is that he and his tandem partner, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, are trying to magically modernize the ship of the state without actually sinking the boat.

We pray that they know what they’re doing. For the alternative could be that this venture masks with flowery rhetoric an intellectual void where there should be a strategy to deal with the nation’s problems.

What this is not, however, is a split in the tandem. Putin and Medvedev are jointly experimenting with gradually opening up the political system to create a new momentum for modernizing the country when the existing political arrangements start sapping modernizing impulses.

It is a very long shot. Not one of their predecessors has succeeded in mixing technological and institutional modernization with experiments in popular democracy. All successful Russian modernizers were brutal despots. All modernizers who shunned despotism were failures.

The key operating words here are “gradually and slowly,” as Vladislav Surkov, Medvedev’s first deputy chief of staff, put it to a bizarre audience of American student leaders. The intention is to avoid repeating the mistakes of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who quickly lost control of the country after the introduction of genuinely competitive politics.

Putin’s plan seems to be to let Medvedev reach out to the liberal modernizing class with promises of gradual political opening that would awaken the generation of thirty-somethings from lethargy and reinvigorate the remodeled regime with their crowd-sourced mojo.

This would broaden the political base of the tandemocracy while incorporating many of its critics who now feel ignored or rejected. The internal social mobility within the Russian ruling class would increase, thereby reducing the risks of an elite mutiny. This is not unlike what the Communist Party of China is doing by stimulating controlled internal competition for top leadership.

The problem with the “go slow” approach is that competitive politics is as much about creative destruction as consumer markets. The political scene is littered with zombies: parties and leaders who lost election after election but still linger in the parliament as decorations.

Medvedev’s plan is to bring the zombies to life, while tightly controlling new entries to the market. It’s hard to see this working as intended.

Vladimir Frolov is president of LEFF Group, a government-relations and PR company.

Iranian nuclear scientist killed in bomb attack

Iranian nuclear scientist killed in bomb attack

Another scientist badly wounded as attackers on motorbikes fix devices to windows of cars in Tehran

  • Haroon Siddique
  • guardian.co.uk
  • The reactor building of Iran's nuclear power plant at BushehrThe reactor building of Iran’s nuclear power plant at Bushehr. Photograph: Vahid Salemi/APBomb attacks have killed a prominent Iranian nuclear scientist and wounded another in Tehran, state TV reported today.

    Attackers riding on motorcycles attached the bombs to the car windows of the scientists as they were driving to their workplaces this morning, the station’s website said.

    One bomb killed Majid Shahriari, a member of the nuclear engineering faculty at the Shahid Beheshti University, in Tehran. His wife, who was in the car with him, was wounded.

    The second blast seriously wounded the nuclear physicist Fereidoun Abbasi, also a professor at Shahid Besheshti University, and his wife.

    State TV swiftly blamed Israel for the attacks. The attackers were described as “unknown terrorists” by Press TV, the English language news network controlled by the Iranian government. At least two other Iranian nuclear scientists have been killed in recent years, one in an attack similar to today’s.Iran has said it suspects the attacks were part of a covert attempt by the west to undermine the country’s nuclear programme.

    A pro-government website, mashreghnews.ir, said Abbasi held a PhD in nuclear physics and was a laser expert at Iran’s defence ministry. He was one of only a few top Iranian specialists in nuclear isotope separation, the site said.

    It added that Abbasi had long been a member of the Revolutionary Guard, the country’s most powerful military force. He was also a lecturer at Imam Hossein University, which is affiliated to the Revolutionary Guard.

    Some Iranian media reported Abbasi as having died after he was transferred to hospital. But Iran’s official IRNA news agency said he was in stable condition in the hospital.

    The attacks bore close similarities to another, in January, that killed the Tehran University professor Masoud Ali Mohammadi, a senior physics tutor. He died when a motorcycle fitted with a bomb exploded near his car as he was about to leave for work.The attacks came as the leak of more than 250,000 classified cables from US embassies revealed that King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia has repeatedly urged the United States to destroy Iran’s nuclear programme.

    Iran maintains that its atomic programme is designed to supply power stations rather than to build nuclear warheads. A fresh round of talks with the five permanent members of the UN security council, plus Germany, is due to begin on 5 December.