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[This Brennan guy is trying to muster-up a little of the Bush “dead or alive” spirit in this speech, claiming that we “seek nothing less than the utter destruction of this evil that calls itself al-Qaeda.” If this was what he really wanted, then he should just pick up the phone and talk to the “al-Qaeda” big bosses, who are the same today as they were thirty years ago, when this grand psyop began. Langley runs “the base”–always has. It is all a great big psycho-drama, intended to gain public support for the destruction of the Pakistani state, under the pretense of hunting our terrorist progeny.]
To destroy the al-Qaeda “evil”, the US needs to dismantle its core in the tribal regions of Pakistan and prevent its ability to re-establish a safe haven in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region, a senior US official has said.
“We aim to render the heart of al-Qaeda incapable of launching attacks against our homeland, our citizens, or our allies, as well as preventing the group from inspiring its affiliates and adherents to do so,” John Brennan, assistant to the president for homeland security, said Wednesday.
“And we seek nothing less than the utter destruction of this evil that calls itself al-Qaeda,” he said expanding on the White House counter terrorism strategy at the John Hopkins University Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.
Acknowledging that US “relationship with Pakistan is not without tension or frustration, he said: “We are now working with our Pakistani partners to overcome differences and continue our efforts against our common enemies.”
“It is essential that we do so.As frustrating as this relationship can sometimes be, Pakistan has been critical to many of our most significant successes against al-Qaeda,” he said explaining why we must continue our cooperation with Pakistan.
Claiming that over the past two and half years more than half of al- qaeda’s top leadership has been eliminated, Brennan said with the death of Osama bin Laden, the US had struck its biggest blow against the terrorist group.
Information seized from his hideout in Pakistan reveals Laden’s concerns about al-Qaeda’s long-term viability, he said noting the al-Qaeda called for more large-scale attacks against America, but encountered resistance from his followers.
“Perhaps most importantly, bin Laden clearly sensed that al-Qaeda is losing the larger battle for hearts and minds,” Brennan said.
But “this fight is not over,” he said and cited President Barack Obama to reiterate his administration’sresolve: “We have put al-Qaeda on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.”
Commander Border Security Forces for Eastern Provinces Aminullah Amerkhail on Thursday rendered his resignation from service “for not being allowed by the central government to retaliate Pakistani attacks at Nangarhar and Konar province”.
A spokesman for the Eastern Border Forces Edres Momand told Wakht News Agency, “Main reason behind the resignation is the Central Governments inaction towards the Pakistani Military attacks in Nangarhar and Konar Provinces”.
He added that on several occasions General Amerkhail had sought the permission of the Central Government for retaliation to the attacks which were rejected.
He said that the Ministry of Interior had not accepted the resignation.
Despite several attempts by the Wakht News Agency no officials from the Interior Ministry could be reached for comments.
It is worth mentioning that Pakistan has fired some 550 rockets into Nangarhar and Konar provinces during the last two moths killing at least 80 civilians most of them women and children.
General Amerkhail commands the Border Security Forces at the Eastern Provinces and had expressed several times that if the Central Government granted permission his forces were well prepared for retaliation.
Report: Nesar Jamal
In a UK speech, Prince Turki al-Faisal outlines Saudi Arabia’s concerns relating to the Arab spring, its foreign policies and Iran
It was a very discreet meeting deep in the English countryside. The main speaker was Prince Turki al-Faisal, one of Saudi Arabia‘s best-known and best-connected royals. The audience was composed of senior American and British military officials. The location was RAF Molesworth, one of three bases used by American forces in the UK since the second world war. Now a Nato intelligence centre focused on the Mediterranean and the Middle East, the sprawling compound amid green fields was an ideal venue for the sensitive topics that Turki, former head of Saudi Arabian intelligence, wanted to raise.
After an anecdote about how Franklin D Roosevelt was told by a naked Winston Churchill that nothing between them or their countries should be hidden, Turki warmed to his theme: “A Saudi national security doctrine for the next decade.”
For the next half an hour, the veteran diplomat, a former ambassador to Washington and tipped to be the next foreign minister in Riyadh, entertained his audience to a sweeping survey of his country’s concerns in a region seized by momentous changes. Like Churchill, Turki said, the kingdom “had nothing to hide”.
Even if they wanted to, the leaders of the desert kingdom would have difficulty concealing their concern at the stunning developments across the Arab world. Few – excepting the vast revenues pouring in from oil selling at around $100 a barrel for much of the year – have brought much relief to Riyadh.
Chief among the challenges, from the perspective of the Saudi royal rulers, are the difficulties of preserving stability in the region when local autocracies that have lasted for decades are falling one after another; of preserving security when the resultant chaos provides opportunities to all kinds of groups deemed enemies; of maintaining good relations with the west; and, perhaps most importantly of all, of ensuring that Iran, the bigger but poorer historic regional and religious rival just across the Gulf from Saudi Arabia’s eastern provinces, does not emerge as the winner as the upheavals of the Arab spring continue into the summer.
“The [Saudi king], crown prince and government cannot ignore the Arab situations, we live the Arab situation and hope stability returns,” the al-Sharq al-Awsat newspaper quoted Prince Nayef, the second in line to the throne and minister of the interior, as saying in Riyadh last week.
The prince, known as a conservative, went on to add that the possibility “of interference to prolong the chaos and killing between the sons of the Arab people … could not be discounted”.
Iran, a majority Shia state committed to a rigorous and highly politicised Islamist ideology, remains at the heart of such fears in Saudi Arabia, a predominantly Sunni state ruled by the al-Saud family since its foundation in 1932. Recent moves such as the Saudi-inspired invitation to Morocco and Jordan, both Sunni monarchies, to join the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a group of Sunni autocratic states, are seen by analysts as part of Riyadh’s effort to bolster defences against Tehran. So too is the deployment of Saudi troops under the umbrella of the GCC to Bahrain, where largely Shia demonstrators took to the streets to demand greater democratic rights from the Sunni rulers.
One fear in Riyadh is that the 15% or so of Saudi citizens who are Shia – and who largely live in the oil-rich eastern province – might mobilise in response to an Iranian call to arms.
“It is a kind of ideological struggle,” said a Ministry of Interior official.
Describing Iran as a “paper tiger” because of its “dysfunctional government … whose hold on power is only possible if it is able, as it barely is now, to maintain a level of economic prosperity that is just enough to pacify its people”, Turki, according to a copy of his speech at RAF Molesworth obtained by the Guardian, said the rival state nonetheless had “steel claws”, which were “effective tools … to interfere in other countries”.
This Tehran did with “destructive” consequences in countries with very large Shia communities such as Iraq, which Turki said was taking a “sectarian, Iranian-influenced direction”, as well as states with smaller ones such as Kuwait and Lebanon. Until Iraq changed course, the former intelligence chief warned, Riyadh would not write off Baghdad’s $20bn (£12.5bn) debts or send an ambassador.
More worryingly for western diplomats was Turki’s implicit threat that if Iran looked close to obtaining nuclear weapons, Saudi Arabia would follow suit, threatening a nuclear war between the two powers. “Iran [developing] a nuclear weapon would compel Saudi Arabia … to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences,” Turki said.
A senior adviser told the Guardian that it was “inconceivable that there would be a day when Iran had a nuclear weapon and Saudi Arabia did not”.
“If they successfully pursue a military programme, we will have to follow suit,” he said. For the moment, however, the prince told his audience, “sanctions [against Iran] are working” and military strikes would be “counterproductive”.
One alternative, Turki told his audience, would be to “squeeze” Iran by undermining its profits from oil, explaining that this was something the Saudis, with new spare pumping capacity and deep pockets, were ideally positioned to do.
Money has long been a key foreign policy tool for Saudi Arabia. Turki’s speech reveals the extent to which the kingdom is relying on its wealth to buy goodwill and support allies. In Lebanon, to counter Syrian influence and the Shia Hezbollah movement, the kingdom has spent $2.5bn (£1.6bn) since 2006.
Several billion more will reach the Palestinians, either directly or via the Palestinian Authority, Turki said. Then there is the $4bn (£2.5bn) in unconditional “grants, loans and deposits to Egypt’s emerging government”, which “stand in stark comparison to the conditional loans that the US and Europe have promised”.
This was an indication of the “contrast in values between the kingdom and its western allies”, the prince said.
The aim of such expenditure – only a fraction of the state’s $550bn (£343bn) reserves – is to minimise any potential ill-will towards Saudi Arabia among populations who have deposed rulers backed previously by Riyadh.
“The calculation in Riyadh is very simple: you cannot stop the Arab spring so the question is how to accommodate the new reality on the ground. So far there is no hostility to the Saudis in Tunisia, Egypt or elsewhere, popular or political,” said Dr Mustafa Alani, from the Gulf Research Centre, Dubai.
One difficult issue is that of the “unwanted house guests”. Saudi Arabia has a long tradition of offering a comfortable retirement home to ex-dictators, and two of the deposed leaders – Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Ali Abdullah Saleh of Yemen – are now in the kingdom. Ben Ali is reported to have been housed in a villa on the Red Sea coast. Saleh is in a luxury hospital receiving treatment for wounds caused by the bomb that forced his flight from the country he ruled for 21 years as president, and is now under pressure from his hosts to retire permanently.
Other regional rulers are being gently pressured to ease crackdowns, in part in response to western outcry over human-rights abuses, one official said.
Yemen, however, remains a major security concern to the Saudis, who worry about the presence of Islamic militants and Shia rebels who, again, they view as proxies of Iran.
“It is very important to make sure Yemen is stable and secure and without any internal struggle,” said one Interior Ministry official.
In his speech in the UK, Turki worried that Yemen’s more remote areas had become a safe haven for terrorism comparable to Pakistan’s tribal areas.
Along with money, religion too has been used as a weapon of Saudi foreign policy. Since 1986, Saudi kings have used the title of custodian of the two holy mosques – Mecca and Medina – and “as such [the kingdom] feels itself the eminent leader of the wider Muslim world”, said Turki. Iran challenges this claim.
One key western concern has long been the export of rigorous and sometimes intolerant strands of Islam. Between the 1979 Iranian revolution and the 9/11 attacks, this was seen as a key part of Saudi foreign policy. It also served to placate clerical establishment internally. In the last decade, a major effort has been made to cut back funding for extremism abroad. The results, government spokesmen admit, are sometimes mixed.
Senior Saudi charity officials told the Guardian that their work was not only “non-political” but also avoided any attempt to spread Wahhabism, as the puritanical Saudi strands of Islamic practice are often known, too.
“We follow the wishes of local communities and never get involved in politics. We are a purely humanitarian organisation, said Dr Saleh al-Wohaibi, the secretary-general of the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (Wamy), a Riyadh-based NGO engaged in relief work and development assistance across the Islamic world, which has been accused of funding extremism.
However, al-Wohaibi confirmed Wamy had built thousands of religious schools in countries such as Pakistan. Since 9/11, he said, donations from within Saudi Arabia had reduced considerably.
At mosques in Riyadh last week, religious students said they hoped to travel overseas as soon as possible. “It is our duty to help other countries all over the world to improve their practice of Islam and [to improve] the image of Saudi Arabia,” said Abdalillah al’Ajmi, 18, after evening prayers at the al-Rajhi mosque in Riyadh.
In his speech at Molesworth, Turki simply referred to Islam playing “a central … role” in ensuring Saudi security in the years to come. “Saudi Arabia is … the birthplace of Islam …. Iran portrays itself as the leader of not just the Shia world but of all Muslim revolutionaries interested in standing up to the west,” he said.
A Saudi bomb?
Prince Turki al-Faisal’s remarks reflect alarm at the progress of Iran’s nuclear programme and eroding confidence in the protective umbrella of Saudi Arabia’s longstanding ally, America.
In 2003, as its forces got bogged down in Iraq and the US began to look vulnerable, the Saudi government laid out three alternatives for itself: build its own bomb, shelter under someone else’s, or agree a Middle East nuclear-free zone. Tentative talks on a zone are underway with a view to a UN-chaired conference next year, but few observers believe Israel would surrender its nuclear arsenal or that Iran would halt its programme.
As for its own weapon, Saudi Arabia has declared it will spend $300bn on 16 nuclear reactors, for which it is about to open bids. But they would be turnkey projects with safeguards making it almost impossible to use the fuel to make weapons.
Building a Saudi bomb would require starting a uranium enrichment programme from scratch. Even with unlimited resources that would take years.
In the short term, Saudi Arabia could look to other states. Since the Arab spring, the monarchy has become disillusioned with Washington’s capacity to defend it. Instead, it may see its best option for a rapid response (to an Iran nuclear test, for example) as Pakistan. Saudi Arabia is reported to have an “option” on Pakistan’s nuclear capability, in return for financing Pakistan for decades.
And the US would find it hard to stop such destabilising nuclear co-operation. Its influence with both the Pakistanis and the Saudis has frayed considerably.
[Even the Saudis do not have the refining capacity to supply gasoline for the world, or possibly even to service their own growing needs (SEE: Oil-Rich Middle-East Running Low on Gas: Analyst).]
“Saudi Arabia in particular faces a growing shortage of oil products: Without new refining capacity we forecast the Kingdom will import 248 billion liters of gasoline and diesel this decade at a cost of 170 billion dollars.”
The grim portent was served by Prince Turki al-Faisal, who warned that the Saudis could flood the international oil markets to bring down the price of crude unless Tehran halted its controversial nuclear program.
“Iran is very vulnerable in the oil sector, and it’s there that more could be done to squeeze the current government,” “The Wall Street Journal” quoted Faisal — a senior member of the Saudi royal family — as telling a private gathering of United States and British military officers in June.
Saudi Arabia, he went on, was ready to replace Iran in the international oil market — thus depriving Tehran of the vital revenues it needs to keep its fragile economy afloat and to fund its uranium-enrichment activities, which Riyadh and the West suspect is a front for building a nuclear bomb.
“To put this into perspective, Saudi Arabia has so much [spare] production capacity — nearly 4 million barrels per day — that we could almost instantly replace all of Iran’s oil production,” Faisal said.
Faisal once headed Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency but now holds no official government office. Saudi officials have said his comments were made purely in a private capacity.
Yet they articulated the hostilities between the two neighbors, which have grown during this year’s Arab Spring, a period in which Saudi troops deployed in Bahrain to help snuff out a Shi’ite revolt that Riyadh claims — despite Iranian denials — has been fomented by Tehran.
Iranian students participate in a demonstration to oppose the presence of Saudi troops in Bahrain, outside the Saudi Embassy in Tehran on May 3.
And according to Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian commentator with the Israel-based Middle East Economic and Political Analysis Company, Faisal Turki was also illustrating Saudi Arabia’s assumed role of being the spearhead of an economic attack on Iran.
“The Saudis are now heading an international campaign to weaken Iran’s economy and to stop the nuclear program. Whereas the Americans are the ones that are imposing sanctions on different parts of the economy,” Javedanfar says, “the Saudi are the ones who are basically going for the jugular.
“They are going for Iran’s oil industry by going to Iran’s customers, such as India and saying, ‘Don’t buy oil from Iran; you can buy oil from us and we can basically give it to you at a better price.’ They want to flood the market to bring the price of oil down. They know that Iran is vulnerable because 80 percent of the country’s income comes from oil.”
Iran, which currently holds the presidency of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), hit back angrily.
“Iran will stop any move designed to play with oil prices through production hikes,” the country’s caretaker oil minister, Mohammad Aliabadi, said after Faisal’s comments were made public.
The Iranians already blocked a Saudi effort to increase production at the last OPEC meeting in Vienna on June 8.
Indulging In Hyperbole
Yet while there is general agreement that Iran’s overreliance on oil revenues is an Achilles heel, not everyone is convinced that Riyadh’s threat would have the effect of crippling Islamic regime economically.
Kamran Dadkhah, associate professor of economics at Northeastern University in Boston, says Saudi Arabia — despite being OPEC’s biggest oil producer — is indulging in hyperbole by believing it can bring Iran to its knees.
“Saudi Arabia is, indeed, the only OPEC member with spare capacity and excess capacity and financial resources to manipulate the oil markets,” Dadkhah says. “But to bankrupt Iran through this process is a wrong statement.
“If you flood the market with oil, OK, the price of oil will come down. [But the] Iranians will sell at a lower price. Iran has sold at $9 a barrel at times, and there is no reason that it is the Iranian oil that will be replaced. It may be some other oil producer that has to cut down on their supply because the price has come down or even [whose] customers will be replaced.”
Moreover, according to Dadkhah, Iran could afford to fund its nuclear program with oil prices much lower than the $108.19 a barrel of Brent crude was fetching on June 28.
“Iran doesn’t need all the money it is getting now just to go with the nuclear program,” he says. “Even a part of it would be enough to finance that.”
Countering Faisal’s threat is Iran’s retaliatory capability. It is, as Dadkhah points out, capable of causing “mischief” in response to any hardships imposed on it, not least by encouraging restiveness among Shi’a populations in Arab Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia itself. As a last resort, Tehran also has the option of firing at oil tankers passing through the Gulf and of sabotaging oil and gas pipelines.
Such considerations are unlikely to have been lost on the Saudis — meaning Faisal’s remarks probably carried a strong element of psychological warfare.
Gerd Nonneman, professor of Gulf studies at Exeter University in England, believes the comments were intended as a display of Saudi Arabia’s potential power which, in practice, the kingdom’s ruling dynasty would be reluctant to use.
“[Flooding the market] is not quite a nuclear option,” Nonneman says, “but [Saudi Arabia] really puts itself out there. I think they also wouldn’t simply want to be doing a free favor to the U.S. and the West without being taken seriously otherwise. So I think it’s a balancing game. They were considering upping their production very significantly. In fact, they are going to up it by at least half-a-million barrels a day. Whether they were going to go further, that would expose them further in a number of ways. That’s why Prince Turki, rather than any official, was used to put this idea out there. It’s a kind of trial balloon.”
Violent Islamist groups in Pakistan have coalesced under the Taliban umbrella to become the world’s most significant terrorist threat and are the most capable of obtaining nuclear weapons, according to a report released Wednesday.
The Pakistani “Neo-Taliban,” as the report from the Federation of American Scientists calls the coalition, has emerged as a major threat to the security of the Pakistani state, perhaps posing an even greater one than the country’s longstanding enemy, India.
“They have conducted the most sophisticated, ambitious and operationally complex terrorist attacks in this century,” said Charles P. Blair, director of the Terrorism Analysis Project for FAS. “They can essentially attack at will any time they want.”
The report says the threat posed by the Neo-Taliban is largely the result of a strategic miscalculation by Islamabad after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States — allowing violent Islamist groups such as the Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda to seek refuge from U.S. troops in Afghanistan and operate in Pakistan’s tribal areas as a buffer against Afghan, U.S. and Indian influence.
The entry of those foreign fighters into the tribal areas led to a dramatic spike in terrorist attacks inside Pakistan, from 29 in 2003 to 1,916 in 2009, resulting in some 30,000 deaths.
“They (the Pakistanis) really played a very dangerous game,” Blair said, “They didn’t think that when the Taliban and Al Qaeda came into the tribal areas that they would target the Pakistani state.”
Pressure from violent Islamists is one of the reasons elements in Pakistan’s government — particularly in the Inter-Services Intelligence agency — continues to support Taliban control in Afghanistan, he said. Lacking confidence in their ability to control the militants, Pakistani officials are looking for a place to dump them, he said.
The report comes amid increasing congressional and public pressure for Washington to get tough with Pakistan, which has sparked a similar pushback from Islamabad. But senior U.S. officials and leading lawmakers insist that the relationship, while complicated and at times frustrating, is too important to abandon.
“We are now working with our Pakistani partners to overcome differences and continue our efforts against our common enemies. It is essential that we do so,” White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan said in a speech outlining the Obama administration’s counterterrorism strategy. “As frustrating as this relationship can sometimes be, Pakistan has been critical to many of our most significant successes against Al Qaeda.”
Numbering between 15,000 and 30,000 fighters, the Neo-Taliban pose such a serious threat because they combine decades of experience against state-sized forces with revenue obtained through the operation of shadow governments and an Islamist ideology that includes strong apocalyptic leanings.
“They are violent Islamists with a global agenda,” Blair said. “It’s a highly capable group that can seek and will seek nuclear weapons.”