The “Al-Qaeda Shura” Is In Langley

[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.]

US aims to destroy al-Qaeda core in Pakistan

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.”

Afghan Border Commander Resigns Over Roadblocks To Anti-Pakistan Retaliation

MoI rejects General’s resign over Pakistani artillery shelling

Wakht News Agency

Jalalabad

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

Turki Addresses US/Brit Officers–A Saudi national security doctrine for the next decade

Saudi Arabia worries about stability, security and Iran

In a UK speech, Prince Turki al-Faisal outlines Saudi Arabia’s concerns relating to the Arab spring, its foreign policies and Iran

Prince Turki Al Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz Al

Prince Turki al-Faisal, who spoke at RAF Molesworth. Photograph: Max Nash/AFP/Getty Images

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.

King Abdullah, who has ruled Saudi Arabia since 2005, initially backed long-term ally Hosni Mubarak, reportedly personally interceding on his behalf with President Barack Obama.

“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?

Julian Borger

Diplomatic editor

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.

Saudi Oil Threat To Iran Rings Hollow–more psychological warfare

[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.”

Saudi Oil Threat To Iran Rings Hollow

Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud (right) greets Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in Riyadh in November 2007.Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud (right) greets Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in Riyadh in November 2007.

By Robert Tait
When Saudi Arabia’s one-time intelligence supremo warned that Riyadh was considering using its vast oil wealth as a weapon against neighboring Iran, it appeared that the lingering cold war between the two rival Gulf powers was about to heat up.

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.

Growing Hostilities

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.”

Neo-Taliban Win Most Dangerous Terrorist Group Designation

Report: ‘Neo-Taliban’ are most dangerous terror group

Residents gather near a police station after it was attacked by gunmen, as policemen keep guard, in Dera Ismail Khan June 25, 2011. Suspected Taliban militants stormed a police station in a town in northwestern Pakistan on Saturday, killing at least five policemen, police and witnesses said. | Reuters Photo

The report comes amid increasing congressional and public pressure for Washington to get tough with Pakistan. | Reuters

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.”


New oil war in Asia: Saudi Arabia versus Russia

New oil war in Asia: Saudi Arabia versus Russia

A worker of an oil company cycling through a store yard. To get an edge in the competition with Russia, Saudi Arabia will have to reduce global oil prices. (File photo)

A worker of an oil company cycling through a store yard. To get an edge in the competition with Russia, Saudi Arabia will have to reduce global oil prices. (File photo)
By ALEJANDRO BARBAJOSA

REUTERS SINGAPORE

Top exporter Saudi Arabia is struggling to sell more crude to Asia because rival producer Russia has taken an expanding share of the world’s fastest-growing market by pumping more oil into the region.

To get an edge in the competition with Russia and ship more barrels into Asia, the Saudis will have to take the next painful step in reducing global oil prices − slashing their own.

The kingdom has ignored opposition from fellow OPEC members and moved to boost oil supplies to cool prices that have slowed economic growth. Most of any increase in Saudi supplies would flow eastwards to feed rapid Asian economic expansion.

Russian supply to northeast Asia is almost five times more than in 2008 as crude flows through Russia’s East Siberia-Pacific Ocean (ESPO) pipeline.

“Not only will the Saudis need to amend official selling prices (OSPs) to a level that would entice refiners, but you may also see competition from alternatives,” said Harry Tchilinguirian, head of commodity markets strategy at BNP Paribas in London. “And if ESPO keeps building up, the pressure keeps on growing.”

A glut in North American crude markets has made it unprofitable to send ESPO crude to the US West Coast, leaving more supply in Asia. The US typically absorbs the surplus.

The emergency release of oil stocks by International Energy Agency members Japan and South Korea, two of the region’s top consuming nations, is adding even more oil to the market. With so much crude on offer, refiners have been reluctant to sign up to buy more from Saudi Arabia.

ESPO is also higher quality than most Saudi crude, giving refiners that lack capacity to process heavier crude little incentive to buy more Arab grades.

Oil pumped through the ESPO pipeline has changed the game in Asia, previously almost completely captive to Middle East sellers. Russia sells 300,000 barrels per day to China, while another 600,000 barrels a day can be shipped to the Pacific and on to the Americas and even Europe.

OPEC member Saudi Arabia and independent producer Russia pump almost a quarter of the globe’s crude, each holding a similar share of about 10 million barrels a day. While the Saudis have restrained output since the financial crisis with OPEC agreements, Russia’s non-alignment has allowed it to pump freely.

Russia is pumping ESPO crude directly to China through a new pipeline section that opened this year, obviating the need for some imports from Saudi Arabia. In addition, rising exports of east Siberian oil through the Russian Pacific port of Kozmino have gained acceptance among refiners in three continents.

“Saudi Arabia and Russia will always be competing for market share in most regions,” said John Vautrain, director at Purvin & Gertz energy consultants in Singapore, adding that “from a geopolitical perspective, they both have interests to supply a diversified base of customers in Europe, Asia, and the US.”

“The waterborne nature of ESPO from Kozmino is allowing Russia to target northeast Asian markets that it could not reach economically before, and it’s also better quality than most of the Saudi crude,” Mr. Vautrain said.

Five ESPO cargoes due to load in Kozmino by early August have yet to be sold, as the arbitrage to the US West Coast remains closed.

Tightness for Brent-related grades in Europe because of Libya’s civil war and wide discounts for crude priced off the Dubai benchmark, including ESPO, have created unprecedented opportunities for east Siberian cargoes to move as far away as Spain, at least on paper.

That could mean more Russian crude produced halfway round the world and priced off Dubai is shipped to fill a gap that the Saudis could not plug in the Mediterranean.

“The ESPO quality is closer to the Libyan crude,” a trading source familiar with purchases of Saudi crude said. “It’s also attractive versus crude from West Africa, which is linked to more expensive Brent.”

The discount of Dubai crude to Brent widened to $9.20 a barrel on June 15, the biggest discount since October 2004, less than a week after the Saudis signaled they would increase supplies to Asia. That discount prompted Repsol-YPF, Spain’s largest oil company, to buy a cargo of ESPO Blend.

“There may be more opportunistic purchases of ESPO Blend by European refiners subject to freight conditions,” Mr. Tchilinguirian from BNP Paribas said.

“Brent is supported by a limited spare production capacity in light quality crude and Dubai will be kept under pressure as OPEC Gulf producers try to place additional medium to heavy barrels in the market.”

The competition for market share in Asia is the latest in a long tussle between the two giants of the oil-producing world. Moscow provoked the ire of some OPEC members after failing to deliver on pledges to trim output in line with record cuts by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in late 2008.

The race between the two to conquer the Asian oil market could benefit consumers from China to the US as it puts pressure on prices just as the global economic recovery falters under the burden of high energy costs.

“There has never really been much cooperation between Russia and OPEC,” said Greg Priddy, global oil analyst at Eurasia Group in Washington. “The Saudis have never expected Russia to cooperate or share their burden as a swing producer.”

For peace to prevail

For peace to prevail

Barack Obama’s claim that the war in Afghanistan has ‘turned the corner’ enough for the US to begin its withdrawal hardly reflects the reality. If anything, the situation in Afghanistan has seldom seemed more parlous. There were more civilian deaths in May (368) than in any other month since 2007. Neither have the Afghan security personnel acquired a level of proficiency needed to cope with the Taliban challenge; nor will they by 2014, when the Americans plan to complete their withdrawal. Besides, the Afghan army being overwhelmingly Tajik in composition is hardly national and hence lacks stature.

Secondly, the legitimacy of Afghan state institutions has not taken root. The current parliament, for example, is being reduced to a rubber stamp with Karzai’s machinations, one of which is to have 62 opposing MPs disqualified by a special tribunal appointed for this very purpose. Moreover, Karzai has neither shaken off his image of a quisling nor demonstrated panache for leadership. Under him massive corruption has transpired with his brothers and cousins taking the lead.

In other words, the American strategy in Afghanistan has little to do with Afghanistan ‘turning the corner’ and more with Obama’s internal compulsions. The chief of which is public disenchantment with the inconclusive Afghan War; changing opinion in Congress due to the debt crisis and growing cost considerations; reduced concern about Al-Qaeda after OBL’s killing and, of course, the presidential election campaign that will soon begin.

Hence, Obama’s claim that the worst is over in Afghanistan is beguiling to say the least. Not that it fooled anyone at home or abroad. The ‘isolationist’ lobby in Congress finds the cut-back too small and the withdrawal process too dilatory, while ‘interventionists’ are appalled that he is pulling out when so much remains to be done. Abroad it is being taken as an admission of defeat.

But what concerns Pakistan more than the withdrawal plan is the language in which it was couched. ‘We will not tolerate safe havens in Pakistan and we will hold you to your commitment to fight (our) enemies’, said Obama, in nearly those words. Hillary was more forthright, ‘Pakistan must fight or else forget the cash and weapons promised’. And Gates, as he leaves office, chimed in with ‘We don’t need Pakistan either to fight or to win in Afghanistan.’

The New York Times, that repository of American-Jewish wisdom, followed with a bunch of stories hinting at the ISI’s complicity in OBL’s extended sojourn in Abbottabad. An ‘intriguing lead’ from the cell phone belonging to OBL’s courier sufficed to give the story front page coverage. Reacting with exceptional alacrity, the ISPR succinctly claimed that ‘actions on the ground (by the ISI in apprehending numerous Al-Qaeda terrorists) spoke louder than the words of the NYT’.

Soon after announcing the troop withdrawal, Obama described the current US-Pakistan relationship as ‘more honest’ than before. What he perhaps meant was that the while the people of both countries had always been honest about their mutual suspicions, the truth had finally caught up with the situation. However, this is not the time for recriminations and especially not for Pakistan since it has too much at stake to indulge in suspicions and aspersions. What then are the prospects for peace?

On Afghan peace, the US continues to reiterate that the Afghan Taliban must be prepared to concede on three things: making a break with Al-Qaeda; abandoning violence; and accepting the existing Afghan constitution.

Making a break with Al-Qaeda should not be a big problem for the mainstream Taliban leadership. The latter lost its grip on power because of Al-Qaeda’s declared war on the US and its use of Afghan territory as its headquarters until both were ousted after 9/11. Abandoning violence will test their intentions with regard to reconciliation and giving up any ambition they may still harbour to regain the control they enjoyed before 9/11. But more challenging will be accepting the existing constitution. Of course, if they decide to convert to a political force and abandon their old ambitions, then accepting the constitution will be less difficult but they may still want changes that decentralise the country in favour of more power for the provinces.

The most challenging will be the permanent military presence the US seems determined to maintain in Afghanistan. Without some resolution of this issue, it is impossible to start serious negotiations or to bring any negotiations to a positive conclusion. A trade-off on this issue will have to occur at some stage for an eventual peace settlement.

For the moment, at any rate, serious negotiations seem premature. This is not just because some tough issues may have to be discussed confidentially first to see if either side is prepared to show reciprocal flexibility, but also because we have another year of war under Obama’s withdrawal plan.

The Pentagon is going to use this period to fight the Taliban while it still has the surge troops at its disposal and the Taliban will likely hold their ground and bounce back after the combat withdrawal starts in earnest next summer. So even if there are some tactical shifts on the ground, at the political level, a stalemate will most likely persist.

Yet, it would be myopic for the Obama administration to wait another year before it signals serious interest in a negotiated peace. Another year of intense fighting would mean little to the Taliban if only because they can sit it out until the going gets easier next year. It is the US that faces a serious problem with its aggressive military strategy. A year will not make much difference to the ground situation. Indeed, the US may have to concede some ground seized from the Taliban once the Afghan army takes over and is unable to consolidate those gains, as is widely accepted to happen.

So instead of prevaricating or delaying the inevitable, the US should abandon its war strategy altogether and replace it with a peace strategy. And that will not only require showing some flexibility towards the Afghan Taliban but also a major overhaul of its underlying policy – that is, a paradigm shift to a multilateral approach. Just as its unilateral military approach has failed, so will America’s political approach if that too remains essentially unilateral when stripped of its rhetoric.

Unless this shift occurs, the key regional players, notably Pakistan, will not find enough space to help Afghanistan make the difficult transition from war to peace. These persisting problems should not however deter Pakistan from rebuilding its frayed ties with Kabul. The two countries must recognise their legitimate interest in improved relations.

Pakistan’s supreme interest lies in helping to bring about reconciliation in Afghanistan. If bilateral ties move forward, it will be a lot less difficult to counteract American unilateralism. So even if a stalemate persists for the moment, there is a lot that a regional diplomacy initiative can do in the meantime to lay the ground work for an eventual peace process.

Unfortunately, that may not happen. Having lost his patience, Obama has designated Pakistan as the next battle ground for America’s War on Terror and seems eager to launch his complement of drones and Special Ops teams. To what end is clear, but to what avail, is not. Unshackling the United States from its failed policies in the Muslim world seems a task beyond Obama.

To sum up, if the veritable Afghan knot is to be untied, the irreducible minimum prerequisites for peace would be: the Afghan Taliban transform themselves into a political force; the US abandons a permanent military presence in Afghanistan; and Pakistan helps out in the Afghan reconciliation process. All these prerequisites presuppose that the principal protagonists (Afghanistan, the US and Pakistan) can be convinced to trade off irreconcilable ambitions for a pluralistic peace.

Email: charles123it@hotmail.com

Pouring the Strategic Petroleum Reserve Down the Economic Rat Hole

[SEE:  Manipulating Oil Prices To Hide Economic Collapse for a While]

IEA Oil Dump A Disaster In The Making

Brandon Smith

It’s amazing. In the wake of the 2008 derivatives and housing bubble collapse, created by the U.S. Treasury and the private Federal Reserve with engineered low interest rates and easy money designed to artificially pump up the economy after the effects of the dot-com bust, the faltering markets of 2000-2001, and the rapidly depreciating dollar, we have now seen these same entities pour Trillions, yes, TRILLIONS in fiat injections into every conceivable corner of the markets. They have spent incredible sums on toxic equities (worthless equities, and don’t let anyone tell you different) to “ease” the debt spiral, they have propped up almost every large international bank, they have propped up the Federal Government and the Dollar itself with sizable purchases of our own Treasury debt, and, they have even thrown money into the pockets of foreign institutions and corporate beggars. Keep in mind, that all the debt that these actions generate is eventually placed squarely in the lap of one group of people; the American Taxpayer!

They have manipulated unemployment figures. They have consistently released completely fraudulent CPI (inflation) figures based on calculations which neglect numerous factors that used to be counted only two decades ago. They have used coordinated naked short selling in precious metals markets to hold back the natural spikes in gold and silver values. They have blamed every negative development in the economy (that they could not hide) on extraneous circumstances and outside culprits rather than themselves. They have done all this, to conjure the illusion of recovery for an increasingly agitated general public.

So much tap dancing and snake oil selling, and all it took, was the pain of $4 a gallon gas to wipe everything away…

That’s right, when the cost of driving to work, driving to shop, or driving for vacation doubles, the naïve notion that everything is perfectly normal goes right out the window. Americans complain a lot, but they rarely accept a bad situation as inexorable and take measures to fix it themselves.There is always the “chance” that things will get better tomorrow, or so we tell ourselves. We just ride the wave, and expect the pack of sharks at our back will never quite catch up to our boogie-board of blind optimism. However, when something takes a Great White sized bite out our very wallets, we take notice, and search the horizon for a bigger boat.

I have commented in the past that after only a few months of high gas prices, the wind would easily be knocked right out of our puffed up bailout driven recovery, and so far, that is exactly what is happening. Retail sales are fumbling, vacation destinations are crippled, the housing market continues to dive, in part due to the relentlessly high price of energy. When people travel less, they spend less, they buy less, and they relocate less.

In response, the IEA (International Energy Agency), an organization of 28 countries, has made a very sudden and startling announcement; each member nation will begin dumping their strategic crude oil reserves onto the global marketplace to flood the supply side of the equation, and, in theory, drive down overall oil prices. The IEA will release over 60 million barrels over at least 30 days into the markets, half of which will come directly out of the strategic reserves of the U.S. This is only the third time in the 37 year history of the IEA that this kind of action has been taken. Surely, governments around the world have finally realized that inflation in energy is going to completely derail what’s left of our financial structure, and they are working to prevent this, right…?

Some economists and many in the public will cheer this decision as a fast and decisive solution to the growing oil crises. These people would be foolish. But, perhaps we should look at the debate points from their side of the field, or even the U.S. government and the IEA’s side of the field. Below, we will look at the arguments made in support of the IEA oil dump so far, and why they are utter nonsense…

Lie #1: Oil Prices Are High Because The War In Libya Has Diminished Supply

Better throw on some boots and grab a shovel! Digging through this crap might take all day…

I’ll tell you a little secret, something mainstream economic analysts would rather you didn’t hear: there is NO lack of supply in crude markets. Sorry, the facts are clear. I realize that there are also proponents of ‘peak oil’ out there that fervently want to believe that there is a current and substantial supply side crisis in crude. Whether they are correct or not about the eventuality of peak oil remains to be seen, however, we are certainly not seeing any semblance of an oil shortage today, despite events in Libya.

Libya’s crude production before the war accounted for only 2% of the world’s entire oil output.Oil prices were climbing back towards the high levels seen in 2008 long before the “Arab Spring” broke out in the region. In February, the IEA itself reported that the world oil supply rose to an all time high of 89 million barrels per day. After the Libyan conflict erupted, this production fell by a marginal 700,000 barrels per day:

http://nextbigfuture.com/2011/04/iea-reports-that-world-oil-supply-rose.html

The establishment’s assertion that Libya is somehow the direct cause of energy inflation is a distraction. Libya has little or nothing to do with anything.

Lie #2: The IEA Oil Dump Will Create A Supply Glut And Drive Down Prices

The position that a “lack of supply” is the culprit behind rising gas prices is an outright falsehood. In fact, markets are already awash in oil, and our government is fully aware of this.The U.S. Energy Department has shown a global trend of falling demand for gasoline, and, the IEA has even admitted that this trend is likely to continue through 2011:

http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Energy-Resources/2011/05/17/IEA-sees-US-gasoline-demand-falling/UPI-99911305637281/

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-06-23/-head-scratcher-petroleum-release-to-inflate-u-s-crude-glut.html

Anyone who follows the Baltic Dry Index also knows that freight shipping has collapsed back down to levels near those that appeared right before the 2008 debt bubble burst. This means around the world there is less demand for nearly ALL goods, and many commodities necessary for manufacturing, not just oil. Lower demand means greater available supply.Therefore, supply is in no way the issue when it comes to high oil prices. Again, the supply argument is a distraction away from the truth. Yet, this has been Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner’s primary rationale for supporting the IEA dump:

“We saw a very substantial sustained supply disruption. These reserves exist in part to offset those kind of disruptions,” Geithner told CNBC television.

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/24/us-usa-economy-geithner-oil-idUSTRE75N5ZK20110624

So, to reiterate, there is ALREADY a glut in oil markets, and there has been since at least 2008.If there was actually a supply side crisis, trust me, you would know it. If you want to study a true crude supply crisis, then you only need glance back at the energy crisis of 1979 when Jimmy Carter ordered a cessation of Iranian oil imports and the Iran/Iraq war began. When you have to wait in long lines at the gas station just for a few gallons of unleaded, then you might be in the middle of a supply crisis.

After we accept the fact that supply is high and demand is low, we are then faced with an important question; why in the world would the IEA report high supply and low demand, and then expect to have any significant effect on oil markets by dumping our strategic reserves?!

Lie #3: The IEA Oil Dump Was Designed To Hit “Speculators”, Who Are The “Real” Cause Of Energy Inflation

Back in 2009 after the first major gasoline spike subsided, I spoke often about the mainstream financial media’s strange obsession with “speculators”, and the consistent use of talking points obviously designed to condition the American public into associating all oil price jumps with scheming investors in the shadows out to corner the market. My theory back then was that once oil began to skyrocket again due to the crumbling value of the dollar, establishment pundits and government officials would come back once again to point a finger at the speculator boogie man, and draw attention away from our inflating currency. Sure enough…

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2011/04/22/obama-form-task-force-tackle-rising-gas-prices/

As we have seen, supply is not an issue, and so speculation should not be either. However, if speculators have actually been hoarding stocks and supplies in order to artificially drive up the price of crude, then the IEA announcement should have sent them scrambling to phone their brokers to sell-sell-sell! The shock to oil markets should have been extraordinary. But what happened? Not much to write home about…

The Brent crude index saw a relatively moderate price drop from around $113-$115 a barrel down to $105 a barrel, and currently, the price is showing potential to climb back up!

Initiating the release of the strategic oil reserves of nations across the globe caused an overall price drop of a few bucks? I guess speculators weren’t having much of an effect on the market after all.

So, if speculators aren’t the cause, and neither is limited supply or high demand, then what IS the phantom driver of inflation in energy? There is only one other possible answer; devaluing currencies. The IEA can pour all the oil they want into the markets and it won’t change a damn thing, because higher supply does nothing to strengthen the foundation of the dollar, which is being swiftly eroded by the Federal Reserve. Have they accomplished a minor halt to rising prices and visible inflation? Yes. Will prices bounce back even higher in the near future as the Fed continue to inject fiat into the economy? Absolutely.

The Consequences Of Reserve Depletion

The IEA announcement comes directly after the last OPEC meeting ended in a bitter split between member countries over whether to raise crude production levels. The decision by every country except Saudi Arabia to keep production steady was the right one, of course.However, elements of the U.S. and the EU were downright unhappy with OPEC’s unwillingness to help hide the weakness of their respective currencies. An OPEC decision to increase production would have at least influenced market psychology, and allowed prices to soften for a short time. So, without OPEC support, the central banker controlled apparatus turned to the IEA to open the floodgates of petroleum. OPEC nations, as one might imagine, are not happy…

http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/23/us-opec-iea-idUSTRE75M6J520110623

There are several threats associated with this development, and there is a distinct possibility that these have been deliberately provoked, if one considers that a weakened America ripe for centralization is the true goal.

First, OPEC countries could easily retaliate against the IEA by dropping their own production levels. Not only will the IEA action be meaningless (as we have shown above), it could also directly trigger a REAL supply crisis if OPEC decides to dam up the river. The U.S. is very unpopular in the Middle East, Africa, and Venezuela already. Now, the IEA has just given these regions a perfect excuse to dish out some economic vengeance.

Second, traditionally, if there is a real supply side crisis caused by OPEC, our most important stop-gap would be to tap into our strategic reserves. Unfortunately, we have just put those reserves on the market without batting an eye. So, in essence, we paid a very high price for a bullet that we will one day shoot ourselves in the foot with. That is to say, we have dumped our strategic reserves and set in motion a possible disaster which those reserves were supposed to save us from! Its mind boggling!

Third, there is very little stopping OPEC at this point from decoupling from the U.S. dollar completely, especially if crude prices continue to rise despite the IEA dump. The fact of currency inflation and dollar implosion will be so exposed that no one, not even “Tiny Tim” Geithner, will be able to deny it. Once the illusions of “limited supply” and “speculation” are cast aside, the global focus will end up squarely on the dollar, and the IEA dump will have sped up the process dramatically.

I don’t know if anyone else has noticed, but this country has been thoroughly gutted over the past few decades. Our industrial base has been dismantled and shipped overseas to the benefit of foreign nations and corporate feudalists. Our grain reserves, once ample, have been depleted to an all time low. Our currency has been systematically debased. And now, our oil reserves, without rational cause, are being sold off only to feed the catastrophe our government is supposedly out to stop. Are the American people being prepped like a glazed ham for the fires of the globalist oven? Is this really all due to coincidence and stupidity as skeptics claim, or is there something else at work here? I find it hard to believe that the IEA and our government are not aware that their proposed strategies conflict with their own source data, or that they are completely oblivious to the destruction they are about to reap upon our economy. The latest IEA decision is just one more piece of evidence of an agenda of deliberate financial destabilization trending towards a disaster that serves the interests of a select few, to the detriment of all the rest.

 

You can contact Brandon Smith atbrandon@alt-market.com


Israel is tearing apart the Jewish people

[In keeping with my policy of promoting peace through understanding, I offer the following article on the Jewish mind, with my accompanying clarifications, as a necessary step toward global understanding of the Palestinian issue.  The radical thinking of the Israeli government is causing an estrangement with the remainder of world Jewry, wherever they are to be found (mostly in the US, even though the numbers returning to Russia are increasing by the minute).  This separation in thinking between Israeli Jews and American Jews represents disillusionment with the Zionist ideals.  This is the only real “existential threat” to Israel’s existence. 

This estrangement is a difference of opinions, between the basic liberal beliefs of the majority of non-Israeli Jews and the fascist militarist ideas being promoted in the name of Jewish “exceptionalism,” which teaches that Jews are higher lifeforms (the only true humans) to the non-Jewish “goyim” (who are cattle). 

The Jewish writer of the following article builds on this idea of a growing separation, which will lead to either a violent dissolution of the “Jewish state,” or the downsizing of Israel with the permanent foundation of the Palestinian state.  If the end result of this downsizing is the formation of an Israeli government dedicated to “Universalist values,” then that should prove acceptable to all fair-minded observers:

Universalism in its primary meaning refers to religious, theological, and philosophical concepts with universal (“applying to all”) application or applicability….Judaism holds that God had entered into a covenant with all mankind as Noachides, and that Jews and non-Jews alike have a relationship with God.“[8]   

Noachides, abide by the following Seven Laws of Noah:

  1. Prohibition of Idolatry: You shall not have any idols before God.
  2. Prohibition of Murder: You shall not murder. (Genesis 9:6)
  3. Prohibition of Theft: You shall not steal.
  4. Prohibition of Sexual immorality: You shall not commit any of a series of sexual prohibitions, which include adulteryincest, anal intercourse between men and bestiality.
  5. Prohibition of Blasphemy: You shall not blaspheme God’s name.
  6. Dietary Law: Do not eat flesh taken from an animal while it is still alive. (Genesis 9:4, as interpreted in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 59a))
  7. Requirement to have just Laws: Set up a governing body of law (e.g. Courts)

As a religious person, I can find nothing on the surface in those Seven Laws that I can object to (not considering what might be hidden); I don’t know about the rest of you.  If the state of Israel was dedicated to the universal protection of the rights of every human being and it coexisted alongside the state of Palestine, then True Peace in the Middle East could be possible.  Such a reformed state could provide a shining example to the world, if it chose to do so.  The Christian in me says, Why wouldn’t we give them a second chance, along with the Palestinian people?  In such a theoretical, nearly ideal set-up, there would be no room for racist beliefs that condemn entire peoples for the evil works of a sinister minority.

Let us hope and pray that Zionist radicalism divides the Jewish people, so that reason and sanity can prevail.]

Israel is tearing apart the Jewish people

Israel has never had a government that so blatantly violates the core values of liberal democracy, which dismisses identities of 85% of the world’s Jewry.

By Carlo Strenger

In June last year, Peter Beinart published an article in the New York Review of Books that created quite a storm by pointing out the deep estrangement between the young generation of American Jews and Israel. A year later, it is time to take stock.

Unfortunately, the situation has only grown a lot worse. In my travels to Europe I speak to predominantly Jewish audiences, but also to non-Jews who care deeply about Israel. They voice their pain and anguish openly: They want to understand what has happened to Israel. They desperately want to stand by it, but they are, increasingly, at a loss of knowing how to do so.

Evacuating settlers in 2005. Evacuating settlers in 2005.
Photo by: Nir Kafri

Their questions are simple. They know that Israel is located in one of the world’s most difficult neighborhoods; they have no illusions about the Iranian regime or Hezbollah; and they know the Hamas charter. But they don’t understand how any of this is connected with Israel’s settlement policies, the dispossession of Palestinian property in Jerusalem, and the utterly racist talk about the ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem. They feel that they no longer have arguments, even words, to defend Israel.

Israel has never had a government that so blatantly violates the core values of liberal democracy. Never has a Knesset passed laws that are as manifestly racist as the current one. Israel has had foreign ministers who were unworldly and didn’t know English; but it has never had a foreign minister whose only goal is to pander to his right-wing constituency by flaunting his disdain for international law and the idea of human rights with such relish.

Moreover, there has never been a government so totally oblivious of its relation to world Jewry. It passes laws that increase the Orthodox establishment’s stranglehold on religious affairs and personal life – completely disregarding that 85 percent of world Jewry are not Orthodox – and simply dismissing their Jewish identities and their institutions. As a result, this majority of world Jewry feels Israel couldn’t care less about its values and identity.

Israel’s Orthodox establishment claims that by monopolizing conversion to Judaism and the laws of marriage, they are preventing a rift in the Jewish people. The exact opposite is true: It is Israel’s turn toward racism that extends not only toward its Arab citizens, but toward Ethiopian youth not accepted into schools in Petah Tikva, toward Sephardic girls not allowed to study in Haredi schools in Immanuel, that most Jews in the world cannot stand for. It is the unholy coalition between nationalism and Orthodoxy that is tearing the Jewish people apart.

The overwhelming majority of American and European Jews are deeply committed to Universalist values, and have been so for most of their existence. This commitment is not a fad or an attempt to be fashionable and politically correct. It is the deeply felt conclusion the majority of world Jewry draws from Jewish history: After all that has happened to us, we Jews must never, ever allow violation of universal human rights.

This is why Jews in the U.S. have been central in the Civil Rights movement; this is why Jews in Europe will never forget that only Universalist liberals stood by Alfred Dreyfus in 1890s France. For most Jews of the world, it is simply unfathomable: How can we, who have suffered from racial and religious discrimination, use language and hold views that – as Israel Prize laureate and historian of fascism Zeev Sternhell argued – were last held in the Western world by the Franco regime?

For most of world Jewry, the idea of Yiddishkeit in the second half of the 20th century meant that Jews must never compromise on the equality of human beings before the law and the inviolability of their rights. So how can they stand by a state that continues to pay rabbis who argue that Jewish life has a sanctity that doesn’t extend to gentiles, and that it is forbidden to rent property to Arabs?

In moments of despair, I try to remember that Israel’s move to the right is driven by fear and confusion, ruthlessly fanned by politicians whose hold on power depends on the panic of Israel’s citizens. I feel it can’t be true that the country that was supposed not only to be the homeland of the Jews, but a moral beacon, is descending into such darkness. I try to remember that such times of darkness do not reflect on the human quality of a whole nation; that countries like Spain, Greece and Portugal emerged from dark times into the free world; that even though the winds of right-wing nationalism are sweeping over Israel, it is still a democracy.

Sometimes, along with the majority of Jews committed to liberal and Universalist values, I feel as if I were simply in a bad dream; that when I wake up, Herzl’s vision of a Jewish state committed to the core values of liberalism will be the reality.

Two Drones Downed In Eastern Afghanistan In One Day

US drone goes down in Afghanistan

The Taliban claim they have shot down two unmanned drones belonging to the US-led forces in Afghanistan in the past 24 hours.
An unmanned aircraft belonging to US-led forces has reportedly crashed in Afghanistan’s troubled eastern province of Kunar.

The US has not commented on the cause of the crash, which marks the second US unmanned plane going down in Afghanistan in the past 24 hours.

On Monday, another US drone crashed in Kapisa province. The Taliban claim they have shot down both planes.

The militants have proven resilient despite the presence of 150,000 US-led forces in Afghanistan. They have steadily stepped up their attacks on the US-led forces, inflicting heavy casualties and damage.

The developments also come as Taliban militants have been making inroads in different parts of Afghanistan.

The Taliban claim they have shot down several aircraft and NATO choppers in different parts of Afghanistan over the past few months.

Isolationism Is for Pussies

[The Republican division reflects the moral split that is rending the Nation, after ten years of a seemingly futile pair of wars.  It is not only the Republican Party which is torn between those who claim that America does not have the moral authority to push the world around and those who claim that Americans do not have “the balls” needed to fulfill some divine mission to bring American order to the world.  McCain is taunting his fellow party members over “isolationist” tendencies in the face of a global challenge from immoral terrorists, falling-back to his military basic training, which ingrains male machismo as the highest driving force.  Military brass have always tended to blame their mission failures on either cowardice, lack of true dedication to the task, or opposition from “treasonous” antiwar elements.  This macho militarism has been the driving force behind fifty years or more of American intervention in country after country, where we had no business being.  It is the macho interventionism that has flowed from the manly image of our manly actor/president Ronald Reagan, as he was leading a new crusade to liberate the enslaved peoples of the world, to George Bush taking up Reagan’s torch and carrying it wherever oil or gas might flow.  This macho, gung-ho war spirit was reflected by the most enthusiastic Iraqi veterans, who believed that “victory” was obtainable with the application of sufficient force and determination.  In the early years of the Iraq war is was fashionable to claim that:  “Everyone wants to go to Baghdad, but real men want to go to Teheran.”   This militarist mindset is still the impetus that is driving our leadership of both parties farther to the right.

After ten years of chasing ghosts and leaving a bloody trail of corpses from Asia to Africa, Americans have begun to question the wisdom of military leaders like McCain, who see war as the answer to all of our problems.  Americans have begun to question the apparent lack of morality of leaders who see our Nation’s responsibility only in terms of the preservation of the American security state, regardless of the number of lives taken in the process, or the greater moral question of their innocence or guilt.  If the preservation of “the American way of life” (as it is defined by elitist minds) is more important than the millions of mostly innocent lives wasted in our attempt to stave-off necessary changes to that lifestyle, then our military efforts have all been in violation of the most elemental Laws of God and the Rights of Man.

Whenever the preservation of a lifestyle is elevated over the preservation of life itself, then someone is in very grave error.  The grave error demonstrates a basic lack of morality in the minds of American military and political leaders.  We are arguing over whether or not it is cowardice to end our immoral military interventions.  The only further intervention that should be seriously contemplated is one to commence after the military mission ends, to rebuild, or to replace that which we have destroyed in our attempt to run over the world, in order to have our way, without consideration for the desires or human needs of our victims.]

Interventionists split GOP over foreign policy

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., has not been able to keep his vow of staying out of the 2012 presidential primaries, but that is only a subplot to a larger foreign policy debate that has broken out inside his Republican Party.

Actually, broken out may be the wrong phrase. Resurfaced may be more accurate.

With no GOP president in the White House and, consequently, no Republican foreign policy to defend, historic fissures have reappeared among interventionists like McCain, who see democracy as a prime export and projection of American power an essential guarantor of peace and freedom at home; fiscal conservatives, who perennially question spending on foreign affairs, particularly during a budget crisis; and isolationists, who think that America has no business in others’ affairs if it is not a direct threat to the nation’s security.

“I am not sure that these kinds of differences might not have been there in a more latent form when you had a Republican president,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said. “I do think there is more of a tendency to pull together when the guy in the White House is on your side.”

The splits can be consequential. In 1992, Pat Buchanan challenged President George H. W. Bush in the Republican primaries just a year after Bush’s job-approval rating soared to astronomical levels in the wake of the first Iraq War. The economy had soured, and Buchanan accused Bush of being “a globalist” with no concern for domestic problems. Later that year, Bush lost his re-election bid to Bill Clinton.

The divisions have come into starkest focus in the war in Libya, where the United States has been engaged in a support role that President Barack Obama, in a highly controversial finding, does not define as “hostilities.” Some Republicans, like McCain, have pushed for a more direct military involvement to topple Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi. Others, like GOP presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, question why the United States got involved in another nation’s civil war in the first place.

The GOP foreign policy splits have also come to bear over the war in Afghanistan, where Obama has announced a phased pullout of 33,000 troops by September 2012. A robust debate has ensued, as generals, politicians and average Americans debate whether the war has been won, or whether it can be.

Obama himself stayed away from defining victory in America’s longest war; instead, he said in his speech announcing the troop reductions that wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were coming to a “responsible end.”

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney said in a New Hampshire debate that “it’s time to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can,” and then added a more provocative line to GOP hawks: “One lesson we’ve learned in Afghanistan is that Americans cannot fight another nation’s war of independence.”

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, another GOP contender, went further, arguing that Obama was not pulling troops out fast enough.

Romney and Huntsman are “playing to this sense of frustration that is prevalent, that we ought not to be spending so much money overseas that we don’t have at home, and to a deeper sense inside the Republican Party that we don’t do nation-building, that we have kind of lost our way on that score,” said Daniel Markey, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

“We do see a great increase of isolationism for Republicans, a sort of come-home sentiment,” said Pew Director Andrew Kohut.

An ironic observation for those who remember 1972 Democratic nominee George McGovern’s “come-home America” anti-Vietnam War campaign theme.

Chuck Raasch writes from Washington for Gannett.

Thieving Elite as Bad as Militants

Nigeria: Buhari – Thieving Elite as Bad as Militants

Ibrahim Chonoko

London — Former head of state and CPC presidential candidate in the last elections Gen. Muhammadu Buhari has said that Nigerian elite who steal public money are as bad as militants who have been destabilizing the country. In an interview with Daily Trust in London, Gen. Buhari grouped light-fingered elite in the same class with Boko Haram dissidents and Niger-Delta militants, saying that they are all destabilizing forces in the country.

“I am concerned about insecurity and destabilizing forces in our country. Anybody who steals public money in all the tiers of government – federal, state and local governments – is destabilizing the country and is as bad as the militants.”

Gen. Buhari blamed the authorities for providing a breeding ground for militants and dissidents by not dealing with issues within the ambit of the law, but expects the populace to be law-abiding.

“The government must do things within the framework of the law and be fair. If it does not, then people will try and look after themselves and this is what is happening now”.

Gen. Buhari said the government should dialogue with the Boko Haram dissidents as it did with the Niger-Delta militants, and rhetorically asked: “who committed more atrocities against the Nigerian state between Boko Haram and the militants?”

He, however, said government had adopted the right approach by asking the police to get to the bottom of the Boko Haram issue, stressing that it was the duty a of the police to tackle such issues within the ambit of the law.

Gen. Buhari and his running mate, Pastor Tunde Bakare spoke at Chatham House, London on the April general elections in Nigeria which the international community has upheld as generally free and fair.

Earlier in the lecture delivered on Monday, Buhari said he will continue to boycott Council of State meeting pending the determination of the petition filed by his party challenging the election of President Goodluck Jonathan. The Council of State meeting is presided over by a sitting president, and attended by all former Heads of State.

Buhari refused to attend the meeting when he challenged the results of the 2003 Presidential Election won by then President Olusegun Obasanjo.

He also expressed hope that the CPC will not have any cause to pursue its petition up to the Supreme Court as he did in the past.

If it gets to this contamination, it’s over — not just for Los Alamos

Los Alamos residents Ross Van Lyssel, left, and Steve Bowers watch flames from the Las Conchas fire in Los Alamos, N.M., June 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

(CBS/AP)LOS ALAMOS, N.M. – Residents downwind of a wildfire that is threatening the nation’s premier nuclear-weapons laboratory are worried about the potential of a radioactive smoke plume if the flames reach thousands of barrels of waste stored in above-ground tents.

“If it gets to this contamination, it’s over — not just for Los Alamos, but for Santa Fe and all of us in between,” said Mai Ting, a resident who lives in the valley below the desert mesas that are home to the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Chris Valvarde, a resident of the Santa Clara Pueblo about 10 miles north of Los Alamos, questioned officials at a briefing Tuesday evening, asking whether they had evacuation plans for his community. Los Alamos, a town of 11,000, already sits empty after its residents were evacuated ahead of the blaze, which started Sunday.

“I know it’s the worse scenario to think of,” Valverde said. “But when the radiation leaks, are we prepared to get 2,000 people out?”

Lab Director Charles McMillan said the barrels contain transuranic waste — gloves, toolboxes, tools — and other items that may have been contaminated through contact with radioactive materials. Top lab officials declined to say how many barrels were on site or how they are stored. An anti-nuclear group has estimated there could be up to 30,000 gallon-drums.

Los Alamos County Fire Chief Doug Tucker, whose department is responsible for protecting the lab, said the barrels are stacked about three high inside of tents on lab property.

The wildfire, which has swelled to nearly 95 square miles, has already sparked a spot fire at the lab. The fire Monday was quickly contained, and lab officials said no contamination was released.

Top lab officials and fire managers said they’re confident the flames won’t reach key buildings or areas where radioactive waste is stored above-ground. Areas around those buildings have been cleared of vegetation and are surrounded by gravel or asphalt, they said. As a last resort, foam could be sprayed on the barrels to ensure they aren’t damaged by fire, they added.

The site’s manager for the National Nuclear Security Administration said he evaluated the precautions and felt comfortable. The agency oversees the lab for the Department of Energy.

“I have 170 people who validate their measures,” Kevin Smith said. “They’re in steel drums, on a concrete floor.”

Flames were just across the road from the southern edge of the famed lab, where scientists developed the first atomic bomb during World War II. The facility cut natural gas to some areas as a precaution. The lab will be closed through at least Thursday.

The streets of Los Alamos were empty Tuesday, with the exception of emergency vehicles and National Guard Humvees. Homeowners who had left were prepared: propane bottles were placed at the front of driveways and cars were left in the middle of parking lots, away from anything flammable.

The wildfire has destroyed 30 structures south and west of Los Alamos, for many stirring memories of a blaze in May 2000 that destroyed hundreds of homes and buildings in town.

Authorities believe it was ignited by a downed power line, reports CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers. Containment remains listed at zero percent.

Favorable winds have helped firefighters, who were busy trying to keep the fire from moving off Pajarito Mountain to the west of Los Alamos and into two narrow canyons that descend into the town and the lab.

“Everything is just so dry and ready to burn,” Tucker said. “We need some rain. Snow would be nice.” He added that even containment lines had dangerous smoldering stumps and burning roots that could easily ignite fires.

An orange glow on the mountain could be seen from Los Alamos’ deserted streets. Some residents who decided to wait out the fire weren’t concerned, including Mark Smith, a chemical engineer who works at the lab.

“The risk of exposure is so small. I wouldn’t sit here and inhale plutonium. I may be crazy, but I’m not dumb,” he said.

The lab, which employs about 15,000 people, covers more than 36 square miles and includes about 2,000 buildings at nearly four dozen sites. They include research facilities, as well as waste disposal sites.

Some facilities, including the administration building, are in Los Alamos, while others are miles from the town. Most of the buildings from the Manhattan Project that developed the first atomic bomb in the 1940s were built on what is now the town and are long gone. The spot fire Monday scorched a section known as Tech Area 49, which was used in the early 1960s for a series of underground tests with high explosives and radioactive materials.

Lab spokesman Kevin Roark said environmental specialists were monitoring air quality, but the main concern was smoke. Lab personnel and the state environment department were monitoring the air for radioactivity and particulates. The state was also working to get additional ground-based monitors and an airborne monitor.

The anti-nuclear watchdog group Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety said the fire appeared to be about 3.5 miles from a dumpsite where as many as 30,000 55-gallon drums of plutonium-contaminated waste were stored in fabric tents above ground.

Lab spokeswoman Lisa Rosendorf said a section known as Area G holds drums of cleanup from Cold War-era waste that the lab sends away for storage in weekly shipments.

Afghanistan exit via Pakistan

Afghanistan exit via Pakistan

A FEW days before Barack Obama`s much-anticipated announcement about reversing the troop surge in Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai issued one of his sporadic declarations of relative independence from the forces that have sustained him in office for nine years.

“They are here for their own purposes, for their own goals, and they are using our soil for that,” he said in reference to the American and Nato military presence. Karzai also spoke of “chemical materials” in the western weaponry — presumably a reference to the use of uranium or other radioactive materials — which he said meant that “our people get killed, but also our environment is damaged.”

The first American response was a rebuke from retired general Karl Eikenberry, the outgoing US ambassador in Kabul (who, incidentally, advised Obama against a surge two years ago). “America has never sought to occupy any nation in the world,” he declared. “We are a good people.”

Quite a few nations that have borne the brunt of American imperialism would beg to differ. Yet his statement that “when we hear ourselves being called occupiers and worse … our pride is offended and we begin to lose our inspiration to carry on” is open to interpretation as a partial explanation for the withdrawals whereby American troop strength in Afghanistan will be reduced by 33,000 before the end of next year.

But that will still leave twice as many boots on the ground as there were at the start of Obama`s tenure. The US president`s explanation for his drawdown — in the face of opposition from the military hierarchy and administration hawks — did not pursue the Eikenberry line of thought. Nor did he make the mistake of declaring `mission accomplished`, despite the suggestion that the withdrawal was justified because its goals had been achieved.

There is plenty of evidence, however, that domestic political considerations are the primary driving force behind the slashing of resources expended on military adventures overseas. Nearly 10 years after the September 11 terrorist attacks, opinion polls suggest that a majority of Americans oppose the military presence in Afghanistan. And the urge to conclude American participation in this open-ended conflict is by no means restricted to Democrats: a substantial proportion of prospective Republican candidates for next year`s presidential contest appear to be keen on a more rapid withdrawal of forces.

None of them are willing to admit, of course, that the American response to 9/11 was essentially misdirected. At the time, a commando operation against Al Qaeda would have made considerably more sense than an all-out invasion of Afghanistan. The Taliban regime — officially recognised only by its sponsors in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the UAE — was indeed appalling in any number of ways, but it did not pose a threat to the US.

The sanctuary it afforded to Osama bin Laden and his cohorts was incidental. The 9/11 attacks were not contingent on a base in Afghanistan. The conspirators held consultations in Hamburg and trained in the US. The location of their mentors was only marginally relevant. It did not suffice as justification for all-out war. Yet hardly anyone in the US opposed that war when it was launched. The thirst for retribution is not hard to fathom; the nation described in the second half of the 20th century by one of its outstanding personalities, Martin Luther King Jr, as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world” wasn`t accustomed to being attacked on its own soil. But the effort to quench that thirst was misdirected from the outset. It exhibited a bloodlust that more than matched that of its foes — who had, let`s not forget, been its allies until a few years before.

It is now being argued that the incipient pullout from Afghanistan is somehow related to the successful targeting of bin Laden and the degradation of Al Qaeda. Bin Laden was tracked down to a not-very-safe house in Pakistan, far away from the drone zone where American forces have long operated with impunity from unassailable heights. Al Qaeda`s remaining adherents in the region — believed to number in the dozens — as well as the Taliban leadership are believed to mostly be in Pakistan.

That makes it hard to explain why combat operations are being conducted in Afghanistan — amid, mind you, contacts that could lead to negotiations with the Taliban.

American security relations with Pakistan, meanwhile, have hit a new low in the wake of the bin Laden raid. It does not require particularly deep insight to fathom why the CIA decided against sharing its plans for that raid with Pakistani authorities. Although no substantial evidence has emerged of high-level Pakistani involvement in providing a sanctuary to bin Laden, the manner in which Harkat-ul-Mujahideen — a banned militant group with suspected links to military intelligence — and Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) reacted almost simultaneously with vehement denials of American insinuations of contacts between Harkat and Al Qaeda is certainly intriguing.

ISPR has also been keen to reject American press reports about a brewing revolt within the Pakistani armed forces against the military hierarchy on account of its relations with the US. Doth it protest too much?

Perhaps. It has long been obvious, though, that the struggle against violent religious extremists in Pakistan is something of a lost cause unless it can be portrayed as a Pakistani war. The drone attacks regularly launched from the Shamsi air base in Balochistan have not been particularly helpful in this regard, especially when they entail civilian casualties. The idea that the Americans will maintain forces numbering 25,000 or so even after a `complete` withdrawal from Afghanistan a few years hence, in order to retain the capacity for military interventions in Pakistan, is not particularly reassuring.

The notion that Pakistan is host to terrorists with an international reach is hardly a fantasy. But the notion that US military adventures and expeditions abroad — be they in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen or Pakistan — are somehow going to diminish the likelihood of attacks on American soil remains a dangerous illusion.

mahir.dawn@gmail.com

THE MOMENT OF TRUTH IS AT THE DOOR–August Social Security Checks May Be Delayed Over Debt-Limit Fight

[If these idiots in Washington can’t get their acts together soon, the common folks will experience firsthand, the pain of economic collapse.  On the first Wednesday in August, the danger will be real and the American masses will begin their own anti-austerity reactions, probably making the European protests, perhaps even the “Arab spring, seem tame in comparison]. 

  • Analysis shows the government would be unable to make payments due Aug. 3 to Social Security recipients.By Bradley C Bower, AP

    Analysis shows the government would be unable to make payments due Aug. 3 to Social Security recipients.

Debt-limit delay would jeopardize Social Security payments

By Richard Wolf, USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — Social Security payments to millions of retirees and people with disabilities could be threatened if President Obama and Congress can’t agree to increase the government’s debt limit by Aug. 2, a new analysis shows.

Although the Treasury Department likely could avoid delaying Social Security checks, the analysis by theBipartisan Policy Center points up the depth of the cuts that would be needed if the $14.3 trillion debt ceiling isn’t raised.

It shows that in August, the government could not afford to meet 44% of its obligations. Since the $134 billion deficit for that month couldn’t be covered with more borrowing, programs would have to be cut.

If Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, unemployment benefits, payments to defense contractors and interest payments on Treasury bonds were exempt, that would be all the government could afford for the month. No money for troops or veterans. No tax refunds. No food stamps or welfare. No federal salaries or benefits.

Want to protect the social safety net? That would be possible — but only if Treasury stopped paying defense contractors, jeopardizing national security. Plus virtually every federal agency and employee.

“We should be honest with ourselves what this would be like, and the answer is it would be chaotic,” said Jay Powell, a former top Treasury official in President George H.W. Bush‘s administration. “There is no way to avoid really serious pain.”

The Bipartisan Policy Center studied Treasury Department receipts and spending for August 2009 and 2010 and found that the government likely would not have enough revenue to make the full $23 billion payment to Social Security recipients due Aug. 3. That’s the first Wednesday of the month, when a majority of Social Security and Supplemental Security Incomechecks go out.

Things wouldn’t improve much as the days pass. The first major interest payment to creditors would be due Aug. 15 — $29 billion, more than the $22 billion due to arrive in revenue.

On that day, Treasury would have to roll over nearly $500 billion in maturing debt — necessitating an auction which, by that time, might have fewer takers than usual. If demand declines, interest rates would rise.

As the center foresees it, the picture would get worse: layoffs and lawsuits. Global market reaction and media glare. A possible downgrade in the U.S. credit rating, perhaps followed by the loss of market access.

The effect on the country, said former Republican senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico, would be “irretrievable.”

Afghan Bank Chief Flees from Scandal at Bank Owned by Poker Player and Brothers of Afgan Pres. and V.P.

Afghan central bank chief flees to US

image  Afghan men yesterday walk past Da Afghanistan Bank in Kabul

Afghanistan’s central bank governor has resigned and fled to the United States, saying his life is in danger over a corruption probe targeting influential figures connected to the government.
President Hamid Karzai’s government yesterday dismissed the claims made by Abdul Qadir Fitrat, chairman of Da Afghanistan Bank, insisting his life was not under threat and calling him a “runaway governor”.
“I announce my resignation from the position of governor of the central bank of Afghanistan immediately,” Fitrat said in a statement issued as he visited the United States, where he reportedly has permanent residency.
“Unfortunately, central bank’s independence on regulatory and supervisory matters has recently been undermined by the repeated interference of high-level political authorities,” he said.
The governor has claimed his role in an investigation into the near-collapse last year of Kabul Bank, the war-torn country’s largest private lender, had put him in peril.
“My life was completely in danger and this was particularly true after I spoke to the parliament and exposed some people who are responsible for the crisis of Kabul Bank,” he was quoted as saying by the BBC.
In April, Fitrat named in parliament high-profile figures who were allegedly involved in corruption scandal amounting to nearly USD 1 billion at Kabul Bank, which handles the pay of thousands of Afghan civil servants.
The bank was founded in 2004 by Sherkhan Farnood, a leading international poker player. Its co-owners included Mahmood Karzai, a brother of President Hamid Karzai, and a brother of Vice President Mohammad Qasim Fahim.
The scandal has highlighted chaos and corruption in Afghanistan’s financial system at a time when US-led combat troops are due to start leaving the country, a decade after ousting the fundamentalist Taliban regime.
President Karzai’s spokesman Waheed Omer angrily dismissed Fitrat’s claims.
“We don’t think that’s very valid. He never actually told anyone in the government that his life was in danger,” Omer told AFP.
“This is basically an escape, not a resignation… the formal procedures have not been adhered to. He’s not a governor but a runaway governor.”
Omer indicated that Fitrat may have been trying to escape from “legal implications” surrounding the Kabul Bank scandal, without giving any details.
The spokesman insisted that Fitrat’s departure was “not going to have a major impact” on Afghanistan’s ability to resolve the Kabul Bank crisis.
Last year’s near-collapse of the bank led to long queues of nervous investors forming outside banks across Kabul and news of Fitrat’s resignation prompted anxiety about the state of the financial system among some Kabulis.
The lender was taken over last year by Afghanistan’s central bank after claims that executives granted themselves off-the-book loans worth a reported $900 million that were partly used to buy luxury properties in Dubai.
The International Monetary Fund wants the Karzai government to take steps to ensure a similar scandal does not happen again before it approves a new assistance programme for the desperately poor country.
With tensions high between Kabul and the IMF, the impasse has already seen hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid money to Afghanistan being withheld this year.
Fitrat is reportedly holed up in a hotel in Washington’s Virginia suburbs and refusing to return to Afghanistan.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed Fitrat was in Washington, adding: “If there were to be a change of leadership at the Afghan central bank, we would continue to encourage that government to take all the necessary steps to reform and strengthen the financial sector.”

Ethnic Leaders Forge Alliance Against Karzai

Ethnic Leaders Forge Alliance Against Karzai

Ex-Warlords Fought Taliban Regime, Launch Afghan Political Opposition

By MARIA ABI-HABIB

[AFGHAN]  Associated PressGen. Rashid Dostum, the Uzbek leader in Afghanistan, campaigned for president in Kabul in 2004.

KABUL—A group of former warlords who helped the U.S. topple the Taliban regime in 2001 have launched a political alliance against Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s rule, in a re-emergence of old civil-war divisions as the country looks ahead to the departure of U.S. forces.

The leaders, each representing a minority ethnic group, say they are concerned that Mr. Karzai will seek to claim more power following President Barack Obama’s announcement last week of plans to begin withdrawing U.S. troops.

The announcement of the renewed alliance last week followed a decision by a special court backed by Mr. Karzai that disqualified a quarter of all parliamentarians elected in September polls. The decision weakened the contingent of lawmakers that is trying to turn the legislature into a check on Mr. Karzai’s authority.

Mr. Karzai had argued that the election wasn’t representative of the public’s wishes because it diluted the power of the Pashtuns, the country’s largest ethnic group—to which Mr. Karzai and the Taliban belong.

The court turned the seats over to the runners-up in the polls, many of them Karzai supporters, including one of his cousins. Mr. Karzai’s spokesman, Waheed Omer, said the new lawmakers were legal and had the full support of the president.

The disqualifications are “not good for the president but shows the democracy in this country,” Mr. Omer said. He also welcomed the formation of the new opposition group.

Back in the Game The trio behind the new opposition

Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum The leader of the main party of Uzbek Afghans, Gen. Dostum has been a military leader and influential player in Afghanistan for decades. He served as deputy defense minister after the fall of the Taliban regime, supported Mr. Karzai’s re-election in 2009, and was appointed by the Afghan president as chief of staff to the commander in chief for the Afghan National Army.

Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq Mr. Mohaqiq is the founder of the People’s Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan, the main party of the Hazara minority. Hazaras practice Shi’ite Islam, a branch considered heretical by the country’s hard-line Sunni Muslims. After the Taliban regime’s fall in 2001, Mr. Mohaqiq was appointed as a vice president and minister of planning in President Karzai’s interim government.

Ahmad Zia Massoud Mr. Massoud is a senior leader of the Jamiat-e-Islami party, the main grouping of the country’s Tajik population. Mr. Massoud’s brother, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was the commander of the Northern Alliance, which fiercely resisted Taliban rule, until his assassination in 2001, days before the Sept. 11 attacks. Mr. Massoud served as vice president during President Karzai’s first term.

The new opposition alliance took shape with a sense of urgency, amid worries that the U.S. withdrawal will take away the most significant check to Mr. Karzai’s power: the international community.

The opposition group is the first to include leaders across Afghanistan’s Uzbek, Hazara and Tajik communities, which slightly outnumber Pashtuns with roughly 43% of the population.

“We want to inform the international community and Karzai that we don’t agree with the direction the country is moving in,” said Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, the leader of Afghanistan’s Hazara community, which had gained power in September polls but lost seats in last week’s court decision.

“Political leaders from all ethnicities are being left out of government,” Mr. Mohaqiq said. “Look at how he is trying to end parliament because it’s not allied to him.”

The new opposition group is led by former key figures in the Northern Alliance, which banded together mostly Tajik, Uzbek and Hazara militias to fight the Taliban regime during civil war in the 1990s.

Along with Mr. Mohaqiq, the group is led by Gen. Rashid Dostum of the Uzbek community and Ahmad Zia Massoud, a prominent Tajik whose brother, Ahmad Shah Massoud, led the Tajiks against the Taliban before his assassination by al Qaeda two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Efforts to form opposition groups to Mr. Karzai have crumbled in the past, and how much parliamentary support the new alliance can muster is unclear. But the three leaders successfully rallied their communities to support Mr. Karzai’s presidential race in 2009.

They say they feel the president since his election has betrayed them by moving against their own supporters in parliament and pursuing negotiations with the Taliban.

The group says it fears that talks with the insurgents, which also have the backing of the U.S., would lead to a power-sharing agreement with the Taliban.

“These negotiations with the Taliban are also a main reason we’ve formed this alliance. What will the government give up in peace talks?” said Mr. Massoud. Mr. Massoud served as Mr. Karzai’s vice president during his first term.

Afghanistan’s political system provides few checks to presidential powers except for the parliament, though it is considered weak. There are few strong political parties in Afghanistan, where political allegiance often runs along ethnic and tribal lines. The only current major opposition group is headed by Abdullah Abdullah, who ran for president against Mr. Karzai in 2009 and was a Northern Alliance leader.

But Mr. Abdullah’s party has been unable to cobble enough leaders together to form a strong opposition to Mr. Karzai’s rule.

Some analysts suspect the coalition will succumb to infighting. “Whenever they build coalitions, they are vulnerable because each leader is fighting for its own community,” said Haroun Mir, a Kabul-based political analyst.

Among the opposition’s objectives is to put enough pressure on Mr. Karzai to reverse the decision to disqualify lawmakers from parliament; ensure the Taliban don’t gain power through peace talks; and to field their own candidate for the next presidential election, in 2014—the year that foreign forces plan to hand over full authority to Afghanistan.

Separately on Tuesday, the Afghan government appealed to the U.S. and Interpol to arrest Afghanistan’s central-bank governor, saying he was involved in systemic fraud at the country’s largest lender. Gov. Abdul Qadir Fitrat fled to the U.S. about 10 days ago, saying he feared for his life after exposing corruption at Kabul Bank.

Mr. Fitrat has denied wrongdoing. Neither he nor a central-bank spokesman could be reached. The U.S. has no bilateral extradition treaty with Afghanistan.

—Habib Khan Totakhiland Zia Sultani contributed to this article

Nuclear Powers to Consider Nuke-Free Zone in Middle East

Nuclear Powers to Consider Nuke-Free Zone in Middle East

The world’s five recognized nuclear powers are set to talk this week about prospects for establishing the Middle East as a nuclear weapon-free zone, Interfax reported on Monday (see GSN, Feb. 17).

Envoys from China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — the five nations acknowledged as nuclear weapon states under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty — are scheduled to convene in Paris for talks on a range of potential confidence-building measures that could pave the way for future nuclear disarmament.

“One of the topics for discussion is what should be done to fully implement the resolutions of the Review Conference for the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons to create a nuclear weapon-free zone in the Middle East,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said.

At the 2010 five-year review conference of the NPT accord, treaty signatories committed to holding a regional conference in 2012 “on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction” (see GSN, June 3).

Ryabkov said the five nuclear powers — who also hold the five permanent seats on the U.N. Security Council — have gathered together before to discuss nuclear weapon issues.

“I cannot say that this whole topic is problem-free,” the Russian diplomat said. “At this meeting we will discuss how to find ways of reconciling the positions on the existing nuances” (Interfax, June 27).

Chota Rajan Gang Implicated In Jyotendra Dey Killing

[It is typical in a “false flag” type of attack to make the criminal act appear to be the work of your enemy.  In the ongoing underworld warfare of Dawood Ibrahim and former partner Chota Rajan, it may be safe to say that whatever the circumstantial evidence seems to prove, it is just as likely that the truth is just the exact opposite.  If it implicates Rajan in the killing of a reporter who was allegedly investigating Dawood, then the killer may have worked for Ibrahim.  Since the police have the testimony of the shooters that they didn’t know that their victim was a reporter until they heard it on TV, they may not have known the true source of their pay-off.] 

“Dey was believed to be working on articles on wanted gangster Dawood Ibrahim” (SEE:  Investigative journalist shot dead in Mumbai).

Chota Rajan

File photo of senior journalist Jyotendra Dey, who was shot dead by unidentified persons near his residence in Mumbai on Saturday.

PTI File photo of senior journalist Jyotendra Dey

Finally, a breakthrough

Under tremendous pressure to crack senior crime journalist Jyotirmoy Dey’s murder on June 11, the Mumbai police have come up with an underworld shooter from the Chhota Rajan gang as the main culprit. Satish Kaliya and six others are to be booked under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) and their gang leader Chhota Rajan made an absconding accused in the case. The arrest comes a day after another gang leader, Chhota Shakeel, called up a leading newspaper and denied he had anything to do with the killing of Dey. Rajan too had reportedly denied his involvement. The Mumbai police took their time with the case and were reluctant to hand it over to the CBI. Investigations are still under way and the 3,000 emails in Dey’s inbox have to be examined for crucial evidence. Importantly no motive, whether professional or personal, has been ascribed to the killing as yet. From police accounts, the murder was planned meticulously over 20 days. However, it is rather strange that the shooter was, according to the police, unaware of the identity of Dey as a leading crime reporter and he realised it only subsequently while watching television. The investigation covered a wide ambit since Dey was writing on the oil mafia, underworld links with policemen, and other issues. Admittedly, the police had a difficult task but pressure from the press, the court, and the government forced it into speeding up the investigation and zeroing in on the alleged killers unlike in other States where nothing has happened in similar cases.

For the beleaguered Mumbai police, the arrests have come as a respite after some red herrings were thrown in the path of the investigation. Its reputation has been under the scanner for a while and, even during its moment of triumph, the State Home Minister had to suspend a police inspector who was involved in organising a rave party outside Mumbai. Having caught the suspects, the police have an even bigger challenge — unravelling the motive behind this brazen killing. Most crime reporters have excellent contacts with the underworld and a network of informers. Dey did not speak to anyone of a threat to his life or demand protection. It is an unwritten rule that the underworld rarely killed members of the media, though there were two cases in early 1980s in and outside Mumbai in the heyday of Dawood Ibrahim. The police have indicated that the emails could lay bare the reasons for Dey’s tragic death. The investigators cannot rest easy having caught the alleged culprits, though that is a major breakthrough. The reasons for the crime are just as important.

US Reenters the Fight Near Tora Bora

[This is the US forces setting-up the anvil for Pakistan’s hammer operation in Kurram, or perhaps N. Waziristan.  Is this another sign of cooperation between the two Armies?]

U.S., Afghan forces target mountains

By Carmen Gentile, Special for USA TODAY


  • U.S. Army Capt. Aaron Tapalman takes part in a foot patrol Friday with his troops in a mountainous area near the border with Pakistan at Combat Outpost Sabari in Khost province.
    By Ted Aljibe, AFP/Getty Images

    U.S. Army Capt. Aaron Tapalman takes part in a foot patrol Friday with his troops in a mountainous area near the border with Pakistan at Combat Outpost Sabari in Khost province.

JALALABAD, Afghanistan — A large-scale operation airlifting hundreds of U.S. and Afghan soldiers into the rugged, insurgent-laced mountains of eastern Afghanistan is being met with fierce resistance by the Taliban and other armed groups, according to U.S. military officials in the region.

U.S. commanders say the aim is to wipe out a persistent insurgency in the northern part of Watahpur District in Kunar province, long a stronghold for armed factions both local and from nearby Pakistan, preparing the way for a takeover by the Afghanistan National Army.

“We’re trying to kill every terrorist in the area,” said Maj. Pat Stitch, brigade operations officer for the 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

Stitch said the hope is that the Afghan army can “hold what we cleared” and patrol a region that has been dominated by insurgents from both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

“The idea is that the ANA should be doing this by themselves,” he said, adding that ideally the Afghan National Police would join the ANA in its effort.

U.S. forces were realigned

The offensive operation is the largest for the 3rd Brigade since its deployment to eastern Afghanistan in April. A brigade spokesman, Maj. David Eastburn, said it was at least “five to seven times larger than any previous operation conducted by the brigade.”

Taming this volatile area of Kunar is not an easy one, a lesson U.S. forces have learned in recent years in this region. American troops have sustained heavy casualties in Watahpur District and the surrounding area.

A small combat outpost in the restive Korengal Valley, just to the west of Watahpur, was overrun in 2009, leaving eight soldiers dead just weeks before it was scheduled to be closed.

Watahpur is bisected by the Pech River Valley, where in recent months several U.S. military bases and smaller combat outposts were handed over to the Afghan army.

Prior to the handover, a full battalion of American soldiers had a permanent presence in the region. Now there remains one U.S. Army company and an attached platoon.

Unlike the battle in southern Afghanistan, where U.S. and Afghan forces have cleared large areas of Taliban militants over the last 12 months, the insurgency in eastern Afghanistan remains a difficult face-to-face fight.

Insurgents have attacked military bases with mortar and rocket fire and planted narrow mountain roads where U.S. troops patrol by foot and armored vehicles with numerous improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

“It’s obvious we’re taking the fight to the enemy,” Stitch said. “We didn’t abandon the area, we just realigned U.S. forces.”

In a demanding battle

So far, the fight has proven particularly difficult. U.S. and Afghan forces were flown into a mountainous terrain as high as 10,000 feet where they are meeting the enemy sometimes at very close range.

Stitch said coalition troops were fortifying fighting positions “with rocks or whatever they can find” and seeking out insurgents in tiny villages that dot the area.

It’s a demanding fight, he said, with soldiers getting little rest and supplies being airdropped into the battlefield. Some firefights have been at “extremely close range,” he said.

The operation in Watahpur is also a fight without a specific timeline. Soldiers are prepared to remain in the battle “until the enemy stops shooting,” Eastburn said.

Since the operation began in earnest June 25, 30 U.S. troops have been injured and three killed.

Pfc. Tyler Sankbeil, 20, was injured when a Chinook helicopter transporting troops made what U.S. military officials call a “hard landing,” or a landing done with greater speed and force than normal. Several others were injured.

Lying on a backboard, his neck in a brace, Sankbeil characterized the helicopter landing as a crash preceded by a series of loud bangs.

“I saw people’s feet flying around and people were getting ejected from their seats,” he said. The U.S. military said the crash was caused by a mechanical failure and not enemy fire.

U.S. military commanders said they have so far killed close to 80 insurgents.

Brigade Intelligence Officer Maj. Chris Rankin said the militants were part of the Taliban and Pakistani insurgent groups such as the Tehrik-i-Taliban, known as the TTP, and the al-Qaeda-affiliated Lashkar-e-Taiba, which regularly cross the ill-defined border to wage attacks on American and Afghan troops.

“It’s (Watahpur) an ideal insurgent safe haven,” Rankin said.

Understanding the Psy-Op We Live In

 

Response to BBC Report “Brigadier Ali Khan: Pakistan’s dissenting army officer”

By Zahir Ebrahim
Thursday, June 23, 2011

The BBC report of this morning, June 23, 2011, Brigadier Ali Khan: Pakistan’s dissenting army officer, on first glance is very interesting. Finally a patriot military man in the Pakistani praetorian guard.

On second glance however, it isn’t. Heart and mind are two different things. Both are needed. One without the other is either blind, or cruel. Here is why it isn’t interesting on second glance.

The BBC report states, inter alia:

‘Brigadier Ali Khan, the Pakistani officer detained for his alleged links with the banned extremist group Hizb ut-Tahrir, had been highly critical of the Pakistani army’s high command over its relationship with the US, reports BBC Urdu’s Asif Farooqi. …

[H]e had been exerting strong pressure on the top echelons of Pakistan’s military to stop co-operating with American forces in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents, army officers who served with the brigadier during his 32-year career told the BBC.

“The army is a cult in itself, so it’s intolerant towards any other cult within” — Maj Gen Athar Abbas, Quoted by BBC News 23 June 2011

Pakistan’s military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said that there was compelling evidence against the brigadier owing to his contacts with the banned group. …

Successive promotion boards rejected Brig Ali while his colleagues and subordinates continued to rise up the promotion ladder, overtaking him. Indeed, to date, Brig Khan is the oldest brigadier in the Pakistani army.

His colleagues thought he would be unable to withstand a career going nowhere and would seek early retirement. But they were soon proved wrong. The brigadier told his colleagues he had more to accomplish in his job.

It soon became clear what he meant by that.

Brig Khan started writing letters to army generals, some of whom were his former colleagues, with suggestions on how to become “self reliant” and “to purge the army of the American influence”.’

The aforementioned reminded me of “Re-Imagining Pakistan’s Defenses – Open Letter to a Pakistani General” November 30, 2007 (PDF http://tinyurl.com/Reimagining-pakistan )

But the following is where it stopped reminding me any further:

‘Brig Ali even wrote to the President Asif Ali Zardari suggesting ways to make Pakistan economically self-reliant by freeing the country of American aid.’

Asking Zardari sahib? ( PDF http://tinyurl.com/happy-happy-zardari )

And the following completely tells me that the excitement of patriotism/nationalism, and finally breaking the yoke of imperialism, on the part of any Pakistani reading this BBC report may be pre-mature:

‘One officer present in the meeting said all had been going well until it was Brig Khan’s turn to speak. In his opinion, the culprits who had hidden Bin Laden and allowed the Americans to get away with breaching Pakistan’s sovereignty were to be found within the army.’

This Brig. Khan can’t tell one puppetshow from another.

While all this is admittedly only the BBC report, and like anything else appearing in any media, must be taken circumspectly, the article clearly re-asserts the existence of boogeyman Ali Baba.

Notice the play: even the most zealous and patriotic Pakistani Brigadier who even dissented with the upper echelon of the Pakistani military (at the risk of his own promotion to Major General) in its cooperation with the United States on the War on Terror, and wanted to limit its scope, also believed in the Osama Bin Laden, the Al Qaeeda, and other tales.

When a presumably patriotic Brigadier cannot see the difference between red-team/blue team operation, when a sitting Brigadier who by the account of this article should have been Maj. General by now (if not Lt. General), cannot see black-ops imperial projects to fabricate synthetic terror in order to create the hegelian dialectic of “evil doers” vs. the “good guys” in insurgency vs. counter-insurgency game of “imperial mobilization” ( http://tinyurl.com/insurgency-vs-counter ), it is not obvious to me what this fuss is all about.

Perhaps the Pakistani military command who are reading this blog (yeh!), might read ‘The Poor-Man’s Guide to Modernity’ (PDF http://tinyurl.com/guide-modernity-2011 ) and leave this poor but well-intentioned brigadier alone.

Brig. Ali Khan’s heart evidently is in the right place when he speaks of “self reliant” and “to purge the army of the American influence”, even if his analysis requires some rethinking.

And what exactly is the reality behind all this?

I won’t take the BBC’s word on it.

The only reason the BBC has published this article, in my view at least, is that the Mighty Wurlitzer is doing its job ( http://tinyurl.com/mightywurlitzer ).

That job is mass behavior control. Among other propaganda techniques to affect behavior, to spin narratives which on the surface are appealing to some, but still manage to echo empire’s core axioms. This is the bread and butter of dissent in the West. When mainstream news tasked with engineering consent by their owners, occasionally echo that technique to demonstrate their “objectivity”, there is essentially still no difference. In either case, the primary objective of the press is behavior control, especially for matters of immediate pertinence to current affairs and on-going “imperial mobilization” projects. It is not awareness creation of the diabolical techniques of “imperial mobilization” ( http://tinyurl.com/master-social-science ).

Ex post facto narratives are a different beast – many will truthfully narrate that which is already a fait accompli. It is called history!

This BBC report, whatever its veracity, prima facie still underscores the undeniable fact of the mater. And that is, that even when the intention of rebellion might be genuine, even when the thirst for independence from empire’s mayhem might set an indigenous military patriot’s throat on fire in Pakistan, our modernity is a twisted devil. It comes wrapped in multifaceted Hegelian Dialectic.

Without acutely comprehending this modernity, there simply cannot be any freedom for any nation and any people, no matter how fervently riled up they might get. That riling up is simply harvested on one or the other side of the Hegelian Dialectic. You are either a “militant” aiding and abetting “insurgency” if you don’t like hegemony or have been “tickled” into it, or, are part of empire’s Allies douching it with “counter-insurgency” if you don’t like the insurgents or just love to play house negro to the white man. Once caught in such a Hegelian Dialectic where both sides are orchestrated by the same powers, there is no escape from that matrix.

Brigadier Ali Khan appears to be caught in that matrix!

Zahir Ebrahim

Project Humanbeingsfirst.org

U.S. foreign policy: War fever subisdes

U.S. foreign policy: War fever subisdes

As Americans weary of the mission in Afghanistan, Democrats and Republicans alike are raising serious questions about the nation’s propensity for multiple, open-ended wars. Finally.

By Andrew J. BacevichJune 28, 2011

At periodic intervals, the American body politic has shown a marked susceptibility to messianic fevers. Whenever an especially acute attack occurs, a sort of delirium ensues, manifesting itself in delusions of grandeur and demented behavior.

By the time the condition passes and a semblance of health is restored, recollection of what occurred during the interval of illness tends to be hazy. What happened? How’d we get here? Most Americans prefer not to dwell on the questions. Feeling much better now! Thanks!

Gripped by such a fever in 1898, Americans evinced an irrepressible impulse to liberate oppressed Cubans. By the time they’d returned to their senses, having acquired various parcels of real estate between Puerto Rico and the Philippines, no one could quite explain what had happened or why.

In 1917, the fever suddenly returned. Amid wild ravings about waging a war to end war, Americans lurched off to France. This time the affliction passed quickly, although the course of treatment proved painful: confinement to the charnel house of the Western Front, followed by bitter medicine administered at Versailles.

The 1960s brought another bout (and yet more disappointment). An overwhelming urge to pay any price, bear any burden landed Americans in Vietnam. The fall of Saigon in 1975 seemed, for a brief interval, to inoculate the body politic against any further recurrence. Yet the salutary effects of this “Vietnam syndrome” proved fleeting. By the time the Cold War ended, Americans were running another temperature, their self-regard reaching impressive new heights.

Then came 9/11, and the fever simply soared off the charts. The messiah nation was really pissed and was going to fix things once and for all.

Nearly 10 years have passed since Washington set out to redeem the greater Middle East. The crusades have not gone especially well. In fact, in the pursuit of its mission, the American messiah has pretty much worn itself out.

Today, the post-9/11 fever finally shows signs of abating, though the sickness has by no means passed. Oddly, it lingers most strongly in the Obama White House, where a keenness to express American ideals by dropping bombs persists.

Yet, despite the urges of some in the Obama administration, after nearly a decade of self-destructive flailing about, American recovery has become a distinct possibility. Here’s some of the evidence:

In Washington, it’s no longer considered a sin to question American omnipotence. Take the case of Robert Gates. The outgoing secretary of Defense certainly restored a modicum of competence and accountability to the Pentagon. But the most enduring Gates legacy is likely to be found in his willingness, however belated, to acknowledge the limits of American power.

No one can charge Gates with being an isolationist or a national security wimp. So when he says anyone proposing another major land war in the Middle East “should have his head examined” — citing the authority of Douglas MacArthur, no less — people take notice. Or more recently there is this. “I’ve got a military that’s exhausted,” Gates remarked. “Let’s just finish the wars we’re in and keep focused on that instead of signing up for other wars of choice.” Someone should etch that into outer walls of the Pentagon’s E-ring.

Half a dozen years ago, “wars of choice” were all the rage in Washington. No more. Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

Or consider the officer corps. There is no “military mind,” but there are plenty of minds in the military, and some numbers of them are rethinking the role of military power.

Consider, for example, “Mr. Y,” author of “A National Strategic Narrative,” published this spring to considerable acclaim by the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. The actual authors of this report are two military professionals, one a Navy captain, the other a Marine colonel.

What you won’t find in this document are jingoist chest-thumping and calls for a bigger military budget. If there’s an overarching theme, it’s pragmatism. Rather than the United States imposing its will on the world, the authors want more attention paid to investment at home.

The world is too big and complicated for any one nation to call the shots, they insist. The effort to do so is self-defeating. “As Americans,” Mr. Y writes, “we needn’t seek the world’s friendship or proselytize the virtues of our society. Neither do we seek to bully, intimidate, cajole or persuade others to accept our unique values or to share our national objectives. Rather, we will let others draw their own conclusions based upon our actions…. We will pursue our national interests and let others pursue theirs.”

And finally, by gum, there is the U.S. Congress. Just when that body appeared to have entered a permanent vegetative state, a flickering of intelligent life has made its reappearance, and Democratsand Republicans alike — albeit for different reasons — are raising serious questions about the nation’s propensity for multiple, open-ended wars.

Some members cite concerns for the Constitution and the abuse of executive power. Others worry about the price tag. With Osama bin Laden out of the picture, still others insist that it’s time to rethink strategic priorities. No doubt partisan calculation or personal ambition figure alongside matters of principle. After all, they are politicians.

Given what polls indicate is a growing public unhappiness over the Afghanistan war, speaking out against the war these days doesn’t exactly require political courage. Still, the possibility of our legislators reasserting a role in deciding whether or not a war actually serves the national interest, rather than simply rubber-stamping appropriations and slinking away, now presents itself. God bless the United States Congress.

Of course, at the first signs of self-restraint, you can always count on the likes of Sen. John McCain or the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal to decry (in McCain’s words) an “isolationist-withdrawal-lack-of-knowledge-of-history attitude.” In such quarters, fever is a permanent condition, and it’s always 104 and rising. Yet it is a measure of how quickly things are changing that McCain himself, once deemed a source of straight talk, now comes across as a mere crank.

In this way, nearly a decade after our most recent descent into madness, does the possibility of recovery finally beckon.

Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His most recent book is “Washington Rules: America’s Path to Permanent War.” A longer version of this piece appears at tomdispatch.com.

Copyright © 2011, Los Angeles Times

China Willing To Bail Europe Out

Wen: China willing to help Europe, could buy debt

BERLIN

(Reuters) – Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said in Germany on Tuesday that his country was willing to extend Europe a “helping hand from afar” in its debt crisis and could buy the sovereign debt of some euro zone nations if needed. “China has expressed support for Europe at various times. In other words, when Europe is in difficulty we will extend a helping hand from afar,” the Chinese premier told a joint news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin.

“We will according to need definitely purchase certain amounts of sovereign debt,” Wen said.

Taliban’s return and India’s concerns

[The greatest possible act of self-defense for India, as well as for Pakistan, would be for them to forge a peace treaty.  The stabilization of everything that the US and NATO has been driving to destabilize is the path to regional security.]

Taliban’s return and India’s concerns

M.K. Bhadrakumar

While there is no evidence that Barack Obama consulted New Delhi about the impending shift in U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, India must now begin a ‘dialogue’ with the Taliban along with a policy to instil confidence in the Pakistani mind about our intentions.

The United States President, Barack Obama’s announcement regarding the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan was not India-specific, as compared to Washington’s initiative in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to bar the transfer of enrichment and reprocessing equipment and technology to New Delhi. But it is more lethal, casting a shadow on India’s regional strategies.

Why Mr. Obama took such a decision doesn’t actually need much explaining. Put simply, his sharp political instincts prevailed. He had a pledge to redeem; he sensed the public mood; he heard “bipartisan” opinion in Capitol Hill that the soldiers be brought home; he faces an adverse budgetary environment and he understood that his priority should be to mend the U.S. economy rather than wage wars in foreign lands. The “surge” may have made gains, arguably, but gains are reversible; so, what is the point? Meanwhile, Afghan opinion is turning against foreign occupation and the killing of Osama bin Laden offers a defining moment.

On the diplomatic front, regional allies proved exasperatingly difficult, while European allies got impatient to quit. The regional opinion militates against a long-term U.S. military presence, while the contradictions in intra-regional relationships do not lend easily to reconciliation. The foreign policy priorities need vastly more attention: exports and investment, upheaval in West Asia, China’s rise, etc.

There is no evidence that Mr. Obama consulted New Delhi about the impending shift in the U.S. strategy in India’s immediate neighbourhood. We need to calmly ponder over what the U.S. means when Mr. Obama calls India its “indispensable partner in the 21st century.” In the period ahead, keeping the dialogue process with Pakistan on course; pursuing normalisation of ties with China; consolidating the gains of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s path-breaking visit to Kabul — all these templates of our regional policy assume great importance. Indeed, the raison d’être of a “new thinking” in policymaking cannot but be stressed.

The implications of Mr. Obama’s drawdown decision are far-reaching. The U.S. has accepted the Taliban as being a part of the Afghan nation and concluded that it does not threaten America’s “homeland security.” No segment of the Taliban movement that is willing for reconciliation will be excluded. Mr. Obama expressed optimism about the peace process. He estimated that al-Qaeda is a spent force and any residual “war on terror” will be by way of exercising vigilance that it doesn’t rear its head again. The timeline for the drawdown — 10,000 troops by end-2011, 33,000 by mid-2012 and the bulk of the remaining 70,000 troops at a “steady pace” through 2013-14 — plus the change of command necessitated by David Petraeus’s departure in September as the new head of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) hardly leaves scope for keeping a high tempo of security operations. Obviously, the Taliban has borne the brunt of the U.S. firepower and has survived.

The stunning geopolitical reality is that the U.S. is barely staving off defeat and is making its way out of the Hindu Kush in an orderly retreat. The Taliban responded to Mr. Obama’s announcement saying, “The solution for the Afghan crisis lies in the full withdrawal of all foreign troops immediately. Until this happens, our armed struggle will increase from day to day.” Again, Mr. Obama appears to be optimistic about the Kabul government’s ability to assume the responsibility of security by 2014.

Mr. Obama completely avoided mentioning an almost-forgotten pledge that the former U.S. President George W. Bush made in the halcyon days of the war, that the U.S. would someday consider a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. He, instead, pleaded that this is “a time of rising debt and hard economic times at home” and he needs to concentrate on rebuilding America. The Afghans fear that western aid and projects would dry up. If that happens, Afghanistan will revert to the late 1990s when the Taliban regime first accepted the financial help offered by bin Laden. All hope now hinges on the international conference that Mr. Obama will be hosting in May next year in Chicago.

However, there is no need to press the panic button. A repetition of the civil war scenario of the 1990s appears a remote possibility. The Taliban’s ascendancy in the 1990s was more an outright Pakistani conquest of Afghanistan in which the Pakistani air force, artillery, armoured corps, regular officers and intelligence agencies directly participated. The Taliban was a cohesive movement. Besides, there were regional powers determined to provide assistance to the non-Pashtun groups. In all these respects, the situation is radically different today. Pakistan hadn’t yet known at that time the blowback of terrorism. The very fact that Pakistan learnt about the secret talks between the Taliban and U.S. representatives from news reports speaks volumes of its command and control of the Quetta Shura.

Pakistan cannot be so naïve as not to factor in the fact that a revitalised, triumphalist Taliban just across the Durand Line (which, by the way, has all but disappeared) could ultimately prove a headache for its own security. Pakistani commentators candidly admit that the Afghans deeply resent Pakistan’s interference. There has been an overall political awakening among the Afghan people and a replay of the old Pakistani policies will be challenged. The gravitas of Afghan domestic politics has shifted. Thus, all things taken into consideration, Pakistan will see the wisdom of allowing a kind of intra-Afghan “equilibrium” to develop rather than try to prescribe what is good for that country.

Mr. Karzai has proved to be a remarkably shrewd politician gifted with a high acumen to network and forge alliances. He has emerged as a pan-Afghan leader who maintains working relationships with influential figures cutting across ethnicity and regions — Mohammed Fahim, Karim Khalili, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Rasul Sayyaf, etc. Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-i-Islami, which is a Pashtun-dominated group antithetical to the Taliban, already forms a part of Mr. Karzai’s government. Mr. Karzai has his own bridges leading toward the Taliban camp to which he once belonged, after all. There will always be disgruntled elements, but then there are the traditional Afghan methods of patronage and accommodation. Mr. Karzai takes an active interest in regional affairs. His bonding with Pakistan and Iran shows that his political antennae are already probing for openings in anticipation of the U.S. withdrawal.

In this complex setting, India’s own policy orientations are realistic and near-optimal. The primacy on building warm and cordial ties with the government in Kabul; nurturing people-to-people ties; contributing significantly to reconstruction; non-interference in internal affairs; an aversion to Indian military deployment; a non-prescriptive approach to an Afghan settlement and the insistence on an “Afghan-led” reconciliation process; and, most important, the trust that Mr. Karzai knows the “red lines” — these parameters of policy are eminently sustainable.

However, a couple of points need to be made. India should establish communication lines with the Taliban — assuming, of course, it wants to talk with us. After all, we talked with Mr. Sayyaf, leader of the Ittehad, which Jalaluddin Haqqani served as commander. It is inconceivable that any Afghan could harbour ill will towards India and the Indian people. The rest is all the disposable stuff of how the Afghan has been manipulated by outsiders through the 30 years of civil war — including when he vandalised the Bamiyan statues. But in the kind of Afghanistan Mr. Karzai wants his country to return, it becomes possible for us also to rediscover the Afghan we knew before foreigners came and occupied his country. (Incidentally, this is also the basis of Mr. Karzai’s optimism when he reacted on hearing about Mr. Obama’s drawdown plan: “This soil can only be protected by the sons of Afghanistan. I congratulate the Afghan people for taking the responsibility for their country into their own hands … Today is a very happy day.”)

And, our “dialogue” with the Taliban must go hand in hand with a policy to do all we can by word and deed to instil confidence in the Pakistani mind about our intentions that for the foreseeable future, Afghanistan’s stabilisation can become a shared concern for the two countries. Much has changed already in the most recent months in the prevailing air. No one talks seriously that the drawback of Mr. Obama’s drawdown plan could be India-Pakistan “rivalry” in Afghanistan. There is actually no scope for zero-sum games, since Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan are legitimate — and are reconcilable with India’s concerns.

Second, Indian diplomacy should utilise the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) process to evolve a new strategic culture of collective security for the region, which it lacks. Mr. Obama’s words should be properly understood, when he said that the U.S. can no more “over-extend … confronting every evil that can be found abroad.” As India and Pakistan move to a new trajectory of growth, a favourable regional environment becomes the imperative need. India can learn a lot from the Chinese “technique” of creating synergy between the SCO track and Beijing’s bilateral track with the Central Asian capitals — and with Moscow — which till a generation ago were weaned on unalloyed anti-China dogmas of the Soviet era. Indian diplomacy can do one better. It can adapt this “technique” to normalisation with Pakistan — and with China.

( The writer is a former diplomat.)

Bush’s Briar Patch and Kurdish Aspirations

The constitution is more than simply a piece of paper

Iraqi citizens young and old display their ink-dipped fingers after the adults cast their ballots during the Constitutional Referendum Oct. 15, 2005/ AP Photo, File

Globe Editorial
By Bashdar Pusho Ismaeel

In 2003, after the downfall of Saddam Hussein, Iraqis had an historic opportunity to rebuild their country, national identity and basis for co-existence, but above all placate this in a broad and inclusive constitution.

The Transitive Administrative Law of 2004 was followed by a new constitution in October 2005, on the back of months of grueling negotiations, intense jockeying and fervent pressure from the U.S., the result of the arduous tasks of satisfying Iraq’s vast socio-ethnic mosaic.

Significance of a constitution

Just why is a constitution perceived with so much significance? A constitution is a set of decrees, principles and ideals that govern a country. It is the blueprint of the governance of the country and the essential building block for all political, democratic and legislative particles that form a part of that country. As the political heartbeat or DNA of the governance of any country, the constitution is the hallmark and distinction of a country. In other words, if any aspect of a constitution is denied or overridden then the basis for the existence of the political and official governing entity in that country is also denied.

For this reason, across the Middle East, from Egypt to Libya, Syria and Turkey, real reform is synonymous with popular demands for fundamental changes to the respective constitutions. For example, the real acceptance of the Kurds in Turkey is not through electoral manifestos or mere political rhetoric, it can only be achieved by changing the legal blueprint of that country.

Clear roadmaps in place

For all its critics, the Iraqi Constitution is comprehensive and provides a roadmap for many of the major aspects that continue to fuel dispute and animosity today. There is a guideline for the extent of federal powers, regional authority, and powers afforded to executive entities, the sharing and development of Iraq’s immense hydrocarbons and, above all else, dealing with the issues of disputed territories.

Article 140 clearly outlines time lines, formulas and responsibility for resolving the status of Kirkuk and other associated disputed territories. This made the basis and the method for resolving the Kirkuk dilemma a clear building block of the new Iraq. It is contained in the constitution of the country, the essential framework of its existence, so there can be no clearer argument for the legality and prominence placed on this issue.

This makes the reasons behind the non-implementation of a legal, valid and key component of the make up of the country all the more pertinent.

Simply Arab factions, particularly the Sunnis and neighboring powers, have put more obstacles than solutions to prevent these articles from being implemented and thwart what they see as a strategic strengthening of Kurdish hands. It is now almost six years since the constitution was voted in, and clearly the appetite for resolving Kirkuk is as lacking as ever.

You may dislike or disagree with articles of the constitution, but this doesn’t make the articles any less legal, clear or enshrined in the make up of the country.

Baghdad foot-dragging

Baghdad foot-dragging over Article 140 was designed to ensure the deadline for its implementation by Dec. 31, 2007 would be missed. Yet the same entities that prevented its implementation, now, ironically, complain that the article is void as the deadline has passed.

While the Kurds have patiently persisted with the status quo, the Kurdistan Regional Government would be unwise to let constitutional articles fester indefinitely and see articles that potentially benefit them to be at a constant source of obstruction by the Arab and Turkmen sections of the population.

Limiting of Kurdish gains has been the same theme for the lack of a national hydrocarbon law in Iraq and the successive postponement of the census.

The fear of approving Kurdish oil contracts and resolving the status of disputed territories is that Baghdad would lose the little sway it has remaining over Kurdistan and Kurdistan could develop economic, foreign relations and politics unilaterally.

However, the breaking of the constitution is akin to cutting an artery to the heart. Iraq currently has a voluntary union, underpinned by constitutional principles. Without these, the legal basis for tying all parts of Iraq is effectively eroded.

Outside interference

Once the deadline for the implementation of Article 140 inevitably passed at the end of 2007, and without much progress, the UN was tasked with the responsibility of diffusing tensions, or in the words of former U.N. Special Envoy to Iraq, Steffan di Mistura, “stopping the ticking time bomb.”

More than three years later, the U.S. and U.N. continue to highlight the dangers that Kirkuk entail to Iraqis future but their commitment has been lacking in breaking the deadlock. The U.N., in particular, was tasked to look at solutions and alternatives to resolving disputed territories. The continued insistence of an international body to bypass a country’s constitution is remarkable. The mechanism for resolving the status of Kirkuk has long been decided. Ultimately, like any true democracy, it’s the people that should decide their fate, not Ankara, Baghdad, the U.N. or the like.

With the Kurdistan government growing increasingly tired and frustrated, top Kurdish leaders have recently warned of the dangers of any bypassing of the constitution.

Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani recently stated, “If this article is dead, it means the constitution is dead. And if the constitution is dead, it means Iraq is finished.” Such similar sentiments were echoed by Nechirvan Barzani and Kurdistan Parliament Speaker Kamal Kirkuki in recent weeks.

Kurdish warnings

Successive Kurdish warnings must be matched with key time lines and actions. Waiting for Baghdad and regional powers to bolsters their aims and proactively resolve issues that favor them will only end in disappointment. If the constitution is ignored by Baghdad, then the very foundations of the state are in turn ignored.

The Kurds have been persistently pressured by Washington and the U.N., among others, to compromise. While 250,000 Kurds were kicked and beaten without remorse from their historical homes, “compromise” was not a word uttered by Baathist forces. Now those same Kurds, wishing to return home, are been told their legally enshrined demands constitute overreaching and they must compromise.

For the Kurds, this is a historical juncture. This is a chance to correct the wrongs of the past in a democratic and legal manner. If Kurds were unwilling to compromise in 1975 over Kirkuk, then any deal in the “new” Iraq of 2011 not involving its rightful return would represent a huge setback.

Dispute over oil contracts

The issue over Kirkuk has only been matched by the highly contentious disputes over oil sharing and the rights of regional administrations to develop their own oil fields. The Kurdistan Region has signed more than 35 Production Sharing Agreements and Production Sharing Contracts with foreign oil exploration companies in recent years in what they deem as a natural right under the constitution. This has been hotly contested by Baghdad and particularly former Oil Minister Hussein Shahristani who has frequently labeled such deals as illegal.

Only recently has the deadlock been broken, with Baghdad endorsing the oil contracts and authorizing limited exports through Iraqi national pipelines. However, the bottom line remains that Baghdad does not want to see the Kurds drive on unhindered with their own national program. The recent pact by Shahristani with the EU to export gas through the southern corridor to Kurdish surprise is testament to this. Kurdistan was long earmarked as a pivot to the proposed Nabucco pipeline in the north, which would have guaranteed it strategic standing and lucrative returns.

Simmering political tension in Baghdad

The 19 post-electoral demands of the Kurds were explicitly accepted as a condition for their support of the new government. Furthermore, a number of other critical points were agreed between Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis that allowed several months of bickering and jockeying to end.

However, the problem in Iraq is that often the agreements are not worth the paper they are printed on. The lack of implementation of the Erbil agreement of last autumn, has led to entrenched camps of Iyad Allawi and Nuri al-Maliki, with relations all but beyond repair. Key points in the agreement including the formation of Higher Strategic Policies Council that was to be headed by Allawi and the naming of key ministries has continued to falter.

Recent heated exchanges between Allawi and Maliki underpin the common mistrust and animosity that continues to blight the new Iraq. Allawi accused Maliki of being “a liar, hypocrite and misleading,” who came to power with “Iranian support,” in retaliation for the “State of Law of Maliki,” aiming to reprimand Allawi for abstaining from parliamentary sessions.

The labored progress in Baghdad and the ongoing sectarian battles that impinge progress is all the more reason for Kurdistan not to wait, to be held back and destabilized by the south, but to continue in the interests of Kurds and Kurdistan unabated.

‘Asia on maritime crash course’

‘Asia on maritime crash course’

SYDNEY: Nationalism and hunger for resources are stoking maritime disputes in Indo-Pacific Asia, with China showing “troubling signs of assertiveness at sea”, an Australian think tank warned today.

The Lowy Institute foreign policy group said there had been an “upsurge in confrontation at sea in Asia in recent years”, with clashes increasing in both frequency and intensity and the stakes “certainly” getting higher.

“Nationalism and resource needs, meanwhile, are reinforcing the value of territorial claims in the East and South China seas, making maritime sovereignty disputes harder to manage,” the paper said.

“Chinese forces continue to show troubling signs of assertiveness at sea, though there is debate about the origins or extent of such moves.”

Expanding naval and air power meant Asia was becoming a “danger zone” for close-range encounters between competing powers, “typically in sensitive or contested” areas, Lowy warned in a new strategic study.

“While the chance that such incidents will lead to major military clashes should not be overstated, the drivers – in particular China’s frictions with the United States, Japan and India – are likely to persist and intensify.”

The study, “Major Powers and Maritime Security in Indo-Pacific Asia” was prepared from wide ranging interviews with security workers and experts in China, Japan and the United States.

It found Asia was ill-prepared for maritime conflict, with low levels of trust between nations and formal rules and communication channels “flimsy and little-used”.

China would only agree to confidence-building exercises when it had established trust with the other nation, while western powers including Washington saw them as necessary “precisely when trust is absent”, Lowy said.

An escalation in the number and tempo of confrontations would increase the chances of an armed stand-off, diplomatic crisis or even conflict, playing into a “wider deterioration of security relations among major powers”.

– AFP

NATO Claims Capture of IMU Leader In Kunduz

A senior leader of an al-Qaida-linked terror group has been captured in northern Afghanistan dressed up like a woman - the latest in a recent series of cases involving male militants disguised as females, the U.S.-led military coalition said Tuesday.

A senior leader of an al-Qaida-linked terror group has been captured in northern Afghanistan dressed up like a woman – the latest in a recent series of cases involving male militants disguised as females, the U.S.-led military coalition said Tuesday.
Photo Credit: Murray Brewster, The Canadian Press

KABUL, Afghanistan – A senior leader of an al-Qaida-linked terror group has been captured in northern Afghanistan dressed up like a woman – the latest in a recent series of cases involving male militants disguised as females, the U.S.-led military coalition said Tuesday.

A joint Afghan and coalition force apprehended a leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and two of his associates during a nighttime operation Monday in Kunduz city, NATO said.

It said the militant, who also supported the Taliban network, had planned attacks against the Afghan National Police, various suicide bombings and assaults against other Afghan security forces.

NATO did not release the names of the three suspects caught in Kunduz.

“The leader attempted to disguise himself as a female by wearing a burqa, which is an all-enveloping cloak worn by some Muslim women,” the coalition said in a statement. “In the last two months there have been several instances of targeted males wearing burqas in attempts to disguise themselves in order not to be caught by Afghan-led forces.”

The coalition said there also have been a handful of recent reports of female combatants in burqas.

Kunduz and surrounding provinces are known hide-outs for the Taliban, al-Qaida and fighters from militant factions that include the Haqqani network, Hizb-i-Islami and the IMU, which aims to create an Islamic state across Central Asia. The IMU was formed in 1991, originally aiming to set up an Islamic state in Uzbekistan, which neighbours Afghanistan, but later expanded its goal to seeking one across Central Asia.

Aligning itself with al-Qaida, it has been most active in the north where violence has been on the rise.

Earlier this month, a suicide bomber blew himself up outside a mosque in Kunduz where a remembrance ceremony was being held for a slain Afghan police commander. The blast killed four police officers. This spring, a suicide bomber killed 35 people at an Afghan army recruitment centre and at least 30 others died when another suicide bomber blew himself up at a government office where Afghans were waiting in line for identification cards.

In October, a bomb killed Kunduz Gov. Mohammad Omar and 19 others in a crowded mosque in neighbouring Takhar province. Omar was killed just days after he warned of escalating threats from Taliban and foreign fighters in the north.

In other incidents across Afghanistan, a roadside bomb killed two women and injured a child who were walking in Panjwai district of Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan, said district police chief Mohammad Azeem.

Separately, the coalition said two NATO service members had been killed in the south. One was killed Monday by a roadside bomb and the other died Tuesday in an insurgent attack. No other details were released.

The deaths bring to at least 55 the number of NATO service members killed in June in Afghanistan, including at least 34 Americans.

Associated Press writer Mirwais Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.

© Copyright (c) Shaw Media Inc.

Drone Attack Upon Hakeemullah’s Facility?

[If true, this could possibly put the US and Pakistan on the same page, for once.]

Second drone strike on Monday kills 13 in South Waziristan

According to sources, drone targeted a house on late Monday which is reported to be residence of Adam Khan, a commander of Hakim ullah Mehsud. – File Photo by Reuters

MIRAMSHAH: Second US drone strike on late Monday destroyed a militant training camp in Pakistan’s lawless tribal belt, killing 13 local Taliban fighters, officials said.

Death toll reached 25 as the first US drone strike killed 12 in South Waziristan earlier today.

According to sources, drone targeted a house on late Monday which is reported to be residence of Adam Khan, a commander of Hakim ullah Mehsud.

250 families flee anti-terrorist operation in Kurram

250 families flee anti-terrorist operation in Kurram

PESHAWAR: Around 250 families have moved out of central Kurram Agency after the start of an operation by the security forces against militants. According to a private TV channel, a camp has been set up at New Durrani village with a capacity to accommodate 1,500 families. Sources said arrangements had been made at the camp for the provision of necessary ration to the IDPs. People have been asked to get themselves registered at the camp to get the required facilities.

US Military Expanding Reach Into Uganda and Burundi

US taps $45m in gear for terror fight in Somalia

WASHINGTON: The Pentagon is sending nearly $45 million in military equipment, including four small drones, to Uganda and Burundi to help battle the escalating al Qaeda threat in Somalia.

The latest aid, laid out in documents obtained by The Associated Press, comes as attacks intensify in Somalia against the al Qaeda-linked group al Shabab, including an airstrike late Thursday that hit a militant convoy, killing a number of foreign fighters, according to officials there.

No nation immediately took responsibility for the latest airstrike, though US aircrafts have attacked militants in Somalia before.

US officials, including incoming Pentagon chief Leon Panetta, have warned that the threat from al Shabab is growing, and the group is developing stronger ties with the Yemen-based al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Panetta told lawmakers earlier this month that as the core al Qaeda leadership in Pakistan undergoes leadership changes, with the killing of Osama bin Laden, the US needs to make sure that the group does not relocate to Somalia.

The Pentagon plan is aimed at helping to build the counter terrorism capabilities of Uganda and Burundi, two African Union nations that have sent about 9,000 peacekeeping forces to Somalia.

The military aid includes four small, shoulder-launched Raven drones, body armor, night-vision gear, communications and heavy construction equipment, generators and surveillance systems. Training is also provided with the equipment.

In addition, the Pentagon will send $4.4 million in communications and engineering equipment to Uganda. Somalia has not had a fully functioning government in two decades. The government had controlled just a small slice of the capital Mogadishu, but officials have said that the peacekeeping offensive is enabling them to wrest swaths of territory in the city and in southern Somalia from the insurgents.

The aid is part of a $145.4 million package that Pentagon officials approved and sent to Capitol Hill last week as part of a notification process before the equipment can be delivered. Up to $350 million in military aid can be distributed this year to support counter terrorism operations in other countries.

The Pentagon routinely releases the military aid in three or four installments each year, and the first package approved earlier this year was for about $43 million.

So far, none of the assistance this year has gone to Yemen — which has been a top counter terrorism priority for the US. Last year, the Pentagon allocated $155 million for aid to Yemen, and military leaders had proposed as much as $200 million for this year.

But US officials have become increasingly alarmed about the violent anti-government protests and unrest rocking the country.

Protesters are demanding that President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s powerful sons and other members of his inner circle leave the country, even as Saleh remains in Saudi Arabia receiving treatment for injuries he suffered in an attack on his palace earlier this month.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has said that aid to Yemen has been interrupted by the chaos there, and once that ebbs the US will consider what next steps to take.

But US officials consider AQAP in Yemen one of the most serious and immediate threats, fueled in part by radical American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has been linked to a number of attacks in the US, including the Christmas Day 2009 attempted airliner bombing.

The Pentagon aid package also includes funding for a number of other North African countries, including several where there is a continuing threat from al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

Pakistan Must Prove Its Love for the Empire

By DEB RIECHMANN

The Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — Washington’s special envoy to Afghanistan said Monday that Pakistan must prove it wants an end to the war by preventing militants from hiding out on its soil and enabling those who launch attacks on the Afghan side of the border.

An Afghan man prepares coal to make a fire for cooking, outside of a local restaurant, in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, June. 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Ahmad Nazar)

An Afghan man looks out of a local guest house, near a building which was destroyed during the civil war of 1990s in Kabul, Afghanistan on Sunday, June. 26, 2011. (AP Photo/Musadeq Sadeq)

Marc Grossman, U.S. special representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said in Kabul that discussions among Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States being held this week in the Afghan capital are important to coordinate efforts to find a political resolution to the nearly decade-long war.

He said they also are an opportunity to clearly convey to Pakistani officials that part of their responsibility for bringing peace is to stop supporting insurgent safe havens and those who attack Afghans and international forces in Afghanistan.

“We’ve been pretty clear that going forward here, we want the government of Pakistan to participate positively in the reconciliation process,” Grossman said at a news conference. “Pakistan now has important choices to make.”

Grossman and representatives from more than 40 nations are attending a meeting of the International Contact Group. The group’s 11th meeting comes after President Barack Obama announced last week he was ordering 10,000 U.S. troops home by year’s end; as many as 23,000 more are to leave by September 2012. That would leave 68,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The 33,000 total to be withdrawn is the number Obama sent as reinforcements in December 2009 as part of an effort to reverse the Taliban’s momentum and hasten an eventual political settlement of the conflict. The U.S. and its allies plan a full combat withdrawal by the end of 2014.

Michael Steiner, German representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, said at the news conference that the international community’s engagement will not end in 2014, when Afghan security forces are to have the lead responsibility for security across the nation, a process he said is on track.

“I think we have a strategy which is working despite the difficulties we have,” Steiner said. “I am not painting here any illusions. We will have problems ahead. But I think we have a realistic strategy.”

Separately, the U.N. World Food Program announced Monday it will cut food assistance to more than 3 million Afghans in about half the country’s 34 provinces because of a shortage of money from donor nations.

The U.N. agency said it had planned to help feed more than 7 million people in Afghanistan this year, but a shortage of donor funds means only 3.8 million people will be helped through meals provided at schools and training and work programs. It said it needed an additional $220 million to continue its work in Afghanistan at the level originally planned.

The program will focus food assistance on helping the most needy Afghans, especially women and children, said Bradley Guerrant, the agency’s deputy country director.

“We are working hard to raise the funds needed to restart these activities as soon as we can,” he said.

Also, two roadside bomb blasts killed seven civilians Monday in Ghazni province in eastern Afghanistan, the Interior Ministry said. A vehicle struck one of the bombs in Qarabagh district, killing four civilians, including two children, the ministry said. Another vehicle hit a roadside bomb in Ghazni city, killing three civilians.

Pakistani Taliban Commander Gunned-Down Near Miran shah

Pakistani Taliban commander slain

(Novum / AP) – DERA ISMAIL KHAN – Armed men in a car with tinted windows in northwestern Pakistan a Taliban commander slain. That is what the Pakistani intelligence sources said Monday.

The victim, Shakirullah Shakir, was slain near the town of Miran Shah in North Waziristan tribal region. Shakir was commander and spokesman of the Fidayeen-e-Islam, part of the Taliban engaged in suicide bombings.

The responsibility for the liquidation unclaimed.

All for One and One for All?–Time Will Tell

Iran carves out an AfPak hub 

By M K Bhadrakumar

The participation of the presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan in the international conference on terrorism held in Tehran over the weekend becomes a major diplomatic and political victory for Iran at the present juncture of regional politics. Both Asif Ali Zardari and Hamid Karzai were received by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei.

One main focus of the conference was to highlight that the United States has been using international terrorism as the pretext to intervene in Afghanistan and in the Middle East and to interfere in their internal affairs. Khamenei’s message to the conference, in a nutshell, highlighted the “calculations of satanic world powers, which use terrorism in their policies and planning to achieve their illegitimate goals”.

Khamenei alleged that the US finances and arms terrorist groups in the region and, most interestingly, he singled out for reference the “crimes” by the Blackwater (Xe Services) group of “assisting terrorist groups” in Pakistan as “part of this shameful and unforgettable list of American acts of terrorism”.

Expressing solidarity with the growing criticism by Islamabad and Kabul against the excesses of the US’s military operations in AfPak, Khamenei added, “The deadly attacks by the American drones against defenseless families in villages [of Pakistan] and in the most deprived areas of Afghanistan have repeatedly turned weddings into mourning ceremonies.” Khamenei said in a scathing attack on the US’s regional policies:

With such behavior, it is a shame [for the US] to claim to be leading the fight against terrorism … From the standpoint of the leaders of the hegemonic powers [read US], everything that threatens their illegitimate interests is viewed as terrorism. All struggles intended to defend a cause against the occupiers and interventionist forces are regarded by them as terrorism.

Zardari highlighted at the conference that Pakistan had suffered immensely during the decade of the US-led war in Afghanistan. He said over 5,000 Pakistani security personnel had lost their lives and the estimated damage in financial terms amounts to US$37 billion for the Pakistani economy. Zardari stressed the importance of the “vital need for a collective campaign” by the regional states in the “war on terror”.

Overlapping security interests 
Karzai, on the other hand, said, “I believe that the campaign against terrorism is not possible through merely military means.” He called for unity, a firm stand and “collective cooperation” by Muslim states in the fight against terrorism.

On the eve of the conference, Zardari and Karzai held a tripartite meeting with Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, which, again, “urged close cooperation among regional countries” over the issues of “peace and security in the Middle East”. The Iranian president’s office said, “[Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan] pledged to expand their cooperation in political, security, economic and cultural areas as well as fighting terrorism and foreign interventions.”

From the Iranian perspective, a main objective was to forge common thinking with Pakistan and Afghanistan that the continuance of the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces in Afghanistan adversely impacts on all three countries’ national interests and on regional security and stability. This comes out clearly in the meetings Khamenei had with Zardari and Karzai.

Khamenei sought an “all-out expansion of ties” between Iran and Pakistan and cautioned Zardari that “Washington is trying to sow seeds of dissension in Pakistan to meet its illegitimate goals”. He expressed his appreciation that the Pakistani people were well aware of the US’s “ominous intention” and are resisting the US’s “hegemonic plots”.

Khamenei’s reference went beyond the earlier allegation by Ahmadinejad that Tehran had “specific evidence” of a US conspiracy to seize Pakistan’s nuclear weapons. Khamenei seemed to imply that the US plans to destabilize the Pakistan’ state in order to weaken it and to break its resolve to resist US dominance, as well as to hamper its capacity to play an effective role in the region.

Clearly, the tensions that have accrued in the US-Pakistan relationship in the recent period provide the backdrop for this exchange. This is the first time that such a reference has been made at Khamenei’s level. Zardari’s delegation included Interior Minister Rehman Malik, which suggests the Pakistani expectation of Iran sharing details of its perception regarding the security implications of the US’s regional policies.

Malik indeed had a separate meeting with Iran’s Interior Minister Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, who was previously Iran’s defense minister and belongs to the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. The Iranian account of the meeting suggested that it was mainly concerned with the activities of the terrorist group Jundallah, which operates out of Pakistan in Iran’s eastern border province of Sistan-Balochistan.

“We discussed ways to collaborate on the fight against extremists and terrorists who use Pakistani soil for actions against Iran’s interests,” Mohammad-Najjar said. Significantly, Tehran is making a distinction between Jundallah and the Pakistani state, whereas there have been earlier allegations of Pakistani complicity. Whether Malik (who was a former head of Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency) also met with Iran’s powerful Intelligence Minister Heydar Moslehi remains unclear.

At his meeting with Karzai, Khamenei frontally attacked the US plans to set up military bases in Afghanistan. “The Americans are after permanent bases in Afghanistan, which is a dangerous issue because as long as US troops are in Afghanistan, there would be no real security. The Afghan people are suffering from the US military presence in their country and this presence is a great pain for them and the entire region”, he said.

The meeting with Karzai took place two days after US President Barack Obama’s announcement of a troop drawdown in Afghanistan. Khamenei told Karzai that a rapid pullout of US troops was in the interests of Afghanistan and the region. He was confident that Afghanistan was capable of “controlling its affairs and determining its fate”.

Having said that, all indications are that in the Iranian assessment, the US may be compelled to abandon its earlier plans to set up military bases in Afghanistan due to a combination of circumstances – the Taliban’s uncompromising opposition, the US’s economic crisis and overall war weariness and the urgency to concentrate on the Middle East and Africa.

Meanwhile, Tehran keeps urging Karzai not to give in to the US plans. What worries Iran most is that the planned US military bases include Herat and Shindad in western Afghanistan on the border with Iran.

Broad convergence 
The big question is how tangible will be an Iran-Pakistan-Afghanistan regional axis over the Afghan problem. The short answer is that the axis is both a matter of appearance as well as of some substance and how the proportion works out will depend on the acuteness of the situation in Afghanistan and the regional milieu.

At this point in time, the varying degrees of antipathy felt toward the US on the part of Pakistan and Afghanistan on the one hand and Iran’s inveterate standoff with the US on the other give impetus to the three neighboring countries drawing closer.

Both Zardari and Karzai undertook the visit to Tehran with the full awareness that it signified an act of “strategic defiance” of the US – and more important, they knew that Washington would get the message as well. That is to say, the “Iran connection” gets them some room to maneuver vis-a-vis the US.

But then, there are also specific interests for Kabul and Islamabad to forge an understanding with Iran. Karzai would like to secure all the political support that Iran can provide that enables him to press ahead with the reconciliation with the Taliban.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, leader of Hezb-i-Islami, which is represented in Karzai’s government, lived in exile in Iran for five years. Iran also wields influence over a variety of non-Pashtun forces that happen to harbor misgivings about Karzai’s peace plans of reconciling the Taliban.

In a worst-case scenario, Iran could prove to be a “spoiler”, while Karzai’s negotiating strength substantially increases via-a-vis the US (and Pakistan) in political terms if Iran is seen as his partner.

Iran’s support for the peace process as next-door neighbor is an imperative need for Karzai to reach a durable Afghan settlement. The bottom line is that reciprocally Tehran would expect Karzai to keep in mind at all times the red line regarding Iran’s legitimate interests in Afghanistan and acts accordingly.

Karzai has managed to maintain good equations with Tehran all through despite US interference. From this angle, Khamenei’s strong demarche with Karzai regarding US military bases in Afghanistan could prove to be a clincher.

In the past, Iran’s and Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan often proved to be at loggerheads. But a qualitative change has taken place. For Pakistan, gnawed by apprehensions of the US’s intentions toward it, Iran as a friendly neighbor becomes a critically important asset today.

Especially so, as Iranian inputs regarding the US’s covert activities inside Pakistan will be of invaluable use and solidarity with Iran helps mitigate the US pressure. For Tehran, too, it is important that Pakistan does its utmost to ensure that Jundallah activities from its soil are curtailed and the possibility of third countries exploiting Jundallah as a means to destabilize Iran is excluded.

Equally, Pakistan is a major Sunni country and Iran’s interest lies in ensuring that it does not become part of the Saudi-led alliance against Iran in the Middle East. Iran can flaunt its friendship with Pakistan to expose the Saudi campaign to whip up the phobia of a Shi’ite-Sunni schism in the Middle East today by way of branding Tehran as the leader of the Shi’ite camp and rallying the Sunni Arab opinion.

The Taliban used to be a divisive issue in the Iran-Pakistan relationship. But this is no longer the case, as the cutting edge of the Afghan situation today for both countries lies in regard to the US’s military presence. Both Iran and Pakistan agree that a long-term US presence in Afghanistan should be somehow scuttled. Also, the Taliban have transformed, which is what the direct contacts between them and the US (without Islamabad’s knowledge) suggest.

Above all, Iran’s comfort level is much higher today regarding a fair deal in an Afghan settlement for the Afghan groups with which Iran has enjoyed historical and cultural links. The old-style Pashtun dominance of Afghanistan is a non-starter as there has been a sort of “political awakening” among the Afghan people.

Iran also would factor in that the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 and the ensuing downstream consequences have greatly reduced the capacity of the Pakistani state to dictate an Afghan settlement unilaterally. Karzai is the best bet under the present circumstances for both Iran and Pakistan as the leader of an “Afghan-led” peace process. All these elements have contributed to the broad convergence of interests between Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

How this convergence plays out in the coming weeks and months will have a significant bearing on the course of events in Afghanistan and it will no doubt impact the reconciliation process with the Taliban.

Iran will have the maximum interest in forging a regional axis out of this broad convergence of interests and concerns and making it a real driving force that shapes events to come rather than acts as a mere catalyst. But it takes two – or in this case three – to tango.

Ambassador M K Bhadrakumar was a career diplomat in the Indian Foreign Service. His assignments included the Soviet Union, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Germany, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kuwait and Turkey.

Kurram TTP Splitting Over UnIslamic “Islamists” Terrorism

[It seems as though the “jihadis” are turning against the terrorists in Kurram, according to Pak Army plans, even though the US considers them all to be terrorists.  This is the main point of contention.  According to TheNews, Saeed is a Haqqani.]

Fazal Saeed leaves TTP


TTP has claimed a series of high-profile attacks in the nearly two months since US troops killed Osama bin Laden. — Photo by Reuters

PESHAWAR: A Pakistani Taliban warlord who claims to control hundreds of foot soldiers said Monday he had broken with the militia and would form his own anti-American group along the Afghan border.

Fazal Saeed described himself as the leader of Pakistan’s umbrella Tehreek-i-Taliban (TTP) faction in the tribal district of Kurram, but said he had run out of patience with the network for killing civilians.

TTP has claimed a series of high-profile attacks in the nearly two months since US troops killed Osama bin Laden.

Hinting at a possible a split in Pakistan’s deadliest militant outfit, blamed for more than 4,500 deaths in attacks since July 2007, Saeed said he had decided to form a new organisation — Tehreek-i-Taliban Islami.

“I repeatedly told the leadership council of Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan that they should stop suicide attacks against mosques, markets and other civilian targets,” Saeed told AFP by telephone.

“Islam does not allow killings of innocent civilians in suicide attacks,” he said, likening what TTP does in Pakistan to “what US troops are doing in Afghanistan” and vowing to continue the fight alone against the Americans.

“I have therefore decided to quit TTP,” Saeed said, claiming to have defected along with “hundreds of supporters.” A 10-member consultative council will meet within days to formulate the group’s programme, he told AFP.

Saeed said he was TTP leader in Kurram, one of seven districts in Pakistan’s tribal belt known as havens of Taliban and al Qaeda linked groups fighting US and Nato forces across the border in Afghanistan.

He denied that his defection had anything to do with the government, or Pakistani intelligence and security agencies.

“I have no links with them,” Saeed said, adding that he considered America as “our main enemy” and describing attacks on foreign troops in Afghanistan as “justified.”

He said his goal was to enforce sharia law and Islamic rule in Afghanistan and Pakistan, claiming that he had supporters all over Pakistan.

Kurram is unique in that its upper part has a Shia Muslim majority while its lower reaches are dominated by Sunni Muslims. There have been outbreaks of sectarian violence between the two communities.

Shia travellers to Peshawar and adjoining cities have often been attacked by groups of Sunni militants backed by the Taliban.

Washington’s Brezhnev Doctrine

Washington’s Military Brezhnev Doctrine in Iraq—And Elsewhere

The much-touted final U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq looks more bogus by the day. For the past two months, Pentagon leaders from Secretary of Defense Robert Gates on down have been sending a flotilla of trial balloons aloft about the “need” to keep U.S. troops in that country beyond the end of 2011. Even in the unlikely event that Washington does not successfully bludgeon Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki into approving a long-term “residual” U.S. military presence in his country, there will be a de facto U.S. colonial army there for the indefinite future.

Any notion that the United States government intends to allow Iraqis to run their own affairs is belied by the facts on the ground. The U.S. built a gargantuan palatial embassy in Baghdad—a complex that is nearly as large as Vatican City—staffed by more than 1,000 diplomats and direct support personnel. Both the facility and the personnel levels are much larger than the U.S. embassies in such major powers as China, Japan, Germany, and the UK. All that for a country of some 25 million people. Such an oversized presence suggests that the U.S. ambassador plans to play the role of imperial viceroy, not a mere diplomatic representative to a sovereign country.

And now the Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. embassy will hire and maintain a private security detail of some 5,100 armed personnel to protect the bloated diplomatic staff and perform other duties. Lest anyone harbor the illusion that these individuals will be ordinary bodyguards, it is clear that they will be far more than that. In testimony before the Commission on Wartime Contracting, Patrick Kennedy, undersecretary of state for management, conceded that in addition to guarding diplomats and embassy buildings, the security force will “operate a fleet of aircraft and armored vehicles.” The cost to American taxpayers? At least $3 billion a year.

The scenario now emerging is that the United States will keep a residual force of 5,000 to 15,000 troops in Iraq, augmented by a private mercenary army of more than 5,000 largely ex-military personnel, indefinitely.

It is an all-too-familiar pattern. When it comes to maintaining a sizable military presence in foreign countries, U.S. officials try to implement a version of the infamous Brezhnev Doctrine. That approach, epitomized by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev in the 1960s, was that once a country became a member of the communist camp, it could never leave. Once a large U.S. force takes up residence in another country, U.S. political and military leaders never want to see that situation come to an end. We still have bases and troops in South Korea nearly 60 years after the end of the Korean War and in Germany and Japan some 66 years after World War II. The only occasions when U.S. forces seem to leave is when they are driven out (as in Vietnam, Lebanon, and Somalia) or odd factors intervene (as with the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines that combined with a vote of the Philippine Senate to terminate the U.S. bases at Clark Field and Subic Bay).

Iraq threatens to become the latest arena for the application of Washington’s military Brezhnev Doctrine. But it’s not likely to be the last. Already the usual suspects are beating the drums tomaintain a large U.S. military presence in Afghanistan for years or decades to come. U.S. leaders routinely deny that the United States is an empire, but Washington’s conduct certainly creates the impression that it is an empire of bases and client states. The behavior in Iraq does nothing to dispel that image.

Pakistan Demands That Tribal Leaders Police Their Areas, US Merely Wants Them Dead

[This short report outlines the whole problem and the main point of contention between US and Pakistani generals–plans for Pakistan’s tribesmen.  Pakistan is creating a legally binding arrangement with the tribes, where they police their own areas against the penetration of criminal foreigners, “anti-state or anti-social elements,” as well as to protect “roads, government installations and officials.”  The tribal system will be advanced throughout the region, as the representatives of government in the now lawless region.  America’s problem with this is that it is the exact opposite of their preferred solution, the total militarization of the zone.  To that end, US assets are continually deployed against these pro-government tribal leaders, in an effort to turn them against the government and to expand the insurgency.

 

One would think that the US Army would be proud to support this operation, since it is Pakistan’s application of its own “Anbar solution” to its tribal problems.  In Anbar, Iraq, the US military bought peace with the Sunni militants by buying them off and empowering them as the local law in their areas of operations.  This solution cannot be allowed for Pakistan, since US planners have always planned to expand the war there.]

Islamabad, Jun 24 (PTI) The Pakistani Army will withdraw from trouble-torn Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), close to the Afghan border when its tribal people are able to take up their responsibilities to combat terrorism, Army chief Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani has promised.
Addressing separate meetings of Ahmadzai Wazir and Mehsud tribes in Wana and Chegmalai areas of South Waziristan, Kayani said the army had played an important role in eradicating militancy and restoring peace in the region.
“The army will leave the area when tribesmen are capable of fulfilling their responsibilities,” Kayani was quoted as saying by Dawn.com.
Pakistan has deployed over 100,000 regular and paramilitary troops in FATA to flush out the Taliban from the area.
The army chief also blamed foreign elements for the situation in FATA, the report said.
Under the Frontier Crimes Regulations, tribal people have certain responsibilities, including protection of roads, government installations and officials and keep their areas clear of anti-state and anti-social elements, it noted.
The US has been pressuring Pakistan to crackdown on terrorists taking shelter in North Waziristan. Pakistan army had undertaken military operations to flush out terrorists from South Waziristan. However, Pakistan has been resisting similar operations in North Waziristan, saying it will not come under foreign pressure and decide when to carry out any military operation North Waziristan.

Half-Baked Turki

[Saudi Arabia is cutting-out for itself imaginary special rights to deny to the world’s Shia the same rights that the Arab Spring movement is demanding for the Arab Sunnis.  This old Turkey has been stirring-up hatred and false ideas in the world for a very long time, especially when he ran the Saudi secret service during Reagan’s heyday.  If the human race has any say left in the decisions that the “elitists” are making for the world, then this sort of anti-Shia nonsense will be neutralized by thinking human beings.  Turki should go back to the farm and play checkers with Bandar, instead of toying with the rights of humanity.]

UK cooks Saudi-hatched anti-Iran ploy

The Saudi Arabian regime has once again resorted to its old masters, the UK and US, in its desperate bid vis-à-vis a powerful Iran, according to media reports.

In the latest of a series of anti-Iran plots hatched by the Saudi royal family, Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal has revealed that his country was working on a ploy to usurp the place of the Islamic Republic at the international oil markets, the daily The Wall Street Journal reported.

Prince Turki, who is a leading member of Saudi Arabia’s royal family, has unveiled the plot in a speech to a private gathering of US and UK troops at Royal Air Forces (RAF) Molesworth airbase outside London, said the report.

The prince, a former Saudi ambassador to the UK and US, said “Saudi Arabia is preparing to employ all of its economic, diplomatic and security assets to confront Tehran’s regional ambitions”, added the report.

“Iran is very vulnerable in the oil sector, and it is there that more could be done to squeeze the current government,” said the onetime head of the Saudi intelligence agency.

Iran’s “meddling and destabilizing efforts in countries with Shiite majorities, such as Iraq and Bahrain, as well as those countries with significant Shiite communities…must come to an end,” Turki al-Faisal claimed in his statement to the troops in the UK.

“Saudi Arabia will oppose any and all of Iran’s actions in other countries because it is Saudi Arabia’s position that Iran has no right to meddle in other nations’ internal affairs”, he said.

The prince’s allegations came after Saudi king Abdullah sent the country’s National Guard into Bahrain and Yemen over the past 18 months to help his allies in Manama and Sana’a in suppressing pro-democracy movements, which were born in the tiny Persian Gulf islands in response to decades of brutal monarchists’ rule.

The democratic movements were created following the Arab Spring in Egypt and Tunisia, where long-time dictators who enjoyed Saudis’ and certain western countries’ support were toppled by people’s revolutions and their call for freedom.

Saudis accuse Iran of interfering in its neighbors’ internal affairs, while they, themselves, are killing defenceless people in Bahrain, and Yemen as an occupying power like what their old masters are doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Saudi Arabian regime, Britain, and the US are also jointly conspiring in secret to hammer out a strategy to destabilize world’s oil markets to their own interests.

After failing to force members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to increase crude output at the organization’s recent meeting in Vienna, the Saudi Arabian regime has hinted that it could use its vast energy resources as a strategic weapon.

“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,” the prince said.

12 killed in police station attack in NW Pakistan

[Dera Ismail Khan is the home base of the anti-TTP Taliban, followers of Abdullah Mehsud.  They were formerly led by martyred anti-Baitullah leader Qari Zainullah Mehsud.  It is highly significant that terror attacks are occurring in the home towns of several pro-government lashkar leaders at the same time that the ‘Army is focusing on them as their last line of defense.]

12 killed in police station attack in NW Pakistan

English.news.cn

The still image taken from a TV channel shows policemen taking part in an operation against militants near a police station in Dera Ismail Khan, northwest Pakistan, June 25, 2011. At least 12 policemen were killed and a dozen others injured in an attack Saturday afternoon at a police station here, reported local Urdu TV channel Dunya. (Xinhua/Ahmad Kamal)

ISLAMABAD, June 25 (Xinhua) — At least 12 policemen were killed and a dozen others injured in an attack Saturday afternoon at a police station in northwest Pakistan, reported local Urdu TV channel Dunya.

All the police held hostage by the attackers inside the police station were rescued after nearly five hours of crossfire between the security forces and the attackers, said the report.

According to the local media reports, five out of an estimated 10 to 12 attackers were also killed in the crossfire while the remaining militants managed to run away.

Three of the attackers were killed by police while the other two blew themselves up. The three attackers killed include one woman and two of them were of foreign nationality.

The security forces have taken control of the police station and a search operation is underway.

The attack took place at about 4:30 p.m. local time Saturday afternoon at a police station in the Kulachi area of Dera Ismail Khan in northwest Pakistan. Kulachi is a small town, some 30 kilometers east of the militancy-plagued South Waziristan.

Eyewitnesses said that handgrenade blasts and firing were heard shortly after two men and one woman with veil over her face entered the police station.

At initial stage at least six police were reportedly killed in the shootout.

Over 100 security personnel stationed nearby were called in after the attack was reported. However, the security forces reaching the site were unable to enter the police station as some 20-plus policemen were feared held hostage by the attackers inside the building.

Three blasts were heard when the security forces backed by armored vehicles tried to storm into the police station.

Several police vehicles were reportedly destroyed in the fight. Two policemen held hostage by the attackers were rescued during the crossfire.

It is not known how the remaining attackers have managed to flee the police station which was entirely surrounded by the security forces. Some local media reports said the number of attackers involved in the incident is much less than reported.

No group has claimed the responsibility for the attack yet.

there is a real risk of big war in the Middle East

Please, not again

Without boldness from Barack Obama there is a real risk of war in the Middle East

Dec 29th 2010

NO WAR, no peace, is the usual state of affairs between Israel and its neighbours in the Middle East. But every time an attempt at Arab-Israeli peacemaking fails, as Barack Obama’s did shortly before Christmas, the peace becomes a little more fragile and the danger of war increases. Sadly, there is reason to believe that unless remedial action is taken, 2011 might see the most destructive such war for many years.

One much-discussed way in which war might arise stems from the apparent desire of Iran to acquire nuclear weapons at any cost, and Israel’s apparent desire to stop Iran at any cost. But fear of Iran’s nuclear programme is only one of the fuses that could detonate an explosion at any moment. Another is the frantic arms race that has been under way since the inconclusive war in 2006 between Israel and Hizbullah, Iran’s ally in Lebanon. Both sides have been intensively preparing for what each says will be a “decisive” second round.

Such a war would bear little resemblance to the previous clashes between Israel and its neighbours. For all their many horrors, the Lebanon war of 2006 and the Gaza war of 2009 were limited affairs. On the Israeli side, in particular, civilian casualties were light. Since 2006, however, Iran and Syria have provided Hizbullah with an arsenal of perhaps 50,000 missiles and rockets, many with ranges and payloads well beyond what Hizbullah had last time. This marks an extraordinary change in the balance of power. For the first time a radical non-state actor has the power to kill thousands of civilians in Israel’s cities more or less at the press of a button.

In that event, says Israel, it will strike back with double force. A war of this sort could easily draw in Syria, and perhaps Iran. For the moment, deterrence keeps the peace. But a peace maintained by deterrence alone is a frail thing. The shipment to Hizbullah of a balance-tipping new weapon, a skirmish on the Lebanese or increasingly volatile Gaza border—any number of miscalculations could ignite a conflagration.

From peace process to war process

All of this should give new urgency to Arab-Israeli peacemaking. To start with, at least, peace will be incomplete: Iran, Hizbullah and sometimes Hamas say that they will never accept a Jewish state in the Middle East. But it is the unending Israeli occupation that gives these rejectionists their oxygen. Give the Palestinians a state on the West Bank and it will become very much harder for the rejectionists to justify going to war.

Easy enough to say. The question is whether peacemaking can succeed. After striving for almost two years to shepherd Israeli and Palestinian leaders into direct talks, only for this effort to collapse over the issue of settlements, Mr Obama is in danger of concluding like many presidents before him that Arab-Israeli diplomacy is a Sisyphean distraction. But giving up would be a tragic mistake, as bad for America and Israel as for the Palestinians. The instant the peace process ends, the war process begins, and wars in this energy-rich corner of the world usually suck in America, one way or another. Israel will suffer too if Mr Obama fails, because the Palestinians have shown time and again that they will not fall silent while their rights are denied. The longer Israel keeps them stateless under military occupation, the lonelier it becomes—and the more it undermines its own identity as a liberal democracy.

Don’t mediate. Legislate

Instead of giving up, Mr Obama needs to change his angle of attack. America has clung too long to the dogma that direct talks between Israel and the Palestinians are the way forward. James Baker, a former secretary of state, once said that America could not want peace more than the local parties did. This is no longer true. The recent history proves that the extremists on each side are too strong for timid local leaders to make the necessary compromises alone. It is time for the world to agree on a settlement and impose it on the feuding parties.

The outlines of such an agreement have been clear since Bill Clinton set out his “parameters” after the failure of the Camp David summit a decade ago. The border between Israel and a new Palestine would follow the pre-1967 line, with adjustments to accommodate some of the bigger border-hugging Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and land-swaps to compensate the Palestinians for those adjustments. But there is also much difficult detail to be filled in: how to make Jerusalem into a shared capital, settle the fate of the refugees and ensure that the West Bank will not become, as Gaza did, an advance base for war against Israel after Israeli forces withdraw.

Mr Clinton unveiled his blueprint at the end of a negotiation that had failed. Mr Obama should set out his own map and make this a new starting point. He should gather international support for it, either through the United Nations or by means of an international conference of the kind the first President Bush held in Madrid in 1991. But instead of leaving the parties to talk on their own after the conference ends, as Mr Bush did after Madrid, America must ride herd, providing reassurance and exerting pressure on both sides as required.

The pressure part of this equation is crucial. In his first round of peacemaking, Mr Obama picked a fight with Israel over settlements and then backed down, thereby making America look weak in a region where too many people already believe that its power is waning (see article). This is a misperception the president needs to correct. For all its economic worries at home and military woes in Iraq and Afghanistan, America is far from weak in the Levant, where both Israel and the nascent Palestine in the West Bank continue to depend on it in countless vital ways.

The Palestinians have flirted lately with the idea of bypassing America and taking their cause directly to the UN. Going to the UN is well and good. But the fact remains that without the sort of tough love that America alone can bestow, Israel will probably never be able to overcome its settler movement and make the deal that could win it acceptance in the Arab world. Mr Obama has shown in battles as different as health reform and the New START nuclear treaty with Russia that he has the quality of persistence. He should persist in Palestine, too.

EGYPT LOSING SINAI?

[The odds are very high that this scenario is probably correct, that the next great war is erupting in the Middle East, one that will stretch all the way to Pakistan.  Now all that is left is to find a justification to expand it northwards now, instead of waiting.  Israel is dying and the Zionist freaks who run it understand that.  Losing faith in the idea of “Israel” is the only real existential threat to the Zionist state.  The Sinai is a vital component of that shitty little egotistical imaginary state.  Summer is getting very hot.]

EGYPT LOSING SINAI?

aangirfan

How safe is Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt’s Sinai?

What is happening in Egypt’s Sinai:

In June 2011, unknown gunmen attacked a police checkpoint. (2 Egyptian policemen killed in Sinai )

The police now need army escorts. (23 June 2011, The Economist,The Bedouin of Sinai: Free but dangerous)

In June 2011, two Egyptian soldiers were shot dead by masked gunmen in a main street of el-Arish, the chief city of the region.

Hospitals are crowded with the victims of violence.

Bedouin tribesmen recently cut the road to Sharm el-Sheikh.

Women have been disappearing.

Traders carry guns.

Egypt’s prime minister, Essam Sharaf, recently visited el-Arish.

Hours after he left, a bomb blew up a pipeline that supplies gas to Jordan.

“They may yet attack South Sinai’s oil installations and tourist resorts.” 

(23 June 2011, The Economist, The Bedouin of Sinai: Free but dangerous)

The governor blames Islamic extremists for some of the trouble.

Israel grabbed the Sinai in 1967, but handed it back in 1982. Israel would like the Sinai to be part Israel.

How long before Israel grabs the Sinai from Egypt?

According to The Economist, there could be a big Middle East war during 2011.

“Unless remedial action is taken, 2011 might see the most destructive (Middle East) war for many years.” (The United States, Israel and the Arabs.)

Step 1 – topple Mubarak

Step 2 – create turmoil in the Sinai

Step 3 – invade

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If Israel is to invade the Sinai it needs an excuse.

“A Coptic church in the Egyptian town of Rafah bordering the Gaza Strip was in flames on Saturday (5 January 2011), with witnesses reporting a blast…

“Witnesses said they saw flames coming out of the Mar Girgis church in Rafah after hearing an explosion. Armed men on motorbikes were spotted near the church, one of them said.”(Church in flames in Egypt’s Sinai: witnesses)

According to http://twelfthbough.blogspot.com/ (sabotage adds new dimension):

Egyptian state TV reported ‘dangerous explosions continuing from one spot to another’ in the main source of gas supplying pipeline in El Arish.

The attackers used explosives to blow up the 240km- long pipeline in the town of Lihfen in northern Sinai near the Gaza Strip and the army shut down the gas supplies to Israel and Jordan, Egyptian officials said.

“It’s big terrorist operation,” the state-tv quoted an official as saying, who blamed the attack on “foreign elements.”

The attack on the pipeline came after Israel, which receives 40 per cent of its gas demand from Egypt, expressed concern that the supplies could be threatened if a new regime takes over in Cairo…


The SITE intelligence group, which monitors Al-Qaeda and other Islamist websites, said some groups had been urging Islamic militants to attack the pipeline to Israel while the security situation in Egypt is in flux.

Egypt is a modest gas exporter, using pipelines to export gas to Israel and also to Jordan and other regional states.

SITE intelligence being, of course, Rita Katz, the notorious Zionist disinfo peddler of ZERO CREDIBILITY…

Problems in the Sinai, problems that raise concerns in Israel about Israel’s security, and which can be blamed on Islamic terrorists, would be very helpful to JUSTIFY some sort of military intervention.

We assume that is one of Israel’s goals – to occupy the Sinai.

Turns out, the Israeli section was not hit. 

Subsequent reports said the attack struck a part of the pipeline carrying gas to Jordan.

The Israeli section was not hit, but gas flow was interrupted to prevent damage.

In his Cairo speech, Obama said: “I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world.”

The new beginning would seem to involve the USA destroying the last remaining parts of the Moslem world that are prosperous and at peace.

A community under siege in tribal Pakistan

[It is understandable that Parachinar is referred to as Pakistan’s “Gaza Strip.”  It is also understandable that Pakistan would set-up the final confrontation with the West here, considering that it was here that the mission began under Zia’s “Islamisation” program some thirty years ago (SEE:  SHIA-SUNNI JIHAD IN KURRAM: IRAN BLAMED).  The American “Taliban” under Mehsud vs the real Taliban under Haqqani will come to a head, with the accompanying Pakistani airstrikes on Mehsud’s forces and American Predator strikes upon Haqqani’s forces, with the innocent Shia, backed by Iran caught in the middle.  Sure sounds like a formula for a great conflagration on Pakistani soil (SEE: The Real War –vs– The Illusions ).] 

A community under siege in tribal Pakistan

As US prepares troop withdrawal, Taliban’s strong hold on border regions reveals Pakistan’s vulnerability.
At least 30,000 families have been displaced due to violence in Kurram, the UN says [EPA]

Parachinar, in Pakistan’s tribal north west, remains under siege. The only road connecting this district bordering Afghanistan to the rest of Pakistan has been blocked by Taliban fighters since 2007.

The blockade was briefly lifted in March, or so the Pakistani government proudly announced. The road was open again and travellers would be protected, they said. Owais, a 25-year-old recent graduate of engineering, was one of the few who took the risk and decided to visit his family.

On March 25, his Toyota HiAce and two other vans were stopped on the Thal-Parachinar road by Taliban fighters. Owais and 44 others were kidnapped.

The Taliban freed the women and children, but killed seven – some claim ten – of the abducted passengers. A further 30 men remained in captivity for close to three months.

After protracted negotiations between tribal elders, the Pakistani government, and varying Taliban factions, 22 of the captives were set free on June 21.  Owais was one of the lucky ones.

“They have been handed to the government forces of the Frontier Corps and are on their way home,” a friend of Owais told Al Jazeera.

Reports suggest the Taliban were paid a ransom of at least 30 million rupees, roughly $350,000. Eight men remain in captivity. And the road, though no longer described as “blocked”, still remains highly insecure.

In his speech this week announcing the military transition in Afghanistan, President Barack Obama once again emphasised Pakistan’s crucial role in combating extremism.

“Of course, our efforts must also address terrorist safe havens in Pakistan,” he said. “No country is more endangered by the presence of violent extremists, which is why we will … work with the Pakistani government to root out the cancer of violent extremism, and we will insist that it keeps its commitments.”

The siege on Parachinar is prime evidence to caution the “mission accomplished” rhetoric already employed by US policy makers. It speaks to the Taliban’s tight hold on the crucial border region, the absence of Pakistani government forces, and the challenges that lie ahead in reaching any meaningful conclusion to the “war against terror”.

“The whole Kurram region has turned into a detention centre for the people,” says local journalist Zulfiqar Ali, referring to the tribal agency of which Parachinar is the administrative capital. Pakistan’s tribal areas are divided into seven agencies, with Kurram bordering Afghanistan’s Khost province.

On the road to Parachinar, passenger vehicles are frequently attacked and food convoys are torched. Since 2007, hundreds of people have been killed in Kurram due to the violence, while the United Nations says at least 30,000 families have been forced to abandon their homes and move to camps for Internally Displaced People.

But escaping the region has become a difficult task. For residents to make it to Peshawar, the nearest Pakistani city, they have to first go into Afghanistan. That route has often been closed due to military operations by the Pakistani army. And even if they make it through, they face tremendous risks in Afghanistan – because the same fighters are active across the border.

“People cannot even travel there to bury their dead,” a local human rights activist told Al Jazeera in condition of anonymity, due to the risks involved in discussing the matter.
From sectarianism to militancy

The only road connecting Parachinar to the rest of the country has been blocked since 2007

The recent troubles in Kurram began as sectarian violence but analysts and local sources say the situation was hijacked by Taliban fighters who use the tribal areas to launch attacks against NATO in Afghanistan.

“Local sectarian groups do not have enough resources to block the road,” says Ali. “It is purely a militant issue now.”

The Shia are a slight majority in Kurram Agency, an area of about 500,000 residents. During the Afghan Jihad, when the tribal regions were used by the CIA as the training grounds for anti-Soviet fighters, the region saw an insurgence of Sunni hardliners.

“There have been sectarian tensions between Sunni and Shia in Kurram for decades,” says Reza Jan, Pakistan Team Lead at the American Enterprise Institute. “But in the past, Sunni-Shia clashes were usually minor. Clashes, when they did occur, were resolved fairly quickly by local leaders and authorities.”

After the fall of the Taliban government in Kabul, and Pakistan’s crackdown on radical elements in Punjab, the tribal areas became the hub of both Pakistani and Afghan insurgents. But many among the armed groups consider Kurram’s Shia tribes – who refused to shelter fighters – as apostates. And Kurram’s Shia paid a heavy price as a result.

“The Tareek-e-Taliban’s current leader, Hakimullah Mehsud, is known to be fervently anti-Shia,” says Reza Jan. “Before he led the TTP, he was the TTP commander for Kurram, Orakzai and Khyber agencies where he made a name for himself through his brutality towards Kurram’s Shia.”

For the past three years, locals have desperately looked for help, mainly from Islamabad – but also from Kabul. In 2008, they accepted a peace deal with the Taliban. The exact components of the deal are seen differently by analysts, but the purpose was clear: they wanted an end to the violence and a lifting of the blockade on the road.

“The Mari agreement in 2008 gave the government full authority to use force against any militants blocking the road,” says Ali. “Why has the government not been able to deliver?”

Failure of the state

With Pakistan’s security apparatus always focused on India, the insurgency in the tribal areas did not recieve sufficient attention in its early years.

As sectarian violence began to be dominated by the Sunni Taliban, the Pakistani government relied on the Frontier Corps, a federally-controlled paramilitary force. But the Frontier Corps was ill-equipped in counter-insurgency and failed to stem the Taliban’s rapid growth.

In 2009, two Pakistani generals told the Associated Press that, of $6.6 billion in US military aid provided during the previous six years for counter-terrorism measures, only $500 million had been used for that purpose. The rest of the funds were used towards Pakistan’s “defence against India”.

Since April 2010, the Pakistani army has reportedly paid more attention to the problem and launched operations in central and lower Kurram agency. But the army’s repeated reliance on peace deals with the insurgents suggests they have failed in rooting out the problem.

“It does not mean the state is not trying,” says Irfan Ashraf, a journalism lecturer at neighbouring Peshawar University. “The fact of the matter is that [the] state is too weak to resolve the issue. And it is not accepting its weakness.”

More people have been displaced by these recent operations. And the route via Afghanistan has also now closed, limiting the flow of food, medicine and other supplies.

“If a sack of flour costs 2000 rupees in Islamabad, it cost us 6000 in Parachinar,” one local, recently relocated to Islamabad, said.

The presence of the army in the region has also limited media access, pushing the issue out of the public discussion.

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Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder reports from
Pakistan’s tribal areas

“Anything that is security related is a ‘no go area’ for media and the rest,” says Ashraf. “The media looks up to the security forces, and the official line of the security forces is that it is quiet there.”

When the government announced the reopening of the road in March, it was on the back of a peace deal. Signed in 2008 at the height of the sectarian violence, the deal was being implemented three years later, when local dynamics had changed. Sectarianism was the smaller problem for locals. By then, the Taliban were dominating the area.

The deal itself is not problematic, but the peace deal’s reported mediators, the Haqqani “independent militia”, appears to have become one of the main sources of the abuses now.

“The Haqqanis – with backing from the state – were able to broker a deal between Shia and Sunni. They, in return, would be given transit rights through Kurram,” says Reza Jan.

“The Haqqanis essentially fashioned themselves as the guarantors of the deal.”

Not only has the deal brought more problems for the locals as the Haqqani fighters move around more easily, it has also brought US drone aircraft. The population, once caught in constant sectarian violence, now finds itself again under siege – by the Taliban and the Pakistani army on the ground – and US drones amid the skies.

Follow Mujib Mashal on Twitter: @mujibmashal

What can stop the national security state?

Based on the new Federal Bureau of Investigation manual on “Domestic Investigations and Operations,” 14,000 FBI agents can now spy on and infiltrate political groups without even pretending to have a basis. They can set up surveillance squads on people and go through their trash without even pretending to have a basis. They can run people’s names through databases without even having to record what they have done.

These new policies are all meant to give FBI agents free rein on the “assessment” category of cases, which are opened on individuals and organizations for whom they have no firm evidence to suspect criminal or terrorist activity. According to the New York Times, the FBI opens thousands of such “assessment” cases every month. The new rules make it easier for agents to surreptitiously attend meetings of such organizations. They allow agents to search the trash of individuals so as to find materials that can then be used to pressure them into becoming informants.

The FBI has called such new policies more “fine-tuning than major changes,” and asserts that they do not require Congressional approval.

There is no evidence that the judiciary has any intention of curbing the ever-expanding “national security state.” Quite the contrary. Just a few days after the FBI rules were announced, the Supreme Court ruled 7-2 that evidence found in unconstitutional police searches is admissible in court as long as the police were following precedent. The ruling guts the “exclusionary rule” protection that has long been used to protect defendants and essentially encourages police departments to rewrite their search policies as broadly as they want. Joining the conservatives in the decision were Justices Elena Kagan and Sonio Sotomayor, Obama’s so-called “liberal” appointees.

The Obama administration has often taken the lead in the onslaught on civil liberties. It has defended and continued Bush’s policy of warrantless wiretapping. It has prosecuted more vigorously than perhaps any prior administration whistle-blowers who have attempted to unveil unconstitutional programs.

Congress is no better. While a few representatives raised objections, in late May the Republican House, Democratic Senate, and Democratic White House worked together to extend the Patriot Act for another four years.

Police and security agencies are employing countless policies and programs—as well as off-the-books practices—that trample upon civil liberties and the well-advertised right to free speech. The Fourth Amendment in particular, which protects individuals from unreasonable search and seizure, has been shredded from all directions. We see it in the National Security Letter provisions, which give the FBI authority to demand personal customer records from internet providers, banks and credit companies (without court approval or oversight). We see it in the stop-and-frisk policy employed by the New York Police Department, among others, used to harass and search Black and Latino young men in particular.

Some critics of the all-sided attack on civil liberties portray it as a legacy of the Bush administration. Others see it as an overreaction to the September 11 attacks. In reality, the problem is much deeper.

The natural tendency of the modern capitalist state—organized to protect the economic domination of the few—is to continuously restrict, monitor, and record the activity and speech of the many. They aim to obstruct and isolate potential critics, while intimidating and incarcerating entire communities which they consider to be surplus populations.

How can this be stopped? The FBI’s infamous Counter-Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), aimed at weakening and destroying revolutionary and progressive social movements, was formally brought into the light by Congress in the Church Committee. But this was not because of enlightened representatives. Rather it reflected the fact that the defeat in Vietnam, and the corresponding radicalization of millions, had threatened the legitimacy of the system as a whole.

Congress went so far as to draft legislation that would have made political surveillance illegal, but pulled back when the new FBI Director Clarence Kelley promised the agency would reform itself.

We can see that elements of COINTELPRO have been rebuilt bit by bit, as the people’s movemens of the 1960s and 1970s have receded. The capitalist class, whether led by Republicans or Democrats, has used the opportunity to again target dissent—as was strikingly shown in the FBI raids on anti-war activists last year. The Coalition to Stop FBI Repression www.StopFBI.net has formed to take up their fight. History has shown that attacks on civil liberties begin, and new police tactics are employed, to target specific groups, but then are expanded to ever-larger sections of the population. This is a fight for all us; we need a movement to stop, and ultimately replace, the capitalists’ “national security state.”

The new FBI powers

The new FBI powers

John Whitehead
Guest Columnist
Published: Friday, June 24, 2011 at 9:10 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, June 24, 2011 at 9:10 a.m.

Listen closely and what you will hear, beneath the babble of political chatter and other mindless political noises distracting you from what’s really going on, are the dying squeals of the Fourth Amendment. It dies a little more with every no-knock raid that is carried out by a SWAT team, every phone call eavesdropped on by FBI agents, and every piece of legislation passed that further undermines the right of every American to be free from governmental intrusions into their private affairs.

Whereas the relationship between the American people and their government was once defined by a social contract (the U.S. Constitution) that was predicated on a mutual respect for the rule of law and a clear understanding that government exists to serve the people and not the other way around, that is no longer the case. Having ceded to the government all manner of control over our lives, renouncing our claims to such things as privacy in exchange for the phantom promise of security, we now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being trapped in a prison of our own making.

It is a phenomenon that Abraham Kaplan referred to as the law of the instrument: “Give a small boy a hammer, and he will find that everything he encounters needs pounding.” Unfortunately, in the scenario that has been playing out in recent years, we have become the nails to the government’s hammer. After all, having equipped government agents with an arsenal of tools, weapons and powers with which to vanquish the so-called forces of terror, it was inevitable that that same arsenal would eventually be turned on us.

Iran reveals motive behind 9/11 attacks

Iran reveals motive behind 9/11 attacks

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks during the International Conference on Global Fight against Terrorism in the capital Tehran June 25, 2011.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has accused the US of using the September 11 attacks as a pretext to invade Iraq and Afghanistan and to divert the American public opinion from its domestic issues.

“Some believe that the motive behind the September 11 attacks was to ensure the safety of Israel, foment insecurity in regional countries, divert the US public opinion from the chaotic economic situation in the country and fill the pockets of uncivilized belligerent capitalists,” President Ahmadinejad said in an address to a two-day anti-terrorism conference on Saturday, IRIB website reported.

“Two years after the incident that provided an excuse for the invasion of two countries (Afghanistan and Iraq), led to the killing, injuring and displacing of millions… the US government, under pressure from the public opinion, tasked a group to investigate the reason behind the attacks. But the real truth has been kept from the Americans and the world,” he added.

President Ahmadinejad went on to say that part of the truth might be revealed if a true investigation to the 9/11 attacks is allowed by the United States.

The Iranian chief executive pointed out that fighting terrorism requires a common global understanding. He noted that terrorism has turned to a concern for all nations, adding that the security of all nations is being threatened by terrorism.

President Ahmadinejad emphasized that terrorism emanates from a deviant thought and a desire to dominate others. He also described poverty, discrimination and humiliation of human beings as the root causes of terrorism.

He said that big powers resorted to terrorism “to create divisions, break unity among nations, impede their progress and dominate over their resources and fates.”

He also underlined that Western countries seek to take the fates of other nations in their hands and impose their puppets on them.

The Iranian chief executive called on the international community to devise practical solutions to curb terrorism and urged the abolishment of “faulty, discriminatory mechanism” on fighting terrorism.

He also said that the Islamic Republic is ready to cooperate with others in fight against terrorism.

The International Conference on the Global Fight against Terrorism opened in the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Saturday.

Senior officials from at least 60 countries and representatives from several international organizations, including the UN, have attended the two-day meeting.

Iran is among the victims of terrorism as more than 17,000 Iranians, including senior officials, have lost their lives in various terror attacks since the victory of the Islamic Revolution some thirty years ago.

AR/HRF

Toofan vs Nabi In Kurram Today

Pakistan army raid kills 7 militants

Pakistan’s military fighter jets have bombed suspected militants’ hideouts near the Afghan border, killing seven and injuring eight others.

Pakistan’s security forces backed by warplanes attacked militants’ hideouts in Kurram tribal region of northwestern Pakistan early Saturday, a Press TV correspondent reported.

At least four hiding places were destroyed in the air attack, the report added.

Pakistan’s army has waged multiple offensives in various parts of the tribal belt to force out the Taliban militants.

Meanwhile, armed clashes between two rival militant groups in Upper Orakzai area of Saifud Darra on the same day left 15 dead and eight others injured.

The militants belonged to groups of Hafiz Saeed alias Mullah Toofan, the chief of the Tehrik-i-Taliban in Kurram, and Maulvi Nabi, a militant leader who had been removed from the Taliban movement.

The gunfire is still underway with both sides using heavy weaponry.

Pakistan launched a major operation in Orakzai in March last year after militants fled a sweeping offensive in the nearby tribal district of South Waziristan.

 

 

Pak Jets Bomb Terrorist Positions In Kurram

Forces kill 10 ‘terrorists’ in Kurram

PARACHINAR: A government administrator says Pakistani fighter jets have bombed suspected terrorists hideouts in a northwestern region near the Afghan border, killing at least 10 alleged terrorists.

Javed Khan says the airstrikes on Friday hit two areas of the Kurram Agency based on intelligence reports about the presence of terrorists. Pakistan Army has waged multiple offensives in various parts of the lawless tribal belt in order to force out al Qaida and Pakistani Taliban fighters. The US also launches missile strikes against suspected terrorists hiding along the border. Information from the tribal regions is difficult to verify independently, however, because access is restricted.

Suspected US drones had fired missiles into Kurram on Monday killing at least 12 terrorists, nine of them from the al Qaeda-linked Haqqani network. Pakistani officials said it was only the fourth time that US drones had hit Kurram.

Fifteen killed as rival militant groups clash in Orakzai

[This is being reported as one Pakistani Taliban faction (TTP) against another.  It reads like one group continuing attacks upon Shia (no doubt still Hakeemullah’s gang), and the other trying to block attempts to trash the recent Kurram treaty.]

Fifteen killed as rival militant groups clash in Orakzai

Pakistan’s army declared a victory in Orakzai last year but violence has continued. — File photo

PARACHINAR: At least 15 militants were killed in a shootout between the supporters of two Pakistani Taliban commanders near the Afghan border, a government official said.

The official, Mir Alam, said several insurgents were also wounded during Saturday’s gunbattle in the Orakzai tribal region. He said it was unclear what sparked the shootout.

However, such clashes are common in Orakzai where an unspecified number of insurgents and their commanders have been hiding after fleeing a military operation in nearby regions in recent years.

Pakistan’s army declared a victory in Orakzai last year but violence has continued.

Three Presidents Unite In Joint Anti-Terrorism Committment

“All sides stressed their commitment to efforts aimed at eliminating extremism, militancy, terrorism, as well as rejecting foreign interference.”

Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan to ‘jointly combat terrorism’

AFP

Seated around a table from left to right, Afghan Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasoul, Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Interior Minister Rehman Malik, and President Asif Ali Zardari, attend a round of talks at the Iranian presidency office in Tehran, June 24, 2011. — Photo by AP

TEHRAN: The presidents of Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan agreed on Saturday to join forces in combating terrorism, in a joint statement issued after three-way talks in Tehran.

“All sides stressed their commitment to efforts aimed at eliminating extremism, militancy, terrorism, as well as rejecting foreign interference, which is in blatant opposition to the spirit of Islam, the peaceful cultural traditions of the region and its peoples’ interests,” the statement said.

“All sides agreed to continue meeting at foreign, interior, security and economy ministers’ level to prepare a roadmap for the next summit due to be held in Islamabad before the end of 2011,” added the statement carried by Iran’s official IRNA news agency.

Iran and Pakistan also “supported the ongoing national reconciliation in Afghanistan.”

Afghan President Hamid Karzai and his Iranian and Pakistani counterparts Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Asif Ali Zardari held three-way talks on Friday ahead of a six-nation counter-terrorism conference on Saturday.

The three leaders discussed “ways of battling terrorism, extremism and drug trafficking,” IRNA said on Friday.

A statement posted on the Iranian presidency website said on Friday that the trio “expressed concern over a rising lack of security, extremism and terrorism, and insisted on the need for cooperation to combat these phenomena.”

The Instability of the Eastern Border

The Instability of the Eastern Border

registan.net

by JOSHUA FOUST

Yochi Dreazen makes the case for focusing on Eastern Afghanistan:

But the real story is not in the south; it’s in the east. Senior officers increasingly believe that the conflict will be decided in the valleys and mountain ranges of eastern Afghanistan, a violent region that abuts some of Pakistan’s most unruly provinces. The Taliban and its allies—especially the Pakistan-based Haqqani network—are waging a campaign of roadside bombings, artillery attacks, and ambushes there; the American death toll has risen sharply. Al-Qaida and the Haqqani network have been unwilling to negotiate with the American or Afghan governments, leading top U.S. commanders to conclude that the war can’t be won without defeating the armed group. “The east is the place that needs to be the next focus of the war, and maybe the last focus of the war,” said Jeffrey Dressler, an expert on the region at the Institute for the Study of War. “It hasn’t gotten remotely enough attention in the past.” While Washington obsesses over southern Afghanistan, it is missing the point.

Bully for all of them, but this is a good four-plus years overdue. From the start of the campaign in the south—especially after General McChrystal said the whole push into Helmand was just a sideshow—longtime Afghanistan watchers have been scratching their heads at the decision to go there. But the story here is deeper than Dreazen and Dressler say: the east has suffered under years of stagnation at the hands of US strategists. That the in-crowd is suddenly realizing they screwed up by obsessing on the backwaters of southern Afghanistan is not a comfort, it is an outrage.

In his analysis (pdf) of the war in the East, Gilles Dorronsoro said something I agree with 100%: “.despite a lack of U.S. interest in these regions, their strategic importance is infinitely greater than that of Helmand or even Kandahar. The importance of the Eastern Triangle is due to its location between the capital and the Pakistani insurgent sanctuaries, and its importance in facilitating the passage of insurgents from Pakistan.”

That is absolutely true, and it didn’t suddenly become true in 2011. It was true in 2007. As has become depressingly typical of what passes for analysis of this war, the insiders are realizing years too late what is really important—a realization made all the more infuriating in light of the condescension and accusations of ignorance to what experts in Afghanistan were saying that accompanied their decision to ignore the east and surge into the south.

That’s not to say a surge into Loya Paktia would have done a thing: as our experience in the south has shown, it would have killed a bunch of people but fundamentally left everything else unresolved. To wit:

The way progress is measured in Afghanistan is very problematic. Look beyond the cliched statements about how many girls are going to school or women are now engaged in the public sphere – good news to an uninformed audience – and you can see a drop off in the number of school and university students, particularly outside the capital, and suspension of significant development projects in all parts of the country.

The escalation in the war not only caused casualties on both sides, but it also resulted in the further militarisation of communities, either through the government’s initiative of arming local militias or via criminal gangs and anti-government forces. This is undoubtedly affecting provision of very basic services such as health, education, agricultural and various socioeconomic development programs…

Today I spoke with Ahmad, a friend from Kunar province. He told me: “The greatest concern for people in this region is the increase in rocket attacks from the Pakistani border side, which continues to take the lives of ordinary villagers over the past months. This is more scary to me than thinking of US military drawdown. We are worried about a direct invasion by Pakistani forces, even as the world is watching.”

There are fundamental problems with the war that just aren’t being dealt with. In the section above you can see how the surge has resulted in a net loss in the social and political factors that will determine long-term success. The highlighted phrases are yet more evidence that the biggest problem facing Afghanistan is most likely not the Taliban, but the continuing escalation of state-on-state combat along the eastern border—the easternborder, mind you, and not the southern border.

Given the current American genius plan to build a 400,000-man Afghan Army, and especially given how many Afghan soldiers say they joined to fight not the Taliban but Pakistan, we should be worrying not whether the Taliban might make a move, but if a fully-transitioned Afghanistan might soon be at war with Pakistan. This is a concern that, again, was around in 2006 when the cross-border fighting had advanced to the stage where Pakistan wanted to fence and mine the Durand Line—the eastern border, mind you, not the southern one.

So let us sit back and contemplate that now, in 2011, as violence spikes once again in eastern Afghanistan, that it is only now that inside-the-Pentagon analysts and their journalists are waking up to the fact that the east is a big mess. And then after we’ve contemplated just how badly they’ve gotten the major questions of this war wrong, why we should trust a single thing they can muster up going forward. And then try not to drink yourself to sleep tonight.

Pres. Zardari and Karzai Arrive In Tehran In Spite of Washington’s Threats

Zardari in Tehran for tri-lateral talks

By AFP

Plot to assassinate President Asif Ali Zardari uncovered. PHOTO: AFP

TEHRAN: The presidents of Pakistan and Afghanistan arrived in Tehran on Friday for a three-way summit with their Iranian counterpart and to attend an anti-terrorism conference, IRNA news agency reported.

The summit to be attended by Presidents Asif Ali Zardari, Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad comes as the United States announced that it will draw down by 33,000 its contingent of 99,000 troops in Afghanistan by the end of summer 2012.

Several hundred French soldiers have also been recalled from the country recently.

Britain and Germany, which have the largest presence in Afghanistan after the US, have also declared their intention to reduce their contingent by the end of the year.

Iran has always been hostile to the presence of NATO troops in neighbouring Afghanistan, saying they strengthened terrorist groups such as Taliban and Al-Qaeda more than it weakened them.

Tehran itself suffers from the activities of the armed Sunni Muslim group Jundallah around its border with Pakistan and Afghanistan. Jundallah is on the United States’ list of outlawed terrorist groups.

After the three-way summit, Zardari and Karzai will attend on Saturday an anti-terrorism conference alongside Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, Iranian media reported.

Other nations will also attend the conference as observers.

Bashir is wanted by the International Criminal Court, which has issued two arrest warrants on charges of crimes against humanity and genocide in the Darfur region, where a bloody conflict has raged for eight years.

Iran, which is on the United States’ list of state sponsors of terrorism, regularly accuses Israel and the US of plotting terrorist attacks against its territory.

Brigadier held for links with CIA-backed militants

Brigadier held for links with CIA-backed militants

ISLAMABAD – A brigadier of Pakistan Army appointed at General Headquarters was arrested apparently on the charges of having links with a banned militant outfit.
Brigadier Ali Khan, who was appointed at the Regulation Directorate in GHQ back in May 2009, came under the surveillance radar of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and Military Intelligence (MI) earlier this year, according to sources.
Reportedly, after almost six months of surveillance, the ISI and MI in a joint operation, picked up the brigadier from outside his residence on May 6. The intelligence authorities reportedly ran a check on him after some ‘suspicious’ people were found frequently visiting his home. The call records of Khan’s cell phone confirmed the suspicions of intelligence agencies. Sources said Brigadier Ali Khan was linked to the section of militants that had direct ties with the Central Investigation Agency (CIA) and the military intelligence agencies arrested him to probe this connection. The ISPR only confirmed Ali Khan’s arrest but refused to provide further details. Confirming the arrest, ISPR Director General Major General Athar Abbass said the news was not made public earlier due to pending investigations against the brigadier. Abbas said the brigadier was linked to Hizbul Tahrir, a militant organisation banned by former president Pervez Musharraf in 2003. He said the investigations were at early stages and it was premature to comment any further. He denied any racket of senior military officers having links with militants.
Earlier, talking to a private television channel, Abbas had said Hizbul Tahrir was linked to England, which, according to sources, was a hint at the possible nexus between militants, CIA and officers like Ali Khan. The ISPR DG said no other arrests were made.
The brigadier was reportedly going to retire from his duties at Pakistan Army next month. It is also being probed how a brigadier having linkages with militants got appointed Regulation Directorate, an important military branch that primarily deals with recruitments and human resource issues. Hizbul Tahrir is the same organisation that sends hand-outs and parcels to almost all the journalists of mainstream national media instigating the journalist community to declare ‘Jihad’ against the foreign powers, Pakistani government and Pakistan Army.

Agencies add: “We follow zero tolerance policy of such activities within the military. Therefore prompt action was taken on detection,” Abbas said.
A military official, who declined to be identified, ruled out the possibility of the brigadier’s involvement in any plot. “He just had contacts with the banned group. But he was not involved in any type of conspiracy,” Khan is from a family of soldiers – his father was a junior officer while he has two sons and one son-in law in the Army. His wife Anjum rejected the allegations against him as ‘rubbish’. “Every general knows Brigadier Ali Khan. Even (army chief) General (Ashfaq) Kayani knows him,” she said. “We can never think of betraying the Army or our country. “He was an intellectual, an honest, patriotic and ideological person. It’s a fashion here that whosoever offers prayers and practises religion is dubbed as Taliban and militant,” she said.
A military source told BBC that Gen Kayani had asked for a briefing about the brigadier and after being satisfied about the weight of the ‘evidence’, ordered the arrest himself.
This is not the first time allegations have been made about links between elements in Pakistan’s military and banned organisations, including militant groups. At least two army officers were court-martialled last year for links with the banned Hizbul Tahrir.
Some fear extremist groups like Hizb-ul-Tahrir may have been making inroads into the Army. “What we see is that it is trying to infiltrate the military and wanting to bring some sort of a change through the military and that could be dangerous,” retired general and defence analyst Talat Masood said.
The allegations against the brigadier could show gaps as far as discipline was concerned, he said, but added that it was a positive sign that the Army had found out and taken action. “I think the Army is trying do a clean-up,” he said. “They have realised that otherwise the institution will be undermined.”

Russian Peacemaking In Karabakh to Facilitate Western Pipeline Plans?

Mark Grigorian

Russian service Bi-bi-si

Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev (left) and President of Armenia Serzh SargsyanThe leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan are waiting for a decisive step to resolve Karabakh conflict

Meeting of Presidents of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia in Kazan on Friday may be historic, if the leaders of the warring parties signed a document on basic principles of Karabakh conflict settlement.

Kazan talks offer a rare opportunity to initiate a resolution of the conflict that continues more than a decade and claimed the lives of more than 25 thousand people. In the course of armed conflict around one million people were displaced from their homes.

The document, which on Friday put on the table in front of the Presidents Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan and Dmitry Medvedev, was the result of four years of negotiations and discussions within the OSCE Minsk Group to mediate in resolving the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

This is one of the few examples of successful cooperation between Russia, the United States and France, who lead the Minsk Group.However, the final decision depends on the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Azerbaijan insists that Nagorno-Karabakh, now controlled by Armenians, as part of its internationally recognized territory. Armenia claims that Nagorno Karabakh will not come back under the control of Baku.

If even in Kazan to sign a document on basic principles for a settlement, it will not end the conflict. On the road to peace in the region have yet to overcome many obstacles.

Diplomatic pressure

The international community does not hide its interest in resolving the Karabakh conflict. Policies of different countries are confident that this will help take some of the tensions in the Caucasus.

Madrid principles of Karabakh conflict resolution include

  • Return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan.
  • An interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh, which provides guarantees of security and self-government.
  • Corridor linking Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.
  • The future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh through a legally binding will of its people.
  • The right of all displaced persons and refugees to return to their former homes.
  • International guarantees of security, including peacekeeping operation.

If in the process of settlement progress will be fixed, then Turkey may open its border with Armenia closed in solidarity with Azerbaijan, which will greatly facilitate the closer involvement of the South Caucasus countries into the orbit of European politics.

So the pressure on the leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia before the meeting in Kazan is growing.

Before the summit, U.S. President Barack Obama called the presidents of two countries – Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan – an appeal to endorse the basic principles of conflict resolution.

A special statement on the need to sign the document by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia.

“The document, which will be discussed in Kazan […], is the real basis for moving forward and continuing training for a comprehensive peace agreement”, – assured the Russian Foreign Ministry.

Optimistic and OSCE Secretary General Marc Perrin de Brichambaut.

“We are very rarely witnessed moments when our hopes for a final peaceful solution to as high as now,” – he said ahead of talks in Kazan.

Pakistan, India assess U.S. withdrawal plans

Pakistan, India assess U.S. withdrawal plans

For neighbor Pakistan, the unexpectedly larger and faster planned troop pullout from Afghanistan is welcome, but for India, which has been cultivating ties with Kabul, any increased instability bodes ill.

TalksIndian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao, far right, holds talks on peace and security issues with her Pakistani counterpart Salman Bashir, far left, during a meeting at The Pakistan Foreign Ministry in Islamabad. (Aamir Qureshi, AFP/Getty Images / June 23, 2011)
By Mark Magnier, Los Angeles TimesJune 24, 2011

Reporting from New Delhi—
In Pakistan, the news was generally applauded. The South Asian nation has bridled at U.S. regional influence, CIAdrones in its airspace and what it saw as the American intrusion on its sovereignty in May in the raid that killedOsama bin Laden in the city of Abbottabad.

It shows that America is committed to withdrawing, said Talat Masood, a retired Pakistani lieutenant general and now a military analyst. “That’s welcome in Pakistan. A gradual withdrawal will be helpful for the region.”

A reduced U.S. footprint in the region might allow Islamabadto expand its influence in Afghanistan. It also probably would reduce U.S. pressure on Pakistan to sever links between its security forces and homegrown militant groups, some of whom are viewed by Pakistanis as freedom fighters useful in countering neighbor and longtime rival India.

Many in India, on the other hand, expressed concern that the relatively sharp U.S. withdrawal would raise uncertainty in the region, increasing the risk that militancy in Pakistan and Afghanistan would spill across India’s borders.

India is confident its relations with Afghanistan are solid, and the countries share a distrust of Pakistan’s motives and its bid for enhanced influence in war-torn Afghanistan.

Pakistan will want to ensure that India doesn’t align with Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance, a political rival to tribal groups allied with Islamabad, analysts said. It is also wary of India forming links with groups in southern Afghanistan that might ally with and embolden neighboring Baluch tribesmen seeking independence for Pakistan’s Baluchistan province.

However, India’s ability to counter Pakistani ambitions or otherwise exert its muscle in Afghanistan as U.S. troop numbers decline is severely limited by geography: Pakistan borders Afghanistan; India does not.

Pakistan controls the main road and port access to landlocked Afghanistan, limiting Indian trade links. And Pakistan can block energy pipeline routes to India from Afghanistan and other Central Asian nations.

“There is a limit on what India can do to influence Pakistani-Afghan relations,” said Dipankar Banerjee, a former major general in the Indian army and director of New Delhi’s Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. “And India has to accept those limitations.”

India and Pakistan share an interest in a gradual, measured U.S. withdrawal that gives the region time to adjust and fill the vacuum in an orderly fashion, analysts said. A full-on civil war in Afghanistan would hurt everyone. Nor would Afghans fleeing any such meltdown be as welcome in Pakistan as they were during the 1980s fight against the Soviets, given Pakistan’s economic troubles and domestic terrorism problems.

India and Pakistan also share an interest in limiting the rise of the Afghan Taliban, albeit for different reasons. India is wary of increased Islamic extremism in the neighborhood that could spark another attack like the terrorist assault on the city of Mumbai in 2008, for which it holds Pakistan at least partly responsible. And Pakistan is concerned that a revitalized Afghan Taliban could embolden its homegrown Taliban movement, further complicating its security issues.

mark.magnier@latimes.com

Anshul Rana in The Times’ New Delhi bureau contributed to this report.

Afghan Groups Arming-Up for Next Civil War

Kidnapping and arms smuggling in Afghanistan 

—Musa Khan Jalalzai

Some Afghan experts are of the opinion that several ethnic and sectarian groups of the country distribute sophisticated weapons among their members for the future civil war after the NATO and US withdrawal in 2014. Local militias and political groups have started arming young unemployed men in Badakhshan, Wakhan and among groups settled near China’s border

“Don’t go to Afghanistan if you want to save the money.” These are the words quoted from a recently filed news story of my journalist friend returned from Afghanistan. Over the last three decades of civil war, Afghanistan largely depended on the black market economy, criminal trade, and smuggling of opium, heroin and arms. Drug and arms trafficking business and jihadism left devastating effects on the lives of common Afghans. The recent large-scale transfer of arms to Afghanistan from Central Asia and its distribution across the country is a bigger threat to the stability of the country as these arms may be used in a future civil war against ethnic rivals. From northern Afghanistan, these weapons are further transferred to Pakistan via the Hindu Kush mountainous regions.

In fact, kidnapping for ransom and smuggling of weapons from Central Asia has been a profitable business in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime in 2001. Some underground groups who enjoy the protection of the Afghan police, intelligence officials and private militias across the country, pick up men, women, children, journalists and businessmen one by one either for the purposes of human trafficking, the organs business or for ransom. Everybody knows who they are and which political or religious group they represent.

Last year, a US embassy report in Kabul revealed that Afghan boys, girls, men and women are trafficked within the country for forced prostitution and forced labour in brick kilns, carpet-making factories and domestic service. In 2010, over 200 men and women were kidnapped by unknown criminals with the help of corrupt Afghan police who have already been involved in the illegal businesses of weapons and ‘China white’ heroin.

Kidnapping and the illegal drug business are the most powerful industries in today’s Afghanistan. Kidnappings are common in many parts of Afghanistan. When the US invaded the country, kidnappings were rare and mostly politically motivated. The average ransom amount was a hefty sum for many Afghans, $ 10,000. In 2011, the rate reached up to $ 200,000. Consequently, these criminals became an influential land mafia, promoted the kidnapping business, and used their purchased empty houses and plazas as temporary prisons for their victims. Hardcore criminal elements from different political and sectarian groups, hired by the land mafia to protect their embezzled estates, have started settling down in urban areas and polluted the local scenario with their criminal activities. They enjoy readymade facilities to carry out their illegal business. These religious and political mafia groups are making millions of dollars from the illicit drug trade, security charges on convoys, extortion and financial contributions from charities and wealthy individuals from various Arab states. The international aspect of this business is that some states do not want the involvement of their political and geographical rival states in the reconstruction of Afghanistan; they are supporting the kidnapping and killing of workers of some reconstruction companies.

The business of kidnapping for ransom supports terrorist Taliban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. Afghan and Pakistani criminal groups involved in kidnapping for ransom in Afghanistan, Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan are financially aiding the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban networks. In Punjab, one of my police officer friends told me in a telephonic conversation that some 100 to 150 people are being kidnapped in the province every month. “We have reports that groups involved in the ransom business have links with the Taliban of Waziristan and Afghanistan-based militants,” he told me. These underground and open groups have spawned an epidemic of ransom kidnappings.

In the Afghan capital, hundreds of people are being kidnapped every year. These criminals who enjoy the support of the Taliban, killed many captives when demands for ransom went unmet. We still remember the brutal killing of a British woman kidnapped for ransom in 2011, because most criminal groups’ kidnappings end either in the payment of a ransom or the death of the hostage. The money these groups retrieve from this business goes into the pockets of four categories of people. The first group is the Taliban who help them in kidnapping locals and foreigners, the second is the corrupt officials of the Afghan police, the third is elements in the Afghan intelligence and the fourth group that receive its share is the private warlords’ militias.

Another formidable aspect of the business is that as these groups belong to sectarian and political parties of Afghanistan, they spend a lot of money on the purchase of weapons from across Central Asia and Iran. Some Afghan experts are of the opinion that several ethnic and sectarian groups of the country distribute sophisticated weapons among their members for the future civil war after the NATO and US withdrawal in 2014. Local militias and political groups have started arming young unemployed men in Badakhshan, Wakhan and among groups settled near China’s border. Ethnic thugs in northern provinces have been terrorising opponents, extorting money, demanding sanctuary, and kidnapping for ransom. Some military experts understand that the weapons they purchase go into the hands of Pakistani Taliban groups in Waziristan and the FATA regions. Improvised explosive devices smuggled into Pakistan have become an effective weapon against civilians in the country.

Heartbreaking reports recently revealed the illegal weapons business in northern Afghanistan. Local criminals, police and intelligence officials are jointly running the profitable business of sophisticated weapons in Kunduz, Mazar-e-Sharif, Herat, Takhar, Balkh, Samangan, Parwan and Baghlan provinces. A police commander from Afghanistan told me that smugglers use the Darqad Pass between Tajikistan and the northern Afghan province of Takhar for weapons smuggling. Military experts understand that this is a crucial stage for preparation of forces for a future civil war in the country.

A source in the Afghan interior ministry told me that police vehicles are being used in narcotics and weapons smuggling across the country. Military relations among Afghan and Tajik and Uzbek Islamist insurgents from Central Asia are friendly. Afghanistan shares porous borders with Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, which are used by some subversive elements to smuggle weapons into the country. These elements will be helpful in igniting the fire of civil war in Afghanistan.

The writer is the author of Britain’s National Security Challenges and Punjabi Taliban. He can be reached at zai.musakhan222@gmail.com