Washington’s New Foxy Plan To Sneak Into the Central Asian Hen House

[Like vampires, they can’t come into your house unless they are invited.  There is still time to save yourselves, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.  Don’t open the door!]

U.S. Promotes New Plan To Battle Drug Trade In Afghanistan, Central Asia, Russia

Tajik guards stand to attention during the official opening of a new border post on the Tajik-Afghan border, which has been funded by the U.S. State Department. Tajik guards stand to attention during the official opening of a new border post on the Tajik-Afghan border, which has been funded by the U.S. State Department.

By Richard Solash
WASHINGTON — Counternarcotics officials in Washington have unveiled a plan to help combat the flow of drugs from Afghanistan, through Central Asia, and into Russia — and in doing so, ease fears that the impending withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan could play into the hands of drug traffickers.

The plan, still in draft form, is known as “The Central Asian Counternarcotics Initiative” (CACI).  It envisions the establishment of counternarcotics task forces in the five Central Asian countries — Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan — which would communicate with similar existing units in Afghanistan and Russia.

The seven groups would share sensitive information, improve coordination on joint and cross-border operations, and help build cases against wanted or arrested traffickers.

William Brownfield, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs, told RFE/RL that by developing the CACI, Washington is attempting to get around what he called an “insufficient level of confidence” among the governments and law enforcement agencies of the seven countries:

“It is a means by which [the Central Asian republics] can get important and sensitive information emanating from Afghanistan related to [drug] production, to interdiction operations, and to law enforcement efforts against traffickers in Afghanistan itself,” he said, adding that for the Russian Federation “it is a means by which they can link into the efforts both in the source country, Afghanistan, and transit countries, the Central Asian five, in a way that they currently cannot do.”

U.S. State Department dollars would fund training and the purchase of equipment to help develop the task forces.

Withdrawal Concerns

Brownfield traveled throughout Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Russia in late June and early July to preview the initiative and solicit feedback from counternarcotics officials. Along the way, he met with Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbaeva and Tajik President Emomali Rahmon.

He said he heard concerns voiced “several times” during his trip that the coming withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan — including 10,000 by the end of this year — could boost the flow of opium poppies from the country.

Despite U.S.-supported eradication initiatives and alternative livelihood programs for farmers, Afghanistan remains the world’s primary source of opium, which is processed into heroin and other drugs in a multibillion dollar illegal trade that funds extremist groups and creates legions of addicts.

Top U.S. international narcotics official William Brownfield believes the proposed Central Asian antidrugs initiative should “rise above” any perceived battle for influence between Washington and Moscow.

But Brownfield maintains that the withdrawal of U.S. troops won’t exacerbate the problem, because force reductions won’t translate into reduced support for Afghan law enforcement:

“I believe we’ve making progress in Afghanistan and I believe that hand-in-hand with [the] U.S. and NATO drawdown from Afghanistan, we’re going to see an increase in the capabilities of Afghan law enforcement and the international community’s support for Afghan law enforcement,” he said, adding that “there is no plan to draw down law enforcement support in Afghanistan. The projection is to reduce our security and armed forces presence.”

Brownfield, who became the State Department’s top international narcotics official in January, previously served as U.S. Ambassador to Colombia, a country where drug interests often co-opt or overwhelm official resistance.

Full-Fledged Commitment Needed

While maintaining that “Colombia is not Central Asia,” Brownfield said one important reality from the South American country does apply: along with supporting regional initiatives, such as the new U.S. plan, he said each country’s leader must make a full-fledged commitment to fight the drug trade, even if it’s a painful decision to do so.

“They must decide that they are willing to pay the political price — because there is a political price,” he said. “Breaking down the penetration of narcotics trafficking organizations is expensive in terms of money, it is expensive in terms of human life, it requires giving great priority to law enforcement, and security matters for a period of time, and during that time, those that require assistance from the state for other areas are likely to be disappointed. And at times it involves having to make difficult decisions about specific individuals.”

In deciding whether to sign onto the U.S.-organized plan, Central Asian leaders are likely to weigh Russia’s reaction.

Increased cooperation between Washington and Moscow on counternarcotics was identified as an early goal in the “reset” of bilateral relations under U.S. President Barack Obama and his Russian counterpart Dmitry Medvedev.

But the July 9 edition of the official paper of the Russian Defense Ministry, “Krasnaya Zvezda,” hinted at Moscow’s concern over U.S. forays into the region.

In an article about a U.S.-funded guard post on the Tajik-Afghan border, which Brownfield had opened the week before, the paper commented, “Of course, this is not a full [U.S.] military presence, but as they say, it all starts with the small.”

U.S. And Russia Share ‘Same Objective’

Russia has also expressed interest in returning to the Tajik-Afghan border, where its troops patrolled until 2005.

Brownfield, who did not meet with defense ministry officials on his trip to Moscow, said the United States and Russia have the “same objective” of reducing the flow of narcotics through the region.

He also said that the Central Asia Counternarcotics Initiative “does not require massive presence by either the United States or the Russian Federation to support or pursue the idea.”

Allowing each Central Asian country to build their own task force according to their preferred structure, he added, would allow the proposed initiative to “rise above” any perceived battle for influence between Washington and Moscow.

Fog of war becomes murkier

 Afghanistan

Taliban militants, who had dressed as women, were arrested by Afghan Border Police near the border with Pakistan earlier this month. Source: AP

A BLOODY decade after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan that followed the September 11 attacks, soldiers are speaking out about how to end the war.

It’s a complex and uncertain process that involves much more than smarter weapons.

Nicholas Floyd is a lieutenant-colonel in the Australian army who spent six months last year at the coalition’s southern Afghanistan headquarters as the officer responsible for the reintegration of insurgents there.

After grappling with that process, Floyd has written a paper for the Asia Pacific Civil-Military Centre of Excellence in which he says Australian personnel in Afghanistan should be given clear direction on integration policy and, if necessary, more troops and civilian officials could be sent there to help make it happen.

Floyd adds fine detail to this week’s message from former army chief Peter Leahy, who warned Australia was pursuing “half a strategy in Afghanistan” with confusion over its mission.

“The Australian government has traded off the bravery, resolve and professionalism of its soldiers for too long,” Leahy says. “The nation-building task at hand is not a job for soldiers alone but it seems that only soldiers are available to do the job.”

Floyd, now an instructor at the Australian Defence Force’s Command and Staff College, provides an insight into why the US and others are talking to the Taliban.

The main concern of Afghan communities is security, Floyd says. They fear reprisals from insurgent groups, recidivism by ex-insurgents or intimidation by the government or its security forces.

Floyd is brutally eloquent about the difficulty of bringing peace to southern Afghanistan.

He says the insurgency there involves complex layers characterised by ready recourse to violence and an unfathomable interlacing of local grievances, political manoeuvring, criminal acts and corruption, graphic and extreme violence beyond the norms of traditional tribal and local power struggles, and a perverted interpretation of Islam.

“The result is a paradoxical melange of codified barbarism dressed up as traditional law, mated with neo-feudalism and narco-economic realism,” he says.

Floyd urges the government to declare its clear support for reintegration. He says it is vital to reintegrate the Taliban into Afghan society and Australia should do more to train troops to persuade insurgents to abandon the war.

He says reintegrating insurgents may seem peripheral to winning the war, and demanding surrender may seem the order of the day. Nothing could be further from reality, he says, and reintegration of insurgent fighters is central to any strategy.

Some coalition soldiers view welcoming insurgents back into Afghan society as dishonouring the memory of fallen comrades.

But Floyd is blunt about the motives of others. “Most negative sentiment towards reintegration from international partners arises variously from xenophobia, religious bigotry and a lack of understanding of the capacity for the Islamic faith and indeed traditional Afghan society to support the concept of reintegration.

“These incorrect assumptions result in a lack of will to invest in reintegration efforts, or to provide national direction and guidance to deployed forces and officials in support of reintegration efforts.”

Floyd says lasting reintegration is much harder to foster and than simply announcing a policy. “Personal allegiances, misgivings, fear and human and institutional frailty all seem arrayed against even attempting reintegration, yet is a valid and indeed fundamental aim in counter-insurgency that must be grasped, like a nettle, with confidence and vigour.”

Floyd warns the number of insurgents is theoretically limited only by the population of the country. “Reintegration encompasses not only fighters who have taken up violent resort to obtain their own ends, but also fragments and factions in society that are disenfranchised, ostracised or otherwise excluded from participating in a country’s social-political construct between its government and the people.”

While coalition commanders have spoken hopefully of big gains made by their troops through the winter months, which now need to be consolidated, the Taliban seems to be fighting back.

The insurgents have targeted close allies of President Hamid Karzai including chief of police for Kandahar Province, Khan Mohammad Mujahid, and the President’s brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai.

Ahmed Wali Karzai was killed by a trusted bodyguard and The Washington Post has reported that he had been working with US special forces and the CIA before he was recruited by the Taliban. That raises even more fears about the insurgents’ reach.

Others assassinated were an MP from Oruzgan Province, Mohammad Hashim Watanwal, and businessman and tribal leader Jan Mohammed Khan, whom he was visiting and who was also killed.

Jan Mohammed Khan, an ally of President Karzai, was a walking symbol of the complexity, treachery and tangled alliances that make Afghanistan so fraught.

JMK, as he was known, was governor of the Chora district of Oruzgan Province in the 1980s and he had such a reputation for corruption and brutality that when the Taliban took power in the early 90s they sacked him. With pacts and double crosses, JMK gradually worked his way back into power in his region.

Dutch officers believe he made a practice of telling US special forces that rival business or tribal chiefs were Taliban and they obliged by killing them or driving them out of the area.

Many of the fighters described as Taliban in Oruzgan are believed to be survivors of the mujahidin groups who had been fighting the Taliban until they were betrayed by JMK, who they came to see as the face of the Kabul government.

JMK provided escorts for supply convoys and it was also claimed if the coalition did not give him contracts, his men would carry out attacks that were blamed on the Taliban.

Despite all this, JMK wound up district governor of Chora once more. Eventually the Dutch told Karzai they would not operate in Oruzgan unless he was removed.

Karzai did unseat JMK but days later appointed him a key adviser in tribal affairs.

To complicate matters further, JMK was replaced as governor by a veteran Afghan fighter, Rozi Khan, who was a hero to coalition forces after rescuing Dutch troops surrounded by a big Taliban force. Rozi Khan was accidentally shot dead by Australian troops during a chaotic night battle. Rozi’s son, Mohammed Daoud, was selected to replace his father. Daoud tells The Australian his big fear is not the Taliban but JMK’s men.

Working out who’s who in Afghanistan is getting harder. Coalition troops have long been wary of insurgents dressing as women but now commanders are concerned about increasing numbers of armed female insurgents.

The spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, German brigadier-general Josef Blotz, says the use of female fighters by the Taliban is disturbing because female suicide bombers or armed insurgents are better able than men to reach their targets because of cultural sensitivities about searching them.

On July 13, six fighters from the Haqqani insurgent network killed in a shootout with a joint Afghan and coalition security force included one armed woman. “The Haqqani female fighter is one of several females who have attacked Afghan and coalition forces within recent months,” ISAF says.

In June, an Afghan-led security force was attacked by a female suicide bomber who used her burka to hide the bomb. The woman detonated the explosive as she neared the security force, killing three Afghan interpreters.

In late May, two Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan female fighters, armed with assault rifles and pistols, fired at a combined security force in Takhar province. The soldiers returned fire and the women were killed.

As more coalition nations pull their forces out of Afghanistan the situation for the troops still there is likely to get tougher.

The US has announced that it will start withdrawing 10,000 of the 330,000 additional troops sent in by President Barack Obama in his surge two years ago. Most of those are support troops.

But this month Canada, which has lost 157 personnel in Afghanistan, is bringing home its 2850 combat troops. Canada will deploy about 950 instructors to help train the Afghan police and army.

France says it will withdraw 1000 of its 5000 troops by the end of the year. Britain plans to pull out 450 soldiers within six months and Germany has indicated it will cut its contribution.

Just how hard it can be to help in Afghanistan was demonstrated by a recent report by the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee that raised serious concerns about wastage of aid money spent there.

The US report describes an operation involving thousands of troops from several nations to carry a generator to a dam in Helmand Province. While it was a largely British operation, Australian special forces, helicopters and gunners helped clear the Taliban out of the convoy’s path.

The dam has for years produced hydroelectricity and the coalition hoped to boost its output to transform the region’s economy and bring the local people onside. Unhappily, much of the area on the local grid is under Taliban control.

The insurgents, to fund their war, are issuing power bills to those connected to the grid.

Time is running out to do it right

Time is running out to do it right

 

Picture

Imagine for a moment that a member of the U.S. Secret Service had shot and killed a cabinet official or member of President Obama’s family here in the United States.

For Americans the thought is unthinkable. But not for Afghans.

Last week the half-brother of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai was, as The Washington Post phrased it, assassinated by a trusted security official. Shortly afterward, the Taliban laid claim to the killing.

As the United States moves toward its 2012 presidential election, it is becoming more apparent that the fate of United States troops should not rest in the hands of an Afghan government that cannot protect its own high ranking officials.

The problem for President Obama and those who would challenge him for the Oval Office is the same President Richard Nixon faced with Vietnam. That is, how to declare victory and leave.

As it now stands, few of those running for the presidency — aside from Ron Paul — want to admit the parallels with Vietnam.

Whether the war in Afghanistan was worth it or not, was necessary or not, the public patience here in the United States is running thin.

Poll after poll shows public support having fallen off a cliff for the war in general. No longer do the pollsters simply ask about the popularity of the war. They ask about exit strategy.

A new Washington Post-Pew Research Center poll asked: Will (President) Obama remove U.S. combat troops from Afghanistan too quickly, not quickly enough, or is he handling this about right?

In response, 44 percent answered “about right,” 29 percent, “not quickly enough,” and 14 percent, “too quickly.” (The remainder didn’t know or offered no opinion.)

While the 44 percent response is encouraging for the president, it is the 29 percent who answered “not quickly enough” that is worth paying attention to.

If Foster’s Daily Democrat were to make book, the betting would be that this number will be on the rise as the 2012 election nears.

For those who still understand there is a United States’ interest in nullifying the Taliban and its ability to bolster al-Qaida, the prospects of a Vietnam-type pullout is troubling.

Who can forget the photo of those left behind as the last United States helicopters looked to become airborne over Saigon, leaving in cynical “victory.”

Such images bode poorly for anyone who predicts that years lie ahead for U.S. boots on the ground in Afghanistan.

Hopefully, some of the great miliary minds that have moved the United States toward some semblance of success in Afghanistan, such as General David Petraeus, will be able to rightfully hasten that process before the United States electorate in revolt cries loudly — No more!

Tensions remain even after Mullen’s visit

Tensions remain even after Mullen’s visit

By Zhang Wenzong (China Daily)

After Chief of the General Staff of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Chen Bingde’s visit to the United States in May, US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen returned his appreciation with a four-day visit to China last week.

The hard-hit military ties between China and the US, which resulted from the latter’s announcement of arms sales to Taiwan in early 2010, has been gradually recovering.

However, the ongoing tensions over territorial claims in the South China Sea pushed the maritime dispute to the top of the agenda during the admiral’s visit.

There are three major conflicts between the two sides regarding the South China Sea. First, the two countries have different stances on the term “free navigation”. China considers the waters to be free trade channels while the US is more concerned about the freedom of its reconnaissance patrols in the region.

Second, the US has reinforced its presence in Southeast Asia and held joint naval drills with nations that are involved in territorial disputes over the South China Sea. The behavior during such a sensitive time can be seen as taking sides.

Third, Beijing insists on handling the disputes on a one-on-one basis rather than multilaterally, a method that is strongly supported by the US.

Several Asia-Pacific nations, including Vietnam and the Philippines, have sovereignty claims over the South China Sea, which, historically, has been Chinese territory.

With the growing power, China is hoping to maintain and regain its lawful right to the South China Sea. The US seems to be planning to move its strategic focus back to Asia-Pacific region by using the territorial dispute as an excuse. Some neighboring countries of China are banking on the US to keep the global power structure balanced from China’s unavoidable rise.

The Chinese military showed its determination to boost mutual confidence by taking Mullen on a tour of its Second Artillery Force Headquarters in Beijing, air force and army bases in Shandong province, and inviting him to watch the PLA’s anti-terror drill in Zhejiang province.

The gesture gives a clear look at China’s military capacity and also dispels misunderstandings on China’s strategic purpose, which will help ease the tension between the two sides over the region and prevent the conflict from moving on to the next level.

It does make sense for the two countries to maintain close military ties and keep communicating about national defense and maritime security. But more importantly, the US should understand the harm brought by reconnaissance patrols in the South China Sea. By ending the reconnaissance patrols, it ends the root of the problem and any possible outbreaks between navy and air forces of the two countries.

As an experienced official of naval operations in the US, Mullen certainly has a deep understanding on the navy, naval strategy and maritime security.

None of the long-existing problems that burden military ties between China and the US have been solved during his recent visit to China, but no one can question the importance of the two sides building a connection.

It is good news that China and the US will hold unprecedented joint counter-piracy exercises in the Gulf of Aden by the end of this year, another avenue to strengthen their trust.

In an era of globalization, China and the US have to depend on each other for further development. It would be a disaster if any conflicts occurred between the two countries.

It is probably difficult for the superpower that is the US to accept the rise of China as well as alter its attitude toward its emerging economy. However, once the US realizes the consequences of the strategic confrontation and they respect and care for each other’s core interests, there is no reason for the two sides to become opponents.

They need smart, political minds to create a mutually beneficial partnership. And the militaries from both sides can make an effort to help achieve that goal.

The author is from the Institute of American Studies with the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations.

(China Daily)

 

Why China Wants South China Sea

Why China Wants South China Sea

By Tetsuo Kotani

Beijing is interested in more than just energy and fishery resources. The area is also integral to its nuclear submarine strategy.

In an effort to underscore its importance to Asia, geostrategist Nicholas Spykman once described it as the ‘Asiatic Mediterranean.’ More recently, it has been dubbed the ‘Chinese Caribbean.’ And, just as Rome and the United States have sought control over the Mediterranean and Caribbean, China now seeks dominance over the South China Sea.

It’s clear that China’s claims andrecent assertiveness have increased tensions in this key body of water. Yet while most attention has focused on Beijing’s appetite for fishery and energy resources, from a submariner’s perspective, the semi-closed sea is integral to China’s nuclear strategy. And without understanding the nuclear dimension of the South China Sea disputes, China’s maritime expansion makes little sense.

Possessing a credible sea-based nuclear deterrent is a priority for China’s military strategy. China’s single Type 092, or Xia-class, nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, equipped with short-range JL-1 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), has never conducted a deterrent patrol from the Bohai Sea since its introduction in the 1980s. However, China is on the verge of acquiring credible second-strike capabilities with the anticipated introduction of JL-2 SLBMs (with an estimated range of 8,000 kilometres) coupled with DF-31 and DF-31A road-mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). In addition, China plans to introduce up to fiveType 094, or Jin-class, SSBNs outfitted with the JL-2 missiles, while constructing an underwater submarine base on Hainan Island in the South China Sea.

It’s clear, then, that China is making every effort to keep the South China Sea off limits, just as the Soviet Union did in the Sea of Okhotsk during the Cold War. Back then, the Soviet Union turned to SSBNs as insurance against US capabilities to destroy land-based ICBMs. The need to secure its insurance force from attacks, and the need for effective command and control, meant that Soviet SSBNs had to be deployed close to home, with longer-range missiles to be used to strike the continental United States. In addition to the Barents Sea, Moscow prioritized making the Sea of Okhotsk a safe haven for SSBNs by improving the physical defences of the Kuril Islands and reinforcing the Pacific Fleet based at Vladivostok. The Soviet Pacific Fleet deployed 100 submarines, combined with 140 surface warships, including a Kiev-class light aircraft carrier, to defend its insurance force in the Sea of Okhotsk.

Likewise, China needs to secure its forces in the South China Sea and modify its maritime strategy and doctrine accordingly. Currently, the primary wartime missions of the People’s Liberation Army Navy are: 1) securing sea approaches to Taiwan; 2) conducting operations in the western Pacific to deny enemy forces freedom of action; 3) protecting Chinese sea lines of communication; and 4) interdicting enemy lines of communication. With the introduction of the Type 094, protecting Chinese SSBNs will become another primary mission, and this mission will require China to kill enemy strategic antisubmarine forces and end the resistance of other claimants in the South China Sea. Chinese anti-access/area-denial capabilities, especially quieter nuclear-powered attack submarines, can be used to counter enemy forward antisubmarine warfare operations. China’s aircraft carriers, when operational, will be deployed in the South China Sea to silence the neighbouring claimants.

This strategy dates back almost two decades, to a time when China began encircling the South China Sea to fill the power vacuum created by the withdrawal of US forces from the Philippines in 1991. China reasserted ‘historical’ claims over all the islets, including the Paracel and Spratly archipelagos, and 80 percent of the 3.5 million km2 body of water along the nine-dotted U-shaped line, despite having no international legal ground to do so. Those islets can be used as air and sea bases for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities, and as base points for claiming the deeper part of the South China Sea for PLAN ballistic missile submarines and other vessels. China also interprets the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in an arbitrary manner and doesn’t accept military activities by foreign vessels and overflight in its waters.

Yet China’s efforts to dominate the South China Sea face significant challenges. Chinese assertiveness hasn’t only inflamed hostilities from other claimants, but has also raised concerns from seafaring nations such as the United States, Japan, Australia, and India. After all, the South China Sea is a recognized international waterway, unlike the Sea of Okhotsk. In addition, since the JL-2 missiles can’t reach Los Angeles from the South China Sea, Type 094 submarines need to enter the Philippine Sea, where the US Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defence Force conduct intense anti-submarine warfare operations.

Photo Credit: US Navy

Transport corridor ‘to boost trade’

Transport corridor ‘to boost trade’

Creation of a transport corridor through Iran, Oman, Qatar, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan will strengthen the volume of trade between Iran and Oman, Hossein Noushabadi, Iranian ambassador to the Sultanate said here yesterday.

He was speaking at a Press conference called to highlight the strong relations between Iran and Oman.

The agreement to create a transport corridor between Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Oman and Qatar was signed last year, the ambassador informed. He informed that until now three meetings have been held to discuss and work towards the implementation of the initiative.

“The first meeting was held in Iran and was attended by Turkmen foreign minister, Uzbek deputy prime minister and transportation ministers from the other countries. The second meeting was held in Oman and a third one was held in Tashkent,” Noushabadi said.

He added, “At these meetings a declaration of intention to establish an international transport corridor was made. A draft agreement establishing this corridor was finalised and agreed on during the meeting in Tashkent in February, and it is expected to be signed by ministers from the founding countries sometime next month.”

The ambassador said that he was positive that once the transport corridor becomes a reality trade turnover which now needs a boost will increase between the two countries.

Talking about other issues, the ambassador hailed the close relationship between the two countries.

He said, “The two countries share a strong political and economical relation. The common history, culture and religion and the inter-relationship between the people of Iran and Oman has taken the level of political, economical, trade, cultural, scientific and educational relation to a new high.”

Recalling His Majesty Sultan Qaboos bin Said’s historic visit to the Islamic Republic of Iran in August 2009 he said, “Seven documents for cooperation in various fields were signed. Based on this agreement, cooperation in the fields of culture, science, education, social and sports have improved tremendously.”

The establishment of cultural weeks, cultural exhibitions, film screenings, music festivals, artistic performances, cooperation between libraries and documentation centres, cooperation between educational, cultural, social centres, inter-institutional cooperation in sports, cooperation in the field of youth activities, cooperation between institutions related to women’s affairs was also emphasised by the Iranian diplomat.

Talking about how 32 years ago, the Iranian people successfully overthrew the authoritarian regime he said, “The Iranian nation, after the victory of the Islamic Revolution, made the historic and decisive choice of voting for the establishment of an Islamic Republic system through a referendum”.

“Over 98 per cent of Iranians in the referendum voted ‘yes’ to the Islamic Republic form of government, and since then April 1 has been observed every year as Islamic Republic Day,” he said.
He added, “Iran involves its people in the decision making process.”

The ambassador emphasised that one of the priorities of the government of Iran is to have a strong and friendly relationship with the neighbouring countries and not interfere with the internal policies of the countries.

Saying that Iran’s stand about what is happening in the Gulf countries is clear and transparent, “Our country is against the use of violence, cruelty and force in Bahrain”.

“However, we reject the claim that Iran interfered in what happened in Bahrain. Islamic Republic of Iran expressed concern over foreign military forces entering Bahrain,” Noushabadi said.

Afghan Mortars Rain Down On Angoor Adda, S. Waziristan

Mortars from Afghanistan kill four in Pakistan: Officials

By AFP

More than 20 mortar shells were fired from across the border. Three shells slammed into a paramilitary Frontier Corps checkpost in Angoor Adda area, said officials. PHOTO: REUTERS/FILE

MIRANSHAH: Mortar shells fired from across the border in Afghanistan hit a Pakistan military border post killing four soldiers, Pakistan security officials said Tuesday.

Two other soldiers were wounded in the attack in South Waziristan tribal district, they said, in the latest in a series of deadly cross-border incidents that have raised tensions between the neighbouring countries.

“Four soldiers were killed and two others were wounded in this cross-border attack,” a senior security official in Peshawar told AFP.

“More than 20 mortar shells were fired from across the border. Three shells slammed into a paramilitary Frontier Corps checkpost in Angoor Adda area,” he added.

Another security official in Wana, the main town of South Waziristan tribal district, confirmed the incident and casualties.

Both the officials blamed the Afghan National Army (ANA) for the attack.

Unknown Bombers Hit Maulvi Nazir’s Group In S. Waziristan

Bomb kills five militants in South Waziristan

The fighters were followers of Maulvi Nazir, a prominent local Taliban commander. – File Photo

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: Intelligence officials say a roadside bomb struck a vehicle carrying Taliban fighters in Pakistan’s northwest, killing five of the insurgents.

The officials say three militants were also wounded by Tuesday’s blast in Pir Khel village in the South Waziristan tribal area. The fighters were followers of Maulvi Nazir, a prominent local Taliban commander.

The officials say one of the injured militants was the son of Nazir’s close associate, Tehsil Khan. Khan has played a role in evicting Uzbek militants from the area and has survived attempts on his life.

It’s unclear whether Tuesday’s incident was related to Khan’s activities.

The intelligence officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

A dangerous Saudi affair

A dangerous Saudi affair

A dangerous Saudi affairLife in Saudi Arabia is good – oil rich, tax free incomes, multiple servants, big villas and security.  Even labourers, remark on the improved quality of life in Saudi as compared to Pakistan. For them this is an opportunity to support their families in the relative security of the Kingdom.

It seems Pakistani expat workers are satisfied with life. Even migrant labourers who I have conversed with personally say life is better in Saudi than in Pakistan, and the incomes they receive give their families back home a fighting chance. Personally, I’ve had good experiences and memories of living in the Kingdom for many years. But let’s face it – there is a conflict between personal gain and ethical integrity when it comes to Saudi Arabia.

One can witness a pervasive sort of racism,  a form of Saudi supremacy that views other types of Arabs and particularly the South Asian expats (who are mostly labourers) as inferior and mere ‘commodities’ who can be bought and sold ruthlessly. Expats are not human beings but a commodity to be bartered and acquired.

Connected to racial supremacy is an attempt to insulate the regime from criticism by using the cloak of religion. Saudi textbooks are filled with references to hate; the Islamic Studies curriculum in the country is simply barbaric. I’ve experienced first-hand being taught by an Islamic Studies teacher in one of the most prominent private schools in Riyadh, about the dangers of having non-Muslims as friends and about the evil conspiracies hatched by Christians, Jews and Shias.

In Pakistan, Saudi petro-dollars have funded factories of hate in the form of the madrassa system. ‘Petro-Islam’ is a nightmare scenario – capitalism and a dangerous ideology locked in a tight embrace. It is because of the sheer amount of money behind this austere and dangerous theology that it can easily overwhelm the moderate elements in any given society.

Little attention is given in Pakistan about the treatment of Pakistani labourers. If the Saudis will not speak about the suffering of these people then why should we remain silent? It is understandable that Pakistanis within Saudi cannot protest, but why do Pakistanis living outside who have witnessed first-hand the harsh treatment of their fellow citizens choose to remain silent? The Gulf countries practice a modern day equivalent of slavery, and our media should be more vocal about it, instead of weaving tales about Mossad and RAW.

The treatment of Pakistani labourers as sub-humans is deeply pervasive. The underlying logic of this treatment is that a non-Saudi can never be an equal; they are always meant to serve. Pakistanis like to criticise Europe’s hostility to immigrants but the anti-immigration feeling in Saudi Arabia is deeply toxic and yet it is never scrutinised.

A famous Pakistani defence of Saudi Arabia is that it is an ‘Islamic country’ and ergo a good place to raise the kids. But there is very little ‘Islamic’ about the country – in my time in Saudi, I talked to converts to Islam who travelled from as far as America and the UK to see for themselves the ‘Islamic’ Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Privately, they reveal a story of disillusionment and profuse disappointment.

Many were shocked by what they see in Saudi. They talk about a hypocrisy running deep within the society. Whilst the elite enjoy a hedonistic lifestyle of drinking and private nightclub-style parties, the religious police make life hell. I once saw a mullah in a GMC reverse on one of the main roads in Riyadh just to tell a woman to put her burqa on properly.

I find we are confused about our reaction to the prospect of a ‘Saudi Revolution’. When Mubarak was toppled and Ben Ali fled, the reaction amongst Pakistanis was positive, after all these dictators were merely pawns of the West. But talk about Saudi, and again there is that sense of unease and discomfort. After all, for all their faults the Saudis still do some great work. Many Pakistanis and indeed Muslims around the world have a sense of deep respect in regards to the provision of the Hajj. Indeed, the Saudis have continually done a fantastic job in improving facilities, crowd control and should be given credit for handling such a difficult event with efficiency.

But on the issue of faith, some Pakistanis are naive in thinking that a Muslim country can never be unjust with another Muslim country; they refuse to accept that in the reality of real politick there is no ‘Islamic Ummah’.

It is this sense of moral unease we have when we talk about Saudi Arabia that has haunted Pakistani hearts and minds. On the one hand, we receive great remittances from Pakistani workers who are employed in the Kingdom, but on the other hand everyone knows that they are discriminated against and have little or no rights. But yet again the response is that those Pakistanis living and working in Saudi Arabia should be grateful that they even have a job because of the deteriorating economic conditions back home. In this cold, utilitarian world where money talks, it is impossible that the Pakistani government will fight for its citizens rights in front of the Saudi Royal family.

The old adage, ‘Don’t bite the hand that feeds you’, comes to mind. Pakistan is trapped in an abusive marriage (or maybe a delusional affair?) when it comes to Saudi.

Today the Kingdom is launching a great counter-revolution trying to contain the ‘Arab Spring’ by buying off Arab militaries, supporting dictators, issuing fatwas against the protestors and involving the Pakistani security forces in controlling protests in Bahrain which has become a stage for its great feud with Iran. Pakistan is very much a supporter of tyranny in the greatest political awakening of the 21st century, and this will hurt only Pakistanis in the end.

Ahmad Ali Khalid is a freelance writer and blogger based in the UK. He can be reached atahmadalikhalid@ymail.com

India reveals massive uranium discovery

India reveals massive uranium discovery

No details were released on the quality of the material in Tumalapalli, a key factor as other uranium mined in India has been inferior to imports being procured from France, Kazakhstan, Russia and elsewhere. – Reuters Photo

NEW DELHI: A new mine in south India could contain the largest reserves of uranium in the world, a government official said in remarks reported Tuesday, signalling a major boost for the energy-hungry nation.

The Tumalapalli mine in Andhra Pradesh state could provide up to 150,000 tonnes of uranium, Srikumar Banerjee, secretary of the Department of Atomic Energy, told reporters after a four-year survey of the site was completed.

“It’s confirmed that the mine has 49,000 tonnes of ore, and there are indications that the total quantity could be three times that amount,” Banerjee was quoted as saying in The Times of India.

“If that be the case, it will become the largest uranium mine in the world,” he said.

Previous estimates suggested that only about 15,000 tonnes of uranium would be produced at the mine, which is due to start operating by the end of the year.

No details were released on the quality of the material in Tumalapalli, a key factor as other uranium mined in India has been inferior to imports being procured from France, Kazakhstan, Russia and elsewhere.

“The new findings would only augment the indigenous supply of uranium. There would still be a significant gap. We would still have to import,” Banerjee was quoted as saying in an Indian newspaper.

India gets less than three per cent of its energy from atomic power and it hopes to raise the figure to 25 per cent by 2050.

The government has been seeking new supplies of uranium, which is refined into nuclear fuel, but it has been consistently rebuffed by major exporter Australia as India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.