Report: Iran to build second power plant in Tajikistan

Report: Iran to build second power plant in Tajikistan

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Tajik energy minister sign deal to construct additional Sangtude-2 hydroelectric power plant in Central Asian country, with Iran funding $180 million of costs in return for sales revenue

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Tajik energy minister signed a deal to construct an additional power plant in Tajikistan, reported Fars News Agency on Tuesday.

During his two-day visit to Tajikistan, Ahmadinejad and his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon agreed in a protocol of intent to build another hydroelectric power plant, after Iranian engineers completed the first Sangtude-2 hydroelectric power plant in the Central Asian country.

Back in January, both countries first signed an agreement to construct the first power plant in Tajikistan, with an approximate capacity of 130 megawatts. The new plant was officially opened in Tajikistan on Monday.

The estimated cost of the second plant, with a capacity of 220 megawatts, is some $220 million. Iran has agreed to fund $180 million of the costs, and in return receive the entire sales revenue of its electricity for 12 years. Tajikistan would then takeover full ownership of the plant.

While visiting Tajikistan, Ahmadinejad is also set to sign a deal to build a cement plant in the country.

Pakistan to speed up Iran pipeline opposed by U.S.

[SEE:  Energy cooperation: Iran willing to build Pakistan section of gas pipeline]

Pakistan to speed up Iran pipeline opposed by U.S.

By Rebecca Conway and Qasim Nauman

ISLAMABAD, Sept 8 | Thu Sep 8, 2011 11:07am EDT

(Reuters) – Pakistan said on Thursday it will step up efforts to build a gas pipeline from Iran, despite opposition to the venture from Islamabad’s strategic ally Washington.

The project, first proposed in the 1990s, has faced numerous delays. Nevertheless Pakistan’s pledge could anger the United States, which has warned the project could violate sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear programme.

“This project is underway, and inshallah (God willing) efforts will be made to accelerate its progress,” Pakistani Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh told reporters after meeting visiting Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi.

The United States said last year Pakistan should be wary of committing to the proposed $7.6 billion Iran-Pakistan natural gas pipeline because sanctions could hit Pakistani companies.

Western powers believe Iran is using its nuclear program as a means to build weapons. Tehran says it needs nuclear-generated electricity.

Pakistan is plagued by chronic electricity shortages that have sparked demonstrations and battered the weak government. At the same time it badly needs billions of dollars in U.S. aid.

Ties between Washington and Islamabad were severely strained by a unilateral U.S. Navy SEALs raid on a Pakistani garrison town which killed Osama bin Laden in May.

Both sides have this week hailed counter-terrorism cooperation. But it does not take much to damage relations between the two countries, who have vowed to defeat militancy together in the region.

Salehi said in a joint news conference with Shaikh that Iran expects to complete its section of the pipeline in about six months and the overall project would be ready in 2014.

“The need for energy is ever increasing everywhere in the world, be it in Pakistan, in Iran or in India,” said Salehi, who also met several senior Pakistani officials, including the prime minister, who is due to visit Iran soon for talks.

“So I think this pipeline eventually will be a pipeline of peace that will reach to as many as countries that would need energy, using Pakistan also as a transit route.”

A joint statement said Pakistani and Iranian officials discussed ways of boosting bilateral trade, industrial development, energy and banking during Salehi’s visit. (Writing by Michael Georgy)

Isn’t Ten Years of Being Lied To and Denied the Truth Long Enough?

[We have nearly forgotten the victims of 911, as memory of the event that has defined our lives moves into the dim-lit past.  After ten years of watching the young march off to fight and die in Afghanistan and Iraq, while our economic prosperity dried-up and blew-away like the dust bowl days of the previous Great Depression, 911 has become nothing more than an excuse to wage war upon the world, as our great war of retribution has been turned into another opportunity for looting defenseless nations.  If we let this tenth anniversary of the meticulously planned attacks fade-away, without demanding an accounting from the government servants who have helped to suppress the facts, while they have ridden this war as perhaps the greatest opportunity for self-promotion of all time, then it will truly be forgotten for all time, as something far worse takes-up our entire field of view.  Once this war proceeds to its final state, the awesome awfulness of the American police state will be our only concern.  Towards that dreadful day, I am posting the following call for reopening the 911 investigation.]

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On the 10th anniversary of the 9-11 tragedy, it would be instructive to reflect on the disastrous impact of that tragedy upon the entire human family.One, hundreds of thousands, perhaps a couple of million, lives have been lost in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Afghan-Pakistan border and other places as a direct or indirect consequence of the so-called “war on terror” that followed 9-11. It is not just the violence generated by the US helmed occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan that is responsible for this. Terror groups that resist occupation or are seeking to avenge the death of innocent children and women at the hands of the occupiers, or those who are embroiled in the tussle for power or enmeshed in inter-sectarian and inter-factional feuds–like Al-Qaeda– are also culpable.

Two, it is estimated that at least 3.7 trillion US dollars have been poured into the two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This colossal military expenditure has emasculated the US economy and is one of the major causes of the nation’s chronic debt crisis which in turn has serious implications for economies everywhere.

Three, the war on terror has led to the marginalisation of other more important wars that the global community had pledged to fight at the beginning of the 21st century, such as the war against global poverty and global illiteracy. It has also diverted attention from the challenge of widening disparities between those who have a lot and those who have a little which has become a global phenomenon threatening social cohesion and stability in many parts of the world.

Four, the obsession with terrorism has prompted a number of governments to introduce or expand repressive laws that curtail legitimate civil rights and liberties. Illegal incarcerations, torture and assassinations have been carried out in the name of fighting terror.

Five, the terror war has spawned a new wave of Islamophobia. Fear and hatred of Islam and Muslims which is deeply embedded in the psyche of a segment of Western society has been thrust to the fore through the equation of the religion and its adherents with terrorism. Some politicians, religious leaders and a section of the mainstream media are responsible for this diabolical bigotry. Consequently, Muslims and their religious symbols have become targets of venom in various parts of the Western world. A fanatical fringe within the Muslim ummah( community) has reacted to this by venting anti-Christian and anti-Jewish bile in their sermons and their writings. The end result is a general deterioration in relations among people of different faiths.

How do we overcome, or at least reduce, the negative impact of the 9-11 episode? Both the centres of power in the West and certain elements in the Muslim world should be prepared to come to grips with some irrefutable truths.

One, those who are committed to truth and justice in North America and Europe should try to convince their fellow citizens through all the democratic channels available to them, that Western elites are the real perpetrators of terror and violence. In their quest for hegemony—often related to oil, or geostrategic interests or Israel or simply power – these elites have created fear and terror among millions of innocent people by subjecting them to continuous bombing raids and missile attacks for months on end. This is the terrorism of the militarily powerful, of the hegemonic state or empire. In the last 10 years since 9-11, we have seen that invariably it results in much more death and destruction than the terrorism of those who act in retaliation. Western elites should be made to understand this simple truth by their own people.

Two, in order to reach out to the truth, these elites should begin by re-visiting the 9-11 tragedy. There are many unanswered questions about that event that men and women of conscience have continued to ask in the last 10 years– questions such as the actual identities of the hijackers; why the hijacked airliners were not intercepted; what was the real cause of the collapse of the Twin Towers and Building 7 of the World Trade Centre; and whether the Pentagon was hit by a Boeing 757. Scholars of repute in Europe and the US like Hans Kochler, David Ray Griffin, Peter Dale Scott and James Fetzer have challenged the official version of 9-11. It is because the doubts about 9-11 are so widespread that JUST is of the view that the UN General assembly should establish a truly independent international panel to ascertain the truth once and for all.

Three, while Western governments and peoples have their roles to play vis-à-vis 9-11, the Muslim ummah as a whole has also got the responsibility to ensure that the militant fringe within the community renounces terrorism as a weapon to achieve its goals. Apart from the vile and vicious cruelty inherent in terrorism, it is a mode of operation that has tarnished the image of Islam and Muslims worldwide. Whatever its short-term gains, the use of violence and terror against civilians has encouraged a sort obscurantism which prevents both Muslims and non-Muslims alike from realising that the essence of the Islamic message is the struggle for justice and peace without force or coercion.

This is why it is in our interest, in the interests of everyone –10 years after 9-11– to strengthen our resolve to combat terrorism, and its underlying causes, in all its manifestations.

Dr. Chandra Muzaffar is President of the International Movement for a Just World (JUST) and Professor of Global Studies at Universiti Sains Malaysia.


Exclusive: National Archives sits on 9/11 Commission records

Tom Kean, former chairman of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks, speaks at a joint news conference to release a report on the status of 9-11 commission recommendation at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, September 14, 2005. REUTERS-Yuri Gripas

By Scot J. Paltrow

(Reuters) – Ten years after al Qaeda’s attack on the United States, the vast majority of the 9/11 Commission’s investigative records remain sealed at the National Archives in Washington, even though the commission had directed the archives to make most of the material public in 2009, Reuters has learned.

The National Archives’ failure to release the material presents a hurdle for historians and others seeking to plumb one of the most dramatic events in modern American history.

The 575 cubic feet of records were in large part the basis for the commission’s public report, issued July 22, 2004. The commission, formally known as the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, was established by Congress in late 2002 to investigate the events leading up to the 9/11 attacks, the pre-attack effectiveness of intelligence agencies and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the government’s emergency response.

In a Reuters interview this week, Matt Fulgham, assistant director of the archives’ center for legislative affairs which has oversight of the commission documents, said that more than a third of the material has been reviewed for possible release. But many of those documents have been withheld or heavily redacted, and the released material includes documents that already were in the public domain, such as press articles.

Commission items still not public include a 30-page summary of an April 29, 2004 interview by all 10 commissioners with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, conducted in the White House’s Oval Office. This was the only time the two were formally questioned about the events surrounding the attacks. The information could shed light on public accounts the two men have given in recent weeks of their actions around the time of the attacks.

Several former commission staff members said that because there is no comprehensive effort to unseal the remaining material, portions of the records the commission had hoped would be available by now to scholars and the public instead will remain sealed indefinitely.

In 2004 Commission Chairman Thomas Kean said publicly that he was eager for most of the records to be released as quickly as possible. In a Reuters interview last week, Kean said he was not aware until told by Reuters that only a small portion of the records have since been unsealed, and he saw no justification for withholding most of the unreleased material.

Kean said the commissioners had agreed on the January 2, 2009 date for release so that the material would not come out until after the 2008 elections. “We didn’t want it to become a political football,” he said.

But he added: “It should all be available now… We (commissioners) all felt that there’s nothing in the records that that shouldn’t be available” once the election had passed.


Photo by: REUTERS

Fundamentally Freund: Hold the Saudis to account for 9/11

15 of 19 hijackers and Osama Bin Laden were Saudi Arabian; section of 9/11 report detailing Saudi financial support to Al-Qaida classified.

This Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the September 11, 2001, terror attacks against New York and Washington, which were a defining moment in the modern era.The world is still reeling from the effects of that dark day, when radical Muslim jihadists hijacked passenger jets and transformed them into homicidal projectiles, murdering 3,000 innocents and scarring a generation.A decade later, many of those behind this horrifying act have, thankfully, been made to pay for their actions.

The Taliban regime which harbored al-Qaida was swept out of power by the might of the American military, while terrorist chieftain Osama bin-Laden was subsequently hunted down and eliminated.

But there is one key player that has escaped largely unscathed, and it is time for this to change.

Ten years after the deadliest attack on American soil, the Saudi sponsors of this atrocity have yet to pay for their actions.

Almost everyone knows that 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, as was bin Laden himself. But what most people don’t realize is that the Saudi connection to the attacks may have been even deeper and more profound.

In the wake of the attacks, the US Congress established a bipartisan commission headed by Democratic Senator Bob Graham and Republican Senator Richard Shelby which eventually produced a comprehensive document that came to be known as “the 9/11 report.”

The report surveyed the origins of the attacks and offered a detailed account of what was known about the plot and its perpetrators. It was made available to the public and even became a national bestseller.

But the 28 pages which make up Part Four of the document, entitled “Findings, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain Sensitive National Security Matters,” were almost entirely redacted. These pages are virtually blank, as if a hidden hand of some sort had blotted out all the material contained therein, which is in fact what happened.

For reasons that remain unclear, in 2003 the Bush administration refused to countenance the publication of this section, insisting that to do so would hurt US intelligence operations and compromise the national interest.

It remains classified to this day.

And just what, you might be wondering, was so incendiary that it had to be kept hidden from the public? By all accounts, the material in those pages relates to Saudi officials and their alleged links to the attacks.

As CBS news reported on July 30, 2003, “the redacted section lays out a money trail between Saudi Arabia and supporters of al-Qaida.”

Among others, it singles out Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi intelligence agent who provided financial assistance to two of the hijackers prior to the attacks. Al- Bayoumi is said to have received funds from a charitable trust run by the wife of the Saudi Ambassador to the US.

A recent book, The Eleventh Day: the Full Story of 9/11 and Osama Bin-Laden, by journalists Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan, offers still more damning evidence.

Summers and Swan cite a US official who said there had been “very direct, very specific links” between Saudi officials and some of the al-Qaida hijackers.

Others have suggested that members of the Saudi royal family may have been involved.

Earlier this summer, Senator Graham, who is now retired, sought to redirect the spotlight in the direction of the Saudis. In an op-ed piece, he wrote that, “still unanswered after nearly 10 years are the questions of the full extent of the Saudi pre-9/11 involvement.”

Graham also blasted the US government for its ongoing and inexplicable cover-up of the Saudi role.

In the past, Graham sought to get the redacted material in the 9/11 report released, but he was repeatedly rebuffed. His co-chair, Senator Shelby, also supported its publication, as did top Democratic representative Nancy Pelosi and others.

In 2004, Graham went so far as to write a nonfiction book, Intelligence Matters, but US officials succeeded in censoring key portions on grounds of national security, though Graham says much of the material was about “the role of the Saudis in 9/11.”

Now, to circumvent the restrictions, he has written a novel called Keys to the Kingdom, which mixes fact and fiction, in an attempt to raise questions and provide answers.

It should not have to come to this. The American people and the entire Western world deserve to know the truth about the role played by the Saudi sheikhs in the most brazen assault on the United States in two centuries.

It is time to hold the Saudis to account for their actions and to stop covering up the extent of their involvement.

Shortly after his inauguration in 2009, Obama met with relatives of the victims of 9/11.

According to Summers and Swan, the president told Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband died at the World Trade Center, that he was willing to get the censored material released.

Two years have passed, but that has yet to happen.

President Obama: On this, the tenth anniversary of the attacks, it is time to keep that promise.

Lift the veil of secrecy behind which the Saudis are cowering. Release the redacted section of the 9/11 report and let the world finally know the truth about Riyadh’s treachery and duplicity.

Germany Invites Iran To Crash America’s Afghan Going-Away Party In Bonn

Berlin Invites Iran to Int’l Confab on Afghanistan

TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran was officially invited by Germany to participate in the international conference on Afghanistan due to be held in Bonn in December.

Michael Steiner, Germany’s special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has invited Iran to take part in the international conference.

Steiner extended the invitation in a meeting with Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia-Pacific and Commonwealth of Independent States Affaires Mohammad-Ali Fathollahi on Wednesday.

In December 2011, Germany will host an international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn at the request of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The aim of the confab is to give impetus to political process concerning Afghanistan and cement the international community’s long-term commitment beyond 2014.

Preparations for the conference will be made by the International Contact Group on Afghanistan in close coordination with the Afghan government, with Germany taking the lead.


In Afghanistan’s Panjshir, Massoud’s Legacy Continues To Inspire Northern Alliance Defenders

In Afghanistan’s Panjshir, disquiet over Taliban reconciliation

U.S. Chinook helicopters leave after a security handover ceremony in Panjshir province July 24, 2011. REUTERS/Ahmad Masood

By Sanjeev Miglani and Hamid Shalizi

DALASANG, Afghanistan | Thu Sep 8, 2011 7:11am EDT

(Reuters) – At the entrance to Afghanistan’s magnificent Panjshir Valley, an 84-year supporter of resistance hero Ahmad Shah Massoud said his village was fully armed to fight a resurgent Taliban to the end.

Like the Russians before them, the Pashtun Taliban have failed to penetrate Panjshir fortified by jagged cliffs and plunging valleys, coming as far as neighboring Nuristan province as they extend their control in the north and east of the country.

But as the beleaguered government and its Western backers reach out to the Taliban to explore prospects of a political settlement of the 10-year war, the sense of disquiet grows in the Tajik-dominated Panjshir region.

“We are all armed, we will not sit quiet. If the Taliban come, we will fight them everywhere,” said Mullah Mohammad, pointing to his village in the valley floor by the side of the rushing waters of the Panjshir river.

It is from here that Massoud, or the Lion of Panjshir, fought the Taliban at the head of the Northern Alliance representing Afghanistan’s ethnic minorities, until his assassination two days before the Sept 11, 2001, attacks.

Soon after, U.S.-led coalition forces teamed up with the warlords of the Northern Alliance to drive the Taliban out of power from Kabul, and since then many have gone into government.

Ten years on, the cult of Massoud grows across Afghanistan but especially in his mountain redoubt where the gates to the valley have been draped in black in memory of the fallen leader, killed when two men posing as reporters set off a bomb hidden in a video camera.

It is not clear how much of Massoud’s old alliance still holds and whether the former regional backers such as Iran, India and Russia, who have deep concerns over reconciliation with the Taliban, are involved with the old leadership.

“Some remnants of the Northern Alliance have been openly skeptical and even hostile to the idea of a negotiated settlement with the Taliban,” said Joshua Foust, an expert on Afghanistan at the American Security Project in Washington.

“Rumors have been flying fast and furiously the last two years or so that the Northern Alliance are rebuilding their militias.”


At Massoud’s white stone monument on the top of a hill surrounded by barren mountains, a trickle of visitors, some from as far as the southern province of Kandahar, sit in silent prayer.

Afghan police patrol the narrow, winding road leading to the monument and the checkpoints and the mud houses are emblazoned with portraits of the legendary fighter.

For his supporters, it would have been a different Afghanistan had he lived and the gains that they made for the country are being frittered away by the administration of President Hamid Karzai.

“Afghanistan was delivered to Karzai because of the resistance fighters. The foreign forces only gave air support. But they have wasted the victory,” said Ahmad Wali Masoud, a former Afghan ambassador to Britain who heads the Massoud Foundation in honor of his brother.

Massoud’s assassination, which many believe was the work of al Qaeda as a gift to the Taliban, has itself not been investigated properly, Wali Masoud said.

He said British investigating agencies had informed him that 22 different terrorist groups across the world had collaborated in the plot.

“But it was never investigated properly. This government has not even set up an inquiry,” he said, adding the role of some of Afghanistan’s neighbors should also be probed. He declined to name them.

Ten years later, Afghanistan remains a deeply divided society and the administration risks accentuating the divides further by pursuing a deal with the Taliban without spelling out parameters, said Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister and close associate of Massoud.

“We support reconciliation, but it has to be done in a transparent manner,” he said.

“We want peace, but peace with dignity. There was also peace in Afghanistan during the Taliban in the 1990s, but it was peace of the graveyard. Is that what we want?”

(Editing by Nick Macfie)

Tajiks to Retain Control of Afghan Frontier

Tajiks to Retain Control of Afghan Frontier

Journal of Turkish Weekly (JTW)

No self-respecting nation can allow someone else to guard its borders, whatever ambitions Moscow might have, analysts say.

Reacting to reports that Moscow wants to post troops along the border with Afghanistan, analysts in Tajikistan say the country should not cede this aspect of its sovereignty to anyone, but instead build security partnerships with a wide range of countries.

While they accept that Moscow has legitimate interests in the region, analysts say that on past evidence, a Russian troop presence would not make a difference to stemming the flow of drugs crossing the border.

Russian forces patrolled the Tajik-Afghan border until 2005, when they were replaced by Tajikistan’s own units. A possible return of Russian border guards has been the subject of heated debate for several months now as the two countries draft a new frontier security agreement, due to be signed when Russian president Dmitry Medvedev visits Dushanbe later in September

Afghanistan is the world’s main source of heroin, and consignments heading for Russia often come via the porous, poorly-guarded border with Tajikistan. A further concern for both Moscow and the Central Asian states is the projected withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan in 2014, and fears that this could lead to rising conflict in the country, possibly spilling over to neighbouring countries.

Talk of a Russian return dates from around July 2010, when Russia’s counter-narcotics chief Viktor Ivanov hinted that Moscow would be prepared to supply troops to help stem the flow of drugs, while in December, Russian diplomat Maxim Peshkov said talks on the issue were ongoing with Tajikistan. Last month, the speaker of the Russian parliament, Boris Gryzlov, said in a newspaper article that if Tajikistan did not want Moscow to look after the border, its citizens should no longer be able to come to Russia without visas.

Tajik officials including Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi have dismissed suggestions that a Russian redeployment is even on the agenda, saying that the agreement signed in September will remain substantially the same as the current one that is due to expire, which envisages military advisers plus technical assistance from Russia.

The debate has been complicated by suggestions that each country is using the border issue as leverage to pressure the other on a range of political and economic issues. (See Tajiks Seek Best Deal in Defence Talks With Moscow and Tajik Migrants Hostage to Ties With Moscow.)

The 1,300-kilometre frontier presents many security challenges. The western section follows the course of the river Panj, which is easily crossed by boat, while the eastern part runs through mountainous and often inaccessible territory. In an IWPR report (See Thin Green Line Defends Tajik-Afghan Frontier) from the southeastern province of Badakhshan earlier this year, Murodhuseyn Aliyorov, who heads the local branch of Tajikistan’s Drug Control Agency, said the Ishkashim district was still a magnet for Afghan heroin smugglers, because the rugged terrain was so difficult to patrol.

An officer with Tajikistan’s border guards service, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IWPR that the frontier had never been secure, including in the period prior to 2005 when Russian forces were in charge.

Abdullo Kurbonov, a security affairs expert in Dushanbe, said the Russians had only exerted control over the sectors where they were stationed.

“The border guards principally defended themselves, their posts and the [official] crossing-points, shooting at everything that moved during the night,” he said.

During and after the 1992-97 civil war in Tajikistan, it was almost impossible to stop drug smuggling, Kurbonov said, adding, “It was only towards the end of 2001, when all the large criminal groups had been eliminated, that attempts were made to cut at least the major drug trafficking routes. And it has to be said that these efforts failed.”

“Drugs went over the border regardless of what was happening in the country, and the profits trickled down to everyone [including] the Russian border guards on the frontier and the Tajik border troops who formed the second line of defence. Many of them were involved in trafficking themselves,” he said.

The analysts in Tajikistan interviewed for this report were unanimous in rejecting a return of Russian forces.

Leading political analyst Parviz Mullojonov said it was not boots on the ground that Tajikistan was short of.

“Russia is insisting on completely regaining control of the border, which cannot be acceptable to Tajikistan from the point of view of either sovereignty or practical common sense. Why bring in personnel from outside when we have our own? If we are short of them, we can train more,” he said. “What the border needs is not foreign soldiers, but financial investment and modern equipment.”

Another expert, Abdughani Mamadazimov, said retaining control was essential for Tajikistan’s international reputation.

“Many foreign analysts and politicians describe Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan as failed states. The return of Russian frontier guards would really confirm that conclusion,” he said. “A state that’s capable of guarding its own borders will easily be able to dismiss that kind of assertion.”

The border guards officer interviewed by IWPR pointed out that the situation had changed since 2005.

“The United States, NATO and the European Unions promised technical and financial assistance in refitting the border, and they’re doing just that,” he said. “A significant proportion of posts and the administrative buildings of two border units have been refurbished, there’s a border guards college functioning in Dushanbe, and at the Americans’ insistence, Tajikistan has adopted a border defence strategy that does not envisage [an active role] for other states.”

He noted that when China was negotiating the demarcation of its border with eastern Tajikistan, it insisted it would deal only with Dushanbe on the matter. Western military and political officials involved in Afghanistan after 2001 also made it clear they preferred talking to the Tajiks alone rather than Russia as well.

Mullojonov agreed on the importance of nurturing a range of security relationships rather than being wholly dependent on Moscow. But that did not mean turning away from the latter long-standing relationship, he said, pointing out that “Russia can remain the lead partner for technical assistance and expertise. At the same time, others including he EU and US can enhance border protection with the right equipment, military hardware and funding”.

Saudi Arabia’s decade of denial

Saudi Arabia’s decade of denial

The kingdom remains in sullen denial of the fact that the terrorists’ ideology , their inspiration to behave as they did , was created and nurtured within its borders

Mai Yamani

Saudi Arabia may not have been directly implicated in the conspiracy that killed more than 3,000 people on 11 September 2001, but it has been consumed in a conspiracy of silence ever since. The kingdom remains in sullen denial of the fact that the terrorists’ ideology—their inspiration to behave as they did—was created and nurtured within its borders.

Fayez Nureldine/AFP

Fayez Nureldine/AFP

That stance appears to have been contagious, because the US, too, has done everything possible to change the subject whenever the Saudi role in the 9/11 attacks is raised. The US has found it much safer, it seems, to focus on mortal threats that remain more notional than real—be it Saddam Husseinor Iran’s Shia mullahs.

From the moment the twin towers fell in New York, the US sought to define for the world how to view the terrorist attack. President George W. Bush declared that “you are either with us, or against us”, and quickly began to classify entire nations in these Manichaean terms.

Muslim leaders everywhere worried that they would be stigmatized, perhaps nowhere more so than in Saudi Arabia, whose regime feared that its decades of friendship with the US might end. But those fears were misplaced, because the Bush administration was determined to minimize the Saudi role in the 9/11 atrocity. True, 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, and the attack’s author, Osama bin Laden, was born and bred in the kingdom. But the Bush administration chose to ignore and bury the evidence of any state involvement. The long-term bilateral relationship, based on the kingdom’s custodianship of the holy oil fields, was not to be disrupted.

Nevertheless, Saudi legitimacy came under fire. The kingdom’s prestige among fellow Islamic regimes suffered, because Al Qaeda was widely perceived as a product of Saudi Arabia’s official Wahhabi ideology and was known to receive much of its financial support from within the country. In an effort at damage control, the regime became preoccupied with confronting its domestic enemies while simultaneously labelling the terrorists “foreign”, “ignorant of Islam”, and, yes, even “Zionist”.

This scheme had some success in portraying home-grown jihadis as members of external, rootless, transnational groups. Saudi terrorists were described as al fi’a al dhallah (the group that has gone astray). To distract attention further, the Saudis also began to denounce the country’s Shia minority ever more vociferously as a “fifth column” of Iran’s terror-sponsoring regime.

But, despite heightened vigilance, domestic Saudi terror cells became active within the kingdom following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. The following year, Osama bin Laden described the ruling Al Saud family’s control of oil revenues as “the biggest theft in history”. On Osama’s orders, oil installations, the oil city of Khobar, the interior ministry and the police headquarters in Riyadh were all attacked.

The worldwide attention and criticism that the 9/11 attacks brought to Wahhabism put the Saudi royals on the defensive about the religious creed that had long legitimized their regime. In particular, the concept of al-walaa’ wa al-bara’ (loyalty to the system and hostility to outsiders), a central component of the Saudi educational curriculum, was savaged because it included a duty to engage in jihad to protect the moral order. Following US requests, references to the concept were removed from textbooks in 2004. But that is about as far as “reform” of the Saudi educational system and its curriculum of fanaticism went.

Another failure was the kingdom’s effort to win over the hearts and minds of captured terrorists. In the mid-2000s, it was praised for creating a model system for reintegrating Saudis who had been detained at the US prison at Guantánamo Bay. But the supposed cure—more knowledge of Wahhabism—proved only to promote the disease: the men who created Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula were graduates of the Saudis’ rehabilitation programme.

Not even the marginalization of Al Qaeda by the Arab Spring offered respite to the kingdom. True democracy, of course, cannot co-exist with Al Qaeda; but it also cannot co-exist with an obscurantist monarchy enthralled to a fundamentalist ideology. Osama’s death came at the very moment when much of the Muslim world was expressing through public protests that it had no desire to see regimes built upon his Wahhabi-inspired brand of fanaticism.

Yet Saudi Arabia took no solace from this, because the regimes toppled by the Arab Spring had been bulwarks of its regional security policy. In a further denial of reality, the kingdom has recoiled from the new regimes as if they were apostates.

Here, once again, Saudi confusion has mimicked American confusion, or vice versa. The US has either hesitated to embrace the Arab Spring revolutions (Egypt was a particularly striking case) or has given silent assent to their suppression, as in Bahrain. Indeed, Saudi Arabia’s unilateral military intervention in Bahrain to suppress the revolt there—albeit carried out under the umbrella of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s “security” pact—was tacitly supported by the US.

Ten years after the 9/11 attacks, Al Qaeda has been marginalized, but not by Saudi Arabia, which nurtured the terrorists, or by the US, which waged wars against Osama and his acolytes. Instead, it has been eviscerated by the courage and dignity of ordinary Arabs from Damascus to Sana to Tripoli. Perhaps if the Saudi royal family could grasp that simple fact, it would no longer need to deny the true sources of the Kingdom’s insecurity.

Mai Yamani’s most recent book is ‘Cradle of Islam’

Copyright: Project Syndicate, 2011