US military base in Australia shows ‘Cold War Mentality’

US military base in Australia shows ‘Cold War Mentality’

Updated: 2011-12-01 08:19

By Li Xiaokun and Li Lianxing (China Daily)

BEIJING – The Defense Ministry on Wednesday criticized Washington’s decision to build a de facto military base in Australia, warning it could harm the interests of all sides concerned.
Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng made the remarks at the ministry’s monthly news conference when asked about a plan unveiled in mid-November by US President Barack Obama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to base up to 2,500 US Marines in the northern Australian port of Darwin from mid-2012.
Obama announced the plan, which he said showed Washington’s “commitment to the entire Asia-Pacific region”, during his nine-day trip to the region that ended on Nov 19.
The move, however, drew concern from neighboring countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.
“Military alliances are a product of history. We believe any strengthening and expansion of military alliances is an expression of a Cold War mentality,” Geng said.
“This is not in keeping with the spirit of peace, development and cooperation, and does not help to enhance mutual trust and cooperation between countries in the region, and could ultimately harm the common interests of all concerned,” he said.
“We hope that the parties concerned will do more that is beneficial to the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region, and not the contrary.”
Geng also said that the notion raised by US and Australian officials of advancing “integrated air and sea combat” amounted to “trumpeting confrontation and sacrificing others’ security for the sake of one’s own security”.
“To be honest, the theory of ‘integrated air and sea combat’ is not creative,” he said.
Yuan Peng, an expert on US studies from the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, said Washington’s military deployment in Australia has a strong strategic orientation.
“It is overreaction toward China’s normal military moves and it might result in China’s overreaction in the near future. This security dilemma, if it escalates, might lead to another Cold War.”
“The US wants to return to the Asia-Pacific region where China is rising, yet it lacks the principle of positive interaction.”
Fan Jishe, a researcher from the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the ‘integrated air and sea combat’ theory is “clearly targeted at China’s challenge to US military strategy, not terrorism, the claimed biggest threat to the US”.
“This Cold War mentality will affect future cooperation between the two sides in both traditional and non-traditional areas,” Fan said.
Reuters contributed to this story.
China Daily

US military base in Australia shows ‘Cold Warmentality’

Updated: 2011-12-01 08:19

By Li Xiaokun and Li Lianxing (China Daily)

Print Mail Large Medium  Small 0

BEIJING  The Defense Ministry on Wednesday criticized Washington’s decision to build a defacto military base in Australia, warning it could harm the interests of all sides concerned.

Ministry spokesman Geng Yansheng made the remarks at the ministry’s monthly newsconference when asked about a plan unveiled in mid-November by US President BarackObama and Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to base up to 2,500 US Marines in thenorthern Australian port of Darwin from mid-2012.

Obama announced the plan, which he said showed Washington’s “commitment to the entireAsia-Pacific region”, during his nine-day trip to the region that ended on Nov 19.

The move, however, drew concern from neighboring countries such as Singapore, Malaysiaand Indonesia.

“Military alliances are a product of history. We believe any strengthening and expansion ofmilitary alliances is an expression of a Cold War mentality,” Geng said.

“This is not in keeping with the spirit of peace, development and cooperation, and does nothelp to enhance mutual trust and cooperation between countries in the region, and couldultimately harm the common interests of all concerned,” he said.

“We hope that the parties concerned will do more that is beneficial to the peace and stability ofthe Asia-Pacific region, and not the contrary.”

Geng also said that the notion raised by US and Australian officials of advancing “integrated airand sea combat” amounted to “trumpeting confrontation and sacrificing others’ security for thesake of one’s own security”.

“To be honest, the theory of ‘integrated air and sea combat’ is not creative,” he said.

Yuan Peng, an expert on US studies from the China Institutes of Contemporary InternationalRelations, said Washington’s military deployment in Australia has a strong strategic orientation.

“It is overreaction toward China’s normal military moves and it might result in China’soverreaction in the near future. This security dilemma, if it escalates, might lead to anotherCold War.”

“The US wants to return to the Asia-Pacific region where China is rising, yet it lacks theprinciple of positive interaction.”

Fan Jishe, a researcher from the Institute of American Studies at the Chinese Academy ofSocial Sciences, said the ‘integrated air and sea combat’ theory is “clearly targeted at China’schallenge to US military strategy, not terrorism, the claimed biggest threat to the US”.

“This Cold War mentality will affect future cooperation between the two sides in both traditionaland non-traditional areas,” Fan said.

Reuters contributed to this story.

China Daily

India and China Both Step-Up At UN for Palestinian Rights and Peace Through Negotiations

India offers to play role in achieving Middle East peace

UNITED NATIONS: Underlining the importance of the West Asian region to the international community, India has expressed its readiness to play a supportive role to achieve a just and comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

A cradle of human civilisation, the region is home to nearly five million Indians and is an important source for India’s energy needs, India’s Permanent Representative Hardeep Singh Puri noted during a discussion on “The situation in the Middle East” in the UN General Assembly Wednesday.

“As a nation with age-old historic and cultural ties with the Middle East, India has an abiding interest in the early resolution of all pending issues that have troubled the region since the inception of the United Nations,” he said.

Noting that India has been steadfast in its support for the Palestinian people’s struggle for a sovereign, independent, viable and united state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, Puri reiterated India’s backing for Palestine’s full membership of the UN.

“We remain convinced that Palestine meets all criteria for UN membership as set out in the UN Charter and deserves to become a full-fledged member of this organisation. We hope that the Council will be able to support this soon,” he said.

For peace and security on the ground, however, it is necessary that direct talks between Israel and Palestine resume without any further delay, Puri said.

Recalling that Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had told the General Assembly last September that societies cannot be reordered from outside through military force, he said: “Observance of the rule of law is as important in international affairs as it is within countries.”

China Calls for Settlement of Middle East Disputes through Political Negotiations

Xinhua      Web Editor: liuranran
China on Wednesday called on relevant parties in the Middle East to resolve their disputes through political negotiations with the goal of Palestine and Israel living side by side in peace.

Li Baodong, permanent representative of Chinese mission to the UN, made the remarks at a meeting of the General Assembly on review of the Middle East situation and the Palestinian issue.

Li said that the Middle East issue not only has a comprehensive impact on the situation in the Middle East, but also bears on world peace and stability.

Political settlement of the Palestinian issue conforms to the universal aspiration of people of all countries in the region and the international community, and concerns the long-term peace and security of the Middle East region, he said.

“We always maintain that the parties concerned should resolve their disputes through political negotiations under the relevant UN resolutions, the principle of ‘land for peace’, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Middle East Roadmap for Peace with the goal of ultimately establishing an independent Palestinian state and two states, Palestine and Israel, living side by side in peace,” he said.

Li noted that China supports the efforts made by Quartet to promote resumption of the Palestinian-Israeli peace talks. “We urge Israel to immediately cease settlements construction, call on the Palestinians and Israelis to work actively in collaboration with the efforts of the international community to promote peace, and create conditions for rebuilding mutual trust and breaking the impasse,” he said.

The ambassador also stressed that China has all along supported the Palestinian people in their just cause to restore the lawful rights of the nations.

China supports the establishment of an independent Palestinian state that enjoys full sovereignty, with East Jerusalem as its capital and based on the 1967 border as well as Palestine’s membership in the United Nations, he added.

S. Ossetia Voting Mess Turns to Chaos

S. Ossetia Voting Mess Turns to Chaos

The Moscow Times
South Ossetian presidential candidate Alla Dzhioyeva reasoning with her supporters outside the Central Elections Commission in Tskhinvali on Wednesday. The separatist province came to the brink of a revolution after a court voided her victory in the runoff against the Kremlin’s candidate.

Eduard Korniyenko / Reuters

South Ossetian presidential candidate Alla Dzhioyeva reasoning with her supporters outside the Central Elections Commission in Tskhinvali on Wednesday. The separatist province came to the brink of a revolution after a court voided her victory in the runoff against the Kremlin’s candidate.

TSKHINVALI, Georgia — A disputed presidential election in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia descended into chaos on Wednesday after one of two candidates declared herself the winner, challenging a court order that had ruled the vote invalid.

Police shot into the air as more than a thousand supporters of former Education Minister Alla Dzhioyeva, 62, swarmed around the region’s voting authorities demanding that she be recognized as leader of the tiny territory, which was the focus of a brief 2008 war between Russia and Georgia.

Moscow recognized the region as independent shortly after the conflict, although most of the world and Georgia consider it part of Georgian sovereign territory.

Dzhioyeva, whom preliminary results showed to be leading in the poll against Anatoly Bibilov, 41, the region’s emergencies minister, said she was the rightful president-elect on Wednesday and said she would create her own executive advisory board.

While both candidates share pro-Kremlin sympathies, Dzhioyeva’s supporters point to a meeting between Bibilov and PresidentDmitry Medvedevearlier this month as proof that he has Moscow’s open backing. Bibilov dismisses the claim.

“Alla Dzhioyeva declared herself president of the country. Her first decision was to create a state council,” RIA-Novosti quoted Dzhioyeva’s spokeswoman as saying.

The announcement is a direct challenge to a court decision on Tuesday that threw out the election results after Bibilov accused his rival of vote violations.

While Bibilov has said South Ossetia should become part of Russia by unifying with North Ossetia, a Russian republic across the border whose population is mostly ethnic Ossetian, Dzhioyeva says South Ossetia should be independent.

Moscow said Wednesday that it was “attentively following the development of the events in the friendly, neighboring government.”

“We are interested that a peaceful, stable situation is maintained in the young republic and that political processes develop exclusively in a legal framework,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

The winner would become South Ossetia’s first new president since the war three years ago, after which Venezuela, Nicaragua and the Pacific island nation of Nauru followed Moscow’s move to recognize the territory as independent.

South Ossetia, along with another breakaway Georgian region, Abkhazia, has governed itself with Russian backing since separatist wars after the 1991 Soviet collapse.

Other countries consider the regions part of Georgia, which has dismissed the South Ossetian election as illegitimate.

The election’s outcome is unlikely to alter South Ossetia’s dependence on Russia as an economic lifeline and military protector of the landlocked region with a population of about 30,000.

The regional parliament said it had set the new elections for March 25, with the court urging Dzhioyeva to not participate.
The Moscow Times

Indonesia Security Forces Opens Fire At Papua, New Guinea Anniversary Celebration

Indonesia fires on restive Papuans

SECURITY forces opened fire at a separatist flag-raising ceremony in Indonesia’s restive Papua region today, on the 50th anniversary of the region’s claim to independence.

Around 500 protesters had watched a traditional dance and started cheering and running in a large circle when the region’s Morning Star flag was raised on a bamboo pole in the centre, an AFP correspondent at the scene witnessed.

Around 120 police and soldiers, along with a military truck, stormed the crowd and opened fire after the main flag was raised.

Police kicked and punched protesters on the ground, and detained three of them.

Papuan youth activist leader Markus Haluk told AFP that five people had been shot.

“At the ceremony in Timika, police and military opened fire, shooting into the air as well as at the crowd. Five people were shot, four of whom are being treated at a hospital and one was taken away in a police car,” Haluk said.

But Mimika district deputy police chief Mada Indra Laksanta denied the shootings, saying police merely fired warning shots into the air.

“No protesters were shot, we didn’t shoot into the crowd. They were carrying sharp weapons and rocks,” Laksanta told AFP.

“Two protesters fell into the ditch as they were fleeing and suffered abrasions. They were not shot, they only had abrasions,” he said.

“Three police were wounded, their faces and heads were hit with rocks.”

Flag-raising ceremonies were held in a number of towns across Papua, and others were planned abroad in the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand and Britain.

In provincial capital Jayapura, 15 people had shot two policemen with bows and arrows, critically injuring one, provincial police spokesman Wachyono told AFP.

“Acting on a tip-off, the policemen were checking if anyone there had raised the Morning Star flag but they were attacked,” he said. “A policeman is critically injured and is being treated at a hospital.”

In the nearby town Sentani, 3,000 people gathered at the grave of independence leader Theys Eluay to commemorate the day with songs, dancing and speeches.

On December 1, 1961, Papuans first raised the Morning Star flag and sang a new national anthem after being granted freedom from more than 130 years of Dutch colonial rule.

A year later, Indonesia invaded Papua and took over the region with a self-determination referendum in 1969, which was widely seen as rigged.

Papuans, mostly ethnic Melanesians, have rejected the region’s status as one within Indonesia and poorly armed separatist groups have fought a low-level insurgency.

Displaying separatist symbols such as the Morning Star is considered an act of treason in Indonesia under the criminal code and several perpetrators are serving 20-year jail terms for the offence.

Some are serving life sentences, the maximum penalty under the criminal code for anyone “with an intention to bring the territory of the state … under foreign domination”.

In late October, armed security forces stormed a pro-independence assembly when a group of Papuan leaders declared the region’s independence and raised the Papuan Morning Star separatist flag, killing at least three civilians.

Do Iraq and Afghanistan Have a Date With Civil War?

[This is the sad legacy of American/NATO intervention.  Afghanistan awaits the same fate as Iraq.  Just as the leaders of Iraq’s so-called “awakening movement” are coming under attack from the limitless car bombs that have been prepared, awaiting the day of retribution, so will the same fate await Afghanistan and Pakistan’s anti-Taliban lashkar leaders.  After presiding over the destruction of the tribal systems which have always provided law and order, as well as the destruction of most national infrastructure, NATO washes its hands of any commitments to rebuild whatever has been taken away by the terror war, and simply leaves.  Civil war becomes the only viable solution, as all sides seek to impose some kind of order.  This is NATO’s M.O.; its greatest war crimes and, in general, crimes against humanity itself.  America’s puppet, the so-called “United Nations,” should hold America and its partners in crime responsible for all ensuing war reparations, even the cost of peacekeeping missions. 

The photo below is of one of those Sunni awakening militias in Iraq.  They are all “MARKED MEN,” now.]

Deadly attacks in northeast Iraq

BAGHDAD (AP) – Two separate attacks killed 17 people on Thursday in a northeastern Iraqi province that was once an al-Qaeda stronghold, Iraqi officials said.


Fighters with the Sunni awakening movement of the Iraqi Diyala province guard two blindfolded suspects during a patrol in al-Aswad village, northeast of Baghdad, Iraq on 13 December 2007. Fighters of the awakening movement in Diyala liberated the village of Al-Aswad from al-Qaeda militants

The marketplace car bombing and the assault on the home of an anti-al-Qaeda militia leader came on the third day of a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, in advance of the withdrawal of American troops at the end of the year.

A parked car bomb exploded in the town of Khalis as morning shoppers were starting to arrive, killing 10 persons and wounding 22 others, two police officials said.

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

Khalis, a Shiite enclave 50 miles north of Baghdad, is surrounded by the largely Sunni province of Diyala. The province was a hotbed of al-Qaeda in Iraq during the height of the country’s violence in 2004-2007.

Also in Diyala, gunmen stormed the home of an anti-al-Qaida Sunni fighter at dawn and killed seven people, police said. The victims of the attack in the town of Buhriz about 35 miles north of Baghdad included the local leader of the pro-government Sahwa or Awakening Councils movement and six members of his family, four of whom were women.

Faris al-Azawi, the spokesman of Diyala’s health directorate, confirmed the death tolls in both Khalis and Buhriz.

The attacks came as Biden met with Iraqi officials on a trip designed to chart a new relationship between the two countries ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. forces by the end of this year.

Iraqi security officials maintain that they are fully prepared for the American withdrawal, which is required under a 2008 security pact between the U.S. and Iraq. About 13,000 U.S. troops are still in the country, down from a one-time high of about 170,000. All of those troops will be out of the country by the end of December.

But many Iraqis are concerned that insurgents may use the transition period to launch more attacks in a bid to regain their former prominence and destabilize the country.

At least 56 Iraqis have been killed in separate attacks across the country in the past eight days, a warning that even more violence may be in the offing ahead of the American withdrawal.


Dealing with Soviet Environmental Damage In Central Asia

[Salt from Soviet state plans to tap the Aral Sea for irrigating the desert have created this environmental nightmare, in addition to damage to the inland sea (SEE: Disappearing Aral Sea).]

Old Farming Habits Leave Uzbekistan a Legacy of Salt

The New York Times

The diversion of rivers in Uzbekistan for irrigation has contributed to the Aral Sea, a large saltwater lake, losing more than half of its surface area in 40 years.


KHUJAYLI, Uzbekistan — Salt crunches underfoot like frosty soil on this bare stretch of land in western Uzbekistan.

“Thirty years ago, this was a cotton field,” said a 61-year-old farmer who has lived near this city all his life. “Now it’s a salt flat.”

Uzbekistan, a land-locked country that was once part of the Soviet Union, is home to one of the biggest man-made disasters in history. For decades its rivers were diverted to grow cotton on arid land, causing the Aral Sea, a large saltwater lake, to lose more than half of its surface area in 40 years.

But old habits are hard to break, and 17 years after the Soviet Union collapsed, cotton is still king and the environmental destruction continues unabated, cutting into crop yields. Uzbekistan is the world’s second-largest cotton exporter after the United States, drawing a third of its foreign currency earnings from the crop, but that status seems increasingly threatened by corruption, poor planning and the degradation of cropland.

Far less money is spent now on maintaining the vast networks of water drainage and irrigation that crisscross the country than was expended under Communism. Authorities spend about $12 per hectare on maintenance (a hectare is around two and a half acres), down from $120 per hectare in Soviet times, according to the International Water Management Institute. Blocked drainage pipes push salt levels up, damaging the land and dragging crop yields ever lower.

United Nations report in 2001 estimated that 46 percent of Uzbekistan’s irrigated lands have been damaged by salinity, up from 38 percent in 1982 and 42 percent in 1995.

“The delivery system is dilapidated, the drainage system is failing,” said one foreign expert, who asked that his name not be used because he has to work with Uzbek officials. “It is a big problem.”

How that has affected cotton production is a difficult question. Cotton and its production are ensnared in politics, so national statistics on it are scarce. But a pattern of decline in the industry was evident in three regions based on local figures provided to The New York Times.

In Karakalpakstan, the region that contains what is left of the Aral Sea, the total area of land under cultivation has dropped by 14 percent since 1991, according to local statistics. In the Bukhara region in the south, land planted with cotton has declined by 15 percent in the past eight years, and in Jizzax, a region in central Uzbekistan, 15 percent of the cultivated land has become too salty to farm.

In Manghit, a small city near Khujayli, an early sign of saltiness came in the 1980s when mushrooms that had grown along the banks of the mighty Amu Darya River began to disappear, a local farmer recalled. Soil that used to grow 4.5 tons of raw cotton, measured with seeds and stems, per hectare now produces 2.5 tons, and in some places as little as 1.3 tons, said the farmer, who asked that his name not be used because Uzbek authorities frown on people speaking to foreign journalists.

“When you see this salt, sad, dark thoughts take you,” he said, explaining that the salt is what is left when water evaporates after intense irrigation. “Nothing grows on salty land. It’s like standing on a graveyard.”

Uzbekistan’s environmental problems date from the 1950s, when Nikita S. Khrushchevramped up industrial agriculture, diverting river flows into a vast new maze of industrial-size canals. Slowly, the land began to change.

The farmer in Khujayli recalled a car trip with his father in the winter of 1954 near the city of Muynoq that began with a crossing of miles of Aral Sea ice. Now the shore is more than 50 miles away from the city. In the 1970s, his grandfather’s apricot trees died. Salt eats away at shoes here and turns bricks white. “For so many years we raped the land,” said the farmer. “This is the result.”

Sharing dwindling water resources is a maddening post-Soviet puzzle. Central Asia, once a single part in the Soviet machine, is now five countries with competing interests. Uzbekistan, the most populous, depends on its neighbor Kyrgyzstan for water. This year will be dry, Uzbek farmers and officials said, because Kyrgyzstan used more of its water than usual to generate electricity for heat last winter, which was unseasonably cold.

Environmental woes, however, are only part of the problem. Uzbekistan’s farming industry is still largely frozen in its Soviet past. Though the industry was rearranged several years ago to break the Soviet-era collective farms into private plots, the price paid for cotton is still set by the government, as are the quotas for how much to grow. The state price is set at less than one quarter of the world market price.

As yields decline and government prices remain low, farmers say that profits are increasingly elusive, and in some areas farmers have begun to abandon their fields. One farmer in Jizzax said he had stopped farming one parcel that had grown too salty, and he drove with a reporter past abandoned fields that stretched as far as the eye could see, more than 700 acres, he said.

As in Soviet times, production plans are not closely coordinated with the realities on the ground, and in Jizzax the local authorities, whose jobs depend on fulfilling quotas, have started to force bad fields — about a third of the cultivated land area in the region, according to local statistics — onto state institutions such as the post office, the state pension fund and schools, three farmers there said. Those, in turn, are forced to farm the land or to pay cash to satisfy the quota.

“Jizzax is an experiment,” said one of the farmers, who asked that his name not be published to avoid trouble with local officials. He provided a document for a plot of land that had been abandoned by a farmer and was now the responsibility of a local school. Farmers who did not meet quotas were fined and even taken to court, as was the case in April with 89 farmers.

“Farmers have no rights,” he said. “They are just ordered around by the government.”

The farmers who are fined must pay with cash, which forms the heart of a cycle of corruption that has enriched officials for generations. Those officials, envied and vulnerable to charges of corruption, change with the seasons: In Jizzax, there have been five heads of the main cotton processing factory since 2000, the farmers said.

Some farmers violate the government’s rules and plant crops other than cotton, a practice that has been encouraged by foreign experts who say that crop rotation will allow the land to rest. But the government has often prohibited other crops, not wanting to suffer declines in cotton, and farmers grow other things at their own risk. This spring in Tajikistan, a neighboring country that also relies on cotton, farmers were growing watermelons on the sly, as though they were crops of illicit opium poppies.

“We are destroying ourselves,” said the 61-year-old farmer in Khujayli. “Why are we planting cotton, and what are we getting from it? We never ask those questions.”

The government is starting to acknowledge the problem, and last year it issued an order that will set up a fund for drainage improvements. The World Bank is also financing a program to improve drainage.

Some experts argue that if irrigation is managed properly, the soil in most of the country can still be productive. Wheat yields, they say, have increased sharply in the past decade, which is evidence of soil fertility. In a study of 12 farmers in the Khorezm region over four years, Kirsten Kienzler, a doctoral student at the Center for Development Research of the University of Bonn, said their cotton and wheat harvests were not declining.

She argued that farmers were still steeped in the Soviet system, in which the state did everything, and while it is true that they do not receive world prices for cotton, they are also not paying world prices for fuel, fertilizer or water, which are subsidized by the state.

Even so, the state still owns the land, and farmers said they were leery of committing to large projects while they remained renters. A farmer in the Bukhara region said that he was no longer breaking even, since fuel prices jumped in the past few years, and that he secretly hoarded cotton to sell on the black market to pay his bills.

“I am stealing from myself,” he said, gesturing at a storage room piled high with illicit cotton. “Soon I’ll have to sell these,” he added, snapping the waistband of his sweat pants.

David L. Stern contributed reporting from Tajikistan.

Afghan officials voice scant remorse to Pakistan

Afghan officials voice scant remorse to Pakistan

KABUL — The Afghan police general watched on television as Pakistani soldiers solemnly saluted the coffins of 24 of their comrades who were killed in a U.S. military airstrike Saturday.

The general stood up in disgust. “That’s the best thing America has done in 10 years here,” he said.

While U.S. officials from the war zone to the White House offered contrite condolences to the families of the dead and scrambled to repair the tattered relationship with Pakistan, Afghan officials have taken a tougher line. Frustrated by a Taliban insurgency they are convinced is supervised by and based in Pakistan, they have expressed little remorse, even accusing Pakistan of exaggerating the gravity of the situation to deflect attention from its own meddling in Afghanistan.

Afghan officials said the strike — which followed an operation by U.S. Special Operations forces and Afghan army commandos — was justified because the troops came under fire first from a Pakistani border post. “We have absolutely nothing to apologize for,” a senior official said.

The decision by Pakistan’s cabinet Tuesday to boycott next week’s international conference on Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, seemed likely to keep the mutual suspicion between the neighbors at a strong simmer. The conference was once considered a chance to lure Taliban representatives to negotiate, but that plan never materialized.

The meeting’s importance will now depend on whether it can show that the countries in the region, as well as the West, are committed to supporting Afghanistan’s government and working together to end the war. Pakistan’s cooperation is crucial in this regard — particularly given its influence over the Taliban — and its absence would be a clear symbol that peace remains elusive.

The Pakistani cabinet, after a meeting in the eastern city of Lahore, said in a statement that it supports “stability and peace in Afghanistan and the importance of an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned process of reconciliation.” But Pakistan, it said, had decided to bow out of the conference “in view of the developments and prevailing circumstances.”

According to an account by Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s office, Afghan President Hamid Karzai had called Gilani to plead against a boycott, arguing that it would not encourage peace in Afghanistan. Gilani responded: “How could a country whose own sovereignty and territorial integrity were violated from the Afghan soil . . . play a constructive role?”

Karzai expressed his condolences to the Pakistani people and told Gilani that “insecurity in the region causes these kinds of incidents,” his office said.

One Western official who spoke on the condition of anonymity called the boycott “very unfortunate,” adding, “Pakistan is taking itself from the table precisely when it should be contributing to a solution in Afghanistan.”

In addition to bowing out of the Bonn conference, Pakistan has blocked NATO supply routes into Afghanistan and told U.S. officials to vacate a base in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. In a bid to repair the rift, coalition officials have offered sympathy and expressed hope that an investigation, led by U.S. Central Command, will clarify why the airstrike took place.

“The events of Saturday morning were tragic, from our point of view, and that is why the commander has not only expressed immediately his condolences but also expressed his feelings as a fellow soldier,” said Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, a NATO spokesman in Kabul. “When it comes to the incident itself, all the questions — who was where, how was the situation developing, what was the use of close air support and who talked to whom — is part of the investigation, and we have to wait for the outcome.”

Pakistani officials have not appeared appeased. Pakistan has to do “some serious introspection” regarding the international effort in Afghanistan, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told National Public Radio’s program “All Things Considered.” Pakistan’s role, she said, “has not be appreciated enough. And on top of that, to have an incident in which we feel, at best, giving the benefit of doubt, our soldiers lost their lives to this extremely callous attitude — this episode has obviously created a lot of rage in Pakistan.”

Two senior Pakistani military officers who briefed local editors and commentators Tuesday reiterated Islamabad’s contention that coalition forces had ignored appeals by Pakistan for NATO helicopters to stop firing on its checkpoints.

All Pakistani soldiers at the post, as well as the reinforcements sent to assist them, were uniformed, said Maj. Gen. Ashfaq Nadeem, the director general of military operations.

“All coordination procedures were violated. At multiple levels in ISAF, it was known that they were attacking Pakistani posts, but they continued with impunity,” he said, according to an editor who was present. Nadeem said the Pakistani military concluded that the strike was an “attack of blatant aggression.”

That assessment appeared to be gaining ground in Pakistan, where newspaper editorials and street protesters, including members of an association of Pakistani truckers who carry supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan, called for an end to Pakistan’s alliance with the United States.

Asked whether she thought the attack was deliberate, Khar said, “We would like to wait for the investigations. Currently, the briefings that we have gotten seem to be pointing toward a direction which is not a happy place to be in. If it is a deliberate attempt,” she said, then the question of Pakistan’s future policy “would obviously be much, much, much more serious.”

In Lahore, Shahbaz Sharif, the top official of the opposition-led province of Punjab, met with the wife of a soldier who was killed in the airstrike. According to a statement from Sharif’s office, the widow, “despite being in a deep state of grief and sorrow, said, ‘Those we are fighting for are not our friends.’ ”

To Afghan officials frustrated by Pakistan’s perceived lack of cooperation, those sentiments ring false.

“It’s simply overreaction,” said the senior Afghan official, who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “We have suffered, they have suffered, I mean, come on. Our police and army people die in scores every day. And Pakistani civilians die every day. . . . This time, it’s been military casualties.”

A former Afghan official said Karzai is regularly frustrated by what he sees as the United States’ failure to take stronger action against Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan or pressure Pakistan’s military or intelligence agency to address the problem.

“We put all our eggs in the American basket,” he said. “The problem is, that basket has a huge hole in it, and it’s called Pakistan.”


Brulliard reported from Islamabad, Pakistan. Special correspondents Javed Hamdard in Kabul; Haq Nawaz Khan in Peshawar, Pakistan; and Shaiq Hussain in Islamabad contributed to this report.


The shadow war in Syria

The shadow war in Syria

By Pepe Escobar

Target Syria – the strategic prize that outstrips Libya. The stage is set. The stakes couldn’t be higher. Libya 2.0 equals Syria? It’s more like Libya 2.0 remix. With the same R2P (”responsibility to protect”) rationale – starring civilians bombed into ”democracy”. But with no UN Security Council resolution (Russia and China will veto it). Instead, Turkey shines, fanning the flames of civil war.

US Secretary of State Hillary ”we came, we saw, he died” Clinton set the scene on Indonesian TV a few weeks ago, when she prophesied there would be ”a civil war” in Syria, with a well financed and ”well-armed opposition” crammed with army deserters.

Now it’s up to NATOGCC to make it happen. NATOGCC is of course the now fully accomplished symbiosis between selected North Atlantic Treaty Organization members such as Britain and France and selected petromonarchies of the Gulf Cooperation Council, aka the Gulf Counter-revolution Club, such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

So feel free to bask in the glow of yet another mercenary paradise.

The NATOGCC war 
The Libyans formerly known as rebels, with explicit consent from Transitional National Council (TNC) chairman Mustafa Abdul NATO, aka Jalil, have already shipped to Syria – via Turkey – 600 highly motivated troops fresh from toppling the Gaddafi regime, to fight alongside the Free Syria Army (FSA). This followed a secret meeting in Istanbul between the TNC and the Syrian ”rebels”, rebranded as Syrian National Council.

The trigger-happy Libyans have access to a wealth of weapons plundered from the Gaddafi’s regimes military depots or gently ”donated” by NATO and Qatar. A delicious parallel may already be traced with the House of Saud in the 1980s – which gave the green light for hardcore Islamists to go fight in Afghanistan, instead of raising hell at home.

For the TNC, better keep those testosterone-heavy, unemployed warriors away in the Middle East rather than raising hell in Northern Africa. And for NATO member Turkey, in the absence of war (blame those pesky Russians and Chinese), the next best option is to rely on mercenaries to do the job.

The pressure is relentless. Diplomats in Brussels confirmed to Asia Times Online that NATOGCC operatives have set up a command center in Iskenderun, in Hatay province in Turkey. Crucial Aleppo, in northwest Syria, is very close to the Turkish-Syrian border. The cover story for this command center is to engineer ”humanitarian corridors” to Syria.

Although these ”humanitarians” come from NATO members US, Canada and France, and GCC members Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the UAE, their cover is that they’re only innocent ”monitors”, and not part of NATO. Needless to say these humanitarians consist of ground, naval, air force and engineering specialists. Their mission: infiltrate northern Syria, especially Idlib, Rastan, Homs but most of all the big prize, Aleppo, the largest city in Syria, with at least 2.5 million people, the majority of which are Sunni and Kurdish.

Even before this news from Brussels, the French satirical weekly Le Canard Enchaine – as well as the Turkish daily Milliyet – had already revealed that commandos from French intelligence and the British MI6 are training the FSA in urban guerrilla techniques, in Hatay in southern Turkey and in Tripoli, in northern Lebanon. Weapons – from shotguns to Israeli machine guns and RPGs – have been smuggled en masse.

It’s no secret in Syria that armed gangs – from Salafis to petty criminals – have been attacking regular soldiers, the police and even civilians since the early stages of the protest movement. Of roughly 3,500 people killed during the past seven months, a large number of civilians and more than 1,100 soldiers were killed by these gangs.

And then there are the deserters. So when the Assad regime insists the current Syrian tragedy is to a great extent incited by well-paid and well-armed elements – not to mention mercenaries – at the service of foreign powers, it is essentially correct.

In Homs, a local source tells Asia Times online that as far as the FSA is concerned, ”it’s clear that they are just a nice media cover for criminals. They had a video of themselves in Baba Amr in which they appeared like complete idiots (here it is, with captions conveniently!). But whoever these kids or guys are, they have lots of support amongst the Sunni population. Also, they are connected within the community, whether rich or poor. A Christian woman who teaches at a private school just outside Homs which has largely Sunni students had her car stopped and stolen by some gang. When she came to Homs she made some phone calls and her car was returned. So whoever stole her car outside city limits had connections to middle to high class people in the city and they were able to return the car. This tells me of the infiltration of the dogma of the revolution in Homs. The ‘concept’ of FSA is probably supported enough, and just the people of poor areas like Baba Amr, Bayada and Khalidiyya can self-sustain the FSA.”

Round up the usual votes
Just as in Libya, the Arab League also duly fulfilled its doormat function for NATOGCC, voting for harsh sanctions that include a freeze of Syrian government assets, no more trade deals with the central bank and no more Arab investment. In short: economic war. The Lebanese paper L’Orient Le Jour politely called it ”a political euphemism”. Of the 22 League members, 19 voted – Syria was already suspended. Iraq – where the government is majority Shi’ite – and Lebanon – where Hezbollah is part of the government – were the only ones that ”dissociated” themselves from the vote.

Meanwhile, the nasty opportunist game of musical chairs – the Syrian version – is also in effect. The Syrian National Council and its Islamist cohorts totally rejected any dialogue with the Bashar al-Assad regime. The secretary-general of the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, Riad Chakfi, pulled a ”Libyan rebel” and implored the Turkish army to invade northern Syria and establish a buffer zone. Dodgy exiles such as former vice-president Abdelhalim Khaddam – exiled in Paris – and another vice-president, Rifaat al-Assad – exiled in Spain – are under the illusion that the Muslim Brotherhood (which will be the top power in a ”new” Syria) would allow them to sit on the throne.

This is downright silly – because the name of the game in a ”new” Syria will be the House of Saud. The House of Saud is the crucial link between the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt (which is getting closer and closer to taking power); the AKP party in Turkey (which is essentially a Muslim Brotherhood lite); and the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria. The Saudis are crucial investors in Turkey. They are positioning themselves as major investors in Egypt. And they’re dying to become a major investor in ”new” Syria.

Then there’s the key question of Turkey’s game. In the Syrian dossier, Turkey is not a mediator anymore; it has become a brash advocate of regime change. Forget about the Tehran-Damascus-Ankara entente, which was a reality not along ago, in 2010. Forget about soft power and the much-advertised foreign policy of ”zero problems with our neighbors”, coined by Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Davutoglu himself announced Turkey’s own sanctions on Syria – a replay of the Arab League’s, with freezing of the government’s financial assets and no transactions with the central bank. Davutoglu insists a military buffer zone inside Syria, along the border with Turkey, is ”not on the agenda” – but that’s exactly what those shady NATOGCC ”humanitarian monitors” are up to. Since mid-November Turkish media has been ablaze detailing plans for a no-fly zone in northern Syria and the aforementioned buffer zone stretching as far as Aleppo.

The motive? Ask ”prophet” Hillary Clinton – to foment civil war.

Showdown, Club Med style
In its mad rush to sell the Turkish political model to the majority-Sunni parts of the Arab world (yet the GCC is not buying), Turkey may be severely miscalculating its crucial relations with both Russia and Iran. Around 70% of Turkey’s energy is imported from Russia and Iran. Not to mention that both Russia and Iran are fuming with Turkey bowing to NATO pressure to host a radar station as part of missile defense.

Russia has very clear ideas about the Syrian scenario. The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been more than explicit for weeks now; ”We absolutely do not accept a scenario of military intervention in Syria.”

Last week’s meeting of the deputy foreign ministers of the emergent BRICS group (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), in Moscow, was unmistakable.

The BRICS essentially drew the red lines. No excuse whatsoever for a foreign intervention in Syria, as in ”any external interference in Syria’s affairs, not in accordance with the UN Charter, should be excluded.” No ”bomb bomb Iran”; instead, dialogue and negotiations. And no additional sanctions, deemed ”counterproductive”. The BRICS clearly see how the Libya scenario is slowly morphing into the modified NATOGCC war.

To add extra sauce, the aircraft carrier Admiral Kuznetsov – equipped with nuclear missiles – has already left Murmansk towards the Eastern Mediterranean, alongside the destroyer Admiral Chabanenko and the frigate Ladny. They will arrive at the Tartus naval base, in Syria, in mid-January, and will be met by other ships from the Russian fleet in the Black Sea.

Tartus, hosting around 600 military and technicians from the Russian Defense Ministry, is a center of maintenance and refueling for the Russian Black Sea fleet. It will be a thrill to watch whether the Russians will invite members of the George H W Bush Carrier Strike Group – now also in the Eastern Mediterranean – for a volleyball match.

It’s fair to argue that masses of Syrians want something other than the Assad regime – but certainly not some variant of humanitarian bombing, not to mention civil war. They saw NATO’s legacy in Libya – virtually the whole infrastructure of the country destroyed, cities bombed to dust, tens of thousands of dead and wounded, al-Qaeda-linked fanatics wielding power in Tripoli, widespread ethnic hatred. They don’t want a brand new massacre. But NATOGCC does.

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His new book, just out, is Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at