New Price Tags on Stranded NATO Supplies

New Price Tags on Stranded NATO Supplies 

By Zofeen Ebrahim

KARACHI, Jan 12, 2012 (IPS) – From a distance, the neatly stacked red, blue and orange containers suggest that business is good at Karachi’s Kemari port.

But these goods are not moving. The port official says the cargo belongs to the U.S. military and is meant for the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). These goods “in transit to Afghanistan” have been grounded at the port since Nov. 27 after Pakistan severed the supply line.

So far the issue is at a standstill. Any resumption would now have to come with a price tag and a formal apology.

The U.S. has refused to apologise for the attack. A Pentagon investigation blamed communications failures by both camps. The findings have been rejected by Pakistan, which is reviewing its “terms of engagement” with the U.S. and whether the supply line should be opened.

Pakistan cut off the supply line in protest against the deadly air raid on two Pakistani checkposts on Nov. 26 that killed 24 soldiers. According to ports and shipping sources, around 2,000 containers are stacked at Port Qasim in Karachi and 1,700 containers and as many U.S. military vehicles at Kemari.

And, after five weeks stuck at border control points at Chaman town bordering Afghanistan, hundreds of trucks laden with precious NATO cargo, and tankers with fuel are heading back to Karachi. They have not been allowed to unload or to head onwards to the Pak-Afghan border. Pakistan seems in no hurry to reopen the route.

U.S. and NATO officials in Afghanistan seem to be getting desperate. While the Northern Distribution Network (NDN) via Russia is an option, any blockage there could mean a significant alteration to NATO operations. It could also mean a possibility of isolation of U.S. forces.

Defence analyst Ikram Sehgal says the U.S. and NATO “will fight their way through Pakistan.” He believes “it is a matter of days before the routes open.”

Defence minister Chaudhry Ahmad Mukhtar has hinted that the government is considering opening of the supply line and taxing the trucks. “If the supplies are resumed, it will not be for free,” he told media. He said such transportation would come at a price because roads are damaged by 3,000 containers that pass over them everyday. “We will charge them (NATO) and repair our roads from these taxes.”

Pakistan has so far not been taking any transit fee from NATO. Now is a good time, Mukhtar said.

Meantime, the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) comprising legislators from the ruling party, the opposition as well religious political parties has finalised a list of recommendations for the “new terms of engagement.” It is due soon to give its draft to the prime minister who will then call a joint session where these will be approved.

“We have taken input from various institutions like the ministries of finance, defence and foreign affairs,” sHaider Abbas Rizvi, a committee member belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) party told IPS. “We had also asked the army and its intelligence agencies to help us with the recommendations.

“The focus of our brainstorming sessions in the last one month has been to put an end to the abuse and misuse of Pakistan’s sovereignty. We will not tolerate unilateral attacks on Pakistan from outside and even from within.”

But the Difa-i-Pakistan Council (Pakistan Defence Council), an alliance of about 40 religious-political parties, has threatened to oppose any government attempts to reopen supplies for NATO under cover of the recommendations of the PCNS because it would be tantamount to inviting “attacks and terrorism against Pakistan.”

At a meeting last week in the eastern city Lahore in the Punjab province, it urged the government to quit the “war on terror” and threatened a countrywide movement against “U.S. terrorism in Pakistan.”

Describing the blockade as a step in the right direction, Maulana Atta-ur-Rehman from the Jamat-e-Islami told IPS: “It’s better if the NATO supplies continue to remain closed.” He said the sensibilities of the masses have been deeply hurt and they will not support any re-opening. “They will come out on the streets.”

Religious leaders argue that terrorism on Pakistani soil stopped after Pakistan disassociated itself from the U.S. and NATO.

The alliance advised the government instead to boost ties with China and the Muslim world.

At the port itself, disputes have arisen about the capacity to hold on to the stranded cargo.

Talking to IPS on condition of anonymity, a port official dismissed news reports that the stranded U.S. cargo was eating up precious port space. “The situation is not as alarming as is made out to be. We have enough space to accommodate 200 million containers at our ports and NATO/ISAF consignments take up just five percent of that container space. Such a small percentage cannot congest our ports.” But, he said, if the cargo remains grounded there for the next six months, and new consignments keep coming, space will have to be found outside the port.

Before 2009, almost 70 percent of the supplies to 140,000 ISAF troops were shipped to Karachi and routed through the Khyber Pass to Kandahar. After attacks on NATO trucks increased in 2009, it opened up the northern route. Now, says the head of a shipping line in Karachi, “only 25 to 30 percent of the goods go through Pakistan.”

The Karachi Port Trust, which charges 1,400 Pakistani rupees (15 dollars) per day per container for the space seems in no hurry to let go of the grounded cargo.

The blockade has been the longest since the start of the Afghan war in 2001.

Pakistan had partially closed the supply routes before, notably for 11 days after cross-border NATO air strikes in September 2010 killed three Pakistani soldiers and again in April 2011 when thousands of Pakistanis demonstrated against NATO drone strikes.

Ammunition Loaded Russian Ship Arrives in Syria

Russian weapons ship arrives in Syria – paper

MOSCOW, (RIA Novosti)

A Russian-owned ship reportedly carrying weapons to Syria docked in Tartus on Thursday despite assurances it would change destination, Turkey’s Hurriyet Daily News reported.

“The Turkish navy has learned that the Russian ship MV Chariot docked at the Syrian port today,” the paper said, citing Turkish Foreign Ministry official Selcuk Unal.

Russia maintains a Soviet-era naval maintenance site near Tartus, which is the country’s only military foothold on the Mediterranean.

The cargo ship MV Chariot, flying the St. Vincent and Grenadines flag, was en route from St. Petersburg to the Syrian port of Latakia carrying from 35 to 60 tons of ammunition and explosives meant for the Syrian Defense Ministry.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said the ship carried a “dangerous cargo,” but did not elaborate. According to the documents, the cargo sender was the Russian state arms trader Rosoboronexport.

The ship’s initial route lay in the waters of Turkey, not an EU member, so there was no violation of the relevant EU restrictions on Syria. The ship, however, was forced to dock for refueling at the Cypriot port of Limassol on Tuesday.

Cypriot authorities boarded the ship for a document check. They also tried to examine the cargo, but could not open four containers it was stored in because of “confined space,” the Greek Cypriot Foreign Ministry said in a statement. They, however, ruled that the ship carried “dangerous cargo.”

In about an hour, it was allowed to leave “after the ship decided to change its destination and not go to Syria,” Cypriot government spokesman Stefanos Stefanou said.

Confession of CIA Spy Captured In Iran Gathering On-Ground Intelligence for SOCOM Battle Simulations

[According to Mr. Hekmati’s confession, he was in Iran to gather specific intelligence on Iran for reconstructing targets and the directions to them, for computer modeling, to be used in game simulations.  This description matches the job description given in a recent Pentagon contract award to CACI International, for the creation of a Special Forces realistic war games simulations, to be used in the training for specific missions in Asia. 

“This five-year (one base period with four option periods) award will provide modeling and simulation data for a variety of Special Operations Forces (SOF) rotary and fixed-wing aircraft and other specialized vehicles. CACI’s approach to this work will enhance the U.S. Special Operations Command’s (USSOCOM) capability to conduct critical training more efficiently and to more thoroughly prepare our forces for operational missions.”  

These computer simulations training missions are in support of SOCOM’s Quick Reaction Force for Central Asia (SEE: Manufacturing Justification for the NATO Takeover of Central Asia– Smashing Greater Central Asia – Part One).]


‘Confession’ of Accused CIA Spy Reveals Link to US Videogame Maker

By Gar Smith

Amir Mirzai Hekmati, a US citizen of Iranian descent and a former Marine, has been sentenced to death by a court in Tehran for spying. According to Iranian press reports, Hekmati was found guilty of “co-operating with a hostile nation, membership of [sic] the CIA and trying to implicate Iran in terrorism.”

Although the story broke big in the mainstream press this week, Hekmati’s alleged videotaped “confession” was actually broadcast — in its entirety, with Hekmati speaking Arabic — on Iranian television on December 18, 2011. While staged confessions are always suspect, in the videos, Hekmati looks relaxed and healthy and he speaks quietly, in calm, measured tones.

Although Hekmati’s videotaped “confession” was broadcast nearly a month ago, it is virtually impossible to penetrate the Western media’s info-barrier to discover what he actually “confessed to.” A Google name search only produces links to stories from the BBC and US news agencies – none of which contain the details of Hekmati’s supposed confession. Even a Google search for Hekmati’s name linked with the Fars News Agency (which broadcast the taped “confession”) also leads to the same dead-end. Curiously, the Google search yields no matches for Fars — only the same links to the BBC and Western media.

It is only by going directly to the websites of Fars and the Tehran Times that one can track down the actual content of Hekmati’s videotaped testimony. That is what this Planet reporter did.

One of the most surprising revelations in Hekmati’s online tell-all was his admission that, in addition to training at the Pentagon’s Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, he also spent time working for Kuma/War, a US-based videogame company that specializes in combat simulations. Kuma/War has reportedly worked under contract for the US Army but, in the transcript of his taped statement, Hekmati also claims that, in addition to its Pentagon contracts, Kuma/War received funding from the CIA.

Confessions of an Arrested American

On December 12, 2011, the Fars News Agency 
reported that the Iranian Intelligence Ministry has “arrested an agent of the CIA in Iran immediately after he started his spying activities inside the country.” FNA went on to report: “The arrested spy has been born in Arizona of US and has a track record of ten years of training as a professional spy. Amir Mirza Hekmati was employed by the US Army’s intelligence section in August 2001. In his confession that was broadcasted [sic] by Iranian TV on Sunday night, Hekmati explained his secret mission in Iran.”

The following is excerpted from Hekmati’s broadcast interview:

“I was graduated from high school in 2001 and decided to enter the US Army. It was in August 2001 that I wore the US Army uniform and underwent different military trainings of the army….

“When they realized that I know a little Persian and a little Arabic, they told me: ‘We want to send you to a university to learn Arabic language.’ I studied the opinions of Iraqi officials regarding the US and the presence of US military in Iraq. Our goal was to pinpoint those Iraqi officials who were inclined toward the US and do something that, in case of outbreak of any incident, they support US military. After sending our reports to US Army’s intelligence department, security and intelligence officials held secret meetings with Iraqi officials and tried to establish closer ties with those officials.”

Hekmati then describes how, after several months in Iraq, he joined the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). He worked with the Cyber Security program.

“After DARPA, I was recruited by Kuma Games Company, a computer games company which received money from CIA to design and make special films and computer games to change the public opinion’s mindset in the Middle East and distribute them among Middle East residents free of charge. The goal of Kuma Games was to convince the people of the world and Iraq that what the US does in Iraq and other countries is good and acceptable.” 

In July 2006, Hekmati claimed, he was approached by a woman who told him that she was a “government official.” She actually worked for the CIA.

“After her contact, I successfully passed the psychological and medical tests, as well as lie detection tests before the same CIA agent contacted me and told me that I had to wait for their call. I was contacted by BAE Systems and I was informed that I had to return to Iraq as an intelligence analyst. I learnt how to use secret systems and methods for gathering information from different places and individuals. During this period, CIA was trying to find a suitable cover-up for my important mission.” [NoteBAE SystemsInc. is one of the top 10 US defense companies, with more than 39,000 employees.]

Hekmati stated that he was summoned to the Washington Hotel in the capital where a CIA agent informed him that he was to go to Iran to undertake an intelligence project.

“The CIA agent, by giving detailed information, prepared me for my big mission, while assuring me that, given the cover-up provided for me, I would not face any problem in the way of conducting my mission.” 

Hekmati claimed that he was to become a source for Islamic Republic of Iran’s Intelligence Ministry. He would provide the ministry with coordinated information and would receive payment for his services before returning to US.

“I was given access to the most secret data systems for gathering the required information before being sent to US Bagram Base in Afghanistan [where the CIA is known to maintain operations.] I had a series of flights from Bagram, including a flight to Dubai where I stayed for two days and then I came to Tehran by plane afterwards.” 

According to Hekmati’s statement, the CIA’s plan was that he was to provide Iran’s Intelligence Ministry with a series of deliveries of “apparently important classified information” in hopes that the Iranians would take the bait, putting him in position to serve as a double agent. “However,” Hakmati concluded, “Iranian officials found out the truth. They dismantled the CIA spy network in Iran by finding out about my mission.” 


First Video of Confessions of American-born CIA Spy Amir Mirzaei Hekmati


The World of Kuma War

Excerpts from the Kuma War Website

“Kuma War is a series of playable recreations of real events in the War on Terror. Nearly 100 playable missions bring our soldiers’ heroic stories to life, and you can get them all right now, for free. Stop watching the news and get in the game!”

Kuma War Episode 108

Relive Muammar Gaddafi’s final take-down and the Libyan rebels’ triumph with this brand new multiplayer mission! Above the streets of Sirte, a Predator drone and jets help force Gaddafi to flee the burning city and into the hands of the Libyan rebels. When the smoke clears, the former leader lays dead. 

About Kuma Reality Games

“Kuma\War is a free online war game that uses cutting-edge game technology to accurately reconstruct real-war events from the news. Kuma\War is a first- and third-person squad-based war game. It is the first PC video game to bring the tactical FPS (shooter) into the 21st century by modeling missions on actual real-world events. Each month, players get new single player and multiplayer games (missions), to reflect unfolding events around the world.

“Armed with identical weapons in a realistic re-creation of various locations, you’ll experience some of fiercest engagements in the most hostile territories in the world. A vast database of intelligence accompanies Kuma\War online games: satellite photos, political context, event details and the weaponry, tactics and forces involved. You’ll also get exclusive video news shows and insight from a decorated team of military veterans.

“Kuma Reality Games builds re-creations of real-world events using advanced gaming tools. Many of the new missions are being developed in cooperation with the US military and soldiers returning from Operation Iraqi Freedom. Kuma Reality Games, headquartered in New York, New York is a privately held company.

“At Kuma, we are very sensitive and respectful of American and coalition soldiers and the sacrifices they are making every day. We hope that by telling their stories with such a powerful medium that we enable the American public to gain a better appreciation of the conflicts and the dangers they face.”

CIA-Funded Video Game Propaganda?

Writing in the GameZone website on January 9, Vito Gesualdi addressed the former soldier’s arrest and death sentence: “American officials maintain that Hekmati was simply visiting relatives, though it’s his purported confession which is raising eyebrows — Hekmati admitting to working on the first-person shooter Kuma\War, claiming that the game is funded by the CIA and operates as modern-day propaganda meant to sway the attitudes of youths in Iran and other middle-eastern countries in favor of United States military actions….”

Gesualdi though it odd that, while Kuma’s press releases boast of “19 million users, with an additional 250,000 new players signing on each month,” Kuma\War “seems to have been largely invisible here in the States — a surprising turn given “the wealth of technological advanced shooters we have access to (Battlefield, Modern Warfare).”

This raises a question for Gesualdi: “So who is playing Kuma\War? Given that the first language option on the Kuma Games website (aside from the default English) is Arabic, we have our suspicions.”

War Propaganda and Video Games

The Kuma/War connection did not go unnoticed by the Kavkaz Center (an international Islamic pro-Chechen news service). In a December 21, 2011 commentary, Kavkaz wrote: 

“Kuma Games was receiving money from the CIA to (produce) and design and distribute for free special movies and games with the aim of manipulating public opinion in the Middle East, Hekmati said. The goal of the company in question was to convince the people of Iran and the people of the entire world that whatever the US does in other countries is a good measure.” 

Kavkaz noted that “Kuma Games has worked under contract for the US government (in 2006 it was announced that the company produced a training game for the American army), but information about the connection with the secret services have not previously received. Representatives of Kuma Games have not yet commented on Hekmati’s statement.”

By its very nature, the content of Kuma/War offerings is polarizing and guaranteed to inflame passions regarding the conflict zones depicted in the games. One game that prompted a surge of anger was a “reality-based” game released last spring. As Kavkaz noted, the game Kuma/War 2, included a mission in which the player was invited “to ‘kill’ Osama bin Laden (martyr, Insha’Allah).”

Kuma/War has also outraged Iranians with a release called “Battlefield 3,” As Kavkaz notes, “This shooter has caused resentment of local authorities due to the fact that part of its action takes place on the streets of Tehran.”

It is fair to wonder how Americans might react to an Iranian videogame that involved heroic members of Iran’s Republican Guard gunning down Americans in the simulated streets of New York. Recently, Behrouz Minai, the head of the Iranian National Center for Computer Games announced that the NCCG was preparing to release a game designed to serve as “a response to the Battlefield 3.”

Americans can relax. Times Square will not be in the crosshairs of this “reality-based shooter.” In the Iranian version of Kuma/War, the plan is to depict the Iranian army attacking Tel Aviv. Minai explained that his game-designers decided to target Israeli city because such a virtual attack would “anger the Zionist rulers in the US more than an attack on Washington.”

Gar Smith is a Berkeley-based reporter and co-founder of Environmentalists Against War (

US State Dept. Meddling In Pakistani Religion and Politics Comes Back To Bite Them On the Ass

US aid to Sunni Ittehad Council backfired

Money received for anti-Taliban rally but group later led pro-Mumtaz Qadri demo. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

WASHINGTON: The United States gave money to the Sunni Ittehad Council to organise anti-Taliban rallies in 2009; however, the council later led demonstrations in support of Mumtaz Qadri, the self-confessed killer of former Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer, in an apparent boomerang of US policy to support religious moderation in Pakistan.

US government website shows that the Sunni Ittehad Council received $36,607 from Washington in 2009 under the State Department’s Public Diplomacy Programmes for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The purpose of the grant was to help the Sunni Ittehad Council organise a National Flag March on August 14, 2009. The rally, held on August 14, is believed to have been a rally by the religious organisation to protest against the Taliban.

But it seems as though the religious organisation switched course after the killing of Salmaan Taseer as it held mass rallies in 2011 to protest against the arrest of Mumtaz Qadri. Last week, religious organisations even announced an Rs100 million reward for Mumtaz Qadri’s gun.

However, following the reports, the US State Department has said that the US government no longer provides support to the group in any capacity.

Laura D Lucas, a spokesperson for the State Department told The Express Tribune, “This particular grant supported a successful rally in 2009 at which Pakistanis spoke out against the Taliban, violent extremism, and suicide bombings. This grant is consistent with our continuing efforts, in Pakistan and around the world, to amplify local voices on issues of common concern, such as counter-terrorism.”

The State Department was approached by the Sunni Ittehad Council with a request for funding for the rally, said an official speaking toThe Express Tribune, requesting anonymity.

The Sunni Ittehad Council was originally an umbrella group, consisting of several organisations coming together as a bulwark against terrorism and a voice against suicide bombings, said the State Department spokesperson. She added that the group’s leadership and direction have changed since the grant was given by the State Department in 2009, adding that the US government no longer provides support to the group and that according to their understanding, a number of its Pakistani partners have also severed ties with the group.

In response to a question on whether the US was allowed to fund religious groups, the State Department spokesperson said that the US government is allowed to give grants to religious groups for non-religious activities, adding that the US Embassy in Islamabad closely monitored the grant.

“The United States continues to recognise the many sacrifices that the Pakistani people and security forces have made in the war against violent extremists, and we remain committed to working together on our shared goals of a stable, secure and prosperous Pakistan in a stable, secure, and prosperous region,” the spokesperson added.

Two leading members of the council, who have been with the group from the beginning of its existence, denied receiving any American funds. The apparent discrepancy could be explained by lack of transparency within the organisation, The Associated Press reported.

“This propaganda is being unleashed against us because we are strongly opposed to Western democracy and American policies in the region and in the world,” said Sahibzada Fazal Karim, the head of the council, before reiterating the group’s support for Qadri.

“We are against extremism, but we support Qadri because he did a right thing,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune

Govt-army tensions make public nervous

Govt-army tensions make public nervous

Islamabad | By Kalbe Ali and Munawar Azeem
A security personnel standing alert outside the Parliament House Building in Islamabad. —Online

ISLAMABAD: Weary of the rising tensions between the political government, the military and the judiciary, the citizens of Islamabad feared for the worse when they saw extra police and paramilitary forces deployed in the city on Wednesday.

Their ominous thoughts grew darker in the afternoon when the government sacked the defence secretary after the army decried the prime minister for his remarks against its chief, and the army changed the commander of the 111 Brigade.

To everyone`s relief the extra security personnel were withdrawn by late evening and the fears and rumours vanished in the light fog that covers Islamabad at dusk.

A source in the Security Wing of the city police explained that more police had to be called in for providing security at three important functions involving the prime minister and the Chief Justice and other judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.

Still the presence of some 600 extra security personnel in the city, particularly in the Red Zone area where the Presidency, the Prime Minister`s House and the Supreme Court are located, looked ominous to the common citizens and even hospital and emergency services.

`I decided to take additional grocery while going home from my office, just in case the situation became serious,` said Abid Hussain, a corporate employee in federal capital.

There is no history of serious disruption of daily life in the twin cities because of political turmoil, but in the present scenario many people fear a shutdown, like the onethat followed the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

`At that time, we had spent days without vegetables, even milk,` recalled another resident of Rawalpindi.

Wednesday`s events frightened not just the people of the twin cities but people in other parts also called to know `what is going on in Islamabad and Rawalpindi?` Most callers solicited information about the appointment of a new commander of 111 Brigade.

Friends and relatives of the local residents called from other cities including Lahore and Karachi and they were mainly worried about the deployment of extra paramilitary forces and police in Rawalpindi or Islamabad.

`Things look serious from here. I just want to know if a 1999-like situation is developing, said Shakeel Salawat, a Karachi-based journalist who called the National Press Club to know the situation.

Not only the general public but the emergency services also felt to be prepared in case the war of nerves pushes the government and the army to open hostility.

Though no alert was sounded officially, hospitals, the firefighting services and police did not want to be caught unawares.

`No special directive has been issued but we are keeping an eye on the situation,` an officer of the Capital Development Authority`s fire department said.

Incidentally the telephone lines of the CDA`s main fire station at Zero Point are disconnected due to non-payment of bills.