Spain Offers to Refuel Russian Naval Strike Group

Spain Offers to Refuel Russian Naval Strike Group

maritime executive

kuzThe Kuznetsov with a Royal Navy escort (UK MoD photo, undated)

By MarEx 

Spain faces criticism from its EU neighbors and from NATO over its willingness to allow a Russian naval strike group to refuel at the North African port of Ceuta, a Spanish-controlled enclave on the coast of Morocco.

The Russian battle group, led by the jump-ramp carrier Admiral Kuznetsov, will be escorted through the Strait of Gibraltar by the Spanish frigate Almirante Juan de Borbon and the logistics vessel Cantabria. If all proceeds as planned, its auxiliaries will then refuel and resupply at Ceuta on Wednesday morning, Spanish media report.

The Russian fleet is bound for waters off Syria, where it is expected to take part in an operation against rebel positions in the besieged city of Aleppo.

Russian and Syrian government bombing campaigns in and around Aleppo have generated a large number of civilian casualties, and the Council of the European Union issued a statement October 17 suggesting that the Russian strikes in Aleppo may be war crimes.

“Since the beginning of the offensive by the regime and its allies, notably Russia, the intensity and scale of the aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo is clearly disproportionate,” the council wrote. “The deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, schools and essential infrastructure, as well as the use of barrel bombs, cluster bombs, and chemical weapons . . . may amount to war crimes.”

As one of the EU’s 28 member states, Spain is party to the council.

NATO secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said that while it was up to Spain to choose whether to let the ships resupply, “we are concerned, and I have expressed that very clearly, about the potential use of this battle group to increase Russia’s ability and to be a platform for air strikes against Syria.”

“This is something I have conveyed very clearly before and I repeat those concerns today. I believe that all NATO allies are aware this battle group can be used to conduct air strikes against Aleppo and Syria,” he said.

Ceuta has long been a refueling stop for Russian naval vessels, much to the consternation of Spain’s NATO allies. Spain asserts that the port is technically not under the NATO umbrella, so its activities there do not violate treaty obligations.

However, on Tuesday, Spain’s Foreign Office appeared to be reconsidering its position on hosting the Kuznetsov’s fleet auxiliaries. “The latest stopovers requested are being revised at this time according to the information we are receiving from our allies and the Russian authorities,” the ministry said in response to an inquiry from The Spain Report.

Hindutva Press Asks the Question–Was Quetta Police Acad. Attack A “False Flag” Attack?

The Pakistani media says that the recent terrorist attack in Quetta that killed around 60 people and injured over 100 at a police academy indicates a trend that connects terror attacks after Pathankot. The trend referred to is of terrorists surprising their victims, firing indiscriminately and blowing themselves up. While the aim may be to draw similarities between India and Pakistan to surmise ‘Pakistan too is victim of terror’, what is new about this terror modus operandi?

But, by referring to the similarities between the attacks in India and Pakistan, Pakistan’s Daily Times appears to have stumbled upon the trend by design or default; the trend and modus operandi are the same because these terrorists have been radicalised, armed, equipped and trained by the same agency — Pakistan’s ISI, which not only radicalises these men but perhaps pumps opiates in them before they set out to commit ghastly and bizarre acts.

A Pakistani soldier stands guard outside the Police Training Center after an attack on the center in Quetta. Reuters

A Pakistani soldier stands guard outside the Police Training Center after an attack on the center in Quetta. ReutersA Pakistani soldier stands guard outside the Police Training Center after an attack on the center in Quetta. Reuters

Imran Khan’s latest accusation is that India is trying to implode Pakistan from within.

But why does India have to waste effort on this when Pakistan’s generals have made, and continue to make fine progress for Pakistan’s self-destruction. Remember [an article that Daily Times wants you to forget–ed.] Nasir Abbas Mirza’s write up ‘A Monstrous Experiment’ of 11 May, 2009 in Daily Times saying:

“There are thousands of madrasas spread all over Pakistan’s urban centres that are producing millions of neo-drones… Take a little boy and incarcerate him in a remote madrasa. Indoctrinate him with a distorted version of a religion and tell him that he does not belong to this world. Teach him about the fanciful world that awaits him in the heaven, and that in order to attain that he has to destroy everything that stands in his way, including his own body… At full steam ahead in Pakistan, this is a monstrous experiment in brainwashing and it is on a par with, if not worse than, Nazi Germany’s eugenics. They did it in the name of science; here, it is being done in the name of God and religion. On a very large scale, this is a hugely successful experiment in which nurture triumphs and nature takes a beating”

Michel Chossudovsky, professor at University of Ottawa, wrote in his article ‘The Destabilisation of Pakistan‘ in 2007 that Washington had been planning a scenario of disintegration and civil war in Pakistan for more than five years, US intelligence using Pakistan’s ISI as a go-between, had supported Al-Qaeda and its various affiliated organisations and ‘Talibanisation’ was the direct result of US-led covert operations. He went on to say that the US course consisted of fomenting social, ethnic and factional divisions and political fragmentation, including the territorial breakup of Pakistan, dictated by US war plans in relation to both Afghanistan and Iran.

But while Chossudovsky’s analysis may not be entirely relevant today, there is little chance Imran Khan would have read this either. However, the fact remains that the Pakistani generals have put Pakistan in the eye of the strategic geopolitical competition by opening the floodgates for China; in direct path of the hybrid Great Game between Nato and China with the Indian Ocean Rim fast becoming the centre of gravity for future conflict.

There is no doubt that Pakistan is finding itself in the uncomfortable position of diplomatic isolation, both at the regional and global level despite total patronage by China. Adam Szubin, US acting undersecretary on Countering the Financing of Terrorism recently stated, “We continue to urge our partners in Pakistan to go after all terrorist networks operating in their country. We stand ready to help them. But there should be no doubt that while we remain committed to working with Pakistan to confront ongoing terrorist financing and operations, the US will not hesitate to act alone, when necessary, to disrupt and destroy these networks”, adding, “The problem is that there are forces within the Pakistani government — specifically in Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI — that refuse to take similar steps against all the terrorist groups active in Pakistan, tolerating some groups — or even worse.”

Although Szubin’s remarks were delivered while was speaking at the Paul H Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Washington DC, his statement would have come as rude shock to Pakistan, rattled as it already is by the diplomatic offensive by Prime Minister Narendra Modi following the terrorist attack at Uri.

The deft moves to deflect from the unenviable position that Pakistan found itself in followed predictable moves. Posters appeared in Gujranwala, Pakistan’s Punjab with the Laskar-e-Taiba (LeT) owning responsibility for the terrorist attack on the army base at Uri despite the evidence pointing at the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM). These posters exhorted people to gather in Nawab Chowk of Gujranwala on 25 October to participate in the funeral in absentia of Muhammad Anas, alias Abu Siraqa, one of the four attackers killed in Uri on 18 September. The poster, also circulated on WhatsApp, stated that Hafiz Saeed, LeT chief would deliver a special address on the occasion.

Now why should the LeT own up to responsibility of the Uri terror attack at this stage?

That Pakistan wants to portray that the LeT is out of control is obvious. But the fact remains that both LeT and JeM are covert arms of the generals and Hafiz Saeed and Azhar Masood are accorded protection and special status by the Pakistani army. Otherwise, how would Hafiz Saeed address the funeral in absentia in Gujranwala on 25 October? Photographs of a meeting in Pakistan following India’s surgical strikes in the wake of the terror attack in Uri showed high-profile Pakistani ISI officials sitting along with Hafiz Saeed, Sirajuddin Haqqani and Abdullah Gul, son of former ISI chief Hamid Gul under whom LeT flourished.

In an earlier photograph, Abdullah Gul is seen with HuM’s Syed Salahuddin and Pakistani NSA Naseer Khan Janjua. Abdullah Gul provides legitimacy and funds to terror organisations like LeT, Hizbul Mujahideen and JuD, and is joined in these activities by Ijaz ul-Haq, former federal minister in Pakistan and son of former military dictator Zia ul-Haq under whom Talibanisation of the Pakistani army started being shaped.

The Islamic State and Pakistan Taliban have claimed responsibility for the Quetta attack while Pakistan has blamed the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi (LeJ). US intelligence acknowledges that IS in Afghanistan-Pakistan consists of disgruntled elements of both the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban. Obviously they have been clubbed together and mixed with other terrorist groups, regulars from Mujahid battalions and ISI operatives. Pakistan has the handle on both Talibans through Sirajuddin Haqqani and has been employing Pakistan-based LeT, JeM, LeJ, Haqqanis to create mayhem in Afghanistan, lately targeting Hazaras to widen the sectarian divide.

Voice of America had earlier reported Afghanistan officially telling Pakistan Hafiz Saeed, former LeT chief is directing ISIS operations in Afghanistan. The ISI’s internal thinking reflected the accusations the R&AW had orchestrated the Mumbai, Pathankot and Uri terror attacks in India. So why not use LeJ to target the police academy at Quetta to lift pressure from diplomatic isolation? Is there any reason the Pakistani authorities are about how many of the 60-odd killed and over 100 injured are Shias and Balochis? Get the picture?

Of course, as always, the White House condemned the Quetta and said the US would support Pakistan in its fight against terrorism.

Case closed.

The author is a veteran Lieutenant-General of the Indian Army