Saturday, July 31, 2010

Geopolitical logic means an end to Brzezinski-like plans to encircle Russia....

Geopolitical logic means an end to Brzezinski-like plans to encircle Russia....

IRAN and LEBANON will be attacked soon, the Obama White House is run by Tel Aviv and "Mike" G. VICKERS is in tow....

AUG, 2010,

The Atlantists are on the ascendant these days in Moscow. Russian President Dmitri Medvedev’s hamburger lunch with United States President Barack Obama during his visit to Silicon Valley last month apparently left a pleasant taste in his mouth.

Now relations with NATO are on the mend, as Russia plans to send 27 Mi-17 helicopters to Afghanistan, NATO Military Committee Chairman Giampaolo di Paola said after a meeting with Chief of Staff of the Russian Armed Forces Nikolai Makarov last Friday. Rosoboronexport has even offered to throw in the first three helicopters for free.

Makarov went further, telling di Paola that Russia was now ready to work with NATO “to pool efforts to find solutions to contemporary challenges and threats to international security.” Di Paola welcomed the Russian general’s offer, assuring him that NATO views Moscow as a “strong strategic partner, not as a threat or an enemy.” He spoke vaguely about new members having to “meet NATO standards,” avoiding the U(kraine) and G(eorgia) words during their press conference. Russian and NATO experts will draft a joint action plan for 2011 within the next few months, he said.

Russian NATO Ambassadoor Dmitri Rogozin recently boasted that “Russian helicopters will ideally fit Afghan conditions: they are easy to operate, reliable, efficient and known by Afghan pilots.” He offered to train Afghan pilots in addition to the Afghan police Russia is now helping train. Makarov even offered “consultancy in military and combat training based on our Afghan experience, including our mistakes.” The deal is estimated at $300m though Rogozin hinted that a discount beyond the three free copters was possible and that Russia could kick in another 19 in 2012. So, if I understand this correctly, Russia’s Afghan communist allies from the days of Soviet occupation are now going to man the same old Russian helicopters to kill yet more Afghan patriots, the only difference being the language the occupiers speak and their capitalist pedigree.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is also feeling the chilly wind of Russia-US detente these days. The Russian state-owned NTV, watched by millions of Belorussians, broadcast a scathing two-part documentary “The Belarusian Godfather” last week as the Kremlin was hosting leading Belarusian opposition figures, in a campaign to unseat their troublesome ally in the presidential elections next February. The Russian ire peaked last month over unpaid gas bills, disagreements over the proposed new customs union with Kazakhstan, and Lukashenko’s refusal to recognise South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as it, like Russia, seeks to curry favour in Brussels. Upping the ante, a sympathetic interview with Russian nemesis Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili was broadcast on Belarusian TV and Lukashenko is currently hosting deposed Kyrgyz president Kurmanbek Bakiyev. Bakiyev’s overthrow was approved if not abetted by Moscow, and the comparison of Lukashenko and Bakiyev in “The Godfather-II” is a stark warning to Lukashenko that his days are numbered.

What accounts for this sudden effusion of East-West friendship, after years of complaining about NATO encirclement and missile bases in Poland?

Obama’s more accommodating tone and NATO’s pause in its eastward march has clearly mollified the Russians. It also looks like disagreements over Ukrainian and Georgian membership in NATO and South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence are all on the backburner now as the US sinks deeper and deeper into its Afghan quagmire. Russia backs the losing war there because it is very worried about the prospects of a Taliban victory. Better a pro-US dictatorship than another Islamic neighbour. Besides, the helicopter deal (and who knows what else?) will replace its $1 billion loss on Iranian missile sales.

But Afghanistan is not Belarus, and rather than moving forward and trying to reach an accommodation with Afghanistan’s popular resistance movement, Russia is ignoring the lesson it learned with such pain two decades ago, gambling that the US can produce a miracle where it failed. It is also gambling that the US and NATO are too preoccupied -- and grateful to a newly nice Russia -- to try to pull off another colour revolution in Belarus, where Russia is counting on a largely pro-Russian nation finding a replacement to Lukashenko who will not cause the headaches that he, the orange, rose and tulip revolutionaries have caused.

Whatever happens in Afghanistan and Belarus, Medvedev’s two greatest wishes now are to get SALT through the US Senate and to pave the way for Russia to join Europe. To clinch this westward reorientation, there are now signs that Russia will do the unthinkable: work with the US on missile defence.

In a New York Times op-ed, ex-Russian foreign minister Igor Ivanov and ex-German US ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, co-chairmen of the Euro-Atlantic Security Initiative Commission, joined former Senator Sam Nunn in calling for “North America, Europe and Russia to make defence of the entire Euro-Atlantic region against potential ballistic missile attack a joint priority.” They propose the creation of a “more inclusive and better-defended Euro-Atlantic community . . . what national leaders in their moment of hope at the Cold War’s close spoke of as a ‘Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals whole and free for the first time in 300 years.’”

Acceding to US plans for missile defence will kill Medvedev’s two birds with one stone. The NYT op=ed panders to Russian self-image by calling for the US, EU and Russia to “undertake as equal parties to design from the ground up a common architecture to deal with the threat.” It soothingly assures us that a joint Star Wars will “aid progress in bolstering the nuclear nonproliferation regime.” Left out of the equation is the glaring fact that a world encircled by hair-trigger missiles is more likely to be a trigger for war than peace, that the whole point of Star Wars is to create facts-on-the-ground for the US empire, which will allow it to dictate just what kind of world order is acceptable. As for boosting the NPT, the only way to discourage countries from emulating the nuclear powers is for them to give up their deadly weapons and stop threatening the world with them.

It is naive of Russia to think it will be able to veto, say, a war on Iran and Lebanon.... or some other “offender” of what the US deems to be okay, or that countries threatened by US invasion will stop trying to acquire weapons that will make the USA and Israel think twice.... especially that Syria's THUGS have been bought and paid for... wall to wall...

This new accommodating Russia is very much in the US global interest and Obama is sure to keep courting Medvedev, despite attempts by Cold Warriors to undermine the budding friendship, as witnessed in the mock spy scandal last month. Given the new westerly wind blowing out of the Kremlin, geopolitical logic could mean an end to Brzezinski-like plans to encircle Russia. Much better to leave the problems of a remote Kyrgyzstan to a friend. Let it deal with complex ethnic and economic problems which Americans can’t hope to understand or solve, using a Russian (NATO?) military base as the occasion demands rather than maintaining an unpopular US one. Ukraine? Georgia? Bela-who? Afghanistan is what’s important, if it can be secured in the Western fold, with Russia in tow. And Star Wars.

The goal of Obama’s imperial team is to rally Russia to the US (oops, I mean NATO) flag and push on. Ivanov et al explain that if all goes well, soon along with China, we “can explore cooperation on the role and place of missile defense in a multipolar nuclear world.” It looks like Medvedev has opted for US empire even as it implodes. Will Hu of CHINA get the hint.....?

For the moment, the war lags far behind the economy as a political priority in the USA and Europe..... Behind the scenes, however, a potentially far-reaching debate is underway about defense spending, the grand bargain in Central Asia and the coming war on Iran and Lebanon..... Over the past weeks, top Pentagon officials, including Secretary Gates, have met with CEOs from the defense industry to discuss potential savings in the Pentagon’s utterly corrupt weapon procurement program. At the same time, an independent panel has reported that this budget is badly under-resourced....because of chronic stealing and slush-funds. It points to the rising capabilities of the Chinese military as a rationale to keep US defense spending high. As we have reported consistently, US policy toward China is plagued by unresolved tensions between economic and geostrategic factors..... No immediate resolution is in sight before the coming war on Iran and Lebanon.... However, based on the fierce Chinese reaction to remarks on July 22nd by Secretary of State Clinton at the ASEAN regional conference proposing international dispute mediation in the South China Sea, we see the China “threat” playing an increasing role in US defense planning. Pentagon officials have spoken to us about unreported “incidents” involving US and Chinese naval vessels in international waters off the Chinese coast. We still believe that the US need for Chinese cooperation over a wide range of economic and foreign policy issues will balance military tensions, but the issue will require careful watching in the coming months......before the coming war on Iran and Lebanon....
The squandering of money in the utterly Corrupt PENTAGON procurement systems, whereby trillions are unaccounted for in USA, in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, the missing pallets of cash which will be used for black covert operations in the Levant, like targeted political assassinations in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and worldwide...:


Why aren't the American people outraged over this?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Objectively speaking, a US-Iranian grand bargain is the need of the hour....

Objectively speaking, a US-Iranian grand bargain is the need of the hour....

The season of diplomacy on the Iran nuclear issue is once again approaching. Another harsh winter has passed. Rhetoric has touched a point of diminishing returns.

The logical conclusion of the sanctions packages of the United Nations Security Council, the United States and the European Union as well as the military buildup in the Persian Gulf ought to be the enforcement of sanctions through high-sea inspections of Iranian vessels. But that is a route fraught with dangerous consequences as Tehran will retaliate....

Meanwhile, Tehran has offered a ladder for the US to climb down from the high horse it mounted - in the nature of the announcement that it is willing to talk about a nuclear-fuel swap "without preconditions". Washington has done the right thing to accept the Iranian overture and European powers are visibly relieved.

United States State Department spokesman Philip CIA Crowley... set the ball rolling on Wednesday when he said, "We obviously are fully prepared to follow up with Iran on specifics regarding our initial proposal involving the Tehran research reactor ... as well as, you know, the broader issues of trying to fully understand the nature of Iran's nuclear program. We hope to have the same kind of meeting coming up in the coming weeks that we had last October."

The "initial proposal" Crowley mentioned refers to a plan to provide fuel for a research reactor in Tehran in exchange for low-enriched uranium. The plan was mooted at the meeting in Geneva last October between Iran and the "Iran Six" - the US, Britain, China, Russia, France and Germany.

All of a sudden, "beeps" are appearing at several points on the diplomatic radar screen. It transpires that there had been confabulation regarding a "prospective meeting" involving the US and Iran between Catherine Ashton, the European Union's high representative, and Manouchehr Mottaki, Iran's foreign minister, on July 20, on the sidelines of the international conference regarding Afghanistan.

Six days after that meeting in Kabul, Tehran addressed the International Atomic Energy Agency with a communication suggesting it was ready to negotiate the details of exchanging 2,646 pounds (1,200 kilograms) of its own 3% enriched uranium for 265 pounds of 20% enriched uranium. Again, the Russian Foreign Ministry issued three conciliatory statements between Tuesday and Wednesday robustly backtracking on its abrasive stance in recent months regarding the Iran nuclear issue....

Most important, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has since revealed that Tehran has given Ankara an assurance that it will stop enriching uranium to 20% if the swap is agreed. Mottaki gave another important message during his visit to Turkey last week, saying that if the Tehran deal is signed and Iran is provided with the necessary fuel for its research activities, "then they [Iran] will not continue enriching uranium to 20%,'' Davutoglu said.

Today the big question is not whether US-Iranian negotiations will resume but what should be their scope. The EU's Ashton, while suggesting that talks should begin again as soon as possible, voiced the opinion that talks must focus exclusively on Iran's nuclear program. But the agenda needs to be broader and should cover the range of security concerns that underline the US-Iran fake and sham...."standoff"....

As Suzanne Dimaggio, director of policy studies at the Asia Society think-tank told the BBC last week, there is a lot to talk about. "The Iranians make it clear that they live in a tough neighborhood surrounded by nuclear weapon states: Russia, Pakistan, Russia and Israel.... They also have two major wars on their borders ... What kind of security atmosphere do Iranians want to see in their neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan? What are the possibilities of forming some sort of cooperative agreements around stabilizing both countries and the whole Persian Gulf area and beyond...?"

In particular, the US should strive to pursue an active engagement of Iran over Afghanistan. The fact remains that the most significant salient point from the CIA/DOD/WikiLeaks disclosures is that the US has trapped itself in Afghanistan by its overwhelming dependence on the Pakistan military. And much of this folly is to be traced to the limitations placed on the Barack Obama administration's Afghan strategy by the US-Iran Fake and Sham..."standoff"....

Any serious course correction on Afghanistan by the Obama administration involves engaging Iran. Broader negotiations will not be easy. How could the US-Iran engagement prove to be a game-changer in Afghanistan for Obama's AfPak Hubris...strategy?

First, if history is any guide, in the weeks following the inside job wall to wall of 9/11... Tehran unequivocally showed the will to work with Washington during the US's invasion in 2001 with the expectation that the cooperative enterprise would help moderate Washington's hostility toward the regime in Tehran. If the limited short-term project lasting up to the Bonn conference in December 2001 did not blossom on the lines Tehran expected, the fault lies entirely with the George W Bush administration's myopic Hubris outlook....

Second, Iran's longstanding concerns about the Taliban are in actuality no different from those of the Obama administration. Iran shares abhorrence of the Taliban's resurgence as a major force in Afghan politics. In fact, Iran goes a step further, regarding the Taliban's Wahhabist ideology as pernicious and seeing Taliban outfits such as the so-called Haqqani network as pawns for the projection of Pakistani-Saudi/Israeli influence in Afghanistan..... Tehran will be as much wary as Washington about an outright Taliban takeover in Kabul once the US drawdown is underway.

Third, Iran has a total commitment to vanquishing the last traces of al-CIAda from the region. Fourth, there is a meeting point between the Iranian and US positions regarding the "reintegration" of insurgents who are not linked with al-CIAda. Fifth, neither Iran nor the US is obdurate about a power-sharing arrangement in Kabul that reflects the country's diverse society. Sixth, Tehran's approach of developing multiple alliances within Afghanistan and its awareness of the need to have a regional balance in any Afghan settlement ought to be of use to the Obushma.... administration.

Karzai's "reconciliation" strategy is already generating a backlash among non-Pashtun communities which also happen to be Iran's Afghan allies. Conceivably, Iran can be a useful bridge for restraining these groups while at the same time finessing them as they "push back" against the resurgent Taliban. In short, Iran can be of help to the US strategy to reduce the risk of renewed civil war in Afghanistan.... and beyond....

Tehran sees that the foreign occupation creates resentment among substantial portions of the Afghan population and this can only work to the advantage of the Taliban. But then, it can be argued that Tehran and Washington would even have a shared interest in developing an "exit strategy" within a definable timeline....

In sum, there is enormous scope for American and Iranian strategies in Afghanistan complementing each other. The effort at the forthcoming negotiations should be to bridge the trust deficit that exists between the two sides. Tehran perceives Washington as hostile to its interests and would, therefore, do its utmost to ensure the US doesn't use its military presence in Afghanistan to attack it, to undermine its government and political system through covert operations or to strengthen Iran's regional rivals......

Needless to say, after a promising start, the Obama administration systematically abandoned its own new thinking on Iran. Under current circumstances, therefore, the US needs to go the extra mile to persuade Iran to cooperate once again with the United States in Afghanistan.... There is no alternative to addressing Tehran's longstanding concerns about the Taliban, the regional balance of power, and US intentions towards Iran.

In his first public reaction to the CIA/DOD/WikiLeaks, Obama said, "The fact is these documents don't reveal any issues that haven't already informed our public debate on Afghanistan." (Emphasis added.) However, sometimes it is perceptions rather than facts that matter and besides, the Afghan war is not a matter of debate within the US alone; rather, this war also concerns the people of the world and Afghanistan.

The perceptions drawn by the Afghan people from the CIA/DOD/WikiLeaks are likely to be extremely unsavory, to say the least. To be sure, Afghans will be laughing their guts out at how a bumbling superpower has been had by the smart Pakistani generals. It is important that the meeting that Obama has called in the Situation Room in the White House should hear this laughter ringing loud in the valleys and mountains of the Hindu Kush.....and in Iraq, where MOSSAD operates freely with Al-CIAdA.....

The US's credibility has been seriously eroded and it becomes particularly difficult to restore it in the Hindu Kush. Objectively speaking, a US-Iranian grand bargain is the need of the hour to avoid what is perilously close to strategic failure in Afghanistan.....

Conflicting signals in the shadow of additional wars to come....and the accompanying smoke screen from DOD and FDDC....

This is very suspicious... We have experienced on-going periodic shortages of Brevital and Propofol in my surgery center and ophthalmic anitbiotic ointments in my office. These seem to correlate well with war "surges" (since 2001):

War it appears is imminent? Current drug shortages are telling the picture

Be aware.....

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

US goes fishing for trouble in the South China Sea....

US goes fishing for trouble from the South China the Middle East
By Peter Lee

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton roiled China at the recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) foreign ministers' meeting in Hanoi by stating that the United States had "a national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia's maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea".

She also expressed support for a "collaborative diplomatic process" on the matter of disputes in the South China Sea - anathema to China, which is committed to a series of separate bilateral negotiations with the various nations with claims on the
Spratly (called Nansha by Chinese) and Paracel (Called Xisha by Chinese) Islands.

A certain amount of media energy was expended to frame Clinton's remarks as a response to a "disturbing" expansion of China's definition of its core interests beyond Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan to include the South China Sea.

There is a good deal of evidence to indicate that China is not trying to ratchet up tensions in the South China Sea, at least not vis-a-vis its southern neighbors.

Rather, it appears that the United States is once again using a contentious issue to exacerbate a problem, isolate China diplomatically, and to make room for an expanded role for Washington as the protector of the interests of China's smaller and more anxious neighbors - while diverting attention from certain provocative US actions.....

Kyodo News on June 3 cited unnamed officials to allege that China asserted that the South China Sea was a "core interest" during the visit of the US National Security Council's Jeffrey Bader and the State Department's James Steinberg to Beijing in March. The rest of the media - including the Chinese papers - seem to have picked it up from there.

The purpose of the March meeting was to gain America's recommitment to non-interference in China's internal affairs, particularly as it pertained to Tibet and Taiwan, as the price China demanded for joining the United Nations sanctions vote against Iran over Tehran's nuclear program.

The issue was resolved to China's satisfaction with a reaffirmation of the one-China policy. The mini-reset in Sino-US relations was marked by a statement by China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs valuing "the US side's reiteration of its principled commitment on issues concerning Taiwan and Tibet".

A senior Chinese diplomat declared that President Barack Obama and President Hu Jintao had "reached an important new consensus" during a phone call. "China has an understanding with the United States for each to respect the core interests of the other." [1]

China thereupon participated in Obama's Nuclear Security Summit and joined the sanctions-writing effort against Iran at the UN Security Council.

Given the outcome, it would appear unlikely that China would have used this meeting to make new and provocative claims concerning the South China Sea that the United States would have found unacceptable but ignored in March and waited until July to challenge.

In any case, China's treatment of the South China Sea disputes is fundamentally different from its attitude toward "core interests" of Taiwan, Tibet and Xinjiang. These are defined as China's internal affairs and Beijing accepts no third-party involvement in its dealings.

Unambiguously, China treats the conflicts in the South China Sea as an international issue.

The main point of contention is not whether China will discuss South China Sea disputes with neighboring countries; it is whether discussions will be held bilaterally or multilaterally.

What is most likely is that China raised the issue of the South China Sea with Bader and Steinberg, not in the context of its myriad disputes with Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Malaysia, but in the context of intensive US intelligence-gathering in the region.

The United States is very interested in intelligence-gathering to monitor movements of submarines from the massive new People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) base near Sanya in Hainan, and to map the South China Sea floor to make the task of detecting and (in event of conflict) destroying Chinese subs more easily.

The primary point of friction is the surveillance vessel Impeccable, which lumbers across the South China Sea inside China's Economic Exclusion Zone (EEZ) towing sonar gear listening for Chinese subs and, apparently, employing active sonar to map the sea bottom.

The United States exploits a loophole in the Law of the Sea Treaty (a treaty that the US has not ratified) which, while restricting unauthorized economic exploitation, permits peacetime military transit through EEZs by other countries.

In America's opinion, sending the Impeccable on extended cruises through China's EEZ to degrade China's submarine warfare capabilities is completely legal.

China stations its ballistic-missile submarines - a key element in modernizing its nuclear deterrent - at Hainan, so American efforts to diminish the effectiveness of this deterrent could, indeed, be construed as a matter of China's "core interest".

However, to this date China has not mustered the geopolitical determination to respond to the US's shenanigans in the South China Sea as an existential threat. The US naval presence in the South China Sea is addressed with a certain lack of superpower gravitas.

In a widely publicized incident, Chinese vessels approached the Impeccable in 2009 and harassed it, forcing the ship to deploy its fire hoses and to be exposed to the spectacle of Chinese sailors stripped to their underwear in retaliation.

In an apparently less-publicized incident this year, Chinese ships hassled the Impeccable in March.

The Chinese government also vented its displeasure on the issue of intensive surveillance at the recent Shangri-La defense ministers' conference in Singapore. However, the Chinese delegation characterized the surveillance as an obstacle to a resumption of Sino-US military exchanges, not an infringement of China's "core interests".

If there is truly a new Chinese doctrine declaring the South China Sea as a "core interest", as Kyodo News reported - and China has yet to officially take that position, despite discussion in the Chinese media - then it appears to be recent, partial and fatally ambiguous.

It would appear that China wants to draw a conditional red line around the South China Sea - as opposed to the absolute red lines around Tibet, Xinjiang and Taiwan - that would not be crossed in the case of local atoll-grabbing by its neighbors, but would be violated if any nation clubbed together with the United States to challenge China's strategic freedom of action in the South China Sea.

In a recent Global Times editorial "American shadow over the South China Seas", China's "core interests" in the South China Sea were referenced, but in the context of competition with the United States.
With growing economic power, China and the US may encounter more clashes in China's adjacent sea. Few Southeast Asian countries would like to get in the middle of Sino-US tensions, but like many other regions, they are caught in a dilemma: economically close to China yet militarily guarded against China.

Southeast Asian countries need to understand any attempt to maximize gains by playing a balancing game between China and the US is risky.

China's tolerance was sometimes taken advantage of by neighboring countries to seize unoccupied islands and grab natural resources under China's sovereignty.

China's long-term strategic plan should never be taken as a weak stand. It is clear that military clashes would bring bad results to all countries in the region involved, but China will never waive its right to protect its core interest with military means. [2]
This is a distinction that China has a certain amount of difficulty in conveying to ASEAN countries, and the United States has shown little interest in accepting it.

In this context, it would appear that Clinton's statement at the ASEAN meeting declaring the US's national interest in the resolution of the South China Sea disputes was a piece of diplomatic mischief-making designed to highlight the hollowness of Chinese pretensions to military and diplomatic eminence in the South China Sea, and to retaliate for Chinese intransigence on the joint US-South Korea exercises off the coasts of the Korean Peninsula.

With the assistance of the Western media, Clinton successfully diverted the focus from US monitoring to the severe but by no means critical issue of disputes between China and the maritime nations of Southeast Asia over the scattered rocks and reefs of the South China Sea.

The Japanese Asahi Shimbun newspaper provided a classic example. The headline read "China ratcheting up regional tension". The text, however, would confuse readers attempting to learn how China was ratcheting up tensions.
The latest nervousness felt by rival claimants to the Spratly Islands, which are strategically located near several primary shipping lanes, was highlighted by an incident in late April when a fleet of Chinese fishing boats was operating near Layang Layang island, one of dozens of islands in the Spratly group.

A Malaysian warship and a spotter plane approached to within 300 meters of the boats.

The fishermen repeatedly yelled through their communications equipment: "This area is part of our economic sea zone. We are engaged in routine work. We have traditionally always fished here. Do not obstruct our business."

Chinese media reported that sailors on the Malaysian warship removed the cover of a cannon mounted on the stern to show that they meant business and continued to shadow the fishing boats.

More than 900 Chinese fishing boats routinely operate in these waters. The boats, along with their crews and fishing hauls, are routinely seized by neighboring countries. [3]
America's willingness to fish in the troubled waters of the South China Sea was encouraged by other countries' frustrations in dealing with China over the islands issue.
China's claims in the South China Seas have always been somewhat risible.

On official Chinese maps, the southern ocean boundary of sovereign Chinese territory, defined by the notorious "nine dash line" hangs down like a distended scrotum, extending hundreds of kilometers from Hainan, covering 80% of the South China Sea, and coming within a few kilometers of the coasts of Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines.

In actuality, many of the western Spratly Islands are controlled by Vietnam; the Philippines and Malaysia maintain effective sovereignty over a set near their archipelagoes; and China scraps for control of the northern quadrant of the islands. [4]

Remarkably, the biggest island, Itu Aba (its name reportedly means "What is this?" in Malay) is controlled by Taiwan. Taiwan keeps 600 troops on the island and, much to Vietnam's dismay, constructed an airstrip. In 2008, Taiwanese president Chen Shui-bian used Itu Aba for some high-profile geopolitical posturing, visiting the island with two destroyers and two submarines.

A realistic settlement would presumably give China some reduced fraction of the South China Sea, some kind of sovereignty over some of the islands it controls, and a share of the undersea riches (the Spratlys have been characterized, oil-wise, as "another Kuwait").

Achieving a settlement based on traditional national boundaries will be difficult. The northern Spratlys are a fruit salad of Chinese, Vietnamese, Philippine and Taiwanese flags, with no clearly defined zones of control that can be neatly divvied up and formalized.

In 2002, a "Declaration of Conduct" was concluded between ASEAN and China. It was essentially a standstill agreement by which the signatories undertook to "exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability including, among others, refraining from action of inhabiting on the presently uninhabited islands, reefs, shoals, cays, and other features and to handle their differences in a constructive manner".

The document stated some general principles but was not legally binding; nor did it provide any dispute-resolution mechanism. [5]

While trumpeting its willingness to engage in a series of bilateral talks with its neighbors, China has "sliced the salami" in the words of one analyst, incrementally upgrading its presence on the islands it does control, while the PLAN behaves more assertively against the fishing boats and government vessels of other stakeholder nations.

Vietnam (which prefers the term "East Sea" to "South China Sea" for obvious reasons) has become extremely vocal about its claims in the Spratlys and has tried to "multilateralize" the issue through international institutions such as the UN Law of the Sea Commission's Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.
For its southern waters, Vietnam made a joint submission, together with Malaysia, that made a sound scientific and legal case for a definition of its EEZ that would significantly whittle away at China's South China Sea claims.

China for its part was only able to submit a map with the notorious "nine dash line" that claims 80% of the South China Sea, an indication that China is unable to summon up the diplomatic and strategic fortitude to pursue a reasonable resolution of the South China Sea mess.

Both China and Vietnam have attempted to gain US support for their position by granting oil exploration concessions in contested zones to US oil companies.

In the 1990s, China signed an exploration agreement with Crestone Energy that went nowhere; US officials assert that China warned off Exxon Mobil and BP from signing agreements with Vietnam for activities in the South China Sea.

The United States has been actively wooing Vietnam as a partner in matters of the South China Sea.

Before Clinton's speech to ASEAN, commander of US Pacific Command Admiral Willard visited Hanoi to announce American concern over the South China Sea disputes, which he declared to be a "vital US interest" because of the US$1.3 trillion in trade goods that pass through it. [6]

He was followed by Senator James Webb, the US Congress' point man for weaning smaller Asian authoritarian regimes such as Myanmar and Vietnam from the overbearing Chinese dragon.

Webb also raised the danger that some countries might use "force or threats of force" to advance their claims in the South China Sea, and called on all involved countries to abide by the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC). [7]

An influential US think-tank, the Center for a New American Security (co-founded by Assistant Secretary of State for Asia and the Pacific Kurt Campbell), introduced a new element: inviting Indonesia (now the object of intensive American diplomatic blandishments, including resumption of exchanges with the brutal Kopassus special forces) to serve as South China Seas peacemaker.

Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi responded to these US maneuverings with an exasperated statement on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website on July 25. Instead of asserting a "core interest", Yang framed the South China Sea matter - at least in the context of China's relations with its near neighbors - as one of "preserving China's sovereignty and lawful interests", later discussing China's "reasonable concerns" in the area.

He may have been responding to anxieties expressed in the Chinese media that, by seizing on the purported "core interest" framing, the United States had successfully boxed China into an untenable position of having to alienate its maritime neighbors in order to assert its superpower credibility vis-a-vis the US.

While his advocacy of bilateral talks instead of an ASEAN process to resolve the issue (though he did hold out the possibility of a meeting of ministers "when conditions were ripe") may not have been entirely persuasive, Yang was probably more convincing when he declared that there were no serious threats to peace, freedom of transit, or security in the South China Sea at present that justified "raising a hubbub".

Yang did not address Vietnam by name. But he made efforts to imply that critics that sided with outsiders against China would suffer the disapproval of their Asian peers:
Those countries that trumpeted the "South China Sea problem" didn't realize that this meeting gave China a platform for its proposals on the South China Sea issue. The representatives of ten or more Asian countries congratulated China. They said that Minister Yang's remarks had excited the aspirations of the Asian people and made them feel proud.
Yang's most significant statements were probably about the United States. He stated:
Whether or not the South China Sea issue would become a conspicuous issue at the ASEAN foreign ministers' conference in Hanoi was a matter to which the Chinese delegation paid great attention. Because a series of trends in the United States and other countries had led us to anticipate this. As expected, the US side did not pay attention to China's remonstrances. US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, speaking from a prepared text, talked big about the relation of the South China Sea to American interests, talked big about the pressing importance of preserving freedom of navigation in the South China Sea, talked big about opposing "threats" in the South China Sea ... This seemingly impartial talk was actually an attack on China ...
American observers who take consolation from the impression that things are only bad with China in the military sphere should note that China's foreign minister is accusing the United States of a premeditated diplomatic attack on China.

And, no matter what one thinks about the fate of the rocks and sandbars of the Spratly Islands, Yang is right about US motives for raising the South China Sea issue.

Is the United States purposefully antagonizing China out of pique? Is it setting the stage for a serious confrontation in the event of a succession crisis in North Korea? Or is it preparing international opinion for China-targeted sanctions over Iran?

After all, now that the European Union has imposed more stringent sanctions on Iran - and Iran has floated the idea of removing a significant amount of its international financial transactions out of the realm of the dollar and euro by denominating its China energy trade in Yuan - there is going to be pressure on the US to protect its allies by keeping China's paws out of the Iranian honey jar.

The interesting question is, as US General David Petraeus famously put it, "How does this end?"

And to what end? What does the US expect to gain by broadening and deepening the antagonism between Beijing and Washington?

Presumably, we'll learn the answer in the next few months..... with the upcoming new wars in the Middle East and beyond....

Vietnam is now willing to look for support from the old American enemy against China, the ancient menacing neighbor.

In the ASEAN conference, for instance, Clinton talked with Hanoi, praising Vietnam as a dynamic and great nation. The Pentagon has also noted China's actions with alarm, particularly its persistent warnings to American and other international oil firms to pull out of exploration deals with Hanoi in southern Vietnamese waters. Executives at ExxonMobil - the world's biggest oil firm - were approached by Chinese envoys and told that its business in China would be hurt unless it pulled out of a deal with Vietnam.

Then, when Beijing accepted Moscow's bargain, did it walk into a Soviet trap? Did Joseph Stalin, knowingly or not, create a future territorial clash between China and the US over America's longstanding reach in these seas?

Chinese experts allegedly bought some papers from Soviet archives documenting that Stalin supported the early establishment of the Israeli state just to set a trap for America in the Middle East. With the existence of the Israeli state, the US, with a strong Jewish community, was bound to support it against neighboring Arab states. The Soviet Union could then switch alliances and support the Arabs - or at least torment America via proxy wars against Israel.

Did Stalin, suspicious of Mao's inclination to work with the US, spring a similar trap against China and the US in the South China Sea? That would be one good reason for China to withdraw from the old snare.

Still, China's policy of opening up to the world, and its decision to move development to the coasts and away from the rivers (where it was historically located) naturally requires a projection into the oceans, and thus into the South China Sea.

Moreover, Beijing's present claims in the South China Sea meet two sets of China's needs. First, it promises to at least partially quench its thirst for energy. Second, it extends its area of trade security, which otherwise would be totally in the hands of the US, the only country able to safeguard worldwide maritime routes.

Then, with or without Clinton's remarks, China has many entangled objective troubles in its south. In fact, the overall issue is that China is prisoner to its geography - and has territorial disputes with all its bordering states and territories. [1]

This is further complicated by its claim in the south. All of China's neighbors could grow fonder of an American presence in the region as China grows stronger and more powerful, for the simple reason that a distant friend is better than a close foe.

Then, once again, the issue for China is to develop a strategy taking into account the resolution or easing of its territorial disputes and coming to terms with the idea that the US presence in Asia could be indefinite, possibly permanent.

Even if in 20 years the US economy could not afford its fleet, China's neighbors, and even China, might be willing to finance it, so as to have some kind of neutral referee in place. This would ease disputes and clashes that had the potential to unravel economic development in the region - something that needs go on for several decades if Asians are to reach the per capita gross domestic product of the US.

Is Clinton hinting at this future or simply tossing some salt on one of China's many open wounds? The tough reality for China is that those wounds could possibly fester faster without an American presence in the region than with it....

Vietnam hedges its China risk....

As Vietnam and China celebrate an official "Year of Friendship" marking the 60th anniversary of diplomatic ties, Hanoi is quietly pursuing a balance of power plan against its neighbor to the north. The contours of the still-evolving strategy consist of developing a common position vis-a-vis China within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), engaging the United States and forging security ties with other key regional powers.

How this approach unfolds, however, will depend as much on domestic Vietnamese politics as the interests of the individual countries involved. Hanoi has used its chairmanship of the 10-member ASEAN to put territorial disputes in the South China Sea
on the grouping's agenda. China and ASEAN signed a non-binding code of conduct in 2002 and since then Beijing has sought to resolve differences through bilateral negotiations, where one-on-one it often dominates the other side.

Within ASEAN only Vietnam has a contested land border with China in addition to ongoing maritime disputes over the Paracels (called Xisha by the Chinese) and Spratlys (called Nansha by the Chinese), two island chains in the South China Sea. The Philippines also claims ownership of the Spratlys, while Malaysia and Brunei have partial claims over the archipelago. Other ASEAN countries have been happy to let Vietnam bear the brunt of Chinese pressure while they develop stronger trade and investment ties to Beijing.

So far, cooperation between Vietnam and Malaysia seems to be the most advanced. Last year, they made a joint submission to the United Nations commission that administers the Convention on the Law of the Sea. The filing, which delineated Vietnam's and Malaysia's respective exclusive economic zones in the lower part of the South China Sea, was quickly rejected as "illegal" by China, which claims the entire maritime area from Taiwan to Singapore.

China's aggressive behavior has made other ASEAN nations without a direct stake in the island disputes take notice. When US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton declared at the ASEAN Regional Forum on July 23 that the US had a "national interest in freedom of navigation, open access to Asia's maritime commons, and respect for international law in the South China Sea", Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam were among the dozen countries that expressed support for a "collaborative diplomatic process".

By openly wading into the South China Sea dispute, the US has given ASEAN support to develop a more coherent regional response. Vietnam reportedly urged the US in private talks to take a stronger stand, and Hanoi would have the most to gain if ASEAN countries stuck together more consistently when dealing with China.

Hanoi's poor human-rights record makes it unlikely that the US and Vietnam will pursue an outright military alliance, but the two former adversaries now hold annual security talks and periodic military exchanges. In recent years, the US Navy has made over a dozen visits to Vietnamese ports and on at least two occasions Vietnamese officers have been flown out to visit US carriers.

While the Communist Party leadership in Hanoi remains deeply ambivalent about getting too close to Washington, there is a growing realization that the US is essential to counter-balancing China's rise.

Asian allies
On the other hand, Vietnamese leaders have no qualms about partnering with Russia, a former Cold War communist ally. A deepening security relationship with Moscow now provides an additional hedge against China and has helped to modernize Vietnam's military, which is still largely reliant on Russian equipment dating from the 1970s.

Hanoi is now among Russia's top arms clients, including recently signed contracts for six Kilo-class diesel submarines and 20 Sukhoi Su-30 multi-role fighters. Later this year, Vietnam will take possession of two Russian-made Gepard-class frigates, and discussions are underway for Russia to build and help operate a new submarine base in Vietnam, possibly in the strategic Cam Ranh Bay.

India is another regional player finding common strategic cause with Vietnam. On July 27, the countries agreed to strengthen their defense cooperation during a visit by Indian army chief General V K Singh. New Delhi is wary of Beijing's efforts to extend its reach into the Indian Ocean. China and India also have a longstanding border dispute, which flared into war in 1962.

New Delhi and Hanoi share China-related strategic concerns and have enjoyed historically close ties forged from their common anti-colonial struggles. Both militaries also operate similar Russian equipment.

An ostensibly commercial deal could deepen India-Vietnam strategic ties. BP, which is raising capital to cover the cleanup costs of its oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, has put various of its global assets up for sale, including an investment in the Nam Con Son basin off the southern coast of Vietnam. According to press reports, Vietnam's government has given approval to a consortium of state-owned Indian energy firms and Petro Vietnam to buy out BP's stake.

Significantly, this large-scale natural gas project is located in an area of the Nam Con Son basin where BP announced in March 2009 that it would cease exploration in response to pressure from China. By turning to Indian firms less likely to be intimidated by Beijing, Vietnam is now strongly asserting energy rights in its 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

Meanwhile, Japan and Vietnam have just announced the establishment of a bilateral security dialogue involving foreign and defense ministry officials. The security talks represent a significant evolution in the bilateral relationship, which until now has concentrated on trade and aid. Japan currently holds such talks with the US, Australia and India.

It is not surprising that Vietnam is hedging against China's strategic threat. The two countries have a long history of conflict, including China's seizure of the Paracels from Vietnam in 1974. The two neighbors also fought a brief border war in 1979 and fought a short naval battle in the Spratlys in 1988. According to diplomatic sources, the two sides have also engaged in unreported military clashes at sea as recently as 2005 and perhaps again in 2008.

To be sure, Vietnam is not in a diplomatic or geographical position to lead an international coalition against China. Within the Communist Party leadership, especially among cadres responsible for public security and ideology, there are many who aim to emulate China's model of liberal economics and closed politics. A pro-China faction has recently backed a crackdown on bloggers and activists who have protested against China's encroachment on Vietnam-claimed territories.

For now, however, there appears to be a relative consensus within Vietnam's leadership to balance China's influence by cultivating relations with other regional powers, including the US, Russia and India. How that consensus evolves and strategic ties develop will depend largely on how the balance of power is struck among Communist Party factions at next year's highly anticipated National Party Congress.

...And everything goes according to CIA/MOSSAD/MI6 plans...????

is an article claiming that the 'revolutions' sweeping the Moslem world are motivated by Rothschild/Soros interests which want to prevent Islamic banking from getting a bigger share of increasingly lucrative markets....

Elsewhere it was reported that the American airforce has bought software which makes it easy to handle multiple false personas on electronic media, so a few spooks can appear to be a vast crowd of indignant people....
Here's a reference for the fake people story....


1. See The blessing of China's threat La Stampa, June 4, 2007.

1. China, US agree to respect "core interests": diplomat, Reuters, April 6, 2010.
2. American shadow over South China Sea, Global Times, July 26, 2010.
3. China ratcheting up regional tension, Asahi Shimbun, Jul 24, 2010.
4. File:Spratly with flags, Wikipedia.
5. Joint Declaration of ASEAN and China On Cooperation in the Field of Non-traditional Security Issues, Foreign Ministry of China, Nov 4, 2002.
6. US, Vietnam tighten military relationship, DTI News, Jun 9, 2010.
7. Vietnam seeks closer cooperative ties with the US, VoV News, Jul 9, 2010.

Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US foreign policy.

Black Sea challenge by U.S. set to keep Russia on edge

A storm is gathering in and around the Black Sea as Russia faces a mounting challenge from the United States, which is beefing up its military presence in former Soviet satellite countries like Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary.

One look at a map of the region shows the critical geopolitical importance of the Black Sea, as its southern coast connects to the Middle East via Turkey and its northern coast adjoins Ukraine, which is home to Russia's Black Sea Fleet and which houses 80 percent of the pipelines supplying natural gas from Russia to Western Europe.

In Romania, the U.S. has spent $50 million since last year to expand bases to accommodate 1,700 troops. The principal facility is the Mikhail Kogalniceanu Air Base located in Constanta, facing the Black Sea. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency is said to maintain a secret detention facility at the base.

There is nothing new about the U.S. maintaining military bases in Romania, which dates back to the beginning of the Iraq war. What is important is Washington's announcement of its intention to use them indefinitely. In May, a marine corps unit centered around a tank battalion was dispatched to the Mikhail Kogalniceanu base for the first time.

In Bulgaria, meanwhile, the U.S. plans to expand bases there to accommodate 2,500 troops. The core facility is the Bezmer Air Base, about 50 km from the Black Sea southern coast. When the project is completed, the U.S. will have a strategic air base in Bulgaria comparable in scale to the air bases at Inzirlik in Turkey and Appiano in Italy. Joint American-Bulgarian air force drills were conducted in May.

The American move to strengthen its defense capability in countries formerly under Soviet influence is not limited to Romania and Bulgaria. It is also conspicuous in Hungary, although that country does not face the Black Sea. For several years the Papa Air Base in Hungary has functioned as a base for the U.S. Air Force's state-of-the-art Boeing C-17 transport aircraft, making it one of the crucial strategic air transport centers outside of the U.S.

It is important to note that all these moves represent only the initial step that Washington has taken to expand its military presence in the Black Sea region. Upon completion of these base expansion projects in 2012, two-thirds of the highly mobile Rapid Reaction Corps of the U.S. Army in Europe will be concentrated in Romania and Bulgaria.

This means that the U.S. front line of defense is shifting from the eastern border of Germany to the Black Sea, which is adjacent to the Middle East, the Caucasus and Russia.

Another source of Russian uneasiness is a move to revive a plan to establish a U.S. missile defense system in Europe. Even though President Barack Obama is said to have abandoned a project involving Poland and Czech Republic, it is said that a similar system will be completed in Romania and Bulgaria between 2018 and 2020.

Romania is ready to accept deployment of 20 SM-3 anti-ballistic missile units, currently installed on American naval vessels with the Aegis Combat System. These missiles could later be replaced with the more advanced terminal high altitude area defense (THAAD) missiles. They will also be deployed in Bulgaria.

Meanwhile, it has become more likely that the X-band radar system, which the U.S. originally planned to install in the Czech Republic, will be set up in Israel.

U.S. destroyers carrying Tomahawk cruise missiles have made a number of calls on Georgian, Romanian and Bulgarian ports since the armed conflict between Russia and Georgia in 2008.

A leading official of the Russian Navy stated recently that an increased U.S. presence in the region would bring about a "dramatic change in the military balance in the Black Sea" and present a "serious threat to Russia." He went on to say that Russia would counter these American moves by further strengthening the Black Sea Fleet.

Washington responded by bluntly claiming that the deployment of the missile defense system is designed to prevent Iran from attacking Europe with its missiles. But anyone with even the most rudimentary military knowledge would admit that Tehran has neither the technology to develop long-range missiles nor the need to attack Europe. Russia's sense of crisis is not groundless.

The only consolation for Moscow of late came in Ukraine's presidential election in February, when pro-Western Viktor Yushchenko lost to pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych. Subsequently, the Ukrainian legislature passed a new law, permitting the Russian Black Sea Fleet to continue using the facilities in Sevastopol for another 25 years. Even so, Moscow does not have any effective means of countering Romania and Bulgaria, which seek to strengthen their military collaboration with the U.S.

The whole world puzzles over Washington's motivation for seeking a greater military presence in the Black Sea region, since it hardly can be interpreted as mere expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization....

Nor is it possible to understand the true motive of the U.S. by reading the Quadrennial Defense Review, announced in February. It appears all but certain that the waves of the Black Sea will only get higher....

Monday, July 26, 2010

India has limited Afghan options

India has limited Afghan options
By M K Bhadrakumar

The Greeks have a saying that the past is the vista that lies ahead while the future lurks furtively. The improbable symbolism sums up the Indian perspective on the announcement by the Pakistani civilian leadership last Thursday to extend the term of army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kiani for another three years.

Quite clearly, the Barack Obama administration is pleased with the work Kiani is doing and he is now assured of a term lasting until November 2013 - until the date Afghan President Hamid Karzai has penciled in for the foreign military occupation of his country to end.

In the late 1950s, when General Ayub Khan got a similar extension, the geopolitics of the region were at a turning point. The United States pinned hopes on Ayub to be the Praetorian Guard of its Cold War regional strategies in Southwestern Asia and the Persian Gulf, and he did acquit himself.

New Delhi senses that the Pakistani military has regained its pre-eminence in that country's political economy after a three-year interregnum, and that Kiani will now call the shots on Pakistan's ties with the US, India and Afghanistan for the foreseeable future. The US already acknowledges Kiani as its point person in Pakistan.

No US dignitary visiting Islamabad will want to fail to meet with him, lest it detract from the seriousness of their mission. The US would dearly want its Indian "strategic partner" to also get along with Kiani - or at the very least, leave him alone to focus on the important task ahead in Afghanistan. But in a full-page feature on Sunday, a leading Delhi daily caricatured Kiani as a Moghul conqueror capable of raining death and destruction. It just about captures the mood in Delhi.

The Indians simply cannot forget that Kiani was the first army chief to have headed the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). David Headley, who was closely associated with the planning of the terrorist strike on Mumbai in November 2008 and is at present in detention in a Chicago prison, recently reportedly told Indian and US interrogators that serving Pakistani army officers and the ISI were directly involved in the terrorist attack.

Calming Indian nerves
A dark horizon is enveloping India-Pakistan relations. Against this backdrop, two senior US officials - special representative for AfPak Richard Holbrooke and Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - descended on Delhi last week to ensure that the announcement of Kiani's extension had a "soft landing" in the Indian capital.

For the Americans, the apple cart is delicately poised. The urgency of an AfPak exit policy subsumes all other thoughts, and in that regard Kiani can help a lot. In Holbrooke's estimation, as Taliban reconciliation still remains a distant prospect, the US's counter-insurgency operations will continue, and India shouldn't, therefore, worry unduly about the specter of the powerful Jalaluddin and Sirajuddin Haqqani network grabbing power in Kabul. He spoke of signs of a positive shift in the Pakistani approach to fighting terrorism and suggested that it deserves to be encouraged.

Holbrooke tried to impress on the Indians that Pakistan is a crucial player in any strategy aimed at stabilizing the Afghan situation and India should not see the US's expanding involvement with the Pakistani military in zero-sum terms. Pakistan has legitimate interests in Afghanistan, but he gave his assurances that India also would continue to have a role in economic investment in Afghanistan. Holbrooke tried to be persuasive that the US's influence with the Pakistani military leadership is a positive thing for Indian interests.

In essence, Holbrooke advised the Indians to calm their nerves and apply themselves diligently instead to easing tensions with Pakistan through dialogue. He gave a wide berth to the Kashmir problem.

On a parallel mission, Mullen drew attention away from the badlands of Southwest Asia and harped on the strategic challenge posed by an increasingly "active" and "assertive" China.
He underlined that the US and India should work shoulder to shoulder to counter the Chinese challenge in the Indian Ocean and South China Sea. Mullen's thesis was that India is being needlessly obsessive about US arms supplies to Pakistan. The running theme was that India is neglecting the real strategic challenge facing it in the medium term - China's expansionist intentions.

Mullen went public with an extraordinary statement during a TV interview that in the event of any "crisis" in Sino-Indian relations (meaning an outbreak of hostilities on the disputed border), Washington will always be supportive of Delhi. He claimed that Indian officials shared the US's concern regarding an "assertive" China.

Mullen's public diplomacy was brilliantly executed.

On the one hand, he tried to rev up latent unease in Indian opinion regarding China's long-term intentions and the future trajectory of Sino-Indian relations pending their unresolved border dispute. In the process, he renewed the demarche that the US arms manufacturers are genuinely interested in securing the lucrative US$10 billion contract for India's planned acquisition of 126 multipurpose aircraft.

On the other hand, Mullen pitched hard to create misgivings in the Chinese mind regarding the recent Indian diplomatic and political overtures to Beijing for chartering a "new stage" in the bilateral relationship.

Reaching out to Russia
A lot of shadow-boxing is indeed going on as the geopolitics of the region shifts gear, and the Indians would probably choose to remain skeptical about the Holbrooke-Mullen mission. They cannot be unaware that within Obama's AfPak team Holbrooke has been one of the most fervent advocates of accommodating the Taliban in the Kabul power structure.

The Indians estimate that the US regards the Pakistani military as an irreplaceable ally today, and the latter is seeking parity for Pakistan with the US-India strategic partnership. They couldn't have missed the point, either, that Mullen came to Delhi with the express intent of integrating India into the US's current acrimonies with China.

Neither can the Indians afford to agree with Holbrooke and Mullen's sanguine assessments regarding the Pakistani military leadership, or afford to accept Washington's assurance regarding the US's capacity to restrain the Pakistani military. Equally, it seems highly unlikely that Delhi will want to partake of the US's needling of China.

However, the US is negotiating with India from a position of advantage. Washington expects Kiani to be beholden to it for using its good offices with the Pakistani civilian leadership to formalize his extension of tenure, which can translate as greater US clout in Pakistan. While in Delhi, neither Holbrooke nor Mullen would be drawn into any criticism of Pakistan - not even obliquely.
India's diplomatic options in the region today, including its relationship with Iran, are fairly limited. In recent years, US diplomacy has virtually wrecked Delhi's strategic understanding with Tehran, and its ties with China do not yet allow scope for forging a mutual understanding, although the two countries have shared interests with regard to regional security issues such as terrorism and religious extremism emanating from the AfPak region.

Add in the fact that Obama's "reset" with Russian leader Dmitry Medvedev has thrown into disarray Moscow's equations with Tehran and, in short, it can be seen that the US has succeeded in ensuring a Russian-Indian-Iranian axis, or any joint regional initiative by them over the Afghan problem, remains a long shot.

Delhi seems to belatedly realize, though, that its regional diplomacy has been weak and there is an awful lot to catch up with now. Close on the heels of the departure of the two US officials from Delhi, India's Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao is proceeding to Moscow.

Recent statements by Moscow - the Foreign Ministry on July 1 and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov at the Kabul conference on July 20 - regarding the Afghan situation are indicative of thinking similar to India's, especially as regards the extreme caution needed in proceeding with the reconciliation with the Taliban. Rao can be expected to probe the scope for India-Russia cooperation over Afghanistan.

The Kremlin views Afghanistan also through the prism of Medvedev's "reset" with Obama. Meanwhile, Medvedev has invited his Pakistani, Afghan and Tajik counterparts to a summit meeting in the Black Sea resort of Sochi in August. Russia is also expanding its cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) by supplying military hardware such as helicopters for the Afghan operations and facilitating the so-called northern supply route by land and air.

All this while Lavrov in his intervention at the Kabul conference demanded a "neutral" Afghanistan and severely questioned the feasibility of reconciliation with the Taliban. In essence, the Russians are working on multiple tracks.

A recent article in the Foreign Ministry's journal criticized India's US-centric diplomacy and hinted at the growing need for Moscow to "de-hyphenate" its ties with Delhi and Islamabad. There seems to be some heartburn in Moscow especially that the US is poised to overtake Russia as India's biggest arms supplier. Moscow wouldn't like cooperation over Afghanistan to be a stand-alone enterprise limited to mitigating Delhi's current regional isolation.....?

The Wahhabi Taliban are Trained and financed by Saudi Arabia, Israel and India

On 2 August 2010, in the Pakistan Observer, Nazia Nazar wrote about the West's malicious intent

Among the points made:

1. Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul moved a resolution in the US House of Representatives demanding the withdrawal of US troops from Pakistan.

The resolution was overwhelmingly rejected.

The vote took place days after newspapers published CIA/MOSSAD/DOD/Wikileaks documents suggesting that Pakistani intelligence had cooperated with extremist groups....what a surprise....?

2. Maidhc Ó Cathail (
Framing Pakistan.) writes: "The media ... enables both Tel Aviv and Delhi to pursue their common objective of destabilizing the nuclear-armed Muslim nation".

India and Israel are trying to destabilize Pakistan.

In July 2009, the Afghan defence minister visited Tel Aviv in a bid to modernize the Afghan army.

Australia and Germany have already acquired armoured vehicles and UAVs from Israel for Afghanistan....

4. Gordon Duff, senior editor of ‘Veterans Today’, revealed in a recent interview:

"We have very little doubt that the Indians and the Israelis, that are all over Afghanistan with German passports pretending to be military contractors, are operating 17 camps along the Taliban regions training and arming terrorists...

"The Pakistani Taliban is in close cooperation with India and Israel who supply, finance, arm and train them to attack Pakistan."


Maidhc Ó Cathail relates the following: (
Framing Pakistan: how the pro-Israel media enables India's surrogate warfare.)

Gordon Duff, senior editor of Veterans Today, revealed in a
recent interview:

"The Pakistani Taliban is in close cooperation with, supplied, financed, armed and trained by Israel, Saudi Arabia and India to attack Pakistan."

Duff’s claims are based on a February 2010 fact-finding tour of Pakistan, where he was
briefed by the highest levels of the country’s military and intelligence establishment, including Lieutenant-General Hamid Gul, former Director-General of the ISI, Admiral Iftikhar Ahmed Sirohey, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Mirza Aslam Beg, former Chief of Army Staff.

Fearful of offending their
Israel-conscious paymasters in Washington, the Pakistani military and intelligence services have been forced into the humiliating position of leaking their side of the story through the Veterans Today website.....

Life and premature death of Pax Obamicana....from QANA to Quetta

Life and premature death of Pax Obamicana....from QANA to Quetta to Darfur....

History speaks of a Pax Romana, a Pax Britannica, and a Pax Americana - but no other namable eras of sustained peace, for the simple reason cited by Henry Kissinger: nothing maintains peace except hegemony and the balance of power. The balancing act always fails, though, as it did in Europe in 1914, and as it will in Central and South Asia precisely a century later. The result will be suppurating instability in the region during the next two years and a slow but deadly drift toward great-power animosity. Those who wanted an end to US hegemony will get what they wished for. But they won't like it.

"No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation," US President Barack Obama told the United Nations on September 23. "No world order that elevates one nation or group of people
over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold." Having renounced hegemony as well as the balance of power, Obama by year-end chose to prop up the power balance in the region with additional American and allied soldiers in Afghanistan. Obama chose the least popular as well as the least effective alternative. The US president's apparent fecklessness reflects the gravity of the strategic problems in the region.

There is one great parallel, but also one great difference, between the Balkans on the eve of World War I and the witch's cauldron comprising Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and contiguous territory. The failure of the region's most populous state - in that case the Ottoman Empire, in this case Pakistan - makes shambles out of the power balance, leaving the initiative in the hands of irredentist radicals who threaten to tug their sponsors among the great powers along behind them. But in 1914, both France and Germany thought it more advantageous to fight sooner rather than later. No matter how great the provocation, both India and China want to postpone any major conflict. The problem is that they may promote minor ones.

Western analysts are unanimous that Pakistan must not be allowed to become a failed state, for example, through a seizure of power on the part of Islamist elements in the military allied to the Taliban. Enlisting Pakistan in counter-insurgency against Pashtun rebels in Afghanistan, though, ensures this outcome. US policy, wrote Syed Saleem Shahzad on this site on October 23 (Where Pakistan’s militants go to ground ), "draws Pakistan, already mired in political and economic crises, into an ever-deepening quagmire. The country has become a playing field for operators of all shades. These include Iranian Balochi insurgents, over a dozen Pakistani militant groups linked with the Taliban or al-Qaeda, the US Central Intelligence Agency's network, security contractors associated with the American establishment, and last but not least, agents provocateurs. Pakistan, one of the booming economies of Asia just two years ago, seriously risks becoming a failed state."

The US-sponsored frontier war amounts to Punjabis - traditionally the core of the country's military - killing Pashtuns. The default view of area defense analysts has been that army operations against the Taliban may turn into a Punjabi-Pashtun ethnic conflict. But the cracks in the Pakistani state run in several directions. Punjabi Islamists allied to the Taliban, meanwhile, are in open revolt; Punjabi terrorists took part in the October siege of Pakistan's army headquarters in Rawalpindi.

Pakistan is being ground between two millstones: the Afghan war and the global economic crisis. Half the country is illiterate, and half of Pakistanis live on less than US$1 a day. The country's respectable economic growth rate of 5% per annum during the late 2000s was fed by foreign credit, which allowed it to run a current-account deficit of 8.3% as of 2008. The country's finances collapsed in late 2008, forcing Islamabad to adopt an austerity program under the auspices of the International Monetary Fund. "Pakistan is not yet a failed economy," wrote Santosh Kumar in The Hindu on November 24. "But it can happen. This is not a prospect the world, especially India, can view with equanimity, since the spillover will impact us badly."

The credibility of secular government - with its promise of economic improvement - is threadbare. The alternative is an Islamist regime committed to confronting India over Kashmir and suppressing the Shi'ite minority that comprises 30% of Pakistan's population. The Islamist alternative has such appeal that Punjabi terrorists, as noted, are conducting suicide attacks against the Punjabi-dominated army.

India might be compelled to respond to the victory of Islamist radicals in its nuclear-armed neighbor. Iran, for that matter, cannot maintain its credibility with its Shi'ite allies around the region if it sits on its hands while Pakistan crushes its co-confessionalists. Iran's interest in obtaining nuclear weapons has several motivations. One is to establish a screen of deterrence behind which it can grab its neighbors' oil, as it proposed to do by sending a division of the Iranian army to surround an Iraqi oilfield last week. Another is to prepare for prospective conflict with Pakistan; if Pakistan fails, Iran will have a strong interest in interfering in Pakistan on behalf of the Shi'ite minority.

The Obama administration's response to the threat of Islamist takeover has been "to pick a new fight with India on Kashmir", as Indian analyst C Raja Mohan complained in the online edition of Forbes magazine on November 8:
Obama has also sensed, rightly, that the US cannot stabilize Afghanistan unless it fixes Pakistan's profound insecurities and gets its army to level with the US and stop supporting America's enemies in Afghanistan. Few Indians disagree with Obama's reasoning that the threats to Pakistan's security are internal and do not come from India. But many are beginning to get anxious about the third step in Obama's logic: to get Pakistan to cooperate with the US in Afghanistan, Washington must actively seek to resolve Islamabad's problem with New Delhi over Kashmir. Put simply, the Indian fear is that they are being asked to pick up the political tab for America's failed policy in Afghanistan, and for the Pakistan Army's deliberate betrayal of US interests there.
The Obama administration has antagonized India in the hope of mollifying Pakistani irredentism, just as it has antagonized Israel with the dubious argument that if Israel makes concessions to the divided, ineffectual Palestine Authority, it will be able to mollify Iran. Nothing will assuage the Palestinians, who are failed before coming a state, nor the Pakistanis, whose failure is ineluctable.

As I argued in Asia Times Online on October 20 (When the cat's away, the mice kill each other), the net effect of America's fecklessness is to give the Russian Empire an opportunity to stretch a hand out of the geopolitical grave and grasp a last, great opportunity. Russia faces a slow demographic death, but it remains a great power in terms of military technology: its surface-to-air missile systems are as good as anything American can field, and its newest system, the as yet undeployed S-500, may be better, according to a senior American aviation executive.

Compared with the airframe and avionics technology now in development phase in the Unites States, Russia remains a second-best producer of warplanes. But Obama's budget cuts have hit military aviation hard, leaving its closest allies - including Israel and Australia - without a clear alternative to the aging F-16 force. Russia and India, meanwhile, are developing a "fifth generation" fighter, with some inputs from France and Israel. There is widespread speculation that Russia's decision to cancel deliveries of its S-300 anti-missile system to Iran carried a price tag for the Israelis: order the latest Russian systems for their own use, and make available the entire package of Israeli avionics.

In short, Washington appears to have driven its two closest allies in Asia - Israel and India - into a technology alliance with Russia that may have enormous long-term consequences. It is not only that the US has renounced its intention to act as a hegemon; a few years from now, it no longer may have the technological ability to act as a hegemon. This threatens to close off what may become the best chance to maintain peace in the region.

Rather than chanting in unison "Pakistan must not be allowed to fail!", Western strategists should plan for the consequences of a failed state in Pakistan. One alternative - with its own attendant difficulties - was raised by M K Bhadrakumar on this site on October 10 (Pakistan warns India to 'back off'):
India, of course, can do a lot to help the US and NATO in such a scenario by training the militia operating under the ‘warlords’ and also providing them with weapons. In sum, without military deployment in Afghanistan, Delhi has the capacity to play a decisive role in crushing the Taliban insurgency, which is what makes the Pakistani military establishment extremely anxious in the developing political scenario on the Afghan chessboard.
In this scenario, India would encircle and contain a Pakistani failed state, cutting off the Afghanistan operations of the Islamist wing of Pakistan's military. Pakistan would be aghast, but the vise-grip around its borders would be so tight as to discourage future misbehavior.

There is one problem with this scenario, and that is China. As Francesco Sisci wrote on this site on December 15 (
A radical empire looms), "Afghanistan and Pakistan are not unstable domino tiles that can be moved at will in a careful balance of weights and counterweights, as in old political power games. Pakistan and Afghanistan are part of a more complex balancing act that is both domestic and international and in which we also find China and India."

China cannot sit by and allow India to encircle and eventually crush its ally Pakistan - not because China has fundamental strategic interests in Pakistan, but because it cannot tolerate such a blemish to its credibility. The problem does not lie in Pakistan, but in the mutual capacity of India and China to destabilize each other. Maoist rebels are active in about a third of Indian territory, and the Indian government claims that they receive their weapons from China - without yet accusing the Chinese government of direct involvement. India has a probe stuck prominently into China's most sensitive spot, namely Tibet. On November 10, the Chinese government denounced India for permitting the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, to visit Tawang on the Tibetan border. China still claims as part of Tibet the whole border state of Arunachal Pradesh, including Tawang.

Unlike World War I, in which the warring parties in the Balkans drew Russia and Austria into war and the rest of Europe with them, India and China will not go to war over trifling border issues. But in the absence of a solution to Pakistan's state failure, they will continue to support low-intensity operations and add to the region's instability. China in this respect most resembles Austria in 1914. It is the power that wants stability at all costs, and has the most to lose - through the provincial rebellion of ethnic minorities - from instability. But it cannot impose stability through any means within its own reach. More than any other power in the world, it regards the prospective failure of the Pakistani state with horror. Beijing does not seem to have thought through the configuration of a post-Pakistani world.

The balance of power fails along with Pakistan. The alternative to the balance of power, as Kissinger said, is hegemony, and no one but the United States can exercise it. A hegemonic US would do the following:
  • Invite New Delhi to increase its role in Afghanistan - which the Russians emphatically support - and make clear to Islamabad that the consequences of a shift toward radical Islam will be to leave Pakistan at the mercy of India.
  • Dictate to India a conciliatory policy toward China, including an empty dance card for the Dalai Lama and consideration for Chinese interests in Nepal and Myanmar.
  • Persuade China to throw its Pakistani ally under the bus, in return for assurances of Indian good behavior, as well as other incentives (access to US technology, for example).
  • Assure China that the United States will not take advantage of its troubles with the Uighurs in Xinjiang or any other Chinese ethnic minority - and that it will police such allies as Turkey with respect to such problems.
  • Crush Iran's imperial ambitions in the region, both to protect US allies such as Saudi Arabia and to eliminate a potential existential threat to Pakistan and remove a claim to legitimacy for radical Sunni Islamists.
  • Give Russia assurances that matters pertaining to its "near abroad" from Ukraine to Kyrgyzstan will be considered with a view toward Russian interests.

    The implications of such an exercise in great-power politics are in some respects ugly. They include a perpetual civil war in Afghanistan and the continuation of at least low-level civil war in Pakistan. The object would not be to prevent Pakistan from turning into a failed state, but to prevent a failed state in Pakistan from poisoning the rest of the region. It also implies a self-interested recognition that the United States has nothing but sentimental interests in Ukraine, Georgia and Tibet - and that sentiment is cheap. It is not the best alternative, to be sure, but as General George Patton said, the best is the enemy of the good.

    At the close of 2009, Washington still has the capacity to act as a hegemon. The most dangerous undertaking of the Obama administration is not the petty failures of policy, such as the hapless effort to appease the Palestinians over West Bank settlements, or Pakistan over Kashmir. If America's technological leadership in fighter aircraft, surface-to-air missiles, and related technologies continues to erode, the United States - like Britain in 1914 - no longer will have the power and credibility to enforce an agreement among prospectively hostile players.

    America's self-sabotage in this regard is a unique act of abnegation in the history of world strategy. It lost Vietnam because to win would have required more boots on the ground and more body bags on homebound aircraft. But the problems of South and Central Asia do not require a substantial US troop commitment. On the contrary, the escalation of US force in Afghanistan makes matters worse. India can put sufficient boots on Afghan soil to prevent a Taliban victory. No one else wants or needs US troops. But America's capacity to sail an aircraft carrier to any coast in the world and be master of the situation is essential.

    Russia and India may field a fifth-generation fighter, perhaps a very good one if it contains the full Israeli avionics package. But a sixth-generation fighter is already in the research-and-development phase in the United States. If Washington puts resources behind cutting-edge defense technology, no other country or combination of countries can mount a challenge for a generation or more. America's failure to sustain its own power will be as tragic as it is unnecessary.