What is al-CIAda really up to...?
By Pepe Escobar
It may be comforting to learn - once again thanks to WikiLeaks - that the United States State Department knows as much as any AfPak informed observer has known for years; that private donors, non-governmental organizations, madrassas and businesses from Saudi Arabia are ATMs for al-Qaeda, the Taliban and the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.
But this being a very sensitive oil-for-security "special relationship", naturally the Saudis also had to be credited with "significant progress" - under Washington pressure - in their efforts to smash al-Qaeda's cash fest. Yet not much, according to leaked cables, seems to be evolving in the Taliban/Lashkar front (and it won't, because virtually all these funds transit through the informal hawala system.)
Other Sunni-axis "friends of America" also do not fare so well. Kuwait is blamed for not criminalizing the financing of terrorist groups; Qatar is "passive"; and the United Arab Emirates is "vulnerable" - euphemism for it being a merry arena of fund-transfer to both the Taliban and the Haqqani networks.
Meet low-cost al-Qaeda....Al-CIAda.....
Disinformation and Misinformation Galore......
Now let's put this information in the context of the new al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) strategy of inflicting "death by a thousand cuts" to the US.
Here's al-Qaeda's list of expenses for last October's toner bomb (or "Operation Hemorrhage", in al-Qaeda-speak, averted because of Saudi intelligence): two Nokia phones at US$150 each, two HP printers at $300 each, and transport expenses for a total of $4,200, plus the working hours of six people for three months - according to the website Inspire, "inspired" by American imam Anwar al-Awlaki.
It's crucial to note that the advent of what could be dubbed "low-cost al-Qaeda" happened just as Washington turbo-charged its offensive in Yemen. Washington had wanted to take out Awlaki since last spring, coupled with the head of Inspire, Samir Khan, a Saudi-born US citizen who grew up between Queens and Canada.
A look at Interpol's new al-Qaeda Top 5 list reveals that, yes, Yemen is now the name of the game. Forget about the old-school iconography of Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.
Here's the Top 5 list. US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, 39; Yemeni Nasir al-Wahishi, 34; Yemeni Qassim al-Raimi, 31; Saudi Said al-Shiri, 37; and Algerian Abdelmalek Droukdel, 40. (No, Julian Assange is not on the list - to the despair of US rightwing nut jobs).
With a new list comes a new narrative among Atlanticist intelligence agencies. The narrative is that these people are responsible, among other acts, for the Chicago toner bomb, the failed Northwestern flight 253 Amsterdam-Detroit plot, the constant threats to the Eiffel Tower, and the ongoing plot against the Reichstag in Berlin, revealed by German weekly Der Spiegel.
New list, new narrative - and new language. Gone is the talk of a caliphate; instead the password is "re-Islamization" of Muslims living in the West. To round it off, a (not so new) strategy; further delocalization, something that has implied a proliferation of al-Qaeda acronyms - from AQIM (in the Maghreb) to AQY (in Yemen) to AQAP (in the Arabian Peninsula). And new tactics: "leaderless resistance" - as in attacking the Atlanticist heart with an "Army of One".
Blame it on the net
This new Facebook/Youtube al-Qaeda story may start in Las Cruces, New Mexico, where Anwar al-Awlaki was born in April 1971 of Yemeni parents. His father, Nasser, future minister and president of the University of Sana'a, is a Fulbright fellow at the University of New Mexico; the son grows up in the campuses of the University of Nebraska and Minnesota, where Nasser labors to get his agronomy diploma. Later, Anwar is back in the US when he's 20, to get his engineering degree at Colorado State, a master in pedagogy in San Diego and a doctorate in Georgetown that never happens.
Anwar is a hardcore Wahhabi; he marries a cousin and has five children. In the months prior to 9/11, he's in San Diego, friend and spiritual mentor to Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar - two of 9/11's "martyrs". On 9/11 he's the imam of Falls Church, in Washington suburbia. In 2002, he moves to London, getting very close to Sheikh Omar Bakri. He hits Youtube with a vengeance - not to mention Facebook. His DVD boxes and CDs are all the rage in the markets of "Londonistan". One of his Youtube followers is Faisal Shahzad, the failed Times Square bomber.
In 2004, Anwar is back - in hiding - to southeast Yemen, where he becomes the mentor of Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Somalian who wanted to blow up Northwestern 253 in the skies over Detroit. And in March, in a video sent to CNN, Anwar advocates for himself the mantle of leader of the anti-US jihad. In Yemen, Anwar allies himself with local emirs; the CIA master narrative asserts that the house of al-Qaeda should now be considered to be in the south of the Arabian peninsula.
Anwar's trajectory intersects with Nasir al-Wahishi, Said al-Shiri and Qassim al-Raimi. Nasir for years had been bin Laden's very young and trusted personal secretary in Afghanistan. They only parted ways in 2001, when Nasir was still 23. He was captured by Iranian intelligence and extradited to Yemen, where he spent five years in a maximum-security prison in Sana'a, from where he escaped in February 2006 along with 23 other al-Qaeda military leaders.
It is Nasir who has come up with the AQY (al-Qaeda Yemen) acronym. Three years later, in 2009, he is solemnly enthroned by al-Zawahiri via a video sent to al-Jazeera, where it is announced the merger of AQY into AQAP. Nasir is the new leader. He also hits the net with a vengeance with Inspire - al-Qaeda's first English-language online publication, as well as Sada al-Malahem, "Echo of the Epics", an Arab-language digital magazine. These reflect the strategy of urging a large Internet audience to sustain jihad through small, autonomous and "easy" attacks to "soft targets". Nasir is in charge of the web while two of his commanders take care of the military front.
Nasir bears a direct connection with Saudi Said al-Shiri and Yemeni Qassim al-Raimi; Qassim evaded Sana'a prison with him. Said al-Shiri fought in Afghanistan and was captured in December 2001. He was one of the first jihadis to sport an orange jumpsuit and go to Camp Delta - Guantanamo. He leaves Guantanamo only in November 2007, repatriated to Saudi Arabia for a "rehabilitation" program - which he follows; but afterwards he goes underground to Yemen. On April 2009, he publicly calls Somali pirates and the "boys" from al-Shabaab to engage in jihad "against the crusaders".
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) badly wants Said along with Qassim al-Raimi, the alleged brains behind the toner bomb. Qassim had more or less announced in January the new al-Qaeda strategy online, on the Sada al-Malahem magazine, exhorting chemists, physicists and electronic wizards to join al-Qaeda by conceptualizing the battle between the US and all the tribes in the Arabic Peninsula.
From a CIA point of view, there could not be a more perfect match than to unite al-Qaeda in the Arabic Peninsula with the Horn of Africa, especially Somalia, and then tie the knot with the Maghreb.
The "excuse" goes by the name of Abdelmalek Droukdel, an Algerian born in Meftah. He is an emir, self-described "disciple from martyr al-Zarqawi" who has cannily harnessed the heritage, the ferocity and the strength of the notorious Salafist Group for Predication and Combat (GSPC, as in the original French acronym) - which has been turned into AQIM in 2007. Abdelmalek hates France with his guts and operates a thriving kidnapping industry (French, Spanish and Italians have already been victims) in the deserts of Mauritania. Paris is terrified; Droukdel has made it clear how al-Qaeda may be getting closer and closer to the Mediterranean.
There's an additional gang that is not even included in the Top 5. These would be 16 al-Qaeda members who spent eight years in detention in Iran, and were recently released. They include Saad bin Laden (one of Osama bin Laden's sons), Saiful Adil, Suleman al-Gaith and Abu Hafs al-Mauritani.
Unlike the Top 5, this bunch decided to settle in the AfPak tribal areas and by now are believed to be fully back on the operational side. Saiful Adil is bound to be the top AfPak-based al-Qaeda strategist in 2011 - operating from North Waziristan and connecting the dots to Somalia, Yemen, Turkey and beyond towards Europe. There's no evidence US intelligence has a clue where he is hiding.
Between a toner and a pipeline
Now combine these crucial "low-cost al-Qaeda" developments with another, explosive WikiLeaks cable - the Washington list of key infrastructure nodes around the world that could wreak havoc to US national security if they were subjected to a terrorist attack.
It's highly improbable that acronym-feast al-Qaeda has failed to notice the possibility of attacking, among other targets, the critical shipping lane at the Bab al-Mendeb; the import and offloading export terminals at the Suez Canal; the Basra oil terminal in Iraq; the Mina' al-Ahmadi export terminal in Kuwait; the Strait of Gibraltar Maghreb-Europe (GME) gas pipeline in Morocco; the Trans-Med gas pipeline in Tunisia; the Ras Laffan Industrial Center in Qatar (which soon will be the largest source for the US of imported liquefied natural gas, LNG); or the Jabal Zannah export terminal in the UAE.
And what about juicy targets in Saudi Arabia such as Abqaiq (the largest crude oil-processing and stabilization plant in the world); the al-Ju'aymah export terminal; the As Saffaniyah processing center; the Qatif pipeline junction; the Ras at Tanaqib processing center; the Ras Tanura export terminal; and the Shaybah central gas-oil separation plant?
Crucially, among all the sensitive sites for the US in the arc from the Middle East to Central Asia, there's not a single one in Afghanistan, where the Pentagon/North Atlantic Treaty Organization, according to the official cover story, are fighting "al-Qaeda".
A February 2009 US State Department cable admits that an attack on any of these sites "could critically impact" the US's public health, economic life and national security. As if al-Qaeda would not have processed this kind of information by now. But if "al-Qaeda" is really this larger than life evil monster that the US intelligence agencies would like the world to fear - a monster that is fought by hundreds of billions of dollars of US taxpayer funds - how come they are investing in toner cartridges from hell instead of paralyzing the Bab al-Mendeb?
The great Italian writer Umberto Eco, in an essay in the French daily Liberation, has pointed out how WikiLeaks has revealed that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's secrets are in fact empty secrets - thus stripped of their power. As much as WikiLeaks has revealed that the emperor is naked when the empire cannot even maintain its own secrets, it is legitimate to add it remains naked as it also cannot maintain its lies. Onwards with "death by a thousand cuts".
By Gareth Porter and Jim Lobe
WASHINGTON - The dominant theme that emerged in United States media coverage of the first round of WikiLeaks diplomatic cables last week was that Arab regimes in the Gulf - led by Saudi Arabia - shared Israel's view that Iran's nuclear program had to be stopped, by military force if necessary.
The New York Times generated that narrative with a front-page story featuring an alleged quote by King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia urging the US to "cut off the head of the snake", as well as other statements by Gulf Arab leaders suggesting support for military action.
"The cables reveal how Iran's ascent has unified Israel and many longtime Arab adversaries -notably the Saudis - in a common cause," the Times asserted.
The notion that these leaders, like Israel, favor a military solution to Iran's nuclear program has become widely accepted by the news media in the past week. In a curtain-raiser to this week's talks in Geneva between Iran and the world's most powerful nations, for example, the Washington Post on Monday asserted that the WikiLeaks disclosure "show[ed] that Persian Gulf leaders have pressed for a military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities."
But a careful reading of all the diplomatic cables reporting the views of Saudi and other Gulf Arab regimes on Iran shows that the Times' account seriously distorted the content - and in the case of the Saudis, ignored the context - of the cables released by WikiLeaks.
The original Times story, headlined "From Arabs and Israelis, Sharp Distress Over a Nuclear Iran", referred to "a largely silent front of Arab states whose position on sanctions and force looked much like the Israelis".
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his US neo-conservative backers immediately seized on the story as confirmation of what Israel has been saying all along.
In fact, the cables show that most Gulf Arab regimes - including Saudi Arabia itself - have been seriously concerned about the consequences of a strike against Iran for their own security, in sharp contrast to Israel's open advocacy of such a strike. They also show the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Kuwait expressing that concern with greater urgency in the past two years than previously.
Those facts were completely ignored, however, in the Times' account.
The Abdullah quote
The most widely cited quote in support of the Times' thesis since the story's publication one week ago has been Abdullah's appeals to "cut off the head of the snake", referring to Iran. The story asserted that the Saudi ambassador in Washington, Adel al-Jubeir, had recalled the king's "frequent exhortations to the US to attack Iran" during an April 2008 meeting with General David Petraeus, the incoming chief of the US Central Command (CENTCOM).
The implication was that al-Jubeir had made that statement during the Petraeus-Abdullah meeting. But the reporting cable makes it clear that the Saudi ambassador made the remark two days later, in a conversation with the US deputy chief of mission in Riyadh, Michael Gfoeller.
In his meeting with Petraeus, in fact, Abdullah had not spoken about Iran's nuclear program, but focused instead on the importance of "resisting and rolling back Iranian influence and subversion in Iraq", according to the cable.
The cable actually draws a contrast between al-Jubeir's remarks and those made by Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal and director general of intelligence Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz during Petraeus' visit. "On the other hand," it states after citing al-Jubeir's position, the foreign minister "called instead for much more severe US and international sanctions on Iran, including a travel ban and further restrictions on bank lending". Muqrin "echoed these views", according to the cable.
The foreign minister would only say that "the use of military pressure against Iran should not be ruled out", the cable said. That statement mirrored precisely the official position of the George W Bush administration at the time.
Even if Abdullah had in fact offered explicit support for a military attack against Iran in the meeting with Petraeus, however, that would not be a reliable indicator of Saudi policy on the issue, according to Chas Freeman, a veteran diplomat who served as Washington's ambassador to Saudi Arabia from 1989 to 1992 and maintains contact with top Saudi officials.
Freeman told the Inter Press Service (IPS) that such a statement would "fit a pattern of communication with the United States of ingratiating themselves with their protector".
Significantly, in that respect, the Abdullah-Petraeus meeting came three months after Bush had visited Riyadh seeking support for a more confrontational stance against Iran; five weeks after Petraeus' predecessor at CENTCOM, Admiral William Fallon, had been fired in part for public statements that there would be no war against Iran; and less than a month after then vice president Dick Cheney had reportedly sought support for military action during his own visit to the kingdom.
Thomas Lippman, the former Washington Post Middle East bureau chief and an adjunct scholar at the Middle East Institute, who has written a book on Saudi-US relations, also said that the Abdullah quote would have been in line with the usual Saudi pattern of "telling the Americans what they wanted to hear".
"They wanted to be assured that they would be under the protection of the US," Lippman told IPS.
In fact, the cables covering the period since President Barack Obama took office suggest that Saudi views have given even greater emphasis to political and economic strategies in dealing with Iran than was the case in 2008.
A February 10, 2010, cable from Riyadh, for example, reported that Abdullah, disillusioned with US blunders in Iraq that have given Iran the upper hand there, "had concluded that he needs to proceed with his strategy to counter Iranian influence in the region".
The new Saudi strategy, according to the cable, features promoting reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority combined with expanding relations with Russia, China and India to create "diplomatic and economic pressure[s] on Iran that do not directly depend on US help".
UAE worries about 'pre-emptive strike'
As for the UAE, the Times' account of the cables suggested an evolution in its thinking from earlier warnings that a US or Israeli military strike would be "catastrophic" to a far more hawkish position. In February 2007, a cable quotes Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, as saying that the Iranian nuclear program "must be stopped by all means available".
That exhortation, however, was put in a different context by the diplomat who reported on his conversation with bin Zayed, who also serves as deputy supreme commander of the UAE armed forces.
The diplomat noted that such "tough talk on Iran" should be "taken in the context of strong UAE interest in acquiring advanced military technology". Indeed, the UAE at the time was negotiating agreements to buy a record US$17 billion in US arms over the next several years.
Despite bin Zayed's bluster, the US diplomat wrote in the February 7, 2007 cable that the UAE "is clearly nervous about any US actions that could upset their much larger and militarily superior neighbor".
Indeed, two years later, the crown prince told visiting US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Richard Holbrooke that a "military solution would only delay [Iran's nuclear] program, not derail it" and that "war with Iran would only harm the UAE". He also said he was "deeply concerned" over a possible Israeli military strike which, he added, "would have little impact on Iran's capabilities", according to an April 5, 2009, cable.
He repeated his concerns about an Israeli attack to other high-ranking US visitors three months later. After a July 15 meeting between bin Zayed and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, the embassy reported: "Without timely and decisive action by the United States, MbZ believes Israel will strike Iran, causing Iran to launch missile attacks - including hits on the UAE - and to unleash terror attacks worldwide." He then suggested that "the key to containing Iran revolves around progress in the Israel/Palestine issue".
According to a July 23, 2009, cable, the prince subsequently declared to visiting senior State Department officials that "[Iranian President Mahmud] Ahmadinejad is Hitler" - a remark highlighted in the Times' account that has also gained widespread media attention.
But the cable reported further expressions of alarm over the prospect and possible consequences of an Israeli pre-emptive strike. The prince called for Washington to immediately begin "joint planning" with the UAE to address such a "worst-case scenario".
Most recently, a February 22, 2010 cable has UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed al-Nayan warning a visiting delegation headed by Nita Lowey, a strong supporter of Israel in the US Congress, that any "crisis or confrontation in the region [over Iran's nuclear program] would create oil supply problems worldwide".
According to the cable, the minister ended the meeting with a "soliloquy on the importance of a successful peace process between Israel and its neighbors as perhaps the best way of reducing Iran's regional influence".
'Iran has not bothered us'
While confirming growing Arab fears about Iran's regional clout and nuclear ambitions, the cables suggest that other Gulf Arab leaders - with the possible exception of Bahrain's King Hamad bin Issa al-Khalifa, the only regional leader with a majority Shi'ite population - have little or no appetite for military action against Iran.
"A year or two ago, many in Kuwait hoped a silent, targeted strike would take out the troublesome reactor and leave the region more relaxed," a cable quotes a senior Foreign Ministry official who also happens to be the son of Kuwait's prime minister as recalling to his US interlocutor last February.
"Now, however, they feared that any effort to disrupt the nuclear program, either military or through tough sanctions 'would go badly for the West'," according to the cable, which quotes another official as saying that, while the emirate was worried about Iran's nuclear program, it was "equally concerned about military preemption" and the retaliation that was likely to follow.
Qatar, meanwhile, is unwilling to "provoke a fight" with Iran, according to the emir of Qatar, as reported in a February 2010 cable on a meeting between the emir and US Senator John Kerry. The emir explained that Doha would not "provoke a fight" with Iran, because its primary interest was a natural-gas field it shared with Tehran. He added that Iran "has not bothered us" during the history of relations between the two states.
A February 2, 2010 cable makes it clear that the sultan of Oman, who has given the US access to three military bases on its territory, is determined to maintain balance between Washington and Tehran. The cable reported that Muscat had twice rejected official US offers to include it in a collective missile defense system aimed at Iran in 2009.
As for Bahrain, the Gulf's only Shi'ite-majority sheikhdom and host of the US 5th Fleet, the Times quoted a November 2009 cable in which King Hamad declares that Iran's nuclear "program must be stopped" and warns that "the danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it".
No other cable from Manama elaborates, however, on what means the US or other countries should use to halt the program.....
Richard Holbrooke "acted" as an opponent of the Afghan War....
In June 2010, gunmenn tried to shoot down Richard Holbrooke's plane. [ABC News]
On 13 December 2010 it was announced that Holbrooke was dead.
Certain people want to keep the Afghan war going.
Bush with David Headley's half-brother, Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani.
The CIA always puts a very top spook into Beirut, Lebanon, Syria...and Islamabad, Pakistan, as station chief....
In December 2007, David Headley's Moroccan wife went to the U.S. embassy in Pakistan to act as a whistleblower. (MORE EVIDENCE CIA DID TERROR ATTACKS IN INDIA?)
She met agents of the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
During two meetings, the wife told the agents that Headley was involved with "big people" and "looking to participate in jihad with the U.S.A......"
She mentioned suicide bombing and terror training....
The CIA station chief decided not to pursue the leads....
Why would the CIA station chief ignore warnings about the American David Headley?
David Headley, the man who reportedly planned much of the terrorism in India, called himself a CIA agent....
A more recent CIA station chief in Islamabad, Jonathan Banks, has just had to leave Pakistan because his cover was blown, possibly by top Pakistan spooks fed up with being blamed for the 2008 Mumbai Attacks....
(ISI blows cover of CIA man in Islamabad - The Times of India)
Milton Bearden was CIA station chief in Pakistan from 1986-1989
From 1999 - 2002, Robert Grenier was the CIA station chief in Islamabad.
Between 2002 and 2005, Headley made several trips to Pakistan
In 2006, Grenier became, briefly, the CIA's top counter-terrorism official.
In 2008, Islamabad reportedly got a new CIA station chief.
Many shady groups are involved in Pakistan. There's a lot of money to be made.
"Blackwater/Xe involvement in terrorist attacks in Pakistan have been confirmed by the former head of the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), General Hamid Gul, according to another source familiar with the current Xe covert operations.
"In addition, Pakistani ex-Army Chief of Staff, General Mirza Aslam Beg, reportedly claimed that while serving as president, General Pervez Musharraf approved Blackwater carrying out terrorist operations in Pakistan.
"Blackwater has been accused of smuggling weapons and munitions into Pakistan." (Blackwater, Xe stage false flag terror attacks)