Sunday, October 31, 2010

Georgia in the Crosshairs...

President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia, speaking at the United Nations in 2009 (Credit: UN).

[The crashing of Sakaashvili's delusions and the triumph of Vladimir Putin marked the turning point in history and the current era of the "Russian reset." This also confirmed for me that the great pipelineistan plan was also crashing down. It also confirmed for me the fact that Israel does not really control American foreign policy, just most of it. The failure of the mad Georgian leader to boot Russia out of the southern Caucasus was also the failure of Israel's plans to launch a sneak attack against Iran. May 5-7th 2008 in Lebanon and August the 7, 2008 marked the end of a two-week series of failures in the Evil Empire's secret plans. Israel was no longer safe behind American lines in Georgia, where it could lash-out at the Mullahs. Had there been American support at the last minute, things might have continued on their insane course, but, just like in the previous Israeli attacks upon Lebanon, no American air support was forthcoming.

The Georgian attack upon S. Ossetia was about a week late, coming on the heels of the total ruin of the Welch Club scheme in Gaza, which saw the forces of Hamas completely rout the forces of the Palestinian Authority/Fatah, in Gaza. Bush and Cheney, as well as Condoleeza Rice and her Zionazi buddies, must have been in tears at the failure of their plan to let Israel do all the heavy lifting for the Empire in the Middle East.

It is a week that I have thanked God for. The changes of that week meant that the locomotive has been slowed-down, if not derailed. Thank God for bumblers like Sakaashvili and Mohammed Dahlen!]

Part of any trip to Georgia getting the most out of local color: the food, the scenery, the Stalin Museum.

But there’s another dimension to Georgia: geopolitics. Divided, occupied in part by Russian troops, Georgia is one of the world’s most at-risk countries and the shadow of new crises with Russia hangs over everything in the country.

Some of Georgia’s problems are, frankly, the fault of bad decisions by its government. The reckless and aggressive Georgian policies toward Russia in the summer of 2008 — policies it undertook in defiance of warnings from the Bush administration and the rest of the West — gave Putin an opportunity to occupy South Ossetia, create a new wave of Georgian refugees, and make trouble for both Georgia and the United States. Even today, there is a certain trust deficit. Many in western Europe for example simply do not trust Georgia’s president and I do not believe that Georgia will be admitted to NATO until either he or his successor convinces skeptics in Europe that things have changed. Most of the Georgians I spoke with, including political allies of President Mikheil Saakashvili understand this. But it is not clear that Georgia’s president or its political process can or will summon up the necessary “strategic patience”.

In fact, while I was visiting the country Georgia announced a new policy of ‘visa-free’ travel for residents of the Northern Caucasus — including places like Chechnya. The move angered Russia (which wants to keep the lid on tightly in the North Caucasus and already blames Georgia for allowing arms and people smuggling in and out of the troubled region); it also seriously annoyed the United States, which does not does not want Georgia poking at the Russian bear; the US also objects, strenuously, to the idea of Islamic militants crossing the Georgia border and then roaming freely around a country with many US Peace Corps volunteers, diplomats and other personnel. Georgia is trying to attract many more native English speakers to beef up the country’s fluency; good luck with that if militants are crossing over from the North Caucasus.

The visa move also struck a blow at Georgia’s relations with the EU; Georgia’s hopes for easing the restrictions on Georgians working in or traveling to the EU were not furthered by demonstrating a careless attitude toward a serious security issue on its frontiers. One suspects that the foreign investors Georgia seeks desperately to lure are also put off by a decision that, to say the least, does not enhance the security of foreign personnel and installations.

As far as I could determine, the Georgians did not consult with the Europeans, the Americans or anyone else before taking this step, reinforcing the belief that Georgia’s hotheaded leadership is unpredictable and impulsive. The hard and even brutal lesson that Georgia needs to learn is this: NATO’s European members will not accept a rash and headstrong Georgia into the alliance. Ever.

Georgia’s worst enemy could scarcely have harmed the country more.

The behavior of the Georgian president, rightly or wrongly perceived as reckless and rash by both Europeans and Americans, has so spooked the NATO alliance that Georgia will not be joining it anytime soon. The US has no power to change this; European members of NATO are free to make up their own minds and new members must be admitted by a unanimous vote. (A military alliance could hardly run its affairs in any other way; free peoples cannot be bound to go to war in defense of someone else without at some point giving their consent.) The US supports Georgia and Georgia’s aspirations to NATO, but we are not going to make a bilateral security treaty with Georgia like the one we have with Japan.

That leaves Georgia in a pickle. It is embroiled in a series of disputes with Russia, with Russian troops currently occupying Abkhazia in the northwest and South Ossetia in the north-center. Almost 300,000 Georgian refugees were driven from or fled their homes in these regions. With Russia’s blessing, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have declared their independence. Georgian public opinion can be rabidly nationalistic, and the 4.4 million residents (about 85% of whom are ethnically Georgian) are divided by geographical, cultural and clan lines into many quarreling factions. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, Georgia has known two revolutions and, depending on how you count them, three civil wars and two significant international ones. New wars could flare up unpredictably, though it seems to me that with the Winter Olympics scheduled in nearby Sochi in 2012, Russia is unlikely to seek new conflicts that could spoil its Olympic celebration.

A Georgian magazine laments NATO’s perceived tardiness (photo by Walter Mead).

Hotheaded Georgian policy has made matters worse, but Georgians have a point when they complain that many of the country’s problems are not its fault. As a transit route for oil and gas from the Caucasian Sea and Central Asia to the west (the only such route not controlled by Russia), Georgia engages the attention of many powerful countries; Russia wants to control the pipeline, and the US and the Europeans don’t want that to happen.

Georgia’s situation is to some degree a hostage to developments in Ukraine. While Ukraine’s government was pushing the country toward NATO membership, Georgia’s aspirations seemed reasonable. Now, with NATO pretty much off the table for Ukraine, Georgia (despite its border the fellow NATO member Turkey) seems a long way from NATO’s headquarters in Brussels.

The cooling of expansionist fervor in the EU also leaves Georgia exposed. There was a time, not all that long ago, when many observers thought that Turkey and Ukraine would both be joining the EU. It now seems likely (though in my view very unfortunate) that neither country will get an invitation. There is simply no way that Georgia can get in if both of these larger countries stay out. That leaves Georgia out in the cold as far as powerful international organizations and alliances are concerned.

Again, none of this is Georgia’s fault. The incompetence, corruption and political infighting that doomed the hopes of Ukraine’s Orange Revolutionaries also changed the character of the ex-Soviet space. The serial political and economic crises and failures of the EU have dramatically weakened the ability of EU elites to impose large, unpopular changes like eastward expansion on their sullen and resentful publics. Geography and politics make it profoundly unlikely that Georgia can enter the EU before Turkey does; with Turkish membership looking increasingly as if it is scheduled for the 12th of Never (or the Greek kalends as the ancients used to say), it looks as if Georgia’s accession date will be on the 13th. The growing distance between the new foreign policy of the AK Turkish government and the US threatens over time to make it more difficult for Georgia to please both its Western patrons and its Turkish partners. The confrontation between Iran and the United States continues to cast shadows over the prospects for peace and stability throughout the region.

An American visiting Georgia is in an interesting situation. On the one hand, Georgians are grateful to the United States for our support; more than one person told me that without US help, Georgia would have long since been eaten by the hungry bear. On the other hand, there’s some bitterness that we don’t do more. Where is Georgia’s membership in NATO? Where are missiles Georgia needs to protect itself? Why is the US trying to ‘reset’ its relationship with Russia, and isn’t this a cynical sacrifice of Georgia’s vital interests?

Georgians in the opposition want to know why the US supports the current president. Georgians aligned with the president want to know why we criticize him so much and support him so little. Refugees from Abkhazia and South Ossetia want to know why we are doing so little to help them get back to their homes. Members of Georgia’s ethnic minorities want to know why we aren’t doing more to protect their cultural rights.

Many Georgians believe that the Republicans are their true and loyal friends, while Democrats are a bunch of spineless wimps and appeasers. The road in from the airport is named for George W. Bush; if there are plans to name anything big after President Obama, I didn’t hear about them during my trip. Some Georgians were clearly hoping that GOP majorities in Congress after the midterms would bring more support from the US.

These hopes, I think, are misplaced, and only partly because Congress doesn’t have all that much power over American policy towards Georgia. More fundamentally, Georgians seem to have forgotten what happened in the summer of 2008. Various western diplomats I spoke to in Georgia told me that according to their information the Bush administration categorically warned the Georgians in 2008 to avoid responding to Russian provocations. Georgia ignored those warnings, perhaps hoping that the US would have no choice but to back it in a conflict with Russia. The Bush administration felt there was no alternative but to let Georgia face the consequences of its folly. The Bush administration, not President Obama, pulled the plug on Georgia.

Yet Georgians are easily led by their hopes rather than their reason. ”Georgia has some very good friends in America,” one Georgian said by way of rebutting my comments that Georgia cannot afford provocative or hotheaded behavior. And there are people in the US whose natural sympathy for a small, threatened nation in a strategic hotspot moves them to say things that Georgians like to hear.

Americans and Georgians would both do well to remember the Hungarian tragedy of 1956. American politicians were talking about ‘rolling back’ Communism, but they were indulging in political rhetoric rather than making serious plans to send tanks across the Iron Curtain. Unfortunately the Hungarians failed to understand that these were just vain and empty words; in part because they were deceived by rhetoric on Voice of America, the Hungarians rose against the Soviets — and were left alone to face the Soviet tanks.

This is not a pleasant message to carry, and I did not enjoy delivering it to a country under the shadow of a partial Russian occupation, but to do anything else would be irresponsible, dangerous and cruel.

There is approximately zero prospect that Georgia will join NATO anytime soon. There is even less chance that the Russian occupation of large chunks of Georgia will end in the near future. Georgian anger and fear given these facts is natural and understandable. But rash Georgian action will only make a bad situation worse — perhaps catastrophically worse.

To improve their situation, the Georgians are going to have to the kind of dull and boring things that many Georgians don’t like. They are going to have to follow a discreet and modest foreign policy, avoiding all unnecessary provocations of Russia and being guided by the advice of their friends. They are going to have to take a very long-term view about Abkhazia and South Ossetia. They need to work on developing the territory they still have, at building a prosperous economy and a stable democracy.

If Georgia can do these things, over time its prospects will improve. As the west (slowly) regains confidence in Georgia’s political leadership, and perhaps also as NATO-Russia relations improve, NATO membership could once again be a realistic prospect. Russia itself ultimately needs stability in the Caucasus more than anything else; a prosperous and stable Georgia would be an important regional partner in helping Russia bring security and peace to the restless peoples of its southern fringe.

I hope Georgia succeeds. This is a beautiful country with a glorious past and an extraordinary culture. But Georgia’s future today is as cloudy as it was when I first visited twenty years (and several wars) ago....

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Uncle Sam, energy and peace in Asia

Uncle Sam, energy and peace in Asia
By M K Bhadrakumar

In the Orient, offspring don't rebuke parents, even if the latter are at fault - especially in the post-Soviet space where Marxian formalism continues to prevail as political culture. The sort of stern public rebuke bordering on short shrift that Ashgabat administered to Moscow is extraordinary.

But then, Moscow tested Turkmen patience by trying to create confusion about Ashgabat's policy of positive "neutrality" - building energy bridges to the West alongside its thriving cooperation with Russia and

On Thursday, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry bluntly rejected any role for Russia in the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, commonly known as TAPI. Ashgabat alleged that Moscow is spreading calumnies and expressed the hope that "future statements by Russian officials will be guided by a sense of responsibility and reality".

The reference was to a friendly and seemingly helpful statement by Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin (who accompanied President Dmitry Medvedev to the Turkmen capital last weekend) that Russian participation in the TAPI figured in the latest Russian-Turkmen summit talks and "Gazprom may participate in this project in any capacity - builder, designer, participant, etc ... If Gazprom becomes a participant, then we will study possibilities of working in gas sales."

The Turkmen Foreign Ministry said, "Turkmenistan views such statements as an attempt to hamper the normal course of our country's cooperation in the energy sector and call into question its obligations to its partners." It added that there was "no agreement whatsoever" regarding Russian participation in the TAPI.

The TAPI presents a knot of paradoxes and the Russians who hold the pulse of the Central Asian energy scene would have sensed by now that Uncle Sam is close to untying the knot, finally, after a decade-and-a-half of sheer perseverance. The TAPI falls within the first circle of the Caspian great game. When it appears that Russia all but checkmated the United States and the European Union's plans to advance trans-Caspian energy projects bypassing Russia, a thrust appears from the south and east opening up stunning possibilities for the West.

Russia promptly began slouching toward the TAPI - which, incidentally, was originally a Soviet idea but was appropriated by the United States no sooner than the USSR disintegrated - against the backdrop of renewed interest in the project recently among regional powers amid the growing possibility that Afghan peace talks might reconcile the Taliban and that despite the Kashmir problem,
Pakistan and India wouldn't mind tangoing.

The TAPI pipeline runs on a roughly 1,600-kilometer route along the ancient Silk Road from Turkmenistan's fabulous Dauletabad gas fields on the Afghan border to Herat in western Afghanistan, then onto Helmand and Kandahar, entering Pakistan's Quetta and turning east toward Multan, and ending up in Fazilka on the Indian side of
Pakistan's eastern border. An updated Asian Development Bank (ADB) estimate of 2008 put the project cost for the pipeline with an output of 33 bcm annually at $7.6 billion.

The signals from Ashgabat, Kabul, Islamabad and New Delhi in recent weeks uniformly underscored that the TAPI is in the final stage of take-off. India unambiguously signed up in August. On Wednesday, the Pakistan government gave approval to the project at a cabinet meeting in Islamabad. The ADB is open to financing the project and is expected to be the project's "secretariat".

As things stand, there could be a meeting of the political leaderships of the four participating countries in December to formally kick-start the TAPI.

The commencement of the TAPI is undoubtedly a defining moment for Turkmenistan (which is keen to diversify export routes), for Afghanistan (which hopes to get $300 million as transit fee annually and an all-round economic spin-off) and for
Pakistan and India (which face energy shortages).

However, the geopolitics trumps everything else. For the first time in six decades, India and
Pakistan are becoming stakeholders in each other's development and growth - and it is taking place under American watch. The rapprochement would positively impact the Afghan chessboard where Pakistan and India are locked in a futile, utterly wasteful zero-sum game.

NATO enters energy business
The most important geopolitical factor, perhaps, is that the US is the "ideologue" of the project and its Great Central Asia strategy - aiming at rolling back Russian and Chinese influence in the region and forging the region's links with South Asia - is set to take a big step forward.

India and Pakistan, traditional allies of Russia and China, are in essence endorsing the Great Central Asia strategy. It signifies a tectonic shift in the geopolitics and immensely strengthens the US's regional policies. India and Pakistan are becoming stakeholders in a long-term US presence in the region.

Equally, NATO is set to take on the role of the provider of security for the TAPI, providing the alliance an added raison d'etre for its long-term presence in Central Asia. NATO's role in energy security has been under discussion for some time. Russia used to robustly contest the concept, but its thoughts are mellowing as the reset with the US gains traction.

Broadly, the NATO position was outlined by the alliance's former secretary general Jaap de Hoop Schaffer in January last year when he said:
Protecting pipelines is first and foremost a national priority. And it should stay like that. NATO is not in the business of protecting pipelines. But when there's a crisis, or if a certain nation asks for assistance, NATO could, I think, be instrumental in protecting pipelines on land.
Clearly, the long-term "strategic cooperation" agreement between NATO and Karzai's government which is expected to be signed at the alliance's summit in Lisbon on November 19 now assumes an altogether profound meaning.

Besides, the TAPI is also a "Western" project, as several NATO countries involved in Afghanistan's stabilization - the US, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy,
Netherlands and Norway - are also members of the ADB and TAPI is piloted by the US and Japan, two major shareholders in the ADB.

More important, the BP Statistical Review 2009 puts Turkmenistan's known gas reserves so far at a staggering 7.94 trillion cubic meters (TCM). A 2008 audit of the gigantic South Yolotan-Osman field in western Turkmenistan by the UK firm Gaffney, Cline & Associates estimated the reserves of this field alone at anywhere between 4 to 14 TCM of gas. Many more fields in Turkmenistan are yet to be audited. Without doubt, the propaganda that Turkmenistan lacks gas reserves to supply markets beyond Russia and China stands exposed.

And the curious part is that South Yolotan-Osman - and the gas reserves in Uzbekistan and northern Afghanistan - can be linked to the TAPI and a TAPI branch line can be very easily extended from Quetta to the Pakistani port of Gwadar, in which case Europe can finally tap Central Asian energy reserves directly, dispensing with the Russian middleman.

Obama has style
Quite obviously, the TAPI meshes well with the Afghan endgame. Karzai used to work for Unocal before he surfaced in Kabul as a statesman in 2001, and Unocal originally promoted TAPI in the mid-1990s. "Good" Taliban were all along enthusiastic about the TAPI project provided the US traded with them as Afghan interlocutors.

The US initially warmed up to the Taliban in the early 1990s as a stabilizing factor that could put an end to the chaotic mujahideen era and help facilitate the transportation of the Caspian and Central Asian energy to the world market via Pakistani ports. Senior Taliban officials were hosted by the US State Department and things were indeed going spectacularly well until militant "Arab fighters" began influencing the Taliban leadership and spoiled everything.

The Americans dithered far too long in according recognition to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden grabbed the window of opportunity. Nonetheless, there is reason to believe that the contacts continued all the way up to the eve of the al-Qaeda's 9/11 attacks.

The "good" Taliban are in business again. NATO aircraft ferry them to Kabul so that they can urgently talk peace.

From the beginning, the US saw the TAPI's potential to bring Pakistan and India together and also bind the two South Asian adversaries to it, thus providing an underpinning to its overall Asian strategy. Moscow and Beijing would have a sense of unease about what is unfolding. The recent Moscow commentaries display some irritation with New Delhi. Last weekend there was an unusually preachy opinion-piece on India's "Chechnya" - Kashmir.

The plain truth is that the TAPI revives the Silk Road, which can also unlock Afghanistan's multi-trillion dollar untold mineral wealth and transport the hidden treasures to Gwadar port for shipment to faraway lands.

If George W Bush were handling Barack Obama's job today, he would probably thread into his forthcoming November visit to New Delhi a regional summit where the TAPI gets formalized as a historic American initiative in regional cooperation.

But that isn't Obama's style - descending from the skies wearing a windbreaker and proclaiming premature victory from the deck of an aircraft carrier. He trusts "smart power".

Obama would intellectualize the TAPI as the harbinger of peace in one of the most destitute regions on the planet - which it indeed is. He would then probably sit down and explain that what seems a setback in the Caspian great game is ultimately for China's and Russia's larger good. A "stable" Afghanistan is in their interests, after all....

Friday, October 29, 2010

NATO invites Russia to join Afghan fray

NATO invites Russia to join Afghan fray...
By M K Bhadrakumar

North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) officials have revealed their proposal with Moscow regarding a vastly stepped up Russian involvement in the Afghan war is in the final stages of negotiation and they are hopeful of formal agreement being reached at the alliance's two-day summit in Lisbon from November 19.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has announced his acceptance of the NATO invitation to attend the Lisbon summit, where he also scheduled to have a two-hour meeting with United States President Barack Obama . Aside Afghanistan, Medvedev's agenda includes Iran, a Russian proposal on a European security architecture and NATO's offer to cooperate with Russia on its missile defense system (which it is linking up with the US's).

Afghanistan promises to be the biggest vector of Russia-NATO cooperation to date. It doesn't come as surprise. A sort of romance was in the air though Moscow kept coyly disputing. Like in the Charles Dickens novel David Copperfield, we knew "Barkis is willing". Barkis fell for small things - Clara Peggotty making "apple parsties" or that she "does all the cooking" - but the smart Russian diplomats will drive a hard bargain with NATO before a nuptial knot is tied.

The Russian ingenuity aims at making cooperation with the NATO a lucrative business deal as much as a political embrace.

However, the timing is significant. NATO hopes to tango with Russia in Lisbon within a few hours of settling into a long-term partnership with Kabul under a status of forces agreement with the Afghan government that peers into the post-war era. In short, NATO is joining hands with Russia even as it consolidates military presence in Central Asia - an incredible turn to the great game.

But stranger things have happened. Moscow seems increasingly confident of the reset with the US. The big question is how Afghan President Hamid Karzai and a host of others - Iranians, Central Asians (especially Uzbeks), Chinese and the Afghans (especially Pashtuns) - view an emergent NATO-Russia condominium.

NATO officials indicated that the deals included a supply of Russian helicopters and Russian crews to train Afghan pilots, Russian military instructors training Afghan military, expansion of the transit and supply routes for NATO forces in Afghanistan via Russian territory, and effective cooperation in curbing drug trafficking and strengthening border security.

The NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the Guardian newspaper: "The [Lisbon] summit can mark a new start in the relationship between NATO and Russia. We will hopefully agree on a broad range of areas in which we can develop practical cooperation on Afghanistan, counter-terrorism, counter-narcotics.

''Russia is strongly interested in increased cooperation ... Last December when I visited Moscow I suggested that Russia provide helicopters for the Afghan army. Since then Russia has reflected on that and there are now bilateral talks between Russia and the United States. I would not exclude that we will facilitate that process within the NATO-Russian Council."

Russian helicopters are rugged machines suitable for the tough conditions in Afghanistan and Afghan armed forces are used to Soviet-era equipment. Russia has been insisting on a "commercial" deal. But the deal has manifestly political overtones. Will Russia be deputing its military instructors to Afghanistan or will Afghan officers get trained in the Russian military academies?
The proposal to deploy Russian helicopter crews to Afghanistan is a dramatic step. Of all the images etched deep in the Afghan consciousness and jihad mythology, it is the Russian helicopter gunships criss-crossing the Afghan skies raining death and destruction during the period 1979-89 that still evokes fear and fury. No doubt, the return of Russian military personnel becomes a highly symbolic turning point in the 30-year Afghan civil war.

How far is NATO is coordinating with Karzai? Karzai kept a cool distance from Moscow during most of the time and only lately, when his relations with the West began plummeting did he begin thawing. Karzai will now have to think hard and measure the hostility toward Russia still among the Afghan people. He is debilitated in the Afghan bazaar by the image of being a puppet of foreign powers.

Second, Karzai is barely keeping equilibrium in a tempestuous relationship with Western forces over whom he has no control. Two days ago, he lashed out at the West. He also "stormed out" of a meeting with the US commander, General David Petraeus. Conceivably, he is also watching with disquiet the latest chapter in the US's dalliance with the Pakistani military. Karzai's preference will be to have independent dealings with the regional powers, especially Russia.

Third, the Russian entry will cast shadows on the Afghan ethnic mosaic. It has been with non-Pashtun nationalities - especially Tajiks and Uzbeks - that Moscow got deeply involved over the years. Moscow had little to do with the Hazaras and was mostly on uneasy terms with the Pashtuns (despite keeping subsoil contacts with the Taliban). The officer corps of Afghan armed forces is predominantly Tajik and the Pashtuns have misgivings that Moscow is once again developing the sinews of its erstwhile proxies.

More so, as the Russian military personnel will be coming in at a time when non-Pashtun groups have begun secretly arming themselves fearing a Taliban takeover in Kabul.

The Taliban will take serious note of any form of Russian military involvement in the war and that can have serious implications for the Taliban's future cooperation with Central Asian militant groups. The Taliban viewed as something within acceptable threshold that Russia provided NATO with air and land supply and transit arrangements. But the threshold of the Taliban's tolerance may change, especially if the nascent peace talks fail to take off and the accent falls on the resistance.

Third, suffice to say that regional powers like China, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan will be curious about Russia joining hands with NATO bilaterally, sidestepping the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) or the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. In effect, the kaleidoscope of collective security in Central Asia undergoes an ominous tilt. NATO still views the CSTO and SCO disdainfully.

On balance, NATO and the US are net gainers. The timing is perfect. NATO ensures that Moscow acquiesces in its long-term military presence in the region. NATO has multiple motives. With the specter of defeat staring at it, NATO has nothing to lose. These are days when the alliance and the US in particular feel lonely when the dusk falls - and it's good to have company of friends who have moved about in the dark in the Hindu Kush. In any case, Moscow has been bending over backward to be helpful.
It is useful to keep Russia engaged instead of ignoring it lest it acted as a "spoiler". Moscow still wields influence over non-Pashtun groups opposed to reconciliation with the Taliban. Also, Pakistan no more objects to Russia's entry. Moscow made serious overtures to Islamabad to reach a modus vivendi over Afghanistan and it is paying dividends.

In practical terms, the northern supply route via Russian territory is a great boon for NATO with insurgents having stepped up attacks on the two routes running through Pakistan.

But the geopolitics of NATO-Russia tie-up isolates China and Iran. Conceivably, the US is pursuing this tie-up as a matter of regional policy. According to NATO officials, a separate agreement on limited Russian cooperation with NATO's European missile defense plans is also in prospect at the Lisbon summit, which is a symbolic demonstration of a security matrix struggling to be born. It seems the reset process with Russia that Washington mooted modestly as a course correction from the George W Bush era is beginning to impact on the geopolitical chessboard....

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Lebanon's distress is stemming from regional stresses....

Lebanon's distress is stemming from regional stresses....

Saudi Arabian ZIOCONS continue the reign of Terror with Al-CIAda and the Syrian Alawite IRAQ and soon in Lebanon.....

BEIRUT -- It is easy to join the chorus of woe in Lebanon about the fate of this wonderful but disjointed country that once again teeters on the edge of turbulence or active conflict. The reason this time is the tension stemming from the anticipated indictments by the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) of some individuals, linked to the infamous White House Murder INC, and Asef SHAWKAT for the assassination of Mr. Elie HOBEIKA, January 24th 2002, and late prime minister Rafik Hariri and 22 others five years ago, Feb. 14th 2005. The level of internal anxiety is matched by intense local and regional diplomacy to try and avert political clashes that could result in bringing the government to a halt, outbursts of localized fighting or assassinations, civil war-like large-scale fighting, or even combined local and regional warfare that includes Hezbollah, other Lebanese armed groups, Israel, Syria and perhaps Iran.

These possible outcomes are also symptoms of deeper Arab problems, weaknesses and distortions that have plagued most of the Arab world since its manufacture by retreating European colonial powers in the early-mid-20th Century. A deeper look beneath the surface of this latest bout of Lebanese tensions reveals chronic problems facing the entire modern Arab world -- of which five stand out:

1 -- Constitutional power-sharing No Arab country has devised a credible system that allows all groups and citizens to share power and alternate incumbency according to a peaceful transfer of power that affirms the consent of the governed, the will of the majority, and the rights of minorities. Long bouts of quiet interspersed by intermittent wars, ethnic clashes, bombings, assassinations and the arrival of foreign armies do not comprise a good example of constitutional power-sharing.

2 -- Communal and national identity The richness of Arab society is very much related to its many component ethnic, religious, national and sectarian groups. Its weakness is that it has never found a credible manner by which individuals, small groups and larger groups of citizens can express their various identities while simultaneously meshing into a national identity that they have helped to define and that adequately represents them all.

3 -- Sustained, equitable development Arab countries on the whole did a good job of state-building in their formative decades, but when economic stress spread throughout the region in the 1980s and population growth outstripped economic growth, severe socio-economic pressures and disparities set in, and persist to this day. World Bank data shows that per capita Gross Domestic Product (at constant 2000 prices) for the entire Arab world actually declined from an average of $2671 for the decade of the 1980s to $2556 this decade (going even lower to $2035 for the decade of the 1990s in between). In other words, in the last 30 years, the average income or personal wealth of Arabs on average has been simultaneously low, dropping and erratic. For every BMW or Mercedes you see in Arab capitals there are 50 families you do not see that cannot provide their children with sufficient nutrition, school supplies or heat in winter.

4 -- Citizen-state relations in a context of the rule of law The stability and development that have taken place in the Arab world have primarily reflected strong, centralized security systems, foreign support for those systems, and the spinoffs from serendipitous oil and gas wealth. The full human and economic potential of today’s 340 million Arabs has never been approached because rule of law mechanisms that permit citizens to manifest their total capabilities and creativities have never been put in place in any Arab country. Because the rights of citizens and the limits of state power have never been seriously delineated in the modern Arab world, our societies consequently tap only part of their real potential.

5 -- Relations with external powers Iran, the United States, Israel, Great Britain, France, Russia and other major non-Arab countries remain actively involved in internal and regional Arab issues, but it remains unclear if most Arabs view these countries as friends or foes. Incoherence at home has been translated into parallel and continuing incoherence in our relations with foreign powers, who fight their ideological battles in our lands.

These five issues strike me as capturing the core, underlying weaknesses of most Arab countries, to some degree. They are more evident in Lebanon than in any other Arab country, except perhaps for lands like Somalia that have shattered and ceased functioning as coherent sovereign states, or places like Sudan, Yemen and Iraq that also reveal severe internal cleavages because they have not reconciled the imperatives of sovereignty, identity, legitimacy, citizenship, statehood and governance.

These basic challenges pertain even in rich countries with oil wealth or stable countries with strong central governments. Lebanon’s heightened worries these days due to the STL should remind us that its underlying problems and challenges are Lebanese only in their transitory particularities, while deeper down these problems are typical of most of the Arab world, where they remain stubbornly unaddressed and unacknowledged....

January , 2011 -- Fixing blame on Lebanese assassinations on Hezbollah. Final report cooked up by players in New York, Langley, and Tel Aviv...
Hillary's State Department foments political upheaval in Lebanon....
AS we have been reporting since 2002, most assassinations in Lebanon have been carried out by Asef SHAWKAT and his Syrian Military Intelligence goons, together with the Lebanese deep state apparatus, on behalf of CIA/MOSSAD, starting with the assassination of Mr. Elie HOBEIKA, January 24th 2002 and ending with the assassination of Imad F. MOUGHNIEH in Damascus Feb. 12th 2008....
We have learned that the final report of the UN's Special Tribunal on Lebanon was made known to leaders from the United States, France, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Lebanon in New York with an agreement by most parties that blame will be fixed for all of Lebanon's recent assassinations, most of them signature CIA/Mossad remotely-controlled car bombings, on Lebanese Hezbollah. Hezbollah, aware of the secret deals in New York, has announced that it will pull out of the Lebanese coalition government led by Prime Minister Saad Hariri, son of slain ex-Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, a victim of one of the Mossad-CIA car bombs, thus bringing down the Lebanese government...
The US/Israeli/French nexus of utter evils are eager to perpetuate the covert links of the infamous White House Murder INC, with Asef SHAWKAT and Syria's minority mafia Dictatorship of the ASSAD dynasty of assassins for hire, since January 24th 2002....and the barbaric assassination of Mr. Elie HOBEIKA and his brave companions in Hazmieh by Asef SHAWKAT's goons and Lebanese Military Intelligence lackeys....and others....working on behalf of CIA/MOSSAD or being bamboozled into action in a classic black operation on Feb. 14th 2005 and the hit on Hariri....

Saudi King Abdullah, in New York for surgery on a herniated disc, met with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and spoke by phone with President Obama on the forthcoming UN tribunal report on Hezbollah. A key member in the talks was Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs Jeffrey Feltman, who is as close to the government of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu as he is to his own government.... Feltman, a former U.S. ambassador to Lebanon and a bitter enemy of Hezbollah, reportedly met with Hariri in New York prior to the Lebanese Prime Minister's trip to Washington to meet with Obama. French President Nicolas Sarkozy was also in New York where he met King Abdullah and Hariri. Sarkozy's meetings with the Arab leaders followed his meeting with Obama in Washington. Hariri also met with Hillary Clinton in New York...
Although the Special Tribunal for Lebanon has proven to be a propaganda tool of the Israelis and its lobby in the United States and recent Lebanese intelligence discoveries of Mossad penetration of Lebanese telecommunications proves that Israel manufactured the cell phone and other telecommunication "evidence" pinning blame for the Hariri assassination on Hezbollah, the Obama administration and France, Saudi Arabia, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and Israel are poised to see Hezbollah blamed for several assassinations of Lebanese politicians and international criminal indictments issued against leading Hezbollah figures. The tribunal report will result in a major political upheaval in Lebanon, which is to Israel's benefit.

The presence of Feltman, who is a virtual tool of the Israeli government, in the top Middle east policy position in the State Department, has largely led to the present debacle in America's Middle East policy.

A political deal was in the works for Lebanon that would have prevented the UN tribunal from indicting senior Hezbollah officials for the 2005 Hariri assassination. However, the Saudis helped scuttle the deal being worked out with Syria. Hezbollah political ally, retired General Michel Aoun, leader of the Free Patriotic Movement of Lebanon, decried the Saudi double-cross and Qatar Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr al-Thani, who helped work out the Arab-led peace deal for Lebanon, also expressed alarm that the Lebanese government would collapse as a result of the deal between Washington, Paris, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv....

Is Death of Nabucco Bringing “Al-CIAda” and Ergenekon Together in Turkey?

26 10 2010

AYDOĞAN VATANDAŞ*=> CIA/MOSSAD disinformation artist....LOL

The clear and present danger
AYDOĞAN VATANDAŞ* - Nearly four-and-a-half months have passed since the whole Mavi Marmara incident. There is no longer any real reason to continue making calculations about who came out on top." height="160" width="200">

Nearly four-and-a-half months have passed since the whole Mavi Marmara incident. There is no longer any real reason to continue making calculations about who came out on top.

What we need to do now is look towards the future and figure out how we can emerge from the situation with the least amount of damage possible. First of all, there have been well-known efforts by Jewish lobbies — which have great influence over the US Congress — to have the İHH (Humanitarian Aid Foundation) officially recognized as a terrorist group. In fact, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) efforts on this front are continuing. In general, these sorts of lobbies have expended a great deal of energy through their network of influence over the US media to create the perception that the İHH is somehow connected to al-Qaeda.

Following efforts to create the appearance of ties between the İHH and al-Qaeda, there was an effort to create the perception of some sort of organic relationship between the İHH and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party). For instance, the July 17, 2010 issue of The New York Times featured a large report on its front page saying, among other things, that the AK Party was behind the whole Mavi Marmara incident. The journalist who wrote the article was Dan Bilefski. His previous article for The New York Times had been a very critical piece in which he criticized the legitimacy of the ongoing Ergenekon investigation and case. The title of the article on the Mavi Marmara incident was as follows: “Sponsor of Flotilla Tied to Elite of Turkey.”

An article published in the Oct. 21 issue of the Haaretz newspaper indicated there is proof that the Gaza aid flotilla did receive assistance from the Turkish government. According to Haaretz, evidence taken from computers seized during the raid of the flotilla showed that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other top government authorities had lent the Mavi Marmara aid flotilla assistance. This information, in fact, came from reports taken during a meeting in İstanbul two weeks before the raid, on May 16, 2010.

Deeper cooperation against al-Qaeda....

As many may recall, Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan, who went to Iraq in September, met some time before that with his colleague from the American CIA, Leon Panetta. The CIA sent a message via Fidan to Ankara, the message being in fact a proposal for deeper cooperation against al-Qaeda, Hamas and Hezbollah, as well as the al-Qaeda’s various extensions throughout Iraq. The message could actually be read thus: “If you help us in the struggle against al-Qaeda, we could be of help to you against the PKK.” A short time after news of this made its way into the media, both America and England issued warnings to their citizens, particularly those headed for France and Germany, to watch out for terror attacks. After these warnings were issued, intelligence agencies in Pakistan were also put on high alarm.

A while after this, a Pakistani intelligence authority speaking to The Associated Press (AP) claimed that dozens of Muslims with European citizenship had gathered in Pakistan’s lawless border areas, where they were being trained for future attacks on European soil. He said that these particular people had been chosen by al-Qaeda because they could enter and exit Europe easily (due to their citizenship), and that amongst those being trained in Pakistan were Chechens, Uzbeks, Arabs and Turks. But most importantly, this same Pakistani intelligence agent said amongst the “terrorist trainees” was an F-16 pilot who had been, at one point, on duty in the Turkish Air Force.

This source, whom the AP declined to identify by name, asserted that al-Qaeda placed much importance on this Turkish officer, saying, “What we learn from this is that even very well trained people can join the ranks of al-Qaeda here.”

What should really be considered here is that the source for this particular piece of news was the AP. Also, it was the AP that brought the allegations of there being organic relations between the İHH and the AK Party to the media’s agenda. The AP published an interview with French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere — who has been involved in many terrorism cases and who is investigating the İHH — directly following the Mavi Marmara incident. Bruguiere, alleging that the İHH had an “open and long-term relationship with terrorism and jihad,” said, “In essence, ever since bin Laden began to target the American nation, they have been helping out al-Qaeda.” Bruguiere, talking about a man named Fatih Kamil who worked for the İHH, said that Kamil had been arrested in France in 1999 and that one of his followers, Ahmed Ressam, was arrested and sentenced to 22 years in prison after an attempted bombing attack on the Los Angeles Airport, also in 1999. The French judge then also recalled that in 1998, during the Feb. 28 process, a search that took place at the İHH center in İstanbul turned up weapons and falsified documents, then alleging that the organization was also sending money, weapons and fighters to war zones such as Bosnia and Afghanistan. Bruguiere, who is responsible for investigating the financial sources of terror groups operating in the US and the EU, alleged in his interview that he believed the fact that the İHH was still operating, despite the many suspicions surrounding it, was owing to the fact that it is was receiving assistance from the Turkish government.

Links between İHH and al-Qaeda....LOL, CIA/MOSSAD Disinformation at work...

And so the AP, which worked hard to complete the perception of links between the İHH and al-Qaeda in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident, now turned its attention to creating the perception that a Turkish Air Force pilot had joined the ranks of al-Qaeda trainees in Pakistan.

Before long, the Turkish flag even showed up in the well-known “South Park” animated series, in relation this time with al-Qaeda. In the “Jersey Things” episode of the series broadcast on Oct. 13, al-Qaeda was shown attacking in airplanes that had the Turkish flag. In the episode, when more and more people from New Jersey moved to South Park, the locals of South Park ask for help from Osama bin Laden to rid the city of its new denizens. Bin Laden does come to their help, carrying out an attack that kills the New Jerseyites using airplanes that bear Arabic writing and Turkish flags on them. This incident was shortly followed by another of images on a DVD cover prepared by the New York Christian Action Network showing a Turkish flag planted in the burning rubble of the Sept.11 attack on the Twin Towers.

In short, it is now clear that in the wake of the Mavi Marmara incident, there has been an attempt to place a giant net over the head of Turkey. In the meantime, it should be noted that al-Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, has threatened Turkey three times over the past two months. Al-Qaeda perceives not only the ruling AK Party but also the entire Gülen community as a threat in Turkey.

An attack on European soil carried out by al-Qaeda that would include a former F-16 pilot from the Turkish Air Forces would:

1. Badly damage Turkey’s international esteem and image. It would also appear to confirm ties between the İHH and al-Qaeda, as well as between the İHH and the AK Party.

2. Turn Turkey into an open target for certain countries.

3. Help to create the perception of just how correct Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) decisions were, if in fact said officer from the air forces was proved to have been thrown out of the military as a result of a YAŞ decision.

4. No doubt it would, most importantly, render the legitimacy of the AK Party’s international relations questionable and lead to a desire to see a redesign of Turkish internal politics.

The al-Qaeda-Ergenekon links in the 2003 HSBC attack and the synagogue attack should not be forgotten.... To wit, sometimes organizations that never come together at all can work together by adhering to the idea of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”

Covert operations sabotage US-Iran ties...

Covert operations sabotage US-Iran ties...
By Rob Grace

For years, the United States and Israel have engaged in a covert effort to destabilize Iran's government and sabotage its nuclear program. But these operations frequently escape mention in public discussions. By ignoring the covert effort, the current debate about the relative wisdom of diplomacy, sanctions, and preventive
military action addresses an incomplete picture. To understand the challenges and potential of US-Iranian relations, the covert program must be factored into the equation.

Although sabotage may prove successful in slowing Iranian nuclear progress in the short term, it actually stands as a barrier to a long-term resolution.

The program
United States covert action in Iran has played a historically destructive role in US-Iranian relations. In 1953, when the United States was planning to overthrow Iran's prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) agent Roger Goiran warned that the endeavor would harm long-term US interests and lead Iran to view the United States as a supporter of "Anglo-French colonialism".

The CIA fired Goiran for his opposition and went forward with its plan, but his prediction came true. The Islamic Revolution of 1979 brought to power a leader who dubbed America "the Great Satan" and established a government legally founded on "the rejection of all forms of domination" and "non-alignment with respect to the hegemonist superpowers", to quote Article 152 of Iran's constitution.

During the Iran hostage crisis, Iran only agreed to free the 52 trapped Americans after the United States pledged non-intervention in Iranian affairs. As stated in the 1981 Algiers Accords, "it is and from now on will be the policy of the United States not to intervene, directly or indirectly, politically or militarily, in Iran's internal affairs."

However, the United States has not lived up this commitment. In 1995, American news media revealed a US$18 million covert effort by the CIA to destabilize Iran, confirming Iranian suspicions of the "Great Satan".

Iran's foreign minister wrote to the United Nations Security Council, calling the US policy "nothing but a flagrant support of state terrorism", and one member of Iran's parliament called the United States "a renegade government whose logic was no different from Genghis Khan or Hitler".

Covert efforts were also a factor in the breakdown of negotiations in 2005 between Iran and the E3/European Union, a group composed of representatives from Germany, France the United Kingdom and the European Union's Common Foreign and Security Policy.

Only one year earlier, relations with Iran seemed promising. Iran had joined the E3/EU in signing the Paris Accord, in which Iran pledged that it would "not seek to acquire nuclear weapons", voluntarily implement the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA's) Additional Protocol, and voluntarily halt all uranium-enrichment activities. The accord's signatories pledged to negotiate an agreement that would encompass not just nuclear and economic cooperation but also "firm commitments on security issues".

Iran's desired security commitments, as the British House of Commons' report on the negotiations indicates, included a UN Security Council-backed commitment to prevent "any direct or indirect attack or sabotage or threat against Iranian nuclear facilities".

United States actions in the mid-2000s gave credence to Iran's concern. The US was collaborating with the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a group devoted to overthrowing Iran's government, in cross-border raids to gather intelligence about Iran's nuclear program; supporting Jundallah, a Pakistani-based tribal terrorist group that has struck Iranian targets; and had established a "covert infrastructure" within Iran to reach out to Iranian dissidents.

And in 2005, the US Congress authorized $3 million to fund "the advancement of democracy and
human rights" in Iran, a move the Iranian UN ambassador called a "clear violation of the Algiers accords".

Ultimately, the E3/EU did not accept Iran's security proposal and instead offered only to reaffirm existing security guarantees. Iran thus concluded that the E3/EU "did not have the intention or the ability" to make "firm commitments on security issues", let alone progress on nuclear and economic cooperation, and Iran announced it would once again begin enriching uranium.

As the UN Security Council began passing sanctions against Iran, news reports indicate that covert efforts escalated. In 2007, CBS News reported on "covert efforts by US and other allied intelligence agencies to actively sabotage [Iran's] nuclear program".

When Iranian nuclear scientist Ardeshire Hassanpour died under mysterious circumstances that same year, sources told The Times that Mossad, the Israeli secret service, had assassinated him. In 2008, president George W Bush signed a "non-lethal presidential finding" that, according to ABC News, initiated a CIA plan involving "a coordinated campaign of propaganda, disinformation and manipulation of Iran's currency and international financial transactions".

In early 2009, The New York Times reported that Bush had "stepped up intelligence-sharing" with Israel and had authorized a covert program "aimed at the entire industrial infrastructure that supports the Iranian nuclear program".

The Bush administration handed off this program to President
Barack Obama. In the first month of Obama's presidency, the Telegraph reported that Israel was "using hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt the regime's illicit weapons project".

Reuters reported that Israel "planned to target Iranian nuclear scientists with letter bombs and poisoned packages", possibly as part of "a psychological warfare campaign". And when Iran suffered a cyber-attack from the Stuxnet computer virus, The New York Times reported on possible US involvement, noting that Bush's covert program "has been accelerated since President Obama took office".

The problem
The sabotage effort has seemingly been successful in delaying Iranian progress on uranium enrichment. But sabotage also disrupts diplomatic progress.

Obama administration has presented Iran with a "stark choice" - accede to Western demands and join the "community of nations" or "face even more pressure and isolation". Iran scoffs at both options.

As for "pressure and isolation", President Mahmud Ahmadinejad has stated he doesn't believe the United States or Israel will actually undertake preventive military action. This belief is most likely correct, as the
Obama administration has successfully convinced Israel that the Iranian nuclear threat is not imminent.

Ahmadinejad has also said that sanctions are "of no concern to us" and "have, in fact, encouraged us to be firmer in the pursuit of our economic goals". This claim is under debate, even within Iran. Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, for example, has urged Iranian officials to take the sanctions seriously. But the sanctions do seem to have benefited Ahmadinejad by giving "an excuse to the Iranian government to suppress the opposition", according to Iranian reformist Mehdi Karroubi.

As for joining the "community of nations", Iran does not perceive a community it wishes to join. Instead, it sees an "inhumane" and "discriminatory management of the world" in which "the very same goals of colonialists and the slave masters" are “pursued with a new facade", and thus the global system "requires a major overhaul", as Ahmadinejad stated in his recent UN address. For this reason, Iran strives for UN Security Council reform and global nuclear disarmament under the slogan, "nuclear energy for everyone, nuclear arms for no one".

Still, there are signs that Iran and the West can reach an agreement. Both Iran and the United States have said they are open to more talks. And though the US would like Iran to halt enrichment entirely, a feasible middle ground exists. As former US
secretary of state Colin Powell stated recently on Meet The Press:
... I think if you take them at their word, "trust, but verify," [former US president Ronald] Reagan's old line ... then put in place a set of sanctions that would be devastating to them if they violate that agreement, and then put in place an IAEA inspection regime ... you might be able to live with an Iran that has a nuclear power capability
Covert activities risk undermining this possibility. The United States needs to show Iran that a genuine settlement is possible. If Iran fears that US covert intervention will continue, Iran is unlikely to sign on to an agreement of the sort Powell described. Like in 1953, by pursuing the sabotage option, the US is sacrificing its long-term interests for pathetic short-term gains....

New Iraqi alignment reveals utter US failures....
By Gareth Porter

WASHINGTON - A newly released CIA/DOD/DIA/WikiLeaks document on Iraq and the new political alignment between Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki both provide fresh evidence that General David Petraeus's war against Shi'ite militias in 2007-2008 was a futile exercise.

The WikiLeaks document is an intelligence report identifying the Shi'ite commander who Petraeus said was the Iranian-backed rogue militia leader behind the kidnapping and killing of five US troops in Karbala in January 2007. In fact, according to the leaked document, it was a commander of Muqtada's Mahdi

That new information about the Karbala operation confirms earlier evidence that in 2007 a political axis linking Iran, Muqtada and Maliki was working to foil Petraeus' assault on the Mahdi Army and to hasten the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq.

That political alignment is not a reflection of Iranian dominance over Iraqi politics, but of a convergence of interests among Shi'ite actors in the Iraq conflict.

The same political alignment has now resurfaced as a pivotal development in the formation of a new Iraqi government. Maliki and Muqtada have agreed to form a new Shi'ite-dominated government, and Maliki traveled to Iran last week to meet Muqtada and publicly thanked Iran for its help in bringing Muqtada into his bloc of deputies.

The Maliki bloc now has two more votes than the Sunni-based al-Iraqiya bloc and hopes to bring in the Kurds to collect enough votes to form a new government.

The December 2006 intelligence report in the WikiLeaks collection details a plan to kidnap US soldiers in Baghdad. The report reveals that the militia commander in charge of the operation, Ashar al-Dulaimi, was a subordinate to a "senior Jaysh al-Mahdi [Mahdi Army] commander" named "Hasan" or "Salim".

Dulaimi was a key commander of the Mahdi Army's "secret cells", which had been trained by Hezbollah officers working in cooperation with Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

Muqtada had never hidden his military cooperation with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Despite Muqtada's open criticism of Iranian policy toward Iraq for its backing of the rival Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, he also sent troops to be trained in Iran.

The Mahdi Army plan to kidnap US troops did not unfold in Baghdad but in Karbala, where five American soldiers were abducted in a raid on the Provincial Joint Coordination Center on January 20, 2007, and later found dead. The US military tracked Dulaimi to Sadr City in Baghdad and killed him in May 2007.

Petraeus' spokesman, General Kevin Bergner, later accused Iran of having directed the Karbala attack through its control of networks of "special groups" it armed and trained. Petraeus maintained consistently that Iran was backing "rogue" units that had left the Mahdi Army.

The WikiLeaks documents show, however, that Petraeus and his command in Iraq were well aware that Dulaimi was a Mahdi Army commander in charge of secret operations. The Petraeus "special groups" line was aimed at hiding the fact that the US command was determined to destroy as much of the Mahdi Army as possible by claiming that it was actually attacking rogue Shi'ite militias.

The New York Times story on Iran-related WikiLeaks documents by Michael Gordon, which portrays the documents as reconfirming the Petraeus line on Iran-backed "special groups", highlighted the intelligence report on Dulaimi but omitted the central fact that it clearly identifies him as a Mahdi Army commander.

The evidence also indicates that the Mahdi Army’s Karbala operation was done with the full knowledge of the Maliki government.

Colonel Michael X Garrett, then commander of the Fourth Brigade combat team in Karbala, confirmed to this writer in December 2008 that the Karbala attack "was definitely an inside operation". Both the provincial governor and police chief were suspected of having collaborated in the operation, Garrett said.

Governor Aqil al-Khazali was not a Sadrist but a member of Maliki's own Da'wa Party and was presumably acting in line with a policy that came from Baghdad.

That was a sign that Maliki, Muqtada and Iran were still cooperating secretly, even as Maliki was ostensibly cooperating with the US military against Muqtada.

Maliki maintained ties with Muqtada because he needed his support. Muqtada, who had 30 members in the Iraqi parliament, had supplied the key votes that installed Maliki as prime minister at an April 2006 meeting in the Green Zone over which Iranian Quds Force commander Brigadier General Qasem Suleimani presided, according to a story by McClatchy newspapers.

The Mahdi Army had also played the key role in 2006 and early 2007 on behalf of the entire Shi'ite Alliance in the pivotal Battle of Baghdad against Sunni insurgents, by carrying out an "ethnic cleansing" campaign against Sunnis in a number of neighborhoods.

Sadrist deputies had left the government parliamentary bloc in September 2006, and Muqtada attacked Maliki's renewal of the
United Nations mandate for the foreign military presence in November 2006.

In early 2007, however, Maliki's national security adviser, Nassar al-Rubaie, told Reuters that they were negotiating on a proposal for a timetable for withdrawal to heal the rift with Muqtada. He also expressed dismay at the US military desire to "lure Muqtada into direct confrontation".

The Sadrists worked out an arrangement with Maliki under which US troops could be kept out of Sadr City. Iraqi troops would take the lead in establishing security in the Sadrist enclave, and US troops would not intervene unless there was resistance by the Mahdi Army.

But the US military refused to honor the agreement and carried out large-scale sweeps and even air strikes in Sadr City beginning in early 2007, claiming that they were only targeting those "special groups".

The Mahdi Army command for secret military operations apparently planned their counter-attack in Karbala in the hope of having some leverage over the US military in Iraq.

Even as Maliki was ostensibly agreeing to US attacks on Mahdi Army commanders in Sadr City, Petraeus told author Bing West in September 2007 that the political link between Maliki and Muqtada was far from being broken. "JAM [the Mahdi Army] has its hooks into the ministries," Petraeus told him. "It took years to get this point, and it will take some time to get rid of it. Maliki is working his way through it."

A series of moves from September 2007 to mid-2008 marked the unfolding of a strategy by Maliki, supported by Iran, to get Muqtada to curb the Mahdi Army's role in order to maneuver the George W Bush administration into negotiating a timetable for total withdrawal.

Iran prevailed on Muqtada to agree to a unilateral ceasefire in September 2007 and to end fighting in Basra and Sadr City in late March and early May 2008. The latter two agreements prevented US troops from carrying out major offensives in both cases.

The quid pro quo for Muqtada's agreement to those ceasefires appears to have been the promise of a US troop withdrawal.

Maliki's renewal of the alliance with Muqtada on the way to forming a new Shi'ite government has brought strong protest from the Barack
Obama administration. US ambassador James Jeffrey has repeatedly said in recent weeks that Muqtada's inclusion in an Iraqi government is unacceptable to Washington.

But that protest has only underlined the fact that the United States is the odd man out in the Shi'ite-dominated politics of Iraq.

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist specializing in US national security policy.


Richard Holbrooke and a couple of his friends share laughs in the 'good old days.'

From Vietnam to Afghanistan to Wall Street and AIG, Holbrooke played the game of war and financial corruption very well. He made the zionists, bankers and the war machine very happy.

In repeating the accolades ad nauseam, the media will fail to mention his blood stained hands. The spin meisters even came up with some famous last words lies to tell the world - "You've got to stop this war in Afghanistan."

A more accurate description of Holbrooke's 'accomplishments' for the crime empire can be read here and here if you're interested.

So rest in peace Richard, Lord knows there was little of that during your tenure. And may your 'friends' join you soon....

Will the U.S. Lose Europe to Russia?

Inside the Doomsday Plane

Follow Nat Geo on an exclusive look inside the federal government's fail-safe in the event of an attack - the doomsday plane.....

Will the U.S. Lose Europe to Russia?

PARIS — The United States used to call wayward members of NATO back to the reservation with a whistle or a shout. It decided what was deviation from doctrine, and that decision was pretty much law.

When the Obama administration stamped its foot this time, no one snapped to attention.

Rather, Germany and France, meeting with Russia in Deauville, northern France, last week, signaled that they planned to make such three-cornered get-togethers on international foreign policy and security matters routine, and even extend them to inviting other “partners” — pointing, according to diplomats from two countries, to Turkey becoming a future participant.

That can look like an effort to deal with European security concerns in a manner that keeps NATO, at least in part, at a distance. And it could seem a formula making it easier for Russia to play off — absolutely no novelty here — the European allies against the United States, or NATO and the European Union, against one another.

But there’s more detail in the theoretical Euro-Atlantic apostasy department: Add Chancellor Angela Merkel’s proposal, made in June, that the European Union and Russia establish their own Political and Security Committee, and President Nicolas Sarkozy’s intention, enunciated in Deauville, to establish an E.U.-Russia economic space “with common security concepts.”

Just before the Deauville meeting, Vladimir Chizov, Russia’s ambassador to the E.U., leapt ahead of the Merkel/Sarkozy plans and told a reporter that Russia now wants a formalized relationship with the existing E.U. committee on foreign and security policy. “I don’t expect to be sitting at every committee session,” he said, “but there should be some mechanism that would enable us to take joint steps.”

As for the Obama administration stamping its foot, what it came down to was a senior U.S. official saying: “Since when, I wonder, is European security no longer an issue of American concern, but something for Europe and Russia to resolve? After being at the center of European security for 70 years, it’s strange to hear that it’s no longer a matter of U.S. concern.”

So, a follow-on burst of European contrition? I asked a German official about it. He spoke of German and French loyalty to NATO. And he said, “I understand there are American suspicions.”

“But,” he added, “the United States must accept that the times are changing. There are examples of it having done this. Why wouldn’t it accept our view in this respect?”

The official did not list them, but there are obvious factors explaining the French and German initiatives.

A major one is President Barack Obama’s perceived lack of interest and engagement in Europe. His failure to attend a Berlin ceremony commemorating the end of the Cold War and his cancellation of a meeting involving the E.U.’s new president has had symbolic weight.

At the same time, the U.S. reset with Russia and the administration’s willingness to treat President Dmitri A. Medvedev as a potential Western-oriented partner has given the Germans and French the sense they were free to act on the basis of their own interpretations of the changes in Moscow.

In this European view, the United States has become significantly dependent on Russia through its maintenance of military supply routes to Afghanistan and its heightened pressure, albeit in wavering measure, on Iran. Because the reset is portrayed by the administration to be a U.S. foreign policy success, criticism from Washington of Russia is at a minimum.

Consider this irony: the more Russia makes entry into the E.U.’s decision-making processes on security issues a seeming condition for deals the French and/or Germans want (think, for example, of France’s proposed sale to Moscow of Mistral attack vessels), the more the impression takes hold that the administration’s focus for complaint about the situation has been off-loaded onto the Europeans.

Example: Ivo H. Daalder, the United States’ permanent representative at NATO, gave a speech in Paris last week in which he skipped over the Russians’ maneuvering, but described as “baffling” and “very strange” that “NATO doesn’t have a real strategic partnership with the E.U.”

True enough. On the other hand, Russia is getting a whole series of passes: Ten days ago, when Mr. Medvedev offered Hugo Chávez of Venezuela help to build the country’s first nuclear power station, the State Department expressed concern about technology migrating to “countries that should not have that technology” — but added (bafflingly), that the relationship between Venezuela and Russia (for years Iran’s supplier of nuclear wherewithal) “is not of concern to us.”

Last week, more of the same. When Mr. Medvedev bestowed Russia’s highest honors at a Kremlin ceremony on a group of sleeper spies who were expelled from the United States last July, a State Department spokesman turned away a reporter’s question with a “no comment.” Washington chooses not to say anything either about Mr. Medvedev’s support, repeated in Deauville, for Mr. Sarkozy’s plan, as next year’s president of the G-20 consultative grouping, to focus its attention on limiting the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency.

In the Deauville aftermath, the Americans have preferred applauding Mr. Medvedev’s decision to come to a NATO summit meeting in Lisbon next month, following U.S. congressional elections. He is not expected to announce Russian participation in or endorsement of a U.S.-initiated antimissile shield for Europe — the United States’ notionally organic bond in strengthening the alliance’s trans-Atlantic future — yet the Russian president’s appearance as a guest on NATO’s turf could be seen as an important gesture of real cooperation.

Still, for all the Americans’ concern about Europe dealing with Russia on its own, there hardly has been a corresponding public statement from the administration that’s a call for caution about Moscow’s interest in setting up rivalries between NATO and the E.U. For David J. Kramer, a former senior State Department official with responsibility for Russia, the new circumstances show “the Russians now have far more leverage in the U.S. relationship than they should.”

It was unexpected in the circumstances, but at a briefing in the run-up to the Deauville meeting the administration liked so little, a French presidential source put a big asterisk — more than Washington does openly — next to France’s desire to create “an anchorage in the West” out of “fragile” indications of change in Russia.

“We do not have assurance there is a permanent strategic turn,” the Élysée Palace said....

In the aftermath of a trilateral German-French-Russian heads of state meeting, John Vinocur (or a headline writer at the Herald Tribune) wonders whether the U.S. is losing Europe to Russia. There are a few problems with this way of addressing this issue, not least of which is the fact that Russia is in no way capable of providing the same kind of partnership to Europe that the U.S. does. It also confuses an effort to harmonize relations with an alignment, and ignores the point of such a harmonization, which is to mitigate the significant power that Russia already exercises within the European security sphere through its ability to interfere with energy supplies and destabilize Europe's easternmost members.

Finally, as Vinocur points out by citing a French source at Elysée Palace, it's premature to assess whether Russia's Western turn represents a permanent, or even a durable strategic shift. If you take the 2008 Russia-Georgia War as the highwater mark of Russian belligerence toward the U.S. and NATO, certainly the past year points in that direction.

But it bears noting that in the intervening two years, Russia has essentially accomplished all of the foreign policy objectives previously driving that belligerence. NATO's eastward expansion is off the table. The U.S. European-based missile defense system has been modified and multilateralized (although as Richard Weitz's WPR column today makes clear, it remains problematic). And Russian dominance in Central Asia is re-established.

In light of that, Russia's concerns have now begun to resemble more closely those of Europe and the U.S. -- namely, China's expanding influence, both globally and in Central Asia, as well as regional stability in Afghanistan and the Middle East.

That raises the question that poses the biggest problem to this sort of Russia fearmongering: Assuming the very unlikely emergence of an alignment between Europe and Russia that did replace the trans-Atlantic relationship, in what policy and regional areas would that threaten U.S. interests? Central Asia is a contested space mainly to assure European energy security, which such an alignment would logically moot. Interests in Afghanistan overlap entirely, with differences mainly concerning method (counternarcotics policy, in particular). On Iran, Europe is very closely aligned with the U.S. view, and would more likely exercise a moderating influence on Russia than the reverse. And in terms of balancing against China, Russia's Far East territory would provide a very useful northwestern frontier to preoccupy Chinese strategists. As for counterterrorism, counterproliferation and anti-piracy, Russia has been relatively cooperative, even at the height of its belligerent period.

A lot of the anxiety these kinds of summits provoke can be traced to a lingering distrust of European diplomacy, which is seen by most Americans as not Manichean enough. But the flipside of Europe's pragmatism is that it is driven by self-interest. And it will be quite a while before it is in Europe's interest to abandon the trans-Atlantic relationship. In the meantime, a more closely harmonized relationship with Moscow not only resembles the current U.S. policy toward Russia, but is in everyone's interest....

Gen. Shelton confirms, Iraq War based on a series of utter US Lies....

When do the War Crimes Trials begin...???

In his recently published memoir, "Without Hesitation: The Odyssey of an American Warrior," General Hugh Shelton, who served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1997 to 2001, called the Iraq war "unnecessary" and said that the Bush team went to war "based on a series of lies."

Shelton also said that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Deputy Secretary of State Paul Wolfowitz and other Pentagon officials pushed for war in Iraq "almost to the point of insubordination."

This is not some voice from the peanut gallery.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is - by law - the highest ranking military officer in the United States armed forces, and the principal military adviser to the President of the United States. The Chairman outranks all respective heads of each service branch, including the heads of the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines.

Thank you, General Shelton, for confirming what Seymour Hersh and many others have been saying since 2003 (and see this)....