Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ebony and Ivory: Israel's plan to take control of Ivory Coast

December , 2010 -- Ebony and Ivory: Israel's plan to take control of Ivory Coast...

What is behind the corporate media's angst over one president refusing to step down in Africa.....

While there are few heroes and plenty of villains in the incessant civil strife and political upheaval in Ivory Coast, there is one common denominator in the current post-election turmoil that has seen incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo, who has led the West African country since 2000, refusing to concede defeat in the recent presidential election. That common denominator is Israel and its extended influence-peddling racket throughout the world....

Gbagbo, a socialist opponent of the late long-serving president Felix Houphouet-Boigny, is currently being warned by the Obama administration, the UN Security Council, the African Union, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to step down in favor of his November 28, 2010 election opponent Alassane Ouattara, whose support is mainly derived from the country's Muslim north. Gbagbo, whose support comes from the mainly Christian south, has refused to step down and he has declared himself the victor in the election. Gbagbo survived a 2002 coup attempt by rebel army officers but the nation was plunged into a bloody civil war in the aftermath. French peacekeeping troops arrived to restore order in the former French colony.

Ouattara, who is originally from neighboring Burkina Faso, is charged by Gbagbo supporters of being a proxy of that nation's dictator Blaise Campaore, who seized power from leftist president Thomas Sankara in a 1987 coup with the assistance of France, the United States, and Israel.... Sankara was murdered in the coup. Ouattara has lived in Ivory Coast for some fifty years and is, according to the Constitution of Ivory Coast, eligible to run for and serve as president.

The Israeli connection to events in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso do not stop with Israel's past involvement in coups and rebellions in Burkina Faso and neighboring countries. With Ivory Coast being at a nexus of the Israeli-influenced gold and diamond trade in the region, Ivory Coast is a natural target for Israeli ambitions. Ouattara, a Muslim, is married to Dominique Nouvian Folleroux, a MOSSAD/Sephardic Jew born in Algiers....

Nouvian Folleroux has been described by many Ivoirians as a "femme fatale," who has been linked with a number of Ivorian politicians, including the late president Houphouet-Boigny. She has reportedly had relationships with Vocational Training Minister Bamba Vamoussa and the Governor of the Central Bank of the West African States, Abdoulaye Fadiga.

Nouvian Folleroux's romantic relationship with Fadiga, who was also the Africa director for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in Washington, lasted until Fadiga's death in 1988. Nouvian Folleroux established the Abidjan, Ivory Coast office of the AICI real estate firm of Paris, She also became heavily involved with financial and real estate activities in the Ivory Coast, a nation that was starting to draw a number of western tourists because of its relative stability in a region wracked by civil unrest.

Soon, Nouvian Folleroux became linked to the aging Ivorian president Houhouet-Boigny, who, in 1990, named her to the Ivory Coast Inter-ministerial committee for the revival of the economy. The chairman of the committee was Alsssane Ouattara....

In fact, Nouvian Folleroux was Houphouet-Boigny's official mistress. As Houphouet-Boigny lapsed into severe dementia, Nouvian Folleroux became the administrator of the old despot's massive estate, supplemented with hefty amounts of cash over the years with bribes from France.... Under strong pressure from Nouvian Folleroux, the sickly Houphouet-Boigny appointed Ouattara as his Prime Minister in 1990. When Houphouet-Boigny died in 1993, Ouattara was the acting president.

Soon, Ouattara became a fixture in Washington, DC, serving as executive vice president of the IMF from 1994 to 1999, and he suddenly obtained a great amount of unaccounted for wealth. However, it is now believed by many in Ivory Coast that Nouvian Folleroux and Ouattara jointly cooperated in siphoning off Ivorian wealth to foreign bank accounts.... Nouvian Folleroux's influence convinced Houphouet-Boigy to start the privatization of state-owned enterprises. Much of the money from the sales of those enterprises ended up in the coffers of Ouattara and his wife, who became the owner in 1996 of the Institute Jacques MOSSAD Dessange, a French beauty company based in Washington. Mrs. Ouattara also opened French Beauty Services, which runs a chain of hair salons, beautician schools, and hair product distributorships across the United States. According to the Dessange USA website, the company continues to do business as: NEW FBS USA, LLC with Dominique Ouattara as President & CEO.

The future first couple of Ivory Coast, if the U.S., IMF, World Bank, France and Israel succeed in forcing Laurent Gbagbo from power as President.

Mrs. Ouattara's AICI real estate empire also extended to Gabon, where she established close links to that nation's dictator, Omar Bongo, and Ouagadougou, the Burkina Faso capital, and the regime of Ouattara's friend Campaore. Mrs. Ouattara is also a close friend of French President Nicolas MOSSAD Sarkozy and IMF President Dominique MOSSAD Strauss-Kahn. Alassane Ouattara is seen as being in the hip pocket of the IMF and World Bank and a strong champion of globalization. Gbagbo, a Socialist, and Segolene Royal, the French Socialist opponent of Sarkozy in the 2007 presidential election, have both drawn attention to Mrs. Ouattara's involvement with the barons of the French media who are close to Sarkozy, MOSSAD and CIA.... Part of the reason why the Ivory Coast election is even being reported in the corporate media is that Ouattara's ascendancy to the Ivorian presidency is in the interests of the neocon cabals of Paris, Tel Aviv and Washington who also conveniently control the mass media in France and the United States.

The Israel angle in Ivory Coast is also apparent in the man Gbagbo has hired as his chief lobbyist to argue his case, so far unsuccessfully, in Washington, Lanny Davis, the former special counsel to President Clinton who has also lobbied for the Pakistani government, the brutal Equatorial Guinean dictator Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, and the Honduran military junta that ousted President Manuel Zelaya in a 2009 military coup. Davis is also the spokesman for The Israel Project, which peddles Israeli influence in Washington, DC. When asked by us whether Davis was playing both sides in Ivory Coast, considering that Ouattara is backed by Israeli-linked interests, an American politician who has followed Ivory Coast events for a number of years, replied that Davis was "selling out the side that's paying him [Gbagbo] for the side that's got Israeli ties [Ouattara].....

On a side Note....

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reset: Iran, Turkey and America's Future

Reset: Iran, Turkey and America's Future
by Stephen Kinzer

Reviewed by Sreeram Chaulia

While the Barack Obama administration has achieved a "reset" to calm hitherto stormy relations with Russia, it is still adrift in the unforgiving terrain of the Middle East. Over the last two years, the United States has tried donning the roles of a neutral peace broker and a conciliator in this region, but the stalemates and dangerous face-offs have not died down. Chances of new wars that would embroil the US remain high in the Middle East, despite Obama's attempts to reach out to foes and restructure equations with allies.

Inferring from award-winning foreign correspondent Stephen Kinzer's new book, it appears that the main reason why the US continues to mope around without breakthroughs is its inability to "reset" toxic partnerships with Saudi Arabia and Israel. The author maintains that unless Washington inches closer to Turkey and Iran, while distancing itself from Saudi Arabia and Israel, the Middle East is doomed to repeat old patterns of war, terrorism, autocracy and despair.

Kinzer begins with a historical overview of popular struggles for democracy in Iran and Turkey, both of which were inspired and aided by the US. American sympathies for Iran's constitutional democracy movement go back to figures like Howard Baskerville and Morgan Shuster, a schoolteacher and a lawyer who lived in Iran and assisted anti-monarchical and anti-colonial movements at critical junctures before World War I. Iranians of that era saw the US as a benevolent anti-colonial foreign power that was unlike exploitative European imperialists such as Britain and Russia.

Around this time, radical Turks inspired by ideas of liberty and parliamentarianism challenged Ottoman absolutism. Mustafa Kemal's war against "backwardness" and concerted push for modernity by infusing principles like self-determination and citizenship had parallels to the career of George Washington in the US. In 1923, Kemal established the first ever republic in a Muslim country and transformed Turkish society along Western Enlightenment lines. He carved out a secular state, a novelty in the Middle East which was imitated by Reza Shah in Iran, albeit not with the same degree of success.

In the nascent Cold War years, the US was welcomed in both Turkey and Iran as a necessary democratic counter to Soviet expansionary designs. But the Central Intelligence Agency-orchestrated coup d'etat against Iranian prime minister Mohammad Mossadeq in 1953 sullied the American image irreparably. Kinzer captures the angry outlook of Iranians since that catastrophic blow as follows: "We had a democracy once, but you (Americans) took it away from us!" (pg 99)

Anti-American sentiment also rose in Turkey in the 1960s in response to the massive Cold War-induced US military presence in the country. A low-level civil war and repeated military coups in Turkey from the 1970s onward were serious setbacks to democracy that the US abetted in the name of containing communism. Washington enjoyed manipulating the pro-Western client regimes in Turkey and Iran (up to 1979), but it had scarce goodwill at the societal level in both these countries during the Cold War. Many Iranians who participated in the 1979 Revolution to overthrow the "pro-American Shah" ironically hoped for a return to the democracy the US had robbed from them in 1953.

In Ayatollah-ruled Iran, a strong democratic consciousness survives despite the stunting of civic life by an oppressive Islamist theocracy. Kinzer cites the spontaneous uprising after the disputed 2009 presidential elections as evidence that "Iranians, like Turks, grasp the essence of democracy and want the freedom that their Turkish neighbors enjoy." (pg 141)

The century-long experience of fighting for (and intermittently losing) democracy sets Turkey and Iran apart from their neighbors in the Middle East. Kinzer believes that the memory and yearning for democracy is most advanced in these two countries, making them "good soul mates for Americans." (pg 11) Shared political values and culture allow them to be more promising allies of the US than Riyadh and Tel Aviv. The "old triangle" (US-Saudi Arabia-Israel) has not yielded stability in the Middle East and has kept unleashing waves of violence and repression.

Kinzer proposes a new American grand strategy involving a fundamental shift away from coddling Saudi Arabia and Israel, states that have not served US long-term interests. During the Cold War, a tight alliance between Washington and Riyadh was sealed by oil, arms procurement and covert funding of anti-American movements around the world. This occurred in spite of what Kinzer characterizes as "the vast cultural and psychological chasm that separates Americans from Wahhabi Arabs". (pg 146) A society dominated by religious zealots who detest modernity, Saudi Arabia is the antithesis of the American way of life.

The US-Israel special relationship is, of course, underpinned by shared values, ideals and Biblical traditions, but Israel's importance to Washington during the Cold War stemmed from its Saudi-like role as a secret conduit for training and arming regimes and rebel groups that the US could not openly associate with. As "dirty war" contractors for the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia destabilized societies on a global scale. But with no superpower rivalry around anymore, argues Kinzer, the US has a chance to re-imagine its retrogressive relations with these two Middle Eastern powers.

The author contends that the optimal solution for democratizing Saudi Arabia would be for Washington to untie its intensely intimate camaraderie with the Zionist al-Saud family. This course will permit Saudi society to "mature in its own way, make its own mistakes, and find its own path". (pg 182)

To resolve the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Kinzer recommends that the US impose a peace plan of its own by drawing upon past UN resolutions. Such a bold move can only occur if Washington can overcome the "Israel-right-or-wrong mantra" in the American body politic. How the Obama administration or its successors can practically override the Israel lobby is perhaps too sensitive a topic for Kinzer to grapple, but such a path does hold clues to a more peaceful future in the Middle East.

In the past decade, Turkey has emerged as a hyperactive international peacemaker. Ankara's blending of Islam with democracy has lent it a newfound legitimacy in the Muslim world, which had previously dismissed it as an American lackey. Turkey's conscious reinvention after "decoupling" itself from the US has yielded substantial soft power benefits. Kinzer urges Washington to welcome this development instead of feeling irritated at the loss of an erstwhile stooge.

Although the Obama administration prematurely rejected the Turkish-brokered initiative to resolve the Iranian nuclear program crisis, it is in the US' best interests to be guided by Turkey on major outstanding problems in the region. Kinzer cautions against the typical American habit of not "listening to other powers", which could undo a potential recalibrated partnership with Turkey. Viewing Turkey as a vassal state and expecting it to be a "yes man" is now outdated, especially as it has widened its global reach as a problem solver after the European Union threw up insurmountable barriers to admitting it as a member.

Whether Washington likes it or not, Iran too has grown like Turkey into a major regional power in the last decade. An accommodation with the regime in Tehran serves American strategic interests, but such a deal must not come at the cost of crushing Iran's besieged civil society and pro-democracy movement. A lasting normalization of US-Iran ties may have to wait until moderate democratic forces find their feet in Iranian politics.

To generalize that the US has got it all wrong in the Middle East is easy and almost cliched. Correcting the imbalances in Washington's relations in the region requires a sea change in the domestic balance of power within the US as well as a mitigation of neo-imperial motivations in its foreign policy.

Kinzer's thesis of "reset", however out-of-the-box, is premised upon an uncritical and benign understanding of the nature and purpose of US foreign policy in the post-Cold War world. But his message that the US should carefully live up to expectations of nourishing democracy and freedom in the Middle East, without overly interfering in the region, is a decent and hopeful one....

For CIA drone warriors, the future is death

26 12 2010

[Here we have part II of Asia Times dispensation of latest dangerous CIA myth, that "Al-CIAda" has established a "watershed" in the area around Chaman. As with all CIA "Public Diplomacy" psyops such as this, the well-placed agency writer/patsies, like Syed Saleem Shahzad, follow the traditional tactic of citing his last installment as established fact and self-reinforcing proof of his latest claims. His words gain credibility when unnamed "security officials" give unsubstantiated leaks that are echoed by current news reports--"al-Qaeda" captured in Chaman, coinciding with British press claims of Iran releasing "al-Qaeda" leaders.... This tactic echoes the mind-bending techniques perfected in Oliver North, William Casey and Otto Reich's Central American "Contra" deception operations.... They have been working on these techniques for a long time-- I guess that is why it takes old researchers with long memories like Robert Parry to tie today's CIA deceptions with yesterday's CIA deceptions....

The following line gives away his entire deception, expressing truthfully what he and the spooks would like us to believe.]

“An indication of a strong pro-al-Qaeda LJ presence in the region shows a complete anti-thesis of the grand American designs for an endgame,”

[Keep in mind that the covert government has entrapped us in a Hegelian trap, intending to trick the American people and everyone else into embracing contradictory solutions. Seen in this light, the CIA mouthpiece's words make it a little easier for us to understand what is going on. If they want us to believe that "al-Qaeda" has established a beachhead near Quetta, then the opposite of that is the real truth--THERE IS NO ISLAMIST PRESENCE IN QUETTA, except for a few token "Islamists" imported into the area for publicity purposes, such as the alleged IMU terrorists also supposedly captured near Chaman, on the same day as Bugti's 12-16 vehicle convoy was busted allegedly importing heavy weapons.

The US Army/CIA must be getting desperate to attempt such a lame gambit, even though it probably will give them their objective, allowing military actions to flow from Kandahar into Baluchistan. The flurry of Iran/al-Qaeda/IMU reports will increase and become blurred with those about Shahzain Bugti.]

[For those of you who know the work of Asia Times reporter, Mr. Syed Saleem Shahzad (or his Agency counterpart, Mr. Michael Scheuer SEE: CIA Sees Dead People), you already know that he is used to introduce false narratives, the “official version” of planned events. He previously outlined the “Taliban split” psyop that introduced the official story on the TTP to the world.

Now, Syed is setting us up for the next psyop, by introducing the concept of the “strategic corridor” into the media (SEE: ‘Final Solution’ Frenzy – Part Four: Final Solution for Pakistan), only he is doing his usual job of flipping the truth, making claims that it is “al Qaida” who has plans to occupy the western corner of Baluchistan, setting us up by introducing the false plot line, in order to justify pursuit by the American/international coalition.

A sudden surge in attacks on Afghanistan-bound (through the Chaman-Kandahar border crossing) North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) supplies, a hallmark of al-Qaeda and its allied groups, especially in the ethnically Baloch regions of Baluchistan, forced decision-makers for the first time to rethink the serious penetration of al-Qaeda in the region that had been the domain and ownership of the indigenous Pashtun Taliban.

“This is evidence that the situation is clearly slipping out of control,” a senior security official told Asia Times Online. “There was a hope in the past that Pakistan could intervene and talk through the Taliban who run southwestern Afghanistan without any al-Qaeda influence, but if they have opened a theater in Baluchistan, that means the situation is taking a new turn and the war theater will flare up.”

“An indication of a strong pro-al-Qaeda LJ presence in the region shows a complete anti-thesis of the grand American designs for an endgame.....,” the Pakistani security official said.

[We are a long way from the point where our Afghan follies are admittedly described as mistakes. Even though most of us already understand that we have failed, very few are willing to admit that the entire terror war has been a huge mistake. Just like our failure in Vietnam, there is a time lag of years between the point where we realize that we have lost and the point where we understand why we have lost--because we were wrong all along. Between that future time where we understand our massive error and now, how many more people will die and how many more uncounted billions will be poured down the bottomless pit?

If America really had a peace movement, then we would now be witnesses to and participants in a massive effort to save our sinking country by hastening the day of our understanding. Unlike the ending of the previous war, the resolution of the this war will affect our own survival as a functioning Nation. The longer it takes to reach its inevitable conclusion, the worse our chances become to survive the impending economic/military collapse. As long as we keep dedicating trillions to a lost war and trillions more to the corrupt financial centers who have financed that corrupt war (fueled on pure debt), we will have nothing left but austerity to deal with our real problems. If we resolve it more quickly, devoting less resources to futile schemes at "winning," then the more resources will be available to fix the collateral damage.

There is nothing as costly to a Nation as an entire government of failed leaders who are intent upon hiding their mistakes. A single admission of error is seen as the final fatal mistake.....]

For CIA drone warriors, the future is death
By Pepe Escobar

Forget the iPad; the ultimate icon of fetishized commodity is the drone. Israelis do it - and sell them like hot cakes.... Mexicans do it - to patrol their side of the border. Brazilians wanna do it - to patrol the Rio favelas. Saudis wanna do it..... Uzbeks wanna do it..... Everybody's singing: Let's do it. Let's fall in love (with the drone).....

Furthermore, abandon all hope those who enter (the doors of misperception): Afghanistan is now officially just a lowly, troop-infested sideshow to the AfPak war. The real thing is an illegal drone war against Pakistan. Viva Richard Nixon. As much as Tricky Dick annexed Cambodia to the Vietnam War, the Barack Obama administration pulled a Nixon regarding Pakistan. And the great thing is that no one needs another CIA/WikiLeaks "dump" to know this. It's out there in the open.

Tricky Dick's tricks paved the way to Year Zero for the Khmer Rouge. Obama's throw of the dice may be paving the way to a Year Zero for the Pashtun brotherhood. The 16-agency US intelligence establishment says the Afghan adventure is doomed. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is somewhat gloomy. But the surge-addicted White House - in a stark reminder of those George W Bush-era reports about Iraq - says it's all swell (Taliban "momentum has been arrested in much of the country"). Pentagon supremo Robert Gates says Washington now controls more Afghan territory than a year ago; maybe in terms of Kabul shopping malls - and that's already a stretch.

Taliban momentum, anyway, is just an afterthought. What matters for the White House is to smash ("significant progress") al-CIAda, allegedly holed up not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan's tribal areas. Take them Pakistani Talibs out from the air, with the CIA playing Ride of the Valkyries, just like in an orgiastic Facebook-friendly remix of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, with all those US Marine tanks rolling along in Helmand province offering a cute counterpart. I love the smell of a burning Talib in the morning. Makes me think of ... re-election.

But what about collateral damage? Tough guys of the "real men go to Tehran" type say this is for sissies (the New America Foundation says around a third of drone deaths are civilians, but that's hugely underestimated, according to Pakistani sources.) Blowback, anyway, is guaranteed to last until the 22nd century.

Faster CIA, kill, kill

So it's not the Pentagon but the CIA that is showering Death from Above over dirt-poor mud-hut villages in a country against which the US is not at war. Things may change - witness the frenzy to legally nail "terrorist" Julian Assange - but US law does not exactly condone mass assassination campaigns.

The CIA drone war is obviously secret and illegal. That can be fixed with the incoming chairman of the US House Armed Services Committee updating the congressional authorization for this extended war on al-Qaeda. As for Pashtuns collaborating with the CIA, they are technically Afghans, not Pakistanis, from different tribes; that will foster centuries of subsequent tribal trouble once the families of the dead ascertain who the snitches are.

Whatever the rhetoric emanating from Washington in 2011, the game will keep being duly played according to only one plot-advancing script; American Pentagonists visit Islamabad/Rawalpindi to warn the Pakistanis of Washington's perennial "strategic impatience" with what they're doing, while their military/intelligence establishment go live to spin they're doing all they can, but also need to be watchful of Pakistan's own interests.

In a nutshell: expect for 2011 an endless parade of Predators and Reapers firing barrages of missiles at the usual "suspected militants" in North Waziristan, Khyber or anywhere else in the tribal areas; and forget about Islamabad/Rawalpindi sending their army into North Waziristan to fight "al-Qaeda" or even the local tribes.

What this essentially means is that the nebula/myth conveniently branded "al-Qaeda" remains in the clear. There's no way its few dozen invisible jihadis can be crushed by the CIA's illegal air war, not to mention troops from Islamabad/Rawalpindi. And even supposing they were, the "franchises" would still be in business - as in AQAP, al-CIAda in the Arabian Peninsula/Yemen.....

Drone Eye for the Straight Guy

Who cares about Don't Ask, Don't Tell? The new hit in all things AfPak is Drone Eye for the Straight Guy. The next chief of the CIA's National Clandestine Service - that is, the CIA's new top spy - is John D Bennett, none other than the former head of a drone-infested CIA paramilitary wing. An Associated Press story even claimed that he directed the drones in Pakistan during the Bush era.

Even the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General "Hoss" Cartwright, has totally gone Drone Eye for the Straight Guy. As he sees it, COIN is now history; the hip thing to do is "counter-terrorism", as in drone-saturated air war. Consider the drone war as Washington's premier stimulus package to Central Asia.

Progress in over-stimulated Afghanistan, according to the Obama administration's year-end report, is "frail and reversible". This means in practice that for all the spin, missile-saturated Kandahar is not becoming Orange county anytime soon.

The Afghanistan plot won't thicken; it will dilute in the usual diarrhea. Afghans will keep saying over and over again they are not exactly Taliban fans - but they hate the corrupt Hamid Karzai gang and Washington even more, for allowing their occupied country to be controlled by gangsters and warlords.

Washington will keep tweaking its losing "strategy" of smashing the Taliban with extreme firepower. The Taliban for their part have already fine-tuned their own strategy of "flee the south-go north". All the roads in Afghanistan lead to Kabul; not by accident, all are intercepted or under Taliban attack. Karzai rule stops abruptly at the last rickety police station south of Kabul, on the road to Kandahar. It's as if Kabul was enveloped by an eerie Titanic feeling - that pampered, gated-condo isolated neo-colonial coterie of generals, diplomats, non-governmental organizations and security contractors partying hard as in before the fall of Saigon.

But soon anyway a "new" narrative will be taking over - the snail-pace North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) "drawdown" from 2011 to 2014. But does that mean the beginning of the endgame - no more war? Rather it's back to the beginning, as in "abandon all hope those who enter (the doors of misperception)". To (literally) thunderous applause by a coterie of neophyte neo-jihadi bombers, the Obama White House has explicitly emphasized "NATO's enduring commitment beyond 2014".

A key feature of this "enduring commitment" is that the Afghan army soldiers and cops NATO is training (supplemented by US private contractors of the Dyncorp/Blackwater mould) will need no less than US$6 billion a year, every year, till probably eternity, from the usually euphemistic "international donors", key among them US taxpayers.

It's a gas, gas, gas

And here's where The Year of the Drone merges with what the late, great deconstructionist Jacques Lacan would qualify as "the unsayable": the invisible, dangerous liaisons between the "war on terror" and the energy war, as in the topography of the war on terror matching all the key 21st-century sources of energy from the Middle East to Central Asia.

This implies a key Pipelineistan chapter - the never-ending saga of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, which has been at the very core of the troubled Washington-Kabul marriage since the mid-1990s.

The TAPI inter-government agreement was finally signed in mid-December. Make no mistake; this is Washington in overdrive. The Washington-backed Asian Development Bank is to come up with the bulk of the $7.6 billion (and counting) financial package. The 2,000 kilometer-long TAPI - to be built by an international consortium - should snake through a very dodgy 735 kilometers of Afghanistan and 800 kilometers of Pakistan.

Hype apart, there's no hard evidence that TAPI will "stabilize" Afghanistan or contribute to India and Pakistan trading kisses instead of insults. AfPak in this case are both transit countries. Most of the Afghan stretch will be underground - much as the US-supported BTC from Baku in Azerbaijan to Ceyhan, Turkey. In theory, local villages will be paid to guard the pipeline. But that still does not guarantee security to a steel serpent crossing western Afghanistan and then going east through Kandahar.

Once again in theory, TAPI is indeed a steel Silk Road between Central and South Asia. If TAPI is ever built - and that's still a big "if" - certainly it will mark a monster crossover of Pipelineistan with the US Empire of Bases. Because none other than the Pentagon and NATO will provide the overall security. And that means the Atlanticist West forever embedded in AfPak. One can imagine what the Taliban on both sides - not to mention disgruntled Pashtuns in general - will make of that.

And even if TAPI is built, this still does not mean that its key competitor, the $7.3 billion Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline, also known as the "peace pipeline", has lost the battle - much to Washington's horror. The Indians have said that much - they are now chasing insurance giants of the Lloyds variety. And Pakistan definitely wants both TAPI and IPI.

TAPI theoretically should be finished by 2014. Surprise! That's exactly the deadline year (for now ...) for American troops to exit Afghanistan. No one will be exiting anything. Finally, the whole AfPak imbroglio will be revealed for what it is; a Pipelineistan gambit.

Meanwhile, enjoy the Year of the Drone. And while we're at it, here's some breaking news. The 2011 Pentagon/NATO strategy for AfPak is already established: wait for the Taliban spring/summer offensive to see where they're at. And then drone them to death. Call it Drone Eye for the Bad Guy....

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

NATO weaves South Asian web, TAPI is the finished product of the US invasion of Afghanistan....

NATO weaves South Asian web, TAPI is the finished product of the US invasion of Afghanistan....

By M K Bhadrakumar

[ In sum, TAPI is the finished product of the US invasion of Afghanistan... It consolidates NATO's political and military presence in the strategic high plateau that overlooks Russia, Iran, India, Pakistan and China. TAPI provides a perfect setting for the alliance's future projection of military power for "crisis management" in Central Asia.....]

What the summit meeting of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) at Lisbon last month brought to mind almost instinctively was that the persistent rumors about the alliance's death were indeed greatly exaggerated. The striking thing was the degree of internal unity and outward determination among the alliance's 28 members.

In recent years, derisive dismissals have featured galore in international discourse about the "dysfunctional irrelevance" of NATO and an alliance characterized as a "Cold War relic". In South Asia - Indian, in particular - this almost resulted in an intellectual ellipsis while dwelling on the overall United States regional strategies in the overlapping Afghanistan-Pakistan conflicts. In fact, NATO hardly figured in the Indian discourses on Afghanistan as an issue of consequence.

Facile impressions gathered in the South Asian strategic community that the US was desperately seeking an "exit strategy" in Afghanistan and was about to "cut and run" from the Hindu Kush.

The NATO summit in Lisbon at the end of November, therefore, came as an eye-opener for South Asians. Voices in the transatlantic space that questioned the continued the raison d'etre of the alliance have fallen completely silent.

Equally, alliance members of both Old and New Europe seem to have recognized that NATO has successfully maneuvered though a transitional phase and completed a process of adjustment in the post-Cold War era. Fundamental divergences in matters of alliance policy are no more.

Unscathed psyche
Quite obviously, the alliance is well on the way to transforming into a global political-military role, and it is forward-looking. There are skeptical voices still that in an era of European austerity, a question mark ought to be put on the alliance's ambitions. European cutbacks in military deployment and rigorous savings programs in defense budgets should not be overplayed, either. NATO is by far today the most powerful military and political alliance in the world.

The US has always been the main provider of the alliance's budget - almost 75% currently - as well as its "hard power". The perceived widening of the US-Europe "divide", however, presents a complex scenario as regards the alliance's evolution as a security organization in the 21st century.

As NATO secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen underlined at the Lisbon summit, "The United States would look elsewhere for its security partner." A kind of "division of labor" in international interventions becomes necessary for the US. The Iraq war showed that it is already happening.

The various partnership programs of NATO in Central Asia and the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Mediterranean regions can be viewed as part of the overall approach to take recourse to other states or groups of states to promote the Euro-Atlantic interests globally.

In a manner of speaking, the "concepts" of power are expanding and NATO is seeking ways and means to eliminate unwanted duplications so as to coordinate more efficiently. At any rate, the handwringing over NATO's impending retreat from the world arena as a military alliance pretty much ended in Lisbon.

On the other hand, it has been replaced by an unequivocal acceptance of the continued raison d'etre of the trans-Atlantic alliance - and the US's leadership role in it - as well as the need of a robust search for partnerships in other regions. Clearly, the US will continue to give primacy to its transatlantic security partnership and intends to use NATO as a key instrument for exerting influence globally as well as for preventing the emergence of any independent power center that challenges its preeminence.

US President Barrack Obama's tour of the Asian region in November (just before NATO gathered in Lisbon), which included stops in India, Indonesia and South Korea, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's extensive tours of the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the Asia-Pacific region in recent months underscore that the US is bolstering defense ties in the region and scouting for underpinnings for the future expansion of NATO's partnerships in the region.

The thrust of the US strategy is quite clear. To quote former US secretary of state Madeline Albright, who headed NATO's Task Force to develop its new Strategic Concept adopted at the Lisbon summit, "[The] alliance is a solid house that would benefit from new locks and alarm system."

Rasmussen corroborated that the Lisbon summit's objective was to "ensure that NATO is more effective and more efficient" than ever before. He added: "More effective, because NATO will invest in key capabilities like missile defense, cyber-defense and long-range transport. More engaged, because NATO will reach out to connect with our partners around the globe, countries and other organizations. And more efficient, because we are cutting fat, even as we invest in muscle."

These objectives constituted the foundation of the New Strategic Concept for the coming decade adopted in Lisbon. As the objectives were fleshed out, three tasks got highlighted: collective defense, comprehensive crisis management and cooperative security. The Strategic Concept states, "We are firmly committed to preserve its [NATO's] effectiveness as the globe's most successful political-military alliance."

The core task will be to defend Europe and ensure the collective security of its 28 members, while the Strategic Concept envisages NATO's prerogative to mount expeditionary operations globally.

The document explicitly says, "Where conflict prevention proves unsuccessful, NATO will be prepared and capable to manage ongoing hostilities. NATO has unique conflict-management capacities, including the unparalleled capability to deploy and sustain robust military forces in the field."

The alliance pledged to strengthen and modernize its conventional forces and to develop the full range of military capabilities. It will remain a nuclear alliance while developing a missile defense capability. The Strategic Concept reaffirmed that NATO will forge partnerships globally and reconfirmed the commitment to expand its membership to democratic states that meet the alliance's criteria.

To be sure, the Western alliance's habitation in the South Asian region will be shaping the geopolitics of the region in the coming period, and vice versa.

The discourses in the region blithely assumed until recently that NATO would have no appetite for far-flung operations and was desperately looking for an exit strategy in Afghanistan. On the contrary, what stood out from the Lisbon summit is that the NATO psyche comes out of the bloody war unscathed and, conceivably, the US may succeed in attaining a politically acceptable outcome for NATO's continued engagement in Afghanistan (and Pakistan).

'Robust, enduring partnership' with Kabul
Several questions arise as NATO transforms as a global security organization and establishes its long-term presence in the South Asian region. Will NATO be prepared to subject itself to the collective will of the international community as represented in the UN Charter, or will Article 5 of its charter (an armed attack against one or more [NATO members] in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all ....) continue to be the overriding principle?

There are huge uncertainties regarding regional security in South Asia. Border issues and beliefs and resentments expressed in Manichean categories, etc, are ransacking the security environment in the region.

The Western alliance has great experience in offering reassuring collective security and promoting reconciliation between the former Allied and Axis powers, as the difficult termination of Franco-German hostility shows. Will NATO aspire to be a framework for stabilizing the highly volatile and dangerous geopolitical situation in the South Asian region?

NATO is assertively proclaiming its preeminence as a security organization on the global plane and is yet sticking to its trans-Atlantic moorings against a backdrop where Europe's (the Western world's) dominance in international politics is on the wane and there is a shift in the locus of political and economic activity shifting away from the North Atlantic toward Asia.

To quote Zbigniew Brzezinski, "Whether they are "rising peacefully" (a self-confident China), truculently (an imperially nostalgic Russia) or boastfully (an assertive India, despite its internal multiethnic and religious vulnerabilities), they all desire a change in the global pecking order. The future conduct of an relationship among these three still relatively cautious revisionist powers will further intensify the strategic uncertainty."

From a seemingly reluctant arrival in Afghanistan seven years ago in an "out-of-area" operation as part of the UN-mandated ISAF [International Security Assistance Force], with a limited mandate, NATO is suo moto stepping out of the ISAF, deepening its presence and recasting its role and activities on a long-term basis. South Asian security will never be the same again.

At the Lisbon summit, NATO and Afghanistan signed a declaration as partners. The UN didn't figure in this, and it is purely bilateral in content. The main thrust of the declaration is to affirm their "long-term partnership" and to build "a robust, enduring partnership which complements the ISAF security mission and continues beyond it."

It recognizes Afghanistan as an "important NATO partner… contributing to regional security". In short, NATO and Afghanistan will "strengthen their consultation on issues of strategic concern" and to this end develop "effective measures of cooperation" which would include "mechanisms for political and military dialogue… a continuing NATO liaison in Afghanistan… with a common understanding that NATO has no ambition to establish a permanent military presence in Afghanistan or use its presence in Afghanistan against other nations."

NATO and Afghanistan will initiate discussion on a Status of Forces Agreement within the next three years. The Declaration also provides for the inclusion of "non-NATO nations" in the cooperation framework.

The Lisbon summit, in essence, confirmed that the NATO military presence in Afghanistan will continue even beyond 2014, which has been the timeline suggested by Afghan President Hamid Karzai for Kabul to be completely in charge of the security of the country.

President Obama summed up: "Our goal is that the Afghans have taken the lead in 2014 and in the same way that we have transitioned in Iraq, we will have successfully transitioned so that we are still providing a training and support function."

NATO may undertake combat operations beyond 2014 if and when a need arises. As Obama put it, all that is happening by 2014 is that the "NATO footprint in Afghanistan will have been significantly reduced. But beyond that, it's hard to anticipate exactly what is going to be necessary… I'll make that determination when I get there."

Clearly, the billions of dollars that have been pumped into the upgrading of Soviet-era military bases in Afghanistan in the recent period and the construction of new military bases, especially in Mazar-i-Sharif and Herat regions bordering Central Asia and Iran, fall into perspective.

Reaching out to India
As the biggest South Asian power, India seems to have been quietly preparing for this moment, backtracking gradually from its traditional stance of seeking a "neutral" Afghanistan free of foreign military presence. Of course, the bottom line for the Indian government is that the foreign policy should be optimally harmonized with US regional strategies. Therefore, all signs are that India as a "responsible regional power" will not fundamentally regard the NATO military presence in zero-sum terms.

Several considerations will influence the Indian approach in the coming period. One, India is an direct beneficiary of the US's "Greater Central Asia" strategy, which aims at drawing that region closer to South Asia by creating new linkages, especially economic.

Second, India has no strong views regarding NATO's partnership programs in Central Asia - unlike Russia or China, which harbor disquiet over it. At a minimum, there is no conflict of interest between India and NATO on this score. On the outer side, India would see advantages if NATO indeed works on a strategy to "encircle" China in Central Asia. The US military base in Manas, Kyrgyzstan, the induction of a fleet of AWACS (airborne warning and control system) aircraft into Afghanistan, and so forth give the alliance certain capability already to monitor the Xinjiang and Tibet regions where China has located its missiles targeted at India.

It is within the realms of possibility that NATO would at a future date deploy components of the US missile defense system in Afghanistan. Ostensibly directed against the nearby "rogue states", the missile defense system will challenge the Chinese strategic capability. Meanwhile, India is also developing its missile defense capabilities and future cooperation with the US in the sphere is on the cards.

The stated Indian position so far has been that it will not identify with any military alliance or bloc. Having said that, it is also important to note that India enjoys observer status in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization [SCO] and is seeking full membership in it. There has been a dichotomy insofar as incrementally, India's contacts with NATO have been gathering steam.

Contacts with NATO at the level of the Indian military establishment have been unobtrusive but have also become a regular affair. NATO delegations have been regularly interacting with Indian think tanks and the defense and foreign policy establishment in Delhi. Unsurprisingly, much of this interaction remains sequestered from public view even as the Indian establishment continues to mouth for public consumption its traditional aversion toward military alliances and blocs.

Top Indian officials have crafted a new idiom calling for an "inclusive" security architecture for South Asia, a firm wedge leaving the door open for the inclusion of the extra-regional entities such as the US and/or NATO at some point. India probably perceives such "inclusiveness" as useful and necessary to balance China's rapidly growing profile in the South Asian region.

Most certainly, India harbors the hope that a NATO presence in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future may not be a bad thing to happen, after all. Delhi regards NATO's continued participation in the Afghanistan-Pakistan conflicts to be a bulwark against the possibility of a Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.

Also, it is useful for India that the Western alliance continues to be seized of the paradigm (from the Indian perspective) that the core issue of regional security in South Asia is the Pakistani military's policy of using the Taliban militants to gain "strategic depth" and of conceiving terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

India is acutely conscious that the US sensitivities regarding its interests are at odds with NATO forces' pressing need to elicit a full and genuine political and military support from Pakistan to work out an Afghan settlement that can withstand the threat of a Taliban takeover in Kabul.

Again, given India's rivalry with China, Delhi watches with unease the US efforts to engage China in a geopolitical dialogue over Pakistan's long-term security, although logically, it ought to feel a stake in avoiding a regional upheaval in Pakistan and ought to welcome a constructive role by China in helping to stabilize the situation in Pakistan.

In the year ahead, the thing to watch will be any paradigm shift in the direction of a cooperative NATO outreach toward the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization [CSTO]. Russia has been assiduously cultivating a strand of thinking within the alliance that joint security undertakings with CSTO could foster and even render optimal NATO's effectiveness on a trans-regional basis.

So far, the US has remained adamant about not conceding Russia's implicit claim of a sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space. The CSTO summit meeting on December 10 points toward Moscow going ahead with the build up of its alliance also as a global security organization. Moscow seems to have concluded that any NATO enlistment of CSTO cooperation in the explosive area of the Afghan problem will be a protracted process, if at all - leave alone formal, direct links.

With India, on the other hand, the US has been promoting interoperability, discussing the potentials of cooperation in meeting mutually threatening contingencies and developing genuine strategic cooperation. The massive induction of US-made weapons systems into the Indian armed forces that can be expected in the coming period will accelerate these processes, and it is entirely conceivable that at some point India may overcome its lingering suspicions regarding Western domination and establish formal links with NATO with a modest first step of forming a joint council.

This train of thinking in Delhi will be significantly influenced by any pronounced eastward shift in NATO's center of gravity toward the Asia-Pacific region involving the East Asian powers, especially China.

Reassuring Pakistan
The conviction in New Delhi is that NATO interests in Afghanistan and Pakistani (military) objectives are ultimately irreconcilable and sooner rather than later the US will have to address the contradiction. India could be underestimating the criticality of Pakistan's role in the US regional strategy.

The fact remains that geography dictates that Pakistan will always play a major role in ensuring the stability of Afghanistan. Arguably, India can be kept out of conflict resolution in Afghanistan, but Pakistan cannot be. Even countries that are friendly toward India - Russia, Turkey, Iran, Tajikistan - find it expedient to work with Pakistan. And towards that end, they are willing to acquiesce with Islamabad's "precondition" of keeping India at arm's length.

In fact, India doesn't figure in a single regional format involved in the search for a political settlement in Afghanistan. Its involvement almost entirely devolves upon its cogitations with the US.

There are any number of reasons why Pakistan's centrality in any search for conflict resolution in Afghanistan needs to be acknowledged. Afghanistan's subsistence economy cannot even survive today without trade and transit provided by Pakistan.

The Afghan political elites, especially the Pashtun elites, view Pakistan as their single most important interlocutor. They may seek out India as a "balancer" when the Pakistani intrusiveness or belligerence becomes too much for them, but ultimately, they have to have dealings with Pakistan.

Again, the Afghan insurgency is Pashtun-driven and the tribal kinships across the Pakistan-Afghanistan border are historical. Close to three million Afghan (Pashtun) refugees live in Pakistan. Pakistan wields decisive influence over a range of Afghan insurgent groups - Quetta Shura, Haqqani network, Hezb-i-Islami - and maintain extensive contacts with even groups that previously belonged to the Northern Alliance and spearheaded the anti-Taliban resistance, in particular, the "Mujahideen" leaders who fought the Soviet occupation such as Sibghatullah Mojaddidi, Burhanuddin Rabbani, Rasul Sayyaf, and others.

Needless to say, the terrorist nexus operating in the region includes Pakistani groups, and the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence continues to patronize some of them - and increasingly Pakistan is prepared to admit openly that they are its "strategic assets" inside Afghanistan to safeguard its long-term interests. Pakistan has invested heavily in men and material during the past two decades to gain "strategic depth" in Afghanistan and appears today to be every bit determined to influence any Afghan settlement.

Over and above, NATO and the US heavily depends on the two routes through Pakistan - via North-West Frontier province and Baluchistan - to supply the troops in Afghanistan.

The WikiLeaks disclosures have shown that the relationship between Pakistan and the US has been extremely complex. On the one hand, the US wields enormous influence on the Pakistani elites and the US diplomats blatantly interfere in Pakistan's domestic affairs - and the Pakistani politicians unabashedly seek American support for their shenanigans. But on the other hand, everything points to the limit of American power in Islamabad.

Pakistan surely has an uncanny knack to hunker down and even defy the US when it comes to safeguarding its core concerns and vital interests. Having said that, while Pakistan may behave in a exasperating way - full of doublespeak and double dealings - and at times shows signs of "strategic defiance", Pakistan also is extremely pragmatic and is finely tuned into the US's critical needs at the operational level, as the policy on the US drone attacks in the tribal areas testify.

WikiLeaks singles out two instances at least during the past year when the Pakistani military actually allowed the US forces to conduct operations inside Pakistan, completely disregarding the vehement "anti-Americanism" sweeping the country and quite contrary to its vehement public stance against any such erosion of Pakistani sovereignty and territorial integrity.

The heart of the matter is that both Pakistan and the US are under strong compulsion to reconcile their divergent approaches and work toward an Afghan settlement. The main sticking point at the moment devolves upon the strategy currently pursued by US commander David Petraeus who hopes to degrade the insurgents so that the Americans can eventually talk with the Taliban leadership from a position of strength.

Pakistan has the upper hand here since time is in its favor. Therefore, the likelihood of the US-Pakistani discords reaching a flashpoint in any given situation simply doesn't arise.

A finished product of Afghan war
This geopolitical reality is very much linked to NATO's future role in Afghanistan. US strategy toward an Afghan settlement visualizes the future role for NATO as the provider of security to the Silk Road that transports the multi-trillion dollar mineral wealth in Central Asia to the world market via the Pakistani port of Gwadar. In short, Pakistan is a key partner for NATO in this Silk Road project.

The Afghan-Pakistan trade and transit agreement concluded in October was a historic milestone and was possible only because of Washington's sense of urgency. It stands out as the late Richard Holbrooke's fine legacy. Actually, Holbrooke, the US diplomacy point man in the region, sought and obtained India's tacit cooperation in these negotiations leading to the Afghan-Pakistan agreement, which shows the extent to which Delhi is also counting on Washington to smoothen the edges of the Afghan-Pakistan-India triangular equations regarding trade and transit issues.

Without doubt, Pakistan is assured of a key role in the US regional strategy, which will keep foreign money flowing into Pakistan's economy. The Pakistani military will willingly accelerate the existing partnership programs with NATO and even upgrade them. The resuscitation of the Silk Road project to construct an oil and gas pipeline connecting Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (the TAPI pipeline) will need to be seen as much more than a template of regional cooperation.

The pipeline signifies a breakthrough in the longstanding Western efforts to access the fabulous mineral wealth of the Caspian and Central Asian region. Washington has been the patron saint of the TAPI concept since the early-1990s when the Taliban was conceived as its Afghan charioteer. The concept became moribund when the Taliban regime was driven out of power from Kabul.

Now the wheel has come full circle with the project's incremental resuscitation since 2005, running parallel with the Taliban's fantastic return to the Afghan chessboard. TAPI's proposed commissioning coincides with the 2014 timeline for ending the NATO "combat mission" in Afghanistan. The US "surge" is concentrating on Helmand and Kandahar provinces through which the TAPI pipeline will eventually run. What an amazing string of coincidences!

The NATO Strategic Concept adopted in the Washington summit in April 1999 has outlined that disruption of vital resources could impact on the alliance's security interests. Since then, NATO has been deliberating on its role in energy security, clarifying its role in the light of shifting global political and strategic realities.

The Bucharest summit of the alliance in April 2008 deliberated on a report titled "NATO's Role in Energy Security", which identified the guiding principles as well as options and recommendations for further activities. The report specifically identified five areas where NATO can play a role. These included: information and intelligence fusion and sharing; projecting stability; advancing international and regional cooperation; supporting consequence management; and supporting the protection of critical infrastructure.

The alliance already conducts projects focusing on the Southern Caucasus and Turkey - the Baku-Ceyhan crude oil pipeline and the Baku-Erzurum natural gas pipeline. In August this year, a new division was created within NATO's International Staff to exclusively handle "non-traditional risks and challenges", including energy security, terrorism, and such.

On the map, the TAPI pipeline deceptively shows India as its final destination. What is overlooked, however, is that the route can be easily extended to the Pakistani port of Gwadar and connected with European markets, which is the ultimate objective.

The onus is on each of the transit countries to secure the pipeline. Part of the Afghan stretch will be buried underground as a safeguard against attacks and local communities will be paid to guard it. But then, it goes without saying that Kabul will expect NATO to provide security cover, which, in turn, necessitates long-term Western military presence in Afghanistan.

In sum, TAPI is the finished product of the US invasion of Afghanistan. It consolidates NATO's political and military presence in the strategic high plateau that overlooks Russia, Iran, India, Pakistan and China. TAPI provides a perfect setting for the alliance's future projection of military power for "crisis management" in Central Asia.....

TAPI is in actuality a Silk Road project connecting Central Asia to the West via Gwadar, which will make Pakistan the U.S.'s gateway to Central Asia.

The significance of the signing of the intergovernmental agreement on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project (TAPI) on December 11 in Ashgabat cannot be overstated. It can only be captured if one says with a touch of swagger that TAPI has been the most significant happening in the geopolitics of the region in almost a decade since America invaded Afghanistan.

The heart of the matter is that TAPI is a Silk Road project, which holds the key to modulating many complicated issues in the region. It signifies a breakthrough in the longstanding U.S. efforts to access the fabulous mineral wealth of the Caspian and the Central Asian region. Afghanistan forms a revolving door for TAPI and its stabilisation becomes the leitmotif of the project. TAPI can meet the energy needs of Pakistan and India. The U.S. says TAPI holds the potential to kindle Pakistan-India amity, which could be a terrific thing to happen. It is a milestone in the U.S.' “Greater Central Asia” strategy, which aims at consolidating American influence in the region.

Washington has been the patron saint of the TAPI concept since the early 1990s when the Taliban was conceived as its Afghan charioteer. The concept became moribund when the Taliban was driven away from Kabul. Now the wheel has come full circle with the incremental resuscitation of the project since 2005 running parallel to the Taliban's fantastic return to the Afghan chessboard. The proposed commissioning of TAPI coincides with the 2014 timeline for ending the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's “combat mission” in Afghanistan. The U.S. “surge” is concentrating on the Helmand and Kandahar provinces, through which TAPI will eventually run. What stunning coincidences!

In sum, TAPI is the finished product of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Its primary drive is to consolidate the U.S. political, military and economic influence in the strategic high plateau that overlooks Russia, Iran, India, Pakistan and China.

TAPI capitalises on Turkmenistan's pressing need to find new markets for its gas exports. With the global financial downturn and the fall in Europe's demand for gas, prices crashed. Russia cannot afford to pay top dollar for the Turkmen gas, nor does it want the 40 bcm gas it previously contracted to purchase annually. Several large gasfields are coming on line in Russia, which will reduce its need for the Turkmen gas. The Yamal Peninsula deposit alone is estimated to hold roughly 16 trillion cubic metres of gas. But Turkmenistan sits on the world's fourth-largest gas reserves and has its own plans to increase production to 230 bcm annually by 2030. It desperately needs to find markets and build new pipelines.

Thus, Ashgabat is driven by a combination of circumstances to adopt an energy-export diversification policy. In the recent months, the Turkmen leadership evinced interest in trans-Caspian projects but it will remain a problematic idea as long as the status of Caspian Sea remains unsettled. Besides, Turkmenistan has unresolved territorial disputes with Azerbaijan. In November, a second Turkmen-Iranian pipeline went on stream and there is potential to increase exports up to 20 bcm. But then, there are limits to expanding energy exports to Iran or to using Iran as a “regional gas hub” — for the present, at least.

Therefore, Turkmen authorities began robustly pushing for TAPI. The projected 2000-km pipeline at an estimated cost of $7.6 billion will traverse Afghanistan (735 km) and Pakistan (800 km) to reach India. Its initial capacity will be around 30 bcm but that could be increased to meet higher demand. India and Pakistan have shown interest in buying 70 bcm annually. TAPI will be fed by the Doveletabad field, which used to supply Russia.

Ashgabat did smart thinking to accelerate TAPI. The U.S. encouraged Turkmenistan to estimate that this is an enterprise whose time has come. Funding is not a problem. The U.S. has lined up the Asian Development Bank. An international consortium will undertake construction of the pipeline. A curious feature is that the four governments have agreed to “outsource” the execution and management of the project. The Big Oil sees great prospects to participate. The Afghan oilfields can also be fed into TAPI. Kabul awarded its first oil contract in the Amu Darya Basin this week. The gravy train may have begun moving in the Hindu Kush.

On the map, the TAPI pipeline deceptively shows India as its final destination. What is overlooked, however, is that it can easily be extended to the Pakistani port of Gwadar and connected with European markets, which is the core objective. The geopolitics of TAPI is rather obvious. Pipeline security is going to be a major regional concern. The onus is on each of the transit countries. Part of the Afghan stretch will be buried underground as a safeguard against attacks and local communities will be paid to guard it. But then, it goes without saying Kabul will expect the U.S. and NATO to provide security cover, which, in turn, necessitates a long-term western military presence in Afghanistan. Without doubt, the project will lead to a strengthening of the U.S. politico-military influence in South Asia.

The U.S. brought heavy pressure on New Delhi and Islamabad to spurn the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project. The Indian leadership buckled under American pressure while dissimulating freedom of choice. Pakistan did show some defiance for a while. Anyhow, the U.S. expects that once Pakistanis and Indians begin to chew the TAPI bone, they will cast the IPI into the dustbin. Pakistan has strong reasons to pitch for TAPI as it can stave off an impending energy crisis. TAPI is in actuality a Silk Road project connecting Central Asia to the West via Gwadar, which will make Pakistan the U.S. gateway to Central Asia. Pakistan rightly estimates that alongside this enhanced status in the U.S. regional strategy comes the American commitment to help its economy develop and buttress its security needs in the long-term.

India's diligence also rests on multiple considerations. Almost all reservations Indian officials expressed from time to time for procrastinating on the IPI's efficacy hold good for TAPI too — security of the pipeline, uncertainties in India-Pakistan relationship, cost of gas, self-sufficiency in India's indigenous production, etc. But the Indian leadership is visibly ecstatic about TAPI. In retrospect, what emerges from the dense high-level political and diplomatic traffic between Delhi and Ashgabat in the recent years is that our government knew much in advance that the U.S. was getting ready to bring TAPI out of the woodwork at some point — depending on the progression of the Afghan war — and that it would expect Delhi to play footsie.

Even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh found time to visit the drab Turkmen capital in a notable departure from his preoccupations with the Euro-Atlantic world. The wilful degradation of India-Iran ties by the present government and Dr. Singh's obstinate refusal to visit Iran also fall into perspective. Plainly put, our leadership decided to mark time and simply wait for TAPI to pop out of Uncle Sam's trouser pocket and in the meantime it parried, dissimulated and outright lied by professing interest in the IPI. The gullible public opinion was being strung along.

To be sure, TAPI is a big-time money-spinner and our government's energy pricing policies are notoriously opaque. Delhi will be negotiating its gas price “separately” with Ashgabat on behalf of the private companies which handle the project. That is certain to be the mother of all energy “negotiations” involving two countries, which figure at the bottom of the world ranking by Transparency International.

Energy security ought to have been worked out at the regional level. There was ample scope for it. The IPI was a genuine regional initiative. TAPI is being touted as a regional project by our government but it is quintessentially a U.S.-led project sheltered under Pax Americana, which provides a political pretext for the open-ended western military presence in the region. As long as foreign military presence continues in India's southwestern region, there will be popular resistance and that will make it a breeding ground for extremist and terrorist groups. India is not only shying away from facing this geopolitical reality but, in its zest to secure “global commons” with the U.S, is needlessly getting drawn into the “new great game.” Unsurprisingly, Delhi no more calls for a neutral Afghanistan. It has lost its voice, its moral fibre, its historical consciousness.

Finally, TAPI is predicated on the U.S. capacity to influence Pakistan. Bluntly speaking, TAPI counts on human frailties — that pork money would mellow regional animosities. But that is a cynical assumption to make about the Pakistani military's integrity.....

Whistling past the graveyard.......

The graveyard of empires, that is. The Obama administration’s
recent review of the Afghan war amounts essentially to little more than that. The bizarre aim of the war, formulated by Obama in 2009, is repeated: dismantling al-CIAda! This weirdness permeates the whole report. It mentions, almost in passing, the two main pre-requisites for success (eradicating insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan, and establishing half-decent governance in Afghanistan) and then, without coming to grips with them, hurries on to claim all-round “progress” in the war. While this published overview is obviously a (rather futile) PR exercise, there is no evidence that the full review was any more realistic.

The US has now been fighting this war for nine years, and is prepared to continue it for another four; it presently has some 100,000 US soldiers fighting there at an annual cost of some 100 billion dollars. All in order to disrupt, dismantle and defeat al-Qaeda? Al-CIAda? In Afghanistan and Pakistan? The ridiculousness of this proposition compelled Joe Biden a few days later to publicly clarify that he, at least, knows that, whatever the danger from AQ, it doesn’t come from this region.

Whatever the real aim, achieving some kind of military victory in Afghanistan requires, as an essential prerequisite, the suppression of insurgent bases and sanctuaries in Pakistan. This has to be done by Pakistan, since it will not allow the US to do it. The review indicates that the US proposes to continue its past policies to get Pakistan to do this, namely, the carrot of aid and engagement, and the stick of pressure and threats. The administration has obviously not accepted the reality that these will never work, as so clearly enunciated in September 2009 by then US Ambassador in Islamabad, Anne Patterson. The reality is that this Pakistani policy is based on its national security needs, and it will not be bribed or bullied into abandoning it.

The review appears to similarly gloss over the real problem the US faces in Afghanistan, namely, that of governance (or lack thereof). To be able to hand over responsibility for security to Afghans at some stage there has to be a reasonably credible government in place, a government that the bulk of the population accepts. The present government of Hamid Karzai does not meet this test, and there are no grounds for believing that it ever will. The review bypasses this issue by focusing instead on plans for establishing a large Afghan military and police structure. Even if the wishful thinking underlying these expectations were to be largely realised (which is quite doubtful), such a security establishment cannot make up for the lack of effective governance.

The review speaks of “progress” and “notable operational gains” in the war. These obviously refer to the operations being conducted in the south of the country by the additional troops that Obama sent in. Not surprising: if you flood an area with heavily armed, well-supported troops, the insurgents will melt away. The problem is that to hold on to these gains these troop levels have to be maintained, but the American soldiers can’t stay forever, and there is no evidence that Afghan security forces will be able to effectively replace them. Meanwhile, a serious problem is being created by the destructive manner in which US forces have conducted their takeover (mainly in order to minimize their own casualties); this has caused widespread anger among the local population against both the foreign troops and their Afghan sponsors. Securing ground temporarily but losing hearts and minds is not “progress” against an insurgency.

The gap between the Obama administration’s review of the war and the reality on the ground does not matter all that much because the fictions it contains are no bigger than the fiction that the administration controls the war. It provides the resources for it, it enables the war, but it does not control it. That control is in the hands of those powerful groups whose personal and policy interests are served by keeping the United States in a permanent state of war (hot or cold). It is these Perpetual Warriors who will decide when and how to end it. Even the actual conduct of the war is not determined by the administration; the Pentagon and the generals decide that.

So, the Afghan war will go on pretty much as it has so far. With his additional troops Gen Petraeus will secure some parts of the south, but the insurgents will shift to other areas. Pakistan will continue to prevaricate about the sanctuaries (the fact is, even if they wished to root them out, they couldn’t do it, given the practical limitations imposed by their situation). The Afghan army will become bigger; some of its units will become quite good; but it will have no real allegiance to a feckless, corrupt government, which is unlikely to change its ways. Afghans ‒ insurgents, collaborators, and the unfortunates caught in-between ‒ will wait for this empire, too, to weary of this fruitless enterprise, and depart.

One day the Perpetual Warriors will decide that this war no longer pays dividends (perhaps another war offers better returns, or the economy can’t support it any longer), and they will pull the plug on it.

Welcome to the real world.....

Monday, December 20, 2010

Bush and Clinton administration officials "in on" 9/11 planning, preperation and final execution

December , 2010 -- SPECIAL REPORT. Bush and Clinton administration officials "in on" 9/11 planning, preperation and final execution.....

Clinton administration officials engaged in preliminary 9/11 plans while in office.....

In April 2000, a year-and-a half before the inside Job 9/11 attacks, General Eric Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff who is currently President Obama's Secretary of Veterans Affairs, ordered armed agents into the offices of the joint Defense Department open-source intelligence gathering and data mining operation code-named Able Danger. An affiliated data mining program was code-named Dorhawk Galley. There were a number of other data mining programs, assigned various code names like Sensor Harvest, Retract Barley, IMPACTS, and Topsail, that helped provide pieces to the planned 9/11 plot....

Able Danger's data at the U.S. Army's Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, was confiscated on the orders of Shinseki. It included information, including the travel and financial details for the so-called "Al-CIAda" cell headed by accused 9/11 lead hijacker Mohammed Atta, as well as financial funding sources for those who would later be accused of carrying out the hijackings of four passenger aircraft on 9/11. The financial data linked the embryonic 9/11 plot to financiers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates....

Able Danger involved the Army, Defense Intelligence Agency, Navy, and some elements of the CIA.

Sources who were with Able Danger have confirmed to WMR that the program was successful in pinpointing a number of connections between the "Al-CIAda" hijackers and major western banks that were transferring the funds for the "Al-CIAda" cell members. Connections between the cell and known operatives for Israeli intelligence were also pinpointed with a collateral intelligence windfall: that Israeli military intelligence personnel, including an Israeli army lieutenant colonel, were involved in aiding and abetting the theft of classified information from the NASA Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California, on U.S. Navy submarine design data for a highly-classified program to reduce ocean surface wave displacement caused by U.S. submarines that can be detected by ocean surveillance satellites. The intelligence operations of the Israelis were coordinated with Chinese intelligence agents with the goal of using the stolen information to aid the stealth submarine programs of both nations' navies....

Although Able Danger was originally ramped up to primarily investigate Chinese intelligence operations against the United States, the activities of Atta and his colleagues soon appeared on the program's radar screens....

When Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA), the vice chair of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, championed the Able Danger program and insisted the operation had identified Atta and his cell in 2000 and took no action, Weldon became the target of a Justice Department corruption probe. WMR was told by a source close to Weldon that the FBI concocted charges against Weldon that attempted to link him and his daughter Karen to Russian firms as well as to former Yugoslav leader Slobodan Milosevic. The investigation, according to the source, was in retaliation for Weldon's insistence that the Clinton and Bush administrations had advance knowledge of the plans of Atta prior to the obvious inside Job of 9/11.... Weldon's other daughter, Kimberley, and his son Andrew, were also targeted in the Justice Department's corruption probe, which was assisted by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a non-profit organization partly funded by George Soros. CREW's long-serving executive director Melanie Sloan has since left the organization to join the lobbying firm of Lanny Davis, the White House Counsel under President Clinton. Davis represented Pakistan for Patton Boggs at the time of the obvious inside Job of 9/11 attack and the junta that overthrew Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Davis is also the spokesman for the Israel Project, a pro-Israeli lobbyist group in Washington....

Weldon was defeated for re-election in 2006 by retired Navy Admiral Joe Sestak. Just weeks prior to the 2006 election, on October 16, 2006, the home of Karen Weldon and the offices of five of Weldon's associates in Pennsylvania and Florida were raided by FBI agents on the orders of FBI director Robert Mueller who wanted to send a clear message to Weldon as well as ensure that his re-election chances were scuttled....

Weldon continues to have a politically-motivated Justice Department investigation hanging over his head as a way to ensure his silence about anything concerning Able Danger and prior knowledge of the obvious inside Job of 9/11 attack plans possessed by senior members of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations....

Nothing about Able Danger's and its pre-9/11 attack data was mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report. Able Danger officer, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer saw 10,000 first-run copies of his memoir, "Operation Dark Heart," bought up by the Department of Defense earlier this year and destroyed.... Shaffer, like Weldon and his family, was also subject to a bogus investigation. One trumped up charge against Shaffer was that he stole pens and other office supplies twenty years prior to 2005. Shaffer also had his security clearance suspended by the Pentagon....

On February 16, 2006, WMR reported: "Testifying before the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations chaired by Connecticut Republican Rep. Chris Shays, five national security whistleblowers testified yesterday about malfeasance involving senior Bush administration officials.

The most stunning testimony came from Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer who was involved in a Top Secret data mining operation called Able Danger. Prior to the obvious inside Job of 911, Able Danger identified Mohammed Atta and other members of his hijacking team but were prevented from informing the FBI and other agencies. Pennsylvania Republican Curt Weldon, who is not a member of Shays's subcommittee but was invited to participate in the hearings, said that Shaffer had been the victim of extreme retaliation by DIA and the Pentagon....

Two incidents Shaffer testified about point to malfeasance involving 911 Commission Executive Director Phil Zelikow, a colleague and friend of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and CNN's Wolf Blitzer....

While Shaffer was stationed under cover and using an assumed name in Bagram, Afghanistan in October 2003, he was interviewed by Zelikow about Able Danger. After returning to the United States, Shaffer attempted to talk to Zelikow again. There were no further meetings and Zelikow stated he never met with Shaffer in the past. However, in testimony before Weldon and the House Armed Services Committee today, Shaffer said he is prepared to produce a business card given him by Zelikow in Afghanistan.

After Shaffer and Able Danger became public, Wolf Blitzer blindsided Shaffer during his appearance on Blitzer's 'Situation Room.' [on CNN]. Blitzer told Shaffer that he had "information" that Shaffer was having an affair with a member of Weldon's congressional staff. In a direct answer to Weldon's question and under oath, Shaffer said he had no such relationship with a member of Weldon's staff, female or male.

Shaffer also testified about the planting of classified documents in a package sent by DIA to Shaffer's home. Shaffer said the package contained five classified documents that he was not authorized to receive. In addition to the five documents, the package contained a bag of 20 U.S. government 'Skilcraft' pens. The DIA also said that Shaffer was untrustworthy because of an accusation that he took home government pens from the U.S. embassy where his father worked. Shaffer was 13 years old at the time of the alleged 'pen theft.'

On August 23, 2005, WMR reported: "The recent revelations that the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, David Satterfield, is the USGO-2 named in the [Larry] Franklin-[Steven] Rosen- [Keith] Weismann indictment and the coming forward of the Defense Intelligence Agency's (DIA) Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and his evidence that the elite Able Danger force had Mohammed Atta and three other hijackers under surveillance in 2000 and was prevented from taking action are related stories. Shaffer was the liaison between DIA and the U.S. Special Operations Able Danger team that was tracking Atta and his cell in the United States and abroad. The Pentagon inaction is being blamed on lawyers for the U.S. Special Operations Command who prevented the FBI from being informed of the Atta team's activities. What is being overlooked is that there was a significant neo-con element within the Clinton administration. It included then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen (a Republican) and the career Pentagon officials like Office of Net Assessment chief Andy Marshall, the indicted Larry Franklin, and Harold Rhode, who all increased their power in the Bush administration. This network was close to Clinton State Department officials Martin Indyk, who lost his security clearance while ambassador to Israel, and Dennis Ross, now of the pro-Likud Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the think tank that provided a number of personnel for Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans, including David Schenker and Michael Makovsky (brother of WINEP Senior Fellow David Makovsky). WINEP's advisory board includes such neocon figures as Richard Perle, James Woolsey, James Roche (of Boeing-Air Force tanker contract fraud infamy), Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Max Kampelman. The pre-911 restrictions on Able Danger are evidence that the neo-cons were as damaging to the security interests of the United States under Clinton as they have been under Bush.

The two shill chairmen of the 911 Commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, have now said they did not consider the information about pre-911 U.S. military surveillance of Atta and his confederates to be "historically significant." 911 Commission Executive Director Phillip Zelikow swept Lt. Col. Shaffer's testimony under the rug.... Zelikow is a close associate of Condoleezza Rice....

And in what represents yet another whistleblower situation from within the US Intelligence Community, Shaffer had his security clearance at DIA suspended in March 2004 and was put on paid administrative leave. It has been recently revealed that Shaffer's Navy colleague, who had also identified the Atta team prior to the obvious inside Job of 911, Captain Scott Phillpott, has been reassigned from DIA to a staff project code named 'Deep Blue.' On August 23, the New York Times reported Phillpott confirmed that Able Danger had Atta and his team under surveillance in the United States in 2000. Shaffer's story has been treated shabbily by the Washington Post, not because it lacks merit, but because the story is getting closer to the neo-con cell operating within the Pentagon from the days of the Clinton administration.....

On August 20, 2010, WMR reported: "The Able Danger team used data mined by sophisticated DIA (for example, the four Trans World Information Warfare Support --- TWI --- groups, like the super-classified TWI-1, the Special Activities TWI group), NSA, and military service information warfare elements that used 'deep drilling' web and non-web connected search tools to identify information linked to targeted terrorist cells. The threat and warning indication intelligence came from systems operated by the Army's Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) at Fort Belvoir, Virginia (now known as the Army's First Operations Command [Land]), the Naval Information Warfare Activity (NIWA) at Fort Meade, Maryland, and the Air Force Information Warfare Center (AFIWC) at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Some cover names for projects associated with the data mining and reporting are Sensor Harvest (Air Force 'Country Build' database system targeted on such threat nations as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen), Oilstock (NSA geographic information system), the IW Mission, Planning, Analysis, and Command and Control Targeting System (IMPACTS) (Navy, offensive information warfare), Retract Barley (Navy), Constant Web (Air Force signals intelligence fusion), Rigel (Navy, counter-narcotics/narco-terrorist intelligence fusion system -- which may have alerted DIA and other intelligence agencies to Atta's reported heroin smuggling activities from Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1990s), THREADS (Threat Humint Reporting, Evaluation, Analysis and Display System) (Air Force/NRO), and Topsail (CIA-NSA-DIA)."

WMR's Able Danger sources have concluded that the obvious inside Job of 9/11 attacks was conducted by the US/Israeli governments, and happened "on purpose", helped by senior members of the Clinton and G.W. Bush administrations. As far as who in the Bush administration was primarily involved in helping to coordinate the attack, the answer pointed to one man: Vice President Dick Cheney...., the barbaric monster who was also in charge of the odious White House Murder INC,....which sprung into action since January 24th 2002 in the Levant...., with a string of assassinations that ensued......


Iran, CIA/WikiLeaks and the Pentagon Papers

Iran, CIA/WikiLeaks and the Pentagon Papers....
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi

The CIA/WikiLeaks disclosures and their global ramifications, particularly on the sensitive subject of the Iran nuclear standoff, warrant limited comparison with the modern age's first leaks scandal - the New York Times' publication of a massive cache of United States government documents and self-analysis on the Vietnam War in 1971, otherwise known as the Pentagon Papers.

As Tehran and the "Iran Six" nations gear up for follow-up talks in Istanbul after an initial meeting in Geneva in early December, news of US intentions to impose a new round of both unilateral and multilateral sanctions on Iran ahead of Istanbul has hit Iran as yet another sign of America's "bad faith". This acts as a brake on a spurt of optimism in Iran post-Geneva that saw Saeed Jalili, Iran's negotiator, state that Istanbul could be the scene of a major breakthrough.

Such hope may prove to be unfounded, in light of ominous signs of the US administration's policy on Iran being in disarray, worse, the increasing sway of hawkish voices and neo-conservative and pro-Israel influences that are seeking to thwart any deal between the White House and Tehran. The pro-Israel, anti-Iran spin is in full throttle in the Western media, with an avalanche of commentaries pushing for an iron fist toward Iran and the end of the "linkage approach" previously favored by President Barack Obama, which linked progress on the Middle East peace process to the Iran nuclear standoff.

Thanks in part to a well-orchestrated campaign based on highly selective reading of the WikiLeaks documents, that consistently ignore Arab leaders' insistence on such a linkage, Western public opinion has been molded into the false belief that there is Middle East consensus on the priority of the Iran nuclear threat above the Israel-Palestine problem. Although the fallacy of this assumption has been demonstrated in articles by Jim Lobe, Gareth Porter and others, the anti-Iran mill continues to pour out countless disinformation to influence US policy away from a compromise with Iran that could conceivably end the nuclear crisis.

Fatal flaw in the stick approach
Behind the US's push for new Iran sanctions is the familiar argument that "negotiations without continued pressure will not achieve our objectives", to paraphrase William Bundy, a US policymaker, quoted in the Pentagon Papers. Indeed, how little the US learns from its own history. But, the mounting pressures on North Vietnam, and the US's strategy of "converting bargaining pressure" into concessions from Hanoi, did not work then and, by all indications, will not work against Iran either.

Both the Pentagon Papers and the WikiLeaks releases on Iran depict a similar "domino theory"; in Vietnam it was the fear communism would spread throughout Indochina, while similar metaphors cast Iran as a "growing cancer" with the "tentacles of an octopus". These are used to state the case that the protective powers of the US are needed everywhere in the Middle East. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US military, has said that the US is "very ready" to counter Iran.

All this sabre-rattling and pressure tactics coincide with Tehran's selection of a US-educated technocrat, Ali Akbar Salehi, as the new foreign minister. In his first speech as acting minister he struck a conciliatory note by highlighting the importance of "confidence-building" steps. This raises serious questions about US motives and its claim that it is seeking a solution, and not the intensification, of the Iran nuclear crisis.

A parallel moment shown in the Pentagon Papers is the US's watershed decision in 1954 to scuttle the Geneva peace talks that could have ended the conflict in Vietnam. The Papers solidly established the US's "direct role" in pressuring the Europeans, chiefly France, against "acquiescence" to North Vietnam that led to a breakdown in talks that paved the way to the full-fledged Americanization of the conflict, thanks in part to war-mongering initiatives in the US Congress.

Similarly, today, in light of pressure on the White House from various members of congress demanding a "red line" be drawn on Iran's enrichment activities and for no deal on a nuclear fuel swap until Iran agrees to fully implement United Nations resolutions seeking the suspension of such activities, the US's present drift away from meaningful negotiations comes from multiple sources, including its legislative branch, which should know better than to propel the nation to yet another disastrous "proxy war" in the interests of the state of Israel.

According to Le Monde newspaper's reporting of the latest WikiLeaks diplomatic cables, the Israelis gave erroneous estimates of Iraq's weapons of mass destruction prior to the 2003 invasion. It would be no surprise if Tel Aviv should do the same vis-a-vis Iran.

The Pentagon Papers vilified the French. The target these days is the European Union (EU) and its foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton. She was denounced in Washington for daring to play a "central role" in the Geneva talks, and a riled Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barack, who visited Washington last week, reportedly complained of the US taking a back seat to the EU in the Iran talks.

Conveniently ignored by both the Israeli leadership and its powerful influence-peddlers in Washington is that the future does not hold any prospect of Iranian compliance with a maximalist demand of full suspension of Iran's (expensive and much-cherished) nuclear program, no matter how many more sticks are leveled against it. Shouldn't Washington shape its policies based on realistic expectations? Apparently not.

From Iran's point of view, the WikiLeaks disclosures shed unsavory light on Obama's "engagement" policy, showing an administration duplicating the previous "dual track" approach under the guise of a policy change, thus escalating tensions with Iran.

"We do not find presently revealed plans give prospect of clear victory," the Pentagon Papers quoted US government adviser George Ball as saying. How easily that statement could be applied to the US's present course of action toward Iran, centered as it is on counter-proliferation.

In fact, everything the US and its allies are doing - from biting sanctions to banning conventional arms sales to Iran; from selling Iran's neighbors cutting-edge military hardware to outright threatening Iran with military attack (and a nuclear one if need be) - is bound to have the opposite effect, of heightening Iran's national security concerns and chipping away at its hitherto steadfast antipathy toward nuclear weapons. That would be tantamount to a case of a "self-fulfilling prophecy".

In turn, this raises a red flag for those in Tehran whose optimism about reaching a deal with the US and its allies at the forthcoming talks may be based on a naive and downright mistaken perception of the US's ill-intentions toward Iran, which are based on the fact that US harvests a huge windfall, in both economic and geostrategic realms, from the continued nuclear standoff. A gap between current expectations and future results could easily backfire against the Tehran optimists.

This is not to necessarily endorse the opposite view of pure cynics in Iran, who point ominously at the suicide bombing of a mosque in Chah Bahar that killed dozens of worshipers within days of Iran's appointment of a more dovish foreign minister and prompted the spiritual leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to issue a strong denunciation of Western complicity in the waves of terrorism in Iran.

A problem with the cynical camp is that it tends to oversimplify the complexities of US policy making and to dismiss the existing tensions between the US and Israel over both Iran and the peace process. Rather, a middle approach is called for in Tehran, based on healthy though calibrated cynicism in combination with optimism. Iran, in fact, has a slight edge going into the Istanbul talks, given Russia's support for a "constructive approach", Turkey's backing of the fuel swap and the Europeans' weariness of American-Israeli war-mongering.

"We now see a total reversal of the American position [on a fuel swap] in October 2009," says a Tehran University political science professor on the condition of anonymity. "The Obama administration has stepped outside the bounds of reasonable assumptions on Iran that Iran can respond to ... Iran may react to the escalation of pressures by downgrading its cooperation with the IAEA [the UN's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency]."

In other words, there is a real prospect of a qualitative turn for the worse in the nuclear standoff in the near future, compared with the dim prospects for a breakthrough, unless the White House somehow manages to divest itself of unhealthy and poisonous influences that have resulted in Iran policy disarray.

This unlikely development is the sine quo non for a successful approach that could reciprocate Salehi's call for confidence-building and incremental steps toward US-Iran detente. But, as Mullen's hawkish "very ready" remark within hours of Salehi taking a conciliatory tone makes abundantly clear, the US is a poor player in conflict-management and a lot more adept at pursuing the long-held addiction to hard power disclosed in the publication of the Pentagon Papers. Call it a superpower malady of utter corruption and war crimes galore.....